lbbaok and hell
Controversial director JAMES TOBACK refuses to kiss Hollywood's backside — in Two Girls And A Guy, he just gets his actors to do it for him. Words: Anwar Brett
He looks like a college professor. he talks like a college professor. and the fact is James Toback once was a college professor — but the edgy. experimental films that characterise his career are hardly synonymous with the respectable groves of academia. His latest film. Two Girls And/l Guy extends the boundaries of screen sexuality with a provocative. undeniany erotic. very convincing sex scene between Robert Downey Jr and Heather Graham.
As an out-of-work actor. practising his dubious talents on the two lovely girlfriends he is dating at the same time. Blake (Downey) is suddenly caught in his lie when they both inadvertently arrive at his apartment. In the course of the film. there are heated exchanges. apologies. discussions — the aforementioned scene that has Blake kiss his girlfriend where the sun don‘t shine.
Toback. a highly articulate 54-year-old l-larvard graduate. is every bit as frank in conversation as his work is on screen. and he gives the impression that he enjoys other peoples' discomfort at such moments. He certainly is unafraid of the controversy. just as he has always been prepared to confront the unpalatable or distasteful to tell a good story.
‘Robert and Heather were ready to go into just about anything imaginable.‘ he continues. ‘I gave them a couple of specific suggestions and then just sat in the corner with the cameraman and we shot for 50 minutes. They would have gone on for another four hours if we‘d let them. They were unleashed. The only time I gave them any direction was when he was licking her asshole: we were reloading. and he was about to stop just as we were ready to roll again. So I had to tell him not to stop yet.‘
An impassioned director able to get his actors to do that little bit extra. Toback therefore stands out as something of a rarity. It helps that Robert Downey Jr is an actor he knows well (they first collaborated on The Pick-Up Artist). and is the type of performer willing to try anything to keep his performance fresh. The unexpected. with Downey. comes as standard.
'The only time I gave them any direction was when he was licking Heather Graham's asshole. I had to tell him not to stop yet.’ James Toback
Three's company: Natasha Gregson Wagner, Robert Downey Jr and Heather Graham in Two Girls And A Guy
'l‘oback hired him again for his next film. Black & White and saw Downey‘s off-the~wall invention nearly come a cropper.
‘Robert plays Brooke Shields‘ gay husband.‘ Toback explains. ‘and is the most spectacularly elegant and interesting and hilarious and touching gay character I've ever seen in a movie. But he hits on every guy in the movie. including in this one scene Mike Tyson 7— who plays himself. .\like tries to give him a polite brush off. but Robert doesn‘t stop there. so Mike kind of slaps him and knocks him down.‘
The reaction was a surprise to all concerned — in spite of this being Mike Tyson - yet what happened next was even more odd.
‘Brooke Shields. in the way I‘d written it. was supposed to collect Robert and leave the party. Instead she kind of comes on to Mike Tyson and they
have a weird verbal dance together. And during all of
this Robert spontaneously decides to masturbate while watching them. talking to .\like saying: “l'll shoot you in your six" and “I‘ll bite your ear oft". It was just one crazy thing after another.‘ smiles Toback. an undeniable ringmaster of the extraordinary and bizarre.
Two Girls AndA Guy opens on Fri 29 Jan. See review.
Lurking behind the director's chair. . .
DIRECTOR DANNY BOYLE, currently in Thailand making The Beach, has been in the papers recently over accusations by locals and environmentalists that his ex- Trainspotting team have spoiled the natural landscape during filming. The List can reveal that, in a letter sent to members of the cast, 80er stressed all trees and plants removed for the film would be returned as soon as the production wrapped, and that the original vegetation is currently being well looked after on a neighbouring island.
Around $100,000 of the budget has been allocated to ensuring the tourist routes remain in pristine condition; meanwhile, for the duration of the shoot, tourist operators have been paid compensation to keep parties of visitors away from the film location. The film's star, Leonardo DiCaprio, has also been in discussions with Thai authorities about a promotional film to boost tourism in the area. Ah well, Phucket, as they say in the east.
SCRIPT-WRITING GURU ROBERT McKEE comes to Glasgow for an intensive three-day seminar on 26-28 February. Titled ‘Story', the course sets out McKee’s vision of the principles of writing for television and film, including essential concepts of structure, particularly the five-part narrative.
'This course is not about formula,’ McKee insists. ’There is such a thing as form — when the form is present, we instinctively react to it. Storytelling has form but no formula. Classic story structure - the need for a powerful controlling idea -- is paramount. Even masters like Godard and Bergman began experimenting only after mastering the basics of narrative.’
McKee's visit has been arranged by Scottish Television and Scottish Screen in association with Media Xchange. The participation fee is £200 plus VAT, and more information is available from 0171 734 2310.
Robert McKee: what's the story?
21 Jan—4 Feb 1999 THE [IN 27