Monday night movie news: filmmakers gone wild, again

It’s crazy-time in Tinseltown.

The Incredible Hulk

* I’ll get to some actual criminal matters below, but to me Kevin Feige of Marvel Productions is being criminally weird and unintelligent in how he’s handled the issue of the re-casting of the Hulk for “The Avengers” superhero-team flick being written and directed by Joss Whedon.  Whether or not the issue that led to the parting of the ways was strictly the failure of financial negotiations or some kind of fight between Feige and Edward Norton, there was simply no earthly logical reason for Feige to allude to that in a statement given to Hitfix with some rather nasty coded language, to wit:

We have made the decision to not bring Ed Norton back to portray the title role of Bruce Banner in the Avengers. Our decision is definitely not one based on monetary factors, but instead rooted in the need for an actor who embodies the creativity and collaborative spirit of our other talented cast members. The Avengers demands players who thrive working as part of an ensemble, as evidenced by Robert, Chris H., Chris E., Sam, Scarlett, and all of our talented casts. We are looking to announce a name actor who fulfills these requirements, and is passionate about the iconic role in the coming weeks.

Given the fact that writer-director Whedon has a famously strong creative vision and is not known for loving it when his stuff gets rewritten, and Norton’s status as a strong-willed actor who often rewrites his films (and is pretty good at it), it would be easy to imagine that there was some kind of creative tussle predating this. However, that only creative conflicts appear to be mishegas that happened on Norton’s Hulk movie. According to an understandably angry response from Norton’s agent, the meeting between him and Whedon was a success and, as far as I know, no one has contested that point.

Edward Norton is beautiful when he's angryRegardless, even if the meeting had gone very badly indeed and even if Norton had made unreasonable demands, you still don’t talk about that stuff in a public statement. You simply say that an agreement was not in the offing, but that Norton is a fine actor and film-maker and you’re very sorry you won’t be working together this time around.

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

nicholsenhance

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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Recapturing lost youth

I missed yesterday’s big geek film blogger story, which was the possibility that, having successfully headlined the reboot of “Star Trek” as the James T. Kirk for a younger generation, Chris Pine may now star in reboot #3 of the Jack Ryan series of Tom Clancy adaptations.

Anyhow, in penance, below is the trailer for the first film in the long, intermittent series, 1990’s “The Hunt for Red October.” One kind of shocking thing to consider is that while some think Pine is a little young to play the adventure-prone CIA analyst, Alec Baldwin slightly less than two decades back doesn’t look much older than Pine does today.

And just because I’m a sadist/masochist, and I love good comic timing, here’s a more recent — and very NSFW for language — moment with Mr. Baldwin. In 19 years Chris Pine, too, might become…a character actor.

  

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