Thursday, May 23, 2024

“Argo” Moment: Screenwriter Almost Meets Real Canadian Ambassador Who Saved Hostages


The HBO “Phil Spector” premiere was pretty cool and lavish, with A list guests like Keith Richards and Patti Hansen mixing it up with star Al Pacino, producer Barry Levinson, Christine Baranski, “Game Change” screenwriter Danny Strong, “Sopranos” creator David Chase, Aida Turturro, “Girls” star Allison Williams, James Lipton, Regis and Joy Philbin, Joy Behar, RCA Records chief Tom Corson, both New York State film commissioner Pat Kaufman and City chief Katherine Oliver. Plus, hidden in the back of post-screening dinner at the delish Porter House restaurant were “Glee” man Ryan Murphy and Julia Roberts’s husband, Danny Moder.

The screening and the dinner were so booming that Oscar winning “Argo” screenwriter Chris Terrio only found out toward the end of dinner that NY Post gossipeuse Cindy Adams’s “date” for the evening was former Canadian ambassador to Iran Kenneth Taylor. Yes, that Ken Taylor, who was responsible for the American hostages stuck in the Canadian embassy to leave for the US undetected– the “Argo” story.

When we told Terrio that Taylor was in the room, some distance away, he demurred. “It might be a little weird, especially in a public place,” said Terrio, who didn’t want to cause a scene. Apparently Taylor and “Argo” author Tony Mendez have different takes on what went down in Iran in 1979. Terrio didn’t want to get in the middle of it. Ah, but a missed opportunity!

You know movies and reality don’t mix. When I asked Pacino if he thought Spector might see the movie in prison, he replied: “I hope not. I don’t think they get HBO.” But Spector should be happy. He’s never seemed more understandable, in a crazy way.

Meanwhile: David Mamet, who wrote and directed “Phil Spector,” has bronchitis and couldn’t make the premiere. But what a great film he and Levinson and the cast have made. Pacino is a triumph as Spector during his first trial for allegedly murdering actress Lana Clarkson. Even though I am personally convinced that Spector killed Clarkson– and a jury was too– Pacino brings a sympathy to Spector that sheds some light on his enigmatic, crazy life. This isn’t to say that it’s not sympathetic to Clarkson. But this movie tells the story of how the defense brought their case.

In that light, Helen Mirren is equally great as Linda Baden, the lawyer who got Spector a hung jury for his first trial. (Baden was there with husbamd Michael Baden, the famous medical examiner.) Originally Bette Midler was supposed to play Baden. But she dropped out. and Mirren stepped in. Midler looks more like Baden, but Mirren as usual inhabits the character. She and Pacino have an essential rapport that keeps the movie–described as an imagined drama about the lawyer-client friendship and the trial–in place. Mamet’s screenplay is also so rich and textured, it’s like a stage drama at times– in the best way.

PS Levinson spent a chunk of dinner chatting with Chase. Barry is getting ready to shoot his “Whitey Bulger” movie with Johnny Depp. He’s also looking forward to his delayed but getting in shape musical of “Diner” coming to Broadway for 2014.

Also — across the street at the Hudson Hotel, the great indie movie “The Sapphires” got a splendid kick off. More on that…

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

Read more

In Other News