Cynthia E. Jones
must agree with your assessment of the fight sequence
in "They Live." My friend and I used to use
it as a point of reference for "most ridiculous
cinematic fight ever" because it DID go on way
too long, and started to get funny. Anything that removes
you from a film as that scene did pretty much sucks
in my book. And as for Carpenter's other work, "Assault
on Precinct 13" was pretty good, "The Thing,"
and-uh, well, that's it. I didn't even see "Escape
From L.A." despite the fact that Bruce was in it...I
have to maintain SOME standards.
that said, I saw "Punch Drunk Love" on Sunday,
and for me, the best part was the preview for "Confessions
of a Dangerous Mind," the upcoming pseudo-bio-pic
about "Gong Show" host Chuck Barris, who was
allegedly a CIA agent during his television career.
It stars Sam Rockwell, an actor whom I consider extremely
underrated, and hopefully it will put him in America's
subconscious. Have you ever seen "Box of Moonlight"
by Tom DiCillo, or "Lawn Dogs?" Both are Rockwell
films that do him justice. "Charlie's Angels"
seemed to me that "Assault on Precinct 13"
ought to have been good, but I didn't think it was.
I haven't seen either of the two films you mentioned.
Do you really think I should? In which case I'll order
them. I did see "Bowling for Columbine" last
night so I can join into the discussion. I enjoyed it
and found it very provocative in many ways. I really
appreciate that Michael Moore has a sincere point of
view, and for the most part, I agree with him. He did
stop short of the big picture, however, in my opinion.
Most major countries may only have 50 to 200 shootings
a year compared to our 11,500 plus shootings, and white
Americans undoubtedly do demonize black people, live
in fear of them, and that's why we own so many weapons,
but the real question to me is, of those 11,500 shootings,
who's shooting who? Most of those shootings are not
white kids shooting up their high schools, or little
kids mistakenly shooting each other, it's (as far as
I know) black people shooting black people. This may
not actually be a threat to white people, but it does
propagate the demonization. To have gone to this extent
would have undermined Moore's premise, which is okay
with me, but it's a bigger issue than he's going into.
going to call you on this one. In your reply to Patrick
about his fourteen-year old son, Alex, who wants to
be a director, you said that good grades were unnecessary
and that what was really needed was to watch old films,
learn story structure, etc. Considering that Alex, at
fourteen, is THE demographic for whom most current movies
are directed, it seems likely that he might want to
make exactly those sorts of movies. As you've pointed
out countless times, current movies seem constructed
with virtually no concern for structure, story or any
sort of studied approach. My guess is that Alex, and
the many others who write to you for advice on becoming
a director, are more concerned with being successful
than they are with being good.
the fact that your, yourself, do not make movies that
way, I would think that you would be able to offer rather
practical advice for those who wish to do so. Of course,
you may not wish to contribute to the delinquency of
an industry. On his website, BC has a series of essays
entitled "So you want to be..." and I think
he makes the same mistake; believing that most actors,
writers, directors, et. al, would rather be good than
successful. Hollywood products certainly seem to argue
otherwise. Not that I don't appreciate what BC has to
say, but I wonder how many would-be directors feel the
same. You could respond, and rightly so, that if people
want to be like those other directors, etc, those people
could visit those directors' websites. But I would enjoy
reading an essay you might write on how to sell out
and make it big in Hollywood.
should also mention my appreciation for the reply that
you did give to Patrick. The truth hurts and certainly
seems to be an equal opportunity deployer. Thanks,
Bruce nor I can really give advice on how to be a successful
film director since neither one of us is one. All we
can do is give the best advice we can about trying to
make good films. To be a successful Hollywood film director
is such an elusive, odd goal now, that is really and
truly not based on knowledge or intelligence, what can
you say? Start learning how to kiss ass and lie straight
into people's faces as early as possible? Practice on
your friends and family. It's not an essay I'm qualified
heard this morning that Wynona Ryder was convicted for
vandalism and grand theft for that whole shoplifting
incident a few months ago, and was wondering what you
thought of the matter, and the idea of celebrities flaunting
the law in general. Personally, I'm glad that she was
convicted. There was no question of her guilt (numerous
eyewitnesses saw her take items in excess of $5,000,
and the security camera has footage of her using a scissors
to cut the little security tags off of the stuff in
the ladies' dressing room), but there was some question
of whether or not she could evade the law.
It angers me when celebrities use their star power and
money to evade justice, as it germinates disrespect
for the law. Christian Slater was caught trying to smuggle
cocaine and a 9mm pistol on board a flight at LAX, and
all he got was a few days community service, washing
police cars in Beverly Hills. If you or I were caught
either doing the above or shoplifting $5,000 worth of
expensive clothes from some boutique, we'd end up like
Carl from RUNNING TIME fast enough to make your head
spin. Frankly, it pisses me off, and I'm glad that at
least one of them got nailed.
Sorry, but ranting to you is cheaper than
deeply and sincerely don't give a shit what Wynona Ryder
does, offscreen or on. If it's an artist I care about,
that's a different story. Then, like a friend, I'd want
them to get off.
enjoyed your essay. You cleared up a lot of self doubt,
and re-inforced self confidence. As you say, this type
of writing, for the screen, is difficult at best. But
when one is 'cooking', and is doing it right, and the
outcome is right, its a great feeling. It is an art-form
that one continues to work at all life long.Thanks for
your imput.I sincerely enjoyed all of your comments.
is the running time about
about seventy minutes.
14-year old son Alex wants to be a director for a career
when he grows up. I support him in his goal, but I have
is convinced there are basically no qualifications required
to become a director. He is further convinced that he
does not need to do well in school in any subjects that
are not directly related to film-making, so math, science,
history, etc. are all very low priority to him compared
to drama class for example, and his grades reflect it.
No attempts to reason with him have been successful,
and I am very concerned that he won't be able to pursue
his dream, or any dream, if he keeps up the bad grades.
