BREAKFASTS WITH ASSHOLES: 22. KEN LOACH

LONDON – Ken Loach arrives in the dining room of the Ritz, London, surrounded by his massive entourage: security guards, PAs, hair consultants, spectacle polishers and Socialist Worker newspaper vendors.

He’s talking on his iPhone with Bruce Willis while waving his minders to push away the delegation from Venezuela. ‘Ciao, ciao, Brucie, M’Wah!’ he says as he plumps down into the chintzy armchair reserved especially for him and gives me a jaded look over. ‘I suppose you’ll do.’

So Ken, could I just ask…

I say, call me Mr. Loach old boy! One doesn’t do informality. One would think we were at Claridges! The very idea!

I’m sorry Mr. Loach.

Think nought of it, old fellow. Garcon! Garcon! Yes, quails eggs and caviar. Pronto.

So, Mr. Loach how do you feel about being awarded the Golden Bear Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Berlin Film Festival. 

Delighted, obviously. Delighted. T’is a gong and even at my age one feels very humble to be recognized. Plus the Jerries are about as far from those blasted Israelis as it’s possible to get. So there’s that!

You have made a career of making politically challenging films.

It all started when I was passed over for Dr. No and that talentless hack Terrence Young got the gig. I thought it’s the bloody Carry On films all over again. I had been slated to direct Carry On Nurse but that tart Gerald Thomas slipped in. After that Dilys Powell said ‘Do political’. I said ‘Dilys dear, I don’t my Whigs from me Harold Wilson’, but I read a copy of the Morning Star and quicker than you can say Trotsky I’d made Kes.   

And you never looked back.

I was always trying to get something else. I would have loved to have made Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines or Sex and the City 2, but by the time my name had got about I was pigeonholed. All I could do was stuff about the grubby working class, workshy layabouts to a man. Sitting around drinking tea, and trying to diddle their betters out of their land and wealth.  

So you’re saying you don’t actually agree with the political point of the view that your films seem to subscribe to?

Karl [addressing one of his security team], Karl, pray, strike this hack roughly about the top of the head.

Ouch.

No, young man. I do not subscribe to the Bolshevik nonsense that some read into my films. My films, for me, represent a social comedy of the stupidity of the hapless lower orders. Raining Stones: idiot wants a dress for his daughter’s confirmation. The Wind that Shakes the Barley: bog thick Murphys knocking seven shades out of each other for who knows what. Land and Freedom: ditto but with Spaniards.

 Some have said that your next film might be your last.

Indeed, though if Sarah Jessica Parker wishes for me to help her with Sex and the City 3 I will be more than glad to proffer my services. 

Jimmy’s Hall will be released in 2014 and Sex and the City 3 in 2015.

SAVING MR FLUFFER

On the eve of Saving Mr Banks esteemed character actor Sir Edwin Fluffer recalls his experience of the Making of Mary Poppins:

 
Ambling down Hollywood Boulevard one morning I had the great pleasure of bumping into the always delightful Julie Andrews. Heavenly as Julie is her language comes straight from the gutter, and once she’d reminded me quite forcefully to watch where I was going I asked her if she was working at the moment.
It turned out that she’d just started filming Mary Poppins with my old pal Dick Van Dyke. Everyone in the industry knows that it was yours truly who came up with Dick’s stage name (Penis Van Lesbian just didn’t look right above the title), so I thought I’d pop down to the studio and see how he was getting on.  
 
Even to the untrained eye it was obvious that Dicky was struggling a bit with the accent, so I offered to help out with some dialogue coaching. I won’t say that he got it straight away, but certainly within a quarter of an eye he was chirping away like a cockney sparrow! Even Michael Caine was fooled, but he was still drinking in those days. 
 
Sadly the critics were unconvinced and to this day Dick’s performance is roundly mocked by young and old alike. I didn’t ask for thanks. I certainly didn’t ask for the black eye I got from the director, and the whole thing left me with a nasty taste in the mouth, for which I still blame Julie. 
 
