movie poster
(click for larger pic)

teaser movie poster


Stills from Trailer

Rehersal for the big dance scene! Eddie's in the background (far right) looking at a playback maybe?


Nick Murder - James Gandolfini
Kitty - Susan Sarandon
Tula - Kate Winslet
Angelo - Steve Buscemi
Cousin Bo - Christopher Walken
Fryburg - Bobby Cannavale
Baby - Mandy Moore
Constance - Mary-Louise Parker
Rosebud - Aida Turturro
Gracie - Barbara Sukowa
Nick's Mother - Elaine Stritch
Gene Vincent - Eddie Izzard
Frances - Amy Sedaris


US RELEASE DATE: Who the hell knows (Sony has been sitting on this film and has released multiple dates but none of them have been in widerelease or on DVD)
UK: 17 March 2006
Italy: 23 September 2005
Netherlands: 6 October 2005
Spain: 7 October 2005
Mexico: 21 October 2005
Argentina: 1 December 2005









Back Stage and the Fine Arts Theatre invite you to a free screening of 'Romance & Cigarettes' on Wednesday, Dec. 12. A Q&A with writer-director-producer-actor John Turturro (Illuminata, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Transformers) will follow the screening. The event will be held Sunday, Dec. 12, 3 p.m., at the Fine Arts Theatre, 8556 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills.



Actor and director John Turturro is the latest addition to this year’s Virginia Film Festival lineup. Known for his memorable on-screen turns in films like O Brother Where Art Thou, The Big Lebowski, Quiz Show, and Do the Right Thing, Turturro will be on hand to screen his third work from behind the camera, as the writer and director of Romance and Cigarettes. The event is scheduled for 6:30pm on Saturday, November 3 at the Paramount Theater, and will feature an on-stage interview with New York Magazine film critic David Edelstein.


John Turturro has decided to self-distribute his musical Romance & Cigarettes. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the $11 million project has had a very tortured history. One of the people involved in the production stated, "A lot of the time over the last few years was to figure out just who to talk to and navigate the internal workings of a corporate merger." Turturro plans on opening the film in his hometown of New York City


Romance and Cigarettes will be screened at the 12th Annual Avignon/New York Film Festival at Hunter College in New York City November 15-19th, 2006 as a 2006 Official Selection and as part of the festival's special program, "Another Look at John Turturro," who directed the film. An exact date and time for the screening during the festival has not been announced. Check THIS LINK for more information and for screening times, when they are announced.

Excerpt from Burning Desire

"....But if Mac is his father's film, Romance and Cigarettes is his mother's. She helped him find the songs and appears in the film, in a church choir led by Eddie Izzard..." ENTIRE ARTICLE

An Interview with John Turturro

Words by Matt Bochenski | from Little White | March 2006

John Turturro: How are you?

Little White Lies: Good, thank you. It's a gloriously freezing winter day today in England.

JT: It's cold here too.

LWL: Where abouts - I'm not even sure where I'm calling. Are you on the East Coast at the moment?

JT: Yeah I just came back from Naples. I was in Naples. I had done a play last year in New York and we were invited to do it in Naples. And so we went there to do a performance and it was a lot of fun.

LWL: Had you been to Naples before?

JT: No. I've been to Italy - all over - but I'd never been to Naples before and it was a fantastic experience. Naples is a great place to go, because it's like the real thing. I've been to a lot of places in Italy but this really got under my skin.

LWL: Really?

JT: Oh yeah - in a great way. In a great way. It was great 'cos - we were performing mostly in English, and we added a lot of Neapolitan, you know, as much as we could handle. And it was a great thing. It's wonderful when you do stuff, you know, when it's like a cultural exchange.

LWL: Sure. Presumably it must be something of a culture shock? Like you say, you've travelled round Italy a lot but it must be a refreshing change, certainly from the pace of East Coast life.

JT: Absolutely. It's very interesting because there are certain things you... It's interesting because if you're like an Italian American... because sometimes I work with English crews and Italian crews at the same time, and it's interesting because you realise just how much you're influenced by your background, and how much you're influenced by the English approach. So it's kind of a schizophrenic experience sometimes.

LWL: How much do you think that kind of schizophrenia manifests itself in your work? Do you think of yourself... When you watch your work, certainly when you watch something as random as Romance & Cigarettes, which we'll get on to talking about, do you see an American influence in that? Do you see yourself as an American filmmaker or having more European influences?

JT: I'll tell you one thing - it's odd because I grew up on American films and it wasn't really... and maybe a certain amount of English films that I saw, you know the films that came over, like Fellini, Hitchcock, whatever, but it wasn't until I was in college that I was exposed to European cinema. And, what I saw there, I was kind of shocked, you know - not that I was able to comprehend everything. But it had a huge influence on me and when I made my first film I remember, you know, I didn't even know how I wanted to make it - direct it - I had this story I wanted to tell and when I saw the first rough cut I was kind of shocked 'cos I said, 'This looks like a European movie'. But that's the way I think. So I'm kind of like mid-Atlantic. I'm in the middle of the ocean in a dinghy.

LWL: Some tiny island, population: you.

JT: Yeah! So that's kind of, you know, the experience of people from, you know, various backgrounds. I grew up - the block that I grew up on - my next-door neighbour was from England and we had Cuba, and Germans and a lot of black families. That was the neighbourhood that I grew up in - you know polyglot of all different people, you know. But you realise that's making you gravitate towards something that you feel closer to and there are a lot of times when I've worked in Europe that I feel very comfortable. This film for example, you could say, you know, this kind of like if you want to call it a 'rock opera'...

LWL: I want to call it batshit crazy.

