Monday, May 29, 2023

Recasting 2022 (supporting): "Everything Everywhere All at Once"

Somewhat unexpectedly, my lead recasting project from two years ago ended up being a tidy 365 days between first and last selections. That timeline worked out pretty well for me as far as getting all my posts completed the way I wanted to. And so it is that I wrap up this supporting recasting project the way I began it last year, on Memorial Day. It's pure coincidence that in both projects the final selection is for a role that won an Academy Award for its original actor, and in a film that was critically acclaimed and went on to win both Best Picture and Director.  

Everything Everywhere All at Once is difficult to neatly classify as a film. It incorporates elements of sci-fi, comedy, drama, martial arts, absurdism. I have to admit that when it first became available to stream, I I tried watching it and stopped after about forty-five minutes (which I almost NEVER do with movies). I knew little about it at the time, other than a few comments about the cast and that it was getting great reviews. I was just not in the mood to watch something quite as volatile and wild as this movie turned out to be. I ended up revisiting it of course, much due to the fact that it seemed like the role of IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre (expertly portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis) might be an interesting role to imagine Meryl taking on. 

It's very difficult to summarize the plot of this movie if you haven't seen it (or even if you have!). But suffice it to say, as far as the plot goes the film follows a Chinese immigrant family in the United States (Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Kwan as married parents of Stephanie Hsu's character) who are struggling with their marriage and laundromat business, which is being audited by the IRS. Next blurb from Wikipedia: 

At a tense meeting with IRS inspector Deirdre Beaubeirdre, Waymond's body is taken over by Alpha-Waymond, a version of Waymond from the "Alphaverse." Alpha-Waymond explains to Evelyn that many parallel universes exist because every life choice creates a new alternative universe. The Alphaverse, led by the late Alpha-Evelyn, developed "verse-jumping" technology, which enables people to access the skills, memories, and bodies of their parallel selves by performing bizarre actions that are statistically unlikely.

So, a bunch of universe jumping takes place and Evelyn (Yeoh) and her family are given a reprieve from the IRS, and Evelyn and her daughter sort of make peace, and we're left with some semblance of understanding that life is not meaningless. I think?

It's a pretty wacky ride, but it's fun that Deirdre is not only a very distinctly written character in her "main" universe, but that she (like the other main characters) gets to portray multiple different people in the various universes through which Evelyn jumps. We learn a little about Deirdre and her likely decision to offer the Wangs a reprieve on their audit.


The hot dog fingers are about the limit ha. And I like how in that "hot dog hand" universe, when Deirdre plays the piano with her feet her wrist brace is now on her ankle. 

I suspect this might have been a bit too "out there" of a role for it to have been on Meryl's radar. But it actually does remind me a bit of her turn in 2002's Adaptation where there's a "meta" feature to it, even if that one was on a much more sedated level. But what fun it would've been to see her participate in Everything Everywhere, especially considering its critical and box office success. It's not a film that I'll likely revisit over and over, but I'm pleased that a diverse cast and creative team were so successful with both audiences and critics. 

The movie earned $140 million at the worldwide box office on a shoestring budget of only $14.3 million. It holds a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 81 score on Metacritic, indicating "universal acclaim." And whoa did it ever clean up at the Academy Awards this spring. It won seven Oscars out if its ten nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director(s) for Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and of course, Best Supporting Actress for Curtis. Curtis also won the SAG award and was nominated by BAFTA and the Globes, among several Critics circles nominations. I think it makes for an excellent final addition to this year-long list of roles. 

As I made a point of doing in my lead recasting project, I'd like to take my hat off to all of the remarkable actors who originated the roles in the below list. Their work is exciting and inspiring to me. And although I'm ending this series for now, I plan to eventually add my selections (for both lead and supporting recasting categories) for future years. Thanks to all those who've read these posts and participated in the dialogue around the roles and projects. You've made it a lot of fun for me!

