IN NEW VIDEO, PATRICK WILLEMS DELVES INTO WHY THIS "MOST DIFFICULT SHOT" MATTERS
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In 1987 the editors of CIAK, the Italian film monthly, proposed that I write a weekly newsletter about everything that was happening in Hollywood movies, plus film reviews and interviews with actors and directors, as their Los Angeles Correspondent. I held this position until 1994.
The first article published, interviews about “The Untouchables” with director Brian De Palma and star Kevin Costner, run as an 8-page cover story. (c) CIAK September 1987
The new episode of TCM's The Plot Thickens: The Devil's Candy delves into that opening steadicam shot of The Bonfire Of The Vanities. The episode is titled "Wire Without a Net," after a chapter in Julie Salamon's book, and features new interviews with Larry McConkey, Aimee Morris (DeBaun), and Chris Soldo, as well as voices from Salamon's original tapes: Melanie Griffith, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Tom Wolfe.
Production designer Richard Sylbert and the McCoy apartment on Stage 25 of the Warner Bros. lot. Copyright © 1991 Warner Bros., Inc.
Episode 2: Reaching for the Stars – and Paying the Price
Tom Hanks signs on to play amoral stockbroker Sherman McCoy, and he’s so beloved that nobody recognizes how wrong he is for the part. There's immediate pushback against Bruce Willis as the other male lead, since his role was written as British. But the hardest decision comes when the director insists that a Jewish judge be played by a Black actor, to soften the film’s racial tensions.
On how Salamon got invited to the set …
JULIE SALAMON: I was working as a film critic back then. [Brian De Palma and I] met. We’d meet from time to time when he was in New York to talk about movies, and I had told him that I was interested in doing this kind of a book, similar to what Lillian Ross had done with Picture many years before in the ‘50s, following John Huston around. And when he signed on to do Bonfire, he thought that might be a good movie to do it on, and you know he was a little bit of a bomb thrower. He kind of like to rustle feathers in Hollywood, and I guess he thought I would be the person to do it. You know, obviously I think he might have thought differently if he would have known how the movie was going to end up, but without him, it wouldn’t have happened.
On what Salamon’s access ultimately inspired …
BEN MANKIEWICZ: She didn’t just have access. It’s what she did with the access. Like, other people have had access and bungled it or created something ordinary, so I mean part of the reason that we talk about this movie is because of what Julie did with it. And I’m not just trying… She already likes me, I think.
SALAMON: It’s true.
MANKIEWICZ: But I think that’s really critically important. … If [all] Hollywood directors and producers take away from The Devil’s Candy is that, oh, we can’t grant access like that, they’re missing the point. Then this would just be a blockbuster movie that disappointed. Now there’s an interesting story around it. … I think the lesson ought to be that it ought to happen more. …
SALAMON: Obviously there are gossipy elements to it, but for me I love seeing how things work and the organism. And making a movie is just such a huge, complicated enterprise — and to have access to all of it. And the truth is I was as interested in the sound guy that used coconuts to make the sound of horses’ hooves going as the movie stars. It was just riveting for me.
On whether Bonfire could ever be adapted into a successful movie …
SALAMON: Tom Wolfe said it right from the get-go. He always described his books as this series of slices of life, and interestingly enough, I’m sure that if somebody had been wanting to adapt it today, they would have done it as a limited series for television, which it’s probably more suited to because then you can really delve into all those individual characters. … I was actually on some kind of panel a few weeks ago, a podcast, where they were talking about The Bonfire of the Vanities, and that book itself has become a hot potato in a different way now because of all of the racial stuff in it that just today would be much harder to adapt for all kinds of sensitivities. Even though I think Tom Wolfe was doing a satire, I think it would be extremely difficult to adapt today for probably the same reasons that it was difficult to adapt 30 years ago, but with a 2021 variation on it. So, yeah, I think the book itself was really tough. On the other hand, I think it would make a terrific miniseries with all these great character actors playing those roles.
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