A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman, 2006)

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#1 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Thu Jul 21, 2005 1:13 pm

Some tantalizing news on the production of Altman's latest movie:
Boogie Down On PHC Set

Posted July 20, 2005. MNspeak.com
http://www.mnspeak.com/mnspeak/archive/post-443.cfm

C.J. may have all the Lindsay gossip to whet your whistle, but we've got juicier tidbits for those interested in the cinematic aspects of the Prairie Home Companion production. First off, there's the matter of the mysterious rumor of the director who has been tailing Robert Altman on the set -- and, some say, basically running daily production of the film. That mystery proxy director is none other than Paul Thomas Anderson (director of Boogie Nights and Magnolia), who will be officially credited later this week as "Executive Producer" on the film. A couple of theories are floating around the set to explain this unusual duo-director scenario. First, the producers of the film probably insisted that Altman commit to a "backup" director because of his age (he's 80). Anderson and Altman are natural aesthetic fits for one another because of their improvisational techniques, extremely long takes (compare Boogie Nights and The Player), kinetic camera work, and ensemble casts. Also, one cannot deny the huge similarities between Altman's Shortcuts and Anderson's Magnolia. Several people have speculated that Robert and PT have gotten close in recent years, and their friendship is what the producers hoped for. Others have speculated that PT came to the set strictly through Maya Rudolph, who plays the role of "The Stage Manager." Rudolph and Anderson have been an item for three years, and she is expecting her first child. On the set, Anderson works much more directly with the actors, simply because Altman can't travel the distance of the theater (from monitors to stage). Between cuts, Robert belts directions over a mic while PT runs up to stage and speaks with the actors directly.
And here's a much more detailed on-the-set report:
http://www.twincities.com/mld/pioneerpr ... 173222.htm
Posted on Wed, Jul. 20, 2005

There's no place like 'Home'
An 'adequate' from Robert Altman is all the actors need.

BY CHRIS HEWITT. Pioneer Press

The characters from the "A Prairie Home Companion" radio show are famously "above average," in the words of their creator, Garrison Keillor. But the movie version is "adequate."

"That was adequate" is the catchphrase you'd have heard Monday on the set of "Prairie Home," shooting this month at the Fitzgerald Theater. It's a favorite way for director Robert Altman to indicate he's shot enough takes of a scene. When an actor gets a "more than adequate," says Virginia Madsen, who plays an angel, "that means it's good."

"It's that Midwestern reticence," says Keillor as he watches a scene from a balcony at the theater, noting that Altman grew up in Kansas City, Mo. "The distrust of superlatives is rather strong."

Distrust or no, they're flinging superlatives at the Fitzgerald. "I love this movie!" shouts Madsen, who earned an Oscar nomination this year for "Sideways" and showed up on the set on her day off, to hang out and take pictures. "Wonderful" is how co-star Maya Rudolph, a regular on "Saturday Night Live," describes the footage shown to the cast and crew a week ago. "Terrific" is the word Keillor uses to describe Meryl Streep's singing, and "knocked it out of the park" is what he says Lindsay Lohan did with her big number.

Music, a central element in the radio show, will also be central to the movie. "It's like this all the time," says Madsen, referring to a pianist and guitar player practicing Monday as Altman set up a shot on the Fitzgerald stage. "The first time I walked in this building, Meryl and Lily (Tomlin) were on stage, singing 'My Minnesota Home.'"

She's right. Music is everywhere. Kevin Kline, a cigarette clenched in his teeth and paper towels stuffed around his neck to prevent make-up from staining his starched shirt, improvises harmonies to a hymn that will appear in the film. Occasionally, he sits at the on-stage piano and plays Cole Porter standards. The "Prairie Home" band tinkers with tunes. Jazz pianist Butch Thompson, who performed on early "Prairie Home" broadcasts, clutches a clarinet just offstage. Singer Jearlyn Steele is introduced. Actor John C. Reilly, who plays singing cowboy Lefty walks across the stage, humming one of the silly tunes he and Woody Harrelson (his compadre, Dusty) improvise on the spot.

FITZGERALD TRANSFORMED

Technically, the Fitzgerald is empty — there isn't a show there all month — but it has never seemed more full. A large platform carrying a 15-foot-long camera rig juts out from the right side of the stage, covering several rows of seats. Red, green and brown cables snake across the theater and into the balconies — a crew member follows a red one, chanting, "Where is this one going? Where is this one going?"

