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Posts about Behind the scenes

Sony Pictures cancels theatrical opening for 'The Interview'

Posted by: Colin Covert Updated: December 17, 2014 - 5:42 PM
James Franco and Seth Rogen in 'The Interview.' Sony Pictures Wednesday announced the film wil not be released. Ed Araquel/AP

James Franco and Seth Rogen in 'The Interview.' Sony Pictures Wednesday announced the film wil not be released. Ed Araquel/AP

Following ongoing online hacks and threats to attack screenings of "The Interview," the Sony Pictures conflict reached a new level of havoc Wednesday afternoon.

After afternoon cancellations of earlier agreements to screen it by four of the nation’s largest movie theater chains, Sony  cancelled the film’s scheduled Christmas Day opening. Earlier in the day the studio withdrew scheduled press screenings. It appears that there are no plans for any type of theatrical exhibition.

The $42 million film, a satiric political comedy, stars James Franco and Seth Rogan as TV journalists recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. It was called “an evil act of provocation against our highly dignified republic” in late November on Uriminzokkiri, a North Korean government-controlled website. While Kim announced "merciless counter-measures" if the film was released, North Korea has denied involvement in the anonymous corporate hacks.

The U.S. movie theater chain leaders AMC, Carmike, Cinemark and Regal announced earlier Wednesday that they had abandoned their bookings. 

"In light of the decision by the majority of our exhibitors not to show the film ‘The Interview,’ we have decided not to move forward with the planned December 25 theatrical release," Sony announced in a written statement Wednesday.

“We are deeply saddened at this brazen effort to suppress the distribution of a movie, and in the process do damage to our company, our employees, and the American public. We stand by our filmmakers and their right to free expression and are extremely disappointed by this outcome."

The film debuted at the Ace Hotel theater in Los Angeles for press and film executives last week to uneven reaction. Online critic Jeff Wells wrote after the screening, “I never once laughed. Yes, the opening 20 or 25 minutes is mildly entertaining and yes, at heart 'The Interview’ is anti-Kim, pro-anti-Kim revolution and pre-people power and all that, but it never rises above the level of a good-enough programmer.”

Kirsten Dunst cast for second round of 'Fargo'

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: December 10, 2014 - 3:42 PM



Kirsten Dunst


Kirsten Dunst says bring it on.

The Golden Globe-nominated actress has been cast for the second season of "Fargo," which will debut on FX in the fall of 2015. She'll play a small-town beautifcian with big city dreams who's trying to find herself while struggling with social expectations.

Jesse Plemons, best known for "Breaking Bad" and "Friday Night Lights," will play her husband, a butcher's assistant.

This new chapter will take place over 10 episodes, back to 1979 in Sioux Falls, S.D., and Luverne, Minn.

Molly Solverson, played by Allison Tolman in the first chapter, will be 4 years old in this telling and much of the story will revolve around her father, previously played by Keith Carradine. No other casting has been announced.

Noah Hawley will continue as showrunner and the Coen brothers will remain as executive producers.

This isn't Dunst's first time feeling Minnesota. She played a Minnesota beauty pageant contestant in 1999's "Drop Dead Gorgeous," the film that brought Amy Adams to national attention.

UPDATE: Garrison Keillor participates in Kennedy Center Honors

Posted by: Neal Justin Updated: December 8, 2014 - 4:00 PM

Garrison Keillor has yet to receive a Kennedy Center Honor, but at least he got invited to this year's bash.

Keillor paid tribute to inductee Lily Tomlin Sunday night in Washington D.C., praising the actress who starred in his film adaptation of "A Prairie Home Companion."

"People who adore Lily Tomlin ask you if you know her, and if you do, they want to know if she really is who we imagine she is," Keillor said. "And she really is."

Following Keillor's remarks, the stage was taken by Jane Lynch, Kate McKinnon, Reba McEntire and Jane Fonda who performed a spoken-word performance piece dedicated to Tomlin.

Not bad company.

Backstage, Keillor shared a dressing room with David Letterman and Steven Spielberg.

In a phone interview Monday, Keillor said Letterman appeared to be under the weather and was very focused on his presentation while the Oscar-winning director was "very friendly and chatty." Spielberg asked Keillor if anyone had ever thought about doing a movie based in Lake Wobegon. Keillor replied that he had talked to Sydney Pollack about it, but it didn't go anywhere.

Just before the ceremonies, Keillor was among the guests invited to the White House for dinner.

"I sat in the East Room in a spot where I could see the president's teleprompter," Keiller said on Monday. "His ad-libs were beautiful. He's a funny, funny guy and I got a chance to tell him that."

Other honorees -- singer Al Green, actor Tom Hanks, ballerina Patricia McBride and rocker Sting -- were feted by Herbie Hancock, Bruce Springsteen, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Hudson, Usher and many others.

