A TV and movie writer and producer, Berg died on Tuesday (01Sep09).
Born in New York in 1922, he arrived in Hollywood in the early 1940s and became a dialogue coach for movie cowboy Roy Rogers.
But writing was his first love and many of his early scripts were turned into dramas for the Kraft Television Theatre and Robert Montgomery Presents series in the U.S.
By the late 1950s, Berg was an in-demand writer in Tinseltown and enjoyed careers at leading studios MGM, 20th Century Fox and Universal, where he created detective drama Johnny Staccato starring John Cassavetes.
He moved into TV production in the 1960s at Universal and was the man behind shows like Checkmate and Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre, which offered aspiring writers the chance to get their original teleplays aired.
By the end of the 1960s, Berg was producing films like House of Cards and Counterpoint and TV movies and mini-series such as Wallenberg,The Martian Chronicles and Elmore Leonard's Pronto.
A former president of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Berg was presented with the American Film Institute's Charles Fries Producer of the Year Award in 2000.
Berg also succeeded as a father - his sons are A. Scott Berg, who is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author; Jeff, who is chairman of International Creative Management (ICM) talent agency; Tony, a record producer and executive; and Rick, a manager and producer.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.