What if you have a screenplay idea that is somewhat
similar to another film, but you really, really want
to write the idea into a feature length script because
it seems so close to your heart and so much of a sure
thing? That problem is what I'm running into now. I've
had this idea for a week or so and I've been writing
it into a treatment. However, I just recently found
out that my idea is somewhat similar to another film.
I haven't seen that film before and I had NO idea my
premise was a bit similar to that particular film's
premise. I don't know what to do now, but I can tell
you one thing, I can't give up on my idea because like
I said, it seems so much of a sure thing and I just
know it would work. Any advice?
Have you gotten "Bully" yet from NetFlix?
(I'm thinking about giving them a try) If not, what
other recent films have you seen?
I haven't gotten "Bully." I just got "Hard
Core Logo," but I haven't watched it yet. The last
one I saw was "The Others," which blew. Nicole
Kidman in bad shoes endlessly walking around an empty
house, and every time she gets near a door the music
becomes Jerry Goldsmith's score for "Alien,"
except that nothing happens. As for your script idea,
well, if you feel like you've got to write it, then
write it. But if everyone you tell it to says it's just
like something else, maybe it isn't such a "sure
thing." Good luck anyway.
I've been reading through your screenplays and was wondering
a few things. On the four films you've done, what kind
of lag time was there between writing the screenplay
and actually filming the movie? If you were to do "Cleveland
Smith", for instance, would you have to revisit
the script? On the one hand, fewer and fewer people
will understand why the "Halindenburg" is
funny. On the other hand, certainly not everyone needs
to get every gag on the first run through.
As you are a person with opinions on structural rules
I was wondering if you differentiate between spoofs,
like "Cleveland Smith" and straight comedy.
"Cleveland" has reality breaks with the dinosaur,
and even the "Halindenburg" is anachronistic.
Drama has, at least to the thinking person, more obvious
reality restrictions. What's your take on comedy? Is
it categorical (spoof, satire, etc.)? It seems to me
that comedy has sub-genres but that Hollywood often
blurs them. Thanks.
Have you seen "Ruggles of Redgap" with Charles
Laughton? Another example of Laughton's versatility,
agree that it's a categorical issue, and many comedies
blur them. Slapstick comedy is a fantastical genre,
where illogical things can happen. When you step into
slapstick there's only one rule -- be funny all the
time. And once you've set the pace, you better stick
to it. And once you've gone to the extreme level of
breaking reality, then you'd better stick with it and
keep doing it. On the other hand, if you've established
that the story's happening in reality, then you have
to stick with that. I'd say that's the most difficult
part about slapstick comedy -- once you say anything
goes, then you have to keep it up for the rest of the
film. Anyway, I wouldn't shoot any of my scripts without
first giving it a rewrite, and the older the script,
the more rewriting it probably needs. "Cleveland
Smith" is nearly a 20 year old script.
yes, I have seen "Ruggles of Red Gap" and
Laughton is very good in it. His reciting the Gettysburg
address was very famous at the time, and he performed
it regularly at gatherings and on the radio for the
rest of his life. It's also a famous story about sound
cutting, in that Laughton never completed an entire
take and it was all stitched together in the editing
room, which is why you barely see Laughton in the scene
and it's all played on the reaction shots.
you ever written short stories or novels? If so, would
you ever post them on the webpage?
of my short stories are posted on the site. My one novel,
written in 1983, is too poorly-written to post, just
as there are eleven other screenplays I haven't posted.
One must have some shame in this world.
your short "Torro, Torro, Torro" how did you
film the lawnmower moving by itself and is it done the
same way in today's features?
credits list Pam Becker. Is she your sister?
noticed that Rob Tapert was typecast as a fisherman.
Rob plays the fisherman that falls on his bass. We used
a variety of methods to move the lawnmower, pulling
it with wires, rolling it backward in reverse motion,
and stop-motion animation. And yes, Pam Becker is my
sister, and she is holding the little white poodle on
a leash that gets chewed up by the lawnmower. She was
also associate producer on TSNKE, before she gave up
the film biz.
notice you named "The Little Kidnappers" (1953)
as a favourite film of yours.
am trying to buy a VHS copy for my children. It's a
wonderful movie but is rarely aired on television and
I can not find a copy for sale anywhere.
recommended sellers or suggestions?
for your consideration and help.
I live in Victoria, British Columbia...
checked Movies Unlimited and they didn't have it, not
even in the out-of-print section. I saw it on TV about
25 years ago. There's a remake with Charlton Heston,
but I've avoided seeing it. The two little boys in the
original were given special Oscars for their performances,
which were really exceptional. My late gay friend Rick
used to run into one of the grown-up little boys in
the gay clubs in LA with some regularity.
and foremost, thank you for replying to my question
relating to your thoughts on stop-motion. I agree with
you immensely that a lot of the charm and energy stop-motion
possesses is absent in today's CGI.
had another question, what are your comments about utilizing
stop-motion as a visual effect for a live action film
(some examples would include the work of Ray Harryhausen,
whose films include 'Jason and the Argonaughts' and
'The 7th Voyage of Sinbad')?
