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Child Actors

You probably heard the controversy surrounding Angelina Jolie’s new movie about Cambodia. In a recent article in Vanity Fair, she admitted that in order to find a Cambodian child who could play a large role, the casting directors set up a game. They put money on the table and asked the kids to think of something they needed money for, and then to snatch it away. Then the director would pretend to catch the child, and the kid would have to come up with a lie. The little girl who ultimately won the part, Srey Moch, distinguished herself by being the only kid to stare at the money for an extraordinary length of time. Jolie said: “When she was forced to give it back, she became overwhelmed with emotion. All these different things came flooding back. When she was asked later what the money was for, she said her grandfather had died, and they didn’t have enough money for a nice funeral.” You might think that’s a clever way to see a child’s range of emotions, or you might think it cruel to go into a third world country and taunt children with money. The internet seems to favour the latter.

It got me thinking though – what DO auditions look like when you’re casting a kid? Typically, not like that. Even for small children, casting directors will typically work off a script.

Something in the neighbourhood of 40 000 kids auditioned for the part of Harry Potter. Steven Spielberg had wanted Haley Joel Osment for the part and backed out of directing the project when he clashed over this with JK Rowling. Daniel Radcliffe landed the part: “My mum sent in a Polaroid of me to the BBC, because I’ve always wanted to act since I was five. My mum and dad never thought it was a very good idea. I went for about five auditions and then I got the part. The best thing about filming is going to all the different locations and staying in hotels. They have Sky and I haven’t got that at home.”

922af5a6afe0a38af48e22b17347eb8c--drew-barrymore-young-celebrity-kidsSpielberg lost that battle but he normally has a pretty keen eye for casting the right kid in his movies. Drew Barrymore recalls auditioning for him for Poltergeist: “lied my face off. I told him I was in a rock ‘n roll band. I was a drummer, of course, because drummers are the coolest, and that I was a cook.” He didn’t think she was right for Poltergeist but kept her in mind for something else…and that’s how she landed E.T.

Haley Joel Osment also went on to star in a Spielberg film – A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Osment’s acting career started by accident at the age of 4 when he and his Mom randomly ran into a talent scout at IKEA. When he got called in for his first audition, he was asked to describe the biggest thing he’d ever seen. Osment talked about seeing a movie in IMAX, and that’s how he got cast in a Pizza Hut commercial for their “Big Foot” pizza. The rest is history.

 

 

“What’s interesting about casting children is, some children understand instinctually how to be still in front of a camera,” casting director Fiona Weir explains. “That isn’t something you can teach kids; it’s something they understand or not. Acting on-camera is b0d3c2e59c77845d83baab01078af08fabout being, not about performing, the way that children often do in school plays, making something bigger. It’s not always the noisy kids that we’re looking for; it’s the quiet kids at the back.” That was very important when Weir  was casting for Room, in which a 5 year old boy and his mother escape their rapist-captor. One of those quiet kids was 7-year-old Jacob Tremblay, who caught her attention fairly early in the casting process. He had the interiority Weir and director Lenny Abrahamson wanted to see. “It was very evident how gifted Jacob was,” Weir says. “He’s a really bright and inventive child.”

Kirsty McGregor had a grueling search of her own when it came to casting the part of the young Saroo Brierly, the child from Lion. She scoured schools in Mumbai, New Delhi, and Calcutta, and spent months watching 2,000 taped auditions, conducting 200 in-person workshops, and coordinating callback after callback to get the right young Saroo for the movie. She culled the prospects from 2000 to 200 and flew to India to see them in person, with director Garth Davis. “We’d start in larger groups of 10, and we’d do workshops and rs_634x1024-170226153353-634.Sunny-Pawar-Oscrs.ms.022617play games, and we took our acting coach Miranda Harcourt, who’s amazing with kids, with us. We had an interpreter, obviously, and from those groups of 10, we narrowed it down to the final list and called them back again. It was a very thorough process. It was about four months from the time they started putting people on tape in India to when they started doing callbacks, and it was long and very intense every day, with another 100 or 200 tapes coming in. You can’t miss anybody.” Eventually they paired their top two youngsters with the top two adolescents would would play the older brother, and found the right chemistry. Anyone who’s seen Lion will know that little Sunny Pawar was a particularly bright spot in the film and he really livened up the red carpets during awards season, just as Jacob Tremblay had done the year before.

 

Have you heard any juicy stories about kids auditioning for parts? Ever auditioned for anything yourself?

 

 

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Farewell: Daniel Day-Lewis

Last week, Daniel Day-Lewis announced his retirement from acting. He’s got one final role to unleash on the world, an untitled Paul Thomas Anderson film in which he plays fashion designer Charles James, which comes out around Christmas. And then he’s done.

But is he DONE done? Or is he retiring like Michael Jordan retired from basketball? Or Jay-Z retired from rap? Day-Lewis is at the top of his game, where, in fairness, he has been for the past 30 years or so. It just seems to me that people who are both very good at\very passionate about what they do don’t retire, they keep doing the thing they love until they physically cannot do it anymore.

And it’s not like we would have noticed Day-Lewis’s absence had he simply taken a Lew_main_1661547asabbatical. The man is notoriously reclusive and generally does only about one film every five years or so. After winning an Oscar for Lincoln in 2012 (which was the last time we’ve seen him on screen), he announced a hiatus during which he’d spend time on his farm in Dublin, learning “rural skills” like stonemasonry. You know, practical stuff. Between 1997’s The Boxer and 2002’s Gangs of New York, he left Hollywood to apprentice as a shoemaker in Italy. He’s obviously a curious man willing to try his hand at all kinds of pursuits. But quit acting?

Whether or not he eventually comes out of retirement for “one last role” I can’t help but feel this is the end of an era. DDL is the kind of actor who used those fallow periods to truly transform himself into his next character. When he did Lincoln, he stayed in character for 3 solid months; even Spielberg had to address him as Mr. President. To crawl so deeply beneath someone else’s skin must be quite draining and it’s no wonder that he’s needed such lengthy recovery times between films. But Hollywood has gotten away from this kind of acting, the total-immersion kind. Now people play versions of themselves. George Clooney, say, or Ryan Gosling: both very good actors, but if you think about it, they play versions of their charming, winking selves. Have we ever seen Clooney lose himself in a role, or even just play against type? Day-Lewis’s commitment to diving into a role completely is impressing, but is also probably a dying art. He’s only 60 but perhaps he is already a dinosaur in the industry. A super talented dinosaur who will be sadly missed.

 

What’s your favourite DDL role?

How long before he comes out of retirement?

 

Kickstart My Heart

We like to think of ourselves of champions of indie films and filmmakers. We seek out lesser-known titles at our local arthouse cinema, and on the dustiest virtual shelves of Netflix, and discover new voices at film festivals around the world. But sometimes supporting independent film makers happens without leaving the house at all.

We already know her and love her: Morgana McKenzie, an 18 year old director and cinematographer, first crossed our paths a couple of years ago when we were able to contribute to a short film she was making. It has since screened at youth festivals all over the place, universally lauded and awarded. That seems like a pretty good return on investment but the truth is, it’s also just kind of nice to help a young person hone their craft and realize their dreams. Morgana is organized and visionary. Her work is stunning. But don’t take my word for it, check it out.

Should you feel so inclined, you can kick a couple of dollars her way to help with her upcoming project, a short called Wild (Indomptable), a supernatural period piece inspired by Neon Demon and Suspiria. It’s so weird you can’t help but want to see it. She’s raising her modest budget on Kickstarter and here’s the thing: if everyone who stops here today sponsored her at just $5 a pop, we could raise more than a third of her funds. And wouldn’t that be nifty? All great directors get their start somewhere – but how often do you get to be a part of it? Today, somewhere is right here.

Top 10 Actors Who Play Assholes

Kevin Spacey: Se7en, Swimming With Sharks, The Usual Suspects, Glengarry Glen Ross, American Beauty, Superman Returns for fuck’s sake. Or Nine Lives for that matter, and tenor.gifBaby Driver and Horrible Bosses. The man played Richard Nixon! No one plays mischievous evildoer as well as Spacey, but even his good guys tend to be smug bastards at best. His dialogue comes out razor-sharp, often coated with either sarcasm or condescension, and likely both.

Jeremy Piven: This guy is just insufferable. You can crown him King of Pricks based on his role in Entourage alone, but his screen credits offer further proof: Old School, Sin City, Very Bad Things. The guy even plays sleezy cartoon characters in both Cars and The Pirates! Band of Misfits. His deadpan delivery is infuriating and he has the kind of shit-eating grin that just begs to be slapped. Hard.

Christopher McDonald: I wondered if I was just holding a grudge from Thelma & Louise shooter.gif(he played the shitty husband) but no, he followed that up playing Shooter McGavin in Happy Gilmore, and what a fantastically smarmy role that is. He even plays the guy who wants to steal flubber from poor Robin Williams. He has the kind of arched eyebrow that makes me wonder: is he perpetually typecast as a dick, or do characters turn into dicks once played by him? Chicken or egg?

John C McGinley: If you see this guy on screen, you know you’re in trouble. He’s often thetumblr_mhfd5iDNow1qgqpr6o1_400.gif socially awkward dad who gets under everyone’s skin. You just want to snap his unironic suspenders to deflate his pomposity for just a moment. Platoon, Wall Street, Office Space: Hollywood seems to agree that this guy just oozes jerk.

Richard Dreyfuss: He played conceited in Dillinger, self-involved in American Graffiti, self-important in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, egotistical in The Goodbye Girl, pretentious and selfish in Mr. Holland’s Opus, and arrogant in Red. Come to think of it, is he even capable of pretending to be nice? At least he’s a bit sympathetic in Whose Life Is It Anyway; yeah he’s a real jerk to pretty much everyone around him, but the dude’s paralyzed and you cut him some slack. In everything else, you just kind of hate him.

Sam Rockwell: I kind of love Sam Rockwell, but there’s something weaselly about him. tumblr_inline_n66089BWPG1sn461n.gifHe seems to get stuck playing the douchebag an awful lot, but to his credit, he has a certain charm that makes the douchebaggery slightly lovable. Except in Iron Man 2: in that one, he’s downright evil, but I think if you’re in a movie with Robert Downey, Jr who plays the lovable scoundrel card pretty hard, you have to go big or go home.

