Tag Archives: Tony Denison

Richard Benjamin’s Shifting View of ‘Portnoy’s Complaint’

Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss

Richard Benjamin admits he was surprised by the news that Warner Archive Collection was bringing out a special edition DVD of his 1972 “Portnoy’s Complaint.”    From the controversial Philip Roth novel, the film about a young Jewish bachelor/mama’s boy who confesses his lustful ways to his psychoanalyst was a stunner in its time. Among many other things, it shattered the taboo against mentioning masturbation.

     “I was surprised because it’s never come out on video in all these years — I don’t know why,” says the actor-filmmaker. He does know that response now “is more positive than the first time. People who had read the book thought it wasn’t enough like the book, and those who hadn’t read the book were shocked.”
     Does he remember any response in particular?
     “I remember a lot of people didn’t want to shake hands with me. That I remember,” he replies.
     Looking back, Benjamin observes, “Analysis was such a big deal in the ’70s. Psychoanalysis was like part of your everyday life. I will say it was helpful, but…when you’re older you definitely get wiser. When you’re younger, the things that are so important, that seem like such life and death issues — you realize they’re not, and it’s pretty great just to be here, and not worry everything. We were in an age of anxiety.”
     With Karen Black and Lee Grant, “Portnoy’s” takes viewers time-tripping to those self-examining days in a big way.
     Warner’s has also just brought out a DVD of “The Last of Shiela,” the mystery romp written by Stephen Sondheim and the late Tony Perkins and directed by the late Herb Ross, based on the real-life scavenger hunts that Perkins and Sondheim would set up for guests back in the day.
     “That one I have seen, not too long ago. It holds up because it’s a great game you can play along.” For Benjamin, it brings back memories of shooting in the South of France with long-deceased colleagues for whom he had great respect and fondness, hanging out with “the great James Mason and Joan Hackett — such a wonderful talent, gone way too soon,” and riding around exploring with buddy James Coburn, “a great screen presence.”
     But Benjamin prefers to look ahead. The multi-talent, 50 years wed to Paula Prentiss, is focused on two comedy films he wants to direct. “It’s the old chicken-and-the-egg problem: to get financing, you have to have a cast, and to get a cast, you have to have financing. But you just keep at it. Fortunately, I love both these projects.”
     AN OLD MASTER REAPPEARS: Speaking of  “Major Crimes,” the series’ Tony Denison will be hosting a unique event come Monday night (8/27) at Hollywood’s historic Greystone Mansion.  None other than Leonardo da Vinci is getting the Hollywood glamor treatment there — with stars, red carpet arrivals and an elegant courtyard cocktail reception for the unveiling of his Horse and Rider sculpture.
      Made from the mold of a beeswax statue dating back over 500 years, the sculpture has been authenticated — and is now being shown to invited guests and media prior to a world tour this fall. Mold owner Richard A. Lewis is donating a million dollars to the Salvation Army from the tour.