A chat with Gale Anne Hurd, producer of “The Walking Dead”

Gale Anne Hurd, producer of There aren’t many producers around these days whose name can help sell a movie or TV show, but Gale Anne Hurd is the rare exception. Probably best known as one of the co-creators of “The Terminator” franchise, Hurd has been an important player in numerous mega- or merely major productions, including both “Hulk” and “The Incredible Hulk,” “The Abyss,” “Armageddon,” “The Punisher,” and the underrated 1999 comedy “Dick,” which starred Dan Hedaya as Richard Milhous Nixon and a young Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as a couple of teenagers who wind up bringing down a presidency.

Clearly one of the more hands-on producers around, Hurd is pleasant and businesslike when talking to a member of the show-biz press, but clearly has the gumption to deal with the biggest and most difficult of personalities, which is how I segue into the obligatory mention of the fact that she spent the part of the late eighties and early nineties being married to first James Cameron and then Brian De Palma. Moreover, she began her career working for one the most fascinating and effective producers in the history of the medium, Roger Corman, but more of that in the interview.

Still, nothing she’s done is quite like her current project, the zombie horror drama and comic book adaptation, “The Walking Dead.” The AMC television series, adapted from a series of acclaimed comics by Robert Kirkman primarily by writer-director Frank Darabont (“The Shawshank Redemption,” “The Green Mile,” “The Mist”) is currently receiving maximum exposure on the web. The publicity train was only just getting started when I spoke to Ms. Hurd at a mammoth new San Diego hotel adjacent to the Comic-Con festivities last summer.

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I had typed my questions on my laptop, which I was afraid might be a little off-putting. So, after a quick greeting, I tried to explain why.

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Trailer for a Sunday afternoon: “How Do You Know”

Even James L. Brooks’ most successful movies as a writer-director — “Terms of Endearment” comes to mind — have often had a tendency to be mawkish and a little too overtly manipulative for their own good. On the other hand, there’s absolutely no doubt that the man can write. He’s penned some of the sharpest and most memorable, witty, and just plain funny dialogue of anyone in post classic-era Hollywood.

So, why did he fail to put a question mark in the title of “How Do You Know”? I guess the logic is that periods are routinely left out of titles that are complete declarative sentences like, I don’t know, “Bring Me the Head of Alfred Garcia” or that titles which do contain question marks, like “Who is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me?,” have often been attached to box office failures. I don’t care; I’m missing the question mark. Anyhow, take a look.


‘How Do You Know’ Theatrical Trailer @ Yahoo! Video

I don’t know about you, but I think this is an absolutely first-rate trailer¬† in that it held my attention beautifully and I laughed very loudly at least three times. No question about it (yuk, yuk, yuk), “How Do You Know” looks like the kind of movie that may briefly bring back what was once a relatively frequent Hollywood stand-by: the sharply written, (I hope) not too sentimental, screwball romantic comedy that appeals to people of all ages and genders, though an IQ might help.

Considering the December release date, it’s looking like Columbia is hoping for some Oscar love. It’s been sixty years since a brainy and heartfelt rom-com like “The Philadelphia Story” could be a serious Oscar player. However, we know the Academy loves Mr. Brooks so, Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and maybe even Jack Nicholson have a much better chance at Oscar nominations this year than, say, the cast of “Machete.”

R/t Anne Thompson.

  

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Red Carpet Chatter: Mike Nichols Gets His AFI Lifetime Achievement Award

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Born in 1931 in what was very soon to become Hitler’s Germany, young Michael Peschkowsky was living in Manhattan by 1939. It was great luck both for the future Mike Nichols and for the country that accepted him.

Nichols is, of course, one of the most respected directors in Hollywood, and for good reason. He’s the original, craftsmanlike, and emotionally astute directorial voice responsible for such sixties and seventies classics as “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,”¬† “Carnal Knowledge” and, of course, “The Graduate” (the source of his only directorial Oscar so far) as well as such eighties, nineties, and oughts successes as “Silkwood,” “Working Girl,” “The Birdcage,” and “Closer.” Even if some of the later films are not on the same level of quality as his earlier films — and several, especially his 1988 box office hit, “Working Girl,” stray into mediocrity — it’s still one of the most impressive and diverse careers of any living director in Hollywood.

That’s just on the big screen. On television, Nichols has rebounded in the eyes of many critics, directing two of the most acclaimed television productions of the last decade, 2001’s “Wit” with Emma Thompson, and the outstanding 2005 miniseries adaptation of Tony Kushner’s brilliant and mammoth epic play, “Angels in America.” With his 80th birthday just a year and a half away, he’s still working hard with two thrillers movies planned, including an I’ll-believe-it-when-I-see-it remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “High and Low” currently being rewritten by the decidedly counter-intuitive choice of Chris Rock.

Before he directed his first foot of film, Mike Nichols was a noted theater director. That in itself is not so unusual a root for directors to travel. What is different is that, before he was a noted theater director, he was half of one of the most influential comedy teams in show business history, Nichols and May. (His comedy partner, Elaine May, went on to become an important, if less commercially successful, writer and director in her own right.)

Still, from the moment he directed his first major play, Neil Simon’s “Barefoot in the Park,” Nichols mostly abandoned performing. Today, his highly regarded early work is mostly known only to fairly hardcore comedy aficionados.

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Can you dig it?

From “Head” (1968) starring the Monkees, directed by Bob Rafealson and co-written by Jack Nicholson. It’s not exactly your usual rock and roll movie, but it’s not without some fun. If you live in L.A. and aren’t a college football fan (go Bruins), you can see it tomorrow night in a spanking new print with “A Hard Day’s Night.”

  

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Take that Kyle Smith! A very special movie moment

I could go on and on and on about how stupid I think Kyle Smith’s attempted take-down of the entire Harry Potter series is. But, rather than go on at length with thoughts about how anyone who writes for the mendacious New York Post should think several times before discussing morality in culture, I’ll simply go with a Harry Potter-inspired fantasy movie moment I forgot to include over the weekend.

This one is from perhaps my favorite Roger Corman film, the relatively lavish 1963 B-picture, “The Raven.” Much more a comedy/dark fantasy than a horror film, and only tangentially related to the Edgar Allen Poe poem, it is written by the great horror/fantasy writer Richard Matheson (the novel I Am Legend, both the book and the film “Somewhere in Time,” and innumerable “Twilight Zone” episodes) and featured three of the true greats of old school horror typecasting: Boris Karloff, Vincent Price, and (sadly not featured in this video) Peter Lorre. An extremely young Jack Nicholson is also on hand in the kind of bland, male ingenue roles that helped him to consider writing as a career.

I guess this might be the closest the movies have come to Harry vs. Voldemort until the second “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow’s: Part II.” Of course, since I haven’t read the final Potter novel yet, for all I know they settle the whole thing on page 1 with card tricks and an applause meter.

  

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