Some of the most beloved movies ever were based on books. But just because we loved them doesn’t mean the original author did.
1. P.L. TRAVERS // MARY POPPINS
Disney’s Mary Poppins might be a cherished childhood memory for a lot of us, but for author P.L. Travers, it was a complete slap in the face. Despite having script approval, Travers’ edits were largely disregarded. Travers loathed the movie’s animated sequences and was perturbed that Mary Poppins’ strict side was downplayed. After some heated meetings, Travers reluctantly approved. She would have been shunned from the star-studded premiere had she not shamed a Disney exec into an invite. The 65-year-old Travers spent most of the movie crying and ultimately refused to let Disney touch the rest of the series. This later became a movie—Saving Mr. Banks—with Tom Hanks playing Walt Disney. And a Poppins sequel is in the works.
2. STEPHEN KING // THE SHINING
Stephen King probably made movie buffs cringe when he said he hated what Stanley Kubrick did to The Shining.
“I’d admired Kubrick for a long time and had great expectations for the project, but I was deeply disappointed in the end result. … Kubrick just couldn’t grasp the sheer inhuman evil of The Overlook Hotel. So he looked, instead, for evil in the characters and made the film into a domestic tragedy with only vaguely supernatural overtones. That was the basic flaw: because he couldn’t believe, he couldn’t make the film believable to others.” He was also unhappy with Jack Nicholson’s performance—King wanted it to be clear that Jack Torrance wasn’t crazy until he got to the hotel and felt that Nicholson made the character crazy from the start. King recently described the movie as “a big, beautiful Cadillac with no engine inside it.” With director Mick Garris, King ended up working on another version of The Shining that aired on ABC in 1997.
3. ANNE RICE // INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE
After casting was completed for the movie version of Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, she said Tom Cruise was “no more my vampire Lestat than Edward G. Robinson is Rhett Butler.” The casting was “so bizarre,” she said, “it’s almost impossible to imagine how it’s going to work.” When she saw the movie, however, she actually loved Cruise’s portrayal and told him what an impressive job he had done. She still hasn’t come around to liking Queen of the Damned, though, telling her Facebook fans to avoid seeing the film that “mutilated” her books.
4. WINSTON GROOM // FORREST GUMP
Note to filmmakers: don’t anger the author of the book before the sequel has been written. Unhappy with the way Hollywood treated Forrest Gump by omitting plot points and sanitizing some of the language and sex, author Winston Groom started its sequel with the lines, “Don’t never let nobody make a movie of your life’s story,” and “Whether they get it right or wrong, it don’t matter.” You can’t blame Groom for being mad: he sued for the 3% net profits his contract promised him, which he hadn’t received because producers claimed that by the time they took out production costs and advertising and promotional costs, the movie didn’t turn a profit. To add insult to injury, Groom wasn’t mentioned in any of the six Academy Award acceptance speeches given by various cast and crew members of Forrest Gump.
5. CLIVE CUSSLER // SAHARA
Clive Cussler’s Dirk Pitt tales have a cult following. Dirk Pitt movies don’t, especially 2005’sSahara starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz. In fact, it was a certified flop: the $145 million production made just $68 million at the box office. Cussler said it was because the producer failed to give him total script control as agreed upon and sued for $38 million. He lost. In fact, Cussler was ordered to pay $13.9 million for legal fees incurred by the Saharaproduction company. Though that order was overturned in 2010, it’s safe to say that Cussler probably won’t be pursuing that relationship again. By the way, the other Dirk Pitt movie adaptation, Raise the Titanic!, was also an epic stinker and was even nominated for the first ever Golden Raspberry Award (in multiple categories). Despite having the star presence of Oscar winners Jason Robards and Alec Guinness, the movie made back less than 20 percent of its $40 million budget.
6. J.D. SALINGER // MY FOOLISH HEART
There’s a reason no one has ever seen a big-screen version of Catcher in the Rye or Franny and Zooey. In the late ‘40s, J.D. Salinger consented to have his short story Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut made into a movie retitled My Foolish Heart. He was so mortified by the swooning love story that he swore his works would never be butchered again.
7. ANTHONY BURGESS // A CLOCKWORK ORANGE
Not only did Anthony Burgess dislike the movie based on his novella A Clockwork Orange, he later regretted writing any of it in the first place. “The book I am best known for, or only known for, is a novel I am prepared to repudiate: written a quarter of a century ago, a jeu d’esprit knocked off for money in three weeks, it became known as the raw material for a film which seemed to glorify sex and violence. The film made it easy for readers of the book to misunderstand what it was about, and the misunderstanding will pursue me till I die. I should not have written the book because of this danger of misinterpretation.”
8. BRET EASTON ELLIS // THE INFORMERS, AMERICAN PSYCHO
Bret Easton Ellis doesn’t think any of the film adaptations of his books are that great (save for maybe The Rules of Attraction), but he dislikes some more than others. Though he worked on 2009’s The Informers, he says, “That movie doesn’t work for a lot reasons but I don’t think any of those reasons are my fault.”
And Ellis believes American Psycho never should have happened: “American Psycho was a book I didn’t think needed to be turned into a movie. I think the problem with American Psychowas that it was conceived as a novel, as a literary work with a very unreliable narrator at the center of it and the medium of film demands answers. It demands answers. You can be as ambiguous as you want with a movie, but it doesn’t matter — we’re still looking at it. It’s still being answered for us visually. I don’t think American Psycho is particularly more interesting if you knew that he did it or think that it all happens in his head. I think the answer to that question makes the book infinitely less interesting.”
9. ROALD DAHL // WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY
Ever wonder why Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator hasn’t followed in the silver screen footsteps of its predecessor, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Because Roald Dahl felt the movie version of his book was “crummy,” found Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka to be “pretentious” and “bouncy,” and thought the director had “no talent or flair.” He vowed that film producers would never get their hands on the sequel to similarly ruin it, at least not in his lifetime.
10. KEN KESEY // ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST
Despite the fact that One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest swept the Academy Awards—it won Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Screenplay—author Ken Kesey was not impressed. He was originally slated to help with the production, but left two weeks into the process. Though he claimed for a long time that he didn’t even watch it and was especially upset that they didn’t keep the viewpoint of Chief Bromden, his wife later said that he was glad the movie was made.
11. RICHARD MATHESON // I AM LEGEND
Richard Matheson has been annoyed with the adaptations of his book I Am Legend since 1964. The first one, The Last Man on Earth, starred Vincent Price. “I was disappointed in The Last Man on Earth, even though they more or less followed my story. I think Vincent Price, whom I love in every one of his pictures that I wrote, was miscast. I also felt the direction was kind of poor.” Another version, The Omega Man, starred Charlton Heston. “The Omega Manwas so removed from my book that it didn’t even bother me,” Matheson said. And when I Am Legend starring Will Smith was announced, the author commented, “I don’t know why Hollywood is fascinated by my book when they never care to film it as I wrote it.” The most recent adaptation, by the way, completely changed Matheson’s ending because it didn’t test well with audiences.