wanted to mention that I saw your film "Lunatics:
A Love Story" for the first time last week. After
I had read your screenplay online (as well as your "Making
Of Lunatics" essay) I knew it was a film I would
love. And I was right. It was an expensive film to obtain,
but it was worth it. I thought it was a great film;
I enjoyed the performances, especially Ted Raimi as
Hank...It's delightful watching Ted in this role, and
he always has a unique screen presence. Lunatics had
some great cinematography. There are some excellent
shots (some of my favorites: when the camera enters
the keyhole into Hank's apartment; when Hank is looking
up the aluminum foil-covered wall and jumps up to rip
it off; the montage sequence when Hank is preparing
his outfit of aluminum foil; and many others). I also
appreciated the utilization of stop-motion (especially
the miniature shot of stop-motion spiders erupting out
of Hank's brain...the spider at the end was also cool).
more question for you, do you have any favorite film
there's a logical reason to put stop-motion into a live-action
film, like "King Kong," for example, I think
it's great. I felt that I had a reason for it in "Lunatics."
However, I didn't make the movie based on wanting to
use special effects; I used special effects to visualize
ideas I had in the script. Special effects for their
own sake don't interest me at all. In the old days you
used to wonder, "How did they do that?" Now,
though, you never wonder that because you know it's
a digital effect. I'll take the 1933 "King Kong"
over any "Star Wars" film any day of the week.
I'm glad you enjoyed "Lunatics" and I'm sorry
it cost so much.
Josh, keep it up man!
a quick stop here. Just wanna say that I admire your
independent voice concerning film. Reading your stuff
helped shape some of my viewpoints -- Though, I have
to admit, sometimes my reasons for my negative view
of some contemporary films feels a bit like: even though
i feel strongly a certain film is a bad film (many times
i seem to be the odd-ball out in my oppinion), i sometimes
wonder if the basis of my claim is a bit unsubstantial
~ like it has gotten to a point where it's kinda like
"Hm, Josh Becker probably would agree that it's
a junk film, so there!"
guess not alot of people share the same oppinion regarding
film since, instead of judging it based on artistic
merit, if it looks good and entertains them at some
point then it's good to them. Ah, well, i've still got
alot to learn about film.
fascinated me for many years that anything's that's
new has a patina of value and worth, which wears off
very quickly. There's also a prevalent time-period xenophobia
that says that anything from our own time period must
be superior to anything from a previous time period.
Of course, this is complete nonsense. There's pottery
from 2500 years ago that can't be duplicated, and we
still don't understand how the Egyptians mummified their
dead, or how they built the pyramids. It also seems
that we no longer understand how to make a decent movie.
been reading your articles on "the need for stucture"
and have found them illuminating. they hit upon alot
of things ive noticed in contemporay films versus older
films and why i like the older ones because they have
the structure i like. but my real question (or maybe
its an observation)is on your statement about how a
person cannot go beyond anything until they have masted
the basic principle of anything. i agree with this whole
heartedly but i noticed the examples you gave, supporting
this statement, were mostely from art and some of the
talk back examples were from music. i wondered why no
one mentioned james joyce, t. s. eliot, william carlos
williams, e. e. cummings etc...etc... from literature.
who all first mastered the basic principles of english
before they wove together their masterpieces: ullyses,
the wasteland, and the majority of williams poems. i
think these men stand as great examples of people who
first mastered the principle of a thing before they
then went beyond it. what are your thoughts on this?
me anyway, I like those guys' early work when they were
still working in the normal forms. I like Joyce's stories
in "The Dead" very much, but I can't get through
his later work, which seems too experimental too pretentious
for me. I own several of William Carlos Williams books
and have not yet read them. Quite frankly, I don't think
going beyond the basic form of storytelling in writing
really gets you anything. I'm reading "A Man in
Full" by Tom Wolfe right now, and it's a pleasure
to read something by a person who understands drama
and wants to tell me a dramatic, interesting story as
well as he can. That's enough for me, and very rare
at this stage of the game.
Josh: You're mistaken about Casino Royale...
very first Bond film was a TV movie based on Casino
Royale starring Peter Lorre and Barry Nelson as "Jimmy
Bond" that aired in 1954 (it even predates you).
It takes some liberties with Bond's nationality but
other than that is supposed to be incredibly accurate
to the book.
seen it, and it's REALLY cheap, on a couple of very
cheesy sets, and it has Peter Lorre in it. But I don't
think that counts as the first Bond book "filmed,"
since it was performed live, and it skips most of the
others have said, 'Danger Man' was shown in the US as
'Secret Agent' (no 'Man'). Apparently very recently
a new show has aired called 'Secret Agent Man' - no
connection, it seems.
regards the James Bond series of films, yes the early
ones with Sean Connery were by far the most convincing
and Connery had the looks of somebody 'licensed to kill'.
Roger Moore just didn't and the movies got terminally
silly before they came back to being half-watchable.
