Altman (2014) Script

♪ Let's begin again ♪

♪ Let's start over from the start ♪

♪ Let's forget the time that you nearly broke my heart ♪

♪ Everywhere we've been again ♪

♪ Let's begin ♪

♪ Again ♪

♪ Let's begin again ♪

♪ Let's forget about our pride ♪

♪ Pay attention to the way we feel inside ♪

♪ Let's give love a spin again ♪

♪ Let's begin ♪

♪ Again ♪

I equate films with sandcastles.

You get a bunch of mates and you go down and say, oh, let's build this great sandcastle.

And you build it.

And if the tide comes in in 20 minutes it's just smooth sand and that structure you made is in everybody's memory and that's it.


What does it mean?

Fearless.


I grew up in Kansas City.

When I was 18 I became a flier and I went overseas to the South Pacific.

I started writing letters and I wrote a letter to a cousin of mine who was a woman who I didn't know really, but she was the secretary to Myron Selznick.

Who was one of the big agents, David Selznick's brother.

And I'd written her this kind of funny, cute letter and she wrote me back and she said, oh, Bobby, you wrote such a nice letter you should be... you're a writer.

And I thought, well, yeah, that's what I'll do.

When I got out of the air force my dad was living in California.

He rented a house in Malibu, up in the hills.

And so I move into my father's house.

A guy named George W. George had the downstairs apartment.

I told him, I said, I'm a writer, and he said, oh I'm gonna be a director.

We should do something together.

So we wrote a story and we sold it to RKO.

They wouldn't let me write the screenplay.

I said well can I come and watch the film being made?

No.

So I decided I'd be a playwright.

I wrote a play.

And I got in a car and I was driving to New York and I stopped in Kansas City, which is my hometown.

And I ran in to a guy I had known slightly in a bar and he said what are you doing?

I said well I'm a film... film writer.

I'm writing screenplays and I lied quite a bit.

I said I'm on my way to New York.

I'm doing my [flay-

What are you doing?

And he said I'm directing movies.

I said where?

He said well there's this place here called the Calvin Company.

It's an industrial film place.

So I went over and I was introduced and lied about what I had done some more and they hired me.

Morning, Mr. Jones.

Morning Charlie.

You want me to fill 'er up today?

Yeah, and one more thing, I'm in kind of a hurry but I'd like to get an oil change and a lube job.

My film school was working in this industrial films.

I mean, I had to shoot, edit the films.

I learned all the tools.

When I was at the Calvin Company a guy who's father owned a bunch of... a chain of theatres in the mid-west, in Roden, wanted to make a movie.

And, uh, delinquents, a delinquents movie.

And that's what it was called "The Delinquents".

So I wrote it in about three nights.

I stayed up all night and wrote this script.

Golly, do we have to go in?

Well let's just go in for a little while.

If we don't like it we can always leave, okay?

We made it for $65,000 and it was really terrible.

Ah!

Where you going?

But Hitchcock saw that film, he was impressed with it.

So he called me in for a meeting and he offered me a "Hitchcock Presents".

Hello.

Mrs. Gould.

This is...

Hello.

What do you think you're doing?

I'm going to call her and tell her we're in love and you're not going to stop me.

Hello.

Hello?

Hello?

What number are you calling?

I did two of those.

So then I got an agent and they got me this job on Whirlybirds.

Two boys robbed the store and slit the owner.

Could be the same ones who killed the old man at the garage.

Killed!

Could you intercept? Over.

We'll try, Greendale.

We shot them in two and a half days.

Every five days we would shoot two episodes.

Tommy Thomson, who was my AD, would pick me up in the morning and I'd get in the car and I'd drive out to... way out in the valley in California where we were shooting those things.

I'd say what are we doing today?

He'd say oh this is the thing, and the two guys are doing this, and there's a woman who's cheating on her husband and she's shot this guy, and there's some baby chickens, and they have all these eggs that are gonna die unless the helicopter gets them and there's a dilemma.

Do they take the chickens?

Do they solve the murder?

And I'd say okay, I got it.

I was born and raised in California and spent a lot of time at the beach.

One day a movie company put out a call for girls who could swim.

So I tried out and ended up getting the part.

I started getting work and one day I got a call to play a nurse on Whirlybirds.

The director was Robert Altman.

He looked a little hung-over.

When we were introduced he didn't say hello, he just said how are your morals?

And I said a little shaky, how are yours?

That was the beginning.

We went right into a fulltime relationship.

I never worked again after Whirlybirds.

He had already been married twice, but those marriages didn't last very long and he had three kids... Christine, Michael, and Steven from those earlier marriages.

And I had Konni from mine.

When they got married we moved and my new school was having this big father daughter dance and I was so new and completely terrified.

Even though Bob and I didn't know each other that well, he came with me as my father.

He was so sweet about it.

He just wanted me to be happy.

Soon after we were married we had Bobby.

We bought a house, it was a great house and we had lots and lots of parties.

Bob loved to throw a party.


I started in "Bonanza" and "The Roaring 20's" and a lot of those series.

And I became one of the top television directors.

The more television he did the more he realized all these TV scripts he was given were just the same old thing over, and over.

A'.

By the time he was doing "Combat" he tried to use his own experience in the war to make the show more true to life.

He did one episode where Vic Morrow was shell-shocked, but that got him into trouble.

Joey?

Medic!

That's my brother, my brother Joey.

And he's, he's dead.

It's all my fault.

Geeze is this guy out of it.

Walking down the road carrying a dead German and thinking it's his brother.

A man named Selig Seligman produced that series and he forbade me to make that.

He said I don't want you to do that.

Then he went out of town and... and, uh, I didn't have a decent script to go in with and so we did it.

And when he saw it I was fired.

And to edit the show the editor would come... there was a bar there over there on... on Washington Boulevard, over by MGM.

I would go sit in the bar and Vic Morrow would go to the editor and then come and sit with me and he says here's what he's doing.

