The Guardian’s Xan Brooks on how well Marlon Brando might have handled the Jim Stark role in Rebel Without a Cause.
It didn’t truly hit me until yesterday the degree to which public broadcasting TV affiliates (like L.A.’s KCET) are operated like medieval feifdoms, totally local and unto themselves with no regard for providing viewers with shared information about options to re-view or purchase popular shows. I’m saying this as a way of explaining that I was bizarrely misinformed yesterday by both a KCET spokesperson and a WGBH media relations executive named Lucy Sholley when I called about wanting to see a re-broadcast of Ric Burns’ Eugene O’Neill, a highly praised two-hour documentary that aired on PBS stations Monday night. Neither the KCET guy nor Sholley thought it was pertinent to mention that a DVD of Burns’ doc has been available for sale for over a week on various DVD-purchase websites like DVD Empire. (Oddly, the Amazon.com page says the O’Neill DVD won’t be available until “January 1, 2010.”) DVD Newsletter‘s Doug Pratt tells me copies of the show are sitting now at Best Buy, and I just spoke to a clerk at West L.A.’s Lazer Blazer who told me the PBS Home Video DVD was buyable at the store as of a week ago last Tuesday (i.e., 3.21), or six days before the doc’s nationwide airings. And yet I just spoke to another Johnny-on-the-spot bureaucrat at KCET and he didn’t even know about the DVD’s availability. Am I being pointed enough? The ignorance at these local stations is absolutely radiant. And so to reiterate again and to correct yesterday’s posting, you’re not out of luck if you missed Monday’s showing…all you have to do is go down to your video store and buy the damn DVD. And if you ever have a question about anything to do with repeat airings and/or DVDs of PBS original programming, it’s probably not a good idea to ask a rep from a local PBS station for help.
That $10 million Randy Quaid Brokeback Mountain lawsuit filed on Thursday, 3.23 against the makers of this widely honored, very profitable film (i.e., Focus Features, James Schamus, David Linde, Del Mar Productions), now enjoys a certain enhancement by the mere fact that Sharon Waxman has examined its merits in a N.Y. Times story out today (3.29). Boil the snow out of it, and the conclusions are these: (a) Randy Quaid is in no way a whinin’, groanin’ sourpuss actor but in fact has a bright, buoyant attitude about the lawsuit, as amply indicated by the photo that accompanies Waxman’s story; (b) The quality-films-for-cheaper-prices premise of indie “dependent” outfits like Focus Features, Fox Searchlight, Paramount Classics and Warner Independent depends upon producers being able to hire guys like Quaid for shitass fees (i.e., guild minimums); (c) The functioning of this economic system obviously requires an alliance of actors willing to cut their fees for films with substantial arthouse pretensions and/or credentials along with producers looking to exploit these actors for their own economic gain; (d) And yet this same system, essentially founded on a note of spiritual kinship (you and I care about making good films so we’re taking less money…especially the supporting actors, writers and below-the-liners), is ironically protected by standard big-studio accounting practices which have long made the idea of receiving post-release net point compensation (if and when a film goes into substantial profit mode) an industry joke; (e) And yet profit participation deals have been sculpted on smaller films — you just have to be a big-enough actor to rate being offered them. (Waxman’s story quotes “an executive from another arthouse studio” saying that “the most prominent actors [on a film have been] granted bonus fees for successful films, or a cut of the adjusted gross box-office receipts.”) When all is said and done, if you don’t get some kind of profit participation arrangement you’re happy with down on paper before you go to work, you’re not going to badger distributors and/or producers into paying you anything extra down the road. One final thought from a longtime veteran of big-studio operations, addressing the character of the people who negotiated Quaid’s cheapo deal without considering some way of paying him more money if and when Brokeback profits might materialize: “I think they’re pigs.”
If anyone in Manhattan went to the first-night preview of Richard Greenberg‘s Three Days of Rain on Tuesday, 3.28 (which is being performed as I write this, the time being 9:04 pm back east) and feels like sharing an opinion about how first-time performer Julia Roberts did in the lead role, please get in touch. Roberts’ costars in the Joe Mantello-directed show are Paul Rudd and Bradley Cooper. The official opening is 4.19, and the reportedly sold-out show will run at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre for for 12 weeks. This Playbill piece claims “many critics consider [Rain to be] Greenberg’s best play,” but a theatre aficionado pal says this isn’t true. Patricia Clarkson played Roberts’ role when Rain was first mounted at the Manhattan Theatre Club in 1997.
