Monday, April 30, 2012

Elvis, JFK and It Happened At The World's Fair

Celebrating the Seattle World's Fair's 50th Anniversary / Part II 


Albert Fisher has had many eyebrow-raising adventures during a long career as a film and television producer, director, creator and writer.   It may seem unusual, then, to discover that some of his most vivid, most memorable experiences occurred 50 years ago, during a spring-summer temp job.

Of course, the job was at the Seattle World's Fair, at a time when anything seemed possible — because it often was.

In March of 1962, Fisher, who was working at a TV station in his hometown of New Orleans, received a call from a friend who was working for the upcoming fair.   A coordinator was needed for for TV and movie productions.  Was Fisher interested?

"I hung up the phone, quit my job and got on the first flight available, because I knew this would be an opportunity that would change my life... and it did," recalled Fisher from his Los Angeles home last week.

Albert Fisher was just 20 years old when he packed his bags for the Jet City.  No, that's not a typo.  Twenty.  As he was packing, the future film executive took a moment — just a moment — to contemplate his leap. 

"Here I am, on the spur of the moment, I'm going to move to Seattle," Fisher recalled pondering.  "I thought, 'Well, if Seattle isn't the end of the earth, you'll probably be able to see it from there.'"  He had never seen mountains, snow or the Pacific Ocean before.

Fisher said that he was immediately dazzled by the Northwest's scenic beauty, but didn't have a whole lot of time to take in the sights.   There was work to be done, amid the frantic charge to complete work on the grounds (now called the Seattle Center) and on the Space Needle.

"The place was abuzz with construction workers, cranes and mud," he remembered.  "It didn't look like there was a chance of opening on time.  And then, literally overnight — between April 20 and April 21st — hundreds of workers came in with truckloads of grass, flowers, paving stones, whatever.  By that morning, the World's Fair had been transformed into a wonderland."

Fisher was front and center on the expo's opening day, with tasks that someone with 20 years' more experience would find unnerving.  First up, coordinating from a stage a phone call between the fair and the White House; President John F. Kennedy was going to officially launch the six-month-long event.

In a less benevolent parallel universe, what transpired next could have ended a career, instead of starting one. 

"I'm there on the VIP platform, a 20-year-old kid next to Danny Kaye and John Raitt, talking on the telephone with someone from the White House," Fisher said, chuckling. "We're waiting for the President's speech, talking about what the fair is like, what sort of crowd there is, and so on.  Finally, I realized it was about a minute before the President got on the phone.  I said, 'It's a minute to go, is the President standing by?'  And the person I've been talking to for five minutes says, 'This is the President.'  I froze.  After what seemed like forever, he said,'"Isn't it about time I start?'  And I stammered out, 'Yes, Mr. President.'"

Shaken and stirred, Fisher recuperated that evening by attending the fair's opening night concert.  He had four tickets, but no date.  When he asked Raitt and his wife if they'd like to attend, the Broadway star asked if their 12-year-old daughter could come along.

Years later, when Fisher met Bonnie Raitt again, the singer surprisingly had no recollection of their "date."

Then again, classical concerts aren't usually a 12-year-old's cup of tea, even if the concert proved to be one of the more remarkable events of the genre's post-war era.  Pianist Van Cliburn was the opener (!), warming up the audience before Igor Stravinsky conducted the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.  Stravinsky was 80 at the time. 

Fisher had great seats, and soaked up everything.

"They had to construct a metal railing around the podium for Stravinsky to lean on, he was so frail," he said.  "I remember that somebody had to help him onto the podium; he was walking so slow, bent over - he looked like he could keel over at any moment."

Fisher continued the play-by-play as one would recall a World Series' seventh game.  "This legendary composer makes his way to the podium, to great applause," he said, "and he picks up his baton as if it weighed 30 pounds.   He raises his hand into the air to begin... and with the downstroke of the baton, Stravinsky's hands and body became that of a 30-year-old.  He swept with energy and enthusiasm through his 'Firebird Suite' — and after the last note, Stravinsky became an old man again.  He put the baton down, and had to be helped off of the stage.

"It was one of the most electrifying moments that I've ever witnessed," Fisher concluded.

The young liaison was soon caught up in an precedented whirlwind of excitement.  Television had evolved quite a bit since it had been introduced at America's previous exposition, the 1939 New York World's Fair, and a plethora of stars wanted to broadcast from — and be seen at — this grand vision of tomorrow on display in remote Seattle.

