For much of the past year, Fincher has been filming The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, his roughly $100 million adaptation of the macabre Swedish mystery that centers on a punk-hacker heroine with distinctive skin art. On one of the first nights of shooting, Fincher and his crew were in Sweden, filming a murder scene that takes place alongside a gloomy dock. But after a night’s work, Fincher didn’t have the shot he wanted, and the film’s ultratight schedule meant he wouldn’t be able to return for months.
When Fincher began planning the reshoot, he learned that the property had been sold to one of the guys in ABBA. Apparently, the new owner—either Benny or Björn, it’s not really clear—wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of having his evening stroll interrupted by a simulated drowning, and he refused to let the crew come back. Rather than find a new location or make do with the footage he had, Fincher decided to build his own Swedish dock.
Which is why, on a late-summer afternoon, we’re standing on a Los Angeles soundstage, examining a replica of a rural-Scandinavia mise-en-scène: mossy rocks, foliage-fat trees, and—perched high above the docks, turtlenecking out of the woods—a squat, deceptively cozy faux cottage. Like most sets, it looks a bit weird naked. But once the lights hit and the smoke drifts in, we are suddenly in the land of stunted summers and moderately high suicide rates.
I guess his approach is a bit different than that taken by Clint Eastwood, who loves going with the first take when he feels it’s good enough.
Will Harris was recently invited to New York City to take part in the press junket for Focus Features’ new thriller, “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” and along with partaking in some roundtables with the cast and crew, he also got a chance to sit down for a one-on-one interview with star Gary Oldman. Though the veteran actor had plenty to discuss regarding his role as iconic spy George Smiley, he also had something interesting comments about past performances as well, like how he based the character of Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg from “The Fifth Element” on Bugs Bunny and Ross Perot, and this entertaining story about creating the look of Drexl Spivey for “True Romance.”
You know what? There’s a story behind that. I was putting together that character, and I had no rehearsal and…I was on another movie, so I actually finished on a Sunday evening, drove home, and started Drexl the next day. And I had to kind of put him together, I had to work on him while I was doing something else. Because there just wasn’t the time to meet with Tony (Scott). I wrote him a letter, sent him a note, saying, “I would like dreadlocks. What do you think?” And he said, “Yeah, great.” So I knew Stuart (Artingstall), who had been the wigmaker on “Dracula,” so he made me that wig in about 48 hours. And I went to a dentist – I was working here in New York – who made the gold teeth, and I got the eye from the prop department at the…well, it was one of the eyes I wore for “Dracula”! And I put ‘em all together and walked on the set and hoped Tony liked it.
One of my favorite things about world cinema is that the filmmakers seem more willing to take risks, which is exactly how a movie like “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” gets made. Though it’s only a Christmas film in the vaguest sense of the phrase, the holiday genre could do with more original ideas like this. Set in present day Finland where a team of archaeologists have just unearthed the evil Santa Claus of local lore who eats the children that have been naughty, the movie follows a young boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his reindeer-herding father Rauno (Jorma Tommila) as they inadvertently capture Santa in a wolf trap and hold him for ransom. But when the rest of the village children go missing and Santa’s little helpers begin wreaking havoc in town, Pietari and Rauno discover that there’s more to their prisoner than meets the eye.
But before you start thinking that “Rare Exports” is just another Christmas-themed horror movie like “Silent Night” (even if it seems to be heading in that direction early on), the film is actually more like a strange collaboration between Tim Burton and Steven Spielberg – a dark but whimsical father-son story about one child’s fascination with the Santa Claus myth and his attempt to earn the respect of his dad. Although it takes a while to get going for a movie that’s only 82 minutes long, director Jalmari Helander does a good job of holding the audience’s interest by slowly revealing pieces of the mystery until the film eventually shifts into adventure mode in the final act. “Rare Exports” probably could have done a lot more on a bigger budget, but that would have only taken away from its unique charm.
Today we’re talking about three deluxe Blu-Ray releases of three highly notable films, each hugely important and influential in their own way. Coincidentally, each film also deals with what happens when European powers decide they’d really like to control a piece of the Islamic and/or Judaic world.
* “Ben Hur”— I finally caught up with this most popular of religious epics many moons ago at the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, where it was introduced by it’s then elderly but still fairly hale star, Charlton Heston. Heston might have still been in good shape in the late 1990s or early 2000s, but the 35mm print that was shown on the giant screen, theoretically the best then available, was washed out and wan.
That disappointment is now a thing of the past with a restoration made frame-by-frame from the original 65mm negative that was so painstaking this “50th Anniversary” edition of the 1959 film actually arrives 52 years after the original “Ben Hur” release. At last, the spectacle looks as spectacular as a spectacle should, even if it’s now on relatively small home screens. (My 42 incher is by far the biggest TV I’ve ever had, but it’s obviously not the Cinerama Dome.)