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.
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.
The list of Phillip K. Dick adaptations gets one movie longer. This one has a more romantic than usual feeling to it, and also has a stronger-than-usual cast, including Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, the great Terrence Stamp (kneel before him), and John Slattery (“Mad Men” and Tony Stark’s deceased dad in “Iron Man 2“) who is suddenly everywhere these days.
It’s Yom Kippur in Los Angeles today and that means a few people will be fasting (no water, either!) and going to temples and synagogues, some will be using the day as an excuse to play hooky, and even more will be enjoying the smaller amount of traffic. Still, it’s not the kind of town that ever takes a complete day off. Intriguingly, for a day of atonement, issues of crime and punishment are definitely on the table.
* Parts of the ‘net are already in hyperdrive about the suddenly revivified Roman Polanski case and even I’ve been drawn into a couple of ‘net flame wars already at other sites. There does seem to be definite split between Europeans and Americans and also between those connected with show business and not. The short version is that a lot of people still want Polanski’s head on a platter. Never mind the only crimes that were proven was the Californian equivalent of statutory rape, “unlawful sex,” and giving drugs to a minor. Anyhow, Polanski is reported to be resisting extradition. Apparently I’m not the only one in a “fighting mood.”
* This legal morass probably won’t get people’s blood boiling nearly as much, but Anne Thompson points us in the direction of a New York Post story stating that peripatetic celebrity film critic Elvis Mitchell has a $500,000 IRS lien put on him. This follows a 2008 incident in which he was caught at the Canadian border with $12,000 in undeclared cash and some contraband Cuban cigars. Nice to know someone in this movie critic business has made enough to justify that level of IRS interest.
* Kim Masters wonders if John Travolta’s admission that his late son had autism could signal his impending departure from Scientology.
* Amy Kaufman has more on the fiscal problems and solutions of the group that owns the rights to the “Terminator” franchise, which is seemingly as hard to kill as an actual Terminator. As Nikki Finke reminds us, they also have a “first look” deal on the works of science fiction great Phillip K. Dick. What I don’t get is why you need a “first look” at the works of a writer who’s been dead for 27 years.
* Because I’m a few episodes behind (life in the DVR age), I’m also deliberately behind on Jason Zingale’s blogs on “Entourage,” lest I be spoiled. However, the aforementioned Nikki Finke couldn’t resist turning the gag about her in last night’s show into a headline.
A few more items with a retro cast, starting with a sad one.
* It’s simply too big a show business and media story not to mention that the death of Michael Jackson has been ruled a homicide. Though you can argue that it shouldn’t be more than a legal story, there’s really no underestimating the pop-cultural impact of something like this. Certainly, it won’t be lowering the temperature around the upcoming movie built around Jackson’s last performances.
* On a far more pleasant note, Anne Thompson has casting news on Andrew Stanton’s upcoming non-Pixar film of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “John Carter of Mars.” I’m not familiar with most of the names, but Samantha Morton is definitely cool with me.
* Anne Thompson also posted a trailer that I’m borrowing below for Christopher Nolan’s new film with Leonardo DiCaprio, “Inception.” Ms. Thompson calls it a “mind movie.” I wonder if everyone doing well in Hollywood from studio heads to head waiters shouldn’t just tithe to the estate of Phillip K. Dick without whom we’d have none of the film’s in this subgenre would exist. If ever a writer’s impact was underestimated in his own lifetime, he’d be the guy.