My wife still has a tendency to refer to Sean Connery
as 'James Bond', whatever movie he's in - there's type-casting
far as the James Bond novels not being high-tech, I
seem to remember there were some gadgets in them - for
example, From Russia With Love had one-way mirrors and
a spy periscope that looked into the Russian secret
service HQ in Istanbul - but the gadgets were used to
propel the action and not as substitutes for it. Your
mention of Bond being beaten comes from Casino Royale,
of course, which was I think the first to be filmed
and was turned into a comedy farce, not featuring Sean
a different topic, I've just been watching the DVD of
'Alien' which has a commentary track by Ridley Scott
in which he discusses some of the production and effects
tricks. The one I thought was neatest was where they
used three children - his and the cameraman's I think
- in scaled-down space suits and overcranked - in order
to make the landing gear look twice as big. Have you
seen (heard) the DVD commentary?
looks like kids or midgets in that scene. I almost never
listen to commentary tracks, as I'm not terribly interested
in the behind-the-scenes stuff of any movies. Having
lived it, I don't find inside stories of film production
very amusing -- I enjoy doing it, I don't need to hear
about it. Back to Bond for a moment, "Casino Royale"
was not the first Bond novel filmed, that was "Dr.
No" in 1962. The execrable film of "Casino
Royale" was in 1967. And please, let's not keep
discussing James Bond because those films have sucked
for over thirty years and aren't worth talking about.
for the vote of sympathy, I needed it. Hopefully, we'll
all live to see the resurgence of good films.
I saw someone put up a post about "Danger Man"
and that it was available on DVD. If someone knows what
carrier is selling it, please let me know (please send
it to my email address; I'm going to be out of town
for the next two weeks). If anyone knows anything about
a collection for "The Prisoner" I'd be interested
in that, too. Thank you.
Anyway, you mentioned that the principle actors in ONCE
UPON A TIME IN AMERICA didn't carry off the premise
of being Jewish very well. If that was the case, then
what did you think of Claude Rains performance in MR.
SKEFFINGTON? All of Rains' ethnic roles seem to come
off fairly well, but with the strong stamp of his own
personality (it's as if instead of pretending to be
a foreigner of a different character, he's attempting
to portray what he, Claude Rains, would be like if he
were a different nationality, which is an interesting
way to approach it). Any thoughts on this?
Rains was one of those actors that could pretty much
pull anything off, a Frenchman, a Nazi, an American,
a Brit, being invisible, you name it and he could do
it and look completely comfortable in the part. Perhaps
it's the same within any ethnic group, but gentiles
don't seem like Jews, at least not to Jews. Just as
I'm sure seeing Jeff Chandler or Ricardo Montalban as
Indians must seem utterly absurd to Native Americans.
For instance, the casting Millie Perkins as Anne Frank
completely ruins that movie for me. Or Jeffery Hunter
as Jesus, for that matter. Someday someone will cast
a Jew as Jesus, then the world will blow up. When the
Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormon boys arrive at my
door with their paintings of the blond-haired, blue-eyed
Jesus, I like to show them a photo of my uncle Amos
in Tel Aviv, with black nappy hair and big schnoze,
and say, "That's what Jesus looked like. There
was no chance he was blond."
a big fan of Spiegel's Intruder. How come you didn't
cowrite it with him?
can you tell me about its pilot, Night Crew? I'm writing
an article for a horror site about Intruder and its
history; I'd appreciate it.
it? We weren't even speaking at that point. We could
barely be in the same room together. Let's see, I guess
we worked on "Night Crew" in 1980. I was the
camerman on about a third of it, and I helped Scott
do the sound and scoring. Somewhere along the way, however,
he lost the film, so it doesn't exist anymore.
you like Dario Argento's films? What about Eurohorror,
films bore me to tears, as does all of the Eurohorror
I've seen. None of it is actually scary, just gross
and bloody. The only thing in Argento's career that
interests me at all is his work on the script for "Once
Upon a Time in the West," with Sergio Leone and
Bernardo Bertolucci, and I'm not a huge fan of that
you ever wish you had less taste in movies? My friends
think I am tough on movies, but you have me beat by
a mile. I sometimes wish that I could go see a summer
blockbuster and not want to shoot myself. On the other
hand, being more picky about the movies I see makes
me appreciate them even more when I see a good one.
What are your feelings? On another note, has there been
any news from Anchor Bay on 'Hammer'?
have to say at this late date that they won't be releasing
it. They seemed like they would for a while, but backed
down. It's not really their cup of tea anyway. I've
signed with a new sales agency, Creative Light, and
I've sent it to them, but they haven't watched it yet.
The film came very close to being my complete undoing.
Perhaps it's not a great film, but I think it's worthy
of being seen. As to your feelings about contemporary
movies, well, that's just how I feel, and you can't
be sorry or ashamed you have some taste. Luckily, there
are tens of thousands of movies, many ofv which are
good and worth seeing, you just have to search them
out. For instance, there are three Italian films on
TCM tonight I've always wanted to see and have never
seen: Roberto Rosselini's "Paisan" and "Germany,
Year Zero," as well as the 1914 epic "Cabiria,"
which pre-dates "Birth of a Nation." On the
contemporary front, I saw "The Others" last
night which was a complete nothing, not scary, plodding
and severely dull. If Nicole Kidman weren't as attractive
as she is, and a good actor, I'd have turned it off
questions, just some comments.
Danger Man is the same series as Secret Agent Man. It's
just been released on DVD in 2 box sets.
