De Palma a la Mod (Page 7)
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, 4, 5
a la MOD

More news:

Posted May 24 2004

James Ellroy, author of The Black Dahlia, has contributed a forward to a newly revised paperback edition of Steve Hodel's Black Dahlia Avenger. In the book, originally released last year, Hodel concluded, among other things, that his own father, physician George Hodel, had murdered Elizabeth Short in a jealous rage on January 15, 1947. Ellroy had been very skeptical about Hodel's claims, but after seeing more evidence uncovered by Los Angeles Times journalist Steve Lopez, Ellroy became convinced that George Hodel was the murderer. Lopez asked Ellroy about his change of heart in an LA Times article published yesterday (which you can access via the link above). Ellroy told Lopez that he still does not believe that the photographs found by Holden among his father's belongings are of Elizabeth Short ("That's not Betty in the photos, he says"), nor does he buy the conspiracy theory suggested by Hodel. But while he understands Lopez's skepticism about Hodel's father being the murderer, Ellroy told Lopez, "on balance, I think he did it." When asked by Lopez "if, because of his own past, he has some need to believe that an unsolved case has been closed," Ellroy replied: "If I have any kind of agenda, it's to see these cases remain unsolved. I like the haunting quality…. Given that I'm the son of a murdered mother who'll never be avenged, it allows me a greater level of communion with these women."

I wrote Lopez, asking him if Ellroy had said anything about this new faith in Hodel's conclusions making it into Brian De Palma's about-to-start-filming adaptation of his novel, The Black Dahlia. Lopez said he had asked Ellroy that very question. According to Lopez, Ellroy "has no concerns about the new info in the Hodel book. The movie stands apart, he [Ellroy] says, as a work of artistic vision rather than police science."

Posted May 10 2004
Seventeen years after her film debut as the wife of Eliot Ness in Brian De Palma's The Untouchables, Patricia Clarkson's career is having a resurgence. An interview article at the Washington Post discusses Clarkson's voice, "her most arresting feature." Described by the author as a "throaty" and "husky" voice that harkens back to the screen sirens of the 1930s and 1940s, Clarkson tells how she would walk into auditions "blond, pretty, whatever. But then I'd open my voice and they'd say, 'Hmmm.'" The article then mentions De Palma as "one director who wasn't put off," casting Clarkson in The Untouchables. "I think he liked that I looked a certain way and I had this voice," Clarkson told the Post. "Brian is irreverent and brilliant and funny and I think he just kind of liked it." Clarkson is pictured here with De Palma at the Tribeca Film Festival in May 2002.

Posted May 9 2004
When Scarface was released in 1983, who would have thought it would lead to a set of action figures? A look back over Brian De Palma's filmography, and one finds few films that might possibly inspire a line of toys: Phantom Of The Paradise, or The Untouchables, perhaps. But if any such toys look as hokey as this picture of the Tom Cruise action figure from Mission: Impossible, then some toys are better left unmanufactured. Well, according to Cinescape, Mezco Toyz will be releasing a line of action figures based on Brian De Palma's Scarface. Judging by the other toys the company has produced, the Scarface line should strike a much closer likeness than that over-steroided Tom Cruise. Cinescape states that "Mezco's license from Universal Studios allows the toy company to make Scarface statues and cold cast busts as well as articulated action figures." The first 10-inch scale roto-cast figures, which will be shipped in the fall of 2004, will portray "multiple versions of Tony Montana from various points in the movie." Now if we could get them to do a Body Double series, we could have Hollywood's resident Peeping Tom and Holly Body mix it up with Tony Montana and Hector the Toad, and Elvira. What would really add the cherry on top would be a line of figures from The Bonfire Of The Vanities. Sherman McCoy could be Tony Montana's stock broker, and Peter Fallow could go undercover in underground Miami.
(Thanks to Cost at the forum!)

Updated with response from De Palma - May 1 2004
Legendary Italian production designer Dante Ferretti, fresh off of his sixth collaboration with Martin Scorsese (The Aviator), will be bringing his "built-from-scratch" visions of 1940s Los Angeles to the sets of Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia. According to Screen Daily, the film will mark "the first ever collaboration between Italy's two biggest studios," Cinecitta Studios and Roma Studios. The latter was recently aquired and restored by Tarak Ben Ammar, who mentioned in April that Dahlia would shoot there. The article states, "It is expected that De Palma will shoot interiors at Cinecitta and will use Roma Studios' huge backlot to shoot exteriors." But not all of the film will be shot in Italy. According to De Palma, parts of The Black Dahlia will still be filmed in Los Angeles.

De Palma also said that Vilmos Zsigmond, pictured here with De Palma on the set of The Bonfire Of The Vanities (1990), will indeed be the cinematographer on The Black Dahlia. A few weeks ago, the director had mentioned that he was trying to work out the film's shooting dates so that Zsigmond could do the picture. Looks like he succeeded. This will be the pair's fourth collaboration together, and their first since Bonfire. The others were Obsession and Blow Out.

At Cinecitta Studios, Ferretti virtually recreated 19th century Manhattan for Scorsese's Gangs Of New York to much acclaim in 2002 (go to CHUD to read a fun interview with Ferretti). More and more, Ferretti's name is associated with high quality pictures that get Academy heads turning at Oscar time. His presence on the project, along with that of the highly respected Zsigmond, is another indication that De Palma is going for something grand with The Black Dahlia. Perhaps the first indication of this, other than the presence of Art Linson as producer, was when author James Ellroy mentioned a few weeks ago that they were hoping to bring the film to Cannes in 2005.

The Screen Daily article also mentions Eva Green as part of the cast of the film. As posted a couple of weeks ago, a Web site owned by Jan Fantl, who claims to be a co-producer of The Black Dahlia, lists Eva Green and Fiona Shaw as members of the cast, along with Josh Hartnett, Mark Wahlberg, and Scarlett Johansson. However, Green has not joined the cast-- De Palma said that he has yet to meet with the actress, as she remains busy shooting Ridley Scott's Kingdom Of Heaven.

Posted April 29 2004

"Casualties of War subverts the conventional guilty pleasures of the Vietnam genre by stressing the guilt and blunting the pleasure." With that sentence, Jim Moran begins his in-depth essay about Brian De Palma's Casualties Of War with salivating style, salience, and criticism. And with that essay, titled "Casualties of Genre, Difference, and Vision: Casualties Of War," Moran and two other writers kick off a new era in film criticism stemming from the vision of De Palma's cinema:, "a new site about film theory in general and De Palma’s cinema in particular."

Moran is the editor-in-chief of the site, which was founded by Peter Gelderblom. Gelderblom, who has written an article for the site's debut titled "The Plausibles: The Problems of Make-Believe in the Age of Reason," came up with the idea for the site after getting involved with the likes of Moran and other De Palma fans on the discussion forum at Bill Fentum's Directed by Brian De Palma. The Web site's mission statement paints a portrait of film criticism that takes "traditional, canonical and so-called 'objective' criticism" with a grain of salt, and that wears its subjectivity on its sleeve.

The irregularly updated pages also kick off today with two essays by another of those forum members, Michael K. Crowley, who has written a two-volume book study of De Palma's work that has remained unpublished-- until now. Chapter one of "Objects of Appalling Beauty" (the book's title), which comprises "An Introduction to Brian De Palma," is now posted for all to read, as is Crowley's essay about David Fincher's Se7en. Gelderblom plans to add links to threads on the De Palma forum to continue discussion of the articles into the community. Well, I know what I'll be doing this weekend...

Posted April 21 2004

After several forum users at the Internet Movie Database suggested that Brian De Palma should fill out the cast of The Black Dahlia with unknowns, someone claiming to be an "unknown" female posted last weekend under the name "toocoolforgod." Under the heading, "from an unknown who auditioned..." this person wrote, "all you guys were talking about how it would be better if the film was cast with unknowns... and maybe im biased but i agree. i auditioned and got recalled, met mr de palma and the whole shebang.. cool stuff i tell you.." This person claims to have auditioned for the role of Linda Martin, "the 15 year old hooker who knew Beth Short." Several attempts to communicate with this individual in the past week have not been successful, but if I hear anything more, I'll be sure to post it.

As De Palma told this web site a couple of weeks ago, much of the previous information I had received on Toyer had been off the mark. Well, whatever is going on, the IMDB page for Toyer has gone through some curious changes in the last couple of days. On Monday, the page saw six actors' names vanish from the film's cast list, with only Juliette Binoche and Tilda Swinton remaining. By the next day, Swinton's name was gone, as well. De Palma has said he is talking with Colin Firth about playing opposite Binoche in the film. Meanwhile, Swinton will be among the jury at this year's Cannes Film Festival. Also on the jury, which is being headed by Quentin Tarantino, will be Emmanuelle Beart. Tarantino has mentioned that a full and complete edit of his two Kill Bill films will premiere on the last day of the festival. Michael Moore's new documentary about Bush and 9/11, Fahrenheit 911, will compete at the festival along with the Coen brothers' The Ladykillers, among other films.

Posted April 20 2004
Some brief casting news about two of the Black Dahlia actors, as well as the third Mission: Impossible film: As Dark Horizons reported yesterday, Carrie-Anne Moss is taking on the female lead role in MI3, while Scarlett Johansson is trying to work out her schedule in order to do the film. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the filmmakers hope to go into production this August, which would put it, at the very latest, immediately after the shooting schedule of Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia, which is now set to film partly in Rome this August, according to a report from Italy (see story immediately below). Since the Dark Horizons report mentions that scheduling is the issue for Johansson, it seems most likely that the Black Dahlia schedule would be the concern. Tom Cruise has been scouting locations in Ghana and Berlin for MI3. According to the Dark Horizons report, Philip Seymour Hoffman, who Cruise worked with memorably in Magnolia, is in limbo regarding talks to play the villain in the film, although producers are going back to talk with him.

Meanwhile, another report at Dark Horizons yesterday had Josh Hartnett on a list of three actors being considered for the lead in Robert Rodriguez's John Carter of Mars. The other two actors are Matthew McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio. Hartnett filmed the first part of Rodriguez and Frank Miller's Sin City, and DiCaprio is also said to be involved with that film, a section of which will be directed by Quentin Tarantino.

Posted April 16 2004
According to an article at the Italian news site Ansa, Brian De Palma has been in Rome this past week visiting with Tarak Ben Ammar, the producer of Femme Fatale, as well as of the upcoming Toyer. Ben Ammar told the newspaper that De Palma's The Black Dahlia will film at the producer/financier's recently aquired Roma Studios in Rome this August. Previous reports had the film beginning a May-or-June shoot in Los Angeles, which is possibly still the case-- the Roma dates could simply be for additional interior scenes. De Palma will next be traveling to Berlin.

Posted April 13 2004
It seemed logical that the split-screen sequence in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill Vol. 1, where Daryl Hannah dons a nurse's uniform and whistles a Bernard Herrmann melody while carrying a deadly syringe down a hospital corridor, was inspired in great part by a combination of Brian De Palma's Sisters and Dressed To Kill. On the new DVD release of the film, Tarantino even calls it his "little Brian De Palma scene." But the filmmaker tells Premiere that this particular split-screen sequence was inspired by the trailer for a John Frankenheimer film-- a scene in the trailer that was cut and scored differently than it was in Frankenheimer's film. Tarantino explains that he does not duplicate other directors' shots when he references their films in his work, but rather "a feeling in the shot or an aspect about the shot I liked." He then explains how he has a collection of 35mm trailers from movies, particularly from the '70s, and how these trailers are works of art in and of themselves in that they used techniques that Tarantino likens to the work of Godard. Having seen the films that these trailers promote, Tarantino claims that many of the scenes or sequences shown in the trailers are not in the actual films. "It's just in the trailer," he tells Premiere:

There's this one trailer for Black Sunday by John Frankenheimer that has a scene in it that's done differently than it is in the movie. It's amazing. There's a scene in the movie-- it's like, you know, killer terrorist shit-- where Marthe Keller is going to kill Robert Shaw, who works for the Israeli Army. He's in the hospital, so she dresses up like a nurse with a syringe full of lethal injection, and she's going to go into his hospital room and inject him. Well, in the movie it's an okay sequence, but not really that special. They don't really milk it that much. It's routine.

But in the trailer for the movie, when it gets to showing us that sequence, they do the whole thing in split screen. And where they just had natural sounds playing in the movie, they have John Williams's Black Sunday theme [humming the tune] pulsing through the whole trailer, so it's just ticking beats to the images. This is not in the movie anywhere. This is one of the best split-screen sequences I've ever seen.

So for Kill Bill, I say, "We're doing this when Elle Driver shows up at the hospital."

And then I have another, like, weird movie reference in there because I have Daryl Hannah whistling-- she learned how to whistle Bernard Herrmann's theme to this movie called Twisted Nerve. And the thing is, when she leaves the frame, the Bernard Herrmann score kicks in, you hear the same theme done in this lush Bernard Herrmann melody, and then it goes into split screen and it looks like I'm doing an homage to Dressed To Kill-era De Palma.

Bernard Herrmann scored two De Palma films: Sisters (1973) and Obsession (1976). Daryl Hannah made her film debut in De Palma's The Fury (1978), which was scored by John Williams. One character, Bobbi, steals a nurse's uniform to wear in De Palma's Dressed To Kill (1980). Sisters and Dressed To Kill each feature memorable split-screen sequences. Want to check out the trailer for Black Sunday? You won't find it on Paramount's widescreen DVD version, which features no extras-- not even the film's trailer. Maybe Tarantino will show it to you in his home theater.

Updated April 13 2004
James Ellroy, author of The Black Dahlia, has been popping up on French television this past week, promoting his novel Destination Morgue. As reported last week, the author appeared on ARTE, mentioning that Brian De Palma's adaptation of The Black Dahlia should begin shooting in June. On April 11, Ellroy appeared on French TV's France 5 channel, and said, "We hope to bring the film to Cannes in 2005." Some have been criticizing the casting of the project so far, fearing that Ellroy's novel is being too Hollywoodized, and getting away from its substance. But it sounds more and more like Ellroy is keeping himself involved in the project, which must be a good sign for such naysayers.
(Thanks to Leonard at the forum!)

Posted April 11 2004
They stare at you from behind a stack of magazines...
Glancing over the rack, you spot those eyes, flanked by blonde curls against a gold-yellow background, and a rush comes over you, a feeling of familiarity, of intensity, of home. As you lift the copy of the latest issue of Elle, you realize how deeply those eyes have been burned into your memory from screening after screening of Femme Fatale, and you recall the Psycho-esque-in-reverse swirl of the camera into those eyes, zooming into them as they fill the frame just as the eyes open. It sent chills down your spine the first time you saw the shot at the end of the trailer, and since then, Rebecca in all of her FF personas and beyond has provided a visual song of demented bliss. Seeing her eyes stare at you from a magazine rack gives you a quick but strong flash of vertigo. But flipping through the article inside, you are surprised to find that despite talk of X-Men, and upcoming roles with De Niro and Travolta, no mention is made of Femme Fatale. You turn around and find her posing flamboyantly on the cover of Vegas, with a headline that reads, "The Passion of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos." Inside, the title of the article is, "And God Created Rebecca Romijn-Stamos," and it mentions her "scorching role" in Femme Fatale. When asked if people on the street ask her about her lesbian sex scene with Rie Rasmussen, Rebecca replies, "You'd be surprised. People want to talk about X-Men more than that sex scene." You recall what De Palma had said about being excited to discover a new star and providing her with her first big role, and you look forward to two new movies: one with Travolta, one with De Niro, and both featuring the eyes and irresistible charisma of Rebecca Romijn-Stamos.

Posted April 5 2004
It is looking as though Eva Green will be the choice to play Madeleine in Brian De Palma's upcoming The Black Dahlia. According to the website of Quality International, a company that controls international productions with an aim toward increasing European and German creative participation within international films, the cast for one of those films, The Black Dahlia, includes Josh Hartnett, Mark Wahlberg, Scarlett Johansson, Eva Green, and Fiona Shaw. Some have speculated that Shaw may be playing Madeleine's mother. Green, who has been getting much attention of late for her part in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers, has completed filming on Arsene Lupin, which was cowritten by Laurent Vachaud, co-author of the French-language Brian De Palma interview book from two years ago. That film also stars Kristin Scott Thomas. Green is currently filming Ridley Scott's Kingdom Of Heaven. Shaw, often compared to Vanessa Redgrave, can be seen in the latest installments of the Harry Potter series.

In related news, Dark Horizons today mentioned a French TV interview with Dahlia author James Ellroy, in which he said filming should begin in June. The official start date for the film is May 24, but De Palma mentioned a couple of days ago (see story below) that he may be adjusting the dates in order to allow cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond to be able to work on the picture.

Posted April 4 2004
Brian De Palma tells De Palma a la Mod that much of the information about Toyer reported recently on this page has been off the mark. "Who is ever giving you information on Toyer is all wrong," said De Palma. "I'm talking to Colin Firth about playing opposite [Juliette] Binoche and hope to do it right after The Black Dahlia." This obviously means that Jeremy Northam is out of the picture, but also that plans are in place to proceed with Toyer later this year. Firth starred with The Black Dahlia's Scarlett Johansson in Girl With A Pearl Earring, portraying the painter Johannes Vermeer with memorable intensity. Perhaps even more interstingly, Firth portrayed a former painter in a 1991 film called Femme Fatale, in which he played hapless dupe to Lisa Zane. Someone on the Internet Movie Database recently wrote of the film, "Oh, what Alfred Hitchcock, or even Brian De Palma, could have done with this!" Firth also appeared in Apartment Zero, which marked David Koepp's screenwriting debut.

De Palma said that he is trying to "work out the dates" so that cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond can shoot The Black Dahlia. Zsigmond has shot three pictures for De Palma: Obsession, Blow Out, and The Bonfire Of The Vanities. Zsigmond's latest is Kevin Smith's Jersey Girl, which is currently playing in North American theaters.

I asked De Palma about Gwen Stefani auditioning for The Black Dahlia (see story immediately below). "Gwen is a unique performer and I was delighted to work with her," he said. "But she's not right for Madeleine." De Palma also mentioned that he will be going to London this week to do some casting for the film, and then to Berlin to work with Alexander Manasse, the German production designer who worked on Run Lola Run.

