Taylor Hackford

marion dougherty casting by

One of the best anecdotes in the documentary Casting By, which premieres tonight on HBO, relates the start of Warren Beatty’s screen career on a 1957 episode of Kraft Television Theatre. We’re told that like many young actors of the time he modeled himself way too much on Marlon Brando. Then we actually see a clip, and sure enough the future movie star looks and sounds like he’s doing a comical impersonation. Fortunately, within the next five years he would find his own comfortable style and manage to break out in Hollywood in order to become one of his generation’s finest. And apparently we have casting director Marion Dougherty to thank for giving him his first shot. There are a lot of first- and second-hand stories in the film about a lot of actors and actresses’ beginnings. And a lot of rare clips to prove just how terrible or terrific they really were. There’s Jon Voight‘s embarrassing performance on Naked City in 1963, which actually kind of foreshadows most of his later work (personally, I’ve always thought him to be one of the worst in the business). Jeff Bridges talks about how he witnessed audiences literally laughing at his tearful work in 1970’s Hall of Anger. Bette Midler thanks Dougherty for allowing her to hide her Jewishness and play a missionary in Hawaii and earn a paycheck that would finally get her to New York. And then there’s a claim that Michael Eisner, while President and CEO of Paramount Pictures, kept trying to […]

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Parker Movie Jason Statham

Adapting material from one medium to another is never an easy proposition. Script to screen is perhaps the most dangerous transition of all as the phrase “the book was better” is so often a common sentiment. The waters are especially murky for an established character like Donald E. Westlake‘s Parker, the star of no less than 24 novels and a dozen or so mostly unofficial film appearances. Perhaps the most well-known is Mel Gibson’s Porter from the 1999 film Payback. Using a different novel as the source material, screenwriter John McLaughlin and director Taylor Hackford are bringing the Parker character back to the big screen this weekend in the aptly, if simply, titled Parker. Adapted from “Flashfire,” one of the more recent Parker novels, Parker sees our titular antihero (played by Jason Statham) teaming up with four other guys to rob the Ohio State Fair. Things go south after they make good their escape only to spring the news that they’re using the take as seed money on a bigger score. Parker, of course, just wants to walk away with his share like they agreed on. After a heated disagreement in a Surburban, the four send the weakest guy to shoot Parker. Thinking him dead, they move on to planning their big job in Palm Beach. Injured but not dead, Parker sets out to hunt the four men down and settle the score.

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Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles were both in The Blues Brothers, but they’re about to be connected in a different cinematic way. According to Cinema Blend, Taylor Hackford (the writer/director of the Charles biopic Ray) is set to direct a film about Franklin’s life. Now the question becomes whether the actress playing her will also have to recreate her diner-set scene in The Blues Brothers in a meta move celebrating the singer’s acting career. If she hangs out with Charles on the set of the set, things will get even more confusingly self-referential. Hackford is an inspired (and sort of obvious) choice, but the main difficulty here remains finding an actress who can handle the emotion and vocally portray perhaps the greatest female singer of the 20th century. The option is there to use recordings, but there’s something about that method that dulls the impact as much as an actor not quite meeting the singer’s talents. Franklin herself tossed out a wish list populated by Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson and five-time Tony award winner Audra McDonald. She also suggested Denzel Washington for the role of her Baptist preacher father. It may be a challenge to fill her vocal chords, but at least they’re on the right track. Hopefully the project will gain traction and find the money to bring in the talent required. Something tells me it needs a cheerleader to bring in the resources (studio or otherwise) that will ensure that it plays at the top level instead of […]

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Parker Trailer Jason Statham

Jason Statham has made so many movies where he plays a gun-shooting, high-kicking criminal who lives by a strict moral code that the Jason Statham Movie has become a genre unto itself. Generally all of these movies have forgettable one word titles, like Crank, Safe, or Blitz, but that doesn’t end up mattering much, because you can just tell people that you’re going to see the new Jason Statham Movie, and they’ll know what you’re talking about. Jason Statham Movies generally have another thing in common, as well. They feature Jason Statham’s gruff charisma and high-impact fight scenes as their star, and offer up little else. Things like storytelling or supporting talent don’t really matter when you know that you can trot Statham out a couple times a year, have him go through the motions, and still turn a profit. Parker looks like it’s going to be a Jason Statham Movie with a couple more tricks up its sleeve, though. Instead of relying on the star power of Statham alone, director Taylor Hackford’s new film teams him up with big names like Jennifer Lopez, Michael Chiklis, and Nick Nolte (and Bunk from The Wire!). The results are impressive at first glance, with Statham obviously having immediate chemistry with Lopez especially.

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Jason Statham isn’t just an action star; he’s an action star with such a specific style, and whose films have adhered to such a coherent aesthetic, that I think of him as having a genre completely unto himself. Jason Statham is the star of Jason Statham movies, and it looks like he’s signing on to be in at least one more. He is under negotiations to star in Parker, which is under the direction of Taylor Hackford (Proof of Life, Ray) and coming from an adapted screenplay by John J. McLoughlin (Black Swan). What that screenplay is adapted from is the work of writer Richard Stark, or as he was known when he wasn’t being all pen-namey, Donald Westlake. The man wrote 28 novels over the course of his career, and 24 of them were featuring the character of Parker, a single word named, cold-blooded criminal type who engages in ruthless behavior but lives by his own code. Sounds very Jason Stathamy. This is the first time that the Parker character has been brought to the big screen in name, but he has been used as source material before, for things like Lee Marvin’s character in Point Blank, Robert Duvall’s character in The Outfit, and Mel Gibson’s character in Payback. There is no word on whether or not this film will be a direct translation of any of Westlake’s works, or if it will just swim around in the Parker milieu, but I’m sure we can all bank on the […]

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