Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Second trailer for Angelina Jolie's period drama Unbroken

A brand new trailer - the second one in less than a month - has been released for the Angelina Jolie film Unbroken, set for release this Christmas. The film is based on the life of Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.

Zamperini - who died on July 2 at the age of 97 - is played by Jack O'Connell with newcomer C.J. Valloy as Louis when he was a boy. Garret Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson and Jai Courteny costar as fellow captives, his buddies who we see forced by the Japanese to pummel Zamperini in turn. Joel and Ethan Coen wrote the script based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand but it's not the only Louis Zamperini story out there. According to the LA Times, Zamperini's own memoir The Devil at My Heels was optioned by Universal in 1956 with Tony Curtis 'penciled in' to star. Except Curtis went on to do Spartacus instead, and Zamperini's story was left in the dust.

This time around the stars are aligned. Truly. Jolie has gathered top names in their fields, stars in their area of expertise, if you will. Besides the Coen brothers (Fargo, No Country for Old Men), Jolie had the acclaimed Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall, Revolutionary Road, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski, Doubt, Oh Brother Where are You? Prisoners) - considered by many to be the best cinematographer working today - as her director of photography and hired on the marvelous Monsieur Alexandre Desplat who has given us scores of heart-swelling music before ala The Grand Budapest Hotel, Philomena, Benjamin Buttons, ArgoThe Fantastic Mr. Fox and so many more, to score the soundtrack. 

Let's watch the trailer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Staring at the Flame: John Le Carre on Philip Seymour Hoffman in The New York Times

I'm stealing from the New York Times today and shamelessly sharing John Lecarre's heartfelt essay about Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom I love and I think a lot of you do too. Hoffman stars posthumously in A Most Wanted Man based on LeCarre's novel, one of this year's movies based on books, which opens this Friday, July 25 and along with Hoffman, stars Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright, Daniel Bruhl and Grigorly Dobrijin. The film was directed by Anton Corbijn from a screenplay by Andrew Bovell.

Staring at the Flame

Anton Corbijn/Schirmer/Mosel, Munich. From the recently published Schirmer/Mosel book, Anton Corbijn - Looking at A Most Wanted Man. All Rights Reserved.

I reckon I spent five hours at most in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s close company, six at a pinch. Otherwise it was standing around with other people on the set of “A Most Wanted Man,” watching him on the monitor and afterward telling him he was great, or deciding better to keep your thoughts to yourself. I didn’t even do a lot of that: a couple of visits to the set, one silly walk-on part that required me to grow a disgusting beard, took all day and delivered a smudgy picture of somebody I was grateful not to recognize. There’s probably nobody more redundant in the film world than a writer of origin hanging around the set of his movie, as I’ve learned to my cost. Alec Guinness actually did me the favor of having me shown off the set of the BBC’s TV adaptation of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” All I was wanting to do was radiate my admiration, but Alec said my glare was too intense.

Come to think of it, Philip did the same favor for a woman friend of ours one afternoon on the shoot of “A Most Wanted Man” in Hamburg that winter of 2012. She was standing in a group 30-odd yards away from him, just watching and getting cold like everybody else. But something about her bothered him, and he had her removed. It was a little eerie, a little psychic, but he was bang on target because the woman in the case is a novelist, too, and she can do intensity with the best of us. Philip didn’t know that. He just sniffed it.

In retrospect, nothing of that kind surprised me about Philip, because his intuition was luminous from the instant you met him. So was his intelligence. A lot of actors act intelligent, but Philip was the real thing: a shining, artistic polymath with an intelligence that came at you like a pair of headlights and enveloped you from the moment he grabbed your hand, put a huge arm round your neck and shoved a cheek against yours; or if the mood took him, hugged you to him like a big, pudgy schoolboy, then stood and beamed at you while he took stock of the effect.

Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing. The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death. Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t. Philip was burning himself out before your eyes. Nobody could live at his pace and stay the course, and in bursts of startling intimacy he needed you to know it.

No actor had ever made quite the impact on me that Philip did at that first encounter: not Richard Burton, not Burt Lancaster or even Alec Guinness. Philip greeted me as if he’d been waiting to meet me all his life, which I suspect was how he greeted everyone. But I’d been waiting to meet Philip for a long time. I reckoned his “Capote” the best single performance I’d seen on screen. But I didn’t dare tell him that, because there’s always a danger with actors, when you tell them how great they were nine years ago, that they demand to know what’s been wrong with their performances ever since.

But I did tell him that he was the only American actor I knew who could play my character George Smiley, a role first graced by Guinness in the BBC “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” and more recently by Gary Oldman in the big-screen adaptation — but then, as a loyal Brit, I was claiming Gary Oldman for our own.

Perhaps I was also remembering that, like Guinness, Philip wasn’t much of a lover on screen, but mercifully, we didn’t have to bother about that in our movie. If Philip had to take a girl in his arms, you didn’t actually blush and look away as you did with Guinness, but you couldn’t help feeling that somehow he was doing it for you rather than himself.

Our filmmakers had a lot of discussion about whether they could get Philip into bed with somebody, and it’s an interesting thought that when they did finally come up with a proposal, both partners ran a mile. It was only when the magnificent actress Nina Hoss appeared beside him that the makers realized they were looking at a small miracle of romantic failure. In her role, which was hastily bulked out, she is Philip’s adoring work mate, acolyte and steadying hand, and he breaks her heart.

Photo credit: Kerry Brown/Roadside Attractions

That suited Philip just fine. His role of Günther Bachmann, middle-aged German intelligence officer on the skids, did not allow for enduring love or any other kind. Philip had made that decision from Day 1 and to rub it in, carried a well-thumbed paperback copy of my novel around with him — and what author of origin could ask more? — to brandish in the face of anyone who wanted to sex the story up.

The movie of “A Most Wanted Man” also features Rachel McAdams and Willem Dafoe, and opens in a cinema near you, I hope, so start saving now. It was shot almost entirely in Hamburg and Berlin, and numbers in its cast some of Germany’s most distinguished actors in relatively humble roles, not only the sublime Nina Hoss (the film “Barbara”), but also Daniel Brühl (“Rush”).

In the novel, Bachmann is a secret agent on his uppers. Well, Philip can relate to that. The character’s been whisked home from Beirut after losing his precious spy network to the clumsiness or worse of the C.I.A. He has been put out to grass in Hamburg, the city that played host to the 9/11 conspirators. Its regional intelligence arm, and many of its citizens, are still living with that embarrassment.

Bachmann’s self-devised mission is to put the score straight: not by way of snatch teams, waterboards and extrajudicial killings, but by the artful penetration of spies, by espousal, by using the enemy’s own weight to bring him down, and the consequent disarming of jihadism from within.

Over a fancy dinner with the filmmakers and the high end of the cast, I don’t remember either Philip or myself talking much about the actual role of Bachmann; just more generally, about such things as the care and maintenance of secret agents and the pastoral role incumbent on their agent runners. Forget blackmail, I said. Forget the macho. Forget sleep deprivation, locking people in boxes, simulated executions and other enhancements. The best agents, snitches, joes, informants or whatever you want to call them, I pontificated, needed patience, understanding and loving care. I like to think he took my homily to heart, but more likely he was wondering whether he could use a bit of that soupy expression I put on when I’m trying to impress.

It’s hard now to write with detachment about Philip’s performance as a desperate middle-aged man going amok, or the way he fashioned the arc of his character’s self-destruction. He was directed, of course. And the director, Anton Corbijn, a cultural polymath in Philip’s class, is many wonderful things: photographer of world renown, pillar of the contemporary music scene and himself the subject of a documentary film. His first feature, “Control” in black and white, is iconic. He is currently making a movie about James Dean. Yet for all that, his creative talents, where I have seen them at work, strike me as inward and sovereign to himself. He would be the last person, I suspect, to describe himself as a theoretical dramatist, or articulate communicator about the inner life of a character. Philip had to have that dialogue with himself, and it must have been a pretty morbid one, filled with questions like: At which point exactly do I lose all sense of moderation? Or, why do I insist on going through with this whole thing when deep down I know it can only end in tragedy? But tragedy lured Bachmann like a wrecker’s lamp, and it lured Philip, too.

There was a problem about accents. We had really good German actors who spoke English with a German accent. Collective wisdom dictated, not necessarily wisely, that Philip should do the same. For the first few minutes of listening to him, I thought, “Crikey.” No German I knew spoke English like this. He did a mouth thing, a kind of pout. He seemed to kiss his lines rather than speak them. Then gradually he did what only the greatest actors can do. He made his voice the only authentic one, the lonely one, the odd one out, the one you depended on amid all the others. And every time it left the stage, like the great man himself, you waited for its return with impatience and mounting unease.

We shall wait a long time for another Philip."

John le Carré is the author of “A Most Wanted Man” and, most recently, “A Delicate Truth.” “A Most Wanted Man” will be in theaters on Friday.

Copyright © David Cornwell 2014

Let's watch the trailer ...

