Archive for February, 2009

Pingpong Catching On Among Celebrities

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

“You, Me and Dupree” star Owen Wilson said last month he’s “big” on table tennis. Turns out, so are Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Hayden Christensen.

“I’m a pingpong man,” Foxx said. “I have a pingpong table in my living room, and if I had the time to play, I’d play for days.”

“When we were making ‘Shattered Glass,’” Christensen recalled, “we had a pingpong table on the set, and in between every shot, Peter Sarsgaard … and I would rush back to the pingpong table, and we’d have an ongoing tally.”

Darth Vader on his way

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

According to The Hollywood Reporter, those behind the film Jumper, slated for a week of shooting in Peterborough near the end of August, have put Canadian native Hayden Christensen in the lead role.

Christensen is best known for his role as Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a Darth Vader, in the last two Star Wars films.

Jumper is based on Steven Gould’s novel about a teen from an abusive household who discovers he can teleport from one place to another. He uses that ability to search for the man he believes responsible for the death of his mother but draws the attention of the American government and someone else with the same power.

Christensen keeps fans guessing about gay rumours

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Star Wars star Hayden Christensen likes to keep people guessing about the gay rumours surrounding him, because he finds them entertaining.

The 25-year-old insists he doesn’t mind the speculation surrounding his sexuality - and even encourages it.

He tells V Man magazine, “To me, masculinity is the ability to flirt with the effeminate.”

Christensen said the rumours don’t bother him “because it’s fun, entertaining and a bit of a joke”.

The star refused to divulge his sexual orientation during the interview saying cryptically, “People I relate to know who I am.”

Christensen was photographed kissing his Factory Girl co-star Sienna Miller in March, but remains tight-lipped about their relationship.

He adds, “When people catch a picture of Sienna and me, they can speculate, and I don’t do anything. Rumours are more fun than reality.”

Virgin Territory Release & Name

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

The Hayden Christensen and Mischa Barton lead film adaptation of the old “Decameron” story has been renamed yet again to “Virgin Territory” and delayed two months to March 9th 2007.

First Look: Awake

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

In his nightmare thriller, director Joby Harold takes audiences on an abstract journey through the consciousness of a paralyzed heart transplant patient.

By the third time Hayden Christensen runs screaming down the same stretch of orange hallway at New York’s Bellevue Hospital Center for the rolling cameras, his bright blue hospital scrubs are darkened with sweat and he looks ready to be committed.

In his nightmare thriller Awake, first-time writer-director Joby Harold takes audiences on an abstract journey through the consciousness of Clay (Christensen), a heart transplant patient who is paralyzed yet able to sense pain while under the knife. “It’s called anesthetic awareness,” says Harold, leaning over a monitor. “Here, he’s experiencing being cut, and he’s running to different places inside his mind, trying to find a place to deal with the pain.”

Satisfied with the take, Harold calls for the next scene, which offers Christensen the respite of lying on a stretcher. Jessica Alba, who plays Clay’s wife, leans over to whisper words of comfort before he’s wheeled away to the operating table. “He’s looking for a happy place, and the place he goes is back to where we fell in love,” says Alba. Looks like the operation won’t be the first time the poor guy lost his heart.

HD ‘Star’ will shine (Comcast unveils hi-def pix, music)

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Comcast, the biggest cable operator in the U.S., is going bananas with high definition, offering all six “Star Wars” movies in HD on Cinemax on Demand, plus dozens of musical performances in a service called INHD Jukebox.

The “Star Wars” pictures will be available in Cinemax on Demand from Nov. 2 to Dec. 28 to all cable operators, but only Comcast will have the HD version. Comcast customers need a digital box, an HDTV set and a subscription to Cinemax.

Comcast will share with the rest of the cable and satellite universe Cinemax’s first-time offer of the “Star Wars” movies in HD in a weekend marathon on the 24/7 network, beginning Nov. 10. Each of the movies will get additional runs on Cinemax for the rest of the month.

Outside of Comcast, the movies will be available for callup on Cinemax on Demand in standard definition, enhanced by more than a dozen special features and footage produced by Lucasfilm.

For INHD Jukebox, Comcast subscribers with digital boxes will get more than 20 performance clips each month from artists like Pink, Franz Ferdinand, Nelly Furtado, Norah Jones and the Who, all at no extra cost. It’s the first free high-def music platform.

In Demand Networks, the biggest distributor of pay-per-view and VOD programming, has compiled the performances from many of the concerts originally produced and transmitted in high-def to cable and satellite through PPV. The company plans to sell the INHD Jukebox service to other cable operators.

Page Thompson, senior VP and general manager of video services for Comcast, said the “Star Wars” movies and INHD Jukebox are the highlights of the operator’s offering of more than 100 hours of HD VOD programming a month. Thompson engineered the Jukebox deal with Rob Jacobson, president-CEO of the In Demand Networks.

Must be Scene

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Why we are excited: Little Britain’s David Walliams is in it plus Darth Vader Hayden Christensen and the OC’s gorgeous Mischa Barton.

Plot:Period adventure as 10 young Florentines take refuge in the Italian countryside in 1348 as the Black Death plague ravages the city.

