De Palma a la Mod (Page 4)
Brought to you by

Discuss De Palma's work
at the
Directed By Brian De Palma

Femme Fatale

Return to
Home Page
News Page #2, 3, 5, 6
a la MOD

More Femme Fatale news:

Scorsese surprised by
solitude of filmmaking

"We used to have a filmmakers' club,
so to speak; it was me, Brian De Palma,
Steven Spielberg and Paul Schrader. It
wasn't a real club, but we did frequently see
each other. As time progresses, I get more and
more reclusive from seeing anyone. I've really
been just locking myself away reading a
great deal. I don't really go out at all. I only
see one or two friends, really. I just go into my
editing room. I also have a little screening room
and I stay there alone pretty much. Maybe that's
the only similarity that I see with Hughes."

NASA Researchers Claim
Evidence of Present
Life on Mars

Scorsese showed 16mm print
of Hell's Angels to pals
at his house in 1975

Steven Spielberg, John Milius,
Roy Scheider, and Brian De Palma

"It generated a strong reaction
in all of us."

"Milius felt impelled to give a speech.
'This it is the type of film that we would
have to do', he said emphatically. It really
enchanted Spielberg. We knew that the
dialogue scenes had their problems and
that the actors were perhaps
not well-directed."

Opening of Berlin Fest
reminds Spanish critic of
the opening of De Palma's
Femme Fatale

Ex-Mobster Minucci testifies:
"Robert Blake said, 'I want
the guy in 'Carlito's Way' —
that's the guy I want.'"

25 years after Mariel Boatlift,
it's time to put aside the Tony
Montana stereotypes and set
these Cuban refugees free

Armond White:
"It's been easy to forget
De Niro's comic background in
Brian De Palma's early counterculture
comedies. His recent presence in
lesser Billy Crystal comedies
confirms that the notion of
the counterculture has
been erased."

Armond White on Hi, Mom!
'De Palma's first masterpiece'

"More than three decades later, it
is evident that Hi, Mom!'s self-
reflexive visual style and anarchic
humor were not a fluke. This movie
announced the beginning of a major
film sensibility and today it looks
smarter and funnier than any current
movie that passes for social comedy."

Review of The Wedding Party
at DVD Talk

Latino Review has script
review for Carlito's Way prequel

More 'Behind the Scenes'
at Monsters and Critics

Submission forms and films
submitted to Edinburgh Film
Fest in 1972 unearthed

Films by De Palma (Hi, Mom!),
Stone, Verhoeven, Demme

New essay at

'Building a Better Bomb:
The alternatives to suspense'

"The element of surprise made an unexpected
comeback in 1976, when audiences around the
world were treated to the mother of all
shock endings in Brian De Palma’s Carrie.
It is fascinating to see how different
De Palma’s surprise tactic was to the way
suspense is achieved. Instead of building
tension by feeding expectation, it sets the
viewer at ease until it seems there’s
nothing left to fear."

Scarface categorized as 'anti-epic'
"The epic, meanwhile, went underground,
embracing the world of the Mafia (Francis
Ford Coppola's The Godfather), anti-heroic
war (Coppola's Apocalypse Now) and narcotics
(Brian de Palma's Scarface). The anti-epic
has in fact proved more resilient than its
celebratory counterpart, particularly through
the work of Martin Scorsese, who kept it
strong into the 1990s with Goodfellas, and
into the 21st century with the violent
and unromantic Gangs of New York."

Boston Herald critic picks
De Palma's The Black Dahlia
as #2 movie 'not to miss
in 2005'

'I always knew that
Brian De Palma wanted
to make a film on Hughes,
so it was forbidden territory.'

Knowlton, who believed her
father was Black Dahlia
killer, dead at 67

"Knowlton died March 5, but the death
escaped public notice until the Los Angeles
Times Magazine ran an article last month
about a book written by retired LAPD
Detective Steve Hodel, in which Hodel argues
his own father murdered Short in 1947."

Ellroy on 'the upcoming fiasco'
"I predict an intriguing flop that
will sell a shitload of books...
If it's a bad movie, I have no right
to criticise it for attribution because
I took the money. I will always option
anything I write to anybody who's got
the money... It would be impossible to do
a complete Ellroy filmic adaptation in any
form except a mini-series, and even then, I'm
not entirely sure if the density of the
plot would preclude that... An Ellroy
novel is like a graph that's like
this, (his hand, flattened, was raised)
with the vertical of the personal lives and
individual lives of the characters, as well
as the actual dramatised plot going that way
(horizontal gesture) so you've got a
perfectly cross-hatched grid. I just
love that sort of complexity and a
narrative where everything means
something and everything produces plot."

Contest puts your likeness
into the Scarface game

Hodel's Black Dahlia evidence
investigated on CBS' 48 Hours

Seed of Chucky inspired
by De Palma & Argento;
features 'Rear Window/
Body Double sequence'

Seed of Chucky DVD
will include on-camera
interview with Pino Donaggio

Ellroy's best news:
'looks like the Dahlia
movie is finally going
to happen'

Fired from Korshak film
project, Ellroy rants 'off
the record' about director
William Friedkin

'Even an indifferent
adaptation of one of your
books will sell books,
so I just look at
it as publicity.'

"I don't follow the world today. I only
know dimly, we got bombed on Sept. 11 of
'01, and now there's a war in Iraq. I do
not follow the culture. It's just clutter
and shit in my brain. I just avoid it."

New novel's beginning is
'executed in the literary
equivalent of De Palma's
sinuous Steadicam style'

2 characters share a
passion for Brian De Palma
films in Merci Docteur Rey,
a 'farcical mystery'
set in Paris

"Thomas, meeting the killer by chance,
strikes up a flirtation based on their shared
passion for that ultimate connoisseur
of screen voyeurism, Brian De Palma."

Reference to
Dressed To Kill

Colin Firth:
Romantic hero turns
to the dark side

Actor says he's found
his true calling in
horror/suspense films

Fuqua wants Penn as Capone,
but does not see anyone
from original Untouchables cast
returning for prequel

A major flaw with
Film Fanatic
Last surviving mask from
Phantom of the Paradise,
"an unbelievably rare,
unassailably cool relic,"
loses out to film list

Transvestites invade the films
of Brian De Palma

(Note date of article is Feb. 12, 2003)
Author untangles De Palma
and Mamet's "amped up"
version of Untouchables
from historic facts

Scarlett to pop up
on Wahlberg's Entourage

IMDB Trivia:
De Palma was briefly considered
to direct Manchurian remake

Idea was nixed by producer
who discovered Keith Gordon

De Palma quotes from the original
Frankenheimer film in his Phantom Of The
, as well as in his screenplay
for Ambrose Chapel.
(Thanks to ReverendDrew)

Snake Eyes' deleted
'Big Wave' was filmed at
Wet 'N Wild Water Park
in North Carolina

Details in 'Film Junkie’s Guide
to North Carolina'

"And sometimes, a city thinks it will
appear in a movie and does not. That
happened to Greensboro in the Nicolas
Cage film Snake Eyes, the guide says. An
ending featuring a tidal wave was filmed
at Wet ‘N Wild Emerald Pointe Water Park,
where a miniature amusement park and pier
were constructed in a pool. Scenes of the
park’s 84-foot-wide waves smashing into
the miniature set were intended to give
the sense of a tsunami but the book says
test audiences did not like the effect
and director Brian De Palma cut the scene."

An "obvious" homage
to The Fury
in Spider-Man 2

"One character exits the movie in a
hail of flying, jagged glass. We see her
screaming face reflected in the approaching
shards. It's a terrific image, obviously
an homage to Carrie Snodgress'
death in The Fury."
(Snodgress passed away in April.)

Melvill let the M&Ms float
"I let them go in front of my face,
and they just spun around like little
sparkling things. I was so blown away
I couldn't even fly the airplane."

Speaking of terminals...
Grand Central coordinator
talks about filming
Carlito's Way

"In 1993, a scene for Carlito's Way
was to be filmed on the escalators of
the World Trade Center. When the terrorist
[bombing] attack occurred, they called here
at a moment's notice to see if we could
accommodate the film. Director Brian De
Palma, his staff and the film's writer
walked through the terminal and actually
rewrote portions of the film to
make it work."

Rebecca will choreograph
Bellagio fountain displays

The dead make a
killing in Hollywood

De Palma liked
Los Angeles Plays Itself,
says director

Documentary takes a sardonic look at
films that feature Los Angeles, taking
time to mock critic David Thomson along the
way. The film played at the Toronto Film
Festival in 2003, and at Sundance
earlier this year.

J. Hoberman:
'No director since
Brian De Palma has
raised more hackles
than [Lars] von Trier'

Emmanuelle Béart
seeking more out
of life than movies

"In 1996 she made her one English-
language movie, Brian De Palma's
Mission Impossible, with Tom Cruise
and Jon Voight."

'El Paraiso' for
'Children of Paradise'

"Ground Zero in Florida has to be
Versailles: not a replica of the French
chateau, rather a Cuban restaurant in
the famous Calle Ocho (8th Street) of
Miami's Little Havana...
All the big shots have made their
pilgrimage to Versailles: Bush Sr and Jr,
Bill Clinton, an array of Democrats. John
Kerry, if he harbors any expectation of
winning Florida, must urgently hit a
mojito, order a picadillo a cubana and
hold an impromptu town meeting on site...
Versailles is undiluted Cuban-American
central casting. One finds everything from
Bay of Pigs veterans and aged clones of
Tony Montana in Brian De Palma's 1980s
cocaine epic Scarface to young Central
Americans starting a new life and whole
families parading their new SUV
with sunroof and DVD."

Rebecca Romijn-Stamos
named Rising Female Star
of the Year by the Video
Software Dealers Association

Scarlett in June Elle
"Look, I'm excited about all kinds of
things-- Synergy, Black Dahlia. I want to
write a movie that I direct. I have
projects that I'm developing, and
only good, positive things.
I just can't complain."

Scarlett 'murders' opposition
in Hollywood fame game

"Every time SJ signs on the dotted
line, another starlet is left yelling
down the phone to her agent or
sent whimpering to her therapist."

Armond White on Godsend's
'insulting,' 'formulaic'
car wreck scene

"This was so depressing it brought
to mind the recent news of actress
Carrie Snodgress' death—- a loss made
uniquely heartfelt because of her car
crash death scene in De Palma's
kinetic, philosophical fantasy The Fury...
Jean-Luc Godard referred to this
scene of The Fury in his video
series Histoire(s) du Cinéma, equating
it to the classic Anna Magnani death
scene in Open City as one of the
signal tragic moments in movie history."
(Thanks to Keith)

Local H:
What Ever Happened
to P.J. Soles?

Sissy Spacek
returning to horror

"--where she enjoyed one of her
earliest successes as the telekinetic
heroine of 1976's 'Carrie' -- as she steps
into 'The Ring 2' for DreamWorks
and director Hideo Nakata."
Script is closely guarded:
"sources close to the film said the
filmmakers want to keep a level of
mystery around Spacek's character."

Kill Bill, Vol. 2
pays homage to Carrie

"As long as he's in a cemetery,
you know Tarantino won't be
able to resist an homage to
Brian De Palma's Carrie."

There's also an homage
to Body Double--

--the trailer, that is
123go summed it up on the forum:
"Another De Palma reference was
when The Bride takes off her necklace
to give to her child. We rack focus
onto the necklace as its in front of
Thurman's neck, pulled straight,
just like in the Body Double trailer."
(Thanks to Romain for the images)

Tarantino for dummies
"Her nurse disguise in Vol. 1 is a
reference to a similar costume in
Brian De Palma's Dressed to Kill."

The Kill Bill

"It's striking just how much
Tarantino has lifted from these films.
Lady Snowblood, in particular, is
practically a template for the whole
of Kill Bill Vol 1, right down to a
climactic fight at a masked party."

Rebecca defends FF,
calls De Palma "one
of the greatest
directors alive"

It is the best film she has ever acted
in, yet critic Peter Howell calls Femme
"the only step backward" in
Rebecca's acting career.
She replies:
"I think it's a really underrated
movie and I think Brian De Palma is one
of the greatest directors alive ...
Now I'm meeting people who are finally
seeing it over and over again because
it's on cable and DVD. It's meant to
be watched not once, but several times.
People are getting it now."

"Rebecca is a find"
"Since gaining all sorts of credibility
in Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale..."

Paul Williams,
Phantom of the '70s,
bringing Happy Days
to Broadway

(Thanks to Akahan!)

Untouchables quoted in
The Punisher:

(Another Marvel adaptation from
producer Gale Anne Hurd)

"The movie pilfers freely from other,
better films - the Russian bears more
than a passing resemblance to From
Russia with Love
's Red, and one of the
one-liners is taken directly from
Brian De Palma's The Untouchables.
In a better movie, such cribs might be
considered homages; here, they
sully the source."

Gale Anne Hurd:
"Yes, we're working
on a 'Hulk' sequel"

Radical new look
for Scarlett...

as she suits up
with the Pussycat Dolls

But don't expect to
see her naked
on screen

Koepp to rewrite
Friedman script adaptation
of War Of The Worlds
for Spielberg & Cruise

Two years ago, Spielberg & Cruise were
planning to make a Friedman-penned
adaptation of non-fiction WWII drama
Ghost Soldiers. Friedman adapted Ellroy's
The Black Dahlia, which De Palma will
direct this spring. Koepp has worked
with Spielberg as a screenwriter on the
first two Jurassic Park films. Koepp
was also the screenwriter brought in by
De Palma to work on the first Mission:
film, and some tension
was created when Cruise brought in
Robert Towne to help with rewrites.
Koepp and Towne worked separately,
and De Palma tried to make each one's
work match up for the film. Cruise is
currently working on the third Mission:
film, again with Towne as
one of the screenwriters (Towne also
wrote the second film in the series). Cruise
made Minority Report with Spielberg
in 2002. Around that time, Spielberg had
aquired Ghost Soldiers with an eye toward
making it into a Cruise/Spielberg vehicle.

On recent King movies:
"...the TV Carrie
did not ruffle the
bloody prom dress of
Brian De Palma's original"

De Palma to Koepp:

Koepp: "I remember when I was
working on Panic Room, when I
started writing the script and I was
talking to Brian De Palma and he said,
'What are you working on?' And I
told him and I said, 'I don't know
though, it’s more of the same stuff, upper
middle class white people frightened
in their homes. I don't know how
much longer I can do this.' And he
said, 'Relax. It’s called who you are.'
So I think you have your story and we
don’t have that many and you just
try to tell them in as many different
ways as you can, and then you die."
Koepp also says he is influenced by
Hitchcock, De Palma, and Spielberg.

In the current issue of Fangoria,
Koepp cites several Roman Polanski
films as inspiration for Secret Window,
including Repulsion and The Tenant.
He said that Johnny Depp really sparked
to these influences, having worked
with Polanski on The Ninth Gate.

Koepp says Depp's
style made Secret Window
funnier than it
was written

Variety review--
Depp strikes again

"Koepp keeps the action taut and
confidently builds suspense through
to a gruesome final act, punctuating
the proceedings with flashes of memory
rendered as short, sharp shocks by
editor Jill Savitt. The director shows
a keen grasp of the unnervingly
claustrophobic atmosphere of confined
quarters in a gloomily lit wilderness,
all of it gracefully shot in widescreen
by Fred Murphy with supple
camera movement."

USA's 'Afrocentric'

4-hour miniseries
-A black cast
loosely based on
primary characters, set
in 1980s Los Angeles
during crack epidemic
-Soundtrack by rap
producer Defari
Full Story
Charles "Chic" Eglee
is attached to write
and executive produce;
prod starts fall '04,
hits tube in 2005

"It's an iconic story that needs to be
told every generation, so there's a
huge responsibility here... Given the
fact that 'Scarface' was so completely
embraced as an icon of hip-hop, it's
logical to retell that character in
an iteration that is Afrocentric."

Armond White highlights
Gibson's "profound image-
making"; links to
Femme Fatale

"Most recently, critics blinked
past De Palma’s postmodern crucifixion
image in Femme Fatale rather than
attend to the film’s spiritual

Brisseau's Secret Things:
"Imagine a surreal
'Dilbert' cartoon conceived
by a shotgun collaboration
of Neil LaBute
and Brian De Palma,

and the result still wouldn't
take in the rococo kookiness that
sets writer-director Jean- Claude
Brisseau's film apart from anything
else making the art-house rounds."

Scent-Sational Scarlett

Johansson is not
"the new Monroe"

Scarlett Johansson wins
Best Actress for Lost at
BAFTA, beating her own
performance in Girl

"Johansson thanked the British
Academy 'for acknowledging ... a
19-year-old American actress' and
then thanked her mother for 'taking
me to auditions and buying me
hot dogs afterward.'"

Director of 'underground'
Dahlia feature wishes
Hollywood version
'best of luck'

The following message was posted
January 29 on the 'talkback' forum of Aint
It Cool News' Scarlett Johannson/
Black Dahlia page

"Although we're coming up from
way under the radar, there is a
feature being made as we speak, which
I'm directing. It is nowhere near a
Hollywood movie, but it is being
shot in Los Angeles. Our Dahlia project
is more underground though with people
you've probably never heard of
involved. Folks like David J (Love
And Rockets, Bauhaus), Gregg Gibbs
(House Of 1000 Corpses), Robert Williams
(, Julie Strain,
Dame Darcy, Julee Cruise, Eric Jungmann
(Not Another Teen Movie), and others...
I just hope there's room for both
films. I wish the Hollywood version
luck, although they probably don't
need it. Here's to the mysteries of
life. Best Wishes, Ramzi"

Besson producing Rie short
Thinning The Herd written and directed
by Rie Rasmussen, who has two more
films in pre-production.

Rie's role in De Palma's Femme Fatale
was photographed by Besson's regular
cinematographer, Thierry Arbogast.

Rie does 'Method Modelling,'
Fellini style

Rie Rasmussen was the "star of the show"
at Milan's fall/winter 2004-2005 Dolce
& Gabbana fashion show, which was
dedicated to Marcello Mastroianni.
Rie dressed as Anita Ekberg and
mimed scenes from Fellini's La
Dolce Vita
. "'Marcello! Marcello!'
Rasmussen pleaded to the photographers
in a pre-orgasmic voice..." Said Rie,
"I went all the way to Rome and swam
at the same fountain.
I call it method modelling."

Penn shares his
'Parallax View'

Sean Penn reports
on his second
trip to Iraq

Brett Ratner reimagines
Elvira entrance for
Playboy's January issue

One of eight film directors given "free
rein to shoot their innermost desires,"
Ratner chose to recreate a key scene
from the movie that changed his life:
"On a Tuesday afternoon in the fall
of 1982 I played hooky and snuck
onto the set of Brian De Palma's Scarface.
It was the most important day of my young
life. My eyes were mesmerized by what
they were seeing. To watch Michelle
Pfeifer come down that elevator was
magical, and De Palma coaxed the
grace of that electric moment. His
molding of a simple entrance was the
hook that showed me that a director's vision
is the core of what film is all about. Without
it you have mediocrity, and with it you
touch the meteoric. I realized then that
visions could become fantasies. That
afternoon, as a 13-year-old boy, I knew that
there was only one yellow brick road to
take. I didn't want to be the new Al
Pacino; I wanted to be the man who
creates the vision-- the director."
(Thanks to Space Ace!)

2003 in Review

In the UK:
Not a good year
for veteran filmmakers

De Palma's FF
"enjoyable in a mindless
way but suffered
the fate of going
straight to video."

In Germany:
Booty Art

German critic remembers
De Palma's Cannes sequence
in FF as one of 2003's
memorable movie moments

De Palma on French films
& Hollywood in the
shadow of Bush's America

Sight & Sound talked with De Palma,
Friedkin, & Verhoeven about the
conservative state of filmmaking these
days in Hollywood. De Palma on Femme
: "At first they thought it was
a foreign film. And the fact that it had
subtitles really confused them. Today
you can't have a film with subtitles
without killing it in the market."
Speaking of foreign films, De Palma said,
"I watch a lot of French movies because
they deal with adult situations. In
America today an actress like Charlotte
Rampling would have a hard time landing
a minor role as a grandmother. Yet she
has lead parts in French movies that
have her characters' particular
predicaments at the centre of their
stories. And they're interesting."
The author mentions the (hopefully)
upcoming shoot of Toyer in Venice,
and then quotes De Palma: "I like to
go to different places to make movies.
I'm living in America in an era in which
it has become completely isolated, not
only uninterested in what's going on in
the world outside but antagonistic."
De Palma also discards the content of most
current Hollywood films: "The subject
matter that's flooding American cineplexes
is of no interest to me. I'm over 60 and
how I'm going to get laid this Friday
is not at the top of my priorities."
Friedkin and Verhoeven also have very
interesting things to say-- thanks
to Huff for the link to the article!

The Return
of the King

" a jaw-dropping closeup near
the climax that seems lifted from
Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War,
Wood’s heavenward gaze and pensive
yet slack face suggests a martyred
saint borne aloft to heaven."
(Thanks to Space Ace!)

Rie was not
in snake outfit

"No, it was Brian De Palma. He was
part of designing it. He co-wrote the
part and he directed me and that's
what I was really excited about,
being directed by Brian De Palma.
This is what he wrote, this is what he
wanted and I'm being part of a
Brian De Palma 35mm forever
it's going to last."

Rie is an
associate producer of
experimental film

Say hello to
more little friends

USA Network planning mini-series based
on 1983 Scarface, which has been a
ratings bonanza of late for the network.
"The project could resurrect the characters
from the film or explore other story lines
set in the same Miami-based crime world."

Posted February 27 2007
Ennio Morricone is still saying no to Capone Rising. But, as he pointed out at a press conference in Rome the week before heading to Los Angeles for the 2007 Academy Awards, Morricone has a history of saying no to projects that he eventually ends up taking on. Morricone mentioned that he had initially refused The Mission, but was later convinced to do it, leading to his second Oscar-nominated film score. He said that the same thing happened to him with Oliver Stone and U-Turn. Morricone said that after the 9/11 attacks, "I had decided not to travel within the United States, and still today with the American directors I place the conditions they must give me for coming, if they want my collaboration. But after 78 years, I have decided to limit my engagements because I want to be living without breathlessness, and to go off to another world with the baton in hand is indeed the last of my desires." Morricone explained that this was why he has been saying no to scoring Brian De Palma's upcoming prequel to The Untouchables, Capone Rising. He said that it pained him to say no, because De Palma had come to him and explained through an interpreter that Morricone's score for De Palma's Mission To Mars "had given an unimaginable thickness to his film, to the cosmos. De Palma seems a bear, but he is the best man: he put himself to cry, and then also the translator. A fine trio we were to pour a river of tears. But I had to leave again."

Morricone received his honorary Oscar for Lifetime Achievement, which was presented to him by Clint Eastwood Sunday night. A montage of his film scores played against images from the accompanying films, including, among others, Cinema Paradiso, Bugsy, Malena, and concluding by swelling into The Untouchables, complete with a lingering picture of De Palma himself sitting with Morricone during the making of that film. Other De Palma-related moments on the broadcast: Vilmos Zsigmond, nominated for his work on De Palma's The Black Dahlia (the cinematography award went to Guillermo Navarro for Pan's Labyrinth), was the second or third person who appeared in Errol Morris' The Nominees, which opened the show on a fun note. An odd montage by Michael Mann screened just before the editing award purported to show America on screen (or something like that), and featured a clip from De Palma's Scarface ("Say hello to my little friend"). Tom Cruise walked onto the stage to the theme from Mission: Impossible to present a humanitarian award to Sherry Lansing, who was head of Paramount when De Palma made both M:I and Snake Eyes there back-to-back. While Milena Canonero won the Best Costume award for Marie Antionette, at least one blogger felt that Jenny Beaven's costumes for The Black Dahlia had it all over Antoinette. And finally, Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola presented their fellow "Movie Brat" friend Martin Scorsese with the Oscar for Best Director. Where was De Palma, many were wondering-- we can only guess that he was busy preparing one of his several current projects.

Updated February 23 2007 - Posted February 21 2007
Mark Isham's score for The Black Dahlia was voted the 2006 Best Original Score For A Drama Film by the members of the International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA). Isham's Dahlia score had also been nominated in the Film Score Of The Year category, an award that went to Lady In The Water's James Newton Howard. Isham had also been nominated Film Composer Of The Year, but that award went to The Queen's Alexandre Desplat. According to an article at SoundtrackNet, "The International Film Music Critics Association is an association of editors, journalists and reviewers from online and print publications who specialize in writing about original film and television music. The IFMCA is a truly international organization, with members from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Greece, Italy, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America." The winners were announced Friday, February 23rd.

Posted February 22 2007
Chloe Sevigny is making the rounds to promote her role in David Fincher's Zodiac, and is also talking up Doug Buck's remake of Brian De Palma's Sisters, in which she plays "the annoying reporter" originally played by Jennifer Salt. Sevigny told MTV's Movie File that "it's been updated a little bit. They rewrote the script but stayed pretty true to the original story. It feels very '70s. Very tense and very spooky." Sevigny prepared for the role by watching De Palma's film again. "I've watched the first one several times," she told MTV. "I'd actually seen it, like, eight years ago the first time, and then I watched it again before [the remake]." Sevigny told Paul Fischer at Moviehole that "it was very hard shooting [Sisters] actually. Because I made, well we shot the first season of Big Love, shot Zodiac, shot this movie called Lying in upstate New York, it was in Cannes last year and the Directors’ Fortnight. So then I made Sisters so by the time I got to Sisters I was emotionally drained." When asked by Fischer how close the remake is to De Palma's original, Sevigny replied, "Very close. Very close. [Buck] rewrote the script but it’s the same premise, you know, the same story. But yeah, it’s scary. Not as scary as Zodiac because it’s not based on reality." Buck's Sisters will have its U.S. premiere at the South By Southwest Film Festival in March.

Posted February 18 2007
William Boyd, who has been promoting his new novel Restless for the past two or three months, has been mentioning here and there that he and Brian De Palma are currently collaborating on an adaptation of Boyd's 1993 novel, The Blue Afternoon. The novel, a romantic thriller, begins in Hollywood in 1936, and is told in flashback, the meat of which involves a surgeon in Manila during the American occupation of the Philippines in 1902. At the beginning of the novel, this surgeon (now an elderly man) approaches the book's narrator (a woman architect) and tells her that he is her father. He convinces her to accompany him to Lisbon to look for the woman he now realizes was the great love of his life. As they journey, he tells her of his adventures in Manila. David Christie of The Sunday Herald describes it as "a tale of grisly murders and illicit passion." One of the main subplots involves the surgeon aiding the U.S. army in an investigation of a series of murders. Another subplot involves an attempt to build a flying machine.

Boyd, who has written several screenplays, including some from his own novels and stories, has adapted the screenplay for The Blue Afternoon himself. According to The Sunday Herald, Boyd told an audience at the Glasgow Aye Write! book festival on Friday that he was somewhat surprised by De Palma's approach to the project. "It turns out he has been obsessed with The Blue Afternoon for years," Boyd told the crowd. "It was wonderful to discover a movie enthusiast such as he was a fan." Boyd said that De Palma has teamed up with an independent British producer for the film. "It is in the process of being cast just now," Boyd said. "If all goes well, and these things in my experience tend not to, it should be complete by the end of this year, beginning of next."

Boyd has reason to be cautious-- it turns out that The Blue Afternoon has been attached publicly to two other directors within the past six years. According to Variety, Nicholas Hytner was to direct Boyd's adaptation in 2001 as "a $20 million-$30 million love story set in the Philippines in 1902 at the end of the Spanish-American War." Hytner (The Madness of King George, The Crucible) went back to Broadway and did not direct another feature until last year. Then in 2003, Bruce Beresford, who had previously worked with Boyd on Mister Johnson (1990) and A Good Man In Africa (1994), had gotten so far as to cast Olivier Martinez and Sam Neill in what was to be an Asian and Australian production. An article at 4RFV said that "the film will star Martinez as a doctor in turn of the century Manila who becomes embroiled in the investigation into the guerrilla attacks on the notorious American 49th battalion and their evangelical, psychopathic colonel, played by Neill."

In 2005, Boyd cowrote the screenplay of Man To Man with director Régis Wargnier, a friend of De Palma's (Wargnier appeared as himself in De Palma's Femme Fatale). In 1999, Boyd wrote and directed a film himself: The Trench, a claustrophobic World War I drama which featured Daniel Craig. Boyd told Oliver Marre at the Observer last week that he had finished the script for the Blue Afternoon, and that "we are casting it at the moment." Boyd told Marre that he would love his friend Daniel Craig to take a role in the film, but feared he is "busy." And yes, it would appear Boyd has indeed rewritten his screenplay since De Palma came along. In an online chat at Readerville last December, Boyd stated, "I’m working on the script of my novel The Blue Afternoon with the director Brian De Palma – absolutely fascinating." The next day (on the same chat), Boyd stated that he was "polishing the latest draft of the screenplay based on my novel The Blue Afternoon for Brian De Palma."

