Box Office: ‘Tomorrowland’ battles ‘Pitch Perfect 2′ at the top

Check out our resources section.

In the battle at the Friday box office, new release “Tomorrowland” is holding its own against last week’s crowning glory “Pitch Perfect 2.” Both films pulled in an estimated $9.7 million to start off the Memorial Day weekend.

“Tomorrowland” is Disney’s latest theme park-based film, starring George Clooney and Britt Robertson. It scored $725,000 in its limited Thursday night opening in 701 U.S. theaters for pre-shows, which is far less than the typical Thursday night haul for a major release. That makes it difficult to judge what the number portends for the movie, but its Friday night showing bodes well as families head to theaters throughout the holiday weekend.

The movie is expected to gross up to $50 million in the U.S. and Canada in its debut weekend, according to analysts. It received both a 49% Rotten Tomatoes fresh rating and a B grade from audience polling firm CinemaScore.

Universal Pictures’ “Pitch Perfect 2,” a musical comedy about an all-female a cappella group, will likely continue in a similar vein to its record-breaking debut grossing $69.2 million. The opening weekend for “Pitch Perfect 2” surpassed the entire $65-million domestic theatrical run of the original film, which was released in 2012. In the sequel, Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson and Brittany Snow reprise their roles as members of the misfit college a cappella group the Bellas.

In third place, MGM and Fox 2000’s remake of the 1982 cult classic “Poltergeist” garnered $9.4 million Friday night. The film, which received only a 35% fresh rating and a C-plus from CinemaScore, stars Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt and Saxon Sharbino.

At the bottom of the pack is Warner Brothers’ “Mad Max: Fury Road” and Disney’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

“Mad Max,” the reboot of George Miller’s dystopian franchise, pulled in an estimated $6.7 million Friday night. With its stunning 98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a B-plus audience grade from CinemaScore, it will likely benefit this weekend from its rave reviews and word of mouth. The action film stars Tom Hardy in the title role made famous by Mel Gibson, and Charlize Theron as a new character named Furiosa.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” continued its hold on the charts pulling in another $5.4 million Friday night, in its fourth week.

Follow the reporter on Twitter: @TrevellAnderson

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Martin Starr would rather avoid the fame game

Martin Starr is great at playing the guy nobody wants to be friends with. He’s been a bespectacled nerd with a peanut allergy (“Freaks and Geeks”), a stoner who doesn’t shave his beard for a year (“Knocked Up”) and a permanently grouchy computer programmer (“Silicon Valley”).

At 32, the actor is finally getting the chance to move away from his deadpan shtick in this month’s “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” There’s no misanthropy here: Starr plays a pool boy who becomes unlikely pals with a septuagenarian (Blythe Danner). He takes her out for a night of karaoke, kills a rat in her house and even writes her a song.

This is a movie about senior citizens. Do you like them?

I find the most interesting thing about that age group to be how, in general, they’ve lost a conscience. So there’s a lack of anxiety about who they are and how they’re perceived. So instead of wasting time trying to be something or someone that they aren’t — or trying to avoid talking about something or offending somebody — they just don’t care. So then you get the most interesting and honest conversations. It’s the same as talking to kids, in a sense.

You’ve been around adults since you were a kid, right?

I was 16 when I was on “Freaks and Geeks.” I remember people saying, “You’re so mature for 16.” I don’t know that that was necessarily true. The teacher on set had to wrangle me because I wouldn’t go to school. I hated school. They would be like, “OK, now Martin has to go to school.” And I would physically run away from the teacher.

You played a huge nerd on that show. Nowadays, it’s become trendy to self-identify as a nerd. Why do you think that is?

I think it implies that you’re smart. But it’s like, you’re not a nerd if you have to say it.

Yeah, people will say, “Oh, I’m such a nerd. I stay in on Friday nights and watch Netflix.”

That’s not the right use of the term. You’re an introvert. You’re a hermit.

Speaking of Netflix: People love to binge-watch “Freaks and Geeks” and “Party Down,” two shows you were on that were quickly canceled but have since gained cult followings. Does it annoy you that people discovered those shows too late?

