What’s Up, Doc? Behind the Scenes With Barbra Steisand, Ryan O’Neal and Peter Bogdanovich

I would venture to say that the best screwball comedy of all time would be the film, What’s Up, Doc? with Barbra Streisand and Ryan O’Neal, directed by Peter Bogdanovich.

Don’t believe me?  Here’s some behind the scenes:

Behind the Scenes Stunts for Whats Up Doc Movie

Behind the Scenes and Stuntwork for the Movie What's Up, Doc? with Ryan O'Neal and Barbra Streisand and directed by Peter Bogdanovich

Posted by Best Movie Stunts on Monday, July 9, 2018

And the following trailer has some great behind the scenes footage:

Whats Up Doc Movie Trailer Peter Bogdanovich Barbra Streisand Ryan O'Neal

What's Up, Doc? Movie Trailer Barbra Streisand Ryan O'Neal Peter Bogdanovich

Posted by Unofficial: Movie Trailers on Monday, July 9, 2018

We also feature a wonderful Blog post about the origin of this film and screwball comedies in general, click here to read more.

Why is No-one Talking About Logan Marshall-Green in Upgrade?

I don’t single out actors very often…rather as often as I should, but sometimes a performance is so perfect that it screams to be talked about. Logan Marshall-Green has one of the finest performances in a genre picture than I have seen literally in years. And because it’s a genre picture…meaning sci-fi horror action (not award season bound) it’s never going to be given the proper praise it deserves.

Logan Marshall-Green is BRILLIANT as Grey Trace, who is a self-described technophobe in a future version of earth that is FILLED with technology. His world gets literally turned upside down when his wife is killed by a group of military assassins and he is left paralyzed from the neck down. He sets his mind to solving her murder when he is given a second chance at life, and revenge, when an experimental chip, called STEM is implanted in his spine, giving him the ability to walk again. But along with that ability comes a whole computerized litany of technology-based abilities that he uncovers over the course of the mystery.

To see how incredible Logan Marshall-Green is in the role, you just have to go to the very first scene of his investigation to find his wife’s murderer, when he breaks into the house of one of the men who ambushed them. I won’t be a spoiler here or anywhere in this article by revealing any surprises or plotlines– but just know that it’s off the hook from here on out. The BRILLIANT part of his acting is to see his face react one way–while his body does the exact opposite. It’s a tour-de-force of acting that I simply have never seen before– and so good that you don’t realize what the actor had to do to be THAT natural and realistic. He reacts EXACTLY as we do as the audience–in complete awe.

My only word for it is BRILLIANT (obviously) and I truly hope that this film does well and that Logan Marshall-Green is finally noticed as a top-tier A-list actor. He’s becoming one of my favorite actors to watch, and I can’t wait to see what he has coming up next. You’d probably recognize him from Prometheus, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Devil or a slew of TV shows. Logan, if you ever read this– keep up the good work, man, I love it!

Upgrade, is written and directed by the fantastic Leigh Whannell. Everything he touches benefits from his contact. Leigh, you just released my favorite movie of the year. Great job.

 

Top 15 Comedy Road Trip Movies

Road Trip movies are some of the most unexpected gems over the past decades, as they usually sneak up on you–but they are definitely at the top of my list as some of the greatest comedies of all time.  Here’s my list for the top 15:

15 – Oh Brother Where Art Thou (2000)

A Coen Brother’s classic, you probably wouldn’t think about this being a road movie…but it is.  It’s also based on, arguably the biggest literary road trip…Homer’s The Odyssey!  Although Homer is given a co-writing credit on the film, Joel Coen and Ethan Coen claim never to have read “The Odyssey” and are familiar with it only through cultural osmosis and film adaptations. The title of this movie didn’t come from the book at all, but rather another movie. “O Brother Where Art Thou?” comes from the title of the movie-within-a-movie in Preston Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941). John Turturro has called this movie “a hillbilly musical comedy adventure.”

14 – Sideways (2004)

You would probably be surprised to find out that Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church had to audition for their roles in the film. You’d be even more surprised to find out that for the scene that Thomas Haden Church read for during the audition, it called for the actor to strip naked, which he did and was later surprised to find out that out of all the actors who auditioned for the same part with the same scene…he was the ONLY one to strip naked. And it got him the role. George Clooney campaigned for the part of Jack, but Alexander Payne thought Clooney was too big a star. However, Clooney got to play the lead in Payne’s next full feature, The Descendants (2011). Paul Giamatti admitted to faking every bit of wine knowledge, and not understanding why anybody would care about it. He also claims he was shocked that he was cast in a lead role and initially thought it was a practical joke. Paul Giamatti admitted in interviews that he doesn’t like wine.

13 – Kingpin (1996)

The Farrelly brothers bowled a strike with this one. It came out the same year as the Big Lebowski and I have to admit liking this one just a touch better. As is the case with most of his films, Bill Murray ad-libbed virtually every line he spoke. He would read over the script, get the “general” idea, and then discard it. The Farrelly brothers, on the DVD commentary, said that they’re very glad he did because it was funnier. Turned out, Bill was also a very good bowler. Bill Murray really bowled three strikes in a row in the scene where his character, Ernie McCracken does the same. The crowd’s reaction is genuine and is actually for Murray. Woody Harrelson, on the other hand, was a terrible bowler and according to the Farrelly brothers maybe got one or two strikes throughout the filming.

12 – Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

Steve Carell, at the time he was cast for Little Miss Sunshine (2006), was a relative unknown in Hollywood. According to an article in Entertainment Weekly, the producers of the film worried that he wasn’t a big enough star and didn’t have much acting experience. However, between the time the film was shot in the summer of 2005 and its release in the summer of 2006, Carell became a huge success as the star of the high-grossing film The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) in August 2005 and the leading character of the popular NBC Emmy-winning television series The Office (2005), which premiered in March 2005 and for which Carell won a Golden Globe in 2006 for best lead actor in a comedy television series. In the span of just one year, Carell had become such a star that the producers had gone from protesting his casting to tapping him to do prominent promotion for the film. Bill Murray was the original choice to play Frank. The second choice was Robin Williams.  Thomas Haden Church turned down the role of Richard Hoover, a decision he said he later regretted.

11 – It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

Stanley Kramer, who was known for doing serious films like Inherit the Wind (1960) and Judgment at Nuremberg (1961), set out to make this the ultimate comedy film. It became well known that Stanley Kramer was casting nearly every comedy performer he could think of. Some famous stars actually contacted Kramer to volunteer for the project, or to inquire as to why they had not been contacted. When this film was made there were about 100 stunt performers in the US. About 80 of them worked on this film. When the cast first assembled for a meeting with director Stanley Kramer, they were shown the stunts and second unit footage that had already been shot. Buddy Hackett was so impressed that he went to Kramer and asked, “What do you need US for?”