Glen Campbell Plays “The #William Tell Overture” (acoustic)
Published on Aug 18, 2015
From September 1974 in New York’s Central Park, Glen Campbell plays an acoustic version of “The William Tell Overture”. In later years he always used an electric guitar for this. Sometime around 1974 Glen recorded an acoustic studio version of William Tell that sounds much like this, but it went unreleased for years until it was accidentally released on the 1997 Razor & Tie 2-CD set “The Glen Campbell Collection”. I say accidentally because the track listing for the compilation lists the live 1977 version with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, but what you hear is the 1974 studio acoustic version.
I was asked on Father’s Day, what my dad #Clayton Moore’s legacy was. No small question to anyone, but when layered on to a man who portrayed The #Lone Ranger for over five decades, slightly more daunting for a daughter to answer.
Nope, I’ve not yet seen the Johnny Depp/Armie Hammer version. I hope it’s fantastic. I hope it’s a rip-roaring, shoot-em-up adventure that brings the message the character carries into the 21st century. At least, that’s what I hope.
Last weekend, the Memphis Film Festival honored the legendary western lawman’s 80th anniversary and invited me along with many other first and second-generation links to Hollywood’s cowboy heritage. Dad, in fact, had attended that very festival exactly 30 years ago and indeed, some of those same fans were on hand to greet me. Some brought their copies of his autobiography, others 8×10 glossies, still others their costumed toddlers — mask and all — to take a picture or give me a hug. Their toddlers.
Just to lay the foundation here, I have chosen my own path far from the film industry’s blinding Klieg-lights. My talent for entertainment abruptly ends when any group larger than Thanksgiving dinner assembles, and my inherent childhood shyness turns to sheer terror. Yes, I suppose all the world’s a stage, but I have been cast as a reluctant performer.
That said, there I sat on a panel to receive questions from fans passionate about my father’s embodiment of the Masked Man. The day’s first question came to me. “Miss Moore,” (this is the Bible-belt, after all), “what do you consider your father’s legacy to be?” The answer — and emotions — came quickly.
Thirteen years after my father’s passing, I continue to receive fan letters — not just from the United States, but from all over the world. The letters come from policemen, firemen and teachers who say they chose a life of protecting others wanting to emulate the example my father set — not just as an actor, but as a man. What’s his legacy? That he inspired and continues to inspire the notion of offering assistance without seeking acknowledgement or fame. To come to the aid of someone in need. Pretty powerful stuff.
As is the Lone Ranger Creed. Written by Fran Striker in 1933 as the template for the radio show’s writers — as in, “What would the Lone Ranger do?” — it remains remarkably timeless. Its tenants set quite a high moral bar few people could master; fewer still would even attempt. My dad was quoted often as saying portraying the character made him a better person. A little hokey perhaps, but hey, if the love that flows from his multi-generational fans is any measure of that effort, then I would say he accomplished his goal.
It’s ironic that almost 60 years after my father grasped hundreds of tiny hands on Disneyland’s opening day, that Disney is the studio holding the fate of the character in its hands. Well, Frontierland could use a little make-over…
Considered one of the 100 Most Interesting Items in The Smithsonian’s collection, the mask Clayton Moore wore has become an icon of Americana. Now, that’s what I call a legacy.
July 17, 2015 Manly Skills Talk Like Frank Sinatra vintage Frank Sinatra
Old Blue Eyes. The Chairman of the Board. Frank Sinatra was the epitome of American male coolness. When he walked into any room, his confident swagger created an electric charge. Women wanted to be with him and men wanted to be him.
Part of Sinatra’s manly and cool presence came from the way he talked. See, Frank had a way of livening up every part of life, even the English language. He peppered casual conversations with phrases and words that to the uninitiated sounded like a bunch of gibberish. Yet it left people intrigued, and wanting to be part of the seemingly exclusive fraternity that used this secret lingo. It not only created a magnetic attraction, but simply sounded damn cool.
Below is a dictionary of the secret man language of Frank Sinatra. Throw a few of these words into your conversations among friends. You’ll probably get a few raised eyebrows but like Frank, you’ll add spark to even the most mundane interactions.
Bag — As in “my bag,” a person’s particular interest.
Barn burner — A very stylish, classy woman.
Beard — A male friend who acts as a “cover,” usually for extramarital affairs.
Beetle — A girl who dresses in flashy clothes.
Big-leaguer — A resourceful man who can handle any situation.
Bird — A euphemism sometimes used in reference to the pelvic section.
Bombsvillle — Any kind of failure in life.
Broad — Affectionate term for a girl or woman with sex appeal.
Bum — A person who is despised, most frequently linked to people in the media.
Bunter — A man who fails in almost everything he does, the opposite of gasser.
Charley — A general term for anyone whose name has been forgotten. See also Sam.
Chick — A young and invariably pretty girl.
Clam-bake — A party or get-together.
Clyde — A word used to cover a multitude of personal observations: viz, “I don’t like her clyde,” means, “I don’t like her voice,” etc.
Cool — A term of admiration for a person or place. An alternative word meaning the same thing is crazy.
Creep — A man who is disliked for any reason whatsoever.
Crumb — Someone for whom it is impossible to show respect.
Dame — A generally derogatory term for a probably unattractive woman. The word dog is also sometimes substituted.
Dig — A term of appreciation for a person or thing, as in “I dig her.”
Dying — As in, “I’m dying,” which means, “I’m slightly upset.”
End — A word to signify that someone or something is the very best.
Endsville — A term to express total failure, and similar to bombsville. See ville.
Fink — A man who cannot be relied upon, whose loyalties are suspect.
First base — The start of something, usually applied in terms of failure when someone has failed to reach it.
Fracture — As in, “That fractures me,” meaning, “That’s an amusing joke.”
Gas — A great situation as in, “The day was a gas.”
Gasoline — A term for alcohol, more specifically, Frank’s favorite drink, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whisky.
Gasser — A man or woman highly admired, considered to be the best or, “The End!”
Gofer — Someone who does menial jobs or runs errands, as in, “go for drinks,” etc.
Good night all — A term of invective to change the subject of conversation.
Groove — As in “in the groove,” a term of admiration or approval.
Harvey — A man or woman who acts in a stupid or naive fashion; sometimes shortened to a “Harve.”
Hacked — A word used to describe someone who is angry, as in, “He’s hacked off.”
Hello! — A cry of surprise to no one in particular when a beautiful woman is seen.
Hunker — A jack-of-all-trades rather like the gofer.
Jokes — A term used to describe an actor’s lines in a film script.
Let’s lose Charley — A term used among intimates who want to get rid of a bore in their company.
Locked-up — As in “all locked-up,” a term for a forthcoming date or engagement, private or public.
Loser — Anyone who has made a mess of their life, drinks too much, makes enemies, etc.
Mish-mash — Similar to loser but refers specifically to a woman who is mixed up.
Mouse — Usually a small, very feminine girl who invites being cuddled.
Nowhere — A term of failure, usually applied to a person, viz, “He’s nowhere.”
Odds — Used in connection with important decisions, as in, “The odds aren’t right,” meaning not to go somewhere, accept anything, or buy something.
Original loser — A man or woman without talent; sometimes more fully expressed as, “He (she) is the original Major Bowes Amateur Hour loser.”
Platinum — Having a big heart, generous. “You’re platinum, pussycat!”
Player — Term for a man who is a gambler by nature, who makes friends easily, and never gives up trying.
Punks — Any undesirable person, in particular mobsters, gangsters, or criminals.
Quin — Derisive term for any girl or woman who is an easy pick-up.
Rain — As in, “I think it’s going to rain,” indicating that it is time to leave a dull gathering or party.
Ring-a-ding — A term of approval for a beautiful girl, viz, “What a ring-a-ding broad!”
Sam — Used in the same way as Charley for a person whose name has been forgotten, most often applied to females.
Scam — To cheat at gambling, as in, “Hey, what’s the scam?”
Scramsville — To run off.
Sharp — A person who dresses well and with style.
Smashed — A word used to describe someone who is drunk. On occasions it has been replaced with “pissed.”
Square — A person of limited character, not unlike a Harvey.
Swing — To hang out and drink, smoke, sing, generally get real loose.
Tomato — As in “a ripe tomato,” a woman ready for seduction or even marriage.
Twirl — A girl who loves dancing. An alternative word with the same meaning is a “Twist.”
Ville — A suffix used to indicate changes in any given situation. See endsville, etc.
Wow-ee wow wow — An expression of glee, joyful anticipation, and a euphemism for lubricious fun.
Need some more help capturing that Sinatra swagger? Listen to some tunes from Old Blue Eyes.
My Way: The Best of Frank Sinatra
The Very Best of #Frank Sinatra
The Frank Sinatra Scrapbook: His Life and Times in Words and Pictures
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Richard Hollingshead was a young sales manager at his dad’s Whiz Auto Products, who had a hankering to invent something that combined his two interests: cars and movies.
Richard Hollingshead’s vision was an open-air movie theater where moviegoers could watch from their own cars. He experimented in his own driveway at 212 Thomas Avenue, Camden, New Jersey. The inventor mounted a 1928 Kodak projector on the hood of his car, projected onto a screen he had nailed to trees in his backyard, and used a radio placed behind the screen for sound.
The inventor subjected his beta drive-in to vigorous testing: for sound quality, for different weather conditions (Richard used a lawn sprinkler to imitate rain) and for figuring out how to park the patrons’ cars. Richard tried lining up the cars in his driveway, which created a problem with line of sight if one car was directly parked behind another car. By spacing cars at various distances and placing blocks and ramps under the front wheels of cars that were further away from the screen, Richard Hollingshead created the perfect parking arrangement for the drive-in movie theater experience.
The first patent for the Drive-In Theater (United States Patent# 1,909,537) was issued on May 16, 1933. With an investment of $30,000, Richard opened the first drive-in on Tuesday June 6, 1933 at a location on Crescent Boulevard, Camden, New Jersey. The price of admission was 25 cents for the car and 25 cents per person.
The design did not include the in-car speaker system we know today. The inventor contacted a company by the name of RCA Victor to provide the sound system, called “Directional Sound.” Three main speakers were mounted next to the screen that provided sound. The sound quality was not good for cars in the rear of the theater or for the surrounding neighbors.
The largest drive-in theater in patron capacity was the All-Weather Drive-In of Copiague, New York. All-Weather had parking space for 2,500 cars, an indoor 1,200 seat viewing area, kid’s playground, a full service restaurant and a shuttle train that took customers from their cars and around the 28-acre theater lot.
The two smallest drive-ins were the Harmony Drive-In of Harmony Pennsylvania and the Highway Drive-In of Bamberg, South Carolina. Both drive-ins could hold no more than 50 cars.
An interesting innovation was the combination drive-in and fly-in theater. On June 3, 1948, Edward Brown, Junior opened the first theater for cars and small planes. Ed Brown’s Drive-In and Fly-In of Asbury Park, New Jersey had the capacity for 500 cars and 25 airplanes. An airfield was placed next to the drive-in and planes would taxi to the last row of the theater. When the movies were over, Brown provided a tow for the planes to be brought back to the airfield.
The drive-in theater movie experience cannot be beat.
all artwork Mary Bellis – (original photo source LOC)
With 11 nominations and five wins for Hugo at the 2012 Oscars, Martin Scorsese remains one of the most influential directors in Hollywood. But what influenced him? Here’s an A-Z list of the films that mattered to Scorsese.
Interviewing Martin Scorsese is like taking a master class in film. Fast Company’s four-hour interview with the director for the December-January cover story was ostensibly about his career, and how he had been able to stay so creative through years of battling studios. But the Hugo director punctuated everything he said with references to movies: 85 of them, in fact, all listed below.
Some of the movies he discussed (note: the descriptions for these are below in quotes, denoting his own words). Others he just mentioned (noted below with short plot descriptions and no quotes). But the cumulative total reflects a life lived entirely within the confines of movie making, from his days as a young asthmatic child watching a tiny screen in Queens, New York to today, when Scorsese is as productive as he’s ever been in his career—and more revered than ever by the industry that once regarded him as a troublesome outsider. Hugo leads the Academy Award nominations with 11 nods, including Best Picture and Best Director. Several Oscar pundits believe he’ll nab his second Directing win. If so, he owes a lot to movies like the ones below.
Ace in the Hole: “This Billy Wilder film was so tough and brutal in its cynicism that it died a sudden death at the box office, and they re-released it under the title Big Carnival, which didn’t help. Chuck Tatum is a reporter who’s very modern—he’ll do anything to get the story, to make up the story! He risks not only his reputation, but also the life of this guy who’s trapped in the mine.” 1951
All That Heaven Allows: In this Douglas Sirk melodrama, Rock Hudson plays a gardener who falls in love with a society widow played by Jane Wyman. Scandale! 1955
America, America: Drawn directly from director Elia Kazan’s family history, this film offers a passionate, intense view of the challenges faced by Greek immigrants at the end of the 19th century. 1963
An American in Paris: This Vincente Minnelli film, with Gene Kelly, picked up the idea of stopping within a film for a dance from The Red Shoes. 1951
Apocalypse Now: This Francis Ford Coppola masterpiece is from a period when directors like Brian DePalma, John Milius, Paul Schrader, Scorsese and others had great freedom—freedom that they then lost. 1979
Arsenic and Old Lace: Scorsese is a big fan of many Frank Capra movies, and this Cary Grant vehicle is one of several that he’s enjoyed with his family at his office screening room. 1944
The Bad and the Beautiful: Vincente Minnelli directed this film about a cynical Hollywood mogul trying to make a comeback. It stars Kirk Douglas, Lana Turner, Walter Pidgeon, and Dick Powell. 1952
The Band Wagon: “It’s my favorite of the Vincente Minnelli musicals. I love the storyline that combines Faust and a musical comedy, and the disaster that results. Tony Hunter, the lead character played by Fred Astaire, is a former vaudeville dancer whose time has passed, and who’s trying to make it on Broadway, which is a very different medium of course. By the time the movie was made, the popularity of the Astaire/Rogers films had waned, raising the question of what are you going to do with Fred Astaire in Technicolor? So, really, Tony Hunter is Fred Astaire—his whole reputation is on the line, and so was Fred Astaire’s.” 1953
Born on the Fourth of July: Produced by Universal Pictures under Tom Pollock and Casey Silver, this Tom Cruise movie (directed by Oliver Stone) was an example of how that studio “wanted to make special pictures,” says Scorsese. 1989
Cape Fear: As he once explained to Steven Spielberg over dinner in Tribeca, one of Scorsese’s fears about directing a remake of this film was that, “The original was so good. I mean, you’ve got Gregory Peck, Robert Mitchum, Polly Bergen, it’s terrific!” 1962
Cat People: Simone Simon plays a woman who fears that she might turn into a panther and kill. It sounds corny, but the psychological thrills that directors Jacques Tourneur got out of his measly $150,000 budget make this a fascinating movie, with amazing lighting. 1942
Caught: “There are certain styles I had trouble with at first, like some of Max Ophuls’ films. It took me till I was into my thirties to get The Earrings of Madame de…, for example. But I didn’t have trouble with this one, which I saw in a theater and which is kind of based on Howard Hughes [protagonist of The Aviator].” 1949
Citizen Kane: “Orson Welles was a force of nature, who just came in and wiped the slate clean. And Citizen Kane is the greatest risk-taking of all time in film. I don’t think anything had even seen anything quite like it. The photography was also unlike anything we’d seen. The odd coldness of the filmmaker towards the character reflects his own egomania and power, and yet a powerful empathy for all of them—it’s very interesting. It still holds up, and it’s still shocking. It takes storytelling and throws it up in the air.” 1941
The Conversation: Gene Hackman stars in this thrilled directed by Scorsese’s friend, Francis Ford Coppola. It’s a classic example of studio risk-taking in the early 1970s. 1974
Dial M for Murder: When discussing the creation of Hugo, Scorsese referred to this Hitchcock film as an example of other directors who have tangled with 3-D over the years. In its original release most theaters only showed it in 2-D; now the 3-D version pops up in theaters from time to time.1954
Do The Right Thing: Spike Lee’s film was the kind of risky production that drew Scorsese to Universal Pictures when it was run by Casey Silver and Tom Pollack. “Then Pollock left,” says Scorsese, “and it all changed.” 1989
Duel in the Sun: Scorsese went to see this movie, which some critics called “Lust in the Dust,” when he was 4 years old. Jennifer Jones falls hard for a villainous Gregory Peck in this lush King Vidor picture. A poster of the movie hangs in Scorsese’s offices. 1946
The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse:Rex Ingram made this movie, in which Rudolph Valentino dances the tango. Ingram stopped making films when sound came in. Michael Powell’s father worked for Ingram; living in that milieu gave Michael the cultural knowledge that informed his own movies like The Red Shoes. 1921
Europa ’51: “After making The Flowers of St. Francis, Rossellini asked, what would a modern-day saint be like? I think they based it on Simone Weil, and Ingrid Bergman played the part. It really takes everything we’re dealing with today, whether it’s revolutions in other countries or people trying to change their lifestyles, and it’s all there in that film. The character tries everything, because she has a tragedy in her family that really changes her, so she tries politics and even working in a factory, and in the end it has a very moving resolution.” [Also known as The Greatest Love] 1952
Faces: “[Director John] Cassavetes went to Hollywood to shoot films like A Child is Waiting and Too Late Blues, and after Too Late Blues he became disenchanted. Those of us in the New York scene, we kept asking, ‘What’s Cassavetes doing? What’s he up to?’ And he was shooting this film in his house in L.A. with his wife Gena Rowlands and his friends. And when Faces showed at the New York Film Festival, it absolutely trumped everything that was shown at the time. Cassavetes is the person who ultimately exemplifies independence in film.” 1968
The Fall of the Roman Empire: One of the last “sandal epics,” this sweeping Anthony Mann picture boasted a stellar cast of Sophia Loren, Anthony Boyd, James Mason, Alec Guinness, Christopher Plummer, and Anthony Quayle. And it failed miserably at the box office. 1964
The Flowers of St. Francis: “This Rossellini movie and Europa ’51 are two of the best films about the part of being human that yearns for something beyond the material. Rossellini used real monks for this movie. It’s very simple and beautiful.” 1950
Force of Evil: Another picture that defined the American gangster image, this noir stars John Garfield as the evil older brother whose younger sibling won’t join his numbers-running conglomerate. 1948
Forty Guns: Barbara Stanwyck stars in this Sam Fuller Western. She plays a bad-ass cattle rancher with a soft spot for a local lawman. 1957
Germany Year Zero: “Roberto Rossellini always felt he had an obligation to inform. He was the first one to do a story about compassion for the enemy, in this film—it’s always been hard to find, but now there’s a Criterion edition. It’s a very disturbing picture. He was the first one to go there after the war, to say we all have to live together. And he felt cinema was the tool that could do this, that could inform people.” 1948
Gilda: “I saw this when I was 10 or 11, I had some sort of funny reaction to her, I tell you! Me and my friends didn’t know what to do about Rita Hayworth, and we didn’t really understand what George McCready was doing to her. Can you imagine? Gilda at age 11. But that’s what we did. We went to the movies.” 1946
The Godfather: “Gordon Willis did the same dark filming trick on The Godfather as he had done on Klute. And now audiences accepted it, and went along with it, and every director of photography and now every director of photography of the past 40 years owes him the greatest debt, for changing the style completely—until now, of course, with the advent of digital.” 1972
