MISSION IMPOSSIBLE UNDERCOVER REPORT

The Exec is proud to present Mission Impossible Undercover Report. The Exec’s intrepid reporter, Miles Cravat has masqueraded as a lowly runner on the set of the upcoming Tom Cruise blockbuster. He now brings us this breathtaking expose of life on the set of one of the most anticipated films in years. He has travelled into the heart of darkness, at great risk to not only his health but also his sanity to bring us this two part Mission Impossible undercover report.

 

Mission Impossible Undercover Report – Apocalypse Cruise

 



The Exec Bungalow, shit, I’m still only in The Exec Bungalow. Everyone gets everything they want. I wanted an assignment, and for my sins, they gave me one. Brought it up to me like room service. It was a real choice assignment. When it was over, I’d never want another one. I gotta stop listening to The Doors. If you’re not 14 years old or stoned, they’re terrible.

 

Never Get Out Of The Bungalow

 



I reported to The Exec’s main office at the Bungalow. He ground his cigar in his teeth as he spoke of rumors that Cruise was filming out there without any decent restraint. Totally beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. I was to pick up his trail at Warner Bros Studios in Hertfordshire, about 20 clicks north of London. I wondered why The Exec was eating roast beef on such a hot day, but he told me to concentrate and keep my damned fingers off his roasted potatoes.

 

With Extreme Prejudice

 



I took a job as an Assistant Location Manager for the Mission Impossible location production office in leafy Hertfordshire. I was pretty sure someone could hook me up with an on-set runner’s job, so I could get in the shit. It was there that I met Sally Kilgore. She had been promoted from 2nd Unit Production Supervisor to Assistant Script Supervisor. Kilgore got the re-writes from McQuarrie’s office and was responsible for distribution. She was airborne man. Airborne, those crazy motherfuckers could get you in anywhere they goddamned pleased. They’d drop in rewrites that would screw everything up. They didn’t care about anything; catering, logistics, not a damned thing. As long as they could fly in and drop their shit on everyone, they were happy. And Sally Kilgore was the happiest of them all.

 

Smells Like… Catering Trucks

 



Kilgore said she could get me on set as a runner, but it would mean going up the M1 motorway. The shit can get pretty heavy where the M1 meets the M25. But Kilgore said she’d get us through. You could tell she really thrived on productions. Her eyes lit up at the thought of last minute changes to shooting schedules, corralling the extras or rewrites. She loved the rewrites. And she knew how to get us through the traffic, weaving in and out of the queueing vehicles. She would lean out of the window and shout ‘GET SOME’ as we flew by. She didn’t give a shit if it was Full Metal Jacket or Apocalypse Now, she was insane.

 

Not The Redux

 



We stopped for gas at a service station about 2 clicks north of Luton. A real shit hole. It was there we met a French guy who talked for hours and hours about colonial legacies. What a drag. We’ll skip that bit and save it for the Redux. We then left the M1 and headed into deepest darkest Buckinghamshire. There were rumors of Cruise turning up there and setting up camp. We headed into the heart of darkness.

 

To be continued…

THE MAKING OF PLATOON

HOLLYWOOD – In our new series ‘The Making of…’ we go behind the scenes, using previously unseen letters, diaries and documents, of a major motion picture landmark of cinema. This week Platoon.

The Idea.

The original idea for Platoon came to Oliver Stone when he was a schoolboy in 1956. He writes in his unpublished autobiography A Stone’s Throw:

I was a dreamy kid. I’d look out of the windows and wonder about movies I’d like to make. I don’t know if it was seeing something on television but I really wanted to make a film about a young marine who goes to a South East Asian country and becomes torn between two rival Sergeants. Of course Vietnam wasn’t going to get going for some years, but when it did I knew that this was the perfect opportunity for me to research the script that I still intended to write and so that’s what I did.

Casting.

Martin Sheen was originally approached to play the role of Chris Taylor but after several years had passed with Stone unable to secure financing Sheen pulled out. This is the letter he wrote to Oliver Stone:

Hey Ollie,

I’m sorry it has to end this way but I simply can no longer commit to the role of ‘Chris’ in your film, Platoon. I’m getting too old for the role and as written it resembles too closely my part in Apocalypse Now. I feel guilty about leaving you high and dry so I have a suggestion to make and I hope you will take it in good spirit. I have a son who is a very accomplished actor and physically resembles me in some way. I wouldn’t want to be accused of nepotism so I’d insist you audition him properly, but it might be a solution for you. I’ve included Emilio’s address should you want to go with that.

Production.

The filming took place in the Philippines which was then under the rule of the dictator Marcos. Condition were tough and Tom Berenger, who played Sergeant Bob Barnes complained of Oliver Stone’s commitment to realism in this letter to his girlfriend Lisa Williams:

Ollie is one tough son of a bitch. He sent us through basic training so that we would move like soldiers and achieve a basic sense of realism, but now we’re doing the fight scenes, we’re beginning to worry. He wants to use live ammo! He says squibs always look fake. I have to shoot Willem [Dafoe] and goddamn it, if he doesn’t actually want me to shoot him! When I questioned him, he yelled at me to ‘respect his process’ as he reloaded my MK 47. What could I do? I’m not going back to the soaps! I aimed to miss vital organs, but give Ollie his due, the dailies look great and we’re all very happy. Willem has been flown back to the states for surgery. Apparently the bullet is lodged in there quite tightly.