Stars: Hayden Christensen, Mischa Barton, Tim Roth, David Walliams

When: 2007.

Unfinished Film Has Oscar Written All Over It

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Harvey Weinstein is famous for campaigning earlier, harder, and more successfully for Oscars than any of his filmmaking peers. But the “For Your Consideration” ads for Factory Girl that ran this week in Variety and the Hollywood Reporter may represent a new benchmark for claiming award-worthy status for a film that is, to all appearances, still very much in production.

With entire new scenes—not reshoots—still being shot in New York, most critics have still seen only limited footage of the movie, and the window for getting even a rough cut in front of them is rapidly closing. “You’d really better have a screening by the first week of December, or you’re risking a lot of critics not being able to see it in time” for Golden Globe nominations, says Anne Thompson, deputy film editor of the Hollywood Reporter.

A spokeswoman for Weinstein, however, notes some critics have already “seen an early cut of the movie and given it high praise, especially Sienna Miller and Guy Pearce’s performances. We don’t think it’s premature to start promoting the film for awards consideration.”

Based on the story of Andy Warhol and Edie Sedgwick, Factory Girl has been dogged by delays and rumors of dissatisfaction on the part of its producers. But Thompson says the ongoing tinkering is not an automatic red flag as long as it is only “pickups” being shot and nothing more substantial. “Harvey knows what he wants, and he’ll know what’s missing, especially if he’s aiming for the Oscars. And the Weinstein Co. has been known to play these things out very late in the day.”

Awake Update

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

The A/A Campaign has supplied information several times to the people working on the movie AWAKE! starring Jessica Alba and Hayden Christensen. Contrary to information previously obtained from the web that, “as of November 13, 2006, according the movie publicists, AWAKE is scheduled to open in theaters on February 8, 2007: a call to The Weinstein Company on November 29, 2006, failed to obtain a release date for AWAKE. At least one test viewing has been done, and audience reaction to the film is said to have been very strong.

Finding informaton on AWAKE have proven to be nearly impossible. Literally multiple dozens of calls to anyone I can think of result in zero information from anyone I believe to be associated with the production. This is a puzzlement.

Doug Moe: Doyle in poker dealer’s eyeshade?

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

THERE IS a simple solution for the people who are still hoping to get the life story of Phil Hellmuth, the poker celebrity and Madison native, filmed in Madison.

In the true spirit of Hollywood, I should probably ask for a percentage of the gross - or at least a consulting fee - for my advice, which in all modesty is as brilliant as it is simple.

I came up with my idea after hearing this week from Hellmuth, who had good news and bad news about the movie of his life that is about to be filmed.

Hellmuth, of course, is the Madison kid who came out of nowhere to win the World Series of Poker (and nearly $1 million) in 1989. He was 24. Since then, Phil has relocated to the West Coast, married, started a family and become a star. His mercurial personality at the poker table and talent for winning have made him one of the game’s most recognizable faces.

A few years ago, Bob Soderstrom, a friend of Hellmuth’s and an aspiring writer, wrote a screenplay based on Phil’s “Rocky”-like ascendance in the poker world. Soderstrom titled his script “The Madison Kid.” It includes scenes at the Memorial Union and around the State Capitol. The script won a screenwriter’s contest and has been in various stages of development ever since.

Recently, elements have come together that indicate filming will begin in the spring (perhaps under a new title, “Poker Brat”). Beacon Pictures (chaired by UW-Madison grad Armyan Bernstein) is producing, with a budget in the $6 million to $8 million range, and a hot young actor named Hayden Christensen will play Hellmuth.

“He’s officially committed,” Phil said this week.

That’s the good news. The bad news, as Hellmuth sees it, is that when the cameras start rolling in April or May, the 100-plus members of the cast and crew are currently scheduled to be in Winnipeg, Canada, where presumably they will build some kind of set to resemble the Union’s Rathskeller and other Madison locales.

Movie companies expect tax incentives when they go on location, and - in poker parlance - they are playing a strong hand when it comes to asking for them. Movie productions can have a highly positive impact on a local economy. They provide jobs, hire caterers, eat in restaurants, stay in hotels and essentially advertise a locale on movie screens around the world.

A report on the “NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams” Tuesday centered on Shreveport, La., which last year was host to some $300 million in film production, with a dozen more location shoots scheduled for Shreveport in 2007.

The Louisiana Legislature recently passed a tax incentive package that was attractive enough that when Hurricane Katrina made filming in New Orleans difficult, filmmakers stayed in the state and discovered Shreveport.

“It’s certainly been good for us,” Shreveport Mayor Keith Hightower told NBC.

To its credit, the Wisconsin Legislature recognized the potential value of bringing movie productions to the state. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and Gov. Jim Doyle signed a bill that will make Wisconsin highly competitive in luring filmmakers.

But for some reason, the final language in the bill pushed its start date forward to Jan. 1, 2008. Which is why a script that was originally titled “The Madison Kid,” and is about a Madison kid, is in imminent danger of being made in Winnipeg.

