Fall movie preview: November 1993
''Addams Family Values,'' ''Flesh and Bone,'' and ''The Nutcracker'' are a few titles coming to theatres this year
Addams Family Values
Starring: Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Joan Cusack, Carol Kane, Christina Ricci, Jimmy Workman.
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld.
More is better, the unwritten law of Hollywood sequels, is an adage Addams Family Values takes literally. The follow-up to the 1991 hit opens with the birth of a new addition to the infamous clan — Pubert, a mustachioed baby boy whose crying ways threaten to dampen his parents’ romantic passions. Enter Debbie (Cusack), a nanny with a fondness for rich men and possibly homicide.
News of the impending babe, announced by mom Morticia at the end of The Addams Family, may have brought joy to sequel-hungry audiences, but first-time director Barry Sonnenfeld was too emotionally exhausted to share in the revelry. The Addams Family had been over budget and over schedule, and even the film’s phenomenal box office success ($113.5 million) wasn’t enough to persuade him to do a follow-up. ”But then Paul Rudnick [who did uncredited rewrites on the first Family] came to me with a great script,” Sonnenfeld remembers, ”and Paramount was willing to pay me a large amount of money. One without the other would not have worked.” As for reassembling the old cast, he says, laughing, ”Paramount was willing to pay them large amounts of money.”
Large would be the definitive word for the movie; its almost $40 million budget exceeds the original’s cost by at least $8 million. ”They spent a lot to make things look decrepit,” says Cusack. But it’s not all peeling paint and stuffed animals (and we don’t mean the cuddly kind). To add an air of luxurious ruin, Oscar winner Theoni V. Aldredge (The Great Gatsby) was brought in to design the costumes. ”I didn’t do the first movie, so I never understood why I was asked to do the second,” Aldredge says modestly. ”They’re the same people; they wear the same clothes.” For subtle distinctions, she added intricate beading and embroidery to Morticia’s omnipresent blackness. As for Gomez, it’s custom-made couture as usual. ”There was Raul all over the place,” Aldredge says fondly, ”enjoying his silk pajamas.”
The family has changed its ways somewhat. It’s not only Pubert (cartoonist Charles Addams’ original name for Pugsley, changed because of its raunchy implications): Now they actually go out and do things. Wednesday (Ricci) and Pugsley (Workman) go to sleep-away camp in the mountains. Morticia and Gomez travel to a restaurant for a tango. Debbie and Fester (Lloyd) honeymoon in Hawaii (Fester had wanted Death Valley, but it was booked).
And then there’s the ever-present backyard graveyard — good for an evening stroll as well as a wedding between the murderous Debbie and the lovestruck Fester. Debbie’s off-white, off-the-shoulder, satin-and-organza gown ”is not in the greatest taste,” admits Aldredge. Actually, says Sonnenfeld, ”it’s in really bad taste, but she’s a garish bride.”
The same could be said of the ceremony, which takes place in front of dozens of guests — in mourning regalia. Sonnenfeld, whose direction of Lloyd consisted merely of occasional reminders to ”act more like Fester,” instructed the ghoulish groom to imitate the director at his own wedding. ”I wept uncontrollably through the whole thing,” says Sonnenfeld. ”I thought I was laughing, but it turned out not.” A husband to the Addams manor born. (Nov. 19)
Buzz: Sonnenfeld’s immediate goal is ”basking in the sequel’s financial glory.” He should have no problem.
The Beverly Hillbillies
Starring: Jim Varney, Diedrich Bader, Erika Eleniak, Cloris Leachman, Dabney Coleman, Lily Tomlin, Rob Schneider, Lea Thompson.
Directed by: Penelope Spheeris.
When Twentieth Century Fox decided to bring the story ’bout a man named Jed to the big screen, early research showed that audiences wanted to see the stars of the 1962-71 CBS series do the movie version as well. This was a slight problem, since Irene ”Granny” Ryan, Raymond ”Mr. Drysdale” Bailey, and Nancy ”Miss Jane” Kulp have all — to paraphrase Granny — gone on to their rewards. So director Penelope Spheeris (Wayne’s World) cast from scratch. ”Audiences think of it as a national treasure,” she says. ”They don’t want to have it altered too much.”
Fortunately, the new cast holds some inspiring choices, including Varney (of Ernest fame) as Jed, Leachman as Granny, Tomlin as Jane Hathaway, and Coleman as her boss, Milburn Drysdale. (The original Jed, Buddy Ebsen, makes a brief cameo appearance.)
Other aspects of the production will look familiar to fans. The TV theme song will be dusted off, and the plot strikes variations on an actual episode in which Jed tries to find a husband for hellcat daughter Elly May, played by Erika Eleniak (Under Siege). This leads to some attempted swindling by bad guys Laura (Lea Thompson, of Dennis the Menace) and Tyler (Rob Schneider, of Saturday Night Live). Two replicas of the Clampetts’ truck have been created for the film, and the movie hillbillies have the same disgusting diet as before. Leachman suffered the most for her art with her first taste of a gen-u-ine chicken claw. ”Penelope set up a close-up shot and I had to sit there and chew on it,” says Leachman. ”Oh, my God, and I’m a vegetarian.”
And now for the bad news: The famed Kirkeby mansion — the Beverly Hills monolith made famous on the series — will not make a comeback for the film. ”It’s been totally redone,” says Spheeris. ”It doesn’t even look like that anymore.” Instead, she opted for a new abode in Pasadena for the exterior and five different Beverly Hills homes for interiors (most of which rented for about $15,000 a day).
The change of venue hasn’t bothered early audiences. The first test screening, Spheeris says, did ”as well as the first Wayne’s World screening.” Informed that Mike Myers, her estranged former colleague, said the same thing about So I Married an Axe Murderer, she replies, ”Then I’ll never say that again.”
Buzz: It doesn’t matter what Spheeris says. The success of recent TV transplant The Fugitive, plus a whole bushel of built-in curiosity, bodes well for the box office.
Flesh And Bone
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Meg Ryan, James Caan, Gwyneth Paltrow.
Directed by: Steve Kloves.
A perma-tense Quaid drives around Texas in a truck, stocking vending machines with condoms and candy. After Ryan jumps out of a cake and into his life, fate points them toward the revelation of a dark secret from the past. Such is the skeleton of tragedy in Flesh and Bone, the first time since 1988’s D.O.A. that the couple has worked together on a film.
The hectic shooting schedule, which included 12 small Texas towns in eight weeks (Quaid calls it the ”Motel 6 tour of West Texas”), was particularly harried for the stars. Their son, Jack Henry, who was 5 months old when shooting started, came along for the trip. At least the couple didn’t argue about the movie at night. ”We’d be in bed,” says Quaid, ”and she’d be on her side working on her script and I’d be on the other side working on mine. We never discussed it, and I think the director appreciated that we weren’t ganging up on him.” (Nov. 5)
Buzz: Coming off her starring role in Sleepless in Seattle, Ryan can probably guarantee at least a couple of good weekends for just about any movie, even this very bleak drama.
Even Cowgirls Get The Blues
Starring: Uma Thurman, John Hurt, Rain Phoenix, Lorraine Bracco, Angie Dickinson, Heather Graham, Keanu Reeves.
Directed by: Gus Van Sant.
If you think the quasi-Shakespearean dialogue in Gus Van Sant’s last movie, My Own Private Idaho, was weird, you ain’t heard nothing yet. ”Cowgirls is very literary, with lots of soliloquies, for the most part directly from the book,” says Thurman, who stars as a hitchhiker with zucchini-size thumbs who finds her way to the Rubber Rose Ranch (shot on the same spectacular location as John Wayne’s 1975 film Rooster Cogburn). As fans of Tom Robbins’ 1976 cult novel know, the Rubber Rose is owned by the Countess (Hurt), a woman-hating vaginal-deodorant mogul. The ladies that Sissy (Thurman) meets — played by a few actresses and a passel of actual cowgirls — defy the Countess, take over the ranch, and take in a whooping-crane flock by luring the birds with peyote. ”They take back Mother Earth,” says Thurman, ”in the full glory of eco-feminism.”
”The Countess’ monologue is the longest John Hurt says he’s ever done,” says Van Sant, ”but the movie as a whole should move quickly, like a nice screwball comedy.” Adding to the mad mix are bizarro cameos by Sean Young, Ken Kesey, Roseanne Arnold, Ed Begley Jr., Steve Buscemi, Crispin Glover, Buck Henry, Carol Kane, and Noriyuki ”Pat” Morita. (Nov. 3)
Buzz: The word mainstream doesn’t spring to mind. But Van Sant has a killer cast, a k.d. lang soundtrack, and 17 years of accumulated goodwill toward Robbins’ best-seller to help him along.
