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Sunday, February 26, 2012
'THE ARTIST' DIRECTOR ON 'UNDERWORLD' INFLUENCE
AND PENELOPE ANN MILLER BECOMES "AWARD-SEASON MVP"
Penelope Ann Miller spent about three days filming her part in Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist, but she was one of the few actresses to show interest in taking a chance on a silent movie by a French director. The film won best picture at tonight's Academy Awards, and Hazananvicius won for best director. What initially drew Miller to the film was the chance to spend time in the world of the 1920s, a period she says she enjoys. Here she is pictured arriving at tonight's Academy Award ceremony in a dress she told the Hollywood Reporter features 1920s elements. To design the dress, she collaborated with Badgley Mischka. It is the first time Miller has ever been to the Oscar ceremony, and The Carpetbagger's Melena Ryzik makes a case for Penelope as the 2012 Award-Season M.V.P. for her tireless promotion of The Artist.

Miller has been out of the spotlight since about the 1990s, the decade in which she appeared in Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way. According to Naughty But Nice Rob, Miller was an '80s "It" girl who now, interestingly, "compares her celebrity during her acting heyday to that of Rachel McAdams today." Miller tells Rob that she stepped away from the limelight to start a family. She also talked to The Insider's Jarett Wieselman about the script for The Artist and how she came to be cast in the film:

Yes, there was a script but it was just, it was more descriptive than dialogue. It really read like a story. Michel [Hazanavicius, writer/director] really did a beautiful job -- it was bound and on each side of the page there were photographs of Berenice [Bejo] and Jean [Dujardin] in period costume, and period locations. It was very picturesque. It was definitely unusual, so I did get this almost hesitant call from my agent saying, "They're making this black and white silent film and it's set in the 20s." That perked me up because I love the 20s, and I asked, "Well, who is in it?" He said, "The two leads are French and the director is French," and I'd never heard of them nor could I pronounce their names [laughs]. And I thought that this was getting more interesting by the minute.

Miller told the Orange County Register's Richard Chang a bit more details about that initial phone call, and her first meeting with Hazanavicius:

Q: How did you get cast for this picture?

A: My agent, who has a relationship with the casting director, called me. I was interested in at least reading it. There were actors who weren't interested. They're probably kicking themselves right now. There are those of us who are willing to take that leap of risk, who had faith. Obviously, it was a very far-fetched notion. In "Chaplin," you could hear the dialogue. With this, this is like a full-blown silent film.

But I love the '20s. I'm an old movie buff. I'm very nostalgic about old Hollywood. I sort of welcomed the opportunity and thought this could be kind of fun. It definitely could be a real hit or a real miss. If it was a miss, oh well, I can move on.

Q: What was it like to work with director Michel Hazanavicius? He isn't that well-known in the U.S.

A: When I met him, I discovered he'd really done his homework. He had a really strong vision. I told him we both shared the passion for the old movies. He knew how he wanted to film it, what he was doing. He really hired the top of the line to work with him. The cinematographer was the guy he's always worked with. The hair and makeup worked with some real big stars. People on the technical side loved the artistic side of the film. How many opportunities do you get to make a movie like this? It wasn't going to be a huge, long schedule. I took it for the art of it.

HAVANAVICIUS ON SIX SILENT FILMS THAT INSPIRED 'THE ARTIST'

When Havanavicius accepted the best picture award at tonight's Oscar ceremony, he thanked Billy Wilder, Billy Wilder, and Billy Wilder. But back in November, Hazanavicius shared with Indiewire's Eric Kohn notes on six silent films that inspired The Artist. The first of the six listed is Josef von Sternberg's Underworld. Released in 1927, the screenplay for Underworld was written by Ben Hecht, who was awarded the first-ever Academy Award for Best Screenplay for the film. Hecht went on to write the screenplay for Howard Hawks's Scarface, and De Palma's remake of that film is dedicated to Hawks and Hecht. Havanavicius states, "All of Scarface, and even Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, comes from Underworld. The way that director Josef von Sternberg shot women was incredible. It's super-sensual, and really amazing to see a gangster movie as good as anything by Tarantino from this period."