I have told him he needs to get a degree in cinematography
as a start, and in order to get into a good college
he needs to get the best grades possible in every class
he takes through high school, but again, he does not
choose to believe me.
you take a few minutes to write to my son and share
your thoughts on this? This is an opportunity for you
to help guide a teenager and help him make the right
you for your time.
to the personal nature of the question, please withold
our names and email address if you decide to use this
question on your website.
well in school certainly won't hurt him becoming a director,
but it's not a requirement. And he won't need a degree
in directing or cinematography, which, once again, won't
hurt him, but aren't necessary, and won't get him any
jobs. What he does need to do is read as much as humanly
possible to see how stories function, as well as seeing
as many movies as possible. Old movies, not just new
ones. I know this isn't the answer you were looking
for and I apologize, but it's the truth as far as I
E-mail: top secret now
does anybody care to tell me what in all hell is going
on with the "American Movie Classics (AMC)"
Did I miss a memo?
were showing "Mannequin" for christ's sake!
I entertained the notion for a second that a programmer
was hitting the sauce at the controls or something!
Is this format change permanent?
not sure how long ago it was, maybe a year, when AMC
changed and began interrupting the films with commercials,
and that's when I stopped watching. They were never
a good channel, never committed to letterboxing, and
always cut out the swearing, so I don't give a good
Goddamn about them.
you for taking the time to read this letter, I understand
that you are a very busy man and I thank you for accepting
this letter. Others and myself have always been a huge
fan of your work. I am currently involved in a small
independent film group, very close to the way you and
your friends got started. We have made over ten films
and have plans for more, but this group is very inexperienced
and are walking blind so it seems. And we would greatly
appreciate any help you could be willing to give us,
anything would be greatly appreciated. Again I thank
you for your time.
Anything youd be willing to send, please send
it to either
you get hit on the head with a blunt object? What is
it you'd like?
are the best films that involve irony in their stories?
favorite example is "The Bridge on the River Kwai."
am currently studying year 12 english and on of my assignments
is to compare the diffenences between a novel and the
movie. I am doing the bridge on the river Kwai and i
am having trouble getting a script and was hoping you
could help me out.
never seen a script of it, so I guess you'll have to
work from the film. The book and the film are very different.
I quite frankly think the script is better than the
I just picked up my copy of Hammer, and it's awesome.
Probably the best movie I've seen from 2001, but that
might not mean much since I probably saw sub-20 movies
produced last year.
it's just me, but I got the impression that you were
using the 1964 death of the folk movement as a sort
of commentary on today's society, with all the mindless
tv watching and everything, or at least how it got so
main characters are clearly defined: you've got the
ideal girl who these two guys are idealizing for the
wrong reasons, driven to get in her pants (maybe not
such a wrong reason). Besides the role these three play
in folk music, I saw something else in them. Lorraine
seemed to portray the ideals of artistic integrity and
trying to do all the right things. Phil seemed to represent
America, torn between the ups and downs of reality or
TV, which he ultimately chooses. Black turtleneck is
more of a poser parallel of Phil, he leads on that he
cares (what's with his beard?). The two guys seem different
in the beginning, but in the end, they are very similar,
homogenized by TV.
I saw the setting of the end of the folk movement as
one more milestone of America becoming televisionized.
America, just like Phil, had the choice between striving
for something better in reality or becoming slaves to
TV, and TV won out.
biggest beef, however, was the whole part in the club
being too long; it throws off the pacing. Lorraine's
high school friends seemed the most unnecessary. Maybe
you were trying to show how even Lorraine wasn't always
ideal, but the ride with parents served a similar purpose.
film. Make more.
review. I think you're mixing up two characters, Max,
Lorraine's friend at the beginning that helped her hand
out the flyers, and Terry, the other guy at the club.
And the film is most definitely a comment on America
forgotten about the Elvis film, but it seems to me that
it was unique for two reasons: Kurt Russell is very
good in it, and it came out very recently after Elvis'
death (was it the first Elvis biopic made?).
To say one thing more about John Carpenter, I enjoyed
the fight sequence between Roddy Piper and David Keith
in THEY LIVE. It was a real vicious brawl, and it defied
the typical Hollywood notion that everyone in any action
movie must know a martial art, period. Having gotten
into a few brawls in my time (and gotten my ass kicked
about as often as I won), I could appreciate the fact
that Carpenter showed the fight for what it was: two
guys hurting the living shit out of each other, and
not giving a damn about technique or stunts.
but the fight went on forever and that's sure not how
the fights I've been in or witnessed really worked.
Fights are, for the most part, rather quick ordeals.
The fight in "They Live" looked like two stuntmen
duking it out to me. And though the film has an interesting
premise, I thought it was rather poorly written and
a drag, like most John Carpenter films.
a quick word to Diana Hawkes: I just watched BECKER
ON THE MOVE, and thought it was hysterical! Keep
up the good work.
dutifully pass the message along.
was thinking about your theory on the bug in THE CONVERSATION,
and I don't know if the bug was the phone. Moran makes
a big point about the phone not making a sound on the
receiver end, so that the subject doesn't suspect the
telephone as a bug. Certainly, they wanted Harry to
believe that he was bugged, but I don't know if they
actually did or not.
As for John Carpenter, I enjoyed a handful of his films:
HALLOWEEN, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK, THE FOG, his remake
of THE THING, and THEY LIVE. It was interesting to me
that THE THING and ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK did for Kurt
Russell what the westerns did for Jimmy Stewart: allow
the actor to shed a persona that no longer fit him in
favor of a more mature type of film. Both Jimmy and
Kurt were known as nice guy, aw shucks type of actors,
and both wanted to do more grown up things. An interesting
parallel, although I don't think you'd agree with comparing
Kurt Russell and Jimmy Stewart in any way (the actors
aren't alike, but both went through a similar developmental
period in their respective acting careers).
You're absolutely right though: TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE
Kurt Russell hasn't gone on to anything of any meaning.
I personally think Russell is awful in "Escape,"
doing his half-assed Clint Eastwood imitation. He didn't
even really interest me as a kid actor. He did do a
terrific job Elvis, though, which is probably my favorite
John Carpenter film. Shelly Winters was perfect as his
Cynthia E. Jones
"Five and Dime" was a filmed play, definitely.
