Thursday, 21 August 2014

Brian G. Hutton, 79, Director of Where Eagles Dare and Kelly's Heroes - A Tribute

I was going to put a small tribute together, but my friend Lee Pfeiffer did such a wonderful job, I’ve reproduced it here. Thanks Lee.

It is with profound sadness that we must announce the passing of director Brian G. Hutton, a long-time friend of and contributor to Cinema Retro. Brian was one of the most unique talents in the film business. Born in New York City, he never lost his hard-scrabble, irascible attitude which extended to resenting having to take orders from the studio "suits" who employed him. He walked away from a great and lucrative career in the industry decades ago and kept out of the public eye, granting precious few interviews in the intervening decades. He remains primarily known for his two big budget WWII MGM films, "Where Eagles Dare" and "Kelly's Heroes", both starring Clint Eastwood. The films were difficult to make and the latter resulted in a major conflict with Hutton and Eastwood and MGM when the studio exercised its rights to dramatically cut the film prior to its release. Hutton also made a number of lesser-known films but each of them proved to be enduring and worthy of praise.

When Cinema Retro was preparing its first Movie Classics edition devoted entirely to "Where Eagles Dare" in 2009, we made every effort to contact Hutton for an interview, but we were unsuccessful. However, shortly after the issue appeared, I was startled to receive a phone call from a gentleman named Bill Tasgal who said he was sitting in a coffee shop in L.A. with his friend Brian Hutton and they were both perusing the Where Eagles Dare issue. He said Hutton wanted to speak with me. A few seconds later an unmistakably New York accent growled, “Is this Lee Pfeiffer?” When I said it was, he said “I’m looking at your magazine and I’m going to sue you for using such an ugly photo of me!” To which I replied, “As a director, you should know the camera never lies!” So began a friendship that saw Brian contribute extensively to our Movie Classics Kelly's Heroes issue as well as our revised updated edition of the Eagles Dare issue that was published in 2012.

Last October, Dave Worrall and I travelled to L.A. to finally meet Brian in the flesh. We managed to arrange a wonderful lunch date that saw him reunited with his old friend, director John Landis, who Brian gave a break to when he hired John as a "go for" on Kelly's Heroes. Brian saw great promise in the young film enthusiast and, of course, Landis made good on the faith shown in him by becoming an internationally respected director himself. Over lunch, we were privileged to hear some amazing and truly hilarious stories about their adventures filming in Yugoslavia (not all of them are suitable for publication). It was a wonderful day in every respect.

Brian Hutton suffered a heart attack a couple of weeks ago and struggled valiantly against the odds. An original tough guy, he managed to hang in there a lot longer than anyone would have predicted but finally the battle was lost. He is survived by his loving wife Victoria and his devoted friend and colleague, Bill Tasgal, who was played a crucial role in making Brian's later years so rewarding and enjoyable.  However, Brian had many other "friends" that he never knew personally- namely, everyone who ever saw one of his films. Although he was loathe to lavish praise on his own work, he was very grateful to the loyal fans who kept his films in the spotlight long after he went into self-imposed retirement. He was particularly moved by the fact that so many people around the globe held Where Eagles Dare and Kelly's Heroes in such esteem. He was always lavish in his praise of Clint Eastwood, with whom he continued to maintain a close friendship over the decades.

Brian G. Hutton remained an enigma among successful directors who came to prominence in the 1960s. Despite a promising career, Hutton was to go into self-imposed exile, retiring from the motion picture business altogether. Hutton started off as an aspiring actor and landed supporting roles in major TV series such as Rawhide, Wagon Train, Perry Mason, Have Gun, Will Travel, Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Rifleman. He also had small roles in theatrical features such as The Interns, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, Fear Strikes Out, Last Train From Gun Hill and King Creole. However, by 1965, Hutton was more enamoured of trying his hand at directing. His first effort was the little-seen Wild Seed which was made for Marlon Brando’s Pennebaker Productions and released through Universal in 1965. The film starred Celia Kaye as a 17 year-old runaway in search of her biological father. She is befriended and protected by a young drifter (Michael Parks) whom she meets during her journey. Among the top craftsmen who worked on the movie were cinematographer Conrad Hall and cameraman William A. Fraker. The film didn’t get much attention from either critics or the public, but Hutton displayed competence behind the camera and this afforded him other opportunities.

Hutton’s follow-up effort, again for Universal, was far more successful: The Pad (and How to Use It), produced by Ross Hunter.. This was a hip, sexually provocative comedy about a swinging bachelor. Starring Brian Bedford, Julie Sommars and James Farantino, the film boasted a screenplay by Peter Shaffer, who would go on to write the plays Equus and Amadeus. Released in 1966, the film was a hit with critics and Hutton was deemed an “up-and-coming” hot property. In 1967, Hutton began a working relationship with established producer Elliott Kastner when he directed the thriller Sol Madrid. The film’s marketing campaign was bungled by MGM and the movie never made much of an impact with audiences or critics. However, Hutton turned out a reasonably suspenseful, highly entertaining film that allowed him to work with a cast of big name actors including David McCallum, Stella Stevens and Telly Savalas. Although the film wasn’t a notable box-office hit, Kastner saw great potential in Hutton, who had come from the same New York neighbourhood he had grown up in.

