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Archive for June, 2012

Peter Lorre

Peter Lorre (26 June 1904 – 23 March 1964) was an Austrian-American actor frequently typecast as a sinister foreigner. He caused an international sensation with his portrayal of a serial killer who preys on little girls in the classic Fritz Lang film M (1931). Later he became a popular featured player in Hollywood crime films and mysteries, in particular with Humphrey Bogart and Sydney Greenstreet, and as the star of the successful Mr Moto detective series.

Lorre was born László Löwenstein on 26 June 1904, as the first child of Jewish couple Alajos Löwenstein and Elvira Freischberger, in the Austrian-Hungarian town of Ružomberok in what is now Slovakia, then known by its Hungarian name Rózsahegy. At the outbreak of the Second Balkan War in 1913, Alajos moved the family to Vienna.

Lorre began acting on stage in Vienna at the age of 17, before moving to the then German town of Breslau, and later to Zürich in Switzerland. In the late 1920s, the young and short (165 cm (5 ft 5 in)) actor moved to Berlin, where he worked with German playwright Bertolt Brecht.

The actor became much more widely known after director Fritz Lang cast him as a child killer in the film M (1931).

M – Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder is a 1931 German drama directed by and also written by Lang and his wife Thea von Harbou and was Lang’s first sound film, although he had directed more than a dozen films previously. Peter Lorre played Hans Beckert, the child killer, it was Lorre’s first major starring role, and it boosted his career, even though he was typecast as a villain for many years after.

M is supposedly based on the real-life case of serial killer Peter Kürten, the “Vampire of Düsseldorf”, whose crimes took place in the 1920s, although Lang denied that he drew from this case. “At the time I decided to use the subject matter of M there were many serial killers terrorizing Germany — Haarmann, Grossmann, Kürten, Denke,” Lang told film historian Gero Gandert in a 1963 interview.

Lorre’s character whistles the tune “In the Hall of the Mountain King” from Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1. However, Peter Lorre himself could not whistle – it is actually Lang who is heard. The film was one of the first to use a lietmotif, associating “In the Hall of the Mountain King” with the Lorre character. Later in the film, the mere sound of the song lets the audience know that he is nearby, off-screen. This association of a musical theme with a particular character or situation, a technique borrowed from opera, is now a film staple. The film has become a classic which Lang himself considered his finest work.

When the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, Lorre took refuge first in Paris and then London, where he was noticed by Ivor Montagu, Alfred Hitchcock’s associate producer for The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934). They first considered him to play the assassin in the film, but wanted to use him in a larger role, despite his limited command of English, which Lorre overcame by learning much of his part phonetically. He also was featured in Hitchcock’s Secret Agent (1936).

Eventually, Lorre went to Hollywood, where he specialized in playing sinister foreigners. He starred in a series of Mr. Moto movies, a parallel to the better known Charlie Chan series. He was awesome in Mad Love (1935), where he played an insane surgeon whose obsession with an actress leads him to replace her wounded pianist’s hands with the hands of a knife murderer which still have the urge to throw knives.

In 1939, he was picked to play the role that would eventually go to Basil Rathbone in Son of Frankenstein; Lorre had to decline the part due to illness. In 1940, Lorre co-starred with fellow horror actors Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff in the movie You’ll Find Out.

Lorre played the role of Joel Cairo in The Maltese Falcon (1941) and portrayed the character Ugarte in Casablanca (1942). Lorre made nine movies altogether with Sydney Greenstreet counting The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, most of them variations on the latter film, including Background to Danger (1943); Passage to Marseille (1944); The Mask of Dimitrios (1944); The Conspirators (1944); Hollywood Canteen (1944); Three Strangers (1946), and The Verdict (1946), director Don Siegel’s first movie, with Greenstreet and Lorre finally billed first and second, respectively. Lorre also branched out (without Greenstreet) into comedy with the role of Dr. Einstein in Arsenic and Old Lace, filmed by director Frank Capra in 1941, released in 1944.

After World War II, Lorre’s acting career in Hollywood experienced a downturn, whereupon he concentrated on radio and stage work. In Germany he co-wrote, directed and starred in Der Velorene (The Lost One) (1951), a critically acclaimed art film in the film noir style. He then returned to the United States where he appeared as a character actor in television and feature films, often spoofing his ‘creepy;’ image.

In 1954, he was the first actor to play a James Bond villain when he portrayed Le Chiffre in a television adaptation of Casino Royale. Also in 1954, Lorre starred alongside Kirk Douglas and James Mason in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He had minor roles in a few forgettable movies thereafter, his last notable appearance being The Raven (1963), a horror comedy produced and directed by Roger Corman. The film  stars Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Lorre as a trio of rival sorcerers. It is the fifth film in the series of eight Edgar Allan Poe adaptations produced by Corman. He co-starred in another comedy horror with Vincent Price, Boris Karloff and Basil Rathbone, The Comedy of Terrors (1964).