What are you gonna do? Just the fact that we got to make any of those shows — those are golden moments already. We went further than most people go.

On “Party Down,” you played a struggling writer who works as a caterer to make ends meet. Did that experience affect your attitude toward waitstaff?

I was never not nice to caterers. I’ve always tipped well as long as I haven’t been totally broke. I’m really fortunate to be able to make more money than I deserve for what I do. So I absolutely show my appreciation — especially to the people who give 120% to that job. You could be the worst server in the world, but I never tip less than 20%. Just because I know I couldn’t do that job any better.

You seem to be trying something new, acting-wise, with this film. Were you tired of playing an unlikable guy?

I agree that this is a total offshoot of any of the things I’ve done before. There’s such a natural tone and a slow pace to the whole movie itself. I had the opportunity to take a breath in a scene. Often, the direction you get back after a take is “Let’s do it again and speed it up.” And that was not the case on this.

Your costar in “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” Blythe Danner, thinks you have a Buddha-like quality.

I was raised Buddhist. We talked about that a little bit when we got together the first time. I definitely have anxieties and neuroses, but as a whole I try to stay pretty centered and mellow.

What tenets of the religion have stuck with you?

Fundamentally, Buddhism is rooted in self-discovery and growth and development inside yourself. The knowledge that you have the power inside yourself to attain any dream that you have.

Like acting.

I had a breakdown in my mid-20s — right around the time we did “Knocked Up” — where I didn’t know whether I wanted to keep working. Then that [movie] happened and I couldn’t really go back in time. Anonymity is something you don’t appreciate until it’s gone. I’m a private person. I don’t like to be gawked at. … You become a thing. You become an animal in a cage. There’s something about fandom that I don’t connect with. If I ever did meet my idol, I would be so much more interested in having a small conversation with them than asking for a picture.

There’s nobody you would ask to take a photo with?

I would maybe take a Polaroid with someone. But that’s not to share with anybody. I feel like there’s this evidence thing — like, “Put it up on Instagram!” — and it’s somehow proof that you’ve achieved something that you haven’t achieved. There are these weird little status symbols — “Look where I am, look who I met, look what I saw.” And I just don’t abide by that kind of stuff.

How do your friends in the business handle attention?

Will Ferrell, Adam Sandler, Paul Rudd — they’re the people I’ve been around that are so gracious. They know how to treat people in a way so that [fans] walk away with a bigger love in their hearts for who they are — even if the way that [the fans] approach them isn’t totally respectful. I don’t abide by that. If someone is rude to me, I have no problem dealing with it appropriately. When people are gracious and kind, I have nothing but kindness back. But there are times when I don’t want to take a picture. I might be in the middle of doing something that’s more valuable to me than taking a picture with someone I don’t know. And I’m sorry, but that’s my life, and I have that right.

So if someone sees you on the street and recognizes you, what should they do?

What I feel best about is just people that walk by and are like, “You’re awesome. Can I get a high five?” I’ve heard that Bill Murray just carries around these cards that are signed and when he meets somebody, instead of doing a photo, he hands them a card and that’s the end of the interaction. You got what you wanted — which is something to remember this by — and he gets to continue doing whatever he wants to continue doing with his day.

You could try it.

It seems pompous for me to do that right now.

Twitter: @AmyKinLA


‘Archive Television Treasures’

Moscow Mule and Copper Mug FAQ | Copper Mugs and More

The Moscow mule is almost always served in a copper mug. The popularity of this way to serve the drink was due to Martin, who went around the country to sell…

Box office: ‘Tomorrowland’ grabs $725,000 in limited Thursday opening

Hoping for a utopian future at the box office, Disney’s “Tomorrowland” scored a solid $725,000 in its limited Thursday night opening. 

The latest theme park-based film from the Burbank studio opened in 701 U.S. theaters for pre-shows, which is fewer than the typical Thursday night run for a major release. That makes it difficult to judge what the number portends for the movie, which stars George Clooney and relative newcomer Britt Robertson. 

But the one-day average of $1,077 per theater bodes well. Based on rough extrapolations by the studio, it might have pulled in $2.5 million or more if it had gone into a more typical 2,500 theaters.

