David Bruce: Movies Anecdotes

Good deeds include helping celebrity friends get a little privacy. George Clooney once was able to give his friends Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt a little privacy. Rumors spread that Mr. Pitt and Ms. Jolie were going to be married at Mr. Clooney’s Italian home, Mr. Clooney rented hundreds of tables he did not need so that the rumor would be perpetuated and the paparazzi would go to his Italian home instead of to wherever Mr. Pitt and Ms. Jolie were. Speaking of rumors, before making the movie Bridget Jones’ Diary, Renee Zellweger dated Jim Carrey, with whom she had starred in Me, Myself & Irene. When she walked on the set of Bridget Jones’ Diary one day, she was applauded because everyone had heard that she had accepted a proposal from Mr. Carrey the night before. However, Ms. Zellweger was asleep at the time the proposal was supposed to have taken place. She was surprised that anyone was able to think that they had become engaged; after all, she points out, “I’d only been dating him a couple of months.”

Cult movie director John Waters, aka the Prince of Puke, is a true original. He writes all his scripts by hand on legal pads. He did once start to take a typing course, but the letters on the keys had all been blanked out. Mr. Waters thought that was “stupid,” so he walked out. Once Mr. Waters bought some postcards of the Pope so he could use them to answer fan mail. He asked the nun selling the postcards for a receipt, but the nun told him, “The Vatican doesn’t give receipts.” What was Mr. Waters’ reaction? He says, “I got so angry and accused her of laundering funds to anti-abortionists.” Here is one more quotation from this witty interviewee. Mr. Waters says, “I don’t have bad hair days. I have bad hair life. I did have long hair when I was young, but I looked like a pimp. I have instructed people to kill me if I ever wear a ponytail.”

Even big-time directors like Francis Ford Coppolo don’t have as much power as people tend to think they do. In 1997, he wanted to cast Johnny Depp—whom he regards as “one of the three greatest actors of his generation”—as the lead in The Rainmaker, but the movie studio would not let him do that because at the time Mr. Depp was not the major star that he is now. Therefore, Mr. Coppola had to tell him, “Listen, they absolutely forbid me to cast you in this.” Mr. Depp replied, “But we thought you were a god!” Mr. Coppola says, “A lot of people think that being a name director, you do absolutely what you want to do and only what you want to do. Maybe Steven Spielberg’s earned that right with his extraordinary career. But he would be the only one who has that type of power.”

Roger Ebert once was at a Cannes luncheon that was hosted by B-movie maven Sam Arkoff, who produced Beach Blanket Bingo and executive produced The Abominable Dr. Phibes. Movie critic Rex Reed had just seen Q, which Mr. Arkoff had executive produced, and in which a winged monster preyed on stockbrokers. Mr. Reed enthused, “What a surprise! Right in the middle of all that schlock, a great Method performance by Michael Moriarty!” Mr. Reed’s enthusiasm pleased Mr. Arkoff, who boasted, “The schlock was my idea.”

When Tippi Hedron was being made up for a scene in which she is attacked by the antagonists in Alfred Hitchcock’s movie The Birds, her make-up artist, Howard Smit, covered her face with makeup that made her face looked bruised, bloody, scratched, and pecked. At one point late in the makeup session, Ms. Hedron saw her reflection in a mirror, said to Mr. Smit, “Pardon me for a moment,” then left and vomited.

During the filming of Robert Altman’s Nashville, he used a wide-screen Panavision frame. Actors were miked individually, and they didn’t even know if they were in the frame in some of the crowd scenes. One of the actors asked Mr. Altman, “How will I know if I’m on camera?” He replied, “You won’t. Just do something interesting, and you might end up in the picture.”

Eli Wallach’s first movie was Baby Doll, which co-starred another actor with a notable nose: Karl Malden. Mr. Wallach and his wife, Anne Jackson, saw the movie in a theater. The first time that Mr. Wallach and Mr. Malden appeared on the screen together, Ms. Jackson whispered to her husband, “Never have two noses filled the screen so completely.”

Laura Linney, renowned stage and movie actor, studied theater at Julliard, but like other famous actors, she went through a bad period in which she was trying to establish herself. One bad experience was auditioning for a TV commercial—during the audition this future two-time Oscar nominee (as of 2007) had to dance around like a chicken.

Ridley Scott has directed many different kinds of films including Alien, American GangsterBlade Runner, Gladiator, Hannibal, Matchstick Men, and Thelma and Louise. As you would expect, he watches many, many films. At 11 p.m. he starts watching a movie, and he says that “if I’m still watching at 1, that means it’s a good film.”

Film director Josef von Sternberg was an artist. One day, he was preparing to take a full-length shot of Marlene Dietrich. Celebrity photographer John Engstead noticed some dirt on the floor and asked him if he wanted it cleaned up. Mr. Sternberg replied, “If anybody looks at the dirt instead of Ms. Dietrich, none of us are any good.”

Mae West knew what she wanted. Seeing a tall, dark, handsome man on the Paramount movie lot, she knew that she wanted him as a co-star for her movie She Done Him Wrong. She did her own casting, and she said, “If he can talk, I’ll take him.” The tall, dark, handsome man was Cary Grant, who was still early in his film career.

While filming Shallow Hal, Jack Black requested 32 takes of a certain scene because he wanted it to be perfect. Which scene? His love scene with the beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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