Singer K.D. Lang gave a surprise encore following Friday's (07Mar14) performance of Broadway musical After Midnight when an audience member offered up $10,000 (£6,250) for charity. The musician is currently appearing in her first run on the Great White Way in the show, which celebrates jazz icon Duke Ellington's stint at New York City's famous Cotton Club.
After Friday's performance at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, it was announced a mystery donor would hand over $10,000 to The Actors Fund charity if Lang sang her rendition of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah, which she performed at the closing ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics in her native Canada.
She agreed and returned to the stage, receiving a rapturous round of applause after completing the number. Editors at New York Post gossip column Page Six suggest the donor was financier David Steiner.
When Lindsey Vonn had to pull out of the Sochi Winter Olympics with a knee injury, it not only robbed NBC of the chance to show Tiger Woods during its broadcast, but it deprived the network of one of the faces of the Games that it so desperately craves. In addition to being a world class athlete, Vonn is well known and beautiful — a network promotional executive's dream.
While a missing Vonn doesn't help NBC, there are plenty of other athletes representing the United States that the Peacock will try to get the audience to care about. These eight athletes are likely to get the star treatment and get hearts racing for their athletic talent… and more.
Ashley Wanger, Figure Skating — Wagner is sure to get all sorts of attention after she finished fourth at the Olympics Trials and was put on the team anyway. The fact that she has a lot of sponsors hoping to cash in on her looks should she win a medal probably had nothing to do with it.
Julia Mancuso, Alpine Skiing — She's going to slot into the role that Vonn would've played. Not only does she have the looks to pull that off, but she has her own line of underwear called "Kiss My Tiara." At the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Mancuso passed out thongs to fellow competitors.
Zach Parise, Men's Hockey — Studies have shown that women make up a large chunk of Olympic viewers, so it's only right that there's plenty of eye candy on that side of the ledger as well. Parise, normally a winger for the Minnesota Wild, has the sort of rugged good looks that one would expect from a hockey player…and all of his teeth.
Ellery Hollingsworth, Snowboarding — Since it doesn't appear that swimsuit model Clair Bidez nor Instagram hottie Hannah Teter are going to make the team, Hollingsworth should be next in line to carry on the tradition of snowboarders that can make temperatures rise.
Gretchen Bleiler/Elena Hight, Snowboarding — OK, so women's snowboarding is to the Winter Games what beach volleyball is to summer…just with more clothing. Bleiler, who's been around long enough to have some name recognition outside of the X-Games set, and Hight, who's Hawaiian, are the next most likely candidates besides Hollingsworth to gain new followers. Really, there should just be a reality show devoted to the whole group of them.
Bode Miller, Alpine Skiing — Along with snowboarder Shaun White, Miller is probably the best known of the returning athletes. This will be his fifth Olympics and probably his swan song. Since he's aged in much the same way as David Beckham — seemingly getting better looking — NBC will be sure to give him plenty of attention.
Lolo Jones, Bobsledding — There's no guarantee that Jones will actually make the squad, but if she does, there will be an NBC camera assigned to follow the Summer Olympics hurdler and proponent of abstinence at all times.
Award-winning U.S. figure skater Evan Lysacek has bowed out of the 2014 Winter Olympics due to injury. The sportsman has been battling a labral tear in his left hip, forcing him to axe plans to defend his 2010 title in Sochi, Russia next year.
Stars including Lily Allen, Alan Cumming and Sophia Bush have thrown their support behind British actor Stephen Fry as he campaigns to have the upcoming Winter Olympics moved from Russia over gay rights issues. Fry has written an open letter to Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron and members of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) urging them to move the 2014 games in Sochi or risk a boycott.
The actor is adamant the country's treatment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community should not go unnoticed, and a number of other stars have thrown their support behind the campaign.