The movie is expected to gross up to $50 million in the U.S. and Canada over the long Memorial Day weekend, according to analysts.

“Tomorrowland” is going up against strong holdovers “Pitch Perfect 2″ (which topped the charts last weekend) and “Mad Max: Fury Road” (likely to benefit from rave reviews and word of mouth). 

Also opening this weekend is 20th Century Fox’s remake of horror classic “Poltergeist.” Directed by Gil Kenan, it generated $1.4 million from Thursday night shows, slightly ahead of the recent genre disappointment “Dracula Untold” ($1.3 million) and the low-budget spinoff “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones” ($1.2 million).

Analysts expect the new “Poltergeist” to gross $20 million to $30 million over the four-day weekend. 

Follow Ryan Faughnder on Twitter for more entertainment business coverage: @rfaughnder

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

‘Quiet Riot’ looks back at the hair, the noise and the band

A long title for a movie devoted to a flash-in-the-pan rock band, “Quiet Riot: Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back” is a documentary about the spandex-and-frizz group whose 1983 release “Metal Health” became the first heavy metal album to top the Billboard charts.

The band’s meteoric rise — after toiling away unsigned for years — spawned the ’80s hair metal scene as well as a hard-partying public loudmouth in singer Kevin Dubrow, who died of an overdose in 2007. Quiet Riot had long been a jokey footnote by then, but Dubrow’s death shattered bandmate Frank Banali.

It’s drummer Banali’s efforts to revive a functioning lineup beginning in 2010 that are the real focus of director Regina Russell’s film. That she’s engaged to Banali makes for a strange mix of tones, part “Anvil! The Story of Anvil” (wittingly) and part “This Is Spinal Tap” (not so wittingly). She’s not afraid to show her dude crying over his anger and grief issues or struggling through sparsely attended gigs, or losing it when a new singer forgets lyrics onstage to, of all things, their biggest hit, “Cum on Feel the Noize.” (Your grandmother would know the words after watching this movie.)

There are occasionally interesting peeks into the hard work of keeping a flame alive that burned briefly 30 years ago. But mostly this is a video tour book for fans, no more, no less.


“Quiet Riot: Well Now You’re Here, There’s No Way Back”

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.

Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Digital upstarts upend tradition at Cannes Film Festival

The market at the Cannes Film Festival, where international movie rights are bought and sold, has long been a bastion of the old-school film industry.

Theatrical viewing is central. The same deal makers have been attending for decades. Signs of the digital age are very hard to come by.

But at this festival, cracks are beginning to appear. One of the entertainment world’s most traditionalist gatherings is letting in the 21st century — slowly.

In a year when a number of Silicon Valley firms have taken the plunge into film, their presence is being felt at this annual springtime event. Cannes is the most prominent event on the global cinema calendar and often the most set in its ways.

Presentations by companies such as Netflix and virtual-reality outfit Oculus have been priorities for attendees. Agents who once never gave a second thought to nontraditional platforms are now courting them.

Beefed-up teams from digital entities such as Amazon and Vimeo are pursuing rights with the zeal once reserved for studios like Universal Studios and Warner Bros. On Tuesday, Netflix sent a signal about its growing clout when it acquired the Kevin James’ movie “The True Memoirs of an International Assassin,” its first major original-film buy at Cannes.

The result is a vibrant if combustible time for the worldwide film business and the Cannes market that represents it, which in recent months has begun to catch up to the changes of its TV counterparts.

But as much as people want progress, they remain cautious about upending their business.

“The conversations I’ve had here have been all over the map,” said Jeremy Boxer, the creative director for film and television at Vimeo. “A lot of people are excited, and many are worried. But there’s an awareness that the revenue they could depend on even three or four years ago they can no longer depend on. And that is prompting change.”

The talk has been catalyzed by Netflix.

The streaming giant has dived into original films during the past eight months, paying a reported $12 million for rights to distribute “Beasts of No Nation,” an African war drama from “True Detective” director Cary Fukunaga. But although Netflix has opened the vaults for filmmakers, it also has polarized the industry with a model that controls all rights — moving away from ancillary revenue streams such as DVD and also eschewing a theater-first release.

Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos stirred strong reaction when he spoke Friday at an officially sanctioned Cannes event.

When French moderators and attendees pressed him on questions about his non-theatrical model — the European film community has been slower to embrace digital shifts — he said “nothing we’re doing is meant to be anti-theater or anti-cinema,” adding, “People will still go to movies. But I think people want choice, and if you don’t give them choice it will only harm” studios’ interests.

Sales agents and buyers pour into Cannes to do business at what’s informally known as “the market.” Contrary to perceptions, the festival is far from just a place of high-end directors and cinephiles.

The market serves as a bazaar of international rights for many less high-profile films and acts as a sort of trade show that runs in parallel with the screenings and red-carpet events.

With nearly every global buyer and seller present, attendees gather on a dedicated convention show floor as well as the town’s many hotel bars and restaurants to hash out deals for territorial rights. It is a one-stop shopping hub, a place where a producer in Asia can seal a deal with a buyer from Eastern Europe and where star appearances and footage samples are often brought out to sweeten the pitch.

Digital companies have participated in these activities too. But Sarandos’ keynote had a tonier feel, taking place in the festival’s elegant Bunuel Theater.

The event even featured opening remarks from Cannes festival director Thierry Fremaux, a sign tech firms had infiltrated the official, prestigious festival. Fremaux, too, questioned Netflix’s model. “Ask him,” Fremaux told he audience before the talk, “whether he wants to support the production of film for theaters.”

Amazon has also been gathering steam on the international film scene. The company, best known in television for its Golden Globe-decorated “Transparent,” several months ago hired the veteran film producer Ted Hope to run its operations. Last month it announced that it would back Spike Lee’s new drama “Chiraq.”

The company has employed a less radical model, incorporating theatrical exclusivity into its plans, and also offering both subscription and one-off viewing options to consumers.

Vimeo has tried another approach. The company that began primarily as an online industry screening service has come to the festival looking to buy movies for online-only viewing. It marks a switch from a time not long ago when films would move straight from theaters to DVD.

Riding high on the breakout success of its episodic pot comedy “High Maintenance,” Boxer and another colleague are also in Cannes seeking original content. Though Vimeo’s reach is shallower than Amazon or Netflix, it hopes to entice filmmakers with a more favorable revenue split.

Even without making a buy, sales agents say companies like Netflix have exerted influence on the market. Producers are sometimes less likely to agree to a traditional studio deal if they think a big payday from a digital player is looming.

Film industry insiders say that they need to rethink the traditional ways of doing business, in which producers sell movies primarily to theatrical distributors, who often hold or then sell DVD and television rights.

“These are all new buyers, and woe unto us if we don’t take them seriously,” said veteran sales agent John Sloss of Cinetic Media.

But Sloss said the digital companies’ models are far from entrenched.

“What’s fascinating about this period is that the portals are feeling their own way about what works for them, even as filmmakers and financiers need to figure out what works on their end,” he said.

For directors accustomed to a more conventional world, this can be a shock and presents a challenge.

“All filmmakers want the undivided attention of theaters. They don’t want people to text or turn off the movie; they want the communal experience,” said Asif Kapadia, the director of the acclaimed documentary “Senna.” His latest selection, “Amy,” about the late soul singer Amy Winehouse, premiered to warm reviews in the Cannes official selection Saturday.

Pete Docter turns expectations upside-down with ‘Inside Out’ for Pixar

Inside the mind of Pete Docter, things didn’t look pretty. Ahead of an important screening for his bosses at Pixar Animation about two years ago, the director was wrestling with a thorny story problem on his next film, “Inside Out.”

“This one moment is funny, but I don’t know what the movie as a whole is saying,” Docter recalled thinking to himself as he walked the hills near his home in Piedmont, Calif. “How did things get so far and we still don’t have anything? Maybe I should just quit? I’m gonna get fired.”

