Mr. Saturday Night
Billy Crystal jokes that he spent about a month and a half in the makeup chair while, over 53 nights of filming, he was aged some 30-odd years for his role as a washed-up nightclub comic in Mr. Saturday Night. Crystal invented the crotchety character of Buddy Young Jr. in 1982 and later brought him to Saturday Night Live. ”I always felt that of everyone I’d ever done, there was something fascinating about a comedian,” he says. In this movie, Young looks back on a life sabotaged by his own difficult personality.
”He’s at the point where he really can’t perform anyplace, ’cause they just don’t want him,” says Crystal. ”So he’s thinking about his career, which he kept screwing up. He’s an angry man who never, in comic terms, ‘knew his room.’ It’s what happens to performers who get frightened of succeeding. He couldn’t handle pressure.”
Crystal, directing his first feature (he also cowrote and produced), handled the pressure just fine: On the first day of shooting, he got to the set at 1:30 a.m., spent 51 2 hours getting made up, rehearsed the actors, filmed until sundown, got in a van, drove across town, set up a big street scene-still in full makeup-waited three hours for the traffic and the lighting to get right, and then shot that as well. ”Everyone goes home, you go back to makeup, they take it off, it’s now 12 midnight-the exact same time I got up to get to the set,” says Crystal. ”I did that 10 straight days in New York. The teamsters called me Iron Balls. And my family? I don’t remember who they are.” (Columbia)
Just in time for the last laps of the presidential race comes Tim Robbins’ darkly comic mockumentary about a media-savvy, guitar- strumming senatorial candidate with a firm handshake and a fascist soul. Though Bob Roberts brims with familiar faces-look for John Cusack, Susan Sarandon, and James Spader, among others-the star of the show is Robbins, who wrote and directed and who plays Roberts as a candidate whose menace lurks just beneath his steely smile. ”We filmed Bob Roberts as David Duke was gaining power,” says Robbins, ”but there are parts of Bob in the current candidates as well.” If you doubt it, don’t miss Roberts’ big speech about-you guessed it-values. (Paramount)
Writer-director Cameron Crowe’s ode to love on the Seattle club scene could do for twentysomethings what his script for 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High did for teens. Both comedies were based on Crowe’s close observation and interrogation of the natives about their lives. Singles’ensemble cast (Bridget Fonda, Kyra Sedgwick, Campbell Scott, Jim True, Sheila Kelley) swirls around a still center: Matt Dillon as a rocker who fronts a struggling band played by members of Pearl Jam, Nirvana’s heir apparent as the Next Big Grunge Thing. Dillon’s character is modeled on-he even wears the clothes of-Pearl Jam’s bassist, Jeff Ament. But it’s not a film about music: ”It’s about how clubs are the worst possible place to look for love,” says Crowe. Watch for self-spoofing cameos by thirtysomething’s Peter Horton and Batman director Tim Burton. (Warner Bros.)
Husbands and Wives
More in the spirit of Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) than his recent, melancholy Shadows and Fog, Woody Allen’s new comedy centers on an English professor (Allen) and his best friend (Sydney Pollack), both of whom stray from their marriages (to Mia Farrow and Judy Davis). Is the professor’s star pupil (Juliette Lewis) one of his affairs? “I’m a student, not a girlfriend,” Lewis says. “That never happens.” As for the director’s famously secretive working style, Lewis provides an insider’s view: “You don’t see maybe 20 people in the whole crew. At two in the afternoon he’s like ‘Okay, you think that’s enough now? Yeah, let’s call it a day.’ And that’s unheard of. He doesn’t even use his full 12 hours, let alone the 18 most directors go up to.” (TriStar)
One week before director Phil Alden Robinson (Field of Dreams) wrapped filming on Sneakers, he got a message from an “Office of Naval Intelligence” in Bethesda, Md. It seems the ONI wanted to discuss a matter of national security concerning Robinson’s comedy-action picture; Sneakers is about a team of outlaw computer hackers (led by Robert Redford and including Sidney Poitier, Dan Aykroyd, River Phoenix, and Mary McDonnell) hired by the government to break into a high-security compound and steal a certain black box used for decoding messages.
The next day, two officers arrived on set and demanded Robinson scrap the black box because it was too close to a real device the government was keeping under wraps. Finally it dawned on the director that Redford, who’s famous for his elaborate practical jokes, must be behind this. But Redford denies it to this day. So does Aykroyd, the next logical suspect. “I still have the number in Bethesda,” says an amused Robinson, who got a subsequent message giving him the go-ahead because the project had been “declassified.” “I called it the next night,” he says, “and I woke some woman up.” (Universal)
Director John Landis is offering his first monster movie since 1981’s An American Werewolf in London-and he hopes it won’t get chomped by competition from a flock of vampire flicks. “It’s not like Coppola’s Dracula, which is supposed to be operatic, or campy like Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” says coproducer Leslie Belzberg. “It’s funny but gory—an action-adventure.” Anne Parillaud plays a Pittsburgh vampire so moral she munches only on bad guys like mafioso Sal “the Shark” Macelli (Robert Loggia). To undercover cop Anthony LaPaglia, she gives hickeys. Cool effect alert: A special two-mirrored beam-splitter in the camera reacts with a gel in the actors’ contact lenses to signal their switch to vampirism. Landis figured fangs had been done to death. (Warner Bros.)
Glengarry Glen Ross
I woke up each day totally elated,” Jack Lemmon says of working with the powerhouse cast (Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, Kevin Spacey) assembled by director James Foley (At Close Range) for this screen adaptation of David Mamet’s profanity-rich play about a real estate scam. But the minute he stepped into wardrobe-which the cast began wearing even during rehearsals- , the ebullient Lemmon had no trouble sinking into the desperation of two-bit salesman Shelley “the Machine” Levene. “I wanted the guy to have short sleeves, a shirt you could hang up in the shower, suspenders and a belt, short socks, but his shoes shined,” says Lemmon, whose poignant performance is already stirring Oscar talk. “Nobody was going to notice. But I was going to know. It was for me more than the audience.” (New Line)
The time, 1955. The place, St. Matthew’s—a New England prep school with autumn leaves, football, and an ensemble of eight up-and-coming, hunky actors. Brendan Fraser (Encino Man) plays David Greene, a newly arrived senior willing to do anything, including hide his Star of David in a Band-Aid can, to fit in. But his deception is discovered, anti-Semitism surfaces, and, says Fraser, “all these good-looking, clean-cut guys become little fascists in suits.” (Paramount)
Also coming in September
Wind, an America’s Cup sailing adventure with Matthew Modine and Jennifer Grey; Sarafina!, a drama about life in a South African township starring Whoopi Goldberg; The Lover, an erotic French drama based on Marguerite Duras’ novel; the director’s cut of the sci-fi cult favorite Blade Runner; Lara Flynn Boyle, Sean Astin, and Dermot Mulroney as homeless Hollywood teenagers in Where The Day Takes You.