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Miami Film Fest: Plummer & MacLaine Star in 'Elsa & Fred'

Photo of John Anderson By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood March 8, 2014 at 11:52AM

“Elsa & Fred” starring Shirley MacLaine and Christopher Plummer will certainly be looking for support among the “Marigold Hotel” crowd, but Michael Radford’s sentimental but candid story about late-inning love got a roaring response at the Miami Film Festival on opening night.
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Elsa & Fred
Elsa & Fred

Christopher Plummer and Shirley MacLaine were charming the hell out of each other -- and everyone else in Miami – during Friday night’s gala opening of the Miami International Film Festival, which hosted the world premiere of “Elsa & Fred,” Michael Radford’s remake of the 2005 Argentine crowd-pleaser “Elsa y Fred.” But don’t tell Plummer it’s a remake.

“I don’t like that word,” said 84-year-old Plummer, who did agree that working with his old pal Shirley was a joy, and seemed ready to take his one-man show “A Word or Two” on the road, or at least to Broadway (which he implied was a possibility). “For one thing, we’re in it, Shirley and I, and Michael totally rewrote it. So I prefer to think of it as the English-language version.

“Some of the Argentine crew came and watched while we were filming,” he said, including director Marcos Carnevale. “They seemed to like what we were doing.”

The irrepressible MacLaine, asked whether there was any particular reason that “Elsa & Fred,” was set in New Orleans, burst out laughing.

“No!! It’s the tax breaks! They’re trying to get me to the Canary Islands for a movie because the tax incentives are so good. You see it all the time -- some story is set in one place and suddenly it’s in the Canary Islands because they’ve gotten a better deal.”

MacLaine said it was great that she and Plummer could work together because they could get drunk together every night, which made Plummer laugh. She also raved about his recent run at the Ahmanson Theater with “A Word or Two,” which played for a month, and seemed to give Plummer the feeling it could finally move to Broadway. Which he said would be great, if he could get someone to mount the production for a five-performance week, rather the customary seven.

“Would that still involve a matinee,” MacLaine asked her co-star.

“I hope so,” he said. “Matinee audiences are the best these days, I think.”

"That’s because it’s people like us!” MacLaine responded. “The blue-hairs!”

“Elsa & Fred” will certainly be looking for support among the “Marigold Hotel” crowd, but Radford’s sentimental but candid story about late-inning love got a roaring response here Friday, which certainly validated MIFF director Jaie LaPlante’s contention that what Miami audiences want are movies exactly like “E&F.”

“A lot of festival programmers don’t seem happy unless they’re confusing their audience,” he said. “What we’re aiming for are films that are commercial, but with an edge.” 

This article is related to: Elsa & Fred , Shirley MacLaine, Christopher Plummer, Festivals, Interviews , Interviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.