100 years of Universal
From Russell Crowe to Meryl Streep, Hollywood's stars toast a century of landmark cinema from the famous old studio
Sunday 29 April 2012
It warmed our hearts with the story of a lovable extraterrestrial wanting to return home, it terrified us with a mechanical shark named Bruce, and it created one of cinema's most memorable shower scenes by plunging a knife into a casaba melon to produce the sound of actress Janet Leigh being stabbed. Tomorrow, the film studio behind E.T., Jaws and Psycho will celebrate its centenary. Here, in exclusive extracts from interviews that Universal Pictures conducted to mark its centenary, 10 stars reveal their memories of working for the studio.
"We had to keep him [E.T.] alive all the time because Drew [Barrymore] would go over and talk to him and tell him secrets and ask him questions. So Steven [Spielberg] lovingly had several people working E.T. all the time... And I think that was really important... Sometimes it's very hard to tell when you're around four years old the difference between reality and fantasy. So the big scene, for example, where I was getting ready to take her over and E.T. was on the gurney... I would say, 'OK, Drew. We're gonna go shoot this scene with E.T. and E.T.'s pretending just like we pretend as actors, he's pretending to be really sick and die but he's just acting.' ... [She said], 'I know, Dee. What do you think, I'm stupid?' It's like listening to her out of the film itself. And so, I said, 'Great'. I picked her up, walked on to the set; she took one look at E.T. and went, 'He's dying!'"
'The Birds' (1963)
"I think it was the biggest and most expensive screen test ever. Edith Head did a whole wardrobe for me. Martin Balsam was flown in to be my leading man. We did scenes from Rebecca, To Catch a Thief and Notorious: three entirely different women. And took three days. We did extemporaneous situations, and where Hitch would talk to me and ask me questions. He tried so hard to break me.... He tried to almost make me cry. He told dirty stories. He did everything to get all of this emotion out of me. And I had worked in New York with a number of photographers, and they can be pretty interesting at times too, so I wasn't frightened of any of the things that Hitch was expecting me to be."
'Out of Africa' (1985)
"There was a scene in the paddock where my ex-husband comes back to speak to me about something... and just off the set, in a parked car, was my two-year-old daughter, Mamie, who was screaming at the top of her lungs, as loud as a human can make a sound. This is a tender scene between two people who have a lot of history between them, and the nuance of the scene is such that you don't want it to be interrupted every five minutes. And my friend and colleague Roy Helland, who has worked with me for ever on hair and make-up, was doing his best to subdue this child. But we weren't having much luck. And I thought Sydney Pollack was going to kill my baby, but we got through it."
'Back to the Future Part III' (1990)
"Back to the Future III, I guess, was the most fun in a way because it was a western and horseback riding and working on that train... I remember Doc chases the train and then a stuntman – I did it all in some of the shots – reaches and grabs the handle on the train and pulls himself off the horse, and he gets on.... There was no way that they were going to let me pull myself on. But I had ridden a lot and I felt really comfortable with it ... and I almost did it. I almost grabbed it to pull myself on but I thought if it doesn't work out it's going to be a friggin' disaster.... It might have been that shot, and I lost my hat; galloping along, the hat was blown off. One of the wranglers said, 'Real cowboys don't lose their hats Chris'. And he's right."
'Charlie St Cloud' (2010)
"Charlie St Cloud was a great experience here [at Universal Studios]. What I remember about the lot, I got lost tons. I stole a golf cart one time, and drove up through all the rides, and then security kicked us out. Don't tell anyone."
"Everybody on the film understood what it is to be a parent and the only person that didn't was actually Steve Martin, who didn't have children. He talked to me before the movie and he said: 'I'm nervous about this. I hope it's going to be all right.' ... Well, of course, the kids realised in two seconds that this is like this crazy, extraordinary human being that's so much fun to be around. And so they were climbing all over him... and he would do a card trick and then they'd go, 'Do it again'. Then he'd do it again... and I would say, 'Steve, you can say no to children. It's actually OK to say, 'I've done the card trick 37 times now, I don't have to do it a 38th'."
'American Gangster' (2007)
"I remember when I met Frank [Lucas]. He's like, 'Oh, you know, it's going to be great. You're going to win the Oscar and all that'. I said: 'Well Frank, I'm not here really to praise you ... I fear God. I don't fear man so you destroyed a lot of lives and you had to pay the price. That's the story I'm interested in telling. I'm not here to sing the praises of dope dealers'... but... we got along very well and he paid his debt to society so it wasn't for me to judge him at all."
"Usually it begins with a script, but that one didn't. And I look back on making that movie and, quite frankly, [director] Ridley [Scott] and I had a number of drinks together over the years... going, 'How did that one work again? What was the formula of that?' Because it really was by the seat of our pants.... Your average consideration would be about 120 pages if you are going to make a feature film, but we had about 21 pages of script that we could begin with.... We just started and we shot that first 21 pages in a couple of weeks, and then we got to Morocco with 400 crew or something like that, and met on the weekend and worked out what Monday was gonna be. And it was like that the whole shoot. It's one of my aims in life to make a movie with Ridley Scott with an actual script. I believe he would be a powerful film-maker, beyond anything he's ever achieved, if he would actually just acquiesce to begin with a script that he is comfortable in shooting... but I've made five movies with him."
'Creature from the Black Lagoon' (1954)
"I remember the scene where the creature has captured me and then he comes up with me in his arms in this underwater cave.... They had forgotten to heat the water first of all and it was November... we both were submerged and so I'm supposed to be unconscious and I remember trying not to quiver... because the water was so cold and they had forgot to heat the sound stage. Then, dear Ben [Chapman] who had goggles on, and the whole [creature] outfit, couldn't see very well so one of the papier-mâché rock formations bumped my head.... They called the doctor down and he was checking my head and Ben, still in the creature suit, was bending over me very solicitously to make sure everything was all right. We had our funny moments."
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