After reading the prologue to Boyd's The Blue Afternoon, it becomes clear why De Palma might become "obsessed" with this novel. De Palma's father was a surgeon who left before De Palma turned two, to join the service on a hospital boat during World War II. In later years, De Palma would often observe his father at the operating table, commonly referred to as the source of De Palma's tolerance for blood in his films. Keep these things in mind as you read the following prologue excerpted from The Blue Afternoon by William Boyd:


I remember that afternoon, not long into our travels, sitting on deck in the mild mid-Atlantic sun on a slightly smirched and foggy day, the sky a pale washed-out blue above the smokestacks, that I asked my father what it felt like to pick up a knife and make an incision into living human flesh. He thought seriously for a while before replying.

“It depends on where you cut,” he said. “Sometimes it’s like a knife through clay or modeling wax. Some days it’s like cutting into a cold blancmange or… or cold raw chicken.”

He pondered a while longer and then reached inside his coat pocket and drew out a scalpel. He removed the small leather sleeve that protected the blade and offered the slim knife to me.

“Take this. See for yourself.”

I took the scalpel from him, small as a pen but much heavier than I had imagined. He looked down at the remains of our lunch on the table: an edge of cheese with a thick yellow rind, a bowl of fruit, four apples and a green melon, some bread rolls.

“Close your eyes,” he said. “I’ll get something for you, an exact simulacrum.”

I closed my eyes and gripped the scalpel firmly between my thumb and first two fingers. I felt his hand on mine, the gentle pressure of his dry rough fingers, and then he lifted my hand up and I felt him guiding it forward until the poised blade came to rest on a surface, firm but somehow yielding.

“Make a cut,” he said. “A small cut. Press down.”

I pressed. Whatever I cut into yielded easily and I moved the blade down an inch or so, or so it seemed, smoothly, with no fuss.

“Keep your eyes closed… What did it feel like?”

I thought for a second or two before replying. I wanted this to be right, to be exact, scientific.

“It felt like… Like cold butter, you know, from an icebox. Or a sirloin, like cutting through a tender sirloin.”

“See?” he said. “There’s nothing mysterious, nothing to be alarmed about.”

I opened my eyes and saw his square face smiling at me, almost in triumph, as if he had been vindicated in some argument. He was holding out his bare left forearm, the sleeve of his coat and shirt pushed back to the crook of his elbow. On the bulge of muscle, three inches above his wrist, a thin two-inch gash oozed bright blisters of blood.

“There,” he said. “It’s easy. A beautiful incision. Not a waver, with even pressure, and with your eyes closed too.”

The expression on his face changed at this moment, to a form of sadness mingled with pride.

“You know,” he said, “you would have made a great surgeon.”

End of excerpt.
It'd make a tantalizing opening for a film, wouldn't it?

Posted February 12 2007
Brian De Palma is in pre-production on Redacted, which was just picked up for U.K. distribution by the Canal Plus-owned Optimum, according to The Hollywood Reporter. HDNet is apparently shopping the picture, which is being described as "Brian De Palma's Iraq war thriller," at the Berlin Film Festival. Optimum managing director Will Clarke said that Redacted "will give audiences an exciting new perspective on a talented artist," calling it "a major departure from De Palma's recent big budget work." The article states that "De Palma's movie recounts the story of a group of American soldiers stationed in Iraq."

Meanwhile, De Palma's The Black Dahlia opened in Turkey over the weekend. If you can read Turkish, you can check out a new interview with the director by clicking here.

3rd Update February 9 2007 - 2nd Update February 8 2007 - Updated February 6 2007 - Posted February 3 2007
Ennio Morricone, who will receive an Academy Award later this month for Lifetime Achievement, made his U.S. conducting debut yesterday at the General Assembly Hall at U.N. Headquarters in New York. The first part of the program, according to an Associated Press article, consisted of the September 11-themed piece "Voices From Silence," which the article describes in terrific detail. After an intermission, Morricone began the second part of the program with his theme from Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War. The next evening, Morricone conducted a 100-piece orchestra and a 100-voice choir at Radio City Music Hall. According to Variety, the latter performance began with "the staccato rhythms of The Untouchables and ending with a suite from his widely lauded magnum opus The Mission. Most were arranged into medleys of 11 to 18 minutes, eliminating the choppy 'and-then-I-wrote' feel of many solo film-composer programs." The Variety article later states, "High points for the massive choir were a medley from two politically themed films, Brian De Palma's Casualties of War and Gillo Pontecorvo's Burn!, and a stunningly executed suite from The Mission that featured both Latin religious texts and South American native chants." According to an article by Charles Taylor in the Phoenix, "a knockout titled 'Social Cinema' combined the mournful theme from Brian De Palma’s Casualties of War and 'Aboliçâo,' the stirring main title theme from Gillo Pontecorvo’s Burn!" Another excellent description of both nights' music can be found at the Film Music Society website. Jon Burlingame writes that on the second night, "The Untouchables transitioned seamlessly to music from another 1980s crime drama, Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, including the melancholy 'Poverty' theme; and then to a fascinating distillation of music – classical and jazzy figures alike – from Morricone's Golden Globe-winning score for The Legend of 1900." Later, "In a segment titled 'Social Cinema,'", writes Burlingame, "Morricone conducted music from Casualties of War and Burn! – the former, conveying a profound sense of loss in its choral lament and the latter, absolute joy in 'Abolicao,' the anthem for the Caribbean natives in Gillo Pontecorvo's 1970 classic about European colonialism." Morricone performed three encores at Radio City, repeating scores he had performed earlier in the evening, including his themes from Casualties Of War. According to one concertgoer, De Palma himself was in the audience.

Posted January 28 2007
According to Variety, Brian De Palma will write and direct the previously announced Iraq war project Redacted for Todd Wagner and Mark Cuban's HDNet Films. De Palma will shoot the picture in high-def, and it will be released day-and-date next fall in theaters, on HDNet, and on home video. Magnolia Pictures will handle the theatrical release, and its Home Video division will release the DVD. The Variety article by Steven Zeitchik states that, "Despite a distribution plan similar to that of Steven Soderbergh's Bubble -- the first HDNet Films day-and-date experiment, last year-- [producer Jason] Kliot said the company expected a wider release and more commercial resonance because of the relevance of the topic." De Palma is expected to begin filming this spring in Jordan, although no cast has been attached yet. According to Variety, "the film will be a montage of stories about U.S. soldiers fighting in the conflict. Redacted will focus on the modern forms of media covering the war. Blogs, Web reporting and other aspects unique to the conflict will be featured heavily, producers said." The article closes with the following paragraph:

De Palma and HDNet came together because of the company's ability to move projects forward quickly. "We're able to do this because we don't have a studio apparatus," Kliot said. "That's very important with a subject that's in the news and changes so quickly."

Posted January 23 2007
The 2007 Oscar nominations were announced this morning, and there was one nomination for The Black Dahlia: Vilmos Zsigmond's work on the Brian De Palma film has been nominated for Best Cinematography. Zsigmond is going up against Emmanuel Lubezki (Children Of Men), Dick Pope (The Illusionist), Guillermo Navarro (Pan's Labyrinth), and Wally Pfister (The Prestige). Zsigmond has previously been nominated three times for the Academy's Cinematography Award, winning the first one in 1978 for Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The other two nominations were for The Deer Hunter in 1979, and for The River in 1985. The Academy Awards will be telecast live on ABC TV February 25th.

Posted January 11 2007
The American Society of Cinematographers today announced its five nominees for top honors in the feature film category of its 21st Annual Outstanding Achievement Awards competition. Vilmos Zsigmond is one of the nominees for his work on The Black Dahlia. The other four nominees are: Emmanuel Lubezki (Children Of Men), Dick Pope (The Illusionist), Robert Richardson (The Good Shepherd), and Dean Semler (Apocalypto). This is Zsigmond's third ASC nomination. He won the ASC Award for his work on the HBO telefilm Stalin (1992), and was also nominated for The Ghost and the Darkness (1996). The ASC also presented Zsigmond with its 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award this past September. This year's winner for Outstanding Feature will be announced during an awards gala on February 18th at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

Posted January 10 2007
IDW Publishing has released its comic book sequelization of Brian De Palma's Scarface, titled Scarface: Scarred For Life. As in the recent video game sequel, Tony Montana somehow survives all those bullets and must work his way back to the top all over again. The five-part series is written by John Layman and illustrated by Dave Crosland. Of De Palma's film, Layman told the Seattle Times, "It hasn't aged well, so there's kind of an element of camp to the movie now, especially when you compare it to Miami Vice or [the video game] Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. At the time it was released it had a shocking amount of gore and profanity, but now it seems kind of cute and quaint." Meanwhile, the IDW page quotes Layman as saying, "It is indeed over-the-top, and it will be funnier and darkly comic than the movie, which was played pretty much with a straight face. Times have changed since the movie, and what was shocking in 1983 is a little more commonplace today. So you're going to see some very creative murders— and if you have any sort of decency in your soul, you're going to feel bad for laughing as hard as you do when you read this stuff."

Posted January 5 2007

According to Production Weekly, Brian De Palma is preparing to begin work in April on Redacted, "a film based on the recent events surrounding the rape and murder of a 14-year old Iraqi girl, and the killing of three of her family members by four US soldiers." The film will have obvious parallels with De Palma's 1989 Vietnam film Casualties Of War, but what seems most exciting about the project is its proposed use of various types of footage: according to Production Weekly, "the film's narrative will be told using a mixture of video from news broadcasts, documentary footage, trial coverage, YouTube posts and excerpts from one of the soldier’s video blogs." Sounds incredible... Monika Bartyzel at Cinematical is suggesting that De Palma's film is taking a cue in technique from Stephen Frear's The Queen, which mixes news and documentary footage with fictional actors to tell a true-to-life tale. (However, Bartyzel mistakenly states that De Palma's Casualties Of War was a work of total fiction.)

Posted January 3 2007
Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia is not done parading the festival circuit just yet. This February, the film will be in competition at the 25th Fajr International Film Festival, which takes place in Tehran from February 1-11. The Black Dahlia is one of three foreign films announced for the festival today by the Farabi Cinematic Foundation. (The other two are Infamous and Cold And Dark.) When all is said and done, some twenty to twenty-five films will have been selected to compete in the fest.

Posted December 14 2006
Variety reports that "Italy is on cloud nine over news that Ennio Morricone will receive an honorary nod at the 79th Academy Awards." Morricone has been nominated for an Academy Award five times: four times for his scores for Hollywood films (including Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, Terrence Malick's Days Of Heaven, Roland Joffe's The Mission, and Barry Levinson's Bugsy), and one time for an Italian film (Giuseppe Tornatore's Malèna). De Palma was spotted at this year's Venice Film Festival talking with Morricone about possibly scoring the director's upcoming Untouchables prequel, Capone Rising. Reacting to news of the honorary Oscar, Morricone told Variety, "When I got the call I didn't expect it at all. After five nominations I had kind of given up hope." Variety stated that Italian radio and television stations highlighted Morricone's theme from Sergio Leone's The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly all day Thursday during tributes to the composer. Morricone will conduct a 200-piece orchestra and choir performing his movie themes at New York's Radio City Music Hall on February 3, 2007, for an international live telecast that will later be released on DVD.

Posted December 13 2006
Thanks to Jon, you can view a few captures from the upcoming DVD release of The Black Dahlia by clicking here. The DVD, with bonus features by Laurent Bouzereau, will be released December 26th.

Posted November 26 2006
James Ellroy told the Sydney Morning Herald that The Black Dahlia is Brian De Palma's film. "It's his movie; it's my book," Ellroy told the newspaper at last September's Venice Film Festival. "It's drastically compressed; it had to be. Thank God Mr. Hartnett could read voice-over narration so well, as you have an elegiac, sensitive young man cast into the improbable role of homicide detective and also as the older man recounting the one great adventure of his life." When asked whether watching the film transports him to the film noir period in Los Angeles where he grew up, Ellroy said, "At the premiere I sat between Miss Johansson and Mr. Hartnett, these two gifted folk, and I thought, 'Gee, what a crazy f--- am I.'" Ellroy also elaborated on why he hated Million Dollar Baby, and why he likes De Palma's boxing scene in The Black Dahlia better. "I saw Miss Swank in Million Dollar Baby and I didn't like it. I'm an old boxer ... that was a bullshit boxing ring. I loved the boxing scene in this movie. It was savage, it was direct and it didn't go on for a second too long."

Here are links to some Australian reviews of The Black Dahlia...
The Bulletin
Sydney Morning Herald
The Daily Telegraph
Sydney Star Observer

Posted November 17 2006
The Black Dahlia is released in Australia November 23rd, and the Sydney Morning Herald has just posted an article prepared at last September's Venice Film Festival, with quotes from James Ellroy and Brian De Palma. In the article, Ellroy calls the killing of Elizabeth Short "the first media-manufactured murder in American history." He tells the interviewer that he lives in such a vacuum that he had not heard of any of the actors appearing in the film version of his novel, except for one. "I'd only seen, of the four above the title, Hilary Swank in the flamboyantly over-praised boxing movie Million Dollar Baby; a real turkey." Meanwhile, De Palma talked about how he didn't see how to make a movie out of Ellroy's book until he saw what Curtis Hanson did with Ellroy's L.A. Confidential. He also compared the Black Dahlia murder to the mythology of Jack The Ripper. "It's such a famous murder," De Palma told the Herald, "because you have the Hollywood mythology element; you have pictures of this seemingly sweet, innocent girl then you've got pictures of her body carved up on a lot at 39th and Norton. Who and what did that? There are no answers." De Palma also talked about adapting the novel's complex storyline. "I kind of like complicated movies, ones you have to watch a couple of times to try to figure out what the hell is going on ... I basically tried to keep to the Ellroy story structure and, if it's complex and you have to work a little bit, so be it."

Posted November 10 2006
You can stay very busy this weekend reading essays on every single Brian De Palma feature with Reverse Shot's Fall 2006 issue. Every film from The Wedding Party to The Black Dahlia is covered, with some films getting the double treatment via alternate viewpoints. Also of note: one of the few critics to give The Black Dahlia a four-star review, Keith Uhlich, elaborates his views about De Palma's most recent film in one of the new essays. Happy reading...

Posted November 9 2006
The Black Dahlia opened in France yesterday, and Le Monde posted an interview with Brian De Palma, about the film. In the interview (by Jean-François Rauger), De Palma said the film is an adaptation of a very complex James Ellroy novel that he did not want to simplify, because he liked this complexity. One particular visual idea De Palma had for his adaptation was the reference to Paul Leni's The Man Who Laughs. De Palma is asked whether Bucky is similar to himself, searching for truth in images ("as you were in search of truth in the images of Hitchcock, for example?"). De Palma replied:

The principal character falls in love with an image without really being aware of it. The image of the Black Dahlia, initially in the form of the screen test but also before that, of her dismembered, mutilated body, is a very strong vision. An image which is impossible to forget. An image which causes vertiginous interrogations.

When asked if he is interested in the dark side of Hollywood, De Palma replied, "I was always interested in the ways in which certain passions, like ambition or greed, transform people into monsters." When asked if he had asked the actors to play their roles in a specific manner, De Palma replied:

Not really. For the Scarlett Johansson character, it was necessary that one guesses that there was, behind this character of a model wife, something very troubling, a very provocative woman. But the actors all liked the book and immediately understood how their role had to be interpreted.

Rauger then posed another question referencing Hitchcock: "A critic said of Hitchcock's Vertigo that it was the story of a man who wanted to make love with a dead woman. Isn't this also the story of The Black Dahlia?" De Palma's reply:

The obsession of Hitchcock, and especially of his principal character in Vertigo, was to create an illusion. It is what all directors finally do. We create splendid women, we write their words, we equip them or let us strip them. They become a projection of our own fantasies.

It was a question in The Black Dahlia of building a character whom one knows only through a screen test and thanks to which one could feel empathy immediately. The story of the film is that of the creation of a character which one will not have seen prior to that horrible image of a mutilated corpse.

Elsewhere in Le Monde Jean-Luc Douin reviews The Black Dahlia, delving into the ways the new film echoes De Palma's previous works.

Posted October 31 2006
Variety reports that Relativity has set up a deal with Paramount to finance and produce Brian De Palma's prequel to The Untouchables, which has the working title Capone Rising. According to Variety, the $70 million prequel will be distributed in the U.S. by Paramount. Relativity head Ryan Kavanaugh will executive produce the film, which is being produced by Art Linson, who produced the original film in 1987, as well as this year's The Black Dahlia, both directed by De Palma. Mario Kassar's Magnetik Media, which has a new nonexclusive deal with Relativity, will be representing the Untouchables prequel for overseas rights during this year's American Film Market in Santa Monica. The AFM begins Wednesday, November 1st. Capone Rising is set to begin shooting in June 2007.

Posted October 26 2006
USA Today has posted a "coming attractions" preview for the upcoming remake of Sisters, which is directed by Douglas Buck and produced by Edward R. Pressman, who also produced Brian De Palma's original version. Pressman explains ome differences between the two versions:

"The original was never a big hit, but it has gained cult status," says Edward R. Pressman (Thank You for Smoking, the upcoming Fur). Director/co-writer Douglas Buck felt free to shift the focus from the sisters (played by French actress Lou Doillon — daughter of '60s icon Jane Birkin — in her first English film) to the female reporter (Chloe Sevigny taking over for Jennifer Salt) who witnesses a murder. While there are two scenes of extreme violence and some nudity, most of the chills are psychological. "The reporter's identification with the twins is more explicit now," says Pressman, citing Roman Polanski's Repulsion as an influence.

Pressman told USA Today that De Palma was given a copy of the new film's screenplay, "and is enthusiastic."

Posted October 26 2006
Douglas Buck talked about his remake of Brian De Palma's Sisters to Montreal's The Gazette. The film had its North American premiere last night at Montreal's Festival du nouveau cinema. Buck talked about how his film differs from the De Palma original:

"Being a fan of the original film, I thought there was a lot of fertile material that I could explore, themes and ideas that were in there but that De Palma was less interested in exploring," Buck said. "There was a lot of stuff I could take and re-interpret. The challenge was using the structure of the original film and telling a different tale that prioritized different themes. I wanted to explore themes of gender, identity, and true Cronenbergian concepts like looking at the body and making the metaphorical symbol literal."

The interviewer then describes "a bloody scene late in the film involving some nasty knifework that could've been lifted right out of gory early [David] Cronenberg films like Rabid and Shivers." Buck also talked about his influences:

"When people ask for my favourite films, it's rare that I (cite) horror films. Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky are the two most influential filmmakers I can think of. At the same time, I would say that most Ingmar Bergman films are horror films because they get into the idea of nothingness, lack of God and lack of meaning. That's what real horror is about."

Posted October 23 2006
I've just listened to the new album from My Chemical Romance, The Black Parade, and couldn't help but notice a couple of very direct references to two Paul Williams songs from Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. The album, which is released today in the U.K. and tomorrow in the U.S., is a highly theatrical work about death that is something like Pink Floyd The Wall crossed with Green Day's American Idiot (The Black Parade was produced by Rob Cavallo, who also produced American Idiot). The album's title song and first single, "Welcome To The Black Parade," actually mentions a "phantom" in its vaguely Wall-like lyric:

When I was a young boy,
My father took me into the city
To see a marching band.
He said,
"Son when you grow up, will you be the saviour of the broken, The beaten and the damned?"
He said
"Will you defeat them, your demons, and all the non believers, the plans that they have made?"
Because one day I leave you,
A phantom to lead you in the summer,
To join the black parade."

The album's opening track, "The End," is like a warped punk thesis on theatrical opening numbers. It slyly takes off from David Bowie's Ziggy Stardust (Bowie's glam-opera tragedy of "Five Years" being dispatched with the line, "Wipe off that make-up, what's in is despair"), then swirls in theatrical reminiscence of "In The Flesh," the song that opens Pink Floyd The Wall. But a brief interlude, dropped in like a throwaway inside a Tim Burton-esque carnival, directly echoes the Juicy Fruits' performance of Williams' "Goodbye, Eddie, Goodbye," the song that opens De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise.

Later on in The Black Parade, the song "Sleep" borrows directly from Williams' lyrics for "Phantom's Theme (Beauty and the Beast)."

"Phantom's Theme (Beauty and the Beast)" by Paul Williams

To work it out I let them in
All the good guys and the bad guys that I've been

"Sleep" by My Chemical Romance

A drink for the horror that I’m in
For the good guys and the bad guys
For the monsters that I’ve been

The Black Parade can be listened to in its entirety for a limited time at AOL Music, or at

Posted October 18 2006
Somehow I missed this Studio Daily interview with Vilmos Zsigmond from September 20th. It makes a nice companion piece to this newly posted interview with Brian De Palma about the postproduction work on The Black Dahlia. Zsigmond is asked what he and De Palma talked about during preproduction:

Basically, all Brian said to me in the beginning was that he wanted beautiful photography and the best film noir ever shot. After that, he left me pretty much on my own. I bought a couple books with some incredible black-and-white stills, looked at paintings and a number of film noir movies, including The Third Man.

Asked how he would define film noir, Zsigmond answers:

Film noir is an abstract form of art that uses light and shadows to set the moods for stories. Before there was film, you saw that look in paintings, especially from the Caravaggio era. I also saw that look in black-and-white photography books.

Zsigmond said he was in constant communication with set designer Dante Ferretti:

We spoke about everything. I needed him to design sets with room to move the cameras, and with windows, chandeliers and lamps where they were needed to motivate light. I loved working with him, because he doesn’t compromise.

When asked if De Palma used storyboards for The Black Dahlia, Zsigmond replied:

He did in our earlier movies, but we didn’t need them on this film. It was all in his head. He knew what he wanted and how one shot worked with the next one, but he also listened to everyone, including the actors. Brian directed from the camera most of the time, because that’s how you get the best performances out of the actors. He had a little portable monitor, but trusted the operators to frame the right way.

Zsigmond goes on to discuss coverage in contrast to De Palma's long takes:

We usually covered scenes with two cameras. One was on a master shot, and the other one was a close-up either next to the other camera or at a little different angle. The main exceptions were big master shots that Brian did in one take with a single camera. He tried to do that in almost every scene. Some of those shots go for three minutes without cutting away. It helps the story’s rhythm and feels natural. That was another advantage of using three-perf film. We could shoot longer takes.

Zsigmond also discusses spontaneity while filming:

Many times, the day before we shot a scene, I’d ask Brian where he wanted the camera and he’d say, I think it’s going to be here, but don’t blame me if it’s going to be on the other side of the set. We never had time to rehearse on the sets, because they were still finishing them while we were shooting. Sometimes they finished a set the day before we were scheduled to shoot. That happened because there were many changes in the schedule, which made it difficult for Dante to keep up with the sets. A scene would be scheduled for next week, and he would learn at the last moment that we were shooting tomorrow, because the actor was available, so he worked almost all night.

The article also apparently had featured a before-and-after contrast juxtaposition between two versions of a split-diopter shot that was highlighted by digital intermediate work in postproduction, but the images are unfortunately no longer active.

In the other interview linked above, De Palma discusses the importance of the postproduction process:

Of course it's vital for how a film turns out, and all the digital editing and visual effects advances have made the process a lot easier. I'd never go back to the old way of editing and posting a film, and on Black Dahlia we were able to do a 4K DI and really emphasize the rich colors and deep shadows Vilmos and I wanted. But then I also feel that so many of the decisions have been made so long before that it's more of a refining, shaping process for me, by the time I get to post. I'm not one of those directors who has seven cameras running and then you have to make the film in the editing room and post. It's all pre-planned and you're making very subtle changes. In post you can only dress the corpse up — you cannot bring it to life [he laughs].

De Palma said that there are not a lot of visual effects in the film. He also talked about working with editor Bill Pankow:

We've made so many movies together now that we go through and select the takes together and then he sort of puts it together. He's not on the set. He's in the editing room, but he is there. I would go into the editing room everyday, and visual editing is where you can adjust the movie as you're shooting it.

Asked about sound, De Palma tells Post, "Music and all the audio is also a very important part of the post process for me, and I like to spend quite a bit of time on that. So much of what an audience sees and feels is actually created by the music and all the sound effects." De Palma tells Post that David Lean, Stanley Kubrick, Orson Welles, and Federico Fellini are all "big influences" on his work, saying, "There's stuff to be learned from all the great directors and the way they approach their particular aesthetic." On Alfred Hitchcock, De Palma tells Post, "I still feel very close to Hitchcock, and I understand the kind of grammar he developed and I used a lot of it in my films. In fact, as far as I'm concerned, it's still the best text-book that's available on moviemaking, period."

Posted October 16 2006

Space Ace has sent in a couple of pictures (above and below) from the October 11 premiere of The Black Dahlia in Sofia, Bulgaria, where most of the film was shot. The event took place at Sofia's City Center International. According to Space Ace, there was a red carpet, bodyguards wearing period costumes, and a short jazz concert. And of course they watched the film. Addresses to the attendees were made by co-producer Avi Lerner (pictured at left with Nu Image Bulgaria head David Varod) and the U.S. Ambassador.

Laurent Bouzereau, who wrote the book "The De Palma Cut" in the late 1980s, was interviewed recently by MI6 about a new book he's written on the art of the James Bond film series. Bouzereau has done many documentaries for the DVDs of De Palma films, including some excellent work on the recent Special Edition DVD of Body Double. In the MI6 interview, Bouzereau reveals that he will soon be completing work on the DVD for De Palma's The Black Dahlia, which is scheduled to be released December 26, 2006.

Posted October 9 2006
At left is the cover of the November 2006 issue of Esquire, which has named Scarlett Johansson its "Sexiest Woman Alive" this year. The magazine hits newsstands this week. Not sure how much discussion of The Black Dahlia exists in the article inside (I've not seen the actual article yet), but there is much discussion of Brian De Palma's latest film in the October 2006 issue of Flaunt. In the latter magazine, which you can view and read at the Gallery, Johansson poses with Dita Von Teese, who happens to be married to Marilyn Manson, who himself has a series of paintings detailing his lifelong interest in the Black Dahlia. In the Flaunt article, Von Teese says, "People romanticize the past as being like, 'Oh, it was such a kinder, gentler time.' The Black Dahlia is a testament to the fact that, no, it wasn't. People were the same. There were always evil people, people who were having all kinds of sex. Many women were being murdered at that time. She was just the most sensational." The article says that Johansson read everything she could on the case purely out of interest. Asked why Elizabeth Short's killing was such an obsession for people, Johansson replies, "I equate it with something like the Menendez case, or cases like it. Americans were so lost and depressed at that time to the point they became obsessed with this fantastic case. It was so wild and so brutal and filled with so much intrigue and sexuality. It was just so attractive." When asked who killed the Black Dahlia, Johansson replies, "Who knows? I've read The Black Dahlia Avenger, and it's very interesting. It's written by Steve Hodel."

After some discussion of Hodel's book and the dark side of ambition, the article continues:

"Have you seen the film?" Scarlett asked. "You really have to see it. It plays on our own obsession with this voyeuristic, nosy side of humanity. I find that people are always interested in other people's failures. Especially now."

"We're like those people who bought pictures of the Black Dahlia sold by vendors on the street," I said.

"I think our society is so depressed in a way. People are so misled and disillusioned that they become fascinated with other people's trouble," said Johansson. "They avoid their own misery that way. Certainly this film deals with that. All the characters are very ambitious. I saw it and I've seen it a couple times before. I could watch it over and over again because Brian is just so indulgent in exactly the right kind of way."

Johansson also said that the film "captures the book exactly. I know James Ellroy is really happy with it and that's the most important thing because I loved the book, and the most important thing to me is that the writer is satisfied."

Posted October 3 2006
Brian De Palma discussed his new film, The Black Dahlia, with "De Palma a la Mod" last week. The interview, which you can read here, contains several SPOILERS, so you may want to wait until after you have seen the film before you read it. The De Palma discussion covers specifics about The Black Dahlia, as well as the Talent Lab at this year's Toronto Film Festival, and touches briefly on upcoming projects The Untouchables: Capone Rising and Toyer. Hope you enjoy reading it. And don't forget-- the new Body Double DVD is released today, with an hour's worth of interviews about the making of the film.
(Thanks to Brian De Palma for the discussion!)

