Tag Archives: Al Pacino

Phillip Rhys: Grounding of Flights on 9/11 Inspired ‘The Space Between’

Phillip Rhys

Phillip Rhys reports that when he first read the script for “The Space Between” — which is being shown in a special Sept. 11 presentation on USA cable — he had no idea what the movie was about.  “The opening scene has Melissa Leo working in the airport, boarding the plane, then you hear the sound of Islamic prayers, and you see a man and boy praying.  You think, ‘Oh, I know what is going to happen — when in fact, that doesn’t happen at all.”

 “The script was fabulously written by Travis Fine.  He was a successful actor — he was in ‘Girl, Interrrupted,’ ‘The Thin Red Line,’ a host of movies.  Then he left the business and became a commercial airline pilot.  He wasn’t flying the day of 9/11, but he was speaking to his captain about what that day was like, and he said, ‘My God, Travis.  When you’re told that any aircraft flying will be shot down, you can’t believe it.’  Immediately from that, he had a line in his head: ‘Are we in L.A. yet?’  And from that, he wrote the movie.”

Rhys plays the father of the boy who winds up in the care of Leo’s flight attendant character, as they’re stranded in a strange city due to the grounding of all flights.  For the British-born actor, 2011 will go down as a watershed year, professionally, as he also has a role in Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” due for Christmas time release — and is in “Wilde Salome,” a film written and directed by, and starring Al Pacino. 

 “He kind of did something like this with ‘Looking for Richard,’ an examination of the piece,” reports Rhys of Pacino’s experimental documentary, in which Jessica Chastain plays the title character.  “He did ‘Salome’ a number of years ago and recorded the peformances.  Then we were out in the Mojave desert and staged the scenes.  Salome danced, John the Baptist’s head was chopped off.  You know the play was banned in its day.  Oscar Wilde had to write it in French, the Brits were so against all of the stuff in it.  Even for today’s audiecne, it challenges people’s preconceived ideas about sexuality and desires.  It makes for great drama.”

How Will Pacino, Levinson, Etc. Get Along With The New Mamet?

David Mamet

Even as literati across the land process the information that F-bomb spewing, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Mamet is “no longer a “brain-dead liberal” but rather a “newly-minted conservative” — as he spells out in his new book, “The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture” — the next question becomes clear.   How is his self-proclaimed conversion going to impact his interactions with all his liberal show business colleagues?

Mamet is already speculating that he won’t get as much work in the future as he skewers idealogy and institutions the leftward-leaning hold dear along his caustic jaw dropper of a book tour. (NPR stands for “National Palestinian Radio,” for instance, and college is “socialist camp.”)

But how about right now? He’s supposed to be making his Phil Spector movie starring Al Pacino, Bette Midler and Jeffrey Tambor for the gang at HBO, a place not known for a preponderance of Glenn Beck fans. The yet-untitled movie about the iconic record producer-turned-second degree murder convict is in preproduction with plans for filming to take place in July and August, with Barry Levinson producing. Mamet is writer-director on the project.

Interestingly, Mamet tipped his hand last year, when he told New York magazine that he considers Spector innocent of the 2003 killing of Lana Clarkson in the case involving sex play and a gun. He told the mag that while watching a documentary about the deadly event, he found himself thinking, “There’s no way he killed that girl. He got convicted of ‘I don’t like you.’ ”

Wanna bet that Pacino, Levinson et. al are wishing they had the old Mamet back?

George Clooney, Al Pacino, Kyra Sedgwick, Eric Stonestreet and More – Backstage From the Emmy Winners’ Circle

George Clooney

George Clooney proved again how utterly charming he is, Al Pacino quoted Michelangelo, and Kyra Sedgwick talked the fifth time being the charm backstage at the 62nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards.

Maybe it was that First Amendment question that got things rolling.   George Clooney, honored with the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award for his fund-raising work including this year’s multi-network telethon for Haiti earthquake relief, was asked about the conflict between wanting to maintain some kind of privacy in his life and his belief in the First Amendment.