As far as movies/shows featuring McGoohan, I'm surprised
no one's mentioned The Prisoner. It seems to be his
most widely-recognized work. If I'm not mistaken he
had a hand in writing the show as well. From what I've
seen, it seems like a very interesting if bizarre series.
the topic of neat actors, I've been impressed with Edward
G. Robinson lately. I'd never seen him in anything until
I saw The Stranger (underrated!), where he was excellent
as the Nazi hunter. Also thought he played an excellent
role in Soylent Green. It's dated 70s sci-fi, but I
got kind of wrapped up in it.
Soylent Green probably wasn't that intellectual even
when it came out, but at least it has interesting ideas.
Compared to what passes for scifi now (A.I.? Barf!)
it's a masterpiece. Anyway, I may be rambling a bit,
so I'll end now.
guess with Patrick McGoohan you don't even have to mention
"The Prisoner," it's just a given. I think
we were all trying to figure out the rest of his career.
The guy's good, but his career never really took off.
Meanwhile, Edward G. Robinson was one of my very favorite
actors. His range was incredible, and he could so easily
go back and forth between really mean bad guys and really
nice good guys, and could do any accent he wanted. I
just watched "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes"
again, which I hadn't seen since I was a kid. Robinson
is great as the Norwegian farmer and father, and Margaret
O'Brien was just one of the best kid actors of all time.
Then you see Robinson in "Key Largo" and he
just couldn't be a more obnxious, pushy, scary creep.
I also love all of his Warners biopics, like "Dispatch
From Reuters" and "Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet."
His death scene in "Soylent Green" was very
moving. He died in 1973 when I was in high school, and
no actor's death before or since has upset me as much
(John Lennon's death upset me more, but he wasn't an
I just went over to Jeremy
Roberts site and learned that he had a heart attack
and quadrupal bypass surgery. Is he okay? I was just
watching him in "Briscoe County, Jr" and he
was on Xena just a few days ago. Hope he's doing all
right. I wasn't sure if you knew.
I knew. I think he's doing fine, but I haven't spoken
with him in a while.
the Danger Man/Secret Agent Man conversation, it appears,
according to the often invalid IMDB, that they are one
in the same. "Secret Agent" was the US release
and reproduction of the show. Ironically, the biography
for Patrick McGoohan and some of his fan sites actually
indicate he rejected the role of Bond before Sean Connery
been thinking of watching of a film i have on video
somewhere called Nocture, directed by Ediwin L. Marin
and starring George Raft. It was very hard to find.
Something about that movie has really stuck in my head
and i was wondering if you have seen it, and if so what
you thought. Also, what do you think of the noir genre,
and what films within that genre do you appreciate most?
for your time.
haven't seen "Nocturne," but it sure sounds
like a run-of-the-mill, B+ George raft vehicle, and
I'm not much of a George Raft fan. I like film noir
quite a bit, partcularly the Anthony Mann pictures of
the 1940s, like: "Raw Deal," "Side Street,"
"Desperate," and "Railroaded." Also
Edgar G. Ulmer's "Detour," Joseph Lewis' "Gun
Crazy," and Jacques Tourneur's "Out of the
am hoping you or Shirley can rescue my eyeballs here.
I went back 10 pages or so, to no avail.
watched for the first time about a week ago "Once
Upon A Time In America", and was completely puzzled
by some things, but had to go out of town the next day.
All during my plane ride, all I could think about was
this film and your commentary on it.
I finally get home, and am chomping at the bit to ask
you about it, and I can't for the life of me find the
letter where you talked about it.
(I didn't want to just repeat stuff I half-remember
Now, I found the one, where you point out that it suffered
from elderly Leone's deteriorating sense of pacing,
but I could have *sworn* there was a previous post where
you bring up what you enjoyed about it. A couple
other people even seem to refer to it.
(Curiously, its not on your Favorite List, so...am I
completely imagining this elusive post? It's entirely
that post exists somewhere back there. I said that I
enjoyed the part with the kids more than when they became
adults. I also recounted watching the premiere of the
director's cut on HBO nearly twenty years ago, and my
dad walked into the room and sat down. It was probably
about 7:30 PM and the film had been on for a half an
hour. After a few minutes my dad asked, "When is
this over?" I said, "Eleven o'clock,"
and he just groaned. Then he asked, incredulously, "These
people aren't supposed to be Jewish, are they?"
I said, "Yes." He stood up, proclaimed, "Bullshit!"
and left the room. I must agree with him, DeNiro, Woods,
McGovern, and Forsythe do not pull off being Jewish
for a micro-second. Thus, four hours seemed like a VERY
it this from page 2:
I sort of didn't mind when everybody was a kid in
"Once Upon a Time in America," but when they
became adults the whole thing went into the crapper.
Seriously though, it looks like
Google.com has only indexed the Q&A Archive up to
page 60 so far, and the above quote was the only mention
I could find for "Once Upon a Time in America,"
so most likely what you were looking for really is buried
somewhere in the last 10 pages or so.
tell me I'm not crazy. I email my friend at his job
off and on during the day, and just lately we've been
arguing about movies. After attempting to explain the
lack of substance in most current Hollywood films, this
was his conclusion:
My standards are too high. Movies are just for the experience
of the theater, and for people to relax their minds.
b. The content of movies now is dictated by women and
teenage males (either "chick flicks" or action
movies), so films again only serve an ulterior purpose;
guys using them to entertain dates and try to get laid.
c. Movies are merely entertainment, and should be taken
as they are; a hard-paying audience just wants to escape
from reality for awhile, and doesn't want any intellectual
challenge or stimulation.
get similar viewpoints from my other friends, as well.