British singer Allen has shared a link to a petition against the Russian Olympics with fans on her Twitter.com page, writing, "Do you want an anti-gay Olympics? Tell the IOC to stop Russia's LGBT crackdown," while singer/songwriter Sia Furler followed suit, adding, "Please please please take 20 seconds to sign this petition condemning Russia's anti-gay laws. Queers are awesome."
Scottish actor Cumming shared a link to Fry's letter and urged fans to pass it on, writing, "Read this by Stephen Fry and RT (re-tweet) it to everyone you can. People need to know what is happening in Russia."
Actresses Bush and Mia Farrow have also spoken out in a series of posts on Twitter, while Star Trek legend George Takei insisted Olympic bosses should consider moving the Games to Vancouver in Canada.
In a post on his blog, he writes, "There have been urgent calls for boycotts of the Olympics and of Russian exports like vodka. These are understandable... But a boycott of the games would punish athletes who have trained for years to participate... There is a petition gathering strength demanding the Olympics be relocated to Vancouver, which played host in 2010. All of the facilities are still in good condition, so this would likely be the easiest of possible alternatives... Please take a few moments to sign the petition... With enough support, maybe the IOC and the sponsors will realise that this is a disaster in the making, and the best course is to move immediately and decisively to relocate the Winter Games of 2014."
It is currently illegal to promote homosexuality in Russia, and Foreign Ministry's rights envoy Konstantin Dolgov says of the growing international furore, "The criticism of our law banning homosexual propaganda... is absolutely invalid and groundless. It is an attempt to accuse us of violating international obligations that do not exist."
The wait is over! The biggest non-secret in Hollywood has finally been confirmed. NBC announced this morning that Jimmy Fallon will replace Jay Leno as host of The Tonight Show in 2014.
Just as NBC did when ousting Conan O'Brien from the venerable series in 2010, the Peacock will be using the Winter Olympics as the perfect time to pass the torch. Except this time it's Leno who's getting the boot, even though under his leadership The Tonight Show has continued to remain the No. 1 rated show in late night.
Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal, said in a statement Wednesday, “We are purposefully making this change when Jay is #1, just as Jay replaced Johnny Carson when he was #1. Jimmy Fallon is a unique talent and this is his time."
Jay Leno and Jimmy Fallon Sing About Who Will Host ‘The Tonight Show’
The transition does seem to have been expedited. It had been expected that Leno would hand over the franchise to Fallon in fall 2014, not spring. The Tonight Show will also be moving back to NBC's 30 Rock studio in New York and will be executive produced by SNL demigod Lorne Michaels.
Leno appears to be taking the move graciously, though this time his comment reveals that there's absolutely no chance of him being involved on NBC in another capacity. No Jay Leno Show. He said, “Congratulations Jimmy. I hope you're as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you're the old guy. If you need me, I'll be at the garage.” Fallon was a little more snarky, saying, “I’m really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow.”
Why So Many ‘Tonight Show’ Controversies?
And so, after 22 years, the Jay Leno Era will officially come to a close. Excited? Sad? Think it's too little too late?
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
[Photo Credit: Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP Photo]
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U.S. figure skater Evan Lysacek is returning to the sport to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia. The athlete, who has not skated competitively since winning gold at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada, announced the news on U.S. breakfast show Today on Friday (10Aug12).
The athlete's body was discovered near Salt Lake City, Utah on Monday night (25Jul11). He allegedly died from a gunshot wound.
Police confirm Peterson called 911 in the hours leading up to his death to warn them he was going to take his own life.
Lieutenant Justin Hoyal, a spokesman for the Unified Police Department in Salt Lake City, says, "He called 911 and said he was going to kill himself."
Police add that a suicide note was discovered close to his car.
His death comes after he was cited for driving under the influence on Friday (22Jul11) in Hailey, Idaho.
