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Saturday, December 3, 2011
MORE PIPER LAURIE
TWO CHICAGO INTERVIEWS AS SHE GEARS UP FOR 'A VERY CARRIE CHRISTMAS'
Piper Laurie is gearing up for her appearance at tomorrow's "A Very Carrie Christmas" at Chicago's Music Box Theatre by doing interviews with Chicago media. A couple of very good interviews have popped up in the past week, including one by Hollywood Chicago's Matt Fagerholm, which includes this section about Laurie's work on Carrie:

HollywoodChicago.com: In the excellent DVD edition of “Carrie,” you mention how your interpretation of the script as satire initially helped you ease into the role of Margaret White. Was satire in your mind while onset?

Laurie: I just tried to get that out of my head. Once De Palma revealed that he didn’t want a satirical approach and said, “You’re going to get a laugh if you do that,” I realized that he didn’t want laughs, at least not in our conscious performing. I just fully embraced the reality of what I was playing. I must say that I enjoyed having the childlike freedom to play act and be the evil witch. It was very freeing and fun to do.

HollywoodChicago.com: Why did you decide to perform your climactic monologue without a rehearsal?

Laurie: It was a little scary for me to play it the way I thought it should be played. I could’ve done it a different way, but I just thought that the revelation of Margaret’s secret sexual experience should be as raw and real as possible. I didn’t want to wear myself out rehearsing that. While Brian didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, I did ask him if he’d mind if we didn’t rehearse it. So I just got into position, Mario Tosiz lit it and I played it. Brian was almost in tears when he came in and said, “Oh Piper, I’m so sorry, could you please do it one more time?” And I did, and it was just as full and operatic as the first time. I have no idea which take they used.

HollywoodChicago.com: Did the instincts you developed in “Playhouse 90” and “Studio One” serve as an asset during this scene?

Laurie: Yes, you remind me that if it hadn’t been for the live television experience, I probably wouldn’t have had the guts to do that last scene in “Carrie” the way that I did. I also did a John Guarez play workshop one summer and he kept rewriting speeches for us. There would be no time to rehearse and little time to memorize. Sometimes he would hand you something a few minutes before you went onstage. I had a monologue to do once that was so explicit and so raw and I had no rehearsal time. I just went out and did it. I think the audience gasped right in the middle of it. All those things helped.

HollywoodChicago.com: Do you feel the film has aged well? No remake has been able to erase it from moviegoers’ memories.

Laurie: I haven’t seen the remakes. I think, in a way, that “Carrie” is very sweet. It’s very gentle compared to the savage kind of violent movies that we have now. It’s become more accessible for more people. I know that when it first came out, many of the Academy members wouldn’t go to see a so-called horror movie. I don’t really think that it is a horror movie, and I never did. It’s a movie with surprises in it, and when they have to deal with violence, it’s very gentle in a way, such as the scene [where John Travolta retrieves] the pig’s blood. Today you’d show a shot of him killing a pig. I think Brian is an artist and he did many lovely things in that movie. It was visually exquisite. And I love the innocent humor, the life of the teenage kids and the sensuality of the young people. The opening scene of the girls in the shower was beautiful without being overt.

HollywoodChicago.com: After the success of “Carrie,” did you feel typecast?

Laurie: Yes, I really was offended. The movie I did right after that was a romantic one with Mel Gibson [1978’s “Tim”], but occasionally I would be given a part requiring that same sort of raw anger as if they thought that’s who I was. When I did an Agatha Christie movie [1988’s “Appointment With Death”], I played a bullying mother. That’s not who I am. That was a one-time thing that I did with great gusto and fun. It irritates me when people want me to do that again.

"I GAVE MYSELF PERMISSION TO JUST GO FOR IT AND BE AS BIG AS I WANTED TO BE"
Laurie also talked with Windy City Times' Richard Knight, Jr., who will be co-conducting (with David Cerda) the Q&A with Laurie following Sunday's screening of Carrie. Here is the discussion about Carrie from the Windy City Times interview:

WCT: I'm fascinated to know that you read Carrie as a comedy and that was your approach when you began in rehearsal.

