Earlier Nightclub Closing Time Would Squeeze Employees, Businesses, and Rising Stars

Clubs live with a sword hanging above their heads. Politicians seeking headlines and, of course, votes sometimes target area clubs. Most places enjoy and require a 4am license to serve liquor, but community boards invariably pressure new joints to stipulate a 2am closing. This won’t work in a city that supposedly never sleeps.The 2am license concept occasionally floated by some fool would destroy not only nightlife as we know it, but restaurants and maybe the taxi industry and late night delis, and it may even have an affect on Broadway shows and other entertainment fields. Many students wouldn’t be able to pay their tuition if not for coat check, bus person or other club work. Restaurants would lose large chunks of their last-turn revenues as some late night patrons would adjust their eating habits to be able to get to clubs that would be closing earlier. Taxis would have no one except walk-of-shamers to pick up late at night. The deli business would lose out on late night munchie and cigarette sales. The entire concept of the city that never sleeps would be in question.

The recent passing of Sopranos star James Gandolfini underscores another potential loss. Actors, artists, musicians, and dancers depend on NYC nightlife for a living while they chase their dreams. Mr. Gandolfini famously worked as a bouncer, bartender, and in other club capacities while his career was budding. The list of the famous who made it in NY while supporting themselves in nightlife is long. Dustin Hoffman waited tables at the Village Gate, Debbie Harry was a waitress at Max’s Kansas City, Keith Haring curated art at the Mudd Club. I seem to remember him taking tickets at the door some nights.

I and everyone cool in NY got a drink or 3 or 10 from super cool bartender Bruce Willis at Kamikaze. Vin Diesel watched my back and made me laugh as a bouncer at Tunnel.  Alec Baldwin famously bussed tables and bartended at Studio 54. Dolph Lundren was at the door of Limelight. Sandra Bullock did coatcheck and was a waitress and a barkeep. Vincent D’onfrio paid bills with club cash.

The list goes on and on and includes thousands of others less famous who made it here because they found honest work late night while auditioning during the day. The great majority of club staff are trying to get themselves settled in a career that would only be a dream if they couldn’t pay their bills with late night income.

[Related: BlackBook New York Guide; Follow Steve Lewis on Twitter]

A New Jersey Diner’s Tribute to James Gandolfini

Actor James Gandolfini, best known for playing Tony Soprano, one of the most compelling protagonists in television history on one of television’s most compelling shows, and for his work in great films like True Romancepassed away yesterday at the age of 51. The loss came as a shock to fans, and already, the tributes to the actor, a Jersey native who won acclaim and admiration for his evocative work bringing the many facets of David Chase’s richly-written mob boss to life, every panic attack, every whacking, every one-liner burned into a collective cultural memory, are pouring in. Steven Van Zandt called him "a brother." "Best of James Gandolfini" clip shows are already piling up from every corner of YouTube. There will be plenty more in the next few days, and well-deserved for an actor who gave his all to bring the world such memorable characters and memorable pieces of art. 

But one of the simplest, but neatest tributes so far has to be the one from Holsten’s Brookdale Confectionery in Broomfield, New Jersey, best known as the diner where the pivotal, ambiguous final scene from The Sopranos was filmed. As John Klekamp of News 12 NJ told via Twitter, Holsten’s was packed with locals wishing to pay tribute to Gandolfini at the site of one of his best-known scenes, and Holsten’s had placed a simple card on the booth where the family last sat that read "Reserved." Keeping it simple, and honoring him in a place where he was doing what he did best at his best. Nice.

Now, let’s all go back to the diner one more time. Don’t stop believin’.

Watch the Trailer For Teen Crime Film ‘Violet & Daisy’

Between Spring Breakers and The Bling Ring, 2013 is already shaping up to be a year of films about young women portrayed by popular actresses turning to a life of crime. But if neither the Skrillex-soundtracked haze of the former nor the based-on-a-true-story appeal of the latter tickle your fancy, there’s the more traditional life on the dark side story of Violet & Daisy, the long-germinating crime action-comedy-drama from Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire writer Geoffrey S. Fletcher. The film premiered back in 2011 at the Toronto International Film Festival to favorable reviews, and is now finally ready for the big time.

Violet & Daisy’s florally-named characters, played by Oscar-nominated Saoirse Ronan and Alexis Bledel, most recently of Mad Men, are two teens who take on assassin jobs. When an enigmatic man named Michael (James Gandolfini) becomes their target, he seems like an easy mark, but as tends to happen in these kinds of movies, things aren’t always what they seem. And summer action movies may be a dime a dozen, but this one has quite a cast—in addition to Ronan, Bledel and Gandolfini, we have the fantastic Marianne Jean-Baptiste and, because he should be in everything, Danny Trejo. Watch the trailer below.

Steve Carell and James Gandolfini Set to Feud in ‘Bone Wars’

What’s funnier than a pair of feuding paleontologists? Nope, I can’t think of anything either. Bone Wars, which already wins an accolade from me for funniest / dumbest title, tells the tale of Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh (played by Steve Carell and James Gandolfini, respectively), two rival fossil hunters whose personal war led to the discovery of more than 160 dinosaurs. That’s a pretty productive feud! No such feats were on display in Bride Wars, I must say. The film will be produced by HBO Films, which means, unfortunately, it’ll just be on the small screen and likely won’t have any CGI dinosaurs (you know, in case you don’t get your fill after seeing Jurassic Park 3D this weekend). Although, it will have Gandolfini playing a dude named Othniel, which sure is somethin’.

[via Deadline]

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Getting Down to Business with ‘Killing Them Softly’ Director Andrew Dominik

"We were going to have this trash bag kind of landscape—the idea of America as Chernobyl," says director Andrew Dominik, speaking to the opening scene of his latest film, Killing Them Softly, in which a palpable sense of desperation pervades the air as the forgotten fantasy of the American Dream blows by through the desolate landscape. Set in a modern world where the notion of hope is lost and the price of survival means taking what you want for yourself at any cost, Dominik’s follow-up to 2007’s The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, is nothing short of cinematic dynamite. Based on the 1976 novel Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins, the film follows Jackie Cogan (played by Brad Pitt), who is hired to knock off two low-life amateur criminals (played by Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) who manage to successfully hold-up a poker game controlled by the mob. 

Stripping the novel of it’s original political climate, Dominik sets the film at the height of the 2008 election— the world on the precipice of financial collapse. With a gritty testosterone-heavy attitude and dramatic authenticity akin to classic 1970s crime dramas of desperation, Killing Them Softly gives a desolate view of the world today through the eyes of its pessimistic and morally-wavering characters. But for all its realism and nerve, Dominik also favors a very choreographed execution to the film—elevating the story to more of an intelligent political cartoon than strictly a polemic. And for a film where the failures of society loom like a dark mask over their lives, each scene is filled with an incredible amount of force and energy that it’s difficult to not find yourself brimming with a frenetic excitement while watching. Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, and Sam Shepard round out the hardhitting cast, each delivering unique performances that bind this story together like an examination of the male psyche as well as the societal factors that inform it.

Earlier this week we sat down with Dominik to discuss the cartoon-like aspects of the film, the dialogue-heavy script, and his cast of destroyed men. 

So how did you come across Cogan’s Trade? Did you know right away that it was something you wanted to adapt?
It was just kind of luck. I discovered it from The Friends of Eddie Coyle.  Just reading it and realizing that he was a guy who had a real authentic kind of voice; this guy, George Higgins, was the author of the book and also a public prosecutor in Boston so obviously he knew these people he as writing about. But it’s kind of ironic because a lot of the authenticity fell away when the idea of contrasting the economic collapse in the story with the larger economic collapse. The movie became a little more cartoonish from then on. But that was the original thing. 

Were you reading it around 2008 or looking back in retrospect?
Shortly after. Everything was going on at once. I needed money. The economy was collapsing. I was reading a story about like a collapsing criminal economy and it was all tied up together.

The film felt so exciting just from the opening. It was a very visceral, harsh opening that I felt really set the tone thematically. Did you have any initial idea about how you wanted to open the film?
Yeah. I mean, we were going to have this trash bag kind of landscape, the idea of America as Chernobyl. I mean the speech wasn’t initially there and it was just something that happened. We had to set up everything that was going to play out in the movie at the beginning. And then the idea of contrasting Obama’s sort of togetherness speech with a bunch of noise in a sort of garbage landscape seemed like the thing to do.

A lot of the film like the opening and the initial poker hold-up are very gritty and raw, aesthetically, but then there are moments like the heroin scene or the slow-motion sections where everything’s very stylized. Did you have any idea in terms of style how you wanted the film to play out?
It’s a bit of a hodgepodge. I mean with the drug scene, that just seemed like the most interesting way to do it. The idea that one guy is trying to get life-saving information out of a guy whose asleep just seemed funny. There were  two things I was looking at. One was like 1940s pictures, you know, like screwball comedies where they basically just give one person a shot and a master, really simple, and just let it play out. I knew if the performances weren’t there, the movie was just not going to work so why try and dress it up? But then you have to have a certain amount of cinema when it’s appropriate. So it was just what each scene seemed to demand. And the fact that it became less specific, less of like a Boston crime drama and more of a political cartoon, allowed it to be a little bit more, you know, show-offy at times. It’s usually done for a reason. The movie’s called “Killing Them Softly” and the idea of having a soft or beautiful lullaby-like killing seemed like a good idea. I also felt like I needed to undercut the ugliness of what we’d seen before to set you up for the ugliness that was coming. 

There was a very overt running political commentary running throughout the film—on the TVs, radio, in the dialogue, etc—it worked to parallel these worlds but were you afraid at all that it would feel a little heavy handed?
Well people have complained about that and I’m not sure that people want their politics and crime movies mixed together. But it just seemed like too good to ignore. And they say it’s heavy-handed and I wonder if maybe it is. But I remember at the time that all that stuff was going down in 2008, it certainly felt like anytime you turn on the TV or the radio, “we’re about to go down the toilet” was being screamed at you from every direction. There was also a certain marketing of America that was taking place at the same time. I liked it.

The film felt like it could have even been a stage play. There was a very Mamet-esque sense of dialogue between the characters. Especially the scenes between Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini which were some of the most incredible scenes in the film.
It actually was done as a stage play. I found this out afterwards, after e shot the movie. Somebody turned it into a stage play years ago. I mean that was the whole idea. It was really interesting, they say movies shouldn’t be photographs of people talking, and that’s kind of what it is. I mean the advantage that it’s all just dialogue means it’s cheap—you shoot it, it doesn’t have a whole lot of set pieces and stuff like that.  But that was kind of the attraction because then you can just get a whole lot of really good actors and go and make a movie and it’s only going to cost you so much. They say “action is character” but it’s always just sitting and talking to people. I like to spend time with people. And this book was all these monologues and attitudes, you really got a sense of just people with these little bits of plot tucked incidentally in the corner. I wanted the film to have that feeling. 

It felt like a small character study of a lot of people.
Yeah, that’s what it is. And how they’re all confused. These people are living a lifestyle, but how do they feel about it? Are they examining their lives? And they’re not really. I mean, Gandolfini’s desperately unhappy and he doesn’t even know it. So all that stuff it pretty attractive to me.

It was interesting to see Scoot’s character and Brad’s character together, how Scoot was just starting in this crime world and still had a conscious and remorse, where as Brad’s character was beyond that point where this is his job and you have to do what you have to do to survive.
It’s interesting that both characters come to the same conclusion, which is that they’re alone in the world, Scoot sees it as a negative and Brad, I won’t say he sees it as a positive, but he’s not crying about it.

So how did you go about casting? Did you know who you wanted when you were writing?
I had a basic theory, which was to type cast it like cartoon casting where all the characters are instantly recognizable as types to the audience. You’ve got the fat guy, the goofy looking skinny guy, the sweaty Australian guy, and the the tough guys. So then you hire the tough guy actors but within that, you’re not going to get a person who has greater sensitivity about them than Gandolfini to play that part. You just kind of feel like there’s an essential humanity to him and I needed someone like that for Mickey. So some of them were just really easy no-brainers. And then Scoot was just a tape, I was a sent a tape of this guy and he was just great and it was just like, who is that? I don’t care who he is, I don’t know who he is, he’s Frankie, let’s get him. Ben Mendelhson is someone I’ve known since we were teenagers and he’s very well-known in Australia and I knew that that character was something he could do with his one arm tied behind his back.

Scoot was probably my favorite performance in the film.
Brad did his first week with Richard Jenkins and he said it was like working with Peter Sellers, and then he did his next week with Jim and he said it was like working with Brando, and then the next week was with Scoot and he said it was like working with Monty Cliff—but after the accident. 

Your films are very male-driven films and devoid of women yet men always have these complicated relationships with women. Do you want to make these male-centric films or are women just territory you haven’t explored yet?
I haven’t been able to yet. The movie I really want to do next is called Blonde and it’s about Marilyn Monroe, so it’ll be a chance to make a movie that has a female character central to it. Obviously it’s easier to make films about men because I am one. And they’re all men that are very confused about masculinity. That’s one of the things I really like about the story, it seems to be about destroyed men—the devastated American males or something, they’ve all lost their vitality somehow. But just in terms of all their relationships with women, all of them are real confused about women. It will be interesting for me to make a film where there’s no stabbings or shootings.

Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini Go Head-To-Head In New Clip From ‘Killing Them Softly’

An explosive and smart gangster thriller set amidst the 2008 financial crisis, Andrew Dominik’s latest feature Killing Them Softly, is nothing short of fantastic. Based on the 1974 novel, Cogan’s Trade by George V. Higgins, the film follows Jackie Cogan (played by Brad Pitt) whose hired to take down two low life amateur criminals (played by Scoot McNairy and Ben Mendelsohn) who manage to successfully hold-up a poker game controlled by the mob. Cogan enlists the help of his long-time pal, Mickey (played by James Gandolfini), someone really in no condition to be working, to help knock off the young criminals and complete the job.

This morning, we got the chance to sit down and get more in-depth about the film with Dominik (interview coming later this week) but for now, here’s clip of the two heavyweights going at it after Cogan has flown Mickey down to New Orleans for the job but realizes he’s spent his time there on a bender of booze, hookers, and deprecating life-reflection. Throughout the story, the few but powerful scenes between Pitt and Gandolfini are of the best in the film, playing out almost like a stage play with Mamet-esque penetrating dialogue and harsh masculine energy. See for yourself.

James Gandolfini to Guest of a Guest: “Get the F**k Away from Me”

James Gandolfini was out trick-or-treating with his kids at boutique shops when a Guest of a Guest photographer — who has since remained anonymous — was videoing him doing so. Gandolfini rushed over and gave the photographer a piece of his mind! God, you guys, blogging is so dangerous, amirite? Video after the jump.

We know the feeling, James. Kidding! Speaking of which, Rachelle Hruska, Guest of a Guest editirix and Steve Lewis’ adopted daughter, actually wrote in on the incident, penning the blog post that accompanies the video:

I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again … I wouldn’t wish celebrity fame on my worst enemy. It has to be hard being followed all of the time, and is only a matter of time before you would snap. Unfortunately, for a Guest of a Guest photographer, the moment Sopranos star James Gandolfini snapped happened to be on his watch. On Halloween in the West Village, Gandolfini assaulted the guy.

Well then! We wouldn’t want to wish James Gandolfini bitchslapping a Guest of a Guest photographer on any Guest of a Guest photographers, or any unkindness on any being, man, person, animal, fish, whatever. But sometimes it happens and we have nothing to do with it and it makes for great video. Watch it again! And again! And again!

Hudson Rises, Lou Reed Sulks

I DJed at the Hudson Rise Picnic last night, an amazing benefit proposed to help prevent the construction of a hideous 14-story sanitation facility that’s been approved for construction as early as June 2009 down on Spring and Canal streets, near the river. The city is pushing to construct the building, which will contain garbage trucks, a mountain of salt, garbage fuel, and lots of other stinky stuff that doesn’t seem right next to the water and the Holland Tunnel. The reason I volunteered to DJ for free at this gala was that unlike most groups who gripe about things, these folks are actually offering an intelligent, cheaper, and indeed economically cleaner solution — Hudson Rise Park, which would connect to the river, cost about $200 million less than the city’s current plan, and still accommodate local garbage facilities. Another reason I DJed was to check out the celebs who were on the invite.

James Gandolfini was in attendance, and a guest at the bar actually turned to her wimpy husband and snarled, “Who is this guy? He looks like a mafioso.” Jennifer Connelly also showed up and looked amazing; I’ve met her once when she was very young and was chaperoned by her mom to The Tunnel for an event. She was sweet then and sweet today. Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson hosted the event; Lou generally gets a bad rap for being a bit anti-social, and he did little to disprove that last night. Even though he was there for the good cause, I heard and saw a very gruff and unfriendly incarnation. I once opened for Lou at the old Ritz — which is now Webster Hall — with a fashion show (I was doing that in those days; I produced/directed over 400 shows). But this one was as an opening act for the Warholian legend.

During dress rehearsal, a gofer came to us and announced that Lou Reed was on his way to his dressing room and that the models were not to look at him directly as he passed through. Well, my models were a bit feisty, and one of the older girls said some unkind words about the stars’ lower anatomical regions — kind of loudly — that had the rest of us in tears. I like his work and often his words when he’s interviewed, and even his pal Laurie Anderson is a great person, but Lou doesn’t seem to get that being cool means you actually need to be cool and not think you’re centuries past the rest of us mortals. I booked Laurie Anderson for a New Years’ Eve show back in the day, and I had the legendary Cab Calloway open for her. She was kind, cool, and very smart. Her set was inspiring and positive, so I don’t get the Lou attitude at all. My date last night had a mad crush on him but now thinks he’s a dork.

Well anyway, back to the benefit: There were lots of strong speeches from seriously sharp folk who were just asking the mayor to listen to a common-sense proposal and do the right thing. Victoria Faust (who brought me in) is an inspiring person who put this thing together in just a few weeks. My good friend Michael Calvadis DJed with me, and thank god he came along. When we arrived, there was no DJ equipment, and his laptop saved the day. His first song after the speeches was “Garbage Man” by The Cramps. My boy Dale brought his family, and I played “Whatever” for his ridiculously cute daughter. If you want to catch a DJ set of mine, I will be at Above Allen this Wednesday. And after that, I might take a break for a while. I’m going to leave it to the pros until I can hook myself up with a laptop and Serato, but I’m sure that by then we’ll be spinning telepathically or off our Blackberries.