I said well tell him do 'so and so' and 'so and so'.

Then Vic would go back and...

And then that episode got quite a bit of attention.

I think it won an Emmy.

He continued to push for more realism in all of his shows, but the producers wouldn't go for it.

In an episode of "Kraft Suspense Theater" he wanted to cast the black actor as a convict on the run.

And when the sponsor refused the idea of a black character he quit television and bad-mouthed the sponsor.

I felt I had just done all I could do in television, and I felt I'd better leave.

What does Altmanesque mean?

Playing the long shot.

After burning his bridges in television, Bob wanted to write and direct his own films.

He thought that would give him more creative freedom.

Around that time we adopted Matthew and our family grew.

But we were running out of money.

When you have six children and can't pay the milkman, that's pretty bad.

It was our fifth anniversary and he told me for our anniversary we're flying to Las Vegas for the weekend, so get ready.

I'm just going to run out to the racetrack and I'll meet you at the airport at six.

Later, I found out he had our last $200 in his pocket and he'd bet it all on a twenty-to-one long shot and he won.

When we landed in Las Vegas he went directly to the craps table and won another $6000.

But if it had gone the other way I might not be here to tell you this story.

My first film I did after years of television was a thing called "Countdown" with Warner Brothers.

They sent it to me and I liked the story.

It was about going to the moon, but Jack Warner was very reluctant to hire me.

He thought I was a bit of a smartass.

He told me so.

I went up to his office and sat there and he said listen, everybody wants to put you on this picture so I told them they can do what they want, but I gotta tell you, you're gonna fail.

He says I don't like your work, I don't think you get it and I don't think you'll do a good job on this.

But I'm going to let you do it and so.

I said well I hope I can prove you wrong.

Five, four, three, two, one, fire.

Lee, this is Chiz, do you read?

What's the story?

You'll be awhile.

Now listen, we believe that... some arc... at the launch.

Repeat.

At the launch there was some arching and you're losing electrical power.

There's no way to repair without a risk of the retros firing and sending you out of trajectory.

You'd never get back.

What?

Jack Warner was out of town and the last day of shooting he came back and the phone rang and it was Bill Conrad.

It was the producer of this little movie and he said listen, don't come in Monday because Jack...

They won't let you in the studio.

Jack Warner called for your dailies and he ran them, uh...

Sunday and he's barred you from the lot.

And I said what do you mean he's barred me from the lot?

I have the Directors Guild.

I get my first cut.

He says you can do any of that legal stuff you want and they'll let you do it, if that's what you want to do.

But nobody's going to look at what you do and it's all going to be changed.

He said, if you want to hear what he said that fool, meaning me, has actors talking at the same time.

Two days more and we could of had an unbeatable edge.

I know...

Those men should of been brought in...

I couldn't bring them all in, they don't trust me.

Mr. Nogritty's calling from Washington.

I was just trying to get the illusion of reality and so I got fired from that because of the overlapping dialogue.

Making your own rules.

Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau speaking with church leaders today said U.S. Conscientious Objectors to the war in Vietnam have his complete sympathy and that Canada should be a refuge for militarism.

Somehow Bob found backing for an independent film to be shot in Canada, "That Cold Day in the Park".

Action.

He loved Canada and talked about moving there.

He was mad at America because of the Vietnam War.

Cut. Print that.

So I get the documents together and was trying to sell the house, but then lngo came into the picture.

Lngo Preminger was a talent agent that had a script he wanted to produce.

Lngo thought Bob would be perfect for it after he saw a short film that Bob had made about smoking pot.


Everyone in town had turned it down, but Bob saw something in that script that noone else saw.

I talked to lngo Preminger for two hours and I said if you want to make the picture I want to make, I'll do it.

Here's what I want. Here's what I see.

And he said okay, let's go.


Fox did not want it to be a Vietnam thing.

The war was still going on in Vietnam.

So they did not want to, the studio did not want to come out with that kind of picture.

I don't think I would of gotten away with this, except Fox at the time had two other war films going on.

So they were concerned about those and I was aware of that and I said I've got to go on the back lot there and keep a low profile and not draw attention.

Let nobody pay attention to me.

Elliott Gould.

How do you do?

This is???? who is the cameraman.

How are you?

You'll be playing what, Hawkeye?

We were a little minor film.

We didn't have any stars in it.

I went up to San Francisco.

There was a theater company up there, one of those improvisational companies and I hired most of them as incidental players.

Radar!

Yes sir.

Why don't you get ahold of Major Burns?

Tell him we're going to have to hold a couple of surgeons from the day shift onto the night shift.

To the surgeons, we're sure gonna need them.

It was taking an ensemble cast and doing it in a humorous way.

I think you will find these accommodating, they're quite dry.

Don't you use olives?

Olives? Where the hell do you think you are, man?

Dear God, protect our Supreme Commander on the field.

Frank, were you on the religious kick at home or did you crack up over here?

I'm married, I'm happy, I love my wife.

If she was here I would be with her, there is no question.

I wonder how a degenerated person like that could have reached a position of responsibility in the army medical core.

He was drafted.

We had a script which we used as a blueprint, and as we would rehearse it would evolve.

If something occurred to us that seemed to work, we would do it.

Now when German starts coming over here like he's hurt... hey Scotty when he gets over to you, we'll give you a spot and you're going to say, "For god sakes Gorman, this is... get back in the game".

He says, "I've got the ball".

And then you say, "you've got the ball, well run".

And then you say, "you've got the ball, he's got the ball"!

Go, gm.!

What's the matter with you? Get back in the game!

I've got the ball!

You've got the ball, well run!

Run! Run!

We were working for the laughs and yet there was a reality to it.

People died.

Scorch, I need some more sponge clamps, if you have them.

Give me some big hunks of sponge or something.

We're all out of big sponges.

You'll have to use these for now.