1976: Marathon Man (Elsa Opel) 
1977: Jesus of Nazareth (Mary the mother of Jesus) 
1978: Coming Home (Vi Munson) 
1979: All that Jazz (Angelique, The Angel of Death) 
1980: Ragtime (Mother) 
1981: On Golden Pond (Chelsea Thayer Wayne) 
1982: Annie (Grace Farrell) 
1983: The Big Chill (Meg Jones) 
1984: Witness (Rachel Lapp)
1985: Clue (Miss Scarlet)
1986: The Clan of the Cave Bear (Iza) 
1987: Empire of the Sun (Mrs. Victor)
1988: Working Girl (Katharine Parker) 
1989: Parenthood (Helen Buckman)
1990: Goodfellas (Karen Hill) 
1991: The Prince of Tides (Lila Wingo Newbury) 
1992: Damage (Ingrid Thompson-Fleming)
1993: In the Name of the Father (Gareth Peirce)
1994: Bullets Over Broadway (Helen Sinclair) 
1995: Rob Roy (Mary MacGregor) 
1996: The Birdcage (Louise Keeley)
1997: The Ice Storm (Janey Carver)
1998: Pleasantville (Betty Parker) 
1999: Tea with Mussolini (Elsa Morganthal Strauss-Armistan)  
2000: Almost Famous (Elaine Miller) 
2001: The Royal Tenenbaums (Etheline Tenenbaum) 
2002: White Oleander (Ingrid Magnussen)
2003: The Station Agent (Olivia Harris)
2004: Sideways (Maya)
2005: Alexander (Queen Olympias)
2006: Children of Men (Miriam)
2007: Hairspray (Velma Von Tussle)
2008: Rachel Getting Married (Abby Buchman)
2009: Animal Kingdom (Janine "Smurf" Cody) 
2010: The Fighter (Alice Ecklund-Ward)
2011: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (Harriet Vanger)
2012: Mildred Pierce (Lucy Gessler) 
2013: Top of the Lake (GJ)
2014: Snowpiercer (Minister Mason) 
2015: Trumbo (Hedda Hopper) 
2016: The Wizard of Lies (Ruth Madoff)
2017: I, Tonya (LaVona Golden) 
2018: Sharp Objects (Adora Crellin)
2019: The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (Marilyn Miglin) 
2020: Succession (Nan Pierce)
2021: Mare of Eastown (Helen Fahey)
2022: Everything Everywhere All at Once (Deirdre Beaubeirdre)

Roles by originating actress:

Michelle Pfeiffer (3) 
Dianne Wiest (3) 
Patricia Clarkson (2) 
Jessica Lange (2) 
Melissa Leo (2) 
Miranda Richardson (2) 
Sigourney Weaver (2) 
Joan Allen (1) 
Lorraine Bracco (1) 
Cher (1) 
Jamie Lee Curtis (1) 
Pam Ferris (1) 
Jane Fonda (1) 
Holly Hunter (1) 
Olivia Hussey (1) 
Anjelica Huston (1) 
Allison Janney (1) 
Angelina Jolie (1) 
Cherry Jones (1) 
Marthe Keller (1) 
Judith Light (1) 
Virginia Madsen (1) 
Frances McDormand (1) 
Kelly McGillis (1) 
Penelope Milford (1) 
Helen Mirren (1) 
Mary Kay Place (1) 
Pamela Reed (1) 
Ann Reinking (1) 
Joely Richardson (1) 
Jean Smart (1) 
Mary Steenburgen (1) 
Tilda Swinton (1) 
Emma Thompson (1) 
Lesley Ann Warren (1) 
Debra Winger (1) 
Jackie Weaver (1)

Monday, May 22, 2023

Poll #16: "Which role do you most wish you could have seen Meryl do?"

Next week, I'm going to wrap up my supporting recasting project with my final role selection. With all the thinking I've been doing in the last few years between this project and my (mostly) lead recasting series, I thought it would be interesting to just put out a poll to see people's ideas on which roles they would've most liked to see Meryl do. I did a smaller version of this question six years ago, but that one only consisted of movies for which Meryl was originally attached and didn't end up doing. I have chosen twenty titles that span projects Meryl was attached to but someone else did, projects that she was never in consideration for (that I know of), and those for which she was announced to star, but that never got made at all. I think all the them have been included in my lead recasting project or my "Should Coulda Wouldas" tab. For ease, I have only included lead roles. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Please take the opportunity to check the last option of "other" and include your own write-in, and feel free to then expand on your selection in the comments. I'm excited to see everyone's choices!

Monday, May 15, 2023

Recasting 2021 (supporting): "Mare of Easttown"

For the penultimate selection in this series, I thought it appropriate to note that of the last ten selections, seven of them have been from television. Of those, five of the shows originally premiered on HBO. I've touched on this phenomenon several times in the past, but I think the trend is an example of where the good parts are moving (or have moved), not only for women over 50, but for women in general. If it's not about a superhero or is a sequel primarily known for its special effects, it's quite possible the project's greatest audience will be found on the small screen. 

I've also commented on my affinity for limited series. I enjoy that they have a clear arc from start to finish, and yet they're longer than a feature film and so we get to go deeper into the story and, more importantly, into the characters' lives and minds. Mare of Easttown is one such example of why I'm so drawn to and glad for the reemergence of the miniseries/limited series as a venue for the best performers. I watched it when it came two years ago and found it to be one of my all-time favorites. The great Kate Winlset stars as Mare, a detective in a suburb of Philadelphia trying to solve the murder of a teenage girl while navigating the challenges of her own complex and painful personal life. The role I'm recasting is that of Mare's mother, Helen Fahey, originally portrayed by the splendid Jean Smart. 

The very nature of a "supporting" role is that it's not necessarily all about them. The story is all about Mare, and everyone else is an extension of her world. With that in mind, it may seem like Helen's character doesn't have a lot to do, other than to be in the background with a few wisecracks and perturbed looks in response to her daughter's somewhat questionable decisions. After having recently watched the series in full for the second time, I realized I had sort of forgotten that Helen, as a character, has plenty for an actress to showcase. She's a woman who's lost both her husband and adult grandson to suicide, she's moved in with her daughter to help care for her great-grandson (of whom Mare is attempting to maintain custody), and she has to sort of delicately walk the line of trying to fight for keeping the little boy while not alienating his troubled mother so as to lose him forever. In one of the lighter moments of the series, she's outed after a neighbor's funeral as having an affair with the man's husband. 

Above all though, I think the trickiest and most interesting work for the character is summarized in the last episode of the series (the one Smart submitted to the Television Academy and for which she ultimately received an Emmy nomination), where she tearfully reveals to her daughter the struggle she had in managing their mother-daughter relationship in the wake of her own grief. I apologize I was unable to find a suitable clip of the scene. But it's a touching (if a bit comically awkward) scene, and it provides the audience a sense of perhaps some closure for both Mare and Helen. 

Similar to what I mentioned in last week's post with Succession, it would just be a lot of fun to be able to insert Meryl into this world. It's a vivid tapestry of characters in a close-knit clan that is as quick to forgive each other as they are to knock-down drag-out fights. Like one big, dysfunctional family. The region also has a very distinct accent, one which I've read that Kate Winslet insisted on the entire cast nailing for authenticity purposes. I think some of the actors were more successful than others with that. And I think we could've expected Meryl to have enjoyed and excelled at that piece. 

Mare of Easttown was lauded by critics. It holds a whopping 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 81 on Metacritic. As mentioned, Smart earned an Emmy nod, while Julianne Nicholson won in her category, as did Evan Peters in supporting and Winslet of course in lead. The show was also nominated for Outstanding Limited series, Directing (Craig Zobel) and Screenplay (Brad Inglesby), losing the first two to my favorite show of that season, The Queen's Gambit. 