Posted October 2 2006
Aaron Eckhart was on Sunday Morning Shootout yesterday, discussing directors with co-hosts Peter Guber and Peter Bart. At one point, the discussion turned to the relationship between actors and directors, and Eckhart said the following:

What I would like in an ideal film is for them to create a very safe place for me where I can play. I look at directors as, in a way, they're creative masseuses, you know. [Laughter from Bart & Guber] They have to, you know, they take their actors, and the people on set, their crew, and they have to guide them [motions with his hands], like this. They're almost like sheepherders. And when you're an actor, you have to be able to go out here [extends his arms out wide], and then the director brings you back into here [closes the gap between his arms into a manageable shoebox size]. And the actor is looking for someone to guide them and lead them. And so is the crew. And once you lose that generalship, that authority, you're dead. The movie's dead. For example, I just worked with Brian De Palma, and you know that he knows exactly what he wants. His crew respects him. He knows the mechanics and the techniques of filmmaking, so you can let yourself go. And he loves good actors.

When Eckhart mentioned De Palma, the screen showed footage of Eckhart and De Palma on the set of The Black Dahlia. The first clip showed them at the Diner By The Sea set, and the second one was in front of Lee and Kay's house.

Posted October 1 2006
"What a difference 20 years makes" begins an article by Thomas K. Arnold published Friday in the Hollywood Reporter. "When Brian De Palma's Scarface hit theaters in 1983, it was panned by critics and earned a paltry $45.6 million at the domestic boxoffice -- enough to squeak by Jaws 3-D for the No. 16 position on the year-end rankings." The film's producer, Martin Bregman, is quoted next, saying, "We were trashed." The article goes on to discuss how the film resonates today "with a new generation of viewers that relates to the outsider status of Pacino's antihero and finds truth in the message of societal forces that reward -- however fleetingly -- aggression, naked ambition and greed."

The article features several quotes from Universal Pictures' Marc Shmuger, the man who bought De Palma's The Black Dahlia for the studio before he became chairman. According to the article, "Shmuger believes that Scarface was ahead of its time, suffering in the long shadow of Francis Ford Coppola's Godfather movies. To enter the epic gangster genre after 1972's The Godfather and 1974's The Godfather: Part II won a combined nine Academy Awards, he says, was an uphill battle." The article delves into the entire history of the film, from its problems with the ratings board, to its trashing by critics upon its release. Then Shmuger talks about the test screenings, old and new:

"Even in our test screenings, the movie wasn't playing well," says Shmuger, who saw the film in a New York theater long before he joined Universal. "I was just stunned; I didn't know how to take it. 'The Godfather' had seemed so perfect and proper, but 'Scarface' just felt so aggressive."

"Scarface" earned only $4.6 million during its opening weekend and wound up grossing $45.6 million during its initial theatrical run -- hardly the makings of a blockbuster. Slowly but surely, though, a cult following developed, primarily among young urban audiences who kept coming back for repeat viewings.

In 2003, while preparing the release of a 20th anniversary "Scarface" DVD, Universal conducted a second round of test screenings -- and met with markedly different results.

"We put a print in front of audiences on the West Coast and the East Coast because we wanted to see if it would stand up as a theatrical release again in Los Angeles and New York, and scores were through the roof," Shmuger says. "The movie hadn't changed; what had changed was the audience and the culture."

Not only was the graphic violence more palatable to viewers raised on films like 1994's "Natural Born Killers" and video games like Midway's "Mortal Kombat" franchise, but also the premise of "Scarface" resonated among the test-screen throng.

"The whole story of trying to fight your way up, by hook or by crook or by violence -- of doing anything to achieve the American dream -- became something of an anthem to the hip-hop culture," Shmuger says.

And the film's authenticity has endured. Says Bregman, "What makes all this possible, 23 years later, is a movie that is very much still a fresh and hot property."

Here are links to the other articles in the series:

Pop culture references to Scarface

Songs and score combine for video game

Brand identity

Tony Montana gets his game

Remastered audio and extras galore propel this DVD reissue
Bregman is quoted in this last article:

Martin Bregman, who produced the 1983 theatrical release, was wowed by the new DVD issue. "Every part of the film has been enhanced," he says. "It has been cleaned up very well."Bregman notes that he took part in creating the platinum edition. "I was involved with everything that has been done with 'Scarface' and most of the other films I have done," he says. "DVD is important to me because it reaches an awful lot of people. If you look at what's happening in the entertainment world, DVD now has a major effect on the greenlight process. It's a profit center for every studio."

Posted September 26 2006
While Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia continues to play in North American theaters, a number of De Palma-related events will be happening in the month of October. First off, at 4:30pm on Sunday October 1st, William Finley, who has a key role in Dahlia, will be making an appearance at the East Coast Fango convention.

Two days later, on October 3rd, the "Special Edition" DVD of Body Double is released, as well as a new "Platinum Edition" DVD of Scarface. (To promote the latter, Universal today sent the press some stills of De Palma with Al Pacino-- plus one with Steven Bauer-- from the set of the film.)

Three days after that, at the Carolina Theatre's Femme Fatale Film Series, Nancy Allen will host a screening of De Palma's Dressed To Kill on October 6th. Jessica Harper will be there one week later, on October 13th, to host a screening of Dario Argento's Suspiria. Argento cast Harper in the film after seeing her in De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise.

Speaking of Phantom, several actors from that film-- Finley, Gerrit Graham, Peter Elbling, and Jeff Comanor-- will all be making appearances at the Chiller Theater Expo, which runs October 27-29 at the Crowne Plaza in Secaucus, New Jersey. (Thanks to Akahan!)

Posted September 21 2006
There are three magazines to keep an eye out for this week. Josh Hartnett is on the cover of the October 2006 GQ, where he discusses his thoughts on his role as Bucky in The Black Dahlia. Scarlett Johansson is on the cover of the October 2006 issue of In Style, but while there are some nice pictures of her inside, the article doesn't really discuss much about the new film. The big one to get for De Palma fans, though, is issue #257 of Fangoria, which features a nice long interview with William Finley, and covers almost every De Palma movie he's been in, from Murder a la Mod to The Black Dahlia. I'll post pulls from these interviews later on, but if you see issue #256 of Fangoria, grab that one, too-- it has a nice interview with Jessica Harper (which I will also post more on later).
(Thanks to Kate at the Josh Hartnett FanHost forum for the cover image!)

Posted September 20 2006
Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia will open the Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival Thursday night, September 21st. The festival, which runs through October 5th, will feature 385 films from 60 countries.

Posted September 18 2006
The September 22 2006 issue of Entertainment Weekly features an article by Chris Nashawaty titled "The Lives Of Brian," with an illustration by Sean McCabe. In the article, Brian De Palma describes his new film, The Black Dahlia, as a look at "the dark side of the Hollywood myth." Then the article gets De Palma's insights on a select group of his films: Sisters, Carrie, Dressed To Kill, Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchables, Casualties Of War, The Bonfire Of The Vanities, Carlito's Way, and Mission: Impossible. With Sisters, De Palma talks about making "a conscious attempt to learn how to tell stories with images," and having no apologies for using some of Alfred Hitchcock's ideas. For Blow Out, he talks about how it was going to be a small film until John Travolta became interested, making it "a much bigger picture. He was terrific, but it was expensive and when you have a bummer ending like Blow Out's... I'll never forget when the distributor saw it, they almost had a coronary." He says that the thing he is proudest of with Scarface is Al Pacino's performance. "If I'm watching TV and I come across that film, I'll sit and watch it for a while." Discussing Casualties Of War, De Palma says:

When you make a movie like Blow Out or Casualties Of War, which is unending agony to make and to watch, your audience isn't going to sit up and go, 'God, that's great! I'm going to go tell my friends about this one!' I mean, the movie's devastating. It's about a girl that gets raped and killed. Vertigo is one of my favorite movies. Hitchcock was mortified when it wasn't a success. Maybe it's a bummer, but you have to look beyond that. You have to stick with your instincts. And sometimes, unfortunately, you go down with them.

This leads into a discussion about The Bonfire Of The Vanities, which De Palma admits making several mistakes on, number one being casting Tom Hanks to make the lead more likeable...

But Sherman McCoy is a prick and an arrogant aristocrat. And that's the way it should have been. Ultimately, Tom was wrong for the movie. The reaction to the film was mortifying. You love this book, you make some decisions you regret, and you think, well, you just have to go on. In my career, I've been burned down to the ground about every ten years. Finished! And somehow I've managed to rise up out of the ashes. It's not a particularly pleasant cycle.

De Palma says he didn't get too excited about Carlito's Way ("gangsters again") until he got Sean Penn into it. He said Kevin Spacey was the only one close to getting Penn's role. De Palma had some very interesting things to say about Mission: Impossible:

Tom asked me to come back for the second one, but I said no. I saw the [sequels]. The second is very much a John Woo picture. I can hardly remember anybody else in it besides Tom Cruise. I think that's a mistake. The problem with the Mission: Impossibles is they've been copied so much on television now. And then in the third one, where you have a television director directing it, you're going to get a long episode of 24. I don't understand why people are ganging up on Tom. I've worked with two of the biggest Scientologists-- Travolta and Cruise-- and I don't think people understand Scientology. As for Paramount recently canceling their deal with his company, well, you've got me in a difficult spot because I'm trying to do a sequel to The Untouchables there.

Posted September 17 2006
An article by Glenn Lovell at The State features interviews with Brian De Palma and James Ellroy as they "brace for tough reviews" last week, just before the opening of The Black Dahlia. Lovell discusses the bonding of the two artists over the past few weeks. "We're both obsessive," Ellroy tells Lovell. "Brian is obsessive with his work methods. I'm obsessive about my writing. And let's face it, this is the granddaddy of all sexual obsessive stories." Lovell says that while De Palma was "brusque" with Ellroy in early meetings, he "now acknowledges a growing bond." De Palma told Lovell, "I guess we are kindred spirits. I've spent a lot of time with Ellroy on this tour. He's an original. He talks in Ellroy-esque, but it comes out in like Shakespearean sentences." In response to Ellroy's quotes above, De Palma says, "Yeah, I'm obsessive. You have to be in this business. In most of the movies I see there's not a great attention to detail, locations ... everything that goes up on that canvas we call the screen." Describing the film, Lovell points out that "De Palma's ending is very different than Ellroy's." The article continues...

"It's a compressed rendition that adheres to the overall dramatic arc of the novel," points out Ellroy. "Brian had his jaws wrapped tightly around L.A. in the `40s . . . I never could have imagined that a movie shot largely in Bulgaria could have captured my themes so well, and the haunting obsessiveness of the Black Dahlia."

De Palma agrees that the film in some ways encapsulates his career. "But I favor more visual sequences," he says. "There are a lot of people talking, which happens with detective fiction where you've got to get a lot of information from place to place. It's not one of my favorite forms."

Lovell also asks De Palma for his take on what really may have happened to Elizabeth Short. "I think Betty was a girl a bit on the make, and I think she got picked up and didn't come across with what she was supposed to do, and somebody went wild and then disappeared or got arrested for another crime. But that, of course, is not as sexy as some of these other solutions."

Posted September 16 2006
Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia is a film noir fever dream that gets a grip on James Ellroy from the opening frame and doesn't let go until the final shot-- and that final sequence of shots, one of the most shocking and disturbing endings in De Palma's entire canon, continues to haunt the psyche well after one leaves the theater. The entire picture is executed in a fever pitch of hard boiled dialogue, both visual and verbal, that is at once a throwback to an earlier way of making movies, but is also something completely new. It is as if De Palma had become the character in his previous film, Femme Fatale, who falls asleep while watching Double Indemnity and allows the subconscious to color in the picture.

Make no mistake-- this is one of De Palma's greatest films. It is a cinematic valentine to his fans, one that continues the uncompromised adventure begun in Femme Fatale. The two films together show De Palma to be in the midst of a career peak, a director who is still pushing himself to come up with original ways of telling stories, and who is setting the cinema on fire with an unusual level of audaciousness (especially for a "Hollywood" director).

The Black Dahlia is a wind-up toy of a movie that unfolds in a whiz of old fashioned wipes that here take on a symphonic resonance of their own, like curtains folding in on pieces of a subconscious puzzle. Contrary to many commentaries I've read about the film, there is no particular shift in speed or tone once the Dahlia's body is found-- the entire film has a consistent vibe that is dynamic and is swept along accordingly by Mark Isham's brilliant score. The cast hits all the right notes in this fast-paced drama that opens with the pulp bible shot of Josh Hartnett getting ready for a boxing match, accompanied by the mourning siren of Isham's trumpet. It closes with a sequence of shots and sounds that together collide the worst nightmares of Blue Velvet, The Birds, Blow Out, and Carrie in the best, sharpest, piercing Eisensteinian manner. The Black Dahlia carries with it the tragic operatic drive of De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise and Carrie, along with the moral weight of Carlito's Way, and its cast, worked up to the heightened feverish pitch, does justice to the material and vice versa.

I will write more later this weekend, after I've seen the film another time or two. Suffice it to say that most of the critics are so far, so wrong. They need to watch this film again...

Posted September 15 2006
Mark Isham's soundtrack from The Black Dahlia is out now in stores (and no, it does not include the song from k.d. lang). It does, however, include a brief paragraph about the creation of the soundtrack:

Fascinated by suspense and mystery stories, Mark was enthralled with the idea of composing a sexy, dark, film noir story about murder, mayhem, conspiracy and romance for Brian De Palma's THE BLACK DAHLIA. When Isham and director De Palma first had a creative meeting regarding the direction of the score, De Palma remarked, "Mark, I am looking for a mournful trumpet score." Mark replied, "Well Brian, I happen to be a mournful trumpet player." And the rest is history. Isham's trumpet leads the audience through this mesmerizing story with a 100-piece English orchestra, recorded at London's famous Abbey Road Studios. Isham's tantalizingly lush, moody score truly becomes a character of its own for this romantically provocative film.

Posted September 15 2006
Variety's weekly box office preview calls for a "noir war" this week as The Black Dahlia is released one week following Hollywoodland, which did fairly good business on a limited amount of theatres last weekend. Both films are released by Universal (Hollywoodland by Uni's Focus Features), which bought The Black Dahlia last year for $11 million. According to Variety, The Black Dahlia "is said to be tracking quite well, particularly with women and with males over 25. That demo could conceivably give Dahlia a shot at a No. 1 finish with a tally in the mid teens." It's main competition is likely to be the new football film Gridiron Gang," although the article says that both films "should draw auds in urban centers." Gridiron is released on 3,504 screens, while Dahlia will hit 2,228 screens today. Variety also expects Dahlia to have an edge over The Last Kiss, which stars Zach Braff. "Kiss is tracking slightly higher with females under 25," says Variety, "but [Scarlett] Johansson and [Josh] Hartnett should be able to draw more attention as they try to turn the same heads."

Meanwhile, reviews of the film have been very mixed. Below are some links and pulls from a selection of the most interesting ones... (also see the sidebar for links to more reviews, including Armond White's)

Here's a SPOILERISCIOUS analysis from Matt Zoller Seitz-- see the movie before you read this one, though.

Three critics who usually offer thoughtful consideration of De Palma's films: Michael Sragow; Stephanie Zacharek; and Manohla Dargis.

Martyn Bamber at 6degreesfilm:
...this film could be seen as De Palma's Touch of Evil (1958), with a dash of Jules et Jim (1961). The Black Dahlia is suffused with numerous film references that deepen its meaning; among them, the use of footage from The Man Who Laughs (1928). De Palma's film is also something of a tribute to actors who have appeared in his previous works, as well as being a compendium of themes, ideas, shots, characters (and even props) from other De Palma films. For instance, when Bucky meets the Linscott clan at their mansion, they turn out to be the family from hell and Home Movies (1979) (a De Palma film that featured an eccentric, dysfunctional family).

Brian De Palma arrives in the final third of 2006 with one of his best films, and yet no one will realize it for years to come... L.A. Confidential comes from an incredibly literate script, perhaps one of the greatest scripts ever written, and contains an "A" level cast to die for. It tells its story well for more than two hours (a good length for Best Picture consideration), and hints at a swirling darkness below the bright surface. Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia delves into a much more visceral place, slashing through logic and proceeding from a purely physical, lascivious standpoint. To put it simply, L.A. Confidential is literature and The Black Dahlia is cinema.

The Telegraph's Tim Roby:
Brian De Palma's strongest since Carlito's Way and quite the best period noir since the (admittedly superior) LA Confidential. The sheer narrative muscle of that film isn't here, for sure, but it has its own virtues, and they're big ones.

Posted September 13 2006
Brian De Palma is pictured at left with unidentified guests at the Away From Her party Tuesday night at the Toronto International Film Festival. Meanwhile, Hilary Swank has been promoting The Black Dahlia in New York City. After appearing on NBC's Today show this morning (where she showed a clip from the film and talked about dressing up for her role), Swank signed autographs at the launch of the new Guerlain fragrance Insolence, and then attended a screening of The Black Dahlia hosted by the Cinema Society and Guerlain. Kevin Costner also attended the screening, along with several other celebrities.

Sheila Roberts has posted four of the best Black Dahlia-related interviews you're likely to find anywhere. Her interview with De Palma ranks right up there with Mr. Beaks' latest one. She starts off by getting the director to talk about finding and recreating locations for the film (he says, "there’s that great documentary, L.A. Plays Itself, that shows all these locations as seen through the movies"), and he talks about how generic the locations are in L.A. As the interview goes on, De Palma touches on how Vilmos Zsigmond "likes to play around with the saturation of the colors," and how the digital process makes these things easy to adjust. He talks about how editor Bill Pankow had set up shop in Bulgaria while they were shooting. "And you go into the editing room every day," De Palma says. "And the advantage of digital editing is that you can adjust the movie as you’re shooting it." Then Roberts asks him about the tone of the film...

But that’s the tone of the book. I mean that very much exists in the book. I was just talking to some journalist about [how] this is closer to Sunset Blvd. With the funeral of the monkey, when he arrives at Norma’s estate, it’s like, ‘OK. How are we supposed to take that?’ Take Bill Holden’s kind of raw-eyed analysis of what he’s watching and this is very much true in this piece too because once you’re at the Linscott’s, you in a nut house. These people are insane. And the way Ellroy wrote it is sort of like a comic opera. I don’t know how else to explain it. So what I did in order to get that across to the audience originally was to shoot the entrance in first person. I said, ‘OK, you want to see these people? Let them look at you. Let Mrs. Linscott just look at you like you’re trash.’ ‘How is this policeman in my living room?’ So that was the adjustment I made, and when you have a dog stuffed with a newspaper from his first million dollars, Hilary just sort of tosses it off like the weather. I mean, you go, ‘Wow! I’m in a loony bin here and everybody seems to think it’s quite normal.’ And that’s exactly how I did it very much in the tone of the Ellroy book.

De Palma then talks about improvising the screen tests with Mia Kirshner...

. So there were a bunch of screen tests in an early version of the script. So Mia and I got together and we started with that and I played the director and she played the person auditioning. And I would just do what a very destructive director would try to do. I guess I was Otto Preminger trying to destroy the actress before your eyes. And Mia played off it. She’s an actress, she’s insecure, she wants the job. And I’m saying, ‘Is that acting?’ ‘Is that sadness?’ And she brought it right to the heart of the audience. It’s very moving stuff because it’s all real. Those are just one very long take after another and the reason it seems so vivid is it’s happening right before your eyes.

Elsewhere, De Palma discusses the selection of visual elements...

Take Pride and Prejudice, for instance. There’s a subject that’s been done many times over and suddenly you have some director bringing a specific vision to it with a great art director. And then you go, "Wow!” I’ve seen 73 Pride and Prejudices. Why does this one seem to jump off the screen? It has a lot to do with the selection of those visual elements.

De Palma talks about working with great actors like Fiona Shaw and Vanessa Redgrave (the latter on Mission: Impossible, and how he decided to cut the role of the neighbor, which was to be played by Amy Irving, apparently prior to filming the scenes she was to be in. The interview moves on to topics such as what movie of his De Palma might like to remake (Raising Cain, he replies, so he could try to get it to work the way he originally envisioned it). Then De Palma says that it was Swank's idea to have her character go to "these gay bars," and wonders, "How come nobody has commented on my fantastic Lesbian floor show? (laughter) I’m so proud of it. (laughter) I’ve heard not one question about that. Now why is that?" Then Roberts asks him,

Tell us about the Lesbian floor show? (laughter)

BDP: Oh, really? Well, I figured there’d be some really trendy club in Hollywood or some gay movie star type club so it would be not like a low down dive. It’d be some really hip place. And hanging out with my Lesbian friends, they like pretty girls too. So I said, ‘Why not have a Lesbian chorus line of these drop-dead beautiful girls making out with each other?’ So I had this choreographer that worked for me, a French choreographer that worked with me on "Femme Fatale” and she actually had these Bulgarian dancers and a couple of ringers from Paris. She created this Bulgarian… (laughs) And we got this great singer to sing the song and I shot it all night. It was my last night in Bulgaria. And I kept on shooting it until the plane took off. (laughter) You know, those dancers, I had them do it so many times. And poor k.d. Lang said, "If I have to come down that staircase one more time...’

This interview is truly great, and also check out these other three Roberts interviews: James Ellroy and Josh Friedman; Josh Hartnett; and Scarlett Johansson.

Posted September 12 2006
At left is a photo of Brian De Palma, Vilmos Zsigmond, and Dante Ferretti on the Bulgarian set of The Black Dahlia. The photo appears in the September 2006 issue of American Cinematographer, which has an image of Josh Hartnett from the film on its cover. The article inside features interviews with Zsigmond and Ferretti about making the film. The article provides details about the film's opening continuous tracking shot, which starts on a burning palm tree, moves through the Zoot Suit Riots in the streets, and finally finds the film's main characters, Bucky and Lee, in an alley. For this scene, they used a SuperTechnocrane, which has a telescoping arm that allowed them to move the camera into the alley after the track along the street had come to its end. Even though they had planned to use the SuperTechnocrane for that and one other shot, De Palma liked it so much that they kept it around throughout the rest of the shoot. It was also used for the dazzling scene where the corpse is discovered, which Zsigmond details in great length, covering every camera move.

Zsigmond says that the film is a good example of what he calls "'color noir', because it's shot to color but has the feel of a black-and-white movie." He says that it was much easier to recreate the site of the Dahlia murder from scratch in Bulgaria, because the original site has now become more residential and looks nothing like it did in the 1940s. The article says that Ferretti was "nonplussed" upon hearing that he would have to build sets from scratch to resemble believable Los Angeles settings. "Brian basically gave me the script and said, 'Good luck,'" he said with a laugh. "He felt that I knew L.A. very well and could pull it off. Nevertheless, I did a scout in L.A. just before we left, and we did a lot of research about the Black Dahlia. I looked at the real murder site, even though that street doesn't look the same today, and I also looked at all of the pictures that were taken back in the Forties. When you have good information at your disposal, it's not that difficult to design convincing sets." Ferretti said what made it more difficult was working "in an unfamiliar country with crew people you don't know very well," so he brought many of his key people with him to help teach the new crew how to build for a bigger-budgeted film.

The issue is on stands now. Zsigmond will be the guest speaker tonight at an advance screening of The Black Dahlia at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

The Black Dahlia is featured on the cover of this month's Total Film, which features a three-star review of the film and interviews with De Palma and James Ellroy. You can see scans of the inside pages and read the interviews by clicking here (thanks to Annie at the Josh Hartnett FanHost forum). In the article, a disgruntled De Palma opens by talking about how he uses violence in "a symphonic way." Later on, he compares Scarlett Johansson's sexual appeal to that of Marlon Brando and Rita Hayworth.

The October 2006 issue of Premiere has an article about the film, as well, featuring interveiws with De Palma, Hartnett, Ellroy, and screenwriter Josh Friedman. On working on the project with David Fincher, Friedman says, "I worked with Fincher for six years. I've known this project longer than I've known my wife." He says that with Fincher, "we never had a draft under 175 pages." Friedman, pictured to the right with Ellroy at last week's L.A. premiere of the film, discusses more details of his screenplay in the September/October 2006 issue of Scr(i)pt, which is on stands now.

Posted September 11 2006
Brian De Palma appears to be enjoying himself at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, where he has been taking in films and participating as a guest in the fest's Talent Lab. At left, he is pictured with Patricia Clarkson just before last night's premiere of All The King's Men, in which she appears. Clarkson made her film debut in De Palma's The Untouchables back in 1987. Also at the premiere last night was Sean Penn, who also stars in the film. All The King's Men was directed by Steven Zaillian, who worked with De Palma on the story for Mission: Impossible. Today is De Palma's birthday.

Posted September 9 2006
Brian De Palma is interviewed in tomorrow's Los Angeles Times. In the article, De Palma talks about several aspects of The Black Dahlia, as well as the movie business in general. Mia Kirshner is quoted about getting the call from De Palma, asking her how she felt about playing Elizabeth Short instead of Madeleine...

"At the time, there was nothing about Elizabeth in the script. I said to Brian, 'I don't think I'm the right girl for that. It's not my thing.'" So De Palma went back to the original draft, which gave Short's character a fuller role.

De Palma talks about the complexities of James Ellroy's novel:

"There are so many theories about the 'Black Dahlia.' I thought that Ellroy's was one of the best, especially because of the fascinating way he tells stories. It's so complex — something you don't see on the screen too often. You really have to bore into it. This is not an episode of 'CSI.' This is really dense, with a captivating mystery."

Art Linson talks about recreating the site of the crime scene in Bulgaria:

Art Linson, one of the film's producers, noted that the vacant field where Short's body is found was actually shot outside Sofia using vintage police photos as a guide, while scenes of the old Hollywoodland sign were rendered by CGI, also using historic photographs as a resource. "In some ways, it feels more authentic than if it were shot here," Linson said.

De Palma tells the paper that the violence in The Black Dahlia is not as visceral as it was in Dressed To Kill, and describes his "bucket of blood" sequence in Carrie as "pure cinema." Discussing the films he and his contemporaries made in the 1970s, De Palma continues:

It's so tough out there now," he said. "Those movies we made in the 1970s, I don't know if we could ever get them made now. They were crazy. There was that era of director as superstar, a flash of light between the demise of the studio system and the rise of the [talent] agencies. About a decade and then it was sort of over."

De Palma said the movie business today is not unlike the toy business. "You've got to make these mechanical toys that keep the industry going." He is critical of a certain type of studio executive. "Everything now depends on polling, screenings, testing this and testing that.... We're in an era where people who are sort of making movies were never in the movie business. They think, 'We're going to reinvent it.' But the only experience they have is television."

The article concludes with mention of De Palma's upcoming prequel to The Untouchables, and De Palma says he enjoys the planning stages of a film the most. "In the beginning, everything is possible," he told the paper. "Then it's a process of keeping the elements you need." (It looks like Toyer has been put on the backburner indefinitely... for now.)

Posted September 8 2006

Above is a new photo of Brian De Palma directing Josh Hartnett in The Black Dahlia. Lurking behind the door in the left of the photo is James Otis, who plays Hartnett's father in the film. This pic comes courtesy of Kate at the FanHost Josh Hartnett forum, and if you go there, you can view a larger version of the above, as well as some other stills from the film. Below are more pics from Wednesday night's premiere in Los Angeles.

At left is Pepe Serna, who appears in Dahlia, and also worked with De Palma on Scarface back in 1983. In the latter film, Serna portrayed the friend of Tony Montana's who gets his limbs cut off by a chainsaw. He makes a fitting bit of casting, then, for The Black Dahlia. Below are pics of James Otis, and De Palma's stepdaughter, Willa Holland, at the premiere.

Posted September 8 2006
At left is Mark Isham posing with Brian De Palma at the Los Angeles premiere of The Black Dahlia this past Wednesday night. The release date for Isham's soundtrack to the film has been pushed back to this Tuesday (September 12th)-- hopefully they will include k.d. lang's rendition of "Love For Sale" on the CD. Meanwhile, today, interviews with De Palma are popping up all over the web. The big one is from Mr. Beaks (aka Jeremy Smith), which has been posted at CHUD. Mr. Beaks has written extensively about De Palma's films over the years, and knows the man's cinema very well, but be warned, his interview contains a spoiler about the ending of The Black Dahlia (which is different from the book's ending) early on. In the Beaks interview, De Palma talks about the new film, his critics, and keeping his craft fresh by directing other people's material, which allows him to get away from his own obsessions.

The Beaks interview also contains a key piece of information about De Palma's upcoming prequel to The Untouchables-- that David Rabe has been working on a rewrite of the script started by Brian Koppelman and David Levien. Rabe is the playwright who wrote the screenplay for De Palma's adaptation of Casualties Of War. But De Palma and Rabe's working relationship goes all the way back to the late 1970s, when the two worked on a screenplay for a version of Prince Of The City that never saw the light of day (Sydney Lumet took over that project). Rabe also worked on an early version of Scarface with De Palma, before it was decided the film should take place in Miami (a suggestion by Lumet), and Oliver Stone was hired to write the screenplay. De Palma explained part of the new Untouchables scenario to Beaks:

Well, Art and I were in Bulgaria, and he was working on the script with these two young writers. I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “I’m working on this, but it’s not exactly right.” So I said, “Well, let me read it! I’m sitting here. We’ll have 173 dinners together; we might as well be talking about something.” So that’s how I got involved with it. And then it got quite interesting. There’s an assassination in Tosca that I’ve always wanted to do that I wrote for another script, and I was able to get it into this script. It’s an incredible set piece where they kill [mobster James] Colosimo while he’s watching Tosca, which is something I’ve wanted to do for years. So I’ve got a whole bunch of good ideas. And then we have this whole relationship between the young Sean Connery character and Al Capone with a girl in between them; I came up with this idea of a saloon singer. It’s good.

