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‘Say hello to my little friend’: Behind-the-scenes of ‘Scarface’
08:55 am


Al Pacino
Oliver Stone
Brian De Palma

Actor Paul Muni so immersed himself in his film roles that he often continued to remain in character long after a scene had been shot. Director Howard Hawks noticed this when Muni played notorious gangster Antonio “Tony” Camonte in the original version of Scarface in 1932. It was said that Muni became possessed by the character and his whole demeanour changed—in particular his eyes seemed utterly deranged. Al Pacino had heard the stories of Muni’s great acting talent and in the early 1980s he attended a screening of Scarface at the Tiffany Theater in Los Angeles. The film and Muni’s performance blew him away, and Pacino contacted his agent, producer Martin Bregman, to suggest they collaborate on a remake of the movie.

Pacino had an idea of keeping the film in period 1930s, but after discussions with first choice director Sidney Lumet it was decided to set the film in the present day and to tell the story of a Cuban exile, Tony Montana, and his rise and fall as a violent drug lord. Lumet wanted to use the film as a political attack on the US government’s involvement in South America, and the reasons for the massive influx of cocaine into the country. Bregman disagreed and Lumet quit the project. Brian De Palma was then chosen to direct the film with Oliver Stone as screenwriter. At that time, Stone was apparently struggling with his own cocaine problems, and chose to write the screenplay in Paris, later explaining:

I don’t think cocaine helps writing. It’s very destructive to the brain cells.

Tell us something we don’t know Oliver Stoned! Solely fixed on writing, Stone delivered a hefty three-hour movie script, which De Palma turned into one of cinema’s greatest gangster movies. When the film was released, not everyone agreed as the majority of movie critics denounced Scarface as being a morally bankrupt, overblown B-movie, and damned the film for its excessive bad language (the word “fuck” was used 226 times) and its gratuitous violence. However, most of this violence, in particular the notorious chainsaw scene, is suggested rather than seen, and while most critics headed for the exits, the likes of Roger Ebert and Vincent Canby praised the film.

The negative reviews had little effect on the audiences and the film made a profit. Over the years, the “ayes” were proven right, as in 2008 Scarface was included by the American Film Institute as one of the ten greatest gangster movies ever made.
Director Brian De Palma prepares to shoot a scene with Al Pacino as Tony Montana.
De Palma with cinematographer John A. Alonzo.
De Palma, Alonzo and Pacino setting up shot.
Though set in Miami most of the movie was filmed in Los Angeles, as the Miami Tourist Board feared the depiction of the underworld of drugs and gangsters would deter tourists from visiting the city.
Pacino as Montana pulls the trigger.
More from Tony Montana after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
‘Seizure’: Oliver Stone’s disowned directing debut

Although it seems as if he’d like to do everything he can to disown it and pretend that it doesn’t exist, Oliver Stone’s 1974 directing debut, the low-budget horror film Seizure, is nothing to be ashamed of. It may not be the best film he’s ever made, but it’s certainly not the worst either (U-Turn anyone?).

In terms of cult movie catnip, Seizure boasts stars like Jonathan Frid (“Barnabas Collins” from TV’s Dark Shadows), B-movie queen Mary Woronov, Bond girl Martine Beswick and Hervé Villechaize, the dwarf actor who played “Tattoo” on Fantasy Island (Villechaize, a well-known actor in NYC experimental theater circles, was Stone’s roommate at the time). Frid plays a horror writer who is terrorized by his own fictional creations. The surreal plot that is loosely based on Ingmar Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf.

Here’s what the VHS cover looked like:

Mary Woronov claims that one of the film’s producers was gangster Michael Thevis, who anonymously bankrolled the film to launder money while he was under investigation by the FBI, something also mentioned on IMDB.

Seizure has never come out on DVD, but in the early 80s, it was easy to find on VHS for $2.99. According to Mary Woronov, Stone bought the rights to the film and it would appear that he intends to keep sitting on it. It’s easy enough to find, of course, if you know where to look. Ahem.


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Oliver Stone’s epic re-imagining of ‘JFK’ and ‘The Doors’: ‘Break On Through With JFK’
02:08 pm


The Doors
Oliver Stone
Dana Gould

I hated Oliver Stone’s The Doors but found JFK quite thrilling. So this radical new concept from Stone could only be an improvement on his woeful take on Jim Morrison.

When will this be available on Blu-ray? I can hardly wait. Could a mash-up of Platoon and Natural Born Killers be in the pipeline? Mickey and Mallory go to My Lai.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
Obama has 88% chance of winning election according to final Nate Silver forecast before vote

Via FiveThirtyEight

If the 2012 election went on for even one more day than scheduled, I seriously think that I would just spontaneously burst into flames. Wednesday can’t come fast enough. I’m sure many of you reading this feel the same way. Probably the vast majority of Americans, but not just Americans, are sick of hearing about it.

So it looks like Obama is going to win in a squeaker. All everyone has to do now is vote.

Me? I keep getting asked “Why haven’t you written any of your political rants lately?” Like I say, I’m bored to death of the whole election topic, but in brief, if Obama wins a second term, I would certainly prefer that. However, if by whatever kind of electoral chicanery Mitt Romney would “win,” well, I think Oliver Stone put it very succinctly to Buzzfeed’s Michael Hastings:

“I guess if I was another kind of personality, I would say I’d vote for Romney because it’ll wreck it faster. And you know, we’re going to go down, but it’s going to be faster, and maybe that’s better. Maybe we should just bankrupt the whole fucking thing.”

I’m a fairly dyed in the wool Marxist, myself, and so I tend to see history and current events through that sort of lens. Even the worst news is still (kinda) good news when you look at things that way…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to vote for Obama. I’m one of those kinds of people who would spend ten hours waiting in line to vote, too—and I will very happily be casting a ballot for my congresswoman here in Los Angeles, Rep. Karen Bass—but I am largely indifferent to him. Obama could have taken on the banks, he didn’t. His record on civil liberties is not great, but he’s got one thing that sees the Democrat ticket topper get my vote every time:

He’s not a fucking Republican.

Nuff said.

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Oliver Stone does not like Obama

Next week sees the publication of Oliver Stone’s years in the making book, The Untold History of the United States (co-written with American University historian Peter Kuznick). The volume aims to puts forth a, uh, Stoned, I guess, counter interpretation of American history of the past century. Gallery Books is putting out the hefty, 618-page tome that apparently slams Democrats every bit as it rips Republicans.

Politico writes:

“The country Obama inherited was indeed in shambles, but Obama took a bad situation and, in certain ways, made it worse,” Stone and Kuznick wrote. “…[R]ather than repudiating the policies of Bush and his predecessors, Obama has perpetuated them.”

Obama’s election “felt like a kind of expiation for the sins of a nation whose reputation had been sullied, as we have shown throughout this book, by racism, imperialism, militarism, nuclearism, environmental degradation and unbridled avarice,” they wrote.

But on subjects from Wall Street reform to health care to Afghanistan, Stone and Kuznick rip Obama for breaking campaign promises and continuing the policies of President George W. Bush — who’s roundly condemned throughout the book. In some instances, they write, Obama went further than Bush’s White House toward anti-progressive policies.

Obama is basically Bush-lite. Anyone not blinded by partisanship can see that. You thought you were getting FDR, but you got a guy to the right of Nixon on both economics and civil liberties! It shouldn’t be a controversial thing to say out loud, but other than Daniel Ellsberg, actor John Cusack and Oliver Stone, few on the Left are saying it.

This, however, is just waggish conjecture:

“Obama asserted presidential power in ways that must have made Dick Cheney jealous,” they wrote.

Well, I laughed.

An accompanying 12-hour documentary series, Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, will air on Showtime beginning November 12th. I can’t wait to see it. One of my best friends, composer Adam Peters, scored the series, and I myself worked on conceptualizing a similar project with Stone’s Ixtlan production company (note Carlos Castaneda reference there) back in 1994 that had the working title “History Inside Out.” (Without going into the how or why of it here, this project didn’t happen, but Disinformation did, a year later). Stone has wanted to do something like this for a long time, obviously—and he’s a brilliant guy, passionate about history—so I fully expect this to be Stone at his most inspired. Adam told me it was really amazing.

Politico summarized some of the harsher Obama critiques from Stone and Kuznick’s book:

On Wall Street reform: “The biggest winner under Obama was Wall Street.”

On health care: “Obama’s failure to articulate a progressive vision was also apparent in the fight over health reform, which was to have been his signature initiative…Obama’s health care reform effort, marked by the inability to even refute Republican charges of death panels, was so unpopular that it became an albatross around the necks of Democrats in the 2010 election.”

On a troop surge in Afghanistan: “When it finally came down to decision time, Obama didn’t have the courage or integrity of a post-Cuban Missile Crisis John F. Kennedy. He settled on a 30,000-troop increase, giving the military leaders almost everything they wanted and more than they expected.”

On civil liberties: “Among the greatest disappointments to his followers was Obama’s refusal to roll back the expanding national security state that so egregiously encroached on American civil liberties.”

On ‘imperialism’: “[He] was not offering a decisive break with over a century of imperial conquest. His was a centrist approach to better managing the American empire rather than advancing a positive role for the United States in a rapidly evolving world.”

On defense spending: “While cutting defense spending, pulling combat forces out of Iraq and beginning the drawdown in Afghanistan represented a welcome retreat from they hypermilitarism of the Bush-Cheney years, they did not represent the sharp and definitive break with empire that the world needed to see from the United States.”


Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Gordon Gekko: A Man for the Ages
03:01 pm


Oliver Stone
Gordon Gekko
Wall Street 2


Wall Street villain Gordon Gekko is planned to return in a new sequel, entitled, er, “Wall Street 2” and set to follow Gekko as he is released from prison just in time to get involved in the 2008 collapse of Lehman Brothers. Hopefully he’ll get a new cell phone. Unfortunately, he’s also getting a new sidekick… Shia LaBeouf. Groan.

Wall Street is, in my opinion, Oliver Stone’s best movie, and a critical text of American literature and film. Watch it back to back with “American Psycho” to understand the sociopathic mentality that drives the axle of America’s wheel. Screenwriter Stanley Weiser took an incredibly complex world and made it seem storybook-simple; probably the kind of thing Americans need now to make sense of the “what the f—- just happened??” factor.

One thing that struck me, in reading about the original Wall Street, was multiple quotes from Stanley Weiser saying how many people had approached him over the years telling him that Gordon Gekko had inspired them to go into investment trading. Having known a few real-life Gekkos, and also more than a few people (of the younger generation) who took Patrick Bateman from “American Psycho” as their own personal life paragon, it seems that, well, people love bad guys… and also seem incapable of understanding satire.

Weiser says:

Stanley Weiser, screenwriter of the original film, has complained that real-life traders looked on Gekko as more of a hero than a villain.

“After so many encounters with Gekko admirers or wannabes I wish I could go back and rewrite the greed line to this: ‘Greed is good. But I’ve never seen a Brinks truck pull up to a cemetery,’” he said last year.

I wonder how many of the people who f’ed the country this time around were living out their own private Oliver Stone fantasy?

(Telegraph: Wall Street 2: Michael Douglas and Oliver Stone reunite for sequel)

Posted by Jason Louv | Leave a comment
Oliver Stone Goes South Of The Border
01:08 am


Oliver Stone
Hugo Chavez
South of the Border

The trailer for Oliver Stone‘s new documentary on Hugo Chavez, South of the Border, just popped up on YouTube.  I see Stone co-wrote it with Tariq Ali, the New Left Review editor (and inspiration for the Stones’ Street Fighting Man), so expect the usual shitstorm of controversy.  And who’s that behind the camera?  How nice—Gimme Shelter‘s Albert Maysles

In the LAT: Oliver Stone Heads “South Of The Border” To Chat Up Chavez And Others

Posted by Bradley Novicoff | Leave a comment