THE MAKING OF PLAYING FOR KEEPS: PART 2

HOLLYWOOD – Studio Exec has got exclusive behind the scenes access to the MOTION PICTURE EVENT OF THE YEAR, Playing for Keeps.

Italian director of such visionary misspelt classics as The Pursuit of Happyness and Severn Pounds, Gabriele Muncino invited Studio Exec on set and behind the scenes, in this the second in our seventeen part series: The Making of a Modern Day Masterpiece: Playing for Keeps.

Muncino: The first day of filming is always very difficult, the actors are nervous, the crew don’t know each other necessarily and what I usually like to do is gather everyone together and make them all stand in a line. And then I run down the line and slap them in the faces. One after the other, tak, tak, tak, tak. Like that.

Jessica Biel: At first we were all quite shocked by the slaps and Dennis Quaid had tears in his eyes. But Gabriel explained that this was an old Calabrian tradition that was supposed to drive away the evil eye.  

Muncino: The slaps deter the devil, I told them.

Gerard Butler: I’m quite a masculine macho man. And so my first reaction was I wanted to punch him with my Scottish fists. But then he explained the tradition and everyone relaxed and we were laughing and ready to make the film. Without the evil influence of the evil eye.

Muncino: Oh the thing about the Calabrian tradition is bullshit, and anyway I’m not even from Calabria. No it’s just bullshit I tell them. Fact is I really enjoyed slapping their faces. It relaxes me and they are all my bitches now.

For more of The Making of CLICK HERE.

THE MAKING OF PLAYING FOR KEEPS. PART 1

HOLLYWOOD  – In the latest of our Making of series a film that was considered ‘much better than anything Stanley Kubrick did’: Gabriele Muncino Playing for Keeps.

Italian director of such visionary misspelt classics as The Pursuit of Happyness and Severn Pounds, Gabriele Muncino invited Studio Exec on set and behind the scenes, in this the first part of our seventeen part series: The Making of a Modern Day Masterpiece: Playing for Keeps.

The Idea.

Muncino: When I got involved was… let me see… about four years ago. Initially the script was called The MILF Man and we had Dennis Quaid involved, but everyone was saying Quaid’s such an asshole. And I was working with Will Smith and he told me I had to see this breakfast cereal called ‘porridge’. It was great and on the cover was this Scottish man. I said who’s that? And everyone was like, that is Gerard Butler.

Gerard Butler: They’d seen my porridge box work and I knew they all hated Quaid so I was quite confident about getting the role. But before we started filming I though I’d better get into character. Now Gabriele had said something to me about I should be a real beef cake. But he’s Italian and he has a really strong accent so I thought he said I should eat a real lot of cake. and so that’s what I did. And trifle.

Jessica Biel: Initially the script was quite offensive towards women. My understanding was that originally it was called MILF Men and had Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as a pair of fun loving abortionist who have fallen on hard times and so set about ahem, creating some business.  I know. Then Wilson tried to kill himself and then Quaid came on board and everyone was like, fuck no. Not Quaid. I’ve never known anyone in Hollywood to inspire such passion.

Muncino: So we changed the title, got rid of the abortion angle, added a kid and then made it more with it, but we’re ready to go and someone at the studio calls. You have to have Quaid. I couldn’t believe it. After all we had said, after all we had been through.

Dennis Quaid: So Gabriele and Gerard come over and they are just the sweetest people ever. One of them’s Scottish, the other is Italian. Guess which is which. Gerard was unsure about his role and he was considering the sequel to 300, which was called 150, a prequel really. And he told me he’d only do the film if I would be on hand to ‘mentor’ (I believe the word is), mentor him. Of course, I agreed.

For more of The Making of CLICK HERE.

THE MAKING OF JURASSIC PARK

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 Jurassic Park!

The Idea

Michael Crichton was working as a doctor in a hospital when he first came up with the idea of theme park with a unique selling point open to the public, but which goes disastrously, murderously when the attractions go haywire and turn against the public. Westworld became a cult classic in 1973. In 1976 the sequel Futureworld was less successful and Crichton was pleased that he had not been involved. However, he wrote to his friend Steven Spielberg in 1981 about other ideas he had:

Dear Steven,

Following on from Westworld I’ve been tinkering with a few more ideas. What do you think? Chivalrous Land: a medieval themed park where the knights go mad and start jousting the visitors to death. Mermaid World: An underwater theme park where the mermaids go crazy and start killing the guests.  Dickensian Land: A Charles Dickens themed fun park where chimney sweeps go crazy and being attacking the guests. Or Gangster Park! Or Zombie Land. Or Dinosaur Land. Tell me what you think.

Dear Michael,

I like the last one, but change the title.

Dear Steven,

T.Rexcellent!

Filming

Hawaiian island of Kauaʻi was used for location shooting but a large Typhoon hit the island the first week of filming. The dinosaurs that Steven Spielberg insisted on using for authenticity proved difficult to control and when one of the handlers was eaten Spielberg came under criticism for editing the footage of the incident into the prologue of the film. Spielberg wrote to close friend Tom Stoppard during the filming and giving an insight into the hectic schedule.

Hi Tom,

The problem is that we have to do everything backwards. I wanted to use kids for the roles of Lex and Tim, but they cost too much money. Luckily Sam Neil knows this New Zealand guy Peter Jackson, and he’s got me a couple of Hobbits to play the kids. They take direction and with a filter and lots of make up can pass for children. The main action sequence is going to be the Brontosaurus attack. I just have to talk with the science people who have expressed concerns and then we’ll be good to go.

Hi Tom,

Turns out the Brontosaurus doesn’t exist, and if it did it’d be vegetarian, so what to do now? I suppose we’ll go with the T. Rex which I was trying to avoid. It’s such a cliché. I know, maybe I can put a Marc Bolan song over it as a ‘joke’.

Post Production

John Williams received the following note from Spielberg before he began scoring the picture.

Hi Johnny,

Here I think we really need an old fashioned matinee score. Something bombastic and awe inspiring. I don’t know I was thinking. Bom-Bah-Bom-Bah-dii-dee-diii-diidddy-deee La-la-la-di-diddy dee, Bom-Bah-Bom-Bah-dii-dee-diii-diidddy-deee La-la-ladee, diddy dee. What do you think?

For more of The Making of CLICK HERE.

 

THE MAKING OF THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY

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 The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The Idea

Sergio Leone had always wanted to make a film about a treasure hunt. Growing up in Mussolini’s Italy, treasure hunts were actually banned by the Black Shirts, as were blue shirts, yellow shirts and salmon pink trousers. So following the success of his first two ‘Dollar’ films, Leone brushed off an old idea he had been toying with for years. Three rogues during the American Civil War  all go in search of an evasive wagon of gold. He provisionally entitled it Il Magro, Il Grasso, Il Marito, which translates as The Thin, the Fat and the Husband. He wrote to Dario Argento, a young film critic at the time and wannabe film director, and explained his idea:

The idea of my western is the purest concept I have come up with, now that I’ve run out of Akira Kurosawa films to copy. I’ve based it on an old Italian folktale my grandmother used to tell me. The thin man is always alert and wily, but the fat man is more charming and gregarious and everyone helps him, but the married man is the best because wherever he goes his wife follows him shrieking loudly. It is going to be very funny. Claudia Cardinale will play the wife I’m sure. Or Sophia Loren!

Casting

Despite his initial wish for Claudia Cardinale to play the married man’s wife, the role proved so difficult to to cast that the script was changed and the film retitled Il Magro, Il Grasso, Il Scapolo: The Thin, The Fat and the Bachelor. Thoughts turned to Clint Eastwood who – although his relationship with the Italian director was difficult – was still keen to make one last contracted film. Leone wrote to his American star:

Clint, I have a lovely role for you. It is perfect. You will get to wear that hat you like. You know the cowboy one! Yes, I knew that would bring a cheeky smile to that cheeky face. The role is Il Grasso, he is a gunfighter, but his real love is blueberry pies. Oh, he eats so many. The audience will see a whole new side to you, but listen you must put on some weight. I would say quite a few kilo. Fifty at least.

Clint responded cautiously:

Dear Sergio,

I read the script and it is a good one. I’m just not sure about my character. May I suggest that instead of being fat he is relatively slender. And instead of being garrulous, he is a man of few words. And instead of eating pies, he squints and shoots people. remember when you wanted me to wear that frogman’s suit in Fistful of Dollars, you remember telling me ‘A Poncho!? That’s ridiculous!’ but who was right in the end. Trust me on this.

Production

Now called Il Magro, Il Buono, Il Brutto (The Thin, The Good and The Ugly), the filmmakers moved to Franco’s Spain which would stand in for the US West. Eli Wallach, who had never worked with Leone before, was cast as The Magro. He wrote home to his mother:

Spain is nice. Hot as you’d expect this time of year. Clint is very quiet. A fitness nut, but you know. Nice. The film looks like being a bit of disaster. I’m clowning around as best I can but frankly I don’t understand the script, I don’t understand the direction, the story. Lee Van Cleef is here playing the Thin. I swear to God it’s a stupid film. Yesterday, Sergio made us stand around in a cemetery all day while he filmed our fingers and then the bridges of our noses! Europeans!

Post-Production

With the film complete all that remained was to add the score and overdub the dialogue. Clint told Roger Ebert in his documentary Clint and Sergio:

Sergio didn’t speak English and I spoke no Italian. And the script was often a mess. We knew roughly the scenes, but he didn’t have the dialogue properly translated or translated so badly that it was meaningless. So Sergio would just get us to count up to a number out loud. You count to 7 Clint, now Lee you count to 5, now Clint to 3 and so on. Then we’d overdub with actual words.

Ennio Morricone had completed the score early but the last touches were required the iconic ‘AIIIIAIAIA’ that would begin the score and the film. This was provided accidentally by the Maestro himself when he closed the piano lid on his own fingers. The sound of his shriek of pain had been inadvertently recorded and by looping it and manipulating it electronically Morricone added a strange and comic vibe to the film.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly was released in 1966.

for more of The Making of CLICK HERE.

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.

 

BARRY MARBLES ON THE MAKING OF STRAW DOGS








Barry Marbles worked for forty five years in the British film industry, working his way up from tea boy to gaffer, via key grip. And now he is prepared to let you in on the behind the scenes of what he personally has never called the Dream Factorium. This week he lifts the lid on one of the most controversial films of the seventies: Sam Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs.


When Mr. Peckinpah came over to England he was famous for two things: slow motion violence and hating women. It also turned out he didn’t like men none to much neither. 

I was preparing the lighting rig inside the cottage where much of the film was done and it was very complex. There were quite a few of us on the job and in comes Mr. Peckinpah wearing a bandanna and shouting and hollering all sorts of profanity. The air turned quite blue. And this in front of the apprentices. 

So I stood up and I said, ‘Mr. Peckinpah, I shall be needing you to lower your voice.’ 

Of course, that set him off even worse and he started effing and jeffing and calling me all the names under the sun. The air turned quite blue. So very gently I took his hand as if to shake but then quick as a light I slapped it on the kitchen table and drove the Philips head screwdriver right through the back of his hand effectively nailing it to the wood.  Oh, he did scream and rock about and beg and scream again, weeping and begging me to stop grinding at it the way I was doing. 

‘It happens quite quick in real life, doesn’t it sir?’ says I.


After that we had what I would call an understanding and the rest of the shoot went very smoothly.