I promised myself there and then, on Lassie’s grave, that I’d never interfere with another actor’s performance ever again. And then Sean Connery rang to say he’d been cast as a tough talking Irish cop in The Untouchables. But that’s another story…

To read more ruminations from Sir Edwin Fluffer – the only actor to ever be knighted twice – Click Here!

FLUFFER THE HIRSUTE

As one gets older it’s perhaps inevitable to lament that things ‘weren’t like that when I was young’. I know that times change, even if Nicole Kidman’s facial expression doesn’t, but what I miss most about the good old days is the lack of really hairy actors. 

Burt Reynolds was good in his day, Robin Williams tries his best, but it’s a dying art. 
 
I remember when the studios used to hold a competition each year to decide which actor was the hairiest, and even if Claudette Colbert hadn’t been disqualified for cheating it was almost inevitable that dear Yul Brynner would win the prize. The tragedy was that although Yul was really quite unbelievably hairy, he was always typecast as a bald man. Some would accuse him of ploughing a narrow furrow, but he did find some variety in the parts he was offered. 
 
There was bald cowboy in The Magnificent Seven, bald king in The King and I, bald robot in Westworld. It was just a shame that audiences never got to enjoy the full splendor of his flowing locks. He could spend hours washing his hair and even longer combing it. If you didn’t know what to get him for Christmas, a hair brush was always gratefully received as he could wear out three or four in a single week. 
 
I still remember sitting next to him in make up as he prepared for his role in The Sound and the Fury. His assistant had just finished carefully fitting his bald skull cap when the director told him that the part he was playing would require him to have a full head of hair! He didn’t have time to take the skull cap off and comb his own hair, so he just grabbed the nearest toupee, stuck it on his head, and ran onto the set! 
 
John Wayne was furious as he was going to use it in Rio Bravoand had to wear a hat instead. Johnny had no right to get quite so angry as what we didn’t know at the time was that he was wearing one of Ann Miller’s bras under his shirt. But that’s another story…
 
Please follow @SirEdwinFluffer on Twitter as he’s far too polite to ask.

FLUFFER FINDS A PARKING SPACE

Much as I enjoyed my years under contract at Warner Bros, I have to say that the parking at the studio was appalling. It was fine if everyone kept to their own space, but you only needed Danny Kaye to turn up and the whole thing went to pot.

I liked to park near the refectory because the trees would shade your car from the worst of the afternoon sun, but Danny didn’t care: he’d just park where he wanted! 

I think it used to help that he gave Humphrey Bogart a lift to work most mornings, because as soon as you wound down the window to tell him to move Bogie would threaten you with a sound pistol whipping. It got to the point where Elisha Cook Jr started riding his bicycle in before Jack Warner would agree to do anything about it. 
There was room behind the lot where they used to store some of the bins and Jack said we could move them nearer the back door of the kitchen, so Danny started parking there instead. The only problem was on Wednesdays, when the garbage men came to empty the bins and we’d all have to move our cars again to let the lorry in. It was quite embarrassing to be in the middle of shooting a love scene then have to start fumbling around in your pockets for your car keys. 
At least that’s what I told Jane Russell I was doing! 
I also told her it was Spencer Tracy stealing underwear from her washing line, but that’s another story…

FLUFFER AND THE MOUSE

During my early years in Hollywood I was honored to work for all the major studios as well as Paramount, but my favorite of all was the famous House of Mouse.

I was absolutely thrilled when Walt Disney himself chose me to play Prince Charming in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, and on day one I turned up on set with a spring in my step and a parsnip in my codpiece, ready for action.
I can’t remember who was playing Snow White, and to this day I wouldn’t recognize her with her clothes on if you know what I mean, but the dwarves were all great chaps. What they lacked in height they more than made up for in enthusiasm. That said, get a few drinks in them and there were all sorts of problems!  

