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Sunday, November 20, 2011
LITHGOW BOOK TOUCHES ON UNNAMED 'OBSESSION'
RECALLS DE PALMA WANTING TO CAST HIM IN FILM WITH RAQUEL WELCH
John Lithgow was honored by the Dallas Film Society this past weekend. The tribute kicked off Friday night with a conversation between Lithgow and critic Elvis Mitchell (who last week hosted a Q&A with Rie Rasmussen at the New Beverly) following a reel of highlights from Lithgow's work, including clips from Brian De Palma's Obsession and Raising Cain.

In September, Lithgow's memoir Drama: An Actor's Education was published by HarperCollins, and it includes a section on an unnamed movie that is obviously De Palma's Obsession. In this section, Lithgow discusses what he learned from the lead actor in the film, who "was navigating the rough waters of a middle-aged leading man's faltering career." This actor, who Lithgow calls "Rock Masters" in the book, saw the part as "a chance to regain some lost credibility in the movie business," according to Lithgow. I said above that the film is unnamed in the book, but Lithgow does give it a fictional name: Interdit, a "second-generation Alfred Hitchcock" directed by "a filmmaker friend of mine... Him I will call Paolo." The gist of the "Rock Masters" story is that the actor sort of takes Lithgow under his wing, teaching him the tricks he uses to make sure he gets more screen time than any of the other actors, and also the best angles on his face. Lithgow takes the advice as lessons on what not to do on film sets. "Rock Masters" was asked by Paolo to make adjustments, and the actor would politely say he would do so on the next take, but then when the time came, Masters would do the same thing again, or whatever he wanted. The crew took to calling him "Mr. Pleasant" behind his back, and that is the title of the chapter in Lithgow's book. It is definitely a chapter worth checking out for a unique perspective on one aspect of the making of Obsession.

Elsewhere in the book, Lithgow recalls the first time he met De Palma, when the filmmaker, who could be heard cackling wildly during a Lithgow performance on stage in Princeton, New Jersey in the summer of 1966. Lithgow writes that De Palma "was effusive in his praise" after the show, and years later, suggested Lithgow to the filmmaker Paul Williams, who was looking for someone to play "a patrician Harvard undergraduate dope dealer" in the film, Dealing: Or The Berkeley-to-Boston Forty-Brick Lost-Bag Blues.

This led to Lithgow spending a flash of a month in Hollywood, finishing off with a disastrous casting meeting with Terrence Malick and Lynn Stalmaster, who were looking at Lithgow to potentially take on the role that eventually went to Sam Shepard in Days Of Heaven. But prior to that, Lithgow writes about meeting with De Palma and Raquel Welch for a part in what was obviously Fuzz. Here is the excerpt from Lithgow's book:

I even had lunch with Brian De Palma and Raquel Welch at the Polo Lounge of the Beverly Hills Hotel as part of Brian's (failed) plot to get me approved for a movie he ended up not directing. Me? Playing comedy sex scenes with Raquel Welch? Had the world gone crazy? It was as if I had fallen down the rabbit hole.

In a 1980 Rolling Stone interview with Jean Vallely, De Palma used a story about casting Fuzz to help illustrate the distorted ways Hollywood views success, and how a filmmaker easily gets wrapped up in that distorted view:

I was in California, at the bottom of my career. I had a picture on the shelf, Get To Know Your Rabbit. I couldn't get arrested. I was trying to get Sisters off the ground, but it was hopeless and I realized I'd have to raise the money independently. Then Marty Ransohoff offered me Fuzz. It was a funny New York cop picture, and I thought I could do something with it. We started to pick the cast; I went after Burt Reynolds and got him in the picture. Then I was told the studio heads wanted to cast Yul Brynner and Raquel Welch for the foreign market. [De Palma's eyes light up.] Yul Brynner and Raquel Welch in a New York street-cop movie! I went to the writer and producer, and we met with Ransohoff. He said, 'I've got United Artists on the phone, and if you don't put those fucking people in the picture, United Artists won't finace it. You guys better go back and talk it over.' [De Palma shakes his head.] Anyway, I ended up not doing the picture, but it's that kind of thinking-- you're in a desperate situation, you gotta have a job, you're offered a lot of money... It affects you. I think the only way not to be affected by it is to try to keep away from that kind of crafty, commercial, capitalistic world as much as possible. The key to that kind of system is, 'What's his price? How can he be had? How can we get him interested?' And there are a lot of people a lot smarter than I am who think about nothing else twenty-four hours a day. I'm smart enough to know they might find some way to get to me. You just try to keep on a different road.

De Palma a la Mod reader Chris took his family to see "An Evening with John Lithgow" in San Francisco last month. During the Q&A session afterward, Chris asked Lithgow if he had anything to relate about working on De Palma's Raising Cain. According to Chris, "He said that he had been on the phone with De Palma two hours earlier, the first time he’d spoken with him in some time (did he say 12 years?). De Palma had called him because he’d just read the book. Lithgow was effusive in his praise for De Palma, saying that he’d loved working with him and that the director’s extreme thouroughness and preparation created an atmosphere in which an actor could relax, knowing that he was in good hands; he mentioned Hitchcock’s having planned and storyboarded things to such a degree that the actual filming seemed only a follow-through on the creative work already done, and that De Palma was the same way. He said De Palma was one of three 'old school' directors he’d worked for — with George Roy Hill and Bob Fosse — and a master craftsman and that, further, he chose extremely talented people for all aspects of the production (he particularly mentioned Vilmos Zsigmond)."
(Thanks Chris!)


Posted by Geoff at 10:46 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 21, 2011 7:49 PM CST
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Saturday, November 19, 2011
PIPER LAURIE TO BE AT CHICAGO 'CARRIE' EVENT
"A VERY 'CARRIE' CHRISTMAS" CAMPS IT UP AT MUSIC BOX DEC 4
Piper Laurie will appear at Camp Midnight's "A Very 'Carrie' Christmas" event at Chicago's Music Box Theatre on Sunday, Decmber 4th. Laurie will participate in a Q&A following a screening of Brian De Palma's Carrie. But this will not be an average screening of Carrie. For starters, this is a show that was supposed to happen October 9, as a Halloween-themed event. For some reason, the show had been postponed, and now that it is happening in December, it has been changed, oddly, to be a Christmas-themed event. A portion of the proceeds from ticket sales will benefit Hell in a Handbag Productions, Inc., the theatre company that put on SCARRIE The Musical in 2005 (a revival of a show from 1998), an unauthorized spoof of the De Palma film and the 1988 Broadway musical version of Carrie that featured an all-male cast.

So that gives one an idea of what to expect when Camp Midnight presents its "Interactive Audience Screening (complete with screening guide) and hellacious, hilarious commentary from your Camp Midnight hosts Dick O’Day and Hell in a Handbag’s David Cerda." The pre-show will feature a Carrie character parade contest with prizes for the winners (so "get out your prom dresses, buckets of blood and Bibles!"), and a sing-along at the Music Box organ. Laurie's memoir, Learning To Live Out Loud, will also be on sale at the event. The event begins with the pre-show at 2pm. Tickets are $12 in advance, and $15 the day of the show.

IS 'CARRIE' THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR A CAMP FILM EVENT?
The Chicagoist's Eric Hehr asks, "Is Carrie really the right choice for a camp film event? Does an Oscar nominated film that has become a staple of its genre deserve to be reduced down to the status of a B-movie and exploited for cheap laughs by comedic commentary?" Hehr continues:

Granted, aspects of Carrie have not aged well (mainly Travolta’s hair), and the horror genre is exceedingly fickle to begin with. However, we’re not talking about Killer Clowns From Outer Space or Motel Hell here. We’re talking about one of the few horror films nominated for Academy Awards (Spacek and Laurie received nominations for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively). Carrie garnished an immense amount of positive reviews when it was released, grossing more than 18 times its budget ($33.8 million) and being hailed as one of the best films of 1976.

Chicago’s own Roger Ebert described the film as “an absolutely spellbinding horror film” and “an observant human portrait.” In 1978, Stephen Farber of the New West Magazine prophetically claimed that Carrie was “a horror classic, and years from now it will still be written and argued about, and it will still be scaring the daylights out of new generations of moviegoers." Director and self-proclaimed film geek, Quentin Tarantino, placed Carrie at #8 on his “Favorite Films Ever Made” list, and author Stephen King considers Carrie to be the best cinematic adaptations of all his novels. Carrie has also placed incredibly high on many other cinematic lists, including Empires Magazine "The 500 Greatest Movies of all Time" (#86), Entertainment Weekly’s "50 Best High School Movies" (#15), Bravo’s "The 100 Scariest Movie Moments" (#8), and the American Film Institutes "100 Greatest Cinema Thrills" (#46).

Hehr makes some great points, all of which I agree with, yet the idea of Laurie being present at such an event seems an appropriate irony. Laurie writes in her memoir that she originally connected to the Carrie screenplay by reading it as comedy. Viewing the film camped up with what Hehr calls "Mystery Science Theater 3000-esque commentary" should make for a very interesting Q&A with Laurie afterward.


Posted by Geoff at 7:55 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 20, 2011 9:01 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011
ALMODOVAR'S 'SKIN' DRAWS DE PALMA COMPARISONS
ARMOND WHITE: "EVOKES THE NARRATIVE FLOW OF 'FEMME FATALE'..."
Armond White states that with The Skin I Live In, Pedro Almodóvar has made a horror film that "is the most self-conscious, intellectually ambitious film yet from a director who has previously used self-consciousness in the form of camp irony." White mentions Luis Buñuel and Brian De Palma as partial influences:

I’ve avoided plot details because Skin would not synopsize well. But it’s full of feeling—a genuine art experience, even when Almodóvar fights his own conceits. Villainy and martyrdom overlap, as do dream and terror. That’s why the film embraces Buñuel’s acerbity yet neglects his humor, evokes the narrative flow of De Palma’s Femme Fatale then shrinks from the omniscience that De Palma synthesized out of Hitchcock, Michael Powell and Warhol.

Others have noted a De Palma influence on The Skin I Live In. DVD Talk's Jason Bailey concludes that a De Palma comparison doesn't hold water, yet his argument suggests structural links to De Palma's Femme Fatale:

The Skin I Live In has been diagnosed in countless reviews as the Spanish filmmaker's homage to Hitchcock, and on the surface, that's true enough; you can hear it in Alberto Iglesias's gloriously, almost deliriously over-the-top score, and you can see it in the dirty kick of certain scenes that alternately call to mind Hitch and his cinematic pupil, Brian De Palma.

But the picture is just too damn strange for those comparisons to hold water; Almodovar lets his narrative get out of his control in a way that those filmmakers seldom did. He takes an interesting structural strategy, basically starting out in the middle of the story, then taking the second act to catch us up (at one point, from two different points of view). It's a risky storytelling gamble, and one that doesn't always pay off--he certainly keeps you guessing, but we get the unnerving feeling, at times, of merely having our chains pulled.

The A.V. Club's Noel Murray and Scott Tobias suggest a cross between Cronenberg and De Palma, while a discussion last May at Plunderphonics brought in comparisons to De Palma's Femme Fatale and Body Double.


Posted by Geoff at 12:00 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 12:02 AM CST
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Monday, November 14, 2011
LITTO TALKS 'OBSESSION' AHEAD OF NASHVILLE SCREENING
"CHANGING THAT ENDING WAS THE CRITICAL THING"
The Nashville Public Library will host a free screening of Brian De Palma's Obsession this Saturday, November 19th. In anticipation of the screening, "Movies at Main" program coordinator William Chamberlain interviewed producer George Litto for the Popmatic Podcast. Litto talked about how he came to be De Palma's agent for a year, and then producer of three of the director's films. Regarding Obsession, Litto tells the story of how John Lithgow came to be cast in the film (Cliff Robertson read with Lithgow and liked him, although he told Litto he didn't "normally like to work with actors who are taller than me"). Litto also talks about how he kept nagging De Palma that he needed to fix the third act of Obsession. After impressing Bernard Herrmann as the two discussed what the composer would need in order to perform his score for the film, Litto told Chamberlain that Herrmann smiled, turned to De Palma and said, "You know, for a producer, he's not so bad. Okay, mister wiseguy producer, since you know everything, you know you need a new third act, don't you, on this movie?" Litto replied, "Mr. Herrmann, please tell that to the director." Litto then was off to Italy, while De Palma stayed in London to cast the movie. When Litto returned to London, De Palma called him to tell him he had a new third act.

Later in the interview, Chamberlain asks Litto what he would have changed about Obsession to make it better, and Litto said that that had been the one thing to change: "Well, the third act was critical. In the original version, Cliff Robertson gets on a plane to find this girl who betrayed him, not knowing it's his daughter. And he finally locates her in Florence, at a nunnery, catatonic. It would have been very downbeat, and to me, unsatisfying. It would have been, you know, a tragedy. And I said no, it's really a story of love. It's a father and daughter in search of each other. You can't leave the audience unsatisfied. So changing that ending was the critical thing."

The interview also touches on Dressed To Kill and several other films and filmmakers Litto has been involved with. In other news, Arrow Video will release a regular DVD edition of Obsession on January 30, 2012. This past summer, Arrow released a Blu-Ray edition of the film.


Posted by Geoff at 6:18 PM CST
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Sunday, November 13, 2011
ELBLING RAISING MONEY FOR SHORT FILM
OFFERING SPECIAL PERKS FOR 'PHANTOM' FANS, SUBJECT TO AVAILABILITY
Peter Elbling, who portrayed "Juicy Fruit" member Harold Oblong in Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, is raising money for a new short film, Mr. Vinegar And The Ants. The film stars Elbling as "an inept bumbler who, thinking he is better than he is, inevitably brings the world crashing down on his own head." The film will feature physical humor in the style of Chaplin, Keaton, and Mr. Bean. The plan is to make the short film and bring it to festivals as Elbling and his team works toward getting financing for a "Mr. Vinegar" feature.

Elbling is offering special perks for Phantom fans-- note the limited quantities available, so you may want to check with Elbling (via PeterElbling.com) to make sure a perk you are expecting is still available before you make your donation. Here they are:

$125 USD donation: Phantompalooza II poster signed by the cast (2 available)
$75 USD donation: French PAL version of the DVD with complete cast interviews. Still in shrink wrap. (1 available)
$60 USD donation: French PAL version of the DVD with complete cast interviews. Opened (1 available)
$50 USD donation: Phantompalooza II T-shirt (10 available).
$10 USD donation: Buttons or Guitar pics with Death Records Logo. (40 available)


Posted by Geoff at 10:20 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 13, 2011 10:26 AM CST
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Saturday, November 12, 2011
TARANTINO COMES THROUGH FOR RIE
-'HUMAN ZOO' FINALLY MAKES U.S. DEBUT AT NEW BEVERLY
-RIE Q&A AT EVERY SCREENING THIS WEEK
-TALKS TO COLLIDER ABOUT LEARNING FROM DE PALMA, BESSON, TARANTINO

Rie Rasmussen's 2009 debut feature Human Zoo finally had its U.S. premiere last night at Quentin Tarantino's New Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. (Tarantino befriended Rasmussen around the time he was working on Inglourious Basterds, and invited Rasmussen to hang out on the set of that film.) Human Zoo will play again tonight and tomorrow night (Saturday & Sunday) as a double feature with Luc Besson's Angel-A, which starred Rasmussen in the title role. Rasmussen will be on hand for a Q&A following each screening of Human Zoo throughout the week (last night's Q&A was moderated by Elvis Mitchell).

In an interview with Collider's Christina Radish, Rasmussen talked about the autobiographical nature of Human Zoo, and how she ended up acting in it, as well as writing and directing. She was also asked about what she learned from working with Brian De Palma, Besson, and Tarantino:

At the time, Brian De Palma was such a hard-on for me. I was just really losing my shit, to work with him (on Femme Fatale). I was on set for as much as I could be, which was probably a month, and I only shot for four or five days. But, I did do that one, long steadi-cam shot that is the Brian De Palma signature. That was so awesome for me. It was following me! Who even cares about the rest of the movie? No. In my formative years, Brian De Palma taught me by watching him. From when I was 18 to 25, there was nothing better than Brian.

From 12 to 15 or 16, there was nothing better than Luc Besson, with Big Blue and La Femme Nikita. That was it. With Angel-A, he wanted to prove to everybody that he could make a feature film in six weeks, put it out five months later, package it and distribute it for no money.

Watching Quentin Tarantino write his new magnum opus, motherfucker of a film, Django Unchained, has been more than a lesson in writing. I always knew that the man was genius, but I have been astonished at what comes out of him. He’ll read me the scenes. He’s like, “I just had to redo this scene and I want to read you this new dialogue I wrote.” He read me this dialogue, and I was just on my ass. Just to watch him rattle it off like that, he’s genius. So, yeah, you learn. I pay attention. My eyes are wide open, and my eyelids are pinned to the back of my head.

According to The Playlist's Jeff Otto, Tarantino said that with Human Zoo, "Rie Rasmussen makes an electrifying directorial debut. It’s as shocking and violent as it is moving and charming." It is worth noting that Rasmussen has worked with cinematographer Thierry Arbogast on all three of her formulative films, first meeting him on De Palma's Femme Fatale, then working together on Besson's Angel-A before shooting Rasmussen's Human Zoo. Rasmussen told Collider that her next project as director will be Good and Evil, which is written by Nicolas Constantine as an adaptation of Philip Carlo's novel The Night Stalker, based on the life of Richard Ramirez. Prior to Rasmussen's involvement in that project, James Franco had been rumored to be interested in playing the lead role.


Posted by Geoff at 9:59 AM CST
Updated: Sunday, November 13, 2011 10:23 AM CST
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Monday, November 7, 2011
LAURIE & BUCKLEY TO PRESENT 'CARRIE' FRIDAY IN TEXAS
LAURIE DESCRIBES IN NEW MEMOIR HOW SHE CAME TO READ 'CARRIE' SCRIPT AS COMEDY, BEFORE DE PALMA CORRECTED HER
Piper Laurie and Betty Buckley will be on hand to present Brian De Palma's Carrie this Friday, November 11, at the Lone Star International Film Festival in Fort Worth, Texas. Buckley, a Fort Worth native, also appears in one of the festival's new films, Five Time Champion, which screens Thursday night (November 10).

If you buy a $20 ticket to the Carrie screening, you also get a copy of Laurie's new memoir, Learning To Live Out Loud, in which she includes a section about her work on Carrie. Laurie recalls reading the script and not being very impressed. But then her husband, Joe Morgenstern, mentioned that De Palma "often has a comedic approach to his work," and she read the script again from a satirical angle and became quite inspired. During a rehearsal period with De Palma and Sissy Spacek, however, Laurie went a little overboard when she began pulling her hair during the scene where she is trying to keep Carrie from going to the prom (the script had called for Laurie to tear her own clothes, but not wanting to shred the work of the costumers during rehearsal, she devised the hair-pulling stunt). De Palma stopped her, saying, "Piper, you can't do that. You'll get a laugh!" It was then that Laurie realized she had mis-guessed the tone of De Palma's film. She kept the hair-pulling, but toned it down by making the pain she was feeling more introspective and deep, and here one can get a sense of the creative energy that led to this uncanny Oscar-nominated performance. When she went back home to New York, she decided to see every De Palma film she could, "including Phantom Of The Paradise, which had just opened. Very operatic-- [De Palma] liked that," Laurie writes. "I needed not be afraid to be big."

Earlier in the chapter, Laurie writes of her first meeting with the director. Laurie was nervous and, having not worked on a film in some 15 years, wanted to impress. She writes that De Palma "asked not one thing about me or what I thought of the script. Instead, he proceeded to tell me a great deal about himself and the work he had done, as if he were seeking a job from me and I were interviewing him. I realized he was trying to make me feel comfortable, and I was quite touched." Needless to say, as Laurie describes it, the two of them got along very smoothly on the set.

Elsewhere, Laurie, who had recently had back surgery, describes her initial fears of being jerked back onto the bed in Carrie's room via a harness. She had kept the surgery a secret, but now had to confide in De Palma, who instantly said they didn't have to do it that way and could use a body double. But Laurie decided to give it a try, and found that she could do it without any pain, even if she still finds the stunt difficult to watch now without clenching up. Laurie also describes filming her final speech in the film, and the bursts of laughter she would let out in between takes of her final death-by-cutlery scene.


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Tuesday, November 8, 2011 12:25 AM CST
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Sunday, November 6, 2011
ISHAM TALKS 'BLACK DAHLIA' SCORE
SAYS FILM WAS 'PRETTY MUCH' EDITED DOWN TO FINAL VERSION PRIOR TO ADDING SCORE
Mark Isham had a very interesting conversation with Broadway World's Pat Cerasaro, in which the composer discussed, among other projects, his work on Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia. While there was a version of The Black Dahlia screened for test audiences in early 2006 that was longer than the final released film, Isham seems pretty certain there was no overt studio involvement that specifically led to the shorter version. Instead, he speculates that producer Art Linson may have simply discussed with De Palma trimming the almost three-hour cut down to two hours. Isham also relates how he initially mis-guessed what kind of music De Palma would want for The Black Dahlia. Here is the section of the interview pertaining to that film:

PC: What was it like working with Brian De Palma on THE BLACK DAHLIA? Was it cumbersome to come in already knowing his amazing legacy of great scores for his films - particularly those by Pino Donaggio and Ennio Morricone? His film’s scores are always so specific.

MI: Well, he was a gentlemen about it, too. I think that I had sent him some music early on for that and he didn’t respond to it, and, so, I called the producer and I said, “Look, I would really love to do this movie. What is he looking for?” And the producer sent me over some pieces they were using for the temp-score and I realized that I had completely mis-guessed on how he wanted to score this thing.

PC: Oh, really?

MI: Yeah, so I re-sent him some music and he called me immediately and said, “This is what I am looking for!” So, I think we started off right on the right foot because, once I knew what he was looking for, I duplicated it and presented it to him immediately and he said, “That’s perfect.” So, we went in with a high degree of mutual respect and delight and willingness in doing this together. He was just great. Like you say, he is very specific and when he says, “That’s good,” then, you know you are doing great. [Laughs.]

PC: And if you are not?

MI: “Don’t do that! That’s terrible!” - then you know you have to rewrite it. [Laughs.]

PC: That film was plagued with behind-the-scenes shenanigans and I know there was originally a much, much longer original cut, so how did you deal with that? Did you score that version or only the version that eventually was released? Have you ever gone to an opening night and half your score was missing?

MI: [Laughs.] Actually, I have - but, not on that picture! From the time that we started scoring it, it was pretty much as it came out. I believe that the studio actually stayed out of that and I think what a lot of it was about was that he was working with Art Linson - who produced THE UNTOUCHABLES and they have a long, long history - and, I think Art is one of the few who can say, “Brian, you can’t have a 3-hour movie,” [Laughs.] and Brian will actually respect that.

PC: How interesting.

MI: I think they had already gone through the process of editing it down. Art actually came to me at one point and said, “Look, there are still a couple of things that I think Brian needs to change - but, I think Brian and I have sort of had as much of a discussion as we are going to have, so why don’t you see what you can do to help these areas?” And, then, I think there were a few picture-trims at that point - but, pretty much, I worked on it when it was the final film and not much changed.

PC: There are some thrilling music cues - especially the opening scene with Josh Hartnett and, later, the Fiona Shaw mad scene.

MI: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

PC: Were you influenced by Jerry Goldsmith’s CHINATOWN score?

MI: Oh, yes - of course. I love that score and know it very well.

PANKOW HAD TO TRIM LESBIAN FLOOR SHOW FROM FIVE MINUTES DOWN TO JUST ONE MINUTE
Editor Bill Pankow has described how he had to edit down the k.d. lang song and floor show in the lesbian night club from five minutes to one minute, so it does seem there was at least the potential for some trimming even after Isham had completed his score. Pankow showed the uncut version of the scene to a master class in 2007, describing how he managed to get it down to one minute. Perhaps one day, we will get a cut of the film that is a bit longer...


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 7, 2011 11:32 PM CST
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Saturday, November 5, 2011
HERZOG: DE PALMA IS THE BETTER DIRECTOR THAN ME
AND BRAD BIRD DISCUSSES CRUISE/REDGRAVE DYNAMIC IN DE PALMA'S 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE'
The second trailer for Brad Bird's upcoming Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol was released last week, and Flickering Myth's Rohan Morbey included this juxtaposition of a screen shot with one from Brian De Palma's 1996 M:I film. This placement of Jeremy Renner as a direct homage to De Palma and Tom Cruise's showstopping moment in the first film (which itself was an homage to Jules Dassin's Topkapi, MI creator Bruce Geller's original inspiration for the TV series) seems to bolster the idea (rumor) that Cruise and company are looking toward Renner to possibly take over at some point as lead actor in the franchise.

Bird told the Los Angeles Times' Geoff Boucher that he watched the earlier films in the series to find the playful rhythms he wanted to weave into his version. "One of my favorite moments acting-wise were the scenes [Cruise] did with Vanessa Redgrave; he kind of came alive in a slightly different way,” Bird told Boucher in reference to the De Palma picture. “You could tell he had a lot of respect for Redgrave and knew that he had to be on his game because she was going to get every drop out of her part of the scene, so he better get every drop of his. There was a playfulness to those scenes together that I really liked. When you see the [new] film, it’s a little more playful than the other Mission: Impossible films — hopefully without undermining the suspense or action.”

HERZOG: "IF I HAD TRIED TO MAKE 'MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE', I WOULDN"T HAVE COME UP WITH A FILM AS INTENSE AS BRIAN DE PALMA"
Meanwhile, Cruise is currently shooting his next movie, One Shot, which also features Werner Herzog, not as director, but as actor. Herzog plays the villain in the Christopher McQuarrie adaptation of the novel by Lee Child, which Cruise is hoping will be the first film in a new franchise. Herzog spoke with Movieline's S.T. VanAirsdale yesterday about working with Cruise, and Cruise's knack for working with great directors. Herzog surprised VanAirsdale when he stated that De Palma "is certainly the better director than me." Here is the excerpt:

VanAirsdale: Cruise is an interesting actor to me — someone who’s never directed, but who’s instead worked with some of the foremost filmmakers of the last half-century: Kubrick, Scorsese, Coppola, Spielberg, and many others. Have you met him?
Herzog: Yes.

What do you think of his regard for filmmakers? Do you think his wanting to work with you in this context was because he probably wouldn’t have the chance otherwise?
No, he does not work with me. He works with the director, Chris McQuarrie. I’m only a partner in crime onscreen. But let me try to describe him: Yes, he has worked with some very, very good — very good — serious filmmakers. But what strikes me is that sometimes you can tell from five miles’ distance: “This is a professional man. He means business.” He’s extremely well-prepared, very good to work with, very respectful — a very kind human being. And you can tell, strangely enough, from five miles’ distance.

McQuarrie aside, being on this set is probably as close to working with you as Tom Cruise is going to get, considering the films you make.
Not necessarily, because the kind of films he has been into — like Mission: Impossible — I’m convinced that… I don’t even know who made Mission: Impossible. Who directed Mission: Impossible?

The first one was Brian De Palma.
OK. Brian De Palma is certainly the better director than me.

Really?
If I had tried to make Mission: Impossible, I wouldn’t have come up with a film as intense as Brian De Palma. I mean this very film, for example. There are other people who do that better.

Fair enough.


Posted by Geoff at 5:56 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, November 5, 2011 6:05 PM CDT
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Sunday, October 30, 2011
'PHANTOM' RADIO SPECIAL HALLOWEEN NIGHT
NEW INTERVIEWS WITH WILLIAMS, HARPER, FINLEY, GRAHAM, JUICY FRUITS
ALSO: FANGORIA TEASES 'REMARKABLE GENRE-RELATED PROJECT WILLIAMS IS PART OF'

Tomorrow night, on Halloween, CJOB Radio in Winnipeg will broadcast a 90-minute Phantom Of The Paradise special from 10:30pm to midnight (central time). The special promises all-new exclusive interviews with Paul Williams, William Finley, Jessica Harper, Gerrit Graham, and "Juicy Fruits" Peter Elbling, Archie Hahn, and Jeffrey Comanor. The participants will discuss the film, as well as Phantompalooza I and II. What's that you say? You don't live in Winnipeg? Oh, that's okay-- you can listen live online at CJOB.com.

Meanwhile, Fangoria has been running its own interviews with Phantom collaborators of late. Last month's issue (#307) featured an interview with Harper, in which she revealed that when Brian De Palma took her out to dinner the night of her screen test in Los Angeles, they were joined by Martin Scorsese. She also mentioned that Steven Spielberg visited the Phantom "a few times." When asked by Fangoria's Chris Alexander how Phantom was pitched to her, Harper replied, "It was never pitched as a horror film; I understood it to be a spoof rock musical. Originally it was called Phantom Of The Fillmore, which spoke to me because I used to hang out at the Fillmore East all the time. But I never thought of it as a horror movie."

Despite that, Phantom Of The Paradise did make Fangoria's 300th issue earlier this year, in which the magazine presented its "Ultimate Horror Movie Guide." In that issue, Michael Koopmans wrote of Phantom, "De Palma plunges you headfirst into the musically excessive world of the 1970s with a film that's part horror, part satire, and complete rock opera."

The current issue of Fangoria (#308) includes an interview by Alexander with Paul Williams, who brought a certain scene from the film itself to mind as he discussed the audition he held in New York for the role of Phoenix:

"I had everyone at the New York audition, including Jessica, sing Leon Russell's Superstar. Jessica was singing it quietly to herself as she waited her turn. I stood behind her and listened-- beautiful. When she sang for Brian and I, she sang out like a Broadway actress reaching the back of the house. I told her to sing softly. It was magical. She killed it.

Williams also mentions to Alexander that he never consciously went for a Phil Spector-type energy in his performance as Swan, saying, "I tried to create what Brian gave me, and his vision was spot-on." At the end of the article, Alexander says to keep checking Fangoria.com "for news of a remarkable genre-related project Williams is part of."


Posted by Geoff at 6:41 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, October 30, 2011 6:42 PM CDT
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