Post-Production.

Music would play a fundamental role in the success of the film and Stone commissioned Georges Delerue to score the picture. However, the composer of such iconic French films as Jules et Jim and Le Mepris would run into difficulty with his American director. He wrote to Francois Truffaut:

These Americans! Sacre Bleu! as we French say all the time. The emotional core of the film is when the Sergeant is shot but reappears chased by the enemy and dies in a Christ-like pose. M. Stone told me to write something like Samuel Barber’s Adagio. It’s a saccharine piece of twaddle but what am I going to do. I try my best but every time I play him my work, he says ‘no! I want it like the Barber piece’. Finally I told him to just use the Barber piece and that’s exactly what he ended did. I should have stayed in Paris, but now at least I’ve got the job of doing the music to Three Men and a Baby.

Platoon was released in 1986.

HARD BOILED BABY SPEAKS OUT ABOUT MAKING OF JOHN WOO CLASSIC

HONG KONG – The baby who co-starred with Chow Yun Fat speaks out for the first time about the making of John Woo classic Hard Boiled.

‘X-rated action,’ says Chow Yun Fat’s super-cop Tequila in the John Woo classic Hard Boiled, covering the eyes of Ling Mi his new born co-star. Now Ling Mi for the first time has spoken out about the making of the classic in an autobiography called ‘Little Piss Pants’. He writes:

A lot of people assume that I was about a few weeks old, a month tops, but alas, due to a strange degenerative disease, I was actually 27 when John Woo cast me in the role of Piss Pants. I was out of college and a little bit at a loss what to do with myself. At the stage Hong Kong’s film industry was thriving and I got a job as a focus puller. I worked on A Better Tomorrow and it was then that I became friends with Chow Yun Fat. We liked drinking and playing cards until late into the night. In fact, I was the one who was nicknamed Tequila for obvious reasons.

When Chow got the script to Hard Boiled and saw it was set in the latter half in a hospital, he had them write me in a role. And John Woo was happy to cast me because I would get around all sorts of union rules about using babies.

All of my scenes were action scenes and so it was very loud. Luckily I had Chow Yun Fat to play against. It helped we were friends but those sets were still dangerous. Even a squib going off or a gun firing blanks can injure you. The gun barrels get hot and there are bits and pieces flying everywhere. I realised quickly that I didn’t actually have much to do. It was Chow who literally carried me. So I’d get drunk. It helped with nerves. And it led to the famous scene where I pissed my diaper. That wasn’t in the script. When John saw what was happening he was furious. He shouted and yelled. But Chow had improvised and an iconic moment was born.

Little Piss Pants is available on Amazon and all good bookshops.

 

THE MAKING OF TRAINSPOTTING

HOLLYWOOD – In the latest in our celebrated Making of… series, we look at the behind the scenes drama that went into the making of Danny Boyle’s cult hit Trainspotting.

Pre-Production

Danny Boyle first read Irvine Welsh’s novel while in hospital having a tennis ball removed:

I’d been playing a doubles match with Alec Baldwin, Ridley Scott and Helen Mirren and boy does she have a powerdriver of a serve!  I’d heard this book was great but I thought that I hated anything to do with Wales and the hobby of trainspotting seemed a dull subject to approach cinematically. Little did I know that Welsh was actually Scottish and Trainspotting was actually about heroin. Ewan McGregor and Robert Carlyle were already on board and once the tennis ball was out I was raring to go.

Production

Ewan McGregor describes the process:

Filming often is very glamorous but I’m afraid Trainspotting was just as grim as it looked. Not only was it cold and our surroundings were often ugly but some of the cast were less than friendly. I had to do a series of films with a dead baby and Jesus the baby who played the dead baby was one of the most arrogant and self-involved people I’ve had the misfortune to work with. As for the infamous toilet scene… Danny thought it would be hilarious if everyone contributed to the set decoration, if you know what I mean. It wouldn’t be so bad but we delayed the shoot because of an electrical fault and this was the hottest July in recorded history.

Post-production

Irvine Welsh had a say on the music:

The music was very important to me and I had written the book with a playlist in mind. I was very into the Spice Girls at that period as well as Take That and New Kids on the Block, but no one wanted to hear me. Even to this day I can still hear some of those songs when I watch the film. Danny decided they didn’t go and he put the music in place. I was furious at the time, but I think in the end he was probably right.

For more of The Making of… CLICK HERE.

 

THE MAKING OF KNIGHT OF CUPS

HOLLYWOOD – In the latest in our celebrated Making of… series, we look at the behind the scenes drama that went into the making of Terrence Malick’s new film: Knight of Cups.

