Friday, May 6, 2016

LIZ SMITH: This N' That

Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh in "Caesar and Cleopatra" (1945).
by Liz Smith

Woody Talks ... Martha Vanishes ... Lestat is Back ... Caesar and Cleopatra Romp Again ... The Boys of Joe Eszterhas (They are Hot and They Like My Chicken Fried Steak!)

"I NEVER ever, read anything about myself. Not my interviews, not stories about me. I never read criticism of my films ... I just pay attention to the work and don't read about how great I am or what a fool I am."

That's Woody Allen, talking to The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Galloway.

Woody, a still vital 80-years-young, is THR's cover subject, what with bringing his 12th movie, "Café Society," to the Cannes Film Festival. (In all, so far, Woody has 47 movies to his credit, and shows no signs of slowing down.)

Woody waxes adoringly about his wife of 20 years, Soon-Yi, insists he is not even sure where Mia Farrow lives or what she does, has never sent an e-mail, he says. (Perhaps he dictates them to an assistant, because for sure I have received e-mails from Woody.) He also has a cell phone that he uses in a "very limited" fashion. "I can make calls, and my assistant put all my jazz music on it." This he finds more convenient than traveling with a stack of vinyl records. He's never seen a superhero film. Given the chance, he would erase "all but a few" of his movies.

As to politics — who can escape it? — Woody says he runs into Donald Trump now and then in Manhattan. "He is always very nice and pleasant — which is hard to put together with many of the things he has said in his campaign."
Woody Allen, Vittorio Storaro, and Jesse Eisenberg on the set of "Cafe Society."

WELL, poor Martha (wonderful actress Alison Wright of the FX series,"The Americans") was indeed shipped off to Russia, and that seems to be the end of that. Too bad, although, this being TV, she could return. (In real life, the tragic Martha, who found out too late what she was involved in, would have been killed off.)
"The Americans" cleverly cleared up a lot of dangling plot lines on Wednesday night, and fast-forwarded the series seven months. This clears the field for a new set of problems and adventures for the Soviet spies Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, and their increasingly rebellious teenage daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor) who knows what her parents are; that knowledge doesn't sit lightly on her shoulders.
Kudos, again to Keri Russell for her unflinching portrayal of stone-cold evil. As I've said before, the body count on this show is absurd — I highly doubt even at the height of U.S. and Russian spying and counter-spying that agents disposed of people in such reckless, willy-nilly fashion.

This week's episode proved that you simply don't turn your back on Miss Russell. Not when there's anything handy lying around that might be used as a deadly weapon.
Stuart Townsend as Lestat.
THE VAMPIRE genre is never-ending. Just when you think it's safe to toss away those garlands of garlic, the bloodsuckers return. The latest news is that "The Vampire Lestat," Anne Rice's second book in her vampire series — the first was "Interview With the Vampire" — is being readied by Universal.

The film, to be scripted and directed by Josh Boone will contain elements of "Lestat" and "Queen of the Damned." ("Queen" was unsuccessfully filmed in 2002, starring the late singer Aaliyah, and Stuart Townsend, once the beloved of Charlize Theron.) The film exists only as a testament to Mr. Townsend's appeal, shirtless.)  Brian Grazer will produce the new tale of the undead.

P.S. I recently re-watched "Interview With The Vampire" starring Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, and I have to say, Tom was sensational as Lestat. This is an underrated performance, but most of Tom's work is, in my opinion.
Gertrude Elliott and Johnston Forbes-Robertson in Caesar and Cleopatra in 1906.
"IT IS not that I am so clever, but that others are so stupid," says young Cleopatra, in George Bernard Shaw's delightful 1906 play, "Caesar and Cleopatra." Shaw's take on the great Roman general and a teenage Cleo, is by far the wittiest and most appealing of the many literary versions about the fateful meeting between Julius and the last queen of Egypt.

On Monday, May 23rd, The Gingold Theatrical Group, as part of its ongoing Project Shaw, showcasing the works of the playwright, presents "Caesar and Cleopatra" for one night only.

This happens at the Peter Norton Symphony Space (Leonard Nimoy Thalia) on 95th & Broadway. This is a delectable classic, and I'm sure many of you have seen the luscious 1945 screen version with Vivien Leigh, Claude Rains and Flora Robson, of all people, as Cleo's extremely devoted slave Ftatateeta.

Call 212-864-5400.
Claude Rains and Vivien Leigh in the 1945 screen version.
Joe Eszterhas — "No mellowing with age for him!"
I HAVE often written about one of my screenwriter heroes Joe Eszterhas, who refused to knuckle under the agent Michael Ovitz in the days of hit after hit by Joe such as "Flashdance," "Jagged Edge" "Basic Instinct" — which made Sharon Stone a star — and "Showgirls," an initial bomb which became a cult classic on video and DVD, recouping its cost, and then some!

Joe tired of Hollywood and soon after, with the woman of his dreams, one Naomi, moved with her to the aptly named Chagrin Falls, Ohio. They have four handsome sons and Joe is still the best writer "out" of Hollywood. At year's end I wrote about Joe, Naomi and their sons. (Inspired by their annual Christmas card.)

Naomi who is graciously diligent about such things, wrote back: "You made Christmas very exciting. Our guys were thrilled to see their photos in your column and read the flattering things you wrote about them. The funny thing is that they know you from your chicken fried steak recipe from your book 'Dishing.' They think you're a master chef. Joe absolutely loved what you wrote about him. He is still as tough as nails and outspoken — no mellowing with age for him!"
Joe, Nick, John Law, and Luke Eszterhas.

With Denis Ferrara

Contact Liz here.