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Lactating on George Clooney's chest and more tidbits from THR's Dramatic Actress Roundtable

A few Sundays ago I shared The Hollywood Reporter's Roundtable with a group of actors potentially up for an Emmy for their television roles. 

This week I'm posting the ladies; Julianna Margulies (The Good Wife), Keri Russell (The Americans), Vera Farmiga (Bates Motel), Claire Danes (Homeland) and Jessica Pare (Mad Men) and Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story:Coven) who does share some insight into her role in 12 Years a Slave.

While none of the shows truly fall into my 'based on a book' purview, I've decided to post the THR video since I posted the guys (Masters of Sex is based on a book).

The women are incredibly forthcoming in the hour-long conversation in which the actors talk about moving on after their tv series end, waiting for the right roles, and how hard it is for women when most parts for women are 'girlfriend of' parts, doing plays because they fill and expand an actor's soul. 

"Working while pregnant" is an especially noteworthy segment which starts about twenty five minutes in with Claire Dane talking about being chained to a pipe at seven and a half months pregnant and thinking "this sucks!" She also recalled doing a love scene, feeling her baby kicking inside her while trying to gaze seductively into her costar's eyes. And working during post-pregnancy: when Vera Farmiga shares that she lactated all over George Clooney's chest when she was shooting Up in the Air, Julianne Margulies pipes up with a snark about George's reaction. Lots of fun insights like that.

While now know that only Julianne Margulies, Claire Danes and Sarah Paulson are actually up for an Emmy this year, the entire panel is such a great 'listen'. I hope you will!
The Emmy Awards airs August 25th in the US. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Michael Keaton tells himself "You used to be a movie star" in Birdman trailer

*Okay. If you think this poster is awesome - and I do, I love the graphic approach - you've got to love the trailer for Birdman. The film from writer/director Alejandro González Iñárritu (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel, Biutiful) stars Michael Keaton as the former superhero movie star who mounts a Broadway play in an effort to revive his flagging career. Some are calling it a comeback for Keaton and it's hard not to cry 'Meta!' at the sight of the actor being haunted by his own Batmanesque character in this trailer. The film - weird and wild and sort of surprising considering Iñárritu's previous work - is slated for release here in the states on October 17th. 

Birdman co-stars Emma Stone as the former star's daughter and assistant, Zach Galifianakis as producer of the play, Naomi Watts as his co-star, along with Amy Ryan, Andrea Riseborough, and Edward Norton in, whether intentionally or not, what amounts to a comic shout out to Fight Club.

Nope, it's not based on a book, a play, or a short story BUT the play within the movie is!
Raymond Carver's famous story "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" serves as the central piece. And that's all the connection I need to share this awesome trailer with you:) 

*Oops; I published this post erroneously stating that Emma Stone tells Michael Keaton "You used to be a movie star" which is obviously not the case in the trailer here. The error has been corrected.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Nicole Kidman goes brown for The Family Fang movie based on the book by Kevin Wilson

Two and a half years ago I posted the news that Nicole Kidman had acquired the film rights to The Family Fang, Kevin Wilson's 2011 debut novel. At the time I wasn't even sure who Kidman would play. Now we're learning, via onlocationvactions.com, that filming has begun in the NYC area, and that Kidman has died her hair dark brown for the part. She'll play Annie Fang with Jason Bateman on as Buster, Annie's brother.  Actually the comic actor is also on as director - Kidman was reportedly so impressed with Bateman's feature directorial debut Bad Words, she hired him for The Family Fang. Christopher Walken [he's gonna be Captain Hook too!] is set to star as their father, Caleb Fang. Not sure who is playing his wife Camille. I can't see how this will be anything but fabulous. We know Bateman and Walken have funny chops, and it's time for Kidman to have another go at the genre. The screenplay was written by David Lindsay-Abaire whose excellent script for Rabbit Hole [based on his play] helped earn Nicole Kidman an Academy nomination. 

Here's a refresher on the material from the author's website.  

Mr. and Mrs. Fang called it art. Their children called it mischief.
Performance artists Caleb and Camille Fang dedicated themselves to making great art. But when an artist’s work lies in subverting normality, it can be difficult to raise well-adjusted children. Just ask Buster and Annie Fang. For as along as they can remember, they starred (unwillingly) in their parents’ madcap pieces. But now that they are grown up, the chaos of their childhood has made it difficult to cope with life outside the fishbowl of their parents’ strange world.
When the lives they’ve built come crashing down, brother and sister have nowhere to go but home, where they discover that Caleb and Camille are planning one last performance—their magnum opus—whether the kids agree to participate or not. Soon, ambition breeds conflict, bringing the Fangs to face the difficult decision about what’s ultimately more important: their family or their art.
Filled with Kevin Wilson’s endless creativity, vibrant prose, sharp humor, and keen sense of the complex performances that unfold in the relationships of people who love one another, The Family Fang is a masterfully executed tale that is as bizarre as it is touching.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jane Fonda's big fake boobs and 5 more things you need to know about the movie 'This is Where I Leave You'

I really can't wait to see the adaptation of Jonathan Tropper's This is Where I Leave You which I discovered and blogged about a year ago. It's mostly because I'm a major fan of the legendary Jane Fonda who stars as Hillary Foxman, the celebrity child shrink who compels her family to sit shiva after her husband and the father of their four adult children dies. Sitting shiva, fyi dear gentile readers, is the traditional Jewish way to mourn the death of a close family member, and calls for the family to gather together for 7 days (shiva = seven) while friends and other relatives come, often bearing food, to pay their respects and share memories. Seven days together with your family. 

In the case of the Foxmans, the four adult children -Judd (Jason Bateman), Wendy (Tina Fey), Phillip (Adam Driver) and Paul (Corey Stoll) - come in various stages of reluctance and wariness, depending on their personal baggage, which they all bring in spades. The truth is I kind of adore all these actors; Jason Bateman for Arrested Development and his immature schmuck in Juno, Adam Driver for his odd but ultimately lovable Adam character in Girls, Corey Stoll for his fatally flawed Congressman Russo in House of Cards and Tina Fey because she's Tina Fey. They're joined by an assortment of 'spouses,exes and might-have-beens', among them, Jen(Abigail Spencer), Judd's former wife now having an affair with his boss, Wade Boulanger (Dax Shepherd) and Penny (Rose Byrne) a woman Judd crushed on in high school. Connie Britten is Phillip's older girlfriend Tracy, and Timothy Olyphant is Horry, Wendy's old neighborhood beau, brain damaged in a tragic accident, while Debra Monk plays his mother Linda, who has a very, very interesting role indeed. If you haven't read the book, you'll have to see the movie for that one!

The novel was magnificent, one of those books that brings you laughing all the way through its poignant, heartfelt look at these rich, very human, very messed up, very real lives. I found an article by Anthony Breznican at Entertainment Weekly which I'm going to share in full here. Breznican went to BookCon back in May as did author and screenwriter Tropper, and director Shawn Levy along with Tina Fey and Jason Bateman. "This is Where I Leave You: Six Movie Revelations from BookCon" tells us what he learned there. It's an enlightening and entertaining piece and I thought you might enjoy it as well. The very first question - why the family's name has been changed - is a question I ask constantly about character names that are different in the movie version of various novels; now I know!
Here's Breznican's piece, enjoy and don't miss the trailer for the film, below.


In the novel, the dysfunctional family is named the Foxmans, but the studio had trouble getting legal clearance for that.

“You have to submit names of all the characters, and if there are real people with those names in the community or area represented in the movie, you can’t use that name,” Levy said. “And we didn’t want to change the first names.”
“So Shawn and I started emailing back and forth vaguely Jewish names,” Tropper said.
“I have a friend I do that with, too,” Fey interjected.
Bateman joked that “vaguely Jewish” was “also one of the titles we were thinking about.”


The novel is written in the first-person, with Judd Foxman Altman narrating his own story. But a movie naturally can’t have the same interior perspective, at least not with a crushing amount of narration.
Levy was afraid of losing some of the more memorable lines from the book, so he went through and marked up a copy of the book to highlight narration he wanted Tropper to reconfigure into dialogue.
“I underline everything I loved,” Levy said. “And I still have that copy. I wanted the movie to be, if anything, more faithful to the book.”


Both Fey, who plays Wendy (the not-so-happily married mom of two) and Bateman, who plays the sad-sack Judd (whose wife has just him for his boss) are primarily known for comedies. But obviously there’s a lot about the characters that is more melancholy than funny.
Bateman says he was surprised that some of the saddest moments, such as the opening scene where he gets word of his father’s death, actually result in some of the biggest laughs.
“[Tropper] creates these emotionally vulnerable situations which is really the grounding of comedy anyway,” the actor said. “There’s nothing funny about somebody who’s bullet proof. So the comedy was always right there for you to grab if you wanted to.”