He said firmly that, as the son of a newsman, “I always felt that the inconveniences I have are worth it rather than infringing on anyone else’s rights.”

Alrighty then, open season!

Clooney quickly deflected a question about his date – girlfriend Elisabetta Canalis — noting that “She picked me up in Italy” and yes, she was around.

He said he’d spent part of his day shooting hoops:  “John Krasinski came over to my house with a bunch of guys to play basketball.  If you see him later, well, he’s limping.”

Illustrating anew that the stars’ biggest fans are other stars, Clooney confessed to a moment of that star-struck feeling when he found himself with Al Pacino and Tom Selleck in the green room, and “suddenly I’m 14 years old.  It’s very funny.”

He also gave the telecast its first glowing review:  “The show is really good tonight.  Jimmy Fallon is just really killing it.  He’s just really funny.”

George on Prop 8 being lifted:  “I think it’s terrific.  Now it’s unlifted again…These are things that take a long time to change…People will look back on this period of history and think of it as an archaic time.”

George on his “ER” leading lady, Julianna Margulies, presenting his award:  “It’s pretty great. We’ve stayed in touch.  We’re good friends.”

Clooney talked about the namesake of his award, Bob Hope, noting, “It wasn’t just the USO shows.  That’s something everybody remembers him for 50 years.  He was one of the great charitable actors.  He did it all, always a great sense of humor.  He was fun.  He’d just show up and do something.”  Asked what he learned from Hope, Clooney, who knew the iconic comedian personally as a young man, recalled that “What you learn from him was, he didn’t take himself seriously.  I really appreciated that.”  Clooney recalled that Hope’s wife Dolores sang with his aunt, Rosemary Clooney, on her “Salute” show, and “she was great.  She’s 101 now and really doing great.”

Noting several times that he felt a little awkward to be getting an award for doing the right thing, Clooney insisted, “I don’t particularly do more than anybody else in the position I’m in.”

Well, not everyone organizes record-breaking, multi-network telethons full of A- List celebrities to help victims of the Haiti earthquake, the South Asia tsunami and Sept. 11 — raises hundreds of millions of dollars, and then follows up to ensure that the money is being used properly as Clooney does.  But anyway, he went on, “If you have a tremendous amount of heat from the spotlight, you’re able to deflect some of it onto people who could really use it.  My dad calls it a ‘Celebrity Credit Card’ that you can try to cash in other places.”

Al Pacino

Al Pacino, who won Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie for his portrayal of Dr. Jack Kevorkian in “You Don’t Know Jack,” admitted that he felt a bit out of place at the TV honors.  “I’m just so used to movies,” he said, noting that he considered his HBO “You Don’t Know Jack” to be a movie, though it was shown on small screen.

“You’re a little lost.  You’re in the midst of all these TV people and you feel a little like you don’t belong.  You still feel like a movie person,” said Al.

Holding an Emmy had to have helped.

Pacino talked about the controversial medico known as Dr. Death for assisting suicides of terminally ill patients, saying he only got to know Kevorkian after making the movie, but “I’m so glad I got to know him.  He’s got that kind of intelligence where you can ask him anything and he’ll come up with something different from what you expected.”

Pacino lost weight to play Kevorkian, a notoriously finicky eater who has impassioned feelings against fat – yet is known to sneak sweets, according to Al.  He joked, “Gaining weight is much easier.  I wish I had to gain weight for a part.  Losing weight requires exercise, and “I’m from the Oscar Wilde school…Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until it passes.”

He told press he considers it a plus to play a real-life character:  “It’s great when you know somebody exists…It sort of frees you.  As Michelangelo said: ‘Free me of myself, Lord, so I can please you.’  I had that with Frank Serpico when I played him.  Actors like it, it’s very nourishing.”

Kyra Sedgwick

Kyra Sedgwick, who took home her first Emmy (outstanding Lead Actress for “The Closer”) in five nominations, was asked whether she’d been afraid of turning into another Susan Lucci, notorious for always being nominated but never winning.  “I love Susan Lucci,” she said.  “I kind of think you think you haven’t got a chance in hell after five times, but it’s always such a gift to be invited to the party.”

Looking amazing in her purple Monique Lhuillier gown, Kyra added that she reached the point, “I started to placate myself” with remembering that a lot of great actors never won Emmys – Martin Sheen, for instance, never won for “The West Wing.”  “I’d find solace in such things.”

With hubby Kevin Bacon in the press room nearby, sipping champagne while she fielded questions, Kyra was asked about competition between the famous couple.

“I think Kev’s won more….We don’t play the same roles…Of course there’s no rivalry.”  She says they always joke around about whether there’s enough room for another award.

Eric Stonestreet

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series winner Eric Stonestreet talked eloquently and movingly about reaction to his portrayal of a dad with a same-sex partner on “Modern Family.”  “I can tell you what people say to me – I get amazing compliments from kids of same sex families.”  He cited a “gentleman who was raised by two moms” who had recently adopted another daughter.  He thanked Stonestreet, saying that now, if bullies ever taunt his sister, “she can say, ‘Look at Mitch and Cam – you like them.”

Mitch and Cam, of course, are the couple played by Jesse Tyler Ferguson and himself.   Ferguson and cast mate Ty Burrell were also nominated in the same category, so one reporter wondered whether there’d be awkwardness on the set Monday.

“No, not at all, we had all joked around abut that before — if any one of us won whether it would be fun to punch each other in the stomach or walk out.”  However, “This was a win for the show…We love our job, so it won’t be awkward at all.”

Stonestreet and “Modern Family” executive producer Steve Levitan – who came into the press room after the show won Outstanding Comedy Series honors – both stressed that the upcoming episode in which Cam and Mitch kiss was planned a long time ago.   That is, before the controversy grew over their lack of physicality on the series.  Although, as Stonestreet acknowledged, it’s going “to look like we caved to public pressure, it was planned before.”

Asked about where he found inspiration for his portrayal, Stonestreet pointed to his mom – “spell it right” – Jamey and her excitable, emotional, passionately caring ways.  After he keeps it for a couple of weeks, he’s sending his Emmy to her and his father Vince to keep, he says.

He’s had a lot of women tell him that they identify with Cam.

Edie Falco

“Nurse Jackie’s” Edie Falco came right out and said what a lot of people were thinking about her winning as Outsanding Actress in a Comedy – over a group of funny ladies that included Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lea Michele, Toni Collette, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.   Said Falco:  “Tina Fey, for heaven’s sake.  It’s ridiculous!”  She also said, “The women I was up against are hysterically funny, talented comedians.  I’m not playing coy here.  I’m just dumbfounded by the events of the evening.”  She added, “But I’m happy to be here nonetheless.”

As for what she planned to do to celebrate?  “I hadn’t planned on celebrating.  I’d planned on going home and ordering room service,” Falco said.  But she was glad to make a change in her plans.

Tom Hanks

For those die-hards who care about the coarsening of public discourse in America today, Betty White’s “What the hell are you looking at” during the opening number of the Emmy show this year no doubt felt like a let down.  Et tu, Betty?  Later, after his “The Pacific” won the Emmy for Outstanding Miniseries, Tom Hanks dropped the F-bomb backstage.  At least he apologized right away.  He got carried away when a reporter mentioned how HBO and his Playtone production company continue to be winners, and Tom answered with “$#%-in’ A!”

Hanks also talked about the fact he was sorry there were only two nominees in the category, since there are certain stories that so well suited to the form.  He hopes “The Pacific” serves as a model.  As for what will come next from the firm that has gifted the public with a phenomenal string of artistically, intellectually and emotionally satisfying productions (“From the Earth to the Moon,” “John Adams,” “Band of Brothers” to name three), Hanks said they’re still three or four years away from unveiling any new projects.

Padma Lakshmi

When it comes to the night’s most overtly competitive personality, honors have to go to “Top Chef’s” Padma Lakshmi.  She made it clear that she’d had enough of “Amazing Race” winning “Outstanding Reality – Competition” honors year after year.  “I was really mean to the host on the red carpet.  I think I hit him twice with my purse,” she said.  “I said, ‘You’re going down.’”  And so they did – and “Top Chef” got the Emmy.

