Thursday, May 28, 2009

Blast from the Past: Caitlin Clarke

So you might not remember the name Caitlin Clarke, but if you ever saw the movie Dragonslayer, you've seen Caitlin Clarke and the odds are you remember her.

Dragonslayer was a very underrated fantasy movie of the early '80s, about Galen, a wizard's apprentice. A traveler from a nearby country, Valerien, visited the wizards and begged them to fight a dragon that was holding the country hostage. The older wizard was murdered, but the young wizard agreed to go help fight the dragon.

It turned out that the traveler, Valarien, was female, disguised as a male by her family. The tradition of the other country demanded a female virgin be annually sacrificed to the dragon and her family sought to protect her. Catlin Clarke played Valarien very well, and I was surprised that her career in Hollywood never took off after that.

Dragonslayer wasn't a fun fantasy movie (though the reveal of Valerian's gender and how she later avoided being a dragon's lunch were both amusing), but it had wonderful effects, good performances and thoughtful reflection on what happens as magic disappears from a culture.

Clarke was born in Pittsburgh. She split her time in the '80s between Hollywood (appearing in shows like Moonlighting) and New York (appearing in Broadway's Titanic). Later, returned to Pittsburgh to teach. Sadly, she died in 2004, at 52, of ovarian cancer.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Extra Casting: Fire in the Hole

Mosser Casting announces an extra call for a new pilot, Fire in the Hole. Register with Mosser Casting; upload two digital headshots that are at least 350 pixels wide when you register.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Blast from the Past: Dogma

Kevin Smith's satiric fantasy Dogma was filmed primarily in Pittsburgh in the spring of 1998. They filmed all over the region, including at the airport (where a cheese stand indicated they were in Wisconsin rather than Pittsburgh), Oakland and Banksville.

If you know Banksville, there's a Rite Aid pharmacy on the corner of Banksville and McMonagle. But, until about 1998, a Burger King sat on that site. The Burger King closed, but was taken over by the Dogma production for a few months. The site doubled as a generic burger joint and a bar (yes, that bar). Later that year, the old Burger King was ripped down and replaced by the pharmacy.

They also shot a scene over at Jose and Tony's Mexican restaurant.

Dogma was a mostly entertaining but occasionally-muddled movie about fallen angels, extra apostles, modern life and possibly the end of all existence. The script was witty and the performances (particularly Linda Fiorentino, Salma Hyek and Ben Affleck) were pretty good.

As this movie satirized religion, some people tried to protest this movie before it was out. The protests generally fizzled. The "foul demon" was, well, gross and there was too much blood in two scenes. But, for people who paid attention to the movie (rather than the "boycott without thinking" mentality), most of the "anti-religious" comments were about how people abuse religion. There are a surprising number of theological discussions in this movie, something rarely heard outside of costume epics like A Man for All Seasons.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Off Topic Musings: Brad Pitt's Making The Sparrow?

From time to time, I will write about movies that have nothing to do with Pittsburgh.

Today, I found I'd completely missed that one of my favorite books, Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow had been optioned by Brad Pitt's production company. Three years ago! Apparently, a screenplay is in progress.

The book (and its sequel, Children of God) are amazing looks at all kinds of cultural clashes and miscommunications on an interplanetary scale. The Sparrow is completely brilliant, and Children of God is very good.

The rumor is that Brad Pitt may play the lead, Emilio Sandoz, but this had not been announced. I can't see Pitt as Sandoz. 13 years ago, when the book first came out, Antonio Banderas was associated with an earlier version of this adaptation. He would have been perfect. Sandoz needs to be fairly young, intense, but, at times, very joyful. He might be a bit too old now, but when I think of Sandoz, I still think of Banderas.

Some people have suggested that Alfred Molina may play the lead. Molina is a great actor, but way, way too old to be Sandoz (at least as he is in the book). He could play one of the Jesuits to Sandoz about his visit to the planet and what happened to the rest of his crewmembers.

Freddy Rodriguez might be able to pull Sandoz off. Jake Gyllenhall is an interesting idea. Maybe change Sandoz slightly so he was raised in the States (I'm not sure how he is with accents).

13 years ago, I could see Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman as Anne and George. Now...well, I do like the idea of Meryl Streep and Tom Wilkinson (who does a great American accent). Or maybe age Brad and let him play George.

Sonia is tricky, and, frankly, Angelina Jolie could pull her off if she has the right director. Angelina is kind of an erratic actress, but she can be brilliant with the right material and director.

The basic problem with The Sparrow that it's a very adult science fiction movie. It's not mere action adventure. It would be easy to break and tricky to market.

The movie needs an awful lot of CGI, for aliens and for Sandoz's hands after his imprisonment.

Nick Weschler, onboard as a producer, has some experience with grown-up SF - he's one of the producers of The Road, which looks extremely promising. But, he also was a producer on The Time Traveler's Wife, which was rumored to have been badly adapted and cast and still hasn't been released. I loved the book, so this was disappointing to hear.

Nick Seitzman has no experience writing a science fiction screenplay, but he did write North Country, which I haven't seen but heard it was pretty good.

So it'll be interesting to see if The Sparrow is ever made or if it remains in development hell.

Now Filming: Warrior

The big shoot in Pittsburgh in April, May and June has been Warrior, a Lionsgate movie about fathers, sons and mixed-martial arts.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette had a great article on the movie a few weeks back.

Nolte has now made three movies here in Pittsburgh - Warrior, Mysteries of Pittsburgh and Lorenzo's Oil. He likes the area, and has said that, when he's done with Warrior, he will have spent an entire year in Pennsylvania over the last 18 years making movies.

This movie also features one of the most visible young actresses in Hollywood - Jennifer Morrison, who plays Nolte's daughter-in-law. She's appeared in House for the last five years, and made a brief but memorable appearance as James T. Kirk's mother at the beginning of the recent Star Trek remake.

They're still looking for extras for the audience of the mixed martial arts competitions, particularly for Saturday, May 30.

Some additional recent articles on Warrior:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Welcome to Pittsburgh Flicks

This is a site for movie fans interested in movies that have been shot in Western Pennsylvania.

For the last few years, we've had an unprecedented number of movies shot in our region. Not just local film students making yet another zombie movie with handheld cameras, but major flicks that have been seen around the world - Adventureland, Friday the 13th 3-D, and, of course Zach and Miri Make a Porno. This fall, movies like The Road will be out.

Not only is Pittsburgh home to movie production, but our region has produced people who've gone one to be major players. Three years ago, who'd heard of Zachary Quinto? Now, we know he's been a mass murderer in Heroes and Spock in the reboot of Star Trek.

There are several reasons why Pittsburgh has become "Hollywood East" including experienced crews, interesting locations, a pro-active film office. However, recent passage of a movie-making tax credit has helped make Pennsylvania a more attractive site for movie-making. You'll find more information about the tax credit and its importance posted here shortly; for now, be aware that there will be a public hearing about the tax credit on Friday, June 5, 1pm at the David Lawrence Convention Center. If you support local movie-making, plan to attend this important event.

This site will let you know what's up with local movie making and with local (or formerly local) movie people.

If you've never been around movie-making, and you're curious, Warrior is still looking for extras, particularly for Saturday, May 30. Anyone over 18 can be an extra.

Not only is Pittsburgh the location for movie production, we're seeing some TV production here as well. This week the CBS pilot Three Rivers, which is both set in Pittsburgh and was shot here and in Brownsville, was picked up for the fall. It's not clear yet if the series will be filmed here. CBS has a Web site up for Three Rivers, which includes video from the pilot.