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Q & A    Archive
Page 72

Name: Christopher Hamilton
E-mail: notlimahsirhc87@aol.com

Dear Josh:

1) 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?

2) Have you gotten "Bully" yet from NetFlix? (I'm thinking about giving them a try) If not, what other recent films have you seen?

Dear Christopher:

No, 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.

Josh

Name: John Hunt
E-mail: Chowkidar@aol.com

Josh,

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.

John

PS. Have you seen "Ruggles of Redgap" with Charles Laughton? Another example of Laughton's versatility, I think.

Dear John:

I 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.

And 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.

Josh

Name: Rob
E-mail: RobertJJ@aol.com

Dear Josh:

Have you ever written short stories or novels? If so, would you ever post them on the webpage?

Dear Rob:

Several 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.

Josh

Name: XenaHerc
E-mail: XLWH@aol.com

Hi Josh.

In 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?

The credits list Pam Becker. Is she your sister?

I noticed that Rob Tapert was typecast as a fisherman. :)

Take care,

XenaHerc

Dear XenaHerc:

Yes, 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.

Josh

Name: Geoff
E-mail: gpc@pacificcoast.net

Josh,

I notice you named "The Little Kidnappers" (1953) as a favourite film of yours.

I 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.

Any recommended sellers or suggestions?

Thanks for your consideration and help.

PS I live in Victoria, British Columbia...

Dear Geoff:

I 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.

Josh

Name: Dylan
E-mail:

Hi Josh,

First 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.

I 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')?

I 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).
Nice film.

One more question for you, do you have any favorite film scores?

Best Regards,
Dylan

Dear Dylan:

If 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

Name: Marvin
E-mail: justmarvn@hotmail.com

Hey Josh, keep it up man!

Making 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!"

I 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.

Take care!
Marvin

Dear Marvin:

It's 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.

Josh

Name: johsua williams
E-mail: ingame149@hotmail.com

dear josh,

ive 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?

joshua

Dear Joshua:

For 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

Name: Kevin Mills
E-mail: thespythatshagsu@rogers.com

Dear Josh: You're mistaken about Casino Royale...

The 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.

Dear Kevin:

I've 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 book.

Josh

Name: Chris
E-mail: cr@orcon.net.nz

Hi Josh.

As 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.

As 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 for you!

So 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 Connery.

On 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?

Chris

Dear Chris:

It 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.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Thanks 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?

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

Claude 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."

Josh

Name: Adam
E-mail: Adamant@aol.com

Dear Josh:

I'm a big fan of Spiegel's Intruder. How come you didn't cowrite it with him?

Also, 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.

Thanks.

Dear Adam:

Co-write 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.

Josh

Name: Rick
E-mail: Ric@yahoo.com

Dear Josh:

Do you like Dario Argento's films? What about Eurohorror, in general?

Dear Rick:

Argento's 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 film, either.

Josh

Name: Michael
E-mail: fanaka66@yahoo.com

Hey Josh,

Do 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'?

Good luck.

Dear Michael:

I'd 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 halfway through.

Josh

Name: Jason Roth
E-mail: rothj@student.gvsu.edu

Hi Josh,

No 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.

On 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.

Dear Jason:

I 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 actor).

Josh

Name: John Hunt
E-mail: Chowkidar@aol.com

Josh,

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.

John

Dear John:

Yeah, I knew. I think he's doing fine, but I haven't spoken with him in a while.

Josh

Name: Josh
E-mail: ferricdog@yahoo.com

Josh,

Regarding 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 accepted it.

I've 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?

Thanks for your time.

Josh

Dear Josh:

I 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 Past."

Josh

Name: Diana Hawkes
E-mail: sdhawkes@penn.com

Hello!

I am hoping you or Shirley can rescue my eyeballs here. I went back 10 pages or so, to no avail.

I 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.

Now 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 you saying.)
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 possible.)

Dear Diana:

No, 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 long time.

Josh

 

Dear Diana,

Was 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.

