Monday, August 31, 2020

New set photo from "The Prom"

Director Ryan Murphy posted a pic to Instagram today showing the cast for his upcoming adaptation of the Broadway musical, The Prom.

A lot of outlets are suggesting that Meryl is completely unrecognizable with her red hair. I'm not sure that's true, but she does look unlike the vast majority of her characters. I sort of consider the look a cross between Topsy and Miranda Priestly. 

Murphy praised the cast for having the gumption to complete the film's last bits amid the Covid crisis. But we know that there really wasn't much for the cast to do, the remaining footage was basically "second unit," per Murphy. 

We can expect the movie to hit Netflix around Christmas. 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

"Babylon" to begin filming in early 2021

An obscure article was posted on Awards Watch yesterday, describing how Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand's upcoming film, Macbeth, was able to film during the pandemic. Location manager Chris Baugh is currently in demand among film producers for having effectively implemented Covid protocols on set. I'll let your read the details, but the logistics of it are pretty staggering. I work in healthcare so I know all too well the tedium of appropriate use of PPE, social distancing, sanitization, screening, and testing protocols. Suffice it to say it's kind of a nightmare. When they're rigidly adhered to, however, the strategies actually allow people to work at a much lower risk. That seems to be the case in film as well, with zero positive tests resulting in the Macbeth filming. 

At the very end of the article, Baugh is quoted as saying that he'll soon be working on Damien Chazelle's Babylon, which is apparently set to begin shooting "early next year."  

So, a couple of things. One, Meryl at this point is still only rumored to be cast in this film. And even if she was officially cast, we don't know if she'll choose to stay attached amid Covid uncertainties. She is, after all, in an age demographic that is at higher risk of severe complications if infected. Two, we don't know what "early" means in regard to a 2021 production schedule. That could mean January, or as late as March. Having read the script, this is the type of movie I would expect to be a bit tedious in post. There are a lot of scenes and a lot of people doing a lot of things in some of them. Aside from that being a logistical nightmare from a Covid procedures standpoint, it probably won't be swift to edit. 

If shooting gets underway by January or February, we can probably expect more casting updates relatively soon, and a possibility that they'll be able to keep their late 2021 release date. If it doesn't start until March or April, I think even a December release would be a bit tricky. And who knows if they had planned for fall festivals?

Stay tuned for future updates on Meryl's potential involvement. I'd love to see her in this project, assuming it can be completed safely. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Recasting 1984: "A Passage to India"

I've probably mentioned this in previous posts, but part of the fun I'm having in deciding which films to recast Meryl has been in seeing a few things for the first time. David Lean's 1984 epic adaptation of E.M. Forster's novel, A Passage to India, is one such case. The film appealed to me because I couldn't think of anything Meryl's done on screen that takes place in Asia. And of course that it was a highly acclaimed film by a prominent director. After taking in a viewing of it early on in this quarantine, I decided it would be a good fit for my list. 

The story takes place in the 1920s during the time of Great Britain's rule over India (known as the British Raj). Adela Quested (portrayed by Judy Davis in an Academy Award-nominated performance) is on her way to India with her soon-to-be mother-in-law, Mrs. Moore (portrayed by Peggy Ashcroft in her Academy Award-winning performance). The two pine for closer interaction with the Indian population, which, during the burgeoning Indian independence movement at the time, was becoming more separated from the colonialist community. 

The two women (Meryl of course would play Adela) befriend a local doctor, Aziz Ahmed (Victor Banerjee), who offers to guide them on an excursion to a local cave site.


Long story short, Adela is seen running from a cave all bothered and bloody and she, after a some sort of "calming" injection from a treating physician, claims Aziz attempted to rape her (which we know he didn't because we see him watching her run out of the cave).  

The role of Adela may not seem particularly brilliant on the surface, but there's a conflict in her character that I expect Meryl may have found appealing. Judy Davis apparently won the part when she met with Lean and said that what happened in the cave was that "she can't cope with her own sexuality, she just freaks out." There's a romantic chemistry between Adela and their Indian guide, Aziz--something that would've been completely out of the question for a woman in her position in that day and age--plus the the fact that she isn't particularly fond of her betrothed, Mr. Heaslop.

