Last month we were all aflutter about the potential for HBO’s Phil Spector, starring Al Pacino as the bizarre music legend and Helen Mirren as the ailing attorney defending him on a murder charge, to be something so ridiculous that we couldn’t look away. Actually, it’s an okay if surprisingly unambitious film—and certainly not the worst thing for which writer/director David Mamet can claim credit.
Sorry, I think I’m still just angry about the politics of Wag the Dog. What were we saying? Oh yeah. Phil Spector suffers from that problem playwrights have where they film things that probably belong onstage: Mirren following a ranty Pacino around his castle and occasionally provoking the next riff with a plain statement of fact or bluntly phrased question. Drama!
Seriously it’s like, Pacino: [lengthy diatribe about “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” being the “best song ever released,” even though it was more than four minutes long]. Mirren: “Did you kill that woman, Philip?” Pacino: “THEY HATE ME BECAUSE I’M ESSENTIALLY JESUS CHRIST.” Pretty entertaining at first and then, wait, isn’t this just The Devil’s Advocate, somehow?
In one of Hollywood’s cooler extracurricular activities, Jason Reitman’s live stage readings are always pretty great. Having staged The Breakfast Club, Shampoo, Reservoir Dogs, The Princess Bride, The Big Lebowski, and The Apartment, the director last took Alan Ball and Sam Mendes’ American Beauty to the stage at TIFF and now EW announces that he’ll tackling the biting and testosterone-driven Glengary Glen Ross—with an all-female cast. Good move, Reitman. Written by sharp-tongued genius David Mamet and adapted for the screen in 1992, the film that starred Al Pacino, Jack Lemmmon, Alec Baldwin, and Kevin Spacey will now be played by:
Robin Wright – hotshot sales agent Ricky Roma, originated by Al Pacino Catherine O’Hara — desperate Shelley Levene, originated by Jack Lemmon Maria Bello — Dave Moss, the tough-talking underperformer played by Ed Harris Allison Janney — aging, weak-willed George Aaronow, originated by Alan Arkin Mae Whitman — office manager John Williamson, played by Kevin Spacey
Speaking to the gender reversal of the reading, Reitman said, "We toyed with the idea of doing a gender swap on a film like Top Gun, but instead decided on a full reverse from men to wome…there is no reason this script needs to be read by men outside of our own social stereotypes.” He also went on to say that, "This kind of evening allows us to really pursue the original purpose of the live read — to reexamine and celebrate the author’s words through new voices…I’m excited to see what plays differently and how this kind of change can further expose the genius of Mamet’s play and screenplay.”
Well, someone get me a plane ticket because the performance will be on Feb. 21 at the Los Angeles County Museum and this seems pretty awesome.
Notwithstanding Al Pacino’s clearly spot-on portrayal of the mad music legend, HBO’s Phil Spector biopic is shaping up to be a goddamn glorious trainwreck. I don’t know how deep you’ve gone into David Mamet’s back catalogue but there are some really bizarre low cards in that deck—I’d go so far as to say House of Games almost ruined the great Joe Mantenga for me. So tread lightly, Helen Mirren fans.
The film seems to focus mainly on the objectively insane Spector’s various hairstyles—a sequence of wigs on Pacino that defies every computer-generated cinematic image with its rejection of verisimilitude. In these wigs, Pacino delivers unctuous lines like “First time you got felt up, guess what? You were listening to one of my songs,” but as though he were still performing in Heat.
But yes! Guns and Jeffery Tambor and wait a minute, is there even going to be a Phil Spector song in this Phil Spector movie? Ah, there it is—sweet pop music. As the soundtrack to mouth-foaming rants from Pacino, in a wig. Entertainment doesn’t get much more entertaining.
"He’s a freak. They’re gonna convict him of I-just-don’t-like you." So begins the first teaser for HBO’s Phil Spector, the David Mamet-helmed-and-written film about one of the most influential and successful music producers in history and his 2003 murder trial. And indeed, said trial, during which Spector was found guilty of the murder of Lana Clarkson (for which he is serving 19 years to life), transformed him in the public eye from one of the music industry’s most celebrated figures to one of it’s most reviled, a symbol of the dark side of the music world. The trial photos became a topic of conversation, in part due to Spector’s distinctive hairstyles.
Now, a teaser and press photos for the film, which premieres March 24th, have been released, and star Al Pacino seems pretty committed to the role. Pacino dons a number of Spector’s signature coifs, most notably his towering curly mop, which creates an eerie resemblance. And it doesn’t stop at the hair—he shouts all over the place, shoots guns in the studio and asserts himself as a musical genius. Alongside him is Helen Mirren, who plays his defense attorney and appears decidedly more composed. Watch.
Sometimes it can seem like the New York stage is an extension of the Hollywood machine, and vice versa.
These days movie stars come and go on Broadway like city buses (though moving from the stage to the screen remains seemingly more difficult), and shows based on films—”Sister Act,” “Catch Me If You Can,” et al.—are hitting the Great White Way at a dizzying speed.
So it was no surprise—albeit still pleasant—when ArtsBeat earlier revealed that David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross, which won a Pulitzer on page, numerous Tonys on stage, and was nominated for an Oscar when it was on screen, is coming back to Broadway.
As you’re too young to remember, the show first opened in 1984. It became a film in 1992, was revived on stage in 2005 and now is coming back. Oh, and Al Pacino, who was in the film will be back, although in a different part. Got that?
Unfortunately, every clip from the (awesome) film version of Mamet’s story is blocked from being embedded in a post, so we can’t share with you our favorite scenes. But we can point you here.
And below are some clips from recent productions of movies-gone-to-stage. You be the judge of whether the trend is a good or bad one