(Pic above is of Art Linson and De Palma at Wednesday's L.A. premiere.)

In another interview at The Guardian, De Palma states his astonishment that there aren't more political films being made in America. He also says that had he been working on The Black Dahlia earlier on in its writing process, he would have done things differently. "If I'd written it from the beginning I would have done certain things," he explained to the paper. "But I didn't put my particular storytelling ellipses in it. I'm doing Ellroy here. My basic thing that I had in my head was that I'm going to tell the story the way Ellroy tells it. This is James Ellroy's Black Dahlia, don't ever forget. I mainly bring out what he put on paper." In a separate interview at The Independent, De Palma says, "I always went with the instincts of Ellroy. If he put it in the book, I was going to put it in the movie." He also says that, while he was just a kid when Elizabeth Short was murdered, he didn't hear about it until he was in college, and was never as intrigued about the murder as Ellroy had been. Despite this, De Palma rattles off the titles of several books about the subject, saying, "There was even one with gangsters involved. It's mythology now." When asked by the reporter if he prefers working in Europe, De Palma sighs, "It's all about 'Who's in it?' You get Tom Cruise, that's good.... but if I get Tom Cruise I don't need them!"

Posted September 7 2006
Brian De Palma has had active discussions recently with Nicolas Cage about the actor playing Al Capone in De Palma's upcoming prequel to The Untouchables, according to a Jam! Showbiz report. Cage and De Palma worked together almost ten years ago on Snake Eyes, and got along so well that they had hoped to make a movie about Howard Hughes together (to be called Mr. Hughes), but the financing never fell into place for the latter project. When asked why he is making a prequel to The Untouchables, De Palma responded, "Well, because my producer was working on this idea while I was [on the Dahlia set in Sofia, Bulgaria] and it was basically about the rise of Al Capone and his relationship with the Sean Connery character before Eliot Ness and we came up with a very good script and that's why." The article by Daniel Fienberg, who seems to have been at a recent press conference where De Palma spoke to journalists, says that De Palma is aware that casting will be central to the new project. "We're thinking we can maybe get Nic Cage to play Al Capone and we've got to get a young Sean Connery," De Palma said. When asked who they might be able to play a young Connery, De Palma replied with a smile, "I don't know. You got any suggestions?" One of the journalists shouted out Colin Farrell, to which De Palma replied, "Wonderful actor. Can't wait to meet him."

Posted September 7 2006
There is an interesting article about Scarlett Johansson (pictured here with Brian De Palma at last night's U.S. premiere of The Black Dahlia in Los Angeles) at the Venice Film Festival at The Times. The author, James Christopher, says that Johansson "makes a heart-stopping entrance in The Black Dahlia as a Marilyn Monroe vamp who could eat the entire cast for breakfast and half the scenery by lunch." De Palma is quoted talking about meeting Johansson when she was 14-- I'll put up more quotes, as well as pics from last night's premiere, later today.

Gregg Henry, Josh Friedman, Mark Isham

Posted September 6 2006
A couple of posts at the 24liesasecond forum provide interesting clues about one of Brian De Palma's upcoming projects, The Untouchables: Capone Rising. According to Dapperdanman, De Palma was spotted discussing the project at the Venice Film Festival with Ennio Morricone, who scored De Palma's original Untouchables film in 1987. And according to Dene, De Palma spoke a bit about the project during his onstage interview at the Edinburgh Film Festival a couple of weeks ago. Dene said De Palma "did intimate that the Untouchables prequel would be his next film." Dene also said that the film "chronicles the early careers of both Malone and Capone, with the picture culminating in the St Valentine's Day Massacre." Capone Rising will be produced by Art Linson, who produced The Untouchables, as well as De Palma's latest, The Black Dahlia.

Posted September 6 2006
Romain at The Virtuoso of the Seventh Art has posted his review of The Black Dahlia, with new stills from the film, such as the one shown here at left. Romain says that he really loved the film, and in his review seems particularly taken with the shot of the discovery of the Dahlia's body. He also highlights the film's strands of dark humor, and the surreal dinner scene where Hilary Swank's Madeleine introduces her family while facing the camera. Romain writes that his only complaint, albeit minor, was Mark Isham's music. At the 24liesasecond forum, however, our old friend Brett has chimed in to say that he loves Isham's score. Brett, who saw the film at an American press screening, writes on the forum that the film is more plot-focused than usual for a De Palma film, but that "the film very successfully utilizes style in service of the story." He says that "De Palma fans will love the who's who of actors from his previous films, and there are several set pieces his fans will relish." Carlito, writing on the forum, also saw the film at Deauville, but was disappointed, saying that the plot is much too "obscure." Keith Uhlich, also on the forum, echoed a recent French review by saying that the film offers an uncompromised vision from De Palma. Anne Thompson, writing on her Hollywood Reporter blog a week ago, called The Black Dahlia "a Brian De Palma fan's fantasy: dark, sexy, brooding, nasty." She continued, "The L.A. noir mystery boasts several fabulous cinematic set pieces for cineastes to froth over. Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank and Scarlett Johannson are more than fine. The one who may earn mixed notices is Josh Hartnett as a relatively honest L.A. cop investigating the infamous 1947 crime. He's a tall drink of water who looks great in a fedora, but..." And finally, Jeffrey M. Anderson compares De Palma's The Black Dahlia to Curtis Hanson's LA Confidential in the San Franciso Examiner's fall movie preview, saying that De Palma's film is "far more lurid, punchy and personal" than Hanson's, despite its "less dazzling cast."

Meanwhile, Scarlett Johansson was back in Los Angeles yesterday, and visited The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. She opened by saying she was relieved that The Black Dahlia was received well in Venice last week, because she had been on the Venice jury a couple of years ago, and the audience hated one of the films so much that they threw salad at the screen. She talked about how the film was originally going to film in Rome, and then it moved to Bulgaria (leading Leno to crack a bunch of jokes about what there is to see in Bulgaria). Johansson laughed politely, but just as politely added that the people in Bulgaria were lovely and that she enjoyed her time there. Then they showed a clip from the film, where Kay asks Bucky about their future together, and Bucky has to tell her "there is no us." Johansson was amazing in the scene, as Hartnett tries to squirm his way out of the conversation. Johansson will be one of many actors from the film to be at the U.S. premiere of The Black Dahlia tonight at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. De Palma and his stepdaughter, Willa Holland, are also expected to be there.

According to Variety, Scarlett Johansson was to blame for the Black Dahlia gang being 40-minutes late to the opening ceremonies at the Venice Film Festival last Wednesday. "For once," writes Nick Vivarelli, "the snag was not the Lido event's fault. Rather, per Dahlia publicists, it was due to Johansson fretting over her getup, which, from the blush on her cheeks to her chaste white gown, harked back to 1940s Tinseltown, when the noir pic is set." Johansson told Hello magazine that she spent three whole days searching for the right outfit for the event. "Hidden away I found a Forties embroidered silk dress that is a perfect fit, not just for me, but for the era my film is set in," she told Hello.

Meanwhile, Lisa Nesselson in Variety has a quote from James Ellroy speaking about the film from the Deauville festival. "When I heard that Brian De Palma had been hired to direct the book," Ellroy reportedly said, "I was so excited I looked out the window, saw there was a full moon, went outside and brayed at it." Nesselson writes that "De Palma, Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart grinned in amazement as Ellroy heaped a veritable thesaurus' worth of praise on the bigscreen result."

Posted September 4 2006
Akahan was at the screening of Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia yesterday, and has posted his spoiler-free review of the film at The Swan Archives. In his review, he mentions that the film contains an overt reference to De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise (both films feature William Finley). In fact, Akahan says that Finley is again mute in Dahlia, as was his character Otto in De Palma's Murder a la Mod (which will be released on DVD a week from tomorrow). Regarding the screening itself, Akahan writes:

Brian De Palma, James Ellroy, Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart all attended the screening (well, sort of; they were there for the beginning, and left for the bulk of the screening, but returned a few minutes before the end to be present for the applause). There were a few walkouts during the film, but it received a several-minute standing ovation from most of the folks in the theater.

We now await word from Romain, who has also been at the Deauville festival...

Meanwhile, halfway through the Venice Film Festival, talk is that while The Black Dahlia did not excite critics, three or four films (depending on who you listen to) have emerged as possible winners of the Golden Lion. Stephen Frears' The Queen seems to be the frontrunner at this point, judging by critical and public reaction (but you never know with an international jury). Two other favorites are Alfonso Cuaron's Children Of Men, and Alain Resnais' Coeurs. Paul Verhoeven's Black Book has also excited critics, but according to Agence France-Presse, it has also drawn a thread of controversy "for painting the Dutch wartime movement in an unflattering light."

Posted September 3 2006
There is a video up now at YouTube that intersperses Venice interviews with Brian De Palma and the cast of The Black Dahlia with scenes from the film. De Palma talks about incorporating images early into the film that play on the viewer's subconscious. "It's sort of planting all these sort of subconscious images into the audience's mind," De Palma says, "and then, as Josh puts the puzzle together, you begin to see how they all work to solve the mystery." Hartnett talks about why he trained so hard for the film's boxing match. "I trained for seven months for this film," he says, "and I didn't really have to do it for seven months at all, because it's only one scene in the film. But I wanted to know how the character fought, because I think that Ellroy used the characters' fighting as a metaphor for who they were. It's pretty obvious, Mr. Fire and Mr. Ice. So, I just felt like I needed to get in the ring and start to decipher what his style is as a fighter, and that therefore kind of translated into what he does as a person on screen."

Posted September 3 2006
Brian De Palma, Josh Hartnett, James Ellroy, and Aaron Eckhart arrived this morning at the 32nd American Film Festival of Deauville in France, where The Black Dahlia screened today. At left is a photo of the group arriving for the screening. Below are some photos from the photocall earlier in the day. According to ABS-CBN News, Ellroy told journalists at the festival that the film is "a brilliantly conceived and executed abridgment of what is a very long novel. In its form it is very beautiful, more so than I could have imagined. When the producer told me that Brian de Palma had been signed up, I was over the moon." De Palma, who had originally thought the book was too long to be adapted for the cinema, told Anne Thompson that he changed his mind when he saw Curtis Hanson's adaptation of Ellroy's LA Confidential.

Posted September 1 2006
The Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson today posted an interview article with Brian De Palma in her Risky Business column. "We excel when we make our mark on a certain genre," De Palma told Thompson, speaking about his return to the crime thriller. "It's about bringing your sensitivity and creativity to the right combination of story and cast at the right time of your life to do something unforgettable. There's very little beauty in movies anymore. My beauty may be dark, but I try to make it as beautiful as I can." About adapting Ellroy's novel, De Palma talks about his efforts "to keep it complex without simplifying too much and taking away the structure of the story." The article continues:

De Palma was juggling simultaneous plot lines "that overlap in ways you don't realize until later," he says. "Some things I changed were too complex for audiences to absorb unless they were able to pick up the book. I had to pare down a lot of the eccentricities of the storytelling. If four things were going on simultaneously, we didn't need five."

The article also mentions that the filmmakers decided to alter the ending of Ellroy's novel somewhat by utilizing recent information about the real-life unsolved Dahlia case. Thompson writes:

In this case, they agreed, one particularly nasty character just had to go down. "This is like Wyatt Earp and Eliot Ness," De Palma says. "They're all characters in mythology now."

Read more interesting stuff from the article at the link provided above.
(Thanks to Steve!)

Posted August 31 2006
Brian De Palma is seen here talking with Sandra Bullock earlier today at the Venice Film Festival, just prior to the premiere of Bullock's Infamous. This weekend, De Palma and Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, James Ellroy, and Art Linson will attend the Deauville Festival of American Cinema in France, where The Black Dahlia will screen on Sunday, September 3rd.

Three days later, De Palma is expected to be back in Los Angeles to attend the U.S. premiere of the film on September 6 at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Also attending the L.A. premiere will be Ellroy, Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Mike Starr, Patrick Fischler, Gregg Henry, James Otis, Rachel Miner, Josh Friedman, Linson, Avi Lerner, Moshe Diamant, and Rudy Cohen.

De Palma is expected to travel to the Toronto Film Festival very soon after the Los Angeles event, to take part in that fest's Talent Lab, and also attend one of his favorite film festivals. All the while, The Black Dahlia will continue to be in competition for the Gold Lion at the Venice fest.

At left is Dante Ferretti and his wife, Francesca LoSchiavo, at last night's Venice premiere. Be sure to check out Riikka's account of her Red Carpet experience at the Venice premiere of The Black Dahlia, along with her mini-review of the film, at

Behind the clan are the golden lions that were designed for
the Venice Film Festival two years ago by Dante Ferretti,
also the production designer on The Black Dahlia.

Opening night had a hitch, however, when the cast of The Black Dahlia was late for the opening ceremony. The show went on without them, however, marking the first time ever that the opener's lead cast was absent. "The festival decided to go ahead to start the opening ceremonies out of respect for the other 1,000 guests in the theater," organizers said in a statement. The Black Dahlia crew, including Scarlett Johansson, showed up 40 minutes later.

Missing stars cause a stir Led by De Palma, Scarlett Johansson, Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart, they were ushered into the festival hall 40 minutes late, by which time an embarrassed festival president Davide Croff had already declared the festival open in their absence. "It seems the culprit was sexy diva Scarlett Johansson," reported Italian news agency ANSA, which nevertheless praised the actress for lingering on the catwalk for 10 minutes to pose for hollering photographers and sign autographs for hundreds of fans.

Posted August 30 2006
According to Variety, Hilary Swank decided to bow out of the Venice Film Festival for work-related reasons. But the gang has otherwise arrived in Venice for the press conference preceeding tonight's world premiere of The Black Dahlia (the conference took place after a press preview screening of the film). Pictured at left is Aaron Eckhart, Mia Kirshner, Josh Hartnett, James Ellroy, Brian De Palma, and Scarlett Johansson. According to an AFP article, the film preview received a "muted reception from the critics." The focus of the press conference, according to the article, was the scene in the film where Hartnett and Johansson's characters engage in an aggressively steamy lovemaking scene. When a journalist asked if such scenes distract from her thespian performance, Johansson replied, "It's nice to be considered sexy as a young woman in my prime. It's a sexy scene. Brian wanted it to be aggressive, a kind of exorcism of sorts, and I thought it was appropriate. I never think about it being distracting to my performance. I think it goes hand in hand with the part." An Italian news service posted another quote from Johansson on this same topic: "I am glad when they say that I am sexy. I think that this applies to every girl, but I don't feel I am particularly beautiful or fascinating. I am an actress and my work is to act, and I don't want all these comments on my beauty to take away the attention from the roles that I am playing." Talking about her character, Kay Lake, Johansson said, "She's not innocent in any way at all. She's a survivor really. She creates a fantasy for herself in order to wake up each morning and not dwell on her horrible past."

Venice Film Festival director Marco Muller said yesterday that The Black Dahlia was about "dark side of Tinseltown," and that with it, De Palma was "waltzing on the thin line between the artistic and the commercial." At today's press conference, Johansson, speaking about the public fascination with cases such as the Black Dahlia's, suggested that scandal is sometimes the best catharsis, according to an AP article. "I think that in general when there are periods of depression in a country people distract themselves with scandal," Scarlett told journalists. "We've seen it in the past and we're sort of seeing it now. We have a war going on, a mass genocide, and we have someone brought over from Thailand for a test ... in a case that happened a long time ago. I think people distract themselves from their depression." Ellroy said that the film, as well as his book, "derives from my own mother's murder in 1958." According to a Reuters article, Ellroy said, "Twice in my 27-year novel-writing career I got lucky with film adaptations -- first with LA Confidential and second with The Black Dahlia... What Mr De Palma did so very deftly in this film is isolate the key themes of sexual obsession and redemption and the triangulation of one man between two women, and always the haunting spectre of ... the Black Dahlia." De Palma talked about wanting to resurect the film noir, saying, "They don't do many of them today, these obsessive stories, these femmes fatales, these dark depressive characters leading into hell. I can't quite explain why that period was so full of these noir works." While Ellroy initially had balked at the idea of depicting Elizabeth Short's screen tests in the film, he has since come to appreciate the portrayal, saying that "we now have an emotional and moral stake in Elizabeth Short's death for having seen it."

Posted August 29 2006
This James Ellroy interview was posted last week at Groucho Reviews. When "Groucho" begins discussing the "credible suspects" in the Black Dahlia case, Ellroy cuts him off: "Hold on, Mr. Canavese. I do not talk about who really killed Elizabeth Short. Let me state for attribution: I don’t know. I don’t care. I wanted to create art out of the death of Elizabeth Short. That’s what I’ve done with my book and what Brian De Palma has done with his movie." Ellroy also states that while he never made it out to the Bulgarian set of the film, he did drive five hours to check out the set in Los Angeles. When asked how much he was involved with the film of his novel, Ellroy replies, "I had one discussion with David Fincher and one discussion with Brian De Palma. I was not an active participant in the movie." He discusses his friendship with screenwriter Josh Friedman, and also says Mia Kirshner "breaks your heart" as the Dahlia. When asked what the film does best in adapting his book, Ellroy replies, "It is a lush evoking of Dahlia mania. Of what Elizabeth Short’s death was to people. How this obscure young woman tortured them in death. People didn’t even know her, and she exerted a profound imaginative pull over them. There’s that, which Mr. De Palma captures. There also is lush recapitulation of L.A. in 1947." Then Groucho asks Ellroy to be "honest," and tell what the film may not have gotten right about the book. "You always lose, in a full length motion picture, interior monologue," Ellroy says. "No motion picture can capture all of your character’s thoughts. My book is particularly ruminative. Thank God we had Josh Hartnett projecting cognition. You can tell that Hartnett’s guy—he speaks the voice-over, and very well, I think—you can tell that he’s always measuring and thinking. And that’s important."
(Thanks to Hugh!)

Posted August 28 2006

The still above from The Black Dahlia is one of several new pics (at least one of which appears to contain a big SPOILER) that can be seen at Comme au Cinema. Meanwhile, this past weekend, the syndicated TV program Entertainment Tonight showed an expanded segment on The Black Dahlia, this time including an interview with Mia Kirshner, talking about her take on her character of Elizabeth Short. "At the end of the day," she said, "you know, it's set against the end of the war, and I think that she very much wanted to fall in love, and have like a very simple life, and be a movie star at the same time." They also showed the same clip of De Palma talking about Short as showed in the CBS 48 Hours preview (the CBS show airs tomorrow night-- it may in fact be where Entertainment Tonight got the clip from). Also included was a bit of De Palma directing Josh Hartnett in the Echo Park scene, with De Palma telling Hartnett to "Look at the bridge, beautiful day, okay," while Hartnett stands gazing out into the park. They also showed an expanded take on the Dahlia's screen test, with De Palma's sarcastic off-camera voice asking Kirshner, "Are you familiar with the English language?" Kirshner, as Short, shrugs and replies, "I try to be." Also included was a scene of a tortured Bucky (Hartnett) telling Kay (Scarlett Johansson) some tough-to-hear news that shows Hartnett as an actor to be reckoned with, judging from the short clip. They also showed a scene of Hilary Swank coming on to Hartnett right after he sees a painting on her wall and says, "I don't get modern art." She replies, "I doubt modern art gets you, either... but I do." Hartnett is now expected to join the gang at the upcoming premiere in Venice. Don't be surprised to see Aaron Eckhart there, as well.

Posted August 27 2006
TRACK-BY-TRACK ANALYSIS WITH CLIPS has an exclusive "First Listen" analysis of Mark Isham's score for The Black Dahlia, with Quicktime clips of tracks from the soundtrack. The feature article discusses some of Isham's inspirations for the score:

Isham says he was inspired by the genre of film noir writing, and composers like David Raksin and Bernard Herrmann. More specifically, he points to Leonard Bernstein's On the Waterfront, and the continual influence of the work of John Adams on his score writing. There is a touch of Jerry Goldsmith in the score as well, which listeners might find enjoyable as Goldsmith had scored another noir film adaptation of an Ellroy novel, L.A. Confidential back in 1997.

Of course, Goldsmith also scored Chinatown, which was one of De Palma's main inspirations for The Black Dahlia. The article continues...

Isham wrote many themes for various elements of the score - some of them are recurring, and others only show up once on the soundtrack. All of them are strong, and range from sultry lush romantic themes, to strong brass dramatic melodies. Isham performed all of the trumpet solos in the film, and even made use of a synthetic theremin sound in certain passages to add to the noir quality of the score.

Posted August 26 2006
The official site for The Black Dahlia has transformed into something very cool. Right now if you go there, when you first click to enter the site, the next screen will bring up a map of various locations from the story. When you click on any one of six landmarks on the map, a clip from the film will load and play. The clips look incredible. Hilary Swank is subtley delirious as Madeleine, inviting Bucky in to her father's mansion. There are also some new stills in the site's photo gallery, along with the two TV spots that began airing last week.

In other related notes: Scarlett Johansson will appear on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Tuesday, September 5th. On that same day, the soundtrack from The Black Dahlia will be released. The music that is up now on the official site is vaguely reminiscent of Nino Rota's theme from The Godfather.

Updated August 26 2006 - Posted August 25 2006
The Los Angeles Times has launched its own Black Dahlia promotional site, sponsored by Universal Pictures with tie-ins to the upcoming Brian De Palma film. Titled "Black Dahlia: The Story As It Was Originally Reported," the site offers links to the original L.A. Times archived news reports about the murder of Elizabeth Short, and the initial investigation. The site features music that I assume to be Mark Isham's haunting theme for the film.

According to a press release published Friday, this Sunday's editions (August 27) of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Newsday will all "wrap their respective movie sections with a special four-page advertising insert promoting The Black Dahlia microsite." The release also states that the L.A. Times site "is a major component of the innovative month-long campaign" for the film. L.A. Times vice president of entertainment advertising Lynne Segall said, "This is one of the most exciting pre-awareness promotions the Los Angeles Times has ever put together for a studio release. The credibility of The Times' extensive historical coverage, coupled with the ongoing fascination of this unsolved case, will help raise awareness of and interest in this film among moviegoers."

Posted August 25 2006
Riikka, webmaster of, has sent in this new still of Rose McGowan in The Black Dahlia. She has also sent in more details about the Brian De Palma interview that took place at the Edinburgh Film Festival this past Wednesday night (see immediately below for Riikka'a initial post on the interview). Riikka says, "It was a very fascinating two hour interview that started off with an interview and ended with a short Q&A session. Arthur Penn, the director of one of my favorite films, Bonnie and Clyde, was also in the audience!" Here are some other "random" details from Riikka:

- De Palma named Hitchcock as his main inspiration
- He said that he reads biographies of directors to avoid making the same mistakes in the industry
- He is disappointed by the state of contemporary American cinema but he has faith in the indie scene (he named Wes Anderson and Alexander Payne)
- though he seemed to be disappointed by the lack of politics in these movies and said that it is probably because of the censorship that US media practises - that they're not properly informed on the war, etc. He also appreciates European cinema
- De Palma has been at the Edinburgh Film Festival from the beginning and he said that he loves to go to film festivals just to watch films and learn. He says that he does not know any other filmmaker who does the same thing
- He named Brando, Pacino, Welles and De Niro as his favorite actors
- When asked which ones of his films he likes best, he said that he prefers those that did not do so well commercially [Ed. note: Riikka thinks De Palma may have said something here about Carlito's Way being a favorite, but she isn't sure.]
- He said that directing horror films have thought him a lot about the visual aspects of film
- Mentioned that he will never direct a comedy and that he loves twisted characters and tragic endings
- De Palma also spoke about his love for theatre and said that he does not understand how any film actor could say that they know the craft without experiencing stage acting

(Thanks to Riikka!)

Posted August 25 2006
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will present a special screening of The Black Dahlia on September 12, three days before the film's opening day. Vilmos Zsigmond will be the special guest, and will participate in a Q&A following the screening. In the days following that screening, the museum will present "Dressed to Kill: The Stylish Thrillers of Brian De Palma," throughout the rest of September. The eleven films included in the retrospective are Sisters, Phantom Of The Paradise, Scarface, Carrie, Dressed To Kill, Blow Out, The Untouchables, Obsession, Femme Fatale, The Fury, and Body Double.
(Thanks to Chuck!)

Posted August 24 2006
Riikka, the webmaster of, attended the onstage "Reel Life" interview with Brian De Palma at the Edinburgh Film Festival Wednesday night. As a Scarlett Johansson fan, Riikka's main interest in the interview centered around The Black Dahlia, although she did relay some other topics that De Palma touched upon in the interview (the focus of which was "New American Cinema"). In an August 24 post on her website, Riikka writes:

When asked about his favorite actors (whom De Palma has worked with), he mentioned that he worked with several talented British actors on The Black Dahlia, most notably Fiona Shaw, whom he thinks "can do anything". De Palma said that he originally read The Black Dahlia about 15 years ago and thought it was a very good novel but would also be very difficult to adapt to the big screen. After seeing L.A. Confidential and how well James Ellroy's novel was adapted to a script, he regained hope and when he read the script of Dahlia, he thought it was quite good. He mentioned that David Fincher (who was originally supposed to direct Dahlia) and Ellroy worked on the picture for nearly a decade and by the time De Palma got on board, Ellroy was not so involved with the project anymore. But De Palma has the utmost respect for the writer and how multi-layered his stories are.

Overall, Brian De Palma came off as a very confident filmmaker and he was not shy to voice his opinion on the state of contemporary American cinema. He mentioned that he loves to go out and see films and often when he does, he is reminded to go back to work to be able to deliver something good for the audience. But he is very much inspired by film festivals and thinks today's independent cinema has a lot to offer. He did not mentioned Scarlett Johansson in this interview but a funny co-incidence, he did mentioned a couple of things indirectly related to her. When asked what he thought about Mission: Impossible 3 (a film that Scarlett was supposed to do), De Palma rolled his eyes furiously (he was not shy on mentioning his thoughts on Tom Cruise either and the fact that he did Mission: Impossible for commercial reasons). He also mentioned that he dislikes filmmakers like Michael Bay (director of The Island) and how they shoot action scenes by cutting so fast that you can hardly understand the big picture and the physique of the characters at all.

Posted August 23 2006
Entertainment Tonight, the syndicated TV entertainment program which aired a story about the real life Black Dahlia case a couple of weeks ago, tonight aired a new segment on The Black Dahlia film, with new clips and behind-the-scenes peeks. You can watch the segment now at YouTube. It includes new interviews with Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart, and offers our first glimpse of k.d. lang singing in the film, as well as of Mark Isham's score (you can hear a few bars if you listen underneath at least one of the film clips). Also of interest: many people have chided Swank's line-reading of "Elizabeth and I made love once..." in the trailer for the film. Well, in this ET segment, they show the actual film clip, and it is a completely different and more convincing line-reading. There are two key differences: in the actual film footage, you'll notice that Swank whispers the line much more gently than in the trailer. The other key difference is that while in the trailer, she says "Elizabeth and I," in the actual film footage she says "Betty and I made love once." The clips shown in this segment all look excellent-- cannot wait to see this film!

Posted August 23 2006
We've heard before from cinematographer Steve Burum about how he saw tears in Brian De Palma's eyes while filming the emotional conclusion of Carlito's Way. Now, in the August 2006 issue of Word, composer Ennio Morricone talks about the first time he and De Palma sat down to watch their collaboration on Mission To Mars. The interview by Christopher Bray ends with this passage:

After 50 years in the emotional engineering business,you wonder if Morricone, too, has ever been overcome by the sound of his own work? He has, he admitted, but only indirectly.

"When I worked with Brian De Palma on Mission To Mars, we sat down for the first private screening and he was moved to tears," said the great technician evenly. "And this made me cry too."

