When Lucas & Lynch Met: An Animated Tale

As someone who once semi-seriously was lobbied for David Lynch to direct the final installment of Twilight, I understand the notion of considering a director to move out of their element and cast their genius upon an already established territory. However, whatever Dune may have implied, David Lynch and Star Wars would be a terribly painful mixture.

But before Richard Marquand signed on to direct Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, George Lucas considered both David Cronenberg and David Lynch to direct the feature—thankfully, both took a pass. And in this wonderful little video, we see an animated retelling of Lynch and Lucas’ meeting in which they go out for lunch, Lynch gets a migraine from too much Wookiee talk, and he turns down the big bucks. Take a look below at the Lynch-voiced video below.

When Lynch Met Lucas from G.O. Welles on Vimeo.

Original ‘Star Wars’ Cast Will Probably Be in the New ‘Star Wars’

Awww, the Star Wars gang is getting back together! While Carrie Fisher shared the news this week that she’ll be in the newest Star Wars film (I think we’re on, like, episode eighteen or something?) directed by J.J. Abrams, a lot of people (myself included) thought, "Uh, huh. OK, sure." But now an interview with George Lucas makes it sound like the casting is a given.

In an interview with Bloomberg Businessweek (via Vulture), Lucas shared probably too much information:

Asked whether members of the original Star Wars cast will appear in Episode VII and if he called them before the deal closed to keep them informed, Lucas says, “We had already signed Mark and Carrie and Harrison—or we were pretty much in final stages of negotiation. So I called them to say, ‘Look, this is what’s going on.’ ” He pauses. “Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them.” Then he adds: “I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not.”

You know what, George? Why don’t you keep that mouth buttoned and get back to us when everything’s settled. And I mean everything. Billy Dee Williams or bust!

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Cinematic Panic: Looking Back on the Tortured Minds Behind ‘Taxi Driver’

“This movie is as good as Citizen Kane…no, it’s better than Citizen Kane, it’s got more heart,” said John Cassavetes to Martin Scorsese after watching Who’s That Knocking at My Door for the first time. Scorsese nearly passed out. He worshipped Cassavetes, and from then on Cassavetes looked at him like son. And although both Cassavetes and Scorsese both put out some of the best films of the 1970s, they were from two entirely different schools of filmmaking. The Scorseses of the world inherited what the Cassavetes generation had paved the way for. But Cassavetes was just insular in his world, extremely consumed by his own concerns. It was moreso the Hopper-Beatty-Nicholson generation that filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, stumbled down from. These young filmmakers were now able to operate on the notion that there could be a conversation between them and the audience. “They were the benefactors, the prodigy of New Hollywood battles fought and won for artistic integrity and youth recognition by everyone from Arthur Penn to Stanley Kubrick and Peter Fonda,” said Peter Biskind in his book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls that provides perhaps the best written account of this era in Hollywood.

And although he’s one of Hollywood greatest living legends and cinematic minds today, about 40 years ago Scorsese was just a chubby young filmmaker, fresh out of school and clawing at the bit to get his voice heard and his work seen. Sandy Weintraub, who Scorsese collaborated with artistically as well as romantically, said, “Marty was tempestuous, volatile, and passionate about his life…he breathed, ate, and shat movies. I would tell him about my dreams and he would tell me about the movie he had seen on TV the day before.” Coming from a strictly Catholic Italian-American family in New York, Scorsese had grown up a child plagued with physical ailments. His asthma forced him to stay inside while other young kids played outside, thus helping him develop his lifelong obsession with cinema and the escape into other worlds through the screen.

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“The period from ’71 to ’76 was the best period because we were just starting out,” Scorcese said. “We couldn’t wait for our friends’ next pictures, Brian [De Palma]’s next picture, Francis [Ford Coppola]’s next picture, to see what they were doing. Dinners in Chinese restaurants midday in L.A. with Spielberg and Lucas.” And Nicholas Beach was where he and Sandy would make the trip up the Pacific Coast Highway each weekend: a secluded spot filled with their group of filmmaking pals “where the only rules were the ones we made.” As is told in Easy Riders, Raging Bulls, one day Peter Boyle came to stay at the beach and brought a vile of coke—suddenly, “Eve bit into the apple.” It was new to most everyone, not knowing exactly how to do it. But it stuck. Actress Margot Kidder recalled, “Out of the drugs came a lot of swampy ideas but also a lot of creative thinking and most important, breaking down of personal barriers and that ridiculousness of pride of holding oneself and having a phony social persona. If that hadn’t been the case, none of us would have developed our talents. But Spielberg didn’t take drugs, Brian didn’t, Marty didn’t until later when he got into trouble with coke. The directors who ended up successful were very protective of their own brains.”

Scorsese had enough problems. He was filled with a mix of Catholic guilt and anxieties created by his own strenuous mind. Flying was a disaster—he had to grip a crucifix until his knuckles turned white during take off, he was afraid the number eleven (he wouldn’t go anywhere near it or anything that added up to it), and he was also absolutely convinced that he was going to die by age 40. It wasn’t a self-destructive notion, rather just an innate knowledge that he was going to live hard and die young whether it be from his always-uneasy health or a plane crash. So it seems for someone so burdened by neurosis, he would find a companion in a like-minded individual who was also “culturally and emotionally sandbagged by the ’50s”—that person being Paul Schrader, just one of the boys at the beach. But it wasn’t so easy.

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Schrader was a very messed up human—”deranged” many would say. He was extremely intelligent but cynical and depressive. He was raised in a strict Dutch Calvinist household with parents that would whip him with electrical chords and poke him in the hand with needles, telling him, This is what hell will feel like.” Martin Scorsese once said that his entire life was “religion and film, nothing else,” and it seems as though Schrader too shared that sentiment. He did not see a movie until he was seventeen, and when he did he began to hallucinate, believing he had committed some great sin and was going to burn in Hell forever. His strict Calvinist upbringing left a paralyzing imprint on his work; film for him will always be dirt—cinema, sex, and sin forever linked in Schrader’s eyes. But he did not shy away from these subjects; he embraced them manically, using them as a way to expose his darkest desires that had always been forbidden. He put his sins on paper as a way to relieve himself of them, as if he will be freed once they are out of his head and onto the page. He exploits the dark side of sex and its industry in his films (his male characters frequently visit pornographic theaters and brothels), but he does so in a way that’s stripped of any ounce of sensuality or desire. The Calvinists believe that if you do these things right in your life, death will be your salvation and you’ll go to Heaven. Schrader, however, had committed enough sin to burn in Hell. These feelings of guilt and fear left him socially and psychologically disturbed, feeling removed from the world around him, like a lonely figure traveling through life.

One day, over a game of chess, Schrader told Brian De Palma that he had written a script called Taxi Driver. De Palma sent it to producer Michael Phillips who loved it but knew finding a director to take on something so bizarre would be a challenge. Scorsese wanted it—bad. But when Schrader saw a cut of Scorcese’s Boxcar Bertha, he just rolled his eyes. He discussed the script with Pauline Kael who “didn’t know if De Niro could carry a film.” At that time, Robert De Niro was a fairly unknown actor who came from a middle-class bohemian upbringing—a stark contrast to that of Schrader and Scorsese, the latter fascinated by the idea of this “paradise” to be raised in a creative environment. De Niro’s rebellion came from “getting into the heavy street thing.” But he was a serious actor and rarely ever spoke, which seems like a far cry to the De Niro we know today. Casting director Nessa Hyams once said, “You couldn’t get De Niro arrested.” He rarely attended parties or hung out; when he did go to a party, he would often be found falling asleep on the couch.

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After the release of Mean Streets, Scorsese and De Niro both got the green light, and Taxi Driver came into action. The film is a hard-edged look at the New York City streets told through the lens of an art film. The neon-lit buildings sparkle and melt onto the screen in contrast to the filth and scum that penetrate the sidewalks and, thusly, the collective psyche of the film. Biskind describes the film best as:

following the nocturnal wanderings of a cabbie, Travis Bickle—a violent, Vietnam vet—through Times Square as he encounters a variety of human offal and rountinely cleans the blood and come off his backseat. He gets a crush on a blonde campaign worker, and his attention wanders between her and Iris, a twelve-year-old hooker. The story climaxes in a bloodbath, as he blows away Iris’s pimp and johns in an attempt to redeem her.

Taxi Driver begins with the menacing and anxiety-invoking Bernard Herrmann score that encompasses the rest of the film. Scorceses doesn’t hide anything. The close up of Travis’s eyes blend with the scenery as we realize the city around him is just as much of a character as he is. Biskind goes on to say, “To paraphrase Schrader, if you put Penn and Antonioni in bed together, put a gun to their heads and told them to fuck while Bresson watched through the keyhole, you got Taxi Driver.” Fair enough.

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Travis must transform himself from the inside out in order to accomplish what he’s set out to do. He must go down into the underworld where he’s seeking vengeance on and become the scum he sees on the streets. In order to save Iris and help rid the world of the filth polluting the streets, he tries to make himself a machine. He goes from eating terribly to working out everyday and trying to make himself as hard as possible—mentally and physically. He changes his lax attitude and becomes strict with himself as if he is completely possessed by his mission. His life needed a purpose and this was it. When special forces were going into battle, they would shave their hair into a Mohawk; as a veteran, it would make sense that Travis would do the same. This was his battle. Paul Schrader dressed De Niro in his own clothes for the film as Travis. He could have played the role himself.

With Michael Chapman as the DP and Raoul Coutard as cinematographer, the film takes the sort of European aesthetic and sense of isolation with an hint of an Americana façade. Everyone involved in the film was influenced heavily by the work of the French new wave. Chapman said, “Godard was the great freeing influence for all of us. He said, ‘Look, you don’t have to worry about this or that’”—a notion that made its way into Taxi Driver from the Alka Seltzer shot reference to 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her to the moment Travis drives into the car garage and the camera goes elsewhere, saying, ‘Don’t look at this guy, look at the word he lives in.’ When Scorsese was forced to desaturate the colors in the denouement of the film so that it could slide from an X-rating to an R, he thought the joke was on everyone else—the washed-out grit of it all only made it that much more brutal.

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In the beginning of the film, Travis speaks of rain washing the scum off the streets; in the end he takes on the role of that rain. The final moments leave us questioning whether or not he kills himself as a means of salvation, or if it is in fact a reality that he is a hero and Iris is returned home safely to her parents. But whatever audiences believed, they loved it, and the film was a surprising commercial success. Bickle look-alikes lined up around the block to see the film the day it opened, feeling a connection to this new and bizarre piece of cinema that reflected not only where things were at but the frightening reality of what we are all capable of. When we watch the film now and look back on these young people involved, those men thriving with talent and exploding with an aggressive passion, one cannot help but wonder what will speak to our generation the way this film did to those of the time. I suppose only time will tell.

You can see Taxi Driver tonight and tomorrow at midnight at IFC Center.

Follow Hillary Weston on Twitter.

Linkage: Don Johnson’s Moderately Sized Johnson, ‘Fifty Shades’ of Krysten Ritter

It’s news to most of us who were born in the early ’80s and don’t remember much about Don Johnson, but apparently he’s always been rumored to have a large penis. “Johnson,” you see. But now that people are talking about him again (he’s another nearly forgotten actor who owes Quentin Tarantino an Edible Arrangement or, perhaps, an Ace of Cakes creation in the shape of a foot), Johnson has taken the time to debunk the rumor. “Look, I’ve seen guys with a lot bigger [penises] than me.” And now we know! [VH1 Celebrity]

