Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Sunday, September 28, 2003
Saks and Saks of goodies for Shopgirl
Saks steals scene from Neiman's in 'Shopgirl' movie
SHELLY BRANCH, The Wall Street Journal
Friday, September 26, 2003
(09-26) 08:50 PDT (AP) --
In Steve Martin's best-selling novella "Shopgirl," the lonely heroine Mirabelle works behind the glove counter at Neiman Marcus "selling things that nobody buys anymore."
This could well be a problem for a clerk at any department store, as the old-line retail format continues to suffer from lackluster sales. But now, in a calculated act of bravado -- and product placement -- Saks Inc. has managed to woo Mirabelle from rival Neiman Marcus Group Inc., and slip her behind a Saks counter for the film adaptation of Mr. Martin's work.
Set to feature Claire Danes as Mirabelle and Mr. Martin as her older love interest, the movie "Shopgirl," which begins filming next month, casts Saks' Art Deco Beverly Hills store in a starring role. "We are now looking directly down on Wilshire Boulevard ... and find ourselves facing the imposing facade of the temple that is ... SAKS FIFTH AVENUE," reads page one of the 122-page script.
It's the kind of publicity, and marketing windfall, most retailers dream about. Saks has been working behind the curtain for the past six months with Hyde Park Entertainment, the movie's producers, to steal the scene from Neiman's. In return for plotting "Shopgirl" at Saks, the store has agreed to publicize the movie through a broad series of tie-ins.
"The whole opening of the film is the store," says executive producer Andrew Sugerman. "This is where Mirabelle meets Steve Martin's character."
By luring "Shopgirl" away from Neiman's, Saks adds fuel to an old rivalry between the two tony retailers. Since the 1980s, the stores have battled to keep their hot designers, wealthy customers and top sales people from defecting. The sparring was particularly intense in 1997, when Saks held a gala opening for its lavish Houston store the same year Neiman, a Texas native, celebrated its 90th anniversary. A spokeswoman for Neiman Marcus declined to comment.
The novella is a tale of two souls who yield briefly to the folly of an ill-matched romance. In the book, Neiman's is a coldly glamorous place filled with shallow employees and customers. In the film script, Saks is a more pleasant venue and features lighthearted scenes. Saks had no input on the screenplay, which was written by Mr. Martin.
At Saks's Beverly Hills location, producers and cinematographers are already busy plotting camera angles. In addition to offering its store as a set, Saks plans to loan its New York and Beverly Hills store windows as 3-D billboards for the movie. The chain estimates the value of the New York windows alone is about $350,000 a week based on total "impressions" of passers-by. Saks also plans to host the movie's premiere parties on both coasts, as well as several book-signing events with Mr. Martin. In a direct mail blitz, it even hopes to promote the movie in its 600,000-circulation catalog, with Ms. Danes giving an interview.
In addition, Saks.com plans to stage a movie-related sweepstakes and use its New York Times ad space to pitch the film. Details are subject to change. But unlike many product-placement deals, this project doesn't call for money to change hands.
In Hollywood terms, "Shopgirl" is being produced on a relative shoestring -- about $25 million. The deal with Saks serves as a further economy for Walt Disney Co., the film's distributor, as it represents free publicity, guaranteed store access and big exposure.
Department stores have enjoyed a long romance with Hollywood, usually by lending their stores for a few scenes, and doing merchandise tie-ins, such as the "Moulin Rouge" boutiques that dotted Bloomingdale's in 2001. With "Shopgirl," though, Saks is hoping its identification with the film will meaningfully boost traffic and buzz around its stores.
"This is a powerful way for us to reach the general population in a sophisticated means," says Christina Johnson, chief executive officer of Saks Inc.'s Saks Fifth Avenue unit. She adds that the Saks name is "intermixed totally throughout the script," and that the movie also will create opportunities for product placements within the Saks product placement. The movie's producers say they are considering cameo roles for products from companies such as Estee Lauder Cos. and Lancome, a unit of France's L'Oreal SA.
With their yawning mall entrances and gleaming marble aisles, department stores -- whose average customer is more than 40 years old -- are anxious to be more relevant to a younger, hipper audience. In recent years, they've tried everything to appeal to 20-something shoppers, from installing giant video screens to carrying more of the urban-apparel lines that trendsetters crave.
Linking up with Hollywood can be a smart idea, say consultants, so long as the partners don't get too star-struck. "If they make a big investment in sharing their brand equity, they must make the right film choice, one that is consistent with the personality of the store," says Arnold Aronson, retail consultant with Kurt Salmon Associates and a former chief executive of Saks. Another issue is timing. "How often can you do this before it loses cachet? Do you become part of film-land on an annual basis? There has to be a long-term strategy," he says.
Saks was caught off guard last year when it offered promotional backup for "girls club," a short-lived drama on News Corp.'s Fox. The show was canceled after two episodes, forcing Saks to wind down its promotions. Nevertheless, Ms. Johnson believes Saks benefited from its arrangement with Fox, and that its contest was a hit with young customers.
Not all such partnerships work, however. In December, in a deal brokered by talent behemoth Creative Artists Agency, Kmart Corp. had one of its stores featured in the reality special "Dear Santa" broadcast on Disney's ABC. The show, hosted by Jim Belushi, was a flop.
Saks, which retains William Morris Agency for celebrity tie-ins and product-placement deals, got its first peek at the "Shopgirl" script about a year ago. By April 2003, Saks presented a written proposal to the film's producers outlining how the store and the movie team could achieve valuable synergies.
"Saks is a channel to influential women, with its stores, and infrastructure, from catalogs to credit-card billings," says Johnny Levin, senior vice president of William Morris Consulting. "There's something in it for everyone. "
In an e-mail forwarded by his spokesman, Mr. Martin said, "Usually locations are a matter of convenience and cooperation. I was asked about the location change and I approved it."
All store scenes will be shot inside Saks' Beverly Hills store. So far, about six days of in-store photography are scheduled. Because most shooting will be confined to a specific, low-traffic area of the store, Saks doesn't anticipate any protracted interruptions to business. "Shopgirl" has a tentative release date of late 2004.
Thursday, September 25, 2003
A truly excellent article on Steve and his new book
September 22, 2003
Features; Pg. 61
The Pleasure of His Company;
The writing world of Steve Martin
by Jeff Zaleski
"You didn't like my first book"--Steve Martin
Last night, PW attended a BEA 2003 party in Beverly Hills for novelist Gigi Levangie Grazer, wife of movie producer Brian Grazer. Harrison Ford was there with a diamond stud in his ear and Calista Flockhart on his arm, but Hugh Hefner came by himself, an old man in a tight suit. Cuba Gooding rambled in, as did Lara Flynn Boyle, and Paris Hilton arrived in jeans cut disturbingly low.
We were expecting a similar crowd for tonight's Hyperion party for Steve Martin at the swank Hotel Bel-Air. The author of The Pleasure of My Company, due out in late September, is a major celebrity and has been for a quarter century. And while he's not the most read writer on the planet he's the most watched, counting the millions who have enjoyed his movies and the billion or so who have seen him host the Oscars.
Yet tonight's affair is about publishing, not Hollywood, the accent on subdued glamour, not glitz. The luminaries are Mitch Albom and Madeline Albright, milling around on a lush lawn trampled by hundreds of expensive shoes. PW publisher Joseph Tessitore has alerted Hyperion president Bob Miller of the magazine's interest in Martin, so we are escorted past the crowds of dark suits and cocktail dresses to meet the author/actor. He's standing amid an entourage of admirers. Martin appears as alert as a dog on point and is wearing a sumptuous light cream suit that highlights his pale skin and white hair. This elegant man looks as if he could be, perhaps, a cousin to the comedian who 25 years ago wore an arrow through his head for laughs and who this year rolled on a sofa with Queen Latifah in Bringing Down the House. We shake hands. Martin considers us. He says, with a hint of rancor, "You didn't like my first book."
"A weird thing happened"--Steve Martin
Three months later, PW is seated on a bench outside Cafe Luxembourg on Manhattan's Upper West Side waiting for Martin to join us for lunch. A tall guy approaches from up the block, wheeling an expensive bike and dressed in a silver helmet, lime polo shirt and khakis. It's Martin. "Thank you for doing this," he says. There are no other customers in the French bistro, which Martin has selected for the interview. The hostess smiles, recognizing the star. He asks for a table in the far corner by the window. "Away from the crowds," he jokes.
"You know," Martin says once we're seated, "a weird thing happened. This was two days ago. I was on Amazon and there was the Publishers Weekly review of Shopgirl. And it really wasn't so bad." Martin explains that his remark at BEA arose from his strong feelings about that novella, it "being my first book."
Shopgirl was in fact the first book Martin wrote as a book. That compassionate yet cool account of a young woman's affair with an older, successful man hit lists across the nation. Two popular collections of his humor preceded it: Cruel Shoes, released by Putnam in 1979, and Pure Drivel (1998), Martin's first book from Hyperion, which has published him ever since.