But sometimes that works.
another note, I watched "Made for Each Other,"
last night, which starred Carole Lombard and James Stewart...and
it felt like a melodrama until the last two minutes.
Did they tack a "Hollywood" ending onto that
watching Carole Lombard, I found myself really annoyed
with the timbre of her voice, which got me thinking--I
think the reason I like most any actor or actress is
because of his/her voice. I feel it's the central focus
of any performance (provided it's a speaking role).
Hence my fondness for Orson Welles, Jimmy Stewart, Katharine
Hepburn, etc. etc. Great, distinctive voices.
agree completely. The sound of an actor's voice is very
important. Their voice is their main tool, and with
a weak or undistinctive voice it's almost impossible
to be a great actor. I have cast a lot of voice talent
in onscreen parts over the years because they had such
terrific voices and I didn't really care what they looked
like. Far too much attention is paid to attractiveness,
whereas the voice is more important.
Michael L. Andrews
have written a spec screenplay. How much can a person
expect to sell a spec screenplay for and do I have to
give up my publishing rights?
nobody ever sells spec screenplays. I did, but I'm the
only person I know that has. If you can just get it
optioned, you've done a whole lot. As to how much you
might get if you did sell it, Writer's Guild low-budget
minimum is about $28,000 and the high-budget minimum
is about $48,000. If someone actually buys the script,
they've purchased every possible right under the sun,
including publishing, toys, sequels, and remakes. You
might want to check out the Writers
Script Network. Good luck.
Micheal Moore, I almost always agree with his opinions
and I'm really hoping Bowling For Columbine gets released
where I live (Buffalo), but I find that sometimes he
can be really unfair about his topics. In his documentary
Roger and Me, he completely changed the order in which
things happened. Like the loss of 30,000 jobs? It happened
over a period of twelve years. Also, Moore makes the
planned Car-theme park seem like a response to the plant
closings, when the plan was actually conceived and fell
apart long before the closings. Moore makes discrepancies
like this throughout the whole movie, like the story
about Ronald Regan visiting Flint. We're told that while
having lunch with some laid off workers at a pizza parlor,
Regan's response to the crisis was to advise them to
move to Texas and during the meeting, the parlor's cash
register was stolen. Regan did visit Flint, but it was
in 1980 before the crisis and the register was stolen
2 days before. If Moore was trying to make a movie about
expasing the truth about the plant closings around him,
then why did he lie so much himself?
movies are lies, particularly documentaries. There's
no such thing as a completely true documentary, since
the filmmaker is deciding what to use and what not to
use. It's always going to be slanted some way due to
the process. I have no problem with the "truth"
of "Roger & Me," since his point is so
valid -- does GM owe Flint something, considering it
wouldn't be there if it wasn't for them? Does industry
owe the community anything? Is industry beholden to
the country it's in? Or is it perfectly OK that the
second you start making a profit you fire all your American
workers and move your plants to third-world countries?
The Reagan story is just that, a story, and he tells
it like it was being told all over Michigan. Keep in
mind that Moore made that film over the course of many
years, with no thought or hope that anyone anywhere
would ever see it. That it became popular and he became
famous is really odd, and he certainly had no clue of
that when he made the film. He made the film he wanted
to make, and I respect that.
I read the stuff on THE CONVERSATION. After watching
it, my only question was: Where did they hide the bug
in Harry Caul's apartment? Checking the director's commentary
on the DVD didn't help; Francis Ford Coppola copped
out with an artistic "I don't really know where
it is" type of response. Thinking about it, it
occurred to me that there was no bug; one of the tapes
that the girl stole from Harry's workshop was the same
jazz riff that Harrison Ford plays over the phone at
the end of the movie to convince Harry that he is being
monitored. It was just a head game.
In a tangent, I saw a documentary on the making of HALLOWEEN
on AMC last night. I had always thought that it was
a tightly paced, well put together horror film, one
which made excellent use of suspense rather than gore.
What did you think of it?
seems obvious to me that the bug is in his telephone,
just like the one he saw at the bugger's show. You call
someone, there's no one there, they hang up, then the
phone is a live receiver. While Harry is playing the
sax the phone rings, no one there, he hangs up, plays
the recorded riff, the phone rings again and he hears
what he just played. The phone's a receiver. They went
to the trouble of setting it up, it seems very clear
to me. It's the camera out the window I don't buy, if
that's what it is. Anyway, I don't care for "Halloween,"
or any of John Carpenter's films, for that matter. To
me all his films drop dead within thirty minutes. For
my money I'll take "Texas Chainsaw Massacre"
any day of the week.
I will always remember "Gladiator" as the
film that killed Oliver Reed. That probably isn't fair,
but it serves them right for making such a crappy movie.
It astounds me that people write so many lousy stories
when great stories are there for the picking. Roman
history provides all sorts of stories that either haven't
been done or haven't been done well. I find it interesting,
though, that even in good movies Rome is seen as a thing
to be resisted when, generally, it was great civilizing
force. The Pax Romana was a great accomplishment and
the Antonine Emperors provided about as good governance
as man has ever experienced.
brief tirade against Anthony Hopkin's unmentionable
role made me think that I generally find "Evil"
characters boring. All those James Bond villains who
are "out to control the world"; what will
they do once they have it? Far more interesting to me
as an antagonist are amoral characters. An amoral character
need not be evil, he must only lack external behavioral
guidelines. Fanatics of all stripes fit this description.
Gregory Peck in "Guns of Navarone" was largely
amoral; though he acted for a "good cause",
his immediate actions were always justified by the end
he was pursuing. He believed that his mission required
any sacrifice. Alec Guiness in "Bridge" is
another example; not really evil, his unshakeable faith
in duty makes him an antagonist.
can be a temporary condition. The need for revenge,
in "Monte Cristo", for example, can create
a temporary amorality. I think we all believe we could
set aside our own morality under the right circumstances
and seeing what motivates screen characters to do so
helps us in this belief. Well, that's what I think and
have been thinking about recently. Thoughts?
actually working on a story that takes place in Rome
in 41 AD, under Claudius. I think the Romans got their
present rep from having picked on the Jews and Christians,
who are still around and the Romans aren't. It's not
the winner that gets to write the history, it's the
survivor. The Roman republic and early empire were the
greatest civilizations on this planet, up 'til now,
perhaps. And yes, I completely agree with you that an
amoral believable human is much more interesting, and
potentially scary, than a super-villian. Super-villians
and superheroes, in my humble opinion, are for the birds.
writing a screenplay, do you double space after a period?
the minimum number of pages a screenplay has to be?
A lot of people say to write at least 90 pages, but
is 75 sufficient? Because when I look at some produced
screenplays, they are in the 70 to 80 page range (especially
action and horror flicks).
scripts are about 120 pages. 90 pages would be the minimum,
and about 150 would be the maximum. But that's if you're
trying to sell it to someone. If you're making it yourself
it can be however long you care to make it. The script
for "Evil Dead" was about 35 pages long, but
Sam knew what he had in mind. And yes, you double-space
after a period.
Cynthia E. Jones
suggestion may be insane, or illegal, I don't know:
why don't you have a button on your website for people
to donate money for your next film? I mean, Darren Aronofsky
just asked everyone he knew for $100 each to finish
"Pi," and then put their names on a fat list
at the end of the credits. Couldn't you do something
like that, and use the internet? I saw a guy on eBay
offering "producer credit" for bids of $500
or more to finish his film. Crazy, yes. But, hey! If
it works, you have a neat story to tell.
as for good movies I've seen lately? "Come Back
to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean" by Robert Altman
was pretty cool, and Karen Black playing a transsexual
made Karen Black make sense, ya know? And for some reason,
even though she always plays the same flustered schoolteacher/virgin/prude
type, I like Sandy Dennis.
Thanks for your comments about Michael Moore. He truly
inspires and delights me and its good to hear someone
else echoing his sentiments. You pretty much live these
tenets, anyway, and I can't see you directing commercials
for Wal*Mart anytime soon.
money that way is in fact illegal. To legally raise
money you have to make a legal offering, like a limited
partnership or limited liabilty corporation (which I
did for all four of my films), which is registered with
the state and has limitations on how many investors
you can have, how much they have to make a year, and
how much the investments are. This is to guard the average
person so they don't get bilked. Part of the deal is
that the investors have to make a minimum of $200,000
a year, and you can only have 25-35 of them, thus making
the shares $5,000 to $10,000 each. If you want to raise
a thousand shares of $500 each, then you have to register
your offering with the SEC (which costs about $50,000
to set up), and then you're offering stock like anyone
else on the stock market. Meanwhile, I didn't make it
all the way through "Five and Dime" many years
ago when it first appeared on cable. It seemed too much
like a filmed play to me, but I don't think I really
gave it a chance. Sandy Dennis is great in "Who's
Afraid of Viginia Woolf?"
can think I can shed light on the Harris/O'Toole drunk-on-stage
"Madam you're ugly" line is probably an urban
myth, and has been around since the 1930's, and has
involved various combinations of W.C. Fields, Judith
Anderson, Winston Churchill, and Lady Astor. As for
the stage story, I do recall one of them (but I think
it was O'Toole) on some late-night talk show, talking
about how *both* of them appeared in some play where
neither were on stage for 45 minutes or so. So they
went across the street to a pub, and quickly got toasted.
One matinee, someone in the front row did notice that
one of them was noticably weaving and flubbing his lines,
to which he responded something like "so bloody
course, just because he told the story doesn't really
mean it happened!)
a note on that smothering scene. The historical Marucs
Aurelius died a natural death way in the middle of nowhere
in modern Yugoslavia, at an adanced age while leading
his armies. Not too cinematic. So they borrowed an image
from the death of the Emperor Tiberius from 100 years
before. He had apparently died, then struggled to his
feet from his deathbed, and his great-nephew Caligula
had a guard smother him with a pillow (since Caligula
had already announced Tiberius's death!) In "I,
Claudius, Tiberius is seen as a frail 77-year old, and
the guard is a brute, so it's more believable.)
to mention that Tiberius was right on the verge of death
from disease. That he had made it as long as he did
is something of a miracle. Whether Caligula actually
had him smothered is open to conjecture, too. It's in
"I, Claudius," which is a great book, but
it's still a novel. I knew that's where they were stealing
the smothering scene from when I saw it, but it doesn't
make nearly the sense in "Gladiator" that
it does in "I, Claudius," as you mentioned.
The worst thing about "Gladiator" is that
it's such an unoriginal pastiche of other films, shows,
and books about ancient Rome.
you please put some pictures on your website of cholesterol.
For example a picture of a clogged artery. Thanks.
happened? Did you put "Cholesterol" into a
search engine and get my short story "High
Cholesterol"? This is actually a movie site,
in case you're interested, and there will never be any
photos of clogged arteries. Sorry.
do you think about Michael Moore's documentaries? I
just saw his new film Bowling for Columbine last night
and thought it was pretty great. It's been awhile since
I left the theater with something to think and talk
about afterward. I realize that some people think he
is just a left-wing fanatic, but I find him to be a
very bright guy that offers alot to the political conversation.
Based on his previous films (and his latest book) I
assumed the film would have a very anti-gun bias, but
I have to give him credit for not coming to any easy
answers in the film. Yes, we have a huge problem in
this country with the availability of guns, but many
other countries have the same availability with much
lower gun-related deaths, so there must be something
deeper going on here.
I think the film is definitely worth checking out. Hopefully
the distributor puts it out in a few more theaters.
I was looking at a map of where the film is playing
and much of the midwest and south is still not showing
it. Including Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Louisiana, and
our sniper's homestate of Alabama. Apparently there
has been some problems with the distributor in terms
of getting a decent release. Maybe if it keeps doing
business they will have to put it out in more places.
I really think it's a film that needs to be seen by
alot of people. At the moment though, the country seems
more interested in seeing Jackass: The Movie.
haven't seen it yet, but I'd like to. I enjoyed Michael
Moore's two previous documentaries, and I do agree he
has a very legitimate point of view. In "Roger
& Me" and "The Big One" I think he's
making a very valid point that unchecked capitalism
can become a bad, evil thing. Capitalism is certainly
a good system, far better than most, but at a point
is goes utterly sour. When the vice-president is part
of a multi-billion dollar scam like Enron; when the
president is in bed with Saudi Arabian oil, who are
the big financiers of terrorism (then has the taxpayers
financing TV ads for the DEA saying that drugs cause
terrorism); when the CEO of a company is making $20
million a year and the average worker at the company
is making minimum wage; when highly profitable companies
move all of their operations overseas to not have to
pay American workers minimum wage, it's a system going
wrong. To me this is most apparent and egregious in
the film business, where all of their product is now
geared down to the lowest common denominator and aimed
at children because it's the easiest, stupidest product
to make. I think we need people like Michael Moore to
point out how wrong things are going. Everybody else
is so ready and eager to sell out that they'll never
speak out against the staus quo.
think that you might enjoy the reconstructed version
of GREED, as the adding of the stills is non-intrusive.
Indeed, it does look as if it were part of the original
production, and the use of the original camera movements,
per a continuity script from 1923, gives the stills
some movement. The jump-cuts may be part of the famous
hack-job that MGM did to the film when they found Von
Stroheim's second cut still too long. The original cut
was about 9 1/2 hours, then Von Stroheim cut it down
himself to about 4 hours, and finally the studio yanked
the film from him, gave it to a house editor, and chopped
it down to a little over 2 hours. I taped the film off
of TCM, along with a short piece about the reconstruction.
If you like, I can send you a copy when you get settled
in your new location.
I just learned myself that Richard Harris died. It saddens
me that most modern audiences will only remember him
as the old man in GLADIATOR. That seems to be the price
that the talented, Shakespearian-trained British actors
have to pay for stardom and big American paychecks.
Most audiences won't remember Michael York's performances
in LOGAN'S RUN or THE THREE MUSKETEERS or a good number
of really good roles; they'll only know him as Basil
from those moronic Austin Powers movies. The same goes
for Christopher Lee, who spent years dividing his time
between the Royal Shakespeare Company and inumerable
cheap horror flicks, and who is now known to audiences
the world over as the wizard Sarumon in THE LORD OF
THE RINGS. My friend Joe was surprised when we happened
to be watching THE FOUR MUSKETEERS and I pointed out
Christopher Lee to him (the one-eyed Rochefort) as the
same actor who portrayed Sarumon.
Even Anthony Hopkins hasn't escaped this fate: most
people think of THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS when they hear
his name. I'm happy for these talented people to enjoy
a little financial success in their lives (as well as
escape crushing British income taxes), but dislike the
fact that it cheapens their talents, for they rarely
appear in any American venture that exercises them to
their full potential. What do you think of this?
probably do need to see "Greed" again. And
British actors didn't used to be wasted in American
films. Of course, now everyone of every nationality
is wasted in American films. But Laurence Olivier made
a lot of terrific films in Hollywood, like "Wuthering
Heights," "Pride and Prejudice," "Carrie"
and "Sleuth," to name a few. So did John Gielgud,
Ralph Richardson, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov, Jean
Simmons, on and on. The soulless corporate take-over
of filmmaking doesn't care where you're from or what
your training was.
but I had another letter's worth of junk in me. I just
saw THE CONVERSATION today, and was wondering what you
thought of it. I realize that there was already a discussion
on this a month ago, but I hadn't seen the film at that
go back and read the previous discussion, then join
in. I've got to recap it for you?
E-mail: you got it
How embarrasing, I got Harris and his phallic buddy
mixed up, eh. (I think they used to get high alot together
as young live theatre actors in London....???)
Now I'm confused-- help me out here-- which of them
would be a recurring guest on David Letterman (actually
I think it was both!), where-in Letterman would always
plead with Harris to tell the legendary tale of their
heavy drinking days, and particularly the one where
Harris (or O'Toole?) was acting on stage, hammered out
of his skull, and an uptight woman in the audience screeched-
and Harris broke character and responded, "Madam,
I may be drunk, but tommorrow I'll be sober and you'll
still be ugly." Something like that.
-I do however recall quite clearly your disdain for
Gladiator! I felt emboldened to stick my neck out and
mention that I was moved by that scene, though. I guess
I bought it because of the demonstration that Harris'
Marcus Aurelius was so weak as to barely be able to
mount his horse, and at Maximus' last meeting with him
he seemed ready to die. Combined with a quick showing
off of Phoenix's Commodus being quite atheletic in sword
sparring....well, eh, I bought the suffocation <shrug>.
I kinda thought; Super-old folks with, say, pneumonia
are weak as kittens. (Not trying to sway your mind on
it, just don't want you to think I like the film only
cause I'm some girlie-girl with a blinding crush on
Crowe or something, heh-heh although admittedly that
probably has something to do with it.)
think you're still mixing up Harris and O'Toole. I don't
know about Letterman, but Peter O'Toole appeared quite
a few times on Johnny Carson's show and he was always
drunk or completely out of his mind. As opposed to the
ease in which Aurelius dies in "Gladiator,"
I'm much more on the side of Hitchcock in "Torn
Curtain," that it's really difficult to kill someone,
if you don't shoot them or stab them repeatedly. "Gladiator"
just seemed like horseshit to me in every direction,
but that scene made me moan out loud. I'd much rather
discuss "Spartacus" or "Ben-Hur,"
which are far superior films. Or even "The Fall
of the Roman Empire," which isn't great, but far
better than "Gladiator."
read your review of 'In the Bedroom'. In effect you
said that it would have been far better had it established
itself as a revenge film from the beginning, and ditched
using the son as a lead character in the first act.
I just read the short story it was based('Killings')at
college. The story foreshadows the killing, does not
use the boy as a protagonist, and never once switches
genres. Why the story was approached from seemingly
three different directions in the film, is beyond me.
