September 24, 2014

Central Casting Part III

Paul Newman and Elke Sommer in The Prize (1963)
First of all I want to say that Paul Newman was by all accounts a very good man. Everybody from the town where GSL spent his early childhood, Westport Connecticut, has an anecdote about how kind and considerate he always was which stood in stark contrast to how Martha Stewart carried herself when interacting with the neighbors. Paul Newman gave zillions of dollars to charity and stayed married to the same wonderful woman, Joanne Woodward, all the way to the end.  But why on earth would they cast him as a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in The Prize (1963)...and when he was only 38? Paul Newman was fabulous in Cool Hand Luke, The Sting, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Hustler, et al. I'd like to recommend two movies he made with his wonderful wife Joanne Woodward,The Long Hot Summer and the very charming, and often overlooked A New Kind of Love about Fashion Week in Paris. Paul Newman was great as Fast Eddie and Cool Hand Luke but to play a Nobel Laureate requires a bit of gravitas that wasn't in his repertoire.

Leo in Gangs of New York
Gangs of New York was supposed to be Martin Scorsese's magnum opus that was delayed for years, ran tens of millions of dollars over budget, and his financial backers were getting more than skittish so I feel this led to the poor decision of casting Leo Dicaprio as the young street tough Amsterdam Vallon.  This was not long after his huge commercial and critical success in Titanic and he was good in that role and several others as well.  The movie was a big disappointment for a lot of reasons and some of the blame should be on miscasting Leo. Colin Farrell would have been much better in the rough and tumble milieu of lower Manhattan in the 1860s. Daniel Day Lewis was superb as Bill the Butcher in a performance that left you feeling rueful for what might have been.

*** A couple of days ago Leo emerged from one of his 4 homes (that he ferries to via private jet when he isn't renting the world's 5th largest yacht from a United Arab Emirates oil billionaire) to go to the United Nations to lecture the rest of the world about how we need to lower carbon dioxide emissions.


Dustin Hoffman and Nicole Kidman in Billy Bathgate (1991)
 
Dustin Hoffman is the male counterpart to Meryl Streep. A great acting talent who has been very good in a number of roles but I can never stop feeling him acting. Like Ms Streep, he loves to do accents and they always sound as if he's been talking that way for about 3 days. In Billy Bathgate Hoffman sounded like little GSL circa 1970 doing his Edward G. Robinson Little Caesar impersonation for the girls medley relay team.  This role would have been much better suited for Hoffman's old roommates when they were all just starting out back in the mid 1960s: Gene Hackman or Robert Duvall who I rate as the two best American actors.  Hackman and Duvall actually look and sound like guys who could kick somebody's ass.  Hoffman was convincing in Midnight Cowboy but I really don't think he could make Mrs. Robinson go coo-coo-ca-chew.

Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft in The Graduate (1967).

35 comments:

  1. Now, Hoffman and Newman are no good either...

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    1. They are fine in roles that suit them.

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  2. Agree about Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs. I thought Leo was miscast in the Howard Hughes pic as well, though I generally like him! Favourite Hoffman movie for me, hands down, is Little Big Man and Wag the Dog! Paul is divine, and I haven't seen the movie above, so I can't speak to it. Always wish he and Redford had made one more....

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    1. Leo is a good actor and he was good in that movie about the con man. I haven't seen either Little Big Man or Wag the Dog but he I did think he did about as good as one can do in Rain Man. Whenever I think about Redford & Newman, that Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head starts humming in my head. It's a shame they didn't do another pic and I do remember there was a lot of talk about it around 15-20 years ago.

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  3. Everything you said...just what I was thinking. I'm starting to understand that you have an encyclopedic knowledge of film, my sister is also a film buff and I think I should introduce the two of you, how do you feel about a blind date?
    Daniel Day Lewis absolutely killed me in that role, he was brilliant. Honestly I still think about it!

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    1. Dani, I have large gaps in my movie knowledge (especially in this century) but have watched many of the classics. DDL is easily in my top 5 actors and I would highly recommend 'The Boxer' a little gem of a film that he was sensational in.
      The term 'blind date' is fraught with danger so I always encourage interested parties to describe, think, and arrange it as only an intro and let nature run it's course. Obviously, a single woman from the DaniBP gene pool would be of great interest to any man of discerning taste. Why don't you bring her with during your upcoming Chicago visit whose arrangements I hope are well under way? In any case I'd be delighted to meet your sis.