If you weren’t watching your local PBS station Monday night (like me) and therefore missed Ric Burns‘ Eugene O’Neill, a two-hour “American Experience” documentary about this country’s greatest playwright, you’re out of luck for a while. There are no repeat broadcasts set for the immediate future, although the widely-praised film will probably turn up on DVD sometime in the summer. Not making this show available for subsequent viewings over the next couple of weeks is a ridiculous policy. It underscores the suspicion that PBS is a very old-fashioned organization with separate feifdoms spread across the country, and basically out of touch with the world.
Two things about David Fincher‘s Zodiac (Paramount, 9/22) — one sounding a tad questionable and the other most likely accurate. The film, first things first, is a crime period piece based on the Robert Graysmith “books” about cops and reporters on the trail of the Zodiac killer who plagued the San Francisco area in the ’60s and ’70s. Except last night a person close to the film told me it’s no longer being called Zodiac but Chronicles, allegedly due to some title-rights issue. (The IMDB lists a recent Thinkfilm release with Rory Culkin and Robin Tunney called The Zodiac, but a Paramount spokesperson says “we have the rights” allowing them to use the word “Zodiac” as a title so don’t take this one to the bank just yet. If this info turns out to be true, they’ve got to think up a better alternate title than Crhonicles, which stinks.) The other story is that the running time is now about three hours, give or take. This, I’m hearing, fals under the headings of “not unlikely” and/or “probable.” A three-hour crime film? This, to me, spells integrity…especially from the director of the classic Se7en. The script is by James Vanderbilt ( Against All Enemies). The co-stars are Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey, Jr. as the San Francisco Chronicle reporters who wrote about the investi- gation, and Mark Ruffalo and (aparently) Anthony Edwards.
Sweet Bird of Youth
It’s not so much how the 23 year-old Marlon Brando looked, although this is fascin- ating in itself. It’s more the metaphor of a life not yet blemished or sullied…an aura of freshness, vitality, raw presence.
These are stills from a screen test Brando made in 1947 for a planned film of Rebel Without a Cause, in which he would have played the famously troubled teenager Jim Stark, whom James Dean made into a legendary inconographic figure in Nich- olas Ray’s 1955 film of the same name.
Still from 1947 screen test reel of Marlon Brando reading for role of Jim Stark in an early, never-shot version of Rebel Without a Cause.
The Brando Rebel screen test footage, which lasts about five minutes, will be included in a two-disc special edition DVD of A Streetcar Named Desire that Warner Home Video is bringing out May 2nd, or five weeks from today.
The exact date of the test footage isn’t known (not to me, at least) but Brando was playing Stanley Kowalkski in the stage version of “A Streetcar Named Desire” that year (and most likely at the same time). This was three years before he made his first Hollywood film, Fred Zinneman’s The Men (’50), in which he played a paraplegic.
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A story by Dalya Alberge in today’s (3.28) edition of The Australian provides a description of the footage, which I may be lucky enough to see sometime soon, perhaps as soon as this weekend.
Brando “is seen crying, slamming his fist on a table, vulnerable and kissing the girl,” Alberge writes. The test “convinced the producers that he was the man for the Rebel role, but Brando turned them down. After much delay, including at least 40 script revisions, the role was taken by Dean in 1955.
Alberge quotes Darwin Porter, author of a reportedly tawdry biography called “Brando Unzipped” (Blood Moon), as follows:
“Screen tests preserved of the great stars are usually pretty awful …this one had me mesmerized. From the moment Brando enters the room in the test, he is lightning…there is a magnetic appeal to him, as he is at the peak of his physical beauty and virile power — both as a man and an actor.”
Brando “never disclosed precisely why he rejected the role, but Porter suggests that the actor may have been reluctant to sign a seven-year contract with the studio, which would have been required at the time.
In the footage, Brando “is seen walking into a room, angry about his parents. He tells a girl who meets him: ‘My old man … he didn’t give me a chance. He hit me before he even said anything. I hate him. I hate his stupid face.’ He slams the table.
“Comforted by the girl” — I wonder the who girl was? — “he kisses her, asking her whether she has been with ‘other fellows while I was gone.’ His face lights up as he talks of getting a gun and the two of them leaving together for ‘any place, away from here.'”
N.Y. Daily News gossip columnist Ben Widdicombe — a.k.a., “the Gatecrasher” — wrote on 1.21.06 that Porter’s Brando book “promises to be the definitive gossip guide to the great actor’s life.”
Widdicombe wrote that “collectors of Brando ephemera might appreciate the inclusion of a certain infamous photograph [that] depicts a Monica Lewinski moment between Brando and another man.” He then quoted Blood Moon publisher Danforth Prince as saying “we ran [the photo[ at a tasteful 2 inches by 1 3/4 inches on page 404,” adding, “In journalism, we call that ‘burying the lead.'”
This morning I happened across Truman Capote’s portrait of Brando for The New Yorker, which came from a visit with the 33 year-old actor while he was filming Sayonara in Kyoto, Japan, in early 1957.
The Brando that emerges from Capote’s prose is a guarded, withdrawn, somewhat frail figure — a hint of the ruined Brando to come, and a far cry from the sugges- tions of buoyancy and naivete in the face of the young man pictured above.
On the red carpet for premiere of Nicole Holofcener’s Friends With Money (Sony Classics, 4.7) at the Egyptian theatre, headquarters of the American Cineatheque — Monday, 3.27, 7:12 pm. (Just to the right of the face of the brunette with the green handbag and to the left of the burly photographer with the white T-shirt is costar Jennifer Aniston, speaking at that particular moment in time to Entertainment Tonight‘s Leonard Maltin)
Dancer-models dressed as twin sisters of Casper the Friendly Ghost, and perhaps expressing a sensual appreiciation of life in Los Angeles in the year 2006. Snapped at Friends with Money after-party at Mondrian Hotel’s Sky Bar — Monday, 3.27, 10:20 pm.
Friends with Money costar Bob Stevenson at Sky Bar — 3.27, 11:05 pm. A subtle, soft-spoken actor with piercing blue eyes, Stevenson portrays one of Jennifer Aniston’s love interests in Nicole Holofcener’s film.
Scott Caan (blue jeans, black jacket), also costarring in Friends with Money, on red carpet at the Egyptian theatre — Monday, 3.27, 7:18 pm. (I had an interview set up with Caan at a hotel in Soho last summer to talk about Dallas 362, his fairly good debut as a director, but he wasn’t there when I showed up, and he didn’t leave a note or call later on to apologize…nothing. I was going to ask him what happened last night, but I didn’t see him at the after-party.)
Like old habits, movie titles you’ve gotten used to can die hard. Even relatively recent ones, like Universal’s Flight 93, the Paul Greengrass 9/11 thriller that’s opening on Friday, 4.28. Or the former Flight 93, I should say. The old-shoe, boilerplate-sounding Flight 93 of yore…a label I was totally down with.
I was so accustomed to the sound of it that when I linked to the trailer three days ago (on 3.24), I didn’t even notice that Universal had snuck in like a cat burglar on the Cote d’Azur and changed it to United 93.
Wait a minute…is it United 93 or United93? The title art seems to indicate this, but maybe not. You don’t want to get too anal about this stuff.
Here’s my best guess (this being Sunday) as to why Universal did this five weeks before the release date: they suddenly decided there was something thematically appealing in the sound of United 93 because it alludes to the unity of purpose among the passengers who decided to take back the flight from the Al Qeada hijackers.
The 9/11 flight depicted in the film having been operated by United Air Lines is parallel-tangential.
The only other reason I can imagine is that someone realized at the last minute that the public might confuse the Universal feature with the A&E Channel’s Flight 93, which aired last January. But they obviously knew about the A&E movie for months, so why would they react this late in the game?
If nothing else, this last-minute decision is proof that Universal’s management is thinking on its feet.
A few movie sites apparently had the new title art up and running by the end of the week, but the switch came as a bit of a shock when I finally tuned in Saturday morning. West Hollywood detectives paid a visit a few hours later and dusted my hard drive and did their usual poking around, and for a while there they were just as befuddled as I was.
Their best estimate — mine also — is that Flight 93 became United 93 sometime between Sunday, March 19, and Tuesday, March 21.
The grand old IMDB hadn’t gotten the message as of Sunday, 3.26, as you can ascertain by clicking here. (They’ll update sooner or later, but they totally believed in Flight 93 as of 11:25 a.m. Sunday morning.)
Rotten Tomatoes still had it listed as Flight 93 as of Sunday, 3.26, although Scott Weinberg ran a post on Friday, 3.24, saying that Universal has gone with the title change, adding at the same time that the change was “old news.”
JoBlo.com is still calling it Flight 93, and a Google search shows that several other sites are still in the old mode.
A 3.19 story by Variety‘s Ted Johnson referred to Flight 93 but a Nicole LaPorte story that went up Sunday, 3.26 used United 93.
Nobody from Universal publicity told me — no e-mail announcements, no phone calls — but the first IMDB chat board question about the title change was posted on Tuesday, 3.21.
Here’s hoping Universal starts screening United 93 sometime soon so there’ll something to write about. April is looking like an incredibly flat month. Maybe my memory is foggy, but it seems worse than usual.
People like me are going to be reaching for anything to write about, but for the most part will have to make do with acceptables, pretty goods and not-too-bads: The Notorious Bettie Page, Free Zone, The Death of Mr Lazarescu, Hard Candy, Kinky Boots and the limited, all-but-invisible northwest release of Mozart and the Whale.
I’m going to have April visits to Houston’s Worldfest Film festival and the San Francisco Film Festival to distract me, but marquee-wise United 93 is the only film due within the next five weeks that seems to have any kind of major voltage. Am I wrong?
And it won’t just be the movie to discuss. There will be plenty to delve into with the head-in-the-sand types chanting their two basic mantras: (1) “Too soon! No 9/11 movies!” and (2) “Don’t mention the concept of U.S. foreign policy having anything to do with motivating the 9/11 attacks…the attackers were the devil’s emissaries and the U.S. was nothing more than a totally innocent, God-fearing victim of evildoers.”
2006 Cinevegas Film Festival director of programming Trevor Goth and Sundance honcho John Cooper at party last Friday night (3.24) at the Buffalo Club for “the world’s most dangerous film festival,” which unfurls June 9th through 17th. Taken Friday, 3.24, 7:50 pm.
Director John Stockwell (who gave us the respected but somewhat under-appreciated Blue Crush and the very fine crazybeautiful), whom I still regard as the Genx Curtis Hanson despite the misfire of Into the Blue, with the very foxy Olivia Wilde, star of Stockwell’s Turistas, a forthcoming adventure flick set in the Amazon, at Friday’s Cinevegas party. (Stockwell’s Chasing the Whale, a gambling movie to follow in the wake of Hanson’s Lucky Me, will get his cred back up where it belongs.) Friday, 3.24, 8:25 pm.
A nice girl hired to provide eye-candy diversion at Cinevegas party. I got her name but didn’t write it down, and a slightly older French-born woman friend of hers who had my business card and knew how to get in touch didn’t, so that’s that.
Return of anonymous pink lady along with ferociously alluring Amazon blonde hired for same exploitive purpose at Cinevegas party
Desserts laid out for sensual delight of journalists attending last week’s press junket for The Notorious Bettie Page at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills.
Rae’s diner, the Detroit, Michigan, diner located on West Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles where crafty Clarence (Christian Slater) and Alabama (Patricia Arquette) went for coffee and pie in the opening moments of Tony Scott’s True Romance.
You’re in your too-small coach seat and speechless, eyes aglare and back arched. Reason? A dangling diamondback rattler (as opposed to a dangling participle), four or five inches in front of your face and hissing like any well-motivated serpent, is about to bite down hard.
This, in a nutshell, is New Line’s Snakes on a Plane (8.18). Combined with that hilariously idiotic title, it’s also behind a growing camp following and internet groundswell that appears to be turning this low-rent thriller into the first major movie phenomenon of 2006.
I wasn’t on the boat at first. For the last few months I’ve been going, “Okay, a goof, right…but crap nonetheless.” Nothing has changed on the artistic-estimation side, but suddenly the grass-roots enthusiasm levels are turning it into something else. Everyone’s into it, wants to see it the first weekend. Almost five months to go before the opening date and Snakes on a Plane is already (or so it seems) the new Blair Witch Project.
Go to Snakes on a Blog and you’ll see about 487 different songs, T-shirts, posters, marketing slogans. You can can choose which songs, slogans and posters strike your fancy.
My personal turnaround happened when I heard this Snakes on a Plane talkin’ acoustic folk riff this morning. Then it all clicked into place. Not too strident or emphatic. A perfect laid-back attitude.
And nobody at New Line Cinema, which is opening Snakes on a Plane on August 18, has had much to do with this…not really. It’s all come from out there.
To the best of my knowledge, no one in Real People Land is composing and recording Da Vinci Code or Mission Impossible 3 songs, and why the hell would they?
