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a la Mod:

Domino is
a "disarmingly
work that "pushes
us to reexamine our
relationship to images
and their consumption,
not only ethically
but metaphysically"
-Collin Brinkman

De Palma on Domino
"It was not recut.
I was not involved
in the ADR, the
musical recording
sessions, the final
mix or the color
timing of the
final print."

Listen to
Donaggio's full score
for Domino online

De Palma/Lehman
rapport at work
in Snakes

De Palma/Lehman
next novel is Terry

De Palma developing
Catch And Kill,
"a horror movie
based on real things
that have happened
in the news"

Supercut video
of De Palma's films
edited by Carl Rodrigue

Washington Post
review of Keesey book


Exclusive Passion

Brian De Palma
Karoline Herfurth
Leila Rozario


AV Club Review
of Dumas book


« November 2019 »
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De Palma interviewed
in Paris 2002

De Palma discusses
The Black Dahlia 2006


De Palma Community

The Virtuoso
of the 7th Art

The De Palma Touch

The Swan Archives

Carrie...A Fan's Site


No Harm In Charm

Paul Schrader

Alfred Hitchcock
The Master Of Suspense

Alfred Hitchcock Films

Snake Eyes
a la Mod

Mission To Mars
a la Mod

Sergio Leone
and the Infield
Fly Rule

Movie Mags


The Filmmaker Who
Came In From The Cold

Jim Emerson on
Greetings & Hi, Mom!

Scarface: Make Way
For The Bad Guy

The Big Dive
(Blow Out)

Carrie: The Movie

Deborah Shelton
Official Web Site

The Phantom Project

Welcome to the
Offices of Death Records

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Not Just Movies

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So Why This Movie?

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This Recording

Mike's Movie Guide

Every '70s Movie

Dangerous Minds


No Time For
Love, Dr. Jones!

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De Palma a la Mod

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Saturday, November 16, 2019

Yesterday's post about The Black Dahlia reminds me that earlier this year, Armond White mentioned Brian De Palma's film in his review of Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood, which White states "is easily Tarantino’s best film." From National Review:
Movie-actor sympathy is QT’s obtuse version of humanism; his hipster notion of relationships rarely goes beyond clichéd cleverness. The behind-the-scene moments in Once Upon a Time don’t seem as authentic as the early-Sixties sex-and-ambition revue in Warren Beatty’s Rules Don’t Apply, or as insightful as the Hollywood-blacklist parodies in the Coen brothersHail, Caesar! An interlude about the vanity of Bruce Lee (played by Mike Moh) gives the impression that QT forgot exactly what movie he was making; like Jackie Brown, it’s not convincing.

In Jackie Brown, QT was so absorbed in fetishizing Blaxploitation lore and his star Pam Grier (whom he called “the queen of women” the first time I met him) that instead of reexamining the era when his obsessions were born, he updated it poorly, and Grier wasn’t actress enough to reclaim her Foxy Brown crown. In Once Upon a Time, QT exults in a period re-created solely through cultural artifacts: pop songs, TV shows, movie posters, theater marquees, and incessant, maddening radio advertisements. The specter of gruesome real-life tragedy underneath all the Hollywood history and pop effluvia gives him something new: poignancy.

Brian De Palma already made this ambivalence poetic in The Black Dahlia — especially the memorable sequence where the audition of tragic Elizabeth Short (Mia Kirschner) as Scarlett O’Hara distilled her all-American drive and pathos. Despite crude technique, QT reveals his awareness of Hollywood desperation, found in society’s changing sexuality, especially when dealing with the Manson girls. Going back to the Sixties hippie era, QT evokes the cultural differences between middle-class California conservatism (embodied by inside-outsiders Rick and Cliff) and Manson’s dangerously radical counterculture.

These tense, lewd scenes (anchored to Margaret Qualley’s Pussycat, a brazen free-love druggie, Dakota Fanning’s fanatical Squeaky Fromme, and Rick’s meeting with a precocious child star, loaded with pedophiliac undertones) suggest more than Manson’s psychotic influence. QT seems to be getting at a modern crisis. Manson’s maenads — dirty, barefoot examples of Dionysian abandon — provide the most fascinating sequences of QT’s career. A plot digression features Bruce Dern as a blind, wizened, weakened victim of his own lusts as well as of female opportunists, a Harvey Weinstein figure.

At the screening I attended, most of the audience went into quiet shock during QT’s finale, an extended sequence of conventional action-movie moral reckoning. It hit them on another level than the earlier, poorly imitated scenes of mock-TV violence (for a cineaste, QT’s images are surprisingly imprecise). In this riposte to #MeToo diabolism, Tarantino finally finds a social context that challenges his audience. And while the Motion Picture Academy previously rewarded QT for disgracing both the Holocaust and slavery, this might be an even hotter topic, and it needs a better follow-through than his slasher-movie tropes. But, admittedly, this display of cheap revenge is his career highpoint.

Posted by Geoff at 8:45 AM CST
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Friday, November 15, 2019

The Telegraph's Chris Harvey interviewed Jemima Rooper for an article that posted earlier this week:
In 2013, she appeared in a Harvey Weinstein film – One Chance, the true story of Britain’s Got Talent winner Paul Potts. She met the producer but was never alone in a room with him, and has a surprising insight from the shop floor, “Controversially, there's this feeling, when someone who has the power to make careers doesn't really give you a second look, or isn't really bothered about you… it's incredibly annoying. Not that I wanted that kind of attention.

On the first day of filming, she adds, “his PA appeared with a whole load of new costumes and it was all massive high heels, short skirts, basically sexing up the character. I was supposed to be the weird, funny girlfriend… She was sent to do it, to make me feel comfortable about it. If Harvey himself had come along and said, I want you in a miniskirt and high heels, I’d have been, excuse me? Then you hear these awful stories of these girls and because it was probably a woman who said, ‘Harvey really wants to meet with you,’ those women were really sort of complicit in allowing that to happen.”

The moment she found most embarrassing, she says, was when she was cast in Brian De Palma’s 2006 adaptation of James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, with Scarlett Johansson. “I got three scenes in a big movie and one of them was a 1930s porn film with another girl. I was 22… I knew that I was probably going to have to be topless… and when we did the porn element, there was a point when Brian was asking if my pants could come off, and I was like, oh my god, what do I do? When you’re doing a small part, you don’t feel like you can just go, ‘hang on, I need to call my agent.’ You want to be amenable. Luckily, he saw I had two tattoos on my back and said, they’ll take too long to cover with make-up. I was so happy. I’ll probably get tattooed underwear now.”

Posted by Geoff at 7:15 AM CST
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

A week ago, Vulture posted its "Best Movies of 2019 (So Far)" list, and Domino is included. Despite his appreciation for Domino, David Edelstein continues to mistakenly believe that De Palma had a longer cut of the film (last June, De Palma clarified to us here at De Palma A La Mod that Domino "was not recut"). Here's Edelstein's paragraph about Domino:
A thrilling return to form for Brian DePalma — but also under-funded, shorn of nearly half its director’s intended running time, and occasionally ludicrous. The convoluted, right-wing-ish story centers on two Danish cops: Christian (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, between seasons of Game of Thrones) and Alex (Carice van Houten, ditto) on the hunt for a Libyan immigrant (Eriq Ebouaney) who killed Christian’s partner, who was also Alex’s illicit lover. What they don’t know is that the Libyan is being protected by the CIA (led by Guy Pearce), which tacitly approves of his locating, torturing, and killing ISIS operatives to get to the sheikh who murdered his father. What keeps you entranced is De Palma’s pacing. In the key sequences, the action slows to a crawl — proof that the greatest suspense comes from helplessness in a world where you can see what’s coming but can’t think or move fast enough to forestall the horror.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, November 13, 2019 12:09 AM CST
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Monday, November 11, 2019

Posted by Geoff at 11:53 PM CST
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https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/hirschbooksmall.jpg"Paul Hirsch, a master of his craft," Brian De Palma begins in his endorsement of Hirsch's new book, "has written an intelligent, perceptive, compelling memoir of his editing life, from the late '60s through today. From the heights of Star Wars to the depths of Pluto Nash, if you want to know how the sausage is cut, this is the book for you. I should know, I was with him in the beginning and through our misadventure to Mars. Congratulations, Paul, for remembering all the things we forgot."

Hirsch's book was published last week, and Variety's Drew Turney posted a a brief article about it, which included some interview bits with Hirsch:
Filmgoers don’t know the name Paul Hirsch nearly as well as those of Brian De Palma, George Lucas or John Hughes, but after a five-decade career as a film editor, he’s been an integral part of some of the biggest movies ever.

Hirsch says editing is a creative art despite the mechanical specialization of the pre-digital days, and his new book “A Long Time Ago in a Cutting Room Far, Far Away” (Chicago Review Press) makes a powerful case for the influence an editor can have over the creative direction of a film.

The book’s opening paragraph tells a story about how the decision to switch a wide shot to a close-up of the star in one of his early movies (De Palma’s “Obsession”) convinced Columbia Pictures to pick up and distribute the film. “Context is everything,” writes Hirsch, who along with Marsha Lucas and Richard Chew won the editing Oscar in 1978 for the original “Star Wars.” “You can take the most affecting moment of a four-hankie movie and cut it into the middle of a broad comedy, and it will seem absurd.”

But when asked about the theory some have that it’s the editor rather than the director who’s the ultimate author of a film — considering their command over the pace and therefore tone — he’s characteristically humble.

“No, it’s a collaborative thing,” Hirsch says. “I control the pace for a while. There’s a period where I’m acting autonomously. But when the director gets finished with production, we start working together to edit the film to produce the final result. At best, I’d say it’s a co-authorship, but I don’t want to give myself too much credit because I’m in the idea business. Maybe the director accepts my ideas, and I’ve been very fortunate in people endorsing my choices to a great extent, but I still wouldn’t consider myself an author.”

Hirsch likens the process to that of acting, where a performer may do 10 takes of a scene and make a different choice each time, all of it ultimately to give the director raw material.

Never one to do things conventionally, he has avoided the usual creative model where some editors and directors are inextricably linked (Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker, Quentin Tarantino and Sally Menke, Steven Spielberg and Michael Kahn, etc.). He calls such unions “happy marriages,” but says in his book that he prefers to “sleep around,” taking it as a point of pride when directors invite him back.

The book makes readers realize what an unsung art editing is. But Hirsch says his intention in writing it — he’s been scribbling notes for it over the last 18 years — isn’t to teach. “It’s really about explaining what it is to be an editor, what kind of life you have if you’re an editor,” he says. “I’m not really interested in how-to books. My aim was to entertain people, tell them a good story and explain what we do.”

Posted by Geoff at 7:46 AM CST
Updated: Monday, November 11, 2019 7:55 AM CST
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Thursday, November 7, 2019

The Swan Archives shared some intriguing news yesterday about upcoming screenings in San Francisco next month:
The 16th Annual Another Hole in the Head Film Fest, in San Francisco, will be presenting Phantom of Winnipeg (at 7pm) and what we can tell you will be a very special screening of Phantom of the Paradise (at 9pm) on December 7. Our Principal Archivist will be participating in some fashion in both screenings, introducing, or Q/A'ing, or somesuch thing. The venue is the New Peoples Cinema in San Francisco's Japantown, which accommodates about 140 people, so we expect it to sell out, or come very close. A separate ticket is required for each of Paradise and Winnipeg,, and tickets are available here.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Friday, November 8, 2019 12:04 AM CST
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Wednesday, November 6, 2019

In his Bradlands column at Sight & Sound, Brad Stevens has written a perceptively intriguing review of Brian De Palma's Domino. In the article, Stevens takes into account the complicated nature of the film's production, including the post-production (no, it was not recut from some longer edit, but yes, if De Palma had been involved in the post-production process, the colors would look deeper and the film dialogue would likely sound better, etc., etc.).

There is one small issue I have with Stevens' article. Near the end of it, Stevens writes: "When CIA agent Joe Martin (Guy Pearce) arrives on the rooftop, why does Christian suddenly know his name?" Christian knows to be looking out for a man named Joe Martin via Alex, who is in contact with Wold, and is relaying information to Christian. Joe Martin tells Christian that Wold told him he'd be there, and it is left for the viewer to understand that Christian has also been informed of who is coming.

Stevens links this matter with the more intuitive aspect of Ethan in Mission: Impossible figuring out that Jim Phelps' Bible "reveals him to be the pseudonymous mole ‘Job’" -- Stevens adds that the Bible itself "clearly does no such thing." That whole aspect of Mission: Impossible falls within Ethan's personal interpretations of events and what he knows about Jim Phelps, but the matter in Domino is hardly any kind of stretch, as the eliptical scenes of Alex calling Christian as she heads out of the stadium indicate she will be in further contact as she makes her way over to join him.

Otherwise, Stevens presents Domino as a highly intriguing riddle:

When is a film not a film?

If this sounds like the start of a joke, it is appropriate that the punchline should be: when it’s Brian De Palma’s Domino. For what we are dealing with here is a director who has spent much of his career hoodwinking both audiences and characters.

The deceptiveness of De Palma’s films is usually suggested by a sardonic tone, one insinuating that, just as the protagonists cannot be certain of what they saw, so the viewer cannot be sure this thriller or horror movie isn’t deconstructing the very narrative/visual forms in which it is theoretically embedded.

Even by De Palma’s standards, Domino is an oddity, its status as a product – an object which has passed through all those stages befitting a work intended for commercial distribution – being extremely problematic. Shot in various European locations during 2017, Domino completed post-production in 2018 (the year it is copyrighted), enjoyed its first public screenings in 2019, and begins with a caption reading “June 10, 2020”, implying a slightly futuristic setting while making an auteurist connection with De Palma’s Mission to Mars (2000), whose first scene takes place on “June 9, 2020”.

Domino, which like the director’s previous feature Passion (the subject of an earlier Bradlands column) has gone straight to DVD in the UK, arrives accompanied by tales of behind-the-scenes difficulties.

Interviewed at the Fnac des Ternes bookstore in Paris last June, De Palma explained that “It was a very difficult situation, a film that was underfinanced. I was in many hotel rooms waiting for the money so that we could continue shooting. I was in many fabulous cities, waiting in hotel rooms. I was here 100 days in Europe, and shot 30. However, somehow we managed to make a movie out of this completely chaotic production situation, and hopefully you’ll be seeing it in your local cinemas sometime in the future.”

Despite currently being reluctant to discuss Domino, De Palma has denied rumours that the final cut, clocking in at 89 minutes, was shortened against his wishes (an erroneous original running time of 148 minutes has been cited by reviewers), informing the De Palma a la Mod website that “It was not recut. I was not involved in the ADR, the musical recording sessions, the final mix or the colour timing of the final print.”

These remarks would be little more than gossip did they not speak so directly to the experience of viewing the end result. For this is plainly an unfinished film, patched together from whatever materials happened to be available when the money finally ran out.

De Palma is playing his usual Oedipal games in Domino, whose protagonist, Christian Toft (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), is a Danish police officer who uncovers a terrorist cell after being inadvertently responsible for the death of his older partner, Lars Hansen (Søren Malling). Lars is explicitly positioned as a father-figure to Christian (who refers to him as “my sort-of father”), and it is Christian’s clumsiness that causes his father/partner’s death: he ‘forgets’ his own gun, and has to borrow Lars’s, then, after Lars has his throat slit, manages to lose this gun as well, ‘accidentally’ dropping it as he pursues Lars’s assailant. Christian’s inability to retain the symbolic phallus (he is, in a sense, doubly castrated) is thus almost comically overdetermined, the pursuit (a homage to Hitchcock’s Vertigo) having a suitably dreamlike tone.

Needless to say, after ‘accidentally’ killing the father, Christian must complete his Oedipal trajectory by sleeping with the mother. And since Lars’s wife Hanne (Paprika Steen) is not a viable object for Christian’s desires (she is too obviously ‘the mother’), the film is obliged to provide an alternative in the form of Lars’s young lover Alexandra Boe (Carice van Houten), who, it turns out, is pregnant by Lars. The emergence of an amorous/sexual relationship between Christian and Alexandra is guaranteed not only by the Oedipus Complex, but also by the demands of the narrative, romance being unavoidable in a movie which has two attractive male/female leads investigating a crime together. Yet this romance never actually happens, presumably because De Palma was prevented from shooting scenes relating to it.

There are echoes here of De Palma’s Mission: Impossible (1996), in which Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) must kill his own “sort-of father” Jim Phelps (Jon Voight) after having sex with the symbolic father’s much younger wife, Claire (Emmanuelle Béart). And while there is no ambiguity about Ethan’s having slept with Claire (indeed, this proves to be part of Jim’s scheme), the film remains surprisingly coy on this matter, fading to black after Claire kisses Ethan’s hand. That this act of displaced incest has been ‘repressed’ is all the more striking in that De Palma shot footage showing Ethan and Claire making love, some of which turned up in the trailer (see frame grab below).

Of course, repression is hardly a concept incompatible with Freudian theory, and if evidence of the Oedipal crime is obscured in Mission: Impossible, it is entirely absent from Domino due to an ‘accident’ of production. And as all good Freudians know, there is no such thing as an accident.

Domino proves to be doubly illusory, uniting its protagonist, who keeps ‘accidentally’ losing his phallus/gun, with its director, who ‘accidentally’ loses crucial parts of his film. And this illusion is passed on to the viewer, who had every reason to believe she was watching a completed work.

Domino (a title which, appropriately enough, is meaningless) thus has less in common with De Palma’s earlier output than it does with that version of Erich von Stroheim’s abandoned Queen Kelly (1931) assembled in 1985, juxtaposing fragments of Stroheim’s footage (including stills from lost sequences) with intertitles covering vast acres of scripted material that never went before the camera. Reviewing this for the Monthly Film Bulletin (September 1985), Richard Combs noted a shot of an ocean liner which “lasts several seconds – an eternity, it seems, given the information it conveys, compared to the flurry of titles and stills which have just tucked away so many dramatic developments and reversals in a twinkling”. For Combs, these a-rhythms, “the narrative disappearing after doing busy little mountains of work”, recalled the cinematic practises of Straub-Huillet.

Something of this quality is discernible in Domino’s finale. Despite containing several typical De Palma set pieces in which events that might have occupied a few seconds in ‘reality’ are stretched to breaking point, the film concludes with a brief rooftop scene wherein multiple plot developments are breathtakingly piled on top of each other with no concern for logic, plausibility or consistency. This scene obviously had to be shot hurriedly and at little expense in order to provide some kind of climax, the effect being both absurd and oddly disturbing, as if the film’s primary motivation were to finish unreeling before it could embarrass itself any further.

Which is to say that it does ‘accidentally’, and by contraction, what De Palma’s set pieces (themselves often simultaneously absurd and disturbing) do ‘deliberately’, by expansion. Even random details which, in the absence of those presumably unrealised sequences that might have explained them, make no sense have their antecedents in De Palma’s previous mischievously misleading films, whose main principle of construction would appear to be the aporia. When CIA agent Joe Martin (Guy Pearce) arrives on the rooftop, why does Christian suddenly know his name? One might as well ask why Mission: Impossible demands that the Bible Jim Phelps has stolen reveals him to be the pseudonymous mole ‘Job’ when it clearly does no such thing.

Although the director’s admirers have found little to praise in Domino, this film maudit might appeal to those who usually reject De Palma’s oeuvre as excessively controlled, too micro-managed for anything unplanned to seep in. It even evokes memories of Jacques Rivette’s Out 1 (1971), in which stories and identities are subjected to a process of infinite improvisational expansion that can only end with a return to point zero.

Like so much of De Palma, Domino makes us question the nature of cinematic illusionism, forcing us to ask what purpose images serve beyond the conveying of narrative data which is their ostensible reason for being. That it does this inadvertently is precisely the reason for its fascination.

Posted by Geoff at 7:56 AM CST
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Sunday, November 3, 2019
https://www.angelfire.com/de/palma/jillandal.jpgIn an article about Martin Scorsese's The Irishman at GMA News Online, Al Pacino is asked by Janet Susan R. Nepales about his relationship with Robert De Niro:
The names Al Pacino and Robert De Niro have been mentioned in the same sentence over the years to define a generation of actors. Can you talk about your relationship? He told us there are things that he can discuss with you but can’t discuss with other people because you are in a similar situation.

Really? (Laughs) No, I’m joking. Of course, I met him when he was a young man; we were in our mid-20’s. I met him on 14th Street — I was living on 14th Street between Avenue B and C at the time with my wonderful girlfriend, who was Jill Clayburgh, who’s passed on.

So we were very close, we were together many years and she knew Robert from Sarah Lawrence and they worked together in films with Brian De Palma. I met him on the street, and I was introduced to him. I’ll never forget it. I thought when I met him that he was an interesting guy.

I even said to her, who is this guy? Interesting guy. He exuded a sort of thing, I didn’t even understand it but I felt it. She said, oh he’s a great actor, I worked with him. Then I remember him. Something happened in the course of our lives that brought us together but probably was because we happened at the same time, unknown until I guess ’69, ’70, something like that.

Then our careers started paralleling and we were compared to each other, etc. There was a lot of stuff about all that. We would meet from time to time in the course of it. Probably it was a little different back then when you became famous, it was not something that was talked about much or readily accessible. We were caught off guard so to speak, that what happens to you when you get in that position. There’s a period of adjustment.

Bob and I would occasionally meet and we would talk about it, about what was happening to us. That gave us a bond that we’ve kept throughout. I feel toward Bob like a brother and I trust him. I have Bob to thank for getting this part. This was his idea. This whole project was. He got Marty and got me with Marty, who I had never worked with before. So that’s the kind of thing we have and the kind of person he is.

Posted by Geoff at 11:59 PM CST
Updated: Monday, November 4, 2019 12:06 AM CST
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Saturday, November 2, 2019


Posted by Geoff at 5:14 PM CDT
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Friday, November 1, 2019

"On Halloween 45 years ago," begins Billboard's Katherine Turman in an article posted yesterday, "director Brian De Palma's comedic/horror/rock opera Phantom of the Paradise landed in theaters. It was a commercial and critical failure at the time, but the film's sardonic take on the music biz made it a cult favorite, thanks in no small part to the stellar 10-song soundtrack from Paul Williams, who portrayed the film's Faustian industry mogul, Swan, while also lending his singing voice to the titular phantom.

"Phantom proved unexpectedly influential on generations of musicians -- Daft Punk have reportedly seen it together more than 20 times -- and is now beloved by obsessive fans of all ages. The 1974 movie was director/writer De Palma's eighth (two years before Carrie), and the story uses elements of Faust, The Picture of Dorian Gray and the Phantom of the Opera to weave a torrid tale, as the original tagline goes, of a composer who 'sold his soul for rock 'n' roll.'"

Turman interviewed Williams for the article. Here's an excerpt:

Was Jessica Harper cast when you were writing the songs? Did you know you'd be writing for her specifically?

No, I was writing the songs in advance of her being cast. But there is a moment in the film that is kind of a recreation of how she was cast in the film, because we were casting, listening to girl singers in New York. Brian had already read Jessica, I guess. The song that I had everybody sing for the audition was "Superstar" [the Bonnie & Delaney song that was a hit for the Carpenters]. I thought it was a beautiful song, and it was probably close to the mood of what I was hoping "Old Souls" would be when it was sung.

I'm walking by Jessica, and she's singing to herself, 'Long ago and oh so far away…' And then she came in to audition for Brian and I, and she sang, 'Long ago and oh so far' in a Broadway voice. At least that's the way I'm remembering it. I think I said to her, 'Sing it to yourself.' And when she did, it was indicative of how brilliant the performance would be when she actually did it on film.

Was it true that she beat out Linda Ronstadt for the part?

I think that Linda Ronstadt was someone that Brian looked at. I think that his concern was probably because Linda was so brilliant, probably the fame would get in the way. None of us in the film were really, really famous at that point.

When you first started working on this, did you have the whole script in front of you?

Yes, and it's interesting, because I didn't have a copy of that script, and I just got an email from a former manager who's still a really good friend. He said, 'I just found a bunch of stuff of yours that I wanna give back to you, including the Phantom of the Fillmore,' which was the original script. So that'll be interesting to look at that.

But the story changed, and I think it became more and more reflective of the kind of news as entertainment. I've said this many times, but my favorite line and I think the heart of the picture is 'an assassination live on coast-to-coast television -- that's entertainment.' I think the turning point was in the original script, Beef was killed in the shower. The idea of having the Phantom just threaten Beef and then actually having him killed onstage [happened]. The kids are seeing so much theatrical violence, and Brian made a point of making that theatrical violence look obviously theatrical. You see the foamy head, you see all the strings and all. But it's wonderful. That leap in the story where the kids see a real murder and they think it's part of the show, I think, is maybe the most powerful message in the film.

How did you decide what scenes needed music? Was that between you and Brian?

It evolved. I was wonderfully comfortable and confident with my road band. And they got it. So the first big change was that I said, "Brian, instead of using, for example, Sha Na Na, I'd like to see the same band evolve through all these characters from the Beach Boys to the '50s Sha Na Na kind of thing to the music of the spheres" or whatever. But I think that the content of the songs, I was always pretty much given that task.

Are there any songs that didn't make it into the movie?

I think the only one really was "The Hell of It," which we used it for the intro. "The Hell of It" originally was a graveyard scene when Beef is being buried. You see the open grave and the casket above the grave, and you notice, you see a microphone, so you follow the cables back to a hearse that has a recording board inside, and Swan is in there recording the funeral live on Death Records. And I actually did a little thing at the end of the song that I wanted to have. Brian said, "Let's have the people kinda doing a little circular dance around the coffin, and then as the coffin is lowered into the ground, have a little girl run forward and start tapping on it, auditioning for Swan." That's what inspired the kind of [Godfather composer] Nino Rota, "da da da da…" Very Nino Rota, I hope.

And the best part of the job, too, [was] to be able to satirize the kinds of music that I loved. I was writing all these codependent anthems and 'ouch, Mommy' songs, but I was loving the music that was coming out of Laurel Canyon, you know. I loved the Beach Boys; there were so many different kinds of music that I loved and was able to satirize them.

I'm really, really pleased with the movie, and I'm overwhelmed at the way it's grown through the years. The big philosophical/spiritual lesson, I suppose, is don't write something off as a failure too quickly.

The lyrics to "The Hell of It" have always killed me, because they're so brutal: "Though your music lingers on, all of us are glad you're gone." It's so mean!

Thank you. I'm thrilled to hear you say so. It seems to me I should've written songs for Despicable Me, just based on that. I'm sure you'll let them know. [laughs]

You mentioned that maybe Phil Spector was an influence for your character. Did you base Swan on anyone in particular?

It was on the page. For the songs, probably one of the biggest mistakes I think that hit songwriters try to do is when they sit down and work on a musical, they try to write hit songs. I don't think that was ever anything -- if it was in my mind, it got shoved to the side. To me, the task is to advance the plot and tell the audience who the characters are and lead them to the emotions you want them to feel.

Do you have a favorite song on the soundtrack?

It just shocks me that it hasn't been recorded -- I think "Old Souls" will always be my favorite. I think that Jessica's performance is so brilliant, and I would love to someday see that song… If the things we dwell on are the things that we create, co-creators are our future. I'm gonna have to add that one to the mix, just go, "You know what? Wouldn't it be lovely to see Jessica Harper have a huge hit record right now with 'Old Souls'?" I don't know if it would get any better than that. But yeah, I think that the elements of high romance and the concept of past lives is powerfully presented in that song, and especially in her performance.

It struck me when I re-watched POTP in the era of #MeToo, there were the casting couch scenes and references to a "f-g." Would that be in if the film was made now?

Well, I think if you wanted an example of somebody disgusting, somebody that is reflective of the character of the boss -- it's a classic example of trickle-down obscenities and all. I don't know if it would be made right now. I think that the fact that the casting couch, essentially rape, scene that is in the film and is quote/unquote "funny" is not funny at all. And it's a character element and who Philbin is and what the operation of Swanage and everything that goes on. Like that moment in the back of the limousine is as equally unsettling as that "We'll go to Swanage and celebrate." And of course, the only thing Swan enjoys more than taking somebody else's woman is having that person watch. For a [cuddly] little guy, we did take it to a really awful place.

I saw the film first when I was 12 or so, and I thought the scene Jessica and Swan in bed was the height of romance, which shows where I was then!

Well, oddly enough, I think part of the success with young girls that age is Swan is incredibly androgynous and he's scary and powerful and all those things, but I don't know if physically I was ever threatening at all. I'm shocked when somebody says that my character scared them, and I was like, really? Really?

Someone told me Donovan Leitch was trying to get a live stage version of Phantom of the Paradise going some years ago. Is anything like that happening now?

You know, what we do is we talk about it regularly, so there can be one thing that I can respond like a hamster when you drop a carrot in the cage! It runs over and starts chewing on the carrot; I run over and start chewing on the idea. It would be lovely to see this happen before I'm room temperature. I actually wrote some additional songs, and it's one of those things that may happen someday. There have been some challenges, and I think we're getting… I'm very Jiminy Cricket about my world and all, so magical thinking totally works for me. So I will say that it's something that I think will probably happen within the next few years.

Did you write those additional songs just because you were inspired in the moment, or—

No, we were actually working on it at the time, and I'm not sure what happened, because somebody else was using my body at that time [i.e., under the influence]. In other words, I'm talking about writing a few additional songs 30 years ago. So I would have to examine all of that again. But in the meantime, the phone keeps ringing. I don't chase any of it. I get up in the morning, and I say, "Lead me where you need me." Which sounds very idyllic, but that's how I live my life. It's endless surprises, and I couldn't be more grateful.

Posted by Geoff at 7:52 AM CDT
Updated: Saturday, November 2, 2019 8:47 AM CDT
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