Tag: movie articles
Doris Miller, the heroine of Hello, My Name is Doris, began her cinematic life in an eight-minute film called Doris and the Intern, written and directed by then film student Laura Terruso. Michael Showalter first viewed the short while teaching film at Terruso’s alma mater, the prestigious New York University Tisch School of the Arts. He was immediately struck by the budding writer and director’s inventive sense of humor and fresh outlook on love.
“It was a very funny, very sweet, offbeat little film about a middle-aged office worker named Doris who marches to the beat of her own drummer,” Showalter remembers. “She develops a crush on a teenage intern and when she realizes that it’s unrequited, she steals his bicycle. Doris was a new kind of comedic protagonist with a lot of potential for development.”
Showalter, one of the creators of Wet Hot American Summer as well as a prolific actor, director and producer, is always on the lookout for new and original comic voices. “The character of Doris and her story were new and different,” he says. “To begin with, there aren’t a lot of movies that have an older actress playing the comedic lead role. She is an eccentric and, in a lot of ways, damaged person, but I also saw a great deal that I identified with and I think a lot of other people will, too.”
Eight minutes had given Terruso barely enough time to introduce Doris to an audience, so when Showalter and Terruso began developing the short into a feature film, they opened up the story, exploring different scenarios as they got better acquainted with Doris and her world. “Laura and I spent a lot of time talking about where we could take this,” the director says. “We expanded and refined the story line, added some other characters and spent a lot of time exploring Doris’ life.”
Eventually the pair developed a backstory for Doris that included a lifetime of taking care of her ailing mother and what Showalter likes to call “a clutter habit.” The Miller family home on Staten Island is a living museum, packed with “treasures” that Doris and her mother have accumulated over the years.
“We avoid saying that Doris is a hoarder because that brings in a whole lot of negative connotations that we don’t think apply to her,” says Showalter. “She certainly has a very strong relationship with her possessions. We came up with what we felt was a very authentic, very idiosyncratic way of being. Her wardrobe in particular has agency in the artisanal culture of New York City and she becomes an accidental hipster.”
Doris is a classic outsider, socially isolated by her temperament as well as her responsibilities for her ailing mother. At her job, longtime co-workers have been replaced by younger, hipper colleagues who view her as a vaguely amusing relic. When her mother dies, she is adrift. For the first time in her life, she is answerable to no one but herself.
“She is somewhat stunted emotionally, which in a lot of ways makes this an archetypal coming-of-age story,” Showalter says. “What happens is that Doris falls in love for the first time and has to learn how to navigate romance. Even though chronologically she is in her 60s, she also has her heart broken for the first time, something that happens to most of most of when we are teenagers.
“In a lot of ways, she’s unscathed by society,” he continues. “There’s a naivetÃ© about her that allows her to do things and say things that are both very funny and surprising, but also speak to her humanity. She still has the idealism of a child. That’s really appealing to me. She’s not jaded in the way that most of us become as we get older.”
With the character firmly in their sights, Terruso and Showalter passed the script back and forth, developing additional scenes, writing and rewriting. “Our earliest drafts of the movie were more darkly comedic,” says Showalter. “When we started working with Daniela Taplin Lundberg and Riva Marker of Red Crown Films, we began to find more of an arc and a catharsis for the character. We also started to focus on the comic aspects of Doris’ obsessive love for John, which helped us to figure out what is really motivating her.”
At a time when hormones are raging and every obstacle seems like it could ruin your entire life, love can feel like life or death, and in movies, it sometimes can be. But teen romance can also be sweeter and more earnest than the romance between grown-ups in movies, and sometimes it’s a little more fun, too. With a new version of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ hitting theaters this weekend, we thought we’d take a look back at the best teenage romances in movies. From the comedic to the melodramatic, these are the love stories that warm our hearts, put a smile on our lips, or cover our faces with tears — so many tears.
10 Things I Hate About You
A modernization of William Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew,’ ’10 Things I Hate About You’ is a complicated love story — Julia Stiles and Larisa Oleynik play Kat and Bianca, sisters and total opposites. Kat is more interested in her studies and is already jaded by school boys, while Bianca is naive and eager to date. Cameron (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) wants to date Bianca, but she can’t date until Kat does, so he pays Patrick (Heath Ledger — our hearts are still hurting over that loss) to woo Kat.
Through all the drama, betrayal, and wacky shenanigans, these teens come to realize that love can be found in someone you least expect — or, for Kat, someone whom you despise. We love watching Kat slowly realize that Patrick is her perfect match, or impatiently waiting for Bianca to take the blinders off and give Cameron a chance. And we especially love Heath Ledger’s rousing rendition of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” on the bleachers.
‘Dirty Dancing’ is a teen love classic. Jennifer Grey plays Frances “Baby” Houseman, the daughter of a well-to do family on vacation at a fancy resort, where she meets Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze), a bad boy dance instructor — and not the kind of guy her parents want her to end up with. When Baby learns of Johnny and his friends’ after-hours dirty dancing parties, she gets Johnny to teach her some movies… but he ends up teaching her so much more about dignity and respect, both toward others and toward herself. Johnny opens Baby’s eyes to a world beyond her picket fences, and the two fall in love despite what everyone else might think.
Wes Anderson’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ tells the story of troubled wild child Suzy and precocious orphan Sam, who run away together and send all the adults in their lives into a frenzy. It’s a lovely coming of age story about first love, and how kids perceive the occurrences in their world as equally consequential as the trials grown-ups have to deal with. Why can’t Suzy and Sam be in love?! Love, drama, and hardship aren’t only applicable to adults. Anderson, inspierd in part by Terrence Malick’s ‘Badlands,’ creates a true love story that seems impossible, but only if you refuse to believe in it.