But as the well-known philosopher Yogi Berra famously observed, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”

Those who want to see “The Madison Kid” filmed in Madison have mobilized one last push to see if they can get state government to change the date of implementation of the tax incentives to Jan. 1, 2007. As part of that effort, Hellmuth has written an op-ed piece that will be offered to numerous papers in the state.

In his piece, Hellmuth makes both a logical and passionate case for moving the date so “The Madison Kid” can be filmed here. He stresses the economic benefits, as well as the karmic importance of having it shot in Madison.

It may work. But I have an idea that will work even better.

It’s this: Promise them all a role in the movie! Everyone wants to be in the movies, especially legislators. Not for nothing did someone once call politics “show business for ugly people.”

The climactic scene in the movie is when Phil beats the great Johnny Chan, one against one, for the world championship in Las Vegas. Phil’s father, who had serious reservations about his son’s decision to be a professional poker player, rushes out of the audience and embraces Phil.

The “audience” could be made up of members of the Wisconsin Legislature. Gov. Doyle (like Phil, a Madison West grad) could also be given a role. Maybe he could deal the final hand to Hellmuth and Chan.

I might add that a movie appearance can have a positive impact on a legislator’s career. In 1996, a state representative from Madison appeared briefly in the Keanu Reeves-Morgan Freeman movie “Chain Reaction.” And nobody has to ask whatever happened to Tammy Baldwin.

ayden Christensen Signs on to Play ‘Poker Brat’ in Hellmuth Movie

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

The cat’s out of the bag.According to a story at Production Weekly, it’ll be Hayden Christensen playing the role of ten-time World Series of Poker bracelet winner Phil Hellmuth in The Madison Kid, the movie detailing the life and times of one of the poker world’s most visible players. “He’s officially committed,” the story quotes Hellmuth as saying, referring to Christensen. The movie is scheduled to start filming next spring

Moviegoers will likely recognize Christensen from his role as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, though The Madison Kid, which also has had the working title Poker Brat, might fall just a bit

shy of those movies’ lofty box-office receipts. The alternate ‘Madison’ title plays on Madison, WI, Hellmuth’s hometown, where he abandoned his college education after his junior year to pursue his poker career. Success didn’t take long to arrive for Hellmuth: In 1989, at age 24, he became the youngest-ever winner of the WSOP’s Main Event, in a stunning win that prevented Johnny Chan from winning that title for the third straight year, a feat no poker player has ever managed.

The film is scripted by Hellmuth pal Bob Soderstrom and produced by L.A.-based Beacon Pictures, whose most famous films include Air Force One, The Hurricane, and The Emperor’s Club. Soderstrom and Beacon chairman Armyan Bernstein are also both University of Wisconsin-Madison graduates.

Currently up in the air is the location of the film’s shooting. Right now it will likely be filmed in Winnipeg, but Hellmuth, in an impassioned plea for funding assistance appearing in a Madison newspaper, wants the production to occur back in his old stomping grounds. Winnipeg, as with several other Canadian cities, offers incentives and wage concessions that often make a Canada locale the prudent choice for filming, while Madison has never been a film mecca. “It’s all about the bottom line,” wrote Hellmuth, “but what a missed opportunity it would be if Winnipeg served as the ‘city double’ for Madison. I want to visit the ‘Madison Kid’ movie set in April of 2007 in the city that I grew up in.”

The Internet Movie Database (imdb.com) does not yet show a listing for The Madison Kid, though an ‘announced’ listing is likely to appear in the near future as the film enters the pre-production stage. As of this report, a search on ‘Poker Brat’ resolves to Hellmuth’s own on-air credits for his appearances in several televised poker programs.

As for the selection of Christensen, it is perhaps only fitting that an actor tied to one screen icon now moves to the role of another, although it’s not the icon one would expect. Hellmuth offered another memorable quote on this when he served up the following in his Madison plea: “In some respects, I’d like to think that I’m the true-life poker equivalent of the fictional pugilist Rocky Balboa.”

Christensen Deals In On Madison Kid

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Poker seems to be all the rage these days — it’s everywhere. Or, maybe it just seems that way? I don’t watch it but during my usual channel-flipping I’ve seen it on television with all the “celebrity” poker challenges and professional tournaments on ESPN2 or 3 late at night. Plus, there’s been more and more activity in the feature film world concerning movies about, or featuring, poker. And sure, there’s already been some great movies on the subject such as The Cincinnati Kid, House of Games and Rounders. So, with all this, my question is do we really need more poker-related projects?

Well, ready or not, another one’s coming because according to Production Weekly, ex-Sith Lord Hayden Christensen has decided that what his career really needs at the moment is a movie about poker. Christenen will segue into the biopic The Madison Kid after he finishes filming his current projects — Doug Liman’s Jumper (featuring his Revenge of the Sith co-star Samuel L. Jackson) and John McTiernan’s Crash Bandits — which, sadly, probably won’t be good due to the fact that McTiernan hasn’t made a decent movie since The Hunt for Red October. And he directed Die Hard. Man, what happened to him? Sorry, got off on a tangent. I’m back now. Moving on.

