I used to be friendly with a movie star (though her career was in a slump at the time I knew her), and once, when we were talking about road rage, she said, “I always feel funny about flipping people off. I think it might be someone who can give me a job.”

For similar reasons, actors tend to be unnaturally upbeat in interviews. What did you think of the director? Oh, he’s great; he’s a genius. And the cast? They were wonderful, all of them; I was in heaven every day on the set.

But actors in private are a different story. I think such-and-such is awful, they’ll tell you; it’s bullshit that he got such great reviews. Of course, it also works the opposite way: actors love as much as they hate, though they might not want their enthusiasms broadcast, knowing how easily they can be misconstrued.

I don’t do much acting these days, but I remain interested in those who do, since acting was a huge part of my life for so long, and I have, and always did have, strong opinions about my brethren. Here are a few of them. I was going to include women as well as men, but I might come off like a brute if I mentioned, for instance, that a particular actress reminds me of a dog, as I said of one of the guys below. Maybe later I’ll write a companion piece about actresses—if, that is, I’m not shot and strapped to the hood of a car as the result of this piece, or, perhaps worse, I never eat lunch in this town again.

Romain Duris: The Beat That My Heart Skipped is one of my favorite movies of the last ten years, and Romain Duris was fucking great in the lead role. When I said as much to my friend Shawn, he disagreed, saying that he didn’t buy Romain Duris as a tough guy; but when I repeated his remark to my friend Carole (who’s French, like Romain Duris), she said, “He’s not supposed to be a tough guy; that’s the whole point.” Yeah, Shawn, what she said. I’ve never seen Romain Duris in a movie other than The Beat That My Heart Skipped, but instinct tells me he’s always that good, and if there were any justice in the world—that is, if Americans paid more attention to foreign-language films—Romain Duris would now be as well known in the States as Alain Delon and Marcello Mastroianni used to be in the sixties, when Americans weren’t as put off by subtitles as they are now, since subtitles mean you have to, you know, read.

Johnny Depp: Ask people to name the best actor around, or in any case their favorite, and they’re likely to cite Johnny Depp. For one thing, they think he’s versatile, as I suppose he is, and versatility is the key to being a great actor, or so consensus has it. I don’t agree. I’ll take unvarnished emotion, insightfully expressed, over grandstanding versatility any day. I want to see people think; I want a window into their souls; and elaborate characterizations, and the costumes and heavy makeup that go with them, tend to obfuscate. Meanwhile, Johnny Depp is simply, in my view, not very good at elaborate characterization, though I give him points for effort. He lacks, for instance, Philip Seymour Hoffman’s gift for mimicry, and where he could use everyday people as models, he opts instead for celebrities: Roddy McDowall in Sleepy Hollow, Anna Wintour in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and of course, Keith Richards in the Pirates of the Caribbean series. Depp is also a shameless scene-stealer, constantly rolling his eyes and huffing and puffing in the background of Sleepy, and rattling his braids and jewelry during the dialogue of others in Pirates. (“Stop it!” I yelled at my television while watching Pirates. “I get it. You’re there, okay? I already know you’re there. Now stop rattling those fucking braids!”) Excellent directors, such as Roman Polanski and Jim Jarmusch, have controlled Depp’s excesses and gotten good performances from him, but even then, I’m driven mad by his affected voice. (I didn’t used to notice that his voice was affected. It sounds to me as if he’s still trying to speak like Hunter S. Thompson, who, of course, was played by Depp in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.) Depp as an actor is cartoonish, so it makes sense that he’s closely associated with Tim Burton, who started as an animator (Terry Gilliam, who directed Fear and Loathing, started as an animator also), just as it makes sense that a cartoonish actor would have enormous appeal in a culture as thoroughly marinated in fantasy as ours. Then, too, Depp is very photogenic, and many, I’m sure, take the sizzle for the steak. I don’t, obviously.

Daniel Day-Lewis: The worst performance I’ve ever seen by an actor as ballyhooed as Daniel Day-Lewis was the one by—you guessed it—Daniel Day-Lewis in The Age of Innocence. Dude! The self-consciousness was off the charts! At the time I saw The Age of Innocence, a friend proposed a theory about Day-Lewis: that he was good in character parts (he’d certainly been good in My Left Foot), but he was bad as a leading man (beginning with The Unbearable Lightness of Being, which had him speaking English with a Czech accent to indicate that he was a Czech living in Czechoslovakia). Later, however, I decided that he was just plain bad, period. I feel physically uncomfortable watching Day-Lewis onscreen, since he himself seems so uncomfortable as he goes about manufacturing Intensity, with every vein in his face on the verge of bursting open. It’s like being at a party where some blowhard pulls a Uri Geller: “I am now going to bend this spoon with the power of my mind. Aaaarrrrrrrrggghhhh. No, wait, I can really do it. Aaarrrauuugghhhh. It didn’t bend? Okay, I’m really going to do it this time. AAAAARRRRRRUUUUGGGH!” Jesus Christ, man, cut it out! You seem like a decent guy, what with your shoe-making and your oft-stated regard for Heath Ledger back when you were winning all those awards for There Will Be Blood From Veins Burst While Overacting (“I drink your milkshake! AAAAAAARRRRRRRGGGGH!”), but you’re going to give yourself a heart attack.

Eric Bana: My favorite performance of the last decade—aside from Romain Duris in The Beat That My Heart Skipped, Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive (probably the best of them all)—is Eric Bana’s titular turn as Chopper. I told everybody I knew about it. “This guy is going to be the best actor of his generation,” I raved. To my shock, I learned that he’d gained fame in his native Australia as a TV sketch comedian. Not that this altered my view in the slightest. “He’s still going to be best actor of his generation,” I insisted. Still, it turned out that a lot of powerful people in Hollywood had likewise seen Chopper, as I didn’t anticipate, and that was the end of Eric Bana as the greatest actor of his generation. He did one corporate movie after another, raking in the dough, which I’m sure is good for his family, but The Incredible Hulk isn’t exactly On the Waterfront, know what I mean? Or maybe you don’t. But Eric Bana seems pretty satisfied with his car-racing sideline, so I guess it all worked out, except that he derailed my career as a soothsayer.

Tom Cruise: Everybody has decided that Tom Cruise is now crazy, but you know what? He was always crazy, only nobody noticed. I remember seeing him being interviewed on TV around the time of Born on the Fourth of July, and his eyes had a weird gleam to them, and when he laughed—and he laughed a lot, and always, it seemed, inappropriately—he reminded me of a mad scientist in an old B-movie. The interviewer—who, I’m pretty sure, was Barbara Walters— would say, for instance, “Tom, yoah caweeah is going gweat!” and he’d respond with: “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! Yeah, it is going great. HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!” He scared me a little. He looked like a light bulb with dentures. But everybody had this idea that he was the perfect, all-American boy, and I guess when it finally dawned on people that he was crazy—that is, he spelled out “I’m crazy!” in neon letters on Oprah’s couch—they felt betrayed, and since they couldn’t blame themselves for having overlooked the glaringly obvious, they naturally had to blame poor, crazy Tom Cruise. He’s not a bad actor—he’s been good on occasion, in fact—but he was never an interesting actor. He had one thing going for him—his intensity (which I think, in his case, is authentic, and not the result of anguished contortion as it is with Daniel Day-Lewis)—and that’s the very thing that ultimately bit him on the ass. Then, too, his popularity began to wane just before the Great Recession, which is fitting, seeing that he personified fin-de-siècle yuppiedom.

Will Smith: Any day now, I half expect a law to be passed in which you either officially declare your devotion to Will Smith or, if you’re a U.S. resident, you’ll be stripped of your citizenship, and if you’re a visitor, you’ll instantly be deported, with no hope of ever being granted another visa. People just love this guy, to the point where I once thought a woman was going to spit in my face when I said I couldn’t stand The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (What’s the origin of the apparent widespread belief that wealthy Americans living in Southern California have quasi-English accents? Newsflash: they don’t. A lot of them talk like they’re natives of Brooklyn, which makes sense in that they are natives of Brooklyn.) I’d be curious to learn if African-Americans like Will Smith as much as white Americans like him. I bet even white racists like Will Smith, who seems to strike everyone as a regular guy who just happens to be famous. (Another newsflash: he’s not a regular guy. I know someone who worked on a movie with him in San Francisco, and when he couldn’t find a local burrito to his liking, he chartered a jet to have a burrito flown to him from his favorite burrito place in L.A. That sort of decadence used to cause uproars, but a lot of Americans—even dirt-poor Americans—would likely support it now, since Will Smith is simply enjoying the fruits of his labor, and if you don’t agree you’re a communist who wants to see this great nation destroyed.) Still, I’m afraid I’m not down with the Will Smith juggernaut, because “niceness” isn’t a quality I value much in actors, and also, I don’t think Smith is very talented, except at radiating niceness. He’s at least progressed from the stick of wood he was in Six Degrees of Separation, but his acting is, to me, like J.K. Rowling’s writing: clunky. But, hey, who cares what I think? Everybody else adores Will Smith, and because I don’t, I’m soon going to be living in Mongolia, anyway—if, that is, those who love Will Smith in Mongolia will have me.

Joel Edgerton: My friend Daniel, who lives in Melbourne, says you can’t escape Joel Edgerton in Australia. He shows up in everything, Daniel says, but I’ve only seen Edgerton once, in the Aussie crime flick Animal Kingdom, and here’s a spoiler, so skip the rest of this sentence if by any chance you intend to watch Animal Kingdom on DVD: Edgerton is killed maybe fifteen minutes into the movie, and there’s a lingering void afterward, which proves the strong impression he makes. (You can start reading again, if you stopped.) Edgerton has done some stuff in America, and I have a feeling he’s going to do more, because domestic actors aren’t allowed to be in any way threatening. There’s a castrated quality about most American leading men, but foreign guys don’t have to be castrated because they’re foreign, so they can’t help themselves, and actors with their (metaphorical) balls intact tend these days to be imported from the U.K. or Down Under. Russell Crowe is an example of the latter, and Joel Edgerton reminds me a little of Russell Crowe, except he doesn’t seem like an asshole. He also reminds me of a Samoyed. Anyway, we in the States are going to be hearing more about him, unless, as per his fellow Aussie Eric Bana, he derails my second attempt at a career as a soothsayer.

Brad Pitt: He’s a much better actor than he’s generally credited for being, though there’s something persistently languid about him. This languid quality, which possibly has roots in Pitt’s admitted pot habit (at least until he began to assemble a multicultural tribe of children), was present from the beginning of his career, and it can wear thin, as he speaks almost always in the same torpid rhythm. Also, he has physical quirks associated with hunkiness, like that bobble-head thing he does, as well as his habit of licking his lips, as if he finds himself so attractive that he wants to taste himself. (Watch him in interviews, and see if I’m not right. He does it in performance, too.) Still, again, he can be very good, as he was in Twelve Monkeys and The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, even though I was prepared to hate him in the latter, since, by the time I’d seen it, he’d come to remind me of a vain friend who likewise bobbles his head while licking his lips as if he wants to taste himself.

Mickey Rourke: I always liked him. He’s a brave actor, and he’s brave in interviews, though some no doubt regard his courage as stupidity or insanity or both. For instance, he shot his mouth off before he was denied his well-deserved Oscar for The Wrestler, predicting his loss to Sean Penn, who won for playing a Real Person (the Academy, being literal-minded, tends to favor portrayals of Real People) who’s also a latter-day martyr-saint. At the height of his fame in the eighties, Rourke was known for making bad movies (the same way that Nicolas Cage is now known for making bad movies), but I understood why Rourke took every movie he did. His choices were much better appreciated abroad than they were in the States. (British chicks used to love Mickey Rourke. He seems to have been considered something of a sex god in the U.K., as was Robert DeNiro, curiously. Didn’t Bananarama have a song called “Robert DeNiro Is Waiting”?) I used to see Rourke around New York quite a bit—he knew my friend Sully—and he was genuinely friendly, without a hint of arrogance or pretension, so I like him for that reason, too.

Tom Hardy: He may well be the most charismatic actor since Marlon Brando. I’m not fucking kidding. I didn’t think they made people as charismatic as Tom Hardy anymore, what with so many emotionally stunted due to their overreliance on technology. It’s inspiring to see this guy on the brink of making it big—and on that note, I recently had a dream in which Tom Hardy and I were hanging out on a movie set, and somebody handed me his infant son (he apparently does have an infant son), and this infant, who looked exactly like Tom Hardy (except he was an infant), was talking away like an adult and I was talking right back. I forget what we talked about, but it was almost like I’d adopted him. Tom Hardy didn’t care. He was suddenly too busy being famous, which meant he didn’t have time for me or his son, either. My interpretation of the dream? The infant was Tom Hardy’s future career—his legacy, so to speak—and it was left to me to guard his legacy because, again, Tom Hardy was distracted by celebrity, whereas I would like to see him fulfill his potential as a great actor. Hey, Tom, don’t go the Eric Bana route! Don’t do corporate movies with tons of CGI! I know you’re going to, and you’ll tell yourself it’s to pave the way to do the independent stuff you really care about, but you’ll end up cynical and interested in a paycheck alone, and next thing you know your shot at being a great actor will have slipped past. Oh, and thanks for hanging out with me in my dream. You were really cool, for an English guy.

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D. R. HANEY is the author of a novel, Banned for Life, and a nonfiction collection, Subversia, the inaugural publication of TNB Books. Known to friends as Duke, he lives in Los Angeles.

315 responses to “Notes on a Few of My Fellow Meat Puppets”

  1. Dude, Johnny Depp channeling Anna Wintour? Spot on. Have you seen The September Issue? Amazing.

    I think Daniel Day-Lewis is overrated, but I’d love to buy a pair of his shoes.

    I like Mickey Rourke. From personal experience: nice guy.

    I like Tom Cruise, too. Always have.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I haven’t seen The September Issue, but I’ve heard good things about it, and Anna Wintour seems interesting, though I know practically nothing about her.

      Mickey Rourke is nice, huh? But have you actually ever seen a pair of DD-L’s shoes? Are they any good? I get the feeling they would be, somehow.

  2. Zara Potts says:

    Happy days!
    A post from D. Or should that be ‘Duke Phillips’?
    You have some super funny lines in here. You made me laugh out loud in several places. Your descriptions are absolutely spot on. A lightbulb with dentures? Babwa Wawtahs? Awesome. You’re awesome.

    Chopper is one of the best movies ever. Eric Bana plays Chopper Reid to a breath. Unbelievably good performance. On a side note – that film was produced by Michael Hutchences ex girfriend. She’s a clever clogs.

    Can’t wait for your next list of leading women.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      You know, this piece was kind of an experiment for me. I’ve never done anything like it before, but I was having trouble with every narrative piece I’d started, and this one came suddenly, and I thought, “Oh, what the hell,” and went with it. At the very least, it amounts to a breaking of my TNB fast. Anyway, I don’t know if I’ll ever do a sequel, but never say never.

      I was just talking about Michael Hutchence last night. I was told for the first time that someone else is thought to have been in the room with him when he died — have you ever heard that? But I digress. Meanwhile, I didn’t know that his ex-girlfriend produced Chopper.

      Glad you laughed. I frankly cracked myself up here and there as I was writing, but after the piece went up I had another look and no longer found it particularly funny. I wouldn’t want me in the audience if I were doing standup.

      • Zara Potts says:

        I know there were people in his room just before he died but I’ve never heard of anyone being in the room when he actually died.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Well, you see, I never even heard there were people in the room with him just before he died. The way I heard it, he’d been talking to his girlfriend on the phone not long before, and she was distraught over her divorce, or her ex-husband, or something, and it was presumed (at least initially, as I remember) that he’d become despondent himself and hung himself. Only later did I hear that it was a sex thing gone wrong.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Well, there are a couple of schools of thought on that one.

          The girlfriend, Paula Yates, tried very hard to have his death portrayed as autoeroticism gone bad – possibly to assuage her own guilt at the possibility that it was suicide. He apparently was very despondent and rage-fueled that night, which doesn’t suggest the right frame of mind for sex of any kind.

          But yes, he had a couple of people in his room just before he died.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Good God, that’s some way to try to relieve yourself of guilt! “My boyfriend was kinky, okay?” Anyway, it doesn’t seem to have worked, since she later did herself in.

          One of my main impressions at the time was that Bob Geldof seemed like a jerk, after having been portrayed as a saint in the eighties for the Live Aid thing. But I say that knowing practically nothing about what went on with his ex-wife; only that (as she had it) he was dragging her over the coals (and using their children to do it) in retaliation for her affair with Hutchence.

        • Zara Potts says:

          It sounded like a horrendous situation.

          I always liked Paula Yates. She was funny, witty, talented and charming and by all accounts totally abstained from drink and drugs until she met Hutchence.

          I think he was a bad boy and she tried hard to keep up with him. It was sad that she spiralled down into the mess she became. Breast implants, heroin, public slanging matches. And yeah, I think Geldof was probably a monumental prick.


        • D.R. Haney says:

          Ah, so it was a bit like Kate Moss getting dragged down by Pete Doherty, was it? But I have a feeling Kate Moss wasn’t exactly unacquainted with the fast life before Doherty.

          I’ve never seen Paula Yates in action, so to speak. I’m only familiar with photographs, so maybe I should have a look on YouTube. She used to interview people in bed, is that right?

        • Zara Potts says:

          Hmmm. Kate Moss. I have a feeling your feeling is right..

          Paula Yates was a television rock journalist. She was a bright young thing in early eighties London. She was probably most famous internationally for as you say – interviewing celebrities in bed for The Big Breakfast television show.

          But she was a tremendously talented writer. She wrote a number of books and was a columnist also. She was highly intelligent and famously quick witted and she had a lovely turn of phrase.

          She was a stay at home mother for most of her life with Geldof during which time she nursed a not so secret crush on Hutchence. She had a picture of him taped to the family refrigerator that was surrounded by fairy lights. No wonder Geldof went ballistic when she ended up leaving him for the guy on the fridge.

          Her last years were particularly tragic. Marital war with Bob. Finding out her father wasn’t her real father and that her real father was in fact, someone she despised. Can’t have been much fun. Poor Paula.

        • Zara Potts says:


          This is the interview where apparently they first fell in love. Terrible quality but sweet.

        • Jude says:

          Heard a story the other day about Bob Geldof – and he ain’t no saint…

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Thanks for the link, Z. I’ve always heard people say they see Jim Morrison in Hutchence, but I never saw it, until, for a few seconds here and there, this clip.

          Did you see the commentary following the clip? It seems to be pretty anti-Yates. She’s depicted as a user and a kind of black widow. Either way, it’s sad to hear about her final years. I knew none of that.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Oh, and Jude, how funny is this? Bob Geldof and Tom Hardy in the same ad!


        • Zara Potts says:

          She was absolutely vilified by the press and the public.

          Her first mistake was that she left Sir Bob. Venerable Sir Bob. How could she leave such a saintly man?

          Her second mistake was that she ‘stole’ Michael Hutchence away from Helena Christensen. Shock! How could someone like Paula Yates – mother of three – steal away a rock god from a supermodel! Horror! (The worst example of the rabid British press came when a magazine had a split cover – one side with Paula looking ratty and unkempt, while the other was Helena looking all glamour and gorgeous. The headline said “Would you trade in Helena for THIS?”)

          Her third mistake was getting a boob job. The papers went mad for it. Silly middle aged woman trying to look beautiful and sexy. How dare she?

          So she was a Wanton woman. A home wrecker and a Slut.
          She had no chance.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          More than anything you’ve said so far, this makes feel sympathetic toward her. It’s one thing to go through a death and a divorce and family turmoil, and another to find yourself publicly vilified all the while. And the English really have a knack for turning the knife. They can do it casually, with only a single word artfully used, or so I’ve observed.

