MARCH 2005 NEWS
Göteborgs-Posten website is featuring
footage from Paul Schrader's press conference at the
Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film, as well
as some new scenes from his version. Click on the photo to
view the clip.
Stellan was in NYC to shoot the 15-minute short, Torte Bluma,
directed by Benjamin Ross. The film is expected to be screened at film
festivals later this year. Stellan plays Nazi commandant Franz Stangl,
who headed the deathcamp Treblinka in Poland. At his trial years later,
Stangl was charged with murdering over 850,000 people. The film tells
the story of Richard Blau, a Viennese Jew, and his relationship
with Stangl. When Blau’s father unexpectedly
arrives at the camp, Blau begs a one-time favor from Stangl. This
unveils the full horror of what the camps have done to both characters.
Here are some frames showing Stangl in his usual white uniform. The face
is commanding, ruthless....
weeks Paul Schrader gave a rather lengthy and comprehensive interview
with Erik Kristopher Myers that has just been posted at
It'll give you the full story behind the controversy over Morgan
Creek's decision to re-shoot his version of the Exorcist
prequel. When Schrader was asked about the casting of Stellan, he said,
"I don't know how he was presented to Jim (Robinson, Morgan Creek
CEO)... I was very, very keen on Stellan, who I knew and liked a lot."
When asked if he followed the Harlin production, he replied, 'Not much.
I mean, I was in contact with Stellan, and Stellan would tell me things
that were happening. I would hear how the budget kept getting bigger and
bigger, and when Gabriel Mann was replaced, that's when it looked like
they'd have to start over."
And what was Stellan's reaction to
re-doing the film? Schrader says, "He wasn't happy. It must have been
lucrative. He and Renny are friends and worked together on Deep Blue
Sea. Obviously, he got paid, and he did a different performance. One
of the fascinating things about the two movies was that it's not only a
different directing style; it's a different acting style. In my film, he
was playing this sort of tormented Max Von Sydow/Ingmar Berman sort of
character. In Harlin's film, he played Harrison Ford."
news reports that Morgan Creek and Warner Bros. will release Paul
Exorcist: The Original Prequel
in the next two months. No specifics if this means a theatrical or DVD
release. Fox describes it as "an unprecedented move. The production
company hates the film so much that instead of releasing it, re-shoots
it. Then it makes a really bad film. But it's forced to release the
original when critics applaud it." Morgan Creek chairman James
Robinson's son, David, says, "I never want to have to go through
anything like this again." Schrader says, "They'll be talking about this
in film schools for years to come" and credits the Internet-based fan
clubs for never allowing his film to die. At least Dutch Filmworks will
give it a theatrical release in Holland in
June or July. In both versions of the Exorcist prequel, the Nazi
officer named Kessel is played by Dutch film star Antonie Kamerling, and
though his role is minor, I'm sure his fans will be delighted. Here are
some NEW photos of Stellan with Antonie at the film's premiere last
Three years ago while on the
Exorcist set with Schrader, Kamerling made these comments - "I
think it's going to be a great film, I hope.
You never know, let's be honest, you never know..."
EXORCIST: THE ORIGINAL PREQUEL finally received its long overdue premiere at the
Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film on Friday night. Cast
members Billy Crawford,
Gabriel Mann and Clara Bellar joined the director in
Brussels to support the film. Schrader said it was "very gratifying" his
actors had traveled to Belgium at their own expense, describing their
gesture as an "act of solidarity". Since Stellan
couldn't be there, he also supported the
director by sending a video message saying how glad he was that the film
was being screened adding, "I hope it's fantastic." His sentiments were
echoed by Mann, who said it was an "unbelievable experience" working
with a "cinematic icon." Crawford, who endured six hours of prosthetics
make-up to play the possessed Cheche, admitted, "It broke my heart when
the movie didn't come out." And co-star Clara Bellar said, "I'm very moved
that so many people's good work will finally be seen."
"This film was not supposed to
exist", Schrader said, adding the Brussels event had only come about
through "patience and cunning." He went on, "I always knew there'd be
blood on the floor. I just didn't know it would be mine. Getting fired
is not good for your reputation or your self-esteem." The director says his prequel will definitely be distributed
in the Netherlands and is optimistic it will be shown in the UK soon.
