Now, I have never seen the remake. I never seen the original Welles movie either(which is something I intend to remedy as soon as possible!).
But upon reading this article, I would say the remake was an absolute sham!! And I never would want to see it.......ever!
(Copyright Times Colonist (Victoria) 2002)
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- By conventional Hollywood standards, Madeleine Stowe is doing the unthinkable this morning.
She's sitting in an interview suite and mercilessly trashing one of the most eagerly awaited television projects of the past decade - - one in which she herself is the top-billed star.
You're not supposed to do such things in Tinseltown. If you've had a bad experience with a film or TV show, you're supposed to find "something" nice to say about it -- or at the very least keep your mouth shut.
But Stowe seems determined to give no quarter to Spanish director Alfonso Arau, the man behind the camera for the A&E Television Network's ambitious TV remake of The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welles's flawed masterpiece about the decline of a family dynasty.
"I wish I could tell you that it was better -- but it was a very difficult experience," she says bluntly.
Stowe is ostensibly here to talk about the new science-fiction thriller, Imposter, in which she portrays the wife of a government research scientist (Gary Sinise) accused of being an alien invader. But it's a casual question about The Magnificent Ambersons, which A&E is launching tonight, that really gets her attention. "I'm not one of these people who can sit here and say no comment and leave it at that," she says unrepentantly. In fact she returns to the subject again before the session is over. "Do I get nervous when I'm talking about Ambersons -- like I'm shaking with rage?"
Stowe has always been an actress who speaks her mind. A couple of years ago in the midst of media sessions for the The General's Daughter, she triggered a vigorous argument with co-star John Travolta when she attacked the violence in that film. Even today, talking about Imposter, she makes it clear that she never felt a huge connection with the character she plays in that movie -- and that the main reason she did it was that she respects Sinise and director Gary Fleder.
But she did relate strongly to the troubled matriarch she portrays in The Magnificent Ambersons, which is why she's so upset with what happened. She entered the project ecstatic at the prospect of performing Orson Welles's original script and working with such gifted co-stars as James Cromwell, Bruce Greenwood, Gretchen Mol, Jennifer Tilly and Dina Merrill. She left it angry and disillusioned.
For Stowe, this was a project that carried formidable baggage, because it represented an attempt to right the wrong done to Welles 50 years ago in his own film version of the Booth Tarkington novel about the social convulsions afflicting turn-of-the-century America.
Following the controversial release of Welles's first film, Citizen Kane, in 1941, the 26-year-old wonder kid turned his attention to The Magnificent Ambersons. He lined up a blue-ribbon cast -- Agnes Moorehead, Joseph Cotten, Anne Baxter, Dolores Costello, Tim Holt -- and supplied the voice-over narration himself. But Welles overshot the $600,000 budget approved by a nervous RKO studio and eventually delivered a director's cut with a whopping 21/ 2-hour running time.
Welles was committed to directing a documentary in Brazil, and in his absence, his film was reduced to two hours and some scenes were reshot. Then, following a disastrous preview, the movie was further cut to 88 minutes. A happier ending was tacked on, and The Magnificent Ambersons was finally released on the bottom half of a double bill. Meanwhile, the discarded footage was not even stored in RKO's vaults. Instead, the silver emulsion was melted down for reuse.
Welles's film was a box-office disaster -- but many critics recognized that even in its emasculated form it bore the hallmarks of a classic, and its prestige has grown over the years. As for Welles's own career, it never recovered from the Ambersons experience. "They destroyed Ambersons . . . and it destroyed me," he said many years later.
The current A&E project was an attempt to honour Welles's original conception and script. "It was a really intriguing prospect," Stowe says now. "The script was tremendous -- everyone involved in cinema should have the chance to read this script. We had a great cast -- people like James Cromwell and Bruce Greenwood. Gretchen Mol is sensational in it . . . the production values are outstanding. But at the end of the day -- well, it's difficult. The director did not have a point of view that he was willing to discuss. He had 12 weeks to shoot it -- and I was bewildered."
Stowe had never encountered a director as secretive and aloof as Arau. "He was an odd choice, although he's made a very interesting film called Like Water for Chocolate. He didn't really want to share what was going on in his head with the cast. You couldn't really ask him questions because he believes that the director is the total authority. He's not terribly collaborative."
Stowe said that Arau brought a "Latin" temperament to a quintessentially American story. "And I'll tell you -- he had a very peculiar fascination with incest, and that's the only thing he would discuss."
For Stowe, the project became a matter of promise unfulfilled.
"A&E really believed about putting out a wonderful product. All the actors were so knocked out by the script that it was reason enough to go into that arena. But the director felt it was his vision and it reflects what he thinks."
Arau even refused to allow his actors to view daily rushes of the scenes. "There was really very little information he wanted to impart to us. I thought it was very curious. He actually said Orson Welles didn't know what he was doing!"
Stowe makes no apology for having her say now. "Alfonso had a very particular way he wanted to shoot the movie and he was dictatorial. Nobody was questioning how he shot it, but you have to explain your point of view to the actors when it's a dialogue- heavy, emotionally complicated story. If you don't let them know where you're coming from, except to talk about incest, there's a problem. It was a very upsetting experience for most of the people involved. But everybody was very professional . . . and that carried us through."
Welles didn't know what he was doing!!!!!!
What the hell kind of bull crap is that? Oh boy does that irk the heck out of me. Who does this guy think he is? :angry: