Monday, January 22, 2007


Apparently an article about the talented Angelina Jolie can’t be written in which the names of her famous parents, Jon Voight and French actress Marcheline Bertrand, are not invoked. The assumption being, I suppose, that her pedigree is somehow solely responsible for the exotic beauty’s gift for seemingly effortless performance. It certainly isn’t her years of training at the Lee Strasberg Institute or an innate artistic ability to deliver naturalistic portrayals from junk-addicted lesbian model to homeless high schooler.

The words “bee-stung lips”, “almond eyes” and “lesbian” are required by law. As are references to her three-year marriage and subsequent divorce to Sick Boy from Trainspotting, her obsession with knives, her odd sexual proclivities (that apparently include her obsession with knives), her seven tattoos and lesbianism.

What is often glossed over, and sometimes not even mentioned at all, is that the girl can act. She was nominated for an Emmy and won a Golden Globe for her performance as George Wallace’s second wife Cornelia in TNT’s George Wallace (1997). She was nominated again for an Emmy and won both a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award for the HBO Pictures release Gia (1998). And she’s not even 25.

Her appearance in Cyborg 2 (1993) didn’t make her a household name, and, frankly, it’s Cyborg 2 -- how good could she be? But her next feature film role set her on the right path. Foxfire (1996), based on the novel by Joyce Carol Oates, played out like an afterschool special with cuss words, The Craft without witches. But Jolie’s characterization of Legs was mesmerizing to watch, and completely believable. While she played an outsider bad girl, she never seemed like she was playing an outsider bad girl. Legs quickly became the ringleader of a gang of disparate high school girls who exact revenge on a sexually abusive teacher, and, as preposterous as that sounds, it didn’t seem ridiculous whatsoever when watching it

Jolie’s first major studio release, MGM’s Hackers (1995), was blanketly dismissed by critics, moviegoers and especially geek culture. As a matter of fact, Angelina Jolie’s character Acid Burn is the best thing about this exercise in mid-Nineties Internet bandwagoneering. Jolie chose several smaller indie films after this debacle: the noirish Mojave Moon (1996), the Joseph Bologna/Renee Taylor romantic comedy Love Is All There Is (1996) and the all-female western True Women (1997). None of these films received critical accolades or box office success, and Jolie languished in Big Screen obscurity for a brief time. The studio projects she starred in woefully under-exploited her talents. In the David Duchovny feature Playing God (1997), Jolie played an underworld moll who lures Duchovny’s medico character into the seedy world of drugs. Unfortunately, her screen time was limited, many of her scenes -- and apparently some of the film’s most interesting moments -- ending up on the cutting room floor.

It was, in fact, made-for-cable dramas that gave Jolie her boost into the major league. The John Frankenheimer-directed biopic George Wallace amply showcased Jolie’s ability to make a role her own. Playing wife Cornelia Wallace opposite Gary Sinise’s George Wallace, Jolie was not only able to hold her own with the seasoned actor, but actually stole some scenes. The aplomb she garnered from George Wallace led Jolie to her next project, Gia, the true story of supermodel Gia Marie Curangi. Jolie portrayed Gia’s downward spiral into drug addiction, failed homosexual and heterosexual relationships and her ultimate AIDS-related death with a grace that allowed for audience sympathy even at Gia’s most petulant, bratty and self-indulgent moments. As an actress, Jolie never judges the character in becoming the character.

Jolie was able to spin her success from Gia into a significant role as Joan the club-crawler in the romantic ensemble comedy, Playing By Heart (1998). The character itself was completely inauthentic as a club kid, but Jolie played Joan with such verve that, in spite of the script’s deficiencies, the character became believable. And better still, not annoying. Any other beautiful, but certainly less astute actress would have made that choice. But not Jolie. As director Frankenheimer said, “The world is full of beautiful girls, but they're not Angelina Jolie. She's fun, honest, intelligent, gorgeous, and divinely talented. She brings a hell of a lot to the party.”

Jolie’s trademark is shattered characters, mostly bad girls, drugs addicts and runaways, but Jolie imbues them with a humanity, sensitivity and sexuality that elevates them above clichĂ©. In Girl, Interrupted, Jolie plays yet another tortured woman, Lisa, a dangerous sociopath.

Jolie and I spoke about the film, her role and the pitfalls of becoming famous.

Your character Lisa was a criminally-minded sociopath, but the main character, Suzanne, suffered from a rather mild disorder and certainly didn’t belong in an asylum. Do you think most of the other girls belonged in McLean or were they institutionalized for not conforming to conventional mores?
You never really got to know everyone, did you? It’s hard to say because you really do follow somebody who really shouldn’t be in there. And she really probably wouldn’t be if she had come to terms with herself earlier. She’s a certain kind of person. I don’t know if she considered that other people should get out.

I don’t know if anybody should be institutionalized. But I also don’t know if it’s so much better to be kind of out. And does that mean that we don’t judge people then? Or that we don’t somehow lock them up in some way?

What would Lisa have done if she were a real girl out in the real world?
She would be an actor (laughs). She was a real girl, and she’s dead. She died two years ago. I don’t know how she would feel about this being written about her. It was someone’s point-of-view, and I don’t know how she felt about Suzanne.

How did you prepare to play Lisa?
I went to a bookstore and, after just doing Bone Collector, I walked in and said, “Do you have anything on sociopaths?” and they said, “Look under ‘serial killers.’” (laughs) “I’m losing my mind!” I thought, “Oh, God.” That was, you know, obvious.

I sat there and started reading about them, one-after-another, and it was these amazing accounts of these things where they knew that should feel bad or they knew that that was wrong, and they were having lapses, and they were doing things on impulse and couldn’t stop. And, so, it just struck me that they really see things and do things on impulse, so I just tried to do that. It was a great thing but it was also very, very empty. It was empty for her in the end. (But for me) it was very, very freeing.

What about her impulsive nature seemed so empty?
It’s almost like she’s walking forward and she wants to get that out of her way and she wants that person to walk with her and talk, but she doesn’t know what she needs. She knows what she wants, what makes her angry. She is completely that person that’s almost watching people from a certain place. She doesn’t feel them. She doesn’t think they see her. She doesn’t dream.

Those kind of people, they don’t meet someone and think--somehow in their mind--think that they’re gonna have a friendship that’s gonna go that way and be friends forever. Or have Christmases together. Or that they’re gonna be dating, and then they’re gonna go to bed, and then maybe--can you imagine her in bed? She couldn’t understand that that could maybe be a release and a connection because she’s just not there. She would go out with somebody and go, “Why do you want to get in here?” You know? She would never have that.

What was something unexpected that came out of working on Girl, Interrupted?
I don’t have many girlfriends--I mean, I have friends. I have more than most and I have them on a deeper level. We’ve had that time no matter how brief it was. You know, very complete and very full. But right now, we’re on separate journeys, but, suddenly, I discovered I had these girlfriends. There were certain girls in the ward that would come in my trailer and we would go on road trips and I knew these women, and it was amazing. Just to be silly. Just to have like a pack of people together. It’s not you and the other person or it’s not you by yourself, it’s actually a group of people and you go shopping and you want to bring toys back or you wanna like cook dinner together. I think it was something I learned that was just amazing to me. What that’s like to really get to know people and really be a team.

Now that you’re a bona fide star, has it becoming increasingly difficult dealing with intrusive fans?
No. Not at all. Mind you, I’m just going from that hotel to this hotel, but so far, no problem. Two, three weeks ago, I was going on the subway. And maybe a few people came up to me. It was like “Hi.” “Hi.” and then it was like, fine, “She’s there. She’s boring. Now we gotta ride the subway.”

I think if you don’t make a big deal out of it, nobody does. I think that the people that come up to you and recognize you, that’s the reason I’m working. That’s the reason I’m doing films because I do feel I’m connected to those people. They’re not insane to think that they’re connected to me and want to say, “hi.” I do want them to say, “hi.” I am connected with them. They do know me. They identify that we are similar. And it’s great.

With your two Golden Globes and the success of The Bone Collector, you are definitely on the Hollywood “It” List now. Are you aware of the hype and spin and buzz surrounding you?
I’ve just been trying to put together this film with Michael Christofer. That’s the one I’ve wanted to do and that’s the one that nobody was gonna greenlight no matter what. I’ve seen all the press I’ve been getting. There’s something going on.

I imagine your agent is probably inundated with calls for you.
I don’t have an agent. I have a very overworked manager.

So what’s this project with Cristofer?
Dancing in the Dark.

And what’s it about?
It’s so much about control and it’s so much about people and manipulating them. I plan to go down to Mexico and get to know the people. I want to know the people who live there. Somehow you have to find your loyalties, so I’m about to go in there to find those people who can protect me, you know. I’ve heard different things about these areas where we’re going to be.

Michael comes from such a good place, we’re gonna go into it thinking that, but we’re gonna come out of it--which is what they did--thinking those woman are our girlfriends. They are such beautiful women. And I think because the characters are like that, I know I’m going to end up dealing with it in that way. I think what I’m saying is I’m gonna end up gambling and hanging around with violent people and prostitutes.

These characters are that level of person. My character has different personalities…again! But they’re good personalities! They’re lovely.

Weren’t you considering buying a motel at a point?
I’m about to buy something just a little strange. But not a motel.

Is it John Merrick’s body?
No, it’s something practical.

John Merrick’s body isn’t practical?
Well, immediately… well, yeah, but not to me right now. (laughs) Actually, it’s really impractical. I’m trying to convince myself it’s practical. I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s some place to live in.

You can’t live in John Merrick’s body?
(giggles) I like you so much.

They Call Me Mr. Diggs: An Interview With Taye Diggs 10.23.99

Taye Diggs is one of the brightest young actors working today. The 27-year old first came on the scene (to the delight of female audiences) in 1998’s How Stella Got Her Groove Back and followed up his breakthrough role with last summer’s ensemble comedies, Go and The Wood. Currently, he has two major feature film releases in theaters: the hit comedy, The Best Man and the horror remake, House On Haunted Hill.

I spoke with Mr. Diggs, calling in from New York, to discuss his current and future projects as well as how it feels to be a sex symbol and… Robocop.

There are very few roles for people of color in the first place. The roles that are out there mostly traffic in stereotypes. Have you been offered stepnfetchit comedies and gang$ta thug roles?
I wouldn’t even know because I have such good team working for me that they know better than to even step in my direction with trash like that. We’re all on the same page and they know what types of roles I’m after and the kind of message I’m trying to get across to other people.

Before The Best Man, you appeared in The Wood, a sweet little coming-of-age movie about a very different experience in Inglewood than we are used to hearing about in local LA news coverage and rap lyrics. While the film didn’t tank, it didn’t score as gangbusters at the box office as I would have expected. Do you think audiences aren’t ready to accept that kind of experience?
Oh…The Wood? We thought it did pretty well for the amount of money that it cost. Yeah. But, I really have a great feeling about The Best Man, that audiences will respond to it in a positive way. This is a bigger studio (than The Wood) so we had different means of advertising and publicizing and what not. We had a really great campaign as far as touring for press. In a lot of cases, it’s just a matter of getting it out there to the people.

Was there one particular film or performance that made you want to be an actor?
Maybe Denzel Washington in A Soldier’s Story. He made me think that I could be cool and black and smart and confident and secure. He had glasses. At the time, I had glasses. He’s dark-skinned. I’m dark-skinned. That movie came out during a time when light-skinned men were quote unquote “in,” so, you know, I would look at him and he would flesh out my aspirations.

You are definitely perceived as the “next Denzel.”
Well, that’s alright. I ain’t mad at that.

Your photographs are now posted on “Finest Guys” and “Hot Men!” Websites. One fan on the Internet described you as “one sexy chocolate brother with a sexy ass Colgate smile.” Are you prepared for and comfortable with being a sex symbol?
(laughs) That’s… that’s... I guess that’s the type of thing that comes with the job. I’m not gonna pretend that it doesn’t make me smile. I definitely appreciate the attention. But I just try to remain focused on the work.

I’m sure the shower scene in How Stella Got Her Groove Back helped your sexy chocolate brother image. You know, Terry McMillan (Stella’s writer) was my fiction writing professor in college and had we known she needed to get her groove back… well… we weren’t sexy chocolate brothers.
(laughs) Yeah. Yeah.

So what was it like when you found out your first major role was Angela Bassett’s love interest. I mean she played Tina Turner!
It was almost… I mean, words can’t describe the… I was incredulous. I couldn’t believe it until I was on set acting opposite her to actually let it sink in. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to be introduced to the industry. It was like two dreams in one, you know, getting a dream role and playing opposite a dream co-star.

You first came to critical and public acclaim in the original production of Rent, arguably the most exciting thing to happen on Broadway in a decade. Why do you think audiences took to Rent?
I think we were a bit irreverent. I think people were beginning to tire of the traditional musical theatre, cookie-cutter show. We were out there on the edge at the time. We were new. We were young. And we had a really good message: love. That, along with the fact that I thought it was really great music and we just had an amazing energy that was contagious.

Your first professional gig was at Tokyo Disney. What was the freakiest thing that happened there?
Freaky, huh? Freaky? We were doing a children’s show, but what was kind of freaky is that adults would come and wait in line and act like serious, very serious fans. They would buy us gifts -- like very, very expensive gifts -- like watches and sometimes stereos and luggage because they appreciated what we were doing over there to some extent. How appreciative the Japanese public is of American performers. I guess that was kind of freaky in a good way.

What’s on the horizon?
I have a really fun, light-hearted horror picture coming out called House On Haunted Hill. I play a sheriff in a murder-mystery called Mary Jane’s Last Dance. And I just finished a gig with Chris McCory, who wrote The Usual Suspects, called The Way Of The Gun, a smart action thriller.

Okay, what’s your favorite thing to do that has nothing to do with acting?
Choreograph. Whenever I’m in the city. It just calms me. It gets me back in touch with my creative juices. And it just makes me happy.

What was the first movie you ever made out during?
Oh… made out?… My first sexual experience was in my best friend’s living room with Robocop on the VCR. Ha! I didn’t make out to any movies, ever. I enjoy movies too much to waste them on kissing. There’s plenty of time to kiss. But when I’m in the theater, it’s movie time.

Except with Robocop?
Robocop. I had seen it already, and it just provided the vibe, gave us the aura. (laughs)

I don’t know what to think of you, now, Taye.

From Piano Player to Porn Star: An Interview with Alicia Witt 08.03.00

What attracted you to the character of Cherish, a porn star whose AVN-award-winning performance is opposite a gerbil?
To me it was funny, because I’ve seen so many porno movies…

(Soda spurts out of my nose, tears stream from my eyes, gales of laughter…) Really?
Um, yeah…and the acting is so bad, it’s so over-the-top, but Cherish is a great character because she’s completely proud of herself. She takes great pride in this career that she created. I get the feeling that if I was telling her backstory, she probably comes from a dirt-poor family and never had anything. But she was a real opportunist, in a good sense of the word, who loved to flaunt her body and loved the fact that she got attention off of it. She considers this to be as important an accomplishment as winning the Nobel Prize. In her world, this is a great thing. She’s the best. She’s a great porno star.

Did you base your role on any of the porn stars that you have seen?
I didn’t base it on anyone in particular. I based it on the notion that these women, at least in the cheaper pornos, go way over-the-top. And it just appeals to the basest level of what is sexy. It’s basically like, “Look at me, I’m having sex, doesn’t this make you horny?” (laughter) It’s so funny. And I had the best time, but I have to say it was the most surreal experience probably I’ve ever had.

Did you do porno research?
I didn’t actually do research specifically because I had already seen a number of them. That’s why I liked the character, because she’s so funny. And the acting in these movies is so over-the-top and so far from being anything that’s remotely sexy. It’s like appealing to the lowest common denominator. Some guy who couldn’t get laid if he wanted to, who is like “Oh look, tits.” You know?

But you do watch a lot of porno…
I’m a fan of anything that’s odd. I think porn films are just plain odd. I love the fact that one of the biggest differences between men and women is that if a woman has a sexual fantasy, I think nine times out of ten, it has to be accompanied by the thoughts of what the guy she’s thinking about did earlier that day and having dinner and having a meaningful conversation and maybe some beautiful music playing in the background and flowers and this whole image, but she has to be able to connect something to his brain that she finds sexy as well. Whereas a guy can actually look at a magazine with a photo of a naked girl spreading her legs and he can get off to that. I could never look at a naked guy and find that sexy to that extent.

Have you ever seen a porno with rodentia?
No, I haven’t. I think its safe to say that this porno scene is probably the funniest porno scene ever put down anywhere. Although there was a porn film that I saw in the Czech Republic that came pretty close.

I’m sorry, the Czech Republic?
Yeah, I was doing a movie there about five years ago, and I had nothing to do. I didn’t speak Czech, so what am I gonna do but watch pornos right? And there was this porno film with two women having fun with a guy and it was some sort of bizarre fluorescent lighting and chromegreen background, so sterile and so unsexy. But to top it all off, there was a vocal track laid in of some other woman going “Ya! Ya! Ya!” But it didn’t match the rhythm of what the women in the film were doing. It was almost like a bizarre spoof of a porno. I couldn’t believe it. And it made me laugh to think that maybe somewhere out there was a guy watching it, getting off on it, thinking it was sexy.

How did you keep from laughing during the gerbil scene?
Between each take, we were busting out laughing. It was so much fun shooting that scene. But then, to make it even funnier, John put the scene up at the Apex, which is a real porno theatre in Baltimore. And, as you know, he filled the theatre with about thirty-five male extras and they’re suppose to be jerking off while they’re watching me on the screen. And I’m sitting there in the actual audience watching myself on the screen of a real porno theatre with thirty-five guys pretending to jerk off. It was so weird. (laughter)

Obviously, this role didn’t offend you, but are you offended by the way women are portrayed in many films?
Yeah, I’m offended -- not necessarily as far as sex scenes are concerned, because that’s the actress’ prerogative. If she feels like doing that, that’s fine -- but I don’t know why there are still so many scripts that I read that have the obligatory female love interest who has absolutely nothing to do. In fact, I’ve been in meetings for roles like that and I’ve sat down with the filmmakers and said, “Look, I don’t think this character is interesting. I would like to do this with it.” But that’ not of any interest to them because the character simply exists as a tool to move the story along. It’s very strange.

Is there anything else that offends you in films?
There are some things that really offend me in movies. I have a real aversion to gratuitous violence. I also find some action movies absurd to the point of insulting my intelligence. You know the kind of scenario where the lone gunman gets out and a hundred people shoot at him and he dodges every bullet and then whips out his Uzi and blows away every single one of them unscathed? It’s just absurd. And I don’t care what anyone says, I do believe that films like that have an impact on teenagers and other people not taking guns so seriously. Thinking it’s not such a big deal to shoot somebody.

How do reconcile that with being in Cecil B. Demented, which has a lot of bullets?
It’s violent, but I didn’t think it was graphic violence. It’s almost cartoonish.

Sometimes “cartoonish” is applied to the lone-gunman-dodging-every-bullet-unscathed movie…
I’m referring to the big, slick --You know, they’ve got the glamorous shots of the muscly, sweaty guy walking toward the camera with the halo light around his head and charging into the sunset and appearing as the Big Sexy Action Hero. And to go see one of those movies on a Saturday night and see people just mindlessly chomping on popcorn and absorbing it all into their brains and thinking that is entertainment. I believe independent films are actually getting much more of an audience these days because more people are getting tired of that kind of film.

It’s been debated since the MPAA started rating films thirty-three years ago, but don’t you still find it odd that a guy’s head can explode into a million different bits in the name of God and country and get a PG-13 rating, but show a glimpse of flesh and your slapped with an R-rating? Or NC-17.
That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard -- also language. Its amazing to me what you can’t say to get a certain rating. It’s just words. It’s just syllables stuck together and there are certain words that are supposedly so offensive that you will get a really harsh rating and yet you can show people getting their heads cut off and really disturbing violent images in a PG-13 film. I don’t know what that says. It’s a really bizarre message.

What do you think independent films do differently?
I think mainstream Hollywood definitely has made some fantastic movies, but the whole thing about a studio film is it is made with the purpose of making a lot of money. No matter what anyone tells you. The producers are making the movie because they want to get rich.

To me, that’s the biggest difference between independent film and a studio film. An independent film is made because the filmmaker has a vision. It sounds corny, but it’s true. The filmmaker has a vision, and he wants to tell his story. I mean, I’m sure he’d like to make money off of it, but if you’ve got a few million dollars to play around with and a bunch of actors who are really passionate and they don’t care about getting paid either, you’re gonna come out with a film that’s much more true to what you are trying to say. And it’s not going to have all the phone calls being made everyday to the studio heads and the ten producers who are trying to be in charge and trying to take power away from the director. The studio system is just much more of a business.

You’ve worked with some of the deities of independents, David Lynch and now John Waters. As opposed to the younger indie directors you’ve worked with, how do their years of experience help you as an actor?
The big difference is that John has done it for so many years that he really knows what he’s looking for at this point. A lot of times if you have a first time indie director, with few exceptions, they will see the film afterwards and wish they had done a lot of things differently. Because they don’t quite know what to say to the actor to get the result they want. They know something is missing when they watch the dailies, but they’re not sure what it is.

