Saturday, January 26, 2008

See, I Told You They Were Working Behind The Scenes

I'm not going to dwell on poor Mr. Ledger's passing, we have all done that. Just wanted to add that as I said is the last post the powers that be were indeed, doing the smoke filled room thing, big powerful men were meeting hours after his death, determining how to better market the movie.

From the ever vigilant Variety, posted just under 30 hours after Ledger's death:

(Fate of Ledger's last films uncertain - Gilliam, WB mull fate of 'Knight,' 'Parnassus')
Posted: Wed., Jan. 23, 2008, 5:24pm PT

Production on Terry Gilliam's indie "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" has temporarily shut down, while Warner execs are still determining how to adjust their marketing campaign on "The Dark Knight," which is keyed to Ledger's Joker character in its early stages....

Production on Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins" sequel is believed to largely completed -- principal photography concluded in the fall -- but the initial marketing campaign focuses on the ghoulish Joker character.

To complicate matters further, the studio has just restructured its marketing operation. International marketing topper Sue Kroll now oversees all marketing for the studio in the wake of the exit of former domestic marketing president Dawn Taubin, who developed the "Dark Knight" campaign.

Kroll will likely have to move quickly to rejigger the studio's current phase of the marketing campaign for "Dark Knight," focusing on Ledger's Joker character. This phase of the campaign had been set to run until March.

Hey, I told you they were doing the repositioning thing, they spent a lot of money on The Dark Knight. You think Tony Soprano is vulgar when he talks business at a funeral, forget about it. As I told a girl I work with who says she likes bad boys, the real bad boys are the big businessmen, they do all the shit the gansta does, they just don't get their hands dirty and they leave with all the money.

It will be interesting to see what kind of marketing perspective they employ, and when they fire up the pr machine again.

Funny bit in this article, the reporter reflects on other projects that have had to deal with this awkward death business:

Over the years other productions have employed a variety of techniques to work around the death of the actors portraying major characters.

-For better or worse, advancements in CGI and digital effects made it easier for producers to finish "Gladiator" and an episode of "The Sopranos" after the deaths of Oliver Reed and Nancy Marchand, respectively.

-James Dean's final scene in "Giant," for example, had to be looped after his death in a car crash because he mumbled so much in the shot.

-Brandon Lee died during an accident on set during production of "The Crow," director Alex Proyas used a stunt double to complete scenes; Lee's face was added using special effects.

-a look-alike for Natalie Wood was used after her drowning death during production of "Brainstorm."

-The producers used several techniques to finish "Wagons East" after John Candy died of heart failure, rewriting scenes or using a body double.

-Louis B. Mayer threatened to scrap "Saratoga," when Jean Harlow died suddenly, but relented after fans demanded he release it; a body double finished the remaining scenes with her back to the camera.

-River Phoenix was supposed to co-star in "Interview With the Vampire," but when he died, they recast Christian Slater in the role.

-Chris Farley was working on "Shrek" for DreamWorks when he died; Mike Myers took over the lead voice role after his "Saturday Night Live" cohort overdosed in 1997.

Hey, this stuff happens, I'm not crying because people don't commit their lives to vishnu, after an actor dies, just remember that this was all reported a day after the death, which means they were making decisions "before the autopsy" early. If your one of those folks who worship stars, you can take great solace that you and your favorite actor probably have one thing in common, you're both walking meat in the eyes of you're employer.

Next post: something more fun, don't know what, but no more on this.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Variety Shows Us... That Business Is Business!

Not 12 hours after the tragic death of Mr. Ledger, Variety show us how the gears of commerce begin again to turn.

Sure, the poor man's dead. Sure he left a young daughter and stunned family and after the media's tactless accusations of suicide, it looks like it may have been accidental. Groups like TMZ and even Good Morning America are ready to swoop in and make all that reactionary and crocodile tear memorials that the public can eat up with our sociopathic appetites. All this in a few hours? What a way to mourn premature death.

Well Variety shows us what it all means and it all means CASH! From the article "Heath Ledger dead at 28 - Warner Bros., Focus react to tragedy" by Diane Garrett:

-In Gotham, a crowd of several hundred media members, looky-loos and bereft fans gathered late Tuesday afternoon outside the apartment building on Broome Street where Ledger’s body was found. The actor had been living in the Soho neighborhood since splitting last year with partner Michelle Williams.

Flashes from paparazzi and cell phone cameras lit up the building’s narrow fa├žade next to the Nanette Lepore clothing boutique next door. As a lone policeman guarded the entrance, several people stood on window ledges across the street to get a better view of Ledger’s body being wheeled out on a gurney.-

Are you kidding me? Gotham? Do you mean New York City? What kind of tasteless tongue and cheek writing is this? The kind that gets down to what really matters.. what will happen to the latest Batman movie. Oh don't worry folks, the movie is done! Phew! What a relief, that Bat-fans won't have to wait for rewrites and re-shoots! That would have been inconvenient, wouldn't it!

-Principal photography on “The Dark Knight” finished in the fall; as of Tuesday, the pic is still skedded for a July 18 bow.

The status of the pic’s marketing campaign, however, is uncertain. The first phase is built around the Joker and pics of his character are particularly ghoulish. Warner execs were still grappling with the news on Tuesday and had no comment on how they would proceed.-

Wow, they probably didn't expect the vultures to circle, only hours after the death asking heartless questions. Don't get me wrong, as I said in my last post I'm sure the execs are coldly talking about these issues in private, but they're not stupid or tactless enough to comment on it publicly, at least not until the poor man is remembered and eulogized.

-The “Dark Knight” rollout will present more than a few challenges en route to opening weekend. One poster shows the Joker character drawing a clown’s smile on a mirror with red lipstick and scrawling the words, “Why So Serious?” Tagline was also used to launch a Joker-centric website that the studio used to bow new photos from the pic and a viral scavenger hunt, among other games.

“The Joker character is dealing with chaos and life and death and a lot of dark themes,” one insider with knowledge of the campaign said. “Everyone is going to interpret every line out of his mouth in a different way now." -

Wow, we really are callus and sadly socipathic. If we are not bombarded with Heath Ledger memorials and "inside story" content from every morning show, talk show, punditry and cable news cycle for the next week to month, I'll eat my yarn hat. I'm so sorry that being a public figure now means the public doesn't give people's families any respect at all. What a tragedy this is, such potential. What a sad thing that we can't learn to just hang our heads and count to sixty before coldly looking through the man's wallet.

I hear the Westboro Baptist Church is now planning to picket his funeral because of his role in “Brokeback Mountain," which just adds to the spectacle and sadly, to the length of its potential airplay. The media will eat this up! I can only hope his funeral will be in his native Australia and that they have better ways of dealing with
Westboro Baptists if the dare to venture down under.

My most heartfelt respects to those concerned..

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Heath Ledger Dies... But Just As Sad Is Our Spectacle

I can be happy with myself and honestly say that my first thought on hearing this was, "I hope it's not true, how sad, he was a talented, fearless artist." But I am shamed that my second thought was "How does this effect The Dark Knight?" Even though I didn't allow myself the luxury of expanding upon this thought, even though I only felt this thought pop into my consciousness for a moment and immediately ejected it, I did think it and what's more upsetting is that I kept thinking it, it kept popping back into the stream of thought.

It makes me wonder. It makes me wonder about all the things that we spend our time doing. It makes me wonder if Warner Bros execs are throwing their coffee mugs against the walls, because they just lost the break out star of their Bat franchise. It makes me wonder, good or bad, how much time people will take, in considered decorum, before they start calling each other to figure out what has to be rewritten or postponed or repositioned. When an actor puts himself alone in a room for days and days just to find his inner psychotic, just to make an entertainment, is that really worth the toll?

I remember Christian Bale's extreme weight loss and gain and how it was the "neat trivia fact" of the Hollywood promotion shows. Wasn't that beyond reasonable? Death is a great equalizer and it blows away the mists of promotion and pomp. At least it does for me. I don't want to think about comic book movies right now and I don't like the strange uncomfortable feeling that people are bowing their heads in sorrow, but darting their eyes around the room looking to see when it will be appropriate to turn on the hype machine that will no doubt come storming at us with the Spring melt, as Mr. Ledger's last film role becomes a morose but unstoppable Juggernaut of cash, that just adds to the pain and spectacle that his family now will begin to endure.

I'm really sorry that I thought of the fate of a movie when I heard of a young man's death. Here's to respecting the dead. On comes the media storm.