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‘Five Easy Pieces’ Star Lois Smith Remembers Director Bob Rafelson: ‘It Was a Time of Generational Change’

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No movie better captures the maverick spirit of Bob Rafelson and the impact he had on the New Hollywood movement of the 1970s than “Five Easy Pieces.” The film follows Jack Nicholson’s Bobby Dupea, a former piano prodigy who has turned his back on his privileged lifestyle to embrace the life of a blue collar drifter. Dupea’s rejection of his upbringing struck a cord with the counterculture and turned “Five Easy Pieces” into a critical and commercial sensation, making it a rare film that tapped into and reflected the zeitgeist.

Rafelson, who also directed “The King of Marvin Gardens” and helped create “The Monkees” television series, died on July 23 at the age of 89. Lois Smith, a Tony-winning character actress who would later work with the filmmaker on his 1987 thriller “Black Widow,” played Partita Dupea, the sister of Bobby Dupea, in “Pieces,’ who helps set the plot in motion when she urges her brother to return to his childhood home to see their ailing father. Smith spoke to Variety about Rafelson’s directing style and the reasons she thinks his work will endure.

My memories of shooting “Five Easy Pieces” on location are among the happiest of my career. We were close to Vancouver Island and we all stayed in the same motel. Every night we all had dinner together. Bob would sit at the head of the table and we’d discuss the day’s work and then he’d walk us through what we’d be doing the next day. It was so compatible and the way one wants to work, but that’s quite rare to keep the company together and on point in that way.

“Easy Rider” had been a big moment for Jack and this came very quickly after that, but you have to remember that he was not a major star yet. I never saw anything except harmony between Jack and Bob. They were strong voices, but all of the passion and all of the strength went into the work. Because of the atmosphere that Bob created, there was a naturalness and a trust in the material and in each other. I think you see that in how real and lived in everything feels.

On set, Bob was generous and interested in what I had to offer. I never felt under his direction that he was trying to force things. I had some interesting preparation to do to get ready. In the scene in the studio where I’m playing the piano, I worked with a piano teacher so I could do a little bit of the piece. That was very challenging and lots of fun to learn.

In our scenes together, I felt the pleasure in my relationship with Jack and the uncertainty of when I’d see him again. I had big brothers who I loved, but who came and went, and I was able to draw on that. It seemed like a real relationship, and I liked that. 

It was exciting and wonderful when the film came out and we played in the New York Film Festival and screened it in Alice Tully Hall. What I remember most was after it opened, it caused such great excitement. I still remember very vividly some of the moments in the movie. The performances were just wonderful. I think of Jack and Karen Black’s scenes or the shot of him playing the piano in the back of the truck, and then that moment at the end in the gas station as Jack sneaks off in the truck and the cars are going in both directions. The camera just stays there as Karen stands and wonders where Jack had gone. It was so touching. It seemed to speak to the world we were living in right then.

It was a time of big generational change. We had just come through the sixties. I was born in 1930, and I remember feeling through that decade that everything had dramatically changed. The mores had changed. People dressed differently. They talked differently. “Five Easy Pieces” encapsulated the restlessness of that era. It spoke to the sense of getting away to find what one wanted rather than just settling down and doing what we’d been told to do. There was a kind of spirit of challenging institutions and systems and habits and manners and ideas and politics. “Five Easy Pieces” reflected all that.

I seldom saw Bob after we finished shooting “Five Easy Pieces,” but then he asked me to be in “Black Widow” and when he called in 1986 he said, “Stick with me and you’ll make a movie every 16 years.”

Bob’s movies really hold up. He was very sensitive to performances and he cast well and got the most out of the actors who worked with him. He’ll be remembered for the high quality of his movies and for their pertinence. I remember him with fondness and admiration and gratitude. May he rest in peace.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.



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Bobby focuses on creating higher margins while investing in society. He believes that our World has room for improvement, and one of his goals is to be part of the evolutionary process. What makes him successful is the collaboration with founders and partners. Bobby has a successful track record in envisioning and creating deals and opportunities from scratch in various industries.

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Oscars 2023 Will Include All 23 Categories Presented Live on Air (EXCLUSIVE)

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All 23 categories will be aired during the Oscars 2023 telecast.

Bill Kramer, CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, announced the news exclusively to Variety Tuesday morning. “I can confirm that all categories will be included in the live telecast,” he said.

The news comes after eight different Oscar categories — original score, makeup and hairstyling, documentary short, film editing, production design, animated short, live action short and sound — were cut from the main telecast at the 2022 Academy Awards, leading to much outrage across the film industry.

“We are committed to having a show that celebrates the artisans, the arts and sciences and the collaborative nature of moviemaking. This is very much what the mission of the Academy is, and I am very hopeful that we can do a show that celebrates all components of moviemaking in an entertaining and engaging way,” Kramer said.

Since his appointment in June, Kramer said he’s had many conversations about restoring the missing categories: “We are thrilled to be in a position to execute that.”

Jimmy Kimmel will return for the third time to host the Oscars. Kramer said he was excited to have the late-night host back. “I love having someone hosting the show who knows live television. I think that’s so critical,” he said.

When asked about what else audiences can expect from the telecast, Kramer said, “All I will say right now is that our anniversary, the 95th Oscars, is extremely important to us. I think it sets a really interesting rhythm for our 100th. You see this in the museum, I think we are able to celebrate our legacy while bringing the Academy into the future and the show will reflect that.”

Executive producers and showrunners Glenn Weiss and Ricky Kirshner of White Cherry Entertainment will produce the Oscars, and Weiss returns, for the eighth consecutive year, as the show’s director. The 95th Academy Awards will take place on March 12, 2023, live from the Dolby Theatre at Ovation Hollywood. The ceremony will be televised live on ABC and in more than 200 territories worldwide



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Black Panther 2 Writer Addresses T’Challa CGI Recreation Possibility

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Co-writer Joe Robert Cole addresses whether there was ever a possibility of a CGI recreation of T’Challa featuring in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever co-writer Joe Robert Cole addresses whether the film was ever going to feature a CGI recreation of Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa. After the huge success of 2018’s Black Panther, director Ryan Coogler returned to helm the sequel, which chronicles the fallout from King T’Challa’s death and the emergence of a new global threat. The film has earned generally positive reviews from audiences and critics alike, with particular praise levied at Angela Bassett and Letitia Wright’s performances in addition to the film’s thoughtful handling of Boseman’s tragic passing. The MCU actor passed away in 2020 after a battle with cancer, with Coogler and Marvel opting not to recast the character for the sequel.

SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY

Since it was confirmed that Marvel was not going to recast T’Challa in the Black Panther sequel, some fans wondered if the character would be brought back in some form using CGI. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, however, co-writer Cole reveals that digitally recreating T’Challa for Black Panther: Wakanda Forever was never even a possibility that was discussed behind the scenes. Check out Cole’s full comment below:

I don’t remember any conversations about that. No. I don’t think we were ever… I don’t think anyone felt that would be appropriate.


Why It’s Good Wakanda Forever Didn’t Bring T’Challa Back With CGI

A character in a white ceremonial costume carries the iconic Black Panther mask.

There’s a long history of late actors being brought back digitally for movies, including Oliver Reed in Gladiator, Paul Walker in Furious 7, and Harold Ramis in Ghostbusters: Afterlife. All of these actor recreations are handled in different ways under different circumstances, but in the Black Panther sequel, T’Challa’s death is woven into the very fabric of the movie. Black Panther: Wakanda Forever‘s story was substantially reworked after Boseman’s death and was essentially built and marketed around the premise that it would honor his legacy by honoring T’Challa’s within the world of the MCU. With T’Challa gone, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever focuses instead on how Shuri (Wright) and Ramonda (Bassett) process their grief.

If Black Panther: Wakanda Forever had brought T’Challa back through the use of CGI, it could have undermined the power of Shuri’s character arc as she takes up the mantle of Black Panther. The most logical place to feature a digital T’Challa would be when Shuri visits the Ancestral Plane upon ingesting the heart-shaped herb. The film instead features Shuri encountering Michael B. Jordan’s Killmonger, which speaks to the anger she feels and her lust for revenge. Shuri’s climactic moment as Black Panther in the film’s finale is choosing not to channel her grief into anger and revenge, but to seek peace with Namor (Tenoch Huerta) and fully embrace her feelings at the loss of her brother.

While bringing T’Challa back using CGI would have likely resulted in a brief moment of catharsis for audiences, a digital cameo may have taken away from Shuri’s arc, which honors Boseman and his character in more satisfying, long-lasting ways. By not recreating him digitally, the film also solidifies that he is truly gone, giving the character a true sense of finality. The sequel may not bring Boseman’s character back with CGI, but Black Panther: Wakanda Forever does introduce T’Challa’s son, Toussaint, which will hopefully allow the actor and the character to live on in a more uplifting and emotionally resonant way.

Source: Rolling Stone

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‘Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights’ Choreographer Testifies She Doesn’t Remember Dancer Alleging Harvey Weinstein Sexual Assault

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Harvey Weinstein’s defense called on a choreographer from the 2004 film “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” to answer questions about a dancer from the movie, who is a witness testifying in the L.A. trial. The dancer has alleged that she was sexually assaulted by Weinstein during production on the musical film, which his company Miramax produced.

Choreographer JoAnn Jansen was subpoenaed by Weinstein’s defense team to take the stand on Monday afternoon. She was the main choreographer on the 2004 film, which was a reimagining of the original hit “Dirty Dancing,” and has worked on a total of four films for Weinstein.

Jansen said she has no recollection of ever meeting Ashley Matthau, who is an uncharged witness in the trial. Matthau had booked a small role as a dancer on the “Dirty Dancing” sequel. During her testimony, she alleged she was assaulted in 2003 when Weinstein masturbated on her in his hotel room in Puerto Rico. Matthau, who was 22-years-old at the time, said that Weinstein wanted to discuss “future projects” with her. She agreed to go to the hotel because his assistant was with him and assumed it would be a business meeting. When they got to his room, his assistant abandoned her.

Matthau told jurors that she confided in a choreographer and producer on set, but said that neither of them had offered any assistance. Matthau did not specify the name of that choreographer during her testimony, so it’s unclear if she was referring to Jansen or somebody else.

During Jansen’s testimony on Monday, she shared she had no awareness of Matthau working on the film whatsoever. The choreographer said there were 50-75 dancers hired and claimed to know all of them. When shown a photo of Matthau, she did not recognize her.

Jansen also told the defense that no women ever made any complaints about Weinstein during the production.

“Did any female dancer meet you to express any concern?” Weinstein’s attorney, Mark Werksman, asked. Jansen replied, “No.” She said she would have remembered if such a concern was reported to her.

Werksman also asked if any of the dancers on set were in “distress” about any meetings with Weinstein, and Jansen said, “No.”

When cross-examined by the prosecutor, deputy D.A. Marlene Martinez, Jansen said she would recognize every single dancer with whom she worked. “I know that sounds odd, but I did.”

The prosecutor then showed Jansen IMDb pages from “Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights” and Jansen said she recognized every person in the cast, aside from Matthau. “She was credited with being a dancer, but you don’t recognize her?” Jansen responded, “Nope.”

The prosecutor then proceeded to ask about another dancer on the film: Claudia Salinas, a model and influencer who testified earlier in the trial after being accused of helping Weinstein trap a woman in his hotel bathroom where she was allegedly assaulted. Salinas disputed any involvement in the alleged incident and denied any wrongdoing, but her name has emerged a handful of times during the trial as an alleged accomplice to Weinstein.

When asked about Salinas, Jansen immediately recognized the name. When questioned about Salinas’ relationship with Weinstein, Jansen appeared to be uneasy and replied, “I don’t know,” to the prosecutor. Jansen said she didn’t work with her and, with a laugh said, “I don’t know why, but I do know her.”

Jansen noted that Salinas was a “dance extra” and said she did not hire her. When Martinez asked if she interacted with any of the dance extras, Jansen said, “No, I’m not allowed to,” citing SAG rules that state she is only able to interact with principal dancers. Martinez then asked, “Would you know all the dance extras?” and Jansen said, “No.” Martinez suggested that Matthau might have been a dance extra.

Jansen — whose choreography credits include “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl,” “Uptown Girls,” “Shall We Dance” and two upcoming “Avatar” sequels — was the fourth witness called by the defense. Weinstein’s attorneys intend to call two more witnesses before resting their case this week.

Matthau’s attorney responded to Variety‘s request for comment on Monday evening, in response to Jansen’s testimony.

“A quick check of the credits for ‘Havana Nights’ reflects Ashley as a dancer in the movie, and she still receives residual checks to this day,” said attorney Elizabeth Fagen of the firm Fagen Scott, in an email to Variety. “If the defense argues she wasn’t there, they will be lying to the court and the jury.”

Closing arguments in Weinstein’s trial are expected to occur this week. The judge indicated that the case will likely be in the jury’s hands by end of the week.



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