Christensen will play poker prodigy and so-called “Poker Brat” Phil Hellmuth in The Madison Kid, which tells the story of Hellmuth’s rise to fame on the professional poker circuit. Hellmuth, after dropping out of college, became the youngest player ever (he was 24) to win the World Championship of Poker. The film, written by Hellmuth friend Bob Soderstrom, is currently out to directors. No other casting news to report at the moment and no word on a start date either, but with Christensen having two films to finish before this one, I wouldn’t’ expect it to be very soon. That’s ok, not being a fan of poker on TV, in the movies or in real life, I’m sure I can find something to occupy my time. But hey, if poker’s your thing, by all means, get in line early and let me know how the movie turns out.

Sienna Miller Concerned What Dad Thinks Of Movie Role

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Even though it’s part of her job, Sienna Miller still worries what her daddy thinks about her sexy movie roles.

Sienna admits she is terrified of what her father will think of the explicit scenes in her new movie “Factory Girl.”

The 24-year-old actress - who plays real life 60s “it” girl Edie Sedgwick in the film - performs some of the most raunchy scenes ever included in a mainstream film and was determined to make them as real as possible.

But Sienna even covered her eyes when she watched back the sequences because she’s dreading the day her father sees them.

She revealed in an interview with Britain’s Daily Mirror newspaper, “We wanted to make it realistic and I watched it thinking, ‘Oh my God, my dad’s going to see it!’ And that was going through my head the whole time. But it was relevant to the story in that it’s a movie about the 60s, and sex and drugs and rock and roll were a big part of that.”

“We didn’t want to hold back because it is a real film and it is a gritty film and there were a lot of shocking things and it wouldn’t fit in the film if we had an unrealistic sex scene.”

Sienna’s steamy scenes are alongside co-star Hayden Christensen, who portrays rock star Billy Quinn.

Santa Barbara Film Festival

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Roger Durling’s Santa Barbara Film Festival (2.2 thru 2.12) has lined up Factory Girl as its gala opening night attraction, with Sienna Miller, director George Hickenlooper and costars Guy Pearce and Hayden Christensen expected to attend. (It would be extra-neat if Bob Dylan were to show up also, but that’s on the doubtful side.) This in addition to Helen Mirren Will Smith, Forest Whitaker and An Inconvenient Truth’s Al Gore and David Guggenheim lined up for special tributes.

McTiernan to ‘Crash Bandits’

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Director John McTiernan who’s last film Basic (est. cost $50M) generated a lukewarm $34.21 million theatrically in 11 territories*, has signed on to direct the action adventure ‘Crash Bandits’. No start date has been set.

The story, based on the screenplay by Michael Stokes, involves a treasure hunter specializing in downed aircrafts. He finds himself chasing his arch nemesis, who is holding his feisty ex-wife hostage, towards a critically missing treasure clue aboard a downed plane deep in the jungle.

McTiernan is also attached to Deadly Exchange. He is repped by Creative Artists Agency (CAA) .

Producers are Don Carmody (Skinwalkers),
Philippe Martinez (I Could Never Be Your Woman, Flock, The) and Elie Samaha (Rescue Dawn).
Karinne Behr, (Land of the Blind), Luc Campeau, and Mark Yellen will executive produce.

Hayden Christensen is considering to star in the pic. Christensen recently finsihed Virgin Territory aka Guilty Pleasures (Budget: $38M) which is set for us release in August of 07 and he currently shooting the 100M+ action adventure Jumper for New Regency.

:Junket Report: Factory Girl

Friday, February 27th, 2009

After two years and a shoot that was a challenge, by all accounts, Factory Girl is finally making its way to a theater near you (or me, at least.) The film is a biopic of Andy Warhol hanger-on Edie Sedgwick, who breezed into the artist’s life, hung around his circle for a short time while living on the dime of her rich family, and was then spit out the other side of the ‘factory’ with a drug habit and psychological problems that would leave her dead at 28. The film’s notoriety has been two-fold: it’s something of a public coming-out for star Sienna Miller, who has felled forests with all the tabloid fodder she’s generated with her personal life, but drawn little attention for her acting work until now. The film was also threatened with crippling litigation from Bob Dylan, who felt that a harmonica-chewing, folk-singing hipster-icon character played by Hayden Christensen was an unflattering, autobiographical portrait of him.

Christensen is in Tokyo, doing location shooting for the upcoming science-fiction film, Jumper, and could not attend this week’s junket for Factory Girl. Those on hand included director George Hickenlooper, Sienna Miller, and Guy Pearce, who embodies the iconic Warhol, right down to his blotchy, pock-marked skin and ethereal accent. Here’s a sampling of what went on:

Sienna Miller

Cinematical: Talk about the climactic scene, where your character confronts Andy Warhol in the restaurant. How did you prepare for such an emotional scene, and how did the director guide you through it? “That was a really intimidating scene, because it was actually our second day of shooting on the movie. It just so happens that schedules sometimes work out like that, and I was obviously very nervous. I didn’t know anyone, but in a way that helped with the feeling of vulnerability, and George…..what George has an amazing ability to do for me is to create an environment that’s very safe and very trusting, so that you feel you have the ability to go as far as you want to go, and it’s never too far. He’s very embracing of an actor’s journey. He just sort of made me feel protected and reassured and comforted and encouraged, constantly. And it really helped, to be supported like that, because you feel like you want to do well for that person.”

Non-Cinematical Question: I want to talk about the musician character who we won’t call ‘Bob.’ Can you talk about what you learned in your research about the relationship between him and Edie? “Well, Guy and I and George, we all became great friends with a lot of people who knew Andy, including Edie’s brother and her husband and the funny thing is that everyone has different accounts of what happened. Also, you have to remember that this was a period of time when a lot of people were doing a lot of drugs, so they’re like “I don’t remember. I don’t remember the decade, let alone….” And some people say nothing happened at all and someone very close said it absolutely did happen, and he was the love of her life. You know, I was watching The Queen the other day and no one really knows what happened the week after Princess Diana died. No one knows if Cherie Blair is an anti-royalist, you know. People in movies take creative license and there’s nothing they did in their movie that we didn’t in ours — there’s no difference. It’s a rumor we heard from valuable sources that it was true and from valuable sources that it’s not true.”

Non-Cinematical Question: What did you want to get across to audiences about Edie? “I think ultimately, we’re making a story that a lot of people say to me — actually, someone in this room said — ‘why Edie? Who cares?’ At the end of the day, people see her as a very wealthy girl from a privileged background who took too many drugs and died at 28. But once you understand the psychology behind why she was motivated to a) become a drug addict and b) why she is still impacting my generation today, you understand that there is more to her than just what people assume. So I think it was just a question of trying to make her sympathetic and to understand her, and to work on the relationship between Andy and Edie — it was actually a very loving and very close relationship for a while — in order to understand the sadness at the end, when they kind of fall apart.”

Non-Cinematical Question: If Edie was around today, do you think you’d be friends with her? “That’s a really hard question, because in a way I feel like I am friends with Edie. I’ve sort of been with this project for two years now, when we were developing the script and talking about the script and trying to find the money to make the film. I find her fascinating and having read as much as I’ve read about her, I really empathize with why she turned out the way she did. I think with the right circumstances, she could have been a Marilyn Monroe or something. I’d like to think we’d be friends. I feel like I understand her a little bit. I don’t know, it’s a difficult question.”

Non-Cinematical Question: Did you see this as a love story between Andy and Edie? “The film opens with a quote from Andy that says — I can’t remember exactly what it is, but it’s ‘no one in the sixties affected me more’ — referring to Edie and it’s a very fond, kind of loving quote, but then, we were very lucky, because Bridget Berlin, who was a great friend of Andy’s, used to tape all of their phone conversations and we actually have the phone conversation where Bridget tells Andy that Edie died, and once you listen to that, I think you kind of understand. I think he did care, but he had an ability to emotionally detach. When you hear the phone conversation, he almost cares, and then there’s a big pause and he just says ‘Who gets all the money….what are you doing today?’ I think he just had the ability to detach.”

Non-Cinematical Question: Do you think Edie would have been better off not having been ‘famous’? “Well, ultimately, they wanted to be famous. That’s kind of what they wanted, so I feel that Edie’s problems were far more deep-rooted than just….I don’t think fame really played a part in it. She wasn’t famous like ‘famous’ today. There weren’t paparazzi, and there wasn’t the Internet. It was on a much smaller scale. I think she kind of reveled in the attention. They all did, and admitted it. But there was so much more that was interesting to me than the ‘wanting to be famous.’”

Guy Pearce

Cinematical: Who did you actually talk to, in order to get a handle on this character? And what was the most interesting or surprising thing you learned about Warhol? “The most surprising thing is that every second person I came across claimed that they knew him, which kind of tells me something about Andy himself. I spoke to a number of people, and some I spoke to at greater length than others. Sam Green was really helpful for us on the film. Nat Finkelstein came down and shot some photographs. Primarily, there were two people for me — Bridget Berlin and Vincent Fremont. Vincent worked with Andy from ’68 or ’69 onwards, and Bridget obviously knew Andy from the early-to-mid sixties. What the pair of them enabled us to have access to were these recorded phone conversations between Bridget and Andy.

It was fascinating meeting all the people we met, because as Sienna said, everyone had a different account and different perspective. Even the people who knew Andy all kind of had different opinions, as we all do about anybody. Someone can tell you ‘you’ve got to meet this person, they’re fantastic’ and then the next person says ‘you don’t want to meet them, they’re horrible.’ So eventually, I find you have to let that stuff go. It doesn’t actually matter to me what everyone’s opinion of Andy actually was; what I was trying to do was work from the inside out. So really, what became valuable to me — and the only thing I could really work from, I suppose — was the tapes, the audio tapes, where you really hear Andy and Bridget, for hours and hours on end, talking about all sorts of stuff. I just got an insight into his emotional direction, and as well as for Sienna, there were other recordings.

They would set one of these [points to microphone] on the table — an old-fashioned version of one of these on a table — if they were at a cafe together, and talk about a film they were about to make. So there are so many recordings, and just hearing the conversations between the two and then hearing the direction it might take and hearing Andy perhaps get a little bit antsy about something and trying to sort of get control again and hearing Edie throwing a new idea and hearing Andy not wanting to do that, and just hearing how they respond to each other, I think was probably the most vital stuff we worked from. That’s the stuff we’re actually doing. So it was a wonderful exploration of their lives through the media and all the various forms of recording they had, and meeting everybody and talking to everybody kind of took it out of the mythical and into reality. To sit there with Bridget on Christmas day and on Thanksgiving day and lunches and dinners, and all this time we’ve spent with her, sort of makes it realistic rather than mystical.”

Non-Cinematical Question: Talk about Andy’s detachment, and how he comes off almost as the villain in the film. “I think he was just somebody who was incredibly sensitive, almost too sensitive. I think you need to look at the film a little more deeply than to just assume that he’s the villain. I think that’s a fairly typical response of a lot of audience members, unfortunately, in this day and age. Obviously there was a lot more to the relationship than I was able to portray for you, but I think for Andy, what he saw in Edie was a number of things. It wasn’t just that he was a manipulator. I think their relationship goes very, very deep, but unfortunately, I think because of the personalities of both of these people, they were really unable to kind of help each other. I think Andy can’t be at all blamed for Edie’s death — I think that’s a strange take on things, when people assume that. But at the same time, Edie was really unable to help herself and Andy was so tortured by his own inability to actually become intimate with people, that his fascination with human psychology — extreme human psychology — kind of meant that he drew people to him that were particularly troubled. Then, on some level, I think they really began to rely on him, but he never really staked a claim as far as being able to be that person to rely on.”

Non-Cinematical Question: George Clooney and Joe Carnahan are doing White Jazz, the follow-up to L.A. Confidential. Have they talked to you about reprising the role of Ed Exley? “It’s been mentioned to me, yeah. I haven’t read the script yet, so I’d kind of have to base it on that. I ultimately don’t really feel hugely compelled to want to revisit any character that I’ve played before necessarily, but having said that, it would purely depend on how it was realized, I guess.”

George Hickenlooper

Cinematical: Talk a bit about Sienna’s immersion in the character and shooting the climactic scene so early in the shoot. “Sienna really immersed herself in the role, it was very emotional. I remember watching the first take and being moved to tears. Pretty much everyone on the set was. And it was such a challenge for you [Sienna] being the second day. The schedule was very tough and very grinding. It was just about taking the time and making sure that we were both comfortable and that Guy was comfortable with what we were doing. I think that’s the best thing a director can do. My background is documentaries — just allowing it to unfold and happen. Both Guy and Sienna were so instrumental not only in rehearsals but also in the process of working on the script, substantially. For me it was sort of ‘sit back and watch and sort of try to keep everything in balance.’”

Non-Cinematical Question: At the end of the year, this film went back for re-shoots and a lot of re-editing. “Not re-shoots. Additional shoots. There’s a difference. Re-shoots implies the film has problems. To make a long story short, it was a very difficult film to finance. Holly and I, we were all passionate about having Sienna, but she’s not Meryl Streep, so it’s not easy to get financing. So we were able to get financing with Guy and certainly with Hayden, but still, we were only able to raise so much money. We were supposed to raise $8 million, then they kept cutting the budget and cutting the budget, to under $7 million. So I had to cut pages out and we had to cut out vital scenes. So it was always our intention to go back and come to New York. It was ‘when are we going to do that?’ It depended on who was going to buy the film, it depended on a lot of things. Once Harvey bought the film, we knew we wanted to go back. And all films usually have additional shooting. So we had those ten or fifteen pages we wanted to shoot, and Guy had ideas, Sienna had ideas, I had ideas, Harvey certainly had ideas, and those ten pages turned into thirty-five pages. Guy had to become available, Sienna had other movies, and they weren’t available until October.

This is the truth. I know Page Six and a couple of places were sharpening their knives — ‘troubled Factory Girl’ — which irritated me to no end. I’m in the cutting room and no one has seen it — how are we troubled? There was a time issue — we didn’t wrap until December 12. We had a week to cut.” Did you operate well under that kind of pressure? “It’s always best to sleep a little. I always work well under pressure, but it wasn’t just me, it was Guy and Sienna, all of us, it was very much a collaborative effort, certainly Harvey, it was all in a great spirit of collaboration. There was nothing antagonistic. Harvey has a reputation for being Harvey Scissorhands, but in this case, we really felt he was very passionate about the project. He was very supportive of Guy, very supportive of Sienna, very supportive of me, and we had four editors working around the clock, literally twenty hour days, they didn’t sleep at all for three weeks, but we just ran out of time. The cut we showed the National Board of Review was completely different from the cut we showed the Academy, which we didn’t get to the Academy until three days before voting close. We just ran out of time.” Shouldn’t you have waited? “We could have waited, but the perception would be ‘Oh boy…what’s going on guys? Where’s Factory Girl? When in fact, we were simply filmmakers making a film under an incredible deadline.”

Derby Girl

Friday, February 27th, 2009

I know award-quality when I see it, and Sienna Miller’s capturing of Edie Sedgwick — the doomed mid ’60s scenester and Andy Warhol girl who died in ’71 at age 28 — in George Hickenlooper’s Factory Girl (Weinstein Co.) totally rates. It may be the most eerily accurate reviving of a dead person I’ve ever seen in a film. And yet Miller projects dimension and gravitas in spades — an unmistakable sadness and snap and aliveness like nothing I’ve gotten from an actress in any movie so far this year.