Anyway, just thought you'd be interested to know that
it USED to be a decent story. Bloody Hollywood. Take
interesting. I found it to be a painfully dull film
to sit through. Hollywood is very good at ruining stories.
just found out Richard Harris died.
Josh, your thoughts? What are your "must-see's"
of his work?
not extensively familiar with his body of work, but
I can say ironically I just caught him like, last week,
for the first time in "Lion In Winter" and
enjoyed his performance. (His reaction to his son-Anthony
Hopkins- and a very young Timothy Dalton, whom I consider
the sexiest of the Bonds, in a homosexual scandal mirrored
my own reaction! D'oh!}
I also was touched by his suffocation scene with Juaquin
Pheonix in the recent "Gladiator"-- where
director Scott talks of his lines being improvised there,
and Scott only allowing it if he would say it on his
I mustn't forget the SCTV skit based on Harris' singing
his 60's "Macarthur Park". LOL! Do you remember
that skit Josh?
It was Dave Thomas as a wigged out Harris, and the backup
singer gal was reading a book during the excruciatingly
long song, and scrambling to get to the mic when her
brief part came up. Everyone went thru their 60's phase,
was Peter O'Toole in "A Lion in Winter" (as
Groucho Marx said, "Peter O'Toole has a double-phallic
name"). I really thought Harris' death scene in
"Galdiator" was ridiculous and stupid. Juaquin
Phoenix hugs Richard Harris to death? Harris is a bigger
man than Phoenix. I must say that I really hated that
movie. Anyway, Richard Harris gave terrific performances
in "A Man Called Horse," "Wrestling Ernest
Hemingway," and "Unforgiven." I didn't
see that SCTV skit, but it sounds funny. It always amused
the hell out of me that Richard Harris, who basically
can't sing (as "Camelot" proves), had a number
one hit single. I'd say that has a lot more to do with
Jimmy Webb's song than Harris' delivery. I much prefer
Donna Summer's version.
WANNSEE CONFERENCE was from 1984? Where the hell did
I get the early sixties from, then? Oh, well, at the
advanced age of twenty-four, the old synapsis' start
Anyway, I do agree that a remake being a bad idea is
generally the norm. This is particularly true with the
shot-for-shot remake concept, such as Gus Van Zant's
reshoot of PSYCHO. Why on earth would anyone want to
make an exact, shot by shot remake of a previous film?
That's not filmaking, it's painting by numbers, something
which Van Zant, everyone's favorite gay Hollywood rip-off
artist, is famous for. That would explain why a huge
chunk of the plot in MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO was lifted,
dialogue and all, from HENRY IV part I. Shakespeare
and gay street Hookers in Seattle: only in Hollywood
is such a thing possible.
Before I start ranting (too late), I'd better change
the subject. Did you happen to see the reconstruction
of GREED that TCM aired a while back? I thought that
the method the reconstruction team used was interesting:
use the production stills that survived the massive
studio re-edit, put them on a motion table, and move
them according to the original camera directions in
the continuity script. The end result is very good;
the use of stills blends well with Stroheim's camera
directions, and looks as though it was originally intended.
Short of finding the lost footage in someone's basement,
it's the next best thing for seeing what the director
originally had in mind.
I recall you saying somewhere that GREED only interested
you historically at this point, and although I would
disagree that that is the extent of it's value, I can
see your point. Historically, GREED represents an important
cinematic experiment. Nowadays, filmakers like to say
that you can't translate a novel page for page into
a film. However, prior to GREED, no one had ever attempted
it. Personally, I think he succeeded, but no one could
say anything definite on the subject unless Stroheim
had attempted it. What do you think?
I haven't seen it in twenty years, but I was less than
impressed. I didn't like the acting or Von Strohiem's
technique, or lack thereof. My memory tells me it had
more jump-cuts than any other movie before or since.
I probably do need to see it again and reevalute it.
I really don't like the idea of adding stills into moving
pictures, which totally pulls you out of the flow of
the film. They did this to the 1954 "A Star is
Born" and now it's the only version available.
I think the director, George Cukor, would have preferred
it cut down than with stills included. Meanwhile, I
just watched the 1930 version of "Trader Horn,"
which was fascinating. Shot on location in Africa, it
actually has pretty good sound for the day, and is well-shot
and well-edited. It was a huge hit, and started MGM
off on their series of jungle films, led by the Johnny
Weissmuller Tarzan films. Sadly, though, you actually
see two rhinos get killed, as well as a lion get killed
with a spear through it's head. Still, it's a well-produced,
entertaining early talkie.
to comment I am trying to find some of your movies here
in Buenos Aires. Lunatics was edited a lot of years
ago, and is very hard to find but I did localize somebody
that can sell me one copy. I realize that Thou shall
not kill... except is edited too, but is more easy find
that bird from Malta. Anyway I hope I'll soon enjoy
your films and share them with my filmlovers friends...
By the way, I dream about you. I can't remember too
much but was about you travel in time and working for
Harry Cohn... worst case scenario? :)
See you later Josh...
I'll keep seeing the movies...
had that same dream, and you were in it. Even though
Harry Cohn was supposedly a big asshole, I still respect
him for having good taste. A lot of great films were
made at Columbia under his presidency. When he died
and was buried at the Hollywood cemetery (which is right
next to where Columbia used to be), and there was a
big crowd at the funeral, Danny Kaye quipped, "You
see, give the people what they want and they'll show
sounds interesting (is it on Netflix?), and should certainly
be better than the big budget schlock-fest of a few
years ago. I haven't seen HOWARD'S END, but I enjoyed
both REMAINS OF THE DAY and THE LION IN WINTER (indeed,
the latter is one of my favorite films; it isn't so
much a film as it is an acting duel between high caliber
actors). LION IN WINTER tickles me; I just love the
I was just thinking about remakes. It seems to me that
there are legitimate circumstances for making a film,
play or subject into a film more than once. If previous
productions were artistically unsatisfactory, or if
the director legitimately felt that his vision of the
material was different and compelling, or if a compelling
subject did not translate to a current audience in its
previous cinematic forms, then a remake would be justified.
