No busi­ness like show busi­ness for B-lis­ters beg­ging for dough

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT - BRAD OSWALD

IT’S called show busi­ness for a rea­son — you can’t put on the show un­til you look af­ter the busi­ness. That’s the sim­ple, prac­ti­cal premise that drives Se­duced and Aban­doned, a fas­ci­nat­ingly en­ter­tain­ing doc­u­men­tary in which a quest for fea­ture-film fi­nanc­ing of­fers an en­light­en­ing glimpse at the in­ner work­ings of the film busi­ness. Se­duced and Aban­doned, which airs Mon­day on HBO Canada), fol­lows ac­tor/pro­ducer Alec Bald­win and writer/di­rec­tor James To­back as they make the rounds at the 2012 Cannes Film Fes­ti­val in pur­suit of fund­ing sup­port for a movie they’re hop­ing to make. The project, ten­ta­tively ti­tled Last Tango in Tikrit, is pitched as a 21stcen­tury up­date of Bernardo Ber­tolucci’s con­tro­ver­sial, sex­u­ally ex­plicit 1972 fea­ture star­ring Mar­lon Brando and Maria Sch­nei­der. The new ver­sion, which would star Bald­win and Cana­dian ac­tress Neve Camp­bell, would place a sim­i­larly psy­cho-sex­ual ex­plo­ration against the back­drop of the po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary ten­sions of the Mid­dle East. It’s an am­bi­tious no­tion, and Bald­win and To­back are so con­fi­dent that the hunt for fi­nanc­ing will be in­ter­est­ing that they take a doc­u­men­tary crew with them to record their whirl­wind sched­ule of meet­ings with producers, ac­tors, stu­dio moguls and as­sorted bil­lion­aires look­ing to as­so­ci­ate them­selves with showbiz. The film opens with on-screen text of leg­endary Hol­ly­wood fig­ure Or­son Welles’ view of the moviemak­ing racket: “I look back on my life and it’s 95 per cent run­ning around try­ing to raise money to make movies and five per cent ac­tu­ally mak­ing them. It’s no way to live.” And from there, it’s off to Cannes for Bald­win and To­back to be­gin the of­ten-undig­ni­fied process of shmooz­ing for dough. They might not be A-list enough to con­vince the money folks to break out their cheque­books, but they’ve clearly got enough Hol­ly­wood clout to get peo­ple to sit down for an on-cam­era chat. The list of in­ter­view sub­jects is be­yond im­pres­sive, rang­ing from film-mak­ing gi­ants such as Ber­tolucci, Martin Scors­ese, Fran­cis Ford Cop­pola and Ro­man Polan­ski to hot ac­tors like Ryan Gosling, Jes­sica Chastain and Diane Kruger to such ma­jor-stu­dio heavy­weights as Ron Meyer, Jef­frey Katzen­berg and Mike Me­davoy. Throw in a hand­ful of bil­lion­aires look­ing to use their lim­it­less cash to cre­ate a bit of showbiz-con­nected caché, and you’ve got quite a menu of po­ten­tial in­vestors. But what’s ob­vi­ous — and, for those nos­tal­gic about Hol­ly­wood’s golden age, rather dis­cour­ag­ing — is the cur­rent bot­tom-line-driven cli­mate in the movie busi­ness sim­ply doesn’t em­brace non-block­buster, un-se­quel-friendly film ideas such as the one that Bald­win and To­back are pitch­ing. Es­pe­cially — they’re told over and over again — if such a movie stars the mid­dling likes of Bald­win and Camp­bell, who are not con­sid­ered to be bank­able stars who can guar­an­tee a cru­cial open­ing-weekend box-of­fice haul. Bald­win in­sists he’s at ease with his cur­rent po­si­tion on the Hol­ly­wood sta­tus lad­der. “You never have to won­der about where you stand in the busi­ness be­cause... some­one’s al­ways stick­ing a ther­mome­ter in your mouth and telling you how hot you are or are not,” Bald­win said when he and To­back sat down for an in­ter­view dur­ing HBO’s por­tion of the U.S. net­works’ semi-an­nual press tour in Los An­ge­les. “You’re con­stantly be­ing forced to ac­cept what­ever their as­sess­ment is at that time of how good things are for you. “You know, when they made Lin­coln and they were cast­ing peo­ple to play Abraham Lin­coln, Spiel­berg did not call me. He did not ask me to play Lin­coln. And, you know, you know that. You just know that there’s a time in your life when things are more ver­dant and they’re more rich for you in the movie busi­ness and then that changes. “There are very few peo­ple like Cruise and Hanks and Ju­lia Roberts and Den­zel and peo­ple like that, who can go on for decades and have the best scripts, the best di­rec­tors, the re­lease dates, the stu­dios be­hind them, the money, which is a big part of it, too, to buy the (open­ing) weekend. And rewrites and cast­ing and mu­si­cal scores — all of the varied el­e­ments that make a movie a good movie, they have a lot of that at their dis­posal. And that hand­ful of peo­ple who ride that wave for years and years and years, God bless them. That’s great. “But for every­body else, the movie busi­ness is a very, very... it’s a lot of white wa­ter. You know, if it doesn’t work out, you wind up go­ing and do­ing in­de­pen­dent (films) or you do tele­vi­sion. I went to Cannes know­ing that there was noth­ing those peo­ple could say to me or about me that I didn’t al­ready know.”

HBO

To­back (left) and Bald­win search for money on the streets of Cannes.

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