Peterson won a silver medal in Freestyle skiing aerials at the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Matthew McConaughey became the first new celebrity dad of 2010 when he and Camila Alves welcomed baby Vida into the world, but they weren't the only couple celebrating births. Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell experienced the joys of fatherhood all over again, while supermodel Claudia Schiffer and actress Monica Bellucci were bursting with excitement after announcing their pregnancies.
Love was certainly in the air - actor Josh Duhamel renewed his vows with Fergie, and British model Sophie Dahl became Mrs. Jamie Cullum. Russell Brand confirmed plans to wed Katy Perry, and Michael Buble got down on bended knee to propose to model Luisana Lopilato.
The same couldn't be said for Charlize Theron and Stuart Townsend - they called it quits after nine years together. A cancer-stricken Dennis Hopper filed for divorce from his wife, and sporting pair Chris Evert and Greg Norman finalised the dissolution of their 18-month marriage.
There were new troubles for embattled celebrity offspring - Farrah Fawcett and Ryan O'Neal's boy Redmond was jailed after another drugs bust, and the future was bleak for Michael Douglas' actor son Cameron, who prepared for a lengthy prison sentence after pleading guilty to drug trafficking charges.
Meanwhile, illusionist David Copperfield was cleared of rape allegations, and actor Rip Torn was arrested after he was found passed out on the floor of a Connecticut bank, clutching a gun. Diff'rent Strokes star Gary Coleman was arrested on allegations of domestic assault and then hospitalised following a number of seizures.
Bad health also struck Dexter's Michael C. Hall, who was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, just as Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber revealed he had overcome prostate cancer.
The music industry mourned the death of R&B legend Teddy Pendergrass when he lost his battle with colon cancer, while the literary world was hit hard with the passing of beloved author J.D. Salinger.
Awards season was in full swing and Beyonce, Kings of Leon and Taylor Swift ruled the 2010 Grammy Awards, while director James Cameron's Avatar collected top honours at the Golden Globes and the Critics' Choice Movie Awards.
In the TV world, Simon Cowell confirmed he was stepping down as an American Idol judge, Miley Cyrus announced she was turning her back on Hannah Montana, and Ugly Betty got the axe from network executives.
Elsewhere, George Clooney led the Hope For Haiti Now telethon to raise funds for the Haitian victims of the 12 January earthquake, enlisting pals Jack Nicholson, Ben Affleck and Mel Gibson to man the phones as Madonna, Bono and Beyonce performed for charity. Clooney, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock and Gisele Bundchen all led by example and donated huge sums to the relief efforts, and the telethon raised more than $57 million (£35.6 million).
Jessica Biel and Emile Hirsch fronted another big charity drive when they joined a team of stars to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, drawing attention to Africa's chronic water shortage. They reached the Tanzanian peak for the Summit on the Summit: Kilimanjaro campaign on 12 January, six days after embarking on the challenge.
February was marked by tragedy when celebrated fashion designer Alexander Mcqueen was found dead after hanging himself at his London home. Meanwhile, investigations into Michael Jackson’s death in June, 2009 loomed as coroner’s officials determined acute intoxication of powerful anaesthetic Propofol was the cause. The ruling prompted prosecutors to file involuntary manslaughter charges against his former doctor Conrad Murray. Officials also ruled Brittany Murphy’s death in December, 2009 was accidental and caused by pneumonia, aided by anaemia and drug intoxication. Andrew Koenig’s family continued to mourn after his body was found in Vancouver following an apparent suicide. Marie Osmond also grieved the apparent suicide death of her 18-year-old son.
Nancy Kerrigan’s family was rocked by controversy after her brother, Mark, became the target of an investigation of their father’s homicide. Meanwhile, Etta James’ son revealed the singer had been secretly battling Alzheimer's disease for more than a year.
But there were still celebrations in Hollywood. James Cameron’s sci-fi film Avatar became the highest grossing movie in the U.S. and the U.K. His ex-wife, Kathryn Bigelow, had something to boast about too when her war drama, The Hurt Locker, scored nine Oscar nods, the same amount as Cameron’s cinematic sensation. She also won top awards at the BAFTAs.
The world watched as Canada's brightest stars including Bryan Adams, Nelly Furtado, K.D. lang and Joni Mitchell teamed up to help launch the Winter Olympics in the country. And in London, Lady Gaga walked away with the BRIT Awards’ top honours. Beatles drummer Ringo Starr unveiled his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and The Beatles' favourite recording studio Abbey Road was awarded historic status by the British government. Celine Dion, Kanye West, and Jennifer Hudson were among singers who recorded vocals for Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie's revamped We Are The World track to raise money for earthquake-ravaged Haiti. The country's biggest celebrity activist Sean Penn was caught in controversy and charged with criminal battery and vandalism following a violent run-in with a paparazzo, while Lil Wayne celebrated winning a postponement on his prison sentence for weapons possession.
It was a romantic month for several stars who announced plans to wed, including Nicole Richie and Joel Madden, Hilary Duff and ice hockey ace Mike Comrie, and Dave Annabelle and Odette Yustman. Kristen Bell revealed boyfriend Dax Shepard had proposed back in December, 2009. Meanwhile, Sienna Miller, who called off her engagement to Jude Law in 2006, rekindled her romance with the actor. Several stars welcomed bundles of joy, including Padma Lakshmi, Boris Becker, Sarah Jane Morris and Gary Busey. February wasn’t such a loved-up month for Ryan Phillippe and Abbie Cornish, or Cheryl Cole and her soccer star husband Ashley - both couples split. John Mayer risked the wrath of ex Jessica Simpson after referring to her as “sexual napalm”.
Public scandal took over headlines when Tiger Woods finally addressed reports he cheated on ex-wife Elin Nordegren with several mistresses and announced plans to return to rehab for sex therapy. Exes waged war in court, including Dennis Hopper, who won a restraining order against his estranged wife. Charlie Sheen was charged with felony menacing, third degree assault and misdemeanour criminal mischief stemming from an alleged altercation with his now-estranged wife, Brooke Mueller. Both parties checked in to rehab.
It was a shocking way to start the spring as March saw two of Hollywood's biggest star couples announce break-ups - Kate Winslet parted ways with her second husband Sam Mendes after seven years and Sandra Bullock's Oscar win was overshadowed after she found out partner Jesse James had cheated on her.
March wasn't any better for Take That's Mark Owen, who was also accused of cheating on his longtime girlfriend Emma Ferguson with 10 women - and he later revealed he's a struggling alcoholic and checked himself into rehab.
More scandals came as the month progressed, with fiery supermodel Naomi Campbell accused of attacking her driver by striking him on the head, and Michael Jackson's mum Katherine visited by welfare officials in Los Angeles over allegations one of her grandkids had purchased a stun gun.
Rapper J-Kwon was reported as a missing person after he failed to get in contact with his loved ones for more than a month, and reclusive R&B star D'Angelo was arrested in New York for offering an undercover cop cash for oral sex.
Other stars facing a tough time included Lil Wayne, who began an eight-month stretch behind bars stemming from a 2007 weapon possession arrest, and Lindsay Lohan, who had a fashion flop on her hands after being axed as the artistic advisor of style house Emanuel Ungaro following a slated catwalk collection.
But it wasn't all doom and gloom - Kathryn Bigelow made Oscars history when she became the first female to land the top director Academy Award for her war movie The Hurt Locker, beating ex-husband James Cameron in the process. Music mogul Simon Cowell confirmed his engagement to make-up artist Mezhgan Hussainy while others to put a ring on it included Friends star David Schwimmer, who proposed to his photographer girlfriend Zoe Buckman, and Sacha Baron Cohen and Isla Fisher, who enjoyed a small private wedding ceremony in Paris, France.
