Last night Jamie Foxx told Power105 FM’s Angie Martinez that the Mike Tyson biopic that was announced last summer, in which Foxx will play the former heavyweight champion in a film written by Terrence Winter (Wolf of Wall Street), will be directed by none other than Martin Scorsese. “I just went in with Paramount with Mike Tyson,” Foxx told Martinez. “So I’m going to do the Mike Tyson story. Listen, to be in the same room pitching Mike Tyson to Paramount…Mike Tyson is on one side, I’m on the other side ‘doing’ Tyson at the same time. And Martin Scorsese at the helm. This will be the first boxing movie that Scorsese has done since Raging Bull.” Foxx’s manager Rick Yorn will produce. Scorsese is currently directing Silence in Taiwan.
During press interviews for Jules et Jim, which opened in the U.S. in May 1962, director Francois Truffaut realized after discussing Alfred Hitchcock with the top U.S. critics that he was not taken seriously. Truffaut wrote Hitchcock to propose a series of in-depth interviews that would cover Hitchcock’s entire career, film by film. The transcripts would eventually become “Hitchcock/Truffaut.”
Truffaut ended his letter to Hitchcock with the following: “If, overnight, the cinema had to do without its soundtrack and become once again a silent art, then many directors would be forced into unemployment, but among the survivors there would be Alfred Hitchcock, and everyone would realize at last that he is the greatest film director in the world.”
So Robert Downey, Jr. decided to pay for the kid’s bionic arm, right? Or is he just publicizing it? Either way it was bequeathed “at no cost to the family.” Downey says the bionic 3D printed arm is “affordable.” It’s from Albert Manero, the founder of Limbitless. A 3.13 Washington Post story by Leah Polakoff says the arm is 3-D printed on a Stratasys printer, [and] takes approximately 40 to 50 hours to manufacture. The average prosthetic limb costs around $40 K, but Manero’s “Iron Man” arm cost less than $350 in materials not counting labor, research and development time.
Last Tuesday I spoke with Ondi Timoner, director of Brand: A Second Coming, a fascinating, motor-mouthed portrait of actor-comedian-social activist Russell Brand. It will open Austin’s South by Southwest film festival this evening. Timoner’s doc (partly shot by HE’s own Svetlana Cvetko) is one of the most unusual and impressive documentary portraits of a famous person I’ve ever seen because of…well, its eagerness to step out of the standard function of a documentary and take the proverbial ride. It’s a film that transcends itself and becomes something else by embracing the attitude and temperament of its subject. Just as Brand has begun moving the focus of his life beyond fame and wealth and the lowest form of humor (i.e., simply making people laugh), Brand: A Second Coming is about seeing and transcending and turning a page. It’s about breaking out of the Wachowski’s Matrix by way of comic irreverence, manic energy and a massive ego.
Ondi Timoner, director of Brand: A Second Coming.
Brand is partly advocating a kind of Iceland-styled social revolution by way of consciousness raising and neighborhood organizing and more compassion for drug addicts and fierce resistance to most of the goals and systems of 1% corporate dominance, and partly calling for the debunking of conservative myths about individual fulfillment through the acquisition of power, money, sex, property, etc. Brand is rich so who’s he to talk, right? His response is to swear over and over that he’s been to the very top and gotten drunk on luxury and debauch and that none of the spoils are particularly fulfilling. He genuinely sees himself as a kind of change agent in the vague tradition of Malcolm X, Jesus of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi and Che Guevara. I realize this will rub some the wrong way, but what’s wrong with choosing these fellows as heroes and wanting to follow in their path? Brand’s obviously an eccentric, but he has the aura of a guy who’s really seen through the bullshit.
Born in June 1975, Brand first gained fame as a nervy, drug-addicted stand-up comedian, award-show m.c. and televized provocateur. He became sober in ’04 and got into transcendental meditation but continued to provoke and challenge and piss people off. His first big American-fame injection came, of course, from starring roles in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him To The Greek and Arthur. But gradually the focus of his comedy became more and more political, and Timoner’s film comes alive when this phase, which kicked in sometime around 2012, takes over. We’re speaking of a phase in which Brand has more or less forsaken narcissism in and of itself (well, mostly) and has resolved to be, as he explained during a relatively recent q & a, “the people’s narcissist.”