The film was so crammed with action that each leading actor was given two scripts: one for the dialogue and one for physical comedy. For one particular stunt, a billboard that the twin-engine Beechcraft flies through was made of thin balsa wood, except for a thicker frame for support. Stunt pilot Frank Tallman had to fly the aircraft directly through the center of the billboard or the thicker frame would shear off a wing. The billboard was located in Irvine, at what is now the intersection of Interstate 405 and Hwy. 133 (Laguna Canyon), near Lion Country Safari, just east of John Wayne Airport. They had practiced with paper signs but used balsa wood for the actual movie stunt. The wood stopped one engine and the other was sputtering enough that the plane barely made it back to John Wayne Airport.

10 – Midnight Run (1988)

The boxcar scene where Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) and John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) discuss whether or not they could ever be friends, was almost entirely improvised on-set. As regards Grodin’s famous, “You ever had sex with an animal, Jack?” line, he was told by Director Martin Brest to come up with something that was guaranteed to make even Robert De Niro laugh. The scene where John Mardukas (Charles Grodin) falls off a cliff was shot in the Salt River Canyon in eastern Arizona. However, the conclusion of the scene, the shots of Mardukas and Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) crashing through the river rapids, was shot in New Zealand, because the water was too cold in Arizona. I have to pause here…too cold. In Arizona.

9 – Paper Moon (1973)

I talk about this movie in a post about Madeline Kahn, you can read it here: KAHN  Ryan O’Neal and daughter Tatum O’Neal are both excellent as well as Madeline Kahn, in this. Tatum O’Neal was 10 years old when she won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in this movie, making her the youngest person ever to win an Oscar in a competitive category. As of 2018, she still holds this record. She was four years younger than her rival nominee, Linda Blair, in The Exorcist (1973). Some Hollywood insiders suspected that Tatum O’Neal’s performance was “manufactured” by Peter Bogdanovich. It was revealed that the director had gone to great lengths, sometimes requiring as many as fifty takes of some of her scenes, in order to capture the “effortless” natural quality for which Tatum was critically praised. Either way, Bogdanovich maintained later that working with the young actress was “one of the most miserable experiences” of his life.

Prior to finalizing casting, Peter Bogdanovich says he met with Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal at their Malibu home. When Ryan invited Bogdanovich to start an exercise regimen of running on the beach, Tatum countered he wasn’t the type. When she explained to Bogdanovich she said that because he wouldn’t take his shoes or shirt off, he told Ryan, “She’ll do.” Peter Bogdanovich didn’t think the movie would make much money or would be very successful. He certainly didn’t think Tatum O’Neal would win the Oscar.  The film spawned an unsuccessful TV series Paper Moon (1974) starring Jodie Foster.

8 – Cannonball Run (1981)

I talk about Cannonball run at length at a post you can read HERE. In one of the earlier scenes in the movie, J.J. McClure (Burt Reynolds) said “Could get a black Trans Am”, and then answers himself, “Naw, that’s been done.” This is a reference to Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Smokey and the Bandit II (1980), which starred Reynolds, and was directed by Hal Needham, who directed this film. DeLuise co-starred with Reynolds in Smokey and the Bandit II (1980).

7 – The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

According to director Stephan Elliott, he took the three leads out in drag prior to the beginning of filming. None of them were recognized: Guy Pearce took the opportunity to be outrageously rude, Terence Stamp eventually forgot he was in drag and started hitting on girls, and Hugo Weaving got super-drunk and lay under a table for hours, tapping his finger in time to the music. This last detail was incorporated into the film in the hotel room scene.

6 – Dumb and Dumber (1994)

Harry and Lloyd are named after the (silent) comedy star Harold Lloyd. The feature film debut for Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. They said years later that the main reason they got the job was that Jim Carrey’s breakthrough film role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (1994) had been directed by someone who had never done a feature film before (Tom Shadyac) and after a positive first meeting with the Farrellys, Carrey decided to give them the job in hopes of replicating that success. According to the Farrelly brothers, Jeff Daniels wasn’t wanted for the film, but Jim Carrey wanted him in it. In order to ensure a no from him, they offered Daniels $50,000 for the role. He accepted without any hesitation nor did he attempt to negotiate, despite insistence from his agent the film would “kill his career.” By 1994, the film was Daniels’ most successful.

5 – It Happened One Night (1934)It Happened One Night (1934) became the first film to perform a “clean sweep” of the top five Academy Award categories, known as the Oscar “grand slam”: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, and Best Screenplay. This feat would later be duplicated by One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) in 1976 and The Silence of the Lambs (1991) in 1992. However, It Happened One Night is the only one not nominated in any other category. According to Frank Capra in an interview with Richard Schickel for “The Men Who Made the Movies”, “We made the picture really quickly–four weeks. We stumbled through it, we laughed our way through it. And this goes to show you how much luck and timing and being in the right place at the right time means in show business; how sometimes no preparation at all is better than all the preparation in the world, and sometimes you need great preparation, but you can never out-guess this thing called creativity. It happens in the strangest places and under the strangest of circumstances. I didn’t care much for the picture, ] it turned out to be ‘It Happened One Night’.” Is often credited as the very first screwball comedy.

4 – Tommy Boy (1995)Rob Lowe played the supporting role of Tommy’s stepbrother and is uncredited. The reason for this is because Rob was contractually obligated to Stephen King’s The Stand (1994) at the time, so he took the part simply as a favor for friend Chris Farley. According to David Spade, he and Chris Farley got into a physical altercation on the set. Spade had gone out for a drink with Rob Lowe the night before. Farley had become very jealous and angrily repeated: “How’s Rob Lowe?”. David got so fed up with Chris hounding him on the subject that he threw his Diet Coke on him, to which Chris responded by throwing David into a wall and down the stairs. After the fight, Spade walked off the set and refused to continue filming. The pair would sometimes go for hours without talking to each other, talk to each other through the director, etc.

3 – The Blues Brothers (1980)During filming one of the night scenes, John Belushi disappeared and could not be located. Dan Aykroyd looked around and saw a single house with its lights on. He went to the house and was prepared to identify himself, the movie, and that they were looking for Belushi. Before he could, the homeowner looked at him, smiled and said, “You’re here for John Belushi, aren’t you?” The homeowner then told them Belushi had entered their house, asked if he could have a glass of milk and a sandwich, and then crashed on their couch. Situations like this prompted Aykroyd to affectionately dub Belushi as “America’s Guest”. John Candy orders three orange whips. This line was not scripted; Candy just improvised. While also a cocktail, Orange Whip provided refreshments for the crew, and Costumer Sue Dugan was daughter of the Director of Sales for Orange Whip, Kenny Dugan, who asked the brand be mentioned in the film.