He claims, "Warner Bros. said they couldn't release the same movie in the same year,
but I believe they're reconsidering. The buzz on the internet
might have reached the executive suites."
was disappointing that even though many film critics, cinema sites and
newspapers highlighted the news of the
premiere, it wasn't an easy task finding reviews, at least from reliable sources. I normally dismiss
comments on horror movie message boards and forums, which are often
by idiots. (I'm not kidding...) Here are a few excerpts from
Screen Daily: "Paul Schrader's Exorcist prequel is a far
richer affair than its troubled production history might suggest. A
notable improvement on Harlin's rushed job, this is a grown-up horror
movie in which performance and character development matter just as much
as the special effects... Its themes (alienation, guilt, violence,
the struggle for faith) aren’t so very different from those explored in
such earlier Schrader works as Affliction and Light Sleeper...
...the key set-pieces (the Nazi massacre which opens the film,
the exorcism scene itself) are confidently and intelligently handled.
Skarsgård brings gravitas and pathos to his role as Merrin while Schrader
tackles the material in his customary, full-blooded style. Though almost
inevitably falling short of Friedkin’s classic 1973 original, this
prequel is an intriguing piece of work in its own right and surely
deserves its belated chance to try to reach an audience."
A reviewer from darkdreams.orghad never seen Harlin's version so he couldn't
make any comparisons, but did commend the film on its characters being
well-developed and two-dimensional rather than made out of cardboard.
The film was described as "good, enjoyable entertainment" with "very
good acting." However, he felt the CGI effects did seem to weaken the film.
agreed that the least convincing component were the CGI effects. But
they did praise the film with "hardly a diabolical failure, if not
quite a heavenly masterpiece." The film industry mag referred to Morgan Creek's
decision to hire Schrader as both "inspired and
'what-were-they-thinking" insane." (echoing Stellan's opinion) They were
pleased to see that the director had delivered a 100% Paul Schrader
film, "drenched in the spiritual and moral angst that's watermarked his
career." Describing the film as 'a drama about faith, infused with
metaphor and doubt", they even went so far as to say the film "achieves
moments of real cinematic poetry." In a surrealist homage to the dream
sequence in Hitchcock's Spellbound, Schrader included a scene
which they found to be more dramatic than any of the CGI. They also
thought the dialogue seemed to play better with extended arguments
between Father Merrin, Rachel and Father Francis about faith and the
nature of evil.
Roger Ebert didn't see the film but
has revealed that Schrader recently wrote him saying "Warner Bros. has
apparently reversed its position and will now give the film a limited
release in April or May, albeit only if it is positioned as a 'new'
film. But that can change." Rumors abound... There may be an
initial three-city, 100-print release. I guess it's safe to say that
there will be a DVD release. Morgan Creek isn't that stupid (I
think...) And I'm happy that the IMDB has now given
Schrader's prequel its own film page!
some of the Swedish newspapers ran an article about celebrities in their
country who have done ads. [picture shows page 12 of Aftonbladet's
March 3rd issue which I've scanned]. Stellan has done the voice-over for
Ramlösa, a Swedish mineral water from
Helsingborg in southern Sweden. And he actually lived there years ago
and enjoys their mineral water. He felt it was important that he
write into the contract that Ramlösa
was not allowed to identify him in the commercial or use his name as a
representative. He has also done ads for the Swedish newspaper Dagens
Nyheter and for a margarine called Flora. In an Sveriges TV
interview a year ago, he related this amusing story - "Before you start
doing a shot, I think about - what's this scene all about, what is it
supposed to tell. What's the subject, the conflict? And then I stand on
the top of a mountain in Sarek [in the wilderness of Lapland in northern
Sweden] and I'm supposed to do this sequence in this Flora film - the
camera is on - I start thinking - what's this all about? - what's this
all about? ....... margarine! I panic and won't get out a word. We had
to do several takes. We had flown there by helicopter, and an
unbelievably huge amount of money on this film has been spent and I
don't get out a sound."
are a couple new high-resolution photos taken at the King Arthur
premiere last June in NYC.
Moneybrother was Stellan's favorite band, I came across an article
in Friday's issue of Sweden's Expressen. It just so happens that
four of Sweden's most popular bands - The Ark, Melody Club, Deportees
and Moneybrother - were on tour and had a gig at the Troubadour
in Hollywood last Wednesday night. The band impressed an LA audience,
which included Stellan. An obviously happy Anders Wendin (Moneybrother)
relates the events, "He came up to me and said, 'Boy, you have soul. You
really have soul.' I have always dreamed about going to an after-party
in Hollywood. Now it became a reality. Stellan Skarsgård
invited us to a party in his hotel suite where he was staying." Ola
Salo, vocal for The Ark said, "It feels
as if we have succeeded."
Another review of Paul Schrader's
Exorcist has been posted to
this time by David Harrington, who echoes the sentiments of Myer's
review [see yesterday's update below]. He states the film "is nothing less
than a true work of art. It is a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted,
bona fide piece of cinematic art that is deserving of all the accolades
and praises it is sure to get from the festival in Brussels." And
he finds Skarsgård dynamically
different. Now he has personality. He
continues, "He isn’t always stone faced and withdrawn as
portrayed in Harlin’s film. Though he has lost his faith in God, he is
not a morally bankrupt, defrocked priest with a penchant for whiskey. He
still believes in the acts of human kindness and decency. He also knows
that it is okay to emote. He smiles when he is happy, tears well in his
eyes when he is upset."
This is amazing news! Whether it
eventually gets a theatrical release remains to be seen, but there are
rumors that it will play in key US cities and eventually be released on
DVD. Bring me the head of James G. Robinson, the Morgan Creek Chairman
and CEO who fired Schrader!!! That decision cost the company another $45
million to re-shoot a whole new film, and on a personal note, it also
subjected a fine cast of actors in Harlin's version to bloody-awful
reviews. Tomorrow night Exorcist: The Original Prequel will have
its premiere at BIFFF and we'll have a better idea how universal this
favorable opinion is. I'll be away for the weekend so I won't be doing
any updates until Monday. If any of you come across reviews,
please email the
URLs to me. That would be most helpful. Thanks.
a new image section featuring Stellan's attendance at the
International Film Festivals. In 1982 he made his debut at
the side of director Hans Alfredson and their film,
Den Enfaldige Mördaren,
for which he won a Silver Bear for Best Actor. In 1991
Herr Wallenberg was screened. Then in 2000 he accompanied director
Jonathan Nossiter and co-stars Charlotte Rampling and Deborah Kara Unger
from Signs and Wonders. Two years later he
attended on behalf of Istvan Szabó's Taking Sides.
Mike Figgis on Stellan: "There isn't a better actor working right now. I
would like to see him being given the lead in something weighty, where
he would undoubtedly win an Oscar."
first review of Schrader's version of EXORCIST has been posted at
Erik Kristopher Myers recently attended a special screening of the film
in NYC through an invitation from the director. His overall response was
very positive - "Exorcist:
The Original Prequel is a remarkable film, and the fact that
Paul Schrader was cheated out of the opportunity to release it is a
tragic thing. It’s a haunting work, filled with richness and
texture, going far beyond what is expected of a mere continuation of
an established classic."
Myers actually loathed Harlin's version so this news is very promising.
On the character of Father Merrin, he says, " He
has been betrayed by his God, and lives in a state of perpetual
liminality that he simultaneously hates and fears to be free of.
This isn’t Indiana Jones with a crucifix, as he would later become
during the remake. Stellan Skarsgård seems more comfortable with
this incarnation of Merrin, and does more with his eyes than with
all the lines of dialogue in Harlin’s film put together."
from the set of Pirates - When I asked Stellan if he was having
fun yet, it wasn't a surprise that he responded "Yes". And working with Johnny Depp has turned
out just the way he hoped it would be. He adds, "The
vibe on the set is good and creative and you feel free to develop the
scene and character on the spot." And
how does our Swedish pirate look? Well, his hands are tied at the moment, but
he says, "I
have lots of glue on my face and
I look really interesting and very
different from anything I’ve seen before."
So, we have an all-new Skarsgård
character, different from Randbaek,
Hrothgar, Cerdic.....Now I'm dreaming up all kinds of images... He'll be
finishing up in Los Angeles in the next few days returning to a much
colder climate in snow-covered Sweden (evidently a late spring this
year), and then back to fun in the sun in the Caribbean come May.
have disappointing news on the fate of the psycho-thriller Downloading Nancy,
starring Stellan, Holly Hunter and William Hurt. It seems the film is having
financial problems so no one knows when and if production will begin.
Commercial and music helmer Johan Renck was to
make his feature film directorial debut.
