'PASSION' PREPPING AT STUDIO BABELSBERG REHEARSALS, LIGHTING & CAMERA TESTS AT LEGENDARY STUDIO THE PAST WEEK Dress rehearsals for Brian De Palma's Passion have been held this past week at legendary Babelsberg Studios, which turns 100 this year. According to PNN's Jana Haase, De Palma arrived "with his three leading ladies," Noomi Rapace, Rachel McAdams, and Karoline Herfurth. Along with rehearsals, states Haase, the Passion crew has been using the studio to develop the look of the film with lighting and camera tests. Haase writes that, although reports have stated Passion will shoot exclusively on location in Berlin (beginning tomorrow), the film's set designers have made a home for themselves at Babelsberg, as well. Meanwhile, after Rapace was spotted strolling the Berlin streets with her family, the Berliner Morgenpost ran a headline today that read, "'Lisbeth Salander' out and about in Berlin."
PACINO'S 'SCARFACE' SUIT DISCOVERED AND A NEW 'SCARFACE' CASINO GAME IS REVEALED Universal Pictures is celebrating its 100th birthday throughout 2012, and to get the party started, the studio's Archives invited Entertainment Weekly's Adam B. Vary to an exclusive look at the very suit worn by Al Pacino in the final scenes of Brian De Palma's Scarface. The suit was recently discovered by Universal's wardrobe department, which immediately sensed the historical value and gave the archives a call. You can watch the video at EW's Inside Movies blog.
Meanwhile, Net Entertainment recently unveiled a new Scarface platinum casino slot-machine game. According to the press release, "The game itself is a five-reel, 20 win-line slot. Three Stacked Wilds on three different reels activate Nudge Spins and Free Spins features, plus a thrilling bonus game based on the 'Say hello to my little friend!' shootout sequence from the film." The game was revealed January 24th at the ICE Totally Gaming conference at London's Earls Court. "As the curtain fell," states the press release, "they greeted the sight of the iconic image of Al Pacino as Tony Montana with applause before being treated to the game’s fantastic intro sequence and demonstrations from Net Entertainment staff." Net Entertainment president and CEO Björn Krantz said, "Scarface is a hugely popular film and we’re delighted to be able to present such an iconic title to the gaming community. It’s been a joy to see the concept develop and we thank Universal for their cooperation in bringing the game to life. As with Frankenstein, our previous branded game, we aimed to use a world-renowned title as a platform on which to build a slot game that pushes the boundaries of innovation and excitement value."
COHEN ON 1988 'NIGHTMARE' OF 'CARRIE' MUSICAL SAYS WHEN THEY REFERRED TO 'GREASE', DIRECTOR THOUGHT THEY MEANT ANCIENT GREECE The Brooklyn Rail's Tommy Smith posted a Q&A with Lawrence D Cohen yesterday, in which the Carrie screenwriter (and Carrie: The Musical book writer) discusses differences among the three different adaptations he's done of Stephen King's novel. Smith asks Cohen for some details about how seeing a production of the Alban Berg opera Lulu prompted the idea of turning Carrie into a musical.
Rail: How would you articulate that experience? What aspects of that did you use for creating Carrie?
Cohen: Intensity. My partner Michael Gore, the composer, and I walked out of Lulu that night and he looked at me and went, “If Alban Berg were alive today, he’d be writing Lulu for the Met.” And it was one of those “ah-ha” moments where the light bulb went on. And I didn’t say a word. I looked at him. He looked at me. And we started walking up to Café Luxembourg from Lincoln Center, jabbering a mile a minute, with a gazillion ideas. What Carrie had was highly intensified, hugely heightened, operatic-like moments. I like that kind of theater. I really respond to that intensity of performance. Carrie was very weird material to choose to musicalize, until we thought about it and it didn’t seem weird to us at the time, at all.
