Los Angeles Times


You’re not just imagining it

LOS ANGELES TIMES

August 29, 2004

By James Verini

There is a prescient line of dialogue in Ron Howard’s “The Paper.” A disheveled but with-it reporter — you know the type — thinks the mob and the government are after him (it turns out he is sort of right).

When did you become so paranoid?” his skeptical editor asks.

“When they started plotting against me!” the reporter shoots back.
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He’s a man of revision

LOS ANGELES TIMES

July 9, 2004

By James Verini

On a recent bright, muggy morning in Manhattan, the screenwriter David Franzoni was reclining in a low-slung chair in the tapestry-strewn barroom at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, across from Central Park, talking about history. Franzoni, who writes big clanging period pictures like “Gladiator” and “Amistad,” was wearing jeans, an open-collared shirt and a loose jacket, and waving about a mop of thick black-gray hair (the last time he seems to have put a comb to it was when he accepted the Oscar for “Gladiator”).
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Gee, long time no see

LOS ANGELES TIMES

June 20, 2004

By James Verini

In this age of brand-enhanced, franchise-fattening “media events,” when inane sequels, incomprehensible prequels and unjustifiable remakes seem to be replacing original films like the pods replaced the real people in “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (which, by the way, is being remade for the third time), there may be scant room for a film like “Before Sunset.”
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She thrills at the chase and crash

LOS ANGELES TIMES

By James Verini

May 24, 2004

Movie and television stunt people basically fall into two categories: fighters (kung fu, swords, bar stools on heads) and drivers (police cars, Miami muscle boats, tanks). Debbie Evans is a driver. She can race, jump, incinerate or wreck just about anything on wheels. She’s jumped cars from docks onto moving ferry boats and torn lights off the roof of a San Francisco tunnel with the side of a Porsche. Her favorite vehicle, however, is a motorcycle. Thus it was fitting that at the fourth annual World Stunt Awards, an extravagantly deafening affair put on by Red Bull a couple of Sundays ago on the Paramount lot, Evans was honored for her balletic work on a Ducati in “The Matrix Reloaded.”
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His people don’t do lunch

LOS ANGELES TIMES

May 5, 2004

By James Verini

In the new film “Troy,” there are two writers credited: David Benioff, a screenwriter and novelist in his early 30s who has of late become a very hot literary property in Hollywood, and Homer, the blind Ionian bard who, scholars think, died between 800 and 600 years before Christ, somewhere in the Mediterranean. Benioff, as you can imagine, has sterling representation. He’s handled by two agents at the William Morris Agency, and he has a manager and lawyer as well, as has become the custom.
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The Thrill of Victory, the Agony of Heartburn

LOS ANGELES TIMES MAGAZINE

May 23, 2004

By James Verini

“You are about to witness the single most important sporting event to take place in Los Angeles County since the 1984 Summer Olympics!” hollered Rich Shea to a group of perhaps 100 rain-soaked and rather bewildered-looking UCLA students who had gathered before a makeshift stage in the middle of campus. Though the event may have piqued their adolescent attraction to the bizarre and base, or offered an alternative to studying, they almost certainly wouldn’t have called it important, or a sport, much less one begging comparison to the Olympics.
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The United States of Coen

LOS ANGELES TIMES

March 28, 2004

By James Verini

“The LADYKILLERS,” the new Coen brothers film, is the story of a florid robber (Tom Hanks) and the prayerful black matron who foils him. It takes place in the fictional town of Saucier, Miss. Where it really takes place, though, is the South. The Coens have been there before: It’s where they go when they want to find snoozing police chiefs, devout Baptists, white linen and the occasional gruesome death, all of which abound in this film.
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Another head case; ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Adaptation’ writer Charlie Kaufman enters, and bends, minds again with ‘Eternal Sunshine.’

LOS ANGELES TIMES

March 17, 2004

By James Verini

On Page 38 of Charlie Kaufman’s script for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” — which is to say, about a third of the way through the new film “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” — the following line of dialogue appears:

JOEL

I’m in my head already, aren’t I?
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Let it go, let it go, let it go

LOS ANGELES TIMES

December 25, 2003

By James Verini

HONEY-GLAZED ham! Bing Crosby! Scotch tape sticking to your wool pants! Pine needles in your Florsheims! Mincemeat pie! Your ridiculous sister-in-law and her violent-video-game-playing kids! More ham! More pie! Is that Nat King Co– No, it’s Bing Crosby again! And still more Crosby! Crosby, Crosby, Crosby!
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With the program

LOS ANGELES TIMES

December 4, 2003

By James Verini

For a prolific Renaissance man, David Byrne has always seemed a little removed. Not difficult, but removed. As a polymath musician and the onetime frontman of Talking Heads (the band’s 1983 album “Speaking in Tongues,” regarded by many as its best, lists Byrne on vocals, keyboards, guitars, bass and percussion, and as lyrics writer, on every song), a film director and composer (he won an Oscar for his score of “The Last Emperor”), and, in his newest incarnation, as a visual artist, Byrne has always stood a bit back from the microphone, a little left of center stage.
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A writer who’s adapted; When a movie needs novelizing, Dewey Gram is Hollywood’s head writer.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

December 4, 2003

By James Verini

On Friday, Tom Cruise’s latest film, “The Last Samurai,” will be released in theaters. The requisite massive marketing blitz for this period piece about a Civil War general who learns the ways of the Samurai warriors of Japan has already been underway for months. Part of that blitz was supposed to include “The Last Samurai” novelization — the book based on the movie — which was to have hit shelves in late November.
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Their pet projects; A cadre of pros searches out offbeat animal acts not yet ready for prime time.

LOS ANGELES TIMES

November 17, 2003

By James Verini

On a brisk afternoon in early October, on the Burbank set of the Animal Planet show “Pet Star,” Bill Langworthy was looking on patiently as Mr. Rowdy, a 500-pound zebu bull, stood immobile before a little A-frame hurdle. Mr. Rowdy wore a look of what could be described only as indifference as his owner, an Idaho farmer named Gene Cutler, urged him to jump.
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