The Idea

Originally Terrence Malick wrote a three volume novel entitled Knight of Cups and Saucers and showed it around to some close collaborators. Sean Penn read it and immediately advised that Malick should make it his next film.

This was before To the Wonder and I thought Knight of Cups and Saucers would be a perfect film for him to do. For once he had an actual book. He had all the dialogue written and the descriptions were just so cinematic. It was funny and moving. I wept like a baby at various points. It was so touching and I could tell that it was quite close to Terry. I told him, make this film.

The script writing process took a long time and so Malick went ahead first with To the Wonder, but even as he filmed that, whenever he wasn’t giggling at Ben Affleck, he would sit down adn work on the script for his follow up film. Ben Affleck says:

He let me read an early version of the script. It was great. It made me really wish I wasn’t making To the Wonder. I’ve always admired Terry’s early films and that’s why I agreed to work with him. Why I wanted to. It was Days of Heaven and Badlands that I wanted to be in. And this To the Wonder stuff felt like amateurish garbage. He didn’t tell us where to stand and Olga just kept dancing all the time. I thought she was on mushrooms or something. The Knight of Cups and Saucers though was a solid piece of work. It had a great story and was very satirical about Hollywood.

Production

Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett were hired on the strength of the script and production began. Christian Bale tells the story of his first day on set:

We gathered around and we all had to bring our scripts and the novel that we had all been given copies of. I thought we’ll have a table read or something. But Terry takes all our scripts and books and what not and he shreds them in this big industrial shredder. Then he takes handfuls of the shredded script and he gives it back to us in little bags and he says ‘okay here are your lines’. We thought it was a joke at first, but we had to bring these bags every day to the set.

Natalie Portman talks about Terrence Malick’s technique:

It is so liberating as an actor to have a director who says to you: ‘There is no such thing as a fireproof wall’ and then you have to play the scene. We had a love scene and Terry would shout things out like ‘his face is made of bees’ and ‘Christmas is like Easter but with more chocolate’. Often I didn’t know what to do and he would shout dance and I would dance. Or wander about. We would be intently acting our roles and doing what we could with the material and I noticed that Terry and Emmanuel were in the corner and Emmanuel was filming Terry’s belly button. I mean it was literally navel gazing. Genius.

Post-Production

It has often been the case that Terrence Malick films have taken a long time to come to the light following the end of filming.

Jack Fisk long time collaborator speaks:

Terry often finds the film in the heaps of footage that he has taken. He listens to music and he has the actors read out pages and pages of voice-over and somehow he finds the film. Very much like a sculptor might find a statue in a block of stone.

Freida Pinto spoke about her role in the film:

Once filming was done Terry would call up time and time again and we’d go into the studio and he’d have me whisper the voice-over. Some of it was stuff he had written, but most of it was the Little Book of Calm by Paul Wilson.  I read that book about five or six different times and it’s all in the movie. Other actors were reading greeting cards and Christian Bale read the whole of a Sven Hassell novel but that never made it into the finished film.

For more of The Making of… CLICK HERE.

THE MAKING OF THE THING

HOLLYWOOD – In our ‘The Making of…  Series’ we turn our attention to the classic science fiction/ horror remake: John Carpenter’s The Thing.

The Idea

John Carpenter had wanted to make another Science Fiction film following his debut Dark Star in 1974. He made Escape from New York in 1981 and then immediately started work on The Thing I Like About You, a musical comedy written by Burt Lancaster’s son Bill Lancaster. Kurt Russell, who had just finished working with Carpenter playing Snake Pilsen in Escape, was immediately cast as the shoes salesman who becomes hopeless involved with a millionairess and a Sheik. It was obvious to Russell that Carpenter wasn’t inspired by the story:

To begin with, he immediately had us move the production from New England to British Columbia. Before we knew it all the women and the musicians got fired and the script was changing every day. It soon became obvious  that John had an old Science Fiction film in mind but everything was on the hoof. The funny thing was – if you’ll excuse the pun – the title didn’t change. And in fact the first full cut of the film still had the title card the The Thing I Like About You. It was actually a note from a Universal Exec that had us abbreviate it.

Production

Filming in sub-zero temperatures was a challenge for the cast and crew as John Carpenter revealed in his autobiography ‘Everything Looks Like a Nail’:

We would film from seven in the morning and go into the night. But the next morning I would find Kurt Russell had frozen solid. At first we rushed him to hospital but the doctors assured me that he was perfectly preserved and no damage had happened. Apparently it happens all the time in Canada. So it became a thing. We’d send a guy to Kurt’s room an hour early so he could defrost Kurt. Then we’d film and that night Kurt would freeze again. Someone suggested we should move him to room with heating, but what with the freezing and unfreezing Kurt didn’t have to eat for the whole shoot and we saved a lot of money on rice and beans.

