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Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Alfred Hitchcock

Cannes 2012: Actor Norman Lloyd remembers Hitchcock, Renoir

May 25, 2012 | 10:35 am

At a recent event at the Cannes Film Festival, actor Norman Lloyd reflected on his life's work and his famous collaborators, including Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock and Jean Renoir
If modern film history has a voice, it is Norman Lloyd's. An actor for more than 70 years, Lloyd has worked with -- and known as friends -– filmmakers as diverse as Charlie Chaplin, Alfred Hitchcock and Jean Renoir.

A peerless raconteur with an impeccable memory, the 97-year-old Lloyd had a capacity crowd at the Cannes Film Festival (including directors Alexander Payne and Abbas Kiarostami) in the palm of his hand as he answered questions from critics Todd McCarthy and Pierre Rissient about his long career.

Lloyd's best-known work (unless you count his TV stint on “St. Elsewhere”) was his first appearance, a key role as a Nazi spy in Alfred Hitchcock's 1942 "Saboteur." His character famously plunges off the Statue of Liberty. But before he ever came to Hollywood, Lloyd had a distinguished stage career that included a place in Orson Welles' Mercury Theatre and the role of Cinna the Poet in Welles’ 1937 production of "Julius Caesar," which Lloyd remembers as having, in Welles' celebrated staging, the contemporary feel of "political melodrama written the night before." 

Once in Hollywood, Lloyd became extremely close to Renoir, the son of painter Auguste Renoir, after appearing in the director's 1945 "The Southerner." Though dismissed by studio head Darryl F. Zanuck as "not one of us," Renoir earned the admiration of Chaplin as well as Welles: "They both said he was the No. 1 director," Lloyd recalled.

Perhaps the most moving story Lloyd told involved Renoir in his declining years. The director embarked on a project of seeing all his films. When he'd viewed them all, he said to Lloyd: "'When I started to make films, I was determined at all cost to be as unlike my father as possible. But having seen all my work, I realize that what I've been trying to do all my life is imitate my father,' Lloyd shared, before adding, "What an amazing statement from a man near the end of his life."

Lloyd's close association with Hitchcock led to his working as a producer and director on the classic TV series "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." As the Cannes audience sat spellbound, so to speak, Lloyd recounted going to see Harold Pinter's 1960 "The Caretaker" and talking to the British playwright about possibly writing for the Hitchcock show.

As it turned out, Pinter had a TV script already written, which was sent on to Hitchcock to consider. His epigrammatic response: "I don’t do that sort of thing."


Cannes 2012: China has a dangerous liason with a classic

Cannes 2012: Nicole Kidman is "not interested in being safe"

-- Kenneth Turan

Photo: Norman Lloyd is reflected in a mirror at his home in Brentwood on May 15, 2009. Credit: Christina House / Los Angeles Times

Anthony Hopkins vanishes (mostly) into 'Hitchcock'

April 25, 2012 |  4:34 pm

Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock

Almost 32 years after his death, Alfred Hitchcock is still shocking audiences — but the petrified patrons are not in any movie theater. Instead, the invited guests (actually paid actors) were inside a Pasadena mansion during the second week of filming for “Hitchcock,” a fictionalized look at the English filmmaker during the preparation, filming and release of 1960’s “Psycho.”

Hitchcock — or a very approximate facsimile — was on a recent day throwing a bomb into an otherwise genteel tea party, handing out a batch of gruesome crime scene photographs to announce his intentions to tell a grisly tale of murder and mutilation.

The Fox Searchlight production, which could be ready by year's end, stars Anthony Hopkins as Hitchcock and Helen Mirren as his wife and creative collaborator, Alma Reville. The cast includes Jessica Biel as Vera Miles, Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and James D’Arcy as Anthony Perkins. It is the first narrative feature directed by screenwriter and documentary filmmaker Sacha Gervasi (“Anvil! The Story of Anvil”).

Hopkins’ transformation, accomplished with the help of prosthetic makeup by Howard Berger and Peter Montagna and a fat suit from costume designer Julie Weiss that turns the slim Hopkins into a 300-pound giant, is not intended to hide the Oscar-winning actor completely.

“We don’t want Anthony Hopkins to disappear under the makeup,” Gervasi, who co-wrote Steven Spielberg's "The Terminal," said during a break in filming. “And we don’t want him to sound exactly like Hitchcock, either. That wasn’t the point.”

Instead, the goal was to give moviegoers a little bit of both the real and the illusion — a slice of Hitchcock here, a taste of Hopkins there, all the while probing the director’s complicated state of mind. During a break in filming, Hopkins said that he met Hitchcock late in the director's life at the restaurant Ma Maison. "He had no idea who I was," said Hopkins, whose acting career was just taking off at the time.

The "Hitchcock" plot follows the troubled financing of “Psycho," the director’s battles with Hollywood censors and Hitchcock’s desire to prove to his doubters, his wife and himself that he still had an edge. The screenplay, whose writers include Hitchcock biographer Stephen Rebello, includes references to Edward Gein, the Wisconsin serial killer and grave robber who was partial inspiration for Buffalo Bill, the villain at the center of Hopkins’ “The Silence of the Lambs.”

In the scene at the Pasadena estate, Hitchcock disbursed photographs detailing some of Gein’s more abhorrent acts, hoping to start the “Psycho” drumbeat. It appeared to be working.

At one point, a gossip columnist in attendance asked of Hitchcock, “Am I the only one who finds this offensive?” Without missing a beat, Hitchcock replied, “I was hoping everyone would.”


Of 'Anvil!' and steely resolve

Thundering Anvil makes some noise

Alfred Hitchcock, by way of heavy metal?

-- John Horn

Photo: Anthony Hopkins as Alfred Hitchcock in "Hitchcock," now filming. Courtesy Fox Searchlight.

Shirley MacLaine to receive AFI Life Achievement Award

October 9, 2011 | 12:00 pm



Oscar-winner Shirley MacLaine has been selected to receive the American Film Institute’s 40th Life Achievement Award, the AFI’s highest honor for a career in film.

MacLaine’s younger brother, Warren Beatty, received the AFI honor in 2008.

“What is not to love about Shirley MacLaine,” said Bob Gazzale, the president and CEO of AFI. “The challenge will be how to fit it all into one evening because hers is a life that has gone from movies to television to Broadway, books and beyond. She defines the term renaissance woman and what an honor for the AFI to shine a proper light to all she’s given the world. Then when you get into her films, it’s across genres, it’s across decades. This is a force of nature all to our benefit."

MacLaine, 77, will receive her award at a gala tribute on June 7. TV Land will broadcast the tribute sometime later that month.

In addition to Beatty, previous recipients of the award include Tom Hanks, Martin Scorsese, Meryl Streep, Barbra Streisand, Morgan Freeman, Kirk and Michael Douglas, Sidney Poitier, Alfred Hitchcock, James Cagney and Jimmy Stewart.

MacLaine, who made her film debut in Hitchcock’s 1955 dark comedy “The Trouble With Harry,” has starred in more than 50 feature films, earned six Oscar nominations, winning lead actress for 1983’s “Terms of Endearment” and received seven Golden Globes including the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. A bestselling author, her latest book, “I’m All Over That -- and Other Confessions,” was published this year, and this fall MacLaine received France’s cultural award, the Legion of Honor.

She began her career in the early 1950s dancing in a revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical “Oklahoma!.” As understudy for star Carol Haney in 1954 in the musical "The Pajama Game," MacLaine took the stage the night producer Hal B. Wallis was in the audience. He took notice of MacLaine and she was signed to a contract at Paramount.

MacLaine earned her first Oscar nomination for 1958’s “Some Came Running” and her second for Billy Wilder’s 1960 best picture winner “The Apartment.” She and Wilder reteamed for 1963’s “Irma La Douce,” which netted her another nomination. She was nominated for lead actress once again for 1977’s “The Turning Point,” before finally winning for “Terms of Endearment.” MacLaine also was nominated for producer of the 1975 feature documentary “The Other Half of the Sky.”

Among her recent films are 2010’s “Valentine’s Day” and the upcoming “Bernie.”