Jason Bateman: you pair that chubby, boyish face with the condescending hot garbage that comes out of his mouth, and you’ve got a goldmine of narcissistic characters on your IMDB page. He’s obnoxious in Bad Words, manipulative in Horrible Bosses, irresponsible in Juno, patronizing in This Is Where I Leave You, bullying in Central Intelligence, a swindler in Zootopia, and downright infuriating in The Ex. This guy plays to his strengths!

Bradley Cooper: He may play a rapscallion, but he’s an irresistible rapscallion. Those dimples let him get away with murder, and sometimes his characters come pretty close. tumblr_lnzkidiQ4a1qix5n3o1_500.gifHe played the lying, cheating husband in He’s Just Not That Into You, the lying, cheating fiance in Wedding Crashers, an amoral arms dealer in War Dogs, a diva in Burnt, a shit-don’t-stick-to-me arse in The Hangover, a corrupt cop in The Place Beyond the Pines, and a reckless raccoon in Guardians of the Galaxy. Does his devilish grin suit him? It does. And Cooper knows it.

Billy Crudup: He didn’t have time for his dying dad in Big Fish. He didn’t have time for his band or for child prodigy journalists or devoted fans in Almost Famous. He puts the nails to a grieving widow in Jackie. He leads people astray in Alien: Covenant. He terrorizes kids in The Stanford Prison Experiment. His characters are not often likeable, even if they aren’t bad. What does it say about Crudup that he’s so good at that?

Jason Schwartzman: This is the guy we love to hate. He’s an angry bear in Listen Up tumblr_o1qjdbWn651ujfksmo1_500.gifPhilip, an insecure uppity asshole in Scott Pilgrim Vs The World, a conceited actor in Funny People, and as Louis XVI (in Marie Antoinette), he was the very symbol of tyranny – and that’s without mentioning every smug arsehole he’s played in every Wes Anderson film. He embodies neuroses and self-loathing. Even when he’s playing earnest, he’s coming off overearnest and cloying. He just can’t win, which is why he always plays an asshole.

 

Who’s on your list?

 

Cannes Snobbery

Some people think that Netflix is saving the movie industry. Others think it’s killing it. I think neither is true, that all Netflix is is the future. Or rather, Netflix is now. The movie industry is changing and has changed. Some directors insist that their art can only be experienced on a big screen, others are embracing the flexibility that comes with a Netflix carte blanche. But Cannes, a major French film festival, has inserted itself into the discourse, reluctantly agreeing to include two Netflix titles in this year’s lineup, but insisting that next year’s rules will be different and only movies intended for a theatrical release will earn slots in their programming.

Amazon also earned boos from critics at its Cannes screening, this despite the fact that Amazon does partner up to bring some of its titles to the cinema, like last year’s Oscar contender, Manchester By The Sea. This year Amazon brought Wonderstruck to Cannes by the acclaimed director of Carol, Todd Haynes. Of Amazon, Haynes noted “The film division at Amazon is made up of true cineastes who love movies and really want to try and provide opportunity for independent film visions to find their footing in a vastly shifting market. They love cinema.”

Netflix makes movies and series for its at-home audience who pay a subscription fee that includes original content. At TIFF 2016, I saw 2 Netflix films (Mascots and Blue Jay) and found them to be just as worthy as any other content on offer. At this year’s Oscars, Netflix garnered a nomination for Ava DuVernay’s documentary 13th, and a win for its short documentary, The White Helmets. Traditional or not, Netflix movies do hold up.

Cannes jury president Pedro Almodovar doesn’t like it and made his position clear with this opening statement: “I personally do not conceive, not only the Palme d’Or, any other prize being given to a film and not being able to see this film on a big screen. The size [of the screen] should not be smaller than the chair on which you’re sitting. It should not be part of your everyday setting. You must feel small and humble in front of the image that’s here.” Fellow jury member Will Smith clashed with him on this, defending the streaming service “In my house, Netflix has been nothing but an absolute benefit. They get to see films they absolutely wouldn’t have seen. Netflix brings a great connectivity. There are movies that are not on a screen within 8,000 miles of them. They get to find those artists.” And that’s true: Netflix is a boon to indie gems and hard-to-find documentaries. It also allows people who find the cost of theatre-going restrictive to watch movies at home for a reasonable price. Of course, Netflix just so happens to be the distributor of Smith’s next big-budget movie, Bright.

And that’s the thing about Netflix today: it’s going after the big guns. For its first-ever Cannes screening, Netflix chose Okja, a film by the South Korean director of Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-ho. Okja stars Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Lily Collins, and Jake Gyllenhaal. It’s no slouch. Of the controversy, Joon-ho was  typically humble: “I’m just happy he will watch this movie tonight. He can say anything—I’m fine. I loved working with Netflix. They gave me great support — the budget for this film is considerable. Giving such a budget to a director isn’t very common.” And Swinton was also quick to make light of the situation, saying “The truth is, we didn’t actually come here for prizes.” Okja received a four-minute standing ovation after its screening.

Later this festival, Netflix will screen the second of its two titles, Noah Baumback’s The Meyerowitz Stories, about a fractured family reuniting, starring Dustin Hoffman, Emma Thompson, Candice Bergen, Ben Stiller, and Netflix darling Adam Sandler.