Way back when Tim Burton and Johnny Depp first began their long working relationship, Depp starred in ‘Edward Scissorhands,’ as the titular character — a lonely teen boy who was created by a brilliant inventor in a castle way up on the hill, overlooking a picturesque suburban town. When his “father” dies, Edward is rescued by an Avon saleswoman, who takes him home and tries to civilize him.
Edward falls in love with her daughter Kim, played by Winona Ryder, and the two form an unlikely relationship, later threatened by her bull-headed jock boyfriend. ‘Edward Scissorhands’ is an uplifting and heartbreaking story of teen romance, and of looking beneath the surface to find a more meaningful connection. Edward not only teaches Kim what it means to open her heart, but he teaches an entire town as well.
Cameron Crowe’s 1989 film ‘Say Anything’ stars John Cusack as Lloyd Dobler, an average teen who just graduated high school along with the intellectual valedictorian Diane (Ione Skye). Lloyd impresses the socially-limited Diane with his undying devotion over the summer leading up to college, when Diane is set to move away to England.
And then there’s that iconic scene, when Lloyd stands outside of Diane’s window with a boombox, blaring Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.” How could she not fall in love with him right then and there?! ‘Say Anything’ doesn’t have your typical happily ever after ending, but it’s definitely a happy one for Lloyd and Diane, who overcome family pressure and trials to experience their first love before entering the grown-up world.
Pretty in Pink
John Hughes and Molly Ringwald gave us some of the best movies of the ’80s. ‘Pretty in Pink’ features Ringwald as a senior high school outcast. Andie is in love with preppy Blane (Andrew McCarthy), and Andie’s best friend Duckie (Jon Cryer) is desperately in love with her. And although Blane likes Andie, his popular friends are total jerks about it, and it’s making him kind of a jerk, too.
‘Pretty in Pink’ is a movie that shows us how love shouldn’t be based on what other people think, and when you find someone special, the rest of the world shouldn’t matter. For Duckie, it’s also about how when you love someone, you should want them to be happy, even if that happiness has nothing to do with you. It’s a sweet, classic movie that, like most of the films on this list, puts an interesting spin on the traditional story of love against all odds — the best kind of love!
Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Nick (Michael Cera) is a struggling musician in L.A. whose girlfriend just dumped him. By chance, he runs into Norah (Kat Dennings), the daughter of a music producer — oh, and she happens to be friends with Nick’s ex. In order to avoid the advances of a guy who just wants to use her for her connections, Norah has Nick pretend to be her boyfriend for the evening.
The two bump heads at first, but the longer they’re stuck together, the more they realize they’re sort of perfect for each other. Using the backdrop of the L.A. indie music scene (and with an awesome soundtrack), ‘Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist’ feels legit by having its characters find common ground in sharing the music they love before finding the love they share.
John Hughes and Molly Ringwald make the list again. How could we not include ‘Sixteen Candles’?! This time around, Ringwald plays Sam, a girl whose family has forgotten all about her 16th birthday because her sister is about to get married. Sam has a crush on school jock Jake, who doesn’t seem to know she exists, but when a “sex quiz” she fills out makes its way into Jake’s hands by accident (including the sensitive info that she wants to lose her virginity to him), Jake starts to get a bit curious about this Sam girl.
Sam is one of the best teenage girl characters in movie history: she’s put-upon, ignored by her parents, feels invisible to the one guy she has a crush on, and the guy who has a crush on her is some geeky kid (who she’s actually nice to, as she should be, and ends up being key in her happy ending). ‘Sixteen Candles’ also gives us one of the most romantic teen movie endings, when Jake goes out of his way to find Sam and give her the happy birthday she deserves.
Romeo and Juliet
There have been a few film iterations of William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ but one of the best — and most memorable — is Baz Luhrmann’s version, a visual modernization in which the characters all recite the original Shakesperean dialogue. It’s a brilliant move that allows people to connect on an aesthetic level while staying true to the classic story.
Claire Danes and Leonardo DiCaprio play the star-crossed lovers of warring families, who fall in love at first sight (impossible! But it happens!) and must carry on their tortured relationship in secret. Their love is tragic and reflects impetuous, melodramatic teenage behavior while also respecting the genuine emotions involved. No matter how many times you watch this movie, you’ll always keep your fingers crossed that it ends differently.
Teen love gets even more complicated with the additon of an unplanned pregnancy in ‘Juno.’ Directed by Jason Reitman from a script by Diablo Cody, the film tells the story of young Juno (Ellen Page), who takes the virginity of her BFF Paulie (Michael Cera) and winds up with more than either of them bargained for. When Juno offers her unborn child up for adoption to a seemingly perfect married couple, she learns that there’s no such thing as an ideal relationship, and that sometimes when things fall apart, it’s not the end — but the beginning of something beautiful. Cody’s quirky, teen-speak-heavy dialogue creates a more honest, relatable experience. And can we talk about how perfect this soundtrack is?
While many movie theaters in small American towns closed in the 1950s, an equal number of a new kind of theater, which recognized the supremacy of the automobile in American life, opened up.
In the 1920s concerned parents had been anxious about the effects of automobiles and movies on their children’s morals; their grandchildren could now combine these menaces to their moral welfare at the drive-in.
The first drive-in movie theater opened in 1933, but they mushroomed in the decade after World War II. By 1956 there were 4,200 drive-ins, earning nearly a quarter of total box-office receipts.
They were promoted as “the answer to the family’s night out”; a way for married couples to avoid the expense of baby-sitters, but their real attraction was to the youth market, where teenagers could escape parental supervision.
The drive-in market encouraged a new kind of filmmaking, pioneered by Columbia producer Sam Katzman and American International Pictures (AlP). Discarding conventional formulas such as the Western, they geared their films solely for the teenage market, hooking a story on to any gimmick they could think of.
The success of Rock Around the Clock in 1956, and the cycle of rock ‘n’ roll movies that followed made it clear that “teenpics” could reap huge profits even. If they pointedly excluded an older audience. These mainstream productions spawned imitations, such as Teenage Crime Wave (1955) and Hot Rod Rumble (1957).
The other major “teenpic” genre was the horror film: low-budget “exploitation” movies (so-called because their ‘publicity budgets were higher than their production costs), with titles like I Married a Monster from Outer Space (1958) were pumped out to provide the material for the double and triple-bills at the drive-ins.
Teenagers liked double-bills for the simple reason that they lasted longer – especially when offered on “midnite matinees”. Few of these movies shared classical Hollywood’s concern with tightly constructed narrative.
Instead, their emphasis on spectacle implicitly recognized that the audience might have other things to do than just watch the film. By 1960 the established industry had learnt at least some of the lessons of exploitation producers, and were successfully producing material for the teenage market.
Related Link: Read more Popular Culture articles
When it came to costumes for the Muppets, costume designer Rahel Afiley had her work cut out for her. “The biggest challenge was proportion of the Muppet body,” says Afiley. “Even if you design something that looks good on a person, it doesn’t mean it will look good on a Muppet. You have to keep in mind how much detail there is in the outfit, because if you have too much, it just takes over. If you have too little or if it’s below the waist, the detail is lost since the Muppets are only shown from the waist up.”
According to Afiley, fabric selection is critical in designing costumes for the Muppets. Lightweight fabrics aid in the ease of maneuverability of the Muppets. The costume designer also considered how each fabric would lay on the Muppet’s felt “skin.” And though cost was certainly a consideration, the needs of the scene were always top of mind. “We didn’t skimp on the quality of the fabric,” she says. “Miss Piggy has a jacket made of cashmere that cost 300 dollars a yard.”
True to her character, Miss Piggy was the biggest wardrobe challenge due to the quantity of costumes she required as well as her role as editor of Vogue Paris. Says Afiley, “James [Bobin] and I are not really into trends. We both love classic looks, and it was really important to us to bring Piggy back to how she was in the early Muppets.
“If you watch old movies,” Afiley continues, “you can take an outfit worn by someone like Audrey Hepburn that could easily be worn on the red carpet today. That was my inspiration for Miss Piggy’s fashions.”
To dress a fashionista like Miss Piggy, Afiley called on notable designers like Christian Louboutin, who designed a pair of glitter platform stiletto heels complete with the Louboutin signature red bottom. “We sent him a picture of the potential outfit the shoes would be worn with and he designed a custom creation based on that,” says Afiley.
Zac Posen was also tapped, designing a signature dress for the diva. Says Afiley, “I felt it should be a vintage-inspired gown.” The result? A spectacular Posen-designed gown in lavender that was used in the film’s finale.
Miss Piggy wasn’t the only Muppet who captured the attention of the fashion world. Kermit was dressed by the high-class men’s fashion house Brooks Brothers, which was already involved in the film—providing much of Chris Cooper’s wardrobe as well as tuxedos for other cast members. The Brooks Brothers design was worn by Kermit in the scene when he and Piggy walk the streets of Paris together.
Walter proved a fun challenge for the costume designer. The first task was to establish the newest Muppet’s character, and Bobin was convinced a powder-blue suit would do the trick, says Afiley. “Walter is like a proper little man, and James felt that the powder-blue suit represented this manly personality.” Brother Gary donned a similar suit for the film’s early travel scene, which helped showcase their attachment to each other.
Afiley had a clear vision for costumes for both Amy Adams and Jason Segel: timeless and classic. Because Segel is so tall, vintage clothes were hard to find for him because they tend to run small. “We literally went from thrift store to thrift store looking for his clothes,” says Afiley. While Gary’s character goes through an evolution in film, so did his attire. “He kind of grows up and evolves,” says the costume designer. “He transforms into a more mature person and we tried to reflect that in his wardrobe.”
According to Afiley, small-town girl Mary had to have clothing that wasn’t too trendy. “In the opening number, I wanted Amy to stand out and, because it was such a happy number, I wanted her outfit to reflect that. The yellow skirt was definitely a strategic choice to represent the happy world she came from.”
Mary’s wardrobe was to reflect her positive attitude across the board. The catch? Afiley was assembling the wardrobe during autumn months. “Everything in the stores was black, brown and gray,” says Afiley, “so we decided to go the vintage route. I designed all of her dresses with a vintage inspiration and then we found vintage fabric.” And like Gary, Mary’s character evolution inspired her wardrobe, says Afiley, who dressed the actress in a sophisticated look for the finale.
Related Link: Read the Full Production Notes for The Muppets Movie
Since “The Muppet Show” began in 1976, the Muppets have been embraced by audiences worldwide. What began with a single appearance from an unknown frog puppet became a global phenomenon that is still going strong 35 years later.
Early Muppet appearances date back to the mid-1950s, when a primitive version of Kermit the Frog began the American sensation by appearing on “Afternoon, Footlight Theater” and “Sam and Friends” in 1955. A year later, a revised version of Kermit appeared on national television on “The Steve Allen Show.”
Later, Rowlf the Dog was created for a Purina Dog Chow ad in 1962 and then began making regular appearances on “The Jimmy Dean Show” in 1963. Gonzo was next with his first appearance in “The Great Santa Claus Switch” as the “Cigar Box Frackle” in 1970, later appearing as the Gonzo we know today on “The Muppet Show” in 1976.
Throughout the 1960s, Muppets also made appearances on dozens of nationally broadcast variety shows including “The Ed Sullivan Show.” Their first international exposure came on Canadian television with the airing of the special “Hey Cinderella!” in 1970. By 1971, the Muppets could be seen on U.K. variety shows, such as those hosted by Tom Jones and Julie Andrews, before making their way to Germany for “The Peter Alexander Show” in 1975.
The first pilot of what would become “The Muppet Show” aired on January 30,1974, and was titled “The Muppets Valentine Show.” After that the characters of Fozzie Bear, Statler & Waldorf, Sam Eagle, Swedish Chef and The Electric Mayhem Band (featuring Dr. Teeth, Animal, Janice, Floyd and Zoot) were created for the second original pilot titled “The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence.”
The show aired on March 19, 1975, and contrary to the scandalous name, the premise of “The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence” was to parody the rise of sex and violence on television with the Muppets performing a pageant based on the seven deadly sins. “The Muppet Show” as we know it officially began in 1976 and was well-received internationally, going on to broadcast in more than 100 countries. The show was in first-run syndication from 1976-1981 on CBS affiliates domestically as well as numerous outlets globally. At its peak “The Muppet Show” was seen by more than 235 million people.
During its run “The Muppet Show” received countless awards, including three Emmys®, and featured guest appearances from the most prominent actors, musicians and public figures of its time. “To me, ‘The Muppet Show’ in that era was a little bit like ‘American Idol’ of the current era,” says executive producer Martin G. Baker. “The day after a new episode, everyone was talking about ‘The Muppet Show.’ It was front-page news: Who was the guest star this week? Who’s coming up next week? It was one of those things everybody talked about.”
After 1981, “The Muppet Show” was repackaged for syndication, airing on various networks, including TNT from 1988-1992, Nickelodeon from 1994-1999 and Odyssey from 1999-2000.
With the success of “The Muppet Show,” the Muppets branched out to the big screen, releasing their first feature film, “The Muppet Movie,” in 1979. The film starred a myriad of actors, including Bob Hope, Cloris Leachman, Steve Martin, Mel Brooks, Richard Pryor and Paul Williams. This impressive list of celebrity cast and cameos became the hallmark of all Muppet films, five of which followed, including “The Great Muppet Caper” (1981), “The Muppets Take Manhattan” (1984), “The Muppet Christmas Carol” (1992), “Muppet Treasure Island” (1996) and “Muppets From Space” (1999). All six films have signature soundtracks that received countless awards, including an Academy Award® nomination for Best Song for “Rainbow Connection” and Best Original Score for “The Muppet Movie.”
In addition to feature films, Muppet mania continued long after “The Muppet Show” went off the air. Many television specials and documentaries featuring the classic Muppet characters have been produced, as well as arena shows of both “The Muppet Show” and “Muppet Babies,” which toured domestically from 1984-1989. Muppet Magazine was published from 1983-1988 and “The Muppets” comic strip was syndicated in U.S. newspapers from the early to mid 1980s. Museum exhibits (“The Art of The Muppets,” “The World of Jim Henson: Muppets, Monsters & Magic,” “The Vision of Jim Henson” and others) featuring Muppet characters toured domestically and internationally from 1980-2001.
Multiple record albums for “The Muppet Show,” “Muppet Babies” and all of the Muppet movies have been released worldwide. Hundreds of Muppet books have also been published around the world since 1976.
Throughout the years the Muppets have also produced numerous public service announcements and have acted as spokespeople for many causes both domestically and internationally, ranging from The National Wildlife Federation, UNICEF and the American Film Institute, to the University of Maryland, the American Library Association and the Better World Society. Kermit regularly appears as a giant balloon in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City.
The Muppets once again reinvented themselves by creating viral videos of the gang performing popular songs. Their first video for “Ode to Joy,” performed by Beaker, appeared on various video-sharing websites in 2008 and received more than 14 million views on YouTube. Their second video, for Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” came out Thanksgiving week in 2009 and received more than 23 million views on YouTube. The video also garnered a People’s Choice Webby Award.
“The Muppets are just your average, everyday dysfunctional family: loud, crazy, odd, silly…total chaos all the time. But that’s okay, because when you get right down to it, we really do care about each other. We believe in each other, and we help make all our dreams come true. And that’s what really matters. Besides, I kinda like weird.” —Kermit the Frog.
Related Link: Read the Full Production Notes for The Muppets Movie
A director known for his visual panache, Roman Polanski assembled a team of highly-creative behind the scenes collaborators including cinematographer Pawel Edelman, and Academy Award-winning production designer Dean Tavoularis and costume designer Milena Canonero.
The brief for his production and costume designers was straightforward. “I wanted realism for the set design and costumes and a contemporary look,” says Polanski. “Those were the two notes I gave Milena and Dean, they don’t need much advice!”
Almost as important as the four characters was the set. Constructed on the sound stages of Bry-sur-Marne on the outskirts of Paris, the set was created by production designer Dean Tavoularis, best known for his collaborations with Francis Ford Coppola on some of the most visually impressive films of the past 40 years including The Godfather trilogy, The Conversation and Apocalypse Now.
Tavoularis designed a floor plan for a set which would be as authentic as possible, where it was possible to walk from one room to another, or to look from one room down the corridor to another, just as one would do in a real apartment. He also designed the apartment so that it would bring an extra dimension to the narrative at key moments. So the bathroom is accessed only by the bedroom which brings a heightened frisson to the scene where Penelope is helping Alan change out of his wet trousers in the bathroom – they have to pass the bed on their way back to the living room.
Tavoularis, who worked with Polanski on The Ninth Gate, had never designed a film of this type, set in one room and with just four characters. “I tried to make it as real as possible. I’m always very concerned about the details of a set because you never know exactly how much the director is going to show, if you’re going to see inside the cupboard or inside the drawer. We had food and other items brought in from New York – and specifically Brooklyn – so that the apartment would be as authentic as possible. I was sure that some things wouldn’t be seen on camera, but I still dressed it properly for the actors. That’s especially important if you’re going to be on the one set for the whole film.”
His efforts certainly paid off. Says John C. Reilly: “When I saw the set, I thought that so much of my work had been done for me. Usually on films, the camera sees what the audience is meant to see so there’s only half a set or if you open a book there’s nothing inside the book…there’s a lot of artifice. But Dean’s set was filled with detail. It was completely realistic down to the strange little knickknacks on the shelves. The kitchen was almost functional. It definitely gave us a sense of place.”
One of the pleasures for the designer, who had almost retired from the film industry and was enjoying a life as a painter until he got the call from Polanski, was working in France. “I hadn’t done a film for a few years and I was astonished by how extraordinary the French craftsmen were. The carpenters, the painters, the prop makers were all of an exceptional caliber.”
Teaming up with Polanski again brought home to the designer just how broad the director‘s talents are. It was often Polanski who would see a way out of a problem, says Tavoularis. “His knowledge encompasses every aspect of filmmaking, from the design to the visual effects. He would know exactly how to explain how to put something right. He gets to the reality and to the core. He’s one of the greatest working directors in the world.”
Related Link: Read full production notes for Roman Polanski’s Carnage
Craig Brewer is known for his distinct aesthetic and vision as seen in his critically-acclaimed films “Hustle & Flow” and “Black Snake Moan.” With a reputation of being a filmmaker who infuses his work with realism, grit and passion, Brewer isn’t afraid to shed light on cultural nuances that are deemed taboo by some. Though not a seemingly obvious choice for a mainstream ‘80s classic, Brewer loved the idea of revisiting a film that had a significant impact on his own life.
“When I was 13, “Footloose” had a profound effect on me and completely rocked my dome,” explains Brewer. “The film had teen rebellion couched in community and a religious storyline that didn’t hit you over the head. I felt that it was truly a story that could be told today and still be relevant, entertaining and essentially still “Footloose,” says Brewer.
Craig Zadan, who was also a producer of the original movie, recognized the significance of the film in current times and also believed that it was something that would still resonate with audiences. “There’s a generation now that would find a whole new meaning in this story,” says Zadan. “The film touches on so many issues that people are dealing with today and, in tandem with the musical elements and the classic nature of the story, it feels very contemporary.”
Brewer and Zadan’s shared sensibility about the film’s timelessness made for a perfect match. “There are many people who could have done a rehash of “Footloose,” but it wouldn’t have been unique, original or fresh. There are many directors out there, but very few filmmakers and Craig Brewer is a true filmmaker.”
Brewer’s vision included telling more of Bomont’s back story, which was a town shaken to the core after losing five of their brightest teens, including Reverend Shaw’s own son. “When Craig and I sat down and talked about the movie, we both knew we wanted to shed some light on the point of view of the parents, since we are both parents of young children,” recalls producer Brad Weston. “We didn’t want it to be just a teen rebellion movie because it’s dealing with loss and the lengths that these parents went to, to try and protect their children.”
To bring audiences inside the emotional state of mind of the community, Craig Brewer begins the film with the tragic car accident. “The decision to start with the car crash gives the audience a sense of the pain that led to the extreme restrictions,” states Zadan. “It’s easier to see, in a compassionate way, that this community was filled with grief-ridden parents trying to protect their children and not just a bunch of conservative religious fanatics.”
Related Link: Read the Full Production Notes for Footloose Movie
The biggest challenge facing Mann was turning 21st-century America back into the world of the early 1930s. As there were some 114 different sets to dress for the film, the art department was kept occupied well before principal photography began. In addition to his crew’s work on developing sets, Mann felt it was important to lens at as many of the actual locations as possible. As Dillinger and his crew traveled across the Midwest during their bank-robbing spree, so would this production.
A keen historian, the writer / director gives an example of just how easy it was for Dillinger and his crew to get away with it all as they robbed. “Indiana State Police had 27 officers for the whole state of Indiana,” Mann offers. “Law enforcement was local, underpaid, poorly supplied, and they didn’t talk to anybody else. They didn’t know what was going on in the next county, unless it was anecdotally in a bar or in a café. If you’re a crew of bank robbers, you could commit a bank robbery in Indiana, go across the border into Illinois and be home free. There was no law against interstate crime and no federal police force at all.”
Though in various states of repair, several of the actual sites visited by Dillinger are still around today. Fortunately, the production was allowed use of the structures for three of his iconic showdowns with the law: the Lake County Jail in Crown Point, Indiana; the Little Bohemia Lodge in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin; and the Biograph Theater on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago, Illinois.
Before Dillinger’s daring escape in Sheriff Lillian Holley’s (Six Feet Under’s Lili Taylor) personal automobile (after he carved a wooden gun out of a washing board), the Lake County Jail briefly saw him as a reluctant guest. Of the location, production designer Nathan Crowley elaborates: “The front portion, which was Sheriff Holley’s house, was pretty much deteriorated, while the back part, which was the jail, was rusted and corroded. We didn’t have to make anything up, which was fantastic. It had the real corridors and the real geography.”
One of the most notorious photographs ever taken of Dillinger was shot at this jail. The gangster offered a wry smile while leaning on the shoulder of District Attorney Robert Estill (Prison Break’s Alan Wilder); it was a photo that would sabotage Estill’s burgeoning political career. Because many photographs of the jail (especially the common areas) were taken during the famous press conference, Crowley’s team was able to accurately duplicate the area. As there were no existing images of the interiors of the cells themselves, even more imagination went into their dressing.
At the Little Bohemia Lodge in spring 1934, agents from the Chicago and St. Paul offices of the FBI surrounded Dillinger and his gang, only to be outfoxed once again. Along with the notorious Baby Face Nelson, Homer Van Meter and Red Hamilton, Dillinger had just held up a bank and fled to northern Wisconsin to hide out. A violent gunfight ensued in which one innocent local man was killed; additionally, FBI Agent Carter Baum was killed by Nelson. During production of the film, the team lensed at the Little Bohemia 74 years to the week that Dillinger evaded the feds.
The Alpine guesthouse is a tourist spot that now operates as a restaurant, and it took some work to recreate the era. From replicating the gangsters’ rooms and planting shrubbery about the grounds, the design team was fastidious in making the Little Bohemia look as it did during Dillinger’s heyday.
“We were able to shoot not just in the actual place where this happened, but in his actual room,” reveals Mann. “As you can imagine, there’s a certain kind of magic, a kind of resonance, for Johnny Depp to be lying in the bed that John Dillinger was actually in. When he puts his hand on the doorknob and opens the door, it’s the same doorknob that Dillinger put his hand on and opened.”
All of the Dillinger gang successfully escaped from the Little Bohemia, and the event became an unfortunate black mark in the FBI’s history. The current Little Bohemia still hosts a variety of signs and relics from the Dillinger shoot-out, including bullet holes, broken windows and even some of the gang’s luggage which it didn’t have time to retrieve upon its hasty exit. It was, as Mann puts, “a dark day for J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI.”
Melvin Purvis’ assistant during this period, Doris Rogers Lockerman, was helpful in putting both the people and times in perspective for the cast and crew. According to the 92-year-old Lockerman, the Dillinger gang was toting around heavy weapons while holding onto the sideboards of cars during their escapes from the banks. They were simply tough young men, she explains.
On the other hand, she shares that the FBI agents were law school graduates with both proper training and athletic abilities, but they were simply not raised as ruggedly as the criminals in Dillinger’s gang. Those men had a definite advantage in pure physicality and endurance.
It was quite meaningful for the actor who played Purvis to work in the same places that his character did. Christian Bale particularly felt that in the woods near the Bohemia. “When you use the real location, you have a reverence for it,” offers Bale. “It’s incredibly helpful to stand in the same spot and know you’re in the same woods-just sitting silently for awhile-as the man you are portraying. This was where he was actually fired upon and fired back.”
History buffs offer some context to the defeat that almost got Purvis fired. In defense of the FBI’s unsuccessful efforts at the lodge, producer Misher says: “There was danger. They were walking into a blind alley with people who are very capable with their hands and weapons. That’s the divide between whether Melvin Purvis was capable or not. The film answers it. He ultimately led the charge that got John Dillinger and resulted in the task at hand being accomplished: mission accomplished.”
The most famous of the actual sites recreated for the film is the Biograph Theater on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. According to Crowley, this street “had the biggest facelift. The street is now gentrified, and there have been masses of changes since the 1930s. The finished street was an amalgamation of research and design.”
A combination of period streetcars, cobblestone-lined roads, numerous 1930s storefronts and automobiles gave an eerie and realistic look back in time to the sweltering evening of July 22, 1934: the night John Dillinger was betrayed by the “Lady in Red” and gunned down by Purvis’ men.
No one was more shocked by this turn of events than Dillinger himself. While he knew his run was not indefinite, he had no idea his life would end so soon. Mann explains why the gangster felt comfortable mingling in the open: “Dillinger’s natural charisma, his savvy about public relations, made him popular and charismatic, and he hid out in public. There were people who spotted him, saw him, and they didn’t turn him in.” Until the “Lady in Red.”
But first, a bit of backstory. Anna Sage was an eastern European immigrant who ran a brothel and was in trouble with the immigration department of the federal government. In an effort to avoid deportation, Sage tipped off Purvis and the FBI that Dillinger would be attending the gangster movie Manhattan Melodrama (starring Clark Gable and Myrna Loy) at the Biograph on this particular evening. As the point person in the treachery, Sage became known as the “Lady in Red” when she stood outside the theater. Curiously enough, she was wearing an orange outfit, but the artificial lighting made her dress look red. That moniker would forever be associated with a duplicitous woman.
As Dillinger walked out of the theater with then-girlfriend Polly Hamilton on one arm and Sage on the other, Purvis lit a cigar to alert the many law enforcement personnel that the criminal was in sight. Within seconds, Dillinger knew something was amiss and pulled his gun, but it was too late. He was shot three times and fell dead in an alley a few feet from the movie house.
As the team reconstructed events, Mann was most exacting. He explains the process: “We rebuilt the street front of the Biograph. We engineered it so that we were able to stage exactly where Dillinger was when he died-the same square foot of pavement that he died on-so that when Johnny looked up he saw the last thing Dillinger saw. That means a lot to an actor and to a director…to find yourself in those environments where you can suspend your disbelief and give yourself the magic of the moment.”
The film’s lead agrees. He couldn’t help but be wowed by his surroundings at the Biograph. “Everywhere you looked, it was 1934,” notes Depp. “It was pretty incredible to be standing in front of the Biograph Theater. As far as you could see, it was 1934…from the roads to the building storefronts to the marquee lights. Every detail was accounted for. I salute Michael for that. His attention to detail is unparalleled.”
From its provocative first chapter to its lyrical last page, Don Winslow’s audacious 2010 novel “Savages” captivated and stunned audiences and critics alike. Winslow describes that the genesis of his bestselling book was an unusual one: “I was sitting at my desk one day in a bad mood and I typed these two words, which would become the infamous first chapter of the book. Then I wrote 14 pages in a rush, and I e-mailed them to Shane [screenplay co-writer / executive producer Shane Salerno] and told him, ‘Either these are really good, or I’m just crazy.’ A few minutes later, I got an e-mail from him saying, ‘Drop everything else you’re doing and finish this book while you’re in this voice.'”
Winslow’s novel proved that rules are made to be broken, and he ended up crafting several chapters of ‘Savages’ in screenplay form. “I was trying to bust out of the typical confines of the crime genre as it’s been defined lately,” Winslow shares. “I threw a few elbows and found moments where I thought, ‘This is better read or experienced as a piece of film rather than as a piece of a novel.'”
Salerno, with whom the author has collaborated for more than 13 years, was glad that he had encouraged Winslow to focus his energy into revisiting a world that the author knew quite well. The executive producer explains: “Don wrote what a lot of people consider to be the definitive source on the subject with ‘The Power of the Dog,’ which is the story of the drug war over 30 years—from the formation of the DEA to 2005. He spent six years researching it down in Mexico, Texas and California. This is terrain that he has chiseled his name into, and it’s a world he knows so well. With ‘Savages,’ he was prescient in seeing the business move from the Mexican cartels into California. It’s interesting when real-life events start to mirror your worst fears.”
Not only was the book critically well received when it was published—Stephen King called the sexy, action-filled drama “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid on autoload”—it was fast-tracked into a screenplay. Reflects Salerno: “The normal route for books, and certainly Don’s previous books, is to sell them straight to a studio. “We made the decision to do something different, and we optioned the book to Oliver Stone directly. We felt that this unique material wouldn’t benefit from traditional development, and it needed special handling. We felt that Oliver would get it and began a collaboration developing it and ultimately writing the screenplay together. From the time the script sold to the time that shooting began, it was about three months, which is unheard of.”
“Savages,” laced with the politics and trade of marijuana, areas that have long been of interest to the writer/director, riveted Stone when he read it in galley form. Shane Salerno & Don Winslow & Oliver Stone adapted the novel into a screenplay, and in less than a year, Universal Pictures secured the worldwide distribution rights. Soon after, principal photography began. Of his interest in crafting a film out of the groundbreaking novel, Stone relays: “I thought the book was well done. It’s about power, betrayal, money and questioning current values.”
Savages features multiple themes that recur in Stone’s movies: layered power struggles, shifting loyalties, examinations of the best and worst of human nature, explorations of complex family relationships and a compelling look at damaged people, some of whom find their own kind of heroism.
Stone reflects that this project called to mind Any Given Sunday and “the corporation coming into football.” About the economy of scale, he says: “Above all, it is a power move by the Mexican Cartel into the United States to cut in on the independent distributors and producers. In the movie, the Baja Cartel is more interested in volume than the boutique-sized operations. But wherever you have volume versus independent growers, you’re going to have a clash. Walmart doesn’t want to have competitors.”
Frequent Stone collaborator, producer Moritz Borman offers that there is a natural inclination to search for parallels in Savages with Stone’s earlier films, but that the director isn’t interested in retreads. Borman says: “Obviously, people will try to compare Savages to some of Oliver’s other movies, but the style and message are different, and it’s a different story. But it certainly has some of the intensity of his other pictures. He has always had something to say, and therefore has turned out these films that have survived.”
His fellow producer, Eric Kopeloff, notes that the director is as interested in characters as he is in a geopolitical backdrop: “That’s what excites him about making movies—finding a story where you can go on a ride with the characters. Oliver’s someone who never stops trying, never stops doing different things to stretch the medium.”
The translation of a lauded novel into an engaging movie is often an arduous one. For example, the film’s explosive ending, which Stone likens to a Spaghetti Western, captures the tenor of the book but doesn’t follow it to the letter. That divergence, Kopeloff notes, is part of the process of moving from one medium to another. He says: “There’s a liberty when you adapt a book into a screenplay, from a story perspective, from a time perspective. If we shot every scene in the book ‘Savages’ we would be easily sitting for five hours. We held true to the book in a lot of ways, but we also took cinematic liberties to heighten the story in certain places and give the audience a visual and character ride.”
Winslow expands upon the differences in penning a novel versus a screenplay: “Primarily, as a novelist, you have to become aware that, at the end of the day, these are two different media with a lot of different needs, and that can take a little getting used to. For instance, a chapter in a book can accomplish just one thing, whereas a scene in a film has to accomplish two or three things simultaneously. Screenwriting is an extremely demanding artistic form that has to take so many factors into account at once.”
In the story, the Baja Cartel admires Ben and Chon’s product and process and wants to acquire their business. However, they disdain their lifestyle, especially their unorthodox relationship with O. On the flip side, Ben, Chon and O are as equally repulsed by the Cartel and their methods. At various points, as the contest between the Cartel and Ben, Chon and O becomes increasingly ruthless and violent; just who is the savage becomes blurry and subjective at best. Stone sums: “It’s ironic that both sides identify the other as savages.”
The romantic travails of smart, funny, attractive young people are always fodder for light-hearted comedy-except when the light hearts are countered by heartache. CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER transforms the conventional romantic comedy with a bracingly honest real-life vibe, exploring both the comedy and complexity of love and friendship.
