The Empire Struck Hard

The Empire Strikes Back, posterThe Star Wars saga is largely considered when thinking up all time great films. While the Star Wars Universe is massive, it’s no doubt centered on the six films that have come out over the last near four decades. The Empire Strikes Back is often referred to as the great piece of the original and later films. In order to get there though, Empire Strikes Back had to navigate some rough waters.

The making of Empire Strikes Back was complicated as expenditures caused the film to go over the original budget. The scenes taking place in Degobah were mostly just Mark Hamill in a swamp set, with a green screen and a puppet. The filming of Empire was so cumbersome that it caused a lot of discomfort for the actors and crew.

I guess Luke’s paternity really was a big deal.

Talk About Staying in Character

An actor’s biggest test comes with a complex role. What often determines how legitimate the actor’s performance will be is whether or not he or she really knows and understands that particular character. Staying in character is a stern test that can turn into an overly emotional exercise. Some of the best examples of staying in character have some seriously detrimental consequences. Some examples include Heath Ledger as Joker, Steve Carrell as John du Pont, and Peter Sellers as Dr. Strangelove. These performances have the common denominator of heavy emotional involvement.

 

jokerAs the Joker Heath Ledger rarely slept, was hard to be around, and found himself at odds with the character while filming The Dark Knight. The emotional toll of the roll is largely credited with Ledger’s downward spiral into an eventual accidental death. The Peter Sellers role as Dr. Strangelove in Dr. Strangelove was equally as difficult.

 

peter-sellers-dr-strangeloveIn the film, Peter Sellers had to play three roles simultaneously for director Stanley Kubrick. Sellers was so intensely involved in all the roles that it almost seemed like he couldn’t have a minute to be himself. Some people claim that when Peter’s mother visited him onset he addressed her as Dr. Strangelove. Lastly come Steve Carell and his role in Foxcatcher.

 

foxcatcherCarell plays the part of John du Pont, an eccentric and insane millionaire that went to prison for the murder of Olympic wrestling champ Alexander Schultz.  Carell stated that he was so deep into his role that he was often reclusive and incredibly difficult to talk to.

 

These roles are considered sensational and that’s a direct result of the actor’s strong emotional commitment.

 

Why so serious? It’s only a film.

Brando had Sparrow’s back

BrandoWhen you think of all time great actors, Marlon Brando’s name usually comes to mind. Brando’s style drew audiences in to a point where it didn’t matter what he was doing, the audience would hang on his every last word. Years past his prime Brando made a comeback and cranked out a couple of films. One of Brando’s later roles was as the portly psychologist in Don Juan DeMarco. As always Brando put together the kind of performance that people still talk about today.

Don Juan De Marco

In one particular scene Johnny Depp was having trouble remembering his lines. Brando taped a paper with the lines to a coffee cup in the scene and guided Depp through his lines. Depp completed the scene without issue.

Depp became a contender, a somebody! 

John Wayne: Duke vs. Harvard

John Wayne was Hollywood’s mega star that stood for conservative values. While stars like Brando protested for rights and various causes, Wayne stood on the side of conservative America’s pro war, patriotic machine. John WayneThe Duke was all about what was right, in his own opinion and that of his following.

In 1974 members of the Harvard Lampoon called him a phony in the middle of a function. The underclassmen went as far as calling him out on his toupee. Wayne turned things around by saying that his hair was real, just not his.

With differing views and fresh off serious political turmoil in the conservative scene, the Duke could still charm a crowd.

A Bad Script Will Destroy a Career

The importance of a good script far outweighs star power and deep pockets. A couple of highly touted films that were supposed to be mega hits were lavished with cash and completely destroyed careers, hopes, and dreams because of bad scripts. The two films are Last Action Hero and Waterworld.

bad scripts

When both films were made there was an expectation that the big budgets would make up for the terrible scripts. In the case of Last Action Hero the 60 million dollar budget could not really help its star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, avoid the backlash that came with a terrible story. On the other side of the equation Waterworld made headlines as the most expensive movie of its time with a 175 million dollar budget. The film was a failure that made Kevin Costner go from being a bankable star into a questionable figure; again it was a terrible script that did it.

It’s all in the script people!

Kill the Cat

When you think of film adaptations you tend to hear that the book was better than the movie. The reason why books are better is simply because they have a greater amount of real estate, the story has to be cut down in order to be adapted so something can be lost in translation. The case was different with The Cat in the Hat.

The Dr. Seuss classic was made into a film that was universally panned by critics, in part because it added unexpected and unwelcomed factors to the story. The film itself made a decent amount of money in the box office but it was still not enough to make up for the bad reception.

the cat in the hat, movieThe worst criticism came from the estate of Dr. Seuss. The film was so hated by them that they decided there would never again be another live film adaptation of the books. The film was definitely not better than the book in this case.

I saw him! I saw him! I saw………..wait the cat’s dead.

 

Talk About an All Time Great

Some performances in film are simply unforgettable. When you see a specific scene or shot you can almost tell what’s going to happen, how it’s going to happen. The magic of  a film is at times placed on the shoulders of a single performance.

singin-in-the-rainWhether or not this practice is engage upon intentionally really only depends on the director and performer dynamic. The way to know if it was the performance is being able to understand the story behind the performer. A great example, an all time great example is Gene Kelly.

Everyone thinks of Gene Kelly’s performance in Singing in the Rain. The iconic sequence in Singing in the Rain where Gene Kelly is climbing all over light posts, dancing and singing while in the middle of a downpour is an all time great moment. What makes that moment even greater is the fact that Gene Kelly was suffering from a fever of 103.

 All time great indeed!

Thank Goodness for Bad Decisions

An interesting thing about movies is that when they have the right stars they are memorable. When a star seems out of place in a movie it will play out to the point where fans will be alienated. A great example of that would be Forrest Gump and some of the original casting choices.

The title role was initially offered to John Travolta, who later lamented not taking the part. Imagine Forrest Gump with Tony Minero flair. A second curious choice was Bill Murray whose career was at a commercial high at that point. It’s hard to imagine Forrest Gump having a sort of sarcastic swagger given what a simple minded individual he was made into.

Forrest Gump, Casting CallThe last unimaginable casting choice was for Dave Chapelle who was the first choice for Bubba. Again it’s amazing to think what Bubba would have been like if played by the same guy that spoofed Rick James!

I’m Bubba!