Tag Archives: NICHOLAS CAMPBELL

SNEAK PREVIEW: Four stage & screen lions in their prime dare, delight & dazzle us in The Performance

Writer-director Stephen Wallis’ hypnotic new film The Performance is all about the excruciating pain and exquisite pleasure of being a working actor. And what makes it so hypnotic are the mesmerizing performances of the four working actors who bring it to life: Nicholas Campbell, Graham Greene, Art Hindle and Nick Mancuso.

All four are 40-year-veterans of stage, screen and television, still in demand, still working. All four still know how to dazzle us. And all four still know how to surprise us.

MANCUSO: astonishing tour-de-force

As the film opens, arrogant aging actor Victor Moore is preparing for what is purportedly his final stage performance. Addicted to melodrama and the deep, rich sound of his own celebrated voice, Victor is about to present his tried-and-true autobiographical theatre piece, despite the objections of Dennis, his cheerfully alcoholic director. “There’s more fantasy in this script than a Tolkien novel,” Dennis chides him. “Show the audience the truth.”

Sparked by Dennis’ goading, Victor reluctantly starts to confront the ghosts that still haunt him. Raised by parents who played the vaudeville circuit, he has never forgiven his mother for leaving him in the questionable care of his father. “Other mothers stayed, but not you!” he storms at the  30-year-old incarnation of his mother.

CAMPBELL: Spellbinding

He has never forgiven his father, Harold, either. 

Especially not his father.

After all, Harold was only a song-and-dance man. Victor was a star.

“Did you think you were better than me, son?” Harold asks him.

“I made 300 movies!” Victor spits back at him.

Harold shrugs. “Let’s not confuse fame with talent.”

Victor knows quite a bit about fame. And scandal. And why his clandestine love affair ended so badly. He could not, would not sacrifice his career; he was not willing to be banished from the screen for a youthful indiscretion.
In those days, he notes, “The movies could talk, but we could not.”

GREENE: buoyant

As the minutes fly by Victor starts to suspect that this is more intervention than rehearsal, and we start to suspect the same thing. But then his old friend Jack, another key player in his life, stops by to surprise him, and Victor remembers what fun acting used to be, when they played Hamlet together in this very theatre. It’s Jack who teases and cajoles him into finding his inner child again. And it is the nimble Jack, and only Jack, who can coax Victor to park all his theatrical baggage, albeit temporarily, to come out and play.

“Actors are actors,” Victor insists, “because they lack the ability to perform in real life.” And yet, what can he do? Victor’s greatest love, his relentless passion, his hopeless obsession, is acting.

“I have to do this!” he protests. “It’s who I am.”

HINDLE: powerful

As director Wallis’ screenplay twists and turns to take us to both familiar and unexpected places, The Performance becomes an extravagant, richly detailed love letter to actors and their craft, never quite resolving the dilemma of that choice.

It’s also a spectacular showcase for a sensational quartet of actors whose considerable talents are too often taken for granted. Nick Mancuso’s portrayal of Victor is an astonishing tour-de-force filled with bold strokes and audacious choices. As pretentious as Victor is – and he is — he takes no prisoners, and neither does Mancuso, whether he is roaring like a lion, whining like a schoolboy or whimpering like an abandoned child. This is a performance to reckon with.

(Off-screen Mancuso has been picking up a lot of hardware lately; a Best Actor award here, a Lifetime Achievement award there. It’s not hard to see why.)

As Dennis, the director with whom Victor has the time-honoured love-hate relationship, Art Hindle is a powerful sparring partner for Mancuso, conveying a potent mix of cunning and self-loathing with a haunting edge of sadness. Graham Greene is a buoyant, irrepressible Jack, bubbling with mischief, riffing on Shakespeare and salvation. And Nicholas Campbell is spellbinding as Victor’s practical, unsentimental father, reciting Dylan Thomas to his estranged son.

SHANNON: stellar

Two other performances that bring new and intriguing dimensions to Victor’s troubled reveries are especially worth noting. Polly Shannon, still as luminous and as lovely as she was when she played Margaret Trudeau 15 years ago, makes a stellar contribution as the actress assigned to play Victor’s much-maligned mother. And Sienna Guillory adds a wistful melancholy to the proceedings as Victor’s disappointed but still devoted daughter.

I don’t know if The Performance will be coming to a movie theatre near you or if Netflix will snap it up first. But if you enjoy films about show business and actors, add this one to your Must list.

Ed. note: Writer-director Stephen Wallis is clearly an actor’s director. After finishing The Performance, Wallis wrote and directed a new film, Defining Moments, with Burt Reynolds and – among others – Nicholas Campbell, Graham Greene, Sienna Guillory and Polly Shannon.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Doyle and the Dragons rule the TV roost tonight en route to their revealing Road To Riches (and high ratings)

HOW TO TAME YOUR DRAGONS: I’m kidding, of course. It can’t be done. But then, who’d want to?  Tonight you’ll discover more about them than you’ve ever known before. The Road to Riches, the special season finale of Dragon’s Den, airs  at 8 p.m. on CBC Television

DICKINSON: Dragon lady

and retraces the Dragons’ personal progress, from humble beginnings to self-made success. Arlene Dickinson came here from South Africa; Robert Herjavec grew up in a farm house in rural Croatia. Kevin O’Leary was an east coast hippie. Jim Treliving was raised in small town Manitoba. And Brett Wilson still describes himself as “a proud Prairie boy.” Dragons they may be, but each of them has paid a price for their riches, leaving broken marriages and personal regrets behind them. And each of them appears to be driven to accomplish still more. In anticipation of tonight’s finale the Toronto Star is currently publishing some exceptionally well-written profiles on the five,  culminating in the story on  Wilson in today’s edition. And auditions for new would-be entrepreneurs with creative ideas and money-making savvy began March 1 across the country. (For audition information and scheduling details, just click here.) In the meantime, as they wrap up their most successful season ever, our favourite five fearless  financiers  demonstrate that Dragons are made, not born, tonight at 8 pm on CBC-TV.

ACCORDING TO DOYLE: Just when we’d started to forget about Thomas Magnum and Jim Rockford, along comes a brand new P.I. to capture our fancy: Brawl-addicted maverick

HAWCO: hit series

Jake Doyle, a.k.a. emerging screen lion Allan Hawco. Set in Newfoundland, Hawco’s Republic Of Doyle is enjoying a very auspicious first season, and no wonder — it’s a light-hearted whodunit that refuses to take itself seriously. It’s not light on talent, however; guest stars adding sparks to the first 10 shows have included such heavy-hitters as Nicholas Campbell, Mark Critch, Cathy Jones, Robert Joy, Greg Malone, Shaun Majumder, Eric Peterson, Gordon Pinsent, Leah Pinsent, R. H. Thompson and Mary Walsh, and the first season isn’t over yet! Mix in with those three fabulous Doyle dames — Linda Boyd, Rachel Wilson and Krystin Pellerin, all three of whom seem to be revelling in their uncommonly strong roles — stir well with Sean McGinley’s solid portrayal of Doyle’s dad (and frequently unwilling partner,) and then add what may be the most gob-smackingly gorgeous views of St. John’s ever captured on film, and is it any wonder the series has already been picked up for a second season? If you’re not already addicted, you can sample it tonight at 9 pm, immediately following that splashy Dragons’ Den finale on CBC.

QUINTO: by George!