One of the scenes invented for the movie was a battle between Fey and Bateman when the sister starts trying to get her brother to reveal the secret of his marriage breakup.
They go from trading whispered insults to actually grappling in front of a houseful of mourners.
It helps when you give opposite direction to your actors,” Levy said. “I would whisper in Jason’s ear: ‘Shut her up.’ And I would go to Tina: ‘Make him confess.’ The only note I ever gave her was, ‘Pull his hair harder.’”
“This came off three times!” Bateman joked, wiggling his hair like a wig.
“It ended up backwards,” Fey said.
“Is it on straight now?” Bateman asked.


Another change to the book takes place later in the story, when Judd is at the hospital with his brother Phillip (Adam Driver) and his sister Wendy, only to come face-to-face with his ex-boss Wade (Dax Shephard), who gets pushy over his affair with Judd’s wife.
In the novel, Wade ends up getting decked in the face by Phillip (seen here getting the dreaded Purple Nurple in another scene.) But Levy and Tropper decided it might be more interesting if the sister stepped in instead. “I’m certified in stage combat,” Fey joked.
“Wendy is always giving advice to Judd, but we thought it would be good to have Tina make Wendy stand up for her brother and take out Wade,” Levy said.

The actress didn’t just clock Shephard, she made up the insults that provoke the character to throw the punch. “You won’t find many actors who give an insult about themselves to another actor to say to them!” Levy said.
“The way I saw it is, we were getting some free writing from Tina Fey,” Tropper added. “And I could take credit for it!”


In both the movie and the book, Jane Fonda’s character of the widowed mother is uncomfortably frank about her sexuality, and has recently had … augmentation. The way they created that in the film is with kind of rubber chest-plate that had anatomically correct (and massive) breasts.
“Jane said, ‘I want to see the top prosthetician in L.A. and get really, really big boobs,” Levy said. “They look completely real, and we would be sitting at lunch and she would just go, ‘Oops …’” He mimed a robe falling open.
“To Jane, it was like wearing a chest plate,” Levy said. “She would, like, flash passing-by cars!”

How can you not love a woman like that!

Let's watch the trailer!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Tim Robbins says "Take my wife, please" in Life of Crime based on Elmore Leonard novel

Here's one I almost missed. The movie is titled Life of Crime and it's based on a book by Elmore Leonard. What!? You've read every Elmore Leonard book ever written and you've never heard of Life of Crime? That's because they went and switched the name up. Life of Crime is based on The Switch, Leonard's 1978 novel about two convicts kidnapping the wife of a wealthy real estate developer. Except he refuses to pay the million dollar ransom. He's just not that into her. Why'd it take so long to get Leonard's tale to the screen when so many of Leonard's novels and stories have already hit both the big (Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, Be Cool, 3:10 to Yuma [based on the short story] ) and little screen (Justified, based on his story 'Fire in the Hole)? I don't know. I do know that before his death last year at the age of 87, over thirty of his novels and short stories had been turned into adaptations. You can peruse his entire list of film and television credits for yourself on his imdb.com page.

Here's how the publisher summed up Leonard's book-
Dangerously eccentric characters, razor-sharp black humor, brilliant dialog, and suspense all rolled into one tight package—that’s The Switch, Elmore Leonard’s classic tale of a kidnapping gone wrong…or terribly right, depending on how you look at it. The Grand Master whom the New York Times Book Review calls, “the greatest crime writer of our time, perhaps ever,” has written a wry and twisting tale that any of the other all-time greats—Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, John D. MacDonald, James M. Cain, Robert Parker…every noir author who ever walked a detective, cop, or criminal into a shadowy alley—would be thrilled to call their own. Leonard, the man who has given us U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens (currently starring in TV’s Justified) is at his storytelling best, as a spurned wife decides to take a rightful—and profitable—revenge on her deceiving hubby by teaming up with the two thugs he hired to abduct her.

Tim Robbins and Jennifer Aniston are playing Frank and Mickey Dawson, the husband and wife, with John Hawkes, Yasiin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def) as the kidnappers. Isla Fisher is Melanie ("with the big tits"), the woman Frank would rather cuddle than his wife. This isn't Fisher's first foray as the mistress; she was Tom's woman on the side, Myrtle, in The Great Gatsby. We see Will Forte briefly in the trailer as Marshall Taylor; I'm hoping his part isn't super small as he was so surprisingly good in Nebraska. Life of Crime comes out at the end of summer, on August 29th. Give the trailer a gander below. It looks typically dark and weird and wildly funny, but that's Elmore Leonard! I'm glad the filmmakers chose to stay in period so Tim Robbins can look ridiculous in plaid bathing trunks and as for the kidnappers, I don't know what's more frightening - the animal mask or the one of Nixon!