A Roundtable Chat with actress Lesley Manville (“Another Year”)

A classic case of an “overnight success” who’s been working successfully for decades, Lesley Manville was just starting to be able to bask in the glow of a job extremely well done during the junket for “Another Year” last month. A few weeks later, the already simmering Oscar speculation around her performance in the latest film from maverick English director Mike Leigh got an early boost: she won the Best Actress award from the influential National Board of Review alongside a number of nominations elsewhere.

anotheryear-14

Lesley Manville began her career on the stage and British television, making her film debut with a minor role in Mike Newell’s 1985 melodrama, “Dance With a Stranger.” In 1988, she appeared in Mike Leigh’s worldwide breakthrough comedy, “High Hopes,” the first of six films so far with the director known for his uniquely collaborative approach. Notable roles in Leigh’s historically-based “Vera Drake” and “Topsy-Turvy” followed, along with numerous less well known films and television shows. It’s possible that she’s best known to the mass U.S. audience as Mrs. Cratchit from Robert Zemickis’ motion-capture “A Christmas Carol.”

In “Another Year,” Manville portrays Mary, a lonely and progressively more depressed alcoholic whose visits to the home of a contented therapist coworker (Ruth Sheen) and her husband (Jim Broadbent), become increasingly painful. It’s a powerful and all too real-seeming portrayal that has hit Manville’s career with enormous force.

Even without a huge number of awards, I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot of Manville from now on. During the post roundtable chatter, I half jokingly suggested that she should work on her American accent, and she reminded me that she had just recently finished doing the very American play by John Guare, “Six Degrees of Separation.”

Things got a bit interesting late in this group interview, when one of the other writers present asked a question which Manville, perhaps stung by some past public discussion of her short-lived late 1980s marriage to Gary Oldman, deemed overly personal. With a little luck, Lesley Manville will have to deal with more prying from less from the press in years ahead.

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Back to “Back to the Future”

It’s the 25th anniversary of the science fiction comedy from Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. As you might also expect, a 3-disc Blu-Ray set is also hitting stores today featuring the original film and it’s two-sequels.

So, to go with Will Harris’s interview with Gale which includes some more interesting casting details in addition to the ones you’ve probably already heard about, Universal has made available a series of short clips from yesterday’s press conference at New York’s Waldorf Hotel featuring a lot of the cast — Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, and Mary Steenburgen (from “Back to the Future 3”) but not Crispin Glover — as well as Gale and Zemeckis. A lot of them are very brief and I would have been happier if they’d edited it into one clip, but you take what you can get.

We’ve got a bunch of more these after the flip for you diehard “Future” fans.

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An end of week movie news dump for one weird and deadly week

It was thundering and lightning today briefly, unusual in Southern California, where we like our rain nice and quiet. Actually, it barely rained at all, which made if feel weirder. Of course, the really weird thing was all the people who died that you’ve been reading about here and we actually left out a few, including the guy who said this…

Anyhow, here are a few more items from this long, strange week of movie news.

* My reaction to the planned 3-D versions of the all six “Star Wars” movies? Let’s just say at first I thought I was reading the Onion, and then the Movie Hell Times.

* As much as I complain about the way Comicon has gone, taking it out of San Diego would only make it worse and even more impersonal. I never really thought it was going to move, but I’m glad I can be sure about that now. I know this is a controversial statement, but I’m going to go out on a limb: San Diego is nice.

* Even though I admit to not knowing the property all that well, I have a hard time imaging Ron Howard pulling off something like the proposed mega movie/TV adaptation of Stephen King’s massive “The Dark Tower” series. The memoir “My Stroke of Insight” with, perhaps, Jodie Foster in the lead seems much more up his alley. I’m all for people getting out of their comfort zones, but sometimes we have comfort zones for a reason.

* Regular readers here know I’m no gorehound, but a PG-13 “Alien” prequel makes as much sense as an R-rated “Mary Poppins” reboot.

* The late Stanley Kubrick’s attempts to forever suppress his first film have, it seems, come to naught. The semi-legendary “Fear and Desire” has been found in a film lab in Puerto Rico and will be making it’s way to DVD. I’ve seen Kubrick’s little known second film, “Killer’s Kiss” and I’m here to tell you, don’t get too excited. It’s gorgeous but, in terms of storytelling, as dull as dishwater. Kubrick’s career as a film great probably started with his third film, the noir-heist classic “The Killing.”

* The foreign language category for the Oscars has been supremely screwed up for decades because the Academy allows each nation to submit one film, and just one film, for consideration. No surprise that the choices tend to be heavily politicized. It’s only October and we already have two controversies.

* I think’s it’s an enormous stretch to characterize “Cast Away” as a classic, as Mike Fleming seems to think. I also think “Back to the Future” is fun but, well, not a classic either. Robert Zemeckis returning to the world of live action and time travel, and thereby having less time for creepy motion-capture, is nevertheless probably a good thing.

* A bit of inside-baseball. Executive Bob Berney caused quite a ruckus with his sudden departure from indie Apparition earlier this year. His new gig, which seems like it’s seeking to help fill the huge gap in middle-brow low-to-mid budget films, interests me.

* A Beach Boys jukebox musical seems to be in all of our futures. I love musicals and I love about half of the Beach Boys catalogue, but the jukeboxers annoy me. I’d almost rather watch this.

  

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Movie news night notes

The lesson for tonight is never rely on the “save and quit” feature of Mozilla to actually, you know, save your tabs. Here’s what I’ve been able to salvage.

* Probably the biggest geek movie news of today was word via Mike Fleming that “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” director Peter Sollett, also of the critically acclaimed “Raising Victor Vargas,” may helm the upcoming comic book adaptation, “Runaways.” Created by Brian K. Vaughn for Marvel, the book deals with the teenage angst of a group of kids who find out that their parents are supervillians and, of course, like all of us, they have some genetic baggage to deal with. Vaughn is also reportedly working on a script.

Another frequently mentioned name in connection with this project, who may or may not still be in the directorial running, is Joss Whedon, perhaps the cultiest of cult creators these days. Whedon is a natural thought given that he’s an accomplished film-maker comfortable with both relationships and action, made his name dealing with teen-angst on “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” and, much more recently, wrote several issues of “Runaways.”

On the other hand, “Playlist” has a bit of a cult following of its own though Sollett hasn’t had to deal with action yet. Christopher Campbell notes that Sollett “did make an indie romantic film, so like Marc Webb he gets a Marvel superhero movie” and gathers the predictably diverse reaction.

* This may not be the most thoughtful reaction, and it sure does sound like some funny people are involved with it, but the news of the animated “Star Wars” sitcom brings one response to mind: “Noooooooooo!!!”‘

* Another item from AICN’s Hercules, much more to my liking — it’s about the latest restoration of what has to be one of the most often restored movies in film history and certainly one of the most important science fiction films ever made, Fritz Lang’s enormously influential silent film, “Metropolis.” The latest version actually brings the film to its original roughly 2.5 hour running time — the 90 minute version of my youth was more recently brought up to about 2 hours — and will be getting a theatrical run before the inevitable Blu-Ray/DVD release.

metropolis

Better yet,  for me anyway, is that opening night will be at Hollywood’s Chinese Theater as part of the festival sponsored by my favorite movie cable channel by far, the great and glorious TCM.

Do I sound like I’ve been bought off ? That’s because I have been. Specifically, my press credential has just cleared and it looks like I’ll be at that premiere with a live musical accompaniment, come heck or high water. But why does it have to be running opposite Tony Curtis hosting a showing of probably the best sex farce ever made, “Some Like it Hot“?

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Crispin Glover: Not the greedy bastard “Back to the Future” execs made him out to be

Uh oh. Marty McFly’s on the warpath.

Well, as warpath-like as a guy like Crispin Glover can get, anyway. In fact, Glover is the first celeb we ran into at MGM’s (awesome) press junket for their upcoming time-travel comedy “Hot Tub Time Machine,” and it’s in the ski shop, of all places. He had just done some skiing at Diamond Peak (yours truly was renting skis to hit those slopes the next day), and we made small talk about the movie, which we were seeing later that day. “I like it when people throw up,” he told me. Yes, but how did the squirrel feel about it?

As we gathered in the press room to talk to Glover – I was grouped with three other writers, whose names and publications I cannot remember except that one of them writes for Dark Horizons – we all expressed concern that we would not have enough questions to fill a 20-minute interview slot with him. Never fear – Glover would take care of that for us by giving us lengthy answers to even the simplest of questions. Towards the end, though, one of the other writers was feeling ballsy, so he went for it:

“Is there a bitterness at all on your part with the “Back to the Future” series, that you’re so recognized for that, and then what happened with the sequel, and them using your image and everything?”

What happened for the next seven minutes was, well, spectacular.

“On the DVD to the “Back to the Future” trilogy, Bob Gale, who’s one of the writers and executive producers, has said something that’s totally fabricated,” Glover told us. “What he said is that I asked for twice the money that Michael J. Fox asked for. I didn’t do that.”

Ah, but wait. Crispin was just getting warmed up.

Crispin chainsaw

“The way propaganda works, you hear the phrase, ‘the bigger the lie, the more people believe it.’ Basically, what was done was to obfuscate the fact that they had done something extremely wrong by taking another actor and putting him into false nose, chin and cheekbones in order to fool people into believing that I was in the film. This very specific lie that Bob Gale told on the DVD was specifically to not address that what they did was totally immoral and illegal.”

So why did the producers take such an aggressive stance towards their negotiations with Glover? As far as he’s concerned, it was for making an independent film after the runaway success of “Back to the Future,” rather than a studio film.

“In negotiations for the second film, they offered me less than half than any of the other actors that were being asked to come back, Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Tom Wilson. But I was offered…they had all done studio films, and they had made a lot of money. The film I had made between ‘Back to the Future Part I’ and ‘Part II’ was ‘River’s Edge,’ and I did that for scale. So they seemed to argue that it’s okay to offer me far less than any of the other actors that were coming back because I had done this independent art film – which I really like, I’m still very proud of it – but I was being penalized.”

So now we have a culprit and a motive. But Glover wasn’t finished.

“It was not fair, it was not a normal negotiation. And in fact, what normally happens is they’ll make an offer, you’ll make a counter-offer, and then you’ll meet in the middle, or something approximate to that. In this situation, they made an offer, and I didn’t even make a counter-offer. I just said, ‘That’s too low.’ At which point they came back at a lower offer. To me at this point, what was apparent was that they did not want me to be in the film or, if I was going to do it, that it was essentially a punishment that I was going to have to take less than half what everybody else was going to take in order to make the film. It just didn’t seem fair on any level.”

And he still wasn’t finished with Bob Gale.

“Bob Gale didn’t do this just on the DVDs, but he’s been going on radio shows [telling the same story]. I don’t know why.”

While we’re trying not to take sides here, it is important to consider that Glover has since gone on to work with Robert Zemeckis again (in the motion capture clusterfuck “Beowulf”), so clearly their working relationship was decent enough to earn a second go-round. Also, Glover has never had a problem finding work within the studio system since his falling out with the makers of “Back to the Future” – indeed, he just appeared in Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” reboot – and in fact uses their money to finance his own films. His crackpot reputation may precede him, but the man we met in Lake Tahoe couldn’t have been more gracious or candid. And we wore a bitchin’ suit to the party Saturday night.

  

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