As I expect every one of you is a Pixar fan (being otherwise is a sign of sociopathy), you might have noticed a similarity in the voices of characters like Toy Story’s Hamm, WALL-E’s John and Mack from Cars and its upcoming sequel, Cars 2. That’s because they, and six other characters spanning eleven movies and counting, are all voiced by John Ratzenberger. He might be the only performer to have held such consistency with this particular company, but he is not unique in being an actor who repeatedly works with the same people. In fact, we've come up with a list of nine other proverbial Ratzenberger's and their respective Pixar's:
MICHAEL CAINE & CHRISTOPHER NOLAN
Michael Caine is one of those rare immortal actors who is completely untouchable. I’ve never heard even the most contrarian of my hipster friends say that Michael Caine is overrated. As such, it’s no surprise why rising powerhouse Christopher Nolan has opted to stick him in his last four (and upcoming fifth) directing pursuits. Caine’s roles do not vary much between these films—he’s always wise, good-natured and the only person the much younger hero can trust. He’s always someplace between the movie and the audience. And he’s always got at least one scene-stealing quip at the protagonist’s expense. But can you really take issue with this repetitiveness? With a resume like The Prestige, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception and the unhealthily anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, how can you blame this dynamic duo for sticking with a formula that works?
STEVE BUSCEMI & THE COEN BROTHERS
The Coen Brothers. They’ve made some gold. They’ve made some silver. Throughout the 1990s, the Coen Brothers made five movies, and Steve Buscemi was in each one, as well as their short film part of a collaborative anthology, Paris Je T’Aime, in 2006. Buscemi had bit parts in Miller’s Crossing and The Hudsucker Proxy, a slightly larger one in Barton Fink, and was the second male lead to William H. Macy in Fargo. But, like everyone who went to college, I favor, of course, The Big Lebowski, and cherish every second Buscemi was onscreen as Theodore Donald Kirobatsos. He really tied the movie together.
J.K. SIMMONS & JASON REITMAN
If I may just start out by saying something entirely uncontroversial: J.K. Simmons is awesome. He is as typecast as you can get, and it seems that neither he nor we seem to have any problem with this. Jason Reitman: also awesome. Juno was awesome. I don’t care what you say, everyone I’ve ever met. I loved that movie.
Reitman is still relatively new to filmmaking. Aside from Juno, his feature resume up to this point consists only of Thank You For Smoking and Up in the Air. Coming out later this year is Young Adult: a drama about a young woman seeking romance after a divorce. This film, as well, will include Simmons among the cast (playing gruff-but-lovable, no doubt), and is written by Diablo Cody—who also wrote the screenplay for Juno. Which was awesome.
JOHNNY DEPP & TIM BURTON
Not all of these friendships produce good material. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, both individually and as a pair, have indeed given us some memorable pieces of cinema. Some of the better projects on which they’ve collaborated include Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Ed Wood. I’ll even throw Corpse Bride into the Pros list. But as time went on, they began making a career out of defaming timeless works of art with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. Also, Sweeney Todd happened. But they’re not done yet. Coming up for 2012 is Dark Shadows: a horroresque film directed by Burton, about the adventures of a vampire (played by Depp) who encounters a slew of other mythological creatures. Nice change of pace, guys.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON & QUENTIN TARANTINO
Samuel L. Jackson is an interesting case. He has appeared in four of six of the feature films over which Tarantino played director, but in two instances, he was never seen. Those two are Kill Bill: Volume 2, in which he played a bit part as Rufus, the pianist at the church wherein Uma Thurman’s character intended to be married, and who existed to the audience only as a silhouette with a cigarette (that’s a pretty good band name).
His second faceless performance was in Inglourious Basterds, when Jackson performed a single voice-over segment to introduce Til Schweiger’s character, Hugo Stiglitz. Aside from these, Jackson has played Ordelle Robbie in Tarantino’s oft forgotten Jackie Brown, and (do I even need to mention?) the career-defining Jules Winfield in Pulp Fiction. Jackson is also set to play a major role in Tarantino’s upcoming Django Unchained.
RUSSELL CROWE & RIDLEY SCOTT
Crowe and Scott pair together quite naturally. Both are responsible for some fantastic pieces of cinema, and neither would you be entirely comfortable inviting into your home. Since their initial collaboration on the 2000 Best Picture Gladiator, Crowe and Scott have paired up on four additional films—earning praise for American Gangster, dissatisfaction with Robin Hood, and… Did anyone see Body of Lies? Or the other one? I think it was about a house, or a garden…
OWEN WILSON (OR BILL MURRAY) & WES ANDERSON
Owen Wilson is undoubtedly more famous for his roles with the proverbial Frat Pack, especially frequent collaborator Ben Stiller. But the actor with the agonizingly mellow voice has appeared in almost every feature film directed by Wes Anderson, a college friend of Wilson’s, to date.
Anderson, a favorite director of all the people who think they're better than you, has created Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums, both of which Wilson co-wrote. In addition to these, Wilson had major roles in Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, and the director’s first animated movie, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Wilson also co-wrote Anderson’s 1998 film Rushmore, which (along with each of the above movies with the exception of Bottle Rocket) included Bill Murray as a member of the cast. Both Murray and Wilson are rumored to appear in Anderson’s next film, Moonrise Kingdom, about two parents’ efforts to recover their runaway daughter.
LEOBERT DeNIPRIO & MARTIN SCORSESE
For the better part of his career—and I mean that in every way—De Niro was Scorsese’s key player. Starting with 1973’s Mean Streets, the duo forged a working relationship that lasted twenty-two years. Their most recent collaboration was Casino, in 1995. However, Scorsese and De Niro have been in talks to develop a new project called The Irishman and, if you can believe (or stomach the idea of) this, a sequel to Taxi Driver.
For the time being, it seems as though Scorsese has replaced De Niro with a younger, sparkier, ruffled good-guy: Leonardo DiCaprio. Since 2002, DiCaprio has starred in four Scorsese films. Scorsese is even going as far as to cast his new muse, whom everyone I know seems to either love or hate, in a role sure to earn him a great sum of scrutiny: in a developing biopic called Sinatra, as the Chairman of the Board himself.
EVERYONE IN THE HAPPY MADISON UNIVERSE
Adam Sandler has a greater reputation of working with his friends than anyone in the business. His production company, Happy Madison, has developed fifteen films starring Sandler since its first film and half of its namesake, Happy Gilmore. Three of Sandler’s major starring roles, Billy Madison, The Waterboy, and The Wedding Singer, were produced independently from Happy Madison. Over the course of his career, Sandler has wavered from accusing his girlfriend of adultery with fictitious penguins. He has played romantic leads, PTSD-sufferers, and cancer survivors. One consistency throughout his years onscreen, however, is in his supporting casts. Sandler's confidants, rivals, and comic reliefs are often actors who have played similar roles in other Happy Madison films. Included in the recurring clan of Sandler's screen partners are Rob Schneider, Allen Covert, and--the guy you probably never noticed--Jonathan Loughran, who have each played behind the man in nine different films. Although none reach this level of dedication, other impressive numbers belong to Peter Dante with eight films, once again to Steve Buscemi, with six (this is clearly a loyal guy), to Kevin Nealon with five, and to Henry Winkler and Kevin James, with four movies each. And these are just the Sandler-starring films. There are dozens of other Happy Madison Productions that include these and other recurring actors.
