Barry Levinson

The Humbling

Simon Axler (Al Pacino) is prone to theatrics, and while it would be easy to blame his life-long career as a reasonably well-regarded actor for such a personality defect (Simon certainly loves to do that), the most likely culprit for his over-the-top acting out is that he’s a selfish bastard who has never been called out on his crap. Sick over the apparent loss of his “craft” (either in terms of interest or actual ability, it’s never exactly clear), Simon attempts suicide by throwing himself off the stage during a performance. It’s the height of self-involved folly, and although it’s amusing and appropriately bizarre as it unfolds, it soon becomes just another example of Simon’s self-involved attitude and inability to differentiate between the real world and the make believe one. Shipped off to a high-class funny farm, Simon doesn’t learn a damn thing – shocking, right? – and is soon returned back to his big country house to bang around, mutter incoherently about his place in the world and attempt to romance the least appropriate person around. Based on Philip Roth’s novel of the same name, Barry Levinson’s The Humbling tracks Simon’s protracted downfall, but the film itself is such a tremendous letdown that Simon’s problems prove minuscule by comparison. 



If there were a Mount Rushmore for comedic actors, Bill Murray’s face would have, without question, made the mountain many years ago. And, in addition to his early successes, as he’s gotten older his performances have only become more nuanced and satisfying. For this reason, every time it’s announced that he’s going to appear in a new movie, let alone take the lead role in a new movie, it’s an event that becomes a cause for celebration among cinephiles. So you’re probably going to want to get your party horns and confetti ready, because today news hit the Internet that Murray has his next starring role all lined up, and it’s a gig that’s going to see him working with one of the biggest directors of the last few decades. Deadline is reporting that Murray is all set to star in Barry Levinson’s (Rain Man, Wag the Dog) next film, which is a project that comes from an original script by screenwriter Mitch Glazer (Scrooged) called Rock the Kasbah. In it Murray will be playing a down on his luck music manager who takes his one last client on a USO tour of Afghanistan in hopes of making some money, where he instead finds himself abandoned and penniless in a strange land. The story doesn’t end there though, as it’s said that the character then comes across a young girl with a crazy-good voice, who stows away with him on a ride back to Kabul so that she can appear […]


Johnny Depp

While we’re not usually inclined to speculate on the financial desires of Hollywood’s brightest stars, it seems as if today’s report that Johnny Depp has dropped out of Barry Levinson‘s Whitey Bulger biopic, Black Mass, due to financial disagreements leaves us little choice. Deadline had reported that this was a possibility last night, writing then that “the troubles are in making his [Depp’s] deal and things aren’t looking great at the moment.” THR now weighs in with the firm news that Depp has exited the biopic, citing budget issues – namely, that the film’s trimmed budget wasn’t going to accommodate Depp’s “usual” $20M fee and that Depp wasn’t going to accommodate a price drop that would have put his paycheck closer to $10M. With Depp attached to the film since February, it raises the question – why now? THR also reports that the film’s sale at Cannes was “on the soft side,” leading to a necessary budget trim that would put the total cost of the film in the $60M range. A “producer source” does, however, dispute the soft angle, “saying the sales were on target and that most territories were sold.” No matter what happened, the film is now out one major (and majorly bankable) star in Depp.



Found footage, no matter your thoughts on it, appears to be here to stay. Horror fans were just recently treated to the latest slice of Paranormal Activity, and both the series and the sub-genre itself are getting a bit stale. Part of the reason for that is we haven’t seen much innovation with the formula. Thankfully, The Bay has some new ideas, and they work too! Barry Levinson, the director of films like Rain Man and Good Morning, Vietnam, is probably the last person anyone expected to do a found footage horror film. In fact, it surprised Levinson himself, who set out researching a documentary on the Chesapeake Bay and ended up with the idea for an ecological disaster film.


Hank Aaron

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oscar winner Barry Levinson – who directed The Natural, Wag the Dog, Rain Man and about a dozen other notable flicks – is on board to helm a Hank Aaron biopic which focuses on the baseball icon’s quest to beat Babe Ruth’s career home run record. Writer Adam Mazer (You Don’t Know Jack) is also on deck. The project is born from the Howard Bryant book “The Last Hero: A Life of Henry Aaron,” and Aaron will reportedly be on hand to aid in the production. The Hall-of-Famer is one of the greatest ball players of all time. He got his start in the Negro American League and ended up playing 23 seasons in the major leagues, but the movie will most directly focus on 1972 – 1974 when Aaron was chasing the Sultan of Swat amidst death threats and an overwhelming amount of people who didn’t want to see a black man beat a white man’s baseball record. As a project, it sounds stirring – something that could use a steady hand. Yes, it’s been a while since 1984 and The Natural, but Levinson is an obvious choice given his background both with baseball and with a style that celebrates uplifting tales of triumph.


Eric Stonestreet

Normally when you her the phrase “TV movie” images of poorly made, poorly funded schlock dance through your head. But when HBO makes a TV movie, what you get is name talent like John Adams’s Kirk Ellis writing the script and Hollywood veteran Barry Levinson sitting in the director’s chair. That’s exactly the case for the upcoming HBO biopic The Day the Laughter Stopped, which will be a look at the life of film star Fatty Arbuckle as based on a book by David A. Yallop. This one seems like it’s going to follow that classic rise and fall story that many biopics do, as it follows Arbuckle from being one of the most loved screen personalities on the planet, to becoming a pariah after getting accused of the rape and murder of Virginia Rappe. Ellis says of Arbuckle, “He was the biggest and most loved star of the time, bigger than Chaplin, especially with children.” But he then goes on to explain how the accusations against Arbuckle got out of hand and managed to sink his career, even though he was later acquitted of the crimes, “It was the first trial by media of the 20th century … [and] there was a call to clean [Hollywood] up. Arbuckle became the sacrificial lamb. They decided to kiss off his career rather than risk the government coming in.” Certainly Arbuckle’s life story is filled with enough intrigue to anchor a film, but that movie being successful is going to hinge largely […]



If you’ve been privy to watching the Gotti family’s reality show Growing Up Gotti, then it should be pretty clear to you that the family isn’t shy about being perceived as gaudy tabloid fodder. And it should come as no surprise that the biopic they’re involved in about their family’s recent history is stirring up its own circus of controversy. First it was all surrounding the casting of Lindsay Lohan and the question of whether she would be sober or sane enough to actually appear in the film, and which role she would actually play. Then THR reported that Joe Pesci was suing the production. He was announced at a Cannes press conference as playing the part of Angelo Ruggiero and had already gained 30 lbs to play the role, but recently the film’s new regime, led by director Barry Levinson, had told him that he would be recast in the smaller role of Anthony Casso and have his pay cut from $3 million to $1 million.



This may shock some of you dear readers, but this year I decided to skip the Breaking Dawn panel and instead went with the Rick Baker retrospective panel. Getting to hear Baker talk at great length aside, it was a fun surprise getting to see his work for Men in Black III because of how exciting the glimpses were. The retro aliens that Baker designed looked fantastic. Whether the movie works or not, his contributions will be more memorable entries in his speaks-for-itself body of work. We all know the current buzz and rumors regarding MIB: III, but as Baker says below, its production is simply the way you make movies now. What’s going on with that film isn’t drastically different from most tent-pole releases, even the good ones. Before the retrospective panel, I got a few minutes to chat with the make-up effects guru on the matter. Here’s what Rick Baker had to say about copying the greats as a kid, acting like a schoolboy with David Byrne, and the difficulty of working on modern blockbusters:



Al Pacino seems like he took a couple years off from acting. Ever since 2008’s Righteous Kill we haven’t seen much from the legendary actor. But now news of his next career moves have suddenly started trickling in pretty steadily. Last week it was revealed that he’s negotiating to make a movie about an aging rocker with Dan Fogelman, and we already know he’s set to be in Barry Levinson’s eventual Gotti movie; but new word is that before the troubled but headline grabbing Gotti pic gets off the ground Levinson and Pacino are going to work together on something else first. Levinson is set to adapt the Philip Roth novel “The Humbling” from a screenplay written by Buck Henry, Michal Zebede, and Levinson himself. Pacino would star as the book’s protagonist, Simon Axler. The inside cover of the novel describes the story like so: “Everything is over for Simon Axler, the protagonist of Philip Roth’s startling new book. One of the leading American stage actors of his generation, now in his sixties, he has lost his magic, his talent, and his assurance. … Into this shattering account of inexplicable and terrifying self-evacuation bursts a counter-plot of unusual erotic desire, a consolation for a bereft life so risky and aberrant that it points not toward comfort and gratification but to a yet darker and more shocking end. In this long day’s journey into night, told with Roth’s inimitable urgency, bravura, and gravity, all the ways that we convince ourselves of […]



When Lindsay Lohan acted in Machete with Robert De Niro, it was like a dream come true, and now the countdown begins until we see her complete the circle by acting alongside Al Pacino in Gotti: Three Generations. Start carving notches on your cell wall. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Pacino has signed on for the project which stars John Travolta as mob boss John Gotti Sr. The obvious story here is the gangland connection, especially considering Pacino’s shining acting achievements in the underworld and his involvement here as mentor figure Neil Dellacroce. But the real story is that Lindsay Lohan has closed the six degrees gap for Heat Barry Levinson is stepping in to direct the project. That’s an interesting call, especially considering Levinson hasn’t directed a solid film since 1996’s Sleepers. Okay, maybe Wag the Dog, but he’s got a serious drought going. This story needs to be more than a pound of hair gel slathered on a fancy suit, so hopefully Rain Man-level Levinson can come out of retirement for this one.



What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly round-up of all that is interesting. Being based in Austin, TX, it’s also obligated to include something that will give off the vibe that it’s “keepin’ it weird.” The folks at LucasFilm ominously dropped the above image in my email inbox this evening. No press release, no notes. Not even a response to my “WTF is this? Also, tell George I said what’s up!” follow-up. On May 4, all will be revealed. My best guess is that we’ll be given a look (via at what will be included on the upcoming Blu-ray release. If it’s the original theatrical cuts, expect internet mayhem rivaling the Osama Bin Laden is dead news. This is important stuff, people.



“…when I walked down the street people would’ve looked and they would’ve said there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was in this game.”



You don’t hear from Dr. Jack Kevorkian as much since he’s been paroled from prison in 2007. But with Al Pacino along for the ride, it’s likely that you’ll hear a bit more about him this year.



It turns out that Al Pacino has some new company for the biopic of Dr. Death chronicling his battle to legalize euthanasia.



Kevin Carr looks at the slate of films in theaters this week with the FSR Report Card.


Robert De Niro in What Just Happened?

I have heard nothing but good things about Barry Levinson’s Hollywood insider comedy What Just Happened? So much, in fact, that I am relatively pissed that I didn’t see this movie when I had the chance.

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published: 01.24.2015
published: 01.24.2015
published: 01.24.2015
published: 01.23.2015

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