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Friday, November 22, 2013
MORE ARTICLES ABOUT JFK ASSASSINATION & FILM
DE PALMA'S 'GREETINGS' AND 'BLOW OUT' INCLUDED IN DISCUSSION
Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the JFK assassination. There has been a proliferation of TV specials, magazines, and online articles looking back and examining that weekend of shocking events and images in November 1963. And tonight, Oliver Stone will present a screening of his director's cut of JFK at the St. Louis International Film Festival.

Following the Globe And Mail's "Art of JFK" article from last weekend, which included Brian De Palma's Blow Out as a film which interpolates "themes and events of JFK’s assassination with Ted Kennedy’s 1969 Golgotha at Chappaquidick," three more articles have appeared this week, mentioning certain De Palma films in similar contexts.

The Telegraph's Anne Billson argues that "in the 50 years since John F Kennedy's assassination, the event has been so endlessly repeated on film that it has almost lost its meaning." Billson includes De Palma along with Andy Warhol and John Waters as "early adopters" of JFK iconography on film:

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The most famous JFK assassination film, of course, is the home movie taken by Abraham Zapruder (played by Paul Giamatti in Parkland), 8mm footage that has been parsed, recreated and referenced so many times it has attained the status of icon. In turn, it has helped shape the event in the public mind; the film itself wasn't broadcast on network TV till 1975, but frames from it were published, by Life magazine, as early as November 29th 1963. It wasn't the first time an assassination had been caught on camera - footage of the death of Inejiro Asanuma, a chairman of the Japan Socialist Party, was broadcast live on Japanese TV in 1960. But it was the first political assassination to be so thoroughly absorbed, reworked and regurgitated by the cinema.

One of the first artists to co-opt JFK iconography was Andy Warhol, whose Sixteen Jackies depicted serial images of the widowed Jacqueline Kennedy; he also cast some of his The Factory regulars in a never-completed film called Since (1966), a stylised recreation of the assassination in which Gerard Malanga shot Mary Woronov with a banana. "It didn't bother me that much that he was dead," Warhol said. "What bothered me was the way the television and radio were programming everybody to feel so sad. It seemed like no matter how hard you tried, you couldn't get away from the thing."

Other early adopters include John Waters, who in 1968 restaged the assassination in his parents' backyard for a 16mm short called Eat Your Makeup, in which Jackie was played by Divine, and Brian De Palma, whose second film, Greetings (1968), satirised JFK conspiracy theorists before most of us were even aware they existed.

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The Wall Street Journal's Richard B. Woodward echoes Billson when he writes, "Countless repetitions of anything can convert even tragedy into farce and rewire our original emotional responses in myriad other ways." His article focuses on how the "photo of Lee Harvey Oswald's killing became primal artistic material." In one section, Woodward looks briefly at the impact the Zapruder film had on other movies, where he notes several film, including Blow Out:
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The impact of the Zapruder film, especially on other movies, was quickly apparent. Its spooky dynamics shaped Michelangelo Antonioni's Blow Up (1966), in which a photographer in a park may have unintentionally documented a murder. Scenes where he studies his contact sheets with a magnifying glass, looking for bodies in the bushes, anticipate what was soon standard practice for amateur sleuths analyzing the 486 frames in Zapruder's film in hopes of debunking the Warren Commission Report. According to Mark Harris's book Pictures at a Revolution, the sickening frames 313-14 of the president's skull exploding influenced the graphic, slow-motion shootings at the end of Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967).

Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation (1974) and Brian De Palma's Blow Out (1981) picked up the theme of technology inadvertently detecting a crime. In both cases, a sound recording finds evidence of a murder, actions that, when discovered by the murderer, put a bull's eye on the sound recorder, too.

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The most interesting part of Woodward's article comes when he discusses Coppola's first two Godfather films:
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But perhaps no movie or novel so internalized the twin killings in Dallas as the first two films in The Godfather trilogy. Riddled with allusions to the Kennedys, the films adopted images of that weekend to tell a larger story about American power and corruption. Many Americans suspected then—and believe now—that the Mafia was involved in some unholy fashion in either Kennedy's or Oswald's death, or maybe in both.

The climax of The Godfather (1972), in which Michael Corleone attends the church baptism of his nephew while his enemies are being executed around the country, has striking similarities to images on TV screens during the morning of Nov. 24, 1963. Mr. Coppola's cross-cutting is not unlike what many American families saw that Sunday when religious proceedings were interrupted by the shocking sight of Oswald being gunned down by Ruby.

A classic exchange late in The Godfather: Part II (1974) between Michael and Tom Hagen, the Corleones' lawyer, unmistakably connects Kennedy's death to Oswald's.

As Michael calls for the execution of Hyman Roth, their crafty rival who is being deported back to the U.S., Tom objects that such a plan has no chance of succeeding.

"It's like trying to kill the president," he says. "There's no way we can get to him."

"Tom, you know you surprise me," answers Michael with chilly authority.

"If anything in this life is certain, if history has taught us anything, it's that you can kill anyone."

Mr. Coppola confirms this cynical truth by directing the assassination of Roth to resemble the shooting of Oswald. As Roth speaks to the press after landing at Miami airport, Corleone henchman Rocco Lampone, posing as a reporter with notebook in hand, pulls out his gun and kills Roth, before being shot himself by police.

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Metro U.S. New York's Matt Prigge provides a very interesting list of movies centered around the JFK tragedy. Here's what Prigge writes about Waters' Eat Your Makeup and De Palma's Greetings:
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Eat Your Makeup (1968)

South Park once claimed it took 22.3 years for terrible things (in their case, AIDS) to be funny. But it only took five years for no-budget filmmaker John Waters to, in his first film, recreate the assassination in his parents’ backyard, complete with Divine as Jacqueline Kennedy.

Greetings (1968)

1968 was also the year it started being funny to mock JFK conspiracy theorists. Brian De Palma’s first of two episodic comedies with a young (and then mustachioed) Robert De Niro features a guy (Gerrit Graham) who bores people with his claims of a massive coverup.

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Posted by Geoff at 12:26 AM CST
Updated: Friday, November 22, 2013 12:29 AM CST
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Thursday, November 21, 2013
EMILY MORTIMER AUDITIONED FOR 'BLACK DAHLIA'
BUT LIE MAY HAVE LED TO HER NOT GETTING ROLE
Emily Mortimer, who has already been cast as the lead in Brian De Palma's upcoming Therese Raquin project, revealed Monday that she auditioned for De Palma's The Black Dahlia about ten years ago. According to Page Six's Emily Smith, Mortimer attended Monday's Artios Awards in New York, where she told the story of her most embarrassing audition. From Smith's column:
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She auditioned for the femme fatale role in The Black Dahlia 12 weeks after she had her third child. When a casting director told Brian De Palma that Emily had just had a baby, she lied that she’d given birth many months earlier. She added, “I would have gotten away with it until I was asked when my daughter’s birthday was. I blanked . . . under the pressure of the lie.” Needless to say, she didn’t get the part.
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Posted by Geoff at 4:44 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 21, 2013 4:46 PM CST
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Wednesday, November 20, 2013
'PHANTOM' IN LOUISVILLE FRIDAY NIGHT
PSYCH MOVIE NIGHT II, WITH TWO BANDS AFTERWARD

Posted by Geoff at 12:40 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013
MCKENNA STILL RESEARCHING 'HAPPY VALLEY'
HOPES TO TALK TO PATERNO FAMILY, VISIT SANDUSKY IN PRISON
Onward State's Jessica Tully got an update on Happy Valley from screenwriter David McKenna, who told her the film, which will be about the life of Joe Paterno (of which the Jerry Sandusky scandal will be a tragic part), is still in the research stage. McKenna visited State College back in February for initial research, and he tells Tully that he and others working on the project plan to go back there again closer to the start of production.

Tully writes, "The research phase has included searching Paterno archives at libraries, reading several books, and evaluating all the independent reports, such as the Freeh Report and the Paterno Report. While on his trip to State College in February, McKenna met with [Paterno author Joe] Posnanski, who gave him a two-day tour of the town; longtime assistant coach Dick Anderson, who was 'very gracious and informative;' and Scott Paterno, which was more of a 'get to know you' session rather than a gathering of information, McKenna said."

McKenna, who as a child had greatly admired Paterno, tells Tully, "This project is too important not to be as well informed as possible. Not unexpectedly, what I’ve found is there’s three sides to every story. There is no black and white. JoePa was a great, great man, who did so much good for a such a long period of time. But that greatness turned out to hurt him in the end because he set the bar so incredibly high in everything that he did. And that’s where the tragedy lies."

Here are the last few paragraphs of Tully's article:

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McKenna said Jerry Sandusky will be a part of the movie, although he will only play a supporting role. The Sandusky scandal will be included, but the focus of the film will be on Paterno. McKenna doubts he will ever be able to talk to the Sandusky family, but he does wish to visit Sandusky in prison.

While he said he couldn’t talk specifically about what will be included in the film, McKenna said “the crazy thing” about Sandusky is how much good he did for kids. McKenna acknowledges he might be “crucified” for saying that, but he believes it’s the truth.

“Second Mile was a huge endeavor that raised hundreds of millions for disadvantaged kids,” McKenna said. “That’s what makes this scandal so sad and heartbreaking.”

On the other hand, McKenna said he hopes he will be able to talk extensively with the Paterno family. He believes the family will one day open themselves up to him and his Hollywood team, “once they see how fair we’ve been to Joe’s incredible legacy.”

McKenna said he will always have the highest respect for Paterno and his wife, Sue. One quote that McKenna often thinks about is when Paterno, who raised five kids in a modest home a few blocks from campus, told his children they can swim just as well in the community pool as a private one.

“They were on a first-name basis with everyone in town — Joe even knew the cheerleaders’ names. They built a library — giving $3 million of their own money,” McKenna said. “Their love and generosity inspires me as I raise my three children. Because that’s what life is all about, isn’t it?”

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Posted by Geoff at 5:14 PM CST
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Monday, November 18, 2013
NEIL MITCHELL ON HIS NEW 'CARRIE' BOOK
MOST SHOCKING SCENE TO HIM IS WHEN MARGARET THROWS TEA INTO CARRIE'S FACE
Neil Mitchell has written a new book about Brian De Palma's Carrie, as part of the "Devil's Advocates" series from Auteur Publishing. The book was released in the U.K. last month, and should be available in the U.S. early next year. BN1's Chris Sadler posted an interview with Mitchell last week. Here are some excerpts:
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Sadler: For you, what makes Carrie such a powerful film?

Mitchell: I think it’s the fact that nobody is left unscarred by what unfolds; they are either killed or, in Sue Snell’s case, left psychologically disturbed. That’s pretty unforgiving – young and old, intimately involved or a bystander, antagonistic or well meaning, they all pay a heavy price for the cruelty dished out to Carrie White.

Sadler: In the introduction to your book you touch upon your overriding sense of sadness for the character’s isolation. It’s a key element of the film, which I totally understand. Carrie, played brilliantly by Sissy Spacek, is a character that we have a lot of sympathy for, isn’t she?

Mitchell: We do, it’s a canny trick De Palma and Spacek pulled off. In the novel, King makes her a lot less sympathetic. In the movie, however, most of us will either relate to or empathise with Carrie. We all have either been Carrie at some point or known a Carrie – male or female – the runt of the class, always the punchline, forever the outsider. If we’re honest, most of us will also have probably joined in with ridiculing those figures as well. Of course, the most complex part of our relating to or sympathising with Carrie is that she goes on to massacre everyone, leaving us repulsed by her as well...

Sadler: How would you describe the director, Brian De Palma’s style, particularly for Carrie? Of course, he’s known for a split-screen technique, which was used rather effectively in this film.

Mitchell: It’s funny, I think the split-screen sequence in Carrie is effective too, De Palma, on the other hand, has since called it a ‘great mistake’, believing it takes the viewer out of what is happening. He’s a grandiose film-maker, very operatic. Slow motion, split-dioptre shots, canted angles, 360 degree camera movements – he draws attention to the film-making, but always in a way that complements the story in question. He really is a master of creating suspense and tension – visually and aurally – which he does so well in the prom sequence in Carrie. In fact, just about everything you would mark down as being anachronistic about De Palma’s directing style can be seen in that sequence...

Sadler: Describe the process of writing the book. Was it enjoyable and how much of a challenge was it, if at all?

Mitchell: It was hugely enjoyable, and a challenging too. I’ve edited a few film-books but this was my first solo authored project. Research is key, I spent a long time preparing – re-reading the novel, watching the film again, devouring everything I could find that had been written about both and De Palma’s career (there’s a lot), and then amalgamating that into what I personally thought about the film, about what it means to me. John Atkinson, the head honcho of Auteur Publishing, wanted the Devil’s Advocates series to be a mix of the personal and the academic – the format works well in my opinion. Some days I wrote for hours, sometimes I’d stare at the page blankly, I guess that happens to most writers. I’m itching to write another and have a few projects on the horizon.

Sadler: What would you say is the film’s most shocking scene?

Mitchell: It’s a film full of shocking scenes – the ‘plug-it-up’ sequence at the beginning, the prom night massacre and the hand-out-of-the-grave scene at the end – but the one that always gets me is, in comparison, relatively tame, but I find it horrid. It’s when Margaret throws her tea into Carrie’s face, it’s so contemptuous, disrespectful and abrupt. It’s obviously symbolic too: Margaret is literally pouring scorn on her daughter’s desire to go to the prom and be ‘normal’ like the other kids. It’s the banal, pitiful reality of it, who’d want to live a life like that?

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For more of the interview, go to BN1.

Posted by Geoff at 7:09 PM CST
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Sunday, November 17, 2013
INTERNATIONAL FILM JOURNAL FOCUS ON DE PALMA
ISSUE #4 OF 'LA FURIA UMANA' TO FEATURE MULTILINGUAL ESSAYS
La Furia Umana Paper Issue #4 will feature an extensive collection of essays about the works of Brian De Palma, in a variety of languages. Chris O'Neill is contributing an English language overview. There will be one other overview, and 19 essays covering individual films (three of which appear to be centered on Passion). Included will be Nicole Brenez' "The Impossible, Seriously", previously published at Senses Of Cinema. Thanks to Chris, we have a preview of the complete line-up below:

Chris O'Neill / Personal Effects: An Artist's Pursuit of His Cinematic Obsessions

Didier Truffot / Brian De Palma avec Rudolf Arnheim

Benjamin Léon / L’écran dans l’écran : Notes sur le plan-séquence chez Brian De Palma

Daisuke Akusaka / Farce in slow motion

Eirik Frisvold Hanssen / To look, to respond: vantage points and mixed media in Brian De Palma’s 1960s and 2000s

Raquel Schefer / The Early Politics of Brian De Palma

Alain Hertay / Hi, Mom ! ou les simulacres

Julien Oreste / Two Sisters. Brian De Palma & Douglas Buck

Jessica Felrice / Dread And Time Travel

Covadonga G. Lahera / Efectos personales: la huella de Some Came Running en Blow Out

Carlos Losilla / Naturaleza uerta. A propósito de Dressed to Kill

Fredrik Gustafsson / Body Double

Kim Nicolini / The World Is Yours: Tony Montana’s Paradise Pie in Scarface

Nicole Brenez / L'impossible au sérieux

Sigismondo Domenico Sciortino / Dell'inevitabile e del multimediale

Adrien Clerc / Quand les corps font écrans

Guillaume Rouzaud / Au-delà de la suture

Ricardo Adalia Martín / La cuestión humana. Cinco apuntes sobre Passion

Louis Daubresse / Passion pour le Tout-Image

Toni D'Angela / Il testo im-possibile : Passion

Monica Munoz Marinero / John Litghow, a imagen y semejanza

The issue also has a section of essays about Nicholas Ray's Rebel Without A Cause.


Posted by Geoff at 11:50 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 18, 2013 11:28 PM CST
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Saturday, November 16, 2013
GLOBE & MAIL'S ART OF JFK INCLUDES 'BLOW OUT'
"10 WORKS TO REMEMBER" IN THE YEARS SINCE THE ASSASSINATION
The Globe And Mail's James Adams has written an article headlined "The art of JFK: 10 works to remember." Introducing his list, Adams writes, "The President’s assassination and the events surrounding it have been a fount of inspiration for artists (and ‘artists’) of all stripes in the past five decades. Herewith some examples of their insinuation into the warp and woof of popular culture." Amidst works by Andy Warhol, Don DeLillo, and Lou Reed, Adams includes the Zapruder film itself ("the 26-second precedent-setter for the 'convulsive beauty' of Bonnie and Clyde, The Wild Bunch, Taxi Driver and Scanners", etc.), as well as Brian De Palma's Blow Out.

"Films have feasted heartily on the assassination," Adams writes of the latter, "using it as either direct inspiration or riff bait. Blow Out’s one fun, heady concatenation, at once a variation on Antonioni’s Blow-Up and an interpolation of the themes and events of JFK’s assassination with Ted Kennedy’s 1969 Golgotha at Chappaquidick. John Travolta stars as the Zapruder-like witness – except here it’s a microphone and tape-recorder, not a Bell & Howell camera, that make him one troubled man."

Posted by Geoff at 8:32 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, November 16, 2013 8:34 PM CST
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Friday, November 15, 2013
'PASSION' PLAYS KINOMANIA IN SOFIA
SCREENING TONIGHT, SUNDAY, AND NOV. 28; FEST INCLUDES DE NIRO TRIBUTE
Brian De Palma's Passion will screen three times as part of the 27th edition of the Kinomania Film Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria. The festival, which opened last night with Lee Daniels' The Butler , continues through December 1st. Passion screens tonight, as well as November 17th and 28th.

The international festival this year includes tributes to Federico Fellini and Robert De Niro. The latter might as well double as a tribute to Martin Scorsese-- the four De Niro films being screened are Scorsese's Taxi Driver, New York, New York, Raging Bull, and The King Of Comedy. Other films in the festival include the Coen brothers' Inside Llewyn Davis, Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine, and Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive.

Posted by Geoff at 6:32 PM CST
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Thursday, November 14, 2013
TINA HIRSCH TALKS 'GREETINGS'
SHE AND DE PALMA SAT AND WATCHED ACTIVITIES OUTSIDE WINDOW TOGETHER
The Nashville Public Library's "Off The Shelf" blog featured William Chamberlain's interview with film editor Tina Hirsch on its "Legends Of Film" podcast last week. Hirsch appeared in Brian De Palma's Greetings and Hi, Mom!, so of course, Mr. Chamberlain, himself a big fan of De Palma's films, made sure to ask her a couple of related questions:
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William Chamberlain: You had a small role in Brian De Palma’s Greetings that was quite humorous, with Gerrit Graham. Was it improvised?

Tina Hirsch: Yes and no. Brian and Chuck [Charles Hirsch], the producer and co-writer, wrote the scene. As originally written, Gerrit Graham was, you know, he played a Kennedy assassination buff, and he wants me to blow up a picture taken on the grassy knoll to prove that officer Tippet is Oswald’s accomplice. And that he’s hiding behind a tree. I was supposed to answer that if he blew it up, all you’d see is the grain. I mean a funny side story is that that literally was a studio in which I was working as a photographer’s assistant, and I actually blew up those shots that are shown at the end. I told Brian that I couldn’t say that line, that the movie Blow-Up was all about that. I didn’t feel comfortable saying it without crediting the other movie. So my answer became something like, “You’re not going to be able to see anything. I’ve seen Blow-Up, I know how this turns out. You’re not going to see anything but grain the size of golf balls.” Years later, Pauline Kael, the movie critic for the New Yorker, quoted the line as one of Brian’s great citations. [Laughing] But, in fact, I was the one who cited Blow-Up. That’s the way it goes.

Chamberlain: You worked also with Brian De Palma on Hi, Mom! [as well as] Greetings. Was he talking about or thinking about going to the thriller genre? Soon after that, he directed Sisters. And before he was directing sort of these social comedies. Was he discussing, “Well, maybe I should do a thriller," or of that line?

Hirsch: No, not really. I mean, the only thing that touches on that is that, you know, we all lived in New York at the time, and I remember having dinner over at his place at one point. And he and I were both sitting facing the window, where we were watching all of the activities going on in the buildings around us [begins laughing]. And the two other people with us were chatting. I mean, actually having conversation [laughs some more]. And he and I were just staring at windows. So, I think his voyeuristic tendencies might have been what got him into thrillers.

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This is a good, interesting interview, running just under a half hour. Hirsch also talks about Woodstock, More American Graffiti, Mystery Date, Paul Bartel, and more.

Posted by Geoff at 6:12 PM CST
Updated: Thursday, November 14, 2013 6:15 PM CST
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013
PROJECTION BOOTH 3-HOUR 'BLOW OUT' PODCAST
WITH NANCY ALLEN, DENNIS FRANZ, FRED CARUSO, BILL MESCE JR.


The Projection Booth yesterday posted a three-hour podcast centered around Brian De Palma's Blow Out, including new interviews with Nancy Allen, Dennis Franz, producer Fred C. Caruso, and Bill Mesce Jr., the latter having won the Take One magazine screenwriting contest for what was known at the time as Personal Effects. The first hour of the podcast features the show's hosts, Mike White and Rob St. Mary, discussing many facets of Blow Out with Jamey Duvall of Movie Geeks United. At about the 49-minute mark, the Mesce interview begins. Mesce says he was never a De Palma fan, but knew he was a stylist, so instead of focusing on plot, he wrote what he thought was a very De Palma-esque script. However, he laughs that with this one, De Palma decided to do a non-De Palma-esque movie. Ultimately, Mesce says, De Palma's film kept a few lines of his dialogue, and that the closest to an entire scene of his that was kept was when Sally goes to visit Manny in order to get the negatives of the photos he took.

The Fred Caruso interview begins around the 1:36 mark. Caruso tells the podcast that it was his idea to include the Mummers Parade in the film's final act, as well as the fireworks going off in the background. Caruso says there was a big question from the studio and producer George Litto about whether Nancy Allen's character should die at the end. But De Palma said, look, that's the ending. If they like it, fine, if not, so be it. He also mentions that De Palma drew his own storyboards and had his entire office filled with them, from the first scene to last.

The Nancy Allen interview begins around the 2:06 mark. She talks about the heart and warmth that John Travolta brought to what on the page was a very dark piece. She also talks about how she and editor Paul Hirsch thought Travolta had to save the girl, but "John and Brian said nope, that's not happening." She also talks about the remake of Carrie (which she doesn't seem to have seen at the time of the interview), saying she is not a fan of remakes. She doesn't see the point unless you can somehow make it better, and doesn't think that is possible with Carrie. She and Paul Verhoeven did a Q&A after a screening of Robocop last year, and when someone brought up the upcoming remakes of that film and last year's remake of his Total Recall, Verhoeven said, "It's very depressing. I should be dead." Allen laughed and said she really gets that. Allen also confirmed that it was really her scream in Blow Out.

At about the 2:42 mark, there is a conversation with Dennis Franz, who at first says he does not remember much about Blow Out, having only watched it once around the time it was first released. But after the host mentions some things, Franz begins to remember a little more, including the fact that it was shot in Philadelphia, where Franz met his future best friend, who happened to be De Palma's driver at that time. Franz recalls De Palma calling him as Dressed To Kill was in theaters, saying, "Looks like we have a hit on our hands." De Palma asked Franz if he was interested in a part in this new thing he was working on. After listing off some of the potential roles, De Palma laughed. "Why are you laughing?" Franz asked him. De Palma said he had this character named Manny Karp. Franz immediately said, "I'll take it. You're laughing about him, I like the name, I'll take it." Franz told the podcast that once De Palma starts a job, he crawls into his shell and focuses, while Allen, who De Palma was married to at the time, enjoyed being social and having people over, which weighed on De Palma a little bit after long days on the set.


Posted by Geoff at 12:55 AM CST
Updated: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 4:58 PM CST
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