Stop what you’re doing (again) and watch “Wife Force One,” an absolutely brilliant short about the jeopardy that the wives of Harrison Ford have been subjected to over the years…and the overal climate of “rage, pure rage” that has permeated his numerous action films.
The feds looking into the past deeds of indicted private investigator Anthony Pellicano “have found no convincing evidence that actor Steven Seagal was involved in depositing a dead fish on a reporter’s windshield in June 2002,” etc. Great… and nobody cares. This story is mainly about whether or not Paramount chief Brad Grey is going to emerge so compromised by allegations of involvement in illegal wiretapping via his associations with Pellicano by way of attorney Bert Fields that he’ll be forced to resign…that’s it. With maybe a sideplot” exploring to what extent Tom Cruise may have had Nicole Kidman‘s phone tapped after their marriage ended.
Director Richard Fleisher left us a few days ago, and I’m only just paying homage now…sorry. If you’re a film buff-type, you might feel like saluting Fleisher for having directing Narrow Margin, the classic 1952 noir-on-a-train with Charles McGraw. But for me, Fleischer’s peak was The Vikings — the 1958 historical action epic that was mostly dominated by producer-star Kirk Douglas, but was (and still is) notable for two dramatic elements that still work today. One is what seems to happen inside the male Viking characters (particularly Douglas and dad Ernest Borgnine) whenever Odin, the Nordic God, is mentioned. We hear a haunting, siren-like “Odin theme” on the soundtrack, and these rough blustery types suddenly stop their loutish behavior and seem to almost retreat into a childlike emotional place…a place that’s all about awe and fear (of death, God, judgment). This happens maybe three or four times in this big, unsophisticated popcorn movie (which nonetheless feels far sturdier and more classically composed than a typical big-budget popcorn actioner made today), and each time it does The Vikings suddenly has a spirit. The other thing that still works is the film’s refusal to make much of the fact that Douglas and costar Tony Curtis, mortal enemies throughout the film, are in fact brothers, having both been half-sired by Borgnine. Costar Janet Leigh begs Douglas to consider this ten minutes from the finale, and Douglas angrily brushes her off. But when his sword is raised above a defenseless Curtis at the very end and he’s about to strike, Douglas suddenly hesitates…and we know why. And then Curtis stabs Douglas in the stomach with a shard of a broken sword, and Douglas is finished. The way he leans back, screams “Odin!” and then rolls over dead is pretty hammy, but that earlier moment of hesitation is spellbinding — one of the most touching pieces of acting Douglas has ever delivered. Douglas wasn’t very respectful of Fleischer’s authority during the making of The Vikings, and for all I know Fleischer didn’t have that much to do with this final scene…but he probably did, and he deserves our respect for it.
“I think there’s a big difference between James Bond and Jason Bourne. I think James Bond is the secret agent who likes being a secret agent and likes killing people. He’s a misogynist, an old-fashioned imperialist, and Jason Bourne is an outsider on the run and he’s one of us and he’s fighting against them, I think. That’s the profound difference, and that’s why I like Bourne.” — director Paul Greengrass riffing two weeks ago with Empire magazine online about the The Bourne Ultimatum, which will (naturally) topline Matt Damon, the script having been co-written by Tony Gilroy and Tom Stoppard. I agree with this — Bourne is right now, and Bond is prehistoric. People don’t always go “aaah, look at that!” or “listen to that!” when tectonic plates shift and major movie-culture changes kick new alignments into place, but the Bourne-over-Bond thing is one of the more significant ones to happen over the last, say, two or three years. I’m not aware that it’s been proclaimed in so many words by a film essayist or critic or op-ed sage out there, but… well, I guess that’s what I’m doing here and now….saying it in so many words.
The New York Post‘s “Page Six” column says “the race is on” to see who’ll be the first to make a biopic of LSD guru Timothy Leary — Leonardo DiCaprio‘s Appian Way production company, which has been half-heartedly stirring this pot for at least a couple of years, or Fountain director Darren Aronofsky , who didn’t mention any Leary project to me when we last spoke (at the Golden Globes awards) but whatever. Aronofsky may or may not be in a “race” mode but the DiCaprio team is mostly slumbering, I’ve been told. Two years on the case and there’s not even a screenplay written…what does that tell you? And here’s a list of current Appian Way projects with no mention of Tim. A source with a significant perspective on the action said this morning that the DiCaprio/Appian Way/Leary project has been “on hold” for some time, in part due to an effort to slap together a decent screenplay of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, which has taken the better part of two years. There’s “not a lot of focus” at Appian Way, he said. “Leo is all over the map…he wants to work with Marty on this and that…[Appian Way] doesn’t exactly have a center-of-gravity thing going on.” I had a 90-second chat with DiCaprio about the Leary project at the ’05 Santa Barbara Film Festival, and about 25 or 30 seconds into it I mentioned a great penetrating book about ’60s psychaedelia called “Storming Heaven,” written by Jay Stevens, my point being that anyone writing a screenplay about Leary should definitely read it as part of their research. (I don’t remember if Leo acknowledged having read it…he may have.) I also asked Milos Forman about his reported interest in directing a Leary biopic during the April ’04 San Francisco Film Festival, and he said “nobody knows what [this movie] would be, or how to come at it…you can’t just make a movie about [Leary’s] life…you have to figure a way in.”
Stop what you’re doing right now (seriously) and watch this — actor Dave Coyne (a.k.a. “DCLugi” of Subatomic Warp), has put together a comic video, called “Early Auditions”, about four actors — Chris Walken, Jack Nicholson, Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro — doing their best to land a part in Snakes on a Plane. [Note: The first link goes to Snakes on a Blog, which had the Coyne video on the top of its page at 7:50 am Monday, but they’ll eventually move it down, of course.]