          I’m acquainted, by the way, with Helena Christiansen’s next (now an ex), and she didn’t trade up, that’s for sure.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I always liked Michael Hutchence. I thought he had a real gentleness about him.
          And as I said earlier, I always liked Paula.
          She needed a champion, I guess.
          And once Hutchence died, she had no one in her corner.
          Terribly sad.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I know only slightly more about Michael Hutchence than I do Paula Yates, even though he acted in a Roger Corman movie, in which he played Percy Shelley(!). Oh, and there’s an INXS song or two that I consider a guilty pleasure. I don’t think INXS was nearly as awful as hindsight has judged.

          I also know that, after Hutchence died, his bandmates spoke out about his being a tortured soul, which was why I always assumed his death was a deliberate suicide, and found myself rejecting the autoerotic-asphyxia story, though everyone insisted it was true. I think people wanted it to be true just because it’s salacious.

          Our exchange has moved me to read what Wikipedia has to say, and Wikipedia seems to go along with your idea that sex wasn’t much on his mind:

          “Kym Wilson and her then boyfriend Andrew Reyment were the last people to see Michael alive as they left him at 4:50 A.M.; he was still awaiting a phone call from London concerning whether Yates would be able to bring his daughter Tiger to Australia. Michael Hutchence’s last outgoing phone calls were to his manager, Martha Troup, and his former long-time girlfriend, Michele Bennett, who stated that Hutchence was crying, tired and said he needed to see her. Bennett arrived at his door soon after at approximately 10:40 A.M. but, there was no answer. The message he left for his manager was ‘I’ve f-ing had enough.'”

          Is Michele Bennett the producer of Chopper, by any chance?

        • Zara Potts says:

          The very same…

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Ah! So there was an underlying logic in my digression! And now we’ve come full circle.

  3. I think Julia Roberts is the least talented actor or actress of the last twenty years to attain stardom. She’s been horribly cardboard in every film I’ve ever seen her in. Almond eyes and a quirky laugh go a long ways in some quarters, but her angry snapping off of every line, no matter the personality of her character, grates to no end.

    Walked into the theater one afteroon to see Chopper cause it was raining, never heard of it, left transformed. I ordered his book (Reid’s, not Bana’s) the next day from a store in Perth, cause at that time it wasn’t even on Amazon. I agree that Bana’s role choices since have been one disappointment after another.

    Mickey Rourke in Pope of Greenwich Village was one of the most stylish of the ’80’s. Eric Robert’s best role in that film as well.

    I really liked Damien Lewis in Band of Brothers. A lot of people have mentioned it since, but I was blown away by Cristoph Waltz in Ing. Basterds when it came out.

    Finally, I’d like to see Curt or Cris Kirkwood play a lead role in just about anything.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’ve just returned from a memorial service for the editor of Inglorious, where a number of people worked on the movie were (of course) present, including friends. Even so, I have yet to see it, embarrassingly. It came out shortly after the publication of my novel last year, and I was too swamped with promotional stuff to do much of anything that didn’t involve my being parked in front of a keyboard.

      I think Pope was considered a disappointment at the time it was released, but I know a number of people who love it. They can recite the dialogue the way others do with the dialogue of, for instance, Lebowski.

      If Julia Roberts seems angry on film, it’s probably because she’s, from what I’ve been reliably told, very unpleasant personally. At the same time, a friend of mine remembers her from her days of working at a Foot Locker on the Upper West Side, where she was as sweet as could be, he insists. (He had a crush on her, and used to drop by the store as often as possible just to bask in her presence — and he wasn’t the only one.) I think she’s a victim of success, meaning that she at some point decided that a great many people were trying to take advantage of her, as was undoubtedly true, and adjusted her attitude accordingly. Which is understandable, I suppose. But I do think she can be very charming on film, or at least that was once the case. I don’t exactly jump when a new Julia Roberts movie is released.

    • Gloria says:

      I’ll see your Julia Roberts and I’ll raise you a Michelle Pfeiffer. And that Twilight girl who never learned to speak with her mouth open.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        You’ll understand, I hope, Gloria, if I say that I’ve never seen a Twilight movie, and I hope I’m never be forced to see one.

        Michelle Pfeiffer, at one time, suffered from Pretty Girl Syndrome, which includes a flat affect and undeveloped voice, since pretty girls don’t have to say or do very much in order to get attention. However, she really tried to push past it, and I give her kudos on that account.

  4. Cynthia Hawkins says:

    Ooh, I love this! Movie talk! I just spotted Joel Edgerton in an Australian film, The Square, which was fabulous. Like a humorless, quirkless Fargo. Which sounds not-fabulous, but it was anyway. So I’m thinking this alone proves the theory that Joel Edgerton cannot be escaped in Australia. Oh, and let’s hope you haven’t cursed Tom Hardy. I have high hopes for him as well. I’ve never been on board the Johnny Depp bandwagon — even though there are a few of his films I’ve enjoyed (Dead Man for example … and also I think I’m the only person I know who really liked Public Enemies). He’s one of those actors, like Pitt, who can’t seem to shake his ticks and quirks no matter who he’s aping. Kristen Stewart is another in that vein. Speaking of which, I say go for it — dish on the women!

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I love Dead Man. A lot of people I know think it’s like watching paint dry, but I consider it a masterpiece. I never saw Public Enemies. I read the book, and I was disappointed when I learned it was being turned into a movie, but then I heard that Michael Mann did something interesting with it, which really seems to divide people, though most I know are on the “against” side.

      It would never have occurred to me that I might have cursed Tom Hardy. Jesus, I hope not. He’s got everything going for him, it seems to me, for a superlative run.

      I don’t know that I would categorize myself as a Joel Edgerton fan at this point, but I’m going to follow him with interest. Oh, and your description of The Square sounds right up my alley.

      As I said to Zara below, I’m not sure about a sequel to this piece. You’re the TNB movie person. I am but an interloper, and this is not at all the kind of thing I usually write.

      • Cynthia Hawkins says:

        Oh no, no. I would defer to you on movie matters any day.

        “Like watching paint dry” — this is exactly my husband’s sentiment regarding anything Jarmusch. Actually, he says it’s like “watching someone watching something on a television you can’t see” … just because that’s what happened for roughly five, okay maybe ten, minutes in Welcome to Paradise. I think Jarmusch is masterful, though. I don’t think there’s been an instance when I didn’t love his quiet spaces. I think that takes directorial moxie. Anyway, all of this makes me want to watch Dead Man again (sorry, I can’t figure out how to do the italics w/o it italicizing everything that follows).

        The Square was quite good. Report back if you ever see it.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Cynthia: Do you mean Stranger than Paradise? I knew a number of people affiliated with that movie, which really captured something about NYC back in the day. But I would like it even so, since, like you, I’m very partial to Jarmusch.

          Curiously, Jarmusch is big in Serbia, where I used to live. I even mention that in my novel.

        • Cynthia Hawkins says:

          Yes! Shiza. That’s a big difference. Forever my sisters and I have teased my mom for fudging film titles while asking for tickets at the box office: “A River Runs Right Through the Middle of It” and “Thunderfoot” being the best examples. Karma.

          Big in Serbia, huh. Well now I’ll have to read your novel. By the way, just got Subversia the other day. I stood in my driveway, waiting for a ride, reading it fresh from the UPS package while being swarmed by mosquitos. There’s one squished between the pages of the camp story, in fact. Really loving it. I mean, not the mosquitos, but your work 😉

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Ah, thanks for telling me that, Cynthia. I’ve been apprehensive about the book; I’m sure you know how that goes. Meanwhile, obviously, there couldn’t be a better spot for a squashed mosquito than that particular section.

          As for the title fudging, I do it all the time. I get the names of people wrong (even people I know well), I invert words in sentences (both spoken and written), and so on. I think it’s because I’m always in at least five places at once, mentally, though lately I’m trying to stay in one place and forget about the others. But old habits die hard.

      • Matt says:

        The Square was FANTASTIC – though I would equate it as closer in tone to Blood Simple than I would Fargo. I went out of my way, to a little art house theater on the far side of town, to see it. It was, by the way, directed by Joel’s older brother Nash; there’s a short film called Spider he did which is worth checking out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zdj9vMH4BfQ

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Thanks for the link, Matt. I’ll be sure to check it out later.

          I knew vaguely that Joel’s brother was also in the business, but I didn’t know in what capacity. I thought he, too, was an actor.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Matt, that short is fucking great!

          Hey, everybody (or those few who are reading), you should check out that link Matt just supplied. In fact, here’s the link again:


          Oh, and I didn’t realize that the ignition switch is on the left side of the steering wheel in Aussie cars. That’s weird, man. I don’t know that I could ever get used to that.

      • I’m not a big fan of either Depp or Jarmusch, but Dead Man is a top film; my favourite Depp film and my favourite Jarmusch. As Matt reminded me, Ghost Dog is pretty spesh too, but I watched it three times in a row, in hospital, so it lost some of its appeal.

        Casey Affleck in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford – one of the few film performances I’ve seen that made me go “Whoa, [name] was GOOOD”. Others were Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland (when it had just come out and was relatively unknown), Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (yes, preceded by bags of hype, but still), Molly Parker in Wonderland (Michael Winterbottom, UK, 1999) and Rebecca Hall in The Prestige.

        My friend Martin was assistant art director on Snatch, and he worked with Brad Pitt a lot. He was pissed off because he wanted Pitt to be a wanker, but “He was really fucking nice. Bastard.” Paid for a big crew party out of his own pocket, apparently.

        The Beat That My Heart Skipped is a superb film with a rubbish title.

        I hope all that HTML pays off.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          It did, Steve!

          I agree with you about the title of The Beat That My Heart Skipped. It’s taken from a lyric in, I think, a Johnny Hallyday song, and here’s the curious thing: the scene in the movie in which Romain Duris plays the song on his headphones, singing along with it, was ultimately scrapped. In other words, the lyric that contains the title of the movie isn’t in the movie itself.

          I’m glad that we’re both on board about Dead Man. I also liked Ghost Dog, but then, as I said somewhere above to Cynthia, I’m a sucker for Jarmusch. Also, as I said somewhere below to you, this post has caused me to realize how many films I haven’t seen, including some of those you list. I know I’ve seen Molly Parker, for instance, at some stage, but I can’t remember where. Google should refresh my memory.

          As for Casey Affleck: yeah, wasn’t he fucking great? I wish I owned Assassination. I need to watch it again. And your anecdote about your friend on the set of Snatch is funny. I have a feeling a great many people have been disappointed in that way by Pitt, and I think he may well take pride in disappointing them.

  5. Becky says:

    My taste in movies, like my taste in music, is scattershot. Alternately lauded and reviled.

    So, I suppose, it will be with my taste in actors.

    There are so many movies that Brad Pitt is in that I like alot–and that I like him alot in–but when asked independently of any given film–if asked, “What do you think of Brad Pitt?”–my response is a solid “meh.”

    I mean, I swooned. I did. I am still a woman, after all, but I was never deluded enough to think it was anything other than his looks doing me in.

    Johnny Depp…Here’s my problem: I’m an inveterate Tim Burton fan. It’s an aesthetics thing, I think, and I never get sick of it. Depp is in all of them. Most of them. I’m brainwashed, to a degree. This habit he has of adopting over-the-top, well-known (if only subconsciously well-known) personae is well-suited to so many of the roles he chooses.

    I know what you mean about him. I get it. I just don’t see it posing a problem for him most of the time.

    Also: Robert Downey, Jr. The man could do (and has done) just about every unappealing thing in the world and I’d still think he was the bee’s knees.

    • Zara Potts says:

      Snap – Tim Burton.
      Snap – Robert Downey Jnr.
      Oh and while you didn’t mention him, Becky.. Snap – Joaquin.

    • Gloria says:

      Good call on Robert Downey, Jr. That dude… Also, I disagreed about Johnny Depp in my comment below, but I think it has to do with more than my love for Tim Burton. I also saw him in

      • Gloria says:

        **shakes fist at stupid hair trigger laptop mouse thingy**

        What I was trying to say was that I’ve seen Johnny Depp in some movies that I loved. He was one of the first actors in my young world who showed me what transformative meant. I mean, I was young and I was still coming off my 21 Jump Street high and then I saw Edward Scissorhands, Benny & Joon (the Buster Keaton bit? Really?), Gilbert Grape, Ed Wood, Cry Baby, etc., etc., etc. And he was from my generation. He wasn’t my mom’s guy (like Dustin Hoffman in Tootsie). And, I don’t know man, I felt ownership of his acting in a weird way. I discovered him as Tom Hanson! You know? And he didn’t just play teeny bopper roles. He took risks and shit. And I think he did a great job. I think he continues to do a great job. I HATED The Astronaut’s Wife and was pretty meh about Sweeney Todd and Pirates, but for the most part, I really like the dude.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Zara, I don’t really know Joaquin’s work well, but I wasn’t keen on him as Johnny Cash, and he really chewed the scenery in Gladiator. But I think both of those roles were very hard to pull off. In the first case you’re dealing with an American institution, and in the latter you’ve got Pure Evil. But I do think there’s something soulful about Joaquin, which I appreciate.

          The only Tim Burton movie I’ve really liked is Ed Wood. I think part of my problem with Burton is Danny Elfman. I’m not into Elfman at all.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I liked him in that movie with Nicole Kidman – I can’t remember the name of it now.
          It was about the only movie where I thought she did a good job too..

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Now, you see, I think Nicole Kidman is a good actress, though I haven’t seen much of her. But, Jesus, she acted circles around her ex in Eyes Wide Shut.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Gloria: I think you’re right about Depp taking chances, at least early on. At the time, he seemed to be approaching his movie career with a European attitude — that is, he wanted to make art. He did, after all, work with Polanski and Jarmusch. Then I saw an interview with him in which he said something like, “I no longer believe that cinema is an art,” or, “I no longer believe I can do what I set out to do.” I know that, for a while, he wasn’t considered “bankable,” and it was my impression that he wanted to be. Maybe starting a family had something to do with his change of attitude, if in fact there was a change.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I don’t know if I’ve ever seen Joaquin in a movie and not liked him. But I think that’s because I have a terrible crush on him.

          Quills was good.

          I don’t know what “Chewed the scenery” means. Are you making fun of his cleft lip? 😉

          With Depp, I suppose one could assume it’s possible that having a family can do to actors what it does to a lot of average people. It makes them worry less about their own ambitions and more about how to best provide for their kids.

          Not that Depp’s children were ever in any danger of starving to death, but you get what I mean. Change’s one’s priorities. They start wanting to make movies their kids can see, movies that will make more money, etc.

          Benny & Joon and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape have both enjoyed the top spot on my “favorite movies” list. I don’t know if any other actor has been there twice. Maybe John Cusack, but those were 15 years apart.

          I can’t stand Nicole Kidman most of the time. She always strikes me as sort of stiff and frigid.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I think there’s something slightly zombie-like about her at times. But I can also, on occasion, see thought in her eyes, and I’ve never watched her wishing to have her offscreen at any cost, as I have with others. That’s what I meant by “good,” though admittedly I wasn’t setting the bar very high.

          I didn’t know that Joaquin has a cleft lip. I’d be curious to see the mockumentary he made with Casey Affleck, though it’s not something I’d go out of my way to see.

          Depp said in an interview once that the second his daughter was born, he realized he’d lived selfishly up until that point — a thought that surprised him, since he’d never particularly regarded himself as selfish. That’s a common sentiment among new parents, no? Anyway, I’ve certainly heard actors (and directors), though never Depp, say that they want to work on projects their children can enjoy, and I can definitely see that being true of Depp.

          Which movies by Cusack have you counted as favorites? I met him once, and he’s enormous. He’s built like a football player, which doesn’t at all come across on film.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          When I was 10 or 11 or so, it was Better Off Dead and then in the mid-late 90s (or whenever it came out) it was Gross Pointe Blank. I still cite the latter as my favorite, but I think it’s mostly just habit by now.

          I love John Cusack so much as an actor, it’s hugely disappointing that everything I hear (and much of what I read, including from him) suggests to me that he is, at the very least, an enormous asshole.

          But, you know. Hearsay and perception. Maybe he’s just misunderstood.

          I like tall actors. There aren’t that many of them.

          You didn’t know he had a cleft lip? That’s weird. Testament, maybe to the fact that you were paying closer attention to the acting than his lovely, lovely face.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Okay. So not 15 years. Probably more like 10.

        • Gloria says:

          Duke – I think that’s one of the normal reactions a new parent might have. Kids do change you. Talk about transformative. I begrudged Depp his choice to do the Pirate movies for a while, but I’ll give him a pass if he chose that role for his kids. The only kids story I’ve ever written is for Tolkien and Indigo.

        • Matt says:

          Depp has explicitly said that he made the decision to do the first Pirates film because he hadn’t yet done anything that his young children could watch; I think his choice for Finding Neverland came out of this same impulse.

          And then, you know, he goes and does stuff like this: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-1318516/Johnny-Depps-surprise-visit-London-primary-school-Captain-Jack-Sparrow.html

        • Gloria says:

          Oh my god. I hope he understands how many (more) letters he’s about to receive. But that’s so cool. I really want to believe it wasn’t just a PR move. But, you know, there are no coincidences.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Becky: I met Cusack around fifteen years ago, and he was very cool at the time. I liked him enormously, in fact. Then I started to notice that he was looking very sour in almost every photograph I came across, just as he seemed embittered in interviews.

          Later, I had friends with worked with him, and I said, “What is that guy’s fucking problem? Is he as bitter in person as he’s coming off in the media?” Definitely, I was told. One person said that, in his opinion, Cusack was angry because he’d wanted to have a career of doing nothing but arty, independent movies, and he’d been “forced” to take chick flicks and romantic comedies and that sort of thing. I said, “Well, Jesus Christ, just take your millions and move back to Chicago and do theater.” But, you know, maybe for one reason or another, that’s impossible. Besides, what my friend said was only a theory, though I still think something happened to change Cusack.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Matt: I’m not surprised to hear that about Depp — that he did Pirates for his kids, I mean. Oh, and Gloria, I bet that wasn’t just a PR move. I’ve been told again and again that Depp is a first-rate guy: very caring and good-natured and so on. I never doubted it. Any beef I’ve had with him (and, of course, it would be a completely one-sided beef) is strictly aesthetic.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Who made him do Hot Tub Time Machine? If he’s so into being serious, why does he take jobs like that?

          I mean, there was a career lull for him in the early 90s (or at least that’s my perception), so I can see pinching one’s nose and doing movies like that just to get back on mainstream radar, but I should think by now he could forgo all that. His best movies are usually his own projects.

          He’s written, he’s produced. He’s been on both sides of the camera his whole life. It’s not like he hasn’t got the tools or experience or marketability to do what he wants.

          OH! And Journey of Natty Gann so that’s 3 times in the top spot for Cusack.

          Come on, John. Buck up, Buckaroo!

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Maybe he was finding it increasingly difficult to get his own projects going, and thought, if he could establish himself as a box-office draw, he’d have better luck.

          More likely, though, he was irked that he wasn’t getting the respect he felt he deserved — not the respect that goes with making good movies but successful ones. He wasn’t at the top of the Hollywood caste system, in other words. A lot of people tell themselves they’re going to avoid that sort of thinking, but, bit by bit, they find themselves succumbing to it.

          I also think it’s a lonely life, going off to work on movies all the time. I know; cry me a river, right? But friendships and romances and family relationships, which many of us take for granted, suffer and sometimes go under. So maybe something along those lines is at work, too. He’s the only would he would know — and maybe even he doesn’t know.

          All I know is this: I was sitting with a friend of his at a bar, and he came up and, after talking to his friend, extended his hand and said, “Johnny.” I shook his hand and said, “Hey, John,” and something about the way I said it caused him to instantly pat me on the back, almost reassuringly, as we’d been friends for years. So, yeah, he was a good guy.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Well, you know, Becky, if you see what I mean about Depp, that’s already a victory. In the past, when I’ve tried to explain my position, people are either deaf or they suddenly become deaf.

      Robert Downey, Jr., is mega-talented, to be sure. I just don’t have much to say about him, for whatever reason. He, by the way, is versatile, and he always manages to be interesting.

      • Becky Palapala says:

        Downey seems like a genuinely interesting, if occasionally eccentric, person.

        His charisma is shocking. Like, startling. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say anything but glowing things about him, at least as an actor. And, since he’s sobered up, as a human person, too.

        • Gloria says:

          I’d always liked Downey well enough. The very last class that I took in college was a Charlie Chaplin class. We studied Chaplin four hours a day, five days a week for four weeks. At the end, we watched Chaplin – and holy shit. THEN! I saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie and I knew I would like it (Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law in the same movie? Yes, please.) but I didn’t expect Downey’s performance to be so amazing. Charisma indeed. That guy blows me away.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Well, just to play devil’s advocate, I knew a girl who was obsessed with Downey, and she finally got to meet him, and, more than that, she worked with him, and she said she was very disappointed. She didn’t find him remotely interesting, to her shock, and she wasn’t impressed when watching him perform on the set.

          It’s possible that Downey is one of those actors who isn’t captivating until you see the results on film. I’ve known a few actors like that, but it would surprise me if Downey turned out to be one of them. I’m only, for the purposes of entertainment, reporting what this girl said; I’m not saying it’s true.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          When you watch him in interviews, he does seem fairly subdued. And maybe a bit of a space cadet. Not in an air-headed way …maybe a little detached. But he’s obviously intelligent and philosophically inclined…he’s had one of the wilder lives Hollywood has seen…I don’t understand how that could be uninteresting. I read in interview in…goddamnit, I can’t remember. Maybe Rolling Stone. And he seemed fascinating. Maybe just good writing. Or maybe I find different things fascinating.

          But, to be perfectly honest, obsession is like that. A set up for disappointment. MOST people can’t live up to the expectations of others who put them on too high a pedestal. So if that wasn’t just a figure of speech…if your friend was a bit obsessed…it’s not too surprising that she wound up disappointed.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Very true. For that reason, it’s not a good idea to meet admired figures — particularly when admiration has given way to obsession.

          Interestingly, this girl worked with George Clooney on the same project, and she was very impressed with him. I think — I’m pretty sure — she developed a little crush on him. She was (and is) a raving beauty, and I asked if she thought she had a chance with him.

          “I’m not beautiful enough,” she said. But I didn’t (and don’t) see how that’s possible. Meanwhile, she said that Clooney had a posse of male friends, and no women were allowed around when they had their get-togethers. She liked that about him, which surprised me. If it had been anyone else, she probably would’ve dismissed that person as a misogynist pig.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Boys (and girls)-only shit bugs the everlivingfuck out of me.

          …With the exception of bachelor/bachelorette parties, which at least make sense in a symbolic way.

          And maybe baby/wedding showers. I mean, I don’t even usually want to go to those, so to wish my husband or male friends could come would be bald-faced malice.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I don’t know about bachelorette parties, but bachelor parties are rarely limited to a single gender. There’s usually at least one woman present, and she’s either naked or soon to be.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well yeah.

          I get that.

          Not really what I meant, but I’ll admit you got you me on a technicality.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well yeah.

          I get that.

          Not really what I meant, but I’ll admit you got me on a technicality.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Well, this one has a typo.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Not…the second one..the fir…

          Never mind.

          F’in’ wordpress.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Should I do some editing here?

          Anyway, I knew what you meant — both in the original comment and the follow-up with the extra “you.”

          WordPress was really on a tear on Wednesday, incidentally. I was having all kinds of weird problems, and so was Jude, who couldn’t get her comment to post. I don’t know what causes these “burps,” but they can annoy to no end.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Oh, I don’t care if you edit. It’s your post I’m making a sloppy mess of. I leave it up to you.

          I saw the typo in the first one and quickly hit “stop” on my browser to change it, but despite the fact that wordpress took fully 2 minutes to post and display the updated page, I was the one that was too slow, I guess.


        • D.R. Haney says:

          Actually, my original comment to you went something like: “Did you try to stop the comment from going out right after you noticed the typo?” I do that all the time. It’s kind of like hitting the buzzer on a game show, and with WordPress your opponent is always Ken Jennings.

  6. jude says:

    I hope this will post and Duke, if it posts twice can you delete one… having a bit of trouble getting it to post.

    I remember seeing Tom Hardy on The Jonathon Ross Show (a British show – not sure if you get it in the States?) a few months back. Not having seen any of his films, I was nevertheless intrigued by this fine young man; he reminds me a little of another fantastic British actor, Ray Winstone.

    So just in case you haven’t seen the interviews, here are the links. There is Part 1 and Part 2.
    You may also be interested to know (although you probably do know), his next role is Max in the remake of Mad Max. Not a bad choice I think…


  7. Jude says:

    I remember seeing Tom Hardy on The Jonathon Ross Show (a British show – not sure if you get it in the States?) a few months back. Not having seen any of his films, I was nevertheless intrigued by this fine young man; he reminds me a little of another fantastic British actor, Ray Winstone.

    So just in case you haven’t seen the interviews, here are the links. There is Part 1 and Part 2.
    You may also be interested to know (although you probably do know), his next role is Max in the remake of Mad Max. Not a bad choice I think…

    And here’s Part 2…

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I don’t know what’s been going on with TNB (or WordPress) today. There have been some weird glitches. For instance, the photos that I included in the piece disappeared at one point, at least on the published post. They were present in WordPress.

      Anyway, thanks for making such an effort to get that comment up. I think I did hear that Tom Hardy was going to do the Mad Max remake, and I’ll be sure to watch the Ross interview later.

      Oh, and I had an exchange about Ray Winstone on the post I did with Zara, and only a few nights ago I was rewatching Quadrophenia, in which, very young, he plays a small part. I wouldn’t have thought of it, but I do sort of see what you mean about the resemblance to TH. Something about the eyes.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        Oh, and, no, we don’t get the Ross show here in the States, Jude, though Ross has appeared on American TV a little here and there. I first heard about him from his brother, Miles, who lived in L.A. for a period. He was a writer at the time, but I don’t know what he’s been up to since he returned to the U.K.

  8. Great post D.R.

    What about Eric Bana in Munich? I love him in Munich. Love. Lo-o-ve.

    And Brad Pitt was at his best in SNATCH. The only time I’ve ever felt Bana-esque feelings for the guy.

    • Jude says:

      One of the best and funniest roles Brad Pitt played was as the gym bunny in Burn After Reading.
      “I got his number…I got his number”


      • D.R. Haney says:

        I agree with you about Pitt in Burn After Reading, Jude. He’s very funny in that movie, and he’s been funny before.

        Oh, and I agree with you about Pitt in Snatch, Jessica, but I never saw Munich, though, knowing what I do about Bana’s career, it’s probably his best role since Chopper.

        • Greg Olear says:

          Pitt is at his best when he’s playing someone dumb. Chad in Burn, Floyd in True Romance. That’s when the affect in his voice — his voice is lackluster; his Achilles heel as an actor — helps rather than hinders him.

        • I think I’m in the minority here, but I don’t find Brad Pitt to be at all attractive.
          And when I say that people are like, “So you wouldn’t go out with him if he asked?”
          Isn’t that the dumbest thing to say?

        • Matt says:

          “Achilles heel,” Greg? Really?

          Aren’t we all already trying to forget Troy ever happened?

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Matt, I have a feeling there are a few people out there who are glad Troy happened. Somebody told me about a gay comedian who had a routine, at the time Troy was released, that included something like: “If you come to West Hollywood on a Saturday night, you’re not going to find anybody there. We’re all out watching Troy.”

      • Brad Pitt is so great in Burn After Reading!!
        Appearances….can be deceptive. He’s the perfect dope!
        I love when Osbourne Cox punches him in the nose – my favorite moment ever.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          That’s an interesting point about Pitt playing dumb, Greg. I read a profile of him once in which he was asked how he responded to the notion that he’s dumb, and, according to the writer, he became very upset — but who wouldn’t?

          Oh, and Steph, I knew a woman who said that she thinks Pitt looks “simian,” and I’ve never been able to look at him without remembering that remark ever since she said it.

          At the same time, I was friends with a casting director, and I asked her once if she’d ever auditioned an actor who was clearly, practically on sight, going to make it, and she said, without a pause, “Brad Pitt.” She said that after he left her office, almost every woman in the building knocked on her door to ask about him. So the guy must have something.

        • Greg Olear says:

          I don’t think Pitt is dumb — I know you didn’t say that, but just clarifying — but he plays dumb really well. Also, forgot to mention: if he is a big pothead, that would help him manage the kids, not the other way around. It’s not like he drives, and kids have a tendency to stress you out (as Prue no doubt reminded you on the phone yesterday).

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Well, I understood what was going on, and I had to run anyway, since I was expecting to have a story conference. Meanwhile, in Pitt’s case, I’m sure nannies suffice for pot. I mean, how many nannies do you think he’s got? One per child?

        • Greg Olear says:

          At least. If you have kids, and you have a lot of money, the first thing you’d do with that money is hire a nanny. At least, I would.

          Army of nannies + endless pot supply + oodles of cash + movie-star good looks + occasional roll in the hay with Angelina Jolie = good work, if you can get it

        • D.R. Haney says:

          It’s the fourth part of the equation that made the rest of it possible. Though a few see things differently, he won the genetic lottery.

  9. Gloria says:

    I love, love foreign language films. I wish I’ve seen more. Some of my favorites are: Cinema Paradiso, Amelie, Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, Run, Lola, Run, The Princess and the Warrior (can we talk about Benno Fürmann for a moment?), and Volver. I could go on. I think that movies in the English Language not filmed in America are equally important to check out, as they’re practically foreign. I recently saw Bunny and the Bull and loved it. It felt foreign, though it’s an English movie. You know? Now I really want to see The Beat That My Heart Skipped. Thank you for the suggestion.

    I don’t know Eric Bana, Romain Duris, Joel Edgerton, or Tom Hardy.

    As a matter of fact, I feel like I’ve never seen a decent (American) movie in my life after reading this.

    I like Daniel Day Lewis. In theory. I liked There Will be Blood in so much as it disturbed me, which I guess is what it was supposed to do and I liked the way that Daniel Day Lewis looked like some other completely different human other than the person that I’d always known as Daniel Day Lewis, which was also disturbing. But, I didn’t like like the movie. I’ve not like liked a single movie I’ve ever seen DDL in. Though I’ve never seen The Last of the Mohicans, so maybe that’s the winner.

    I wholeheartedly disagree with you about Johnny Depp. Though that feels a bit like disagreeing with Julia Child about the souffle.

    I could go on but won’t. But the fact that I want to (desperately) speaks volumes to how exciting I found your post, Duke. Wonderful.

    • Becky Palapala says:

      I loved Cinema Paradiso. And Il Postino. ESPECIALLY Il Postino.

      Aside from that, though…I don’t know.

      I don’t get too far into foreign language films for foreign language films’ sake. I think there’s a tendency, sometimes, to confuse the novelty or alienation subtitles cause with novelty/alienation/innovation in the film itself.

      Like I wonder what that does to perception.

      And can we ever know?

      It’s sort of the only “issues with literature in translation” but different.

      With the aforementioned, I was able to watch much of them using the subtitiles only to prop me up where my Italian failed, but I remember watching The Tin Drum (German: Die Blechtrommel) and thinking to myself, “I will never have any idea what this movie is ACTUALLY like. Not until I learn German. Really well. Which I’m not going to do.”

      • Gloria says:

        Have you ever seen Amelie, Becky?

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I haven’t, but I’ve been told by numerous people and Netflix (which is totally adamant about it) that I would probably like it.

      • Gloria says:

        I’ve never seen Il Postino. No excuses, really. Just haven’t seen it.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          I think it should resonate especially with literary types. And, honestly, liberal types.

          It’s (in large part) about Pablo Neruda. And about love and love poems and using literature as a place from which to draw courage to be a positive force in one’s own life and in the world, to fight i Fascisti, etc.

          What’s great about Italian film, at least my impression so far, is that no matter how serious the subject matter, the movies never seem to totally lose their sense of humor.

          Slapstick and doofus-y leading men are endearing staples. Il Postino draws a really good balance in that regard.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          And what’s the love interest’s name?


          Uh huh.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I think, with regard to foreign-language films, I personally just like the subtler, more elliptical approach of European directors. With American film, there’s always this emphasis on plot and excitement, and one way to kill excitement is to insist on it. At times, watching Hollywood movies, I feel like a kid at a birthday party where the clown keeps reaching into his hoary bag of tricks to make me laugh, and the less I laugh, the more desperate he becomes in his determination to force it, which is no fun at all. Meanwhile, of course, so many Hollywood movies are, in fact, directed at children, though by now even the elderly line up to see them. There aren’t many alternatives, movie-wise, so that TV fills the adult gap. But I don’t like episodic TV for the most part — it all strikes me as soap opera, even when it’s trying to be “serious” (Will Tony Soprano leave his his wife and have his mother whacked? Tune in next week to find out!) — so that kind of leaves me at a loss.

      • I loooooooooooooooove
        Il Postino, Becky.

        It is one of my favorite movies in the world.
        I saw it in the theatre by myself – it’s almost like it didn’t happen.
        Such a romantic and surprisingly sad film.

        Don’t know where this will nest now or if it will get read – I keep busting in on threads after they happen.

    • Korean films have been very popular here in the UK for the last ten years or so. Park Chan-wook (or Director Park, in the formal Korean mode of address) leads the pack with the likes of Old Boy and Lady Vengeance. I attended a Q & A with him after a screening of his cool vampire story Thirst and this writer/director of some seriously twisted tales was friendly, modest, funny, articulate, and smartly suited. David Lynch flavour (the man, not his films).

      Also worth a look are Memories of Murder, 3 Iron and The Host, which is like a way-more-fun Cloverfield.

      • Gloria says:

        I can’t do the scary movies. I mean, I get that scary movies are supposed to be a catharsis and make you feel all pleased with your safety after scaring the shit out of you – but I don’t need a scary movie to know that I’m safe anymore than I need an anal cancer scare to know that I like poop in peace.

        The first two don’t seem like scary movies though. Thanks for the suggestion, Steve!

        Hey! You’re over in England and shit – have you seen Bunny and the Bull? What’d you think? I’d never seen those guys before and I’d never heard of The Mighty Boosh, so I was pleasantly surprised by the delighful, oddball film.

        • Gloria – The films I listed are more tense and dark than scary, although most have a strong humorous streak too. The Host is both funniest and big-monster-scariest.

          Try 3 Iron, it’s a sort of ghost story romance thing (but nothing like Ghost). Oh, and the two leads don’t speak. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? Here’s the # trailer.

          I haven’t seen Bunny, I’m not much of a Boosh fan. Although Noel Fielding (the one with the face) seems like a pleasant chap.

      • Matt says:

        The Good, the Bad, and the Weird. Such an odd, but very enjoyable, film.

        • That looks fun! Just added it to my Sofa Cinema queue.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          It’s true that, a few years ago, Asians (including, but not limited to, Koreans) took over as the masters of horror. But I’m not sure if that’s still true. There are always these spiking trends and then the inevitable valleys, and if the Asian horror movie hasn’t already peaked, it probably will soon. I mean, not to be a party pooper or anything!

  10. D.R. Haney says:

    Thanks so much, Gloria. That makes me feel much better about the post. I had a lot of doubt about it, but, as I said above to Zara, I was undergoing a case of writer’s block, more or less, and when this post started to write itself, I went with it.

    I supplied a link to the trailer for The Beat That My Heart Skipped, just in case you didn’t notice. (Greg Olear and I were talking recently about how links often go unclicked, so I only added one in this post, where a few months ago I would’ve added a few.) At the time the movie was released, friends were telling me that I would love it, but I foolishly missed the chance to see it on the big screen, only to realize that my friends were right when I finally saw the DVD.

    I didn’t expect many people to know about Duris, Edgerton, or Hardy, though the latter has become a hot commodity since the release of Inception. I didn’t want to just write about big names, particularly since I don’t really follow mainstream movies. I’m generally much more interested in artists who are marginal than I am in legends. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel I have much to add to a discussion about legends, who are already chronicled at every turn.

    Greg O. is a big Daniel Day-Lewis fan, so I’m hoping he isn’t too put off by my mockery of him. I think Greg’s recent post about Franzen is relevant to my take on Day-Lewis. In the discussion about Greg’s piece, Gina said something like, “Do you think we’re hard on Franzen because he’s one of us?” — meaning he writes literary fiction. In the same way, I think I’m hard on Day-Lewis because his aesthetic is much closer to mine as an actor than, say, Tom Hanks. Also, Day-Lewis is as revered as an actor as Franzen is as a novelist — you can’t say a bad word about him in certain circles — and it’s the kingpins who often annoy us most. Certainly, if Day-Lewis were unknown and I just happened to stumble on one of his movies, I’d evaluate him very differently, though I hate to admit it.

  11. Brin Friesen says:

    Best story I was told about Mickey Rourke was from his former boxing trainer Freddy Roach. You might enjoy it:

    When Rourke “retired” from acting to become a boxer, he built himself a gym and hired Roach to train him (Roach later took over this gym after Mickey went back to acting). Initially Mickey showed zilch dedication to boxing and, after a day or two, Roach berated him and told him he was leaving. This berating by Freddy, by Rourke’s account, left him in tears. So you have some background. The funny story Roach told me Rourke involves an incident that happened long after. One day Rourke was training at Freddy’s gym when he had an altercation with a black female boxer and referred to her by the N-word. Freddy promptly threw Rourke out of the gym while Mickey promised to get even. Getting even, Freddy learned very quickly, meant 4 thugs sent by Rourke to Freddy’s gym to clean Freddy’s clock (Freddy, aside from being one of the most beloved people I’ve ever met, is 5’5 and has suffered from Parkinson’s for 20 years). What the thugs failed to consider was that Wild Card gym usually has at least a handful of current or ex-world champions training at any given time and all of them walk into traffic for Freddy. The 4 thugs entered Wild Card standing and left horizontal (not *dead*) and Micky ended up suing Freddy for damages. Freddy laughed so hard in court telling the story (as he did telling me the story) he lost the case. But Mickey was so embarrassed/touched by the court proceedings he ended up paying Freddy’s legal fees and they became friends again.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      It seems so obvious that you don’t want to send thugs to a boxing gym where ex-world champions are training. I mean, that’s kind of a no-brainer, huh?

      What wasn’t relative to my thoughts on Rourke, and so wasn’t included, is the fact that I did hear about him being violent with others. Still, in my experience, he was never anything but nice. And I’m glad to hear that he and Freddy were reconciled.

  12. Ben Loory says:

    he totally looks like a samoyed! also i’ve never heard of him. but i’ve never heard of half those people. well, 3/10ths.

    the world would be a sadder place without tom cruise. true insanity is hard to find.

    where do you stand on clive owen?

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’ve only seen him in a couple of things, and I think he’s okay. I mean, I think he’s a reasonably good actor, and he reminds me a little, physically, of my friend Bryce, which I mention for no good reason. But he kind of leaves me cold, and the people I wrote about were people who don’t leave me cold. I may not like them, but I’ve been moved to ponder them, at least a little.

      I didn’t expect many people to know about Romain Duris, and especially not Joel Edgerton (outside of Oz), but I’m surprised that more haven’t heard about Tom Hardy, since he’s been getting a lot of press since the release of Inception. He’s kind of the breakout star of Inception, though he’s already famous in the UK, and deservedly so, for a movie called Bronson. I didn’t see Inception, and I wouldn’t have seen Bronson if a Facebook friend, who’s an actor and a big fan of Banned for Life, hadn’t raved about it, and especially Tom Hardy’s performance, in a status update. I thought, “If this guy thinks my book is amazing and he also thinks Tom Hardy is amazing, then Tom Hardy must really be amazing.” How’s that for vain-author logic?

      • Ben Loory says:

        it seems perfectly logical to me!

        and oh that’s tom hardy. i didn’t know he had a name. can’t say he made much of an impression in inception, but he didn’t really have much to say.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          That’s surprising, given how much attention he’s been getting because of it. My impression from what I’ve read online was that he’d pretty much walked off with the movie. Go figure.

        • Christopher Nolan films always seem to have one genuinely funny line, surrounded by a few duffers. Hardy had it, in Mombasa, when Cobb (DiCaprio) wonders whether the price on his head is for him dead or alive. Referring to the rather obvious enemy agent at the bar, Eames (Hardy) says “Dunno. See if he starts shooting.”

          Don’t ask me what the funny line is in The Dark Knight.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          See? Even if Hardy didn’t have much to say, he got the funny line. That’s all it sometimes requires to steal the show.

      • Scott Witebsky says:

        Thanks for the shout out!

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Well, the credit is rightfully yours, Scott, although I’m embarrassed that you saw that comment. I’d forgotten I’d posted it, and I may have been gilding the lily when I called you a big fan.

  13. Simon Smithson says:

    Didn’t Hardy so something like a thousand pushups a day to prep for Bronson? I haven’t seen it, but I’ve heard it’s amazing.

    My guy at the moment: Adrien Brody. He’s just so goddamn good in everything. Have you seen Hollywoodland, Duke? Have we spoken about this?

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I hadn’t heard about the thousand push-ups a day. I did, however, read about a rumor of steroids, which I reflexively reject.

      I haven’t seen Hollywoodland, no. I know a little (only a little) about the case, which seems to be so full of ambiguities that it could easily lend itself to theories of murder.

      I take it, since you’re a Brody fan, that you’ve seen The Pianist.

    • Here we go again. The dudecrush I thought I had on Adrien Brody was actually a dudecrush on Adrien Brody in Hollywoodland. Also featuring Molly Parker as his put-upon ex-wife. I liked Ben Affleck too, he was sad and understated.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        Affleck, like Pitt, tends to be underrated as an actor. It was fashionable, at least a few years ago, to slam Affleck, but there’s something about him I like, though more in terms of persona than performance, which I don’t mean as a slam. Again, I think he’s underrated, and I probably would’ve seen his latest movie, which he also directed, if I hadn’t been so broke.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I actually haven’t see The Pianist – it’s on my ever-growing list of movies to see. Just today I added The Warriors. It’s a never-ending crusade.

          I think Affleck is hugely under-rated, and his directorial career, however short so far, has been hugely promising. Affleck showed admirable restraint in disappearing for a few years and letting the heat that had (deservedly) surrounded him and then coming back with something as low-key and arty as Hollywoodland.

          I know what you mean about Affleck – he and Damon are just… likeable.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          It’s funny how everyone associated with one with the other for so long, yet they really never did much together. I remember seeing an interview with Damon in which he was asked about Affleck, and he said, “He’s a pretty good friend,” as if tired of everyone always assuming they were de-facto brothers.

          As for Affleck’s disappearance, I think, yes, it was smart, but, then, he was being so heavily ridiculed at the time for Gigli and his romance with Jennifer Lopez that I’m not sure he had much choice.

          I would personally place The Pianist ahead of the pack, including The Warriors, but, hey, that’s me.

  14. Greg Olear says:

    It took, what, half an hour after you saying, “I don’t know if I’ll ever post this,” and then it goes up. Ha! But I really enjoyed this, especially because you also list actors you love rather than just ones you don’t. I also like the acknowledgement that Tom Cruise can be good (lightbulb with dentures! ha!).

    Forgive me if someone has mentioned him already, but how do you feel about Clooney? My guess is you’d despise him, but he pretty much does what you want, which is to say, eschews easy big box-office fare for more challenging roles. He could just be himself forever, like Cary Grant was — Anthony Lane once called GC “human catnip,” because he has chemistry with almost every leading lady he’s ever worked with, going back to the trunk scene with J-Lo in OUT OF SIGHT — but he seems determined to not do so. He seems like he wants to push himself, to get beneath the surface, to project something more raw.

    Yes, he’s made the Ocean movies (which I really enjoy, for what they are), and was once Batman, something he regrets. But he’s fantastic as Michael Clayton, he’s damned good in SYRIANA, etc. He’s also a fucking riot in BURN AFTER READING (a movie Steph and I watch about once every other month, as it gets funnier with each viewing).

    Absolutely you should make a companion piece for the leading ladies. And heck, why not do one for directors, too? There are so many pretentious mediocrities, lord knows.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I agree with you about Clooney. I think he does tries to challenge himself, and I like what I’ve seen of him in interviews. I don’t think there’s an Edmund Kean (great English actor from the time of Dickens) buried in there, but I get the sense that Clooney knows what works for him and what doesn’t and he works within his parameters nicely (while, as you say, trying to bush the boundaries, though not so far that he’d embarrass himself).

      As I’ve said elsewhere above, I don’t know that there will be a sequel to this piece, if only because it feels “bloggy,” and I’d like to get back to the kind of thing I was doing before my hiatus. Unfortunately, I seem to be out of practice. Or maybe I’m just tired. I certainly have a great deal on my mind.

      I was for a fact going to hold off on posting when I spoke to you, but a story conference that was supposed to happen didn’t, and it was obvious that the day was going to go to waste if I didn’t do something — or something other than attend a memorial service in the evening. That was sad. Grief can wear you out.

  15. Irene Zion says:


    This line made me laugh out loud:
    “(Brad Pitt’s) habit of licking his lips, as if he finds himself so attractive that he wants to taste himself.”
    Greg already got the lightbulb with dentures line, but I second it.
    I have to admit that when I look back, Tom Cruise always was crazy as a loon.

    (Just got your book in the mail, your newest, can’t wait to get into it!)

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I feel very anxious about the book, Irene, so I hope you like it.

      The “lips” line is something I came up with a couple of years ago, when I was trying to make sense of a friend’s habit. (He’s the one I mention in the piece.) That was the best I could do, and it seemed to apply to Pitt, since his habit is exactly the same as my friend’s. A lot of people lick their lips, but there’s something distinct about the way quirk shared by my friend and Pitt. But I still haven’t been able to make any headway with the head-bobble thing. Elvis used to do it, too.

    • angela says:

      haha, that line made me laugh too, irene!

      i’d taste Mr. Pitt too, if i had the chance.

  16. As you know, I do love Johnny Depp. But you’re right about his voice. For years now he’s been trying to bring HST into his roles. I heard that for years after studying Thompson, he couldn’t help but lapse into the voice and mannerisms… Although sometimes he just did it to fuck with people. Also, I’ve loathed many of his recent movies. I’ve never been able to exactly put my finger on it, but I guess I’ve thought of his performances of late as being extremely lazy. And bad choices. Some of his recent films have been awful.

    Anyway, I’d offer a longer comment but I’m packing. I’m about 15 hrs I’m flying off to Taiwan. Sadly, your book didn’t arrive in time. I think I’m cursed. Oh well, I’ll try and have my parents ship it over, and hopefully it won’t be a repeat of last year’s lose-all-my-books-in-the-mail fiasco.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Oh, Christ. Well, there’s nothing to do but cross our fingers and hope for the best, huh? Meanwhile, I hope you see this before your plane leaves, so that I can wish you a good flight — that is, I hope the plane doesn’t again catch fire. You do seem to attract that sort of thing, David, perhaps as the result of your electrifying personality.

      As for Depp: yes, I remember our previous exchange about him, but it’s interesting that you agree with me about HST. I was told by someone else that Depp hired a speech therapist, or the likes, to help him sound more like Jim Morrison, but when I listen, I keep hearing HST, and, as I said in the piece, I didn’t notice it until after he did Fear and Loathing. So, yeah, I’m inclined to think that he walked away from that movie sounding permanently like HST, and not by accident.

      • I’m in Taiwan now and have just received an e-mail from Amazon: “You book has been shipped!” Bastards. Oh well.

        Sorry I can’t say more. I’m busy making trying to find an apartment. Yeah… And I have no money. Hmm… At least none of my planes crashed. That was a pleasant surprise. I did, however, miss one of them and lost my luggage.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          But did you subsequently find your luggage? And when you say you have no money, do you mean you’re penniless? You are supposed to start your new job soon, yes?

          Jesus, David, your closest friends and relatives must really wear out their rosaries. I may have to take up religion again, just to personally ask God to keep an eye on you. Not that, by any means, I’m one of His favorites. He kicks my ass pretty regularly.

          Good luck with the apartment search, and one way or another, as I said before, I’ll manage to get a copy of the book to you, if your parents don’t beat me to it. Obviously, that’s a distant consideration. Right now there’s a life that needs a little order — mine! (I jest. Actually, I don’t. But please look after yourself.)

        • My luggage was later delivered. Because I missed my flight from Hong Kong to Taipei it was left in Hong Kong, I believe. Anyway, I have it now – although evidently the authorities of several countries have fucked with it. Oh well. I just published some story about my lucky backpack… which has been sliced open by US immigration three times.

          I’m not a religious man, otherwise I’d spend half my time cursing whatever deity I believed in… But I think my family and friends end up doing that. Well, after a while I suppose they just trust that I’ll be alright.

          I assume my parents will forward the book. My birthday is in three weeks and I’ll see if they can ship it over for then.

        • Here’s the backpack story: http://www.roadjunky.com/article/2430/a-backpack-stained-with-blood-sweat-and-tears

          It started at about 5,000 words and just kept getting shorter and shorter.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Thanks for the link, David. I enjoyed that quite a bit.

          My mom gave me a carry-on bag that’s been with me everywhere. I never had any adventures quite as dramatic as yours, I’m sure, but I do associate that bag with every adventure I’ve enjoyed (and haven’t). It’s irreparably torn now, but I can’t bring myself to throw it away, and I can’t imagine a day when I would.

          Here’s hoping a package arrives in three weeks, and, in the meantime, happy birthday in advance. This will be your twenty-fifth, is that right? Decrepitude is just around the corner!

        • It’s weird how we get attached to such things. I guess it’s more than the sweat that works its way into the fabric.

          Yeah, this’ll be my 25th. I’m aging faster than I should, but I guess that’s a good thing in some ways. A sign of having lived life well.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Having seen a recent photo of you, any aging seems to be occurring psychologically only. You look you’re still in high school — and that, to me, is definitely a sign of living well, or at least of living how you’re meant to live. Those who don’t tend to look older than their years, though of course genetics come into play as well.

  17. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    Such a dilemma – I’m not a “movie person”, know little and care less about the actors and can’t really share any stories or make any educated observations. Yet if I don’t at least comment a “good to see you, Duke”, I fear I may pull a Daniel Day-Lewis at my desk.

    Good to see you again, Duke. I guffawed aloud at “…subtitles mean you have to, you know, read.” Actually, I snickered quite a lot. 🙂

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Thanks, Anon. Good to see, too, though you remain hidden by your fedora. I was hoping to write in such a way that the piece would appeal to people who aren’t necessarily movie fans, so, if you laughed, I’d like to think that, in one case, I somewhat succeeded.

      • Andrew Nonadetti says:

        No “somewhat” about it, my friend ;). I’ll have to do something about that fedora one of these days….

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Well, maybe you just could lift the brim a little, so I can see you laughing. (I’d add an emoticon here, if I weren’t constitutionally incapable of doing it.)

  18. Matt says:

    Holy fuck, this was fun. So many wicked lines, such great energy; it’s like you snorted coke laced with the ashes of Mark Twain and Jonathan Swift before you sat down to write this.

    Most of the movies I go to see these days are either foreign or smaller, more independant films with limited distribution. If it’s something bigger, it’s usually because I’m interested in the work of the director (David Fincher, Christopher Nolan, Steven Soderbergh etc.) and not because of the cast.

    Johnny Depp: I lean towards the consensus on this one; overacting or not, he’s never dull to watch (for me, at least), at least since he got out of that turn-of-the-century slump he was in during the late 90s/early 00s. He tries to innovate, even when it doesn’t succeed. I’d rather watch someone be an interesting failure than a mediocre success.

    Brad Pitt: As I’ve said elsewhere, I think he became a more interesting actor once he got a little age on his face. Though he was often quite good in them, too many of his 90s roles were centered on his being the tormented pretty boy (Legends of the Fall, Interview with the Vampire, Meet Joe Black etc.); the only one that really stands out for me is Kalifornia. Since then, though, his roles – and performances – have become a lot more layered and nuanced. I loved the living shit out of The Assassination of Jesse James, which I watch about once every three months.

    Tom Cruise: I always thought there was something…off…about the guy, even when I didn’t know much about Scientology, but between the Oprah thing and his attack on Brooke Shields for admitting she suffered from severe post-partum have put me off the guy pretty much permanently. Refuse to spend money on any of his projects (though I haven’t tossed out my DVD of The Last Samurai, since Ken Watanabe steals that film). Every time I see him interviewed I’m reminded of that footage of cult-brainwashed teenagers you see from time-to-time. Christian Bale said recently that he based his performance as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho on Tom Cruise’s public persona; I think he used terms like “moral emptiness” and “artifice,” if I’m remembering correctly. The carefully constructed facade of someone trying to act charming even when they don’t quite recognize what charming is.

    Speaking of Cruise and Pitt…one of my old bosses back in New Orleans dabbled in acting a bit, and worked as an extra on Interview with a Vampire. Cruise had it written into his contract that the extras could not make eye contact with him at any time, and at least once threw a big hissy-fit about that to Neil Jordan. Pitt, conversely, spent much of his time between takes hanging with the day players, eating from the same craft-services, etc.

    I can’t remember the last time I saw a Will Smith film. Somewhere along the line, without every really thinking about it, I decided there was nothing about him that interested me at all.

    Daniel Day Lewis: Honestly….I’m a little take-it-or-leave-it with him, but then I’ve only seen three of his films. I liked him in Gangs of New York, where I think his intense, over-the-top style that you don’t care for actually serves the character: he was playing someone actively trying to be the biggest, scariest personality in the room. I liked Last of the Mohicans as well, though part of that might be because it chops so much of the egregious fat from Cooper’s story, and has some spectacular cinematography.

    Eric Bana: I love Chopper. Munich is probably his closest Hollywood performance to that in terms of quality, though I had to see that film twice to really appreciate it. I actually think he was pretty good in Hulk, too – good enough, at least, that I was inspired to seek out his work elsewhere.

    An actor I’ve repeatedly been impressed with lately is Jesse Eisenberg. Between The Squid and the Whale, Adventureland and The Social Network he’s compiling a very solid body of work (I even enjoyed Zombieland, as tired as I’ve become of the genre).

    Joel Edgerton: I’m pleasantly surprised he’s getting as much recognition here as he is. I’d be inclined to think most American audiences would only know him from his bit part as Luke Skywalker’s uncle-in-law from two of the Star Wars prequels. As I said above, I loved The Square, and I can’t wait to see Animal Kingdom on DVD, as it played for maybe a day down here.

    And speaking of Bale…thoughts? What about Viggo Mortensen? I’ve not yet seen The Road but I loved the shit out of him inA History of Violence and Eastern Promises.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      First of all, Matt, thanks for your humbling compliment. If only I had snorted coke mixed with the ashes of Twain and Swift!

      It’s funny that you ask about Viggo, because I had actually written something about him, and I just checked to see if I still have it, but, when I closed the document, I must not have clicked yes on “Do you want to save your changes?” The piece was running long, so I went from writing about twelve actors to ten, with Viggo being the eleventh. (I hadn’t yet decided on a twelfth.) Anyway, I like Viggo quite a bit. I think he radiates intelligence and dignity, which is a rare quality for an actor to have these days. He’s a writer, you know, and a good one. I went to a reading he did: one of very few people there, curiously. On the other hand, the reading predated Lord of the Rings.

      I don’t know Bale’s work very well, but I stood next to him for a long time in a kitchen during a party, and he really put me off. I never addressed him. His manner made it clear that he wasn’t about to interact with anyone other than his wife and her friend. That’s fine and understandable, but at the same time he didn’t strike me as the kind of guy whose company I’d enjoy under different circumstances. Meanwhile, as an actor, he always feels a bit studied to me, but, again, I’d have to see more of him to know for sure.

      I have myself heard stories about Cruise throwing tantrums. I think he’s socially inept, and doesn’t really know how to interact with people unless he’s playing the role of Star, which acts as a kind of buffer. I also think he has something of a Messiah complex. Meanwhile, I once met Brad Pitt, who was very nice indeed. Like you, I love Jesse James. In fact, I think you and I have similar taste in movies, since you’ve mentioned before that you watch The Proposition once a year (on Christmas Day, is it?), and The Proposition is another of my favorite movies of the past decade; and since we do seem to have similar taste, I’m not at all surprised that you’d be familiar with Joel Edgerton. Cynthia cited The Square somewhere above, and now I feel like I’ve got to see it.

      I think you’re right that Jesse Eisenberg shows promise, though, of his movies, I’ve only seen The Squid and the Whale. But I wasn’t keen on anything about Gangs of New York, in which I felt that Day-Lewis was doing a bad DeNiro impersonation, and while I generally liked Mann’s handling of Mohicans, Day-Lewis looked like the cover of a romance novel in that movie. So, no, I couldn’t much enjoy him in that. His windblown mane got in the way.

      • Matt says:

        Mortensen, I’m given to understand, is actually fluent in something like four languages, and as you say is both a writer and a painter – he did all of the on screen artwork for his character in A Perfect Murder.

        I have no doubts Bale could be a difficult person to interact with, but I wonder if part of that might have to do with what he puts his body through: dropping over 100 lbs for The Machinist, bulking up to play Batman, slimming down again for Rescue Dawn, doing a lot of his own stunts….that’s a rough, rough way to treat your body in pursuit of your craft, and I imagine a mood swing or two would come part & parcel with it.

        I love the Proposition; it’s my go-to Christmas movie (Schindler’s List is my go-to Thanksgiving movie). The script is killer, and the performances are universally good among both the lead cast and the secondary players. Actually, that reminds me of someone (s) else I meant to mention in my last comment: Guy Pearce and Ray Winstone. A lot of people think of L.A. Confidential in terms of the performances by Russell Crowe and Kevin Spacey, but it’s was Pearce who really held my attention. Though he’s been in his share of Hollywood dreck (coughThe Time Machinecoughcough), he doesn’t seem to have gotten bogged down the way his fellow Aussie Bana has; there’s a little independant he did a couple of years ago called First Snow that is worth checking out. And of course, Memento is in my Top 10.

        Regarding Winstone, The Proposition was the first time I was consciously aware of him as an actor, and I immediately knew he was someone who’d work I had to look further into. Sexy Beast? Nil by Mouth? Fucking hell!

        You’re right about Last of the Mohicans: the “paperback romance” aspect of the film bog it down quite a bit (though really, that’s the only thing that does – the rest of the film clips along a pretty good pace). I overcome it by admiring the beauty of the scenery – and of Madeline Stowe. Still a little surprised she didn’t become a bigger name.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          You know, I was thinking of Madeline Stowe recently, and you’re right. She was beautiful and a good actress. I don’t know why her career petered out, except that Hollywood is notoriously ageist, particularly with regard to women.

          Ray Winstone is fantastic, I wholeheartedly agree; and I like Guy Pearce quite a bit, too. He’s excellent in Animal Kingdom, which, of course, you’ve got to see. (In fact, when I was watching the short you linked above, I was thinking how much the photography reminded me of the way Animal Kingdom is shot.) I’ve heard good things about Pearce personally, too.

          Meanwhile, what Bale did to his body for The Machinist was pretty shocking — more so, I think, than DeNiro’s weight gain for Raging Bull.

          I’m assuming that one of the languages Viggo speaks is Danish.

        • Matt says:

          According to his IMDB profile, Viggo speaks fluent English, Spanish, Danish and French, as well as having some aptitude with Swedish and Norwegian. Apparently, during the early stages of his acting career, he made ends meet by working as a translator from time-to-time, including for the Winter Olympics.

          I had a terrible time keeping my eyes on the screen when I saw The Machinist, Bale’s emaciated form upset me that much. And he did that to himself AGAIN for Rescue Dawn!

          Odd bit of trivia: he’s Gloria Steinem’s stepson.

          Also odd bit of trivia: Did you know that Chopper and The Assassination of Jesse James… were directed by the same guy?

          Also, if you can find a copy of the original Assassination novel by Ron Hansen at the library, it’s worth a read. There’s some great language in there; much of the dialog and almost all of the narration was lifted straight from the book.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Oh, the language of Assassination was beautiful — punishingly so, since I know I couldn’t come up with anything that good — and I heard that a lot of it was taken straight from the book. In fact, the movie is said to be very faithful to the book. And I did know that Chopper and Assassination were directed by the same guy. Man, what a talent.

          I read an interview with Bale in which he was asked about Steinem, and he refused to discuss her. She waited until she was at least sixty (in fact, I’m almost certain she was older) before marrying for the first time (she’s famous for her line: “A woman needs a husband like a fish needs a bicycle”), and then her husband, Bale’s father, died not long after.

          I think the ’80 Winter Olympics were held in Upstate New York, so maybe that’s when Viggo worked as a translator. I know he started his career in New York City, where he was managed by a guy named Bill Treusch. Viggo was one of the few unknowns that Treusch handled. Another of his clients was Sandy Dennis, with whom Viggo worked in The Indian Runner, and about whom he wrote a poem that he read at the reading I mentioned earlier. Meanwhile, Sandy Dennis was involved for a period with Eric Roberts, who was, I’m pretty sure, another Treusch client.

          Don’t ask me how the fuck I know these things. That kind of information used to stick to me like glue. I was always researching everybody as I plotted my way to the top. And look where I landed!

        • Matt says:

          With the possible exception of Perfume, Assassination is more loyal to the book than any other adaptation I’ve ever seen.

          Oh, and you’re right about Viggo and the 1980 Winter Olympics. Evidently he was translating the U.S./Russia “miracle” game.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Yeah, I was thinking of Miracle on Ice when sifting through my memories of where the Winter Olympics had been held. (Is that the name of that movie? The one with Kurt Russell?)

          I wonder if his translation of that game is one of his standby stories. It would surely be one of mine.

        • Matt says:

          I think it was just called Miracle, but I could be wrong, as I didn’t see it. (Boy, Kurt Russell sure has been doing a lot of ‘paycheck’ movies this decade, huh?)

          You’re right – that would make a great story to tell at a party, or on a date or some such.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          You watch what you say about Miracle, son!

          What on EARTH could a person possibly have against either the Miracle itself or the movie about it?

          And don’t you dare say Herb Brooks’ funny accent, or I’ll go get my hockey stick.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Ah, of course. Miracle. Hold the ice. How could I have forgotten?

          Well, because, like you, I didn’t see the damned thing; maybe that’s how.

          The only thing I know of that Kurt Russell has done in the last few years is Tarrantino’s Death Proof. But he may have reached the stage where a paycheck is all that interests him, as many actors do.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Btw, it was Lake Placid.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Um, I saw Becky’s comment a split second before I hit “add comment,” which wasn’t time enough to delete “the damned thing.”

          Boy, I guess I’m in for it now.

          Please don’t get your hockey stick.

        • Becky Palapala says:


          If you knew anything about hockey or about Herb Brooks, you’d know it was one of the better performances of Russell’s career, but everyone’s entitled to some amount of ignorance.

          A non-descript, sort of vaguely socio/political hostility towards organized sports is nothing I’ve never seen before. It is what it is.

          As for me, I own the movie. I think it’s great. Reproduced with remarkable care (Russell is a huge hockey buff) and with precious few exceptions, actual hockey players. Not actors.

          I think it was a coup.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Then again, as an actor, maybe the “precious few actors” thing is a negative for you.

          Anyway. I liked it.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I didn’t see it, so I can’t contradict you. Nor would I wish to. And, hey, I have no hostility toward organized sports. My soul is clean on that account.

          Meanwhile, I’m a huge fan of Slap Shot. And real hockey players were used in that, too.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Well, precious actors, minus the few, would certainly be a negative. But it makes perfect sense to cast athletes in a sports movie. I’d do the same.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Ah well. Usually a good bet when people express a general angst about sports-related things.

          Worth a shot. Or a slash, as it were.

          Hockey fans love Slap Shot, too. A caricature, obviously, of the game, but a reasonably true one. If there is such a thing. The scene where the French-Canadian goalie is interviewed on TV and roughs up the host is among my favorites in all of hockey cinema.

          Mystery, Alaska is good, too, but in a sentimental way…and sweet enough to cause toothache.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Slap Shot, for me, is like medicine when I’m feeling depressed. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed louder than I did in this moment, though it’s bound to lose something out of context:


          I read an interview with Nancy Dowd, who wrote Slap Shot, and quite a bit of it was taken from stories her brother, a hockey player, would tell her when called from the road. He’s in the movie himself. He plays Oglethorpe, the notorious goon, who’s constantly mentioned until, finally, at the end of the movie, he materializes.


        • Matt says:

          Whoa, I guess I shouldn’t have stepped out for lunch after leaving that last comment.

          For the record, I was not indicting Miracle (the film or the event) on Russell’s list of subpar films; the bit about his recent career choices was a stray thought prompted by the mention of his name that I carelessly tacked on to my original comment. Mea culpa.

          I was specifically thinking of muddlers he’s done like Dark Blue, Sky High and Poseidon. Paycheck films, one and all.

          I went to see Mystery, Alaska at a dollar theater when I was in college. That’s not a dollar I regret spending. Russel Crowe even refers fondly to that movie from time to time.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Didn’t he beat up an Eskimo when he was making Mystery? I know he got in a bar fight, or something. I think he was arrested.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          The anthem scene is legend. Probably the most iconic of the whole film. The Hanson Bros. (Carlson bros in real life) are from MN. State heroes, of course.

          I’m a big fan of goalies. Just in general. As the drummers of the hockey world, they are notoriously neurotic (and the good ones, notoriously French-Canadian).

          More Denis Lemieux…OWNZZZZZZuh OWNZZZZZZZZuh.


        • Matt says:

          OK, I know this is horrifically un-PC of me, but the phrase “beat up an Eskimo” just made me laugh out loud for some reason.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Thanks, Matt. That’s what I was going for. I’m getting punchy, and the punchier I get, the sillier.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          Hey man.

          Maybe the Eskimo started it.

          When it comes to bar fights, color matters not. We are all the same. Drunk.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I can’t think of a funny comeback. Damn. I know it’s going to come to me later, but right now I got nothing.

          Thank you for the “OWNZZZZZZuh OWNZZZZZZZZuh,” by the way. That guy is a scorch. Next post I write about actors — if I ever do — he’s got to go in it.

        • Becky Palapala says:

          “You feel shame, you know…*sniff*…then you get free.”


  19. jmblaine says:

    Why was there never a
    buddy movie centered around
    a muscle car,
    Burt Reynolds & Tom Selleck?
    I mean, it just makes no sense.

  20. Folks loving Robert Downey Jr. Have you seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang? You should see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I have not seen Kiss Kiss, Steve.

      One result of writing this post, which I hadn’t foreseen, is that I’m now learning just how many movies I haven’t seen. It’s a bit like being at a music venue, where a lot of well-informed people are asking, “Have you heard this? Have you heard that?” But, you know, that’s how you in fact do come to hear this and that.

    • Becky says:

      I have totally seen Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Excellent movie.

  21. Nathaniel Missildine says:

    I agree with you on Johnny Depp and glad to hear someone say it. His strange affectations only work on rare occasions for me, Sweeney Todd and Ed Wood for instance. Also like how you described Tom Cruise’s intensity as more authentic. He’s one of those stars who’s not capable of comfortably being himself unless he’s on film. Because of this, I always thought he’d be good for a kind of meta-film that explores the person he actually is better than he can in interviews, addressing celebrity obsession in a frank way. Maybe with the remake of Last Tango in Paris that I heard rumors about (supposedly opposite Katie Holmes), he could pull off something like this. It could at the same time just as likely be a flaming, five-alarm disaster of a vanity project.

    As for Romain Duris, he’s worth checking out in L’Auberge Espagnole if you haven’t seen it.

    Anyway, thoroughly enjoyed these movie notes.

    • Jude says:

      Tom Cruise. Last Tango In Paris?

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Thanks, Nathaniel. (Do people call you Nate, by the way? Not that I have an itch to call you that, but maybe it feels too formal for you to be called by your full name.)

      My Netflix account got canceled earlier this year and I can’t renew it — a long story — and everything they had listed with Romain Duris was in my cue, and now I’m going to have to figure out another way to see all those movies. But I certainly intend to see them.

      As for Johnny Depp: Wow! Somebody agrees with me! That’s very rare. But, you know, I’m not so sure about him redoing Last Tango in Paris, since Cruise looks at least ten years younger than he is and Tango is very much about a midlife crisis. Of course it could be rewritten to accommodate Cruise or anyone else, but the specter of the earlier film would hang over the new one, and I don’t see how it could be bettered. I mean, Bertolucci was at the top of his form when he made Tango.

      • Nathaniel Missildine says:

        Yeah Nathaniel is too formal, call me Nat, as in Hentoff or King Cole.

        So my initial reaction to hearing Cruise and Holmes in Last Tango in Paris was also something like Jude’s. I figured the only person who’s really going to be sodomized in this remake is Bertolucci. Of course, the film can’t be bettered, but the more I thought about it, I could see a strange, possibly even meaningful performance from Cruise that takes aim at his own mid-career crisis and deeply weird off-screen self. But it looks like the project isn’t taking off, I checked it out and there’s a whole facebook group devoted to making sure the remake doesn’t happen.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          My God, Nat (see how quickly I learn?), the newfound power of Facebook!

          I see what you mean about Cruise and his weird off-screen persona and how that could be utilized in a remake. The only thing is, I wonder how much insight, if any, Cruise has into himself. I think he’s been affecting insight since he realized how he came off during his season of public insanity, saying, “Oh, yeah, I see how that must have looked in retrospect,” and so on, but I get the feeling that it doesn’t go very deep, particularly since he measures himself by the spurious yardstick of Scientology. Then, too, he’s always been very private, and when he finally decided to reveal more of himself, look what happened! So I don’t know that he’d want to put himself out there again, or, if he did, I don’t know that he’d be able to tap into his weirdness as Brando did his own in the first Tango. In the final analysis, I don’t think Cruise realizes he’s weird, even after being told he’s weird by, pretty much, the whole world. My sense — which, of course, means absolutely nothing, since I’ve never been anywhere near the guy — is that he probably just felt misunderstood, and his solution is to make a few jokes and show he’s a good sport about having been mocked, and never allow himself to be so vulnerable again.

  22. Joe Daly says:

    Great inside track, Duke. First off, thank you for ever and ever for shining some light on Chopper, which is one of my favorite movies ever. Just a fantastic performance. Because he gets such relatively small play here in the States, people not only miss this absolute diamond of a role, but they don’t get that he was a comedian before the role. Phenomenal.

    I also applaud your comments on Tom Hardy. I had been following the real life Bronson case for a few years, after being immersed in a lot of London true crime books. When I saw they were doing the movie, I was really looking forward to it until I saw the trailer, which made it seem pretentiously campy-for-camp’s sake. So I didn’t care either way about Hardy being cast. Then I found myself in London last summer, just after the Bronson DVD came out. I picked it up, took it home, and was shocked at how good Hardy was in the role. I’ve seen him in one or two other UK releases, and he’s top notch- never overplays it (except in Bronson, where it was required), and he feels like he’s creating a character, rather than reflecting someone’s idea of one. If that makes any sense.

    Totally ambivalent on Will Smith and Johnny Depp. Love Daniel Day Lewis in certain roles (for instance, roles not in the movie Gangs of New York).

    Interesting comments on Romain Duris. I haven’t seen that flick, but I most certainly will add it to my Netflix queue.

    Just because you’ve got me thinking about it, here are a couple other actors that I always enjoy seeing in a movie:

    Stellan Skarsgard
    Pete Postelthwaite
    Colin Farrell (I’m ethnocentric)
    Albert Finney
    Ed Norton
    Samuel L. Jackson
    Casey Affleck

    I’m getting on a plane in a few hours and I’m pretty sure I’ll still be trying to come up with names as we’re taking off…

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I like all of the actors in your list. Albert Finney is fantastic. If you’ve never seen Tom Jones, I heartily recommend it. As I mentioned in the piece, one of my favorite performances of the last decade is Casey Affleck as Robert Ford, and while I’m not over-the-moon about Farrell as an actor, he’s so likable in interviews that I can’t help but feel warmly toward him. Meanwhile, your remark about Day-Lewis (“not in…”) cracked me up.

      I think Bana in Chopper and Hardy in Bronson are eminently comparable, which is why I spoke about Bana in relation to Hardy. Unfortunately, I read last night about Hardy that he’s now doing a rom-com with Reece Witherspoon. It begins. Fuck, man. This is what always happens. But, hey, the baby needs shoes, right?

      • sheree says:

        Tom Jones is a great flick and Albert Finney is classic! Love his work.

      • Judy Prince says:

        I so agree with you, Duke, and Joe who think Albert Finney’s awesome. _Tom Jones_, yes—-and _The Gathering Storm_, BBC, in which he plays Winston Churchill. And his magnificent performance in _The Dresser_.

        This about Tom Cruise: “He looked like a light bulb with dentures”—–ok, this was a tea-spit moment for me, as was the entire bit about foreign and USAmerican male actors in your Joel Edgerton analysis.

        Loved Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in _Mr and Mrs Smith_. Both of them awesome actors.

        Ray Winstone—-oh yes, definitely fantastic. _Sexy Beast_ is quintessential Winstone: A total lover, able to play a loser convincingly, to play confusedness as well as captivating charm. The man’s a natural magnet. I loathed the movie bcuz of its nearly non-existent story which could’ve been revealed in 20 minutes, but thought all the actors were fantastic. Go figure.

        I bought your SUBVERSIA today at The Book Depository (free postage worldwide! and I like the bookmarks they include with each book) and am eager to dig into it.

        Much appreciated your posting the photos of those Aussies with great arms.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          You know, Judy, I hadn’t even noticed the arms in those pictures before you pointed them out. I liked the blood in the first picture, and the second was the most Samoyed-like I could find. But I’m very happy to have pleased anyway, as well as appreciative of your news about Subversia. I hope you like it. I’m still nervous as I await the return of the jury — and, you know, with books, the jury never entirely returns.

          We had a previous exchange about Winstone, at the end of which I think you said you were about to hold a private Winstone Film Festival. Did you? And did you watch Quadrophenia? I did recently. I like that movie now more than ever.

          I’m not surprised to hear that you’re a Finney fan. The word “underrated” has come up quite a bit on this board, but Finney, to me, is one of the most underrated actors of all. Have you ever seen Saturday Night, Sunday Morning? Of course I love all of those Angry Young Man movies.

          I trust that I’ve responded with enough sobriety so as not to produce another tea-spit moment. Tea can be so expensive. I’d hate to think of yours going to waste, especially due to me.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I could be doing with more photos of Eric Bana’s arms, blood and all, Duke.

          Following is the tea-spit part of your post I loved the most. (The parenthetical bit at the top is wonderfully stoopid, and the rest is a brilliant analysis of the USAmerican film industry’s weird, silly take on masculinity):

          “(Okay, you can start reading again, if you stopped.) Edgerton has done some stuff in America, and I have a feeling he’s going to do more, because domestic actors aren’t allowed to be in any way threatening. There’s a castrated quality about most male American movie stars, but foreign guys don’t have to be castrated because they’re foreign, so they can’t help themselves, and actors with their (metaphorical) balls intact tend these days to be imported from the U.K. or Down Under. Russell Crowe is an example of the latter, and Joel Edgerton reminds me a little of Russell Crowe, except he doesn’t seem like an asshole.”

          If ever I have a Ray Winstone Film Festival, it’ll be with Ray and me only.

          Duke, just what is a Literary Death Match? I’m instantly repelled by what seems to be its core concept of violent confrontation, yet if there’re biceps and blood, it’s well worth the violence and confrontation. I wish you and your biceps a profound sense of power and the ability to extract gore from your opponents.

          Thank you for reminding me of Quadrophenia and Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. I just rented them on lovefilm.com here in the UK.

          Your post has touched my much-held-back thoughts about actors and acting. A colleague and director once remarked that actors have to be told what to do (duh, I thought). He went on to say that they have no mind of their own and do not wish to have one, and that they crave direction for every detail of their lives or they feel lost. BTW, this director always spoke LIKE THIS!!!! Always. I made sure not to get classrooms next to his bcuz all you could hear was his constant yelling—-starting with calling attendance: “ADAMSON!!! BERGER!!!! BROCKTON!!!! . . .

          A couple years later, in order to prepare for teaching speech classes in Taiwan, I took an acting class (northside, Chicago) with Raven Theatre’s excellent director. He combined classic techniques with improv, had us do several exercises, and I learned much, especially from an exercise that had us paired and forbade to make any sound or to use any props except the chair in which one of us sat. OBJECT: Get the chaired actor out of her/his chair. The only actor who succeeded was a young woman who entered and put an imaginary gun to the chaired actor’s head. He got right up. I tried the exercise on my students in Taiwan. The only one who succeeded was a female who ran over to the window blinds and pantomimed pulling the cord around her neck, ready to yank it. The guy instantly got out of his chair.

          Fast forward 20 years to my little rental place’s livingroom in Norfolk VA. I’m sitting behind 2 minicams sighted on 2 actors, Stacey Sutton and John Cauthen, who are rehearsing the first scene of my play “Feathers in Your Teeth.” We did 5 two-hour rehearsals. Here’s what I learned: Each actor has a unique way of getting into the role, of memorising, of physical moves, of expressions, and of the time it takes her/him to be “ready” for a final performance.

          I would not like being an actor only bcuz I hate to memorise anything, and I’m profoundly appreciative of the skills that actors must have in order to seem not to be acting.

          Cheers, and break a leg at the LDM in LA Thursday night!

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Thanks, Judy. I especially need encouragement because I’m sick at the moment, and my condition will have to improve by Thursday.

          The LDM is basically just a reading, with two sets of readers going head to head and judged by a panel of witty judges (at least they were witty at Rich Fergusons’s LDM last year), with ongoing commentary in the manner of a TV sporting event as supplied on the mic by Todd Zuniga, an erstwhile TNB contributor who conceived the LDM. (Rich won his competition last year, and Tyler Stoddard Smith likewise won a LDM in Texas, I guess it was.)

          I’ve heard others say that memory is what daunts them most about acting, but memorizing lines always came easily to me. It happened naturally, as the result of repetition, and I think that’s true for many actors.

          Meanwhile, a lot of people hate actors, as I suspect was (and possibly still is) true for the colleague you mention. I’ve never entirely understood why, aside from the common perception of narcissism, egomania, and so on, which is undoubtedly accurate at times. But for playwrights and directors and others on the opposite side of the stage or camera, I think there are control issues at work. What your colleague said is what he wished were true. Actors aren’t, typically, easily controlled. They arrive with ideas and habits and sometimes a lot of probing questions that directors and writers aren’t equipped to handle. It’s like that stale old joke I used to hear: a Method Actor asks, “What’s my motivation?” and the director says, “Your paycheck.” In other words, shut up, don’t think, and don’t force me to think.

          You’re, of course, right about the unique way that each actor goes about preparing. I liked reading about your experiences in Chicago and Taiwan. I remember those sorts of exercises from my own classes, just as I remember some off the standout moments: a girl, for instance, who simply sat through an improv while white-knuckling the side of her chair. Afterward, the teacher said, “Tell the class what I whispered to you before you started the improv.”

          “‘Witch hunt,'” said the girl. For my own improv, the teacher whispered the word “hobo,” and, inspired by “witch hunt” girl, I simply lay on the floor, without a pressing care in the world, and watched imaginary people pass by in a great hurry.

          As for Eric Bana’s arms, bloodied or not, I alas have no more photos. Apologies.

          • Gloria says:

            Oh no! Are you sick, Duke? Well, if it’s a sinus-headcold kind of thing, I, too am suffering from it. I’ve been in bed for days and I’m starting to go crazy. I called my acupuncturist today and she said to boil sliced ginger root, lightly chopped garlic, and lemon juice then strain it and drink it with honey. I’ve been doing this and it’s delicious. (If you’re congested, you can put some cayenne in it.) I can’t confirm that it’s making me better yet – but I’m just trying to help you get to your curtain call on Thursday. Good luck with that!

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Thanks, Gloria. If I had all of the ingredients on hand, I might attempt your concoction. As it is, I’m just drinking lots of juice and water and sleeping as much as possible. It is a head-cold kind of thing, but with an intestinal side to it also. The less said about the latter, the better.

          Sorry to hear that you, too, are sick. I was told yesterday that this bug is really making the rounds.

        • Gloria says:

          If I were your neighbor, Duke, I’d be a meddling pain in the ass. I’d be knocking on your door right now with a big batch of it (Since I just happened to have all the ingredients on hand.) Sounds like you have it under control. Feel better!

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I started taking measures from the second I felt it coming on to see that it wasn’t a big cold. I hope I’ve succeeded, though I wouldn’t say, at the moment, that it’s under control — not fully.

          Anyway, thanks for the good thoughts, and feel better yourself!

        • Judy Prince says:

          LDM sounds great, Duke. You and the performers and audience will have an awesome time.

          Thanks for your brilliant analysis of my colleague-director’s problem with actors. I couldn’t figure out what was going on, but what you said rings true, sadly for him and actors and others like him.

          Your teacher’s whisper exercise is now permanently in my repertoire—-and especially your acting reaction to her saying “hobo.” Excellent.

          Re your cold, it’s good you started treating yourself immediately. That certainly will help. Dear Rodent and I have just got over our colds, the ickiest symptoms which lasted only 3 1/2 days but felt like pure hell. At least with the flu, horrid as it is, a person just conks out totally for a couple days so they don’t even feel the symptoms.

          You know all the right things to do to get rid of the cold and the symptons, but here’s an odd bit of advice from a fellow Virginian: Drink liquids S L O W L Y…… He said that gulping liquids was the cause of many a cold. He might be right, as he was on many other subjects. Edgar Cayce was his name.

          Oh, and here’s the ONLY sure-fire cure I’ve experienced for a bad bout of diarrhea: tea and toast. Works every time and quickly. No butter or jam or milk or other food, just tea and toast.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Ah, yes, Edgar Cayce. Neal Cassady followed Cayce’s teachings (or transcriptions, as they were), but I don’t really know much about him.

          However, I was careful to drink liquids slowly, and I feel better now, thanks. I also had tea and toast, and that seems to have helped with the intestinal condition (which I tactfully, I thought, avoided naming, but you brilliantly guessed anyway). Thanks, sweet Judy Prince.

          At a later date, I hope to have an exchange with you about Cayce. He’s fascinating.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Glad you’re climbing closer to top-notch, physically, Duke, and I appreciate your kind words.

          I’d not heard of Neal Cassady, so Wiki’ed him, looked at his listed publications and listed fellow mates, then asked dear Rodent which of their works he thought worth reading, bcuz I’ve never gone a bundle on the Beats, beginning with Jack Kerouac. Rodent said Hunter Thompson’s _Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas_ would be the best of the lot. To avoid paying money for the book, I rented the film from lovefilm.com here in the UK. It’ll be my first time seeing Johnny Depp’s acting, and I hope Cameron Diaz acts well bcuz she’s a beautiful woman to watch.

          Long ago I read Charles Bukowski’s poems and quite enjoyed his straightforward, succinct irreverence. One of his poems gives examples of his “fan mail,” and this fan’s message, paraphrased, still makes me smile: “I write poems just like you, only better.” 😉

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I love Bukowski. I’m sure this marks me as a simpleton in the minds of some, but I don’t care. In fact, it’s his simplicity (or, as you say, his straightforwardness) that’s a big part of the draw.

          It’s not a good movie, but The Last Time I Committed Suicide is specifically about Cassady, and I have a little affection for it for that reason. It was adapted from a letter he wrote to Jack Kerouac — the letter that led to Kerouac’s discovery of his “spontaneous bop” prose style. There’s also a movie entitled Heart Beat, with Nick Nolte as Cassady (Thomas Jane plays him in The Last Time) and Sissy Spacek as Cassady’s wife Carolyn (she wrote the book Heart Beat), but, on the whole, I prefer The Last Time.

          Unfortunately, a movie version of On the Road is presently in the works. That’s a book that should never have been turned into a movie, so, naturally, after all this time, a movie is underway.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Duke, poets on the poetry lists I’ve subscribed to universally and actively despise Bukowski’s poetry, but I think he’s a gifted poet. Here’s one of his poems:

          2 Flies

          The flies are angry bits of life;
          why are they so angry?
          it seems they want more,
          it seems almost as if they
          are angry
          that they are flies;
          it is not my fault;
          I sit in the room
          with them
          and they taunt me
          with their agony;
          it is as if they were
          loose chunks of soul
          left out of somewhere;
          I try to read a paper
          but they will not let me
          one seems to go in half-circles
          high along the wall,
          throwing a miserable sound
          upon my head;
          the other one, the smaller one
          stays near and teases my hand,
          saying nothing,
          rising, dropping
          crawling near;
          what god puts these
          lost things upon me?
          other men suffer dictates of
          empire, tragic love…
          I suffer
          I wave at the little one
          which only seems to revive
          his impulse to challenge:
          he circles swifter,
          nearer, even making
          a fly-sound,
          and one above
          catching a sense of the new
          whirling, he too, in excitement,
          speeds his flight,
          drops down suddenly
          in a cuff of noise
          and they join
          in circling my hand,
          strumming the base
          of the lampshade
          until some man-thing
          in me
          will take no more
          and I strike
          with the rolled-up-paper –
          missing! –
          they break in discord,
          some message lost between them,
          and I get the big one
          first, and he kicks on his back
          flicking his legs
          like an angry whore,
          and I come down again
          with my paper club
          and he is a smear
          of fly-ugliness;
          the little one circles high
          now, quiet and swift,
          almost invisible;
          he does not come near
          my hand again;
          he is tamed and
          inaccessible; I leave
          him be, he leaves me
          the paper, of course,
          is ruined;
          something has happened,
          something has soiled my
          sometimes it does not
          take man
          or a woman,
          only something alive;
          I sit and watch
          the small one;
          we are woven together
          in the air
          and the living;
          it is late
          for both of us.


          I just viewed the trailer for _The Last Time I Committed Suicide_, and Thomas Jane did a fine job, but Keanu Reeves’ performance was so blatantly wooden, amateurish and OTT that every line he delivered made me simultaneously grin and wince. I’ve rented the film from lovefilm.com here in the UK. I appreciate your letting me know about it.

          Re Sissy Spacek, I know she’s got basketsful of cred, but I can never get past the fact that she’s Sissy Spacek, a kind of pale wraith who might any minute fall apart physically and emotionally. I spend the time watching her with stifled horror and no energy left over to assess her performances.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I always think of Sissy Spacek as being underappreciated. I like her, personally. There’s a kind of throbbing quality about her, an emotional accessibility that, while sometimes vulnerable, I don’t associate with weakness. But that’s just me, and I’m really only speaking of her early work. I haven’t seen many of her later movies, from the nineties on.

          The funny thing to me about Keanu Reeves is that he started off good, in River’s Edge, and he very quickly became the Keanu we all now know. I was at a bookstore here in L.A. a few years ago, and some guy kept walking past me, and I had the impression that it was Keanu, though I’d barely lifted my eyes to check, and finally, as he crossed my path for the tenth time, he said, “Excuse me!” in his best Keanu voice, as if he wanted to make damned sure I knew it was him, which, lo and behold, it was. I stood behind him at the cash register, where he was buying a book on architecture, as well as Crime and Punishment, and I thought, like the snotty shit I sometimes am, “You’re only just now reading Crime and Punishment?”

          Bukowski is much better appreciated in Europe than he is in the States, even among intellectuals, or so I know was once the case. He’s wildly popular in Serbia, where I used to live. There was even a cafe in Belgrade named for him. But I hope you simply cut and pasted that poem, which I enjoyed reading, rather than typing it all out by hand.

          Here’s a link to a short film based on a poem by Bukowski, which made a big impact on me at the time I read it:


        • Judy Prince says:

          HOW did the LDM go last nite, Duke!

          HOOT about the Keanu Reeves experience you had! HA! In those few bits I saw in the trailer, he seemed positively delighted at delivering his lines crappily. I felt sorry for him, but now I guess we can chalk it up to his success unenabling him to discern the better ways to act. Sad, that.

          I’ll keep an open mind about Sissy Spacek. Often, I my preoccupation with the visual trumps my attention for everything else; hence, her pale, no-eyebrows appearance freaks me out to the exclusion of hearing her lines. I have to tightly rein my pref for visuals when watching films; otherwise, while I’m studying the beauty of Audrey Hepburn’s face or beautiful clothing, I miss her words, the story line, even the action (except for its aesthetic qualities). I don’t think I’m entirely alone in this, either. Good-looking people usually get better treatment. This applies to TNB author’s photos, as well. Amazing, but universally true, I believe.

          I just watched the Bukowski You Tube video you linked, and it is graphically wonderful as well as a forceful piece of writing. I hooted (silently) when he said he concluded that his parents had burned the beautiful, natural guy’s house down! One can appreciate his conclusion—-the disconnect between his parents’ lifestyle and values and the beautiful guy’s, and his identifying with the beautiful guy instead of his parents. How typical that is of all of us, nah? Has any of us ever spoken glowingly of our parents’ lifestyle or demeanor or favourite activities? I think not. Certainly I didn’t, though I loved them and their dedication to productive, good lives and to me and my sister. But I was certain I would never duplicate their preferences and choices for leisure activities. And I haven’t.

          The Bukowski vid touches another active nerve: The natural, the free, the fully-whole individual versus the forced, squished-into-boxes individual who no longer is individual but is conformed to the culture-in-place as well as the other roles of class, status, race, and gender in a particular country.

          What did you find about your experiences in Serbia? I’m ignorant of the country. Closest I’ve ever been (apart from here in the UK) is in my father’s parent’s home country, Hungary, which I visited for a few weeks in 1989, with great sadness bcuz it was so poor, lacking so many amenities that it once had had. And now they’re experiencing heavy industries-gone-wild, resulting in poisonous sludge in the waterways flooding the cities. I didn’t have the same feeling about 1989 Czechoslovakia, but I didn’t stay there more than a day.

          I type fast, if not accurately, but no, I didn’t type the Bukowski poem in, pasted it in from an online source.

          Hope you’re taking time to allow your physical energy to rebuild itself, especially after the LDM last night. It may take a few days to gradually get back to normal energy levels.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I’m afraid I didn’t fare well in the Death Match. I was the first to read, and I was cut right away. I read a piece entitled “How I Became Human,” which was a mistake from a competitive point of view, since it’s serious (though I think there’s humor in it) and the n-word comes up a few times. But my thought was, well, everyone else is going to go for humor, and I wasn’t sure that a funny piece was a good advertisement for Subversia, and besides, I just wanted to take a chance. So I did, and I got cut, which I should’ve known would happen. And, yeah, it did take something out of me, though I think I’ve almost completely recovered by now.

          I’m glad you liked the clip. If the story that Bukowski tells is true, it would’ve occurred in 1930 or thereabouts, and I find myself wondering what became of the man, and why he was in Los Angeles, and why he never appeared to be at home. Also, who’s the “goddamn whore” he addresses before the boys see him? (I think the man’s voice in the clip may be Bukowski’s; I can’t quite tell. But possibly the filmmaker took it from a Bukowski reading of the poem; the recording doesn’t sound as if it were done in a studio.) It’s these mysteries that make the poem stand out to me. Then, too, it’s a nice compression of Bukowski’s concerns as a writer. As a romantic, he was always at war with “normal” people, and his worldview has quite a bit in common with mine, though I don’t consider him an influence. Henry Miller and Norman Mailer both have concerns similar to Bukowski’s, but their prose styles are much more complex, so that they’ve lost a lot of readers in recent years, while, as far as I know, Bukowski continues to be read. People — and I’m thinking specifically of young people — who don’t read much, if any, “serious” literature read Bukowski, but that’s not a strike against him in my eyes. On the contrary, I’m happy that Bukowski and Hunter S. Thompson have some appeal for the young, who might otherwise never encounter dissident ideas, at least in print.

          Meanwhile, I well understand what you mean about the values of your parents. I always knew that I would have a very different life from everyone else in my family, though I certainly never hoped to be as poor as I’ve been.

          It would be impossible for me to summarize what I learned in Serbia in a comment on this board. I’ve long wanted to write a TNB piece about Serbia, but I haven’t figured out how to do it, since the subject is simply too large. But what you say about “the natural” and so on begins to hint at my experience. The people I met in Serbia were more vital, more passionate, and more human than almost any Americans I ever knew. Everyday life in Belgrade was punk rock, which is why Serbia figures in Banned for Life, and the narrator’s impressions can be taken for mine, though our Serbian experiences aren’t identical. But there’s definitely some overlap.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I just remembered, Judy, that I neglected to respond to your remarks about appearance. It absolutely plays a huge role in how we respond to others, and particularly (obviously) with actors, so that, in the end, it’s hard to say how much we’re judging a performance and how much we’re judging the performer’s looks. There’s no getting around it.

          As for what you say about TNB author photos, another contributor once confessed to me that she mostly reads stuff by the contributors she finds attractive, and she can’t be the only one. Appearance is bound to figure more and more for writers in the Internet age, when photographs of almost anyone can be instantly accessed. On the other hand, it was bound to figure before the Internet, when a person browsing in a bookstore would look at the author’s photograph in the back, or on the back, of a book. I’ve been told that women especially tend to buy books on the basis of whether they respond favorably to author photos, but, then, far more women than men buy books.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Duke, this is getting weird. I finished writing a nice long comment to your two responses, edited it thoroughly and clicked on “Add comment” but immediately got a cold screen saying “Cannot display”—-and couldn’t find the comment. Then I began the comment all over again, and after the third line it suddenly disappeared. I am now thinking that Cosmic Birther of All Radiance and Vibration intends for me to comment tomorrow. Must be something I need to work out before I attempt communicating with you. So be it.

          Say good night, Judy. No, as before, I want to say “Good night, Duke.”

          Be well, have fun, stay hydrated, keep writing.

        • Judy Prince says:

          It’s tomorrow today here in the UK, Duke, so here’s a third attempt to comment (and while the computer’s working smoothly).

          Re the Literary Death Match, you’d explained to me that LDM’s have witty judges and sports-type commenters, so you defo chose to go against type in reading a serious piece, and you knew it and had good reasons for doing it, so you took your early elimination (no pun, at first, intended) understandably and well. My feeling, ultimately, is that your choosing the serious piece may’ve been a perhaps unconscious choice (psychic, spiritual) benefitting some in the audience who may have needed the bits of experience to relate to and learn from. Often, silent audience reactions mean they’re processing what they’ve heard/seen, sometimes even fighting tears. We will never know how, and how much, our words affect others. (Which in some cases is a good thing!) 😉

          Re appearance’s too-important importance for readers, and esp on our beloved TNB, it’s good to ignore the photos and just read folks’ stuff, to see what they have to say. That, I think, is what happens with my own posts (though I might opt to drag out my high school yearbook photo for a sleeker version of Judy in the Judy and Rodent posts…..he, of course, always looks great, to me). 😉

          Re Bukowski, I too wonder about all those things re the natural man, his woman and his whereabouts and end. We both agree Bukowski’s a fine poet, and I think it’s the academic-type poets who look down on him, unfortunately for them. I agree, as well, about young folks finding much meaning in his work, which is great for poetry in general. Mailer’s and Miller’s writings don’t strike me as more complex than Bukowski’s poetry; quite the opposite, in fact. I’ve never liked their works, and ditto with Truman Capote……and on and on I could go on the subject, so I will resist the temptations. Truly fantastic writers exist and they exist Sturgeon’s-law’ly; that is, 99% of what’s produced in any field is unexceptional.

          I’ve just made pure buckwheat pasta (resembles soba noodles which’re made with wholemeal flour and buckwheat flour—-buckwheat is a fruit, not a grain), and it’s rather nice.

          Wow, you’ve made a fantastic assertion about the Serbian people—-I’d love to read a post on it!

          Early winter’s come to northern UK and I don’t have a winter jacket or gloves. Now heading to the charity shops for those items. Love those charity shops! (They’re not consignment; all the proceeds go to charities) What’s not to love? They provide a variety of clothes, accessories, books, CDs, DVDs, jewelry, cutlery, pottery, curtains, textiles and toys that’ve proved durable and have been chosen by someone with better taste than mine. Cheap antiques, in a sense. Here, the government permits charity shops to set themselves up in buildings that are empty of a commercial renter, the charity shop paying very little rent.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I just listened to your reading (on Joe Matheny’s show) the chapter that you read at the Literary Death Match, Duke. Wow. You didn’t calculate incorrectly when you chose to read it at the LDM.

          Here’s the comment I posted on his site about it:

          “Class, is this any way to write about one of your teachers? Oh yes. Indeed, yes.

          A raw, achingly poignant experience you wrote and read, Duke.”

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Thanks, sweet Judy Prince.

          I’ve been meaning for a while to reply to your earlier message, but things have been pretty rough here on the ranch. And now I’m responding too late in the night beyond this brief message, which I hope you’ll consider an IOU on a longer message in the hours or days to come.

          Now: back to the ranch, meaning chores, which for me at the moment means sleep.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I hope it’s excellent dreaming, not a chore, Duke.

          The images of your teacher, her soft crying and what she said, are deep-sunk in my psyche. I immediately (and still!) wanted to embrace her for being a strong, whole, honest, wise person.

          I also wanted you to write the same chapter extended into a larger, more detailed format. I suppose, though, if it had been meant to be written larger, you’d have known it. Or, p’raps it still travels and evolves its destinies.

  23. I watched the trailer for The Beat That My Heart Skipped, ordering it from Netflix. I loved reading this, hadn’t really thought about actors in depth. I’m looking forward to your post on females.

    I just saw a strange movie with Romain Duras called Heartbreaker. I went after a long day of work. It was one of those romantic comedies that I try my best not to dissect or think deeply about so that I can enjoy, but end up dissecting anyway.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’m glad you clicked on the link, Victoria. I watched the trailer expecting the worst, since trailers are often so bad, but this one does give a good impression of the movie, which I’m glad is now in your cue. Now I just hope you like the movie!

      As I said somewhere above, I wish I could see more of Duris’ work, including Heartbreaker, but my Netflix account was conclusively closed. The French have a different way with romantic comedies. I think they’re better than their American counterparts, but, then, I would think that, since I generally prefer European movies.

  24. sheree says:

    I love movies with sub-titles. Never caught the Tom, Johnny or Brad band wagon.
    I liked some of Mickey’s choices for displayng his true talent as an actor and I liked some of Brads efforts, but, his lip licking thing and long gazes directly into the camera really creeped me out.

    I still love Gary Cooper as an actor. If i had to name an actor from today’s media market I really don’t know who i’d pick. Not one single name comes to mind. Kind of a shame, now that I stop and think about it.

    I’m still hellaglad you’re a writer. I love reading anything you’ve written.
    Beers and fries to ya!

    • D.R. Haney says:

      So you noticed the lip-licking, too, eh? I knew I wasn’t the only one.

      I mentioned somewhere above that Johnny Depp took a “European” approach early in his career, and I think the same was true of Rourke. I think, within reason, he was trying to make art, occasionally doing commercial movies to pay the way. Ultimately, though, the art route is a career killer, since the art audience is sparse.

      I agree with you about Gary Cooper. Love the guy. And one of the reasons I wrote about Edgerton and Hardy, et al, was that, to my surprise, I have found a few contemporaries worth following.

      Of course you know how I feel about fries, so thanks for wishing them on me, to say nothing of the beer and your generous compliment.

      • sheree says:

        Wait, I thought of a name. Leonardo Dicaprio. As a young actor he sucked me into whatever role he was playing.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          You know, I had a problem with him early on. People were raving about him, and I thought he was fine and perfectly okay and so on, but nowhere near as great as the raves would have you believe. I think he’s progressed since then, though he seemed to wear one expression all the way through The Departed, a kind of glowering samurai expression, with his eyes tight and his lips pursed and his forehead knotted. I get it, dude. You’re wrapped tight. But don’t you think the anxious have a little more facial flexibility?

  25. I don’t know, Duke. I don’t know about this. You’re on the inside of the washing machine of Hollywood to a degree. I’m just a schlep on the outside.

    And nowhere, did I see Goofy, William Shatner or Harrison Ford in this mix. You’re obviously on the bitter train.

    OK, I’m kidding. This was an interesting read and I learned that Eric Bana was in a movie called Chopper. Never heard of it. I remember him in Blackhawk Down. He was kind of debonair. Sort of.

    And I love Donnie Brasco. Johnny Depp was cool in that.

    Maybe you should do a piece just on all the crappy superhero movies. Yes, superhero movie analysis Duke style. That would bring TNB some serious hits, bro.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I agree with you about Depp in Donnie Brasco, Nick. It’s one of his better performances, though I don’t think it’s one of the better mafia movies.

      Also, interestingly, Tom Hardy is in Black Hawk Down.

      But in order to write about superhero movies, I’d have to rent a bunch of them and watch, and I don’t know that I can take a step as drastic as that one. I prefer being on the bitter train inside a washing machine.

      Now, if I could literally be on a bitter train inside a washing machine, that might make for an interesting post.

  26. Quenby Moone says:

    I don’t know who Tom Hardy is, but I don’t actually watch anything anymore. Not that I don’t want to, mind you, it’s just…finding a two hour block of time to see something other than dreck out of the corner of one eye has eluded us since the hatching of the hatchling. I will look for him though.

    Tom Cruise. I’m amazed no-one cottoned on to the crazy long before. The guy gives me the terrors. I don’t know when I realized that he wasn’t firing on all his pistons, but I know that once I did I couldn’t look at any performance without feeling the crazy-juice pour through the screen. The rictus grin might have something to do with it, the machine gun laugh that you mention. But there’s a sort of menacing seething creepiness underneath everything he does which speaks to paranoia, no matter whether he’s playing the All-American sweetheart or his strange turn in Tropic Thunder, which of course was meant to be a way to assure his audience he was capable of self-effacing humor, but really just confirmed my terrors.

    Brad Pitt was awesome in Twelve Monkeys. If that’s all he ever did, I’d still have to tip my hat. The rest of these shmoes I don’t have too many opinions about. But Tom Cruise….whoa.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      QB, your remarks on Tom Cruise beat mine, hands down. Yes, paranoia! How could I have failed to mention paranoia? That’s exactly what’s underlying TC’s weirdness, and it’s probably the very reason (or at least one of them) that people liked him when they did: because something about his unarticulated paranoia mirrored their own. We think, in America, that our paranoia started with 9/11, but it didn’t. I remember being in Spain in 1998 and feeling curiously unburdened. “Why?” I kept thinking. Then it hit me: there was none of the low-grade paranoia that surrounded me, miasma-like and unawares, in the States.

      Meanwhile, what you said here — “[…] which of course was meant to be a way to assure his audience he was capable of self-effacing humor” — is pretty much what I said above to Nat Missildine, though not as well: “[…] his solution [to his PR disaster] is to make a few jokes and show he’s a good sport about having been mocked, and never allow himself to be so vulnerable again.”

      I’ve mentioned already on the board that I’m surprised at how few haven’t heard of Tom Hardy, since he’s getting a huge amount of buzz at the moment. In fact, it’s a little embarrassing for me to jump on the Tom Hardy bandwagon, but the guy really is tremendous, and you’ll, without question, be hearing a lot about him in the future. Unlike the other Tom, he’s fully cognizant of his nuttiness, having battled some serious demons in the past, and hopefully he can go on keeping them under control.

      Meanwhile, I sympathize with your inability to clear a two-hour block of time, though my own hatchlings have been books, which I know can’t begin to compare, in part because books are unfeeling bastards with no appreciation for the love, patience, fortitude, and, yes, time they require.

      Thanks for a thoughtful and very funny comment.

      • Quenby Moone says:

        I knew I liked you for some reason: you massage my ego! Brilliant.

        Talk about paranoia and not recognizing the omnipresent sense of it in the US: what about such gems as Tom C’s first turn on the dance floor as a loose cannon in Taps? Yeesh.

        There are so many films which speaks to our unarticulated fear of the unknown including jokey films like “True Lies.” I watched a lot of these movies for both my film studies and also my Middle East studies; the depiction of Arabs in the late 80’s and through the 90’s as the go-to bad guy pretty much anticipated 9/11. Our xenophobic rehashing of stereotypes is completely overlooked in such light, fluffy puff pieces like “Hot Shots.” Lord, it was appalling.

        Anyway, as an armchair media critic, I’ve thought long and hard about the depiction of the world through the eyes of Hollywood, and a lot of it doesn’t shine a particularly flattering light upon our own psyche. Paranoia is definitely part and parcel with the American mythos.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          And yet we largely remain ignorant of it.

          Meanwhile, American entertainment is hugely popular in Muslim countries. I remember being struck, a few years back, by a couple of interviews with Al-Qaeda operatives in which they referred again and again to American movies and movie stars. (Kim Jong-il is similarly obsessed with Hollywood.) It the underlying paranoia a factor? Off the cuff, I’d say yes.

        • Nathaniel Missildine says:

          Just goes to show that thanks to this all-American underlying paranoia, Cruise completes us.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          You had me at “Just.”

    • Nathaniel Missildine says:

      Yep, it’s the paranoia alright, whether the naked ambition or the I’ve-got-so-many-thetans-to-give variety. Either way, I find those “self-effacing” roles interesting, like Tropic Thunder and Magnolia, where it’s unclear whether he fully realizes he’s doing a kind of parody of himself. Because I think Duke’s right too, that his self-awareness is, at best, limited. But because his battiness has become a widely accepted fact at this point, future meta-ish roles could make for a exploration of fame and paranoia that with the right director, and maybe some sedatives for the star, could say something original.

      • D.R. Haney says:

        As I understand it, his last movie, Knight and Day, was a stab in this direction. Supposedly, it contains a number of veiled (and/or not-so-veiled) references to Cruise’s meltdown, while he, naturally, is participating in the “fun.” But I don’t believe the movie did very well. Quenby wrote, “I couldn’t look at any performance without feeling the crazy-juice pour through the screen,” and I think that holds for a good many at this point.

        Jesus, I wonder if Cruise is wandering his various mansions in a Hamlet-like state of melancholic disfigurement. “It’s over, Kate! I’m done! Finished!” And then Will Smith drops by to make him feel worse.

        • Nathaniel Missildine says:

          I’ve always assumed “wandering his various mansions in a Hamlet-like state of melancholic disfigurement” is how many of the actors above spend their free time.

          I’ll have to check out Knight and Day, though maybe just the trailer will suffice.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I don’t think you’re wrong on either account, Nat.

  27. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    manufacturing Intensity™

    this was such an entertaining read, Duke, and it totally held my attention. normally, i hate criticism, though this doesn’t ring of criticism in the slightest. this feels like late night coffee in a diner with someone i can tolerate, which, on the topic of art, doesn’t happen often.

    the candor is funny and smart.

    i hope you’re right about the aussie. i also hope america doesn’t castrate him. the real man quotient in los angeles is pathetic. we could really use one more.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      The thing with the foreigners is, they don’t get castrated. They’re the exceptions in the Hollywood firmament, and they’re imported precisely for the spice they add. Why American actors aren’t allowed to add spice is a question I can’t answer. Maybe it’s because it renders them less marriageable in the eyes of American women, who fantasize about settling down with them, whereas there are fewer fantasies about marrying exotic, undependable foreigners. I don’t have any good theories; I can only spot trends.

      Anyway, thanks for the uplifting words. Here’s hoping that late one night, caffeinated in a diner, we can swap opinions about art and artists. I have a feeling you’ve got plenty and that they don’t ring of criticism so much as — well, caffeine.

  28. Thanks for making me laugh today. I needed that, and loved the frankness of this piece. You’re so right about Depp and Pitt. I love Mickey Rourke, too (or did, until he started looking plasticated and…not right). I also think Will Smith oozes likeability and I can’t figure out why that is, but he really does, doesn’t he? I hate the Hulk, always did, and Bana taking that film make me dislike his acting. You know who used to be good but now I can’t deal with (was it the taking of bad movies or did I just not recognize his cheesy acting before?): Edward Norton. Oops. I will never eat lunch there…though I’ve only ever had dinner in Hollywood.



    • D.R. Haney says:

      Good to hear from you, Liz.

      I think Edward Norton’s problem was that, on the basis of his first big movie, he was declared the best actor of his generation, which is a huge thing to lay on anybody, but particularly on someone just getting started. It was a lot to live up to — too much. I haven’t really followed him, so I’m not sure what you mean by cheesy, though you could well be right. All I know is, I don’t hear people talk about him in the same awed tone as they used to do.

      And then there’s Mickey Rourke’s plastic surgery. Yeah, that’s unfortunate, but I don’t know if it had to do with turning back the clock so much as repairing any damage done to his face during his boxing tenure. Either way, I’m glad he’s back.

  29. angela says:

    really enjoyed this post, and am curious to check out the actors you mention that i haven’t heard of.

    i feel the same way about Depp, that he’s basically the same wide-eyed whimsical character in every movie (except Pirates). Alice in Wonderland was such a disappointment, and wtf was up with that dance scene? i felt like i had flashed back to 1985.

    love Brad Pitt. i think he’s a really good actor! Fight Club – awesome! at the end, i watched the whole thing over again to catch everything.

    i didn’t think Daniel Day-Lewis was too terrible in Age of Innocence – though i saw it so many years ago – though i do think he threatened to become a caricature of himself in There Will Be Blood, in which Paul Dano was AMAZING by the way.

    and if you write about actresses, you have to include Winona Ryder. i love her because i feel like i grew up with her, but i still can’t decide if she’s a great actress. sometimes she’s just herself – like Tom Curise: i can’t forget that he’s Tom Cruise, even when he’s dressed up like a fat hairy Jewish agent – and then sometimes she wows me, like in Girl Interrupted (in which i thought she far outshone Angelina Jolie’s showier role).

    you know who i like and who doesn’t seem to get a lot of press? Garret Dillahunt. hardest working man in Hollywood, maybe only after Danny Trejo. No Country for Old Men, Assasination of Jesse James, the evil guy in every crime drama on TV. in Deadwood, he played two different characters, which really confused me. i guess he has one of those blandly handsome faces that are so chameleon-like. now he’s on Raising Hope, which is mildly amusing, but now who’ll play all the bad guys on the other TV shows?

    and TV is a whole other can of words. two words: Bryan Cranston.

    • Matt says:

      Re:Deadwood. Ian McShane as Al Swearengen. Fuck, yes.

      He’s playing Blackbeard in the new Pirates movie. For this alone I will go see it.

      • angela says:

        i didn’t know that! i may be tempted to see it myself – but only if he calls everyone a cocksucker.

        he was in that show Kings for a while. it wasn’t bad! but i think it’s been canceled.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I couldn’t bring myself to see Alice in Wonderland, Angela. Even if I’d been inclined to see it before I caught the poster(s), I wouldn’t have been afterward.

      Like you, it’s been a long time since I saw Age of Innocence, so maybe, if I saw it again, I’d change my mind. I don’t think I’d change it that much, but I might not consider it the utter catastrophe I did years ago.

      Now for a confession: I had to Google Bryan Cranston and Garret Dillahurst. I remember the former from Malcolm in the Middle, and the latter, embarrassingly, I can’t place in The Assassination of Jesse James, as much as I love (and I mean LOVE) that movie. I guess it’s because I was so blown away by Casey Affleck. I also liked Paul Schneder quite a bit in that movie. He played Dick Liddil, the horndog.

      As for Winona Ryder, I can’t say that I’m blown away by her as an actress. I think she’s perfectly fine, but she’s somehow not as expressive as I’d like. At the same time, I think she’s exquisitely beautiful. It’s funny; I didn’t for a long time, and so many guys I knew would go into rut at mention of her. Then, when I was watching her in one movie or the other (it might even have been Girl, Interrupted), it suddenly hit me. I don’t know it took so me so long, since she’s fair, with dark hair, which is exactly my type. (Have you ever seen La Reine Margot? Isabelle Adjani in that thing is — oh, Jesus. Here’s a link to the trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17CL22j1qOU)

      So pleased you enjoyed the post, Angela.

  30. Rachel Pollon says:

    I can’t read all 173 (and counting) comments but I’ve been meaning to see Animal Kingdom, and please tell me something Tom Hardy’s been in so I can look for that too.

    I love Eric Bana, also, at least I did in the Israeli hostage movie… and then, yeah, he started doing all that crap.

    I agree with your assessment on Johnny Depp. He’s likable but I need something real, not cartoony, from him soon. He was alright in the Dillinger flick… but I want more from him.

    I think Tom Cruise is a pretty good actor, too, though his being in a movie doesn’t get me to it. He doesn’t have great taste in roles, but he was obviously hilarious in and smart to appear in Tropic Thunder. For as looney tunes as he seems to be he also seems like a nice guy — he said hi to me once in the lobby of our work area years ago (yes, I felt the need to name drop that), or maybe that was just craziness, not niceness… also it was post Nicole and pre-Katie so maybe he was keeping his options open for whatever wife he might next choose — and he must have some self-awareness if he picked that role to redeem himself with.

    Will Smith… he figured something out, and he’s — again, that word — likable enough though I’m not compelled to follow him into a movie theater. And he’s good friends with Tom C. I think you’re right to consider keeping your unclear thoughts to yourself. 😉

    I like Daniel Day Lewis but maybe more as an idea than as an actual actor. He seems like he’d be really cool and decent. He’s married to that writer lady. Good going, Mr. Left Foot.

    I just noticed that all the men on this list are quite handsome. (Mickey used to be.) I guess that shouldn’t be surprising since that’s what we desire in our big screen men. But, I guess I’m just enjoying the view.

  31. Rachel Pollon says:

    P.S. Also, great title!

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Thanks for the props (oh dated term!) on the title, Rachel. I was afraid it might sound too insulting, while trusting that people would see it as the joke it is.

      Here’s a link to the trailer for Bronson, which stars the incredible Tom Hardy:


      Did you see Inception? He’s also in that.

      I’ll try to be as clear as possible in the following remarks about Tom Cruise: I’ve never heard much about him personally, which is curious because I’m always hearing about everybody. I’m sure you hear about them, too: this person is nice, that one is a bitch, and so on. I have heard a little about him, and the stories weren’t flattering, but, at the same time, he didn’t come off as a deliberate asshole in them; it was more that he came off as an accidental asshole. Yet I’m not surprised to hear that he once said “Hi” to you; he does strike me as gentle, somehow. (At one time, he considered becoming a monk, or maybe it was a priest; I forget which.) (Also, you do realize how much I name-dropped in this post? If you’d read all 170 comments, or whatever it is, you’d have been in for an orgy of name-dropping.)

      I’m glad you like Eric Bana. I think very highly of him; I just wish his career had gone differently, and for that I’m inclined to blame his representation more than I am him. (I could be wrong, but experience has taught me not to trust agents.) Meanwhile, do you know one thing that’s amazed me about this post (he asked rhetorically)? How many people have agreed with me about Johnny Depp. I wasn’t expecting that at all. Oh, and the writer you mention — the one who’s married to Daniel Day-Lewis — is Arthur Miller’s daugher, as I’m sure you know. “The idea more than the actor,” you say: that’s an excellent way to put it. I agree with you, I think. I wouldn’t be as hard as I am on Daniel Day-Lewis if he weren’t held up by so many as The Greatest Actor Ever.

      About appearances: I was classified as a “young leading man” when I started off as an actor (that is, when I wasn’t classified as a “juvenile”), and I later progressed to just plain “leading man” (with some of the traits of a character actor), and I guess my development sort of arrested at that point, so that even now I tend to focus on others like me, or me as I was, as if still trying to get a sense of the competition, though I’m now out of the ring. Maybe if I were to do a sequel to the proposed sequel (about actresses), I’d focus on character actors, though really, by now, some of the above guys are character actors. Which, I guess, is what we all become in the end.

  32. Iva Duvnjak (BellaTheHappyLoser) says:

    Oh , how we love our Cinema and all the twists, turns, and back story , I could say so much here in Croatia we love the strong leading man movies but are they going extinct? I don’t think anyone can catch Clint Eastwood and his body of work and all he would have to do is lend his voice to a lot of the pixar/cgi trends and he lives on!

    Up and comer contender and big if?
    Jonathan Rhys Meyers from the Tudors but he must choose wisely for his future.Playing beneath Cruise isn’t gonna get you there. I just hope he has not caught the dreaded Tom virus.

    Early Mel Gibson carried his movies

    Daniel Day Lewis in Last of the Mohican’s carried that movie as a leading actor.

    Robert Downey not the strong leading actor to carry a movie, but a good actor none the less.

    Denzel meh! here lately, good body of work though.

    Will Smith has the Tom virus.

    I will just stop and cross my fingers for Jonathan Rhy Meyers 😉 so much more to say but it turns into too much more to say.

    Congrats on Book

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I appreciate the congrats, Iva.

      Do you happen to know if Clint Eastwood shot Kelly’s Heroes in Croatia? I know it was somewhere in the former Yugoslavia, where people continued to talk about him when I was there. He left quite an impression!

      I love that you speak of the “Tom virus.” (Actually, that would make a pretty good punk name: Tom Virus.) At this stage, I think Will Smith could conceivably help to rid Tom of his virus, if they could do a movie together. I mean, Will Smith is so popular that people would see pretty much anything he did, including a movie with the out-of-favor Tom Cruise.

      I haven’t seen much of Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, but those who like him seem to like him a great deal. I know a number of women who swoon at the mention of his name.

      The trend these days is for superhero movies with special effects that are more the stars than the actors. I’m more into antihero movies, myself. But maybe, God willing, the trend will reverse. Stranger things have happened, I suppose.

      • Jude says:

        Jonathan Rhys-Meyers – the boy might look good, but sorry, he can’t act his way out of a paper bag!

        • D.R. Haney says:

          But I believe there are many, many women who would tear the bag open to get at him. Either that or they’d climb inside the bag themselves and tape the opening shut.

        • Zara Potts says:

          God, he’s a terrible actor.
          He does a good lie in smirkery though.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I think he sort of looks like a fish.

        • Iva Duvnjak (BellaTheHappyLoser) says:


          He could turn out to be a stinker or that turbulent actor that we get great performance out of then falls off cliff.

          @ Jude , he does know paper bags since he does seem to have a drinking disease that may very well destroy his career.
          @ Zara, smirking can carry you a long way you may be correct he may be riding that charm and fleeting good looks he may be that young Eric Roberts.
          @ Author D.R. Haney he certainly drinks like a fish, it may be taking a toll on his looks already.

          but he does own a horse 😉

          I respectfully bow to the opinions, but disagree his body of work says he is an actor.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Well, I just learned from Wiki that he has a Chihuahua named Boo Boo, and I just learned from Bella that he drinks like a fish. Let’s hope he doesn’t hook Boo Boo on the sauce as well. I hear Chihuahuas are truculent drunks, particularly when they’re named for diaper mishaps.

        • Jude says:

          AHA! A sneaky paper bag drinker…
          I have to admit when I first saw him in The Tudors, I thought he was pretty cool. Those steely green/ grey/ blue(?) eyes, and those sultry sexy poses he was good at… but underneath all that, there was no substance. And without substance, what do you get – a Chihuahua named Boo Boo!

        • Iva Duvnjak (BellaTheHappyLoser) says:

          I was thinking it might be the Yogi Bear kind of Boo Boo but still yeah Chihuahuas I never get close too not because I am afraid of them biting but because I am afraid their heads might explode. You can see every kind of vein bulging.

          Speaking of fish I like Ewan McGregor in that Movie, “Big Fish” that is.

          are we at 300 comments yet then we get to talk about Gerard Butler 😉

        • Jude says:

          Hahahahaha! Reading your reasons for not getting too close to Chihuahuas just cracked me up!! I didn’t expect that. It’s that kind of day. Check out the link Duke/Matt posted http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zdj9vMH4BfQ

        • Iva Duvnjak (BellaTheHappyLoser) says:

          That was intense!

          As for the couple in the throes of the death spiral relationship, being sort of old fashioned he would have made more progress if only he had pumped the gas.;)

          I would have ended the last scene with the hypodermic in his eye with him stumbling into traffic into the same fate as his girl friend the paramedics focused on the fake spider then too late to focus on the guy with the hypodermic in his eye, just as they are saying hey wait wait stop! a big lorry bashes him 300 ft down the median but perhaps that would be overkill. 😉

          nice short film
          the actress played her role very well you could feel the needles coming out of her.

          Spiders 2
          Humans 0

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I think, in fact, it’s:

          Plastic 2
          Humans 0

          But, hey, I’m quibbling.

          I like the concluding note because it brings us back to the quote from Mum at the beginning. I’d forgotten about that until the first of the final credits. Anyway, nice work, huh?

          Oh, and was the girl Aussie? I thought so the first time I watched, but the second she seemed to have a different sort of accent, though I couldn’t place it. But maybe that was my imagination.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Oh, and Bella, we’ll save Ewan for 300 as well, even though he wasn’t in “300.” Besides, I have a feeling we’re going to fall just short of the checkered flag.

      • Iva Duvnjak (BellaTheHappyLoser) says:

        Yes , parts were but I was not even born back in those Yugo dayz 😉 Eastwood I believe will not even talk of this movie since he was blindsided by edits to the movie . What would I pay to see the unedited version you can only wonder.

        What is really odd , I will only watch a full on cgi movie once, I wonder if the brain is trying to tell you something?

        Yeah, the Anti-Hero of all the actors we have all discussed , I wonder who could play today in a remake of “Cool Hand Luke”?

        How we love our escapisms 😉

        • D.R. Haney says:

          It’s sacrilegious to even mention the possibility of a Cool Hand Luke remake! No, I can’t propose anyone for that part!

          I have a feeling a good many people only watch CGI movies once. In any case, I think a lot of CGI movies are quickly forgotten, no matter how popular they were at the time of their release.

          I knew a woman who had an affair with Eastwood on Kelly’s Heroes. That’s why I asked about it: I couldn’t (and can’t) remember where in Yugoslavia it was shot, though this woman talked about it a great deal.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Now you know how I feel about the remake of Mad Max.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          I don’t like the idea, either, but Tom Hardy is, I must say, way cooler than Mel Gibson ever was.

        • Zara Potts says:

          That is BULLSHIT!!!!!
          Mel Gibson circa MM1 was super cool.
          There will be no arguments on this.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          There won’t be, no, because I’m right. Me and Tom Hardy hung out in a dream, and he was way super-cooler.

        • Matt says:

          Now that, after seeing Inception and Bronson, I know who Tom Hardy is, I’m actually looking forward to the Mad Max remake.

        • Zara Potts says:

          NO NO NO NO NO.
          That’s it.
          That’s the worst thing you have ever said to me.

          Hey, by the way – the keys in the ignition in the Spider film are confusing because it’s a Peugeot so even though the steering wheel is on the right hand side, the ignition and wipers and indicator levers are all backwards. Most cars here will have right side ignition…

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Ah, thank you for the clarification.

          Meanwhile, thank you, Matt, for your sort-of corroboration. Tom Hardy rules!

        • Matt says:

          Hey, the Mad Max remake was originally supposed to be a Mad Max sequel! Which is worse?

          Now that Hardy’s been cast as Max, I wonder who they’ll cast as the Toecutter? Hmmmm…my vote’s for Clive Owen.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Get fucked.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Would you rather Clive Owen get cast as the Toecutter, Z., or have a huntsman spider drop from your visor? I mean, not that the two have anything remotely in common.

        • Zara Potts says:

          I’d rather a huntsman spider dropped from Clive Owen’s visor.

  33. Zara Potts says:

    TA DA!!!

  34. Compelling per usual, Duke. I really enjoy your work. Did you see Will Smith in “Where the Day Takes You” or “The Pursuit of Happyness”? I know what you mean that it’s practically mandatory to like him, but I often enjoy his work, regardless of social mandates. Re Daniel Day-Lewis, I appreciated him in “The Age of Innocence”, but nearly hurled my Americano at the screen during “Gangs of New York”. It was like he had a lit firecracker ricocheting though his brain-pan.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Compelling? I’ll take that, with gratitude. It’s even more gratifying, and humbling, to hear you say that you enjoy my work.

      To be perfectly honest, I gave up on Will Smith after Ali. I realize it was pretty much an impossible role to pull off, given that Ali is so iconic, but I couldn’t get past Smith’s stiffness in the part. Also, not long after, I heard the burrito story included in the piece, and that kind of cinched my stance, though I realize that any artist (and, yes, I do regard Smith as an artist) should be judged by his or her art alone. (But how many of us really and truly stick to that? I think we’re all kind of swayed by what we know, or we think we know, of those behind the work.)

      I think I’ve only talked to one person who’s a fan of Daniel Day-Lewis’ work in Gangs of New York, which is interesting, seeing that I’ve met so many who consider Day-Lewis an acting genius. What I hear again and again is that Day-Lewis in Gangs is doing a poor impersonation of Robert DeNiro.

      Man, this post has kind of turned TNB into the Internet Movie Database over the last couple of days, huh? But I’d like to think we have a far more intelligent variation.

  35. Debbie says:

    Hey there Duke!

    I just wanted to drop by and say hello….and tell you that I’m super excited about the new book!!! I can’t wait to read it!

    This was a fun read….much different than other things you’ve written. I don’t have much to add, but you made me giggle quite a bit while reading it.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Yeah, Debb, it really is different, huh? It was all I could pull out of myself. I’ve started several essays over the last few months, and not one has gelled. I’m hoping that this will help to free me up; kind of get the juices flowing again. And it really was fun to write, so I’m glad some of that seems to have come across.

      I hope you like the new book. I revamped all of the old pieces — that is, I polished them — and I must say I’m fond of the new pieces, one in particular. But I won’t tell you which one until you’ve read the book (assuming you do). I wouldn’t want to give you a bias or anything.

      It’s great to hear from you. It feels like it’s been forever.

  36. Debbie says:

    It had been forever. Like, forever and a day. (I couldn’t help it…I’m weird today)

    Assuming I’ll read the book? Puh-lease. I haven’t met a book I haven’t at least attempted to read. Besides, I like you, so I’ll read. In fact, I’ve been pushing it to everyone I meet. I’ll love it. And you know it.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Well, I take nothing for granted. (I’m weird today, too.) And it goes without saying that I appreciate the push. Trying to get a book noticed is like trying to break granite with a toothbrush.

  37. Dika Lam says:

    I was trying to read this without waking up three small children with my cackling. Please, please, write the companion actress’s list. (Or is it “female actor?”) I take it you’ve enjoyed the Tom Cruise Scientology awards video?

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I think I saw a clip of it, Dika. What, do they give awards for Thetan of the Year? For Most Money Generated by a Celebrity Clear?

      Some actresses do prefer to be called actors, though I haven’t met any recently. That seems to have been more common in New York, for whatever reason.

      Thank you for cackling. There’s no better compliment when you’re trying to be funny, even though, in this case, I wasn’t in a position to personally hear it. I hope your children didn’t hear it, either, though it’s an awfully nice way to be woken, I think.

      • Dika Lam says:

        I suppose the cackling would have been acceptable if all three sleeping children had been mine (alas, I have not assembled as many bambini as Brad Pitt). Thanks again for the much-needed laugh.

        • D.R. Haney says:

          Ah, well, you see, that’s where assumptions lead: to embarrassment. Sorry to have saddled you with additional responsibility, at least in my imagination. Please accept this gift card for a cackle in the future. There’s no expiration date.

  38. Debbie says:

    That would be interesting to watch though, just to see if you could do it. the granite/toothbrush thing….I know you can get the book noticed.

    I think once people start to read it, they’ll talk about it more. And the more they talk about it, the more other people will start to notice it. The stories resonate. You make people feel, Duke. Thats incredibly rare.

    Is your address still the same? I’ve been thinking of doing some ‘holiday’ baking again this year. I want to do it early before I lose the time like I did last year.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      Oh, you’ve said my favorite words. Yes, the address is the same, and I hope it will remain the same, though I’m having a lot of trouble paying rent at the moment, which is to say that I haven’t paid rent, with no idea at the moment as to how I’m going to do so. Le vie boheme is a bitch. There’s nothing remotely romantic about it.

      On a somewhat related note, I have no faith in so-called word of mouth. The nearest thing to successful word of mouth these days is clips of pets and children, for instance, going viral online. But I don’t think it works any longer with movies and books, which require corporate sponsorship — the power of money — in order for them to take off in a meaningful way. I’d like to be proven wrong, but I’ve watched, for the last few years, people attempt to gain traction for their various projects in a DIY way, and the support they’ve received has come exclusively from friends, who seem unable to rally interest from their friends and so on. There’s just so much stuff out there, and so many recommendations, so that only the flashy, expensive, “professional” recommendations can be heard above the din.

  39. Marni Grossman says:

    The thing about Tom Cruise is that he does “charming narcissist” damn well. It’s like how Michael Douglas kicks ass at “aging male vanity.”

    Great read, Duke. I’ve missed you!

    • D.R. Haney says:

      I’ve missed you as well, Marni. I’m looking forward to a new post from you, hopefully soon.

      I just returned from the store, where the tabloids are all insisting that Michael Douglas doesn’t have much time left, with depressing cover photos as proof. I hope they’re wrong.

  40. Scott Witebsky says:

    Just wanted to comment on a couple of your actors mentioned above that I have loved to talk about recently.
    In no way do I think Depp is a bad actor, or even a mediocre actor. He’s pretty amazing actually. I just go nuts when people say how diverse or versatile of an actor he is. I just don’t see it. He plays great crazy/weird/eccentric characters and makes them fun and interesting to watch…but that is basically all he does. And I’m into truth, I just don’t find him that truthful emotionally, it is more of a show a spectacle. For an eccentric actor, I’ll go with Jeremy Davies (most famous for Lost now, I guess) any day of the week. You can see his mind churning like crazy in every role he does. And boy does he steal every scene he is in, in the movie Secretary even though he barely is on screen.
    Now with Cruise, I was on board with the whole “Cruise is crazy” thing. Well actually I still am. But I used to think along with his craziness that he is a bad actor. I have recently changed that belief. Now he is not great, he is no Brando, DeNiro, or Nicholson in their heydays. But he actually is pretty versatile in the roles he picks. Two roles he did back to back are Frank Mackey in Magnolia to Ethan Hunt MI 2. And then again Les Grossman in Tropic Thunder to Claus Von Stauffenberg in Valkyrie. Each of those roles could not be more different and that was from one movie directly into the next. Amongst the general population, people think Cruise is magnificent. But amongst many circles of NY actors he is considered horrible/terribly overrated and that drives me crazy. I think he does a fine job, and he ALWAYS enhances a movie. I’ve never seen a movie where I wish someone else played his role.
    Along with Tom Hardy the other actor I’ve been in love with for the past few years is Sam Rockwell. Yes it is partially biased since we train with the same teachers. I’ve met him in person, kind of awkard (but so am I) and he is very nice which automatically gets a few brownie points too. But I’ve also seen him on stage and he knocked the role out of the park. Then when you watch him on film, his characters are filled with inner turmoil. You can see it in his eyes, you can see in his face, you can see it in his body. It’s pretty unreal.
    This is not a silly article you wrote here. I loved it, and it triggered enough in me that I had to make my first posts on TNB after I’ve been reading here since I first read your novel!

    • D.R. Haney says:

      It’s an unexpected treat to have you weigh in, Scott. You’re, as far as I know, the only actor to do so.

      Ah, Jeremy Davies. Maybe when I’m in New York, as I hope to be again one of these days, we can have a beer or some such and I can amuse you with a Jeremy Davies story or two. For now, let’s just say he has an uncredited cameo in Subversia.

      And speaking of New York, I’m very familiar with the kind of New York elitism that would have actors knocking Tom Cruise. In fact, I don’t think Cruise is overrated, because I don’t think he’s generally acknowledged as being a good actor. I think he’s seen mostly as a personality, as someone who’s been around for a long time now, and he’s just kind of like the wallpaper — and lately that wallpaper is seen as crazy wallpaper. That he’s an actor is almost incidental, and those few who’ve given it any thought (other actors, for the most part) are so familiar with his work that they take its virtues for granted. In order to properly evaluate him, they’d have to have some distance, I think. It’ll be interesting to see how he’s regarded in a few years — if, that it is, there’s any interest in Tom Cruise or anyone else of our time in a few years. History is faring very poorly in the Time of the Perpetual Now — i.e., the Internet Age.

      I haven’t really seen much of Sam Rockwell, but I know people who are nuts about him. I think he was pretty much raised in the theater. I seem to remember that he did a lot of plays, starting when he was a teenager, at — what was it called? — Theater for the New City? I think that’s it. I know it was in the East Village somewhere — on 13th Street, I want to say — and possibly one parent or both were involved. Anyway, he’s something of an actor’s actor, and I should really see more of his stuff.

      Of course, I’m with you on Tom Hardy. I think I’d be starstruck and shit if I met him. I can’t come up with many (or any) other actors about whom I’d say that.

      I had no idea that you’d read any of my other stuff at TNB, but thanks so much for the support, man, as well as for the commentary.

  41. Art Edwards says:

    I could find nowhere else to post this.

    I just received Subversia via pdf, and by the end of the first essay it had kicked Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung off the hot plate and down my reading list. Lester will have to wait.

    All hail Duke!


    • D.R. Haney says:

      Thanks, Art.

      I must say I was confounded at first, seeing your comment, but I just received a message from Brad explaining that Subversia has found its way to the Book Club, which I’m obviously glad to hear. I hope the book will continue to hold your interest — particularly if it’s going to bump the great Lester Bangs. That’s mighty praise. Thanks again, man.

  42. Dana says:

    I so wanted to play on this thread and it’s become so commenty and unwieldy I don’t know where to start, so I’ll let my personal preferences alone and just say it was really fun to read and I can’t help it.. I love anything insider and gossipy from people I trust. And after just reading half of Subversia (in pdf format this morning – via the book club), I trust you. Excellent stuff Duke! And because I have enormous guilt when I don’t support the arts financially; I just ordered a copy of Subversia for my bookshelf too. (I had to have that cover!)

    Congrats on the new release!

    • D.R. Haney says:


      I’m sick — congested, sneezing, and coughing up lots of greenish gunk — and reading your comment amounts to terrific medicine. I’m so relieved that you’re enjoying the book. I’ve been concerned about how it will be received, as I’ve mentioned a few times on the board.

      Oh, and speaking of the board, it did kind of grow, huh? I was sure this piece was going to flop, particularly after the first day, when it only had a handful of comments. Usually pieces that take off do so quickly, in my experience, so this one amounted to a peculiar experience. Anyway, I’m glad you decided to comment, since, again, it’s made me feel much better than, for instance, juice. The juice isn’t helping at all. Goddamned juice.

      Forgive me. I’m curmudgeonly when I’m sick.

      Thanks again, for everything —


  43. Dana says:

    So sorry that you’re sick — the nurturer in me would like to drop over with some homemade soup and a flask of whiskey. Feel better.

  44. Richard Cox says:

    I was hoping you’d write about Pitt. He’s one of my very favorite actors. I think he’s fantastic, and even when when’s doing a one-note performance, like in Kalifornia he’s still funny as hell. “Put your titty up, Adele!” Hahahahahaha.

    David Duchovny is another of my favorites. I already loved him after “The X-Files,” but “Californication”? Holy shit. Fucking genius.

    I love the line about Day-Lewis giving himself a heart attack. Made me laugh out loud. Literally.

    • D.R. Haney says:

      And, of course, Duchovny is also in Kalifornia. He’s a strange actor to me, in that he’s often so muted, but he somehow makes it work for him.

      It goes without saying that I appreciate being told that something I wrote produced laughter, especially of the out-loud sort. Thanks for the good word. I laughed myself when I was writing this thing, and then, as I mentioned somewhere above, I decided it wasn’t that funny after posting it.

  45. […] He’s an actor.  But unlike most actors, he’s not afraid to tell you what he really thinks about Johnny Depp. […]

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