Sharing Steve :: New Stuff
Wednesday, October 19, 2005

umm... found this for you:
f7dba700-715d-4c4d-9a74-6aacaf3f3bb7 Entertainment
A mild and savvy guy
With three family-friendly films out over the next few months, Steve Martin reveals he's nothing if not an excellent salesman

Bob Thompson
National Post

Appearing in films over the next few months are the three faces of Steve Martin: the zany-goofy guy, the stressed-dad dude and the sulky-solitary male. The triple-personality threat shows itself like this.

Martin is remaking the classic Pink Panther farce by reinventing the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, made famous by Peter Sellers. That would be his goofy fellow, who's due in theatres by mid-February. His uptight father figure is resurrected for the comedy sequel Cheaper by the Dozen 2, set for release at Christmas.

And to experience the serious-minded Martin, look no further than Shopgirl, the cinema version of his novella, which opens on Friday with all kinds of anticipation. Why?

Claire Danes, who plays the title character, may earn her first Oscar nomination for her role as a lonely and desperate department-store employee. And Martin, who also wrote the screenplay, is earning great notices for his portrayal of the repressed millionaire exploiting the shopgirl's disposition.

That one-two-three Martin combination is a splendid reminder of how multi-talented the 60-year-old is and how sharp he must be as a marketer. "Well," says Martin, almost smiling, "you're implying I have choices, or that this is something that's deliberate on my part, when it is not like that at all."

So what is it like? Coincidence colliding with opportunity, he suggests. More important to Martin is that the three release dates seem to make sense for each film.

More critically is that the story he envisioned in Shopgirl has made it to the big screen. Martin made sure the movie's tone received extra care and attention. Only a few compromises were made in his screenplay.

One was the use of voice-over to emphasize the narrative points, although he initially tried to resist. "And I cringe at backstory in films, too," Martin says. "Because backstory and voice-overs never quite do it correctly, or then sometimes they get into some psychological thing that's never quite right and never quite the truth."

Shopgirl, he feels, is the exception. Martin salutes director Anand Tucker, who previously revealed his abilities with 1998's Hilary and Jackie.

"Anand understands," says the Shopgirl writer, "that the book is about small moments, and the movie is about small moments, which are obviously the biggest treats for me."

Also key was Mirabelle, the shopgirl. And the way Martin tells it, there was no other option after he met with Danes.

"We had lunch, and Claire didn't even have to speak," he recalls. "She was exactly right for it, for all kinds of reasons, but especially because she is naturally beautiful as opposed to unnaturally beautiful in the Hollywood way."

She also has a knack for being expressive without saying much, a valuable commodity in a movie that refuses to state the obvious. "There is just a real quiet solitude about her performance and about her," Martin says. "Her simplicity is stunning, but how can she trust that emotion is showing through?"

She does and it does. And Martin's aloof Ray Porter is a marvel, too. "I always suspected I might play him if the book did become a film," he says. "But the first person I asked was Tom Hanks, because I think he would have been perfect, but he wasn't available."

Martin was, and since he wrote this mini-profile of a self-centred man in emotional denial, he must have known him well. In fact, he must have known him in an autobiographical way.

"Your argument, that it must be autobiographical, applies to the shopgirl, too, I take it," says Martin, smirking. "Everything's culled from every source -- my own life, other life experiences and conversations. And I'm 60, and I've had sex and relationships since I was 18."

Lots of life lessons, then, learned or imagined. He shakes his head, "Yes."

So if Martin had to choose one of his three movies to do well at the box office, would it be Shopgirl? Not necessarily. This is how he explains himself.

"I would say there are three stages of making a film," says Martin.

"The initial phase is, "Am I going to do this? How much will I be paid? Where are they going to do it? Who's it going to be with? And are there knives involved?' "

The second stage is the shoot "and how much fun you're having, and the fabulous scenes that are great to play and blah, blah blah."

And the third stage? "Was it a hit?" Martin says. "What I'm saying is whether I'm involved in creating the film or not, it all comes down to the same thing, the most immediate thing. How is it received?"

And how does he think Shopgirl will be received? Like his character, he doesn't commit.

"Sometimes, it's a happy accident," says Martin, shrugging. "Sometimes, it's not."


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