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The August issue of the U.K. magazine The Word includes an interview with Brian De Palma by New York-based arts writer Tom Teodorczuk. The interview, published to coincide with the DVD release of De Palma's Redacted in the U.K., was conducted prior to the announcement last month that De Palma had signed on to direct The Boston Stranglers. The headline reads: "His Iraq movie was 'blatantly dumped', spits Brian De Palma. So now he's making another one."
"TALK ABOUT A LOOSE CANNON"
In the interview, De Palma discusses his reasons for making Redacted:
With the Iraq war, we have destroyed a country. What the hell are we doing there? We've got over two million refugees wandering around in Syria and Oman and it's like, "Oops! Sorry!" The catastrophe we've caused in the world in the last eight years - talk about a loose cannon. The rest of the world must be going, "What are they going to do next?" I think we've overextended. Look at the British empire 100 years ago and how that ended up. There's something wrong with this picture. Should we be making money from oil, defense contractors and creating a tabloid version of the war?
"YOU'VE GOT TO TAKE SHOTS IN YOUR CAREER"
De Palma also discussed with Teodorczuk the public reaction to Redacted:
People react to the steam. You're always amazed when people don't look at what is on the screen, but I've noticed that a lot of times in my career. Instead they react to some political view or some notion of political correctness. This is another example of that. With Scarface, 20 per cent of the audience walked out when it was released. Some of the most commercial artists make a tremendous amount of money, everybody loves them and then when they die everybody forgets about them. Some of the most uncommercial artists, everybody's ranting and raving about them during their lifetime and yet often they make the movies that stick. You've got to take shots in your career.
"THEY CAN'T ALL BE HITS"
Discussing the public indifference to films about the Iraq war, De Palma said that people "just don't want to know about Iraq or feel conflicted about what we're doing there." Saying he's "never had a movie that was so blatantly dumped" in all his life, De Palma concluded that "They can't all be hits. Most of them aren't, and if you're making hits all the time, something may be very wrong with what you're doing."
PRINT THE LEGEND
When Teodorczuk asked him what his next film will be, De Palma stated that he was working on another script about Iraq (which we know is currently titled Print The Legend-- Teodorczuk writes that this interview took place "on a bitterly cold morning in downtown Manhattan," which indicates that it was probably in the winter while De Palma was still in the process of formulating ideas for this new film). De Palma described the project:
It has more to do with the embedded reporter stories and how the information is spun and influenced in a way that's completely the opposite of what is actually going on. In terms of how it has been reported, the war is completely spun homogenised propaganda and I feel that the press is just an arm of the administration and the big corporations that are profiting from this war. It will also feature some women soldiers. It's about what they do to people who tell the truth about the war and how they get discredited and destroyed. Like with the Valerie Plame affair. Joe Wilson said he went over there and they weren't buying yellowcake and yet that kept appearing in Bush's speeches the whole time. Then he goes to the New York Times and they destroy him.
THE BLUE AFTERNOON
De Palma also mentioned to Teodorczuk that he would like to film William Boyd's The Blue Afternoon. "It would make a fantastic movie," De Palma said. "It's a book I've loved for years."
"IT DOESN'T REALLY MATTER WHO THE NEXT PRESIDENT IS"
In his ever iconoclastic manner, De Palma discussed his anti-establishment view of politics when Teodorczuk asked him his take on the upcoming U.S. Presidential election:
Bush has got us into a tremendous amount of trouble but it doesn't really matter who the next President is. I'm not part of the liberal establishment that has a political agenda. I don't think the liberal establishment wants to take responsibility for this war. They blame it on Bush but they were complicit in prosecuting it. Do I have strong political views? You bet. I think the best way to express them is in your work and then get the hell off the stage. Then again, you don't make movies like Mission: Impossible because you have strong political statements to say about the CIA.
"WORSE THAN BEING DEAD IS BEING HOT"
When asked by Teodorczuk if he'll ever make another blockbuster, De Palma discussed his ambivalence at working on genre pictures:
I don't know. I'm really at an age where I don't think I have to prove anything to anybody anymore, least of all myself. It's like, "Do you really want to go through all that?" Worse than being dead is being hot. But if you want to continue making movies, you have to make genre pictures every once in a while that make people a lot of money. Since I can get very interested in the visualization of action, I can work in those genres like with The Untouchables or Mission: Impossible. I do it every once in a while. Everybody says, "Oh, you're back", but it's not where my heart lies.