“Will and I grew up with romantic comedies, but the ones we love are all about heartbreak,” says the luminous Rashida Jones, who co-wrote the screenplay with actor Will McCormack and also stars as Celeste. “We wanted to invert what everybody expects from this kind of story. Of course we’re all completely familiar with the archetypes and structures and story points of romantic comedy-so we wanted to flip it. To keep the humor and the audience’s emotional connection to it but get something new.”
Rashida Jones and Will McCormack are laughingly frank about the real-life parallel between their own personal history and their collaborative screenplay. “As a couple we were short-lived and ancient history, but we knew we could be friends,” says Will, who nails the sidekick role of Skillz the pot dealer with comic skeeziness. “We wrote this whole movie side-by-side on one computer. We wrote every word together. Because we have been so close for so long, there was a real shorthand during the writing process. And as new writers, we were very encouraging of each other.” CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER is a first-time screenwriting effort for both actor-writers.
As Will elaborates, “Celeste and Jesse are definitely more amplified versions of us. Celeste’s journey is interesting because she is someone who thinks she can outsmart heartache. That’s something that happens to other people. She does everything she can to avoid it.”
Indeed, Celeste offers a twist on an archetype that movies love to scorn: the alpha woman. “Yup, Celeste is the high-powered career driver and Jesse is the passive guy who won’t grow up-all the makings of a clichÃ©,” says Rashida. “But the balance between them keeps shifting out of Celeste’s control, which kills her as a controller. When the reality of losing Jesse hits, she’s just blindsided.” Celeste’s ambitious striver is given more compassionate dimensionality than the alpha woman stereotype is usually afforded.
“Personally, I can relate to a line like ‘The father of my child will own a car'” says producer Jennifer Todd, herself a professional dynamo with both studio blockbusters and independent dramas to her name. “Celeste is a very, very recognizable present-day woman. But by the rules of studio comedy, she would have to lose her job, have a comeuppance. And she would also have to fall down in high heels a lot. Embarrassing things would happen to her. An ambitious woman has to become a loser to be likeable. Rashida didn’t write her or play her that way.”
Director Lee Toland Krieger remarks that “Even in 2012 you rarely see an ambitious Type A woman onscreen who’s more than a caricature. Rashida’s character can be tough and very serious about her career and also have a sweetness and sadness.” Krieger’s first feature, THE VICIOUS KIND, attracted Todd and the writers for its sinewy drama; “Just reading the script I understood that they didn’t want a fluff piece. They wanted a story about what heartbreak is really like. I was thinking HUSBANDS AND WIVES and I could see how a lot of other filmmakers might be thinking of something broader. It’s maybe harder to take at times and a bit more gut-wrenching, but I think people will respond to that honesty.”
“It was a really tricky tone to find,” Rashida points out. “There are so many turns in the movie that are so hard and so quick, and it goes from being funny and broad to really sad and hopefully truthful-it needed somebody who got that range to find what the thread is.”
But don’t worry, it’s still a comedy. Emotional truth notwithstanding, the goal is entertainment-hard to miss with the likes of SNL alum ANDY SAMBERG as Jesse, and an ensemble featuring Emma Roberts, Chris Messina, Elijah Wood and the rest of the supporting cast. As bad girl pop star Riley, Emma Roberts’s sulky stoner is the antithesis of Celeste’s uber-functional know-it-all. “Riley lives in a totally different world than Celeste,” says Emma, “So it’s hilarious to see when their worlds meet and they are forced to interact. Riley is oblivious but she isn’t stupid. I think she just doesn’t know how to behave appropriately in certain situations. I think they both are kind of fascinated by each other because they are such opposites. I love how their relationship goes from annoyance to a kind of love for each other. Or at least an understanding.”
Echoing the film’s themes of love and friendship, a network of longtime relationships enlivens the CELESTE AND JESSE cast and crew. Andy Samberg’s friendship with Rashida dates back to his stand-up comic days around LA, and they are old friends with instant chemistry onscreen. Producer Todd’s acquaintance with Rashida goes back to high school (where Rashida looked up admiringly to the slightly older and reportedly cooler Jennifer), and Jen gave Will McCormack one of his first film roles, in THE BOILER ROOM. Jen’s sister and Team Todd partner SUZANNE TODD shares producer credit (as well as with LEE NELSON). Chris Messina, who plays Celeste’s surprisingly astute suitor Paul, is Jennifer’s husband. On the tech side, director Lee Toland Krieger brought on a crack team of frequent collaborators, including Director of Photography DAVID LANZENBERG and his crew.
To pull it all together, producer Lee Nelson’s Envision Media Arts stepped up with the lifeblood of financing. “Jennifer and Rashida were trying to get CELESTE AND JESSE FOREVER done on the financing side, and felt that they weren’t able to make the film they wanted to make when they reached out to us. We read the material, and loving it and loving the people involved, we felt like these are the kind of artists that we want to be aligned with-so we took a flier and financed 100% of the film.” By all reports, the all-union, modestly-budgeted production was remarkably fun for the cast and crew as they dashed around numerous LA locations and onward to San Francisco and Rhode Island (where the wedding scene was shot). “It was an absolute joy making this film,” says Nelson. “It was a very collaborative set with a very positive vibe.”
The joy must be especially rich for Rashida Jones, as the co-writer and title character, seeing her first screenwriting outing come to fruition. “Acting in a film that you wrote is a real privilege and a creative advantage,” she says. “As the writer, you know the genesis of the joke, the scene and the relationship. The process of making the film was extremely grass roots, which gave the movie an organic, lived-in feel.”
Related Link: Celeste and Jesse Forever Full Production Notes