The theater has been transformed in other ways. The lobby has gone from beige to green, with a colorful mural of a forest painted on the wall and a ticket counter installed just inside the front door. The basement is crammed with sets. The right side of the stage is jammed with monitors on which Robert Altman and his crew watch the progress of a scene that is being shot with three cameras.

A few feet from the left edge of the stage is Guy Noir's office, decorated with World War II girlie postcards, garish red neon and an antique fan circulating Kline's cigarette smoke. The sound booth is now an office for Tommy Lee Jones, who reports to the set this week to play a greedy businessman planning to scuttle the radio show and demolish the Fitzgerald.

Monday, most of the activity was centered on the stage, where scenes were being shot with Keillor, Kline and show-within-the-show performers, as well as Tim Russell and Rudolph, who play "Prairie Home's" irritable stage manager and assistant stage manager. Standing behind Altman, you can see one of his signature, take-in-all-the-action shots come together. It's an early sequence in the film that combines three scenes — an elderly couple has their picture taken on the "Prairie Home" set, stagehands bustle about, Guy Noir saunters onto the set. It appears chaotic, but the shot itself is fluid and graceful, with the kind of calm elegance that characterizes the radio show.

"Mr. Altman likes to design shots that are very complicated and that require everyone to be tremendously focused," Keillor says.

That includes the extras. When their clapping skills are needed, dozens of them — dressed according to rules that include "no red," "no all-black" and "pretend it's autumn" — are herded back and forth from their "holding area" across the street at the Minnesota Business Academy.

"Girl in the dark, we need to lose you," says Altman, dealing with an extra whose presence is too distracting. The extras chuckle nervously, and Keillor, who interacts often with the extras, cracks, "It's a harsh business."

Indeed, it is. "A Prairie Home Companion" has been coming together since Keillor approached Altman with a script for a movie about Lake Wobegon more than two years ago. Altman was familiar with "Prairie Home" — "His wife listens to the show, so I think he listens accidentally sometimes. It's a minor irritant to him," claims Keillor — but didn't like the Wobegon idea. He wanted to make a fictional, documentary-like film about the show, an idea that Keillor cottoned to.

TALKING MINNESOTAN

The very pregnant Maya Rudolph and her partner, Paul Thomas Anderson, are friends with Altman and his wife, Kathryn, so she knew about the project more than a year ago. Anderson, who wrote and directed "Boogie Nights" and "Magnolia," also is working on "Prairie Home." He has no official title, but he works mostly with Altman and the actors, and his director's chair is labeled "Pinch Hitter."

"The project came and went, people came and went, but I'm still here," Rudolph says, adding that she decided her character is not from here, because "I can't do the accent and I'm not going to bother to try. Besides, Meryl and Lily are doing it, so why bother?"

Streep, Tomlin and Lohan have finished their scenes and left town. But Tommy Lee Jones, L.Q. Jones, Mary Louise Burke, Harrelson, Reilly, Madsen and others remain at work, as does Keillor, who plays a version of himself known as G.K. Two distinctions: unlike Keillor, G.K. does not write the show; and unlike Keillor, G.K. has had an affair with Streep's character.

At one point, Keillor deleted that relationship, but Streep asked him to put it back in. The script continues to change — Keillor wrote a new scene Monday morning and is working on another — and sometimes it changes back. Streep, for instance, almost dropped out of the movie when she had knee surgery. Keillor says he wrote a revision with her character in a wheelchair, being lowered to the Fitzgerald stage on a winch, but he switched it back when a "laughing" Streep called to tell him "she had spent two days on crutches and now she was running up stairs and she would rather play the part on her own two feet."

Another phone call provided Keillor with what he says was the best day of the entire process. As Keillor looks down at the stage, he comments on how moving it is to see actual stage hands from the radio show play stage hands in the film. He recalls how difficult it has been to put the movie together.

"The best day was when I was on the road with the (radio) show," says Keillor. "It was, I think, the third week in June, and I had voice mail from Altman, sounding like a 25-year-old and saying he had finished the first day of shooting with Meryl and Lily, and that Lindsay had moved everyone with her performance as Meryl's teen-aged daughter. That was the high point for me — knowing that it was actually happening."

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Andre Jurieu
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#2 Post by Andre Jurieu » Thu Jul 21, 2005 1:43 pm

TheSuperficial.com has a few on-set pics.

It's so sad that Altman is bound to a wheel-chair. It's also really perverse that while I typed that last comment out, all I kept thinking about was that episode of Seinfeld where the wheel-chair salesman tells George and Kramer that the chair he's trying to sell them is "the Rolls-Royce of wheel-chairs! This is like... you're almost GLAD to be handi-capped!" I'm a sick, sick person.

I also can't believe Maya Rudolph is pregnant with PTA's child. Unless, it's actually Altman's child and PTA's "pinch-hitting" title is for something else! Dun-Dun-Dah!

This is, without a doubt, one of the lamest posts I have ever written (and that's saying a lot).

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#3 Post by Hrossa » Thu Jul 21, 2005 3:29 pm

I like the pic of Altman with his hand on the back of Lindsey's thigh.

I'm excited about this movie but not because I'm such a huge fan of the radio show. I don't really care for it that much. It's nice to hear that PT Anderson is doing something again and that he's working with Altman. I can't really help liking everything that both of them have done, so I guess I'll like it.

Andre, I would comment about how sub-standard your post was, but I find that generally people kick themselves more when everyone ignores their own confessions of idiocy, as if they're embarrassed to even engage with them on the subject. So, yeah, forget I said anything. : )

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#4 Post by foofighters7 » Thu Jul 21, 2005 3:30 pm

Dont be so hard on yourself Andre, youve written MUCH worse! HAHA JK, twas a good post.

This film has my body playing chess with itself (yes another Seinfeld kudos).

My brain is thinking, 'Yes I love P.T. and Altman, Im going to see this movie because of their cinematic genius'.

ON THE OTHER HAND

my penis is thinking ' YES I LOVE Lindsay Lohan, I adore her and cant wait to see her in anything! Im going to see this because of HER!'

End the end it doesnt really matter why I see it, just as long as I do.

Early on I was Super Hyped on this film because Tom Waits was going to be in it, and Lindsay as well.
It sucked bad when Tom quit. That would have been the bees knees.

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#5 Post by Andre Jurieu » Thu Jul 21, 2005 3:53 pm

foofighters7 wrote:Dont be so hard on yourself Andre, youve written MUCH worse!
That's why I qualified it by saying "one of".
foofighters7 wrote:my penis is thinking ' YES I LOVE Lindsay Lohan, I adore her and cant wait to see her in anything! Im going to see this because of HER!'
Yeah, but I'm not such a fan of Lindsay Lohan's skeleton, which seems to have replaced her during casting sessions.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#6 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Thu Jul 21, 2005 4:25 pm

Andre Jurieu wrote:TheSuperficial.com has a few on-set pics.

It's so sad that Altman is bound to a wheel-chair. It's also really perverse that while I typed that last comment out, all I kept thinking about was that episode of Seinfeld where the wheel-chair salesman tells George and Kramer that the chair he's trying to sell them is "the Rolls-Royce of wheel-chairs! This is like... you're almost GLAD to be handi-capped!" I'm a sick, sick person.

I also can't believe Maya Rudolph is pregnant with PTA's child. Unless, it's actually Altman's child and PTA's "pinch-hitting" title is for something else! Dun-Dun-Dah!
Yeah, that is pretty odd. Glad to see PTA finally working with his cinematic idol on a project together. Could be interesting!

And yeah, it is a shame to see Altman wheelchair bound... personally, I'd like think him more in terms of Dr. Strangelove than Seinfeld.... :wink:

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#7 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Thu Jul 21, 2005 7:06 pm

This is somewhat unrelated (somehow I think this will become my catchphrase for this forum), there is a guy on PBS named Patrick Stoner who is on right before Charlie Rose who does a segment on upcoming films. He had Lohan on to promote the new Herbie movie. Anyway, this is how I found out she would be working on this. The point is, see this guy. He makes James Lipton look like Jay Sherman (two points for those who get the reference).

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Jeff
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#8 Post by Jeff » Thu Jul 21, 2005 8:14 pm

If the Academy doesn't finally bestow the Lifetime Achievement Award on Altman this year, they're crazy. It doesn't look like they're going to get another chance.

The PTA situation is interesting. Stephen Frears was committed to back up Altman on Gosford Park should the need arise but, to my knowledge, he wasn't actually on set.

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#9 Post by neuro » Thu Jul 21, 2005 8:15 pm

Does A Prairie Home Companion (or pretty much anything else Keillor is involved with) strike anyone else as quite possibly the most Caucasian thing on Earth?

On a more serious note, and from my personal standpoint, I can't imagine what either filmmaker could bring to this to make it appealing. I completely understand why Altman is perfect for the material, but approximately two hours of pecan pies, bullfrog races and Good Ol' Americana along the shores of Lake Wobegon - no thank you. On the other hand, in an ideal world, this could be a rural companion to Short Cuts, in which case, perhaps there is something to this project.

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#10 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Thu Jul 21, 2005 9:42 pm

I'm hoping it's the latter, then I might feign interest in it. Either way, it won't make any significant amount of box office gold.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#11 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Jul 25, 2005 1:26 pm

An interesting set report from The New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/23/movie ... prai.html?

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#12 Post by foofighters7 » Mon Jul 25, 2005 10:27 pm

Andre, I do agree with you regarding the sex appeal of new Lindsay Vs. Old Lindsay. Unfortunately she has such a hold on me, even the emaciated Lindsay gets me all hot and bothered. Not like Lindsay from Mean Girls, but still its all good.
Plus the blonde hair needs to go after the filming if finished.

Concerning the film, I think this will be a giant launching pad for her, making the more grown up films available for her.

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#13 Post by justeleblanc » Tue Jul 26, 2005 1:45 am

Honestly, I don't see this film as being a launching pad for more gown-up films. Mean Girls launched her into the spotlight.... but the public wont buy her as a grown-up figure until she plays one in real life. Plus, I've never really thought of Altman as a career launcher for anyone.

And by the way, I really miss LL's old body. The thin thing is weird.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#14 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Tue Jul 26, 2005 9:10 am

JusteLeblanc wrote:Plus, I've never really thought of Altman as a career launcher for anyone.
I beg to differ. Even though Elliot Gould did Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice before he met Altman, I think that MASH really launched his career. That film was HUGE when it came out. The same could be said of Donald Sutherland, Tom Skerritt, Bud Cort...

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#15 Post by foofighters7 » Tue Jul 26, 2005 1:22 pm

I believe that LL working with such a great director, along with many great actors will indeed put her into the spotlight for other 'adult' roles. She has a few more kiddie/young people movies coming out, but after that I think she will be landing much more adult roles, I think it was inevitable really, but this was a Giant step for her. This should give her enough cred to push other better directors, to cast her.

Mean Girls got her to where she is now. I think this film should push her past that, and into more dramatic, or simply older roles.

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#16 Post by justeleblanc » Tue Jul 26, 2005 4:14 pm

I think you guys are giving LL more credit than she deserves. Gould, Skerrit, Court, Southerland.... they all have talent. But even they didn't make it that far passed the 1970s.

On another note, I'm hoping LL is topless in the film. It's Altman so it could happen.

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#17 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Tue Aug 02, 2005 7:41 pm

Robert Altman says he is hoping that his film version of public radio's Prairie Home Companion will attract "the kind of audience that went to Mel Gibson's Jesus picture." In an interview with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, the 80-year-old director defined that audience as "people who don't go to the movies, as a rule." He predicted that the movie will "play well in Oshkosh, WI" but will probably not attract the usual teenage dating crowd. "Lindsay Lohan may bring in a few, but they're not going to go back from it with good word-of-mouth." Others in the cast include Meryl Streep ("She's 25 percent above anyone else."), Kevin Kline, Lily Tomlin, Woody Harrelson, Tommy Lee Jones, and PHC creator Garrison Keillor, who also wrote the screenplay.

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#18 Post by Zumpano » Wed Aug 03, 2005 9:15 am

There was a nice little segment about the upcoming film on NPR last week. You can access a slightly longer version on the website (npr.org).

RE: Altman's Health. Altman sounds completely "with it" in the interview, so perhaps his body is just frail looking in those pictures, but his mind sounds still sharp as a tack.

I wish we could be talking about Altman's "H.E.A.L.T.H." instead of his health.

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Matt
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#19 Post by Matt » Sun Aug 07, 2005 4:54 pm

Nice article in today's Minneapolis Star Tribune:
Maverick director Altman gathered an all-star cast for 'Prairie Home' film
Colin Covert
Star Tribune
Published August 7, 2005

"Was anybody killed?" Robert Altman yelled.

Luckily not. While shooting a curtain-raising scene at the Fitzgerald Theater, the red velvet drape that reaches the footlights rose smoothly. But the heavy fire curtain behind it missed its cue, dropping toward the acting company like a guillotine before halting with a bang a dozen feet above the stage.

There was a murmur of nervous laughter, a swift investigation of the malfunction and another call for "Action" from the director.

With the avid concentration of a media-addicted teenager, the white-haired Altman monitored a bank of three video screens simultaneously. One feed came from a 15-foot robot camera crane, its telescopic arm gliding to and fro like a hummingbird, the other two from a pair of wheel-mounted cameras dollying and panning in concert.

The scene he was creating was a visual maze, with gospel queen Jearlyn Steele singing a hymn in the foreground, a gaggle of musicians performing in the middle distance and actress Virginia Madsen drifting along the rear, her blonde Botticelli ringlets and white trench coat radiant in the stage light. Ed Lachman, the film's veteran cinematographer, rendered the picture in a beautiful palette of ruby, taupe and dark teal -- the muted hues of an old hand-tinted photograph.

With laser-like focus on pacing and composition, Altman instructed Madsen to linger here and move quicker there and reminded the cameramen triangulating the scene to "keep floating" with the restless, inquisitive motion that is the director's trademark.

A prolific maverick, Altman's career spans five decades and three dozen feature films, including "M*A*S*H,"Nashville,"Gosford Park" and "The Player," a merciless Hollywood satire that equated movie executives with murderers and summed up his uneasy position in an industry that regards him with reverence and suspicion. Altman has not been good at making fortunes for studios, but he routinely encourages his casts to outstanding performances.

And that, as Garrison Keillor will tell you, is why seemingly half the Screen Actors Guild spent last month in St. Paul working for a pittance on "The Last Broadcast," a movie inspired by Keillor's radio program "A Prairie Home Companion."

The plot concerns the cancellation of a long-running radio variety show by a rapacious media company -- the sort of collision between talent, greed, ambition and politics that "Nashville" presented. Keillor supplied the script and is one of the stars (making his entrance in his underwear), but it is Altman's involvement that brought Madsen, Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Lindsay Lohan, Woody Harrelson and Tommy Lee Jones to the project.

"They're all here because of their admiration for Altman," Keillor said, "based on his pictures, of course, but also on his career as a famous independent. He's been in and out of the system; he's had his hits and other pictures that obviously weren't hits, but the man has kept on going. He's an enormously productive, steady director who has always followed his own path. And this is unusual, and out of regard for him at the age of 80 they were lining up to get into this picture."

Altman's wife was a fan

Keillor had approached Altman about making a film set in his fictional Lake Wobegon, but Altman's wife, Kathryn, was a fan of the radio show's flow of song and story and sound. "You just find yourself getting hooked on it," she said, and her husband recognized a good fit with his fluid filmmaking style.

"He wanted to make a fictional documentary about 'A Prairie Home Companion.' So I accepted that's what it would be," Keillor said.

"He's a very graceful man to work with. Altman's way of working is different from most studios. If you were working with Disney, say, you would sit at a table with 12 other people, and they would offer you a lot of advice. Conflicting advice. And it would be couched in Joseph Campbell mythic terms. 'I see the grail, but what is the quest and where is the hero's wound?' And you get these memos, all of the notes from these people, and they're inevitably contradictory. It needs to move faster here. No, it needs to move slower here.

"But with Altman, he looks at your rough script, and his comments are almost invariably positive but very specific."

On the set Altman is assured, decisive, energetic and at ease directing large ensembles through complex interactions.

"We're older, but his energy level is incredible," said his wife, who has observed every film he has shot. A misstep during an all-night shoot at Mickey's Diner landed him in a wheelchair, but Altman was quickly on his feet again.

For insurance reasons, director Paul Thomas Anderson ("Magnolia") sat at Altman's elbow throughout the filming in case a heath crisis or production delays required someone else to take the reins. As it turned out, Altman zipped through his 25-day filming schedule two days early. Anderson, 35, occupied a director's chair that read PINCH HITTER on the back, running private messages to actors in distant areas of the Fitzgerald set when Altman didn't want to express himself by microphone.

Everyone remarks on the easygoing rapport between Altman and Anderson, 45 years his junior.

"I think the age difference makes it a little easier than it would be for peers," said Reilly, who has acted in three of Anderson's movies. "But beyond the fact that there's a sort of mentor-student relationship, although that's not entirely the whole picture between Bob and Paul, there really is a mutual respect. Bob really does trust Paul's opinion about things much more than a teacher would trust a student's opinion about something.

"I think they recognize in each other a kindred spirit. When you look at Paul's movies, certain things certainly are an homage to Altman -- the way he threads stories together and how much he loves actors, the way he encourages people to go crazy and fill in the blanks in a screenplay."

Altman said the secret to a satisfying career is to make only projects you believe in. He lost money on some projects and had unpleasant clashes on others, he said, but he never made a picture merely to advance his career or stay busy. "What would be the point?" he asked, his eyes agleam with wolfish intelligence. They didn't all succeed, he granted, but he said he tends to favor his "less successful children."

Peanut butter & White Castles

If film schools offered How to Run a Set 101, Altman would write the textbook. The atmosphere in the theater was so convivial that actors didn't want to leave when their workday was over. Madsen, an Oscar nominee this year for "Sideways," reported for duty two weeks early because she wanted to hang around the set.

"When he called, he said, 'Come play with us.' I knew I would have a good time. I'm usually a real tourist when I'm on location, but here I've been on set every day," she said.

On any given day a visitor to the Fitzgerald might see Kline serenading the crew with a medley of pop standards on the house Steinway, Reilly practicing rope tricks with local singing cowboy Pop Wagner and Maya Rudolph of "Saturday Night Live," hugely pregnant, communing with Anderson, the father of her child. Keillor roamed the theater between takes, incessantly rewriting.

Although the modestly budgeted film couldn't offer the performers amenities such as personal trailers, and the catering ran to peanut-butter sandwiches and White Castles, Reilly said all that was missing from the shoot is what you don't want: "Laziness and apathy and cynicism and bloated, overpaid, understimulated people. Everyone's here because they want to be here."

Madsen said, "It feels like we're in a play here. It feels like we're in a homemade show and like we're a company. Even Garrison has really opened up. He was very funny and very nice from the beginning, but he was a little removed. But now he's just hanging out, and he's funny in the makeup chair in the morning."

Reilly observed, "Even though it seems like it ought to happen on every movie, it doesn't happen on every movie. Maybe two out of 10 times you get a sense of a real community and everyone getting along and treating each other fairly. Usually it's much more of a hierarchy kind of a setup. So it really showed a lot of wisdom in Garrison and in Bob that they picked each other, because what Bob creates on a film set Garrison has been creating in this theater for 30 years -- the sense of an extended community and a really inclusive feeling. It's a perfect marriage, these two guys, the way that they work."

Rudolph, who plays the radio program's assistant stage manager, said it was an easy choice to make her screen debut with this film rather than a prefab comedy based on one of her "SNL" characters.

"When Bob Altman calls, you answer," she said. "If you ask any comedian, they'd like to do all kinds of stuff. But the opportunities are limited because people just see us as the characters that we play. Those times are shifting -- definitely Adam Sandler showed more than one side, especially in [Anderson's film] 'Punch-Drunk Love.' So when [Altman] called and said, 'I've got a movie for you; do you want to do it?' I said, 'Are you crazy, of course.'

"I've never been in a nine-minute scene before that was like being in a ballet. We did a scene that included three songs. I ran in, I dropped all my papers, I ran out stage left, came back and Meryl and Lily were singing, then Garrison came out and he sang and Jearlyn came out and she sang! If I talk to another actor about appearing in an Altman film, I'll tell them not to hesitate, run to it."

'A precious time'

No one seemed eager to see the film conclude. Reilly speculated about releasing an album of his Dusty and Lefty cowboy duets with Harrelson, or maybe making an appearance in character on the radio show. Madsen used her new digital camera to document the shoot because "this is such a precious time. It needs to be recorded."

Keillor wants to get Kline to reprise the Guy Noir character in a detective comedy, and to make that Lake Wobegon movie, and he savors the memory of performing scenes with some of this decade's finest actors:

"We were shooting a nighttime scene at Mickey's [Diner]. A guy with a hose was keeping the streets wet and the windows rain-streaked. Kevin Kline was inventing bits of business with the salt and pepper shakers and his tie and I had to sit there and try to keep from laughing.

"That was where we said goodbye to Meryl Streep. That was her last scene, in Mickey's. At 3:30 Sunday morning, the associate director announced, 'Mr. Altman has released Miss Streep,' and we all stood there in the intersection of St. Peter and 7th and gave Meryl Streep a standing ovation. It was a great night. We started about 6 at night, and I headed home about 5:30 in the morning. Decided I would not be going to church after all."

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#20 Post by jorencain » Sun Aug 07, 2005 6:12 pm

I'm really excited about seeing this. I'm surprised, though, that there has been no media coverage of "Paint" (another Altman film in post-production). Does anyone know if there is a release date in sight for that?

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Jeff
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#21 Post by Jeff » Tue Aug 23, 2005 10:46 pm

AP Article:
By JEFF BAENEN, Associated Press Writer
Tue Aug 23, 5:44 PM ET


ST. PAUL - He moves slowly. His posture is slumped. But when it comes to making movies, 80-year-old Robert Altman has a young man's fire.

The director recently completed shooting a movie based on humorist Garrison Keillor's popular radio show "A Prairie Home Companion" — on budget and three days ahead of schedule.

But there's little time to rest. Altman says he already has two more projects lined up — "Hands on a Hardbody," about contestants who win a car by touching it the longest, and a movie version of "Resurrection Blues," one of the late Arthur Miller's last plays.

"I'll be doing this as long as I last and as long as people allow me to do it," says the white-goateed Altman, who appears fresh and clear-eyed after a nap on the last night of major shooting on the "Prairie Home" movie.

Altman has more than 30 movies to his credit and five Academy Award nominations for directing, though he hasn't won an Oscar. With his ensemble casts and use of overlapping dialogue — which gives viewers the feeling of eavesdropping on real conversations — Altman blazed a cinematic trail in the 1970s with "M-A-S-H" and "Nashville."

After stumbling with "Popeye" in 1980, Altman came back with "The Player" (1992), a Hollywood satire; "Short Cuts" (1993), a collection of Raymond Carver short stories; and the murder mystery "Gosford Park" (2001).

Altman got his start in television on "Alfred Hitchcock Presents." He's hard-pressed to remember his influences, but knows what he would avoid:

"I would see a film and I'd think it's so bad, I'm never going to do this. So most of that influence that I've had is by directors whose names I don't know."
___

AP: How do you stay active at 80 years old and all these years in the business?

Altman: Well, what else would I do? Maybe sleep. No, it's what keeps me going. I love it. I have a terrific time at it. There's nothing I would rather do than play in this big sandpile.

AP: What attracted you to the "Prairie Home Companion" movie?

Altman: Well, actually, Garrison and I share a lawyer in New York. And when I was in Chicago shooting a dance film called "The Company" (the lawyer) contacted me and said Garrison was kind of interested in doing a film. And he (Keillor) liked my stuff.

AP: Were you a fan of "A Prairie Home Companion"?

Altman: My wife is a big fan, and I was very aware of Garrison and his stuff and listened to it quite a bit.

AP: How do you attract the stars that you do for a production like this, like Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin?

Altman: Well, I don't know. Lily I've known. She's the only one of these people I've worked with before. But I think it's reputation. I've done a lot of films. But I think Meryl came into this and wanted to do this because she got to sing. And I think all of them are the same way. They got an opportunity to do the kind of things that normally they don't do, they don't get invited to do.

AP: How did Lindsay Lohan get involved?

Altman: A lot of these actors are from the same agency of hers, and they called and said, "We'd love to put Lindsay in this thing. Is there a place for her?" And we made a place for her. Because she attracts an audience. We know that we're going to get all the "Prairie Home Companion" (fans).

AP: You'll catch a teenage crowd because Lindsay's in it.

Altman: Yeah, I mean there's that, and there's Meryl. And then also we'll attract the press. So it will be written about. Now whether it will be written about kindly will depend on what it is, what it looks like. And so far all the parts I'm very happy with. I haven't seen them together. I don't know what it's going to add up to. But my instinct and my experience tells me we've got a little diamond here.

AP: You've had movies that have been great popular and critical successes. But I like some of the almost cult films, like "O.C. and Stiggs."

Altman: Well, I've never had a big hit movie. "M-A-S-H" was probably the biggest. I don't make those kind of films, and I never have. I wish each one of them would just do billions of dollars worth of ticket sales, but they never do and they never will.

AP: Is it audience's taste?

Altman: I think it is audience ... The audience is teenage boys, 14-year-old boys. And I have never made a movie that's attracted a 14-year-old boy. The one I kind of went after, that was about them, was "O.C. and Stiggs," and that was a big flop.

AP: Does it seem like the directors who were critical favorites of the '70s, who forged new cinema, like yourself and Peter Bogdanovich and Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, are the old guard now? You have Paul Thomas Anderson here on the set.

Altman: Well, his pictures are better than mine, and his pedigree is really better. But he's just doing me a big favor. I'm not insurable, because of my age. So I had to have a standby director, and I was shocked when Paul said that he would do that. I didn't even ask him. And he's a good friend of mine, and he's always been very generous to me. He says all his movies were just ripping me off. But he's just been great about it. Because otherwise, they had to have somebody that would take over in case I croaked.

AP: Would you ever hope for a directing Oscar or a lifetime achievement Oscar, or does it matter to you?

Altman: Oh, that (lifetime achievement) wouldn't interest me too much. That's just for longevity if that kind of thing happens. When you get into your 80s, that's when you're up for those awards. And they're all nice, and there's nothing wrong with them. ... But the Oscar for the films, it'd be nice. But I don't make those kind of films, and I don't think that will ever happen. And as Clark Gable said, "Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn."

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The Fanciful Norwegian
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#22 Post by The Fanciful Norwegian » Tue Aug 30, 2005 7:12 pm

Time has a little article on the film. Lindsay Lohan also contributes some insight of her own (apparently the shoot was "scary but really cool"!).

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#23 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Oct 17, 2005 1:01 pm

An excerpt of an interview with Altman in Stop Smiling Magazine:

http://www.stopsmilingonline.com/archiv ... ml?id1=424

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essrog
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#24 Post by essrog » Tue Nov 01, 2005 6:20 pm

News on a distribution deal and title change:

http://www.startribune.com/stories/1526/5700662.html

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#25 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Thu Dec 15, 2005 5:17 pm

From The Hollywood Reporter:
Dec. 14, 2005

Altman's 'Companion' in latest pic: high-def

By Sheigh Crabtree
An array of digital production tools enabled director Robert Altman to take a roving look at "A Prairie Home Companion."

Based on the last broadcast of Garrison Keillor's celebrated radio series, "Companion," to be released in June by Picturehouse, marks the first time Altman shot a movie in high-definition video.

Altman wanted to be able to record for at least 30 minutes consecutively without reloading as some scenes in the film are as long as 23 minutes. The HD cameras also came in handy because some of the interior settings had low lighting levels.

Cinematographer Ed Lachman ("Far From Heaven") headed up the camera department, which used the first-generation Sony HDCAM F-900s with the latest Fujinon HD zoom lenses.

"The Fujinon lenses respond in a more filmic way," Lachman says. "There's a feeling of depth and warmth. They cover more of the frame than an ENG lens. The resolution and contrast is corrected up to the edges of the frame. There was more of a feeling of shape and depth to the image than with the other HD lenses we tested."

Ryan Sheridan, the production's HD engineer, says the crew employed lots of long, fluid shots.

"It was the perfect mix of live-performance camerawork and dramatic theatrical cinematography," Sheridan says. "(We were) able to capture everything from extreme close-ups to extreme wide shots with two lenses, and sometimes with just one."

A trimmed-down Evertz Fiber Optic single cabling system also helped to make the production more efficient and compact by consolidating numerous HD cables into a single fiber connection.

"We could run a camera outside and down the street, keeping it centrally controlled the entire time," says camera operator Robert Reed Altman, the director's son.

The cameras were fed back to two 20-inch HD monitors displaying both A and B cameras, and three Sony SRW-1 VTRs housed the footage.

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