Saraf died on 26 December (12) at his home in San Francisco, California after a three-year battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease.
He worked as cinematographer, producer, editor and director on a score of Hollywood films, and was the post-production supervisor for 1975's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, starring Jack Nicholson.
In 1991, he scooped the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for In the Shadow of the Stars, which focused on the chorus members of the San Francisco Opera, rather than its big-name stars.
He is survived by his producing partner and second wife Allie Light as well as his children Michal, Ilana, Alexis, Charles, Julia and Peter Saraf, an Oscar-nominated producer who worked on movies including Adaptation, Little Miss Sunshine and Our Idiot Brother.
The man-child: a staple character for modern comedy and notoriously known for being played one-note. They get the laugh they get out.
But turning the lovable goofball or zoned-out knucklehead into something more is no easy task—which makes Paul Rudd's work in Our Idiot Brother that much more impressive. Rudd's Earth-friendly farmer Ned (the closest thing to a new Lebowski we've seen since the original) finds himself down on his luck after being entrapped by a police officer looking for pot. After a stint in jail he abandons his rural hippie commune for the big city to take shelter with his three sisters. Unfortunately for Ned his three siblings Liz (Emily Mortimer) Miranda (Elizabeth Banks) and Natalie (Zooey Deschanel) are as equally displaced and confused from the ebb and flow of life—albeit with severely different perspectives of the world.
Liz struggles to put her kid in private school and keep her marriage to documentary filmmaker/scumbag Dylan (Steve Coogan) intact. Miranda claws her way to the top of Vanity Fair's editorial staff and shuns her flirtatious neighbor (Adam Scott). Natalie stresses over her commitment issues with girlfriend Cindy (Rashida Jones) leaving little time or patience for Ned's bumbling antics. Sound like a lot of plot? While the manic lives of Ned's sisters click symbolically with his journey to get back on his feet it makes for one sporadic narrative.
Like a series of vignettes Our Idiot Brother never gels but when director Jesse Peretz finds a moment of unadulterated Nedisms to throw up on screen the movie hits big. Whether it's Ned teaching his nephew how to fight accidentally romancing his sister's interview subject or infiltrating his ex-girlfriend's house to steal his dog Willie Nelson the movie relies heavily on Ned's antics and its smart to do so. But thin throughlines for its supporting don't hold a candle to Rudd doing his thing.
And its a testament to Rudd's versatility—the man has done everything from Shakespeare and raunchy Judd Apatow comedies after all—that makes the movie watchable. Rudd gives dimensionality to his nincompoop character allowing darker emotions to creep in when necessary. There's a point in the film when Ned gives up fighting for his type-A sisters' affection and it's some of the best material Rudd's ever delivered. But like one of Ned's lit joints Our Idiot Brother can quickly fizzle out leading to plodding plot twists and sentimental conclusions. Mortimer Banks and Deschanel are great actresses—here they drift through their scenes and come out in the end changed. Because they have to.
Our Idiot Brother tries to take the Apatow model to the indie scene and comes through with so-so results. Only Rudd's able to find something to latch on to to build upon to warm up to. In an unexpected twist it's the man-child who seems the most grown up.
Deadline reports that actor Steve Coogan, who played a misguided film director in Tropic Thunder and a delusional drama teacher cum director in Hamlet 2, is joining the cast of My Idiot Brother as a "self-righteous documentary filmmaker." I don't know what it is about Steve Coogan, but he's somehow become the go-to guy to play directors with personality disorders. Coogan joins Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Emily Mortimer, Zooey Deschanel, and Rashida Jones in the film, "about family and the sacrifices it takes to deal with them."
My Idiot Brother is the latest indie comedy from director Jesse Peretz (The Ex) and a team of producers (Anthony Bregman, Peter Saraf, and Marc Turtletaub) whose credits include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Little Miss Sunshine - a fact that I hope speaks to the film's prospects. Novice writing team Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall penned the script.
Rudd will play an idealist (and titular idiot) who must deal with his overbearing mother when she crashes at the houses of his three ambitious sisters, presumably resulting in both comedy and catharsis for all involved.
Elizabeth Banks, Zooey Deschanel, Emily Mortimer and Rashida Jones will join Paul Rudd in My Idiot Brother, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The comedy is to be directed by Jesse Peretz and produced by Anthony Bregman's Likely Story and Big Beach's Peter Saraf and Marc Turtletaub.
The film centers on an idealist (Rudd) dealing with his overbearing mother who crashes at the homes of his three ambitious sisters and brings truth, happiness and a sunny disposition into their lives while also wreaking havoc.
Banks, Deschanel and Mortimer will play the sisters, says THR.
Evgenia Peretz and David Schisgall wrote the screenplay. The film is set to start shooting next month in New York.
The eminently likable Paul Rudd has signed on to play the lead idiot in My Idiot Brother, a new comedy from a team of producers (Anthony Bregman, Peter Saraf, and Marc Turtletaub) whose credits include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Little Miss Sunshine. Jesse Peretz will direct the movie, about an idealist (Rudd) who must deal with his overbearing mother when she crashes at the houses of his three ambitious sisters, and brings "truth, happiness, and a sunny disposition into their lives while also wreaking havoc."