It takes awhile to learn the process and obviously John has been doing this for awhile. The experience itself was fantastic for me because it wasn’t as though he was preoccupied with every little nitpicking detail. We had a rehearsal process where we explored the characters and read scenes and discussed it and talked about group madness and cults and the whole mentality that happens when ordinarily sane people get sucked into something and they believe in it so strongly that they all lose sight of what is logical. So we set that framework and all of us got to work and just had an amazing time just having fun with it.

John Waters said he was aware of you not because of your quirky stuff or David Lynch, but because he wanted to cast against the type you played on “Cybill”?
That’s cool. He didn’t tell me that. That’s a surprise to me, too. I was just happy to get to work with him. He was one of those directors that I had always wanted to work with my whole career. And ever since I saw Serial Mom and then I went back and rented his older movies, and he’s just amazing the way he blasts holes in all the social standards and all the things that people take for granted. People have really funny characteristics, and he really makes fun of them.

But God, I think I sleptwalked through the last two seasons of “Cybill.”

Going Fifteen Rounds With Denzel Washington 12.13.99

Denzel Washington is undoubtedly one of the finest actors working today. And I don’t think the ladies would disagree with the “finest.” Dignified, charismatic, strikingly handsome, Washington is a commanding presence onscreen.

He started his career as Doctor Phillip Chandler on the acclaimed series “St. Elsewhere,” which led to the role of Steven Biko in the Richard Attenborough film, Cry Freedom. His Oscar-winning turn in Glory secured Washington’s status as the pre-eminent young black actor in Hollywood. Within a few years, Washington was able to transcend the trappings of being considered the “pre-eminent young black actor” to become a leading man in such films as The Pelican Brief, Crimson Tide and The Bone Collector.

He has worked with several of Hollywood’s greatest directors, including three stints with Spike Lee, a gig in Carl Franklin’s stylish noir thriller Devil in a Blue Dress, and a lead role opposite Tom Hanks in Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia.

The story of wrongly-convicted boxer Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, The Hurricane is Washington’s third film in which he plays a black martyr, following his two Oscar-nominated roles of Steven Biko and Malcolm X. The Hurricane also marks Washington’s second performance under the direction of Norman Jewison, who cast a young Washington in A Soldier’s Story in 1984.

Denzel Washington chatted with us about The Hurricane, boxing and how to sell a movie.

How are you doing, Denzel?
Good. And I was really naked in the scene in the prison! That was me. That was my backside. That was me. That’s important to me. Someone accused me of using someone else in there. I trained two years. Two years! Almost two years. A year-and-a-half, two years. Check the butt!

You’ve got a great ass, but what does this…?
Nah, because somebody said to me today, “Now, that double…” Hey, there ain’t no double! That was me. I even turned around in the scene so you could see my face. It’s the butt! Look at the butt! (laughs)

Well, I will say this: in the beginning of the movie, when you were in the ring the first time, and you took off your robe, it was Damn! How did you get that cut?
Boxing. Boxing. Real boxing. Hitting and getting hit.

Did you have a trainer?
A gentleman by the name of Terry Claybon, who actually played Emile Griffith in the first fight. Terry was an undefeated amateur--and professional--and developed cataracts and had to retire. Became a trainer. Got a young woman now, Frieda the Cheetah, who is gonna fight in January for the world title. And he’s got another young fighter, Antoine Leech, who’s undefeated.

So I take it you’re a boxing fan?
Yeah. I love boxing. I’m even more of a fan now having been in the ring. I have a healthy respect for what they’re doing. It’s the most difficult sport I’ve ever done. I’ve played football, baseball, basketball and track, did everything on the high school and college level. None of it is as tough as this. It’s will power. It’s conditioning. It’s speed, obviously, and your natural abilities and all those things, but it’s your will. It’s imposing your will on someone. It’s pure, too. It’s just you and him, or she and her. There’s no time out. You got three minutes, then you go sit down, you know? I like fighting.

Do you entertain dreams of being a boxer?
I was in the ring yesterday.

What’s your reach?
(throws a jab, holds his fist out) I don’t know. I don’t know.

Being an actor, aren’t you afraid of getting jacked in the face?
I actually got some headgear that had a little nose thing across it so I wouldn’t bust my nose.

Do you still have that six-pack stomach?
I got a twelve pack. I got a twelve pack. (laughs)

Did you study old films of Hurricane to get down his style?
I didn’t really imitate his style, other than the fact that he was a left-hookin’ fool. He was actually a southpaw. He was a converted southpaw, which was one of the reasons his left was so powerful. But Rubin’s like five-eight, a buck-fifty-five. I’m like six-one. If I got down to one-seventy-five. One-fifty-five, I would’ve looked… it wouldn’t have worked. I’m just too big for that. And, you know, everybody has their own style, so I didn’t feel a pressure to imitate his style. One, because I just said, “not too many people know it,” you know? And I had to adapt it to what I could do and what I couldn’t do.

I understand you tried to secure the rights to Hurricane’s story about nine years ago. What initially attracted you to this story?
For all of this to happen and it all to come down to this kid who happened to buy this book, it was just a fascinating story. Rubin had gotten out for like nine months or so during the re-trial. So when they locked that door on him again, when he got triple life again, he began praying. He began to meditate and practice Islam and he read the bible and Buddha and everybody else he could get his hands on. To this day, he still meditates extensively. When he did that, that’s when something seemed to reach out to him. Because he wasn’t even answering mail. He had stacks and stacks of mail and wouldn’t answer anybody. He said this one letter was just jumping out at him, like talking to him, “Open me. Open me.” And it’s just the one letter that he opened out of hundreds of letters that he had and it was from this kid and it touched him at a time I think when he was ready for it. So to me, that’s the spiritual aspect of the film and that’s what I was going after.

Did you and your co-star, Vicellous Reon Shannon share the same kind of father/son relationship that Hurricane and Lesra did?
I think so. I mean, I guess I’m old enough to be his father, I think.

In interviews, he says he looks up to you.
Does he? (grins)

He said he learned a lot from you.
Did he? (grins from ear-to-ear) Now that’s a proud father. I remember meeting Sidney Poitier when I was young in this business. He said some very important things to me like, “If they see you for free all week, they won’t pay to see you on the weekends.” And that the first two or three or four films in your career, that is how Hollywood is going to look at you, so be very careful about the roles you choose. There was one role in particular that I just didn’t feel good about and they were gonna pay me a bunch of money--it was to be my fourth film. And I called Sidney and he said, “If you don’t feel good about it, don’t do it.” And I said, “Yeah, but…” “Don’t do it.” So I waited. I waited like six months and I got Cry Freedom. So I try to pass that kind of stuff onto Vicellous.

What movie was this?
It was a movie that wasn’t even made. If they did, it came and went so fast I didn’t see it. But I don’t think it was made around that time.

You started your career working with Norman Jewison on A Soldier’s Story. Fifteen years later, you and he are working together again. How is it different now?
I thought I knew everything when I worked for him the first time. You know, I was younger and I just thought I knew a whole lot. And now I know that I don’t know that much. But it’s mostly my own maturing as an actor and in front of the camera. In A Soldier’s Story, I had done the play for three hundred performances, so I thought I knew every nuance of the play, but I didn’t understand how that applied to film. Obviously, I’ve made a couple of films between then and now, so I know a little more about it now.

And you’re a movie star now.
You know, people don’t come up to me at the park and say, “Hey, you’re a movie star.” I don’t even hear the word movie star basically until I do interviews. That’s the truth. I mean people may react to you in odd ways, like falling down or fainting or something, crying. But that doesn’t happen in this town, I think. People react to you more like, “Oh, he got my job. I was supposed to play Malcolm X, I want you to know that. I was gonna do it, but I had this movie of the week.”

Are you talking about Wesley Snipes?
Wesley Snipes said that? Could’ve been.

The Hurricane received an R-rating, which is definitely going to limit its audience, especially with kids who, frankly, should see this movie. What do you think the MPAA saw as a problem with this movie?
It concerned me in not allowing kids to see it and I think young adults, teenagers should. Probably the language, but it’s not like kids don’t… problematic. Teenagers nowadays are getting shot at in schools. What’s problematic about this movie? My son saw the film. Have you talked to Norman about this? I’d be interested to know why we got an R.

How do you get audiences in the theatre for something like The Hurricane, which is a drama, first, and perceived as an African-American film, second?
You gotta show that butt, gotta show that butt! Show that backside! Write about that butt! That’s your job. Write about that booty! (laughs)

A lot of that is your job and my job to talk about it. From my side of it, I think it’s not “Oh, you’ll learn so much.” It’s not a sermon. It’s a strong film, and it’s entertainment.
It’s a fine line as the promoter, if you will, to not make it too precious or too sweet or too… it’s still just a movie. You know, get some popcorn and a soda and go to the movie. I think it’s a very good movie, and hopefully it can stand on that. So, I don’t think… what am I saying? Talk about the butt!

Girl, Interviewed: Brittany Murphy 12.06.99

Brittany Murphy has starred in Clueless, Freeway and Drop Dead Gorgeous and was a series regular on Drexell’s Class and Sister, Sister. However, it’s her voice for which she is most famous. The 22-year-old actress voices the characters of Luann and Joseph Gribble on Fox’s King of the Hill.

In Girl, Interrupted, opposite Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie, Murphy plays Daisy, a suicidal bulimic with an obsessive compulsion for rotisserie chicken and laxatives. We chatted at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills about the film, her co-stars, fascism and Janis Joplin.

Where are you from?
New Jersey. Edison. “Caufee.” “Wauter.” “Hauribble.” “Haurrible” instead of “horrible.” “Tornament?”

We say “Turnament”?
Turnament? I say Tornament. Pockibook.

So how did you get from Edison, New Jersey to Hollywood, California?
I always knew I was a stage people and that I wanted to perform. I loved performing so very much, but I didn’t know what venue it would ever take place in. And I knew since I was a small child that I was supposed to perform in some way shape or form. There’s just something inside of me that I can’t really put a word on. I haven’t found a word for it yet.

Okay. But how did that translate into a career?
I’m getting into that (laughs) …Just tenacity. And I was so grateful to have an overwhelmingly supportive mother who--well, after a few years of telling me, “Why don’t you wait for a little while?”--ran me back and forth to New York to audition for commercials.

I found out about the manager in New York through the dance studio that I was taking dance classes from when I was three years old. I loved these dance classes. Even if we didn’t have enough money to buy lunch meat, my mom would have me in these damn classes. It was because I loved it so much. It was my oxygen. And then I started doing regional theater around New Jersey when I was about nine-years-old and then, at twelve-and-a-half, I finally got her to bring me into the City.

