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Posts Tagged ‘Beverly Hills’

Oscar’s Hosts, Hollywood Hit? and Passings…

November 30th, 2010 No comments

And the Oscar Comes From…

The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has announced its hosts for the 83rd Annual Academy Awards, which are scheduled for Sunday, March 7, 2011. As with last year’s choice of “It’s Complicated” co-stars Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, producers Dan Jinks and Don Mischer opted for Hollywood star wattage over comedy hosting credits this year and cast Hollywood stars (and potential nominees) James Franco and Anne Hathaway as show co-hosts, the Academy announced yesterday. Neither actor is a newcomer to the Oscars: Franco was a presenter in 2009, and performed in a filmed spoof of his stoner character with “Pineapple Express”  co-star Seth Rogen. And Anne Hathaway proved a pleasant surprise when she ‘spontaneously’ sang and danced with  Hugh Jackman during his opening number the same year.

It’s  no coincidence that the Academy aimed younger and more mainstream for its hosts this year; the ratings for the Oscar telecast, a mainstay of Academy funding, have eroded in recent years, and clearly the Academy hopes to stanch this loss. Franco is a likely Oscar nominee for his lead role in the intense “127 Hours,” and Hathaway will soon appear – with an emphasis on appear – opposite Jake Gyllenhaal in Ed Zwick’s “Love and Other Drugs,” in which the pair perform explicit nude scenes together. Owing to Hathaway’s character’s developing malady, she, too, stands a chance of an Oscar nomination. It’s a fervent hope of the Academy powers-that-be that this year’s telecast will reverse the trend of slipping ratings – and making the hosts younger and sexier is obviously a strategic move toward that goal. Will it work? Check in on Monday, March 8, 2011…

Beverly Hills Murder Mystery

Hollywood is still talking about the murder of successful publicist Ronni Chasen, who was shot multiple times early Tuesday, November 16th,  as she waited for a traffic light in her Mercedes on Sunset Boulevard in a quiet stretch of Beverly Hills. The murder of the diminutive publicist, who was hailed by clients and studio heads alike as tops in her field, has shocked the moviemaking community. Chasen was returning home from attending a premiere and after-party for Screen Gems’ “Burlesque,” when she was apparently targeted at the traffic light at Whittier Drive. Beverly Hills Police, who rarely see homicides, are keeping mum, although they have reportedly turned down offers of assistance from the Los Angeles Sheriff and the L.A.P.D.. Within hours of the killing, B.H. Police confiscated computers and other items from Chasen’s home and publicity firm office, but in the weeks that have passed no further information has been forthcoming. Even still, rumors circulate, including a disputed suggestion today that red-light cameras at the intersection had been tampered with to make them inoperable.  

Chasen, 64, was credited with creating the modern ‘Oscar’ campaign that is so ubiquitous at year’s end in Hollywood. The “For Your Consideration” ads that pepper Hollywood trade publications are a testimony to Chasen, whose publicity efforts brought Oscar gold (and instant credibility and higher salaries) to actors, producers and composers involved with films like “Driving Miss Daisy,” “Shakespeare in Love,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Hurt Locker,” to name a few. In a rare show of Hollywood unity, six major film companies joined to honor Chasen with a memorial service a week after her death. She is survived by her brother, filmmaker Larry Cohen (“Q,””Phone Booth”).

Darth is Dad? Surely You’re Not Serious…

As the year winds down, there are more losses from old Hollywood… Irvin Kirshner, perhaps best known as the director of “The Empire Strikes Back,” died Saturday at age 87. Kershner, who studied film at USC, began his career producing documentaries for the U.S. Information Service in the Middle East, then turned his attentions toward television, where he directed documentaries and episodes of popular shows like “Ben Casey” and “Naked City.” Kirshner transitioned into feature films, earning a distinction as one of producer Roger Corman’s first proteges when he was handed the directing reins for 1958’s “Stakeout on Dope Street.” A-list films (and stars) followed, including “A Fine Madness” and “Never Say Never Again” with Sean Connery, “Up the Sandbox” with Barbra Streisand, and “Eyes of Laura Mars,” with Faye Dunaway (featuring a young Tommy Lee Jones as a killer). But Kirshner had his greatest commercial success with “The Empire Strikes Back,” a substantially darker film than its “Star Wars” predecessor; while critical reaction was muted at the time of its release, now the film is often referred to as the best of the original three “Star Wars” movies.

Leslie Nielsen, whose career as a dramatic leading man took a left turn to embrace comedy stardom in his mid 50s, died from complications of pneumonia in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was 84. Born in Canada, the handsome young Nielsen studied acting at the Academy of Radio Arts in Toronto, and later at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Live television roles followed on shows like “Goodyear Playhouse,” “Tales of Tomorrow” and “Kraft Theatre.” Before long, the much-in-demand Nielsen was making feature films, including “Forbidden Planet,” while he continued working steadily as a TV guest star for the next 20 years. Although he remained busy, his roles grew increasingly colorless until he was cast in 1980’s “Airplane!” as Dr. Rumack. His deadpan delivery of lines like “Don’t call me Shirley” and “I’m a doctor, you can tell me anything” revitalized his career, and Leslie Nielsen was ‘rediscovered,’ at age 54, as a comedic star. He went on to star in a TV series, “Police Squad!,” as well as 3 “The Naked Gun” feature film spinoffs starring that series’ main character, Police Lieutenant Frank Drebin. All told, Nielsen’s career covered over 60 years and resulted in 239 TV and movie roles; his credits ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime, but he will surely be remembered for making us laugh.

Arrivederci, Dino!

November 11th, 2010 1 comment

Dino DeLaurentiis, legendary Italian film producer and flamboyant impresario, died Wednesday evening at his home in Beverly Hills, his daughter Raffaella DeLaurentiis reported today. DeLaurentiis, 91, became a pivotal figure in Italian cinema during the early days of post WWII neo-realism, and eventually produced numerous films, including “La Strada,” “Barbarella” and “U-571.”

In the 1970s Dino moved to Los Angeles and produced “Serpico,” which earned two Oscar nominations (DeLaurentiis already held Oscars for Italian films “La Strada” and “Nights of Cabiria”). A long string of films followed, including “Three Days of the Condor,” “Death Wish,” “Ragtime” and “Blue Velvet.” An artist at international film financing, DeLaurentiis produced films for esteemed directors Federico Fellini, Ingmar Bergman and even a young David Lynch, pre-selling rights outside the U.S. to finance the international co-productions.

Not a stranger to failure, DeLaurentiis survived some mega-flops, including David Lynch’s largely-panned (and expensive) “Dune,” as well as an update of “King Kong” that was reviled by audiences and critics alike (until Peter Jackson upped the ante, that is…) Tragedy also struck his family: in 1981 his son Federico, 26, was killed in a plane crash in Alaska while preparing a movie, a loss which affected Dino for the rest of his life.

Dino is survived by five of his six children. His daughter Raffaella is also a film producer, as is nephew Aurelio DeLaurentiis. Granddaughter Giada DeLaurentiis is a celebrity TV chef with several cookbooks to her credit.

On a personal note, I met Dino DeLaurentiis on a number of occasions when he operated out of his DeLaurentiis Entertainment Group offices in Beverly Hills in the early 1990s. He was a tiny man, but radiated a magnetism and confidence that were impressive. His English, while serviceable, could be a challenge to comprehend, particularly in light of his thick accent. And he was ‘old school’ through-and-through: while I knew him, he kept his long-time barber on staff to provide a quick haircut whenever he desired. An on-call barber? Now that’s what I call ‘old Hollywood!’

Dino DeLaurentiis kept producing well into his 80s, exercising his rights from author Thomas Harris’ “Manhunter” to produce  sequels to “The Silence of the Lambs,” which DeLaurentiis passed on producing. Realizing the popularity of the Hannibal Lecter character, Dino produced the “Manhunter” remake “Red Dragon,” (Harris’ book’s original title), as well as “Hannibal” and “Hannibal Rising.” In 2001, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences bestowed upon him the Irving R. Thalberg Memorial Award in honor of his lifelong devotion to world film.

A lover of wine, women and cinema, Dino DeLaurentiis lived life to the fullest. He will certainly be missed. Ciao, bello!

Writing Inspiration

May 20th, 2010 1 comment

Inspiration for writing can come in many forms. As I’ve written here before, family reunions are great sources of material. In the same vein, so are college (or high school) reunions, where the contrast between ‘then’ and ‘now’ can be surprising. As a writer heading off to a college reunion, I’m looking for lots of inspiration – and plenty of good times…

Just a change of pace or a different location can offer writing inspiration. A day trip to a local landmark or even housesitting for a friend can recharge your batteries and offer subject matter and/or writing ideas.

At present I’m watching an old friend’s home while they’re are out of town – and I am always inspired when I visit, because the house is beautiful and imbued with a sense of Hollywood history. Our host was married for years to a late, well-known actor/director, and the house is still full of his presence. As I move from room to room, legends of Broadway and Hollywood peer at me from the walls, where photos, memorabilia and souvenirs hang in testimony to his life. It’s impressive, moving and tinged with sadness. And a complete source of inspiration to me. It doesn’t hurt that the house was left fully-stocked in anticipation of our stay… That’s simply Beverly Hills hospitality!

Speaking of ‘fully-stocked,’ a lot of other writers have found their inspiration from other means – specifically, alcohol. A quick scan through a list of notable writers and Nobel laureates yields numerous notable alcoholics, as I discovered some years ago while researching a book about the liquor industry. William Faulkner and Dylan Thomas were famously alcoholic, as was Dashiell Hammett; Nobel literature prize winners include the hard-drinking Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck, among others.  And Edgar Allan Poe died drinking… like Dylan Thomas.

Still others follow DuPont’s slogan and look for “Better Living Through Chemistry.” This bunch includes the late gonzo writer Hunter S. Thompson and the esteemed counter-culture figure William S. Burroughs, along with Jack Kerouac, Aldous Huxley and Philip K. Dick. It makes one wonder – were they inspired? Or merely altered? The quality of their writing says one thing, the originality of their ideas another.

As for me, I tend to draw inspiration from what is nearest and dearest. Relationships with loved ones and friends, interests I have fostered, and the best inspiration of all (at least for practical purposes): money. My wife’s grandfather, a prolific pulp-fiction author himself, had this to say about writing: “It’s a wonderful thing to be a writer. But to be paid to write? That’s a miracle.”

Miracle, indeed. Now go out there, get inspired… and create miracles!