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September 02, 2003 - Image 51

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2003-09-02

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The Michigan Daily - New Student Edition -fall 2003 - 7D

Begby and Payne's 'About SCHMibT
shows lighter side of Jack
By Jeff Dickerson
Daily Arts Editor x X.,

After he gets finished fighting this battle, Ledger is going to go home and sit In front of the TV, and cook and clean shit.
Ledger dicusses'eaters', Carer

By Todd Weiser
Daily Film Editor
When Heath Ledger sits down to promote his new film
"The Four Feathers" one would not expect that ensuing con-
versation to include references to "Police Academy" and a
discussion on the difficulty of acquiring Foster's, the self-
proclaimed beer of Australia, in his home country. But then
again, Ledger is only 23 and he likes to take part in the
same things other people his age do.
"I never sit around and think about my career that much,
Ledger admits. "I'm a pretty lazy person. I mean once I hang
up the phone I'm gonna go home and sit in front of the TV and,
ya know, cook and clean my shit. I don't really sit around and
get all calculated about everything."
Ledger won't let his superstardom get to
his head, purposely avoiding the hundreds of
websites devoted to the young Aussie star of
"A Knight's Tale" and "The Patriot."
"I don't have an e-mail address, and I've.
never seen any of (the websites). I hang out
with my best friends that have been my best
friends since I was three."
But Ledger's Clark Kent-like vision of
his own life is anything but the truth. Not
many people his age get to spend months{
in the beautiful deserts of Morocco or
play-kissing some of the world's most
beautiful women, such as Kate Hudson,
his co-star in "Four Feathers" and past film lovers Julia
Stiles and Shannyn Sossamon.
In his new role, Ledger gets to play antique dress-up once
again, commanding the role of a young British officer
Harry Haversham during the end of the 19th century. But
the movie was not just playing war as Harry makes the dif-
ficult decision to desert the military as they ship out to a
battle he doesn't understand.
The intriguing character, along with the charm of one of his
favorite directors brought him to the project.
"Initially, it was Shekhar Kapur (the film's director). I
was and still am a huge fan. And secondly, just the character
and his journey is so epic, that he really starts in one place
and ends in another."
He continues: "I was curious about this character because on
paper, and in the day and the time, he was labeled a coward. It
really read black and white;.he was cowardly on paper. He did-
n't want to go to war, and he was using his wife as an excuse ...
it was very straightforward, but in that cowardly act I found him
to be courageous, because he was standing up for what he
believed in he was standing against a systematic and regimen- '
tal lifestyle that he'd been spoon-fed his whole life."
Star Ben Affleck fliv

Ledger recalls the actual production with fond emotions,
despite hours of being put in makeup and filming in the hot
temperatures, he still came away with a great shooting experi-
ence on and off the set.
For one scene, Ledger got to live out that epic dream of
crossing the desert, making that grand journey that has been
so beautifully filmed in numerous classic films, most sig-
nificantly in "Lawrence of Arabia," a film "The Four Feath-
ers" has been compared to.
"I jumped on my camel and rode off into the sunset for hours
and hours. I had a turban on over my head and I had Pink Floyd,
Dark Side of the Moon playing, it was just magical"
Ledger developed many close relationships with his co-stars
but speaks the most glowingly of Djimon Honsou, the "Amis-
tad" star who plays a guardian angel role to Ledger's Harry.
"He is my brother and he's got such a
beautiful soul; a big heart and generous to
work with. And he's got such a huge pres-
ence. At first he can be intimidating, he'll
walk in the room and, he's massive, and in
actual fact he can pick you up and snap
you over his knee. But you know, he's just
big and gentle and you can push him over
with one finger. We had a ball."
Part of that "ball" included a weekly
musical jam with some of the locals.
"Every Tuesday night we would play
drums with this Sudanese drum band.
We'd just kind of get blind drunk on
red wine; we'd keep a constant beat for like three hours
straight, and that was fun. Out in the middle of the desert
and just playing away."
Still, with all the joy "The Four Feather" was to make,
Ledger feels a real affinity for making smaller films, and even
taking smaller roles like in last year's "Monster's Ball."
"It keeps you alive doing smaller movies and smaller
roles. There's less pressure. 'Monster's Ball,' the whole
movie was shot in four weeks and my work was over in two
days. It's fun to be able to just walk in and walk out and not
have the pressures of creating this huge arch for the charac-
ter to carry a movie. You can just go in there and pretty
much do what the fuck you want."
Having finished two other films since "The Four Feathers,"
Ledger does not have any upcoming plans for his career,
instead taking a momentary break and keeping a return to the-
ater a possibility for thr-
This short vacation does not mean he's unhappy right now
with the way things have worked out for him so far; on the con-
trary, when asked to compare the century he lives in now with
the numerous ones heimt lived1fBtgh in his films, he replie,
"I'm pretty happy in this one, no matter how fucked up it is."
s his wig - literally

"About Schmidt," based on Louis
Begby's 1996 novel and the third
film from Alexander Payne, is, as
the title indicates, about Warren
Schmidt, a 66-year-old recently
retired insurance actuary who
resides in Omaha. Schmidt, played
with gracious subtlety by Jack
Nicholson in his best role in over a
decade, is a man who slowly comes
to understand his entire life is all
for naught.
His retirement plan is to travel
across the country in his 35-foot
Winnebago (The
The Safety Adventurer) with
Helen (June
of Objects Squibb, "Far From
IFC Films Heaven"), his wife
of 42 years. But
with nothing to do, Warren starts to
re-evaluate his life's work, con-
stantly nagging about his wife's
annoying habits (she interrupts
him, collects trinkets and only eats
at new restaurants) and getting flus-
tered about his daughter's
(Hope Davis, "Home Alone")
upcoming marriage and his
soon-to-be son-in-law (Der-
mot Mulroney, "My Best
Friend's Wedding").
The rich characters of
"Schmidt" are the byproduct of
Payne's direction and Begby's
novel, an ensemble of personali-
ties that feels more like a group{
of distant relatives than actors.
The symbiotic culmination pro-
duces characters that feel
authentic, not fabricated. It's no
surprise that Payne is the bril-
liant mind behind 1999's dark Acac
comedy "Election." Hert
Unlike "Election," "About
Schmidt" plays for more than just
comedic effect. For every joke,
there is an immediate reminder of
the overarching tragedy of the
story. Warren complains about
every facet of his marriage, then his
wife dies. Following the unexpected
death of Helen, Warren hits the
road in his gas guzzling Winnebago
in an attempt to prevent his daugh-

Courtesy of'New Line
Jack is a little disoriented after deciding to take control of his life ftr the very
first time.

ter's wedding. For a while "About
Schmidt" becomes a road movie, as
the protagonist seeks some kind of
meaning in his life on a sort of lit-
eral and metaphorical road trip
across the Plains states.
Despite all of the quirky charac-
ters in the film (Kathy Bates gives

frustrations with his new life.
Unknowningly to Schmidt, little
Ndugu becomes his most apprecia-
tive friend.
Nicholson, following a string of
embellished roles in recent years, opts
this time for a more minimalist
approach, wisely letting Payne's script
drive his character.
It's refreshing to see
Nicholson's virtuoso
acting chops being
used to form a real
character rather than
a caricature.
Payne and his
longtime screenwrit-
ing partner Jim Tay-
lr have taken several
liberties with Begby's
novel, primarily in
changing the title
character from an
Courtesy of New line upscale New Yorker
Roberta to a humble
-hlaw. Nebrtskah. It's a just
alteration, as the
Omahan Schmidt seems more
accessible than a wealthy Manhat-
"About Schmidt" delicately bal-
ances comedy and drama and cre-
ates a film that is not only amusing,
but heart-breaking. This complex
case of cinemtatic bi-polarism is
what makes Schmidt, and the film,
so memorable.

demy Award winner, Kathy Bates, appears as
zel, the mother of Schmidt's prospective son
an Oscar-worthy performance as
the unapologetic in-law), the most
memorable person is a 6-year-old
Tanzanian boy named Ndugu (never
seen on screen), who Warren
decides to sponsor after seeing an
ad on television. Through letters to
his underpriveleged foster child
(the most amusing parts of the.
film), Warren is able to vent his



By Jeff Dickerson
Daily Arts Editor

Hollywood stars often enjoy the luxuries of
having world class hairdressers, make-up
artists and fashion designers; things we sim-
pletons could only dream of. But sometimes
such luxuries are not enough.
The Internet Movie Database reports that
"The Sum of All Fears" and "Pearl Harbor"
film star Ben Affleck wears a hair piece.
While attending a recent Hollywood party,
Affleck play-tussled with "Swingers" star

Vince Vaughn. In the midst of the friendly
wrestling, Affleck's toupee flew off in front
of several of his close friends.
Affleck demanded his colleagues swear
to secrecy about the incident. Apparently
someone didn't get that message.Not only
does the "Armageddon" star wear a toupee,
he also has undergone over $50,000 worth
of dental work to make his teeth more
attractive. Good move Ben.
Affleck is currently dating Latino pop
diva Jennifer Lopez. We'll see how long
that lasts.

Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
Ben worries about his
receding hairline.


___ 1

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