The latest in movie news the week of Oct. 12, 2008 -- What's next for the mother/daughter team of Laura Dern and Diane Ladd, plus the history of Disney's ''Fantasia''

The Dark Backward

The Art of Recycling
Despite its status as a great movie milestone, Walt Disney’s Fantasia has always been an enigma to the company’s marketing executives. When the Leopold Stokowski-orchestrated, seven-segment feature premiered in 1940, the advertising campaign was geared towards classical music buffs, who, along with children, made up the film’s limited audience. Since that debut Fantasia has been reissued seven times, but the movie never turned a profit until its rerelease during the age of Aquarius in 1969. That year, the experimental music-and-picture experience was aimed right at the tripped-out psychedelic generation, and it was a success. To commemorate Fantasia‘s big 50, Disney has gone back to basics, both with the advertising tactic and with the film itself. Now being promoted as a timeless children’s classic, Fantasia has undergone one of the most extensive restoration efforts in motion picture history. The two-year process included consulting Stokowski’s original handwritten notes for the sound track, returning the print to its original square-screen format, and restoring the negative to pristine condition. ”It is probably in better shape now than when it first premiered, because of today’s technology,” explains Dick Cook, President of Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. ”You are looking at something 50 years old that really could be considered the first music video,” he adds. Does that mean Leopold Stokowski was the very first veejay?

SoapDish Dish
Screenwriter Robert Harling, who supplied Shirley MacLaine, Sally Field, and Olympia Dukakis with a bumper crop of smart-mouth one-liners in his first movie, Steel Magnolias (”The only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize”), is busy these days dreaming up even zippier lines for his movie Soapdish, scheduled to start shooting in New York this month. Soapdish stars Field, this time as Celeste, an aging soap opera queen who feels threatened by a rival actress on the show. ”When Celeste gets depressed,” says Harling, ”she goes to the mall, tears off her sunglasses and head scarf and lets her fans mob her.” Also in the cast: Whoopi Goldberg as the soap’s head writer, Robert Downey Jr. as the hot-shot young producer, Kathy Najimy (Off Broadway’s The Kathy and Mo Show) as the wardrobe mistress, and Madonna will reportedly play Field’s rival, Montana, the sadistic soap star who ties Downey to the bed. Kevin Kline may also appear. Louisiana-bred Harling, 38, who is drawing on his own experiences playing bit parts on As the World Turns, Ryan’s Hope, and ”virtually every other New York-based soap,” isn’t worried that his second effort may not live up to the success of the box-office bloomer Magnolias. ”My daddy always said, ‘If you don’t want your butt shot at, don’t put it on the horizon.”’

One Good Dern
Contrary to their adversarial mother-daughter relationship in David Lynch’s Wild at Heart, Laura Dern and her real-life Mom, Diane Ladd, seem to love working together. In addition to an as-yet-untitled project that will feature Dern as the young version of Ladd’s character, the pair is currently on location in North Carolina shooting Rambling Rose, an erotic, off-beat tale about a sexually charged house- maid (Dern) and her effecc on Ladd’s eccentric Southern family. Because they play unrelated characters in this film, Dern and Ladd have dyed their matching golden locks strawberry blond and brown, respectively, to disguise their resemblance. Robert Duvall as Ladd’s husband ”Daddy,” and Lukas Haas as the couple’s son, round out the immediate family. Dern’s current boyfriend, filmmaker Renny Harlin (Die Hard 2), is producing the low-budget film.

Lending A Hand
If Judd Nelson is trying to breathe life back into his rapidly deflating acting career, he’s going about it in an awfully strange way. In his upcoming movie The Dark Backward, he plays a garbageman-aspiring comedian who becomes a success after a bizarre psychosomatic malady causes a third arm to grow out of the middle of his back. Tony Gardner, one of the makeup effects men behind Darkman, designed Nelson’s joystick-controlled mutant appendage which evolves, from a small zit through arm infancy to mature adult proportions (complete with armpit hair) over the course of the movie “I learned one lesson,” Gardner told Entertainment Weekly. “The back is one of the hardest places to blend something in and make it look natural.”

The Dark Backward
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