At first, Jerry Wexler (1917–2008) was bupkes. But eventually he became the king of the music biz and even coined the phrase, “rhythm and blues.” In the 1960s, he wanted in on the “Muscle Shoals Sound,” which was named for a small town in Alabama where hit records were coming out of Rick Hall’s FAME Studios.
The documentary “Muscle Shoals,” in theaters September 27, tells the story of this tiny recording studio that launched so many hit records. The film features Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Jimmy Cliff, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Alicia Keys and Bono, but the most fascinating segments are of Jerry Wexler. These scenes are intercut with Rick Hall’s riveting tale about one night spent with Wexler himself. Hall sat down with The Arty Semite to tell the tale.
Dorri Olds: How did you first meet Jerry Wexler?
Rick Hall: Jerry Wexler was the biggest record company guru in the world. I started FAME here, in a little bitty town of a thousand people and the studio was a cinder block building sitting in the middle of a cotton patch. Jerry told me to call him if I ever had a hit to record. I called him and played him our recording of Percy Sledge singing “When a Man Loves a Woman.” And Jerry said okay. My stock went sky high with Wexler after this single went number one worldwide. Jerry called one day and said, “Can I bring Wilson Pickett down and make some records?” which we did.
How were things with Wilson Pickett?
New Yorker Josh Pais shines in Showtime’s “Ray Donovan” as creepy rich guy Stu Feldman. He is also starring in Lynn Shelton’s 2013 Sundance Official Selection indie, “Touchy Feely,” opening in theaters September 6.
In the movie, Abby (Rosemarie DeWitt), a massage therapist, has a commitment-phobia that gushes out sideways. She can’t touch other people’s skin, which is awkward in her line of work. Abby’s brother Paul (Pais) is a sad, uptight, socially inept dentist with a floundering practice. Ellen Page plays his encouraging and emotionally-stunted daughter. The talented cast includes DeWitt’s real-life hubby Ron Livingston, and Allison Janney as the healer who loosens Paul up. “Touchy Feely” is about living in one’s skin, both figuratively and literally.
The Arty Semite caught up with Pais at Manhattan’s Magnolia Pictures office.
Dorri Olds: What is it like to work with the cast of Touchy Feely’?
Josh Pais: Outstanding. Everyone feels a sense of ownership in creating a Lynn Shelton movie. Lynn chooses amazing people — including the crew. Every person there is committed to making the film the best it can be. Ellen and Rosemarie and Scoot [McNairy] and Allison — everybody was just delicious.
How did you craft your character?
“California Solo,” opening November 30, is about Lachlan MacAldonich, a former British rock star who gets caught drunk driving and now faces deportation from the U.S. But the melancholy movie is less of a story than a character study, and Robert Carlyle gives an understated yet captivating performance as MacAldonich.
In contrast, 35-year-old Marshall Lewy, who wrote and directed the film, has the energy of a 20-year-old: Right now he’s working on screenplays for New York Times bestseller “Born to Run,” to be directed by Peter Sarsgaard; “Santiago,” the true story of a Cuban man imprisoned by Castro for 19 years after working for the CIA; “The Imposter’s Daughter,” an adaptation of a graphic memoir about uncovering a father as a fraud; and “Exodus,” about three thieves who move to the Caribbean where things go terribly wrong. Despite the huge heap of projects, Lewy made time to talk to The Arty Semite about writing his first screenplay, alcholism, and working with Robert Carlyle.
Dorri Olds: How would you describe “California Solo”?
Adam Brody has been called adorkable and a geek. He’s also been listed three times in People magazine as one of the “50 Hottest Bachelors.” He’s best known for his role as hyper, nerdy, talkative Seth Cohen on the teen TV series, “The O.C.” He grew up in San Diego, got lousy grades in school and had no ambitions other than surfing. After a brief try at community college, he dropped out and moved to Hollywood to try acting. Within a year in L.A. he landed his first movie, in 2000.
Brody’s latest film is “The Oranges,” opening October 5. Brody plays Toby Walling, the son of David and Paige Walling (Hugh Laurie and Catherine Keener). They all live in Orange, New Jersey, next door to their best friends, the Ostroffs (Oliver Platt, Allison Janney), and their sexy daughter Nina (Leighton Meester). Everyone’s world is thrown out of whack when Nina falls for Toby’s dad. Brody talked to The Arty Semite about Freudian humor, playing a porn star, and what he would do if he only had three weeks to live.
Dorri Olds: What did you like best about “The Oranges”?
Woody Allen’s new movie “To Rome With Love” is a montage of stories on the titillating streets of the eternal city. Allen (who hadn’t appeared in any of his films since 2006) plays Jerry, a restless, retired opera director whose world collides with Giancarlo, played to hilarity by Italy’s renowned tenor Fabio Armiliato. Roberto Benigni is Leopoldo, a Joe Schmoe suddenly and inexplicably stalked by paparazzi. Alec Baldwin is a scene-stealer as John, a famous-yet-embittered architect on vacation doling out hard-won romantic advice to Jack (Jesse Eisenberg) who gets tangled up with Monica (Ellen Page) while he’s already living with Sally (Greta Gerwig). Penélope Cruz is smokin’ as an Italian hooker in a red-hot dress.
The Arty Semite caught up with Woody Allen to ask him about acting, editing and the stupid questions he gets from the press.
Dorri Olds: There are funny scenes in “To Rome With Love” about idiotic questions from the press. What are the worst questions you’ve been asked?
Woody Allen: I don’t think we have enough time to answer that. When I walk through those red carpet things, I’ve been asked, “Is Penelope Cruz your new muse?” If I make one picture with somebody they assume that I have a muse, that I want a muse, and that person wants to be my muse. There are millions of questions that are really stupid.
What is it about Rome that appealed to you?
Actor James Franco was named by Salon.com as one of “10 men who might just inspire the rebirth of Jewish male cool.” Though of Russian Jewish heritage on his mother’s side, Franco never had a Bar Mitzvah. “I wish I had though,” he said wistfully. He played a Jewish drug dealer in Pineapple Express and was accused of appearing stoned when he hosted the 83rd Academy Awards. Nominated as Best Actor for his lead role in “127 Hours,” Franco is also known for his role in “Milk” as Sean Penn’s lover, as Allen Ginsberg in “Howl,” and for his latest movie, “The Broken Tower,” in which he plays Hart Crane, an American homosexual alcoholic poet who committed suicide by jumping off a ship at age 32.
“The Broken Tower” is Franco’s New York University film school thesis project, which he wrote, directed and stars in. Previously, Franco earned two masters in writing, from Columbia University and Brooklyn College. Voted Sexiest Man Alive by People magazine, Franco has said he never relaxes and doesn’t even like to sleep because “there’s too much to do.” That seemed apparent when he showed up disheveled for his recent interview with The Arty Semite.
Dorri Olds: Why did you want to make a movie about Hart Crane?
“I wanted to play a villain but couldn’t convince an American director,” Albert Brooks told an audience January 8, his curly hair framing a gentle cherubic face. The Film Society at Lincoln Center was honoring Brooks for his career, including his recent role as a psychopathic Jewish mafioso in the 2011 movie “Drive.” Given his work as writer, director and star in comedies like “Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World” and “Lost in America,” he knew it would be a challenge.
Brooks met with Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, hoping to secure the part. “Before I left our meeting, I pinned him against the wall, grabbed his collar and choked him,” Brooks said. “Then very quietly I said, ‘I’m physically a very strong man.’ Danes are white to begin with, but he turned clear.”
That bold move earned Brooks the part of Bernie Rose, making him a sure bet for this year’s Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Perhaps more noteworthy, but less commonly known, is the 2011 release of Brooks’s first novel, “2030: The Real Story of What Happens to America.”
Steven Spielberg walked the red carpet at New York City’s Ziegfeld Theatre on December 12 like a regular guy, wearing an understated houndstooth cap, a knit scarf and wool overcoat. It was the New York City premiere of his 3D motion capture animated movie, “The Adventures of Tintin,” opening December 21.
Tintin, a cartoon journalist created by Belgian artist Hergé in 1929, is well known outside of the U.S., but Spielberg hadn’t heard of him until 1981, when a French review of “Raiders of the Lost Ark” compared Indiana Jones to Tintin. Spielberg’s 3D film is based on Hergé’s stories “The Crab with the Golden Claws” (1941), “The Secret of the Unicorn” (1942) and “Red Rackham’s Treasure” (1943).
The Arty Semite caught up with Spielberg outside the Ziegfeld to ask him about using motion capture technology, making Tintin 3D, and what Snowy should look like.
Dorri Olds: How long did it take to make this movie?
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
In his new movie, “Midnight in Paris,” Woody Allen did what he does best. He created a character out of a city and added his signature sleight-of-hand magic. Think “The Purple Rose of Cairo,” when a handsome leading man steps through a screen to romance a depression-era Mia Farrow, or “Zelig,” when the title character appears on the nightly news with the Pope and Calvin Coolidge.
“Midnight in Paris,” which premiered at the Cannes International Film Festival earlier this month and opens in limited release May 20, reverberates with that same abracadabra wish fulfillment. “I always feel that only a magical solution can save us,” Allen said in an interview with L.A. Weekly. “The human predicament is so tragic and so awful that, short of an act of magic, we’re doomed.”