Tag Archives: BlogTalkRadio’s Movie Geeks United

Michael Jackson Planned to Step into Jimmy Cagney’s Shoes, Says ‘Captain EO’ Producer and Longtime Pal Rusty Lemorande

Unlike his idol Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson never established himself as a movie star – namely in a musical remake of the 1938 James Cagney flick Angels with Dirty Faces – and it’s a reget he took to his grave.

That, according to the King of Pop’s Captain EO collaborator, and friend of 25 years, Rusty Lemorande.

CAPTION: "He really wanted a film career," Rusty tells us of Michael (above in 1999).

"He really wanted a film career," Rusty tells us of Michael (above).

In an exclusive interview with BlogTalkRadio, Rusty – who produced and co-wrote the 3-D, Francis Ford Coppola-directed Captain EO as a Disney theme park attraction in 1986 – recounts how Michael came to sign on for Angels and another feature during the early ’90s.

“Michael was pretty pleased with our relationship, and he had just set up his film company at Sony-Columbia. And the problem was, with all the development people, etc. – and it was a pretty thick company with people – he wasn’t committing to anything,” Rusty, whose other production credits include the 1983 Barbra Streisand star vehicle Yentil, tells Movie Geeks United! host Jamey DuVall of the pop star, who died June 25 after suffering cardiac arrest.

“I think people didn’t understand how to relate to him. I used to say to him, ‘You’re a little like Arnold Schwarzenegger. You can’t do any part. The part has to be tailored to you. He became a star because of Terminator.

“Well, Michael said, ‘You come up with some ideas.’ And I came up with two fairly quickly.

CAPTION: Jimmy (right) was among the screen idol Michael hoped to emulate.

Jimmy (right) was the screen idol Michael (left) hoped to emulate in "Angels with Dirty Faces."

“One was to remake an old film called 7 Faces of Dr. Lao, which was a [1964] Tony Randall film that involved a child protagonist, and the other was to remake the film Angels with Dirty Faces, which is a James Cagney film. Michael was a huge James Cagney fan.

“Michael loved both projects. Part of it was the way I explained it to him, talked him through it. We had sketches done and creatures made – you really had to turn it into the toy version.

“On Dr. Lao, we had the set miniatures built of the circus and he committed to both, which was a major event at the time.

“One was set up at Warners. And the other was set up at Turner – who owned the remake rights. And everything was going great. Fantastic!

“And then the first scandal hit.”

CAPTION: The King of Pop with Francis during the production of "Captain EO."

The King of Pop with Francis during the production of "Captain EO."

(In 1993, Michael was accused of child abuse by the father of then 13-year-old Evan Chandler. Though he denied the allegations, the pop idol eventually settled the suit out of court for $22 million.)

“I remember it as vividly as I remember when I heard President Kennedy was shot. I was in my car driving to this studio where we were building these miniatures, where people were going to come and see them. And someone called me and said, ‘Did you see what’s on the news? Michael Jackson’s ranch has been raided,” continues Rusty.

“The truth of the matter is, very simply – and in fairness to Hollywood and the big studios – they have huge investment obligations to their shareholders. So they got very nervous. They didn’t know if the audience would still be there for Michael.

As the title character in "Captain EO."

As the title character in "Captain EO."

“Suddenly, nobody wanted to touch him… It was quite sad that it never happened, because it was very important for Michael to be in movies.

“He used to talk about Elvis Presley’s career and say, ‘If Elvis hadn’t made all those films, he wouldn’t be as remembered as he was.’”

During the 30-minute interview, Rusty also reveals how he came to earn Michael’s trust while he and The Godfather director were working on Captain EO.

“The secret of working with Michael Jackson was to think, how would you, literally, deal with a 10-year-old boy?

“Francis got it. At one point, he was having trouble directing Michael. Michael didn’t seem to respond to the kind of word dialogue that a director largely uses.

His only other big-screen appearance: Co-starring as Scarecrow in 1978's "The Wiz."

His only other big-screen appearance: As Scarecrow in 1978's "The Wiz."

“So [Francis] sent out for some masks: happy masks – like clown masks – and scary masks. And when he wanted to elicit an emotion from Michael, he would put on those masks and it would be as if a child were reacting to a mask. And it was effective!

“Michael loved to go toy shopping. But the adult in him wanted to drive his car. And he drove like a maniac. I was always grippin’ my seat.

“He loved masks. He had masks in his glove compartment, which he would put on as he drove. His explanation was, ‘If I don’t put it on, people will see it’s me and they’ll chase me.’

“Then we’d go into a toy store. Then it was funny, because the mask he’d wear into the store would usually be like a woman’s harem mask kind of thing, with a veil across his face.”

To hear Rusty’s full interview, click here.


Francis Ford Coppola: ‘I Never Really Had Friends’ (but Now I’m Comfortable Being Alone)

It seems Michael Corleone’s solitude in The Godfather trilogy was no mere cinematic conceit.

Rather, it was a Freudian reflection of Francis Ford Coppola’s own childhood.

“I don’t mind it. I can occupy myself, entertain myself,” Francis (above) tells us of being alone.

“I don’t mind it. I can entertain myself,” Francis (above) tells us of his solitude.

Interviewed on BTR, the legendary director, who turned 70 in April – and whose new film, Tetro, tells the story of a man searching for his long- missing older brother – discusses how his unstable upbringing has impacted his oeuvre.

When asked if, like Al Pacino‘s character in The Godfather, he still embraces solitude, Francis tells hosts Movie Geeks United hosts Jamey DuVall and Jerry Dennis:

“We’re always prisoners of what our lives were like when we were kids. And for whatever reason, my father [the late Carmine Coppola] tended to sell our homes every six months.

“I think he was speculating in real estate on the side. He was a musician. But we were always moving to another place. I was going to a new school very often in the middle of a term. I went to 24 schools before I ever got to college.

“I went to Hofstra College in Long Island for four years. But before that, I went to six high schools.

CAPTION: Al Pacino as Don Corleone: A stand-in for Francis?

Don Corleone: A stand-in for Francis?

“It’s not totally understand- able why [my father] did that. But he did. So as a result, I never really had friends, because it takes a while to be the new kid at school – especially when your name is Francis.

“Then when I was about nine, I had polio and I was taken out of school for a year and a half. I was paralyzed. So as a child, I learned to be alone a lot and kind of entertain myself with reading.

“I was like a boy scientist, doing experiments and reading about the lives of great scientists; playing with electrical gadgets in the basement.

“I was sad, I was lonely and I wanted to have friends. And then later when I was in a position – by working in theater – to have friends, that was nice.

“But now as an older man, I realize I’m extremely comfortable with being alone.”

CAPTION: Unseen in “Apocalypse” scenes like this: Another fleet of choppers.

Unseen in “Apocalypse” scenes like this: Another fleet of choppers.

Francis also discusses how technology has impacted the film industry since the height of his career in the ‘70s.

When asked, “If today, you were going to make some- thing like Apocalypse Now, would you still shoot on location? Or would you give in more to doing a lot of it on the computer?” the director says:

“A lot of my thinking and my conviction that the cinema was going to be electronic came from sitting in the mud for hours upon hours waiting for the helicopters to arrive, then being frustrated be- cause the pilots of those helicopters were afraid of the explosions that were going on below.

“So they were usually 10 feet higher than they were supposed to be. In any shot of Apocalypse Now where you see a lot of heli- copters, you’ve got to realize that there were another 10 higher than you can see, because they were afraid to come down low.”

Tetro, which Francis wrote, directed and produced, opens June 26.

To hear Francis’ full interview, click here.

Burt Young: I Was Sore at Sylvester Stallone After ‘Rocky V.’ ‘We Didn’t Talk for Years and Years’

Now we know why Burt Young played Sylvester Stallone’s dyspeptic bother-in-law Paulie so convincingly in the penultimate Rocky picture: He was peeved at the he-man.

Interviewed on Movie Geeks United, the legendary character actor says it was only his daughter’s fond memories of his earlier collaborations with Sly that repaired an epic rift.

CAPTION: Burt (above): Much, ah, happier in the final Rocky flick.

Burt (above): Much, ah, happier in the Rocky finale.

Rocky V…was a clinker. I was sore. In fact, he and I didn’t talk because I was sore about what we didn’t do to help that movie,” Burt tells host Jamey DuVall of the 1990 film.

“We really didn’t talk for years and years and years – until they told me he’d written another story [which] was turned down. But he believed in it,” Burt continues.

“My daughter…grew up with the Rocky things, and she was reminding me how we used to work together – write together, rehearse together – and the joy we used to have out of each other from working.

“So I was invited as part of the audience when [Sly] was doing that Contender [TV] series with Sugar Ray Leonard. And it was the first time we said hello in many years.

Yo, Paulie! With on-again pal Sly at the “Rocky Balboa” premiere.

Yo, Paulie! With on-again pal Sly at the “Rocky Balboa” premiere.

“And he said, ‘Burt, I’ve been turned down on this,” he adds of Sly’s script for Rocky Balboa, which would be brought to the big screen in 2006.

“But I only want to hear what you have to say about it.’ So he sent me a copy. And it was magnificent.”

Burt also chats with Jamey about working with co- star Jon Voight and the late director Hal Ashby on the 1982 comedy Lookin’ To Get Out, and about working with the late Rodney Dangerfield on 1986’s Back to School.

“At the beginning, we got off on the wrong start,” Burt says of Rodney.

“So for a while I barred him from my trailer for poor conduct and deportment.”

To hear Burt’s full interview, click here.

Jon Voight Reveals Inspiration for Character Played by Baby Daughter Angelina Jolie in Her First Flick

CAPTION: “Maybe the whole story will come out one day,” Jon (above) tells us of Hal’s inability to ever meet daughter Lee in person.

“Maybe the whole story will come out one day,” Jon (above) tells us of Hal’s inability to ever meet daughter Lee.

NEW YORK, March 18, 2009 (BlogTalkRadio) – Talk about art imitating life, or vice-versa – or something like that.

Here’s the story: In 1981, Jon Voight signed on to star in a comedy called Lookin’ To Get Out, which he’d co-written.

Co-starring would be Burt Young of Rocky fame, and the stunning Ann-Margret.

Directing would be Hal Ashby, a maverick who’d made such hit flicks as Harold and Maude (1971), Shampoo (1975) and Being There (1979), and who would die of cancer 1988.

Jon had been pals with Hal since 1977, when Hal directed the golden boy opposite Jane Fonda in Coming Home, for which Jon won his first and only Oscar (just as Jane won hers).

Cut to 2007. “A young Scottish writer by the name of Nick Dawson, who’d fallen in love with Hal’s work. . .called me up and said, ‘I’d like to interview you. I’m doing a book on Hal Ashby,’” Jon tells Movie Geeks United host Jamey DuVall.

CAPTION: Fatherhood, interrupted: (l-r) Jon with Angie and Ann-Margret in “Lookin’ to Get Out.”

Fatherhood, interrupted: (r-l) Jon with Angie and Ann-Margret in “Lookin’ to Get Out.”

A few months later, Nick called again, to arrange a meeting with Jon.

“May I bring Hal’s daughter with me?” said Nick.

“I didn’t know he had a daughter,” said Jon.

“She was trying to get in touch with [Hal] during his lifetime,” Jon tells Jamey. “But they never met. . .I’m sorry I didn’t know about this, because I was close enough to Hal that I definitely would have been able to get them together.”

Angie: Lookin' to get in – to pictures.

Angie: Lookin' to get in – to pictures.

A few days later, Jon met with Hal’s daughter, Lee Ashby McManus, and Nick.

“They started to talk about how much they loved Lookin’ to Get Out. And I asked Lee, ‘Why is it your favorite film?’” says Jon.

“She said, ‘Because I think the girl in it’ – the little girl at the end, played by Angelina Jolie as a little baby – ‘was me,’” adds Jon of his daughter, to whom he has barely spoken since 2002, when he said in a TV interview that she had “severe emotional problems.”

“And I thought about it and I said, ‘Yes, it’s very possible that it was you,’” he continues.

“I remember the discussions [Hal and I] had. We were thinking of going with a little boy. But Hal wanted it to be a girl.”

CAPTION: “He was a very loving man,” says Jon of Hal (above). “He cared for everybody.”

“He was a very loving man,” says Jon of Hal (above). “He cared for everybody.”

Tonight, March 18, at 10 p.m. ET, Jamey unspools his full 20-minute chat with Jon, in which the actor also dis- cusses how he discovered the lost director’s cut of Lookin’ To Get Out; working with Hal on Coming Home; making the film that made him a superstar, Midnight Cowboy; and why his brother, who wrote the rock anthem Wild Thing, changed his name from James Lesley Voight to Chip Taylor.

And if that were not enough, Burt (as in the aforemen- tioned Burt Young) will be joining Jamey live to offer his on-set recollections of Lookin’ To Get Out.

Also on the show will be Nick Dawson, whose new bio is titled Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel.

The director’s cut of Lookin’ To Get Out makes its world debut April 3 at the Sarasota Film Festival. For more information on the event, click here.

To hear Jon’s full interview, click here.

Heath Ledger Was No Joker on Set, Says Fellow Oscar Nominee: ‘He’d Just Hug Everybody’

If the inside scoop on Heath Ledger is correct (and we have no reason to believe it’s not), the late actor was not only a gentleman but a teddy bear to boot.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says John of the affable relationships Heath (above, as The Joker) had with staffers on The Dark Knight.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” says John of the affable relationships Heath (above) had with production staffers.

This week on BlogTalkRadio’s Movie Geeks United, host Jamey DuVall talks with makeup artist John Caglione Jr., who created Heath’s now-iconic Joker face in The Dark Knight.

John – a veteran of such hit flicks as The Departed, Donnie Brasco and Heat – tells Jamey he has never worked with an actor quite so genuinely affectionate as Heath.

“When Heath would come in in the morning – sometimes really early, like 5:30 – the first thing he’d do would be to hug every- body in the trailer.  Big bear hugs to everybody – all the makeup and hair people, and all the actors,” says John, who, like Heath, was nominated for an Oscar for his work on the film.

“Then we’d do the makeup – took about an hour and a half – and he’d work a 12-hour day. And no matter how banged-up or bruised Heath was after that long day, after we’d take off the last drop of makeup he’d just hug everybody in the trailer before he left.”

John (right) at work on another famous face.

John (right) at work on another famous face.

The Dark Knight was Heath’s last completed film role, though when he passed away 13 months ago from an accidental overdose of pre- scription drugs, he has in the middle of shooting The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

To complete that flick, which is scheduled for release this summer, director Terry Gilliam cast Colin Farrell, Jude Law and Johnny Depp in different incarnations of Heath’s character.

To hear John’s full interview, click here.

No American Teeth for Me! Sniffs Alan Rickman

If ever there were an actor whose every pore seethes haughtiness, it’s Alan Rickman.

Incisors matter.

Alan as Eli: Incisor matters.

Remember Hans Gruber in Die Hard? How about Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series?

Well, now comes another award-worthy elitist: Eli Michaelson in Randall Miller’s dark comedy, Nobel Son.

But prepping for – and playing – the part of the Nobel Prize winner whose son is kidnapped took more than a stiff upper lip and upturned nose, Alan tells Movie Geeks United host Jamey DuVall.

“I always rely on fairly basic instincts and some instinct made me go to my dentist in London and say, ‘I need you to make me some imperfect front teeth.’

“Because I thought there was something shark-like about [Eli’s] appetites.  And…I needed to look in the mirror and look different,” reveals the classically-trained British actor.nobel_son_poster2

“And it helped a lot. Whether you notice it or not watching the film, I got these two front teeth that just wrap over each other – rather than being a victim of the great American dentist.”

Thanks for the anti-Yankee sentiment complement, Al!

Nobel Son, which co-stars Danny DeVito, Bill Pullman, Mary Steenburgen and Ted Danson, opens today.

To hear Alan’s full interview, click here.

Peter Bogdanovich to Chazz Palminteri: Listen to your director – not me!

Here’s a Hollywood anecdote that’s nothing if not ironic.

Director Peter Bogdanovich, as film fans need not be reminded, was a golden boy during the ‘70s. Among his now-classic flicks are The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon and What’s Up, Doc?

Since then, however, he’s been working more on-screen that off-, making cameo appearances in TV shows like The Sopranos and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Now Chazz Palminteri.  He made his name as star and writer of the 1993 flick A Bronx Tale (which was directed by Robert De Niro – though forget De Niro; he’s got nothing to do with this story).

Since then, Chazz – in addition to dabbling in directing – has carved out a niche for himself as a big-screen mobster, having played one in such hits as Bullets Over Broadway and Analyze This (which starred Bobby De Niro, who, remember, we don’t care about here).

Reigned in on Robert’s set.

Chazz: Reigned in on Robert’s set.

Now onto Robert Davi, another tough-guy actor who’s perhaps best known for playing an FBI agent in the original Die Hard, and the villain in the 1989 James Bond film License to Kill.

Unlike Peter and Chazz, Robert (Davi, that is; we still don’t care about De Niro) had never directed until getting behind the camera for The Dukes, his feature film about an aging doo-wop group, which opens today, and which he also stars in – along with Peter and Chazz.

So this week on BlogTalkRadio’s Movie Geeks United, host Jamey DuVall asks Robert the natural question: Was it hard for him to direct a skilled director like Peter, or even, to a lesser extent, Chazz – all of whom are real-life pals?

“The funny part is, there were a couple of times,” says Robert. “Because, when you’re close friends, every once in a while somebody might challenge you by saying, ‘You know, I don’t really…’ As a director, if you let the horses out of the corral, it could be devastating. So you gotta maintain that kind of a thing.

“I remember one time, Chazz asked [about a scene] and I said, ‘Chaz, just do it – da da da – this way, and I think it’s gonna work.’

“Then he looks at Peter and says, ‘Peter, tell him.’ And Peter, in that inimitable way he has, turns to Chazz and says, ‘Robert’s right, Chazz. Listen to your director.’”

To hear Robert dish more about his first outing behind the camera, click here.