Posts Tagged ‘hollywood’


Almost Famous: Hart Hanson

August 20, 2010

I have been following Hart Hanson on Twitter lately. He’s really good at it. The TV producer and writer (Bones is his current project, but I remember the days of Street Legal and Neon Rider, when I used to tell people “Hey, I know that guy,” and they would say “Ew, you watch Neon Rider?“) uses Twitter like the Neon Rider used his eyebrows: fast and funny, and occasionally confusing, but only if you’re stupid.

Here’s how I know Hart Hanson.

In 1982 or so, the bossman at The Toronto Sun, a friend of our family named Peter Brewster, called my mother at our weekly newspaper in small-town Northern Ontario. “I have this guy,” Peter said, “who wants to ride across the country on a bicycle, and has somehow talked me into paying him to do so. He’s going to write about the towns as he passes through. When he gets to Nipigon, could you put him up for a day and introduce him around?”

And in rides Hart Hanson, this kid with crazy blonde hair, who proves to be one of the funniest people I’ve ever known. Also, he has a last name for a first name, so I could relate. Right off the bat, he told us a story about how he once farted in church; I was 14, and this was comedy gold. He ended up staying for quite a while, and we had some pretty cool adventures.

I asked my mother about this a few days ago.

“Well, he was this hilarious guy riding his bike across the country, and you boys, with no father, just glued yourselves to him,” she said. “He was a major role model. He came along at exactly the right time.”

She’s right. Looking back, I have to acknowledge how much of an influence Hart was on my life. My sense of humour, my need for adventure, my years attached to a bicycle, riding across the country, and my habit of being kind of irreverent … a lot of that comes from Hart Hanson. Let’s not forget the journalism side of things; I grew up newspapering, so it was “the family business,” but meeting a cool guy on a bike who was getting paid to ride around, meet people and get into adventures, made it much more appealing. That’s why I do what I do. Right there.

Hart Hanson went on to a career in TV and he’s kind of super-famous now. I haven’t seen him since those days. But I’ve always wanted to tell him something: Hart, we can never fully understand the mark we leave on this world, and on its people; passing moments can leave permanent legacies. And also, you forgot your green Speedo at my house.


Maury Chaykin’s Grits

July 27, 2010

Maury Chaykin looked a little lost, a huge, shambling, shaggy man in the corner of the bar, by himself and clearly overwhelmed by the film festival crowds.

So I said hello. He gave me a look that I would later learn meant “Are you the guy with my cigar?” I introduced myself. I really wanted to meet the man; he’s a great actor, a classic Canadian face and one of the few celebrities I’ve always expected would be more down-to-earth than the usual Hollywood star.

He wasn’t. Not off the bat. He rocked back and forth on his heels and looked around the smoky room. You could still smoke in bars back then, which is good, because this was a cigar bar, and he thought I was a waiter, because I was young and thin and dressed in black.

“You know what my favourite line of yours is?” I asked, fuelled by an amber-coloured elixir called Warthog Ale.

“What?” he sighed, clearly expecting me to recite some obscure bit of dialogue from Atom Egoyan’s The Adjuster, which I had to look up on IMDB just now because I don’t watch that kind of artsy crap. I was at this film festival because of the Midnight Madness horror marathon.

So I recited the line: “No sef-respecktin Sutherner uses INSTANT grits!” And his face lit up. This is how I spent a beer-soaked, cigar-sampling night hanging out with Maury Chaykin, swapping stories about how good it feels to love bad movies — or to be in them, as he has been. The titles are legend: Iron Eagle, Wild Thing, Turk 182, Meatballs III: Summer Job and many, many more. Most of us know him from Dances With Wolves, of course. I know him from Whale Music, a sadly underseen Canadian drama, one of my favourite films.

I told him how the one TV channel I could get on my hospital TV during my long convalescence in 2000 showed A&E’s Nero Wolfe series over and over again, so much so that I can’t think of Wolfe without thinking of Chaykin.

