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Robert Osborne: Keeper of OSCAR’s Secrets Gone Now

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Today, a familiar face left the Hollywood landscape as TCM host Robert Osborne, 84, died on Monday Mar.6, 2017. But he was much more than just another talking head about movies and movie stars. Osborne came to Tinsel Town from “off the farm,” as he recounted when we spoke about the Oscars history in 2011. Instead of penning a typical tribute, here’s a real inside look back at a man whose work in show business lives on. Ironically, he leaves us in the most controversial year ever for the Academy Awards as LA LA LAND was erroneously announced as Best Picture, later corrected as MOONLIGHT. In Osborne’s estimation, the only other Oscar controversy happened in 1947, exactly 70 years ago. His opinion on the two controversies, as to which one was more or less impactful — now or 1947 — would have been priceless.

The following in-depth chat is from a FilmFestivals Jan. 17, 2011 interview, when Robert Osborne (1932-2017)  discussed the Oscars history and his own personal journey on the way to becoming one of the most recognized faces to cover the Academy Awards presentation and Hollywood lore on TCM and on the red carpet.

Enjoy this look back at a man, once an actor, who became a different kind of screen legend as the charismatic and lively host of Turner Classic Movies, among other contributions to the entertainment industry as an author and Hollywood insider.

ARCHIVE: When the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences award show premiered in 1928, the industry was barely 31 years old. Known as The Official Biographer of The Academy Awards, as well as the honorary red-carpet greeter for the Academy, the man who refers to himself as “coming to Hollywood off the farm” will unveil insider moments about these films as he unspools some of the greatest pictures ever made.

Recently he gave us a private glimpse into his personal life as well as his professional path leading from his 1965 start chronicling the movies up to his present life as a man inextricably tied to the Golden Statuette.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Since you are the official biographer of the Oscar, how is this year different leading up to the Oscars?

ROBERT OSBORNE: It is certainly a different Oscar game now than in the years when all the stars were well-known to the public. In 1951, they all knew who Humphrey Bogart was, who Marlon Brando was, and Montgomery Clift.

It made the Oscar race very interesting because you had all these stars competing against each other. Today we have a lot of films come out with a lot of different people we’ve never really known before, or seen before. So we’re being introduced to these films [and stars], and it’s a little hard to get people excited about the awards when they don’t know quite who the players are.

For us, with programming at TCM, it is wondeful because it gives us a chance to bring out all these films. Many of which won Oscars and are nominated in categories people are not aware of — so we have this wide mix of films (with history) people are not that aware of.

Not only the famous ones, like the LAWRENCE OF ARABIA’s and CASABLANCA’s, but films that are still worth seeing and fun to see.

For us, it is like a whole month full of desserts. Great movies to resee, if you haven’t seen them before. It also gives us a chance to show films we haven’t shown before.

This year we are showing the LORD OF THE RINGS: RETURN OF THE KING, which won the Academy Award in 2003. And we go all the way back to WINGS, which was the first movie to win an Academy Award back in 1927.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Was that Clara Bow?

ROBERT OSBORNE: Yes, it was Clara Bow and Gary Cooper. We have a whole mix from FORREST GUMP to PRETTY WOMAN to KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: That’s great movie. What are your Top 5 Oscar all-time favorites? I know that’s tough.

ROBERT OSBORNE: My two favorites are movies that never won any Oscars, but were certainly nominated. SUNSET BOULEVARD, and A PLACE IN THE SUN.

But as far as (winning Best Picture), GONE WITH THE WIND would be in there, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS — because it always makes me feel good and lively. GODFATHER would be in there. That’s four. And maybe LAWRENCE OF ARABIA.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Is it true that you first came to Hollywood as an actor, and that Lucille Ball was your mentor?

ROBERT OSBORNE: I was. When I first came out to California, it turned out to be a big break for me. She had 12 people under contract. She got to know us all over a two-year period. She knew I loved to write, and old films. At that point, there was really not a lot of interest in them.

She said “you know, I think we have enough actors. Why don’t you try writing about the business? I know you would be fine as an actor, but I don’t think it will make you happy.”

She said “I think writing and researching about old films will make you happy.”

I did listen to her because there was nothing to gain from giving me advice like that. I think you have to be careful who you get advice from because they may be giving you advice to help them in some way.

She encouraged me to write a book right away, because she said “if you write a book, and you are competing for a job,  a writing job, you’ll be ahead of other people.”
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QUENDRITH JOHNSON: She was so pragmatic, you know?

ROBERT OSBORNE: Very smart, too. She said “If you’ve written a book. They will realize you have the dedication. A lot of people say they want to write a book, but few have the discipline to actually do it. If you do it, you will get the job.” She had great advice like that.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: You’ve had so many powerful leading ladies in your life. I think Bette Davis wrote the foreword to your first Academy Award book in 1965?

ROBERT OSBORNE: I learned wonderful things from her. She became a great friend of mine. I went out to California at a great time, at time when people like Bette Davis, and certainly Lucy and others, were available.

They weren’t working as much as they used to. If I had come out 10 or 15 years earlier, they all would have been very busy working on their careers. So they had time to talk to somebody like me, off the farm and coming to Hollywood.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: What’s your favorite Bette Davis story, a personal moment with her?

ROBERT OSBORNE: The biggest thing about Bette Davis was that she was nothing like the character Margo Channing in ALL ABOUT EVE.

She was a homemaker, a very New England lady, a great friend, a cook, she liked other women. So she wasn’t competitive with women.

She could very easily sit in a living-room with a lot of people and she didn’t have to be the center of attention. She liked going to parties, all that stuff.

It got complicated later when she got cancer and wasn’t feeling well. She got very difficult to be around then. But she was such a nice lady when she was in good health, one certainly put up with that. She was great to be around. She was very bright and had good common sense. I liked her very much.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: So far you’ve also had close relationships with the children of stars, like Pia Lindstrom (Ingrid Bergman’s daughter), and I know you are friends with Liza Minnelli —

ROBERT OSBORNE: I knew their mothers too.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: I’m going ask you a Judy Garland story then, may I?

ROBERT OSBORNE: There was a period of one week where there seemed to be a lot of parties going on. I somehow got on this list. At every party, Judy Garland was there, and would eventually move over to the piano and start singing.

I knew she was Judy Garland, and I liked her. But it never occurred to me that — 50 years later — she would be this icon that everyone would still be talking about.

But that night, I was trying to have a conversation in the other room. To me, at this one party, she was singing so loud, I thought “God, I wish she would be quiet.”

I’d heard her singing in the living room two or three times earlier that week.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: You should have yelled “Cut!”

ROBERT OSBORNE: What was I thinking, it was Judy Garland. Now I think I should have been at her feet.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Did you tell Liza that, she probably thinks that is hilarious?

ROBERT OSBORNE: No. I’ve never told her that. Actually her mother is somebody I don’t talk to her a lot about because Liza has always been very careful to not in any way tread on her mother’s legacy — or not to have anyone perceive in any way that Liza is cashing in on her mother.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: She’s phenomenally talented, from CABARET on, so she’s got the pipes anyway.

ROBERT OSBORNE: Oh yeah. She is. She’s great. I like her a lot. But again, with people like that, I am very sensitive that sometimes the only thing people talk to her about is Judy Garland.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: With this year’s 31 Days of Oscars, do you also make reference to what also might be in contention, like Natalie Portman and BLACK SWAN, for example?

ROBERT OSBORNE: Not too much, because the nominations haven’t come out yet. What we are talking about here is Oscar’s history. People are coming to watch CASABLANCA, not to talk about Natalie Portman.

We’re really talking about the Academy Awards process, why a certain film won and some interesting stories about those films.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: What are some of the unknown things, you will share?
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ROBERT OSBORNE: You’d have think of a movie…

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: How about BONNIE & CLYDE for example? That year, HEAT OF THE NIGHT won. But we remember BONNIE & CLYDE as a start of a trend. Did that seem like an unusual year?

ROBERT OSBORNE: Yes. And. You have to put that in the context of its times. When BONNIE & CLYDE came out, in 1967/68, it was a very rude picture. That was a very violent film for that time. There were a lot of people who didn’t like that movie.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Pauline Kael (legendary film critic) saved that movie, single-handedly championed that film, rang the bell for BONNIE & CLYDE, didn’t she?

ROBERT OSBORNE: It does have to do with the times. IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT was a very well-made film, with a distinctive actor who had never won an Oscar before. It had great acting in it.

BONNIE AND CLYDE was way too violent to be seriously considered for that time. You still had people in the industry who were making films back in the 1940’s. It was quite a jump for people.

A movie like BONNIE & CLYDE is important because it helped the advance of the screen, the kind of subjects being told.

But it’s like today. There are movies being told that won’t even get an Oscar nomination because they are considered too far out. Someday people will look back and say “why didn’t that get more attention?”

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: What’s the biggest Oscar upset of all time, in your opinion? Biggest shock?

ROBERT OSBORNE: The biggest shock was probably 1947, when Loretta Young won for FARMER’S DAUGHTER.

All the awards that year had gone to Rosalind Russell. So much so, it was such a foregone conclusion, that RKO was giving that movie a big party for Rosalind Russell at Ciro’s.  They even had big banners up saying “RKO Salutes Ros.”

This was before television. Rosalind was actually on her feet adjusting her dress at the Shriner auditorium to walk down the aisle when they opened the envelope and read the name “Loretta Young”

She was the least likely. I think they took a poll and Rosalind Russell was the big favorite, then it was Susan Hayward in SMASH UP; Joan Crawford in POSSESSED.

RKO luckily had produced Loretta Young’s film — so they wiped Rosalind Russell’s name off the cake, took down the banners!

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: In the Modern-ish era, what about MY COUSIN VINNY, that Marisa Tomei was not supposed to win?

ROBERT OSBORNE: There was a rumor went around that Jack Palance, when he read off her name, said it, but it wasn’t the name of the winner.

But that couldn’t be true.

Because they knew, the minute the Academy Awards went on television — that this being live — some mischief could happen. Someone being funny or whatever.

From the time this has been on TV, since 1953, there are two members from the polling house, standing on each side of stage, who know who the winner is beforehand.

If there is a mistake, misread, or some such thing, these two men are instructed to cue the director, walk to the center of the stage, come to the podium and say “there’s been a mistake. The winner in that category is…”

They never embarrass the person coming down the aisle.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: As far as the name “Oscar,” how it got the name, Bette Davis was always famously known for saying that she named it for her first husband? What’s the truth?

ROBERT OSBORNE: The Oscar is a warrior, a nude statue, standing on a reel of film. She always said it looked like her husband when he got out of the shower. That he had the rear-end of Oscar.

There was a woman named Margaret Herrick, a secretary —

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: Right, I know who she was, now there’s the Margaret Herrick Library at the Academy.OsborneR17

ROBERT OSBORNE: Well, she claimed she named it for a cousin of hers. A columnist claimed he named it “Oscar” after an old Vaudeville joke, because he had gotten tired as a writer, writing about “The Golden Statuette of the Academy.”

I’ve talked to Bette about that. Whoever started it, it was around 1935, when Bette Davis won for DANGEROUS. That’s when that word came into play.

It is strange about things, you can have an idea, and once you speak the idea, somehow it gets out in the air and someone can catch it.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: You are so right!

ROBERT OSBORNE: It’s like story ideas, never speak of it, because someone is liable to get it.

[Visualizations courtesy of www.graphiq.com.]

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When Life Imitates Tart: Shirley MacLaine & Amanda Seyfried Go At It In THE LAST WORD

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Never start a headline with a bad pun, and never write your own obit might be two unwritten rules of journalism, but in new movie THE LAST WORD, starring Shirley MacLaine and Amanda Seyfried, a lot of rules are broken so let’s skip the logline and go straight to the press conference at The Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. The timing is key here because this takes place Friday, Mar. 3, in the wake of MacLaine’s brother Warren Beatty’s epic wrong-picture Oscar controversy and the shock death of Bill Paxton, 61, who was Seyfried’s friend and co-star on the HBO series “Big Love.”