Alex (Gabe Nevins) is a disaffected teenager whose entire life revolves around skateboarding especially since his parents have split up. The high schooler is not even interested in his pretty girlfriend (Taylor Momsen) despite her willingness to lose her virginity to him. No it is all about skateboarding for Alex. He and his buddy Jared venture into a tough skateboard park known as Paranoid Park a place where much older guys are hanging out. As the story unfolds Alex returns to the park over and over again fulfilling his fascination with riding the concrete bunkers. On one fateful night Alex and an older boarder are involved in the accidental killing of a security guard in the railway yards that adjoin Paranoid Park. Will the teenager come forward and admit what happened especially when the police come to his school and question all the kids who ride? Or will he just devolve into a paranoid loner? “Acting” is stretching what Gabe Nevins is a disaffected teenager whose entire life revolves around skateboarding especially since his parents have split up. The high schooler is not even interested and the other “actors” in Paranoid Park are actually doing. Virtually everyone involved including Jake Miller Lauren McKinney Winfield Jackson Joe Schweitzer and John Michael Burrowes are all amateurs with Paranoid Park being their debut film--and it shows. The acting is so stilted self-conscious and downright bad that it is almost laughable--except for that fact that there is nothing at all funny about this film that belongs more on YouTube not on the big screen. Perhaps that is writer/director Gus van Sant’s intent but watching it go on and on is downright painful. Nevins stutters stammers and grunts his way through the film but at least he looks good doing it his only saving grace. The only performance worth paying attention to is 14-year-old Taylor Momsen’s (Cindy-Lou Who in How the Grinch Stole Christmas). She plays Alex’s self-involved girlfriend and makes a standout impression. Gus van Sant has made some terrific movies in his 25-year career. Think Good Will Hunting (which got him a Best Director Oscar nomination) To Die For Drugstore Cowboy. But he’s made some unwatchable ones as well--My Own Private Idaho and the incredibly ill-conceived remake of Psycho--and Paranoid Park falls squarely into that latter category. Using Super 8 and videotape footage mixed in with 35mm film Van Sant has created a film that looks like it was shot by the same teenagers that inhabit it right down to jiggly sequences out-of-focus shots and bad audio. The idea seems to be to deliver an experience that is the equivalent of actually riding a skateboard and in that he succeeds. But in the experience of seeing a movie it is simply annoying and ultimately incredibly boring to watch. Someone apparently likes this movie however as it won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. You’ll only like it if watching a withdrawn teenage boy aimlessly riding a skateboard while getting progressively more uncommunicative is your idea of fun.
Top Story: Murphy Brown's Pastorelli Dies
Robert Pastorelli, best known for playing the eclectic housepainter Eldin on Murphy Brown, was found dead in his Hollywood Hills home Monday in what the coroner's office said may have been a drug overdose, The Associated Press reports. He was 49. Coroner's office Lt. Ed Winter said Pastorelli's body was found by his assistant in a bathroom and that an autopsy was planned. "It's a possible accidental death," Winter said, adding, "There was drug paraphernalia found." Pastorelli finished work with John Travolta last month on the movie Be Cool, the sequel to the comedy Get Shorty. "I am still unable to grasp this tragic news," Be Cool director F. Gary Gray told AP. "Robert was a true professional and a total delight to work with. My heart goes out to his family, and he will be sorely missed." Pastorelli also had his share of tragedy in recent years. In 1999, his girlfriend, Charemon Jonovich, 25, was found fatally shot and her death was investigated by police as an accident. The couple have a daughter.
Seinfeld Puts Show on Hold for Son
Jerry Seinfeld postponed his sold-out show in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Saturday to be with his 1-year-old son, who had been hospitalized after a fall, The Associated Press reports. Seinfeld flew to New York Friday to be with his family, according to the statement by his publicist. "Julian is at home and is doing very well," the statement said. "Jerry's tour will continue this weekend as scheduled." The Spartanburg show has been rescheduled for Nov. 13.
Hung "Bangs" With Record Deal
Who says you can only have 15 minutes of fame? American Idol reject William Hung, known for his own special rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs," has certainly proven that point, snagging a record deal with music label Koch Records, Reuters reports. Koch said Hung's album, tentatively titled The True Idol, will be released April 6, and cable channel Fuse Music Network said it would air Hung's "She Bangs" music video.
Simpson Accused of Stealing Satellite Signals
Satellite television provider DirecTV filed a civil suit against O.J. Simpson, claiming the former football player pirated TV signals, CourtTV.com reports. The allegations stem from a police search conducted at Simpson's suburban Miami home on Dec. 4, 2001, as part of an ongoing investigation into a money-laundering and narcotics ring, as well as the sale of pirated, satellite TV decoder equipment. CourtTV.com reports during the raid, police seized equipment from Simpson's home that DirecTV claims were "bootloaders," devices used to unscramble the company's satellite signals. No charges have yet been filed against Simpson in connection with the search.
Carey, Butler Upset With Comic Reality Show
Drew Carey and Brett Butler voiced their objections over NBC's new reality show The Last Comic Standing, in which the two comedians served as talent judges, Reuters reports. Carey and Butler claim NBC execs and producers of the show overruled their votes for the 10 aspiring comics most worthy of advancing to the televised competition set to air this summer. "I thought it was crooked and dishonest," Carey told the Hollywood Reporter. Butler, the former star of Grace Under Fire, posted a message on her Web site saying they were "both surprised and disappointed at the results and…we had NOTHING to do with them." NBC said it was up to network brass and producers to decide who made the cut, weighing the opinions of the celebrity panel as just one factor. An NBC spokeswoman told Reuters a disclaimer to that effect airs as part of the show's credits.
Stewart Thanks Supporters
In her first comments since being convicted in her suspicious stock trading case, Martha Stewart showed gratitude toward her fans for supporting her through her ordeal. After visiting the parole office for the first time, Reuters reports, Stewart gave thanks outside the Manhattan courthouse. "I want to thank my readers, my viewers and the Internet users," Stewart told a throng of reporters. "I just want to thank everyone for their support." Shares of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. also fell nearly 8 percent Monday, following a decline of more than 22 percent on Friday when she was found guilty of one count of conspiracy, two counts of making false statements and one count of obstruction of agency proceedings, Reuters reports. Stewart's sentencing is scheduled for June 17.
Sting, Lennox To Tour Together
Apparently Sting, who lost the Best Song Oscar this year to singer Annie Lennox, has no hard feelings--the two plan to tour together this summer. The Sacred Love tour will kick off June 27 in Philadelphia and will end in Canada Oct. 12. In an exclusive joint phone interview with the AP on Friday, Lennox and Sting said they hadn't decided on how the tour will develop, or whether they'll sing together--but said they're happy to be performing on the same show. "I think that camaraderie and friendship is actually essential and it has to run from the bottom to the top," Lennox said.
Actor Winfield Dies
Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated actor Paul Winfield, 62, died Sunday in Los Angeles of a heart attack, AP reports. Winfield was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar in 1972 for his role as a sharecropper in Sounder and was known for his work on such television shows as the 1968 comedy series Julia, and later Touched by an Angel and Picket Fences, for which he won an Emmy.
Hollywood's Golden Age Star Dies
Actress Frances Dee, widow of Western movie hero Joel McCrea and one of the last stars from Hollywood's Golden Age, co-starring with the likes of Gary Cooper, Bette Davis, Frederic March, Katharine Hepburn
From the creators of the TNT miniseries Gettysburg including executive producer Ted Turner and writer/director Ronald F. Maxwell Gods chronicles the Civil War from its beginnings when the South rises up. Confederate General Robert E. Lee (Robert Duvall) a distinguished military man but also a loyal native Virginian chooses to fight for his home rather than his country while Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (Stephen Lang) a devoutly religious man becomes Lee's most trusted lieutenant. On the other side we have Colonel Joshua Chamberlain (Jeff Daniels) a professor from Maine who ends up one of the Union's finest military leaders. In between there are glimpses of the wives and families left behind. Stories of this magnitude with their dramatic bloody battles and tragic endings usually leave you numb or crying for those lives lost and destroyed. Instead Gods and Generals holds no resonance whatsoever meticulously plotting out the details and making this decisive moment in American history interminable at three and a half hours. It's like wading through a textbook--or worse watching Civil War fanatics carefully reenact the famous battle scenes on the very ground they were fought over and over again--while the players stand around quoting long-winded verse from the Bible or Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Blech.
The actors in Gods and Generals must have honestly thought they were making something important when they signed up. Main players Lang (who played Major Gen. George Pickett in Gettysburg) and Daniels (who reprises his Gettysburg role as Chamberlain) have their moments but after hearing them recite one speech after another especially Lang's Jackson who says more prayers to God than anything else you start to wonder if they ever realized they made a mistake. (Or have we for sitting through it?) One of the more superfluous scenes is when Jackson and his black cook Jim played by Frankie Faison are standing outside in the freezing cold night for about 15 minutes both looking up at the stars and praying to God. It seems like the actors are trying to make such sermonizing poignant meaningful but all this pontification simply drags the movie further down. These speeches aren't just Lang's and Daniels' territory--Mira Sorvino as Chamberlain's wife and Kali Rocha as Jackson's wife get their own personal moments in the sun too. If you count the cast of thousands each with their own things to say well you get the point. Thankfully Duvall who is the only good thing about the movie gets to keep the talking to a minimum.