JT: That's good man. I always think, as long as something keeps you awake.

LWL: Hell yeah.

JT: Right? That's like the first job of a director. To keep you awake.

LWL: Well a good place to start is - one of the things I wanted to ask you about is, I think I read that you shot the film certainly very very close to where you yourself grew up.

JT: Yeah I didn't do that on purpose. It just so happened that I was looking for these real houses. Well, the second neighbourhood that we moved to was where we moved near the airport, and we had these little houses there and I had this idea of all these big personalities trapped in this little house, and then we wound up... we couldn't build it; we couldn't afford to build. So we scouted houses and we ended up finding one in the neighbourhood that I grew up in. Sometimes I'd go home and have lunch with my ma. That was bizarre. She was like, 'What are you doing? What are you doing here?' I was like, "I don't know what I'm doing. But I'm back here...'

LWL: But how much did you feel like it was a homecoming? Given the success you've had and the experience you've had compared to a lot of the people who are still there, how much did you feel like a stranger coming back?

JT: It's strange because some of the characters there are the same but the neighbourhood has changed. It's mostly... that neighbourhood now is mostly immigrant, like Indian, West Indian and a lot more black than it was, and the kids don't play any more on the streets. Years ago kids played on the street. I didn't know that many people. I mean, the guy whose house we rented is from Jamaica, you know, and he was a welder. But people are people and it was kind of, you know, it was kind of weird, but I was under so much pressure to do the film that I couldn't be that nostalgic. I placed it in that place because I thought well, you know, you live under an airport but you can't go anywhere. You're in this little house and there's all this...

You know, I grew up in a house where it was filled with music. You know, my mother was listening to either classical music, Frank Sinatra, Billy Holiday, my brother would listen to more hard rock, you know, Hendrix, Cream, and me I'd be like, you know, I like a lot of soul music. I mean, everyone had their own music. So, music was a way of transportation. So, sometimes it feels like one little thing is, well, that'll give you a big enough obstacle, and if you know something, you feel, well, at least I know that. And I can maybe possibly illuminate something a little bit that is kind of universal. Because a lot of people live in those kinds of places all over the world. You know what I mean? That's not so unnatural. That's a very... whether it's, you know, Mike Leigh works in those neighbourhoods, in Italy or wherever you know. We all know that.

LWL: One of the things I'm interested in though is this idea of illuminating, as you say, a universal truth. And sure, this is what a lot of movies by Mike Leigh and Spike Lee are aiming at. Do you think, even though there have been cosmetic changes to this neighbourhood where you grew up, fundamentally, do you still think you can tap into the identity of the place? You can tap into the lives that these people lead now, given that you yourself come back as a very successful, very well known actor?

JT: Yeah. I mean, listen. Being successful is great, but I mean, the more successful you are, I mean, the harder it is to have a foot in real life.

LWL: Yeah.

JT: You know, if you're Tom Hanks you're not gonna ride the subway. And maybe he would like to, but he can't you know or whatever. I know Paul Newman - he can't. And I think, you know...

LWL: Is that the stage you're at as well?

JT: No, I can do a lot of stuff, you know, I can do a lot of things. Depending on if there's a film out that a lot of people see me in. Also because I change my appearance and I'm more of a - you know I come from more of a theatrical background. So, I've always looked on it as a craft and something you can aspire to, to be an artist. And I want to be that but that's for other people to say. It's not for me to say, you know, I'm an artist. But I think I still have, you know, I'm in touch with some of that. And I certainly, you know, there hasn't been a huge working-class milieu except for a couple of directors who've used that. Visually when you see it, it's always like, you know, gangsters or something or other, and it's a world that most people live in. Most people, you know, are struggling and there are lots of interesting stories. But I mean it's interesting - most movies are about, like, big movies are always about a disaster. They're never about the building of, you know, the Brooklyn Bridge or London Bridge. It's always the same genre so some people don't think that way, and I think there's lots of stories that you could tell.

LWL: I read this great phrase describing the sensibility of some movies set in this milieu and it was 'middleclass moral condescension'. And I think what Romance & Cigarettes did, particularly by, almost having the balls to poke fun at these people - at the working-class - is that you steer clear of passing those kind of middlebrow, middleclass judgments on who they are.

JT: That's right, that's right because these people are not devoid, and I know this because I come from that world, of an imagination or a sexuality or whatever. It's like Charles Bukowski, you know, he wrote a very funny poem about rich people drink wine, but poor people's wine is cheaper. At the end of the day, you know, they're still people, you know what I mean? They still have these wants and dreams, and they may not be as articulated as others. But, you know, sometimes people are even more in touch. I had all these firemen come in in the movie who are real firemen, and I was telling them the story of the movie a little bit, you know, this guy has a girlfriend and blah blah blah and they were all like, 'Yeah, yeah, we get it, we understand'. 'Cos, like, they all have girlfriends. They understand. They live on the edge.

LWL: Sure. One of the things I want to pick you up on a little bit is actually the women in the film. I've seen the movie three times now, and it was only on the second viewing, 'cos the first viewing is kind of like two hours of open-mouthed, you know, trying to kind of get my head around what I was watching here and what was going on, but the more I think about the women in this film - Tula, in particular - on the surface she's this incredibly liberated sexually aggressive character, she's almost like a male fantasy. But then one of the things that struck me about her is that she's made to suffer in this film a lot. The women are the characters who suffer. Kitty, although she stands firm against her husband at first, eventually she relents and takes him back, especially after he's had that fight in the street, which is a very primal, male macho thing. Tula is the one left in tears when they split up, the one left to offer him a blowjob to make him stay. Even Elaine Stritch, who's this incredibly ballsy character tells a story that's basically about sexual harassment. I'm interested in your take on gender politics because you strike me, or the film strikes me, as being quite cynical. What do you make of that?

JT: Well, I'm not, I think cynical, you know, wouldn't be the right word. I... first of all I like working with women and I've always had a really close relationship with my ma and some of her girlfriends, and I have a lot of women friends. The woman who designed the film was my roommate at Yale and I've worked closely with her. So I just wanted to be honest about it because a lot of women in those situations don't have the opportunities to, you know, do what they wanted to have done because of life, because they didn't have the education, and, you know, there's a certain generation of women who didn't get that opportunity. And even today if you don't have money and an education you don't get... So I always thought - as in my previous film -the women, they were the powerful characters in it, and they're the ones who are more mature. In some ways who are more honest about it, and the men are more like actors. You know, they live in this kind of fantasy world. James' character maybe a little bit less so because he's not a serial adulterer, he's a guy who just happened to get involved with this girl, but what that girl wants underneath, you know, even if you're a prostitute a lot of times what you really want is what everyone else has. Which is some kind of security and someone to care about you and to love you.

LWL: Which is the song that she sings. Again, the first time I heard it it had this kind of hands-in-the-air exhilaration about it, she sounds so powerful when she sings it and Kate Winslet looks so in control. And then you stop and you listen to the lyrics and she's saying, 'Please God tell me that you love me and you're going to stay with me and you think I'm perfect and that you're not going to let me down'. And then you realise that she is just not what she seems to be at all.

JT: No, and one of the reasons I wanted Kate for the role is that I knew that she could take that character and turn it upside down. And she also, you know, worked with me when I was revising the script and I wrote stuff with some of her suggestions and things, within the structure that I had. And I just, I had the feeling of something that she did in that Holy Smoke film which is an odd film, but I thought this girl could actually... there's not too many people who have skill and who are like really uninhibited. There are some people who could really act the part, but I didn't really want that I wanted someone who could actually, you know, reveal it. In a way she's like part of the tribe of women. But women, you know, have a tough life in the world, and I have a lot of affection for them. I don't know how that, you know... But I wanted to be, also, you know, honest about it. And I... those kind of relationships whether its, you know, me try to be something or watching a Cassavettes film or Charles Bukowski or whatever, it interests me because they're really political, in his head. The dynamics that go on. And especially the dynamics that go on with people who can't, say, afford divorce, or who can't get out, or - you know. And sometimes they even have, you know, a raw... I'm not saying deeper, but it can manifest itself in all different ways. Sometimes through violence or whatever. And I wasn't interested in that, but I was interested in the, you know, the dynamic of these guys. Like, Steve's character, for example, 'cos he's like this... when I had another actor do it, it wasn't good because you thought, you know, this guy was maybe doing all these things, when he's doing it you know you realise maybe he's fantasising it...

LWL: There's an adolescent quality to it...

JT: Yeah, all these things - he's a sexual expert. And there's something about that, you know, that kind of, I think you're kind of fantasising to yourself about who you are. You're thinking this is who I'd like to be, you know, but I'm not. I dunno. If I could explain everything I probably wouldn't have written it. But I think the women at least, you know, they're strong characters. And they're not like this suffering girlfriend, you know, this one dimensional... You know, and I like the original plays, you know, the Greek plays, I like that stuff.

LWL: This is one of the other things I wanted to talk to you about, because you do talk about the Greek plays and the influence of Greek tragedy, and as Aristotle writes it was meant to be about music and drama and all these things. And I guess one of the things that occurred to me was that you talk about catharsis as being the end result of the Greek play, but I think one reading of what Greek plays are all about is they're not so much about changing your ideas of the world around you, they're about reinforcing your place in the world. Above the Oracle of Apollo in Delphi there's a famous sign that says 'Know Thyself'. And what know thyself essentially means is know your place in the world. And I thought maybe that tied into what I saw as this sort of conservative view about women that you're kind of saying, 'Know your place in the world and, tough shit, but that's not a very good place to be in'.

JT: Well, I mean, I don't know if I'm saying that exactly! I feel like there's probably some of those people who will, you know, maybe their abilities will get them out of that situation, or maybe one of them will get out of there. But in the end, you know, the woman is alive and the man is dead. And, you know, in the neighbourhood that I grew up in all the people who survived were all women. The men are all dead. It doesn't matter what background they are. And you realise why: these people are really strong. They've been divorced, their husband was shot, guy died of a heart attack, another guy died of cancer, this and that, and yet the women are still, like, strong. And I actually think that the women overall, you know, are the stronger sex. Even though my rock in the film, you know, everybody in the film is looking for love, you know, to me, I remember reading a thing about John Cassavettes that said he had a one track mind, that that's all he was interested in, that's a political act what goes on between a man and a woman. To be honest about it, and to be raw about it I think will strip away a lot of this bullshit veneer. Which says, you know, let me do this to you before you leave me. I mean, you know, there's something true about that. You may not hear people say that all the time, but it's better than lying. And that whole Nick Cave song when I heard it I was like, 'Wow' it's kind of like the soul of the character - the better part of the character. And music to me is, if you're not overtly religious, music is sort of a form of prayer. You know, it is a form of prayer. I think, you know, I'd rather listen to music in a church than actually listen to the sermon. Because at least, you know, it's so... I also, you know, whatever impulses you have I could say a million things but what your response to the film is is just as valid as my impulses to make the film.

