DID YOU READ

Getting in the Act: 11 Novelists Who Found Their Way Into the Script

Getting in the Act: 11 Novelists Who Found Their Way Into the Script (photo)

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Rock stars want to be movie stars and movie stars want to be rock stars; models want to be designers and designers want to tooth-tug Keira Knightley’s ear on the cover of Vanity Fair. These are known facts, demonstrable often to a shudder-inducing degree. What to make, though, of the latent career ambitions suggested by the humble novelist’s propensity for cameos? Do they all want to be comedians? Professional winkers? Or just slightly richer?

From Saul Bellow playing the “Man in Hallway” in an adaptation of his novel “Seize the Day” 30 years after it had been first published to Michael Chabon taking abuse in a bookstore in the upcoming adaptation of his 1988 novel, “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” many authors can’t resist the idea of essentially walking into their own novel when put to celluloid. Below are a few of those, and a few more whose motivations are more elusive.

02162009_twilight.jpgFilm: “Twilight” (2008)
Author Appearance: Stephenie Meyer

In this information-obsessed era, much of the appeal of a cameo — its element of surprise — has been lost to the need to know now, before, first. And so well before the film came out — days after the scene was shot, in fact — news of crazy-selling author Stephenie Meyer’s cameo in the adaptation of the first installment in her vampire chronicles was all over the internet. Early reports suggested that Meyer’s cameo would consist of the author ordering a vegetarian plate in a coffee shop scene (in her books, there are also vegetarian vampires) and that set off a “controversy” that no doubt lit up a thousand Tumblrs, but by the time it hit theaters, her screen time was reduced to a silent sit at a lunch counter. Too shy to go along with director Catherine Hardwicke’s wish that she have a line, Meyer regrets doing it at all: “It was not my idea to do the cameo,” she said in retrospect. “They talked me into it. They thought it would be, you know, cute for the fans because most of them would recognize me. I was thinking it was going to be more like a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ thing. Like I walk by for one second in a crowd and if they can find me, cool. That’s the one scene in the movie I would happily cut — the first five seconds, and the one that I had to watch like, I mean like this [covering her eyes], ‘Ah, is it over yet?’ It was really hard for me.”

02192009_AnnieHall_TrumanCa.jpgFilm: “Annie Hall” (1977)
Author Appearance: Truman Capote

“Oh, there goes the winner of the Truman Capote contest,” Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) says to Annie (Diane Keaton) during a Central Park-set scene in “Annie Hall.” However, this being Central Park, it really was Truman Capote, just passing through, in an uncredited cameo. By 1977, the literary set had all but abandoned Capote — “Answered Prayers,” his long-awaited follow-up to “In Cold Blood” was excerpted in Esquire, in 1975 and 76, to disappointing reviews. But the Studio 54 crowd embraced him for what he was: a gadfly par excellence. Late in life, Capote was best known for knowing everyone, and seemingly being everywhere; that he should wander through an Allen film seems like a knowing nod in ubiquity’s direction. In the ’60s, Capote was close with it-girl Mia Farrow, who attended his famous Black and White Ball, but the Allen connect may have come through Keaton, whose Hollywood home she rented in 1976. “She never bothered to change her number,” Capote said. “I would have the most intimate conversations with the people who called her. ‘Well, Diane’s not here right now, would you like to leave a message?’ Then the person would go into a deep psychoanalysis of Woody Allen. Ho, ho, ho.”

02192009_Backtoschool_KurtV.jpgFilm: “Back to School” (1986)
Author Appearance: Kurt Vonnegut

Taking the cameo to its most comfortable register — the absurd — is Kurt Vonnegut’s appearance in the 1986 Rodney Dangerfield comedy “Back to School.” As nouveau riche buffoon Thornton Melon, Dangerfield is, well, back at school, and when he is assigned an English paper on Vonnegut, he hires the man himself to help him with it. Vonnegut has just one line of introduction, although when the resultant paper gets an F (shades of the famous Marshall McLuhan cameo in “Annie Hall”) with his teacher (Sally Kellerman) fuming, “Whoever did write this doesn’t know the first thing about Kurt Vonnegut,” the “Slaughterhouse Five” author gets an irate call from Dangerfield, who threatens to go with Robert Ludlum next time. Interestingly, Keith Gordon, who played Dangerfield’s son in the film, went on to direct a number of films, including “The Singing Detective,” “A Midnight Clear,” and an adaptation of Vonnegut’s novel “Mother Night” in 1996.

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Scarface Movie Al Pacino

Wanna Play?

Say Hello to Our Scarface Quiz

Play along with movie trivia during "Scarface" tonight at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Tony Montana is all about money, power and respect. And while we can’t promise you’ll get money or power by taking our Scarface quiz below, you will get respect if you get a perfect score. One out of three ain’t bad. Click below to take the quiz, and catch Scarface this month on IFC.

take-the-quiz-quotes-image

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Hank Azaria Commencement

Best Speech Ever

Hank Azaria’s Simpsons Advice For Grads, Questionable Shark Facts and More of This Week’s Funniest Videos

This week we're laughing at Hank's Tufts commencement speech, Jason Alexander's shark facts and more.

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Photo Credit: YouTube/Tufts University

We’ve made it! Memorial Day weekend! But before we can complain that it’s over too quickly, take a moment to bask in the pre-break lack of productivity and enjoy some lighthearted videos.

From Hank Azaria channeling Chief Wiggum and other Simpsons characters while talking to college grads to “Shark-spert” Jason Alexander sharing questionable shark facts, here are five funny things from this week you need to watch.

1. Kermit Informs Fozzie Bear That They’ve Been Canceled

It’s never easy to see someone receive bad news, much less a Muppet. But if anything, Kermit’s poise and acceptance during a time of crisis is impressive, admirable even. Fozzie Bear, on the other hand, reacts with greater similarity to how we would: with baseless anger and utter despair.


2. Jason Alexander Offers Shark “Fin Facts”

Memorial Day weekend means the start of beach season, aka Shark Feeding Season. As part of IFC’s Shark Half-A-Day Memorial Day marathon, “sharks-pert” Jason Alexander offers up some interesting “fin facts” about our sharp-toothed friends from the deep. You can also check out Jason’s beach tips, and catch the Jaws movies with more “fin facts” from Jason this Memorial Day on IFC.


3. Game of Thrones’ Emilia Clarke Confirms Dothraki Is a Real Language

With eyes still dewy from the climax of this past Sunday’s Game of Thrones (Hold the door!), the Mother of Dragons herself Emilia Clarke dropped by Late Night with Seth Meyers to throw the diehard fans a reason to smile: Yes, Dothraki is a real language. Watch Clarke discuss the phonetics and grammar involved with vying for Westeros rule.


4. Hank Azaria Gives Advice Through Simpsons Characters

Hank Azaria — star of The Simpsons, The Birdcage, and Brockmire, premiering in 2017 on IFC — gave the commencement speech at his alma mater Tufts University. In the hilarious speech, Azaria discusses how he got through college, recounts his early career struggles, and offers up life advice via fan favorite Simpsons characters like Chief Wiggum and Comic Book Guy.


5. X-Men: The Animated Series Gets Honest

Screen Junkies are back this week with another round of Honest Trailers. This entry focuses on the cartoon mutants that comprise X-Men: The Animated Series — an ultra-’90s Marvel property that predates the comic book adaptation boom of the 21st Century. But looking back at the decade of Rob Liefeld and Todd McFarlane, this video finds much to mock.

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Weird Al Comedy Bang Bang Season 5

Call Him Al

“Weird Al” Talks Comedy Bang! Bang!, His Upcoming Tour, Favorite Videos and More

Weird Al comes to Comedy Bang! Bang! starting June 3rd at 11P on IFC.

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With a career spanning five decades, “Weird Al” Yankovic has defined the song parody genre and become a beloved pop culture icon. Starting June 3rd, you’ll be able to catch him as the brand new Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader Fridays at 11P on IFC.

We recently chatted with Al about joining Scott Aukerman on the new season, his upcoming tour, favorite CB!B! characters and his future dream projects. (Hint: it might involve actors spontaneously breaking into song.)

The Comedy Bang! Bang! bandleader gig seems like a natural fit for you. Did it take any time to get acclimated?

Weird Al: Yeah. It’s a slightly different skill set. The accordion is my main act, but I don’t use it on the show at all. It’s a keyboard setup. The actual setup is a little bit of a combination of what Reggie [Watts] had and [Kid] Cudi had. And a few extra things thrown in. So I’m trying to do my own version of what they brought to the show.

You’ve been on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast and the show many times. Do you have a favorite CB!B! character?

Weird Al: I’d probably have to say Doctor Time. Every time Scott wants me to do an evil character, he’s always got a bad English accent. [Laughs] Any time my character goes evil, he becomes sort of British.

Any favorite guests you’ve worked with?

