LIZ SMITH: Carrie Fisher & Star Wars, Bradley Cooper and Beyoncé in A Star is Born?
“I TRANSCEND whimsy!” That’s Carrie Fisher in the current issue of Rolling Stone.
Fisher is part of the magazine’s big take-out on the latest “Star Wars” movie, “The Force Awakens.” (This will be a true “Star Wars” sequel, taking place thirty years after the third installment of the original films. Nobody really wants to think about the three “prequels” that followed some years later.)
Fisher reprises her role as Princess Leia, along with Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill returning to their original characters. Although Fisher notes, after her nervousness died down: “It’s about the younger people doing it now!” (Among them John Boyega, Daisy Ridley, Lupita Nyong’o, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver and Carrie’s own daughter Billie Lourd.)
Fisher amused RS writer Brian Hiatt by mocking her British-tinged line readings at the beginning of the first “SW” movie. Not surprisingly, she remembers one of the worst: “Governor Tarkin, I thought I recognized your foul stench when I was brought on board!” Carrie then makes the writer repeat it. He admits (“This is one of the greatest moments of my life!”)
“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” opens on the 18th. It is expected to be mammoth.
NOT SO mammoth has been Ron Howard’s “In the Heart of the Sea,” which is honestly quite a gripping cinematic achievement, but audiences are staying away in droves. This despite the presence of beautiful Chris Hemsworth. How big was “In the Heart …” supposed to be? Well, his publicists and Warner Bros. got the charming actor — you know him as Thor in the wildly successful Marvel franchise — a Vanity Fair cover. The article was hopefully titled “Meet Your State-of-the-Art Hollywood Movie Star!”
Hemsworth is apparently a doll, a good actor (I find him more charismatic than Channing Tatum, actually — which is saying a lot!) And he smartly lives in his homeland, Australia, away from Hollywood madness. But the Howard sea-saga was supposed to put him over the top as an all-around “state-of-the-art movie star,” whose non-Marvel projects don’t permanently type him.
I’m sure that will come. He’s young and — as VF author Lili Anolik points out repeatedly — gorgeous. But sometimes I wonder about the people who rep stars and the studios behind big movies. Maybe somebody should have really watched the film — which is based on the true tale upon which Herman Melville created “Moby Dick” — and thought, “Nah, let’s wait a beat before plopping him on the cover of Vanity Fair.”
FANS OF Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand are in a dither with the announcement that Bradley Cooper is intending to remake “A Star is Born” the classic tale of a fading star married to a rising star. One assumes he will play Norman Maine (or some variation of that) and Beyonce is slated to enact the young star/wife who eclipses him (Vicki Lester or Esther Hoffman, as per Janet, Judy and Barbra. Although Mrs. Jay Z will probably have an entirely different sort of moniker.)
To be perfectly honest, the best of the three previous tales of show biz vagaries and perfidy was the 1937 version with Janet Gaynor, and it’s not perfect. Judy’s fabled 1954 epic, produced by her then-hubby Sid Luft and directed by George Cukor, is overwhelming in size and scope and length, but the great Miss Garland is physically miscast (plumpish and already aged beyond her 31 years) and encouraged by director Cukor to act up a mannered storm — as if she hadn’t been a brilliant actress since childhood. Still, she has many great moments, dramatically and, of course, musically. She was entirely robbed of an Oscar. (No offense to Grace Kelly, who impressed the Academy that year by wearing glasses and a severe expression in “The Country Girl.”)
As for Barbra’s 1976 version, it became as controversial as the Garland film. What with her own “perfectionism” at dizzy heights, the interference of boyfriend and co-producer Jon Peters, and the enmity of director Frank Pierson, the movie opened to scathing reviews (“A Bore is Starred,” wrote Rex Reed famously) but huge box-office receipts and even a songwriting Oscar for Streisand.
There is something good, even great, to be said about all the versions. And even the bad stuff — particularly in the Garland/Streisand flicks makes for a great deal of fun. (A drinking game for Garland’s fluctuating weight, or the eye-rolling five-minute Streisand finale, which makes us very much forget she’s supposed to be honoring her husband. Also, the idea put forward that Barbra is a gritty rock star.)
So it might be made again, in an entirely new way. So what? It takes not a bit from the previous films. They will exist as long as civilized civilization does. Beyoncé was supposed to become a big movie star after “DreamGirls,” but that didn’t quite work out — not that she has anything to complain about, careerwise. (Movies didn’t really work out for Jennifer Hudson either, despite her Oscar. Just as things didn’t work out for Jennifer Holliday, who originated the role of Effie on Broadway, won a Tony and then — faded out. My advice? Stay away from Effie!)
So now Beyoncé will have a lot of new music and high drama to show her stuff, and so will Bradley Cooper. (He will be competing with the distinguished memories of Fredric March, James Mason — who almost takes the movie from Judy — and the bare-chested emoting of Kris Kristofferson.)
Maybe. If this movie is a go, it won’t go until 2017. There’s many a slip twixt the lip and “Hello, everybody. This is Mrs. Norman Maine.”
I MIGHT have more to say about the Golden Globe nominations later, but I must, very kindly, question Lady Gaga’s nomination for her role in “American Horror Story.” The mere presence of the pop icon is fascinating, especially in such a weird show, but I wouldn’t call her an actress, yet. And I’m quite disappointed that Showtime’s “The Affair” and HBO’s “The Leftovers” were snubbed. At least Maura Tierney of “The Affair” was justifiably noticed by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Also — “Mad Max — Fury Road” receives a Best Picture Drama nod, while “The Danish Girl” is ignored?
Read Liz Smith daily at The New York Social Diary.