Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Tuesday, December 30, 2003
The Twelve Days of Steve -- in his own words
The Toronto Star
December 30, 2003 Tuesday Ontario Edition
ENTERTAINMENT; Pg. D09
On the twelfth day of Steve Martin ...
Richard Ouzounian, Toronto Star
Movie star sounds off on kids, career 'I never planned to be an actor'
When Steve Martin faced the press several weeks ago to promote his latest film, Cheaper By The Dozen, he was in typical Martinesque interview mode.
In other words, flat-footed questions got sharp-witted answers, personal inquiries were firmly swept aside and the most amazing things provoked his interest.
Look on this as a "The Twelve Days Of Christmas," courtesy of Mr. Martin.
12 KIDS CAVORTING "Sure, there were times in the movie when the kids got so out of hand you'd want to send them to bed ... or handcuff them to the bed frame. But in real life, they were all just bright and sunny. Did they make me laugh? Kids don't do one-liners; their personalities are funny. I once asked two parents why their children were so fabulous and they said 'We raised them with humour.' I thought that was a great answer."
11 PHONES A-RINGING "I still think cell phones are the tool of the devil and I figured something out about them the other day. When you call someone and the voice says 'If you'd like to leave a message, press 1,' and then after you've left your message they say 'Press 5 for more options,' you know what they're doing? They're killing air time and it's all going to add up on your bill."
10 FLACKS A-FLACKING "This terrible thing happened to me. I had a hit last year with Bringing Down The House. My life was going just fine, I had time on my hands. Occasionally I'd make a movie, people would ignore it and I'd go back home. Suddenly I was in demand ... especially for interviews. I think I liked it better the other way. I don't like to make my private life public. It diminishes it."
9 LADIES LEADING "I admire a lot of women working in film today. Bonnie Hunt (his co-star) has a real sharp wit and she's very pretty. Gwyneth Paltrow in Sylvia was brilliant. So delicate, so beautiful. And Claire Danes (playing the lead in the film of his novel Shopgirl) is simply fabulous. I can't believe her emotional intelligence at the age of 24."
8 REMAKES MAKING "Originally I said 'I'm not going to do any remakes.' But time marches on and the original isn't indelibly engraved on the public's memory anymore. So I said to myself 'Wait a minute, does this mean we can't ever do Hamlet again?' With a really good property, the central emotion remains true. Take Father Of The Bride. Everything else might change, the society grows more permissive or more conservative, but the underlying story is still valid."
7 PANTHERS PANTING "I took a long time deciding whether or not to remake The Pink Panther. But when I finally got into writing it, I thought 'This could be funny in its own right instead of just ripping off a work of genius.' Is Jackie Chan going to play Cato? I think he's wonderful, but that was just a rumour in the trade papers before we even thought of it."
6 TURKEYS GOBBLING "Is there any movie that I think absolutely shouldn't be remade? Yes. Sgt. Bilko."
5 GOLDEN GLOBES (On being nominated for the Golden Globes five times, but never winning) "Awards are funny things. As Nora Ephron once said 'When you sit down to write the first page of your new screenplay, you're also writing your Oscar acceptance speech.'
"Sure, when I start each new project, I think it's going to be fantastic. But hey, it either works out or it doesn't."
4 CAREERS CAREERING "Yes, I'm an actor, a playwright and a novelist, but don't forget juggling, too. I don't rate my talents. They come as they come. You don't make career choices. It just happens to you. I never planned to be an actor. I wanted to be a comic. If I'd started out as an actor, I'd still be on the audition line, for sure."
3 CURIOUS QUESTIONS "What do I watch on TV? The World Poker Tour. What movie influenced my sense of humour as a child? On The Waterfront. Do I ever want to have kids myself? (asked by a male journalist). Make me an offer and we'll discuss it."
2 FAVOURITE FILMS "I've made over 30 movies, so I don't really have one that I prefer over all the others, but sometimes I think back with extraordinary fondness on the circumstances surrounding the making of the picture and two that fall into that category are Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Roxanne."
AND A WILD AND CRAZY PARTRIDGE IN A PEAR TREE "I started in this business over 35 years ago. It's 2003 and I'm still here. That blows me away."
Monday, December 29, 2003
Box office for CBTD
The Hollywood Reporter
December 29, 2003, Monday
Long live the holiday 'King'
During the biggest Christmas weekend in history, New Line Cinema's "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" retained its crown and the top spot with an estimated $51.2 million for the three-day weekend _ down a slim 29% from its debut. The last film in the epic trilogy, based on the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and helmed by Peter Jackson, has accrued an impressive $223.7 million in 12 days.
"Cheaper by the Dozen" from 20th Century Fox had the best performance among the new arrivals, exceeding prerelease expectations, as the Steve Martin starrer collected an estimated $28.2 million for the weekend to place second. Families were out in force for the PG-rated Shawn Levy-directed picture, which grossed an estimated $36.4 million for four-days. It was the second-biggest opening for Martin after Buena Vista's "Bringing Down the House" ($31.1 million).
Executives at Fox were pleasantly surprised by "Cheaper's" stronger than anticipated returns.
" 'Cheaper' is just a huge hit -- this is the movie for everybody -- parents, teens, adults and kids. We're really, really pleased," said an upbeat Bruce Snyder, president domestic distribution for Fox. Snyder noted the film played slightly more female and received great exit scores from all demographics.
In addition, Snyder said, "I thought maybe we would get to $28 million in four days instead of three." Bringing more smiles to the studio is that the budget for "Cheaper" was less than $40 million.
The opening for "Cold Mountain," which cost an estimated $80 million to produce, was good news for Miramax. "We're off to a great start and the exit polls are fabulous," said Rick Sands, chief operating officer for Miramax, who noted that "Mountain" generated in the high 80% range for the top two boxes in exits.
With several awards nominations already under its belt, "Mountain" will be expanding by 600-700 theaters Jan. 19. The drama, which has running time of 21©2 hours, has garnered mostly positive reviews. "The reviews were a major motivator for people to see the movie," Sands said.
The Hollywood Reporter projects the total for all films this weekend to be in the mid-to-high $180 million area, up from the $178.4 million garnered during the comparable frame in 2002.
The national boxoffice for the week ending Dec. 25 was down 12% from the comparable seven-day period a year ago ($271.0 million vs. $309.5 million), while the year-to-date tally trails by 1% ($8.88 billion vs. $8.99 billion). Estimated admissions for the year-to-date are off nearly 5% from the brisk pace of 2002. n
Document 7 of 19.
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Saturday, December 27, 2003
Another article with cast interviews ... and digs
The Toronto Sun
December 27, 2003 Saturday Final Edition
ENTERTAINMENT; Pg. 71
SAUCY HUNT SPICES IT UP;
SUBTLE HUMOUR 'SNEAKS UP ON YOU'
BY LOUIS B. HOBSON, SUN MEDIA
There's a touch of irony in the casting of Bonnie Hunt and Steve Martin as the parents in the family comedy Cheaper By The Dozen.
In real life, neither actor has children, but they are entrusted with the 12 Baxter kids in Cheaper By The Dozen.
Martin was married to Victoria Tennant for eight years. They divorced in 1994 and he has remained single ever since. Hunt has been married to John Murphy since 1988.
"I come from a family of seven children. I was number six, which was my name for several years," jokes Hunt.
Martin, 58, says he's "amazed I still get asked to play fathers at my age. I've played so many fathers, I feel like one at times."
Martin says Cheaper By The Dozen, which opened Christmas Day, "is a booster film for families. It makes kids and parents feel their lives are so blessed. The ending of the filming is so moving. That's what I liked about the script."
Martin says he loves being a movie dad, because you get the kids at their best.
"They're excited about doing the whole movie thing and they're treated really well on set. You don't have to deal with them on their down time like parents have to every day."
Cheaper By The Dozen is inspired by the semi-autobiographical book by Ernestine Gilbreth Casey and on the 1950 film that starred Clifton Webb and Jeanne Crain.
Hunt, 39, says that in real life, she'd be too young for Steve and that family. "But this is Hollywood and that's how the guys in charge conceive of relationships," says Hunt, who lives and films her TV show The Bonnie Hunt Show in Chicago.
"I went out to dinner the other day in Los Angeles and thought it was one of those bring-your-daughter-to-work days."
Hunt got another jab in age difference when she talked about her Dozen costar Ashton Kutcher.
"Ashton made (his squeeze) Demi Moore so proud of him the day he set up a little lemonade stand outside the studio gates. I was so inspired by Ashton and Demi that I considered dating Forrest Landis, who plays my red-headed son in Cheaper By The Dozen."
Hunt belonged to an improv theatre troupe and encourages improvisation on her TV show.
"That's not the way we worked on Cheaper By The Dozen.
"That's not (director) Shawn Levy's style and that's not how Steve works. He's a real planner."
Hunt says Martin "is a great mind. That's what makes him so unique.
He intellectualizes everything, but he is also a very kind person."
Martin returns the compliment, saying that Hunt "is sharp like cheddar cheese. It was delicious working with her. Her humour is so subtle. It sneaks up on you."
Martin says he can't speak from experience but Hunt insists that the pandemonium in Cheaper By The Dozen is not that exaggerated.
"I was brought up in an atmosphere of chaos. It was alternately stimulating and daunting. We wore whatever didn't have holes in them. It didn't matter if it had belonged to a brother or a sister."
Hunt says the only false note for her is that the family life in Cheaper By The Dozen collapses into utter mayhem when the kids are left with dad Martin.
"Not so at the Hunt household.
"When our father walked into the house, we were instantly good. When he was left in charge, it was like boot camp. It was our poor mother who bore the brunt of our enthusiasm."