"THEY WERE DANCING AROUND IN TOGAS DURING THE OPENING GYM SEQUENCE"
Elsewhere, Cohen contrasts the new version of the Carrie musical (potentially "our dream of the piece") with the 1988 version ("It was our nightmare of the piece..."). Cohen is then asked to provide a "Reader's Digest" account of what made the 1988 version so wrong:
We ended up being asked by the Royal Shakespeare Company. They had done Les Mis and were looking for a follow up. Having gone through a lot of really major directors, we ended up being persuaded that Terry Hands was the right match. He had come to New York with two productions with Derek Jacobi—a Cyrano and Much Ado that were brilliant—and he talked a really good game, and we were three smart guys, and when the RSC says we’d like you to be our next production? It was pretty hard to turn our 20-year-plus-old selves to say no to that. It turned out to be a pretty dreadful mistake. Meaning, this director thought when we referred to, in conversation, Grease: The Musical, he thought we were referring to ancient Greece, G-R-E-E-C-E. And they were dancing around in togas during the opening gym sequence. It was deranged. It was like, the ship has sailed, there is no stopping it, other than to kill it, but we had no power to do anything. And Terry was used to working with a lot of dead writers, starting with William Shakespeare. So three feisty guys like us? We gave him notes and they went into the Bermuda Triangle. So as a result, we didn’t recognize the show, other than watching Betty Buckley and Linzi Hateley, who had thrilling, wonderful moments on stage; the rest of the piece was just like being on Mars.
DE PALMA'S MOVIE "HAS THE INCREDIBLE ILLUSION OF FIDELITY" TO THE NOVEL Cohen also gets a bit into the differences between the various versions of Carrie when asked by Smith whether he thinks "the myth of the previous production is contributing to this [new] show":
Cohen: Definitely. It’s to the good and to the bad. The good is that it has kept the show very much alive and mythic—people wanting to do it, people wanting to see it. And that’s great. The bad is that I think that people saw a version of it and that’s what they think the show is. The reality is, the book is the book, and it’s that story. The movie has the incredible [i]llusion of fidelity, but its very different as an adaptation—it stays true to its core value, absolutely, and it has eliminated everything else. The musical was its own 1988 version. And this is another attack at it. They’re all valid to me. They’re just different. One isn’t better or worse. They live as their own thing, which I think is cool.
Rail: It’s a different take on the same structure of this fable of Carrie, and each incarnation has had a reverberation of its own for the time.
Cohen: Utterly right. With this version, what ended up happening was, we got together and had a chat about what we would each like to do, and we were very much on the same page about getting on the horse again, and ready to do it. Because there were so many requests, we wanted to put a version of it out there in the world that we liked, as opposed to one we hated. And it was really in answer to that demand that wasn’t going away. And we felt badly the show we wanted wasn’t there. There’s an audience that’s determined, at whatever cost, they want to see the old Carrie, and they’ve got that in their minds and they know the lines by heart like it’s the Rocky Horror show. There’s nothing to say or do.
1988 'CARRIE' MUSICAL: CLIVE BARNES WAS RIGHT(?) About a month ago, Isn't It Delicious posted a look back at the 1988 version of Carrie: The Musical, placing quotes from some of the rare positive reviews at the top of the page, including this one from the New York Post's Clive Barnes: "Surprise, Surprise! Terry Hands blood, sweat and tears staging of Carrie for his Royal Shakespeare Company works. ...a project that seemed unlikely from the outset, has unexpectedly emerged as a strong, effective and remarkably coherent piece of terrific total theatre." The Newyork Times' Frank Rich is quoted, "...the fiercely concentrated Ms. [Betty] Buckley brings theatrical heat to every slap-happy bout of corporal punishment, every masturbatory hand gesture indicating her sexual repression, and every aria invoking Jesus and Satan." The blog post includes a terrific array of pictures from the production, as well.
Cohen talked to Playbill's Harry Haun about the reviews of the 1988 show, and how they don't exactly reflect the legend of it:
There are a zillion myths concerning the production — partly, I think, because we've chosen not to speak for all these years, and those are the bits that have just gone on. For example: we got a devastating review — a withering review — from Frank Rich in The Times, and people think they were all like that. They weren't.
If you went back and looked at that, Clive Barnes in The Post was every bit as much a rave. We would be running today, had Clive Barnes had his way in terms of the review. The Hollywood Reporter review — if our mothers had written it — couldn't have been better. But, in the myth of the past, all the reviews were terrible.
Gore then explains to Haun the real reason the show closed after five performances: "Because Ken Mandelbaum never chose to interview the authors or anybody who was at the heart of that production, most people don't know that — three performances in — our producer, who was European and not experienced on Broadway, got nervous because he didn't get the [Frank] Rich rave he wanted, closed his bank accounts, then got on a plane to Germany. The reason the show closed after five performances is that there was no payroll to pay anybody. Regardless of the perception — whether audiences didn't like it or the show wasn't doing well — the reality was he left town, there was no money to pay anybody, and it was too difficult — and too late — to find other producers." The article by Haun then gets Cohen's, Gore's, and lyricist Dean Pitchford's collective perspective on what went down:
Carrie got on the wrong track right at the get-go. Because Michael Bennett was a friend, he gave the three creatives some of his rehearsal space at 890 Broadway so they could do a backers' audition — Pitchford directing, Gore playing the piano and Cohen reading the script. "Based on that, all of a sudden, it was moving," Gore says. "We had producers before we had Act Two. It was on a fast track, and the next thing we know — wow! it was up!"
And who can fault them for going with their most prestigious offer? Terry Hands, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, offered the facilities at RSC, his proven skills as a director and, head-turning most of all, $8 million. They said yes!
"It was irresistible as an offer," Cohen recalls. "He had 20 years experience directing and running with Trevor Nunn the RSC, so all three of us were thrilled at being a part of that esteemed company. He also spoke a really good game, and he was very, very smart. Then, we moved into the process of actually putting on the show."
The warning signs came early, according to Gore: "There are so many elements that just have to come together correctly in any play or musical, and we knew it was over when we saw the costumes, which were very abstract and looked like Greece. Not the show — the country. Every area, actually, did not resemble what we had in mind."
Carrie — in the hands of Terry Hands — became an unrecognizable, Anglicized aberration of their original concept. "He had all kinds of classical ideas about how this was to be done, and he decided it was a tragedy in 12 tableaus," Pitchford relays with a discernible grimace.
"Tableaus," Cohen underlines archly, "is a word we no longer use."
"Every day he was just taking out dialogue," Pitchford continues, making a vicious ripping gesture in the air. "The through-sung musical like Phantom of the Opera is very much a British creation — different from American musicals where you stop and talk and then you sing a song and then go back to talking — and Terry's only frame of reference was Phantom, Evita and Les Miz. He wanted to lessen the distance between musical numbers, and they were tumbling one on top of the other, without the story being quite covered. The American musical is a very homegrown kind of animal, and we had a British director who had not grown up in the traditions the three of us had."
"Nor," notes Cohen, "had he gone to an American high school or understood what that was about. The word 'prom' didn't mean the same thing to him that it meant to all of us. It was a chasm. That we spoke English in common was the confusion."
PLAYBILL VIDEO FEATURES SEVERAL SONG CLIPS FROM NEW 'CARRIE' MUSICAL
Meanwhile, film and theatre enthusiast Mark Leonard says he has the ticket stub and Playbill to prove he was at the notorious 1988 show, and recalls the rather passionate standing ovations afterward. "Audience members were practically standing on their chairs," he states. "This thing was getting to some people." Leonard has seen the new version, as well, and says that while it is not perfect, "they mostly pull it off!" He adds, "This subdued production, with standout performances from [Marin] Mazzie and Ranson may not belt a home run. But it’s, at least, a ground-rule double—and decidedly worth your while."
VANITY FAIR: MALE AND FEMALE PERSPECTIVES ON 'CARRIE: THE MUSICAL' Over at Vanity Fair's Hollywood Blog, Bruce Handy (who also says he saw the 1988 version) and Juli Weiner provide male and female perspectives on the new version of Carrie: The Musical. Unfortunately, both perspectives seem to be in agreement that the new show is not very good, although Handy steps out to praise Molly Ranson's performance ("she gave the whole thing a weight it didn’t deserve"). Weiner was surprised at "how much of the dialogue was sung: I’d say there were probably 25 lines of spoken dialogue in the two-hour production. It was essentially an opera." The two bloggers discuss how the songs are not catchy enough to be memorable (but they do provide a sample of the lyrics), which leads them into a discussion of the non-main characters, and the new show's minimalist depiction of Carrie's telekinesis:
Juli: I can’t remember a single melody or hum a few bars of anything. We did scribble down some of the silliest lyrics, though. You had a good one …
Bruce: I did! Although I may have misheard it. After Chris hatches her plot to humiliate Carrie, her boyfriend sings, "You always amaze me, the way that you think/If I was your daddy I’d buy you a drink." At least that's what I heard. I think you heard, “If I was your daddy I’d get you a shrink,” but I think my interpretation is the more authentically Freudian. Did you have a favorite cast member?
Juli: Well, there were so many tiny strings of plot that never went anywhere or tied to anything! My favorite characters were those that had to do with nothing: the popular boy who can’t help himself from making homoerotic comments to his friends, and the Lolita-esque student who tries to seduce her teacher for maybe (?) half a sentence and then is never heard from again. I love these characters for their gratuitousness; their presence is just so extravagant! Who was your favorite character?
Bruce: I liked all the mean students because the actors who unconvincingly played them were so clearly theater nerds who had presumably been picked on in high school and were now acting out their mean-kid fantasies. It was like seeing Curt from Glee play Jack in a Lord of the Flies musical. (Hey, that’s a great idea! They could even use the kill-the-pig song from the original Carrie.) We haven’t talked about the almost non-existent telekinesis, which I remember as sort of the point of any version of Carrie in any medium.
Juli: First of all: “medium”—good pun. Second of all: what telekinesis? You mean that time a chair tipped over, perhaps accidentally, and the lights flashed? How did the original production do it? I was incredulous they dumped red paint on Carrie offstage instead of rigging a bucket to the ceiling! I paid—well, not actually, but theoretically—to see that actress get covered in red paint! (Carrie is really bringing out the mean high-schooler in me, too.)
PAUL ANDERSON JOINS 'PASSION' CAST AND SCREEN DAILY SAYS FILM IS EYEING A 2013 BERLIN FEST PREMIERE
The Daily Mail's Baz Bamigboye reports that yet another member from the cast of Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows has joined Brian De Palma's Passion. Paul Anderson will reteam with his Sherlock co-stars Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace for the De Palma project. Previous reports state that Dominic Cooper and Karoline Herfurth have also been cast. Meanwhile, Screen Daily's Martin Blaney mentioned in an article today about Ascot Elite that De Palma's Passion has "an eye to a premiere at the 2013 Berlinale."
'CARRIE' CONSENSUS: BETTER, BUT TOO TIMID ALTHOUGH FEAR-NET REVIEW SAYS THEY GOT IT RIGHT With the Off Broadway revival of Carrie opening tonight at New York's Lucille Lortel Theatre, the reviews have begun coming in, and the consensus seems to be that the show, while better, is too timid. Betty Buckley suggested as much last week when she called it the "PG-13 version" of the original Broadway show that she appeared in back in 1988. The Hollywood Reporter's David Rooney calls the new show a "well-intentioned but misguided revision" that was perhaps never meant to be a musical. Most of the reviews (which appear to have come from critics who have seen one of the previews in February) so far seem to agree that the show comes alive when it features either of the two main characters, Carrie and her mother, but that none of the other characters make much of an impression. Despite all of this, FearNet's Bradley Steele Harding is enthused by the show, which he says has more of a minimalist approach than the 1988 version. "The main reason that Carrie: the Musical refuses to die," writes Harding, "is that songs created by Gore and Pitchford are so bloody memorable. While there were several pieces in the original that were standouts, some of them simply didn't serve the narrative. Here every song either furthers the action or adds nuance to the characters."
'BONFIRE' SCREENING & DISCUSSION TONIGHT AS PART OF GLOBAL ECONOMIC FILM SERIES AT NEW YORK'S BUFFALO STATE COLLEGE
Brian De Palma's The Bonfire Of The Vanities will screen tonight at New York's Buffalo State College. The screening is part of a film series, "Crisis!", that "explores the global economic crisis." The series runs on select Tuesdays spread throughout the school's spring 2012 semester. There will be a panel discussion following the film, which will include "experts from Buffalo State’s faculty and the community," according to the Burchfield Penney Art Center's web site, which adds, "Audiences can expect a broad spectrum of views, as we aim to stimulate lively discussion and debate." The site further describes tonight's film screening:
In the 1980s, the obscure business of the bond trader suddenly became a new center of economic, political and cultural power. Yuppie financiers fancied themselves “masters of the universe” as their pay, their privileges and their partying reached heights not seen since the 1920s. Yet right up the street from this new zone of excess risk and empowered irresponsibilty, persistent poverty shaped the lives of millions. Tom Hanks, Bruce Willis and Morgan Freeman star in this Hollywood version of Tom Wolfe’s piercing social satire of the excesses of Wall Street’s new era. Or at least its early days.
Upcoming films in the series include three documentaries and a drama: Alex Gibney's Client 9, Charles Ferguson's Inside Job, Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story, and Oliver Stone's Wall Street. Previously this semester, the series screened Orson Welles' Citizen Kane and Alan J. Pakula's Rollover.
'THE ARTIST' DIRECTOR ON 'UNDERWORLD' INFLUENCE AND PENELOPE ANN MILLER BECOMES "AWARD-SEASON MVP" Penelope Ann Miller spent about three days filming her part in Michel Hazanavicius's The Artist, but she was one of the few actresses to show interest in taking a chance on a silent movie by a French director. The film won best picture at tonight's Academy Awards, and Hazananvicius won for best director. What initially drew Miller to the film was the chance to spend time in the world of the 1920s, a period she says she enjoys. Here she is pictured arriving at tonight's Academy Award ceremony in a dress she told the Hollywood Reporter features 1920s elements. To design the dress, she collaborated with Badgley Mischka. It is the first time Miller has ever been to the Oscar ceremony, and The Carpetbagger's Melena Ryzik makes a case for Penelope as the 2012 Award-Season M.V.P. for her tireless promotion of The Artist.
Miller has been out of the spotlight since about the 1990s, the decade in which she appeared in Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way. According to Naughty But Nice Rob, Miller was an '80s "It" girl who now, interestingly, "compares her celebrity during her acting heyday to that of Rachel McAdams today." Miller tells Rob that she stepped away from the limelight to start a family. She also talked to The Insider's Jarett Wieselman about the script for The Artist and how she came to be cast in the film:
Yes, there was a script but it was just, it was more descriptive than dialogue. It really read like a story. Michel [Hazanavicius, writer/director] really did a beautiful job -- it was bound and on each side of the page there were photographs of Berenice [Bejo] and Jean [Dujardin] in period costume, and period locations. It was very picturesque. It was definitely unusual, so I did get this almost hesitant call from my agent saying, "They're making this black and white silent film and it's set in the 20s." That perked me up because I love the 20s, and I asked, "Well, who is in it?" He said, "The two leads are French and the director is French," and I'd never heard of them nor could I pronounce their names [laughs]. And I thought that this was getting more interesting by the minute.
A: My agent, who has a relationship with the casting director, called me. I was interested in at least reading it. There were actors who weren't interested. They're probably kicking themselves right now. There are those of us who are willing to take that leap of risk, who had faith. Obviously, it was a very far-fetched notion. In "Chaplin," you could hear the dialogue. With this, this is like a full-blown silent film.
But I love the '20s. I'm an old movie buff. I'm very nostalgic about old Hollywood. I sort of welcomed the opportunity and thought this could be kind of fun. It definitely could be a real hit or a real miss. If it was a miss, oh well, I can move on.
Q: What was it like to work with director Michel Hazanavicius? He isn't that well-known in the U.S.
A: When I met him, I discovered he'd really done his homework. He had a really strong vision. I told him we both shared the passion for the old movies. He knew how he wanted to film it, what he was doing. He really hired the top of the line to work with him. The cinematographer was the guy he's always worked with. The hair and makeup worked with some real big stars. People on the technical side loved the artistic side of the film. How many opportunities do you get to make a movie like this? It wasn't going to be a huge, long schedule. I took it for the art of it.
HAVANAVICIUS ON SIX SILENT FILMS THAT INSPIRED 'THE ARTIST'
When Havanavicius accepted the best picture award at tonight's Oscar ceremony, he thanked Billy Wilder, Billy Wilder, and Billy Wilder. But back in November, Hazanavicius shared with Indiewire's Eric Kohn notes on six silent films that inspired The Artist. The first of the six listed is Josef von Sternberg's Underworld. Released in 1927, the screenplay for Underworld was written by Ben Hecht, who was awarded the first-ever Academy Award for Best Screenplay for the film. Hecht went on to write the screenplay for Howard Hawks's Scarface, and De Palma's remake of that film is dedicated to Hawks and Hecht. Havanavicius states, "All of Scarface, and even Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, comes from Underworld. The way that director Josef von Sternberg shot women was incredible. It's super-sensual, and really amazing to see a gangster movie as good as anything by Tarantino from this period."
The other five silent films noted by Havanavicius are Tod Browning's The Unknown, F.W. Murnau's Sunrise and City Girl, King Vidor's The Crowd, and Charlie Chaplin's City Lights.
TALENT AGENT RECALLS 'UNTOUCHABLES' LUNCH WITH DE PALMA, CHARLES MARTIN SMITH, & KEVIN COSTNER
After watching Kevin Costner deliver a poignant eulogy last weekend at the funeral of Whitney Houston, talent agent and advisor Danny Allen recalled, in his Newzbreaker column, meeting Costner for the first time on the set of Brian De Palma's The Untouchables. Allen began his career in the 1950s as an agent for Errol Flynn, who later nicknamed Allen "Moxie Man." He first met The Untouchables' Charles Martin Smith on the set of George Lucas' American Graffiti in 1973. In 1980, he did some press work for De Palma on Dressed To Kill. In the passage below, Allen recounts meeting the young upcomer Kevin Costner on the set of The Untouchables, and how upon seeing Allen, De Palma told the crew to take a break so they could all go to lunch...
Charles called me during the late summer of 86 and said, “Moxie Man you must come to the set so you can see some of the acting Kevin Costner is doing, who I think is going to be the next big movie star on the scene.” Coming from “Smitty”, as I called him, an accomplished actor in his own regard, made his comment have merit. I arrived on the day they were shooting the scene in the church between Kevin and Sean Connery, which happens to be one of my favorite scenes in the movie.
When De Palma yelled cut, “Smitty” grabbed Kevin by the arm and raced towards me. We were introduced and Kevin had a firm handshake, and a great sincere smile. “Smitty” like many others, of course, told the Errol Flynn Story and yet another actor, (Costner) was a fan of Errol’s. De Palma saw a group forming and didn’t realize I was on the set. When he came over, he bear hugged me and told his crew, take an hour, we are going to lunch. Off Kevin, “Smitty”, Brian and I went in his limo to eat.
For the next hour, Kevin sat there listening to stories that “Smitty”, Brian and I, shared, all the time, asking great questions and soaking in any and all acting advice we could give. He was very humble, and even offered to pick up the tab, but of course, De Palma wouldn’t allow that. At the end of our lunch, Kevin and I had bonded, exchanging numbers.
For many years after our first meeting, Kevin and I have stayed in touch with him still being that humble person I met some 26 years ago. So when the rest of the world praised his eulogy at Whitney Houston’s funeral last week, I just smiled because the class act that I have known Kevin to be way away from the glaring lights of a movie set, shined through.
'PASSION' CREW GETS TO WORK 'CLOUD ATLAS' TRAINEE ASSISTANT DIRECTOR JUMPS ABOARD DE PALMA PROJECT As Hollywood gears up for the Academy Awards tonight, the cast and crew of Brian De Palma's Passion are gathering in Berlin to get things in order for the ten-week shoot that begins a week from tomorrow. Annika Sell (pictured) interned as a trainee assistant director on Cloud Atlas, the ambitious film directed by Tom Tykwer, Andy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski that was partially filmed in Germany. Sell tweeted this morning that she was heading to work on a beautiful Sunday to begin work on Passion. Sell is an aspiring director who shot a romantic comedy called Sincerely Yours in May of 2010. Before completing that film, however, Sell and producer Jessica Etherington found themselves with various internship opportunities they couldn't pass up, and have not had the time to work on editing Sincerely Yours. Sell has now decided to try and find somebody else to edit her film while she continues with her internships. Best of luck to her.