Today Angela Lansbury celebrates her 91st birthday. In her 75 year career, she has won an Oscar, 5 Tony awards, 6 Golden Globes and the Olivier.
Is she slowing down? It doesn’t look that way: last month she appeared at Lincoln Center for the 25th anniversary of Beauty and the Beast. Accompanied by composer Alan Menken, she performed the title song.
She arrived in Hollywood in the early 40’s and at age 17 earned her first Academy Award nomination for GASLIGHT. Here are a few of her early publicity photos.
MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE was a film career highlight in 1962, and led to another Academy Award nomination.
Great success continued on stage as well, beginning with MAME in 1966, for which she won her first Tony.
Oh, and there is this: she is a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
Last week the Academy hosted a reunion of the cast and filmmakers of HEAT. Christopher Nolan moderated a post screening Q & A with director Michael Mann, and stars Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Above are six clips from the session, including discussions of the writing of the film; the main characters Vincent and Neil; the coffee shop scene; the characters of Eady, Justine and Drucker; the look of the film; and the sound and music.
De Niro and Pacino were joined by actors Amy Brenneman, Val Kilmer, Diane Venora and Mykelti Williamson, producers Pieter Jan Brugge and Art Linson, cinematographer Dante Spinotti, film editor William Goldenberg and sound re-recording mixer Andy Nelson.
Kristopher Tapley reported on the event in Variety :
As has been recounted before, Mann took his own inspiration from the real-life saga of criminal Neil McCauley, who was finally killed by Mann’s friend, Chicago police detective Charlie Adamson, in 1963. They were two men … who had a fondness for one another, despite being on opposite sides of the law. “They had the kind of intimacy only strangers can have,” Mann said.
That, and the idea of two characters the audience could invest in and pull for despite their goals being at such stark opposition to one another, was the germ of “Heat.”
Talking character specifics, De Niro spoke about visual cues. “At the onset, I thought there should be that difference in the characters in terms of how they come off, what colors they’re in,” he said.
He also found it instructive that while Hanna’s life is falling apart — he and his wife (played by Venora) are “passing each other on the down-slope of a marriage, my third, because I spend all my time chasing guys like you around the block,” the detective confides in his foe mid-film — McCauley’s is just getting started. The career criminal has dreams of moving to Fiji, perhaps settling down with Eady, a young woman who enters his life and nearly disrupts the entire credo he lives by: “Don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in 30 seconds flat if you feel the heat around the corner.”
A new BIRTH OF THE DRAGON promo reel has been released in conjunction with the world premiere screening of the film at the Toronto Film Festival.
Director George Nolfi tells Deadline that he immediately loved the script, written by Christopher Wilkinson and Stephen Rivele, and that he instantly liked the way Bruce Lee was presented: “It was such a fun and unexpected portrayal of him, not the flow-like-water Buddhist-influenced philosopher martial artist. He was only 24. I liked the notion of Bruce Lee, different than I had seen him before. Still in a very favorable light but not the fully matured Bruce Lee with a clear desire to break the glass ceiling, become a star, and bring Kung Fu to the wider Western world … he had a self-confidence bordering on cockiness that I found really endearing and hysterical. It was obvious this guy was going to go through the transformation from what he was … to the Bruce Lee that I knew.”
“When Bill Murray went to Japan to film the indie classic Lost in Translation back in 2002, he brought along a little novelty book called Making Out in Japanese,” writes Paul Teetor in LA Weekly.
” It included colloquial phrases for lovers such as ‘You have a beautiful body’ and ‘I don’t want to get married yet.'”
For a guy with such a mischievous mind and sly wit, the comic possibilities were endless. Soon after he arrived in Tokyo, he told a startled Japanese crew member, ‘I really don’t love you anymore, so I’m going to change my phone number.’ ”
When he went out for sushi, he would ask the chefs — scowling men wielding big knives — questions such as “Do your parents know about me?” or “Do you have a curfew?” or “Can we get in the backseat?” On special occasions, he would even ask them “Do you mind if I use protection?”
It could have been perceived as yet another ugly American abusing the native language for his own twisted entertainment. But because it was Murray delivering these intimate lines with his typical wacky charm and offbeat sense of humor, there were no international incidents, just laughs all around.
It was just part of the Tao of Bill.
If that sounds a bit mysterious, it’s all explained in Gavin Edwards’ new book, The Tao of Bill Murray: Real-Life Stories of Joy, Enlightenment and Party Crashing (Random House, $26). Even by the crazy-is-normal standards of Hollywood characters, Murray is a quirky guy. He has no agent and no manager, just a voice mailbox, which he rarely checks, where writers, producers and directors can pitch their projects. Sometimes months later they will get a 30-second phone call: I’ll do it. And there’s no telling when he will actually show up on the set.
Fittingly, then, Edwards has written an equally quirky book. At first glance it looks like a standard biography, and it does include a 33-page introduction that outlines Murray’s life. It starts with his Sept. 21, 1950, birth in a Chicago suburb, details his showbiz start in Chicago’s Second City and his breakthrough performance on Saturday Night Live, and includes most of his film roles all the way through to September 2014, when Edwards interviewed him at the Toronto Film Festival.
The bio-introduction is bookended by a 106-page filmography, in which Edwards analyzes Murray’s role in every one of his 59 films, including classics Caddyshack, Stripes, Ghostbusters, Tootsie, Groundhog Day, Rushmore and the aforementioned Lost in Translation.
But the heart of the book is the middle 150 pages, in which Edwards breaks down the 10 Principles of Bill. Tao is Chinese for “the way,” and the 10 principles make the case that Murray has a unique way with people that has made him one of the most beloved — and enduring — actors in a business where sell-by dates come and go awfully quickly.
In an interview, Edwards admitted that even he isn’t sure exactly what literary category his book fits into. “A friend said, ‘I think you’ve invented a new form of biography,’ and it certainly is a different approach to biography,” he says. “But I think it also works as a guide to how to live your life. I think people would benefit from following the Tao of Bill. And as a simple bathroom reader, it has a whole lot of funny stories.”
Indeed it does. Like the day in 1987 when Murray, who loves baseball almost as much as he loves golf, had the privilege of sitting in for legendary Chicago Cubs broadcaster Harry Caray during a Cubs-Montreal Expos game. Rather than try to replace Caray, Murray later said, he approached the job from the point of view of the rabid Cubs fan that he is. That led to a series of memorable quips during what he later described as “the peak of my performing career.”
On Montreal’s first batter: “Starting for the Expos in left field, Casey Candaele. He’s no good.” On fans in the Wrigley Field bleachers: “These are people who take bad falls down the stairs and don’t really know.” On fans yelling to him in the broadcast booth: “Nice to see the gang from Joliet maximum security prison here.” On cutting off beer sales after the eighth inning: “Anybody who can’t get drunk at the ball game before the eighth inning doesn’t belong here.” On why he was happy the Cubs’ Rick Sutcliffe was pitching so well during the 7-0 victory: “Frankly, he owes me money.”
Just for the record, here are the 10 Principles of Bill that Edwards came up with after interviewing more than 50 people who know Murray and reviewing hundreds of Murray anecdotes recounted in newspapers, magazines and books. (Keep in mind that these are something Edwards came up with, not principles that Murray claims to live by.) “When I was interviewing him in Toronto, I realized that my suspicions were right, that all Bill’s crazy behavior wasn’t just random wackiness,” Edwards says. “He had put a lot of thought into things like why he crashes parties and why he is so generous with his money.”
The 10 Principles: 1. Objects are opportunities. 2. Surprise is golden. Randomness is lobster. 3. Invite yourself to the party. 4. Make sure everybody else is invited to the party. 5. Music makes the people come together. 6. Drop coin on the world. 7. Be persistent, be persistent, be persistent. 8. Know your pleasures and their parameters. 9. Your spirit will follow your body. 10. While the earth spins, make yourself useful.
Most of them are self-explanatory. For those that aren’t, well, invite yourself to the party, put on some music, drop some coin and buy the book.
Indeed, the book sounds like it is a lot of fun, and perhaps it is enlightening too. Here’s what the publisher has to say about it:
This collection of the most epic, hilarious, and strange Bill Murray stories, many of which have never before been reported, spotlights the star’s extraordinary ability to infuse the everyday with surprise, absurdity, and wonder.
No one will ever believe you.
New York Times bestselling author Gavin Edwards, like the rest of us, has always been fascinated with Bill Murray—in particular the beloved actor’s adventures off-screen, which rival his filmography for sheer entertainment value. Edwards traveled to the places where Murray has lived, worked, and partied, in search of the most outrageous and hilarious Bill Murray stories from the past four decades, many of which have never before been reported. Bill once paid a child five dollars to ride his bike into a swimming pool. The star convinced Harvard’s JV women’s basketball team to play with him in a private game of hoops. Many of these surreal encounters ended with Bill whispering, “No one will ever believe you” into a stranger’s ear. But The Tao of Bill Murray is more than just a collection of wacky anecdotes. This volume puts the actor’s public clowning into a larger context, as Edwards distills Murray’s unique way of being into a set of guiding principles. A sideways mix of comedy and philosophy, full of photo bombs, late-night party crashes, and movie-set antics, this is the perfect book for anyone who calls themselves a Bill Murray fan—which is to say, everyone.
Kirkus Review points out, “The key to Murray’s philosophy is that it is not self-serving. Though he has become known for his carefree antics almost as much as for his acting roles, he does them out of earnest playfulness. “
Julie Miller writes in Vanity Fair about Robert De Niro’s retro techno tastes. Turns out he loves the tried and true:
“Last week, Anne Hathaway outed Robert De Niro, Hollywood legend and her co-star in The Intern, as being a fan of The Bachelor,” writes Miller.
.”And now, here’s an equally endearing anecdote from the Oscar-winning actress about Martin Scorsese’s go-to gruff—specifically that he has not yet adapted to those fancy-schmancy smart devices you kids call phones.
“While discussing their generation gap with People, Hathaway, ever the diplomat, says that the only difference she noticed between herself and the 72-year-old actor was his wisdom: ‘I just always think, My gosh, how much more have you seen!’
“De Niro, however, does not hesitate to pipe in with one key deviation he noticed, in terms of technology and social networking. ‘I have a computer,’ the actor says, ‘but I don’t do Facebook, don’t do Twitter, don’t do . . . what’s the other one?’
“When Hathaway comes to the actor’s rescue—’Instagram’—she drops the endearing bombshell about his phone.
“’Bob, can I out you about something?’ she asks before proceeding. ‘He has a flip phone. We talked about it [on set] when he wasn’t around. We all thought it was cute.’
“(In De Niro’s defense, a 2015 study shows that a third of Americans are not smartphone owners.)
“De Niro, refusing to be smartphone shamed, offers this explanation: ‘They’re easy to use!’”
De Niro isn’t the only one who loves flip phones.
Last year Vogue editor Anna Wintour was photographed by NewYork magazine using her flip phone at the US Open.
Rihanna uses a flip phone, making it seem like the most fashionable accessory available.
Warren Buffett, worth $67 billion, showed off his flip phone on CNN last year. “This is the one Alexander Graham Bell gave me,” he joked to Piers Morgan.
Kate Beckinsale goes old school with her flip phone. ..
…and so does Scarlett Johannson.
Why are people returning to the old phones? Treehugger has some possible answers: ” The smaller, more pocket-friendly size, the battery that lasts one to two weeks, and, if you’re not picky, options that can still be bought for a small price.
“Also, remember how rugged those older phones were? How many times did you drop yours and have it survive with barely a scratch? Smartphones are notoriously fragileand many people are tired of worrying over cracked screens.
“But maybe most of all, people are switching as a direct response to the totally connected lives we now lead. If you already have a tablet or laptop or both, why have a smartphone too? A basic phone that lets you make calls and send texts may be preferable at that point.
“And just like people’s fondness for music on vinyl, an old cell phone has a vintage feel and people feel trendy and different from the masses by using one instead of a smartphone that looks everyone else’s smartphone.
“We have two types of profiles: the 25 to 35 year-olds attracted by the retro and offbeat side of a telephone that is a little different, and those who are nostalgic for the phone that they used when they were younger,” said Maxime Chanson, who founded Lekki, a cell phone reseller, in 2010.
“Some use it to complement their smartphone, but others are going for the vintage, tired of the technology race between the phone makers.”
TARANTINO’S LEADING MAN: Great profile of Samuel L. Jackson on New York magazine’s Vulture site today, concentrating on his history with director Quentin Tarantino. Six collaborations and a quarter century of working together have produced some memorable characters.
Before their first film PULP FICTION, Sam had auditioned for Quentin for RESERVOIR DOGS. Sam was a seasoned theater veteran at this point, and had just burst onto big screens in Spike Lee’s JUNGLE FEVER, for which Sam had just won the Best Supporting Actor award at Cannes.
“He’d shown up to casting for this unknown screenwriter’s first feature having memorized a scene he thought he’d be playing with Tim Roth and Harvey Keitel,” writes Jada Yuan..”Instead, he got stuck reading with two bozos he’d never seen before, who didn’t know their lines and couldn’t stop laughing. ‘I didn’t realize it was Quentin, the director-writer, and Lawrence Bender, the producer,’ says Jackson, ‘but I knew that the audition was not very good.’ He didn’t get the job.”
“It wasn’t until RESERVOIR DOGS’ notorious premiere at the Sundance Film Festival the following January that Jackson saw Tarantino again. Half the audience had fled amid all that gleeful gore; Jackson went up afterward to shake Tarantino’s hand. ‘He’s like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, I remember you. How’d you like the guy who got your part?’ ’ says Jackson. ‘I was like, ‘Really? I think you would have had a better movie with me in it.’ '(Let it be known that Jackson’s well-honed Tarantino impression sounds like an unholy amalgam of Gollum, Joe Pesci in GoodFellas, and the Looney Tunes Road Runner.)”
This clip from INSIDE THE ACTOR’S STUDIO features Sam doing his impression of Quentin, whom he calls “Mr. Enthusiasm.”
Vulture continues the story: Two weeks after the RESERVOIR DOGS premiere, “a brown paper package arrived. The images of two gangsters were printed on the front, and a note inside read, ‘If you show this script to anyone, we’ll show up at your door next week and kill you.’ It was Pulp Fiction, whose Bible-quoting hit man ‘in a transitional period,’ Jules Winnfield, would make Jackson a household name at age 46. But only after someone in casting greeted Jackson as ‘Mr. Fishburne,’ and he got so pissed off he murdered his audition.” The rest is history. John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in PULP FICTION. As Jules Winnfield in PULP FICTION.
Jackson’s next Tarantino character was the arms dealer Ordell Robbie in JACKIE BROWN, which is Sam’s favorite role in the Tarantino-verse. “I think he would be a great guy to hang out with — as long as you didn’t cross him,” Jackson says. In JACKIE BROWN.
As a piano player in KILL BILL: VOL. 2
As Stephen in DJANGO UNCHAINED.
These roles are remarkable for their variety, and spring from a relationship between director and actor that transcends the normal definition of those roles. The two “are the cinematic equivalent of an old married couple,” writes Yuan. “‘Quentin and I have a kind of cinematic affinity,’ says Jackson. They discovered it on the set of Pulp Fiction when Jackson was doing his usual binge of Asian movies. ‘Quentin would walk by my trailer, and he would always hear the sounds of either kung-fu fighting or bullets going off, and he would look in the door and say, ‘What are you watching?’ ’ says Jackson. They also realized they’d both spent much of their comic-book-obsessed childhoods in Tennessee in the care of their grandparents, and to this day they do regular movie nights at Tarantino’s house, because, says Jackson, ‘he’s got a bigger theater.’ ”
The next movie from the pair is THE HATEFUL EIGHT. Jackson plays Major Marquis Warren, an ex-slave and veteran of the Union Army. The film is both a shoot-’em-up and a whodunit. Tarantino and Jackson have taken to calling Marquis “Hercule Negro, like Hercule Poirot,” says Jackson, “because he is a bit of a detective.” As Major Marquis Warren in THE HATEFUL EIGHT.
Tim Roth sums up the creative collaboration between Jackson and Tarantino: “It feels, to me, that Quentin’s leading man is Sam,” says Roth, an original Reservoir Dog and a member of the Hateful Eight. “And I think that’s an extraordinary circumstance, for a white man, however talented, to be able to write for a leading man, a black actor, and give him such a range of roles.”
“A NEW BOOK ALLOWS YOU TO BASK IN THE REDOLENT BOUQUET OF A HOLLYWOOD TREASURE.” writes John Brownlee at Fast Company.
Lost in Translation by Henry Kaye
“Bill Murray is one of the most elusive and enigmatic actors in Hollywood, but what does he smell like? Cook Your Own Food is a new scratch and sniff tribute to the Ghostbusters and Scrooged actor that allows you to bask in Murray’s fragrant, ever-changing musk. It’s the literary equivalent of sticking your head under Murray’s armpit and inhaling deeply.”
Moonrise Kingdom by Witzje Valkemar
“Published by the self-described “nomadic publisher” Sugoi Press, Cook Your Own Food – A Bill Murray Scratch And Sniff features 10 different pages drawn by 10 different artists featuring 10 different smells inspired by an assortment of Bill Murray films. It’s the next best thing to using a time machine to travel back to the set of his best movies and smell him for yourself.”
Lost in Translation by Grace Danico
“One page illustrated by Grace Danico featuring Bill Murray’s Suntory hawking character in Lost in Translation might smell like whiskey; another page, illustrating the scene from the same movie when Murray and Scarlett Johansson go out for dinner, would smell like sushi. Other pages feature smells from Moonrise Kingdom, Groundhog’s Day, The Life Aquatic, What About Bob? and more.”
What about Bob by Jon Boam
“But why Bill Murray, of all people? “Bill Murray really lends himself to re-interpretation,” says John Jarvis of Sugoi Press. “He has everything: the sadness, the hilarity, the weight. You just need to turn on your laptop and you’re bombarded with illustrations of him. We wanted to add a layer on top, bring people closer to him. So now you can eat sushi with him, chomp on apples with him, and eat a Baby Ruth with him.”
The Sugoi site says “Feel closer to the greatest man alive! Delve into his scenes, drink with him, laugh with him and smell as he smells.We’ve brought together some amazing artists to re-interpret some classic Bill Murray films. Focusing on his culinary habits.Scratch the smelly pads at the top right and enter the world of Bill Murray.”
The word is that STRAIGHT OUTTA COMPTON, F. Gary Gray’s telling of the early years of NWA, is great.
Reviews are good; Variety’s Scott Foundas says “Director F. Gary Gray turns the meteoric rise and fractious fall of rap supergroup N.W.A. into a sprawling, exhilarating Los Angeles hip-hop epic.”
Lizzie Plaugic writes in The Verge review: “The movie’s Compton backdrop gives it a heavy atmosphere, but one in which levity can still be found, and when its jokes land — which is often — relief rushes in with the laughter. The relatively unknown cast rises to the incredible challenge of portraying some of the most recognizable people in the music industry. As Eazy-E, Jason Mitchell is by turns thick-headed, cunning, kind, infuriating, and fragile. Corey Hawkins plays Dr. Dre with an easy intelligence that would’ve made him look like an undoubtable force even if we didn’t already know the man he would turn out to be (He cries twice during the movie; so did I). O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Ice Cube’s real life son, who looks almost exactly like his dad on screen) plays Cube with a humanity that makes him seem both familiar and untouchable.”
And the advance word of mouth coming out of the audience preview screenings is enthusiastic; check out these tweets:
Grantland is hosting TOM CRUISE week, and it’s a must see. The top of the page has this Top Gun/Risky Business mashup header, which features an animated Tom Cruise doing his iconic underwear dance.
This special celebratory section has several articles with titles like THE COMEDIC STYLINGS — INTENTIONAL AND OTHERWISE — OF TOM CRUISE, and REMEMBERING ‘RAINMAN’: THE $350 MILLION MOVIE THAT HOLLYWOOD WOULDN’T TOUCH TODAY and SEX, DEATH AND KUBRICK: HOW ‘EYES WIDE SHUT’ CHANGED TOM CRUISE’S CAREER.
The most entertaining one is called WHICH TOM CRUISE IS THE BEST TOM CRUISE? Be sure to try your hand at the interactive bracket that allows you to vote for you own favorite Cruise. You vote in four different seeded divisions, in which you can struggle to choose between Joel Goodson and Maverick, to rank Ethan Hunt against Ron Kovic, and to pit Les Grossman vs. Jerry Maguire. Couch Jumper Cruise looks to be way out in front in the Real Cruise division.
“Federico Fellini’s fourth film to win the foreign Oscar, 1973’s AMARCORD will receive a special tribute at the 2015 Venice Film Festival, which runs September 2-12,” writes Ryan Lattanzio in Indiewire.
“A new restoration from eminent preservation entity Cineteca di Bologna will world-premiere …at the festival,” he continues. The film “boasts a menagerie of eccentric, colorful characters…Nina Rota, of course, delivers yet another magical score.”
Fellini on the set of AMARCORD.
In addition to winning the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, Fellini also received two additional Academy Award nominations for AMARCORD: Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay.
Vincent Canby, critic for the New York Times, loved the film when it opened, writing: “It’s an extravagantly funny, sometimes dreamlike evocation of a year in the life of a small Italian coastal town in the nineteen-thirties, not as it literally was, perhaps, but as it is recalled by a director with a superstar’s access to the resources of the Italian film industry and a piper’s command over our imaginations. When Mr. Fellini is working in peak condition, as he is in AMARCORD (the vernacular for ‘I remember’ in Romagna), he somehow brings out the best in us. We become more humane, less stuffy, more appreciative of the profound importance of attitudes that in other circumstances would seem merely eccentric if not lunatic…AMARCORD is as full of tales as Scheherazade, some romantic, some slapstick, some elegiacal, some bawdy, some as mysterious as the unexpected sight of a peacock flying through a light snowfall. It’s a film of exhilarating beauty.”
AMARCORD is nostalgia, a warm recreation of the world of Fellini’s childhood, but it is not merely memory, argues critic Sam Rohdie, it is a fantastical universe of its own. “It is an imaginary town with imaginary, projected characters who are fragments, magnifications, caricatures, and grotesques, as in a dream.” To watch the film is to share Fellini’s own flickering daydream, a mixture of recollection and fantasy.
Fellini’s illustration for the character of Aurelio Biondi, the short fused working class father of the teen protagonist, Titta.
“There was his sketching and doodling, essentially a playing,” Rohdie continues, “a search for the shape of the film in these images, a process of seeking out and discovery that carried over into the actual filming, where the film you see is the film being discovered in the process of filming, as if there were no ‘before’ to it, as if the film had been found. It is not a record, then, of something outside it but an expression of an inspiration chanced upon at the moment of filming.”
Felliini’s film technique underscores this sense of illusion by celebrating the artificiality of the effects. One night a majestic cruise ship passes close by the town, like a mystical apparition. The townspeople marvel as it steams by, lights aglow in the fog. Yet the ship was constructed of cardboard, the ocean was black plastic, it was all cinema magic.
Rohdie concludes: “”The essential subject of Fellini’s films, and particularly of the late ones, like AMARCORD is the cinema itself, another world: ephemeral, touching, ineffable, comic, and grand . . . like a pheasant in the snow.”
My favorite of Rohdie’s observations: “AMARCORD is like a circus, composed of numbers, perfectly linear and sequential but whose links are neither logical, dramatic, nor narratively motivated. Each of the numbers in the film is a circus act, and the actors are the circus clowns.”
There is no higher praise, as far as I’m concerned.