In July, Fisher turned 21 as an advance team and B-roll crews arrived in preparation of filming It Happened At The World's Fair.  The movie's star came to town the next month, and Fisher and The King became acquainted during the shoot.

They got along so well, the two went on a couple of double dates; curiously, Fisher had no problem finding accompaniment nearer his own age for those evenings.

"On one of our double dates, Elvis said, 'Let's go out to the movies tonight,'" Fisher said.   "We got into a black station wagon and went to a theater... his entourage arranged for the last rows to be empty.  Obviously, we had to wait for the movie to start, or there would be bedlam — and we had to leave before the movie ended.  The weird thing was, we went to an Elvis Presley movie — Kid Galahad.  Elvis seldom watched any of his own movies.

"It was so surreal," he emphasized.  "Apart from it being a boxing movie, I can't tell you what the film was about, because all I was thinking was, 'Holy cow, here I am sitting in a movie theater, watching an Elvis Presley movie — and sitting next to me is Elvis Presley.'"

                                                                            Albert Fisher with Elvis at the fair.

The King cut Fisher's temp job short, providing a stepping stone to the next stage of the young man's career. 

Fisher recalled, "Elvis said at one point, 'You should come down to Hollywood when we complete shooting here, you should be the technical adviser."  There was a lot of stuff that was shot on sound stages in Hollywood that were replicas of elements of the fairgrounds.  Particularly the Space Needle; the whole sequence in the movie where Elvis and Joan O'Brien were dining at the Space Needle, that was shot on a stage in Hollywood.  Elvis never went up to the top of the Needle."

Seizing another unbelievable opportunity, Fisher left Seattle for Southern California before the expo ended in October.  It Happened At The World's Fair premiered in April, 1963.

With such remarkable on-the-job training on his resume, Fisher acquired an identical position at the 1964 New York World's Fair, and later served as a consultant to the Montreal Expo.  In between, he kept up the career momentum in Los Angeles that began with his work on the Elvis movie.  Dozens and dozens of projects followed; today, he's the CEO of Fisher Television Productions.

As it turned out, Elvis wasn't the only fateful business contact he made at the base of the Space Needle. 

"I met three people at the fair whom I wound up working for," Fisher said.  "First, Ted Mack, who had The Original Amateur Hour; my company now owns that show.  I met Allen Funt, who hired me for work on Candid Camera.  And I met Merv Griffin, whom I worked five or six years for; we were good friends for life."

Not surprisingly, Fisher's noteworthy hobby is world's fair history and memorabilia collecting; though he also has a great fascination for the majestic 1939 fair, the Century 21 Exposition in Seattle is naturally closest to his heart.

Albert Fisher has loaned over 100 pieces from his vast collection of Seattle World's Fair memorabilia to the event's 50th anniversary celebration.  They are on display at several locations in the Seattle Center, and at the Space Needle.  Additionally, some of Fisher's incredible experiences at the fair are chronicled in the beautiful new book by Paula Becker, Alan J. Stein & Historylink, The Future Remembered: The 1962 World's Fair And Its Legacy ( / The Seattle Center Foundation). 

Friday at Intermittent Signals
: A celebration of the fair concludes as a woman who thrived during the "Mad Men era" remembers the event that helped shape the rest of her life.

Yesterday at Intermittent Signals : 50 Years of Wonder... and Counting

Friday, April 27, 2012

50 Years of Wonder... And Counting

Celebrating the 1962 Seattle World's Fair / Pt. I

As much as the Space Needle and the attractions that lay at its feet were unfathomably cool to a little boy from Minnesota in the mid-1970s, I sensed that something even more fantastic had once "happened" at the Seattle Center. 

It was an odd feeling; hard to explain, but I remember having it like it was yesterday.  The buildings, with their awe-inspiring architecture, were hardly abandoned relics; they just seemed as if they were designed for something... bigger.  Even though half of the Jet City's population seemed to have already left in the "Turn Off The Lights" exodus of that era, there were still plenty of people to be found at the Center, especially on a summer day.  Having never been to Disneyland, I imagined the grounds to be as expansive as Walt's paradise — but I don't recall any long lines for the amusement rides, the Bubbleator, the new exhibits at the Science Center (save for the King Tut extravaganza that came to town in '78), the Monorail, or even for the Needle.

Of course, as I soon learned, all that space to walk around in was indeed the result of something grand once took place — the 1962 Seattle World's Fair, which opened its doors on April 21 and ran for six glorious months.  Months that changed a rather provincial, remote (by east coast standards) port city forever.

Launched at the peak of the "Mad Men" era, the Seattle World's Fair (aka The Century 21 Exposition) was — and still is — a dazzling reflection of America's pre-Vietnam, pre-assassination optimism.  With a heavy focus on space-age science education (a lure for federal funding and corporate involvement), it was truly a forecaster of future possibilities and probabilities; in fact, the future was occurring during the fair.   Seattle took part in a first-ever satellite transmission to Europe via the newly launched Telstar, and John Glenn — with his trusty Friendship 7, fresh from orbit — visited the fair.  Hi-tech cars and appliances, video phones, atomic energy... the list of exhibited marvels that were just beyond our horizon went on and on.

Technology wasn't the only theme of the fair, however.  An unprecedented explosion of culture occurred just north of downtown, with the world's best art, music, dance, theater, fashion and cuisine flowing through the fair for six solid months.  The Duke of Edinburgh, a phone call from JFK, Elvis and his movie shoot... though it had hosted the elegant 1909 Yukon-Pacific Exposition, Seattle had seen nothing like this.  Heck, the fair even offered a risque escape for weary-footed tourists and visiting dignitaries: a Vegas-style burlesque theater that included a bizarre, nude marionette act produced by Sid and Marty Krofft. 

For all the marvels that the Seattle World's Fair presented, the behind-the-scenes tales of how it came to be — and how the fair impacted and inspired countless individuals — are just as fascinating.  Altogether, a multi-faceted achievement that couldn't be duplicated in the Emerald City of today. 

This weekend, Intermittent Signals will feature the stories of two impossibly young professionals who seized incredible opportunities of a lifetime, when they were barely old enough to vote.  People who not only were there, but who helped make The Century 21 Expo a legendary success. 

- Steve Stav

Tomorrow: JFK, The King, and It Happened At The World's Fair

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Loverboy Joins Journey and Pat Benatar For Summer/Fall Tour; Dates Announced

30 years goes by in a blink of an eye... especially when three of the most popular bands of 1982 are still rockin'.  It was announced yesterday that Loverboy will be joining Journey and Pat Benatar in a summer/fall tour of arenas and amphitheaters - including a show at the mind-blowing Gorge Amphitheater in George, WA.  Personally, I'm more than ready to be a teenager again, for one night.  As long as there's Advil and Icy Hot ready in the morning.

From my friends at Wolfson Entertainment, who manage Vancouver's favorite sons:

"....founding Loverboy member Paul Dean commented: "It's great coming full circle 30 years later. We first toured with Journey in 1982 on the success of our Get Lucky album. It was an amazing package then and it's an amazing package today."

With trademark red leather pants and bandanas to match their huge rock sound and high-energy live shows, Loverboy has sold more than 10 million albums and earned multi-platinum plaques for albums such as their self-titled debut LP, Get Lucky, Keep It Up and Lovin’ Every Minute of It. The string of hits includes the band’s smash anthem Working for the Weekend, and the hits “Hot Girls in Love,” “Turn Me Loose” and “Lovin’ Every Minute of It.”

The band recently reunited with Bob Rock, who engineered their very first album back in 1980 which was produced by Bruce Fairbairn, for a new song, “Heartbreaker.” In addition, lead singer Mike Reno penned “Flying High,” the anthem for the Vancouver Canucks’ Stanley Cup playoff run last spring. Last June, Loverboy performed “Working for the Weekend” live on Fox News Channel’s top-rated Fox and Friends.  A performance of the new single, “Heartbreaker,” was made available as an exclusive on as part of the program’s “All American Summer Concert Series.”

Loverboy’s  pop culture credibility was cemented by last season’s 30 Rock episode in which Scott Adsit’s amateur musician Pete Hornberger revealed he was actually Loverboy’s original bassist, showing him inserted into vintage ‘80s footage of the band wailing away on “Working for the Weekend,” which you can see at The same song was also featured on a recent episode of Comedy Network’s popular Regular Show, now posted on YouTube It was also part of a memorable Saturday Night Live skit featuring the late Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze as a pair of Chippendale dancers here.