 

 

 

SXSW: M.F.A.

MFA-movieShortly after we are introduced to Master of Fine Arts candidate Noelle (Francesca Eastwood), she is raped by a classmate.  When she confronts him the next day, he denies doing anything wrong and winds up dead in a mostly-accidental way.  Somewhere during the events that caused Noelle to be a victim of sexual assault and a murder suspect, she snaps.  Formerly introverted and a loner, Noelle starts going to frat parties in order to seduce and murder other rapists who, due to a faulty system, got away with their crimes.

It will not be surprising to anyone who has seen the excellent documentary The Hunting Ground (or really, anyone who has attended a post-secondary institution) that despite her school having reported no sexual assaults at all, it is all to easy for Noelle to find rapists to kill on her college’s campus as she goes full vigilante.   In carrying out a series of increasingly violent kills, Noelle has no real fear of being caught even though she knows the police are closing in.

Eastwood is INTENSE in M.F.A.  Like, maybe more intense than her father has ever been, and that’s saying something because that guy’s face is frozen in a permanent, angry, “Ima kill you” sneer.  She is the best part of this movie and while she can’t make Noelle relatable, she keeps the audience on her side throughout the film, and that is no small feat in the face of her bloody killing spree.

M.F.A. offers an interesting twist on the typical slasher flick, and Noelle’s numerous kills are well-executed and, as is traditional in the genre, get more gory as she goes.  If nothing else, M.F.A. calls attention to the conversation we all should be having, namely why so many women are being sexually assaulted on college campuses and why the colleges are in many cases turning a blind eye to the rapes, or even discouraging victims from reporting these assaults!

The scary part about M.F.A. is not Noelle, it’s that the rapists and the evil administrator who blames the victim and covers up assaults are all too real, and are on your campus, or your friend’s, or your daughter’s.  We need to find an alternative solution, other than murder, so that a campus rape stops being a standard part of a Saturday night frat party, and so that when a college claims to have had zero rapes it’s not because the administration successfully intimidated and discouraged all potential complainants.  No more sexual assaults should be swept under the rug.  M.F.A. helps to shine a light on the problem.

 

Penis in the Popcorn

Urban Dictionary defines the ‘Popcorn Trick’ as: If one is at the movies with one’s date, proceed to buy a extra large bucket of popcorn and place it on his lap during the movie. Cut a hole in the bottom of the bucket, and proceed to stick your bare penis in the hole (preferably bonered). When your date reaches in to grab popcorn, she will be delighted. Will she, Urban Dictionary? Will she?

Everyone knows about this “prank”  but has anyone actually encountered it? Perpetrated it? I mean, if the only way a girl is going to touch your penis is to offer savoury snacks and then pull the world’s most disappointing bait and switch, I’m going to go ahead and call this NON-CONSENSUAL. And if that’s the first time your lady meets your penis, I’m popcornbetting it’s also the last. I mean, has this ever resulted in a handjob? Wouldn’t it be easier, less greasy, and more hygienic to simply ask politely? Sure you’ll probably be rejected, but that’s a probable rejection vs a definite rejection, along with third degree burns from movie popcorn “butter.”  And you haven’t wasted $37 on a popcorn combo. You could probably find some derelict alley and purchase a handjob for roughly the cost of an extra large bucket of popcorn at the movie theatre. And a regular handjob will be a heck of a lot quieter. I mean, popcorn bags seem deliberately noisy. What were theatre owners thinking? Every handful of popcorn means a crinkly, wrinkly, rustly noise for the rest of us. But the tell-tale rhythmic rustling of a popcorn handjob is a dead giveaway. Popcorn handjobs are so indiscreet! How can you call more attention to this illicit act? Oh right, make it look like some sort of popcorn monster has grabbed hold of your date and won’t let go…and you’re somehow deliriously happy about it. Plus you’ll get salt down your urethra.

If you can picture any single man pulling this trick, who would it be? Mickey Rourke? Yeah, me too. Possibly because we HAVE seen him do it, in the movie The Diner. Boogie’s movie date reaches into the popcorn box on his lap and is horrified to discover his penis poking through the bottom of the box into the popcorn. To get an authentically shocked response, Rourke hid a dildo in the popcorn, which is a sweet touch. What a thoughtful colleague. But that’s kind of the thing: when would this ever be welcome? “Oh sweetie, your coercing me into accidentally touching your dirty popcorn penis really turned me on and now I realize that waiting until we care about each other is silly and we should just have a hot, buttery tug-n-pull right now.” IS THAT YOUR END GAME, MICKEY ROURKE?

Now, the above definition suggested that an extra large bucket of popcorn be used, but I suspect the truth of the matter is that most guys could do with a small. I mean, if you have to poke your erection through the bottom, then you’ve probably got six inches worth of popcorn for her to get through before she’d even graze the tip. Ideally I suppose you have forgone buying her supper to make sure she’s good and starved during the film. But how do you stay erect until she digs down far enough? Is the anticipation enjoyable? Is the slight friction of the kernels kind of kinky? Or do you eventually just become a flaccid inchworm lining the bottom of the bag, never to be discovered. I’m not sure how you discreetly took out your pocket knife, cut a dick-shaped hole in the bottom without a cascade of popcorn falling out, whacked off til you were hard enough to insert, quietly withstood the burning pain from the too-warm popcorn and the faux-butter that collects at the bottom, and I sure as hell don’t know how you’ll discreetly pull it back out. You’re probably looking at the mother of all paper cuts, with salt readily available for rubbing in the wound.

Now imagine that you’re sitting in a dark theatre with popcorn in your lap. And your dick stuck through a hole in that popcorn. Offer some to your date. You obviously cannot move the popcorn at all, so you have to offer it to her without moving it toward her, which seems like a dick move. Makes it seem like you’re hogging the popcorn, in fact. Not moving it at all, keeping it trained exactly on your crotch is probably…suspicious. And what’s your role in this? Do you eat popcorn out of your own dick bag? I mean, you’re probably pretty motivated to reduce the level of popcorn. But is this getting weird? Masturbatory?

Apparently I’m not the only one wondering about this. A couple of years ago, Playboy published an article featuring Redditors who’d copped to trying it out. The results:

humor-guys-put-penis-into-popcorn

 

Do you have any good stories to add?

Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn_monroe_as_an_infant_brightenedBorn Norma Jeane Mortenson June 1, 1926, Norma Jeane was not her mother, Gladys’s, first child, but she was the only one in her care at the time. Norma Jeane’s father is unknown as her mother would never reveal his name. Norma Jeane was raised by foster parents as a baby, though her mother also lived with them. Feeling strong, Gladys bought a small home for herself an90b3020fb6c5cac8599b74b35e21e038d for Norma Jeane and they lived there happily for a time. Gladys had tried her hand at acting but was now working at a movie studio as a film negative cutter. She was schizophrenic and had a very bad crack up, leaving her permanently hospitalized and Norma Jeane back in foster care. She bounced around from home to home, even spending time in an orphanage.

As a ward of the state she was sexually abused. She married just days after her 16th birthday as a way of avoiding going back to the orphanage, a factory worker 7415193named James “Jim” Dougherty. It wasn’t a love match and though she wasn’t unhappy, she wasn’t happy either. The two had little to say to each other, but Norma Jeane dropped out of high school and seemed to enjoy being a housewife. In In 1943, Dougherty enlisted in the Merchant Marine. When he went over to the Pacific a year later, she moved in with his parents and went to work for the war effort at the Radioplane Munitions Factory.

The Munitions Factor was oddly where she was MarilynMonroe_-_YankArmyWeekly (1)discovered. David Conover, taking ‘morale boosting’ photos of female workers came across her dark curls and brilliant smile. He persuaded her to defy her husband and her in-laws: she moved out and became a model. Her voluptuous body unsuitable for fashion modelling, she was featured instead as a pin-up in men’s calendars and magazines. She was told to straighten her hair and dye it blonde to be more employable.

Paramount Pictures didn’t want her, and 20th Century Fox wasn’t bowled over either, but signed her to a standard contract just to keep rival RKO from getting her. She was given the name ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and in 1946 divorced Marilyn_Monroe_postcardDougherty, who was against her having a career. She took acting, singing, and dancing classes, but had only a couple of roles with almost no lines between them. After the end of 2 terms, the studio dropped her. But the guy she was sleeping with, a Fox executive, persuaded someone over at Columbia to give her a try, and eventually they did, styling her after Rita Hayworth. Her hairline was raised by electrolysis (!) and her hair lightened even further, to platinum.  She starred in a low-budget musical called Ladies of the Chorus, which was released to no fanfare. She had an affair with her vocal coach, who paid to have her overbite corrected. Her contract was once again not renewed.

She then was taken under the wing of Johnny Hyde, vice president of the William Morris Agency. They too had an affair, though she repeatedly refused his marriage proposals. He paid for a silicone prosthesis to be implanted in her jaw, and for a nosejob.a9d314b03280df54b73375ab8324f20a

Finally, a breakthrough: she appeared in six films that were released in 1950. She had bit parts in Love Happy, A Ticket to Tomahawk, Right Cross, and The Fireball. She had minor roles in a couple of critically successful films as well: John Huston’s The Asphalt Jungle, and Joseph Mankiewicz’s All About Eve. Her 5 minutes of screen time in The Asphalt Jungle merited a mention in Photoplay, and that moved her from model to actress.

Based on this success, Hyde negotiated a seven-year contract with 20th Century-Fox for her in December 1950 but died of a heart attack only days later, leaving her devastated. Despite her grief, 1951 was a big year for her. She presented at the Academy Awards, and had supporting roles in 4 films: Home Town Story, As Young As You Feel, Love Next, and Let’s Make it Legal. She played the same role in each: sexy arm candy, but The New York Times called her “superb” and the Los Angeles Daily News called her “one of the brightest up-and-coming [actresses].” She dated director Elia Kazan and had brief affairs with Nicholas Ray, Yul Brynner, and Peter Lawford.

A scandal broke involving nude photos she’d posed for in 1949, broke and needing money (she got $50). This should have derailed her career but Fox got on top of it by having her reveal it in an interview, stressing her dire financial straits. This not only BmWrbVCCIAE4WXJgained her public sympathy but cemented her status as a sex symbol. She followed it up with a very revealing dress as the Grand Marshal at the Miss America Pageant parade, and by telling gossip columnists that she wore no underwear. Joe DiMaggio saw pictures of the “it girl” and insisted they go out. She tried a couple of meatier roles that year: a fish cannery worker in Clash By Night, and a mentally deranged babysitter in Don’t Bother To Knock. Her other roles were more typecast: a beauty pageant contestant in We’re Not Married! served as an excuse to film Marilyn in not one but TWO bathing suits; a dumb blonde secretary opposite Cary Grant in Monkey Business; and a prostitute in Full House. 

Monroe had a reputation for being ‘difficult’ on set – being late, or not showing up, not knowing her lines, demanding re-takes. She depended heavily on acting coaches: she was a perfectionist with low self esteem, a bad combination in Hollywood. She was also f882d7ac58494cfaecd3420ab7a4673bterribly bullied and harassed by directors and male colleagues. This is when she started using barbiturates and amphetamines.

In 1953 she starred in Niagara, in a hyper-sexualized role: a 30-second long shot of her swaying hips while walking away was used in a lot of promotional material. She and her makeup artist had perfected her look: dark arched brows, pale skin, wet-looking red lips, and a beauty mark. She showed up at the Photoplay awards to accept the “Fastest Rising Star” award in a skin-tight gold lame dress that prompted Joan Crawford to describe her behaviour as s “unbecoming an actress and a lady.” Her next movie, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, would tumblr_mjh2ksCUZO1rgd1tuo1_500.gifclinch her on-screen person as the “dumb blonde.” That role was supposed to go to Betty Grable, Fox’s previous blonde bombshell, but Marilyn had eclipsed her. How To Marry a Millionaire was more of the same, and a huge box office success.

Hugh Hefner featured her on the cover and as the centrefold in his first issue of Playboy; Sem títulohe used a photo from that Miss America Pageant on the cover, and one of her 1949 nude photos as the centrefold.

Monroe was listed in the Top Ten Money Making Stars Poll in both 1953 and 1954, but note: money making, not money earning. She was a great asset for Fox, but still under contract, she wasn’t making much. She couldn’t even choose her projects. When she refused to do yet another “dumb blonde” comedy, the studio simply suspended her, in early 1954. This was front page news, so to counter the bad publicity, she married her sweetheart, Joe DiMaggio. The honeymooned in Japan (a business trip for him) and from there she traveled alone to Korea, where she performed in USO shows for the troops. By the time she got back to Hollywood in February she was Monroe_DiMaggio_Weddingpicking up Photoplay’s  “Most Popular Female Star” prize. She settled with the studio in March; she got a new contract, the starring role in The Seven Year Itch, and a bonus of $100,000. To generate buzz for this movie, they staged a filming of a scene on Lexington Avenue in New York. You know the one: she’s standing on a subway grate with air blowing up her white dress. She did that for several hours, attracting a big crowd with lots of professional photographers. The stunt infuriated DiMaggio, and they split just 9 months after marrying.

When filming wrapped, Monroe decided it was time to go to battle for control over her career and left Hollywood for the East Coast. She and photographer Milton Green founded their own production company, Marilyn Monroe Productions, which would later be called “instrumental” in the collapse of the studio system. She was “tired of the same old sex roles. I want to do better things. People have scope, you know.” She went to court about her contract with Fox, asserting the studio had not fulfilled its duties, such as paying her the promised bonus for The Seven Year marilyn-monroe-seven-year-itch-1955Itch. The press brutally ridiculed her for this move, and she was parodied in Itch screenwriter George Axelrod’s Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?, about a Monroe lookalike (played by Jayne Mansfield) dumb blonde actress who starts her own production company.

Divorce proceedings didn’t mean she stopped sleeping with DiMaggio, but it did mean she also slept with Marlon Brando, and with a playwright she met through Kazan – Arthur Miller. Things between them heated up when her divorce went through and he left his wife, but this also meant the FBI opened a file on her. The studio panicked and begged her to end the affair, fearing she’d be blacklisted. She would not.

She and the studio came to an agreement: she would do 4 films for them in 7 years, be paid $100K for each, be allowed to choose her project, her director, and her cinematographer, and would be free to make a film with MMP for every film she did for Fox. Suddenly the press was calling her a “shrewd businesswoman.”

She married Miller, and converted to Judaism (Egypt then banned all of her films). She chose to do Bus Stop next, earning respect from her director, and legitimizing herself as Monroe_Miller_Weddingan actress and box office success despite its departure from her sexy comedies. She won a Golden Globe for her performance. For MMP she did The Prince and The Showgirl, with Laurence Olivier starring and directing. He’d originated the role on the stage, opposite Vivien Leigh. Monroe and Olivia clashed on set: he wanted her to take Leigh’s lead, and condescendingly told her all she had to do was “be sexy.” Her drug use escalated; she miscarried during filming. She took an 18 month hiatus to concentrate on marriage but had two more failed pregnancies.

She came back to Hollywood in 1958 to star in Some Like It Hot. There were problems on set but it was a box office smash and it earned her another Golden Globe. She did Let’s Make Love for Fox yet, and it was kind of a flop, despite Miller re-working the script. She had an affair with her co-star Yves Montand, which was publicized for the movie’s sake. Awkward. This means that when Truman Capote lobbied for her to star in Breakfast At Tiffany’s, he was overruled, and the part went to Audrey Hepburn instead.

Miller wrote a dramatic role for her in The Misfits, which would reunite Monroe with director John Huston. She played Roslyn, a divorcee who befriends 3 aging cowboys, played by Clark Gable, Eli Wallach, and Montgomery Clift. Monroe and Miller were basically finished, and he was already moving on. She didn’t love the role, which she felt inferior to the male ones. It was a difficult production, with her drug use so serious that she had her make-up done while “asleep” on barbiturates. Production was halted for a week while she detoxed. It was the last film she would ever complete.

When filming wrapped, she got a quickie divorce from Miller. The movie was not a article-2065939-09EFCC65000005DC-148_468x470success at the box office, though more recently it has earned critical respect. In 1961 she had surgery for her endometriosis and a cholecystectomy, and spent 4 weeks in hospital, including a sting in the psych ward for depression. DiMaggio helped her out, and she dated Frank Sinatra for a while. In 1962 she was back on set for Something’s Got To Give, but came down with sinusitis, delaying production. Despite having several doctors corroborate the illness, Fox alleged publicly that she was faking. In May she sang Happy Birthday to JFK at Madison Square Garden. Back at work, the studio invited photographers on set for a scene in which she would swim nude. The photos were published in Life magazine, a major shift from the studio’s earlier policy about nude pics. But when she got sick again, Fox fired her from the movie and sued for $750 000 in damages (they were barely afloat making marilyn-in-poolCleopatra, which was way overbudget). Fox told the press that she was mentally unstable. Of course Fox quickly realized this was a stupid idea and re-opened negotiations to get her back onboard the film. She tried to repair her image by posing for a Vogue photographer – those photos would be published posthumously in a spread called The Last Sitting.

Monroe was found dead in the bedroom of her Brentwood home by her psychiatrist, Dr. 177874721Ralph Greenson on August 5, 1962. The housekeeper had woken up during the night and when no one answered when she knocked at Marilyn’s door, she summoned the doctor. Her death was ruled a suicide, the drugs in her system several times over the lethal limit. Joe DiMaggio arranged her funeral service.

Marilyn Monroe: never dumb, and not even actually blonde. She was, and is, an icon, and never stopped being magical on screen.

 

 

What’s your favourite Marilyn moment?

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Top 10 Movie Scars

Scars are a movie shorthand. Bad guys often have visible scars, gruesomely healed. Austin Powers’ Dr. Evil has a huge scar, from the corner of his right eye down to his jaw. Freddy Krueger from Nightmare on Elm Street is extensively scarred. Staff Sergeant Bob Barnes in Platoon has a face meant to tell you how crazy he is, right from the start. Most but not all of the scars on this list are found on villains, but in real life scars can criss-cross the bodies of all kinds of people, even, occasionally, good ones. Scars are portraits of courage and bravery, reminders of stupid decisions, the markers of time and change. My left arm was left completely scarred after a car accident; oddly, it is NOT the arm covered in ink (okay, it’s partially covered in ink). They make me a little sad, but also a lot grateful: scars mean you’re still alive.

tumblr_inline_nt3aoaZFge1tpfg2f_500.gifThe Joker: I suppose there are probably dozens of back stories as to how The Joker got his scars, but I love how Chris Nolan approaches them in The Dark Knight. The Joker himself tells several vastly different tales involving their provenance, which reveals nothing about their true nature, but tonnes about his sanity. The way he accents the scars with makeup makes us think he’s proud of them. He wants them to be noticed. Perhaps he wants us to believe they’re self-inflicted. Perhaps they are.

Tony Montana: It’s inevitable that a character nicknamed  ‘Scarface’ will make this list. tonyTony is blase about his scar, laughing it off, attributing it to his youth but never getting specific. It’s obviously a reminder of the past he left behind, and it’s a focal point to his enemies, something that makes him look scary and intimidating, perhaps warning them that he’s capable of violence. But in true Tony spirit, he addresses his scar only thusly: “You should see the other kid; you can’t recognize him.” I bet that’s true.

20110713_scars-1-harrypotter.nocrop.w375.h670Harry Potter: Harry got his distinctive lightning-bolt scar in a failed murder attempt, when Lord Voldemort put a killing curse on him (his mother’s sacrifice saved him from death, but he would bear the mark of the attack). The scar is legendary among the magic set, and it tingles whenever the Dark Lord is near. It wasn’t just a warning system, but a link to what Voldemort was thinking and feeling – actually a small piece of his soul, yearning to escape. Which is pretty crazy.

Edward Scissorhands: Edward’s face (and not just his face) is covered with fine scars, 350191the obvious result of learning the hard way how to live with scissors for hands. They aren’t terrible to look at, and actually give him a sympathetic look, reminding us of his hardships. Since the movie skewers conformity, Edward’s scars are just another thing that set him apart.

Randy ‘The Ram’ Robinson: Randy shows stripper Cassidy some of the many scars he’s accumulated over his years in the ring as ‘The Ram’ in The Wrestler. His broken body is a good indication of his mental state as well, beat down and tired. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed” Marissa Tomei quotes from the Old Testament. But his worst scar is yet to come: he undergoes bypass surgery on his heart, leaving the tell-tale scar down his chest, a constant reminder that his heart can no longer take the stress of his career. He’s forced into retirement, but can’t quite commit to it.

90f7a43a2555ef092a3825e3a5574878Marv: Sin City’s Marv puts Mickey Rourke on this list twice, ironic considering his own not-insignificant scars. In the 1990s he took up boxing, and had to have lots of reconstructive surgery as a result – two broken noses, a smashed cheekbone – but admittedly went to the wrong doctor to put things right. Finally, after massive amounts of plastic surgery, he’s starting to look good again. Regardless, in Sin City, Rourke’s face in prosthetic scars. Marv is supposed to be too “ugly” to attract the opposite sex, which is why his relationship with Nancy is so pure and good, and highly cherished by him.

Scar: In Lion King, Mustafa’s brother is marked for evil by eye-skimming scar that leaves him disfigured. The movie doesn’t tell us how he got it, but we do kn1000px-Gill-FindingNemo3Dow he’s defined by it, bearing its nickname.

Gill: Gill has terrible scarring to his face and fins after an escape attempt left him badly
wounded by dental tools. Voiced by Willem Dafoe, Finding Nemo’s Gill seems dark and brooding because of his scars, but we come to understand that they’re a symbol of his fight for freedom, and what the fish are willing to risk in order to be free.

tumblr_mlg4d5SRte1s3oe2qo1_250.gifInigo Montoya: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” A mysterious man with 6 fingers attacked Inigo’s father, and presumably Inigo’s scar is from that same fight. His greatest wish is to avenge his father’s death, and he spends much of The Princess Bride pursuing the man who left so many scars in his wake.

Darth Vader: Vader’s scars represent his turn from annoying emo brat to pure evil. As main-qimg-b22185b5f56500fa08f9e8b3a426e005-c.jpgthe ghost of Obi-Wan tells Luke: “When your father clawed his way out of that fiery pool, the change had been burned into him forever – he was Darth Vader, without a trace of Anakin Skywalker. Irredeemably dark. Scarred.” Those scars are kept underneath a menacing helmet for much of the series, but when that helmet comes off, oof: impact.

 

 

 

 

Ode To Ripley

Ridley Scott intended to kill off beloved butt-kicking hero Ellen Ripley in the very first of the Alien franchise. His script saw her harpooning the alien in her escape pod but it making no bloody difference, so the thing tears through her mask and rips her face off. Then the alien takes over the controls and sets his course – well, you can imagine the rest. The studio wouldn’t hear of it. “The first executive from Fox arrived on set within 14 hours, threatening to fire me on the spot,” Scott has said. “So we didn’t do that [ending].”

tumblr_nbwng6xMfu1rp0vkjo1_500.gifAnd this might be the first ever case of me agreeing with studio interference, purely because the world needs more Ripleys. We admire her because she was tough and she was smart. I admire her, and Scott, because Ripley cried at work and it didn’t weaken her, didn’t sap her power.

As recently as last year, the New York Post ran an article literally entitled ‘Cry At Work If You Never Want To Succeed.’ It contains helpful nuggets such as “Sure, ladies, it’s OK to cry at work. If you want every male (and female) boss to think you’re a useless little Nancy who can’t and shouldn’t be trusted with a challenging assignment again.” And evidence that writer Kyle Smith has confused women with toddlers: “Crying is an absolutely spiffing way to get what you want — in the short term. But once you’ve hosted a one-person snivel party, people tend to remember it.” Crying at work is not the same as throwing a temper tantrum. Sometimes tears are a natural (and unavoidable) reaction to anger or frustration. Some men (and frankly, some women) might take those same feelings to a bathroom stall where they’ve made an indent in the plaster punching the wall. Others might take those feelings out an on unsuspecting trash can which gets kicked and spilled all over the office floor. Doors and drawers and phones slam. Assistants get verbally abused. Half a dozen donuts get guilty devoured. Most of those are much worse than crying, but only crying gets a bad rep. “Women will be set back 100 years if they start believing it’s OK to cry on the job” Smith tells us. “But hey, OK, fine, if you just want to remain on the Girl Track for the rest of your life, by all means interrupt the weekly departmental meeting to fill your empty venti cup with your hot, salty tears.” Um, Girl Track? Fuck you, buddy.

When Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg wrote her best-seller Lean In, she wrote that it was okay to cry at work. Crying just happens, it’s part of our biology, part of our survival tumblr_nx8ebcJVP91uk3oooo1_500.gifmechanisms. For many women, and many men, it’s just part of being human, part of having emotions, and most of us do not shut those emotions off at the start of our shift.  41% of women and 9% of men said they’d cried at work during the previous year and that it had made no difference in terms of their success (note: women have six times more prolactin – a hormone related to crying – than men).

All that to say: Ellen Ripley was a force to be reckoned with. She cried at work, not to manipulate her coworkers, not because she was helpless and sad, but because she was in a tough situation and it just damn well called for it. All her male colleagues perished while she survived. She kicked alien ass so hard they brought her back for a sequel.