2 – Smokey and the Bandit (1977)A majority of the lines and quotes spoken by Jackie Gleason character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice were improvised. Jackie Gleason reportedly modeled his character, Sheriff Buford T. Justice, after Burt Reynolds’ description of his father, a Florida police officer and Chief of Police. Among the character traits that came from this was the use of “sumbitch”, a colloquial pronunciation of “son of a bitch”. Jackie Gleason said the cafe scene with himself and Burt Reynolds was not in the original story, it was Gleason’s idea. Adding the Junior Justice character was Jackie Gleason’s idea. “I can’t be in the car alone,” Gleason said. “Put someone in there with me to play off of.”

Hal Needham was better known in the film industry as a stuntman and had great difficulty in getting any producers interested in this project. Only when his close friend Burt Reynolds agreed to star in the film did he manage to gain studio attention. Hal Needham asked Jerry Reed to write a theme song for the film. A couple of hours later, Reed presented “East Bound and Down” to Needham. With an acoustic guitar, Reed started to play it and Needham immediately stopped him. Thinking Needham didn’t like it, Reed offered to re-write the song. To which Needham replied: “If you change one note, I’ll kill you!” The song went on to become one of Reed’s biggest hits.

1 – Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)John Hughes, in an interview on the “Those Aren’t Pillows” DVD, said he was inspired to write the film’s story after an actual flight from New York to Chicago he was on, was diverted to Wichita, Kansas, thus taking him five days to get home. John Hughes wrote the first draft of the screenplay in three days. His average writing time for a screenplay in those days was about three to five days with twenty-some re-writes. Steve Martin was convinced to join the production after favoring two scenes he had read from the script; the seat adjustment-scene in the car, and the F-word tirade at the car rental desk. John Candy and Steve Martin’s favorite film that they have made. Although John Hughes was in a bad mood throughout the filming, as his life was falling apart, John Candy and Steve Martin had a great time together during production.

Top 15 Kevin Costner Movies

Kevin Costner has so many great movies, it was difficult in paring down the best ones to a minimal 15, but I did it to the dismay of all Bull Durham fans out there–it was on the bubble and I had to cut it. With that being said, here’s my top 15 Kevin Costner movies:

15 – No Way Out (1987)Many people consider Tom Farrell in No Way Out as the performance that launched Kevin Costner’s career as a leading man.  No Way Out was a remake of The Big Clock (1948 – Great movie by the way) starring Ray Milland in the Costner role and Charles Laughton in Gene Hackman’s role. This is a fantastic thriller and some, though not all, scenes supposedly inside the Pentagon were filmed there. The most notable on-location scene occurred inside the actual office of the Secretary of Defense.

14 – The Guardian (2006)The opening story of the helo rescue gone bad was loosely based on a real event that occurred August 7, 1981. The crew of CG1471 from Airsta Kodiak was responding to a distress call of a fishing vessel near Prince William Sound. As the crew attempted to hoist the survivors of the boat, a wave hit the tail of CG1471 causing the helo to crash into the seas. A painting named “So Others May Live” hangs on CG Airsta Kodiak depicting the rescue. In real life, actors Kevin Costner and Ashton Kutcher are both members of the Delta Chi fraternity. Interestingly, in this film, Clancy Brown portrays “Captain William Hadley” and in “The Shawshank Redemption” he portrays “Captain Byron Hadley.”

13 – The Postman (1998)The second post-apocalyptic feature film which Kevin Costner stars in the lead role as a drifter with no name. The other film is coming up on this list at number 10. People are probably freaked out that I picked this movie over Bull Durham or Wyatt Earp or Message in a Bottle, but I simply loved this film more than those.

12 – Open Range (2003)Robert Duvall was the only actor that Kevin Costner had in mind for the role of Boss Spearman. Robert Duvall accepted the role of Boss Spearman within twenty-four hours of reading the script. Costner said if Duvall had turned down the part, he might not have made the movie at all. Originally, the studio had Kevin Costner top-billed over Robert Duvall, but Costner asked the studio to top-bill Duvall instead. At only two hours and nineteen minutes, this is the shortest of the three movies Kevin Costner self-directed. They average three hours each.

11 – Dances With Wolves (1990)Michael Blake wrote a spec screenplay in the early 1980s. When Kevin Costner came across the project in 1986, he suggested to Blake that he should turn it into a novel, thereby increasing his chances of getting it made into a film. Blake did so and after many rejections found a publisher in 1988. Costner immediately snapped up the movie rights with an eye to directing it himself.  The studio wanted the final cut to be 2 hours 20 minutes. They had to settle for Kevin Costner’s cut of At 236 minutes, the director’s cut of “Dances with Wolves is the longest of Costner’s three self-directed movies, which average 3 hours.

10 – Water World (1995)Kevin Costner insisted that his friend Kevin Reynolds be given the director’s position as they had previously worked on Fandango and Robin Hood together. Later, Costner had a falling out with Reynolds over the film’s direction, but they would come together again after this movie to film the Hatfields and the McCoys.  Despite reports, on the contrary, Costner worked extremely hard on this film and was on the set 157 days, working 6 days a week. Kevin Costner and Kim Coates became good friends after this movie and later worked together on Open Range which was directed by Costner.

9 – For The Love of The Game (1999)After pitching his perfect game at Yankee Stadium, Kevin Costner’s character carries John C. Reilly to his hotel room, where Reilly says to him, “you’re the cream in my coffee.” In Costner’s movie JFK (1991) a woman on the street comes up to him asking if he remembers singing with her at a party to which he responds, “oh right, we sang ‘you’re the cream in my coffee'” as he walks away. The movie’s production and release coincided with the fact that two real life perfect games were pitched at Yankee Stadium during that time frame. David Wells of the Yankees threw a perfect game against the Minnesota Twins at the Stadium in May 1998, six months prior to the filming of game scenes there. David Cone, also of the Yankees, would pitch a perfect game at Yankee Stadium against the Montreal Expos in July 1999, almost exactly two months prior to the film’s release.

8 – The Bodyguard (1992)

This film was originally proposed in the mid-’70s, starring Diana Ross and Steve McQueen, but was rejected as “too controversial”. The film concept was to be attempted again in the late 1970s, with Ryan O’Neal and Diana Ross cast as the leads. The project fell through after only a few months because of irreconcilable differences between O’Neal and Ross, who had been dating. Kevin Costner said that he based his portrayal of Frank Farmer on actor Steve McQueen. He even went as far as to get McQueen’s trademark haircut for the role. This was Whitney Houston’s first movie role. Kevin Costner was one of the movie’s producers. He campaigned to have Houston play Rachel. Whitney Houston would give Kevin Costner singing lessons on set in exchange for acting advice. It was Kevin Costner’s idea for Whitney Houston to start “I Will Always Love You” a capella. Originally I Will Always Love You” wasn’t in the movie – the big single was “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted.” When that song was used in Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Kevin Costner suggested: Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.” It would become Whitney’s signature song.

