Hit & Run CCXXXVII
Martin Lawrence spent part of last summer in a coma, after
succumbing to heatstroke while jogging under eight layers of clothes. This
summer, Charlie Rose's favorite funnyman is in Massachusetts, filming a
comedy warily entitled What's the Worst That Could Happen? under the
direction of career hack Sam (George of the Jungle)
there's one thing Lawrence has an unrivaled ability to communicate to
audiences, it's that comedy is not pretty. From Bad Boys to
Momma's House, Lawrence has shown that the
sweat and toil that
alchemically combine to form the canned gas we know as boffo comedy should
be right up there with the money on the screen. Whether Martin Lawrence
has been sexually harassing a co-star, breaking a bottle over a head at a
bachelor party, or just doing a little stupefied, armed wandering in LA,
moviegoers can be sure of one thing: Martin Lawrence will deliver top-notch
movie laughs no matter what the
cost to his own psyche or reputation. But
how much should it cost his co-workers? A crew member in idyllic summertime
New England spoke to Suck from the set of What's the Worst That Could
Happen? on condition of anonymity, of course.
Have any of the crew members had a chance to
interact with the man Entertainment Weekly described
as "closer to the spirit of Bozo than Peter Sellers?"
If you're working on a set, you know, the crew bumps into
each other all the time. You're always in somebody's way, everybody's always
all over the place, everybody has different things they're trying to get
done in this one small area. So you're always excusing yourself, because it's
just understandable that you might bump into somebody or something might
happen. One crew member came close to bumping into Martin
didn't actually make contact with him, but someone from Martin's entourage
came up and said, "You almost bumped into Martin." And he goes, "Oh, I did?
I didn't know that." So the guy from the entourage goes, "Yes, you did and
you're gonna have to apologize." He said, "I'm gonna have to apologize to
him? I didn't even bump into him." "Yes, you're going to have to apologize."
So then the crew member went to apologize to Martin. You know, just for the
sake of his next paycheck, he swallowed all of his pride and
goes up to apologize to him. And Martin puts up his hand and looks the other
way, like, you know, "Talk to the hand," and doesn't say anything. Another
time, we were about to roll, and someone in the camera department was
putting the I.D. slate up in front of the camera and Martin was positioned
underneath the camera and then there was a change and the director spoke and
Martin went to face or look at the director and he hit his head on the I.D.
slate, which was right above him. So for that, the camera department crew
member was told that he had to leave the set. He had to go home for the day,
and it was unclear at that point whether he was gonna still have his job or
not. And then when they called him up and told him he could come back, they
told him he's not allowed to be on set while Martin is on set at any time
for the duration of the shooting.
What does he do, then, for his job, since he's in the camera
department? Doesn't he need to be on set?
Someone else does his job and he has coffee.
So he's getting paid to linger and have coffee?
What happened when he accidentally bumped Martin with the slate? What
did Martin do?
He had his script in his hand and the camera
was rolling, and he gestured to the camera with his script rolled up tightly
in his fist, and then he left, and he didn't return for four hours. At
about 15-to-25 thousand dollars per minute to have a crew in one place
and a set all up, that cost the
production an incredible amount of money. And this is a frequent thing that
he does. If he gets upset for any reason, he just leaves, and doesn't come
back, and goes and plays basketball or hangs out in one of his trailers.
So Martin never talks to anyone on the crew, even when he's mad? He only
talks to the director? Does he talk to the other actors?
He doesn't ever talk to anybody on the crew. I did see him sort of
yukking it up with Danny DeVito.
He talks to DeVito when the camera's not rolling?
Yeah, but not to anybody else; unlike DeVito, who talks to everybody
and anybody and wants to know people and have fun and stuff. After Martin
left set that day for four hours after he hit his head, one of his entourage
came back to the set and made a speech to the crew as everybody was sitting
around for four hours waiting to work, and the entourage guy said to the
crew, "We have to explain this to everybody: Martin is very approachable,
but you can't talk to him." And then he went on and on about how you have to
be careful and how difficult Martin's job is and how we must give him the room
and space he deserves to do his job properly.
These entourage guys are not actually members of the crew they're
personal employees of Martin Lawrence?
I believe so, yeah. They stay with him all the time, I mean all the
time. They must be his employees, although I'm
not sure where their paychecks come from.
Do they have any role in the actual filmmaking?
Well, they do the jobs that you're supposed to do whenever you have to
interact with Martin. Instead of you doing it, they will do it. So instead
of the prop person handing Martin Lawrence his props and explaining to him
anything he might need to know like in the last scene, what was he holding
and which direction the bag was facing the prop person explains this to
someone from his entourage, who then hands Martin the prop and explains to
Martin what the prop person has just said to him.
Does the entire crew have to speak to Martin through his assistants?
Anyone at my level, anyone under the level of the director. Even the
assistant director speaks to Martin through someone from Martin's entourage.
What about the hair and makeup people? Does he talk to people who
actually have to touch him?
The assistants talk to them. The hair and makeup people actually do
work on him, but they were told that they're not allowed to be on set when
we're shooting. So, like, when you prepare for a scene and before the first
take is shot, they could be there, but as soon as shooting begins, they're
supposed to be off set, and they're not allowed to be fiddling with him or
touching him between takes, which is very unusual.
Normally, the hair and makeup people will interact with the actors
Yes, because if the actor is acting and moving and during that time he
rolls up his cuff or changes the length of his tie or tugs it, then you have
to get him back to Position Number One so that everything starts as if it's
the beginning of that scene and continues smoothly from the last one, which
may have been shot two days ago or whenever.
So can we look forward in this film to a lot of continuity errors that'll
make fans of the Internet Movie Database's Goofs section happy?
It's a possibility.
How does the entourage protect Martin on a typical day of shooting?
It's announced that Martin is coming to the set in the next few minutes
I don't know what we're supposed to do, we're just supposed to be aware
that he's coming and once he and his entourage appear on set, there's
this vibe like God has just appeared. It's him and his group of
seven or eight people who surround him at all times. Some walk in front of
him to make sure that there's nothing he can trip over, to make sure that a
path is cleared, and the rest of the entourage just kind of mills about and
they keep him surrounded.
What are the people in the entourage like?
I haven't had too, too many direct interactions with them. They
say, "Excuse me, we're coming through now" if you're up ahead of where
Martin might want to walk.
Is the entourage treated well on the set?
His entourage has a trailer of
their own. Martin has four trailers. Most $20 million actors have one
trailer. He has four, and he's the executive producer and he's getting paid
I think between $14 and $16 million. His entourage has a trailer, he has a
trailer, he has a trailer that's a workout room, and then he had a fourth
trailer added just so they could enclose an area completely with trailers so
that they could put a basketball court up, and so that they could play
basketball in-between shooting while the crew is setting up. So then they
had the grips go over and flag off this area with opaque cloth flags so that
people going by wouldn't be able to see what's going on through the corners
where the trailers meet. These four trailers are squared off to each other.
They're just playing basketball?
They're playing basketball, but they don't want anybody to see.
Why do you think Martin's so sensitive? Is it just because he's a comic
genius? Is he a method actor who can't break character?
I think it's because he's
not a comic genius.
But he wants the
power of a comic genius, so he's sort of creating this facade. He looks
like a Nation of Islam minister, with
all of his entourage all around him, but really, you know, I've worked with
tons of actors who just come to set and it's no big deal. They're just
coming to work like anybody else. But he's creating this huge facade, like
it's empowering or something. It makes him feel good, I guess. The character
he's playing is dressed very fine, and he is just so immaculate in every
detail of his appearance. But once we're set up and we're shooting, and we
take the first take, often the director of photography at some point will
notice that something will be better if he changes the angle or the light,
or puts a filter on, or does, you know, what his job is, which is to make sure
everything looks photographically correct as far as lighting goes, by, you
know, industry standards. But when Martin's on set the d.p. is not allowed
to change anything or take any time between takes to change any of the
lighting positions, and so this causes a lot of tension and it's a big deal
because it puts a lot of pressure on everybody, so there's always tension
between the director and the director of photography.
Does Martin talk to the director of photography?
I've never seen him talk to him. Martin has alienated the crew whose
job it is to make him look good and help him make a funny movie. He's
really shot himself in the foot here. It's like he doesn't understand that
he's pissed off the camera people, who can do their best to make him look
good, or, you know, not. The rumor on the set is that he has a contract
that guarantees any blemish that appears on his face has to be digitally
removed, or his looks have to be enhanced digitally if he doesn't think he
looks good. So maybe he doesn't care. I mean, the camera assistant he had
banished is like the most competent camera assistant on the crew. It's like
Martin Lawrence is King Ludwig. He's a combination of Joan Crawford and kind
of a second-rate Puff Daddy. It's really embarrassing. He has a little
video-viewing area that's flagged off just for him, too. No one else is
allowed to watch the takes in his little area.
Bush 2 may hate it when you call
him Junior, but his
choice of staid,
mature, dull, Dick Cheney (Bush père's secretary of defense) as a running
mate shows that the drip doesn't fall far from the oil well. Even
Bush 2 couldn't deny that Cheney represents something other than hard
numbers, cracking wise that he certainly didn't
pick Cheney to sweep the three electoral votes in the former Wyoming
congressman's home state. Cheney is there to offset Bush's status as a
Rich Boy With The Keys To Daddy's Caddy. Certainly the five-time
Vietnam era draft deferee brings both stature and credibility to the Bush
campaign provided all the excitement doesn't bring on his fourth
heart attack. But to the untrained eye, the juxtaposition of the two looks
remarkably like a boy driving with his learner's permit in the company of
one of his dad's creepy business partners. And if modern campaign
logic involves offsetting the candidate's personality deficiencies rather
than his political ones, where does this leave the
staid, mature, dull, Gore? We're guessing he's still fuming that ABC
beat him to Dennis Miller, but that he'll find someone soon.
There are many reasons for Susan
Sontag the skunk-streaked author
of Against Interpretation who's been called everything from "the
lovely brave Minerva of a genuine new underground/avant-garde" to "the Mary
Baker Eddy of intellectual chic" to be miffed about the new,
Susan Sontag: The Making of an Icon, by the
husband-and-wife team of Baruch college English professor Carl Rollyson and
freelance helpmeet Lisa Paddock. The couple dredges up every girl-girl
sexcapade they can before settling in to harp for page after page about
the long-term liaison between the "Dark Lady of American Letters"
and Absolut Vodka
Celebrity Series photographer Annie Leibovitz; they endlessly
enumerate "the glib bootlegger of
French modernism"'s countless dullsville contretemps with other writers
during her PEN presidency; they imply that the relationship between "the
sibyl of Manhattan" and publisher Robert Strauss isn't quite on the
up-and-up; they paint both her ex-husband and her son as, respectively, a
button-down blowhard and a foppish one; they relentlessly attempt to
protect themselves from lawsuits by pointing out how many times "the
belle dame sans merci of the literary world" defended freedom of
expression against anyone who would malign it; they imply that,
glamour-wise, her screen test for Andy Warhol just wasn't up to the level
of Baby Jane Holzer's.
The biggest insult, however, comes in both the book's award-list intro
and its appendix a Walter-Benjamin-by-way-of-On Photography
collection of stray remarks about "the Pasionara of the Left" that gathers
one-liners aimed her way by everyone from Stormin' Norman Podhoretz to
Kathy Ack-Ack-Acker. (And despite naysaying writers like those, we, with
Carlos Fuentes, will always think of Sontag as
"Our Erasmus.") Rollyson and
Paddock start and end their tell-all with a few lines of dialogue lifted from
that sub-Frank Tashlin, twilight-of-the-'80s, Spielberg-produced puppet
show Gremlins 2: The New Batch:
The niceties, the fine points, diplomacy, standards, tradition
that's what we're reaching toward. We may stumble along the way but
civilization, yes, the Geneva convention, chamber music, Susan
Sontag, yes, civilization.
These lines, spoken by a super-genius gremlin in the voice of Tony Randall,
are evidently supposed to
legitimize Sontag in the mind of the kind of person who'd bother to pick up
a beach-read biography of the culture critic and much-maligned novelist.
The percentage of such people who have seen Gremlins 2 is no doubt
small; for them, the citation will seem frivolous, if not downright
But maybe those aren't the people Rollyson and Paddock included
it for. Future historians take note: Gremlins 2 is a well so deep you
can drop your career down it and never hear a plunk. Formerly known
only for its laff-riot criticisms of big business, the mediascape, and the
mallification of downtown work spaces (and for being
Zach Galligan's last stop before big-screen oblivion), Gremlins 2
now reveals itself, through the work of Rollyson and Paddock, as a
motherlode text of cultural biography. Researchers on everyone from Donald
Trump and Ted Turner to Sylvester Stallone and Leonard Maltin will want to
dig with both hands into this side-splitting Joe Dante romp for the rich
vein of cultural history that lies buried and forgotten there.
Investigators dredging the culture for Al Lewis references and scholars of
the early work of Julia Sweeney will not we repeat will not be
disappointed. Gremlins 2 doesn't ignore those potential W.W. Norton
& Company biography subjects, either.
A fresh viewing of the sequel that firmly lodged Gizmo the mogwai in the
heart of our culture clearly reveals why Gremlins 2 leapt to mind as
a kickoff and wrap-up point for the Sontag biographers: Phoebe Cates,
with her cute black bob and smart, sci-fi tour-guide uniform, bears an
uncanny resemblance to the Sontag of mid-'60s book jackets and
Mademoiselle spreads (done at a time when Sontag was known affectionately
as "our unofficial
hostess of letters"). An extra interpretive layer is
added if the viewer mentally substitutes Sontag for Cates
throughout the movie, whether the scene features a gremlin throwing mashed
potatoes on her blouse
or a flustered Cates caught in a German Expressionist spider web. What else can the
scene with Cates trapped in a plummeting elevator be a reference to other
than Sontag's novel Death Kit, where a suicidal narrator is trapped
in the dream-catacomb of the last minutes of his own life? How did Rollyson
and Paddock miss this? And how did they miss that
in The Simpsons, when Sideshow Bob in the Tony Randall-esque voice of Kelsey
Grammer reminds us that "you don't have to be able to read to enjoy The
Springfield Review of Books. Just look at these amusing caricatures of
Gore Vidal and Susan Sontag."? What kind of academic knows Gremlins
2 but spaces on The Simpsons? We, with Our Erasmus, can only
wonder, and chalk it up to sic vivitur.
Every summer the Sucksters mindful of the value of your
entertainment dollar try to recommend one motion picture to our
readers. This year, we've been all but stumped by a dismal line of prosthetic
romps, pseudo-histories and sons of Jesus. Most painful: a
raft of allegedly state-of-the-art special effects that look dated before the credits
have ended. The Perfect Storm's widely-praised
oceanic vistas look to our weather eyes slightly less
convincing than the Claymation sea in Mad Monster
Party. And as for X Men's stubborn refusal to consign morphing to
the dustbin of movie history, well... does any effect scream "1991" quite as
embarrassingly as morphing? It's truly dispiriting to consider how many
currently eye-popping effects extravaganzas will in ten years need to be
re-released in analogue-remastered form.
Thus it's probably appropriate that the only movie we can really get behind is
the one that's consciously aimed at four-year-olds.
Thomas and the Magic Railroad has it all: a solid plot, Alec Baldwin's best performance
since Glengarry Glenn Ross, a prominent (but alas, too brief) role for
Russell Means, almost-Maoist
exhortations on the importance of being useful, thrilling
audience interaction, and best of all, the courage to stick with the
anthropomorphism effects that help make the TV show Shining Time Station an
enduring if inexplicable favorite among still-drooling viewers.
Our critical search for the key to Thomas's distinction led to the film's
credit list, where we found Harvard's Dr. Ron Slaby listed as a "Child Psychology
Consultant." Dr. Slaby, a child development specialist who
the PBS show, allayed our one concern about the movie's sources
The movie's plot has Mr. Conductor (Baldwin) going through what seems
like heavy withdrawal getting antsy, falling asleep by the side of the
tracks, basically turning into a bum after he blows through his stash of
"Magic Dust." Given the way Teletubbies was criticized for being a
favorite of ravers, are you concerned that this will be interpreted as a drug reference?
I don't think young children will be thinking of that, and if adults are thinking that
they're stretching. The magic dust is a magical force of vitality, not anything he
ingests or eats. It's a life force, meant to represent in a visual way something that
feeds your spirit, gives you confidence, gives you special ability and
esprit de corps, if you will. So it's
clearly not intended to connect with that, and if people see it that way it's a stretch.
There you have it. Safe for the kids, and highly recommended.
courtesy of theSucksters