Weird Al: Gosh, I love them all. Paul F. Tompkins is always fun. His Andrew Lloyd Webber character, Cake Boss, everything he does. And Andy Daly as well. They’re so versatile and so amazing at improv. That’s the one thing I was a little nervous about because I’ve never been super confident with my improv skills. But Comedy Bang! Bang!, particularly the TV version, is good for that because it’s all heavily edited. So it kind of gives me permission to try out whatever comes to my mind, so if it really sucks, they’re not gonna use it. [Laughs]

Scott Aukerman Weird Al

Your upcoming tour is a continuation of your Mandatory Fun tour from last year. Any new elements to the show?

Weird Al: Well, it is the same tour, so it’s not that much different. I might freshen some video a little bit. I’m hoping to use a bit or two from the current season of Comedy Bang! Bang! and slip that into the show somewhere.

The tour starts June 3rd in St. Petersburg, Florida and ends September 24th at Radio City Music Hall. How do you keep up the pace? 

Weird Al: It’s just a mindset. I’m really only working for two hours a day, so I basically just save up my energy for the show. I relax, surf online, watch satellite TV, read a book, rest my voice, and then give it all I got when I’m onstage.

Looking back at your vast song catalog, was there ever a parody that came to you immediately upon hearing the song?

Weird Al: Yeah, that’s happened a few times. More often than not, I have to think about it and analytically work out all the variations on a theme that I can and pick out the one with the most potential. But there’s been a few times where the idea came to me spontaneously. I think the first time I saw Michael Jackson’s “Bad” video, before it was even over, I thought, “Oh! I gotta do ‘Fat’! Super-plus-sized actors trying to get through a turnstile on a subway! I gotta do that!”

Do you have a favorite of your many hilarious videos?

Weird Al: Oh boy, it’s hard to say. “White and Nerdy” has been my biggest hit and that was a really fun video to do. But in terms of making a video, “Tacky” was really fun to do because it was so easy and I got to work with amazing people like Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Kristen Schaal, Eric Stonestreet, and Aisha Tyler. And we knocked it out in a couple of hours. We were having so much fun while making it, I kinda wish we weren’t so efficient and professional. [Laughs] I could’ve done that all night.

Was it filmed all in one take or was it stitched together?

Weird Al: That was all one take. Some people say, “Oh, I see where the edit is,” but it was all one shot. We did a total of six takes, and I think four of those takes were usable, but the last one was the best.

And you were directing while performing?

Weird Al: I directed that one, yeah. We location scouted and found a building in downtown LA that I thought was good for the shoot. I’ve since seen that building in a lot of other movies and TV shows — I think it was used in The Big Lebowski and a few others. It was difficult because I start the video in one set of clothes and I also end the video in a completely different set of clothes. So while the cameras were off me, because there’s only one elevator in the building, I had to run down five flights of stairs, quickly change my clothes, and hit my mark for the end. And after the take, we’d all just watch what we did, and say, “OK, let’s do it again.”

Is there a director you’d love to work with in the future?

Weird Al: Oh gosh, yeah, but I mean, music videos are notoriously low-budget so that’s why I end up directing them myself. [Laughs] But I’d love to be in a movie codirected by Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino.

Do you have a particular genre of music that you love parodying the most? Or is it more of the moment and different for each song?

Weird Al: It doesn’t necessarily revolve around personal taste so much. It really depends more on the song than the genre. But I found rap songs tend to lend themselves to parody, mostly because there’s a lot of words to play with. A lot of pop songs are repetitive, and that’s sometimes been an issue. With rap, there’s no shortage of syllables to mess around with.

Given that you’ve been so prolific and done so much, is there any type of art left that you’d like to dip your toe in? Dramatic acting, perhaps?

Weird Al: Well, if Spielberg and Tarantino want me for their film, I wouldn’t want to turn them down. But there’s no burning desire to do drama. I love doing comedy and feel comfortable doing that. Writing a musical might be something I do down the line. I don’t know when but I might take a shot at something in that area. Other than that, I’ve done pretty much all I wanted to do in my life so far. A lot of it not successfully. [Laughs] But I took a stab at it and feel gratified by that.

You’ve had such a eclectic career in music and comedy. What do you attribute your longevity to?

Weird Al: [Laughs] I don’t know what I’d attribute the longevity to. There’s a modicum of talent, but it’s mostly because I surround myself with very talented people. I’ve got a great support group, I’ve got the same band since the early ’80s, and I’ve worked with the same people for decades. And I got a very loyal fan base and I love what I do. And somehow I’ve been very lucky and it’s worked out so far.

Watch “Weird Al” in an episode from the new season of Comedy Bang! Bang! right now, before the season premiere on Friday June 3rd at 11P.

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