Monday, May 30, 2022

Recasting 1976 (supporting): "Marathon Man"

We begin the "supporting" version of this recasting project in the same year we did for lead. Mery's actual filmography began with 1977's Julia. But we know that she was doing auditions for films earlier, as she's famously described her encounter with Dino De Laurentis in her audition for King Kong. That film was ultimately cast with Jessica Lange, and was released in December 1976. So it's not too wild to assume she may have not only been interested in doing a film a year earlier than she did, but was getting auditions with established directors. 

One of those directors could've been John Schlesinger, whose Midnight Cowboy had scored him an Academy Award for Best Director earlier that decade. Schlesinger reteamed with Dustin Hoffman in 1976 for an adaptation of William Goldman's thriller novel, Marathon Man. I'll say right off the bat that it's a bit of a stretch to think that Streep would've been considered for the role of a French and German-speaking Swiss woman for her first film. That being said, it's known that Schlesinger originally envisioned Julie Christie (a Brit) in the part of Elsa Opel that eventually went to Swiss actress, Marthe Keller. It's not a huge role and Keller was by no means a big star in Hollywood, but had up to that point appeared in several French and German films. Had Meryl secured an audition, we can expect that she would've been able to adeptly display her knack for accents and language, perhaps even to the point of being considered. We'll continue under that premise. 

The film basically follows Babe Levy (Hoffman), a Ph.D. student and jogger, whose brother, Doc (Roy Scheider) is a secret agent for the U.S. government, acting as a diamond courier for a Nazi war criminal, Dr. Szell (played by Laurence Oliver), in exchange for information in tracking down other Nazis. The plot is pretty convoluted, so suffice it to say that Elsa is also an agent secretly working for Dr. Szell. She becomes Babe's girlfriend to get info on Doc, whom Szell is now trying to kill because he feels he can no longer trust anyone with the diamonds. 

Doc tricks Elsa here into revealing that she's not really from where she says she is. Beyond the technical aspects of the language, it would be an interesting character from the angle of Elsa essentially being a role within a role. The majority of her time on screen is her "acting" like someone she is not. I suspect that would be both a challenging and fun prospect to negotiate for an actor. We never know for sure whether or not Elsa ever had true feelings for Babe. Or if perhaps she didn't at first or hadn't expected to when he was her "mark," but developed them as they spent time together. Spoiler: She ends up getting herself killed when she warns Babe toward the end that double agent Janeway is going to betray him. So we're left to believe, to some degree, that she really did care, since she put her life at risk to help Babe. One further point to mention here: Keller shows her top during a love scene with Hoffman. Hoffman does show his bare ass in a different scene, so it's not like it's only the woman who's showing some skin in the film. But I do wonder if that would've been a deal-breaker for Meryl at the time. She flashed one breast in a scene during Silkwood in 1983, so maybe it wouldn't have been too big of a deal. It would certainly not have hurt the film's quality had the nude scene been left out in Marathon Man

The film did rather well with critics. I've watched it a couple times now, and I agree that it's a solid film, if a bit difficult to follow from a plot standpoint. It's also not something to watch if you're squeamish, as there's a "dental" torture scene that is enough to make you want to consider forgoing your next scheduled cleaning. Olivier deservedly earned an Oscar nomination for his supporting role as Szell. It earned five overall nominations at the Golden Globes, including one for Keller in Supporting Actress. Keller also received a Bambi Award, a German award recognizing excellence in international media. The film is definitely worth taking the time to view. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Recasting (supporting) project preview

In the early months of the pandemic, I began a Streep recasting project that spanned over forty years of movies. With one selection for each calendar year, I meant it to be a realistic sort of alternative or parallel career Meryl could've feasibly had, were she not to have done the movies of her actual filmography. This is not to be confused of course with my "reimagined filmography," which more reimagines what her career could've looked like if a handful of additions and subtractions were made to canon (the additions being roles for which she was at least obliquely connected to but never starred in, the subtractions being either stinkers or movies I just didn't really care if she'd never been in)--a sort of best-case-scenario look back of what wasn't wildly unrealistic had the chips fallen slightly differently over the years. The recasting project required no such connection to the films' casting histories. In fact, for only a handful of my recasting choices could I find information that she was in consideration. That difference was part of the fun. 

With the exception of two selections early on, all of the recasting choices were lead roles. It didn't seem super realistic to put her in high-profile leading lady projects when she would've been a total newcomer. We're coming up on a year since i finished that project last summer. I had indicated at the time that I expected to do a second iteration of the project, but this time with only supporting roles. Well, there's no better time than the present! I've had the entire list of which projects I plan to select complete for many months now (save one or two recent changes). It's been fun rewatching many of them to refresh my memory on the performances/characters. A few were projects that I'd never seen, but knew enough about that they intrigued me as potentially interesting roles. 

Similar to the original recating project (and Meryl's actual career in general), I made an effort to make selections that cover rather broad territory. Perhaps my favorite thing about watching Meryl is the wide variety of people we get to witness her inhabiting. With that in mind, not only did I attempt to choose roles that would provide an opportunity for interpreting a unique character, but also some projects specifically because of when or where the story takes place, by whom they were directed, and with whom she would get to co-star. Sometimes it's a bit of a combo of all these. And at the same time, they're often choices that are simply personal favorites, within the confines of my "guidelines" of course. As a result, some of the selections might seem a little wacky or unexpected (ranging from glorified cameos to borderline lead performances). But I assure you, they'll never be boring. 

Gird your loins, Streepers. Let's have some fun.   

Monday, May 16, 2022

Results of poll #15

Folks have made their choices for which film of Meryl's they feel should have been nominated for Best Picture, and was not. The results are as follows:

Doubt 29.55%

Silkwood 20.45%

Sophie's Choice 18.18%

The Devil Wears Prada 13.64%

The Bridges of Madison County 11.36%

Adaptation 6.82%

August: Osage County 0%

Into the Woods 0%

I can't really argue with Doubt. I think it's a great movie and regularly revisit it. I definitely would've ranked it ahead of both The Reader and Frost/Nixon that year. I'm a little surprised by how low Adaptation came in. I voted for it, just because of all the films of Meryl's that were not nominated for Best Picture, this might be the best, in my opinion. But when trying to decide which film I would push out of the top five that year. Maybe The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. As much as I enjoy Chicago, Adaptation is probably the superior film as well. 

Good to see that Silkwood and Sophie's Choice were up there at the top as well. Those also just happen to be two of Streep's likely top five performances in my view, with Sophie's Choice number one. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Poll #15: Which Meryl film should've been nominated for Best Picture?

This question was suggested in the comments of my last poll, and I thought it would be a great one to consider. It's interesting that Meryl has been in three films in the last five years that were nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards (The Post, Little Women, Don't Look Up). She was of course only nominated for The Post. She hadn't been nominated for a film that also had a Best Picture nom since way back in 1985 (Out of Africa)! 

I think it's means something extra when a lead actor or even supporting actor gets individually recognized for their performance in a film that's nominated for the top prize. So often Meryl is the best thing in her films, and she can make, what would otherwise be a bit of a stinker perhaps (see The Iron Lady, for example), a decent film due simply to the fact that she's so good and on screen all the time. 

So with that in mind, which film(s) do you think were deserving of that top nomination? 

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Wish list entry #12: "Broken for You"

This will be the last (for a while, at least) of several recent novel suggestions I've suggested could make great adaptations for Meryl. Stephanie Kallos' 's debut 2005 novel, Broken for You seems a tale ripe for a limited series. I say that because it's a reasonably long book, which would give ample story to cover six to eight episodes. 

One of the two main characters is Margaret Hughes, a 70-something wealthy divorcĂ©e living alone in a mansion in Seattle. Spoilers ahead. She's gotten a diagnosis of brain cancer and ends up taking in a boarder, Wanda Schultz, a young woman who's sort of obsessively trying to track down her ex boyfriend. The two develop a friendship which ends up changing them both in profound, but different ways. 

Margaret houses countless expensive antiques, which turn out to be items that were taken from Jewish families during WWII by Margaret's businessman father. Despite her many attempts to locate the owners of all the antiques, she's been unsuccessful, and harbors strong guilt around possessing them. Wanda is employed in the theater and has an artistic background. Events unfold where she ends up making enormous mosaic artworks out of the antique items, which get a lot of attention from the press...mostly very good, some controversial. But it ends up being a way for Wanda to work through the pain of parental and partner abandonment, and for Margaret to somehow do right by the families she's been unable to reach. Fun connection at the end is that Wanda's father, who'd left when she was a child to search for her mother, ends up befriending an old Jewish lady who possessed a small item that was part of an antique set in Margaret's possession. He ends up getting connected with Margaret after his friend dies and leaves the antique to him, and of course, he and Wanda get reunited. 

I thought it was a pretty good book with nicely drawn-out characters. Margaret and Wanda definitely feel like co-leads if they were to be portrayed similarly to the way they were in the book. It may seem a bit "been there done that" when one reads that the would-be Meryl character is suffering from cancer, but I'd argue it's not quite the same way we've seen from her before in the case of One True Thing, for example. I think the people you have around you, what you leave behind, and what secrets or regrets you may have greatly shapes people's experiences and approaches when faced with the real possibility of death. Margaret is in a very different position than Kate Gulden. And while not a mother (anymore--additional background that her son died tragically quite young), the stakes are perhaps higher in her their own, unique way. 

I suppose the story could work as a feature film as well. I just tend to think longer books with a lot of moving parts that span decades of experience are so often better suited for a limited series. The medium is a much more respected and highly-financed option that even fifteen years ago, and it also provides more time for us to enjoy our favorites onscreen. 

We (and Meryl, more importantly) have options out there, people! On this blog I've suggested adaptations of The Testament of Mary, The Buried Giant, Without Blood, The Cypress Club, State of Terror, State of Wonder, Celine, All Adults Here, and Broken for You. A couple have been optioned, non have been casted. With no official news on any upcoming filming projects, how fun would it be if one of her next came from the above list? 

Patiently waiting.