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Ethan Hawke Explains Why His Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward Doc Became a Six-Hour Affair

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Until quite late in the process of crafting “The Last Movie Stars” — a six-hour deep dive into the on- and off-screen lives of Hollywood golden couple Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, now streaming on HBO Max — director Ethan Hawke resisted the notion that he was making a TV series.

“I don’t like episodic. I don’t like the nature of false cliffhangers. My brain is allergic to that,” admits Hawke, who unveiled an hour of the project at the South by Southwest film festival in March, then two more segments at the Cannes Film Festival in May. “When I started, I really wanted it to be short enough that you could watch it in one sitting. I wanted to lasso it into the size of ‘No Direction Home’ or something like that.”

But the more he dug, the bigger it grew, expanding beyond the couple’s career successes — which include 14 Academy Award nominations between them, a best actor Oscar, a best actress Oscar and four Emmys — to their philanthropy, political activism and unusually private (for such a high-profile pair) personal lives. The final episode, which begins with the couple’s deaths and runs slightly more than 90 minutes, is like a film unto itself.

“If I had to make one feature-length documentary about Paul and Joanne, that’s what it would be,” Hawke says. That said, “I didn’t want to make the movie about their death. I wanted to make it about their life.” That’s why the last chapter buries them up front, then works backward through the most complex portion of their lives. (Hawke likens the undertaking to Doris Goodwin Kearns’ nearly-800-page FDR biography “No Ordinary Time.”)

It all started with a phone call from the couple’s youngest daughter, Clea Newman. Years earlier, “Rebel Without a Cause” screenwriter Stewart Stern had conducted a series of interviews with practically all the key parties for a biography about their father. But at a certain point, Paul had changed his mind and destroyed the tapes.

Fortunately, a stack of transcripts survived, including candid insights from so many of the key players in the couple’s life, from former roommate Gore Vidal and director Elia Kazan (who auditioned Newman for James Dean’s role in “East of Eden” and favored him over Marlon Brando for “On the Waterfront”) to Newman’s first wife, Jacqueline Witte.

“I knew enough to know what a huge undertaking it would be. And I desperately wanted to say no, because I understood that if I said yes, it would hijack a couple years of my life,” Hawke says. What he couldn’t know, however, was that a different, totally unforeseen force would hijack everybody’s lives, making the project an ideal distraction from the pandemic.

In any case, the more Hawke thought about it, the more impressed and intrigued he was with the couple, who met each other early in their career and left an incredible legacy as activists, parents and first-class movie stars — two of the last surviving members of the Lee Strasberg-trained generation that propelled acting into the modern era.

“We’re talking about two white people in America who were born with a lot and did a hell of a lot with it. They gave back, making meaningful substantive art for 50 years; they gave hundreds of millions of dollars away. They gave away a hell of a lot more money than they had,” Hawke says. “I was curious how to sustain that level of excellence for 50 years. Like, how does a person do that?”

Because Hawke had been approached by the couple’s children, he had their support to examine all aspects of their parents’ story, including the damage caused by the divorce and the impacts of Newman’s alcoholism. “They understand journalistic integrity, and they understand art, in that you have to have a point of view. Anytime somebody does something nonfiction, it’s not the truth; it’s the truth with a point of view,” Hawke says.

“They spent their life listening to people hyperbolize their father, and felt that the world diminished the most amazing person in their life, their mother. And if it were entirely up to them, they would have this whole thing be about their mom, but you can’t tell Joanne’s story and not include Paul. Their lives were inextricably entwined together.”

To bring the transcripts to life, Hawke had the idea of enlisting fellow actors to perform the interviews and other archival segments in character: George Clooney agreed to play Paul, Laura Linney (who’d acted opposite Woodward early in her career) read Joanne’s words, with more than a dozen others playing close friends and collaborators. He did the sessions on Zoom, never intending to include that footage in the film.

“We started using them only as placeholders,” he said. “I hate Zoom. If I never see Zoom again as long as I live, it’s too much. But then I started realizing there’s a vérité quality to Zoom that’s very dynamic when juxtaposed with these Technicolor Hollywood movies. It’s almost like we were pulling back the curtain and seeing behind stage.”

Plus, it brought another key dimension to the film: one in which actors could share their insights into the couple’s craft. In an early Zoom clip, Vincent D’Onofrio demonstrates Method acting. Several episodes later, Sally Field recalls how Woodward was instrumental in her being cast in the career-making miniseries “Sybil.”

