Wednesday, October 8, 2008

“Lies” guys talk leading ladies; “Express” runs wild

Not that they wouldn’t be on their best behavior, but Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio both graciously answered questions about their new terrorist spy thriller, “Body of Lies,” during a recent press gathering in Los Angeles.
Somewhat surprising, however, was their willingness to talk about off-subject topics, including a pair of actresses each considers a dear, dear friend.
Crowe was especially funny during the entire one-hour presser (see my story in Thursday's Sun News) and even downright pleasant in telling an anecdote about Australian pal Nicole Kidman.

In fact, the often intimidating actor didn’t even seem to flinch when -- out of nowhere -- someone asked him if he had any parenting advice for the actress.
“Sunday Rose was born on the same day as my son (Tennyson), the 7th of July,” Crowe explained. “So, Nicole and (husband) Keith (Urban) brought Sunday Rose around on a Sunday, which I thought was appropriate.
“Nicole had one look at my son, looked up at me and said, 'I'm a great believer in arranged marriages.' Apparently, we just assume that there's a connection between Sunday and Tennyson now. Tennyson is already engaged,” Crowe said with a broad grin.
“Sunday Rose is a beautiful child with beautiful delicate features and it was fun that she brought her around. But, I'm not going to be giving Nicole advice on things like that. She's already brought up two children (with ex-husband Tom Cruise), so she's pretty well versed in all of that.”

Similarly, DiCaprio’s face lit up when he was asked about working again with “Titanic” co-star Kate Winslet in their next movie, “Revolutionary Road.”

“Kate has remained one of my closest friends and is the best actress of her generation,” he answered. “She brought this book to me which was a portrait of America after the (second world) war, trying to basically become the idyllic image of what a family is supposed to be.
“These two people are struggling to do that and are basically torn apart because they feel that they've become clichés and have lost their identity. Kate and I basically knew that we could push each other's buttons, performance-wise, and knew that we could pull stuff out of each other. We've known each other since we were almost teen-agers. So that was something that I jumped at the opportunity to do.”
All that said, DiCaprio skirted right back into “Body of Lies” discussion in comparing the differences between working with director Ridley Scott and shooting with Winslet and her husband, director Sam Mendes.
“ 'Revolutionary Road' was like doing a 1950s play or something,” DiCaprio said. “We were talking about our feelings for months at a time, and then I wound up in Morocco with missiles being shot at me. It was a bizarre transition but, once you get accustomed to that pace and you embrace it, you start to enjoy it. It's this sort of adrenaline-fueled work environment that you love.

“It was very, very difficult, but that's the nature of working on a Ridley Scott movie. The pace at which he shoots is really intense, really fast-paced and you have to be prepared for anything at any given moment. He literally has helicopters on standby, circling around, ready to get an overhead shot of you running through an entire city.
“He's like: 'You're happy with the scene? Great. You got the dramatic beats. Why don't you walk down the block and I'm going to have three helicopters chase you through an Arabic street in real time. They've blocked off some of the traffic, but you'll be fine. You'll be great.' “

My review of “Body of Lies” also appears in the Sun News, as does an interview with Dennis Quaid, who plays Syracuse coaching legend Ben Schwartzwalder in this week’s other big movie opening, “The Express.”

Of course, it's the occasionally heartwarming and equally heartbreaking story of Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win football's coveted Heisman Trophy.

Take it from a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, the 1963 leukemia-related death of Davis remains one of the saddest chapters in team history, even if "The Express" didn't get many of the facts right about the Browns trading for draft rights to the charismatic All-American.
Regardless, it's a movie reminiscent of the easily more memorable "Brian's Song," and, as a result, likely might have played better on the small screen than it will in movie theaters.

After our pleasant chat, Quaid asked why I was so poker-faced about his new film. I explained some of its factual discrepancies, including the preposterous premise that former Browns owner Art Modell himself (played by Saul Rubinek) actually scouted Davis (Rob Brown). There’s also a blatant exclusion of late Browns coach Paul Brown, the man who did engineer the trade that brought the collegiate star to Cleveland.

Mostly, though, I told the actor that "The Express" simply seemed almost too tame for the big screen, offering how I can't imagine anyone outside of Syracuse and Cleveland will be knocking down doors to see it. Naturally, Quaid chose to "respectfully disagree."
We shall see but, maybe not so ironically, "The Express" is after all directed by Gary Fleder ("Kiss the Girl," "Runaway Jury"), who has enjoyed most of his success behind television cameras.

No comments: