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An Incredible Cast Is Assembled for The Russo Brothers’ Action Thriller “The Gray Man”



So far this summer, I’ve put in my time superhero-fied watching Taika Waititi’s “Thor: Love & Thunder” and secured my dose of sci-fi horror by seeing “Nope.” I also got an animation jones fulfilled by taking on “Minions: The Rise of Gru,” “Lightyear” and “Paws of Fury.” Now it’s time to take on a solid two hours of guns and glory through a screening of Netflix’s latest power play, “The Gray Man.” The body count is high, the blasts are mondo-destructive and Ryan Gosling is born to be wild.

Paul Abell/Netflix

In July 2020, the Russos were hired to direct an adaptation of Mark Greaney’s “The Gray Man” for Netflix, from a screenplay by Joe Russo, with Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely to further polish the script. This film is a successor to their four films — released from 2014-2019 — in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU): “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “Captain America: Civil War,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Avengers: Endgame.”  

“Endgame” took in over $2.798 billion worldwide, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of all time. Owing to their successes in the MCU, the brothers were tagged as the second most commercially successful directors of all time, behind Steven Spielberg.

So, if they had wanted to create their own franchise, they had the juice to get the $200 million needed to green-light this project. The story they made from Greaney’s “Gray Man” novels goes something like this:The CIA’s most skilled mercenary known as Court Gentry – aka Sierra Six (Ryan Gosling) – accidentally uncovers dark agency secrets. He then becomes a primary target and is hunted around the world by the psychopathic former agent Lloyd Hansen (Chris Evans) and his many teams of international assassins.

Six, an incarcerated murderer, is recruited as a CIA black ops mercenary by section chief Donald Fitzroy (Billy Bob Thornton). Sent on a hunt for his target Sierra Four, the stone-faced killer realizes he’s being duped by top CIA chief Denny Carmichael (Rege-Jean Page), the man who replaced his boss. Once he’s handed a medallion with a thumb drive inside containing unquestionable evidence that Carmichael has gone off-course, Six is forced to go on the run with these incriminating secrets in his possession.

He’s joined in his efforts by agent Dani Miranda (Ana de Armas), who get caught up in fighting off the machinations of Carmichael, who has hired Hansen, once a colleague of Gentry. Hansen leads the manhunt to kill Six and get the drive. Needless to say, he doesn’t. But along the way, Lloyd captures Fitzroy and his niece, Claire (Julia Butters.) He then attacks and kills Six’s contact Margaret Cahill (Alfre Woodard) and sends master Tamil assassin Avik San (Dhanush) after him and Miranda. The whole berserker crew ends up in Prague where dozens of cops are killed, buildings are blown up and bystanders are collateral damage. Needless to say, Six, Miranda and Denny, plus his second-in-command Suzanne Brewer (Jessica Henwick), survive. The sequel has already been greenlit.

Paul Abell/Netflix

At a virtual press conference for the hyper-paced action feature, cast members Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Ryan Gosling, Dhanush, Julia Butters, Billy Bob Thorton, Alfre Woodard, Rege-Jean Page, and Jessica Henwick, dish with directors Joe and Anthony Russo about the film’s genesis.

Q: Joe and Anthony, what sets “The Gray Man” apart from other spy thrillers?

Joe: This is a modern story. Bond is about 60 years old at this point and Bourne’s about 20 years old. This film is connected in a lot of ways to issues that are going on in the world now. The character is exceedingly existential, quite funny, and we just find that it fits our sense of humor. It’s the kind of film that we feel would work well with today’s audiences.

Q; Ryan, Is “The Gray Man” one of your films that required the most of you physically, and how was your training for this movie?

Ryan Gosling: There was, as you can imagine, a lot of training for the film. I had an incredible amount of help. There was an amazing stunt team. At first, they went through all these different styles of martial arts and tried to curate it for me and the character. Then we had this amazing advisor named Chili Palmer, who’s an ex-Delta Force member. I tried to join myself at the hip with him. He offered all this amazing tactical advice, but also these really amazing ideas like, you should always have skittles on you. Or, if you’re going to go to sleep, tie your shoelaces to the door ‘cause if someone comes in, you’ll know.

All these little details weren’t in the script, but were things you could only learn from experience. I thought [they] really made the film special and added this special sauce to it. So, we had a lot of help.

Q: You’re running a lot in this movie [laughs].

RG: A Lot of running. I would go back to the pre-movie me and tell him to work on his cardio. I didn’t expect all the Prague running.

Q: How do you balance the comedic moments and the action-packed serious ones? Do you prepare differently depending on the tone of the script?

RG: You prepare differently. It depends on the filmmakers. The Russos have a really cool process, one I’ve never done before, where at the beginning of the film, we sat with all of the department heads, and they put the script up on a big screen, and everybody starts talking about it as they work through it. At first, it makes it not precious and very collaborative. Also, it really gets you on the same page, literally. You know what movie you’re making.

It became clear that we were shooting for the stuff that I grew up loving in the ’80s and ’90s, that had a sense of humor about itself. It also helps because it’s not often that you find yourself falling through a trap door and ending up in a well in some guy’s Czechoslovakian apartment. The fact that you can comment on that: the Russos open it up, so you can say in the movie, “Okay, this was unexpected.” It sort of helps [laughs]. It gives you a gear in the movie that you don’t have in a lot of other films. This was a unique process in that way. I really enjoyed it.

AR: Ryan reminded me of something last night where, just to give you an example of how we like to work with actors, he was in a car with Ana and he tried to joke, and I walked up to him after the take and I said, “Yeah, that’ll never make the movie.” The line actually made the trailer.

Q: Chris, you’ve portrayed excellent villains before in your career, but this is your first time doing so with the Russo Brothers; you played heroes a lot for them. You certainly seem to be having a blast in this role. Would you say playing such a complicated character as Lloyd gives you a more liberating opportunity as an actor?

Chris Evans: Playing a villain is always a little more fun. You have a bit more freedom, you get a lot more jokes, but working with the Russos is what gives that sense of trust and freedom. When you trust the filmmakers, you’re more willing to take risks, and certainly a character like this demands risks. Without the Russos and the relationship and rapport we have, I don’t know if I would have had such a rewarding experience.

Q: Since you have worked with the Russos previously, how has your work with them changed in “The Gray Man?”

CE: It’s just a matter of evolving our trust, our understanding and communication. Film is this landscape… You can get lost in a semantic fog. There’s all these creative minds on set, and you’re all trying to do the same thing — trying to communicate that vision can be tricky. You develop an understanding of the person’s language and they understand my strengths, understand things that I don’t necessarily want to do and the things that I can’t wait to do. That familiarity is what breeds trust, and that trust is what makes the risk-taking process of filmmaking feel less like a risk.

Q: Ana, What was it about “The Gray Man” that caught your attention?

Ana de Armas: I wasn’t busy then [laughs]. No, I was very, very excited that the Russos thought of me and as soon as I got on the Zoom call with them, and they presented this story and character to me, I was in. I wanted to work with Ryan and Chris again, and I have all this amazing cast behind me.

I just loved the character. I love who this woman is, her background, training and mentality — and how badass and fearless she is — all of that.

Q; What was the most interesting thing that you learned from the CIA agent who helped you with your training? Always bring skittles, tie your shoe to the door [laughs]?

AD: Well, that was Chili. I was very lucky to have Chili train me on the military part of the character, and learn the mentality of having that experience physically and enduring the pain of what it’s like, this training of shooting and putting on all the weight of these weapons and just running around. I started running like a chicken at the beginning with this vest around me. I didn’t know how to move or squat or do anything, and I really enjoyed the process [of learning].

The pre-production, for me, was really fun ‘cause I could see myself improving [laughs].  Thank god. But then I also needed this other side, a more psychological part of it.  Like, what do you do? At the end of the day, you’re on the mission, out there risking your life, and none of these other people around you, they’re at the office. Ultimately, you’re the one calling the shots. You’re the one who has to make a decision to solve the problem at the moment. So, the CIA agent was very helpful. At the end of the day, it’s all about doing the right thing.

Q; You can see that in your performance. She’s so decisive and doesn’t take a lot of time hemming and hawing over decisions.

AD: She has to. She has to be three steps ahead of everyone else, especially on this one [laughs]. Yeah, that was really fast at making trouble [laughs].

Q; That leads to the most fun banter though.

AD: Guys, I wish we had more arguments in the movie. We can do that in the next one, right?

Q: Alfre, if you look historically at spy movies that have come out, it seems that an iconic woman is at the helm of the agency. How does it feel to be taking on such a role in this movie? It’s the role of a woman who always gets things done.

Alfre Woodard: I really like that I would go to work for these two guys… I learned a lot, not only about what I have to do… The big draw for me was that when I read it, I was excited. It reads just as exciting as it is on film, and I wanted to impress my grown-up children with the cast. But really, it was that it was taking place in Thailand, Hong Kong, the Czech Republic, and London, so then I said, “Yes.” Then they told me that I was just going to be in Long Beach… But they were really nice to me. I wanted to kick ass, but they said, “You’re dying so you can’t…” But I really enjoyed the fact that Ana kicks butt. You kick ass.

Q: Billy, your character is one who’s seen and done some intense things. There’s so much history between all the characters in the movie, but at the same time he has these super protective relationships, both with Six and Claire (Butters). How do you think your character balances that rough history with these intensely personal and protective relationships?

Billy Bob Thorton: The thing that really interested me about the character is that here’s a guy who’s a high-level spy, and you have to be cold-blooded in a lot of ways. You have to make life and death decisions all the time, but when you bring in personal relationships, it’s like, “How do I remain a human and yet do my job?” That interested me about people in general but, being the protector of my niece and everything, it comes naturally because I’m a parent. I had to lean more into, “How do I remain this guy?” But protecting her, that was easy.

Q: There’s a great scene between Fitzroy and Lloyd where you’re getting your nails pulled out in the grossest and most uncomfortable, but badass, way. Can you talk a bit about that scene?

BBT: That was a really interesting scene. What’s great is the way Chris was playing this character. As opposed to playing him like the typical bad guy, he was so casual about everything. He could say the worst thing to you and be so casual about it. I had to really work myself up, because I sometimes got lost in his funny way of being this guy. For one scene, it’s like, “Okay, the only way to do this is to tell him to take a hike.” I just have to say, “I don’t care what you do,” and show no pain; that’s what you’re trying to do. I chose to just growl at him, and tell him that I didn’t care what he was doing to me, “You’re not hurting me.” That’s the way we did the scene. In terms of the nails, he only pulled one of my real ones off. After that, I went to Joe and Anthony and said, “I’m not doing this, guys.”

JR: But our visual effects artists were able to model all of the fake nail pulls off from the real nail pull. So it worked…

Q: Rege-Jean, your character is an American in this movie. What was the prep process for you to shift into that character and what sort of work did you put in to develop your American accent?

Rege-Jean Page: It was very similar to the prep that you put into any role. I try to come at each script like a duckling that’s never seen a script before in my life, and you start fresh. I always make sure that this guy has a background, that he had a reason to be the way he is, because the immediate reaction to Lloyd is that you look at him and go, “Who does this?” It’s very much the reaction to Lloyd. But I wanted to give him a bit of depth. I wanted there to be something interesting and blue-collar in his background. Something east coast and aspirational into why he’s pushing himself so hard, why this enfant terrible has risen so high so quickly and pushed so hard. All of that comes into the melody and nuances of where that accent comes from. I do the same with British accents, it’s always building the person and then how they speak.

Q: You were pulling from blue-collar, east coast [roots]. Were there any specific inspirations or villain inspirations? Early on we realize he’s not a great guy [laughs].

R-JP: Nothing in particular. It’s always a collage effect, you steal little pieces, but also you never say where you steal from, that’d be [telling?].

Q: When audiences see this film, they learn very quickly that Denny Carmichael is not someone who should be messed with. Did you enjoy taking on someone who has such an openly dark side?

R-JP: It’s hugely freeing. There’s something fun about…  The difference between villains and heroes, generally, is that villains are not burdened with a conscience in the same way as heroes are. They don’t have any barriers between themselves and their goals, or at least not the same barriers. My job was just to bring some relish to being unrestrained. My favorite villain in literature is Iago in “Othello.” People enjoy watching him enjoy himself. I feel that Denny and Lloyd are cut from a similar cloth in that way.  They enjoy themselves, just in different ways. I tried to bring some relish to the deviousness. It’s good fun, hopefully for myself and for the audience.

Q: Jessica, Your character has this really interesting arc in the film. She’s watching the chaos ensue [from] Denny’s orders, and then decides to step in and do something about it. Talk about that turn in making her this dynamic and complex character?

Jessica Henwick: I didn’t approach it as a turn, I wanted it to be shocking, but I also wanted you to go, “Oh, okay, that makes sense.”  I mean, to be surrounded by two douchebags for that long?  Like who wouldn’t snap? I didn’t want it to be, like, “Oh, I don’t understand why she did that” moment.

Q; She has a great line at the end of the movie that’s basically, “Don’t underestimate me,” and we see that throughout you bring a lot of complexity to that.

JH: Thank you for reminding me, I didn’t remember that line.

Q: Julia, you get a chance to work alongside some pretty iconic actors and actresses in this movie, though they also get to work alongside icon Julia Butters as well. Did you enjoy the opportunity to work with this amazing cast and did you learn anything from your screen-time with these individuals?

Julia Butters Working with these folks here was a delight because I’d seen [laughs] half of them on SNL before anything else. Ryan and Rege-Jean were from SNL, and I was a fan.  So, thank you guys for that.

RG: Julia Butters knows who I am.

Julia: It was amazing working with these people. I respect them so much and think they’re incredibly talented. I’m more of an observer than someone to ask for advice, whether watching Chris twitch into Lloyd, literally physically or [laughs] watching Billy just take seconds to calm down and think. I honor them so much in their process.

For me, taking notes by watching what they do is my form of learning, and just seeing how professional they are and growing up seeing that through everyone I work with, I really try to get as much as I can from observance. Thank you so much for being amazing.  And the Russo Brothers too, you guys are just incredible. Thank you so much for letting me be a part of this.

Q: Dhanush, this is your first Hollywood blockbuster, though you’re no stranger to blockbusters. How has this experience working with the Russos and this cast been for you?

Dhanush: It was amazing. I had a great time understanding how Hollywood works. I’ve done about 50 films, 22 years of work in the Indian film industry. You don’t often get a chance to feel like a newcomer again because the first time it all happens in a blur, you don’t realize what’s happening. But this time, I had an opportunity to look at myself like a newcomer. It was really amazing. Growing up watching Hollywood films and to be in one is really nice [laughs]. I’m thankful to the Russos for finding and casting me and it’s just amazing.

Q: What was the learning curve for you with the fight choreography? Was it challenging to keep your character’s drive and energy at the forefront of the action? You’re no stranger to action, but action with the Russos is on a whole other level.

D: They started from the basics. If your left hand is here, where should your right leg be. It was amazing, right from the basics. The stunt crew… They take you through, and then it gets intense, and gets to the point where it feels dangerous. It’s very quick and very fast [laughs].

It was very challenging, but fun. Towards the end, you feel like you’re a pro, you move so quick. They make sure you’re so good before you go on.  It’s funny, because one week before the shoot, I sprained my neck [laughs]. So, it’s a month, month and a half of training, and then just one week before you start filming, I have a sprain, and you’re, “I’m not able to move this side, or this side.” I was like, “Oh, damn, what am I going to do now?”

And the physio just had a week’s time to get me ready. I have to match Ana’s speed. Somehow they found a way to make me fit for the stunt sequence. It was amazing, a great experience. Avik San’s supposed to be very calm, mysterious, and composed. But I have to have this kind of movement and energy coming out of my body. And the grunts without… I didn’t know how to do it. I have to be calm, but… [makes noise]. It was challenging. It’s a good question actually. But it was something that keeps you thinking all the time; it’s always really great to do something like that.

Q; Jessica, Alfre, Ana, and Julia — you four play clearly strong characters in this film. Who wants to talk about why it’s important to see leading women within the action spy genre?

AW: It’s important because we are the stronger gender [laughs]. The guys have to have these kind of women in their lives so we just need to make sure, thankfully, that they know that. Whether they’re moms, aunties, daughters, and all. Ryan is just rocked by strong women in his life. We’re just presenting real life. A lot of times you don’t get that in film.

JB: It’s also very important that women in action movies aren’t presented as women wearing high heels, beating the guys, and oh, they’re so sexy. It’s important that you represent them in a way where they’re doing a job, and it doesn’t necessarily matter if they’re found attractive, even though this is a gorgeous cast [laughs]. It’s important to represent women as women instead of high heels, long hair, long nails, and whipping the boys. It’s important to represent them respectfully and powerfully at the same time.

AD: I feel like this comment was coming right at me. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. I was a woman in high heels kicking ass in a Bond movie looking beautiful and the way I was supposed to for that movie. But it’s something really refreshing about this one where the focus is not on that. I’m not Ryan’s love interest. We’ve done that, too. We’ve been there.  It’s about her power in a different way. And it’s really cool. It’s important to put women in action films in that light, and have that vision of it, and accentuate that part of badass women. Does that make sense?

Q: Joe and Anthony, what would you say was the hardest part to film about the Prague Sequence?

JR: All of it.

AR: Yeah, every single element of it. For the Prague sequence, we needed a large section of the city to pull that off. That sequence starts in a major city square, and it continues through a chase throughout the city, so it was very complex.  And, just to give you an example of how hard it was, there’s a tram that The Gray Man gets on and Ana’s character is chasing him in a car and there’s a lot of other mercs around. It careens through Prague, and in order to shoot that sequence, we were using actual trams. We built a bus that was designed to look exactly like a tram but ran on wheels because sometimes we needed to run the tram faster than the tram could actually go, or we needed to take it down streets that didn’t have tracks, et cetera. And we also had a tram that was located at a lot in Prague but was stationary that we would sort of shake, and we had a blue screen around it. You’re building the sequence through all those different locations, we’re shooting with our main cast, we’re shooting with stunt performers for the portions that are too dangerous, and it was a very complex process to build that. We’re grateful to everyone in Prague, Prague’s an amazing filmmaking center, they have an amazing crew there. The people are very supportive of filmmaking. You can only pull something that complex off at a place like Prague.

Q: Can you speak to the decision to shoot on location instead of building a set on a soundstage to look like Prague?

AR:  Yeah, [of course].

JR: It would have been tough and required a lot of VFX. It is a very tactile sequence. Whenever you go into a town, like we did with “Winter Soldier,” we shut down a freeway. We went back to Cleveland, our hometown, to shoot the movie and everyone was very happy, and then we shut down the freeway for two weeks and…

AR: I was going to say, they weren’t that happy.

Q; They’re like, “Go to Prague.” [laughs]

AR: That was short lived.

JR: And then they weren’t happy. It was very short lived.

AR: Chris can call us on that one.

JR: I don’t think we can go back to Prague or Cleveland, but we’re very grateful that we were able to shoot on location.

Q: Joe, you wrote this as well. Having worked with Chris so long, were you weaving some of the comedic elements into Lloyd as well?  Or did you guys work together to develop that side of the character?

Joe: It’s really important to us to work with the cast on the scripts. We want them to have emotional ownership over the characters. Everyone here is a great storyteller as well as an incredible actor. They all have an amazing wealth of experience. And we encourage our collaborators to bring that to the table. For Anthony and I, we prepare the script so we can throw things away. That’s an old adage in filmmaking, so we’re always available to what’s happening in the moment. If there’s something organic or funny, or if somebody says something funny, it doesn’t matter where it comes from, if it works with the character and with the story, we’ll try it. Everyone here brought dialogue, jokes, character accents in a way that really filled out the film and made it much more colorful.

Q: “The Gray Man” ends with Sierra Six disappearing. Is there a possibility for additional stories in “The Gray Man” universe?

AR: Part of our motivation to assemble a cast like this, an amazing cast like this who can embody so many interesting characters, was the hope of creating a universe that you wanted to follow all of them, either forward or backward from this moment in time that we caught in this first movie. So yes, hopefully, there will be more stories to tell in “The Gray Man” world.

Film: “The Gray Man”

Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo

Cast: Dhanush, Julia Butters, Billy Bob Thorton, Alfre Woodard, Rege-Jean Page, Jessica Henwick, Chris Evans, Ana de Armas, Ryan Gosling, Joe and Anthony Russo



The Glorious Corner



G.H. Harding

STRIKE END LOOMS — (Via Showbiz 411/Roger Friedman) All the studio chiefs met Wedneday with the Writers Guild and will continue negotiating tomorrow, according to a WGA post.

The sudden seriousness of the studios is welcomed as the deadline looms for the 2023-24 TV season. If the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes aren’t resolved by early October, my sources say it will be impossible to put on a season.

Netflix’s Ted Sarandos, Disney’s Bob Iger, Universal’s Donna Langley and Warner Bros Discovery’s David Zaslav were present today for the negotiations, a sure sign that the studios are finally in panic mode.

There are no daytime or nighttime talk shows, no new material on TV, and actors can’t promote the fall and winter movies. The actors have already missed the Telluride, Venice, and Toronto Film Festivals. Now the New York Film Festival looms, as does the premiere of Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon.”

The so-called Fall TV Season has been decimated; the Emmy’s pushed back and just general chaos everywhere. The severity of the strike -142 days in- has hurt almost-every-single below-the-line sector, from caterers to limo drivers to costume houses. It’s reported that it will take up to 10-12 weeks to fully resume everything. That means early-November and let’s not forget come Thanksgiving, the holiday season officially starts. Stay tuned.

Burt Bacharach

LOVE, BURT AT THE CUTTING ROOM — Monday night at Steve Walter’s Cutting Room was the presentation of Love, Burt – celebrating the majesty and memory of Burt Bacharach’s music.

The show really moved me and reminded me of the reason I do what … the music!

The show was just sumptuous – with the assembled group -led by Mike Visceglia- honoring and doing proper justice to a host of Bacharach songs – everything from “Baby, It’s You” to “One Less Bell To Answer,” The Look Of Love” and “Alfie” were all dutifully done. Especially poignant was their rendition of “A House Is Not A Home.”

The fact of the matter is that when these songs were recorded, they were embedded into everyone’s consciousness. These versions were good, but the originals remain standout. You hear a lot about the Great American Songbook, but these songs are the “new” Great American Songbook. Just luscious.

They ended the show was one of my favorite-Bacharach songs, from the 1988 album Burt recorded with Elvis Costello, Painted From Memory. One of the album’s strongest cuts is “God Give Me Strength.” It was simply sensational.Spotted there were Benny Harrison and Maria Milito from Q1043.

The room was packed like never before; what a night! 

Micky Dolenz on KTLA

SHORT TAKES — Micky Dolenz headlines the ACE Theatre Friday night in LA, and was a guest on KTLA Wednesday. Here’s a shot of him on-set with Sam Rubin who interviewed him with the KTLA-gang. Sam’s the second from left. Industry stalwarts at the ACE Theatre show include legendary-LA Times writer Randy Lewis; LA Magazine’sRoy Trakin and Goldmine’s Ken Sharp … Roger Friedman reported Wednesday that the pre-sales of Jann Wenner’s upcoming book Masters have been severely impacted by his New York Times interview. Take a read here: And just last night his big presentation at NYC’s 92nd Y with Cameron Crowe was shuttered as well … SIGHTING: Alison Martino at NYC’s Algonquin Hotel

The Morning Show

When Apple TV’s The Morning  Show debuted years ago (November 2019), created and run by Kerry Ehrin, it was a first-rate series certainly of The Sopranos-like and Mad Men-like caliber. Billy Crudup was astonishingly good as were Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell. The second season was basically trash. Three episodes in on a third season -with a 4th already guaranteed- it’s kind of a mixed-bag. I did not care for the first two EPs, but the third was bordering on the edge of greatness – and Witherspoon wasn’t even in this one and there was no explanation why. Jon Hamm has joined the cast as sort of an Elon Musk-figure. To me, he’s still Don Draper, just with an updated wardrobe. Most of the production staff has been replaced and it seemed to me, they’re still finding their way. The trouble is, that with these 8 or so episode-runs, it gets really good at episode 6. Go figure …

Rupert Murdoch

Rupert Murdoch to retire per CNBC? More on this next column Meg Ryan and David Duchovny in What Happens Later – looks cute and Ryan directed it – check out the trailer: Roger Whitaker

David McCallum

and Happy Bday David McCallum; Curtis Urbina; and Bill Murray!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Glenn Gretlund; Jodi Ritzen; Leonard Nimoy; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Scott Shannon; Zach Martin; Michelle Grant; Art Rutter; Maria Milito; Joe Lynch; Melinda Newman; Mandy Naylor; Kimberly Cornell; Sam Rudin; Jim Clash; Terry Jastrow; Randy Alexander; Bob Merlis; Andrew Sandoval; Art Rutter; and CHIP!

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The Glorious Corner



G.H. Harding

WENNER TAKES A DOWN —Jann Wenner always speaks his mind and this week he may have overstepped just a bit. In an interview that ran in the New York Times about his new book called Masters, he quite openly said that there were no black or R&B artists in it, because they were not able to articulate properly. I know, I felt the same way reading that. Minutes later, he was let go by the board of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which he helped start with Ahmet Ertegun way back in 1983.

Ahmet Ertegun

His Like A Rolling Stone autobiography book was quite an indulgent read last year, but Wenner has in the last several years suffered several health set backs and it was pointed out that he may not be in his right mind. Still, he should have spoken way more carefully. I’ve known Wenner for decades and trust me, he feels he’s way entitled, and that said, you can rest assured that there were dozens and dozens of people (and former employees) waiting to take him down.

The sad fact is that most of the accusations are true. That said, let’s face it Rolling Stone magazine in it’s heyday was a miraculous outlet for so much music and terrific journalism – from Ben Fong-Torres to Hunter Thompson and Jann himself .. it was distinguished. Now, he may have killed it all.

Rolling Stine magazine Monday posted this – essentially disowning his from the magazine: “Jann Wenner’s recent statements to the New York Times do not represent the values and practices of today’s Rolling Stone. Jann Wenner has not been directly involved in our operations since 2019. Our purpose, especially since his departure, has been to tell stories that reflect the diversity of voices and experiences that shape our world. At Rolling Stone’s core is the understanding that music above all can bring us together, not divide us.”

Here’s the report from Deadline:

FILE – Drew Barrymore attends the Time100 Gala, celebrating the 100 most influential people in the world, at Frederick P. Rose Hall, April 26, 2023, in New York. The National Book Awards dropped Barrymore as the host for this year’s ceremony, Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, a day after her talk show taped its first episode since the Hollywood writers strike began. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

DREW’S BLUES — Boy, what did Drew Barrymore ever do to deserve the treatment she’s been through with the media. Sure, her ideas to bring back her daily-chat fest was a good one, for the right reasons, but everyone from Rosie O;’Donnell to the trade papers have bounced on her like madmen. I never met her, don’t hate her, but really … let’s get back to something real, like these Russell Brand-accusations!

SHORT TAKES — We finally caught David Bryne and Fatboy Slim’s Here Lies Love and absolutely loved it. I remember it well when it premiered at the Public Theater way back when and knew they were trying to get it to Broadway. Honestly, I never thought twice about the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos story, but the play was riveting then and it remains now. They’ve outfitted NYC’s magnificent Broadway Theater with disco-balls galore and club-lighting and the immersive experience is terrific. Here’s a great re-cap of the play’s evolution from Theatre Guide:

Chris Carter and Micky Dolenz – Breakfast With The Beatles

Micky Dolenz appeared on Sunday’s Breakfast With The Beatles with Chris Carter (on KLOS) and talked about his new Dolenz Sings R.E.M. on Glenn Gretlund’s 7a Records. He also talked about his time with The Beatles and John Lennon. Carter also played a mash-up of Monkees and Beatle-songs which was done in England and it was superb. Here’s a shot from the event at LA’s Hard Rock Cafe on Highland and Hollywood Blvd. … SIGHTING: PR-pasha David Salidor and Benny Harrison at Monday’s Cutting Room tribute to Burt Bacharach … RIP Sammy Ash …

Jimmy Buffet

I’ve been thinking the best way to describe Jimmy Buffet and I saw this headline in LA Magazine: leisure evangelist– and it fits perfectly …

Happy Bday Donnie Kehr and Richard Branciforte.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Dan Mapp; Brad Auerbach; James Clash: Robbie Robertson; Carol Ruth Weber; Randy Alexander; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Andrew Gans; Kathy Brown; Roger Clark; Chris Boneau; Tricia Daniels; Dan Zelinski; Benny Harrison; Steve Walter; Gil Friesen; Donna Dolenz; Dan Mapp; Brad Auerbach; James Clash; and ZIGGY!

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The Glorious Corner



STRIKE UPDATE— (Via TV Line) “9-1-1, what’s your TV emergency?” The dual WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes need to be resolved by the end of this month if scripted primetime fare such as 9-1-1: Lone Star and The Cleaning Lady are to return with new episodes in the 2023-24 TV season, says Fox entertainment president Michael Thorn.

When last we tuned in, 29 days ago, the WGA had countered the AMPTP’s latest offer; no next meeting has been scheduled. Things are proceeding even slower on the SAG-AFTRA front. Sources tell TVLine that it will take scripted shows roughly eight weeks to get back into production once the strikes are resolved.

 “You’re going get to a point in the fall, in the late fall, where it’s going to be very hard to launch [scripted shows] within the traditional TV viewing season,” Thorn told our sister site Deadline.

If the strikes are resolved later than October 1, that’s where difficult scheduling decisions will have to be made.

“If that means the [delayed scripted] show could work and succeed in the summer [of 2024], great,” Thorn said. Or, “If it’s better to wait for the fall and use football and sports” to promote/launch scripted seasons, “we’ll do that.

“You could use October 1 as the date” by which the writer and actor strikes need to be settled,” Thorn added. “Every show is different but sometimes when you’re staring at a May launch date, you always wonder, ‘Is that the best time?’” to premiere a season/series

Fox’s fall TV slate features one full night of scripted animated fare (on Sundays), while the rest of the week is rife with multiple Gordon Ramsay cooking competitions, new seasons of Special Forces: World’s Toughest Test, Name That Tune and The Masked Singer, 9-1-1: Lone Star reruns, the new, David Spade-hosted Snake Oil game show, and, of course, Friday Night SmackDown.

But whenever the magical day comes for live-action scripted fare to return to our screens, “we’re going to return those shows with vigor,” Thorn avowed. “We really pride ourselves on ‘less is more’ and we were fortunate to be able to really put our money where our mouth is in that regard. When we return, Animal Control is going to get the full backing of this far-reaching platform [as will] John Wells’ new show, Rescue: Hi-Surf, when we launch it.”

Several columns back we posited that the strike might just be settled by Labor Day .. and we were lambasted with emails from a scattering of actors, writers and below-the-line talent that it would not be. They were right. As Gordon Gekko said, greed is good. Is it? Let’s all make nice and good back to work.

SHORT TAKES — As you may know the Toronto Film Festival has been going on and the two films that have received the most buzz are the Paul-Simon/Alex Gibey doc,

Michael Keaton

In Restless Dreams and Knox Goes Away starring Michael Keaton, who also directs, with Al Pacino, can’t wait to see both. Bravo! …The latest episode of Hulu’s Only Murders In The Building was just OK. So far, this third season has totally underwhelmed us. We said a few columns back it was most likely due to the fact that Martin hasn’t written any of the episodes so far. Why? I have no idea. Matthew Broderick played himself, but with a little more anxiety than usual, but the real highlight of this episode was a video-phone call between Martin Short and Mel Brooks. Irresistibly funny … Hard to believe that it’s the 25th anniversary of MTV’s ground-breaking TRL Live (Total Request Live).

Carson Daly

Carson Daly did a nice remembrance on Thursday’s Today Show, even citing John Norris and Kurt Loder, who were key correspondents. They taped many of the shows at NYC’s long-gone Palladium (now an NYU dorm), but many, many memories come to mind; Hall & Oates rehearsing in their dressing room

Debbie Gibson at Z100 on The Morning Zoo

and running into Debbie Gibson is one. Daly pointed out -and rightly so- TRL was a fan-driven show, where viewers had to request what to hear. These days I guess it’s just a download. Much missed for sure …

Carrie Underwood

Funny watching Carrie Underwood this morning; as she she reminded me so much of Shania Twain. from the music, to her visuals. As always, her “Before He Cheats” is tremendous and a big crowd pleaser … It’s a funny world for sure.

RL Stine

When RL Stine’s Goosebumpsfirst debuted in 1992, it was heralded as refreshingly new, both for the kid-demo and its brilliance. There were a few attempts at a series (even with Stine introducing them) and even a movie in 2015 that did just so-so. Now, with Netflix’s Stranger Things having hit a home run, Disney+ is starting a series, with Justin Long, that appears to veer dangerously close to Stranger Things. Also, oddly enough, Stine does not appear to be involved with it. He says: “I wish I knew something about it. I’m not in the loop. It looked to me like they weren’t going to do an anthology show. They were going to do something different that was some kind of continuing story. That’s what it appeared. But I have no information about it.” It begins on October 31. Have a look at the trailer:

Seeing Here Lies Love Saturday night, can’t wait …

Mary Wilson and Bernie Taupin

Great Bernie Taupin interview on NY Live with Sara Gore. They’re friends, so the interview as sensational. Check it out:

Love Bernie and Sara! …Happy Bday Randy Jones and Amy Billings!

NAMES IN THE NEWS —Andrew Sandoval; Jacqueline Boyd; Alison Martino; Robert Funaro; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Roy Trakin; Daryl Estrea; Glenn Gretlund; Jane Blunkell; Roger Friedman; Felix Cavaliere; Dan Mapp; Jim Kerr; Sam Rubin; Liz White; Grace Mendoza; Roy Trakin; and ZIGGY!

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Cynthia Bailey is September Cover Star of ‘Mr Warburton Magazine’




Actress and TV personality Cynthia Bailey is the September cover star of the relaunch of Mr Warburton Magazine.

The inspiration for the shoot was 1975 film Mahogany starring Diana Ross. We took over a street in DTLA and created a set.


“I wanted to show Cynthia in a different way. No wigs, just character,”  says EIC Derek Warburton. “I have been friends with Cynthia half of my life and this is the first time she has posed for one of my magazines. I feel the world has a specific view of her but I see so much more. She is a chameleon & at 56 years old Hollywood isn’t gonna know what hit them when she gets the right role.”

Be sure to check out the new double cover issue HERE.

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Santino Fontana Brings Voice, Comedy and Showmanship To 54 Below



Tony Award® winner Santino Fontana brings his tremendous talent to 54 Below and it is a show that wraps you up in his humor, charm, vocal prowess, laid back demeanor, jeopardy style musical choices and over all entertaining. By the end of the show you feel as if you know him or at least a part of him. Starting off with Charles Strouse and Lee Adams’s “Stick Around,” the night turned into a Russian roulette of material.  The audience picked numbers and as Santino put it “if you don’t like the show, it’s your fault.” First up for my show was the naughty but amusing  “Making Love Alone” followed by Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella‘s “Do I Love You,” which made for an amusing combination of songs. During Cinderella Mr. Fontana had shoes that were built up 2 inches inside and 2 inches outside, which cause a tremendous amount of pain, so the song told the story of his plight, which made the song take on a much different meaning. Sondheim’s “Anyone Can Whistle,” was sung for a Carol Burnett tribute, that luckily we were treated to.


His guest for the evening was Sarah Steele (“The Good Wife,” The HumansThe Country House) who sang “out There On My Own” from Fame. On the 14th it will be Greg Hildreth (Company, Disney’s FrozenRodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella). Click on the name and you can hear that version.

Showing off his baritone side with Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “If I Loved You.” We almost got to see Santino in Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields”s Sweet Charity, instead we got hint of what that would be like with “Too Many Tomorrows.” A hilarious version of “I feel Pretty” from West Side Story lightened the mood and had the room in tears. Recreating his duet “Love Is An Open Door” from Frozen, Santino channeled Dorothy Michaels from Tootsie. Again the room was laughing with the sheer comedic genius that won Mr. Fontana a Tony Award. Bringing the energy to a calmer state was the emotional Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley’s “Who Can I Turn To?”

Vocally the most impressive song of the night was “Joey, Joey, Joey” from Most Happy Fellow. Mr. Fontana’s voice was glorious in the tones and the subtle texturing. Keeping in the ballad mode and honoring Marilyn Bergman he launched into the iconic “Where Do You Start,”while accompany himself on the piano, which was highly impressive. Back to the uptempo mode “I Met A Girl” from Bells Are Ringing, was given a rigorous, amusing take. This was his original audition song. Lerner and Loewe’s “How to Handle a Woman,” from the recent Camelot, showed how Santino would have made an excellent King Arthur.

Another favorite moment of the night was “Buddy’s Blues” from Follies. Already a personal favorite, this made me want to see Santino play this role at a later date, though personally I would cast him as Ben.

For the finale songs “The Music In You” from Cinderella, told how he and the cast loved watching the magnificent Victoria Clark perform. “This Can’t Be Love” from 1938 Rodgers and Hart musical The Boys from Syracuse, ended up in an encore, of Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones’s “They Were You” from The Fantasticks, which made my guest producer Pat Addiss extremely happy.

Cody Owen Stine

Santino was backed by his musical director and accompanist Cody Owen Stine, who played flawlessly.

Santino Fontana

Santino Fontana opened September 10th at 54 Below and you can still catch this marvelous show tonight September 14th.

This is a do not miss!


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