Another article on CBTD
Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA)
December 27, 2003 Saturday
LIVING; Pg. 1
Another 'Dozen'; Remake an imitation of life, but still of value, actors say
By Michael H. Kleinschrodt
LOS ANGELES -- It's no accident that Bonnie Hunt ended up co-starring in "Cheaper by the Dozen," director Shawn Levy's very loose remake of Walter Lang's 1950 film.
She always has felt an emotional attachment to the original film as well as to the book that inspired it, Hunt said in a recent press conference in Los Angeles. In fact, she and writing partner Don Lake wrote a draft of a screenplay for a more faithful remake about four years ago.
Nothing ever happened with that screenplay, and the new movie bears little resemblance to the familiar story of two time and motion experts raising 12 children.
"It's very different from the original," star Steve Martin said in a separate press conference. "Very different in its imagining, in its structure. It has a different ending. Really, the only similar thing is 12 children. It has been modernized, and I think successfully. I didn't look at the old one. If I remember it at all, it's from when I saw it as a kid. I think the book, actually, is the thing. I think the book has a lot of resonance for people."
Martin plays the father, who now is a high school football coach. Despite the fact that her own screenplay was languishing on a shelf, Hunt, in a classic bit of Hollywood irony (or nerve), was asked to play Martin's journalist wife.
"I knew Steve was going to do the film, and, even though it was very different, it still presented a positive view of families, so I decided to do it," she said.
In the film, Hunt's character has to take a two-week business trip, leaving Martin to run their home and manage their 12 children even though he has just started a new job at his old college.
Martin said he could relate to the idea of sacrifice on behalf of a career. "Probably in my 20s, I was on the road a lot. And that's a lonely life. And even into my early 30s when I was doing stand-up, we'll say now successfully, that's also very isolating and very lonely. So, eventually you have to come off those periods of isolation and find roots and people. You don't want to be in a different town every night."
But Hunt's character has just had a book published, and she has to leave her family to promote it. Because this is a Hollywood comedy, chaos ensues. And that's something Hunt said never would have happened in her Chicago family, where she was one of seven children.
"When my father walked into the room, you didn't get away with anything," she said. "If he was home with us for two weeks, it would have been boot camp. There would have been no back talk, no sneaking out, no causing any trouble. I think the moments I related to most (in the film) were the dinner table scenes and, certainly, the moments of tenderness with the children. Just the little moments of me talking to the kids, where I could kind of hug them or smile. Because that's certainly reminiscent of my mom."
Hunt said it was interesting to see filmmaking through the children's eyes. For many, it was their first time on a movie set. Shooting on location also gave many of them their first glimpse of livestock.
"I remember when Steve pointed out his first cow. That was a big day. Then he attempted to ride it. That was embarrassing," she said, joking.
But not as potentially embarrassing as the intense kiss Hunt shares with "Smallville" star Tom Welling, who plays one of her sons in the film. The kiss is an outtake shown during the movie's final credits.
"It just happened. Can you blame him?" she asked, joking again. "No, that just happened. We both went for the same joke at the same time. It was ludicrous that a mother and son would start making out while they're cleaning up the hallway. . . . It was just a joke, but it's not like I hadn't dreamed about it before it happened."
And Welling wasn't the only hot young hunk on the set. An uncredited Ashton Kutcher shows up in the small role of Hunt's future son-in-law. Hunt said she was impressed by Kutcher's comedic skills, adding that she loved improvising with him even though none of it ended up in the movie. "Ashton can go toe-to-toe for a long time," she said.
When asked, Hunt tried to shed light on Kutcher's relationship with older woman Demi Moore.
"I remember one day, well, Demi had drawn a hop-scotch for him out in front of the studio, which was very sweet. And he was out there playing for hours. I remember she was very concerned about him getting sunburned.
"No, I have no idea," she said, ending the joke. "I don't understand it. I don't judge. I just don't understand it. It's not my thing. Now, Tom Welling -- I like 'em all cleaned up and bathed, you know -- more my type."
Before becoming a full-time comedian, Hunt was a nurse. She spent three years working in the trauma unit and then two years on the cancer ward of a Chicago hospital. That experience taught Hunt how to work quickly and efficiently and left her comfortable making decisions.
Those skills have served her well as writer-director-producer-star of television's "Life With Bonnie."
"As far as the show goes, I'm really proud of it," she said. "I think we are really doing something different. And not just different because it's different -- it's good. I mean, I believe it's good. It's good storytelling, and it's really valuable.
"I remember as a kid when my dad was watching Andy Griffith's show, in that one moment when he was truly laughing at Barney or something that would happen on that show, that this father of seven kids, who was struggling to make ends meet, who had the weight of the world on him and who was such a good man, in that moment, he would forget everything and just be laughing. And that's the gift that you want to give if you can."
For his part, Martin is preparing to play Inspector Clouseau in an updated prequel to "The Pink Panther." He said he turned down the role a couple of times before he decided he had enough new ideas for Peter Sellers' classic character to make the role his own. "The Birth of
the Pink Panther," expected to be released in 2005, will reunite him with "Cheaper by the Dozen" director Levy.
Steve and Howard Stern? Ack!
December 27, 2003
-- Howard Stern dining at Coco Pazzo with comic-turned-author Steve Martin . . .
Friday, December 26, 2003
A similar article by the same reporter with a bit more info
Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
December 20, 2003 Saturday SECOND EDITION
SATURDAY MAGAZINE, Pg. D1
It's Christmastime at the movies; Actors, directors discuss Hollywood's hot holiday tickets.
Even as you're busy decking the halls and spiking the eggnog, the folks at the local cineplexes are preparing to unwrap Hollywood's Christmas gifts.
This year, the movies opening on Christmas or the day after include high-profile Oscar bait ("House of Sand and Fog," "Cold Mountain," "In America"), family fare ("Cheaper By the Dozen," "Peter Pan") and sci-fi suspense ("Paycheck").
It's still a little early to say exactly what's gold, what's coal or what should be stashed in a spider hole, but following are some thoughts from the people who are riding in the Hollywood sleigh.
"CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN"
For most comedians of Steve Martin's generation, the favored career strategy is to alternate comedies with darker, dramatic roles. It's worked for Robin Williams, Bill Murray and Jim Carrey.
But so what if other funny men insist on being respectable? Martin likes to stick with the slapstick.
"Does it bother me that I'm not often cast in dramas?" ponders the actor whose latest movie is "Cheaper By the Dozen," a remake of the 1950 hit starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy, which was itself based upon a true-life best seller written by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.
"The truth is, I like doing these comedies and I like playing a father. I'm surprised that I'm still able to play a father. I'm a little older than an actual father would be.
"I find these family scenes touching. Husband and wife is interesting, parent and child is interesting, and it's common, ordinary. I'm not one for playing drug-addicted criminals."
So, there's no "King Lear" in his future?
"Oh, no, no, no," he says, laughing. "Basically, most of the time, I'm just tired and want to go home."
Thanks to his roles as a proud papa in "Parenthood" (1989), "Father of the Bride" (1991) and "Bringing Down the House" (2003), Martin has earned the title of Hollywood's top dad. In "Cheaper By the Dozen," he plays Tom Baker, a college football coach with 12 kids (including Hilary Duff, Toms River, N.J.'s Piper Perabo and "Smallville's" Tom Welling) who has to take over running the family when his wife (Bonnie Hunt) goes on a book tour.
Ironically, Martin, 58, has never fathered any children. "I don't have any kids, I don't think," teases the actor, who was married briefly in the 1980s to British actress Victoria Tennant.
Is he happy to be child-free?
"Oh, no, I'm not No, no, it's more like I wonder why I don't have kids, really, because they're very, very sweet and sometimes fascinating and cute," he says. "But I know that there's the dark side to them, too."
The folks at 20th Century Fox are hoping that Martin's "Bringing Down The House"-inspired comeback will last long enough to boost the ticket sales of "Cheaper By the Dozen," which will open Thursday.
Some of Martin's funniest scenes have him reacting to the shenanigans of a bunch of rugrats. "The kids never got on my nerves," says the actor. "They got on my back, they got on my legs, but never my nerves. They were really sweet and they're all genuine people. They're not like actors with bowl haircuts.
"But I will say the little ones were tough, because they're kids and they don't care. I don't blame them. They don't want to do it. There's an outtake at the end, where the twins [Shane and Brent Kinsman] go, "We don't want to do it anymore.' Well, that was take two."
More to Martin's liking was working with Hunt, who, coincidentally, penned an early draft of the "Cheaper By the Dozen" screenplay. "She's funny; she's pretty, and she knows comedy," notes Martin. "Another virtue that she has is, she's an adult."
More talking Steve
The Record (Bergen County, NJ)
December 21, 2003 Sunday All Editions
ENTERTAINMENT; Pg. E01
Comedy's favorite dad keeps up the act in 'Cheaper by the Dozen'
For most comedians of Steve Martin's generation, the favored career strategy is to alternate comedies with darker, dramatic roles. But so what if other funny men, like Robin Williams and Bill Murray, insist on being respectable? Martin likes to stick with the slapstick.
"Does it bother me that I'm not often cast in dramas?" ponders the 58-year-old actor whose latest movie, "Cheaper by the Dozen," opens Christmas Day. It's a remake of the 1950 hit starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy, which was itself based on a true-life bestseller written by Frank B. Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey.
"The truth is I like doing these comedies, and I like playing a father. I'm surprised that I'm still able to play a father. I'm a little older than an actual father would be.
"I find these family scenes touching. Husband-and-wife is interesting, parent-and-child is interesting, and it's common, ordinary. I'm not one for playing drug-addicted criminals."
Thanks to his roles as a proud papa in "Parenthood," "Father of the Bride," and "Bringing Down the House," Martin has earned the title of Hollywood's top dad. For "Cheaper by the Dozen," he plays Tom Baker, a college football coach with 12 kids (including Hilary Duff, Toms River's Piper Perabo, and "Smallville's" Tom Welling) who has to run the family when his wife (Bonnie Hunt) goes on a book tour. Ironically, Martin has never fathered any children.
"I don't have any kids, I don't think," teases the actor, who was married briefly in the Eighties to British actress Victoria Tennant.
Is he happy to be child-free?
"Oh, no, I'm not ... no, no, it's more like I wonder why I don't have kids, really, because they're very, very sweet, and sometimes fascinating and cute," he says. "But I know that there's the dark side to them too."
Sitting in a cavernous conference hall at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel, Martin lacks the compulsion that many comedians have to always be cracking jokes. He lands plenty of punch lines, but he's far from the wild and crazy guy of yore.
"I like to make my friends laugh. But I don't feel pressure when I'm around strangers," says Martin, who seems miles away from the guy who used to yell, "Well, excuuuuuse me!" on late-night TV. "I feel pressure to be funny for interviews, although I'm not being very funny right now."
Does Martin believe that the fans who loved to watch him get happy feet and don an arrow through his head on "Saturday Night Live" followed him into domestic comedies like "Cheaper by the Dozen"?
"Look, I don't believe that there's a gang of people who are my fans," he says. "I think it's more like an ever-changing group that comes and goes. People sometimes come up to me and say, 'We love your movies,' and I want to go, 'And what was the last one that you saw?' But I don't say that, of course."
In the last couple of years, Martin has had trouble connecting with moviegoers. Films like "Sgt. Bilko" (1996), "The Out-of-Towners" (1999), and "Novocaine" (2001) failed to cause a ripple at the box office. But this year Martin enjoyed a surprise success with "Bringing Down the House," a comedy co-starring Queen Latifah that earned $132 million.
According to Martin, the movie is more popular than any other film on his resume, including such hits as "The Jerk" (1980), "All of Me" (1984), "Little Shop of Horrors" (1986), "Roxanne" (1987), "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" (1987), "Parenthood" (1989), "Father of the Bride" (1991), and the recent "Looney Tunes: Back in Action."
"We knew that 'Bringing Down the House' was testing well, but I was surprised it did as well as it did," he says. "It's my biggest hit. You really never know."
The folks at 20th Century Fox are hoping Martin's comeback will last long enough to boost the ticket sales of "Cheaper by the Dozen," which features an unbilled cameo by Ashton Kutcher.
"When you have Steve Martin, you get layers of character and comedy that go well beyond the scripted page," says director Shawn Levy, fresh off the success of "Just Married," which starred Kutcher and Brittany Murphy. "Steve brings Tom Baker to life through his physical and verbal humor. His work starts where the words end."
Some of Martin's funniest scenes have him reacting to the shenanigans of a bunch of rugrats.
"The kids never got on my nerves," says Martin. "They got on my back, they got on my legs, but never my nerves. They were really sweet, and they're all genuine people. They're not like actors with bowl haircuts.
"But I will say the little ones were tough because they're kids, and they don't care. I don't blame them. They don't want to do it. There's an outtake at the end where the twins [Shane and Brent Kinsman] go, 'We don't want to do it anymore.' Well, that was Take 2."
More to Martin's liking was working with Hunt, who, coincidentally, penned an early draft of the "Cheaper by the Dozen" screenplay.
"She's funny, she's pretty, and she knows comedy," says Martin. "Another virtue that she has is she's an adult."
As far as Martin is concerned, "Cheaper by the Dozen" works best as a reminder of the importance of keeping your kin close by.
"It's just a little nod to the strength and goodness of families," he says. "People who are struggling with their parenthood or their childhood might come out of the theater with a little bit of a boost to keep them going."
Martin, who has a marked aversion to discussing any aspect of his personal life, squirms when the subject of his childhood is raised. Born in Waco, Texas, he and his older sister, Melinda, were raised in Southern California.
"No, I didn't base this character on my Dad," he says. "This movie is not about my life at all."
Martin also insists his books and plays are no more revealing of his true nature.
He's been crafting oddball stories since 1979, when a collection of short stories, "Cruel Shoes," topped the bestseller list.
Since then, he's written "Shop Girl," a novella which is being turned into a movie starring Claire Danes; a hit play, "Picasso at the Lapin Agile"; and "The Pleasure of My Company," a novel just published by Hyperion.
Up next for Martin is a re-teaming with Levy on an update of the "Pink Panther" films. The comedian will play Inspector Jacques Clouseau, a role made famous by the late Peter Sellers.
"I understand that they're firing Peter Sellers," quips Martin. "I heard he refused to do the publicity."
"Steve Martin, No Longer Moronic."
The Early Show (7:00 AM ET) - CBS
December 24, 2003 Wednesday
Steve Martin discusses his new film "Cheaper by the Dozen"
ANCHORS: HARRY SMITH
HARRY SMITH, co-host:
2003 has been a good year for comedy legend Steve Martin. He co-starred with Queen Latifah in the box office hit "Bringing Down the House," his novella "The Pleasure of My Company" was a best-seller, and he was named one of People magazine's 50 most beautiful people. Why are--why does that amuse us?
Mr. STEVE MARTIN ("Cheaper by the Dozen"): I don't know.
SMITH: He tops things off as the harried father of 12 in the new comedy "Cheaper by the Dozen."
(Excerpt from "Cheaper by the Dozen" is shown courtesy of 20th Century Fox)
SMITH: Steve Martin is with us.
Mr. MARTIN: Good morning to you.
SMITH: Happy Christmas. All of that.
Mr. MARTIN: Thank you, and same to you.
SMITH: Now did you...
Mr. MARTIN: I'm gonna say everything back. Yeah, go ahead. Same to you.
SMITH: I'm trying to think of what I'm going to say next in order...
Mr. MARTIN: OK.
SMITH: ...so it not be repeated.
Mr. MARTIN: OK.
SMITH: How are you? OK, we've stopped that.
Mr. MARTIN: ...(Unintelligible).
SMITH: So did you go back to study the Clifton Webb-Myrna Loy classic?
Mr. MARTIN: No, I--I wanted to find it, but I couldn't. It wasn't available. And then I asked someone and they said, 'Oh, I have a copy,' but then it never materialized, then I thought, 'Oh, I'd rather not see it right now anyway.'
SMITH: Do you remember it at all?
Mr. MARTIN: Just so vaguely. I think I saw it as a kid.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. But this movie is quite different from that. The only thing the same is the title and the fact they have 12 children. Otherwise, everything has been sort of modernized and updated, and I think...
Mr. MARTIN: ...for the--you know, for our times, it's good.
SMITH: There's a thing about your character in--in that he's a very successful small college football coach...
Mr. MARTIN: Right.
SMITH: ...living so happily and so peacefully...
Mr. MARTIN: Yes. Yes. Yeah.
SMITH: ...in downstate Illinois, but there's a wistful part of this man.
Mr. MARTIN: That he wants...
SMITH: He has something he wants to fulfill.
Mr. MARTIN: He wants to be bigger. Or he gets the offer. He gets the offer, which disrupts the family, and that's what the story is about. Yeah, I think the--the--this movie--what I like about the movie is that anyone can go. You know, the whole family, on Christmas Day, you can walk in there and--and be fine, and it's not moronic. Actually--it's actually funny and good.
SMITH: You should have a little, you know--open a T-shirt.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah, 'not moronic.'
SMITH: That's it.
Mr. MARTIN: That should be a quote in the paper. "Steve Martin, not moronic for a change."
SMITH: And Bonnie Hunt, in the meantime, has her whole life crisis because she becomes a successful author and...
Mr. MARTIN: Right.
SMITH: ...the family is left to fend...
Mr. MARTIN: Creates chaos.
SMITH: ...with you at the helm.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah, and it's all her fault.
SMITH: Yeah. Yeah.
Mr. MARTIN: And Bonnie's terrific in the movie. She has very--she really has to jive in some quick little wit.
SMITH: You've done the "Father of the Bride" and all of these other things where you've worked with kids before, and I'm wondering, 'cause--didn't you used to work at Disneyland?
Mr. MARTIN: I did. I worked at Disneyland from--I was age 10...
Mr. MARTIN: ...till I was about 18.
SMITH: And so does that give you--does that help you understand how to work with...
Mr. MARTIN: Which now would be illegal, I think, but--you know.
SMITH: Well, you'd be suspect.
Mr. MARTIN: But I loved that. I loved that. Yeah, yeah.
SMITH: You would be suspect at something. Right. So would that help you in--when you're making a movie with lots of children?
Mr. MARTIN: No.
Mr. MARTIN: Actually, what did help me was doing all of these movies with kids. You--you really learn about them in a very nice way, because you're around them when they're at their best...
Mr. MARTIN: ...and--and then the parents drag them away and have to deal with all the clean-up.
SMITH: All the real-life issues. Right, right. 'Cause you don't--you don't have kids. Bonnie doesn't have kids.
Mr. MARTIN: That's right.
SMITH: Ironically enough. Isn't that something?
Mr. MARTIN: Ironic. I know. That's funny.
SMITH: Yes. I guess. Ironic and ...(unintelligible).
Mr. MARTIN: It's actually satiric. I'm kidding. I don't know.
SMITH: Well--and so I want to go back to wistful...
Mr. MARTIN: OK.
SMITH: ...because I'm thinking that there's a--a thread--there's a Steve Martin thread. I'll go all the way back to "Roxanne."
Mr. MARTIN: Wistful--you mean a wistful quality in my work.
SMITH: About the thing that you're always in search or of--of, 'I want something, and I can't get it.'
Mr. MARTIN: Yes. Yes. Hope. I think hope is quite moving, and longing, and a lot of those movies have that, "Roxanne."
Mr. MARTIN: And--and "Father of the Bride" is not so much--it is kind of wistful. It's about lo--you know, the--not the loss of your daughter, but the change in your relationship...
Mr. MARTIN: ...and you're no longer, you know, big daddy, whatever that is.
SMITH: That's a different play. That's a different--yeah.
Mr. MARTIN: Another--sorry. OK. Different meaning.
SMITH: Yeah, exactly. Steve, this is the new book.
Mr. MARTIN: Yes.
SMITH: I read the prior novella and liked it very much...
Mr. MARTIN: Right.
SMITH: ...which you're making into a movie?
Mr. MARTIN: It's finished.
SMITH: It's done?
Mr. MARTIN: It's done. Mm-hmm.
SMITH: And you're--you play...
Mr. MARTIN: I play the character in--the--the male--I play Shopgirl actually.
Mr. MARTIN: It's a twist, and I think people are gonna love it.
SMITH: And--but you're gonna go do Clouseau.
Mr. MARTIN: Yes, I am, with the same director of "Cheaper by the Dozen."
Mr. MARTIN: And we're very excited about it. It took me awhile to decide. I sat and I thought, 'OK, I have to sort of re-create this on my own,' and then I came up with some angles and ideas and I started to feel pretty good.
SMITH: I can't wait for that.
Mr. MARTIN: Yeah. It'll be fun.
SMITH: Yeah. Yeah. Well, we belong to the "Bowfinger" International Fan Club, so...
Mr. MARTIN: Thank you very much. Thank you. Frank Oz directed.
SMITH: Finest--finest film ever made.
Mr. MARTIN: Thank--ooh, that's nice. Thank you very much.
SMITH: ...(Unintelligible). All right. ...(Unintelligible).
Mr. MARTIN: I'll see you on Christmas Day at theaters.
SMITH: We're all having--oh, oh, I thought we're having dinner together.
Mr. MARTIN: The theater. No, no, no. Christmas...
SMITH: Oh, we're going to the movies. I'm gonna come to the movies and see you.
Mr. MARTIN: No, no. I'm working. I'm working.
SMITH: Oh, OK. Thanks, Steve.
Mr. MARTIN: Bye.
SMITH: All right.
We'll be right back. This is THE EARLY SHOW on CBS.
Riverfront Times (St. Louis, Missouri)
December 24, 2003 Wednesday
The Man With No Brains: Remember when Steve Martin was funny? Apparently, neither does he.
By Robert Wilonsky
Steve Martin is a humor writer for the New Yorker -- perhaps you've read some of his pieces, among them "Changes in the Memory After Fifty" (in which he writes, "Men should be wary if the doctor, while examining their prostate, suddenly says, 'I'm sorry, but do I know you?'") and "The Hundred Greatest Books That I've Read" ("No. 36: Using Hypnotism to Eliminate the Word 'Like' From Your Vocabulary"). He is also, of late, a playwright and novelist of some renown. His latest book, The Pleasure of My Company, is currently the 112th best-selling novel among Amazon.com shoppers; it is ranked just below Barry Sanders' autobiography and a children's book titled Walter, the Farting Dog. For a while, from the early 1970s through the late 1990s, he was also a comic actor known for making audiences laugh, till he tired of his reputation as "beloved funnyman" and retired from moviemaking altogether to pursue a career as a man of letters who instead makes people cry, yawn or ask for their money back. It can be confusing, but the Steve Martin currently receiving top billing in such films as Looney Tunes: Back in Action and the remake of the 1950 movie Cheaper by the Dozen is not the same gentleman who appears in The Jerk, Roxanne, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Bowfinger and a few other films filed under the "comedy" section at Blockbuster. That Steve Martin was most recently seen in a coastal town in France, sitting at a sidewalk cafe and tapping on a Smith-Corona missing several vowels and a ribbon. In the "Whatever Happened To...?" section of the current issue of Us Weekly, there's a grainy picture of him lying on the beach without his famous white wig, and he appears to have gained some 140 pounds.
Last week, in advance of negative reaction to Cheaper by the Dozen, film critics received a press release from the cryptically named "St. Eve MediA RelaTIoNs Agency," which attempted to straighten out the issue of the two "Steve Martins." In part, the release said that "Mr. Steve Martin would like it known that neither he nor anyone acting on his behalf has any knowledge of or interest in the current release Cheaper by the Dozen. Mr. Martin has not appeared in a film in several years, and the gentleman currently using his name and/or likeness is in violation of several court orders prohibiting him from profiting off his similarities to Mr. Martin. This has been going on for years: cf. Grand Canyon, A Simple Twist of Fate, Mixed Nuts, Sgt. Bilko, Father of the Bride Part II, The Out-of-Towners and Bringing Down the House, all subjects of ongoing litigation in federal court in California." The release continues for some several pages and goes on to refute the long-standing rumor that the real Steve Martin began using a body double as early as 1986's Three Amigos. It is signed "Martin Stevenson."
In 1998, several conspiracy theorists started a Web site, www.myblueheaven.com, devoted to the theory that Steve Martin, like smash-up comic Gallagher him before him, hired a look-alike to appear in bad movies attached to enormous paychecks. The site notes that in certain films and under certain lights, the shadows are pointing in several different directions. It also mentions that Steve Martin might have been killed, or rendered incompetent, in 1978, when an old prop arrow fell off a trophy shelf and actually went through his head, leading to his appearing in Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
Most tellingly, the site contains several inner-office memos from 20th Century Fox executives about Cheaper by the Dozen, which, as it turns out, was originally intended to be a 1987 made-for-television movie starring Robert Hays in the role of Tom Baker, which the memorandum refers to as "the bland, innocuous father of 12 children, none of whom look alike or act as though they have even met." Shelley Long was scheduled to play the role of Kate Baker, till Fox executives discovered Bonnie Hunt was cheaper, even by the dozen.
But in the spring of 2002, director Shawn Levy (Just Married) was behind the counter at a West Hollywood Fatburger when he served the other Steve Martin a burger, fries and three Diet Cokes. In a memo to producer Robert Simonds, the powerhouse behind such films as Corky Romano and The Adventures of Joe Dirt, Levy insisted, "You could hardly notice the difference, except for the stultifying part." Suddenly, a made-for-TV toss-off became a multimillion-dollar Christmas feature -- and no one in the cast ever knew they were working with a fraud...several, actually. Tom Welling, who plays TV's latest Superman, and Hilary Duff, beloved to thirteen-year-old girls and their fathers for her long-standing stint as Lizzie McGuire, did suspect something when Ashton Kutcher was cast as a dumb actor. Documents reveal that on several occasions, the brainy and resourceful Piper Perabo reassured them they were not, in fact, being Punk'd.
ABC News Transcripts
SHOW: GOOD MORNING AMERICA (07:00 AM ET) - ABC
December 23, 2003 Tuesday
STEVE MARTIN ACTOR STARS IN NEW MOVIE
CHARLES GIBSON, ABC NEWS
If you thought Steve Martin had his hands full in "Parenthood" or as "Father of the Bride," he was merely in training for what he endures as dad to 12 high-energy kids in "Cheaper by the Dozen." It opens Christmas Day. The follow-up to his smash hit with Queen Latifah, "Bringing Down the House." "Cheaper by the Dozen's" Steve Martin is joining us. Good to have you here.
STEVE MARTIN, "CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN"
Thanks. It's really nice to be here.
(Off Camera) Happy holidays to you.
I hope it is not too difficult of an interview. I have a lot to hide.
(Off Camera) Do you?
(Off Camera) Well, I have a lot of questions ...
This is a news interview, right? yeah.
(Off Camera) Well, I was going to ask you how the troops caught you a week ago Sunday down in the, down in the spider hole.
I was promoting. It was easy.
(Off Camera) You were there to talk about "Cheaper by the Dozen."
Yeah. About my movie. yeah.
(Off Camera) I just, before we get into this ...
The snake pit. I was there promoting.
(Off Camera) Snake pit? I see.
Yeah. That's what it was, right? Snake hole. Snake pit?
(Off Camera) Snake -it was spider hole.
Spider hole. Oh. I got to catch up with the news.
(Off Camera) "Spider Hole" opening early in January.
(Off Camera) It's his next movie. I, I don't think anybody that I've ever seen has a pair of socks quite like you have on.
Oh, well, well, I, you have to remember that I'm a buffoon. So, these socks are appropriate.
(Off Camera) Do you go to the buffoon department somewhere?
Yeah. They have it in the Barney's and they have at Sachs Fifth Avenue. Yeah.
(Off Camera) I see. "Cheaper by the Dozen." I, they always say ...
I think a lot of the audience members went there, too. There's some ...
(Off Camera) There are some people in, in ...
In buffoon outfits. Yeah.
(Off Camera) that's right. "Cheaper by the Dozen," they always say you never want to play with kids who are going to upstage you. You've got a lot of kids in this movie.
Well, I loved it. They were the sweetest kids. There were 12 of them.
(Off Camera) Right.
And three of them were adults, really. And even more, some were 14 and, and there were two 5-year-old twins who were delightful. Shane and Brent. And if you look at the movie there is an outtake at the end. You know, they show outtakes at the end of movies sometimes.
(Off Camera) In credits.
The two kids are standing there. And one of them just says, I don't want to do it anymore.
(Off Camera) Well, we're -we're going show ...
Oh, you're going to show it?
(Off Camera) a little bit of that.
And then, yeah.
(Off Camera) But I just want to start showing you a scene from the movie. This is a sort of typically quiet scene of what it is like to be a father with 12 children.
clip from "cheaper by the dozen"
(Off Camera) Now, I suspect I now how you are suspended there. But how did they launch you?
Launch, oh. That's so complicated. I mean, it is hard to describe. I was hanging on a, you know, I was on wires. And then, but they had to take out the wires. But I was high on a ladder and there were four guys with ropes balancing me. And I, it was, what you see.
(Off Camera) But I -we have some pictures of this. 'Cause I understand ...
Oh, you do?
(Off Camera) there's a harness ...
You trapped me.
(Voice Over) There's a harness ...
Yeah, see? Right. Four guys jumping down and there I go.
(Voice Over) Right.
Yeah. I mean, it's just a little piece, you know. You jsut take a little piece of the ...
(Voice Over) Oh, it's just a, I see. It's just holding you by the back of the neck.
Yeah. Actually, around the throat. It was really hard. Yeah.
(Off Camera) I thought, I thought capital punishment was illegal in some states.
Not in the movies. No, no.
(Off Camera) Now, you were talking, though, about the kids and the outtakes. The kids, they'd get a little, well, they'd get tired of doing this after a while.
Well, the, the, the younger ones.
(Off Camera) Yeah.
But the older ones were great. You know, just, I mean, older, I mean seven. You know?
(Off Camera) Well, the younger ones, you know, they want their, I don't know if they want their own dressing rooms or whatever, but after a couple of takes they get tired. Let's take a look here.
clip from "chepaer by the dozen"
That's after take one.
(Off Camera) That's it? It's take one?
Yeah. But they were sweet. Who can blame them, you know?
(Off Camera) Well, they -but they begin, do they begin to realize that they sort of control things?
Well, they're in charge. Definitely. Because if we don't get it, you know, we have to stay. That's also the trick. You say, you know, got to stay here until we get it, so ...
(Off Camera) Yeah, yeah.
But -they're 5, you know. They get tired.
(Off Camera) Now, normally when you ...
And I, and I actually adopted their techniques after a while. I don't want do it anymore.
(Off Camera) I'm not gonna do it. I'm -this is finished. Normally when you're here ...
Yeah. And crying, crying helped a lot, too.
(Off Camera) You do that?
(Off Camera) Tantrums?
(Off Camera) I see. Stamp your feet?
Yeah. Well, I have to.
(Off Camera) Lie down and beat your hands on the ground? Normally, when you're here ...
(Off Camera) Diane talks to you.
(Off Camera) She does. Because you are close personal friends.
(Off Camera) And we have go to contortions when Diane goes away on vacation to explain where the hell she is. Is it true that the two of you have been vacationing together?
We have been on vacation. Mm hmm. I have photos. Photos from the vacation.
(Off Camera) You brought photos?
(Voice Over) Ah, let's take a look. She has been interviewing you on vacation, has she?
She just can't put that microphone down. She's always working.
(Voice Over) Even in a restaurant. Ah, that's sweet. In Italy together.
In Italy, yes.
(Voice Over) Yes. The Leaning Tower in Poisitano(PH), perhaps?
What? And Poisitano? No, the, yeah.
(Off Camera) "Cheaper by the Dozen" opens ...
The Leaning Tower of Poisitano.
(Off Camera) opens on Christmas Day.
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Bonnie Hunt -- the perfect mate for CBTD
The Toronto Star
December 22, 2003 Monday Ontario Edition
ENTERTAINMENT; Pg. E03
Bonnie lass takes on dirty dozen
Once you find Bonnie Hunt, you never want to let her go.
On the afternoon we were supposed to talk about her co-starring role opposite Steve Martin in Cheaper By The Dozen, opening on Christmas Day, she was nowhere in sight.
"Bonnie is MIA," moaned a harassed publicist, who was working two cell phones trying to locate the elusive actress.
Then she appeared and the effect was the same as someone thrusting a bouquet of giant sunflowers in your face: dazzling, delightful and overwhelming.
To break the ice, you tell her how much you enjoyed her performance as a mother of 12 in the movie, but she waves the compliment away with a gesture she might have used to snag a ball in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. "It wasn't much of a stretch for me. There were seven in my family and that was small in comparison to most of our neighbours. Ten, 12 kids, that's typical of a blue-collar family in the Midwest in the 1960s and '70s."
If you spend five minutes with Hunt, you quickly realize that life is all about family to her, and she couldn't be prouder of that fact.
She was born on the Northwest side of Chicago on Sept. 22, 1964 to Bob and Alice Hunt. Her production company is called "Bob And Alice Productions" because, she giggles, "Mom always said I was a Bob and Alice production."
Her father was an electrician for the board of education, while her mother stayed home with the kids.
"I'm still in awe of both of them. Dad always had to struggle to make ends meet for us and Mom, well, whenever people tell me that I'm doing a lot, I say 'Listen, it's nothing compared to one day in the life of my mother, raising seven children.'"
Hunt has a reputation as one of the wittiest women in show business, so it makes sense to ask if she was like that as a kid.
"No," she says, "I was the quiet one. I was No.6 - which was my name for the first few years, actually. I was the audience, while my brothers and sisters were the funny, outgoing ones, while I just used to watch them and laugh."
Her eyes gleam. "And then I came out to Hollywood to cash in on their personalities."
So much of Cheaper By The Dozen deals with the comic difficulties of 12 kids living under one roof that you wonder how similar Hunt's own experiences were.
"Well, we had four girls, and when we all got to makeup time and worrying about what you looked like, the bathroom became a serious issue. But there was something great about the whole experience. It built character. My first goal for 25 years was to have my own room."
Actually, her first goal was nursing and she worked as a nurses' aide throughout her teens. But during that same adolescent period at Notre Dame High School For Girls, she discovered acting.
"I wanted to go for it," she admits, "but Dad had other ideas. He told me it was 'nice for a hobby' and he wanted me to continue nursing."
While she was in nursing school at 18, her father died suddenly. "He was literally speaking to my mother when he had a heart attack. He was only 50 years old."
Hunt is full of sentiment, but not sentimentality, so her eyes are dry as she remembers the man. "I used to tell Dad that he worked too hard and he'd say 'Bonnie, I'm blessed with work.'"
For the next five years, Hunt's own work would be in the oncology ward of Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
"It sounds strange," she admits, "but my patients gave me the courage to start my show business career. They only had a limited time left and so they didn't want to see me wasting my life. They provided the push I needed."
Hunt started taking classes at Chicago's Second City and in record time she was acting in their main stage shows, making her debut in one called Bright Lights, Night Baseball.
An open-call audition picked her from hundreds of candidates to play the role of the toothpick-spilling waitress opposite Dustin Hoffman in the film of Rain Man, giving her the courage to move to Los Angeles.
Once there, she never really stopped working, but her history involved a lot of short-lived television programs, from the 1990 comedy Grand, through Davis Rules, The Building, The Bonnie Hunt Show and Bonnie.
"Five cancelled shows," she sings to the notes of "Five golden rings" and then laughs. "It's a waste of time and energy to worry about it."
She's currently in the second season of Life With Bonnie on ABC and, as she puts it, "we're still hanging in there. I love our little show!"
Her big-screen work has included memorable acting turns in Jumanji and Jerry Maguire. She also made a well-received directing debut with the 2000 feature Return To Me, starring David Duchovny and Minnie Driver.
Cheaper By The Dozen, her current project, first crossed her path over four years ago when, "I was asked to create a screenplay based on the original book."
Hunt met with the 95-year-old Ernestine Gilbreth, who had written the story of her parents coping with 12 children in America around 1910.
Although it had later become a popular 1950 film with Clifton Webb, Hunt and Gilbreth wanted to recapture even more of the flavour of the original.
Hunt shrugs at the ways of Hollywood. "As the years went by, it kept getting different and different and it finally wound up on my desk with an offer to play the mother. The title is the same, but everything else has changed."
With such a departure from Hunt's original concept, why did she join this project?
"It still celebrates the joy of family, which is important to me and I've always wanted to work with Steve Martin."
The on-screen chemistry between the two worked out despite several opportunities for discord.
"Steve and I really like each other and there's a great deal of mutual respect," concedes Hunt, "but we have completely different styles.
"He comes in and he's got his scene planned and he sticks to every word of the script. I come to work knowing what my character's point of view is from the heart, and I like to improvise a lot."
But instead of the mixed styles causing trouble, "it was actually better. And it was a good thing for the 12 kids to see. I accommodated his style and he accommodated mine. We worked it out together. Just like a marriage."
Hunt has been married since 1988 to investment banker John Murphy, whom she met on a blind date. They still have no children, but Hunt leaves the door open.
"I haven't decided not to have a family. I haven't decided anything. Life takes you on different journeys and you just walk down the road. You might think you've got it all figured out, but as I always say, 'If you want to make God laugh, make plans.'"
Hunt is kept more than busy with her multi-tasking on Life With Bonnie, which includes starring, writing, producing and directing.
"I'm the first person to ever do it all," she says with a mixture of pride and trepidation.
"Why do I do it? I'll tell you. I think back to when I was 8 or 9, looking at my dad watching Andy Griffith's show on TV and I remember being happy that he was so happy. That's what I strive for."
For the first time, the legendary Hunt smile dims a bit. "Sure, I get nervous and afraid and feel judged and want to do better. But remember, honey, I was a nurse first and I'm blessed with great perspective. After all, I'm just putting on a show.
"Beside, I'm not alone. I work with a great group of people. I've been working on a team all my life. I was born into a team."
The beaming grin returns. "I'm No.6, remember?"
Steve on the Panther decision
December 19, 2003 Friday
FEATURES; Pg. 74
Martin ready to pounce on reinvented 'Panther'
Think Pink. Steve Martin certainly is these days.
Martin is deep into writing and planning to star in the long-proposed remake of "The Pink Panther." He jokes to GLARE, "I understand that I got this project because the studio has fired Peter Sellers. He just wouldn't do the publicity."
But seriously, Martin says signing on to reinvent the classic "was a very difficult decision. I thought about it for two months and turned it down three times. Finally, I said, 'Let me play with the script a bit.' "
Martin is co-writing the project and hopes to start shooting in April. "I'm working very hard on it because this has to be very, very, very funny," he says. As for his fears, he says, "It's such an iconic role. I wondered if it could be realized with another actor. Peter was the absolute best actor for the situation, and I have to create the character again."
Meanwhile, Martin's book Shopgirl will become a movie next year starring Claire Danes and Martin. This holiday season he stars in the remake of "Cheaper by the Dozen" with Chicago's Bonnie Hunt, 12 kids and Demi Moore's other half, Ashton Kutcher, who plays one of his daughter's boyfriends. The movie opens Christmas Day.
In other Martin news, he can't spill anything about "Bringing Down the House 2." "There's no script yet, but I'll do it," he says. "It's my biggest hit ever."
Monday, December 22, 2003
Steve introduces the Far Side
Fans of Quirky 'Far Side' Snap Up Comic Compendium
Mon Dec 22,10:49 AM ET
By Ben Berkowitz
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - It costs more than $130 and weighs about 18 pounds (8 kg), and its cover features a pair of chefs hiding in the reeds and hunting for flying cows.
It is also one of the best-selling books of the season -- "The Complete Far Side," a two-volume, 1,250-page collection of 14 years of the iconic comic panels drawn by artist Gary Larson.
From the first panel on Jan. 1, 1980 -- a pair of crabs marveling at the odd appearance of human babies -- to the last -- a Jan. 1, 1995, double panel in which the cartoonist wakes up to find it was all a dream -- the "Far Side" ranks as one of the most popular comics ever.
Syndicated at its peak in 1,900 newspapers and translated into 17 languages according to media reports, "Far Side" was almost a traditional comic strip until Larson convinced his editors of the merits of a panel instead.
"I had a single-image brain; I drew single-image cartoons," Larson wrote in an introduction in the book.
But summing up those 4,300 cartoons was not as easy as it might seem because once Larson agreed to do help compile the retrospective, the process took three years.
"He had been away from it long enough that I guess he felt like it was time he could deal with it," said Michael Reagan, chief executive of Lionheart Books. Reagan, who is based in Atlanta, worked with Larson to design the collection.
"I think in his mind he always knew he would do what we came to term 'the legacy book,"' Reagan said.
Bound in two volumes (1980-1986 and 1987-1994), the collection features a foreword by comedian Steve Martin, who rather than writing one essay instead offers a number of different potential introductions.
'HE IS AN INSECT'
"Gary Larson came to my house last weekend, and I was surprised to find that he is an insect," Martin wrote. "All this time I figured him for a bear or a little fat kid, but when he walked across my ceiling and hid in the drapes, I knew ..."
Despite the relatively steep price of $135 (though it can be found for under $100 online), the book made the New York Times best-seller lists and it has garnered rave reviews.
Many fans find the appeal of the "Far Side" in its intelligence and the wry way it made people think about what Larson was trying to say. He drew a world populated by quirky, goofy people and animals, especially cows, and his drawings sometimes perplexed readers.
"It's a sense of the bizarre, a sense of the absurd," said M. Thomas Inge, a professor of English and humanities at Randolph-Macon College in Virginia and an expert on culture and comics. "Many times you really couldn't figure out what in the world the humor was really about until it settled in on you."
Much of the original work was retained in the compilation, though Reagan said some captions were redone and some panels redrawn. In doing the retrospective work, Reagan said, there were even some that Larson came to regret drawing.
"Absolutely, but never did he say we couldn't put it in a book," he said. "He would absolutely cringe at some of them."
Although there were a few more panels after 1994, including six done for the New York Times in 1998 and 1999, and although Inge said "we probably need him even more" now than when he stopped working regularly, Lionheart's Reagan said fans should not keep their hopes up for a Larson comeback. Since he stopped drawing the comic, Larson has made two animated films and published a book.
"He's never going back into the newspapers on a daily basis," Reagan said.
Bonnie Hunt dishes a bit on Steve
GOOD MORNING AMERICA (07:00 AM ET) - ABC
December 19, 2003 Friday
BONNIE HUNT NEW MOVIE "CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN"
ROBIN ROBERTS, ABC NEWS
(Off Camera) Our next guest, as I said, has some something extra to celebrate this holiday season. Bonnie Hunt has just been nominated for a Golden Globe for her starring role in the ABC sitcom "Life with Bonnie." Love that. On top of that, if that's not enough, she has a new movie coming out Christmas day, a family comedy co-starring Steve Martin called "Cheaper by the Dozen" 'cause they got a dozen kids. So, Bonnie, thank you.
BONNIE HUNT, "CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN"
(Off Camera) Was it like having a 13th child having Steve Martin around?
Absolutely. Steve is, you know, he's, the thing about Steve is he's so talented but he's such a kind man and he's very, very smart. Very smart. Intimidatingly so.
(Voice Over) Really?
Yes, yes. I've, and for me, it was a luxury vacation to be the dumb blonde.
(Voice Over) You, but you come to it different, because it seems like, of course, improv is your background. Even like with your, your great sitcom you guys are just, you're ...
Yeah, I love improvisation to explore and heighten the material that's already written, you know.
(Off Camera) Right.
I mean, with respect to the writing, it's always fun to kind of take a chance once in a while.
(Off Camera) And Steve Martin is more of a planner?
Yeah, Steve likes to, well, you know, he's, just has a different approach. But it was, it was a nice way to work, and I think for the kids to see two actors with completely different styles have so much respect for each other. And there were times, though, that I improvised anyways, much to Steve's chagrin.
(Off Camera) Yeah. Well, you know how that goes. He's on the slopes right now. "Cheaper by the Dozen" opens Christmas day. And next week we'll speak to more of the film's stars, including Steve Martin. Next, they watched as their daughters were made over by a hair stylist for the stars, the great Vincent. Now it's mom's turn. We'll see the results. If you come on back to "Good Morning America."
Friday, December 19, 2003
Steve speaks again
United Press International
Martin plays father of 12 in new comedy
LOS ANGELES, Dec 17, 2003 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- Steve Martin says he couldn't imagine himself raising an enormous family like the one in his new movie "Cheaper By the Dozen."
"No, that would be your life's work," he told reporters in Los Angeles recently. "It would be a great job, but I would have to have a lot of help, for example, a wife. It would be a big job.
"I think probably it would be a good idea because you can over-protect, over-mother, over-father children and with all those other kids around they might take care of themselves pretty well in kind of a nice way."
Martin says even on the film's set the children looked out for each other and found ways to amuse themselves.
Apparently Anne Stringfield won the girlfriend sweepstakes.
December 19, 2003 Friday Final Edition
Arts; Pg. F3
A wild and crazy career: Steve Martin has had his ups and downs, but with film offers pouring in and a successful play and novels to his name, this funny man is regaining his clout in the movie house, Jamie Portman writes.
BEVERLY HILLS - It happened a long time ago, but Steve Martin still remembers his first tremulous effort doing standup comedy in public. He figured he was so bad that night that his career was over before it had scarcely begun.
But he was wrong. "It's 2003 and I'm still here," he muses. And Martin admits he's "blown away" by that fact.
At 58, he's had both ups and downs. On the one hand, huge hits like The Jerk, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Father Of The Bride. On the other hand, colossal flops like Sergeant Bilko, Leap Of Faith, Novocaine and, one of his biggest disappointments, A Simple Twist Of Fate, his own modern retelling of George Eliot's Victorian novel, Silas Marner.
But now he's on a roll. While his movie career was in the doldrums, Martin stepped up his writing -- contributing a series of witty essays on modern life to The New Yorker magazine and seeing them eventually published in a book called Pure Drivel, creating the clever play, Picasso At The Lapin Agile, which has been successfully produced all over the world, and breaking into fiction with two critically acclaimed short novels, Shopgirl and The Pleasure Of My Company.
Lately, Martin also been regaining his clout at the movie house. "My career's all over the place now," he jokes. "I had this terrible thing happen to me -- I had a hit with Bringing Down The House. Suddenly I have a hit and a lot of demands and offers and suddenly your head is kind of reeling about what to do."
So now, movie-wise, things are back in full gear. Martin opens Christmas Day in Cheaper By The Dozen, Fox's remake of a vintage hit from the past, with Martin and Bonnie Hunt replacing Clifton Webb and Jeanne Crain as the parents of a dozen kids. But Martin has also signed to play the bumbling Inspector Clouseau in a remake of The Pink Panther, and is also writing, producing and starring in the screen version of Shopgirl.
He admits he does a lot of remakes -- replacing Phil Silvers in Sergeant Bilko, Spencer Tracy in Father Of The Bride, Peter Sellers in The Pink Panther and Clifton Webb in Cheaper By The Dozen. He also says that at least one of them -- Bilko -- was a big mistake. However, he doesn't buy into the argument that popular films from the past should be sacrosanct and not remade.
"When I first started out, there was this idealism that I would never do a remake. But time marches on so quickly and the original is forgotten and it's not indelible in in the public's memory any more. And I thought: does that mean we can't do Hamlet? What is that play every time it's mounted? It's a remake, a recast, a reshoot. I realize Father Of The Bride will probably be made again because times will change ... either society will be come stricter or more permissive and our movie will look somewhat old-fashioned and they will think -- what a good idea. The emotion remains true -- a father losing a daughter -- that will remain, but the circumstances around it will change."
In the case of Cheaper By The Dozen, the jock football coach portrayed by Martin is far removed from the staid, dignified father portrayed by Clifton Webb in the original movie half a century ago. The new film is also a very loose adaptation of the celebrated novel by Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr. and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. What both have in common is that they are a celebration of family -- although the new version is very much set in the modern era.
Martin, who has no children, is amused at the irony of having played a parent in films like Cheaper By The Dozen, Father Of The Bride and Parenthood. But at this point he feels well-equipped to be credible in such roles.
"I've played fathers so many times, it's like being one. I've had children of every age. And like I say -- I get to do everything but the dirty work."
Real parents, he quips, actually have to deal with their kids. Still, he figures he's learned the art of parenting second-hand. "I have some nieces and nephews and some grandnieces and grandnephews."
He also remembers his own childhood with fondness.
"It was a perfect kind of '50s family of four. It was a time when father knew best, when mom was always a housewife, father went to work, and the kids went to school.
"I grew up in Orange County, California, which was very new and fresh and crimeless. Disneyland had just opened and everything was sunny and bright."
Those family memories offer a rare glimpse into a personal life which tends to be off limits to reporters. Martin is prepared to reveal that he still plays the banjo every day and that he likes to ski at Aspen, but for the most part he doesn't even like to talk about how he occupies his time when he's not working. "I don't like to talk about those things because then it takes your private life and makes it public, and it's not that interesting," he says courteously but firmly. "It's really just hanging out with friends you haven't seen for a while and taking a little vacation."
The barriers go up again when he's asked to describe his ideal woman. "I'm not out there in that way. I have a lovely girlfriend who I don't really talk about -- she's not in show business."
But he does confess that he's sometimes troubled by decisions he has to make.
"I get a lot of requests which tend to pile up. Even requests from friends, valuable good-hearted requests and I just can't deal with it all." So he has to make tough decisions about what letters to read or answer. "You have to decide ... or you have no life. You try to be a good guy. ... I have to be a bad guy about it sometimes."
But he is entirely open when he talks about Cheaper By The Dozen and the fact that the youngsters in the film sometimes subject him to unbelievable humiliations -- swinging precariously from a chandelier, being shot into the air by an exploding inflatable device and having a croaking frog land in the platter of scrambled eggs he's just prepared for the kids.
Some reporters are suggesting that the film offers a convincing case for corporal punishment, birth control, or both. Martin is more tolerant. Besides, he liked being the parent of a bunch of kids that included Hillary Duff and Smallville's Tom Welling, Coyote Ugly's Piper Perabo and a pair of endearing twins named Shane and Brent Kinsman. So he didn't consider the kids' behaviour unreasonable.
"There are a couple of moments when I thought they should be sent to bed for that. But also, if you had 12 kids, you probably couldn't manage sending them to bed. You'd have to handcuff them to the bed frame."
And anyway, the kids were a joy to work with. "They were bright and sunny ... and just funny. And every one of their personalities was so different and essentially kind. They don't come off as actors. They don't come off like professionals. They come off like kids."
Saturday, December 13, 2003
Canadians dis Steve's book
National Post (Canada)
December 13, 2003 Saturday National Edition
Books; Pg. RB08
Sweating all the small stuff: Multi-talented Steve Martin, 'Hollywood's leading cultural samurai,' is back with a new novella
THE PLEASURE OF MY COMPANY
By Steve Martin Hyperion 163 pp., $29.95- - -
Steve Martin is the best Academy Awards host to ever have written a novella. That he has no, if any, competition, is besides the point, but the fact that his new work of fiction clunks a little like that time David Letterman hosted the Oscars ceremony is exactly it. The Pleasure of My Company is a book you wish was better, especially coming after the comedian's last one, Shopgirl, a novella that was tender, so tart, and terribly not terrible.
The pleasure, it would seem, is all Martin's here. His book is a pasta dish calling out for a strainer. What does it concern itself with? A man named Daniel, never wild, sometimes crazy. He suffers from what we presume to be an obsessive-compulsive disorder, living a pastiche of a life in a part of California that he describes as "a perfect town for invalids, homosexuals, show people, and all other formerly peripheral members of society. Average is not the norm here." Daniel doesn't exactly do much. He sweats all the small stuff, living a life that maintains that all the lightbulbs in his apartment must equal 1,125 watts -- think Jack Nicholson in As Good as It Gets, except without the creamsicle romance. Daniel spends a lot of time looking out the window -- think Cary Grant in Rear Window, except without the drama or Grace Kelly. He pines diligently for a woman who doesn't know he exists and he cannot have -- think Steve Martin in Roxanne, except without the panache or the payoff.
One wants to cheer for Martin. He is after all, Hollywood's leading cultural samurai -- writing plays, painting canvases, waxing on all matters esoteric and eros. And who's the guy whose byline appears regularly in The New Yorker? A clue: it ain't Adam Sandler. This book, however, has parts better suited for that prime real estate known as the Back Page of that high-brow glossy. There are sharply felt observations here, but not enough to string a story. The same train of thought that leads you to congratulate the Q-tip-haired funnyman for being smarter than most celebrities takes you to a stop where you wonder, still, if Martin wasn't Martin, would anybody at all be talking about this book?
An option: if one wants to read The Pleasure of My Company as a compendium of observations, a catalogue of odd-man pensees, it's worth a drop-in. Pick a page, any page, and you're in business. Say, page 81: "Red Bull is a potent caffeine-induced soft drink that turns grown men into resonating vibraphones. Drinking a Red Bull is more impressive to me than drinking a bottle of Scotch." Or maybe page 143, when the Mensa organization sends Daniel a letter informing him that a test he had taken was compromised by human error, and would he like to take the test again? Daniel wonders: "Human error at Mensa? What chance then did McDonald's have ...? My second thought took the form of a semantic shudder of the phrase 'human error.' Is there any other kind?"
What's bothersome about this book is that our spazzy protoganist spends less time doing than talking about doing. It's a chronic condition. Very early on, in fact, Daniel tells us he has a "tough time just being himself." An unfortunate situation, but what it means for the poor reader is that we're treated to 151 pages of distractions, asides and attention deficit disorder meanderings. If I were to write a review of this book using the same dramatic devices, it would involve me telling you how I read a few pages of this book a few days ago, but then stopped for a wheatgrass concoction at a juice bar (true story!) because, I dunno, I felt I wanted to become a "juice person," and then tried to read some more, but because I'm very bad at keeping bookmarks, it took me a while to figure out my place, and then I wandered out to the street to hail a cab, and sped through a few more pages after getting home, but then got distracted again by the idea of this book being called a novella, because, well, are books over 100 pages technically novellas? What is a novella, anyway? Who decides? And then I wondered: Why is it that I think this book would work better on tape with Steve Martin reading? And, well, where was I?
To be fair, there are two things I really found fetching about Martin's newest contribution to literature. One: there's a very astute meditation on the matters of soy and talc in the first few pages. Two, I quite liked the acknowledgements, which I believe to be the funniest thing in the book. In them, the author thanks his editor and all those friends who "read early drafts and who had to suffer through my dumb grin as they read off their notes." Martin ends by saying: "But most of all, I would like to thank the Academy; it's an honour just to be nominated."
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Monday, December 08, 2003
To Chan or not to Chan
Pink Panther Escapes Jackie Chan
~ Fred Topel
Steve Martin explains Chan rumor
Though many media outlets ran with the news that Jackie Chan would play Cato in the remake of The Pink Panther, star Steve Martin set the record straight. “That’s a rumor,” Martin said at a press conference for Cheaper by the Dozen. “That is not done. It was printed in the trades before we even thought of it. I don't know if we’re going to have Jackie Chan or not. We haven’t really discussed it. I think he’s a genius, by the way.”
So, what is the status of The Pink Panther? “I’m in the middle of preparing for it, meaning I’m cowriting the script. I’m looking at the script very seriously and kind of every once in a while in the privacy of my home, try out the accent. Working with the same director, Shawn Levy, same producing team who did this movie. We’re really excited, but I took a long time to decide whether to do it or not. It was only when I started writing ideas down that it started to look like this could actually be really funny rather than just a rehash of a genius.”
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Interview with Steve about Looney Tunes
Steve Martin Gets Evil in "Looney Tunes: Back in Action"
Steve Martin plays the evil leader of Acme Corporation in Warner Bros. Pictures’ live-action/animated comedy, “Looney Tunes: Back in Action.” As Mr. Chairman, Martin goes evil - and seems to have a blast doing so.
Presented with the opportunity to create his character as he saw fit, Steve Martin took the conventional idea of a egomaniacal corporate bigwig and delivered an over-the-top transformation.
“I can’t even begin to explain the performance Steve delivered,” executive producer Chris deFaria declared. “It’s this strange sort of angry schoolboy whose development was arrested somewhere in private school back East. And now he’s going to punish the rest of the world for that. It’s a very, very funny performance.”
STEVE MARTIN (‘Mr. Chairman’)
What was the main challenge of working with the animation in this movie?
Waking up (laughing). I thought it was going to be more difficult. I’d never done it before. Now it’s not just like these big green screens, you can actually be on the set, you can have a little character there that you’re talking to. It’s inanimate but it’s talking back to you. It’s very much like I’ve worked with actors who are as wooden so…
We were completely free to walk around and do anything we wanted. It was really like making a regular movie.
What was the most difficult sequence in this film for you?
Well, actually it was quite hard holding the posture - the actual physical poster that I hold - because when you see it, you’ll see it’s quite kind of extreme and I’m not as young as I used to be.
How would you describe your character, 'Mr. Chairman'?
I play an evil [chairman] who runs the Acme Corporation and makes all the inferior products that Wile E. Coyote tries to trap the Road Runner with. I’m trying to take over the world, naturally.
And WWF wrestler Bill Goldberg is your henchman. How was it working with Goldberg?
It was a delight. I only worked with him for one day but he was really, really nice. I could tell he was a big deal on the set. Everyone loved him.
How would the Looney Tunes characters do on the WWE?
Obviously they would win because they could have their beaks fall off and [they] would come back on.
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Pink Panther interview
Steve Martin to Star as Inspector Clouseau in "The Birth of the Pink Panther"
Los Angeles, CA - November 17, 2003
Just in time to celebrate the Pink Panther's 40th birthday, actor Steve Martin has signed on to step into Inspector Jacques Clouseau's gumshoes in MGM Pictures' all-new comedy "The Birth of the Pink Panther," it was announced today by Chris McGurk, vice chairman and COO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc., and Michael Nathanson, president & COO of MGM Pictures.
In what will be the ninth film in the studio's immensely popular Pink Panther franchise, Martin will put his own touch on the beloved Clouseau character working with his "Cheaper by the Dozen" director Shawn Levy. "Dozen's" Robert Simonds will produce the comedy from a script by Len Blum, with Tracey Trench as executive producer. Production is set to begin in spring 2004.
"We are thrilled that Steve, Bob, and Shawn have all signed on for 'The Birth of the Pink Panther,'" says McGurk. "The Pink Panther series is one of MGM's most successful and enduring franchises, and we're pleased to have assembled such a stellar creative team to take the new film in a fresh and exciting direction."
"Steve, Bob and Shawn have already been working on hilarious ideas that I think will surprise many people," says Nathanson. "We're already helping them pursue their inspired casting choices and putting the finishing touches on a wonderful script; it's an immensely exciting project for the studio."
"This is more than just a movie for us," says producer Simonds. "We understand what a huge priority this is for MGM, so it's an incredible honor to be a part of it. It's a dream project for all of us involved."
"Steve is an inspired comedian and a great actor; he's a perfect choice to play Inspector Clouseau," says director Levy, whose hit comedy "Just Married" made over $100 million worldwide. "Our working relationship is so fluid at this point that I look forward to taking it to the next level with the Pink Panther franchise."
Released in 1964, "The Pink Panther" was the first film in the Panther franchise. Directed by Blake Edwards from a script by Maurice Richlin and Edwards, "The Pink Panther" featured bumbling Inspector Jacques Clouseau as played by legendary actor Peter Sellers. The character was so popular with audiences he spawned seven follow-up films: "A Shot in the Dark," "Return of the Pink Panther," "The Pink Panther Strikes Again," "Revenge of the Pink Panther," "Trail of the Pink Panther," "Curse of the Pink Panther," and "Son of the Pink Panther." Blake Edwards directed all eight films. "Revenge of the Pink Panther" was Sellers' last film as Clouseau, though outtakes and never-before-seen footage were used to bring Sellers back onscreen in "Trail of the Pink Panther" after his death. Ted Wass starred as Clouseau in "Curse of the Pink Panther," while Academy Award-winner Roberto Begnini took over the reins as Clouseau's heir in "Son of the Pink Panther." Revered for its inspired brand of slapstick style, the series is also known for Henry Mancini's Grammy-winning theme song as well as the Oscar-winning Pink Panther cartoon character, who was born in the opening credits of the first Panther film. Contrary to popular belief, the original Pink Panther was neither Inspector Clouseau nor the cartoon; it was actually a rare and valuable diamond featured in the first film. The diamond had a piece of pink amber in its center that looked like a leaping panther.
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Friday, December 05, 2003
Variety disses CBtD
December 1, 2003 - December 7, 2003
FILM REVIEWS; Pg. 46
CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN
Reviewed at the Festival Theatre, Los Angeles, Nov. 25, 2003. MPAA Rating: PG. Running time: 98 MIN.
Undoubtedly trying to give the audience what it wants, "Cheaper by the Dozen" unfortunately knows no tone between schmaltzy/gooey and slapstick/gross-out. Pic is as far from the original pic and its autobiographical memoir source as it can be while retaining the same title. Movies don't come more square than the 1950 version starring Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. Update, rather than looking at modern kids' attitudes and today's parents' professional needs, shows an unrecognizable contempo world that veers between group hugs and domestic demolition derbies. Still, "Cheaper" should tap into a wide-ranging audience looking for a change from the parade of tragedies and historical epics this holiday season, making for plentiful B.O. gifts under Fox's tree.
After 23 years of marriage and 12 kids, Tom and Kate Baker (Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt) seem to have found domestic bliss. Over opening credits, Kate's voiceover recalls their high school courtship and mutual desire for a big family, his sacrificing of a promising Division 1 college football coaching career (for lowly Division 3) and her departure from the newspaper game in order to raise their brood in the sylvan peace of Midland, Ill.
There's an early glimpse of the mass chaos to come when, after a pleasantly messy but warm group project making breakfast, young pet-obsessed Mark (Forrest Landis) tries to snag his escaping frog and turns the breakfast table and kitchen into a disaster area.
Generally, though, this is as well-behaved a bunch as family units come these days, even including problem teen Charlie (Tom Welling) and fashion slave Lorraine (Hilary Duff). But when Tom gets an offer to coach a Division 1 team at Lincoln U. in Evanston, this complex nuclear unit gradually goes into meltdown.
The new two-story house near Chicago is prettier and more spacious than the old place, but the kids are grumpy from the start and soon turn into little monsters. Suddenly blind to the brewing children problems after he has been shown to be attentive to every family detail, Tom is depicted as falling into that horrible modern trap of wanting it all. So is Kate, whose new book (adorned with pic's title) is to be published and who goes on a book tour to support it.
Key to the pitfalls of the script by Sam Harper, Joel Cohen and Alec Sokolow (from Craig Titley's screen story) is allowing the family members to forget themselves and everything that they are. Even the Bakers' one grown child, Nora (Piper Perabo), can't help, especially with her current beau, self-admiring thesp Hank (Ashton Kutcher, in what's likely the year's biggest uncredited role), as a constant target of the tykes' pranks. With mom away and dad on the gridiron, the clan and movie both devolve into someone's idea of amusing comic warfare.
Since Webb's father in original film was a picture of goofy but subdued physical and verbal comedy, Martin would seem to be ideal cast as the patriarch. But his assignment here appears wrong on every level: He's never convincing as either a coach or disciplinarian, and never has a chance to work up any chemistry with Hunt, whose own comic charms are kept in detention. And where Martin's most needed --- as an emergency writer to salvage the script --- he's not used.
The swarm of kid thesps vie for screen time, with Landis as the odd duck (and eventual object of the sentimental finish) given some space to make an impression. Casting seems to have been based on ability and not appearance, as many of the small fry share little physical resemblance to each other or their movie parents.
Mediocre production look, as well as the nervous need to push human comedy into zoo-like antics, matches the dreadful "Just Married," also made by the filmmaking squad of helmer Shawn Levy, producer Robert Simonds, writer Sam Harper, lenser Jonathan Brown, designer Nina Ruscio and composer Christophe Beck.
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A review of PoMC
The Toronto Sun
November 30, 2003 Sunday Final Edition
SHOWCASE; Pg. S23
A COMPELLING TALE FROM STEVE MARTIN
BY LIZ BRAUN, TORONTO SUN
THE PLEASURE OF MY COMPANY
By Steve Martin
Steve Martin -- actor, comic, playwright, novelist -- has a lovely relationship with the language.
In his newest novel, The Pleasure Of My Company, Martin writes about the minutiae of everyday life as it is lived by his obsessive-compulsive hero. It's a love story.
As you might imagine, the world inhabited by a man who has organized (and curtailed) much of his activity according to the demands of his neuroses is a small world, indeed.
Nothing much going on in The Pleasure Of My Company, except words -- Martin's writing style is brisk, smart and complex, all chewy words and charming turns of phrase. He has the same superb comic timing with the printed word that he has always displayed with the spoken word in his comedic routines. (The only tough part of reading this book is getting Martin's speaking voice out of your head.)
The Pleasure of My Company is not lacking in cruel observations or mordant wit, but that crunchy shell gives way to the soft, gooey centre called love. And no, it's not icky.
Wisely observed. Trenchant. Funny. But not icky.
Daniel Pecan Cambridge, the 31-year-old narrator of The Pleasure Of My Company, is a man impelled to obsess about every aspect of life. His need to control the world around him leads him to count, alphabetize, sort, order, arrange and rearrange things -- usually mentally -- and take shortcuts when he's outside his apartment to avoid coming face to face with the things he can't abide. He cannot, for example, step onto or off a sidewalk curb, and lots of advance planning is required if he has to go out to the shops. To calm himself, he creates math squares; Daniel has the brain magic required to 'know' the answer to even the most complex number equations. He's like a walking calculator.
Because he lives so much in his own mind and because of his somewhat adversarial relationship with the world at large, Daniel constantly "steps back" from himself, psychologically speaking, to consider the impression he is making on others. For a reader, the overall effect is like standing in a hall of mirrors, reflection upon reflection upon reflection.
Daniel is interested in three women: A local real estate saleswoman, a woman who works at his drugstore and the young psychologist-in-training who visits his apartment.
The Pleasure Of My Company works like connected vignettes as our hero does his best to observe and understand these women. Daniel seems to have a soft spot for dogs, kids and his grandmother, and, as it happens, that's enough to help him eventually get a life. Love prompts him to take a few chances and go on a road trip, despite the odds:
"I could list a thousand impossibilities: I cannot get in an elevator. I cannot stay on a hotel floor higher than three.
"I cannot use a public toilet ... What if we passed a roadside mall where one store was open and the others were closed? What if I saw the words 'apple orchard'? What if the trip took us in proximity to the terrifyingly inviting maw of the Grand Canyon? What if we were on a mountain pass with hairpin turns, or if, during the entire trip, I could not find a billboard bearing a palindromic word? What if our suitcases were of uneven sizes?... And what if, at a gas station in Phoenix, the attendant wore a blue hat?"
Despite a fuzzy ending, The Pleasure Of My Company is a good read because Martin has created such a compelling (and compelled, for that matter) central character.
The agoraphobic Daniel can only make brutally honest observations. It's a wonderful notion. Martin is able to blurt out incisive (and very funny) social commentary here, all of it wrapped in the innocence of a man who cannot reign in his neuroses, who has no dimmer switch on his ability to see and speak the sometimes awful truth.
Speaking of truth, The Pleasure Of My Company is billed as a novel, but it's actually a novella, as was Shopgirl, Martin's bestseller. The Pleasure Of My Company is, in the end, somewhat slight; on the other hand, in keeping with the themes of the book, you could read it over and over and over again. Well, you could.
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