The Atlantic just published a story by John Meroney and me featuring interviews with Hollywood icon Kirk Douglas, Spartacus producer Edward Lewis, Melissa and Nikola Trumbo (daughters of writer Dalton Trumbo), and Rachel Ben-Avi (daughter of Spartacus novelist Howard Fast). Read the story here:
A huge story by my friend and colleague John Meroney will appear in LA Times Magazine this Sunday (February 5, 2012). The story is about Ronald Reagan’s years in Hollywood in which he served as the President of the Screen Actors Guild. Then a liberal Democrat, Reagan was forced to confront aggressive and covert communist infiltration of various Hollywood unions. This outstanding piece is thoroughly researched and includes never-before-released information based on John’s exclusive access to a massive archive compiled by Reagan’s Hollywood mentor, Roy Brewer. Please enjoy the story in this Sunday’s magazine, or read it here online: Left in the Past – LA Times Magazine.
The Atlantic just posted a remarkable piece about Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar written by my friend and colleague John Meroney. This is a thoroughly researched, must-read piece that challenges a central point of the film and often misrepresented aspect of Hoover’s career. Read the story here.
I recently sat down with acclaimed writer-director-producer Martyn Burke to talk about his new documentary Under Fire: Journalists in Combat.
The Atlantic published the story that resulted from our conversation here.
See the film…
William Colby was the controversial Director of the CIA who shared the agency’s “family jewels” during sworn testimony before contentious committees of Congress in the 1970s. He parachuted behind Nazi enemy lines World War II. He helped swing an election in Cold War Italy — away from communism — while undercover. Some consider him a war criminal for his work in Vietnam, others a hero. All agree he was truly a spymaster.
Carl Colby, William Colby’s son, has made a fascinating and informative documentary about his father’s life called The Man Nobody Knew. My friend John Meroney and I teamed up to write a piece about the film, including an interview with Carl Colby, for The Atlantic. Read the story here.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with one of the biggest hit-makers Hollywood has ever known. His greenlight brought Back to the Future, Tootsie, Gandhi, and Out of Africa into your consciousness.
His name is Frank Price.
He headed Universal Television and made “The Six Million Dollar Man” a part of my childhood. As head of Columbia Pictures, he helped bring Boyz n the Hood into the American mainstream 20 years ago this summer.
Mr. Price told me the fascinating story about his involvement with John Singleton in the making of Boyz n the Hood — read my story published by The Atlantic here.
Special thanks to John Meroney and Patricia Beauchamp for their invaluable assistance with this piece.
Like all other people in modern western civilization, I grew up listening to Elvis. Like most musicians, I spent countless hours learning how to play his songs.
I never would have expected that I would one day have the chance to sit down with one of his closest friends to talk about his life. I had that opportunity recently when Jerry Schilling invited me up to his beautiful home in theHollywood hills (purchased for him by Mr. Presley) to talk about the King of Rock and Roll.
The Atlantic just published the story that resulted from our conversation. You can read the full piece here.
Let me know what you think.
Special thanks to John Meroney and Hannah Mitchell for your assistance and support.
Two quick reviews…
Simple, straightforward, classic storytelling. The hero is likeable, his romantic interest lovely, and the bad guy is really bad. Grade: B+
Rise of the Planet of the Apes
I was always a fan of the original with Charlton Heston: “Get your stinking paws off me,
you damned dirty ape!” Doesn’t get much better than that.
I went into the new one with high hopes — and they were not let down. An interesting premise, good acting — even from the CGI department — and fine storytelling. Grade: A
As a young teen, I remember being thrilled with the surprise clips featured at the end of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Ferris (well, actually, John Hughes) had already let me join in on a hooky-fueled adventure for the past hour and a half that I could never have gone on myself (no one I knew had a father wealthy enough to own a 1961 Ferrari GT250 for starters…), but he still had more to give.
The “fourth wall,” as it has been called — the invisible, imaginary wall that exists between audience and action in the play (or in this case, the motion picture) — was broken. It was as if he and the audience knew that the past adventure was so great it wasn’t really over, it couldn’t be over. It was going to continue until everyone was forced to leave the theater… and maybe it wouldn’t really even be over then.
Well, tonight I had the pleasure of watching the film Rocky Balboa, which turns out to be host of the best film credit scene ever. Sorry, Ferris, but inspiration trumps hi-jinx every time.
The film itself was great. Rocky Balboa the picture reasserted Rocky Balboa the character as perhaps the most exemplary of the American Spirit that Hollywood has produced. Rocky is born generic and must distinguish himself. Rocky faces seemingly insurmountable odds and fights with every fiber of his being — muscular and otherwise, mostly otherwise — to beat those odds. He wills his spirit to take charge of his flesh because he has a dream and he will let nothing stop him from achieving it.
As the first and last Rocky exquisitely reveal, transformation of the self is the ultimate goal of the dreamer, and especially the American Dreamer. Rocky lost the external prize — winning in the ring — yet in both films, he conquered internal battles and was ultimately victorious, his self transformed, his dream achieved.
Quotes from Rocky Balboa:
“What’s so crazy about standing toe to toe with someone saying ‘I am’?”
“You know, I think you try harder when you’re scared… That’s when it’s worked best for me.”
“The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”
“The last thing to age on somebody is their heart.”
The picture ends. In a special feature on the DVD, Stallone shares his realization that when he yelled, “Cut,” after the final scene, he was ending not only the film at hand, but likely the greatest of what he will offer as his life’s work.
Credits role. It is finished, the Rocky saga is complete.
Not so fast.
Right before my eyes, I watch the fourth wall crumble. Stallone does not look into the camera with Buelleresque humor, as Ferris did twenty-five years ago; he doesn’t appear in the credit scene at all. Instead, the fourth wall in Rocky is knocked down by the fans, people who have been impacted by the film each in their own way. People of every stripe and age and flavor are depicted running up the now legendary steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum to the triumphant horns and synthesizers and voices of “Gonna Fly Now.” Some mirror closely the movements of the Italian Stallion that have become archetypal of the victory trot. Others dance. Most smile. All poignantly express the reality of the magic of cinema — when it’s done well, we experience something special through the protagonist, and in this case, through the hero. Rocky has given us all the opportunity to feel like a champion — a feeling we can know outside of the theater if we follow his model and fight on regardless of the odds.
Thank you, Rocky.
Thank you, Mr. Stallone.