It all kicked off one day in WC Fields’ dressing room. He was doing an hilarious drag turn as the wicked witch, but was furious to find that Margaret Hamilton had pinched his hat and was wearing it on The Wizard of Oz! The dwarves weren’t going to put up with that, and I’m somewhat ashamed to say that I stole a car and drove them over to Warner Bros in order to get it back. 


To cut a long story short, there was an almighty punch up with the Munchkins, Fields pulled Judy Garland’s pigtails, and I let the monkeys loose in Jack Warner’s office. They completely trashed the place! The good news was that we got the hat back, the bad news was that Warner Bros had no sense of humour at all and decided to press charges. Three of the dwarves got six months each for affray, and I was lucky to receive a suspended sentence. 


Luckily by that time Uncle Walt had bought a new pencil and decided to release Snow White as an animated feature instead. But that’s another story…

INSIDE FLUFFER’S STUDIO (PART 4)

Despite leaving nearly three messages Sir Edwin’s agent still hasn’t heard anything about his client’s offer to appear on In The Actor’s Studio.  Here are just a few of the pearls of wisdom the screen veteran hopes to share with a small but appreciative audience about making a living in this business he still calls ‘show’.

8 Science Fiction

It’s very difficult to appear in a science fiction movie and not end up with egg on your face. The costumes are ridiculous, the dialogue is utterly meaningless, but they do attract the kind of audience that wear t-shirts and so don’t think twice about paying $25 for your autograph. The thing to remember about pictures set in space is that everywhere’s called Planet This or Zone That. When I was filming The Black Hole and the cast started staring at me because I’d forgotten a line I’d just say ‘I’m nipping out to the Smoking Sector: anyone want a cigarette?’ and walk off.  It worked every time. At the wrap party Maximillian Schell gave me an ashtray, which I like to believe was his way of saying ‘I wish I’d thought of that’.

9 Lee Marvin

When Lee Marvin asks you to go for a drink after work it’s probably best to say no. If you’re working the next day there’s every chance you’ll be late on set, which causes no end of problems. The release of The Dirty Dozen was delayed by quite some time because Lee and Robert Ryan went out for a quick one and didn’t get back for eighteen months. And that was only because the authorities in Mexico were very understanding. Lee put his time in jail to good use creating a beautiful corkscrew with an ornate carved handle that he used to scratch off his lottery tickets.

10 3D

3D is another one of these newfangled ideas that’s actually been around for so long that everyone forgot it existed in the first place. After the success of Creature From The Black Lagoon I was cast in the sequel, Raccoon From The Rocky River, playing a Canadian Mountie who gets bitten by a radioactive raccoon. Sadly it wasn’t as much fun as it sounds, and several takes were ruined because I kept bumping into the set. It wasn’t until years later that Sophia Loren told me you don’t actually have to wear the glasses while you’re filming.  Sometimes I wish it had been pointed out at the time, but life’s too short for regrets. That said I am sorry I ran over Linda Hunt, but she ran out from behind an ice cream van and I didn’t have time to break.

BREAKFAST WITH ASSHOLES: 21. RON HOWARD

LONDON – With a new film in cinemas – the Formula 1 racing thriller Rush – I jumped at the chance to sit down with the Angels and Demons director Ron Howard to discuss this project and his career.

Little did I know that he was on a strict color coordinated diet and worse yet today was a blue day.

So Richie, what first attracted you to Formula 1 as a subject for a film?

I suppose it was simply reading Peter Morgan’s wonderful script. You see we’d worked already on Frost/Nixon and… wait a second.

What?

Did you just call me Richie?

No. 

Okay. I think … where was I?  Oh yeah, the script was really good so I latched onto that. 

When you were directing the actors did you have any difficulties?

No, not at all both Daniel Bruhl and Chris Hemsworth are very talented actors. And extremely professional, though I am sorry to hear that Chris and Miley Cyrus have split up.

I heard that Daniel at one point during the driver’s meeting scene refused to sit on a stool and you had to tell him ‘to sit on it’.

I don’t remember that incident specifically. As I say, there are times a director has to put his foot … oh wait I see what you’re doing.

What?

You’re just…

I heard the schedule was very tight. What was the typical week?

Erm… Well, it was tight as a matter of fact. It was a lot of shooting and a lot of hard work. We’d start Monday…

Tuesday Happy Days!

Oh this is bullshit. I came here to do an interview. And you’re just trying to make a bunch of lame Richie Cunningham references. 

Best work you did Richie.

I made Cinderella Man, Goddam it! And Apollo 13 and Far and Away. The Da Vinci Code… You know now that you think about it Happy Days was a lot of fun. Okay fair enough. Ask away.

Well, actually that’s all we have time for and these Gorgonzola cornflakes are beginning to repeat.

No come back, seriously. I can tell you what Henry Winkler’s really like. And I got a hilarious story about the time Potsie potsied Joanie. Hey…


For all the Breakfasts CLICK HERE.

INSIDE FLUFFER’S STUDIO (PART 3)

Sir Edwin has kindly offered to waive his usual fee to appear on Inside The Actor’s Studio. While he waits to hear back from the producers here are some more of his tips on how to become a screen legend without anyone even noticing.

5 Awards
Once you’ve been acting for a while someone will want to give you an award for it. 

The only problem is that there are more actors than there are awards, so they dangle the carrot by giving you what is called a ‘nomination’ first. Basically you, the man who plays the blind fellow, the chap who’s usually quite funny but isn’t in this one, and some other old queen all get nominated for the award. You roll up to the bash in your best bib and tucker, then the prize is given to whoever was in the film that was based on a true story. The ceremony itself goes on for hours, but there is a free bar afterwards.

6 Cameos
If you’re too busy to be in an entire movie, offer to do a cameo instead. This means you only have to film one or two scenes and you should be finished by the time the bar opens.  It may not get you the billing that you’re used to, but they’ll try and make up for it by putting ‘and’ or ‘with’ in front of your name. The director will still want to get his money’s worth from you, so he’ll encourage you to show off a bit, and you can always help out by doing a funny voice. Whenever I’ve got to do a cameo I like to imagine that I’m Mickey Rooney in Breakfast At Tiffany’s: it never fails!
7 Glasses
As a young man I never wore glasses, but when I was cast as short-sighted Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope in Hardback Harry I had to get used to them quite quickly! It was Jimmy Durante who showed me how to operate them.
Basically you have to balance the glasses on your nose with the lens in front of your eyes. There are two hooks that you can put over your ears to help keep them on, but be very careful! One false move and you can have a very nasty accident: just ask Sammy Davis Jnr. Nowadays I have to wear glasses all the time, but only ever seem to get cast as characters who have perfect 20/20 vision! As soon as I take them off I start bumping into the set, which is why I now like to play people who sit down a lot. Dr Stangelove or Born On The 4th Of July would’ve been ideal for me. When Raymond Burr died I was hoping to take over as Ironside, but the suit was too big.

INSIDE FLUFFER’S STUDIO (PART TWO)

Over the years that I’ve spent doing this acting lark I’ve picked up all sorts of hints and tips which have proved absolutely invaluable when rolling up on set two hours late and slightly hung over without having even looked at the script yet. I’m still waiting to hear back about my offer to do a stint on In The Actor’s Studio, but in the meantime here are some pointers to get you going.

3 Katherine Hepburn

Sometimes you’ll be on set acting away when you’ll notice a woman staring at you.  She’s called Katherine Hepburn, and although she’s a darling once you get to know her the initial reception can be a bit frosty. She once pulled a knife on Clark Gable and we had to wrestle her to the ground. All I’ll say is never borrow money from her.

4 Horses

When I look back at some of my early cowboy pictures now I can’t help but laugh. Even to the untrained eye it’s quite obvious that I’m sat on the horse the wrong way ‘round! In those days the studios didn’t have time for a second take so we just muddled through and hoped no-one would notice, but the results were sometimes less than perfect. It was John Wayne who put me right. I’ve watched hundreds of his films and you never see him sitting backwards on his horse so he knew what he was talking about: ‘Neddy,’ he said, ‘the tail goes at the back!’ And do you know what? He was right! If you’re stuck out in the desert with Cecil B. DeMille doing one of those Biblical epics the same rule also applies to Deborah Kerr and camels. But that’s another story…

INSIDE FLUFFER’S STUDIO (PART ONE)

Over the years that I’ve spent doing this acting lark I’ve picked up all sorts of hints and tips which have proved absolutely invaluable when rolling up on set two hours late and slightly hung over without having even looked at the script yet. I’m still waiting to hear back about my offer to do a stint on In The Actor’s Studio, but in the meantime here are some pointers to get you going.

1 Costume

Before you leave your dressing room take a good look at yourself in the mirror. Your costume will provide you with important clues as to what sort of film it is that you’re appearing in. A Stetson and a pair of leather chaps points to a western. If they’ve painted your face green, it’s science fiction. Skirts are a tricky one, but it’s nearly always Shakespeare. As a rule if you’re wearing sandals as well it’s probably Julius Caesar, if you’ve got stockings on then you’ll be in one of those comedies with all the cross dressing.  Look out for Errol Flynn, because if his knees get cold you’ll never hear the end of it.

2 Animation

If you walk out on set and there are rows of chaps sat around drawing little pictures of animals in then you’re doing a cartoon.  You don’t need to dress up or worry about standing in the wrong place, as all that happens is you go into a booth, read the lines in a funny voice, and fingers crossed you should be in the bar by 3 o’clock at the very latest. Walt Disney’s the chap you want to speak to about this sort of thing, but don’t let him make you help with the colouring in. 

SPIKE LEE ATTACKS LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER

HOLLYWOOD – Today, Spike Lee launched a scathing attack on Oprah Winfrey and Lee Daniels for their new film, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, which stars Forest Whitaker as a butler who works for a succession of eight Presidents, living through the turbulence of the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights movement.

The Malcolm X director fumed: “He just picks stuff up.”

Speaking EXCLUSIVELY to the Studio Exec, Lee yelled:

Lee Daniels’ The Butler kisses butt when it should kick butt. Forest Whitaker just stands around doing stuff for a bunch of white folk in the White House. There are no alien invasions, no asteroids hurtling towards the Earth and no terrorists kidnapping the President, who should be Morgan Freeman by the way. You can be sure as shit if Whitaker was Steven Seagal or Bruce Willis he’d spend more time kicking ass and less time picking stuff up, or just standing there.  

Equally outraged was black activist Carrie Fisher, who wrote in her blog Something Fishery:

Lee Daniels’ The Butler‘s bullshit. We see the White House and we’re waiting. Whitaker turns up to do an ordinary job, a servant’s job basically, but we think he’s probably ex-Special Forces. It’s tense. We wait. One president, nothing, then two presidents. What the fuck? Three presidents, four? In the end there are eight Goddam presidents and not one time does the White House get infiltrated by terrorists. Not once. Or blown up by an asteroid. It’s bullshit.   

Harvey Weinstein, whose Weinstein Company produced the film, issued the following statement: 

We were expecting a lot more from Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Frankly we were misled. Once Lee Daniels said that Lee Daniels’ The Butler was set in the White House there were three ways it could go: asteroid, terrorists, or the President’s dog. I’m sad to say that Lee Daniel’s The Butler falls down on all three counts. We shall be seeking legal compensation. 

Lee Daniels’ The Butler 2: With Terrorists will be released in 2015.

CHRISTOPHER WALKEN OVERDOSES ON IRONY

CHICAGO – Veteran and award winning actor Christopher Walken was rushed to hospital early this morning, having taken a suspected overdose of a deadly cocktail of irony and self-parody.”