Posted August 22 2006
Film Journal has an interview with Art Linson, producer of The Black Dahlia. Linson tells the site's Daniel Eagan that he first saw a script for the film while he was making Fight Club with David Fincher. At the time, the script was over 200 pages and "unmakeable." When Brian De Palma came on board (Linson felt the story was perfect for De Palma), they worked with Josh Friedman to narrow the story down so that it was more specific, and focus it on the three lead characters. "In the end," Linson told Eagan, "Brian De Palma had to find a way to make it his own movie, filter it through his operatic style of filmmaking." Linson talks about saving money creatively by doing things like having background characters wear '80s ties instead of '40s ties. Then he gets into specifics about working with De Palma:

Working with De Palma again after almost 20 years was a "great time." "We did this film in 58 days," Linson continues. "Brian De Palma is a prepared man. He's not a guy who has to put a sequence together in an editing room. He's a true visualist: He's got a great eye and a great sense of where to put the camera. But like all the really good directors, he needs the material to support his vision. If you look at his best movies, they're written by David Mamet or Oliver Stone or David Koepp or in this case Josh Friedman. Brian as a director deserves a bigger platform to dive off of."

Younger directors with access to newer technologies may seem to have caught up with the startling stylistic flourishes De Palma used in his early films like Sisters and Blow Out. But Linson thinks, "People are spending way too much time worrying about that stuff. A knife against a woman's cheek, Brian knows where to put the camera. It you want to have somebody run out of the theatre screaming, he knows what to do. What changes is the material. It's nice to have characters who can back up the visuals, who can support the cake he's building. If they're just icing, then you're not getting all that De Palma can give."

And when asked about the dozen or so producers listed in the film's credits, Linson told Eagan that "Brian and I probably didn't meet or even hear of at least 10 to 12 of them. Literally never met them or heard of them until we got the credit list. He also says he thinks this will be considered one of De Palma's better movies.

Posted August 22 2006
An article today by film music expert Jeff Bond at the Hollywood Reporter discusses the use of international composers on many Hollywood films of today and yesterday. Bond includes a passage about Brian De Palma's collaboration with several composers, with the director quoted about methods used to communicate ideas:

Finding a common language is key for directors working with foreign-born composers. After working with preeminent American composer Bernard Herrmann early in his career, director Brian De Palma tapped Italian composer Pino Donaggio to score 1976's "Carrie" and went on to work with legendary Italian composer Ennio Morricone (1967's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," 1987's "The Untouchables") and Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (1998's "Snake Eyes"), among others.

"The fact is that with Morricone and Donaggio, English is not their first language, so you need an interpreter," De Palma says. "But since you mainly describe things with musical terms, and sometimes, as in Pino's case, you use temp tracks, you can give them an idea of what you are looking for."

Posted August 20 2006

The official Japanese site for The Black Dahlia has opened, and it's pretty cool. Most pages throughout the site feature full-screen-sized pics from the film washed in red, such as the very noirish one above. The site also includes a trailer, and a chart showing how many of the major players in the film relate to each other. Check it all out at

Posted August 20 2006
Warner Bros.' ExtraTV has a Quicktime video segment offering a "sneak peek" at The Black Dahlia. The segment shows several shots from the film (most of which are seen in the trailer), and also features interview sound bites from James Ellroy, Scarlett Johansson, and Hilary Swank. Ellroy is heard saying, "Hartnett is the outsider who comes into the lives of more volatile people, circling the murder." Johansson is quoted from a Scoop promotional interview, discussing the cluster of relationships in Dahlia: "You got Josh, you got Aaron, Hilary, you got the four of us. We're just a big old triangle of love." And Swank appears to have been interviewed at the San Diego Comic Con, discussing how her role in Dahlia is very different for her: "It's fun to mix it up. It's fun to challenge yourself in a lot of different roles and types of movies."

Posted August 20 2006
CBS' 48 Hours will air an updated version of its Black Dahlia episode, this time including bits about the new Brian De Palma film, according to a preview up now at the program's website. The preview begins with James Ellroy (who was featured prominently in the original episode) calling the case "the great L.A. murder." After covering some basic details about the case, the announcer speaks over clips from De Palma's film of Ellroy's novel: "Now, this enduring Hollywood mystery… is about to become a movie… with big-name stars." Then we see De Palma, and he says, "How does that beautiful girl which we’ve seen pin-up shots of become this. And who did that to her, and why." The episode is set to air Tuesday, August 29th, at 10pm Eastern (just one day before the film's world premiere in Venice).

Updated August 20 2006 - Posted August 19 2006
According to two posts at the Internet Movie Database, spots for The Black Dahlia, featuring scenes different from the ones in the trailer, have been popping up on television channels like the Sci-Fi network. When I watched that channel last night, they seemed to be alternating two 30-second spots inside each hour of programming. The first spot begins with a voiceover (can't tell if it's Josh Hartnett or someone else) saying, "Every year, they come to Hollywood... young, beautiful... waiting to be discovered... or devoured." Then we see and hear the coroner describing the severed body, and a regular movie-announcer voiceover says, "From the director of Scarface, and the author of L.A. Confidential, comes the untold story of the most notorious unsolved crime in California history... The Black Dahlia. Rated R. In theaters September 15th."

The second spot I saw begins with the clip board snapping as someone says, "Screen test," and then cuts to Mia Kirshner saying, "I've been told I'm very photogenic." After some off-screen chopping (as we've seen in the trailer) and the coroner explaining, the movie-announcer voice comes on and says the same thing as in the other TV-spot. This second spot features the Death In Vegas music heard in the trailer, and I saw one or two quick scenes that hadn't been in the trailer or the making-of preview.

Posted August 19 2006
The photo at left shows Brian De Palma arriving at a party Saturday night celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Edinburgh International Film Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland. The party was hosted by Sir Sean Connery, who won his only Oscar for his role in De Palma's The Untouchables. De Palma has been at the festival much of this past week, and will participate in an onstage interview this Wednesday night (August 23rd), discussing the legacy of the "New American Cinema."

Following this festival, De Palma will attend the world premiere (in competition) of The Black Dahlia at the Venice Film Festival August 30th. Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, and Dante Ferretti are expected to join him there. Then it's on to the Deauville Festival of American Cinema, where The Black Dahlia will screen September 3rd. De Palma is confirmed to attend that screening along with Josh Hartnett, Aaron Eckhart, James Ellroy, and Art Linson. After that, De Palma will travel to the Toronto International Film Festival, where he is scheduled to be a guest of the festival's Talent Lab. The official line-up of Toronto films will be announced Tuesday.
(Thanks to Akahan for the Deauville information!).

Posted August 17 2006

Check out the section on The Black Dahlia at Romain's Brian De Palma site. On the photo pages, you can see a large and uncropped version of the above shot of the cast and crew on the set. There is also a better quality version of the pic Entertainment Weekly featured in this week's issue (see immediately below).
(Thanks to Romain!)

Posted August 16 2006
The print version of this week's Entertainment Weekly (the issue with the Fall Movie Preview) includes this bonus photo from the set of The Black Dahlia. The photo shows Josh Hartnett and Hilary Swank engaged in a chess match. While filming in Bulgaria in May of 2005, it was announced that members of the Dahlia cast and crew, including Swank, director Brian De Palma, producer Art Linson and set designer Dante Ferretti, had all been invited to the M-Tel Masters super chess tournament. The event was held at the Grand Hotel Sofia, where the aforementioned invitees had been staying.

Posted August 15 2006
Some recent posts by several different blogs suggest that interest in the cinema of Brian De Palma is starting to bubble over the surface. This post by girish delves into the nature of De Palma's art, citing the way De Palma's films highlight the artifice of the medium, while also presenting drama and action so involving, the viewer cannot help but be drawn in. Below that post is a response forum in which debate about De Palma has been running for nearly three weeks straight.

Meanwhile, Dennis Cozzalio has submitted the opening long take from De Palma's Femme Fatale to Jim Emerson's Opening Shots project at his Scanners blog. "I love the way De Palma compartmentalizes screen space here, too, using frames within frames," writes Emerson, before going on to analyze each of those frames. Some additional analysis of the shot (including one from a person who has not even seen the film, but simply read Cozzalio's description!) appears in the response forum beneath the initial blog post.

And then at Elusive Lucidity, Zach Campbell looks at the "monstrosity... of adolescence, of potentiality" and De Palma's use of color in The Fury. After pointing out the importance of the colors red and blue in the film, Campbell notes the presumed "pleasant coincidence" in the shot where Amy Irving is wearing a light blue shirt while looking at her own blood-red hand. Campbell also includes a link to a paper he wrote for a Cinema Studies course on "American Youth Spaces." In the paper, he discusses the similarities and differences between Carrie and The Fury as allegories for the struggle between youth and adulthood.

(Thanks to Hugh!)

Posted August 15 2006
We've received word that while James Ellroy is in Seattle doing press for The Black Dahlia, the film has been screening there for critics. I imagine we'll start hearing rumblings about the film on blogs before too long...

Posted August 13 2006
This week's Entertainment Weekly features the magazine's Fall Movie Preview, and includes a blurb about The Black Dahlia with quotes from Brian De Palma. The article briefly traces the ten years or so it took to get The Black Dahlia made (the exit of David Fincher, the endless financial dropouts, etc.), and highlights the fact that it is based on the first book in James Ellroy's "L.A. Quartet," which also included L.A. Confidential. The article continues...

You'd think with Confidential's nine Oscar nods and Dahlia's luminescent cast, raising the cash would have been easier. Not so, says De Palma. "In L.A. Confidential, the detective gets the girl. That doesn't happen in The Black Dahlia. It's just a descent into hell."

De Palma also tells the magazine, "This is noir to the nth degree. It's just as dark as it gets."

Updated August 13 2006 - Posted August 11 2006
The movie tie-in paperback edition of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia is arriving in book stores next week (some stores may have it on shelves this weekend). This new edition includes a new afterword by the author in which he attempts to put a final word on the murder, and also provides his thoughts on Brian De Palma's film. This afterword is the same essay he wrote for the summer issue of The Virginia Quarterly Review, which is on stands now.

In the essay, which the author dated February 27, 2006, Ellroy tries to explicate the changes he has gone through in his soul since he wrote the original novel. Ellroy describes how the unsolved murder of his mother (Jean Hilliker) when he was ten years old lead him to dream up "Betty Short fantasies"...

I grew up hungry for women. I stalked rich neighborhoods and spied on happy families in big houses. I spun Betty Short fantasies. I cast myself in savior and avenger roles. I broke into houses and scoured lingerie drawers. I was born to think single-mindedly and live obsessively. Jean. Betty. Sex. Crime and all its social corollaries..."

Discussing his self-serving exploitation of his mother's death, he writes,

I wanted to portray myself as a man above all Oedipal constraints. I had created a fictional Elizabeth Short to usurp my mother's claim and upstage her. It worked in the novel. It sold a great many books. It left Jean Hilliker still dead on that roadside, unblessed with love.

Ellroy also posits a regret of sorts to his portrayal of Short in the novel:

She was not a porno actress or a film-noir succubus. She was not promiscuous by any sane standard. She was a pie-faced Irish girl with bad teeth and asthma. She died at twenty-two. The L.A. Herald called her a "Romance Seeker." Her last months were a disordered grasp for selfhood and love. I revere her for that. I underestimated her love-hunger in my book. I couldn't feel it then. My own love-hunger blinded me to the real her. I failed to comprehend the force of her pure and headstrong youth.

Ellroy then moves into a discussion about the film version of his book, suggesting that the film is likely to have a bigger and more immediate impact on the culture than the book has on its own. He discusses the specific individuals involved with the film, beginning with De Palma:

Every life touches the Dahlia. Betty rocks definitive. Obscurity defined her life. Celebrity defines her death. Her short time span and narrow purview expand and eclipse great public events. Her ghastly end tells us there is no surcease from human horror. She ramifies in obsessive circuits. She bids artists to fuse truths and lies. I followed her lead. Brian De Palma brilliantly followed mine. My novel. His film. My world as his visual record. The Dahlia as lodestone and magnetic field and arbiter of ambiguous redemption.

De Palma's films circumscribe worlds of obsession. They are rigorously and suffocatingly formed. No outer world exists during their time frame. Colors flare oddly. Movement arrests you. You forfeit control and see only what he wants you to see. He manipulates you in the sole name of passion. He understands relinquishment. The filmgoer needs to succumb. His films are authoritative. He controls response firmly. His hold tightens as his stories veer into chaos. He stands and falls, coheres and decoheres, succeeds and errs behind passion. He was the ideal artist to film The Black Dahlia

Now Betty Short's world and my world are his world. It's a world that no other filmmaker could have created. It's casually dangerous and invasively corrupt. It's a boomtown populated by psychically maimed misfits running from World War II. It's a fiend habitat. The Dahlia was meant to die here and nowhere else. The players in her drama knew relinquishment. They understood that she was bigger than they were, and that by touching her spirit she granted them transcendence. The dynamic applies to me and to Brian De Palma. She's bigger than us. She tempted us and seduced us and beckoned us to submission. She gave us this grand strain of her endless story.

Elsewhere, Ellroy lays claim to Josh Hartnett as the perfect Bucky:

Josh Hartnett understood the precept. His filmic Bucky Bleichert packs that torch for someone out there. The physical Hartnett is my described Bucky and me. He's tall, lanky, and dark-haired, with small brown eyes. Hartnett's performance nails Bucky with no histrionic excess. He excels at projecting cognition. Bucky Bleichert is always measuring and thinking. He's circumspect, intelligent, watchful. He's persistent, self-protecting, and reluctantly decent. He made specious moral choices early in life and brought a grievously flawed soul to the Dahlia. Hartnett captures that. He appears in every scene and narrates the film. He carries the film's moral vision. He embodies a positive strain of the Hilliker code: you're fearful, but you always go forward.

The film spins off the axis of De Palma and Hartnett. It's a three-mode constellation: thriller/film noir/historical romance. The design is near-German Expressionist. It's L.A./it's not L.A./it's L.A. seen by Dahlia fiends in extremis. The cinematographer was Vilmos Zsigmond. The production designer was Dante Ferretti. The costume designer was Jenny Bevan. The film commands you to savor every scene and revel in your visual entrapment. This textual richness symbolizes the Dahlia's hold on us. We can never look away. She won't let us.

(Thanks to Hugh!)

Posted August 9 2006
All you need is a girl and a gun. More stills from The Black Dahlia have popped up at X-Realms, including this one of Josh Hartnett interrogating Hilary Swank. Other pics include William Finley grabbing hold of Aaron Eckhart from behind while someone else beats him up (looks like they're trying their best to kill him), a brighter boxing photo, and quite a few others.
(Thanks to Max at the 24liesasecond forum for the tip!)

Posted August 8 2006
The September issue of Premiere features a Fall Movie Preview, with this new still from The Black Dahlia. James Ellroy discusses Brian De Palma with the magazine, saying, "I love his Body Double. Yeah, sure, he's [like] Hitchcock, but I think he's wittier than Hitchcock and in some ways more daring." Ellroy also contrasts the film's version of Elizabeth Short with the real thing, saying that the real Short "was no great beauty. She was coiffed with dramatic intent and looked great in still photos, [but] in reality, she was a pie-faced Irish girl with bad teeth and asthma." De Palma is quoted talking about Hilary Swank: "You will see Hilary like you've never seen her before. I've always wanted her to play a femme fatale."

Issue #63 of MovieMaker features an article about "Hybrid Moviemaking," which discusses the way the makers of three recent films are blending formats and making use of digital technology to save time and money. Cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond {pictured, taken from the magazine) discussed his work on The Black Dahlia:

The Black Dahlia was shot in three-perf 35mm format with DI [digital intermediate] timing at LaserPacific in Los Angeles, a format that enabled them to shoot 25 percent longer without stopping to reload, according to Zsigmond. It also allowed them to help underwrite the cost of the DI by trimming raw stock and lab costs, as there were sequences Zsigmond knew he could fix in post-production. For example, on several occasions Zsigmond chose not to take the 20 to 30 minutes it usually requires to flag a light off a back wall because he knew it would be a quick fix in DI.

Watch for a full interview with Zsigmond about The Black Dahlia in next month's issue of American Cinematographer (and thanks to our old friend PRR for that tip!)

The August 2006 issue of Vogue features a one-page article about Mia Kirshner in its "People Are Talking About" section. The headline reads "Dark Beauty," with the subhead, "Mia Kirshner plays an ill-fated Hollywood starlet in The Black Dahlia." "I felt a great responsibility to humanize Elizabeth," Kirshner tells the magazine about her portrayal of Short in the film. "Despite what people said, I think she was actually very sweet and maybe too trusting, and her story is very much a fable for actresses in Hollywood." The article closes with the following passage:

Describing the costumes she wears in the film-- vintage black satin dresses, torn stockings, and a silk flower in her hair-- Kirshner reflects about the Black Dahlia: "She was incredibly exotic and romantic and dark," then adds, "although I'm careful not to assume anything about her."

(Thanks to Chris!)

In the August 2006 issue of Jane, seven celebrities got naked "for a good cause-- Clothes Off Our Back, a nonprofit that benefits children." Rachel Miner, who plays the sister of Swank's character in The Black Dahlia, posed for the photo shown here. A brief bio underneath the photo highlights the fact that she is "costarring with Scarlett Johansson and Josh Hartnett in September's noir mystery The Black Dahlia."

Posted August 5 2006

From BPG, the company that designed the initial international poster for The Black Dahlia back in 2004-2005, comes four more recent poster designs for the film. Some of them use the tagline, "An investigation into obsession." The poster that has circulated as the official U.S. poster image is from BLT and Associates.

Posted August 4 2006
A "Look Inside" preview of The Black Dahlia can now be viewed at the film's official website. The featurette features James Ellroy talking about the real life case, as well as why he's happy Brian De Palma directed the picture. De Palma is shown directing some shots, and we also catch glimpses of William Finley, Fiona Shaw, and Rachel Miner, as well as more scenes not in the regular trailer. This new preview also features the Death In Vegas music ("Dirge"), but also includes another stylish piece of music not heard in the trailer. Space Ace says it is a song called "Apocalypse Please" by the band Muse.

Posted August 4 2006
The Toronto International Film Festival announced yesterday that Brian De Palma will once again take part in the fest's Talent Lab. Last year, De Palma served as a governor of the lab. This year, according to an AP story at Yahoo News, De Palma will join directors Paul Haggis, Mary Harron, and Phillip Noyce as a guest of the lab. The festival runs September 7-16. There is no word yet on whether De Palma's new film, The Black Dahlia, will play at the festival, although it seems like a safe bet to play sometime after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. The official line-up of Toronto films will be announced on August 22nd.

Posted August 3 2006
An article the other day in The Hollywood Reporter discusses funding for three films, including The Black Dahlia. It features quotes from Brian De Palma, Aaron Eckhart, and Avi Lerner. I'll write more later today when I get the chance, but the article includes this photo from the film.
(Thanks to Franny!)

Posted August 2 2006
(Thanks to Romain, via the 24liesasecond forum!)

Posted August 1 2006
To the left is a still of Aaron Eckhart and Josh Hartnett boxing in an early scene from The Black Dahlia. It is one of several stills (some we've seen before, some we haven't) that can be viewed at this website.
(Thanks to Kate!)

Eckhart will be making the rounds in the next couple of weeks to promote the split-screen feature, Conversations With Other Women, which opens in limited release August 11. The actor will visit NBC's The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on Wednesday, August 2nd, and CBS' Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on Tuesday, August 8th.

Updated July 28 2006 - Posted July 27 2006
You can view the trailer for The Black Dahlia now at Yahoo! Movies. The official website is now open, as well, at

This must be the first trailer where you hear Brian De Palma's voice, as he directs Mia Kirshner, who portrays the title character Elizabeth Short. The voiceover by Josh Hartnett takes you right in as it cuts deep, offering a tease of the drama to come in the feature film. The music in the trailer is modern but with a timeless feel, and, with its female vocals, is very reminiscent of Pino Donaggio's work on De Palma's Body Double and Dressed To Kill (a couple of readers have written to let me know it is a song called "Dirge" by Death In Vegas-- thanks to Luponce and Space Ace). De Palma's voice after the intro gives the trailer a surreal Brechtian sort of touch. When the Death In Vegas music kicks in, we enter a kind of David Lynchian kind of world, and the trailer takes on an edge missing in most modern day trailers. For comparison's sake, watch this trailer for Martin Scorsese's The Departed. While the Scorsese trailer makes the film look very good indeed (like the Dahlia trailer, it provoked a cant-wait-to-see-it response in me), the song "Comfortably Numb" mellows out the mood of the piece, which starts out against the backdrop of a restless Rolling Stones song (very Scorsese). The use of one kind of music in the beginning, followed by the switch to a different mood for the second act, is the usual formula for Hollywood trailers. The second piece of music always seems to be used to provoke a feeling of sentimentality into the picture at hand, and usually it is fairly safe, ballad-type of stuff, like the could-be-edgy-but-is-still-very-typical cover of Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." The second piece of music is usually something very smooth, and such is the case in both of these trailers. Yet somehow, the Black Dahlia trailer seems to transcend the formulaic (even though it has the usual slow-motioned parade of clips) via a combination of the Death In Vegas music, and the scenes of Kirshner as The Dahlia at the end, punctuated by the surreal lips-in-motion of the otherwise lifeless profile bathed in blue behind the film's title logo. Between this and the still photos, a very promising and disturbing film to come.

Posted July 25 2006
Several new stills from The Black Dahlia have popped up at Kino-Express. Go there now and check it out...
(Thanks to Kate!)

Updated July 26 - Posted July 24 2006
An Internet Movie Database user has posted a more detailed description of AMC's current behind-the-scenes featurette for The Black Dahlia. LCarter879 posted on the site's Dahlia message board saying he had seen the featurette before a showing of Clerks II. Here is an excerpt from LCarter879's post:

The first sneak preview they had was for The Black Dahlia. It had an interview with Ellroy about who The Dahlia was and that he is glad De Palma is directing this. They showed movie clips which inlcuded the riots from the beginning of the book, a boxing scene, they showed the scene of the crime with The Dahila covered up (looked like a CG blanket over her so the blanket may not be there in the film), they also showed the Dahlia cut in half with cops surrounding her, and they showed various clips of Hartnett interacting with Scarlett and Hillary.

LCarter879 also said that, based on what was shown, the style was reminiscent of The Untouchables.

Posted July 24 2006
Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia will be the opening film at this year's Venice Film Festival, it was announced today. The film, which will be presented in competition, will have its world premiere on August 30th at the fest, which runs through September 9th. An article at The Venice Film Festival's official website states that De Palma is expected to attend along with co-stars Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank, as well as Dahlia production designer Dante Ferretti, who served as President of the Jury at last year's Venice Film Festival. Catherine Deneuve is this year's Jury President. According to the article, Festival President Davide Croff and this year's Festival Director Marco Müller declared...

We are honoured that Brian De Palma has chosen to open the 63rd Venice Film Festival with his new and long-awaited thriller, thus confirming his strong links with Venice. He was invited here in 1975 with one of his first films, Sisters, and in September, De Palma will appear on the parade in front of the Palazzo del Cinema for the fifth time. In the intervening years, he has presented Blow Out, Raising Cain, and one of his greatest masterpieces, The Untouchables. We are also happy that the Festival, thanks to this film, will once again be able to welcome two great stars from today’s film industry, both of whom first made a name for themselves in Venice: Scarlett Johansson, with Lost in Translation, and a jury member in 2004, and Hilary Swank, who was in Venice in 1999 with the film that won her her first Oscar, Boy’s Don’t Cry. The Festival will also welcome back Dante Ferretti, who has produced the period sets for The Black Dahlia, and confirms his position as most sought-after production designer by Hollywood’s directors..

Posted July 23 2006
Scarlett Johansson is making the rounds promoting Woody Allen's Scoop, but she is also talking up her turn in Brian De Palma's upcoming The Black Dahlia. Here's what she told Jane Stevenson in the Toronto Sun about De Palma:

"Working with Brian, of course, (was) just amazing," she says. "He's an auteur director. He's got a style all his own. And I felt like (I was) in safe hands working with him. He says things of another (era). Like he'll say, 'Quiet on the set! These actors are trying to work!' It's amazing. He's great. He's got an amazing respect for the process and everybody has huge respect for him."

Johansson also described her role in the film:

"I play a character from the book named Kay Lake," she says. "She's a girl who is living with Aaron Eckhart's character and forms this sort of strange trio between Josh's character and Aaron's character. She's this kind of ex-prostitute who's been kind of beaten and saved by this guy. It's very twisted."

In a separate article in the Ottawa Sun, Stevenson suggests that Johansson may have a tough time keeping her private life private when The Black Dahlia is released, because she stars opposite her real-life boyfriend, Josh Hartnett. But Johansson sees it differently:

"I'm very excited about promoting Black Dahlia. I feel very confident about that film. Josh, Hilary (Swank) and Aaron (Eckhart) are all my co-stars and I would be happy to be with them on the red carpet." She will, however, talk about the professional experience of working with Hartnett. "It was great. Josh is a great actor. I've always admired his work and it's nice to work with your peers who you admire. I learn things about myself as an actor and about the process of film-making on every film I do. Whether I'm working with my peers or older actors, older directors, or young people who are starting out. I find it's always educational."

Johansson will appear on the CBS Late Show with David Letterman Wednesday, July 26th.
(Thanks to Akahan and Franny!)

Posted July 22 2006
A message board user at the Internet Movie Database claims to have seen "a short behind-the-scenes look at The Black Dahlia" prior to a screening of A Scanner Darkly at an AMC theater. Here is part of what "failedmagician" posted on the IMDB's Dahlia message board: was't the actual trailer. It was really short and showed the filmmakers behind the scenes, brief interviews with the actors (I think it was Hartnett, Swank, and maybe one or two more), and some snippets of scenes from the movie. I think Brian De Palma said a couple of words, and the actors talked about him as a director.

If anyone out there catches this featurette, be sure and let us know what it's like (and where you saw it)!
(Thanks to Kate!)

Posted July 19 2006
Fangoria reports that William Finley has been added to the lineup of guests at the magazine's upcoming East Coast Weekend Of Horrors, which runs from September 29 to October 1 at the Meadowlands Crowne Plaza Hotel (2 Harmon Plaza, Secaucus, New Jersey). In addition, the magazine promises a "career interview" with Finley for issue #257, on sale in September. Even sooner than that, however, the mag will run an interview with Finley's Phantom Of The Paradise costar Jessica Harper, in next month's issue #256.
(Thanks to Akahan!)

Posted July 14 2006
Ennio Morricone, who has scored three films for Brian De Palma (The Untouchables, Casualties Of War, and Mission To Mars), has revealed to La Repubblica that he had to turn down an offer to score De Palma's The Black Dahlia earlier this year because he was busy finishing the arrangements for his score to Giuseppe Tornatore's La Sconosciuta. Morricone explained that, whereas some composers will have someone farther down on the credits arrange parts of the orchestra in order to save time, when he composes, he is always writing "until the final note." He cites that as the reason he could not commit to The Black Dahlia. Last month, Morricone told Variety that he had already turned down De Palma's Untouchables prequel because he didn't want to lose his inspiration by spending too much time in Hollywood. However, the latter movie won't be ready for scoring until much later, so we'll see...

Posted July 13 2006
The dates for the Femme Fatale Film Series at the Carolina Theatre have been announced. Nancy Allen will host a screening of Brian De Palma's Dressed To Kill on Friday, October 6th. Matt Pennachi, one of the organizers of the film series, said that it was made possible due to the success of the theatre's Retrofantasma series, which has been running for eight years. The latter series screens double bills of classic horror, thriller and cult films from the '70s and '80s on the second to last Friday of every month, and will be showing De Palma's The Fury on November 18th, along with Burnt Offerings. Going back to the Femme Fatale series, Jessica Harper will host a screening of Dario Argento's Suspiria on Friday, October 13th, one week after Allen's appearance.

Posted July 7 2006
Hilary Swank appears on the cover of the August issue of Vanity Fair, and the accompanying article by Leslie Bennetts features quotes from Brian De Palma about Swank's role in his upcoming adaptation of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia:

During the next few months, Swank's other movies will amply demonstrate her range. Coming out in September is The Black Dahlia, an adaptation of James Ellroy's best-selling crime novel about the sensational 1947 murder of a Hollywood startlet. The movie-- which director Brian De Palma describes as "dark, dangerous, and chilling"-- stars Scarlett Johansson, Josh Hartnett, and Aaron Eckhart along with Swank, who plays a glamorous siren with an unsavory connection to the murder victim.

"Hilary has played tomboys and prizefighters to much acclaim, but she never had a part where she could play her sexuality," says De Palma. "The part of Madeleine is very much a deadly femme fatale. She's extremely alluring-- an erotic spider trap. We've never seen Hilary like this, and she will surprise everyone."

Swank appears to be playing up her sexuality in several areas lately: according to Fashion Monitor Toronto, Swank will go "topless" for a new Guerlain advertising campaign. The company's Laurent Boillot said that Swank "is a feminine mix of Meryl Streep and Robert De Niro. She is capable of transforming herself." And according to Dominican Today, Swank has also posed nude for the 2007 Pirelli calendar, which will be released later this year. Also appearing nude in the calendar will be Lou Doillon, who plays the title role in Douglas Buck's upcoming remake of De Palma's Sisters.

Posted June 29 2006
"A conversation with James Ellroy" happened Monday night at the Los Angeles Film Festival, where Ellroy spoke, and also showed clips from movies based on his works, including, according to the LA Times, a trailer for the upcoming The Black Dahlia. Zap2it quotes Ellroy as saying that Dahlia lead Josh Hartnett is "unnerving" in the film: "In every scene, in every voiceover, his performance out-acts every performance in L.A. Confidential. Hartnett reads the lines ... exactly the way I wrote it with near-perfect inflection every time." Ellroy also reportedly stated that while the film adaptation of his L.A. Confidential is "very much Ellroy-lite," it is nevertheless "the film noir that that overrated tuna 'Chinatown' wanted to be." Jeffrey Wells has written a feature piece about the Ellroy conversation at Hollywood Elsewhere, taking Ellroy to task for not including new evidence that may provide closure to the officially-still-unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short. According to Wells,

Ellroy said on Monday night that he's watched hours of dailies from DePalma's film and said he would be doing promotion for it and, like with L.A. Confidential, that he's fairly happy with the end result. His favorite element in The Black Dahlia, he said, is Josh Hartnett, who plays a haunted cop named Bucky Bleichert who, along with partner Lee Blanchard (Aaron Eckhart), is assigned to look into Short's (Mia Kirshner) grisly murder. (Her nude body was found in two pieces, sliced at the waist, on south Norton Avenue.)

Posted June 21 2006
Nancy Allen, who was Brian De Palma's first wife and who has appeared in four of the director's films, will host a screening of De Palma's Dressed To Kill this October as part of the Femme Fatale Film Series at the Carolina Theatre in Durham, North Carolina. Jessica Harper, who was introduced in De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, will host a screening of Dario Argento's Suspiria on a separate evening. No specific dates for those screenings were reported in this article from the Herald Sun, but the series begins September 16 when Dee Wallace pops in to host an afternoon screening of E.T., and then kick-starts the Femme Fatale series later that evening by hosting a screening of Cujo. The final film in the series, The Fog, will be hosted by Adrienne Barbeau.

Posted June 21 2006
Douglas Buck tells Fangoria that David Cronenberg bowed out of playing a doctor in Buck's remake of Brian De Palma's Sisters, because he was exhausted from promoting A History Of Violence. "He said that the thought of getting on another plane made him physically ill," Buck told Fangoria. "He sent me a very, very nice e-mail apologizing, but in the end he just wasn’t available. So we cast William B. Davis,” who, Fangoria points out, is best known for his recurring role as the Cigarette Smoking Man in The X Files. "The character is Dr. Bryant," Buck told the mag, "who, in a brief documentary snippet, discusses the necessity of surgically separating the mentally troubled Siamese twins—- you can see why Cronenberg was initially attracted to it." Despite being disappointed with the loss of Cronenberg, Buck said that he was very happy with Davis in the role. He was also very happy with his lead actress, Lou Doillon, who stepped in after Asia Argento and Anna Mouglalis each had dropped out. "In retrospect," said Buck, "I’m so thrilled with the way she turned out, I’m not sure the other actresses who dropped out would have played it as well." The shoot itself left Buck "bruised and bloodied," but he said he is very happy now as he sits "about a week away from the director's cut." Fangoria promises a report on the shoot in the coming weeks.

Posted June 16 2006
Variety is keeping its finger on the pulse of the upcoming Venice Film Festival, which runs from August 30 to September 9. The paper's latest article on the fest states that Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia is one of several films "strongly tipped" to premiere there this year. Already confirmed, according to Variety, are Kenneth Branagh's The Magic Flute, and David Lynch's Inland Empire, the latter of which will screen out-of-competition. Lynch will also receive a Golden Lion for lifetime achievement. Other films "strongly tipped" or expected to play the fest include Woody Allen's Scoop, which stars Scarlett Johansson (who also stars in Dahlia), Gianni Amelio's The Missing Star, Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, Irwin Winkler's Home Of The Brave, and Alfonso Cuaron's Children Of Men. Catherine Deneuve will head the main jury, a duty that was performed by Dante Ferretti at last year's Venice fest.

Posted June 12 2006
Sean Connery, who received his only Academy Award for his role as Jim Malone in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, was honored Friday night with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Film Institute. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Andy Garcia "brought down the house with his tales of acting opposite Connery in 1987's The Untouchables... According to Garcia, Connery was adept at organizing his day so that he could play golf. When Garcia resisted facing the camera while he was talking on the phone, Connery said, 'Come on kid, it's not Hamlet.'" The event will be broadcast June 21st on the USA Network.

Posted June 7 2006
Ennio Morricone will conduct themes from Brian De Palma's The Untouchables and many more of his film scores this summer as he embarks on an international tour with Milan's La Scala Philharmonic Orchestra. According to Variety, the tour will kick off July 24 in Italy, playing several venues there, and then "a dozen European capitals, plus New York and L.A." The article states that "while he's happy to globe-hop for the tour, Morricone remains anchored to his palatial penthouse studio overlooking Rome's rooftops when it comes to composing." Morricone, who has composed the scores for three of De Palma's films, told Variety, "I had to turn down a job on Brian De Palma's upcoming The Untouchables: Capone Rising." When asked why, Morricone replied, "If I spent all that time in Hollywood, I'd lose my inspiration." All we can say is, we hope he can be persuaded when the time comes...

Posted June 5 2006
The latest issue of the U.K.'s Uncut DVD magazine features a cover story on Brian De Palma's Scarface. The article inside very thoroughly covers the making and reception of the film with loads of stills and behind-the-scenes photos. It utilizes interesting quotes from De Palma, Al Pacino, Oliver Stone, etc., from all kinds of sources (including my own 2002 interview with De Palma, although they mispelled my last name, "Geoff Berens," instead of Beran), but also incorporates some brand new quotes from actors Robert Loggia and Steven Bauer.

Loggia talks about the concept, suggested by Sydney Lumet, to base the new version of Scarface (itself a remake of the 1932 Howard Hawks film) on the modern day cocaine wars in Miami:

We were hearing these stories about new gangs from South America, from Cuba. They were much more openly ruthless than the image of the old-style gangsters everybody had. People were shot in their homes, the body count seemed to be rapidly escalating, drugs were everywhere. The script blew me away. This seemed to me an eye-opener for most of America.

Bauer tells the magazine about the rehearsals he and Pacino had for weeks prior to filming:

We had a month of rehearsal time. This is unheard of. We rehearsed that thing... we could've taken it on the road like a play. Scene! Scene! Scene! Bang! Bang! Bang! Brian was great: gracious to allow what he allowed for exploration.

On set, Al hung out mainly with me. Between takes, he was totally in character, and we would talk and mess around in character. He was Tony Montana from day one, and you could watch the monster grow. At the end of a day's shoot, Al would go home to his girlfriend. I think that's how he stayed sane.

This fall will see the release of the new video game, Scarface: The World Is Yours, which takes off where De Palma's movie ended by allowing Tony Montana to somehow survive the hail of bullets he dances amidst inside his mansion. You can view the trailer (after providing proof that you're old enough) at The trailer blends clips from De Palma's film with clips from the game-- narrated by the new voice of Tony Montana (ever more ruthless, the new Tony spits out, "I'm Tony Fuckin' Montana!").
(Thanks to Space Ace!)

And finally, brings us "Scarface In Your Pocket," a talking keychain that features original sounds from the De Palma film. This new toy is family friendly, eschewing the four-letter words in favor of sayings such as, "Me, I always tell the truth, even when I lie," and the ever-popular, "Say hello to my little friend!"
(Thanks to akahan!)

Posted May 31 2006
Warner Bros. has again partnered with Amazon to bring us “DVD Decision 2006,” where potential customers can vote on which selection of Warner Bros. titles should be released on DVD next. In this year’s comedy category is one of the few Brian De Palma films yet to be released on DVD: Get To Know Your Rabbit, his first Hollywood feature. To vote for the De Palma film, click here and enter your e-mail address. (And don’t forget to check out the film’s trailer while you’re there!) Also on the list is a very early Francis Ford Coppola film, You're A Big Boy Now. You can vote throughout the month of June, and the results will be announced August 8th. Ten titles will be chosen from the list of 30, with five being released on DVD December 5, 2006, and the other five to be released January 2, 2007.

It may have a botched ending, but Get To Know Your Rabbit features some very funny and entertaining ideas from De Palma's early anarchic "sketch" period. When Warner Bros. honchos learned that De Palma wanted to end the film by having star Tom Smothers go on the Johnny Carson show and appear to cut up a rabbit bloody on live television, the studio fired the director and shot a new, entirely lame ending. But the film still thrives with De Palma's sly energy. The opening scene thematically takes off where Hi, Mom! had ended, when Smothers' Donald Beeman decides it's time to walk out on his ultra-corporate job, and inadvertently escapes the corporate building just before a revolutionary organization (calling themselves “Up Against The Wall, Inc.”) blows it up real good. De Palma's visionary eye exposes itself in the very next scene, as we watch Donald walk through the maze of his apartment by following him overhead. (Note: the cinematographer was John A. Alonzo, who would go on to shoot Polanski’s Chinatown, as well as De Palma’s Scarface.)

The picture that follows is punctured with absurd details, such as when we see Donald and his wife in their apartment. De Palma's camera catches glimpses of another housewife through a window across the way, and she is a mirror image of Donald's corporate wife, from the clothes right down to the style and color of her hair (De Palma really would have had fun directing The Stepford Wives). Allen Garfield shows up to take Donald to a days-long party, where they meet a girl and take her out to try on brassieres, and then the next thing you know, Orson Welles pops up doing what he loves the most: magic. John Astin plays Donald’s boss, and Katherine Ross (post-Graduate, pre-Stepford) is billed as “The Terrific Looking Girl.”

In De Palma’s version of the ending, which was never shot, Donald makes it look convincingly as though he is cutting up the rabbit, but the viewer finds out that it was all an illusion—Donald has grown disillusioned that he has started a tap-dancing magician craze that has been appropriated (and incorporated) by the corporate culture he had disavowed at the start of the film. One thing is for sure: if Warner Bros. had allowed De Palma his Johnny-Carson-bloody-rabbit ending, this is one film that would not have been so long forgotten…

Posted May 31 2006
Who says Owen Gleiberman doesn't like Brian De Palma films? The Entertainment Weekly critic, who has griped about many recent De Palma films, was eager to go on the record to highlight "the visual audacity of Carrie's ending" this week in answer to the question, "What's the best out-of-nowhere scary movie swerve?" Gleiberman says that De Palma's ending of Carrie "towers above all... The first time I experienced that moment, the day that Carrie opened in 1976, I was so terrified I literally stood up out of my seat in fear, and so did half the audience." Gleiberman asserts that "before De Palma, no one had ever thought to stage a moment that unsettling as the very last scene of a movie. There was no release, no time to steady your nerves; you were simply terrified to your bones and then...boom, the movie ended. And so you carried the nightmare right out of the theater with you." Gleiberman says that two years later, when John Carpenter had Michael resurrected at the end of Halloween, the result "was less artful and more cynical: It was, of course, so that the film could spawn a sequel."

Posted May 24 2006
Antonio Banderas, who is now directing his second feature film, El Camino de los Ingleses, recently told that he learned a lot about filmmaking from working with Brian De Palma on Femme Fatale, which filmed five years ago at the Cannes Film Festival, among other locations in France. Here is what Banderas said about making the film:

I suppose my career in the future is going to go much more in that direction. I won’t stop acting, but may do more theater and make more movies that are important to me. Sometimes people don’t understand why I did that movie. ‘Why did you do that movie, man? That movie isn’t for you.’ And it’s because I wanted to work with a certain director. It happened to me with Brian De Palma, for example. When De Palma offered me ‘Femme Fatale he said, ‘But there is no character here. He’s just a shadow in the background. You don’t see anything about his life.’ I said, ‘I know, I know.’ He said, ‘That is me, that is [what] I have inside of me.’ I said, ‘Can I come here as a student of directing.’ And he said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said, ‘Well, I love your movies and I love the way you shoot. I am going to play the character you propose to me, but I am going to bring a notepad everyday.’ And he said, ‘Fine with me.’ That’s what I did and I learned a lot from him. Why he used certain lenses, why he frames like that. What is the meaning of doing that master shot in the middle of the movie, things like that. And it was beautiful.

Posted May 19 2006
Total Film talked to Aaron Eckhart about his role in Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia. Eckhart, who is never actually seen smoking in his latest film, Thank You For Smoking, told the U.K. magazine about Dahlia, "This is one movie I did smoke throughout!" He also said, "It’s going to be a very violent movie. I don’t think Brian’s made too many concessions. They show Elizabeth Short being cut up and all that sort of stuff. I think it’s going to be a classic De Palma film."
(Thanks to Kate!)

Posted May 18 2006
AND BUCK CONTRASTS HIMSELF WITH DE PALMA has some pictures from Doug Buck's upcoming remake of Brian De Palma's Sisters, and they all feature Dallas Roberts (I am unsure about who he plays in the film, although he is dressed rather obviously as a doctor in several of these photos). The site's Staci Wilson interviewed Buck a couple of weeks ago, shortly after the film finished shooting in Vancouver. In the interview, Buck contrasted his style of filmmaking with De Palma's:

De Palma is much more a reflective type of filmmaker. He's very aware of cinema and he plays with cinema very consciously and very amusingly. I think always in De Palma's films there's the thread of amusement running through his work, even through the vicious murder scenes and everything else there's always a humor; I think part of it is the recognition of cinema itself. I think even the split screen stuff is kind of funny. It's all suspenseful and entertaining and well done, but there's something very self aware and also very entertaining about De Palma's stuff.

Posted May 13 2006
The June 2006 issue of Premiere includes a page about The Black Dahlia in its "First Look" section. Along with this image from the film, the teaser article features quotes from Brian De Palma:

"I love dark noir, these femmes fatales, the twisted noir hero," says director Brian De Palma of his take on James Ellroy's 1940s-era detective novel, based on a famous L.A. crime. "The hero is basically put through hell."

The three-paragraph article by Ryan Devlin then describes the plot of the film before pointing out that while the film's story is fiction...

...the Black Dahlia murder, which remains a cold case, is chillingly real. De Palma viewed the gruesome shots of the crime scene, where victim Elizabeth Short's body was discarded. "The photos of her displayed out in the field, they are all over the Internet," he says. "Once you see them, you will never forget them."

Posted May 9 2006
Steven Schipper, artistic director for Winnipeg's Manitoba Theatre Center, told the Winnipeg Free Press last week that the theatre is interested in creating a stage musical version of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. After meeting with a representative of Paul Williams April 29th, Schipper attended Phantompalooza 2 that same evening. Here is what he told the paper:

I went to the concert Saturday and saw the commitment Winnipeggers have made to this movie musical. It has a lot of the same qualities as Rocky Horror Show, great music and a story that appeals to people on many levels. Ideally we would like to create a new stage version for 07/08, but altogether chances are pretty slim that we'll ever get through the issues of rights.

According to the newspaper, the rights are spread out among several parties. In any case, Schipper said his talks were more positive than expected, and that Williams would be brought into the loop. Schipper told the paper, "I think the musical would be something that had legs, at least in Paris."

According to the same article in the Winnipeg Free Press, an Edmonton film company was at this year's Phantompalooza shooting footage for a documentary to be released sometime next year. The paper spoke with the documentary's co-director, Vern Thiessen, a partner in Irresponsible Films Inc. "It's a fun and loving look at the love affair between Winnipeg and that film," Thiessen told the paper. "I grew up with that movie as a kid. I really wanted to explore what it is about Winnipeg that loves that movie."
(Thanks to Rod!)

Posted May 8 2006
Here's an item just in time to celebrate the 25th anniversary of one of Brian De Palma's greatest films. De Palma's Blow Out will be screened Friday, May 12th as a benefit to restore the Boyd Theatre in Philadelphia, where the film was shot. A $15 "Fan Ticket" to the event gets you, in addition to the screening and after-party, a pre-screening commentary by local "Movie Night" hosts Chumley and Carlota, who are known for their campy/bitchy Mystery Science Theater 3000-style running commentary during films. But if you go for the $50 "VIP Reception with Special Guests Ticket," you also get a light supper with wine and three local actors who appeared in the film: Channel 6 Action News' Dave Roberts (who played the news anchorman), Tom McCarthy (who played one of the cops at the hospital), and FM radio personality Michael Tearson (pictured at right, as "The Hawker" in Blow Out). Tearson has also appeared in De Palma's Dressed To Kill and Wise Guys. There is also a "Producer Ticket" available for $100. For more information, visit

Posted May 6 2006
According to a message board posting at the Internet Movie Database, a "rough cut/working trailer" of The Black Dahlia was screened last week at Show Canada, an annual conference where distributors market their films to exhibitors. According to "johnn-4," writing at the IMDB, the background music used in the trailer "is ambient/chill and is very haunting; suited the trailer very well." He originally posted in a quest to find out what the music was, but then also responded to a request from another IMDB user to describe the trailer:

Extremely effective trailer, hooks you immediately, and leaves you with high anticipation of the film. Looks similar to LA Confidential (one of my all-time favourite films), and feels every bit the film noir it is meant to be.

When prodded for even more details, johnn-4 replied:

I don't know what other details i can was about 2 minutes long, as i said, it was a rough cut...Mia is a dead-ringer for Short. it was both black and white and in colour. i would imagine that it will be given a hard "R" rating, based on the footage...but chances are that what i saw will NOT be the final trailer. aaron eckhart looked smart, even harnett was believable as a cop. not too much scarlett in this. the music is what hooks you though...i need to know what it was.

(Thanks to Kate!)

Posted May 3 2006
Edward R. Pressman, who produced Brian De Palma's Sisters and Phantom Of The Paradise in the early '70s, is currently producing Doug Buck's remake of Sisters. Now, according to indieWIRE, he is in talks to produce a remake of Phantom, as well. With all of the Phantompalooza action going on lately, and Antonio Banderas mentioning a couple of years ago that he had been talking with De Palma about taking his Phantom to the stage, the time certainly seems ripe for such a project. The remake is listed at Pressman's Website as being "in development."
(Thanks to Akahan!)

In the indieWIRE article, Buck says that he was sitting in a bar with Wendigo director Larry Fessenden, "and he mentioned that Ed [Pressman] was interested in remaking Sisters. I said I would love to take a crack at that so Larry got my films to Ed." Buck told indieWIRE that his version, co-written by John Freitas, stays true to De Palma's original structure, but "near the end it changes a lot." Pressman said that because De Palma's was a B-movie, it is perfect for a remake. "It's hard to remake a classic movie, but not many people know about this film so you're not being tested against the standard," he told indieWire. The $5 million 23-day shoot recently wrapped production in Vancouver, according to the website, and will be in postproduction until the fall. The editor is Omar Daher.

Posted May 2 2006
We expect news of this past weekend's Phantompalooza 2 to be trickling in throughout the next few days. So far, what we've learned is that the entire cast, including Paul Williams, took part in the day's first panel discussion, although Williams had to bow out of the second one to prepare for his evening concert. On Saturday afternoon, Jessica Harper decided she would sing "Old Souls" with Williams's band. After one little rehearsal, Akahan says Harper nailed the performance, which you can watch in a clip at YouTube. Meanwhile, Williams performed several songs from Phantom Of The Paradise, along with other songs from his long career. He closed the set with "Rainbow Connection," and, according to Akahan, was more than once "moved to tears onstage by the enthusiastic reception he was getting." Also extremely moved was documentary maker Deborah Znaty, who had never before seen her docu from the French DVD of the film screened before a live audience, which gave it a standing ovation. Also according to Akahan:

The Juicy Fruits performed all three of their songs live, and, in the biggest surprise of the evening, Gerrit Graham performed "Life At Last" (which he had not actually sung in the film -- his singing voice had been dubbed by Ray Kennedy). Just absolutely historic. And the entire cast generously sat and signed autographs for HOURS for everyone, getting back to the hotel LONG after midnight. The whole thing was totally sold out, and everyone had the time of their lives.

(Thanks to Akahan!)

Posted April 29 2006
The Winnipeg Sun interviewed Paul Williams this week in anticipation of Phantompalooza 2, which happens today. In the interview, the songwriter/actor recalled working with Brian De Palma on Phantom Of The Paradise in 1974:

Williams cherished the experience of making the movie, but points out he was a much younger man then, and likely wouldn’t be able to wear the hats of both an actor and a songwriter these days.

And he says it was clear from the start De Palma was a “world-class filmmaker,” recalling one incident where the director kept scrambling up to the theatre box Williams was sitting in, then scrambling down again to shoot the stage.

“After he’d done this a few times, I said, ‘You know a Chapman crane would be the obvious choice,’” Williams recalls. “He just turned and said, ‘The stage won’t hold a Chapman crane. I already checked.’”

Posted April 25 2006
According to Donal at the Juliette Binoche, A French Dream forum, the UK Observer published an interview with Juliette Binoche yesterday, where she talked about several upcoming projects, including Brian De Palma's Toyer:

Binoche is enthusiastically looking forward to her next few roles, although she is not 100% sure yet what they will be. "I am doing a thriller with Brian De Palma called Toyer. Colin Firth will co-star. Its been delayed for so long, but we are ready to shoot the day after De Palma finishes his last movie."

Meanwhile, Firthissimo has posted the best translation yet of Colin Firth's April 7 press conference in Rome, where he was asked about De Palma's Toyer. Here is what Firth said, according to the site:

No, I don’t have any news. I do not know where it has got to, we all are waiting for [De Palma] to be free. I have met De Palma… two or three years ago, and we have talked about this with great enthusiasm. He likes to schedule a film in advance, and wanted to do first Black Dahlia and then Toyer. And then I believe that another project has come out, therefore I do not know, maybe I will act as Toyer’s grandfather. I am waiting, I do not know.

Posted April 24 2006
Brian De Palma has been keeping himself busy lately with the scoring and mixing of The Black Dahlia, and now someone else who claims to be involved in those scoring sessions with composer Mark Isham has posted a brief description at the Internet Movie Database. Posting on the site's message board for the film, "StanLeeCueBrick" states that Isham's score for the De Palma film is an "interesting mix" of atmospheric work and Isham's more "jazzy" scores. "Thus far we've been playing some sensual sophisticated stuff," writes StanLeeCueBrick. "Really beautiful. Film looks mighty fine..." And it would appear that StanLeeCueBrick is legitimate-- in the past, he has posted on the IMDB boards about working on previous film scoring sessions, including The Life And Death Of Peter Sellers, where he signed his name as "Nel."

While we're on the subject of music in The Black Dahlia, an Ain't It Cool News talkbacker, "Jack the Lad," who attended an early test screening of the film in February, said that the second best highlight of the film "was KD Lang singing in drag at a lesbian nightclub." lang sings Cole Porter's "Love For Sale" in the film. Jack the Lad's favorite part of the film was the dinner scene, and he said that Fiona Shaw is the highlight. He said parts of the temp score seemed to come from Chinatown. He also said that "Mia Kirshner was very good, her screen test sequences were quite haunting. My spidey sense tells me De Palma provided the voice of the director coaching her." If this is true, it provides an interesting echo of the intro to De Palma's Murder a la Mod, which features what sounds like De Palma's off-camera voice as the director, coaching the "birds" to take off their clothes.

Posted April 23 2006
The Winnipeg Free Press published an interview with Paul Williams yesterday, in anticipation of the songwriter's upcoming appearance at Phantompalooza 2 next weekend. Williams, who portrayed the villain Swan in Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, wrote all of the film's songs, as well. He will be performing a concert Saturday night at Phantompalooza 2, and the article states that he may include songs from the film, such as "Old Souls" and "The Hell Of It." He will also join a panel along with fellow cast members. "I've got to tell you, we're going to have a great time," Williams told the Winnipeg Press. "Winnipeg remains a phenomenon in my life. When Phantom came out and Winnipeg went so crazy for it, I still look at it with awe and endless gratitude." Williams is asked about the enthusiastic reception he received the last time he performed in Winnipeg, in 1977:

It was funny. It's my theory that people see what they want to see. So to them, it was like Swan showing up which at the time I was almost concerned (about) because Swan is so powerful and evil and sexy, I guess. But I was a child of the '60s, the hippie movement, and so I'm singing all my co-dependent anthems and the audience is screaming, 'Swan! Swan!' It was like being a Beatle for a day. It was just wonderful.

Because the film depicts the dark side of the music industry, Williams is asked if it reflected his own views at the time (the film was released in 1974)...

Not really. I was afraid people would think that, and that's one of the reasons why I wanted to play Swan as opposed to Winslow. Originally, Brian (De Palma) had talked about me playing Winslow, the guy whose music is stolen, and there were two things that kept me from wanting to do that. One is I didn't think I could be menacing. I thought the Phantom needed to be big, as opposed to this mousy little creature scurrying around the rafters like a rat.

But the other thing is I didn't want people to think that I had a beef with the music industry. I think that playing the guy who steals the music, as opposed to the one whose music is stolen, I tried to stay a little further away from giving people that impression. I actually had a really good experience.

Williams states to the paper that Phantom "may be the best single piece of filmwork I've done in my life," saying he is also very proud of his work on The Muppet Movie and Bugsy Malone. "But I think that Phantom was as close to a home run as I've hit as a writer," he said.

Phantompalooza founder Gloria Dignazio was interviewed this week at Backstage Winnipeg, and mentioned a bit about a possible stage version of Phantom Of The Paradise.

I believe we have now had 6 documentary offers [for Phantompalooza 2], which really blows my mind. I keep joking with the rest of the Committee that “get ready with your acceptance speech”, but seriously, there might be a full length feature film regarding the making of “Phantompalooza” in the near future, so who knows, what will come from all of this. We are actually hoping, and this was William Finley’s wish last year, that the movie hits Las Vegas as a musical. Apparently, Paul Williams has written 13 songs for that particular project, so I am hoping that when the entire cast is here, that somehow this will be talked about and possibly, come to fruition.

In the interview, Dignazio mentions the following tantalizing bit about next weekend's festivities:

There are also a couple of major surprises in store for the fans, but I am "under contract" not to say a word about them!!! Let’s just say that I can’t even believe what is going to happen and when I do try and wrap my head around it, it completely blows my mind!

Posted April 19 2006
Just in time for Phantompalooza 2 comes The Swan Archives, a fun and informative tribute to Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise. The site presents many mouth-watering facts about the production of the film with deep research and a dry sense of humor. The archive features scans of promotional materials, as well as videos and rare photographs. The page devoted to "themes" of the film goes deep into the recurring themes of De Palma's cinema, showing how Phantom Of The Paradise reflects those themes while remaining an original work in and of itself. And the site's presentation of Phantom memorabilia is priceless. Check it out!
(Thanks to Akahan!)

Posted April 13 2006
It looks like the lead role in Doug Buck's remake of Brian De Palma's Sisters has changed once again. According to Variety, the film, which has been shooting in Vancouver, now stars French actress Lou Doillon as the twin sisters of the title. Previous reports had Anna Mouglalis in the lead roles, replacing the originally cast Asia Argento. Fangoria, which promises an on-the-set report soon, reported today that Dallas Roberts, Gabrielle Rose, and JR Bourne have also been cast in Buck's film. According to Variety, Buck and his coscreenwriter John Freitas became aquainted when Buck attended a lecture on De Palma's Sisters at a film school in New York. Buck told Variety about his take on De Palma's film:

In the original film, which I love, De Palma chose style over substance. I'm interested in exploring all the other stuff that's there -- the perversity, the tragedy, the sadness. All those character traits make it, to me, more interesting. I want to make the characters more alive.

Posted April 5 2006
According to a Variety story today, The Black Dahlia will not be ready in time for this year's Cannes Film Festival in May. The official lineup won't be revealed until April 20th, but the Variety story claims that other titles not ready in time include David Lynch's Inland Empire and Steven Shainberg's Fur. On another note, the fest will include a 20-minute preview of Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, and Stone will also be honored for the 20th anniversary of Platoon.
(Thanks to Chuck!)

Posted April 4 2006

Space Ace sent along this still from Dario Argento's Do You Like Hitchcock?, which features a story set in motion when three students, who are each assigned to write a paper on an Alfred Hitchcock film, butt heads in a video store. In this still, Space Ace notes, one can see a DVD of Obsession, Brian De Palma's homage to Hitchcock's Vertigo, on a shelf square in between two protagonists. Argento's film features many explicit references to Hitchcock's cinema (he has said he set out to challenge the "myth" of "the great Hitch"), including a score by Pino Donaggio that purposely mimics Hitchcock's longtime composer, Bernard Herrmann. Herrmann composed the scores for both Vertigo and Obsession.

Posted April 3 2006
It's a Josh Hartnett blitz this week as the actor promotes his starring turn in Lucky Number Slevin, which opens Friday. In several recent interviews, Hartnett is asked about different aspects of making The Black Dahlia. Coming Soon asked him how the Brian De Palma film turned out:

"It's beautiful. It's unreal. I've never seen a film look this stunning," said Hartnett. "It's like you can't quite describe it. Dante Ferretti did the sets, and Jenny Beavan did the costumes and so visually, everything's like perfect. Brian obviously set up these amazing shots and the script is amazing. So if those two get married correctly you're looking at a movie that could really go places. I haven't seen the full thing together yet."

Fincher's black-and-white Dahlia becomes De Palma's big-budget independent film
The Journal Gazette asked Hartnett if he was surprised it took so long to get The Black Dahlia made:

It’s a very high-profile film now, but it didn’t start out that way. It’s a dark story, though. And not many people felt like it was going to be a successful film. It’s expensive. It’s a period film. … It’s just right up (director Brian) De Palma’s alley. … It was originally going to be a black-and-white film that David Fincher was going to direct. He actually hired me for it, and it sat around for four years before we actually made it.

Hartnett told the Star Tribune that while The Black Dahlia has a $65 million budget, "it was done completely independently." Since the film is still in post-production, Hartnett did not wish to talk about it at length, but enthused that "it looks great!"

A period film with a modern psychological approach
Hartnett shared some deeper thoughts on The Black Dahlia in the March 2006 issue of Venice:

It's very glossy and very much a period film, but it has an updated quality because of the photography and because you can't just do a noir film. You have to do something that doesn't seem too period because then people won't really get it. It definitely has a more modern psychological approach, as [James] Ellroy's book did. Ellroy's book was not the same as the Daschle Hammett book. It's a modern version of that ideal, that principle, and that's kind of what we did with that. And this one is obviously more experimental, more off the cuff.

De Palma had his homework done before filming
Elsewhere in the Venice interview, Hartnett is asked, "as someone who's interested in both the craft and possibly directing," what he picked up from working with De Palma and Slevin director Paul McGuigan:

Directors are like actors in that they all work differently. With Brian, he had a long time to prepare for that film because we were supposed to shoot it a couple of other times and the money fell through. So by the time we got to the set he had done all his homework. He was kind of in the place that Hitchcock always said he wanted to be when he started a film, which is, "I want to be bored when I'm filming because I've done such good homework." And Brian's pre-production had brought him to the point where he was ready for it to be done. That was interesting. He made a really beautiful film and the challenge is to make the character relationships interesting. And being able to be at that point where all the technical stuff is worked out and you can just focus on the relationships of the characters and the characters' relationships to themselves is the best way to go about it.

And Paul is more experimental on set with how he wants to shoot. A lot of the stuff in Slevin was shot on stage and the entire set would be like a 360 set; it would be an entire room just made a little bit bigger. And he would have the whole thing lit so you could just fool around. It was more experimental in that way and that's fun, too. It depends completely on the material, I think, and the right director with the right material is just as important as the right actor with the right character. I think both these guys were so well suited for the scripts that they had.

Watched a lot of noir film while making Dahlia
Hartnett is also asked in the Venice interview about his favorite films. He replies that he doesn't think he can come up with a list of true faves, but that he was recently blown away by Unforgiven and All The President's Men, and then goes into a riff on Chinatown, one of the films De Palma has outwardly stated as an inspiration for his take on The Black Dahlia:

For totally different reasons, films like Chinatown, which I saw a lot of noir films when I was doing Dahlia. I just wanted to see what has been done in the past, and a lot of those are pretty amazing. You think about the films that come out and what their reaction is to what the current culture is. I thought that was such an extreme reaction back then, the noir kind of movement of the '40s. It's wild to see why they were making those films at the time.

Ellroy & Eckhart on Hartnett; Hartnett on eating meat, improvising with Scarlett, and (not) sparring with Hilary
In the April 2006 issue of Elle, Ellroy (who wrote the novel) says that Hartnett is "flawless" as Bucky, the lead role in The Black Dahlia. "He's got it," Ellroy tells the magazine in an article about Hartnett. "He's subtle and understated. People who have seen the movie consider him the revelation."

And another article about Hartnett in The Courant features co-star Aaron Eckhart giving his props to the actor. "He came prepared to play," Eckhart said. "He fulfilled the author's intention. It's his movie. He's the man in it."

And finally, this week's issue of People features a one-page article on Hartnett where he is asked several questions about working on Dahlia. Hartnett declined to discuss his relationship with Scarlett Johansson (“There are always rumors”), but did discuss working with the actress on Dahlia, saying that she has an almost improvisational way of working. He was also asked is it was difficult to shoot for twelve weeks in Bulgaria while trying to be a vegetarian (Hartnett plays a boxer, and was also involved in intensive training for the role).

It's all meat, all the time, over there. I was trying for awhile, but I would work 12 hours and then box for four hours every night. I was gaunt. The doctor told me, 'Eat meat.' And that was it.

Finally, Hartnett is asked whether he received any tips from another Dahlia co-star, Hilary Swank, who won an Oscar for her role as a boxer in Million Dollar Baby. "She did offer to get in the ring with me," he replied. "She'd been training for so long I thought maybe it wasn't such a good idea."
(Thanks to Kate and Akahan!)

Posted April 1 2006
The Juicy Fruits, also known in Phantom Of The Paradise as The Undead, will perform for the first time since filming the Brian De Palma film over thirty years ago. According to a Phantompalooza news release, Archie Hahn, Harold Oblong, and Jeff Comanor will reunite at this year's Phantompalooza 2 in Winnipeg, Saturday April 29th. The trio will be backed by The Phantom Live Band. This event will be part of the "Party All Night" ticket, which also includes the concert by Paul Williams, along with a screening of the film, and the panel featuring cast members, including William Finley, Gerrit Graham, and Jessica Harper. Tickets went on sale starting today, and can be ordered at See the Phantompalooza web site for specific details about ticket prices and events.

Posted March 30 2006
A ninemsn celebrity blogger asked Josh Hartnett if we can expect to see some "on screen sizzle" between him and Scarlett Johansson in The Black Dahlia. "Properly yeah," Hartnett is quoted as replying. "She and I and Hilary (Swank) and I both have some full-on scenes." Hartnett goes on to express bewilderment at current rumors about his relationship with Johansson, and also his flat out disgust at people who follow him around 24-7.

Here's the thing, I don't care whether they print something about me, but if you're going to be in my face all day then there's going to be a problem. It's just horrible to be stalked no matter what. If there's a guy with a camera taking every moment of your life, with the ability to put that moment in a magazine then just that idea makes you so self conscious and aware. It freaks you out.

Hartnett, who is making the publicity rounds for his upcoming film, Lucky Number Slevin, is scheduled to appear on Late Night with Conan O'Brien tonight.

Posted March 26 2006
SEPT. 15 in NORTH AMERICA; NOV. 11 in U.K.
Late last week, Universal announced a revised release date for Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia, which will now hit theaters in North America on September 15, 2006 (four weeks earlier than the previously announced date of October 13th). Universal's promotional copy for the film consists of the standard plot descriptions we've all read before, but ends with this hook:

True crime meets urban legend when De Palma brings Ellroy's The Black Dahlia to the big screen.

Meanwhile, the April 2006 issue of Total Film features a blurb about The Black Dahlia, which lists the film's release date in the U.K. as November 11, 2006. According to Total Film, Maggie Gyllenhaal was the first choice to play Kay Lake, the role that Scarlett Johansson eventually landed. Of Johansson, De Palma is quoted: "I'd say she's one of the finest actresses working today, but I think that underestimates her talent."
(Thanks to Jim and Mari!)

Here is a revised rundown of the De Palma-related happenings this year:

February 28 - Phantom of the Paradise DVD released in France.

March-April-ish - Scarface prequel novel, written by L.A. Banks, published by Dark Horse as the first of a series.

March 13 - Sisters remake begins filming in Vancouver.

April 11 - Mission: Impossible 10th Anniversary DVD released.

April 25 - Casualties Of War "Extended Cut" DVD released.

April 29 - Phantompalooza 2 in Winnipeg.

May 5 - Mission: Impossible 3 released in theaters.

May-ish - Will The Black Dahlia premiere at Cannes...?

July 1 - Scarface: The World Is Yours video game is released.

September 12 - Murder a la Mod released on DVD.

September 15 - The Black Dahlia released in theaters.

Updated March 22 2006 - Posted March 21 2006

More details have emerged about the upcoming Phantompalooza 2, which will take place in Winnipeg, Canada, April 29, 2006. The big news is that Paul Williams, who played the villain Swan in Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, has confirmed that he will take part in this year's extravaganza by performing in concert. "An Intimate Evening of Music with Paul Williams" will consist of a variety of music from Williams' career, which might (but also might not) include one or two songs from Phantom Of The Paradise. Returning from last year will be William Finley (who played the Phantom) and Gerrit Graham (Beef). And now, Jessica Harper (Phoenix) has been scheduled to appear, as well. Joining the leads will be all three of the men who made up Swan's house band, the Juicy Fruits: Archie Hahn, Jeffrey Comanor, and Peter Elbling. Tickets will be available beginning April 1st via
(Thanks to Akahan!)

Posted March 19 2006
Il manifesto posted an interview this week with Italian composer Pino Donaggio. The occasion was the release in Italy of the new film by Sergio Rubini, La Terra, for which Donaggio composed the score. At the end of the interview, Donaggio is asked about his future plans, and says that he is set to do the music for an upcoming film by Giuseppe Ferrara. "Then there is the already announced Toyer," Donaggio continues, "the film that I'm supposed to make with De Palma. Part of it would film in Venice."

That last part is fitting, because in 1973, a Venice-set film, Nicolas Roeg's Don't Look Now, inducted Donaggio into the world of film composing. Brian De Palma was a fan of the film, and sought Donaggio to do the music for Carrie, which became the first of six collaborations between the two (Toyer would be the seventh). In the interview, Donaggio describes De Palma's test screening of Carrie, with George Lucas in attendance. In the film's final shocking scene, Donaggio's music lulls the viewer into a dreamlike comfort zone. "Even though [Lucas] was a filmmaker," he tells the interviewer, "I saw him jolt out of his chair. All of this because the melody worked so well." The interviewer suggests that in Carrie, Donaggio has taken an approach that is contrary to that of Bernard Herrmann, by saving the dissonant notes until after he has stretched out the suspense with melody. When the interviewer suggests that De Palma was interested in Donaggio because of his similarities to Herrmann, Donaggio agrees, but stresses that De Palma really hired him because he loved his work on Don't Look Now.

When asked about references to classics of the great composers in his film scores, Donaggio uses De Palma's Home Movies as an example:

When wanting to create ironic things, it is much more amusing to refer to classical music. This, in turn, can become ironic. It's more difficult to create irony with the guitars and a band. In Home Movies, it was an idea of Brian's. To Rossini, I have added the percussion, the guitar, in order to better punctuate the joke.

Continuing about the references to classical music, Donaggio describes his score for the museum scene in De Palma's Dressed To Kill:

[In the scene], music makes up for an absence of conversation... I have imagined what he could try and what they could say. The piece "In the museum" often is transmitted in the United States, to the radio, in the programs of classical music. In the cinema schools, they often watch this scene in order to show how the music and the images can be in osmosis. It is one of the more memorable examples.

Donaggio also discusses why he used more percussion than usual in Blow Out, saying that it was simply because it appealed more to him and his pop sensibilities (Donaggio started out as a pop songwriter), which are reflected in the film.

Posted March 17 2006
USA Today film critic Susan Wloszczyna today suggests that Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia is one of several big studio pictures that could potentially be nominated for Best Film at next year's Academy Awards. Here's an excerpt from her article:

While [Clint] Eastwood already is packing two trophies for directing, a pair of long-denied filmmakers return to their favorite genres. Irish-American mobsters clash with the Boston police force in Martin Scorsese's The Departed (November), starring Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and Jack Nicholson. And Brian De Palma re-enters the noir zone of femme fatales and unsolved murders with The Black Dahlia (Oct. 13), with Hilary Swank, Josh Hartnett and Scarlett Johansson.

Posted March 16 2006
Aaron Eckhart has been making the rounds to promote Thank You For Smoking, his new film (pictured here) that opens in select theaters tomorrow. An interviewer at MovieWeb asked Eckhart to talk about the contrast of working with first-time Smoking director Jason Reitman and veteran Brian De Palma. Eckhart replied:

I loved Brian. I loved working with him. We did a movie in Bulgaria together called The Black Dahlia with Scarlett Johannson and Hilary Swank. Brian's another great pro. He knew what he wanted. He was working with professionals. He showed up and expected us to be ready and we were. That's the way I like to make movies. I think Jason, having been around his father [veteran director Ivan Reitman], and been on set and been around great actors, is very prepared. I fully expect Jason to become a major American director.

Posted March 8 2006
The winter issue of MovieMaker (with Ralph Fiennes on the cover) features an interview with Josh Hartnett in which he talks a little bit about The Black Dahlia. When the interviewer mentions Ridley Scott and Ron Shelton, each of which have worked with Hartnett, the actor goes into a riff about how you can't turn down directors of their status. "I just finished working with Brian De Palma too," Hartnett continued, "on this Black Dahlia movie. He's another director that, if given the chance to do something with him, you rearrange your schedule." Then the interviewer asks, "He wasn't the original director on the project, though, right?" Hartnett replies:

No. I was actually hired onto the project by David Fincher. I sincerely believe that David is one of the few bona fide geniuses working in film today. Unfortunately, he's also usually got four or five projects he's working on at once, and he eventually dropped out of doing Dahlia to concentrate on something else. But it's still Josh Friedman's script, and by the time Brian came on board, he'd been tooling around in Paris for a while thinking about how he wanted to tell this particular story. When I was researching the part, it amazed me that the case still fascinates people almost 60 years after the fact.

Meanwhile, the New York Post passed along some apparently mangled gossip yesterday. A "spy" at Hollywood's Sunset Marquis overheard Hartnett talking to Oliver Stone over lunch this week about a movie that sounds an awful lot like The Black Dahlia. However, the spy seems to think Hartnett was pitching the film to Stone. Here is what the blurb in the Post's Page Six said:

HE wasn't nominated this year, but Josh Hartnett is looking to put together an Oscar-worthy project of his own. Guests at the Sunset Marquis were shocked to see him and director Oliver Stone lunching together. "Josh was loudly pitching Oliver a movie project he wanted to do," said our spy. "He kept saying, 'I've got Hilary Swank signed on. She'll play a prostitute named Madeleine and my role is the lead role - a guy who gets in trouble and falls down a rabbit hole.'" Stone "seemed interested, and then the two made plans to meet up later for dinner with Josh's girlfriend, Scarlett Johansson."

In any case, James Wolcott mentioned in his blog yesterday that the advance word is great on De Palma's The Black Dahlia (which he erroneously dubbed The Blue Dahlia), as well as on Stone's World Trade Center. Could be a Scarface reunion at next year's Oscars.

(Thanks to Kate for the NY Post article!)

Posted March 4 2006
DVD Times has the first look at the new Extended Cut of Casualties Of War, which will be released on DVD April 25th. According to the review, there is about six minutes of added scenes, some of which include the "deleted scenes" from the previous DVD, but some of which have not been seen before. This represents De Palma's original vision for the film, and Gregg Henry is added back into the cast as the prosecuting counsel during the now extended court-martial sequences (no, I didn't know he had been in the original cut, either-- that makes six films with De Palma, including The Black Dahlia). The interrogation of Erickson, which was presented in monchrome as a deleted scene on the previous DVD, is now reinserted in full color. The DVD Times review states that the scene immediately following the first rape "is now drenched in blue light and is tremendously affecting, the stylization heightening the horror." Can't wait to check it out!

Akahan sends word out this week that he got his copy of the new French edition DVD of Phantom Of The Paradise, and that "the picture and sound on the film itself are both huge, huge improvements over the existing North American DVD." He says "the DTS and Dolby 5.1 soundtracks are infinitely clearer than the stereo soundtrack on the old Fox release," and that the bonus materials are "far and away the best that have ever been on any De Palma disk, particularly the 50-minute featurette, 'Paradise Regained,' which features a lot of interview footage shot specifically for this DVD, with De Palma, Paul Hirsch, and the other principals." The Phantom DVD is out now, and available at

Posted February 22 2006
There was a test screening last night in Los Angeles for The Black Dahlia, with Brian De Palma in attendance, according to accounts posted at Aint It Cool News from people who were there. After posting a "total tease of a review" earlier in the evening, AICN was bombarded with reviews from viewers who claimed that the first review was a "plant," especially as it cited a hot, "even kinky," threeway sex scene between Scarlett Johansson, Josh Hartnett, and Aaron Eckhart that nobody else seems to have witnessed. In any case, the film's music was not yet done, so a temp track was used for the screening, some of which featured music from L.A. Confidential.

One has to read these reviews with a certain bewilderment. One person actually cited the fact that Hilary Swank does not appear until halfway through the picture as a complaint. It also seems some were bothered by the fact that the murder of Elizabeth Short does not occur until almost an hour into the film. Well, this is in keeping with the book, which is really a story about characters affected by the murder. One reviewer astutely referred to Short's murder as the "MacGuffin" of the film, being an element of the story that the characters revolve around, but not necessarily the film's true subject. That said, a number of reviewers were highly impressed with Mia Kirshner's performance as Short, who is seen mostly in black and white screen tests and discovered film footage.

There also seems to be a wave of people having trouble following the plot, which echoes certain criticisms of De Palma's Mission: Impossible (Billy Crystal even addressed this in his Academy Awards intro satire on the 1997 show, demanding that Tom Cruise explain to him the plot of Mission: Impossible). I personally don't put a lot of weight on this "complaint," as I found Mission: Impossible ingeniously complex, and did not understand when people had trouble figuring out certain plot elements that were not spelled out for them. One attendee who was at the Dahlia screening was similarly irritated, writing in his AICN review:

Now, as for the twists, turns, and subplots… I love the fact that De Palma doesn’t underestimate the audience. He throws a lot onto the screen and you really have to be paying attention to every second or else you’ll miss a vital bit of information. And, because of this, I was almost motivated towards violence when the people next to me (and behind me) kept saying, “Who’s that?... Why is he there?... and so on.” Maybe if they shut the hell up, we’d all know what is going on. BUT how much is too much? I’ll have to see it a second time to really know. The similarities to LA Confidential are obvious. Not only do they both share the Ellroy connection, they both beg for a second viewing which may clear up some details that fly by every minute.

One reviewer wrote, "Judging by the comments after, if anything the movie needs to get to the Black Dahlia case quicker and perhaps make some things a little more clear." However, one other reviewer feared the test screening might result in a "dumbed down" version of the film:

Sadly I don't think people got the movie. I stayed afterward for the focus group and the people who spoke were retarded. They clearly didn't know the conventions of a film noir and wanted to see a dumbed-down version of the film. They probably accidentally walked in on this film, expecting it to be Cheaper by the Dozen 2 or some crap like that. I really hope the studio doesn't force De Palma to cut it down because all the nuances, LA in the 1940s, the complex narrative, and the smaller characters are excellent.

Several people expressed displeasure with the performances of Johannson and Swank, although there were comments good and bad about each of the main performers. Some really liked Hartnett and Eckhart, and there were two mentions of a great performance by "that guy from Dumb and Dumber" (Mike Starr) as a detective. And one wrote this interesting line about Fiona Shaw: "But nothing compares to the totally batshit crazy character played by Fiona Shaw. She...there are really no words. It has to be seen to be believed." Another wrote, "Most of the actors were fantastic. Aaron Eckhart and Scarlet Johannsen were really good, but Josh Hartnett and Hillary Swank were both amazing. Swank almost steals the show and maybe could get a supporting actress nod?" And another was deeply impressed with Hartnett:

But Josh Hartnett surprised me the most. He hasn’t really impressed me in anything (except for Black Hawk Down)… he always seemed like a big nothing. But the film’s story centers on him. It’s a lot of pressure and, with just about every scene, he really got me to have a change of heart about him.

A couple of people mentioned a swooping overhead crane shot across several blocks that apparently reveals the murdered body while Lee and Bucky are involved in a gun fight across the way. One reviewer wrote, "The discovery of her body is played as a distant horror, not unlike an atomic explosion but one that poisons everything and everyone around it." Another said that for him, the pace of the film slows down drastically at this point in the film, although "the first half hour or so was actually quite good." Another scene that got a couple of mentions involves a violent burst of brain splattering that is apparently quite shocking (be aware that some of the reviews at AICN include spoilers). A key scene featuring Kirshner as Short was compared by one reviewer to the central scene in Irreversible in terms of heavy impact.

Posted February 16 2006
The staff writers at Screen Daily have written an article from the Berlin Film Festival listing the films that are vying for selection at this year's Cannes Film Festival, which takes place in May. One interesting paragraph goes like this:

Hot tickets at Cannes could be Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Babel; Darren Aronofsky’s return with The Fountain; Woody Allen making a visit to France with Scoop before he potentially films his next project there; Breaking And Entering, by Anthony Minghella, and Brian De Palma’s Black Dahlia.

Other contenders listed in the article include: David Lynch's INLAND EMPIRE, Pedro Almodovar's Volver, Emilio Estevez' Bobby, Richard Linklater's Fast Food Nation, and Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth. The latter film sees Coppola "going back to France and his indie days," according to the article.

Posted February 14 2006
According to DVDActive, Sony today announced that it will release an "extended cut" of Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War on DVD April 25th. De Palma has confirmed that he did indeed oversee the new cut of the film for this DVD release. This means that we will finally see the film De Palma had originally wanted us to see back in 1989...

De Palma's original cut of the film did not play well to a preview audience in Boston, who found it "too stark, too full of sorrow," according to Julie Salamon's account in The Devil's Candy. Salamon continues:

Though [De Palma] told himself all along that Casualties might not be a big hit, he'd never really believed it. This was his finest film, and now a preview audience was telling him they wouldn't recommend it to their friends.

For the next several months he re-edited the film, cutting out significant sections near the end to make it more palatable for the public. But he worried that the cuts wouldn't make any difference for audiences and that he would have compromised his material for no reason.

Salamon further writes that "when the film failed to succeed at the box office, De Palma was left feeling that he'd made a mistake. He'd made changes he hadn't wanted to make -- changes he felt hurt the movie -- for nothing."

So happy Valentine's Day for us. The disc will apparently include the same extra features that appeared on the previous DVD version.

Posted February 14 2006
Paramount has released the specs of its upcoming 10th anniversary edition Mission: Impossible DVD (release date April 11), and according to The Hollywood News, here they are:

· Anamorphic Widescreen Presentation · English Dolby Digital 5.1, 2.0 Surround · French DD 2.0 Surround · English & Spanish Subtitles · Mission: Remarkable - 40 Years of Creating the Impossible · Mission: Explosive Exploits featurette · Mission: Spies Among Us featurette · Mission: Catching the Train featurette · Mission: International Spy Museum featurette · Mission: Agent Dossiers feature · Stanley Kubrick Award for Excellence in Filmmaking Acceptance Speech · Generation: Cruise · Theatrical Trailers · TV Spots · Photo Gallery · Easter Egg

Posted February 14 2006
Fangoria talked to Douglas Buck last week from Vancouver, Canada, where he is preparing to shoot his remake of Brian De Palma's Sisters. Buck said that he is a big fan of the original De Palma film, "but where his main focus was style, style, style, with little concern for character or substance-- and I don’t mean that as a criticism, I’m sure he may even agree with that assesment-- I want to create something more character-driven and tragic. While still giving the horror crowd the proper amount of gore and violence I myself love, I also want to have a thread of tenderness running through the film. I want the audience to come out of the film thinking, ‘Am I supposed to feel good about what I’ve seen, or really horrified and dirty?’ Creating that dichotomy of reaction is something I’ve always enjoyed—in other words, I like screwing with the audience!" Buck explained that Asia Argento, who was initially cast in the title roles, had to bow out due to scheduling reasons (prior to hurricane Katrina, the film had been scheduled to shoot in New Orleans in February), but that he was extremely pleased to have Anna Mouglalis on board. "She was someone, along with Asia, that early on I was very interested in for the part,” the filmmaker says. “After Asia left the project, Anna was nice enough to quickly read the script and agree to come on board. She is an amazing actress, having done a number of very provocative French films, including La Vie Nouvelle and Le Prix Du Desir with Daniel Autuiel, while also being stunningly beautiful, as her status as a number-one French Chanel model attests. I can’t tell you how excited myself and [producer] Ed Pressman both are, as she can easily become the Catherine Deneuve of our time.” Buck is equally ecstatic to have Chloe Sevigny (pictured up top) and Stephen Rea (pictured above right) on board, as well. "Both these actors add an amazing amount of class to the film. I couldn’t be more pleased to get them,” Buck told Fangoria. “I met Chloe in New York to discuss the part and I can’t wait to get to work with her. Along with being beautiful, she brings an integrity to every role she plays, large or small. I’ve been a fan of Stephen Rea’s work since The Crying Game and am ecstatic to have him. Both Stephen and Chloe are exactly the type of actors I’ve dreamed of working with." David Cronenberg will have a cameo in the film, as well.

Meanwhile, the three shorts that have boosted Buck's reputation among horror buffs will be released on one DVD next Tuesday, February 21st. Family Portraits: A Trilogy of America consists of three Buck shorts: Cutting Moments, Home, and Prologue. According to a review of the DVD at Digitally Obsessed, each film gets progressively more polished, and you can watch them separately, or as one complete movie. The reviewer says that Buck's style is downbeat ("no happy endings here") and gory. However, the final film of the trilogy "offers less visual shock value," yet "delivers the most profoundly disturbing emotional punch."

Posted February 13 2006
Screen Daily has news from the Berlin Film Festival that casting has now been completed on Douglas Buck's remake of Brian De Palma's Sisters. Asia Argento is no longer involved in the project. Argento had been cast to play the twin sisters of the title (played by Margot Kidder in the original), but that role has now gone to French actress Anna Mouglalis. Chloe Sevigny will play the part of the reporter originally played by Jennifer Salt, and Stephan Rea will play the psychiatrist originally made creepy by William Finley in De Palma's film. Ed Pressman, who produced the De Palma original, and is also producing the new version, told Screen Daily, "We couldn't be happier with the globally prestigious cast we have assembled for Sisters. Sisters is a sophisticated, complex film and the same could be said for our outstanding ensemble." The article also states that "Ed Dzubak will score the picture in homage to Bernard Herrmann who scored the original." Filming is to begin March 13 in Vancouver.

Posted February 7 2006
Mark Isham will compose the score for Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia, according to Mikael Carlsson at Film Music Radio. Isham replaces James Horner, who is no longer on board the project. Carlsson states that it is not clear whether Horner had written anything for the picture yet, although "sources claim that there were plans for recording sessions to take place in London." Isham has provided many a smoky, surreal, jazzy noir feel for several Alan Rudolph films, and more recently scored a hit with his score for Paul Haggis' Crash. His moody blend of transitory rhythms and flavored melodies seems a good fit for the disturbing and cynical noir cinema De Palma is going for. Horner recently worked with Dahlia producers Art Linson and Moshe Diamant on David Mamet's Spartan.

Ten years ago, Alan Silvestri's score for De Palma's Mission: Impossible was rejected, and Danny Elfman was then hired to compose a new score for the film. Elfman had to work very quickly to complete the score in time, but still managed a wonderfully baroque set of suspenseful cues to go along with Lalo Schiffrin's treasured MI theme. With The Black Dahlia not due in theaters until this fall, Isham would seem to have plenty of time to compose his score (although if they want the film ready for Cannes in May, it could be a bit of a tight schedule).

Posted February 7 2006
Ecranlarge.Com has an early review of the new collector's edition DVD of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, which will be released in France February 28th. The first disc of the 2-disc set includes the film itself, with an introduction by Gerrit Graham in which he attempts to speak in French. The second disc has all the bonus materials, highlighted by the 50-minute documentary, "Paradise Regained," which includes interviews with De Palma, Paul Williams (Swan), William Finley (the Phantom), Graham (Beef), Jessica Harper (Phoenix), Paul Hirsch (editor), and Ed Pressman (producer). According to the review, the principal cast members recall their first meetings with De Palma, working on the film, and then the repurcussions afterward, providing many anecdotes along the way. A 9-minute doc focuses on costume designer Rosanna Norton, who contradicts Finley's memory of the origin of the Phantom mask's design. Also included are two trailers, the shorter of which includes a gorier version of Winslow's damaged face than was seen in the film's final cut. Finley provides a "useless, but funny" 30-second fake ad for a Phantom figurine, and the disc closes with a recent video by Bob Sinclair that seems directly inspired by De Palma's film. The reviewer finds that the new disc is better than the previous French DVD of the film, with scratches removed from the picture, and better contrast.
(Thanks to Akahan!)

Posted February 5 2006
This pic of Mia Kirshner as the title character in Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia accompanies the inside page of today's New York Times article (see post immediately below). The color photo (seen below) appears on the front page of the newspaper's "Arts & Leisure" section. On a side note, Jeffrey Wells posted a criticism of the NY Times article yesterday. Wells continues to wonder whether De Palma's film will adopt or mention any of the latest theories about Elizabeth Short's killer. De Palma makes it clear to the NY Times that his film is based on Ellroy's fictional work about characters who are impacted by the murder, and Ellroy has said that the film will directly reflect his own vision (even though Ellroy supports one of those recent theories about the real killer). Today, Wells writes about a "brave" performance by Josh Hartnett in the as-yet-unreleased Mozart and the Whale.

Posted February 4 2006
"London has Jack the Ripper. America has the Black Dahlia."
This weekend's Sunday edition of the New York Times has an article about popular culture's obsession with the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short, who became known posthumously as the Black Dahlia. Along with publishing a new picture of Mia Kirshner as Short in The Black Dahlia (which Universal will release in the fall), the article by Pat H. Broeske features interviews with director Brian De Palma, author James Ellroy, and screenwriter Josh Friedman. "There aren't many cases with the mythic quality of the Dahlia," De Palma told Broeske. "London has Jack the Ripper. America has the Black Dahlia." Broeske continues:

An avid reader of detective fiction and true crime, Mr. De Palma was nonetheless surprised by the public fascination with the Black Dahlia. "There are all these books," he said. "It just goes on and on. People getting new information, having recovered memories, finding old files and new theories."

Talking about the lure of Mr. Ellroy's novel, a dark mystery involving a love triangle and corruption, Mr. De Palma added: "I love all that 40's stuff, all that noir stuff shot in L.A. — and I haven't shot too many pictures in L.A. I love to get the characters in the suits and the hats, and I love that great kind of noir cynicism that pervades the Ellroy novels."

Ellroy told Broeske that in his novel from which De Palma's film is adapted, he was more interested in art and theme than in solving the murder. He said he used to ride his bike to the crime scene, and "started having these horrible nightmares about Elizabeth Short." Broeske continues:

Mr. De Palma's film is a tangled tale of friendship, love and sexual desire among several Los Angeles detectives and the trio of mysterious women in their lives, and it is just as labyrinthine as Mr. Ellroy's book. "It is not the story of Elizabeth Short," Mr. De Palma said, explaining that the Dahlia is shown in flashback. "The movie is complicated. It's about characters who are impacted and obsessed with what happened to her."

"Once you have looked at the real pictures, you never forget the Black Dahlia."
De Palma had more to say about the origins of the Black Dahlia myth, as Broeske writes:

Mr. De Palma, who is known for exploring dark themes in films like "Scarface," "Body Double" and "Dressed to Kill," said he believed that the Dahlia's mystique was derived from the actual crime-scene photos and those taken by the coroner. "Once you have looked at the real pictures, you never forget the Black Dahlia," he said. A number of those images appear in the film when one of the characters (played by Mr. Eckhart) plasters them on his wall. "You see them in the background," Mr. De Palma said. "We don't move in that close. But what we do see is disturbing."

Broeske closes the article with Friedman describing how, last year, on the anniversary of Short's death, Ellroy took him and some friends to the "exact spot where her body was found." Ellroy told Broeske, "It was cold. We didn't get too misty. But I like to check in on her every once in a while."

Broeske also has a companion piece summarizing selected nonfiction books that have been written about the Black Dahlia. (Thanks to Kate!)

Posted January 31 2006
One month before releasing MI3 to theaters on May 5, 2006, Paramount will release a 10th anniversary "Special Collector's Edition" DVD of the first Mission: Impossible film, which was directed by Brian De Palma. The Digital Bits made the announcement yesterday, saying that while there were no details about any extras to be included, the release on April 11th will consist of a single disc. Earlier this month, Paramount announced in a press release that the entire Mission: Impossible trilogy will be released as a set in the HD DVD format later this year.

While De Palma's MI film was a suspenseful spy noir that crossed Three Days Of The Condor with North By Northwest, John Woo made the second film a romantic action-fest that combined hyper-quick editing techniques with dangerous stunts. Alias creator J. J. Abrams is directing the third one, and according to Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who has a role in the new film, Abrams has "taken all of the good elements of Brian De Palma's Mission: Impossible along with the very glitzy stunt elements of John Woo's and married them into a very intelligent script." Abrams says in the February issue of Premiere that Ving Rhames' Luther, the only other character besides Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt to appear in all three films, will have more face time in the new one, as we see the two interact more as friends rather than just as coworkers. Michelle Monaghan, who also appears in the new film, told Total Film that it will explore Ethan's home life. "This one is a lot more character-driven than we’ve seen in the past," she said. In the same article, Abrams is quoted: "The stakes are very high. We want to make a film that’s exciting, with all the stunts you expect. But the goal is also to make it scary and emotional and make you feel better at the end than when you came into the theatre."

Posted January 29 2006
Here is a newly-released still of Scarlett Johansson as Kay Lake in The Black Dahlia, courtesy of Scarlett Johansson Fan, where you can view and download large and high quality versions of this and other stills from the film. James Ellroy had mentioned to Jim Moran a couple of weeks ago that if the film is edited in time, it may play at this year's Cannes Film Festival in May. The Hollywood Reporter's Anne Thompson sat down with Aaron Eckhart at Sundance last week. Thompson wrote on her blog that Eckhart is "looking forward to a possible Cannes unveiling for Brian De Palma's crime thriller Black Dahlia, co-starring Scarlett Johansson, which recreated James Ellroy's L.A. in Bulgaria." And the U.K.'s Observer, discussing a new book by Donald Wolfe about the Black Dahlia murder, mentions that the film of Ellroy's book "is due to be premiered at Cannes in May." Stay tuned...

Posted January 27 2006
Fangoria reported yesterday that Murder a la Mod, the extremely rare 1967 feature from Brian De Palma, will be released on DVD September 12th via Image Entertainment (and a big thank you to Akahan for letting us know about it!). I had the chance to see this film at the 2002 De Palma retrospective in Paris, and told De Palma afterward that it needed to be on DVD, because his fans would love it. He said at the time that he had no idea where the negative was (De Palma had provided his own personal print for the Paris screenings)-- perhaps now someone has found it, although I also mentioned that even a second-generation copy would be most welcomed.

In any case, Murder a la Mod provides a good early look at several elements that would become staples of De Palma's cinema. The "peep art" of De Niro's Greetings voyeur begins here. The various perspectives on a pivotal event, as explored in later films like Raising Cain and Snake Eyes, here produce contrasts and shifts in tone that are comedic in and of themselves, yet with a sinister edge that catches the viewer off guard. And the ability of the camera to record truth and lies at the same time is also deftly explored.

Following a catchy theme song written and sung by William Finley (who also plays a mute named Otto), Murder a la Mod opens with a filmmaker auditioning girls, including Jennifer Salt, for a film in which nudity will be required. The off-camera voice providing direction for the girls sounds like De Palma himself, and the voice gets noticeably irritated when one of the girls balks at removing her brassiere. The film that follows seems, from today's perspective, like the rough sketch of a blueprint for the De Palma oeuvre to come. Yet as loose as the film is, one can sense the De Palma of Sisters preparing his later entrance into more controlled filmmaking (Murder a la Mod has a much tighter narrative than either Greetings or Hi, Mom!).

Image's DVD will pair Murder a la Mod with The Moving Finger, a 1963 film that, like De Palma's film, was shot in New York's Greenwich Village. Finger was produced, written, directed, and edited by Larry Moyer. The Fangoria article mentions that DVD extras will be announced at a later date.

Posted January 25 2006
Josh Hartnett is pictured here at the Sundance Film Festival, where Scarlett Johansson joined him inside for the premiere of Lucky Number Slevin. The film isn't making too many viewers jump through hoops, but Screen Daily does say that "a likeable performance by Josh Hartnett carries the film for a long way." During a roundtable press conference at Sundance, where Hartnett was joined by Slevin costar Lucy Liu, Hartnett stated that he is glad he is not wearing the tights for the new Superman movie, because he decided two years ago that he would only make movies that interested him. According to the Calgary Sun, when asked about his love interest and Black Dahlia costar Johansson, Hartnett replied, "She's terrific. She's an extremely talented young actress. Hilary Swank (who also stars in Dahlia), Lucy, Scarlett -- I've been a lucky guy the past few years. I've had really talented actresses around me."

While we're at Sundance (figuratively speaking), we should mention that Aaron Eckhart was also there with his starring turn in Jason Reitman's Thank You For Smoking. An odd bit of controversy popped up when a 12-second sex scene featuring Eckhart and costar Katie Holmes somehow disappeared from the print that was screened at the festival (those who had viewed the film at last year's Toronto Film Festival had seen it with the scene intact). But according to the Los Angeles Times, Reitman, who was stunned by the scene's absence, eventually figured out what had happened. He told the LA Times, paraphrasing, "that when the Thank You for Smoking print was assembled in Los Angeles, the scene — which comes at the end of the second reel but is preceded by a brief blackout — had been accidentally sliced off when the reels were spliced together." (So it wasn't the influence of Tom Cruise, as several gossip columns were speculating with tongues in cheek.)

The latest issue of Total Film features a 2006 preview in which Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia is listed as the eighth most anticipated film of the coming year. De Palma is briefly quoted about how the film of James Ellroy's novel has been in the works for years. "No one wanted to finance this movie because it's so bizarre," said De Palma. Johansson is also quoted: "Brian became obsessed with the idea of doing a perfect film noir." On traveling to film in Bulgaria, Johansson is quoted, "I was nervous, but I ended up having a fantastic time." You can see and read the entire portion at the Scarlett Johansson Fan gallery.

Finally, Willa Holland has a brief interview in this week's issue of the American weekly OK! magazine. Holland is asked how her stepfather Brian De Palma feels about her getting into acting. "When I was a kid I used to want to jump on to the Mission: Impossible set," Holland replied, "so he always knew that acting was something I wanted to do." The same issue also features a six-page interview with Scarlett Johansson (but no mention of The Black Dahlia).

Posted January 21 2006
At the 1970 Berlinale film festival, no film was awarded the official jury prize, because the jury itself had resigned, prematurely ending the festival amidst a scandal surrounding Michael Verhoeven's O.K. The film was based on the true story, "Casualties Of War," which had been published in The New Yorker in 1969. It told of a group of American soldiers fighting in Vietnam who kidnapped and raped a Vietnamese girl, and then killed her. The story was told to a journalist by an anonymous soldier (dubbed "Erikksen") who refused to take part in the rape or the killing, and who had never imagined that the kidnapping would seriously take place to begin with. Erikksen tried to bring the ordeal to light, but found that the higher ups in the U.S. army would do their best to suppress such information.

Brian De Palma had read the New Yorker article, and kept a film version in the back of his mind for almost two decades before finally getting the chance to film it in 1988 (his Casualties Of War was released in 1989). De Palma had attended the Berlinale festival which Verhoeven's film had shut down, but didn't find out until years later (in the early 1990s) that O.K. was the story of "Casulaties Of War." As of four years ago, De Palma had still never managed to see Verhoeven's film, which has been a scarce work for most to get ahold of.

But the film did manage to show up last week at San Francisco's "Berlin and Beyond Film Festival," where Verhoeven himself was a guest of honor. A reader of this website, "The Confidence Man," attended the screening, and said that Verhoeven was there to present the film and also did a Q&A afterward. Confidence Man says that Verhoeven "was an engaging and charming man, with excellent English -- although he was implicitly (and generically) disparaging of De Palma's Casualties Of War." Our reader describes the film's style as "Godard's Les Carabiniers plus De Palma's 'Be Black, Baby' sequence [from Hi, Mom!]." The Godard film (released in 1963) was an anti-war film that also eschewed the usual conventions of the war movie genre-- in effect, as Eric writes at Crown Dozen, "Les Carabiniers is both an 'anti-war' movie and an 'anti-war movie' movie." Godard's war film was so void of the usual cinematic style and narrative techniques that it was considered a disaster upon its initial release. Meanwhile, in the "Be Black, Baby" sequence of Hi, Mom! (which was filmed and released in 1970), De Palma effectively exposed the lies behind documentary film techniques.

Here is the rest of Confidence Man's description of Michael Verhoeven's O.K.:

The movie was projected from a digital copy -- and, more unfortunately, without English dubbing or subtitles. (The copy itself was in very good shape.) Given a basic familiarity with the narrative source material, however, it was quite easy for me (a non-German speaker) to follow the narrative and character arcs. (The festival organizers were considerate enough to provide printed copies of a translated transcription of the dialog.)

While the basic particulars of the film are familiar to anyone who's read about it -- black-and-white, limited cast, set in the Bavarian woods, Brechtian approach, anti-imperialist content, brutal rape scene, etc. -- after watching the movie I feel strongly that most current descriptions of O.K. have been written by people who have never actually seen the movie itself (more likely, they're writing third- or fourth-hand accounts of other descriptions).

More than Brechtian, the film is positively Godardian -- it's full of unmotivated (and repeated) tracking shots, 360-degree pans, alienating (vs suturing) closeups, looming "eye-of-God" and direct-overhead static crane shots, direct-to-camera addresses by the actors (out of, but not in, character), and frequent intertitles as punctuation or ironic commentary on the action. It's obvious that Verhoeven in 1969 was MUCH more "fluent" in "Godard" than De Palma was. In fact, in hindsight, it's difficult to accept that De Palma never saw O.K., because he and Verhoeven were both so immersed in Godardian technique at the time (I say this not to accuse De Palma of mendacity, but to point out how similarly De Palma and Verhoeven were in their influence by and adoption of Godard's technical apparatus).

As for the content of the film, it's less narratively driven than CASUALTIES, while employing essentially the same basic set of plot episodes. There is far less incidental color and character development, and a lot more simple and boring (strategically so) interaction between the soldiers. There's also an intriguing foreshadowing of the rape of the girl, when Meserve leads the other soldiers (Eriksson, again, excluding himself) in the humiliation of another soldier (the narrative equivalent of John C. Reilly's character in CASUALTIES). Eighty percent of the film takes place in a recently logged, muddy clearing in the Bavarian forest -- and this long middle section of the film is, despite the fluid, mobile camerawork, very "stagy" and dialog-driven.

The rape scene itself, ironically -- given how Verhoeven repeatedly insisted at the time of the film's release and in his introductory remarks that to make an "anti-war" film one has to not show any war scenes -- represents a jarring intrusion of classic Hollywood realism/illusionism into the Brechtian/Godardian context. The scene is certainly "brutal" (even by contemporary standards) but is not especially "graphic," even for its own time.

Posted January 19 2006
Willa Holland, stepdaughter of Brian De Palma, makes her debut on FOX-TV's The O.C. tonight. She was interviewed by TV Guide, and was asked whether she is even old enough to be allowed to watch any of De Palma's films... Your stepfather is no less than Brian De Palma. Are you even allowed to see Scarface, Carlito's Way or Body Double?!

Holland: I saw Scarface. I'm afraid to see Carrie or any of his horror movies because I don't do well with scary movies. I'm a real scaredy-cat. Did you see the real Scarface or some sanitized kid-friendly version?

Holland: I saw the original. You can't watch any other version of it. That's just a classic film.

Then she was also asked about Steven Spielberg: In your bio it says "After a day playing at Steven Spielberg's home, the seed was planted that Willa should spend her life in front of the cameras." What exactly happened on that fateful day?

Holland: My mom has told me this story a million times and it still cracks me up. I was at Steven's place in the Hamptons, playing with his kids, and my mom and Brian came to pick me up. Steven opens the door and is immediately like, "Oh, my god! That child of yours!" My mom is like, "Whatever Willa broke, we'll pay for it. I swear!" He was like, "No, no, it's not like that. This girl just needs to get in front of the camera!" Thus, the seed was planted. Tell me about Spielberg's house. I'm thinking he has lots of arcade games... maybe a foosball table.

Holland: It was so long ago, I don't remember. I do remember that there was a huge backyard. A gorgeous house.

Posted January 16 2006
In his blog, The House Next Door, Matt Zoller Seitz describes his own discussions with James Ellroy about Brian De Palma's film of The Black Dahlia. (One discussion took place with 24LiesASecond editor-in-chief Jim Moran, who wrote about it on that site's forum a few days ago.) Seitz is careful to take Ellroy's musings with a grain of salt, as the author has an obvious stake in the promotion of the film. In any case, Ellroy described the footage he'd seen from De Palma's film as "...fucking gorgeous," according to Seitz...

Ellroy said De Palma wasn’t present when he watched the footage a few months back. “One of his people put me in a screening room and showed what they had. The compositions are amazing. I’ve seen enough cop movie squadroom scenes to think I’d never see another scene set in one that didn’t bore me, but the way De Palma shoots a squadroom, it’s like you’re seeing it for the first time…The clarity of the images is unreal.”

Ellroy wouldn’t speculate on the actors’ performances because he thought it was unfair to judge them based on rushes. “But I can tell you this: the big story coming out of this is Josh Hartnett, who is a revelation. He is Bucky Bleichert”—the young lead officer and ex-prizefighter investigating the killing. “I realize that a lot of you people”—meaning critics—“are going to have a hard time believing that, but when the movie comes out, anybody who had any doubts about this kid is going to eat their words.”

Seitz also writes at about Ellroy's appearance at a Court TV panel for the upcoming series, America's Crime Writers: Murder They Wrote (for details on the series, see Ellroy story below from January 13th). By Seitz' account, Ellroy dominated the room, which included some of the other authors who will be featured on the program. According to Seitz, Ellroy introduced himself with this:

Good morning, peepers, prowlers, pederasts, panty sniffers, punks and pimps," he said. "I'm James Ellroy, the deliriously dystopian and darkly defined demon dog of American literature. I'm thrilled to be on this dais with Scottline, Kellerman, Kellerman, Connelly and Schleiff, the greatest one-room aggregation of degenerates since the last Bush cabinet meeting."

Ellroy's segment of the series will focus on the unsolved murder of his own mother. Seitz writes:

Ellroy's opening monologue - delivered in the staccato baritone one associates with Jack Webb, or maybe Danny DeVito's tabloid muckraker character in "Confidential" - distilled the first chapter of his autobiography into a few showy paragraphs.

"She was a farm girl from Tunnel City, Wisconsin, a World War II navy nurse, and alcoholic and a round heels, by all terms of 1950s sexuality," he said of his mother. "She owns me. She claimed me in her death. And she runs my life and serves as my muse to this day."

Ellroy told the audience at the panel discussion that his episode's documentary, like the book it will be based on (My Dark Places), will be " assault on the fatuous notion of closure," according to Seitz. Ellroy continued, "It is a story of no less than 40 years of crime in Los Angeles County, and describes my arc of recognition and reconciliation with my mother, and I think it will serve as a moving human document." Seitz writes:

Elsewhere in the rambling but rich press conference, Ellroy derided the Oprah Winfrey-era obsession with closure as "bull--- ... I would like to find the man who invented closure and shove a giant closure placque up his a---" and derided the writers of serial killer fiction. "Serial killers are a statistical anomaly ... You are much more likely to run into some lunatic crackhead who will knife your a-- for 20 bucks. Serial killers distance us as viewers because of their basic outlandishness and their statistical rarity." (Jonathan Kellerman concurred, adding, "They're really boring guys ... they're not fascinating.")

Seitz, who calls Ellroy's presentation at the conference "a performance by the self-created character known as 'James Ellroy'", notes that while witnesses found Ellroy "either thrilling and fun or calculated, profane and repulsive," they nevertheless could not stop talking about him.

Posted January 14 2006
From (Thanks to Kate & Carlito!)
Ah, the glamorous life. Here we have two pics from The Black Dahlia that Universal sent out as part of its 2006 movie preview. To the left, Josh Hartnett as Bucky, checking out the wheels of a stunningly gorgeous Hilary Swank (as Madeleine). Below, Bucky talks to Aaron Eckhart's Lee and Scarlett Johansson's Kay.

Posted January 13 2006
Jim Moran, editor-in-chief of 24liesasecond, spoke with James Ellroy the other day about the film adaptation of his novel, The Black Dahlia, which Brian De Palma is directing. Ellroy, who has viewed about three hours of the film's dailies, was highly enthusiastic about what he has seen. As Moran writes on the 24lies forum:

The dailies were visually amazing and beautiful. He mentioned that a simple shot of a squad room was so well composed, it was like you had never seen a squad room before.

The film is a reduced version of his novel, but manages to cohere. It does not have a Citizen Kane-like structure of flashbacks, as has been reported.

Josh Hartnett is a "revelation." His characterization of Bucky is dead on.

The film may be finished for a Cannes screening, but it also may not. It will be released in the U.S. in the fall, at which time Ellroy plans to actively take part in its publicity. He conjectures that there will be a Black Dahlia frenzy at its release, with several books being released at that time, all with theories about the killer, none of which he thinks demonstrates unequivocal proof of the supposed killer.

He emphasized that his book is fiction, and should not be confused as docudrama. It is not important to the story who the actual killer is--that's not the point.

Ellroy spoke to Moran Wednesday morning at the TV Critics Association convention in Los Angeles, where Ellroy was talking up a documentary he will produce and narrate for Court TV's upcoming series, America's Crime Writers: Murder They Wrote. According to Variety, several bestselling mystery novelists, including Ellroy, Michael Connelly, Faye Kellerman, Jonathan Kellerman, and Lisa Scottoline, will "appear on camera to talk about the most interesting real-life cases they've ever come across." According to Moran, Ellroy's episode will be based on My Dark Places, his memoir about the murder of his mother, which has fueled Ellroy's interest in the murder of Elizabeth Short, who came to be known as the Black Dahlia.

Ellroy and Sean Penn are each scheduled to make separate appearances at Noir City: The San Francisco Film Noir Festival, which begins today and runs through January 26th. On January 21st, Penn will be present for a screening of The Pledge, followed by a Q&A, afterwhich Penn will introduce a screening of his surprise favorite noir film.

Variety this week ran an article by John Gilmore, author of "Severed: The True Story of the Black Dahlia Murder." Gilmore has been trying to get his book made into a film (the article refers to it as "the other Black Dahlia movie"), and now has Floria Sigismondi set to direct, after bouts with David Fincher and David Lynch. Sharon Stone also passed on his film, saying it was "too dark." In one paragraph, Gilmore writes, "Brian De Palma lands a Dahlia movie on Bulgarian turf last year, based on James Ellroy's idea of an L.A. Confidential–like, boxing-gloves approach to the murder. They skedaddle home with a picture that hardly includes the cherry-lipped Elizabeth [Short]. That's okay. The torch still burns." The latter sentence refers back to the opening of the article, in which Rose McGowan (who has a part in De Palma's film) is quoted:

Rose McGowan says, "You've got to be one of the only people living who met the Black Dahlia." Yeah. Probably true. I was 11 years old. "Did you fall in love with her?" Rose asks. "Are you carrying a torch?"

A small torch that isn't throwing much light. Shrinking the older I grow. Soon it'll be on a key chain, like so many other different faces, eyes and lips.

Elizabeth Short's lips were a ripe red like the heart of a cherry. Eyes so pale she looked blind. A visit to my grandmother's house and we talked about magic. She said, "Magic lives in the shadows. It must be a thrill to know you can make someone disappear in front of your eyes ... "

The article's intro mentions that CBS' 60 Minutes is doing its own investigation into the unsolved murder of Elizabeth Short. Looks like Ellroy was right-- a frenzy of media attention appears to be on its way...

(Thanks to Akahan!)

Posted January 12 2006
The line between the projects of David Fincher and Brian De Palma continues its curious trajectory. Hollywood trades today reported that Fincher will direct an adaptation of Torso, a graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis and Marc Andreyko that focuses on the real-life efforts of Eliot Ness as he attempts to track down a serial killer in Cleveland, following his days as leader of "The Untouchables" in Chicago. De Palma is currently in the screenwriting stages of a prequel to his own Untouchables, which is also being made at Paramount. De Palma signed on for his current project, The Black Dahlia, after Fincher dropped out of it. A few years ago, Fincher was planning to make Mission: Impossible 3 with Tom Cruise, which would have been a second sequel to the De Palma-directed original.

After De Palma signed on to direct the upcoming Untouchables prequel, which will focus on the early struggles of Al Capone and Jimmy Malone, it occured to me that a great trilogy of films could be made by De Palma if, after making this prequel, he and producer Art Linson would get Joe Eszterhas to complete his screenplay idea for a proposed sequel called Ness At Twilight. In his book, Hollywood Animal, Eszterhas explains that he and his father used to watch The Untouchables TV show:

My father and I didn't know as we watched the show... that Eliot Ness became the safety director of the city of Cleveland after he finished with Capone and Nitti and the other little Guinea homeboys in Chicago.

We didn't know that Ness was forced to resign as safety director after, rip-roaring drunk, he was involved in a hit-and-run accident on Cleveland's Shoreway.

We didn't know that Eliot Ness died shortly afterward, drunk and broke.

Eszterhas' concept does not sound so much like it would focus on the torso murders, as much as it would be a character study of Ness in his final, darkest days. It would make great material with which to close an Untouchables trilogy, taking the entire series to a new level, and it would be great to see Kevin Costner reprise the role in this manner. (I wonder if Fincher is thinking of casting Costner in his film?) Fincher's Torso is a ways off yet-- he is scheduled to make Benjamin Button first (also for Paramount), after he finishes his current project, Zodiac.

Posted January 11 2006
A special edition DVD of Brian De Palma's Phantom Of The Paradise, loaded with extras, will be released in France on February 28 2006. A list of the upcoming disc's special features has been posted at dvdrama, and has been kindly translated and elaborated on for us here by Akahan:

The French Special Edition DVD coming out at the end of February will have a Dolby 5.1 surround (actually 4 track) mix.

In addition, it'll have a new featurette, made especially for the DVD, 45 - 50 minutes long, called "Paradise Regained".

This'll include interview footage with Brian De Palma, William Finley, Paul Williams, Gerrit Graham, Jessica Harper, Ed Pressman, Larry Pizer (the director of photography, as you probably all know), Paul Hirsch (editor), and Archie Hahn and Harold Oblong of the Juicy Fruits.

There'll also be a "video postcard" from costume designer Rosanna Norton -- a home-made video she submitted, sort of like the video Jessica Harper provided to Phantompalooza last year.

As a little joke, Bill Finley made a "fake commercial" for the film. There's a one-minute presentation from Gerrit Graham, two different theatrical trailers (REAL ones -- not that monstrosity they passed off as a trailer for the North American DVD), and the video from a song called "I Feel For You," which was done by a French DJ or VJ or whatever they call that now named Bob Sinclar, and is sort of a tribute to Phantom (similar to the one done by Tegan and Sara). It'll have French and English soundtracks, and subtitles in French.

(Thanks also to Leonard Shelby!)

Updated January 11 2006 - Posted January 3 2006
Scarlett Johansson spoke briefly about The Black Dahlia to FemaleFirst, saying that the Brian De Palma-directed film is a very character-driven thriller:

Well, Black Dahlia is based on the James Ellroy novel, and I play a character called Kay Lake who is a very complicated girl, she is very broken. She is kind of the girl crying behind her smile. It is a wonderful story, a wonderful book, I think it is going to be a pretty exciting movie. Brian De Palma brought together an amazing crew, right through the cinematographer, costume designer, set designer, and it's a great cast as well: Hilary Swank, Josh Hartnett, and Aaron Eckhart. was very civil and a totally different experience because we were doing a film noir drama precisely to film noir standards. It is a different kind of focus that Brian has - The Black Dahlia has so much [lying*] in the whole twisted story, so Brian is only focusing on the actors. There's not more than a couple of really gory and violent moments that, of course, Brian does very well. Other than that, it's a completely character driven film.

(*According to icWales, Johansson said the film "has so much lying in the whole twisted story...")
(Thanks to Franny & Akahan!)

Posted December 30 2005
Rose McGowan is interviewed in the latest issue of the U.K.'s Dreamwatch, where she talks about her role in The Black Dahlia:

The Black Dahlia was shooting for a long time and they were right at the end of production when Brian De Palma called me out of the blue. I was at the end of the season [of Charmed] when he called and we were able to work it out. I played this extra who thinks she’s really made it big. Somebody asks her, ‘Aren’t you trying to break into movies?’ And she’s in a Cleopatra outfit. ‘Mister, I’m in the movies!’ But then you look out and you see 10 extras all dressed in the same exact outfit. And it’s time to get on the bus to go to work that day at the studio, which was a very common sight in LA. You just go ‘Awwww.'

You can read the entire article at Rose McGowan Online.

Click here for yet more news.