He died in 1964 of a stroke. Lorre’s body was cremated and his ashes interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Hollywood. Vincent Price read the eulogy at his funeral.

American Horror Story – Jessica Lange Interview

What’s the point of the Emmys..? Apart from those awful shows backslapping each other on their ‘achievements’ in whatever category they’ve put together to exclude quality TV (cable) and award themselves a bunch of meaningless awards. However, around this awards season we get a few good interviews and promos for forthcoming quality TV shows (cable). Below is one with Jessica Lange discussing American Horror Story: Season 2. Courtesy of DEADLINE

Constance Langdon is not a neighbor you want to borrow a cup of sugar from, and you most definitely should beware when she comes bearing home-baked gifts (or, for that matter, “sweet breads”). And yet as portrayed by Jessica Lange, who came into American Horror Story with two Oscars and an Emmy on her mantel, the Harmon family’s oft unwelcome visitor did not repel, she but regaled us. Thus far, Lange has netted a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Golden Globe for her first venture into series television — might another Emmy make her housewarming complete?

AWARDSLINE: When you first started seeing the American Horror Storyscripts, did you suspect the role of Constance could be Emmy-worthy?
LANGE: I didn’t really know what to think. We were shooting really fast, so I don’t think anybody was thinking about the outcome as much as the process of getting through it. This was the first time I’d ever done this kind of television — a miniseries — and not being all that familiar with the world of TV, I didn’t have any frame of reference. So when the performances started getting recognition, yes, it did kind of surprise me. I mean, I knew how good the writing was, and I knew there was a great deal that I could do with it — it’s a big character with a huge range of emotions.

AWARDSLINE: Given how dicey the subject matter could get, how did you find the humanity amidst of all this surreality?
LANGE: I just paid attention to creating this character and playing her as absolutely real as I could, in the context of all this other stuff. I really didn’t think in terms of the overall sweep of the piece, or the tone of it.

AWARDSLINE: Because of the intensity of the material, was it a particularly galvanizing experience for the cast?
LANGE: I can’t speak for the others, but I know that for me there were moments where it was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that they’ve written this!’ [Laughs] It’s always a leap of faith. The only thing you can think about is: What are you given to do, and how well do you do it?

AWARDSLINE: Was there a past performance of yours that informed your portrayal of Constance? Was it Queen Tamora in Titus? Maggie in TV’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof?
LANGE: Certainly there were moments where I felt that there were shades of Tennessee Williams — because she’s Southern and because it was about failed dreams and disappointment, and loneliness. Those themes crop up in a lot of Tennessee’s women — like with Blanche [in A Streetcar Named Desire] or Amanda Wingfield [The Glass Menagerie]. But that’s really where the comparison ends. Constance’s actual behavior has nothing to do with any character I’ve ever played before.

AWARDSLINE: How did doing a TV miniseries shape you as an actress?
LANGE: It shifted something profoundly, because this piece forced me to work in a way I’ve never worked before, and that was with complete immediacy — and in some odd way it was very liberating. It forced me to be extremely bold. I couldn’t approach this with any kind of trepidation, and in that way it felt expansive to me.

AWARDSLINE: Would you concede that Constance is a despicable person? Or was she coming from a place of misplaced love?
LANGE: Certainly you can look at her actions and say that she was horrendous. However, in the playing of it I had to find her humanity, and I did that through her emotion and her capacity for love. The fact that it was so twisted in many ways came out of circumstances rather than the essence of the character. What I kind of loved about her is she did not mince words. Sometimes, like when you hear her speaking to her daughter or in a scene with her son, as a mother [myself] I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ But again, there was something very enjoyable about playing someone who was no-holds-barred.

AWARDSLINE: She certainly stood out in today’s ever-PC climate.
LANGE: I thought she was kind of a throwback to another time, pre-political correctness, when people said things that would now be seen as shocking. Like some of the dames from the films in the ’30s — hard and rough-talking but honest and forthright. Yes, we had scenes where what she did was reprehensible and criminal, but there was an element to her I found very refreshing.

AWARDSLINE: With the next chapter of American Horror Story, you have the rare opportunity to create a new character. How will your insane asylum administrator differ from Constance?
LANGE: It’s a different time [set in the 1960s] first of all, and she comes from a completely different background. There’s also different geography [being set on the East Coast], and that informs a character tremendously. So without giving away too much, I think there are similarities — they both have a history, and I’m not entirely stellar! [Laughs] — but that’s probably where the paths diverge. She is very different from what I’ve played. It’s going to be another wild ride!

Awesome Zombie Image – I’m Not Right in the Head

Joss Whedon

Joseph Hill “Joss” Whedon (born June 23, 1964) is an American screenwriter, executive producer, film and television director, comic book writer, occasional composer, and actor, as well as the founder of Mutant Enemy Productions and co-creator of Bellwether Pictures. He was, until recently, best known as the creator and showrunner of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997–2003), Angel, (1999–2004), Firefly (2002) and less favourably Dollhouse (2009–2010), as well as the short film Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008).

Whedon recently co-wrote and produced the awesome horror film The Cabin in the Woods (2012), and wrote and directed the film adaptation of Marvel’s The Avengers (2012), which is now the third highest grossing film of all time.

Joss Whedon was born in New York City. He has been described as the world’s first third-generation TV writer, as he is the son of Tom Whedon, a screenwriter for The Golden Girls in the 1980s, and the grandson of John Whedon, a writer for The Donna Reed Show in the 1950s. His mother, Lee Stearns, taught history at Riverdale Country School as Lee Whedon, and was an unpublished novelist.

Following a move to Los Angeles, Whedon secured his first writing job on the television series Roseanne. After working several years as a script doctor for films, he returned to television, where he created four TV shows.

Years after having his script for the movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992), produced, Whedon revived the concept as a television series of the same name. Buffy the Vampire Slayer went on to become a critical and cult hit receiving an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series in 2000. Buffy ran for seven seasons. Angel was a spin-off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, featuring Buffy’s vampire-with-a-soul ex-boyfriend as the title character. Angel debuted on The WB in September 1999 and ran for five seasons; during its first two seasons, Angel episodes were broadcast immediately following Buffy episodes.

In 2002, Whedon created the space western television series Firefly. The series was canceled after only 11 of the 14 completed episodes were aired, many out of intended order. After the cancellation, Whedon wrote the script for a Firefly movie, titled Serenity. In late 2009, Eliza Dushku, starred in Whedon’s last television show, Dollhouse, however, it too was canceled after two seasons due to low ratings.

Whedon wrote or co-wrote several films, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Toy Story, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Alien Resurrection, Titan A.E. and Captain America: The First AvengerHe was nominated (along with six other writers) for an Academy Award for Toy Story’s screenplay.

He also wrote uncredited drafts or rewrites of Speed, Waterworld, Twister and X-Men, although in interviews, Whedon disowned the latter two films. He claimed that he had a good script for Alien Resurrection, which he felt was spoiled by its director Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

He wrote and directed 2005’s Serenity, based on his television series Firefly. Serenity won the 2006 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. Beginning in January 2006, fans (with Universal’s blessing) began organizing worldwide charity screenings called “Can’t Stop the Serenity” (CSTS), a play on a line in the film: “You can’t stop the signal”, to benefit Equality Now, a human rights organization supported by Joss Whedon. Over $500,000 has been raised for Equality Now since 2006.

Whedon wrote a horror film titled The Cabin in the Woods with Drew Goddard, which finished production in 2009. The film was produced by MGM, but once the studio went bankrupt, the film was held back. It was finally given a theatrical release on April 13, 2012 and was distributed by Lionsgate. Goddard directed the Whedon-produced film, which starred Bradley Whitford, Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, and Richard Jenkins. Best film of 2012…

In April 2010, it was confirmed that Whedon would direct The Avengers, a live-action adaptation of the Marvel comics superhero team of the same name. The film was released on May 4, 2012. To date, it had the largest opening weekend in history, with a record box office take of $207.4m, and is both the 12th film to surpass $1 Billion, and the 3rd highest grossing film of all time. The film also received considerable praise from critics, scoring an aggregate 93% positive on Rotten Tomatoes.

Whedon, a lifelong comic book fan, is also the author of, or contributor to various comics including Buffy, X-Men, Serenity, Identity Crisis and Runaways.

On October 24, 2011, Bellwether Pictures confirmed they had completed principal photography on an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s play Much Ado About Nothing, which is directed and produced by Joss Whedon. It was filmed in 12 days in Santa Monica. Whedon is also the writer and executive producer of the upcoming paranormal romance film In Your Eyes, the second feature film under production by Bellwether Pictures.

Bruce Campbell

Bruce Lorne Campbell (born June 22, 1958) is an American film and television actor. As a legendary, cult b-movie actor, Campbell starred as Ashley J. “Ash” Williams in Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead series of films and he has starred in many low-budget cult films such as Crimewave, Maniac Cop, Bubba Ho-tep, and Escape From L.A. He would later spoof his B-movie career in My Name is Bruce, in which he starred and directed. He has also made voice appearances in animated films, including Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Cars 2. 

Campbell is also known for his television roles in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Xena: Warrior Princess, and Burn Notice. 

Bruce Campbell began acting as a teenager and soon began making short Super 8 movies with friends. After meeting Sam Raimi in Wylie E. Groves High School, the two became very good friends and started making movies together. Campbell would go on to attend Western Michigan University while he continued to work on his acting career. Campbell and Raimi collaborated on a 30-minute Super 8 version of the first Evil Dead film, titled Within the Woods, which was initially used to attract investors.

A few years later, Campbell and Raimi got together with family and friends and began work on The Evil Dead. Campbell starred and worked behind the camera, receiving a “co-executive producer” credit. Raimi wrote, directed and edited, while fellow Michigander Rob Tapert was producer. Following an endorsement by horror writer Stephen King, the film slowly began to receive distribution. Four years following its original release, it became the number one movie in the UK. It then received distribution in the U.S., spawning two sequels – Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness. The first two films in the series are considered horror classics and are credited with spawning the “horror comedy” genre.

He has appeared in many of Raimi’s films outside of the Evil Dead series, notably cameo roles in the Spider-Man film series. Bruce Campbell also joined the cast in Raimi’s Crimewave (1985), Darkman (1990) and his western, The Quick and the Dead (1995), though having no actual screen time in the latter film’s theatrical cut. He is also in the cast for Raimi’s forthcoming Oz: The Great and Powerful.

Campbell often takes on quirky roles, such as an old Elvis Presley in the film Bubba Ho-tep (2002), and starred in My Name is Bruce (2007). He is a huge horror icon due mainly to the Evil Dead franchise, Maniac Cop (1988), Intruder and The Dead Next Door (both 1989), Maniac Cop II (1990). Bigger budget Hollywood productions such as the Coen Brothers film The Hudsucker Proxy (1994), the Michael Crichton adaptation Congo (1995), the Jim Carrey drama The Majestic (2001),  Escape From L.A. (1996), the sequel to John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. 

In addition to acting and occasionally directing, Campbell has become a writer, including authoring an autobiography, If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. The autobiography was a successful New York Times Best Seller. The paperback version of the book adds a chapter about the reaction of fans at book signings: “Whenever I do mainstream stuff, I think they’re pseudo-interested, but they’re still interested in seeing weirdo, offbeat stuff. And that’s what I’m attracted to.”

If Chins Could Kill… was published in 2002 and follows Campbell’s career to date as an actor in low-budget films and television, providing his insight into “Blue-Collar Hollywood”.

Campbell has also written a book titled Make Love! The Bruce Campbell Way, a comical novel featuring himself as the main character struggling to make it into the world of A-List movies. He later recorded an audio play adaptation of Make Love with fellow Michigan actors including long time collaborator Ted Raimi. This radio drama styled interpretation of the novel was released through independent label Rykodisc and spans 6 discs with a 6 hour running time.

In addition to his novels, Campbell also wrote comic book adaptations of his Man With The Screaming Brain and most recently he wrote the introduction to Josh Becker’s The Complete Guide To Low Budget Feature Film Making.

Campbell also maintains a blog on his official website and is active on Twitter, where he posts mainly about politics and the film industry.

On July 13, 2011, Campbell announced that he would be producing the remake of The Evil Dead along with Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert. Campbell will not act in the movie as Ash, but may still make some sort of appearance in the film. He had previously stated in a January 2010 interview that his new film project is called Bruce vs. Frankenstein. The film is directed and produced by his friend Mike Richardson.

Unused From Dusk Till Dawn poster art

Barbarella series from Drive director

After bringing Hannibal to television with an upcoming NBC series, Gaumont International Television and producer Martha De Laurentiis are looking to do the same for another iconic character, Barbarella. GIT, the U.S.-based production and distribution arm of European feature studio Gaumont, is teaming with De Laurentiis and Drive director Nicolas Refn for a TV series that will be based on the character created by Jean-Claude Forest in a graphic novel and made famous in the 1968 sci-fi movie staring Jane Fonda as a sexpot tasked with finding and stopping the evil weapons inventor. Refn will direct and executive produce the series alongside De Laurentiis, whose late husband Dino produced the 1968 movie.

Refn called Barbarella “one of the ultimate counter-cultural characters.” Added GIT CEO Katie O’Connell, “We are thrilled to have secured the rights from the Forest estate and are thrilled to be pairing the bold visceral style of Nicolas Refn with the pop culture icon Barbarella.” In addition to Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal starring Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen, GIT also is producing the upcoming Eli Roth series Hemlock Grove starring Famke Janssen and Bill Skarsgard for Netflix. Gaumont is producing two of Refn’s next feature films, including Only God Forgives starring Ryan Gosling. Dino and Martha De Laurentiis originally acquired film rights to Barbarella in 2007. Dino was working on a feature Barbarella remake before his 2010 death; the project attracted a slew of directors and young actress but ultimately didn’t take flight.

Normally this kind of thing would make me groan, however I love Refn’s movies, Drive was a highlight of 2011, so… this could be good.