Posted March 30 2004
Gwen Stefani was interviewed for a Vogue April cover story just after returning from an audition with Brian De Palma for The Black Dahlia. Stefani said that she auditioned with "some young guy named Josh." That would of course be Josh Hartnett. It would appear that Stefani was auditioning for the part of Madeleine, as she mentions that the character, like the Dahlia herself, Beth Short, has black hair. But Stefani expressed some doubts about being offered, or even taking, the role: "It was really humiliating and nerve-racking, but I feel like I did pretty well," she said. "But I don't know whether I would ever even do it if they offered it to me because it's a kind of a racy part. I know I'm not going to get it, because I think the character is so the opposite of me. She's really dark and naughty and slutty. And she has black hair." Stefani, who was cast by De Palma's friend Martin Scorsese as Jean Harlow in the upcoming Howard Hughes picture The Aviator, told MTV last month that she'd had doubts about landing that role, as well. She got the part in that one, and it is interesting to note that De Palma has long had a desire to film his own Howard Hughes picture. David Koepp wrote the screenplay for Mr. Hughes in 1998, and Nicolas Cage was hot to play Hughes in the film, but the trio could not get a studio to commit to the project. With Scorsese's high-profile film hitting screens this November, it seems unlikely any studio would take a risk on another big Hughes production anytime soon. In any case, here's hoping Stefani gets the part-- haven't seen her act yet, but if she's good, she could be extraordinary. Other actresses De Palma has either met with or considered for the role of Madeleine include Jennifer Connelly, Charlize Theron, Eva Green, Naomi Watts, and Mia Kirshner.

Posted March 29 2004
There appears to be a tug of war going on right now between two Napolean films that happens to involve the leading ladies of two upcoming Brian De Palma pictures scheduled to film this year. At the center of the storm is Scarlett Johansson, who is set to star in De Palma's The Black Dahlia this spring. A couple of weeks ago Variety announced that Lions Gate had acquired a pitch by Johansson and screenwriter Rebecca B. Kennedy called Napolean And Betsy. The pitch was about the relationship between Napolean and a young British girl, as seen through the girl's (Johansson's) eyes. An article in today's Variety states that Kennedy has already worked on an initial draft of another Napolean film which is based on the exact same true life relationship. The other project is an adaptation of a novel called The Monster Of Longwood, in which Al Pacino is set to star as Napolean. Not only did Kennedy work on the screenplay for Monster Of Longwood (which has since been revised by Michael Tolkin, among others), but Johansson had auditioned for the part of Betsy. Producer Howard Rosenman told Variety that until they read about the other project in Variety, Pacino and director Patrice Chereau had thought Johansson was going to be starring in their film. Rosenman saves face for Johansson, laying the blame for the controversy on her mother, Melanie Johansson, who is one of the producers of Napolean And Betsy. Rosenman said, "Their project is completely tainted by copyright infringement. Melanie has been exposed to every one of our drafts, as has the writer who wrote our first draft. Scarlett has also been exposed to every one of our drafts, and our lawyers think they are doing something outrageously and grossly malicious. Lions Gate was also exposed to our material, because at one point they were attached as our financiers." Melanie Johansson denied such charges, saying that their script is "based on a true story that is public domain," not any novel. Meanwhile, according to, Juliette Binoche, who is attached to star in De Palma's Toyer this fall, has long been rumored to be taking on the part of Betsy opposite Pacino in Monster Of Longwood. Indeed, Pacino and Binoche are listed as the stars of the film at the Internet Movie Database. However, there is a marked contrast between the 19-year-old Johansson and the 40-year-old Binoche, suggesting that if Binoche were to take on the role, the dynamic would be somewhat changed.

In other Johansson news today, Dark Horizons reports that the busy and in-demand Scarlett has been contacted regarding the part of "Leah" in the third installment of Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible franchise. The first film was directed by De Palma. Monster Of Longwood screenwriter Michael Tolkin had worked on a draft of MI2 for Oliver Stone when Stone was looking to direct the picture, but John Woo ended up directing from a script by Robert Towne, who had also worked on the first film. For the third film, Cruise initially had pacted with director David Fincher, the same guy who worked with screenwriter Josh Friedman on The Black Dahlia before De Palma signed on as director. Fincher pulled out of both projects, and last year Cruise hired director Joe Carnahan, who did some interesting split-screen work in Narc, to direct MI3. More recently, Cruise hired Frank Darabont to take over the MI3 scripting duties from Towne.

Got all that? Now what about that other "Black Dahlia" project...?

Posted March 16 2004
In an interview in the latest issue of Creative Screenwriting, David Koepp talks about why he changed the ending for his film adaptation of Stephen King's novella, Secret Window, Secret Garden. It seems that Koepp took a suggestion from Brian De Palma and ran with it, saying, "That [idea] I could immediately identify with." Since the passage talks about the ending of Koepp's film and gives away plot points, it is suggested you don't read the following until after you've seen the film. In order to read the next paragraph below, excerpted from Den Shewman's article, you simply need to click your mouse over the text area.

Koepp explained why he changed King's more traditional shoot-the-bad-guy, save-the-day ending: "I felt that there was a smashing ending in the book, but it was in the story-within-the-story. Brian De Palma said, 'Why don't you make Shooter just really pissed off that Mort fucked up Shooter's ending?' Because nothing enrages a writer more than, 'You fucked up my story. You rewrote me.' That I could immediately identify with."

Posted March 16 2004
According to an article today in Variety, Denzel Washington may team up with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua for what is currently being called The Return Of Superfly. This is the Brian Grazer-produced biopic based on the life of Frank Lucas. Last November, a story by Variety's Michael Fleming referred to the Steven Zaillion-scripted project as Tru Blu, and mentioned that Brian De Palma was on the verge of being hired to direct the film. A couple of weeks later, De Palma said that the actors for Tru Blu would not be ready for another year. De Palma was juggling the fates of three projects at the time: The Black Dahlia, Toyer, and Tru Blu. By January, he had committed to The Black Dahlia, with Toyer being readied for an October start. Now it looks like Grazer has found a new director for Tru Blu (or The Return Of Superfly), and they hope to begin production in late summer of 2004.

Posted March 12 2004
We heard earlier this week that casting on Toyer has been frozen for the time being, awaiting news of the film's finacial situation amidst the changes in the U.K. tax law. However, today at the Internet Movie Data Base, a new cast member has been added to the site's Toyer page. It looks like Claudio Amendola has been cast as a De Palma-invented character named Dario. Amendola appeared with Juliette Binoche in 1995's The Horseman On The Roof. Another interesting shift at the IMDB page: prior to today, Binoche and Jeremy Northam were listed at the top, with the rest of the cast listed alphabetically. Today, Tilda Swinton and Tchéky Karyo have been added to the top tier along with Binoche and Northam, with the rest of the cast listed alphabetically.

Posted March 11 2004
To the left you see Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as Melanie Daniels, the character played by Tippi Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. The photograph is part of a cover story in the April 2004 issue of Premiere, titled "The 100 Greatest Movie Characters Of All Time." Rebecca appears on the cover as Bonnie Parker (Bonnie and Clyde), and alternately on the inside as Daniels, Alex Forrest (Fatal Attraction), and Sandy Olsson (from Grease-- in the delciously vampy outfit from the grand finale). When one considers that Hedren's daughter Melanie Griffith made a big splash twenty years ago in Brian De Palma's Body Double, and that Rebecca herself channeled Vertigo's Kim Novak in De Palma's most recent film, Femme Fatale, the intertextual implications of the Birds photo become mind boggling. Heck, just the fact that she appears here in so many iconic roles brings to mind the several roles she got to play with in Femme Fatale. The accompanying article looks forward to Rebecca's upcoming roles in Godsend and The Punisher, but there are also quite a few mentions of De Palma and Femme Fatale, which the author, Fred Schruers, calls a "stimulating ball of confusion," and a "visually stunning exercise."

One section talks about how Rebecca had to leave the set of Godsend for a weekend to go work with Bryan Singer on some X2 reshoots. "She [was] amazing," Singer told Premiere. "She had eleven hours of travel, went out into zero degree weather in her make-up-- which is like being naked in the snow-- in the Canadian Rockies with no sleep, did her scenes, and then traveled back to work on the DeNiro film the next day. And she was giggling and telling Brian De Palma stories the entire time."

Rebecca talks about her first meeting with De Palma, which didn't seem to go very well. "I guess he was just irritated that I didn't understand the story completely. I think the producers had flown me in to meet him, I don't think he had personally requested to meet with me. So... who is this model who doesn't understand my script entirely?" Rebecca continues, "I was so green, I turned to him and only him. That movie was his vision... I needed his feedback one hundred percent, so I begged for it, and he was really open with me, very supportive. We had a lot of rehearsal time, so when it came to shooting, he could focus on all those crazy camera shots that he's so famous for." The author then quotes from Manohla Dargis' positive review of the film, citing the passage with the descriptive praise of Rebecca's presence in the film.

Near the end of the article, the author writes, "Romijn-Stamos is polishing off her fish soup, talking about Femme Fatale's mixed reception, when Tony hollers excitedly, using a remote to snap on the overhead TV, where one of John Stamos's commercials for a certain long-distance calling plan is airing. 'I'm told,' she says, 'it's got quite a following among gay folks in New York.' Um, yeah, well, he is a looker. Romijn-Stamos gives an enjoyably abandoned guffaw. 'No,' she says, shaking her head. 'I mean Femme Fatale.'"

Incidentally, two characters from De Palma films made the Premiere list: Tony Montana (#74) and Carrie (#63).

Posted March 9 2004
The UK film industry has been in an uproar over the last few weeks after the Inland Revenue made a sudden decision February 10th to change the tax law. The decision was made after it came to light that a loophole in the system allowed certain investors to pull out of a film before it had made any money. These investors effectively avoided paying tax on their sum. However, the government's decision to change the law without warning has put anywhere from 20 to 40 film productions in jeopardy. The first casualty, John Madden's Tulip Fever, which was to star Jude Law, was forced to quit in February, mere days before production was to begin. The film's producer, Alison Owen, wrote an article for The Guardian called The Taxman Killed My Movie which explains in detail how the tax change affected the film's financing. One of the studios involved with Tulip Fever was Dreamworks, and Owen mentions that she thinks Steven Spielberg placed a call to Tony Blair to plead for a certain transition time for the new tax law to be instated that would allow for productions that were not abusing the system to move ahead. It did not work, and now the project is $6 million in debt, making it extremely unlikely that it will ever be made.

Another company involved with Tulip Fever was Ingenious Media, which had 16 films being financed using its Inside Track financing scheme, 13 of which were in trouble because of the new law. The Black Dahlia is one of those films. However, a film rescue budget is being prepared to salvage those projects currently being threatened by the change in the UK. It is likely that even without that portion of the budget, the producers of The Black Dahlia would find other ways to finance the film. The Libertine, starring Johnny Depp and produced by John Malkovich is one film that found financing elsewhere in time to continue on schedule earlier this month. Toyer, which was to shoot partly in London, has also been affected by the new tax change. Producer Tarak Ben Ammar had set up Toyer tentatively as a UK project, but the new changes might make that impossible. It is said that UK investments made up about 3/4 of Toyer's budget, with 10% coming from French investors, approximately 6% from American investors, and another 10% from independent financing. While the casting has been put on hold for now due to the new hole in Toyer's budget (Jeremy Northam, Juliette Binoche, and Tilda Swinton are being kept on, at the least), with Ben Ammar's connections it seems likely that a solution will be found in time to proceed with the film in October... so we hope!

Posted March 8 2004
The March 12, 2004 issue of Entertainment Weekly, which is devoted largely to this year's Academy Awards, features "a guide to the more obscure film references made on Oscar night." Among such films as Any Which Way You Can, Meet The Feebles, and In The Mood For Love is Blow Out, which was mentioned by Sandra Bullock in her sparring dialogue with John Travolta (a transcript appears below in the "Oscar Roundup" section). Here's what EW had to say about the reference:

BLOW OUT The punchline-- if you can call it that-- of Sandra Bullock and John Travolta's inexplicable award-presentation banter was this 1981 Brian De Palma movie, in which Travolta plays a sound guy who unwittingly uncovers a murder. It was an homage to 1966's Blow-Up, which also happened to pop up at the Oscars, during the clip remembering late actor David Hemmings. What's more, Blow-Up was directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, whom Sofia Coppola thanked. Phew!

Posted March 4 2004
Brian De Palma attended the IFC/Target Independent Spirit Awards After Party on February 28. The images shown here, including one of De Palma with an unidentified friend, are featured at Wire Images.

Posted March 1 2004
Joan Rivers caught up with Scarlett Johansson February 29th on E! Entertainment Channel's pre-Oscar Red Carpet special:

Joan: I am talking with Scarlett Johansson, who has had an amazing career this year-- Girl With A Pearl Earring and Lost In Translation. What a wonderful year for you.
Scarlett: It's been an amazing year, it has. It's like a dream come true.
Joan: What are you doing next?
Scarlett: Um, I'm doing a Brian De Palma film this spring, and I start a production with the Weitz Brothers called Synergy, that we're shooting in two and a half weeks-- wow! [She said "wow" because it had just struck her that the film's start is coming right up.]
Joan: How much do you learn in advance when you do a movie? Do you learn the whole script?
Scarlett: Um, no, I'm sort of... I guess I go sort of day-by-day. I'm very instinctive, and, um, you know... But I get ideas. They're always burning back there.

John Travolta began dancing backward, leading Sandra Bullock to the podium as the pair prepared to present the Academy Awards for sound mixing and sound editing.

Sandra: Well, thank you for that. Um, John, what was the first movie to ever have sound?
John: Why, Sandy, and fellow students, that would be Al Jolson's The Jazz Singer, from 1927-- the first Hollywood film to incorporate both sound and dialogue.
Sandra: Hmmm. I did not know that.
John: Well, that's why you have to come to rehearsal.
[Extended laughter from audience]
John: [Continuing] You see, I learned many a fun fact by getting here before my copresenter.
Sandra: Mmm-hmm. You were early. [John looks surprised] Yeah.
John: Oh.
Sandra: That's all right. Okay, the nominees for achievement in sound mixing are...

[After presenting that award...]

Sandra: So, um, any fun ideas about sound editing you wanna impart, Mr. Know-It-All, to your students?
[Laughter from audience]
John: I think you're just jealous of my knowledge of the sound industry.
[More laughter]
Sandra: [After puzzled looks, her face lights up and she touches his arm] Oh, that's right. You made that movie Blow Out, right?
John: [Nodding] Exactly.
Sandra: Okay. All right.
John: The nominees for achievement in sound editing are...

"If there's one thing that actors know, other than that there weren't any WMDs, it's that there is no such thing as best in acting and that's proven by these great actors I was nominated with."

Reuters story. Yahoo! story.

Yahoo!: "In recent years he has focused less on acting, taking roles in Brian De Palma's Mission to Mars (2000) and in Stephen Frears High Fidelity (2000)."

Posted February 26 2004
Ted Tally has been drafted to revise Brian De Palma's screenplay for Toyer, which De Palma has adapted from Gardner McKay's original one-act, two-character play. Tally, who won an Academy Award for his Silence of the Lambs screenplay adaptation, and who went on to write the remake of Red Dragon, has worked with De Palma before. Tally did rewrites on the screenplay for De Palma's Mission To Mars in 1999 (the film was released in 2000), but instead of a writer's credit on that film, he was listed as an associate producer.

A user at IMDB ("jasongrimshaw") has laid out some plot details of De Palma's screenplay. There are no key spoilers here (or there), but if you want to know very little about the plot of the film, you might want to skip the following, but know that this film sounds like a dream project for the average De Palma fan.

The film opens as Maude Garrance (Juliette Binoche) and Toyer (Jeremy Northam) come face-to-face in an abandoned building. Following this set up, the film flows according to the play, but with each character providing flashbacks (De Palma's expansion of the play) that provide separate views of the same events, much like in De Palma's Raising Cain, and Snake Eyes. "jasongrimshaw" writes that these flashbacks "will include Toyer's initial crimes in London and Paris (star cameos), a fantasy sequence set in Paris, and Garrance's thinly veiled sexual allure for Toyer. Finally the film will open out onto the canals of Venice where Garrance will have to make a desperate choice and De Palma has written a major plot twist."

"jasongrimshaw" continues: "Tilda Swinton will play Dr Laura Manning, an English surgeon who comes to Paris with her assistant after Toyer first strikes there. She will become convinced that the perpetrator is a young French man, however Garrance is not convinced. When Toyer strikes in Rome the pair assist the Italian inquiry as Inspector Scarlatti closes in on a man he believes committed the crime. However, Garrance soon discovers that Toyer may be someone much closer, someone they all know..." The IMDB user also states that "Much of the film will involve the tete-a-tete between Binoche and Northam. Two actors who can easily hold an audience in such scenes." A number of important roles remain to be cast, as producer Tarak Ben Ammar continues to get all the financing together, and De Palma focuses on The Black Dahlia.

Posted February 25 2004
Giancarlo Giannini has joined the cast of Brian De Palma's Toyer. The Italian actor, who has been working in films for decades and will soon be seen in Tony Scott's Man On Fire, will play Inspector Scarlatti, according to the Internet Movie Database. Giannini appeared with Toyer's Jeremy Northam in Guillermo del Toro's Mimic.
(Thanks to Toofield!)

Posted February 24 2004
Thierry Arbogast will be the cinematographer for Brian De Palma's adaptation of Toyer. This will mark Arbogast's second film with De Palma, having worked with the director on 2002's Femme Fatale, which was filmed in Paris and Cannes. Planned filming locations for Toyer are London and Paris, as well as Venice and Rome. Rome is home to Roma Studios, which was taken over in 2002 by Tarak Ben Ammar, the producer of both Femme Fatale and Toyer. Many of Toyer's interior scenes will be shot at Roma. As for London, it seems that Tilda Swinton will have a supporting (yet substantial) role as an English surgeon who clashes with Juliette Binoche's character (Maude) over the Toyer case. While De Palma has adapted the screenplay from Gardner McKay's original two-character, one-act play, he has added characters that add a backstory to Maude, leading up to the scenes that make up the whole of the play. Somewhere along the way will be "a cat and mouse chase through the canals of Venice" (see story immediately below). At press conferences to promote Femme Fatale in Italy in November of 2002, De Palma repeatedly mentioned that he wanted to film during the Carnival of Venice. Since the production could not get clearance to film during the actual Carnival, however, it has been decided that a version of the Carnival will be staged for the film. And of course, we'll always have Paris. When De Palma first started talking in early 2002 about filming a "scary thriller," the cities Paris and Rome were usually mentioned. Laurent Vachaud had told me in February of that year that De Palma had talked about wanting to film at Paris' Centre Pompidou, where a retrospective of De Palma's films was in progress. When asked in May of 2002 if there was anywhere else in Paris he might like to film, De Palma told DVDRAMA, "Yes. I want to film an assassination in the Pompidou Center. Coming soon..."

Posted February 9 2004
"Horror is something I'm quite interested in," Juliette Binoche told Ciara Dwyer in an interview published Saturday (February 7, 2004) in the Irish Times. Speaking about an upcoming horror project with director Michael Haneke called Caché, Binoche continued, "Not in terms of slasher movies or genre movies. But the ideas of fear and disgust and revulsion as attitudes and reactions fascinate me. I am due to film Gardner McKay's Toyer with Brian De Palma later in the year." Dwyer then writes, "Sweet Juliette Binoche in an adaptation of Toyer? Surely not! Apparently so. The terrifying piece has been adapted by De Palma and the cast includes Jeremy Northam, Tilda Swinton and Tcheky Karyo. De Palma is re-setting the piece to Venice and opening it up to include a cat and mouse chase through the canals of Venice." Swinton (Adaptation) appeared with Northam in Norman Jewison's The Statement. Karyo has worked several times with Luc Besson (including Nikita) and was recently seen in Neil Jordan's The Good Thief.

"I have only agreed to films that truly interest me"
Binoche took time out from filming Bee Season in San Francisco to appear at Saturday's Berlin International Film Festival screening of John Boorman's Country Of My Skull, in which she stars with Samuel L. Jackson. Earlier in the Irish Times interview, Binoche looked forward to a busy 2004, saying, "I have a lot on my plate at the moment, but I have only agreed to films that truly interest me. I won't do something just for the sake of working".
(Thanks to Donal!)

Posted February 4 2004
JESSICA: "What's wrong, does his face have scars?"
After telling husband Nick Lachey that she wants to watch a DVD tonight, Jessica Simpson sorts through a pile of unopened DVDs on this week's episode of MTV's Newlyweds. After trying to convince Nick that she has indeed seen at least one of the Indiana Jones films, Jessica uncovers a copy of Scarface. Here's how Nick saves himself from a night of Fried Green Tomatoes...

Jessica: What's Scarface?
Nick: [incredulous] What is Scarface?
Jessica: I don't know that.
Nick: That's what we're watchin' tonight.
Jessica: No, I want to watch Fried Green Tomatoes.
Nick: We both have seen that. You've never seen Scarface.
Jessica: I haven't seen Fried Green Tomatoes in like three years.
Nick: It's Michelle Pfeiffer's first movie. Or one of her first movies. And Al Pacino, it's freakin' awesome.
Jessica: What's wrong, does his face have scars?
Nick: No. It does not have scars.
Jessica: Well, what's it about? Is he mean? We can watch Sex In The City, fourth season...
Nick: You never heard anybody say, [with Tony Montana accent] "Say 'ello to my little friend"?
Jessica: [mimmicking] "Say 'ello to my little friend"-- no.
Nick: "Say 'ello to my little friend." If you really really really wanna watch Fried Green Tomatoes, I'll do it.
Jessica: If you really really really wanna watch Scarface, I'll do it. Will I like it?
Nick: Yeah, man, it's a--
Jessica: Is it a gangster movie?
Nick: It's, a little bit, but it's not... it's freakin...
Jessica: Is there any kind of romance in it?
Nick: [upbeat] Yeah.
Jessica: Okay. There'd better be some kissin'.

Posted February 2 2004
According to an article today in Variety, Sony is picking up Brian De Palma's adaptation of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia. Last week, the industry publication mentioned that the film had been currently seeking a domestic distributor.

Meanwhile, Ellroy has just been hired to write a biopic about Hollywood lawyer Sidney Korshak for producers Robert Evans and Brian Grazer. The film, titled The Man Who Kept Secrets, will be directed by William Friedkin for Paramount Pictures. After De Palma finishes The Black Dahlia and Toyer later this year, he will most likely be working on the Frank Lucas biopic Tru Blu with Grazer (see story from last November below).

Posted January 29 2004
Variety reports today that "Black Dahlia will get tinge of Scarlett"-- Scarlett Johansson, the actress recently double-nominated for Golden Globe awards for her roles in Lost In Translation and Girl With A Pearl Earring, has signed on to join Mark Wahlberg and Josh Hartnett for Brian De Palma's adaptation of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia. Johansson will play Kay, "a doppelganger for the title character, and the object of affection for two police officers (Hartnett and Wahlberg) investigating the brutal murder of Hollywood starlet Elizabeth Short," according to the article by Michael Fleming and Cathy Dunkley. The film, which is in the process of securing a domestic distribution deal, will begin shooting in Los Angeles May 24th. Johansson hits screens this Friday in the MTV coproduction The Perfect Score. Johansson's signing to The Black Dahlia is getting high marks from Harry Knowles and the readers at Aint It Cool News, although many remain unconvinced that Wahlberg and Hartnett are good casting choices for the film. That and, of course, the usual De Palma debates. Meanwhile, Dave Davis at CHUD ("The Dahlia is Red") comments that, "So far, the casting for Brian De Palma’s adaptation of author James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia is sounding a bit runny rather than hard-boiled." (Also see CHUD's Pretty Boy Meets Ellroy.) However, Davis' comments about Rebecca Romain-Stamos (in the "Dahlia is Red" article) suggest that he has overlooked a monster of a performance in Femme Fatale.
(Thanks to Greg!)

Posted January 28 2004
COHEN: De Palma "got what I hoped to get"

The above illustration accompanies Amy Wallace's article about Larry Cohen in the February 2nd issue of The New Yorker. In the article, titled "The Survivor: Hollywood's king of schlock," Wallace interviews Cohen and discusses his entire career, including the critical reception of Cohen's work. She cites Robin Wood as one who compared and contrasted Cohen's films favorably with Brian De Palma's in his 1986 book, Hollywood from Vietnam to Reagan. Wallace quotes Wood's contention that Cohen ("unlike De Palma," she paraphrases) "remained obstinately true to himself... at the cost of virtual obliteration." Wood felt that De Palma's work got more and more showman-like, with bigger budgets as the late '70s progressed, while Cohen was still scrapping pictures together with whatever money he could get ahold of. Wallace suggests that a script about Cohen's life could be called "The Man Whose Prayers Weren't Answered," with the hook being that the man "ends up better off." Cohen says that De Palma "got what I thought I was going to get, or hoped to get." The difference is what led to Cohen directing a Michael Moriarty instead of a Jack Nicholson, to use Cohen's own example ("If you direct big stars, then you're a big director"). But Cohen feels that he really got what he actually wanted. He wanted a career like the old Hollywood directors he admired who worked continually, and he made it happen for himself by writing constantly and selling scripts which he often directed.

Posted January 22 2004
As it looks like Brian De Palma will be filming The Black Dahlia and Toyer back-to-back, the director has been very busy preparing both films. With Juliette Binoche and Jeremy Northam already committed, casting for Toyer has been ongoing in Europe. At least one French actor, Clèment Sibony, appears to be taking on a major role in the film. It also looks like De Palma plans to cast major stars in cameo roles as victims of Toyer.
(Thanks to Donal!)

Posted January 12 2004
According to Michael Fleming in today's Variety, Josh Hartnett will begin work on Mozart and the Whale before he stars with Mark Wahlberg in Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia. Mozart and the Whale has been a passion project for Hartnett, and was previously being developed as a Steven Spielberg film at Dreamworks. It will begin filming on March 1st with Petter Naess directing, and with Rachel Weisz starring opposite Hartnett. This would mean that The Balck Dahlia will probably start sometime around the middle of 2004.

Posted January 9 2004
It seems that the information reported about Toyer a couple of days ago was slightly in error. It is true that Brian De Palma will keep Juliette Binoche and Jeremy Northam in the lead roles, but instead of eyeing a January 2005 start for filming, the production is set up to begin in October of 2004, and will continue through December. Due to security reasons, the production could not get clearance this winter to film during the actual Carnival of Venice, so the decision has now been made to stage a version of the Carnival for the film. This sounds slightly similar to the restaging of the Cannes Film Festival for the opening scenes of Femme Fatale, although that sequence was enacted the day after the festival's closing ceremonies, capturing much of the flavor and hype of the event while it was still fresh.

But De Palma has been staging electrifying events for the screen for much of his career, from the terrifying "Be Black, Baby" sequence in Hi, Mom!, to the operatic Grand Guignol climax of Phantom of the Paradise, to the hyped-up boxing ring opening of Snake Eyes. With "Be Black, Baby," De Palma said he wanted to show how you lie with documentary. Twenty-eight years later, he made it appear that a camera was following Nicolas Cage for a non-stop 15-or-so-minute continuous take as he hustled his way to a front row seat of a boxing match in Snake Eyes. But there was a cut or two performed in the editing room, done so smoothly that one really had to look to notice that even this staged documentary was a lie. As the line continues to blur between filmed fiction and filmed documentary, De Palma has become a master of the staged event, creating his own documentaries, developed from his own subconcious. This fiction that is documented at 24 frames per second features a fascinating tension between controlled and seemingly uncontrollable elements. But how much control is really possible? Stanley Kubrick was known for take after take until his actors were beyond exhaustion, but there are really only so many takes a production can afford. Part of the art of De Palma comes from the effort to capture lightning in a bottle. It is a mixture of last-minute, sometimes on-set decisions and previously well-thought-out plans. It is the search for something fresh that the eye has not seen before, yet that may be somewhat familiar after all. It is something that just might be "real," but also just a little bit off-kilter. It is something of a dream. Bring on the Carnival of Venice.

Posted January 8 2004
Variety's Michael Fleming reports today that Mark Wahlberg and Josh Hartnett have committed to film The Black Dahlia, with Brian De Palma directing. De Palma reteams with producer Art Linson, who also produced De Palma's The Untouchables and Casualties of War back in the late 1980s. Fleming writes that Linson has set up financing for the film "through a combination of foreign sales by Signature Pictures and an investment from the German film fund Apollo Media." De Palma is meeting with German cinematographers this week in Berlin (see story below). Linson is producing the film with Rudy Cohen and Moshe Diamant, "who have tried to make a film out of the book for years and once had David Fincher lined up to direct," according to Fleming. (Linson also produced Fincher's Fight Club.)

Fleming's description of the film is as follows:
"Ellroy's late '40s-set book delved into the gritty themes of L.A. cops and corruption that he later explored in his novel L.A. Confidential. Wahlberg and Hartnett will play ex-boxers who become L.A. cops and become involved in a massive manhunt for the killer who tortured and mutilated Short, whose brutal demise shocked the city. The killer was never found, and numerous other books have been written claiming to reveal the culprit. Like Ellroy's novel, the movie will use the famous murder as a backdrop. The core of the film is the relationship between the partners as they are exposed to corruption and deceit. They also become rivals for the affection of a woman who's a dead ringer for the murdered girl."

Fleming's article can be read in its entirety at Yahoo! News.

Posted January 2 2004
Brian De Palma is moving forward with his film adaptation of James Ellroy's The Black Dahlia, after the casting for his Toyer adaptation could not be worked out in time to begin shooting this winter (see story immediately below). Josh Hartnett will star in Dahlia, which De Palma describes broadly as "Touch of Evil meets The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre in Chinatown." De Palma will travel to Berlin next week to interview potential cinematographers for the film. He is scheduled to meet with Michael Ballhaus (Gangs Of New York), Frank Griebe (Run Lola Run), and Thomas Kloss (Showtime), and will be looking to meet with other German cinematographers while he is there.

Posted December 9 2003
The mysterious movement of the stars continues to toy with a filmmaker's best laid plans. Last month, Juliette Binoche signed on to make Bee Season with Richard Gere. That film was originally planned to begin shooting in April of 2004, but has now been moved up to January, making Binoche unavailable to make the at-least-by-February start of Brian De Palma's Toyer (De Palma wants to shoot during the Carnival of Venice, which takes place in February). That is a shame, because Jeremy Northam had signed on to take on the title role, but only under the condition that Binoche stay aboard the project. De Palma must make a decision whether to put the project on hold for now, or to move on without Binoche. As De Palma said last month, "Welcome to the slippery slope of modern movie making. Our fates rest in the mysterious movement of the stars."

Toyer Update November 24 2003

A correction on the story posted last week about the European actors who have been meeting in Europe for Toyer: There have been meetings with actors in Europe, but not for the title role. Word is that Brian De Palma has expanded the original play by adding characters, including colleagues and a love interest for Juliette Binoche's character. You will remember that when De Palma first began talking about this film in Italy, he mentioned that the cast would be a mix of American and European actors. Thus it would seem that his adaptation of Gardner McKay's play had several characters from the start, but these characters are apparently not from McKay's own novel version of his play (De Palma stressed in an interview with Bill Fentum that his adaptation is based on the play, not the novel).

Stefano Dionisi (Dario Argento's Sleepless), Benoît Magimel (The Piano Teacher), Mathieu Kassovitz (Amelie), and Vincent Cassel (Irreversible) have all been rumored to have been meeting with producers about roles in the film. Magimel would be an interesting fit, seeing as how he and Binoche have been together for a while and have a child together. (Cassel and his wife, Monica Bellucci, played a couple in Irreversible, the casting by Gaspar Noe inspired by Kubrick's casting of Tom and Nicole in Eyes Wide Shut.)

Also from the rumor mill: Lolita Davidovich, who starred in De Palma's Raising Cain in 1992, may take on a supporting role in Toyer. Meanwhile in Hollywood, Jeremy Northam is said to be very close to signing on for the lead role, having screen tested with Binoche last week. Back in Italy, producer Tarak Ben Ammar is said to be scouting locations, with all the finances in place to give this project a green light, pending the leading man.

Posted November 20 2003
When John Travolta mentioned in June of 2002 that one possible project he was looking at next involved Brian De Palma, it was speculated that the actor was looking to take on the lead role in De Palma's Toyer. When asked about this possibility a year ago by Tony Suppa and Carl Rodrigue at Le Paradis de Brian De Palma, De Palma did not say no, but stressed that he and his production team were in the process of "finding people," and that it all heavily relied on actors' availability. Another actor that had been rumored for the role was Sean Penn. That seems unlikely now that Penn has suggested that after acting in three consecutive films without a break, he is ready to take some time off and focus on what he enjoys most-- directing. More recently, there are four actors that have been mentioned in connection to Toyer. Adrien Brody (The Singing Detective, The Pianist), Jim Caviezel (the upcoming The Passion of Christ, The Thin Red Line), and Ben Chaplin (Murder By Numbers, The Thin Red Line) have reportedly each been mentioned as possible "Toyers," opposite Juliette Binoche, who has already committed to the project. The front runner this week, however, appears to be Jeremy Northam, another actor who appears in Keith Gordon's new film, The Singing Detective. Northam has worked with Binoche in the past, in 1992's Wuthering Heights. If Northam signs for Toyer within the next couple of weeks, the film will most likely shoot in Italy this January as planned. If not, the project may be shelved while De Palma works on The Black Dahlia.

Posted November 14 2003
In an e-mail correspondence with De Palma a la Mod, Brian De Palma said that he is flying to Los Angeles next week to resolve the issue of which film will be produced first: Toyer or Black Dahlia. De Palma said that right now, Josh Hartnett is ready for Black Dahlia, but the actor is working out his deal. Meanwhile, Juliette Binoche had been ready to go on Toyer a while ago, but when the right leading man could not be found, the actress had taken on another job, forcing the film to be pushed back a year (to this upcoming January). As for Tru Blu, De Palma says that the stars for that film will not be available for another year. "That's how things look today but it could all change next week," says De Palma. "Welcome to the slippery slope of modern movie making. Our fates rest in the mysterious movement of the stars."

Posted November 13 2003
Luc Lagier's new study, The Thousand Eyes of Brian De Palma, will be released tomorrow (Friday) in France. Romain over at The Virtuoso of the Seventh Art has received an advance copy of the book, and while he hasn't had a chance to read it yet, he says the book looks every bit as intriguing as Lagier's "Fantastic Visions" analysis of De Palma's Mission: Impossible. The new book looks closely at several of De Palma's key films, with an in-depth section on the director's '60s work (Lagier also has a documentary about De Palma's '60s films on an upcoming French DVD box of Dionysus In '69, Wotan's Wake, and The Responsive Eye; the set will be released November 25th). According to Romain, Lagier devotes a large part of the book to Blow Out, the writer's favorite film, and compares several of De Palma's films to their "sources," such as Blow-Up, Psycho, and Vertigo. Lagier also has a book about De Palma's Scarface due out very soon in France.

Meanwhile, over here in the United States, J. Hoberman has just released his phenomenally well-researched book about the relationship between politics and film in the 1960s. The book is titled The Dream Life: Movies, Media, and the Mythology of the Sixties. In this expansive book's concluding pages, Hoberman provides what is possibly the most penetrating and eye-opening analysis of De Palma's Blow Out that one is likely to read anywhere. Hoberman analyzes the film as part of an arc of '60s characters that went from the playboy artist of Blow-Up, to the wannabe-adored protagonist of Shampoo, to the decidedly unglamorous behind-the-scenes technician of Blow Out. For Hoberman, Blow Out manages to perfectly sum up the state of '60s myths as Ronald Reagan took office in 1981. In the aftermath of assassinations (JFK, RFK, MLK, etc.), secret agents (Oswald, The Manchurian Candidate), and institutional conspiracies (Watergate, The Parallax View), Blow Out shows the "Orgy" of the 1960s turned "Co-ed Frenzy." Between the film within-the-film and the secret agent killer who spots the Liberty Bell as he strikes his victim, De Palma, and Hoberman, shed light on the link between the slasher film and politics.

Posted November 11 2003
According to Production Weekly, Josh Hartnett (Black Hawk Down, 40 Days and 40 Nights) is in negotiations to star in The Black Dahlia, the adaptation of James Ellroy's novel that Brian De Palma has signed on to direct (see story below). The article at Production Weekly describes details of the film's story, which has been adapted for the screen by Josh Friedman. Two ex-boxers, now LAPD cops, become obsessed with Elizabeth Short, who has been dubbed "The Black Dahlia" by the press. One of the cops, Bucky Bleichert, inadvertently suppresses evidence about the fact that the woman he is currently seeing, the "casually bisexual Madeleine Sprague," once slept with Short. Noir most certainly ensues.

Posted November 10 2003
Correction: there was no projected start date for this film, as reported earlier today. The March 2004 start date was for a completely different Black Dahlia film project, not the one based on Ellroy's novel.
It is looking like Brian De Palma will probably pass on the job of directing Universal and Imagine's Tru Blu in favor of Black Dahlia, an adaptation of James Ellroy's fictionalized account of the murder of Elizabeth Short. Short was a 22-year old actress wannabe who went to California in the 1940s to try to make it in Hollywood. Her body was found cut in half in a vacant lot in 1947, with some pretty gruesome details (you can read all about it at The Black Dahlia Website). Short was said to have always dressed in black, hence her nickname Black Dahlia, which may have been given to her before the murder, although many feel this name was given to her by investigators sensationalizing the murder afterward. David Fincher has been trying to get a film of Ellroy's novel made for a few years, even reportedly attempting to get Tom Cruise to star (Fincher was at one time also going to direct Cruise in Mission: Impossible 3), but now, according to Screen Daily, De Palma has signed up to direct the film for Signature Entertainment. Ellroy, whose L.A. Confidential was adapted into the widely acclaimed Curtis Hanson film, had expressed doubts in 2001 that a Black Dahlia film would ever actually get made. Screenwriter Josh Friedman worked with Fincher on the screenplay adaptation. According to Really Scary, in April of 2002, Fincher described his involvement with the film: "Josh Friedman's writing a script and we're trying to get it under 240 pages. The thing I love about the book is that it's not really so much about the killing of the Dahlia, it's a tale of sexual obsession, it's about the politics of murder, and the politics of the feeding frenzy of the press." Ellroy's story has a Lynchian element of Otto Preminger's great noir Laura, as two hard boiled LA cops fall for the dead woman. A highly intriguing prospect for a De Palma film, to say the least...
(Thanks to Sergio at the forum!)

Posted November 6 2003
In an article about Imagine Entertainment partners Brian Grazer (pictured) and Ron Howard extending their production pact with Universal, Variety columnist Michael Fleming mentioned that the two studios are preparing to hire Brian De Palma to direct Tru Blu, a "drama about the rise and fall of '70s Harlem heroin kingpin Frank Lucas." Now, before you begin wondering if Toyer is being sidetracked, I'll mention that according to Fleming, Tru Blu is tentatively set to begin shooting in spring of 2004, a couple of months after the planned winter filming of Toyer in Italy.

Okay, now to the details of the new project, which would find De Palma working with some fairly prestigious people. For starters, the project was first pitched to Imagine back in October of 2000 by Nick Pileggi, who had the idea of turning a New York magazine life profile (which you can read by clicking here) of Lucas, written by Mark Jacobson, into a film. Pileggi, who has worked on numerous occasions with De Palma pal Martin Scorsese (GoodFellas, Casino), pitched the idea as "Donnie Brasco meets Shaft." No actors have yet been mentioned in connection with Tru Blu, but Pileggi will executive produce the film.

In April of 2001, when the project was still called The Return of Superfly (that was the title of Jacobson's New York magazine article), Steven Zaillion was hired to write the screenplay. Zaillion worked with De Palma on Mission: Impossible in 1994. The director and writer hammered out a basic plot outline with three main sequences before Zaillion had to leave for another project, and De Palma then brought David Koepp in to finish the screenplay. Zaillion had won an Oscar for writing Schindler's List for another De Palma pal, Steven Spielberg. Grazer, the Oscar-winning producer (A Beautiful Mind) who is producing this potential new De Palma film, told Variety's Fleming in April of 2001 that "Steve is one of the most prestigious and acclaimed writers, to whom I've offered a bunch of things but never heard the word 'yes' before. I'd become borderline stalker, but finally he relented. We think the film is an important story, and he validates it."

It is worth noting that De Palma is returning to Hollywood via Universal, the studio with which the director made the drug-related films Scarface and Carlito's Way, as well as Raising Cain. The recent success of Scarface, both in theatrical rerelease and on DVD, must surely have made De Palma seem a [bankable] hero of sorts to the studio. De Palma plus drugs may equal success to Universal, but there are other interesting potential aspects to note with this project. Like Carlito's Way, it looks to be set in the 1970s. Frank Lucas was dubbed "Superfly" because of his flashy wardrobe, and was brought to justice by lawman Richie Roberts, who also figures to be a main character in the film. The Vietnam war looks to be a prominent aspect of the film as well, because Lucas became rich by using the coffins of U.S. soldiers killed in Vietnam to ship heroin back to the U.S. Eventually, Lucas and Roberts "worked together to expose the crooked cops and foreign nationals who made importing heroin so easy" (quoting Fleming from Variety, April 2, 2001). The Vietnam war has been a staple of De Palma's films since his earliest work. Recently, De Palma has been pondering how to film current politics after 9/11 and as the U.S. invades Iraq (see story on page 2 of this site). It will be interesting to see what the filmmaker's subconscious brings out between Toyer and Tru Blu.

Posted October 28 2003
Aint It Cool News posted a report today from Grozilla in Paris. According to the report, Tarak Ben Ammar, who produced Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale and is also producing De Palma's upcoming Toyer, gave an interview to the French magazine Ecran Total. In the interview, Ben Ammar specifies that De Palma's Toyer adaptation will be based on Gardner McKay's original play, not the author's later novel. Ben Ammar also confirms that Juliette Binoche will portray the female lead in the film, playing "Maud Garance, a neurologist curing the victims of a mad mind injecting some drug in his victim's brains." The producer also mentions that shooting should begin by this upcoming January in Rome.
(Thanks to Max at the Brian De forum!

Posted October 28 2003
"There's probably De Palma in everything I do"
IGN FilmForce interviewed Keith Gordon about his new film, The Singing Detective. After elaborating about the influence of Stanley Kubrick on his new film, Gordon, who starred in Brian De Palma's Home Movies and Dressed To Kill, was asked how much influence De Palma had on this new project. "You know, there's probably De Palma in everything I do," replied Gordon, "just because I've learned so much of what I know about films and filmmaking from Brian, but not as conscious, because I don't think of this as a De Palma-esque piece really, although I guess you could argue that Phantom of the Paradise has some Potter-esque touches in it but I think the tone, to me, was more Kubrick, David Lynch, Nick Rowe [Nicolas Roeg?], kinda people who delight in the surreal and in playing an audience's perception and challenging an audience to be part of the work process."

Posted October 22 2003
David Koepp, the longtime collaborator of Brian De Palma's who wrote the screenplays for Carlito's Way, Mission: Impossible, and Snake Eyes, is currently filming his new adaptation of Stephen King's Secret Window, Secret Garden with Johnny Depp in New York City. Koepp adapted the screenplay and is directing. Apparently, De Palma has been hanging out, as well, although this photo from (on the left) credits Depp as standing next to a "Robert Palmer." (Shhh... it's a secret.) Below are two photos from Globe Photos. De Palma was thanked in the credits of Koepp's first directorial feature, The Trigger Effect.
(Thanks to KC!)

Posted October 11 2003
'OK, so we need a chainsaw and we need a prosthetic arm'
While talking to The Age about the original premiere of Scarface in 1983, Steven Bauer began to tear up, telling the interviewer, "Forgive me, I get emotional about it." After regaining his composure, Bauer relayed a story about the premiere screening of the film: "At the premiere Martin Scorsese turned around in the middle of the film, and he said, 'You guys are great - but be prepared, because they're going to hate it in Hollywood.' He said that to me and he didn't know me from Adam. And I said, 'Why?' He said, 'Because it's about them.'" Bauer talked about the expectations and anxieties he had about making his feature debut with Al Pacino: "I would go back into the trailer with Al and I'd say to Al - in an accent, because we always talked that way - I'd say to him, 'What are people going to think when they see this? We're the protagonists of this film and we're these wild guys. Are people going to be repulsed?' And he'd say, 'Don't worry about it. It's something new. They've never seen anything like it and probably never will again.'" Bauer feels vindicated by the success of the film over time, after it was villified upon its initial release. He said that fans stop him daily on the street to talk about their love of Scarface. Even fans such as Matt Damon and Ben Affleck stopped him at an Oscars after party last year: "They came up to me and they launch into a scene, knew all the words, between Tony and Manny." Bauer talked about Brian De Palma's matter-of-fact approach to the violence in the film. Talking about the chainsaw scene, Bauer said, "[Oliver Stone] wrote it and Brian said, 'OK, so we need a chainsaw and we need a prosthetic arm. Build me an arm, we gotta have the blood. We'll shoot his face, but we've got to see the saw going into his arm.'" Recalling a sense of dark humor on the set while filming these violent scenes, Bauer said, "Oh, yeah, absolutely, but Brian De Palma is very matter-of-fact about it. His art is very, very important to him, but he doesn't belabour it. It's like, 'OK, we're shooting an arm getting cut off. Guys, can we get it right so we can go to lunch?'" Canada's National Post has an additional interview with Bauer in which he talks a little more about Scarface, as well as his marriage to Melanie Griffith, including a matter-of-fact discussion of the couples' drug usage.

Posted September 30 2003
Armond White writes about Scarface and the new anniversary DVD in this week's edition of the New York Press. White discusses the film's influence on the hip-hop generation: "How people interpret the intricacies of form and theme in movies is a crucial question in contemporary film culture. Scarface’s re-release raises the issue of how certain movies appease particular cultural groups simply in the way it offers a key to the changed morality of the past few decades–an insight you won’t get from any of the award-winning pictures of that same period." White concludes that "Scarface is one of the best examples in film history of moviegoers making culture for themselves."
(Thanks to John Blaze at the forum!)

Posted September 27 2003
Roger Ebert has chosen to write about Scarface for his bi-weekly "Great Movies" column this weekend in the Chicago Sun-Times. In the piece, Ebert focuses on Al Pacino's creation and performance of Tony Montana, which he sees as the crux of the film's success. Ebert contrasts Montana with Pacino's performances in The Godfather and Carlito's Way, suggesting that Pacino's "sadder and wiser Carlito, seen with psychological realism, helps us understand how many deliberate acting choices went into the creation of Tony Montana." Ebert also moves into an inspired discussion of Brian De Palma: "Scarface is an example of Brian De Palma in overdrive mode. Like Tony Montana, he isn't interested in small gestures and subtle emotions. His best films are expansive, passionate, stylized and cheerfully excessive, and yet he has never caved in to the demand for routine action thrillers. Even his failures (Snake Eyes) are at least ambitious. There is a mind at work in a De Palma picture, an idea behind the style, never a feeling of indifferent vulgarity. His most recent film, Femme Fatale (2002), was one of his best, an elegant and deceptive story based on the theft of a dress made of diamonds, which is stolen from the women wearing it during the opening night at the Cannes Film Festival. That the movie was not more successful is an indictment of the impatience of today's audiences, who want to be assaulted, not seduced."

Posted September 25 2003
According to a press release for Universal's upcoming Spike TV special, Unseen and Untold: Scarface, Brian De Palma let his friend Steven Spielberg shoot one of the scenes of Scarface's bloody final shootout, which itself was shot in a mansion that was owned at the time by former President Richard Nixon. Spielberg had been visiting De Palma on the set (a photo of the two directors at the top of the staircase was included in Samuel Blumenfeld and Laurent Vachaud's recent book of De Palma interviews). Another untold story in the one-hour special, which debuts on Spike TV Wednesday October 1st (9-10pm eastern), comes from director Brett Ratner, who happened to be one of the child extras in the film's pool scene. The press release states, "In an exclusive interview with Ratner, he discusses his personal experience and the lasting impressions the film has had on his own filmmaking career -- including his incorporation of Scarface-isms into his films." Could be time to run out and rent Rush Hour 1 and 2, looking for that treasure trove of Scarface-isms.

Posted September 23 2003
We've heard rumors that Juliette Binoche may be cast as the female lead in Brian De Palma's upcoming Toyer. Well, now Binoche has mentioned to the Sydney Morning Herald that she will indeed be working on a "Brian De Palma thriller." Binoche has a few films on her plate, including De Palma's, which is supposed to begin filming sometime this fall. We would like to compliment De Palma on his terrific choice of actress for what promises to be a challenging role.

Posted September 23 2003
"They’re going to hate this film in Hollywood... because it's about them."
Scarface may speak to the hip-hop community these days, but back when it was first released in 1983 to much scorn (as well as some praise here and there), it may have hit a little too close to home for those in Hollywood. New York Metro columnist Deborah Schoeneman wrote about last week's Scarface party, which was held at New York's Metropolitan Club. She described the setting as "ghetto-fabulous": "The great hall was recast as the mansion of the film’s drug-dealing antihero. Ice figurines carried brassy globes emblazoned with the words the world is yours, projectors cast the Scarface logo upon the walls, and gangsta rap reverberated through the building." Inside the Actor's Studio host James Lipton was quoted: "This is unusual for the Metropolitan. But it’s good for them. Some of the old codgers may learn something." Steven Bauer said, "This reminds me of the night the film opened. Martin Scorsese said, ‘Be prepared, they’re going to hate this film in Hollywood.’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘Because it’s about them.’" To look back and see what the atmosphere was like in Hollywood at the original 1983 premiere of Scarface, click here.

Posted September 22 2003
"It was De Palma and Stone coming together and clashing"
The following article by Bill Higgins was printed in today's Variety.

NEW YORK -- During Universal's lavish Metropolitan Club soiree last week for its re-release, star Al Pacino questioned what exactly Scarface is.

"It's not a movie," Pacino said. "I know it's a movie -- it's on film. But it's not a movie. What is it? It's?..."

"It's an opera," suggested co-star Steven Bauer.

"Yeah, but it's not a movie," Pacino said.

After more reflection the actor decided: "It was Brian De Palma and Oliver Stone coming together and clashing. It was combustion."

With this question finally answered, the last word on Scarface came from U Home Video prexy Craig Kornblau: "Who cares? It stood the test of time."

Posted September 18 2003
"If this is the 'masterpiece' you say, leave it alone"
Brian De Palma (pictured here arriving at the Scarface 20th anniversary premiere last night) "shot down" the idea of creating a new hip hop soundtrack for the new edition of Scarface, despite pressure from almost everyone else involved with the project, according to Elaine Dutka of the L.A. Times. In the article posted September 17th (and since reprinted in the Houston Chronicle), Dutka writes, "Island Def Jam chairman Lyor Cohen met with De Palma, suggesting that his artists compose a soundtrack, with or without [Giorgio] Moroder. Though Bregman and even Pacino made the case for the proposal, the director was aghast. 'They said it would help promotion, presenting the film in a different way,' the director says. 'But Giorgio's music was true to the period, I argued — and no one changes the scores on movies by Marty Scorsese, John Ford, David Lean. If this is the 'masterpiece' you say, leave it alone. I fought them tooth and nail and was the odd man out, not an unusual place for me. I have final cut, so that stopped them dead.'"

In the article, De Palma talked about the new generation's embracing of Tony Montana. "Montana is an antihero with whom contemporary kids can identify. He's about greed, power and self-destruction in the land of opportunity, capitalism unfettered by morality, which they see all around them. The movie has become the On the Waterfront of this generation — and Pacino is their [Marlon] Brando." The director further described his vision for the film that went on to inspire pop culture productions such as Miami Vice and Grand Theft Auto: "I was obsessed with the visual metaphor, taking acrylic vibrance to the level of Ludwig, the mad king of Bulgaria. Megalomania caused Tony to remake the environment a little better than God did. He created a deranged Playboy mansion — and cocaine made things even more delusional. Visiting Miami two years ago, I found that [Scarfiotti's] design re-created in South Beach. Those art deco buildings, once Jewish old-age homes, had become Scarfaceville."

According to Dutka, Universal home video division president Craig Kornblau still wants to create a "reinvigorated and more relevant soundtrack." But how could a soundtrack full of the sort of rap tracks included on Def Jam's new collection of "music inspired by Scarface" possibly be more relevant to the story? The film takes place in a specific time period, and Moroder's score perfectly reflects that. Kevin Liles, president of Def Jam, agrees with Kornblau, telling Dutka, "Hip-hop, as Chuck D says, is the 'CNN of the ghetto.' Incorporating it into a classic like this would convey the current reality. The message, unfortunately, is as relevant today as when the movie emerged. I'll be the first up to bat to rescore the film, which touched such a nerve in the 'hood. Though Montana is Latino, all those kids identify with his job in the burger shop, idolizing guys with the big Benz and flashy women. Music is the soul of any movie, and a new soundtrack would increase its power." Steve Jones at USA Today also posted an article September 17th about the new re-release. Each of these articles discusses how the hip-hop community has adopted Scarface as its own.

Dutka writes that Scarface test screenings were held last July in New York and Los Angeles to see whether or not the film might do well in theaters twenty years after its initial release. "The response," Dutka writes, "from a primarily young recruited audience, 50% white, 25% Latino and 25% African American, far exceeded expectations. In particular, fans lapped up scenes of the cartoonish protagonist living the high life — in every way, such as watching a white-nosed Montana slump into a pile of his powder, which was both tragic and comic relief." Kornblau told the author, "People [at the screening] were hooting and hollering, clapping and screaming — and half of them, we learned afterward in the focus group, had never seen it before in a theater." Meanwhile, according to the article, Universal's upcoming 20th anniversary Scarface DVD "has drawn advance orders of more than 2 million units — surpassing every title in the studio's library, which encompasses Jaws, Jurassic Park, Back to the Future and E.T."

Click here for yet more news.