It is likelier that Pixar would fire Luxo Jr., its desk lamp mascot, than Docter, a beloved figure at the studio who is known for bringing emotional depth and a childlike wonder to his films. Docter’s last feature, the Oscar-winning 2009 adventure tale “Up,” contained both a moving, wordless montage about infertility and death and a talking, squirrel-obsessed golden retriever named Dug.

Like “Up,” “Inside Out,” which premiered to ecstatic reviews at the Cannes Film Festival on Monday in advance of its theatrical opening June 19, is daringly original in its conceit, in which emotions serve as characters and a little girl’s head as the setting. Executing the abstract movie took Docter on an emotional journey of his own as he navigated moments of self-doubt and creative gridlock.

The story line asks audiences to accomplish the psychologically sophisticated task of watching our own minds — a reviewer at Cannes called “Inside Out” “one the most conceptually trippy films ever made as a PG-rated popcorn picture.” If critics felt Pixar has been playing it safe with its recent spate of kid-friendly sequels, they’re not likely to feel that way now.

In an interview at Pixar last month, in a room with a cardboard standee of Walt Disney in the corner and white boards filled with dizzying lists of production targets behind their heads, Docter and his longtime producer, Jonas Rivera, explained how “Inside Out” took shape.

Lanky, wide-eyed and sincere, Docter, 46, carries himself more like a kid with particularly good manners than a grown-up — this temperament works well at Pixar, a spiritually youthful company that was celebrating Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day and hosting a chocolate festival.

Docter’s idea for “Inside Out” came to him in 2009 when his own daughter, Elie, now 16, began to leave the uncomplicated joys of childhood behind.

“She would be at home and be tap dancing and doing all that goofy stuff, and we first heard of it through her teacher, who’d say, ‘Elie’s a quiet child,’ ” Docter said. “We’d say, ‘Really?’ She suddenly became aware of judgment and where do I fit in and where is my social circle. It’s a tough time.”

Wondering what was really going on inside his daughter’s head, he pitched a movie that would help him find out.

“Inside Out” takes place inside the head of a carefree, tomboyish 11-year-old Minnesota girl named Riley. Her emotions, led by Joy, a yellow sprite voiced by an exuberant and occasionally manic Amy Poehler, live in relative harmony, steering her together through childhood’s ups and downs like the crew of the Starship Enterprise. But a family move to exotic San Francisco pushes Joy from her role as the brain’s captain, as Sadness (Phyllis Smith) takes the controls with increasing frequency. Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling) start to bicker and jockey for control of “headquarters.”

“We loved that idea of, if you personified your emotions, what is happening?” Rivera said. “Riley would go into school, and whether or not her best friend would sit by her was like ‘Saving Private Ryan.’ “

In an era when computer animation is ever more photo-real, Docter’s idea would enable his crew to return to the caricatured style of so much of the traditional animation they’d loved as children, in classic Disney films like “Dumbo” and “Pinocchio.” But it would also push his team, including co-director Ronnie del Carmen and fellow writers Meg LeFauve and Josh Cooley, to construct a theoretical world from scratch.

“We talked to neurologists and asked, ‘What does a memory look like?’ They said, ‘Well, we don’t really know,’ ” Docter said.

In the film, “Abstract Thought” looks like a Picasso painting, “Imaginationland” like a Disney theme park and the “Train of Thought” is an actual train that chugs along until Riley falls asleep, when Dream Productions, a movie studio of sorts, takes over.

“We were worried early on — the rules and operations of the movie. Is this trackable? Will kids get this?” Riviera said.

Pixar executives also knew the studio and its corporate parent, Disney, would have work to do selling the concept.

“Our reaction was, this is a great idea,” Pixar President Jim Morris said. “But, boy, it’s gonna be really hard. This one is not a simple one to market. It’s essentially a movie about the importance of sadness.”

By the time Docter pitched the film, he had earned the right to try something tricky. The native of Bloomington, Minn., joined Pixar as its third animator the day after he graduated from Cal Arts in 1990. He helped develop the story and characters for the studio’s first feature, “Toy Story,” before directing his own first feature, the Oscar-nominated “Monsters Inc.,” in 2001 and contributing to the Oscar-nominated screenplay for “WALL-E” in 2008.

