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What's Up For Today?

New York Cool - Ask Miss Wendy

New York Cool - Interview

 

Wendy R. Williams Talks to Jude Law, Michael Caine and
Kenneth Branagh of Sleuth
Regency Hotel
October 2, 2007

 

Sleuth Opens October 12, 2007

Opposite Photo:
Jude Law
Sleuth - New York City Movie Premiere
October 2, 2007 - Paris Theater
Anthony G. Moore / PR Photos

 


The 1972 version of Sleuth was an incredible film. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, it starred Michael Caine as the young paramour, Milo Tindale, and Laurence Olivier as the older cuckolded husband, Andrew Wycke. The screenplay was written by the same man who wrote the play, Anthony Shaffer, and there was a cast of six characters (the two main characters plus various constables etc.). The film was smart and fun and it received numerous Academy Award nominations.

Well, it has happened again and not as a remake (according to the producer Jude Law, the scripts only share two lines). In the 2007 version, the script was written by Harold Pinter, has only two characters and is played out in a modern architectural wonder of a house.

I saw the film and then participated in the roundtable interview with stars Jude Law and Michael Caine and director Kenneth Branagh. Here is a copy of my review. Be sure to scroll down for the interviews with the stars and director.




Jude Law and Michael Caine in Sleuth
Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Kenneth Branagh’s
Sleuth
Opens October 12, 2007

Tagline: Two Men Fight Over a Woman You Never See

Reviewed by Wendy R. Williams

From the very opening the mood is eerie. It is evening: we see a car driving down a manicured driveway of an English country estate. The car stops in front of a manor house and a man, Milo Tindle (played by Jude Law) walks to the door and rings for admittance. The door is then answered by the other character in this two man film - the proprietor of the house, Andrew Wyke (played by Michael Caine). The die is thus cast and the games begun.

The minute Milo walks into the house his and our worlds are set a kilter. The interior of the house is a cold ultra modern high tech concrete and glass marvel, its style totally at odds with its surroundings. And as we quickly find out, Milo has not dropped by for a cordial cocktail with a neighbor. Milo has driven down from London to ask Andrew to divorce his (Andrew’s ) wife, a woman who is also Milo’s mistress.

We are then treated to three acts of a very treacherous game. Two men fight over the affections of one woman and then (as men do), they fight for power and domination. And after each campaign in the “game,” the power shifts and the players go to their psychic corners to retrench, reshuffle their wits and then resume the battle to its deadly end.

Michael Caine had starred in Sleuth before; in 1972 he played Milo (with Laurence Olivier as Andrew) with a screenplay written by Anthony Shaffer, based on Anthony Shaffer’s play of the same name.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago: Jude Law was looking for a film to produce and he settled on Sleuth; he then took a copy of the play script to renowned British playwright Harold Pinter (winner of the 2005 Nobel Prize for Literature) and asked Pinter if he would write the screenplay. Law then asked Kenneth Branagh to direct, and both Pinter and Branagh, hearing that the other was interested, decided to sign on. So in addition to a physical fight, Milo and Andrew have Pinter’s pithy script to lob at each other as they perform their death dance.

The film is stylish and fun. Film lovers should see this version of Sleuth just to watch Caine and Law, two fine actors at the top of their game. Branagh did a fine job directing (he did have wonderful actors and incredible script). And the setting (the interior of the house) is an architectural wonder that absolutely has to be seen on a big screen.

 

Kenneth Branagh
Sleuth - New York City Movie Premiere
October 2, 2007 - Paris Theater
Anthony G. Moore / PR Photos

Michael Caine
Sleuth - New York City Movie Premiere
October 2, 2007 - Paris Theater
Anthony G. Moore / PR Photos

 

The Interview with Kenneth Branagh and Michael Caine

As Michael and Kenneth entered the room they were talking about
Michael Caine’s biography, Michael Caine – What’s It All About? Kenneth turned to the group in the room, and said “I highly recommend this book." (Michael has also written another excellent book, Acting in Film, An Actor’s Take on Movie Making.)

Question about why remake the film:

Michael Caine: I didn’t want to remake something that was so awfully good. But the script by Pinter is so different. There are only two lines that are the same. One of which is, “It’s only a game” and the one where I call him Tindolini. This film is an adaptation and it is not the same.

Kenneth Branagh: The premise is the same: Two men in a confined space fight about a woman you don’t see. But this is a darker version.

Michael Caine: My portrayal is more psychotic than Larry’s (Laurence Olivier played the same role in the 1972 film that Michael Caine portrays in the 2007 adaptation of the film).

Kenneth Branagh: This version is more unsettling. Just what does the whiskey glass mean? [When Milo Tindale arrives at Andrew Wyke’s home for what is supposedly their first meeting, Andrew has already poured him a glass of whiskey (Milo’s usual drink.]

Question about what Branagh brought to production?

Michael Caine: He brought loads to it.

Kenneth Branagh: It was like there were four different directors (Branagh, Caine, Law and Pinter); everyone brought so much to the production.

Question about the homoerotic undertones in the first act that were not in the first film:

Michael Caine: It think that is open to interpretation and Larry (Laurence Olivier) had a bit of that in the first version.

Question about how the film came together:

Michael Caine: The whole film coalesced in the rehearsal process. We had three weeks of rehearsal.

Kenneth Branagh: We really needed the three weeks of rehearsal becuase we only had five weeks to shoot. We had seven takes of the line where Milo tells Andrew, “Maggie said you were good in bed.” Pinter walks such a tightrope between humor and terror.

Michael Caine: With Pinter you have to be like a straight man with a comedian. You cannot try to be funny. You have to play this incredible dialogue like there is nothing funny about it. You just have to say it like it is true – just throw it away. And you can’t ask Harold [Pinter] what he meant, he won’t tell you anything.

Question about whether they would like to remake another film:

Michael Caine: We could remake Gambit with Jude playing my part.

Question about how Kenneth Branagh is now directing Jude Law as Hamlet in London:

Kenneth Branagh: The challenge of casting Shakespeare is to find actors who can be naturalistic and just do the work [like Jude].

Michael Caine: The work [of acting] is in the rehearsal, the performance is the relaxation. The simplest line in a movie, I have said it a thousand times.

Question about doing commercials:

Michael Caine: I have never done a commercial. I simply could not turn up on the day unless there were several million in it.

Question about the new Batman film, The Dark Knight (Michael Caine is in it).

Michael Caine: The real story is going to be Heath Ledger as the Joker. That is what you are going to be talking about. He [Ledger] is totally hysterical and completely different from Jack Nicholson; he is really scary.


Jude Law in Sleuth
Photo Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

The Interview With Jude Law

Jude Law entered the room with, “Hello, I’m the chap who is coming in for an interview.”

Question about Law’s relationship with the tabloids (being photographed every time he is out with his children) and did he ever want to just do a Hugh Grant and throw beans at a photographer:

Jude Law: Why do you read that garbage? If no one ever bought those magazines, they would quickly go out of business. I have never had an interest in what someone weighs or what someone wears. I have a different outlook now of just ignoring them and trying to keep away from them. [It is difficult though] because you live in a minefield and you step on a few and then you work out a way to lead a quieter life.

That photographer that I supposedly assaulted: He reported it to the police and they were so sheepish when they told me I had to come in. And then there he was standing outside the police station trying to get another photo of me being booked. [All charges have been dropped in the incident with the photographer.]

Question about producing the film. Law was one of six producers:

Jude Law: What happens is that certain people are on board for tax breaks and people who will work for reduced fees want producing credit.

Question about how he put together the film:

Jude Law: I was fascinated by the premise of how two men fight for a woman you never meet. I took it to Harold Pinter and he loved it. Harold Pinter had never seen the 1972 movie. With Harold involved, Michael became interested.

I was involved first as a producer. It was only after five or six months into the process that I started reading the film as an actor. After all, Kenneth may have wanted to cast someone else.

It was wonderful working with these three incredibly talented men. And collaboration creates greatness. These three great men [Caine, Branagh and Pinter] are very open.

Question about playing Hamlet in London with Kenneth Branagh as his director:

I can almost tell you that the reviews will be awful. But I am playing Hamlet in London with Kenneth Branagh directing and that experience is worth any criticism. Criticism about my personal life can be very hurtful but I just brush off bad reviews. Kenneth taught me to keep looking for nuance; he makes you feel very brave.

Question about playing a part that someone else has played before:

I have played so many of Michael’s parts I am beginning to feel like a stalker. Playing a part that someone else has played is more of an issue with Hamlet. But no two actor’s performances are the same.

Question about the stunts:

I am a little bit of a fool about doing my own stunts. But it is mostly smoke and mirrors with hidden wires etc.

Question about the homoeroticism in Act III:

Jude Law: Is Milo bi-sexual? I don’t know and I don’t think Harold [Pinter] knows. But two men are fighting and they use everything they have to win over the other.

Question about what draws you to playing scoundrels [Alfie? Milo in Sleuth?]:

Jude Law: I don’t know. Maybe it is a quality in me that comes out.

Many thanks to Michael Caine, Kenneth Branagh and Jude Law for talking to New York Cool.


 

 






 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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