A profile of the late critic.
How the CIA used a fake science fiction film to sneak six Americans out of revolutionary Iran. The declassified story that became Ben Affleck’s Argo.
He came home from Vietnam, wrote the novel that became Full Metal Jacket, was nominated for an Oscar and riding high. Then he got thrown in jail for stockpiling stolen library books, started drinking, cut off his friends and fled to a remote Greek island. He never made it back.
The afterlife of 486 frames of Kodachrome II 8mm film shot by Dallas clothing manufacturer Abraham Zapruder.
The backstory of “The Duke in His Domain,” Truman Capote’s 1957 New Yorker profile of Marlon Brando.
A profile of Marlon Brando, 33, holed up in a hotel suite in Kyoto where he was filming Sayonara.
My guide tapped at Brando's door, shrieked "Marron!," and fled away along the corridor, her kimono sleeves fluttering like the wings of a parakeet.
Blockbusters in the age of “corporate irony.”
The Drugstore Cowboy star candidly discusses the characters who defined her career.
How the museum-quality 55,000 film collection that an East Village video store gave away ended up in a small, possibly mob-run village in Sicily.
Retro, apocalypticism, and our “culture of disaster.”
A profile of the Hollywood star-maker behind Vanna White, Pamela Anderson and Jenny McCarthy.
An interview with John Waters.
Real life is seeing and art is looking. If you’re successful, it’s a magic trick: you take one thing, and you put it in here, and it changes in one second, and then you can never look at that thing again the same way. That is what art is to me.
A profile of the hardworking Samuel L. Jackson, whose movies have grossed more than any actor’s ever.
On Marilyn Monroe and the pains of post-war America.
How a lonely, self-taught hacker found his way into the private emails of movie stars – and into the underworld of the celebrity-skin business.
On the trade school’s business model and its founder, a former movie producer named Jerry Sherlock.
An interview with the experimental filmmaker and Hollywood chronicler Kenneth Anger, 85.
The real-life events that inspired the new Richard Linklater dark comedy Bernie:
It’s a story about people believing what they want to believe, even when there’s evidence to the contrary. It’s a story about people not being what they seem. And it’s a story, as the movie poster says, “so unbelievable it must be true.” Which it is. I know this because the widow in the freezer was, in real life, my Aunt Marge, Mrs. Marjorie Nugent, my mother’s sister and, depending on whom you ask, the meanest woman in East Texas. She was 81 when she was murdered, and Bernie Tiede, her constant companion and rumored paramour, was 38. He’ll be eligible for parole in 2027, when he’ll be 69.
In 1999, “original superagent” Leigh Steinberg represented 86 NFL athletes. His life today:
At age 63, Steinberg -- for years hailed as the real-life Maguire -- now finds himself a bankrupt, recovering alcoholic, plotting a comeback from the bottom. And before 10 p.m. tonight, as mandated by the California Bar Association, he must show that his urine is clean.
An Iowa dad’s surprisingly short path from commentor to screenwriter.
The strange saga of a 2009 Gary Oldman profile that his manager, Douglas Urbanski, aggressively sought to kill.
"Mr. Heath's motives are dishonest in the least...supposed 'journalism' at its very lowest...while Mr. Heath may find his sloppy reporting cute, in fact it is destructive, and he knows it...his out of context and uninformed pot shots...out of context swipes at me...stretching the most basic rules of journalism...in certain ways has aspects of a thinly disguised hit piece... a hole filled swiss cheese of wrong facts, misleading insinuations, and in general lazy, substandard, agendized non-reporting...again and again Mr. Heath attempts to turn the piece into a political piece...GQ has allowed Heath to go for the cheap shot..."
On the difficult challenges faced by an auteur in Nigeria’s burgeoning Nollywood film economy.
An investigation into the myth of actress Frances Farmer’s lobotomy.
How Yvette Vickers, a B-movie starlet who had appeared in Attack of the 50 Ft. Woman, ended up mummified in her Los Angeles home last year.
A profile of John Alan Schwartz, creator of one of the most notorious movies ever made.
A profile of Harold Ramis, director of Groundhog Day, and his estrangement from former friend Bill Murray.
The phrase “knew how to wear clothes” is a loaded one. To “know how to wear clothes” is another way of saying that Cary Grant embodied class, which is to say high class: Grant wore well-tailored clothes, and he knew how to hold himself in them. But he came from nothing, and the way he wore clothes was just as much of a performance as his refined trans-Atlantic accent, his acrobatic slapstick routines, and his masterful flirtation skills.
There is so much talk now about the art of the film that we may be in danger of forgetting that most of the movies we enjoy are not works of art.
In the fantasy and superhero realm, the most chilling and compelling villain of the year was surely Magneto, who in X-Men: First Class is more of a proto-villain, a victim of human cruelty with a grudge against the nonmutants of the world rooted in bitter and inarguable experience. Magneto is all the more fascinating by virtue of being played by Michael Fassbender, the hawkishly handsome Irish-German actor whose on-screen identity crises dominated no fewer than four movies in 2011. Magneto, more than the others, also evokes a curious kind of self-reproach, because his well-founded vendetta is, after all, directed against us.
How a high-powered lawyer and a rough-edged private detective ended up at the center of the biggest, dirtiest scandal in Hollywood history.
"Of course, sexuality has never only been about reproduction, obviously, with human beings, anyway. But at the moment it's almost cut free to kind of float wherever it will float. And sexuality has been mixed with many things that I think the ancients would have been surprised to find it mixed with."
Afternoons with Altman and Allen.
For a year or two during the mid-1970s, living in New York, I was a moviegoer. I was in my early 20s then, working off and on, driving a cab, setting up the stage at rock shows, writing occasional pieces for The Village Voice. But there were also long empty spells. I tried to write some fiction and couldn’t, tried to read and could—but only for so long. I ended up going to the movies.
A profile of the late actor-turned NRA president:
A figure emerges from the wings, more than six feet tall but appearing shorter, his torso inclined forward. Speedo propylene beach slippers make the journey to the podium with hesitant steps. Hip-replacement surgery and old age have dampened the fabled dynamism: no more battles with broadswords; no more chariot races for him. But above the uncertain legs, the chest is still massive, the cheekbones still chiseled, the broken nose as resolute as the NRA eagle on all those baseball caps bobbing above the crowd. As Charlton Heston approaches the microphone, his lungs swell, the vocal cords making their splendid, vibrant music out of ordinary air. "I'm inclined to quit while I'm ahead," he jokes. "But I won't. No!"
A profile of Jim Henson before the release of the first Muppet movie.
How the popular and controversial film critic has helped revive the film program at the L.A. County Museum of Art.
Journalists, filmmakers, random people on the street — it seems everyone has an Elvis Mitchell story. Both those who consider themselves Friends of Elvis and those whose relationships with him are sour or worse are happy to dish about him — albeit almost always off the record. Some are afraid of losing current or future jobs in the ever-more-tenuous world of film journalism. Others simply enjoy his admittedly fine company too much to risk losing it.
The battle to make The Godfather pitted director Francis Ford Coppola against producers including Robert Evans, and the production itself against the real life mob.
It's a glorious thing, hearing Eddie Murphy say "fuck" again. Few people ever said it better – and down here in the basement of the stone-and-marble mansion he built on a Beverly Hills cliff, it's coming from his lips often enough to make Shrek blush. "Come on, motherfucker," Murphy shouts, over the throb of James Brown's "Hot Pants" on a formidable sound system.
In the next hour or so, Laurie asks me a number of questions: Am I married? Am I happy? What are my goals? Do I feel that I’m living up to my potential? A failure to live up to potential is one of the things known in Scientology as one’s "ruin." In trying to get at mine, Laurie is warm and nonaggressive. And, to my amazement, I begin to open up to her. While we chat, she delivers a soft sell for Scientology’s "introductory package": a four-hour seminar and twelve hours of Dianetics auditing, which is done without the E-meter. The cost: just fifty dollars. "You don’t have to do it," Laurie says. "It’s just something I get the feeling might help you." She pats my arm, squeezes it warmly.
On the enduring appeal, both amateur and academic, of man vs. dinosaur.
Khrzhanovsky came up with the idea of the Institute not long after preproduction on Dau began in 2006. He wanted a space where he could elicit the needed emotions from his cast in controlled conditions, twenty-four hours a day. The set would be a panopticon. Microphones would hide in lighting fixtures (as they would in many a lamp in Stalin's USSR), allowing Khrzhanovsky to shoot with multiple film cameras from practically anywhere — through windows, skylights, and two-way mirrors. The Institute's ostensible goal was to re-create '50s and '60s Moscow, home to Dau's subject, Lev Landau. A Nobel Prize–winning physicist, Landau significantly advanced quantum mechanics with his theories of diamagnetism, superfluidity, and superconductivity. He also tapped epic amounts of ass.
My mother was called to school frequently because I was yelling out things in class, quips in class, and because I would hand in compositions that they thought were in poor taste, or too sexual. Many, many times she was called to school.
An essay on Orson Welles’ (and/or Herman Mankiewicz’s) 1941 film Citizen Kane.
An interview with Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone writer Vanessa Grigoriadis on the finer points of celebrity profiling.
On the fascination, from Hollywood to Atlanta, with zombies.
As editor-in-chief of Variety, Peter Bart was one of the most powerful people in the entertainment industry. This piece got him suspended.
A profile of an up-and-coming director:
Well, according to Woody, his ascent has been a series of painful falls. Success hasn't changed him, Allen insists: he's still a schlemiel. "I'm afraid of the dark and suspicious of the light," he says. "I have an intense desire to return to the womb—anybody's." Ineptitude, Woody goes on, is a family curse.
Jerry Lewis has had a spectacular sex life. On the road, of course, girls were everywhere—in his dressing room, back at his hotel. But even at home, when he was directing a film, sometimes he'd get to the set early for "a little hump," just to get the day started right. Joseph Levitch, as he was named upon his birth in Newark, New Jersey, had his first sexual experience seventy-three years ago, when he was 12. It was backstage at a club where his father, a singer and dancer who called himself Danny Lewis, was performing. The temptress was a twentysomething stripper named Trudine who lured the boy into her dressing room. "Whatever we did, I remember it took only a minute," Lewis recalls fondly. "She was a piece of work. She danced with a snake." He married his first wife, Patti, a singer with Jimmy Dorsey's band, when he was 19. They'd met after he dropped out of high school to go on the road, starting at the bottom in burlesque houses where comics took the stage in between strippers. These were the kinds of dives that were patronized by "guys in the front with the newspapers in their laps and the trench coats—a tough room, but you had to do it."
The former Perfect Strangers star cheerfully slags Tom Cruise, Eddie Murphy and Denzel Washington, among others.
On Friday Night Lights as book, film, and TV show.
From the start, it sounded ridiculous. Find Marlon Brando. Go to Tahiti and find Marlon Brando. Yeah? And then what? You'll know. I'll know? Hmmm. What else was I going to do? It was December. It was cold. There was promise of little. Contra-gate, snowplows, New Year's. Suicide season. I needed a mission, a real, choice mission. A quest.
To this day, no one (outside of the movie's own crew) knows how the Muppets rode bicycles in The Great Muppet Caper, the classic Henson movie from 1981. In that scene, Kermit stands up on one frog-leg on the seat of his bicycle to impress Miss Piggy, and then the whole gang joins them on their bikes, doing circles and figure eights, singing “Couldn’t We Ride?” It's a wonderful piece of filmmaking, and still a complete delight to watch because the effect relied on the ingenuity and bravado of the puppeteers and crew, not CGI wizardry. Contrast the joy and ebullience of this scene to the elegant chiaroscuro slickness of the post-Henson Muppet Christmas Carol in which we see old fogies Statler and Waldorf, as the Marley brothers, floating in mid air. No viewer is impressed; no one really thinks about it at all. And that's because when a then 29-year-old Brian Henson directed that film, he threw the rules out the window. Statler and Waldorf “float” because Goelz and Nelson, the men working the old guys, were standing behind them during filming and then were removed in post production. It’s an elegant fix—a cutting of the Gordian knot—but it is a complete break with an aesthetic 35 years in the making.
At work with Jean-Claude Carrière, screenwriter of choice for an entire generation of top-flight directors.
FRANCO: “Straight” and “gay” are fairly recent phenomena. One of the things the great book Gay New York: Gender, Urban Culture and the Making of the Gay World, 1890–1940 is about is the way those labels have changed behavior. Between World War I and World War II, straight guys could have sex with other guys and still be perceived as straight as long as they acted masculine. Whether you were considered a “fairy” or a “queer” back then wasn’t based on sexual acts so much as outward behavior. Into the 1950s, 1960s and so on, the straight and gay thing came up based on your sexual partner. Because of those labels, you do it once and you’re gay, so you get fewer guys who are kind of in the middle zone. It sounds as though I’m advocating for an ambiguous zone or something, but I’m just interested in the way perception changes behavior.
A profile of Justin Timberlake:
This need to succeed, to become his generation’s multi-talented Sammy Davis Jr., is part of what makes him appealing to filmmakers. “I needed someone who could be a Frank Sinatra figure, someone who could walk into the room and command all the attention,” says David Fincher, of casting Timberlake as Sean Parker, the Facebook investor and rogue, in The Social Network. “I didn’t want someone who would just say, ‘I know how to play groovy.’ You can’t fake that stuff. That’s the problem with making movies about a rock star—actors have spent their lives auditioning and getting rejected, and rock stars haven’t.”
On digital animators’ quest to capture the endlessly complex human face.
A profile of Chris Evans, star of the upcoming Captain America:
At this point, which was a…number of drinks in, it was easy to forget that it really was an interview, and I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind that something might happen (and that we'd go to the Oscars and get married and have babies forever until we died?). But there was always the question of how much of it was truly Chris Evans, and whom I should pretend to be in response.
A profile of filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar during the 2004 Cannes International Film Festival.
A rare interview with Gene Hackman, who says Welcome to Mooseport was his last movie, unless he “could do it in my own house.”
On the eve of the release of The Tree of Life, a look back at the turbulent making of Terence Malick’s debut.
A profile of silent film comedian Buster Keaton:
The story of his life seems in its twists and dives borrowed from his movies, survival demanding a pure lack of sentiment.
An interview with Heart guitarist and film composer Nancy Wilson.
On Sebastian Junger’s War and the documentary Restrepo by Tim Hetherington, who was killed in Libya yesterday.
On what you do when you can do whatever what you want.
After a final film, Kevin Smith is going to retire to a life of podcasting and speaking tours. Or so he says.
On Christian Marclay’s film The Clock.
It was the middle of the day in the steamy Philippine jungle and the sun was merciless. Director Francis Ford Coppola, dressed in rumpled white Mao pajamas, was slowly making his way upriver in a motor launch.
The swinging life and boozy death of the original ladies man, and the story of “the coroner that tampered with his cold, lifeless venereal warts.”
A profile of Zack Snyder, director of Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead, and the upcoming Superman series.
Barry Michels is Hollywood’s most successful therapist cum motivation coach with an approach that combines Jungian psychology, encouraging patients to embrace their dark side, and “three-by-five index cards inscribed with Delphic pronouncements like THE HIERARCHY WILL NEVER BE CLEAR.”
A profile of the filmmaker Errol Morris as he prepared to release The Thin Blue Line after a decade of limited distribution, semi-poverty, and a side career as a private detective.
Hollywood makes bad movies because “rotten pictures make money.”
The comedian and veteran of MTV’s The State on a peculiar brand of stardom. “Often people would be like, I’m such a big fan of your work. I think you’re amazing. I want to have a career like yours. And I’m like, great, can you buy me a slice of pizza?”
Five years ago, Mel Gibson was one of Hollywood’s few genuine family-men and a leading box office attraction; inside his wild descent from star to pariah.
In 2001, a young Japanese woman walked into the North Dakota woods and froze to death. Had she come in search of the $1 million dollars buried nearby in the film Fargo?
