As one of our favorite modern actor/director relationships, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese are a patch made in heaven—a very tortured, violent heaven. And after Gangs of New York, The Aviator, The Departed, and Shutter Island, the two are back together for Scorsese’s latest black comedy, The Wolf of Wall Street set to premiere this November. We’ve been eagerly anticipating digging deeper into the film since the trailer debuted back in June but today, thanks to Vulture, we get an in-depth look behind the scenes at what might be Scorsese’s best picture in years.
That heavy clicking you hear is the sound of all the pieces snapping into place. Perpetual sci-fi protagonist Will Smith, according to his son and After Earth co-star Jaden, can’t get enough of the dubious lessons imparted by the ultra-rich at TED conferences: “If I’m with my friends, and they’ll be like, ‘Oh, hey, where’s your dad? Let’s go say hi.’ And I’ll be like, ‘Oh, no. He’s watching hours and hours of TED Talks, just … dude, don’t go in there.’”
With all his denials of being a Scientologist—the same Vulture interview has him claiming he and Jaden are not religious, but rather “students of world religion”—it’s almost shocking that Smith would readily admit to loving a lecture series that really may as well book the ghost of L. Ron Hubbard every time for all the practical value or insight it offers. Maybe he can pitch his own edition: “How to Shed Your Comedic Charm and Start Looking Serious in Post-Apocalyptic Flops.”
I guess he just has a thing for ideas that have been carefully extracted from an ass, which explains why he has the baffling confidence to say things like “at heart, I’m a physicist”—a classic L. Ron line, come to think of it—and “it feels like you can’t write books in progress.” What does that last sentence mean? Who knows! The real trouble will begin when he watches Amanda Palmer’s talk on crowdfunding. Can’t wait to see how the Kickstarter for Seven Degrees of Separation takes off.
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So far, we have been given numerous teasers, trailers, and stills from Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. We’ve always received a healthy serving of the eclectic soundtrack for the film, which is set to open the Cannes Film Festival next month. But what we haven’t get gotten a taste of is word from the man himself. With the premiere of Gatsby but a month away, whether you’re frothing at the mouth with excitement for the lavish feature or already disappointed that your favorite classic has been tarnished, there’s no denying interest in what Baz has to say on his cinematic reworking of the text.
So this past Tuesday, Vanity Fair held a party to kick off the Tribeca Film Festival, and who was their surprise guest of honor, but Baz, the man who knows how to throw one hell of an affair himself. And thanks to Vulture, we can now gain a little insight into his world and the decisions he made in bringing the film to life. Here are some highlights…
Speaking in regards to Jay-Zs scoring the film:
Actually, I made that decision because Fitzgerald puts African-American [jazz] music in his novels. It’s a fad, everyone says, but it lasted. Fitzgerald put popular culture in his books, and I wanted you to feel like you were reading the book in 1925. The idea was, jazz was African-American street music, and it suddenly informed the times. And hip-hop is the African-American street music now. If that was the jazz age, this is the hip-hop age. Bryan Ferry is also doing traditional jazz with an orchestra, and the music is very woven in. I like to think this is a coming together, a maturing of all those things.
On the wise words of Leo DiCaprio and his young cast:
Actually, Leonardo said something really beautiful, I believe. He said, "You know, Gatsby knew a certain kind of woman, but he would never know a Daisy, a hothouse flower like that." He understands Gatsby obssessing about her. But the biggest thing in the film, I think — the most visionary thing, the wildest thing, the newest thing — is the coming together of all these young actors in their prime, just standing in a room, acting a ten-page scene. Just acting. In 3-D.
I don’t read a lot of young adult fiction, but when I found out my friend Rachel Shukert was penning a trilogy of novels about young Hollywood starlets in the 1930s, I knew it was right up my alley. Known for her two hilarious memoirs, Have You No Shame and Everything Is Going to Be Great, as well as the fantastic recaps of the ill-fated Smash on Vulture, Shukert brings an astounding voice to her writing, one that is both irreverently raucous and sweetly endearing. Starstruck, Shukert’s first foray into fiction, embodies all of her traits, and it’s a fantastic look at the Golden Age of Hollywood.
Focusing on a trio of young women (Margo Sterling, Amanda Farraday, and Gabby Preston), Starstruck brings alive those now-mythical years of movie-making with a campy behind-the-scenes look at the stars that caught the attention of the average American as well as the studio heads who capitalized on them. Think of it as Valley of the Dolls starring Shirley Temple—it mixes the seediness of showbiz drama with the melodiousness chase of stardom.
This week, Rachel Shukert and I corresponded via email to talk about her obsession with old Hollywood, her ideal audience, and how the nature of celebrity has changed over the last century.
What about this time period inspired you to write about it?
Well, look, since I was a startlingly small child, I’ve been moderately to massively obsessed with old movies and the idea of Golden Age Hollywood, the stars, all of that stuff–the glamor of it, the secrets, and the incredible confluence of insanely talented people working in Hollywood at the time. I love stories about show biz back when it was show biz, you know, and people lived out these huge larger than life stories, and all this seamy stuff happened behind the scenes. It was something I always wanted to be a part of.
But in a more general sense, I think the ’30s are my favorite era. You can kind of see most of the 20th century as series of reactions to various disasters. The frivolity and the decadence of the ’20s was a direct reaction to World War I and the Spanish flu and all this death and destruction; it was like, honey badgers no longer gave a shit. And then you can also look at the kind of proscribed suburbanism and conformity of the ’50s and early ’60s as this direct response to the horrors of World War II, where the world looked straight into the heart of darkness and responded by regressing into this weird, repressed, idealized kind of childhood where nothing bad could ever happen again as long as you had the right vacuum cleaner and Mother didn’t work and everybody forgot that sexual intercourse of any sort existed (or at least never acknowledged so verbally.) But in the ’30s, everyone was dealing with the Depression, and just didn’t have the time for self-delusion, so everything was very self-consciously sophisticated and witty and cynical and hard-boiled. There was a frankness in the culture that appeals to me. Unless, of course, you were one of the increasing number of people seeking refuge in one of the ascendant ‘isms’—you know, like fascism. Which is also one of my favorite things about this period, as you know, and as I’ve written about. I never get tired of Nazi stuff. Hollywood and Hitler were my two favorite things to read about/think about when I was a kid. They remain so to this day. I don’t think the fact that they were both ascendant at the same time is exactly incidental to my interest in either.
Who were some of the real-life starlets you used as inspiration for your cast of characters?
Well, the obvious one is Judy Garland, who is almost entirely the basis for Gabby Preston, and who is my favorite actress of all time. Margo Sterling has a little bit of Lana Turner in her, particularly in the way she is discovered [at Schwab’s Pharmacy in Hollywood], but she also has some of that classic society girl thing, like a Gene Tierney or a Dina Merrill. Amanda Farraday is a little bit Rita Hayworth, a little Hedy Lamarr, mixed with a lot of shadowy rumors that there were about a lot of stars at this time, that they had these kind of scandalous pasts the studios would try to cover up. But except for Gabby, none of them are really based on any one person, it’s sort of lots of little bits of things. And no matter how you try to base a character on someone, they take on a life of their own, and that life is almost always reflective of you in some way. So they’re all loosely based on the real-life starlet Rachel Shukert.
I know you started acting in Omaha as a girl—did any of those experiences make their way into the novel? Did you base any of your characters on your young adult self?
Ha, see above! I mean, yes, of course they did. Not in a hugely literal way, but that feeling of desperately wanting more, of being sure you’re destined for great things, that has a lot to do with me as a young (or younger!) adult. And Margo’s fantasy life, the way she is constantly referencing these movies in her head, and how they inform her behavior, that has a lot to do with me as well. And obviously, I know the feeling of auditioning, of that incredible anxiety that I think actors—especially younger actors—have that they’re falling behind, that it’s not happening for them, that it’s never going to happen, that everybody else has what they want (and should rightfully be theirs): that’s all very personal. But for me, the most painful realization in my acting was getting out of drama school and realizing that I had zero interest in being an actual actress in New York in the 2000s, that all I had ever really wanted was to be a movie star in Hollywood in the 1930s. So the book was therapeutic in that way.
Starstruck is the first part of a series—how far have you written, and can you give us any details for where these characters are headed?
I’ve finished the second book, and am working on the third now. I don’t know how much I can tell you without totally giving away the ending of Starstruck, but I will say, the overarching theme of the whole series is really about finding yourself as an artist. So all of the characters are going to go through a kind of a period of refining, of figuring out that what they’re good at isn’t necessarily what they thought they wanted—and that goes for love as well. Margo has had this dizzying rise—now what? Can she sustain it? And more importantly, does she want to? Gabby is going to push more boundaries, trying to prove to everyone that she’s a grown-up, and we’ll see how that conflicts with her talent and potential. Amanda is trying to pick up the pieces of her life and move forward with some dignity, but it’s not working that well. I’ll tell you this, it’s all very juicy. We’ve only peeled back the first few layers of the onion–there are still a lot of secrets to be revealed. There’s more sex, more drugs, more jazz. Things are about to get very "Hollywood Babylon" up in this shit. Minus the Black Dahlia murders and speculation about lesbian incest between the Gish sisters. You know what I mean.
What was it like to write a novel, since your first two books were memoirs? Was it a challenge to write for a younger audience?
Honestly, the biggest thing was having to continually remind myself that I could make stuff up. That sounds stupid, but when you’re writing a memoir, the challenge is that all the pieces are there, and it’s your job to figure out the most pleasing, most effective way to arrange them. If something doesn’t fit, you can leave it out, but you can’t change it, you know? And with this, sometimes I would get to a point in the story where I’d be like, this isn’t working, and I would actually have to say out loud: "Fine, so make them do something else!" The other thing, which I didn’t expect, is how protective I would become of these characters, in a way that I never was about myself when I was the main character. It’s weird, it’s very maternal, sort of helicopter-mom like. Are they getting enough attention? Do people love them enough? DON’T SAY ANYTHING ABOUT MY BABIES! If someone doesn’t like the book—and this, thankfully, hasn’t really happened much—I am furious on their behalf, not mine. It’s insane.
As for a young audience, I mean yes. There are many fewer dick jokes in this book than there have been in my past works. There are, however, a lot more super-queeny Joan Crawford jokes, which I know are VERY relevant to this generation. Let’s just be honest: I wrote this book for members of the drama club and middle-aged gay men. Fin.
Back to the Old Hollywood setting of Starstruck: do you see a lot of similarities in the way stars were manufactured in the past as they are now?
I think it’s totally different, actually, which is part of what I like about the old studio system. You would go into this sparkle-factory, and come out an entirely different person—new name, new look, whatever they needed you to be, that’s what they’d make you. There’s this inherent unreality to that culture, with these larger-than-life stars, that feels so foreign now to what the fame-industrial complex has become. Now, it’s all about "authenticity." We want stars to be "just like us." They have to be relatable, and if they’re not, they have to be punished. In a certain way (and a very tacky way) I actually think reality stars have become more like what old Hollywood stars were—these personalities that people gossip about, who are basically actors playing some bigger, more dramatic version of themselves. The whole Bravolebrity concept, where we obsess about these characters like they’re real, their relationships with each other–that has really replaced the daytime soap world, which I think was the closest corollary to the old Hollywood star system. But each iteration becomes somehow less than—it’s like Xeroxing a Xerox. You go from real stars to soap opera characters to like, Kyle Richards, and it’s all because of our obsession with the "real," which I think is really a kind of cultural sickness. We’ve become so unimaginative.
If you were to cast actors to play these roles in a movie version of Starstruck, who would you pick?
Oooh, my favorite question!!! Who would you pick?
Clever, lady! I could see a Taylor Swift-type (begrudgingly) as Margo, and part of me wanted to imagine Kirsten Dunst as Amanda Farraday (and a little bit with Diana Chesterfield). I could totally see Chloe Grace-Moretz as Gabby, too.