If you want to see a Civil War melodrama at its best where watching the heroes race through a sacked city makes you hold your breath and witnessing horrific hospital scenes makes you squirm then watch Gone With the Wind. If you want gut-wrenching Civil War battles or more understanding of how slaves truly felt then watch Glory. If you want a heartening history lesson about the Civil War that not only teaches you about the era's political machinations but also shares the insights and thoughts of the men and women who experienced it then watch Ken Burns' documentary series The Civil War. Gods and Generals offers none of that in its dry textbook version of the Civil War which uses the same shots are used over and over again (how many times does the camera pan up to the night sky or show the panoramic view of Fredericksburg Virginia? I lost count) features more actors waxing prophetic than real drama and actually makes you yawn during what should be intense battle scenes.
One minute you're a nondescript nobody; the minute after that, you're the next Anakin Skywalker. And the minute after that one, you're Topic No. 1 for geekazoid fan boys everywhere. Hayden Christensen -- the same nobody who last week was rumored to be George Lucas' pick to play the pubescent Anakin Skywalker in "Star Wars: Episode II" -- is indeed going to do just that, according to the whole wide world with the exception of, hmmm, Lucasfilm and the actor's reps.
Despite all the official hush-hush, the Christensen appointment is viewed as a done deal. And obsessive-compulsive Jedi fans are furiously typing out their reactions on various Hayden Christensen and "Star Wars"-related Internet news groups and Web sites. Here's a sampling of what they're saying:
The supportive: "Hayden is in final negotiations to play Anakin Skywalker in the next 'Star Wars' installment. I have to say good choice!"
The inquisitive: "Question: Do you really believe this 'Hayden' person is capable of pulling off a part like that? I've never heard of him, and granted, that may be the point (fresh new face-not a real tean [sic] idol), but he has a pretty face and I can't see a pretty-boy playing someone dark and evil. It won't hook me...."
The embittered: "This guy sucks. Leo [DiCaprio] should have been cast as Anakin, long live leo [sic] the real Anakin Skywalker."
And the skeptical: "This guy looks nothing like Jack Lloyd [in 'Episode I']. I hope he can act. PS If this is true Lucas has lost it."
Natalie Portman The word is Christensen inked the deal for the role last Thursday, the very day his rumored appointment was brought to light by Daily Variety columnist Michael Fleming. Further word is that the Christensen confirmation is being kept under wraps by the Lucas folks until a full-scale P.R. assault (including a Time magazine cover spread) can be launched. (No word from Time yet on the reputed in-the-works piece.) The 19-year-old Christensen is heretofore best known (if he is best known) for playing the resident bad boy with a penchant for drugs and petty crimes in the Fox Family Channel series "Higher Ground." Apparently, Lucas became aware of the actor's hitherto non-existence through a screener tape of the show sent by the actor's rep a few weeks back. And the decision reportedly was finalized after Christensen nailed the now-legendary digital screen test opposite "Episode II" leading lady Natalie Portman last month.
In anticipation of a surge of sudden interests in everything Hayden Christensen, we've scoured the Internet Movie Database (www.us.imdb.com) and excavated the actor's working history:
"Trapped in a Purple Haze" (2000) (TV) -- Orin Krieg "Higher Ground" (2000) (TV Series) -- Scott Barringer "Freefall" (1999) (TV) -- Patrick "No Greater Love" (1996) (TV) -- Teddy Winfield "Harrison Bergeron" (1995) (TV) -- Eric "In the Mouth of Madness" (1995) -- Paper Boy "Love and Betrayal: The Mia Farrow Story" (1995) (TV) -- Fletcher #2 "Street Law" (1995) -- Young John Ryan "Macht der Leidenschaft" (or "Family Passions") (1994) (TV Series) -- Skip McDeere