SIR EDWIN FLUFFER REMEMBERS LAURENCE OLIVIER

HOLLYWOOD – In another EXCLUSIVE extract from Sir Edwin Fluffer’s autobiography “In Like Niven!” comes this startlingly honest account of the great English actor and director Sir Laurence Olivier.

Larry Olivier had moved into a new place high in the Hollywood hills. It was every bit as grand and elegant as the great man himself, but the tree outside his bedroom window was home to a large family of rooks, and the dawn chorus would often wake him from his slumber.

 I’ve never been much of a morning person and darling Larry’s early morning phone calls filled me with dread. Following the success of Henry V and Hamlet he’d found another one of Billy Shakespeare’s screenplays to have a go at; but this time he’d decided to turn it into a musical.
 
Banquo! was to be his all singing, all dancing version of Macbeth, and he’d already started work on the score with Larry Adler. I went round for breakfast to hear the fruits of their labour. Adler took out his harmonica and played me a couple of numbers including There Is Nothing Like A Thane and Kiss Me Hecate, I cancelled my plans to go bowling with Keenan Wynn and said “Where do I sign?” 
 
We were all ready to begin filming, sets were up, costumes were made, Donald O’Connor had been booked, then tragedy.  Larry lost a tooth during a heated game of chequers with Bobby Morley and his singing voice went with it. He wouldn’t let the part go to anyone else and the whole thing was cancelled – Three months of work down the drain, and I was furious with him. 
 
Larry Adler gave me one of his harmonicas to say thank you for all my support but I could never learn to play the bloody thing. In the end, I gave it to Charles Bronson who used it to great effect in Sergio Leone’s One Upon A Time In The West. But that’s another story…

6 FACTS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT SPAGHETTI WESTERNS

HOLLYWOOD – With the release of Quentin Tarantino’s new movie “The Hateful Eight” many pig ignorant film-goers are going ‘Spaghetti Westerns? What? How? Why and Where?’

Stop, shut up, sit down and let Studio Exec blow knowledge holes in your poncho of stupid with our six fact shooter. 

The Six Shooter of Fact

1. Although called ‘Spaghetti Westerns’ no one actually eats spaghetti. They eat beans.

2. In order to make his films more commercially attractive to US audiences, Sergio Leone anglicized the Italian names of cast and crew: Leone himself became Bob Robertson, Gian Maria Volantè became John Wells, and Neapolitan unknown Diego Cazzituoi became Clint Eastwood.

3. All the gunshots you hear in the Spaghetti Westerns directed by Sergio Corbucci were created by Ennio Morricone the films’ composer who had the knack of imitating realistic gunfire, with his mouth. ‘I learnt it in the school yard, little did I know…p-choooooo,’ said the maestro.

4. Although Quentin Tarantino claims to be an expert on Spaghetti Westerns, he’s never actually seen one. He’s heard about them from a really cool friend and he thought they sounded ‘cool’. When asked whether he’ll try and watch one now, he said he ‘couldn’t be bothered’.

5. Although many people mistakenly believe that the first Spaghetti Western was Sergio Leone’s Fistful of Dollars in 1964, it was not. The first Spaghetti Western was made in 1961 in Japan by Akira Kurosawa and was called Yojimbo.

6. The trademark whistling heard on the soundtracks of all the Spaghetti Westerns was done by unemployed American actor Charles Bronson who later appeared in Once Upon a Time in the West where ironically he didn’t whistle, but played the harmonica. ‘He was a very good whistler,’ laughed Leone. ‘But a shit!’

For more FACTS on everything from this to that 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.

MADS MIKKELSEN AND CLINT EASTWOOD SIGN UP FOR IKEA: THE MOTION PICTURE

STOCKHOLM – Following a long drawn out pre-production period, Ikea: the Motion Picture will finally start filming in March.

The film plots the rise of the Swedish home furnishings giant with Mads Mikkelsen starring as Ingvard Kamprad, the founder who gave his initials to the company name. Clint Eastwood will play his father, a mystical figure who has a special relationship to the furniture.

‘To my father,’ Ingvard wrote in his autobiography Flatpack. ‘A chair was not just a chair, it was a person. If anyone sat on the chair my father would have a fit. Literally a fit. Foaming at the mouth and everything.’

Originally, it was a pet project of Ingmar Bergman, but having written and rewritten the script he abandoned it. ‘It would seem to be working but then I would get home and there would something missing,’ wrote Bergman in his biography The Eighth Seal and Counting.

Clint’s best friend

From Bergman it moved to famed Italian director, Sergio Leone, but Leone was offered the chance of making Once Upon a Time in America and so passed on the project. It was rumored that Kubrick had plans to take the project forward – declaring it ‘sublimely boring’ – plans which were tragically cut short by his death.

Finally Steven Soderbergh has agreed to film it because ‘I have nothing to do this Wednesday.’

Ikea: the Motion Picture will be released in 2015.

5 FACTS YOU NEVER KNEW ABOUT ROBERT DE NIRO (PART TWO)

HOLLYWOOD – Robert De Niro is so especially fantastic that in order to celebrate his 70th birthday 5 FACTS didn’t seem enough.

So before you can say ‘Are you talking to me?’ here are 5 more FACTS about Uncle Bobby. 

1. No one has ever seen Jack Knife, except you.

2. In The Deer Hunter, De Niro was actually supposed to be hunting boar but shot a deer by accident. Michael Cimino changed the title of the film and used the footage.

3. When filming Angel Heart De Niro got very jealous of young actor Mickey Rourke and so when Rourke asked him for advice De Niro told him to take up boxing and plastic surgery. 

4. To play Noodles, the Jewish gangster in Once Upon a Time in America, De Niro got his little fellow clipped. Director Sergio Leone found it hilarious and shot a scene of De Niro’s circumcised penis but unfortunately and ironically that scene also had to be cut.

5. Taxi Driver is often cited as Robert De Niro’s most autobiographical film. De Niro was a taxi driver when he was looking for a break as a young man. He also rescued a prostitute from gangsters and shot them up, becoming a local hero. Paul Schrader – the script writer – denies any knowledge of this and said he was freaked out by the coincidence, so much so that he hasn’t written another film since.   

For more Movie FACTS CLICK HERE!