WEIRDLAND: April 2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Jessica Chastain will play 'Blonde' Marilyn Monroe, Carl Rollyson's 'Monroe: A Life of the Actress'

Two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain is nearing a deal to play Marilyn Monroe in Andrew Dominik's passion project “Blonde,” multiple individuals familiar with the project have told TheWrap.

First announced in 2010, “Blonde” is based on Joyce Carol Oates’ 700-page novel of the same name, which reimagines the inner, poetic and spiritual life of Norma Jeane Baker — the child, the woman and the fated-celebrity better known by her studio name of Marilyn Monroe.

Oates drew on biographical and historical sources to paint an intimate portrait of Marilyn that reveals a fragile, gifted young woman who repeatedly remade her identity to overcome the odds and define stardom in the 1950s. In 2001, Oates’ imagined memoir was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and the prolific author believes it may be the book for which she will be best remembered. Dominik adapted “Blonde” on spec and his agency, CAA, will represent the film's domestic distribution rights.

While Michelle Williams recently played Monroe in “My Week With Marilyn,” Chastain's portrayal is expected to be much different, as “Blonde” will take an unconventional approach to examining the Hollywood starlet's life and career. “It's a really sprawling, emotional nightmare fairy-tale type movie… about an abandoned orphan who gets lost in the woods,” Dominik told The Playlist at Cannes in 2012. Source:

Kyle Chandler said it was "difficult" to work with rising star Jessica Chastain in "Zero Dark Thirty," but not for any the reasons that immediately spring to mind when someone uses that word.

Jessica Chastain and Kyle Chandler attending the "Zero Dark Thirty" photocall on December 4, 2012 in New York City.

"She is very difficult to work with and I'll tell you why. The scene, especially when you get up close to her, it's very hard to do because her eyes are so intensely blue you fall into them. Literally," he said of Jessica's peepers. "When you watch the scene where we go at each other... [I can watch myself and know], that's when I was like, 'OK, how deep do your eyes -- how far do they go? My God! I see the back of your skull. It's incredible.' "She's very beautiful," Kyle added of the actress. "I had a lot of fun working with her." Source:

"I'm very sensitive in real life. I will start to cry if someone is crying, even if it's not appropriate. I have that thing in me, a weakness or sensitivity." -Jessica Chastain

"Acting, for me, is about exploring things I don't understand in myself. I did not feel like a beautiful woman that people would kill each other for. I'm very shy, I feel very awkward, I don't feel like a femme fatale at all." -Jessica Chastain

In American popular culture, Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) has evolved in stature from movie superstar to American icon. Monroe's own understanding of her place in the American imagination and her effort to perfect her talent as an actress are explored with great sensitivity in Carl Rollyson's engaging narrative. He shows how movies became crucial events in the shaping of Monroe's identity. He regards her enduring gifts as a creative artist, discussing how her smaller roles in "The Asphalt Jungle" and "All About Eve" established the context for her career, while in-depth chapters on her more important roles in "Bus Stop, Some Like It Hot," and "The Misfits" provide the centerpiece of his examination of her life and career.

Through extensive interviews with many of Monroe's colleagues, close friends, and other biographers, and a careful rethinking of the literature written about her, Rollyson is able to describe her use of Method acting and her studies with Michael Chekhov and Lee Strasberg, head of the Actors' Studio in New York. The author also analyzes several of Monroe's own drawings, diary notes, and letters that have recently become available. With over thirty black and white photographs (some published for the first time), a new foreword, and a new afterword, this volume brings Rollyson's 1986 book up to date. From this comprehensive, yet critically measured wealth of material, Rollyson offers a distinctive and insightful portrait of Marilyn Monroe, highlighted by new perspectives that depict the central importance of acting to the authentic aspects of her being.