Shirley

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Please 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:

a. 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.

I 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 perspective.

A Minority of One,
Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

Obviously 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.

Josh

Name: Chris
E-mail: cr@orcon.net.nz

Hi Josh

Darryl 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.

I 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?

Chris

Dear Chris:

But 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.

Josh

Name: John Hunt
E-mail: Chowkidar@aol.com

Josh,

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,

John

Dear John:

I 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 off-camera.

Josh

Name: Bethany Hidden
E-mail: RockyHorrorPunkRocker@hotmail.com

Dear Mr. Becker,

Hello, 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

Dear Bethany:

Being 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.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Ouch! 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 more?

Yours truly,
Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

"Suicide 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.

Josh

Name: Kevin Mills
E-mail: thespythatshagsu@rogers.com

Josh,

I've wondered if back in the day you guys ever showed your short film publically to make money?

Nowhere 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).

Knowing that's how John Waters staked his claim in film I was wondering if you ever did it back in the day?

--Kevin Mills

PS: 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 creepy glory.

PPS: The dude just looks creepy...I'm sure he's a nice guy but man is he creepy looking.

Dear Kevin:

And 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.

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@oct.net

Josh,

I 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?

Thanks again.

Ben

Dear Ben:

If 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.

Josh

Name: Martin
E-mail: pacemakerfilms@aol.com

Hey Josh,

This 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.

Thanks agian.

Dear Martin:

I 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.

Josh

Name: Garret Harkawik
E-mail: Funktaisia@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

In 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?

PS- The Presidents Brain Is Missing is an amazing screenplay

Dear Garret:

Yes, 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.

Josh

Name: Darryl Mesaros
E-mail: simonferrer@hotmail.com

Dear Josh,

Ian 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.

Darryl Mesaros

Dear Darryl:

Patrick 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.

Josh

Name: Blake Eckard
E-mail: bseckard@hotmail.com

Josh,

I 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...

BTW, 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."

Have a good one.

Blake

Dear Blake:

Also 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.

Josh

Name: Charles
E-mail: cscorder@hotmail.com

Dear Josh:

Here's 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.

Also, Clint Eastwood was "First Pilot" in "Them." He flew the bomber in that other big bug movie, "Tarantula."

A 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?

Charles

Dear Charles:

I 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.

Josh

Name: Benedict
E-mail: benedict@oct.net

Dear Josh,

I 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?

Finally, 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."

Thanks.

Ben

Dear Ben:

Are 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.

Josh

Name: Jim
E-mail: JEaganFilm@aol.com

Josh,

Since 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.

Probably 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.

By 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 latch onto.

Anyway, 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 :)

Jim

Dear Jim:

Well, 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."

Josh

Name: Lucas
E-mail: snoogans@softhome.net

Dear Josh,

A quick question for you:

What's the difference between a sequence and a scene?

Cheers,
Lucas

p.s. Has Netflix come through with Hard Core Logo yet?

Dear Lucas:

A 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.

Josh

Name: XenaHerc
E-mail: XLWH@aol.com

Hi Josh.


Andrew Kovacevich was also in the first episode of Jack of All Trades which you directed, "Return of the Dragoon".

He played Lacroix.

Take Care,

XenaHerc

Dear XenaHerc:

Yeah, 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.

Josh

Name: Martin
E-mail: PaceMakerFilms@aol.com

hey Josh,

First 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.

On 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?

I know it sounds like a longshot but the script is very funny and..well I would rent it at the video store.

thanks

Dear Martin:

The 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.

Josh

Name: Kevin Mills
E-mail: thespythatshagsu@rogers.com

Dear Josh:

Don't mean to bud into the messages back and forth between you and Darryl...

I assume you're pointing out movie stars' early roles?

How about Willem Dafoe in "The Hunger" as a hood who intimidates Susan Sarandon at a pay phone.

Dear Kevin:

Go ahead, butt in, that's the point. I didn't remember that one.

Josh


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