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

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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

 

Celebrity

The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

FOLEY’S FUN — I watched Axel F: Beverly Hills Cop the other night and though everyone looked dreadfully old, I rather enjoyed in. Murphy was 23 when the first one came out in 1984 and was a massive hit; 40 years later, the demand is perhaps not the same, but I was surprised by how much of the original music was repeated in this one: from The Pointer Sisters on down to Bob Seger; it was almost like a walk down memory lane.

Kevin Bacon, as a corrupt police captain, is the big bad here and while he was good, he was nowhere near as bad as Stephen Berkof as Victor Maitland in the original. Face it, the badder the bad-guy is, the more it works. It was great seeing the original cast back; I love Paul Reiser, Judge Reinhold and John Ashton, but newcomers Taylour Paige, who essays Foley’s daughter, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt bring real gravitas to the screen. Levitt continues to impress every time I see him. I predict he’ll find that one big role and will be a major, major star.

The script by Will Beall; Tom Gormican and Kevin Etten is pretty bland, although one line that Murphy says to Paige is a killer:  I’ve been a father as long as you’ve been a daughter.

Don Simpson

If you’ve seen the trailer and it evoked similar feelings as the one in 1984, it’s because the studio brought back the original editor to do the new trailer. Smart move for sure. Also impressive was adding the name of producer ‘Don Simpson’ in the opening credits. Much missed.

TRUMP BIDNESS — After the weekend’s events with Trump, what can you say. He survived and the ;photos and videos have been used and viewed hundreds of times. We don’t even talk about a replacement for Biden anymore?

There still are some that say it was staged, but were the injured part of the plan too?. Even for me, that’s a bit cyclical.

I lived through the Kennedy (both); King; Wallace; Reagan and Scalise events and they were just terrible.

Still you’ve got give Trump credit for pushing on …. right?

SHORT TAKES — Hard to believe LIVE AID was 39 years ago last weekend. We we’re there, actually sitting in the row where they stopped to hose the crowd down. Was a terribly hot day at JFK Stadium. My main memory was Clapton, The Cars and Hall & Oates and of course, all of Phil Collins. Quite a day …

Have you seen this latest video from Ringo Starr? “Gonna Need Someone”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9r0NthMLvtQ And that’s Nick Valensi (the Strokes) on guitar. Song was written by Linda Perry and from Ringo’s current EP Crooked Boy Sign Of The Times: LA’s famed Record Plant is closing after 55 years as one of the industry’s most in-demand recording studios. Hotel California and Rumours were recorded there. New York’s Record Plant closed their doors in 1987. Check this out from MIXhttps://www.mixonline.com/business/renowned-record-plant-studio-shutters?utm_term=2B400D4A-A644-43F4-980A-3A38D94AC1E6&utm_medium=email&utm_content=F16B421C-44D3-4A98-81C2-A992E5552E7D&utm_source=SmartBrief …

Jonathan Wolfson just sent us the new Daryl Hall album, D. Review next time …

Palm Restaurant

PR-pasha David Salidor’s book on the infamous Palm restaurant is due in September … Happy Bday Angelo Babbaro; Ron Shuter and Bill Evans. RIP Richard Simmons; Dr. Ruth; James B. Sikking; and Shannen Doherty.

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Al Roker; Bruce Grakal; John Billings; Jane Blunkell; Chris Gilman; Peter Shendell; Barry Fisch; Eppy; Vinny Rich; Anthoiny Noto; Anthony Pomes; Matt Crutch; Lush Ice; Belinda Carlisle; Gary Gershoff; Steve Walter; Chubby O’Brien; Pat Walsh; Mike Shanley; and ZIGGY!

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The Glorious Corner

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G.H. Harding

ALEC BALDWIN — I’ve had my own issues with Alec Baldwin for years; then, literally on a dime, it all turned around and I found him to be pretty compassionate, intelligent and a nice guy. What happened in Santa Fe on the Rust set was an unspeakable tragedy, and his trial was halted yesterday and the case was dismissed due to evidence not being given to the Baldwin-team. The Santa Fe prosecutor Kari Morrisey seemingly told two different stories on the stand and outside the court room. She is, without a doubt, toast.

Baldwin is still liable for civil suits, but this case is gone and he cannot be tried again. A win for sure, but the questions still remain: who brought live ammo onto the Rust-set. Clearly that may never, ever be determined.

Baldwin’s a good guy with a short fuse, but this situation, once and for all, is done.

Mirage

SHORT TAKES — Hard to believe the Las Vegas Mirage is closing … after 35 years. Opened in 1983 it was a great hotel and hosted The Beatles’ Love show. I have stayed there numerous times and loved it. The new owner will build a Hard Rock hotel there, with a HUGE guitar in front. Yet again changing the skyline of that town. It’ll open in 2027 …

Lyndsey Parker

Lyndsey Parker is a terrific writer. Her new site, Lyndsanity just posted a great interview with Micky Dolenz about his direction of the video “Love Is Dangerous” from Noel – masterminded by the Mael Brothers in 1979. Great piece, check it out here:  https://www.lyndsanity.com/music/micky-dolenz-on-directing-long-lost-dancing-is-dangerous-video-for-sparks-protege-noel-its-pretty-weird-huh/?fbclid=IwZXh0bgNhZW0CMTAAAR2W-9c0OfpLdT3WVy52ZWliQu7XTVoVjaYREbiUMSAUcdgJatcsL547X8c_aem_8St7LVBDI_U5Qp-ZJ5lxQA

… Hard to believe there are only 8 episodes left of CBS’ Blue Bloods. Salary concerns killed this show and it’s a shame as it was really superb for 15 years. Bad move on CBS’ part …

Zach Martin

Veteran-broadcaster Denny Somach joins Zach Martin’s NEW HD radio – https://newhdmedia.com/rock-and-roll-for-grownups-debut-denny-somach/?fbclid=IwZXh0bgNhZW0CMTEAAR1j_BeyvWnRksk6pRN7IUtWK-kzu5G35zKqcjBUjVJOJ3w_b4IVFjDE6UI_aem_hW0aEBIVaHEwpJXVTItulA

Benny Harrison

Whatever happened to Benny Harrison’s album Pages? It was a great one. Heard an early advance and loved it …And, (via Deadline)

Stevie Nicks

There are special guest stars, and then there’s extra-special guest stars. Which is what Harry Styles what is as he joined Stevie Nicks at her July 12 concert in the UK for versions of her hits “Stop Draggin’ My heart Around” and “Landslide.” Styles played guitar on stage and held up on the Tom Petty/Lindsey Buckingham vocal parts. It was familiar turf, as Styles has joined Nicks on stage several times in the past. Nicks was appearing at the BST Hyde Park concert series on Friday. Nicks told the audience in London that she asked Styles to help her in commemorating what would have been her late Fleetwood Mac bandmate Christine McVie’s 81st birthday … RIP Dr. Ruth!

NAMES IN THE NEWS — Nancy Ruth; Mark Bego; Freda Payne; Jerry Brandt; Kent & Laura Denmark; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; David Kramer; Terry Jastrow; Steve Immerman; Jordan Immerman; Tony Seidl; Roy Trakin; Markos Papadatos; Sparks; Pat Prince; Cindy Adams; Tony LoBianco; Tone Scott; David Adelson; Joel Denver; Pat Prince; and SADIE!

 Images on this page have been licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

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Entertainment

Come Celebrate Harry Potters Birthday at Harry Potter: The Exhibition

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In the first Harry Potter story, The Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry turns 11 on July 31st. In honor of his birthday, Harry Potter: The Exhibition at 50 West 34th Street, is celebrating with a variety of birthday treats and specials for visitors, including: free admission for anyone named “Harry” , $11 ticket special for everyone else, with code HPBDAY2024 (on sale now!), free ice cream for visitors between 11am – 1pm , one-of-a-kind commemorative birthday buttons  and ticket giveaways & contests with Z100 host Crystal Garcia.


Harry Potter: The Exhibition
is the record-breaking exhibition taking visitors of all ages on a one-of-a-kind journey celebrating the entire Wizarding World and includes some of the most iconic moments from the beloved books and films of Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts. Upon entry, everyone is given an exhibition wristband for a personalized experience using best-in-class immersive design and technology. From selecting a Hogwarts house (either Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, or Slytherin) to picking your wand and Patronus, visitors will be able to create their own, uniquely magical moments while earning points for their house with each interactive activity.

Harry Potter: The Exhibition closes August 11, 2024, so now is the perfect time to visit.

 

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Film

Gary Springer Remembers Shelley Duvall

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By

By Gary Springer

I loved Shelley Duvall. She very much changed my life and I am forever grateful. I was a young kid in NYC who luckily wound up in two movies – not that I wanted to be an actor – and decided I wanted to be a NY crew guy. Got cast in another film starring Shelley Duvall, Bud Cort, Dennis Christopher and Veronica Cartwright. Thought it was fun I still had the crew aspirations. Shelley became my instant best friend. She said ‘why don’t you come out to LA and stay with Patrick (Reynolds of tobacco fame) and me until you have to go back to school. I did. I spent 7 months living with Patrick and Shelley in a castle in the Hollywood Hills and then another 4 months rooming with Shelley until she called me one day from NY where she was filming “Annie Hall: and said, I think I’m going to sell the house and move in with Paul (Simon). I had to get my own place and spent the next nine years in LA as a working actor (including a television movie which also co-starred the editor of this publication). Shelley was my mentor, my love (platonically), my facilitator, my friend. I met so many people through her and experienced so much that I never would have. Her bringing me to LA for a couple of weeks changed my life completely. I quit acting and moved back to NY in 1982 to work with my dad, but Shelley and I stayed friends. She called me in 1984 and offered me a role in one of her Faerie Tale Theatre pieces (the last professional phone I had). We stayed friends. She moved to Texas and I visited. She had difficulties and I was her friend. I flew down to Texas bringing our friend Dennis Christopher last month to visit her and spoke to her twice last Sunday on her 75th birthday (one wonderful FaceTime). I loved Shelley Duvall and always will.

Shelley Alexis Duvall, inimitable actor, producer, and style icon, died in her sleep July 11, 2024  at her home in Blanco, Texas. She just turned 75 this past Sunday, July 7. Her longtime partner, Dan Gilroy was at her side. She is survived by Dan Gilroy and her three brothers her brothers Scott, Stewart and Shane.

“My dear, sweet, wonderful life, partner, and friend left us last night. Too much suffering lately, now she’s free. Fly away beautiful Shelley,” said Gilroy

She was born in Fort Worth on July 7, 1949, grew up in Houston, and returned to her Texas roots after successful decades in the Hollywood entertainment industry, Shelley was a brilliant and unique film actor and a visionary television producer.

She was first discovered in 1970 when she hosted a party to try and sell some of her husband, Bernard Sampson’s, paintings. Little did she know that crew members from a movie shoot in town were present and were captivated by her. Under the pretense of selling paintings, they brought her to meet the director, Robert Altman, and producer Lou Adler, who were blown away by her wonderfully quirky distinctiveness and cast her in the movie they were filming, “Brewster McCloud” opposite Bud Cort. In Shelley’s words: “I said, ‘don’t you want to buy any paintings?’ And they said: “No, we want you!’”

She continued working with Bob Altman on six more films such as Thieves Like Us, Nashville, Popeye, and Three Women, for which she won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Seeing her in that film inspired Stanley Kubrick to cast her in his film The Shining where Shelley’s harrowing performance is indelibly etched in film lore. Shelley had a one-of-a-kind look and manner—wide-eyed, toothy, skinny and gawky, but with her own beauty and elegance—that endeared her to industry pros and audiences alike. Beyond her striking looks, she was also a serious, dedicated, and admired dramatic and comedic actor. Shelley appeared in many other film and television roles from the 1970s, 80s, and into the 90s.

Behind the camera, Shelley also conceived and created groundbreaking TV fare through her Platypus Productions: she produced, hosted, and sometimes guest-starred in her Faerie Tale Theatre series, which also called upon the talents of her wide circle of notable actors, directors, and film veterans including Robin Williams, Eric Idle, Mick Jagger, Teri Garr, Jean Stapleton, Frank Zappa, Vincent Price, John Lithgow, Pam Dawber, James Earl Jones, Candy Clark, Francis Ford Coppola, Roger Vadim, Tim Burton and so many more who would not usually have worked on a nascent cable channel show.

The Great American Tee Shirt book – with Paris wearing my Dog Day Afternoon shirt, with Dennis Christopher & Bud Cort

Faerie Tale Theatre’s one-hour adaptations of classic stories, followed up by her Tall Tales and Legends series, enchanted children and their elders through most of the 1980s (and live on to enchant in rerun heaven). She continued the streak with Nightmare Classics, Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories, and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, garnering two Emmy nominations for Producer over the years.

Gary Springer and Shelly in Bernice Bobs Her Hair

Shelley, who had been called ‘The Texas Twiggy’ and, from film critic Pauline Kael, “The Female Buster Keaton,” was a frequent host on Saturday Night Live and during those heady late 70s and 80s was also known for dating the likes of Paul Simon and Ringo Starr.

Gary and Shelly on her birthday this year

In the mid-90s, Shelley found herself retreating from Hollywood and retiring from active production; successful though she had been as a star actor and producer. Then, her three-acre home in Studio City, which hosted a menagerie of birds, dogs, and other pets, was heavily damaged in the Northridge earthquake of 1994. Shelley and her partner since 1989, actor and musician Dan Gilroy, moved back to Texas to the small town of Blanco, near Austin, where the couple became a beloved part of the protective community. In recent years, Shelley has reconnected with some old friends and admirers from her Hollywood days while living a peaceful and quiet life in the Texas Hill Country.

Dan Gilroy, her brothers Scott, Stewart and Shane, friends and colleagues, the town of Blanco, and legions of fans mourn the passing of Shelley Duvall.

 

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Events

Comic-Con Museum Presents Julien’s Auctions & TCM 2024 Spotlight Series: Harry Potter & Other Heroes

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On July 28th Comic-Con Museum Presents Julien’s Auctions & TCM 2024 Spotlight Series: Harry Potter & Other Heroes. William Shatner “Captain James T. Kirk” Long-Lost Legendary Phaser and Iconic Communicator from Star Trek Original TV Series Unveiled for the First Time in 50 Years at the Comic-Con Museum. Ryan Reynolds Deadpool & Wolverine Film Worn Shirt Crashes the Party. Collection of Iconic Character Wands Used by Daniel Radcliffe “Harry Potter,” Ralph Fiennes “Lord Voldemort,” Michael Gambon “Albus Dumbledore,” Plus, Gary Oldman “Sirius Black” Shackle Props, Slytherin House Robe & More. Chris Evans “Captain America” Original USO Shield Prop, X2 Storyboard Illustrations and Life-Size “Spider-Man” Madame Tussaud Display Figure. (Balboa Park) 2131 Pan American Plaza, San Diego, CA Stunt Grapple Gun Prop, Batarang Prop, and Unused Cowl Prop


Julien’s Auctions and Turner Classic Movies (TCM), the ultimate destination for Hollywood memorabilia, are heading to the world’s greatest pop culture convention for their first co-branded event with the San Diego Comic Convention (Comic-Con International) / Comic-Con Museum! “Comic-Con Museum Presents Julien’s Auctions & TCM 2024 Spotlight Series: Harry Potter & Other Heroes” kicks off today with an exclusive two-week exhibition featuring a collection of the most instantly recognizable props, production material and memorabilia from the epic sagas of the Harry Potter, Marvel Cinematic Universe and DC Comics franchises that will be offered at a live and online auction presented by Julien’s Auctions Sunday, July 28th at Comic-Con Museum. Adding to the excitement of this exhibition will be the appearance of two extraordinary and important artifacts from Star Trek history long forgotten and believed to have been lost: William Shatner’s legendary phaser and communicator used in his iconic role as Captain James T. Kirk in the original Star Trek television series. Both props (conservative estimate: $100,000-$200,000 each) will be heading to Julien’s and TCM’s Hollywood auction this fall where they are expected to break world records at auction. They will make their first appearance to the public in over 50 years at this exclusive exhibition at the Comic-Con Museum. Crashing this party of heroes will be Ryan Reynolds “Ryan Gosling” button down shirt worn by the Hollywood legend in his iconic role as Deadpool/Wade Wilson in the highly anticipated blockbuster of the summer, Marvel’s Deadpool & Wolverine.

Comic-Con Museum,  is a division of San Diego Comic Convention (SDCC), a California Nonprofit Public Benefit Corporation organized for charitable purposes and dedicated to creating the general public’s awareness of and appreciation for comics and related popular art forms, including participation in and support of public presentations, conventions, exhibits, museums, and other public outreach activities which celebrate the historic and ongoing contribution of comics to art and culture. In addition to its San Diego convention each summer, Comic-Con (the premier comics convention of its kind in the world), SDCC organizes the Anaheim-based WonderCon each spring and the SAM: Storytelling Across Media symposium in the fall. On the web: comic-conmuseum.org, Facebook.com/ComicConMuseum, and follow us on X (@ComicConMuseum) and Instagram (@comicconmuseum).

Turner Classic Movies (TCM) is a two-time Peabody Award-winning network that presents classic films, uncut and commercial-free, from the largest film libraries in the world highlighting “Where Then Meets Now.” TCM features insights from Primetime host Ben Mankiewicz along with hosts Alicia Malone, Dave Karger, Jacqueline Stewart and Eddie Muller, plus interviews with a wide range of special guests and serves as the ultimate movie lover destination. With three decades as a leading authority in classic film, TCM offers critically acclaimed series like The Essentials and Reframed along with annual programming events like 31 Days of Oscar® and Summer Under the Stars. TCM also directly connects with movie fans through popular events such as the annual TCM Classic Film Festival in Hollywood and the TCM Classic Cruise. In addition, TCM produces the wildly successful podcast “The Plot Thickens,” which has had more than 9 million downloads to date. TCM hosts a wealth of material online at tcm.com and through the Watch TCM mobile app. Fans can also enjoy a classic movie experience on the TCM hub on Max.

Julien’s, exist to bring those moments back into your life through iconic artifacts and one-of-a-kind collections. Whether collaborating directly with artists, partnering with legendary estates, or working closely with discerning collectors, our auctions make culture pop with the promise of discovery and reconnection. From Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe, and Ringo Starr to Lady Gaga, Banksy, and Kurt Cobain-from LA to the world, we are where originals find their kind.

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