Routinely termed a neglected figure of the 1970s New Hollywood, Hal Ashby has been undergoing a modest posthumous renaissance of late: a smattering of retrospective screenings, an overdue biography, a vocal celebrity fan club whose ranks include Wes Anderson, Judd Apatow and Cameron Crowe.
Only his most partisan admirers would deny that the director suffered a drop-off in inspiration after his last major film, 1979’s “Being There.” Still, as part of the ongoing Ashby revival, some of his later works, until now dismissed as footnotes at best and outright follies at worst, are being given a closer look. One, the odd-couple caper “Lookin’ to Get Out,” surfaces this week on DVD in a director’s cut about 15 minutes longer than the version released to hostile reviews and minimal box office in 1982…
The troubled circumstances of the movie’s production and release are well recounted in Nick Dawson’s meticulous new biography “Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel.” The director was juggling the postproduction of another doomed comedy, “Second-Hand Hearts” (1981), and the development of “Tootsie” (a gig he eventually lost to Sydney Pollack because “Lookin’ to Get Out” fell far behind schedule).
Unhappy with the version of the film he turned in, Paramount executives demanded a reedit, and Ashby, fed up and beaten down, left it to his editor, Bob Jones, who worked with Voight to produce a shorter cut.
It was in the course of researching his book that Dawson realized that Ashby’s preferred edit, a further fine-tuning of the cut he submitted to the studio, still existed. The director’s cut of “Lookin’ to Get Out” is no lost masterpiece, but you can easily see how a truncated version would have stifled its loose-limbed energy.
The Motion Picture Academy announced Wednesday that for the first time in more than 65 years, the field of best picture nominees will be expanded to 10 contenders for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards.
“Having 10 best picture nominees is going allow Academy voters to recognize and include some of the fantastic movies that often show up in the other Oscar categories but have been squeezed out of the race for the top prize,” said [Academy president] Sid Ganis in announcing the shift. “I can’t wait to see what that list of 10 looks like when the nominees are announced in February.”
People are speculating this will allow more animation and comedies to slide into the top slot. What this means for Wes?
The pilot will center on a Brooklyn writer (Schwartzman) who nurses a painful breakup by acting out his dream to live as a character out of a Raymond Chandler novel. As a result, he finds a new lease on life by offering up his services as an inexperienced private eye.
In the preview alone, besides Schwartzman, are the great Zach Galifianakis, Kristen Wiig, Ted Danson, and Parker Posey. John Hodgman and Olivia Thirlby will also apparently have roles on the show as well. The series was created by author Jonathan Ames, who you can follow on Twitter. (Where you can also follow us.)
“Welcome to the Dahl House”
August 18th, 2002 – New York Times
By Wes Anderson
My brothers and I grew up reading Roald Dahl’s stories. Our mother had gotten us nameplates to put in our books, and we used to steal one another’s copies of ”Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and ”The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” tear out the other’s nameplates and replace them with our own. Dahl was our favorite.
For me the best were ”Danny the Champion of the World” and ”Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
Last year I decided to find out what it would take to make a movie from ”Mr. Fox.” I arranged to meet with Dahl’s wife, Felicity, or Liccy, who runs the Dahl estate and helps to produce the films, operas, etc., that have come from his books.
She is a very charming and energetic woman, with an infectious enthusiasm for her husband’s work. She invited me to Gipsy House. I knew about Dahl’s residence in Great Missenden near Oxford, and I was especially eager to see the tiny hut where he wrote for four hours each day in an armchair with a green-felt-upholstered board across his lap for a desk.
In this month’s issue of Interview(June 2009, Björk on the cover), Wes Anderson interviews (more of a discussion between close friends than an interview) Fantastic Mr. Fox collaborator Jarvis Cocker. Be sure to pick up a copy at your local newsstand!
Jarvis: I wanted to ask you something, actually. It’s an obvious question, I suppose, but on the film that you’re making now, Fantastic Mr. Fox, you’re using old puppets — well, do you call them puppets? What do you call them?
Wes: I think puppets more or less covers it.
Jarvis: So you’re used to working with live actors. How have you found the experience of working with things that will do exactly what you tell them to do?
Wes: Well, as it happens, they won’t. As you know, the voices are recorded before it’s animated, and that process is more familiar to me — working with actors in that way. So when we’re recording the voices, there can be the same sort of excitement that working with actors normally has — there can be the same surprises and spontaneity. But then when it comes time to animate it, I’m working with people who each bring their own interpretations to it, even if we have very carefully determined what is going to happen in the scene. Sometimes I will do a video version of myself doing what I think the puppet ought to do, and then I’ll discuss it with the animator — and there are many different animators working on different stages all at once. But in the process of going one frame at a time to bring the puppet to life, the animator will sort of sculpt things out, and they have somehow trained their brains to sync in this ultra slow-motion so there’s a performance that they’re giving. And so you can find in that process that you’re going very slowly being pleasantly surprised over the course of several days or weeks and saying, “Oh, look at what’s happening here…” Or you can slowly see the shot falling apart before your eyes and see that it’s not working. So there’s no real corollary in live-action movies, but it’s interesting anyway — and fun.
Jarvis: So the animators are kind of the nearest thing you get to actors in that process, basically.
Wes: They’re the nearest thing you get to working with actors in a sense, yeah.