The other five silent films noted by Havanavicius are Tod Browning's The Unknown, F.W. Murnau's Sunrise and City Girl, King Vidor's The Crowd, and Charlie Chaplin's City Lights.


Posted by Geoff at 11:20 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 26, 2012 11:27 PM CST
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TALENT AGENT RECALLS 'UNTOUCHABLES' LUNCH
WITH DE PALMA, CHARLES MARTIN SMITH, & KEVIN COSTNER

After watching Kevin Costner deliver a poignant eulogy last weekend at the funeral of Whitney Houston, talent agent and advisor Danny Allen recalled, in his Newzbreaker column, meeting Costner for the first time on the set of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. Allen began his career in the 1950s as an agent for Errol Flynn, who later nicknamed Allen "Moxie Man." He first met The Untouchables' Charles Martin Smith on the set of George Lucas' American Graffiti in 1973. In 1980, he did some press work for De Palma on Dressed To Kill. In the passage below, Allen recounts meeting the young upcomer Kevin Costner on the set of The Untouchables, and how upon seeing Allen, De Palma told the crew to take a break so they could all go to lunch...

Charles called me during the late summer of 86 and said, “Moxie Man you must come to the set so you can see some of the acting Kevin Costner is doing, who I think is going to be the next big movie star on the scene.” Coming from “Smitty”, as I called him, an accomplished actor in his own regard, made his comment have merit. I arrived on the day they were shooting the scene in the church between Kevin and Sean Connery, which happens to be one of my favorite scenes in the movie.

When De Palma yelled cut, “Smitty” grabbed Kevin by the arm and raced towards me. We were introduced and Kevin had a firm handshake, and a great sincere smile. “Smitty” like many others, of course, told the Errol Flynn Story and yet another actor, (Costner) was a fan of Errol’s. De Palma saw a group forming and didn’t realize I was on the set. When he came over, he bear hugged me and told his crew, take an hour, we are going to lunch. Off Kevin, “Smitty”, Brian and I went in his limo to eat.

For the next hour, Kevin sat there listening to stories that “Smitty”, Brian and I, shared, all the time, asking great questions and soaking in any and all acting advice we could give. He was very humble, and even offered to pick up the tab, but of course, De Palma wouldn’t allow that. At the end of our lunch, Kevin and I had bonded, exchanging numbers.

For many years after our first meeting, Kevin and I have stayed in touch with him still being that humble person I met some 26 years ago. So when the rest of the world praised his eulogy at Whitney Houston’s funeral last week, I just smiled because the class act that I have known Kevin to be way away from the glaring lights of a movie set, shined through.


Posted by Geoff at 7:10 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 26, 2012 7:13 PM CST
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'PASSION' CREW GETS TO WORK
'CLOUD ATLAS' TRAINEE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR JUMPS ABOARD DE PALMA PROJECT
As Hollywood gears up for the Academy Awards tonight, the cast and crew of Brian De Palma's Passion are gathering in Berlin to get things in order for the ten-week shoot that begins a week from tomorrow. Annika Sell (pictured) interned as a trainee assistant director on Cloud Atlas, the ambitious film directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski that was partially filmed in Germany. Sell tweeted this morning that she was heading to work on a beautiful Sunday to begin work on Passion. Sell is an aspiring director who shot a romantic comedy called Sincerely Yours in May of 2010. Before completing that film, however, Sell and producer Jessica Etherington found themselves with various internship opportunities they couldn't pass up, and have not had the time to work on editing Sincerely Yours. Sell has now decided to try and find somebody else to edit her film while she continues with her internships. Best of luck to her.