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  4. Am loving this series of yours!!!

    Leo is a great actor but not even close to being as hot as Paul Newman. Even though Newman had the slender hips (not a look I love in a man, reminds me of ponytails) he was incredible as an actor and as a person who was stratopherically fabulous looking.
    Funny that I can't watch Angie Jolie in a film as I always think she's too beautiful for the role (except Girl Interrupted, she does not do well blonde) and yet Paul Newman never was.
    In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof he played a very unappealing husband of the most beautiful woman in the world and completely convinced us that he did not want to sleep with her.
    Now that is good acting!

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    1. Jody, PN certainly was good in a number of roles where he played unsavory characters. I have at least seen parts of Sweet Bird of Youth and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof many years ago and he was always quite good in those Southern Gothic literary adaptions.

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  5. Now that you mention it, you're right about Newman, a great actor but not for the meatier roles I think. And I agree with you on Hackman and Duvall, but not Leo-I can't stand him. And I thought Titanic was terrible. The special effects were entertaining and I think they were the entire reason for the film, but the writing and acting....yeesh.
    When I was a little girl I saw The Sting and I thought it was wonderfully clever

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    1. Bebe, I love hearing you let it rip! I'll bet you hung on Leo's every word during his UN speech. As I've often said of Gene Hackman he shows what true acting range is all about. He issued one of the best ass-whippings ever seen on the silver screen in 'Unforgiven' to 'English Bob' (played by Richard Harris) and took a vicious ass-whipping from Ray 'Bones' Balboni (played by Dennis Farina) in 'Get Shorty'. Two virtuoso performances that I get misty-eyed just thinking about.

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    2. Bebe, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the gorgeous piece of ass-whipping Robert Duvall gave Billy Bob Thornton is 'The Apostle'

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    3. Oh, Bebe, I agree re: Leo; he reminds me of a praying mantis with that triangular head.

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  6. Newman starred in one of my all time favorite films, Slapshot. He was at his best, in my opinion as a sleazy hockey coach. Sublime. I really do believe personal character, and intelligence, and dare I say being a gentleman, are what we always saw instead of the physical perfection he was blessed with. Gene Hackman is always superb, and has so much charisma. Royal Tannenbaum.

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    1. I do remember when Slapshot came out as it was somewhat controversial but have never seen it...and it would never strike me as a movie that would appeal to women so very interesting that you liked it so I will make a point of watching it over the winter along with Royal Tannenbaums that nearly everybody whose opinion I value raves about.
      Gene Hackman has always demonstrated how far charisma can take a man who isn't blessed with physical beauty.
      Paul Newman was generous, married wisely, and he always made a point of paying his wife the highest respect. He was a true gentleman.

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    2. I totally agree with you Cynthia. Newman was a class act.

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  7. Perfect casting: PN - Butch and Sundance, Hackman - French Connection (perfect movie), Hoffman - Marathon Man (the dentist), Duvall - that's a toughie, Secondhand Lions is one of my family's favorite kids movie, Leo- not a big fan...too boyish.

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    1. BB, I haven't seen Marathon Man and Duvall was good in everything he did. I'm liking that many of you gals aren't keen on Leo as I think he's been overpraised.

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  8. I grew up/schooled in CT, too. Must check out the sublime Newman in the fashion week flick.

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    1. Lane, 'A New Kind of Love' is a charming little movie...especially if you like PN and Joanne Woodward. PN & JW were loved in Westport and every woman of my mother's age has an amusing story to tell of bumping into him at the grocer, dry cleaners, etc. freezing up and clumsily trying to utter a greeting before he rescues them with some light-hearted remark allowing the woman to recover her dignity. He was always a gentleman and wouldn't allow special treatment.

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  9. PN...those blue eyes were divine! My Mother and eldest sister had huge crushes on him,so in their honor, I cannot EVER say he was miscast! DH...Rainman,perfect! Duvall- have seen him in some fine films but I find his cadence a little too slow for me,sort of boring! GH... ITA with BB on the French Connection and found his role in The Bird Cage hilarious...I loved everyone in that,especially Hank Azaria!
    Leo...seems to be the darling of Scorsese for the time being. In agreement about Titanic,good special effects and that was it! With age,his not mine, I find him more appealing;-) I hope he is a work in progress!