7 – JFK (1992)

Oliver Stone was given a copy of Jim Garrison’s book, “On the Trail of the Assassins“, by a friend to read on the plane to the Philippines during the filming of Platoon (1986). After reading the book, Stone knew he’d found a new film project. After reading Jim Garrison’s book, Oliver Stone immediately bought the rights with his own money. Donald Sutherland and Kevin Costner both have very long monologues in the movie. According to Oliver Stone, both of them memorized these speeches (Kevin Costner had thought that one take was necessary for his speech). Reportedly, after starring in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), Kevin Costner wanted a year off making films. Director Oliver Stone brazenly sent Costner’s wife a copy of the screenplay for JFK (1991), so she persuaded him to star in the film.

6 – Silverado (1985)

Cook Ranch, twenty-five miles from the heart of Santa Fe, New Mexico, served as the site for the town of Silverado. Production Designer Ida Random and Set Designers Bill Elliott (a.k.a. William A. Elliott), Chas. Butcher, and Richard McKenzie had the challenging task of completely creating the forty building western town. From a vast body of historical reference, Random and her team, and a construction crew of one hundred forty, designed and built such structures as the Midnight Star Saloon, a hotel, and a church. Construction Coordinator Clarence Lynn Price, and his able crew, completed the town in twelve weeks, in less than desirable conditions, below freezing temperatures, and winds as high as sixty miles per hour.  The town of “Silverado” has since been used in such movies as Young Guns (1988), Wyatt Earp (1994) (also starring Kevin Costner), Last Man Standing (1996), Lonesome Dove (1989), All the Pretty Horses (2000), and Wild Wild West (1999) (also starring Kevin Kline). In the latter film, as a reference to director Lawrence Kasdan, “Kasdan Ironworks” can be seen on the side of one of the buildings.

5 – Draft Day (2014)

Sonny trades three first-round draft picks (which includes that year’s #7 overall pick) for the #1 pick of the draft. Sonny then trades three second-round picks for the #6 pick of the draft. Then he swaps #6 for his original #7, the future first-round picks he traded away, plus a special teams player. With the picks, he gets the LB he originally wanted at #1 and a RB at #7; essentially trading three second-round picks for the number one overall pick in the draft and a special teams kick returner. The trade Cleveland made in the movie is similar to the real-life trade made in the 2012 NFL Draft, where the Washington Redskins traded their 2012 number six overall pick, 2012 second round selection, 2013 first round selection, and 2014 first round selection for the 2012 number two overall pick to the St. Louis Rams, in order to select Robert Griffin III.

4 – Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)

One of the absolute best things in this movie, hands down, is Alan Rickman. He’s just brilliant in this. Alan Rickman turned down the role of the Sheriff twice before he was told he could more or less have carte blanche with his interpretation of the character. Alan Rickman ad-libbed the line about canceling Christmas. Some of the other Sheriff’s witty lines (such as telling a couple of wenches “You! My room, 10.30 tonight. You! My room, 10.45. And bring a friend.”) were devised by Alan Rickman’s friends comedian Ruby Wax and playwright Peter Barnes. He enlisted their help in spicing up his dialogue because he felt the script was terrible. Kevin Reynolds enabled these script alterations by not informing the producers or screenwriters or anyone in the crew. Rickman said in an interview years later that he knew these new lines were having the desired effect when during takes he noticed the crew members covering their mouths, trying not to laugh.

3 – The Untouchables (1987)

Eliot Ness and his role in bringing down Al Capone had been completely forgotten at the time of his death in 1957. No Chicago newspaper carried news of his passing. His heroic reputation only began with the posthumous publication of the Untouchables book he had co-written with Oscar Fraley, and the television series adapted from it…and then this movie, which was a very loose remake for the TV series–and is the best of all. Brian De Palma previously directed Scarface (1983), which was a very, very loose remake of Scarface (1932), which was about Al Capone. Kevin Costner has acted with all three of the main leads of Goodfellas (1990) in three different movies. Costner co-stars here with Robert De Niro. He later worked with Ray Liotta in Field of Dreams (1989) and Joe Pesci in JFK (1991).

2 – Tin Cup (1996)

Kevin Costner and Don Johnson are good friends in real life. And also that Johnson was considered to play Eliot Ness in the untouchables but turned it down and it went to his friend Kevin Costner. Don Johnson and Cheech Marin would go on and star together in the television series “Nash Bridges” later the same year this movie came out. Cheech Marin had said he disliked golf until he joined this film, later having become an avid player of the game. The scene at the end of the movie where Roy hits the shot into the water hazard, again and again, was based on an actual event. Gary McCord, the commentator with the handlebar mustache in the movie, is an actual commentator and pro golfer. In a 1987 tournament, he had a shot similar to Kevin Costner’s. He needed a birdie to win and went for it. He hit the water over and over again and finally made the shot, but it cost him 15 strokes. In the movie, Costner gets it in 12. The scene where Roy wins a bar bet by hitting a golf ball at a pelican also was based on a real-life incident from McCord’s career.

1 – Field of Dreams (1989)

After the movie was completed, test audiences didn’t like the name “Shoeless” Joe Jackson, because they said it sounded like a movie about a bum or hobo. Universal called Director and Screenwriter Phil Alden Robinson to tell him that “Shoeless Joe” didn’t work, and the studio changed the title of the film to “Field of Dreams”. When Robinson heard the news of the change, he called W.P. Kinsella, the author of the book, and told him the “bad” news, but apparently, he didn’t care, saying that “Shoeless Joe” was the title the publishing company gave the book. Kinsella’s original title was “Dream Field”. Ray Liotta had no baseball experience, and batted right-handed, although “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was a leftie. Phil Alden Robinson allowed Liotta to bat with his right, but still put him through several weeks of extensive training with University of Southern California baseball coach, and former Brooklyn Dodger, Rod Dedeaux, in order to be convincing as one of the sport’s greatest hitters. Liotta eventually developed a good swing. The scene where he hits a line-drive straight back at Kevin Costner actually happened. Costner’s fall on the mound was real, and although it was a surprise, he stayed in character.

In the novel, instead of seeking fictional author Terrance Mann, Ray Kinsella seeks real-life 60s author J.D. Salinger. In 1947, Salinger wrote a story called “A Young Girl In 1941 With No Waist At All” featuring a character named Ray Kinsella, and in his most famous work, the novel “The Catcher in the Rye”, one of Holden Caulfield’s classmates is Richard Kinsella. (In the original novel, Ray has a twin brother named Richard.) J.D. Salinger was very offended by the fictional portrayal of himself in W.P. Kinsella’s novel “Shoeless Joe”, upon which the film is based. His lawyers said that they would be “unhappy if it (the story) were transferred to other media”, so the studio created the character of Terence Mann. Archibald “Moonlight” Wright Graham was a real baseball player. On June 29, 1905, with the New York Giants, he played one Major League Baseball game. Following that one game, he continued playing professionally through the 1908 season, mostly in the New York State League, until retiring at the age of thirty.

I read the book after I saw the film and loved both, in the end. I just wish that they had kept the twin brother in the film, being a twin myself. In the novel, Ray Kinsella is reunited with his identical twin brother, Richard Kinsella (a subplot that was discarded for the movie).

Fred Armisen is Amazing at Accents

 

Sometimes a comedian comes around that just takes you by surprise. For me, that happened with Fred Armisen. Now, to be fair, Fred has been around as a comedian and a musician for a long time, but for some reason, he was not on my radar…he doesn’t seem to jump out at you like some of the other people that have come from Saturday Night Live. Whereas, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy would be the Hot Dog– Fred Armisen would be the condiment, to use a metaphor from my favorite food…for most people, Fred would be the mustard. He just makes the Hot Dog that much better.

My first experience with Fred was very very recent. It was while watching the Netflix special, Fred Armisen: Stand Up For Drummers…and I was mildly entertained for the first 15 minutes or so…quietly enjoying the fact that he’s so unassuming. He comes across as very comfortable and nice and amusing. And then he got to the part where he explains accents and dialects from all around the United States while pointing to a blue map of the US…and he blew me away! He is a MASTER at accents from all around the world, really, I was to learn later. I haven’t ever seen anything quite like it.

Not only can he nail any accent, but he does it down to the city or even suburb… even describing the slight differences in regions of the same place…it’s amazing.  what I love most is that these are not parodies of the accents…but the actual understated minute-detailed versions of the accents. I saw a couple of Interviews pulled from Youtube later that showed when an accent got to be from a certain place that was very big or showy– that he would get uncomfortable doing the accent as it would come across as racist or rude…like when he’s asked to do a Jamaican or Vietnamese accent.

He reminds me of Peter Sellers in his ability to do just about any accent as if it was his natural accent. And it becomes that much more hilarious– because the accent is so real instead of outrageously phony. My train of thought brought me back to the old Pink Panther and the Inspector cartoons of the sixties and I remember the Inspector’s sidekick being a Spanish gendarme who does not comprehend the intricacies of the French language… a Sergeant Deux-Deux, who is diminutive, soft-spoken, timid yet low-key and seldom wide-eyed. Now, I wish Fred was around when the Pink Panther movies were being shot, because they could have easily slipped Fred in as Sergeant Deux-Deux.

Indie Comedy Film About Veterans Features Impressive Line-up Including Hollywood Legends Dick Van Dyke and Louis Gossett Jr.

Summary
May 25th, 2017 – Los Angeles:  The film, “Capture The Flag”, about a Navy veteran (Dick Van Dyke) and an Army veteran (Louis Gossett Jr.) fighting over a flagpole in a retirement community recruit a group of ragtag US military vets to wage war against each other in a game that would give the winner the right to raise the flag every morning.
 
Twin Brothers Donovan and Adam Montierth team up with Producers Barry Van Dyke and Eric J. Adams to adapt the Emmy Award winning short film, “Reveille” into what they call their patriotic “Grumpy Old Men”.  The film boasts an impressive ensemble that includes some of Hollywood’s great character actors, such as Barry Corbin, Paul Dooley, John Amos, and Rance Howard. 

 

 
***
It feels like a natural progression to try and turn the Emmy Award winning short film, Reveille, into a feature film comedy. The twin brothers behind the veteran tribute are Adam and Donovan Montierth, and their company Brothers’ Ink Productions.  The short film has also won awards at over 20 film festivals worldwide, as well as appearing on the Armed Forces Network and the Pentagon Channel.  It’s touched a cord with audiences online as it’s become a viral sensation with over 10 million views.

 

In Capture the Flag, the playful banter, teasing and prank war that escalates into a paintball war game seems to fit the rivalry between different divisions of the US military well, and the bickering veterans degrading to childish behavior seems real and effective within the confines of their environment. Besides, it’s great fun.

 

“We felt that this was a movie that could find an audience and that people would connect with the heartfelt, comedic and patriotic tone of the screenplay.” Adam recently said. The twins soon realized that was true when they had the opportunity to have Barry Van Dyke see the short film and from there read the feature film screenplay, the twins were developing. He immediately felt a connection to Reveille and told the brothers that he wanted to help them get the film made.

 

It was just the spark the Indie film needed.  “We’ve always been impressed with Barry and his work, so to have him come back with such a strong reaction helped validate the importance of the project to us.” Donovan goes on to say, “He immediately connected with the fun and heartfelt story.”  So much so, that he shared the script with his Father, the legendary actor Dick Van Dyke.  And Dick, having served himself in the Army Air Corp for two years from 1944-1945, immediately connected with the story and the characters.  To the point where he surprised Barry by asking to play the lead role.  Dick told Barry, “These are actor’s dream roles, I would love to play this part.”

 

Barry recalls that the response has been incredible.  Everyone he’s introduced the project to has had a similar reaction.  As a result, the team has been able to attach the Brother’s dream cast by adding Academy Award winning actor Louis Gossett Jr., and legendary character actors such as Barry Corbin, John Amos, Paul Dooley and Rance Howard.  

 

They have been courting some excellent directors for the project, but are keeping their choices under wraps for now. Barry has, however, managed to pick up another Hollywood great by introducing the project to his friend stunt coordinator / second unit director, Allan Graf.

 

The team behind the production is very passionate about creating a film that realistically but thoughtfully depicts the lives of a handful of war veterans and that would stand as a tribute to all men and women who have ever served under the American flag.

 

This Memorial Day Weekend, if you would like to know how you can honor our vets and help to bring back the type of family comedy that could be seen on TV during many US patriotic holidays for years to come, please visit www.Film4Vets.com.

 

For press inquiries, please contact:

 

Donovan Montierth
Brothers’ Ink Productions
 602-578-5660

 

Top 15 George Stevens Directed Movies

 

One of the studio directors that didn’t ever seem to have just one genre or style, would be the wonderful George Stevens. If he had a style, I would venture to say it was great lighting…but he worked through so many genres comfortably. He was just a very, very good director. His body of work boggles the mind. As a cinematographer at Hal Roach Studios, he is credited with saving the film career of a young British comic by the name of Stan Laurel! Laurel’s pale blue eyes would register as an unnatural white on orthochromatic film, the standard film in use at that time. Stevens knew of panchromatic film and was able to get a supply of it from Chicago. This film was sensitive to blue so that Laurel’s eyes would photograph more naturally. Laurel would use Stevens for his short films at Roach. When Stan Laurel was teamed up with Oliver Hardy, the team make Stevens their cameraman of choice. He would move to features eventually and never look back, making a slew of truly classic films, getting nominated 5 times for an Academy Award and winning twice. Here are my favorite 15 films directed by George Stevens:

15 – Penny Serenade (1941)

I’ll be honest up front and say this particular film is very hard for me to watch because it plays a little too close to home for my comfort, but is a very good film. Written by one of my all-time favorite screenwriters, Morrie Ryskind, the story is about a married couple (Cary Grant and Irene Dunne) and their ups and downs as they try and have a child. In real life, Cary Grant, himself, wouldn’t become a parent until 1966 when he was 62. Irene Dunne often said that this was her favorite film because it reminded her of her own adopted daughter. George Stevens once said about Dunne, “If a director is lucky enough to work with Irene Dunne, his worries disappear. Every scene she’s in matches; she’s the film editor’s delight.”

14 – Vigil in the Night (1940)

Nurse Anne Lee blames herself for a fatal mistake of her sister Lucy, who also is a nurse. Anne loses her job, and gets a new one at a poorly equipped country hospital. There she falls in love with Dr. Prescott, who is battling with Mr. Bowly, the chairman of the local hospital board, who also makes Anne’s life miserable. But then a virulent epidemic begins…Nurse Anne Lee is played beautifully by Carole Lombard but was held up several weeks when Carole Lombard was admitted to the hospital after suffering a miscarriage. The press dubbed it an ‘appendectomy’ to cover up. She would die tragically only 2 years later in a plane crash at only age 33. This film shows sparks of what she could have become if she continued acting, as she was already brilliant. My favorite Lombard movie would be her last, the incredibly To Be or Not To Be, although My Man Godfrey is fantastic too, also written by none other than…Morrie Ryskind.

13 – A Place in the Sun (1951)

A poor boy gets a job working for his rich uncle and ends up falling in love with two women. Another actor I find to be really under-rated, Montgomery Cliff…if you’ve seen Judgment At Nuremberg, you’ll know what I mean. He silently steals the show in just about every thing he’s in. Another actor who died way too young at only 45. In her autobiography, Shelley Winters described George Stevens’ way of working: “He would discuss the scene, but not the lines, and would photograph the second or third rehearsal so the scene had an almost improvisational quality. Stevens would print the first take, then spend the next three hours minutely rehearsing the scene, then film it again. He explained to me that in this way he often got actors’ unplanned reactions that were spontaneous and human and often exactly right. And often when actors over-intellectualize or plan their reactions, they aren’t as good.” George Stevens was also a firm believer in running rushes at night, and having the actors in attendance. As Shelley Winters said, “Stevens would print several takes of each scene and then explain to us why one was better than the other. The whole experience was a joy.”

12 – Talk of the Town (1942)

An escaped prisoner (Cary Grant) and a stuffy law professor (Ronald Colman) vie for the hand of a spirited schoolteacher (Jean Arthur). Stevens would say of Arthur, “One of the greatest comediennes the screen has ever seen. When she works, she gives everything that’s in her, and she studies her roles more than most of the actresses I’ve known.” The studio considered filming two different endings, with Jean Arthur pairing off with Cary Grant in one, and with Ronald Colman in the other, and letting the audience decide by voting in sneak previews which one they preferred. However, in the papers of director George Stevens, all the screenplay drafts contained the current ending. I won’t tell you who she ends up with.

11 – Alice Adams (1935)

ALICE ADAMS, Fred MacMurray, Katharine Hepburn, 1935

The misadventures of two social-climbing women in small town America. Katharine Hepburn always viewed Alice as one of her personal favorite roles. Katharine Hepburn credits director George Stevens for her change in the public’s perception, by helping her, in “Alice Adams”, portray more warmth and vulnerability than she had ever shown previously. The original script ending followed the ending of the novel, in which Alice grows up and gets a job – she does not get Arthur in the end. Katharine Hepburn and George Stevens both much preferred this ending, but the studio made Stevens film a happier ending in which Alice and Arthur end up together, which is seen in the final cut. I have to say, I’m so glad they did this, as I’m a romantic at heart and love the ending as it stands.

10 – Vivacious Lady (1938)

A professor (James Stewart) marries a nightclub singer (Ginger Rogers), much to the consternation of his family and friends back home. Ginger Rogers recommended Jimmy Stewart for this film, even though they had not worked on a film together previously. The two were dating at the time, and with Rogers being one of RKO’s biggest stars, she got her way. Rogers worked with Stevens previously, two years earlier on Swing Time (1936).

9 – A Damsel in Distress (1937)

Lady Alyce Marshmorton (Joan Fontaine) must marry soon, and the staff of Tottney Castle have laid bets on who she’ll choose, with young Albert wagering on “Mr. X.” After Alyce goes to London to meet a beau (bumping into dancer Jerry Halliday – Fred Astaire –  instead), she is restricted to the castle to curb her scandalous behavior. Albert then summons Jerry to Alyce’s aid in order to “protect his investment.” This movie is especially good because of the co-stars, George Burns and Gracie Allen! After learning that Fred Astaire wanted Burns and Allen to audition for him, George Burns hired a vaudeville dancer he knew to choreograph a complex routine with whisk brooms. Astaire enjoyed the performance by George and Gracie so much that he insisted on working it into the film!

8 – Greatest Story Ever Told (1965)

Director George Stevens shot The Greatest Story Ever Told in the American Southwest, in Arizona, California, Nevada and Utah. Pyramid Lake in Nevada represented the Sea of Galilee, Lake Moab in Utah was used to film the Sermon on the Mount, and California’s Death Valley was the setting of Jesus’ 40-day journey into the wilderness. Stevens explained his decision to use the United States rather than in the Middle East or Europe in 1962. “I wanted to get an effect of grandeur as a background to Christ, and none of the Holy Land areas shape up with the excitement of the American Southwest,” he said. “I know that Colorado is not the Jordan, nor is Southern Utah Palestine. But our intention is to romanticize the area and it can be done better here.” Forty-seven sets were constructed, on location and in Hollywood studios, to accommodate Stevens’ vision.

