VIDEO FROM ABC'S 'GOOD MORNING AMERICA'
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a la Mod:
Brad Stevens compared Al Pacino's roles in De Palma's Carlito's Way and Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather Part III at Senses Of Cinema's Carlito's Way appreciation compilation.
The thing about ‘Unknown’ is that the implausibility never really slows it down. As the mystery becomes deeper and more complex, you go along with it. [Liam] Neeson hires a Soviet-era spook played by Bruno Ganz to do some private investigating, while Diane Kruger becomes his de facto partner-in-crime. Shadowy killers stalk our hero. In a great scene lifted from Brian De Palma’s ‘Dressed to Kill’, he tries to reconnect with Jones while dodging goons in an art gallery. The mayhem steadily intensifies, straining credibility until the breaking point, which culminates with a giant third act plot twist that threatens to dismantle the whole thing… But doesn’t. Maybe it’s the appearance of Frank Langella as a dapper villain, or the fact that Neeson is just a compulsively watchable character. He’s very much channeling his everyman avenger from ‘Taken’, but ‘Unknown’ is an altogether more stylish, sophisticated beast.
NA: We met working on “Carrie,” so my initial relationship with him was a professional one. And quite honestly we didn’t spend a lot of time together on the set because he and I had different responsibilities. So you’re not really together 24 hours a day. Maybe you find time to grab a bite to eat afterwards but you’re so tired that it’s almost like you’re not there. And that, I think, is the challenging part… to find the moments. Because whether you’re working together or not working together, you have to find those moments. On a professional level, there’s a kind of short hand you develop because you really do know each other so well. The communication is much simpler. He knew me and he knew how to get the performance he needed from me and I trusted his direction. Of course, the toughest part is everybody else’s conversations about it! (laughs)
MS: You had the rare opportunity of working with John Travolta just as his career was beginning to take off and then immediately after he exploded onto the scene. Did you notice any difference in the way he approached his work?
NA: No. John is very particular and meticulous about his work. His career actually started exploding at the end of filming “Carrie.” His show (television’s “Welcome Back, Kotter”) had just started airing. I hadn’t seen it but I could sense things on the set. The week we shot the car crash scene the police had to put up barricades. He and I drove to the set together and I was like, “Oh my gosh, who are all of these people waiting for?” On “Blow Out” I had a little trepidation because it had been a few years and a lot had happened. He had already had some high highs but also a few low lows so I really didn’t know what to expect. But the minute he came in we sat down, had something to eat and talked about the movie…started doing some improv. We always had great chemistry and John was John. He was still fun. He was still adorable. I loved working with him. He’s really one of the favorite people that I worked with in my career.
MS: You were both brilliant in “Blow Out.” It kills me that the film was virtually ignored when it came out and is so under appreciated.
NA: It’s actually become a phenomenon in France. People there are crazy for that movie. And I think over the years that people have caught on to it. But it had so many problems. How it was released was a problem and when it was released was a problem. Back then you had summer movies and fall movies. Films were really released a specific way then. Brian tried to convince them that the film wasn’t a big summer block buster. But because the studio had John Travolta they wanted to try and make it a summer blockbuster. And it didn’t work. But it’s got a great cast, an amazing script…it’s a piece I’m really proud of.
MS: You followed “Carrie” with two very strong comedy performances in “I Want To Hold Your Hand” and “1941.” Do you have a preference between drama and comedy?
NA: I love them both. Comedy seems easier because you’re getting the chance to be funny and have fun. When you’re doing a dramatic piece, a lot of times you have to go to those dark places so when you’re doing the work it’s a lot more taxing on your spirit. And a lot of it is the tone…the tone of the set is certainly affected by the piece. Though I have to say that on “Blow Out” we laughed an awful lot. You have to. It’s exhausting to bring up those tears and all of that. So sometimes you have to just be silly.
In the following excerpt, Allen discusses being typecast after Carrie, and how Steven Spielberg finally realized he had a part that was perfect for the actress:
MS: Going back to the comedy or drama question, do you think that because you may have been perceived as a certain type of actress – lots of screaming, lots of suspense – that you may have been typecast in some filmmakers’ opinions?
