A roundtable chat with Kevin Kline of “The Extra Man”

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A highly accomplished stage actor, trained at Julliard under the tutelage of such exacting instructors as the legendary John Houseman, Kevin Kline pretty much started his film career as one of the best of the best, a genuine “actor’s actor” and also something of an old fashioned movie star with the presence to match. His first movie role was opposite Meryl Streep in Alan Pakula’s 1982 Oscar-winning film version of “Sophie’s Choice.” That was followed by Lawrence Kasdan’s Oscar-nominated ensemble dramedy, “The Big Chill,” and a leading role opposite Denzel Washington in Richard Attenborough’s portentous 1987 apartheid drama, “Cry Freedom.”

Though that was followed up by a part in Kasdan’s lighthearted homage to classic westerns, “Silverado,” Kevin Kline’s comic gifts remained under-recognized until his utterly ingenious, deservedly Oscar-winning turn as the murderous and hilariously insecure and pretentious Otto in the farce classic, “A Fish Called Wanda.” After that Kline became one of the screen’s most reliable comic leading men with parts in such high-quality mainstream comedies as “Dave” and “In and Out,” was well as the occasional part in such hard-edged tragicomic dramas as “Grand Canyon,” again with Lawrence Kasdan, and Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm.”

Kline, who recently completed a successful stage run in Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Jennifer Garner, has — like other outstanding actors of his generation — gracefully moved from the A-list to the art-house. Though once noted for turning down movie roles in favor of stage work — John Stewart reminded him of his “Kevin Decline” nickname on his recent “Daily Show” “Colbert Report” appearance — Kline has been a busy and hugely reliable film actor for decades. More recent roles include the screen’s first correctly gay Cole Porter in the 2004 musical biopic “De-Lovely,” Garrison Keillor’s radio detective Guy Noir in Robert Altman’s 2006 swan song, “A Prairie Home Companion,” Jacques in Kenneth Branagh’s version of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” and the 21st century’s version of Inspector Dreyfus opposite Steve Martin‘s Inspector Clouseau in the rebooted “Pink Panther” series.

Add to those the role of the suave but irascible platonic male escort Henry Harrison in Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s adaptation of the Jonathan Ames novel, “The Extra Man.” Taking in a confused and nervous younger protegee (Paul Dano of “There Will Be Blood”), Harrison is an utterly reactionary self-made throwback to another time and place, and an ideal role for an actor gifted with the finest of old fashioned acting virtues.

Kevin Kline and Paul Dano in

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Film Franchises from abroad, #2

Unlike the last film in this brief series of posts, you won’t see Americans remaking, I hope, the “OSS 117” series. Based on a series of previously filmed books that are, I understand, the French equivalent of James Bond, this new series sends up the genre with terrific period detail and an extremely funny lead performance from Jean Dujardin who goes way past Mike Meyers as Austin Powers and winds up closer to Peter Sellers as Inspector Clouseau. His Hubert Bonisseur de la Bath is a masterpiece of clue-free over-confidence.

It’s only playing in three theaters right now and I haven’t seen it yet myself, but if either spy spoofs or slapstick are your thing, you’ll probably want to check out “OSS 117: Lost in Rio,” which picks up the adventures of Monsieur Bonnisseur 12 years after the events of “OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies.” I’m certainly looking forward to it.

  

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Weekend box office preview — how high will “Iron Man 2” fly?

“Pretty high” is the obvious answer. As I write this, the first midnight shows are just finishing up the trailers on the East Coast, fanboys are queuing up in the Midwest, and their West Coast brethren are enjoying their pre-film burgers and Red Bull, but as far as everyone seems to be concerned, the sequel to the surprise “four quadrant” mega-blockbuster of 2008 is already a massive hit.  “Iron Man 2” has been booked into a record number of theaters, 4,380 according to Box Office Mojo.

Robert Downey Jr. in

Moreover, Nikki Finke is reporting that the film has already earned $132 million from 53 assorted countries where it has already opened. The summer solstice is more than six weeks away, but summer-time film madness is, we are informed, very much upon us. (Just btw, Anthony D’Alessandro offers a brief historical look at the outward creep of the summer movie season over the last couple of decades.)

So, the question remains, just how many millions will the second film about billionaire Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) fetch. Will it beat the record $158.4 million opening of “The Dark Knight” and crack $160 mill? Or, will it get a mere $140 million or so and send everyone to the immensely well appointed and hugely relative poor house? That seems to be the floor being offered up by the various gurus, including Ben Fritz of the L.A. Times‘ Company Town blog and THR’s jolly Carl DiOrio, who characteristically seems to be leaning slightly towards the possibility of a huge opening for Marvel and Paramount.

Nevertheless, there is a small dark cloud here and that’s the general perception, at least among us press types — who are, I remind you again, people too — that “Iron Man 2” is, while not at all bad, also not as good as the first one. This is a rare case where I’ve actually seen the week’s big movie in advance myself and, quality wise, I’m seeing this one as a glass-half-empty. For me, the story simply fails to find a strong emotional connection between Tony Stark’s troubles and the various threats he’s facing. It all feels a bit vague and disconnected despite director Jon Favreau’s way with humor, mostly good acting, and some very decent action scenes.

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A movie moment for Leo the Lion

As preparations continue for the impending sale of MGM, it’s an ironic state of affairs that what actually interests purchasers are not films from Louis B. Mayer’s iconic studio, the best known of which have all been sold off, but from the company’s later purchase of United Artists. Even more ironically, that was a studio originally founded by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks, and D.W. Griffith in order to be free of people like Louis B. Mayer, but which later found success with two highly profitable continuing characters, Inspector Clouseau of “The Pink Panther,” and James Bond.

In any case, now seems as good a time to gaze on the many faces of probably the best known of all studio logos.

That last Leo looks a bit short of mane and girly to me, but by 1957, MGM really wasn’t quite the same.

  

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Forever Typecast: 15 Actors Who Can’t Escape Their Characters

We here at Bullz-Eye always knew that we wanted to run a piece in conjunction with the release of “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince,” but what we didn’t know was what kind of piece it would be. We considered the matter, and we came to the conclusion that it would’ve been a little too easy to whip up a list of our favorite Hollywood wizards. In the midst of the discussion, however, an observation was raised about the film itself: what’s going to happen to these kids – Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson – after the last of the “Harry Potter” books has been adapted for the silver screen? Will they be able to rise above their roles and find work elsewhere, or are they destined to be remembered solely as Harry, Ron and Hermione? From there, we quickly began to bandy about the names of other folks who have and haven’t been able to score success in other cinematic identities, and the piece began to write itself. Ultimately, only one of our selections seemed impossible to pigeonhole as either “Forever Typecast” or “Escaped Typecasting,” and when you see that actor’s name, we think you’ll nod your head knowingly and understand exactly why we had that problem.

Here’s a sample of the piece, to hopefully tempt you into checking out the whole thing:

Mark Hamill, AKA Luke Skywalker:

Mark Hamill may not have had much in the way of cinematic credits when he was introduced to the world as Luke Skywalker, future Jedi, in “Star Wars,” but he’d sure as heck done his time on the TV circuit, appearing on everything from “The Partridge Family” to “The Streets of San Francisco,” even playing a guy named Doobie Wheeler on “The Texas Wheelers.” But when you’re the star of the greatest space opera of all time ,you’ve got to expect a certain amount of blowback, and Hamill got it in spades. Despite starring in the fondly remembered “Corvette Summer” with Annie Potts and being directed by Samuel Fuller in the critically acclaimed “The Big Red One,” things just weren’t happening for the guy outside of the “Star Wars” universe…well, unless you consider being third-billed to Kristy McNichol and Dennis Quaid in “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia” to be happening, that is. Post- “Return of the Jedi,” Hamill did a few straight-to-video features before realizing that he might well find more luck off the camera and in the recording booth. Having already worked for Hanna-Barbera in the early ’70s, it was a quick transition for Hamill to return to the world of voiceover acting, and it was a move that paid off in a big way. Whether you’ve known it or not, you’ve heard his dulcet tones providing voices for “The Adventures of Batman & Robin” (The Joker), “Spider-Man” (Hobgoblin), “Avatar: The Last Airbender” (Ozai), and “Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go!” (The Skeleton King), among dozens of others. Good for him, we say. But the truth of the matter remains: when you see his face, Mark Hamill is still Luke Skywalker.

Got the idea? Great! To see the rest of the feature, either click right here or on the big ol’ image below:

  

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