LWL: It's like we were saying at the very beginning, as somebody who kind of loves movies, I only really ask one thing of them, which is that they make me feel... anything. Any kind of genuine emotion. Watching Romance & Cigarettes there are so many, and the Nick Cave song is a good example of something that's just devastating, and yet to me, and I kind of want to get away from this now, it played very ambiguously given my view of her character. But this is what I liked about the film; you're never too sure of you're ground. You're never too sure of what you're really seeing here.

JT: Right, and that's how you feel in life a lot of the time too. You hear this thing, and you hear this other thing, you know, and in a way he has to kind of like, kill her - he has to kill her emotionally and I was trying to do that in a way that wouldn't be so... You know, when films sometimes, I'm not saying this across the board, but sometimes what films lack is a sense of metaphor, and a sense of, you know... You see everything in a film, and that's not always good. I mean you can go as far back as far as Alfred Hitchcock, you know, and further back and you wont see everything, you'll imagine it. So why not use that imagination of people - and people have done this before, I'm not, you know, the first person to do it - I just wanted to do it from, you know, my own impulses. And that's what I tried to stay close to without analysing it too much. It's a love story, you know, but it's its own kind of love story.

LWL: I want to talk more specifically about the music - not just the choice of music but the thing that really struck me was the way in which you filmed the musical set pieces: the camera work and the stylistic nature of it. I wonder if you're a fan of the classical musicals, of Busby Berkeley and Bernstein, and if you were deliberately trying to bring a warm pastiche of their style to the screen?

JT: Well, you know, I mean first of all I'm a big fan of Fred Astaire, and I like, I mean I love dancing. And I always liked that. Certain kinds of musicals I like, certain kinds I don't like. I think as a form, you know, obviously something like Potter, with tap or something more modern, I think he was right in a way. But when you try to do these stage plays, people don't accept it in the same way. So my idea was kind of like what happens when people are in the shower, or in a car which is that they use it as a way of escape or articulation or memory or fantasy. But when I did the numbers I realised that if they were too good or they were too choreographed it kind of lost its rawness. I didn't want it to cheat. So I had some dancers and some regular people and they'd be doing things that would be choreographed and I'd say,   'Well, let's change that'. You know, let's just throw it out and try something more like you would do in your bedroom. And it was trial and error. And some of the actors were terrified even to just sing along 'cos they didn't know if I was going to use that or not, but I liked the idea of them singing along to their own private soundtrack, instead of just lip-synching.

LWL: Was there a conscious choice between the times when they were singing along versus the times when they were lip-synching or was it more random?

JT: No, no it was what worked better for who. There were certain people like Chris Walken - he's obsessed with lip-synching. He wouldn't sing out loud. He was terrific. He lip-synchs. That's what he does. And I'd be like 'Chris, could you just sing, you know?' And he'd be like, 'Why should I? It's on tape'. It was fine but he would lip-synch. He walks to the beat of his own drum, and it's a great drum that he beats on. While James was like... he actually has a nice voice, James, he has a sweet voice. But James was very very nervous when we did the first number where he sings when he comes out on the porch. He kept missing the... it was like on the fourth beat that he would have to come in on and he kept missing it. Until he actually kicked the door in and the whole door just nearly crumbled.

LWL: There's a fantastic moment in that scene - and maybe it's just in my imagination - but as he comes out and as he starts to break into that song, he pauses just for a second and he kind of nods to himself as if he's accepting just the complete fucking weirdness of what he's doing, and then bang he's off. For me, that kind of sums up the spirit of the film, that not even the characters of the movie knew what they were doing there, but they knew they were going to do it 100 per cent.

JT: That's right, and exactly what you're hitting on is what really interests me. It's like, people, you know, when you're an actor you have to know your objectives, you have to know what you're trying to do. But in real life, you know, you kind of haphazardly, you know, unless you're trying to close a business deal or something like that, stumble onto that, and people don't know what they're doing a lot of the time. So just to have a structure where you don't know what the scene is about, and you get into that territory, that's when you see exciting stuff happen. That's what really excites me, whether it's Mike Leigh or John Cassavettes or Jean Renoir or somebody, when you can say, you know, 'What the heck's going on over there?' And music has that kind of effect on you. Because you can't really say what it's doing to you, but it's doing it and it does it fast.

LWL: I wanted to switch gears again slightly. In the last few decades we've had the emergence of the movie brats and the MTV generation, it seems like what we're seeing at the moment - in yourself, George Clooney, Tommy Lee Jones and Liev Schreiber - is a certain kind of actor becoming an influential new breed of director. Why do you think that is? And how far do you feel a part of a new wave of filmmakers?

JT: Well, you know, a lot of actor-directors have been fortunate enough to work with, you know, some wonderful directors, at least, a handful of wonderful directors in their career. So it's a natural progression to say, 'I have a story that I want to tell, I think I'm going to take a shot at it'. You've only got so long that you're going to be able to stand around not doing anything, you know what I mean? If it's interesting to the viewer then great. If you have the energy, and you're not satisfied just, you know, doing this job for the pay cheque, then just do it.

LWL: What is that you love about movies?

JT: What I like, you know, what I still like about movies is if a movie introduces me to a world that I didn't know about. That, kind of, takes me to a place I wasn't aware of before. All I want from a movie is that it leaves me with a sense of delight, and that could be a mood, or a laugh, or it could be about, you know, just how beautiful something is. I love that people reveal themselves in this new environment, and then that they share that with me. And I think, not only can that be a beautiful thing, it can be civilising as well.

Orphans of the studio mergers
Movies in development or even ready for distribution can find themselves out of the picture when new management arrives.

By John Horn, Times Staff Writer

Hollywood's spate of big-ticket mergers might be keeping the town's lawyers and accountants happy, but the deals are proving especially painful for a number of filmmakers.

In the wake of two massive show business deals — Sony's $4.9-billion pact with MGM and Disney's $7.4-billion purchase of Pixar Animation Studios — the production and development on three movies have been terminated, while two finished films have been shelved with no immediate plans for release.

Among the films stuck in limbo is "Romance & Cigarettes," an ambitious $11-million musical written and directed by actor John Turturro. The movie, starring Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini and Susan Sarandon, was considered good enough to play at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Venice Film Festival, but it's collecting dust at Sony Pictures, which inherited the movie as part of April's Sony-MGM transaction.

"Whenever and wherever we've shown the film, audiences have responded," Turturro says. "So I hope we're going to have a happy ending to the whole situation."

Turturro's predicament isincreasingly common within Hollywood's ever-shifting corporate sands. A filmmaker may start making a movie at a studio under one regime, only to see new management clear the decks of almost every existing project, and then watch as the entire studio is sold to a new owner.

"One of the great, great tragedies of a situation like this is [films get abandoned] all too often," says Bingham Ray, who was running United Artists when it made "Romance & Cigarettes" and "The Woods," another movie caught in the MGM-Sony merger.

Like Turturro's musical, the $8-million thriller "The Woods" was a completed United Artists movie when owner MGM was merged into Sony. United Artists had planned to release both "The Woods" and "Romance & Cigarettes" last summer, but the distribution plans were scrapped when the deal closed.

"There isn't a day that goes by when we don't think about our movie and try to figure out a way to generate some momentum for it," says Sean Furst, who produced "The Woods."

"One studio had a very strong idea about how to release ['Romance & Cigarettes'] and had a plan built for that," John Penotti, who produced the film with Turturro, says of United Artists. "And we're not sure the new studio has the same agenda."

Sony says it considered releasing all of the movies that came through the door from MGM. Some former MGM-UA titles — such as the Oscar-nominated "Capote" and the upcoming Terry Zwigoff movie "Art School Confidential" — promptly found new homes at the studio's specialized film unit, Sony Pictures Classics.

Other MGM or UA movies, including last Friday's "The Pink Panther" and the next James Bond movie, "Casino Royale," landed at Sony's mainstream Columbia Pictures.

In the case of "Romance& Cigarettes," Sony says thatit gave Turturro additional money to rework the film but that the new version still held limited commercial appeal. The studio reached a similar conclusion about "The Woods." Sony says it has helped organize screenings of the films for other buyers and has encouraged their makers to pursue different distributors, but there have been no takers.

In addition to the UnitedArtists movies caught in the Sony-MGM deal, three Disney computer-animated movie projects became collateral damage as part of Disney's Pixar purchase.

While the three — Disney-made sequels to Pixar's "Toy Story," "Finding Nemo" and "Monsters, Inc." — might still become movies, Disney says the sequels will be produced by Pixar. What is less clear is whether any of the early production or scripts for the films, particularly after a year of creative labor on "Toy Story 3," will be folded into a future Pixar production or pitched on the scrap heap.

Last year, when it looked as if Disney and animation giant Pixar were going to part ways, then-Disney Chairman Michael Eisner authorized his studio to start work on the sequels. Eisner had feuded with Pixar Chief Executive Steve Jobs over extending Pixar's production and distribution deal, with Disney claiming it alone had the rights to make Pixar sequels.

Operating largely in secret under the code name Circle 7, Disney hired some 150 computer animators to start work on the sequels, and "Toy Story 3" had both a script by "Meet the Parents" co-screenwriter Jim Herzfeld and a director in Bradley Raymond, who made Disney's direct-to-video "Lion King 1 1/2." A 2008 release date for "Toy Story 3" was penciled in.

Disney's "Toy Story 3" filmmakers were far enough along that they completed a test where Woody (the character voiced by Tom Hanks in the first two movies) was made to look like the Pixar creation.

But when Disney announced its Pixar acquisition in late January, Jobs and new Disney head Robert Iger made it clear that when the deal closes, Buzz and Woody would be moving from Burbank's Circle 7 to Pixar's campus in Emeryville.

Steve Hulett, a business representative for the Animation Guild, a union for television and movie animators, says he is hopeful that the Circle 7 animators — a number of whom are foreigners working under visas — will soon find new jobs.

Disney "will try to find them something else to do," Hulett said of the animators, especially the foreigners. "Because it costs a lot of money to get them over here, and it costs a lot of money to send them home."

Herzfeld hopes his "Toy Story 3" baby won't be thrown out in the merger's bathwater. The screenwriter says that although Circle 7 may have been a mere gambit in Eisner's negotiations with Jobs, its filmmakers and animators nevertheless approached the Pixar characters with reverence.

"A lot of people, including me, started working on the film because they loved 'Toy Story' and 'Toy Story 2,' " Herzfeld says. "The hope is that [Pixar creative chief] John Lasseter, when things have calmed down, at least says, 'Maybe they've got something.' "

Pixar and Disney declined to comment other than to say they will look at Circle 7's ideas and try to find work for some of its animators.

Some films have come out of the process in very good shape. The makers of "Capote," for example, had just finished filming their movie and were squirreled away in the editing room when the MGM-Sony deal went through, suddenly — but temporarily — leaving their movie without a home.

"It was obviously a stressful time," says "Capote" producer Caroline Baron. "But [Sony Pictures Classics] understood it the moment they saw it."

A musical by Barton Fink
August 21, 2005 | LA Times | thanks Spoot!
John Turturro worked on 'Romance & Cigarettes' before, after and during that eccentric film. And it shows.