The event, hosted by Stephen Colbert, will air Tuesday, Dec. 30 on CBS. Let's hope next time around, Keillor will be among those joining the prestigious club.

Peter Vaughan, theater critic, dies at 76

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: December 8, 2014 - 2:37 PM

Peter Vaughan, a longtime theater critic and reporter for the Minneapolis Star and the merged Star Tribune, has died at his French home in the Loire Valley. His 77th birthday would have been Friday.

Vaughan moved to France with his wife, Dana Wood, after retiring from the Star Tribune in 1997.  They lived in a country manse in Saint-Senoch, in central France, where Vaughan was able to indulge his tastes for good wine and food.

Born in London, Vaughan and his mother moved to St. Paul when he was a child. His father, Tom Vaughan, was an amateur theater enthusiast who became a critic himself after he retired from an academic career.

Peter Vaughan graduated from St. Paul Academy and received degrees from Yale and the London School of Economics. He started his career at the Minneapolis Star as a reporter, winning an award in 1974 for working on a team that investigated the value and reliability of auto repairs. It was as a theater critic, though, that he was remembered best.

“Guys like me and Lou [Bellamy] over at Penumbra, owe our careers to him,” said Jack Reuler, who founded Mixed Blood Theatre about the time Vaughan started to cover Twin Cities theater. “His own personal world view fit in with what our mission was.”

Bob Lundegaard worked with Vaughan at the newspapers and shared an enthusiasm for the arts and sports. The two played a regular tennis match each week for more than 10 years, Lundegaard recalled.

“He was very enthusiastic about theater – he’d review three or four shows a week,” Lundegaard said.

Vaughan could also be irascible when he felt the occasion necessitated it. Lundegaard remembered that the critic would often look at his reviews after they had been edited and restore his original word choices.

He also had dry sense of humor. At a breakfast with Rohan Preston, his successor at the Star Tribune, Vaughan was asked how he kept up with the plethora of theaters producing shows.

“Your job is to kill half of them off,” Vaughan said without missing a beat.

In a valedictory when he left the Star Tribune, Vaughan called theater “a unique forum to probe the political, social and personal forces that shape our lives.”

“Probably the most disappointing aspect of Twin Cities theater is how often good, even exceptional work, is ignored by audiences,” he wrote. “One might argue that we have too much theater and that the
exceptional often gets lost, but I fear that too often, people shun theater for the very reasons I am attracted to it.”

Vaughan is survived by his wife, her daughter and his two sons. There was no news about a service.

Minnesota Opera's president resigns

Posted by: Graydon Royce Updated: November 21, 2014 - 4:40 PM
Nina Archabal, who became interim president at Minnesota Opera on Thursday.

Minnesota Opera, which has become a national leader in generating new work, appears to be less than stable at the executive level. President and General Director Kevin Ramach has resigned after about two and one-half years in the role.

Ramach himself had succeeded Allan Naplan, who quit in March, 2012 after only one year in the job. According to a news release, Nina Archabal – the former director of the Minnesota Historical Society – took over on Thursday as interim general director.

The fact that the Opera is appointing an interim director on short notice indicates that Ramach’s decision was not long planned. When longtime president Kevin Smith announced plans to retire in May, 2010, he stayed on and Naplan’s hiring was announced six months later. Naplan took over the following March and surprisingly quit the next year. Ramach was appointed interim president and general director and then named permanently to the post in July of 2012.  

The Opera has had a tight budget the past few years and announced a deficit for the last fiscal year.  At that time, Ramach said the company had cut costs when it was clear that revenue was not matching expenses, even though ticket revenue was at an all-time high with the best season-subscription numbers in 14 years.

Fundraising, marketing and communications departments were streamlined. In the past year, two key players in those roles – marketing director Lani Willis and communications director Daniel Zillman – left the Opera for other positions. Several other people in key positions have also left the company. Ramach had also indicated in the report of the deficit that the company would be hiring a consultant  to examine productivity.

The company has launched prominent world premieres in recent years. “Silent Night,” “Doubt,” and the upcoming “The Manchurian Candidate” are three new works the Opera has commissioned.

Ramach, 54, joined Minnesota Opera in 1988 and left 11 years later for Kentucky Opera. He returned to the Twin Cities in 2006 and served as production director for six years before he succeeded Naplan. Friday’s news release quoted him as saying he wanted to “return to my creative interests.” He will not stay with the company.

The news release also did not indicate when the Opera board will conduct a search for a permanent leader. It is unlikely that Archabal, 74, will be a candidate long term. She had been with the Minnesota Historical Society for more than 30 years before retiring as director in 2010. She is president of the Schubert Club board.

Opera board chairman Jim Johnson said late Friday that he does not feel the Opera has a problem in the administration. "I think we have everything under control," Johnson said.


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