Claire Danes

“It’s always nice to see someone who is getting old with you,” said Anthony Edwards, asked about his former “ER” cast mate George Clooney being honored the same night that Edwards’ “Temple Grandin” won seven out of 15 Emmy nominations, becoming one of the huge winners of this year’s awards.

Edwards is one of the executive producers of the telefilm that won Emmys for Made for Television Movie, Outstanding Lead Actress for Claire Danes, Outstanding Director for Mick Jackson, and Supporting Actor and Actress Emmys for David Strathairn and Julia Ormond.  Getting the bio-pic made was a ten-year effort.  “I was very involved from an early part of the journey…Trying to sell a movie about a woman who is autistic and designs slaughterhouses – it’s not the easiest sell,” Edwards admitted.

Clearly, however, it was worth it.  Grandin herself was in the press room, and pointed out that the telefilm has a lot to say about autism and clearing up misconceptions about the nature of the malady.  She noted that autistics range from “Silicon Valley geniuses” to severely afflicted persons who can’t even speak.

She also said she had faith in Emily Gerson Saines, the lead Exec producer and driving force behind the film of “Temple Grandin.”  Saines’ own son is autistic, and she founded the Autism Coalition for Research and Education that’s now a part of Autism Speaks.

Said Grandin, “I knew a mom would get it right.”

Asked what made this win special, Claire Danes declared, “I don’t think I’ve ever worked harder on a performance. It was epic in its scope.  And I don’t think I’ve ever been as inspired by any part I’ve played.”  She feels that Grandin and the film of her story “encourage positive change in the world. That’s wonderful.  I don’t expect to have another opportunity like this.”

Danes admitted that her shimmery golden Armani Prive gown was “not as uncomfortable as it could be.”  She wasn’t complaining.  After all, “It’s a party dress and we’re gonna party!”

‘You Don’t Know Jack’ Puts Vaccaro Back Where She Belongs

Al Pacino, Susan Sarandon, Danny Huston, Brenda Vaccaro

It’s comeback time for Brenda Vaccaro.  She offers up a bracing reminder of just how well she can work her considerable acting chops in HBO’s April 24 “You Don’t Know Jack,” playing the sister-accomplice of Al Pacino as euthanasia-enabling doctor Jack Kevorkian.

Brenda’s performance makes her a clear awards contender, as is the whole project, as is Al Pacino.

Not that long ago, Brenda tells us, she was ready to leave the business and go live in Normandy, France, near her husband, Guy Hector’s family.  The woman who once reigned as part of the film acting elite, who burst into fame on Broadway in such vehicles as “Cactus Flower” and “How Now, Dow Jones” and in films including “Midnight Cowboy” and “Jacqueline Suzanne’s Once is Not Enough,” was frustrated, feeling forgotten.  “I was ready to get up and say ‘Screw this.  I’m sick of this business.  Let’s pack up and get out of here.’  I mean I was sick of it,” she emphasizes with her throaty laugh.

She was not forgotten, however.  Esteemed casting director Ellen Chenoweth, who was working with filmmaker Barry Levinson on “You Don’t Know Jack” brought up Brenda’s name as a prospect to play Pacino’s sister.  Brenda’s been told that Levinson’s response was “Brenda Vaccaro?  What’s she up to lately?  I really like her.”

When she got the call, “I thought it was a joke,” Brenda admits.  However, in a matter of weeks, she found herself meeting with Pacino.  Back in the early 70’s, “We knew each other well enough to say, ‘Hi, honey!’ when we ran into each other on the streets of New York.  We were really, like, close acquaintances, along with Jon Voight, Dustin Hoffman – we were all part of the same group,” she relates.

When she met Pacino again, ‘He said, ‘My God, I haven’t seen you in so many years.!  I said, ‘Al, what am I doing here?’  I felt like I was at an Italian funeral. We talked about life and love and times past.  He’s so adorable and so down to earth, a great person.”