Am I just an oddball here? I simply cannot sit through
the films that they find entertaining, even excellent;
I literally walked out of a friends house about fifteen
minutes into MOULIN ROUGE. Please lend me a little outside
A Minority of One,
film can be just that, mindless entertainment, and a
possible lubricant for getting laid, but it has also
risen much higher than that, to the level of actual,
real art. However, unless the audience is willing to
pay for it, Hollywood isn't going to make it. If the
audience is only willing to pay for mindless entertainment,
that's what they'll get. It's simply the theory that
as technology speeds up, the content simplifies. All
forms of art have devolved during the past twenty-five
years -- this is not an artistic period for humans,
it's a technological period. Movies were absolutely
superior to what they are now thirty years ago, and
no one can convince me otherwise. So you and I and a
handful of others will just have to suffer.
Mesaros asked about Patrick McGoohan and 'Danger Man'.
It was a secret agent / counterspy TV series of the
sixties or 70s in which McGoohan played the lead, John
Drake. I still remember it because it had an air of
authenticity, the gadgets were believable, and 'foreigners'
spoke in their own language (e.g. French), not English
with a phony accent, and without subtitles. The writers
managed to make what they were saying apparent from
the action and the context. And, the 'good guys' (British
Intelligence) weren't always right, they didn't always
win, and sometimes they made a bureaucratic bungle.
Not all the time, but often enough to make a rare and
refreshing change from the "Our side good, their
side bad' that was the invariable rule in spy stories
in those days.
think since then a lot of realism has been lost from
spy stories, and with it, suspense and conviction. All
the gadgets are fun to watch but the characters just
don't seem so real and therefore what happens to them
doesn't matter so much. I admit I'm thinking mostly
of TV, the spy story seems to have almost disappeared
from movies. As a question Josh, do you have any favourite
spy stories and which era are they from?
was "Danger Man" also "Secret Agent Man"?
It was on from 1959-1962, which means it pre-dates the
James Bond movies. Although it's rather grim, I enjoyed
"The Spy Who Came in from the Cold" with Richard
Burton, and I had enjoyed the book, too. I particularly
like "Night Train to Munich" from 1940, which
I think was huge influence on all of the other spy stories
that came after it, specifically James Bond. In "Night
Train" (which was it's UK title) a very young and
dashing Rex Harrison plays the spy, and I think he's
the direct forefather of Bond. I enjoyed Ian Fleming's
early Bond novels, which have nothing to do with the
movies. I liked the films up to Roger Moore entering
when they became a joke, and they've stayed that way
ever since no matter who plays Bond. In the early novels
there's nothing high-tech -- he drives a 1933 Bentley,
carries a crappy .25 caliber pistol with the handle
pried off and taped, and is stripped naked, tied into
a chair with the seat cut out, and is beaten on the
genitals until he's nearly dead. Not like the movies.
I don't know how many were debuts, but there were a
lot of actors who made early career appearances in Three
Stooges shorts. Lucille Ball was in several and was
probably the best known. Two cast members from "Citizen
Kane" appeared in shorts. In 1937 Sonny Bupp was
in "Cash and Carry" and in 1940 Dorothy Comingore
was in "Rockin' Thru the Rockies" as Linda
Winters. There's another, possible Oscar winning actress
who appeared in one of the shorts where the boys were
at a society function. I remember looking up her career
because she was so good in the short. She sat next to
Curly as he did his "oyster in the soup" routine
I think Can you think of who this is? I'll have to rewatch
those and see if I can't find her. Thanks,
don't know who that is beside Curly, but I can certainly
envision him doing his oyster soup routine. That was
what was so great about Curly, they could give him a
bowl of soup, then the other two could take the day
off. Other early appearances in Stooges shorts are Walter
Brennan, Lloyd Bridges, and Dan Blocker from "Bonanza."
Actually, there are two more members of the "Citizen
Kane" cast that were in Three Stooges shorts, Phillip
Van Zandt, and at this exact moment I can't recall his
name [Geno Corado], but he's the waiter at the beginning
with Susan Alexander, and he plays the opera singer
that the Stooges keep flicking grapes into his mouth,
then a bannana, then he leaves in a huff, and they throw
a pineapple at him that turns the corner and hits him
Dear Mr. Becker,
my name is Bethany and I am a newly graduated
senior fresh out of high school. My friends and I have
made a few horror type films. Now I am very good at
creating special effect makeup for the very gory films
that we make, my speciality being third degree burns.
Now what I want to know is would this be a wise carrer
choice for me to get into. I start college in the fall
and don't know what to do with my post-high school life.Any
advice would be much appreciated.
Sincerly - Bethany Hidden
a special make-up effects technician or a filmmaker?
If you're going to go into effects, there's quite a
bit more you need to know about it because it's sort
of a complicated field. There's a lot more to it than
pouring fake blood all over people, or smearing some
latex on them. You should read the great make-up artist
Dick Smith's book, the title of which I've forgotten.