There was also a string of spring babies - Shakespeare In Love star Joseph Fiennes became a first-time father after welcoming a daughter, while Kevin Costner announced he was set to become a dad for a seventh time. Hollywood stars Eric Dane and Rebecca Gayheart also became parents for the first time after the actress gave birth to a baby girl.
While March saw ups and downs for some of Tinseltown's finest, others were looking on the bright side - Ricky Martin confirmed the worst kept secret in pop by announcing he's homosexual, while Will & Grace star Sean Hayes also decided to come out of the closet and spoke for the first time about his sexuality.
Every fan of 1980s movies was left devastated after hearing Corey Haim had died from a drug overdose - the Lost Boys star was aged 38. The month also saw the passings of Little Women star Richard Stapley, veteran British actor Martin Benson and beloved U.S. TV star Fess Parker.
The eruption of a volcano in Iceland at the end of March meant the following month was dogged by stories of stranded stars as a giant ash cloud swept over northern Europe and closed airports across the continent.
California's Coachella festival was under threat as a number of acts cancelled their slots when they were unable to fly out to the U.S.
Several movie premieres were also affected in the chaos - the Iron Man 2 red carpet event in London was moved to Los Angeles when stars including Robert Downey, Jr. were unable to jet to Britain. Miley Cyrus also scrapped plans to unveil her film The Last Song in the British capital due to the cancelled flights.
TV stars Chace Crawford and Kiefer Sutherland were both stranded in London after the ash cloud hit, and the 24 actor made the most of his extended stay by taking trips to some of Britain's best-known landmarks, including a day out to visit Stonehenge.
But many celebrities refused to let a little bit of volcano ash get in the way of their work - Metallica continued their tour by swapping planes for roads and railways, while Status Quo drove back to Britain after finding themselves stuck in Russia. John Cleese was stranded in Norway, so he paid $4,950 (£3,300) for a taxi to take him to Belgium, where he caught a train back to London.
In non-volcano-related news, Sandra Bullock sent shockwaves through the showbiz world when she came out fighting after her husband Jesse James' cheating scandal in March. The Oscar winner announced she had filed for divorce and stunned the world by revealing she had also adopted a baby son, Louis. Bullock admitted the couple had taken charge of their new son back in January, but kept the news quiet and after splitting from James she resolved to raise the baby on her own.
Another high profile celebrity split hit headlines when Mel Gibson ended his year-long romance with Russian musician Oksana Grigorieva, the mother of his baby daughter, Lucia. The couple didn't give a reason for the break-up, but Grigorieva subsequently hinted "you will find out everything quite soon". Jim Carrey and Jenny Mccarthy also ended their five-year romance.
The music world was rocked when Brett Michaels suffered two serious health scares in April. The Poison rocker was admitted to hospital for an emergency appendectomy at the beginning of the month and just weeks later he collapsed after suffering a brain haemorrhage. The rocker was in a critical condition, but slowly began his recovery. Another shock for music fans came with the death of former Sex Pistols manager and punk icon Malcolm Mclaren, who lost his battle with cancer.
April was a sad month for Dynasty fans after two of the show's former stars died within days of each other. John Forsythe passed away from complications relating to pneumonia and his death was followed by the passing of his onscreen brother Christopher Cazenove, who lost a battle with blood poisoning just six days later.
The scandal of the month came when Desperate Housewives actress Nicollette Sheridan filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the show's creator, Marc Cherry. The actress claimed he slapped her during an argument over the script and then fired her when she complained to producers.
Sheridan's co-stars, Teri Hatcher, Eva Longoria Parker, Felicity Huffman and Marcia CrosS, all took Cherry's side.
There were wedding bells this month for Scissor Sisters singer Ana Matronic and her boyfriend Seth Kirby, and actors Seth Green and Clare Grant. Meanwhile, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon sealed their love by renewing their wedding vows for the third time.
May was not such a happy month for Boyzone singer Ronan Keating, who split from his wife Yvonne, and he wasn't the only one facing heartache - former Bond girl Halle Berry split from Gabriel Aubry after more than four years together, and Buffy The Vampire Slayer star David Boreanaz's marriage was plunged into crisis when he admitted cheating on his wife.
Several stars heard the pitter-patter of tiny feet this month - Monica Bellucci gave birth to her second daughter, Leonie, supermodel Claudia Schiffer delivered her third child, daughter Cosima, and Amy Adams became a first-time mum after giving birth to daughter Aviana.
John Travolta and his wife Kelly Preston had something to smile about after the death of son Jett in 2009, when they confirmed the actress was expecting another child, and it was double joy for singer Alicia Keys - she became engaged to producer Swizz Beatz and announced her pregnancy.
Meanwhile, Hollywood paid tribute to legendary actor Dennis Hopper when he died at the age of 74 after a battle against prostate cancer, and Diff'rent Strokes star Gary Coleman passed away at the age of 42 after suffering a brain haemorrhage in a fall at his home.
There was further tragedy for the Redgrave dynasty when Lynn Redgrave died aged 67 after a long battle with breast cancer, and Brittany Murphy's grieving widower Simon Monjack was found dead at his home.
The rock world was plunged into mourning when Ronnie James Dio lost his battle with stomach cancer at the age of 67, swiftly followed by the sudden death of Slipknot bassist Paul Gray, 38, who was found dead in a hotel room in Iowa after an accidental drug overdose.
Former The Temptations star Ali-Ollie Woodson died from leukaemia, aged 58, and veteran actress/singer Lena Horne succumbed to heart failure at 92.
On the scandal front, Charlie Sheen's troubles mounted when he surrendered legal custody of his two children with ex-wife Denise Richards, and Miley Cyrus showed she's growing up fast when she was caught on camera dirty dancing with a 44-year-old movie producer in a nightclub. Lindsay Lohan was ordered by a court to wear an alcohol-monitoring ankle tag in a bid to help beat her drink and drug demons, and troubled actor Michael Madsen was hospitalised following a nine-day booze binge in Britain.
Bono was rushed to hospital for emergency surgery on his back, leading to the cancellation of U2's hotly-anticipated Glastonbury headline slot the following month.
June was a bumper wedding month with Megan Fox and Brian Austin Green marrying on a beach in Hawaii, while Harrison Ford and Calista Flockhart wed after seven years together. Gemma Arterton married Stefano Catelli, and Alanis Morissette married MC Souleye. British newsman Piers Morgan wed Celia Walden and Mena Suvari married music producer Simone Sestitos. Glee star Jane Lynch married Lara Embry in a civil partnership ceremony – and love was also in the air for Orlando Bloom, who announced his engagement to longterm girlfriend Miranda Kerr.
Ugly Betty star America Ferrera became engaged to Ryan Piers Williams, while Kate Hudson hit headlines when she started dating MUSE frontman Matt Bellamy.
It was a baby boom month - Kevin Costner became a dad for the seventh time, Sheryl Crow adopted her second son, director Sofia Coppola welcomed another daughter, and R&B star Ne-Yo announced he is to be a father for the first time.
June was not such a good month love wise for actor Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who filed for divorce from his wife of 13 years. Meanwhile British singer Leona Lewis split from her childhood sweetheart and Twilight's Nikki Reed broke up with Paris Latsis. Brandy's romance with rapper Flo Rida came to an end, Welsh singer Charlotte Church split from fiance Gavin Henson, and former U.S. vice president Al Gore split from his wife of 40 years.
Rock stars were in mourning when former Stereophonics star Stuart Cable passed away, former The Kinks bassist Pete Quaife also died, and country music legend Jimmy Dean passed away at the age of 81. Hollywood was saddened when Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan died aged 76 after suffering a major stroke and actor/director Corey Allen passed away. Zorro star Eugenia Paul also died at the age of 75.
June also caused havoc for the music industry with numerous gigs being axed - Drake, Jay-Z, Ke$ha and Grace Jones all had to cancel shows, while illness caused cancellations for John Mayer, Cher and Wolfmother, and SUM 41 brought the curtain down on their European tour after Steve Jocz was involved in a car crash.
Gossip Girl star Chace Crawford was in the news following his arrest for pot possession, while Motley Crue frontman Vince Neil and The Sopranos star Joseph Gannascoli were arrested separately on suspicion of driving under the influence (DUI). Meanwhile it was also another DUI arrest for actor Chris Klein - he then checked himself into a rehabilitation facility to deal with alcohol addiction later in the month.
Incarcerated rapper Lil Wayne's troubles worsened - he was sentenced to three years probation after striking a plea deal with U.S. prosecutors in relation to a 2008 drugs charge.
Other notable events in June included the launch of the soccer World Cup tournament, which saw stars including the Black Eyed Peas, Shakira, Alicia Keys and John Legend perform at the opening ceremony in South Africa. There was also a flurry of tributes on the one-year anniversary of Michael Jackson's death, and Larry King announced plans to retire from his 25-year run as the host of CNN talk show Larry King Live.
A number of awards were also handed out - The Twilight Saga: New Moon was the big winner at the MTV Movie Awards in Los Angeles, picking up four honours, while Sandra Bullock and Scarlett Johansson caused a stir by locking lips onstage at the ceremony. Chris Brown stole the show at the 2010 BET Awards when he performed a dance tribute to Michael Jackson, while Alicia Keys and Drake were crowned the big winners.
The 100 Years of Olympic Glory director died in New York on Christmas Day (25Dec10), aged 84.
In his landmark 1996 documentary about the Olympic Games, Greenspan interviewed hundreds of athletes who had taken part in the sporting event throughout the 1900s.
Greenspan began his career as a sports broadcaster in New York and his love of all things Olympic Games began in 1952 when he covered the event in Helsinki, Finland.
In his first major film, Jesse Owens Returns To Berlin, Greenspan chronicled the American sprinter's return to the scene of his medal-winning triumphs at Adolf Hitler's 1936 Olympics in the early 1960s.
Greenspan served as the official documentarian of seven summer and winter Olympics. He won seven Emmy Awards.
Like its stars Dev Patel and Freida Pinto, Danny Boyle - the director of 2009's Academy Award winning Slumdog Millionaire - was thrust onto the international stage when his inspirational tale of love and survival became a global phenomenon. To many, he was a new face in the film industry, but Boyle has been making unrelenting cinematic treasures since the mid 90s.
From dark comedies to science fiction fantasies and horrific dystopian tales, Boyle has done it all. With his latest effort, a conceptually fresh biographical account of Aron Ralston's gruesome road to redemption called 127 Hours, he takes a limiting premise and expands the narrative with his uncanny audio-visual talents. I sat down with the director to talk about the hardships of getting the film made, his work on the 2012 Olympics and much more! Read on for the full interview!
The success of Slumdog clearly opened up a lot of doors for you. In a day and age when it's difficult to get a film greenlit, do you think 127 Hours would've been harder to get going pre-Slumdog?
Oh, we never would've made it. Honestly, unless you have a major industry figure, like Spielberg or Cruise or someone like that attached to it directly, it would never get financed. Especially now. It's so difficult to generate an audience for an independent film with a subject like this, which could easily turn people off -- and it could still do that. They're still nervous because you don't know if people are going to actually go on a Friday night and watch someone cut their arm off. It's conceptually risky, without a doubt. And our approach to it, which was to maximize the appalling nature of the experience -- that he's alone for that whole time -- and to not make a thriller out of it or make a big, human drama with people looking for him and coming back together again and that sort of stuff.
But to do it monolithically through this James Franco figure makes it even more dangerous. But our argument was always that if they have the courage to do it, and we sort of morally blackmailed them because they got a lot of money out of Slumdog and all that stuff, that the reward would be phenomenal. Because the euphoria, the ecstasy, the sense of life being given back again is so deeply earned by the audience by being through the experience with him. You'll not only tolerate him cutting his arm off visually, which is difficult to watch, but you'll encourage him to do it. And when you get out of there, you'll feel that heaven, that pulse of life. You know, that 'I want that and I deserve it.'
On that basic human level I was able to sympathize with Aron because no one wants to see anyone die. But I found it difficult to sympathize with him totally because of his behavior toward his family and friends that we see through these flashbacks. Obviously, this was a creative choice on your part. Do you think that there would be a greater emotional payoff on the back end if there was more empathy created throughout? Or do you even need empathy for the character at that point?
You need empathy, but you mustn't lie about him as a character early on. You mustn't airbrush him as a character. I think he makes clear in his book that before it happened, he was so independent, so full of himself, so brilliant, a brilliant engineer, brilliant brain, major athlete, climbs these peaks -- 14,000 feet -- in winter, on his own, runs marathons. You could read all that from his character as arrogant at the end, and reckless as well. There's an avalanche in the book and he almost kills two of his friends. And he says in the book they haven't spoken with him since. So it's very clear that you shouldn't airbrush his character. And that's what happens is that when he stopped -- and the beginning of the film is recklessly pleasure seeking, great fun, great music, even when he crashes he laughs and takes a picture, unstoppable, you know? Omnipotent almost, until nature says no, you're not omnipotent, no one is. Then he has to go on a journey himself and that's a journey back towards more empathy.
We always wanted the film to be full of movement, a journey. An emotional journey that he's on. And you can't do that if he's empathetic already, it just becomes a survival story. You're sorry for the guy and you want him to get out. You find that he's got to earn your sympathy by actually learning that he has disrespected people and he hasn't returned that affection and care. And that's true of his Mom and Dad, and in a very touching way, he says that directly to them. He says, "I haven't learned to appreciate you in my heart as much as I know I could." And also, the girl, you know, who's clearly not over him, and he doesn't return it. He's not careful enough with her affection. He's plagued by those thoughts now, and they both haunt him and sustain him. He wants to have the chance to go back and put things right. And that's a classic human trait. We all want to go back and say to people, "I'm sorry it turned out like that. I really didn't want to hurt you." We're all guilty of that. I'm guilty of that. And I'm at an age now where I can appreciate that. But at a time, I didn't. And you want to illustrate that through a story and that involves a story with him.
And your review is exactly right to point out that he's not a sympathetic character to begin with. He has to move that way and earn it for us.
I'm so glad to hear that from you.
Absolutely. And I think Franco, also, that's part of his journey that he's making in the film, is to eventually to get you to empathize with him fully and he deserves the right to get free.
Of all the genres that you've tackled, this is the first quasi biopic that you've done. This film is a part of a man's life. But what drew you to this story exactly? Was it the book?
It was the book. Well, it was the story in 2003. The original story. An extraordinary story. Then when I read the book in 2006 I had this vision of it which is as we described it that it's not about this single guy in a lonely place, but it's about people. Other people. It was ironically not a superhero story. He was a superhero at the beginning of the story, at least he thinks he is.
The fallen hero.
Yes, yes, the fall. And there's great things involved in a fall, and that's why we have these falls. Usually, ours aren't as extreme or dramatic as Aron's, but we all have them.
Yes, that's what I loved about it.
What do you have planned for the future? I hear a lot of rumors about you returning to the 28 Days Later fold?
I'd love to direct the third part of it. Whether it happens or not, it's partly a time thing I suppose now. But what I said was I so enjoyed watching the second one, because I wasn't really involved with it, and I realized the pull there is from that franchise. So I'd love to direct the third part of it. The Olympics, we just started working on it. It's exciting. If I survive it, I'll be delighted.