If and when the Weinstein Co. puts Factory Girl into theatres before 12.31 (which may happen, I’m now hearing), Miller will be right in there against Prada’s Meryl Streep, The Queen’s Helen Mirren, Notes on a Scandal’s Judi Dench and maybe Running With Scissors’ Annette Benning. She’s playing the only tragic figure in the group — the only one who goes to her doom with mascara running down her face.

Miller isn’t just a dead ringer for the real McCoy — she gets her fluttery debutante laugh, that mixture of Warholian cool and little-girl terror, the giddy euphoria, the cracked voice. It’s more than convincing — it’s a kind of rebirthing. (I feel I can say this with some authority having seen the real Sedgwick in John Palmer and David Weisman’s Ciao Manhattan! way back when, and having looked at her photos for years.)

Hickenlooper’s film is a kind of rebirthing also. Most of it feels like a mid to late ’60s Paul Morrissey film. It has a grungy Manhattan, Collective for Living Cinema, 16mm street quality, like it was shot two or three years before Flesh and Lonesome Cowboys and maybe a year or two after Empire State and Blow Job.

Hickenlooper gives it discipline and tension, working from a tight script by Captain Mauzner but styling in the realm of the Warhol-Morrissey aesthetic, which could be summed up as “don’t recreate anything, just behave and let it happen.”

This is obviously a nervy approach (the person who recently informed a WWD writer that Factory Girl is “kind of a mess” has probably never seen a Warhol -Morrisey film) but with nerve comes a feeling of other-ness. For my money the raw-funk approach works without the viewer needing a NYU degree in Film Studies.

I’m not going to do a review because the disc I saw was rough and incomplete — there’s plenty of time to get into it down the line. But I should at least mention Guy Pearce’s Warhol portrayal, which for me is much drier and colder and more delicious than Jared Harris’s portrayal in I Shot Andy Warhol or Crispin Glover’s in The Doors. The rumble in the jungle is that Weinstein Co. execs feels Guy’s performance is Oscar-worthy also.

And Hayden Christensen’s performance of an obviously Bob Dylan-ish figure is, for me, the most engaging thing he’s ever done.

Here are some thoughts from a critic friend who caught Factory Girl under similar circumstances:

“Sienna Miller’s performance is a revelation on several levels — most importantly of her great solar talent; she’s riveting and charismatic in every instant, whether Edie is in meteor-mode or downfall. Hickenlooper was so right to fight for her to play the role. I’m a highly dedicated devotee of the real Edie so I began watching the film with the bar of expectation set extra-high. Well, old Sienna not only vaulted that bar, she blasted the tiles right out of the ceiling and kept going. Edie Lives.

“I’m also still marveling at Guy Pearce’s otherworldly Andy Warhol — a breathtaking creation of a man whose ghost haunts himself. I’m also deeply impressed with Hayden Christensen’s osmosis of the Mystery-Tramp-Who-Shall-Remain- Nameless. I’ve always thought highly of this young actor — he’s still developing, but his instincts are first-rate. As one who has long loved Dylan, I deeply respected where Hayden was able to fish within himself to bring that very difficult prodigy to light.

“I think of Factory Girl as a kind of female Lawrence of Arabia. I’m serious. Edie is an opaque, enigmatic figure by definition, just as T.E. Lawrence was. There is never any ‘explaining’ such a character — we can only experience them, the way anyone who loved them in life might have. That way we can love Edie. Start slow, and people will adore the rush as the film takes off, and maybe even feel a bit scared on her behalf as we lose sight of the girl she is in the film’s beginning moments.

“I feel quite highly of the energy and verve of Mauzner’s screenplay, and feel that Hickenlooker has gone one better and energized the story. Hickenlooper and Mauzner have located Edie in a kind of ‘permanent present-tense’ (as opposed to a period), and I’m willing to bet audiences will embrace her anew, and with her, the film.”

Revenge is sweet

Friday, February 27th, 2009

AFTER years of speculation and shattered hopes, the wait is over for the world’s army of Star Wars fans.

Episode Three: Revenge of the Sith (12A) bridges the gap between the disappointing Attack of the Clones and the legendary Star Wars and is Lucas’ darkest offering to date.

With the final battles of the Clone Wars raging across the galaxy, Senate leader Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) has been taken hostage by evil droid leader General Grievous.

Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) head off on a rescue mission which marks the start of a two-hour action-packed bloodbath.

But secretly married to the Senator Padme Amidala (Natalie Portman), Anakin’s fear of losing his soulmate starts to warp his mind.

Tempted by the prospect of protecting his pregnant wife, Anakin finds himself drawn to the evil Dark Side.

Sensing unrest in his apprentice, Obi-Wan faces the grim task of having to defeat Anakin for the good of the galaxy.

As Anakin’s paranoia spirals out of control, fans finally get to see the demise which leads to him becoming Darth Vader.