The special effects to create the monster were particularly difficult. Stan Winston was called in to do some work:

Most of the work was done before I even got there but there was one particular creature they couldn’t get right. And they were very pushed for time. This was described in the script as a dog. Now I assumed the dog had been taken over by the alien, so that’s what I created, but when I showed John he said no it has to look more like a dog. I went away, had a think and then did it again. By the third or fourth time, I decided as a joke just to show him a real dog. He said that was perfect and in the end that’s what appears in the film. Just a dog!

The ending of the film proved particularly difficult and John Carpenter was forced by the studio to shoot an alternative ending which has Kurt Russell waking up and realizing the whole thing was a dream.

Reception

The film was released in a double bill with E.T. and proved to be both a financial and critical failure. Vincent Canby in the New York Times complained that his seat wasn’t comfy and the popcorn he was given was slightly stale, whereas Roger Ebert wrote: ‘Watching John Carpenter’s The Thing, I had this air current on my neck. I don’t know if it was the air-conditioning or what but by the time I came out I had this really sore neck. It was irritating.’

Now the film is a cult classic and the air-conditioning has been fixed.

The Thing was released in 1982.

For more of The Making of… CLICK HERE.

THE MAKING OF THE PASSION OF CHRIST

HOLLYWOOD – In the latest in our celebrated Making of… series, we look at the behind the scenes drama that went into the making of Mel Gibson’s Science Fiction Horror film “The Passion of the Christ”.

The Idea

Mel Gibson had for years been a life-long fan of tables and had wanted to make a film about the inventor of the table. However, he found financial backing hard to come by so fell back on his second project, a film about Jesus. He wrote to his father, a devoted right wing Catholic and author of the book: “The Pope is NOT Catholic”, describing the project:

At last pops, I’m getting the chance to make a film a film about a Christ. I haven’t chosen which one yet but I’m sure I’ll pick a good one.

His father replied:

A Christ? What on earth are you babbling about boy? There is only one Christ! The Christ! The Christ! And while you’re at it don’t forget to mention that he invented the table.

Mel was overjoyed that now his dream project had combined and was finally receiving the financing that would make it possible.

Production

Finding Jesus had been a difficult process but Mel finally found his star when he saw a man being horsewhipped in an S&M party. ‘It was the realism I was looking for,’ Gibson said. ‘I bought Jim a drink and it turned out, as well as adoring S&M he was also a committed  Catholic as well.

Jim Caviezel has already made a film with Terrence Malick – The Thin Red Line – but was happy to be making another as he feared he might not even appear in Malick’s finished film. He describes the shoot:

We shot The Passion of The Christ in Rome. It was physically a hard shoot. I wanted it to be as realistic as possible and so me and Mel were certainly on the same page. All that blood you see on the screen that’s my blood. It got so we had an ambulance standing by and they’d give me a quick blood transfusion so we could continue with the beating and the whipping and the nailing and the bleeding. My only disagreement with Mel, creatively, was at the end of the movie. He wanted that I come out of the cave and there to be a couple of Jewish elders there, those we’d seen at the beginning of the film in the Temple making crosses and what not. And I’d kind of rip their heads off. We actually filmed the scene, but wiser heads prevailed.

Reception

Although a massive commercial hit, The Passion of the Christ was considered controversial in some quarters for its anti-Semitic undertones. The Pope, however, was a big fan and wrote an encyclical letter in which he stated:

Mel Gibson has used all the arts of the cinema to recreate the grand suffering of Our Savior Jesus (the) Christ.  It’s like Braveheart on a cross, Mad Max meets St. Matthew’s Passion. Five stars.

The Passion of the Christ was released in 2004.

For more of The Making of… CLICK HERE.

THE MAKING OF TRIUMPH OF THE WILL

BERLIN – In the latest in our celebrated Making of… series, we look at the behind the scenes drama that went into the making of Leni Riefenstahl’s political documentary “Triumph of the Will”.

The Idea

Mountaineer and film maker Leni Riefenstahl had dreamed for years of making a film with famed comedian Charlie Chaplin. She wrote him a number of letters including this one:

Dear Herr Chaplin,

My name is Leni Riefenstahl. I am a German film director and my work includes such hits as Das Blau Licht. I’m mad keen to do a film with you and seeing that I’m German and you have more than a passing resemblance to our Fuhrer, what do you say you come over and we kick around a few ideas? Hmmm?

However, Chaplin was unresponsive and so Riefenstahl wrote a letter to the proposed subject of her film:

Heil Hitler,

My name is Leni Riefenstahl. I am a German film director and my work includes such hits as Das Blau Licht. I’m mad keen to do a film with you and seeing that we’re German and you have more than a passing resemblance to our Chaplin, what do you say you come over and we kick around a few ideas? Hmmm?

To Riefenstahl’s surprise Hitler responded immediately by telegram:

WONDERFUL IDEA STOP ALWAYS WANTED TO BE IN THE MOVIES STOP MUCH MORE FUN THAN ZE POLITICS STOP BUT IN FUTURE WRITE IN GERMAN YOU KEEP WRITING IN ENGLISH AND I WANT YOU TO STOP

Production

Leni Riefenstahl was given carte blanche and all the resources of both the Nazi Party and the German state. She could use aerial shots and miles of film footage as well as a cast of thousands of obedient fanatical extras. However, Leni was not happy as can be seen from this diary entry.