Posted by Geoff at 5:27 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 26, 2012 5:32 PM CST
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MYSTERY OSCAR MAY LEAD TO BART DE PALMA
REPORTER FINDS PIC OF HER MOM HOLDING STATUETTE, TRIES TO FIND SOURCE
The Oakland Tribune's Angela Hill has been going through boxes of old photos, and found one from the early 1980s of her mother "beaming her 100-watt smile as she cradled an Oscar in her hands." In an attempt to find out how and why her mother was holding what appeared to be a genuine Oscar statuette while standing in some sort of office building, Hill followed her hunch that there might be a connection to Foothill College in Los Altos, which she vaguely remembers touring with her mother when she was younger. Hill contacted the Foothill public relations office, where Lori Thomas answered the call, did some checking, and found a possible link to Bart De Palma, Brian De Palma's older brother (who has worked on several of Brian's films over the years). Here is how Hill describes getting the call from Thomas:

Lori said the college had indeed had an Oscar! Briefly. In the early '80s. A couple of retired profs remembered former Foothill art and film instructor Barton DePalma -- brother of famed director Brian DePalma ("Scarface," "Carrie," "The Untouchables") -- had possibly borrowed the statuette and brought it in to the faculty offices for a few days to show it off. "I'm willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that was it," Lori said.

I'll take the doughnuts, Lori, but there's still more mystery. Whose Oscar was it? It wasn't Brian DePalma's -- he's racked up some Golden Globes (and even five Razzies) over the years, but has been snubbed by the Academy. Sure, it could have been an obscure Oscar for something like "development of a system of xenon arc lamphouses" and "engineering of fluid-damped camera heads," but there didn't seem to be anything at all for any of DePalma's films except a best supporting actor win for Sean Connery in 1987 for "The Untouchables," but that didn't match the time frame. If it had indeed been something Sean Connery had touched, my mom definitely would have stolen it.

I tried to call Barton DePalma, who may or may not live in Menlo Park and/or New Mexico, according to the Internet. I left a couple of messages/crank calls here and there. So we'll see what comes of that.


Posted by Geoff at 12:42 PM CST
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Wednesday, February 22, 2012
NEW BOOK DELVES DEEP INTO 'CARRIE'
INCLUDES NEW INTERVIEWS WITH DE PALMA, COHEN; FULL REVIEW TO COME
I've been reading this excellent new book by Joe Aisenberg that delves deep into Brian De Palma's Carrie, providing a wealth of details about its creation, its critical reception, how it compares with Stephen King's novel, and so on. Aisenberg has done an outstanding job, looking thoroughly at each scene from the film chapter-by-chapter, and peppering his analysis with insights via original interviews from several members of the Carrie cast and crew, as well as quotes from the many articles written about Carrie over the past 35+ years. The book is part of Centipede Press' "Studies In The Horror Film" series. The 100-copy, limited edition hardcover, signed by author Joe Aisenberg and screenwriter Lawrence D. Cohen, is currently available for pre-order from the Centipede website. A trade paperback edition is aiming for publication in March. The book's appendix includes Aisenberg's full interviews with De Palma and Cohen. I'll post a more in-depth review soon, but if you love Carrie, you'll love this book.

Posted by Geoff at 11:51 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, February 23, 2012 4:42 PM CST
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Monday, February 20, 2012
REPORT: 'PASSION' ADDS DOMINIC COOPER TO CAST
UPDATE: COOPER NOT PART OF CAST
BRITISH ACTOR LISTED MATTER-OF-FACTLY IN GERMAN REPORT FROM BERLIN FEST
MediaBiz reports from the Berlin International Film Festival (which ended this past weekend) that the German-Swiss distributor Ascot Elite Entertainment Group has picked up the theatrical and home distribution rights to Brian De Palma's Passion. What is particularly of note in the article, however, is that it includes British actor Dominic Cooper as a cast member of Passion, along with Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace, and Karoline Herfurth. Cooper would presumably be playing the male character who becomes a sort of pawn between McAdams' CEO and Rapace's deputy. Cooper made a big splash last year playing dual roles as Saddam Hussein's ruthless playboy son, Uday Hussein, and his body double in Lee Tamahori's The Devil's Double. That film was widely compared to De Palma's Scarface. Its cast also included Ludivine Sagnier, who starred with Kristin Scott Thomas in Alain Corneau's Love Crime, on which De Palma's Passion is based.