Martin's wonderful new novella, The Pleasure of My Company, is a tenderhearted, humorous story about how love frees a gentle soul from the armor of habit that has constricted his life. With pub date approaching, the promotional drive has begun, and we ask Martin how he feels about this.
"I love doing true interviews about the real book. Does that make sense?"
"You mean as opposed to being interviewed about the fact that Steve Martin wrote a book?"
Martin nods twice. "Right. Right. And as opposed to an interview for a movie, which is pure flimflam. Because the questions there are so routine and general. This is much closer to my heart, so I can talk about it easier if the questions are pertinent. Then you go on Regis and Kathy Lee, which is a lot of fun to do, and that's more about reaching people. So in promoting the book I have to be careful to keep a balance between that and keeping the dignity of the book and what I want from it, which is respect from you guys."
We study Martin in the soft light of the cafe. His eyes are blue-green. His features look broader than we remember, and his skin appears remarkably clear.
Promotion is a kind of performance, we think, and Martin has made his fortune from performing so we ask him about the relationship between writing and performing.
"They are opposites. But the thing that unites them is timing. Writing is done in solitude. It's like dancing alone."
"We all think we know someone like Steve Martin because we've seen him on the screen our whole lives. No we don't."--Esther Newberg
Esther Newberg of International Creative Management makes sure Martin gets paid well for that dancing. Newberg remains behind her desk as we enter her midtown Manhattan office, an impressive space with a large picture window that overlooks Central Park. She's a petite woman with smartly cut hair and gleaming teeth, and she radiates an intense energy from behind the huge desk, like a captain at a wartime command post. Indeed, Newberg commands as much respect as any literary agent around, and a glance at the spines of the books in her office tells why--they're by authors like Carl Hiaasen and John Sandford, Patricia Cornwell and Linda Fairstein, Caroline Kennedy and Michael Beschloss.
Newberg has been Martin's agent for years, and knows him well. "He's extraordinarily careful," she says. "He's involved in every aspect of the publishing process. Sentences matter to him, not just paragraphs. So if people change his words, it's not going to make him happy. And he has a great eye, and an incredible art collection, so he's involved in the jacket. He's nice about it, don't misunderstand me. And he's on e-mail, so you don't need to go through layers to get to him. That's a huge thing. You can't imagine, when you're at a place like this, how that doesn't always happen."
Or at a place like PW. Other than during the personal meets, our contact with Martin has been second-hand, restricted to e-mails with Hollywood publicist Alan Nierob, including where and when to meet him.
Newberg tells us that Martin contracts with Hyperion on a book-by book basis. "I think they've done a wonderful job. I find Bob Miller to be as involved in the process as anyone in publishing today. He's funny about it, and he doesn't always say that it's my fault. I really like it when people tell it straight, instead of being defensive, you know, like--turn that thing off," she says, pointing to our tape recorder. We do, and Newberg snaps out the name of another publisher. "You can turn it back on now."
Newberg calls for coffee. Within moments an assistant is in the room holding a steaming cup. We talk about the fall season, enjoying the agent's biting commentary on this book and that, and about the relative audience size for books and film. "Welcome to America," Newberg says. "Who reads books? And when they do, do they read literature?
"Look at all the places he's written for," Newberg points out. "In the Times--in the magazine, the Arts section, the op-ed; he written screenplays, he's written short stories, he's written a novel. What else is there?"
We suggest that Shopgirl is a bit short to be called a novel.
"I'll give you a list of ones that should have been that length."
We discuss foreign rights on Martin's books and Newberg speaks of the wide appeal of his writing. "Shopgirl was a book that even Imus read, really read. I think you see how clever and smart his mind is. And you're fascinated by the characters. You wonder... we all think we know someone like Steve Martin because we've seen him on the screen our whole lives. No we don't. Anymore than he knows us."
"A metaphor can be more precise then a direct statement" --Steve Martin
Steve Martin was born in 1945 in Waco, Tex. He worked at Disneyland as a teenager, then at Knotts Berry Farm, where he did comedy and played banjo and performed magic. He studied philosophy at UCLA and briefly considered teaching it. Martin came to national attention in the mid-'70s as a standup comedian and Saturday Night Live regular who offered a refreshing brand of cerebral postmodern humor devoid of social commentary. Since then he's starred in nearly 50 movies and has released a scattering of bestselling comedy albums as well as a hit song, "King Tut." His writing career has run on a parallel high-speed track, beginning in 1963 when he was hired as a scribe for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. He's written several screenplays, including The Jerk, Roxanne, L.A. Story and Bowfinger, and a handful of plays, most notably Picasso at the Lapin Agile. His sophistication and wit and brilliant comedic timing have led to stints as host of not just the Academy Awards but also of the publishing industry's counterpart, the National Book Awards.
Martin professes to love the process of writing. "I don't want to use a sexual metaphor," he says, "but it's something that builds up, builds up, builds up and then it all comes out." His face collapses into a crinkled grin. "The other thing is that I just love sentences, and I love shaping paragraphs. It's a love of the ring and the rhythm and the sound of words." Martin's novellas are composed with a jeweler's eye, his language exact and spare. His drive for exactitude results in a book that, as he puts it, is "usually a little short. I have a show-biz instinct. Once in high school I did a show and I knew I went on too long, because people left. That is still in my head."
Martin speaks quickly and quietly in a musical voice that's slightly acidic. His eyes cut away often as speaks, when he needs to think. He's polite but reserved and perhaps a bit anxious as well: he fiddles his fingers as he reaches for words.
"How much rewriting do you do?"
"How much what?" Martin leans forward to hear over the noise of the now-packed cafe.
"Rewriting. And when do you write?"
"Well I usually write in the afternoon on my computer. Sit on the bed. I take care of all of the phone calls, I don't block out anything. Sometimes during a movie I can write, because there's a lot of time. Then I send it out to a few friends and get some feedback, and then I start-- 'rewriting' is the wrong word because really it's honing. I read it over and over and over and over, and then I start reading it aloud, to myself sometimes, or to my dog. I find that when you've read it out aloud you start to catch things that you wouldn't catch by reading it silently. Have you ever seen that little thing about 'Count the "F"s' in this sentence'? Have you ever seen that? You see three but there's seven.
"I've discovered something in my quest for precision," he adds. "If I do a joke but its premise is that it's a non sequitur, the audience must know it's a non sequitur because otherwise they're left hanging. You have to send the message that it's oblique. So I realize that a metaphor can be more precise then a direct statement, because of the... aurasthat surround words."
As befits a writer who admires words and their economies, Martin, when asked to cite his literary influences, recalls "mostly poets. From T.S. Eliot I figured out things about intelligence and language. Dylan Thomas made me aware of the beauty in language. And e.e. cummings of the rhythm of the words. "
Martin looks out the window. A pack of young preteens in school uniforms are giggling and pointing at him. He smiles and waves. They run on but a few seconds later they're back, gawking through the glass.
"He's been superb, actually."--Robert S. Miller
Robert S. "Bob" Miller is sporting a neatly trimmed beard. He grew it, he tells us, during an Outward Bound expedition with his son in the summer. The president and publisher of Hyperion Books looks extremely fit in dark slacks and a shirt with no tie, as we sit in his neat and comfortable office high up in the ABC building on West 66th St.
How, we ask, do you publish a multifaceted talent like Steve Martin?
"That question loomed larger when we were planning the publication of Shopgirl. We had published Pure Drivel , after we pursued him for that book. [But] Shopgirl was a literary short novel. We wanted reviewers to understand that he was serious about what he was doing, so we set up very early publication lunches with Steve and select reviewers. We also treated it as a literary publication by doing very long lead mailings of the book in galley form.
"We had sold about 150,000 copies of Pure Drivel in hardcover," he continues. "With Shopgirl we were much more cautious about the initial distribution. We shipped about 40,000 copies. We've ended up selling about 250,000 copies in hardcover and the book has sold another 300,000 in paperback and is still going strong. "
The first printing of The Pleasure of My Company is over 300,000. To make sure those copies never return, Martin will storm the media. "He's really gotten behind this," Miller reports. The publisher scans a sheet of paper. "We have The Today Show, we have Live with Regis and Kelly, he's doing Charlie Rose, he's doing The View, Imus, NPR. And a lot of magazine and print coverage. "
We glance around. On the windowsill are marshaled copies or mockups of Hyperion's fall list, including the Martin.
"What's he like to work with?"
"He's been superb, actually. The process of the cover, which is often the most difficult with an author, was a very collaborative one. We suggested the idea of a man standing with his hands around his own back from behind, and he liked the idea. So we gave him several models to choose from, and he chose the model. We did the shoot. We went back and forth on the photograph to choose out of that shoot. He chose a photograph, we made some changes to the photograph in the computer that he requested. He had certain ideas of what the background should be, that the bright colors have a Santa Monica feel. So we had a photographer go to Santa Monica locations. He chose one of the backgrounds that was shot, and our art department put the model against that background. And then we went back and forth about the type design."
"What's your take on him as a human being?"
"He's very careful. Very thoughtful. And very observant. The persona you see in film as a performer is that--it's a persona that he is superb at creating and executing. Behind that persona is a craftsman who observes details and remembers them, and who uses them either in the writing or the performance, which ultimately looks spontaneous because it's so well crafted. "
"We've all counted ceiling titles"--Steve Martin
Martin cares passionately about his books. How does he feel about turning them into movies, with the consequent loss of control? In October, he will begin filming Shopgirl, from a screenplay he wrote, starring himself as middle-aged businessman Ray Porter and Claire Danes as Mirabelle, the Neiman Marcus clerk who falls for him.
"Right. Well, there are certain things you have to let go of. Other peoples' visions enter into it--the director's vision, the actor's vision. It's not that it's worse, it's that it's different. When I wrote Shopgirl, with it being my first what we'll call 'serious' effort, I wanted to go the safest route. And I thought, 'Well, omniscient narrator seems to be the safest thing but also it works because of the distant voice.' We're doing very little narration in the movie. That was a challenge, because the whole book is narration. But I'm using the voice of Diane Keaton. The sound of it is almost like the guiding mother."
We mention that Shopgirl hit #4 on the New York Times bestseller list. "Did you check that?" Martin asks. "I remember #5."
"Who buys your books?" we ask.
"Well, I never thought of that. I don't think it's fans. To me it's readers--you know, readers. It's just not an airport book."
Martin breaks the news that he won't be hosting the National Book Awards this year. "I'm shooting Shopgirl, so I can't. I also ran out of book jokes. You know, I hosted it for four or five years. I need a break and they do too, probably. I approached it very seriously. I wanted to find out if I could do it well. That's the nature of a performer. You can be doing the smallest thing and yet you're on the line, whether there's 10 people watching or 5,000 or a billion. The effort is the same. Sometimes people think, 'Well, it's just five minutes.' Just five minutes. Just five minutes. Well, that's a long time and involves months of thinking."
We ask Martin how much of him is in Daniel Pecan Cambridge, the habit-bound narrator of The Pleasure of My Company. The author protests that he's not nearly as quirky as Cambridge, who can't step over curbs and insists that the lights in his apartment total 1,125 watts. "It's like writing from the point of view that if I were crazy, that's what I would do. I mean, we've all counted ceiling tiles, and if you remember the scene where he's getting ready to go do his speech? ["I laid out my hairbrush, toothpaste, socks, soap and washcloth. I cleaned the mirror on the medicine cabinet so that I wouldn't see something on it that I would think was on me...."]. That's what I used to do when I would perform. When I was younger I was single-minded."
"There's a tint of loneliness or sadness"--Leigh Haber
We meet Leigh Haber in a coffee shop near the PW offices. The Hyperion editor-at-large has an open face and a pleasant manner that, we learn, includes an ability to speak in perfectly rounded sentences. We take a booth and, over orange juice and a bagel, she recalls her work with Martin on Pure Drivel.
"That was a wonderful collaboration. Even when he disagreed with me, he was always responsive, never dismissive. And Steve loves feedback, even on something fundamental. But he never wants to be the bad guy. So he wants you to get what his concern is with something, so that you'll take it back. "
Haber admires Martin, calling him "an absolute genius" who "does so many things well, from playing the banjo to putting together a dinner party, to collecting art and being a comedian. And he really enjoys writing. It's one of my greatest joys as an editor to be sitting across the table from him as he's composing something. We had an instance when we decided to change something and he's figuring out what the change is." She lifts her hands and wiggles her fingers to mimic typing. "He'll be looking up in the air, you can see the wheels turning. He might make himself laugh and say, 'See what you think of this.' "
Haber hints that Martin's recent engagement with serious prose writing arose from a change in his priorities. "When he first started writing for the New Yorker, it was when he was taking some time off from making movies. Perhaps taking a longer view of life and of what makes him happy. I think Steve is deeply romantic but a realist, and there's a tint of loneliness or sadness at the same time there is an incredible ability to engage with life. I think he works on the art of living. If the world can be divided into people who develop and grow every day of their lives and the people who stop, Steve is one of those people who works on the art of life all the time."
"Respect"--Steve MartinWe ask Martin how he fared during the recent blackout, which fell on his 58th birthday. "Fine," he says. He explains that he rode his bike down to the Village, carrying a cake his girlfriend had baked for him, and joined her for a pleasant evening.
"What's next for you?" we ask.
"Well, my life moves in cycles. Creativity and promotion. And I'm entering a promotional cycle. I've got two movies coming out. I'm starting a movie and I have a book coming out. So I'll be in the promotional world for a while, but that'll end in late December.
"I had this idea for a book called Volume," he continues. "Do you know the book Hunger? So this is about volume in our lives, volume, endless volume that would go around. I wrote one paragraph and I might do it some day."
"One paragraph, yeah. I like doing this. I like going inside my own head, and I don't feel like I'm for hire. Whereas in the movies I am. It's great to find something that you actually do feel artistic about and uncompromising about and not cynical. You know, the movies have broken my heart a lot and what I mean by that is you are so invested in something and you feel so good about it and then it's a disaster. Here I just like to keep it small and personal.
"With a book I write the thing, and that's the personal experience, and then the reception of it is another experience. And your ego gets very wrapped up in the reception of it. I remember when I was doing stand-up comedy in the '80s and I'd been in some comedy movies and I made Roxanne--I felt something I had never felt coming back, which was respect. But enough about me."
Martin seems restless so we tell him we're done and ask him to inscribe a book. He signs, then jumps up from the table to wait by the door. As we walk him to his bike, he thanks us again and says, "You were lucky, this was my first interview for the book. I'm not jaded yet."
We watch Martin ride away. In our imagination, we transpose one of his custom-made suits over the bike clothes he's wearing, transpose the public persona over the private self, and we realize that his earlier training in stage magic has served him well, for its emphasis on precision, control and practice-until-perfect but also for what this shape-shifting author learned about sleight-of-hand. Yet while Martin is a dedicated and talented writer, yet there's no flourish that can conceal a simple truth: that once his words are published, his celebrity bears down mightily on how they're perceived--and that this is both blessing and curse.
Back at the PW offices, we pull out the copy of Shopgirl that we'd asked Martin to inscribe. In brisk black script he wrote, "with great admiration and respect."
Sunday, September 21, 2003
Another Pleasure review
September 21, 2003, Sunday
The nature of the nut The Pleasure of My Company by Steve Martin Weidenfeld & Nicolson, pounds 9.99, 163 pp pounds ( pounds 2.25 p&p) 0870 155 7222
by MARK SANDERSON
STEVE MARTIN is, in Hollywood jargon, an A-list "hyphenate". The American writer-actor-director's first novella, Shopgirl, starred Mirabelle, a lonely artist who worked on the glove counter of an LA department store. His second features Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a former writer of computer code whose world has shrunk to a one-bedroom apartment in Santa Monica.
The 31-year-old loner is nutty by name and nutty by nature. He hails from a family of pecan farmers in Texas. Now, though, he spends the endless days trying to live according to an extensive "list of no-no's". These neuroses include being unable to step off kerbs - which makes a trip to the local pharmacy to collect his medication an epic journey - and ensuring that the wattage of the lightbulbs in his flat totals exactly 1,125 when lit. To relax he constructs magic squares in his head - the rows and columns of one particularly fine example each add up to 491,384 - their elaborate calculations make him feel that he is "participating in the world".
Daniel knows he is "insane"; the reader knows he is insanely lonely. His inept attempts to woo Elizabeth, an estate agent selling apartments across the street; Zandy, who fills his prescriptions; and Clarissa, the trainee-shrink who needs more help than he does, are the source of much bitter-sweet comedy. Daniel seizes on the smallest crumbs of comfort: when Zandy, for example, hands him his change she says "a wonderful thing": "See ya."
However, as this is a fairy-tale, a road-trip to Texas with Clarissa and Teddy, her toddler son, slowly brings Daniel back to life. Even so, the happy ending still manages to surprise.
Although he has written another fable about the transforming power of love, Martin keeps the sentimentality in check. An abusive father provides the dark heart of the story. Daniel describes his hang-ups as "dirty secrets": "It is a sad truth of our creation: Something is amiss in our design, there are loose ends of our psychology that are simply not wrapped up." However, the tragic subtext is balanced by slapstick that makes you laugh out loud.
Friday, September 19, 2003
Steve makes a guest appearance of sorts
The New York Post
September 18, 2003, Thursday
BORDERS GIVES SIMMONS THE KISS-OFF
SIR Michael Caine's here doing p.r. for "Secondhand Lions," his new film with Robert Duvall and Haley Joel Osment. He calls Duvall "a magnificent actor, the best there is," and says of Osment, "He's not a child actor, he's a very talented actor who just happens to be a child."
The man who leaves tomorrow for home and England, did 66 regional and local TV interviews sitting in one chair in one studio in one day in L.A. last week, and capsules it with: "I nearly lost my mind."
So, anyhow, he's in NYC doing this HBO interview. As a gimmick, it's being done, with cameraman and reporter, inside a moving taxi. Specially rigged, it's being pulled by a tow truck. The taxi stops for a red light at 73rd and Fifth. Screeching to a halt alongside is another yellow cab. Who's in it? Steve Martin. Both peer into each other's windows, recognize one another, shout hi and hello and, before they could get a dialogue going and decide when they should get together again, both drivers lurch off.
A new Jeremy for Shopgirl
September 18, 2003, Thursday
NEWS; Pg. 1
Fox takes international on Hyde Park 'Shopgirl'
CATHY DUNKLEY and CLAUDE BRODESSER
Twentieth Century Fox has picked up the majority of international territories on Steve Martin's "Shopgirl" from Hyde Park Entertainment.
Jason Schwartzman has also inked to star in the pic opposite Martin and Claire Danes for helmer Anand Tucker. Shooting starts Oct. 13.
Adapted by Martin from his novella, "Shopgirl" centers on a girl who sells gloves and other accessories at Neiman Marcus. Feeling useless in her job and unfulfilled by a romantic relationship, she is bowled over when a rich, divorced older man (Martin) enters her life.
Pic was financed by Hyde Park Entertainment; Ashok Amritraj closed the deal with Fox's senior VP of acquisitions Tony Safford. Disney's Touchstone Pictures will release pic domestically.
Amritraj, Martin and Hyde Park Entertainment prexy Jon Jashni will share producing credits on pic.
Fox deal excludes South Africa, the Middle East, Turkey and Israel, where Epsilon will release pic under its ongoing distribution deal.
Wednesday, September 17, 2003
National Book Awards
This just in... Steve will not be hosting the awards this year. Walter Mosley will.
Steve's former mother-in-law, with tidbits about Steve.
Sunday Age (Melbourne)
September 14, 2003 Sunday
Agenda; Pg. 1
My Life With ...
BY: Peter Wilmoth
Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh and Steve Martin (to name but a few). After fleeing Bolshevik Russia Irina Baronova became one of the world famous 'baby ballerinas' in the 1930s. Now she has retired to the tranquility of Byron Bay. Peter Wilmoth reports on an extraordinary life.
FROM the balcony of Irina Baronova's house outside Byron Bay, you look out past the mango, banana and orange trees to the Eden-like valley that stretches beyond. It could be a massive canvas by Constable except that it's moving: you can hear the whirr of wings as flocks of birds sweep past in formation, a glider plane floats silently across the grey skies and a couple of magpies warble restlessly in the huge gum outside her bedroom.
For a writer, its superb beauty could either anaesthetise or inspire, depending on energy levels. This is the view that bookends her day. It would be nature's most perfect screen saver, except she is writing the story of her extraordinary life in long-hand on a pad with wide spaces and with the help of a magnifying glass.
She is a vivacious host with the skill charming people have of transmogrifying you from stranger to welcome visitor in a minute or so. With her wicked laugh and robust capacity for anecdote, she was born to tell a story. And so a table set for lunch is a promise the view isn't the only thing going here.
Ms Baronova's daughter Irina, who lives up the road, is here. Her grand-daughter Natasha and her husband Christian play with Zoe, her 20-month-old great-grand-daughter. It's 11.30am and Ms Baronova lights a cigarette and sips on a glass of white wine. "I have all the vices now I've retired to pasture," she says.
At 84, her eyesight might not be what it once was, but there's very little else that has slowed her down. Besides, there's work to do, to tell her story of her parents fleeing Bolshevik Russia when she was 10 months old, making a new life amid the industrial slums of Bucharest, at 13 touring the world as one of the famous "baby ballerinas", and then, as she hit her prime, dancing on stages and in costumes designed by Picasso, Dali, Miro and Chagall.
It is the story of the celebrated ballerina coming to Melbourne in 1938 at the height of her fame, with schoolgirls queueing at the stage door for a glimpse. Of glamorous soirees and pool parties hosted by Melbourne's establishment, including the Myer family. Of becoming, many years later, the mother-in-law of American comic Steve Martin. And of her discovery of this sub-tropical paradise where she hopes to spend the rest of her life.
It promises to be a rich tale. "I've got to hurry up," she says. "Time is not on my side."
IN November 1919, two years after the Bolsheviks seized power from the ruling Tsar Nicholas and his wife Alexandra, Irina Baronova was the adored baby of Misha, a senior officer in the Russian navy stationed in the Black Sea in Russia's south, and Lydia, a 20-year-old from St Petersburg's comfortable middle-class. On a good salary and with strong social contacts, neither had known hard times.
As part of the officer class that found itself persecuted, the revolution not only meant the end of Misha Baronova's career, but put his and his family's lives in danger.
The end of their life in Russia was quick and brutal. When the family house in St Petersburg was requisitioned by the authorities, they fled to their dacha, or country house, not far from the city. Soon this, too, was requisitioned. The family were allowed one room in which everyone could live.
Lydia's father, Alexander Vishniakov, a general in the army, was travelling by train to the family's dacha when a Bolshevik soldier entered his cabin and shot him in the head.
A sailor who liked Misha one day brought a grim warning. "You better grab your wife and your baby and try to get out because you're on the list to be shot next week."
With forged papers, the family that night headed for the Romanian border, hiding by day and walking by night, Misha carrying Irina under one arm and his violin under the other. Lydia carried a sack containing every item she had left in the world.
When they reached the river a Russian man was ferrying groups of refugees across the river in rowing boats to Romania. "If they catch us," the man told Misha, "I'll be in trouble. So your child has to be absolutely silent during the crossing. If she makes a sound I'm going to drown her. And I'm not joking. The last time a baby cried I threw it into the river."
A peasant woman gave Lydia a piece of sugar. "You stuff it in her mouth and she won't cry," she told Irina's mother.
The crossing passed without incident. "The sugar worked. I didn't make a sound."
The family stumbled out of the boat in the rain onto the muddy bank. "Here we were in Romania. No language, no money, no papers, no nothing," she says. "When daylight came he went straight to the police station and said 'Here we are, we disembarked during the night from Russia'."
Misha Baronova took any job he could find, washing carriages or cleaning offices, while he looked for a position that suited his skills at drawing and painting. The local cinema gave Misha and Lydia jobs playing piano and violin for the silent movies. "There was no one to leave me with," Ms Baronova says, "so I was sitting by them in the front row watching until I fell asleep."
Eighteen months after arriving in Romania the family moved to the capital, Bucharest, where Misha found a job at a factory printing posters. The family lived in a building around the factory infested by rats, bedbugs and lice. "I spent my days in the factory yard with the other factory children climbing trees, throwing stones at each other and the passers-by, rummaging around the garbage bins. It was great fun."
Lydia coped badly with the change in the family's circumstances. "At 21 she found herself from being the spoilt rich little lady living in luxury to total misery," Ms Baronova says. "She was bitter, she was unhappy. She'd just lost her father who was shot, that she adored. She lost her youth. People in their 20s like to go to parties. Here it was a miserable life in a dirty home."
But Lydia was about to make a decision that would change the family's life. Irina was to be taken to dancing lessons. "My mother adored the ballet, but she was never allowed to have lessons because nice young ladies did not go on the boards in those days," she says. "When all the snobbery and class statures didn't count anymore, she decided that even though she hadn't been allowed to do it, Irina will do it."
Lydia found a dancing teacher who lived in one tiny room and asked her to teach the seven-year-old. "I would hang off her little kitchen table and Madam Majaiska would sit on the bed with mum," she remembers. "And mother would hum tunes so we had some music. Irina hated every moment of it. "Couldn't understand what the hell they wanted from me, you know, turning my legs like that. I couldn't imagine what for.
One night Lydia took Irina to the theatre to see the great ballerina Tamara Karsavina who was touring Europe. It transformed her. "It was like a fairy tale," she says. "Amazing. Mother said, 'You will see what a ballet dancer should be.' When the curtain parted and Karsavina appeared, it was like a fairy princess from Pushkin's stories."
After a while Madam Majaiska felt she had taught Irina everything she could.She tried to persuade Lydia to take the young girl to Paris to the studio of the famous teacher Olga Preobrajenska.
Misha travelled to Paris and found work in an advertising agency making ads for Vogue and Harpers Bazaar magazines. He sent for Lydia and Irina. When they arrived, the eight-year-old was taken straight to Miss Preobrajenska's studio. "It was the first time I had seen a proper studio, bars, mirrors, lots of students and this tiny little woman who could get irritated very quickly. I was afraid. I was afraid of Preobrajenska, I was afraid of mother."
Gradually her interest in dancing grew. "The first desire to do it was not because I loved it but because it was a challenge. So I worked hard and ... slowly I began to like it, then love it, then it just became my life."
Irina made her debut with the Paris Opera in 1930, aged 11. Choreographer Georges Balanchine one day noticed the little girl with the grace of movement and obvious commitment to the stage. He engaged her for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo. She was 13 years old.
And then Balanchine hit on an idea. He would get three very young dancers straight from the school and make them into a company of children. He chose Tamara Toumanova, 13, Tatiana Riabouchinska, 15 and Irina, 13. In 1933, during their first season in London, ballet writer Arnold Haskell gave them a nickname that stuck: the Three Baby Ballerinas.
It turned out to be a piece of marketing genius. The baby ballerinas caused a sensation, packing houses around Europe, the US and beyond. Young girls around the world went crazy for the three little stars.
But the girls weren't just a novelty act. All were brilliant dancers with whole shows created around them.
"At 14 I was dancing with (the great English dancer and former child prodigy) Anton Dolin in Swan Lake in London," Ms Baronova remembers.
From its base in Monte Carlo, in 1933, the Ballets Russes toured the United States, Paris, London, Barcelona, Madrid, through Italy, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Denmark, Canada, Mexico, Cuba. In four months the girls performed in 125 cities. "We had our own special train for the Russian ballet in America. Lots of carriages for scenery, costumes, 100 people in the company, 25-piece orchestra. It was our special train and we lived in it."
It was a tough schedule for a 13-year-old, but Irina was no dilettante. Now world-famous, she refused to be swept up in the fuss and the crowds and the autographs. "I never gave it a thought. I was not interested in that, I was interested in my work. I didn't read the critics much. I knew whether I had done well or not and the response of the audience was the best critic."
Irina's mother was her chaperone, her acting as a sort of personal assistant, unpacking and re-packing the make-up, washing her tights and cleaning her pink satin toe-shoes with benzine. Misha, meanwhile, stayed home in Paris. But Irina missed her father. Soon, Misha was invited to join the company supervising the scenery which had to often be touched up with fresh paint.
"He gave up the job he loved." This is the only moment in our interview when Ms Baronova's voice cracked with emotion. "My parents really sacrificed, especially my father, to give me a chance in life. At least I had my Papa who was my soul mate."
Irina started to meet some extraordinary people in the artistic world in which she was moving. Painters were commissioned to design the costumes and sets. At various times, Irina worked with a dazzling array of already famous names: Picasso, Dali, Miro, Chagall, Matisse.
Pablo Picasso, she says, could be "a bit heavy-going, very concentrated on his work. He could be very silent. The face was hard. And then suddenly exploding in that Spanish temperament.
"In Barcelona we were hanging his decor for a performance and he came to see how it looked. "Picasso went to look at his scenery. He was about to get off the stage when he said, 'Oh.' He rushed to Papa and demanded a pot of black paint and a brush and said to the orchestra, 'Stop!' Picasso went to the right side of the stage and at the bottom of the panel refreshed his signature, walked away and said 'Ola!' We all applauded him."
With Salvador Dali there was "lots of show-offings. But quietly". At a party after a performance in New York, there was a long table in the middle of which was a bathtub full of champagne. In the tub sat a beautiful naked girl. "Dali was acting as though that were quite normal. They knew it would be in the papers next day. There was quite a stir. Gala (Dali's Russian wife) said to me 'See? It succeeds, it succeeds'. She knew how to do the publicity for Salvador."
In 1938, Irina came to Melbourne and danced at His Majesty's Theatre in Spring Street. Melbourne was thrilled to have such a great star on its stage. Groups of school children waited outside the stage door for a glimpse of their heroines, now willowy 19-year-olds.
A Melbourne eye surgeon, Dr Ringland Anderson had become friends with the company. During their stay in Melbourne he shot film of rehearsals and performances. During their days off in Melbourne, the dancers would gather at the Anderson's house in South Yarra for a barbecue and a swim in the pool.
"In the evening they put a sheet on the wall and Ringland would show us what he had photographed during the week," Ms Baronova remembers. "We all sat on the floor and provided music by singing. Our friends' nephew would be there, exciting for him to be jumping around in the pool with the Russian Ballet. We loved him. He was adorable."
The little boy would grow up to be Melbourne establishment figure Sir Robert Southey, who died in 1998.
In 1949, Ms Baronova, now 30, married Cecil Tennant, a well-known theatrical agent who managed the affairs of Laurence Olivier and his wife Vivien Leigh. Tennant had demanded she quit the ballet world as a condition of marriage and gave her 48 hours to make up her mind. She knew she could have gone on for a few years, even made a life teaching. But she decided marriage was more important.
"I knew I'd miss it, but I was in love with Cecil and I'd always wanted a family. I thought it was much better to leave when the audience is saying 'What a pity' rather than 'It's about time'."
The couple were close friends with Olivier and Leigh who, respectively, were Victoria's godfather and young Irina's godmother. "We went through all their troubles," Ms Baronova says, "their marriage and Vivien's illness. She'd had TB as a youth but still smoked like a chimney and drank martinis like there was no tomorrow."
It was a wonderful family life. But in 1967, Cecil was driving through the countryside in Berkshire, England, with Irina, 14 and Robert, 12, when the car veered off the road into a ditch. Cecil was killed, and the two children were badly injured. It was a difficult time for Ms Baronova. Today, she says: "I think to myself at least I had 18 years of blissful happiness: children, home, family, when so many people don't ever have that."
Her beloved father died of a heart attack aged 57 in 1952. Her mother Lydia moved in with Irina and lived with her for 45 years, first in England, then in Malta, Switzerland, and then back in England where she died in 1992 aged 94. "Until the end she walked on high heels, beautifully dressed, flirting madly with every pair of trousers who happened to be passing by."
Ms Baronova had always kept fond memories of Australia. In 1992, she received a letter from the chairman of the Australian Ballet inviting her to coach the company for a month. "I thought 'How wonderful to see my Australia again, of course I'll come.' The chairman was Sir Robert Southey. I couldn't wait to see my little Robert."
By then Sir Robert was widowed and re-married to Marigold Myer. "They threw a party," she says. "Noel Pelly, the administrator of the Australian Ballet (who died last month), took me to that party. Robert and Marigold were there at the door waiting. Robert said to Noel 'Where is Irina?' I said, 'It's me, here I am."Oh,' he said, 'I expected a little old lady in a wheelchair.'"
In the 1980s her eldest daughter Victoria married the actor Steve Martin. The couple divorced about 10 years later. "He wasn't the sort of person to allow one to come too close to him, but I liked him very much, I admired his work," she says of Martin. "He was very nice in his calm way. His mind is 99.5 per cent always on his work, which sometimes was off-putting.
"I send him birthday and Christmas cards. If he comperes the Academy Awards I always write him a note to say 'Well done' and I get a lovely little note from him back."
She has lived in London for the past 20 years. Three years ago she came to Byron Bay to visit her daughter Irina, who has lived there for six years. At 80, she was reluctant to move yet again, but Irina persuaded her mother to move to Byron. "Irina said 'Why don't you come here instead of sitting in the rain in London?' So I did. I bought the first house the agent showed me."
Writing her autobiography has been an emotional experience. "I'm hoping when I finish it, it will be a feeling that I got out of prison, you've spat it out, and now forget it and just enjoy your last years on this earth," she says.
Saturday, September 13, 2003
September 11, 2003, Thursday
NEWS; Pg. 19
ARMANI: SUITABLE DIGS
The messiah returned to the faithful when Giorgio Armani was honored Tuesday in Beverly Hills.
Mr. Armani (not "Giorgio," "Gio" or George to the true believers --- always "Mr. Armani") was honored with a plaque on the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style. The ceremony included a fashion show, speeches and a full turnout by the Brahmins of Beverly Hills retail.
The 450-guest fete was held on a bleacher flanked runway on Rodeo Drive itself. First came the show highlighting the spectrum of Armani's subtle designs. Then, during the speeches, Jodie Foster gave the I-once-was-lost-but-now-I'm-saved testimonial in which she recounted her pre-Armani days when she attended the Oscars wearing a gown "with a giant blue bow in the back that looked like I sat on a wedding cake."
Steve Martin got a laugh with the line about the Italian designer being "the only person here tonight who can honestly say, 'I'm wearing myself.' "
An after-party followed in a much larger adjacent area, where DJ Outkast played hip-hop (could there be a more perfect venue than Rodeo Drive for the lyrics "All the ladies in the house say 'ho' "?) at decibels never heard before in Beverly Hills.
Among those who spoke at the ceremony were Sophia Loren, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mira Sorvino, Fred Hayman, Debra Messing and Samuel L. Jackson.
Steve's fashion designer
The Daily News of Los Angeles
September 12, 2003 Friday, Valley Edition
YOU'RE IN THE ARMANI NOW: When does the Black Sea hit Beverly Hills?< When Giorgio Armani comes to town, that's when. All Hollywood puts on its best black Armani to honor the iconic Italian designer for his contributions to fashion and entertainment at the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style event.
Spotted in their Armani best on the red carpet: Sophia Loren, Thora Birch, Cheryl Hines of the Emmy-nominated "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Brendan Fraser, Debra Messing, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Debi Mazar, Jodie Foster, Samuel L. Jackson, novelist Jackie Collins, Barbara Davis, Harrison Ford, Calista Flockhart, Michelle Pfeiffer, David E. Kelley, Steve Martin and scads of local politicians, restaurateurs, fashion lovers and Hollywood high rollers.
During the Armani and Emporio Armani fall 2003 show, the audience salivated over his latest looks - sexy, short black silk, satin and velvet dresses; frock coats; beaded mini-gowns; black feathers, fur and spider web shawls - and several stars made shopping lists. Top stylist Jessica Pastor whispered, "That's so you!" to Anjelica Huston, who was sitting with her husband, sculptor Robert Graham Jr., who designed the bronze female torso that now graces the Golden Triangle intersection.
After the standing ovation, Armani submitted to the lengthy, loving lauding. "He has taught me to be fearless about fashion," said Jackson. Foster recalled the gown she wore to the '88 Oscars- you know, "the one with the giant blue bow on my butt? From that moment on, I have always, always worn the legendary Armani." He personally fit her for the '91 Oscars. "It was like being painted by Picasso or directed by Visconti."
Messing read raves from stars in absentia ... Julia Roberts: "You make the world a more beautiful place." From Richard Gere: "You are the gentlemanly visionary of fashion." Martin Scorsese: "Because you dress me so well, I walk twice as tall."
But Martin got the most giggles, mentioning his first Armani outfit, Armani diapers, which "are really so classic. I'll be able to wear them when I'm 80." Martin also took turns with Loren helping, um, "translate" Armani's Italian acceptance speech; changing "Caio, Beverly Hills!" to "Hello, Cleveland!" and "I'm so happy to be here in California" to "I would like to announce that I'm running for governor of California."
In his heartfelt acceptance speech, translated by his niece, Armani admitted feeling overwhelmed by his friends' words. "But I feel the same love for you that you show for me tonight." He ended with a tongue-in-chic invitation. "I wish all of you will come to Milan for my fashion show this month. But you're going to pay for the trip!"
Wednesday, September 10, 2003
September 9, 2003
LETTERS; Pg. 56
IF YOU'RE GOING TO WEAR A KILT DO IT PROPERLY
IT'S great to see the rich and famous wanting to move to Scotland but if they insist on wearing our national dress could they please try researching it properly?
Steve Martin (Scottish Daily Express, September 5) looked like he was wearing a ladies' skirt.
The man's kilt should be worn a half inch above the knee and not down to meet his socks.
A silly mistake made by many new settlers in our country.
Kathleen Matheson, Stonehaven
Monday, September 08, 2003
The Observer on the Pleasure of My Company
thanks to Ummm...
Like his films, Steve Martin's novel, The Pleasure of My Company, is lighthearted and innocent. Which is no bad thing, says Will Hammond
Sunday September 7, 2003
The Pleasure of My Company
by Steve Martin
Weidenfeld & Nicolson £12.99, pp256
I have always had a soft spot for Steve Martin. A bit like a bruise. After all, he was a good comedian as comedians go: quite charming, quite amusing, quite pleasant. But, as comedians go, he sort of went. He continues to make movies, of course, but tastes have changed. It seems that his doughy features, comforting nasal voice-overs and zany sense of humour have become just a little too benign to interest the over-12s. The upside of being now equably nice, though, is that he retains the rare and endearing quality of the wholly inoffensive: like a cheese sandwich, you can't really hold anything against him.
In his reinvention as novelist, however, Martin is making a canny move. For there is a certain novelty value in reading a book written by the man who once made an entire film wearing a suspiciously large prosthetic nose. And as Roxanne (his Hollywood remake of Cyrano de Bergerac) showed, novelty is what he does best. The Pleasure of My Company, which is, in fact, his fifth venture into published prose, sees a return to form: it is sweet, funny, slightly haphazard and ultimately quite good.
Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a genius rejected by Mensa after they inadvertently omitted the 1 at the beginning of his IQ, is plagued by Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Everything must be logical, symmetrical, explicable and quantifiable. At any one time, for example, the total wattage of active light bulbs in his Santa Monica apartment must be precisely 1,125. Street kerbs, meanwhile, are the literally insurmountable manifestation of all that is unacceptable to him: even the thought of stepping into the road at any other point than a driveway paralyses him with panic. Not surprisingly, he is unable to hold down a job, surviving on state benefit and the generous donations of his beloved Texan granny.
This does not bode well for Daniel's love-life, nor for any hopes we might have had of a fast-paced, wisecracking, rollicking read. But Martin's narrator holds our interest with his tangential forays into the absurd, and his variously humiliating, anti-heroic antics. His appearance on a crime reconstruction show, for example, coincides with his attempt to seduce the local estate agent.
Likewise, his tan-inducing lighting requirements thwart his neighbour's drunken attempt to seduce him. Instead, he lies compulsively to the student psychiatrist, Clarissa, who visits on Fridays, and builds the mathematically astonishing 'magic squares' made famous by Benjamin Franklin. It is like reading P.G. Wodehouse on acid or Monty Python on Valium: calmly surreal.
But this combination of the bizarre and the banal is clearly the point. In fact, one of the funniest creakings of the plot involves Daniel's submission and consequent success in the Tepperton's Apple Pie Most Average American essay contest, leading to the delightful headline: 'Insane Man Chosen as Most Average American'. Funnier still is the fact that he wins it twice.
Gradually, though, he starts to make his way into the outside world, with the help not of his psychiatrist but of her infant son, Teddy. The plot creaks noisily again, and the three of them embark on a road trip which becomes, inevitably, a journey into self-discovery. Along the way, Martin sets out to prove himself as more than just a comic who can write, and he lays on the significance of the episode fairly heavy-handedly: 'Once I positioned my palm between my eyes and the sun, and I felt this had something to do with Granny, for it was she who stood between me and what would scorch me.' Or: 'What happened under the pecan tree qualifies as one of those events in life that is as small as an atom but with nuclear implications.' Gee. One of those.
But Martin's most successful and attractive qualities are consistently present: self-deprecation and irreverence. Among some conspicuously strained analogies ('My earlier Socratic dialogue with myself about the nature of love had no Socrates to keep me logical') and obvious observations ('People, I thought. These are people. Their general uniformity was interrupted only by their individual variety. My eyes roved around like a security camera'), there are several which sparkle with characteristic bathos: 'I realised Brian was not a cuckold in the grand literary tradition. In fact, he was more like a mushroom.'
Martin is intelligent and, at moments, The Pleasure of My Company displays a surprising sensitivity. But there is no dark side to his clowning: nothing morbid; nothing, bar the occasional split infinitive, which is even uncomfortable. This is light-hearted, quick-witted slapstick; innocent and playful, original and funny. It is the kind of goofball comedy of the naïve which invariably secures Martin's films a PG rating. It is a lot of fun.
Thanks to Ummm... info on filming Shopgirl
Jimmy Fallon Exits “Shopgirl”; After Failed First Try, Filming Now in October
Written 09-06-2003 by Chris Faile
Steve Martin and Claire Danes are still in, but “Saturday Night Live” funnyman Jimmy Fallon is out as “Shopgirl” draws closer to filming in mid-October. According to FilmJerk.com sources, the reason he will not be involved is previous scheduling commitments (“Taxi” is filming around the same time, see our story here, plus there's always his "SNL" gig) and, because of this, producers are now looking to cast another actor as Jimmy, the “directionless, clueless, classless youth.” Upon meeting Mirabelle Butterspield (Danes), though, he becomes enduringly fascinated with her and undergoes an amazing transformation in a few short months.
This is the second attempt to bring Martin’s celebrated novel to screen, as it was originally to begin filming in January. Unfortunately, its original financier, Lakeshore Entertainment, put the project in turn-around at the time. Since that time, Disney has picked up the film, based on Martin's novella, in turnaround from Lakeshore and will fully finance the film.
The film focuses on Mirabelle, an impecunious young artist who works as a shopqirl at Neiman's to make meager ends meet. She commences an affair with a wealthy older man, Ray Porter (Martin, a character very much like the actor/author himself), but their vastly different expectations inevitably cause them both much pain. Jeremy becomes the other man in the equation. Martin’s novel -- it is a scant 130 pages in its trade paperback form – was released by Hyperion press in 2000 and became a New York Times bestseller. Upon the book’s release, Elle Magazine called the author a "gorgeous writer capable of being at once melancholy and tart, achingly innocent and astonishingly ironic."
Mirabelle meets Jeremy early in the film/novel, but it is not until the end of the film (with his transformation) that they fall in love, or something close to it.
At the same time, producers are trying to cast another lead, Lisa Kramer, as well as several other parts. In her late 20s to mid 30s, she is a gorgeous salesgirl at Neiman's, as vain and manipulative as she is beautiful. Jealous and calculating, Lisa buddies up to Mirabelle. Also being cast at this time are: Mr. Agasi, Mirabelle's boss at Neiman Marcus; Mirabelle’s father and mother; Ray’s ex-girlfriend. Christie Richards, who is intent upon seducing him; Loki and Del Rey, Mirabelle’s new friends; and an omniscient female narrator, who comments at intervals on Ray and Mirabelle’s affair.
Anaud Tucker (“Hillary and Jackie”) is set to direct from a script written by Martin himself, and the film is eyeing a fall 2004 release.
Producers: Ashok Amritraj, Jon Joshni, Steve Martin
Director: Anand Tucker
Writer: Steve Martin
Casting Directors: Tricia Wood & Deborah Aquila
Start Date: October 13, 2003
Location: Los Angeles
Production Company: Hyde Park
Distributor: Touchstone Pictures (Disney)
Sunday, September 07, 2003
Another article on Pleasure of My Company
Steve Martin: “the page
is more personal”
i n t e r v i e w
by J. Rentilly
He can play the banjo, juggle cats, disco dance, and quote Heidegger at will. He’s won several Grammies, has an extensive private collection of modern art, dated Anne Heche before Ellen did (and then not again), and defined himself as one of the great comedic writer/performers of his generation. Merging a Buster Keatonish facility for physical comedy with a verbal balderdashery that is equal parts Groucho Marx and Immanuel Kant, always walking a fine line between idiocy and irony, Steve Martin, at 54, is no longer the wild and crazy guy of the late 1970s. Many of Martin’s longtime fans—those who have purchased tens of millions of tickets to see him in films like Roxanne, L.A. Story, All of Me, The Jerk, and Bowfinger—might consider his latest act to be exactly that: wild and crazy.
Two years ago, Martin published his first novella, Shopgirl, a tender, elegant soufflé of disappointed romance that feels more like an Eric Rohmer film than an arrow through the head or a fish in the pocket. Shopgirl is a book that doesn’t need a critic but an analyst, filled as it is with petite, rolling hills of simile and grace, characters of small disorders quietly yearning for, well, more yearning, and a soupçon of roman à clef that will wag the tail of celebrity hounds through at least a couple of close readings. It is a marvelous book, both dexterous and deeply human—ompletely unlike anything one would expect from Steve Martin, except that everything he has ever done feels like a step toward exactly this. In October, Martin will publish his second novella, The Pleasure of My Company, which makes hilarity of its protagonist’s utter devastation, art of the tiniest human moments played out beneath a harbor sky. Here, Martin discusses his career as a writer.
Tell me about the new book.
It is about a very close look at something that is very small, a relationship that is between two people that is not sensational, that is not about great events, but it is marked with pain and misunderstanding. It’s a very simple relationship. But even in a book called Shopgirl, or in the lives of shopgirls and shopguys, there is a very large existence going on that is as complicated as, you know, Sartre.
What is the difference between writing a novel and writing a film or a play?
Well, there’s a big difference. The difference is dialogue. A play moves almost exclusively with dialogue. And a book moves almost exclusively with thought, feeling, introspection. At least mine does. There’s very little dialogue in Shopgirl. And it was a conscious choice, really. I didn’t want it to become specific in a conversational way. I wanted to always be inside them. The conversation between these two people, because neither is really a sensational person, would be something like: “How are you?” “Let’s go.” “Gosh, we’re late.” So the book was designed that way.
You’ve spent most of your professional life doing writing of some kind or other. [Martin has several screenplays and dozens of New Yorker essays to his credit.] Still, was it daunting to dive into a novel?
Well, yes. I was talking to Martin Amis once and I was paying very close attention to everything he was saying because what I really wanted to say was, “How do you do it?” He opened the door for me. We were talking about a particular writer and he said, “Ah, well, he’s kind of a sloppy writer.” “What do you mean, a sloppy writer?” He said, “Unintended alliteration, repeating sounds within a sentence, repeating words at close proximity.” So, yes: when there is a Martin Amis in the world, writing a novel is a daunting prospect.
At what point did you think you’d become a writer? When you were a kid?
Not me. Nope. I knew I wanted to be in show business when I was a kid. I was going to be a magician. And I was a magician for a while. But I realized very quickly when doing my magic show that, “Hmm, they seem to really like it when the tricks don’t work.”
A lot of your humor comes from a playfulness of language. It’s almost childlike, and fairly rare in contemporary literature.
Well, I grew up with silly words. I think all comedy is based on—well, a lot of comedy is based on silly words. I can just hear the old-time writers saying, “K is funny!” I think it’s true. Personally, you can’t be too elevated with your language in comedy, especially film comedy. On the page you can because you can have a more personal experience. I’ve always gotten way more response from anything I’ve written in the New Yorker than to any movie I’ve ever made. Movies come out. They’re out. They’re hits. They’re not hits. They go away. It’s like you don’t exist.
You studied philosophy in college. Any particular works that stand out for you?
I did major in philosophy in college. And yet I still don’t have an answer. [Beat.] I think the things that had the most influence on me were a little essay by Sartre on existentialism and what I could glean from Wittgenstein on language. Philosophy was a great major because it’s the one pointless major. When you take a major that has a point, then you have to go into that field. Philosophy serves me all the time. I can use it anywhere. I think it made me skeptical, which is a good thing to carry through your life.
A new review and advance on an interview with Steve in Pages Magazine
Something to Say
Steve Martin follows up the delightful Shopgirl with the even more delightful The Pleasure of My Company. Here he discusses just what he has to say in his writing.
He can play the banjo, juggle cats, disco dance, and quote Heidegger at will. He's won several Grammys, Emmys, has an extensive private collection of modern art, and defined himself as one of the great comedic minds of his generation. Merging a Buster Keatonish facility for physical comedy with a verbal balderdashery that is equal parts Groucho Marx and Immanuel Kant, always walking a fine line between idiocy, irony, and longing, Steve Martin at 58 is no longer the wild and crazy guy of the late 1970s. Many of Martin's longtime fans, those who purchased tens of millions of tickets to see him in fflms like Roxanne, L.A. Story, The Jerk, and Bowflinger (which he also wrote or cowrote), might consider his latest act to be exactly that: wild and crazy. In the early 1990s, Martin dipped his toe into playwriting, penning the critically heralded Picasso at the Lapin Agile, which imagines an encounter between Einstein and Picasso and meditates, lyrically and uproariously, on science and art. Martin also picked up his pen to write a series of humorous essays for The New Yorker. Then, in 2000, Martin published his first novella, Shopgirl, a tender, elegant souffle of disappointed romance that feels more like an Eric Rohmer film than an arrow through the head. Shopgirl is a book that doesn't need a critic but an analyst, filled as it is with petite, rolling hills of simile and grace, characters of small disorder quietly yearning for, well, more yearning. It is a book both dexterous and deeply human. This fall, Hyperion will publish Martin's second novella, The Pleasure of My Company, which tells the heartbreaking and hilarious story of Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a deeply neurotic but entirely lovable man in search of peace, love, and understanding. Martin's prose is completely unlike anything one would expect from Steve Martin the wild and crazy dude with cruel shoes, King Tut, and a fish in his pocket, except that everything he has ever done feels like a step toward exactly this.
Read the rest of our interview with Steve Martin in the September/October issue of Pages, available on newsstands now!
Friday, September 05, 2003
Steve buying another house -- in Scotland
September 5, 2003
NEWS; Pg. 11
HOLLYWOOD COMEDIAN PLANS TO BUY SCOTTISH ESTATE; HIGHLAND HOME FOR STAR MARTIN
HOLLYWOOD star Steve Martin has revealed he may move to Scotland to live next to his close friend Billy Connolly.
The 58-year-old comedian, who enjoys frequent Highland breaks, usually stays with the Big Yin at his GBP 1million mansion, Candacraig House, in Aberdeenshire.
He wore a kilt for the Lonach Gathering last month and enjoyed mixing with the locals.
However, after visiting Scotland for four consecutive summers, the Texan-born actor has admitted he wants to buy a permanent base.
He said: "I'm going to try my best and get a house too. I love Scotland. A holiday home would be great."
Martin could easily afford to snap up any multi-million pound Scottish property for sale.
Among the many estates currently on the market is the 190-acre Arndillay House in Aberlour, Banffshire, close to Connolly's home.
The GBP 2.4million Georgian mansion has 12 bedrooms and sits in beautiful parkland on the banks of the River Spey.
But if he chooses somewhere more central the A-listed Middleton Hall, in Midlothian, may provide the perfect choice.
On the market for GBP 2.25million, the estate on the outskirts of Edinburgh boasts 70 acres.
Martin's film hits include Father of the Bride, Parenthood, and the recent Bringing Down the House.
Tuesday, September 02, 2003
Ah, the title of the interview with Fischer is correct here
The interview originally was:
by Paul Fischer
Steve Martin/Novocaine Interview by Paul Fischer from Los Angeles.
A pre-Novocaine interview I just found
Ignore the title. they obviously screwed up.
Dark Horizons Presents...
BONHAM CARTER UNMASKED
Helena Bonham Carter/Planet of the Apes Interview by Paul Fischer in New York
Steve Martin is raconteur, playwright, novelist, actor, and occasional Oscar host. No wonder when one has the chance to talk to Martin, a rarity at best, one has to talk fast. But even 15 minutes with the inimitable actor is a revelation. He was keen to talk about his latest film Novocaine, a dark comedy/thriller in which he plays dentist Frank Sangster, who is living the American Dream. Blessed with a thriving dental practice and a sleek modernist home, Frank is happily engaged to his ambitious dental hygienist, Jean Noble (Laura Dern). His perfectly managed life quickly unravels, however, when Susan Ivy (Helena Bonham-Carter), a seductive new patient with an appetite for pain-killers, settles into his dentist chair. Before long, drugs are missing from his office, Susan's psychotic brother Duane (Scott Caan) is stalking him, and Frank himself is wanted by both the DEA and the police for drug trafficking and murder. As he flees from authorities, Frank becomes increasingly drawn to Susan, and through her learns he is the victim of an elaborate con scheme, which may also involve his wayward brother, Harlan (Elias Koteas). Fuelled by the desire to create a new life for himself and Susan, Frank plunges into a shadowy world of drugs and violence in order to prove his innocence, only to discover that breaking the law might provide his only hope for freedom. It doesn't sound much like a comedy, right? Steve didn't think so either, as he talks dentistry, humour and Oscars to Paul Fischer.
Question: Did your Little Shop of Horrors research carry over to this film?
Answer: Okay, me and dentist and research from "Little Shop of Horrors." First, me and dentists, I've only played two. One is in "Little Shop" who I realize that he gets killed. Then this one, who's a pretty straight guy, regular character who actually kills others. So, it's a full circle! I just had my dentistry experience from "Little Shop" which I completely forgot so I had to go to a dentist and sit around all day and play with people's teeth.
Question: How do you feel about dentists in real life?
Answer: I don't hate it. I don't like it or hate it. It's just something I do every six months or twice, three times a year, something like that.
Question: What appealed to you about this character?
Answer: Well, first I liked the movie because it was the kind of movie that you don't know what's going to happen next. You read the script and you don't know what's gonna happen next, unlike many scripts I read. I enjoy the genre of psychological thriller, twists and turns. It's kind of like "Spanish Prisoner." I had just done "Spanish Prisoner" and I thought, "This has the same feel. I really like that, and it's a bigger role."
Question: How was working with a first time director?
Answer: First time director was no problem. I was continually surprised at the depth of his knowledge and I was surprised that it's something that could be taught in film school, because that's where he must have gotten it. I know he had written several movies and had been on movie sets, so he must have been a keen observer.
Question: Were the love scenes difficult?
Answer: Oh no. First of all, Helena's a giggler and Laura's funny and bright and witty, so whoever I was in bed with, it was a delight. You know, these scenes are shot with 15 people staring at you so it can only be funny, rather than hot.
Question: What's your progress with Gwyneth?
Answer: Well, as long as I never meet her, I'm still going to have a baby with her. As soon as I meet her, of course I know it's off.
Question: What makes her so special?
Answer: I don't know. I just wrote this piece for the New Yorker where it was my struggle to have a baby with Gwyneth though I had never met her. It's had an afterlife.
Question: How did it become an animated short?
Answer: Well, it just did. They were doing a site that would have a lot of animated things and they asked me to do something and I suggested animating that.
Question: Why Gwyneth?
Answer: Well, she's very beautiful and she's kind of iconic. She'd just won the Oscar and she's ethereal. She's almost like somebody you can't quite touch, so it made it funnier than someone you actually could touch, like Angelina Jolie.
Question: Has Gwyneth seen it?
Answer: I think she's read it. I don't know if she's seen the animation.
Question: Any plans to host the Oscars again?
Answer: I don't think this year. It was fun to do and hard to do and exhausting. When you're out there, you're looking at a bunch of friends.
Question: Is Russell Crowe your friend?
Answer: I don't think he's a humourless guy. I think he was just surprised that he was mentioned. Maybe he wasn't even paying attention and then heard his name. I haven't met him but people say he's a very nice guy and he has an Australian sense of humour.
Question: Do you have a recommendation for host?
Answer: I haven't even thought about it. I haven't even really thought about the Oscars. It's a little too soon, so I don't even know.
Question: Are you writing anything?
Answer: Yeah, I've just written a screenplay for "Shop Girl," my novella. And I've adapted a play that will be done in New York in March called "The Underpants."
Question: What are you reading?
Answer: What am I reading? I've got the National Book Awards coming up. I'm the host, so I'm trying to read about 15 books. There's "The Corrections," there's . I can't remember all the titles. I've got Salman Rushdie's book, "Fury." I just bought a book "Killing Pablo," Pablo Escobar.
Question: What is "The Underpants" about?
Answer: "The Underpants" is a play that was written by Carl Sternheim in Germany in 1911. It's the story of a woman whose underpants fall down in public and how it changes her life. So, I adapted it for modern times.
Question: What did you learn from working with dramatic actresses?
Answer: I think learning acting is subconscious. They don't say, "Do this this way." It's just something where you watch them, you maybe see a technique. It's something you pick up your whole life from other actors. So, I can't say anything specific, but it's like when you play Tennis with someone who's better than you, you're suddenly better. It's the same thing with good actors. They make you better.
Question: How has your sense of humour changed?
Answer: I would say that as you get older, your sense of humour becomes less vicious, at least in my case. Edgy humour is better left to younger people who can afford to be less sensitive. As you get older, you know people who died, you know people who got diseases, you've had things yourself, you know what pain is and so you tend to identify with your victim a little more. You can still be edgy, it's just not as vicious.
Question: Do you think of the scripts you read as an actor or a writer?
Answer: You read a screenplay like an actor. You think, "Can I say this?" The first time, you just read it to see what it's about and then if you're interested, you read it several more times to see what you've missed. Sometimes you miss action, you didn't quite catch what was going on, you start reading all the descriptions rather than just your own lines.
Question: Do you consider this film a comedy?
Answer: I never considered the film a comedy, although now that I've seen it with people, I realize it gets laughs. No one's acting funny. It's really the style of the movie that brings about the humour, and that's the director's gift to the film. It's really a kind of very dark, scary movie.
Question: What else are you working on?
Answer: "Shop Girl," I would probably be in that and I'm probably going to do a movie called "In the House" with Queen Latifah.
Question: Is anything in your career most special to you?
Answer: You know, I'm always looking forward. So, in the last 10 years I would say the play I wrote, "Picasso at the Lapine Agile," my book "Shop Girl" and the things I'm working on now. It's hard to look back 10, 15 years or 25 years and go, "That was the most special" because life is so present. I don't really live in the past.
Question: What invigorates you about writing and acting?
Answer: Writing and acting are complete opposites. One is very physical, it's done in public, it's done on the road and in different towns. Writing is mostly interior. It's quiet, it's solitary and it's essentially intellectual. Performing is essentially emotional, or acting. Of course, they bleed into each other because writing is certainly an emotional experience. It's just a different portrayal. If you're writing something, you can break down a gesture into five paragraphs if you want. When you're acting it you just do it.
Question: Do you prefer one?
Answer: No. Both are rewarding, but writing is much more personal, so I'd have to say my heart leans towards that.
Question: What about directing?
Answer: I've never had an interest. I think people think I directed things, but I haven't.
Question: Are you hosting something for National Public Radio?
Answer: A comedy series. I'm sort of the narrator of a little half hour show about comedians of the 20th century. It was fun, because mostly the comedy series is built of audio clips, bits from a lot of comedians. I'm anxious to hear it because when I did it, I didn't get to hear the clips.
Question: What are you goals now?
Answer: I don't think of life in terms of goals. I think of it as what I'm motivated to do next. As long as something keeps appearing, which it always has, that's what keeps me vital. I just find oh, now it's time to do this. Oh, now it's time to do that. Sometimes I might think about something for 10 years and then suddenly it becomes the time to do it.
Question: Didn't you used to give business cards instead of autographs?
Answer: I did that years ago. It was a joke.
NOVOCAINE OPENS THIS FRIDAY