On photographing the former Norma Jeane Mortenson. ”I think she was the best light comedienne we have in films today, and anyone will tell you that the toughest of acting styles is light comedy.”—Billy Wilder
The Top Gun effect; how Hollywood became a factory for sequels, comic book and video game adaptations, and anything else easily marketed to under-25-year-old males.
How the Weinstein Brothers barked their way into an empire and then lost it.
Jack Nicholson interviewed at 73.
On his 80th birthday; how Archie Leach, “the Bristol-born son of a part-Jewish suit presser,” became the greatest leading man of his generation.
A profile of the director, written from the set of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.
“As we enter into a new age, maybe art will be free. Maybe the students are right. They should be able to download music and movies. I’m going to be shot for saying this. But who said art has to cost money?”
On how 21st century culture shifts killed the nerd and what lies ahead.
On the evolution of Nigeria’s booming film industry, which produces 50 full-length features a week.
An interview with mind behind both Five Easy Pieces and The Monkees.
A profile of 12-year-old actress Elle Fanning, Dakota’s sister.
The director of Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours on his aversion to America, the advantages of small budgets, and the challenges of directing the opening ceremony for the London Olympics.
An interview about why giving interviews is totally worthless.
A profile of Focus Features CEO James Schamus.
James Frey is starting a publishing company, paying young writers (very poorly) to reverse engineer a Twilight-esque hit.
A “fanatical Lynch fan from way back,” David Foster Wallace visits the set of Lost Highway, never actually talks to the director, and writes a profile.
The difference between a social network and a movie about a social network, and what it says about the Facebook generation.
The young Woody Allen writes jokes for supper club comedians, decides he will never make it as a performer and then does, idolizes and is snubbed by Mort Sahl, and develops the comic persona which will make him a star.
A critique of Davis Guggenheim’s Waiting for 'Superman'.
On a book of photographs shot by Leni Riefenstahl in the 1950s and 1960s depicting an African tribe.
Tony Kaye was one of the biggest commercial directors of his time. Then he directed American History X and, by his own admission, completely lost his mind.
A profile of Sorkin, who wrote The Social Network. “I don’t feel like a nerd,” he says, “but I think I understand them.”
An 1992 interview with Martin Scorsese. On Goodfellas, “I figured to do it as if it was one long trailer, where you just propel the action and you get an exhilaration, a rush of the lifestyle.”
The writer (Aaron Sorkin), director (David Fincher), and actors (Jesse Eisenberg & Justin Timberlake) of The Social Network on dramatizing the real story of a 20 year old into “the Citizen Kane of John Hughes movies.”
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, on the eve of the release of The Social Network, believed to be a deeply unflattering portrait of him and the genesis of his company.
Soap operas, enrollment in multiple graduate programs at once, student films alongside Hollywood blockbusters. Is James Franco’s entire career a piece of performance art?
An interview with cinematographer Harris Savides on the enduring appeal of the visual style of films shot in the 1970s.
The few who got to view Jerry Lewis’s notorious The Day the Clown the Cried, set at Auschwitz, piece together memories of their surreal personal screenings.
Bill Murray grants a rare interview and appears to admit, among other things, that he occasionally approaches strangers from behind on the streets of NYC, puts his hands over their eyes, and says “guess who.”
In the 1950s, L.S.D. became a Beverly Hills’ therapy fad, and it profoundly changed idols like Cary Grant.
A 1988 profile of Bill Murray, then at the peak of his box office power and living in a secluded farmhouse in the Hudson River Valley.
How Warren Beatty seduced the studios into making the comedy Ishtar, which set the modern bar for cinematic debacles. (An excerpt from Peter Biskind’s Star.)
The 1979 Oscars pitted Hal Ashby’s Coming Home against Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter, wildly different films both on the the topic of the Vietnam War.
He was just another coked-up agent (repping the likes of Steven Soderbergh) when he disappeared into Iraq, shooting heaps of footage he would attempt to package into a pro-war documentary. And that was just the beginning.
In Austin in 1973, politicos and hippies could get together and create violent, visionary horror films for $60,000. So they did. The story of how The Texas Chainsaw Massacre got made.
The struggle behind the making of Terence Malick’s first movie in twenty years and the two producers who, depending on your source, either made it possible or nearly ruined it.