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Signing on to make the movie “was the easy part,” De Niro says. Then came the hard part. There’s a certain level of pressure that comes with playing a historical character, especially one who has achieved such mythic stature in the collective imagination as Capone. Researching the part, the Oscar winner read a book (likely My Years With Capone: Jack Woodford and Al Capone) that gave him crucial insight about the legendary gangster. “It was supposedly written by a young kid, a piano-player, a prep school-type kid,” De Niro recalls. “Capone would take him around as kind of, I felt, maybe as a chronicler of his exploits, and he played at one of his speakeasies.”
To physically recreate Capone, De Niro says he watched footage of the gangster and “tried to gain as much weight as I could and shave my head more so I could look as round as I could in the time that I had to prepare for it.”
As for Ness, “I remember checking on him and his life — and it wasn’t as rosy as people might want to think,” Costner admits. “But the truth is, you’re stuck inside the lines of something that’s written… I understood history of him, but I really was having to play this character.” From there, “what we were trying to do was get the clothes right, because we had a really good script.”
And such clothes! The cast’s sharp Prohibition-era suits are credited to Armani (though costume designer Marilyn Vance reportedly took issue with the designer’s credit). “I wasn’t even familiar with Armani, that shows you what a country bumpkin I was,” Costner says. De Niro remembers another piece of the mise-en-scene fondly: “There was a barber’s chair that I wish I had held onto. I think they paid $5,000 for it at the time,” he recalls. (He spends the film’s opening scene in it). “It was a great chair. I’m sorry I didn’t get it.”
Behind the Scenes
A $5,000 mosaic-covered barber chair is the least of it when you look more closely at Capone’s opulent surroundings, which provide stark contrast to the grimy streets and modest apartments occupied by the Ness’ Untouchables throughout the film. Capone is mostly kept in such lavish settings as the Lexington Hotel, where he lived, or the opera, and only comes face-to-face with Ness in two scenes: First in the lobby of the Lexington, and then again at the very end, in the courtroom where he is found guilty of tax evasion.
“I had trouble with some of the scenes with [De Niro], because my character was very straight-arrow, and Robert was able to jump off the page,” Costner remembers. “I was trying to survive with my straight-arrow language against someone who was throwing a level of street language at me that had a level of improv to it. So it was hard for me to survive in some of those scenes, and Sean talked to me a little bit about it.”
Malone and Ness’ mentor-mentee relationship “was very real” between the actors playing them, Costner says, and the dynamic among all the Untouchables “couldn’t have been better,” according to Connery. “All the actors were very experienced and professional. Everybody played an important element in the film.” (Costars on Ness’ team included Charles Martin Smith and Andy Garcia.)
Costner also says he felt “in sync” with De Palma, whose Scarface had come out four years prior. “Brian was so open for ideas and suggestions,” Connery added. “Working with him was everything that I expected.”
De Niro had worked with the filmmaker years before, when both were at the very beginning of their careers, on 1968’s Greetings, 1969’s The Wedding Party, and 1970’s Hi, Mom! “This was a different type of thing altogether than [what] we did when we were young,” he says of The Untouchables, adding that, “Brian’s style of shooting was helpful. He’s a good director with actors.”
“Violent, Violent Men”
“I’ve always not appreciated when [violence] wasn’t handled right in movies,” Costner says. “Violence is vulgar, and a lot of times there’s not a lot of ballet to it. The Untouchables was about a violent time and violent, violent men.”
It certainly was. “The essence of the movie [was] about street violence,” Connery writes — and his character understood that better than anyone. The actor counts an early scene between Malone and Ness — “not in particular because I suggested it” — among his favorites. Hiding in a church, the old cop gives the naïve G-man a master class in justice, Chicago-style.
“You want to get Capone? Here’s how you get him,” Malone instructs Ness. “He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way, and that’s how you get Capone.”
Later, after intercepting a booze shipment at the Canadian border with some Mountie assistance, Malone savagely murders an already-dead body to scare one of Capone’s men, oblivious that the victim was already a corpse, into talking. “I do not approve of your methods!” the horrified Mountie captain exclaims. “Yeah? Well, you’re not from Chicago,” Ness replies. And so, the student has become the master.
“It was all about expectancy,” Connery says of the shocking moment. “The scene was very realistic and quite vicious if I must say. Very creative to say the least.”
Another memorable demonstration of brutality comes from De Niro’s Capone after Ness’ first successful alcohol raid. Gathering all of his top cronies for an extravagant meal, he delivers a speech about the importance of teamwork, likening his crew to a baseball team — and one unnamed member to a showboating player.
“Sunny day, the stands are full of fans,” he muses. “What does he have to say? ‘I’m goin’ out there for myself. But I get nowhere, unless the team wins.’”
As his cigar-chomping cohorts murmur their agreement, he takes a baseball bat to the head of the guy who let him down.
“It’s a touching scene,” De Niro says when asked about the horrific sequence. “I’m joking.”
“The baseball [scene] is a memorable one — whether good or bad, but it was memorable,” he says, more seriously. “The rhythm of the dialogue in that one especially is so specific that you really have to know it so that it will work.”
However, The Untouchables’ biggest showstopping “ballet of death,” as Costner calls it, might be the Battleship Potemkin-inspired train station gunfight in which Ness and George Stone (Garcia) engage in a shootout with some of Capone’s men across a wide staircase — as a baby carriage rolls down the steps the whole time.
Costner remembers pestering De Palma with constant questions about the rest of the players in the complicated sequence. “Constantly, when the camera would fall on me, I would say, ‘Now, is that guy still alive to my left or to my right?’” he recalls. “And he was like, ‘Which guy? I’m on you right now.’ I said, ‘I understand, but I’ve got to know: Has that guy already been shot? Or is there another one coming? Or is there somebody over here?’ Brian would look at me and I said, ‘I need to act that. If [Ness is] going to survive, that means he has to have a sixth sense about where people are.’”