Acting is in Morgan Freeman's blood

Listening in on Shirley MacLaine and Hector Elizondo

--Susan King

Photo: AFI Life Achievement Award recipient Shirley MacLaine. Credit: Michel Spangler/AP

Around Town: Classic cinema from Hitchcock, Truffaut and more

September 22, 2011 |  6:00 am


The earliest surviving work of Alfred Hitchcock and two romantic dramas from French master François Truffaut are among the cinematic highlights screening around town in Los Angeles this week.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is presenting the recently discovered first 30 minutes of the 1923 British film “The White Shadow” on Thursday evening at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. A young Hitchcock wrote the script, designed the sets, edited the film and was the assistant director on the movie, which was directed by Graham Cutts. It’s considered the earliest surviving feature film work of the master of suspense and was one of the “lost” films recently discovered at the New Zealand Film Archive. Also screening are two comedy shorts unearthed last year at the archive -- “Won in a Closet,” starring and directed by Mabel Normand, and “Oil’s Well" with Monty Banks. Michael Mortilla will supply live musical accompaniment. www.oscars.org

The 14th annual Arpa International Film festival kicks off Thursday evening and continues through Saturday at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood. The festival, which is dedicated to indie filmmakers that “cultivate understanding and global empathy," includes six features, 11 short films, nine documentaries, three music videos and an animated film from such countries as the U.S., Afghanistan, Canada, Australia, France and Israel. The festival's opening-night offering is the L.A. premiere of the road movie “Here,” with Ben Foster. affma.org.

The New Beverly Cinema presents two intimate romantic dramas from Truffaut on Friday and Saturday evenings: 1964’s “The Soft Skin,” with Françoise Dorleac and Jean Desailly, and 1981’s “The Woman Next Door,” with Fanny Ardant, who was the director’s last great love, and Gerard Depardieu. www.newbevcinema.com

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Around Town: Steven Spielberg and a rare 'Trip to the Moon'

September 1, 2011 |  6:00 am

Steven Spielberg

The American Cinematheque is celebrating the early films of Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg this week. The Aero Theatre is featuring two of his sci-fi classics: 1982's blockbuster "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" -- this is the 2002 extended cut re-release not the original -- and his first foray into the sci-fi genre, 1977's "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." And on Wednesday, the Egyptian presents the 40th anniversary screening of "Duel," the ABC TV movie that put Spielberg on the map as a filmmaker. Dennis Weaver stars in this lively thriller as a businessman driving on a stretch of deserted highway who suddenly finds himself being menaced by an unseen truck driver. The film did so well in the ratings it also had a brief theatrical release. Screening along with "Duel" is the automotive thriller "Vanishing Point," which is also celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. http://www.americancinematheque.com

"Close Encounters of the Third Kind" also is this week's flick at the Outdoor Cinema Food Fest on Saturday evening at the Northridge City Little League. http://www.outdoorcinemafoodfest.com

One of the sensations of this year's Cannes Film Festival was the re-premiere of George Melies' seminal 1902 fantasy film, "A Trip to the Moon," which was featured in its newly restored, hand-colored version. The film will be screening Tuesday at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' Samuel Goldwyn Theatre, along with several other silent goodies, including a restored "A Trip Down Market Street," a 1906 film shot in San Francisco just days before the famous earthquake hit. Tom Burton, head of the preservation department at Technicolor in L.A. who was in charge of the restoration of "Trip," and historian Serge Bromberg of Lobster Films, will be discussing the films. http://www.oscars.org

The Aero Theatre presents Joel and Ethan Coen's 1987 comedy "Raising Arizona" on Thursday evening. Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter play a married couple with baby fever who can't conceive and so decide to kidnap a tyke. http://www.americancinematheque.com

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Where would Alfred Hitchcock be with today's technology?

August 30, 2011 |  3:06 pm

Cary Grant, left, James Mason and Eva Marie Saint in Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest 
Sorry, Alfred Hitchcock, that script needs a tweak.

Impressive structure, Frank Capra, but about the premise….

Crackling good dialogue, Billy Wilder, but there’s been a technical glitch. Actually, a technology glitch.

Some of the greatest films of all time probably wouldn’t be greenlighted today without some serious script doctoring because the advent of modern technology has removed the feasibility of the plot points that so many of them turn on.

