DE PALMA'S 'SISTERS' WAS RELEASED IN THEATERS ON THIS DAY IN 1973
For intriguing reading about Sisters:
Stefan Sereda - The Sister as Revenant in Brian De Palma’s Sisters
Alberto Libera - The two sisters
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a la Mod:
FANG: Can you discuss your career during the years leading up to Sisters?
KIDDER: I was very young, and working nonstop. I started acting professionally in Montreal and Toronto, then moved to Hollywood at 18 with a couple of hundred bucks on me and a heart full of hope. I was very young and naive and thought, "Well, of course I'll get roles; I mean, I deserve it!" I landed a part in a Norman Jewison film [Gaily, Gaily], did a lot of low-budget movies and TV and then met Brian De Palma, who was one of those people making interesting independent movies. He loved Alfred Hitchcock-- you can see that in his work-- and he and I started seeing each other romantically.
FANG: What did you initially think of the story of Sisters?
KIDDER: Brian told me he wrote Sisters specifically for me. When he said that, I had to laugh: You thought of me to play this woman who castrates men after making love to them?! Well, ain't that nice! But I loved it. On Christmas morning, Brian came downstairs with the script, handed it to me and said, "There's your Christmas present." Then we went off and made the movie, and it was a lot of fun. It was one of his very early films; the money for it came from his mom, who owned a toy shop, and it was a wonderful time to make movies and a wonderful time to be young.
FANG: What was De Palma like as a director, and what was the most influential advice he ever gave?
KIDDER: Brian being my boyfriend didn't at all influence the way he directed me. I think his main brilliance is his true understanding of actors and what they can bring to a film. It truly is a joy working with him, and it shows in all of his movies; he just has that knack for tapping into something completely honest and real. Some of the younger directors these days agonize over getting those wonderful shots that were mastered by the likes of Brian and his friend Martin Scorsese, but what they don't get is that Brian and Marty are also extremely clued in to the fine art of working with actors, not just telling them where their marks are and whatever.
FANG: Was De Palma precious about his screenplay? Did he let you ad-lib at all?
KIDDER: There is one major secret about Brian that many people just aren't aware of, which is that he is one of the funniest people I know! He loved to inject his scripts with strong humor that played nicely along with the horror or suspense. He was always adament about what he wanted and why he wanted it, and if you thought of changing it or altering the words or whatever, you'd better also have a great reason to back it up. The character in Sisters I played was supposed to be Swedish, but I couldn't do a Swedish accent! I tried learning it, but it was just too hard, so I said, "Brian, can we make her French?" I grew up partly in Quebec so I was always around French-Canadians, and Brian was cool with that. His response was, "Fine. I just want her to be foreign."
"Without Dominique, Danielle has no identity," Pellegrini states in the opening paragraph. "To weave the fiction of her socially acceptable behavior, she must have Dominique bear the burden of her most disturbing desires. Yet the film, oddly enough, is not about Danielle or Dominique, but about the journalist Grace Collier. As Dominique recedes into the background, Danielle and Grace become the main antagonistic pair, a transition that culminates in an intense climax, a hypnosis dream, that imagines them as conjoined twins...
"Significantly, the introduction of Grace coincides with a memorable use of split-screen, which allows viewers to track Danielle and Grace simultaneously during a dramatic juncture. They are also opposed in other ways, not just compositionally. Released in 1973, the film riffs on contemporary sexual politics, contrasting Danielle’s traditional femininity to Grace’s brashness. Independent and self-sufficient, Grace seems indifferent to matrimony and children, and when her mother babbles on about the subject, she pays no attention. Danielle is more conservative. In one of her opening lines, she stresses that she is not one of those 'liberated American women' who spend 'their whole lives hating men,' an example of which might be Grace, notorious for her coverage of police brutality, obviously carried out by men. The joke is that, for all her coyness, Danielle is actually far more dangerous to the opposite sex. Grace constitutes a threat to Danielle, not only as an investigator, since she probes Danielle’s crimes, but also as a woman."
Read the entire essay at Sound On Sight.
-She & Jon Voight became a couple on Midnight Cowboy
-Salt & De Palma were pals who'd met at Sarah Lawrence College; they dated for a little while, but mostly stayed close through the years.
“I quite adored him. He was so dark and funny. And… nobody’s like Brian [laughs]. He has the best sense of humor. The darkest sense of humor. It completely lines up with mine. And so in some way I felt like we were soul mates.”
Flaherty: "Did they invent the term, 'Does not suffer fools lightly,' for him? I mean, is he the type, does he have little patience…?"
“Very little patience. Yeah.”
Flaherty: "But it’s kind of charming. He’s so smart and he’s charismatic if he wants to be."
“Well, it’s charming to me, when he’s being… when I’m not the target. I think there are plenty of people who are scared to death of him. But that’s just who he is.”
-Salt and Margo Kidder met during auditions for Fat City (John Huston movie)
-Malibu Beach House – they hosted many new wave of Hollywood directors
“The truth is it all started because Brian came out to visit, because Brian and I were tight. And he began bringing his friends out, and Marty was his friend, Trader was his friend, Harvey Keitel was anywhere Marty was, um, and Spielberg was, you know, a little acolyte.”
Paul Schrader was following De Palma around as a journalist.
“One of the people who came out was a director named Paul Williams, who I had made a movie called The Revolutionary with, and his producing partner was Ed Pressman. They had gone to Harvard together. And they came out and they loved the scene, and became part of it, and Ed Pressman became friendly with Brian. And somehow, Brian convinced Ed to finance the movie Sisters. Now, the thing is, I didn’t know much about it. Because Brian was off doing his thing, I was off doing mine, and whatever, but it was Christmastime, Christmas Day, we were all together and we had a big Christmas tree. Brian was living there. He was dating Margot, and he was living at the house. And so, we all were sitting around the Christmas tree, giving out presents, and he went over to the Christmas tree and took out two presents and handed one to Margie and one to me, and we opened them up, and it was Sisters. The script! And he said, 'Girls, we’re going to New York, we’re gonna make this turkey in April! Pack your bags. Go to the gym.' So, and that’s what we did… Ed was the producer, and Ed financed the movie.”
Flaherty: "That’s amazing. And you shot it all in New York?"
“Mostly Staten Island.”
Flaherty: "It is such a beloved movie. By the way, I own that poster. Print, framed, hanging in my garage, not in the house, but I love it."
“My friend Tim Hunter gave that to me. He found it somewhere.”
Flaherty: "And how was Sisters? You had already worked with Brian. I mean that’s just a crazy… it’s like Hitchcock on acid a little bit, right?"
“I think it’s a fantastic movie. And I mostly think Margie is brilliant. That’s the thing I think more than anything. She’s so amazing that I can’t believe it. And I love... it’s so original, and the way he shot it, when you look at it now, I mean, it’s like, everybody and their mother has been shooting like Brian shot that movie, since then. You know what I mean?”
Flaherty: "He loves Hitchcock so much, you know, you’re like Margo’s looking for the pills, and the cake, and the guy’s starting to write ‘Happy Birthday’ and he’s barely …"
-Salt said they pay homage to De Palma on a daily basis on American Horror Story, for which Salt is a co-producer and screenwriter.
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