PL: I didn't really care for the script and I talked to my husband about it and he said, "Maybe you misread it—Brian De Palma has a comedic approach to most of the things he's done" so I re-read it and thought it was a comedy; a satire and I thought that had more possibilities in that approach. I hadn't made a movie in 15 years and he [De Palma] decided to hire me. So they flew me out to California for rehearsal and by then I'd thought up some bits that I thought would be funny; or pretty broad—like pulling myself around the room by my own hair in anguish.

So I grabbed my hair and did it a couple of times during the rehearsal in Brian's apartment and he stopped me and said, "Piper, you're going to get a laugh if you do that" and I thought to myself, "Isn't that the point?" I suddenly realized I had misunderstood and this was serious so I adjusted what I did but did it with a different motivation.

WCT: Well I think it's still funny—but horrifically funny which much of the film is—it's nasty funny.

PL: I think I'm pretty funny in the movie. [Laughs]

WCT: You're so over the top—it's one of those great performances where you can laugh and be terrified at the same time.

PL: When the movie first came out people did not laugh and then after they'd seen it a couple of times they felt free to laugh and I think it's funny. I do! [Laughs] You know what helped me? After I'd rehearsed and they flew me back to Woodstock for a month or so before we shot. I went into New York and I went to see his movie Phantom of the Paradise which had just opened and it was so operatic and that really freed me to be as big as I wanted to be.

WCT: That's very interesting because all the scenes between you and Sissy Spacek are like operatic duos—these arias between mother and daughter. You sort of gasp at how high you two climb—it veers on melodrama; it's so over the top and fun and great all at once.

PL: Thank you. We shot those early scenes over and over. You see I hadn't acted in front of a camera for 15 years and this was a very unusual experience for me—thinking of it as fun instead of a life or death struggle, which it had been always before. I just gave myself permission to just go for it and be as big as I wanted to be. I have no trouble doing take after take. I was always "full." I did ask that we do the last scene, the monologue, just once without rehearsal because I wanted to be as raw and exposed as I could be in that moment.

WCT: You write about your take on Margaret White's death scene—that she was happy because she was finally going to meet her maker—but I've always interpreted that as a long overdue orgasm—after years of being pent up. Do you give any credence to that, Piper?

PL: That's just where your mind is! [Laughs]

WCT: Okay, okay. [Laughs] But every time one of those knives stabs into you…

PL: What can I say? [Laughs]

WCT: Your work brought you an Oscar nomination and a lot of villainous roles—like the baddies you play in Appointment with Death, Twin Peaks, etc.

PL: You know, I'm not that person and the success of Carrie made people want to cast me that way. That was a one-time chance to play-act like children do—the mean person—and draw on all the things you wish you could do but that's not who I am in real life. I've never behaved like that and it upsets me a little bit that that's what they throw at me. I have had other opportunities like the thing I did with Sissy years later—The Grass Harp.

WCT: Which is criminally overlooked, I think. It's so unexpected to see you in that delicate, delightful part. It's a lyrical little movie, I think.

PL: And in real life I'm much closer to that lady and anybody who knows me will say that—maybe with a little laugh! I'm a person who loves nature and is vulnerable; the person who started out in life a little bit damaged and I'm very proud of the fact that I was able to move beyond that and reinvent my life. That was one of the many reasons I wrote my book.

WCT: Well, we will celebrate all aspects of your career when you're here with us on Dec. 4. Thank you on behalf of your movie fans in Chicago for creating so many indelible movie moments through the years.

PL: Thank you for that nice tribute. I can't wait to see everyone in Chicago.


Posted by Geoff at 10:02 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, December 3, 2011 10:07 PM CST
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Friday, December 2, 2011
CRONENBERG ON HOW/WHY MOVIES GET MADE
Vulture's Jada Yuan recently interviewed David Cronenberg, who delved into a frank discussion about the way projects come and go in a filmmaker's career. As some here have had questions about why some De Palma projects seem to disappear, or struggle to get financed, or even how he almost got involved with Paranormal Activity 2, it seems useful to excerpt the following passage in which Cronenberg urges folks to lose their preconceived notions about why filmmakers make the films they make. It starts when Yuan seems to be trying to find "a through line" from Cronenberg's earlier horror films, to his latest film, A Dangerous Method:

A lot of critics, though, have talked about how this isn’t necessarily a natural through line for your career. That A Dangerous Method doesn't seem as natural a progression from even Eastern Promises.
That's totally, totally irrelevant. See, this is very common. I'm often telling critics that they should not confuse their process with mine. I don't care what movies I've made before. I don't care what people think is Cronenbergian or not. It's irrelevant to me. It's as though I'd never made another movie when I'm making this movie. There's nothing that I can take from those other movies, or what people think that I do, that is creatively of use to me. When I'm making this movie, once I've decided that yeah, this is a subject that interests me, I'm going to make this movie, I just focus on it. It's of the moment. The movie tells me what it wants. I listen to the movie; it tells me what it wants in terms of style, visual style, dramatic style. And I have no desire to impose some preconceived idea of Cronenbergness on the project. The movie grows organically out of itself rather than having me impose some sort of pattern or template on it. So, to me, all talk about natural progression from one movie to another is completely irrelevant. And the other thing is, too, what is amusing to me is what is assumed, even if it's not exactly expressed by these people who write this stuff, is that I have total control over what I do, and when. It's like, "Oh no, I think at this point of my career I shall do a biopic. Because I have not done that before, and I need to show that I can do that." They probably think that's exactly how it goes. Well, not really. It’s like, this movie is the one that got financed, so that's why I'm doing it now. I might have done it ten years ago — which is actually when I approached [playwright] Christopher Hampton to do it. But we couldn’t get the financing. Christopher thought maybe he wanted to direct it. I would’ve done it ten years ago, if all of that had come together. You see? So all talk about natural progression is kind of a laugh for me. Because it has nothing to do with the reality of moviemaking. And particularly, movie financing.

Are you more able than others to jump from subject to subject because of who you are? At this point, does your reputation allow you to do whatever you want to do?
No, it's the reality of filmmaking. Look, I talked about it with Marty Scorsese, because people think that Marty can do anything he wants. Because he's Marty, right? He can't! He's got projects that he can't get off the ground, because people think they won’t make enough money, or they're too expensive, or any of those things. So, maybe Spielberg can do almost anything he wants — although I did hear he had trouble getting Schindler's List actually made — [but] money talks. We're all completely vulnerable to the financial environment. I think of moviemakers as being like amphibians. We're like the frogs with the thin skins. We're the first ones to react, to have an allergic reaction to the toxicity of the air. When the financial meltdown came, it really affected what movies you could make. Sources of financing dried up, sources of distribution folded. Warner Independent disappeared. Places that you used to go to be able to pre-sell your film, suddenly you couldn't pre-sell your film. And that meant that only the most blatantly commercial, repetitive movies like sequels and remakes and stuff could get made. So all of those things, when people are being theoretical and analytical about why you made this movie now, they ignore all that stuff. And they're ignoring the actual reality of moviemaking, that’s what I mean.


Posted by Geoff at 6:27 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, December 3, 2011 10:06 PM CST
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Thursday, December 1, 2011
SALT SCRIPTS DAHLIA EPISODE OF 'AMERICAN HORROR STORY'
This week's episode of FX's American Horror Story, which aired last night, features Mena Suvari as "the Black Dahlia," aka Elizabeth Short. The episode is the second so far this season that was written by Jennifer Salt (also an executive producer on the show), and it ends with a bang: an unforgettable line of dialogue that seems to nastily set up the final leg of the season.

Posted by Geoff at 11:26 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, December 1, 2011 11:26 PM CST
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011
DAVID AYER TO SCRIPT NEW 'SCARFACE'
Deadline's Mike Fleming reports tonight that David Ayer, screenwriter of Training Day, has been hired to write the screenplay for Universal's update of Scarface, which is being produced by Martin Bregman and Marc Shmuger. According to Fleming, Ayer is currently completing his third directorial effort, End Of Watch, which he also wrote and produced. If he puts together a decent script, it would not seem such a stretch to think that he might be offered the chance to direct Scarface, as well. Here is what Ayer told Fleming about being chosen to write the new Scarface, which he sounds passionate about:

"This is a fantasy for me, I can still remember when I saw the film at 13 and it blew my mind. I sought it out; I went after it hard. I see it as the story of the American dream, with a character whose moral compass points in a different direction. That puts it right in my wheelhouse. I studied both the original Ben Hecht-Howard Hawks movie and the DePalma-Pacino version and found some universal themes. I’m still under the hood figuring out the wiring that will translate, but both films had a specificity of place, there was unapologetic violence, and a main character who socially scared the shit out of people, but who had his own moral code. Each was faithful to the underworld of its time. There are enough opportunities in the real world today that provide an opportunity to do this right. If it was just an attempt to remake the 1983 film, that would never work.”

Posted by Geoff at 7:52 PM CST
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Sunday, November 27, 2011
DRAGO TALKS 'UNTOUCHABLES'
"I WORE A WHITE SUIT IN THE MOVIE BECAUSE WE THOUGHT OF HIM AS THE ANGEL OF DEATH"
Owen Williams interviewed Billy Drago for a UK film magazine, where it was trimmed down to fit the magazine's space constraints. But Williams has posted the full interview at The Void, including a section in which Drago talks about his work on Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, in which he portrayed Frank Nitti. Here is that section:

[The Untouchables] was one of those films where even the things that went wrong went right. It was a difficult shoot in that it was period and we were actually shooting in the city so you have to periodise all those blocks. It was huge. And the studio didn’t know it was going to be a hit, and they actually called De Palma and shut it down. They said “okay we’ve seen the footage, you’ve got enough, we don’t want to spend any more money, that’s it, after the weekend you’re home”, and there were a whole load more scenes we were supposed to shoot.

That’s when they went and shot the Odessa Steps sequence in the train station, with a load of raw film stock that De Palma had stored up. That wasn’t even in the script. We were supposed to shoot at the race track and a lot of other stuff, and he said ‘We can’t shoot any of that stuff, so everybody pack up, but in the meantime I’m going to shoot my version of the Battleship Potemkin scene with all this film I’ve stolen’…

The first scene we shot was where the little kid gets blown up. So I’m outside waiting on the street where they’re lighting, and some older woman comes up with a little boy and asks for a picture, so I put my arm around the little boy and all that. And the next day in the newspaper I found that the picture was there! And the little boy was like Nitti’s great great grandson.

The guy who was my stand-in was the great grandson of a guy who’d had a Nitti contract out on him! And his grandfather had hidden out in the middle of Illinois until Nitti had died, and survived the hit. But even after that, he got ill and he was in the hospital, and the nurses complained about him because he was sleeping with a pistol under his pillow, because he was convinced he was still gonna get whacked!

I got to know the Nitti family. They still live in the Chicago area and they have grocery stores and businesses: regular businesses; they’re not mob connected anymore! They called the hotel where I was staying, which was the actual hotel that had been owned by Capone and Nitti during that period (in fact the very phone booth where Machine Gun Jack McGill was killed was right outside my door). I was down in the lobby and the concierge came over to say that the Nitti family would be by to pick me up at 8 o’clock. Nobody asked if I actually wanted to go… It was an offer I couldn’t refuse! But it would have been too interesting an adventure to turn down anyway. So at eight o’clock I’m down in the lobby and a limousine pulls up and a guy gets out and introduces himself as someone who works for the Nitti family, and we drove around every blues club in Chicago, and at every one it was like royalty had arrived. ‘The Nitti family is here!’ It was great fun but they were making me a little nervous because they gradually started treating me like I really was Frank Nitti. They made sure my back was to the wall so I could see everybody, and all the young Italian turks would come by to pay their respects, and they’d all say “Sooooo, playin’ Uncle Frank huh? Lookin’ good, lookin’ good…” It gave me a bit of an insight into what it would have been like and what had gone on…

They didn’t mind Frank being portrayed as such a villain; the legend is so big. They had to move Nitty’s grave several times because people kept digging it up to make sure he really was dead; they were so scared of him. Only the family knew where his grave was for a while. I wore a white suit in the movie because we thought of him as the angel of death. I talked to a very elderly gentleman once who’d been a policeman undercover, and he said that Nitti had found him out, and tied him up in a basement and put a gun in his mouth and waited to see if he would sweat. Nitti had a very famous saying: ‘I never killed a man who wasn’t afraid to die’. So if he’d sweated he would’ve been killed, but he didn’t so Nitti said ‘oh okay, he’s not afraid’ so he let him go.

My mother never quite forgave me for killing Sean Connery. Mom, I had to! They paid me!


Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
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Saturday, November 26, 2011
'DEVIL'S DOUBLE' DUBBED A MIDDLE EAST 'SCARFACE'
DOMINIC COOPER PORTRAYS UDAY HUSSEIN AND HIS DOUBLE
Lee Tamahori's The Devil's Double is based on the true story of Uday Hussein, Saddam Hussein's ruthless playboy son, and his body double. Dominic Cooper plays the dual roles of Uday and his double, and the film has been compared to Brian De Palma's Scarface ever since the first trailer was released. The film, dubbed everything from "the Iraqi Scarface," to "Scarface in Mesopotamia," has just been released on DVD, so it seems like a good time to post some links that touch on the comparisons.

Movie City News' Gary Dretzka:
"If the story weren’t so horrifyingly real, you’d find The Devil’s Double on a short list of thug classics alongside Brian De Palma’s Scarface. In fact, I’m surprised that movie wasn’t playing in the background somewhere during this faux-biography of Uday Hussein, another coke-snorting, woman-abusing and gun-obsessed fiend. The similarities between Tony Montana and the sadistic son of Saddam Hussein are inescapable. In an interview included in the DVD bonus package, director Lee Tamahori (Once Were Warriors) explains that he purposefully embellished Oday’s bad behavior – as related in the memoirs of body-double Latif Yahia – to distinguish it from traditional bio-pics, which can be judged according to their accuracy. In doing so, Oday’s misdeeds are made mythic and Devil’s Double becomes more operatic in tone. Tamahori also wanted to create a new archetype for the associates of rich and powerful people who take advantage of their position to commit crimes against humanity. It’s possible, too, that Tamahori was influenced by reports that Yahia had made up the story and he didn’t want facts to get in the way of a good movie. And, from what we’ve learned about Uday, Devil’s Double would be a powerful yarn even if only half of it were true. The late Moammar Ghadafi’s sons appear to have been cast from the same mold."

Mountain Xpress' Ken Hanke:
"In the film, Latif is a soldier who is first asked to be Uday's double, then tortured and finally blackmailed into taking the job to protect his family. This perhaps redefines the idea of an "offer he can't refuse," but that's probably deliberate because the film paints Uday as a gangster -- and it does the same, to some extent, to his father Saddam (Philip Quast). It just happens that the Husseins run a country, rather than a crime syndicate. In fact, quite a few people have likened the presentation of Uday to the Al Pacino character in Brian De Palma's 1983 remake of Scarface. The comparison is not without merit, though I'd say Uday wins in the raging-lunatic department."

Marshall and the Movies:
"That being said, unfortunately, most of the redeeming value of The Devil’s Double begins and ends with Dominic Cooper’s breakthrough performance. It’s a classic example of a good actor ruined by a ho-hum movie that spoils the chance of him getting the attention he really deserves. Director Lee Tamahori is where I place the root of these problems. The guy must have set out to make Scarface in Iraq because at times it just feels like a cry for Brian De Palma and Al Pacino to notice him. Clearly he’s a little too adrenaline-happy trying to replicate Tony Montana because the movie just goes way over the top in ways that it doesn’t need to go there."

Sabotage Times' Richard Luck:
"For a short while there, it looked like Dominic Cooper was going to become the next big thing in British film. A standout in both the stage and film versions of The History Boys and one of the few decent things about Starter For 10, the boy from Greenwich might have been a touch on the short side but he had charisma to burn. Then there was that rather wet supporting turn in the otherwise pretty decent The Duchess and that part in Mamma Mia! which no doubt paid a fortune but came at the price of his testicles. If it wasn’t for his good work in The Escapist and An Education, you could have been forgiven for thinking James Corden’s former housemate was but the latest in a long line of could-have-beens.

But now The Devil’s Double has arrived and all such doubts have disappeared. For in this fact-based story of the man hired to impersonate Saddam Hussein’s playboy son Uday, our man gives a performance that’s so over-the-top and entertaining, it can’t help but recall Al Pacino’s to-the-edge work in Scarface. Of course, this latest offering from the cross-dressing Kiwi Lee Tamahori doesn’t hit the same heights as Brian De Palma’s crime epic. It’s an engaging picture, though, featuring genuinely witty dialogue and a clutch of fine supporting turns. And while Cooper’s double performance could have come on like the worst sort of acting stunt, he’s so good you wouldn’t be surprised if he copped a nomination (or maybe two) when the BAFTAs come around next year."

The Guardian's John Patterson:
"Uday's a handful, living out some Baathist-inflected fantasia on De Palma's Scarface, shooting off guns indoors, plucking schoolgirls off the streets and raping them, exercising Caligulan droit du seigneur over a war hero's new bride, prompting her suicide, and mutilating and disembowelling his own dad's food-taster at a banquet to honour Mrs Hosni Mubarak (par-TAY!). Scotch, vodka, cigars, cocaine, heroin, porn, torture, rape and murder are his toys and his games, so he's the most nightmarish playmate you can imagine. And with all these mirrors and doppelgangers, it's like a psychopathic remake of The Parent Trap."

Mother Jones' Asawin Suebsaeng:
"But The Devil's Double's biggest problems stem from its inability to decide whether it wants to be a morality play, an exploitation flick, Scarface in Mesopotamia, or a Greek tragedy."


Posted by Geoff at 5:35 PM CST
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Friday, November 25, 2011
ZSIGMOND TALKS 'BLOW OUT'
IN NOVEMBER ISSUE OF AMERICAN CINEMATOGRAPHER, ON STANDS NOW
The November 2011 issue of American Cinematographer has a nice 9-page article about Vilmos Zsigmond's work on Brian De Palma's Blow Out, which seems to have finally arrived after being released on DVD and Blu-Ray by Criterion earlier this year. "Brian is really a stylist, and he's very experimental," Zsigmond tells AC's Jon Silberg. He sticks his neck out on movies that sometimes get bad reviews because the people who write the reviews say he's concentrating too much on the visuals. But that's what I like so much about him: he knows about images. There are so many films that just consist of talking heads, and they feel more like what you think of as 'TV coverage.' Brian always wants to do something that has style."

Zsigmond talks about shooting the night scene on the bridge, and the challenges of lighting the shots properly with the slower film stocks of the day (early 1980s). He also talks about the split diopter shots in the film: "You have to plan these shots ahead of time and find a way to hide the vertical line. That's the most important thing. The actors cannot cross that line, because it would look terrible." He mentions that with the types of lenses available today, such shots could be a little easier to do.

Also discussed is Zsigmond's technique of flashing the film, which he did on Blow Out to create less contrast and more shadow detail. This is a technique Zsigmond had developed on previous film projects in order to compensate for the slower film stocks of the day. "I flashed certain things to get more speed out of the film, more shadow detail," Zsigmond tells Silberg. "If we had a big scene-- like the fireworks at the end of Blow Out, where we had to show a whole city block at the port-- I would flash the film at least 10 percent to get a good exposure and detail in the shadows." The article goes on to explain that this was a risky process, involving the threading of exposed and unprocessed negative onto a printer. If there was any mistake made, or some kind of problem with the negative, a large amount of work could be lost for good. Fortunately (and incredibly), this never seemed to happen.

"THE FEWER CUTS YOU HAVE IN A FILM, THE MORE INTERESTING IT IS TO WATCH"
Also discussed is De Palma's penchant for single-take scenes:

"We would sometimes do shots that lasted four or five minutes," the cinematographer recalls. "Brian is very good at that-- he knows exactly what he wants. It's very easy for me to light those kinds of shots on his movies, because I know exactly where he wants the camera to go. And I know he's going to use it all because he loves using those shots-- abd there's no way to cut away. Sometimes he'd go five, six, eight or even 10 takes, knowing that the scene would play out as one shot on the screen."

Zsigmond finds this approach rewarding: "The fewer cuts you have in a film, the more interesting it is to watch the scene. It's like watching real life-- you get up close to people and to the action and let the scene play out. Lately I've enjoyed working with Woody Allen, because he is really aiming for one shot with no coverage. No close-ups, no over-the-shoulders. He wants to move the camera, and he does it in one continuous shot."

For [cinematographer Jan Kiesser, who was Zsigmond's operator on Blow Out], shots like this meant a significant amount of responsibility. "When we were making Blow Out," he says, "we didn't have video playback. It was really on your shoulders as an operator to critically judge composition throughout the shot. You had the best seat in the house for all the critical decisions, like eyelines and framing, but nobody else was going to see the shot until dailies! We were also shooting wide open, so we needed to be very critical about focus."