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    1. T, I've never seen Bird Cage so will have to add to my list since our movie preferences are so closely aligned. My mother liked PN's blue eyes too and he was always a fav of hers.

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    2. G, The Bird Cage never fails to entertain! We have been watching Robin Williams' movies, one a month, in homage to him! Such a great talent, that will be missed by many! Just watched Good Morning Vietnam again and had forgotten what a good film that was! He ad libbed all of his dialogue when he was on the radio...amazing!

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    3. I loved watching Robin Williams on Johnny Carson...I later heard he was Johnny's favorite guest.

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  10. Oh, I agree about Mrs. Robinson and coo-coo-ca-chew;-)

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  11. Colin Farrell would have been a much better choice for Gangs of New York. Decaprio has always left me a bit cold and seems rather juvenile to me. I agree, Mrs Robinson probably had to "fake it" with Dustin but he was a great Ratso.

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    1. CF would have been good for Gangs of NY and a few other tweaks could have made it what Scorsese intended.
      I doubt Mrs Robinson even had the time or inclination to "fake it"....likely a quick cigarette and gentle dismissal.

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  12. I have just found your site via Jennifer above and love to hear your thoughts.
    Interesting that I still don't see Dicaprio as a grown up (can think if many better choices for The Great Gatsby), somehow Hoffman worked for me as Mrs Robinson's conquest.

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

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    1. Welcome Karena.
      Yes, Leo is still quite boyish bu tI feel is getting better with age. I winced when I heard Baz Luhrman was doing the new Gatsby and knew he was going to doll it up into a Moulin Rougey confection that is (and I suspect was) all wrong and Leo was all wrong for the lead and I didn't feel Redford did well either. I am in the middle of a very busy weekend and only had a chance to quickly skim your very interesting blog and will return next week when time permits. We share a number of interests not least of which is Kansas City which I often say is the most underrated city in America (I'd also put Pittsburgh and Richmond very high on that list) and was at a fab wedding there a few years ago at the KCCC.
      I'll looking in on you soon and thanks for stopping by.

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  13. A PN fan from way back, specially the Tennessee Williams movies - Cat, Sweet Bird of Youth, The Long Hot Summer. His looks (those blue eyes!) back then were mesmerising but he also had the acting ability to back it all up. The other actors/actresses in those movies were really good too. Particularly in Cat. Specially the actor (having a senior moment - his name escapes me just this moment) who played Big Daddy.
    Have a vague recollection of seeing PN and JW in "A New Kind of Love" but was so long ago have forgotten most of it. Don't recall it appearing any time on television here.
    Agree Hackman and Duvall are very strong character actors - and of course Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Also loved Bill Murray in "Lost in Translation". Not a great fan of Leo but he's OK in some movies.

    Have enjoyed both versions of "The Great Gatsby". The one with Redford and the Baz Luhrmann. But then I'm a great Baz fan. However, I suspect no Gatsby movie is ever going to be truly satisfying to those who've read the book umpteen times. We all have such strong visuals in our heads of the characters and scenarios along with the elegiac voice of the narrator that make it difficult for any film version to measure up.

    DDL seems to be brilliant in whatever film he's cast. But then he's English and you appear to be covering US actors in this post. Found him riveting as Abraham Lincoln. Don't think this movie went over well in the US? But it was so interesting and illuminating of the character of Lincoln himself and the other historical figures and processes in the Congress. He was so clever, his disarming homespun simple stories and folksy presentation and the clever cunning beneath the visionary intelligence. Best wishes, Pamela

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    1. Hi Pamela,
      Burl Ives played 'Big Daddy' in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Never saw Bill Murray in Lost in Translation but have heard good things about it from many. I'd like to see HBO or Showtime do 'Gatsby' where they wouldn't feel so pressured to gross $50mil the opening weekend and make sensible casting decisions and not make it a popcorn movie for the suburban mall metroplex kids. It's doable as a movie if it's done right and it hasn't been done right so far.
      DDL would be wonderful as Lincoln and I do intend on seeing that.

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  14. Loved DDL in GONY but the hat and high waisted plaid trousers got me more than the acting I suspect. Only thing I liked Leo in was blood diamond as the scruffy look suits him well. Never got over Tootsie.

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    1. Jen, Leo was pretty good in Blood Diamonds and I didn't like Tootsie either.

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