I LOVE Chloe Grace Moretz for Gabby! She’s adorable and just very slightly evil, which is perfect. Can she sing? I demand to know if she can sing. I also like the idea of Kirsten Dunst as Diana Chesterfield, because she needs to be a bit older, and a little bit like, I’ve seen it, oh the things that I have seen. That’s perfect. For Margo, you know, you want this kind of lovely ingénue who can have a little bit of an edge and not be boring. I think Elle Fanning looks really right, but she’s still a few years too young. But by the time anyone makes this, she’ll be perfect. Or Saoirse Ronan, who has a kind of gawkiness that I like, and always seems smart. For Amanda, you need someone who is tough, but also vulnerable, sort of hard and soft at the same time. I like Emilia Clarke, Mother of Dragons. She’d be good, if she dyed her hair red. Or Juno Temple, who actually has red hair already! Budget saver!
Before you read any further, hop on your Spotify, iTunes, or whatever and start blasting some Explosions in the Sky—All of a Sudden I Miss Everyone or The Earth Is Not a Cold Dead Place will do just fine. Okay, now that you’re set it’s time for emotions. Yes, Friday Night Lights, only the greatest television show about emotions and small-town high school football will forever hold a place in a hearts, and with all this talk about some festival going down in Austin this week, what better time to revisit the Dillion, Texas? Well, the fictional town that is actually Austin, Texas.
The good folks over at Vulture have posted an interactive map for us that showcases all the shooting locations for FNL, so that while you’re down there you can take a break from all that concert hopping and wistfully gaze out a window while driving by the home of Coach Taylor, Tim Riggins, Matt Saracen/Grams house, and all your other favorite spots (milkshakes at the Alamo Freeze, anyone?!).
Take a look at their map HERE and some of the character’s address below. And remember, Texas forever.
Tim Riggins’s Land
7252 Burleson Manor Rd., Manor, Texas (this is probably farther down Burleson Manor Road from 969)
2681 East Cesar Chavez St., Austin, Texas
6805 De Paul Cove, Austin, Texas 78723
3009 Kuhlman Ave., Austin, Texas 78702
You know what I love more than Adele? Adele’s voice. No, not the singing one—although it’s pretty good, I suppose. The speaking one. Accents! I love an accent. Especially British accents in which the Brits don’t sound automatically smarter than Americans. Although, to be honest, Adele sounds smarter than most of us. Anyway, here’s a supercut of her saying "fank you very much" over and over and over and over.
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Smash is not really living up to its name. Last night’s second-season premiere brought in disastrous ratings—Vulture reports that the show averaged "4.5 million viewers and a 1.1 rating among adults under 50. That last number is what makes last night a disaster for NBC, since it’s less than a third of what Smash averaged in its 2012 premiere (3.8) and about half of what it was drawing when it left the air in the spring." Well, no duh, because the second season of the show was hoping to pull in all of the people who found the first season to be so insufferable. Also, the general public doesn’t like musicals. The real shame, other than the fact that most of the second season has been shot, is that its cancellation would mean we wouldn’t have Rachel Shukert’s brilliant recaps, which was the only reason I kept up with the show in the first place.
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Last night’s episode of Girls was a strange one. It was kind of a refreshing episode; there was a lot of action, and the ladies were actually doing things—those things just happened to be lots of drugs and weird sex and sweating a lot. Hannah scored coke off her recovering drug-addict neighbor in order to write an article detailing all her vulnerabilities, Marnie got picked up by Jorma Taccone as the bizarrely hot artist Booth Johnson (whom she had a sexually charged run-in with in the first season), Elijah and Hannah snorted said coke off toilet seats, Marnie finally ended her dry spell by having sex surrounded by creepy antique dolls, Elijah accidentally told Hannah about that time he and Marine engaged in "just a few pumps" of sex, and Hannah proceeded to confront Marnie in a white rage about what a terrible friend she is.
But in the midst of all this, Marnie finds herself subjected to Booth’s immersive art instillation: a TV chamber he locks her in while checking his email. Inside "Booth’s Booth," 30 TVs are stacked, displaying everything from babies crying to hyenas eating dead things to other grotesque video found-footage, while Duncan Sheik’s "Barely Breathing" blasts overhead. Clearly moved or perturbed, Marnie shrinks to a ball on the ground, only to profess "You’re so fucking talented," after being let out of the seizure-inducing sensory overload chamber—that actually kind of looks like fun. Vulture got the lowdown from Girls‘ production designer Matt Munn on some weird facts about last night’s episode.
"We developed this idea about Booth that he was kind of this skater kid who could draw, who developed into an artist but never really went to art school; he was involved in a Larry Clark photo shoot at some point with a bunch of skater kids or whatever. And he was just the most engaging and interesting guy in that group, and he started to develop his own mystique," says Munn. "But he didn’t have any sort of… concept. He was just trying to be confrontational with everything he did. He made concept art with no concept. So that kind of evolved into his whole Childhood Death Games show that he was working on. And we found these very iconic elements of childhood, like the dollhouse, the Little Tikes cars that were broken down, the teddy bears. He had all these teddy bears that he was cutting open, in my mind to make some huge Frankenbear—and it was going to be horrific."
In terms of the chamber itself, Dunham specifically said she wanted it to be disorienting and disturbing, so Munn "went through and pulled a bunch of stock footage, like hyenas eating a corpse, dogs barking at people, babies crying, larva—anything we could think of in the art department that seemed either aggressive or really, really annoying; anything that would just make you ill at ease… Our producer Ilene Landress shot herself driving through the Holland Tunnel on her iPhone; we took footage on the Staten Island Ferry of the water getting churned up. We also got some footage of just flashing lights. It got to the point where I had to ask Lena to make sure Allison [Williams] wasn’t prone to seizures."
Check out more from the interview here.
Stanley Kubrick was a tireless genius, his mind a impenetrable maze of its own. You can attempt to analyze the auteur’s work and pinpoint his intentions but there will always be the sneaking suspision that he knew something just beyond our realm of knowledge and we’ll never quite find the answers we’re searching for. So when it comes to The Shining, his meticulously-detailed and visually-staggering horror film, everyone tends to hold tightly to their own, very personal theories and opinions—from it being nothing more than a metaphor for WWII to the film as Kubrick’s way to express the anxiety he was carrying about secretly helping to fake the moon landing of 1969 (as told in Room 237). And to our thrill, Vulture has pointed out that on The Overlook Hotel—a Shining site run by Lee Unkrich, director of Toy Story 3—you can now read the deleted ending of The Shining in its original text.
Just after the U.S. opening in May of 1980, Kubrick chose to remove the ending from the film, sending assistants out of L.A. and New York to cinemas to erase the final moments from all finished prints. Upon its initial release, the scene featured a hospital epilogue between the haunting shot of Jack in the snow and the spine-tingling long dolly shot through the lobby that ends on the July 4, 1921 photo that pinches every chilling nerve in your body. Sadly, little remains of the original ending, save some polaroids, costumes, and 35mm film trims that are a part of the Kubrick archive. Diane Johnson, Kubrick’s co-writer on The Shining says, "[he]had filmed a final scene that was cut, where Wendy and Danny are recovering from the shock in a hospital and where Ullman visits them." Weird. She also goes on to talk about how Kubrick felt that, "we should see them in the hospital so we would know that they were all right. He had a soft spot for Wendy and Danny and thought that, at the end of a horror film, the audience should be reassured that everything was back to normal." Hmm. Well, I am certainly thankful for his manic episode of realization, that, no, that ending takes so much away from the final shot of pleasure of fright that lives inside the closing moments we know and love to watch—over and over and over.
Read the first page of the final scene below and the rest here, and check out these polaroids—which time (and perhaps something more sinister) have withered and blurred to the point of ghostly expressionist paintings. Oh, and feast your eyes on The Shining forwards and backwards simultaneously superimposed.
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