‘Being a nice guy is acting’ and more great Roger Moore quotes

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Roger Moore, who died Tuesday aged 89, told me that really he was a frustrated bank robber. “It’s only fear that’s stopped me from robbing banks, and that’s why I’m a movie actor. I’d get caught. I’ve never been caught acting.”

I spoke to him at Pinewood Studios on Dec. 10 1984 on the set of his last James Bond picture, “A View to a Kill”. He had just been shooting an action scene with co-star Tanya Roberts. Unruffled, he sat on a director’s chair in the middle of a very cold soundstage smoking the first of several cigars he would enjoy through the day.

“The boilers are gone,” he said. “This centre of the British film industry on a Monday morning is freeze-your-bollocks-off time.”

The debonair star did not look it, but he was 57 years old at the time and so I asked if there would be an eighth 007 outing for him.

“The answer is always the same,” he said. “No.”

“Until it’s yes,” I said.

“Until it’s yes. One thing you can be sure about me is that I always tell the truth until I open my mouth. Then, I lie.”

Here are some highlights from my interview:

On Westerns:

“‘The Alaskans’ was almost a Western: a frozen Western. I didn’t want to do ‘Maverick’ at all. I didn’t want to replace Jim Garner. They said I wasn’t replacing him, that it was an entirely different character [cousin Beauregard] but I noticed all the trousers had J. Garner written inside.”

On blinking when guns go off:

“Everybody blinks, actually. You see Western stars, they’re always squinting their eyes. That’s because they’re pinching the muscles to stop themselves from blinking. The trouble with me is that I blink before it goes off because I know it’s going to go off. But there you are. I’m getting better.”

On taking over as James Bond:

“I don’t suppose anybody else worked as cheap as me or turned up on time. I’d been asked earlier when it appeared that Sean would leave but he went back and did another one. When he finally took a powder, they came back to me. I have no pride whatsoever. Always ready.”

On Bond villains:

“Christopher Walken is a lovely fella. Very interesting. Good actor. Very pleasant to work with too. Mind you, all my villains that I’ve had in Bond have been very good. I envy them all because they’ve got the best part. They really do. Bloody villains!”

On playing villains:

“It depends. You know, leading film actors have a persona when they play heroes so there are things they don’t do. I would love to play villains but they won’t let me. Nobody casts me as a villain. In a certain sense I can see why. There are people who go to see you for the type of thing you do and you might piss them off by being nasty. But being rotten, they’re the best parts. That would be natural to me. This is acting. Being a nice guy is acting because really underneath, I’m a shit.”

On not given credit for working hard:

“I don’t give a shit. I get paid. If acting shows onscreen then it’s wrong. Film acting is listening and re-acting. Unless, of course, you’re playing what I call the lovely character parts where you wear a a false nose and beard and hide behind things. As a leading man, you have no physical things to hid behind. You haven’t got the hump, you know? You can’t do, ‘The bells! The bells!’, all that crap. Which is fun, you know, fun to do.”

On having good luck:

“I’ve always been rather surprised, actually, that I was employed. I didn’t expect not to be employed but I’m always surprised when I am. I’ve been very lucky. It’s luck in the first place to be there at the right time. It’s luck that the part comes along. It’s luck that you’re accepted in it. It’s luck that they come back for more. And it’s their bad luck because they’ve got to watch it.”

On his career:

“At the beginning of my film career, literally within the same week as I signed for MGM, I was offered The Old Vic. Well, I might have gone on carrying a spear for 40 years or I might gone on to be a classical actor. Who knows? I have a feeling I’d have been carrying a fucking spear. But I only say things like that because I’m modest.”

On self-confidence:

“I used to be terribly timid. I would rather not eat than go into a restaurant on my own. Even now, I hate that. I sort of covered up my timidity by being ingratiatingly charming. Which is why I got away with murder with teachers at school. Smile a lot. I recall when I came out of the army and started in repertory, a director, or producer as we used to call them, said, ‘You’re not very good. Smile a lot when you come on.’ So, I smile a lot.”

On comedy in his Bond films:

“I always wanted more humour in the films. ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’, I think had all the right ingredients to it. ‘Octopussy’ worked too in terms of the humour that I tried to get in. A lot of the time, it’s impossible to get any humour in. There are moments when you have to be serious and they’re the moments when I really want to laugh my head off. You think, ‘This is a load of cobblers.’”

On his political views:

“I avoid expressing them. I’m slightly to the right of Attila the Hun, that’s all. If everybody knew my views, I’d make a lot of enemies. I believe in dictatorship as long as I’m the dictator. A benevolent dictatorship. I suppose I started off, as most young people do when they start thinking of politics, they’re communists. Then you become socialist. Then Labour. Then Liberal when you don’t which fucking direction you’re going, and then you end up being conservative.”

As it turned out, “A View to a Kill” was Moore’s final appearance as James Bond so I was pleased to catch him before it all ended. Moore’s first appearance in the role was in “Live and Let Die” (1963) followed by “The Man With the Golden Gun” (1974), “The Spy Who Loved Me” (1977), “Moonraker” (1979”, “For Your Eyes Only” (1981) and “Octopussy” (1983).

Posted in Film, Interviews, Memory Lane | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

KFMF: Adventure and tears as orchestra plays ‘Titanic Live’

By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – The Krakow Film Music Festival raised James Cameron’s “Titanic” to new heights as it screened to a live performance of James Horner’s Oscar-winning score to mark the film’s 20th anniversary.

The festival had planned to invite the American composer to celebrate the occasion before he died aged 61 on June 22, 2015. He was piloting a single-engine plane when it crashed into a remote area about 60 miles north of Santa Barbara in California.

“Titanic Live”, at Krakow’s Tauron arena, featured the Sinfonietta Cracovia with the Boys Choir of the Krakow Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Swiss conductor and composer Ludwig Wicki.

The exhilarating performance gave full measure to a score that encompasses lush orchestral themes, many of them with a Celtic theme, along with Irish jigs, thrilling percussion and romantic melodies. The festival handed out tissues ahead of time and many in the audience needed them as thrilling adventure turned to romantic tears.

Along with soaring strings came the evocative recorder and Irish bagpipes of Eric Rigler and the ethereal voices of the Boys Choir topped by the haunting voice of soloist Karolina Gorgol-Zaborniak used as a wordless instrument just as Norwegian star Sissel’s was in the film.

The exciting and ultimately moving score, of course, leads to the song “My Heart Will Go On” that Horner wrote in secret with Academy Award-winning lyricist Will Jennings and sung in the film by Celine Dion. In Krakow, Polish star Edyta Górniak claimed it for her own with a performance of subtlety and power.

When “Titanic” was released, James Horner told me that he almost didn’t write the film’s score because his first collaboration with James Cameron, on the film “Aliens”, had not been a happy one. The composer said: “It was a very difficult experience for both of us because there was so little time for such a mammoth job. I wasn’t able to give him everything he wanted.”

When the project finished, they went their separate ways but by the time “Titanic” came along, Cameron had fallen in love with Horner’s 1995 Oscar-nominated scores for “Braveheart” and “Apollo 13”. Horner told me: “When we finally communicated, we went in for a meeting and the past lasted for about a minute. We just started talking about ‘Titanic’.”

The composer (pictured left) joined the production in the last stages of filming but then there were the famous delays and Horner had to constantly re-organise and re-edit his music. In the end, the film has 138 minutes of score, excluding the dinner music played by chamber ensemble I Salonisti, unlike the original CD release, which Horner kept to around 73 minutes in order to focus on the romantic elements.

He wrote the song in secret because Cameron had made it known that he did not want a song in his picture. Horner told me: “I figured at the end of the movie I’d do what I always do, an end credit, and I was going to make it somewhat of a lullaby. I wanted it to be something elegiac like the closing scenes of ‘Braveheart’. I wanted it to have that kind of very wistful timeless quality.”

As time went by, however, he changed his mind: ““It was more of a compositional decision than a commercial one. I never really thought of the commercial side of it. I only thought about what was the best way to close this particular movie. A song, I felt, was the best solution.”

He didn’t tell anyone: “I kept it to myself. I didn’t discuss it with Jim. I wrote it. I played it for a friend. I played it for my daughter. But I didn’t tell anybody else about it. I took it to somebody I’ve worked with very closely before, Will Jennings, who’s a lyricist, and he loved it. I asked him to write words to it. I didn’t know at that stage what would happen. It was still a very closely held secret. He wrote what turned out to be the song in the film.”

Horner had known Celine Dion for years and he knew the Canadian singer recorded for Sony Music, which would release the film’s soundtrack: “I thought that was a very good political situation but the first and primary reason I went to her is because of her voice.”

He went to Las Vegas to speak to Dion but they decided to record a demo version in New York. Still, more people were there than Horner had expected: “I asked them all to just keep it quiet. Don’t mention it to Paramount, don’t mention it to Fox, don’t say anything. Because even with all of this, with all this power behind it, in Celine, it could be that Jim Cameron could still say, ‘No way, I’m not having a goddamned contemporary pop song in my movie!’”

He waited for a good moment to mention it to the director: “He’d liked what I’d been doing for a while. I’d had a good long streak of positive vibes. We went into his study and I played him the song. He said, ‘What is this? Is that Celine singing? What is this?’ I said, ‘Yes, what do you think of putting it in the movie? There was complete silence. He played it two or three more times and he said, ‘This is great!’ And it was sold.”

The movie won 11 Academy Awards including best picture and it has grossed more than $2 billion around the world. Horner won the Academy Award for best original music and the soundtrack became a bestseller. The composer and lyricist Jennings won the Oscar for best song and Dion’s recording also was an international smash hit.

Posted in Film, Krakow Film Music Festival, Music, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

KFMF: Great composers light the beacon for 10th anniversary

By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – The Krakow Film Music Festival celebrated its 10th anniversary on Saturday night with a spectacular concert of movie and television themes by some of the greatest names in film composing.

The three-hour show at the packed Tauron Arena included themes and songs by James Newton Howard, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, Alan Menken, John Williams, Alan Menken and Howard Shore, who was awarded the annual Kilar Award.

The exhilarating Beethoven Academy Orchestra performed, often accompanied by the splendid Pro Musica Mundi Choir and an assortment of guest soloists including Polish stars Edyta Górniak and Natasza Urbańska,

Featured composers from the younger generation included Poland’s Abel Korzeniowski and Maciej Zieliński, Canada’s Trevor Morris, and Bulgaria’s Atanas Valkov, and Sean Callery, Justin Hurwitz, Jeff Russo, and Brian Tyler from the United States.

Howard Shore, who took the stage to the Jerry Goldsmith Fanfare to accept the Kilar Award – awarded to outstanding composers who are faithful to traditional composition – paid tribute to the late Polish composer Wojciech Kilar for whom the prize is named: “He was an inspiration; a great artist in the the concert hall as well as in film.”

Shore’s music from “The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” kicked off the evening with festival regular Diego Navarro at his emotional best with the baton. Boy soprano Szymon Zawadziński took stage front and met the challenge admirably with fellow sopranos Kasper Kądziołek and Krystian Kukla at the back with the Pro Musica Mundi Choir.

Navarro remained as conductor for several more treats including John Williams’s stirring “Imperial March” and sweet “Princess Leia’s Theme” from “Star Wars” with Sara Andon in typically marvellous form on flute for the latter. The choir added soaring voices again to Jan A.P. Kaczmarek’s gorgeous “Finding Neverland”.

James Newton Howard sent greetings via video and Natasza Urbańska’s deep, breathy voice added pleasing drama to his cue “The Hanging Tree” from “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1”. Swiss musician Martin Tillman (pictured) added the gravity of his electric cello to Maciej Zieliński’s dark and tense music from “Humble Servants” along with Polish percussionist Michał Dąbrówka. Navarro continued at the podium for Jeff Russo’s evocative “Fargo” and Alan Menken’s lyrical “Beauty and the Beast” (a new arrangement by Michael ‘Koz’ Kosarin; conductor, music arranger and song producer for the new film starring Emma Watson) with the perfect tones Sara Andon’s flute.

Brian Tyler closed the first half of the show as he conducted an explosive display of musical pyrotechnics that involved the entire orchestra and chorus. It included his scores from “Thor: The Dark World”, “Power Rangers” with Martin Tillman on electric cello, “Assassin’s Creed IV: The Black Flag”,  “The Fast and the Furious 8” with Aleksander Milwiw-Baron’s intense electric guitar, the debut of “The Mummy: Ahmet Theme” from the upcoming Tom Cruise film as Piotr Steczek added pleasing flavour on the duduk,  a double-reed woodwind flute, and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”.

Hans Zimmer’s thrilling cue “Inception: Time” kicked off the second half and he sent video greetings before Navarro took the baton again in his usual dazzling manner. Joanna Radziszewska provided the lofty vocals and Aleksander Milwiw-Baron amplified the exciting theme on electric guitar. Milwiw-Baron stayed for the world premiere of Atanas Valkov’s score for the film “Belfer”, which also featured the composer on piano and moog and Michał Dąbrówka on percussion.

Trevor Morris took the baton to conduct a dynamic suite from the NBC fantasy television series “Emerald City” followed by Abel Korzeniowski with spooky tones from Showtime’s horror series “Penny Dreadful”.

Navarro conducted orchestra and choir in a lovely performance of Jan A.P. Kaczmarek’s beautiful music for “Unfaithful” and then Edyta Górniak took to the stage with Michał Dąbrówka on percussion for a powerful rendition of “Listen”, which Henry Krieger, Scott Cutler, Anne Preven and Beyoncé Knowles wrote for the movie “Dreamgirls”.

Composer Sean Callery (above) proved a revelation on piano as he led a fine jazz ensemble through the Polish premiere of his themes for Showtime’s “Homeland” and Twentieth Century Fox TV’s “24: New York Gets Jacked”. With tremendous flare, Callery was joined by Przemysław Sokół on trumpet, Benoit Grey on double bass, Jamie Forsyth on percussion, Szymon Mika on electric guitar. Perhaps next time, they will be asked to perform a full recital.

Justin Horwitz’s Oscar-winning score from “La La Land” took the concert toward conclusion with a group of greatly entertaining players: Sebastian Sołdrzyński on trumpet, Tomasz Gajewski on trombone, Maciej Salus on guitar, Ireneusz Boczek on piano, Maciej Hałoń on drums and Marek Lewandowski on double bass.

During proceedings Varese Sarabande’s Robert Townson was awarded the FMF Ambassador Award and Paweł Górniak won the annual FMF Young Talent Award. Orchestra and chorus performed his winning entry, a cue for “Emerald City”.

After Howard Shore received the Kilar Award (below), the crowd-pleasing concert closed with a reminder of the Canadian composer’s immense talent, a suite that featured “The Lighting of the Beacons” from “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” plus “The Last March of the Ent”, “Mount Doom” and “The Destruction of the Ring” (with vocals by Joanna Radziszewska) from “The Lord of the Rings”.

KFMF photos: Wojciech Wandzel; Callery & Tillman photos: Doreen Ringer-Ross

Posted in Film, Krakow Film Music Festival, Music, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

KFMF: Septuagenarian Giorgio Moroder rocks the night

By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – Composer and music producer Giorgio Moroder showed that he has lost none of his steam at 77 as he was the special guest dee-jay at an Eighties-style late night street party as part of the Krakow Film Music Festival.

Dance2Cinema: Midnight Express Party was a free show on Jan Nowak-Jeziorański Square next to the city’s train station that attracted a huge crowed eager to disco-dance the night away.

The Italian musician has won three Academy Awards – one for best original score for Alan Parker’s drugs drama “Midnight Express” (1978) and the others for best song: “Flashdance … What a Feeling” (lyrics by Keith Forsey and Irene Cara) for Adrian Lyne’s “Flashdance” (1983) and “Take My Breath Away” (lyrics by Tom Whitlock) from Tony Scott’s airforce thriller “Top Gun” (1986).

His set at the street party included his own music including his contribution to the North American release of Wolfgang Petersen’s “The Neverending Story” (1984) plus hits by David Bowie, Cher, Kylie Minogue and Daft Punk.

Documentary producer, actress and vocalist Maria Sadowska opened the night’s entertainment. Her 2006 jazz album “Tribute to Komeda” celebrated the work of Polish film composer Krzysztof Komeda who scored Roman Polanski’s films “Knife in the Water” (1962), “Cul-de-sac” (1966), “The Fearless Vampire Killers” (1967), and “Rosemary’s Baby” (1968).

Polish dee-jay, composer and producer Wojtek Urbański, who has composed music usually with a techno beat for animation, theatrical performances, films and fashion shows, closed the outdoor show.

Posted in Film, Krakow Film Music Festival, Music | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

KFMF: Jean-Michel Bernard puts fresh face on old film scores

By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – With charm, skill and a good deal of wit, French pianist, composer, educator, orchestrator, and music producer Jean-Michel Bernard provided a fresh perspective on a range of well-known movie and television themes on Thursday night.

Highlights included Lalo Schifrin’s beautiful theme for Stuart Rosenberg’s prison picture “Cool Hand Luke” (1967) featuring the peerless Sara Andon (pictured above) on flute, sparkling renditions of Schifrin’s themes for the Sixties TV shows “Mannix” and “Mission: Impossible”, Alex North’s inspired music for Stanley Kubrick’s epic “Spartacus” (1960) and Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderful score for Paul Verhoeven’s racy “Basic Instinct” (1992)

The two-hour recital in the Theatre Hall at ICE Krakow was part of the Krakow Film Music Festival series Cinematic Piano in which recognised artists are invited to present original interpretations of film music.

Alone at the keyboard, Bernard displayed great virtuosity with a winning command of a wide variety of movie cues, themes and melodies gained from classical training and playing the blues. He said, “After four years playing with Ray Charles, maybe I can play some blues.”

“To play at the best film music festival in the world is a great honour,” the Frenchman said and he began with a selection of pieces by French composers: the music from Phillipe Sarde’s song “La Chanson d’Helene” sung by Romy Schneider in Claude Sautet’s romantic drama “The Things of Life” (1970); Francois de Roubaix’s principal theme for Jose Giovanni’s crime drama “Scoumone” (1972) starring Jean-Paul Belmondo and Claudia Cardinale; and Francis Lai’s theme from Claude Lelouch’s drama “Live for Life” (1967) starring Yves Montand, Candice Bergen and Annie Girardot.

A handful of themes illustrated his own talent for writing movie scores as a cue from Anne Giafferi’s romantic comedy “Ange et Gabrielle” (2015, a.k.a. “Love at First Child), starring Isabelle Carre and Patrick Bruel, led to his opening title theme for Michel Gondry’s comedy drama “The Science of Sleep” (2006) starring Gael Garcia Bernal and Charlotte Gainsbourg.

Bernard’s wife Kimiko Ono (pictured above) lent her restrained and lovely voice to his song “Here With You” (lyrics by Charlie Kaufman) from Gondry’s “Human Nature” (2001) starring Tim Robbins, Rhys Ifans and Patricia Arquette, who sang it in the picture. Ono stayed for Bernard’s “Golden the Pony Boy” (for which she wrote the lyrics), the end-title song from “The Science of Sleep”. They were joined by cellist Jan Stoklosa, who remained to accompany the piano on a radio program theme written by Bernard titled “Je vous écris du plus lointain de mes rêves”.

Bernard ended the set with the music from his plaintive song “Mr. Fletcher’s Song” (lyrics by Paul Barman and Michel Gondry) from Gondry’s “Be Kind Rewind” (2008) starring Jack Black, Yaslin Bey and Danny Glover, who played Mr. Fletcher. The song was performed in the film by Bernard and the late blues singer Moe Holmes.

Moving to the Hollywood greats, Bernard treated the audience to inventive examinations of familiar themes that included John Williams’s “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” (Steven Spielberg, 1982) and “Schindler’s List” (Spielberg, 1983), Bernard Hermann’s “Taxi Driver” (Martin Scorcese, 1976), Bill Lee’s “Mo’ Better Blues” (Spike Lee, 1990), Ennio Morricone’s “The Fifth Day of Piece” (Giuliano Montaldo, 1970)  and Ryüchi Sakamoto’s “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” (Nagisa Ôshima, 1983).

Bernard has also collaborated with Lalo Schifrin and he praised the great Argentinian composer for his influence on film music. He followed Schifrin’s “Cool Hand Luke” theme with a suite from his scores for Richard Lester’s “The Four Musketeers” (1974) and Richard Fleischer’s “Che!” (1969) that Bernard called “The Cheketeers”, and the TV themes “Mannix” and “Mission: Impossible”.

Kimiko Ono performed delightfully Schifrin’s song “That Night” (lyrics by Norman Gimbel), which Sally Stevens sang in Mark Rydell’s drama “The Fox” (1967), and following “Spartacus” and “Basic Instinct”, Bernard ended the evening with a typically cheeky impromptu Chopin fantasy.

After prolonged standing applause for an evening’s entertainment during which the pianist sometimes ventured successfully into Victor Borge territory, Bernard returned to the piano to sign off with a piece he called “Rappel (Recall): A Handful of Keys” in tribute to Fats Waller’s 1938 album of that name.

Posted in Film, Krakow Film Music Festival, Music, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

KFMF: Doldinger’s ‘Neverending Story’ score charms festival

By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – The presence of German saxophonist and film composer Klaus Doldinger appeared to electrify conductor Christian Schumann and the Sinfonietta Cracovia as they performed the maestro’s score for “The Neverending Story” at the ICE Krakow on Thursday night.

Doldinger, 81, added a vital charge to the proceedings as a packed audience, many with children, responded warmly to the story-telling charms of Wolfgang Petersen’s 1984 fantasy film.

Schumann, the Sinfonietta and Cracow Singers performed the composer’s adventuresome operatic score with great verve.

The film tells of a young lad named Bastian (Barret Oliver) who is given a book that transports him to a phantasmagorical world filled with strange creatures where the land of Fantasia is under threat.

Only another boy, Atreyu (Noel Hathaway) can save the place through a series of Herculean-like hurdles and in the end only with the aid of Bastian’s imagination.

The film did not do so well in North America but it was a hit everywhere else and here at the Krakow Film Music Festival, it was easy to see why. A digitally enhanced German version in English with Polish subtitles was screened without the Giorgio Moroder tracks that were added for the U.S. release.

Doldinger’s score moved as swiftly as the adventure with sweeping strings flying as high as the film’s delightful Luck Dragon.

Pan pipes came in for the occasional quiet moments of sadness but the pace resumed as the challenges came thick and fast for Atreyu. The score’s wit and agility matched the action and helped make the sometimes clunky special effects become charming.

As the Cracow Singers joined for Bastian’s joyous flight of fancy at the end of the picture, the audience was all smiles and offered a standing ovation to conductor and orchestra and chorus. That was repeated when Doldinger climbed onto the stage with his saxophone and reprised the engaging main theme melody.

Photos: Wojciech Wandze

Posted in Film, Krakow Film Music Festival, Music, Reviews | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

KFMF: Krakow salutes one of its own: Abel Korzeniowski

By Ray Bennett

Krakow – Composer Abel Korzeniowski, who left Poland to find success scoring films in Hollywood, was given the key to the city of his birth and standing ovations following a concert of his music at the ICE Krakow Congress Centre on Wednesday night.

One of the highlights of this week’s Krakow Film Music Festival, the concert saw Korzeniowski for the first time conduct suites of his scores from the TV series “Penny Dreadful” and the films “Romeo & Juliet”, “Nocturnal Animals”, “A Single Man”, “W.E.” and “Escape From Tomorrow”.

With images from the 19th-century horror tale “Penny Dreadful” onscreen, pianist Krzysztof Ksiazek’s low notes led to deep brass sounds and a slow drum beat as the composer’s cues for the series began. Dark and creepy scenes of running insects and a crow’s head merged with human decadence and a slithering serpent as the music increased in pace.

Strings rose as a blade cut through flesh onscreen and began to shimmer intensely when a flock of birds filled the screen and the music echoed the bleak and terrible images.

There is lots of gaslight villainy in “Penny Dreadful” that the composer underscored with the portentous strings of the Beethoven Academy Orchestra with concert master Pawel Wajrak, and a solo by violinist Piotr Tarcholik added a nuance of dread.

Michal Dabek on cello and Marta Czepielowska on viola also featured as images from the TV series moved from candlelit menace to Grand Guignol to scenes of bucolic harmony.

A theatrical scene filled with raw flames was met with increased excitement by the full orchestra and then, suddenly, there was a sweet waltz on the piano as the show’s stars Josh Hartnett and Eva Green danced together. Step by step, Korzeniowski’s agile score amplified grim violence and mirrored torn anguish and longing. Eva Green (pictured left) does a lot of staring and glowering in “Penny Dreadful” and she does it well. The composer demonstrated, though, how a subtle cue can help inform the storm of emotions hidden by a beautiful face in repose.

With her intense eyes, Amy Adams (below) is even better at saying a great deal when not speaking. The cues from “Nocturnal Animals” in the second half of the concert, many of them featuring strings reminiscent of those heard in the noir Hollywood films of the Forties, showed again how great acting is aided by a fine piece of music.

The Tom Ford film has Adams as a sophisticated but lonely woman trying to come to grips with her past and Jake Gyllenhaal as the husband she spurned. She reads a bitter novel that he has written, a piece of lurid pulp fiction, that she sees as a film within the film. Korzeniowski’s strings were filled with foreboding in the scenes of rape and murder and then piano and harp underscored the woman’s silent anguish and helped to fill Adams’s expressive eyes with immense sadness and regret.

Colin Firth, in “A Single Man”, embodied director Ford’s taste for silent meditation supported by strings, which contrasted with the romantic piano that accompanied the first flush of love in Carlo Carlei’s “Romeo & Juliet” (2013). Cues followed from Madonna’s “W.E.” with a rousing finale from “Escape From Tomorrow”.

Obviously touched by the resounding ovations in his home town, Korzeniowski accepted the key to the city from Mayor Jacek Majchrowski (pictured left with concert host Magda Miska-Jackowska) and gave emotional thanks to Hollywood agent Christine Russell, who was in the audience: “She was the one who made this possible,” he said. “Without her, I wouldn’t have written the music for these films.”

KFMF photos by Robert Slusniak

Posted in Krakow Film Music Festival, Music, News, Reviews, Television | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Krakow Film Music Festival celebrates first decade

By Ray Bennett

KRAKOW – The 10th annual Krakow Film Music Festival (KFMF) kicked off today and as organisers looked back on the domestic and international success of the Polish event, there was one key element: “The magic word is passion,” said Jan A.P. Kaczmarek.

The Polish composer, whose Oscar-winning score for “Finding Neverland” will feature in the All is Film Music anniversary gala on Saturday, said at the opening media conference, “Passion has accompanied the festival as it has grown. I have always admired the style of the festival.”

Krakow’s own Abel Korzeniowski, whose scores for films such as “A Single Man”, “Romeo & Juliet” and “Nocturnal Animals” have made him much in demand in Hollywood, said that all the film composers in the film capital knew about KFMF: “They all want to come here. The atmosphere is wonderful and the performances are excellent. It’s not easy to perform film music. You need large orchestras, a big choir and a lot of work to make it successful.”

Korzeniowski said that for the first time he will conduct a concert of his film music that he has prepared especially for Krakow. The concert is at the ICE Krakow tonight.

Los Angeles-based Canadian composer Trevor Morris, whose music from the TV series “Emerald City” will be performed during Saturday night’s gala, said: “This is my third time here. I’ve been to other film music festivals around the world and there’s nothing like this place.”

This year’s events also will feature Howard Shore’s music for “The Lord of the Rings”, John Williams’s “Star Wars” and

Kaczmarek’s “Dreamer”. There are chamber film music concerts, a dance party dee-jayed by Italian composer Giorgio Moroder, the Polish premiere of Matt Schrader’s “Score: A Film Music Documentary”, and two films with live music from Wolfgang Petersen’s “The Neverending Story”, score by Klaus Doldinger, and James Cameron’s “Titanic”, score by James Horner.

At the media event, Deputy Mayor Andrzej Kulig had words of praise for the annual event: “We don’t need to persuade anyone that the 10 years of the festival have been 10 years of success.”

Festival artistic director and organiser Robert Piaskowski said, “We started from scratch 10 years ago and we have always wanted a wide variety of film music. We want to show that this festival gives people joy. Our plans for the future are big because film music keeps expanding.”

Varese Sarabande’s Robert Townson, who has produced the commemorative festival CD, said, “I love the gathering together of film composers who genuinely pleased to see their names along with others they admire. Film music is an international art form and we should light a cauldron outside in Krakow as it is an Olympic-sized event. The real FMF flame burns in our hearts.”

Top photo (l-r): RMF Classic radio presenter and festival host Magda Miśka-Jackowska, Jan A.P. Kaczmarek, Trevor Morris, Abel Korzeniowski, Deputy Mayor Andrzej Kulig, Robert Townson, Robert Piaskowski and RMF Classic Deputy Program Director Pawel Pawlik.

(Photo: Ray Bennett)

Posted in Film, Krakow Film Music Festival, Music, News | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When life meant happy days for Erin Moran

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – “There is a lot of pressure. You’ve got to be thin. You’ve got to look pretty. You’ve got to look good. There’s a lot of competition, There’s too much to worry about.” That was “Happy Days” star Erin Moran speaking to me in 1982 just before the launch of “Joanie Loves Chachi”.

The actress has died from cancer aged 56 after a difficult adult life following her childhood stardom that began with commercials and a regular role on the U.S. drama series “Daktari” when she was 6 years-old.

She was in a James Garner and Debbie Reynolds picture titled “How Sweet It Is!” (1968), had guest roles on popular sitcoms of the period such as “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father” and “My Three Sons” and she was a regular on “The Don Rickles Show” (1972).

Moran, who was 21 when I interviewed her, had starred as Joanie Cunningham on one of the era’s most popular shows since she was 13.  She did not appear to be daunted by the challenges and pitfalls of early attention.

“I am a competitor but not in that respect. It’s too much for me,” she said. “I’m too kicked back for that. I do get crazy but not a lot. I’m a Libra so I weigh things up. I think about it and get down to me. What’s important … letting this thing ruin me or to be happy? I just want to be happy. That’s my motto. That’s all I want to be, is happy.”

The late Garry Marshall, who wrote and produced “How Sweet It Is!” (with Jerry Belson), told me: “I found this little girl who was missing three teeth in the front of her mouth and I hired her for the film. I thought, ‘This little girl has very good timing for such a little person.’ That was it. A few years later when we were casting ‘Happy Days’, she came along and she had teeth this time. She looked a little different but she still had that instinct for timing with no fear. Many kids have fear and get inhibited.”

Moran was not in the first pilot, which did not sell, but she was cast in the second along with Henry Winkler and Ron Howard. “She’s spent 9 years with us. I watched her grow up. I watched graduate from school on the Paramount lot and I watched her become a young lady,” Marshall said.

He created “Joanie Loves Chachi”, he told me, because of his love of sports and he used a farm-team system to develop his shows. Scott Baio (pictured with Moran below) had joined “Happy Days” as Chachi in Season 5 and later became Joanie’s long-time steady. They both had singing talent and Marshall decided that music would be the key to a new spinoff following “Laverne & Shirley” and “Mork & Mindy”.

“Just to say ‘here are two good actors, let’s make another show’ is not quite enough for me,” he told me. “But they both sang so well and we kind of let them break that in on ‘Happy Days’, and that plus their acting ability makes it worth doing another show. I just hope it works.”

It didn’t. “Joanie Loves Chachi” lasted 17 episodes and the two performers returned to the original show for the final season. After “Happy Days” wound down in 1984, Moran’s career floundered with a few appearances on “The Love Boat” and sporadic roles on shows such as “Murder, She Wrote” and “ “Diagnosis Murder”. She died on April 22, survived by her second husband, Steven Fleischmann, with whom reportedly she had fallen upon hard times.

Back in 1982, those dark clouds seemed far away although there were times on “Happy Days” that were difficult, she said: “I always played two or three years younger and that was hard from the start. I wanted to grow up but the character wasn’t growing as fast I was. Everything was awkward for me but it worked out. The thing with Joanie is she’s just an all-around normal American girl. Nothing’s unusual with her, nothing’s outrageous. I don’t have anyone approaching me about taking off my clothes or doing pinups. It’s a family show and I don’t have those offers. With Valerie Bertinelli (“One Day at a Time”), it’s a different story. She’s got a lot more maturity and it’s modern.”

Competition for roles didn’t bother her anyway, she told me: “Competing with other girls; I stopped doing that. I used to when I was younger but I can’t. I just can’t. If I start worrying about that then it gets crazy. It doesn’t get you anywhere. One day, I’d like to get a real, good, meaty role. Someone like Sally Field, I look at her work, at her movies, and I just think, ‘God!’ When Natalie Wood died [1981], that killed me. I’ve always wanted to meet that lady. She’s my favourite. If I idolised anyone, I idolised her. This is what I look forward to; those types of roles. Those types of characters, because it’s pretty close to where I am and what I think I can achieve.”

Posted in Interviews, Memory Lane, Television | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

As he turns 80, ten Jack Nicholson films you should see

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – The phone rang on my desk at The Hollywood Reporter and a deep, familiar voice said, “Ray? Hey, it’s Jack.” It was in the run-up to the Academy Awards in 1998 and I was expecting the call but I was impressed that he knew he didn’t need to say his full name.

When I’d met Jack Nicholson at the launch of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” in 1975, he was exactly as you might expect: cocky, sly and charming, loving his late-bloomed stardom. When I spoke to him again 20 years later, he showed another side entirely.

The three-time Academy Award-winner turns 80 today and he wears his iconic status lightly. He hasn’t had a leading role in a film since “The Bucket List” in 2007 although reportedly he will star in a Sony Pictures Classics remake of the German comedy “Toni Erdmann”.

At the “Cuckoo’s Nest” launch, Nicholson was 38 with the slow, sensual voice of the alcoholic lawyer in “Easy Rider” (1969), the jaded pianist in “Five Easy Pieces” (1970), the cynical Navy man in “The Last Detail” (1973), and the wry private eye in “Chinatown” (1974).

In 1998, Nicholson had earned the 11th of what would become 12 Academy Award nominations and he would go on to win his third Oscar for James L. Brooks’s “As Good as It Gets”. The Reporter was doing a series on the nominees and we asked the actor if he would talk to us. He agreed, but on one condition. He would talk only about his leading lady, Helen Hunt, for whom he had rapturous praise. He spent the entire campaign talking about the co-star of Paul Reiser’s TV sitcom “Mad About You” and he was as persuasive as her performance. Hunt won as best actress.

In 1975, Nicholson had told me that it was a good thing that he had to wait for stardom: “As a result of not being well-known for much of my career, my instincts are aesthetic more than for the money. It’s the challenge of what I can do with a character that I look for. If you’re not growing as an actor, it’s not too much fun to do.”

The range of his films confirms that but he also made some very canny deals. While other top stars boasted about making $20 million per picture, Nicholson smiled, took half of that number but also a big chunk of the back-end. I’ve heard that he made upwards of $50 million for playing the Joker in “Batman” (1989).

There are some films, however, that made less of an impact and here are 10 titles that remain worth a look.

Carnal Knowledge (1971)

Directed by Mike Nichols with a script by cartoonist Jules Pfeiffer, it’s a comedy with a fierce undercurrent as it follows two men, played by Nicholson and Art Garfunkle, as they pursue their dreams and fantasies about women. Candice Bergen and Ann-Margret also are terrific as two of the females involved.

The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)

Nicholson at his most reflective and subtle as a talk-show host who is inveigled by his dodgy brother (Bruce Dern) to get involved with a scam involving mobsters in Atlantic City. Directed by Bob Rafelson (“Five Easy Pieces”), it’s a great look at the Boardwalk city with a fine contribution by Ellen Burstyn.

The Passenger (1975)

Framed as a thriller, Michelangelo Antonioni’s film is typically complex with Nicholson as a man seeking both fight and flight as he opts to change character and identity in Africa. David Locke (Nicholson) is an English reporter educated in America who stumbles upon a story about a hidden guerrilla force. When the chance presents itself for him to pretend he is dead and assume the life of somebody else, he takes it and follows leads to Munich, London and Barcelona.  Existential and absorbing.

The Fortune (1975)

Underrated screwball comedy set in Hollywood in the Twenties with Nicholson and Warren Beatty as conmen who set out to cheat a flamboyant woman (Stockard Channing) out of her inheritance. Directed by Mike Nichols, the film has a great look thanks to cinematographer John A. Alonzo and production designer Richard Sylbert with uncredited music by David Shire. It’s much more entertaining than its reviews suggest.

Goin’ South (1978)

Screwball Western that Nicholson directs as well as stars in. He plays a ne’er do well about to be hanged until a law crops up that allows any woman who owns land to claim a convict so long as he marries and works for her. Mary Steenburgen plays the woman and the pair of them have a rare old time. It’s her screen debut and John Belushi’s too. The cast includes Danny DeVito, Richard Bradford and Christopher Lloyd. The opening chase sequence is brilliant.

The Border (1982)

Penetrating drama about the U.S. Border Patrol in Texas with Californian transplant Charlie (Nicholson) and his high maintenance wife (Valerie Perrine) adjusting to the realities of life in El Paso. British director Tony Richardson takes an outsider’s view of the way corrupt cops deal with Hispanics who risk everything in search of what they think is a better life. Charlie’s life gets complicated when he tries to help a young Latina (Elphidia Carrillo) and her baby. Harvey Keitel, Shannon Wilcox and Warren Oates are in the cast and the music is by the always reliable Ry Cooder.

Prizzi’s Honor 1985

A very entertaining mafia movie with Nicholson as Charley Partanna, a made man who happens also to be a complete doofus. The star said he came to grips with the character only when director John Huston reminded him: “Remember, he’s stupid.” Anjelica Huston won the best supporting actress Oscar as Maerose, a far more resourceful mobster who steps in when Charley falls for a dangerous blonde specimen played by Kathleen Turner. Scripted by Richard Condon (and Janet Roach) based on his novel, it’s a riot with a score by Alex North.

The Two Jakes (1990)

Nicholson directed this contemplative sequel to “Chinatown” with a screenplay by the original film’s Robert Towne. Set following World War II in a Los Angeles much changed from the Thirties, it puts private eye Jake Gittes on the case of another Jake (Harvey Keitel), who says his wife (Meg Tilly) is bonking his partner. A set-up leads to a death and Gittes has to delve deeper as a beauty played by Madeleine Stowe complicates matters. Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography and music by Van Dyke Parks add to the film’s attractions.

Wolf (1994)

Vastly entertaining picture that became even better when I realised that it’s not a horror film. It’s a comedy, and very funny it is too. Nicholson plays a successful but meek publisher who is fired by his boss (Christopher Plummer) after he is betrayed by a young man he has mentored (James Spader). When his car hits a wolf that bites him, things change dramatically. Michelle Pfeiffer (pictured top with Nicholson) and Eileen Atkins are splendid in a terrific yarn directed by Mike Nichols with a score by Ennio Morricone.

About Schmidt (2002)

Alexander Payne (“Nebraska”) directs Nicholson as a cranky man in his mid-60s who, upon the death of his wife, decides to travel across the States in a trailer to see if he can prevent the wedding of his estranged daughter Jeanine (Hope Davis). A road picture with plenty of incident, it’s a showcase for the actor’s range matched by Kathy Bates, who also won an Oscar nomination.

Posted in Comment, Film, Interviews, Memory Lane, Reviews | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment