Talking Movies

June 24, 2010

Great Production Disasters of Our Time: The Matrix Reloaded

The Matrix Reloaded was originally scheduled for release in December 2002 before being pushed back to May 2003. Few people were ever allowed to know why…

EXT.AUSTRALIAN OUTBACK-DAY
The WACHOWSKI BROTHERS are standing around with a copy of the Reloaded script and are arguing over architectural plans with a PRODUCTION DESIGNER and a SPECIAL EFFECTS GURU. KEANU REEVES, dressed in a suit, walks straight up and addresses the two Brothers.

KEANU: ‘There may be a problem’.
LARRY: (beat) Did you just quote our own dialogue at us?
KEANU: Yeah, I’m practising my lines by dropping them into appropriate situations.
LARRY: That’s not your line.
ANDY: Bigger problem, not only is that not your line, that’s not your line – from the first film!
LARRY: Why are you quoting from the first film?!
KEANU: Damn! (to himself) I knew those lines seemed too easy to learn…
ANDY: You’ve re-learnt the lines to the film we’ve already made?!
KEANU: Look, let’s focus on the problem I found.
LARRY: What problem?

Keanu produces his own copy of the Reloaded script, flips thru it and points at a page.

KEANU: See this, um, this (hesitates) …that word, right there.

Larry & Andy squint at the word, then look at each other quizzically.

ANDY: What’s the problem?
KEANU: Well, Carrie has to say that word, and, we’re Canadian, and…um…
LARRY: What?
KEANU: (swivels round in desperation and shouts) Carrie! Get over here

CARRIE-ANNE MOSS, dressed in black leather, strides over and stands beside Keanu and the Brothers. The production designer and special effects guru melt away.

CARRIE: Whatsupski?

Larry & Andy roll their eyes at this familiar greeting.

KEANU: (points at his script) This word.
CARRIE: (peering at the script) ‘Roondaboot’, Roondaboot? What?
ANDY: (to Larry) Did she just speak French to him?
LARRY: (to Andy) No idea.
CARRIE: What about that word?
KEANU: Well, nothing to you and me, but (gestures to the Brothers) to them, um…
CARRIE: What?
KEANU: Look, I’ll read in for Laurence and you do your part.
CARRIE: Okay…

They huddle in to read from Keanu’s copy of the script and stand in poses to indicate that they are now in their characters.

CARRIE: The roondaboot?
KEANU: Yes.
CARRIE: You always told me to stay off the roondaboot.
KEANU: Yes, that’s true.
CARRIE: You said going on the roondaboot was suicide.
KEANU: Then let us hope that I was wrong.

ANDY: Jesus-
LARRY: Christ…

The brothers look stunned, Carrie looks uncomfortable and looks at Keanu.

KEANU: (looking away, mumbles defensively) We’re Canadian…
ANDY: (to Keanu) Why didn’t you tell us about this before now?
KEANU: I hadn’t read this part of the script! It’s 20 pages of hyper-detailed descriptions of wall to wall action…and I’m not in it. You’ve got me jerking around some castle somewhere…
LARRY: (to Carrie) And what about you?
CARRIE: Oh, I haven’t read either of the scripts.

The Brothers try to process this – one actor learning the wrong script, the other not learning any script. Andy is the first to compose himself.

ANDY: Uh, why?
CARRIE: Laurence thought it would be more in the moment for us to just learn the pages each day as we went. He hasn’t read the scripts either…
KEANU: It’s not like it’s that a big deal guys, I mean c’mon, it’s just one word in a few lines – change the dialogue.
LARRY: Oh, it’s just one word in a few lines is it?!
KEANU: (puzzled) Yeah, it’s not like it’s crucial to anything. Right?

The Brothers look at each other then glare at Carrie who looks towards Keanu who looks at the Brothers like they know something he and Carrie don’t…

CLOSE UP:
KEANU: What?

The camera cranes up from his face and pushes over the tops of some trailers behind him, before soaring over a ridge to reveal techs laying camera tracks along the edges of road-network constructed for real in the desert, the centrepiece of which is a roundabout so preposterously enormous that it makes the Arc de Triomphe one look like one of those roundabouts you drive over while looking for the roundabout before realising that that painted bump in the road was the roundabout.