Carl Rollyson on Marilyn Monroe from University Press of Mississippi

"Rollyson takes her and her talent seriously and what he has to say is enlightening and often surprising... no matter how many more books are written about her... none will provide the insights this does into the person, the persona and the work of Marilyn Monroe." -Variety

" A scholar's analysis of Monroe as an actress, written engagingly enough to tempt Monroe fans... His analyses of her movie roles and how she filled them are crucial to understanding Monroe, the woman and the actress. Rollyson's achievement is his dedication to examining Monroe from every conceivable angle."--The Baltimore Sun Source:

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Debonair Air: Robert Taylor and Kyle Chandler

This year marks the 70th anniversary of one of the greatest film noirs of all time, Billy Wilder’s Double Indemnity—an occasion celebrated this week by the release of a commemorative Blu-ray. Fred MacMurray (The Caine Mutiny, The Apartment) and Barbara Stanwyck (The Lady Eve) in a suspenseful tale of lust, betrayal and murder, directed by Billy Wilder. Screenplay by Raymond Chandler, this intrigue-filled tale of a double-dealing dame and her murderous lover was nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. The Limited Edition Blu-ray comes with lobby cards, poster reproductions and a rare alternate ending still in an archival envelope. Bonus features include: Special Introduction by TCM host and film historian Robert Osborne, Shadows of Suspense Plunges viewers into the world of 1940s Hollywood, Feature Commentary with film historian Richard Schickel, Feature Commentary with film historian and screenwriter Lem Dobbs and film historian Nick Redman Source:

At a crooked gambling club run by "Fish-Eye," Chris Claybourne (played by Robert Taylor) loses five thousand dollars on credit. That same night he meets model Rita Wilson (Barbara Stanwyck), who has refused Fish-Eye's proposition that she lure wealthy escorts to his gaming tables for a percentage. Though they are strongly attracted to each other, Chris and Rita agree not to fall in love, but spend his spree together, having fun and swiping unusual hats. As Chris's departure day approaches, however, they realize that they are in love and Chris promises not to go to the jungle. That same night, Fish-Eye forces Chris to sign a check for his debt, and gives him until the next afternoon to make it good. As Dr. Claybourne's money is all used to support his hospital, Chris' only hope is his staid brother Tom. When Chris takes Rita to meet Tom, however, Tom tells his brother that he will only help him if he goes to the jungle and waits to marry Rita, whom he considers socially inferior, until he returns. Rita, enraged, tells Chris that they are through and secretly goes to Fish-Eye to arrange to pay off Chris' debt by working for him.

On Christmas Eve, Chris suddenly returns to New York on a leave-of-absence and learns that Tom has broken with his fiancée and has just been asked to resign from the hospital for neglect of duty. Though Dr. Claybourne does not know what has happened to Tom, Tom privately tells Chris that he fell in love with Rita and secretly married her, after which she laughed at his stupidity and refused to see him. Now believing that Tom's original opinion of Rita was true, Chris goes to Fish-Eye's club and finds her. She confesses her mistakes and is remorseful, and, because she still loves Chris, agrees to his plan that she accompany him back to the jungle, on a platonic basis, to wait for Tom to agree to a divorce. Source:

Robert Taylor made a list of ten things that made his heart beat faster for "Good Housekeeping Magazine" in May, 1956. His tenth answer was Barbara Stanwyck's eyes.

Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck on the liner Queen Mary on February 4, 1947. "Barbara would arrive at the Trocadero or Ciro’s in an evening gown, her hair done up, and would see Claudette (“looking divine”) or Dietrich (“looking like something out of this world”) or Hedy Lamarr and feel awful about herself, like a shopgirl. “It’s no use,” Barbara would say. “I know what I look like. I like comfort too well to fix and fuss.” Barbara and Robert Taylor had permanent ringside seats for fight night at the Hollywood Legion Stadium and went regularly to Hollywood Baseball Park to watch a game and eat hot dogs and peanuts, often taking Dion with them." -A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True 1907-1940 by Victoria Wilson

-"It's a big help to an actor if people like to look at him but it has nothing to do with acting." -Robert Taylor

[Before meeting his wife]: -"There's always a special woman out there somewhere, but you don't know it at the time." On being labeled a hunk: "I don't see any hunkdom in my future. I'll be anti-hunk. Instead of working out, I'll sit around drinking beer and smoking cigarettes. That'll show 'em." -Kyle Chandler

Jeff tipped his baseball cap and smiled into the camera, just the way Ginger had coached him backstage. He hadn't had a serious bout of stage fright since Ginger had helped him get over it nearly two years ago, but she knew that there were still times he got a little uneasy with the thought of so many people watching them all at once. She felt his hand go to the small of her back to pull her in closer to him -partly for moral support, and partly just to have an excuse to touch her -and with a cool debonair air that even Robert Taylor would have killed for, he said, "From our family to yours... have a very Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year! Bye for now!" Ginger released the breath she'd been holding for the last few minutes and looked up at Jeff. "I hate being live," she muttered, as he came in for a kiss. "Well I thought you did fantastic," he told her. Somehow, when Jeff said so, she could believe it. Source:

The first tell-tale notes of 'Sentimental Journey' wailed from the living room, reaching Ginger Metcalf in the kitchen. She swallowed hard as she heard Doris Day's voice, but it did little to get rid of the fist-size lump in her throat. "I've still got time for a quick dance," he whispered, his breath tickling her ear. He turned her around and led her by the hand to the living room, where WREQ was now playing 'You Made Me Love You.' "You know in a few weeks you won't be able to do that anymore," Ginger said. "Don't be silly," Jeff leaned in and said in his husky baritone, "you'll still be as sexy as Hedy Lamarr." Source:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Mad Men's theory (Jon Hamm), Kyle Chandler & Sheryl Lee (Twin Peaks), Capra's Lost Horizon

“Mad Men” launched its seventh and final season Sunday with “Time Zones,” an episode heavily laden with airplane imagery. When we first see Don Draper, he’s shaving in a plane’s lavatory before leggy wife Megan picks him up at the airport. “I fly a lot,” Don (Jon Hamm) later tells a TWA seat mate, played by guest star Neve Campbell (“Party of Five”). He and the lonely widow share a lengthy scene on a red-eye home to New York.

Back at Megan’s California pad, the TV plays the opening of Frank Capra’s 1937 film “Lost Horizon,” where plane crash survivors find themselves in the earthly paradise of Shangri La, a utopia that Don craves but can’t find in the real world.

Megan (Jessica Pare), who fell asleep on Don’s shoulder, wakes up and asks her husband what he’s watching. Don shuts off the television and acts like it’s nothing. But we know that nothing is nothing on “Mad Men,” a series that’s spawned more conspiracy theories than the Kennedy assassination. Creator Matthew Weiner, who wrote Sunday’s premiere, is notoriously deliberate when it comes to crafting the show. His penchant for detail and symbolism are catnip to obsessive fans who read between every line, scrutinize every frame and pick apart the show’s cryptic teasers, which are all about the airport this season.

In the spirit of wild speculation and over-analysis, I’ll feed the Internet another “Mad Men” theory: Don Draper dies in a plane crash. For a man who struggles mightily with duality, there would be a certain poetry to Don perishing 30,000 feet in the air, somewhere that’s neither here nor there — in limbo, where he’s lived much of his life. On a more literal note, it squares with the falling man image in the opening credits. Source:

It turns out J.D. Salinger communicated cordially with several Hollywood producers during the peak of his career. Contrary to industry lore, the writer was also open to translating a few of his short stories to the bigscreen well after he published his magnum opus, “The Catcher in the Rye.” “The myth that he hated Hollywood and the movies is not true at all,” Salerno says. “He loved movies.” Salinger’s favorite picture was Frank Capra’s “Lost Horizon,” and his living room in Cornish, N.H., was a film aficionado’s den, with a projector and fresh popcorn, which he used to entertain his young amours. Source:

"Lost Horizon" first cut was nearly six hours long, and neither Capra nor the studio knew quite what to do about it. There was talk of releasing the film in two parts, but the idea was deemed impractical. Capra whittled it down to about three and a half hours for the first public preview at Santa Barbara's Granada Theatre (on November 22, 1936), but a disappointing reception led to more cuts and retakes, the last of which was shot on January 12, 1937.