Where Eagles Dare, a big budget WWII film was a project initiated by Richard Burton, who had promised his sons that he would star in an old-fashioned, rip-roaring action movie. Getting Burton to approve of the relatively young director with a thin resume was not easy but Elliott Kastner was undeterred. He would later say, “I persevered. I said ‘Brian Hutton had a lamp in his gut like a beacon: just put him in a room and Flash! Sparks on the screen!’”. Hutton recalled that key selling point in getting Burton to approve him was his ethnic background. In a 1994 phone interview with writer Phil Masheter: “I was brought into it because I am of Welsh descent – my parents were Welsh – and he was a Welshman. I speak a little Welsh. He and I used to sing Welsh songs together; he used to laugh because my Welsh was actually very bad!” It was Hutton who suggested that Clint Eastwood be signed as Burton’s co-star. Considering the major logistics of making the film, Burton and MGM had every reason to be concerned whether the young director could handle the challenge. Yet, Hutton came through with flying colours, managing not only the action on screen, but keeping Burton disciplined enough to not allow his drinking habits to negatively affect the production – something that had occurred a few years before on The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. On that film, even veteran director Martin Ritt could not keep Burton’s excesses in check and the two ended up not speaking to one another off the set. The film proved to be a smash hit and Hutton was suddenly as in-demand as any other hot director.
His next film, Kelly’s Heroes (shot under the title The Warriors) reunited him with Clint Eastwood in another big budget, large-scale WWII film. Hutton would later tell Phil Masheter, ““I did that [Kelly’s Heroes] with Clint too, who I must say was very gracious. They wanted Clint for the picture and since I brought him into Eagles he brought me into Kelly’s. And that was all nice.” Hutton brought some of his crew from Where Eagles Dare onto the new film, including Alf Joint, Dennis Fraser, H.A.R. Thomson, Jonathan Bates, and John Jympson. He also hired a young aspiring director named John Landis to handle the second unit. However, the film’s post-production period was a nightmare.. Eastwood and Hutton protested against MGM chief James Aubrey’s decision to drastically cut the film, thus removing many pivotal expository scenes that were deemed essential to character development. Although the film was a major hit, Eastwood protested by never making another film for the studio again. 
Hutton recalled where his career went after this, telling Masheter, “And then I did a couple of pictures with Elizabeth Taylor ( X,Y and Zee (aka Zee and Co) and Nightwatch) and then I quit. It wasn’t something I wanted to do to begin with – not my life’s work. I just fell into the whole thing like birdshit out of the sky hits your fucking hand. And in 1972, when I finished the second Elizabeth Taylor picture, I thought, ‘Well, what am I wasting my life doing this for?’ I mean, a gorilla could have made those movies: Elizabeth Taylor does what she’s got to do and Laurence Harvey does what he’s got to do. It was good fun, but all I had to do was yell ‘Action’ and ‘Cut-Print’ because everybody was doing what they had to do anyway. It was a play and I’m a fucking gorilla sitting there saying, ‘How was that for everybody? Fine, okay, let’s go somewhere else and do something else.’ So I stopped at that time.”

Indeed, Hutton would not make another film for seven years. In 1980, he reunited with Elliott Kastner to bring author Lawrence Sanders’ best-selling thriller The First Deadly Sin to the screen. The film was primarily distinguished by providing Frank Sinatra with his final leading role in a motion picture, though it was not a box-office hit. His final film to date was the 1983 Tom Selleck adventure High Road to China, which was a moderate success. By this point, he was happy being far removed from the motion picture industry.
Recalling his experience on Where Eagles Dare, Hutton told Phil Masheter, “I’ve got to tell you, I look at it and I think to myself, ‘Gee, I wonder who did that?’ It’s so far removed now that I can’t remember doing it and I’ve seen it so many times and there are so many cock-ups in the picture – it’s always enjoyable. And then after that, of course, I got offers to make fifty other action pictures, but I didn’t want to make any. I made two, and that was enough.”

Despite Hutton’s penchant for self-deprecation, his work on Where Eagles Dare and Kelly’s Heroes has earned him a place in Hollywood history. He proved that a young, relatively untested director could meet the challenge of bringing major action epics to the screen – and seeing their popularity only increase over the decades. Brian G. Hutton did not miss the motion picture industry, but the industry certainly missed him.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Hollywood mourns an American Legend: James Garner dies aged 86

James Garner, who starred in The Rockford Files and The Notebook, has died aged 86. The actor died in his Los Angeles home yesterday, Saturday 19 July. His cause of death is not yet known.

Garner (born April 7, 1928 - *and whom I shared the same birthday) had a career both in television and in cinema, although is best known for his role as Jim Rockford in Seventies television series The Rockford Files, for which he won an Emmy. He also played the original gambling Bret Maverick in Fifties comedy Western Maverick, before starring in the big-screen version with Mel Gibson in 1994.

Duel at Sundown, a 1959 episode of Maverick saw James Garner star alongside a young Clint Eastwood. An epic fistfight between Garner and Eastwood segues into a surprising showdown. The episode was written by Richard Collins and Howard Browne, and directed by Arthur Lubin. In 2000 Eastwood reunited again with Garner in Space Cowboys. Directed and produced by Clint Eastwood, it stars Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner as four older "ex-test pilots" who are sent into space to repair an old Soviet satellite, unaware that it is armed with nuclear missiles.
Born in Oklahoma in 1928, he changed his name to Garner from Bumgarner after a Hollywood studio credited him as “James Garner” without his consent. He started acting by playing small parts in television series Cheyenne and soon went on to assume the role of Marlon Brando’s friend in 1957 film Sayonara.

His six-decade career saw him act in over 50 films including The Children’s Hour, The Great Escape, The Thrill Of It All, Murphy’s Romance, Space Cowboys and more recently The Notebook, in which he plays the older version of Ryan Gosling. 
In February 2005, he received the Screen Actors Guild's Lifetime Achievement Award and also has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In his home town, Norman in Oklahoma stands a 10-foot bronze statue of Garner as Bret Maverick.
He is survived by his wife, Lois Clarke, whom he married 14 days after meeting, and his two children, Gigi and Kimberly, Clarke’s daughter from her first marriage.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Variety: Clint Eastwood: Cowboy Led ‘Jersey Boys’ Down a New Trail

Scott Foundas, Chief Film Critic June 2014

In 1962, the same year that a quartet of working-class New Jersey youths called the Four Seasons shot to the top of the pop charts with the irresistible doo-wop single “Sherry,” a solo artist from the West Coast made a less auspicious chart appearance with an earnest cowboy ballad inspired by his character on a popular TV Western. Entitled “Rowdy,” the song featured its gravelly voiced performer lamenting life on the open range, set to a gentle, galloping tempo. That singer was Clint Eastwood.
Surely, few listening to the radio back then would have imagined that, 50-odd years later, the Four Seasons’ pint-sized frontman, Frankie Valli, would still be selling out arenas with his vibrating falsetto. Fewer still would have wagered that Eastwood, then in his fourth season as Rowdy Yates on CBS’ “Rawhide,” would not only go on to become one of Hollywood’s most iconic leading men, but one of its most lauded director-producers, with four Oscars to his name and a feverish pace of work that, at age 84, rivals the 80-year-old Valli’s own. So perhaps it isn’t as strange as it first seems that Eastwood now finds himself at the helm of “Jersey Boys,” the long-gestating screen version of the hit Broadway musical about Valli’s rocky road to superstardom.

