Tuesday, February 12, 2013

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Casting Coup Month: Barry Lyndon

Best Director - Stanley Kubrick
Best Adapted Screenplay - Stanley Kubrick
Best Cinematography - John Alcott (WON)
Best Art Direction-Set Decoration - Ken Adam/Roy Walker/Vernon Dixon (WON)
Best Costume Design - Ulla-Britt Soderlund/Milena Canonero (WON)

My last Retrospective was a direct result of Barry Lyndon. Last May, my place of employment -- the ArcLight Hollywood, home to the world-famous Cinerama Dome -- was snubbed for the releases of The Avengers and Dark Shadows. With this two-week drought, we brought out the big guns: classic films screening in our biggest theater: Doctor Zhivago (missed it), 2001: A Space Odyssey (missed it), Gone with the Wind, The Shining, a lot of others...and this. I caught Barry Lyndon with a friend after we screened Gone with the Wind, which was really quite risky considering one's three hours and the other four. But it mattered not: while I already was firmly in the Gone with the Wind, I found another great love in Barry Lyndon.

The story follows Redmond Barry, orphaned as a lad, raised by his adoring mother. A sensitive, passionate Irishman, he falls in love with his cousin and is heartbroken when she is betrothed to an English officer. Having been fooled into believing he killed the man in a duel, Barry escapes and becomes involved in some famous European wars, eventually joining the Prussian army and becoming a spy. But the man he's sent to spy on is a fellow Irish expatriate who had to fake his way through, so the two partner together and travel the continent as professional gamblers. Barry falls for the already-married Lady Lyndon, whose much older husband dies, leaving an opportunity for the ambitious young man to wed and tale the name of Lord Lyndon. End Part One. Part Two concerns his social climbing and relationship with his wife and stepson. But I sha'n't spoil.

The film is from 1975, a year that boasts one of the greatest Best Picture lineups in history. It's saying a lot that One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, one of those great classic films that has been on every best-of list since it first opened, is the least of the bunch (it won, of course) -- besides Lyndon, the nominees were Jaws (remember?), Nashville and Dog Day Afternoon. Up for seven Oscars, its only wins came in the Craft Categories.

On the surface, of course, Barry Lyndon looks to be Oscar-bait: period piece, epic scope, based on a literary classic. But this is Kubrick we're talking about. It's certainly one of the more sedate films he's ever made, but that doesn't mean it's lacking visually or dramatically. It's beautiful to look at, yes, but also positively engrossing. My friend tells me I can't rank Kubrick films until I see 2001, but as of now, this might be tied with Lolita as my favorite.

Much of it, too, has to do with the wonderful, once-in-a-lifetime cast he's assembled. Only in 1975 could you have American Ryan O'Neal and German Marisa Berenson leading an English costume drama. Surrounding them are gret character actors such as Andre Morell, Frank Middlemass and Murray Melvin. And, of course, Michael Hordern narrates in a dry, ironic tone throughout.

And only in 2013 could you have the Silver Screening Room replacing them with this group:

in the order of their appearance

Who is She: Barry's cousin, she teases him before turning down his proposal in favor of an English captain.

Originally played by:
Gay Hamilton (The Duellists, The Day Santa Claus Cried)

My Choice:
Sophie McShera ("Waterloo Road", "Downton Abbey")
My favorite character on "Downton Abbey"...when I watch it, I mean. I'm still on Episode 5, Season 1. But still, I like McShera, and she's quite a dish in real life.

Who is He: The snobbish English captain engaged to Nora. He fakes his death at the hand of Redmond Barry so that the boy will flee the county and leave the way clear to Nora.

Originally played by:
 Leonard Rossiter (2001: A Space Odyssey, Oliver!)

My Choice:
Benedict Cumberbatch (Starter for 10, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy)
He's just got the kind of upper-class-looking face you want to punch, right? And how quickly we forget his shenanigans in Atonement! Great actor, though.

Who is He: An old family friend of the Barrys. He knows that Quin faked his death, and tells Barry this when the two meet up later on in the army. Killed in battle.

Originally played by:
 Godfrey Quigley (Get Carter, Educating Rita)

My Choice: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy (The Snapper)
Colm Meaney (The Damned United, Get Him to the Greek)
Well, really, the role of the warm, burly captain had to be between him and Brendan Gleeson, right? In the end, I went with Meaney, since there's a certain wisdom in his eyes. Besides, I have other plans for Gleeson...

Who is He: A highwayman who robs Barry on his way to Dublin.

Originally played by:
Arthur O'Sullivan (Ryan's Daughter, The Iguana with the Tongue of Fire)

My Choice: BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (In Bruges), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Musical/Comedy (In Bruges, The Guard)
Brendan Gleeson (Safe House, The Raven)
Here are my other plans for Gleeson: this role. And it's because Gleeson has such a remarkably mischievous bent to him, too.

Who is She: A German farmer's wife whose husband is away in the war. Barry comes upon her in his wanderings and stays with her for a bit. In the way you think I mean. If you get what I mean.

Originally played by:
Diana Koerner

My Choice:
Jessica Boehrs  (EuroTrip, They Know)
What became of her post-EuroTrip? I know she's still strikingly beautiful, and Lischen must be beautiful. It's part of what catches Barry's eye.

Who is He: Prussian army captain who recruits Barry into their army. Barry saves Potzdorf's life, and Potzdorf plants him in the service of the Chevalier, so as to ascertain if the professional gambler is a spy.

Originally played by: Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The Flight of the Phoenix)
Hardy Kruger (Hatari!, Paper Tiger)

My Choice:
Rainer Bock (War Horse, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters)
I went through several Germans before settling on him. The dad from Run, Lola, Run? No, too cold-looking. Richard Sammel from Inglourious Basterds? Nah, just doesn't feel right. What about that doctor from The White Ribbon? Yeah, he seems like a professional type who could be warm in the right circumstances, but never fail to do his duty.

Who is He: A professional gambler, Prussian, thought to be a spy. Actually, he too is an Irishman faking it, and adopts Barry into his world. It's thanks to his exploits that Barry meets Lady Lyndon.

Originally played by:
Patrick Magee (A Clockwork Orange, Galileo)

My Choice:
Ciaran Hinds (Veronica Guerin, "Political Animals")
Yes, I found yet another excuse to cast Ciaran Hinds, but I had to. He'd look great in that eyepatch.

Who is He: My favorite character! The cuckolded older husband of Lady Lyndon, he insists Barry confess to the adultery before choking to death on his own spittle. Ha!

Originally played by:
Frank Middlemass (Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, Dreamchild)

My Choice: BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (A World Apart)
David Suchet (Sabotage!, Act of God)
He is one of those great character actors that everyone knows without knowing. You want someone strong who won't be such a STAR as to distract from the scene or his character, and Suchet is a perfect chameleon. Besides, I've been watching "Poirot" since I was in fourth grade; the least I can do is make him my favorite character.

in the order of their appearance

Who is He: Lady Lyndon's spiritual advisor, tutor to Lord Bullingdon and, later, Bryan. Intent that his place in the household not be cast aside by the new master

Originally played by:
 Murray Melvin (Lisztomania, The Phantom of the Opera)

My Choice: BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The Queen), SAG Award Nominee for Best Ensemble (Frost/Nixon, Midnight in Paris)
Michael Sheen (Kingdom of Heaven, Blood Diamond)
I think he has a lot of fun with these oddball roles, and Runt really is an oddball. Manipulative, possibly homosexual, jealous, and all under the protection of the church. Sheen could have a field day.

Who is He: The man who handles the finances.

Originally played by:
Philip Stone (A Clockwork Orange, The Shining)

My Choice:
David Yelland (Chariots of Fire, "Agatha Christie's Poirot")

Who is He: The man to know in High Society, Barry's entry into business and Court.

Originally played by:
Andre Morell (Ben-Hur, Cash On Demand)

My Choice:
John Woodvine (An American Werewolf in London, Miss Potter)
His voice is what gives this casting choice its power. Have a listen.

Who is He: Lady Lyndon's son by her first husband. Murderously vengeful against Barry, highly temperamental, but no stomach for any sort of violence.

Originally played by:
Leon Vitali (Terror of Frankenstein, Eyes Wide Shut)

My Choice:
Jamie Campbell Bower (Winter in Wartime, Anonymous)
Does the spoiled-brat thing quite well in The Twilight Saga; also did well with his so-not-ready-to-handle-this-ness in Sweeney Todd.

in reverse order of appearance

Who is She: Barry's wife, who loves him in spite of his affairs and treatment of her son.

Originally played by: BAFTA Award/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (Cabaret)
Marisa Berenson (Death in Venice, I Am Love)

My Choice:
Michelle Dockery (Hanna, Anna Karenina)
And allow me one more "Downton Abbey" alum, this being the lovely-voiced and absolutely beautiful Michelle Dockery. She brings such subtlety to her role, and if ever there were a character requiring someone capable of providing such subtext, it's Lady Lyndon.

Who is She: Barry's mother, a widow who dedicated her life to her son instead of remarrying. Proves ruthless once he has hold of the Lyndon estate.

Originally played by:
Marie Kean (Cul-de-sac, The Dead)

My Choice: Academy Award Winner/Golden Globe Nominee for Best Supporting Actress (My Left Foot)
Brenda Fricker (A Time to Kill, Albert Nobbs)
Known for her kindly broads in My Left Foot, Angels in the Outfield and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, I think it'd be fun to see her play someone a little more conniving. Let's not forget her more strong-willed moments in My Left Foot, either; both roles require a woman to fight the world for her son.

Who is He: A poor yet passionate Irishman who, through several adventures and escapades, winds up Lord of an English Manor.

Originally played by: Academy Award Nominee for Best Actor (Love Story), Golden Globe Nominee for Best Actor - Drama and Musical/Comedy (Love Story, Paper Moon)
Ryan O'Neal (What's Up, Doc?, An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn)

My Choice:
Domnhall Gleeson (Never Let Me Go, Anna Karenina)
Don't we usually reward solid up-and-coming actors with a lead role?

Who is He: An unreliable voice dryly letting us in on the various goings-on.

Originally played by: BAFTA Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor (The Slipper and the Rose: The Story of Cinderella)
Michael Hordern (Theatre of Blood)

My Choice:
Hugh Fraser (Patriot Games, "Agatha Christie's Poirot")

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