ANDY: (O/S) Larry, do you want to flip a coin to decide who gets to tell the studio?

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June 16, 2010

Mark Pellegrino gets ambitious

INT.HOLLYWOOD OFFICE-DAY
DELANEY, an agent to the stars, well, minor actors, sits at his desk lovingly watering his potted plant while MARK PELLEGRINO, seated opposite him, complains…

PELLEGRINO: I just…it feels like I’m stuck in a rut, you know.
DELANEY: A rut? Don’t I get you roles in good stuff? Didn’t Capote win Oscars? Doesn’t Dexter win Golden Globes?
PELLEGRINO: Yeah, and I’m glad to be in good stuff but…I’m getting typed. What was I playing in Capote? The second-string killer from In Cold Blood. What was I playing in Dexter? Rita’s strung-out abusive ex-husband. I don’t want to become the go-to guy for down the bill vicious rednecks. I’d even shave if that would help…
DELANEY: Is this an ego thing? You want to be a regular now?
PELLEGRINO: No, it’s not a credits thing. I just want something, bigger, you know.
DELANEY: Bigger?
PELLEGRINO: Yeah, (mimes with his hands) BIGGER.
DELANEY: So, okay, bigger, okay, so you want something like Jake La Motta, something where you can bulk up like De Niro for the part? Be bigger-
PELLEGRINO: No, not physically bigger you idiot.
DELANEY: -Because I could still get you an audition for the Blob in Wolverine if you want to go full-on method to get attention.
PELLEGRINO: No, no! Not… (pause) Why do I keep paying you?
DELANEY: Some deranged sense of loyalty?
PELLEGRINO: (sighs) I don’t want to gain weight you moron, try to understand me. When I say bigger I really mean, loftier, you know. Some role where I don’t have to explain what my part was, and then have people go ‘oh’, and think ‘vicious redneck, I can see that’. I want a character whose name speaks for itself. I don’t mean get me Macbeth-
DELANEY: What’s Macbeth?
PELLEGRINO: (pretends he didn’t hear that) I just mean get me something that’s a bit classier than the seedy thugs I’ve been playing with distinction and sensitivity.
DELANEY: So, still a small supporting role, not a regular, but lofty.
PELLEGRINO: Lofty, you know.
DELANEY: Lofty, yeah, I getcha.
PELLEGRINO: So, do you think you can get me something lofty?
DELANEY: Sure, no problem.
PELLEGRINO: Good, good. Thanks Delaney.
(Exit Pellegrino)
(Delaney waits a few beats, dives into his desk, and emerges with a dictionary)
DELANEY: ‘Lofty’…

INT. HOLLYWOOD OFFICE-DAY
DELANEY sits at his desk lovingly watering his potted plant while MARK PELLEGRINO, seated opposite him, looks expectantly at him…

TITLE: 2 MONTHS LATER…

DELANEY: They’re so lofty they’re practically- (hits speakerphone switch) Janine what was that word again.
JANINE: (O/S) Non-corporeal.
DELANEY: They’re so lofty they’re practically non-corporeal.
PELLEGRINO: Well what are ‘they’?
DELANEY: Well I’ve got you a part in Supernatural.
PELLEGRINO: That’s the one with the two guys?
DELANEY: Yeah, the two pretty boys who drive around the country looking outrageously pretty while killing monsters with a surprising amount of gore for a network show so that it appeals to every demographic!
PELLEGRINO: Okay, that doesn’t sound over lofty though, what’s my part?
DELANEY: Lucifer.
PELLEGRINO: Oh cool! There’s name recognition for ya! No need to explain that part to people. Good going Delaney.
DELANEY: I thank you. I also got you another recurring role in another show.
PELLEGRINO: What show?
DELANEY: LOST.
PELLEGRINO: No freaking way!
DELANEY: Yes freaking away.
PELLEGRINO: Awesome! I get to ‘work’ in Hawaii. What’s the part? Is it lofty?
DELANEY: Oh it’s very lofty, you’ll be playing Jakob.
PELLEGRINO: Who’s Jakob?
DELANEY: He’s so lofty he’s non-corporeal. He’s, sort of, God, on the island.
PELLEGRINO: He’s God?
DELANEY: Yes. No.
PELLEGRINO: Well which is it? Yes or No? Because that would make just a teensy bit of difference to how I play the part…
DELANEY: He’s, well… Look they explained it down the phone and they weren’t particularly clear about it but just play it as probably being God, okay?
PELLEGRINO: Probably?! (pause) Okay, I can explain to people that Jakob is God and then go ‘I also played the Devil – Range!’ When do these two roles shoot?
DELANEY: Next few months.
PELLEGRINO: What, both? I’m doing them simultaneously?
DELANEY: Yes, that’s what I agreed to.
PELLEGRINO: Oh Christ, that’s going to get confusing. You’ve got me playing God and the Devil in two shows at the same time!
DELANEY: Well it shouldn’t be hard to remember which is which. If it’s hot as hell,
PELLEGRINO: Yeah?
DELANEY: Then you’re playing God.
PELLEGRINO: (beat) Not helping dude.
JANINE: (O/S) Did you want something else sir, because I’m still on speaker…
PELLEGRINO: (head in hands) About a million post-its with, ‘Please tell Mark which Ultimate Being he’s meant to be today’, please Janine.

