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Thursday, May 2, 2013
Origo filmklub's Varga Ferenc has conducted a nice long interview with Brian De Palma about his new film Passion, and several other topics. The interview is in Hungarian, and I am having a bit of trouble figuring out what De Palma says about Zero Dark Thirty, so if anyone thinks they know, please let us know. Here is a Google-assisted translation of the interview:

Five years have passed since your last film. Is it frustrating when you go for years, without making a movie?

Not frustrating. Indeed, I did not want to work for a few years. With two school-age daughters it's been good to stay home with them and not have to travel.

Now, you've filmed an English-language remake of a French thriller from three years ago. What do you think justifies a remake of a film?

If the material is interesting enough, to mature in a recycling. Frequently, foreign films are remade in English, as in America, people do not like to read subtitles. This was also the case here. There was a French film, and it was thought that if it was in English many more people will see it. The producer brought the idea to America, but he decided he'd rather do it himself. And I found the story engaging enough to organize the English version.

America is now remaking your adaptation of the 1976 film Carrie. What do you say?

As I said, the raw material is what decides. I think Carrie is an interesting story that can touch anyone from generation to generation.

Curious about the Carrie remake?

Other films deserve better. [Not sure of this question/answer]

In Passion, Rachel McAdams plays a sexually liberated woman, a sex scene, yet covers her body with a comforter. Was that your choice, or did you simply fail to persuade the nudity?

Her nudity was not a problem, in fact, she told me, well, would you like if it seemed as though she’s hiding herself modestly? We filmed the scene so that you see everything, and also so that she was covered. I liked it better the latter way, so that’s what’s in the movie.

When I saw Redacted at the Venice Film Festival, I was taken by something different, and I felt like I was run over by a truck. Did you mean to trigger this effect?

Yes, I deeply wanted to shock the audience.

Were you satisfied with the reception of the film?

Well, it was fiercely hated in America because it criticized the U.S. military, and most people do not like that sort of thing. But I felt like these things to be said, and so I did.

Did you see Zero Dark Thirty?


How did you like it?

[Crazy] [I quit.] [I walked out?] [It’s off its nut?]

You've repeatedly said that you want the movies to play on the big screen. Is it saddening that most people are watching on their computers or on their phones?

I have no control over it. I'll do the film as I'd like to see on the big screen, and if they want to watch it on the iPad, that’s their business. I think the majority of film deserves a large canvas, not the iPhone. They look good, and if someone is in the grip of watching a movie, it remains a major part of the experience. Of course, you can't have everything, I get it. But I represent the school that says the film should be given the honor.

Recently, two films were released that showed Alfred Hitchcock as a monster. Is this trend repugnant?

It's unjust because he is no longer alive, so he can not defend himself. And who said that a major artist has to be like a friendly uncle? It is possible that Hitchcock did some things that were upsetting with some actresses, but the great master of the genre we are talking about does not have to be an angel to everyone.

If you made a movie about him, how would he be portrayed?

I would not do that film. In fact, the Hitchcock movies were offered to me, but I refused.

Can you accept it dispassionately, if a film fails at box office?

It has happened to me so many times that I am not at all interested. The major disruption is only because it will then be harder to get money for the next film.

Occasionally, you've entered a film just for the money?


Francis Ford Coppola said, it is difficult to remain a good artist, once one becomes rich. Do you agree with him?

Tough question. The directors of my generation earned an incredible amount of money, but they did damn good movies. Spielberg, Lucas and Scorsese are incredibly rich, and they did the most influential films of the era.

When you became rich, you felt a change in your work?

Not really, because I never dealt with money. [I don't feel a need for things.] If you are looking for as much money to make a living out of it, and I can keep my family, the rest is useless to me.

A few months ago we made a compilation of the sexiest strip scenes, and the one in Femme Fatale came in third place. Satisfied with that result?

Yes, it is a very sexy dance. Rebecca has an incredible body, and the way she moves ... sexy killer. What were the top two?

The Wrestler and From Dusk Till Dawn.

The Wrestler striptease I would not call sexy.

Tarantino said that as directors get older, they get burned out, and usually the last four films are the weakest. What do you think about this revelation, are the recent films just as percussive as the older ones?

