Director Watch: Thomson Considers David O. Russell; 12 Things Learned When A Clintwood Film Knocks

by Anne Thompson
January 28, 2011 5:42 AM
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Thompson on Hollywood

Check out David Thomson's state-of-a-director commentary. Below, we've highlighted nine points, one question and one conclusion on the state of The Fighter director, David O. Russell.

1. The Fighter is the "biggest hit" he's ever had.
2. The Fighter "adds to the mystery of who he is."
3. The Fighter's "alleged 'true story'' is a contrivance on which Russell is riding along without a word of protest or correction.
4. Russell is "crazy for actors."
5. "We have to admit the gap between his years of promise."

6. "Over the years, the writer [Russell] has seemed flummoxed."
7. The Fighter "is a show from a rowdy actors' studio, an arena where actors try anything they can think of…It's as if Russell chose to defy the mounting difficulties [i.e. the I Heart Huckabees script] he was facing by being extra odd and personal. Whereupon the business told him to hang it up, and thus he re-emerges now with a script (written by others – several others) that could have come from the 1930s, reanimated by cool, modern actors."
8. "I'm not complaining. The Fighter really is enjoyable."
9. "Three more films with this energy and these numbers and Russell could find himself revered in a business that now believes in little except the numbers and being revered."
10. "Does [Russell] have the talent and the nerve to handle that chilling prospect?"
11. "I don't know. But I care."

Thompson on Hollywood

- And now Twelve Things Richard Preston learned while hosting Clint Eastwood's Hereafter cast and crew in his London home (to shoot a 20-second continuity shot with a taxi and front stoop), taken from his longer account published at the Telegraph:

1. "It doesn’t matter how determined you are not to be starstruck, if someone tells you that Clint Eastwood is going to be sitting in your kitchen, you take the day off work, make sure every camera you own is working and try not to look too much like a five year-old who’s been up all night waiting for Father Christmas."

2. "Interestingly, no one we told – well, of course we told everyone – was remotely excited by the mention of Matt Damon, one of the most bankable film stars in the world, playing a blue collar worker who can communicate with the dead. It was all about Clint."

3. "Barry, I discovered later when I looked him up, isn’t just any props man. He was the props master for the Bridget Jones film and for Quantum of Solace, the last but one Bond movie. If it was a comedown moving from Daniel Craig’s Aston Martin to arranging potted plants outside our door, he didn’t show it."

4. "One of the delights of the day was meeting a string of supremely competent people, all with big films to their credit, but all of them charming, interested and remarkably tolerant of rubberneckers hanging around their set."

5. "I had to go somewhere for lunch and asked how many were likely to be there when I got back. Oh, about a hundred. What? For a short walk from a taxi to our front door? Oh, yes."

6. "Inside our kitchen, three canvas chairs bearing the names of the director, the producer and the principal star had been arranged in a line. If this was beginning to feel like a travelling court, then these were the thrones."

7. "…the great man rounded the corner, wearing a fleece, baseball cap and trainers, walking down the middle of the street with that unmistakable, unhurried stride, a little hunched in the shoulders as you’d expect at 79, but still taller than everyone around him."

8. Matt Damon emerged from our neighbour Emma’s kitchen, where, trailerless, he’d been sent to change (I say no one was that bothered about him, but Emma delighted in phoning her sister in America to tell her that her favourite film star was topless in the next room)."

9. "The Eastwood method, it seems, is to prepare everything meticulously, do the scene in one take, and go, no messing."

10. "The cab drew up, and Damon was filmed peering anxiously through its steamy window as a boy got out; then they shot the boy walking to the door and being let in. And that was it. A wrap, signalled by one of the crew doing a sort of chicken dance in front of the camera, to general guffaws, not least from the director."

11. "Anyone coming home late from work would have had no idea that anything had happened, except that on the doorstep of each house in the street, they would have been puzzled to see a box of Roses chocolates, left by the location team to say thanks."

12. "I’ve yet to see the film, which is released today, and have no idea if our little scene even made it to the final cut. But who cares? The man with no name walked the length of our street, and we’ve got the pictures to prove it."

[The Fighter production still courtesy of Jojo Whilden, Hereafter production still courtesy of IMDb]

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