So, now did auditioning for commercials in New York lead to Drexell’s Class and Sister, Sister and Clueless and King Of The Hill and now, Girl, Interrupted opposite Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie?
Okay, then, the manager wanted to bring me to LA for pilot season that year--that was ‘91. So, I came out here January 8 of ‘91, and I haven’t left since. I called my mom on the phone--I was with a chaperone--and I said, “Mom, I want you to move out here for me. Everything is right here! I can’t even believe it! It’s every thing I ever dreamed about!” And she said, “Sure,” and she packed up our house and moved out here for me. It’s amazing. She was tired of her job and tired of Jersey and, and, and I don’t know, I really don’t know. My mom’s exceptional. Yeah. And she never pushed me. I really pushed her to try to help me out. (giggles)

Did you always want to be a movie star?
Do I want to be a movie star? Sure. Yeah. Those aren’t my motives, but I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t somehow affect society on a whole, and perform and affect mass groups of people. I mean, this is what I want to do for a living.

You sound like der Fuhrer.
Oh no. (Cackles maniacally into the microphone)

Which would you rather be, a movie star or der Fuhrer?
Shall I answer that question? No, no. But, of course, I don’t know how I would deal with (superstardom), if it were ever to come. For now, I’ll just keep working and plugging away. And I’m not working to attain that goal; I’m more thinking for the second. But I do have a lot of long term goals that I keep very private. I’ll let you know once I’ve infiltrated.

Are you prepared for all the things that go along with celebrity, like stalking?
(laughs) I told people where I lived in my first interview. The publicists came up to me and sincerely said to me, “You did very well, but just (whispering) don’t tell people where you live.”

With Girl, Interrupted, did you specifically go after the role of Daisy?

Just because it was the one available.

Did you see playing Daisy as a challenge?
It wasn’t any more or less challenging than any other role; it was just different. It was a different character. So, Daisy was a challenge, but a challenge is a great thing. Of course, it’s challenging or I wouldn’t be doing it. I’m fortunate enough to do something that will always be challenging. I’m never gonna know everything there is to know about it. I’ll be doing it till I drop. I’ll be eighty and still not know everything there is to know about acting. There’s no book. There’s no context. It’s about human beings, and we’ll never really figure each other out. I think that, you know, it was a challenge, but everything’s a challenge. It was a rewarding challenge. Things that are difficult, in return, end up being really great..

Is Winona Ryder always as radiant as she seems?
Winona? Oh, I adore her. With all my heart.

And Angelina Jolie?
It was really a creatively rewarding experience because when you’re acting-- I can speak for myself only, of course--when I have the chance to act with someone and exchange emotions and intimacies with someone who is so pure to theirs and is so great at what they do and great at their craft, I can’t help but learn. In that respect, it was really just a fantastic experience. I loved working with Angie.

How are Ryder and Jolie different?
I can’t tell you what the differences are. You know, it’s night and day. Like everyone. Like the two of us, you know? Some people are more similar than others, but they’re quite different. They’re different about their acting and they’re different about their person, but they’re both equally as extraordinary. And I’m equally enamored of them both as humans and as artists. But, like I said. Night and day. Yeah. I’ll just leave it at that.

What’s coming up on the horizon for you?
I did Cherry Falls, and then a film called Trixie after that and then another one called Common Ground after that. And now we’re here today.

When are you going to play Janis Joplin in Piece of My Heart?
I don’t know! That’s something that was supposed to be filmed last summer. I will study very vigorously before it’s to come, but it’s something that consumes every bit of my life, because I have this really deep love for her. And once I start listening to things and once I start reading things, I can’t stop. And I can’t neglect these other characters I’m playing in the meanwhile, so when I finally find out… when Janis wants this movie to happen, it’ll happen. Her story is supposed to be told right, and when she knows it’s going to be told properly, whether it’s me or somebody else, I know that it will be told one day. It’s just all the components have to be proper, you know?

It was slated to be filmed last summer, but things sort of got derailed. I know the music rights are available February of 2000. I’ve been hearing since it was re-scheduled sometime after February of 2000, in 2000, hopefully. The director was slated to be Gary Freder. He is no longer attached to this film, but I’m gonna work with him Tuesday on his new film for Miramax, Impostor. He’s a good friend of mine, now.

What do you play in Impostor?
It’s a cameo. I’ve never done a cameo. I’m so excited! I’m gonna be an anchorwoman. I’m gonna be Sally Atwater, remember? Is that her name? Sally Atwater? What was that called? What was that song? (sings) “Do Do Do Doo Do… because you remember me?” My friend does the funniest impersonation of her.

Okay, let’s end this way--what was the first movie you ever made out during?
You mean, onscreen or off? (laughs) Onscreen… who was the first? Well, my first love scene was in a movie-of-the-week. I was 16 or 17. It was called Double Jeopardy: The Story Of Gina Marie, and it was with Joe Penny.

How about offscreen?
That’s private. (laughs)

What are you doing for the turn-of-the-millennium?
I don’t know. Something private and very homey with loved ones. I’m gonna be in a bomb shelter. Have a very Happy Holidays.

The Eye Of The Hurrican: Our Norman Jewison Interview 12.13.99

Norman Jewison’s forty year career has produced twenty-three feature films (earning 45 Academy Award nominations between them) and spanned just about every genre from comedy to drama to science fiction to spy thriller.

The Hurricane, the tragic story of boxer Rubin Carter wrongly convicted of a triple homicide, completes a sort of trilogy for Jewison. This is his third feature to focus on African-Americans, racism and justice, following up A Soldier’s Story and In The Heat Of The Night.

Jewison joined me for a discussion about The Hurricane, the current state of filmmaking, and the gullibility of the press.

Good afternoon. My name is Norman Jewison. I’m a director and we are here to talk about Mr. Ripley …oh, right The Hurricane.

Are you nervous that The Hurricane is opening against The Talented Mr. Ripley and the other quality films out now?
Well, we had so much sh*t for the rest of the year that it’s about time. Wasn’t it kind of nice to see a group of good, intelligent pictures, finally? I think it’s a terrific year now. It was a disaster before that, wasn’t it?

This disastrous year in film is being touted by some as the introduction of a new class of “edgy” films.
I don’t know what’s “edgy.” What’s edgy to you may not be edgy to me. I think we live in a time right now of total hype and glory. I think that’s what it’s all about. It’s all about the hype. I think false things are hyped to be true and people buy into it. I think we’re in the danger of living in a corporate society where we’re told what to think, what to hear, what to eat, what to wear and what to like. So, it’s hard for me. I’m a filmmaker. I tell stories. All I’m interested in is telling a story--a good story--and putting it up on the screen. I have a couple of hours to do it and it takes me a year-and-a-half to two years, so what I do is very important to me.

Well, “edgy” or not, what do you think of the new, young directors?
I don’t think it has anything to do with age. You’re talking about new directors. There’s always new directors. Old directors die and move on. New directors come along. I started out in this business sitting at the feet of William Wyler. I was mentored by George Stevens and Freddy Zinneman and Billy Wilder and John Sturges and people like that. When I had a question, they answered it. When I asked if I could sit in their editing room, they all let me.

They’re all dead. They’re all gone or retired or whatever… worn out. And then a new bunch comes along, you know? Myself, John Frankenheimer, Franklin Schaffner, Sidney Lumet, all of us. We all came from live television, from New York. We didn’t come up through the film schools. There were no film schools. The next generation came from film schools, the Coppolas, the Lucases, the Spielbergs. They go to school and they study film. And so, the next generation comes along and the next…

This doesn’t mean that they’re better. This doesn’t that mean that they’re edgier. This means that they’re coming along now in the ‘90s. It doesn’t mean that somebody older like myself is any less capable or talented. As a matter of fact, directors usually get better as they get older. Conductors of orchestras usually get better as they get older. Painters usually get better. Even writers usually get better as they get older because they know more.

How about the press?
Journalists always get better as they get older and they get more cynical, thank god. And hopefully less gullible. But the way the press got behind that piece of sh*t… remember that film earlier this year off the Internet?

The Blair Witch Project?
Puh-lease. Puh-lease. That’s not a movie. Christ, you wanna talk about artistic talent? But the way the press crowed about it, “Oh, it’s so wonderful! My god, it’s so real! Oh my god, look at that! Geez, the guy went out with a camcorder and a stick! You could do that in your backyard! Don’t you think this is brilliant? This is deep. This is really something here! Did you know that someone died when they were making that picture?” All bullsh*t!

Do you think…?
How can you embrace this? How can you believe in this? That puts movies out of business and redundant. If you say that’s a brilliant piece of filmmaking, you have now made the entire experience of going to films totally redundant.

But how do…?
Because there is no artistry there. There is no use of light. There is no art here! There is no great writing! There is no great acting! There is no great direction! There is a brilliant piece of marketing! A fantastic hype. Oh my god, they sucked everybody in. It’s just wonderful.

And now they’re gonna make Blair Witch 2. They’re gonna do it again! Oh, it’s unbelievable. And we’re here to talk about Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and his story? We’re here to talk about justice and freedom and belief in someone and commitment? That’s what the film’s about. That’s what we should be talking about.

Well, let’s talk about the film, then. How did you become involved in The Hurricane?
About eight or ten years ago, a man by the name of David Picker came to my office in Toronto and said, “Do you know the Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter story? Here’s the Sports Illustrated.” And I read it and I was blown away. And that’s when I read The Sixteenth Round. David Picker could not get the money to make the film. Nobody wanted to make it. About eight years later, a young Canadian producer, John Ketchum, who had never made a movie, acquired the rights and came down to Los Angeles. Beacon Pictures and Army Bernstein were the only people who wanted to do it.

Army wrote the first draft. Then I brought in Chris Cleveland, and we did another screenplay. What else was the Writer’s Guild credit?

Dan Gordon?
It was Dan Gordon who brought a lot of structure to Army’s first draft. Army’s first draft was big and sprawling. I kept paring down. Gordon and Bernstein really carried the ball as far as they could. The structure was intact. So, I didn’t have the big problem of changing the structure of the piece. I could just work on reducing it and reducing it and reducing it, which is what I had to do because the film would have been five hours long. As it was my first cut was three-hours-and-ten-minutes, so I had a lot of cutting to get it down to manageable proportions. So that the audience, first of all, wouldn’t get bored, and also, so they could follow, because you’re jumping out of time--constantly. This was a very difficult structure.

I fought like hell to get this film down to its present length and it still feels long to me. I’m one of those people. If you look at my films, they very rarely exceed two hours. Except for Fiddler On The Roof, which had an intermission. In those days, they used to do big films with an intermission. Every film is probably too long except a Woody Allen picture.