June 4th, 1934

Filming again today all day. Got home exhausted. Stopped over at the Kino to check out the rushes and I can’t make head nor tail of it. No matter what direction I give, Adolf insists on improvising his own business. He siegs away all the time and then looks stern and glares with those eyes. It’s all very well but he looks nothing like Chaplin when he’s doing that. He doesn’t have Charlie Chaplin’s lightness, nor his warmth. Plus he refuses me to film him out of uniform. I did one day with him wearing the bowler hat and walking with the cane and it was fantastic, but for some reason he felt it beneath his dignity and had the negative destroyed and shot my first AD. NOt all is lost. Speer’s set design is impeccable.

Reception

Triumph of the Will was a massive hit in Germany. Not so much in Austria until the Anschluss, it performed poorly in Poland until 1939 when it picked up and France until 1940 when it became a huge hit. Any country where the film failed to perform soon became a target for Adolph Hitler’s armies. The Riefenstahl was satisfied with the film although she rued having to abandon the Chaplin story-line for making a more straightforward film about Hitler and the Nazis.  However, she was furious when in 1940 Chaplin released The Great Dictator which she claimed was essentially her idea. She attempted to sue Chaplin but with the ongoing Second World War the legal papers were never properly served.

The Triumph of the Will was released in 1934.

For more of The Making of… CLICK HERE.

THE MAKING OF ALIEN

HOLLYWOOD – In the latest in our celebrated Making of… series, we look at the behind the scenes drama that went into the making of Ridley Scott’s Science Fiction Horror film “Alien”.

The Idea

Dan O’Bannon had been writing Science Fiction scripts for some time. He had scripted and had a small part in John Carpenter’s debut movie “Dark Star”, but O’Bannon wanted to branch out and make a realistic drama about truckers driving across America with a cargo of coal. He wrote to his agent John Stutter:

Dear John,

Please find enclosed the treatment for the new screenplay “Alan”. The story is simple. A trucker called Alan is taking a cargo of coal across America. I see this as very much “Convoy”, but with coal and not as escapist as that film. Let me know what you think.

However, Sutter had not properly read the treatment and his note to O’Bannon was apologetic.

Dan,

Sorry to tell you this but I just glanced at the title of your treatment and got straight onto the phone with Fox. I thought the title was “Alien”. I think it was an ink smudge. Bad news, when I read the treatment I thought it deadly dull. Good news, Fox are sold on having a script from Dark Star writer Dan O’Bannon entitled “Alien”!

A disgruntled O’Bannon got to work and he re-used several characters from his coal convoy story along with the grungy feel he had been aspiring to but he resolutely refused to add an Alien which saw the script taken out of his hands and given to Ronald Shusett who added the Alien. Walter Hill’s production company got involved and a British commercials director who had just made an atmospheric Napoleonic drama called “The Duellists” was also interested.

Pre-Production

The key to the film was thought to be the creature of the title and Jim Henson, the puppet master who created the Muppets, was called in. Following Ridley Scott’s instructions to ‘go dark’, Henson produced the face-hugger, the fetus and the final creature in one 48 hour bout of creativity. However, fearing for his child friendly reputation he hired Swiss artist H.R. Giger to present the work as his own, a decision Henson would bitterly regret for the rest of his life.

Production

Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright,Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto were all cast after Ridley Scott got stuck in a lift with them in a Casino in Las Vegas and was impressed by the way they reacted diversely to the claustrophobic emergency. In keeping with the sense of immediacy Scott attempted to maintain a sense of spontaneity throughout the fourteen week shoot which took place between July 5 and October 21, 1978. Scott gave the actors only selective pages of script and would frequently spring surprises on them. The chest-burster scene was so disturbing that Yaphey Kotto pissed himself with fear. Harry Dean Stanton recalls:

The urine was everywhere and we were skidding around on it and almost falling on our asses, but Ian and John came from the British theater tradition and so they carried right on. And that was the take that Ridley used. Some of the looks of disgust on Veronica’s face for example, are because of the urine on the floor as much as the special effects.

Later filming the final sequence, Sigourney Weaver would shit her pants, though this was later revealed to be a prank she played on the rest of the cast and crew.

Reception

The advertising campaign for Alien was widely seen as one of the most successful of the late 70s although there is some controversy about who came up with the final tag line. Salman Rushdie claimed that he was the author and Gabriel Garcia Marquez said the line was his own. Scott settled the argument when it was revealed that Julian Lennon, son of Beatle John Lennon used to say to his father every night before he went to bed, ‘Remember dad, in space no one can hear you scream’ which would cause some of John Lennon’s most violent ‘bad trips’. The film was deemed a success and in 1987 the library of congress hired a video cassette of it and forgot to take it back the next day, which is considered by some to be the highest mark of honor.

Alien was released in 1979.

For more of The Making of… CLICK HERE.

