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CALENDAR
8th February: Side Effects released (US)
15th March: Side Effects released (UK)


THE FANLISTING
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UPCOMING PROJECTS

SIDE EFFECTS
Information | Photos | Official website Released: 8th February (US)


BEHIND THE CANDELABRA
Information | Photos | Official website Released: 2013


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NEW & UPCOMING DVDS
Now available from Amazon.com:
Haywire
Contagion

Now available from Amazon.co.uk:
Contagion

DVDs that include an audio commentary track from Steven:
Clean, Shaven - Criterion Collection
Point Blank
The Graduate (40th Anniversary Collector's Edition)
The Third Man - Criterion Collection
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


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Meet the Rat-a-Tat Pack
by Rachel Abramowitz
(Calendar Live on L.A.Times.com)

The stars of "Ocean's Eleven" have their timing down when they cut loose-with tape recorder running.

One venerable method of escaping the worries of war and terrorism is to luxuriate in movie stars, lots of them. An afternoon at producer Jerry Weintraub's Malibu estate promises this. It is a bright, clear California Saturday, and the sign at the beginning of the long driveway announces "Blue Heaven." On one side of the estate is a dusty riding stable, and on the other, desolate playground equipment and then a pool. At the end is a blue stucco house, rather large and indistinct, as if the Brady Bunch has just become immeasurably richer. The door is flung open, revealing commotion and well-groomed, cell-phone-toting publicists and makeup artists. Flanking the front door are floor-to-ceiling stained-glass portraits of Weintraub and his wife, Jane, a popular crooner in the '50s.

In a side garage, a veritable platoon of publicists perches on white rattan chairs, watching clients on a live feed talking to Barbara Walters in the living room of the house. This is a press day for "Ocean's Eleven," a remake of the famous 1960 caper movie that starred the Rat Pack—Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr.

The new "Ocean's Eleven," which premieres on Dec. 7, is as big and glossy a Hollywood production as can be remembered in recent memory, the point being to revel in beautiful stars plotting and executing a heist in the casinos of Las Vegas.
When the show finally breaks, the publicists move desolately into the sunshine to await their clients, who are the stars of the movie, and of this article.

They include:

George Clooney, 40. Clooney's wearing a suit and white shirt, and looks as if he's either stayed up all night being bad or is about to stay up all night being bad.

Julia Roberts, 34. She carries herself like an old-fashioned dame, despite the jeans, the green T-shirt, spike-heeled boots and auburn hair, which falls in improbable 1940s style curls. She is loud, flirtatious, giddy. Tonight is her birthday party, to be held at Blue Heaven.

Brad Pitt, 37. He is the reluctant movie star, but sweet. Like someone yearning to go home, he keeps changing back into his stretched-out white T-shirt, with the word "Life" emblazoned across the front, and beat-up jeans, only to return to a swank blue leather jacket and shirt, when a photo op calls.

Casting these three in a movie together would cost a studio close to $60 million if they were to get their full salaries. (Even without the cast taking full salaries, the Warner Bros. movie still costs an estimated $80 million.) They emit the hyper-charged neurons of actors improvising some larger-than-life performance. But there are still more stars, among them Matt Damon, 31, fresh-faced and still collegiate-looking, in jeans and a blue sweater, Andy Garcia, 45, smoking a cigar, and Don Cheadle, 37, the virtuoso chameleon actor, who here appears self-contained and watchful.

For the next 45 minutes, the stars cavort in front of photographers and banter almost nonstop, except for breaks to take shots of whiskey and smoke. As the last session (atop the diving board) wraps up, a man appears in the driveway. He stands almost suspiciously erect, in a pristine, pale-gray, three-button suit, and glasses with heavy black frames. His attitude hovers somewhere between the proper and the absurdist. He is director Steven Soderbergh, 38, winner of the Academy Award for directing last year's "Traffic." When the genetically blessed cast beckons him to join the photo, he just yells back, "No. Scary!"

After another break, the crew trudges to the guesthouse by the swimming pool. A sign stands out front, "Casa Barbara Bush, and you too, George Bush." Weintraub is a famous Republican in a Democratic town, and this is where the Bushes senior stay when in Los Angeles. Clooney, nonplused, stares at the sign, then restrains himself from commenting, one of his few moments of restraint all afternoon.

Inside, the decor is beige, upscale Marriott. The stars and Soderbergh crowd on couches and chairs around a glass coffee table. Clooney beckons for alcohol.