Michael Gershman was the first AC on Blow Out and worked frequently with Kiesser. "Michael and I started our careers together in animation," says Kiesser, "and we were on many crews togather. Like all great focus pullers, Michael had an uncanny knack for focus-- it was like a sixth sense. On Blow Out, he really had to multi-task, because some of those shots required zooming, focus-pulling and stop changes all at once."

ZSIGMOND: "I NEVER LIKED THE LOOK OF SOME OF THOSE SHOTS AS MUCH AS I DID IN THE BLU-RAY"
The article also discusses the 360-degree shot in Jack's sound studio. "The space wasn't big enough to lay down tracks," Kiesser tells Silberg. "We had the camera in the middle of the room, and we kept panning around and zooming to keep up with the action. In those days, the camera didn't have a battery; it was powered from an external source, so we had to twist the power cable around the tripod and then untwist it during the shot."

Also discussed is the use of the Little Big Crane, which was designed by key grip Richard "Dicky" Deats. "The Little Big Crane let us get into places we might not have been able to access with a larer crane," Kiesser tells Silberg. "We had also used it a lot with Vilmos on Heaven's Gate. This was before remote heads, so I would ride the crane and time the camera movement to the crane's position. My strongest memory of [shooting Blow Out] is sitting up there in the cold and wind."

For the fireworks scenes at the end, according to the article, the production used real fireworks for the wider shots. Zsigmond, who notes that the fireworks were more blown out (or overexposed) than he would have liked, recalls to Silberg, "I brought in as many big lights as I could to bring up the darker areas. I never liked the look of some of those shots as much as I did in the Blu-ray that came out recently. I wasn't involved in timing it, but Brian must have been, or somebody who understood what we were going for, because the colors are more intense than we could get them [photochemically]. Today, we would finish with a DI, and we would have more control." The Criterion transfer of Blow Out was, in fact, supervised by De Palma.

Silberg's article also briefly covers the heartbreaking shot of Jack cradling Sally's body as the camera seems to spin around them:

At the end of the chase, Jack cradles Sally in his arms as the camera spins 360 degrees and reveals the fireworks above them. The shot was one of the film's few optical effects. "The production couldn't possibly create real fireworks in the sky as we spun the camera," Zsigmond explains. "We put the actors and their lighting on a turntable in front of a bluescreen, and we positioned the camera on one side of the turntable facing the bluescreen, where it remained static as we turned the actors around 360 degrees. Because the lighting was moving with the actors, it looked as if the camera was circling them. The fireworks were added in post."

"IT ISN'T IMPORTANT THAT WHAT WE'RE WATCHING IS 'REAL'"
The article concludes with Zsigmond expressing, in Silberg's words, "a particular fondness for the unabashedly stylish films he shot with De Palma" (the other films are Obsession, The Bonfire Of The Vanities, and The Black Dahlia). "I've worked on so many films where we aimed to be 'real,' and we would never have done some of the shots I did with Brian," Zsigmond tells Silberg. "But in a movie by Brian De Palma-- or Hitchcock-- it isn't important that what we're watching is 'real.' We're telling a story, and the most important thing is that the audience has fun watching it."

The magazine, as usual, is worth buying not just for the great article, but also for the terrific array of photographs. The cover story interview with Roger Deakins about his work on Andrew Niccol's new sci-fi thriller In Time is also worth checking out. It's a steal at only $5.95.


Posted by Geoff at 7:06 PM CST
Updated: Friday, November 25, 2011 7:08 PM CST
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Thursday, November 24, 2011
VIDEO FROM 'PHANTOM' IN 6D
AND A DESCRIPTION OF LAST MONTH'S EVENT FROM A CERTAIN ARCHIVIST WHO WAS THERE

Above is one of several videos posted to YouTube of the Baltimore Rock Opera Society's (BROS) presentation of Phantom Of The Paradise in 6D. In the video above, a live band mimics the performance of the song Upholstery from the film, and immediately after the end of the song, the film itself, which had been stopped for the stage performance, begins again from where a car bomb explodes on stage. Other YouTube videos from 6D screening, which took place on two consecutive nights last month during Halloween weekend, show on-stage performances of Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye, Special To Me, Phantom's Theme, Old Souls, Somebody Super Like You/Life At Last, and the closer, Hell Of It. All of the songs were written by Paul Williams.