HUGO, LENI, KANE, NOLAN, ELLROY, DE PALMA
Michael Guillen has riffed off a nice summary of the links between The Man Who Laughs, The Dark Knight, and The Black Dahlia in a two-part piece stemming from a recent screening of The Man Who Laughs at the San Francisco Silent Film Festival. In part one, Guillen describes in well-researched summary how Conrad Veidt's Gwynplaine inspired the creation of the Joker. Then, in part two, Guillen explores the themes that link The Man Who Laughs with The Black Dahlia and The Dark Knight. Discussing the "problematic erotic triangulation" between Lee, Bucky, and Kay in The Black Dahlia, Guillen writes:
That triangulation is articulated through a scene in De Palma's film where Lee, Bucky and Kay—in what Village Voice critic J. Hoberman terms "an unlikely date"—catch a screening of Leni's The Man Who Laughs. In a September 2006 interview with Daily Breeze reporter Jim Farber, Brian De Palma stated, "If this film works, it's because I stayed scrupulously on the Ellroy road. I didn't try to change things. What I did do was try to find visual equivalents for some of the things he's doing in the book, like introducing a scene from the German Expressionist silent film The Man Who Laughs, rather than having somebody have to explain what that key image is all about. I tried to keep very much to Ellroy's story structure and the way he explains things, which sometimes explains nothing." Expressionistic dualism, anyone? De Palma's strategy in this scene is to observe how The Man Who Laughs reveals the varied interiority of his three main characters. As Armond White delineates for Cineaste, "Bucky is transfixed, Lee is bemused and Kay is frightened—reflecting their individual response to life's horrors." (Cineaste, 12/22/06). Hoberman qualifies Kay's "agonized response to [Gwynplaine]'s scarred face" by reminding that the audience soon discovers she herself has been branded.
THE JOKER IS DRESSED TO KILL
By the way, we can add Keith Uhlich to the list of Dark Knight critics getting tons of hate mail for disliking the film. Uhlich does, however, make a De Palma reference in his review of the film at The House Next Door. Uhlich makes a quick comparison between the nightmare at the end of De Palma's Dressed To Kill, where Bobbi kills a nurse and then dons her uniform to escape a mental institution, and the Dark Knight sight of Heath Ledger's Joker moving through a hospital wearing a nurse's uniform.
POLAND COMPARES KNIGHT TO THE UNTOUCHABLES
Sure, we've seen plenty of critics compare The Dark Knight to De Palma's The Untouchables, but somehow we missed Dave Poland's early review of Nolan's film, where he stated that Nolan here is reaching for "a Godfather-esque effort" that nevertheless shoots itself in the foot by being too long, and yet not long enough. Poland writes:
Martin Scorsese's The Departed. Michael Mann's Heat. Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. And now, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight can join the list of one of the most absorbing and intense crime dramas in modern movie milestones.
Scott Mantz at Access Hollywood wrote that "The existential, psychological, intelligent approach of The Dark Knight makes it less of a superhero movie and more of an epic crime drama that puts Nolan in the same league as Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese and Michael Mann." Sounds like if crime movies are your thing, these are the directors to look out for.
But while some critics this week have been less enthusiastic (with most of the latter citing a lack of spatial clarity and quick-cut editing as part of the film's problems), Armond White has set himself apart as the man who refuses to laugh in the face of this somber Batman. White's review of The Dark Knight in this week's New York Press, which is generating hate posts at Rotten Tomatoes (and inevitably soon-to-be-published hate mail at the New York Press itself), sees the film as a cold commercial enterprise that corrupts "ideas of escapist entertainment." White compares and contrasts Nolan's film with Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns, but he also finds muse to link and compare it to De Palma's The Black Dahlia. White suggests that Burton's romantic affiliation with the lonely characters in the Batman mythos "was richer" than what he calls Nolan's one-note tone of gloom. White writes:
For Nolan, making Batman somber is the same as making it serious... As in Memento, Nolan shows rudimentary craft; his zeitgeist filmmaking—morose, obsessive, fussily executed yet emotionally unsatisfying—will only impress anyone who hasn’t seen De Palma’s genuinely, politically serious crime-fighter movie, The Black Dahlia. Aaron Eckhart’s cop role in The Black Dahlia humanized the complexity of crime and morality. But as Harvey Dent, sorrow transforms him into the vengeful Two-Face, another Armageddon freak in Nolan’s sideshow.
White also references De Palma's film in his description of Heath Ledger's Joker ("sweaty clown’s make-up to cover his Black Dahlia–style facial scar"). As might be expected, some of the posts at Rotten Tomatoes are using the fact that White prefers The Black Dahlia to The Dark Knight as proof that the critic just doesn't get modern art.