Indeed, while the recording of “Rowdy” didn’t exactly set the airwaves ablaze or prompt Eastwood to quit his day job, it’s been one of the defining contradictions of his career that his large hands are as comfortable tickling the ivories as they are grasping the trigger of the “world’s most powerful handgun.” Long before embarking on “Jersey Boys,” Eastwood directed two other music-centric narrative films, the 1982 country-Western tearjerker “Honkytonk Man” (in which he also sang and played guitar) and the acclaimed Charlie Parker biopic “Bird” (1988), as well as a documentary, “Piano Blues,” for the PBS series “Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues.” And starting with “Mystic River” in 2003, he has composed the original scores for nearly all of his films, frequently in partnership with his musician son, Kyle.

“My dad was a singer,” Eastwood recalls of his steelworker father, Clinton Eastwood Sr. “He had a group during the Depression, and they’d play parties and little clubs. When I was a kid, I played piano. I started imitating records that were popular at the time.” By the time he was a teenager, Eastwood Jr. was playing at various Bay Area watering holes, where he discovered that carrying a tune was a handy shortcut to free pizza and beer — and not a bad way to meet girls, either.

The script for “Jersey Boys” showed up on the doorstep of Eastwood’s Malpaso Prods. during an atypical lull: a three-year stretch, following 2011’s “J. Edgar,” in which the filmmaker was absent from the director’s chair (his longest gap between directing projects since 1980).
Not that he was taking it easy, exactly: He produced and starred alongside Amy Adams and Justin Timberlake in the 2012 baseball drama “Trouble With the Curve,” directed by his longtime producing partner, Rob Lorenz; and made a controversial appearance at that year’s Republican National Convention that struck many as a strange kind of performance art piece, when he recited an in-absentia complaint letter to President Obama, who was represented onstage by an empty chair.

“Yeah, I was surprised,” Eastwood says in his typically unflappable way about the media scrutiny that followed his speech. Waiting in the wings at the Tampa Convention Center, he says he began to bristle at the parade of other speakers showering GOP nominee Mitt Romney with sound-alike bon mots. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to come up with something different.’ So I just started working on it backstage. Then they were calling my name, and I said, ‘Just give me a chair.’ Some people loved it.”

Eastwood also had spent two years prepping a remake of “A Star Is Born,” a project that became mired in endless delays and false starts. So he was eager to get back behind the camera when a call came from Oscar-winning producer Graham King, who had won the “Jersey Boys” film rights in a competitive 2010 bidding war, and was just as keen to finally get into production.
Having first set “Jersey Boys” up at Sony, King had moved the project to Warner Bros. in 2012, and soon attached Jon Favreau to direct. Filming was set to begin in January 2013 for a Christmas release, but mere weeks after announcing the project, and with casting under way, Warners put “Jersey Boys” into turnaround (allegedly over budgetary disputes and concerns about the film’s foreign box office appeal) and King was back to square one. That’s when Eastwood’s phone rang.
“Graham King said, ‘We’d like you to do ‘Jersey Boys,’ ” and I said, ‘OK, I’ll look at it.’ They sent over a script — it was OK, by a good writer, John Logan, but it was missing a lot of things, and I said we’d need to sit down and do a rewrite.”
But Eastwood was compelled by Valli’s underdog rise from a kid Newark’s mean streets to pop icon, and he asked Warner’s then-movie chief, Jeff Robinov, to reconsider the picture. After all, Eastwood says as though it were perfectly obvious, “Where else do you get a project that’s been road-tested for a decade?”
It’s early May, and with “Jersey Boys” now in the can, Eastwood is already several weeks into directing his 34th movie, the military drama “American Sniper,” on a sprawling Santa Clarita ranch that has been dressed to resemble a Fallujah military base. Inside the temporary, barracks-like structure that serves as the set cafeteria, he stands in the lunch queue with the rest of the cast and crew, dressed in light-green golf shirt, khaki pants and black sneakers, sporting a beard he grew during the film’s location shoot in Morocco. He takes a seat at one of the long picnic tables, and makes leisurely stabs at a plate of fresh salmon, broccoli and fruit (he gave up eating red meat decades ago).

He recalls traveling to Las Vegas to see a performance of “Jersey Boys,” and being surprised to find that the show differed considerably from Logan’s script — which, among other things, scrapped the play’s multiple narrators in favor of a single p.o.v. Upon his return, he was even more surprised to learn that there was an earlier version of the “Jersey Boys” screenplay, written by Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice, the authors of the original Broadway book.

Only in Hollywood do they take a play that’s run for nine years on Broadway, six years in London, and five years in San Francisco, then go out and hire another writer,” marvels Eastwood, who’s nearly as famous for trusting writers’ first drafts as he is actors’ first takes. Back in 1971, when he teamed with director Don Siegel for the original “Dirty Harry,” the script had been rewritten so many times that the studio copy room had run out of shades of colored paper to differentiate the revisions. But when Eastwood and Siegel looked back at the original draft by the team of Harry Julian and Rita M. Fink, they deemed it superior to anything that had come after, and proceeded to put that version before the cameras.

“He’s never been one to bog himself down with development,” notes Lorenz, who joined Malpaso as a second a.d. on “The Bridges of Madison County” (1995), and earned his first full producing credit on “Mystic River.” “If something comes in, and it’s well written and it strikes him, then we do it.”
Armed with the Brickman-Elise script and a pared-back budget, Eastwood quickly moved into production on “Jersey Boys” last summer. Though he admits the studio “would have liked us to come up with a few names” for the cast, he insisted on cherry-picking his Four Seasons from among theater actors who had previously played the roles onstage, including John Lloyd Young, who won a Tony as Valli in the original Broadway production. “You’ve got people who’ve done 1,200 performances; how much better can you know a character?” says Eastwood.
Yet for all his fidelity to the Broadway source, the director has made a “Jersey Boys” movie that ultimately differs from the stage version in several key respects. It’s an altogether moodier, more real, edgier piece of work, more “Bird” than “Bye Bye Birdie,” giving equal weight to the personal tragedies of Valli and his bandmates — busted-up marriages, estranged children, embezzlement scams and dangerous entanglements with the Jersey mob — as to their professional triumphs. Onstage, misfortune was frequently softened by the show’s overarching uptempo mood. But onscreen, Eastwood hits as many blue notes as four-part harmonies.

“It was so interesting to sit there and recognize almost every single line of dialogue from the stage production, and yet experience something that couldn’t be more different,” says Young, who saw the completed version of the film after wrapping a return engagement as Valli in the London West End production of the show. “Clint definitely understands melancholy. That sort of darkness, which is authentic to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons’ beginnings, is much more on display in this film than it is in that fast-paced treadmill of a slick Broadway show.”

By the time “Jersey Boys” arrives in theaters June 20, Eastwood already will have wrapped shooting on “American Sniper,” which doesn’t yet have a release date, but could well end up on screens in time for this year’s Oscars. Based on the bestselling autobiography of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, “Sniper” stars Bradley Cooper as the author, an expert marksman who claimed to have killed more than 250 enemy combatants during four tours of duty in Iraq, and who was himself fatally shot by a fellow PTSD-afflicted vet on a Texas gun range in 2013. Like “The Bridges of Madison County” and “Flags of Our Fathers” before it, the project was originally set to be directed by Steven Spielberg. When Spielberg left the project last summer, Cooper and Warner Bros. production prexy Greg Silverman asked Eastwood if he’d step in.
“I called Spielberg and said, ‘Steven, I’m always doing your leftovers! Why’d you bail out of this thing?’ ” Eastwood says with a chuckle. “Then he came over one day and we talked for a couple of hours about it.”
“Sniper” is the 28th film Eastwood has directed for Warner Bros., a loyalty between filmmaker and studio not seen since the golden age of the studio system. (John Ford, the director to whom Eastwood is perhaps most often compared, did 24 films for Fox.) Those movies run the gamut from populist crowd-pleasers (“Space Cowboys,” “Gran Torino”) to personal passion projects (“Bird,” “White Hunter Black Heart”), prestige literary adaptations (“Madison County,” “Mystic River”), politically tinged biopics (“Invictus,” “J. Edgar”) and Eastwood’s two best picture Oscar winners: “Unforgiven” and “Million Dollar Baby.” And while the relationship hasn’t been without its bumps — Warners initially passed on both “Mystic” and “Million,” eventually greenlighting them only after Eastwood brought on a co-financier — it’s an alliance both director and studio are eager to continue.
“Clint is one of the touchstones of Warner Bros.,” says Warner Bros. CEO Kevin Tsujihara, who praises Eastwood’s work ethic and fiscal responsibility. “At this point, it’s a real relationship that’s built on a number of different things; it stops being about dollars and cents.”
Still, it can’t hurt that the two biggest worldwide grossers of Eastwood’s career, “Million Dollar Baby” ($217 million) and “Gran Torino” ($270 million), were both made within the past 10 years, when their director and star was well past Social Security age.
Eastwood describes “Sniper” (in which he does not star) as a movie about the irony of war, a theme he has previously explored in films such as “Heartbreak Ridge” (about the U.S. invasion of Grenada) and his 2006 Iwo Jima diptych.

Cooper, for one, is enjoying the experience of working with the famously laidback director. “I’m just sort of pinching myself every day that I’m on set with him,” he says. “He’s an actor himself, and you can just tell that he thinks in those terms. It’s a very easy set, and he’s very collaborative.”
For a war picture with lots of heavy artillery, the mood on the “Sniper” set — as on all Eastwood’s sets — is one of pervasive quiet and calm. He rarely raises his voice above a whisper, and his crew communicates via secret-service style earpieces rather than by squawking walkie-talkies. No one ever yells anything, least of all “Action!” or “Cut!” Rather, Eastwood will roll camera and then prompt the actors with a gentle “OK, whenever you feel like it.” At the end of a scene, an equally soft-spoken “Good” or “Stop” suffices.
“A lot of sets are loud and noisy, people bang around, and you just have to learn how to incorporate that into your work, but it’s hard,” says Laura Linney, who starred in Eastwood’s “Absolute Power” (1997) and “Mystic River.” “So it’s a huge advantage for an actor to have a quiet set, and a huge relief.”
Some other truisms of making a movie with Eastwood: He typically does no more than two takes of any given shot — sometimes even shooting, then using, what actors think is a mere rehearsal; he works with the same crew time and again; is usually ahead of schedule and under budget; call time is rarely before sunrise; and everyone gets home by dinner.
“I always think of it as being the jazz man in him,” says Sean Penn, who won the actor Oscar for “Mystic River,” one of five thesps Eastwood has directed to Academy Award-winning performances. “The jazz man wants all the players onstage, and to see what happens the first time when everyone plays off each other. You might want to go back and ask for another take of your chord or your instrument, but it’s never going to be as good as it is at large. In other words, the integrated thing is what he’s after.

