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Bob Rafelson, ‘Five Easy Pieces’ Director and ‘The Monkees’ Co-Creator, Dies at 89



Bob Rafelson, a director, producer and writer who brought a European sensibility to American filmmaking with “Five Easy Pieces” in 1970, died Saturday evening at his home in Aspen, Colo. He was 89 years old.

Rafelson’s death was confirmed by his former personal assistant of 38 years, Jolene Wolff, who worked under Rafelson’s production banner Marmont Productions. Wolff stated that Rafelson died peacefully, surrounded by his family.

Rafelson partnered with Bert Schneider, who died in 2011, to form the production company Raybert, which later became BBS. He was a major behind-the-scenes force in the making of movies like “Easy Rider” in 1969 and “The Last Picture Show” in 1971.

But Rafelson’s production and direction of “Five Easy Pieces,” a critical success in America that garnered impressive box office abroad, turned him into a major player among a new generation of directors inspired by the quirky style of the French New Wave. Even Ingmar Bergman admired Rafelson’s achievement.

Starring Jack Nicholson as Bobby Dupea, “Five Easy Pieces” was a character-driven road movie reflecting Rafelson’s view of an outsider suffering from deep, undisclosed pain. In an interview, Rafelson, the son of a hat maker and abusive, alcoholic mother, said that Dupea was a character in need of escape. “I had been trying to escape from my background since I was 14 years old,” Rafelson said.

Rafelson’s first three films signaled a new depth in American filmmaking. He looked at dysfunctional families, thwarted ambition and alienation in “Five Easy Pieces,” “The King of Marvin Gardens” in 1972 and “Stay Hungry” in 1976.

“Five Easy Pieces,” nominated for four Oscars, including best picture, also heralded Nicholson’s arrival as a major star, earning him his first best actor nom. Rafelson would also work with Nicholson as either co-writer or director on films including “The Postman Always Rings Twice” in 1981 and “Blood and Wine” in 1996. The actor said he considered Rafelson part of his “surrogate family.”

Ironically, Rafelson’s professional relationship with Nicholson began with much lighter fare. “Head” (1968), which the director co-wrote with Nicholson, starred the Monkees, a fabricated rock group modeled on the Beatles. They were just coming off the hit NBC series of the same name created by Rafelson and Schneider. The show ran from 1966-68, winning Rafelson an Emmy for comedy series in 1967.

Though income from the series would provide financing for “Easy Rider,” Rafelson said he hated what the success of “The Monkees” represented. He called “Head,” his first feature, a scornful attempt to “expose the project” for its slick, trendy superficiality. Rafelson later explained that he touched on so many genres in the film — adventure, Western, romance — because “I thought I would never get to make another picture.”

Robert Rafelson was born in New York City. His uncle Samson Raphaelson (“The Shop Around the Corner”) was reportedly Ernst Lubitsch’s favorite screenwriter.

Rafelson studied philosophy at Dartmouth College, where Buck Henry became a close friend. He worked as a disc jockey, edited translations of subtitles for Japanese films and, in 1959, became a story editor on David Susskind’s “Play of the Week” TV series, where he wrote “additional dialogue” for writers like Shakespeare and Ibsen. In 1963, Rafelson was fired after a heated dispute with MCA’s Lew Wasserman over the short-lived series “Channing.” Reportedly, he was personally escorted off the Universal lot by Wasserman.

Rafelson’s marriage to Toby Carr, the production designer on his early films, ended in divorce. His messy personal life was also marked by tragedy when his 10-year-old daughter, Julie, died after a propane stove exploded in his Aspen home in 1973. It “affected everything Bob ever did after that,” Henry said about his friend.

After the 1970s, Rafelson turned to moody noir pictures. In addition to “Postman” with Nicholson and Jessica Lange, he directed 1987’s “Black Widow,” starring Debra Winger and Theresa Russell. Both films saw healthy box office in Europe, where Rafelson’s reputation remains in high regard. The 2002 crime thriller “No Good Deed” starred Samuel L. Jackson, Milla Jovovich and Stellan Skarsgard but barely opened in the U.S.

Rafelson received some good notices in 1990 for “Mountains of the Moon,” about explorer Sir Richard Burton, but 1992’s “Man Trouble,” which reunited the director with Nicholson and “Five Easy Pieces” screenwriter Carole Eastman, and 1998 HBO telepic “Poodle Springs,” with James Caan as detective Philip Marlowe, did not fare well with audiences or critics.

Along with “Five Easy Pieces,” which was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in 2000, and his work as a producer for BBS, Rafelson may best be remembered for boosting the early careers of actors including Jeff Bridges and Sally Field in “Stay Hungry” and Ellen Burstyn, whom he recommended to Peter Bogdanovich for “The Last Picture Show.”

