A roundtable chat with producers Irwin and David Winkler of “The Mechanic”

Irwin and David WinklerHealthy father and son relationships are certainly more the exception than the rule at the movies. Even so, the murderous biological and surrogate father and son pairings in the original film “The Mechanic” and its action-packed update with Jason Statham and Ben Foster, are unusually problematic. It’s a tale, after all, about a junior hit-man learning from an older paid killer who has, in turn, killed the younger killer’s dad.

That, of course has pretty much nothing to do with two of the new version’s real-life father and son producers, Irwin and David Winkler. For the remake of the 1971 actioner, the pair have teamed up with another parent-and-offspring team, Irwin Winkler’s long-time producing partner, Bill Chartoff and his son, Robert. (For the record, there are a total of ten producers and five executive producers credited on the film.) Both individually and with Bill Chartoff, the elder Winkler has been involved with a remarkable number of good movies and a few genuine classics, starting with Sydney Pollack’s pitch-black Oscar winner, “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and also including two of Martin Scorsese‘s signature works, “Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas.” Winkler and Chartoff also, of course, produced “The Mechanic,” the first time around when it was as much of a chilling look at sociopathy as it was an action flick.

Like any great producer, Irwin Winkler has had his share of interesting financial failures.  There was the ultra-culty early John Boorman film, “Leo the Last” and Martin Scorsese’s big budget 1977 disappointment “New York, New York.” Fortunately, there was also the occasional modest but high quality success like Bertrand Tavernier’s great 1986 love letter to jazz and jazz fandom, “‘Round Midnight.” He and Bill Chartoff were also key players in one of the most enduring franchises in film history, the one that started with a low-budget boxing drama called “Rocky.” Since 1991’s “Guilty by Suspicion,” Winkler has also occasionally directed. His most recent films include the musical Cole Porter biopic, “De-Lovely,” and the Iraq war drama “Home of the Brave,” which received a speedy burial.

For his part, son David Winkler has worked on a number of television movies as well as with his father on 2006’s “Rocky Balboa.” He also directed the 1998 drama, “Finding Graceland” starring Harvey Keitel.

I was personally anxious to talk to Winklers during a recent L.A. press junket for “The Mechanic” because of an oddball “only in L.A.” family anecdote. I was nevertheless beaten to the punch by an Italian reporter with a rather distinctive interviewing style who tended to dominate the discussion.

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Same movie news, different movie blog

Seems like today, everyone’s talking about the same few news items. I’d hate to be left out.

* Adding to the endless speculation over who will be cast as whom in “Spiderman 4,” Nikki Finke enters the more or less pointless but, I suppose, fun fray by naming Anne Hathaway as having been “approached” for a role which her readers have decreed to be the Black Cat.

* The Academy has come up with a short-list of nominees-to-be-nominees in the Best Documentary category. Everyone is making a big deal about the absence of Michael Moore’s “Capitalism: A Love Story” and then naming any one of a number of highly regarded documentaries that didn’t make the cut, including the rather predictably ignored “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” (looks like too much fun) and James Toback’s look at Mike Tyson (to, er, biting?). I’m personally not thrilled that “We Live in Public,” which I still think might be the most important movie made this year, is out of the running, but then I’m obviously somewhat personally invested. Anne Thompson is right, however, that the doc category is growing ever more interesting and crowded.

* The Oscars have an alliterative director. Will he win an Emmy?

* “New Moon” mania breaks out with news of huge early ticket sales. If you have more time on your hands than me, you can read this very lengthy interview and I’m sure pretty interesting interview with director Paul Weitz. I could barely skim it right now, but here’s a quote that leapt out at me:

I have been kind of hazed into the world of VFX, so I understand how to do that — or at least who to trust — and I get what it is that they’re trying to do. I think that with the right visual effects supervisor, I can direct animators who are animating creatures, who are like actors in that sense. It’s just that their performances are being done over the course of months. Each five-second shot takes months to develop. That stuff I like very much, but I wouldn’t say that I’m either an expert or kind of a savant as far as that goes. That’s Peter Jackson and Guillermo del Toro and Sam Raimi. That’s not me.

  

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