Oh that's bleeding nice, oh, that can't come out of there.

I can't stop that bleeding.

I can't really see, It's like the Mississippi River down there.

Ready?

I'm ready.

Nurse, you got a clamp, please?

Yes, yes sir.

Scratch my nose.

Just on... there.

There, a little harder please.

Scorch, I need some more sponge clamps, if you have them.

Darryl Zanuck, who was the head of Fox, was in Europe while this was being made.

He came back and we had a screening for him and within this screening he had come back from Europe and he had two young European girls that were friends of his.

And he... They came to the screening and at the end of the screening he said all that blood has to come out.

And I thought, oh, Christ, we're sunk.

And those girls said, oh Darryl, that's the best part of it.

And they just supported that in such a way that we were allowed to leave them in for a preview.

And that audience went nuts.

And Zanuck said we're not going to mess with this.

The picture was such a hit it was phenomenal.

I mean, you know, with the war going on, the timing worked.


Um, life, liberty, and the pursuit of truth.

Now, we welcome the fifteenth man asked to direct MASH, Mr. Robert Altman.

My son wrote that song.

Your son wrote that song?

When he was fourteen, Suicide is Painless.

Now he's got too much money.

He's sixteen, living with a 20 year old girl in Venice and...

Shocking.

Do you get any kick now out of the fact that you're a hot director and there's all those years that people wouldn't... wouldn't expectorate on you?

Oh yeah.

Yeah.

How does it come out?

It's fun.

Yeah.

It's nice.


Bob became the hottest director in Hollywood and we built what I called our movie star house in Malibu.

It was a new life for our family.

Everyone wanted Bob to do "MASH 2", but Bob refused to repeat himself.

Instead he surprised everyone by making a far out little film called "Brewster McCloud".

It was an important time in the 70's because this studio turned filmmaking back to the artist so I go to do a lot of stuff that was certainly not the formula that had existed before.

The McCabe script was given to me right after I made "MASH".

The reason I like it was it was the standard western genre.

We just twisted it a little bit.


McCabe and Mrs. Miller is a beautiful pipe dream of a movie.

A fleeting, almost diaphanous vision of what frontier life might of been like.

It's not much like other westerns.

It's not really much like other movies.

The fact is that Altman is dumping square conventions that don't work anymore.

All those threadbare remnants of the well-made play, which American movies have clung to.

What this movie reveals is that there's poetry in Robert Altman, and he's able to put it on the screen.

The question is always asked... why aren't there American Bergmans and Fellinis?

Here is an American artist who has made a beautiful film.

We were in Canada.

We went to Ireland.

Bob liked to shoot as far away from the studios as possible so he wouldn't have executives looking over his shoulder.

Yeah?

I just stopped here because it's a good wide place in the road and I figured we can rendezvous here.

Also it looks like there's bad weather over there.

I think we gotta go some place.

Well either direction here, I thought while they're mounting the car I'll drive up this way, drive up that way, see where the weather is worse.

I got out of that damn car so they could get it up the hill and I said I would walk.

And they took it, so I ran up that fucking hill.

You remember last night?

Now the kiss again.

That's when... just as long as you do and lean right into it, and that's when you respond, 'cause now you're going to trick him.

Yeah, that's it.

Stand by.

Slate.

Hello, is your name Mrs. Altman?

Yes it is.

Oh, well I'd like to ask you a few questions about filming.

Um, how did you meet your husband?

I met him in Hollywood on a television series called Whirlybirds.

Oh.

He was directing it at the time.

And, uh, oh...

How do you like being married to a film director?

Oh, find it very, very interesting.

Very unusual life and very full of surprises day-by-day.

Yeah, and also I hear that your children are making... they're starting to like filming.

Yeah, they're getting very involved.

I may end up with four little boy directors.

Action.


Bob was constantly innovating, and in the 1970's he developed a casual style that was radically different from Hollywood filmmaking at the time.

Mr. Marlowe the lights on your car are on.

Oh yeah, thanks a lot.

Excuse me I don't see any Coury Brant cat food.

Some what?

Coury Brant cat food, it happens to be the only...

Can you spell it for me please?

Yeah, Coury Brant, c-0-u-r... Oh, we're all out.

Why don't you get this, Mr. All this shit is the same anyway.

You don't happen to have a cat by any chance, do you?

What do I need a cat for? I got a girl.

Well... haha.

On 'The Long Goodbye' the camera never stopped moving.

Dollying, zooming.

He wanted the action to be caught as if by accident.

He hated things being mastered, two-shot, hit your mark, say your line.

He wanted the feeling to be natural and more relaxed, observational.

Okay, Eileen, what was Marty Augustine doing here the other night?

How did you know?

I followed him here from my place.

He dropped by to have a word or two with me and I was just curious to see who else he wanted to talk to.

Oh, Roger owed him some money. Maybe $10,000 or something.

He owes Marty?

You know what he told me Marty owed him.

We all heard what Dr. Verringer said.

He hates to part with money.

Yeah, what Dr. Verringer said.

I heard a lot of people said that Terry Lennox was working for Marty Augustine.

I don't believe it.

Yeah, well, that's what I heard.

Your husband ever talk about the Lennox's?

No.

He ever talk about Sylvia Lennox.

No.

Is your husband having an affair with Sylvia Lennox?

Mr. Marlowe, I don't wish to continue this conversation about my husband.

Was your husband having an affair with somebody you don't know who just might of been Sylvia Lennox?

Definitely not.

Where was your husband the night Sylvia Lennox was killed?

Bob's other big innovation was in sound.

The traditional way of recording sound was to have a single boom mic over the main actors heads.

But that didn't work very well when you had a big ensemble cast.

God dammit, Denis!

That card went off the table with the joker.

That's why you wouldn't give it up!

You are ridiculous.

You said it wasn't even close.

That's yesterday's news.

You are working together.

You're partners.

You two mother-fucking creeps... Stop with all the language.

