Writers in Hollywood

Pizzlolatto

I spent the ensuing weeks across a table from Nic, hashing out plotlines. It gave me a chance to study him at close quarters. No one was more vehement about character and motivation than Nic. Now and then, he’d do the voices or act out a scene, turning his wrist to demonstrate the pop-pop of gunplay. He was 37 but somehow ageless. He could’ve stepped out of a novel by Steinbeck. The writer as crusader, chronicler of love and depravity. His shirt was rumpled, his hair mussed, his manner that of a man who’d just hiked along the railroad tracks or rolled out from under a box. He is fine-featured, with fierce eyes a little too small for his face. It gives him the aura of a bear or some other species of dangerous animal. When I was a boy and dreamed of literature, this is how I imagined a writer—a kind of outlaw, always ready to fight or go on a spree. After a few drinks, you realize the night will culminate with pledges of undying friendship or the two of you on the floor, trying to gouge each other’s eyes out.

I love True Detective and I loved, loved reading this profile of Nic Pizzolatto in Vanity Fair (from which I steal the above photo, credited to Art Streiber).

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I did have a quibble, though.

Here’s what profile writer Rich Cohen says about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood:

Early in the history of film, when the big-time writers of the day, Fitzgerald most famously, were offered a role in the movies, they decided to write for the cash, forswearing deeper participation in a medium they considered second-rate. Perhaps as a result of this decision, the author came to be the forgotten figure in Hollywood, well paid but disregarded. According to the old joke, “the actress was so stupid she slept with the writer.”

Later:

Credit and power are shared. But by tossing out that first season and beginning again, Nic has a chance to finally undo the early error of Fitzgerald and the rest. If he fails and the show tanks, he’ll be just another writer with one great big freakish hit. But if he succeeds, he will have generated a model in which the stars and the stories come and go but the writer remains as guru and king.

Not sure this is totally accurate.  I’ve read a decent amount about F. Scott Fitzgerald in Hollywood.  The more you read, the more it seems like Fitzgerald really loved Hollywood, and tried really hard to be good at writing movies, and was distressed by his failures.  Fitzgerald loved movies:

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When Fitzgerald worked on movies, it seems like he worked hard, was hurt when he was (frequently) fired, which sent him into tailspins that made things worse.  But he was trying:

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Those are from the great Marc Norman’s book, highly recommended:

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Or how about this?:

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That’s from this great one, by Scott Donaldson:

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Now, that’s not to say that Fitzgerald always did everything perfectly:

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(from this one, very entertaining read:

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).

On the other hand, William Faulkner did well in Hollywood.  He’s credited on at least two movies — The Big Sleep and To Have And Have Not, that you’d have to put in the all-time good list.  If he’d never written a single book, you could look at those credits and call Faulkner a pretty successful screenwriter.

What did Faulkner do differently than Fitzgerald?  Possibly, his secret was caring less:

IMG_8502 More, from Norman:
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Murky, to be sure.

But you might say: the big difference in the Hollywood careers of Fitzgerald and Faulkner is that Faulkner teamed with a great director, Howard Hawks, who liked him and liked working with him.

That’s what Pizzolatto did too.  He teamed up with Cary Fukunaga. Cary Fukunaga directed all eight episodes of season one of True Detective (and a bunch of other things worth seeing).

Fukunaga’s not mentioned once in that Vanity Fair article.  That’s crazy.

Anyway. I’m excited for season two, it sounds super interesting.


“Lesser” McConaughey, or, On The Subject Of Great Acting

1995. I got my first big paycheck as an actor. I think it was 150 grand. The film was Boys on the Side and we’re shooting in Tucson, AZ and I have this sweet little adobe guest house on the edge of the Saguaro National Park. The house came with a maid. My first maid. It was awesome. So, I’ve got a friend over one Friday night and we’re having a good time and I’m telling her about how happy I am with my set up . The house. The maid. Especially, the maid. I’m telling her, “she cleans the place after I go to work, washes my clothes, the dishes, puts fresh water by my bed, leaves me cooked meals sometimes, and SHE EVEN PRESSES MY JEANS!” My friend, she smiles at me, happy for my genuine excitement over this “luxury service” I’m getting, and she says, “Well…that’s great…if you like your jeans pressed.”

I kind of looked at her, kind of stuttered without saying anything, you know, that dumb ass look you can get, and it hit me…

I hate that line going down my jeans! And it was then, for the first time, that I noticed…I’ve never thought about NOT liking that starched line down the front of my jeans!! Because I’d never had a maid to iron my jeans before!! And since she did, now, for the first time in my life, I just liked it because Icould get it, I never thought about if I really wanted it there. Well, I did NOT want it there. That line… and that night I learned something.

Just because you CAN?… Nah… It’s not a good enough reason to do something. Even when it means having more, be discerning, choose it, because you WANT it, DO IT because you WANT to.

I’ve never had my jeans pressed since.

I have been a McConaughey enthusiast for awhile.  Proof: I saw Sahara and The Lincoln Lawyer* in the theater.

Here is a thing I admired then and continue to admire about McConaughey:

He treated ridiculous movies with utmost seriousness.

I don’t believe he treated Sahara with any less respect than True Detective, even though Sahara is crazy.

He brought pride and his fullest effort to those movies, the same as he would to any other movie.  Failure To Launch, for example.

This is the mark of a true professional who practices his craft with great honor and seriousness

(but: could it also be the mark of someone who doesn’t know when something is ridiculous?)

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The director, Richard Linklater, kept inviting me back to set each night, putting me in more scenes which led to more lines all of which I happily said YES to. I was having a blast. People said I was good at it, they were writing me a check for $325 a day. I mean hell yeah, give me more scenes, I love this!! And by the end of the shoot those 3 lines had turned into over 3 weeks work and “it was Wooderson’s ’70 Chevelle we went to get Aerosmith tickets in.” Bad ass.

Well, a few years ago I was watching the film again and I noticed two scenes that I really shouldn’t have been in. In one of the scenes, I exited screen left to head somewhere, then re-entered the screen to “double check” if any of the other characters wanted to go with me. Now, in rewatching the film, (and you’ll agree if you know Wooderson), he was not a guy who would ever say, “later,” and then COME BACK to “see if you were sure you didn’t wanna come with him..” No, when Wooderson leaves, Wooderson’s gone, he doesn’t stutter step, flinch, rewind, ask twice, or solicit, right? He just “likes those high school girls cus he gets older and they stay the same age.”

My point is, I should NOT have been in THAT scene, I should have exited screen left and never come back.

Matthew McConaughey is a truly great actor.

From a description of an interview with Cary Fukunaga:

Fukunaga took one of these opportunities to share a story about directing Matthew McConaughey, a health-nut and non-smoker, in an early scene where he takes long, audible drags of a cigarette. Fukunaga describes saying, “‘don’t make it look like a middle school girl smoking for the first time.’ And McConaughey went in the opposite direction, just Cheech and Chong-ing it.”

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Bo Jackson ran over the goal line, through the end zone and up the tunnel — the greatest snipers and marksmen in the world don’t aim at the target, they aim on the other side of it.

We do our best when our destinations are beyond the “measurement,” when our reach continually exceeds our grasp, when we have immortal finish lines.

When we do this, the race is never over. The journey has no port. The adventure never ends because we are always on our way. Do this, and let them tap us on the shoulder and say, “hey, you scored.” Let them tell you “You won.” Let them come tell you, “you can go home now.” Let them say “I love you too.” Let them say “thank you.”

These quotes are from his amazing commencement speech at University of Houston:

The late and great University of Texas football coach Daryl Royal was a friend of mine and a good friend to many. A lot of people looked up to him. One was a musician named “Larry.” Now at this time in his life Larry was in the prime of his country music career, had #1 hits and his life was rollin’. He had picked up a habit snortin’ “the white stuff” somewhere along the line and at one particular party after a “bathroom break,” Larry went confidently up to his mentor Daryl and he started telling Coach a story. Coach listened as he always had and when Larry finished his story and was about to walk away, Coach Royal put a gentle hand on his shoulder and very discreetly said, “Larry, you got something on your nose there bud.” Larry immediately hurried to the bathroom mirror where he saw some white powder he hadn’t cleaned off his nose. He was ashamed. He was embarrassed. As much because he felt so disrespectful to Coach Royal, and as much because he’d obviously gotten too comfortable with the drug to even hide as well as he should.

Well, the next day Larry went to coach’s house, rang the doorbell, Coach answered and he said, “Coach, I need to talk to you.” Daryl said, “sure, c’mon in.”

Larry confessed. He purged his sins to Coach. He told him how embarrassed he was, and how he’s “lost his way” in the midst of all the fame and fortune and towards the end of an hour, Larry, in tears, asked Coach, “What do you think I should do?” Now, Coach, being a man of few words, just looked at him and calmly confessed himself. He said, “Larry, I have never had any trouble turning the page in the book of my life.” Larry got sober that day and he has been for the last 40 years.

Now: I loved reading this speech.  Many important reminders about life:

Mom and dad teach us things as children. Teachers, mentors, the government and laws all give us guidelines to navigate life, rules to abide by in the name of accountability.

I’m not talking about those obligations. I’m talking about the ones we make with ourselves, with our God, with our own consciousness. I’m talking about the YOU versus YOU obligations. We have to have them. Again, these are not societal laws and expectations that we acknowledge and endow for anyone other than ourselves. These are FAITH based OBLIGATIONS that we make on our own.

Not the lowered insurance rate for a good driving record, you will not be fined or put in jail if you do not gratify the obligations I speak of — no one else governs these but you.

They’re secrets with yourself, private council, personal protocols, and while nobody throws you a party when you abide by them, no one will arrest you when you break them either. Except yourself. Or, some cops who got a “disturbing the peace” call at 2:30 in the morning because you were playing bongos in your birthday suit.

Entertainment Tonight called this speech “bonkers.”

That’s not fair.

Maybe a fourteenth lesson that McConaughey only hints at in his speech is: to achieve greatness you must dance along the edge of bonkers.  To do anything worthwhile you must risk appearing ridiculous. On your journey, at many points, you will appear ridiculous.  The fear of appearing ridiculous stops all too many from achieving their potential.

You know these No Fear t-shirts? I don’t get em. Hell, I try to scare myself at least once a day. I get butterflies every morning before I go to work. I was nervous before I got here to speak tonight. I think fear is a good thing. Why? Because it increases our NEED to overcome that fear.

Say your obstacle is fear of rejection. You want to ask her out but you fear she may say “no.” You want to ask for that promotion but you’re scared your boss will think you’re overstepping your bounds.

Well, instead of denying these fears, declare them, say them out loud, admit them, give them the credit they deserve. Don’t get all macho and act like they’re no big deal, and don’t get paralyzed by denying they exist and therefore abandoning your need to overcome them. I mean, I’d subscribe to the belief that we’re all destined to have to do the thing we fear the most anyway.

So, you give your obstacles credit and you will one. Find the courage to overcome them or see clearly that they are not really worth prevailing over.

Here is what McConaughey looked like giving his speech.

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Here is a great actor whose greatest role is himself.

* The Lincoln Lawyer spoke to a real fantasy I can’t be alone in having in Los Angeles: someone driving you everywhere in comfortable quiet.   Since then Uber has come close to making that a reality.


“Chivalby is alive and well here”

The Twelve Angry Men parody was amazing.  Had not been watching Amy Schumer but then Bronson told me to watch her on Ellen:

(Does Bronson watch Ellen?)

UPDATE: almost didn’t post this because I thought it was so accepted and obvious, but am getting some serious blowback!  You can reach Helytimes at helphely at gmail.  Love any strong takes.


British House Of Cards

I have to credit my bud and debate partner Dave King* with putting me on to the British House Of Cards.  Just watch the first two minutes — so wonderfully, insanely British.

* not to be confused with South African businessman, fraudster, Rangers football club shareholder, and sometime golf caddy Dave King

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Sarah Paulson

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Ryan Murphy sees Sarah Paulson and says, “that woman should be in every season of my show American Horror Story.  A witch, a freak, a tortured soul — if it’s horrifying, she’s the one.”

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Steve McQueen sees Sarah Paulson and says, “that woman should play the worst, meanest, southern plantation woman ever seen in film.”

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“Truly, I’ve found the actress who can make the everyday cruelty of a slaveowner’s wife comprehensible.”

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Aaron Sorkin sees Sarah Paulson and says:

“That’s the funniest woman in America.”


Donna Douglas Dies

Elly May Dances With A Chimp

Had a slight crush on Elly May from The Beverly Hillbillies (pictured, left, above) which was on TV somehow in my youth.

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The Beverly Hillbillies was more influential than people give it credit for.  At one time I looked into remaking it but the rights situation made it unfeasible for me.  Also, we might already have that story on TV in other forms.  Watching funny rubes who have a lots of money but aren’t “high class” fills a lot of TV hours.

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Newer versions though often forget to include a well-meaning, restraining if stodgy character like Mr. Drysdale, the banker:

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and his loyal secretarial assistant, Miss Jane Hathaway, whom Wikipedia describes as “the love-starved bird-watching perennial spinster”:

Miss HathawayHere she is enjoying a cigarette… perhaps too much?:

The actress who played Miss Hathaway, Nancy Kulp, seems pretty interesting:

Kulp received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Florida State University in 1943, then known as the Florida State College for Women, and she started pursuing a master’s degree in English and French at the University of Miami. Early in the 1940s she worked as a feature writer for the Miami Beach Tropics newspaper, writing profiles of celebrities, including Clark Gable and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor.[6][7]

In 1944 Kulp left the University of Miami to volunteer for service in the US Naval Reserve during World War II. As a member of theWAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service), Ltjg. Kulp received several decorations, including the American Campaign Medal,

Kulp moved to Hollywood, California, not long after she married Charles Malcolm Dacus (in April 1951), to work in a studio publicitydepartment, where director George Cukor convinced her that she should work in front of a camera.