[I'm pretty sure Josh is thinking
of the book, "Dick Smith's Do-It-Yourself Monster
Makeup," Random House, ISBN 0911137025 --webmaster]
What what Smith did on films like "The Godfather,"
"Little Big Man," "Amadeus," or
the veins on Andrew Stevens' forehead in "The Fury."
This is complicated stuff to pull of well. If you're
going to be a filmmaker, well, there's a whole lot of
other stuff to learn. All of the special make-up effects
people I know are severe geeks that really know their
business. If you're not at their level it will be hard
to compete, or even speak, with them. If you're looking
for any sort of an assured living, don't go into movies.
Sorry for recommending SUICIDE KINGS to you. I honestly
enjoyed it. I suppose from a filmakers perspective it
wasn't that good, but I did enjoy the performances.
Christopher Walken is always interesting (I wonder if
he's that weird in real life), Denis Leary was good,
and I liked Jay Mohr's performance as well (he does
a very good Christopher Walken impersonation by the
way, and is currently hosting ESPN's MOHR SPORTS). I'm
honestly surprised that you didn't like it.
Anyway, the discussion of big players' start in small
roles made me think of the character actors who never
get big roles. William Atherton comes to mind (he played
the reporter in DIE HARD, and was in more movies than
I can count), as well as Randall "Tex" Cobb
(I'd say his largest role was in UNCOMMON VALOR, where
he played the role of Sailor), George "Buck"
Flower (off the top of my head, I've seen him in CHOPPING
MALL, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK -"I'm the President!
I knew as soon as I put this thing on, I'd be the President..."-,
and THEY LIVE), and the great Dick Miller (who's had
a role in everything like B movies like BUCKET OF BLOOD
to big A films like GREMLINS-"Don't mess with Murray
Futterman!"). Someone has to play the small roles,
and these guys do it very well. Can you think of any
Kings" is a perfect example of a contemporary movie
in that it's utterly unbelievable, very poorly written,
but thinks it's hip. Walken, in my opinion, is just
wasted. As for character actors, there a slew of them,
so I don't know what the discussion would be about.
Oh, Charles Bronson (then Buchinski) and Lee Marvin
both have their first small parts in "You're in
the Navy Now" in 1951 with Gary Cooper.
wondered if back in the day you guys ever showed your
short film publically to make money?
in Bruce's autobiography or the Evil Dead Companion
( the biggest waste of paper ever) is there mention
of publically showing the short film (with the exception
of Sam's Happy Valley Kid).
that's how John Waters staked his claim in film I was
wondering if you ever did it back in the day?
Dafoe's appearance in "The Hunger" was very
brief but there's a shot where his face is the only
thing in frame (if I remember correctly) in all his
The dude just looks creepy...I'm sure he's a nice guy
but man is he creepy looking.
yet he can play a good guy and be completely charming,
like "Platoon," which just goes to show what
a good actor he is. Anyway, yes we did show our super-8
films regularly to audiences, frequently for free at
parties, but we used to show them at the high school
we all attended, Groves in Birmingham, MI, and this
was quite a time after we were out of high school. They
were very cool about it, too. I think we charged a buck.
We showed "Within the Woods," the "Evil
Dead" pilot, "Stryker's War," the TSNKE
pilot, Scott Spiegel's film "Nightcrew," which
was the pilot for "The Intruder," my Hitchcock-like
film "Holding It," and the slapstick comedy
we all made, "The Blind Waiter." They were
a good audience.
gather you're not too interested in the first half of
the question, so excuse me for reiterating, but I am
very curious. Are there any restrictions on filmmakers
regarding underage actors and the film's material?
you're working with SAG there certainly are. And, as
you mentioned, you've got the parents to deal with,
and a licensed social worker. Frequently, what you're
seeing are 18-year olds (or older) pretending to be
younger. Of course, if you have enough money you can
slip past anything, including murder, just ask O.J.
is a response to an earlier question I sent two days
ago regarding getting rights for the nfl and football
shots I have in my script. I DO plan on making the movie
on my own, hopefully surrounded by a few skilled people.
And I am curious about the rights issues and if there
is a certian person who deals with this? Also a question
about getting support or whatnot from the nfl itself.
suppose you would have to speak to the licensing division
of the NFL. My friend wanted to license NFL teams for
a car flags and it was quite a lot of money. They have
no reason to cut anyone deals. Beyond that, no one wants
to deal with or talk about an unfinanced project, particularly
with outstanding rights issues. I think you're way better
off changing it to the IFL. Once again, good luck.
your review of "Traffic" (Which I agree is
a truely shitty movie) you state that if drugs were
legalized and made so that you had to be 18 or 21 to
buy them, that would make it harder for kids to get
them. Do you really think that if drugs were laegalized
they wouldn't be sold by dealers any more? And even
if they weren't, you don't think it would be a lot easier
for a teen to get his 18 year old friend to go to the
nearest convienience store and buy him a bag of crack
than it would be if his only source was a dealer?
The Presidents Brain Is Missing is an amazing screenplay
I honestly do believe that if drugs were legalized they
would be more difficult for young folk to get. First
of all, if cocaine or herion were ever legalized, which
I doubt, it would be administered or sold through clinics,
not at the local party store. And once it was legal,
why would anyone bother be a dealer? Since the repeal
of prohibition in 1933 -- which was one of the main
causes of organized crime in this country -- there aren't
many or any bootleggers around anymore. Prohibition
causes crime, it's very simple. Anyway, I'm glad you
liked the script.
