A roundtable chat with Kevin Kline of “The Extra Man”

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A highly accomplished stage actor, trained at Julliard under the tutelage of such exacting instructors as the legendary John Houseman, Kevin Kline pretty much started his film career as one of the best of the best, a genuine “actor’s actor” and also something of an old fashioned movie star with the presence to match. His first movie role was opposite Meryl Streep in Alan Pakula’s 1982 Oscar-winning film version of “Sophie’s Choice.” That was followed by Lawrence Kasdan’s Oscar-nominated ensemble dramedy, “The Big Chill,” and a leading role opposite Denzel Washington in Richard Attenborough’s portentous 1987 apartheid drama, “Cry Freedom.”

Though that was followed up by a part in Kasdan’s lighthearted homage to classic westerns, “Silverado,” Kevin Kline’s comic gifts remained under-recognized until his utterly ingenious, deservedly Oscar-winning turn as the murderous and hilariously insecure and pretentious Otto in the farce classic, “A Fish Called Wanda.” After that Kline became one of the screen’s most reliable comic leading men with parts in such high-quality mainstream comedies as “Dave” and “In and Out,” was well as the occasional part in such hard-edged tragicomic dramas as “Grand Canyon,” again with Lawrence Kasdan, and Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm.”

Kline, who recently completed a successful stage run in Edmund Rostand’s Cyrano de Bergerac opposite Jennifer Garner, has — like other outstanding actors of his generation — gracefully moved from the A-list to the art-house. Though once noted for turning down movie roles in favor of stage work — John Stewart reminded him of his “Kevin Decline” nickname on his recent “Daily Show” “Colbert Report” appearance — Kline has been a busy and hugely reliable film actor for decades. More recent roles include the screen’s first correctly gay Cole Porter in the 2004 musical biopic “De-Lovely,” Garrison Keillor’s radio detective Guy Noir in Robert Altman’s 2006 swan song, “A Prairie Home Companion,” Jacques in Kenneth Branagh’s version of Shakespeare’s “As You Like It,” and the 21st century’s version of Inspector Dreyfus opposite Steve Martin‘s Inspector Clouseau in the rebooted “Pink Panther” series.

Add to those the role of the suave but irascible platonic male escort Henry Harrison in Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini’s adaptation of the Jonathan Ames novel, “The Extra Man.” Taking in a confused and nervous younger protegee (Paul Dano of “There Will Be Blood”), Harrison is an utterly reactionary self-made throwback to another time and place, and an ideal role for an actor gifted with the finest of old fashioned acting virtues.

Kevin Kline and Paul Dano in

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Sundance and stuff

* The Sundance Film Festival, easily the second most influential film festival in the world, both for better and for worse, unveiled its 2010 schedule this morning. Anne Thompson takes a close look at the impact of Jim Cooper, who is now running the festival after the departure of Geoff Gilmour. At the one and only Sundance I attended back in 2005, I heard a number of catty, though possibly not inaccurate, remarks to the effect that Gilmour had gone a bit Hollywood in a somewhat James Lipton-esque way. Apparently, things are changing and change is often a good thing.

* Paul Thomas Anderson’s new film is supposedly not about Scientology and, therefore, Philip Seymour Hoffman will not be playing a variation on L. Ron Hubbard. Still, sounds cool. Boy, I wish I had time to check out Anderson’s last film and huge creative departure, “There Will Be Blood,” a second time right now. Jason Zingale’s review might have been short of adoring, but that one has really stayed with me. P.T. Anderson might not be the second coming of Orson Welles, but then, Welles wasn’t exactly the second coming of John Ford either.

* Roman Polanski isn’t going to be set free this week, but he is going to the Milky Way — the name of his digs in the swanky Swiss ski resort town of Gstaad.

* Rupert Everett, who made a bit of history a decade or so back as the first borderline A-list actor to be openly gay, has warned younger actors not to follow suit in new book promo interview in The Guardian. Personally, I’d advise gay performers to take his words with a gigantic grain of salt. Everett is a first rate actor I always enjoy watching but he has, to put it kindly, a big mouth and has said many really questionable things over the years while also saying some really smart things. Not being gay or a famous thespian, I’m perhaps not qualified to judge, but being out sure hasn’t hurt Neil Patrick Harris any lately. I guess the real test will be if the highly accomplished ex-Doogie is  ever allowed to play a more or less serious romantic lead opposite a female.

Nikki Finke has the thoughts of “coming-out PR guru” Howard Bragman:

There may well have been other reasons Rupert didn’t become the leading man he imagined himself going to be. But this isn’t about your bank account. This is about your soul.

* Bloody Disgusting has word that the remake of Alfred Hitchcock‘s “The Birds” is getting a change of directors and will be heading in a direction that will be, yes, more bloody and disgusting.

* In Michael Powell’s horror classic, “Peeping Tom,” a silent-film era cameraman is driven to become a serial killer by the bizarre, fear-inducing experiments performed on him as a child by his psychologist father. A linguist named d’Armond Speers might have been less cruel than the dad in the movie, but speaking only Klingon to his son for the first three years of his life seems like it’s taking some kind of risk. Fortunately, as passed along by Geoff Boucher, it appears the kid turned out normal, linguistically speaking, anyhow. That’s good. Still, I wonder what the word in Klingon is for “meshugeneh.”

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Friday film news dump, pre-Halloween edition

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So much going on today that, unless my Google Reader is lying to me, not a single one of the many film sites and blogs on my list of usual suspects has mentioned that Christopher freaking Lee was knighted today. (I, however, will be paying my respects in the next post.)

Meanwhile….

* The biggest news of the day was expected, I guess. The New York offices of the once might mini-major Miramax, founded by Harvey and Bob Weinstein and since sold off to Disney, have been closed and the annual slate of films significantly downsized. In addition, the division’s “prexy” Daniel Battsek is stepping down, though he is supposed to be supervising the consolidation of the NYC and L.A. offices through January and no replacement has been set. Not surprising in tough times for “small” films. Anne Thompson partially blames what you might call movie mission creep, among other factors.

The main problem with the studio sub-divisions that are being slashed if not eliminated is that they simply don’t return enough on investment. They inevitably drift away from small-scale divisions that push low-budget films into more ambitious upscale operations with more employees and more overhead. With growth comes bigger budgets, more P & A, wider releases, more grandiose Oscar campaigns and often, smaller profits.

Her entire piece is definitely worth a look as she mentions how even some seemingly successful award pictures as “There Will Be Blood” and “Doubt” became money losers or earned less than you might think due to marketing costs and award campaigns.

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