Consider the opening scene of Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” (1959). Roger (a never-better Cary Grant) realizes during a business lunch at the Plaza Hotel that he must relay a message to his mother, and therefore must send her a telegram. (For readers born after the Clinton impeachment, Google “Western Union.”) With unfortunate timing, he flags down a bellboy who is paging someone else, leading to an identity mix-up and his kidnapping by foreign spies.

A very Hitchcockian device, mistaken identity. It sets the entire plot in motion. But Hitch couldn’t have made that movie today. Not set in 2011, at least, because what successful businessman leaves the office without his 4G smartphone?

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Around Town: Ernie Kovacs, Joe Dante and 'Thelma & Louise'

August 25, 2011 |  6:00 am


A tribute to a late comic genius, a 20th anniversary of an Oscar-winning hit, and appearances from directors Joe Dante and Ron Shelton are among the cinematic highlights this weekend.

"In Kovacsland: Tribute to Ernie Kovacs," Saturday evening at the American Cinematheque's Egyptian Theatre, examines the work of the the innovative comic, who died in a car crash in 1962. During the 1950s and early '60s, Kovacs transformed TV comedy with his surreal camera tricks and crazy characters such as Percy Dovetonsils and the Nairobi Trio. Among those discussing Kovacs are Jeff Garlin, Harry Shearer and George and Jolene Brand Schlatter.

Over at the Cinematheque's Aero Theatre, director Joe Dante will discuss his work Thursday evening in between screenings of his films 1989's "The 'Burbs" and 1993's "Matinee." And on Friday, writer-director Ron Shelton will appear at the screenings of two of his sports comedies starring Kevin Costner: 1988's baseball romance "Bull Durham" and 1996's golf-featured "Tin Cup." http://www.americancinematheque.com

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Around Town: Spotlights on Greek, Kazakh cinema, director Raoul Walsh, superheroes and more

June 9, 2011 |  5:30 am


Films from Greece and Kazakhstan are in the spotlight this weekend.

The Los Angeles Greek Film Festival opens Thursday evening at Laemmle's Sunset 5 in West Hollywood with the documentary "Pelican's Watch." Other highlights include the U.S. premiere of the documentary "My Sweet Canary," as well as the U.S. premiere of Yannis Economides' "Knifer," which took home the top award at the Hellenic Film Academy. The festival closes Sunday evening at the Writers Guild Theater with the world premiere of "Burning Heads." http://www.lagff.org

UCLA Film & Television Archive celebrates the post-Soviet cinema of Kazakhstan beginning Friday and continuing through June 26 at the Billy Wilder Theater. The festival opens with a free performance of Turan, a traditional musical ensemble from the country that features bowed, wind and percussive Kazakh instruments as well as throat singing.

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Alfred Hitchcock, by way of heavy metal?

January 19, 2011 |  4:58 pm

EXCLUSIVE: There are very few filmmakers who would make great film subjects, but if you had to choose one, Alfred Hitchcock probably would be it. Visionary and irascible, the suspense pioneer lived a complicated life -- and that was just on the set. One envisions a movie about him in the throes of a creative challenge sharing parallels with some of the best of striving-artist movies -- like, say "Anvil! The Story of Anvil," Sacha Gervasi's 2009 documentary about the fallen heavy-metal pioneers trying to find their way back to the top.

Which is why it seems perfect that Gervasi is in discussions to write and direct a scripted film based on a chapter in the career of Sir Alfred. According to two insiders who've been briefed on the plans, executives at Ivan Reitman's Montecito Pictures are in discussions with Gervasi to take the reins of "Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of 'Psycho,' " a long-gestating film based on Stephen Rebello's 20-year-old book about, well, just what the title says. (It previously had drafts written by Rebello and "Black Swan" writer John McLaughlin.)

Among Rebello's many insights is that the 1960 hit "Psycho" was a departure for the "North by Northwest" director, a more explicitly shocking film that was meant to compete with other low-budget horror pictures -- "The Blair Witch Project" of its day.

There have been numerous Hollywood A-listers mentioned in association with the Hitchcock biopic, including actor Anthony Hopkins. But if Gervasi, who drew acclaaim for both the comedy and the heartbreak of "Anvil!," winds up directing the film, one can imagine plenty of wry understatement and clever pacing -- the very qualities, come to think of it, that its subject might have appreciated.

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: A scene from 'Anvil!' Credit: Abramorama



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