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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

My internet has been down the past few days-- my carrier tells me it's a big outage in my area. So with my limited internet time, I haven't been able to post much here the past week. But here are some things:

Page Six's Ian Mohr noted that Brian De Palma was among the guests at a screening of Jean-Marc Vallée's Wild last Thursday (December 4th). The screening was hosted by Ben Stiller and Noah Baumbach at NeueHouse in New York. Laura Dern, who appears in the film, was also in attendance, as was Meg Ryan and Chris Cornell.

Meanwhile, a couple of readers have sent along some very cool links that I have to share, even though I can't transcribe much right now. Rado sends along a link to a recent Vilmos Zsigmond Masterclass, a Higher Learning event which took place on August 8, 2014 at TIFF Bell Lightbox. Around the 35-minute mark, an audience member asks Zsigmond to talk about working with De Palma. Zsigmond talks about how De Palma had presented sketches for their first film together, Obsession. However, by the time they worked on The Black Dahlia three decades later, Zsigmond asked, "Brian, where are the sketches?" But De Palma waved him off, saying he didn't need them anymore. Zsigmond goes on to describe the complicated shots in The Black Dahlia and Bonfire Of The Vanities.

Drew sends along a link to the latest I Was There Too podcast, in which host Matt Gourley talks on the phone with Melody Rae, who played the woman with the baby carriage in the famous staircase scene in De Palma's The Untouchables. I can't listen to this one yet, but the podcast description says, "Melody tells us about completely improvising her memorable scene, how she handled the explosions, baby, & squibs, and working with Kevin Costner."

One more link: Cinema Space Tribute, a video montage put together by Max Shishkin that includes, among many others, imagery from De Palma's Mission To Mars.

Posted by Geoff at 6:35 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2014 7:33 PM CST
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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Posted by Geoff at 10:22 PM CST
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Wednesday, October 15, 2014
IndieWire's Thelma Adams spoke with Patricia Clarkson on stage last Friday at the Hamptons Film Festival. Clarkson discussed working with several directors, including Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese, and Woody Allen. Here is the section from Adams' article about Clarkson working on her first feature film, The Untouchables:
Fresh out of the Yale School of Drama, the New Orleans native auditioned for the casting director Lynn Stalmaster to play the wife of Eliot Ness in The Untouchables. She was "kind of glamorous," with big 80's Southern hair, which "seriously could just fit in through the door" and a racy fuchsia dress.

The agent clued Clarkson in – and toned her down. Clarkson returned to meet DePalma in a borrowed "goony" gingham dress, dowdy tresses and no make-up. She explained, "I walked in and I made a joke about it with Brian and we just got on immediately. We started laughing about it. He ended up reading with me. He played Eliot Ness and I was cast almost in that room...On the set, the first day I shot, Brian did 30 takes to see where I fell, if I reached it early or reached it late. He learned I was early, and by the 30th take I'm just not here."


The IndieWire article also includes quotes from Clarkson on working with George Clooney and on Lisa Cholodenko's High Art.

Back in May of 2004, an interview article at the Washington Post (no longer available online without subscription) discussed Clarkson's voice, calling it "her most arresting feature." Described by the author as a "throaty" and "husky" voice that harkens back to the screen sirens of the 1930s and 1940s, Clarkson told how she would walk into auditions "blond, pretty, whatever. But then I'd open my voice and they'd say, 'Hmmm.'" The article then mentions De Palma as "one director who wasn't put off," casting Clarkson in The Untouchables. "I think he liked that I looked a certain way and I had this voice," Clarkson told the Post. "Brian is irreverent and brilliant and funny and I think he just kind of liked it."

Posted by Geoff at 12:57 AM CDT
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Posted by Geoff at 7:09 AM CDT
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Wednesday, April 30, 2014
R.I.P. BOB HOSKINS, 1942-2014
Bristish actor Bob Hoskins died Tuesday after being treated for pneumonia. He was 71. In 1986, Hoskins was signed by Paramount to play Al Capone in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. However, De Palma had been talking with Robert De Niro about playing Capone, and once De Niro finally committed, Linson asked the studio to pay Hoskins his full salary, which some stories report as $200,000, and others report as $300,000.

The way Hoskins told the story to Absolute Radio in 2009 was that De Palma sent Hoskins the Untouchables screenplay and told him to look at Capone. "I went to meet him at his hotel," Hoskins said on the Christian O’Connell Breakfast Show, "and he said ‘really I want Robert De Niro to play him,’ and I thought, ‘well great what am I doing here?’ He then said ‘but if he don’t do it, would you sort of step in?’ and I said ‘yeah of course I will’. Anyway months went by and I read the papers and saw De Niro was doing it. I’d sort of forgotten all about it, and then Linda – my Mrs – was opening the post one morning and said ‘what’s that?’ and it was a cheque for £20,000. It said ‘thanks for your time Bob, love Brian’. [He laughed] I phoned him up and I said ‘Brian, if you’ve ever got any films you don’t want me in son, you just give me a call!’”

Hoskins' breakthrough role was as a gangster in John Mackenzie's Long Good Friday. (Incidentally, Mackenzie would go on, in 1986, to direct a TV movie out of a screenplay De Palma had been working on for years, Act Of Vengeance.) Hoskins' most famous role was as a private detective in Robert Zemeckis' 1988 smash Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Hoskins' role as an ex-con in Neil Jordan's Mona Lisa (1986) had earned him an Oscar nomination for best actor.

Posted by Geoff at 6:12 PM CDT
Updated: Saturday, May 3, 2014 1:39 PM CDT
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Monday, March 17, 2014
Ennio Morricone recently talked to the New York Times' Robert Itomarch about several of his best-known film scores, including The Untouchables:

THE UNTOUCHABLES, directed by Brian De Palma (1987). The composer said he enjoyed Mr. De Niro’s "dramatically comic” take on Al Capone in this factually squishy retelling of that mobster’s takedown by Eliot Ness. In the film, Capone takes a baseball bat to the noggin of an employee who doesn’t put team first, and scenes like that didn’t put off Mr. Morricone. “He killed people in a very spectacular way,” he said.

Mr. De Palma had already finished the film when he showed a cut to Mr. Morricone, asking him specifically to come up with something for the “triumph of the police” at the end. The two got on well, but the director originally wasn’t keen on the music Mr. Morricone created for one of the film’s best-known scenes, a two-minute sequence in which a baby carriage, complete with a sweet-faced child, rolls down the steps of Union Station in Chicago in the middle of a heated gun battle.

“He didn’t want that music,” Mr. Morricone recalled. “Later he gave an interview and said that he thought that the music for that scene was perfect, so he must have rethought the whole idea.”


Posted by Geoff at 11:46 PM CDT
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Monday, March 3, 2014
The theme of last night's Oscars telecast was "Heroes", and included time-filler montages of all kinds of movie heroes. One montage, introduced by Sally Field, included a clip of Ness and Malone talking in the church from Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. In another montage, introduced by Chris Evans, a quick-clip from De Palma's Mission: Impossible showed Ethan Hunt landing on top of the train after blasting himself from the helicopter.

Posted by Geoff at 12:12 AM CST
Updated: Monday, March 3, 2014 12:12 AM CST
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Friday, January 17, 2014
Kevin Costner, Kenneth Branagh, and Chris Pine conducted a press conference recently for Branagh's new film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, wherin Costner talked a lot about Sean Connery's role as mentor in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, and how that informed Costner's own mentorship role to Pine's Jack Ryan in the new film. ScreenCrave's Damon Houx has a good transcription of the press conference. Here are the related Costner excerpts:

Kevin, you were originally going to play Jack Ryan in The Hunt for Red October. I was wondering if you were already well versed by the time you came in to play the mentor role to Jack in this film?

Kevin Costner: The mentor role is always that ‘what can you offer a younger man, what can you offer a younger woman.’ That thing is in your level of experience, and so that by definition is the mentor if you have a level of experience. If you read it on paper, that’s the role that was meant for me. It was inhabited perfectly. Chris did his role, and what I liked about it was that I wasn’t just a person at a desk on a phone going, “Get the hell out of there. What the hell are you doing? Well, you need to do it faster.” Kenneth was able to say, “Wait a second. I want to incorporate some of your skill set into this where even though I’m a stupid-visor (laughs), if you would, a supervisor here, that I could take the gloves off so to speak and become involved and bring a physical presence and team up with him at the right moment. I thought that was unusual for the mentor role. Usually they’re back in Washington or they’re in a big, giant control room. In this instance, we were always fairly close together and trying to sort it out a little bit together. And, as the movie progresses, you see that he just possesses a lot of intuitive skills, whether it’s being out of set, how to survive or to process a lot of information in a very quick way, which I actually asked him a couple of times to slow down, remembering that I’m in another century. (Laughter)


Mr. Costner, at the end of the film, you refer to Jack Ryan as something of a Boy Scout, which reminds me of a number of your most famous roles, perhaps specifically Elliot Ness. I was curious how does it feel to suddenly step into the Sean Connery role?

Kevin Costner: I think the smarter directors do this a lot of times. They’ll take a supporting role and they’ll put a leading man in it because they either know how to inhabit the screen or inhabit it and nowhere was it better than when Sean Connery came in and played the little Irish street cop and you realized how formidable he was. I remember telling Sean at the time, I said, “Sean, this has got enough meat on the bone that you could win the Academy Award.” And Brian (De Palma) could have easily cast any character actor to bring up that Irish brogue or whatever that you would do, but he said no. He went arguably to the biggest star, the biggest star I’ve ever worked with in my life as I think Sean Connery was, to play this. And I think what happens is then he just knows how to hold onto the screen. And so, I have a feeling that that might have been swirling around in this genius’ head over there with what he wanted to do with William Harper.

I love the way you talked about your character and that he was a mentor. Was it easier to mentor in 1984 than in 2014? Was 1984 an easier time for an old shoe to tell a new shoe what to do and what the pitfalls were?

Kenneth Branagh: I think if there’s openness of communication, then the timing doesn’t really matter. And sometimes the mentoring doesn’t really happen directly. It just happens intuitively. I certainly found that working with Kevin on this. There were a lot of things that went on. I was so grateful to have a master director on the set. There are just lots of moments where effortless…not advice…nothing so sort of obvious as advice, but just shared communication about things, a conversation about how a moment in a scene might go or how things might be approached which just came out of an honest collaboration.

If that honesty of communication exists, whether it’s 1984 or 2014, I think it’s quite marvelous actually. And watching these two together was great as well in terms of just when people trust each other and when they’re very good at what they do and when their egos are at the service of the better idea and what is right for the scene. When you see that kind of generosity at work, it really is a thrilling thing to be part of and actually that cuts across age. It doesn’t mean old or younger. I’ve learned a lot from people much younger than me as well as people much older than me. So I think it’s about honesty and generosity, and we were lucky to be in an atmosphere on this project across this table as it were where that was at work.

Who was your greatest mentor?

Kenneth Branagh: My greatest mentor was the guy who was the principal of the drama school I attended. For the first six or seven pictures I made, he was on the movie as the acting coach. To give you a quick example of what he did for me, he was a very sensitive English guy. We were making a film of Hamlet. I was doing the To Be or Not To Be soliloquy. I was very nervous. I said to him that day, “Look, this is the acting Olympics here. I’m doing the most famous speech in Western dramatic literature. If you have any notes for me, I’d like them very early on, please.” So we started doing it. I did Take 1. I said, “How was that?” and he said, “I don’t have anything to say.” I did Take 2 and Take 3 and he did not have anything to say. I said, “Look, I think I’m getting it. I’m going to call this a print very shortly.” He said, “I think you should do another one.” I said, “Do you have anything to say?” He said, “Not at the moment.” So we get to Take 6 and I said, “Hugh, I think we might have it. Do you have anything to say?” He said, “Well, yes, yes, yes. The rhythm of it, absolutely extraordinary. The understanding of the language, fantastic. The pacing of it, marvelous. The timing of it, really extraordinary.” I said, “What’s the problem?” He said, “I simply don’t believe a word you’re saying. I would have absolutely no sense of the man. It’s safe. It’s acting. It’s showing off. You really have to do another one.” So a guy with those balls that close to me, it was very helpful. He was my greatest mentor.

What about you, Kevin? Who was your greatest mentor?

Kevin Costner: I tell you, I think an honest exchange is never out of mode, and it will be just as practical in 1984 as in the year that we’re dealing with. This is a business that’s pretty interesting. Unlike a lot of businesses, you get up in the morning and you have breakfast with the people you work with all day. You have lunch with them and you have dinner with them. The nature of acting, if you think you put three minutes of film in the can a day, that means you’re spending an enormous amount of hours getting to talk about people’s lives and their families. There are a lot of things that go on, on a set.

In terms of mentorship, it was probably Sean. He was a leading man. He carries himself as a man. I remember a big scene with De Niro and everybody, and we were all talking, and he finally told me, (mimicking Connery’s accent) “Mr. Ness.” I said, “What?” He said, “Sit down.” And I said, “Sit down right now?” And he said, “Yes. Just sit. It’s going to be a long day.” He just talked about not artsy fartsy stuff. He talked about sometimes just practical shit, like “It’s going to be a long day. Sit down. You and I are going to sit here and we’re going to watch, and when it’s our turn, we’re ready.” So, what better advice could one man give another on something so practical that I hate to use.


Posted by Geoff at 1:36 AM CST
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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Posted by Geoff at 7:38 PM CST
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Saturday, September 21, 2013
The new sitcom Dads premiered on the FOX TV network this past Tuesday, and the pilot episode included a quote from Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, which was written by David Mamet. It happens in an early scene in which the two main characters (played by Giovanni Ribisi and Seth Green), who own and operate their own video game company, are arguing about payback etiquette after one of them invited the other’s father to his surprise birthday party. Ribisi's Warner says to Green's Eli, "Hey, you send one of mine to the hospital, I send one of yours to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way." After a silent pause in which they stare at each other, they both smile and point at each other at the same time, saying, “The Untouchables,” and the tension is broken. The pilot episode is currently streaming on the FOX website.

Posted by Geoff at 2:21 PM CDT
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