Sadly, that is very much on the back burner. It’s actually an incredible script but like many projects you get involved with and then aren’t, I think there was issues with who had the rights to the script and casting and Capone - who was going to do that. So it’s taken its place in one of the dusty cupboards at the moment. But I can totally see that coming back, the script is such a classic, I mean it’s great, but no, it’s not happening tomorrow.
De Palma tried to get his screen adaptation of Alfred Bester‘s The Demolished Man made in 1978, with Frank Yablans as producer, following the pair’s collaboration on The Fury that same year. However, the project proved difficult to get off the ground after the disappointing box office of The Fury.
Throughout the years, various filmmakers have attempted to get a film of The Demolished Man off the ground, but none have yet succeeded. In 1981, Oliver Stone wrote a screenplay based on Bester’s novel that Ted Kotcheff was supposed to direct. More recently, in 2005, Tom Jacobson, who had produced De Palma’s Mission To Mars, tried to produce a version of Bester’s book adapted by Milo Addica, and to be directed by Andrew Dominik. However, that project seems to have fallen through. De Palma has mentioned The Demolished Man every now and then through the years as a project he is still keeping an eye on.
DE PALMA NAMES THREE FAVORITES
In the French mediacast, De Palma is "asked" by "Gilles Jacob" to name the best three movies he's ever seen. De Palma expresses difficulty trying to come up with only three, but names, in this order, The Red Shoes, Lawrence Of Arabia, and Vertigo.
GALE ANNE HURD FEATURED IN VARIETY
Variety today publishes a series of articles in tribute to De Palma’s ex-wife and current collaborator Gale Anne Hurd, pictured here in her office. Via her company, Valhalla Motion Pictures, Hurd is producing De Palma’s upcoming adaptation of Susan Kelly‘s The Boston Stranglers. Hurd tells Variety that the story “touches on the desire for celebrity, using fear as a way to control people and manipulate the media and the police department, and to bring political pressure.”
BIG NAMES BANDIED ABOUT FOR STRANGLERS LEAD
The man who, according to Kelly’s book, took credit for the Boston Strangler murders and created a media circus in his quest for celebrity status was Albert DeSalvo. According to Boston Magazine’s David Mashburn, three of the big names being mentioned as the potential lead in De Palma’s film are Mark Wahlberg (who was originally cast to play Lee Blanchard in De Palma’s The Black Dahlia, but fell out when that production hit a snag and he moved on to other projects), Benicio Del Toro, and Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise? That would be extremely interesting. In the French mediacast mentioned above, “Tom Cruise” asks De Palma, “Would you work with me again, or is that mission impossible?” De Palma replies, “Well, Tom, it was very exciting to work with you, and we made a terrific movie together, but when you asked me to make the next Mission: Impossible, I said, ‘Isn’t one Mission: Impossible enough?’” These casting tremors are just rumors for now, but Mashburn also supplies one other interesting tidbit: Alan Rosen’s screenplay for The Boston Stranglers currently takes up about three hours worth of screen time.
RETEAMS WITH GALE ANNE HURD FOR ADAPTATION
Brian De Palma will reteam with producer Gale Anne Hurd to film The Boston Stranglers, according to Jay A. Fernandez at the Hollywood Reporter. The film is an adaptation of a 1996 nonfiction book (updated in 2002) titled, The Boston Stranglers: The Public Conviction of Albert DeSalvo and the True Story of Eleven Shocking Murders, written by Susan Kelly. In the book, Kelly claims to debunk the confessions of Albert DeSalvo, who was convicted of strangling 13 women between 1962 and 1964. According to Kelly's book, the Boston murders were the result of several killers, and DeSalvo was a pathological liar who craved celebrity. One striking detail of the murders was that there was never a sign of forced entry into the victims' homes, most of whom were sexually assaulted before being strangled, often with their own nylon stockings (the killings were also referred to as the silk stocking murders).
FLEISCHER'S 1968 FILM A LIKELY PART OF PLOT
In 1968, Richard Fleischer directed a film titled The Boston Strangler, starring Tony Curtis and Henry Fonda, and based on the Gerold Frank book of the same name. Fleischer's film is noted for its use of split screen, a technique De Palma had begun to experiment with around the same time. While Fleischer's film focused on DeSalvo as the true killer, when the film was first shown on television in 1974 (the year after DeSalvo was stabbed to death in prison), a voiceover was tacked on at the end to state that several experts had become convinced that DeSalvo was not the killer. Kelly's book includes chapters about Fleischer's film, which was filmed on location in Boston and Cambridge, creating a media frenzy and a local stir. The film itself became a key part of a trial, detailed in Kelly's book, in which DeSalvo went up against Twentieth Century Fox over the rights to his life story. At one point early in the trial, the judge and the attorneys attend a private screening of the Fleischer film.
The Hollywood Reporter article mentions that "De Palma similarly plumbed real-life-derived atrocities in Casualties of War, Redacted and The Black Dahlia." This film could be interesting as a postmodern pluralized ("Stranglers" instead of "Strangler") revision of Fleischer's picture, which nevertheless takes De Palma back to the decade at the heart of his cinema, the 1960s. The director also must feel at home in reteaming with Hurd. While the two were married, Hurd produced what was surely De Palma's most personal film of the 1990s, Raising Cain (1992), which De Palma wrote and directed. De Palma and Hurd, who also have a daughter together (Lolita De Palma), seem to have remained friends over the past decade and a half, and it will be nice to see them team up again professionally. Hurd will produce through her own Valhalla Motion Pictures (Hulk, Terminator 3, Dick). In a statement quoted at Reuters' Fan Fare blog today, Hurd said that De Palma "has the perfect visual and thematic sensibility" for The Boston Stranglers. Hurd has also produced both Hulk movies, the second of which (The Incredible Hulk) is released June 13th.
CARL FRANKLIN & ALAN ROSEN
Carl Franklin had previously been attached to direct the Boston Stranglers project, which Hurd has had lined up at Paramount since 2001 (the Hollywood Reporter article does not mention Paramount, or any other distributor attached at this time). Alan Rosen, a TV writer/director/producer, had written the first draft of the adaptation from Kelly's book, and then worked with Franklin on a revised version. In 2002, Sid Quashie was assigned by Paramount to work with Franklin on a new draft. Franklin had still been attached through at least January of 2005, when he mentioned the project during a USA Today chat, indicating that the script was still being reworked. According to the Hollywood Reporter article, Rosen is the screenwriter of choice now that De Palma is aboard the project.
The Hollywood Reporter article gives no indication as to when The Boston Stranglers might go into production, stating simply that De Palma has signed on to helm the project. In April, William Boyd mentioned during a Book Slam Podcast that he hoped De Palma's adaptation of his book The Blue Afternoon would go into production by the end of 2008. Last month, Redacted producers Simone Urdl and Jennifer Weiss announced at Cannes that they would produce two De Palma scripts, one titled Print The Legend, and an untitled political thriller. The two producers indicated that Print The Legend would go into production first, and it is highly conceivable that this low-budget project may already be flying under the radar. De Palma also continues to be involved with a prequel to The Untouchables, which is still in the casting stages, although Gerard Butler has already signed on for that film. Meanwhile, De Palma's latest film, Redacted, will screen at the Melbourne International Film Festival, which runs from July 25 through August 10.
Quentin Tarantino gave a cinema master class this morning at the 61st Cannes Film Festival, and Karina Longworth was there to provide a live blog full of notes from the lecture. Tarantino mentioned De Palma several times, calling him his "rock star" when Tarantino was younger, and discussing his use of 360-degree pans. He also mentioned that he stole a line from Casualties Of War, a film he used as inspiration for a scene in Reservoir Dogs. Here are some excerpts from Longworth's notes:
Influences starting out: Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, Sergio Leone, Howard Hawks. Brian DePalma was like my rock star. I spent a year and a half going over theTV Guide looking for movies by Hawks. They played 80% of his sound films on LA TV.They show the first scene from Reservoir Dogs.
3:12: [difference between Reservoir Dogs opening scene, credits, second scene, where Tim Roth is bleeding in the back of the car] You know they had breakfast, you know that something drastic has happened between the two. And now you’re just playing catch-up.
I wanted to show that as much fun as the guys are in their suits and the cool things they say, the violence is very real. Bullets aren’t movie bullets. It’s real. If you’re shot in the stomach, your gastric juices are released, it’s an incredibly painful experience, it’s a slow death and it’s painful all the way. So I was going to try to dramatize that. So we were like, “How do you do that?” And we just went for it.
If I had any inspiration for that scene, at the time I was into that moment in Casualties of War, when the black soldier gets shot and Sean Penn is trying to him in the helicopter. There’s a tremendous amount of tenderness there. I even stole a line––Sean Penn says, “Look at my eyes, I’m gonna hypnotize you.” I stole that.