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Tagged with “dinner party download” (21)

  1. Al Pacino Reflects on ‘Manglehorn,’ Method, and his Greatest Roles | The Dinner Party Download

    Al Pacino — who really needs no introduction — has starred in such classic films as “The Godfather,” “Dog Day Afternoon,” “Serpico,” and “Scent of a Woman.” On TV he’s won critical acclaim for his portrayal of Jack Kevorkian and Phil Spector. On stage he’s performed Brecht, Mamet, Shakespeare, and Wilde. He’s won an Oscar, two Emmys, two Tonys, and four Golden Globe awards.

    This week, his latest film, “Manglehorn,” comes out. Directed by David Gordon Green, the film follows a small town locksmith as he tries to get over his past. When Brendan spoke with Pacino, he started off by asking him how he got into the his character.

    Al Pacino: Well, first of all, I showed up to the set.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s good.

    Al Pacino: That was major for me. I had to pick up, pack a bag, and go to Austin, Texas. That was a mini-achievement for me.

    Al Pacino (A.J. Manglehorn) pondering in Texas in David Gordon Green’s “Manglehorn.” Courtesy of Ryan Green.Brendan Francis Newnam: Well done.

    Al Pacino: And then I went out and played… tried to understand where this guy was coming from. I think he has an element of Asperger’s in him — that’s one of the first things I picked up from the script.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: I can see that.

    Al Pacino: And that’s interesting since David Gordon Green based it on me. I thought, “Well, does he know something I don’t?”

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Do you feel like you identify with that?

    Al Pacino: You know, when you do a part, you try to find whatever you can identify with.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

    Al Pacino: I’m trying to figure out how to play this person. If the person has a limp, then you say, “How did he get the limp?” And that sort of informs you. You’re always looking for something to inform you.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: And that’s in keeping with your belief in method acting, where an actor tries to emotionally identify with the part, which got me thinking… you were in this goofy Adam Sandler movie called “Jack and Jill.”

    Al Pacino: Yeah.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Which did well at the box office…

    Al Pacino: Yeah.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: But it wasn’t “The Godfather.”

    Al Pacino: No. No, it wasn’t.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: It wasn’t the best-reviewed movie ever–

    Al Pacino: No.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: But you got excellent reviews. In the movie, you play a slightly exaggerated version of Al Pacino.

    Al Pacino: Yeah.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: How did you prepare for that role, as a method actor?

    Al Pacino: Well, believe it or not, I prepared a lot. I thought, “How can I come up with a character that could be some kind of image of me or whatever it is?”

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

    Al Pacino: And here’s this guy who had these failed marriages with kids from different people, running around L.A., a place he doesn’t want to be in because he just doesn’t relate to it, and having a mini-breakdown, or more than that, and finding this Bronx girl, who just takes him way back. And he becomes obsessed with her, and sees what isn’t there. Now, that was the game plan. How it turned out, well…

    Brendan Francis Newnam: So, to prep for the role, did you watch your own movies?

    Al Pacino: Absolutely not, no. Once… the only time I really watch a movie I’m in, basically — the only real time — is when I’m… when the movie’s not done, and I can make some contribution to it. Then, once it’s done, there’s no sense. Don’t put yourself through that, if you ever make a movie.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Oh, interesting.

    Al Pacino: Once it’s done, and you can’t do anything about it. Go and look another way.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Well, back to “Manglehorn,” which maybe you haven’t seen the whole thing. There are a lot of lovely scenes where you’re at a pancake jamboree, you’re at a bank, you’re at a club, and your character is doing a lot of normal, public things that I imagine is very difficult for Al Pacino to do anymore. Does not having anonymity make it harder for you to do your job? Does it make it more difficult to prepare for a role?

    Al Pacino: Actually, you would think it would, but it sort of doesn’t because a lot of people let you in, partially because they know you.

    Al Pacino (A.J. Manglehorn) in David Gordon Green’s “Manglehorn.” Courtesy of Van Redin.Brendan Francis Newnam: Interesting.

    Al Pacino: For instance, if I go to play a short-order cook, I hang with short-order cooks. That’s not a special thing to do, most actors do it. It’s accessible stuff, you just go in there. And, in a lot of ways, you’re more welcome than it was in the old days… I used to sit in strange restaurants and study people [laughs].

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

    Al Pacino: They would say, “Who’s this rude fucker here?” You know, “Who does he think he is?”

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Just a creepy guy [laughs].

    Al Pacino: But you reflect. I sometimes… sometimes I’ll just hear somebody, especially if I’m scouting a role. The other day I was watching something on television, an interview, and this guy was speaking, and I thought, “Gee, I wish I had known about this guy before I went to do this.” Because I saw something in the nature of the way he spoke, that that was a good image for a certain character I’m going to play.

    So, you’re always looking for something to inform you if you’re going to play a character. Usually, I’m informed by the text, and by repeating the text over and over again, and working on it.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: In interviews, you often talk about how important the text is to you…

    Al Pacino: Yes.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: And you’re a public fan of great writing, you’ve done docu-dramas about Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, and yet, you’re also known as an improvisational actor — 20 takes, never the same thing twice. How do these two, seemingly different ideas, go together?

    Al Pacino: Well, there’s certain texts you go off on, and they allow you to — in the movies — to go off on them because it’s not… it’s open season, especially on new things.

    But I believe, as a method of working, improvisation is very interesting to get you to a certain place. If you start improvising around the scene that you’re playing, and just say… well, you come in and you start talking about how you’re feeling, what’s going through your head… it’s wonderful — if you have the time — what you find out. And it’s the best ever, is when a writer’s present, hearing that stuff.

    So, it’s a collaborative effort you do together. Way back, “Dog Day Afternoon,” can you remember that far back?

    Brendan Francis Newnam: I do. I do. The “Attica!” moment, it was improvised.

    Al Pacino: Well, the “Attica!” moment, but also, when the final phone call comes with the–

    Brendan Francis Newnam: That’s right.

    Al Pacino: The two guys, his boyfriend and–

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Yes. Yes, and for those who haven’t seen it, in “Dog Day Afternoon,” your character held up a bank to fund a sex change operation for his lover. And at one point, the police are listening in to a phone call between the two.

    Al Pacino: Well, Chris Sarandon and I did three improvisations that Sidney Lumet taped in rehearsal, and he edited them down to the scene. It’s a 14-minute scene on screen, but it still was… came out of Sidney’s putting it together.

    American actor Al Pacino in London in 1974. After making his name in The Godfather and Serpico, he was finally awarded an Best Actor Oscar for his role in Scent of a Woman. (Photo by Steve Wood/Express/Getty Images)Brendan Francis Newnam: Another role where you kind of went your own way and veered away from the text was “The Godfather,” where you, of course, played Michael Corleone. I read that the people behind the film — not Coppola, but other people — wanted you to make Corleone more animated and alpha, but you decided to focus instead on his intelligence and interior life.

    Al Pacino: Yeah. Well, it was Francis Coppola, who I was in sync with, who allowed me to do that. You know, at the time, I didn’t quite know how to articulate it to him, what I was doing. I just didn’t know how to say it… It was more of an unconscious thing. But he was right there, always right there, which is probably one of the reasons he chose me to play the part, because that’s what he wanted.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: But yet, [“The Godfather” author and co-screenwriter] Mario Puzo wasn’t really impressed at first. How did you have the confidence to kind of go for this quieter performance?

    Al Pacino: Well… I always felt as though I didn’t know how to do it any other way, and I think that, [it] always made me feel like, well, I was inadequate because I didn’t know what else to do. I thought the element of the character — the main thing I held onto was that I wanted, at the end of this movie, to have something there that surprised an audience, that made them go, “Oh, man! Where did this guy come from? Where the fuck is… who is he?”

