'BLACK DAHLIA' SCREENWRITER ON THE LONGEST SCRIPT HE EVER WROTE, MORE
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Wayne Kramer, who directed Walker in the excellent Running Scared, as well as this year's Pawn Shop Chronicles, mentioned in a Facebook post Sunday that De Palma had offered Walker a film project some years ago. "It always pained me when critics and internet talkbackers slammed him as an actor," Kramer wrote, "because I knew the truth about the guy: he was fucking awesome in every way. And he was just coming into his own as a strong leading man. I always told Paul that his most exciting years were going to be his 40s and 50s, and even beyond, as a masculine American tough guy in the vein of Steve McQueen, Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin. We talked about how Paul was going to be my Lee Marvin and we were hungry to make those kind of films that could show Paul in that light. In some alternate reality somewhere, he’s still on that career trajectory and I’d love to be there to see the work because it would be something to experience indeed. For every anonymous internet hater who bagged on him, there were great actors and directors who made a point of letting him know how amazing he was. Kevin Costner was a fan and wanted to do a western with Paul. Vincent D’Onofrio (whom I recently worked with) made a point of telling me how much he dug Paul as an actor. Quentin Tarantino called Paul after seeing Running Scared to tell him how much he loved Paul’s performance. Sylvester Stallone was a fan of Paul in Running Scared. Walter Hill and Brian De Palma offered him projects a few years back. Paul was very discriminating with the films he picked. He chose to make them for personal reasons, regardless of the quality of the finished film or the reputation of the director. And once he signed on, he was there one thousand percent for his directors. We shared the same taste in material. Usually dark and extreme, but with a lot of soul. Closer to the films of the 70s and 80s that they no longer make anymore."
MI: Well, he was a gentlemen about it, too. I think that I had sent him some music early on for that and he didn’t respond to it, and, so, I called the producer and I said, “Look, I would really love to do this movie. What is he looking for?” And the producer sent me over some pieces they were using for the temp-score and I realized that I had completely mis-guessed on how he wanted to score this thing.
PC: Oh, really?
MI: Yeah, so I re-sent him some music and he called me immediately and said, “This is what I am looking for!” So, I think we started off right on the right foot because, once I knew what he was looking for, I duplicated it and presented it to him immediately and he said, “That’s perfect.” So, we went in with a high degree of mutual respect and delight and willingness in doing this together. He was just great. Like you say, he is very specific and when he says, “That’s good,” then, you know you are doing great. [Laughs.]
PC: And if you are not?
MI: “Don’t do that! That’s terrible!” - then you know you have to rewrite it. [Laughs.]
PC: That film was plagued with behind-the-scenes shenanigans and I know there was originally a much, much longer original cut, so how did you deal with that? Did you score that version or only the version that eventually was released? Have you ever gone to an opening night and half your score was missing?
MI: [Laughs.] Actually, I have - but, not on that picture! From the time that we started scoring it, it was pretty much as it came out. I believe that the studio actually stayed out of that and I think what a lot of it was about was that he was working with Art Linson - who produced THE UNTOUCHABLES and they have a long, long history - and, I think Art is one of the few who can say, “Brian, you can’t have a 3-hour movie,” [Laughs.] and Brian will actually respect that.
PC: How interesting.
MI: I think they had already gone through the process of editing it down. Art actually came to me at one point and said, “Look, there are still a couple of things that I think Brian needs to change - but, I think Brian and I have sort of had as much of a discussion as we are going to have, so why don’t you see what you can do to help these areas?” And, then, I think there were a few picture-trims at that point - but, pretty much, I worked on it when it was the final film and not much changed.
PC: There are some thrilling music cues - especially the opening scene with Josh Hartnett and, later, the Fiona Shaw mad scene.
MI: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
PC: Were you influenced by Jerry Goldsmith’s CHINATOWN score?
MI: Oh, yes - of course. I love that score and know it very well.
PANKOW HAD TO TRIM LESBIAN FLOOR SHOW FROM FIVE MINUTES DOWN TO JUST ONE MINUTE
Editor Bill Pankow has described how he had to edit down the k.d. lang song and floor show in the lesbian night club from five minutes to one minute, so it does seem there was at least the potential for some trimming even after Isham had completed his score. Pankow showed the uncut version of the scene to a master class in 2007, describing how he managed to get it down to one minute. Perhaps one day, we will get a cut of the film that is a bit longer...
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