Peretz's previous two movies, The Chateau and The Ex were duds - especially the latter, which starred Zach Braff and Jason Bateman, - so I'm a little surprised that Rudd, who has had a hugely successful and high-profile career of late, would sign on to this project. Then again, Rudd himself was hilarious when he worked with Peretz and co-star Romany Malco on the indie comedy The Chateau in 2001. The lead in smaller-budget My Idiot Brother could be a good change of pace for Rudd, who has appeared in seemingly every Judd Apatow or Apatow-inspired big-budget comedy of the last five years. Then again, indie street cred will mean little for Rudd if My Idiot Brother flops as badly as the 2006 The Ex.
Production of My Idiot Brother will begin this July, with a script written by Peretz's sister, Evgenia Peretz, and David Schisgall.
Rudd is also slated to appear alongside Steve Carrell in Jay Roach's comedy Dinner for Schmucks, which opens this July, and opposite Reese Witherspoon in James Brooks' How Do You Know this December.
WHAT IT'S ABOUT?
Rose Lorkowski (Amy Adams) once led a charmed life a high-school cheerleading captain in love with the team quarterback. Then life took a spiral downhill and now after 20 years Rose is a single mom working as a maid. Her sister Norah (Emily Blunt) is a slacker still living at home with their dad (Alan Arkin) a failed salesman who never met a get-rich-quick-scheme he didn’t like. When Rose needs to get her son into a good school she convinces her n’er do-well sister to go into business with her cleaning up after crime scenes. In finding success in doing these dirty jobs Rose and Norah not only turn their professional lives around they discover things about themselves and each other they never dreamed possible.
WHO'S IN IT?
This terrifically quirky and entertaining character comedy is led by two-time Oscar-nominee Adams. Here she etches a very recognizable character -- the small-time girl who achieved greatness in school only to make some bad personal choices and flame out after graduation. Mustering all the self-esteem she can find Adams’ Rose shines brightly despite all the obstacles standing in her way. She and Blunt as Norah are flat-out wonderful together. Blunt plays the lazy sister who recoils at the thought of her sibling’s new money-making plan but becomes fascinated by the things people leave behind after they die. It’s a keenly observed character and Blunt is subtle perfection. As their father Arkin is homespun understanding and endearing. Standouts also include Steve Zahn as Rose’s one-time high school boyfriend and now married lover and Clifton Collins Jr. as his rival for Rose’s affections.
As her first produced screenplay newbie writer Megan Holley gets it all right taking a quirky news item she heard about crime cleaning businesses and turning it into a rich and revealing character study revolving around two siblings with small-town hopes and dreams. Every character no matter how little screen time is beautifully written and acted.
The men in the film are so appealing and offbeat you wish there was more time devoted to them particularly the character played by Collins Jr. whose one arm handicap is never explained.
Using every tip she ever learned from a self-help book Rose stares at herself in the mirror after taking a shower and gives herself a wonderfully optimistic bit of advice.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN …
The opening scene begins and the guy goes into a store to buy a gun. It’s a bit jolting and sets this warm and engaging human drama off on the wrong note. Don’t worry it gets a LOT better from there.
The Hoover household is something of an insane asylum but nobody would ever knowingly hurt anyone except him- or herself. Richard (Greg Kinnear) is a deluded optimist and motivational speaker who only motivates himself. His wife Sheryl (Toni Collette) unwittingly reinforces his behavior by placating him and hiding her frustration. Sheryl’s dad (Alan Arkin) an acid-tongued old-timer who’s hooked on heroin and brother (Steve Carell) a gay suicidal Proust scholar who is the epitome of the “crazy uncle” cliché are also aboard the crazy train. Richard and Sheryl’s son Dwayne (Paul Dano) is a Nietzsche follower who only communicates with his family by writing. Then there’s the daughter Olive (Abigail Breslin) the family’s glue. All she wants is to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant so the Hoovers all load their baggage onto the family’s VW bus--which barely runs--and embark on a long bumpy ride to California.
If only there were a Best Ensemble Oscar Sunshine’s cast would…get snubbed for being too quirky but still. And by constantly upstaging one another the actors may have further hurt their chances. It is this no ego effect however that is central to the movie’s theme and success. While all the performances are nothing short of superb the three showstoppers are Collette Carell and Breslin. Aussie Collette continues her brilliantly understated career with this turn as a well-meaning Everymom who ultimately only wants to nurture her family. Carell perhaps the only one with a fighting chance at an Oscar nod shows us why he’s really a megastar: he can act with a complete about-face from his usual roles as evidence. (Lest we forget this is a guy who up until recently was a fake-news correspondent!) And Breslin (Signs) is simply an amazing young talent who provides all the wide-eyed caffeine the film needs and then some but does so with precious maturity. It’s as if she inspired the title. There’s a quirky behind-the-scenes story too: Sunshine’s directors--plural--are married to one another! Husband-and-wife duo Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are widely known music-video directors but not the type who would make their big-screen transition with something like say Torque; thankfully they chose substance over style. If not for these very gifted directors Sunshine could’ve come unhinged where so many pedestrian “dysfunctional family” indies do: by turning the characters each with a laundry list of defining quirks into caricatures. But thanks in equal parts to the direction acting and flawless script (from first-timer Michael Arndt) there is so much truth to each character. Most notable though is the linear nature of the story; these directors clearly don’t need swooping twists to convey their themes and profundity and that is rare and remarkable. The climax with which it all culminates can only be described as unforgettable.