Independent newspaper published an interview yesterday called
"Paul Schrader: Exorcising his Demons." Just one week from tonight his
version of Exorcist: The Beginning will have its world
premiere at the Brussels International Festival of Fantastic Film
(BIFFF) in Belgium. So how did Schrader manage to persuade
Morgan Creek to part with his director's cut footage? Schrader explains, "They had
extremely ambivalent feelings about it. They wanted to make some money.
But obviously, they take the risk that the better people think of my
film, the worse they look. So, it's obviously an extremely difficult
situation for them. They gave me the money to finish the film on the
cheap, so that there would be a DVD. And I was trying to work out a way
to give it a theatrical life as well." Schrader contacted the BIFFF organizers,
thinking it would be a better showcase for the film to be the biggest
movie in a smaller festival than just another film in a big festival.
The director will be accompanied at
the premiere by some of his cast and crew including Gabriel Mann,
Antonie Kamerling and pop idol Billy Crawford, who happens to be in the
middle of his European tour. Crawford plays Cheche, the crippled boy who
becomes possessed. Stellan will not be able to attend due to film
production on Pirates of the Caribbean 2 in Los Angeles.
Rumor has it that he will be sending a message of support via video.
Schrader admits, "I really enjoyed working with Stellan Skarsgård
and the rest of the cast." So now Dutch Filmworks has agreed to give the
film a Benelux release, and it will be on Belgian soil that the first
verdict will be delivered. "Its theatrical fate awaits Brussels," says
You can view a NEW
trailer for Paul Schrader's Exorcist: The Original
Prequel by clicking on the poster below. The
trailer shows only the WW II Dutch village scene with the
Nazi officer. It's filmed very differently from the Harlin
version. Here it's slow paced and there's much more realism in the faces
of the people and in the anguish of Father Merrin. Far superior footage.
Three years ago when
Schrader's Exorcist was being filmed in Rome, Stellan
was asked about shooting this particular scene last. He
responded - "This is the very beginning of the film. It
takes place in Holland towards the end of the war. It's a
very cruel scene... It's nice to shoot it now when you know
what it's going to lead to. And it's such an emotional
scene... it's good to have about four months to warm up. I
prefer shooting chronologically, but you never do that. It's
good not to start with the most difficult or emotional
scenes. You always want a slow start and gradually warm up.
Actually you want it to be slow and easy all the time but it
never is (laughs) because I'm naturally lazy."
asked today if there was a release date for
Grendel, director Sturla Gunnarsson replied, "Not
yet". And in defense of his interpretation of the Beowulf poem, he
posted this explanation at the film's official web site. "Since
the poem, when written sometime in the ninth century, was a 'modern
interpretation' of a tale that had been passed on orally for at least
three hundred years before being committed to sheepskin, I think the
passage of another millennia plus plus entitles us to a little artistic
license. That being said, I can assure you that the bones of the story
remain intact and I doubt that those who are not blinded by their
preconceptions will be disappointed."
of the Orlando Bloom fan sites posted this comment about the
Pirates of the Caribbean sequel - "We have an
anonymous report from the set - Stellan Skarsgård,
who is playing Bootstraps Turner, was
spotted with great make-up on and looked very scary."
have been all kinds of paraphernalia from the
Beginning set being auctioned on Ebay recently. I'm
always a bit suspicious of these items as to whether they were actually
worn or appeared in the film. Anyway, Father Merrin's
cassock was sold for $350!
From the Pirates
set- According to the Swedish publication, Expressen, Stellan says he's
already shot two days with Johnny Depp, who he finds to be a
very nice man and CHARMING (of course!). For his role as
Bootstraps Turner, he must sit for three hours in makeup
every morning (and what does he see in the mirror???). And
he thinks director Gore Verbinski is mighty attentive and intelligent.
to the The Daily Mail (UK), "Keira Knightley was leading the
'crew' of The Dead Man's Chest - Part two of the Caribbean saga - in a
night of fun in Hollywood on Wednesday (2/23). The actress and other
shipmates, including Tom Hollander, Stellan Skarsgård
and Orlando Bloom, were enjoying a few laughs with friends Sienna
Miller, Kirsten Dunst and Hugh Dancy." Stellan was also seen
at Bar Marmont in West Hollywood enjoying some late-night vodka shots
with a posse of pals. Filming began last Monday so the
"crew" is now at work. [photo below shows Keira & Orlando]