Anymore fighting you guys go out of here for good, all right?

They've been consistent winners and I'm a big loser.

You know I know how to play poker.

Oh sour grapes, honey, sour grapes.

All right, all right. Let's get it back to normal.

Lousy punk.

You're not that good.

Oh up yours.

In "California Split" he invented a way to use radio mics and 8 track recorders to simultaneously record each actor's lines on separate channels so that he could patrol them in the mix.

He wanted to give the audience the feeling they were in a real place and force them to choose which conversation to listen to.

A dollar says you don't know who Glenn Riggs is.

Uh, what's your name?

Vince, the name's Vince.

Vince, can you get me $30 from the cash register?

What do you want $30 for?

I need $30". In the bathroom.

Renee, I'm only the bartender and I don't go in the cash register.

Where's Jack?

Jack went to a funeral.

Look, I've been working here for one year, right?

Just give me a piece of paper, chit $30 Renee.

Okay, just give it to me.

If I give you $30 and I come up short, it'll be your ass.

Baby you were born short and it's always my ass.

Captain midnight!!!

Now everyone records that way, but he was the first.

His films just didn't look or sound like anyone else's and they still don't.

Doc. That's one.

Dopey. That's two.

Snoopy. There is no Snoopy.

There ain't no Snoopy.

Altmanesque.

Showing Americans who we are.


He was working on "Thieves Like Us" in Mississippi, a beautiful little film that Joan Tewkesbury wrote for him.

Joan had worked as a script supervisor on "McCabe".

Bob, you know, would always discover talent and give people opportunities.

Anyway, after she wrote "Thieves Like Us"

Bob asked her to go to Nashville and keep a journal of what she saw.

Well, she landed at the airport, got into a car and the first thing she saw was a car crash on the highway.

It kept her stuck for two hours and that's how Bob opened the picture.

It was a multi-layered story with characters who crisscross each other in the country music scene.

But Bob thought it lacked something.

Country music radiates a love of this nation.

Patriotism.

Country music therefore has those combinations, which are so essential to America's character at a time that America needs character.

At the time the whole water Watergate thing was happening and he hated Nixon, so he added a political angle.

On the first Tuesday of November we have to make some vital decisions about our management.

Let me go directly to the point.

I'm for doing some replacement.

For mom and daddy.

Thank you.

Come on get up off your...

Wait a minute Mayor, watch your head.

Ya'll take it easy now.

This isn't Dallas it's Nashville.

This is Nashville.

You show them what we're made of.

They can't do this to us here in Nashville.

Somebody sing, sing.

Sing.

Come on, I think you've been hurt.

Oh, oh.

Come on, easy, easy.

Oh man, I can't stop that blood, man.

Come on everybody sing.

♪ It don't worry me ♪

♪ It don't worry me ♪

♪ You may say I ain't free, you don't worry me ♪

♪Oh ♪

♪ Don't worry me ♪

♪ It don't worry me ♪

♪ You may say, I agree, it don't worry me ♪

It seems like so many of your films have a tendency to explode American myths and genres and I just wondered, what's your perception of American society?

She thinks, she says am I exploding the myths and are taking shots at America and our culture.

Uh, I, if that's the result of it that's what I, that's the result of it.

But what I'm doing is simply reflecting what I see and feel.

I live here, I was born here, I love this country, I love, uh, this is all I know, it's my culture.

And, uh, I just try to show what I see.

If it's ugly, that's what I see.

Altmanesque what does it mean?

Creating a family.

By the mid 70's Bob was riding his own wave.

He had gathered so many talented people that he set up Lion's Gate, a studio that would produce independent films to keep the people he cared about working in between his own movies.

The first director he worked with was Alan Rudolph.

Alan started with Bob back as the second AD on "The Long Goodbye".

He co-wrote Buffalo Bill and became a close friend.

And Lions Gate produced his first film "Welcome to L.A.".

Bob's only instructions to Alan were keep the budget low and don't make a chase movie.

The way Bob did it, making films was always collaborative.

His process was to bring his friends together and let the film evolve.

He encouraged everyone to contribute, but for him the most important thing was the actors.

I think the actors are the main artistic element in any film.

They're more important than the script.

They're more important than the photography.

They're more important than the director because they're the ones that do it.

So the more you can make them your collaborator then you're getting the best of all worlds.

I encourage actors to feel comfortable and to know they can go further.

They can step over the edge and I've got a safety net.

I won't let them make a fool of themselves.

I spent a lot of effort in trying to make a family so that the actors become a part of it.

Everybody comes to the dailies, nobody's taking notes and there's booze and you find these actors start rooting for each other.

Okay, let's go.

Your beautiful wife Antoinette tells me that you are an art collector.

You certainly don't look like an art collector.

You know if you're walking down the street and somebody pointed you out and asked me what I thought you did and I didn't know you I would never in a million years guess art collector.

You could go on what's my line and stump the panel.


I remembered we'd have these big thanksgiving dinners and dad made it a lot of fun for all of us.

But that and Christmas were the only times we'd be alone with him as a family.

Kathryn was always there for us, but dad was always working.

For the most part, we were not his priority.

His movies were his priority.

He loved us, but it was hard.

I did five films at Fox.

They were done almost like independent films.

Alan Ladd was running the studio then and he was very supportive.

He really stood up for me and I owe him a lot.

Grace Kelly was involved in the studio.

And they had a board meeting and she said how could you let this Altman person put my friend, Paul Newman, in such a dreadful film.

And Ladd-y just said oh shut up, I quit.

And he got up and walked out and that was the end of him over there.

"Quintet" came out, which the critics hated.

And a week later "A Perfect Couple" was released, which the critics hated even more.

So he was having a pretty bad run at the box office and then came "health".

I never stepped into one of these things;

I hope there's a bottom.

Mr. Altman, I thought I'd ask you a couple things about the making of this film.

Uh the title is health...

