Veteran actors Michael Douglas and Mary Steenburgen endured a "nightmare experience" while filming new comedy Last Vegas after they were forced to repeatedly hop on a daredevil amusement ride for the shoot. The pair plays lovers in the movie and during one scene, its characters enjoy a date at the top of the Stratosphere Las Vegas hotel and casino on the X-Scream ride.
The tourist attraction shoots off the side of the building at high speeds and hangs in mid-air, giving people the feeling that they are at risk of falling from the edge of the tower, 866 feet (264 metres) above ground.
Director Jon Turteltaub made the couple shoot take after take and Douglas, 69, admits the rollercoaster-like experience, the world's third highest amusement ride, was a thrill he could have done without.
He says, "We had one nightmare experience at the Stratosphere... You get up there, the wind's blowing and this thing goes up and it goes ... takes off, right off the edge... and it holds there for a second, holds there and then boom! It drops. Oh man, it was horrible."
And Steenburgen reveals she struggled to sleep on the eve of the big shoot because she was so nerve wracked.
She adds, "We did it over and over and over. And the fact that they took us there the day before (to show us the ride) to calm us, I stayed up all night freaking out and then the day we shot it, it was 30 mile-an-hour winds so I'm like, 'Erm, excuse me? When do you cut it off (stop the ride)?' And they said, 'Forty mile-an-hour winds!' That's really close!"
Veteran actress Mary Steenburgen threw herself into vocal lessons in preparation for her role as a lounge singer in new movie Last Vegas, because she feared her voice wouldn't be up to scratch. The Help star, 60, admits she hadn't really put her voice to the test in more than two decades when she signed on to join Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Kevin Kline in the comedy, so she decided to seek a little professional help to perfect her part.
Ted Danson's wife says, "I play a lounge singer in a tiny, kind of pathetic little lounge with about two people in there listening to me and it was a fascinating experience because really, I don't consider myself a singer and I've done very little singing.
"I've sung once in a movie in the '80s and then I kind of forgot about it. I did write music, so I'm a little musical, but it was scary to start something new at my age so (I had) lots of singing lessons and all that."
Getting the likes of Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas, and Kevin Kline in one film should be a recipe for a rousing success, and in many ways throughout Last Vegas, the casting is very successful. The main cast gives everything actors can really contribute to a film, and they excel as well as they can with what they're given. But the film shows that, at the end of the day, the script is king, and Last Vegas falters because its dreadfully weak writing hinders some fun performances.
Like another Vegas comedy, to which comparisons are unavoidable, the film centers around a bachelor party. Billy (Douglas) is trying to hold onto his youth with the grip of an iron vice. He's engaged to a much younger woman and decides that his wedding is the perfect time to rekindle his relationship with his three best friends, a group friendship that has frayed over the years. Archie (Freeman), Paddy (De Niro) and Sam (Kline) pack up to experience a weekend full of geriatric high jinks before Billy's wedding. Each of the four characters travels to Vegas with a certain amount of baggage stowed away in the carry-on compartment, and it's all related to aging, but the resolution to all of these character threads ends way too predictably. The first resolution to each of their stories that swirls around in your head while watching will undoubtedly be the one that pops up on screen before the credits roll.
One of the biggest sins Last Vegas makes is that it's just not all that funny, and the problem lies in the script. The film seems content with telling the same joke about old people over and over again, ad nauseam. It can barely mine humor from any other source besides the characters' advanced ages, pounding that theme into your head like a pulsing jackhammer. Jokes are fired at a machine gun pace, but so many of them fall ridiculously flat. Even when the cast is able to sell some of the feeble punchlines, they still aren't very clever or memorable. If anything, it makes it clear to see why these actors are as celebrated as they are. They all posses a serious amount of charm that bounces across the screen and makes the duds clank a little less loudly.
In fact, any enjoyment to be had from Last Vegas stems solely from the performances of the principal men, and sultry lounge singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen). All five actors possess a natural chemistry that carries the film's limp material around long after the script has forgotten how to be clever. They all have an excitable energy that permeates the rest of the film, but energy means little when they aren't saying anything particularly interesting. During the film, you're never quite bored or offended, but you're never excited either. It just chugs along in a miasma of general competence but not much else.
Last Vegas isn't quite dead on arrival but it's no a spring chicken either. Its high points ride on the backs of its stars' finely aged charisma, and much of the pleasing aspects that exist in Last Vegas would still be intact if the film just consisted of the actors sitting in a room, chewing the fat with each other without a script or direction. At the very least, they would have fewer stupid things to say. What happened in Vegas probably should have stayed there.
Filmmaker Woody Allen has penned a rare open letter in a bid to persuade Oscars bosses to add a new category for casting agents to the Academy Awards. The Midnight in Paris director is urging the Oscars rule makers to recognise the art of finding film talent by saluting his own Blue Jasmine casting director Juliet Taylor.
In an article Allen has written for The Hollywood Reporter, he muses, "In my case certainly, the casting director plays a vital part in the making of the movie. My history shows that my films are full of wonderful performances by actors and actresses I had never heard of and were not only introduced to me by my casting director, Juliet Taylor, but, in any number of cases, pushed on me against my own resistance. People like Jeff Daniels, Mary Beth Hurt, Patricia Clarkson and others, who are people I was unfamiliar with.
"A number of discoveries and careers have been launched by the energies and resourcefulness of my casting director. Not only did I use Meryl Streep for a small part in Manhattan when she was a relative unknown, but at the best my casting director helped start the film career of Mariel Hemingway and Dianne Wiest, a stage actress completely unknown to me but known by Juliet Taylor."
Allen adds, "I'm particularly difficult in the casting area because the whole process bores and embarrasses me. If it were up to me we would use the same half dozen people in all my pictures, whether they fit or not. Despite my recalcitrance, Juliet has forced me to meet and to watch the work of many new people and to hire people on nothing more then her strong recommendation.
"Because my films are not special effects films and are about human beings, proper casting is absolutely essential. I owe a big part of the success of my films to this scrupulous casting process which I must say if left to my own devices would never have happened."
Mary J. Blige has accused music industry bosses of making money from misery, insisting they fail to protect stars struggling to deal with fame and fortune. The No More Drama singer has opened up about the loss of pop icons Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson, lashing out at those behind the scenes who should have helped guide them through superstardom.
She also claims her own team stood by and watched when she sunk into alcoholism and depression in the 1990s - because she was making them a fortune in album sales.
Speaking to the London Evening Standard, Blige says, "She (Whitney) was such a gift from God, such a star - her voice was like no other. Same with Michael Jackson: two such amazing gifts. And no one was there for them.
"You have thousands of people around you because you're this big star, but no one around you really cares. I saw a tragic situation coming for me and I looked around and saw that nobody cared, not really.
"They were happy for me to suffer, to drink myself to death, as long as they were getting what they needed. The industry makes its money on people's demise.
"The way I was living, I should have been dead... All the money and fame in the world couldn't change what was going on in my heart. That's how messed up I was, and how depressed I was. I was drinking, I was doing drugs, so I couldn't even feel or see anything, and that made it alright for the moment, until I had to come down and look for some more."
Actress Mary Mccormack has been spotted in public with her husband Michael Morris for the first time since his kissing scandal broke. The couple's marriage was thrown into question after the Smash director was caught on camera kissing the show's star Katherine McPhee in Los Angeles earlier this month (Oct13).
Reports suggested McCormack had kicked Morris out of the family home they share with their three kids, but now they have been seen out together in L.A.
The pair looked strained as they made their way to their car, keeping their distance from one another and covering their eyes with sunglasses.
They are yet to comment on the headline-grabbing incident. McPhee is believed to have quietly split from her husband of five years, actor/producer Nick Cokas, earlier this year (13).
Actress Natascha Mcelhone appeared in a special televised debate about modern-day feminism on Tuesday (29Oct13). The Truman Show actress joined academic Mary Beard and journalist Angela Epstein in the BBC Newsnight discussion to argue the merits of feminism in the digital age.
McElhone insisted the battle for gender equality is ongoing, but claimed the word 'feminism' makes it hard for men and women to work together to end prejudice.
She told the current affairs show, "Feminism is a very easy word for people to reject... It's very, very easy for feminism to start to mean something that's akin to a political class that's in opposition to men and so therefore people will feel defensive around that word and I want that not to happen. I want to work together with men and I'm interested in equality."
Veteran actress Mary Carver has died following a brief illness. The Arachnophobia star died on 18 October (13). She was 89.
Carver is perhaps best known for her role as Cecilia Simon in long-running TV series Simon & Simon, which starred Gerald McRaney and Jameson Parker as detective brothers.
She also appeared as Goldie Hawn's mum in Protocol and featured in From Here to Eternity, I Never Promised You a Rose Garden and 1995's Safe.
Her TV career included stints on The Donna Reed Show, The Twilight Zone, Gunsmoke, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Star Trek: Enterprise.
DC Comics via AsbestosBill/Flickr
The Road to Perdition; The Walking Dead; Sin City; American Splendor; Batman – the list of film adaptations from comic books is a long and varied mix. While some seem a natural for the silver screen (think Nolan’s Batman trilogy) others haven’t fared as well (Green Lantern, a fanboy nation turns its geeky eyes to you). Still, that hasn’t stopped the list of projects on the horizon, including a new Thor movie, more Superman – even one based on little known Ant Man. Still, there are several more properties out there that rarely get a whiff of rumored studio interest, despite the fact they remain ready-made for multiplexes and Saturday afternoons. Look! Down below this paragraph! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's . . . five comic book properties that deserve their own movie!!
The exploits of Earth’s primary protector against threats both magical and mystical should make for movie-magic in the right hands, and surely be light-years better than a little seen '70s TV-movie. Need inspiration, writers/directors? Read the Ditko books. Supposedly in the works, fingers-crossed.
Seems about time for another Flash Gordon movie, no? Sure, we’ve had the legendary serial in the '30s; yes, there was the 1980 movie (with memorable theme from the group Queen) and even a forgettable TV reboot in 2007 - but an updating seems appropriate. The stuff from which almost all sci-fi was spawned remains ageless.
Call him Cap. Call him Shazam. Heck, even call him the Big Red Cheese – whatever the case, this hero (whose books once outsold Superman) is deserving of his own film. He even comes with a family of superheroes as subsidiary characters, including Captain Marvel Jr. and Mary Marvel.
One of the few properties TV actually got right even way back when (referring to the '90s series) Flash is a big-screen adaptation waiting to happen. While perhaps a solo effort would be a hard sell, a team-up with other DC Heroes would work as well.
True Will Eisner fans everyone are still waiting for a true adaptation of this acknowledged master’s work. The 2008 movie had nothing of the mystery or whimsy of the original strip, the template from which the medium itself was essentially based.
"When we met we had been through a lot and we just appreciate each other... and I just feel blessed every day of my life to be with him." Actress Mary Steenburgen on life at home with husband Ted Danson.