June 11, 2010

The Importance of Being Lady Bracknell

The advertising campaign flooded radio-waves with trumpeting worthy of an A-list movie star. “Stockard Channing, the star of Grease and (copy-writer thinks hard, skips 30 years) The West Wing, Oscar-nominated for (copy-writer checks IMDb quickly, hoping she was indeed nominated once) Six Degrees of Separation, is starring as Lady Bracknell in The Importance of Being Earnest at the Gaiety, for a limited run only”. The more subdued poster campaign promised Earnest ‘With Stockard Channing’, though she was still the only actor on the poster…

The truth is that Lady Bracknell just isn’t that big a role. Is she structurally important for the tightly-wound farce? Absolutely. Does she have a plethora of disgustingly good lines? Undoubtedly. Is she on-stage for more than three scenes? Nope. Basing your advertising around the actress playing Lady Bracknell is like playing up who’s doing Caesar in Julius Caesar… You can be damn sure that Anthony Asquith when directing the definitive 1952 screen Earnest secured Michael Redgrave for the lead role before he went looking for Dame Edith Evans to do an ‘And Dame Edith Evans’ exercise in scenery-chewing as Lady Bracknell. It’s a part that grand dames of theatre from Margaret Rutherford to Judi Dench could do in their sleep, but wake up for because it’s so much fun. But it’s a fun supporting role.

Marketing the play around Channing, inevitable because of the coup of securing star-power standard in the West End, is an adoption by theatre of the bait and switch marketing trick so sadly prevalent in cinema. But theatregoers tend to be better informed, if for no other reason than the price differential and the smaller capacity venues mean more thought and planning goes into attending a play than the aimless drifting into a multiplex screen when your preferred option is sold out that is so much cinema-going. Channing will sell more tickets for Rough Magic, who wouldn’t have stepped up to a venue the size of the Gaiety otherwise, but most people attending will know she’s not going to be the leading attraction, and those who don’t may well experience the sort of annoyance at being misled that destroyed Sweeney Todd when, after a spectacularly deceitful trailer, Americans audiences discovered to their horror that it was actually a musical.

Personally I’m bemused by the hype, as even within the cast of The West Wing, while I would run to the theatre to see Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford or Allison Janney, I would never have been that pushed about Channing. I’m also annoyed that the hype surrounding Channing distracts from the home-grown talent on show. I am perhaps biased (he was my committee liaison when I directed my first show in UCD’s Dramsoc in 2001) but it irks me that Rory Nolan, who was superb as Jack Absolute in Brinsley Sheridan’s equally ridiculous classic The Rivals in the Abbey last summer and will undoubtedly Fassbender across the Gaiety stage with Algernon’s splendid paeans to Bunburying, will receive little attention because of the media circus surrounding Channing. Yes, it is nice to see Hollywood movie-stars doing theatre here occasionally but it’s nicer to see Irish theatre actors doing theatre here every week.

June 2, 2010

Icon: Werner Herzog

Herzog’s dementedly brilliant The Bad Lieutenant is currently in cinemas and another feature My Son What Have Ye Done? is winning acclaim at film festivals, so it’s time for a brief spot of hero-worship of the insane German auteur.

Werner Herzog was born in 1942 and worked in a steel factory to fund his film education. When he was thirteen his family had shared an apartment in Munich with an eccentric actor called Klaus Kinski. Kinski had a small role in For a Few Dollars More but was widely considered impossible to work with. Herzog (who said of Kinski, “I had to domesticate the wild beast”) was thus uniquely positioned to extract performances of grandeur from the actor in the five films they made together. Herzog spent the mid-60s trying to get his award winning feature script Signs of Life off the ground. He had written it in 1964 and in 1967 finally managed to make it with only $20,000 and a stolen 35 mm movie camera. It was released to acclaim in 1968 and his debut established his directorial style. Languidly paced with long takes and dreamy landscape shots it followed the descent into madness of an injured soldier while working as caretaker of a military fortress with his wife on a Greek island. Herzog followed it up with a National Geographic documentary The Flying Doctors of East Africa establishing a pattern of alternating features with documentaries that persists to this day.

Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972) established Herzog as a truly visionary director with an extraordinary eye for landscape cinematography and a talent for exploring states of deep psychological madness in its epic narrative of a Conquistador’s search for El Dorado. Herzog revisited this theme with Fitzcarraldo (1982) which was another story of insanity in the South American rainforests and during which he remarked, “I shouldn’t make movies anymore. I should go to a lunatic asylum”. Both films benefited from extraordinary performances by Klaus Kinski of whom he said:  “People think we had a love-hate relationship. Well, I did not love him, nor did I hate him. We had mutual respect for each other, even as we both planned each other’s murder”. It is alleged that Herzog threatened Kinski with a gun during takes on Fitzcarraldo

Documentaries became Herzog’s mainstay following Kinski’s death in 1990. Herzog’s reputation in that field is immense. He was responsible for forcing Errol Morris, director of 2004’s The Fog of War, to stop talking about it and finally make his documentary debut, the off-beat 1978 pet cemetery documentary Gates of Heaven, with a challenge that Herzog made good on in the 1979 short film Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe… Herzog’s most notable documentaries include 1997’s Little Dieter Needs to Fly and 2005’s Grizzly Man. He also starred in 2004’s Incident at Loch Ness, an uproariously funny mockumentary about Herzog making a film about the phenomenon of Nessie, co-written and directed with X-2 scribe Zak Penn.

While being interviewed about Grizzly Man by Mark Kermode for BBC 2’s Culture Show Herzog was shot live on camera by an air-rifle. Herzog, Kermode and the crew dived for cover and scurried from the Beverly Hills to Herzog’s house to finish the interview. Herzog was remarkably unperturbed, merely muttering “I have been shot at before, but this is the first time I have been shot at in those hills”. Kermode was aghast to discover that Herzog was bleeding having been shot in the stomach by the sniper. Herzog steadfastly refused to go to hospital maintaining, “It is an insignificant wound”, and finished the interview. The morning after the interview was broadcast Joaquin Phoneix revealed Herzog had rescued him from a car wreck. Phoenix overturned his car on a canyon road above Sunset Boulevard after his brakes failed. Phoenix said “I remember this knocking on the passenger window. There was this German voice saying, ‘Just relax’…I’m saying, ‘I’m fine. I am relaxed’…this head pops inside. And he said, ‘No, you’re not’. And suddenly I said to myself, ‘That’s Werner Herzog’ There’s something so calming and beautiful about Werner Herzog’s voice. I felt completely fine and safe. I climbed out. I got out of the car and I said, ‘Thank you’, and he was gone”. After such a truly Batman like escapade it was only suitable that Herzog’s next film was with Christian Bale. Rescue Dawn dramatised the true story of Little Dieter Needs to Fly, an account of USAF pilot Dieter Dengler’s attempts to escape from a Vietcong POW camp.

Herzog followed up his highest-profile feature in many years with Encounters at the End of the World, an inspired portrayal of Antarctica’s wildlife and landscape and the oddballs who live there, which was Talking Movies’ pick of 2009. Herzog may well win it and place this year…

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