Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman & Tomas Alfredson Discuss Their New Film: “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”


Director Tomas Alfredson ("Let the Right One In") and actor Gary Oldman after the screening of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" on November 17, 2011, in Chicago.

“I feel like I’m back in my old hometown—Gotham.  He abandoned you, didn’t he—Nolan?” said Gary Oldman with a laugh, as he kicked off a Q&A in Chicago following the showing of his new film with Swedish Director Tomas Alfredson (2008’s “Let the Right One In”).  The reference, of course, was to Oldman’s role as Lt. Jim Gordon in 2008’s “The Dark Knight.” The “Nolan” reference is to Christopher Nolan and that director’s choice of Pittsburgh as the setting for the newest Batman movie in the franchise, to be released in 2012.

Actor Gary Oldman.

Oldman’s presence in Chicago this night with Director Tomas Alfredson was to publicize “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,” the movie version of John LeCarre’s novel of the same name. (LeCarre worked as a producer on the film).  Oldman said, “I’ve waited 30 years for a role like this. I had to rein in emotion for this one. It was a nice difference.” Referring to a scene in the film where George Smiley, Oldman’s character, lets a fly out of the car where it has been bothering the three occupants, he says, “The fly scene in the car encapsulated Smiley. He expends only enough energy, like a cat. Smiley is a real study in economy. That (fly scene) tells you more about his character than any dialogue.”

Gary Oldman, star of "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy."

Noting that John LeCarre was a producer on the film, Oldman said, “The shadow of Alec Guinness (who played the part previously) was large enough. And, of course, we had John LeCarre as a resource.  He had written the book and lived the life.  John could fill in the earlier days for me, as this book was more autobiographical for him than some others. One stop shopping, for me.” He added, “That’s the exciting thing, for me.  You go to work and the work happens in the moment.  Hopefully, the cloak of inspiration will fall.”

Director Tomas Alfredson said he wanted to make a period piece steeped in atmosphere. “I tried to create a voyeuristic perspective.  I wanted to recreate the feeling of London in those days.  Sort of a damp tweed and cabbage feeling. It’s a lot of fun to make period pieces and its easier if the period is further away.”  The director also commented on the atmospheric soundscape of the film, where the sound of toast being buttered or a tea cup is important. “It’s refreshing to see a movie that isn’t just cut, cut, cut and doesn’t assault you,” both agreed. Noting that, “The secret to playing this (George Smiley) was in the book,” Oldman agreed with Alfredson about the film’s emotional depth.  “I thought one of the great things about it is that we were not forced to kick it up a notch.  It was sort of like watching a lava lamp,” he joked.

Director Tomas Alfredson ("Let the Right One In")

What both men meant was that there are not gratuitous explosions or car chase scenes, but simply the story of a mole within “the Circus,” the London location of MI6’s headquarters at Cambridge Circus. Several times in the film this line occurs:  “There’s a rotten apple. We have to find it.”

On a humorous note, Director Alfredson told of a scene where Oldman is filmed frying an egg. It was a very quiet scene, with Oldman cooking the egg and then carefully cutting and eating it.  As he watched the daily rushes, Oldman smiled and said to Alfredson, “I used to be Sid Vicious, you know,” a reference to his portrayal of Sid Vicious in the 1986 film “Sid and Nancy.”

“Tinker, Tailer, Soldier, Spy” opens wide December 9th.

What Do Nicole Kidman, Kris Kristofferson and Barbra Streisand Have in Common?

Nicole-KidmanThe answer? They lead the list of The 10 Worst Actor/Actress Onscreen Pairings

It is going to become painfully obvious that I have spent waaay too much time in a darkened theater as I share with you some horrible screen pairings it has been my misfortune to suffer through, first as an avid filmgoer since birth and second, as a film critic for 15 years. These are in no particular order, and the reasons I feel these were horrible pairings are subjective, to be sure, but let me begin.

In no particular order, the films are:

1)  “The Human Stain” – Anthony Hopkins and Nicole Kidman

2)  “Eyes Wide Shut” – Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman

3)  “Dracula” – Gary Oldman and Winona Ryder

4)  “Harold and Maude” – Ruth Gordon and Bud Cort

5)  “The Way We Were” – Robert Redford and Barbra Streisand

6)  “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea” – Kris Kristofferson and Sarah Miles

7)  “6 Days, 7 Nights” – Harrison Ford and Anne Heche

8)       “Fair Game” – Billy Baldwin and Cindy Crawford

9)      “A Star Is Born” – Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson

10)   “At Long Last Love” – Cybill Shpeherd and Burt Reynolds

Let me explain.

There are some very great actors/actresses on this list who, nevertheless, had absolutely no onscreen chemistry with their leading man or leading lady. Sometimes, I fear, it is because that actor (or actress) is simply better suited to character actor parts. Other times, it is quite surprising, because the individuals in question were actually “an item.”

Take Nicole Kidman on this list, for example. I have listed her starring role in Stanley Kubrick’s last complete film, “Eyes Wide Shut,” where she starred opposite her then husband Tom Cruise as Alice Hartford (1999). I have also listed her opposite the much-too-old-for-her Anthony Hopkins in her role as the semi-literate Faunia Farley, opposite Anthony Hopkins’ Coleman Silk in “The Human Stain,” a 2003 Robert Benton-directed film (script by Nick Meyer, an old college classmate) based on a 2000 Philip Roth novel. Casting Anthony Hopkins as a (secretly) black man and Nicole Kidman as a cleaning woman (semi-literate, as well) was just the beginning of this film that garnered some “rotten tomato” awards. It was as thoroughly miscast as it is humanly possible to be, and the premises upon which the film rested were also dated. (Coleman is railroaded from his job as a university professor for asking, of some MIA African-American students, in his class, if they were “spooks.”) The idea that Welshman Hopkins is secretly black was hard to swallow. (The younger version of Hopkins was well-played by “Prison Break’s” Wentworth Miller, but even that did not help.) But Nicole was also bad opposite Tom Cruise as Shannon Christie in the 1992 epic “Far and Away” and even before that, in “Days of Thunder” in 1990. Let’s face it. While Nicole Kidman (and certainly Anthony Hopkins) are great actors, everyone has their limits, and when you’re miscast, you’re miscast. Since three of these films involve Kidman opposite Tom Cruise, it would seem that they were a mismatch in more ways than one. No onscreen chemistry. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Second-highest scorer on the “no charisma as sexy lead player in a romance” might go to Gary Oldman, who is a very competent character actor but lacks in the romance department. Following Frank Langella’s mesmerizing role as “Dracula,” he was very disappointing opposite Winona Ryder in that Francis Ford Coppola film, and he wasn’t much better in “The Scarlet Letter” (1995) opposite Demi Moore as the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, nor in the film “Romeo Is Bleeding” (1993) as Jack, opposite the sexy Lena Olin. Where Oldman shines is in work such as his spot-on impersonation of Lee Harvey Oswald in Oliver Stone’s 1991 film “JFK.” As a romantic leading man? Not so much.

Barbra Streisand makes the list twice, once opposite Kris Kristofferson in “A Star Is Born” and once opposite Robert Redford in “The Way We Were.” I blame the lack of “sparks” more on Kristofferson in the first, a role that was first offered to (but turned down by) Elvis Presley. Kristofferson has all the charismatic acting ability of a board. He reminds me of an old Keanu Reeves. This is also by way of explaining why “The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea” floundered and sank. More Kristofferson; less Sarah Miles.  In “The Way We Were” Streisand/Redford proved that the ugly duckling does not always grow up to become the beautiful swan, and that the saying, “opposites attract” can only carry you so far. It only carried this movie so far, despite Marvin Hamlisch’s best efforts.

“Harold and Maude” is a cult classic, and I loved the flick, but the plot is about a romance between a 20-year-old youth obsessed with death and suicide (Bud Cort) and a 79-year-old woman, played by the indomitable Ruth Gordon. I’m all for cougars, but there are limits.

“6 Days, 7 Nights” was a plot that paired  Harrison Ford with Anne Heche, who, at the time, was an ‘out” lesbian. There were absolutely no sparks of any kind between the leads and do we wonder why? Harrison Ford recreating Humphrey Bogart’s role opposite Julia Ormond in “Sabrina” (with Greg Kinnear in the William Holden role) was also not  a hit, although the film’s score was awesome.

“Fair Game” had William Baldwin (the thin Baldwin) cast as Detective Max Kirkpatrick and model Cindy Crawford of Dekalb, Illinois trying to segue successfully to the big screen from her lucrative modeling career, playing Kate McQuean. The film is horrible, and Crawford was awful in it.

Last, and perhaps least, Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd somehow got the idea that they could sing and carry a musical in the much-maligned “At Long Last Love” and the less said about that, the better.

The Dark Knight Triumphs in Premiere at Navy Pier (Chicago)

The Dark Knight PremiereThe Bat TentNavy Pier, Chicago, IllinoisThe Red Carpet at Navy Pier


The new Batman film “The Dark Knight” had its World Premiere at Navy Pier in Chicago on Wednesday, July 16th, and I was there. The screaming fans in front of the entrance got to see Michael Caine, Gary Oldman and the film’s director and writer, Christopher Nolan (“Memento”) who wrote the script once again with Jonathan Nolan (as they did for “Memento”) and whose soaring vision displays Chicago to good effect.