THE MAKING OF THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

HOLLYWOOD  – In the latest of our ‘Making of…’ series, we look at Irvin Kershner’s Science Fiction epic The Empire Strikes Back.

The Idea

In 1970 George Lucas wrote a short science fiction novella entitled ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. He gave it to his old film teacher Irvin Kershner to read. The older man was very impressed. He wrote this note to the film school graduate:

Hi George,

Just read your short novel and I have to say it bowled me over. I love the characters and the universe you have created. Princess Leia and Han Solo are particular favorites. And the two robots R2P0 and C3D2, hilarious! I tihnk it works well both as a work of fiction and as a possible treatment for a motion picture. My only worry is that these characters are thrown together in a very random way. I didn’t feel there was much of a build up to the revelation that Luke Skywalker is Darth Vader’s son, and why are such unlikely people like Han and Leia in each other’s company in the first place? I figure you need some more backstory on screen.

Lucas took the admonition so much to heart that he wrote the screenplay of Star Wars as a prequel to his original novel. He found out to his dismay that the studios preferred the prequel to his original darker vision. He wrote to fellow film maker John Milius:

I wanted to make a real adult piece of Science Fiction with real characters who we can understand and feel for but they want the more simplistic gee-whizz stuff so I guess that is the price I’ll have to pay. They even want me to change the names of the robots. Isn’t that stupid?

Milius advised him to shelve his novel and make the film that the studios wanted, but once it was made and was a spectacular success, Lucas returned to his original plan and his original reader as director.

Production

Filming took place in 1979 and included location shooting in Norway and studio work in England, UK. Norway proved as problematic as Tunisia had for the first film and there was a terrible snow storm that made filming almost impossible. Kershner wrote in his autobiography, Kershner Writes Backs:

We were trying to grab shots here and there. We filmed a scene of Harrison Ford from the safety of the hotel with poor Harrison stumbling about in the snow outside. He froze solid and we were worried he might be dead, but eventually he thawed out. However, once George heard about this he started scribbling and changed the script to include the carbonite freezing scene.

The Dagobah set was particularly unpleasant with Mark Hamill complaining that the British crew would often take shits in the swamp ‘as a joke. It was disgusting. The British sense of humor left a lot to be desired, but once I came back from lunch and there was Carrie Fisher dropping heat herself.’

Hamill also found the actor playing Yoda difficult to work with.

‘He was very resentful and would take offence at even the slightest reference to size, or ears, or the color green. People think of him as this wizened old guru, but in reality he was a twisted alcoholic asshole who would reduce the script girl to tears just for kicks.

Reception

Upon its release, The Empire Strikes Back was hailed as a masterpiece. It won a bucket of Oscars as well as critical recognition from all the international film festivals including Locarno, Berlin, Venice and Cannes. Spurred by the success, Lucas went on to write Return of the Jedi. However, his creative powers were in sad declined due to his addiction to bubbly gum which he had succumbed to while filming in England. ‘He was getting through twenty packets a day,’ says Carrie Fisher. ‘At one point he couldn’t talk because he would just keep blowing bubbles. It was around this time he told me that he had actually written some other prequels for Star Wars, but he said they were horrendous and he would only ever contemplate doing them if he became a venal hack with no sense of artistic quality.’

The Empire Strikes Back was released in 1980.

For more of The Making of CLICK HERE.

RUMORS OF CANNIBALISM ON THE REVENANT SHOOT

HOLLYWOOD – Rumors have been spreading that Alejandro Inarritu’s follow up to Birdman The Revenant, starring Leonardo diCaprio, has run into difficulties with cannibalism widespread among the crew.

Based on a true story, Alejandro Inarritu’s new film The Revenant is a tale of survival set in the wilds of North America. Leonardo diCaprio plays 19th Century explorer Hugh Glass who after a bear attack is left for dead by his own team and has to battle through the wilderness to survive. Shot in natural light by legendary cameraman, Emmanuel Lubezki, Inarritu’s vision has gone over-budget and over-schedule causing co-star Tom Hardy to drop out of The Suicide Squad due to scheduling problems. An insider on the shoot said:

The film is certainly epic and I think everyone will be impressed both by the performances and by the quest for authenticity and originality in the director’s vision.

However, some are claiming that Inarritu went too far in the quest to bring his epic story to the screen.

A crew member spoke to the Studio Exec EXCLUSIVELY on the understanding that he would remain anonymous:

We were shooting in natural light and we were doing very long takes and we were way up in the north of Canada in the depths of Winter and so we had four hours of usable light. We would block and rehearse everything so that we could get the most done in the short time we had but then Alejandro would change his mind and we’d have to improvise some kind of solution.

However, things got gradually worse. Martin Yass continues:

 

The catering wouldn’t show up. The first day that happened we were very relaxed. We’re a veteran crew and there’s a lot of respect for the director and his creative team, but when catering didn’t turn up for another two days then we ate someone from the wardrobe department. That night there was great shock and consternation, and we were promised that there’d be tacos for everyone the next day but sure enough the next day came and after a really difficult set up – it was the bear scene – there was no sign of the tacos and we ate the gaffer.