He also made a point of never shooting his gun more times than it would realistically have had bullets, and then reloading after he did. “It drove Brian a little crazy, but then he actually came to love it,” Costner says. “He was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ and I said, ‘Well, I’ve already shot [all my bullets]. Why don’t you make sure that you tie some drama up in this boring part that you call reloading?’”
If you come into Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables expecting a history lesson, well, that’s your fault. In no way is this an accurate portrayal of treasury officer Eliot Ness and his showdown with the volcanic, tax-evading sociopath mobster Al Capone; what it is is a magnificent cops and robbers fable whose romanticism has only grown more endearing over the last thirty years.
With the razor-sharp, melodramatic score from the incomparable maestro Ennio Morricone, tapping into a certain urgency when needed, the prickly screenplay from the master, David Mamet, the slick cinematography, terrific suspense, and a cast who seemed to be born for their respective roles at the time, The Untouchables whisks along on its substantial merits, leaving all historical accuracy behind in lieu of a rich bit of pulp storytelling that makes it one of the best of all gangster films. And in 1987, this sort of story felt alien.
The mid 80s was a bit of a void for the gangster genre. Save for De Palma’s other gangster opus, Scarface in 1983, the genre had seen a significant ebb in the midst of Reagan’s “Morning in America” hedonism. A look back at the crooks and thieves of America’s past wasn’t in vogue, and The Untouchables represented a distant era of the country that hadn’t been explored during the decade. But De Palma delivered the goods, and his film was noticed; and as the decades tick away, the idiosyncratic style De Palma employs here has become both a relic and a flashpoint of a certain type of crime drama we may never see again...
...For all its pomp and circumstance at the time, The Untouchables has managed to sing even louder and sharper in this, it’s thirtieth year. It has all the familiar De Palma style flourishes, but remains a classic tale of cops and crooks, told less as a true story and more as a fable of pulp fiction, handed down through generations of kids who remember Eliot Ness wiping the streets clean of crime during the prohibition. De Palma captures the mysticism of these unflappable lawmen, dedicated to justice and unflinching in the face of danger. The purity of this story feels wholly unfamiliar when compared to the De Palma catalogue, full of rogues and murderers. But he manages to hit all the right beats to romanticize a bygone era in both cinema and American history.
De Palma’s action set pieces still work beautifully, for all their flaws. The shootout at the Canada border, the showdown between Ness and Frank Nitti (Billy Drago) on the rooftop, the Battleship Potemkin homage on the staircase in Grand Central and, most tragically, Nitti’s visit to Malone’s apartment… they all sing with the terrific choreography of a master at the top of his craft.
The immediate play would be to compare The Untouchables to the classic gangster films. How does it stack up against the likes of White Heat? The Godfather? Goodfellas? Maybe it isn’t as seamless or classic as some of the best of the genre – and for my money Carlito’s Way is the better De Palma entry into this field – but something about The Untouchables feels more timeless than just about any of the greats. Perhaps it’s the effervescent approach to the story, or Mamet’s killer words, or the impeccable casting that give the film a timeless quality. Whatever the case, the story has only gotten more potent and more captivating over the last thirty years.
It’s often the case that biopic films are judged by their adherence to the facts of the actual stories on which they are based. It would then stand to reason that the more accurate the filmic depiction, the better the movie. Right? Not necessarily. While creative license is often met with resistance, sometimes biopics benefit tremendously from veering heavily away from historical veracity.
Case in point, Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables.
One would presume that the story of a legendarily irreproachable squad of law enforcement officers taking on one of the most notorious villains in American history would warrant no creative tinkering to sell to audiences. However, the 1987 movie takes a Tommy gun to the facts of Elliott Ness’ crusading squadron and the adversarial nature of his relationship with Capone. And thank goodness it does.
The actual story of The Untouchables is, cinematically speaking, as interesting as reading the language of the Volstead Act itself. There were no violent acts of retribution perpetrated by Capone against Ness’ men. Capone never went after Ness’ family, and in fact, Ness had no children during the years he pursued Capone. This would completely negate the scenes of Nitti outside Ness’ home as well as the moment wherein the mother of the little girl killed in the prologue instills confidence in Ness with her teary-eyed affirmation, “it’s because I know that you have children too.” In fact, the scene wherein Ness expels from his office a Capone agent attempting to bribe him represents the entirety of Capone’s nefarious tactics for dealing with the troublesome lawman.
Drama requires conflict; the more heated and personal that conflict, the more compelling the drama. Robert De Niro and Kevin Costner screaming at each other in a courtroom while Capone’s goons hold the mobster back from starting a full-on brawl, that’s dramatically viable. Less so is the fact that historically Capone and Ness were never actually in the same room with one another at any point in their lives. Frank Nitti being thrown off a roof by a vengeful Elliott Ness, incredibly dramatic! The real Frank Nitti killing himself on a railroad track–missing with the first shot to his own head–is more sad than dramatic.
Most importantly, The Untouchables crafts a bonafide boy scout out of Elliott Ness, aforementioned roof-tossing of Nitti aside. In reality, Ness was a troubled individual whose crusades beyond bootlegging included prosecuting anyone who had contracted a venereal disease. He had several failed marriages and ended up drinking himself penniless with several visits to brothels along the way. This suggests a man far more morally conflicted than the spit-polished hero of the film. Although we watch him wrestle with crossing the line in multiple scenes, there is always the sense of a greater good being pursued. Almost as a nod to his real-life, morally gray personal life, the last line of The Untouchables is Ness answering a question as to what he would do if Prohibition were repealed with, “I think I’ll have a drink.”
There are valid reasons to deride factual revision for the sake of entertainment, but when a filmmaker is concerned with the legend of a historical figure more than the textbook facts, it creates multiple perspectives by which to evaluate that figure’s worth. It also has the potential, as in the case of The Untouchables, to make for a far more thrilling cinematic experience.
All joking aside, there’s no denying how vital Morricone is to De Palma’s gangster epic. From the thudding main titles to the sweeping end credits, his Grammy Award-winning score rarely leaves a frame of the picture, glossing over the historical Chicago scenery, beefing up the undulating tension, and making every onscreen relationship feel palpable. That latter notion is by far the most important facet to his score, as the story’s success is paramount to whether or not you love the characters. If you do, you’re likely on the edge of your seat, hoping and praying that heroes like Malone and Stone make it out alive. If you don’t, well, De Palma’s blatant homage to Old Hollywood may come off a little too schmaltzy and cartoonish for your tastes. That’s how Ebert felt.
“De Palma’s Untouchables, like the TV series that inspired it, depends more on clichés than on artistic invention,” the late critic argued three decades ago for the Chicago Sun-Times. To his credit, he’s not wrong. The film leans heavily on clichés, but that’s kind of the point, as De Palma takes these familiar tropes to prey upon your emotions. Ness isn’t anything but The Good Cop out to “do some good” just as Capone isn’t anything but the big baddie who wants to see everyone “DEAD!” Arguably, the only face with any actual nuance is Connery, who, alongside De Niro, was the only true veteran of the bunch and had the chops to rise above David Mamet’s surprisingly mild screenplay. Though, unlike De Niro, he wasn’t fulfilling the hype of a major historical figure and wasn’t required to be a larger-than-life caricature, so he had a little more agency in front of the camera.
Morricone factored into all of this by carving out a score that gave a heart and muscle to De Palma and Mamet’s familiar archetypes. His compositions for The Untouchables are large and vibrant, gushing with all sorts of angst, swagger, and gusto. Take Capone’s theme, for instance, which thunders along with ragtime piano, boozy brass, and velveteen strings. It’s boisterous and over the top, but so is De Niro’s performance, and the ebbs and flows of Morricone’s instrumentation paint the scenery with broad strokes that actually wind up doing a lot of the heavy lifting for Scorsese’s prizefighter. The same treatment occurs for Costner’s Ness, namely his lonely plight as an unpopular Prohibition agent. Morricone’s “Death Theme”, which is without a doubt one of the composer’s most beautiful works to date, adds an unshakable weight to the officer’s violent quest. His ironclad determination in fighting for truth and justice is signified by the lone saxophone that pines at the solitude and loss that comes with such a fate.
As the film burns through its 119-minute runtime, Morricone’s themes quickly become signifiers, and that extends not only to the characters but their heroics and villainy. Maudlin flute watches over the Ness family, bass and drums belong to the mob, and brass lifts our four Untouchables far above the skylines of Chicago. These signifiers elevate a number of key scenes — the entire shootout on the Canadian border; Malone’s heart-wrenching, gory demise; and Ness’ cat-and-mouse rooftop chase with Frank Nitti — making Morricone more or less responsible for the strongest feelings one might draw from the film, whether it’s awe and wonder or suspense and remorse. The greatest example of this is at the very end, when Ness returns to his office to clean out his desk and finds a photo of his colleagues, two of whom are now deceased. Almost instantly, Morricone swoops in to catch us, tearfully uncorking all of those feelings we’ve been reserving for the film’s four untouchable heroes.
Even when he strays, Morricone never stumbles, and that much is obvious during the film’s climactic shootout at Union Station, aka The Baby Carriage Scene. Dubbed “Machine Gun Lullaby”, his composition for this sequence welds the sounds of a baby mobile to his more traditional brass and strings. It’s an unorthodox move that some may consider too on the nose, especially given how many shots De Palma supplies of the goddamn carriage. But, and this may be a reach (just roll with it), this juxtaposition is a brilliant subversion. Because in addition to turning the whole situation into a hazy nightmare, it also adds a certain gravitas to Ness’ psyche. If you recall, his whole charade against Capone truly started, at least narratively speaking, following an emotional run-in with the grieving mother of the little girl who died in the film’s opening. It was she who lit the fire under his shoes — Ness is also a parent, mind you — so it’s rather poetic the film would come full circle and place the life of another child in Ness’ hands.
It's thirty years old, but seems even older. Reviewing The Untouchables today could make you think of a "badly-aged" movie, but that is not the case. Because the film already had a classic aftertaste at the end of the 1980s, impregnated as it was with rhythms, images, words and characters referring to a bygone movie era. Deliberately close to the imagination of the old noir, De Palma draws a city often emptied, desolate, dominated by the shadows of its characters. It seems like a purgatory in Chicago, full of silhouette in the darkness, inhabited by men of action and women waiting for the return of their hero home. In clear opposition, immediate, absolutely Manichaean struggle between good and bad, then we find the epic tale of the western, a genre also available from the retro soundtrack by Ennio Morricone and some shots as tight close-ups, directing the gaze of the characters. If the American cinema of those years exalted the hypertrophic power of the lonely, individualist hero capable of sufficing for himself (Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger are the two highest representatives), De Palma rediscovers the pleasure of the group alchemy between complementary characters and men joined in risking everything in order to respond to their moral integrity. Men of other times, like their movie.
Four police chiefs, three district attorneys, a wad of grand juries couldn't bring Al Capone down. It took a green government graysuit named Eliot Ness to put him away. That irony buttresses this old-fashioned, well-crafted black hats vs. white hats shootout.
Paramount's going to have to hire more armored cars to transport The Untouchables' considerable box-office booty to its already teeming [Beverly Hills] Cop  vaults.
Straightforward and crisp, The Untouchables is a classically structured good-guy/bad-guy epic, pitting the square, wet-behind-the-ears Treasury agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) vs. America's most notorious, ruthless and powerful Prohibition-time gangster, Al Capone (Robert De Niro).
While overtly melodramatic, The Untouchables is a perceptive and hard-driven actioner. It's an intriguing character confrontation, loaded with ironies, both personal and social — on one side, the flamboyantly powerful gangster whose booze smuggling made him a popular hero amid a Prohibition-weary public; on the other side, a faceless outsider whose straitlaced, insistent dedication threatened to overturn the town's well-oiled troughs.
As Eliot Ness, Kevin Costner plays it tight to the vest. Those who recall Robert Stack's superbly confident portrayal and hail-hearty voice in the TV series may be initially turned off by this interpretation. But to Costner's considerable credit, he defers to the staid traits of character throughout; ultimately, it is these small, relentlessly Sunday School qualities that make his ultimate victory against the seemingly invincible Capone believable — the tortoise vs. the hare.
