Tuesday, February 7, 2012

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Casting Coup Week: Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

My Retro Hollmanns were an accident. One day, The Godfather: Part 2 was on one of the movie channels, and I watched it because I'd never seen it. Then I saw that Lenny was on Netflix, and I watched it because I'd never seen it. Then I saw that such was the case with The Conversation, The Towering Inferno, Claudine...really, so much of '74 was available that I had to take a look back.

One of those films was also Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.

So, in Alice, Ellen Burstyn plays Alice, whose husband Donald dies, leading her to take herself and her bratty kid on a road trip to Monterey so that she can pursue a singing career. She winds up staying in Tucson, a greasy spoon waitress trying to make enough to get back on her feet. While there, she winds up befriending tough-talking Flo and falling for rancher David. It's a character study, a romance, a comedy, all in one go. It won Oscars, inspired a hit sitcom, and solidified director Martin Scorsese's presence in the 70s film scene.

Burstyn made the film happen. After the success of The Exorcist, the studio allowed her to pick any script any wanted, with a director of her choice. She made the right choice, of course, and although Scorsese did not make it as far as the Oscars, writer Robert Getchell did, in the category of Original Screenplay. Neither he nor Supporting Actress nominee Diane Ladd won their categories, but Burstyn's triumph over Chinatown's Faye Dunaway and A Woman Under the Influence's Gena Rowlands was as unexpected as it was deserving. Ok, maybe not over Dunaway, but it's still one of the best performances of that year.

How then, could I possibly recast it? Well, it wasn't that easy. I kept considering and rejecting strong actresses like Charlize Theron and Amy Adams. I just couldn't see them filling Burstyn's shoes. Then, like the Voice of God, the name just popped into my head. Of course! And all I had to do was fill in the rest.

Here is the beginning of my post.

Who is He: Alice's first husband, not a warm guy, not supportive, doesn't like the kid. His sudden death prompts Alice's journey to pursue a singing career.

Originally played by:
Billy Green Bush (Five Easy Pieces, Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday)

My Choice: Academy Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Drama (Hustle & Flow), SAG Award Winner for Best Ensemble (Crash)
Terrence Howard (Ray, Red Tails)
The audience just wouldn't expect him to be a one-scene wonder, but he would establish with ease the character's distance from his family and less-than-active mind.

Who is He: A charming younger man who courts the flattered Alice for a little bit...until his wife turns up, leading Ben into a violent outburst.

Originally played by: Academy Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (Bugsy)
Harvey Keitel (The Last Temptation of Christ, The Bad Lieutenant)

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (The Hurt Locker)
Anthony Mackie (Night Catches Us, Real Steel)
Yeah, he's got the charm Ben would need to sell us and Alice on...himself. And Mackie, too, is a very fine actor who could play that sudden shift uncomfortably, believably.

Who is She: A waitress at Mel's, noted for her odd quiet, her emotional fragility, and those pigtails.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee for Best Original Screenplay (And Justice For All)
Valerie Curtin (All the President's Men, Down and Out in Beverly Hills)

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Bobby)
Joy Bryant (Antwone Fisher, Baadasssss!)

Who is He: The chef and owner of Mel's, a roadside greasy spoon. Mel keeps the oddest people on staff, but he appreciates them as one big family. He really does love them, even as he argues with them.

Originally played by:
Vic Tayback (Loverboy, All Dogs Go to Heaven)

My Choice:
Terry Crews (The Expendables, Bridesmaids)
Very underrated comic actor. 

Who is He: A rancher frequenting Mel's diner who takes a shine to Alice. A warm, supportive presence who's also not afraid to help her with her shortcomings.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee for Best Song Score (Songwriter), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy (A Star is Born)
Kris Kristofferson (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, Blade)

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (American Gangster)
Idris Elba (Prom Night, Thor)
Earthy, sexy, masculine -- such is the way of Elba, who can play big-hearted just as well as he can play authoritative.

Who is She: A tough-talking waitress with a foul mouth and an open heart. Winds up becoming Alice's great friend.

Originally played by: Academy Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Wild at Heart, Rambling Rose), BAFTA Award Winner for Best Supporting Actress (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore)
Diane Ladd (Chinatown, Christmas Vacation)

My Choice: SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Precious)
Sherri Shepherd (Beauty Shop, One for the Money)
Handy with the one-liners, her comic timing is always pitch-perfect. She stole One for the Money, and her scenes on "30 Rock" are among the best. 

Who is She: Our heroine! A widowed mum whose dream of a singing career is delayed by work and romance. Occasionally self-pitying, mule-headed, temperamental, and much too indulgent of her son, Alice is imperfect -- but who isn't? She's also honest, hard-working, passionate, protective, funny, resilient.

Originally played by: Hollmann Award Nominee for Best Actress (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore), Academy Award/BAFTA Award Winner for Best Actress (Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore), Golden Globe Winner for Best Actress - Musical/Comedy (Same Time, Next Year), SAG Award Nominee for Best Actress (Requiem for a Dream) and Best Ensemble (How to Make an American Quilt)
Ellen Burstyn (The Loss of a Teardrop Diamond, The Mighty Macs)

My Choice:
Kimberly Elise (John Q, The Manchurian Candidate)
An actress who has showed us time and again that she can play all sides of a woman and still have us rooting for her. Also, an actress who should be getting more lead roles than she's offered.

Best Actress: Kimberly Elise
Best Supporting Actor: Idris Elba, Terry Crews, Anthony Mackie
Best Supporting Actress: Sherri Shepherd

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