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Selfie from THE LAST WORD cast.

MacLaine, who plays Harriet Lauler a bitter ad exec who hires Amanda Seyfried’s character to pen a loving tribute before she dies, is seated beside Seyfried, with director Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), newcomer Ann’Jewel Lee, 10, and co-star Thomas Sadoski known for the CBS TV series “Life in Pieces.” To further up the stakes, Seyfried and Sadoski met on the set of this film, and are set to become parents shortly. Plus, Amanda has brought her dog Finn to the show, which makes this event even more like a surreal Hollywood family gathering.

Every single journalist in the room has worked up a strategy for addressing the 800 pound story lead in the room. Without being so indelicate as to outright ask about either the Oscars or Paxton without ruffling the stars or overshadowing THE LAST WORD’s release, the questions veer toward the inevitable.

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MacLaine shoots down all comers. “That’s Warren and Jimmy Kimmel’s problem. It was horrific,” she says of the Oscar misidentified Best Picture fracas. “I don’t want to talk about it.” Her firm stance here quashed any other talk of current events in Hollywood. And right there, while she sorts out the room, you see the character she plays in THE LAST WORD in sharp relief. You don’t mess with a legend, and you’re not going to slip a fast one by Shirley MacLaine, who’s a master at shutting down nonsense. The best part is she also steamrolls the “who was your mentor,” and the “Ms. MacLaine you’re a legend” crap too.

“Joan Crawford. She was the first person to give me advice (in Hollywood). I didn’t listen to a word she said.” MacLaine smiles as she says it.

When you get up the courage to ask your not-political-political question, with a Marlon Brando lead-in from one of her memoirs about how Brando actually got her into politics over a death penalty case while she was frying an egg, as the story goes, MacLaine dodges that bullet too.

“You know I was named for Shirley Temple, a Republican? Well, I have to play both sides of the aisle.” The way she turns her gaze directly into your subtext after that moot zinger is a private moment, comical, deft.

Amanda Seyfried, Mark Pellington, and the cast turn their chins in her direction. You can’t help it. This is a woman who has survived Billy Wilder in THE APARTMENT, Hitchcock in THE TROUBLE WITH HARRY, and is an Oscar winner, six-time Academy Award nominee, as well as a Cecil B. DeMille Golden Globe Lifetime Achievement honoree. Plus she has privately endured the recent deaths of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, after playing Reynolds’ fictional mother to Fisher’s fictional daughter in POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE. Meryl Streep played Carrie Fisher’s fictional account of herself as Debbie Reynolds’ daughter. The four of them were very close during the filming, now 50 percent of them are gone.ShirlMerylDbCarrieHere’s where, even in this swank Beverly Hills suite years away from the Golden Age of Hollywood that she bridges, Shirley MacLaine melds with THE LAST WORD character Harriet Lauler. As in Madison Avenue and Show Biz, both of them had to break down doors while protecting their inner selves in a world where women were either glamorized, marginalized or downright obstructed from their goals.

Later, when it’s revealed that screenwriter Stuart Ross Fink wrote the script for THE LAST WORD specifically for Shirley MacLaine, about a hard-driving ad exec (Harriet Lauler) turned surrogate mother for Amanda Seyfried’s character (Anne Sherman), this new movie becomes almost poetic and reverential.

In the opening scenes, real-life images from MacLaine’s life slip across the screen and through time in an appreciation of a woman whose career has spanned more than 70 years as an actor, performer, dancer, show pony, and hoofer. “Shirley and I had a 20-minute discussion on the psychology of pajama versus a robe,” Fink explained. “It was at that point I realized Harriet was no longer mine. She had become Shirley’s.”

“There’s no other actress who can portray a combination of bitchiness, vulnerability, humor, and empathy like Shirley.”

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Fink, who brought the project to director Mark Pellington (Arlington Road), is also an ad man, a creative director who worked for Fortune 100 companies. Clearly he built the story around his experience. Harriet Lauler is a once-Teflon advertising veteran in the movie. Now a broken woman, she was kicked out of a company she founded, that still bears her initials in the logo, only to become an aging control freak in a secluded life headed for the bitter end. Instead of accepting her fate as a dethroned pitch maven, MacLaine’s character decides to stage manage her exit, beginning with hiring an exceptional obituary writer to cement her refurbished reputation after she dies.

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Nobody wants to write obits, especially not for a living or the living.

Amanda Seyfried plays the beleaguered essayist with a day job writing obits who is flung into orbit around Lauler’s ego as she re-brands herself for the afterlife. “I adore Amanda,” MacLaine said. “And Harriet in her way adores Anne, but her biggest problem has always been with people who don’t live up to their potential.”

When you realize this is a first movie for Fink, you begin to understand the complexity of molding the material to MacLaine. And that’s what makes this movie the proverbial love letter to MacLaine, now 82, while also carving out a poignant narrative about the inevitable displacement of productive people as they age. “Older people are invisible,” MacLaine will say at the press conference, “that’s what I wanted to use this movie for, to make older people less invisible.”

What makes the movie raw and strange is the interplay between Seyfried, MacLaine and her on-screen daughter played by a disapproving neurologist Anne Heche in one tiny scene, coupled with long sequences where Seyfried and MacLaine go through their personal pitched battles in the presence of new comer Ann’Jewel Lee, a 10-year-old who takes no prisoners.

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Heche slays as a bad daughter.

At the press conference, after the glittering sheen of star power wanes and Ann’Jewel Lee waits to leave, she wants you to know about “the cursing,” the f-word her character uses. “I don’t say that in real life,” she notes. “But it was just a movie. My mother said it was okay because it’s just a movie.” Just a decade in years and she’s got the wisdom to know the difference between what’s on the screen to make a point, and who she is as a young actor. Mark Pellington adds that she ad libbed a crucial scene with MacLaine, where MacLaine asks “what do you want to be” open-ended. Lee says “ya gotta be something.”THE LAST WORD Poster_rgbIn a surreal LA moment, after leaving the press conference and meeting MacLaine, who is so frighteningly gracious and disarmingly elegant in real life, Ari Shapiro’s NPR interview with the screen star for THE LAST WORD comes on the car radio. She’s parrying back and forth, doing her Harriet Lauler impression, “I know you’re looking for a headline, Babe,” she quips. And of course, Shirley MacLaine gets the actual last word.

Make the time to see her go toe-to-toe with Amanda Seyfried in this movie, because it’s really a moment for women, young and old, and the families we build when husbands, partners, boyfriends, children, and even a high-power career aren’t enough.

THE LAST WORD from Bleeker Street and Myriad Pictures, is directed by Mark Pellington, and stars Shirley MacLaine, Amanda Seyfriend, Anne Heche, Ann’Jewel Lee, Philip Baker Hall, Thomas Sadoski, and Tom Everett Scott. See their website for venues and showtimes for the release run, which opened Mar. 3, in a nationwide roll-out.

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That’s Not Just Our Opinion, Man: Jeff Bridges Aced American Riviera Award Night

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

When the Lebowski Fest comes to Los Angeles on March 3, you’ll see why Jeff Bridges is so linked to The Dude from that movie, but last night for the American Riviera Award in Santa Barbara, folks got to see for themselves. At the Arlington Theater, moderated by The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg, it was practically a Love-In. JeffScottThe honoree showed up with his wife of 40 years, “my sweetheart” Susan Geston, and his two children. HELL OR HIGH WATER producer Julie Yorn attended with actor Gil Birmingham from their film, who also presented Jeff with the award.

Feinberg, who is a pro at moderating star events like this, opened with “The Dude” questions which segued into Bridges admitting  “what kid wants to do what their parents do?” In alluding to father Lloyd Bridges, the son of this acting dynasty (that includes brother Beau), revealed that early success with an Oscar nod for Peter Bogdanovich’s game-changer movie THE LAST PICTURE SHOW did not assuage his personal doubts about being in the profession.

He said the issues came from “caring how you’re perceived.” But finally he came to the revelation that “the feeling of being scared never goes away, and that it’s all about changing your relationship with that feeling.”
In the sit-down with Feinberg, the Oscar winner also revealed that it was in 1975’s RANCHO DELUXE that future-wife Susan Geston rejected his early advances, but that he persisted and later got her to dance with him at her then boyfriend’s concert. Perfect move for The Dude, and four decades later, it’s still very much on.JeffWife17
Hollywood Reporter’s star moderator then waded into legendary film history territory on the topic of case-study Hollywood box office bomb, HEAVEN’S GATE. This line of questioning is more than timely, considering Bridges’ main female co-star in that picture is none other than fellow Oscar nominee for 2017, Isabelle Huppert. Huppert was also honored this year in Santa Barbara. So this year has capped a lot of full circles in the life of both actors, and certainly in their star-crossed paths in Award Season.

When Michael Cimino’s highly touted GATE opened to crickets at the box office, both critically and financially, Top 10 Lists began to sprout up everywhere for the next several decades about what went wrong with the production. Den of Geek, a fan site for excruciatingly pithy lists and sublists, has the best round-up to this day (see link below). The bullet points include “Cimino made everybody wait for the clouds to roll by,” and “The Cast Spent Six Weeks Learning How To Roller Skate.” Jeff Bridges is seen losing his lunch while roller skating, part of this storied film. Bridges recalled that the day after it opened, when reviewers flambé prose scorched the film down to its credits, his most memorable critic reaction was: “If you shave [director Michael] Cimino’s head, you would find three sixes.”
Then it was back to THE BIG LEBOWSKI, which was panned early to low box office in the US. Bridges related that it had to hit in Europe before it became today’s beloved cult hit. And of course, no surprise, Jeff Bridges has a favorite line too: “well that’s just, your opinion, man.”JeffJohnLBemem17

From there is was talk about his Oscar winning turn in CRAZY HEART, how he passed on the script initially because “the script was pretty good, but there was no music.” Luckily, doing a proverbial “film about music” was a “dream” for him. “When it’s in the dream state, you’re kinda safe, but when you try to really do it, there’s that chance of failure.” Producer T Bone Burnett, his longtime fellow musician and friend, gave him the script a second time, and said “I’ll do it if you do it.”

Then he delved into the remake of John Wayne classic “True Grit.” If it hadn’t been for the Coen Bros, also directors of Lebowski, and their unique twist on that script, Jeff might not have done it.

Finally the conversation caught up to Award Season 2017, his nominated performance in HELL OR HIGH WATER, which was originally titled “Comancheria” when it opened at the Cannes Film Festival last year. JeffScott17With a nod to his presenter of the evening, Gil Birmingham, Bridges confided that they bonded so well because Gil also is passionate about music. So they spent a fair amount of time trading guitar licks during the filming. On a heavy note, Jeff saluted Texas Ranger Joaquin Jackson, now deceased, who was his consultant on HELL OR HIGH WATER.

JeffGilIn closing, and on a high note for the evening, Jeff Bridges shared his 30 year commitment to feeding hungry children as a personal mission, and said, in Dude-like fashion, “We’re all in this together,” man.

For more information about HELL OR HIGH WATER, how to view it, see the Oscar-nominated film’s official website. Jeff Bridges Diehard Dude fans can find more about the Lebowski Fest from this link. (Editor’s Note: Den of Geek priceless Heaven’s Gate list is here, ps.)

More about SBIFF, which hands out the American Riviera Award among other tributes, can be found at sbiff.org.

The American Riviera Award was established to recognize actors who have made a significant contribution to American Cinema. Bridges will join a prestigious group of past recipients, including last year’s honorees Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo (2016), Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (2015), Robert Redford (2014), Quentin Tarantino (2013) and Martin Scorsese (2012), Annette Bening (2011), Sandra Bullock (2010), Mickey Rourke (2009), Tommy Lee Jones (2008), Forrest Whitaker (2007), Philip Seymour Hoffman (2006), Kevin Bacon (2005) and Diane Lane (2004).

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SPY Director Paul Feig Jumps In to Helm AFI’s Directing Workshop for Women

LOS ANGELES, CA: If you haven’t had enough of Melissa McCarthy’s spoof as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, you can study with Paul Feig, the director who pulled some amazing performances out of the BRIDESMAIDS’s star. Paul Feig is responsible for that priceless McCarthy CIA training video in his movie SPY, and now Feig will take on The AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women (DWW).

This is AFI’s filmmaker training program designed to increase the number of women working as directors and show-runners in film and television.

Paul Feig, also a four-time Emmy® nominee for TV’s THE OFFICE and GHOSTBUSTERS rebooter, will embark on a year of mentorship, collaboration and creation to make a short film or series — all in preparation for professional success in narrative directing for the participants in 2018. (Yes, we think even Jack Nicholson’s daughter Lorraine is one of his upcoming pupils.)

“To meet with this amazingly impassioned group of diverse, talented filmmakers is a dream come true,” said Feig. “I salute the AFI for their strong support of female storytellers. We need their voices more than ever.” The DWW Class of 2018 filmmakers are: Beth de Araújo, Georgia Fu, Milena Govich, Tiffany Johnson, Katrelle Kindred, Nancy Mejía, Gandja Monteiro and Lorraine Nicholson. Full bios are available at AFI’s website.

The 2017 DWW Showcase for this year’s graduating class of participants, who began their work in the program last year, will take place on April 18, 2017, at the DGA Theater in Los Angeles.

A serious champion of female creators through his film and television work, as well as through his production company Feigco Entertainment, Paul fielded questions from the incoming DWW participants in an intimate meet-and-greet on Friday, February 3, on campus. And he probably is having a LOL at McCarthy’s spicier send-up of Trump’s press rep, just a guess. Because comedy works when nothing else lands a glove, ps.

And Here’s Melissa McCarthy In that SNL Footage… Because, Wow!

The 411 on  AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women

Founded in 1974, the AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women is a hands-on training program committed to increasing the number of women working professionally in screen directing. The innovative and tuition-free workshop is open to women with three years or more of professional experience in the arts, providing them an immersive opportunity to learn by doing — with each participant required to complete a short film or series by the end of the program. 

DWW participants have gone on to great success, including Pippa Bianco (AFI DWW, Class of 2015), Cannes Cinéfondation Prize winner for her DWW short SHARE; Lesli Linka Glatter (AFI DWW, Class of 1983), Emmy®-winning producer/director of HOMELAND; Sian Heder (AFI DWW, Class of 2006), director of Netflix’s TALLULAH, based on her DWW short MOTHER; and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro (AFI DWW, Class of 2013), co-creator of UNREAL.PaulnMel17

The AFI Conservatory Directing Workshop for Women receives generous support from Twentieth Century Fox, Lifetime’s Broad Focus, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Google, Comcast/NBCUniversal, the Will & Jada Smith Family Foundation, 20th Century Fox, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, Indiegogo, Linda Hope, the Jean Picker Firstenberg Endowment, The Nancy Malone Endowment provided by The Bob and Dolores Hope Charitable Foundation and the Estate of Nancy Malone, and the many other individual supporters committed to providing opportunities for women in the media arts.  For more information visit: AFI.com/DWW. Or apply here directly, directors.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies, fans of Melissa McCarthy & Paul Feig, also waiting for that Women’s Strike, “Day Without A Woman,” we’ve heard about to support equal pay.

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No Shut Up And Dance Here, Ryan Gosling & Emma Stone Win Outstanding Performers

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Something Emma Stone says in an off-hand way when she and Ryan Gosling pick up the Outstanding Performers of the Year from Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) on Friday night really sticks. Seated beside Gosling, her co-star and co-nominee for the acting Oscars in LA LA LAND, Stone plays with the 20’s fringe on her dress, then offers this insight: “movies make us feel less alone, I guess, that’s what they did for me.”RyanEmma17 In that small statement, you can see her whole career encapsulated. How she watched Steve Martin’s THE JERK from 1979. “I love The Jerk. It’s my dad’s favorite movie.” How she built her own world of characters. “We laughed at that movie over and over. EmmalaughsIt was a very important bonding moment. Should I be on the couch?” Ryan Gosling, who is known for not being flashy about his secret good-guy deeds like privately playing music for children in hospitals, looks at Stone with a rapt expression. But when asked about his own experiences growing up to be an actor, he deflects it with “at 15, I was all about the scratch. Making the paper.” “And he’s still like that,” Stone quips, “all about the money.”

Their chemistry is fun to watch. Emma adds that her “favorite characters have a wide-eyed nature to them.” “As a viewer I’m drawn to comedy with a hopefulness to it. It’s about being uplifted in a way by film. That’s what comedy did for me. I escaped into those characters — I can’t brush them off as just funny. Gilda Radner, John Candy, Bill Murray… Shirley MacLaine shaped me,” Ryan’s co-star from CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE shares.RyanEmmaCouch

“The films that I love the most have a combination of both – someone that can break your heart and make you laugh, and a story that can break your heart and make you laugh, at the same time.”RyanLaughs

Gosling throws a curveball in the conversation, but he’s actually serious and unapologetic. “It’s crazy that Eddie Murphy can sit at a table and play nine characters and that’s not rewarded.”

This affirmation of comedy’s power comes after he says, “as a comedian you kind of start by making your Mom laugh. Right?”

Gosling, who got his start out of Canada as a Disney Channel song and dance import before crossing over into mainstream films, reveals his far-flung odds for making it in Hollywood. “My mom had a membership to the library movie thing, because they were free. I saw Abbott and Costello, any duo film, Martin and Lewis and Danny Kaye, all of them.” He recalls that he liked teams because the action was shared and it felt real. “I’d like to do that with Emma or Steve Carell [reteam]. Anytime you can do that, it’s fun.”

He will call Emma, “Emsies” to prod her.

“Emsies? I’ve never called him Rysies,” she retorts. “Ryan can be infuriating to work with, I’m kidding.”

A flash of paparazzi lights whizz across Ryan and Emma at various moments during the evening.

“Every time I change positions, these guys take a million pictures,” Ryan notes.

And then it’s back to LA LA LAND, the realities of getting a musical made, including three months of jazz piano lessons for Ryan, two hours, almost every day. Director Damien Chazelle, already famous for Oscar-winner WHIPLASH, is on hand. Ryan singles him out.RyanEmmaDamien

“Damien, can I tell the story about how we first met?” After a wary nod, Gosling lets it slip.

“When I first met Damien, we first met at a restaurant. I tapped him on the shoulder, and he gave me this look like motherf@#%. ‘Who’s this guy to put their hands on me?’ I thought, he’s got a fight in him, that I respect, and I thought this could come in  handy later.”

On a serious note, the DRIVE actor says “I think he remembers the moment he fell in love with cinema. Damien can make you feel that.”

On Gene Kelly as an influence, Gosling nails his importance. “I liked the masculinity about him, he could dance and kick your ass. Tough and graceful. A balance.”

It wasn’t until recently in his career Gosling found out Gene Kelly was involved in every facet of show business. “I didn’t know he wasn’t just a dancer, he was a choreographer, producer, and more.” Both actors actually visited the home of Gene Kelly’s widow before making LA LA LAND. “She let us look at his archive, sort of gave us her blessing.”DamienEmma16

Damien Chazelle takes over, like a true director who has so far made the most inventive hits to come out of Hollywood in a long time. The story he tells is as awesome as the dreamer plot in LA LA LAND, now nominated for a record 14 Oscars. When he first had the idea for the musical, he told people “our dream is Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. People said ‘yeah good luck with that.’ I guess no one is more shocked than I that they agreed to do it. That they poured so much into these roles. That Ryan learned jazz piano in three months to become a virtuoso. Emma did so much.” The movie is “effervescent and heart breaking and again they make it seem effortless. I still pinch myself that any of it happened. Really the reason I wanted you in the movie is because I think you are two of the best performers working right now.”RyanEmmaTouche

LA LA LAND will take its place in movie history at the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, but it’s already taken so many awards that Ryan Gosling says “I thought making it was enough, then the next thing happened, and that was enough. All the awards are just icing on the cake.”

For more information about Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which runs through Feb. 11, visit sbiff.org.

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LOL LOL Land: Hidden Gems Show #OscarSoRight, Tough Matchups & How Noms React

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

When the Oscars streamed the announcements for the first time in their history this morning, anybody in the world got a glimpse at who AMPAS deemed Oscar-worthy for the 89th Academy Awards. The net result? You get emails from everybody and your mother about how right, or wrong your predictions were — maybe not the result the Academy expected, but announcing online is here to stay.

Meanwhile, what a line-up, and let’s create the hashtag #OscarSoRight, right now. DamienEmma16 That eliminates the need for hand-wringing over the past. To those who cry foul at the diverse mix of nominees this year? One question? Have you seen the movies?  Because LA LA Land with a record-smashing 14 nominations for a musical, matching TITANIC (1997) and Bette Davis’ insider anthem ALL ABOUT EVE (1950), is a gem, a pure unpolished gem. And HIDDEN FIGURES, FENCES, LION? Absolute movie risks that paid off. (Now we can all stop bashing Nicole Kidman (LION) for her political nod to Trump, okay? She’s an actor, not a politician.)

So here are the magic numbers that make this 89th Oscars tough to predict. For HIDDEN FIGURES, Octavia Spencer sits opposite Viola Davis for FENCES in the Best Supporting Actress category.

If this isn’t heart-stopping, you haven’t seen both movies. Viola Davis is magnificent in the August Wilson adaptation, you can see that in the trailer, frankly. Octavia Spencer is magnificent for different reasons in HIDDEN FIGURES, powerful even when she holds up a Fortran book and monologues about computer programming being the future. Sigh. IBMOct17
You want both to win, you want a tie. But when was the last time the Academy gave a tie for Best Supporting Actress or any award? Back in 1932, Frederick March and Wallace Beery, and then on April 14, 1969, Best Actress with allegedly the same number (3,030) of votes for Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand. You don’t have to be a Hollywood insider to guess The Great Kate might have had a thumb on the scale. But this is 2017, and the number of members combined with the odds for a tie are close to impossible.

LA LA LAND, in order to beat TITANIC in actual wins, has to pull off all the major categories: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, but also pull off some unusual wins. Right now this movie is nominated twice in the Best Song category, and this may make the difference in unseating the “I’m The King of The World” filmmaker James Cameron for TITANIC.

On March 23, 1998, James Cameron’s sunk-ship epic won 11 Academy Awards. LALA1sht16In the Billy Crystal-hosted ceremony, that’s when Cameron made the “King of the World” proclamation mocked around the town. In all fairness, he wasn’t wrong, and backed it up with all-time BO headbanger AVATAR.

So what happens next? Stay tuned, folks. LA LA LAND is poised to tip the scales. Now imagine for a moment, just a hypothetical, that HIDDEN FIGURES wins Best Picture. The math changes quite a bit.

Is it irresponsible to pose what-ifs? Well, this is what makes Oscar and Award Season exciting. And the major stars have all made some kind of statement to the press, to fans around the globe, and of course to their publicists first. What do those statements look like hot off the wires?

Well, you saw it first here, so take a look at these reactions. Michael Shannon is one of the best actors of his generation, bar none.  Ruth Negga is a newcomer, but turned in a performance by a studied veteran in LOVING.

RUTH NEGGA – “LOVING” (Focus Features) – Nominee, Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Academy Awards 

“I am truly humbled by the news this morning, and I thank the Academy for this recognition, which I share with my co-collaborators Jeff Nichols and Joel Edgerton. It has been such an honor to have been given the opportunity to tell the incredible story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who serve as an inspiration that ordinary people can do extraordinary things. The Lovings fought quietly yet tirelessly, and changed the course of American legal history. Today, to be among such extraordinary women – my fellow nominees, my peers with films this year, and the legendary performers whose work of years past has long inspired me…this means a great deal to me.” – Ruth Negga, Academy Award nominee for Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (LOVING)

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MICHAEL SHANNON – “NOCTURNAL ANIMALS” (Focus Features) – Nominee, Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role – Academy Awards

“I am thrilled! Loved making this film. I would work with Tom Ford anytime, anywhere. Jake Gyllenhaal and Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Karl Glusman made it easy for me. Nice to get some good news in the midst of all the carnage, so to speak.” – Michael Shannon, Academy Award nominee for Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (NOCTURNAL ANIMALS)ShannonNA17

In the Animated category, fine film KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS will be “the first time an animated film has been nominated in the visual effects category since THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS in 1994,” according to their reps.

“KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS” (Focus Features) – Nominee, Best Animated Feature Film – Academy Awards

Travis Knight: “I’m over the moon!  An Academy Award nomination is an extraordinary and cherished gift.  Two nominations is more than anyone could hope for.  Every filmmaker dreams of a moment like this.  But the truth is, I already lived my dream by making this film. Movies have always given me great joy. They enriched my life.  They inspired me to dream.  That’s the kind of film our team at LAIKA sought to make with KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS.  A film is a slice of a hundred souls.  In this case many more.  An incredible, immense community of artists gave ceaselessly and selflessly to breathe life into this story.  I’m so thankful for their talents and efforts and so proud of what we’ve done together.  I’m profoundly grateful to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, who somehow saw fit to include us among the finest storytellers in film.  It is a tremendous honor to stand alongside them.”

– Travis Knight, Academy Award nominee as director and producer of KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS, Best Animated Feature Film Kubo17

STEVE EMERSON, OLIVER JONES, BRIAN MCLEAN & BRAD SCHIFF – “KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS” (Focus Features) – Nominees, Achievement in Visual Effects – Academy Awards 

“As much as Kubo and the Two Strings is an homage to Japanese culture and to woodblock artists including Kiyoshi Saito, it is also a tribute to special effects pioneers Ray Harryhausen, Willis O’Brien, Jim Danforth, and the many innovative FX artists who tell stories using in-camera effects, puppets, and human hands. We’re thrilled for the artists at LAIKA who put years into realizing Kubo. For all of us at the studio, being recognized alongside such distinguished and talented members of the VFX community is truly an honor.”

– Steve Emerson, Oliver Jones, Brian McLean & Brad Schiff, Academy Award nominees for Achievement in Visual Effects (KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS)

The 89th Academy Award presentation will be broadcast live on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, and we’ve got you covered. In the meantime, view all the nominees (and future winners) at the Oscars.Oscars2017

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and Oscar predictions.

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A24 & 20TH CENTURY WOMEN Won’t Keep The Party Polite, So See Their Film

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Okay, so that headline lyric is actually from Frank Sinatra about Luck being a Lady, and frankly that’s just one misconception about women that the movie 20TH CENTURY WOMEN hopes to debunk. That and every notion of gender from conception to girl power to the male gaze to reproduction. AnnetteB17This movie is not a “chick flick,” shall we say, but it is a flick about chicks/women/girls, and every other representation of — stealing from the novelist Raymond Carver here – what we think about when we think about Women. Plus there’s skateboarding in it, a huge nostalgic bonus. Yeah, but what’s the movie about?

Here’s the official rundown: “With 20th Century Women, acclaimed filmmaker Mike Mills (the Academy Award® winner for Beginners) brings us a multilayered, funny, heart-stirring celebration of the complexities of women, family, time, and the connections we search for our whole lives. Set in Santa Barbara, the film follows Dorothea Fields (Annette Bening), a determined single mother in her mid-50s who is raising her adolescent son, Jamie (newcomer Lucas Jade Zumann, in a breakout performance) at a moment brimming with cultural change and rebellion. Dorothea enlists the help of two younger women in Jamie’s upbringing: Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a free-spirited punk artist living as a boarder in the Fields’ home; and Julie (Elle Fanning), a savvy and provocative teenage neighbor. 20th Century Women is a poignant love letter to the people who raise us—and the times that form us—as this makeshift family forges fragile connections that will mystify and inspire them through their lives. GretaG17As if this film itself is not enough of a power statement for the cause, A24 has just announced it will make a donation to Planned Parenthood to honor every single person who sees the film this weekend, men and women. Meanwhile, filmmaker Mike Mills has just unveiled a clip of Greta Gerwig, Elle Fanning, and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, being interviewed about what matters. Besides kicking asses and taking names, to use the ‘parlance of our time,’ Planned Parenthood is still recovering from brand bashing during the election. So, watch the clip below, and remember – you can either plan your parenthood or all hell breaks loose.

Here’s A24’s official word on this featurette:

[Writer/director Mike Mills, and stars Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning, reflect on those who raise us and the times that shape us in latest video ‘Modern Women’, featuring an exclusive interview with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. Planned Parenthood consulted on the film and Planned Parenthood California Central Coast shared information and resources about Planned Parenthood health centers in the ’70s. Planned Parenthood also plays a crucial part in the lives of two of the main characters in the film.]

Of his fierce support of the project, writer/director Mike Mills says, “The people at Planned Parenthood were so helpful to me with the writing and pre-production of 20th Century Women. They connected me with people who worked in PP offices in the ’70s to make sure every aspect of my scenes was correct, from the language counselors used to the very particular decor and dress of the people in those offices, to the overarching philosophy and attitude of the women who worked there. It was very important to me that we capture this moment in women’s reproductive rights accurately and they were so generous and helpful to me.”20C1sht17

Mike Mills’ Golden-Globe® nominated 20TH CENTURY WOMEN opened 12/25/2016, and is showing now in a run up to the Oscar® ceremony, to broadcast live on Sunday, Feb. 26. The film stars Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Greta Gerwig, Lucas Jade Zumann, and Billy Crudup. Mike Mills is the writer director. Find out how to see it here and A24 has some other awesome projects on their website.

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and plan to reproduce.

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Recap: What We Love About WGA (West & East), Oral History & Agency List

LOS ANGELES, CA (Jan. 5, 2017): Yesterday when The Writers Guild of America (WGA) released its Nominations list for 2016, for the 2017 WGA Awards presentation on Feb.19, and DEADPOOL’s adapted screenplay stood right alongside legendary playwright August Wilson’s opus Fences, it reminded everyone why the WGA is not only still relevant, but groundbreaking. The WGA recognizes that movie-writing is not playwriting, and that screenplays in all their ever-changing forms are what drive the stories we see on screen. Yes, Screenwriting, with a capital “s,” is its own art form.

Even though the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), the Directors Guild of America (DGA), and the Producers Guild of America (PGA) would put forth actors, directors, and producers as the key factors — as the late Garry Marshall always said “it comes down to the writing. It’s always about the writing.”

Unlike other guilds, the WGA’s history is preserved in oral history interviews on their website (see link below). The video clips are excellent, but we once had a rare opportunity to publish an interview with the legendary WGA past President Del Reisman (born: April 13, 1924), who died on Jan. 8, 2011.

Although it’s the sixth anniversary of Del Reisman’s death next week, he will live on indefinitely as a chronicler not only of the WGA’s backstory, but of his own parallel path as a “studio brat” from Hollywood’s Golden Era.

This interview is from 2007. He was interviewed by Screenmancer Founder & Exec. Prod., Quendrith Johnson. We’ve included the current Agency List for screenwriters looking for representation as an incentive to read through to the end to discover the whole story of the WGA as we know it today.

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Photo Credit: Joe Rubalcaba

FOREWORD

[WGAw provided this introduction when the interview first appeared.]

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The following is a brief look at the early days of writers’ struggles in the Studio System, and later in the explosive growth of television. Some of these comments are based on frequent conversations with many of the prominent users of studio-owned Underwoods and Royals, during these dynamic days. Del Reisman’s mother, an employee of the great majors, was an additional source of attitude and opinion. Del Reisman himself wrote scripts and story-edited in the last years of the system and in the formative years of television. As a WGAW activist of many years, elected President from 1991-93, he knew the industry in both full shot and close-up.

DEL REISMAN: The Screen Writers Guild was founded in March 1933 at the absolute depths of the depression when America was on its heels. The industry was in turmoil. The studios were all declaring cuts in fees. There was a famous meeting at MGM, which was the giant studio at the time, in which the head of the studio, Louis B. “LB” Mayer, presided. All employees were there: movie stars, grips, everyone. Mayer announced there would be a salary cut of 50 percent. Those earning less then $50 a week would get cut less, and those earning above $50 a week would be cut [back] more. in those days $50 a week was a very livable income. There was a popular star, a great character actor named Wallace Beery sitting in the back, he said: “LB are you going to take the cut too?” And LB said: “Well, no. We plan to restore the cuts in six months.” And Wallace Berry walked out of the meeting.

QUENDRITH JOHNSON: This was really in the swing of the Great Depression. I mean the Stock Market crashed in October 1929, but the general public really felt it hit throughout the 1930’s.

DEL: There were salary cuts all over. Earlier, some of the writers under contract went to see the creative head of MGM, Irving Thalberg. [Thalberg] said: “I can’t do anything about this.” And the writers said: “You raised the regular salaries of the [below-the-line] people on the set. “And Thalberg said: ” Well, they are represented by unions.” The writers left and said: “I think he just told us what to do.” The connection that I make, just a personal reaction, is this — there was a tremendous earthquake in Hollywood [at this time], and it shook down most of Long Beach and Compton — [but] there were faults that came up into this area. A lot of the office buildings downtown lost their decorative statuary and miles away at Hollywood High School, where I attended years later, were, were damaged. There was some death and some injury… terrible property damage. Then a month later the Writers Guild was founded. I always make the connection there were two great shakes of the earth that historic month.

Studio-contract writers, which is to say virtually all screenwriters, joined the new organization, many of them under front-office threats to fail to renew their contracts at option time. A significant number chose not to join, some of them very prominent writers. They formed a rival group, Screen Playwrights. The new Guild was not officially recognized as a bargaining unit by the Federal Government; so the whole thrust of the Guild was to get recognized so they could negotiate with the companies.

In 1938, there was an election held at the old Athletic Club on Sunset. The Guild won over Screen Playwrights, a company-supported group, frequently called a sweetheart union. The Guild thus became the official bargaining unit for the writers, recognized by the Federal Government.

A lot of the members of the Screen Playwrights joined immediately. The job then was to negotiate with the major studios — there was no television.

It took the Screen Writers Guild until 1942, the first big war year, to get their first contract, which was I think was five and a half pages long. (Today, in 2007, it’s close to 500 pages, covering every aspect of writers’ activity, except the new so-called reality shows. [By 2014 the WGA’s Minimum Basic Agreement (MBA) was 671 pages, and is in force until May 1, 2017]).

The one thing they got was the right of the new guild to the exclusive determination of the onscreen writers credit. That was a huge gain. And we still have that. (The companies can recommend what they think the credits should be, but the determination is made by the Guild.) So the founding years were very difficult; there were a lot of writers signed up, and there were only [the] major studios to deal with. There were virtually no independent production companies. And that was the world as it was before TV.

There were a lot of great writers working in those tough years, many of them brilliant. Their work still being studied in film schools throughout the world. To name a few: Ben Hecht, Charles MacArthur, Philip Dunne, Herman Mankiewicz, Lester Cole, John Howard Lawson, Dalton Trumbo, Jules Furthman…

QUENDRITH: What about Lenore Coffee? The other female writer…

DEL: I know who you mean, Mary Pickford’s writing partner.

QUENDRITH: Yes. Frances Marion.

DEL: Right. Frances Marion, Lenore Coffee, Anita Loos. Anita Loos was a very famous writer. Frances Marion was at one time the highest paid screenwriter in Hollywood; she was Mary Pickford’s writing partner.

QUENDRITH: So these big names were behind the crediting process?

DEL: Again, I’m giving you a point of view gathered from many conversations with many writers. I could quote those who believe the system works, and those who believe it should be changed radically; suffice to say, the old system of awarding writing credits was very casual. It was done by the studios. Sometimes the studios would award credit like “well, we owe this guy something” — the proverbial nephew.

In 1942 when the first contract was signed, the contract went for a period of something like three years. That became true for all unions, both above and below-the-line. Negotiations, however, became complicated for all unions when television came in. Coast-to-coast broadcasting was engineered in 1948.

I may be jumping ahead, but I wanted to tell you this: television developed seemingly overnight. All of a sudden, people were staying home and watching whatever was on the tube. They’d see commercials done visually and it was the ‘new medium,’ meaning [audiences] stayed away from the theaters. There was a tremendous reaction from the studios about this. One studio, 20th Century Fox — not related to the present FOX — [in which] the head of the studio was a man named Darryl Zanuck. [He] brought back [a specially designed lens] to America from France in the 1950’s developed by the Ingenue Company, I believe.

The lens became what he [Zanuck] called, or 20th Century Fox called Cinemascope, which projected a widescreen image. Philip Dunne [whose portrait and brief bio adorn the walls of the WGA] wrote the first movie in this new aspect ratio, “The Robe,” based on a best-selling book by Lloyd C. Douglas. It was a big biblical epic. It brought people back into the theaters just to look, and say: “What’s going on here?”

QUENDRITH: It was a different aspect ratio?

DEL: The normal projection was more of a square, so when this came along, it was big. It had a huge curiosity factor. It instituted a lot of widescreen films. People began to return to theaters. But parallel to this, television continued to simply expand. By the time of early 50’s TV audiences were enormous all across the country. There were the two basic networks, NBC and CBS. Then they split off, and ABC was formed. That was the world in which writers functioned. Seven majors and three networks, hardly any independent productions. Then in the mid 50’s, RCA which owned NBC, developed color for television.

QUENDRITH: Where were you in your own career at this time?

DEL: I was working at NBC as a story editor. They developed a show called NBC Matinee Theater that was done in color. It sounds incredible now, but there were 5 shows a week, 1 hour. It was an anthology of new stories. It was in NY and here, but it was shot here in Los Angeles. NBC opened its new studios in Burbank, which they still have, to accommodate everything they were doing.

QUENDRITH: So it must have skewed female?

DEL: Not only that, but it gave the appliance places something to show in the middle of the day. You’d walk past a window full of TVs and see color televisions.

QUENDRITH: And their advertisers?

DEL: Exactly. I think Matinee went on the air in ’54 or ’55. It was on the air two or three years. I was on the very first GI bill at the end of the war. How I get there, how I ended up in the new ‘medium.’ When I was discharged, honorably discharged. I went to UC Berkeley on the GI bill and kind of rushed through. I found it very difficult to adjust [back to civilian life] — I was a bomdardier in a B17. If you ever say the movie “The Best Years of Our Lives”? Dana Andrews went into the nose — that’s it. These planes were prop-driven. No jets. So I flew 35 missions.

QUENDRITH: Did you go into the Pacific Theater of Operations?

DEL: No, just the “ETO,” the European Theater of Operations. The name of the outfit was the 381st Heavy Bombardment Group, Eighth Air Force. France was occupied by Germany. We bombed some targets in occupied France, but most if it was Germany itself. The Ruhr Valley with Essen and Dusseldorf , Cologne — that was the manufacturing world. I went to Berlin six times. I can tell you that was not fun…

QUENDRITH: It was complete devastation, I’m sure…

DEL: They lost a lot. We lost a lot of planes. We went as far as Munich and in the north, Hamburg, Peenemunde, where they launched the V-2s over London.

QUENDRITH: May I segue by saying Hollywood and its politics must have been lightweight compared to that?

DEL: Hollywood was nothing compared to that, because nobody was shooting at you. I didn’t come home to become a writer. I had no interest in it. But I thought that somehow, I’d become a part of the studio system. Maybe film editing, maybe camera. I was a studio brat. My younger sister and I were studio brats. My mother was a secretary at the old Universal Studios (Carl Laemmle and all that). We used to, as little kids, go out to see her at Universal, at her office. The family story is an old Depression story… my father kind of took off — so she was it, she was the income for us. If Universal went bankrupt, that was always being threatened there would be nothing for us. You know that the secretaries in those days knew everything that happens and was about to happen. My mother was the production unit’s contact with the Breen office, later the Shurlock office, the administrators of the code. She took down their problems and passed them on to a very angry studio.

My kid sister and I would frequently be on set. They would allow kids on set, if they shut up. The grips, everyone at the studio, had the same problem: kids, baby-sitters cost money. My mother was a member of the SOEG (Screen Office Employee Guild). So the Executive Director was Herbert K. Sorrell. All we did as kids was go in the back row [during SOEG meetings]. There were chairs there; the kids would just flake out and sleep. Usually were a dozen or more children there. SOEG was a guild. A wild union. Years later, after the war, Herb Sorrell, executive director of the union, wrote his autobiography. He had fought hard for the below-the-line people in the industry. He identified himself as a Communist.

QUENDRITH: We’ll lead into the Black List from here.

DEL: Let me leap ahead to the Black List. I was on the Guild’s Black List credits committee.Our job was to check to see the identities of the real writers behind the fronts or pseudonyms. We began this process trying to cut through the fog of memory and the series of obfuscations by the studios. That started in 1996 and went up to 1999/2000.

QUENDRITH: Paul Jarrico, he was one —

DEL: Exactly. Paul Jarrico, and my friend George Kirgo. Both are deceased.

QUENDRITH: Were you ever on the Black List?

DEL: I was never on the black list, and neither was George. But we were both young writers working in the Blacklist years — that tragic time. Well, it left its mark on everyone. It lasted 15 years. Some of those denied work (under their own names) were struggling for the full 15 years. Sure, some were Communists. The Guild’s first President, John Howard Lawson, he is remembered as the first, but he was actually the second President of the new Screen Writers Guild in 1933. People knew of his politics — did I mention the name Lester Cole?

QUENDRITH: Right, the writer?

DEL: Yes, he was a Communist. As were others of great talent and great determination to create and develop the Guild. There was not a great love of their politics across the unions or from Hollywood — most just found them difficult in labor union matters because they were so well organized they controlled meetings by legal parliamentary proceedings. The writers who were around then spoke angrily of their maneuvering, but the Guild was a First Amendment organization above all.

QUENDRITH: So they had political agenda already not connected with anything to do with Hollywood?

DEL: Yes, essentially support of the Soviet Union. Actually, this was before the war, or at least the entrance into war.

QUENDRITH: What an incredible mix of issues for the country and Hollywood!

DEL: I want to mention this date. In 1954 when all of this was developing, the Guild merged with the Television Writers of America, and merged with the Radio Writers Guild of New York and Los Angeles. So that was [this] merger, and under a new name [that is] now Writers Guild of America.

QUENDRITH: Are New York and LA autonomous? If not, which is the controlling body? Or is there a controlling entity?

DEL: For various corporate reasons, there were actually new corporations formed, Writers Guild West and Writers Guild East. Hollywood was the center of moviemaking at the studios. New York, with all of its history in live television, had been the center of TV.

But with the major studios getting into TV, the New York group had fewer and fewer people to represent because writers literally moved here physically.

QUENDRITH: Who is the final arbiter?

DEL: That’s a good question. The leadership is separate, so they have their board and their special needs. For example, in New York they represent many newswriters, so they have special needs. And we [WGA West] continue to represent mostly TV writers, animation writers, and screenwriters because of the huge amount of activity that continues here. Face-to-face meetings, despite email, faxing, even teleconferencing, continue to be critical.

QUENDRITH: Amidst all the technology and other changes, are the majors retaining their loyalty to Hollywood? What I mean is, to clarify, is LA still the magnet for the decision makers in the industry? Is there loyalty to the area, the concept of “Hollywood” as a physical location and a symbolic icon of the industry?

DEL: If you have runaway production with major studios making films anywhere where it is cheaper, literally the Balkans, Bulgaria, Romania, etc. — that means that they are made without our labor union contracts, without labor union protection or [with] different labor union protection.

QUENDRITH: How about all the productions that went to Canada?

DEL: There was so much shooting in Canada because of the currency exchange. The protections can be avoided — like the Black Dahlia story —

QUENDRITH: The recent one with Hilary Swank?

DEL: Yes. I’m pretty sure that was made in Bulgaria. They made the sets, everything; they did not have to pay the standard fees. It is cheaper. To answer your question, they film there because [production costs] are cheaper. And our city, L.A., doesn’t look like the L.A. of the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s, not anymore.

QUENDRITH: What is the net effect on the psyche of the industry — is there still loyalty in LA to Hollywood?

DEL: My mother at the old Universal wouldn’t recognize the industry today. Announcements in the trades would baffle her, because there are four or five production entities.

QUENDRITH: They split the costs?

DEL: Right, they split the cost. So the financial partners that split the cost are as much involved as the studio. The authority has changed a lot. Who runs the movie has changed a lot.

QUENDRITH: How does that affect the writers?

DEL: You have many bosses. You will get attitudes and opinions from a number of the financial sources. I don’t think there is any history of them giving notes — “Do this on page 14” — but they wouldn’t put money in unless the project was in good hands [as far as] writers, producers, directors, actors. The only reason they would put money in is “we want more action adventure” — otherwise they won’t put money in.

If it is a big Will Ferrell comedy — “We want big laughs or we won’t put money in.” Well, maybe they leave Will Ferrell alone. Apparently, he can do no wrong.

They have to be secure that it is the film they want, that wherever they are from, they get the movie they want. Take “Mission Impossible: 3,” they pretty much know what kind of movie it will be [with Tom Cruise]. They know the nature of the film they are making.

QUENDRITH: The regular machinery of Hollywood, how writers and actors and directors work, is changing as fast as the technology almost. Non-traditional arrangements are everywhere in the business now.

DEL: I’m thinking of Philip Dunne right now. Phil wrote the terrific screenplay for “How Green Was My Valley” — I think that was ’41, maybe ’40. He had one boss, Zanuck. Then both he and Zanuck sat down with the director, John Ford, and the star, a 12-year-old Roddy McDowall. They made the picture, not layers of authority, not tons of notes.

QUENDRITH: Where is your life now as a writer?

DEL: I’m still in the game. And I’ve been teaching for the last twelve years at AFI.

QUENDRITH: Are you writing a book about your experiences, the history of the business from your POV?

DEL: Up to now, I say no. I’m not writing a book.

QUENDRITH: You are saving that for old age?

DEL: We’ll see.

Del never finished the book he was working on, but he’d have approved of the list below — as promised. He’d be happy to know Will Ferrell has made a few bombs by now, and while Tom Cruise still commands box office results overseas, at home things are different. Because every new audience needs new storytellers, and there can’t be any storytellers without the stories. So in 2017, for those of you with screenwriting aspirations, here’s the WGA’s list of agents. Don’t bother them unless you’ve written something outstanding, have already placed in the Nicholl Fellowship, or are seeking a new agent. But mostly, keep your New Year’s Resolution for 2017 to keep writing.

We took out the phone number contacts, which can only be found at the WGAw website. Here’s a link for the WGA List, also the WGA Oral History project.

THE AGENCY LIST

Above The Line Agency
468 N Camden Dr
Ste 200
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Agency For The Performing Arts
405 S Beverly Dr
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Allensworth Entertainment, Inc.
433 N Camden Dr Fl 4
Beverly Hills, CA 90210-4408

Alpern Group, The
15645 Royal Oak Rd
Encino, CA 91436

American Media Artists
4830 Encino Ave
Encino, CA 91316

Annette Van Duren Agency
3810 Wilshire Blvd #1906
Los Angeles, CA 90010-3223

Avail Talent
2990 Grace Lane
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

Beth Bohn Management Inc
2658 Griffith Park Blvd
Ste 508
Los Angeles, CA 90039

BiCoastal Talent & Literary Agency
2600 W Olive Ave Ste 500
Burbank, CA 91505-4572

Bobby Ball Talent Agency
3500 W Olive Ave Ste 300
Burbank, CA 91505-4647

Brady, Brannon & Rich
5670 Wilshire Blvd Ste 820
Los Angeles, CA 90036-5613

Brant Rose Agency
6671 Sunset Blvd
Ste 1584 B
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Brogan Agency
1517 Park Row
Venice, CA 90291

Candace Lake Agency, Inc.
1072 Laurel Ln
Pebble Beach, CA 93953-3112

Career Artists International
11030 Ventura Blvd #3
Studio City, CA 91604

Cavaleri & Associates
3500 W Olive Ave Ste 300
Burbank, CA 91505-4647

Chasin Agency, Inc.
8899 Beverly Blvd
Ste 716
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Contemporary Artists, Ltd.
610 Santa Monica Blvd
Ste 202
Santa Monica, CA 90401

CAA: Creative Artists Agency, LLC
2000 Ave Of The Stars
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Criterion
4842 Sylmar Ave
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423-1716

David Shapira & Associates
193 N Robertson Blvd
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Don Buchwald & Associates
6500 Wilshire Blvd
Ste 2200
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Dravis Agency, The
4370 Tujunga Ave
Ste 145
Studio City, CA 91604

Equitable Stewardship for Artists
6363 Wilshire Blvd Ste 650
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5725

Featured Artists Agency
8844 W Olympic Blvd Ste 200
Beverly Hills, CA 90211-3623

Gersh Agency, Inc.
9465 Wilshire Blvd Fl 6
Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2605

Global Talent Agency
2615 W Magnolia Blvd
Ste 101
Burbank, CA 91505

Grant, Savic, Kopaloff & Associates
6399 Wilshire Blvd
Ste 414
Los Angeles, CA 90048

Gregory David Mayo Representing the Performing Arts
10061 Riverside Dr # 242
Toluca Lake, CA 91602-2560

Hollywood View Agency
5255 Veronica St
Los Angeles, CA 90008

ICM Partners
10250 Constellation Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Innovative Artists
1505 Tenth St
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Irv Schechter Company
9460 Wilshire Blvd
Ste 300
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Jack Lenny Associates
9454 Wilshire Blvd
Ste 600
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Jim Preminger Agency
10866 Wilshire Blvd
10th Floor
Los Angeles, CA 90024

JKA Talent & Literary Agency
12725 Ventura Blvd
Studio City, CA 91604

Kaplan Stahler Agency
8383 Wilshire Blvd
Ste 923
Beverly Hills, CA 90211

Kathleen Schultz Associates
6442 Coldwater Cyn
Ste 117
Valley Glen, CA 91606

Larchmont Literary Agency
444 N Larchmont Blvd
Ste 200
Los Angeles, CA 90004

Laya Gelff Agency
16133 Ventura Blvd
Ste 700
Encino, CA 91436

Lenhoff & Lenhoff
830 Palm Ave
W Hollywood, CA 90069

Lisa Callamaro Literary Agency
427 N Canon Dr
Ste 202
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Lynne & Reilly Agency
10725 Vanowen Street
Ste 113
North Hollywood, CA 91605

Maggie Roiphe Agency
1721 S Garth Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90035

Media Artists Group
8222 Melrose Ave Fl 2
Los Angeles, CA 90046-6825

Metropolitan Talent Agency
5405 Wilshire Blvd Ste 218
Los Angeles, CA 90036-4203

Michael Lewis & Associates
2506 Fifth Street
Ste 100
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Mitchell K. Stubbs & Associates
8695 W Washington Blvd
Ste 204
Culver City, CA 90232

Nancy Chaidez Agency
6340 Coldwater Cyn
Ste 214
North Hollywood, CA 91606

Natural Talent, Inc.
3331 Ocean Park Blvd
Ste 203
Santa Monica, CA 90405

Pantheon
1801 Century Park East
Ste 1910
Los Angeles, CA 90067

Paradigm
360 N Crescent Dr
North Bldg
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Paul Kohner, Inc.
9300 Wilshire Blvd
Ste 555
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Preferred Artists
16633 Ventura Blvd
Ste 1421
Encino, CA 91436

Rebel Entertainment Partners, Inc.
5700 Wilshire Blvd
Ste 456
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Rothman Brecher Agency
9250 Wilshire Blvd
Penthouse
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

RPM Talent
2600 W Olive Ave
5th Floor
Burbank, CA 91505

Sarnoff Company, Inc., The
1600 Rosecrans Avenue
Media Center, 4th Floor
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266

Savage Agency, The
6212 Banner Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90038-2802

Silver Bitela Agency
6612 Pacheco Way
Citrus Hts, CA 95610

Stars, The Agency
23 Grant Ave 4th Fl
San Francisco, CA 94108

Starwil Prods Talent Agency
433 N Camden Dr 4th Fl
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Stein Agency, The
5125 Oakdale Ave
Woodland Hills, CA 91364

Stuart M. Miller Co, The
11684 Ventura Blvd
Ste 225
Studio City, CA 91604

Suite A Management Talent & Literary Agency
136 El Camino Dr Ste 202
Beverly Hills, CA 90212-2705

Summit Talent & Literary Agency
9454 Wilshire Blvd
Ste 203
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

United Talent Agency, Inc.
UTA Plaza
9336 Civic Center Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

Nerve Talent & Literary Agency LLC
6310 San Vicente Blvd Ste 100
Los Angeles, CA 90048-5498

Warden Group, The
PO Box 1595
Beverly Hills, CA 90213-1595

William Kerwin Agency
1605 N Cahuenga Blvd
Ste 202
Hollywood, CA 90028

Wilson & Associates
5482 Wilshire Blvd Ste 175
Los Angeles, CA 90036-4218

WME Entertainment
9601 Wilshire Blvd 3rd Fl
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

This original interview can be found in its entirety here. The 2017 Writers Guild Awards take place in LA and NY on Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017, see www.wga.org for details.

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SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and people making a lot of first drafts trying to make movies.

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[Golden Boy Already - Six-time Oscar nominee has nothing to prove since 2010 for CRAZYHEART.]

The Dude, AKA Jeff Bridges Now in HIGHWATER, Wins American Riviera Award From Santa Barbara

LOS ANGELES: Sometimes a press release is so good it’s just fine art, or more specifically it’s the holidays and we’re lazy, plus this is great writing from our friends in the business. That said, we’d only put a slightly different headline on it, for the diehard hipsters. Which is “The Dude, AKA Jeff Bridges Now in HIGHWATER, Wins American Riviera Award From Santa Barbara,” whereas our more respectable writing colleagues began something like this:

JEFF BRIDGES TO RECEIVE AMERICAN RIVIERA AWARD AT THE 32nd ANNUAL SANTA BARBARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

Santa Barbara, CA (December 21, 2016) – The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced today that Jeff Bridges will be honored with the 2017 American Riviera Award at the 32nd edition of the Fest, which runs from February 1 to February 11, 2017. Bridges will be fêted with a Tribute celebrating his illustrious career, culminating with his captivating performance in David Mackenzie’s Hell or High Water, a CBS Films/Lionsgate release. The film opened in August to critical acclaim. The Tribute will take place Thursday, February 9, 2017 at the historic Arlington Theatre.

French language poster had the most awesome look at Cannes.

[French-language poster for Cannes.]

For his role in Hell or High Water, Bridges has received Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor, as well as the National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor. Bridges’ renowned career includes celebrated roles in films such as The Big Lebowski, Fearless, The Contender, The Mirror Has Two Faces, The Fabulous Baker Boys, The Door in the Floor, True Grit, Starman, The Morning After, Jagged Edge, The Last Picture Show, Against All Odds, Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, The Fisher King, Seabiscuit, and Crazy Heart (for which he won the Academy Award for Best Actor).

“Jeff Bridges shows us in Hell or High Water that an already great artist can continue his growth.  I may go as far as saying that this is his best performance,” stated SBIFF Executive Director Roger Durling. “It’s truly special to be able to celebrate Jeff – for he’s not only a dear friend of SBIFF – but he is a timeless legend in our industry.”

[Golden Boy Already - Six-time Oscar nominee has nothing to prove since 2010 for CRAZYHEART.]

[Golden Boy Already – Six-time Oscar nominee has nothing to prove since 2010 win for CRAZYHEART.]

A modern-day set crime western, Hell or High Water tells the riveting story of a divorced father and his ex-con older brother who resort to a desperate scheme in order to save their family’s ranch in West Texas.  The film, directed by David Mackenzie, with an original screenplay by Taylor Sheridan, also stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster. ChrisJeff16

The American Riviera Award was established to recognize actors who have made a significant contribution to American Cinema. Bridges will join a prestigious group of past recipients, including last year’s honorees Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, and Mark Ruffalo (2016), Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke (2015), Robert Redford (2014), Quentin Tarantino (2013) and Martin Scorsese (2012), Annette Bening (2011), Sandra Bullock (2010), Mickey Rourke (2009), Tommy Lee Jones (2008), Forrest Whitaker (2007), Philip Seymour Hoffman (2006), Kevin Bacon (2005) and Diane Lane (2004).

The 32nd annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival will take place from Wednesday, February 1st through Saturday, February 11th. For more information, and to purchase tickets, festival passes and packages, please visit www.sbiff.org.

BEST JEFF BRIDGES BIO EVER, PS…

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One of Hollywood’s most successful actors and a six-time Academy Award® nominee, JEFF BRIDGES’ (Marcus) performance in “Crazy Heart”—as Bad Blake, the down-on-his-luck, alcoholic country music singer at the center of the drama—deservedly garnered the iconic performer his first Oscar® for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role. The performance also earned him the Golden Globe, SAG Award and the IFP/Spirit Award for Lead Actor.

The film follows Blake, who, through his experiences with a female reporter (Maggie Gyllenhaal), is able to get his career back on track while playing mentor to a hotshot contemporary country star and simultaneously struggling in his shadow. The movie, directed by Scott Cooper, is based on the debut novel by Thomas Cobb and also stars Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell. Bridges’ moving and multi-layered performance is one of many in a career that spans decades.

He earned his first Oscar® nod in 1971 for Best Supporting Actor in Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show,” co-starring Cybill Shepherd. Three years later, he received his second Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Michael Cimino’s “Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.” By 1984 he landed top kudos with a Best Actor nomination for “Starman”; that performance also earned him a Golden Globe nomination. In 2001, he was honored with another Golden Globe nomination and his fourth Oscar® nomination for his role in “The Contender,” Rod Lurie’s political thriller, co-starring Gary Oldman and Joan Allen, in which Bridges played the President of the United States.

In December 2010 his reunion with the Coen Brothers in the critically acclaimed western “True Grit” landed him his sixth Oscar® nomination. The film focuses on fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) whose father has been shot in cold blood by the coward Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and she is determined to bring him to justice. Enlisting the help of a trigger-happy, drunken U.S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn (Bridges), she sets out with him — over his objections — to hunt down Chaney.

The same month he was seen in the highly anticipated 3D action-adventure “TRON: Legacy.” Bridges reprised his role of video-game developer Kevin Flynn from the classic 1982 film “TRON.” With state-of-the-art technology, “TRON: Legacy” featured Bridges as the first actor in cinematic history to play opposite a younger version of himself.

He will next be seen in the first animated feature film adaptation of Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s iconic masterpiece “The Little Prince” as the Aviator for director Mark Osborne. He was last seen in the action adventure fantasy film “Seventh Son,” reuniting with Julianne Moore and directed by Sergey Bodrov.

In August 2014, Bridges starred in “The Giver” opposite Meryl Streep, Brenton Thwaites, Alexander Skarsgard, Katie Holmes, Odeya Rush and Cameron Monaghan. Based on the bestselling young adult novel by Lois Lowry, the film – which he also produced – was a passion project of his for more than 2 decades and was directed by Phillip Noyce.

Prior to “Crazy Heart,” Bridges was seen in the war comedy “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” playing Bill Django, a free-spirited military intelligence officer, who is the leader of a secret group of warriors in the army. The Peter Straughan screenplay (based on the Jon Ronson book and directed by Grant Heslov) is based on a true story about a reporter in Iraq, who meets a former member of the US Army’s First Earth Battalion, a unit that employs paranormal powers in their missions. He stars opposite George Clooney (also a producer), Ewan McGregor and Kevin Spacey.

Additionally, he starred in “A Dog Year” for HBO Films/ Picturehouse, based on the memoir by Jon Katz and directed by George LaVoo (who also wrote the screenplay) and garnered an Emmy nomination; as well as opposite Robert Downey, Jr. in the Paramount Pictures/Marvel Studios blockbuster “Iron Man,” playing the character of Obadiah Stane.

He starred opposite Shia LaBeouf as Geek, a cantankerous and washed-up surfer penguin, in the Academy Award®-nominated “Surf’s Up,” from Sony Pictures Animation. Prior to that, he was in his second film for director Terry Gilliam, entitled “Tideland,” where he played Noah, a drug addicted, has-been, rock guitarist.

The actor’s multi-faceted career has cut a wide swathe across all genres. He has starred in numerous box office hits, including Gary Ross’ “Seabiscuit,” Terry Gilliam’s offbeat comedic drama “The Fisher King” (co-starring Robin Williams), the multi-award-nominated “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (co-starring his brother Beau Bridges and Michelle Pfeiffer), “The Jagged Edge” (opposite Glenn Close), Francis Ford Coppola’s “Tucker: The Man and His Dream,” “Blown Away” (co-starring his late father Lloyd Bridges and Tommy Lee Jones), Peter Weir’s “Fearless” (with Isabella Rossellini and Rosie Perez), and Martin Bell’s “American Heart” (with Edward Furlong, produced by Bridges’ company, AsIs Productions). That film earned Bridges an IFP/Spirit Award in 1993 for Best Actor.

In the summer of 2004, he appeared opposite Kim Basinger in the critically acclaimed “The Door in the Floor” for director Todd Williams and Focus Features, which earned him an IFP/Spirit Award nomination for Best Actor.

He played a major featured role in “The Muse” (an Albert Brooks comedy starring Brooks, Sharon Stone and Andie MacDowell); appeared in the suspense thriller “Arlington Road” (co-starring Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack, directed by Mark Pellington); and starred in “Simpatico,” the screen version of Sam Shepard’s play (with Nick Nolte, Sharon Stone and Albert Finney). In 1998, he starred in the Coen brothers’ cult comedy “The Big Lebowski.” Before that, he starred in Ridley Scott’s “White Squall,” Walter Hill’s “Wild Bill,” John Huston’s “Fat City” and Barbara Streisand’s romantic comedy “The Mirror Has Two Faces.”

[Let's not forget the heart-smashing Eastwood starrer Bridges was in in 1974.]

[Let’s not forget the heart-smashing Eastwood starrer Bridges was in in 1974.]

Some of Bridges’ other acting credits include “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People,” “K-PAX,” “Masked and Anonymous,” “Stay Hungry,” “Fat City,” “Bad Company,” “Against All Odds,” “Cutter’s Way,” “The Vanishing,” “Texasville,” “The Morning After,” “Nadine,” “Rancho Deluxe,” “See You in the Morning,” “Eight Million Ways to Die,” “TRON,” “The Last American Hero” and “Heart of the West.”

In 1983, Bridges founded the End Hunger Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to feeding children around the world. He produced the End Hunger televent, a three-hour live television broadcast focusing on world hunger. The televent featured Gregory Peck, Jack Lemmon, Burt Lancaster, Bob Newhart, Kenny Loggins and other leading film, television and music stars in an innovative production to educate and inspire action.

He is currently the national spokesman for the Share Our Strength/No Kid Hungry campaign that is fighting to end childhood hunger in America.

Through his company, AsIs Productions, he produced “Hidden in America,” which starred his brother Beau. That television movie, produced for Showtime, received a Golden Globe nomination in 1996 for Best TV/Cable Film and garnered a Screen Actors Guild nod for Best Actor for Beau Bridges. The film was also nominated for two Emmy Awards.

One of Bridges’ true passions is photography. While on the set of his movies, he takes behind-the-scenes pictures of the actors, crew and locations. After completion of each motion picture, he edits the images into a book and gives copies to everyone involved. Bridges’ photographs have been featured in several magazines, including Premiere and Aperture, as well as in other publications worldwide. He has also had gallery exhibitions of his work in New York (at the George Eastman House), Los Angeles, London and the Museum of Photographic Arts in San Diego. In 2013, Bridges was the recipient of an Infinity Award, presented by the International Center of Photography, NY.

The books, which have become valued by collectors, were never intended for public sale, but in the fall of 2003, powerHouse Books released Pictures: Photographs by Jeff Bridges, a hardcover book containing a compilation of his photographs taken on numerous film locations over the years, to much critical acclaim. Proceeds from the book are donated to the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a nonprofit organization that offers charitable care and support to film-industry workers.

In February 2015 Bridges released a spoken word/ambient album titled “Sleeping Tapes.” The collaboration was co-produced with musician Keefus Ciancia who also supplied the music. The album was released by web hosting service Squarespace as part of its Super Bowl advertising campaign, with all proceeds from the album sales going to Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign.

In August 2011 Bridges released his self-titled major label debut album for Blue Note Records. Multiple-Grammy Award-wining songwriter, musician and producer T Bone Burnett produced the album. It is an organic extension and culmination of his personal, professional and music friendship with Burnett, whom he has known for more than 30 years. The critically acclaimed album was a follow up to his first solo effort “Be Here Soon,” on Ramp Records, the Santa Barbara, CA label he co-founded with Michael McDonald and producer/singer/songwriter Chris Pelonis. The CD features guest appearances by vocalist/keyboardist Michael McDonald, Grammy-nominated Amy Holland and country-rock legend David Crosby. In 2014 he released his first live album “Jeff Bridges & The Abiders Live” and has been touring off and on when he is not working.

BridgesMeme16

Bridges and his wife Susan divide their time between their home in Santa Barbara, California, and their ranch in Montana.

WHY YOU SHOULD DRIVE/FLY OUT THERE TO ATTEND…

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts and educational organization dedicated to discovering and showcasing the best in independent and international cinema. Over the past 30 years, SBIFF has become one of the leading film festivals in the United States – attracting 90,000 attendees and offering 11 days of 200+ films, tributes and symposiums, fulfilling their mission to engage, enrich, and inspire the Santa Barbara community through film.

SBIFF continues its commitment to education and the community through free programs like its 10-10-10 Student Filmmaking and Screenwriting Competitions, Mike’s Field Trip to the Movies, National Film Studies Program, AppleBox Family Films, 3rd Weekend and educational seminars. This past June, SBIFF entered a new era with the acquisition of the historic and beloved Riviera Theatre.  The theatre is SBIFF’s new home and is the catalyst for program expansion and marks the first time that Santa Barbara has had a 24/7 community center to expand their mission of educational outreach.

[See HELL OR HIGHWATER via Redbox rentals, VOD and coming soon via streamers. And make sure to catch everything Jeff Bridges has ever been in, including TRON, original and remake, STARMAN, also 1974’s heart-smashing THUNDERBOLT & LIGHTFOOT.]

SCREENMANCER is a gathering place for people who make movies and fans of The Dude, also Jeff Bridges, and his band of musicians in Santa Barbara.

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ZeroDaysPoster16

The Year Nobody Was a Pundit: Hollywood’s Shock, All Governments Lie, But Zero Days & Sparrow Shortlisted

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent [FilmFestivals.com]

Cui Bono? That’s the famous Latin line that means “who benefits,” and in the realm of conspiracy theories, this blunt tool ranks right up there with “Historian’s Fallacy” as a go-to. The term historian’s fallacy was minted by Brandeis Professor David Hackett Fischer in 1970, who pointed out the bright idea that even when someone is going through a historic event, or having experienced a historic event, said eyewitness may not have a historical perspective because they have no idea what might hit them next. So since 2016 is The Year Nobody Was a Pundit, as far as the US Presidential Election, and while most of Hollywood is still in shock at the shadow conservative vote in their midst, you’ll forgive a meandering but meaningful segue here into the Oscar Documentary Shortlist and why two films, Zero Days and Hooligan Sparrow, had special resonance. But first, Oliver Stone who executive produced a documentary on investigative journalist, I.F. Stone, directed by Fred Peabody. Unlike Zero Days and Sparrow, this is one that didn’t make the Oscar shortlist, but it’s extremely relevant this year.

unnamed-6Titled ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: TRUTH, DECEPTION, AND THE SPIRIT OF I.F. STONE, it’s based on the book that examines the influential life of investigative journalist, I.F. Stone “whose long one-man crusade against government deception lives on in the work of such contemporary filmmakers and journalists such as  Amy Goodman, Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald, Cenk Uygur, Jeremy Scahill, David Corn, and Matt Taibbi.”

Amy Goodman, as you may know, is the figurehead of Democracy Now, a radio program and media beacon of the American Left that recently stood by the stand-down at the Dakota Access Pipeline. Goodman was even arrested there, but released with charges dropped. Laura Poitras is the filmmaker who brought us CitizenFour, the real-life encounter with Edward Snowden that brought government security to its knees, if only for a moment, while the American Public had their digital eyes peeled open. Glenn Greenwald is her cohort in this endeavor, formerly of the Guardian UK, now of his own media hotspot known as The Intercept. The other names are important, but Matt Taibbi is one journalist who stood firm in dissent as the Donald Trump “Make America Great Again” waves crashed onto voter beachheads. Taibbi is very respected because he stayed up to his ankles in the quick sand of changing poll numbers that made this American US Presidential Election the most highly rated quasi-fiasco in the history of US politics. Election 2016 is the ticket-seller that even Hollywood couldn’t come up with as a plot line: Hamburger Hillary vs The Donald. Initially this match-up looked, as one award-worthy internet troll put it, as “don’t bring a Cheeto to a knife fight” in favor of Hillary Clinton as far as the debates. But a strange thing happened on the way to the ballot box, a swirl of fake news, government reveals, and general discontent took over.

And this is why, although ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE didn’t make anybody’s shortlist, it’s an important film to watch. I.F. Stone’s legacy is the history of dissent in its modern form that we know it. He made his reputation as a journalist by flipping over the hallowed cobblestones of the American Democracy so we could get a view under the sheen of tradition. In fact, in 2015, I.F. Stone’s son Jeremy Stone was behind the release of a Knight Foundation documentary “The Legacy of I.F. Stone” produced out of Canada. According to Glenn Greenwald’s The Intercept, (Greenwald also has a role in this doc) I.F. Stone is known as “The Patron Saint of Bloggers,” and the first known journalist to tap “unofficial sources.”

And here’s where we went collectively, as a voter nation with the rest of the watching-world dragged with us, down a very, very, very long rabbit hole in the 2016 General Election. It was supposed to be a simple contest to determine who would become the next President of the United States, or POTUS in the shorthand. Yet the whole campaign turned into He Said, She Said, fueled by unnamed sources, hacked documents, and purported criminal activity on display.

I.F. Stone’s pioneering “unofficial sources” gambit in the Digital Age became a hellride into inter-party Spy vs Spy, a weltering clash of Anonymous vs Anonymous Global, and a final FBI Director James Comey showdown vs the CIA “counter coup.” Comey is the one whose October Surprise was a November game-changer for the Clinton campaign as it hinted at a 33,000 email-deletion related indictment imminent for her.  Oh wait, he recanted within days. Next, there was even a former US State Department operative, now a sci-fi writer, named Steve Pieczenik who began to leak YouTube videos about the “FBI soft coup” to stop Hillary Clinton, who apparently they’d been tracking for Clinton Foundation fraud, from becoming POTUS. Finally elusive global-hacktivist entity Anonymous really got into the act by flooding YouTube with “Wake Up America” type calls to action to halt the current questions over alleged “Russian” hacking into the US electoral process… exhausting, isn’t it? It’s like everyone on earth and in the media lost the plot in 2016. Even genius poll predictor Nate Silver, who called elections within percentage points in the past, had Donald Trump losing by a 67% chance even as the vote count began.

Again, 2016 is The Year Nobody Was A Pundit. But “unnamed sources” and unsubstantiated allegations, as well as hit videos ruled the day. Although it’s not what was intended by I. F. Stone (no relation to Oliver), this election year is in many ways the slap in the face that Hollywood needed too. When a real life election is more fascinating than any feature film releases on their slate, the Studios can no longer grind out the same rebooted content, folks. People still went to the movie theaters and downloaded filmed content in 2016, but the US Election was beyond gripping – and not in a good way. We’re supposed to be the nation that sets the stage for the much-touted “fair and free elections.” We’re the country that points out the polling stations cheaters in so-called “banana republics,” restores justice when rogue countries go awry and thumbs our nose at humans rights violators with harsh sanctions.

Those very attributes the United States prides itself on came into question in 2016, even the idea that we could shake a fist at corruption in other countries when we ourselves seemed pretty porous as far as scandals from within.

This political preamble is why, in my humble opinion as a critic, two documentaries – Hooligan Sparrow and Zero Days – really mattered on a world-events scale this year. Lynda Weinman and Bruce Heavin, the tech couple behind Lynda.com, an online tutorial empire they have since sold, hosted a very crucial screening of Hooligan Sparrow, a documentary about women’s rights in China that becomes a visual essay on the struggle for human rights and freedoms on a visceral level. Hooligan1sht16

Here’s the official description of the film:

“The danger is palpable as intrepid young filmmaker Nanfu Wang follows maverick activist Ye Haiyan (a.k.a Hooligan Sparrow) and her band of colleagues to Hainan Province in southern China to protest the case of six elementary school girls who were sexually abused by their principal. Marked as enemies of the state, the activists are under constant government surveillance and face interrogation, harassment, and imprisonment. Sparrow, who gained notoriety with her advocacy work for sex workers’ rights, continues to champion girls’ and women’s rights and arms herself with the power and reach of social media.

Filmmaker Wang risks her own life and becomes a target along with Sparrow, as she faces destroyed cameras and intimidation. Yet she bravely and tenaciously keeps shooting, guerrilla-style, with secret recording devices and hidden-camera glasses, and in the process, she exposes a startling number of undercover security agents on the streets. Eventually, through smuggling footage out of the country, Wang is able tell the story of her journey with the extraordinary revolutionary Sparrow, her fellow activists, and their seemingly impossible battle for human rights.”

In covering it earlier this year, I’d asked Nanfu Wang “What is the history of protests in China? And do you think the West influenced this?” Nanfu takes a short breath, she is remarkably composed for someone who literally had to smuggle her footage out of China. “Protests are taboo in China,” she begins. Then she detailed the barriers for giving a proverbial “voice to the voiceless” in her home country. In a modest floral theme red dress, and Nanfu Wang safe in the West, it’s a disconnect to imagine the gritty street fights she’s had to face, even under the pressure of a second language here. Nanfu Wang is definitely someone to watch for more powerful visual essays on film, with Hooligan Sparrow just a first salvo, hopefully.

The connector to the next hugely impactful documentary, Zero Days, is that ripple effect, when an issue for someone like Sparrow’s activist Ye Haiyan ignites a global reaction. In Zero Days, a few watchers on the wall of technology saw something odd, shared it amongst themselves, and didn’t realize they’d discovered the tail of international espionage-made virus that could literally crash the world.

Zero Days is my personal pic for Best Documentary because it reveals the inner workings and internecine fighting going on within the highly insulated and highly secure secret world of CyberSec, including cybersecurity operatives and the divisions between “three letter agencies” which later becomes writ large in the so-called “soft coup” shoot-out between the FBI and the CIA firing back with hacking allegations even you read this. It’s a very dangerous game of Spy Agency vs Spy Agency that has shaken some truly home-grown crazy out of the American woodwork. YouTube is replete with claims and counter-claims of hacking, spying, even purporting to reveal a laundry list of conspiracy theories. Some of these “theories” – from Clinton unspeakable evil-doing to Trump’s Jesus-like magic – make David Aaronvitch’s book “Voodoo Histories, The Role of Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History” look tame. Aaronvitch makes compelling arguments that conspiracy theories actually serve a purpose in the pattern of history as it unfolds… but the 2016 Presidential Election crazy, especially where high-level official discussions and briefings included the possibility of “foreign actors” (read: Russia) hacking Democractic emails, the Election, and the polling machines, well it just went beyond rational human understanding.

Which makes Alex Gibney’s documentary on the events leading to the detection of a computer virus designed to destroy Iran’s nuclear centrifuges in order to sabotage their entire nuclear program, that much more important as an object lesson.

Zero Days stars a range of officials and high-level tech players who unravel the Stuxnet story. Starring Colonel Gary D. Brown, Eric Chien, Richard A. Clarke, General Michael Hayden, Olli Heinonen, Chris Inglis, Vitaly Kamluk, Eugene Kaspersky, Gibney’s “ZERO DAYS is a documentary thriller about the world of cyberwar.” ZeroDaysPoster16

Here’s the official description: “For the first time, the film tells the complete story of Stuxnet, a piece of self-replicating computer malware (known as a “worm” for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own) that the U.S. and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately spread beyond its intended target. ZERO DAYS is the most comprehensive accounting to date of how a clandestine mission hatched by two allies with clashing agendas opened forever the Pandora’s Box of cyber warfare. Beyond the technical aspects of the story, ZERO DAYS reveals a web of intrigue involving the CIA, the US Military’s new cyber command, Israel’s Mossad and Operations that include both espionage and covert assassinations but also a new generation of cyber weapons whose destructive power is matched only by Nuclear War.”

Some of this is a recap from my earlier coverage and interview with Eric Chien this year, but there’s a lot of implied geopolitics embedded here, and again, along with the hacking component, really cements it as my Best Doc pic for 2016. Before seeing ZERO DAYS, it’s critical to understand the US’s former relationship to the Shah of Iran. Before he was deposed, the Shah of Iran received a key first piece of their nuclear program from the US. It was supposed to be used for energy generation, power plants. The Christian Science Monitor did a round-up once that put dates on the whole mess. “In 1967, under the ‘Atoms for Peace’ program launched by President Eisenhower, the US sold the Shah of Iran’s government a 5-megawatt, light-water type reactor… the foundation of Iran’s nuclear power program.” The Shah reigned from Sept. 16, 1941 until Feb. 11, 1979, when he was toppled by the Iranian Revolution. However questionable the Shah’s regime was, it’s axiomatic that something would go wrong once the largely secular world of his rule fell into theological hands as the 1980’s began.

Next things go from theological to zealot by US estimations. And then there’s 9/11. Allegations are Iran is inching its way toward the “bomb,” because it’s not a huge stretch from power-reactor fuel to weapons grade material. You can see why the US government would consider cyber war in the wake of 9/11, especially since the hardware and software for their nuclear program comes mostly from the West (read: a way in via upgrades to the tech). Plus, would anyone ever find out? Someone high up likely gambled on the wrong side of “No.” So malware was secretly engineered, somewhere, to attack the centrifuges at Iran’s Natanz facility.

Alex Gibney’s take on it is, “I started out making a small film investigating ‘Stuxnet…’ What I discovered was a massive clandestine operation involving the CIA, the NSA, the US military and Israel’s intelligence agency Mossad to build and launch secret cyber ‘bombs’ that could plunge the world into a devastating series of… attacks on critical infrastructure, shutting down electricity… this science fiction scenario…”

That’s Alex Gibney for you, outing the whole gamut of international players from “three-letter agencies” to nation states. But then you talk to someone like Eric Chien, Technical Director of Symantec’s Security Technology and Response division, who was among the first handful to discover and name the Stuxnet virus, and it becomes clear that the message of ZERO DAYS is not rehashing old news about the perils of technology. (As in the current alleged Russian election hacking fracas, and the role of governments in controlling infighting among agencies tasked with cyber security.)

Although it is public record that Belorussian engineer Sergey Ulasen was the first responder to the then-unnamed Stuxnet virus as a BSOD (Blue Screen of Death) reboot over there in the Iranian nuke-related nest of computers; the message of this film is really about the knowledge gap between policy makers and digital purveyors, who, at the speed of technology, will reshape the world for us if we don’t watch out.

In person, Eric Chien is incredibly personable, a youthful exemplar of next-generation digital professionals. “We make Norton Anti-Virus,” he begins, to kind of define Symantec. He also apologies that colleague Liam O’Murchu couldn’t make it. “He had his hands on it first,” Chien adds, meaning Stuxnet. “Normally what we do, day-to-day, is we look at the latest (cyber) attacks. About one million a day. A lot of it is handled through automation, which automatically create fixes for them.”

“When we come across some big attacks, we share (with stakeholders)” pieces of the code for others to monitor or give feedback on. “Recently someone tried to transfer $1 BN from the Bank of Bangladesh,” he said, and this discovery brought back some similarities to the adrenaline of the Stuxnet discovery.

Chien mentions the possible government or shadowy players that he’s encountered in untangling the virus. “When you have black motorcycles, wearing all black following you, behind you, you start to wonder.”

On why Stuxnet wasn’t part of the Snowden leak, he casually mentions, “Edward Snowden didn’t leak this because those files are stored on a different server.” Then, ironically, Chien says he is not under an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), because “we don’t have a two-tiered system. We share this information with our clients… we would never work for hostile nations.” Chien reveals that ‘zero-day’ is a term that basically means the virus is discovered at the same time the vulnerability is revealed that makes the exploit even possible. (Think of it as a hole-in-one golf shot, but nobody knew there was a hole there until the ball hit. Now you’ve got two problems.)

“Stuxnet had not one, but four zero-days in it,” he emphasizes, “even one zero day is rare, but four?” This is how “we knew nation states must be involved.” But breaking the code, finding out what this virus was supposed to do “was the needle in the haystack. I mean it had a (kill) date in it, but it was not easy to figure out.” Tying into the election theme, Stuxnet’s “kill date” mysteriously coincided with the 2012 election.

With all the current election brouhaha, the focus on Russia, Chien made a shocking remark that puts Moscow’s capabilities in perspective. “There’s something to be said for obsolesce,” he revealed. “Because when Russia tried to shut down (the gird) in the Ukraine, their technology was so old, they could actually go to each site and crank it back on by hand.” That’s not in Zero Days, but insider terms like Nitro Zeus are, and maybe what’s most important about this film is that it details the bones of contention, the lines of power, and the factions opposed to one another behind the scenes in our government agencies.

And this comes full circle to the opening focus on the current contested election results… agencies are infighting and all we can do is find our own way back up the rabbit hole, back into the reasonable margin of error that Democracy lives by.

A complete list of the Academy’s Best Documentary shortlist for the 89th Academy Award Presentation to be held  February 26, 2017, can be found on www.oscars.org

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