Throughout, the scrupulous Ness is nevertheless shrewd enough to surround himself with a trusted yet unorthodox team. Sean Connery as a wizened Irish beat cop, Charles Martin Smith as an eager beaver accountant, and Andy Garcia as a fearless rookie cop round out Ness' team of “Untouchables” — men who are most out of orbit in Capone's bloody Chicago universe.
The Untouchables' most entertaining scenes, unquestionably, center around these superb supporting characters; Connery and Smith, in particular, both make the most of their juicy roles. As Al Capone, Robert De Niro is mesmerizingly intimidating — characteristically, De Niro gained 30 pounds for the role, had his hairline altered, acquired a scar. One instant he's a populist-styled protector, the next, a rapacious killer — De Niro makes these instant transitions frighteningly believable. When he's on the screen, wide-eyed and smiling, your instinct is to duck and cover.
Also deserving praise on the bad guy's side is Billy Drago as the psycho, trigger-happy Frank Nitti — his mean and vicious glint is razor sharp.
Despite one excessively showy and laughable slo-mo, Potemkin-like scene — Ness wipes out a horde of thugs while rescuing a cascading baby carriage — director Brian De Palma brings The Untouchables in tight and true, in the spirit of Ness himself. Unlike Scarface, no one is likely to claim that this film's considerable violence is gratuitous.
Technical credits, like the supporting character portrayals, are well realized and particular. Marilyn Vance's costumes, from the luridly vivid gangster regalia to Ness' Sears-style graywear, are starkly expressive. Meticulous details, contrasting further the character consistencies, are evident throughout in the production design — credit visual consultant Patrizia von Brandenstein for the expressive period nuances. Ennio Morricone's astringent score, featuring a harsh and lyrical trumpet blend, is wonderfully piercing, the perfect sounds for this well-contrasted film.
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.
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.”
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.
Here are links and excerpts from some of the reviews:
Over-symbolic, the film descends into a completely sterile sexy-chic bad trip that is dreadfully threadbare. A haphazard amalgamation of Polanski’s neurotic cinema, De Palma’s twisted voyeurism and Cronenberg’s freak shows, L’Amant Double is an ersatz 80's movie corseted by the auteur of the 2000s. That is to say, in fact, a crazy film that looks at itself, always more theoretical than dynamic and embodied. Thus, Ozon unfolds his little supposedly perverse and eloquent program without ever succeeding in getting his salutary ideas and bad taste off the ground to anything other than an intellectual device. The intra-vaginal plane that opens the film is surprising. One smiles, one settles for the roller-coaster. But in the second, Ozon is mired in a worn-out metaphor, a nerdy symbolism that sees the vagina turn into an eye of the heroine - a heavy nod to the Story of the Eye of George Bataille, an essential work on eroticism. And the whole film works thus, in a painful back and forth between a falsely provocative (but rather funny) first degree and an over-intellectualization that ruins all pleasure. A hysterical film, L’Amant Double then becomes a frigid film that never succeeds in enjoying and making its audience enjoy its supposed excess. In vain multiply the effects and push the taboo, we remain impassive in front of a film devoid of intensity that looks more like Fifty Shades Of Grey than Body Double. Where De Palma embraces bad taste, nourishes him with his obsessions and his romanticism, Ozon makes a film brain where excess is only a clinical sign, a metaphor to decode. Disembodied, the film painstakingly follows its specifications, accumulates the clichés on the fantasy representation of female sexuality and sloughs in a climax that falls flat. Above all, and perhaps the most unpleasant, the film does not go anywhere, merely packing his little mystery in a long awaited resolution that finally extinguishes the fire that could have gushed out. Too bad, because the nagging disorder at the heart of this dual story, combined with the rather amusing performance of Jérémie Rénier, could have given, with a little more letting go and inventions, a thriller more shaking and endearing than this pale copy of a pupil too wise.
The films of François Ozon operate on a heightened plane that should really be called the Ozon Layer – a realm of thin air, light heads and giddy views where the French provocateur has carved his niche. His latest, which drew screeches of delight from critics at the Cannes Film Festival last night, is an erotic thriller based on the Joyce Carol Oates novel Lives of the Twins, in which an initially sexually inhibited psychiatric patient (Marine Vacth) embarks on simultaneous affairs with her therapist (Jérémie Renier) and his twin brother (Jérémie Renier again, with his hair combed differently), who is also a therapist. Shiveringly sexy and slippery as satin, with its tongue stuck everywhere including its cheek, it’s like the wildest Frasier episode they never made, and hits all the parts – sometimes literally – the Fifty Shades of Grey films couldn’t hope to reach.
Before going further, it’s worth a cautionary word about what can only be described (even though it follows a brief prologue) as the film’s opening shot, which involves a certain female body part, an engaged speculum, and one of the most jaw-dropping camera pull-back-and-reveals in cinema history. The pale pink part in question belongs to Chloe (Vacth), an ex-model whose persistent stomach pains since puberty have baffled medics, so she enlists a therapist called Paul (Renier) to get to their possibly psychological root.
In their first session he’s clearly smitten within minutes of her breathy monologuing – as, in all likelihood, will be half the audience. Like her schoolgirl nymphet in Ozon’s 2013 film Jeune et Jolie, Vacth’s role here is a stock male fantasy character – the beautiful but frigid woman who just needs a good you-know-what – which she and the director go on to teasingly turn on its head. Wearing androgynous jumpers and sharp trouser suits and with her hair in a boyish crop, Chloe by no means conforms to the sugar, spice and all things nice template, and her sex scenes have an androgynous quality which the script goes on to push to ever-kinkier heights.
It begins with Chloe’s discovery of Paul’s estranged twin brother Louis, who runs a rival psychiatric practice across town – and who carries out his “applied techniques” on a fur-covered bed in his clinic, for €150 a session (she pays him). Unorthodox they may be, but they’re also undeniably effective: poor old Paul, who’s long since transitioned from medical caregiver to live-in boyfriend, can hardly compete. During one orgasmic gasp, Ozon’s camera slips between Chloe’s parted lips like an endoscope, before rushing through her insides to reveal various membranes appreciatively fluttering.
This arrangement isn’t exactly viable in the long term, but Paul and Louis are both harbouring secrets that make it extra shaky – and as Chloe pries into their pasts, she senses her own life may be at risk. (The film’s French title, L’Amant Double, The Double Lover, is a pun on L’Agent Double, The Double Agent.) Mirror images are everywhere: there’s barely a room in the film without a reflective surface somewhere, and Ozon stages his scenes so that characters seem to fracture into multiple versions of themselves before coalescing with a turn of the camera. During the therapy sequences, mirrors and split screens are deployed to make consultations look whisperingly intimate, shortening the space between his characters until they’re close enough to kiss – while a scene on a spiral staircase looks like a Saul Bass hallucination in architectural form.
Ozon’s Alfred Hitchcock influences have never been hard to spot. His previous film, Frantz, was an elegant rethinking of Vertigo in postwar Europe. But here he tears his shirt off and goes full Brian De Palma, with sinuous tracking shots, shattering glass and mad narrative gambits in which the lines between reality and illusion are deviously blurred, and certain objects are piled up with absurd degrees of metaphorical significance: just wait for the stuff with the cats. During one showpiece sex scene involving multiple partners, Chloe unfolds down the middle like a Rorschach print, all the better to simultaneously satisfy all participants. It’s a fantasy not of sexual satisfaction but sexual accomplishment, and perhaps no director other than Ozon would have the imagination and panache to carry it off.
But if many of the movies at this year’s Cannes struck a somber or thoughtful chord, there was joy to be found too. In Francois Ozon’s rapturously twisted, Brian De Palma-style thriller Amant Double, a young woman suffering from possibly psychosomatic stomach pains (Marie Vacth) falls in love with her therapist (Jeremie Renier), whose secret life draws her into a web of deceit and kinky sex. Yet more proof, should you need it, that the French really know how to live.
You would think, then, that there would be few taboos left to shock a Cannes audience, but at tonight’s screening of the new film from French director Francois Ozon, L’Amant Double, there was one nude moment so audacious that the press gasped, laughed, and ultimately applauded. The entirety of L’Amant Double is pretty sex-soaked — Ozon basically channels Brian De Palma as he tracks troubled Chloe (Marine Vacth), who’s carrying on some awfully explicit affairs with twin psychiatrists (both of whom are played by Jérémie Renier, who’s game to make out with himself and get pegged) — and Ozon signals his gleeful intent with the very first shot after the opening credits.
That shot, dear reader, is a close-up of Chloe’s vagina spread open by a speculum.
Now, it’s always a little startling when you’re greeted with surprise vagina so early into a movie, and if you’re used to comparatively tame American films, it’s certainly novel to see that female orifice projected onto an IMAX-size screen as the whole audience gasps and titters. Still, even though I’m a gay man, I’d like to think I’m a veteran of surprise vagina at Cannes: Just last year at the festival, a tender lovemaking sequence in Staying Vertical suddenly smash cut to a baby’s head messily protruding from a woman in labor. (And that, kids, is how I met your mother.)
What I’m saying is, while L’Amant Double’s lovingly photographed close-up of a vagina certainly sent a jolt through the audience, it wasn’t just the vagina that made this moment an instant classic. It’s what Ozon did next that sealed the deal: The director match cut from one oval shape to another, dissolving from Chloe’s vagina to a shot of Chloe’s eye, the folds of skin around each matching up almost exactly. And then, just as the audience thought to themselves, He really did that, huh? Ozon took things one step further: A single fucking tear fell out of the eye.
It was so ridiculous, so earnest, and so beyond the beyond that the audience had to applaud. That is a serious chutzpah cut, to match a woman’s spread vagina with her crying eyeball, and I can’t imagine the level of commitment it requires to script such a thing, let alone to explain it to your actors, shoot it, and not laugh every single day in postproduction. I would say Ozon has some serious balls, but I’m not sure that’s the right anatomical metaphor to use when we’re discussing a scene with surprise vagina.
You’ve got to hand it to a film which takes a speculum-eye shot of a cervical examination as one of its opening images. Like Elle last year, and playing almost in the same timeslot, Francois Ozon’s Amant Double is gleefully flashy, trashy fun. Paying homage to Brian De Palma — and, indeed Elle’s director Paul Verhoeven - it was a big surprise from a director whose last film was the sober and mysterious black-and-white World War I drama Frantz. And it’s such good fun to see a Ozon, who also wrote, enjoying himself like this, even if the film verges towards the hilariously lurid with its stuffed cats and sidelong glances. (Jury president Pedro Almodovar might have glimpsed some of his own influence at play here, in particular Cannes competitors Broken Embraces or The Skin I Live In. All roads lead back to Hitchcock, of course).
Body doubles, shattered glass and jagged mirrors are Ozon’s currency in this story of an emotionally unstable woman (Marine Vacth) who forms a relationship with her therapist (Jeremie Renier) and discovers he has a violent twin brother with whom she also becomes sexually entangled. It’s all rather salacious and determinedly frivolous, moving from cervix to strap-on in a most agile fashion. Renier is smooth in both parts, Vacth is riveting, if a little bug-eyed on occasion, Jacqueline Bisset lends gravitas.
At this point in the festival, when spirits are flagging and sleep is but a fond memory, a dose of unadulterated craziness is required to see critics through the final stretch. Step forward François Ozon. After a few attempts at mainstream success, he’s reverted to his craziest, most sexually charged instincts with L’Amant Double – which is basically Dead Ringers by way of Brian De Palma, with a dash of Rosemary’s Baby thrown in for good measure.
Beginning with a match cut so outrageous it prompted a round of applause, Ozon settles into the story of Chloé (Marine Vacth), a woman who starts attending therapy in the hope of curing the pains in her stomach. Her therapist Paul (Jérémie Renier) is so handsome, though, that they soon end up violating the ethical code of conduct, in several different rooms and positions. Along with Chloé’s sassy cat, they move into an apartment together, and all is apparent bliss – until she begins to visit a different therapist, who looks an awful lot like her beau… He’s also played by Renier, and he’s revealed to be Paul’s twin brother. Representing two different sides of masculinity, Chloé obviously starts screwing them both, while trying to uncover the reason behind their animosity towards each other.
And that’s just the start of it. Overripe and ridiculous, L’Amant Double is so filled to the brim with pure cinematic imagery and knowing irony, with innuendo and gleeful violations of taste, that it’s hard to resist its barrage of hilarious filth. Cats, mirrors and foetuses are mixed into a heady brew of double-crossing and sex – so much sex, including a memorable sequence involving “pegging”. (If you don’t know it, look it up in private.)
De Palma’s name has been mentioned once, but it demands to be summoned several times over, so clear is this film’s purpose in pushing the boundaries of taste in the name of not-so-guilty entertainment. It’s nonsense, of course – while based on a short story by Joyce Carol Oates, Ozon has only a passing interest in the identity issues of twins, instead devoting his time to titillating, shocking and amusing his audience. It might suffer outside the festival environment, but it’s almost certainly the most fun this critic’s had at Cannes so far.
"Loosely based" on the Joyce Carol Oates novel Lives of the Twins (written under the pseudonym Rosamond Smith), this gloriously trashy, shamelessly derivative mashup of David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers, Brian De Palma's Sisters and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby should have no problem finding an audience in European and North American art houses. Its reception in France's psychoanalytic and psychiatric circles may be less assured; the film is like a feature-length PSA against Gallic shrinks.
The story opens with Chloe (Marine Vacth of Ozon's Young & Beautiful), a quintessential Parisian beauty of 25, whom we see glowering into the camera as she gets her hair cut; the resulting pixie 'do recalls Mia Farrow's Rosemary, just the first in Ozon's giddy parade of cinephilic winks and nods. We then find Chloe in a gynecologist's examining room, where the doctor tells her that the abdominal pains she's been suffering from are surely anxiety- or depression-related. Chloe asks for a psych referral: "I think I'm ready," she says rather gravely.
Cue her first appointment with Dr. Paul Meyer (Dardenne brothers regular Jeremie Renier), a blond, boyishly handsome therapist whose sweater-and-spectacles look is as reassuring as his professional manner. Chloe immediately takes to their sessions, certain moments of which Ozon presents via split-screen placing the two characters in an intimate face-to-face formation. "When I see you, I feel like I exist," Chloe confides at one appointment, noting that her melancholy and ennui — as well as her stomach symptoms — have lifted.
While its grasp of human nature (especially that of the fairer sex) seems hopelessly dated, L’amant double nostalgically evokes such naïve psychological thrillers as Spellbound and Basic Instinct, suggesting some kind of mutant love child hatched between Alfred Hitchcock and Paul Verhoeven, though its fingerprints are undeniably Ozon’s.
The director announces his outré intentions from the get-go, opening with the unfamiliar sight of a gynecological exam, an extreme closeup of which fills the screen: pink, moist, and distorted just enough that it takes a moment to register what we’re looking at. By match-cutting from this ultra-intimate POV to that of a blinking eye turned sideways, Ozon intends to shock — although Lars Von Trier got there first, in Nymphomaniac, a movie whose playful perversity may well have made this project possible.
This peekaboo moment belongs to a 25-year-old ex-model named Chloe, who complains of stomach aches (to extend the Nymophomiac connection, she’s played by Vacth, who looks like Stacy Martin, and sounds like Charlotte Gainsbourg). Her doctor advises that she see a shrink, and so the timid young lady finds herself in the office of Dr. Paul Meyer (Renier), a tweedy, somewhat conservative therapist who listens quietly while she seductively over-shares. Ozon has fun with these sessions, framing them via split-screens and other Brian De Palma-esque visual tricks that serve either to double the characters, or else to push them in closer to one another, till they appear as familiar as lovers.
“What the hell am I looking at?” That’s the question most viewers will likely ask themselves during the opening moments of François Ozon’s (Swimming Pool) latest film. Following the opening credits sequence, in which a severe young woman’s face is revealed as her bangs are snipped away from over her face, Ozon cuts to an extreme close-up of something pink and fleshy and soft as gauze. Is it the soft tissue of a human brain? The camera begins to zoom out. The inside lining of an open mouth? The camera zooms out even further, until… the young woman’s clitoris comes into focus at the top of the frame, as do the gynecological devices that are prying her vagina open.
It’s a hilariously explicit way of starting a movie, even before Ozon punctuates the moment with a match-cut to the girl’s eyeball, cementing the relationship between her sex and her psychology.
Welcome to L’amant Double (The Double Lover), a fitfully amusing erotic thriller in which nothing is what it seems, anything could happen, and everything is at least a little ridiculous. Much sillier than anything Ozon has made before — it unfolds like an overcorrection to the prolific French filmmaker’s staid and serious Frantz — but still lubricated with his usual psychosexual Euro-sleaze, this kinky story of jealousy and obsession feels like it’s been genetically engineered from the D.N.A. of Dead Ringers and Possession with a little bit of Brian De Palma thrown in for good measure. Or maybe it’s just the horniest movie that Alfred Hitchcock never made? Or maybe there’s simply no precedent to a Cannes Competition film in which someone yells “Just get your fetus out of here before I kill you!”
Nothing here is supposed to be taken all that seriously and Ozon cheerfully piles on the weird: a quirky neighbour (Myriam Boyer) with a stuffed cat lurks next door and Jacqueline Bisset shows up though who she is will remain unclear until the end. Brian De Palma is an obvious influence and through him Alfred Hitchcock, though Ozon has credited a Joyce Carol Oates short story as his direct inspiration for L'Amant Double's story.