She later ran for as a Democrat for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 9th District:

To her dismay, Hillbillies co-star Buddy Ebsen called the Shuster campaign and volunteered to make a radio campaign ad in which he called Kulp ” too liberal.” Kulp said of Ebsen, “‘He’s not the kindly old Jed Clampett that you saw on the show… It’s none of his business and he should have stayed out of it.‘ She said she and Ebsen ‘didn’t get along because I found him difficult to work with. But I never would have done something like this to him.'” Garnering 59,449 votes, or just 33.6% to Shuster’s 117,203 votes and 66.4%, she lost.

The life of Raymond Bailey, who played Mr. Drysdale, seems pretty interesting too:

Having no success getting any kind of movie roles, Bailey then went to New York where he had no better success getting roles in theatre. Eventually he became a crewman on a freighter and began sailing to various parts of the world, including China, Japan, the Philippines and the Mediterranean. While docked in Hawaii, he worked on a pineapple plantation, acted at the community theatre and sang on a local radio program.

In 1938, he decided to try Hollywood again. His luck changed for the better when he actually began getting some bit parts in movies, but after the United States entered World War II he joined the Merchant Marine and went back to sea. When the war was over he returned to Hollywood and eventually began getting bigger character roles.

Buddy Ebsen also spent time at sea:

Ebsen served as damage control officer and later as executive officer on the Coast Guard-manned Navyfrigate USS Pocatello, which recorded weather at its “weather station” 1,500 miles west of Seattle, Washington. These patrols consisted of 30 days at sea, followed by 10 days in port at Seattle.

Rest in p Donna D.  We’ll always remember you for your classic Twilight Zone episode as well:

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(CBS)

 

 

 


For your consideration

from this old Vulture interview with Tom McCarthy:

Did you write that [The Station Agent] with Peter in mind?
I did. I met Pete in New York and directed him in a play [called The Killing Agent] way downtown and way, way, way off Broadway, and I just thought he was terrific and saw what everyone knows now. I thought, This guy is a leading man! He has the looks, he’s cool, he just carries himself in that way of a leading man. I started the idea of the script without him in mind, and then I realized, Oh, he fits truly well. It’s funny because I remember when we were distributing that movie, Miramax had this moment where they were trying to put him out there upfront. I said, “We should just have a one-page ad in the New York Times with Peter Dinklage because he’s just that cool.” And they were like, “Nah, nah, it’s too hard. But we’ll figure it out.” And now the guy’s everywhere. He’s the coolest guy on the planet.


Newspapers are funny

Correction: February 25, 2014

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this obituary incorrectly described a scene from the movie “Caddyshack.”  In it, a clergyman is struck by lightning when he curses after missing a putt during the best golf game of his life, not when he thanks God.

Helytimes Trivia: the Harold Ramis profile in the New Yorker is the source for the first ever post on Helytimes

Another death yesterday:

What “broke the cy­cle,” he said, was when he spoke at Om­a­ha Beach, telling of how he had waved to Ro­land as they pre­pared to board their ships to cross the Eng­lish Chan­nel. “My knees were trem­bling when I stood be­fore the au­di­ence that day, with 14,000 vets and 17 heads of state,” he said. “But af­ter that, the night­mares went away. I came to grips with his death. They say when you talk about some­thing you fi­nally let it out.”


Ellen Page

A good chance to revisit Trailer Park Boys:

Treena Leahy never really broke out as a character, no fault of Miss Page’s I say.


RIP Shirley Temple Black, former US Ambassador to Ghana

Amazing paragraph from the NYT obituary:

Mr. Black, who was dropped from the San Fran­cis­co So­cial Reg­is­ter for mar­ry­ing an ac­tress, told a re­porter in 1988: “Over 38 years I have par­tici­pated in her life 24 hours a day through thick and thin, trau­mat­ic sit­u­a­tions, ex­ul­tant sit­u­a­tions, and I feel she has on­ly one per­son­ality. She would be cat­a­strophic for the psy­chi­at­ric pro­fes­sion. You can wake her up in the mid­dle of the night and she has the same per­son­ality ev­ery­body knows. What ev­ery­body has seen for 60 years is the bed­rock.”

Title of an early film series: “Baby Burlesque.”

(photo)