The Swan Archives' Ari, the Principal Archivist, was at the first show that Friday night, and reports on what it was like:

The show was a tremendous hoot; the BROS are a talented and dedicated bunch, and it was a true multimedia extravaganza. (And the show sold out; I assume it did just as well the next night.) Basically, they screened the film, but every time the film got to a musical number, the film would stop, and they’d perform it live, with a live band, etc. Then, the film would resume from the point at which the musical number ended. (So they weren’t shadowcasting; the film and the live stuff was never happening simultaneously.) They had great costumes, and were kind of witty about the whole thing. For example, when Winslow plays Faust at the piano, as you know, the camera circles around him, as it does around Carrie and Billy as they dance. So the BROS had Winslow and the piano on a big lazy Susan, and a couple of stagehands rotated the piano as Winslow played, so you got the same spinning effect, but without the camera. During the montage sequence, as Winslow’s playing and dreaming of Phoenix, they projected a montage sequence that looked very similar, except that it had THEIR Phoenix in it, rather than Jessica Harper. Beef’s electrocution was accomplished with a neon lightning bolt that came down from the rafters. They had a full size replica of the Beach Bums’ car, which did a lap through the audience (up and down the aisles), before (sort of) exploding. They managed to be both extremely faithful to the film, and very original and creative at the same time.

(Thanks to Ari!)


Posted by Geoff at 12:17 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 22, 2011
CASTING COMPLETE FOR OFF-BROADWAY 'CARRIE'
PERFORMANCES BEGIN JAN. 31 2012, OFFICIAL OPENING SET FOR MARCH 1 2012

Broadway World has the full cast announcement from MCC Theater for the re-worked version of the stage musical, Carrie. Previously announced were Marin Mazzie (as Margaret White) and Molly Ranson in the title role. Joining them will be Christy Altomare, Carmen Cusack, Jeanna de Waal, Derek Klena, Ben Thompson, Wayne Wilcox, Corey Boardman, Blair Goldberg, F. Michael Haynie, Andy Mientus, Elly Noble, and Jen Sese. Performances will begin January 31, 2012, with the official opening night scheduled for March 1, 2012. The show is directed by Stafford Arima, with music by Michael Gore, lyrics by Dean Pitchford, and a book by Lawrence D. Cohen, the latter of which wrote the screenplay for the Brian De Palma adaptation of Stephen King's novel.

Posted by Geoff at 11:04 PM CST
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Monday, November 21, 2011
KATT SHEA TALKS 'SCARFACE'
AND HER CONTINUED CONNECTION TO DE PALMA, AT TRAILERS FROM HELL
Trailers From Hell mainstay Katt Shea delivers the trailer for Brian De Palma's Scarface today. In the video, Shea talks about filming her "very miniscule part" in the film, at the Babylon Club. "I was in the movie because Brian De Palma wanted the club populated with model-actresses," Shea says. "I was told you had to be a model with acting credits, or in my case, an actor with modeling credits, to get the gig. In the hallway at Universal was just littered with gorgeousness at the call. And there were recognizable models just standing there waiting for their interview. And four or five of us got hired. And what we were hired to do was just react at the Babylon Club to the big shootout. Sounds like a day's work, right? Or maybe two days work. But no, between the problem of the walls being mirrors, and the entire crew could be seen in them, and the fact that Al Pacino wasn't feeling it and wouldn't come out of his trailer for a week, I worked a full week. And at Friday at 12pm, the illustrious DP, John Alonzo, announced that it was going to be Universal's first no-shot week. An hour later, they got the shot off, and the reaction actors were released. And in their defense, I have to say it was a Herculean shot."

Shea talks about how the film is all about excess, yet the women are all very skinny-- "way too skinny" for Shea's taste. She mentions that while the movie bombed upon release, she still gets residuals from it today amidst all of its success. She also talks about her continued connection to De Palma, naming the first film she directed, Stripped To Kill, after De Palma's Dressed To Kill, and being approved by De Palma to direct the sequel to his adaptation of (although, she mentions, De Palma said he did not remember her from Scarface). She finishes by saying that she was the girl in red.

Posted by Geoff at 8:11 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 21, 2011 8:29 PM CST
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