François Ozon can always be trusted to shake things up a bit at a film festival. During last year’s Telluride, his gorgeous, black-and-white period melodrama Frantz became a sleeper, word-of-mouth hit among festival-goers. It’s hard to believe the same artist is behind L’Amant Double, which charged the audience with a jolt of energy on top of the festival’s final weekend after more than a week of mostly heavy and serious competition titles. A sexy, deliciously silly and twisty thriller that laughs in the face of commonplace reason and ecstatically dials up its weirdness at every plot turn, Ozon’s film was a welcome reminder of the possibilities of cinema and its ability to fiendishly pull the rug from under a viewer. Everyone in Cannes was mesmerized by the presence of Twin Peaks at the festival, but those who mostly prioritized the competition section titles got a generous taste of Lynch with toppings reminiscent of Hitchcock and De Palma in L’Amant Double.
Opening with the most outlandish match cut of the festival – a gynaecological, frame-filling close up of a vagina that transitions into a weeping eye – François Ozon’s psychosexual thriller L’amant Double (The Double Lover) starts silly, and only gets more outrageous from there. Like De Palma directing Joe Eszterhas, it’s a film without a subtle bone in its immaculately sculpted body and, in its own self-consciously trashy way, is great fun.
L’Amant Double (Grade: B) is delirious premium trash, like Brian De Palma or Paul Verhoeven remaking Dead Ringers from the Geneviève Bujold character’s perspective. It’s ludicrous, sleazy, and silly—perhaps better suited to the beach down the street from the Palais, tucked within the pages of a paperback you purchased in the Nice airport, than in the theater itself. But Ozon stages it with a slumming Hitchcockian verve, and I confess that its pulp pleasures were just what the doctor ordered this late into the festival. The programmers knew what they were doing saving it for the homestretch.
Loading up Brian De Palma, David Cronenberg and Roman Polanski on three jukebox machines, and pressing play on all at the same time while running around the room with his pants down, Francois Ozon serves up L’Amant Double on a soiled platter. The provocative Frenchman is having a lot of fun with his new sexy thriller, and while you may hear some deriding it for its uncouth treatment of the central female character, or calling it sensationalist trash, you can still join Ozon’s party by putting your convictions and politics on the side and let the film surprise you with its eye-widening shocks and pitch-black humor. And besides, it is sensationalist trash and that’s OK. It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a twisted riff on the age-old doubles motif (the French title literally translates to Double Lovers) and a lavish spectacle of style.
Within the first few seconds, Ozon already divides half the audience. An opening (emphasis on opening) that signals the film’s shameless attitude towards sex introduces us to distraught and stressed out 25-year-old Chloe, played by Marine Vacth (who previously starred in Ozon’s Young and Beautiful). Her stomach pains are diagnosed as a psychological symptom and she gets referred to psychoanalyst Paul (Jeremie Renier) to find out what’s really going on. We learn about Chloe’s lonely life: she doesn’t have many friends, lives alone with her cat Milo (reprising his role from Elle, apparently), is an only child, doesn’t have contact with her parents, and only recently just got a job. This job of hers becomes an outlet for Ozon, cinematographer Manu Dacosse and set designer Sylvie Olive to give L’Amant Double a chillingly absurd look. She’s a part-time security guard at a post-modern museum of Lynchian proportions; disturbing images of organs and installations of twisted trees, among other oddities, abound in this otherwise synthetically-white space. As Paul says at one point: charming.
After a few sessions, which Ozon’s screenplay rushes through with a montage of quasi-split screens and perplexing angles, patient and therapist fall in love. “When you look at me like that,” she says, “I feel I exist.” The meshing of identity is, of course, the film’s central theme and Ozon frantically uses all sorts of techniques with image to present it visually and pump the film with extra pulp. They move in together in a new condo (on the 13th floor, naturally), Chloe meets her new nosy neighbor who’s her own breed of cat person, and then, one day, she sees Paul talking to a woman on the street. Paranoia sets in, the stomach pains return, and with Paul in full denial, she does some investigating. The man she saw is, in fact, Louis (also played by Renier), Paul’s mysterious alpha-twin who is also a psychoanalyst but a much more virile one.
That’s when L’Amant Double switches gears and goes to full-on berserker mode, so divulging anything else from the plot would be taking away half the fun. Not knowing what’s going to happen next is one of the film’s greatest advantages; Ozon creates wrought tension in the atmosphere as the unreliable and fragile Chloe seems to be reacting more than acting to situations. Spiraling down the rabbit hole, our Alice is seen through a cracked looking glass throughout most of the film. The mirror is the primary visual motif here, often magnifying and duplicating Chloe in a visual language that immediately recalls De Palma’s affinity for playing with reflection. Adding to the unhinged atmosphere is Vacth’s unrefined and seductive performance; she never seems calm and truly at peace, as if something from within is looking to rip out of her skin at any given moment. Philippe Rombi’s sinister score metamorphoses L’Amant Double into a horror film somewhere around the middle mark, once the danger gets closer to the front door, and our suspicions of Chloe’s depersonalized state continue to rise while the laughs continue to pile up.
Borrowing heavily from films like Sisters, Obsession, Rosemary’s Baby and Dead Ringers, Ozon’s film has the appropriately sleazy touch of camp and bat-shit wonky direction to become a cult twin-thriller. The cinematic trickery on display – lurid dissolves, off-kilter juxtapositions, and bizarre dance numbers bouncing around Chloe’s brittle mindscape – compensates for the skin-deep thematics, and keep the rhythm of the film popping. As the shocking twists and ludicrous scenarios escalate, the tale twists towards a satisfying conclusion, and the lascivious tone becomes more and more humorous as the film’s thrifty pace slinks along. Ozon even manages to accelerate the momentum of the film’s most powerful animal motif – cats are tied into the film’s fabric of sex, twins, voyeurism and horror in a surreal and fundamentally creative way.
Ozon’s twin leitmotif recalls the obsessive erotic thrillers of Brian De Palma, a garbled barrage of doppelganger red herrings which casts doubt on Chloe’s psychological state. The possibility we’re merely existing in the mire of her repressed sexual fantasies is always hovering on the periphery. But if De Palma comes to mind, so does a slew of other 70s era genre stalwarts, and Amant Double seems to have been influenced by the body horror of Cronenberg, most obviously Dead Ringers (1988) and The Brood (1979).