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah.

    Al Pacino: “I don’t want to know him. I don’t know. Who the hell is he?”

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah. Mission accomplished.

    Al Pacino: Wow, I mean, that was so… yeah, that was very good to have that happen. That felt good.

    Al Pacino (A.J. Manglehorn) in David Gordon Green’s “Manglehorn.”Brendan Francis Newnam: Alright. Well, it’s time to take care of our show’s business. We have two standard questions that we ask each of our guests–

    Al Pacino: Great.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: And the first one is: what question are you tired of being asked?

    Al Pacino: Well, I think it’s absurd to ask someone how old they are when they’re my age. That’s almost like asking… you’re saying, “Oh, by the way, how long do you have left?” So, I hate that.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Yeah. Do people do that? Do people ask you?

    Al Pacino: They actually do, they say, “How old are you?”

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Geez.

    Al Pacino: I say, “Are you kidding? I don’t know. All I know is I was born in 1967. Go do the math!”

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Of course you were. Of course you were. You’re reborn every day!

    Al Pacino: Of course. There it is.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: And then the other question we ask people is — we ask them to tell us something we don’t know, and this is something about you that you haven’t shared before, or it can just be an interesting piece of trivia about the world.

    Al Pacino: Let me see. I mean — oh, I was thinking of something the other day that I’ve come to. In this day and age, it’s very appropriate for the time we live in.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: OK.

    Al Pacino: I’m watching two movies, just the other day, and I go on one channel, and I watch them because I liked both of these movies. And instead of recording one, I watched them [laughs] both at the same time.

    And this is how you do it: you put the pause button on, one of them, and you push a button, you go back to the other one, and that’s been paused by you. And then you un-pause it. Then, you get to a certain point, you pause it, you go back to the other one, and it’s still paused. This is using modern technique, man.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: Wow!

    Al Pacino: This is the way to go! This is the future! Watching two movies at the same — but I hope you never watch two movies of mine at the same time. That’s all.

    Brendan Francis Newnam: At the beginning of this, you were saying maybe you had Asperger’s, but it sounds like you have ADD, Al [laughs].

    Al Pacino: There it is. No, I didn’t, but since last week, I think I’ve entered a new phase.

    —Huffduffed by smokler

  2. The Complicated Comedy Career of Bill Cosby | The Dinner Party Download

    In his long career, journalist Mark Whitaker has been (among other positions) managing editor of CNN, and a reporter and editor for Newsweek magazine. His latest book “Cosby: His Life and Times” takes a serious look at an influential performer, from his earliest days struggling to find himself in 1960s New York, through his personal tragedies and complicated public perceptions. Whitaker takes Rico through Cosby’s woodshedding years, and recalls an album full of wonderfulness.

    For more from this interview, including conversation about the birth of “The Cosby Show” and about Cosby’s recent controversial stances on race and responsibility, listen to an exclusive additional segment.


    Rico Gagliano: Believe it or not, there are people hearing this show who were not alive when Bill Cosby was in his heyday, from the ’60s to the ’90s. For them, can you maybe get across how seismic an impact this guy had on show business?

    Mark Whitaker: Well, I think what most people remember him for is “The Cosby Show,” which debuted thirty years ago this week, September 20th, 1984, and went on to become the most successful show of the 1980s. It was the number one show on television for five straight years. It revived the sitcom genre; at the time, people thought situation comedies were dead. It rescued NBC, which was in the cellar among the networks. And it laid the groundwork for all the great sitcoms that came after it: “Roseanne,” “Seinfeld,” “Home Improvement,” etc.

    Rico Gagliano: Sort of non-joke-based, and more natural…

    Mark Whitaker: Yeah, more naturalistic. You know, kind of, “tell a story and then find a way of making it funny,” as opposed to just joke after joke.

    Rico Gagliano: Sure.

    Mark Whitaker: But the impact of that show was so seismic that I think a lot of people forget that before that, Bill Cosby already had been a show business pioneer several times over. First with his standup comedy in the ’60s. His comedy albums which people of a certain generation grew up on, and remember all those routines.

    Rico Gagliano: Let’s start in the early ’60s. One thing that struck me — when he was doing standup back then — I had no idea he started out playing the same clubs as Dylan and the other folk stars of the era. He was really kind of a part of that folk scene.

    Mark Whitaker: Yes. He gets a summer job at a place called The Gaslight Cafe. That’s where Dylan hung out, and, you know, at the time, the Village was where it was happening. That’s where there was kind of a hive of folk singers, jazz pioneers, and you also had this new breed of comedian.

    Rico Gagliano: This is what is fascinating to me, actually. This is an era where there’s a lot of angry, political comedy going on. And he specifically chose not to do angry, political comedy — even though, as a black man growing up poor in the projects of Philadelphia, he could have. Why didn’t he?

    Mark Whitaker: Well, an interesting thing is, he started out modeling himself after Dick Gregory. His comedy was very barbed, full of social commentary. And, actually, that first summer in The Gaslight Cafe, The New York Times does a feature story on [Cosby] and they describe him “throwing spears, angry spears,” at the White audience.

    Rico Gagliano: Not at all a racially-charged term!

    Mark Whitaker: Right, exactly. And he describes himself, compares himself to Dick Gregory. When he saw that in print, he has this epiphany and he realized, you know, “I don’t want to be Dick Gregory. I want to have my own distinctive voice.” And it was at that point that he really committed to developing a completely different style, not only than Dick Gregory, but from all the other comedians in the Village of the time. Based less on telling jokes than telling stories, and making them funny.

    Rico Gagliano: This often caused him problems, though, with Black audiences at the time. I’m thinking of, after he became a star on the TV show “I Spy,” there’s this story you tell in the book about him playing the Apollo Theatre in Harlem and, basically, no one showed up.

    Mark Whitaker: Yeah. People had told Cosby, “You gotta play the Apollo.” And he had been sort of arrogant about it. He had said, you know, “Come see me at Madison Square Garden.” But, after [Martin Luther] King is assassinated, he decides he has to go play the Apollo. And his first night they can’t even fill the hall.

    He asked the promoter, guy named Pete Long, what happened. He said, “In Harlem, this community, they see you on TV playing a spy… They think you work for The Man.”

    Rico Gagliano: And, specifically, because he’s like a sidekick to a white guy, too…

    Mark Whitaker: He’s a sidekick to a white guy! And who is this guy? And anyway, so, the fact was that Cosby, privately, was a big supporter of civil rights, and he had asked that all the proceeds from that concert be donated to Malcolm X’s widow. So he basically said, “Put the word out on the street that I’m a real brother.”  And once that word went out to the Black community, and also his white fans from downtown found out he was playing the Apollo, the house was packed.

    Rico Gagliano: But he was always having to kind of prove himself, his bona fides, to both audiences…

    Mark Whitaker: He was, but, you know, he stood his ground. He took heat for this from the very beginning. “Why aren’t you being more political?” Basically, his position, with his comedy, with the character he played on “I Spy,” He said, look, I’m going to make more of a statement by, first of all, showing people what they have in common rather than their differences.  And also making the point that you don’t have to conform to this stereotypical model of either the Black comedian and entertainer just shuffling and dancing for a White audience or, you know, kind of being angry at them in order to succeed.

    Rico Gagliano: Do you remember your first time encountering his comedy?

    Mark Whitaker: I remember it very vividly. And, you know, on some level, I think it’s why I wanted to tackle him as a subject.

    I was nine years old.  My dad is Black, my mom is White.  They had divorced when I was six years old, and my father sort of dropped out of our lives. She got a teaching job in a little town in Massachusetts where there were no other people of color.