He’s been doing SNL sketches for years,” said pal, Jon Voight, “But they have this Funny or Die stuff, ‘Cooking with Christopher Walken’, and that stuff is fucking lethal.”
Family members knew that he had been working with the Muppets, but thought that it was for back pain and were not overly concerned. In the past, Christopher Walken has also appeared in a Todd Soldenz movie.

“Now,” said Robert De Niro, “we can see that for what it really was, a cry for help.”

Having accrued a body of cult films like Dogs of War and The King of New York, and some all-out classics like The Funeral and The Deer Hunter, Christopher Walken has more recently been taking the piss.

Alan Arkin is expected to be playing all his roles until Walken is well enough to return to serious acting.

Jersey Boys will be released in 2014.

FLUFFER AND STANLEY KUBRICK

I really don’t know why so many actors complain about Stanley Kubrick. Much like Alfred Hitchcock, he was quite simply the best director who has ever lived, and so was William Wyler.

We first worked together on a little picture called Spartacus, which sadly never got the commercial or critical success it really deserved. I was a Roman or something, and so spent all day sitting around in a toga with my sandals on waiting to be called, but it was well worth the wait. He’d put his arm around my shoulder, give me a couple of pointers like ‘all you need to do Neddy, is walk down the steps, turn to Olivier, and give the line: action!’ 

And that was it! You were off! 
I’d walk down the steps, turn to Larry, do the line, Kubrick would shout ‘cut!’, give me the thumbs up, and that was it, on to the next scene. 
I know that some people complain that he’d make them do endless re-takes, but I like to get it right first time, every time. You really do get to the bar a lot quicker that way. 
It’s only because I kept calling Olivier ‘Larry’ and not ‘Crassus’, that my scenes couldn’t be used in the final cut. If truth be told it was quite a relief, as to this day I can’t believe that anyone’s watched Spartacus without thinking that it must be the worst film they’ve ever had the misfortune to yawn their way through. I tried to add some comedy to the final scene, by waiting until everyone yelled ‘I’m Spartacus’ then shouting ‘and I’m Sir Edwin Fluffer!’, but Tony Curtis was furious and pushed me over.  
Peter Ustinov thought this was hilarious and told the story over and over again in his one man show for many more years than anyone cares to remember. I tried to make him shut up by hiring a hitman, but that’s another story…

FLUFFER TARZANS IT OUT


It’s easy to be scared when you see a lion running toward you, but that’s when I remember what Angela Lansbury always used to tell me: just stand still, look it straight in the eye, and in a commanding voice shout ‘no’! 
Whenever I see her these days Angie just laughs and says she was only joking, but with the benefit of hindsight I now believe it would have been a much better idea to take to my heels and run for it. Luckily for yours truly I was stood there braced for the mauling of a lifetime, when who should roll along but dear old Johnny Weissmuller

We didn’t have time to exchange our usual pleasantries, but I couldn’t help but notice that he’d opted for a rather smart if somewhat casual loincloth despite the quite inclement weather. With one hand he grabbed me around the waist, with the other he took hold of a handy vine, and displaying the athleticism for which he was so rightly famous swung me away from the jaws of terror. 

Needless to say I was tremendously relieved, and as I gave him a peck on the cheek to say thank you he glared at me as only a Romanian Olympic swimmer can.

“You no Jane!” he grunted. 

“Yes I do,” I said and began to tell the one about the time I bumped into her at the bar in Claridges. 

To be honest with you I think Johnny was feeling the cold in that loincloth and he didn’t want to wait around to hear the end. He grabbed another vine, swung off, and it was left to dear old Cheetah to apologise for his shoddy manners. I’m no Rex Harrison so I couldn’t pretend to understand a single word he said, yet somehow I got the impression that he thought we should launch a campaign to abolish Wednesdays in Spain. 

But that’s another story…