Monday, 29 July 2013

and speaking of Faye Dunaway... of my favorite early childhood memories is going to a drive in to see ‘Bonnie & Clyde.’ 
I’ll say a few of those words again, just in case they blew by:
Bonnie & Clyde (What a classic.  Famously, gratuitously, deservedly R rated for spectacular sex and violence). 
You just don’t hear those kind of words coupled together these days.  Not without also having ‘Child Services’ somewhere in the mix. 
Sometimes I miss pre-PC times so much it hurts.
And I had great parents.  Seriously, for the times, amazing.  The mom and dad all the other kids wanted.  Transplant them to 2013 they’d be carted off and my sister and I plopped in foster care faster than you could say “That’s really inappropriate.”  
The de rigueur snapshot of my mom 8 months pregnant with me, martini in one hand, ciggie in the other—that alone would probably be enough. 
There was also the daily coffee clutch—though I guess it was really a vodka clutch.  Smoke filled living rooms where kid’s silent obedience was bought for the price of a gin soaked olive.  The only reason I wasn’t suppin’ down the martinis too was my five year old palate preferred things a little more bland.  But I was offered the drink, oh yes I was.
But as I said, it was ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ that stands out.  To say ‘they took us’ is misleading.  It implies the movie was something my parents wanted us to see, an important history lesson, or a wee warning of what happens to those who steal.  But that would be misreading the situation.  We went to a drive-in and my Dad set up a full-on bed in the back of the station wagon. We were expected to sleep. 
In a drive-in.
With speakers less than a foot away.  Graphic sex and violence—tinny, but piped in.
I guess the usual babysitter was…too expensive?  Unavailable?  So was Grandma?  Maybe no one was brought in out of consideration for the health of others… my sister had a raging flu that night, after all.  I won’t say that one twice, just make note.  It’s going to be key later on.
Look, I get it.  They really had to see that movie.  It had just come out.  It was a big deal, even then.  Had to.  Who doesn’t get that? 
I did.  Even at five or whatever I was, I knew ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ was not to be missed.  I loved it.  Every minute.  Because of course I saw every minute.  My sis and I both did.  Duh.  The only part of this story that’s truly ridiculous so far, is the bed in the back and idea we’d sleep. 
And I know Dad genuinely thought we would sleep because my other stand out memory was his response to the burning questions we had: story points, characters, the symbolism, the sex, the violence, you know.  His response was nothing if not consistent: “Go to sleep, girls.”
So, his analysis is lost in time. 
What is timeless for me is Faye Dunaway—and Warren too, but it’s Faye who really tattooed herself into some deep primal cortex of my brain—in the climax of the film.  It’s the quiet hush, just before…Bonnie and Clyde are left alone, unknowingly surrounded…they open the door of their Bentley, start to get out—then BAM.  In fact, bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam-bam!  The bam’s go on for a record breaking I wanna say 20 minutes?  I’m not going to fact-check, it was a long time.  They were shot and shot and shot again.  Splayed.  And Faye (and Warren) took every bullet.  Say what you like, Faye Dunaway doesn’t shy away from physical acting.  Squibs were going off all over her body and she writhed away like water splashed on a greasy hot griddle.  It was reeeeeeal.   It was indelible.
And then my sister threw up.  That part’s indelible too.
I shall never forget, not one instant. 
A friend recently told me that he and his wife always ‘pre-screen’ shows like ‘The Mentalist’ or what-have-you before then re-watching them yet again for Family TV night with their 10 and 12 year old.  I was surprised.  But the other parents in the conversation agreed this was good policy.  They did the same thing.
Maybe my parents would’ve pre-screened ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ if they’d had the technology.  And maybe they’d still have let me see.  It is one of the greats after all. 
But I’m being flip.  I get the importance of being careful.  Extreme caution must be exercised when it comes to what you allow your kids see.  Look at me.  Okay, I didn’t become a bank robber, or violent or anything... 
But I did become an Actor/writer. 
Maybe Mom and Dad should've been carted off.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

quote unquote

     The problem with being an actor turned writer—besides everything, is the fact that one involves irrational amounts of self-discipline and labor and the other, as Kate Hepburn said, any 6 year old can do (She was referring to Shirley Temple, an arguable choice, but let’s throw Quvenzhane Wallis in the ring and…“I’m not going to debate ya, Jerry.”).  
     I thought it would be the same kind of creative muscle, conjuring up peeps out of nothing.  Okay let me stop me right there: It’s not ‘out of nothing.’   So friggin’ ‘actor-y’ to say that.  I heard an interview with Russell Crowe talking about how he “came up with his character” for A BEAUTIFUL MIND.   He talked a lot about the guy’s fingernails-- his gateway in.  He never said: “I found this character by memorizing the genius lines Akiva Goldsman wrote down for me.”…which Goldsman was able to do after Sylvia Nasar wrote her Pulitzer Prize nominated book…about Nobel Laureate John Nash…who lived, what I imagine was a pretty painful life… But the point is characters aren’t just conjured out of nothing.
     And anyway, the truth is it’s all autobiography.  It’s all you.  And those around you too, of course—the “characters” in your life.  But an actor at least can hide behind “Well, I didn’t write it, don’t blame me.”  An especially useful stick to throw when something’s not working.  A writer must find a plausible answer to the question How in the world did you come up with that character? besides: It’s YOU, numbnuts!
     But what really sucks about sliding down the food-chain from Actor (Cap ‘A’) to writer (the caps thing is really difficult to know how to apply, btw, and Spell-check won’t correct for it), is that change of perspective forces you see you’re really not as clever as you thought.  Point in fact: “Not going to debate ya, Jerry.”  Who said that?  The wrong answer is Steve Buscemi.  Or “You never go full retard.”  Robert Downey Jr?  NO-NO-NO!  Well, yes, technically, he said it, the most insane “black” patois ever.   Still, unless he improv’d that on the set—maybe he did, okay maybe—then one of the best lines of all time came up from somewhere in the twisted bowels of Justin Theroux, Ethan Cohen or very possibly Ben Stiller’s funny.   
     It’s also possible, starting as an actress (and can I just interject: when did us girls become ‘Actors’?   The gender neutral must’ve happened same time as the Caps) but it’s possible that not-so-very-deep down I’m not a real writer.  Real Writers are probably all good with being the wind beneath someone else’s shinier more visually appealing wings.  I get it.  Who needs to see some pasty curmudgeon with greasy hair—cause they’ve procrastinated past a deadline and now don’t have time for personal hygiene—say “Put your lips together and blow.”  ew, right?  “You had me at hello”?  ug.
     But it still strikes me as oh I don’t know a tad criminal.  Look up ‘Best All Time Movie Lines’ in Wikipedia.  You’ll get the line, you’ll get the character’s name, you’ll get the movie, you’ll get the director (don’t get me started on ‘auteur’) and yes, you will get the Actor who said it.  What you absolutely won’t get is the poor schlub who thought it up, then went through the hassle to write it down!   Just sayin’.
     * “Go ahead, make my day.”  Clint, or Joseph Stinson?
     * “What a dump!” Bette or Lenore J. Coffee?  (Trick question.  Liz Taylor made the line famous in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.’  I mean, Edward Albee did.)
     * “Free to those who can afford it, very expensive to those who can’t.” “I will never play the Dane.” “None for you!” “We want the finest wines available to humanity.  We want them here, and we want them now.” “As a youth I used to weep in butcher shops.” “We’ve gone on holiday by mistake!”  If you don’t recognize those quotes, must/will see ‘WITHNAIL & Itoday!  The most brilliantly quote-rich film ever!... Oh yeah, by Bruce Robinson
        Point is, if I’d written those lines, and the world went around parroting them for all time…I’m no Sugarman, sorry, I’d want a smidge of credit.  Maybe that’s the actor in me talking.  Sorry, I mean ‘Actor’….Actress?...writer...My sister…My daughter…My sister! (slap) My daughter!  (slap)  My sister AND my daughter!  Ah, wasn’t Faye Dunaway genius?