Robert Altman: The Oral Biography
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Robert Altman—visionary director, hard-partying hedonist, eccentric family man, Hollywood legend—comes roaring to life in this rollicking cinematic biography, told in a chorus of voices that can only be called Altmanesque.
His outsized life and unique career are revealed as never before: here are the words of his family and friends, and a few enemies, as well as the agents, writers, crew members, producers, and stars who worked with him, including Meryl Streep, Warren Beatty, Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Paul Newman, Julie Christie, Elliott Gould, Martin Scorsese, Robin Williams, Cher, and many others. There is even Altman himself, in the form of his exclusive last interviews.
After an all-American boyhood in Kansas City, a stint flying bombers through enemy fire in World War II, and jobs ranging from dog-tattoo entrepreneur to television director, Robert Altman burst onto the scene in 1970 with the movie M*A*S*H. He revolutionized American filmmaking, and, in a decade, produced masterpieces at an astonishing pace: McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Thieves Like Us, The Long Goodbye, 3 Women, and, of course, Nashville. Then, after a period of disillusionment with Hollywood—as well as Hollywood’s disillusionment with him—he reinvented himself with a bold new set of masterworks: The Player, Short Cuts, and Gosford Park. Finally, just before the release of the last of his nearly forty movies, A Prairie Home Companion, he received an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement from the Academy, which had snubbed him for so many years.
Mitchell Zuckoff—who was working with Altman on his memoirs before he died—weaves Altman’s final interviews, an incredible cast of voices, and contemporary reviews and news accounts, into a riveting tale of an extraordinary life. Here are page after page of revelations that force us to reevaluate Altman as a man and an artist, and to view his sprawling narratives with large casts, multiple story lines, and overlapping dialogue as unquestionably the work of a modern genius.
known who thought they were going to set the world on fire. One of them agreed to pose for Playboy because she didn’t think she would have to take her clothes off. It was nuts. Gwen had taken socks out of the drawer and stuck them in the dress. That tells everybody she hadn’t expected to strip. The whole object of this is to show how far we’ll go for fame, or how much of ourselves we’ll give up for it. MICHAEL MURPHY: In the striptease scene, all those guys were like from the Lion’s Club. They
2006: Robert Altman, one of the most adventurous and influential American directors of the late 20th century, a filmmaker whose iconoclastic career spanned more than five decades but whose stamp was felt most forcefully in one, the 1970s, died Monday in Los Angeles. He was 81. * * * MARTIN SCORSESE: His legacy? His spirit. His spirit was to make pictures, to say what the hell he wanted to say on film. It may have angered people, it may have unsettled people, but he did it. He made independent
JAMES CAAN: Bill Conrad took the picture away from him at the end. It was so comic book, so corny, and Bob is anything but corny. The original ending, you don’t know if he sees the beacon or if he’s going off the wrong way. Conrad said, “No, we can’t do that.” There was this whole bullshit with this toy mouse in my pocket. I spin the mouse and I head off in the direction of its ass or its nose or whatever it shows—obviously toward the beacon. I think they called us back without Bob, and that fat
it bothered him when they didn’t. I remember him saying to me, “I can’t even tell you which son was on the set,” and they were partying that night or whatever, and something was said about the next morning. I think Bob’s concern was that they hadn’t shown up on time. He said, “Listen, I can have as much as I want, because I’ll be on that set at six in the morning. You won’t.” It was about the work ethic. If you asked a psychologist it would probably be something of maleness that he never dealt
real gambling movie. When I see a Cincinnati Kid it’s like a Western—“Is the hero going to win or going to lose the gun-fight at the end?” There’s nothing real about that. I was friends with Steven Spielberg, and Steven and I were going to do California Split. I worked in Steven’s home for about eight months. MGM said yes, and suddenly everything changed. Jim Aubrey, head of the studio, was the smiling cobra—and the snake struck. He said, “I want it changed. I don’t want what’s going on here. I