By John Clark, Special to The Times
Susan Sarandon is belting out "Piece of My Heart," really throwing herself into it, as if she were in a karaoke bar or driving across country. As the cameras look on, her fists are clenched, her face turns red, her eyes bug out.

Accompanying her on an organ in a church in Brooklyn, N.Y., is British actor-comic-transvestite Eddie Izzard, his hair in a '70s shag. His manner is both agreeable and grave, like a choirmaster, which is precisely the role he's playing.

"You know you've got it if it makes you feel good." Oh yes, indeed.

Welcome to the world of "Romance & Cigarettes," in which characters express their thoughts through the words and music of popular song, ŕ la Dennis Potter's "Pennies From Heaven."

It's a measure of how pioneering this movie is - and weird and mysterious, even to its creators - that it inspires comparisons that are alike and utterly different.

"It's kind of like Pedro Almodóvar decided to do 'The Honeymooners,' " Sarandon says.

"It's sort of Charles Bukowski meets 'The Honeymooners,' " says the film's writer-director, John Turturro. "It's a pretty, it's a pretty - I don't know what it is. All I know is that everyone who's read it really likes it, so that was something. But I didn't think too much about it except that I thought it would be great to do something that was really entertaining but at the end is not just a conceit, not just a style, but has a certain content, has an underbelly. It's heightened, but it comes out of real feelings."

"Romance" is about a middle-aged blue-collar worker, Nick Murder (James Gandolfini), who has, according to one of the producers, a "hot, dirty, sexual relationship with a tart," Tula (Kate Winslet). Nick's wife, Kitty (Sarandon), discovers this, kicks him out of the house and decides to track down Tula with the aid of her wimpy cousin Bo (Christopher Walken). Also on hand are their two daughters, Baby and Constance (Mandy Moore and Mary-Louise Parker), niece Rosebud (Aida Turturro) and pal Angelo (Steve Buscemi, who couldn't find the time to do the part until he was threatened with kidnapping by a pair of "Romance" gaffers who were also working with him on "Sopranos" reshoots).

The film's development was almost as outlandish as its characters' names or its very premise. Its release has been strange too. For months it appeared to be in limbo, a victim perhaps of its unconventionality or of Sony's purchase of its original distributor, United Artists. It will finally be shown at the upcoming Venice and Toronto film festivals, although a release date hasn't been set.

All of this seems in keeping with Turturro's eccentric persona. On the set, he's animated, almost manic, though without the paranoia that often accompanies those qualities in the people he plays as an actor. At one point he says to no one in particular, "My mother asked me how many cups of coffee I had. I said, 'Not that many.' "

A native of Brooklyn and a graduate of Yale Drama School, Turturro has specialized in fringe characters - memorably the groveler in "Miller's Crossing," the game-show cheater in "Quiz Show," a nitwit con in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" He's a member of Joel and Ethan Coen's unofficial repertory company and seems to share their oddball worldview. He's also directed two indie films, "Mac" (1992) and "Illuminata" (1998).

Turturro says he started kicking around ideas for "Romance" in the '80s but only began putting them down on paper while shooting the Coens' 1991 release "Barton Fink." Turturro was literally working on this screenplay on camera as his character Fink, a blocked highbrow playwright, supposedly typed away at a Wallace Beery wrestling script. ("Maybe Barton Fink should take the credit," Turturro says.) Over the years he accumulated more material before taking a year off, in 1999, to knit the whole thing together.

One outgrowth of his efforts was a sketchbook - a bible for the "Romance & Cigarettes" crew - that he filled with drawings that are surreal, lurid and more than occasionally carnal.

The musical numbers that he incorporated were an outgrowth of a musical sequence he staged for "Illuminata."

"When I did that, something popped in my brain," he says.

With the assistance of the Coens, Turturro staged a reading in 2001 that went so well he was encouraged to seek financing, which he ultimately received from MGM/UA and Icon Entertainment. The Coens signed on as producers and helped with casting.

"He said, 'This is what I want to do next. It's a savage musical,' " says John Penotti, president of Greene Street Films, which is also producing the project. "Then he acted it out for us for an hour and a half." For the lead, Turturro had in mind someone in his '60s - not Gandolfini, who's 43. But Gandolfini came in to read for the role at the Coens' suggestion and Turturro changed his mind, in part because Gandolfini can play older than his years.

Unfortunately, working around Gandolfini's schedule for "The Sopranos" delayed the project for nearly two years. In the meantime, Turturro went through the arduous task of securing rights for the music he planned to use.

"It was extremely bold of him to write the script before clearing the music," Penotti says. "Without it, there's no movie. He's very passionate and persuasive. He willed the film into production."

Complicating matters was that he needed permission not only from the songwriters but from the singers too - favorites of music lovers of a certain age (among them are Engelbert Humperdinck, Bruce Springsteen, James Brown and Tom Jones). He made sure the vocalists or their representatives also signed off, because he wanted the songs to have the intensity only the original singers could give them.

"What's difficult about this movie is you're trying to find a way not to be doing an MTV video," Sarandon says. "You're trying to find the style of the piece. It's more like the music is supposed to be an extension of a scene as opposed to just a performance." For Sarandon's part, her singing voice closely parallels her speaking voice - it's in tune but not especially memorable. As a result, she has been dubbed in the final product; Janis Joplin - and Dusty Springfield, who sings the first few stanzas - will sing instead. And that's fine by Sarandon, who said she wouldn't want her real voice used anyway: "Oh my God, that's a horrible thought!"

There will be a mix of dubbing and genuine singing throughout, Turturro says, "lip-syncing or singing along with the songs, like you sing along in the shower. James actually has a really nice voice, and he will be singing in the movie. So will Kate Winslet, so will Aida … It's more like you do in real life. You put something on, and you fantasize sometimes."

Indulging the imagination The fantasies these characters have are not exactly tame. Cousin Bo lip-syncs to Jones' "Delilah" ("Why, why, why, Delilah?") in a diner while dreaming of murdering his wife. Nick imagines Kitty having sex with her first husband (played by Tony Goldwyn) on Nick's grave.

Another case in point is a scene that failed to make the final cut, in which Izzard dances down the main aisle of the church to the strains of "Prisoner of Love," sung by Cyndi Lauper. As the crew prepares to film, the church echoes not with the sounds of a sermon or prayers or choral music but barking production assistants, rustling newspapers, muttering cellphone users, clattering equipment and snoring crewmen. The overall effect is busyness, not holiness.

"If my mother could see me now," a crew member says, "she'd be saying a novena."

Since Izzard has not arrived on set, Turturro demonstrates what he wants to the camera crew. Everyone stops, watching slack-jawed as Turturro, lounging in front of the altar, is roused from a reverie by the opening strains of the song and begins to drift down the aisle in time to it, and then starts to step to it. As he does this, he's holding a portable monitor, which shows what he's doing from the camera's perspective - it's almost like a mirror - and keeping up a sporadic stream of chatter to the camera crew retreating on a dolly track in front of him.

Now Izzard, wearing a fuchsia jacket, and his dancing partner, a nun (played by choreographer Tricia Brouk), have arrived. Turturro dances yet again, this time with the nun, as Izzard leaps from pew to pew, as if jumping from car hood to car hood, while also watching on the hand-held monitor. He then takes Turturro's place, and they do a take. Izzard is much more pensive, more reserved, than Turturro, and definitely less nerdy. He shimmies down the aisle, reaches for the nun, who's been praying in a pew, and they ad-lib a few steps. On the second take, Izzard is far more provocative - channeling his inner drag queen. His steps with the nun, already sexually charged, are done with a tango-like intensity. He stares at her fixedly, almost obsessively, while she looks away demurely. (Later, Sarandon will describe the scene this way: "It's very funny and very weird and it's dirty.")

The crew applauds, and Izzard shakes a few hands. Then he makes his way to the monitor, where Turturro has the two takes played back.

"You seem very alone," Turturro says approvingly to Izzard, slapping him on the back. When Izzard leaves, Turturro has one of his own demonstrations played back on the monitor. It's not better, just different - goofy grace rather than campy elegance. The script supervisor laughs.

"You know what?" says Turturro, "I'll dance in another film."



What has more than 30 producers, several A-list stars and no chance of ever being released in theaters?

That would be "Romance and Cigarettes," a 2005 musical directed by John Turturro, one of our favorite actors. But Turturro's film has been trapped in a fight between its producers and the movie studio that didn't make it for the last two years.

The film stars "The Sopranos" leading man James Gandolfini; Oscar-winner Susan Sarandon; Oscar nominee Kate Winslet; plus the amazing Steve Buscemi and a raft of heavy hitters including Christopher Walken, Elaine Stritch, Mary Louise Parker, Bobby Cannavale, David Thornton, Amy Sedaris, Eddie Izzard and Cady Huffman.

Ironically, "Romance and Cigarettes" has been screened a lot at film festivals, reviewed by the trades and even distributed on DVD in Britain. American film buffs have had to get themselves a universal DVD player if they wanted to see it. But come May, that may change. The word is that Sony Home Video may finally release it.

And, yes, there are about 30 names listed as producers of one kind or another— executive, associate, or just, uh, producer — including writer-directors Joel and Ethan Coen of "Fargo" fame. It's a good thing this film won't be considered for an Academy Award. Can you imagine the fight over who would go on stage?

Yesterday, I found one of the 30 producers, Jana Edelbaum, who told me at least some of the story. She confirmed that "Romance and Cigarettes" got lost when Sony bought into MGM two years ago. Once that happened: Sony refused to release the movie even though, Edelbaum says, several executives supported it, including COO Michael Lynton.

"Everyone went to bat for this movie," she said, including the Coen brothers. "The studio didn't care that it was taking them on."

Edelbaum says the producers made numerous offers to buy the film back from Sony, only to be rebuffed.

"Every attempt was made," she said.

She wouldn't confirm the film's costs, only to say it was under $20 million and closer to $15 million. Nevertheless, Sony wouldn't budge.

"We played in 1,000-seat theaters all over Europe and in San Francisco to standing ovations. People love this movie. It's a crowd-pleaser," Edelbaum said.

Not all reviewers agreed. Some loved it but many others called it a mess. Edelbaum concurred.

"Some thought it was incandescent. Kate Winslet gives an Oscar-caliber performance. But a lot of reviewers wondered what the h—- was going on."

Still, she said, "it's sexy and cutting edge."

"R&C" is a musical, which is always a hard sell, particularly when the actors aren't really singers and the songs weren't written for the movie. In that regard, "R&C" has a smattering of songs performed by the stars, including hits by Tom Jones and Janis Joplin. Unfortunately, there will be no CD soundtrack, so fans will have to make their own from the film.

"This could have been the cult film of all time," Edelbaum told me.

It sounds like it will be anyway.



