Entertainment behind the scenes
But is he all there? Really all there.
He quit a golden Hollywood career because he was bored. He thought movies weren’t interesting anymore. He didn’t have anything else to learn. And today, Joaquin Phoenix has re-emerged in the trailer of a new “documentary” called “I’m Still Here” that is directed by his brother-in-law Casey Affleck. The documentary tells about Phoenix’s supposed attempts at a transition to a career in hip hop. We wrote about it here and here. Surely, we think, it’s more mockumentary, something on the order of “This is Spinal Tap” that sends up the entertainment industry. Tellingly, it was “written and produced” by both Affleck and Phoenix. Then again, who are we to say he’s lying just because what he has done seems so odd. One never really knows, and “odd” is rather normal in Hollywood. You can watch the trailer — and judge it — for yourself below.
In interviews, despite a bizarre, mumbling shaggy-haired appearance on David Letterman that baffled many, Joaquin Phoenix coherently insisted to all in promoting his last film in 2008, “Two Lovers,” that he was indeed quitting acting (he still has no more movies announced). And yes, absolutely and convincingly, he said he was pursuing a career in hip hop. And yes, there was Affleck right on hand to tape all media interviews with Phoenix. (Note: we politely said “no” to being taped for a possible spoof, much to Affleck’s annoyance.)
The slick new trailer for “I’m Still Here”, which seems to suggest the movie is no slouch in the usually low-budget “doc” arena, shows Phoenix the actor going from Hollywood photo shoots, red carpets, limos and jets to a pot-bellied (no 50 cent abs for him) singer backstage and hip hop wannabe onstage. The trailer is accompanied by a dramatic score and voiceover that compares him to “a mountain top water drop” who doesn’t “belong to this valley, this river”.
It gets funnier — or darker, depending on your point-of-view. Affleck is now facing claims of sexual harassment from two women, one from the cinematographer and one from a producer who worked on the film.
Tom Ford has branded as “disgusting” the ban on gay marriage in parts of the United States and elsewhere in the world.
The designer, who is openly gay, used a Venice press conference for his feature film debut “A Single Man” starring Colin Firth to criticize decisions like that in California in November banning same-sex marriage. He did, however, add that his movie, which is in competition at the Venice film festival was not about being gay at all, but about the human condition in general.
The biggest star at this year’s Venice film festival has arguably been Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Sure, George Clooney and Matt Damon have got the crowds going and can cause a minor media scrum with little effort, but Chavez and his large entourage of aides and guards is another matter altogether.
In town for the world premiere of Oliver Stone’s documentary “South of the Border”, Chavez looked the part on the red carpet and giving interviews at a swanky hotel on the Lido waterfront. Spare a thought for the handful of reporters given a coveted slot with the leader, though. We were originally down to speak to Chavez and Stone at around 5:30 p.m., but, after a series of false alarms, we were moved to a different venue and eventually ended up speaking to them well after 10 p.m.
Seeing reporters humiliate themselves in front of major Hollywood stars is nothing new at film festivals around the world. The appearance of an A-lister, male or female, tends to bring out the worst in journalists who variously express their undying love or ask for hands in marriage. Usually the star in question laughs off the comments, and tries to turn the conversation back to the film he or she is in town to promote.
Today’s press conference involving George Clooney and Ewan McGregor, who star together in the comedy “The Men Who Stare at Goats” was more embarrassing than usual, however. After tactfully avoiding a question about his sexuality, Clooney then looked on while a man, announcing he was gay, proceeded to take of his shirt and trousers while declaring his love for the actor and asking him for a kiss. To make matters worse, he had not even seen the film.
Todd Solondz has uttered the “f-word” in Venice. No, not that one … ”Fascist”. Asked at a press conference for his new movie “Life During Wartime” whether he could give an opinion about the current political situation in Italy, he replied:
“I’m smart enough to know that I know so little and I would be very foolish, given whatever I know, to have an opinion in front of you guys. I just hope things work out nicely here. It’s lovely in this wonderful fascist building to take pleasure in this conversation.”
After weeks of planning, the Venice film festival finally launched today with a lengthy, sentimental Italian entry as the opening film, “Baaria.” It is the first home-made movie to start the annual festival in around 20 years, and, if the budget is anything to go by, it should do well. The movie, which is more than two-and-a-half hours long, cost a whopping 25 million euros to make.
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore (of Oscar-winning “Cinema Paradiso” fame), “Baaria” is set in Sicily and spans the 1930s to the 1980s. It tells the story of Sicily, and more broadly of Europe as a whole, through three generations of the same family.
If we are honest, most of us would admit that we derive a certain pleasure from seeing someone famous fall from their perch, be it with a critical flop, a personal problem or a bout of odd behaviour in public.
How refreshing, then, to see the world-weary entertainment press genuinely rejoicing in Mickey Rourke’s comeback in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Wrestler”, which won the Golden Lion for best film at the Venice festival over the weekend. There were no snide asides among reporters as we waited in a hotel lounge by the Adriatic Sea to interview the 51-year-old. Noone complained about where they would rather be or how their head was still reeling from the night before (it was mid-morning).
Barack Obama won yet more celebrity endorsements at the Venice film festival this year, although whether he would welcome them or not is a different matter.
From the very first press conference, stars from Hollywood who came to the canal city to promote their movies voiced support for the Democratic presidential candidate, although in the case of George Clooney and Brad Pitt, they were careful not to steal too much of the political limelight from Obama.
Thursday was Valentino day at the Venice film festival, where “Valentino: The Last Emperor” had a glittering evening premiere at the Teatro La Fenice opera house. The Italian designer, who retired in January this year after nearly half a century in the business, gave the festival a much-needed boost on a day when glamour was otherwise in short supply. Liz Hurley and Eva Herzigova showed up for the screening, where long, flowing dresses and diamonds the size of marbles were in abundance.
The great man, wearing a white tuxedo and his locks typically well-coiffed, shared a few moments with us on his way into the screening.