A new season of Cougar Town premieres on TBS next Tuesday, and the cast and crew couldn’t be more thrilled that the network, unlike others (*cough*ABC*cough*) are actually promoting it. But they all still think the name is stupid. Says co-creator Bill Lawrence, “Being filled with self-loathing is a characteristic of 90 percent of comedy writers anyway… It’s an amazing title. I’d do it again.” [Hollywood Reporter]

TV’s baddest B might find the tables turned on the big screen. Apt. 23’s Krysten Ritter tweeted that she’d be “down” to play the role of Anastasia Steele in a movie adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. Winky-face! [EW]

A&E proves that there’s some sort of liberal media bias. The network has picked up The Governor’s Wife, a 12-episode reality series about former Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards and his wife, Trina, who is 50 years his junior. I’m ashamed to report this dude is a Democrat. [Deadline]

Meanwhile, Joe Biden could easily star in his own television program. [Hypervocal]

BREAKING NEWS: 68-year-old Star Wars enthusiast engaged to really hot lady. [People]

As it turns out, the newspaper featured in Back to the Future and its sequel—the Hill Valley Telegraph—was a pretty shitty publication. [Vulture]

If you’re planning to get bombed on your next transatlantic flight, do your best not to fly Icelandair. Duct tape residue is hard to remove. [Gawker]

I didn’t bother to figure out what the hell “Downton braves its own fiscal cliff” is supposed to mean, but knock yourselves out. [WaPo]

“Let’s never forget: we’re the story, not them,” says Albert Brooks’s character in Broadcast News. With that in mind, here’s what the apartment shared by a couple of New York-based reporters looks like. (What’s that? You’re not a member of the New York media? Well, that’s your problem.) [HuffPo]

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Disney Buys Lucasfilm, Promises ‘Star Wars’ Episode VII

Great news for anyone who likes nerds to suffer grievous self-harm: Walt Disney Co. has purchased Lucasfilm Ltd. for a modest $4.05 billion. The merger agreement includes plans for a Star Wars sequel—actually, three, for the full trilogy of trilogies, or nonology—with Episode 7 slated for 2015. Better dig out a costume and get on right line now.

George Lucas, the world’s foremost lightning rod for geek rage, had this to say in his statement about the deal:

“For the past 35 years, one of my greatest pleasures has been to see Star Wars passed from one generation to the next. It’s now time for me to pass Star Wars on to a new generation of filmmakers. I’ve always believed that Star Wars could live beyond me, and I thought it was important to set up the transition during my lifetime.”

So who should we expect to take the helm, here? As it’s Disney, they could always go full CGI cartoon—that would really make some superfan heads explode. Or maybe Chris Nolan can give us a “gritty” reboot of the whole franchise. Because what’s left to do after the second death star is destroyed? Will it be set thirty years later, and a dissolute Mark Hamill is just wandering the galaxy, using the Force to win bar bets? Did Han Solo marry into Alderaanish royalty? I imagine Carrie Fisher chucking her phone through a window and then taking hostages the first time they call to ask about a cameo. Now that’s a movie I would watch.

Follow Miles Klee on Twitter.

The ‘Star Wars’/Gotye Spoof You Don’t Have To Be A Nerd To Love

Spoofs of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know reached peak spoof-ability, oh, two months ago. That shouldn’t prevent you from watching the music video for The Star Wars That I Used To Know, a parody of the diminishing quality of George Lucas’ films that even non-nerds will love.

The Kimbra part is played by an adorable white-bearded George Lucas lookalike and goddamn, he is just funny to look at. Nordic-looking hottie Tyson Apostol from Survivor plays Gotye. And with lyrics like "But you didn’t have to change it all / make ’em like they never happened and the fans are nothing" and "Jar Jar was an all-time low / what happened to the Star Wars that I used to know?," you’ll giggle even if you’re not quite sure why Star Wars fans are pissed. (Something about over-reliance on special effects and sub-par actors, I think?)