Monday, May 8, 2023

Recasting 2020 (supporting): "Succession"

I never thought I'd picture recasting Meryl in a true series. With the trend in the best parts for women shifting to television over the last fifteen years or so, however, my recent selections have been mostly from that medium. I generally find myself getting attached to fewer and fewer non-limited series. My view is that so few of them really stop at the right time, and that they tend to eventually jump the shark or completely cycle through the original cast to the point that it's barely the same show anymore. This is probably more true with network television in the U.S., whereas a good bunch of cable series do a better job of keeping the show's entire arc to a reasonable limit. HBO's Emmy-award winning powerhouse, Succession is one such show. 

There aren't many programs in recent history where I honestly cannot wait to watch the next episode. Game of Thrones comes to mind, The Americans, Schitt's Creek (excluding limited series where I often get to binge them).  Succession is definitely one of those. It will go down for me as one of the best television shows I've ever watched. And it seems to just keep getting better. The current and fourth season will be its last, with the series finale wrapping up on May 28. For those unfamiliar, the often-satirical show follows the Roy family, owners of a media conglomerate loosely based on the Murdoch family, which in real life owns News Corps and the Fox Corporation (under which we get the batshit news channel Fox News). Brian Cox portrays Logan Roy, the patriarch and CEO in the show. He is ostensibly trying to identify which of his four children would be an appropriate successor to the "throne." It's difficult not to draw some parallels to Lion in Winter (one of my favorite movies), with the kids all jockeying for the big job.

I'm recasting Meryl in a role that was (mostly) seen in season 2 (and bumping it a year from when it aired in September 2019 to 2020). Cherry Jones plays Nan Pierce, the head of a rival, left-leaning media company named PGM. Logan wants to acquire it, and by episode five of the season, the Roys meet up with the Pierces at the Pierce family estate, called Tern Haven. This is one of the best and most enjoyable episodes of TV I've ever watched. There's so much intrigue and enticing friction between the two families; the Pierces are depicted as a more landed gentry yet progressive-type of wealthy family, compared to the more nouveau riche Roy clan. The way they talk, the things that interest them, their politics, are for the most part vastly different between the two families. There are great moments of both discomfort and humor. The big scene in the episode is the dinner scene. Much like the one in August: Osage County, it's a long scene with a lot of moving parts. Nan is trying to get a feel for Logan's interests, including whom he plans to name as a new CEO upon his departure. 

In one of the last scenes of the episode, the two titans go head to head to try to finally nail down a deal. 

It would be a lot of fun to see Meryl negotiate that scene. She's got to be tough, but she's also sort of in a corner. Nan shows up in the following episode for a bit as well, where she puts the kibosh on a deal that they ended up actually hammering out at the end of the first episode. It was fun to see her get Logan so riled up. And she does make an appearance for a brief scene in the current season as well (spoiler!). 

Jones won an Emmy for Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series for her performance in Tern Haven. I realize that in the grand scheme of a show with nearly forty episodes, the role of Nan Pierce is pretty small, but when compared to movies, it's quite a bit of screen time. And I just like the idea of putting Meryl into that world, with all the rest of those incredible actors/characters, on a show that I absolutely adore. 

Succession has of course been nominated for and won several top awards, including the Emmy for Outstanding Drama Series for both its second and third seasons. All the main cast members have been nominated for their work, and the writing and directing are regularly recognized as well. I sort of expect that could be something close to an Emmy sweep coming this fall since this is the final season. If so, it would be well-deserved. Sad to see it go!  

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Does anyone care whether Meryl participates in a third "Mamma Mia!" movie?

Three years ago, I posted that Mamma Mia! creator Judy Craymer had been quoted in an interview that a third film may be on the horizon. Well, as they're on the look for new stars for the upcoming 25th anniversary of the stage musical, Craymer is again saying that things are in the early stages for a new movie. In fact, she's quoted as saying about Meryl, "There is a story there, and I do think Meryl should come back -- and if the script is right, she would, I think, because she really loved playing Donna."

Fine. But what kind of script is there going to be for a dead character who was originally played by an actor that will be close to twenty years older thatn when she was in the original movie? Maybe they'd figure something that would be believable, but I pretty much don't care if this happens. I do like when things are tidy, and when they say that they originally planned for this to be a trilogy, maybe it makes sense. But I don't think Meryl needs to do this to stay relevant, even if it ended up making a lot of money. Maybe it's true that she'd just like to do it because it was fun and she enjoys Donna as a character. 

At this point, I'd rather she spend her time on something new and more interesting. We'll see if it ever comes to fruition, with or without Meryl. 

Monday, May 1, 2023

Recasting 2019 (supporting): "The Assassination of Gianni Versace"

For anyone reading the title of this week's post and thinking that 1) the year is wrong, and 2) this series was released before last week's choice of Sharp Objects, hold your horses. Yes, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story was indeed released on HBO a few months prior to Sharp Objects. But as I have done with other selections in this and my lead recasting projects, if there are two projects from the same year that I want to choose, I often place first the one that was filmed first. In this case, it was Sharp Objects, hence Versace coming afterward. 

Based on real events, this miniseries follows the life of Andrew Cunanan (played by Darren Criss), who ended a three-month killing spree with the murder of famous Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace, his fifth victim. Cunanan's third victim was real estate tycoon, Lee Miglin. Miglin was a closeted gay man who had met the much younger Cunanan, who was an escort at the time, at a party. It is Miglin's wife, Marilyn, whom I have chosen to recast in this production. Brilliantly portrayed by Judith Light, Marilyn, a long-time host on the Home Shopping Network, came back from a business trip to their home in Chicago in 1997 to find her husband murdered. It's the aftermath of this discovery and the sort of mental hoops the character goes through when dealing with police and the press that make for a fascinating opportunity for any actor. 

This would be such a great character to unpack. If you've seen the entire episode (Marilyn basically has one episode of the nine in which she's prominently featured, as well as a small amount at the end), you get a feeling that Marilyn may have suspicions about her husband's sexuality, without it being directly acknowledged. She insists after Lee's death that it be portrayed as a random killing in the press. This likely became next to impossible to maintain the more the country and the world learned about Cunanan and the nature of his crimes. Light does an amazing job in the role. It's one of those tricky scenarios where the actor has to portray someone who's basically pretending within the role as well. Marilyn puts up quite the front on her shopping network, and seems to sort of hide behind the cover of her work, perhaps to not have to deal with the reality of not only her loss, but the fact that she'd been married to someone for over forty years without fully knowing them. Of course there's some creative license in all this, as we don't know for sure what Marilyn knew about her husband. Regardless, it's a tale as old as time, where the seemingly deceived wife (or husband) has to struggle to not beat themselves up for not realizing the truth. It's easy to see how denial is a natural rabbit hole to go down.  

I've watched this series twice, and it still kind of boggles my mind that the first killings took place so close to where I grew up. I have vague memories of the news of Cunanan, but the first four murders were sort of lost in the background (I was 17 at the time) of his extremely high-profile final victim. Watching the backstory of his first two victims, Jeffrey Trail and Davis Madson, it's wild and sad the extent to which gay men had to be fearful of being outed in their lives (understandably, particularly in the military) less than thirty years ago. 

The series was very well-received by critics, currently holding an 88% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 74 on Metacritic. Six actors were nominated for Primetime Emmy awards for their performances, including Light (along with Edgar Ramírez as Versace, Penélope Cruz as his sister Donatella, Ricky Martin as Versace's partner Antonio D'Amico, and Finn Wittrock as Trail). Criss deservedly won for his lead performance, while Ryan Murphy (at his best in this series in my opinion) earned a win for directing the show's premiere episode.