Bannen is hard to recognize in BRAVEHEART, anyway: playing
a leper as he does, he wears extensive prosthetic makeup,
which gets heavier throughout the film (as his character's
condition worsens). I've seen one other film with Patrick
McGoohan in it, where he also played a villain (I'm
sensing a pattern here): ESCAPE FROM ALCATRAZ, where
he played the Warden. Mel Gibson mentioned that he cast
Patrick in BRAVEHEART because he had been a lifelong
fan of Patrick's work, particularly a '60s era TV show
called DANGER MAN, which I'm not familiar with. Do you
know of any other films that Mr. McGoohan has played
in? I'd really like to see more of his work.
McGoohan certainly hasn't had very many good parts.
He's also in "Ice Station Zebra," "Mary
Queen of Scots," "Silver Streak," and
"Scanners," and I'm sure quite a few other
unmemorbale films. I'm not sure about this, but "Danger
Man" might have been called "Secret Agent
Man" here in the U.S., and I think that's what
inspired the Johnny Rivers song.
really hope your proposed horror film is still a posibility.
Don't forget to let Fangoria magazine in on it. That
would be something they'd love to cover...currently,
horror is in the shitter. Do it. Start a new trend!
The last indi horror film to make it big (probably the
last horror film period) was over 3 years ago with "The
Blair Witch Project." Actually, I don't believe
you've mentioned it. Have you seen that? It's the one
film that scared me since seeing "The Texas Chainsaw
Massacre" when I was 12. Something about those
rural oriented, fake true stories...
three more famous people in first, small roles would
be Robert Blake as the kid that Bogart splashes his
drink into in "Treasure of the Siera Madre,"
and Nicholas Cage and Eric Stoltz in "Fast Times
at Ridgemont High."
a good one.
in "Fast Times" are Anthony Edwards from ER
as the other stoner, and Forrest Whitaker. Robert Blake
had already been in a bunch of movies by the time he
did "Sierra Madre." Meanwhile, I didn't care
for "Blair Witch," which was horribly shot,
and the actors are so blatantly amateurs that are badly
improvising each scene that it was a painful experience
for me. I like TCM a lot.
another star debut: Dustin Hoffman made his film debut
with a brief part in "The Tiger Makes Out"
(1967). Although mostly forgotten today (I don't think
it's available on video), it was directed by Arthur
Hiller and the supporting cast included Eli Wallach.
(Back in the 1970s, when CBS showed late-night double
features five nights a week, "Tiger" used
to turn up a couple of times a year.) Hoffman immediately
went on to bigger and better things in "The Graduate,"
released the same year.
Clint Eastwood was "First Pilot" in "Them."
He flew the bomber in that other big bug movie, "Tarantula."
movie history question: Do you think the U.S. studio
system that existed up until the 1950s or so set up
to produce good movies more frequently? Or was it just
a matter of cranking out so much product that the odds
of making a good movie were much greater?
did not know that about "The Tiger Makes Out,"
which is a really silly, dumb movie (Eli Wallach's good,
but he's always good). Another small pilot part is in
"South Pacific" with Tom ("Billy Jack")
Laughlin as the plane pilot. As for the studio system
producing better movies, which it most certainly did,
it was a combination of producing a lot more product,
combined with each studio legitimately wanting to make
several top-quality pictures a year, combined with the
people in charge were smarter, and had a lot more taste.
Each studio was putting out fifty films a year (as opposed
to 10-14 now), and though forty of them were meant to
be idiotic junk, ten were meant to be as good as they
could possibly make them. That's not happening now.
just finished "Not Another Teen Movie," and
a question that had come up in my mind once or twice
during many other films came up about 100 times during
this one: Is there some kind of law about kids and adult
material on movie sets? You have to be 18 to buy a Playboy,
but if you get in the right role, you can say whatever
you are scripted to, you can act opposite naked women,
fondle body parts, etc. at any age. In fact, people
seem to think that the younger the kids are, the funnier
it is. Personally (and I'm an admitted prude), but I
think it sickening. Adults can get their jollies from
adult humor, but I really get a bad feeling when I see
some of this stuff. So, if the MPAA is so concerned
about what the viewer sees, what organizations govern
what the actors do? Is it basically parental consent?