    One day, I’m nine years old, she brings home an album with this handsome young black man, just two years younger than my father, joyously riding a go-kart on the cover.  And it’s called “Wonderfulness.” There are these hilarious stories of, you know, getting his tonsils out… I just laughed until I wept, at a time when I needed laughter in my life. But also, I think — and I didn’t really think about it at the time that clearly — but in retrospect, here was a kind of black role model figure in the absence of my father.

    —Huffduffed by smokler

  3. Greta Gerwig’s Secret Shirt | The Dinner Party Download

    “Worn Stories” editor Emily Spivack also shared a story of her own with us.

    Greta Gerwig’s story, as drawn from an interview with Emily Spivak:

    Twelve years ago, I was working as a stage manager at a theater company in Vermont for the summer. I was the worst stage manager of all time.

    Around this time, I figured out that I could fall in love with people and that I could be in love. I was already in love with one person, and I started falling in love with lots of people. I felt very guilty about it, but it also felt like an appropriate response to figuring out you can be in love. I was in love with love. In high school, I would have these horrible crushes on people but they were never reciprocated or the people were gay. Then, in college, I had the experience of looking into someone’s eyes and saying, “I love you,” and he said, “I love you” back.

    So I had this crush, or love, for this actor at the theater in Vermont. His name was David and I thought he was so beautiful. He had this very soft button-down shirt. When I hugged him, and I would always invent reasons to do so, I would touch his shirt. It was very chaste, and nothing ever happened. I was in love with him, but he was twenty-six-years old and I was eighteen, and when you’re eighteen, twenty-six seems really old.

    David left that summer before I did. We took him to the bus station. I cried, because I was eighteen and dramatic. I watched him go and I felt bereft. My friends and I returned to the falling-apart cabin in the woods that had been our home that summer. I went to the room where I had a bunk bed. Hanging on my bunk was that button-down shirt. His shirt!  Tucked inside the shirt pocket was a note. He told me I was beautiful and a creature of light.

    Doesn’t it just kill you?  Can you imagine an eighteen-year-old girl coming back from the bus station to her room and seeing that the guy she loved had left his shirt for her? He knew. He just knew it. And it was beautiful.

    I always write while I’m wearing the shirt, because it makes me feel like I have a secret. When you write, it’s good to have a secret, because in a way you do. You have to nurture the secret until other people know about it.

    —Huffduffed by smokler

  4. Pharrell Williams on The Dinner Party Download

    Singer, rapper, rocker, songwriter, record producer, multi-instrumentalist, occasional fashion designer, hat enthusiast, and general pop star of the highest order Pharrell Williams must have a pretty big trophy cabinet at this point. While he didn’t pick up the Best Song Oscar for which he was nominated this month, he does already hold ten Grammys among his many other honors.

    Pharrell released his new solo album “G I R L” this week, and in addition to upbeat roof-raisers and at least one song about an alien, it features his megasmash tune “Happy”… which, it turns out, he sees in a very unusual way — literally. He told Rico about that, but not before reflecting on the fact “Happy” is the third multi-million-selling #1 single on which he’s appeared in just the last year.

    —Huffduffed by smokler

  5. Carrie Bronstein & Fred Armistan on The Dinner Party Download

    As writers, stars and producers of the sketch comedy series “Portlandia” — which just launched its 4th season on IFC — Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen are now the go-to satirists of the post-liberal-arts-college set. They’re also indie rockers extraordinaire, and Fred just landed a gig as band leader on Seth Myers new late-night show. But this week, they capped off their careers with a pair of truly enviable achievements: they became the first duo to appear in our show’s Guest of Honor segment, and the first to then stick around to answer listener’s etiquette questions. Congratulations Fred & Carrie — you’ve at last left an indelible mark on American culture.

    In this Guest of Honor interview, the two muse on the ephemeral nature of virality, explain their shift from trend pieces to character pieces, and then divulge weird facts about each other.

    —Huffduffed by smokler

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