Most of the exteriors on Stephen Goosson's lavish Shangri-La set, built on Columbia's Burbank Ranch smack up against the traffic and telephone poles of Hollywood Way, had to be shot at night, so that the background would not show (glass shots were used to create the illusion of a mountain setting).

Ronald Colman as Robert Conway and Jane Wyatt as Sondra in "Lost Horizon" (1937): Robert Conway's alacrity in accepting his role as head of the little kingdom in the original cut stemmed from his disenchantment with the inequity of Western society and its colonial life, but in the shortened versions seems to reflect merely a dislike for his culture's messiness and ungovernability One of the key artistic battlegrounds was the ending. In Hilton's book, Robert Conway turns his back on Shangri-La, becoming one of those who, in the author's memorable line, are "doomed to flee from wisdom and become a hero," but then changes his mind and sets out again to find it.

The preview version of the film ended with Conway struggling up a snowy hill as a glow on the horizon seems to guide him toward Shangri-La. That was deemed too indefinite a finale for a film with such doubtful box-office prospects, so Capra on January 12 shot another ending in which a haggard Conway finds Shangri-La, with Jane Wyatt beckoning him onward to the accompaniment of a montage of ringing bells.

That version was used in the film's opening engagements, but Riskin argued against such a soppy fade-out, and he and Capra prevailed on Columbia to let them recut it after the film had been playing for several weeks. The final ending dropped Wyatt and simply showed Conway looking toward Shangri-La, concluding with a shot of the lamasery and the orgasmic bell montage (a ringing bell would become Capra's trademark, ending several of his later pictures as well). Capra's problems with the editing of Lost Horizon were the subject of an expert postmortem that November by David 0. Selznick. -"Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success" (2011) by Joseph McBride

Capra was at the height of his game as a director with Lost Horizon. The film took more than two years to complete, and used what was (at the time) the largest set ever constructed in Hollywood. Ronald Colman is perfect as the world-worn English diplomat on a fast-track political career. Jane Wyatt is charming as his love interest and one of the caretakers of the valley. -Bill Hunt, The Digital Bits

As a drama, Lost Horizon relies on many of the conventions of the period: a man of action (Conway), a fugitive swindler (Barnard), a terminal cynic (Gloria), a buffoon (Lovett), an impulsive young man (George), a femme fatale (Sondra)… all the essential personalities for creating or continuing a castaway society. Rooted in the romantic action novel of the late nineteenth century, Hilton’s story raids the supernatural elements of Rider-Haggard’s She, or even H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. -Lawrence Russell, Culture Court

"It is commonly assumed that Conway reaches Shangri-La in the film's last moments, or at least has reached a point where the entrance to the valley is in view- as indicated by an editing trope (Conway glancing off, followed by a shot of the railed archway seen earlier) commonly understood as representing a character's gaze and its object. However, when Conway experiences this vision, he is depicted as standing on a glacier. Even if we assume that Conway knows where he is (near in fact to Shangri-La), however there is no way of taking the point-of-view shot here literally, given its represented dimension. Any nearby glacier would be far below the archway entrance; Conway's "view" of the archway must be taken (at best) as a memory sparked by proximity. [So] the Shangri-La Conway "sees" in this last shot is, as if literally, his shadow, his projection, a memory that always walks on before him." -"Another Frank Capra" (1994) by Leland Poague

Silencio’s library features some of David Lynch’s favorite books: Crime & Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka, The Art Spirit by Robert Henri, Name Above The Title by Frank Capra, and Anonymous Photographs by Robert Flynn Johnson. Source:

Laura Palmer’s murder was a MacGuffin of sorts: It was intended merely as an introduction to Twin Peaks. And that town itself represented a sort of thwarted and idealized past, one stuck in the facade of the 1950s, a great society that prided itself on its saddle shoes and fitted angora sweaters, where unspeakable acts occurred behind closed doors. What the show did was take the viewer inside the conscious and subconscious minds of those quirky denizens, giving us a saintly hero in the form of Cooper who would be tempted again and again with the easy lures of lust, power, and complacency.

