Catching Up With The Films of 2018: The Last Movie Star (dir by Adam Rifkin)


Vic Edwards (Burt Reynolds) was once the biggest movie star in the world.

At times, that’s hard to believe.  Vic may have started out as a stunt man before moving on to star in westerns and action movies but Vic is now 80 and he moves slowly and with a permanent slouch.  At times, he appears to be so frail that you wonder how he even manages to get out of bed in the morning.  Though he still possesses the acerbic wit for which was once famous, the words now come out a lot slower and his voice is tinged with pain that is both physical and emotional.  It’s been a while since Vic appeared on a movie set.  After years of being a self-described asshole, Vic now spends most of his time alone.  His only friend appears to be his aging agent, Sonny (Chevy Chase).

When Vic receives an invitation to attend a film festival in Nashville and accept a career achievement award, Vic goes in hopes of not only getting his ego stroked but also visiting some of the places where he grew up.  It’s only once Vic has arrived that he discovers that the film festival is basically a group of wannabe hipsters hanging out in the back of a bar.  Under the direction of Doug (Clark Duke), the film festival has previously given lifetime achievement awards to everyone from Al Pacino to Robert De Niro.  Vic’s the first recipient to actually show up.

After a night of watching a younger version of himself and answering inane questions about his career and his turbulent personal life, Vic comforts himself by getting drunk and yelling at Doug and his friends.  The next day, while the film festival continues, Vic get Doug’s sister, Lil (Ariel Winter), to drive him around Tennessee.  Vic wants to visit the places of his youth.  As for Lil, she just wants to get rid of her cranky passenger so that she can deal with her emotionally abusive boyfriend.

As you probably already guessed, in The Last Movie Star, Burt Reynolds may have been cast as a character named Vic Edwards but he was basically playing himself.  (Director Adam Rifkin has said that he would have abandoned the film if Reynolds had turned down the role)  When Vic watches himself onscreen, the clips are from Burt Reynolds’s old movies.  When Vic falls asleep and has a dream in which he confronts his younger self, the film uses footage from Deliverance and Smoky and the Bandit.  (“Slow down!” Vic yells as the cocky, younger version of him speeds down a country road.)  When Vic considers his own mortality, it’s obvious that the aging and frail Reynolds was doing the same thing.

At the start of the film, both Vic and Reynolds seem so infirm that you wonder how he’ll ever make it through the weekend.  But, as the film progresses, an interesting thing happens.  Before our eyes, both Vic and the actor playing him become stronger.  His confidence returns and, as Vic confronts the past, we finally start to see some hints of the old charisma that once made him the world’s biggest film star.  As we watch the film, we realize that his body may be weak but his mind is still sharp.  We come to realize that Vic now understands that he will die someday but he’s still not going to give up.  He may accept his own mortality but he’s not going to surrender to it.

That Burt Reynolds passed away just a few month after The Last Movie Star was released adds an extra poignance to his performance in the film.  The Last Movie Star has its flaws.  The pacing is inconsistent and, when it comes to Vic relationship with Lil, the film too often falls back on anti-millennial clichés.  In the end, the film works best as a tribute to its star.  The film argues, quite convincingly, that if anyone deserved to be known as the last movie star, it was him.

Smashmouth Football: Burt Reynolds in THE LONGEST YARD (Paramount 1974)


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Dedicated to the memory of Burt Reynolds (2/11/1936-9/6/2018)

If it was producer Albert Ruddy’s idea to team macho actor Burt Reynolds with macho director Robert Aldrich for THE LONGEST YARD, then the man’s a bloody genius (Ruddy was no stranger to machismo himself, having previously produced THE GODFATHER)! This testosterone-fueled tale of an ex-NFL star turned convict, forced to assemble a football team of hardened criminals to take on the sports-mad warden’s goon squad of guards, is one of Burt’s best vehicles, and a comeback of sorts for Aldrich, who hadn’t scored a hit since 1967’s THE DIRTY DOZEN . Both men hit the end zone with this sports-themed film, and led the way for an onslaught of football films to come.

Former star quarterback Paul Crewe (Reynolds), who was thrown out of the NFL in a points shaving scandal, finds himself under arrest after fighting with his girlfriend, stealing…

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Rest in Peace, Burt Reynolds


Earlier today, Burt Reynolds died of cardiac arrest at a Florida Hospital.  He was 82 years old.

How do you sum up a career as legendary as the career of Burt Reynolds?  It’s not easy.  Burt Reynolds always used to say that he couldn’t act but his fans knew better and the critics sometimes knew better too.  Burt Reynolds always said that most of his film were terrible but, for every Stick or Malone, there were movies like Sharky’s MachineThe Longest Yard, and White Lightning.  Burt always joked that he might never win an Oscar but he had plenty of People’s Choice Awards to make up for it.  Burt did deserve an Oscar nomination for Deliverance and he received one for Boogie Nights.  Reynolds lost to Robin Williams but it does no disservice to Williams’s performance in Good Will Hunting to say that the Oscar should have gone to Burt.

Despite having been born in Michigan, Burt Reynolds was often viewed as being the archetypical good ol’ boy.  He first found fame as a jock, playing football at Florida State University.  After injuries ended his college football career, Reynolds considered becoming a police officer but, at his father’s suggestion, instead transferred to Palm Beach Junior College.  That was where an English professor named Watson B. Duncan heard Reynolds reading Shakespeare in class and was so impressed that he pushed Reynolds into trying out for a play that he was producing.  Reynolds was cast in the lead role and soon had a new career.

As Reynolds would often recount, he didn’t become a star overnight.  He did a few plays in New York and he worked odd jobs.  He auditioned for a film called Sayonara and impressed director Joshua Logan.  Logan said he couldn’t cast him because he looked too much like the film’s star, Marlon Brando, but he still encouraged Reynolds to move out to Hollywood.  Still not feeling confident enough to attempt the transition into movies, Reynolds remained in New York and became a mainstay in TV westerns, including Gunsmoke, where he played Quint Asper.  He also appeared in an episode of The Twilight Zone, playing a pompous method actor who was clearly modeled on Marlon Brando.

Like his good friend Clint Eastwood, Burt used his television fame to secure low-budget film work in Europe.  He even starred in a Spaghetti western, playing the lead role in Navajo Joe.  Reynolds appeared in several forgettable B-movies before his performance in the Oscar-nominated Deliverance made him a star.  His performance as Lewis Medlock dominated the film.  When Lewis suffered a compound fracture while trying to navigate a raging river, audiences knew that if the river could take down Burt Reynolds, it could take down anyone.  Around the same time, Burt would earn lasting fame (or perhaps infamy) by appearing as the centerfold in an issue of Cosmopolitan.  Reynolds would later describe that as being his biggest mistake, saying that it made him a star but it also prevented him from being nominated for an Oscar but it also kept people from taking him seriously as an actor.

But if Burt never got the awards or the acclaim that he deserved, audiences loved him.  Smoky and the Bandit was his biggest hit.  The critics may have hated it but audiences love it to this day and they know that only Burt Reynolds could have played the Bandit.  When the Bandit looked straight at the camera after escaping police pursuit, that was a move that only Burt Reynolds could have pulled off.  Burt made it look easy.

Burt started off the 80s with one of his best films, Sharky’s Machine.  Unfortunately, the rest of decade saw his career in decline.  No longer getting good scripts and starting to show signs if the ill health that would plague him for the rest of his life, Reynolds became better known for his sometimes messy personal life than his films.  Reynolds eventually returned to television, winning an Emmy, in 1992, for starring in the sitcom Evening Shade.

In the 90s, Reynolds struggled to transition into character parts.  A new generation, including myself, first discovered him when he co-starred in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights.  Reynolds gave one of his best performances as porn director, Jack Horner.  Reynolds invested Horner with what can only be called a wounded dignity.  When Dirk Diggler abandoned him, the betrayal felt as real as Horner’s angery when he was eventually reduced to filming sleazy limo ride hook-ups on video tape instead of his beloved film.  Reynolds received his first and only Oscar nomination for the role of Jack Horner.

Sadly, Reynolds’s poor health kept him from capitalizing on his comeback and he was soon back to appearing in small roles in films that weren’t worthy of his talents.  Quentin Tarantino cast him as George Spahn in Once Upon A Time In Hollywood but Reynolds passed away before filming his scenes.  His final film appearance was as the lead character in the fittingly titled The Last Movie Star.

Burt Reynolds may be gone but his films live on.  Burt may have said he wasn’t a good actor but we all know better.  The outpouring of grief at the news of his death is proof that Burt Reynolds was more than just a movie star.  He was an American icon.

Burt Reynolds, R.I.P.

Just A Good Ol’ Boy: RIP Burt Reynolds


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I had just got back from a long afternoon walk on this gorgeous day when, after checking for incoming texts and calls, I checked my Facebook feed and discovered Burt Reynolds had passed away at age 82. Coincidentally, I have a post on Burt’s THE LONGEST YARD scheduled for Saturday, but rather than just move it up, I’ve decided to write this small tribute. Burt Reynolds has earned it. He was arguably the biggest box-office attraction of the 1970’s, number one from 1978-82, and his charismatic, wiseass persona made him a hit with audiences, if not with the critics. But what did they know… Burt Reynolds was The People’s Star.

Born in 1936, Burt’s family moved to Florida when he was ten, his father taking a job as Police Chief of Riviera Beach. Burt may not have been a straight-A student, but he excelled in sports, playing fullback for Palm…

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Gettin’ a Woody: EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX* (United Artists 1972)


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*(but were afraid to ask)

Say what you will about Woody Allen (and I’m sure some of you will), but from 1969 to 1977 he wrote, directed, and starred in some of the laugh-out-loud funniest movies ever made (after that, things got a bit pretentious, and his output has been hit-or-miss far as I’m concerned). Allen’s inventive mind took Dr. David Reuben’s best-selling sex manual EVERYTHING YOU ALWAYS WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT SEX (*but were afraid to ask) and turned it into a hilarious anthology that skewers not only societal mores and morals, but every segment parodies a different film genre.

Some are better than others, but each has something funny to offer. The first, “Do Aphrodisiacs Work?”, finds Woody as a medieval court jester whose lousy Bob Hope one-liners bomb with the King (Anthony Quayle). The randy jester is dying to enter the Queen’s (Lynn Redgrave) “royal chambers”, but…

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Scenes That I Love: The Awards Ceremony From Boogie Nights


I would like to think that when the Palme d’Or is awards in Cannes, it’ll be half as exciting as when Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg) picked up his second Best Actor trophy in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights.

Now, the scene below is actually the extended version of the scene that actually appeared in the movie.  In the movie, you just see Jack Horner (Burt Reynolds) watching his latest film and then cut to Dirk picking up his award.  In the extended version, we get to see everyone’s reaction to Dirk winning.  They’re all there — Burt Reynolds, William H. Macy, Nina Hartley, John C. Reilly, Melora Waters, Luis Guzman, Julianne Moore, Heather Graham, Don Cheadle, Robert Ridgely (as the memorably corrupt Colonel), and, of course, the dearly missed Philip Seymour Hoffman.

I can understand why Anderson chose to go with a shortened version of this scene.  Boogie Nights is a long film and obviously, it wasn’t totally necessary to see how everyone reacted to Diggler’s victory.  (By that point, in the film, we already knew how everyone felt about him.)  That said, I do prefer the extended version.  If nothing else, it’s a reminder that Boogie Nights was more than just the story of Dirk Diggler.  Instead, it was the story of a group of outcasts who became a family.

Anyway, let’s hope that whoever wins the Palme d’Or will be a bit more enthusiastic about it than Dirk.

Celebrate National Trivia Day With The Actors Who Could Have Been James Bond!


 

Today is National Trivia Day so I thought why not share some trivia?  I love film trivia.  I especially love trivia about who was considered for certain films.  Hell, one of my most popular posts on the Shattered Lens dealt with all of the actors who were considered for the Godfather!

(I even came up with an alternative cast for The Godfather, even though I consider the actual film to be the best cast film in history.)

I also happen to love the James Bond films.  (Well, not so much the recent Bond films.  I’ve made my feelings on SPECTRE clear.)  As a franchise, I absolutely love them.  So, with all that in mind, here is a look at the actors who could have been Bond.  I’ve compiled this article from many sources.  And yes, you could probably just find a lot of the information on Wikipedia but then you’d miss out on my editorial commentary.

Hoagy Carmichael

Ian Fleming himself always said that his pick for Bond would have been the musician, Hoagy Carmichael.  He even made a point, in Casino Royale, of having Vesper Lynd exclaim that Bond looked like Hoagy Carmichael.  Of course, the first actor to actually play Bond was Barry Nelson in a 1954 television adaptation of Casino Royale.  Nelson is probably best remembered for playing Mr. Ullman in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Barry Nelson, the first James Bond

When Dr. No went into production in 1961, many actors were considered for the role before Sean Connery was eventually cast.  Many of them were very well-known actors and, had they been cast, Dr. No would not have been remembered as a Bond movie.  Instead, it would be remembered as a star vehicle for … well, let’s take a look at some of the better-known possibilities:

Among the famous actors who were mentioned for Bond in 1961: Cary Grant, Richard Burton, James Mason, Trevor Howard, Stanley Baker, George Baker, Jimmy Stewart, Rex Harrison, and David Niven.  (Of that list, I think Burton would have made for an interesting Bond.  If the Bond films had been made in the 1940s, Grant would have been my first choice.  Trying to imagine Jimmy Stewart as a British secret agent is … interesting.)

Once it became obvious that a star was not going to play Bond, the role was offered to Patrick McGoohan and Rod Taylor.  McGoohan had moral objections to the character.  Rod Taylor reportedly felt that the film would flop.  Steve Reeves, the American body builder who became famous for playing Hercules in Italy, was reportedly strongly considered.  At one point, director Terrence Young wanted to offer the role to Richard Johnson, who later played Dr. Menard in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2.

Of course, the role went to Sean Connery and made Connery a huge star.  In 1967, after Connery announced that he would no longer play the world’s most famous secret agent, there was a huge and widely publicized search for his replacement.  Some of the names that were considered are intriguing.  Others are just bizarre.

Oliver Reed

To me, perhaps the most intriguing name mentioned was that of Oliver Reed.  Reed definitely would have brought a rougher edge of the role than some of the other actors considered.  However, that’s one reason why Reed wasn’t picked.  Apparently, it was felt that he did not have the right public image to play the suave Mr. Bond.

Somewhat inevitably, Michael Caine was sought out for the role.  Caine, however, refused to consider it because he had already starred in three back-to-back spy thrillers and didn’t want to get typecast.  Caine’s former roommate, Terrence Stamp, was another possibility but wanted too much control over the future direction of the Bond films.  Future Bond Timothy Dalton was considered to be too young.  Another future Bond, Roger Moore, didn’t want to give up his television career.  Eric Braeden has the right look for Bond but was German.  Rumor has it that producer Cubby Broccoli even considered Dick Van Dyke for the role, though I find that hard to believe.  An even more surprising possibility was the nobleman Lord Lucan, who was offered a screen test in 1967 and who, ten years later, would vanish after being accused of murdering his children’s nanny.

Lord Lucan

Among the actors who auditioned before George Lazenby was cast in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service: Michael Billington, Jeremy Brett, Peter Purves, Robert Campbell, Patrick Mower, Daniel Pilon, John Richardson, Anthony Rogers, Hans De Vries, and Peter Snow.

After the mixed reception of both Lazenby’s performance and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Lazenby was soon out as James Bond.  Even today, there’s a lot of controversy about what led to Lazenby being dismissed from the role.  Some say Lazenby demanded too much money.  Some say that Lazenby was merely used a pawn to try to get Sean Connery to return to the role.  Regardless, Lazenby only made one film as Bond.  (Of course, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service has retroactively been recognized as being one of the best of the series.)

With Connery still claiming that he would never return to the role, the film’s producers went through the motions of looking for a new Bond.  Once again, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton were considered.  Connery suggested that a talk show host named Simon Dee should play the role.  An actor named Roger Green auditioned.  So did Michael Gambon, though he later said he was turned down because, in his own words, he “had tits like a woman.”  Interestingly, several Americans were mentioned.  Clint Eastwood as James Bond?  Burt Reynolds?  Adam “Batman” West? The mind boggles but their names were mentioned.

John Gavin

And interestingly enough, an American was cast.  John Gavin is best known for playing Sam Loomis in Psycho but he was also, briefly, James Bond.  After Gavin accepted he role and signed a contract, Sean Connery announced that he would be willing to return to the role.  Gavin was paid off and Connery went on to star in Diamonds are Forever.

After Diamonds, Connery left the role for a second time and, once again, Bond was recast.  This time, Roger Moore would finally accept the role.  However, before Moore was cast, several other actors were considered.  Some of the regular possibilities were mentioned again: John Gavin, Simon Oates, Timothy Dalton, and Michael Billington.  Others considered included Jon Finch, Ranulph Fiennes, Peter Laughton, and Guy Peters.  Some of those names are probably as unknown to you as they are to me but it’s intriguing to think that Guy Peters may not be a well-known name but, at one time, there was a possibility that he could suddenly become one of the biggest stars in the world.

Looking over the history of the Bond franchise, it’s interesting to see the number of times that Moore tried to leave the role, just to be talked into returning.  Every time that Moore considered quitting, a new group of actors would be considered for the role of Bond.  In 1979, when Moore said he might not return after Moonraker, Timothy Dalton, Michael Jayston, Patrick Mower (who was also considered for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service), and Michael Billington were all considered as replacements.  So was Julian Glover.  Ironically, when Moore did agree to return to the role, Glover was cast as the villain in For Your Eyes Only.

David Warbeck

To me, the most intriguing actor mentioned as a replacement for Roger Moore was David Warbeck.  Warbeck was a television actor and model who subsequently had a nearly legendary film career in Italy.  Not only did he play a key role in Sergio Leone’s Duck You Sucker!, but he also starred in Lucio Fulci’s The Black Cat and The Beyond.  He also appeared in the best of Italian Apocalypse Now rip-offs, The Last Hunter.  In interviews, Warbeck claimed that he was under contract to Cubby Broccoli to step into the role in case Roger Moore ever walked off the set.  The likable and rugged Warbeck would have been an interesting Bond.

In 1983, when Moore again said he might not return to the role, Michael Billington (who actually did appear in a Bond film when he played a KGB agent killed at the start of The Spy Who Loved Me) would be once more considered as a replacement.  British TV actors Lewis Collins and Ian Ogilvy were also considered for the role.  In a repeat of what happened with John Gavin in Diamonds are Forever, American actor James Brolin was actually put under contract until Moore agreed to play the role in Octopussy.

James Brolin, in a screen test for Octopussy

After A View To A Kill, Moore left the role for the final time.  Famously, future Bond Pierce Brosnan was actually cast as his replacement until the surge of interest created by his casting led to the renewal of Remington Steele, the American television show in which Brosnan was starring.  Once the show was renewed, Brosnan could no longer work the Bond films into his schedule.

Among the other names mentioned: Sean Bean, Simon MacCorkindale, Andrew Clarke, Finlay Light, Mark Greenstreet, Neil Dickson, Christopher Lambert, Mel Gibson, and Antony Hamilton.  Sam Neill was another possibility and reportedly came very close to getting the role.  Watch any of the films that Neill made when he was younger and you can definitely see hints of Bond.

Sam Neill

In the end, Timothy Dalton finally accepted the role.  Ironically, for an actor who spent 20 years being courted for the role, Dalton turned out to be a bit of a flop as Bond.  He made two movies (both of which were considered to be disappointing when compared to the previous Bond films) and then left the role.

Looking over the contemporary reviews of Dalton as Bond, one thing that comes through clearly is that a lot of people resented him for taking a role that they felt should have gone to Pierce Brosnan.  When the Bond films resumed production with Goldeneye in 1994, Brosnan finally stepped into the role.  Reportedly, if Brosnan had turned down the role, the second choice was Sean Bean.  Much like Julian Glover, Bean may have lost out on 007 but he did end up playing the villain.

Sean Bean

Among the other actors who were reportedly considered before Brosnan accepted the role: Mark Frankel, Paul McGann, Liam Neeson, Russell Crowe, and Lambert Wilson.  Ralph Fiennes, who has been M since Skyfall, was also considered.

As opposed to his predecessors, Brosnan seemed to be very comfortable with the idea of playing Bond and never threatened to leave the role.  Looking over the Bond-related articles that were published from 1995 to 2004, I found the occasional speculation about whether Rupert Everett would be the first gay James Bond or if Sharon Stone would be the first female James Bond but I found very little speculation about Brosnan actually leaving the role.  Indeed, when Brosnan officially retired as Bond in 2004, it was less his decision and more at the prodding of the franchise’s producers, who felt that the series needed to be rejuvenated with a new (and younger) actor.  After Brosnan left, the series was rebooted and Daniel Craig played the role in Casino Royale.

In the past, I’ve made it clear that Daniel Craig is hardly my favorite Bond.  I loved Skyfall (and I consider it to the 2nd best Bond film, after From Russia With Love) but, even in that case, I felt that the film succeeded despite Craig instead of because of him.  With Casino Royale, we were supposed to be seeing a young and inexperienced Bond.  That’s never come through to me, probably because Craig looked like he was nearly 50 years old when he made Casino Royale.

Among the actors who were mentioned for the role before Craig received the role: Ralph Fiennes (again), Colin Salmon, Ewan McGregor, Henry Cavill, Rupert Friend, Julian McMahon, Alex O’Laughlin, Clive Owen, Dougray Scott, and Goran Visjnic.  Dominic West, who I think would have been great in the role, reportedly ruled himself out because he heard a rumor that Brosnan would be returning to the role.

Dominic West

Daniel Craig, of course, has been talking about leaving the role ever since he was first cast.  I think Skyfall would have been a perfect movie for him to leave on.  (It would have saved the world from SPECTRE.)  However, Craig has apparently agreed to do at least one more Bond film.  Maybe two.

When Craig does leave, who will replace him?  Idris Elba, of course, is probably the most widely discussed possibility.  James Norton has also been named as a possibility.  Others that I’ve seen mentioned: Tom Hardy, Jack Huston, Aidan Turner, Tom Hiddleston, Michael Fassbender, Jamie Bell, and Henry Cavill (again).

My personal choice?  Dominic Cooper.  He’d be an off-center Bond but I think it would still be an intriguing pick.

Dominic Cooper

Who knows what the future may hold for 007?  All I know is that I look forward to the speculation.

Happy National Trivia Day, everyone!