When I mentioned the old pulp theory that Nero Wolfe was the bastard son of Sherlock Holmes, Chaykin roared with laughter. “I was told that, and I didn’t believe it,” he said. “Maybe if I’d known, the series would have lasted longer.”

Maury Chaykin died a couple of hours ago, on his 61st birthday.

He was a sweet guy, a terrific actor, and one of those single-serving friends I will never forget.


Where The Wild Things Are, Except Jeff

October 25, 2009


As the hit Spike Jonze adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s beloved children’s tale Where The Wild Things Are sweeps into cinemas, one Wild Thing sits at home in his tiny basement apartment, wondering what might have been.

The names of the movie’s stars are already familiar: Carol, KW, Douglas, Ira, Judith, Alexander and The Bull. The millions of people who have paid to watch young Max on his wild rumpus with the Wild Things may not notice the absence of one familiar face. But the Wild Thing behind that face notices. His mood these days is not good, shifting from confusion to despair each time the film’s busy ad campaign catches his eye.

“I was part of something special, and then they took that away from me,” he says.

His name is Jeff. He lives in a small town outside Newark, New Jersey, although he doesn’t like to specify where. “A lot of people get worked up about that book,” he says. “It’s like The Catcher In The Rye for people who like to throw eggs at houses.”


Jeff has lived with his strange appearance since birth. As a teenager, he shot up in height, and was politely asked to leave his high school in the eleventh grade after he destroyed the basketball gymnasium during a game of Horse. (“My horns are right at the 10-foot mark”) He worked for a time as a doorman at the short-lived Newark Playboy Mansion before he was hired by Sendak to model for the famous book.

He hoped the book would set him on a path to stardom, but it didn’t; he’s been living on royalties ever since, holed up in his apartment, waiting for his monthly royalty cheque and living on a diet of delivery Chinese, pizza and Pusser’s Navy Rum. For a long time, he hoped to get back in front of a camera, this time for the long-rumoured film adaptation of Sendak’s book.

Word came a couple of years back: the project was a go, with Jonze in the directing chair. The models from the original book were to play the leads. Jeff heard from Douglas, who had been working as a professional wrestler in Mexico’s Giant Chicken Wrestling Federation, and from KW, who had been Megan Fox’s stunt double in the first Transformers movie. They were in. They were about to live the Hollywood dream.

Jeff’s phone stayed quiet.

“For a while I was hoping for some surprise cameo kind of deal, like Shatner was supposed to have in the new Star Trek,” says Jeff, who admits sneaking out to see the movie (in disguise). “But then I saw the movie and I knew for sure I wasn’t in it.”

Sue N. Blawgurs, a spokeswoman for the marketing agency hired by the publicity firm working with the advertising company for the film, said Jeff was originally in the script, but had to be cut for budgetary reasons.

“We had eight Wild Things, but it became clear as the script was being whittled down that each had a clearly defined role and place in the film, except Jeff,” Blawgurs said.

“We went back to the source material, and by “we,” I mean someone who sent someone else a memo about this, who sent it to me, and by “source material,” I mean some weird little kids’ book with like eleven words in it. And it was determined that since Jeff appears only twice in the book, and one time when he’s partially cut off, it wasn’t necessary to create a larger role for him in the movie.”

Jeff says that’s a ridiculous explanation.

“Larger role? Like Alexander is so pivotal to the plot? Like Ira matters to the final outcome? Ira gets some great lines in the movie! Where did that come from? Read the book again — see Max sailing away? That’s me waving goodbye. Pivotal role, people! Pivotal!”

Sea Monster

Sea Monster

Also missing from the film is the Sea Monster, whom Blawgers says had a brief appearance in the original cut of the film. “Something had to give,” she says. “It was determined that the Christmas toy market is saturated with dragon-like characters, stuffed toys and video games. There was, however, a distinct lack of Mark Ruffalo action figures. The decision was a simple one.”

The Sea Monster, reached on the set of Grindhouse 2: The Lion, The Witch and the Spy Kids, issued a terse “No comment.”