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Happy Birthday Ken Russell
07.03.2014
07:57 am

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Movies
Television

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Ken Russell


 
Happy Birthday to Ken Russell, born July 3rd in 1927. Once the so-called enfant terrible of British cinema, Russell produced a dazzling array of powerful, vibrant and intelligent movies during his lifetime, which placed him among the greatest film and television directors of the second half of the twentieth century.

His love of cinema started early in childhood when he escaped to the local picture house to watch innumerable flickering matinees with his mother. The films fired his imagination, in particular Fritz Lang’s Die Nibelungen and the early monster movie The Secret of the Loch, both of which would be filtered into his later work (Dance of the Seven Veils, Altered States and Lair of the White Worm). At first Russell had ambitions to be a ballet dancer, but this was superseded by a passion for photography, which he studied at Walthamstow Technical College in London. After service in the Royal Navy, where he once presented a musical number of fishermen darning their nets with sailors in drag sewing their silk stockings, he began taking photographs of teenagers—most famously his series on “Teddy Girls,” which were published in Picture Post. Looking at these early photographs, you can see hints of Russell’s distinctive cinematic framing and compositional style

It was a small leap from stills to motion pictures and Russell started directing small films for very little money, notably Amelia and the Angel and a documentary on Lourdes. These helped Russell secure work as a documentary director with BBC’s prestigious Monitor arts series. Here, under the guidance of editor Huw Wheldon, Russell developed the form of the drama-documentary and made a series of radical films on artists and composers such as Elgar, Dante’s Inferno, The Debussy Film, Song of Summer and the banned Dance of the Seven Veils.
 

 
The flamboyance of his talent could not be contained by television and by the late sixties Russell felt he was repeating himself and therefore made the move to cinema. Over the next five decades Ken Russell made a series of consistently brilliant movies from The Billion Dollar Brain, the Oscar-winning Women in Love, the controversial The Devils, Savage Messiah, Mahler, a version of The Who’s rock opera Tommy, Altered States and The Rainbow.

Russell’s approach to film and television has influenced generations of directors, including such luminaries as Stanley Kubrick, Lindsay Anderson, Francis Ford Coppola, Derek Jarman and Baz Luhrmann.

Though influential and greatly loved, Russell did have to deal with several overbearing and self-important journalists, who made small careers out of attacking his work. Russell famously attacked one such critic on live TV with a rolled-up copy of his newspaper review. “Unkle Ken” was well aware that had he been Italian and called “Russellini” such critics would have sung his praises. No matter—Ken Russell’s films will long outlive such superfluous individuals.
 

 
To celebrate Unkle Ken’s birthday, here is one of his early, pioneering television documentaries Dante’s Inferno from 1967, which examines the relationship between the 19th-century artist and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his model, Elizabeth Siddal. It stars a young Oliver Reed, Judith Paris and poet Christopher Logue, and is filled with Russell’s arresting and powerful vision.
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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Oh look, another terrifying short film from an adolescent Lars von Trier
07.02.2014
07:23 am

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Movies

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Lars Von Trier


 
At the tender age of 11, Lars (not-yet-“von”) Trier filmed a surprisingly sophisticated stop-motion animated short called Trip to Squash Land… A Super Sausage Film. There’s cheerful music, bright colors, and dancing bunnies rescued from the clutches of villainous frog-like creatures. Initially, I found the “cuteness” of Trier’s debut kind of ominous—it felt too twee not to belie some kind of dark evil—but I assumed it was just me projecting. Even the guy who created The Kingdom had to be am innocuous child at some point, right?

Wrong! Apparently Lars von Trier has never been anything short of truly disturbed mind! If you don’t believe me, take a look at this short he made at 14, with the sociopathic title of, Why Try to Escape from Which You Know You Can’t Escape from? Because You Are a Coward!

The plot is simple, but intense. A kid on a bicycle is hit by a truck. Another kid inspects the injured party, only to flee in terror—it’s not clear why he runs, but I think the implication is that kid #2 was the truck driver. The injured kid is suddenly animated through some kind of paranormal force (the candles are a dead giveaway), and he begins to pursue kid #2, now with sinister bandages over his face. There’s a great psychological thriller-style chase scene, but I won’t ruin the ending. The sound is pretty low, but if you crank up the volume you can hear pulsating acid rock, heavenly choirs, and some deep-voiced narration of what the Internet informs me are biblical references, but what I suspect are actually Satanic incantations in an unholy tongue (or Danish!). Oh and there’s some terrifying laughter, because why not?

Once again, creepy-kid Lars created a really sophisticated little film, with a precocious talent for editing, detail and really unnerving his audience.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Dude, get over it: Businessman buys, distributes hundreds of movie tickets to impress ex-girlfriend
07.01.2014
07:22 am

Topics:
Movies
Sex

Tags:
movies
Mark Wahlberg
breakups

movies
 
It takes a truly unusual event for Dangerous Minds to take notice of a movie like Michael Bay’s Transformers: Age of Extinction, but a certain Chinese businessman named Wang has supplied a worthy pretext. 

It seems that seven years ago, this Wang guy was dumped by his girlfriend, and ever since, he’s been consumed by the desire to make her understand, in no uncertain terms, that she made a mistake. At the time they were both living in Nanjing, and he was so broke he couldn’t afford to take her to the movies. In the meantime he has become a successful businessman in Beijing (news reports don’t indicate in what capacity), and thought of the idea of buying out all the tickets at several IMAX cinemas for June 23, the first day Transformers: Age of Extinction was available to be seen in the city. Since his former girlfriend had moved to Beijing after their breakup, Wang was fairly certain she was in the city even though they were not in touch.
 
movie tickets
One of several receipts Wang posted on Weibo
 
Wang took to the Chinese version of Twitter, known as Weibo, to offer a free ticket to a screening to users as long as they shared his post about it, which was directed at his ex. In the post, Wang wrote, “I just want to say that you may have been wrong to make that decision.”

Soon Wang’s post had been shared 110,000 times and had garnered more than 35,000 comments. And approximately 1,590 people had scored a free ticket to see Bay’s stupid mega-blockbuster. The escapade cost Wang the equivalent of $40,000 (he supplied receipts on Weibo to prove that he had actually bought up all the tickets), which represents about half of his monthly income.

Understandably, Wang’s resentment-fueled project has sparked tons of commentary. RocketNews24 explains, “Understandably, plenty of people were angered that the businessmen had snatched up so many tickets for himself, and commented that thanks to his antics they were unable to see the film as they have planned. But equally many others have commended him on the move and are sure that his ex girlfriend is now kicking herself.”

I think most of us can relate to those feelings of wanting to show a former ex what a blunder breaking up turned out to be. I feel like any decent therapist would be likely to advise Wang that you can’t have your cake and eat it too, the only way you can make contact is by signaling that you are still obsessed with her; Weibo isn’t some loophole you can use to get around that.

Personally, I think she made the right call.

Here’s some random footage of the stars of the movie (Mark Wahlberg et al.) visiting Beijing in case that shit interests you:
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘Irene:’ New Pere Ubu video is eerie and gorgeous
07.01.2014
06:47 am

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Movies
Music
Punk

Tags:
Pere Ubu
Carnival of Souls


 
The adventurous, impressive, and long-surviving art rock band Pere Ubu have released well over a dozen albums, few of which sound overmuch like each other, all of which sound like Pere Ubu. Their last, Lady From Shanghai, was an especially big leap, laden with bold electronics experiments and even odder arrangements than Ubu’s usual, and it’s just glorious.

Recently, the band announced the forthcoming release of its 15th studio LP, Carnival of Souls. It’s tempting to assume that this might be an album about the disquietingly atmospheric 1962 Herk Harvey film Carnival of Souls, as the band did a live underscore to the film just last summer, and a video from the album, “Road to Utah,” is made up of clips from that movie, a movie which in fact takes place on the road. To Utah.
 

