Have You Heard? is one of two dueling movies about Truman Capote slated to be released in the next 18 months. Not since, well, last year and the hot girl-on-girl action of Katie Holmes and Mandy Moore as they struggled over the release of their respective Presidential-offspring flicks, First Daughter and Chasing Liberty, has a pair of movies been so potentially symbiotic or had such possibility for mutually assured destruction.
The other film, Capote, stars Philip Seymour Hoffman, with Catherine Keener as Mr. Capote’s childhood pal, Harper Lee. Have you Heard? offers … why, it’s America’s (sort of) Sweetheart, Sandra Bullock, in the same role.
Have You Heard? turns out to be a tremendous opportunity—not because of sexy stuff like the hotness of the New Journalism set these days, or Ms. Bullock’s current stock. Instead, it turns out to be a great chance for a filmmaker to do to the author just what Mr. Capote did to the culprits of In Cold Blood.
Most of the folks at a test screening, held this week at Cinema One for a demographically select audience, seemed content to laugh at the gratuitous gay jokes and gasp at the occasional bit of grotesque imagery.
As the edit stands now, many months before completion, it’s all very messy, with about a million unnecessary characters doing a million unnecessary things. All the while, Mr. Capote minces about and acts a fool. Like an episode of Six Feet Under on mescaline, every dream sequence is brought to life, every memory re-enacted. Every conversation, big or small, is given equal room, and characters pop in and out for no reason at all.
Maybe it’s because it’s half-done, but we suspect something intentional in all this non-curation: It’s the anti–New Journalism!
Director Douglas McGrath is making a fake movie about a real guy, and as long as he’s portraying Mr. Capote as a largely dishonest creep for what he did to his subjects to get In Cold Blood, he knows he’d better treat his own subject honestly and make do with whatever comes out.
Where Mr. Capote sought truth through excision, Mr. McGrath includes everything—no matter how boring or irrelevant it is. He apparently despises Mr. Capote’s then-newfangled methods, bringing to life every dark rumor about In Cold Blood that has ever circulated among readers. Mr. Capote has an affair with one of the murderers; he doctors quotes after focus-grouping different variations on his friends; and, perhaps worst of all, he hopes that his subjects get the death penalty for the sake of a good ending for his book. Yoinks!
Such is life, of course: full of useless detail and frequent dead ends. And that’s journalism for ya! Look out for those nasty, scheming queens.
The true test will come when the producers get their hands on the final cut. It’ll be a shame if they decide to streamline the plot into a more coherent one—mostly because the self-imposed kitchen-sink tedium is one of the only things Have You Heard? has going for it. In Cold Blood, frankly, holds up better.
Among the Diggers
“It’s kind of like Breaking Away … but with clams,” laughed Paul Rudd. He was sweating profusely on the set of Diggers, a coming-of-age film about clammers set in the 70’s in Long Island. It was roughly 95 degrees out, without a single cloud to block the punishing sun in East Moriches, Long Island, a still-wanker-free stretch of Hamptons-adjacent shoreline known best as the memorial site of the nearby 1996 T.W.A. crash.
The crew, in a dizzying array of straw hats, sunglasses and miniscule clothing, sweated silently while a beleaguered bit player, a Dachshund named Nola, slept fitfully on the one available canvas chair. Everyone’s stoicism was understandable. In front of the cameras was the heartbreaking sight of two of the film’s stars, Mr. Rudd and Ron Eldard (ER, House of Sand and Fog), decked out in thigh-high rubber waders, lumberjack shirts and wool hats; in movie-land time, it was autumn. “These guys must be dying,” whispered a P.A.
Indeed, moments later, the gentlemen would walk under a black tent set up for the camera monitors and unsnap the top of their waders, pointing themselves at the fan just so. “They’re all angels—Paul particularly,” said a producer. “They never complain.”
“It’s not true suffering. This is still better than being a coal miner,” said Ron Eldard later. The actor was sitting in the local elementary school, which was being used as a makeshift catering hall, wardrobe and all-around air-conditioned haven. “This is one of those movies where you can sit in an air-conditioned school auditorium and you’ve moved up, you know?”
The budget for Diggers—under $2 million—is quite small by Hollywood standards. Scheduled for just a month’s worth of filming, the film is being done on high-definition digital video, courtesy of Mark Cuban’s HDNet films. It’s slated for a 2006 double release—in theaters and on Mr. Cuban’s HDNet Movies Channel simultaneously. This is a strategy that greatly benefited the company’s last film, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, which grossed over $4 million.
“You can work on big Hollywood movies and you can just see the waste of money,” said Mr. Eldard. “You’re just sitting around and you think, ‘Wow, that’s about $150,000 that just went by this hour, and what did we do?’ Listen, don’t get me wrong—I’ll take 20 million if you offer it to me. And let me say that again: I’m all for 20 million,” he smiled. “But if you just live on that diet alone, it strangles the other movies—the ones that can be made for five or 10 or 15 million.”
The producers have packed Diggers with a group of obviously like-minded actors; Mr. Rudd and Mr. Eldard are joined by Maura Tierney, Josh Hamilton and Lauren Ambrose, a.k.a. Six Feet Under’s Claire. The cast, who portray a close-knit group of friends in a small town whose clam-digging economy is threatened by big industry, had a head start on camaraderie.
“I knew Paul from doing [Neil LaBute’s] Bash, I knew Maura [Tierney] from ER, and Josh I’ve known from just being around the New York actor scene,” said Mr. Eldard. Mr. Rudd and Mr. Marino had been friends since co-starring in Wet Hot American Summer. “We really are working for nothing on this one. There’s no fighting over whose trailer is bigger, because there are no trailers,” said Mr. Eldard.
The actor, who’ll next be seen in this fall’s Freedomland, directed by Revolution Studios head Joe Roth (“Joe Roth directed the shit out of it”), was drawn to the project by the story. “It’s about how great this script is,” he said. “It’s lean, it’s sweet and based on the world Ken knew. It has a great heart without being too soft.”
“It is kind of a love letter to my dad, my mom and the world I grew up in,” said screenwriter Ken Marino, back out in the heat, waiting patiently as makeup was applied around his hearty moustache and fake dirt rubbed into his shirt. “This backdrop of a clam-digging community in the 70’s was when change was coming down [in the industry], and I thought it was a good time to place the story.”
Mr. Marino, whom audiences might recognize as a member of the sketch-comedy group The State, said: “This is the first time I’ve written more of a personal story. My dad was a clamdigger; my grandfather and uncle were, too. It was something I knew.”
Originally, David Wain, another Wet Hot American Summer and State alum, was slated to direct. But when Mr. Wain’s new comedy troupe, Stella, got picked up by Comedy Central, the producers came to Katherine Dieckmann. Ms. Dieckmann—who started her career as a journalist, made her way to film via music videos for R.E.M., Aimee Mann and Wilco, and made her first feature film, A Good Baby, in 2000—only stepped into her Diggers role in April.
“Ken and I got together, and we hit it off sensibility-wise,” said Ms. Dieckmann, pale skin shielded by a floral wrap. “I love this kind of multi-character movie. It’s like this movie is not only set in the 70’s—it takes it approach from the 70’s as well.” The crew was breaking down equipment for the next scene, set on a paved driveway ending at the water’s edge, and Ms. Dieckmann watched carefully from a picnic bench outside the Silly Lily fishing station.
The setting looked, at first glance, like a brilliant 70’s invention from the prop department—an illusion broken only by the http://www.sillylily.com sign out front. “Isn’t this place amazing?” asked Ms. Dieckmann, waving back to locals wandering by. “We really lucked out: This is one of the last functioning bait shacks. This is almost like a perfectly preserved ghost town of what life used to be like out here.”
Everyone took a brief lunch break in the school auditorium (which, with its wood paneling and inspirational posters, also seemed like piece of production whimsy), where the principle actors ate their make-your-own tacos together and clustered at the end of the bleacher seats. The men seemed to be out-joking one another while Ms. Ambrose laughed appreciatively. They all enjoyed their tacos.
After lunch, neither the heat nor the glare of the sun had abated. Ms. Ambrose, who needed to be shielded constantly between takes by a giant umbrella to protect her almost-opalescent skin, ducked under cover with her onscreen love interest, Mr. Rudd.
“I knew very little about clams when we started, but I knew I didn’t care for them,” joked Mr. Rudd.
“You took a digging lesson,” Ms. Ambrose reminded.