(Big thanks to Lindsey for finding the Media Biz article!)

Posted by Geoff at 7:38 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, May 9, 2012 12:13 AM CDT
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Sunday, February 19, 2012
BERLIN LOCATIONS REVEALED FOR 'PASSION'
SONY CENTER, BODE MUSEUM, MARGAUX RESTAURANT


Brian De Palma will shoot Passion exclusively in Berlin, according to an article posted today by Der Tagesspiegel's Andreas Conrad. The original plan a year ago was to set Passion in the U.K., which meant exteriors would be shot in London, while interiors would have been done at a studio in Berlin or Cologne. But now, according to Conrad, not only will the film shoot exclusively in Berlin, but it will all be on location, meaning no studio sets. This makes the project sound all the more thrilling. Conrad states that aside from the obligatory scenes set in office suites, De Palma will shoot Passion at the Sony Center (pictured above), the Bode Museum, and the restaurant Margaux (the interior of which is pictured below).


Posted by Geoff at 10:21 PM CST
Updated: Monday, February 20, 2012 12:44 AM CST
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Friday, February 17, 2012
BETTY BUCKLEY LOVES NEW 'CARRIE' MUSICAL
SAYS UPCOMING SHOW IS MORE FOCUSED, BUT LESS DANGEROUS

The MCC Theater's new Off Broadway musical version of Carrie officially opens March 1st, and has been in previews for the past couple of weeks. Betty Buckley, who played the gym teacher Miss Collins in the Brian De Palma film, also played Carrie's mother in the 1988 Broadway musical version that has become the stuff of legend. Buckley is pictured above with the stars of the new version, Molly Ranson, who plays Carrie, and Marin Mazzie, who plays her mother. Buckley told the New York Times' Patrick Healy that she "completely enjoyed" the new production, and is thrilled for the team that put it together: composer Michael Gore, lyricist Dean Pitchford, and book writer Lawrence D. Cohen, the latter having previously adapted Stephen King's novel for De Palma's film. "I always felt their work in this show was ahead of its time, really provocative and very passionate theater,” Buckley told Healy of the team that also worked on the 1988 version. “I’m really proud of the work we did back then, and I’m a huge fan of these guys. I always wanted the score and the story to be seen for its intensely, emotionally moving qualities, and I think you can see those qualities in this production.” Healy's article continues:

The major difference between the new Carrie and the Broadway production, in Ms. Buckley’s view, is that the current director, Stafford Arima, has created a “homogeneity” in tone, design, and performance that makes for “focused, consistent, understandable storytelling.”

“The problem with the original production,” she continued, “was that the directorial concept was very abstract, and the director Terry Hands thought the piece resonated as Jacobean drama. He achieved that through some very, very bloody scenes. Linzi [Hateley] and I presented a psychologically accurate portrayal of a deeply, emotionally disturbed mother and daughter.”

Ms. Buckley described the Off Broadway revival as “the PG-13 version of the original,” then added: “I would love this production to be more dangerous. I think that’s what we had going on that made it resonate for all these years. It’s not about adding camp to this production, but about adding even more truth. The show is perfectly timed right now, because we’re so aware of the sort of bullying in schools that Carrie experiences.”