CASTING ABOUT: Heroes favourite Zachary Quinto is set to play George Gershwin in a new screen biography of the legendary US composer … Naomi Watts, who just gets better and better with every new role, is in T.O. with 007 alias Daniel Craig shooting a new thriller called Dream HouseLittle Mosque alumnus Derek McGrath is set to play a corrupt politico (“Isn’t that redundant?”) on She’s The Mayor, the new Vision/Zoomer series created by Jennifer Holness, Min Sook Lee and Sudz Sutherland. (Move over, Mayor Dan!) Natalie Portman will star in the screen version of Pride & Prejudice & Zombies. And no, I’m not making that up … Blake Lively is set to play Ryan Reynolds’ love interest in The Green Lantern… and Dermot Mulroney is set to pick up where James Garner left off in the all-new Rockford Files. And yes, those rumors are true: The pilot for a new and updated Hawaii Fivc-O has already been shot. Will this one get picked up too? Stay tuned.

TOMORROW:

Funnyman Colin Mochrie, cuisine queen Sara Waxman and

platinum record collectors Sharon, Lois & Bram — at the same party?

As Hollywood watches, Cher finally thanks her Moonstruck mentor Jewison for her Oscar (at last!)

HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD:  When Nicholas Campbell, Angie Dickinson and Shawn Doyle are members of the audience, sitting a few rows ahead of Canadian uber-agent Michael Levine, Beverly Hills columnist George Christy and M.A.S.H. producer Burt Metcalfe, you know there’s something special happening on stage. And what is happening on stage at the L.A. County Museum of Art is very special indeed.

Assembled to tell tales, some tall, some small, are an illustrious clutch of Oscar winners: Classic beauty Eva Marie Saint, still-ravishing screen siren Faye Dunaway, artful cinematographer Haskell Wexler, brilliant songwriters Marilyn & Alan Bergman. Joining them is still-irrepressible funnyman Carl Reiner. Emceeing the evening is veteran film historian Leonard Maltin. And sitting between Maltin and Dunaway is the subject of all their stories, and the object of their bubbling affection: Screen director Norman Jewison.

Reiner and Saint, of course, led the all-star cast of Jewison’s classic comedy hit The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming;  even before that, Reiner had scripted Jewison’ s curious comedy about marketing immortality, The Art Of Love, with Ms. Dickinson  and Dick Van Dyke. Dunaway had co-starred with Steve McQueen in Jewison’s notorious romantic thriller, The Thomas Crown Affair.  Haskell Wexler owned the eyes behind the camera on such diverse Jewison films as In The Heat Of The Night and Other People’s Money.  And Marilyn & Alan Bergman wrote the original songs, now American standards, that graced such Jewison gems as Best Friends (How Do You Keep The Music Playing) and Thomas Crown Affair (Windmills Of Your Mind.) And all of them have some wonderful tales to tell. But the master story teller, naturally, is Jewison himself. 

When he tells us how Steve McQueen misbehaved on Thomas Crown Affair, going AWOL in a dune buggy while the cast and crew watched the light fade, Dunaway is clearly entranced. “I never knew that!” she exclaims. Thomas Crown was only her third film, she says; Warren Beattywas still locked in the editing room with Bonnie & Clyde,  and Jewison had hired her after seeing her off-Broadway in Hogan’s Goat. And when McQueen disappeared from the set, Jewison had told her to wait in her trailer until he called her. “And I did what I was told!” she adds, chuckling softly.

The  tribute to Jewison is originally slated to run 45-60 minutes, but the hush from the appreciative crowd inspires Maltin to let his all-star gabbers hold sway. Reiner, who played a leading man for the first time in his life in Jewison’s Russians Are Coming, reveals that the director had originally asked him to play the Russian sailor, a plum role that Alan Arkin eventually won. Reiner and Saint further regale the audience with tales of white-knuckle flights to Jewison locations;  Wexler reminds us of Jewison the activist and his deep commitment to U.S. civil rights; and the Bergmans praise him as one of only two directors they’ve worked with (the other, sadly, being his friend, the late Sydney Pollack) whose passion for music gives him a unique  understanding of  the potential of original music in screen storytelling.