The opening sequence of L'amant doublé, the return of François Ozon to the Cannes competition after presenting Young and Beautiful in 2013, is already a declaration of intentions: a close-up of a vaginal cytology that warns that this is going to be anything but an accommodating film. Almost as a tribute to the master Brian De Palma - both the early, Sisters (1973) and the late, Femme Fatale (2002) - the Ozon film delves into the high voltage psychological thriller, following the steps of a young woman (Marine Vacth, with a haircut reminiscent of Mia Farrow in Rosemary's Baby (1968)) caught between two men who are also twin brothers (and psychiatrists). With David Cronenberg's Dead Ringers (1988) as the most direct point of reference, Ozon has become a pirate, taking the dimensions of the girl's nightmare and his own discourse (recycled from many titles before) to a visceral level on the fragile and perfidious balance that exists between the strong brother and the weak brother in a pair of twins.
Martin met De Palma and William Finley at Columbia University in 1960, when the three of them participated in the Columbia Players' annual varsity show. Martin had a bit part, while Finley had the lead in A Little Bit Different. Martin told Justin Humphreys, author of Interviews Too Shocking To Print!, that De Palma was acting at that time, but not really "an actor"-- "he was one of the producers-- he was around." Martin and De Palma became roommates, and when Martin returned from a summer break, De Palma and Finley had also become close friends. While Finley still lived at home, the three of them hung out together often, with De Palma "always the centerpiece," according to Martin.
De Palma and Martin would spend most of their time, however, at Sarah Lawrence College, where, along with Finley, they appeared in Wilford Leach's production of Jean Giraudoux's Ondine. According to Humphreys, "Finley played an old man, Martin played the lead, a knight, and De Palma played various roles. De Palma's then-girlfriend, Kristina Callahan, played Ondine. Finley, as usual, also designed some of the sets." The show was a "major success," states Humphreys, and they followed it up over the next year with two more: The Italian Straw Hat, and A Soldier's Tale.
Of course, when De Palma began making films, Martin and Finley were usually involved. De Palma has said that Martin appeared in several of his short films, including Woton's Wake (1962). In that film, Martin appears holding a candelabra "and leading the procession in this mock Dolce Vita scene"...
Martin also appears in Woton near the climax, wearing a helmet and peering up at Finley's Woton, mock-King Kong:
In 1963, De Palma and Finley were groomsmen at Martin's wedding, and that event was the basis for The Wedding Party (1964-65), De Palma's first feature (officially "A Film by" Brian De Palma, Cynthia Munroe, who put up the money, and Wilford Leach). Martin plays one of the wedding guests in that film, but he would go on to star as an independent film director in De Palma's Murder a la Mod (1967).
In 2016, Martin co-directed The Congressman with Bob Mrazek. "Bob is producer, co-director, fund raiser, post-production supervisor and chief cook and bottle washer," Martin told Portland Monthly. "The production company that made the film was created by him, just as the actual story has parallels in his life. As a former five-term representative from Long Island, he knew the practical and emotional core of the main character, Charlie Winship. The moods and pulls, the waiting in airports, the strain on normal relationships, the devastating effect on more intimate relationships. He experienced the emotional triage that comes with ignoring something important in order to pursue something essential. The Congressman was basically his story and could not have been written by anyone else.
When asked if De Palma had seen the film, Martin said, "We matriculated at Columbia but spent more time at Sarah Lawrence in Bronxville which had a fully outfitted film and theater department plus female actors hard to come by at Columbia. We made a series of short films. He directed, I acted. My directing came later. We worked with primitive equipment like a crank reel Bolex with a 100-foot magazine and reflector boards. From the start Brian gathered special talent around him such as Bob DeNiro, Jill Clayburgh and William Finley. Brian saw and liked The Congressman, thought it was well filmed and solidly acted. At that time we were getting a lot of over-the-top advice from folks in Hollywood who wanted to see more explosions and love scenes. Brian advised us to believe in what we’d done, cautioning us that everyone in the business wants to load you down with ideas that never seemed to work for them when they made their films. Words like this from a famous director helped steady the ship at an important time in post-production."
"Wind River marks Sheridan’s first time behind the camera for a major feature – and it’s a confident debut. The Sicario and Hell or High Water scribe clearly understands what it takes to produce a muscular, gripping thriller. The story is raw, upsetting and socially astute. Sheridan offers a glimpse into the fringes of the American West, where ordinary people struggle to live among their barren surroundings, and where the Native American population is often plagued with crime, drug abuse, unemployment and discrimination. Any online searches on the Wind River reservation reveals a plethora of gloomy news articles and reports...
...If Sheridan continues with films of this calibre, he could certainly grow into the next Brian De Palma or Denis Villeneuve. A talent to watch."
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: 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.
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]
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Directed by Brian De Palma (Mission: Impossible, Scarface, The Untouchables), DOMINO stars Nicolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones, Oblivion, The Other Woman) and six time Emmy® award nominee Christina Hendricks (Drive, The Neon Demon, Mad Men), is written by Petter Skavlan (Kon-Tiki, Sophie’s World) and produced by Peter Garde and Michel Schønnemann.
In this fast-paced thriller, legendary director Brian De Palma weaves a multi-national tale about Christian (Coster-Waldau), a Copenhagen police officer seeking justice for his partner’s murder by a mysterious man called Imran. In a world wracked by terror and suspicion, Christian and Alex (Hendricks), a fellow cop and his late partner’s mistress, embark on a mission to hunt Imran down, but are unwittingly caught in a cat and mouse chase with a duplicitous CIA agent who is using Imran as a pawn to trap ISIS members. Soon Christian and Alex are racing against the clock – not only seeking revenge, but to save their own lives. From the frosty cities of Scandinavia to the sun-drenched landscapes of Spain, De Palma sets up a spectacular battle of multiple opposing forces and leaves the audience breathless until the climactic moment when we learn who will be the last person to survive.