 

Don’t Expect to See ‘The Phantom Menace’’s Jake Lloyd Ever Act Again

Congratulations, Star Wars fans: your taunts and jeers and expressions of general dissatisfaction have gone a long way toward derailing the acting career of Jake Lloyd, a.k.a. Young Anakin Skywalker — one of the parts of Star Wars: Episode I that you really, really couldn’t deal with, in all likelihood. Only ten years old when The Phantom Menace came out in 1999, Lloyd says that the adverse reaction to the film made his life at school as unpleasant as you could imagine it to be. "Other children were really mean to me," he said. "They would make the sound of the lightsaber every time they saw me. It was totally mad."

Lloyd claims that he was so upset by the filming process and the subsequent blowback that he decided he would never act again — something he’s stayed true to, apart from a role in 2001’s Madison — and that he destroyed all of his Star Wars memorabilia in the following years. He currently lives in Chicago, where he recently finished studying film at Columbia College, and only makes the chance appearance at sci-fi conventions (because the money you can make from fanboy autographs is seriously extreme).

It’s hard not to empathize with Lloyd: imagine being known for one thing people hated for the rest of your life, a role that any child actor would’ve chomped at the bit for. Imagine having to read well-reasoned essays on why your inclusion in the film is totally unnecessary, angry reviews dissecting every aspect of your appearance, and hey, you’re not even old enough to rent a car! Good grief. Memorabilia burning aside, it seems like he’s done well as anyone could to adjust. Watch this interview below and try not to make a permanent =/ face about all the angry reactions you may or may not have had upon exiting the theater in 1999. (That said: holy hell, The Phantom Menace is still next level horrible.)

57 Norman Rockwells, Courtesy of Speilberg & Lucas

I never really cottoned to Norman Rockwell’s ruddy-cheeked vision of America. Too cute, too idealized, too sentimental. I’ve heard it said that a dark heart often beats underneath the works but, be that as it may, I’m still not terribly interested. I suppose I’m cynical. In any case, it would seem that Rockwell and his oeuvre have had a heretofore-unbeknownst-to-me influence on directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. They’re both enthusiastic collectors, enough so, it turns out, to furnish their own exhibition of the beloved illustrator’s work at the Smithsonian.

According to the Smithsonian’s press release, “Telling Stories is the first major exhibition to explore in-depth the connections between Rockwell’s iconic images of American life and the movies.” The exhibition will showcase fifty-seven major Rockwell paintings and drawings from the private collections of Misters Spielberg and Lucas. Thinking back, their identification with Rockwell’s epitomizing of Americana makes sense, especially in Spielberg’s case, who’s attitude toward family and patriotism (in his films, at any rate) might have been lifted straight off the cover of Boys’ Life or The Saturday Evening Post.

Brilliant Video Essay Attacks ‘Attack of the Clones’

Most of us who are old enough to have seen some or all of the original Star Wars films in the theater sat dutifully and uncomfortably through Lucas’ prequels wondering if the magic was gone because a.) we were just too far gone in years to enjoy such things as much, or b.) the pictures really were as terrible and ill-conceived as they at first glance seemed. Time has tended to favor the latter position, and nowhere has it been more forcefully and hilariously put forth than in the ongoing video essays of Mike Stoklasa. Under the aegis of his Milwaukee-based production company Red Letter Media, last year Stoklasa released a 70-minute take-down of The Phantom Menace that drew well over a million views on YouTube. The key to the project’s runaway success is its combination of detailed insight and analysis and the gonzo-style delivery of Stoklasa’s churlish and deranged alter-ego, “Mr. Plinkett.” One minute he’s talking about the film’s lack of an identifiable protagonist, the next he’s singing an homage to pizza rolls. This weekend occasioned the web release of Plinkett’s attack on Attack, and it’s every bit as funny and damning as the last.

Attack of the Clones is the worst thing made by a human since the bagpipes” the piece begins. Over the course of another delicious, long-winded rant, Plinkett variously explores and annihilates everything from the film’s innumerable plot holes to its absurdly forced and passionless love story. If you watch nothing else on the web all week, watch this.