Looking back on his own career in a 2004 interview, Rafelson was philosophical: “If it happens that people respond to your work in your lifetime, well, you’re very lucky…it gives you permission to go on making movies. But if you don’t get the applause, well, there are other things. I mean, after all, there’s your life to live.”

Later in his life, Rafelson appeared in the 2010 documentary “America Lost and Found: The BBS Story.”

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‘Mobile 101, a Nokia Story’ Lands on Disney+, Walter Presents in Multiple Territories (EXCLUSIVE)



“Mobile 101, a Nokia Story,” a series about the dramatic rise and fall of the Finnish phone company, has been acquired by Disney+ and Walter Presents in multiple territories. The series was produced by Finland’s Rabbit Films and is represented in international markets by the outfit.

The six-part series, which sheds light on how a small Finnish company specializing in rubber boots became the world’s biggest mobile manufacturer at the turn of the 21st century, has been picked by Disney+ Italy, Netherlands and Belgium. Walter Presents, meanwhile, bought it for the UK & Ireland. RUV Iceland has also acquired season one of the series.

“Mobile 101” was originally commissioned by Finnish broadcaster MTV3 Finland and streamer CMore for Sweden, Denmark and Norway. It premiered in 2022 to both critical and commercial acclaim.

Directed and written by Maarit Lalli, the series zooms in on how Nokia switched from rubber boots to mobiles in the 1990s and is told through the perspectives of the lawyers, engineers and executive management.

“We are extremely happy announce this first round of international sales of ‘Mobile 101,’ and to bring this quintessentially Finnish story to audiences outside of the Nordics,” said Jonathan Tuovinen, head of international at Rabbit Films. “We all grew up with a Nokia mobile phone, so this unique series has really resonated with buyers, and we hope that audiences around the world will be both entertained and informed by this amazing nostalgia-evoking series,” Tuovinen continued.

Over at Walter Presents, Walter Iuzzolino praised the series for being a “sharp, incisive and unmissable show infused with nostalgia and vintage pop culture.” “Sharp writing, strong performances by a brilliant ensemble cast and gorgeous direction and photography make this a delicious treat for all lovers of great subtitled drama,” added Iuzzolino. Along with “BlackBerry,” “Mobile 101” is one of the several titles looking back at the rise and fall of tech companies.

The show’s top-notch key crew includes Heather Loeffler, the Oscar-nominated set designer of “Joy,” “Carol” and “American Hustle”; the cinematographer Rauno Ronkainen (“Omerta 12/6”) and costumer Maria Sirén (“The Longest Day”).

The cast includes Sampo Sarkola (“Bordertown,” “Shadow Lines”), Kristo Salminen (“Bordertown”), Rafael Edholm (“Peacemaker”), Aku Sipola (“Secret Lives”), Satu-Tuuli Karhu (“Eden”) and Emil Kihlström. International cast members include Adam Bond (“Maleficent”), Jonathan Harboe (“Darkland”) and Carmen Gloria Pérez (“Young Royals”).

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A Walking Dead Cosplay’s Daryl Mask Is Scarily Life-Like



A talented The Walking Dead cosplayer’s Daryl mask is so accurate to Norman Reedus’ face, it’s scary. One of the longest-running characters in The Walking Dead history, Reedus’ Daryl Dixon first appeared in season 1 of the massively popular zombie TV series, and was one of the few to survive through to the series finale. Though the apocalyptic series came to an end last November, Reedus is set to reprise his role as Daryl in the upcoming spinoff series Daryl Dixon, which is set to be released sometime in 2023.


In a series of photographs posted to Reddit by FeralWorks, the talented mask-maker shows off their Daryl Dixon cosplay, complete with a scarily life-like mask of Reedus’s face.

The cosplay photos, as seen above, are uncannily similar to Reedus’s Dixon, making some shots look like they’re taken right out of The Walking Dead. Though the mask’s eyeholes give the illusion away, FeralWorks says that they won’t be wearing glasses to cover the holes up “to help stay out of the uncanny valley, and also because [they] need prescription glasses.

Daryl Dixon’s Role in the Walking Dead Franchise

While the cosplayer admits that they “dropped the ball” on keeping up with The Walking Dead after season 7, their Daryl costume could still perfectly fit in with later seasons of the series. Daryl is one of the few characters to have starred in all 11 seasons of the show, and is considered to be one of the most popular The Walking Dead characters of all time despite his character only existing in the television series, as opposed to the source comics. It’s Daryl’s popularity that led to Reedus getting a spinoff series of his own, Daryl Dixon.

Though little is known about the plot, it has been confirmed that Daryl Dixon will consist of six episodes, and will follow Daryl as he traverses a post-apocalyptic France sometime after The Walking Dead‘s finale. In February, the full cast list for the spinoff was announced and featured several French stars, including Harry Potter alumni Clémence Poésy. Alongside Daryl Dixon come two further The Walking Dead spinoffs, the Negan and Maggie-centered Dead City, and the eponymous Rick & Michonne.

Since the spinoff announcements, the future of The Walking Dead franchise has been divisive among audiences. While some are eager to see their favorite zombie-killers return to the screen once again, others are concerned that the timeline will get too messy and confusing to follow. Regardless, talented cosplayers like FeralWorks prove that The Walking Dead has serious staying power, and that the franchise has a bright future.

Source: FeralWorks/Reddit

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Tomohisa Yamashita, Star of ‘Drops of God,’ Takes Over Series Mania as Emotions Run High: ’You Saved My Life!’



Everyone says: “I love you,” at least in Lille, where Japanese star Tomohisa Yamashita – in town to promote “Drops of God” – brought fans to tears. With one admitting that thanks to his 2005 series “Nobuta Wo Produce,” where he played the character of Akira, she decided not to commit suicide 14 years ago. 

“You saved my life,” she said.

In between interacting with a clearly overwhelmed audience, Japanese singer, dancer, talk show host and actor (“Call me Tomo,” he told his fans) discussed his multifaceted career, one that started when he was just 11 years old. 

“When I was a child, there was a series on TV and the main role was played by a teen. I realized there were stars my age and reached out to agencies for auditions.”  

In 2004, he joined boy band NEWS.

“The producers brought us together and said: ‘O.K, you will be in a band. It was so sudden. We were roughly the same age and got on quite well. We would fight, of course, but we had a common goal,” he said, horrified by one of the band’s early videos screened during the masterclass. 

“I am breaking out in a cold sweat. Yes, that’s me as a teenager. Classy,” he laughed. 

“We gave plenty of concerts, saw our fans all the time and that was significant to me. This may be a personal opinion, but [Japanese entertainer] ‘idol’ is someone who instills confidence and hope into other people. That’s how I see it.”

Tomohisa Yamshita fan at the star’s Series Mania masterclass
Courtesy of Series Mania

 Yamashita also discussed his move into acting, mentioning TV drama “Code Blue” as his favorite role. 

“It was a significant slice of my life. This part has been essential to me, I played it for about 10 years,” he admitted.

“What drives me is curiosity. I have always been curious, even as a child. I am constantly thinking of where I will be in five, 10 years. It’s difficult when you do multiple things, but you learn from it. It fuels your work as an actor. Being here is an important experience too.”

Working outside of Japan was his goal from the start, he said, mentioning Spanish show “The Head,” Kevin Hart starrer “The Man from Toronto” or even later decision to leave his agency in 2020 to work on his own.

“I wanted to broaden my horizons. As I said, I am a curious person.” 

“My goal, wherever I am, is to give hope and a sense of meaning to people watching me. But it was my childhood dream to work abroad. My grandmother’s older sister married an American and her grandchildren would visit us in Japan. She would walk into the house, not taking her shoes off. You always take your shoes off in Japan! It really stuck with me. I thought: ‘I want to see the world and get a feel of what’s accepted in another culture’.”

Netflix’s “Alice in Borderland” marked another important step, although it also forced him to embrace nudity on screen. 

“I had a towel at first, but it was summer, it was hot. In the end, it was quite pleasant,” he laughed upon seeing another embarrassing clip.  

“I had to forget about modesty and shame, but anyway… Since that role, I am not afraid of anything. It sparked something in me. When you play a part, you have to reveal yourself, also metaphorically. You really have to be naked in front of the camera. I learnt a great deal on that show.”

As messages from international fans started to pour in, more international projects followed. Including “Drops of God,” based on a popular manga and premiering at Series Mania, where he plays a wine expert. 

“When I got the part, I started to get to know wine. I tasted plenty of them, so that was a very nice time in my life. Behind a bottle of wine there is history and tradition, it’s all very romantic. I stayed at a vineyard for the shoot and the owner’s dream was to make better wine than his grandfather’s. It’s a deep, spiritual world,” he said, admitting he lost weight for the show. 

“When you lose weight, your sense of smell becomes more acute. There were plenty of little details like that in the show. I think you have to become your character to a certain extent. It’s important to really dedicate a part of your life to this.” 

Teasing an upcoming acting project in Paris, he also reflected on his future.

“I want to be like [baseball player] Shohei Ohtani: I want to do many things. But I started out in music, so it remains important, and so is meeting people. I want to rely on these random meetings.”

Drops Of God
Courtesy of Series Mania – ©Fabien Malot

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