Gun Crazy: A romantic example of film noir, this one features a gun-toting husband and a sharpshooting wife. 1950
Health: This Altman movie came out at the same time as King of Comedy. They were both flops, and we were both out. The age of the director was over. E.T. was a very big worldwide hit around then, and that changed the whole business of film finance. 1980
Heaven’s Gate: Scorsese was with United Artists in the ’70s, with producers he describes as “understanding and supportive.” Heaven’s Gate, one of the ambitious films UA backed at the time, was a critical and box office bomb, although its reputation has improved over the years. 1980
House of Wax: This was the first 3-D movie produced by a major American studio. It starred Vincent Price as a wax sculptor whose sourcing was, shall we say, unusual. 1953
How Green Was My Valley: “I appreciate the visual poetry of [director John] Ford’s film, like in the famous scene where Maureen O’Hara is married and the wind blows the veil on her head. It’s absolute poetry. No words. It’s all there in the image.” 1941
The Hustler: Scorsese liked the Paul Newman character (Eddie Felson) in this movie so much that when Newman came calling about a possible update of the movie, he agreed to direct The Color of Money. He says the movie’s box office success helped rehabilitate his career after a tough slog. 1961
I Walk Alone: One of several movies that Scorsese says clearly defined the American gangster ideal, this one stars Burt Lancaster and the smoldering Lizabeth Scott. 1948
The Infernal Cakewalk: One of the many George Melies movies that have been restored and can now be seen on DVD. Melies, a French director of silent films, is at the center of the plot of Hugo. 1903
It Happened One Night: “I didn’t think much of this Frank Capra film, until I saw it recently on the big screen. And I discovered it was a masterpiece! The body language of Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable, the way they related—it’s really quite remarkable.” 1934
Jason and the Argonauts: As part of his film education of his daughter, Scorsese screened a bunch of Ray Harryhausen classics, including this one. 1963
Journey to Italy: “After Rossellini married Ingrid Bergman he wiped the slate clean and left Neo-Realism behind. Instead he made these intimate stories that had a great deal to do with a certain intellectual mysticism, a sense of cultural power. In Viaggio [Viaggio in Italia is the Italian title], for example, the English couple played by George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman are traveling in Naples on vacation while marriage is falling apart, but the land around them—the people the museums, and especially their visit to Pompeii, these thousands of years of culture around them—work on them like a modern miracle. The film is basically two people in a car, and that became the entire New Wave. Kids may not have seen this film, but it’s basically in all the independent film of today.” 1954
Julius Caesar: “This is another example of Orson Welles’ risk-taking, with Caesar’s crew as out-and-out gangsters.” 1953
Kansas City: “This is one of the great jazz movies ever. If you could hang on with Altman, you were going to go on one of the great rides of your lives.” 1996
Kiss Me Deadly: A great example of the noir genre that so inspired Scorsese. This one stars Ralph Meeker as detective Mike Hammer. 1955
Klute: “There are movies that change the whole way in which films are made, like Klute, where Gordon Willis’s photography on the film is so textured, and, they said, too dark. At first this was alarming to people, because they’re used to a certain way things are done within the studio system. And the studio is selling a product, so they were wary of people thinking that it’s too dark.” 1971
La Terra Trema: This Lucchino Visconti film is one of the founding films of Neo-Realism. 1948
The Lady from Shanghai: “The story goes that Welles had to make a film and he was in this railway station, and there were some paperbacks there and he was talking to Harry Cohn of Columbia and he said look, I’ve got the greatest film it’s called Lady from Shanghai, which was this paperback he saw there. And then he made up this story, taking elements of Moby Dick, where he talks about the sharks, and the whole mirror sequence in that picture is unsurpassed. I don’t know if Lady is a noir, but it’s awkward, and it’s brilliant.” 1947
The Leopard: “Visconti and Rossellini and deSica were the founders of Neo-Realism. Visconti went a different way from Rossellini. He made this movie, which is one of the greatest films ever made.” 1963
Macbeth: “This was the first Welles movie I saw, on television. He shot it in 27 days. The look of it, the Celtic barbarism, the Druid priest, this was all very different from other Macbeth productions I’d seen. The use of superimpositions, the effigies at the beginning of the film—it was more like cinema than theatre. Anything Welles did, given his background in radio, was a big risk. Macbeth is an audacious film, set in Haiti of all places.” 1948
The Magic Box: “There were a number of people who felt that they had invented moving pictures. Robert Donat plays William Friese-Greene, one of those people, who’s obsessed from childhood with movement and color. Donat was a great actor. And this is a beautifully done film.” 1951
M*A*S*H: “I saw it at a press screening. That was the first football game I ever understood. Altman developed this style that came out of his life and making television movies, it was so unique—and his movies seemed to come out every two weeks.” 1972
A Matter of Life and Death: “This is another beautiful film by Powell and Pressburger, but it was made after World War II, so people said, ‘You can’t use the word ‘Death’ in the title!’ So it got changed to Stairway to Heaven, that’s what it was called in America. Now it’s A Matter of Life and Death again.” 1946
McCabe & Mrs. Miller: “This is an absolute masterpiece. Altman could shoot quickly and get the very best actors.” 1971
The Messiah: “Rossellini’s last film in this third period, the last film he made before he died, is this beautiful TV film on Jesus. He had planned on making more such films, like one on Karl Marx. He thought TV was the way to reach young people, to educate them. But then of course TV changed.” 1975
Midnight Cowboy: One of the great movies released by UA in its glory days, starring Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. 1969
Mishima: Scorsese describes this Paul Schrader film about the great Japanese author as a “masterpiece.” 1985
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town: In this Frank Capra movie, one of several that Scorsese has screened for his family, Gary Cooper plays a small-town boy who inherits a fortune—and a bevy of big-city sharpies that he can’t quite contend with. 1936
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: Jimmy Stewart stars in this Capra movie, one of the all-time greats, which features a dramatic filibuster. 1939
Nashville: “Altman had a point of view that was uniquely American and an artistic vision to go with it. All his early work pointed to this movie.” 1975
Night and the City: “It’s the essential British noir film. Harry Fabien, played by Richard Widmark, is a two-bit hustler running through the London underworld at night, and he always oversteps, particularly with the gangster played by Herbert Lom. From the very beginning you know Fabien’s going to fail, because he’s up against a power he doesn’t understand. 1950
One, Two, Three: A classic Billy Wilder comedy, starring James Cagney as a Coca-Cola exec in West Berlin. The dialogue crackles. 1961
Othello: “It took (Orson Welles) years to finish this. There were tons of quick cuts, and there’s a wonderful sequence where two people are attacked in a Turkish bath, and it works beautifully. They’re wearing towels, and one is dispatched under the boards. It has a strange North African whiteness. It turns out that he was ready to do the sequence, and the costumes didn’t show up. So he said, let’s put it in a Turkish bath. He had the actors there! He had to shoot it!” 1952
Paisa: “This is my all-time favorite of the Rossellini films.” 1946
Peeping Tom: “Michael Powell himself gambled everything on Peeping Tom and lost in such a way that his career was really ended. The film was so shocking to some British critics and the audience because he had some sympathy, sort of, for the serial killer. And the killer had the audacity to photograph the killing of the women with a motion picture camera, which of course tied in the motion picture camera as an object of voyeurism, implicating all of us watching horror films. He was reviled. One critic said this should be flushed down the toilet. He only got one or two more movies done. He really disappeared. And now in England there are cameras watching everyone all over the street.” 1960
Pickup on South Street: Richard Widmark picks up the wrong purse in this classic noir, unwittingly setting off a series of events that come to a violent climax. 1953
The Player: “In the years before this movie, the age of the director who had a free hand came to an end. And yet Altman kept experimenting with different kinds of actors, different approaches to narrative, different equipment, until finally he hit it with this movie, which took him off onto a whole other level.” 1992
The Power and the Glory: “Directed by William K. Howard and written by Preston Sturges, it had a structure that Mankiewicz and Welles used for Citizen Kane.” 1933
Stagecoach: “Welles drew from everywhere. The ceilings and the interiors in John Ford’s classic Western inspired him for Citizen Kane.” 1939
Raw Deal: NOT the Arnold Schwarzenegger pic. This one’s a noir directed by Anthony Mann, starring Dennis O’Keefe and Claire Trevor. 1948
The Red Shoes: “There’s something so rich and powerful about the story, and the use of the color, that it deeply affected me when I was 9 or 10 years old. The archness of the approach, and how serious the ballet dancers were … When they say, “The spotlight toujours on moi,” they mean it! The ballet sequence is almost like the first rock video. It’s almost as if you’re seeing what the dancer sees and hears and feels as she’s moving. It’s like in Raging Bull, where we never went outside the ring for the fighting sequences.” 1948
The Rise of Louis XIV: “In the third part of his career, Rossellini decided to make an encyclopedia, a series of didactic films. This is the first film in that series, and it’s an artistic masterpiece. He shot it in 16mm for TV, and called it anti-dramatic. Yet, I screen it once every couple of years, and when you look at frames of it on the big screen there are shots that just look like paintings. Rossellini couldn’t get away from it, he had an artist’s eye. There’s nothing like the last 10 minutes of that film to show the accumulation and the display of power. It’s not done through the sword or the speech, it’s done through the theatre he created around him with his clothes, his food, the way he eats. It’s extraordinary.” 1966
The Roaring Twenties: James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart star in this homage to the gangsters of the 1920s. It was one of the many great films made in 1939 (like Gone with the Wind, The Women, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Stagecoach and many many more). 1939
Rocco and his Brothers: “This Visconti film was also a major influence on filmmakers.” 1960
Rome, Open City: “I saw Italian movies as a 5-year-old, on a 16-inch TV my father bought. We were living in Queens. There were only three stations. One station showed Italian films on Friday night for the Italian-American community, subtitled, and the family would gather to see the films. My grandparents were there—they were the ones who moved over in 1910. So it became a ritual. [Director Roberto] Rossellini had an intellectual approach.” 1945 Secrets of the Soul: “This was a silent movie whose flashback structure was unlike anything else. Secrets of the Soul looked almost experimental.” 1912
Senso: “An extraordinary film by Visconti, another Neo-Realist masterpiece.”
Shadows: “I saw Shadows at the 8th Street Playhouse [in Manhattan], and when I saw such a direct communication with the human experience, of conflict and love, it was almost as if there was no camera there at all. And I love camera positions! But this was like you were living with the people.” 1959
Shock Corridor: A wild Sam Fuller movie about a journalist who enters an insane asylum to try to break a story. 1963
Some Came Running: This Vincent Minnelli melodrama is definitely not a musical. It’s a tough story about an alcoholic Army vet returning home. It stars Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Shirley MacLaine. 1958
Stromboli: “This too was a very important film of Rossellini’s second period. Very beautiful.” [During the shooting of Stromboli, the star, Ingrid Bergman, who was married to an American dentist, got pregnant with Rossellini’s child. She divorced the dentist, and became persona non grata in America]. 1950
Sullivan’s Travels: “Billy Wilder told me, you’re only as good as your last picture. Sullivan, played by Joel McRae, is in the studio system, under that kind of pressure. He makes comedies, but one day he decides he really wants to make ‘Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?’ He puts it all on the line to learn about the poor. The resolution of the movie is very moving.” 1941
Sweet Smell of Success: Like Ace in the Hole, this classic noir is about an unethical journalist who will stop at nothing to get his way. Burt Lancaster plays the journalist. 1957
Tales of Hoffman: “This was a great risk for Powell and Pressburger. In fact, they lost it on that. He had in mind a composed film like a piece of music, and played the music back on set during the shooting, so the actors moved in a certain way.” 1951
The Third Man: “Carroll Reed made one of those films where everything came together. It made me see, with Kane, that there was another way of interpreting stories, and another approach to the visual frame of the classical films…all those low shots, and the cuts.” 1949
T-Men: Another Anthony Mann noir with great cinematography, this one’s about Department of Treasury men breaking up a counterfeiting ring. 1947
Touch of Evil: “Welles’ radio career with the Mercury Theater made him a master of the soundtrack. Just listen to this movie—you can close your eyes and imagine everything that is happening.” (Young people should listen to the radio soundtrack of War of the Worlds, which was so effective that people got in their cars and started to drive away, because they really believed that Martians were attacking.)
The Trial: “This is another film that gave us a new way of looking at films. You’re very aware of the camera, like when Anthony Perkins came running down this corridor of wooden slats and light cutting the image, blades and shafts of light, talk about paranoia!” 1962
Two Weeks in Another Town: The Vincente Minnelli movie stars Cyd Charisse, Kirk Douglas, and Edward G. Robinson. It’s a classic 1960s melodrama. 1962
Correction: Raw Deal was amended to reflect its release date of 1948.
Orson Welles directed the stage version of Julius Caesar; Joseph Mankiewicz directed the film.
Everyone knows Kevin Spacey for being an extremely talented actor with an extensive resume. You can see his amazing acting talents on ‘The Usual Suspects,’ ‘American Beauty’ and the extremely popular, ‘House of Cards’.
However, what many people may not know is that Kevin Spacey grew up in an extremely difficult and different household. Kevin Spacey’s father was an American-Nazi who physically and sexually abused him.
According to Fox News, Kevin Spacey’s father, Thomas Geoffrey Fowler, was a failed writer and was a Nazi-extremist who enjoyed dressing up and looking like Adolf Hitler. He collected Nazi memorabilia and claimed that the Holocaust never happened.
Spacey’s brother, Randall Fowler, has spoken out about his father. Fowler, claims his father sexually abused him and another female relative, while leaving Kevin Spacey alone. Despite not being sexually abused, Kevin Spacey tried to escape the trauma his father created in his life. He also changed his last name to Spacey, his mother’s maiden name, as a means to distance himself from his horrific father.
Kevin Spacey had tried to succeed as a comedian for several years, before attending the Juilliard School, one of the most elite acting schools in the world in New York City, where he studied drama.
Kevin Spacey is an extremely private man, who has managed to use these painful experiences to help him create deeply interesting characters. In most of his interviews he diverts questions relating to his private life, hoping to help people believe in his characters instead of who he really is. In an interview with Gotham Magazine, Spacey said, “I’ve just never believed in pimping my personal life out for publicity. I’m not interested in doing it. Never will do it. They can gossip all they want; they can speculate all they want. I just happen to believe that there’s a public life and there’s a private life. Everybody has a right to a private life no matter what their profession is.”
Since Kevin Spacey has become an A-List actor, he has given back to the community. He supports Cancer for College, Elton John Aids Foundation, and UNICEF.
Kevin Spacey may have grown up in a difficult hom, but he didn’t let that affect his future. He created a better life for himself and others, showing that it doesn’t matter where you com from but working hard to get to where you want to be.
What do you think? Discuss this story with fellow Project Casting fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @projectcasting.
You might not know this (we didn’t), but Tony Montana’s Scarface mansion has a name. The estate, known as “El Fureidis” and actually located in Montecito, California, recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation so that the 10-acre ………. continue reading
Paris, Texas The Observer
Harry Dean Stanton: ‘Life? It’s one big phantasmagoria’
The wine, the women, the song… The great Harry Dean Stanton talks to Sean O’Hagan about jogging with Dylan, Rebecca de Mornay leaving him for Tom Cruise and why Paris, Texas is his greatest film
Harry Dean Stanton
Harry Dean Stanton: ‘I surrender to acting in the same way I surrender to life’ Photograph: Steve Pyke
Saturday 23 November 2013 15.00 EST Last modified on Thursday 22 May 2014 05.00 EDT
Harry Dean Stanton is singing “The Rose of Tralee”. His wavering voice echoes across the rows of people gathered in the Village East cinema in New York, where a special screening of a new documentary about his life and work, Partly Fiction, has just finished. You can tell that the director, Sophie Huber, and the cinematographer, Seamus McGarvey, who are sitting beside him, are used to this sort of thing from Harry, but the rest of us are by turns delighted and a little bit nervous on his behalf. Now that he’s 87, Stanton’s voice is as unsteady as his gait, but he steers the old Irish ballad home in his inimitable manner and the audience responds with cheers and applause.
“Singing and acting are actually very similar things,” says Stanton when I ask him about his other talent, having seen him perform about 15 years ago with his Tex-Mex band in the Mint Bar in Los Angeles. “Anyone can sing and anyone can be a film actor. All you have to do is learn. I learned to sing when I was a child. I had a babysitter named Thelma. She was 18, I was six, and I was in love with her. I used to sing her an old Jimmie Rodgers song, ‘T for Thelma’.” Closing his eyes, he breaks into song: “T for Texas, T for Tennessee, T for Thelma, that girl made a wreck out of me.” He smiles his sad smile. “I was singing the blues when I was six. Kind of sad, eh?”
There is indeed a peculiar kind of sadness about Harry Dean Stanton, a mix of vulnerability, honesty and seeming guilelessness that has lit up the screen in his greatest performances. It’s there in his singing cameo in 1967’s prison movie Cool Hand Luke, in his leading role in Alex Cox’s underrated cult classic Repo Man in 1984 and, most unforgettably, in his almost silent portrayal of Travis, a man broken by unrequited love in Wim Wenders’s classic, Paris, Texas. “After all these years, I finally got the part I wanted to play,” Stanton once said of that late breakthrough role. “If I never did another film after Paris, Texas I’d be happy.”
Now, with mortality beckoning, Stanton still gives off the air of someone who, as he puts it, “doesn’t really give a damn”. In his room in a hip hotel on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the aircon is on full blast despite his runny nose and troubling cough, and he smokes like a train as if oblivious to the law and the health police. He looks scarecrow thin, but dapper, in his western suit, embroidered shirt and ornately embossed cowboy boots: a southern dandy even in old age. His hearing is not so good, but his voice remains unmistakable, that soft trace of his southern upbringing in rural Kentucky still detectable. “I’ve worked with some of the best of them,” he says. “Not just directors like Sam Peckinpah and David Lynch, but writers like Sam Shepard and singers like Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. I could have made it as a singer, but I went with acting, surrendered to it, in a way.”
Harry Dean Stanton in 1984’s Paris, Texas – the film of which he is most proud. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive
Before Paris, Texas, Stanton had appeared in around 100 films and since then he has acted in more than 50 more, though often as a supporting actor. The lead roles did not materialise in the way he expected them to, perhaps because he is so singular, both in looks and acting ability. When given the right script and a sympathetic director, though, he is as charismatic as anyone, as his role in David Lynch’s The Straight Story showed. Recently he has shone fitfully in Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths, and in the HBO series Big Love as a self-proclaimed Mormon prophet. He has also appeared in action pics such as The Last Stand with Arnie Schwarzenegger and in the Marvel blockbuster Avengers Assemble. He appears not to care too much about the kind of fame and huge earning power that other actors without an iota of his onscreen presence command.
“Harry is a walking contradiction,” says Huber, who has known him for 20 years. “He has this pride in appearing to not have to work hard to be good. He definitely does not want to be seen to be trying. It’s part of his whole Buddhist thing.” His worldview is a mixture of various Buddhist and other more esoteric eastern philosophies, shaped in the late 60s by the writings of Alan Watts, the Beat poet and Zen sage, and adapted over the years to suit Stanton’s singular, slightly eccentric lifestyle.
Lately, though, at screenings of Huber’s documentary, he has reacted angrily to Wim Wenders’s onscreen observation that Stanton was insecure about playing the lead role in Paris, Texas. “I asked him: ‘Harry, how come you are angry at that scene? I thought you didn’t have an ego,'” says Huber. “He just nodded and said: ‘Yeah, I guess I should shut up.’ But it had obviously got to him.”
Stanton tells me more than once that he has no ego and no regrets, but you have to wonder if that is true. He is, as Partly Fiction shows, a kind of lone drifter in Hollywood, perhaps the last of that generation of great American postwar character actors, and certainly one of the most singular.