Afterwards, “I got in the car with my husband and said, ‘I really want to work with Al.  Is it that magical?’”  It was.  She wound up acting alongside not only Pacino, but Susan Sarandon and John Goodman in the cable film.  Early response has been so positive.  “It feels good,” says Brenda.  “Everything feels good.”

HELLO, AGAIN:  Poppy Montgomery has joined the ABC “True Blue” pilot being directed by Peter Horton, with Marc Blucas and Malcolm-Jamal Warner also in the cast.   The show’s about six best friends whose very different paths converge as they seek to solve the murder of their seventh friend.  One’s a detective, another a prosecutor, another a police captain.

Montgomery, who spent seven years on the show “Without A Trace,”  is obviously ready to get back into the series game.  While she’s happy to have had the chance to branch out with other projects, she tells us she’ll always have a big spot in her heart for her old series.

“I miss that show every day.  I loved my cast and the writers and producers.  We were like a really close family,” says Montgomery.  “I still see Roselyn [Sanchez] and Anthony [LaPaglia].  We literally talk once a week or go to dinner.  When we go out to dinner together, people are like, ‘Oh my God!  Here you all are!”  They loved the show, but they always ask, ‘Is the show coming back?’  It makes me laugh.  It’s very rare you get that long of a run on a TV series,” she notes.

However, Montgomery says having a break has been nice.  “Because I have a two-year-old, it’s been great to spend time with him.  I’d been working since he was born,” she says.  “I’ve become addicted to the grueling schedule because I like to work. Now that Jackson is going to be in pre-school soon, I’m getting ready to go back to that.  I wasn’t ready for a while because I needed some time with my family and to figure out what I wanted to do next.”

THE VIDEOLAND VIEW:   Take heart, fans of “The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency.”  Star Jill Scott foresees more episodes of the critically adored BBC/HBO show that shoots in Botswana in her future.  “I think it’s just a matter of the script at this point,” she tells us.  “I’m really excited about doing more and I really hope it comes together.”  The songstress, who gave birth to son Jett last April, notes, “Initially, the only thing that stopped us from continuing was that I was pregnant.  When we were ready to go back, it was too immediate.  I had this little person and I didn’t want to take him on a 16-hour flight, because I happen to love him.”  When she does return, she says, “I might make it a longer trip to get there – stop in London and let him acclimate, then Morocco and give him a couple of days.  His comfort means everything to me.”

“Ladies” will have to wait, however.  Scott is on tour in support of her “The Light of the Sun” album, and expects to be out the better part of the year.

ANOTHER MONSTER HEARD FROM:  Preproduction is moving right along on “Lockjaw,” a creature feature that will have a group of carefree young adults running into big trouble – a part-human, part-alligator monster.  But the interesting part is that behind this toothy tale are producers Sid Sheinberg – the famous former MCA chief – and his sons, Jon and Bill Sheinberg.  Now if they find a part for mom Lorraine Gary, the flick will involve the whole family.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster

Sigourney Weaver’s Emotional ‘Prayers’ Journey Continues

Sigourney Weaver in "Prayers for Bobby" (Photo from Lifetime)

Sigourney Weaver in "Prayers for Bobby" (Photo from Lifetime)

Sigourney Weaver’s Emmy nomination for Lifetime’s “Prayers for Bobby” underscores the huge and lasting emotional impact the movie has had upon the esteemed actress.

Sigourney plays real-life gay rights activist Mary Griffith, a deeply religious woman who tried to turn her son away from homosexuality — but in the face of rejection and despair, he committed suicide.  Thus began her turn-around.  Sigourney reports that since the movie aired earlier this year, “I’ve had a number of parents come up to me on the street — or sisters, brothers, or others — and say ‘Thank-you for this story.  My daughter is gay, or my sister is gay…’

“That’s meant so much to me.  They acknowledged what we were doing in the hope it would open some eyes.  And then I read in the paper last week that the poll numbers haven’t changed about Proposition 8,” she adds, referring to California’s anti-gay marriage initiative.   Not that she would have expected the film to cause a complete shift in public opinion, Weaver says disappointedly, but she did think that collectively, all the productions, profiles and protests since the vote would have had an impact.

“I’m still amazed it got on the ballot,” she admits.  “It seems so unconstitutional, to have a referendum on whether your neighbor should have the same rights as you.”

Meanwhile, producer Stan Brooks is looking into foreign release for the movie.  “After all, we’re not the only country that has these issues.  I’ve been asked ‘When is it going to be shown in Ireland?’ ‘When is it going to be shown in India?’  I hope Lifetime keeps showing it and at some point distributes it around the world,” she says.

As for whether she’s had any flak for playing the role: “I don’t think so.  Of course I don’t go looking for trouble.  I don’t go hunting around websites looking for comments.”

She wouldn’t have time for that, even if she wanted to.  Weaver has five features on the way.  She recently wedged in an appearance at Comic-Con, where the “Aliens” star was accorded royal treatment including a standing ovation, led a discussion about women in action films, and was part of the panel discussing James Cameron’s highly anticipated “Avatar.” And she’s in the midst of making Disney’s “You Again” comedy with Jamie Lee Curtis, Kristen Bell, Betty White and Kristin Chenoweth.

Jada Pinkett Smith in Hawthorne (photo from TNT)

Jada Pinkett Smith in Hawthorne (photo from TNT)

HARMONIOUS CONVERGENCEJada Pinkett Smith is a loyal colleague, Joanna Cassidy wants us to know.  “When she works with actors, she works with them again. She’s really good that way.”  Cassidy’s currently being seen on Jada’s “HawthoRNe” series as the hospital administrator who was Jada’s late husband’s mother.

“I actually did a movie with Jada about a year and a half ago – ‘The Human Contract,’” notes Cassidy.  In that one, she played Jada’s character’s own mom.  “It was very believable.  I wore a wing that’s very curly and long, Jheri curled,” says the actress of her mixed race character.

Now, Cassidy’s thrilled with the numbers “HawthoRNe” has been pulling, declaring that “It’s a win for TNT” – and that in all probability, she’ll get to keep working with Jada.  “I love it.  I love it.  It’s very easy with her.  We have a very nice rapport and I’m able to find my place with her.  I don’t have to struggle.  It’s good that our characters are in conflict,” she adds.  “We already talked about some of the story ideas for next year – more in the vein of being competitive, possibly for some male attention.  You know how women are,” laughs the actress, who rose to fame in “Blade Runner.”  “Let’s light that fire.”

CASTING CORNER:  Casting continues on the HBO Films’ Al Pacino biggie, “You Don’t Know Jack,” with the Oscar winner playing controversial assisted suicide-supporting Dr. Jack Kevorkian, and fellow Oscar winner Susan Sarandon as Hemlock Society activist Janet GoodJohn Goodman and Danny Huston are also in the cast.  Among the secondary roles now being filled by director Barry Levinson are those of a Hispanic California woman suffering from an inoperable spinal tumor, who’ll be seen consulting with Dr. Kevorkian as police burst into her home.  She’ll dare the cops to arrest her or leave.  The woman’s husband is being cast also, as is a handsome forty-something anchor man who’ll be seen interviewing Kevorkian, a.k.a. “Dr. Death.”

AND:  You know the hunger’s got to be intense amongst actors trying to get in on “Dinner for Schmucks.”  That’s the film, due to roll in October, that stars Paul Rudd as an executive at a private equity fund, where the bigwigs delight in having dinner parties wherein they bring guests so stupid or boring that they can have fun mocking them.  Rudd’s character thinks he’s got it made when he finds the ultimate loser: an amateur taxidermist named Barry who creates religious and historical tableaus using dead mice – Steve Carell.  Of course, things turn out very differently than planned.  Now casting forces are filling in both the roles of the other “masters of the universe”-style execs, their significant others, and of course, the other hapless dinner guests.

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster