Katrina Vandenberg's poem "Tulipomania" is about fragile love.
“My favorite prop note: Prepare ‘blood and dead look.’ I asked everyone I talked to: Did you keep the daily call sheets? Most had trashed them years ago. The line producer, John Cameron, had his tucked away on an old computer and emailed them. I am forever grateful.”
I can’t think of anyone, really. That’s because Macy nailed it. He’s so good at playing insecure losers like Little Bill in Boogie Nights and Quiz Kid Donnie Smith in Magnolia. He allows himself to be exposed and is ego-less in service of the character. I’m sure the Coens mulled over the choice, considering Minnesota actors like Bill Schoppert, and other actors in New York as well. In the end, watching Macy’s uptight twitching and jaw-clenching and general nervousness worked exceedingly well.
Yes! I was incredibly happy to receive the tapes, which allowed me to describe interactions between Jane Brody, who led local casting efforts, and Minnesota actors who won roles and some who didn’t. I also got to see the truly lifeless room where many of the auditions occurred, which dovetailed nicely with William H. Macy’s description of how dehumanizing auditions can be.
The Coens don’t get enough credit. Their sentences pop and sizzle. And their screenplays are not only visual, making it easy for cast and crew to image what the movie should look like, but they also offer multiple sound cues. A telephone “jangle,” an elevator “screams into overdrive,” and Norm Gunderson in Fargo snores “like the great American buzzsaw.” Of course, actors bring characters to life, adding significant details. During his audition, John Carroll Lynch, who played Norm, hocked up a bunch of phlegm from the back of his throat while rising from the bed. That added a nice touch of realism.
As a reporter with a limited word count or a documentarian with a limited amount of time to tell a story, often my job is to trim a story to its most essential elements. With a book, the writing should be crisp and deep. I wanted to see if I could expand a story, through research, to a 65,000 word book. At the beginning, I was thrilled when early drafts of chapters landed at 5,000 or 6,000 words. Then I’d think, wait, there’s more to say. Let’s add details. And yes, let’s rewrite what is already there to make it more precise or beautiful.
I’d argue that these parts weren’t secondary. Fargo is really an ensemble film. Frances McDormand doesn’t even appear on screen until 33 minutes into the movie. And the local actors hired to play Hooker #1, Hooker #2, Escort, or the guy with the broom telling the cop about Steve Buscemi’s visit to the bar, add essential color to the movie’s palette. Their lines are among the most quotable because these actors were chosen to play locals and show us how locals really act.
The daily call sheets. It may not seem like much, but these industrial-looking spreadsheets are filled with relevant details for each day’s shooting schedule, including times actors involved in each day’s shoot and when they are scheduled to be in make-up and on set. There are also little notes about props, special effect notes, extras, set location, weather, all kinds of details a writer cares about. My favorite prop note: prepare “blood and dead look.” I asked everyone I talked to: Did you keep the daily call sheets? Most had trashed them years ago. The line producer, John Cameron, had his tucked away on an old computer and emailed them. I am forever grateful.
Absolutely. I just produced a radio story about the 50th anniversary of Shaft. I interviewed one of the actors from the movie and accessed an archived interview with Gordon Parks, but couldn’t connect with Richard Roundtree before my deadline. Now I’m desperately trying to get Roundtree to email me so I could turn it into a story for another outlet. The challenge with writing a book about a movie or director from the distant past is obvious: many cast and crew members are likely to have died. Which is why, for me, the sweet spot is likely the 1990s or later. I’m currently in love with the idea of a book about Paul Verhoeven, the director of Basic Instinct, Starship Troopers, Robocop and Showgirls.
— Photo by Evan Frost