Why exactly has this one-third goof, one-third “piece of shit” genre film (i.e., not an out-and-out bad movie but one that plays with the idea of being one), and one-third horror flick been adopted by a home-grown marketing movement?
Probably because it’s easy to get and to laugh at it. (The more I say that title out loud, the more genius-level it sounds.) And because it’s easy to pass around the goofy humor online.
I only know that Regular Joe’s out there are embracing the damn thing and celebrating the jerk-off attitude way before the opening.
Directed by David R. Ellis (Cellular — he also worked as a stunt man and actor for years) and written by Sebastian Gutierrez, David Loucka and John Heffernan, Snakes is about an FBI agent (Samuel L. Jackson) escorting a captive witness to a court date, and then suddenly has to deal with a planeload of poisonous snakes that have been put there by Cale Boyter’s assistant…excuse me, a bad guy who doesn’t want the witness to talk.
Jackson has at least two money lines — “I’ve had it with these snakes!” and “I want these motherfucking snakes off the plane!”
FBI agent Samuel L. Jackson (l.) and a passenger obviously concerned with some nearby movement
I admit it — my first reaction was to shake my head and wonder what was wrong with Jackson’s judgment, or that of his agent. Now he looks like some kind of genius, or at the very least one very lucky mo-fo.
The phenomenon that has lifted Snakes, an exploitation B-movie if there ever was one, out of the realm of derision and into that of a pop legend is extremely rare. This one, in fact, is damn near close to unique.
As Borys Kit put it in his 3.23 Hollywood Reporter story, “Intense fan reaction to movies most often is associated with titles that have established themselves in other media, such as comic book movies or fantasy novels, before making their way to the screen. Or it becomes attached to surprise hits, like the original Star Wars, that develop massive cult followings [after] they are released.”
On one hand, New Line seems to be on top of what’s happening due to their decision to shoot five extra days of photography earlier this month on “the Lot” (i.e., across the street from Jones) in order to make the film into a hard R — more sex, nudity, graphic violence. They know what they have and they’re cranking it up some.
A New Line source told me this morning that they’ve added, for one example, a shot of “a guy being bitten by a snake on his Johnson.” How does that happen exactly? He’s taking a leak or…? “Mile-High Club,” he answered.
We both agreed that if the movie tips too much into self-parody, the fun of it will dissipate after 20 or 30 minutes. Nobody wants to see Airplane. It has to sit right on the edge between serious horror and wink-wink. Too much in either direction and the conceit falls apart.
We also noted that on the cyber-marketing side, New Line Cinema — ostensibly Ground Zero or Snakes Central — seems to be behind its own curve. Their official website isn’t even up and rolling yet — all it is is a title card and some ominous-bad-stuff-about-to-happen music.
And if you ask me, their 8.18 release date — five months from now — is a mistake at this stage. No movie company can orchestrate what’s happening with Snakes right now, and it’s folly to think that the present energy levels will keep up for another 19 or 20 weeks.
If New Line’s distribution chief Russell Schwartz is smart, he’ll push Snakes into theatres sometime in late May or at least sometime in June — strike when the iron is hot!
My New Line source says “there’s a heavy debate about this going on right now. Some want to stay with August because that gives you a couple of weeks free and clear…the competition isn’t too bad then. But others want to go sooner, for obvious reasons.”
A New York journalist friend wrote this morning and said, “I don’t get it…it sounds so terrible (the movie, I mean).” And I replied that terribleness is part of the friggin’ point. It’s about everyone being in on the joke…about the beginnings of a Rocky Horror coast-to-coast toga party.
If it turns out to be half as good as some of the promotion ideas have been so far, and if it doesn’t end up with too much of a self-mocking attitude, Snakes on a Plane could turn into one of the great communal theatre experiences of 2006.
Did anyone at Showest, the exhibitor convention that just happened in Las Vegas a while back, even mention this? (If so, I didn’t read about it.)
I’m serious…this is not a DVD thing. Everyone is going to have to go to a theatre with their friends and bark like seals at the jokes and the shrieks and fangs-sink- ing-into-penis moments.
I’m hoping it’ll be like the vibe at the Rivoli theatre in 1985 when I was working at New Line (as a publicist, believe it or not) and we all went to see Reanimator on opening night. That show was one of the best movie-theatre highs I’ve ever sampled…the kind of rave experience that high and low types can enjoy from the same place.
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.”
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