Tag Archives: movie making

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! 

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!

James Brown Saved the World…..Kinda

The film Independence Day is a summer blockbuster classic that established Will Smith as a major box office commodity. The film is basically about a bunch of good guys getting together and saving the planet from a decidedly lethal alien invasion. Yes the plot of the film is somewhat generic but the film was written and shot in a way that generated real interest.

James Brown
An unknown fact about Independence Day is the fact that James Brown played a part in it. James Brown did not perform nor did he use his super powers as godfather of soul in order to help. Using James Brown’s voice, screaming, created the sound of weapons exploding in the alien spaceship.


Wow, HEY, get down now!

All Great Things Take Time

Avatar is by and large on of the biggest hits in the history of cinema. With mixing some incredible 3D effects and creating some crazy worlds the film touched on new and amazing territory. Avatar is a great film that touches on a million subjects from the environment to relationships between different beings. The general social commentary of that film only enhanced the incredible visuals, a rarity in film.

A funny fact about this classic is that it was almost released ten years before. The film was due to be released in 1999 but at that time the budget of the film would have been a staggering 400 million dollars. One has to wonder what Avatar would have been like if Cameron had gone ahead, ten years and a different cast may not have gelled nearly as well.

Star Power Means Crazy Cash

When people talk about star power today they think about 20 million dollar paychecks and insane demands. The fact of the matter is that star power has been around for a s long as entertainment has existed and true star power was often measured by name recognition.
Marlon Brando, Superman - Super-paid!A great example of real star power was Marlon Brando. By 1978 Marlon Brando was past his Godfather prime, but he had generated so many classics that he really could do almost anything.

When Superman was shot Brando’s minimal role as Superman’s father got him a million dollars, while the star, Christopher Reeve was paid a quarter of that.

What a contender!


True Genius

When a great film is made the Director is often credited. A director’s job is getting that great story on paper told in a visually stunning way. A director makes the star bring out something that he/she was not previously capable of.  So then if you are going to call someone a genius it should show not just on one film, it should be reflected by an entire body film. A true genius was Sydney Lumet.


Sydney LumetLumet’s work was the kind that would bring you into the fold emotionally in ways that were nearly impossible to imagine or duplicate. The film 12 Angry Men was a clear example of Lumet’s ability to take dialogue and turn it into deeply personal, emotional angst. 12 Angry Men was set inside a jury room and it takes the audience into a place deep inside every character. Lumet was also responsible for classics like Serpico and The Veredict.

The genius of Lumet was making the characters so gritty that you would either love them or hate them, but without regard you would understand their motives. Emotion was Lumet’s signature, emotion unlike any other.


A Great Story Will Create a Flock of Talent

Shawshank Redemption

A bad script will kill a movie, and often times it will take stars and move them to places far away. It’s more than fair to assume that a good story will draw talent like flies are drawn to, you know. A great example of a fantastic story is Morgan Freeman’s reaction to Shawshank Redemption.

Shawshank RedemptionWhen sent the script for the film Freeman did not know what part they wanted him to play he only knew that he wanted to be in the film. Freeman was given the part of Red but he stated that he would have played any part that they wanted him to. The compelling nature of the story was what moved Freeman to want to be involved.

In the end words on paper are powerful enough to sway a star either way, positively or negatively.