“[Directing] was not natural to me,” Docter said. “If I rewind back to ‘Monsters,’ I still do not know whose idea it was to let me direct. That was weird. ‘Cause I’m not a natural alpha male leader type.”

Rivera thinks Docter motivates his crews in a subtler way, with the strength of his ideas.

“Pete doesn’t pound the table,” Rivera said. “People crave truth and believability in this business, even when we’re making fake things. All people want to know is, does what I’m doing matter? The crews here know what to do and how to do it. Pete comes to them with the ‘why’ they’re doing it.”

But on “Inside Out,” the “why” didn’t come to Docter until relatively late in the production — to be precise, that day when he thought he’d be fired. That’s when Docter had the creative epiphany that Sadness, a character he had undervalued, was, in fact, the key to the story.

“In modern day U.S., we associate sadness with negativity,” Docter said. “We try to avoid it, we even self-medicate. But really sadness is a response to loss. It forces you to slow down and reboot. When you see someone crying, it’s a signal to other people. I realized that Joy needed to let Sadness forward.”

‘Steve Jobs’ trailer: Michael Fassbender takes on a tech iCon

Michael Fassbender takes center stage in the new trailer for “Steve Jobs,” which offers the first good glimpse of the German-Irish actor playing the charismatic Apple co-founder.

The minute-long clip begins with a wide shot of Jobs (Fassbender), his back to the camera, facing an empty auditorium — presumably the Flint Center in Cupertino, Calif., where he unveiled the original Macintosh in 1984.

As the camera pushes in and the frame narrows, some choice lines from the Aaron Sorkin-scripted, Danny Boyle-directed biopic play in voice-over. In Jobs’ typically grandiose manner, he promises that “the planet’s going to shift on its axis nigh and forever” once he unveils his latest wonder. And he claims, “I sat in a garage and invented the future.”

We also hear from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), who says, “You can’t write code. You are not an engineer. What do you do?”

“The musicians play the instruments,” Jobs says. “I play the orchestra.”

Eventually the frame narrows to a blinking white cursor, which spells out the title. Amid heavy applause, we finally see faces: Rogen as Wozniak, Kate Winslet as Macintosh marketing chief Joanna Hoffman, Jeff Daniels as Apple CEO John Sculley and Fassbender in Jobs’ trademark black turtleneck.

As befits the legacy of Jobs — an inveterate showman who whipped the Apple faithful into a frenzy by keeping the company’s creations secret until just the right moment — the teaser is enigmatic and intriguing.

Set for release Oct. 9 from Universal Pictures, the film is much anticipated on multiple levels. Jobs was of course a hugely influential and often controversial figure, and the movie is based on his bestselling biography by Walter Isaacson. There are big names on both sides of the camera: the aforementioned Sorkin, Boyle, Fassbender, Rogen and Winslet, as well as Oscar-winning producers Scott Rudin and Christian Colson.

Moreover, the film endured a roller-coaster development process that included a protracted search for a leading man and a fractious back-and-forth between Rudin and former Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal, who was originally overseeing the movie.

The row, which was made public via the Sony Pictures hacking incident, ended with Rudin taking the film to Universal. In leaked emails, Pascal wrote of losing out on “a seminal movie like ‘Citizen Kane’ for our time.”

Follow @ogettell for movie news

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Cannes 2015: For Steve McQueen, a posthumous French return

When Chad McQueen was a boy, his father, the actor Steve McQueen, wouldn’t get rattled by much in Hollywood, finessing filmmakers and executives to become one of the world’s first global celebrities.

But he came face-to-face with plenty of demons in trying to make an authentic-feeling movie about Le Mans, the classic 24-hour endurance auto race.

“He had the feeling he could be killed every day,” Chad McQueen said. “There were drivers who didn’t think of this as a movie, and the danger was real. And my dad knew that.”  Those pitfalls — not to mention battles with the studio and director over the shape of the movie — made 1971’s “Le Mans” one of the most troubled productions of its time, and it took a significant toll on its star. The actor would die, within the decade, at 50.

Chad McQueen was having breakfast Saturday in this coastal French town, talking about his father and the actor’s cinematic white whale. The younger McQueen was in town for the world premiere of  “Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans,” a Cannes official selection that documents the actor’s life and the struggles in making the Hollywood film.

The younger McQueen, who is a featured voice in the movie, had made the trip from Los Angeles despite painful injuries he sustained in a racing accident nine years ago that makes it extremely difficult to travel. But it was worth it, he said, because his father would have appreciated what the premiere meant.

Directed by the British documentary veterans John McKenna and Gabriel Clarke, “The Man and Le Mans” uses archival material and talking head interviews — as well as newly found McQueen audio recordings and footage from the “Le Mans” shoot — to tell its story. It paints a picture of a flawed man who was at times brought low by his share of frailties, from infidelity to a headstrong quality that could make him his own worst enemy. (One of the film’s touchstone quotes, from a former McQueen confidant, is that the actor identified with a line about Alexander the Great, who it was said conquered the world but not himself.)

But McQueen is portrayed as sticking to his artistic guns where “Le Mans” was concerned. The director, John Sturges, and the studio, a CBS unit called Cinema Center Films, both wanted a more dramatic piece, heavy with romance and conventional beats. McQueen, an avid racer, sought a more non-narrative, neo-vérité style that would use footage from the 1970 Le Mans race as the film’s backbone.

The result were fierce battles that saw Sturges, a longtime McQueen collaborator, exit production midstream. The scene on the French set would become almost circus-like at times, with no shooting script, writers flown in to try their hand at something that worked. At one point trailers were packed with scribes, all trying unsuccessfully to satisfy McQueen’s creative needs.  As one experts says in the movie, “Sometimes I had the feeling he wanted to leave his scratch marks on the history of filmmaking. He was always searching for something.”

In the end McQueen achieved much of what he wanted, but at a great toll to his health, according to several colleagues in the movie. Ditto for the film’s commercial prospects — “Le Mans” flopped at the box office.

Surprisingly, this was not the end of the story. McQueen turned out to be vindicated years later. The film was hailed as a cult classic, and its influence remains. Anyone who’s ever appreciated the textured historical realities of many modern pieces — from “Senna” to “Selma” — owe a debt of gratitude to what McQueen was trying to achieve with “Le Mans.”

“One of the things I hope comes across, said Clarke in an interview, “is how great a filmmaker he was. This wasn’t just someone holding the line for reasons of ego.”

“The Man and Le Mans” (it is seeking U.S. distribution in Cannes) will also intrigue anyone who’s observed Hollywood actors in the 21st century try to wrest more control of their careers by expanding their behind-the-camera roles. McQueen had more ambition in this regard than many stars of the era. But as so many modern celebrities know, material with money will only get you so far.

“He needed the studio to finance his dream,” McKenna said. “And once they didn’t share the dream, the trouble began.”

The movie’s coup de grace is footage from the production and some candid audio of McQueen from that era. It nearly didn’t come to be —McKenna and Clarke had been on a massive quest for what they heard were millions of feet of film from the “Le Mans” set, chasing down tips from Russia to New Jersey before eventually unearthing it below a Hollywood sound stage.

Chad McQueen — now, at 54, four years older than Steve McQueen at the time of his death — lives in the Southland and concentrates on the racing car company he started. (Younger readers may know his son, Steven McQueen, a regular on the CW’s “The Vampire Diaries.”) He has the sandy hair and rugged face of his father, which gives his presence something of an eerie overtone.

Chad McQueen noted that there’s something fitting about a McQueen in Cannes, a place Steve never brought a film but nonetheless part of a country where some of his great triumphs and crucibles occurred. Le Mans, about 600 miles north, still treats McQueen as an icon.

So does much of the world, which will become clear, despite his foibles, in the film, which among its virtues reminds viewers of how McQueen laid the tracks for Ryan Gosling and a host of modern stars.

“My dad was very human, and I want people to know that,” Chad McQueen said. “But he was also a visionary. I mean, there’s a reason it’s been 34 years since he died and he still resonates.”


Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Funny Shirts for Electricians

Unique and funny t-shirts and hoodies for electricians…and electrician wives too! See them all here: