Welcome to the House of Crouse. Julie Taymor brought the animals of The Lion King to life on Broadway, creating one of the biggest hits ever on the Great White Way. She’s the director of movies like “Frida” and “Across the Universe.” In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” she blends the two, presenting a film of her acclaimed stage production. It’s beautiful, magical stuff and we spoke about it at length. Then the HoC pays tribute to the great Swedish actor Michael Nyqvist who recently passed away at age 56. The “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” star talked about everything from Proust to George Clooney. It’s good stuff, so c’mon in and sit a spell.
Posts Tagged ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
By Richard Crouse
Alan Cumming’s new character was years in the making. In Strange Magic, a new musical fantasy from the mind of George Lucas, he plays the villainous leader of The Dark Forest, the Bog King.
“Some years you only do three days on it,” he said. “The gaps between when you perform it are so huge. You’re coming back to it with some familiarity but not that much because you might have recorded a song in a couple of hours that you’ve never known before and never hear again and six months go by and you have to go back and sing it again. It is a very interesting, drastic process doing a film like this.”
The toughest part, however, was not spilling the beans on what he was up to.
“You have to sign a confidentiality clause and it was very hush hush. I’d suddenly be going to LA and I’d see friends who’d ask, ‘What are you doing here?’ ‘I’m working on a top secret George Lucas project.’ ‘What is it?’ “I can’t say. It’s top secret.’ Early on I didn’t even know the proper story so I couldn’t have told it. It was quite nice having a secret.”
Inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Strange Magic is an animated jukebox musical set in a fairy world where you can never judge a book by its cover. Cumming’s character, with his glowing eyes and a skeleton that is more exo than endo, certainly embodies the movie’s message that beauty is only skin deep.
“You have to scare people but ultimately show that he has a nicer side to him.”
The release of the movie caps a busy period for the Scottish born actor. He’s currently on Broadway starring in the revival of Cabaret and can be seen on television in the Golden Globe nominated role of crisis manager Eli Gold on The Good Wife. Off stage, his memoir, Not My Father’s Son, was a recent New York Times bestseller.
“I don’t have many moments right now,” he says. “It’s been a very hectic time but I’m really enjoying stuff. I still am able to have fun. I have Club Cumming in my dressing room. I actually relax and have fun with friends there. It’s not ideal. I would love to have more days to do nothing but I think it is really important when you are really busy in your day to put some hours aside for revelry and relaxation.”
Julie Taymor wants to give you the best seat in the house at TIFF this year.
She captured her acclaimed stage production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream at the Polonsky Center in Brooklyn on film, shooting 70 hours with handheld cameras.
“I think film is so great for Shakespeare,” says Taymor, the first person to ever win a Tony for Best Direction of a Musical for her work on The Lion King. “You enjoy it in live theatre. The kids who came loved it; the pillow fights, theatrical stripping. They got it. But on film you have close-ups. This is where film is better than the theatre.
“With fours days of shooting, with hand held cameras and using pickups, you are now in the best positions in the house. We’re in positions that no audience could be. So now you are getting the support of the close up, which means you can understand it when you see the facial expression and the lips moving. You don’t need to know what the words are. I found that in Titus Andronicus [which she directed on film with Anthony Hopkins in 1999]. I still don’t know what a ‘weeping welkin’ is, but when Anthony Hopkins says it, I get it. You could turn off the dialogue and you would know what’s going on.”
Her beautiful adaptation is brought to film without the use of any special effects—“What you see was all in the production,” she says—except one miraculous performance by Kathryn Hunter as Puck. The cast and the staging are extraordinary, but Hunter stands out in a performance New York Mag called “part yoga, part cartoon.”
“I think Kathryn is the greatest actor on stage right now,” says Taymor. “She has played King Lear. She’s the only female in London [to do that]. She’s not a movie actress, because nobody has figured it out yet… because she is this strange creature. She is so versatile. I had seen her in five or six shows and a year before I did this I said if I could get Kathryn Hunter to play Puck, I’ll do this.”
It’s a show Taymor has deep connections to.
“It was the first play I ever saw,” she says. “I saw it here in Canada at the Stratford Festival and I played Hermia when I was seven.”
It also led, indirectly, to her biggest Broadway success. When Disney was renovating The New Amsterdam Theatre in New York she knew the first show there had been A Midsummer Night’s Dream, “so I went to Disney and said, ‘Could I do A Midsummer Night’s Dream here.’ They said no, but ‘Could you do The Lion King.’”
This weekend in Hunger Games: Catching Fire, he plays Caesar Flickerman, the elaborately coiffured host of The Hunger Games television broadcasts. Despite being disguised with wild wigs, fake teeth and plenty of bronzer, it is unmistakably Tucci, one of the most interesting actors working today.
He made his big screen debut in the 1985 gangster comedy Prizzi’s Honor followed by several years of dues-paying stage work and movie roles like Second Dock Worker in Who’s That Girl before landing recurring spots on Miami Vice and Wiseguy.
A succession of supporting roles lead to the one-two punch that made him a name actor. Producer Steven Bochco’s television drama Murder One cast Tucci as Richard Cross, a Machiavellian multi-millionaire accused of the strangulation of a 15-year-old girl.
The following year a much different part earned him an Independent Spirit Award nomination for best actor. In The Big Night he plays Secondo, owner of an Italian restaurant called Paradise. The place is slowly going broke but may get a boost from a visit by singer Louis Prima. If Prima shows up the restaurant will have a big night and be saved from bankruptcy.
It’s not only one of the greatest food movies ever made — you’ll want to go for risotto afterward — but it also features what Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers called “an unforgettable acting duet” between Tucci and Tony Shalhoub, who plays his temperamental chef brother, “that is as richly authentic as the food.”
Since then Tucci has played everything from villains — strangling a Supreme Court justice in The Pelican Brief — to a flamboyant nightclub manager in Burlesque, to the God of wine Dyonisius in Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters to Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Opposite just Meryl Streep alone he’s played everything from a gay art director in The Devil Wears Prada to Julia Child’s loving diplomat husband Paul in Julie & Julia.
In 2010 he received his first (but probably not last) Oscar nomination for his work in The Lovely Bones. He played the murderous Mr. Harvey, all twitchy movements and squeaky voice; he was Norman Bates without the overbearing mom.
“I don’t like to watch things about serial killers or kids getting hurt,” he said, “but this was something beyond that. It was an exploration of loss and hope.”