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The New York Times Archives - ShowBizCafe.com

The New York Times Archives - ShowBizCafe.com

Pau Brunet

By

2009/10/05 at 12:00am

‘Zombieland’ is No. 1 at the Box Office

10.5.2009 | By |

‘Zombieland’ is No. 1 at the Box Office

Sony’s marketing machine marches on: “Zombieland” opened No. 1 at the weekend box office, giving the studio its sixth first-place debut of the year. The horror-comedy hybrid sold an estimated $25 million in tickets at North American theaters, according to tracking services. The entry to watch, however, was Disney’s experiment in using 3-D to repackage the Pixar classics “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2.” The films, re-rendered in 3-D and released as a double feature, sold an estimated $12.5 million, placed third — behind a three-week-old animated entry from Sony, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs.” (That movie sold another $16.7 million for a cumulative total of $82.4 million.)

So Disney did a successful job priming the market for “Toy Story 3,” set for release in June, but so far failed to prove any points about the goldmine potential of re-releasing old hits in 3-D. The Ricky Gervais comedy “The Invention of Lying” (Warner Brothers) was fourth with about $7.4 million, while “Surrogates” (Disney) limped into fifth place with $7.3 million ($26.4 million total). The only other wide release, “Whip It,” fared poorly in sixth place. The Fox Searchlight comedy, backed by a months-long marketing campaign and featuring the talents of Drew Barrymore and Ellen Page, sold about $4.9 million.

Mack Chico

By

2009/06/04 at 12:00am

David Carradine Dies at 72

06.4.2009 | By |

David Carradine Dies at 72

David Carradine, the star of the 1970s television series “Kung Fu” and the title villain of the “Kill Bill” movies, has died in Thailand, The Associated Press reported. The United States Embassy in Bangkok told The A.P. that Mr. Carradine had been found dead in his hotel suite in Bangkok, where he was working on a movie. He was 72.

Mr. Carradine was part of an acting family that included his father, John; his brother, Bruce, and half-brothers Keith and Robert; and his nieces Ever Carradine and Martha Plimpton.

After a short run as the title character in the 1966 television adaptation of the Western “Shane,” he found fame in the 1972 series “Kung Fu” as Kwai Chang Caine, a wanderer raised by Shaolin monks to be a martial arts master. He enjoyed a career resurgence in recent years when he was cast by Quentin Tarantino in the action movies “Kill Bill: Vol. 1″ and “Vol. 2.”

Mack Chico

By

2009/03/18 at 12:00am

Natasha Richardson, Dies at 45

03.18.2009 | By |

Natasha Richardson, Dies at 45

Natasha Richardson, a Tony Award-winning actress whose career melded glamorous celebrity with the bloodline of theater royalty, died Wednesday in a Manhattan hospital, where she had been flown suffering from head injuries after a skiing accident on Monday north of Montreal. She was 45 and lived in Manhattan and Millbrook, N.Y.

Liam Neeson, his sons, and the entire family are shocked and devastated by the tragic death of their beloved Natasha,” said a statement from the family. “They are profoundly grateful for the support, love and prayers of everyone, and ask for privacy during this very difficult time.”

Ms. Richardson’s condition had prompted an outpouring of public interest and concern and flurries of rumor and speculation in the news media since Monday, when reports of her accident began filtering out of the Mont Tremblant ski resort in the Laurentian Hills.

Ms. Richardson, who was not wearing a helmet, had fallen during a beginner’s skiing lesson, a resort spokeswoman, Lyne Lortie, said on Monday. “It was a normal fall; she didn’t hit anyone or anything,” Ms. Lortie said. “She didn’t show any signs of injury. She was talking and she seemed all right.”

Ms. Richardson was an intense and absorbing actress who was unafraid of taking on demanding and emotionally raw roles. Classically trained, she was admired on both sides of the Atlantic for upholding the traditions of one of the great acting families of the modern age.

Her grandfather was Sir Michael Redgrave, one of England’s finest tragedians. He passed his gifts, if not always his affection, to his daughters, Vanessa and Lynn Redgrave, and to his son, Corin Redgrave. The night Vanessa was born, her father was playing Laertes to Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet.

Ms. Richardson was the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave and the film director Tony Richardson, known for “Tom Jones” and “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Runner.” Married in the early 1960s, they were divorced in 1967. He died of AIDS in 1991 at the age of 63.

Ms. Richardson came to critical prominence in England in 1985 as Nina, Chekhov’s naïve and vulnerable ingénue in “The Seagull,” a role her mother had played to great acclaim in 1964. It was a road production, and when it reached London, Vanessa Redgrave joined the cast as the narcissistic actress Arkadina. The production became legendary, but working with her mother intimidated her.

“She rehearsed like a tornado,” Ms. Richardson recalled in a 1993 interview with The New York Times Magazine. “It was completely crazy. She rolled on the floor in some scenes. I was terrified of being on stage with her.”

But almost no one doubts that Ms. Redgrave inspired her daughter as well. Like her mother, Ms. Richardson was known for disappearing into a role, for not capitalizing on her looks and for being drawn to characters under duress.

In the performance that made her a star in the United States, she played the title role on Broadway in a 1993 revival of “Anna Christie,” Eugene O’Neill’s grueling portrait of a waterfront slattern in confrontation with the abusive men in her life. Embracing the emotional wreckage that showed in her character’s face, she modeled her makeup each night on Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream.”

Her performance, nominated for a Tony Award, was vibrantly sensual, and her scenes with her co-star, Mr. Neeson, were acclaimed as sizzling and electric. The chemistry between them extended offstage as well; shortly after the run, Ms. Richardson separated from her husband, the producer Robert Fox. She and Mr. Neeson married in 1994.

Besides her husband, Ms. Richardson is survived by their two sons, Micheal Richard Antonio, 13, and Daniel Jack, 12, as well as her mother, her sister and a half-sister, Katherine Grimond.

Ms. Richardson’s Tony Award came in 1998, for best actress in a musical, for her performance as Sally Bowles, the gifted but desperately needy singer in decadent Weimar Berlin who is at the center of “Cabaret.”

It was a remarkable award: Ms. Richardson’s strengths did not include singing. But her reinvention of the role that was famously created by Liza Minnelli proved that a performer could act a song as well as sing it and make it equally affecting.

“Ms. Richardson, you see, isn’t selling the song; she’s selling the character,” Ben Brantley, writing in The Times, said of her delivery of the title song. “And as she forges ahead with the number, in a defiant, metallic voice, you can hear the promise of the lyrics tarnishing in Sally’s mouth. She’s willing herself to believe in them, and all too clearly losing the battle.”

Natasha Jane Richardson was born in London on May 11, 1963. She made her first film appearance at the age of 4, playing a bridesmaid at the wedding of her mother’s character in “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” directed by her father. She attended the Central School of Speech and Drama in London and got her first job in an outdoor production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

She eventually moved to the United States, where “no one cares about the Redgrave baggage,” as she once said. She gave her greatest performances there.

In the movies she played the title character in Paul Schrader’s film “Patty Hearst” (1988), about the heiress and kidnap victim. She worked with Mr. Schrader again on “The Comfort of Strangers” (1990), a creepy psychological drama with a screenplay by Harold Pinter from a novel by Ian McEwan.

The same year, she also starred in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” an adaptation of the dystopian novel by Margaret Atwood about subjugated women in a pseudo-Christian theocracy. In a 1993 television adaptation of Tennessee Williams’s one-act play “Suddenly, Last Summer,” she was Catherine Holly, a young woman (played by Elizabeth Taylor in the original movie) driven to the brink of insanity by the gruesome death of her young cousin. And she played the title role in the 1993 television movie “Zelda,” based on the life of Zelda Fitzgerald, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ferociously competitive and emotionally delicate wife.

Ms. Richardson’s more recent work has included more conventional Hollywood fare, including a remake of “The Parent Trap” (1998), the comedy “Maid in Manhattan” (2002) and the teen melodrama “Wild Child” (2008).

On stage, she appeared on Broadway in “Closer,” Patrick Marber’s play about infidelity and the Internet, and as Blanche DuBois in a revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire.” Though the production did not draw much praise, Ms. Richardson’s performance did, as perhaps her grandfather had envisioned.

In 1985, a week before he died, Sir Michael, enfeebled by Parkinson’s disease, went to see Ms. Richardson as Ophelia in a production of “Hamlet.” Turning to his daughter Vanessa, Ms. Richardson’s mother, he uttered a brief review. “She’s a true actress,” he said.

Mack Chico

By

2008/09/09 at 12:00am

Bardem calls the Spanish ‘a bunch of stupid people’

09.9.2008 | By |

Bardem calls the Spanish 'a bunch of stupid people'

Oscar winner Javier Bardem sat down recently with The New York Times for this exlusive interview touching upon fame, the Oscar and how he feels about his country.

