'Make no mistake: She's a dancer.'

September 2nd, 2013

John Lahr profiles Claire Danes in The New Yorker.

Lahr's profile touches on many of the highs and lows of her career, with particular attention paid to Homeland for obvious reasons, but for me the highlight is – and probably always will be, no matter what she's cast in for the rest of her career – the role that made her famous, that of Angela Chase. Picture the scene, with My So-Called Life's producers Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz and the show's writer Winnie Holzman auditioning two actresses for the role:

[Alicia] Silverstone auditioned first. Zwick, impressed, told Herskovitz, "It's done. Just cast her." But Herskovitz thought she was too pretty for Holzman's messy high-school universe, which included subplots about drug addiction, bullying, binge drinking, promiscuity, and homosexuality. "Alicia is so beautiful that that would have affected her experience of the world. People would have been telling her she was beautiful since she was six years old. You can't put that face in what's been written for this girl," he argued. Linda Lowy, the casting director, suggested that they see Danes before deciding. "From the minute she walked in the room, Claire was chilling, astounding, and silent," Lowy said. "There was so much power coming out of her without her doing much." One of the scenes that Danes read – which involved a nervy bathroom breakup with Angela's best friend, Sharon – required her to cry. "Tell me what I did, Angela. I mean, I would really like to know," Sharon says. "We get to that line and Claire's face turns entirely red," Herskovitz said. "Her body starts to vibrate and tears come into her eyes. You realize that she's having a physical experience that is beyond acting." Even then, Danes's defining quality as an actress – a combination of thoughtfulness and impulsiveness – was on display. "She seemed to have been born fully grown, you know, out of a seashell," Herskovitz said. Zwick claimed that Danes was his first sighting of a "wise child," a rare species that show business occasionally tosses up. As he put it later, "What she knows cannot be taught." Danes also satisfied another quality that Holzman's script called for: her face could transform in an instant from beautiful to ordinary.

Holzman's pilot for "My So-Called Life" (then titled "Someone Like Me") was meant to trap "a naked quality, not a person but a feeling of freedom and bondage, shyness and fearlessness," she said. Holzman found herself staring at this protean paradox in the flesh. Danes "was sexy and not sexy, free and bound up, open and closed, funny and frighteningly serious," Holzman recalled. Her performance freed Holzman's imagination. "We gave birth to each other," she said. "I was looking at someone who literally could do anything, and so I could, too." The novelist and television writer Richard Kramer, who worked on "My So-Called Life," places Holzman's writing for the show on a continuum of original television voices that leads from her to Mike White, Larry David, and Lena Dunham. "Winnie wouldn't be Winnie without Claire," he said. "And Claire wouldn't be Claire without Winnie. There was something mythological about their meeting."

After Danes left the audition room, Lowy recalled, "no one could really speak." In the excitement of the moment, the production team found themselves faced with a conundrum. Silverstone was sixteen and "emancipated," meaning, in Hollywood's piquant terminology, that she could work very long days. Danes was thirteen and, by law, had to go to school. If they cast Silverstone, they could move ahead with the show they'd written; if they opted for Danes, they'd have to adapt later scripts to accommodate her schedule. "We turned to Winnie," Herskovitz recalled. "Winnie said, 'Let's change the nature of the show.' " He added, "In that moment, we decided to include the lives of the parents more."

A fortunate day for everyone except Alicia Silverstone.1

[Via Longform]

  1. But then, had she been contracted to a TV show in 1994/5 and waiting to see if it would be renewed Silverstone might not have been free to play Cher Horowitz. Which would also have been a shame.

