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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

In the trailer (above) for Daniel Raim's new documentary, Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story, there is a brief tease featuring Lillian Michelson, Hollywood researcher, recalling what it was like telling her husband, storyboard artist Harold Michelson, that she was going to Ecuador "in a drug king's airplane" to do research for Brian De Palma's Scarface. I haven't seen this documentary yet, but here are some review excerpts mentioning the Scarface anecdote:
Andrew Wright at The Stranger
Utilizing celebrity interviews and cute (but-not-overly-so) cartoony sketches, the film tells the story of the late storyboard artist/production designer/Hitchcock fave Harold Michelson and his wife Lillian, whose dissatisfaction at being stuck at home led her to become the go-to researcher for filmmakers such as Francis Ford Coppola, Roman Polanski, and Stanley Kubrick. Tom Waits liked to hang out with them, which speaks multitudes.

Director Daniel Raim doesn’t neglect the couple’s sometimes chaotic home life, including their struggles with raising an autistic son. Still, the focus here is largely on The Movies, offering fascinating looks throughout at how Harold’s illustrations helped create the look of classics such as The Birds and The Graduate, as well as the intriguing suggestion that his experiences in the nose of a World War II bomber made him uniquely suited for the job.

The film’s real ace in the hole, however, proves to be Lillian, an endlessly quotable interview subject whose pixyish presence can’t mask the sense that she knows exactly where all of the industry bodies are buried. (A brief aside about contacting a Bolivian drug lord while researching Brian De Palma’s Scarface demands a 10-hour miniseries, at the very least.) Together, the stories of this unlikely Power Couple make for a terrific corrective of the idea of filmmaking being a singular vision. Orson Welles’s quote about the movies being the world’s biggest electric train set gains even more resonance when you consider the folks who keep the transformers humming.

Monica Castillo at The New York Times
Their behind-the-scenes influence on filmmakers was far-reaching. Mr. Michelson’s storyboards show sketched versions of memorable scenes, like the parting of the Red Sea in “The Ten Commandments” and Anne Bancroft’s raised leg overshadowing Dustin Hoffman in “The Graduate.” Mrs. Michelson excitedly recalls interviewing women at Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles about traditional costumes for “Fiddler on the Roof” and questioning a drug kingpin for “Scarface.”

Scott Tobias at NPR
Though well-known and beloved by their peers, Harold and Lillian Michelson had the sorts of jobs that are often so far below the line that they're not credited at all. As a production designer and art director, Harold would eventually earn Academy Award nominations for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Terms of Endearment, but for the bulk of his career, dating back to an apprenticeship at Columbia Pictures in the late '40s, he worked the art department as a concept illustrator and storyboard artist. Despite a passion for books and a formidable intellect — she was a spelling bee champion in her youth — Lillian stayed home and raised their three children until the early '60s, when Harold was brought onto the lot at Samuel Goldwyn. He helped land her a volunteer position in the research library across the street, and a second career was born.

Only the most hardcore cinephiles have heard of the Michelsons, but even casual viewers are familiar with their work. Harold's talent for adjusting his storyboards for different camera lenses and telling stories shot-by-shot is readily apparent in sword-and-sandal epics like The Ten Commandments, Ben Hur, and Spartacus, and he worked side-by-side with Alfred Hitchcock on The Birds and Marnie, two of the master's most strikingly composed films. One of the most famous shots in cinema history — Benjamin Braddock framed by Mrs. Robinson's leg in The Graduate — appeared first on Harold's sketchbook before it was immortalized on screen. He wouldn't start collecting more prominent credits until later, when he worked in production design and/or art direction for filmmakers like Mel Brooks and Danny DeVito.

For her part, Lillian toiled in the research department, where she quietly unearthed the specific period details and bric-a-brac that would lend real-world authenticity to Hollywood fictions. In Harold and Lillian, she describes the extraordinary lengths she would go to get things right, like querying old Jewish women at a deli to find out what 1890s bloomers looked like for Fiddler on the Roof or pressing ex- (and current) drug lords and DEA agents for information relevant to Scarface. When asked the impossible, like getting photos from inside CIA headquarters, she could deliver. She talks about research as a "time machine" that allows her to access other worlds, much as she did as a five-year-old orphan in Miami Beach.

Lillian's voice carries the documentary — Harold died in 2008, though he left a wealth of interview footage behind — and collaborators like DeVito (who also executive-produced), Brooks, and Francis Ford Coppola offer themselves as talking heads, along with other researchers, storyboard artists and technicians in the field. Harold's extensive illustrations of their lives together — including a marvelous tradition of homemade birthday and anniversary cards, adorned by sweet poems and artwork — give Harold and Lillian all the visual panache it needs, much like a real-life version of the side-by-side comparisons between his storyboards and a finished sequence.

Posted by Geoff at 1:07 AM CDT
Updated: Tuesday, May 30, 2017 1:18 AM CDT
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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Michelle Pfeiffer visited Jimmy Fallon on NBC's The Tonight Show on Thursday, May 11th. Pfeiffer described how she eventually won the role of Elvira in Scarface, after Fallon asked her if Al Pacino "was intense" during the making of the film:
Michelle Pfeiffer: Well, he was probably more intense back then, or at least, I think it was maybe the nature of the project. And he didn’t particularly want me for the part.

Jimmy Fallon: He didn’t?

MP: No.

JF: Really?

MP: Look, my last credit before that was Grease 2—can you blame him?

JF: Well, no—Scarface could’ve been a fun musical, who knows? We’ll see, it’s going to be on Broadway once and we’ll be laughing. We’ll look back on this and laugh—yes, Scarface: The Musical.

MP: Yeah…

JF: (dancing and singing) Say hello to my little friend! Say hello to my little friend.

MP: You know (pointing at Jimmy), that could happen…

JF: That’s what I’m saying. It could… Okay, so you go into the audition, and he doesn’t want you for that… he’s like, “No…”

MP: Well, it was really, it was a very long, drawn-out auditioning process, and there were a number of women auditioning, and it went over a period of about, I don’t know, it seemed like forever, but I think it was about two or three months…

JF: Wow—just auditioning…

MP: And I was terrified. And I was really young. And I knew he didn’t want me. And as it went on, the worse I got, because I just got so afraid. And by the end of it, Brian De Palma was very sweet, and he was really rooting for me, Brian, and he said, ‘I’m sorry, but you’re just bad now. [Laughter] What’s going on?’ And you know, it was true, and I was like, ‘I know, I know, I’m just so up in knots.’ And [he says] ‘It’s not gonna work out babe.’ ‘Right.’ So I went away, and then about a month later, they called and they said, ‘They wanted to screen test you,’ and I’m like [gasp, drops shoulders as in oh, ugh, no]. Because part of me was just relieved to have the torture end.

JF: Heh heh he, and move on with your life!

MP: And when they called, I just said, [eyeroll] ‘No’. So, anyway, I show up, and I kind of drag myself—and I have, you know, no feeling at all that I have any shot at getting this, so… So it kind of freed me up, you know, and so I wasn’t afraid. And I just sort of, I show up, and do this scene, the restaurant scene at the end, where I kind of freak out at the end, and…

JF: …trash the place

MP: [getting animated] I threw dishes, and everything went flying, and broke things…Cut! I was IN IT! And there was blood everywhere.

JF: What!?! [Laughter]

MP: And everyone comes running over to me, checking me out for blood, where am I cut, they’re not finding anything, there are no cuts on me… I look over and Al is bleeding.

JF: Oh, no, ohhh, my gosh! [Laughter] You cut Al Pacino?!?

MP: [Nodding] I cut Al Pacino! And I…

JF: [Mimicking Tony Montana] I cannot believe you threw this dish! Broke a dish… (I can’t do Al Pacino)… [more laughter]

MP: Oh my God, I cut Al Pacino!

JF: No way, oh my God! And that’s how you got the…

MP: [Regains composure with glimmering triumph] And that’s how I got the part.

[Applause, to which Michelle Pfeiffer takes a bow]

Posted by Geoff at 10:17 PM CDT
Updated: Sunday, May 21, 2017 10:21 PM CDT
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Saturday, May 20, 2017
Deadline's Mike Fleming Jr reported yesterday that David Ayer "is in early negotiations to direct" the Scarface remake for Universal. Diego Luna is still attached to star, from a screenplay most recently rewritten by Joel and Ethan Coen.

Ayer is currently finishing up post-production work on Bright, a Will Smith vehicle for Netflix. Ayer and Smith had previously collaborated on Suicide Squad. Ayer wrote the 2001 film, Training Day, which was directed by Antoine Fuqua, who at one time had been attached to direct this remake of Scarface prior to the Coen Brothers' involvement.


Coen Brothers will rewrite Scarface script
Fuqua drops out of Scarface remake; Diego Luna will play lead
Terence Winter to tackle Scarface script
The Scarface remake just got a lot less interesting
Scarface remake is Larraín's dream project
The Scarface remake just got a lot more interesting

Posted by Geoff at 3:28 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, May 20, 2017 3:37 PM CDT
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Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Michelle Pfeiffer talks with Darren Aronofsky for the cover story of the April 2017 issue of Interview. At one point, Aronofsky steers the conversation to Brian De Palma's Scarface. "How’d it happen?" Pfeiffer says. "I’m very willful, you know. I’m a survivor. It’s in my nature. I don’t look so tough, but I am. And I think I was able to hide behind the tough exterior of that character, who was just sort of tuned out and tuned off, drugged. I can tell you that I was terrified. And it was a six-month shoot I think. Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and I were really the only females. It was a boys’ club. And it was also the nature of the relationship, for Tony Montana to be very dismissive of my character. So I would go to sleep some nights crying."

Mark Margolis, who played Alberto "The Shadow" in Scarface, has appeared in several of Aronofsky's films.

Posted by Geoff at 9:20 PM CDT
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Robert De Niro and Al Pacino took part in a Godfather cast reunion interview Monday morning on NBC's Today. At one point, host Matt Lauer asked them if there was a rivalry between them in those days (the 1970s and 1980s)...

De Niro: No, no, no. You know, we’ve known each other a long time. We were up for the same parts. But that’s what it is. But not a rivalry…

Pacino: We sort of grew up together.

De Niro: Yeah… Once I told him, one night, I think I remember… what was… [leans toward Pacino] what was the De Palma…

Pacino: Scarface!

De Niro: [smiling] Scarface. I said, if you don’t do it, I’m gonna do it.

Pacino: That might have motivated me.

Posted by Geoff at 2:18 AM CDT
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Saturday, March 4, 2017
Miriam Colón, who portrayed Tony Montana's mother in Brian De Palma's Scarface, died Friday. She was 80. According to Deadline's Patrick Hipes, Colón's husband "told the Associated Press that Colon died owing to complications from a pulmonary infection."

Colón was born in Puerto Rico, and moved to New York City in 1953, where "Elia Kazan accepted her into the Actors Studio after a single audition and she won a Broadway role in In the Summer House with Judith Anderson," according to a 1971 New York Times profile of Colón by Patricia Bosworth. In 1967, Colón "became a driving cultural force in New York barrios when she founded the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater and began bringing free drama into the most deprived areas of the ghetto, often to audiences that have never seen theater before," wrote Bosworth.

In the early 1980s, Al Pacino was based in New York, and thus most of the parts for Scarface were cast from auditions that had been set up at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, including, of course, Colón herself. Underneath the frame from Scarface below is an excerpt from a 2003 Fresh Air interview with Colón (hosted by Terry Gross; transcription via Puerto Rico Herald) in which she discusses her role in the film.

GROSS: You're now starring in "The Blue Diner." What does that role mean to you professionally?

Ms. COLON: It's a good role. It's a woman that is very simple, that is hardworking, that has a sense of honor and dedication. She cares for her daughter, and she's very vigilant about what that daughter is going through, what is she getting involved, you know, like all mothers. In a way this woman reminds me very much of my own mother, whom I lost about three years ago; may she rest in peace.

GROSS: What about this character reminded you of your mother?

Ms. COLON: Because my mother was this hardworking, she and I would fight sometimes. My mother maybe went to the sixth or the seventh grade, but she had a wisdom in herself, a kindness, a humanity that really determined my life. I had such admiration for her, and I was so sorry that she had to work so hard. But such dignity and pride, she was the best image I had. I wish I could be like her.

GROSS: Is it fair to say, though, lately you've been playing mothers who are more conservative and strict than their children, I mean, you know, who are from a culture that is more conservative and strict than the culture their children are growing up in?

Ms. COLON: Yeah. And I just relish--I guess that's why the people loved so much what I did in "Scarface." This was another woman--in fact, I enjoyed...

GROSS: Describe your role in that.

Ms. COLON: Oh, the mother was my mother. The mother in "Scarface" is my mother, so that's another instance in which I just swam into it. It was like a tailor-made dress that was made for me: the mother that also works very hard; that is very stern; that has standards in her house; the fact that she is poor and they may not have an automobile, that they may not have a nice house, that they may live in the outskirts of the city cannot under any circumstances be used to try to put them down or to be disrespectful to the them. And this is what she did to the character played by Pacino. The thing of honor, the stern--well, she's the only one that defied him, told him, `Get the hell out of here,' that didn't wind up with her head cut off. I love characters like that, and I think I can play them very well. And that's also great because I have such sympathy for those women.

GROSS: Do you have a favorite scene from "Scarface" that you're in?

Ms. COLON: The scene with Pacino where I'm watching him coming to introduce himself into our life again. And I know that he's pushing drugs, and I know that we may be poor, but we are not in the drug world. And I know that those suits cannot be bought from working in a factory or something like that. So I think I instinctly know. But what is worse is his insinuating himself into my kitchen, into my house, into the relationship with my daughter, which is all I have left, is very dangerous. And that's why I throw him out. And everything I said would happen happened. He destroyed her...

...GROSS: Do people recognize you a lot from that role?

Ms. COLON: Oh, yes.

GROSS: "Scarface" is such a cult film now. I mean, it has such a following.

Ms. COLON: Oh, yes. You know what? Youngsters. I've had the weirdest, the weirdest, all true, episodes in the subway platform.

GROSS: Yeah?

Ms. COLON: It's happened not twice, not four times, at least a half a dozen times. They're staring, and I say, `Oh. Oh, my God, they're coming in my direction. What are they here for? Are they going to push me off the platform or something, or are they going to take my ring or something?' And then it turns out that they come close and they say, `Mama Montana?' I say, `Si, I'm Mama Montana.' They say, `Yeah!' They have done this scene for me saying my lines and his lines. They have memorized the entire scene. But I've seen kids that I know they don't have any money, and they told me, `Oh, I own that film.'

Posted by Geoff at 9:10 PM CST
Updated: Sunday, March 5, 2017 11:21 AM CST
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Friday, February 10, 2017
Universal really is ramping up its new Scarface remake. According to Deadline's Anthony D'Alessandro, the studio announced today that it has set a release date for the film: August 10, 2018. "The studio already had RSVP’ed the date under untitled event film," D'Alessandro states. "The Coen brothers are rewriting the script, the studio said. The siblings won’t direct. Several filmmakers are up for the job, notably Hell or High Water‘s David Mackenzie and Patriots’ Day’s Peter Berg."

In recent years, the Coens (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen) have been hired to polish scripts for Steven Spielberg and Angelina Jolie, among others. Last month, it was revealed that Rogue One-star Diego Luna was now attached to play the lead, with the most recent draft of the screenplay rewritten by Terence Winter.


Fuqua drops out of Scarface remake; Diego Luna will play lead
Terence Winter to tackle Scarface script
The Scarface remake just got a lot less interesting
Scarface remake is Larraín's dream project
The Scarface remake just got a lot more interesting

Posted by Geoff at 5:47 PM CST
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Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Variety's Justin Kroll posted an exclusive last night about Universal's Scarface remake, indicating that, as the studio is eager to get the production up and running by this spring, Antoine Fuqua has decided to drop out due to scheduling conflicts with his Denzel Washington-starring sequel to Equalizer. "Sources say Fuqua very much wanted to do the film," states Kroll, "and that he and his team were still trying to figure out a way to make it work even as Uni was meeting with other directors. But ultimately, Fuqua had already spent so much time developing the script for the next Equalizer that he simply couldn’t move on from a project he had so much invested in." (Now would be a great time to see if Pablo Larraín is available again.)

Kroll also states that Rogue One-star Diego Luna is now attached to play the lead, according to "sources". The most recent draft of the screenplay is by Terence Winter.


Terence Winter to tackle Scarface script
The Scarface remake just got a lot less interesting
Scarface remake is Larraín's dream project
The Scarface remake just got a lot more interesting

Posted by Geoff at 3:25 AM CST
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Friday, December 30, 2016

Posted by Geoff at 5:47 PM CST
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Thursday, September 29, 2016
Variety's Justin Kroll reported yesterday that Terence Winter has signed on to whip the Scarface remake screenplay into something-close-to-final shape. Winter has worked with Martin Scorsese on scripts for The Wolf Of Wall Street, Vinyl, and Boardwalk Empire, as well as on The Sopranos. Antoine Fuqua is the director currently signed to direct the new Scarface. In March 2015, Jonathan Herman was hired to rewrite the screenplay on the heels of his screenplay for Straight Outta Compton. The initial draft of this new Scarface was written by David Ayer, the writer of Training Day, which was directed by Fuqua. In between Ayer and Herman, Universal brought in Donnie Brasco screenwriter Paul Attanasio to do a rewrite on Ayer's draft.

Meanwhile, Fuqua has talked about the project a little bit in the past couple of weeks:

Fandango article by Erik Davis--

Fandango had a chance to talk with Fuqua in advance of The Magnificent Seven arriving in theaters (stay tuned for more of that conversation this week), and we asked about the current status of this Scarface remake. Is it still happening?

"I read the script they have and it's actually really interesting and very timely," Fuqua said. "We're dealing with a lot of stuff now coming out of Mexico. And again, we still have those issues dealing with the "American Dream", and the fact that the game is rigged, right? It's not really an even playing field, but the promise is that it is. The promise is that everyone gets a fair shot, but that's not always the case. So that's always relevant, and right now with what's happening in Mexico, which is where [the main character] comes from -- he comes out of Mexico -- that's relevant, especially when you've got people talking about putting up walls and other kinds of stuff. We're still dealing with immigration, we're still dealing with what would turn someone into Scarface."

Fuqua went on to talk about how this new contemporary version of Scarface will deal with the problems many immigrants face when they arrive in the United States looking for a fair shot only to find anything but.

"They all leave these small countries, and it's hard to become Scarface unless you're someone like El Chapo," he said. "It's hard to become that guy in America. But what happens when you have a guy who has that same appetite and the doors keep getting shut in his face? What happens when he only knows one thing, for sure -- which is how to go and take it? I just think being disenfranchised is dangerous. When people are disenfranchised and delusional, it's just dangerous. I think it's more relevant than ever right now, and it can be extremely entertaining. So we'll see."

Is he bringing his Training Day and Magnificent Seven stars Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke with him to Scarface? "So far, no," Fuqua said. "We still need to do the casting and I have to have a couple more meetings on it. I would love to, though! I just haven't wrapped my head around it yet."

As for that Equalizer sequel currently scheduled to hit theaters next September, Fuqua says he'll make another movie before that, all but confirming there will be no Equalizer 2 in 2017. Will Scarface take its place? "Whether it's Scarface or something else, there will be another movie before that happens," he revealed.

HipHopDX article--
HipHopDX: After the tumbleweeds clear for Magnificent 7 and everything, you are moving on to Scarface correct? You know that’s like Hip Hop’s favorite movie.

Antoine Fuqua: [Laughs] Yeah, I know. I’m having real conversations about it. It’s something I’m talking about doing right now. I would like to do it honestly man; at one point I was hesitant. But again, when I read the script, even on that one, it’s all about is it relevant today? Does it speak to today? And it does! This cat comes up in Mexico. He’s not Cuban [like Al Pacino’s 1983 character]. And it’s pretty hardcore.

HipHopDX: That’s how it should be.

Antoine Fuqua: Right? Because you dealing with El Chapo and everyone else, it’s a different world now. That’s where they’re coming from. And it touches on a more modern day, not just gangsterism but how everything moves now on the streets. How money moves now. The Scarface [from 1983], he couldn’t survive today. We saw that. The Pablos came and went. El Chapo is about to go. So what’s next?

HipHopDX: Could you see a rapper playing that role?

Antoine Fuqua: I’ll say never to anything. If somebody come in the room and they have what it takes and they got the right skill set and presence to do that, then why not? I believe in those kind of movies. You gotta be raw. You gotta be a fuckin’ animal, man. You gotta be highly intelligent but you gotta be an animal. Now Scarface was an animal. He was a fuckin’ beast. Period. So that’s how I see that. It’s gotta be somebody that young people connect to because Scarface was all about taking the dream. You can’t wait for somebody to give it to you.


The Scarface remake just got a lot less interesting
Scarface remake is Larraín's dream project
The Scarface remake just got a lot more interesting

Posted by Geoff at 8:24 AM CDT
Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2016 6:07 PM CDT
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