At the Oscars last February, you won Best Supporting Actor for your portrayal of the ultimate bad guy, Anton Chigurh, in ‘‘No Country for Old Men,’’ directed by the Coen brothers. Now you are starring as the ultimate ladies’ man in Woody Allen’s ‘‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona.’’ Which is the more difficult role to play?

This is the first time in 20 years that I’m playing a leading man in a romantic comedy. It was a conscious decision: in my early career I waited for more complex roles to come, knowing that they might not ever come. The complexity of Chigurh was a kind of dream — the Coen brothers are my favorite directors of all time. On that movie, I was the only foreigner. And Chigurh really comes out of nowhere, which helped with the character, but it was a little isolating. In ‘‘Vicky Cristina,’’ I’m with these three beauties. I was afraid no one in the audience would believe they’d ever be with me. I was in the makeup trailer saying, ‘‘You better work a miracle.’’

How deeply do you imagine your characters before you play them?

I want to understand everything about that mind. With Chigurh, I saw him as a man with a mission that was beyond his control. Someone chose his fate for him. I thought of him as a man who never had sex. He doesn’t like human fluids, even his own. [Pauses] I don’t want to get into too many details, but I even imagined how Chigurh would masturbate. For the Woody Allen movie, I don’t have to imagine such things because the character is very sexual, but for Chigurh, it was important to think about how he relates to other people, even sexually. So, I think he will masturbate once per month in the dark and with a pillow. Very clean.

You grew up in Madrid, loving American as well as Spanish films.

That’s true: I don’t believe in God, but I believe in Al Pacino. The other day I was watching ‘‘Dog Day Afternoon’’ again, and I see a man who is so true, so interesting and I understand more about the world from his performance. And you go, ‘‘C’mon, it’s only acting.’’ Well, wouldn’t you say that a good book or a good painting allows you to see the world in a different way? When I see a great performance, I feel more alive.

Did you always feel this drawn to movies?

I started my career early. When I was 6, my mother, who is a well-known actress in Spain, cast me in a movie for television. It was a little moment where a guy puts a gun to my head and I have to laugh, but when I laugh, I’m also supposed to cry. I liked it immediately. When I was 13, I did theater for two months. Actually, I think my very first time onstage was when I was an altar boy. You have your moment there — it’s just Christ and you. [Laughs] As a kid, I felt happy onstage, but beforehand I would think, What am I doing here? I should be in the playground with my friends. I’m the same today: we actors are lazy. I like to take a year off between films. Some actors need to work for the money, but money is not a priority for me. I don’t have the need for a lot of cars or houses. Since I am a tomato in the market, I have a price. They have to pay the price, but money is not my biggest priority.

In Spain, they often are judgmental about their actors finding success in America. After you won the Oscar, how were you treated back home?

The Spanish are tough. They criticize my work and say I sold out. You want to say, ‘‘Stop it — you’re a bunch of stupid people.’’ But you are never going to be liked by everybody. After the Oscars, I came back to Madrid, where I live. I wanted to get back to the real world. After something like the awards, you’ve changed a little bit, but everyone around you has changed tremendously. You have to bring them back — you have to show that you are the same stupid, limited guy and not this kind of golden boy.

Are you receiving lots of scripts where you would play a villain?

No more bad boys. But I don’t see Chigurh as evil. You don’t have to like the characters you play, but you have to understand them and you must always defend them. Every actor wants to get to a point where you allow yourself to be taken by somebody else. That is the pleasure of it.

In ‘‘Vicky Cristina,’’ you have scenes with Penélope Cruz in Spanish. Does Woody Allen speak Spanish?

He told us what he wanted us to say and then we improvised, and after a while he’d say, ‘‘Cut.’’ We’d say, ‘‘Do you like it?’’ And he’d say, ‘‘I don’t know. I guess so.’’ It would be as if I was acting in Chinese — how would I know if I was good or not?

How has fame changed your life?

Mostly, it’s the same. I put on a hat and dark glasses and I can walk anywhere. But there are still questions which invade your privacy. I don’t really know why people need to know personal details about other people’s lives. It’s out of control. For a lot of people, the press is now the enemy.

Chigurh represented a departure for you — you famously told the Coens that you would happily take the part even though you hate violence, had never fired a gun and were uncomfortable speaking English.

And I don’t drive a car! They weren’t concerned. When you act, you learn things. Before ‘‘No Country,’’ I had never held a gun and now I can drive a car. When I was doing Chigurh, my English became so good that I was dreaming in English. Actors don’t learn because they want to know — we learn because we have to learn. I wish I would play a cook, so I could learn to make something worth eating.

You play a painter in ‘‘Vicky Cristina.’’ Did you have to learn to paint?

No, from the ages of 19 to 23, I studied painting. Initially, I worked as an extra in movies to get money to keep painting. Now I paint very secretly. Before playing this part, I asked Julian Schnabel [who directed Bardem in ‘‘Before Night Falls’’] if he feels fear when he faces a blank canvas. He said, ‘‘Fear of what?’’ [Laughs] That was the character!

Mack Chico

By

2008/09/03 at 12:00am

Don LaFontaine, legendary voice of trailers dies at 68

09.3.2008 | By |

Don LaFontaine, legendary voice of trailers dies at 68

Don LaFontaine, who brought his sonorous, ominous, melodramatic baritone to so many thousands of movie trailers, commercials and television promos that he became known in the industry as “the voice of God,” or just “the V.O.G.,” died Monday near his home in Los Angeles. He was 68.

His death was confirmed by his agent, Kevin Motley. The official cause has not been released.

In a 33-year career Mr. LaFontaine did voice-overs for more than 5,000 movie trailers, 350,000 commercials and thousands of television promos, including dozens of “Next week on ‘E.R.’ “ spots.

“Don was an absolute treasure to the voice-over industry,” Joan Baker, the author of “Secrets of Voice-Over Success” (Sentient Publications, 2005), said in an interview on Tuesday. “He had a unique sound, a voice placed deep in his body that cut through the sound bites and the music.”

Ms. Baker said Mr. LaFontaine “understood the dynamics of each word and gave each word a musical note that was intuitive, which is why he could perform in so many genres — action, drama, comedy, romance, horror films, science fiction.”

Mr. LaFontaine wrote most of his voice-overs and, sometimes with collaborators, came up with familiar phrases like “a one-man army,” “one man, one destiny,” “from the bedroom to the boardroom,” and “nowhere to run, nowhere to hide and no way out.”

But he is best known for “In a world where … ,” which has become overused and the subject of parody. Ms. Baker could not say for what production that phrase was first used. But in an interview last year, Mr. LaFontaine explained its intent.

“We have to very rapidly establish the world we are transporting them to,” he said of his viewers. “That’s very easily done by saying: ‘In a world where … violence rules,’ ‘In a world where … men are slaves and women are the conquerors.’ You very rapidly set the scene.”

Comics have since pounced on the phrase, and in 2005 Mr. LaFontaine himself spoofed it in a commercial for Geico Insurance. It was one of a series in which celebrities commented on the tales of real people involved in accidents.

“People had heard his voice for decades, but the Geico spot put him on the map, visually,” Ms. Baker said. “In his commercial, this very plain woman describes her accident, and Don, in the background, narrates it in movie-trailer promo talk. The very first thing he says starts, ‘In a world where both of our cars are totally under water … ’ “

Born in Duluth, Minn., on Aug. 26, 1940, Mr. LaFontaine joined the Army soon after graduating from high school and was assigned to an Army band as a recording engineer. After his discharge, he got a job with National Recording Studios in New York. There he met Floyd Peterson, a producer of radio commercials, and they formed a company to produce movie trailers.

In 1965, a scheduling mix-up prevented an announcer from making a session; Mr. LaFontaine took over the mike to read radio spots for “Gunfighters of Casa Grande.” To his surprise, MGM liked his first personal performance. In 1976, Mr. LaFontaine started his own production company. His first assignment was for “The Godfather, Part II.” Two years later, he became head of the trailer department at Paramount Pictures.

He later returned to independent production. Over the years, he did promos for films including “Terminator,” “Fatal Attraction,” “Cheaper by the Dozen,” “Batman Returns” and “The Elephant Man.” He did commercials for Chevrolet, Pontiac, Ford, Budweiser, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola, among other companies.

Mr. LaFontaine is survived by his wife, the singer-actress Nita Whitaker, and three daughters, Christine, Skye and Elyse.

Working from a home studio that his wife dubbed “the Hole,” Mr. LaFontaine remained active until recently, averaging at least seven voice-overs a day. Last year, he did a promotion for the “The Simpsons Movie,” in which his comments were immediately echoed by characters from the film. At one point he says, “Hey, you’re just repeating everything I’m saying!” and Homer responds: “I know. It’s weird!”

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