Episode Three is a journey to the Dark Side, with extraordinary battle scenes and enough death to earn the film a 12A certificate.

Yoda (Frank Oz) is on top-form and the shocking betrayals of key characters leave you gasping. Even Hayden Christensen is good - realising his best bet is to shut up and look mean.

A stunning end to the trilogy and it should leave even the snootiest geeks satisfied.

Rating: Five stars (out of five)

\’Episode III\’ best of prequels, far from original

Friday, February 27th, 2009

“Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” is George Lucas’ redemption film.

Both the highly anticipated “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” and “Star Wars: Episode II — The Attack of the Clones” did well at the box office but failed to wow critics and die-hard fans. Nothing could match what fans dreamed “Episode I” would be, waiting sixteen years for the beginning of the end to the “Star Wars” saga, but the first films also fell short in key areas, namely the acting and story line. The introduction of Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker in “Episode II” upped the bad acting even more.

It is nearly impossible to judge a film like this — the third in a series of six — on its own merits, especially given the classic status attained by the original “Star Wars.” The plot is tied to previously established story lines, so viewers know what is coming. Still, there was potential for “Episode III” to stand on its own and usher the series out with a bang. Most of the cast is back from the previous film, and a few favorites from the original trilogy make an appearance as well, most notably Chewbacca. There is even a cameo from the Millennium Falcon if you look closely.

The film picks up a few years after “Attack of the Clones.” Anakin has grown into a very powerful Jedi, yet still has not earned the trust of the Jedi council. His marriage to Padme (Natalie Portman) is still a secret, though that secrecy is threatened more each passing day by her pregnancy. After Anakin and Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) successfully defeat Count Dooku (Christopher Lee), the search for the Sith Lord becomes the Jedi Council’s top priority and Supreme Chancellor Palpatine becomes a main suspect. The film spends a majority of its time on this particular subject. Anakin becomes torn between the Jedi way and the skills promised him by Palpatine.

Though it is interesting to watch the missing pieces fall into place as the film progresses toward its climax, the movie falters a bit along the way. Everyone knows the eventual outcome — the challenge to this and the previous two films was to find an interesting way to tell the story in between. The film could have been shorter and still told the story well — perhaps even better. Lucas’s biggest problem in the first three episodes goes back to a basic rule of filmmaking — show, don’t tell. There are quite a few action-packed moments in “Revenge of the Sith,” but they seem to come in chunks. Where the original films had a faster, more exciting pace, “Episode III” and the previous films have a jarring effect that consists of fast-paced action followed by slow expository dialogue or clunky romantic scenes — it’s more a book-on-tape approach than an actual filmmaking approach. The other downfall of “Revenge of the Sith” is Lucas’s obsession with using computer graphics for every

scene. While this can provide for some incredible action sequences, it also causes the film to lose a sense of realism. There is something organic about having the characters interact with aliens in costume rather than an animated character, and the lack of any real sets leaves the film looking more like a video game at times. George Lucas has been responsible for some amazing innovations in the film industry (see Industrial Light and Magic, Pixar and Avid if you need proof) but technology should still be used to advance the story, not the other way around.

Despite the negatives, “Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” is by far the best of the first three episodes, and it does a good job of tying them all together. Christensen’s acting is somewhat improved, and in all fairness, when compared to Mark Hamill’s acting skills, Christensen doesn’t seem all that bad. If you have already seen the previous five movies, by all means finish what you’ve started. If this is your first “Star Wars” film, save your money, buy the original trilogy and be satisfied with those.

Fan-tastic \’Star Wars- Revenge of the Sith\’ won\’t disappoint the faithful

Friday, February 27th, 2009

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (out of four). Stars Ewan McGregor, Hayden Christensen, Natalie Portman and Samuel L. Jackson. Rated PG-13 for sci-fi violence and some intense images.

Everyone already knows the plot of Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. Anakin Skywalker turns to the dark side of

the Force and becomes Darth Vader. However, knowing the plot before sitting down in the theater does nothing to detract from the overall experience. Revenge delivers everything that a fan could hope for - amazing special effects, colorful characters and, of course, some really cool light-saber duels.

Although the last two Star Wars movies may have left fans a little disappointed, Revenge will not. The dialogue is better and the pace faster. Die-hard fans will notice numerous echoes of the previous films, which help to tie the entire series together. Fight scenes, music and even some dialogue mirror the original trilogy and the two previous films.

Revenge also pulls at your emotions. You truly ache for those close to Anakin as they watch him fall farther and farther into the dark side. When characters die, you feel it.

However, Revenge is not a perfect film. The relationship between Anakin and Padme, although slightly more believable the second time around, is still strained and lacking any chemistry. Padme\’s character is also diminished. She is no longer the strong, forceful woman we have come to know. Instead, she is pushed into the background and given few scenes in which she isn\’t crying or angst-ridden. Although she is still a senator, she is seen in political surroundings only once, and the scene is far too brief.

There is still the problem of awkward dialogue and rushed scenes that have plagued all the Star Wars films, but it is less a problem here than in the most recent two.

Revenge is not a life-changing movie, but it never had to be. It accomplishes what it was made to do: Tell the final chapter of a story that has entertained for generations.