I had to take out a lot of things that I wanted in the film. I was taking them out as I was shooting because, remember, this film was made for less money. When you make an African-American film, you don’t get as much money as when you make a totally white commercial film.

Why do you think that is?
Oh, all sorts of racist, racial kinds of ideas that I think Madison Avenue perpetuates and the studios buy into and demographics play up. “If you put an African-American on the cover of Time Magazine, it won’t sell.” They have these things in their minds that are just absolute holdovers from a more racially intolerant period. And I’m not saying we’re out of it yet, because we are not. This country talks a lot about the individual freedoms for its citizens that are totally preserved in a piece of paper called the Constitution, yet it’s also a country based on racism. How do you figure that out? Why is that? Are we not gonna talk about it?

Do you think this film is branded an “African-American film” because Denzel is the lead?
I think it’s the subject matter. I think this is an African-American story.

Because it isn’t an all-black cast and you are white, there are those who wouldn’t consider this an African-American film?
They wouldn’t? Really? What do they consider Rubin Carter?

This is your third film addressing the experience of African-Americans. What attracts you to these stories and in particular The Hurricane?
Well, we have to keep making movies that address the truth. I don’t see a lot of movies like this. I believe people are interested in a good story--well-told. And I think if it’s human, it touches them and they can identify with someone, I think they’ll respond to it. With this film, the audience seems to be totally emotionally involved with it.

This is the third film I’ve done that deals with injustice and racism and how it affects people’s behavior and decision-making. And how it certainly affected justice. Because I believe there’s a law for the rich and a law for the poor, I believe there’s a law for white and a law for black. I believe that. I believe that there is injustice in the country. And that’s part of what attracted me. But what really attracted me was the man--was Rubin Carter. His story--that’s what really attracted me.

Are you a fan of boxing?
No, not really. I only related to boxing through Monday Night Fight Night. Remember in the ‘60s? …no, you wouldn’t remember the ‘60s. Boxing was very big, and there used to be fights every Monday night and they were in black-and-white and they were always from some city: Lansing, Michigan; Madison Square Gardens; Reading, Pennsylvania. I wanted to re-create that feel, and that’s why I did them in black-and-white.

What do you think of Denzel, not only as an actor but as a boxer?
I’ve never seen a guy so committed. I mean he literally, literally trained for six months. Fought and boxed two hours every day. Every day! He lost 44 pounds. And it was all because I looked at him and said, “Look, I can’t help you. I can’t help you. You’re gonna be in that ring all alone with a pair of shorts on, and you’re forty-years-old.”

How does it feel to have The Thomas Crown Affair and now Rollerball being remade?
Well, I feel very old when they’re starting to remake pictures that I did.

Is there any genre you’d like to tackle?
Well, I’d like to go back and do another musical. That’s what I’d like to do. Yeah, why can’t we do musicals?

Hot Buttered Soul on a Roll: An Interview with Isaac Hayes 06.09.00

Isaac Hayes has the lowest, smoothest, sexiest voice in soul music, bar none. Originally, a Stax Records session man, Hayes enjoyed a remarkable solo recording career in the early Seventies, thanks in large part to his incredible score for the movie Shaft.

“The Theme from Shaft” transformed Hayes into a superstar. He earned the titles “Black Moses” and “Hot Buttered Soul.” Not only did he continue to score movies, but Hayes starred in movies. His most memorable roles: Truck Turner, The Duke of New York in Escape from New York, Hammer in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, and, of course, Chef in South Park.

Director John Singleton resurrected “The Theme from Shaft” as the theme of the latest incarnation of the black private dick played by Samuel L. Jackson. Recently, Isaac Hayes discussed the lasting power of the theme, what it means to the hip hop generation and the possibility of another Truck Turner.

Can you sing a little bit for me?
“I wanna make looooove to you…” (laughs)

First, the “Rockfish” episodes of The Rockford Files are my favorites.
Thank you. That was fun to do.

“The Theme from Shaft” is one of the most memorable pieces of movie music. What was the process of creating a song that’s become so recognized?
Mario Van Peebles was doing a movie called Sweet Sweetback’s Bad Asssss Song. And we realized that there was a market in our community of moviegoers, and we had to tap in. We had to come up with a black movie, with a black director, black leading man and composer and that gave birth to Shaft.

Now Stax records was somehow involved in that, so Stax tapped their roster and Isaac Hayes was the main man on the roster, so he’s got to get involved and write the music. I had never scored a movie before in my life. I wanted to be an actor. I wanted to try out for the lead role, but they said I had to do the music, but I could try out. I went back home bragging about it. They would say, “Hey Isaac, you got the call yet?” I would say, “No.” So I went and called and they told me they had cast this guy named Richard Roundtree in the leading role, but they reminded me that I had to do the music. I said, “Okay.” They told me that this guy Shaft, I needed to zero in on his personality. He’s a roving type character; he’s relentless; he doesn’t let up. The music has to denote that type to attitude. I said, “Okay.”

They gave me three reels of sixteen millimeter film. One of him walking through Harlem. The other was when he was making love to his woman, Ellie. And the other one was when he came up out of the subway to begin the movie. They told me to sit down and write something to this. That was like throwing a baby into water and saying, “Swim.” But it gave me a viewpoint.

“Ellie’s Love Theme” was easy to write. I did that in an hour. The montage of shots when he walked through Harlem, I did that in about an hour. It was easy. The main theme, I thought, “Oh God, what can I do with this?” I had an idea. I told Warhol to give me some 16th notes on a high hat (imitates the sound of the high hat). That started something. There was a guitar piece we had worked on a year ago. I had them go get that piece and the engineer played it. (Begins to make more musical sounds) And we need some drumming, bass and everything began to fall into place. And I didn’t finish writing it until I finished the rest of the score. (more musical noises). The theme looked easy to write, but I had to put it on the edge: “Who’s the black private dick who’s a sex machine to all the chicks.” I had to censor myself, “This cat Shaft is a bad mother -- shut your mouth!” I did that because somebody would have told me to shut my mouth. That’s how it all started.

Did you ever think that “The Theme from Shaft” would become “The Theme from Shaft?”
I would have bet you a million dollars to your one dollar that it wouldn’t have happened. I was convinced that it was just for that time. I had no idea it would go on like that. It took on a life of its own. I don’t know what the ingredient was in that theme. It could have been a number of things that captured the hearts and minds and imaginations of people all over the world. Even the kids now, who didn’t see the movie but they hear the music, it strikes a chord with them.

When you re-recorded the theme for this movie, did you change anything?
Well, when they approached me about doing the film the first thing I told them was you can’t change the theme. You don’t reinvent the wheel. We re-recorded it. We did it under today’s technology. They’ve done re-mixes for European. It’s hot. With today’s technology, it will be more dramatic and more dynamic because you can hear everything now. It’s so strong and powerful. So I bet that when you hear it now you’ll say, “I didn’t know that was in there.” John (Singleton) agreed and, with the new technology, it punches, it bites.

Did you like how “The Theme from Shaft” played over Singleton’s opening credit sequence?
Oh, it’s cool. That’s today’s view. You have to do it like that. I’ve only seen the trailers. It punches real hard. I think, “Damn, that’s the way my stuff sounds!” I haven’t seen the movie yet. I only consulted on this one. They wanted me to sit down with them and I was too busy. When they were ready for me, I wasn’t ready for them. I told David Arnold, it’s laid out for you all you have to do is follow your own brick road. You just reprise a lot of this stuff. The theme is so rich, just inter-work it. Just weave that fabric throughout the film. So he did.

“The Theme from Shaft” secured your status as an African-American pop icon. You were known alternately as Hot Buttered Soul and Black Moses. How did those monikers come about?
There’s a gentleman right now who is a minister at this church in Harlem. His name is Dino Woodard. He used to be my bodyguard. We had done a college gig and I had got about two or three curtain calls one night and I said, “Man, I can’t go back out there.” He said, “Man, listen to how they are cheering you! They love you! You’re like a Moses. You’re a Black Moses.” I said, “Dino don’t do that! That’s sacrilegious.” I continued to resist it and Chester Higgins who was writing for Jet magazine got wind of it and put it in an article he did on me. Then I performed at the Spectrum in Philadelphia a few weeks later and a local personality introduced me as “Black Moses of the Music World, Isaac Hayes.” And 18,000 people rose to their feet! And it caught on. And of course, the staff at the office at Stax records came up with the album concept. When I went to Europe, they were kind of resentful, “How dare he call himself a Black Moses.” I told them, “Let me straighten you out: I did not do that.” I realized that as long as it has relevance, it has positive things, I will go with it.

Shaft and Isaac Hayes certainly inspired the hip hop generation. What do you think of the “appropriation” of some of your music used as loops in rap songs?
Well, at first I didn’t like that. But if you remembered about my generation, there are so many things that we’ve done. It goes in so many directions. Big Daddy Kane told me in 1992, “Ike, you’re gonna blow up. They are going to be sampling you.” And I thought, “Really? Well, we’ll see.” I look at it as a compliment. Why is Shaft so popular today? Because the hip hop generation has embraced it. I think that at the time it was done, it was ahead of its time. It’s just now beginning to catch up. With the sampling by hip-hop, the sound has stayed out there. As recent as the other day, I got a fax from Erykah Badu’s people to get a release because she has a song called “Bag Lady.” They sampled some of one my songs and needed my permission to use it. Dr. Dre did it early this year. So it just keeps going in, hitting the well and drawing water. It’s a compliment to Isaac Hayes and the work that he’s done and that it has lasted over all these years. I don’t have all the answers to it, but I’m thankful for it.

Can you tell me about is a new thing I’m involved in. We sell music, videos, books and movies. We have chat rooms, and it’s targeted towards the African-American and Latino markets. We are slow to get into computers; we are intimidated by them. But most people are, so we want to make it easy. We expect that to blow-up pretty big.

Since they’ve resurrected Shaft, do you think might see another Truck Turner soon?
They’ve been talking about Truck Turner for over a year. If somebody really gets the idea to do it and put the finances behind it, of course I would get involved with mad Truck Turner. I’ll be ready to kick butt.

How To Get With A Smart Chick

Whether guys want to admit it or not, we like smart chicks. Even if they’re not that smart but they seem even slightly smarter than me, I’m hooked. To be honest, if they write with that girlie cursive writing with the happy faces over the i’s and j’s, I’m all good. But throw in a few big words like weltanschaung and tyromancy and I’m in love.

Claire Danes looks smart. Way smart. And she stars in movies where she gets to look smart or, in the case of The Rainmaker and U-Turn, at least as smart as trailer trash suffering from battered wives syndrome can get to look.