The Remains Of The Day
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Emma Thompson, James Fox, Christopher Reeve.
Directed by: James Ivory.
An old-fashioned, relentlessly repressed butler (Hopkins) realizes that because of his years of single-minded (and misplaced) loyalty to the lord of Darlington Hall, he has lost the chance to love the housekeeper once in his charge (Thompson, his Oscar-winning Howards End costar). Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel was published in 1989, but it is no surprise that the E.M. Forsteresque theme — an awakening set against the English countryside — should be brought to the screen by period specialists Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, the producing-directing team of such Forster favorites as A Room With a View and Howards End.
Director Mike Nichols made Remains a hot project when he optioned it soon after publication: Jeremy Irons was interested in playing the butler; Meryl Streep and Anjelica Huston were considered for the role of the housekeeper (Streep was so eager she auditioned for the role and fired her agent when she didn’t get it). Eventually, Nichols lost interest, and Merchant and Ivory joined on, shrinking the $27 million budget to $11.5 million.
When no single location could be found for Darlington Hall, Merchant Ivory decided on five, choosing the most glorious garden, the most elegant library, the largest meeting hall. But while the grandness of the characters’ homes may have been unfamiliar to the actors, their emotions were not. Says Thompson, ”I think the whole notion of period is utterly ridiculous. You know, you look back, and look at how people behaved.” (Nov. 5)
Buzz: With the same stars, director, producer, screenwriter, and tone of Howards End, this could bring home just as many Academy nominations.
The Three Musketeers
Starring: Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, Chris O’Donnell, Oliver Platt, Rebecca De Mornay, Tim Curry.
Directed by: Stephen Herek.
After the success of such period adventures as Dances With Wolves, Robin Hood — Prince of Thieves, and The Last of the Mohicans, what next but another remake of that rip-roaring chestnut The Three Musketeers? Disney’s version of the Alexandre Dumas swashbuckler is an expensive — reportedly $30 million-brat — packed family entertainment, with Sutherland (Athos) and Sheen (Aramis) rakishly attired in the requisite swirling capes and plumed hats. ”It’s loosely based on the Dumas characters,” says Herek (Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure), who compares his action-filled approach to shooting a Raiders of the Lost Ark adventure. ”It runs on the edge between total comedy and something you can believe for a while.”
His actors, who trained with Errol Flynn’s own fencing master, Bob Anderson, see the film more as ”a straightforward story about good and evil,” according to Sutherland. ”It’s a good old-fashioned narrative,” says Curry, the red-robed epitome of evil as Cardinal Richelieu, ”where honor in the end is satisfied.” (Nov. 12)
Buzz: By rushing to the starting line, Disney producer Joe Roth forced TriStar to abandon its Musketeers remake. But the real test will be whether these hotshots generate Spielbergian excitement.
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Jessica Lynn Cohen, Darci Kistler.
Directed by: Emile Ardolino.
Executive producer Robert A. Krasnow, chairman of Elektra Entertainment, struggled for four years to finance a screen version of the New York City Ballet’s The Nutcracker. Then ICM agent Sam Cohn called with the glad tidings that Macaulay Culkin was itching to dance the Nutcracker Prince. The request wasn’t entirely out of left field: Mac spent two years taking dance classes before Home Alone made him a movie star. The needed $10 million in financing immediately fell into place. ”It was my first taste of star power,” says Krasnow. While City Ballet director Peter Martins and director Ardolino (Dirty Dancing) promise a respectfully traditional staging of George Balanchine’s choreography, they have added some flashy Industrial Light & Magic visual effects. (Nov. 24)
Buzz: Should be the highest-grossing ballet movie (and lowest-grossing Macaulay Culkin movie) in history.
The Saint of Fort Washington
Starring: Matt Dillon, Danny Glover, Rick Aviles, Ving Rhames.
Directed by: Tim Hunter.
In a socially conscious fable set in and around a Manhattan homeless shelter, a Vietnam vet (Glover) befriends a young schizophrenic (Dillon) who’s on the streets for the first time. To school his actors in life on the streets, Hunter sent them to the Bowery to wash car windshields. ”Every fourth car, they’d be recognized. Everyone would have a good laugh and traffic would stop,” he says. ”But a lot of people just told them to get away. The experience was sobering — and added to their windshield-washing technique when we got to those scenes.” (Nov. 17)
Buzz: In deference to its Lethal Weapon star, Warner Bros. should support this Thanksgiving fare, though it’s no competition for the holiday treats.
Romeo Is Bleeding
Starring: Gary Oldman, Lena Olin, Annabella Sciorra, Juliette Lewis.
Directed by: Peter Medak.
If Goethe had written GoodFellas, it might have looked something like this dark fable of lust, betrayal, and the NYPD. Oldman is Jack, a cop who plays both sides — whether it’s the law and crime, or his wife (Sciorra) and mistress (Lewis). When garter-belted assassin Mona DeMarco (Olin) comes along, his precariously balanced life takes a spill. ”Jack felt that by confessing his crimes, he would redeem himself,” says screenwriter Hilary Henkin. ”The thing is, life doesn’t really care.”
Medak (The Ruling Class) chose to shoot in New York, where the film is set, rather than head to cheaper Canadian climes: ”I saw Mel Brooks the other day, and he said (of the $11.5 million budget), ‘It’s impossible to make a movie there for that.’ But you can do anything in New York.” (Nov. 19)
Buzz: Dripping with cool chaos and arty action, this is a film buff’s dream. But Goethe never had to play the ‘burbs.
Starring: Robert Burke, Nancy Allen, Rip Torn, Remy Ryan.
Directed by: Fred Dekker.
Never mind saving 21st-century Detroit: Can the city’s heavy-metal lawman rescue Orion Pictures? After rushing Robo 3 into production in 1990 without star Peter Weller (who was committed to Naked Lunch), the cash-strapped studio wound up sitting on the finished movie for nearly two years. Now it’s their best shot at a hit this fall, and they’re aiming at a wider market. Director Dekker calls this PG-13 fantasy ”a James Bond-style action-adventure with a lot less gore than the first two (R-rated) movies.” Torn plays the new chief stockholder of nefarious O.C.P., whose land-development deal with a Japanese conglomerate is forcing families out of their homes. Among them is an orphaned 10-year-old girl (Ryan), who joins forces with Robo (Burke). (Nov. 5)
Buzz: It opened to brisk business in Japan and France this summer, but remember how U.S. audiences reacted the last time a violent action hero was toned down and teamed up with a kid?
I’ll Do Anything
Starring: Nick Nolte, Albert Brooks, Julie Kavner, Joely Richardson, Tracey Ullman.
Directed by: James L. Brooks.
Nick Nolte sings! But the real miracle is getting a $40 million musical comedy made in the wake of such noted bombs as Newsies and For the Boys. Columbia is betting that blue-chip producer James L. Brooks (Terms of Endearment, Broadcast News) can make the box office hum, with several original songs by [symbol for Prince] (formerly known as Prince), additional music by Sinéad O’Connor and Carole King, and choreography by Twyla Tharp.
”We gave up trying to define ourselves,” says director Brooks. ”It’s not a rock musical, it’s not a pop musical, it’s not a Broadway musical.” Exactly what is it? Mostly the story of a slipping movie star (Nolte) who is suddenly saddled with the 6-year-old daughter (Whittni Wright) he hasn’t seen in three years. Richardson (Shining Through) is a studio development executive; his love interest, Kavner, is an audience researcher; and Albert Brooks is a producer of schlocky films (a typical one features Woody Harrelson as an action-adventure hero).
Just how do you get Nolte to sing? Fortunately, he has only one number, and that, says Brooks, was ”worked out of an acting exercise with him and Whittni. It’s a game where you teach kids to lose self-consciousness by mirroring you. Twyla and I just sat back while Nick and Whittni worked out the number. You can call it a song and dance, but that’s stretching the definition.” (Nov. 12)
Buzz: Newsies. Then again, Terms of Endearment. Then again, For the Boys. Then again, Broadcast News…
Starring: Al Pacino, Sean Penn, Penelope Ann Miller, John Leguizamo.
Directed by: Brian De Palma.
Just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in: Al Pacino goes mobster once again, playing Carlito Brigante, a Harlem-born Puerto Rican gangster just out of prison — a tough guy trying to escape his past. Based on two novels by New York Supreme Court justice Edwin Torres, Brian De Palma’s reportedly $40 million movie (his first megabudget feature since Bonfire of the Vanities) chronicles the 1970s New York barrio scene. Carlito’s problem, says Torres, is that ”when you’ve been in the money, with fast cars and a fast lifestyle, it’s hard to throttle down to pedestrian speed.”
Throughout the filming, Pacino improvised with the other actors, which proved a problem in at least one case. Pacino doesn’t speak Spanish, and Jorge Porcel, who plays a nightclub owner, speaks only Spanish. ”Al plays so much off what’s going on in the other guy’s eyes,” says De Palma. ”With this guy, he saw someone waiting for his cues.” Facing the actor’s blank look, Pacino was at a loss. ”Rather than deal with this, I had Al learn his lines in Spanish, and we have one complete scene with subtitles,” says De Palma.
To play Brigante’s sleazy lawyer, who is tempted by the mob’s lure, De Palma tapped Sean Penn, who decided to have a makeover for the role — permed hair, dyed red, with part of his scalp shaved to create a receding hairline. No wonder he doesn’t show up in the trailers.
Buzz: Coming off his Scent of a Woman Oscar, a Pacino movie of this scale reeks of success.
Starring: Colm Meaney, Tina Kellegher, Ruth McCabe.
Directed by: Stephen Frears.
You might call it a sequel to The Commitments, since it’s based on the second book in Irish novelist Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy. But unlike Alan Parker’s Dublin bar-band romp, Frears’ small-scale tragicomedy centers on Dessie Curley (Meaney, who played the Elvis-loving father of the Commitments’ manager and is currently on TV’s Deep Space Nine). In Snapper, Meaney is a hard drinker whose 20-year-old daughter (Kellegher) gets pregnant and won’t name the father. While Curley studies birth manuals, he reexamines his own values. ”He appears to be a lumpen working-class guy, but in a blinkered way he begins to develop,” says Meaney. ”Roddy’s is the first generation of Irish men to deal with women as equals. It’s a very potent thing in Ireland, a man having to confront his daughter’s sexual freedom.”
Buzz: Cannes loved it, but don’t expect a soundtrack album — or a Commitments-size success.
Starring: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill, Anna Paquin.
Directed by: Jane Campion.
The Piano‘s mute heroine (Hunter) expresses herself through her piano, which might explain why the film, cowinner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes last May, seems to need no translation for international audiences. ”Music doesn’t speak in a matter-of-fact way,” says Campion, the first woman to take a Golden Palm in the Cannes festival’s 46-year history. ”It talks to the spirit.” The New Zealand writer-director of Sweetie and An Angel at My Table set out ”to tell a love story,” she says, ”and play with the romantic gothic genre, create an Emily Brontë landscape in 19th-century New Zealand. Frontier women were bringing pianos into the wilderness, which was a big achievement for European culture.”
To play against Neill and Keitel (the husband and lover, respectively, in the romantic triangle), Campion was looking for a taller actress, but she says the 5’2” Hunter’s ”stupendous gaze” on her audition tape cinched it. Hunter, who grabbed the Cannes best actress prize, wanted to play the frontier bride so badly, ”I felt I’d do anything to get it,” she said. ”Some directors might be put off by that kind of intensity, but Jane was kind enough to respond.” (Nov. 24)
Buzz: If it’s the major Oscar contender everyone expects, it would be another plume in the cap of Miramax Films and Miramax’s new owner, Disney.
Also in November
Kirstie Alley and John Travolta are masters to the conversing canine stars of the sequel Look Who’s Talking Now — It’s a Dog’s Life; a bionic dog goes ballistic in the horrific thriller Man’s Best Friend, starring Ally Sheedy; Christopher Lambert and Mario Van Peebles are the good guys in the action- adventure flick Gunmen; Wild West focuses on a Pakistani man living in London who dreams of being a country singer in Nashville; Isabelle Huppert plays an author in an emotional struggle with her two lovers in Love After Love; and dinosaurs explore modern-day New York in the animated children’s feature We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Tale, which, yes, Steven Spielberg produced.