The new Esquire cover is ballsy in a modest, cautious sort of way. If Esquire, Nick Offerman and Chelsea Handler had really wanted to recreate the spirit of John Lennon and Yoko Ono‘s Two Virgins album photos they would’ve gone full-frontal. To stay within newstand distribution standards Esquire could’ve attached a peel-off sticky on top of the unfortunate truth of things. That would have rocked the world and sent people running and screaming for the exits like nothing before. Lennon allegedly said that the Two Virgins uproar “seemed to have less to do with the explicit nudity, and more to do with the fact that the pair were rather unattractive; [he] described it as a picture of ‘two slightly overweight ex-junkies.'” Offerman/Handler don’t look like druggies but, to be fair and honest about it, they look like most normal 40ish people here, which is to say not…well, not “unappealing” but at the same time not hugely attractive in a raw, biological, photo-studio context. But it’s okay. It could’ve been worse. The monochrome helps.
Russell Brand is an exceptionally brilliant, wise, cosmically plugged-in fellow — funny, relentlessly narcissistic, socially utopian and beholden to truth. I’m serious — he’s a lightning bolt and a major exception to the rule of celebrity and especially modern comedy. He has to be one of the least attention-averse people in the world. It therefore seems odd…make that extremely odd that he’s decided to not attend tonight’s South by Southwest premiere of Ondi Timoner‘s Brand: A Second Coming, which I’ve seen and, trust me, is nothing to be sheepish about — it’s quite the crackling, electric, transcendent experience.
In a statement on his website Brand says that “you’d think a narcissist would like nothing more than talking about themselves and their…story but actually, it felt like, to me, my life was hard enough the first time round and going through it again was painful and sad. For me watching [the film] was very uncomfortable.” In a just-posted interview with Indiewire‘s Nigel M. Smith, Timoner agrees that Brand “had a hard time…[a] really hard time with it.”
I wouldn’t mind seeing John Schlesinger‘s Far From The Madding Crowd (’67) as a warm-up for Thomas Vinterberg’s version, which Fox Searchlight is finally opening on May 1st. But that seems unlikely as I can’t attend the upcoming London theatrical showing and the new British Bluray won’t pop until 6.1.15. If Fox Searchlight wanted to be clever about it, they would offer a screening of the 168-minute Schlesinger version to critics on both coasts. That effort, scripted by Frederic Raphael, shot by Nicholas Roeg and and starring Julie Christie, was regarded as a failure during its time. I have a recollection of it being handsome but dirge-like. If nothing else critics seeing (or re-seeing) it would probably emerge with a finer appreciation for Vinterberg’s film, as it runs almost a full 40 minutes shorter.
In a way I’ve always regarded Ben Stiller‘s Zoolander as a kind of 9/11 film. The fashion-realm satire, largely based in Manhattan, opened only 17 days after that slaughter, and Stiller’s film, which is quite funny and actually inspired at times, just seems fused to that end-of-an-era feeling, that sense of shock that descended upon Manhattan in mid to late September of ’01. That was 13 and 1/2 years ago, and yet that recently released footage of Stiller and costar Owen Wilson walking the runway in footage for Zoolander 2 (Paramount, 2.12.16) indicates they haven’t aged a day. Justin Theroux‘s script is set in Europe; much of the filming will happen at Rome’s Cinecitta. Will Ferrell‘s “Mugatu” character (another holdover from ’01) is part of the new mix. Penelope Cruz and Christine Taylor costar. Four years ago Stiller said it’s basically about Derek and Hansel’s “lives [having] changed…they’re not really relevant anymore…it’s a new world for them.” If you define “relevance” as directly influencing or at least contributing to the shaping or flavoring of a given culture, what percentage of the population qualifies? At any point in time over 99.5% of humanity is along for the ride.