Take the Kenneth Branagh production of CONSPIRACY, for
example. You mentioned some months back that it was
a close remake of a German film from the early sixties.
Not having seen the original, I cannot comment on it.
However, it being a film in a foreign language, many
audiences would have difficulty being absorbed into
the story, a problem which is not often well-solved
by subtitles or dubbing. In that circumstance, a skillful
remake makes a compelling topic accessible to a larger
This post is rather long, so I'll cut it short. While
most sequels or remakes are indeed "whore's films,"
there are legitimate circumstances for remakes.
Just a thought,
original version of "Conspiracy" is called
"The Wannsee Conference" and it's from 1984.
Although I enjoyed "Conspiracy" (both Branagh
and Tucci are very good) it's much more powerful in
German, and much more off-handed, too, which made it
a lot creepier and undoubtedly more realistic. But yes,
it's a reasonable reason for a remake, I suppose. Just
like "Kongo" was a sound remake of the silent
"West of Zanzibar," which is a fair reason
for a remake. Generally, though, it's just not a good
have no soul....
I'm not black, but I can keep a beat.
been 3 months for me and every script I have read made
my head hurt. If I have to read one more stupid, gross-out
teen comedy I'm going to freak out! I think I may last
about one more month and then I'm ditching this gig.
Ted Raimi interested in doing "Biological Clock"?
How much do you think it would cost? It seems like you
could make it with a relatively small budget. Detroit
must be a hell of a lot cheaper then LA in terms of
making a film. How do you plan on raising the money
for your next film? I assume that you are done with
paying for your films yourself.
likes the script and would love to do it, if I could
get the money. Presently, however, I have no plans for
raising capital. My present concern is just getting
me and my cats back to Michigan.
what! I made my first film, and it's all about YOU!
You heard me!
I hope you'll indulge me and watch it. You got 5 minutes?
I'm pleased to say I did indeed follow the 3 act structure.
(Each act takes ~30 seconds-a minute to load)
Click here to see it:
it still doesn't work, just copy and paste the URL.
on earth will you manage 3 nervous cats in the car for
hours across the country? Or are they going under the
plane??? I'm worried! You know I wish all the best for
very honored you made a film about me, although it looks
more like Woody Allen than me. That poor girl was so
cold she was blue and her neck wouldn't straighten out.
Actually, I'm flying the cats so it won't be so bad.
They'll just have one bad night. Thanks for your concern,
and the film.
read the script again and I think Ted Raimi would be
perfect for Aaron. From his performance in "Lunatics"
and the Xena eps that you directed I can tell that you
two work well together. He's the right age and he's
handsome but he's regular guy handsome. I think he would
do great things with the material.
for Kate I really like Bitty Schram. She is on the TV
show "Monk" and she was in "A League
of Their Own". I think she's really talented. Or
you could go with someone like Parker Posey. Who would
be great as Kate or Beth. More so for Beth. I really
like Maura Tierney. She's on "ER" and she
was on "NewsRadio" which she was hilarious
in. I think you mentioned something about Penelope Ann
Miller before. She would be great. What about Anita
Barone? As for Beth I can totally see Parker Posey doing
a fantastic job. I think she can do just about anything.
I also like Jamie Gertz.
thing that stood out the most for me when I read the
script this time was the duality of Kate and Beth. Beth
did everything "right". She got married young
had kids etc. But then her husband turns out to be a
jerk and she ends up traveling all the way from New
Zealand to fuck an old boyfriend. And then we have Kate
the "crazy" one. She's 35 not married, no
kids and she has a crapy job. But at least she didn't
settle. Her standards are just too high. She's the type
of person who waits for perfect situations that never
happen. Which is kind of fear based. Maybe she would
have allowed herself to fall in love with Aaron and
make a career as a writer if she didn't psych herself
out so much. I would have liked to see her start to
write at some point. It would bring a bit more change
to her character and empower her more. Other then that
it's a damn solid script. I'm doing free-lance script
coverage right now and you would not believe the shit
that I have to read. And then I have to write about
it! It makes me want to blow my brains out! But it pays
the bills. Anyway, I hope you get the cash to make it.
for the interesting suggestions. I guess I'll have to
watch some these shows to see who these actors are.
I was a script-reader for a few months, and I too was
ready to blow my brains out after not very long. I probably
read 50-60 scripts in that time and they all completely
sucked. Suddenly, my life seemed like an utter misery.
The sight of the stack of scripts on my desk sickened
me. And after about eight weeks I decided that I would
rather starve than read another shitty script and quit.
Good luck to you.
have a question. Now I realize that you are a film director
and not a film composer, but you've probably met more
film composers than I have (Seeing as how I've met none),
and would therefore be better qualified to answer this
question than anyone I know. Why is it that most of
the time, the complete score to a film is never released
commercially, except when it's, for instance, the twentieth
anniversary of the release of a film (For instance,
the Star Wars: Special Edition Soundtracks) if at all?
Thank you and good luck with all your future endeavors!
it's a really big movie or there's a hit song on the
soundtrack, most movie scores don't sell very well.
Joe LoDuca has done four terrific scores for my films,
but no one will release them as soundtracks because
the films didn't have very good releases.
have just read your essay "Bailing out on LA."
All I can say is Amen Brother Josh. I make films with
Ghostship Films (fromerly Renegade Films) based in NASHVILLE
TN. Los Angeles is the pit of despair (to steal from
"The Princess Bride") and only the desperate
(read ignorant) get in and the lucky escape. I am far
happier here than I ever was in the people's republic
of California. That, and we make the films we want to
make now. B-grade horror in the tradition of Romero.
We have mastered the micro budget film. But the best
thing is - we have fun doing it. I congratulate you
on your return to Michigan (Detroit...shudders). I am
from East Lansing myself. There must be something in
the water in lower penninsula that makes guys want to
did not have a question, per se. I just wanted to offer
you a slap on the back and best wishes. I do envy you
in one regard, though. Growing up in a circle of friends
like Bruce and Sam and the Coens that have stuck to
the dream - that is awesome. I hope you and Bruce get
to shoot the western - I'd watch it (just no Brisco
please!). We are screening our latest film "The
Ghast" (Horror/Fangore/Action) on the 30th and
are trying to finish the contract to finance "Hunters."