Healy begins his article with an account of the 1988 show's opening night:

When the lights went black at the end of the first Broadway preview of Carrie, on April 28, 1988, the actress Betty Buckley recalled hearing something she had never experienced in her 20 years in theater: Boos from the audience. Ms. Buckley, who had won a Tony Award in 1983 for Cats, played the fanatically religious mother Margaret White in the musical, and her character had just been killed by the telekinetic powers of her daughter, the title character. Both Ms. Buckley and Linzi Hateley, who played Carrie, lay on the stage in the dark, hearing the boos; Ms. Buckley recalled that Ms. Hateley, making her Broadway debut, whispered, “What do we do?”

“We get up,” Ms. Buckley said in reply. They stood, the lights came on, and the boos turned to cheers and applause for the performers in the show, which would go on to close after 21 performances, one of the biggest flops in Broadway history.

Another New York Times article by Healy from earlier this month looks at the two versions of the musical, with picture comparisons, as well as quotes from Cohen, among others. "The three of us did not exactly have the best time with the Broadway production," Cohen told Healy. "We had a dream 30 years ago for a show about outsiders,” and “now every day the three of us look at each other and we’re like, ‘We’re getting closer.’"


Meanwhile, Mark Kennedy at the Associated Press interviewed Ranson, who told him that she loved De Palma's film, and thinks the story is particularly relevant today. "Really, at its core, it's the story of a girl who's trying to fit in," Ranson told Kennedy. "It's the story of an outsider, which I think everyone can relate to in one way or another. Especially now, with all this bullying. It's kind of a great time to be doing this." Ranson, 22, was not yet born when the original Broadway version happened in 1988. The new version tones down the blood, especially during the prom scene. Regarding the blood, Ranson says, "It'll look good. It'll look real. It's going to be done really beautifully and subtly — artistically, kind of abstract."


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, February 18, 2012 12:54 AM CST
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Wednesday, February 15, 2012
LANA DEL RAY POSES AS 'CARRIE'
FOR Q MAGAZINE COVER SHOOT
Lana Del Ray graces the cover of the February issue of the British music magazine Q. According to Famous Monsters Of Filmland, the singer/recording artist "asked to be shot in tribute to one of her favorite films, the 1976 Brian De Palma classic Carrie." Five of the six photos inside the magazine show Del Ray in various bloody Carrie poses, including the one shown here in the middle. The Famous Monsters site also has some behind-the-scenes photos from the shoot, including the one at the very bottom below.
(Thanks to Ryan!)


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, February 16, 2012 12:12 AM CST
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Sunday, February 12, 2012
RIHANNA CHANNELS ELVIRA WITH ARMANI GOWN
ONE YEAR AFTER GWEN STEFANI CATWALKS ELVIRA AT NY FASHION WEEK

Giorgio Armani may have designed the costumes for Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, but for tonight's Grammy Awards, the iconic designer worked with Rihanna on a gown that looks back to an earlier De Palma gangster classic, Scarface. According to Gather, Rhianna told E! Online's Ryan Seacrest that she was channeling Michelle Pfeiffer's Elvira in Scarface. You can see the dress in full, all the way around, via the mesmerizing E!'s GlamCam 360.

About a year ago, in February of 2011, Gwen Stafani continued her Elvira fetish with a runway show at New York Fashion Week that included several models walking the catwalk in Elvira-inspired gowns, as a dance mix of Giorgio Moroder's Scarface theme and Deborah Harry's Rush Rush played in the background. The gowns are part of Stefani's fashion label, L.A.M.B. The video below, put together by music video director Sophie Muller, is what played on the screen behind the models.

In the last couple of minutes of the video below, you can see clips from the Scarface part of the show...

Stefani first channeled Pfeiffer's Elvira in a heavily-stylized pose for the cover of her 2006 solo album, The Sweet Escape. The following year, she debuted Elvira-inspired fashions in a presentation for her L.A.M.B. label. In 2004, Stefani met De Palma when she auditioned for the role of Madeleine in The Black Dahlia.

 


Posted by Geoff at 9:30 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, February 12, 2012 10:26 PM CST
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