(subliminal insert: those parents = trash) Is it based
on child pornography laws? Or as long as the kids don't
work more than four hours a day, it's fine to infect
their minds with whatever trash gets a laugh?
while I'm on the subject, do you ever come across a
sex-comedy of this sort and gasp at the sheer lack of
intelligence involved? In the same way that you don't
like shoot-em-up movies? I mean, when you see them,
do you think, "Damn, I'm a better writer than that."
you kidding? I think I'm a better writer than damn near
everything I see, not just sex comedies. I could have
fixed the "Insomnia" script in a couple of
days. As I said to my friend after the film, I'm sure
the American remake is a half hour longer than the original
and didn't fix any of the problems (I haven't seen it,
so I don't know). Everything I've seen for the last
ten years has been poorly written, ineptly thought-through,
and basically stupid. It's been a long time since I've
watched a recent film and was impressed to the extent
that I felt I couldn't do what they'd done. Probably
"Unforgiven" in 1992. As a kid and as a young
man, the feeling that I was watching a film made by
people more intelligent than me, with more ability than
me, used to occur constantly. Now it doesn't happen
at all, and I don't think I got much smarter.
you've been renting a number of DVDs lately, I was wondering
if you ever bother to check out the extra features on
them. In some cases I think the filmmakers go completely
overboard, throwing in every bit of production scrap
they can find to sell more discs. But a few have given
me some good insights into the film production process.
the best one I saw recently was the "Made"
DVD. In addition to countless deleted scenes and featurettes,
it had a commentary track with a telestrator like you
see on NFL games. Vaughn and Favreau use it to point
to things they're talking about, really useful. They
also play an amusing game of tic-tac-toe about halfway
through the commentary. After watching all this stuff
I felt I had a much better idea why the filmmakers made
certain creative decisions. You're sort of allowed to
get inside their head and figure out what went wrong
(besides a weak script, low budget, etc.). It would
be nice to have a disc like this from a great filmmaker,
rather than a mediocre one. There's only so much you
can learn from a guy thats still figuring out the artform.
But wouldn't you like a DVD of Bridge on the River Kwai
with a Lean commentary, and maybe an additional sit-down
interview also on the disc? On the one hand, I can see
it spoiling the mystery of the film, but on the other,
there would be so much to learn.
the way, I have listened your commentaries on both TSNKE
and Running Time. You and Bruce do a great job, keeping
it fairly light and interesting, they were definitely
worth the time. Probably the worst commentaries I've
listened to have been by Steven Soderbergh and Paul
Verhoeven. They seemed completely disinterested in their
movie and just babbled on and on with nothing to really
hope everything is well with you. I saw your friend's
superhero movie a couple weeks ago. For a summer blockbuster
it wasn't bad, and it wasn't as awful as the new Star
Wars, but it wasn't great either. I get this feeling
watching Sam's movies from the past 5-10 years that
he's like, almost a good filmmaker, but his movies end
up feeling like they're missing something. Like maybe
a good script? :) I wish him the best of luck on the
next 1, or 2 or 3 or whatever. Maybe he'll get to be
a little more creative on the next one, now that he's
contributed over a billion to Sony's bottom line. Also,
if you're still doing the Netflix thing, here's a few
more DVDs you might want to check out: Rushmore, Devil
in a Blue Dress, American Psycho, Trees Lounge, and
Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred Leuchter Jr. Enjoy,
or not :)
you'd have trouble assembling the cast and crew for
the "Kwai" commentary track. Honestly, I never
listen to the commentary tracks on the DVDs. Most of
these films I can't get out of the machine fast enough.
Something like "Made" is so ineptly written,
and so painfully repetitive, I sort of wanted to scream.
"Rushmore" was illogical junk, "American
Psycho" was so dreadful I turned it off. The VO
for the trailer of these crappy movies keeps going through
my head as I watch them, "A film about nothing."
quick question for you:
the difference between a sequence and a scene?
Has Netflix come through with Hard Core Logo yet?
sequence isn't really an official term, as shot, scene,
and act, are. But a sequence can contain a number of
scenes. For instance, you could refer to the "blowing
up the bridge sequence" in "The Bridge on
the River Kwai," which contains many different
scenes. No sign of "Hard Core Logo" yet. I
just watched "Suicide Kings," which was complete
garbage, and the 1997 "Insomnia," which so
of interestingly worked-out, but has no characterization
or motivation, and thus, no impact. It ultimately doesn't
make any sense, either.
Andrew Kovacevich was also in the first episode of Jack
of All Trades which you directed, "Return of the
I remembered that later that day. I cast him in "Jack"
because I enjoyed working with him so much on "Xena."
He was a very pleasant, friendly, big guy with a real
low voice. Bon voyage, Andrew.
off I read in some earlier posts about people looking
for earlier short films that you've worked on, such
as the indiana jones parady. Just wanted to say I bought
a copy of a tape called 'sam raimis short films' a few
years ago from video search of miami and that was on
there with others.
to my question. I have written a script that deals with
fantasy football. In the script there are shots of past
football players in still photography shots, the "ticker"
that fox uses on the bottom of the screen during football
games, and a very short crowd scene where my character
is in the stands. My question is two-fold.
One; How would I go about getting the rights for those
type of things. Would a UPM take care of that?
two; Do you know of a way where I could get the NFL'S
approval and backing on this?
know it sounds like a longshot but the script is very
funny and..well I would rent it at the video store.
joke is that I directed all the short films on that
tape, "The Short Films of Sam Raimi." If you've
just written a script, and you're not about to make
the movie, none of those rights issues mean anything.
Put whatever you want in your script. If someone wants
to make it, they'll deal with the rights (or change
it to the IFL, the International Football League, or
something like that). Good luck.
mean to bud into the messages back and forth between
you and Darryl...
assume you're pointing out movie stars' early roles?
about Willem Dafoe in "The Hunger" as a hood
who intimidates Susan Sarandon at a pay phone.
ahead, butt in, that's the point. I didn't remember