Much has been said about the memorable performance by Heath Ledger as the Joker, and he may well earn that posthumous nomination and Oscar for Best Actor. Certainly the film is as much about the Joker as it is about Batman, and it also has an added allegorical layer of meaning as it displays Chicago filming sites like the (still under construction) Trump Tower, the Sears Tower, the former Brach’s Candy factory at 401 N. Cicero Ave, which doubles as Gotham City Hospital and is blown up. The fancy party that the Joker crashes was inside the Illinois Center Buildings, Building 2 at 111 E. Wacker Drive. The aerial shots of Batman’s secret underground lair are 1500 S. Lumber St. The old (abandoned) Chicago Post Office at 404 W. Harrison St. doubled for the Gotham City Bank in opening heist sequences, and, in addition to the funeral procession down LaSalle Street and the chase scenes on lower Wacker Drive, there were various location shots at 330 N. Wabash Avenue, which was once known as the IBM Building. These included the Mayor’s office, District Attorney Harvey Dent’s office and the boardroom of Wayne Enterprises.

The movie created about 4,500 jobs in Chicago last year, which meant $17 million to the city. There were more than 300 Illinois vendors involved, from security providers to cleaning and catering services ($22 million in sales).

The political subtext of the script is there for anyone to see and hear. There is the issue of the invasion of privacy, which causes the character played by Morgan Freeman to tender his resignation rather than unethically use a sonar device he has created to spy on the public. (Shades of recent legislation involving amnesty for the telecommunications industry!) Lucius says, “This is too much power for one person. Spying on 30 million people isn’t part of my job description.”

Here are just a few of the politically charged lines: “Do I really look like a man with a plan? I’m like a dog chasing a car. I wouldn’t know what to do about it if I caught it.” This line (spoken by Ledger’s Joker character) certainly smacks of “W’s eight years in office.  Ledger goes on to say, “I’m an agent of chaos, and you know the thing about chaos, it’s fear.” (Orange alert, anyone?) Another line that resonated, for me, was: “You should have thought of that before you let the clown out of the box.” Indeed, we, as a nation, should have. The Joker also says, “It’s not about money; it’s about sending a message” and “I’m not a monster; I’m just ahead of the curve.”

Batman (Christian Bale) says, “I was meant to inspire good. Not madness. Not death” as we learn that, in the inevitable  sequel, he will have a “bad” reputation, since he is taking the fall for the mayhem another character has created.

Harvey Dent, the crusading District Attorney, is played by Aaron Eckhart (“Thank You For Not Smoking”), who says, “In their desperation, they turned to a man they don’t fully understand.” Harvey is in love with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), but so is Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale).

Repeated more than once is the line, “You either die a hero or you live long enough to be a villain,” and that seems to be the script key for the next installment of the Christopher Nolan-directed series. Nolan has single-handedly taken the franchise to new heights, aided by truly wonderful special effects, gorgeous aerial photography of both Chicago and Hong Kong (some shooting, also, in London and Cardington in the UK).

Here’s another politically charged message: “I told you my compound would take you places. I never said it would be places you’d want to go.” (The Joker). Another good one: “Know your limits. What’s gonna’ happen on the day that you find out?” How about this one that could well have been uttered by the “Decider:” “I don’t get political points for being an idealist. I have to do the best with what I have.”

There are a few clunky lines that will sound familiar (“The night is darkest just before the dawn, but I promise you, the dawn is coming,” as articulated by D.A. Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart). There is also, “I know the truth. There is no going back. You’ve changed things forever.” (Ain’t it the truth?) Harvey Dent declares, “The Joker’s just a mad dog. I want whoever let him off his leash.” (That would be Dick Cheney, for openers, and Rumsfield aiding and abetting.) With talk of “a misplaced sense of self-righteousness” and “decent men in an indecent time” where “the only morality is chance” a plot is woven that combines terrific action sequences with great special effects and wonderful music (James Newton Howard).

Again and again, the critics have pointed to the fine acting by one and all. Christian Bale as “the Batman” is set to continue this series and even to take on another sacrosanct movie of yesteryear, playing John Connor in “Terminator Salvation.” Michael Caine, as the Butler Alfred, turns in his always-competent support, and Gary Oldman as the Lieutenant who becomes Police Commissioner is good. But the best is Heath Ledger’s Joker, matching Jack Nicholson’s demented work that preceded this portrayal.

“The Dark Knight” made a record $18.5 million from 3,040 theaters, according to Warner Brothers (distributors of the film), as of Friday, July 18th. That bests the 2005 “Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith” ($16.9 on 2,915 screens) and puts it on pace to clear more than $100 million on a non-holiday weekend, placing it in the top ten.

The movie is beautifully made, finely crafted, well-written, has great music, is well-acted and plotted and…most interestingly for me…makes some strong social commentary, as when we hear lines like, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” You can hear that simply as dialogue from a Super Hero movie, or you can really pay attention to the messages this movie is sending out, loud and clear in this, a political year unlike any other. When supporting players like Eric Roberts (“King of the Gypsies”), Maggie Gyllenhaal (“Stranger than Fiction,” “Sherry Baby”), William Fichtner (“Prison Break,” “Invasion” on television) and the leads mentioned above add their expert thespian talents to the mix, you’re watching one of the best movies of the summer and the year.

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