Funnyman-turned-moviemaker Rob Reiner has opened up about his own struggle with depression following the death of his longtime friend Robin Williams. The This Is Spinal Tap director was told the news of Williams' death from an apparent suicide this week (beg11Aug14) by the funnyman's Good Will Hunting co-star Minnie Driver on the set of TV show About a Boy.
Williams had been struggling with depression prior to his passing, and was also dealing with a Parkinson's disease diagnosis, and the tragedy has now prompted Reiner to go public with his own mental health issues.
In an interview on Politicking With Larry King, Reiner says, "It (Williams' death) hit me in a very, very deep level (sic). I have depression. I've wrestled with it my whole life... I know how difficult a struggle that is for somebody, and how difficult it was for Robin, and it's so upsetting to hear somebody who fought as hard as he did all these years to try to manage it, had to succumb to it."
Reiner goes on to insist Williams' death is especially tragic because there are so many ways depression can now be controlled.
He adds, "You can manage it, and you can live with it."
British comedian Ricky Gervais will revisit his famous The Office character David Brent for a new film spoof. The funnyman, the star and co-creator of the original The Office TV series, reprised his role as the cringeworthy manager last year (13) for a string of sold-out stage shows with his fake band Foregone Conclusion.
He recently revealed he had been filming behind-the-scenes footage at various gigs across the U.K. in the hopes of transforming the footage into a movie in the style of iconic rock parody This Is Spinal Tap - and now Gervais has signed a deal with BBC Films to make the project happen.
Life on the Road will feature interviews with Brent over a decade after The Office ended in 2003 as he attempts to reinvent himself as a rock star.
A press release from BBC executives reads: "We find out what Brent is doing now and what's happened in the last 15 years since his redundancy from his beloved (paper company) Wernham Hogg.
"He's a sales rep now, selling cleaning products up and down the country, but has never really given up on his dream of being a rock star."
The actor has since taken to his Twitter.com account to clear up any confusion about the mockumentary, writing, "Just to be clear, I am not making an 'Office' movie. I'm doing a documentary film about David Brent trying to be rock star. Just Sayin (sic)".
The film is due to go into production next year (15).
Gervais' David Brent character first appeared onscreen in the U.K. in 2001 when the first season of The Office aired.
Director Simon West is using crowdfunding for his next movie so he can avoid drawn-out talks with film studio bosses. The Expendables 2 filmmaker is using crowdfunding site Syndicateroom.com in a bid to raise $3 million (£1.8 million) for his upcoming action comedy Salty, based on the novel by Mark Haskell Smith.
Every backer of the project will become a shareholder who can make money if the movie turns a profit. Investors who donate more than $153,000 (£90,000) will be offered a minor role and those handing over more than $68,000 (£40,000) will get to meet the cast on set.
West decided to break away from film studio funding so he could have more control over the movie.
He says, "Salty is the type of film I've wanted to make for years - a tantalising cocktail of anarchic comedy, action and exotic locations. With a script that's Spinal Tap meets The Hangover, I plan to shoot Salty in a style packed with energy, fun and glamour.
"During my two decades in the movie business I've funded films in a variety of ways, but for this one I was determined to break away from the big budget, big studio model. With the studios' deep pockets comes bureaucracy that's inefficient, expensive and which can stifle creativity.
"Salty will be different - and not just because it's the first time smaller investors have been able to buy into a major film's potential returns. As it's a privately funded film, my production team and I will keep creative control while keeping costs down, while also giving free rein to the very best the cast and crew have to offer."
West also directed Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Con Air.
"When it first came out, I showed it to my husband and my husband thought it was a documentary!" Sharon Osbourne reveals Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy was fooled by 1984 rock spoof movie This Is Spinal Tap.
The stars of comedy rock act Spinal Tap made a secret pilgrimage to the real Stonehenge site after their performance at Britain's Glastonbury Festival. The iconic stone circle in Wiltshire, England is part of the spoof band's folklore due to its inclusion in 1984 movie This Is Spinal Tap.
In the film, the group orders a giant replica of Stonehenge to be used on stage, only to discover the model is only 18 inches high instead of the intended 18 feet, and the gag was revived in many of the group's live shows.
Harry Shearer, who plays bassist Derek Smalls, now admits they all came face-to-face with the real thing after their performance at the Glastonbury Festival in England in 2009. He tells Britain's The Guardian newspaper, "The most memorable thing (about the Glastonbury show) was driving back to London afterwards. It was 6.30pm, someone saw this little thing to the left of the motorway and went: 'Look, there's Stonehenge.' I went: 'Come on, that's a replica where a petrol station should be.' But of course, it's the real one. So at 6.45pm, we drove in and they (site bosses) said 'No, we're closing at seven. Christopher (Guest) and I are fairly shy but our keyboard player, God bless him, is a fairly forward lad so he just walked up and said: 'You've gotta let these guys in, they put this place on the map.'