I know what he's talking about, because I've studied a lot of directors' careers. The best films they usually did in their forties and fifties, and then in their sixties and seventies saw a marked decrease in quality. And if you look at the most important directors of Hollywood's golden age, this is true. Towards the end John Ford, Billy Wilder or Hitchcock films were inferior in their careers.

But there are exceptions?

Of course there are. It's a tough profession, that is physically demanding, a lot of things can go the wrong way. If you have a few good movies you can put on the table before your forties and fifties come around, you can call yourself lucky.

Do you think of what you will leave behind?

No, because I have no control. Whether they will remember me or not, it depends on so many things.

We've been talking about the Untouchables prequel. Now that the HBO series Boardwalk Empire has largely processed the early stage of Al Capone's career, does it makes sense to even do that movie?

No, but it is not primarily due to the series. The Untouchables prequel was was doomed, after former management developed it at Paramount Studios, and a new management team refused to do this film, which was begun by its predecessor. For this reason, it will probably never be made.

Have you otherwise looked at Boardwalk Empire?

I watched the first part, which Scorsese directed, and then a couple which included Al Capone. But there the legend of Al Capone was processed, as it has been in countless films and television series. Interesting touch to put the story in Atlantic City, but Italian gangsters during the Prohibition ... this has been done a thousand times.

How do you know whether there is enough to make something a worthwhile movie?

When it takes hold of my imagination, and the whole thing almost self develops in my head. I can see the pictures and figure out which actors would be able to play the roles.

I know you go to the movies a lot, and see a lot of movies. Have you seen a Hungarian movie that you liked?

Hungarian film ... hmmm. I see a lot at film festivals, that often never even cross the border. Remind me, please, my memory, which Hungarian movies should I have seen lately!

Last year, Passion played simultaneously at the New York film Film Festival with Pálfi György's Final Cut: Hölgyeim és uraim. Did you see it by any chance?

I do not recall. What's it about?

Tells a simple love story, but from a great montage of all 500 famous classic films put together. You can use one of the films in it for at least five more.

Sounds very interesting, but unfortunately I have not seen. Will it be presented in America?

It's only projected at festivals because the many film clips make it a nightmare for copyright purposes.

Too bad.

If you have a brilliant idea for a commercial, it's usually pretty funny. Passion in turn has a really excellent idea for advertising. How did you think of this?

This advertisement does exist, I found on the internet.

And sought out the rights?

No, just used it.

And they will not demand money for it?

They haven’t so far.

The cult movie Scarface was greatly enjoyed by rappers and gangsters, but it's as if these people did not catch the irony of things, and Tony Montana is seen as a role model. Do you not find this scary?

It's really amazing to me that the Scarface cult is alive after all these years. And for those who understand my films, this is another thing that can not be controlled. I'm not really going to smash my head over things that I have no control over.

And are you accustomed to think you are responsible to the public as a filmmaker?

If you mean to imply that there are many violent movies, then I have to say I absolutely do not believe that violent movies beget real violence. I think the opposite is true. If you look at violent movies, you reduce the tension. I do not think, for example, after watching the Untouchables anyone felt like grabbing a baseball bat and crushing someone's head.

Your next film of Joe Paterno will star Al Pacino. In this a topic you find interesting?

This case is a real drama, which, incidentally, raises lots of interesting questions. For example, this could be an excuse to talk about the story of America's favorite sport of football, and also that in principle, although this is a sport that is associated with all kinds of positive attributes in our heads, it has become extremely corrupted by the whole fact that there's an incredible amount of money involved. I find it a very interesting process, as business destroys things that were previously clear and innocent.

Which movies on filmmaking do you think are the best?

Sunset Boulevard and The Bad and the Beautiful.

And those that show how things are going these days?

Living In Oblivion. It's a delightful film, that accurately and credibly demonstrates how to do a low-budget movie. In addition, it’s very funny.

Is there a movie, for which you feel, that you absolutely must make?

Not anymore. The fact that I'm alive and I can still work is sort of a minor miracle at this point.

How many films are you planning to do?

I have no idea. As long as the idea is good, I will do it.

Do you find it difficult to raise money for films in America?

It depends on what kind of movie we are talking about. A lot of horror themes are easy to get money for, the question is whether you want to devote a couple of years of your life to it. I often find myself looking at things that are eerily similar to one of my earlier films.

Seen any good movies lately?

Django Unchained was pretty good, and I really liked Silver Linings Playbook.

Posted by Geoff at 8:29 PM CDT
Updated: Friday, May 3, 2013 12:20 AM CDT
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Tuesday, April 16, 2013
At left is a preliminary work-in-progress poster for Happy Valley, which has been posted in the "Coming Soon" section of the Pressman Films website. I say "work-in-progress," of course, because that is not Al Pacino on the poster, because the film is still being written by David McKenna, and no footage has yet been shot. (Thanks to the Swan Archives News page for finding this poster.)

As for the writing of the film, McKenna tweeted Saturday that he was still "focusing on the puzzle right now" (see below).

Posted by Geoff at 12:00 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, April 18, 2013 12:36 AM CDT
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

In the above video, NBC's Matt Lauer introduces John Ziegler, saying he has been working on a documentary about the Joe Paterno scandal for almost a year. Ziegler interviewed Jerry Sandusky in prison, and shares some clips from the interview in the segment. Ziegler wrote a "preemptive strike" open letter to the media yesterday, and he tells Lauer he wrote it because he knows the media, "and I know I'm gonna get attacked from everybody because nobody wants the truth here." Ziegler said his ultimate goal is to "get Joe Paterno, who he feels was "railroaded", his day in court," and that he is trying to get at the truth of the matter. Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr. posted the video today, mentioning Brian De Palma's upcoming Paterno/Sandusky project, Happy Valley. Fleming suggests that the team behind Happy Valley will face challenges similar to those of last year's Zero Dark Thirty.

Fleming wrote: "While Lauer couldn’t match the superb interview Bob Costas did when Sandusky was dumb enough to get on the phone before his trial (Sandusky did not testify on his own behalf and was convicted of crimes that will keep him behind bars the rest of his life), Lauer certainly injected a lot of skepticism in interviewing the filmmaker who is widely described as a conservative who made an unabashedly positive film about Sarah Palin and whose work has been disavowed by the Paterno family. While it is creepy to hear Sandusky from behind bars in any capacity, it will be interesting how the continued reporting influences Paterno’s legacy. As well as Happy Valley, which in a way finds itself in a challenge similar to the one faced by the makers of Zero Dark Thirty. De Palma, Pacino and cohorts are also trying to make a permanent screen document out of a story that keeps changing, where there’s endless spin from partisan parties, and one that will continue to evolve when Penn State higher-ups go on trial."

Ziegler appeared on CNN's Piers Morgan Live later that evening:

Posted by Geoff at 6:50 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, April 7, 2013 12:32 PM CDT
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Friday, March 1, 2013
State College.com's Ben Jones caught up with David McKenna this morning, at the tail end of the screenwriter's week-long visit to State College, home of Penn State University, where he's obviously been researching Happy Valley, the film he is writing for Brian De Palma to direct. And it sounds like McKenna has a lot of material-- so much that, he told Jones, the project is still in the research phase. "I don't know if this is going to be a movie anymore, if this is going to be a miniseries, how we're going to sell it, because it's so extensive and there is so much going on," McKenna told Jones. "I'm going to go back and have some long talks with the producer and the director. This story has two very different sides, and so I'm in the process of navigating all of that and it's very difficult, so I'm going to have to see how everything plays out in the next couple of months."

When asked what made him want to do this story, McKenna replied, "Well growing up, I loved Penn State. I loved Joe Paterno, and I think that he was a great man and I think that he did a lot of great stuff and as I learned more about him after I read the book about him by Joe Posnanski [also a producer on Happy Valley], I think that he was a hero in many respects and I think that the Paternos have a case.

"I've read the critique of the Freeh Report and it's still a learning process. What I think happened to Joe is almost a mythical Greek tragedy, that's one thing, that kind of thing that attracted me to it, all the way to the statue being pulled down. It's pretty ridiculous that they would tear down a statue of a man [who] hasn't be afforded due process. Are you going to rip the library down too? So you have to draw the line on that. And you have villain and he's a truly compelling villain and what he did is truly diabolical. So those sorts of things attract you as a screenwriter."

Jones then asked if McKenna was concerned about the fact that the trials for some of the other players in the case have not yet started. "Yes," replied McKenna. "And that's something that I have to talk to the producers about, this is still the information gathering stage here though and I'm thinking a little bit about how I'm going to write the movie and how I'm going to handle the grand jury testimony, and how to talk about Joe's life and his home life and all the good things he did, and Jerry and all that. It's truly in the infancy stages of, so to think about the final project is almost inconceivable at this point."

McKenna told Jones that he is searching for the truth. "For that to happen," he said, "we might have to wait for all these reports to come out and these trials to conclude. There is a lot riding on this and I understand the pressure and I'm up for it."

When asked about a timeline for the project, McKenna replied, "Brian is a terrific filmmaker and next week we'll start having conversations about what we want to do and how we want to deal and handle the material. If we want to do it now fast, wait it out. It’s round one of a 15-round heavyweight battle. Seriously. So it's going to be an interesting ride."

Jones then asked McKenna, "Do you know why De Palma decided to make the movie? This story isn’t really in anyone’s wheelhouse but I was surprised he was the one to make this movie."

McKenna replied, "The guy is a legend. I truly feel fortunate that I'm in a position to work with him. I don't think anybody likes to be pigeon-holed in terms of style. I rewrote a Disney script last year because I have kids. I did American History X, Blow, and I'm interested in a lot of different subjects. I can't speak for him, per say, but I think what attracted him to this project is what attracted me. And we want to find out why and how and what's the process."

Jones pressed on, asking McKenna, "Is the movie scandal-specific?"

McKenna replied, "It's not scandal-specific at this point. Because I almost haven't gotten there. I'm mostly learning about Joe, learning about Jerry, meeting with families, getting more information. And information on the Internet and piecing that together.

"The truth is I don't know and I'm still in the gathering stages. I have a team and we'll take the information and work together to decide what we do with it. At this point we're being very very careful."

Jones said, "People might be concerned about this movie showing up down the road and having it be a gross misrepresentation of some of the facts. Basically, if people who are worried about what the movie is going to say walked in right now, what would you tell them?"

McKenna replied, "That we all look at Joe as a great man that did a lot of good, and we're going to try and capture all of that as well as find out what happened.

"I think that through our movie people aren't going to look at one particular thing, that one thing doesn't define a man and hopefully the world sees that and accepts that."

Posted by Geoff at 5:14 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, March 2, 2013 9:43 AM CST
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Sunday, February 17, 2013
Brian De Palma has mentioned his new project Happy Valley in several interviews with French media that were published this past week, and now a picture is beginning to emerge of his vision for the upcoming film. In a video interview posted today at Premiere, De Palma says, "Well, I’m just starting working on a script about a very legendary college coach, Joe Paterno, whose assistant coach was involved in a sex scandal. It sort of destroyed his whole program."

De Palma told Le Soir's Fabienne Bradfer that he'll be shooting Happy Valley in New York: "But my next film, which deals with pedophilia, will be made in New York with Al Pacino. There is a coach who oversees a guy on his team who, over several decades, was abusing young boys. Al Pacino is one of the greatest actors of his generation. He is fascinating and mysterious. As is De Niro. Imagine knowing both of them for 50 years!"

In an interview with Le Monde's Sandrine Marques, De Palma talked about the inevitable with Happy Valley: "For years, I’ve looked for a space like the shower in Psycho. The place where you feel safe and secure but which is desecrated. I have an idea I might be using that for my next film."

And in a great interview with Télérama's Laurent Rigoulet and Jacques Morice, De Palma further sheds some light on how he sees the story, describing it as "the descent into hell of a model coach caught up in a story of pedophilia. It’s an incident which has troubled many Americans. A compelling story worthy of Henrik Ibsen or Arthur Miller. Suffice it to say that we will have to work hard there to interest producers right now. But Pacino is taking it wholeheartedly, this is a dream role for him. If we can get it there, it could be a great American film."

(This last interview might have taken place prior to January's announcement that Edward R. Pressman had come aboard as producer; De Palma also says he will "probably" do this film with Pacino, which indicates that he hadn't yet signed on for the project when he did this interview.)

Posted by Geoff at 11:18 PM CST
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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Posted by Geoff at 12:34 AM CST
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Well, I thought there was some reason Brian De Palma had suddenly dropped out of the Jason Statham Heat remake a few weeks ago. Looks like he was cooking up something big with two of his old friends. Deadline's Mike Fleming broke the news today that De Palma will reteam with Al Pacino for Happy Valley, "the working title of a film that will tell the story of Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno," according to Fleming. The focus of the film is being kept under wraps for now, but Fleming writes that "Paterno’s legend was undone by revelations he and others in the football program were aware that former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was molesting children, and did little to stop it, supposedly fearing bad publicity for the powerhouse gridiron program they presided over."

Happy Valley is being co-produced by Edward R. Pressman, who produced De Palma's Sisters and Phantom Of The Paradise. Pacino's manager, Rick Nicita, will also produce, along with Joe Posnanski, who wrote the book Paterno, which has been optioned by Pressman. The project is backed by the Edward R. Pressman Film Corporation. Fleming adds that David McKenna, who wrote the scripts for American History X and Blow, as well as for the video game Scarface: The World Is Yours, is making a deal to write the screenplay. "Happy Valley reunites the Scarface and Carlito’s Way team of De Palma & Pacino for the third time," Pressman told Deadline, "and I can’t think of a better duo to tell this story of a complex, intensely righteous man who was brought down by his own tragic flaw."

Last September, Fleming reported that Pacino was attached to play Paterno. At that time, Nicita was named as the producer, and the project was being shopped around. In that September post, Fleming wrote, "The narrative arc of the movie that will be shopped is obvious. A man becomes the winningest coach in college football history and builds a powerhouse football program that turns him into a campus deity. When his former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is revealed to be a pedophile and it comes out Paterno was told and helped hide the scandal, the coach was summarily fired. He died shortly after of cancer — and many feel of a broken heart — and the school had little choice but to raze a fabled statue of Paterno just as the NCAA dropped the hammer with sanctions against the school that included removal of Paterno’s wins going back to the cover-up. Sandusky was found guilty on 45 counts of sexual abuse against young boys and is expected to spend the rest of his life in prison."

Fleming was soon flooded with e-mails, and updated the post with this:


"UPDATE: Rarely have I gotten so many emails on a story that has struck a nerve among former students of Penn State. Some claiming to have clout in Hollywood say they will try to squash this project, and others are critical of me and defensive of the beloved Paterno, claiming he got a raw deal. I can’t imagine these apologists have kids. The idea that nobody acted seriously on information given by grad assistant and later assistant coach Mike McQueary that could have stopped a predator convicted on dozens of counts of molesting vulnerable children is unconscionable. Paterno defenders say that McQueary was vague in describing what he saw, but I fall on the side of those who feel that Paterno was so powerful at Penn State that he could have stopped this in its tracks had he chosen to follow up, or even if he had dialed three numbers: 911. McQueary certainly wasn’t vague in his testimony at Sandusky’s trial, saying he was sure he had stumbled upon Sandusky engaging in a sexual act with an underage boy. When I think of great college coaches, I wonder: what would someone like Bobby Knight have done if given the same information?

"The administration at Penn State chose to protect its cherished powerhouse and lucrative football program, and went against the contract that any institution of higher learning has, which is to protect the young and vulnerable. The idea that this just somehow happened, and nobody but Sandusky was to blame, is something I will never embrace. Had that been the case, I doubt the university would have fired Paterno and later torn down his statue, or that the NCAA would have leveled devastating sanctions against the football program at the expense of current players who had absolutely nothing to do with any of this and who didn’t deserve punishment that was delivered to send a clear message about prioritizing what is important. Regretfully, that is Paterno’s enduring legacy now. But keep the emails coming!"


In today's report, Fleming writes:

"There are so many themes to deal with here, from Paterno’s rise and his loyalty to a football program he spent his life building, to the obvious question of how a molder of young men could possibly have stood silently by when told that one of his former coaches started a charity for underprivileged kids and used it as a way to ingratiate himself into vulnerable young fatherless boys for sexual encounters? The failure of Paterno and university officials to act allowed Sandusky to continue molesting boys for years, which was borne out in court testimony leading to his conviction and incarceration. Posnanski was working on a book about Paterno and was well into it when the scandal broke. The book is as much about what made Paterno tick as anything else, and capturing complex characters is something Pacino does well. He played a conflicted pro football coach in Any Given Sunday, and Jack Kevorkian in the HBO film You Don’t Know Jack."


Pacino also plays the title role in the David Mamet-written-and-directed HBO film Phil Spector, which premieres in March.

Posted by Geoff at 5:19 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, January 16, 2013 8:45 PM CST
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