You can get a jump on the rest of the country and see Romance and Cigarettes April 29th at the San Francisco Film Festival. TICKET INFO (thanks Joan)

  • Scene from Romance & Cigarettes w/Susan Sarandon and Christopher Walkeni WINDOWS MEDIA CLIP

  • Scene from Romance & Cigarettes w/Kate Winslet and James Gandolfini REAL MEDIA CLIP

  • Will be screened at the Stockholm Film Festival November 11-21, 2005

  • Romance and Cigarettes will be screened at the 2005 Toronto Film Festival (from Green St. Films)

  • Romance and Cigarettes will be competing for the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival
    August 31 - September 10, 2005.

  • (from BBC.COM) "I sing A Little Piece Of My Heart with Susan Sarandon and I play the organ. "

  • (from Eddie's character's name is Gene Vincent, an organist and choir director.

(from Liz Smith's Column) As you've no doubt heard, actor-director John Turturro has embarked on an independent movie, "Romance and Cigarettes," subtitled "a savage musical." Sounds intriguing with James Gandolfini, Susan Sarandon, Kate Winslet, Christopher Walken, Julia Stiles and Steve Buscemi. My longtime pal Elaine Stritch has been tapped to play a character called Grace Murder, the mother of Gandolfini. On his HBO show "The Sopranos," he was paired with another famously tough mother, the late and much-missed Nancy Marchand. Elaine not only has an interesting name in this movie, but a fascinating first line. Asked how she is, Mrs. Murder replies, "Every breath is a victory!" Stritch, noted for her distinctive singing, is the one person who won't sing in "Romance and Cigarettes."

(from SF Chronicle) "The producers of "The Sopranos" star James Gandolfini's new movie have come under fire after setting up a cigarette smoking scene on a non-smoker's lawn -- without permission. Emmanuel Onuaguluchi is demanding $100,000 from production company Humperdinck Productions because they filmed scenes for "Romance & Cigarettes" outside his home in Queens, New York, without getting his OK. Humperdinck location planners offered Onuaguluchi $250 to use his lawn for the shoot, but he refused. The shoot went ahead regardless. "

(from "Ok All I know is from Eddie so always slightly wary about giving you false info, however this is what I think to be true. Eddie plays an organist, he has been having organ lessons! It is a cameo role and most of his stuff is with Susan Sarandon. The film also stars Christopher Walken, Kate Winslet and James Gladofini. Directed by the wonderful Coen brothers and directed by John Tuturro. Eddie has been filming since the 6th April and will finish filming in New York on Saturday. This big-screen musical is being described as Pennies From Heaven meets The Honeymooners, as set in Bensonhurst, N.Y. In it, a two-timing husband must choose between his mistress and his beleaguered wife."

(from "Izzard joins John Turturro musical Comedian Eddie Izzard has joined the cast of writer-director John Turturro's musical movie 'Romance and Cigarettes'. Variety reports that the film follows a man who has to choose between his mistress and his wife. 'Romance and Cigarettes' also stars Susan Sarandon, Christopher Walken, Kate Winslet, James Gandolfini, Steve Buscemi, Julia Stiles and Mandy Moore. The film is currently shooting in New York. "

(from NY Post) "Susan Sarandon plays his wife. They're a blue-collar family in Queens with all the trials and tribulations. It's funky and it's sexy. Mary-Louise Parker and Mandy Moore play their daughters. Kate Winslet is the one who causes a problem in their marriage. And Christopher Walken, who's a really great dancer, plays the crazy cousin in the family."

(from James Gandolfini a song-and-dance man? O brother, art thou kidding me? Absolutely not. We're talking the Coen brothers here.

Apparently, O Brother, Where Art Thou? was only a prelude for the ever-quirky tandem. Now, according to Daily Variety, director Joel and writer-producer Ethan Coen are tuning up for an encore to their Oscar-nominated (and Grammy-winning) folksy Depression-era musical odyssey and are eyeing the oversized godfather of The Sopranos to strut his stuff in the lead role.

The duo have reportedly agreed to produce and direct Romance and Cigarettes, a new musical being written by one of their favorite actors, John Turturro. (Aside from O Brother, Turturro starred in the Coens' Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski and Miller's Crossing.)

According to Variety, the story is a cross between the stylized 1981 Steve Martin musical Pennies from Heaven and The Honeymooners (remember, this is the Coen brothers) and takes place in Turturro's hometown of Bensonhurst, New York.

Unlike O Brother--in which most of the cast, including star George Clooney, lip-synched to professional musicians--Romance and Cigarettes will follow the lead of Moulin Rouge and have all the actors doing their own singing and dancing.

Gandolfini would make his crooning debut in the film. The actor, who costarred in the Coens' 2001 film The Man Who Wasn't There, is in talks to play the lead, a Ralph Kramden type. The Coens will tailor the shooting schedule to coincide with The Sopranos hiatus in early 2003.

The filmmakers are also hoping to enlist such musical veterans as Susan Sarandon (who shot to fame in The Rocky Horror Picture Show) and Christopher Walken (who costarred in Pennies from Heaven and showed off his mean dance moves in the Fatboy Slim video "Weapon of Choice").

Other actors being courted for roles include Julia Stiles, Steve Buscemi and Gandolfini's Sopranos sibling (and John Turturro's real-life cousin) Aida Turturro. Turturro is also trying to persuade his Mr. Deeds costar Adam Sandler to do a cameo in the movie. (Not, we pray, as Opera Man.)

The Coens will begin work on Romance once they put the wraps on Intolerable Cruelty, a black comedy starring Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones that just began production. With Romance in the pipeline, the renaissance of the Hollywood musical is in full bloom. In addition to the recent O Brother, Moulin Rouge, Dancer in the Dark and Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Miramax has huge expectations for the Christmas release of its big-screen version of Bob Fosse's Chicago, starring Zeta-Jones, Richard Gere and Renée Zellweger .



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