They are joined by a woman reporter, 30s, in black. She has calculated how much it would cost to collect this group together, if they were being paid their full salaries (not including gross points). That figure is $2,500 a minute. She has met Roberts, Clooney and Damon before, albeit briefly. None of them remembers. She, in fact, has interviewed Pitt for an hour, over a drink at Musso & Frank a few years ago. He too does not remember but gamely asks, "Did I try to pick you up?"

That, she would have remembered.

The group is led in tandem by Soderbergh, who commands the most respect, and Clooney, self-designated master of fun, who says, "I don't raise the bar. I lower it and I bring everybody down to my level. It's an intellectual version of limbo."

And with that, our nouveau rat pack gets down to it.

Question: So, basically, why this movie?
Soderbergh: Boy, I'm still asking myself that question.
Pitt: I wanted to work with me. It was a good opportunity and I jumped at it. We got along great. No fighting.
Soderbergh: It was one of those projects that started out small ....
Clooney: ... and just got smaller.
Roberts: Now it's a cell.
Clooney: It's an independent.
Soderbergh: I read a great script. By Ted Griffin. I got it on an afternoon, read it and called the next day and said I want to do it. That was January a year ago.
(A publicist bearing a round of vodka-cranberry drinks arrives.)
Clooney: Jerry developed it. (Stops, with enthusiasm:) Oh, alcohol! (Examines the drink quizzically.) It's awfully red for a drink.
Roberts: Somebody heard cranberry juice and actually ordered cranberry juice. (Winking.)
Clooney: Hey, Jerry, see if they have any more vodka that we can put into this.
(Clooney leads a toast. Glasses clink.)
Q (to Soderbergh): I heard that you were a big heist fan.
Soderbergh: I am. I don't know why. There's nothing in my background—I grew up in a suburban subdivision—that would indicate I'd be interested in heist movies. I've made three of them. I've made a lot of crime films. I think people are drawn to crime films because the conflicts are so clear and dramatic. This seemed to me to be everything that you want a big Hollywood film to be, on the script level. All that stuff that makes for a great "movie movie" experience. This is a movie, I think, as opposed to a film. I think they are two different things. And for me, coming off two dramas ["Traffic" and "Erin Brockovich"] in a row, one of which I had a really ...
Roberts (groaning): Horrible.
Soderbergh: Horrible experience on. It was what I needed. What I didn't anticipate was how hard it is to make a movie that's just supposed to be fun.
Clooney: We had a great time. He was in the room working.
Garcia: He didn't stop. He had a lawn chair out by the camera truck that he'd once a day go out there and sit down and have a cigarette and go back in. The only time he sat down was during lunch.
Pitt: And you were cutting at night too.
Soderbergh: Yeah, because we thought there was going to be a strike. So we were cutting all the time.
Pitt: Directing, shooting, operating the camera.
Damon: And writing.
Roberts: In your spare time.
Soderbergh: At night.
Clooney: We had a tough time too because you know you've got all the gambling and drinking, and then you gotta go to work. And it's hard.
Q: So, are you Rat Pack fans?
Soderbergh: We're all aware of them, obviously. But it's impossible to duplicate what they had.
Q: The original movie is so boring!
Clooney: Everybody will say, you know, "Oh, that's one of my favorite films," and I'll always say, "Have you ever seen it?" The perception is that you've seen the film, because you'll go, "Oh, it's Frank and Dean and Sammy. Yeah, it's great." But the truth is ...
Damon: You've seen their life.
Cheadle: It was a movie where they only did one take.
Clooney: Frank would go do a take and say, "Print it twice."
Garcia: There were a lot of scenes in the movie where Frank decided not to show up for work that day so they say, "Henry Silva, you play this scene."
Roberts: I tried to watch it but I fell asleep twice.
Q: The artistic ambitions seem higher here.
Clooney: Steven was given the Oscar in the middle of shooting our movie, which was pretty cool. He had to be on the set the next morning. He wins the Oscar, and we get a call and ran down to the bar at like 2:30 in the morning, and he had it in a bag, down next to where we were sitting. I'm like, "Come on, pull it out!" And he pulls it out, sticks it up there and we all had a toast.
Pitt: I didn't know you were required to carry it around all night. I never understood that ... at the parties, photo op ....
Roberts (whispering): Yeah. I ditched mine. They get mad.
Clooney (jocularly): Let's see, when I won the Golden Globe ...
Damon: ... the Cable Ace ...
Clooney: When I won the AMA award, I carried it for a week.
Roberts: The AMA?
Damon: The AMA [American Medical Assn.] award for most caring doctor.
Clooney: If they were just more specific, I could win one of those awards. "Best performance by a doctor on television named George."
Roberts: Who isn't Mandy Patinkin.
Clooney: Who brought down the Bat franchise. And the winner is ...
Cheadle: Eriq LaSalle.
Clooney: [Darn it.] I was right there.
Soderbergh: Here's a story. I went with George to the "Batman & Robin" premiere because I'm a friend.
Clooney: You're a friend of Chris O'Donnell.
Soderbergh: Yeah, exactly, so George's agent, Michael Gruber, lives very close to the theater where they were showing the film, and there was a little reception there beforehand, and I lost my glasses that day. Literally. I couldn't find them. And I go to this thing, and George's mom comes up and goes, "I just want to say I know that a lot of people talk about George on the show, but I think you're terrific."
Clooney: She thought he was Anthony Edwards. And I made a beeline. I go over and go, "M-o-o-m! You're killin' me."
Q: Do the 1960s have an appeal to you guys?
Soderbergh: To me, [our] movie, especially in the last 10 minutes, goes further back than that. To me, it's like a '40s movie.
Damon: George and Julia's dialogue to me, when I read it, it was like ... (snapping his fingers).
Soderbergh: When I read it, I felt there was less of the movie that had one foot in the '60s than it was a movie that had this one foot back in the heyday of the studio star-driven movie, like [directors] Howard Hawks or George Cukor.
Garcia: You could always get those people in because everybody was under contract.
Q: Everybody had to cut their price to make this movie?
Soderbergh: What happened was when [George and I] came in, I said jokingly, but not entirely, "Let's make it an Irwin Allen movie, where they used to have 10 stars." Then we both knew the only way to do that is if everybody sort of agrees to not go full boat because it would be prohibitive, and George started that ball rolling.
Pitt: George took the boat, I took the rowboat. (Gesturing to Garcia.) He took the oars.
Q: You very rarely see a movie with more than one movie star these days.
Soderbergh: But I miss that. What gives me the most pleasure .... (pauses, suddenly distracted.) Oh, sorry. I was thinking about what gives me the most pleasure (laughter) ... in watching the film is the generosity that's so apparent between all of the actors. You're so used to seeing a movie in which if there are two movie stars, like they're shot in two different countries. And to see everybody sharing the frame, literally, and doing it with such comfort and ease makes you think, "Wow, I'd like to see that more often."
Cheadle: I want to see like a "Ten Little Indians" again where ...
Clooney: ... everybody dies?
Cheadle: It's like "we're killing stars" and ...
Damon: ... you have no idea who is going to be left.
Clooney: That's what was so great about "Alien" when it first came out, which was you were so sure that [Tom] Skerritt was going to be the guy that lives. When he got smoked, you were like uh-oh. Because they'd never done the girl living before.
Pitt (now standing by glass doors, smoking; facetiously): Remember when Charlie Sheen got wasted in "Young Guns"?
Clooney: Don't tell me, I haven't seen it.
Damon: Remember when Steven Seagal got blown up in that thing in "Executive Decision"? (Conversation degenerates along these lines.)
Cheadle: What's hilarious is that I'm looking at [the journalist's] pad. That's two of the 17 questions.
Roberts: Give us something you'd honestly like to ask this group, whether it's on the pad or not.
Q: Well, it seems like your plan was to have fun. That's an ephemeral thing to ask about.
Roberts: It's not just to have fun, though. It's to be there for a purpose. To be with the creative team. Everybody cut their prices to ribbons just to be in that environment. The purpose of all these actors is to be that kind of an actor, to be someone who will show up and do something, and participate in something. Not just grab the money and go.
Q (to Roberts and Clooney): What did your rehearsal look like?
Roberts: Our rehearsal—we had never met.
Clooney: We met at the Chateau [Marmont].
Damon: Which is so weird, because I always assumed that all famous people know each other.
Clooney: Well, I knew her famously.
Pitt: Yeah, I thought you guys met through Warren Beatty.
Soderbergh: You were leaving, she was showing up.
Clooney: I was drunk, by the way.
Roberts: And, actually, we were just kind of chatting and [Steven and George] knew each other and [Steven and I] know each other, so we were telling stories and being silly and goofy.
Clooney: We brought down Universal [which made "Out of Sight"]; she got an Oscar.
Roberts: At one point, George excused himself from the room, and I said to Steven, you know, "Should we read from the scenes?" And he goes, "Do you have a problem with any of them?" And I said no. George comes back, and we sat around, they acted out many episodes of "Jackass" and ...
Clooney: The star of "Jackass." (Pointing to Pitt.)
Pitt: Guest star .... What I loved in this film with Steven was that he never put us in this position or anything like that. He just said, "Kind of fall in line," and wherever we fell naturally .... It took a lot of confidence. "Whatever order, whatever you fall in. Whatever it is, I'll make that work." And that's cool.
(At this point, producer Weintraub comes in, bearing a giant bottle of vodka. He squishes himself down between Pitt and Garcia on the couch. He's 64 and practically radiates delight at working on "Ocean's Eleven"; he hasn't had a hit in the last decade.
Q: So, uh, my editor wanted me to ask ...
Clooney: Here's the disclaimer. (Relents.) OK. I'm sleeping with Julia and Brad.
Roberts: Simultaneously.
Q: What's the relevance of this movie?
Soderbergh: Oh, none. That's why we agreed to do it.
Clooney: It's actually a story about, you know, the dichotomy between man and money.
Soderbergh: That's not true because, seriously, if we've done our job right, you're going to see some real casino reform.
Clooney: OK, while we're here, something we should say since Jerry's here. This movie couldn't have been made the way we made it without Jerry. We lived this ...
Roberts: Big, old-time moviemaking.
(The cast stayed for weeks in their own 7,000-square-foot villas at the Bellagio.)
Clooney: Yeah, it really was fun. You'd come downstairs, you'd find Jerry. There was an extra, (excuses himself) "background artist" on the set, and the woman says, "I'm sorry, I have to leave" when we were shooting, and Jerry, who is sitting next to her, says, "How much do you make on your nice job?" And she goes, "200 bucks," and he hands her $200 to go sit over there. It was like, you know, you felt like it was the '50s again and he had access to Vegas—all of it.
Soderbergh: Jerry knew who to speak with; Jerry knew Kirk Kerkorian. We wanted access to the Bellagio, the MGM and the Mirage, which was in the script.
Clooney: If you do mention the film, say it's an MGM film.
(Laughter. The movie is from Warner Bros.)
Soderbergh: And that was all because Jerry negotiated the access we got. We shot on the floor during the day, which nobody gets to do. They shut down entire pits for us to shoot in. I tried to take advantage of that. It allowed me to design shots that were big, that were complicated, in which you saw a large part of the casino at one time. It really opened up the movie.
(Everybody chants, "Jerry, Jerry.")
Q: So, have you guys all bought Julia a birthday present?
Roberts: Oh, God.
Weintraub: You missed mine. It was two weeks ago.
Roberts: When's your birthday, Jer? Did you remember Matt's birthday?
Weintraub: I sent him a photo booth. You know, those booths in the arcade where you put money in.
Soderbergh: George got a Cadillac station wagon for his birthday.
Clooney: Jerry got me a hearse. The scariest thing about it: I got in back, and Elvis was laid out in the back.
Soderbergh (Takes out of his pocket a tiny, palm-sized biography of Matt Damon. To Damon): You're a Pocket Romeo.
Roberts: That's what I want. I want the full Pocket Romeo collection of the entire "Ocean's Eleven" cast.
Clooney (gesturing to Damon): I'm telling you, the sexiest man alive.
Damon: I don't think so.
Roberts: I'll campaign for you, for your birthday.
Pitt: After all, George's been axed from the running.
Clooney: I'm too old now.
Soderbergh: George's being coy. He's asking a lot on how he too can be two-time winner. We're pushing for a write-in ballot.
Roberts: The sexiest (old) man.
Soderbergh: No, we wanted to take an ad out in People. "For your consideration, Matt Damon." And they wouldn't let us do it.
Q: Why wouldn't they let you do it?
Soderbergh: They said, no public parody ads. George is like, "Come on, it's funny."
Clooney (gesturing to Pitt): I just can't understand how he got two.
Damon (to Pitt): He is the Spencer Tracy of Sexiest Man Alive. He is a repeat winner.
Pitt (flustered, points to Damon, Roberts and Soderbergh): Oscar, Oscar, Oscar. (Points to himself, with chagrin:) Sexiest Man Alive.
Garcia: So, if you don't ask any questions, does your check bounce?
Soderbergh: How are you going to write this? There's just nothing to write about.
Q: I'm just going to edit cautiously.

 


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