“Clint,” he adds, “has the least insecurities of anybody that I’ve ever worked with.”
Morgan Freeman, who won a supporting actor Oscar for “Million Dollar Baby,” echoes that appreciation. “He doesn’t push actors around,” he says. “He just directs the movie. He’s very quick, very decisive, and I respond to that.”
Lorenz says Eastwood lets his instincts guide him. “Too often there’s pressure, with all the money movies cost nowadays, to make sure you’ve thought of every possible combination, and then you start to second-guess yourself and things fall apart. But he moves through things quickly and keeps that momentum up, and instead of working from an intellectual place, you’re working from a more artistic place.”

After lunch, while the crew sets up a low-angle shot of a sniper on a Fallujah rooftop, Eastwood reminisces about his first movie appearance, the 1955 “Creature From the Black Lagoon” sequel “Revenge of the Creature.” He talks about the old Mitchell movie cameras that were used to shoot it, so much bulkier and more cumbersome than the HD technology that he used on “Sniper” and “Jersey Boys.” Then he turns to consult with his visual-effects supervisor, Michael Owens, to see if they need to wait for nightfall to get
the roof shot, or if the sky can be darkened digitally in post. It’s a small but telling reminder of how nimbly Eastwood has managed to change with the times while in other respects has remained timeless.

“I don’t want to repeat what I did in the last decade or the decade before that,” says Eastwood, who has repeatedly rebuffed offers to bring Inspector Harry Callahan out of retirement. Asked if he’s already thinking about his next project, he notes, “Two pictures in one year is enough. Right now, I don’t want to hear about any great scripts, and I don’t want to read any scripts. Next year, we’ll see where life is.”

Monday, 30 June 2014

Clint Eastwood Universal Blu Ray Box Set Released in August

Instead of going into detail on this release, I have chosen to paste a comment which I left on Amazon today - I believe it explains my thoughts. Whilst I am of course happy to see these fantastic titles released (the Universal period for me - is just gold dust) I still have some major issues regarding their content. I can't help but fear they may not of been treated with the respect they deserve -

On paper this looks good - I just wonder though how the extras will be - this seems to be the ideal opportunity for Universal to do it properly.... but I'm not holding my breath. I hope they would of tracked down Clint's featurette THE STORYTELLER filmed in 1971, during the making of The Beguiled, The Storyteller is the first Documentary short ever directed by Eastwood. Shot in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, under the Malpaso Production Company, it has a running time of 12 minutes. There is also another featurette made during High Plains Drifter - A MAN NAMED EASTWOOD - another essential piece that should be included in this package...Radio spots, Trailers, TV spots??? Anyone know if there are any commentaries included? There are plenty of Eastwood experts around... authors, biographers? Any stills galleries? I know there is an open ended interview with both Eastwood and MacLaine recorded during the making of TWO MULES FOR SISTER SARA - I know because I have it... Is this to be included? I've never reviewed anything here prior to its release, so I will give it 5 stars simply because I support the release of these movies on the Blu Ray format (Eiger should look wonderful). But, without sounding like a broken record, I know Universal can be lazy. I fear this collection will not feature (other than probably a standard trailer) any of the above extras - but its about time they should. Fans have spent generously over the decades - the Video Cassette - the Laserdisc - the DVD... they're a loyal bunch. I've always looked upon the Blu ray format as a representation of quality - not just in terms of its spec - but also in terms content - the high end choice. However, I think a lot of the studios now just use it as a common dumping ground - another outlet in order to recycle - and with little consideration as to what makes the format something special. It's a shame - and probably another chance gone missing - I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
Darren Allison
The Clint Eastwood Archive

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Malpaso Men: The Emotional Rhythm of Joel Cox and Gary Roach

EDITORS GUILD MAGAZINE January-February 2009: Volume 30, Number 1 by Michael Kunkes

French composer Maurice Ravel said, “We should always remember that sensitiveness and emotion constitute the real content of a work of art.”  Few words better express the filmmaking vision of iconic actor, director, producer and composer Clint Eastwood, a vision that is realized in no small part by Eastwood’s picture editors––Oscar winner Joel Cox, A.C.E., and Gary Roach.  In 2008, the three partnered on a pair of deeply affecting emotional dramas––Universal’s recent Changeling, the true account of 1920s LAPD corruption and cover-up in the case of a missing child and serial killer, and Warner Bros.’ just-released Gran Torino, which marks Eastwood’s return to acting as an iron-willed Korean War veteran, forced by changing times and immigrant neighbours to confront his own prejudices.

For Cox, Gran Torino is the 33rd collaboration in as many years with Eastwood’s Warner Bros.-based production company, Malpaso Productions––as editor, supervising editor and assistant editor––one of the most prolific creative alliances in Hollywood history.  Cox grew up at Warner, starting in the mailroom in 1961; he’s been working in Hollywood since appearing onscreen as a baby in 1942’s Random Harvest.  Cox learned to cut by watching and being mentored by legendary editors such as Ralph E. Winters, Sam O’Steen, Walter Thompson and Bill Ziegler.  He was already a battle-tested assistant editor when he came to work for Malpaso in 1976––and almost immediately found himself co-editing Eastwood-directed and -acted films with another leading editor and mentor, the late Ferris Webster.  The rewards have been many for Cox, including a 1993 Oscar for Best Film Editing of Unforgiven, and a second nomination for Million Dollar Baby in 2004.

Joel Cox
Roach joined Malpaso as a young apprentice editor in 1996.  While working on Absolute Power (1997), he was in an advanced state of on-the-job training, learning the Avid from assistant editor Tony Bozanich and film assembly from Cox and his longtime assistant, Michael Cipriano.  Within a year, Roach became a full assistant on the Eastwood-directed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and, in a sharing rather than passing of the torch, became Cox’s co-editor in 2006.
Editors Guild Magazine sat down with the two collaborators at Cox’s cutting room at Malpaso on the Warner lot as they were finishing post-production on Gran Torino.

Editors Guild Magazine: How did you get your big breaks?
Joel Cox: When I went to work for Clint in 1976, I had just one editing credit, Farewell My Lovely (1975), which I co-edited with Walter Thompson.  That year, I took over the final editing of The Outlaw Josey Wales when Ferris Webster, Clint’s regular editor, became ill.  That’s how my relationship with Clint came together.  I co-edited with Ferris until he retired after Honkytonk Man in 1982, and the next year, I took over the reins as Clint’s sole editor on Sudden Impact.
Gary Roach
Gary Roach: For years, Clint would ask me if I was cutting any scenes, but I was too busy with assistant work.  My break came in 2006 when he decided to start shooting Letters from Iwo Jima at the same time Joel was editing Flags of Our Fathers, and Clint really wanted me to co-edit Letters.  So I’m thinking, “Great; the first film I edit is going to be in Japanese.”  I remember asking Clint if Joel and I would have an interpreter in the cutting room and he said, “Nope.  You guys will figure it out.”
EGM: Joel, how have you passed along what you’ve learned?
JC: The method I’ve taught Gary is the one I learned when I was an assistant.  We look at dailies and when we sit down to actually edit a scene, we run each of the takes and create a page or two of handwritten notes about what is important in each take––the emotions, the feelings, the looks on the characters’ faces, their actions, shot angles, take numbers––and write all that down as a bible that gives us the direction of that scene.
EGM: Gary, what is the toughest adjustment you’ve had to make from being an assistant? 
GR: At the end of Changeling, I handled all the cutting in of visual effects shots, worked with the sound editors and kept the DI going.  I got completely in the mode of handling all that technical stuff, and then had to get back into creative mode for Gran Torino.  Because I’ve only done a few shows, it takes me a few days to get back into that role. 
EGM: What’s the typical process of working with Clint Eastwood?
JC: We never go on location.  Clint wants us here to look at the film and discuss with him what we’ve seen.  Gary and I cut film during the week, then ship him what we’ve done; he’ll suggest changes, then we move on.  But Clint never tells us what to cut, what scenes or angles to use.  There’s a lot of responsibility––but also a lot of trust.  By the time he sees a first cut, it’s already pretty close.
EGM: How do you divide up scenes and sequences? 
JC: It’s whoever comes in first in the morning!  We don’t sit down and say, “You do this and I’ll do that.”  Sometimes, there will be two or three scenes in a row that, because of the way they were shot, would work better if the same person cut them.  But otherwise, that’s exactly how it works.  A lot of times, you will see two editors on a film and be able to pick out the different ways they have of doing things––but Gary and I are from the same mold.  You’d have to be me to know who cut which scenes. 
GR: The way it worked out, we each cut almost exactly half of Changeling and Gran Torino.  After ten years of sitting with this amazing editor and director, I’ve come to know Joel’s style as well as what Clint likes.  I can cut a scene and he can cut the very next scene, simply because there is no method to our madness.  Our styles just flow together.
EGM: Does Clint make major changes?
JC: I’ve worked for Clint for over 33 years, and he has actually disassembled only one sequence on me––and that only because the actress in the scene wanted more close-ups.  Clint says that if a scene works, there are no rules to follow.  My only rule is that I try never to cross the imaginary 180-degree line when there are two people in a scene, because I don’t like to see them both looking in the same direction; for example, both looking camera right.  I really feel that the audience should see two people looking at each other. 
EGM: Speaking of twos, it seems that many of the best moments in Eastwood films are two-shots. 
JC: The way we edit, we don’t go to a lot of close-ups––which makes it tougher because as editors we’re worried about matching.  But Clint won’t inhibit an actor for the sake of matching shots.  He wants a 40-foot screen utilized across 40 feet, so very rarely will you see a very extreme close-up with Clint, and then only for a very good reason.  For him, the emotion of the scene might be in the wider shot because you have the character’s whole body language giving you the emotion; it’s not just in the eyes.
EGM: How much of Changeling did not make the final cut?
GR: Our first cut was 3:15, and we ultimately got it down to 2:20 by cutting sequences that took the story into areas it didn’t need to go.  When the Mounties come to arrest Northcott  [Jason Butler Harner], Clint shot a long sequence in which he temporarily eludes capture in a rooftop chase.  Then we were into a chase movie and Changeling was not about that.  Another plotline that was removed was a sequence that takes place when Christine [Angelina Jolie] comes home from the mental institution and Gustav Briegleb [John Malkovich] brings men to the house to protect her because he thought she was in danger from the LAPD.
JC: Clint looks at the big picture and says, “This scene takes us away from moving the picture along, so we have to cut it.”  And even when he’s acting in one of his own films, he’s not afraid to cut himself out. 
EGM: How did Gran Torino come to your attention?
JC: Gary and I were editing Changeling in Carmel, near where Clint lives, when he brought us the script for Gran Torino.  We both read it and I told Clint, “It’s almost as if this guy [Nick Schenk] wrote it for you.”  He thought it was kind of off-the-wall and didn’t really know how people would react to it.  I told him,  “People have to understand that you’re just playing a character; this isn’t really who you are.”  And the truth is, though people may think of him as Dirty Harry, he’s more like the Robert Kincaid character in Bridges of Madison County––very soft-hearted and easy going.
EGM: How would you describe Gran Torino?
JC: Gran Torino is a smaller, more intimate film than some of Clint’s more recent movies.  I would describe it as “Grumpy Old Men meets Archie Bunker meets Dirty Harry.”  Also, like Million Dollar Baby, it has a plot twist that you will never see coming.
EGM: What was the most challenging scene for you to cut––in either movie?
JC: In Changeling, there’s the hearing scene at the institution between Christine and Dr. Steele [Denis O’Hare].  He’s sitting at his desk, looking over his notes and humming.  She thinks he’s going to release her, when actually he’s getting ready to completely take her apart.  Editing that scene was all about tempo, timing and holding the cuts.  Music also plays a part in the hanging scene at San Quentin at the end of the film.  Northcott  is singing “Silent Night” on the gallows, and as he sings the words “…mother and child,” the trap opens––I cut quickly to Christine then back to him and down he went.  You take a moment like that, set it up and put it into position to play a certain way.  These are the little things an editor does that don’t jump out at you.
GR: In Gran Torino, there’s a great scene in the barbershop where Clint and the barber try to teach Thao [Bee Vang], the Hmong teen, how to banter back and forth with people like “real men.”  It was not an easy scene because there was just so much dialogue and I wanted to create pauses that would allow the right emotional tone into the scene.  What Clint did with the Hmong actors was amazing.  They surround his character throughout the film and he got great performances out of these amateur actors with little or no previous experience. 
There is also the scene in Changeling where Sanford [Eddie Alderson] is in the police station and another kid is sitting there tapping a ruler on his shoulder, intercut with the scene at the Wineville ranch where Northcott is chopping up a kid.  We don’t normally do a lot of quick cutting, but I felt we needed to do these one-second cuts of the axe coming down, cutting to the ruler tapping on the kid’s shoulder, then to the kid’s eyes.  I also did some variable speeds of the axe coming down in the Avid.   I had no idea what Clint was going to say, and when he saw it, he just said, “Hmmm, yeah,” and walked out of the room.  And I thought, “Oh, that’s just great.”  And the next day he came in and said, “No, I like it––I just had to sleep on it.” 
EGM: Was there any point where you were editing Changeling and Gran Torino at the same time?
JC: Changeling was basically finished when we started editing Gran Torino, to the point where we were able to take it to Cannes and run it. 

GR: We had a cut of Changeling within a week of the wrap, and on Gran Torino, we were virtually up to camera the entire time, with a cut two days after production wrapped.  At Warner Bros., Joel and I have separate editing rooms.  But when we go up to Carmel, we have two Avids in the same room, and Clint will sit between us, watch what we’re doing and give us the changes he wants us to make.  We get things done really quickly. 

EGM: Joel, would you ever edit film again?
JC: I could do it, but a lot of editors today don’t have the training and background to work with film anymore.  The Avid is a revolutionary tool, but I edit electronically the same way I cut on the Moviola.  I do the mark-in, get to the end of the shot, do my mark-out and cut that in.  I’ve had young editors tell me that they spend 90 percent of their time in edit mode sliding the cuts.  I only do that after I’ve put four or five cuts together and run the scene.  If there’s something I want to adjust then, I will––but I don’t even spend ten percent of my time sliding cuts.
EGM: Does Clint shoot a lot of footage?
JC: Neither Clint nor I quite get what people who shoot a million feet do with all that film.  You burden the actors down, you burden their performances.  His actors come to the set well rehearsed and knowing his method.  He believes that there’s freshness in the first take of a performance that you lose five to 20 takes down the road.  He’s not against a stutter or a flaw in a reading.  That’s why Clint doesn’t like to loop.  You can’t re-create the ambient sound or the voice inflections and emotion that you get on the set.  He’d rather have the performance.  But he always gives me more than an adequate amount of footage to edit the film.
EGM: How do you work with music?
Bruce Ricker Eastwood and Joel Cox
JC: Clint and I both believe that music is something that is there to support the film, not to be a character.  We also believe that you don’t have to play music from the first frame till the last; that’s not the style of movie he does.  If you have to use music to get people to feel strong emotions, then the film isn’t working by itself.  He knows his audience; he’s making films for adults.

GR: Clint will have a tune in mind, and he’ll sit down at the piano and plunk it out, and somewhere along the way he’ll get together with his son Kyle and arranger Michael Stevens.  They’ll bring a bunch of material to us, we load it in, and then Joel will overlay and work these themes together to put together a score that Clint invariably falls in love with.  At the very end, Lennie Niehaus, Clint’s orchestrator, comes in and writes string and other arrangements that fill it all out.
EGM: What’s up next for you two?
JC: The Human Factor (Invictus), which Clint starts shooting in March.  Morgan Freeman will be portraying Nelson Mandela during his first term as President of South Africa, after the fall of apartheid.
EGM: Where do you think picture editing today is heading?
JC: The one thing I fear is that films today are being made for a much younger audience and edited in a very different style.  I am not against that.  However, I think a film is viewed through the eyes of the characters, and I don’t want to tip the audience off to something that’s going to happen before the characters see it.  It should be like a book; you never know until you turn the page.  The audience should be like a fly on the wall.  It’s the characters’ story, not the audience’s. 
GR: This is why it’s important for me to have a similar style to Joel––so that we share the same rhythms.  I must say here that Joel has been incredibly gracious in allowing me to work by his side.  It’s been an incredible experience and it is so appreciated.

JC: I like to tell people we are the “masters of emotion,” because that’s what Clint’s films are all about.  We don’t have egos because the films say it all.  There’s huge art being created in this room, and we are the luckiest guys in the world.

Buddy Van Horn: My life as Clint Eastwood’s stuntman

The Independent Monday, 9 August 2010

As the body behind the stunts of five-time Oscar winner Clint Eastwood until well into his sixties, Laura Davis talks to 81 year-old Buddy Van Horn about what it was like to work for the western legend throughout his expansive career

Growing up opposite Universal Studios in Southern California, Buddy was always privy to the movie scene, but he never expected to end up in the business. Due to his upbringing, he never needed any official training to take on the role of stuntman: “I grew up with horses, at a time with period pictures and westerns and I was a trained horseman so I already knew that end of it coming in. We had to erect wagons and things, but I had other professionals that helped me learn.”

Any training he did acquire was along the way, and although he grew up around horses and carts, there were still surprises when working with them: “I think more people were hurt and injured around livestock and wagons than the modern day automobiles! Wagons and horses are very unpredictable at times.”

When asked about what injuries he has suffered along the way, the former stuntman is guarded: “Someone once asked me that and I told them I fell out of an aeroplane and the parachute didn't open. I died.”
It appears to be his reticence to come across as bragging about how dangerous his career has been at points, merely pointing out that hes had a few bumps along the way. He does share that the longest time hes been in hospital was for about 5 or 6 months.
In an occupation where risk is part of the job description, he describes the importance of knowing your limits: “A lot of guys - because they want the job - they get themselves in trouble. Theyre wanting their pay check and theyre overstepping their ability to do what theyre about to do. It doesnt happen all the time but it does happen.”

In some instances hes seen some friends risk their lives for stunts, and sadly not been lucky enough to survive them. 

With tighter regulations on health and safety rules, Buddy has noticed how things have improved greatly along the years, however. “Theres always the element of risk involved but you try to take as much of that out as possible.”
As Clint Eastwoods long-time stunt double, he describes how the actor often wanted to perform his own stunts: “Theres been a couple of times that hes wanted to do something and I talked him out of it. Hes a pretty physical guy and likes to do his own stunts. Some of the things he does were pretty easy to get banged up. Ive tried to talk him out of it sometimes, but not very successfully most of the time. He went 'n' did em anyway, several of em. Hes been banged up a few times.”

Having worked alongside Eastwood for practically the entirety of his career, hes exceptionally grateful for everything hes done for him along the way:
“It’s a dream job. I wake up sometimes and I can’t wait to get to work when I’m working with him. He makes things so easy for ya. We’re not a social group or anything like that, it’s always professional. We’re good friends but we don’t socialise. He has his special friends and I have mine. It’s easy. He’s Mr Easy. He makes things easy and uncomplicated on the films I worked on and that I directed. He said “Oh don’t worry Buddy just go ahead and do it. If we have to do it again don’t worry we’ll just do it.” He takes all the pressure off you and that goes for coordinating action or anything you've done for him. He’s not worried about success, but he’s done well.”

“I think a lot of the actors like to do certain things to a point you can let ‘em do it safely - thats fine - but I think theres a line there you better draw as the company that theyre with has a lot of money invested in them too and you dont want to shut the company down. There have been times when Ive tried to talk people out of doing things, most of the time Im successful. The times with Clint when he got a few bumps and bruises I didn't think he needed.”
Buddy was responsible for the stunt coordination on 'Million Dollar Baby', which won four Oscars in 2005 “That was terrific. Im so happy for Clints success hes to me such an unassuming kind of a guy, I dont know if he realises how good he really is.”

Although stunts arent officially recognised by the Academy Awards, there have been proposals to introduce an Oscar for Best Stunt Coordination in 1999 and in 2005, but they were rejected both times. This makes it apparent that for some stunt doubles, it might be difficult to allow others to accept the praise for their work: “I think some guys want recognition and Ive never felt that way. I really got in it just to make a living and I think the audience are sophisticated enough to know they do use a double now and then, but why broadcast it around? Awards and things - Im just not one to think about wanting anything like that.”
Buddy was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Taurus World Stunt Awards Foundation in 2002, but was reluctant to attend: “I wasnt gonna do it! Then I found out they wanted to know why and said well whos making the money off of this? And they said we give a big chunk of this money to injured stuntmen. So I said sure ok Ill go do it then. If it was just to go out and publicise their product or anything like that then no. But sure I felt honoured. Its nice. Im old stuff now though.”

Eastwood also chose Van Horn to direct 'Any Which Way You Can' (1980), 'The Dead Pool' (1988), and 'Pink Cadillac' (1989), so he’s experienced behind the camera as well as in front of it. He feels that the increasing use of CGI can take the realism out of films: “They’re doing more and more of it all the time, so I like to see real people doing real stunts. Course I'm retired now so I don’t have to worry about hitting the ground. The older you get, the harder the ground gets.”

Consequently there has been a need to make stunts more dangerous and exciting along the way: “The kids today are better prepared and the equipments better. Some of the things they do is really living on the edge. Some of the stunts they do today are wild. Its a bad time for stunt people now I think Ive seen the best of it.”
As films and video games are often seen as responsible for influencing bad behaviour in children, I asked Buddy whether any blame should lie with the creators:“I dont get into that. Theres a lot of that stuff I dont get involved in. Id make sure that I watched what they were looking at first in case it was too violent, I dont think Id let 'em. Sometimes people blame them, Ive seen it happen and you hear about it happening now and then but parents have to take some responsibility. Parents can be at fault letting their kids do some dumb things that they shouldnt be doing. A lot of time you see the disclaimer 'Dont try this at home' there are a lot of no-brainers out there. Some people do some dumb things. I call those people daredevils I dont call em stuntmen.”
Buddy worked with Clint Eastwood for over half a century and collaborated with him in over 20 of the films that appear in his new boxset 'Clint Eastwood: 35 Films 35 Years'. Other big screen features Buddy coordinated the stunts for include 'Mystic River', 'The Changeling' and 'Gran Torino'. Having performed stunts until he was into his 60s, Buddy finally felt that at 80 it was probably time to retire: “I’m just I’m enjoying my time off. If Clint said hey you wanna come and do something, I would do it - I wouldn’t do it for anyone else.” 

Clint Eastwood Quality Japanese Cuttings

Over the last 15-20 years the market for Japanese Cuttings has increased considerably. The reason is generally because of their quality (often on a nice gloss paper) and because of the pictures the Japanese movie magazines featured. I don't know why, but the pictures tended to be far better and more rarely seen than those featured in US or UK magazines. I probably have over 250 of these pages, and thought it was about time to set up a dedicated section for these items. Not being the greatest lover of scanning, I have selected about 100 images that I have saved from the internet in order to get this section under way. Please ignore any faint watermarks on some of these pages, they of course do not feature on the original items. As I put these pages up, I will also note where I have a spare or duplicate 'Spare available', just in case you may have another for trade. But please do check with me first as I do have a lot more than is actually shown here. There are also some larger fold out type pages which were always Tri-folded.

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Close up example