7 – More the Merrier (1943)

During the World War II housing shortage in Washington, two men (Charles Coburn and Joel McCrae) and a woman (Jean Arthur) share a single apartment and the older man plays Cupid to the other two. Jean Arthur was getting into trouble with Columbia Pictures because she kept turning down roles. Rather embarrassed about this, she contacted her friend Garson Kanin and asked him to pen her something that she could take to the studio. Kanin was out of work at the time and readily accepted her proposal which Arthur ended up paying for out of her own pocket. Joel McCrea didn’t originally think he was right for the part of Joe and thought Cary Grant would have been better suited. Ironically, Grant would appear in the remake, Walk Don’t Run (1966), albeit in the Charles Coburn role. This was George Stevens’ last picture for Columbia before he joined the Army as chief of the combat photographic unit, where he shot several films for the US war effort.

6 – Gunga Din (1939)

I’ve written about this film before. I love the story about the three soldiers but am not thrilled that they cast a middle-aged white guy in the kid’s role, Gunga Din. In 19th century India, three British soldiers and a native waterbearer must stop a secret mass revival of the murderous Thuggee cult before it can rampage across the land. Sabu was first choice to play Gunga Din, he would have been great; when it became clear he was unavailable, Sam Jaffe was hired in his place. At the time he was playing water-boy Gunga Din, Sam Jaffe was 47 years old. In an interview years later, Jaffe (a Jewish Russian-American) was asked how he was able to play an Indian Muslim. Jaffe replied he kept telling himself to “Think Sabu.” Other than this, it is a great film. And it was very popular, it was second only to Gone with the Wind (1939) as the biggest money-maker of 1939.

5 – Diary of Anne Frank (1959)

Harrowing story of a young Jewish girl who, with her family and their friends, is forced into hiding in an attic in Nazi-occupied Amsterdam. The second of three George Stevens films in which Shelley Winters starred. The others are A Place in the Sun and The Greatest Story Ever Told. She received Oscar nominations for both A Place in the Sun and The Diary of Anne Frank, winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for the latter. Shelley Winters donated the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award she won for the role of Mrs. Van Daan to the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, after promising Otto Frank that she would do so if she were to win the award. It remains on permanent display in the museum to this day.

4 – Swing Time (1936)

My favorite Fred and Ginger movie! A performer and gambler travels to New York City to raise the $25,000 he needs to marry his fiancée, only to become entangled with a beautiful aspiring dancer. Ginger Rogers would go on to say, “I adore the man. I always have adored him. It was the most fortunate thing that ever happened to me, being teamed with Fred: he was everything a little starry-eyed girl from a small town ever dreamed of.” Then, when asked about Ginger, Fred would return the compliment, “Excuse me, I must say Ginger was certainly the one. You know the most effective partner I ever had. Everyone knows. That was a whole other thing what we did…I just want to pay a tribute to Ginger because we did so many pictures together and believe me it was a value to have that girl…she had it. She was just great!”. This was Ginger Rogers’ favorite of her films with Fred Astaire.

3 – Giant (1956)

Arguably, the best of James Dean’s 3 films. Sprawling epic covering the life of a Texas cattle rancher (Rock Hudson) and his family and associates. When Rock Hudson was cast, director George Stevens asked him whom he preferred as his leading lady, Grace Kelly or Elizabeth Taylor. Hudson picked Taylor, who was cast and ended up becoming lifelong friends with Hudson. James Dean called the shooting style of director George Stevens the “around the clock” method, because Stevens would film a scene from as many different angles as possible, which made everything seem to take longer to do. James Dean finished principal photography on Friday September 23, 1955. He died in a car crash a week later.

2 – Woman of the Year (1942)

What a great movie, rival reporters Sam (Spencer Tracy) and Tess (Katherine Hepburn) fall in love and get married, only to find their relationship strained when Sam comes to resent Tess’ hectic lifestyle. As Katharine Hepburn’s close friend and frequent director, George Cukor was a natural choice to direct, but for her first film with Spencer Tracy, Hepburn wanted Tracy to be as comfortable as possible, so as a quasi-producer, she hired George Stevens, who had directed her in Alice Adams. As Hepburn said, “I just thought he (Tracy) should have a big, manly man on his team – someone who could talk about baseball.” Cukor (who was openly gay and known for his friendships with actresses) would later become a good friend of Tracy and would direct both actors in Keeper of the Flame (1942), Adam’s Rib (1949) and Pat and Mike (1952).

1 – Shane (1953)

A weary gunfighter (Alan Ladd) attempts to settle down with a homestead family, but a smoldering settler/rancher conflict forces him to act. This film is always in the top ten of any list about the best westerns ever filmed. Ranked #3 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 greatest films in the genre “Western” in June 2008. Jean Arthur, then aged 50, came out of semi-retirement to play Marian Starrett, largely as a favor to her friend, director George Stevens. She would retire completely from the film business after this picture. Having witnessed during his WW2 service the profound effects a bullet could have on a man, realism was important to George Stevens during the making of the film. This therefore is one of the first movies to use stunt wires to pull the actors or stuntmen backwards to simulate when they’ve been shot. George Stevens referred to this film as being his war movie.

Top 15 Luc Besson Produced Movies

 

Over the years, I’ve been a big fan of Luc Besson. Not only has he been a fantastic director, but a great writer and producer as well. I can really appreciate that kind of career, he’s got his hands on so many projects. He is amazing at developing interesting projects. Sometimes the ideas are originated by him and then handed off to other filmmakers, sometimes he takes them all the way through till release and he’s never one to turn away a great project that needs him to just produce. Here are my top 15 favorites that he’s had a hand in creating:

15 – Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

OK, Ok, this hasn’t come out yet, but I just know it’s going to hit my list. It’s the original inspiration for Star Wars and The Fifth Element, so I know I’m going to like it. This film is based on a French sci-fi comic book series created in 1967 by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mezieres. Mezieres was also involved in creating visuals for Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element.

14 – Lucy (2014)

Many of his best stuff lay in 2 genres; Science Fiction and Action. This one film combines both aspects very well. In an interview on March 8, 2014, Besson said that this project took ten years to become a reality. Also, he admitted that he knew that some scientific assumptions were erroneous, ie; that humans use only ten percent of their brains. Nonetheless, he said that “(such an assumption) would be a great start for a sci-fi movie”. A woman, (Scarlett Johansson) accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

13 – 3 Days to Kill (2014)

Here’s one that Besson wrote but didn’t direct. It was directed by McG. A dying CIA agent (Kevin Costner) trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter is offered an experimental drug that could save his life in exchange for one last assignment. The meaning and relevance of the film’s title is that it refers to the estimate number of days that Ethan Renner (Costner) has to complete his mission prior to facing death from terminal brain cancer. Reminds me a great deal of a great film noir movie called DOA (Dead on Arrival) about a man who has been lethally poisoned and has to solve his own murder before he dies.

12 – Lockout (2012)

If you can excuse the main character’s dive out of a spaceship and not burn up on re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere and sky dive to a city below, then this is a pretty dang good flick. It totally would have made a fantastic “Escape From…number 3″ with Snake Plissken, but only because of Guy Pearce. He’s great. The plot totally reads like a Snake Plissken movie:  A man wrongly convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage against the U.S. (Guy Pearce) is offered his freedom if he can rescue the president’s daughter from an outer space prison taken over by violent inmates. Call it Escape From Outer Space. Besson came up with the original idea and even wrote a draft of the screenplay.

11 – Colombiana (2011)

Zoe Saldana is great, I did a blog about her a while back called Zoe Saldana Takes Over the World. Here’s a starring vehicle with her as an assassin, kind of a reoccurring theme with Besson, just look at Leon and Nikita. It’s no wonder as this film was originally supposed to be Leon part 2. The film was based off a script that was set to be a sequel for Leon: The Professional. The story was set to follow Natalie Portman’s character Mathilda as she tracked down and killed characters that had wronged her and Leon. Portman’s success kept her from availability and the script was eventually re-written into Colombiana and cast with Saldana.

10 – From Paris With Love (2010)

In Paris, a young employee (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) in the office of the US Ambassador hooks up with an American spy (John Travolta) looking to stop a terrorist attack in the city. John Travolta is the real reason to watch this film, he just crackles with electricity. When Caroline enters James’s apartment you can clearly see the book ‘Nikita’ which was written and directed by Besson, who wrote “From Paris with Love”. This is a spy genre film and it is interesting to note that the title of the earlier film To Paris with Love (1955) is said to have been the inspiration for James Bond creator Ian Fleming for the title of his 1957 James Bond spy novel, From Russia With Love which was later made into the 007 movie.

9 – District 13: Ultimatum (2009)

This is a sequel to one of my all-time-favorite stunt movies, District B13. Follows up with great stunts and action with Cyril Raffaelli and David Belle. For those of you that like the Daredevil series on Netflix, you’ll recognize Elodie Yung (Elektra) in the film. Cyril is a great stunt coordinator and he choreographed all the fight scenes in the movie and David, who invented Parkour, did all of his own stunts, without practice ahead of time. Most of the ones that you see in the film were of him performing the stunt for the first time.

8 – Tell No One (2006)

Luc Besson was lucky this project crossed his path. He was one of the Executive Producers on the film and it’s based on a fantastic book by Harlan Corben. Police find two bodies at an old murder scene and evidence to suggest the first victim’s husband is a murderer. The husband receives clues suggesting his deceased wife is actually alive and begins to investigate. This film is definitely worth finding, but it is in English subtitles, as it’s a French-language film. Originally, author Harlan Coben had optioned off his novel to Hollywood, with director Michael Apted attached. During this time, director Guillaume Canet, who had loved the novel, had been calling up Coben with his take on the novel. Coben was immediately impressed with Canet’s passion for the story, and his vision, stating that Canet understood that the novel was a love story first, and a thriller second, which Hollywood never got. When the option with Hollywood fell through, Coben contacted Canet and decided to give him a chance.

7 – Bandidas (2006)

In turn-of-the-century Mexico, two very different women (Salma Hayek, Penelope Cruz) become a bank-robbing duo in an effort to combat a ruthless enforcer terrorizing their town. This is directed by Joachim Rønning and Espen Sandberg, who are coming out with Disney’s Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Men Tell No Tales later this year. Steve Zahn also plays a character in the film, and it’s good to see Penelope and Steve back together again.

6 – Leon: The Professional (1994)

Mathilda (Natalie Portman), a 12-year-old girl, is reluctantly taken in by Léon, a professional assassin (Jean Reno), after her family is murdered. Léon and Mathilda form an unusual relationship, as she becomes his protégée and learns the assassin’s trade. Luc Besson got the idea of doing this movie while working on his previous movie, La Femme Nikita (1990). In that film’s third act, Victor the Cleaner appears to deal with the aftermath of Nikita’s botched mission. Realizing the potential of the character was underused in that movie, Besson decided to create a story that focused on the activities of such a character. Both Victor and Leon appear dressed in a long wool coat, sunglasses and a knit cap. Both are played by Jean Reno. The film’s working title was “The Cleaner”.

5 – The Big Blue (1988)

The rivalry between Enzo and Jacques, two childhood friends and now world-renowned free divers, becomes a beautiful and perilous journey into oneself and the unknown. This film was such a hit in France that it played for over a year in theatres. The most financially successful French film of the 1980s. This film was probably the closest to Besson’s own upbringing. “I was never polluted by the world of cinema. I didn’t even have a TV until I was 16. My expression is a reflection of the world I have seen, and in that world everyone was barefoot in bathing suits, following the order of the sea, the natural order of sunrise and sunset. I never went to the cinémathèque. I didn’t know much about the masters of world cinema,” Besson has said.

4 – La Femme Nikita (1990)

Convicted felon Nikita (Anne Parillaud), instead of going to jail, is given a new identity and trained, stylishly, as a top secret spy/assassin. Luc Besson had Anne Parillaud train extensively with guns so that she would be completely at ease with them. Parillaud took to practicing loading and unloading a fake gun in her car which led to her being pulled over by the police and having their guns drawn on her in traffic one day as they thought her weapon was real.

3 – District B13 (2004)

I wrote about this great stunt film in my blog: David Belle and District B13. Set in the ghettos of Paris in 2010, an undercover cop and ex-thug try to infiltrate a gang in order to defuse a neutron bomb.

2 – The Fifth Element (1997)

I just love this film, although, I would have to admit that Chris Tucker has ruined it for me over the years. He’s so obnoxious in the film that he virtually makes it impossible to re-watch the film. Other than that, fantastic film. I was so upset after the film was released that no toys followed the film, as I wanted to buy all the action figures after I saw it. They could have really sold a lot of toys if they had this prepped like the Star Wars films. Another film that I loved enough to write a whole blog about; Fifth Element.

1 – Taken (2008)This film proves that Luc Besson has a magic touch. Again, he just wrote and produced this one but was genius when he hired Pierre Morel to direct as he was perfect for the job. It also gave Liam Neeson new life as an action star. Liam Neeson initially expected the film to bomb, but he signed on, in order spend four months in Paris, and learn karate, while playing the kind of role he had rarely been offered in the past. Ironically, not only was the film a massive hit, but created a new on-screen image for Neeson, as an action hero. Liam Neeson performs a good amount of his own stunts. Over the course of the movie, Bryan kills 35 people in order to get to his daughter.

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