In her movies, Claire gets to hook up with the hunkiest of young Hollywood hunks. Guys like Leo Di Caprio and Matt Damon and Sean Penn. Let that be a lesson to you, ladies: guys like Leo Di Caprio and Matt Damon and Sean Penn dig smart chicks. Or at the very least, producers, writers and directors dig smart chicks.

For those of us who aren’t Leo Di Caprio or a producer or lack the mad skillz it takes to be a director, you might still have a chance if you pay attention to the subtle clues from Claire’s movies. They provide all the necessary ingredients to get with a smart chick.

Little Women: Claire plays Beth March, one of four pretty Victorian-era sisters in this chick flick, but unless you’re scarlet fever, you ain’t having none of Claire. Necessary ingredient to get with a smart chick: Infectious disease.

Home For The Holidays: Claire is 16-year-old Kitt, a strong-willed little trollop who announces that she plans to lose her virginity over the Thanksgiving Break. Necessary ingredient to get with a smart chick: Giblets.

To Gillian On Her 37th Birthday: Claire is Rachel, the daughter of Gillian, who is dead. Her father David can’t accept Gillian’s death and won’t move on with his life so Rachel’s aunt and uncle threaten to take him to court for custody of Rachel. Necessary ingredient to get with a smart chick: A court order.

Romeo + Juliet: That’s read “Romeo Plus Juliet” as in Claire Dane’s Juliet is going with Leo Di Caprio’s Romeo, a cute boy from the rival gang, and their forbidden romance only adds fuel to the murderous fire of an ongoing gang war. Necessary ingredient to get with a smart chick: Star-crossing, poorly calculated suicide pact.

The Rainmaker: Matt Damon portrays Rudy Baylor, an inexperienced lawyer, who takes on the Great Benefit Insurance Company who denied coverage for client Donnie Ray’s bone marrow transplant. Claire is Kelly Riker, an abused teenage wife Rudy rescues from husband Cliff (Andrew Shue). Necessary ingredient to get with a smart chick: Law degree, anger management issues.

U-Turn: Sean Penn is Bobby Cooper, a drifter who attempts to hideout in the creepy little town of Superior, Arizona, where he unwittingly gets sucked into a weird little web of treachery. Claire is Jenny, a trailer trash teen, who wants to be rescued by Bobby from abusive husband Toby N. Tucker (Joaquin Phoenix). Necessary ingredient to get with a smart chick: A sordid past, a broken down car, anger management issues.

Polish Wedding: Claire is Hala, the daughter of old school Polish-Americans. She sneaks out night-after-night for naughty little romps with the good-looking neighbor man Roman (Adam Trese). When she gets knocked up, her parents force she and Roman to marry. Necessary ingredient to get with a smart chick: High sperm count, shotgun-toting in-laws.

Les Miserables: Claire is Cossette, the daughter of a whore who Valjean, an escaped convict on the lamb from the long arm of 19th Century French law, raises as his own child. Later, Cosette falls for Marius (Hans Matheson), a teenage militant rabblerouser in Revolutionary France who inadvertently tips off Le Man to Valjean’s whereabouts. Necessary ingredient to get with a smart chick: Political righteous indignation.

Mod Squad: Claire is Julie Barnes, a young woman being sent up the river for assault. Capt. Adam Greer offers her the option to become an undercover cop with two other reprobates, arsonist Linc Hayes (Omar Epps) and thief Pete Cochrane (Giovanni Ribisi).
Necessary ingredient to get with a smart chick: A criminal record.

Brokedown Palace: One night in Bangkok, Alice (Claire) and Darlene (Kate Beckinsdale), two randy teenagers, hook up with Nick (Daniel Lapaine), who convinces them to take a jaunt with him over to Hong Kong. Once there, Nick disappears and the girls become embroiled in a drug trafficking plot. Necessary ingredient to get with a smart chick: Australian accent.

Movie Review: End Of Days 3 Days

Director Peter Hyams makes fun movies. Capricorn One, Outland, Running Scared. But he also produces el stinko. The Relic, Sudden Death, Timecop. End of Days is a fun movie.

December 28, 1999: In accordance with the prophecy, The Fallen One returns to Earth after a thousand years banishment in Hell to conceive his child--the Beast, the Anti-Christ--and institute a reign of evil and chaos in preparation for Armaggedon.

Gabriel Byrne is Satan, Lucifer himself, The Bringer Of Light, Prince Of Air, the underworldly embodiment of carnality and evil, who makes the rather convincing argument that more people would worship him--God just has a better team of publicists; the Bible an, overblown press kit.

When he first arrives, he is a transparent blob of gelatinous goo. But in no time, he finds a suitable human form: an investment banker.

In the meantime, prophets and visionaries are speaking in tongues and sprouting stigmatas, all signs of the End Times. The Vatican has dispatched an intelligence network of covert operative priests who intend to protect the innocent child who bears the Mark Of The Beast from the Dark Lord’s seduction, thusly insuring the Anti-Christ will never be born. The girl, Christine York (Robin Tunney), has no clue that she is the Chosen One, sheltered by her adoptive parents and a Zanax-prescribing psychologist. Of course, they happen in to be in Satan’s Service, preparing her to be his bride.

Defying the Vatican, an ancient order of knights decide that faith is not enough in this, the darkest hour, and seek to kill Christine before the Devil can complete his unholy coupling. Investigating the attempted assassination of his client, a suicidal, alcoholic ex-cop- cum-security guard, Jericho Cane (Arnold Schwarzenegger) happens upon the attempted assassination of Christine, rescues her, and unwittingly finds himself the defender of the Earth from the Forces of Evil.

Jericho has lost faith. He no longer believes in God, and no longer believes in himself. Within minutes of meeting Christine, his lack of faith is shaken. But not enough to trust God to protect him. He’s got his Glock 10 for that. He soon learns, of course, that bullets are no match for the craftiness of Old Scratch, who, in the film’s best scene (“The Last Temptation Of Arnold”), even promises to deliver unto Jericho the thing he desires most.

As Satan only has the hour between 11:00pm and midnight EST on Millennium’s Eve to spawn, Jericho races against time towards the inevitable conclusion, wrestling his own personal demons as well as Beelzebub, Mephistopheles and the whole legion of hellish minions who hope to usher in the End of Days with the birth of the Un-Savior.

The gnawing question, however, has to be “If Satan’s from Hell…an eternal Lake Of Fire that burns in perpetuity with brimstone--do you really think firepower, be it guns or grenades, is really gonna slow the Great Beast down?

The Hubbub Over The Hurricane

Recently, the filmmakers responsible for The Hurricane have been attacked for changing elements of the true story of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter for the sake of drama, or even worse, to fit their agenda. Presumably, the disastrous effect this will have on the movie-going public is paramount. They may be inclined to wholeheartedly accept literary fabrication as literal fact, to believe histrionics as history.

So f’ing what.

I don’t know that Socrates really drank the hemlock, that Jesus Christ ever actually walked on water, or that Katherine the Great truly met an untimely death under a horse. Nor do I care.

The entire canon of theater and literature is comprised mostly on historical fictions, based on true stories, or actual events, or, more often than not, legends and mythologies of those actual events. Fiction accepted as fact. The Bard himself penned thirteen histories and all of them lies. Titus Andronicus may not have even existed.

The last hundred years of film, likewise, abounds with biopics. But here’s a little clue for you all, The Pride of the Yankees is about ninety percent fancy, Lawrence of Arabia is pure cow crap, and Larry Flynt isn’t simply a lovable free speech advocate, he’s also a fat scumbag who may have molested his daughter.

Instead of attacking The Hurricane for being what it isn’t, perhaps it should be reviewed for what it is.

Inventing the Cabots

William Shakespeare’s pants are on fire and he’s sitting on a telephone wire. Not only did the Bard blatantly rip-off Plutarch, he also completely altered the stories to fit his own devious agenda. Sound familiar? The filmmakers behind The Hurricane were obviously inspired by Willy’s deceptive ways. A side-by-side comparison of the film and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar verifies our sneaking suspicions.

Julius Caesar is based on Plutarch’s Lives and C. Suetonius Tranquillus’ Vita Divi Luli.

The Hurricane is based on Rubin Carter’s The Sixteenth Round and Lazarus and The Hurricane by Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton.

Julius Caesar’s life and career prior to his ascension to dictator is given only scant treatment that insufficiently provides background on the true character of the man.

Rubin Carter’s life and career prior to his arrest is given only scant treatment that insufficiently provides background on the true character of the man.

The three senators in the play are a composite of senators and aristocrats who conspired against Caesar, of which there were at least 60. You can’t fit 60 people onstage at The Globe.

The lead detective in the case is a composite of investigators and prosecutors who conspired against Rubin Carter, of which there were dozens. Who wants to keep track of that?

The role of Marc Antony in avenging Caesar’s assassination is vastly exaggerated for dramatic effect while the role of friends, Romans and countrymen is vastly underplayed. For dramatic effect.

The role of The Canadians in avenging Carter’s incarceration is vastly exaggerated for dramatic effect while the role of friends, family, and the legal team is vastly underplayed. For dramatic effect.

Artemidorus, a significant figure in the events surrounding Caesar’s death, was given short shrift in the play.

John Artis, a significant figure in the real life events surrounding Carter’s case, was given short shrift in the movie.

Chances are Caesar never said, “Et tu, Brute! Then fall, Caesar.”

Chances are Carter never said, “Hate put me into prison, love gonna bust me out.”

Twisted and Tortured Romance Double Feature: Bitter Moon & Blue Velvet

There’s Romance, that sweet thing, that Meg Ryan thing that’s warm and fuzzy and hot chocolate on a brisk autumn morning. That romance is nice. Outside of the obligatory second act misunderstanding, no one’s getting hurt in that romance.

Then there’s romance, that obsessive thing, that thing that’s cold and prickly and a Big Gulp of engine additive on a sweltering August day. That romance is painful. That romance is all about the hurt. That romance is unkind and unfriendly and unrepentant and unjust. That romance destroys.

Color me masochistic, but I prefer the second kind of romance--maybe not so much in real life. I mean as visceral and passionate and evocative as that kind of romance can be, it kind of sucks to have your heart ripped from your body and shown to you, still beating. In the movies, however, I like the kind of romance that brings with it financial ruin, bizarre sex rites and restraining orders.

Bitter Moon (1992)
Roman Polanski is no stranger to sexual peccadilloes and personal tragedy, nor is the director afraid to plumb the depths of his sordidness. With Bitter Moon, depravity is on parade, exposed through the story of a torturous sexual relationship between expatriated writer, Oscar (Peter Coyote) and his exotic French girlfriend, Mimi (Emmanuelle Seigner). Wheelchair-bound Oscar corners young, proper British couple, Nigel and Fiona who begins to assail them with his horrid tale of sexual degradation. Shocked and horrified, but drawn in nonetheless, the young couple is compelled to listen to Oscar’s fascinating descent into sexual obsession and ultimately murderous rage. Bitter Moon is beautiful, disturbing, erotic but, above all, handled with a subtle camp humor that keeps this from becoming, like so much bad erotica, something that takes itself seriously.

Blue Velvet (1986)
In Blue Velvet, fresh-faced college boy Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) returns to his hometown and his sweet, innocent girl Sandy (Laura Dern), only to find a severed human ear. Jeffrey’s discovery inspires him to play junior detective, his rationalization for budding voyeuristic tendencies. The trail leads him to Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini), a beautiful and mysterious chanteuse. Jeffrey becomes her “secret lover” and is sucked into an abyss of degeneracy inhabited by Dorothy, her ether-sniffing boyfriend Frank Booth (Dennis Hopper), and his posse of fringe element roughtrade. Jeffrey is torn between his seedy relationship with the alluring Dorothy and the staid Sandy, but is swayed further by Dorothy’s manipulative appeals for Jeffrey’s protection from Frank. The results of Jeffrey’s obsession are, of course, disastrous. As opposed to Polanski’s Bitter Moon, with Blue Velvet you get the feeling that maybe David Lynch does take the world of Blue Velvet seriously, but somehow that’s okay because Lynch doesn’t see the world the same way we do. Or more importantly, Lynch doesn’t see the same world we see.

Movie Review: Independence Day 2 Stars

Independence Day. ID4.
All the DVD goodies on the planet can’t save this alien stinker

This movie didn’t have to be this bad -- genocidal aliens have sent an attack force to earth to exterminate mankind, for the love of Mike! But apparently Universal Soldier wunderkind Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich don’t think that was enough. Sure, humanity has thirty-six hours to unite via Ham radio and launch a counterattack on the aliens, but that’s nothing compared to all the time we can waste on “character development.” Why, there’s 400 different intersecting storylines that must be tied up before we can get to more pressing matters -- like SPACE LIZARDS WITH ATOMIC DEATH RAYS BLOWING UP THE WHITE HOUSE!

But wait… first, we have to really get to know the single-mom stripper (Vivica A. Fox) who goes to work during the end of the world. And, of course, Old Jew (Judd Hirsch) and Old Fag (Harvey Fierstein), two of the most offensive stereotypes since Stepin Fechit. ID4 must give The Committee to Elect Al Gore hope because in it, Bill Pullman, the most boring man on the planet, was elected President. Remaining consistent in the casting, the most boring woman on the planet, Mary McDonnell plays the First Lady the exact same way she plays an Sioux Indian…as an imbecile.

By the way, at this point, the ten largest cities on Earth have been destroyed by battle cruisers TEN MILES IN CIRCUMFERENCE!

And we haven’t even gotten to drunken cropduster Randy Quaid, a former Vietnam Vet who was abducted and molested by aliens decades ago and has been trying to warn his fellow Earthlings ever since. Does that sound like an interesting character? Yes. Is it? No. Quaid is little more than Walter Matthau’s character in Earthquake. And, of course, Lieutenant Drunky Drunkerson has a family that we are introduced to as well.

The other two marginally interesting characters -- Scientist Who Saves the World, Jeff Goldblum and His Ex-Wife Who Happens to Be The President’s Aide, Margaret Colin -- are interesting because James Cameron created them. They are carbon copies of Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in The Abyss, down to the wonderful performances they turn in.

In the meantime, Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas are RUBBLE!

The only one who seems to get the message in this flick is Will Smith who “can’t wait to get out there and kick E.T.’s butt.” Only Smith and the special effects, make ID4 watchable.

The Skinny On... Chewbacca

NAME: Chewbacca

DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH: During the Lifeday celebration a long time ago on Kashyyyk, the Wookie home planet in a galaxy far, far away

CHINESE ZODIAC SIGN: Year of the Ugnaught

TELEVISION LOST EPISODE: The Star Wars Holiday Special

FORGOTTEN FILM CLASSIC: 1967 Patterson/Gimlin Bigfoot Film

FILM ROLES TURNED DOWN: Lt. Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in Top Gun

PRESTIGIOUS AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: 1977 Academy Award, Best Costume Design “Star Wars”
1997 MTV Movie Awards Lifetime Achievement Award, 1971 NBA Wookie of The Year

NEXT ON THE PLATE: Fishin’ with John Lurie, Star Wars, Episode VIII: A New Scary Terror (2008)

SECOND CAREER AS: Spice smuggler

DEFINING QUOTE: “Aargh…Yawn…Grrr.”

SIX DEGREES OF WILLIE AAMES: Chewbacca was in Star Wars with Harrison Ford who was in Air Force One with Gary Oldman who was in Dracula with Sir Anthony Hopkins who was in The Elephant Man with Sir John Geilgud who was in A Portrait of The Artist As A Young Man with Willie Aames.

The Skinny On... Errol Morris

NAME: Errol Morris

DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH: February 5, 1948, Hewlett, New York


SIGNATURE PROJECTS: Gates of Heaven (1978), The Thin Blue Line (1987), A Brief History Of Time (1992), Fast, Cheap & Out Of Control (1997)

ODD ANECDOTE: Werner Herzog ate his shoe at the premiere of Gates of Heaven as payment for a bet that Errol couldn’t make this documentary with no financing.

FILM TITLES TURNED DOWN: Honeymoon At Auschwitz

PRESTIGIOUS AWARDS & NOMINATIONS: 1998 Independent Spirit Award, 1997 National Board of Review, 1997 National Society of Film Critics Award, 1992 Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Filmmaker’s Trophy, 1989 Edgar Allen Poe Award, 1988 National Society of Film Critics Award, 1988 New York Film Critics Circle Award

NEXT ON THE PLATE: Mr. Death: The Rise And Fall Of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr.

SECOND CAREER AS: Cellist and inadvertent defense attorney

DEFINING MOMENT: The Thin Blue Line was responsible for freeing wrongly convicted Randall Adams from Death Row.

SIX DEGREES OF WILLIE AAMES: Errol Morris shot the Brief History Of Time about physicist Stephen Hawking who was on an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation with Brent Spiner who was in Stardust Memories with Charlotte Rampling who was in Georgy Girl with Lynn Redgrave who was in Gods And Monsters with Sir Ian McKellen who was in Richard III with Willie Aames.

The Skinny On... Ryan Phillippe

NAME: Ryan Phillippe (pronounced FILL uh pea)

GIVEN NAME: you think he’d change his name TO Phillippe?

DATE AND PLACE OF BIRTH: Sept. 10, 1975; New Castle, Delaware

CHINESE ZODIAC SIGN: Year of the Hare – very lucky and successful. Talented and ambitious, but melancholy with big floppy ears. Best suited to Sheep, Boar or Dog. Stay away from Rats and Cocks.

FORGOTTEN FILM CLASSIC: Made-for-TV’s “Deadly Invasion: The Killer Bee Nightmare” or White Squall

LOST TV EPISODE: as Billy, the first openly gay teenager on daytime TV on “One Life To Live”


NEXT ON THE PLATE: COMPANY MAN about a 1960s high school English teacher who accidentally becomes an operative in a plot to overthrow Fidel Castro. Also starring John Turturro, Sigourney Weaver, Heather Matarazzo and Alan Cumming.


CELEBRITY HOOK UP: wife Reese Witherspoon (born in the year of the Dragon)

SIX DEGREES OF WILLIE AAMES: Ryan Phillippe was in PLAYING BY HEART with Sean Connery who was in THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING with Michael Caine who was in DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS with Steve Martin who was in PARENTHOOD with Jason Robards who was in ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN with Robert Redford who was in OUT OF AFRICA with… Willie Aames.

On The Verge: Sarah Silverman

There are those actors you first witness on an insurance spot or in a walk-on role on Friends or with three lines in some indie thing on IFC and you know immediately, instinctively that this person is destined for greatness. I beheld Sarah Silverman for the first time at an LA comedy club about six years ago and was awestruck.

In the alternative stand up comedy scene, jokes are eschewed in favor of longwinded, confessional anecdotes that circuitously meander off into unrelated tangents before finally, hopefully finding their way to a big blow.

Sarah Silverman, however, tells jokes. Old school misdirections. Set ups and punchlines. Granted, brutally frank and borderline pornographic, but jokes nonetheless. And while Silverman’s material may seem obscene, it’s often inexplicably sophisticated. The dirty jokes are rooted in the quirky, psychological profile which manifests whenever Silverman, in squeaky voice and pigtails, takes the stage. She reveals everything about herself, from peculiar traits to vulgar fantasies to naivete of grown-up things.

And yet, Sarah Silverman reigns supreme as a leading lady of alterna-comedy, challenged only -- maybe -- by Janeane Garafalo, Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho and Karen Kilgariff,

For years, the pretty comic has been perched on the precipice of fabulous fame. She joined Saturday Night Live as a featured performer along with Jay Mohr during of the 1993-94 season. The following year SNL introduced the doomed transitional cast of fellow alterna-comics Janeane Garafalo and Laura Kightlinger, Letterman-alum Chris Elliot, Spinal Tap’s Michael McKean and a couple of former Kids-in-the-Hall. Silverman and Mohr were ousted, replaced by a group who would soon be rebuked as well. Mohr soon found himself on the path to movie stardom, playing slimy agent Bob Sugar opposite Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire. Silverman, however, returned to Los Angeles and stand up.

Sarah Silverman next appeared in several guest-starring roles on television, most notably as Wendy the New Writer on The Larry Sanders Show, Emily on Seinfeld and Rain Robinson in the two part episode: “Future’s End” on Star Trek: Voyager. Silverman also guested with the cast of the acclaimed HBO sketch comedy series Mr. Show with Bob and Dave. She is featured in several bits including the classic “Up Your Mom’s Butt” sketch.

In 1997, she joined Mr. Show’s Dave, David Cross, in her feature film debut, “Who’s The Caboose?” written and directed by comic/actor Sam Seder and also starring Andy Dick, Kathy Griffin and Sarah’s sister Laura Silverman (Laura, the receptionist on Dr. Katz). Sarah continued to knock around Hollywood for the next year, playing bit roles in films like Bulworth.

Then, Sarah Silverman played One of Mary’s Friends -- the funny one -- in the Farrelly Brothers’ runaway comedy hit There’s Something About Mary in 1998. Her role as the pottymouthed buddy to Cameron Diaz’ man-troubled Mary opened new doors for Silverman. She was next cast as Norm MacDonald’s spurned girlfriend in Pittsburgh, the latest outing from the writing team of The People vs. Larry Flynt, Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. This was followed by a role in Chris O’Donnell’s production, The Bachelor with O’Donnell, Renee Zellweger, Brooke Shields and James Cromwell, to boot.