A clash of cultures develops when Dr. Aziz goes on trial for the attempted rape of Adela. Prejudices run rampant, with the rich little white girl pitted against what the colonialists consider, despite Aziz's standing as respected physician, a savage member of a primitive society in need of domination. Adela eventually breaks down on the stand during Aziz's trial, withdrawing her claims when she realizes she was mistaken. 

It's the kind of story with a level of "difficulty" that Meryl tends to favor. It challenges preconceptions of non-Western culture and dared to even hint at the possibility of an interracial relationship. I realize this wasn't unheard of in 1984, but for the characters in this film and especially understanding the time period in which the novel was written, it was rather controversial stuff. I think Meryl would've done a brilliant job with some of the more ambigous aspects of Adela's character: her lack of clear memory of the incident, her struggle with what was likely an unspoken and perhaps subconscious attraction to Aziz, her disinterest in an almost arranged marriage. 

The cinematography reminds me of the large-scale foreign feel we see in 1985's Out of Africa. Although this film is not quire the scale of Africa, it sort of fills the slot of a similar-feeling destination, compared to the Western fare up to this point in the my recasting. 

The film was highly praised critically, and earned eleven Academy Award nominations. In addition to the aforementioned supporting win for Ashcroft, Maurice Jarre won fir his compelling score.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Recasting 1983: "Romancing the Stone"

I expect that quite a few people who read the headline for the post are thinking, "for real?" I had originally planned to recast Meryl in Debra Winger's role in Terms of Endearment for 1983, but for a few reasons it just never sat super well with me. Meryl might have been a little too old for that part (not a deal-breaker though, considering she believably played Shirley MacLaine's daughter in Postcards from the Edge). I was interested in the fact that the movie was so wildly popular and well-received. Both Winger and MacLaine were nominated for lead Oscars. But having watched Terms again recently, nothing particularly struck me as something I haven't seen from Meryl before. 

Which leads me to Romancing the Stone. One of my self-imposed "rules" for this project is that I want the recasting to (at least somewhat) fit into a realistic filmography that Meryl would've done, given the recasted roles into which I insert her from years leading up to my current choice. If we look at the movies I've chosen thus far: Hester Street, Closer Encounters of the Third Kind, Julia, American Gigolo, Reds, Frances. They're all very serious. It's seems fitting that Meryl might want and/or need something a bit lighter. 

I realize I'm moving the film's release up by a year--it was originally released in early 1984. Michael Douglas wanted to produce the film and Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Death Becomes Her, Forest Gump), despite box office bombs up to that point, was essentially given a last chance. And he didn't disappoint. 

The film portrays Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner), an out-of-love romance novelist who yearns for the same passion she imbues in her heroines. Her sister has been kidnapped in Colombia, and Joan uncharacteristically departs New York with a treasure map she possesses as the ransom. Things get off course quickly upon her arrival, and she pays an American smuggler (Michael Douglas) to escort her to Cartagena. Along the way we get secret police, gunfights, car chases, mudslides, emeralds hidden in creepy ceramic bunnies, hands bitten off by crocodiles, drug-dealing fanboys, and of course, a budding romance.


It all sounds pretty cheesy and a little cheap, perhaps. But I love it. There's enough sort of quirky, nuanced comedy that seemed to sophisticate what could've felt like typical car chase-like screenplay. I watched it many many times as a kid. My mom really got a kick out of the movie, and we must have had it taped from TV.  I can remember feeling immersed in a very foreign-feeling place. It doesn't get much more different for a rural Midwestern kid who'd never left the state than imagining what it would be like braving the jungles of South America. It appealed to me much the way Raiders of the Lost Ark had and, to perhaps a greater extent, its sequel, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I've read a few blurbs how some consider Romancing to be a knock-off of Raiders, but in fact, the film was written in 1979, two years prior to the screen debut of Indiana Jones. 

As far as the actual role goes, it's fair to say Joan Wilder goes on a journey. It's not just the wild events she has to endure on her quest to reach her sister. The de-glammed cat lady who has a habit of making herself cry gives way to a sexy heroine who fights and wins against the more powerful bad guy. I expect the shoot had to be quite the romp. And as I previously alluded, after a the stent of roles and stories Meryl would've been a part of up to that point in her career, an action-packed blockbuster may have been an attractive prospect. Most, including myself, consider The River Wild to be an action movie. Yes, there's action, but it pretty much revolves around one big event: white water rafting. It's arguably more of a thriller than it an action movie, for which throwing Meryl into a story like Romancing the Stone is even more fun to consider. 

Moviegoers and critics just so happened to love this movie too. Against its $10 million dollar budget, the film grossed over $115 million worldwide. It won Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture and Best Actress (Turner) Musical or Comedy, and currently holds a strong 84% on Rotten Tomatoes, and spurred a successful sequel in 1985. Needless to say, its commercial success would've provided Meryl even greater freedom to choose from whichever projects happened to catch her eye in the near future.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Nine years of Word on the Streep!

It's that time of year again! Shortly after the teaser to The Iron Lady was released in 2011, I made my inaugural post on this blog. Hard to believe it's been nine years. After almost a decade of commentary and career deep dives, I continue to find things that excite me about Meryl Streep's performances. 

Thanks to all those who've read this blog and posted in the comments sections over the years. It is and continues to be a joy to interact with you!

Friday, August 7, 2020

Recasting 1982: "Frances"

Last Saturday, I decided to watch the film I've chosen for reacasting 1982: Frances. It had probably been six or seven years since my inaugural viewing of the movie, apparently having made Joe join me in assessing what many consider Jessica Lange's greatest screen performance. Had it not been for Meryl's performance in Sophie's Choice the same year, Lange likely would've come away with a Best Actress Oscar. 

Only a few minutes into the movie the other night, I found myself Googling the person on whom the movie is based, actress Frances Farmer. I was immediately taken aback to learn that I just so happened to be rewatching Frances on the 50th anniversary of the eponymous woman's death.

Holy crap it's a depressing film. Granted, the character of Frances requires an actor to showcase the very extremes of human emotion, from light banter to absolute loss of control. The role tends more toward the latter, and I've learned that some of the items from the book on which the movie is based (such as the scene where Farmer receives a frontal lobotomy), are in fact fabricated. 

The story basically follows Farmer as she makes her way to Hollywood (she wants to eventually end up on the New York stage). Her tendency to question certain artistic choices doesn't exactly ingratiate her to the big studio bosses. She turns to drinking and is sort of gaslighted as a "crazy" person, ending up committed to institutions against her will. It's a great study in the often-volatile relationships between stars of the Golden Era and their vicariously living mothers (here deftly portrayed by Kim Stanley).

It's easy to see why Lange was nominated. While a performance exploring the pendulous behaviors of someone suffering through mental illness has become something close to a calling card for her, in '82 she wasn't necessarily known for it yet. I admit I wondered a few times watching it again if I could really see Meryl doing it. Lange is singular in her portrayal, and it would be a huge stretch. But again, that's sort of why I'm choosing many of the roles I'm choosing in this recasting; it's fun to speculate on how Meryl would negotiate a few more risky parts. 

There were a great many actresses interested and ultimately considered for the role, Meryl included apparently. According to IMDb, Lange won out in the end over Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn. The film was decently reviewed by critics but did not make back its budget. 

Meryl was likely better off with Sophie, of course, but Frances would've been a wild ride. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

"Let Them All Talk" to premiere on HBO Max this fall

World of Reel is reporting that Steven Soderbergh's Let Them All Talk is likely to premiere on the HBO Max platform this fall. They go on to state the ever since HBO bought the rights to the film, the plan was always that it would be released on television, not theaters.  With that in mind, the film will also not be shown at any of the fall film festivals. 

We probably already knew most of this, but it's the first time there's been any news of it definitively not being released in theaters. That means it will be eligible for Emmy consideration, not Oscars at next year's ceremonies. 

October is the rumored release month. Can't wait!