NA: I think it’s something that just happened. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is a fantastic movie. It just wasn’t a big hit. I think that when you’re successful in a certain genre – more so even then than now – and if you’re a woman, they think “that’s what she’s successful at…let’s get her to do more of that.” You have no idea how many of those kinds of scripts I was sent after I did “Carrie.” I mean I waited a year and a half before I did “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” I think it’s a case where some people don’t even think of you along those lines. Even on “1941.” Steven had cast almost the whole movie and pretty much everybody I knew was in it. And they’d tell me “there’s a perfect part for you in it.” And I’d tell them, “well, Steven knows me. I’m sure he’d be calling me if he thought that.” He finally did call and when I went in to meet with him he said, “I don’t know if it’s because I know you from your work or because I know you personally but I didn’t think of you and you’re perfect for this. I don’t even have to read you.” So there’s a case of someone who knew my work and knew me personally and professionally and didn’t think of me. So I think we remember people for what they’re successful in and we want them to repeat it. Then we beat them up for it…“why do you always do this…it’s not as good as the last one!” (laughs)
I wrote a comment on Ferguson's blog to say that this sequence in Kill Bill Vol. 1 always seems to give me a tinge of De Palma's Dressed To Kill in the mix, as well, especially regarding the scene in the latter where Bobbi kills the nurse and steals her clothes. Something about the fetishistic aspect of Tarantino's shots touches on this. In any case, Robert Grigsby Wilson was recruited by Ferguson to complete the study on Kill Bill, and you can watch that one below.* (And speaking of Carrie, I think one can make a case for that De Palma film being included in the mash-up of the scene in Kill Bill Vol. 2 where the Bride (Uma Thurman) punches her fist from the grave.)
*(Again, I can't get the embed code to work, so click the link below to watch the Kill Bill remix.)
Last June, Carson Reeves at ScriptShadow reviewed the screenplay by Koepp and John Kamps, and was pleasantly surprised by what he initially expected to be an "old hat" premise. "I didn’t expect to like this," wrote Reeves. "Mainly because I thought bike messengers were extinct once the internet hit. It just seemed like old hat to me. But it turns out it actually has the opposite effect. The zipping and zapping through New York City felt fresh and alive, different from anything I’d recently read or seen." Reeves said that the best part of the script was "bike-o-vision. Yeah, you heard that right," Reeves continued. "Koepp and Kamps have created their own Matrix-style stop-motion technique. When Wilee’s zipping through the streets and gets into a tough spot (door opening, cross-traffic ahead, baby stroller), everything slows down so he can assess his options. Then, out of nowhere, a small area will light up, and that’s the direction he zips into." Sounds intriguing...
It also helps to accept that prices, having largely plunged, are stable but not crazy, and to recognize every territory's strengths and weaknesses.
That said, the game is clearly starting to change for the better for the larger indie players, which are seeing an opportunity for bigger budgets.
"With the studios greenlighting fewer midbudget films, a small circle of independent companies that can mount their own $30 million-$40 million movies are accessing quality material more easily and enjoying a less-crowded U.S. distribution landscape," says IM Global's Stuart Ford.
That aspect of the indie business, he says, is the most notable and most vibrant. "More than ever, foreign buyers need films for their TV packages. As the ancillary market struggles through its evolution away from DVD to VOD, bigger buyers need movies that will potentially generate theatrical profit," he adds.
Exclusive Films sold George Clooney-helmed "The Ides of March," which it co-financed and co-produced, at AFM, and struck deals with distribs like Sony in the U.S. and eOne in Blighty. The branch is also fully financing and producing the Miley Cyrus action comedy "So Undercover," while Exclusive's Hammer label Under Hammer Films, has Daniel Radcliffe starrer "The Woman in Black."
Alex Walton, Exclusive Media Group international sales and distribution prexy, says that while the marketplace has always been competitive, there's now a place for independent films that was previously filled by minimajors.
"I think there's definitely an argument to (be put forward) that 'Ides of March' was a film that should have been made within the studio system, and now we were lucky enough to be able to partner on it," Walton says. "Indies have put themselves in a position to capitalize on these gaps. There's been a complete turnaround."
And in an ever more global film economy, more European companies are angling to access U.S. talent, producing films the studios have largely given up making.