“I did! I went clamdigging. There is something very Zen about getting out in a boat, putting a rake in the water—the whole thing,” he said.
The small-town fishing community, Mr. Rudd said, is one that isn’t heard about so much anymore. “There really is something great about getting on a boat, forming a bond with these guys and then going to the bar after the day is done.” Someone cue up the Boss! “It is very Bruce Springsteen,” agreed Mr. Rudd, a native of New Jersey.
The day’s work was due to go until late in the evening, a circumstance that was probably beneficial only to Ms. Ambrose’s skin. But no one seemed to mind much. Spirits ran high, the crew still greatly entertained by the day’s previous activities, which included a very naked Josh Hamilton. “He finally just gave up and got rid of the sock,” giggled a P.A. (The set was, unfortunately, closed.) Hopes were high that Diggers would find festival success. “The reason you do this movie, or a lot of movies, is because it’s a great script,” said Mr. Rudd. “And maybe you’ll catch lightning in a bottle and find yourself with a great movie.”
Tommy Lee loves animals and being naked, so it might be a stroke of marketing genius to combine the two. On Monday night, at the recently opened Chelsea club Home, Mr. Lee revealed the latest PETA poster to a gaggle of photographers and just a few reporters.
In it, he’s wearing only his tattoos, a cap, two necklaces, and an expression of mingled vacancy and defiance. The poster, which reads “Ink, Not Mink,” is the latest in the animal-rights group’s anti-fur campaign, but was really more for the benefit of the club than PETA.
The poster doesn’t reveal Mr. Lee’s much-fabled, uh, unit. The photo is cropped somewhere in the vicinity of the pubic bone.
Steve Lewis, the designer of Home, has implemented a no-fur policy at the door. That’s not hard to obey in August. He’s also made a similar policy at other clubs such as Tunnel and Spa, where celebrities like P. Diddy—now just Diddy!—have been turned away.
Mr. Lewis said that he wanted Home “to be the hippest club in New York, and a great club needs a conscience.” He told the owners—Jon B., Michael Ault, Ronnie Madra, Karl Alomar and Corey Lane—that “if you make a deal with PETA, they will provide a celebrity spokesman and it will generate a ton of publicity, offsetting any loss from people not showing up because they wear fur.”
But really, he admitted, “I’m doing it for my dogs.” What? People are wearing dog fur now?
After the photos, Mr. Lee stepped outside to the empty cobblestone street. He immediately lit a cigarette while fielding just a few questions from reporters. “I’m so comfortable in my own skin …. I love being naked,” he said. He deflected a question about who had called him earlier on his cell phone, saying: “It was a private number.”
When one reporter asked what it was like licking Eva Longoria, he mumbled “Nnn—yeah, I gotta go,” and quickly hopped into his black stretch limo and closed the door.
A Night Out
Despite the soothing giant fish tank backlit with sunset hues, the Zen garden overlooking the Hudson River and the tranquilizing, trendy cocktails that flowed through gigantic Ketel One ice luges, I felt continually displaced at Nylon magazine’s party at the Park in Chelsea.
At least I wasn’t alone being alone. “Like, I’m having an O.K. time,” declared one waifish girl in black to her friend as they walked back inside, having been kicked out of the Zen garden by some sort of nightclub-underworld authority figure.
Adding to the discomfort, I discovered that the laminated page listing the prices mostly had figures like $100. And $300. Egads! Then, of course, a man professing to have authority asked me to vacate the cushioned bench I was sitting on. People had paid for that table, apparently, and I was in their way.
But then I met Markus, a friendly young German interning at product and interior designer Karim Rashid’s studio for the summer. He picked up on my loneliness and agreed that the downtown experience can be isolating.
“There is Brooklyn pride, Bronx pride, Harlem pride, but Manhattan arrogance,” the Bavarian said. “When I first came to New York, I feel really lonely,” he continued. In Harlem, though, “you know the neighbors. They give you sugar.” Hmmm?
But a hundred blocks south, the Big Apple is more appletini than apple pie, Markus has found.
“Downtown has a lot of trendy places,” Markus said. “But the culture is missing.”
Oh, I usually prefer St. Mark’s over St. Nicholas, and I didn’t agree with all of Markus’ proclamations (“Boston is like a big Jersey City!”). But on this particular Monday, and being so unwanted, I could see how easy it was to feel that way.