The near-capacity crowd is clearly enthralled. Close to the front LACMA honcho Ian Birney, another transplanted Canadian, is grinning happily. Beside him sit the co-hosts of the event, Film Independent’s Dawn Hudson and Canadian Film Centre chief  Slawko Klymkiw, beaming like proud parents. Klymkiw, aided and abetted by Birney and Hudson, has initiated this event (among others) to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Toronto film centre Jewison founded two decades earlier, and celebrated alumni Christina Jennings and Clement Virgo, among others, are sitting in the theatre with the rest of his fans.

Leonard Maltin is admittedly fascinated by the fact that in addition to international megahits as Jesus Christ Superstar and Fiddler On The Roof, this Canadian director, in his opinion, has  also produced some of the most quintessentially American films ever to come out of Hollywood. And the on-stage showbiz love-in is well into its second hour when Maltin raises the subject of another polished Jewison diamond, Moonstruck, which will be screened immediately following the tribute. And then he utters the magic phrase that so many of us have been hoping to hear.

“Let’s invite Cher up here,” says Leonard Maltin.

A gasp from the audience, a truly all-ages group from 9 to 99, as a woman seated near the front of the house makes her way to the stairs leading up to the stage,  her long black hair a perfect contrast to her stylish white designer duds and funky white fedora. Cher is on stage kissing Reiner, shaking hands with Saint, embracing Dunaway — the audience is standing now, and cheering — and greets Jewison with an enormous bear hug. Cher is in the house, and an already excited crowd is now deliriously beside themselves.

The fun is just beginning. When she confesses she was a “bad kid” on Moonstruck, Jewison smiles in tacit agreement. “But,” he interjects,” you’re a good girl tonight.” Yes, she agrees, she’s a good girl tonight. And she proves it, by telling wonderful anecdotes, revealing and occasionally touching, about the fact that Jewison had to cajole, trick and at times even threaten her to enable her to do the best screen work of her career. 

She tells tales out of school, too, stories that make Jewison laugh out loud. About how he finally got Nicolas Cage to loosen up for a scene by relentlessly goading him until Cage picked up a chair and threw it across the room. “And we were all shocked,” she recalls, “and we all looked at Norman, waiting for him to say something, anything! …  and Norman said, ‘Action!’  And he got the scene he wanted.”

When she and Jewison weren’t at odds with other — a creative tension she now suspects he manufactured, to enhance her performance — they were a formidable tag team. For one thing, they both wanted Cage for her leading man. Cher had seen him in Peggy Sue Got Married, “and I thought he was terrific.”

And Jewison remembers thinking that the young actor, at that time, was clearly “the most tortured soul in Hollywood.”

“So of course Norman and I thought he’d be perfect for the role!” adds Cher, grinning.

When MGM balked at casting Cage, she huddled with Norman and then told her manager to tell the studio she would walk out on the picture if they didn’t hire Cage. “Which, of course, I had no intention of doing!” she add with a guilty grin.

But hey, she and Norman got the leading man they wanted. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Movie history, that is. Which brings me to another piece of movie history.  When Cher won her Best Actress Oscar for Moonstruck, she facetiously thanked her hairdresser and her make-up artist, but neglected to acknowledge the guardian angel of her performance.

On Friday night she makes up for that 20-year-old gaffe.  After a brief intermission she returns to the stage to introduce Moonstruck, and gives the speech she should have given 20 years ago at the Academy Awards. It is short, sweet and unmistakably sincere — a luscious cherry to top a spectacularly rich evening.

* * *

BEV ON THE BEACH: Who was the alabaster blonde walking on the sand with Norman Jewison yesterday? None other than CTV  charmer Beverly Thomson, who got up Friday at 3 a.m., co-hosted the morning edition of Canada A.M., and then hit the airport. An understandably bleary-eyed Thompson made it to Los Angeles in time to attend the tribute at LACMA and yesterday hit the beach to tape an exclusive interview with Jewison in Malibu. And you can see it too, tomorrow morning on CTV.