"The gates duly opened. So that goes down as my favourite ever solstice."
NBC Universal Media/Getty Images
Over the almost 50 years of Saturday Night Live, there have been plenty of seasons that were good (more than most casual observers would like to admit) and bad (some spectacularly so). There was, though, only one 1984: quite possibly the strangest season in the history of the show.
With Eddie Murphy completely gone to pursue his superstar movie career and the second most recognizable cast member, Joe Piscopo, having worn out his welcome after the 1983 - '84 season, executive producer Dick Ebersol was left without a star. The remaining cast members, including a young Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Jim Belushi, had never quite fit in with the show and were largely dissatisfied with the way that they had been treated. Many people figured that Murphy leaving would finally signal the death knell for SNL.
Righting a Wrong
Instead of trying to develop another young talent like Murphy, Ebersol turned to more established comedians, including one who had almost been part of the original SNL cast. By 1984, Billy Crystal was already a well known entertainer after his stint on the sitcom Soap and his numerous talk show appearances where he imitated celebrities like boxer Mohammed Ali, but in 1974 Crystal had been cut from the original Not Ready for Prime Time Players on the eve of the show's debut. Why that happened depends largely on who tells the story, but whatever the case, when Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, and Dan Aykroyd rocketed to fame, Crystal wasn’t with them. Nor was he offered the spot that went to Bill Murray when Chase left after the first season. Ten years later, Crystal was finally being given the chance to right what he considered a wrong.
The Rest of the Gang
Along with Crystal, Ebersol brought in Martin Short, who had already been a cast member of Canada's SCTV (which launched the careers of John Candy, Rick Moranis, and Catherine O'Hara), as well as Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer, fresh off their success in This Is Spinal Tap. Rich Hall, who had been part of an ensemble HBO comedy show called Not Necessarily the News, and Pamela Stephenson, who had been on the British precursor (Not the Nine O'clock News) of Hall's HBO show rounded out the new cast members. It was an odd turn of events considering that Crystal hosted SNL twice the season before he joined the cast, while Guest and Shearer had made a guest appearance as part of Spinal Tap.
Crystal, Short, and Guest wasted little time putting their stamp on the creative vacuum that they walked into. Ebersol was by all accounts a very good network executive, but he was not a comedian and didn’t come from a creative background. By the season opener, Crystal was already doing his Fernando Lamas impression ("You look mah-velous!") and Short had brought his Ed Grimley character with him from SCTV. By the third show, Crystal and Guest had worked up a breakout routine with their characters Willie and Frankie, who would continuously one-up each other with pain-inducing practices ("I hate it when that happens"). The show never missed a chance to exploit the new popular sketches — a hallmark of the Ebersol era — with Crystal doing his Fernando so frequently that the character almost deserved a separate credit in the opening theme.
More than any season before or since, the show relied on pre-taped segments, with Guest, Shearer, and Short preferring to work that way. While it went against the grain of SNL, some of the short films, particularly Shearer and Short playing aspiring male synchronized swimmers and Guest and Crystal portraying aged Negro League baseball stars were as good as anything that the show had produced.
Perhaps the best remembered episode of the season is the one hosted by wrestler Hulk Hogan and Mr. T to promote the first Wrestlemania. In the most famous segment, the pair appears with Crystal on his "Fernando Hideaway" sketch and can't keep a straight face. While Murphy returned to host and the Beatles' Ringo Starr took a turn, the other hosts included figures like Jesse Jackson, Howard Cosell, and Bob Uecker. The first show of the season didn't even have a host.
Additionally, there was little continuity with the show's fake news segment — called "Saturday Night News" instead of "Weekend Update" — with the show's host sometimes doing the anchoring and real newscaster Edwin Newman sitting in once before Guest finally took over midway through the season.
In stark contrast to the hosts, the seasons musical guests were a who's who of mid-80s pop, with acts like The Thompson Twins, Billy Ocean, Bryan Adams, and super-groups The Honey Drippers (featuring Robert Plant), and Power Station (featuring Robert Palmer) all making appearances.
When an industry-wide writers' strike halted production in early March 1985, the show didn’t return from the forced hiatus. The abbreviated season ended after just 17 episodes. NBC was unhappy with spiraling production costs and Ebersol was unhappy with his creative staff. Shearer had quit the show in January citing creative differences ("I was creative and they were different," he said later). Short and Guest didn't want to keep doing a live show. Louis-Dreyfus and Belushi (along with fellow holdover Mary Gross) had been used so little throughout the season that they wanted out. Crystal, enjoying the biggest success of his career, was seemingly the only one who wanted it to continue.
Ebersol demanded a retooling, wanting to change the format to a completely taped show and with possibly a fixed rotation of guest hosts (his ideas for the rotation included Piscopo and David Letterman). Instead, NBC briefly canceled the show. After rethinking things, the network's executives decided that they would agree to give SNL another chance… if its original creator, Lorne Michaels, would take back over.