[Sheryl Lee as Laura Palmer] Teenagers investigated the murder of their peers, biker gangs squared off as torch singers swayed in the half-darkness at boozy backwater bars, femme fatales ran their red lacquered nails over the backs of their oblivious lovers. Twin Peaks took our collective desires and dreams and ran them through the dark prism of classic film noir. It’s Laura’s best friend, Donna Hayward (Lara Flynn Boyle) who says it best: “It’s like I’m having the most beautiful dream… and the most terrible nightmare, all at once.” Source:

Sheryl Lee as Angelica Chaste and Kyle Chandler as Tony Greco in "Angel's Dance" (1999) directed by David L. Corley

Crazy like a fox, Angel (Sheryl Lee) proves a worthy adversary for Rossellini (James Belushi) and a dangerous love interest for Tony (Kyle Chandler). Yes, it's yet another darkly comic romp about philosophical hitmen set somewhere between Quentin Tarantino-ville and David Lynch country. Amusingly, Angel's insanity gives her an advantage... In this existential comedy of manners, merrily enacted by Belushi and Lee, murder becomes her emancipation. Source:

Sheryl Lee and Kyle Chandler in an erotic scene from "Angel's Dance" (1999). "Sheryl Lee is game as usual, though director David L. Corley’s script could have lavished far more detail and invention on what turns out to be a rather abrupt, one-dimensional transition to La Femme Nikita (complete with spike heels and blond wig). A more droll actor than Belushi might have better exploited potential of film’s most original character conceit, though guru-of-mayhem Rosellini still provides some eccentric laughs. Kyle Chandler is appropriately broody." Source:

Kyle Chandler: "As an actor, I'm able to play all the characters of life."

"I'm not gay, and I'm not a superhero. I'm able to leave Don Draper at work. I'm quite dissimilar from him in real life." -Jon Hamm

"I had this dream of intense love. I know it sounds corny, but I bought a bottle of wine and some candles, went to her place, and told her I couldn't live without her." -Kyle Chandler on proposing her wife Kathryn.

"I don't need to be married, but I feel married. I have a lady, she's a great lady. I love her a lot, she loves me. We're on the same page. Whenever that day happens when we're not on the same page we'll move forward with it." -Jon Hamm (on his long-term relationship with Jennifer Westfeldt since 1998).

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mad Men's symbolism, Homefront's era

Season seven of Mad Men begins with a pitch. Freddy Rumsen, played by Joel Murray, looks straight into the camera. "Are you ready?" he says. "Because I want you to pay attention. This is the beginning of something. Do you have time to improve your life? Do you have exactly thirty seconds to hear from Accutron watches?" Over the course of six seasons, Mad Men has turned into a show about social and cultural transformation, about our continued obsession with the sixties, about consumerism and the collapsing nuclear family, about the decline of New York and the rise of Los Angeles. But the seventh season begins with a return to the original subject: advertising. And that is how we know Mad Men will end in tragedy. In Mad Men, advertising and tragedy are the same.

At the center of Mad Men has always been Don's gift for the campaign; his deep psychological problems, whatever they may be, fed his enormous talent. The nature of that talent was a fundamental mystery — clients paid for it, everybody else wanted to figure it out.

