Check out the Richard Crouse Show NewsTalk 1010 podcast for June 25, 2016! Richard is joined in studio by his pop culture panel. This week Shakespeare and High Park’s Kaleb Alexander and Mina James and stand-up comedian Ali Hassan sit in to discuss the important stuff, like when is it OK to recline your airplane seat all the way back.
Here’s some info on The Richard Crouse Show!: Each week on The Richard Crouse Show, Canada’s most recognized movie critic brings together some of the most interesting and opinionated people from the movies, television and music to put a fresh spin on news from the world of lifestyle and pop-culture. Tune into this show to find out what’s going on behind the scenes of your favorite shows and movies and get a new take on current trends. Richard also lets you know what movies you’ll want to run to see and which movies you’ll want to wait for DVD release. Click HEREto catch up on shows you might have missed! Read Richard NewsTalk 1010 reviews HERE!
From Paul Salvatori: “Short doc on well-known Toronto movie critic and author, Richard Crouse. In this candid first-person profile, Richard shares unique insight into the art of film, writing, his early introduction to pop culture, and a newfound gratitude following his battle with cancer.”
Over the past year, the Astor Theatre undertook a large project…convert our movie projector to a digital system so we can continue to bring movies to Liverpool. It was a large project with a large price tag but with the communities support, as well as the Province of NS and the Department of Canadian Heritage we were successful! Now it is time to throw a party…and invite everyone to attend!
On May 24th we are throwing the biggest movie party ever seen on the South Shore. Such a night requires a great host and we have one…CTV’s Richard Crouse. As the regular film critic for CTV’s Canada AM and the 24 hour news source CTV’s News Channel, Richard is well known across the country for his movie reviews. In Liverpool, he is also well known since he grew up here watching movies at the Astor. Richard is excited that we will be able to continue to present movies and wanted to celebrate with us.
We will be presenting the NS shot movie “The Disappeared”. The Disappeared is a visually stunning story set on the vast panorama of the Atlantic Ocean. The film centers on six men lost at sea in two dories. With no rescue in sight, they make the difficult decision to row for shorea journey of over two hundred miles. With scant supplies diminishing, they are tested beyond human endurance as their captain leads them through the fickle wind, rain, fog and darkness. Dwarfed in this unforgiving realm between sea and sky, they fight to hold on as their strength dwindles and their will shatters. Desperation overtakes hope as the men are swallowed by their aloneness, even as they are bound together by the wooden boats that hold them. To find their way home, they must first discover the courage and compassion it takes to live and the men they truly are. We are happy that several cast members will be in attendance and will do a Question and Answer session with Richard.
Finally, no evening is complete without a little music at the Astor so we have invited East Coast musician David Myles to bring his infectious music to the celebrations. Somewhere on the spectrum between James Taylor and Justin Timberlake, David Myles has truly forged his own path by embracing modern and vintage pop, folk and soul music. With extensive touring experience across Canada and internationally, Myles has earned a reputation as a great showman. His flawless musicianship and unforgettable stories have made David Myles a favourite with fans everywhere.
We hope you can join us for a great evening of cinema, of song, and of celebration!
The garbage strike is over! Hooray! Last night I saw a rat the size of a Buick on my street rooting through the trash. Mister Rat and I had a bit of a stand-off, but when he realized that I wasn’t interested in his garbage, and I realized that he wasn’t interested in giving me rabies we went our separate ways neither the worse for wear.
Up early on Friday to get ready for the trip to Los Angeles to interview the cast of Austin Powers in Goldmember. Of course I never plan very far ahead and was folding laundry straight from the drier and packing it as the cab pulled up to take me to the airport. Along the way I had him stop at my dry cleaner to pick up some pressed shirts and finished packing in the back of the taxi. At least I remembered my passport. As we pulled into Terminal Two at Pearson I was finally ready for the trip.
I gave myself two hours to check-in, clear customs and security, and as is always the case when you give yourself more than enough time you get banged through the whole system in about four-and-a-half minutes. Security was less than tight. At the X-Ray machine a guard asked me to turn on my cell phone, presumably to make sure it wasn’t a bomb, but turned away from me before I turned it on and waved me through without a second look.
With time to kill at the airport I bought a couple of magazines (great article on Michael Ovitz in this month’s Vanity Fair) and some ketchup potato chips. The first time I interviewed Mike Myers I asked him what he missed most about Canada. His reply? Ketchup chips. Now he can afford his own ketchup chip factory or maybe to have them flown in from Canada on a daily basis… but just in case, I thought I’d bring some.
Met Seamus O’Regan, host of Talk TV and occasional host of Canada AM (and frequent guest on R2R) at the departure gate. Soon more Toronto media types gathered – Teri Hart from TMN, Dan Duford from CITY-TV and Bonnie Laufer from Tribute TV – and we discussed maybe all going out for dinner on Saturday night. Food, it’s all about the food.
Anyone who read my last on-line diary will be familiar with my obsession with food while on the road. Here’s a list of the culinary delights on Air Canada flight 799 to Los Angeles:
• About 40 minutes into the flight we were given a 14g bag of Krispy Kernel’s Pretzels. They’re small, but you get 21 ½ in each bag (I counted).
• One hour and twenty minutes in the flight attendants started roaming the aisles yelling “Chicken or Pasta!” The guy next to me ordered the chicken so I had the pasta.
“Enjoy your meal,” she said with the tone of someone who has said that phrase 1,000,000,000,001 times.
“Impossible!” I thought as I poked at the lukewarm lasagne she had just placed in front of me. I think in the dictionary next to the definition of airplane food there must be a picture of this meal. The lasagne had apparently been stored on its side as all the filing (wilted spinach mostly) was at one end. The limp salad came with balsamic vinaigrette (how chic!) and the dessert tasted like sugary air. Not one of the more successful airplane meals I’ve had this year. It’ll be awhile before I can bleach the memory of Air Canada’s lasagne from my memory and my taste buds.
Arrived on time, bagged was there and headed to the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills to check in, then went to the hospitality suite to get my interview times for Saturday. Nice suite, good food. Had grilled vegetables, pizza and a cookie before checking out the Austin Powers game room across the hall. All sorts of Austin Powers games, including backgammon and a very cool pinball machine. Now pinball is the only sport, (yes, I do think pinball is a sport), I’ve ever been any good at. I racked up 62 MILLION! Points and won a free game before Beyonce Knowles showed up for a photo op with the game. I took off, let Beyonce have my free game and headed to my room.
Shared the elevator with Seth Green, (who had just finished a day of interviews), and his people. His friend joked, “Your homework for tonight is to come up with fresh answers for the question, ‘What’s it like to work with Mike Myers?’” Seth laughed and said he used to be quite obnoxious in interviews, but now he has mellowed and finds that giving solid honest answers is the bet way to deal with the press. “People like that more,” he said.
My room is beautiful. Large with a king sized bed, marble topped desk and a balcony that overlooks the Four Seasons’ garden. Lovely. Oh, and in addition to the Bvlgari shampoos, conditioners etc in the restroom, there is also a television so you can watch the news while you shower. I could get used to this.
At 5:30 there was a poolside party at the hotel before we were to leave for the screening of Goldmember. Foxxy Cleopatra look-a-likes mingled with the 75 or so reporters from all over Canada and the United States. Bartenders pumped out Shagadelic cocktails while we snacked on cheese fondue and guacamole. Left the party for a few minutes to shoot some footage in “The Shaguar,” the Jag that Austin Powers drives in the movie with the Union Jack painted on the hood and sides. Very nice car, and got some cool footage we can use on the show.
At seven o’clock we were loaded onto an authentic London double-decker bus and carted over to the AMC Beverly Connection multi-plex to see Austin Powers in Goldmember. Dozens of cars honked and waved as we drove through Beverly Hills.
You’ll have to watch Reel to Real to see the review, but I will share one joke from the movie. Keep your eyes peeled during the news broadcast, running along the bottom of the screen are headlines, one of which will appeal to Canadian audiences, particularly Torontonians. “Maple Leafs win Stanley Cup…” it reads. I wonder whose idea that was?
After the movie I headed back to the hotel to prepare for Saturday’s interviews. Passing through the bar there were several celebrity sightings. Verne Troyer (Mini-Me) was at a table with two tall blondes, and Eddie Griffin (Undercover Brother) was on the patio. I should say STILL on the patio, as I had seen him at the same table six hours earlier on my way to the pool party.
Back at the room I noticed that the maid service had been through, turned down the bed, replaced the towels I had used, left fresh fruit and tidied up. I like it here…
Saturday July 13, 2002
Woke up early and took a shower. It is a huge bathroom, with a spacious tub and a large shower head. I revved up the shower, stepped inside and was almost blown through the back wall of the stall. Holy water pressure Batman! I braced myself and had a long, hot and thoroughly enjoyable shower.
From there I went to the fourteenth floor of the hotel to check into the hospitality suite. I had to kill an hour or so before my interviews started, so I had some breakfast. I know it sounds like the thing to do, and I am obsessed with food while on the road, but breakfast is my least favourite meal. It’s going to be a long day though so I tuck into a load of scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, hash browns, pastries and freshly squeezed orange juice. I know it sounds like a lot, but the pastries were very small. But like everything else at the hotel so far, they were 10% better than any pastries I’ve ever had before…
Here’s a few words about junkets, the studio funded trips we take occasionally to do interviews. I am often conflicted about doing junkets because on one hand they offer the chance to interview stars and A-list directors, but on the other hand I refuse to feel beholden to the film company who has paid for my flight and put me up for a couple of days. I do very few junkets, preferring the longer form kind of interviews we can do when the stars come to Toronto, but will occasionally do ones that interest me. Just last year I travelled to New York to do Lord of the Rings and Gosford Park, two really good movies, and Pearl Harbour, a really bad movie, which despite having spent five days in Hawaii chatting with the cast and director I still savaged on the air as one of the worst movies of the year. So the bottom line is that a trip to Los Angeles of New York doesn’t buy a good review.
There is also a certain kind of uneasiness to a junket, no matter how well it is arranged. The actors are often on their guard and not as open as they might be in another situation. I don’t blame them. Today each of the actors will do 52 interviews. That is on top of the 30 or so they did on Friday and the 40 or so they will do on Sunday. And that’s just here in Los Angeles; soon they will travel to Europe and do this all over again for the international press. It must get dull answering the same questions over and over, particularly when they are of the “Of all your leading ladies who was the best kisser?” variety. One woman from Miami proudly told me today that she had asked Beyonce to do a promo for her television station. The woman had written new lyrics for Beyonce’s hit song Survivor… “My name’s Beyonce/ I’m in Goldmember/ You’re watching blah blah on blah blah blah…” It’s no wonder the actors don’t respect half the people that come through when people ask them to do stupid, insulting things like that.
My interviews start roughly on time, although my first one, Beyonce Knowles, is late by a few minutes. She’s worth waiting for. She may be one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen in person. She’s wearing a bandana, a straw fedora, jeans and a peasant shirt with her bare feet tucked up underneath her. I think maybe she has just gotten out of bed, as she has a dewy “I wish I was still in asleep” look about her. It’s not hard to see why she is a star. Not only is she lovely, but she has a real charisma that shines through, even though she is bleary eyed. We had a nice chat. Tune into R2R to see the whole thing.
Next up was Seth Green. We had met briefly in the elevator the day before when he had been joking about the kinds of questions he has been getting asked in this round of press interviews. He was in a good mood, complimented me on my suit and answered each of my questions as though it was the first time he had ever heard them, although I’m pretty sure he had heard some of them before.
My clothing sponsors at Bertoni will be glad to hear that the suit I wore – black ridged pants, a black snake-skin embossed jacket and a white shirt – was a big hit. In addition to Seth Green, Fred Savage, Mindy Sterling, Jay Roach and Michael York all commented on how much they liked the jacket.
Meeting Robert Wagner was a trip. He’s been making movies for 50 years and is one of the few old Hollywood stars who still works regularly. He is gracious and takes a couple of minutes off the top of the interview to ask me about my show and where I am from. When I say Toronto he tells me a story about a friend of his who has a home there, and how much he is looking forward to visiting the city. I hear the next interviewer after me telling Mr. Wagner that he is from Chicago. “My favourite city,” says Wagner, sounding quite genuine. That’s the old school Hollywood training at work. Try and charm your interviewer, and he’ll do a better story on you.
Next up was Mike Myers. (In the interests of full disclosure I should say that I know Mike socially and have been very good friends with his brother Paul for many years.) “This is surreal,” said Mike as I walked into his suite. “This is one of my brother’s best friends,” he told the crew. Before the cameras rolled we got caught up, and I gave him the ketchup chips I had brought for him. Tune into the show for the whole interview.
Verne “Mini-Me” Troyer is even smaller than you think he is going to be. At two feet, eight inches he is barely half my height. We discussed his new-found fame and how he tries to disguise himself when he goes out in public by wearing a hat and dark glasses, although because of his diminutive stature he is still mobbed everywhere he goes.
Michael York was a bit jet lagged, having just flown in from Prague to see Goldmember and do these interviews. Even though he was tired, he was still congenial and told me a great story about improvising an entire scene with Liza Minnelli in Cabaret. He also liked my jacket…
Fred Savage is 26 years old and has been acting for 21 of those years. He plays a spy who infiltrates Dr. Evil’s organization – a “mole” in espionage parlance. Oh, and he also has a giant, honkin’, hairy mole under his nose that Austin Powers cannot seem to ignore. He loved working with Mike, and told me he hopes there is a part four.
The last interview of the day was with Jay Roach, Goldmember’s director. I really like talking to directors because they approach being interviewed differently than actors. They are not performers so you generally tend to get a more honest interview from them. Roach was no exception. He told me that Dr. Evil is his favourite character because they are so much alike. Both have grandiose plans which are always thwarted by something beyond their control.
After the interviews I headed downstairs in the hotel to shoot some “stand-ups” on the Austin Powers Shagadelic set. “Stand-ups” are the introductions that frame the reviews and interviews on the show. The set is very cool with a series of Andy Warholesque prints of Powers and some very groovy 60s bachelor pad furniture. I shot the opening to the show with the help of three go-go dancers dressed in Beyonce inspired 60s garb.
That being done, I’m pretty much finished for the day and it is only 2 pm! I change out of my suit and take a stroll around West Hollywood. Several of us from Toronto and Montreal have made reservations for tonight, but I have a few hours to kill.
Los Angeles is a weird place. The weather is beautiful. Since I have been here it has been 75 – 80 degrees during the day, and then it cools down nicely at night. Compared to the hot, humid days we’ve been suffering through in Toronto this summer, (I have my air conditioner on so high you could hang sides of beef in my living room), the climate in L.A. is very agreeable. But there is no downtown. Everything is so spread out that you can walk for hours and not actually see that much. And there is no one on the street. Near the Beverly Center I saw a few people milling around, but I’m fairly sure they were walking to their cars.
The streets are beautiful, with flowers everywhere and tall palms trees lining the road. I have to wonder how they get all the palms the same height and line them up so perfectly.
There’s an old joke about Los Angeles verses New York. In New York in August it is 110 degrees, the joke goes, while in Los Angeles it is only a pleasant 78 degrees. New York in December is minus 20 degrees compared to L.A.’s average December temperature of 78 degrees. Year round in New York there are 1,000,000 interesting people to talk to, while in L.A. there are only 78 truly interesting people. I met one of those people on my walk.
On North La Cienega Boulevard I passed a costume shop called Jeran Couture. I stopped to check out the incredibly detailed Dr. Hook and Marie Antoinette costumes in the window and started talking with Randy McLaughlin, the store’s owner and designer. He is quite a character and no stranger to self promotion. “I’m one of the biggest designers in Hollywood,” he said with a straight face even though his store looked as though it had seen better days.
In a few short minutes I had learned pretty much everything about Randy and his work. The red sequined gown that Joan Collins wore on her 1983 Playboy cover took 700 hours to make. Connie Selleca commissioned Randy to design her wedding dress when she hitched up with John Tesh. He has made all the women’s clothes on The Price Is Right for the last 18 years. “I’m a household name with people who watch that show,” he said. The list goes on… Loni Anderson is coming in next week with an Italian film crew to do a story. He once dressed a respected L.A. NBC news anchor up in a pink Shirley Temple dress, complete with blonde wig for a news story that was apparently so popular “they ran it 27 times on the news.”
Like so many people you meet in L.A., and in fact, like the city itself, there is a faded kind of elegance to this guy and his shop. Things chance quickly here. One minute you’re on top, the next you’re telling strangers on the street about all the great work you used to do.
I liked Randy, but decline his offer to come inside and listen to his CD of show tunes. “Next time I’m in town,” I said, and you know, maybe I’ll actually go back.
Back at the hotel I hung around the pool for a few minutes, talking to Seamus O’Regan and Bonnie Laufer. It was very hot, but waiters kept strolling by with fresh fruit popsicles, frozen grapes or fruit smoothies to keep you cool. The lemon smoothie was the big winner of the day for me, although Seamus preferred the frozen grapes.
At 6:30 met the other Canadians at the Café in the Four Seasons. We booked a large table outdoors. There were ten of us in total, and I’m hard pressed to remember when I’ve had a better time at dinner in recent months. We stayed until 12:30 – six hours of wine, stories, crab wrapped in avocado, gossip, foie gras that melted in my mouth, cigars and some very delicious bourbon.
Celebrity sightings at dinner included Grace Jones, who appeared to wrapped head to toe in black lace; Liam Neeson, who was looking younger than the last time I saw him and Kate Mulgrew. Mulgrew’s table was close to ours, and we were “treated” to a loud recitation of bad beat poetry by one of her younger dinner guests. Bad poetry is one thing, but bad pretentious poetry being yelled at you while you are paying $50.00 US for a steak is almost sadistic.
We outstayed the “poet” and enjoyed sitting outside until it was time for bed.
Sunday July 14, 2002
Up early. Check out and grab some tea and muffins in the lobby. Split a cab to LAX with some others who have early morning flights. Of all of them I am the only one who has their bags opened and checked by security. They took everything out, examined it and did a gunpowder smear. I guess I looked like trouble. It was difficult explaining what a Dr. Evil Wacky Wobbler nodding head doll was to the very serious security guard. He didn’t seem to get it, or understand why I would want such a thing. But once he realized that I couldn’t possibly hurt anyone with it, (only amuse them), he let me through.
Air Canada flight 760 from Los Angeles to Toronto was on time, and fairly uneventful. As usual the main meal was underwhelming. We were given a choice between an omelette and an egg McMuffin. For reasons that I’ll never understand I chose the egg McMuffin. It had been nuked to such an extent that the cheese had simply liquefied and evaporated, leaving only a thick sludge on the bottom of the plate. That coupled with the “ham” that looked more like minced insects than any pork product I had ever seen made me very glad I had something to eat at the First Class lounge at LAX.
The meal may have been disappointing but the snacks were excellent. They distributed a seemingly endless supply of Chris and Larry’s Clodhoppers, a chocolate dipped vanilla fudge graham wafer cluster with cashews made in Winnipeg. The bag says they are “highly addictive” and they ain’t lyin’.
Back in Toronto there is less garbage on the streets than when I left, although it is just as hot. When I got home I cranked on the air conditioning and unpacked, glad as always to be back home.
Welcome to my on-line Cannes diary. Over the next eleven days I’m going to give you a blow-by-blow account of what happens both personally and professionally at the biggest, craziest and most respected film festival in the world.
Leave Toronto at 7:20 pm on Air France. The flight is on time, and after a lay-over in Paris, a connecting flight to Nice and a half-hour cab ride we should be in Cannes by 3 pm on Tuesday. The flight is uneventful, although the food was uncommonly good, and not just by airplane food standards. I get a little obsessive about food while I’m on the road… especially airplane food. It has always seemed to me to be cruel and unusual punishment to strap someone in a seat for eight hours, make them line up for the bathroom, charge them a fortune, make their ears pop and after all that serve them crappy food. I scope out the menu (yes there is a menu…) and choose an appetizer of lobster accompanied by mango salad with lemon and cocktail sauce, followed by a palate cleanser of different cheeses, a main course of duck a l’orange with basmati rice, Chinese broccoli and a carrot and
spinach flan. Others had the lobster followed by an herb crusted Mahi Mahi. I chose not to have the Mahi Mahi because I’m convinced that’s just a nicer name for Dolphin, and I’m not eating anything that is almost as smart as me. The duck was delicious, filled with ducky goodness, and served on china plates with only the plastic knives in our cutlery bundles serving as a reminder of heightened security concerns. Followed dinner with a cognac, and a very quick nap… I have trouble sleeping on planes for some reason.
After the all too brief nap I decided to watch a movie… Of course I’ve seen them all — several times — so I pass the time watching “For A Few Dollars More” in Portuguese, and I realize that Spaghetti Westerns work in any language — even if you don’t understand the dialogue. If you don’t understand what they are saying, you can certainly understand what they are doing. The same can’t be said for my second choice, “Serendipity,” with John Cusak. I chose to watch this one in Spanish, and the absence of any understandable dialogue actually improved the movie for me. Take away theinsipid script and all that’s left is the beautiful Kate Beckensale….
Next was “Le Famille Tenenbaum,” still funny, even though my grasp of
French is limited…
The stop-over in Paris was long and painful. Not long enough to actually
leave the airport and do something interesting, just long enough to make us tired. I love to travel. I like to walk on the beach, meet new people, see new things, as much as the next guy, it’s just the getting there that I find insufferable. It’s the waiting around, the bad airport food (see I’m on about food again), the guy in front of me who always has to put his seat all the way back so I have only 1/2 inch of leg room…
Charles deGaulle Airport Sightings: Serious looking soldiers with machine guns. A store that sells $500 sunglasses, and herds of poodles… well maybe not herds, but more than you usually see in airports…
After four and a-half soul destroying hours spent waiting around the
Paris airport we caught a flight to Nice. Uneventful flight, followed by a harrowing high speed taxi ride from Nice to Cannes. We arrived safely,
But our cab driver was quite obviously the retired NASCAR champ of France or something… Spent the rest of the day chasing stories for the upcoming shows, getting our press credentials in order and picking up cell phones.
Went to bed early, after having been up for about 34 hours… I was too tired to even dream, which is appropriate because I had been dreaming of sleeping all day….
Talk to you tomorrow….
WEDNESDAY MAY 15th
No jet lag! The secret is not sleeping when you arrive. I always stay up
until 11 or 12 o’clock in whatever time zone I’m in, no matter how tired I am, get a decent night’s sleep and the next day I always feel adjusted.
Apparently not everyone is so adaptable. At the press lounge jet lagged reporters from all over the world are walking around like half-dead
zombies, desperately chugging coffee trying to stay awake. I keep such erratic hours anyway that I seem to be able to adjust to any time change.
Spent Wednesday morning and afternoon trying to set up interviews for
R2R’s upcoming shows. The real chaos hasn’t started here yet, so I didn’t have to wait long, although at one office I had to stand in a dank, dark hallway for almost an hour before anyone could find time to speak to me. It’s busy here, but the expected throngs of press and tourists will arrive over the week-end. Then the bad craziness starts. You can’t move on the streets, people line up for screening hours and hours in advance, restaurants and cafes are full to capacity… just trying to walk down the street becomes a hellish, hectic experience. But right now the weather is beautiful, there are stylishly dressed people from all over the world everywhere… I love walking twenty feet down the street and hearing twenty different languages being spoken, it’s a mind broadening experience. On the downside, security is very tight this year. I have been frisked, poked and prodded everywhere.
This is a new development from last year, but given the shaky world political climate, I guess it has to be this way.
I spoke with Michael Moore on the street today. I’m a big fan of his work, and have just finished reading his latest book, “Stupid White Men.” Most people will remember him from his award winning documentary “Roger and
Me,” although I really liked his later film “Canadian Bacon” with John Candy, and his television show “The Awful Truth” which should be required viewing for people who trust corporate America. Moore is in Cannes to promote his latest film “Bowling for Columbine,” a bitingly satiric look at the gun trade in the United States after the Columbine school shootings. He’s a cool guy, who had very funny things to say about the last time he was in Toronto and his appearance on Canada AM. If all goes well I will be interviewing Mr. Moore later this week for one of R2R’s Cannes shows.
Woody Allen’s “Hollywood Ending” opens the festival tonight. Our camera man Mark shot a press conference with Woody this morning, which will be used on the first show. also shot some footage of a press conference with the jury of this years festival, including David Lynch, Sharon Stone and Micelle
Yeow. Stone has a cold, and needed to blow her nose. “It would be nice if somebody had a handkerchief for me,” she said. Lynch, sitting next to her offered her his hankie. “I do,” he said. “But it’s used.” She declined.
Shot the first Cannes special show here today in a variety of locations around town. Shooting here is difficult with the noise and crowds everywhere. On top of that we had MASSIVE technical difficulties, but managed to get the show done, and shipped back to Toronto for editing. Also met some people from Toronto, two young women who went to school here, and have come back to check out the festival. They stood in the same spot for over 5 hours in the blistering sun to get a glimpse of the red carpet, and hopefully see some stars. They were hoping for Harrison Ford or Tom
Cruise and seemed slightly disappointed when I told them that it was going to be Woody Allen on the red carpet that night…
Went to a party for DDA, one of the world’s largest publicity firms. Nice little soiree on the beach, with plenty of wine and beer for everyone. Had a
snack and a couple of Stella Artois and continued on to the Canadian
Pavilion to finish shooting for the day. The Canadian Pavilion is
Located on the beach in the International Village next to Pavilions from the
US, Holland and dozens of countries from all over the world. Nice layout inside, but the beautiful patio right on the beach is the main draw. Met Canada’s trade ambassador there and I’m sure to be spending more time there as the week goes on.
Anyway… one show is done and shipped back to Canada, only three more to go. Have loads of interviews lined up, and will likely start doing them on
Talk to you soon,
THURSDAY MAY 16th
Woke up with a start today. Disoriented. Didn’t know where I was. Late. Slightly crazed feeling. I think I must have had a really deep, almost coma-like sleep last night. Shook off the weird sleepy feeling and headed off to see “Bowling for Columbine,” the new documentary from director Michael Moore. On the walk down from the villa to the main drag I noticed that overnight the festival seemed to make the leap from merely busy to confusing and chaotic. Loads of people must have flown in last night, and then in the morning it seemed like all them were going to see the same movie as I was… I started to play a game to pass the time on the walk. I try and count the number of people on the street that a) don’t have a cell phone glued to their head, b.) don’t have a cigarette in the hands, c) doesn’t have a small yappy dog on a leash or d) some combination of all of the above. I counted two people…
I saw Eartha “Catwoman” Kitt outside the Carlton Hotel today. I have always thought she was the greatest Catwoman (move over Julie Newmar and Michelle Pfeiffer), and her song “I Want To Be Evil” should be required listening for anyone who has ever wanted to get a nine to five job and settle down in the suburbs… She looks great, at least twenty years younger than her reported age of 75.
The Troma circus has rolled into town, although chief rabble rouser
Lloyd Kaufman doesn’t arrive until Monday. Then, I imagine the Troma Team will really start to terrorize the town. They are a fixture here at Cannes, every year providing mayhem up and down the Croisette, usually parading the cast of characters from their movies — The Toxic Avenger, Mad Cowboy and Dolphin Man to name a few. They ALWAYS get into trouble. Last year I saw one of them get arrested for indecent exposure on one of the nude beaches that line the main drag. I know, I know, it’s hard to get arrested for indecent exposure on a nude beach, but this guy was only wearing a slight thong to hold in his 300 pounds… Not a pretty sight and I think the police arrested him on aesthetic grounds as much as anything else. I saw Lloyd on the street just after it happened and told him one of his guys had been arrested. “Not again,” he said. It seems everywhere Troma goes strong men weep and chaos follows. They have found a new home after getting kicked out of the swanky Carlton Hotel last year, after having their offices there for almost 20 years. Now they are just behind the Carlton. I don’t know, but if I ran the Carlton, I would want these guys where I could keep an eye on them…
Had a rather frustrating afternoon. Checking with publicists is a daily ritual. You pop your head in, say hello, make nice and hope that they give you the interviews you have requested. Today yielded interviews for an American movie called “Scorched,” Most of the cast is confirmed, although the biggest star is “being difficult” (the publicist’s words, not mine), and is unsure as to whether he wants to do interviews. I can’t tell you who it is, but if you’re interested go to IMDB.com and look it up. I don’t think it will come as much of a surprise…
Interviews for television are hard to come by here, particularly for Canadians. “Ah, the Canadian confusion…” one publicist said as I tried to confirm an interview I had booked in Toronto before I left. Seems some paperwork has gone missing, and now those spots are in jeopardy. So now, as unbelievable as it seems my interviews with Canadian directors Atom Egoyan and David Cronenberg probably aren’t going to happen as expected. It’s too bad really, I like both their new movies, and would love the chance to speak to them Canadian to Canadian while I’m here… I’ll keep you posted on what happens here…
That is just the fluid nature of the Cannes Film Festival. Arrive with a plan, but be prepared to change it every five minutes or so. It can bend your head if you let it.
More about the food. Didn’t really have time to eat on Wednesday, although I grabbed a salad from a kiosk on the beach — even the fast food here is great — arugula, mozzarella and tomatoes. Delicious and not too expensive at 5 euros (about $7 Can.). On Thursday breakfast didn’t happen until about 3 pm when I grabbed some uber-tasty pastries at the Geraldine Chaplin press conference at the grand old Carlton Hotel.
Chaplin is in town to launch “The Chaplin Collection,” a set of DVDs featuring all her father’s legendary comic movies, and rare outtakes and home movies added as bonuses. With her was Warren Liederfarb from Warner Brothers, the man they call “the father of DVD,” and the French distributor of Chaplin films for the big screen Marin Karmitz.
I interviewed Ms. Chaplin one on one after the press conference. She’s a
deeply tanned, elegant woman who reminded me of an older, but well preserved Audrey Hepburn. She’s small and birdlike, but smiles easily and is fluent in both French and English. When I first spoke to her I commented on her shoes, which were red and metallic silver runners. “They’re cheaper than a facelift,” she said, “because everybody looks at the shoes and not my
She spoke lovingly about her father, and told me about the difficulties involved in getting all of Charlie Chaplin’s 8 kids to agree on the best way to preserve and make available their father’s films. If I appear distracted during the interview it’s because an obnoxious European reporter was tapping me on the back throughout my conversation with Chaplin, trying to push her way into the action. I ignored, got my interview and went on my way. So did Ms. Chaplin and the other reporter went away empty handed. I didn’t feel particularly sorry for her…
At 6:30 I did a live television interview via satellite with CBC’s Newsworld in Canada. The studio I shot it in is a spacious multi-room flat, overlooking the Croisette, and the Grand Theatre’s red carpet. I saw Sharon Stone, and think I saw Jack Nicholson, but was too far away to tell. While I was waiting to go on a couple of us sat and watched “Loft Story” on television with the sound turned down. It’s a reality show, a la the Canadian production “The Lofters.” Not really sure what it was all about. It’s a huge hit in France, but just seems to be about three girls in Thongs mopping the floor and washing their hair. I’m not complaining, I just didn’t really understand the story. The CBC interview went well, although the satellite cut out midway through.
That’s about it for today… early day tomorrow with screenings in the
morning and interviews in the afternoon.
FRIDAY MAY 17
Here’s what I take with me everyday when I leave the villa: a map of
Cannes, my cell phone, 10 – 15 pages of research, a lighter (all the cute French girls smoke), several pens, including one that lights up for writing in the dark and the latest edition of Daily Variety. Here’s what I usually come home with: 3 – 4 Beta tapes, about 50 pounds worth of press releases and magazines (OK, maybe I exaggerate, but not by much), 2 or 3 promotional T-shirts, and several promotional ball caps. Today someone gave me a box of cigars. It’s no wonder that my back aches and I think I’m developing a hunchback.
So far the best swag item has been an Evian “Brumisateur,” a water pump so I can spritz myself frequently while walking around in the blistering heat.
There are movie posters everywhere. On almost every square inch of available space on the streets, plastered on the sides of the hotels… everywhere. So far the strangest one I have seen is for a movie called “Citizen Jury.” I recognized Christopher Lambert from the poster… not hard to do as the guy always has at least one cheesy movie at Cannes, but I struggled to see who the other star was. “Looks like Jerry Springer,” I laughed to myself. When I stopped chuckling I realized that yes, MAN OH MAN, it is Jerry Springer, looking very serious, and if I may say, almost respectable. The movie’s slogan is: “Watch, Vote and Execute… All in the name of justice.” I’m thinking to myself they should add something about transvestite taxi drivers with unnatural lust for poodles to attract some of Jerry’s core audience… It’s all about the marketing.
Saw a movie called “Scorched” this morning. It stars Woody Harrelson and Rachel Leigh Cook (you’ll remember her as Josie in “Josie and the Pussycats). I’m not allowed to review the movie as yet; there is an embargo on reviews until after they have found a distributor. I can tell you it is a
story about four separate people all of whom decide to rob the same bank on the same day.
After the movie I went to the splashy Noga Hilton on the Croisette to do interviews for a film called “Intacto.” It’s a fascinating film about the nature of luck, why some people have and others don’t. It’s a very complicated, slow moving picture by Spanish first time feature film director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. I had the great pleasure of sitting with Max Von Sydow, a man I consider one of the great screen actors of our time. Who could forget him as killer-for-hire Joubert in “Three Days of the Condor,” or as Father Merrin in “The Exorcist,” not to mention his work with legendary director Ingmar Bergman. He’s a large man, who walks slowly, but that is the only hint that he is in his mid-seventies. He is a lively conversationalist, witty and not at all like the stone faced serious characters that he usually plays on film. He talked about many things, (the interview will air next week), including how much he loves Toronto. He was there in 1983 to film “Strange Brew,” and fondly remembered the look of the city, especially how old and new buildings co-exist, and while the glass paneled skyscrapers look very modern, somehow the mixing of old and new works. He is a charming man, and it was a real treat and honor to spend some time with him.
I also spoke to the film’s star Leonardo Sbaraglia, a Spanish movie actor with many films and awards to his credit. Cool guy. Didn’t speak English very well, but we had a translator and we had a nice talk. Also spoke to director Fresnadillo, who spoke perfect English, and was able to articulate some of the heavy concepts contained in his film.
After the interviews I left the Noga with its beautiful panoramic view of Cannes, and visited some publicists, trying to line up more interviews. More luck today than yesterday. It looks like several of the interviews that were in jeopardy yesterday are going to happen. I just have to keep my fingers crossed, and keep harassing the PR people. That seems to be the name of the game here in Cannes. The bigger the pain in the butt you are, the more they
cooperate with you.
Daily food update: After my meetings with the publicists I headed over to the American Pavilion down by the ocean. They have guest chefs coming in all week. Today was Mario Batali from the “Malto Mario” television show on The Food Network. For lunch I had Prosciutto San Daniele with Black Pepper Fett’unta and Baby Spinach Salad. It was great — I have yet to have bad food here — and tasted better because I sat on the beach and ate it. Lots of food, and only 10 Euros (about $14 Can).
The interviews for “Scorched” turned out to be scorchers, as they were held on the pier at the Majestic Beach. Rachel Leigh Cook was lovely, although she’s very, very, very small and has the tiniest feet I have ever seen. I was concerned that she might fall over during the interview… We talked about “Josie and the Pussycats” and why it didn’t do more business in the theatres. She tells me there are no plans for a sequel, so don’t expect to see “Josie and the Pussycats In Space” anytime soon. She also told me she loves Toronto, and that her mom is obsessed with Honest Ed’s, the enormous bargain store on Bloor Street West. Also spoke to the film’s director Gavin Grazer and Marcus Thomas, the actor who plays Cook’s love interest. The final interview of the day was with Paulo Costanzo, a Toronto-born actor who has recently had success with “Road Trip” and “40 days and 40 Nights.” It turns out that we have a mutual friend. My literary agent has known Paulo’s family for years. Paulo also told me that he wanted to turn down “Road Trip” because he thought it was such a terrible script. It was ridiculously hot on the pier, but everybody was in good spirits and the interviews went well.
After that went to the opening night party at the Canadian Pavilion. As with all good Canadian parties, it was packed, everyone was standing at the bar, and there was more than enough beer and wine for everyone. Met some cool people, and had a long and very funny conversation with the director of a new movie called “Eve,” which is billed as “An Exotic Adventure.” Also at the party was Bruce Kirkland from the Toronto Sun and “The Young and the Restless'” Tonya Lee Williams.
On the way home I saw some bizarre stuff… The street performers are out in
full force, there are mimes, jugglers, buskers and some guy painted gold who poses like Buddha…. But tonight I saw an older lady dressed like a clown SCREAMING at a mother and her baby. Yelling at the top of her lungs in French, and even though my grasp of the French language is tenuous, I could pick out the profanities from her tirade. It’s no wonder everybody hates clowns. That poor baby is going to be scarred for life. Also saw two guys dressed head to toe in old soda cans… hundreds of them attached to their clothes. They walked in rhythm, making a sound that reminded me of what it might be like if you filled up several oil cans with marbles and rolled them down the street. Noisy, but hilarious.
Also saw Academy Award winner Randy Newman on the street. He was much bigger than I expected he would be (he kind of looked like Sullivan, the big blue creature John Goodman voiced in “Monster’s Inc.), I stood next to him on the street, and noticed that he was humming “That’s What Friends Are For,” the cheesy Elton John / Dionne Warwick tune. It actually sounded OK coming from Randy….
As I write this I am sitting on the balcony of the “Reel To Real” villa with a view of downtown Cannes and the ocean. Tonight is clear and warm and there is a display of dancing lights in the sky. It’s beautiful. They have 40 or more klieg lights shooting upwards from the beach, and swaying in rhythm… it kind of reminds me of the old laser light shows at The Planetarium in Toronto… A nice image to take to bed.
SATURDAY MAY 18
I have a tan! I rarely ever spend enough time in the sun in Toronto to get any color at all, but I seem to have picked up a tan… rather a sunburn just by walking around.
Did several interviews this morning. Jean-Marie Poire, the French director who is best known in North America for “Just Visiting” was first up. He is promoting his latest French language farce “My Wife Maurice,” and was a delight. The movie is very funny, and will probably play very well in Europe. We talked about the failure of “Just Visiting” to find an audience in North America, and he explained that the final version of the film was not the movie he intended to make. He didn’t have final cut, and felt the movie wasn’t as funny as he wanted it to be. But he was philosophical about his Hollywood experience. “I’ve made 50 films, and only two haven’t been successful, so I can’t complain too much,” he said with a laugh.
Next we searched for the elusive location of our next interview. Confusion! Mega-Triple-Double-Dog-Dare-Ya Confusion… After getting a variety of directions, and lugging a metric ton of equipment all over the place, we found our spot… only it was closed for lunch. After some negotiations we found another spot and spoke to the makers of a film called “Japon.” The director and director, Carlos Reygadas, based this story on an old family friend, Alejandro Ferretis, who plays himself in the movie. They both spoke very good English (that is a real concern over here when dealing with international actors and filmmakers) and were very entertaining; I just wish I had more time to spend with them.
Next up was the usual barrage of phone calls to publicists while I ate a
Cobb Salad Wrap at the American Pavilion… remember, I said food was very important to me, and I have been missing far too many meals since I’ve been here. The calls were fruitful, and I booked interviews for “Spider” and “Ararat,” both of which I thought had gone south. Then a visit to the Troma Office just behind the Carlton Hotel. Oh Lloyd, what have you wrought? I met this kid from Madrid who had traveled at his own expense to be in Cannes, and work for free with the Troma Team. “Wouldn’t miss it for anything,” he said. He also invited me to a Troma sponsored yacht party. “Get there early if you want to drink,” he warned me, “the Troma people like to hose back the booze…”
I took a pass on the Troma drunk-a-thon, choosing instead to go to the Hong
Kong In Cannes party on the Carlton Beach. Despite a slight drizzle of rain the place was packed. So far they win for the complete excellence of the food, and the unique way they displayed it. Four large food trees, which canapés for branches were the centerpieces, but were surrounded by food stations with salmon, dim sum, and a food area. There were four bars, two inside and two out. Also another very cool thing they had was a small attachment that hooked on to the side of your plate to hold your glass of champagne. Excellent idea, as it keeps your hands free and your drinks close. I think it must be a rule in France that when the champagne is free you have to have at least three glasses… I hate to break the rules…
The show at the Honk Kong party was amazing. On stage they had traditional Chinese musicians, a Kung Fu demonstration, a 20 foot dragon that danced and winked, a host of Hong Kong stars, including Maggie Cheung, two of Honk Kong’s biggest actors, both named Tony Leung, and several Asian directors.
Almost saw my first fist fight of the festival. Cannes is notorious for the in-fighting that happens between photographers who are all vying for the same shot. I haven’t seen too much action in the scrums this year until tonight when two photogs bumped into one another, and BOOM, it was World War Five in photographer land. The fight was mostly verbal, but one guy did take a swing, missed and was then escorted out by a security guard. I was hoping the Kung Fu masters would become involved. That would have been a show.
Went to bed at midnight after the party. Have to be up early to see “Punch Drunk Love,” directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, and starring Adam Sandler. I loved Anderson’s last two movies “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights,” so I’m curious to see this one.
SUNDAY MAY 19
Lists. Cannes is all about lists. I have a black notebook that never leaves my side. In it are my contacts phone numbers, hastily scribbled notes, show ideas and lists and lists and lists of things to do. Each list usually starts with: 1.) Check list… I need all the reminders I can get…
First movie today was Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Punch Drunk Love” at the Grand Theatre. It’s the largest of the festival’s movie houses holding upwards of 1000 people. As I wrote last night I loved “Magnolia” and “Boogie Nights,” but unfortunately lightening has not struck a third time. “Punch Drunk Love” I think, was an attempt by Anderson to pare down the epic length movies he is known for and make something simpler and more linear. He has accomplished that, cutting the running time down to one and a half hours from his usual three, but in doing that has sacrificed character development. I was hoping this would be Adam Sandler’s entry to adult roles, and while he is almost there, he displays no ability to grow and develop into a believable character. His Barry Egan is a distributor of novelty items (like plungers with dice on them for use in Casinos), with a severe anger management problem. He falls in love with Lena (Emily Watson) while at the same time becoming involved in a phone-sex extortion scam. Not a bad premise, but when the main character is hard to identify with it makes it difficult for the viewer to feel sympathy or any connection to them. Sandler stretches his usual teen-movie shtick a little bit, but not enough to satisfy. After the movie there was a small smattering of applause rather than the usual ovation given for the “In Competition” films. Watch “Reel To Real” for a full review.
Next up was an interview I had been trying to set up since the day I got here. Three members of Andy Warhol’s Factory family are here to promote the screenings of a trio of cult films — “Flesh” “Heat” and “Trash” – produced by Warhol and directed by Paul Morrissey. I sat and spoke with Morrissey, Joe Dellessandro and Holly Woodlawn at their elegant apartment on the Boulevard D’Alace. Morrissey has been called “America’s most undervalued and least shown major director.” As Andy Warhol’s right hand man he ran the factory, put together and managed The Velvet Underground and directed the films that Warhol presented. Dellessadndro starred in many of the films, including the three being shown here, as well as “The Loves of Ondine,” “Lonesome Cowboy” and “Blood for Dracula.” The photo of him that graces the cover of the “Flesh” DVD, dressed in a black t-shirt and headband staring menacingly into the camera is one of the iconic photographs of the 1970’s New York art scene. He has continued to work in both mainstream and art films. Holly Woodlawn (born Harold Danhakl) also performed in many of Warhol’s movies, but is probably best remembered as the subject of Lou Reed’s song “Walk On the Wild Side.” Remember the opening line? “Holly came from Miami FLA… hitch-hiked her way across the USA… plucked her eyebrows on the way, shaved her legs then he was a she…” Apparently Holly is still walking on the wild side, as she was rather hung
over from the Vanity Fair party the night before. Morrissey was great… he’s a provocateur who isn’t afraid to make statements like “Andy couldn’t read or write…” or refer to Lou Reed as “that AWFUL Lou Reed.” An interesting interview with three of the major figures in underground filmmaking. I particularly like Morrissey, maybe because he said I was “charming and informed.”
On the way back to the Croisette I saw Hayden Christenson on the street.
He’s probably having one of the most surreal weekends of his life, with “Star Wars: Attack of the Clones” opening all over the world. When he wakes up on Monday morning, and the box office results are in his life is going to be changed forever.
By midday we were at the Martinez Hotel to do interviews for the still in-production “Bulletproof Monk.” (It’s shooting in Toronto until July.) Getting into the hotel was a bit of a trail as Adam Sandler was trying to leave the hotel as hundreds of fans were swarming the entrance. We got in and saw an 11 minute roughly cut excerpt of the movie. Interesting to see it in its unfinished state with very little music or sound effects and very rudimentary special effects. Having had just a taste of it, I have to say it’s kind of like eating a cake before it has been baked… the dough is OK, but could be better. I think it’s going to be an eye-popper when it is finished.
Jamie King (she’s no longer James King) is beautiful. I have interviewed her before for “Pearl Harbor,” but her whole look has changed. Last time I met her she had short blonde pin curls, a real 1940’s glam look, now her hair is a more grown-up long and a reddy-brunette. She kind of reminded me of
Sharon Tate. She was staring in my general direction, so I looked behind me to see what was going on. “No, it’s you,” she said. “You have really great hair.” Seann William Scott (from the “American Pie” movies was very nice, had lots of nice things to say about Toronto, and called me “Dude” several times.
The final call of the day was the Telefilm Party at the Savoy Hotel. It seemed to be the day to interview beautiful women. I spoke with the Canadian producer, publicist and director of “Eve,” a breathtakingly hypnotic journey of a young woman searching for her soul mate in a time before time as the first day dawns. (She’s looking for Adam, get it?) They were all great, but the star, model Inger Ebeltoft, the former Miss Norway and current Miss Cannes It Girl was beautiful, smart, and funny. Her photo call on the beach earlier in the day dressed in her “Eve” bikini almost started a riot…
Tomorrow is an interview with Michael Moore in the morning, so I’ll sign off so I can prepare…
MONDAY MAY 20
Busy day today, although a good chunk of it was spent waiting around to do interviews. Arrived at the Majestic Beach at 10:30 am after making my usual rounds of all the publicist’s offices. My call time for the Michael Moore “Bowling for Columbine” interview was 10:50, but as soon as we arrived we were told that they were running at least an hour late. “Just ask him one question and you’ll get a twenty minute answer,” one publicist told me. Moore likes to talk, and was giving every media outlet his full attention, so the schedule was blown out right away.
We waited, getting more sun burnt by the minute until it was our turn at
12:10. It was well worth the wait. In person Moore is as engaging and funny as he is on his television show “the Awful Truth,” or in his documentary movies. He remembered me from our chance meeting on the Croisette earlier in the week, and answered each of my questions with long detailed replies.
When the publicist came by to break up the interview, he waved her off saying, “Hey, these guys came all the way from Canada and have been waiting all morning. I’m enjoying this.” Then he turned to me and said, “Ask me some more questions…” We continued for another 10 minutes or so, while he talked about how much he likes and admires Canada, hates Mike Harris and thinks we should take the Queen off our money. This one was definitely a highlight… I could have talked to him for hours.
Next was lunch at the American Pavilion with the crew, Bryan, my trusty cameraman Mark and my special guest host for the Cannes shows Denis Seguin. Denis is a reporter for Screen International, and has made frequent radio and television appearances. He is in Cannes writing for Screen
International, Canadian Business and doing a radio piece for CBC’s Definitely Not the Opera. After some salads and Mexican food we headed off to Casa “Reel To Real” to shoot reviews for “Ararat,” “Spider,” “Punch Drunk Love,” and “Bowling for Columbine.” He was great — nice insights to the films, and we didn’t always agree, so I think the reviews are lively and entertaining.
No star sightings on the street today, although I did get to interview a young Canadian actor named David Alpay, the lead in Atom Egoyan’s “Ararat.” He’s a U of T science student who auditioned for the film on a lark thinking he might get some work as an extra. Instead he got the lead… We spoke at the Alliance Atlantic office on Rue Mace, with a brass band playing in the street below. He’s a nice guy, level headed and very smart. Enjoyed meeting him, and I think he will be offered more screen work when people see his work in “Ararat.”
Following that interview we headed for the jaws of hell. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that covering a film festival is glamorous easy work. It’s not as I was reminded on Monday night. We were asked to cover a red carpet event for the film “Gangs of New York,” which was happening at a restaurant called Baoli down by the water. We arrived at 5, ready to set up our equipment, but were asked to stand back and wait until the organizers arrived. Keep in mind it’s about one million degrees here… we waited until it was time to be herded like cattle into a cordoned off area next to the red carpet. The idea is that the stars walk by and you can ask them a few questions before they head off to dinner. We waited. And waited. Then waited some more. They booked too many media outlets, so everybody was crammed into this tiny space, hoping to get a couple of minutes with Cameron Diaz, Leonardo D’Caprio and Martin Scorsese. At 7:30 we heard police sirens which announced the arrival of Mr. Scorsese’s limo. Mega crush time in the media pen as everybody surged forward to get a few words from the famous director.
He spoke to Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, E! and… Reel To
Real before moving along and going inside. Cool, one down and two more to go. Leonardo was next, and chatted with the American press first, and just as I got his attention, and had half of my question out his personal publicist hauled him away. Ditto for Cameron Diaz. Now if I had the choice of any of these people I would take Mr. Scorsese, so that part was satisfying, but we waited over three hours in the blistering sun for these people to show up, and then left with just a few minutes of tape. Not glamorous. Not pretty. I feel like sending Cameron Diaz a bill for the medicated aloe cream I had to buy for the sunburn I got while waiting around for her.
I’m over that little blip now, but I am feeling slightly crazy from the heat… a long day of standing around that yielded some cool stuff, Michael
Moore and Martin Scorsese, but I think I may have fried my noodle a little bit. Time for bed.
TUESDAY MAY 21
No early appointments today but I just can’t seem to sleep in. I hate that.
Woke up at the ungodly hour of 7:30 am and wandered around the apartment, trying to figure out the rest of the day…
We had to Fed Ex another load of tapes back to Canada at 11:30 am, so we decided to hit the Croisette and shoot the “tops and tails” for each segment of the second show. As I mentioned a few days ago shooting outside is tough because of the noise and the crowds. Here it is doubly difficult given the large wandering herds of people who tend to wander in and out of camera range, and the sounds of traffic in the background. But we got downtown early before it got too crazy and banged off enough footage for the second show.
Lunch! I love lunch! Today Mark and I went to a little cafe just off the main drag and had pasta and very strong caffeinated drinks. Got a call from
Jesse Rosensweet a Canadian short film director who is showing his movie
“The Stine of Folly” in competition here. I think he was sitting right behind me at the same restaurant. We made arrangements to do an interview on Wednesday or Thursday.
Then it was back to Casa R2R to get more equipment for the remainder of the day’s shooting schedule. Several interviews booked, and we’re running out of Beta tape. We brought more tape with us this year, but have shot three times as much stuff this year as last… Bryan has spent most of the morning trying to track down tapes for us to use…
It’s still really busy here, although there seem to be fewer people around on Tuesday. Last night, sitting on our balcony we could hear the chimes of cell phones from the street as hurried reporters ran from screening to screening, taking calls and talking loudly… It was a long week-end here which added to the crush of tourists who clog the streets here, stargazing.
But most of them seem to have left now, and it is a little easier to get around… but only a little easier. There is fluidity to covering Cannes that takes a few days to get used to. Interviews are scheduled. Interviews are cancelled. Then they’re back on, but on a different day and time. Of course this new time always conflicts with something else you have already set up, so then you have to make a series of phone calls to publicists to try and convince them to juggle their schedules to accommodate yours. Nothing and I mean nothing, runs on time… but after a while I began to enjoy the challenge of working within the Cannes chaos. As they say: The only constant is change… that should be the motto of Cannes.
The final interviews of the day are for two highly anticipated Canadian films — “Ararat” and “Spider.” These have been difficult to arrange, and both the publicists and the interviewees have been very co-operative. First was Patrick McGrath, the English-born writer of both the novel and screenplay for “Spider.” He’s a big blustery man, and not at all what I expected. I thought he would be a scowling Goth type, dressed in black with tattoos and skull earrings. Instead I am presented with an outgoing multi-talented guy who has written horror novels, thrillers, children’s books and literary works. I asked him about why he chooses to explore the themes of mental illness in his books, and he told me about growing up on the grounds of a mental hospital that his father ran… It’s a good story, but you’ll have to tune into the show to hear it…
Next I zipped over to the Toronto Film Festival party at the Gray D’Albion Beach. I could only stay a few minutes, but saw Piers handling and the rest of the film festival staff who are here scouting movies for our September festival. Also Michael Moore stopped by to say hello. Then it was off to the Grand Salon of the Carlton Hotel to interview Arsinee Khanjian, the lead actress in “Ararat.” We talked about many things, and I reminded her that years ago when I was a waiter at Southern Accent she came in one night, and while trying to show someone her wedding ring, accidentally tossed it over the patio and it disappeared into a flower bed. I ran and got a flashlight, and after a 20 minute search we found it… She vividly remembered that night and we had a good laugh about it.
Here’s an interesting aside… Arsinee is married to “Ararat’s” director Atom Egoyan. The Cannes film festival this year coincided with the run of a play she was doing in Toronto, so rather than have her miss the opening night of the film at the Grand Theatre, Atom and his partners bought out the play for the days she was to be away…
After speaking with Arsinee I hoofed it over to the Alliance Atlantis office just off the Croistette to interview Atom Egoyan. Due to the “Canadian confusion” I spoke about a few days ago a number of Canadian media outlets were left off the list to interview Mr. Egoyan. Since his schedule was already packed there didn’t seem to be a way to fit any of us in. Now, remember earlier when I was talking about the interviewees being very co-operative? I’m thinking of Atom Egoyan. He spent eight hours doing interviews; one right after the other, in seven different languages, under hot lights the night after his film received a fifteen minute standing ovation at the Grand Theatre. He probably just wanted to go out and celebrate, but instead agreed to meet with the Canadian press for another round of interviews… He was tired, but gracious and I appreciate that he helped me and my show out.
Out to dinner afterwards… pizza at an outdoor cafe, and then off to Casa
R2R to write, and plan the shows we have to shoot on Wednesday…
WEDNESDAY MAY 22
Finally a slack day! Of course it is also the worst weather we’ve had which caused us some problems as we tried to shoot parts of the show. The howling wind prevented us from shooting for most of the morning – you just can’t get good sound with wind whipping by the microphone at one hundred miles an hour… We spent the day shooting “b-roll,” some beauty shots of Cannes to be used in montages and exploring the old part of the city.
Got an alarming phone call from our editor Vince. Seems none of the tapes we sent yesterday have arrived. The courier has misplaced them… all thirty of them. We tracked them and discovered they are in Paris, so at least we know where they are, but it means show number two will be late by a day. The missing tapes contain pretty much everything we’ve shot — all the interviews, the parties, the b-roll and the reviews with Denis Seguin — four shows worth of stuff. I hope and pray they show up in Toronto on Thursday.
The porn festival is moving into town. Each year at the end of the regular festival a porn convention starts just outside of town, and you can really see the difference. Today we saw a woman on the street dressed (?) head to toe in a sheer see-through outfit and nothing else… The porn festival is well attended, just not very well reported. Each year the mainstream film business brings in about $4 billion, while the porn industry is almost double that. So they come here and spend loads of cash and are welcomed by the local merchants and hotels.
As the festival winds down to the closing day you can really see the toll it is taking on everybody. Security, who used to greet you with a “Bonjour,” now simply look at you with contempt as they frisk you and check your bags.
Reporters are all talking about going home and how much they are looking forward to it, and the nice woman in the media lounge is looking tired and isn’t as friendly as she was earlier in the week. It’s a burn-out job covering any festival, but this one seems to really take it out of you. The confusion, the heat, the waiting around… it’s very draining.
On Thursday we have to finish shooting the shows regardless of the weather. I spent the night preparing material and getting ready, and praying for sunshine.
THURSDAY MAY 23
Rainy, windy day… not great for shooting, but we’ll have to make do. Found a spot in front of the Canadian Pavilion that was protected from the crappy weather and shot the remaining “stand-ups” for the fourth show, and then stood in the rain to shoot stuff for the hour-long special.
Had an interesting conversation with the producer of “Spider” at the Canadian Pavilion. He tells me the reaction to the film over here in France has been very good, and foreign sales of the film are doing well. It’s a very European feeling film, so I’m not surprised that sales are brisk.
The final story I wanted to cover over here was a movie called “Only the
Strong Survive,” a documentary by legendary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker.
In the Sixties Pennebaker made one of the best rock and roll movies ever,
“Don’t Look Back” about Bob Dylan. “Only the Strong Survive” is a look at the soul singers of the 1960s – Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave), Carla Thomas, Wilson Pickett, The Chi-Lites, Ann Peebles and Mary Wilson — and what they are doing now. So many didn’t make it — Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson, almost all of The Temptations… the list goes on and on. Those who did survive and thrive after their turn in the spotlight frequently have inspiring stories, and that’s what this movie is all about. Sam Moore is a prime example. In the late 1960s he and singing partner Dave Prater placed a handful of hits in the Top Ten, including the classics “Soul Man,” “Hold On, I’m Coming,” “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby,” “I Thank You,” and “Soothe Me” under the name Sam and Dave. After the hits stopped Moore and Prater went their separate ways, had failed solo careers and developed serious drug habits. In 1978 the success of The Blues Brothers re-recording of “Soul Man” saw Sam and Dave briefly reunite. Personal differences and drug problems seemed to doom the duo to a life of semi-obscurity. Fortunately with the help of his wife Joyce Moore has been clean ever since 1982, and it is his story that provides the “soul” of “Only The Strong Survive.”
I met Moore and his wife on a patio overlooking the ocean at the American Pavilion. Moore looks fit and trim, with the grin of a man who has been there and back, and is happy to have made it through. In the interview I asked him to explain soul music. Why is it different than pop music? He sang part of his answer. “It’s all in the phrasing and the attack,” he said, before singing a line from a pop song, then bending and caressing the notes the way he would sing it. It gave me goose bumps to sit next to one of the great soul singers of the 60s and have him sing just for me… Also a couple of other revelations from Mr. Moore: He doesn’t like being called a soul singer; he likes Celine Dion and doesn’t care for his biggest hit “Soul Man.”
Also spoke with D.A. Pennebaker and his partner Chris Hegedus. He’s a seminal figure in the world of documentaries and his work (now in collaboration with Hegedus) is still as vital and exciting as it was almost 40 years ago when he pioneered “cinema verite.” He’s a self effacing man who allows his wife Chris to do most of the talking. He tells me he doesn’t care for labels, and doesn’t think of his work as “cinema verite,” just good movies. They are an interesting couple who have managed to work together and keep a relationship going for almost 25 years. That’s almost unheard of in the film world.
They were the final interview of the trip, and I was feeling pretty good about the work we had done — loads of interviews, lots of tape to sort through back in Toronto — certainly enough to put together 4 half-hour shows and an hour special. Then Vince, the voice of doom called from an editing suite in Toronto. The tapes finally arrived at the station after the courier had “misplaced” them, but all of the trailers we had dubbed from Pal to the NTSC format were unusable… The company we had hired in Cannes blew it and the audio was sped up on all of them. “Everyone sounds like chipmunks,” Vince told me on my cell.
My head nearly exploded. The last ten days had gone well… really well… almost too well. We were really busy, and had gathered great material and had hit all our deadlines. To have a technical glitch bugger up ten days of work was almost more than I could bear. We had to gather all the tapes again, and have then re-dubbed by someone else and Fed Ex’d overnight to Toronto so we could make our next deadline. The 2nd show probably won’t make it to air on time, but if everything works the way I am planning we’ll only be one airing late.
This news kind of ruined the high I had been riding on, thinking we had pulled this off… At least Vince called after dinner (roasted red peppers with chevre, filet of beef with a pepper sauce and seasonal vegetables with a bottle of wine, followed by Marquees au Chocolate) so he didn’t spoil my appetite.
Unfortunately I’ll be traveling all day on Friday, and won’t be reachable until 6 pm Toronto time, so I won’t know if the situation is really fixable… you gotta know that’s driving me nuts.
I have to be up at 4:30 am, so I’ll sign off now…
FRIDAY MAY 24
Went to bed at 10:30 pm on my last night in Cannes. I had to be up at 4 am
(note to self: get a new travel agent) to drive to Nice, catch a flight to
Paris and then another to Toronto. Today’s going to be a long day and I want to be at least semi-rested, but I couldn’t sleep last night thinking about all my interviewees talking like chipmunks to one another…
Here’s something I didn’t need to see first thing in the morning, after only a couple hours of sleep… Someone (Mark the cameraman or Bryan the EP) left the round wall mirror with the magnified side facing out. Oh, I know it sounds like a little thing, but literally the first thing I saw this morning was my enormous tanned head, magnified to three times its usual size. I wasn’t quite awake and thought perhaps over the night I had grown and swollen to become some kind of gigantic freak. What if I don’t fit into my plane seat?
As soon as Mark and I walked out of the apartment door with our luggage and made our way down to the waiting cab the trip was over for me. The rest is just an endurance test — making flight connections and killing 4 hours at Paris airport, then an eight hour flight to Toronto.
I’m a facts and figures kind of guy… so here’s a list of some information you need to know about “Reel To Real”’s 2002 trip to the Cannes International Film Festival…
1. Number of tubes of Sour Cream and Onion Pringles consumed by R2R
2. Estimated liters of water I drank each day: 5
3. Best food at a party: Hong Kong At Cannes bash on Saturday. I’m still dreaming about the dim sum…
4. Hours spent waiting in the blistering sun for Martin Scorsese: 3
5. Number of times a day I was told “It’s not possible” by someone connected to the festival: 7
6. Most elegant interview subject: Max Von Sydow
7. Smallest interview subject: Rachel Leigh Cook. She’s lovely and smart, and I liked her very much, but she has the smallest feet I have ever seen…
8. Funniest interview subject: Michael Moore
9. Number of hours spent in Cannes: 231
10. Number of interviews: 29
11. Number of hours spent waiting for interviews to begin: 31
12. Number of Stella Artois consumed: Not telling…
13. Number of bad Adam Sandler movies I saw: 1… I seem to be the only person in Cannes that didn’t like “Punch Drunk Love”…
14. Number of souvenirs purchased in Cannes: 0… I had no time…
15. Number of people we met who inspired a classic rock song: 1… Holly
Woodlawn was the inspiration for the Lou Reed tune “Walk On the Wild
My plan was to sleep on the plane from Paris to Toronto, get a decent rest and feel good once I got home… of course it didn’t happen… It looked good right up until about a minute before we took off. Mark and I get our seats, and they’re nice, spacious and there’s NOBODY sitting around us. Perfect. I’m looking at my watch, and as we get closer to departure time I’m thinking that the plane is undersold and we’re going to have all this space to ourselves… One second before we took off a large extended family — grandmothers to infants — come rolling in and fill up all the seats around us, including grandmother who has never flown before sitting next to me, and a newborn sitting right behind me. Eight hours of wailing and crying… and that was just me complaining about the noise this family was making.
Anyway, it wasn’t a restful trip.
Got to Toronto roughly on time, and then took two hours to get downtown. Mobs of people everywhere… hard to get a cab. The hardest part of getting home was actually the last journey from the airport to my house… Dropped off my luggage, and tried to answer as many of my 22 voice messages as I could before passing out. I had been up since 10 pm (Toronto time) the night before and it is now midnight…
I’m tired, but I think it was worth it. We got to interview loads of people, including a few I had always wanted to talk to like Max Von Sydow, Michael Moore and Martin Scorsese, see some great movies and bake in the sun for almost two weeks… Hope you enjoy the shows…
MONDAY DECEMBER 2, 2002
I’m not a morning person, and I don’t really understand people who are. My friend Andrea gets up early and is always trying to convince me that I’m missing “the best part of the day.” Well, let me tell you about “the best part” of Monday morning. My flight to New York wasn’t until 12:45 pm, but I had a few things to do before I go, so I get up early, pack and go out to do some banking and run some errands. First stop, the bank. I have to get a money order, and figure it won’ t be busy at 9 am. I run to the bank on the corner. Of course it doesn’t open until 10 am. The security guard glares at me as I try and open the door. Strike one. I leave the bank and go to the post office. On the way someone spits and almost lands a large gob on my pant leg. Not pleasant. Strike two. Get to the post office and suffer through a long line-up. I pick up my parcel, and am out in about twenty minutes. Not bad, maybe things are looking up. I leave the post office and narrowly avoid being thrown up on by a random passer by. What is it with people and their disagreeable bodily functions? Strike three. At this point my natural inclination was to run home and go to back to bed to wait out “best part of the day,” but I had a plane to catch, and decided to leave right away for the airport.
I turn down the street to my house, and while I have been gone several large Hydro trucks have moved in and completely blocked the street. I’ll have to grab my luggage and get a cab on the street. Strike four. I stand on the street, freezing cold until the cab arrives. While I’m there I read newspaper stories about someone getting kicked to death at a restaurant in the East end, and a bar on College Street that blew up the night before. As the cab pulls up I feel a sense of relief that I’m going somewhere clean and safe – New York City…
The cab ride to Terminal 3 at Pearson was thankfully uneventful. I guess the “best part of the day” was over. You don’t realize how many Americans come to Canada to visit friends and family on Thanksgiving until you try to fly to the US on the Monday following the holidays. The long, long, long line-up to check-in was followed by equally long line-ups to clear customs and go through security. Security seemed a bit tighter than the last time I flew to America. I was grilled at customs, searched at the security point and just before boarding the plane there were random checks. I missed getting pulled aside, but one of the other reporters from Toronto was thoroughly checked. Good thing too, she looked kind of shady…
The flight left on time, and despite AA’s nickname of “American Scarelines,” the flight was quick, safe and without incident. The food service, however, was disappointing. We were offered a bag of Tiny Twist pretzels and a beverage. That’s it. Arrive on time, and grab a cab to the Drake hotel in mid-town Manhattan.
I love New York. The city bristles with energy, and after dozens of trips there in the last few years, I still get excited about going there. The Drake is a grand old hotel just off of Park Avenue. As we drive there we pass Bergdorf Goodman, Gucci, Fendi and Burberry. I guess I’ll have to go elsewhere if I plan on doing any shopping while I’m here. After checking in I check my schedule and discover that I have several hours before I have to see Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.
Here’s my confession — the story of my weird obsession. (Don’t worry this will all make sense soon enough.) Twenty years ago I was working in a restaurant in the Eaton Centre. Starting at the end of November for eight hours a day I was forced to listen to an endless loop of the sappiest Christmas music ever recorded. It drove me mad, and I decided to try and find some better Christmas tunes. The first records I found were some James Brown 45s with names like Santa Claus Goes Straight to the Ghetto and Let’s Make Christmas Mean Something This Year. There are both incredibly funky, with the latter being, in my opinion the Stairway to Heaven of Christmas tunes. It’s great stuff, and it got me hooked on collecting unusual holiday discs. I vowed to never again listen to the appalling Stars on 45 discofied version of Frosty the Snowman. The memory of this song still haunts my dreams. Since then the collection has grown to enormous proportions and gets bigger every year. For the last few years I have found myself in New York around Christmas and make a point of hitting the record stores to see what’s new and unusual. Last year on my annual NYC Christmas hunt I found some very rare stuff – an old Bob Seger recording of Sock It To My Santa and the like.
This year I spent Monday afternoon at Virgin Records in Times Square and several other smaller shops hunting through the racks. At Virgin I found a comedy record by Bob Rivers called White Trash Christmas. Rivers is a radio DJ who has released several Christmas records. This one contains the soon-to-be classics Have Yourself an Ozzy Little Christmas, Osama Got Run Over by a Reindeer and What if Eminem Did Jingle Bells. Pretty funny stuff, although it doesn’t exactly fill one’s heart with Christmas cheer. My next stop was the Colony record store on Broadway. This place has been here for a million years, and is one of my favorite stores in NYC. The staff is really old, I imagine that most of them have worked here since the stone age, and they are foul tempered and not very helpful, but for some reason I like the abuse. It seems so New York to me, that in a strange way I find it charming and funny. This time I enter the store and ask the first salesperson I see where the Christmas section is. No response. I ask again. He just stares ahead, lost in thought and completely ignores me. I try one more time. “Excuse me, where is the Christmas section?” “I HEARD YOU THE FIRST TIME,” he grunts, suddenly coming to life. Begrudgingly he takes me to the back of the store, where I find another Bob Rivers CD called Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire. The title of one of the songs, The Carol of the Bartenders appeals to me so I pick it up. The last stop was a small store near the hotel. I find ‘Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets! 13 Rockin’ Christmas Instrumentals. I’ve been looking for this one. Los Straitjackets are a Mexican wrestling mask wearing quartet from LA that play stripped-down surf-punk guitar tunes that rock like crazy. This one is a mix of traditional and original tunes. Pretty good haul for one day.
Now I have to get back to the hotel, grab a bite and go see the movie. Have dinner with Teri Hart from TMN and Amy Lerman from Movie Television on CITY-TV. We went to Q56, the restaurant in the hotel. They had soup and salads, and by this time I realized I hadn’t eaten anything at all today so I hammered back a delicious French Onion Soup and a steak (medium rare please!) with root vegetables and white asparagus ($43 USD).
The movie was at the Regal Theatre on Second Avenue. It’s an old tri-plex in midtown that seems like it could use a bit of a facelift. I sat in the balcony, and the rows of chairs were so close together that I had to have my legs hanging out in the aisle. Otherwise I couldn’t sit up straight. Also there were ashtrays on the backs of the chairs. I can’t remember when I have seen that in recent years. The movie is three solid hours, and will definitely blow people’s minds. The battle sequences are unbelievable, and there are lots of new characters.
On the drive back to the hotel I took in the Christmas lights at Bloomingdales and was glad I was in New York at Christmas. It’s beautiful, and almost looks like a movie set. Before I go to bed I check my schedule for the next day. My first interview isn’t until 1:30 pm, so I can sleep in and possibly miss the “best part of the day” in NYC.
Tuesday December 3, 2002
I got up at a reasonable hour and checked out of the hotel. Overnight the temperature dropped about a million degrees and it’s quite cold. Some of the other reporters from Los Angeles are complaining that they have to walk five blocks in the cold to get to the interviews. My Canadian constitution kicks in, and I don’t even do up my jacket as I walk up Park Avenue.
The interviews are at the Regency Hotel on 61st street. Very elegant, and very expensive. I make my way up to the hospitality suite, and am greeted by every hotel employee with a “Good morning sir,” as I walk to the hotel. I get tired of saying, “Fine thanks, how are you?” I’m glad everyone is so pleasant, but I think I was “greeted” 10 times in the 45 second walk from the door to the elevator. At the hospitality suite I have a bite to eat from a buffet set up for the reporters. It’s an orgy of eggs, bacon, bagels and pastries topped with sugary icing. I scarf back as much of this stuff as I can, washing it back with several cups of tea. It’s really hard to get a good cup of tea in the US, but the more upscale hotels seem to understand that the basic ingredient of tea is boiling hot water. Clearly someone at the Regency is on top of this.
There are nine sets of interviews to do today, so it’s going to take a while. Each interview is only 5 – 7 minutes long, but it’s the waiting around that takes the time. I start late, at 2:30, with John Rhys Davies, a veteran actor who was in the Indiana Jones movies. The term gregarious might well have been invented to describe this guy. Despite having done a whole day of interviews the day before, and a morning of them before I got to him, he was ion very good spirits. In The Two Towers he plays Gimili, the warrior dwarf and does the voice of Treebeard. The former role is very physical, so I was surprised to see him walking with a cane. He explained that he was recuperating from an on-set accident (on a different movie) where he had injured his leg and broken his hand. We had a lively chat, which you will soon see on Reel to Real.
Next up was director Peter Jackson. I spoke with him last year when the first Rings movie was released, and he doesn’t seem to have changed. Like last year he was dressed in a t-shirt, shorts and wasn’t wearing shoes or socks. I’ve interviewed lots of directors, and he doesn’t seem to have the controlling nature that so many of them display, despite having helmed the largest film project in the history of cinema. He’s down to earth and very personable. I asked him what his favorite moment from the whole LOTR experience was and he told me it was showing the completed Two Towers to his kids. They have been Lord of the Rings orphans for the last couple of years as he hasn’t been able to be with them as much as he would like. When he showed them the film they loved it, and seemed to understand why he wasn’t like all the other dads who come home from their jobs at five o’clock every day.
Andy Serkis was next. He plays the computer-generated character of Gollum. I asked about Gollum’s unusual voice, wondering whether it was computer enhanced. He said that everyone thinks it is, but actually he spent a great deal of time creating the voice organically, and to prove it he did several lines of dialogue from the film in his character’s voice. It’s really cool, and we’ll show it to you on Reel to Real.
Hobbitts Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd were together for their interviews. This is the third time I’ve spoken to them, most recently in Toronto at the LOTR exhibit at the ROM. They are very funny, and seem to get along very well. When I asked Billy Boyd how his life had changed since the release of the first movie. He says it hasn’t changed that much, except that he gets offered better scripts now. When I followed up by asking him if he can still walk down the street without being bothered by fans. “Oh, yeah,” he laughed. “I can still walk down the street, but now I wear diamond shoes.” Elijah Wood has his hair cropped very close to his head, which sort of makes him look more like Gollum than he would probably like to acknowledge. He’s very friendly, and commented on my suit. “You look very dapper,” he said as I sat down. We had a wide- ranging chat, which you’ll have to tune in to Reel to Real to see.
Viggo Mortenson is the really the star of The Two Towers. As sword wielding Aragon he is the strongest and most appealing character in the film. During the screening I heard someone say, “I don’t really know what’s going on, but Viggo is really hot.” This guy could be a huge movie star if he makes the right choices. In person he’s very serious, very soft-spoken, and quite low key. In his suite he has incense burning, and speaks so softly I had to lean in to hear him. We talked about training for the film, and how he got so close to the horse he rode in the movie he bought it once shooting was completed.
Sean Astin likes to talk. I think I only got to ask him one question, and just sat back and let him go. He’s the son of John Astin (famous for playing Gomez on the Addam’s Family) and Patty Duke and an Academy Award nominated director for a short film he made with his wife in 1995. Strangely his dad was nominated for the same award in the Sixties.
Bernard Hill and Brad Dourif were paired up. Hill is a character actor who played the captain of the Titanic in the film of the same name. Dourif has a wide-ranging resume that includes his Academy Award nominated role as Billy Bibbit in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to supplying the voice of the evil doll Chucky in Child’s Play and all the sequels. One of the publicists told be Dourif had been chain-drinking cappuccinos all day, and I have to say, it showed. He had that wide-eyed look of someone who had a gallon or two of caffeine running through his system.
The last interviews of the day were Miranda Otto and Karl Urban. They are both up-and-coming young Australian actors, who are first timers to the big Hollywood exposure provided by The Two Towers. Otto studied acting in Australia at the same school that trained Judy Davis and Mel Gibson, while Urban made his acting debut when he was just eight years old. They told me a story about camping out at the set of Helm’s Deep with several other cast members, having a barbeque and spending the night trading stories and drinking wine. Both said it was one of the most personal, and magical experiences they had while making the movie.
With the interviews finished the next hurdle was to try and figure out how to fit all the tapes into my suitcase. I thought I had brought a large enough case, but once you add in clothes, some LOTR promo items and 35 tapes the case ends up weighing 50 pounds and bulging. I creatively pack, and get the case downstairs (stopping for a cookie on the way) to grab a cab to the airport. I hate to leave after such a short trip, but I’m not too bothered because I have to come back to NYC on Friday to interview the casts of Gangs of New York and The Pianist. Unlike the fast trip from Toronto to NYC the trip home was a bit of a nightmare of delays and waiting around. I got home around eleven pm, two hours later than I had planned, but at least nobody spit or vomited on me, so I guess the trip home was partly successful.
New York. Cannes. Los Angeles. Hamilton… Hamilton!? I’m off to Hamilton, Ontario, steel capital of Canada, to visit the set of the new action adventure film Detention, starring Dolph Lundgren.
According to the press information the movie is set in a tough inner city high school where “drugs and guns are part of the unofficial curriculum.” Actually the high school is the not-so-scary Glendale Secondary School, a fairly average looking facility in the suburbs of Hamilton… but back to the story. Sam Decker (Dolph Lundgren) is a teacher who is disillusioned with the school system and wants out. It’s his last day as a teacher, and he has been assigned to oversee a detention class after hours. In his class is a pregnant teen named Alicia (Danielle Hampton), Willy (Dov Tiefenbach), a bitter student confined to a wheelchair, Mick, (Corey Sevier) a skateboarder with attitude, the foul-mouthed Tee Jay (Mpho Koaho), the street-wise Hoagie (Chris Collins) and Charlee (Nicole Dicker) a troubled teen. Of course that alone wouldn’t be much of a movie, so it’s at this point we discover that some generic Eastern European bad guys are planning on taking over the school and using it as a base for their nefarious operations. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that Decker is a former U.S. Special Forces unit leader. Sit back and watch the bullets fly; it’s like The Breakfast Club with bazookas.
We arrived on-set at 11:15 few minutes later than planned. I’ll let my poor navigational skills take the blame for that. North, south… I get very confused when trying to read maps. I have two Tissot watches, one has a compass, and one doesn’t. I must remember to always where the one with the compass when travelling anywhere… even when just taking the streetcar uptown. I literally have no sense of direction. Anyway, we arrive to find that things are running slightly behind. This is pretty much status quo for any film set, so we occupy ourselves by setting up an interview area in an abandoned classroom. I don’t know about you, but I still get the willies when I am in a high school classroom. The smell of the chalk, the desks, and the stacks of textbooks reminds me of a lifetime ago when ruler wielding teachers always seemed to be yelling, “Richard! Report to the principal’s office right now!” Those feelings of dread passed by the time we started to set up.
While we were waiting for the first interview of the day I passed the time by chatting with the prop guy Andrew. He showed me the wide variety of fake guns used in a production like this. There are rubber pistols used for clubbing the bad guys over the head, realistic looking plastic machine guns that pop when you pull the trigger and electric guns that produce authentic sounding gunfire. He’s very protective of the props. The guns are quite expensive, even the small rubber pistol costs about $300. He also had an array of American text books (the movie is set in the US), portraits of George Washington, bullet proof police shields, squibs, and bows and arrows.
The first interview was with the star, Dolph Lundgren. He’s a huge man. I’m almost six feet four and he towered over me, and is very pumped up. He looks the same as he did in Rocky IV, although he doesn’t really speak with the thick Russian accent. He’s actually from Sweden, although his accent sounds more American than anything else. He came to us directly from the set, so he was in costume, with dirt smudged on his face, with a tourniquet on his leg. He’s an imposing guy, which, I guess, is why he’s done so well in the action genre.
After meeting him, I realized that people’s perceptions of him have very little to do with reality. His on-screen image is just that, an image. In person he is soft spoken, funny and introspective, a far cry from the gun totin’ ex-Marine or superhero that he usually plays on the screen. He came to the United States in the early eighties to finish his Masters degree in Chemical Engineering. The acting bug bit him while he was attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on the Fulbright Scholarship. When I asked why he left the world of academia to become an actor he said, “I got tired of shaking test tubes.” I pushed the issue with him a bit, and tried to discover a link between his academic studies and his work as an actor. He joked that as an actor the only thing his science background helped him with was “counting large sums of money.” He was funny and charming and answered each of my questions thoughtfully. When he left the room he thanked me for asking him interesting questions.
Next we waited as one by one the rest of the cast came into the classroom for their interviews. We were grabbing them between shots, and as this was the last day of shooting the schedule was pretty crazy. First up was Dov Tiefenbach, a young Toronto actor who has two movies at the Toronto International Film Festival this year, and will also be seen in the soon-to-be-released Vin Diesel film Knock Around Guys. He plays the wheelchair bound Willie in the film, and is a very funny guy. I didn’t so much interview him as sit through his six-minute monologue on everything from the ringing in his ears caused by the gunfire to how to manoeuvre his huge wheelchair from scene to scene.
Another Toronto up-and-comer was next, Mpho Koaho. He went to Clinton Street Public School, and has recently been seen in Salton Sea with Val Kilmer and the television show Doc. He told me the best part about working with director Sydney J. Furie was the amount of improv the actors were allowed to do, and since this was an action movie he didn’t have to watch his language. When this movie plays on TV look for a lot of beeps during Mpho’s performance.
By this time it was about one o’clock and we took our meal break with the cast and crew. As regular readers of my on-line diaries will know I always write about the food. As we sat in the school cafeteria at long tables I had an urge to yell “Food fight!” and see if I could get something going, but I think that was just another flashback to my school days. Lunch was very organized and tasty. Two long tables with many choices of salads, hot and cold entrees and desserts. I had roasted potatoes, broccoli salad, beets, roast pork and a delicious peanut butter cookie. Dolph didn’t eat with us. He told me he was in training for this film and had to be very careful about what he ate. After seeing the great shape he’s in I felt badly eating the cookie. Not badly enough to not eat it, but…
Back at the classroom things were slowing down a bit. We had to wait a long time between interviews while they were shooting action scenes in the hallway. It was a little unnerving sitting inside the classroom and hearing screaming and very loud gunshots just outside the door. Visions of Columbine were floating through my head, and I had to wonder what Michael Moore, director of the anti-gun documentary Bowling for Columbine would have had to say had he been there.
On a quick break from shooting we were able to grab three more of the actors. Danielle Hampton plays the pregnant Alicia. She looked familiar to me, but I couldn’t quite place her. A quick look at her resume reminded me that she had been in Ginger Snaps, a movie I really liked from last year, but I knew I knew her from somewhere else. Then she told me she used to work at Sassafraz Restaurant where we shoot Reel to Real. She was followed by Corey Sevier a busy teen actor who was recently nominated for Best Supporting Actor in a Dramatic Series by the Los Angeles Youth Awards. He plays Mick the rebellious skateboarder, and is destined to become the heart throb of the group. Next was Chris Collins, hot off the set of Bulletproof Monk, another action film shot in Toronto over the summer. In fact, he worked on Detention and Monk at the same time for several weeks. I asked him if he had been injured during the course of shooting, and he showed me a gash on his nose. He took a punch to the face a few days ago and got cut. That has healed, but to keep continuity make-up artists had to recreate the cut everyday.
I really enjoyed meeting all these young actors, although by the end of the day I was feeling really old. Most of these kids were born in the eighties. I have socks older than some of these guys.
More waiting around. Did I mention that there was no air conditioning? The lights from the film crew were sucking so much power they had to shut down the air con to keep from blowing fuses.
Finally we were down to our last couple of interviews. Kata Dobo is a Hungarian actress living in Los Angeles. She has a list of European films and television shows to her credit, although North American audiences would have last seen her in Rollerball. In Detention she plays one of the villains, and came into the room in costume – thigh high leather boots, bright pink wig and tight fitting black body suit, carrying her prop gun. “If I don’t like your questions,” she said pointing at the gun, “I might have to use this.” I asked her about how she prepared for her role. “I tried to make her sexy,” was her reply. Whatever she did, it worked.
The other villain, Viktor, is played by Joseph Scoren. Aside from Detention, you’ll be able to catch Joseph in two movies that will be open in Canada within the next year, Who Is Cletis Tout? With Christian Slater and Chicago: The Musical. We talked about playing villains, and he told me that it was important to find some core of humanity in the role, no matter how ruthless they might be, otherwise nobody will believe the character.
With the interviews done we shot some behind-the-scenes footage, and watched director Sydney J. Furie at work. He didn’t want to be interviewed, and that’s a shame because he has been making movies in Canada and Hollywood for forty-five years. He’s helmed dozens of films, including Lady Sings the Blues with Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams, The Ipcress File with Michael Caine and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace with Christopher Reeves. At age 70 he still works steadily directing two films a year. I would have loved to pick his brain, but he was too busy and couldn’t spare the time. It was impressive to see a journeyman like him at work. He stayed calm and collected, even as intricately choreographed action sequences were being shot by four cameras. Add to that gun fire and stunts and it is a pretty high pressure scenario, but you never would have guessed it from watching him. He was the model of composure.
We left the set at six pm for the sixty-two kilometre drive back to Toronto. It had been a long day, but we got some great footage, which will be on Reel to Real in late September, just after our Toronto Film Festival coverage wraps up.
Tuesday August 13, 2002
Another on-set visit today, but for a very different kind of movie. There isn’t a gun or open gushing wound to be found on the set of Goldirocks, a new independent rock and roll movie written and directed by Paula Tiberius.
When we arrive for the shoot Lee’s Palace on Bloor Street is buzzing with activity. It’s the last full day of shooting and they have to be out of Lee’s by 6 pm so the night’s band can do their sound check. There’s a great deal to be done and Tiberius looks a little stressed but is still in good humour. It’s her first feature film after making a series of well received shorts. The four week shoot has gone well, and amazingly they are still on schedule, but today is still a pressure cooker.
The film is about 19 year-old Goldi, an oversexed rock and roller with an affinity for musicians. She meets an indie garage band who invite her to join them as lead singer. The three musicians – one too hot, one too cold and one that seems just right – kick her out of the band when they decide they don’t want to share the spotlight with their new charismatic singer. Disillusioned, she is about to give up until her feminist friends buy her a guitar. She then realizes that real success “means becoming your own rock and roll hero.”
Tiberius has cast unknowns in the lead roles, although the music is supplied by a who’s who of the Toronto music scene. The film features performances and music by Robin Black and the Intergalactic Rock Stars, The Chickens, Sticky Rice, Cheerleader and Blurtonia. Lead actress Sasha Ormond also contributes a cover of the Teenage Head classic Let’s Shake.
We steal Paula for a few minutes and chat on camera. She tells me that shooting during the heat wave in Toronto has probably been the biggest problem they’ve had so far. Actors sweating on-camera is not a pretty sight, so the make-up people were working overtime. People warned her not to shoot in August, and now she knows why. Next time she’ll shoot in November she says. She also told me they plan to have a rough cut of the film ready in time to submit it to the Sundance Festival in October.
Before shooting resumes I take a few minutes with Sasha Ormond who plays Goldie. She’s a former dancer who has been acting for about nine months. With her blonde dreadlocks she’s a perfect fit for Goldi. She has strep throat, a result of the long shooting hours, but is high spirited and funny. She enjoyed singing in the film, and is contemplating starting her own band once production has wrapped.
Shooting started shortly after my conversations with Paula and Sasha, so we stayed to shoot some behind the scenes footage. I was flattered to be asked to be an extra in a bar scene, and spent the next forty minutes sitting at the bar, pretending to drink beer and chatting with Skydigger’s singer Andy Maize. As I watched several scenes being shot it wasn’t hard to see why Tiberius cast Sasha in the lead role. She’s funny and playful with the right kind of energy for a rock and roll fable.
Saturday morning my cell phone rang. “Have you seen CNN?” said the somewhat frenzied voice on the other end of the line. “It’s a High Terror Orange Alert in the States.” I tried to explain that we had nothing to worry about, that this was just fear mongering and that more people die each year from being kicked by mules than in airplane related accidents, but my words felon deaf ears. It was a friend of mine who was also going to Washington DC the next day to interview Robert Duvall and the cast of Gods and Generals. Despite my comments to her I have to admit that I was feeling a little uneasy about the flight. I have traveled under all kinds of circumstances – bad weather, in tiny little planes that didn’t look like they could muster the speed to get off the ground, in the middle of the night, at rush hour – but never during a High Terror Orange Alert.
The next morning I headed for Pearson International expecting to be poked and prodded. I discovered that security for those traveling to Washington is even more intense than usual. “What is this?” said the stern security agent who had just emptied my bags. “I believe it’s a shoehorn sir,” I replied, trying my best not to let even a hint of sarcasm slip through. I’m all for tight security, but I found it hard to keep a straight face while being questioned about my shoehorn. Next was customs. In my last on-line diary I talked about the number 13, how it always pops up during my travel plans – whether it’s the date, my seat number or whatever. I’m not superstitious, and it’s a good thing, because while I’m about to enter a High Terror Alert my customs agent was number 13! From there I went to Gate U, the furthest gate in Terminal Two – I believe it’s actually located in Edmonton. More security. More questions.
The flight was uneventful, although we were reminded of the security alert in subtle ways. No one was allowed out of their seats for the last thirty minutes before landing, and the flight attendants were unusually chipper – almost too much so. We land on time and while I am waiting for my bags I checked out the Reagan airport. Airports are generally filled with tacky souvenir shops, but the one I found here has to top them all. Called America! it sold a multitude of overly patriotic items – everything from White House mugs to ties with the American flag on them. I bought a roll of toilet paper with Osama Bin Laden’s picture with the slogan Wipe Out Bin Laden. Wrong, really, really wrong, but it appealed to my sense of humor, and kind of set the tone for this trip to America!
Fifteen minutes by cab later we were at the Ritz Carlton. Located just outside the historic Georgetown section of Washington it is very elegant, and my room was big enough to do cartwheels in. In the hallway I saw CNN founder and multi-gazillionaire Ted Turner and Jeff Daniels, one of the stars of God and Generals. Turner is a remarkable guy. It’s rare to meet someone who has as much charisma as he has. His good-old-boy personality literally fills the room.
The movie is a prequel to the civil war drama Gettysburg. At three-and-a-half hours Gods and Generals feels almost as long as the Civil War itself. While there are some engaging scenes – in one effective sequence soldiers from opposite sides exchange tobacco and coffee on Christmas Day – the sheer length of the film weighs it down. I think Gods and Generals in an expanded form will one day make a great, sprawling DVD, or should have been cut by at least an hour for theatrical release.
Have you heard about the drinking games that college kids play? For instance they watch Star Trek, and every time Spock says “That’s illogical,” or some other predetermined catchphrase, everyone takes a drink. If you had a Mint Julep (this is the South after all) during Gods and Generals every time someone delivered a l-o-n-g speech on horseback you’d be reeling in the aisles by intermission. (Did I mention this movie has a twelve-minute intermission?)
The next day we shot some stand-ups (introductions and throws) at the Robert E. Lee Memorial, Arlington House in Virginia. It overlooks the Potomac River and Washington DC, and while I’m sure it’s lovely, when we were there fog and snow obscured the view and the footage looks like it could have been shot anywhere.
After that we went back to the Ritz Carlton for the interviews. Unlike a few junkets I have done, which were badly organized with long waits between interviews and actors dropping out at the last minute, this one ran like clockwork. Started by talking to director Ron Maxwell. He’s as long-winded as his movie. I think his passion for the Civil War and the film got the better of him, and he rambled though our entire time with one long, unusable answer that I though would never end.
Jeff Daniels was next, and he’s a pro. As I walked into the suite to interview him, the previous “interviewer” was sitting on his lap having a photo taken. Then she moved over to his knee and invited her assistant to sit and have her picture taken. When she left he was shell shocked, but pulled himself together when I assured him I didn’t want to sit on his lap.
Robert Duvall was the last interview of the day. Keep in mind we shot this the day before his comments about never wanting to work in Canada again hit the press. Had I known that the interview would have taken a slightly different path. As it was we discussed the film, and the various military roles he has taken over the years. See the complete interview on Reel to Real.
I think the most surprising thing about the whole trip was the lack of concern over the High Orange Terror Alert. Apart from extra scrutiny at the airport, there was no feeling of panic, and no one even mentioned the alert. No one was even wearing orange. That feeling of calm is probably going to evaporate in the next few weeks as the US seriously gears up for war, but for now it’s business as usual.
It doesn’t seem to matter what time my flight is, 5 am or 5 pm, I always find myself scrambling to get to the airport with a ticket in one hand and a packed bag in the other. On Wednesday night I decided not to pack because my flight didn’t leave until 2 pm on Thursday. You would think that should give me loads of time to get ready. Wrong. Once again I found myself in the back of a cab, shoving rumpled clothes into a suitcase and wishing I was better organized.
The flight is on time (even though I’m not) and I barely make it on the plane. As the big steel door shuts behind me and I take my seat a little rush of anticipation washes over me. I’m off to one of my favourite places, New York, at my favourite time of year and I’ll be seeing Kill Bill. Not bad for a Thursday.
Here’s just a bit of a rant about LaGuardia airport. Like so many places the washrooms don’t have paper towels to dry your hands with, just hand blowers. I guess environmentally it makes sense, but when the dryer only has the wind power of an asthmatic kitten breathing lightly on your hands it isn’t very effective. I always forget about this when I’m there and invariably end up with dripping wet hands at the baggage carrousel…
In keeping with the hurried spirit established earlier in the day I arrive in New York behind schedule and don’t have time to check into the hotel. I leave my bags with the concierge and rush down to Loew’s Kips Bay Theatre on 32nd Street to catch an early screening of In the Cut, a new film from director Jane Campion. I missed it at the film festival this year, and although it received mixed reviews, a number of people whose opinions I trust said they really liked it.
This is a press screening so there is only a handful of people in a giant theatre. A handful of people… and one tiny little mouse. It is amazing how something so small, so harmless can hold a group of otherwise sensible people hostage. You could tell where the mouse was by the gasps and the screams of “Kill the mouse!” that would erupt from random corners of the house. Being more Buddhist in nature I yelled “Live free or die,” as the little critter scurried past me, and my pal Teri who was sitting next to me reminded those who decided to leave rather than deal with the horrors of the tiny rodent, that the mouse wasn’t going to chew through their shoes, so they should just relax.
Those of us brave enough to expose ourselves to the demonic rodent settled down once the movie began. Starring Meg Ryan and Mark Ruffalo, In the Cut is a dark crime drama based on the best selling novel by Susanna Moore. It reminded me of the gritty New York dramas of the 1970s that were about the soft underbelly of the city, films that portrayed NYC as a great, but failed social experiment, populated by alienated outsiders searching for some meaning in a city that was running out of control. This is not the Meg Ryan New York of When Harry Met Sally, this is a place filled with existential dread, where every alley is menacing and danger is woven into the fabric of everyday life.
Everyone is making a fuss about the risky nature of Meg Ryan’s performance in this film. Sure, she’s naked and has some pretty racy sex scenes, but let’s not forget, this isn’t the first time she has appeared nude on-screen. By her own count it is the fourth time she has doffed her clothes in front of the camera. At this year’s Toronto International Film Festival she admonished one reporter who asked her about doing her first-ever nude scene for this film. “I’ve appeared nude in other films,” she said, “apparently I wasn’t very memorable in those.” Also, In the Cut isn’t about the sex scenes; it’s about relationships and trust.
At any rate, anyone who isn’t easily distracted by Ms. Ryan’s exposed skin will notice that the performance to watch in the film is Mark Ruffalo as Detective Malloy. It is his most ambiguous role to date, and despite a cheesy moustache he brings a Brandoesque passion to the part. This is the kind of character that we don’t get to see very often in the movies anymore, a real anti-hero who rides the line between being a compassionate man and a total creep.
After the credits rolled I went to the lobby and grabbed some food then turned around and went back inside to eat a quick dinner with the mouse and see Elf. It’s a very different view of New York City than the previous movie. Will Ferrell plays a human adopted by Santa’s elves who travels to NYC to meet his real father. The NYC of Elf is awash in Christmas lights and as sweet as a candy cane. It’s as frothy as an eggnog latte at Starbucks, but also very funny. Will Ferrell is very winning as Buddy, and it is his performance that keeps the movie on track and prevents it from becoming sickly sweet or manipulative. It’s the kind of film that could slip into easy sentimentality, and with an over-the-top Robin Williams or a lesser comic in the lead role it certainly would have, but Ferrell makes it work. See the full review on Reel to Real in early November.
After the movie we went to the Toys R Us store in Times Square for a reception – fancy snacks, gingerbread cookies and Elf martinis. A couple of vodka candy cane specials later and it was time to check into the hotel and crash.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2003
Woke up early to prepare for a long day. As I unpacked everything I realised I had brought way too many clothes for a four-day trip. I have nine or ten ties alone, and have brought so many shirts I have to order up more hangers from room service. Note to self: Next time don’t pack in the cab.
The day began with the Elf interviews at the Regency Hotel in midtown. I spoke with Zooey Deschanel first. She was holding a large teddy bear and spoke very loudly for some reason. Next was Mary Steenbergen who I have interviewed a number of times, most recently at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival. She told me the funniest on-set gag was watching James Caan trying to maintain his focus and not laugh when Will Ferrell was doing his thing in the giant elf costume.
I was a little nervous about speaking to James Caan. One of the first films I saw on my own at the theatre was Rollerball when I was eleven or twelve, and I have admired his work ever since. I’ve also heard that he can be a difficult interview, and is a no nonsense kind of guy. I guess that makes sense from someone who spent nine years on the rodeo circuit and has a black belt in Karate. Instead I found someone who was eager to talk, and was very funny. In the film he plays a hard-hearted publisher of children’s books, and I asked him he if based the character on anyone in particular. “You,” he said, “I looked you up on the internet and based the character on you…” You’ll see more of my chat with James Caan in early November.
I also wasn’t sure what to expect from Will Ferrell. His comic persona is so over-the-top that I have expected to walk into his room and find him wearing only his underwear and a dunce hat. To my relief he was fully dressed and very sedate. He greeted me warmly and thoughtfully answered each of my questions. Near the end of our chat I asked if he considers himself to be a serious person. Tune into Reel to Real to hear his answer.
I was really looking forward to the last two interviews of the morning – two classic TV land actors, Ed Asner and Bob Newhart. You can’t help but envision Lou Grant when you meet Asner, and as I was talking to him I couldn’t help but think of some of the legendary moments from the Mary Tyler Moore Show. My favourite moment comes from the very first show of the series. “You’ve got spunk,” Lou Grant says to Mary. “Why thank-you,” she replies. “I hate spunk!” he barks. It made me laugh then, and makes me laugh now.
When Asner found out I was from Toronto he told me that he had spent a lot of time in the city, and once guest edited the Toronto Sun. As a thank-you they sent him a red Toronto Sun newspaper box filled with booze.
Just before lunch I spoke with Bob Newhart, my last interview for Elf. When I was a kid one of the first records I remember was a comedy album called The Button Down Mind of Bob Newhart, and I had always enjoyed his shows. We talked about the use of forced perspective rather than computer generated special effects to create Newhart’s elfin appearance in the North Pole scenes. He told me that he was always placed eight to ten feet away from Ferrell so they could be in the same frame but appear to be of different sizes. We’ll use more of Newhart on the show when the movie comes out in November.
After lunch (pasta with tomato sauce and chicken parmesan) I hoofed it over to the ritzy-ditzy Mark Hotel on Madison Avenue at east 77th Street to do the interviews for In the Cut. On the walk over it seemed that every one I passed on the street was wearing very expensive clothes and walking a small yappy dog. I managed to navigate around the old ladies with dogs and large shopping bags and arrived at the hotel early with the hope of starting my interviews before my scheduled time. No such luck. The schedule was out of whack because Meg Ryan had decided to pack it in early. The rumour was that she was tired of answering questions about the nudity in the movie, and on that level I don’t blame her for leaving, but I was disappointed not to be able to speak with her.
Jennifer Jason Leigh plays Meg Ryan’s sister who lives above a strip joint in NY’s East Village. She’s the daughter of actor Vic Morrow (who was tragically killed on the set of The Twilight Zone movie) who once said, “I could never play the ingenue, the girl next door or the very successful young doctor. That would be a bore.” Her choice of parts reflects her penchant for quirky roles, and In the Cut is no different. Her Pauline borders the line between needy and obsessive that subtly hints at mental illness without resorting to histrionics. It is her best and most substantial role since 2001’s The Anniversary Party. We talked about shooting in the 100 degree humid weather of New York in August and how the sticky, steamy atmosphere influenced her work.
I enjoyed talking to her, but was completely distracted during the interview by the loud, weird breathing of one of the cameramen. It was so loud that I thought he was going to blow a lung and keel over. She didn’t seem to notice, or maybe she was just used to it, but I was totally thrown off by it.
Next up was Mark Ruffalo. We had spoken at the recent Toronto Film Festival for the movie My Life Without Me, and I find him to be an easy going and interesting conversationalist. In Toronto we spent most of our time talking about my watch. It is a Tissot Touch watch like Lara Croft wore in the movie Tomb Raider 2. I’ve had mine for a couple of years so the novelty has kind of worn off, but when I showed him how it had sensors in the face crystal which turn the watch into a compass, a altimeter, an alarm clock, and how it tells the temperature he was blown away by it. I forgot to check this time to see if he was wearing one…
We chatted about his research, and how he rode with New York City cops for a time to prepare for the film. I mentioned the clothes he wore, which seemed perfect for his character, and he told me they bought all the costumes from a recently cancelled television show called The Job for $400.
I had a substantial wait after the Ruffalo interview, so I hung around in the hospitality suite and talked to some of the other reporters. It’s usually a good place to gather some gossip, and today was no different. I picked up one juicy tidbit, but I’m not really at liberty to reveal exactly who it was about so I’ll use the old gossip columnist’s anti-defamation trick of giving you some obtuse clues and letting you figure out the identity for yourself. Here we go… One very famous actor who has made a career of appearing politically aware and compassionate, but is actually a giant pain was overheard ordering his flunkies to pick up a birthday present for his actress wife. Apparently he didn’t really care what the present was, just so long as it was expensive. In the end after several suggestions a Prada jacket was selected. Just as the gossip was starting to get good, I got called away…
The last interview of the day was with the Jane Campion. The New Zealand-born Academy Award winning director (she won for Best Screenplay for The Piano) and I spoke about adapting the popular novel into a film, and her decision to change it locale from the west side of New York to the east. She wanted more of a feeling of claustrophobia and the East Village offers a funkier (read: rundown) ambiance than the more upscale West. You’ll see more with Leigh, Ruffalo and Campion on an up-coming Reel to Real.
The workday was finished, but I had managed to weasel my way onto the guest list for a party on the 80th floor of the Empire State Building for nine o’clock. In all my trips to NY I have never bothered to check out the building, and this party offered not only the chance to see one of NYC’s landmarks up-close, but to also grab gratis drinks and food at the same time. The party was thrown in honour of the Hollywood Foreign Press who were in New York to see Elf. The Hollywood Foreign Press are the voting body of the Golden Globes, and because of that they tend to have pretty good parties. There were not only Elf martinis and finger foods but the actual elf himself, Will Ferrell and the rest of the cast.
I didn’t realize the cast would be there until I noticed James Caan standing next to me at the bar. Wow! It’s Sonny Corleone. Then I spied Ed Asner, Bob Newhart and Jon Favreau. Wow again. It’s Lou Grant, Dr. Bob Hartley and the guy from Swingers. Will Ferrell showed up by himself and immediately started chatting and hanging out with people. There was no VIP room at this party.
I chatted with Ferrell for quite a while, and we were just dishing some dirt about some of the ridiculous things some of the other reporters had asked him that day when a little girl came up to him with a question. She was about seven years old and had just come from a screening of the film. In the movie once Buddy (Ferrell) gets to the big city he continues the elf tradition of putting maple syrup on everything he eats. The little girl wanted to know why. “You don’t put maple syrup on spaghetti,” she said, “only on pancakes and omelettes.” Ferrell laughed, but tried to keep a straight face as he explained that elves like different food than everybody else. It was a nice moment that demonstrated what a nice, down-to-earth man he is. He’s really good with kids, and when I mentioned that he told me he and his wife are expecting in March.
Next I had my photo taken with Favreau, Bob Newhart and Ed Asner. That’s one for the scrapbooks. Once everyone’s eyes adjusted to the flash Favreau and chatted about the film, and I mentioned that I thought it was really cool to have used Dynamation pioneer Ray Harryhausen as the voice of one of the stop-motion animated characters. He told me they literally stopped him on the street, explained what they were doing and used a mini-disc player to record his one line right there and then. They didn’t even bring him into the studio.
It was a great party, but it got late really fast, and after a quick look around on the 86th floor observation level I hot-footed it back to the hotel and fell into a coma like sleep.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2003
This is a light day, and it’s a good thing too. I’m feeling a bit tired from last night’s party. I sift through the billions of ties I have with me, and realize that although I brought a lot of neckwear along for the ride, none of them really match the shirts I have with me. How is that possible? I choose one that I think looks OK, but later when I ask Teri if it is too much she politely says, “It’s not awful, but you’re knocking on that door…”
I had already seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre before leaving for New York, and while I’m not usually a fan of re-makes, this one is really scary. At the screening in Toronto I sat next to Teri who was wearing a turtle neck sweater. By the time we left she had screamed out loud not once, but twice (a first for me, I’ve never heard anyone yell in fear before at a movie) and her sweater was stretched out of shape from pulling it up over her eyes. I didn’t scream or cover my eyes, but I did consider sleeping with the light on that night.
We’re doing the interviews for The Texas Chainsaw Massacre at a gallery / warehouse space in the Meat Packing District called Eyebeam. The gallery is a not-for-profit new media arts organization established to provide access, education, and support for students, artists, and the general public in the field of art and technology. That makes it sound a whole lot nicer than it actually is. This is basically just a large open space that was clearly once used for some sort of industrial work. Nonetheless it is a cool space, and one of the upcoming shows sounds really quite wild. “Robot” is a four-day festival featuring a robotic talent show, exhibition, workshops, presentations, party and massage parlor. Do the robots give us massages, or are we expected to rub their backs?
While I’m waiting to shoot one of the other reporters tells me a joke. (If you haven’t seen The Texas Chainsaw Massacre you need to know that the villain’s name is Leatherface because of his habit of making flesh masks out of the faces of his victims.) This guy was telling me that if this version of the film does well they’re going to do a Peta approved sequel. The bad guy’s name in that one? Pleatherface…
New Line has set up a Texas Chainsaw Massacre evidence room for us to shoot intros and extros while we wait to do our interviews. It’s a good idea. They are shooting in black and white, with a strange strobe effect on the camera so it looks like an old cheapo horror film from the 50s. I take advantage of the set-up and shoot some material for our up-coming Halloween show before being called away to do the interviews.
Jessica Biel is first. The last time I interviewed her it didn’t go very well, so I didn’t know what to expect this time around. I spoke with her last year for the film The Rules of Attraction. The interview was only four minutes long, but after two minutes I had asked her four or five questions and gotten four or five yes or no answers and a couple of nods. Nothing else. We sat in silence as I stared at her trying to come up with something to say that might grab her, and finally after thirty seconds or so I said, “Those are great shoes,” and she talked about her shoes and where she got them for the remainder of our time. Needless to say that interview never went to air.
This time she was much more willing to talk. Who knows what was going on last time… everybody has a bad day occasionally, and unfortunately I think I hit hers the first time we spoke. She described to me her love of horror movies, and how she loves the feeling of being scared. There was no dead air during this interview, and after it was done I complimented her on her shoes and left the room.
Next up were her co-stars Eric Balfour, Erica Leerhsen and Jonathan Tucker all grouped together. When they found out that I was from Toronto they all piped up with Toronto stories. The guys had done lots of work here (Balfour lived at Spadina and King for a time) and Leerhsen had visited the city. It’s difficult to interview three people at once, particularly when you only have a few minutes, but each of them had their say and all seemed like interesting people that I’d like to chat with again, one on one. If I had more time I’d ask Eric Balfour about his role on Six Feet Under and get him to tell me about Blessed With Soul, a band he had with Brittany Murphy in the early 1990s. I’d ask Jonathan Tucker about his father, Paul Hayes Tucker, who is the world’s foremost authority on Claude Monet and French Impressionism and I’d get Erica’s thoughts on celebrity from the point of view of someone whose father, Charles Leerhsen, was the longtime editor of celebrity publication US Magazine. That will all have to wait until next time. This time we talked about the physical demands of shooting an action / horror film, and I discovered that although Balfour broke his wrist while making the movie, he did it while goofing around on a basketball court and not while in production. He wore a specially made removable cast while shooting.
With a couple of hours to waste before the Kill Bill screening at seven o’clock I walked around lower Manhattan, sightseeing and shopping. I dropped by the famous Chelsea Hotel (222 West 23rd Street) to check out the art in the lobby. It bills itself as a “rest stop for rare individuals” and in it’s almost 100 year life as a hotel has seen enough action to inspire a hundred movies and a hundred more novels. A who’s who of bohemia has called the place home, everyone from William S. Burroughs to Tenessee Williams from Mark Twain to Sid Vicious. Even Julius Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb” spent time there. Rumor has it that Ethan Hawke currently resides there after his break-up with Uma Thurman.
It is a true landmark, although the front desk staff could use a lesson in hospitality. When I asked to buy one of the hotel’s t-shirts the man behind the desk, who looked like he had been awake since 1960, glanced in my direction and said, “I don’t think so.” I wasn’t sure what he said, so I politely asked him to repeat himself. This time he said a little louder, “You’ll have to come back during the day.” When I pointed out that it was only 4:30 pm he told me that all the merchandise was locked up and he didn’t have a key, then, without another word he turned around and continued watching a small television propped up on a table behind the front desk. It was clear I was never going to get my shirt. I had to wonder if the crusty old guy behind the counter had been there since the days when Mark Twain frequented the place because it looked like the only bags he was capable of checking in were the bags under his eyes.
From there it was a quickish walk over to the Loew’s theatre on 34th Street to see a sneak peak of Kill Bill. I have been waiting patiently for Quentin Tarantino to make another movie since Jackie Brown in 1997. There was gossip that he was working on an epic Second World War drama; word spread that he was giving up directing to focus on his acting career and there were other rumors that he had flamed-out and simply couldn’t pull it together to do anything. I had heard many tings about the movie, both good and bad. People were complaining about the violence, to which Tarantino replied, “Sure, Kill Bill’s a violent movie. But it’s a Tarantino movie. You don’t go to see Metallica and ask the band to turn the music down.” Others whined that there was no character development.
What they are missing is that Kill Bill is a thrilling, samurai sword swinging romp that shows Tarantino working at the top of genre busting game. By taking elements from all the grind house movies he grew up watching – Samurai movies, revenge dramas, kung fu films, spaghetti westerns – and artfully blending them together he has created a new kind of genre film with one foot reverently in the past while the other mercilessly kicks you in the head. It’s a bloody (apparently he used over 100 gallons of fake blood in the last scene alone), excessive and exhilarating ride. Oh yeah, and Uma Thurmond wears a tight yellow jumpsuit just like the one Bruce Lee wore in his last film Game of Death. When it was over I wanted the projectionist to rewind the film and start it again. I haven’t been that jazzed at a screening in a long time.
After the movie I went back to the hotel and over drinks and food discussed the movie with the other reporters before calling it an early night.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2003
A beautiful day in New York, and happily enough, a day off with no interviews or screenings. My pal Teri and I meet in the hotel lobby at ten o’clock with the plan to walk around and sightsee. Our successful experience with the Empire State Building excursion brought out the inner tourist in both of us, so we headed down 6th Avenue in search of A. a Starbucks, and B. touristy fun.
Once fully loaded with caffeine we headed downtown. Our first stop was The Strand book store at Broadway and 12th Street. I love this place. The original store opened in 1927 on 4th Avenue when that stretch of property was known as the Book Row of America. Most of the other shops are gone now, but the Strand lives on in its new location (since 1958) with all its musty, cluttered charm. They advertise that the store contains 8 miles of books, and I don’t doubt it. Books literally spill off the floor to ceiling shelves and are piled on tables and on the floor. It’s a mix of new and used with the largest rare book collection in New York City. I pick up a copy of Steve Martin’s newest novel, The Pleasure of My Company.
After some more window shopping, and a confirmed Michael Stipe sighting (he was walking on Broadway with a plastic shopping bag in his hand) we had brunch at The Noho Star (330 Lafayette Street). I’ve passed this place a million times and have never gone in, but I had always heard they had really great homemade ginger ale. I didn’t have any on this visit, but I will go back. My Eggs Chiapas (Crisp Tortilla, Sunnyside Eggs, Guacamole, Cheddar, Bacon and Refried Beans) were unbelievably tasty and the service was very good.
From there we wandered down to Canal Street. There is nothing quite like Canal Street’s loud and dirty street mall. If you can navigate through the crush of humanity that congregates there on the weekends you can buy everything from knock-off Gucci bags for $30 to miniature turtles for $3 to watches and belts for $10. If you feel like bartering this is place to be. Each of the tiny little stores has pretty much the same thing, but at wildly different prices. Prices will drop faster than ^&*(&(*)__*()&&^%$ if you mention that you can pick up an item cheaper at a stall a few doors away. I don’t much like crowds, so after a cursory look around I had seen enough.
Back up Broadway and over to the Bowery, with a quick side trip to CBGBs. This is the legendary punk rock club that spawned the careers of The Ramones, Blondie, The Talking Heads and Patti Smith. I have seen several shows here, and although the floor squishes under your feet and the smell of stale cigarettes will probably never go away, (even though smoking was banned in NYC last year) this claustrophobic sweatbox has a certain punk charm about it. It has remained virtually unchanged since its heyday in the late 1970s, although apparently they have fixed the leaky ceiling that used to rain foul water down on the stage and the customers from the flop house above.
After a quick walk through the East Village it was time to head back. We had spent seven hours walking in circles through the lower part of Manhattan, and although it’s early I plan to stay in tonight, order some food to my room and read up on Kill Bill.
MONDAY OCTOBER 6, 2003
Today is the day I get to meet Uma. I wish I had ties that matched my shirts. Damn.
Quentin Tarantino has cancelled on us. Apparently he is sick after traveling all over Europe in the last week to promote the movie. That’s disappointing, but we’re still getting Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox and, of course, Uma.
The interviews are divided up into two sections. Lucy, Vivica and Daryl in the morning and then we come back and speak with Uma in the afternoon. My flight out isn’t until 7:45 pm, so no matter how far behind they are running (and they will be running behind) I won’t be in any danger of missing my plane.
Lucy Liu is first. In the film she plays O-Ren Ishi, a cold blooded assassin who becomes the first female head of the Japanese Mafia. She’s perfect for the film, possessing physical grace, presence, strength, personality and as Roger Ebert pointed out, “the ability to look serious while doing ridiculous things.” We talked about the background of her character. “I think she’s a good person,” she said. “Quentin didn’t want to make a specific protagonist / antagonist stereotypical idea of what the bad guy should be. He gives her a backstory and the animation [which explains O-Ren’s violent past] which gives her a feeling of warmth, and hopefully you don’t think she is completely cold blooded at the end.”
Next I spoke with Vivica A. Fox. She has the smallest role in Volume One, but who knows, she might be back for Volume Two. We mainly spoke about her role’s physicality and how she trained seven hours a day for three months to prepare for the part. She also had high praise for Tarantino. She told me she didn’t know what to expect when she saw the film for the first time. “When I saw the final product I thought ‘Wow, there is a reason why Quentin is a director and his films are so successful.’”
Like some many of the people I spoke to over this week-end in New York, I had just interviewed Daryl Hannah a few weeks ago in Toronto. Last time we spoke for a much different kind of move, Casa de Los Babys, a quiet John Sayles film about American women in an unnamed South American city waiting to adopt babies. In Kill Bill she plays assassin Elle Driver, a character inspired by a legendary Swedish revenge flick called They Call Her One Eye in which Christina Lindberg plays Frigga, a young victim of white slavery who is raped, mutilated (hence the eye patch) and beaten throughout most of the film. She then rehabilitates herself and seeks revenge on those who did her wrong. It was the first film to ever be banned in Sweden, and was described by TV Guide as a “totally vile and obnoxious action film.”
“I’ve never played a full-on villain before,” she said. “I played a villain in Blade Runner, but she had a quality of vulnerability and innocence. This character has none of that. She’s just evil.”
Uma Thurmond gets angry to play The Bride in Kill Bill. She has sworn revenge on the group of DiVAS (Deadly Viper Assassination Squad) who raided her wedding and killed everyone, leaving her for dead. The action in the movie begins when she wakes from a coma four years after her ill-fated wedding day. One by one she seeks payback on the sexy killers who tried to do her in.
Tarantino and Thurmond first discussed the story at a party during the shoot for Pulp Fiction in 1994. Over drinks they created a revenge fantasy, with Uma playing a Bride hell-bent on retribution. Nothing came of the idea until many years later when the two reconnected at the Miramax Oscar party in March of 2000. Uma mentioned the story and Tarantino promised to write her the script in time for her thirtieth birthday which was just three weeks away. He missed that deadline, but in the next year-and-a-half cranked out a 222 page script that would eventually become Kill Bill Volumes One and Two.
In person Uma is very tall, (about six feet), lithe and yes, very beautiful. I had never met her before, although I once saw her on the street at the Cannes Film Festival and remember thinking that she almost glowed. I have since read that cinematographers like lighting her for film because her skin reflects 40 % more light than most other people. Today she is wearing jeans, sneakers, a white shirt, a denim jacket, and it should be noted for you gossip hounds, a giant wedding ring.
I reminded her of a quote I had read about her time spent working with the fight masters who taught her the moves she uses in Kill Bill. She said that the most important ting she learned from them was how to learn. “I almost felt like I was a baby, which I really was,” she said, thinking back to her training. “It was humbling to look at this mountain of expertise and work that was set out for me. I had to get very, very small and jut work on the tiniest things at a time. At first you would have thought I was going to learn [simple moves] like one, two, three, four. I can do that, but [this was going to be difficult with] with the amount of battling that I have and Quentin’s improvisational style and how he made the movie.
“The clicking part for me was when I realized that there was not going to be any ‘one, two, three, four.’ It was going to be improvisational and they were going to invent new fights on the spot and say, ‘Now you’re going to 5, 7, 12, 15…’ They were just going to make it up and it kind of re-wired my nervous system because it is so terrifying. That’s what I finally understood that I had been set up to do. To achieve this film I had to be able to synthesize all this new information and execute it on the spot. I guess it is the difference between learning a dance and knowing how to dance.”
That was it. My last interview of the weekend and it was only 3 o’clock. I’m not booked to leave until 7:45 pm, but I’m itching to get home so I take my chances and head out to the airport. There are seats on the 5:10 flight, so with a mountain of interview video tapes and 500 ties, I get checked in and leave several hours early, anxious as always to get home and sleep in my own bed.