Monday, July 15, 2024

Top 5 This Week

Related Posts

TV Tinsel: Despite diversions, Walter Hill kept his writing career in bold type

Luaine Lee – Tribune News Service (TNS)

Walter Hill, the battle-scarred veteran of scores of movies and TV shows, has scribbled his way into one of the Writers Guild of America West’s top honors. On Sunday the scrappy Hill will receive the group’s award for screenwriting that “advanced the literature of motion pictures.”

Hill, who wrote or co-wrote such films as “The Getaway,” “48 Hrs.,” “The Warriors” and “Last Man Standing,” managed it by squeezing his writing in at night while he was toiling at other jobs during the day, he said in an earlier interview.

“I had a series of small jobs trying to make a living while I was writing,” he said. “I devoted an enormous amount of attention to my social life, of course. Then I started selling scripts a few years later. I was 25 when I sold my first script.”

That first script was a western, but it never got made. “Later it almost got made; (director) Sam Peckinpah almost did it,” recalled Hill. “They were talking about doing it with Jon Voight, and he went off and did something else, and Sam did ‘Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid.’ My film never got made. I’ve got it in the cellar someplace.”

He may have others in the cellar, though he’s known for those that DID get made, like “Hickey & Boggs,” “Undisputed,” “The Mackintosh Man,” “The Drowning Pool,” “Hard Times” and “Dead for a Dollar.”

As facile as he was with screenwriting, Hill is better known as a director. “Through a couple of breaks I got a chance to work as a kind of apprentice-assistant director then as assistant director, and all that time I was writing,” he said.

“I just wasn’t selling. I failed my Army physical because of childhood asthma. I still get touches of it but haven’t had a real bad asthma attack since I was 15, 16 years old. But I still have hay fever and a lot of allergies and still get choked up when the weather’s a certain way.”

He continued to burn the midnight oil drafting his scripts. “I was one of the ‘added-on’ assistant directors on ‘The Great White Hope.’ It was the last job I had before I started making a real living as a writer. I kept going back and forth. I was on the first unit, but I was the third or fourth director.”

Hill applied his narrative writing skills to his directing. “The definition of director is still largely the same, which is ‘storyteller,’” he remarked.

“You make a series of choices, a lot of them instinctive, some of them learned. A lot of it has to do with what you’ve read and what you’ve seen, I suppose. Being a director is ultimately about your taste. And whether your movies are sophisticated or crude or elegant or simple.

“It’s the mood created by the director. The style of the film will produce that. You still have to have a very good script or you’re wasting your time. And you have to be able to work with actors. You have to have the ability to stage and shoot. You can learn to do better. I know more about staging and shooting than when I started. Why wouldn’t I? I also think there is a lot of instinct to it.”

Known for his tough-fisted westerns like “The Long Riders,” “Wild Bill,” “Extreme Prejudice,” “Geronimo: an American Legend” and “Broken Trail,” Hill said he never tires of them. “I’ve probably done more than anybody except Clint Eastwood. They are special in that you go out there, you have this feeling that you’re kind of doing — the stories are almost always elemental and shooting them is also elemental.

“You’re almost always outside, the days tend to be shorter, you tend to be not part of the regular world — you’re way out someplace. You’re in a pretty place, with fresh air, a lotta guys walking around with cowboy hats and women in big skirts. And it’s kind of this world of its own. It’s just fun to be part of all that.”

Hill also served as a savvy producer, producing the first “Alien” and many of the subsequent films in the series. “I was thinking about directing ‘Aliens,’ but I didn’t want to do the special effects thing. In those days you waited forever for the results to come in,” he said.

“There are very, very few people who started out when I did and are still working. It’s not a good thing. It’s not a business that rewards experience. The attrition rate is enormous; it’s always been like that. You can say, ‘Well, talent will out in a Darwinian way,’ but it’s a lot more than that.

“You have to have the ability to deliver the goods, but there’s a whole mindset that works, too. And a lot of people don’t have that. They get frustrated in various ways, and they drop out of the mix. It takes more than talent.”

Douglas stars as Franklin

It’s an unusual role for actor Michael Douglas, but on Sunday he dons the powdered wig of Benjamin Franklin for the AppleTV+ miniseries “Franklin.” The show covers the eight years that Franklin spent in France trying to persuade the French to support the new American democracy.

As the son of Kirk Douglas, a world-famous actor, Michael said he often experienced peer pressure. “My kids went through it too. I don’t think kids are inherently kind, you have to train that in school. Like animals, you’re looking out for yourself for your own survival. Kids, if they know who your father is, it allows them to make certain prejudgments about who you are.

“’Oh, you must think you’re hot stuff.’ Or, ‘You’re from a rich family,’ or this or that. So they’ve already built up this whole picture in their minds of who you are before you ever said a word. Then all of a sudden you get this outpouring of either hostility or whatever it might be from pre-conceptions. So that’s probably the most difficult part of celebrity-dom or being the child of celebrities is the preconceived attitudes that people might have.”

When he began his career, he had to prove himself. “Unfortunately, when your father’s a movie star and you’re trying to establish your own identity, you’re overly sensitive about being too similar. So whereas my father had the rugged image, I used to play the sensitive young man roles earlier in my career.

“Ironically, Kirk did too. Six or seven movies before he made ‘Champion,’ where he got nominated for an Oscar, he was the sensitive young man. He too found that that kind of role, ‘The Champion,’ was much more rewarding and fulfilling. So I think it takes a little longer to find your own identity to be comfortable in your skin. Acting didn’t come natural to me. I worked hard at it and dealt with stage fright early in my career. It took a longer time, I think, to find your comfort level.”

NBA champ insists on reality

Reality shows bear the reputation of being orchestrated and not really true-to-life. But NBA champion Matt Barnes said his is going to be different. Premiering April 19 on WE TV, “The Barnes Bunch” follows Barnes, his fiancée Anansa Sims, and her mother, model Beverly Johnson. They’ve blended their families, and Barnes says that will be the thrust of the show.

“This is actually both of our second time around doing reality television,” he says.

“I was on reality television briefly, briefly, because of Shaq, ‘Basketball Wives,’ when it first started in 2010. So, I kind of saw the inner makings of that and how they create drama and make drama and do all that kind of stuff.

“And that was really my hesitation with this time around. But you know, when we spoke at the beginning, it was more about blending families. Unfortunately, blended families are the new norm, and we do it at the highest level,” he explains.

“Six crazy kids, all different age groups. So again, we weren’t necessarily hesitant about opening that dynamic in our household. We just wanted to make sure that it was really us and real-life things were happening and not manufactured thing.”

Julianne Moore plays conniving countess

Oscar winning actress Julianne Moore portrays the scheming Countess of Buckingham in the seven-part series “Mary & George,” now streaming on the Starz app, with new episodes every Friday on Starz through May 17.

It’s the 17th century, and the devious countess plans to groom her attractive son to seduce the king and gain power and prestige. Moore, who’s known for her insightful performances in “Still Alice,” “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay,” “Hannibal” and “Boogie Nights,” recalls when she first started out.

“It’s the toughest time,” she says, “you have to audition constantly and you really think, in a way, your naivete saves you because you think there’s a chance when you go in to read for a casting director that you might get the part,” she laughs.

“You don’t know that you’re going to have to come back four times for her, another four times for a director. You don’t know, you think it might happen in one or two steps or something. That’s probably the toughest when you keep doing those kinds of things.

“I was fortunate because the first job I had was on a soap opera (“The Edge of Night”). I’d been in the city for about a year and a half and worked in the theater and as a waitress and stuff like that. When I got this soap opera job the fact that I could actually support myself was really astonishing. It really is such a slow process. First, you’re happy you get an audition, then you’re happy you get a callback then you’re happy you almost got the job.”


(Luaine Lee is a California-based correspondent who covers entertainment for Tribune News Service.)

©2024 Tribune Content Agency, LLC

This article has been viewed


Popular Articles