Loverboy still includes original members Mike Reno on vocals, Paul Dean on guitar, Doug Johnson on keyboards and Matt Frenette on drums, with Ken “Spider” Sinnaeve (a former member of Dean and Frenette’s pre-Loverboy band Streetheart), who replaced the late Scott Smith on bass.

For more information, go to
Scheduled 2012 Tour Dates (more dates will be added):

Sat 21-Jul San Bernardino, CA San Manuel Amphitheatre
Sun 22-Jul Stateline, CA Harvey's Outdoor Arena
Tue 24-Jul Paso Robles, CA Main Grandstand, California Mid-State Fair
Thu 26-Jul Cheyenne, WY Cheyenne Frontier Nights
Sat 28-Jul George, WA Gorge Amphiteatre
Sun 29-Jul Spokane, WA Northern Quest Casino Amphitheater
Fri 3-Aug Salt Lake City, UT USANA Amphitheatre
Mon 6-Aug Sturgis, SD Buffalo Chip Campground Amphitheatre*
Fri 10-Aug Wantagh, NY Nikon @ Jones Beach Theatre
Sat 11-Aug Atlantic City, NJ Ovation Hall, Revel Atlantic City**
Tue 14-Aug Watertown, NY Watertown Fairgrounds Arena
Wed 15-Aug Canandaigua, NY Constellation Brands Marvin Sands Performing Arts Center
Fri 17-Aug Louisville, KY Freedom Hall
Sat 18-Aug Des Moines, IA Grandstand, Iowa State Fair
Fri 24-Aug Woodlands, TX Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
Sat 25-Aug Dallas, TX Gexa Energy Pavilion
Fri 31-Aug Kansas City, KS Livestrong Sporting Park
Sat 1-Sep St Paul, MN Grandstand, MN State Fair
Fri 21-Sep Cincinnati, OH Riverbend Music Center
Sat 22-Sep Cuyahoga Falls, OH Blossom Music Center
Fri 28-Sep Bangor, ME Waterfront Park
Sat 6-Oct Atlanta, GA Aaron's Lakewood Amphitheatre
Fri 12-Oct Tampa, FL 1-800-ask-Gary Amphitheatre
Sat 13-Oct W. Palm Beach, FL Cruzan Amphitheatre

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Other Lives Live - Free Downloads Released

Other Lives can't resist putting on a show, even when they're supposed to be taking a break.
The folk-rock mini-symphony from Stillwater, in between an opening-slot tour for Bon Iver and a similar one for Radiohead, performed at Tulsa's Fassler Hall in January.

Under The Belfry has released seven tracks from the concert, all free MP3 downloads.  For their fans, it's a surprise gift; for the uninitiated, an introduction to one of the most remarkable breakout bands of 2011, whose live performances rival their studio accomplishments.  The quintet's mood-setting, unbelievably atmospheric disc, Tamer Animals, was my favorite of the year.

The album has proved to have more legs than a bionic centipede... the workaholics have been promoting it via a pieced-together world tour for about a dozen months now; they're still on the road with Radiohead, and will be appearing at Coachella. 

For more, see Other Lives' official website.

- Steve Stav

Monday, March 26, 2012

One Of These Items Does Not Belong.

                                                                                 photo copyright 2012 Steve Stav

Justice for Trayvon Martin.  Justice for everybody.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Danny O'Keefe - Snohomish, WA 3/10/2012

 The very best singer-songwriters are mood-shifters, magicians, musicians with the ability to transmute words into feelings, to transport a listener to another time and/or place.

Danny O'Keefe has certainly conjured up some lasting spells over his nearly 50 years of performing; last Saturday night at Snohomish's Tim Noah Thumbnail Theatre, he proved that his sleeves still had plenty of tricks and tales tucked into them.

O'Keefe, best known for the classic American lament, "Good Time Charlie's Got The Blues," took a sold-out audience to New Orleans, to the Mississippi Delta, to Eastern Washington's dusty roads — and to the sleepy front porches of its orchard country.

And that was just in the first song or two.

A product of the 50s who honed his craft in the 60s and began garnering worldwide attention in the 70s, O'Keefe's compositions are truly timeless, the result of being a lifelong student of roots music, of jazz and rhythm 'n' blues, of the music that people once sang to themselves as they plucked apples or picked cotton. 

At O'Keefe's side this night stood fellow student Joel Tepp, a Seattle musician who's served as wingman and session ace for dozens of artists, but seemed destined to be paired with this particular singer often over the last decade or two.  They're a perfect fit; Tepp is one of the best accompanists in the country.  Many multi-instrumentalists are dabbling jacks-of-all-trades; Tepp's a master, especially when it comes to slide guitar.

O'Keefe's still-strong, instantly recognizable voice and well-practiced guitar, along with Mr. Tepp's accents and embellishments (including oboe, mandolin and harmonica), wove their way through a mighty impressive back catalog.

"Magdelena," "So Long Harry Truman," "Steel Guitar," "Last Call," "The Road"... newer material was presented during his two sets, but O'Keefe seemed to visit his early years with Atlantic Records more often.  It didn't matter, for in this stripped-down, intimate setting, "timeless" took on a second meaning as the evening progressed.

While I was sitting in the pews of this apparently converted funeral home, soaking up this typically fantastic Danny O"Keefe show, I thought of the infamous enigma of his career: why his records for Atlantic weren't a springboard for superstardom.  Oh, over subsequent years O'Keefe made some excellent albums, but for all their qualities, the recordings sometimes didn't do his talent justice.  For a long time, he darted in and out of the spotlight, writing many songs that superstars liked enough to cover, but "household name" status somehow eluded him.

There's doubtlessly plenty of reasons for this... one of them being that O'Keefe is almost impossible to classify, in a tag-obsessed world — Folk-rock?  Blues?  Country?   However, as O'Keefe leaned towards the tin can this night to sing classics such as "Outlaw" and "Pieces Of The Rain," another obvious answer came to me, a solution to a dilemma many singer-songwriters face as they try to present themselves to an often-fickle, flavor-of-the-month, record-buying public.

With few exceptions, all O'Keefe needed over the past few decades was a microphone and a recorder.  And, perhaps, an accompanist like Joel Tepp.   Various production styles, top-notch rhythm sections, keyboards, backup singers — all largely unnecessary touches that sometimes obscured the magic. 

The magic that was right in front of me, right in front of a hundred spellbound people who, for a couple of hours on a rainy night, listened to the best damn Danny O'Keefe album they've ever heard.

- Steve Stav

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

"Bully" - MPAA Battle Heats Up, AMC Theaters Join Fray

 From your friends at the Weinstein Company, verbatim :

NEW YORK, NY (March 13, 2012) – “BULLY,” the highly anticipated anti-bullying documentary (in theaters March 30th), has sparked a protest and now a movement, as a number of major movie stars, theater owners, and Members of Congress have joined forces to protest the film’s R rating. In a clear triumph for the film, Gerry Lopez, CEO of AMC Theaters, one of the most prominent theater chains in the world, spoke out against the R-Rating, saying, “To 'automatically default' BULLY is a mistake. Automatic default to a rating, a category, a genre... doesn't matter, is a mistake.  The message, the movie and its social relevance defy that kind of formulaic, conventional thinking. AMC will show this movie, and we invite our guests to engage in the dialogue its relevant message will inevitably provoke.”

Mr. Lopez is one of almost 300,000 people to get behind a petition started by a junior in high school named Katy Butler. Ms. Butler, who has experienced severe bullying herself, started the petition on after the MPAA ruled by one vote that “Bully” should receive an R rating due to six swear words. When Mr. Lopez asked one of his sons about the film, curious as to whether the debate had reached the demographic the film is geared toward, his son had already signed onto Ms. Butler’s petition.

The support from Hollywood has been on a steady increase since Katy Butler launched her petition. On March 20, Meryl Streep and her daughter Mamie Gummer will co-host a screening of the film with and David Boies, one of the two attorneys responsible for overturning Proposition 8 in California, and his daughter, Mary Boies.  The screening will be held in New York City.

Johnny Depp has also signed on to lend his support; Ellen DeGeneres has devoted time to the film on her television show; and in the sports arena, Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, has also added his voice to the movement.  Kelly Ripa and Anderson Cooper came on board as news anchor partners, hosting a screening in New York City last week, that was presented by Bing, the search engine from Microsoft. In addition to the screening in NYC, Bing will also be supporting the film in a number of ways, including hosting an additional screening in LA.

 Iconic American designer Tommy Hilfiger will design an exclusive t-shirt inspired by the Bully movie poster which will be sold in Tommy Hilfiger stores with a portion of proceeds benefiting Facing History and Ourselves ( Mr. Hilfiger is the first of ten designers that The Weinstein Company will ask to donate their services on behalf of the fundraising effort.  IMG, renowned global sports, fashion and media agency continues to support the film in a number of ways, and famed photographer David LaChapelle has offered to donate his talents towards an advertising campaign.

 In Congress, Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.) issued a bipartisan letter to the MPAA, supporting Katy Butler’s petition, to urge former Senator Dodd, now Chairman of the MPAA, to overturn the ruling. Over 20 Members of Congress have signed on to the letter. The political engagement continues to grow this week while Congress is in District Work Session, with additional support coming from the Senate. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) called for a PG-13 rating on Twitter today, and has told The Weinstein Company she intends to play a more active role in this protest.

Last Friday, Justin Bieber joined the cause, telling his fans on Twitter about the movie and encouraging them to stand up for each other. He is currently working with The Weinstein Company on how he can do more for the film.

“We’ve got the MPAA’s attention, and with nearly 300,000 signatures and support from celebrities and politicians, there’s now a national movement of people calling on the MPAA to drop the ‘R’ rating for ‘Bully,’” Katy Butler said. “As someone who lived through bullying day in and day out in school, including having my finger broken by bullies, this film is too important to silence with an ‘R’ rating. Everyone should have a chance to see ‘Bully.’”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

An Oscar For Oldman? Gary Talks About Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Counting Gary Oldman's unforgettable roles, one will find the tally to be sadly, inversely proportional to his number of Oscar nominations.  One of the finest actors of this or any other era, Oldman's dedication to his craft combined with a lack of vanity has provided him a chameleon's dossier of iconic parts - from a tragic punk rocker and a supremely terrifying Transylvanian to a legendary composer and a rumple-suited, middle-aged police commissioner.  Not to mention a memorable psychopath or two.

Perhaps 2012 will be the year for Oldman's validation, trophy - wise.  In a "Best Actor" field dominated by reserved, even silent roles, his portrayal of John Le Carre's George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is one of the actor's most understated, yet rivetingly sublime feats to date.

The Seattle International Film Festival group hosted a special screening of Tinker Tailor on Dec. 11 that also served as a brief retrospective of Oldman's work.  After receiving a special award created by Dale Chihuly, Oldman participated in a Q&A moderated by SIFF's Artistic Director, Carl Spence.  As one might suspect, the veteran actor was devilishly charming and humorous, yet gracious and earnest in speaking to a theater full of enthralled fans.

On portraying Smiley:

"I don't know if I could have played a character who's quite as subtle as this when I was 25," he ventured.  "I think what I bring to Smiley now, at 53 years old, is 30 years of experience.  And the courage and confidence, I suppose, as an actor to play it that quietly."

Oldman said that he waited a month to accept the job.

"Several great actors have played the part — James Mason, Denolm Elliott...  Alec Guinness is considered by many to have given the definitive performance," Oldman explained.   "When you're walking in the shoes of someone like (Guinness)... it was fear; I was really quite terrified.  It wasn't an easy decision, because of the inevitable comparisons that will be made.  At the end of the day, I treated it rather like an actor would a classical role.   For example, if you're going to play Hamlet, you're going to be compared to all the great Hamlets.  So I said to myself, 'Pull yourself together.'

On working with John Hurt:

"I've been a fan of his since before I had the idea of becoming an actor," the actor said without hesitation.  "It was a career ambition fulfilled, really, to work with him. 

"When I went to the UK for rehearsals, fittings and things, the part of 'Control' was still up in the air," Oldman recalled.  "I asked, 'What about John Hurt?" and was told he passed (on the offer).  I think he probably felt that it wasn't big enough for him.  And I said, "Well, call him again.  We can't pass this up.'  Fortunately, he said yes.

"I was so nervous on the first day (of shooting with Hurt); I was like a fanboy!"

On his relationship with Swedish director Tomas Alfredson:

"Obviously, there is a following for Le Carre (in the UK) that you don't have here in America, or elsewhere," Oldman observed.  "It's like a Holy Grail, so many revere his work... a few English directors were approached who would not go near it."

The actor had nothing but praise for Alfredson, whom he commended for pursuing Tinker, Tailor — which was his first film project outside of Sweden.  Oldman raved on how well the two were in sync with one another on the set.

"By the end (of filming), we didn't even need language;  we sort communicated... telepathically.  I don't do know what it was; we would do a take, and he'd say, 'Um, it needs some, um...' and I'd go, 'Okay,' and we'd do another take."

 What is the best thing a director can do for an actor?

"Leave you alone."

"I'll give you a very good, specific example," he added.   "The scene where Smiley is zeroing in on the safe house, the meeting place; when he's zeroing in on the mole.  And the landlady takes him up to the room, and he asks, 'What's the procedure, where's the microphone?'   And she shows him, and leaves.  And then it's just Smiley, alone in the room.  It's a very simple scene, on paper.  But Tomas took me aside, and said, "This is where all the betrayal leads.  There are people whose lives have been taken from them because of what went on this room.  It's been contaminated, it's rather like if you went to a gas chamber in a concentration camp.  It's an empty space, but...

"It shifted the perception; it gave me something to walk into the room with," Oldman continued.  "He was wasn't telling me how to play the scene, he wasn't a dictator; but he was giving me another dynamic.  It was a marvelous moment; it just gets you thinking, keeps you alive.  Good directing is knowing when not to say something; sometimes directors, I feel, have to justify their position, and have to get in your face."

Oldman revealed why he hasn't been behind the camera himself, since his smash directorial debut with Nil By Mouth in 1997. 

"I've been a single father for the past 10 years," he said.  "It's been my 'project,' which I consider to be my greatest achievement." 

Citing the increasing popularity of film production abroad, and in Eastern Europe in particular, Oldman said that he has missed opportunities not only as an actor, but as a director by wishing to stay close to home and his children.  However, he added, now that they've gotten older, he's been toying with the idea of directing again. 

Oldman hinted at a possible return to the camera, a "19th century period piece set in the West," perhaps in the next 18 months.

Who's easier to play, heroes or villains?

"Bad guys get better lines."

Oldman recalled iconic baddie Christopher Plummer, opining that the screen legend's "nice guy" role of Captain Von Trapp in The Sound of Music was probably his most difficult.

On luck:

"I've been very fortunate in my career; I don't think there's another actor who's been as lucky as me.  Sure, you have a work ethic and bring a focus and a commitment and all those things - but to get as lucky as to be in Harry Potter, that's just being greedy."

The 84th Academy Awards airs Sunday, Feb. 26 at 7pm EST/4PM PST on ABC.

- Steve Stav

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thomas Dolby To Launch North American "Time Capsule" Tour

Leave it to Thomas Dolby to make a big splash upon returning to the road. 

Dolby, who hasn't toured North America with a band in umpteen years, will do so beginning in March, including a stop at SXSW.

And he'll have a little surprise in tow... literally.  Dolby, one of the original steampunks, will be parking a mobile time capsule in front of each venue.


From yesterday's press release:

"The Time Capsule is a chrome- and brass-plated road trailer that seats three. With handcrafted leather and wood fittings, and complex electrical wiring that could have been designed by Nikola Tesla, it resembles a Jules Verne/HG Wells-inspired time-travel machine. Inside is a high-tech video recording suite that allows a music fan or guest artist to upload a personal video message to the Future. The Time Capsule will be parked in the street outside each venue on Dolby’s month-long North American tour, and in front of select local radio and TV stations. It will capture hundreds of 30-second clips over the course of the tour, assembling them into an online video montage.

Fans will be able to walk up and step into the Time Capsule to make their own fully produced and effected digital 30-second video clip. The clips will then be automatically uploaded and viewable on a brand-new YouTube channel along with the individual user’s own Facebook and Twitter pages. The most viewed clips will win prizes. Dolby’s label Lost Toy People Records is in discussion with several potential sponsors for the project.

'If you had 30 seconds to explain to an alien visitor what went wrong with our civilization, what would you say?” said Thomas Dolby. “Our species may not be around on this planet much longer, so you might as well leave a welcome message for the next guys!'"

Dates and more information can be found on the tour website

For those who would like an introduction to Dolby's first studio album in two decades, the brilliant A Map Of The Floating City, and a refresher on what else this innovator has been tinkering with in recent years  - I interviewed him twice in 2011:

plus, I reviewed his brief, but astounding lecture/concert tour last fall:

Old fans who are aware of the link between Dolby and today's synth-pop, those who never tested the waters beyond "She Blinded Me With Science," as well as intrigued youth will all be blown away by this tour. I guarantee it.

- Steve Stav