Then and Now
Eventually, Michaels agreed to return to the show and retained none of the cast or writers from the previous season. Taking a page from Ebersol's book, Michaels tried to use established actors like Randy Quaid and Anthony Michael Hall (along with Robert Downey Jr. and Joan Cusack) to re-launch the show… which very nearly did lead to the show being canceled permanently. It wasn't until the following season when Michaels entrusted SNL to virtual unknowns like Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Victoria Jackson, Jon Lovitz, Jan Hooks, and Dennis Miller that the show started the run that finally established it as the institution it has become.
The goodwill that the show had gained from Crystal, Short and Guest's lone season helped carry it through Michaels' disastrous first season back. Thirty years later, the 1984 - '85 season remains an oddly alluring anomaly in the long comedic history of SNL.
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
For a second there, Better Call Saul was looking like a big excuse for a Breaking Bad reunion.
The upcoming spin-off to the smash television drama has done well to fill its ranks with already familiar faces, but we had yet to see what Better Call Saul has to offer in terms of original characters. Both Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks are set to reprise their roles for the show, and even Aaron Paul has announced he was in serious talks with creator Vince Gilligan about returning for a guest appearance.
While another season of Breaking Bad wouldn’t be entirely unwelcome, we were eager to see some new faces fill out the free spaces in Saul Goodman’s skeezy legal drama. Thankfully, actor Michael McKean has just been tapped to add some new blood to the cast. The actor, famous for playing David St. Hubbins in the classic mockumentary This is Spinal Tap, and a role on the classic sitcom Laverne and Shirley, is set to co-star as Dr. Thurber, a talented lawyer who is hampered by a debilitating medical condition.
If McKean’s role gives you a faint sense of déjà vu, you’re not alone. Dr. Thurber’s story, from the scant few details we know about the character, sounds suspiciously similar to a certain meth kingpin's. Thurber is a gifted lawyer who becomes sick with a strange ailment, while Breaking Bad's Walter White is a gifted chemist who learns that he has lung cancer. Both stories are about smart men whose lives are permanently altered by disease, and in the same way that Walt’s lung cancer sparked a desperate need for recognition inside Walt, whatever affliction is affecting Thurber will likely spark similar feelings of desperation.
There’s narrative power in desperation. It’s a strong, base, human desire, and it fueled some of Breaking Bad’s best stories. You could even make the case that desperation was the most resonant theme in the entire series. Walt’s burgeoning career as a drug dealer started in a desperate attempt to provide for his family before the cancer withered him away, a feat he couldn't possibly manage with the humble earnings of a high school chemistry teacher. Even when Walt's motives changed, and creating meth stopped being a sacrificial act for his family and twisted itself something more prideful, greedy, selfish, and ugly, he was a man still driven by desperation. Walt became a man with a desperate need to be the best, to eliminate his competition, and to create the best product the world had ever seen. He not only wanted fame, but infamy. He was desperate to be somebody after an eternity of feeling like the world's most gifted doormat.
Since McKean's character will likely have similar circumstances surrounding his character, we hope that Vince Gilligan is able to mine the same amounts of depth from this new character of his. November can't come soon enough.
"Cat's out of the bag re (regarding) my new gig. You seem okay with it. I'm over the dang moon." This Is Spinal Tap star Michael Mckean has been cast in the Breaking Bad spin-off series Better Call Saul. He is slated to play Dr Thurber, an attorney who suffers from an unusual affliction.
Singer/songwriter Elvis Costello is set to make his headlining debut at New York City's famed Carnegie Hall with two concerts on 24 and 25 June (14). He first performed at the iconic venue in 2001 as a guest of rockers Spinal Tap.
Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan reunited at the Lincoln Center in New York City on Monday (28Apr14) to honour their When Harry Met Sally... director Rob Reiner. The prolific filmmaker, whose hits include This is Spinal Tap and A Few Good Men, was the recipient of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's Chaplin Award in recognition of his hugely successful career.
Stars and former colleagues lined up to pay tribute the Reiner, including Michael Douglas - who arrived hand-in-hand with estranged wife Catherine Zeta-Jones - Martin Scorsese and James Caan, but the big moment of the night was when Crystal introduced surprise guest Ryan to the stage.
The pair reminisced about Ryan's iconic orgasm scene in When Harry Met Sally..., revealing that Reiner himself showed her how to act out the moment.
Crystal also explained how his personal relationship with the director was very similar to the film's leading couple: "That was so personal to us because many of the things that Harry and Sally did in the movie, Rob and I did as friends, which we just talked about and (writer) Nora (Ephron) was able to work into the script. That bonding was very much Rob and I."
Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman and Mandy Patinkin also shared their memories of working with Reiner via video messages.