What?

I said the title is, the title of the movie is health and I was gonna ask you if that's a particular pre-occupation of yours or just what they call a property you were interested in?

No, I make lots of movies.

Uh huh and the whole subject of health, of course, involves a certain amount of controversy because there are stories, exposes, and so on about the food additives.

The sort of thing that where things advertised aren't what they claim to be and so on.

Will that be a point that you'll be trying to take satiric thrusts at in the movie?

Think you could talk about that a bit?

Uh, well, we don't have a script yet.

All right, action.

♪ I'm having a sugar fit ♪

♪ Ooo ♪ By the time we completed health there was a different management at Fox, they believed it wouldn't make money.

We got in a little argument, so the film was buried.

Altmanesque?

Expect the unexpected.

Robert Evans saw Annie on Broadway and he wanted to do the movie version, but he couldn't get the rights.

He found out that Paramount owned "Popeye" the comic strip and he decided to make a big budget musical of "Popeye" instead.

After a lot of directors turned it down, for some reason, Evans sent the script to Bob.

I remember seeing the script on his desk and saying to him Popeye?

It was Robin Williams' first movie and Bob convinced the studio to hire Shelley Duvall.

And Paul Dooley, who was in six or seven of Bob's films.

He found the Pickle Family Circus, who were all clowns and jugglers.

And Sweet Pea was played by our grandson, Wesley.

Christine's son.

Wesley was born with kind of a crooked smile.

One day, Dad noticed when Wesley smiled he looked a lot like Popeye.

He said "See, this is where the pipe goes in."

He was about 10 months old, he hadn't even learned to walk yet, and Bob had him cast as Sweetpea.

It was just one of those magical moments in how he cast people.

Okay, everybody, stand by.

Action.

The production spent millions building a village into a barren hillside and about 3 minutes into the film things started to go wrong.

After losing 21 days of shooting to bad weather, going several million dollars over budget, and the studio threatening to pull the plug, Bob wasn't even sure he could finish the film.

Tonight in Hollywood, Paramount and Disney unveil their highly anticipated Christmas Blockbuster "Popeye", and what a scene it was.

Good morning and welcome to the critic's corner.

For years "Popeye" has been one of my favorite comic strip characters.

So, I and millions of others have been looking forward to the big Hollywood "Popeye" movie with joyous anticipation.

The cast look perfect for the parts, the writer was the estimable Jules Feifier and the director was the imaginative, though inconsistent, Robert Altman.

What could go wrong?

Well just about everything.

And the disappointing news this morning is that "Popeye" is a debacle with the characters left in ruins.

First of all, Feifier fails.

His script that shot is undistinguished and it is without humour, but above all, the culprit is Robert Altman whose direction and editing are ponderous, hesitant, and almost incoherent.

The members of this cast, who almost seem born to play these rolls, have been subverted by their director.

Paul Dooley who plays the hamburger loving Wimpy with such relish is giving nothing to do.

I mean nothing.

Zilch, zero, gornish, nada, zip.

Robin Williams has the cartoon character down, but much of his dialogue is unintelligible and much of what is intelligible is incomprehensible.

The songs by Harry Neilson are calamity.

His music is tuneless and his lyrics are moronic.

Shelley Duvall is just wonderful, thank goodness for Shelley Duvall.

Just think of this, for years and years "Popeye" has been chugalugging spinach and when he finally gets something to go with the spinach it turns out to be a turkey.

The critics trashed it and Bob took most of the blame.

It was nowhere near the blockbuster the studios were hoping for.

The films that they want to make now, the major companies, um, are not, they're films that I don't want to make.

Also, I can't make.

I can't make "Superman", and "Raiders of the Lost Arc" and, uh, and I don't want to.

And the films I do want to make and feel that I can make, they don't want to make.

They want movies now that will... there's a magic number that they use, a hundred million dollars.

And, um, I just can't do that.

It's just the time to split, that's all and by splitting I mean separate.

It was pretty rough, the phone stopped ringing.

I said well where should I cut back, or what should I do?

We can sell the house.

Move to New York.

He was pretty down.

He worried his luck had run out.

You ever bet $10,000 on a football game?

Oh yeah.

You have?

Mmhmm.

Do you win much?

I'm behind.

This has not been, the last three years has not been good.

What does Altmanesque mean?

Uh...

I would say it means never giving up.

The fact that Bob couldn't get any movie deals didn't stop him.

Pretty quickly he found something he really wanted to do, live theater.

You know I still don't like being touched or held?

When you extend your hand, when you really give, you lay your heart on the table and hand someone else the hammer.

Now there might be some people who feel this is somewhat of a fall from grace for you after directing major films for so many years, to direct a couple of small plays.

Not saying they're not good plays, but small plays in a small theater, off Broadway so to speak.

Well I think it's a step up.

I did four or five theater pieces.

And when I'd do one I'd say oh, let's do another one.

So, to me, that was a very important, big time, "I" time in my life.

I was experimenting.

I went to the University of Michigan.

I had done an opera there a couple years before and I didn't have the money to produce a film, but I came up with a scheme of making it a course.

And so all of the crew, except for a couple of us, were students and they got a credit for doing this.

Yeah, let's just take this, open it up from where he gets up and walks out of the frame on the set.

Start on the monitors.

Now, when he gets up to leave make your pan to the door.

My little dog, Checkers, he... PFT.

What?!

No, mother.

I did not elect myself, they elected me not once, not twice, but all of my goddamn life, and they would do it again to, if they had the chance.

Oh, sure, they said they didn't trust me.

They said let Dick Nixon do it and I did it.

They said they wouldn't buy a used car from me, but they gave me the biggest vote in American history.

And they flushed me down the toilet and they wanted me to stay down.

They wanted me to kill myself.

Well, I won't do it.

If they want me dead, they'll have to do it.

Fuck them! Fuck them!

Fuck them! Fuck them!

