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The Buzz
The scene
Heady days for a gritty movie

The Globe and Mail
September 13, 2002

Will Spun be the new Memento? Earlier this week, Newmarket Films finalized the purchase of the much-talked-about Jonas Akerlund video-paced take on the gritty subculture around methamphetamines.

An impressive cast includes back-from-obscurity Mickey Rourke, Jason Schwartzman, John Leguizamo, Mena Suvari, Patrick Fugit, Brittany Murphy, Deborah Harry and Eric Roberts.

Newmarket Films is, of course, the independent production company that made last year's buzz film of the festival, Memento, which ended up grossing about $25-million (U.S.) at the box office and getting two Oscar nominations.

Casting in Cambodia
There are big names in Matt Dillon's new film, City of Ghosts, about a con man (played by Dillon, who also co-wrote and directs the movie) who tries to find his conscience in Cambodia. Gérard Depardieu plays an irascible (but basically decent) hotelkeeper, and James Caan is Dillon's always-on-the-lookout-for-the-next-scam father figure.

But perhaps the best performance in the psychological thriller comes from a no-name actor, Serevyuth Kem, a resident of Phnom Penh whom Dillon just happened to stumble across on the teeming streets of the Southeast Asian city. One month before shooting was to start, Dillon still had not found the right person to play the role of Sok, an honest local who becomes Dillon's one true friend in the film.

At a press conference yesterday, Dillon remembers the day he was sitting in a seedy little bar, nursing an iced coffee.

"I had the worst bacterial virus you can imagine," Dillon said with a grimace, "probably too many of those iced coffees. But he came up and wanted to give me a tour of the city. He was so funny and he stood out from the crowd. I said go to the casting office in the Hong Kong Hotel. He was terrific." Prior to that chance meeting, Kem was earning $19 a month working at the local police department.

Funky shoes
At a press conference for Standing in the Shadows of Motown, which celebrates the unsung studio musicians called the Funk Brothers who actually created the Motown sound, percussionist "Black Jack" Ashford explained what it took to make the music that made Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye famous.

"My shoes were as important as my hands. I could be playin' the drums or shakin' a tambourine, but my feet laid down the beat.

"Both shoes had to be the same pitch. If I had a hole in my shoe, I was in trouble. You can't have a B-flat shoe and an F-major shoe."

Now you know why your garage band didn't make it.

Leconte confesses
Johnny Hallyday is a grizzled, sixtyish French rock star who has also acted in films for many years. But it was quite a job to discover why celebrated director Patrice Leconte offered him the lead in his new mystery thriller, L'Homme du train (The Man on the Train).

Perhaps it was seeing Hallyday's earlier films? "I have a confession to make," replied Leconte. "I have seen hardly any of Johnny Hallyday's movies."

Maybe it was because Hallyday came up to him one day, grabbed his shoulder, and begged to be in Leconte's next film? "Mais non," bristled Leconte.

"No actor should assume they can get a role by coming up and grabbing my shoulder!"

Perhaps he thought having Hallyday in his film would attract the singer's fans to buy tickets? "No, no, no," Leconte said. "I was very clear that I did not want him to play Johnny Hallyday. Just the part as it was written."

So . . . if it wasn't Hallyday's movies, or his begging, or his bad-boy rock 'n' roll persona, what was it?

"Well," admitted Leconte, "I sort of like his music."

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