Monday, June 20, 2022

Recasting 1979 (supporting): "All That Jazz"

For anyone who read the preview to this supporting casting project, you might recall how I mentioned something to the effect that some of my choices for roles this go around may at times border a bit on the obscure. That's perhaps the case in my choice for 1979. Bob Fosse's semi-autobiographical film, All That Jazz, saw a young Jessica Lange cast as Angelique, better known as the angel of death. We see scenes with Angelique and the main character, Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider), as Gideon navigates his way through editing a film, directing a musical, and managing the complicated relationships with his ex-wife (Leland Palmer), his girlfriend (Ann Reinking in a role where she's bascially playing herself), and his teenage daughter. Gideon is the epitome of someone who's burning the candle at both ends, with his unwavering libido, chain-smoking, and pill-taking, and work addiction. His conversations with Angelique, despite them not being real, sort of serve as a link to reality for Gideon and his unavoidable morality.


There are unfortunately so few clips out there of Lange and Scheider in their scenes together. It's a shame because the character of Angelique is so different from any other in the film. She's a figment, and essentially the only character in the film who doesn't sing or dance. I found this video that breaks down the character in further detail. It's worth a view:

While death may come in the form of a woman for Joe, and the commentary in the video suggests that Angelique is the only "person" who seems to understand him, I found Lange's portrayal a bit funny and condescending. Which is a great combo when considering for which types of things Joe Gideon feels he's misunderstood...or at least for those he's annoyed that he's made to feel like he should be doing something different. It would have been fun to see how Meryl would've played that. It actually sort of reminded me of the dynamic between Meryl's Ethel Rosenberg and Al Pacino's Roy Cohn from Angels in America.

Lange has been on record as saying that she and Bob Fosse were great friends, and that he went to great lengths to make her role in the film a reality. With that in mind, I think it's pretty unlikely Meryl was on anyone's radar for a part like this. But it's tough to say for sure. Word gets around. Someone sees someone in a play. They tell their friends about it. Those friends might just happen to be big wigs in the entertainment industry. Who knows if Fosse was aware of Meryl in 1978. She'd already been nominated for a Tony. She had filmed a movie with Robert De Niro and had been John Cazale's girlfriend prior to his untimely death from cancer early that year. Stranger things have happened. And I would've preferred Meryl being linked to Roy Scheider in this film instead of 1982's neo-noir dud Still of the Night. 

I like this choice for Meryl partly because of the aforementioned uniqueness of the character. But also because I like the idea of her getting to be in projects with renowned directors. I can't imagine those types of influences doing anything other than enhancing one's performance and skills. A handful of the upcoming selections I make in this project were heavily influenced by this fact. In addition of course to the role itself and the setting or topic the film covers. All That Jazz is now considered a classic. It was a critical success, nabbing Fosse the Palm d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, and was nominated for a whopping nine Academy Awards, winning four. Incidentally, it was the last live-action musical to be nominated for Best Picture until 2001's Moulin Rouge!

My selection for 1980 is a film that was originally released in 1981. But I'm bumping it up a year to make room for my 1981 selection, also originally released that year. 

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