(As a side note I emailed Bruce about reading the script
once financed - he gave me the "ONLY WHEN FULLY
FUNDED" schpiel but we are solid for around 450k
- not bad for an indie Vampire flick.)
care, Josh. Look forward to hearing about the next project.
good luck to you. $450,000 is a lot of money to a master
of the micro-budget. I hope I have that much for my
next film. And yes, LA is the pit of despair. Where
all of these fearful, unfulfilled souls are running
around humiliating each other. Phooey. Good riddance.
Hey, don't they make records in Nashville, too?
off, welcome home to the beautiful season of construction
here in MI. I just wanted to write in to say how great
BUBBA HO-TEP's premier (of sorts) went. Bruce was Elvis,
I believed it. The crowd loved him and Ossie Davis teamed
up as well. Could you recommend any of Davis' other
work that you enjoyed? He played the part so convincingly
I even thought he was JFK!! Just an all round fun picture-
I hope it gets picked up soon. I also enjoyed Bruce's
rant during the Q & A about how it is a B movie,
but that doesn't necessarily mean bad movie. Just like
A pictures do not always mean great movies. Then he
tore apart Serving Sara.
A little while ago I read your article on how the term
genius is thrown around all too easily. I never gave
it much thought until Friday night, and you aren't kidding!
Somebody in the back of the theatre told Bruce he should
do a movie with director Kevin Smith. Bruce then asked
him why and the guy replied "Cause he's a genius!"
and many people in the audience agreed with that statement.
But I couldn't understand what makes Smith a genius.
Is it because he writes lengthy dialogue? Is it because
he steals names, quotes, ideas from other movies or
books he's liked? Somebody once said during my video
store days, that he's got the balls to mock the Catholic
religion. And...?? Does having balls to do something
make you a better filmmaker than someone who's passionate
about some other topic? I mean, sure Clerks was conventional,
I did appreciate the concept of the day in the life
of a store clerk. Many people can relate. I just don't
think he's made an interesting film since then. Same
with Robert Rodreguiz. I liked El Mariachi, the rest
of his stuff I could care less about. It seems when
filmmakers don't have money or a large crew, they have
more creativity to tell a story, in my opinion. By the
way, how much did Running Time cost you to make?
it, I haven't seen "Bubba" yet. Can you believe
it, but Bruce doesn't have a video tape. The Ossie Davis
film that immediately comes to my mind happens to be
his debut, "No Way Out" (1950), which is also
Sidney Poitier's first film, as well as Ossie Davis'
wife, Ruby Dee's, too. It's a terrific film about racial
hatred, with Richard Widmark giving one of his incredibly
intense crazy-man performances. Anyway, obviously I
not only don't think Kevin Smith is a genius, I don't
even think he's a competent filmmaker. And "Dogma"
is crapma, with a truly insipid script. "Running
Time" cost $130,000.
You laid down the law about the Hannibal Lecter movies.
I was cracking up when I read that. No more LA for you
huh? I've been out here for 7 years now and I'm seriously
considering moving back to Maryland for awhile. But
only after they catch the sniper. My parents have been
running from their cars into the grocery store, bank
etc. The little boy who got shot lives in my hometown
and he goes to my Junior High School. Scary!
another note, are you going to keep making movies? It
may actually be easier for you to get something done
in Detroit. Make "Biological Clock"! I caught
"Big Night" on cable the other night and really
enjoyed it. It was a simple and interesting story. And
Tony Shalhoub was great as usual. Have you seen it?
a safe trip back to your homeland.
I'll keep making movies. I made my first two features
in Detroit and it's a much friendlier place to shoot
than LA. And yes, "The Biological Clock" is
a logical choice to pursue. What do you think of Ted
Raimi as Aaron? And who do you see in the other parts.
name is Rosalva Villegas and I am a senior in high school.
I am doing a Senior Project on being a film director
and I was wondering if maybe you could do me a BIG favor
and be my mentor. I have been trying to get a hold of
directors for the past three weeks but naturally they
are extremely busy, and by the way have very rude secretaries.
I compeletly understand if you too are very busy but
I would really, really appreciate it if you at least
tried to consider helping me out. No hard feeling if
you can't. Thank you for your time.
be happy to answer any questions you may have, but I
don't want to be your mentor, whatever that involves.
Sadly, movies aren't an apprenticeship-type business
anymore, like the trades of yore. I wish I had had a
man, it's your website...the Lecter movies are out of
the discussion. Have you seen anything interesting lately?
I was forced to watch HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERORS
STONE recently, and rather enjoyed it, despite huge
plot holes. It seems that the film was made for people
who read the books; my friend Joe kept saying "in
the book, they did this" whenever something went
unexplained in the film. Problematic, but whimsical
is the way I would describe it. Oh well, at least it
gives Richard Harris a long-deserved payday.
The Lecter discussion brought up (obviously) the subject
of Anthony Hopkins performances. What would you consider
his best one to be?
P.S. I assume that you were offline because of your
move. If so, which did you choose, LA or Detroit? Just
never moving back to LA, that's for sure. Therefore,
yes, it's Detroit. I'm moving in a bit over a week.
I'm renting the cheapest house in one of the nicest
neighborhoods. I think Anthony Hopkins' two best performances
on film are "Howards End" and "Remains
of the Day." He's also very good in "A Lion
in Winter," his first film. I watched a film called
"Kongo" (1932) with Walter Huston as an insane
man running a jungle empire in Africa. It's a remake
of Todd Browning's "West Of Zanzibar." Very
weird stuff, both films. What's particularly strange
to me is that they're both MGM films. Before Universal
was the main horror studio it was MGM and all of the
Todd Browning/Lon Chaney pictures. That "Kongo"
was an A-picture for MGM I find odd.