In the end, “it did hijack my brain, and there were many times when I thought I was in way over my head,” Hawke admits. But the six-part format allowed him to go deep on various aspects of their career that he found important — like how Woodward was the bigger, more respected star when they married (landing mammoth roles in films such as “The Three Faces of Eve” and “The Fugitive Kind”), and how Newman’s success eclipsed hers.

Among Woodward’s greatest regrets was an adaptation of William Inge’s play “A Loss of Roses” that the studio reportedly overhauled and renamed “The Stripper.”

“She says Darryl Zanuck ruined it. Did he? Was it really so much better? I don’t know. The cut doesn’t exist, so we can’t know,” Hawke says. “We know that the play is a lot better, and I can tell by watching it scene by scene, that Joanne is amazing in the movie. Warren Beatty played the part originally on Broadway. If they got him, it might have been more looked after. But for our movie, it sure became the perfect metaphor.”

“The Last Movie Stars” positions the project as one that might have been her “On the Waterfront.” It could’ve made her a contender — even more than she already was. Instead, Hawke explains, “You see Joanne being strong-armed into a lane as soon as she has children.” At the end of the second episode, he quotes Woodward as saying, “If I had to do it all over again, I might not have had children. Actors don’t make good parents.”

They’re startling words, but not so much a disavowal of her life choices as a candid acknowledgement that Woodward didn’t understand what she was going to be asked to give up, Hawke explains. “We don’t like hearing it, but that’s one of the hard things that the female experience provides, which is they’re not allowed to have nuanced feelings about parenting,” he says. “Paul didn’t have to give up his career when he became a dad.”

Which is part of the reason Newman became a director, “The Last Movie Stars” explains: He decided to direct “Rachel, Rachel” so Woodward could play the lead role, knowing the project would showcase her incredible range. They made 15 films together in all.

“You know, something I wasn’t able to include that I found really interesting is that, although she said that [about being a parent], at the end of their life, he really regretted missing the time with the kids, and she didn’t regret anything.”



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Viaplay, SF Studios Cast Nordic Stars Julia Ragnarsson, Erik Enge for Psychological Thriller ‘End of Summer’ (EXCLUSIVE)

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Julia Ragnarsson (“Two Sisters,” “Spring Tide”) and Erik Enge (“Tiger”) are the two leading stars of “End of Summer,” a psychological thriller series based Anders de la Motte’s bestselling Swedish novel of the same name. The show has been ordered by Viaplay and is being produced by Harmonica Films with SF Studios and Film i Skåne co-producing.

Jens Jonsson (“Young Wallander”) and Henrik Georgsson (“The Bridge”) are the head writers on the series which shot in Skåne in the southern part of Sweden and will premiere in the fall on Viaplay.

The cast also includes Simon J Berger (“Exit”), Torkel Petersson (“A Swedish Defence”), Per Ragnar (“Let the Right One In”), Linus James Nilsson, Anna Granath, Emelie Garbers, Henrik Norlén, Bahador Foladi, Vilhelm Blomgren and Lars Schilken.

The six-episode series opens on a summer evening in 1984 when a 5-year-old boy vanishes in rural southern Sweden. The police investigation fails to find the truth, leaving behind rumors, suspicion and a grieving family. Twenty years later, the boy’s older sister Vera is leading a group therapy session in Stockholm, when a young man describes a strangely familiar childhood memory of a disappearance. A shaken Vera travels home to her fractured family to uncover, once and for all, what really happened in the summer that never ended.

“This has really been a challenging and fantastic experience,” said Ragnarsson. The actor plays the series’ protagonist, Vera, whom she described as a “complex character.”

“End of Summer” is directed by Jens Jonsson (“Blinded,” “The Hunters”) and Henrik Georgsson (“The Bridge,” “Wallander”). Episode writers are Axel Stjärne, Jimmy Nivrén Olsson and Pontus Edvinsson. Worldwide sales are handled by Viaplay Content Distribution.



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Seth Rogen Shares His Blunt Thoughts On A Freaks & Geeks Revival

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Freaks and Geeks gained a cult following after its cancelation in 2000, but Seth Rogen has a blunt response for those still hoping for a reboot.


Seth Rogen has a blunt response for those still hoping for a Freaks and Geeks revival. Freaks and Geeks marked a rare occasion in which a TV series that was canceled after just one season retained a strong cult following. The show initially premiered in 1999 and was a teen dramedy created by Paul Feig and produced by Judd Apatow. Freaks and Geeks follows two siblings, Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and Sam Weir (John Francis Daley), who exist on different planes of the social hierarchy in high school. The show is a hilarious and candid portrayal of adolescence, as it follows Lindsay and the “freaks”, and Sam and the “geeks” navigating high school life.

SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY

In an interview with People, Rogen responds to the question of whether a Freaks and Geeks revival would be possible. While Rogen is now a prominent actor in Hollywood, Freaks and Geeks was actually Rogen’s very first acting role. He starred as Ken Miller, a fellow student at William McKinley High, known for his smart mouth and sarcasm. Despite Freaks and Geeks‘ impact on his Hollywood career, Rogen has a brutally honest response to the show’s possible revival. Check out his statement below:

I don’t think anyone would do it. It’s so rare that you do something in your career that is actually just viewed as good. I know enough now not to f— with that, to just let it be good and not try to go revisit it. And just let it exist.


Does Freaks & Geeks Need A Revival?

The cast of Freaks and Geeks

Rogen seems to believe that Freaks and Geeks doesn’t need a revival. However, the fact that he has been pressed about such a thing shows that there is interest in one. It is easy to see why viewers would yearn for more of the show. Freaks and Geeks didn’t get a fair chance during its run. It had a stellar cast, the talents of Apatow behind the scenes, and a surprisingly relatable and realistic portrayal of high school life. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to save it.

Freaks and Geeks‘ demise ultimately came from its release schedule. NBC chose to air new episodes of the series on Saturday evening. The time slot is already a disadvantage, considering viewers may have plans on weekend nights. To make matters worse, Freaks and Geeks went on multiple hiatuses due to the World Series and holidays. NBC also wasn’t very open to the ideas and themes of Freaks and Geeks. Since its cancelation, viewers and critics alike have recognized its value. Many consider its merit as a TV series and its rather frustrating cancelation when citing the need for a revival.

However, some may ignore the technicalities that would go into a Freaks and Geeks revival. While some films and TV series have experienced impressive reunions years after the original premiere, not every production can pull this off, especially Freaks and Geeks, which kicked off the high-profile careers of numerous stars, including Rogen, Daley, Cardellini, Busy Phillips, Jason Segel, and James Franco. In addition to the difficulty in getting all these prominent Hollywood names on board, a revival may not be as good as the original. Rogen makes a fair point in that, sometimes, it is best to leave a highly praised project alone. Few critically acclaimed stories can pull off a revival, sequel, or reboot that lives up to everything the original was. In just one season, Freaks and Geeks gained a cult following and created an impressive legacy, and it may be best not to risk tarnishing that.

Source: People

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‘Gomorrah’ Author Roberto Saviano Stands Second Trial for Calling Right-Wing Italian Government Member a ‘Bastard’

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Author and anti-Mafia activist Roberto Saviano, whose Neapolitan mob exposé “Gomorrah” is the basis for the popular HBO Max series of the same title, stood his second trial in three months on Wednesday on charges of defaming a member of Italy’s current right-wing government.

Saviano first appeared in court in November for a defamation lawsuit brought by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni for calling her a “bastard” while blasting her stance on migrants. This time, he is facing a libel suit from League leader and Deputy Premier Matteo Salvini for also calling him a “bastard” while discussing migrants on a RAI TV talk show in December 2020.

On RAI talk show “Piazzapulita,” Saviano blasted Meloni and Salvini, who were then members of the opposition, for their attempts to block migrant rescue boats. Meloni said on the show that Rome should “repatriate migrants and sink the boats that rescued them.”

Saviano was commenting on footage of a sea rescue operation by the Spanish NGO Open Arms, in which a six-month old baby from Guinea died before he could be airlifted to Italy.

“All the bullshit [said about NGOs], sea taxis, cruises [for migrants],” he said. “All I can say is: bastards, how could you? Meloni, Salvini: bastards.”

“I’m proud to be a defendant because I can tell the court that party leaders and ministers cannot dodge the possibility of criticism,” Saviano told the judges on Wednesday Italian news agency ANSA reported. 

Saviano, who is also being sued by Italian Culture Minister Gennaro Sangiuliano, in this case for calling him a “mediocre journalist and a biographer of Putin,” also pointed out to the court that “three ministers of the same government have decided to sue for [libel] damages a person who dared to criticize them,” according to ANSA.

Saviano’s defamation trial against Salvini was adjourned to June 1, when the League leader will be heard.



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