Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Richard Lester, Jan. 26, 1990

Richard Lester

PARK CITY - Richard Lester has been directing feature films since 1961, including "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Robin and Marian," "The Three Musketeers" and two "Superman" films. But it seems like the only movies people ever want to talk about are two he made in the mid-'60s starring The Beatles: "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help!"

So Lester has learned to be philosophical about having achieved his most popular success so early in his career.

"They were wonderful times," he explained to a group of filmmakers, actors, journalists and fans at the Sundance United States Film Festival last Saturday. "I had three years at the center of the universe. … It was a privilege."

Lester was in Park City for a birthday tribute, and a screening that evening of "A Hard Day's Night." His quick trip to Utah came in the middle of making another film that will document Paul McCartney's current world tour. It seems he just can't shake the Beatle connection.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Clint Eastwood, Jan 25, 1990


PARK CITY -- It was impossible not to notice Clint Eastwood when he entered the room. Sure, he's a head taller than most people and, obviously, his face is one of the most recognized on the plane. But that doesn't explain it. Not exactly.

There's just an indefinable something about him that won't permit otherwise rational people to let him pass unnoticed. But he wasn't at the Sundance United States Film Festival to talk about himself or to promote a new film. Rather, the topic of discussion -- for a scant 15 minutes, anyway -- was the man who gave Eastwood his star in the Hollywood firmament: the late Sergio Leone, who died last year after suffering a heart attack.

"It was an odd year for me, my life in '63," Eastwood recalled as he sat before an audience of journalists and other assorted gawkers in the Yarrow Hotel. "I had an offer to go to Rome and make an Italian-German-Spanish co-production with an Italian director whom no one had ever heard of."

Monday, October 29, 2012

"Outtakes" movie column/"Tremors" review, Jan. 26, 1990

When I was growing up in Wyoming, the cool thing to do on Friday nights was to go to Jimmy Royal's house, stay up real late and watch "Nightmare Theater" on one of the Salt Lake channels. I remember, vividly, that the logo dripped what looked like blood, and the announcer's voice was creepy enough to give me chills.

The movies on "Nightmare Theater" were rarely well-made, but they were always good. This is not a contradiction when you're 10 or 11 years old, up way past your bedtime and eating your way through the refrigerator. As I recall, there was usually a double feature, and we especially liked anything with Vincent Price, vampires or nearly bare female breasts. "Nightmare Theater" must have shown a lot of Roger Corman movies, because we saw many more scantily clad women than Price or blood-sucking bats -- combined.

I got to thinking about those old movies after seeing "Tremors," a new Universal creature feature that opened last weekend. It's a lot like the monster movies that were made by the studio in the '30s, '40s and '50s. Back then, you saw the monsters in the movies -- much of the time in broad daylight. Sure, it might have been only a spider or praying mantis blown up to look 20 times the size of a Cadillac, but the monster was right there in front of you -- a force to be seen and reckoned with.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

"Outtakes" movie column, Jan. 19, 1990 -- Alberto Garcia, film programmer for the 1990 Sundance United States Film Festival

The 1990 festival's poster
It was customary for me to do stories in advance of each year's edition of the Sundance United States Film Festival. (Notice the name still retained remnants of the Utah/U.S. Film Festival.) I interviewed Alberto Garcia in an upper-floor, makeshift warehouse office in northwestern Salt Lake City a week or two before the festival began.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Some might say Alberto Garcia has a dream job. Beginning this year, he's been given the monumental task of selecting the competition films at the 1990 Sundance United States Film Festival. He's the man who has the final say on which films will play, and which ones won't.

Given this level of responsibility, you assume that the man who programs the festival -- who selects all the dramatic and documentary films to compete in 1990 -- would be, shall we say, older.

Then Garcia enters the room to be interviewed, and all preconceived notions go rocketing out the window. All of 23 years old, ponytail falling down his back, black T-shirt and jeans, he looks like a student volunteer, not one of the people running the show.

Mark Harmon, 1995

Standard-Examiner staff

PASADENA, Calif. -- ABC is serving up a pretty rare animal: "Charlie Grace." The Mark Harmon vehicle is unusual because private-eye dramas are long since out of favor. No more "Magnum, P.l." No more "Rockford Files." About the closest you come is "Murder, She Wrote" -- and it's not really playing in the same game.

"Charlie Grace," according to executive producer Robert Singer, is an homage to earlier private detectives -- the types hatched by the minds of authors Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

"One thing we tried to do with this show," Singer said at the Summer Press Tour, "is just bring it into the ’90s, but give it an element of an earlier time. … And that's almost a mythic L.A. And it's something that (the character Charlie Grace) wishes L.A. could be. While he loves L.A., he realizes all the problems with it, and would like a simpler time."

For star Mark Harmon, who worked with Singer previously on the series "Reasonable Doubts" and the feature film "Let's Get Harry," "Charlie Grace" allows the actor to play a character not too far removed from his own experience: He lives in L.A., was born there and has consciously chosen to make the city his home. As such, he has more affection for the city, and views it more positively and less critically.

Jon Cryer, 1995

PASADENA, Calif. -- When Jeff Greenstein and Jeff Strauss hear people describe their new show, "Partners," as a "Friends" knockoff, they are both proud and defensive. The Jeffs worked behind the scenes on "Friends," the breakout NBC hit, last season, but say they actually created "Partners" from their own lives.

"Jeff and I have been friends and partners for 15 years," Strauss said at the Summer Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. "And over the last four years both of us got engaged and then married."

"You know, our feeling is if we have to answer to anybody it's probably our wives and not the people on 'Friends,' " added Greenstein. "We developed this show when 'Friends' was in its infancy."

Strauss explained that the notion of writing what they knew was appealing to them, so they created a show about two 30-ish pals and business partners who find their relationship complicated when one of them becomes engaged to be married.

John Grisham, 1995

John Grisham
Standard-Examiner staff

PASADENA, Calif. -- Perched atop the publishing world, author John Grisham is refreshingly candid about the relative worth -- both literary and economic -- of his novels, and perfectly willing to offer an assessment as to why "The Client" is his only book to make it to the small screen.

"Most of my books sort of end with people on the run," Grisham said at the Summer Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif. "You know, with bullets and dead bodies and that kind of stuff. This is the only one that would lend itself to an ongoing series with people who are in one place, and who are not running."

OK, that's simple enough. Then comes the real reason the novel "The Client" has become the TV series "John Grisham's The Client":

"The TV rights to 'The Client' were included in the movie deal, which happened three years ago," the author explained. "And ... these movie contracts are eight inches thick, and buried somewhere in the contract was the TV rights -- and a lot of other rights -- that I signed away when I signed the contract and took the money."

Casey Siemaszko, Oct. 9, 1987

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN -- Filmmakers must wonder if half the kids in America want to be in the movies. Before the casting calls for “Three O'Clock High" were over, about 3,200 actors had auditioned for the lead role.

Chicago-born actor Casey Siemaszko was one of the 3,200 who showed up for casting calls in Los Angeles, New York or Chicago – or who sent in a videotape (they came from 17 states) – hoping to win the part of high school journalism student Jerry Mitchell. Two and a half months later, in September 1986 – after a series of readings and screen tests – Siemaszko got the part. Four days later, he was in Ogden preparing for his first starring role in a motion picture.

"The first time I read for (the part) I had just finished 'Gardens of Stone,’” Siemaszko (pronounced Sham-OSH-koe) said during a lunch break at Ogden High School last November. "I was a soldier in that film and I had a buzz-cut and flat-top and I wore a white T-shirt. … I didn't feel like I looked right for the part.

Mimi Rogers, Oct. 9, 1987

Mimi Rogers
Standard-Examiner staff

There's a scene in the new film, "Someone to Watch Over Me," in which Mimi Rogers – who plays a New York heiress -- is contemplating her relationship with a working class, married cop. Rogers, without a word, conveys the essence of elegance, right down to the fully extended fingers of her hand as she places it under her chin.

It's a good scene for an actress, because she's able to tell the audience all about her character without opening her mouth once.

"I was fortunate in that I had a number of people to draw on," Rogers said recently during a phone interview from Portland, Ore. "There were people I had known over a period of years who had backgrounds that were much more similar to Claire's than mine."

Rogers was raised in a family that was constantly on the move. Her father was a civil engineer, and she lived in Florida, Virginia, Arizona, Michigan, England and California while growing up. Rogers said all that motion during her early years provided a good opportunity for her to observe a wide range of individuals.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Marcia Nasatir, Aug. 28, 1987

Marcia Nasatir
Standard-Examiner staff

Four and a half years ago, screenwriter Jim Carabatsos approached producer Marcia Nasatir with a proposal to write a movie about what it was like to be 19 years old and fighting in a war.

"He said no one in Hollywood would listen," Nasatir recalled. "I told him I'd listen. My son was in Vietnam."

Nasatir, speaking by phone from her Denver hotel suite, said she was committed to making a serious film about the Vietnam War from the soldier's point of view. The result of that commitment opens in theaters across the country this weekend -- it's a movie called "Hamburger Hill."One of the reasons Nasatir, who was the executive producer on "The Big Chill," decided to go with the "Hamburger Hill" project was due to her son's silence about his Vietnam experience.

Phil Joanou, Oct. 9, 1987

Standard-Examiner staff

For a first-time feature film director, Phil Joanou has been getting more than his share of attention. His "Three O'Clock High" is being released today, but already the 25-year-old has been called one of the "hottest" young directors in the business by magazines like American Film and Premiere.

So, why- all the hubbub? Well, first off, Joanou was "discovered" by Steven Spielberg, the hottest of the hot directors in a town where everything is measured in terms of heat -- hot directors, hot pictures, hot actors, hot scripts, hot, hot, hot.

It all started with a phone call. The day after Joanou's student film "Last Chance Dance" was shown at the annual University of Southern California film-school screening -- where student films are screened for industry professionals -- Spielberg phoned Joanou at home, asking if he'd like to direct an episode of "Amazing Stories."

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bill Murray, July 13, 1990

I interviewed  Bill Murray at the University Park Hotel in Salt Lake City. When I arrived in the lobby a few minutes early, I sat on a chair and opened my notebook to jot down a few topics I wanted to discuss when I was summoned upstairs; I was the first interviewer of the morning, with Chris Hicks (Deseret News) and Terry Orme (Salt Lake Tribune) to follow. After only a minute or two, I heard some one saying loudly, "Don Porter. Calling Don Porter. Don Porter, please report to (whatever floor it was)." It was Bill Murray standing at an upstairs railing. Apparently he got such a kick out of it, Chris and Terry told me he did the same thing with them.

Standard· Examiner staff

SALT LAKE CITY -- It's 10 a.m. and the first thing Bill Murray does is apologize that he hasn't been awake long enough to clear the cobwebs from his brain.

He ambles up the hotel hallway, baseball cap on his head, wearing a windbreaker, jeans and loafers. He extends his hand, looking straight into his visitor's eyes and leads the way to his suite. In desperate need of a shave, he dispatches his minions to score a razor. Something double-bladed, preferably.

Shortly thereafter, a photographer appears. Murray responds with dismay. "God," he exclaims, "I hate to have my picture taken." Immediately, he's up off the couch, searching through his luggage and eventually pulling a dark-colored sweater on over his white shirt. "Nobody told me I was going to have to get dressed for this interview."

"Outtakes" movie column, Dec. 14, 1990

Robert Redford
As I recall, Vincent Price's derisive remark concerning Robert Redford during a 1984 speech at Utah State University drew a big laugh. Charles Laughton, he said, was wonderful when it came to playing tragedy. And Boris Karloff was a sweet man who nonetheless could terrify an audience.

But Redford, Price quipped, was quite remarkable at being, well, Redford.

I laughed right along with everyone else -- that conspiratorial laugh we commoners share at the expense of public figures who are wealthy and famous and talented. Redford is something of an easy target, after all; he's good-looking and people tend to notice that more so than his finely tuned artistry in front of the camera.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tom Selleck, Dec. 4, 1987

A publicity shot from "Three Men and a Baby"
Standard-Examiner staff

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- As, Tom Selleck walked toward the next group of reporters waiting to interview him, he got sidetracked. There were these babies, you see -- the twins who co-starred with Selleck in "Three Men and a Baby" – and the 6-foot-4-inch actor was absolutely bonkers f0r the tykes.

"Hi. How ya doin’, huh?" Selleck said in an embarrassingly high-pitched voice as he tiptoed up to the babies, who were resting in their parents' arms. "Hi. Remember me?" he asked, tickling them under their little chins and cooing at them. They smiled back and laughed. Yes, they remembered.

Maybe it was the mustache.  Or the dimples big enough to park a Buick in. Whatever, the babies seemed to like Tom Selleck -- and he clearly wasn't showing this affection to win friends or influence the media.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Royal Dano, Aug. 21, 1987

Royal Dano

OGDEN -- There sat Royal Dano, character actor extraordinaire, on the edge of his bed – in his boxer shorts, an ice bag on his knee.

"Sorry I can't get up," he said in that deep, rich voice that's become so familiar to moviegoers over the past four decades. "Got a bum knee."

Dano -- whose credits include "The Red Badge of Courage," "The Trouble with Harry," "Moby Dick," "Something Wicked This Way Comes" and "The Right Stuff" – had recently undergone arthroscopic knee surgery, stemming from an injury sustained during the filming of "The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid" in 1971.

"I finally decided to take advantage of this directors' strike and have it done now," he explained, exposing the scar and explaining the procedure. "An actor's greatest fear is that the best role of his career will come along while he's unable to work. So elective surgery can be a dangerous thing."

Dano, one of the most recognizable character actors in the history of film, was in Ogden recently to attend the National Western Film Festival. Although he's known most for the vast number of westerns he's appeared in, Dano is a versatile actor who's at home in almost any role.

Lou Diamond Phillips, July 24, 1987

Standard-Examiner staff

SALT LAKE CITY -- Lou Diamond Phillips sat in a chair against the wall of his Little America Hotel suite, in the shadow of a lamp that wasn't turned on.

The 25-year-old actor was dressed smartly -- tan sports coat, shirt with two buttons open at the neck, blue jeans and cowboy boots. Longish black hair fell over his collar. Without a trace of cockiness, Phillips acknowledged that he's on the verge of something that may be very big -- big with a capital B.

Test audiences have been indicating that his new film is "hot." That's a good word to have connected with a movie. Almost as good as "big," as in box office. Those two words spell success in Hollywood. They're the ticket to the big time. Yes, if indications are correct, big things could be happening to Phillips soon. Then he would be -- that's right -- hot.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Billy Drago, July 24, 1987

Standard-Examiner staff


There's a chilling scene in "The Untouchables" in which Al Capone's hit man, Frank Nitti, sits in a car outside G-man Eliot Ness' home, smoking cigarettes. Ness isn't home, but when he does arrive, after dark, Nitti expounds on the virtues of family life.

It's Nitti's way of letting Ness know that if Capone continues to be harassed, Ness' wife and child will be murdered. It would be easy, Nitti intimates by his presence outside the home, for him to have walked in and snuffed out their lives.

In the movie, Nitti is a dastardly, evil character. But in reality, the actor who played him -- Billy Drago -- is soft-spoken and unassuming. And Drago says he's loving the attention the movie has given him.

"I have literally not been able to go on the street one day since the picture opened without somebody coming up, or being in a restaurant and having someone say something to me," Drago said last week during a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home. "It happens everywhere I go."

"Full Metal Jacket," July 10, 1987

Standard-Examiner staff


There are bound to be comparisons between Stanley Kubrick's new film, "Full Metal Jacket," and Oliver Stone's Oscar-winning "Platoon." But such comparisons are invalid, since the two films take completely different approaches to the same subject: Vietnam.

"Full Metal Jacket" is a film that deserves equal attention, not out-of-hand dismissal as simply another Vietnam War drama. It is an astonishingly powerful movie -- a film that strikes terror in the gut and sadness in the heart.

There is brilliance on display in "Full Metal Jacket," which possesses both the technical mastery and flair for the ironic that are Kubrick's trademarks. His view of Vietnam and the decision-makers who "ran" the war are every bit as biting and sarcastic as was his treatment of similar characters and institutions in "Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb." War is the ultimate madness, and Kubrick is very adept at showing us how we come to participate in such mass lunacy.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sun not setting on drive-ins (July 3, 1987)

"Outtakes" movie column

Last summer I packed up my wife and daughter, dragged them to the Davis Drive-In and left them sitting in the car while I walked around the parking lot asking people why they see movies on outdoor screens. I realize that makes me sound like a neglectful husband and father, but I was there to get a firsthand look at the decline of an American entertainment
tradition, and my family came along for the ride.

I had gone with the preconceived notion that there would be only a handful of people to speak with, as national publications have been trumpeting the death of drive-ins for years. But 'I was wrong. By the time the sun went down the drive-in was packed, I had plenty of good quotes for my story and my mind had been changed.

Jim Varney, May 22, 1987

Standard· Examiner staff

SALT LAKE CITY -- As the door to the hotel suite opened, Jim Varney could be seen sitting in a chair across the room, barefoot with one leg pitched over the armrest, and the other sprawled out on the coffee table. He was relaxed and laughing, enjoying a cigarette between interviews.

Such a sight is comforting to an interviewer, because it sends a strong signal that a pleasurable experience is about to follow, instead of an agonizing 30-minute slug-fest with an uptight and defensive celebrity.

As Varney rose from the chair to greet his guest, two gold chains swung out of his sport shirt; open half-way to his navel. But as the talk progressed it became apparent that this show-biz fashion" statement probably owed a lot more to comfort than ego.

Varney, a 37-year-old actor who has become famous playing obnoxious next-door neighbor Ernest P. Worrell in some 6,000 TV commercials over the past several years, was in Utah recently to promote his new film, "Ernest Goes to Camp." Ernest, for the uninitiated, is the lovable bumpkin who's always shouting "Hey, Vern!" and "KnowhutImean?" during TV, commercials designed to sell milk and other consumer goods.

Ray Bradbury, March 18, 1988

Perhaps the greatest single day of fun in my entire journalism career was spending time with Ray Bradbury in Ogden in March 1988. My friend Mike Vause, a Weber State English professor, had invited the great author to speak to the National Undergraduate Literature Conference, and had, in turn, allowed me to interview Bradbury after his convocations lecture, ride along to have his photo taken at the Ott Planetarium, attend his lecture at a conference supper one evening and a reception for Bradbury.

Interviewing and chatting with him was a special thrill for me -- I was still in my twenties -- because reading Bradbury's novels and short stories and plays gave me my love of reading more than any other author. I just loved his work, and still do.

The night of the reception upstairs at WSU's student union building followed the day I had spent time with Bradbury. When I walked into the large room, he was surrounded by several members of the faculty, a local eye surgeon and a few others I didn't recognize. I walked by, about 15 feet away, and the author saw me, smiled, waved and said a loud "Hello!" For a geeked-out fan, it was magical and I'll never forget it. I spoke to him a little later on, too. What a great guy.

I met him again several years later -- I don't remember the year -- when Mike and Janis Vause brought Bradbury back to Ogden, if memory serves, for an Ogden School Foundation fundraiser. The Vauses were kind enough to invite me to a luncheon in Bradbury's honor.

Anyway, here's the result -- a feature story and an "Outtakes" movie column -- about Bradbury's first visit to Ogden in 1988.

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN -- Ray Bradbury is always in a hurry. No time to waste. When he walks, he walks fast -- his feet and legs slightly ahead of his shoulders and head.

Since he began writing at the age of 12 -- 55 years ago -- he has never slowed down. Or as he puts it: "I've lived at the top of my lungs since I was very young."

The author of "Fahrenheit 451," "The Martian Chronicles," "The Illustrated Man" and "Something Wicked This Way Comes" was in Ogden last week to attend the National

Undergraduate Literature Conference at Weber State College. And true to form, he hopscotched all over the campus, offering tales from his vast experience and advice born of his considerable wisdom.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Woody Strode, July 18, 1987

Sometimes in life, you get to meet people you've admired since you can remember. That's what happened with several actors over the few years of the National Western Film Festival in Ogden. One of those people was Woody Strode. I cornered him at the Hilton Hotel in Ogden, and he was gracious enough to pile into a car with photographer Blair Kooistra and me, and we drove around west Ogden looking for a place to take his photo -- and I peppered him with questions the whole time. Finally we settled on some old wooden gates in the ancient Ogden stockyards. What an afternoon.

Standard-Examiner staff

When Francis Ford Coppola was directing "The Cotton Club" a few years ago, he needed someone to play the small role of the club's doorman. And Coppola, being the persnickety director that he is, would consider only one man for the part -- Woody Strode.

"I can't even see myself in the movie, to tell you the truth," Strode said Thursday as he walked through the Ogden stockyards near the Golden Spike Coliseum. "But you know what I got paid for the itty-bitty part? Sixty-two thousand dollars. Can you believe it?"

To hear Strode tell it, luck like that has followed him all his life.

Mary Steenburgen, Dec. 6, 1985

Standard-Examiner staff

Mary Steenburgen isn't the air­headed wife of a fortune seeker, nor is she a frustrated author. She is, rather, an Oscar-winning actress who wears those roles as comfortably as Santa Claus wears a smile.

Some people might not recognize her name immediately, but if they frequent movie theaters and video shops they have surely seen at least one of Steenburgen's performances in films such as: "Goin' South," "Melvin and Howard" (for which she won an Academy Award as the wife of Melvin Dummar), "Time After Time," "Cross Creek," "Ragtime" and "Romantic Comedy." Currently, she can be seen on cable TV in an adaption of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender Is the Night" and on the big screen with the lead in "One Magic Christmas."