Back in the late 60s, he shared a house in Hollywood with Jack Nicholson, and they partied hard with the David Crosby, Mama Cass Elliot and the burgeoning Laurel Canyon rock aristocracy of the time. Now, still an unrepentant bachelor, he speaks fondly on camera about the great lost love of his life, the actor Rebecca de Mornay – “She left me for Tom Cruise.”
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction
Harry Dean Stanton with Sophie Huber, the director of Partly Fiction. Photograph: Michael Buckner/Getty Images
When a wag in the audience asks him what Debbie Harry was like “in the sack”, he shoots back: “As good as you think!” adding that the Nastassja Kinski was pretty good, too.
Stanton spends most evenings, when he is not working in Dan Tana’s bar in East Hollywood, drinking with a small bunch of regulars and telling anyone who can’t quite place his face that he is a retired astronaut. “He’s an outsider but has lots of good friends,” says Huber. “He’s happy compared to most 87-year-olds. He says he doesn’t care about dying, but some days, I suspect, he thinks about it a lot. You never really know what’s going on in his head.”
This is exactly how Stanton likes it, of course. In Huber’s slow, almost meditative film, Stanton looms large while revealing little. The New York Times reviewer concluded: “You won’t learn much, but you’ll be strangely happy that you didn’t.” Stanton quotes the line back to me, grinning. “She got it,” he says approvingly. “That’s a very Buddhist thing to say.”
Huber describes Partly Fiction as “a portrait of his face” and those expressive eyes and weathered features, shot close-up in black and white by McGarvey’s luminous cinematography, do indeed speak volumes about how Stanton has made silence and stillness his most powerful means of onscreen communication. There is a great scene where David Lynch, his equal in eccentricity, talks about what Stanton does “in between the lines” and how he is “always there – whatever ‘there’ needs to be”.
Stanton smiles when I mention it. “I guess he was talking about being still and listening. Being attentive even when it’s not your line. For me, acting is not too different from what we are doing right now. We’re acting in a way, but we are not putting on an act. That’s the crucial difference for me. I just surrender to it in much the same way I surrender to life. It’s all one big phantasmagoria anyway. In the end I’ve really got nothing to do with it. It just happens, and there’s no answer to it.”
Harry Dean Stanton with Jack Nicholson. The two actors shared a house in Hollywood in the 60s. Photograph: Rex Features
In all kinds of ways, Stanton has travelled lunar miles from his smalltown upbringing in East Irvine, Kentucky. Born in 1926, he is the eldest of three sons to Ersel, who worked as a hairdresser, and Sheridan, a tobacco farmer and Baptist. Stanton describes his childhood as strict and unhappy. “My father and mother were not that compatible. She was the eldest of nine children and she just wanted to get out. I don’t think they had a good wedding night, and I was the product of that. We weren’t close. I think she resented me when I was a kid. She even told me once how she used to frighten me when I was in the cradle with a black sock.”
He laughs soundlessly but looks unbearably sad. “I brought all that stuff up with her just after I started seeing a psychiatrist. I did group therapy and all that and it all came out. So I called her one night and told her I hated her.” He shakes his head and smiles ruefully. “We made up shortly before she died. Got pretty close then, actually. That’s how it goes sometimes.”
Was acting in some way an attempt to escape that grim childhood?
“Yes, I guess so. You can do stuff onstage that you can’t do offstage. You can be angry as hell and enraged and get away with it onstage, but not off. I had a lot of rage for a time, but I let go of all that stuff a long time ago.”
Stanton served in the US Navy during the Second World War, working as a ship’s cook. “Most actors don’t have that kind of life experience now,” he says matter-of-factly. “I was lucky not to have been blown up or killed. I was there when the Japanese suicide planes were coming in. Fortunately they missed our boat. Took me a while to readjust after I went back home and went to college in Lexington, Kentucky.” There he started acting in the college drama group while studying journalism. “I acted in Pygmalion with a Cockney accent. I knew right then what I wanted to do, so I quit college and went to the Pasadena Playhouse in 1949.”
He landed his first job after answering a “singers wanted” advert in the local paper and toured for a while with a 24-piece choral group. “Twenty-four guys on a bus playing small towns. When I quit, there were only 12 guys left. The rest deserted along the way. We sang on street corners, in department stores and, at the end of a week, in a local venue. It’s called paying your dues.”
The dues-paying continued with myriad supporting roles on television in the 1950s, including appearances in popular western series such as Wagon Train and Gunsmoke. In 1967 he had a brief, but resonant, role as a guitar-strumming convict in Cool Hand Luke, starring Paul Newman. By the early 1970s, he had become a cult actor courtesy of two indie classics directed by the mercurial Monte Hellman: Two-Lane Blacktop and Cockfigher. In the former he befriended the singer James Taylor, who wrote a song, “Hey Mister, That’s Me Up On The Jukebox”, on Harry’s favourite guitar. He later befriended Bob Dylan during the famously difficult shoot for Sam Peckinpah’s elegiac western Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid in 1973. “Dylan and I got to be very close. We recorded together one time. It was a Mexican song. He offered me a copy of the tape and I said no. Shot myself in the foot. It’s never seen the light of day. I’d sure love to hear it.”
In Partly Fiction (which has yet to get a UK release date), Kris Kristofferson, who played the lead in that film, recalls Peckinpah throwing a knife in anger at Stanton when the actor messed up a crucial scene by running through the shot. “As I recall, he pulled a gun on me, too. It was because me and Dylan fucked up the shot.”
On purpose? “No, we were jogging and we ran right across the background.” The vision of Dylan and Stanton jogging together seems altogether too absurd, but I let it pass. He describes Peckinpah as “a fucking nut, but a very talented nut”. Likewise the maverick British director Alex Cox, who cast him in Repo Man in 1984. “He was another nut. Brilliantly talented and a great satirist, but an egomaniac.”
That same year, Stanton made Paris, Texas, and created his most iconic role. “It’s my favourite film that I was in. Great directing by Wenders, great writing by Sam Shepard, great cinematography by Robby Müller, great music by Ry Cooder. That film means a lot to a lot of people. One guy I met said he and his brother had been estranged for years and it got them back together.”
Does he think he should have had bigger, better roles in the years since? He lights up another cigarette and stares into the middle distance, lost in some private reverie. “You get older,” he says finally. “In the end, you end up accepting everything in your life – suffering, horror, love, loss, hate – all of it. It’s all a movie anyway.”
He closes his eyes and recites a few lines from Macbeth, sounding suddenly Shakespearean, albeit in his own wavering way. “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” He opens his eyes again. “Great line, eh?” he says, smiling and reaching for a cigarette. “That’s life right there.”
After graduating from Emory University, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, Christopher encounters a series of characters that shape his life.