In January 1999, Silverman inked a deal with Columbia TriStar Television to create a vehicle for herself based on her one-woman show, Susan Plays Cheese, executive produced by veteran TV producer Larry Charles. Her appearances on TV talk shows doubled; she was featured in the Esquire “breasts” issue; she did a fashion layout in Mirabella. Sarah Silverman is definitely on her way.

And for good reason. Sarah is not the funniest woman alive. There is no need to qualify the funniest with any gender. Sarah is the funniest person on the planet.


There are those actors you first witness on an insurance spot or in a walk-on role on Friends or with three lines in some indie thing on IFC and you know immediately that this person is destined for greatness.

No matter how much Steve Zahn tries to avoid it, stardom is in his future. Zahn shies away from the Young Hollywood scene with a vengeance. In fact, he lives about as far away from LA as you can get --- on a farm in New Jersey with his wife, actress Robin Peterman and prefers it that way. But the more Zahn denies Hollywood, the more it seems to want him.

The scripts and offers to continue to pour in. In the past year, he has been attached as a major character to Mission: Impossible 2 and American Psycho, both of which he was forced to turn down because of scheduling conflicts with even more big ticket commitments. Steve Zahn is definitely one to watch.

Zahn’s first memorable role was as Winona Ryder’s sexually repressed gay pal Sammy Gray in the Gen X complain-a-thon Reality Bites (1995). Director Ben Stiller “discovered” Zahn while attending Ethan Hawke’s performance in a play at a small theatre company in Manhattan. As it turns out, Zahn and Hawke were partners in the company and Zahn co-starred in the play. Stiller was smitten and cast Zahn in the role of Sammy on the spot.

For the next couple of years, Zahn appeared in bit parts in Crimson Tide and various indie films as well as a notable gig as Phoebe’s ice-dancing husband on TV’s Friends. Then, Tom Hanks and Jonathan Demme tapped the likeable actor to play Lenny, the wisecracking, girl-happy bass guitarist in That Thing You Do! His scene-stealing performance apparently endeared him to Hanks, who worked with Zahn two more times over the next couple of years. Zahn portrayed Elliott See in the Hanks-produced mini-series From The Earth To The Moon and, of course, played Meg Ryan’s bookstore buddy, George Pappas in You’ve Got Mail.

After That Thing You Do!, Zahn was offered an opportunity few actors get. Richard Linklater cast him as the blue-haired, skateboarding slacker punk Buff in Eric Bogosian’s SubUrbia, a role Zahn originated in workshops while a student at Cambridge and later played in its premiere at Lincoln Center. Zahn engendered the moronic character with a surprising charm, the same charisma all his characters, no matter how flawed, possess.

His breakout role may prove to be last year’s Out of Sight, Steven Soderbergh's stylish caper flick with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez. Zahn played the sunglass-wearing stoner Glenn, a completely unfit and bumbling thief counterpointed against Clooney’s suave masterthief. Zahn earned high praise from critics and the attention of Hollywood. His docket filled with projects: the mistaken-identity crime comedy Safe Men, the Ben Affleck/Sandra Bullock romantic comedy Forces of Nature, and the Sundance Grand Jury Prize-nominated Happy, Texas, for which Zahn actually won the Special Jury Award for comedic performance.

What’s next for the happy-go-lucky actor? This year, he’ll teams up with old theatre chum Ethan Hawke for another feature film version Hamlet in which Zahn will play Rosencrantz and he’ll voice the character of Scout in Stuart Little. You know you’re on your way when you get to be the voice of a cartoon.


There are those rare years where everything seems to gel. The “product” released by the big Hollywood studios and the independent filmmakers is par excellence. The films of that particular year reflect the zeitgeist of the time and strike a chord with audiences everywhere.

1977 was the year that changed the way movies were made.

In the late Sixties, the “breakdown” in the studio system unleashed a fury of filmmakers who prescribed to the auteur theory. Hired guns -- mercenary filmmakers moving from studio to studio, project to project -- joined fiercely independent directors like Martin Scorcese, John Cassavetes, Woody Allen and Francis Ford Coppola in producing an era of the most volatile, controversial and fascinating cinematic masterpieces of the century.

The costs of production also began to escalate and studios wanted more bang for their buck. They were not only interested in awards and accolades, but in box office success. The age of the blockbuster was gestating. In 1975, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws, a plagued and expensive production, reaped a bounty heretofore unseen.

Friendly rivals always, George Lucas was trying to Out-Spielberg Spielberg with his space fantasy epic Star Wars, which if you’re not familiar with, you do not live on Earth. Star Wars, of course, became the most successful franchise in the history of film with two sequels, a prequel and a Jar Jar Binks crazy straw from Taco Bell. An $11 million dollar gamble grossed $513 million in its initial release. Spielberg countered with the intellectual but no less visually spectacular Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, which grossed $300 million worldwide.

Together, they made the world safe for big budget epics.

Elsewhere, Woody Allen was tickling ribs with the decidedly small in scope, but huge on laughs, Annie Hall and you could tell by the way John Travolta used his walk, that he was a ladies’ man, no time to talk in Saturday Night Fever. Both of which made impressive returns.

In 1977, however, the summer belonged not only to Sam, but to George and Steve as well.


There are those rare years where everything seems to gel. The “product” released by big Hollywood studios and independent filmmakers is par excellence. The films of that particular year reflect the zeitgeist of the time and strike a chord with audiences everywhere.

It seems like every great movie ever made came out in 1939.

Throughout the Thirties, Hollywood strived to refine the art of filmmaking, providing the highest quality entertainment to Depression-era Americans in desperate need of escape. By the end of the decade, the advances in technology, from enhanced sound recording to color film stock, ushered in novel approaches to cinematic storytelling while further making concrete the film theory developed over the past twenty-five years.

At the end of the day, all this meant to down-on-their-luck Americans was harrowing adventure, passionate romance, spine-tingling terror and gutbusting laughter. While that crazy bastard with the Charlie Chaplin mustache blitzkrieged Poland, the movies were echoing the isolationist thoughts of regular joes who didn’t want to get involved.

“There’s no place like home!” and “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” unintentionally reverberated the sentiment at home. A few years later Hollywood would issue a call-to-arms that America would answer as well, but for the time being it was Million Dollar Legs and Son of Frankenstein.

The movies offered unlikely heroes. Guys who didn’t even seem like heroes at all. Some guys seemed just like you and me. Everymen like Jimmy Stewart’s Tom Destry and Mr. Smith and simple water carrier Gunga Din. Even ex-cons like The Ringo Kid and the WWI veterans-turned-gangsters in The Roaring Twenties.

The best of ’39 reads like the top ten of the AFI’s 100 Greatest List. The Civil War romance, Gone With The Wind; the timeless Wizard of Oz; Ernst Lubitsch’s hilarious Ninotchka; Frank Capra’s definitive Mr. Smith Goes To Washington; two of the greatest Westerns, Stagecoach and Destry Rides Again; the crime thriller, Gaslight; the romantic comedy, Love Affair and the romantic drama, Intermezzo.

Needless to say, 1939 was a marquee year.

Lunchbox Heroes: Alex Winter

Okay, maybe there was a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Lunchbox back in the day, but while Ted “Theodore” Logan’s alterego Keanu Reeves has enjoyed a most excellent career , Alex Winter -- Bill S. Preston, esq. -- has languished in obscurity, a most bogus journey, indeed.

The surprise success of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures made Keanu and Alex instant hunkasaurus rexes. The pages of Sassy and YM were filled with their dreamy photos and fact sheets. The exotic and seemingly-intellectual Keanu was gobbled right up as a yummy teen idol and later, action hero, but Alex wasn’t cut from the same cloth. His boyish good lucks and charm couldn’t erase the fact that at his very core, he was and is a freak.

Born into a family of performance artists, dancers and musicians, freakishness was in his blood. Alex’s mutant tendencies were cultivated while growing up in England, a mysterious island populated by people who drink motor oil and call it beer and love fart jokes, and St. Louis, Missouri, a strange city where people drink carbonated urine and call it beer and love fart jokes. Alex attended NYU film school in New York City, a bizarre island city where people thumb their noses at fart jokes, unless they’re off-off-Broadway fart jokes and then they’re okay.

In film school, Alex met Tom Stern, who as a child made the award-winning 8mm short Blowing Stuff Up. Birds of a feather, Alex and Tom flocked together in making the cult classics Squeal of Death and Aisles of Doom, regularly shown on the hip latenight USA Network show Night Flights and now available through Film Threat Magazine Video. Alex and Tom relocated to Los Angeles and shot Impact Video Magazine, a series of subversive short films and sketches, including a Butthole Surfers short, and documentaries on Public Enemy, Jane’s Addiction, comedian Bill Hicks, artist Robert Williams and others.

In the meantime, Alex got his first taste of teenybopper fanlust as one of the adolescent vampires in Joel Schumaker’s The Lost Boys. His turn as a bloodsucking creature of the night led to his role as Bill. Unfortunately, the Excellent Adventure sat on a shelf for over a year. Bill was content to work with Tom, directing music videos for Ice Cube and the Chili Peppers, commercials and whatever paid them for their unique visions.

When Orion finally released Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure in the summer of ’89, the film was a runaway smash hit and Bill and Ted and all their catch phrases were stamped into the cultural consciousness. The Excellent Adventure spawned a cartoon, an abysmal cable sitcom, and the sequel Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey. Reeves (Ted) became the Next Big Thing. Alex (Bill) used his acclaim to churn out more twisted and imaginative comedy with his partner Tom Stern. They produced a sequel to Squeals of Death for the Hard Rock CafĂ© Saves The Planet special (which also features Bob Goldthwait’s hilarious parody of Bono singing “YMCA” to the tune of “With or Without You”) and a short for Playboy’s Inside Out. For MTV, Alex and Tom produced six episodes of the insane sketch series, The Idiot Box, perhaps the funniest sketch comedy show no one knows about.

Alex’s last film as an actor was also his debut as a director, the weirdly comic Freaked. Blanketly dismissed as a direct-to-video misstep by Fox, Freaked is in fact a hilarious film with satirical and gross-out elements that pre-date The Farrelly Brothers and South Park by several years. Alex Winter plays a former child actor. Randy Quaid is a redneck sideshow entrepreneur. Bob Goldthwait is a man with a sockpuppet for a head. Keanu Reeves is Ortiz the Dogboy. And Mr. T wears a dress. What else do you need?

Disappointed by the lack of studio support, Alex returned to England in 1993 to direct commercials and music videos. His long-awaited second feature Fever finally debuted at Cannes this year.

Be excellent to each other…and give Alex Winter a lunchbox.