Sunday, May 20, 2007

Times Like These

Yesterday, my wife and I attended “Sunday with the Magazine,” a New York Times event that hosted a dozen conversations centered around the theme “The Way We Live Now.” These conversations with actors, politicians and leaders of industry provided an intimate look into the lives of those who shape our world.

We attended three of the events: “What Makes Us Laugh” with The Daily Show’s John Hodgman and The Office / Extras creator and star, Ricky Gervais; “How We Campaign” with Democratic Presidential candidate John Edwards; and “How We Make Movies” with the Wilson brothers. Click to enlarge any of the images.

Gervais is unique in showbiz in that he is a performer who took on acting after years of the sort of office work you and I drudge through daily (and thank God for it—without those years of keen observations, The Office would never have seen the light of day!). With PC Hodgeman moderating, Gervais discussed his newfound celebrity status, how that celebrity differed on opposing sides of the pond, and the current U.S. trend toward BBC inspired humor. The secret of his comedy is simple, he claimed: “Failure is funnier than success. I don’t find jokes funny, I find situations funny. I draw my inspiration from the minutia of human behavior and I can’t imagine any situation from which I couldn’t make comedy.”

John Edwards knows how to look good in front of an audience and answer a question with poise and intelligence. But he is at no time better than when discussing American poverty. Like RFK (and, in truth, Obama running against him), Edwards makes you truly believe that he is in politics to look out for the little guy, the underrepresented, the marginalized, the dispossessed. “We can’t live in a nation with a couple of rich guys and everyone else.”

Oddly enough, in a New York City crowd, arguably more devastated by terrorism than any other segment of the American population, it wasn’t until the final question that homeland security issues were raised. Aside from the Iraqi elephant in the room, people were distinctly interested in the domestic and economic factors of this race. Edwards presented an inspiring and encompassing look at foreign policy, claiming that we craft security out of improving life not just in America, but abroad. “We have a moral responsibility to spread opportunity around the world. I am committed to the world being a better place, not just America. Our power has to be wedded to moral authority and our actions will demonstrate whether or not we are worthy to lead.” Right now, he offered, America’s moral authority hangs in tatters.

The highlight, however, came when my wife rose to offer a question, commenting on her position within the United States’ space industry and inquiring as to the Senator’s stance on cosmic exploration. He was, she said, right on message, expressing a keen interest in NASA’s ongoing exploration and discovery, and was particularly adamant that, if America is to continue to be a great nation, it must redouble its efforts to cultivate an environment in which math and science are seen as exciting opportunities for young people.

“Am I my brother’s keeper,” Luke Wilson asked as he and his brother Andrew walked onto the stage, no Owen in sight. Sadly, Owen was “under the weather,” leaving a gaping hole where the most delightfully funny member of the Wilson comedy trinity should have been.

Luke and Andrew cast back over their careers. Luke, the youngest of the three, certainly got picked on the most, not the least of which for his decade long rooming situation with Owen after they graduated from college. “Waaaay past what was appropriate,” Andrew joked.

Bottle Rocket, they confessed, did horribly on its initial release and in the initial screenings so many people got up and left that they figured their showbiz careers were over before they’d even begun. But persistence paid off.

That and a little bit of subterfuge.

While trying to get money for their new film, The Wendell Baker Story which Luke wrote and the two co-directed, they were told, “You deliver Owen, we’ll deliver the money.” During a series of business meetings at Cannes last year, one of their producers kept referring to Luke as Owen in front of interested foreign businessmen. During a break, Luke whispered to the producer that he’d accidentally been calling him Owen the whole time. “It’s no accident,” the producer replied, “Owen they know, but you they don’t. Do you want the money or not?” If that sounds below board, consider the fact that Luke fired his own mother from working on the film. “Yeah, she’s told me she doesn’t ever want to work with me professionally again.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That's especially shady considering the abysmal review that Roeper and guest critic Michael Phillips gave of The Wendell Baker Story. Phillips hilariously said that the film failed partially due to "Luke Wilson's antigravity lack of screen charisma". I guess all those shananigans didn't pay off in a big work of art. It's kind of the Baldwin family rule. The oldest gets the best of the looks and talent gene pool and the youngest is well... Stephen Baldwin.

5:14 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Ut In Omnibus Glorificetur Deus