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Burton and Taylor and Burton and Bonham Carter

July 13th, 2013

Helena Bonham Carter on preparing to play Elizabeth Taylor:

She read the biography Furious Love, by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger. At the end of the book, Schoenberger explains why she had wanted to write about the couple. "She said she went to UCLA and the students said to her: 'Oh, I didn't know Elizabeth Taylor was married to Tim Burton.' She was so horrified, she thought she had to reclaim the name Burton. It's been hijacked." She bursts out laughing, just as she did when she first read it, with the actual Tim Burton, father of her two children, sitting next to her. "Tim said: 'What's so funny? Haven't they just died?' And I was like, 'No, but read this!' Then, when we were doing it, he felt fucking hell, like he was married to Elizabeth Taylor."

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Speciesist

June 2nd, 2013

My favourite comment from the MetaFilter thread about Matt Smith leaving Doctor Who:

Tilda Swinton cannot be the next Doctor. I think there's a rule against casting an actual citizen of Gallifrey.

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:38 AM on June 2

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I don't believe it!

May 8th, 2013

I'm never going to be able to unhear this:

[From a MetaFilter discussion of the use of different regional accents used by actors in Game of Thrones]

For everyone complaining about Dinklage's accent, and its terribleness/variability, I think it might be worth watching a couple of clips of Scottish actor Richard Wilson in One Foot In The Grave, because Dinklage's accent is – consciously or not – an almost exact replica. It has that clipped, haughty tone; it's different enough from a standard English RP accent to sound odd to someone not used to the accent; when he raises his voice, it takes on a kind of exaggerated, exasperated character that can sound oddly Transatlantic. And it's completely genuine: it's the accent of a working class, west coast Scot who has had the more guttural elements of his voice trained out of him by RADA, but who still retains strong vestiges of his background. And it's been put to use for the past four decades playing upper (or at least soi-disant upper) class Scots. That's the accent I hear when I watch Dinklage in Game Of Thrones. It may be capital A Acting, but it's not, in and of itself, a dodgy accent. […]

posted by Len at 11:37 PM on May 7

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Jennifer, meet Jack.

February 25th, 2013

From last night's Oscars, Jennifer Lawrence meeting Jack Nicholson for the first time:

Adorable.

[Amended video link as original video was removed from YouTube. Just in case that one disappears too, here's a screenshot of her reaction. JR 26 Feb 2013]

[Via feeling listless]

1 Comment »

Featuring a cameo appearance by Charlotte Rampling, channeling Mr Oliver Hardy?

December 7th, 2012

Contemplating the career of Ludivine Sagnier, Xan Brooks came up with a striking comparison:

[In her early 20s…] she gave us a 21st-century riff on the French gamine: at once innocent and perverse, beautiful and bent out of shape. The press promptly touted her as "the new Bardot", although that barely scratches at the surface of her wonky appeal. On screen, Sagnier manages to be at once coolly carnal and haplessly gauche. For me, she's like Stan Laurel as played by Marilyn Monroe, though I'll concede that this description may well not catch on.

Not a parallel that occurred to me when I first watched Swimming Pool.

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Epic Tea Time with Alan Rickman

October 25th, 2012

Epic Tea Time with Alan Rickman.

There really is no getting round it. Epic is the only word for it.

[Via The Morning News]

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Two things

July 31st, 2012

Things I learned online today:

[Shipwreck mortality study via The Morning News, news of Jonathan Hardy's death via MetaFilter]

  1. His voice work on Farscape was all sorts of fun.

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60?

February 1st, 2012

The main thing I took away from this Q&A with Jeff Goldblum isn't anything in the interview itself. It's this bit at the end:

In short

Born: Pittsburgh, 1952

Jeff Goldblum will turn 60 later this year. 60! How the hell did that happen?1

  1. Yes, this is basically yet another "I feel so old" post. But can you blame me?

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For sick people

October 28th, 2011

Anne Helen Petersen's post describing the making of Marilyn Monroe includes a nice anecdote illustrating how Monroe defused a potential scandal, capping her explanation with a nice line in self-deprecating wit:

Monroe had posed for art photographer Tom Kelley all the way back in 1948, and the photos had been reprinted in numerous calendars, of which "Golden Dreams" was the most famous. […]

When Monroe's star rose in the early '50s, she was identified as the model in the photos. But her response to the revelation became as fundamental to her image as the photos themselves. Instead of attempting to avoid or deny the rumors, Monroe answered them head-on: She had been "hungry," was "three weeks behind with rent," and had insisted that Kelley's wife be present. "I'm not ashamed of it," she averred. "I've done nothing wrong."

Once the potential for scandal had dissipated, she promised "I'm saving a copy of that calendar for my grandchildren," admitting "I've only autographed a few copies of it, mostly for sick people. On one I wrote 'This may not be my best angle.'"

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A pitch-perfect performance

July 22nd, 2011

Jim Meskimen performs Clarence's speech from Shakespeare's Richard III as a number of different celebrities, from Woody Allen to Simon Cowell, via William Shatner.

Uncanny work.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Fixing the roof

June 14th, 2011

Peter Gallagher remembers sharing a scene with Karl Malden in one of Gallagher's very earliest TV roles:

It was at the old MGM studios, which is now the Sony lot. I was playing a bastard son in medical school who wasn't going to come home to see his dad because he had a test or something like that. So I was on the phone, this very emotional scene where I'm telling my father that I'm not coming home. Karl is on the other end of the phone, and he's actually on the set talking to me on the other end of the phone […] the camera's on me, it's a little makeshift set inside a huge former Busby Berkeley soundstage, and the camera's got the lights, everything going on, and I'm just acting up a storm. […]

So I'm acting up a storm, and all of a sudden I hear this "ratatatat." This must be a like two-page monologue. I'm thinking, "I can't believe they're fixing the roof in the middle of my monologue!" But I keep going, you know, because I'm feeling the fear, so I just barrel on anyway. And all of a sudden the set starts to shake a little, and I think, "I can't believe the fucking subway. I'm right in the middle of my monologue, and the subway…" Of course there's no subway in Los Angeles, but I'm still busy doing my thing. And I'm looking, and the lights are in my eyes, and I'm going on, and I'm thinking, "The guy's fixing the roof, the subway underneath… boy, this isn't going very well." And I look just a little bit past the bright light, pretending to be looking out the mirror of my room or whatever, and… I see that Malden is gone. He's no longer on the phone. Then I realize the camera operator is gone. And I look around, and there's no one on the set except me… and I'm still just acting up a storm! I mean, I'm thinking, "Holy fuck," but I'm still going on with the scene, like, "Dad, don't you understand? This is important to me, it's my future," while thinking, "Holy fuck, what's going on? Is this how they do things out here?" 'Cause, you know, this was one of the first things I'd ever done. And then I realized, "Oh my God, it's an earthquake! This is an earthquake!" And it's started to rumble now. So immediately I leap up, and I go into the doorframe behind my desk where I was on the phone all this time, and I'm pressing so hard against the doorframe that the thing is bowing out a little bit. And that's when I realize, "Oh, my God, this is a set! This is not going to protect me from anything!" There's, like, eight miles of ceiling above me, and I'm under this balsawood doorframe.

So I'm running around trying to find the exit, and I finally get out, and of course, everyone smoked back then, so they're all sitting in cars smoking. And someone goes, "Hey, first earthquake, huh?" [Laughs.] I'm just, like, "There's nobody here. That can't be good. But I'm almost done with the monologue, so I'll finish just in case." The show must go on, right?

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Baldwin tweets!

June 11th, 2011

Molly Lambert's debut piece at Grantland introduces us to Alec Baldwin: Social networking master

Some people are just naturals at holding court. Alec Baldwin definitely qualifies there, which is why he was always such a great Saturday Night Live host and why his monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross remains the gold standard for holding public attention. The thing about people who are good at holding court is that once they start holding court it can be impossible to make them stop. And not always, but sometimes they say something that makes their audience facepalm.

Here are a few of the things Alec Baldwin enjoys: party games, Pilates, what Alec Baldwin is eating, cryptic jokes with the Baldwin siblings in a private brother language, the Rolling Stones, getting stranded on boats, tweeting like he's somewhere deep in thought and is providing you a small opening through which to see into his brain – Being John Malkovich-style, politics, asking rhetorical questions, faux-slang, and Fort Lauderdale.

Given the number of terrific pieces Molly Lambert contributed at This Recording, I'm looking forward to seeing what she brings us at Grantland.

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Steranko's Outland

May 31st, 2011

Jim Steranko's Outland.

I found the film pretty uninspired – Sean Connery was in the middle of a run of distinctly sub-par films1, and nobody ever said to themselves 'I've just got to see that new Peter Hyams film' – but Steranko's comic adaptation looks like all sorts of fun.

[Via @sizemore]

  1. Seriously. Between 1979 and 1984, Connery's filmography goes as follows: The First Great Train Robbery, Meteor, Cuba, Outland, Time Bandits, The Man with the Deadly Lens, Five Days One Summer, Never Say Never Again, and Sword of the Valiant: The Legend of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Thankfully, his next three films were Highlander, The Name of the Rose and The Untouchables.

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One of God's favorite children

May 17th, 2011

Roseanne Barr on the TV Industry.

When the show went to No. 1 in December 1988, ABC sent a chocolate "1" to congratulate me. Guess they figured that would keep the fat lady happy – or maybe they thought I hadn't heard (along with the world) that male stars with No. 1 shows were given Bentleys and Porsches. So me and George Clooney [who played Roseanne Conner's boss for the first season] took my chocolate prize outside, where I snapped a picture of him hitting it with a baseball bat. I sent that to ABC.

… and …

I finally found the right lawyer to tell me what scares TV producers worse than anything – too late for me. What scares these guys – who think that the perks of success include humiliating and destroying the star they work for (read Lorre's personal attacks on Charlie Sheen in his vanity cards at the end of Two and a Half Men) – isn't getting caught stealing or being made to pay for that; it's being charged with fostering a "hostile work environment." If I could do it all over, I'd sue ABC and Carsey-Werner under those provisions. Hollywood hates labor, and hates shows about labor worse than any other thing. And that's why you won't be seeing another Roseanne anytime soon. Instead, all over the tube, you will find enterprising, overmedicated, painted-up, capitalist whores claiming to be housewives. But I'm not bitter.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Fright Night

April 12th, 2011

I was dimly aware that a remake of Fright Night was in the works but I hadn't paid it much attention: I enjoyed the original but I haven't seen it in years and it wouldn't make it onto my all-time top 10 horror films. Imagine my surprise at the sight of a teaser poster for the new film featuring David Tennant in the part played in the original by Roddy McDowall.

Clearly they've rewritten the role a bit, but I can still see Tennant being quite fun as the host of a low-budget horror anthology TV show who has to face up to the fact that there really are vampires out there.

Having been prompted to look up the remake, the one real doubt I have is over Colin Farrell taking on the role originally played by Chris Sarandon. I can see why Farrell is physically right for the part1 but I don't know if Farrell can pull off the mix of charm and menace that made Sarandon such a memorable villain, but I might be inclined to find out.

  1. Except for being a decade too young compared to Sarandon, but I suppose that the character's apparent age is a reflection of how old he was when he was turned. The character's self-assurance and silky charm, by contrast, was a result of his having been a vampire for long enough to know exactly how to get away with insinuating himself into a neighbourhood and finding victims without bringing attention to himself. Apparent age wouldn't matter in that regard, so long as he was old enough not to look out of place buying a house in a nice, quiet suburb and mixing with his potential victims.

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J.K. Simmons

March 15th, 2011

J K Simmons, talking to The A.V. Club about being cast as Vern Schillinger in Oz:

Homicide: Life On The Street (1996) – "Colonel Alexander Rausch"

AVC: This kicks off your first role as a white supremacist -

JKS: A hugely pivotal moment. It was a nice meaty part, and then it started relationships with Tom Fontana and Ed Sherin that turned into Oz and Law & Order. Within a year or so after [Homicide], they were casting Oz. They didn't even have scripts yet. I'm just a theater actor who's barely making my rent and I'm auditioning for Tom Fontana for, we didn't know at the time, it wasn't supposed to be a regular on the show, but it was going to be a good part. And I was excited about it, but I was also nervous about it, because I had gotten so much attention playing that Nazi white-supremacist murdering bastard on Homicide. I thought, "I really don't want to be stuck playing this character for the rest of my life, and be like the Nazi of the week on every TV show."

I went into that meeting with Tom when I should have just been lying down at his feet saying "Please hire me!", and instead I was like, "I'm a little apprehensive… I'm afraid it could hurt my ability to have the career that I would like to have, being a versatile actor playing different parts, like I've been doing in theater for 20 years." Tom really put me at ease and said "The character is going to start out to be a guy we think is a good guy, and then there's going to be changes. Trust me, you'll love it." And I said "Great!" Of course the character went from being a potential nice guy to a rapist bastard in the first half-hour of the first episode, but it was a fun six years.

It wasn't six fun years for poor Tobias Beecher, but I know what Simmons means. Oz could be distinctly melodramatic at times, but it was also compelling viewing from beginning to end.

The amazing thing was that Vern Schillinger, much as he tortured Beecher, wasn't even the nastiest piece of work on the show: that would be either Ryan O'Reily or Governor Devlin, IMHO.

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The Nicolas Cage Matrix

March 11th, 2011

The Nicolas Cage Matrix mostly gets his career right. A few observations:

  1. Raising Arizona and Face/Off both need to be elevated to the same level of Brilliant as Wild at Heart.
  2. Zandalee was so bad that there should be a special, extended version of the Rubbish axis just so it can live there, way further out than everything else on this chart.
  3. It's amazing how Cage's career resists forming a pattern or trend: every corner of the chart contains a mix of films from every decade. Has there ever been a big star so consistently unreliable?

[Via LinkMachineGo!]

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The British have arrived…

March 3rd, 2011

Natasha Vargas-Cooper waves the white flag on behalf of Hollywood, in the face of an implacable and ruthless foe:

Actors are the UK's greatest export. They are also the most destabilising factor in the "serious American actor" economy. The Brits are taking advantage of a crisis within our film industry. Come Oscars night, we Americans will once again be forced to bear witness to their power. While we prepare for our annual celebration of America's favourite art form, the British are plotting their ruthless attack.

There is little doubt the outcome will be anything short of a bloodbath. Colin Firth – shy and composed, an Englishman to the core – will cinch the Best Actor statuette for his role in The King's Speech; Christian Bale will be victorious in the Best Supporting Actor category (for The Fighter) […]

Why are the British waging such a savage assault on one of the last remaining, albeit wobbly, American industries? Hasn't the American movie business been good to you? The benevolent hand of the Hollywood Industrial Complex has reached down to pluck many a Brit from the dreary BBC salt mines and propel them into a life of international fame.

Jeremy Irons was merely skulking around Brideshead until we swooped him up into Reversal of Fortune and then made him a bona-fide movie star with the Die Hard franchise. […]

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Profundity in incongruity

February 6th, 2011

GQ's Tom Carson on the long, strange career of Nicolas Cage:

[On Cage's career since his Best Actor Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas…] Instead, over the past decade or so, he's become a somehow appropriately weird combination of ubiquitous – he averages two or three movies a year – and marginal. Not only does his undiminished talent get no respect, but a whole category of plum parts is denied the benefit of his imagination as a result. Speaking of fusions of fable and pathology, what I'd give for eccentric, manic-depressive Cage and not classy Daniel Day-Lewis to be playing the lead in Steven Spielberg's upcoming Lincoln should make my wife relieved we don't have a firstborn to surrender. But Unka Steven is hardly the kind of filmmaker to appreciate the profundity in incongruity.

[Via The Browser]

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