News that the production was in trouble had the producer arrive on set only to be captured by Inarritu and burned in a huge wicker effigy of a bear.

We weren’t forced to dance around the burning effigy while the screams rang out and up to the frozen and indifferent stars, but we were definitely encouraged to.

Even the principal actors began to feel the pressure.

Leonardo diCaprio is convinced that he will win his long overdue Oscar with this film and so  he sees Alejandro as his road to that long-awaited goal and will do anything he says. I think Alejandro knew that and he used his power to get Leo to do some outrageous things. At one point Leo has to fight with a native American and Alejandro is shouting off camera: ‘Scalp him, scalp him!’ Leo did just that. Fortunately, that night there was no catering and so we could eat the extra and in that way conceal the evidence of what would otherwise have been a serious crime.

Inarritu himself however is unrepentant:

So we ate some people and scalped a guy, maybe burned one of the producers in a massive wooden effigy of a bear!? So what? When I was making Birdman I had Edward Norton crucify himself with real nails to get into his role. I don’t care about it. As we say in Mexico: if no one gets eaten, you’re not really trying.

The Revenant will be released later this year.

THE MAKING OF THE TRIP TO ITALY (PART 2)

LONDON – Following on from PART ONE (Click here), we conclude the making of The Trip to Italy, considered one of the most difficult films ever made.

Michael Winterbottom:

Rob became very impatient with the film making process. For us to get the Batman meal we needed them to talk and eat for seven hours straight. They were both going out to vomit and then coming back again. Rob’s Michael Caine impersonation just wasn’t working, so at one point we decided just to get Michael Caine to come in and do ADR for us.

Steve Coogan:

To be fair we did use Rob’s script for the Batman dinner.

MW: Rob also wanted to have sex in the film as a way of making his character more interesting, but now it was Rob who was insisting on realism.

Rob Brydon:

The way I saw it was that if I was going to carry my own bag in the getting to the hotel scene, then when it came to the lovemaking I was going to damn well do that as well.

SC: He just became this egotistical monster. God knows what his wife is going to make of it when she sees the film. I mean it was very awkward.

MW: By the end of the production neither Rob nor Steve were talking to each other. As we moved south to Rome and then Naples, the weather got better but we increasingly had difficulty with organised crime. Some of the scenes were interrupted by gunfire and had to be totally redone. Also Don Cicco, a local heavy threatened to have Steve and Rob both assassinated if we didn’t include his son in the film. We quickly wrote a subplot in which Steve’s son comes to meet them and cast Don Cicco’s son.

SC: He didn’t speak a word of English so we just spoke around him and then over dubber everything. Which of course meant that along with being forced to use sections of Rob’s script that all the spontaneity of the original idea was totally gone.

RB: They didn’t just abandon my script they pissed on it. And I don’t mean that metaphorically. They took the script and in a scene reminiscent of  Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut they pissed on the script. That’s when I stabbed Steve.

MW: They had been fighting since the beginning. Physical fighting. They would kick each other under the table as we were filming. It was like Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky, we had to put a wooden board to divide them under the table. But after the screenplay pissing incident, Rob actually stabbed Steve with a knife. We were re-enacting the revenge scene from The Godfather: Part 2 and Rob used a real knife.

SC: I felt what can only be described as a ‘stabbing pain’.

MW: We rushed him to hospital and fortunately we managed to get him stitched up. The scene worked perfectly so I kept it in, as a dream sequence. It became obvious though that the two couldn’t work together again.

SC: Not only will I never work with Rob Brydon again, if I ever have the opportunity to do him harm, I will do him harm.

RB: I don’t know why we shouldn’t do another one. We are after all artists and I’ve already started working on the script. I see a series like the ‘Road to…’ movies.  The next one is going to be called The Trip to Afghanistan.

The Trip to Afghanistan will be released in 2016.

For more of The Making of CLICK HERE.

THE MAKING OF THE TRIP TO ITALY (PART 1)

LONDON – Despite its apparent luxury, Michael Winterbottom’s Trip to Italy was actually a highly fraught production and for the first time the principals discuss what became known as the ‘the most difficult film ever made’.

Michael Winterbottom:

The first film was done in 2010, and originally it was a TV series which we then edited together as a film. We were very happy with the result and it was easy to do. There was good food, and Rob and Steve got along well. There was no script and so we just let them develop their characters and improvise. The idea of doing the same again but now in Italy felt like getting paid to go on holiday, but it soon all began to go horribly wrong.

Steve Coogan:

I’d worked with Rob and enjoyed his sense of humor and so I was very keen to make the sequel, but the moment we arrived in Italy things began to go wrong.

Rob Brydon:

I knew that Steve and Michael were both looking at this like a holiday, but I was deeply unsatisfied with the original film. I thought it was facile and I blamed the improvisational technique so this time I wrote a script.

MW: The script was five hundred pages long. Even if we had wanted to shoot it, which we didn’t, we would have gone over budget and over schedule. We’d still be there now.

RB: I don’t think they even read it.

SC: I didn’t read it.

MW: So already there were disagreements about how to proceed. We arrived in Piedmont and the weather was atrocious. It was the worst rainfall in the history of the region.

SC: It rained and rained and rained. Most of the outdoor shots you see were green screen. And the food was just disgusting. I hate pasta and Rob is allergic to garlic.

RB: At one point, I get out of the car and I get my bag. Now, what you don’t understand just watching the film is that that bag is actually full of my stuff and is quite heavy. Michael insisted I carry it myself, for realism he said. Something you understand that as a top flight comedian, I’m not used to doing. And Michael would insist on doing take after take after take. Sometimes as many as three takes.

MW: Rob became very impatient with the film making process. For us to get the Batman meal we needed them to talk and eat for seven hours straight. They were both going out to vomit and then coming back again. Rob’s Michael Caine impersonation just wasn’t working, so at one point we decided just to get Michael Caine to come in and do ADR for us.

SC: To be fair we did use Rob’s script for the Batman dinner.

MW: Rob also wanted to have sex in the film as a way of making his character more interesting, but now it was Rob who was insisting on realism.

RB: The way I saw it was that if I was going to carry my own bag in the getting to the hotel scene, then when it came to the lovemaking I was going to damn well do that as well.

SC: He just became this egotistical monster. God knows what his wife is going to make of it when she sees the film. I mean it was very awkward.

MW: By the end of the production neither Rob nor Steve were talking to each other. As we moved south to Rome and then Naples, the weather got better but we increasingly had difficulty with organised crime.

The Making of The Trip to Italy will conclude shortly.

For more of The Making of CLICK HERE.

THE MAKING OF THE WILD BUNCH

HOLLYWOOD  – In the latest of our ‘Making of…’ series, we look at Sam Peckinpah’s unusual move into romantic comedy: The Wild Bunch.

The Idea

Sam Peckinpah had wanted to make a realistic Western for years, but following disputes on Major Dundee and his firing from The Cincinnati Kid the controversial director found himself relegated to television. Here however he plotted his return and when he was handed a screenplay for a Romantic Comedy entitled A Bunch of Wild Roses which already had William Holden and Elizabeth Taylor attached, Peckinpah seized the opportunity. Shifting the caper to Mexico, Peckinpah guaranteed he was away from the supervision of the studios and began with the aid of screenwriter Walon Green. Green notes:

Every day we would shave Elizabeth’s part. Just a line here and there then a scene. She had a house with Richard Burton in Mexico at the time so she was really looking forward to the film, but it soon became clear that her part was getting much too small. When she pulled out, we had what we wanted and we changed the title to The Wild Bunch of Roses, though we fully intended to leave off the last two words of the final cut. The aristocrat who falls in love with his son’s governess became Deke Bishop. And the film became the Western that Sam had always meant to make.

Production

Sam Peckinpah wrote to his mother to describe the difficulties:

Hi Mom,

Still in Mexico trying to get this God Damned film made. Excuse my French. This assholes (sorry) just don’t know violence. They only know violence from crappy John Wayne Westerns where someone is shot and a trickle appears from between their fingers if at all. I want them to blow holes in each other. Blood should gout out and there should be the real image of what projectiles can do to flesh and bone.

Dear Samuel,

That sounds nice. How is Elizabeth Taylor. Is she as pretty as she is in the glossies?

Hi Mom,

Yeah, she’s a swell gal, but she’s not in the film no more. The problem is no one understands what I want. I need to treat time differently. When something violent happens to you, your whole perception of time changes. I keep trying to get the actors to act slowly, so that they look like the whole thing is happening at a different speed. It works quite well, but when one of them falls over of course they can’t help falling at a normal speed. Damn it! How am I supposed to solve everything? Sorry, ma I have to go and get surgically drunk.

Dear Samuel,

Why don’t you just film them at normal speed and then slow the film down. Wouldn’t that work best? You’ll need to film it at a different speed so the quality of the image remains sharp. I’d say  a multiple camera set up with cameras working at 24 frames per second, 30 frames per second, 60 frames per second, 90 frames per second and 120 frames per second.

Hi Mom,

I wish you’d not interfere with the technical side of film making that you clearly don’t understand. We have all the actors on wires now so that when they fall we can lower them slowly. Problem solved. You women!

Reception

The critical reception of The Wild Bunch was generally positive, though the film’s scenes of graphic violence dominated early reviews. Vincent Canby wrote:

There’s this bit right, where Ernest Borgnine gets the Gattling gun and he goes ‘RATATATATATATATATATAT!’ and like the Mexicans are going ‘Arrrgh’ and then this kid shoots P’Kew! and Borginine’s like ‘Urhhh’ and someone else shoots and goes P’Kew! But Borgnine still has the Gattling gun and it goes ‘RATATATA!’ ‘RATATATATATATTATATAT!’

The Wild Bunch was released in 1969.

For more of The Making of CLICK HERE.