Unlike other advertising men onscreen, Don isn't Cary Grant's louche comedian in North by Northwest or Richard E. Grant's monster in How to Get Ahead in Advertising. The episode ends with Don literally out in the cold, overlooking a crumbling New York from his balcony. (The show's penchant for heavy-handed symbolism is becoming a bit too heavy.) This is the fate that was always waiting for him. This is the fate that awaits anyone who lives by figuring out the nature of the moment. Eventually, the moment passes. Source:

When Homefront (ABC) co-creator and executive producer Lynn Marie Latham finished casting Kyle Chandler as Jeff Metcalf in her period piece, she instructed him to rent some Cary Grant movies from the '40s. "I wanted Kyle to get a feel for the language and style of those times," Latham says. "I also wanted him to get a sense of the timing of Cary Grant and that whole era, because he impressed me as someone who could play not only drama but playful humor."It wasn't really necessary. "Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Clark Gable - there was a whole world there from the '40s that I grew up watching," says Chandler. "It opened up that world to play with inside my head, and it was one of the main things that made me interested in acting."

If Chandler already had a running start on capturing the Jeff that Latham had in mind, the pairing of his aspiring major leaguer with Tammy Lauren's sassy would-be actress, Ginger, demanded that the audience recognize them as a breakout TV couple. -"Playing a '40s-era leading man just comes naturally for Homefront's Kyle Chandler" - The Cincinnati Enquirer (1993)

Winning the Home Front: When peace finally dawned, the world awoke to lost innocence. A world-weary seriousness, further fueled by growing cold-war uncertainty, seeped into literature, music, and film, rivaling the flag-waving, stiff-upper-lip stoicism that dominated the home-front during the war. Though sanitized combat pictures and happy-go-lucky comedies were popular with post-war moviegoers, a new breed of darker, grittier films soon rivaled them at the box-office. Dubbed film noir for their shadowy imagery as well as the darkness of their plots and characters, these films reflected the cynicism and doubt that colored the post-war world. Soon, for every courageous Marine storming the beach on the silver screen, there was a hardboiled private eye stumbling through a grim city of shadows. Source:

Noiring L.A.: Double Indemnity, Black Dahlia, and the Fears of Postwar America: Los Angeles media saturated the public consciousness with lurid stories about The Black Dahlia case. Despite the fact the city witnessed only 70 to 80 murders a year, with five newspapers and the blare of the radio, the media promoted an image of Los Angeles that reinforced those of early film noir. Described in various accounts as imaginative, flighty, given to prevarication, and possibly a habitual liar, the unsupervised Hollywood hopeful symbolized the dangers of the postwar city and its corrupting influence. To be fair, these kinds of fears originated decades earlier as the nation's industrialization in the late 19th century spurred increasing immigration from abroad and internal migration to cities. With the rise of Hollywood in the 1920s and 1930s, along with the various industries that expanded in the same period, Los Angeles emerged as an entrepot for young women intent on living the California dream, away from the watchful eyes of patriarchal families. The discovery of her body in Leimert Park fit neatly into noir sensibilities. Source:

Mia Kirshner at Showtime's farewell party for "The L Word" in West Hollywood, California

Mia Kirshner has been cast in a recurring role on Netflix's new psychological thriller. The actress - known for playing Elizabeth Short in The Black Dahlia and the self-absorbed Jenny Schecter in The L Word from 2004 to 2009 - becomes the latest star to join the original series from the creators of Damages.

Friday Night Lights star Kyle Chandler, Mad Men actress Linda Cardellini and Oscar winner Sissy Spacek were previously cast.

Meanwhile, Revolution's Waleed Zuaiter has signed up for the role of Major Eckhardt, an authority figure having an affair with Cardellini's character, reports Deadline. The untitled show will focus on a family torn apart by secrets after the black sheep oldest brother returns home. Source:

Kyle Chandler was a surprise Emmy winner for best actor for the last season of Texas football drama "Friday Night Lights," blocking odds-on favorites among his fellow nominees. "I knew for a fact I would not be standing here. I did not write anything and now I'm starting to worry," said Chandler, who beat out frontrunners Jon Hamm of "Mad Men" and Steve Buscemi of "Boardwalk Empire." Source: