The Hollywood track record of producer Jerry Weintraub, the focus of an HBO doc airing tonight called My Way, is nothing to crow about. Out of 46 films he’s produced since the mid ’60s, three could be called good — William Friedkin‘s Cruising, Jean-Claude Tramont‘s All Night Long, and Barry Levinson‘s Diner.
Yes, Weintraub exec produced Robert Altman‘s Nashville, but he was probably just a money guy and had zilch to do with content. The other 40 or so (obviously excluding the future projects) have been more or less mulch. Yes, I’m including Oh, God! in that group.
I’m presuming that Steven Soderbergh‘s Liberace, which Weintraub is producing with Michael Douglas in the title role, is going to be an exceptional biopic, but even if you count that Weintraub’s good film tally is still 4 out of 46.
My impression of him over the years is that his colorful career and personality are a lot more interesting than what he’s put on the screen. I’m presuming that the doc realizes this and won’t try to tribute Weintraub for being anything more than a big operator with the gift of gab who’s gotten around and rubbed shoulders with legends for the last 50 years and made a lot of dough first and foremost — a guy who talks it a little bit better than he walks it.
We’ve all had this feeling, I think, that Weintraub, who started in the music business, “knows guys who know guys,” if you catch my drift.
I love this Weintraub quote, taken from a Movieline story: “I know so many people in the world [and] have a very big phone book and a very long reach around the world. And I think — I don’t think, I know — that 95 percent of the people who I know who weren’t born into success who have become successful and done things that are different and made a lot of money and had a lot of excitement in their life are people who never hear the word ‘no.‘”
A friend feels “it’s funny how My Way producer and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter did a serious takedown of Weintraub while at Spy, but now sucks up and makes an HBO documentary about him.”
I’ve never had four remotes before. Left to right: the 50″ Vizio plasma remote, the Time Warner cable remote, the Samsung Bluray remote and an iLive remote for an external sound bar I bought last weekend for $130 or thereabouts — adds agreeable bass and sharpness and much-needed volume when watching Blurays.
The just-released official poster for the 64th Cannes Film Festival sounds a familiar note in certain circles. “That ’70s vibe will never be with us again so let’s look backward”…right? Obviously a sultry and highly glamorous image of Faye Dunaway, of course, taken when she was about 30.
It was snapped during the shooting or promotion for Jerry Schatzberg‘s Puzzle of a Downfall Child (’70), which didn’t play all that well for me when I saw it in the ’90s. It’s an impressionistic time-shifty mood piece about a depressed and half-suicidal model turned actress, but it feels too scattered — it never settles in.
Could big-name actors and actresses of the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s have made it in subsequent decades? Would Cary Grant or Gary Cooper or Bette Davis or Katharine Hepburn would have been as big in movies if they’d been born, say, in 1950 or thereabouts? Would their temperaments and acting styles have meshed with the ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and afterwards, or were “Cary Grant,” “Cary Cooper,” “Bette Davis” and “Katharine Hepburn” manifestations and brands that could only have been shaped and refined and taken flight in the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s?
And what about the reverse? Could Reese Witherspoon or Adam Sandler or Owen Wilson or Seth Rogen have found some level of success in the old studio system?
The general across-the-board answer is no — old-time movie stars were obviously looser and more natural and low-key charismatic than theatrical actors of the early 20th and 19th Century, but there was also something classic and iconic about their personas as they acted in those often sentimental and sometimes dishonest big-studio programmers, and they were shaped by much tougher childhood experiences than actors of today. So it’s hard to imagine most of them fitting into today’s movie world. They’d be regarded as odd ducks who don’t get it.
And today’s better actors have the liberty of appearing in films that are far less pretentious and more-or-less realistically mannered, and are certainly less hokey than a good portion of the big-studio films, so it’s hard to imagine them fitting into the occasionally cornball dream-movie realms as envisioned and maintained by big-studio bosses like Louis B. Mayer, Harry Cohn, Samuel Goldwyn and Jack L. Warner. Plus dashing profiles and polished smoothie personas were much more valued (and prevalent) in the old days than today.
I could imagine Montgomery Clift fitting right into today’s realm, no problem. Or that of the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s. And young Marlon Brando, for sure. Grace Kelly, my lifelong concept of an eternal 10, could have easily made it in our world. All drop-dead beautiful actors with earnest conviction would have a shot in any time period, I would think.
But most actors are specific creations and reflections of the times they were brought up in and had to struggle in during their breaking-in period, particularly character actors. Rudolph Valentino would be a joke in 2011. He’d never make it.
Robert Towne (Chinatown, The Last Detail, The Firm) being hired to write a Sony miniseries based on Robert Harris‘s “Pompeii” — the same property that Roman Polanski tried to adapt into a feature only to abandon in ’07 — is an okay thing and a mildly interesting move. Because one might speculate that the Chinatown-resembling elements in Harris’s story had a bit to do with Towne’s involvement.
The main protagonist is Marcus Attilius Primus, a Roman engineer in the mold of Charlton Heston‘s character in Earthquake — a willful and sympathetic character with professional responsibilities. He rushes down from Rome to the Bay of Napoli to repair a damaged aqueduct, the Aqua Augusta, only to meet and fall for Corelia, described in an Amazon summary as “the defiant daughter of a vile real-estate speculator” a la Evelyn Cross Mulray and Noah Cross.
Down the road Corelia supplies Marcus “with documents implicating her father and Attilius’s predecessor in a water embezzlement scheme.” I’m not making this up!
All disaster movies are obliged to follow the same plot scheme. Acquaint the audience with a community of characters — some admirable, some villainous, some marginal — in Act One, while supplying indications and warnings of the disaster yet to come. The disaster occurs sometime during Act Two (or at the beginning of Act Three), and thereby shows what the key characters are made of. The pure logistical spectacle of the disaster occupies a good 15 or 20-minute span. And then the sorrow, the cleanup and the final resolution.
“All of us I think, have fantasies about living in the past and Pompeii uniquely allows you to indulge that fantasy,” Towne was quoted saying by Variety. “The Harris book tells a compelling story with contemporary relevance. If you want an idea of what it was like to live life back then, ‘Pompeii’ is it.”
Not taken by yours truly during my May 2007 visit to Pompeii.
Exec producer Ridley Scott said Towne would “bring his trademark vision to this remarkable project. In portraying an historical world on the brink of destruction, he will no doubt capture and engage audiences globally. His adaptation will truly make for an astonishing television event.”
I only ask that Scott and Sony spend the extra time to make the CG as fine and exacting as possible, and that Towne supply as much detail as he can about the minutiae of Italian life in A.D. 79. I say this as someone who visited Pompeii four years ago.
When he bailed on his Pompeii project Polanski said he had “put a lot of work and energy into [it] so it is not without regret that I have to decline my further involvement.” If I were Towne I’d be all over Polanski’s script and research, and urging Scott and Sony to compensate Polanski and give some kind of screen credit for creative input or whatever.
Polanski reportedly wanted Orlando Bloom, an actor whose career has been all but dead since the debacle of Elizabethtown and the underwhelming response to Kingdom of Heaven, to play Marcus Primus, and Scarlett Johansson was web-rumored to be interested in (or being sought for) the Corelia part.
Earlier today Awards Daily ‘s Sasha Stone, Boxoffice.com‘s Phil Contrino and I chewed the usual fat. Actually, not usual — interesting, sometimes amusing fat. Source Code, France again, early VOD windows, 48 to 60 fps photography, Sasha’s belief that Woody Allen has been off his game since the mid ’90s, etc. Here’s a non-iTunes, stand-alone link.
So Movieline critic Elvis Mitchell might have read an early draft of Ben Ripley‘s Source Code screenplay and remembered a line about Jeffrey Wright‘s character smoking a pipe, and somehow this recollection found its way into his review of the film…in which Wright doesn’t smoke a pipe. So effin’ what? Every so often processed information and impressions and memory fragments bleed into each other and scramble around. And then you fix it.
Anton Corbijn‘s Control, which I first saw at the 2007 Cannes Filn Festival, is probably the most beautiful black-and-white film of the 21st Century. (Francis Coppola‘s Tetro is a close second.) It’s been crying out for a Bluray, and so far the Weinstein Co. hasn’t announced one. Today I ordered the Alliance Region-A Bluray — sure to look great on the 50″ plasma.
At the end of Source Code is Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Colter Stevens finally over as a half-living entity (i.e., dead), or is he living a happy smiling life with Michelle Monaghan in the Source Code realm, or is he “alive” in the body of Sean Fentress, the guy he’s been inside all along, in the real-world realm? I’m not recalling all the particulars. Consider this bold-faced spoiler warning before watching the video. (Thanks to Rope of Silicon‘s Brad Brevet for starting this off.)
Last Wednesday I did a phoner with Paramount’s Ron Smith, the restoration guy who quarterbacked the work on the Ten Commandments Bluray. (And on the theatrical version.) A ten-minute portion of our chat is on the video. The film is best appreciated as “a Cecil B. DeMille proscenium arch experience,” as I put it. It’s immaculate old-world fakery, shot almost entirely on a sound stage. The 44 days spent shooting location footage in Egypt mean nothing to me. The Exodus scene could have been shot in the Mojave desert.
“Digital processes have made it cheaper and easier to assemble such multitudes in films like Gladiator and 300, but pixels are pixels, no matter how artfully deployed. Only DeMille and his army of assistants could have captured the spectacle of The Ten Commandments, a human spectacle, with weight, warmth and life.” — from Dave Kehr‘s 4.1 N.Y. Times appreciation.