Fuck them!

I never met Richard Nixon in my life, but I did have a couple of exchanges with him more than once.

He wrote a book called "Leaders", which was a really big book.

And I was living in California at the time and in the mail this book, heavy book, comes.

And it was from the Ex-President and it was inscribed in there, it says to Robert Altman, thank you for your years of loyal support.

What?

And I thought, shit, I gotta burn a book.

And I really had a dilemma.

I could of torn out that page, which ultimately I did because I didn't want it to be found in my archives by one of my great grandchildren and they say oh, grand daddy was a big Nixon supporter.

After "Secret Honour" we sold the house and moved to Paris.

He felt appreciated there, as so many American Artists do.

Bob, remember that shower scene in MASH where you made me get naked?

You get naked.

For a while now, dad had been hiring me and my brother, Bobby, to work with him.

I started out in props and eventually became his production designer.

This is our ace prop man, Steve Altman.

Steve, do you have anything to say about the production?

Hi mom.

And Bobby became his camera operator.

Working with him, it was good, I got to see him and I got paid.

Working out of Paris he shot anywhere he could get a deal.

Mostly small films, financed with European money or by the new U.S. cable channels who gave him total freedom.

Come on right around here and just fill in here, make this pretty.

Give me as many people on this side as I can.

Michael, Cynthia.

Tighten on in, everybody.

You got enough floor ground;

We will need some people now over here.

Kathy, come on up in here everybody.

We need people in here, around this area.

Okay stand by please.

Okay, action Michael.

Let there be no mistake about it, as the people of conscience, we cannot, we must not settle for anything less than a comprehensive, global boycott of South Africa.

Yes.

Ya!

Michael, that was terrific, I just want to do one more please.

HBO wanted to do something about the election.

So Garry Trudeau and I said let's just run a guy for President, so we did.

We took Michael Murphy, who played Jack Tanner, and we created a staff and we infiltrated them in to actual situations.

Pat, how are ya?

HEY-

Nice to see you.

This is my daughter, Alex.

Hi.

How are you?

Good, how are you?

Sure stirring them up in my home state.

Well Michigan is a strong one for me, you know that Jack.

I'll say it made me glad to be a democrat;

I wouldn't want to be up against you.

Well the Republicans are going to be tough this year but we wish you the best.

Looking tougher all the time.

Let's go over the ground rules now.

The panel will give direct questions to specific candidates.

What we're doing is, we don't know what to call it because it's not a documentary, it's not fictional, um, I call it experimental television.

We must stop the flow of drugs in this country.

The number one threat on the streets of our nation today.

Our borders are militarily inferior in terms of being protected from drugs trafficking...

Jesse... Jesse... As you may recall, it was former President Nixon who started the war on drugs, the same former President Nixon who couldn't seal off South Vietnam from North Vietnam with 500,000 troops.

America's tired of being dragged into wars it can't win and a war on drugs is a loser.

And any law that makes 25 million Americans criminals is a loser.

It's time to get real.

The only way to get drugs off our streets is through legalization.

Ho-ho!

What?

He said it, he said it.

Did he say legalization?

There goes the street value of my stash.

I think the people, with all do respect, are more than ready to elect a black President, I just don't think they're ready for you.

Whoa!

What did they put in his oatmeal this morning?

This is going ballistic.

Okay, what kind of spin do we put on that?

"Tanner '88" I think is probably the best work that I've done, I think it's the most inventive.

Because we really did change television.

This is WNBC New York, I'm Larry Stack and here's what's happening at 2 o'clock.

President Bush proposed to add an additional 1.2 billion dollars to the budget for the war on drugs including a 50% increase in military spending.

You've moved back to America after being based in Paris.

Do you think you've changed?

I don't think I've changed.

I think I just keep doing the same thing and occasionally what I do crosses with the general attitude of the public and it becomes very successful and then I'm a failure, and a has been, and then I cross back again.

But I'm going straight... to me I'm going in a straight line.

Everybody else is just going like this.

Altmanesque.

Kicking Hollywood's ass.

Most of the scripts that they send me are studio scripts.

I mean, I'd be embarrassed to be associated with them.

I don't think there's anything I could do other than radically change them, which these people don't want.

I make gloves and they sell shoes.

David Brown, the producer, told Bob that he had a project that Bob was born to direct because it struck at everything that was wrong with Hollywood.

And it was true, nobody but Bob could of pulled off "The Player" the way he did.

It gave him the chance to crucify forever Hollywood's entire way of making movies.

Griffin, Griffin hi.

Griffin hi.

A-A-Adam Simon.

I know we're not supposed to meet until next week but...

I didn't realize we were meeting next week.

Well, yeah, I just wanted to plant a seed in your head...

Sorry, I'm booked up, Okay, but just picture this.

Okay, it's a planet in the far future with two suns.

Who plays the sons?

No-no-no, suns, large solar disks.

Listen, you gotta run this idea by Bonnie Sherow.

The pictures they make these days are all MTV, cut cut cut.

The opening shot of Welles' "Touch of Evil" was six and a half minutes long.

Six and a half minutes, Walter?

Well three or four anyways, he set up that whole picture with one tracking shot.

"The Graduate" Part ll.

Oh good, good.

Now listen, the three principles are still with us...

Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross.

Mmhmm.

Twenty-five years later and so are the characters.

Ben, Elaine and Mrs. Robinson.

Ben and Elaine are married, still.

They live in a big, old, spooky house up in northern California somewhere.

And Mrs. Robinson lives with them.

Her aging mother, who's had a stroke...

Mrs. Robinson had a stroke?

Mrs. Robinson had a stroke, so she can't talk.

Is this going to be funny?

Yeah, it'll be funny.

With a stroke?

Dark, and weird, and funny, and with a stroke.

It's a T.V. star and she goes to the safari, to Africa.

Are you talking about a T.V. star in a motion picture?

No, not a real T.V. star.

It would be played by a movie star.

A movie star playing a television star.

Julia Roberts would be good.

Dolly Parton would be good.

Dolly, Dolly, yeah.

I like Goldie.

Goldie, great, because we have a relationship.

Goldie goes to Africa.

Goldie goes to Africa.

And she becomes worshipped.

Political doesn't scare me.

Radical political scares me.

Political political scares me.

This is politely politically radical.

Is it funny?

It's funny.

It's a funny political thing.

It's a funny, and it's a thriller too.

It's a thriller.

It's all at once.

So, uh, what's the story?

Well I want Bruce Willis.

Mmhmm.

I think I can talk to him.

It's a story about a senator, a bad-guy senator at first.

And he's travelling around the country on the country's dime, you know, uh, like that Sununu guy used to.

It's sort of a cynical, political, thriller comedy.

Yeah, but it's got a heart, uh, in the right spot and anyways he has an accident.

An accident?

Yeah, and he becomes clairvoyant, like a psychic.

Oh, I see.

Yeah.

So it's kind of a psychic, political, thriller, comedy with a heart.

With a heart, and not unlike Ghost meets Manchurian Candidate.

Go on, go on, I'm listening.

Anyway, he can start to read people's minds and when he gets to the president's mind it's completely blank.

Mr. Altman, is "The Player" your revenge against Hollywood?

No, it's a very, very mild indictment.

Things aren't really like that, they're much worse.

Mr. Altman, I have to ask you, do you think Hollywood has lost its' objectivity?

No, I think that Hollywood has always maintained its' objectivity, which is greed and making as much money as it can and trying to get rid of all the artists.

Of course they can't succeed in that, so since they can't really get rid of us we just keep popping up and going along.

And now we have the presentation of the Palme D'or for Best Director.

The Palme D'or for Best Director goes to Robert Altman for "The Player".

"The Player" Robert Altman!

Thank you.

"The Player" was a huge hit in Cannes.

Everyone wanted to meet with him and he finally found backers for a film he had been wanting to do for years.


In "Short Cuts" Bob took a collection of Raymond Carver's short stories and adapted them into one multi-layered story.

I think Bob connected with Carver's stories because they were about the lives of ordinary people.

The frailness of human behavior.

The randomness of things that happen in life.

It's coming.

I know, I know, come here.

Jerry“.

Okay, look, look it.

What's happening Howard?

Howard?

We have to get under the table.

Gene, earthquake!

Get under the door, come on!

Quick!

Get underneath the door!

This is Officer Gene Shepard of the Los Angeles Police Department.

We are currently experiencing an earthquake.

♪ On Broadway I danced ♪

♪ For that Senator ♪

♪ They know me in London J”

♪ They know me in Paris ♪ Ralph!

Jesus.

This is bigger than the one in '71.

Don't worry. Don't worry.

It's not the big one.

Earthquake!

Mommy, get over here, quick!

Get down.

Just lay down, Mommy.

Just lay down.

This is it, baby! We're going out together.

This is the big one, baby.

Wasn't the big one.

If we were able to explain any of these characters it's the very fact that things happen to them and they are inexplicable because I think that's more truthful to the way life really is.

Jerry!

Altmanesque, what does it mean?

How vulnerable we are.

Talking with Robert Altman.

Well what's left of you from the success of your diet?

Thank you.

I'm glad that you mentioned that, people think I'm sick.

He's ill, he's lost weight.

I've lost about 35 pounds and I'm, I got about a few more to go.

I just figured it'll add some longevity to the...

I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

The doctor said you have an enlarged heart.

You shouldn't do this or that and you shouldn't drink.

But it never stopped him from doing anything.

I heard him yelling, he's like, I think we have a problem here.

So I ran downstairs and he couldn't remember my name.

I called the doctor and as I was helping him get dressed, he looks up at me and says Konni if this is it, it's been great.

It was a micro stroke.

He gave up drinking, that was hard.

He says the only thing I miss about drinking is the alcohol.

He was great.

He was still fun and funny, but he was thin.


Pret-a-Porter was difficult.

That he managed to make that movie was an accomplishment, but he kept on working.

Start the music and we're bringing them through.

As soon as... As soon as these kids who are going through get right under here, as soon as you lose sight of them you're going to move on over.

"Kansas City" came out of his memories of growing up there.

Especially of jazz music, which he loved.

But he barely made it through that film.

It was his heart, it was giving out.

The doctor said I think you need a transplant.

And Bob said what are the odds?


He rested for a whole year.

Learning how to live with a new heart and handle possible rejection, and medication and a whole regimen.

I kept it quiet because I was afraid nobody would hire me, because there's such a stigma to it.

By his 71st birthday he looked terrific.

He was really with it and excited to get back to work.

I love what I do.

I love the actors and what they do.

And it's just such a delight to sit there and watch people create something and know that you're a part of it.

It's just... I don't ever want to stop it.

Storytelling.

Masterful storytelling.

All right, well, what do you want to do?

Should we just shoot one and see how bad it is?

Let's shoot one.

I mean, see how good it is.

Let's waste film.

I have a lot of stock in Eastman.

All right, let's do it.

Action servants.

"Gosford Park" was one of Bob's masterpieces, but it almost never got made.

We couldn't line up the financing.

It just kept falling apart.

What scared the investors were the exact things he loved about it.

Big ensemble cast, unresolved ending.

One guy said he'd finance the film if Bob would rewrite the ending to make it a traditional murder-mystery, but Bob refused.

With zero funding and no investors he called up every A-List actor in London and said we're making this movie.

They were like absolutely I'd love to work with you.

We were close to shooting, the producers are freaking out and Bob is totally cool, like he knows everything is going to work out.

And then we got the call.

The British Lottery fund agreed to back the film.

He won the lottery.

Mr. Weisman?

Mmhmm, yes.

Tell us about the film you're going to make.

Oh, sure.

It's called "Charlie Chan in London", it's a detective story.

Set in London?

Well, not really, most of it takes place at a shooting party in a country house, sort of like this one, actually.

A murder in the middle of the night, a lot of guests for the weekend, everyone's a suspect.

You know? That sort of thing.

How horrid.

And who turns out to have done it?

I couldn't tell you that.

It would spoil it for you.

Yeah, but none of us will see it.

Aha!

Isabelle? Isabelle?!

Jennings?

Robert Altman's film "Gosford Park" is a virtuoso ensemble piece to rival the director's Nashville and Short Cuts, that's masterly interweaving of multiple characters and subplots.

It is a contemporary equivalent of Jean Renoir's classic "Rules of the Game".

What makes the achievement of "Gosford Park" all the more remarkable is that Mr. Altman is 76.

But the movie's cool assessment of the human condition implies the dispassionate overview of a man who has seen it all.

The energy that crackles from the screen suggests the clear sighted joie DE vivre of an artist still deeply engaged in the world.

I had done six... seven films and I was so smug and proud of myself because I thought none of these films are alike and then, ten... twelve films more.

I look at these things and I think, hmmm, these really are all just chapters of the same book.

They're just different chapters.

With "A Prairie Home Companion"

Bob was doing two things.

Returning to his youth when he absolutely loved radio and contemplating death.

He was joining both ends of the circle.

What are we doing?

You're on in the power milk segment doing gold watch and chain with him.

We haven't done that for years.

♪ Oh I'll pawn you my gold watch and chain, love ♪

♪ And I'll pawn you my gold wedding ring ♪ Excuse me;

I gotta get a head start on getting pie eyed tonight.

♪ I will pawn you this heart in my bosom J”

♪ Only say that you'll love me again ♪ How about Red River Valley?

Fine, whatever you like.

Well this really isn't going to be your last show, is it?

Every show's your last show.

Oh my god.

That's my philosophy.

Thank you, Plato.

♪ Come and sit by my side if you love me ♪

♪ Do not hasten to bid me adieu ♪

♪ But remember the Red River Valley ♪

♪ And the one who has loved you ♪ A lot of people are wondering what you meant with the end of the film when the angel goes into the diner and a lot of people go back and forth about what it means, what she was there for.

Well I felt it was about leaving it open who was gonna die next.

Obviously, this film is about death and, uh...

She was the angel of death and she showed up for one of them and um, we just closed the film before we told you which one.

Sort of like real life.


Death is the only ending that I know about.

People will come in and say oh, does this have a happy ending?

And I say well, no.

But we can make a happy stopping place.


Right now, I'd like to toast you all, Happy Thanksgiving.

Yeah!

Happy Thanksgiving!

And it's a turkey that has never been genetically encoded.

Big Family gathering here tonight and makes me very weepy.

He became very enamored of his family in the last few years of his life.

We would have these get togethers and I would catch him sitting in the corner just looking at everybody with that grin on his face.

It was like one of his movies.

Like he became aware that he was in his own movie.

And he loved the cast.

What does it mean to you?

It's inspiration.

Live from Hollywood it's the 78th Annual Academy Awards.

Maverick filmmaker Robert Altman has been nominated five times for an Oscar without ever winning one.

Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is giving Altman a lifetime achievement award in recognition of a career that has repeatedly reinvented the art form and inspired filmmakers and audiences alike.


Thank you.

No other filmmaker has gotten a better shake than I have.

I'm very fortunate in my career.

I've never had to direct a film I didn't choose.

I love filmmaking.

It has given me an entree to the world and to the human condition and for that I'm forever grateful.

Finally, I would like to thank my family, which are all right there.

All of them.

For their love and support through the years and most importantly I want to thank and applaud my wife Kathryn Reed Altman, without whom I wouldn't be here today.

I love you.

Thank you.

Oh, one more thing.

I'm here, I think, under false pretenses and I think I have to become straight with you, uh, ten years ago... 11 years ago I had a heart transplant.

A total heart transplant.

I got the heart of, I think, a young woman who was about in her late 30's.

And so by that kind of calculation, you may be giving me this award too early because I think I got about 40 years left on it.

And I intend to use it.

Thank you very much.


He was in preproduction on a film called.

"Hands on a Hard Body", scouting locations.

He'd been diagnosed with cancer and he wanted to keep on working.

Chemo or no chemo.

It would have been his 40th movie.

One day, years and years ago, just after the war, Bob had nothing to do and he went to a theater in the middle of the afternoon to see a movie.

Not a Hollywood movie, a British movie.

He said the main character was not glamorous.

Not a babe, and at first he wondered why he was even watching it.

But twenty minutes later he was in tears and had fallen in love with her.

And it made him feel that it wasn't just a movie.

♪ Let's begin again ♪

♪ Let's start over from the start ♪

♪ Let's forget the time that you nearly broke my heart ♪

♪ Everywhere we've been again ♪

♪ Let's begin ♪

♪ Again ♪

♪ Let's begin again; Let's forget about our pride ♪

♪ Pay attention to the way we feel inside ♪

♪ Let's give love a spin again ♪

♪ Let's begin ♪

♪ Again ♪

♪ We gave love a chance one time ♪

♪ We gave up before ♪

♪ For love had really taken hold ♪

♪ So, please let's try once more ♪

♪ And begin again ♪

♪ This time try to make it last J”

♪ Let's begin again ♪

♪ Without worry of the past ♪

♪ Let's go through thick and thin again ♪

♪ And begin ♪

♪ Again ♪


♪ We gave love a chance one time ♪

♪ We gave up before ♪

♪ Before love had really taken hold ♪

♪ Please let's try once more ♪

♪ Let's begin again ♪

♪ This time try to make it last J”

♪ Let's begin again ♪

♪ With no worry of the past ♪

♪ Let's go through thick and thin again ♪

♪ Let's begin ♪

♪ Again ♪