Monday, October 29, 2012

Barrymore, Plummer, Ken Howard and actor stories

“Barrymore”. According to the Hollywood Reporter, this film starring Christopher Plummer as the great actor will open in the US in November. The film is based on a play by William Luce for which Plummer won a Tony 1997. While the film is scheduled for a more than Oscar-Qualifying release, it seems clear that there is some expectation that Plummer as John Barrymore has a shot at an Oscar nomination and thus part of the reason for the timing of the release. Plummer, of course, won a 2012 Best-Supporting Oscar for the film “Beginners”.

To qualify for Oscar consideration a motion picture must screen commercially for at least a week in Los Angeles and Manhattan. Openings are currently scheduled around the country but at this time none in Colorado.

The film, directed by Erik Canuel, is Canadian (as is Plummer) and was screened at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2011. It was filmed using numerous HD cameras during a 30-day revival of the play in early 2011 at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto.
It is in essence a one-man show. Set in 1942 (the year of Barrymore’s death) Plummer as Barrymore is preparing for a backers-audition to raise money for a revival of his 1920 Broadway triumph in “Richard III”.

Plummer is one of the great actors of our time as John Barrymore was of his. The difference is that Plummer is fit and still at the top of his game at 82 and Barrymore had basically destroyed his career and his life with the ravages of his life of excess and died at 60.

Barrymore of the great profile was part of the great theatrical dynasties, which included his brother Lionel and sister, Ethel Barrymore and his granddaughter, Drew.
Actor stories about Barrymore abound. Some may be true, some not, but who cares, they are great stories. My favorite Barrymore story: he was speaking to a group of high school drama students when one young girl in the group sheepishly asked if he thought Romeo and Juliet had carnal knowledge of one another. Barrymore thought for a moment, then replied – “In the Chicago company they did.”

I love actor stories regardless of their origin. I heard one this weekend from Ken Howard, one of the Co-Presidents of our newly merged union, SAG-AFTRA.

Ken told of the time that he was preparing to do a production of “Man of La Mancha”. He had a phone call from the wonderful Howard Keel. Keel said that he had heard that Ken was going to do La Mancha and would Ken have breakfast with him; keel had played Don Quixote himself numerous a times and would like to give him some advice. Ken agreed. They met for breakfast and Keel provided lots of advice and then finally came to what he thought was the most important piece of advice: “Some time during the run,” Keel said, “probably during previews, you need to take the actor playing Sancho Panza outside to the front of the theatre, point up to the marquee and note that the title of the play is “Man of La Mancha”, not “Sancho Panza.”

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