 
But it’s folly, even with a ton of evidence like that in your corner, to think that one can jump to that kind of easy conclusion with regard to a band that copped its name from a cagey absurdist like Alfred Jarry. With Ubu, the “obvious” should rarely be taken at face value. Per the band’s founder and singer David Thomas on ubuprojex.com:

The album is not about the movie. The album is ‘about’ a complex sensual response to living in a world overrun by monkeys and strippers who tickle your ears, cajole you to join in with their cavorting and then become vindictive when you decline. I got rid of my TV because I don’t want them in my house. I got rid of my phone because I don’t want them calling me. So if you understand that and add in several more keyframes and make at least two more intuitive jumps, then you can see what role the movie has as ambient background noise - in the same way that sun shining through the trees along the Yellowstone River has as a reference point to Kerouac’s ‘On The Road.’

Since that’s only so illuminating, I reached out to Ubu’s longtime drummer, Steven Mehlman, for clarification on what the new music may have to do with the film:

The answer is yes and no. Yes, some of the music is based on the music we did for the live soundtrack. The tour we did after that was with a portion of our expanded lineup and we started refining some of those songs, and roughly half of each show was improvised (and recorded) and led to the other half of the album. One song is straight from the live recordings.

So there you have it. The other video from the album, due in September, is for “Irene,” a song that features beautiful solo work from the band’s newest member, clarinetist Darryl Boon. It’s a simple, surreal video, the focus of which is a mask, as eerie and haunting as the song itself, made by the Brighton-based puppeteer Daisy Jordan, founder of Barely Human Puppets.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘Pere Ubu is like a cup!’ insists David Thomas
‘Self-expression is evil’: the mind-boggling beauty of David Thomas and Two Pale Boys
Pere Ubu’s David Thomas is pissed off about band member visa approval rigamarole

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Discussion
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Maoist movie reviews: What won’t be banned under the dictatorship of the proletariat…
06.30.2014
02:24 pm

Topics:
Amusing
Movies

Tags:
Maoists


 
We here at Dangerous Minds tend to avoid covering bourgeois and banal pop culture, but sometimes it’s the shittiest, most hackneyed art that inspires the most whacked-out critiques. This brings me to my favorite marginal leftist project—the (tragically now defunct) Maoist Movie Reviews! Luckily, the The Maoist International Movement (usually known by their decidedly benign-sounding phoneticized acronym, MIM, said like “mim”) left the archive up!

There are a lot of tiny marginal political movements in this country, both on the right and the left, but few have ever been quite so earnest as MIM. MIM was run by the Maoist Internationalist Party: Amerika (yeah, they spelled it just like that, I told you they were earnest), and was a weird collection of politics for a bunch of (let’s be honest, presumably white) Americans. MIM’s ideology, known as “MIM Thought,” interpreted from Mao an extreme commitment to “Maoist Third-Worldism,” a revolutionary anti-imperialist position that argued the only true proletariat were in the “Third Word” which is a hazy concept to begin with. It’s a weird political focus, certainly, but made even moreso when you learn the Maoist Internationalist Party had no known international affinity groups and no real resources besides a PO box in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The most fun thing about MIM though, is the emphasis on the cultural revolution—the idea that communism would be best enacted by removing any trace of bourgeois culture. During Mao’s actual reign in China, there was some wiggle room. They allowed Beethoven’s 9th Symphony a form of Maoist ballet. MIM attempted to emulate this practice by writing regular movie reviews to assess the post-revolution acceptability of popcorn blockbusters and the odd film classic.

Predictably, the results are absolutely batshit…
 

James Earl Jones as Thulsa Doom and Colin Powell—think about it!!!
 
For example, Conan: The Barbarian (1981) and Conan: The Destroyer (1984) received a joint review, my favorite except of which is:

In the case of “Conan: The Barbarian,” Conan is explosive material because he came from an oppressed village that ended up in slavery. There is definitely something dialectical about how someone forced down to the bottom rose up and upended convention.

Meanwhile the self-satisfied youth who followed the exploiter leader of the suicide cult had no progressive umph of their own, just alternative lifestyles. Though the exploiter leader was Black, MIM has no trouble calling him an exploiter and oppressor in that context. By itself, nor do we object to casting a Black character as the godly leader of evil. It’s just that Nietzsche, a Black leader leading white youth to their doom and a superman raised up from oppressed white people to free white people from a Black god—the message combined is definitely not good. Even more troubling than the film is the reality of the thought that the imperialists may raise up a Colin Powell or the like and this may make the anti-imperialist struggle more difficult.

Looking for something a little sexier? There’s a critique comparing Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life and Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. Both came out in the summer of 2003, and MIM gave them both a feminist take-down so cartoonish you can read it in Rush Limbaugh’s “sarcastic” voice.

These summer films deserve to be reviewed together because they are basically the same idea: sexy wimmin in revealing outfits performing outrageous stunts to fight the bad guys and save humanity from impending doom. Overall MIM opposes the pornography that is so prevalent is this patriarchal capitalist society. This is not because of some Christian purism or moralcode, but because we can see that pornographic portrayals of wimmin in mainstream culture perpetuate gender oppression and inequality. Even looking beyond the pornography there is little redeeming in either of these films.

It’s not all dour asceticism though—sometimes those mimmies surprise you! They really liked Pixar movies and Harry Potter, for example, even though they believe “fantasy film [encourages] people to escape today’s socially caused problems!” As you would expect, “MIM Thought” is pretty dictatorial—it is named for a dictator, after all—but the faith of the Maoist in the potential for a politically pure culture never wavers.

Below, Momus gets his Leonard Cohen on…
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Awesome Japanese movie posters from the go-go Sixties
06.26.2014
11:02 am

Topics:
Advertising
Art
Movies

Tags:
movie posters

The Trip
The Trip
 
Why is it that these Japanese posters of American and British classics from the 1960s seem so much more swinging than their Anglophone counterparts? Has the U.S.—or even Great Britain—ever had a period when movie posters were this cool? Whatever, I fully expect to start seeing these in living rooms everywhere, they’re just too fantastic!
 
Alfie
Alfie
 
Bedazzled
Bedazzled
 
Hud
Hud
 
Blow Up
Blow Up
 
Modesty Blaise
Modesty Blaise
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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‘The Dove (De Düva)’: Hilarious Ingmar Bergman parody with a young Madeline Kahn
06.25.2014
08:58 am

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Movies

Tags:
Ingmar Bergman
Madeline Kahn


 
The Dove (De Düva) is an Academy Award-nominated short parody of Ingmar Bergman’s films, made in 1968. They used to show this a lot in the early days of HBO and it’s been screened at Bergman festivals to unsuspecting audiences. The short lampoons elements of Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, The Silence and Smiles of a Summer Night.

Professor Viktor Sundqvist (co-director George Coe, seen often on SNL‘s early years) is being chauffeured to a lecture at a university, when a dove shits on the car’s windshield. He decides to make a visit to his childhood home ala Wild Strawberries.

In a flashback, Viktor and his sister challenge Death (screenwriter Sid Davis) to a game of badminton in exchange for Death sparing her life. A dove shits on Death and he loses the game.

The ridiculous fake Swedish is a mix of English, Yiddish and adding “ska” to certain words, as in “It will take a momentska” or “sooner or lateska.”

The Dove (De Düva) is notable for being the first appearance of the late, great comedienne Madeline Kahn.
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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‘Bijou’: Wakefield Poole’s pioneering gay art film, a sensual and sensory experience
06.24.2014
05:18 pm

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Movies
Queer
Sex

Tags:
Wakefield Poole

Montage in Wakefield Poole's Bijou
 
The early 1970s was an electric time to be an artist. All of the currents of change and cultural revolution were crackling, helping create a creative atmosphere that was the perfect hothouse to challenge and re-route convention. A filmmaker that emerged in this era that broke ground both for the LGBT community as well as the cinematic community was Wakefield Poole. He’s a southern boy with an enviable resume in the theatre, including working with the Ballet Russe before becoming both a respected choreographer and Theatre director. By 1971, he broke new ground with his film Boys in the Sand, a pioneering explicit gay film that achieved mainstream crossover success and was positively reviewed in Variety. Following up the huge success of Boys, Poole created something truly unexpected, unique and dreamlike. He made Bijou.

Bijou is less of a structured, narrative film and more of a living, breathing sensual and sensory experience. The human center of the film is a young construction worker (Bill Harrison), who looks both masculine and boyish. He finishes his shift and starts to head home. On the way, he ends up seeing a lanky woman (Cassandra Hart) getting hit by a car. Her purse ends up flying in the air near him and impulsively, he grabs it, but not quite for the reasons one would think.
 
An invitation to Bijou
 
Instead of dashing for the cash, once home, he examines the contents, all basic items like lipstick and keys, almost like a curious child. Curious is the right word for it since the one unique item he finds is an invitation to a place called “Bijou.” He showers up and heads to this mysterious place. As soon as he arrives, the starkness of the concrete jungle on the outside, not to mention the muted tones of his teensy apartment are replaced with bright, vivid, Italian-style lighting set against black walls. He hands his invite over to a ticket-taker worthy of a Fellini film. He enters the main area.
 
Get your ticket here
 
Lit up theatrical style signs instruct him to remove his shoes, then clothing. He is flanked by a Dan Flavin-inspired lighting design, then descends deeper into a surrealistic landscape where sculptures and objects are framed in a way that makes them transformatively huge and take on a new life. He then stumbles upon a nude man, lying face down and supine on the ground. They start to make love. More men enter and instead of the aggressive, slap and tickle orgy antics that such a scenario would normally entail, especially in explicit film, what follows is a sweet, intimate and yet, a 100% artsy experience.

Poole’s theatrical directing background shines sweet and strong. He frames the human body like a trained painter or sculptor. Every physical act is there not so much to arouse pure pleasure, but more to invoke a quizzical but sweet mood. Our protagonist is basically cocooned in a languid landscape of love. Like any proper dream, there are hints of darkness, including one gorgeous, but troubled looking Steve Reeves look-a-like who wanders around brandishing a whip like Chekhov’s gun that never, ever goes off. He never gets directly involved, except at one point loosely wrapping the whip around the lead’s neck. But that never quite goes anywhere, as if the affection of the other men exorcises the violent threat away before it can bloom into anything truly sinister.
 
Angst with the muscleman.
 
Poole has very carefully weaved everything together here, with every element, whether it is the lighting, composition, the use of audio (including one of the best incorporation of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” ever) or even the dearth of dialogue, which is basically relegated to the tiny handful of lines the human pastiche ticket taker utters, creating an experience like no other. Even more important, though, is is his body of work, with Bijou being a huge part of the picture. This film was a revelation for the gay community. Gone are the stereotypes, especially the “self-loathing” homosexual and in its place are human beings of different physicalities being expressive in a way that conveys the message that hey, not only is it okay that you are gay but in fact, it is beautiful. This is some life altering and occasionally, life saving, stuff, especially when your realize that the specter of the Stonewall riots were only three years behind the film. Even more importantly is that Bijou was made the year before the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders.
 
Reflection and Self Love in Bijou
 
Luckily, Bijou has recently gotten a very nice DVD release courtesy of the great folks over at Vinegar Syndrome. The print looks lovely and there are some terrific extras, with the absolute highlight being a director’s commentary with Poole himself. He reveals himself to be incredibly sharp, funny and quite warm. Hearing him talk about how he intentionally crafted Bijou to be obtuse, leaving everything wide open for any and all interpretation, is a gem. There are no right and wrong answers, granting all the power to the viewer. Which is a ballsy move, all the more fitting for such a bold movie.
 

Posted by Heather Drain | Discussion
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Ron Paul, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Grover Norquist will be in the next ‘Atlas Shrugged’ movie


 
For those of you who haven’t been keeping tabs on the massive, slow-moving trainwreck that is the Atlas Shrugged trilogy, the first movie cost $20 million and made $4,627,375 at the box office, while the second cost $10 million and made $3,336,053. The third had to be partially funded by a Kickstarter campaign that yielded a cool $446,907—we have to wait for the September release before formally declaring it a failure, but I think it’s safe to say we’re not looking at a blockbuster here. It gives one the warm fuzzies to realize that a movie based on Ayn Rand’s epic paean to capitalism is a failure by her own measure, since the free market has stubbornly refused to acknowledge the Atlas Shrugged cinematic “franchise.”

But wait—the final installment will be pulling out all the stops!

After toying with the idea that the third installment could be made into a musical (not kidding, look it up), the Randroids are bringing out the biggest guns: Ron Paul, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Grover Norquist. Hannity was apparently already in the second one, but conservative weirdos really work best in an ensemble, don’t you think? Apparently the pundit guest-stars weren’t even given scripts but were instructed instead to just “riff” off protagonist John Galt’s ten hour monologue. This should give you an idea of the professionalism of the movie.

They say politics is just show business for ugly people, but when show business gets political, some of that ugly is gonna get on the silver screen. For a preview, check out Ron Paul’s feverish endorsement of Ayn Rand below. Watch the crazy old man give his book report. Do it.
 

 
Via The Hollywood Reporter

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Francis Ford Coppola’s original cast list for ‘The Godfather’

000111dogfath.jpg
 
Francis Ford Coppola was not the first choice to direct The Godfather, Paramount Studios wanted Sergio Leone, but he turned it down to concentrate on his own gangster movie Once Upon A Time in America. Next up was Peter Bogdanovich but he also knocked it back as he was working on What’s Up, Doc?. Coppola was eventually approached by producer Robert Evans, who wanted an Italian-American to direct the film.

As Coppola later recalled in an interview:

The Godfather was a very unappreciated movie when we were making it. They were very unhappy with it. They didn’t like the cast. They didn’t like the way I was shooting it. I was always on the verge of getting fired. So it was an extremely nightmarish experience. I had two little kids, and the third one was born during that. We lived in a little apartment, and I was basically frightened that they didn’t like it. They had as much as said that, so when it was all over I wasn’t at all confident that it was going to be successful, and that I’d ever get another job.

 
0022dogfat.jpg
 
Coppola was considered a risk. He had made five movies, only one of which was a hit. He was also in debt to Warner Brothers from an overspend while producing THX 1138.

Paramount were still skeptical about Coppola’s ability and kept a standby director ready to replace him. The first argument between director and studio came over casting. Coppola had drawn up his own list of possible contenders, which the studio was also set against, in particular they did not like Coppola’s suggestion of Marlon Brando or Laurence Olivier for Vito Corleone.
 
0066dogfat.jpg
 
Coppola wanted the world’s greatest actors for the main role, but the studio didn’t want Brando because he had a bad reputation for delaying film productions; while Olivier was supposedly too ill to film and turned the offer down.

Who the studio wanted was Ernest Borgnine, as he had the mix of rough-and-ready, and seemed like the kind of “family man” an audience would identify with.
 
0044fffgfgfgft.jpg
 
For Michael Corleone, Coppola wanted (then mainly unknown) Al Pacino, but the studio wanted a name, a hit name like Robert Redford or Ryan O’Neal.

Michael was a good, strong role, and it attracted Martin Sheen, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and James Caan to audition for the role, but Coppola threatened to quit unless Pacino was given it. The studio eventually conceded on the agreement that James Caan was cast as Sonny Corleone.

Again the lure of box office names led to considering Paul Newman and Steve McQueen for the role of lawyer Tom Hagen, but that eventually went to Robert Duvall.
 
0033dogfat.jpg
 
Other stars who went up for roles include Anthony Perkins who auditioned for Sonny, while Mia Farrow auditioned for Kay. Meanwhile, Robert De Niro tried out for Michael, Sonny, Carlo, and Paulie. He eventually played the young Vito in The Godfather Part II.

This is Coppola’s original cast list, which contains many of the names who eventually appeared in the film.
 
00copgodfran.jpg
 

 
Via Retronaut, FuckyeahDonCorleone and Julia Segal

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
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