Monday Mar 30, 2015

First trailer for 'Walking Dead' spin-off

Brief teaser for "Fear the Walking Dead" offers insight into beginnings of zombie pandemic."Reports in five states that a strange virus is going around, so if you're not feeling well: go home, take care of yourself," advises an on-air announcer for Good Morning Los Angeles. Sirens, emergency...
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TV

First trailer for 'Walking Dead' spin-off
Monday Mar 30, 2015
First trailer for 'Walking Dead' spin-off

Brief teaser for "Fear the Walking Dead" offers insight into beginnings of zombie pandemic."Reports in five states that a strange virus is going around, so if you're not feeling well: go home, take care of yourself," advises an on-air announcer for Good Morning Los Angeles. Sirens, emergency services radio chatter, and an ominously shuffling silhouette mark out 10 seconds' worth of footage. The trailer aired during March 29's Season 5 finale for AMC show "The Walking Dead," with a mid-2015 debut projected. Trailer - Good Morning Los Angeles: Fear the Walking Dead: Series Premiere - youtu.be/unWdvWPmiPk Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Stand-up specials: the other Netflix Originals
Sunday Mar 29, 2015
Stand-up specials: the other Netflix Originals

Though its award-winning original series "House of Cards" and "Orange Is the New Black" have tended to steal the spotlight in recent years, Netflix is also home to several exclusive stand-up specials.The latest comic to sign a deal with the American platform is Chris Tucker, who rose to fame in the 1990s on HBO's Def Comedy Jam and in the movies "Friday" and "Rush Hour," among others. His first Netflix stand-up special, "Chris Tucker Live," will be available worldwide exclusively on Netflix from July 10. Netflix is also where comedy fans will find the fourth stand-up special from Aziz Ansari. In "Live at Madison Square Garden," the former "Parks & Recreation" star touches upon his signature topics, including the Indian-American experience as well as relationships and dating. Chelsea Peretti of "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" is the star of "One of the Greats," a somewhat unconventional comedy special that plays with the format. Also worth mentioning are "Freezing Hot" featuring Iliza Shlesinger, the first woman to win NBC's "Last Comic Standing," and "Uganda Be Kidding Me" with former "Chelsea Lately" host Chelsea Handler. New releases over the coming months include "Incorrigible" with "Undateable" star Chris D'Elia (April 17) and "I'm Gonna Die Alone (and I Feel Fine)" with Jen Kirkman (May 22). Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Emma Stone, Liam Hemsworth among Kids' Choice Awards winners
Sunday Mar 29, 2015
Emma Stone, Liam Hemsworth among Kids' Choice Awards winners

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Emma Stone is a Kids' Choice Award winner who largely escaped the show's trademark green slime. But the same isn't true for the stars of "Modern Family." Stone was honored as favorite movie actress for her role in "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" at Saturday's ceremony. Stone gamely put her hands in a spray of the show's trademark slime, but otherwise remained goo-free. When "Modern Family" collected its Nickelodeon trophy for favorite family TV shows, cast members including Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Rico Rodriguez got hit by a slime wave — as Ferguson thanked the show for letting them off the hook. Nick Jonas hosted the ceremony, which also honored the group Fifth Harmony as favorite new artist and Liam Hemsworth of "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1" as favorite male action star. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Fancy Nancy moving from page to screen with Disney
Friday Mar 27, 2015
Fancy Nancy moving from page to screen with Disney

The successful children's book series about the eponymous character who puts self expression above all else is to get her own TV series.Disney Junior announced the deal with publishers HarperCollins Children's Books on Friday along with its initial plans for the character -- an animated TV movie and an adaptation of the existing series, which already runs to some 60 picture books. Aimed at two-to-seven-year-olds, Fancy Nancy likes to look ‘Fancy' whatever she gets up to and the character is celebrating her 10th anniversary in 2015. As for the first Disney adaptations, they're slated for 2017. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

'Super Troopers 2' joining cohort of fan-funded films
Friday Mar 27, 2015
'Super Troopers 2' joining cohort of fan-funded films

Passing its $2m goal within a day of launching on Indiegogo, cop comedy "Super Troopers 2" is the latest in a cadre of fan-funded films to emerge from the distributed funding model. We summarize the fortunes of four from recent times -- "Wish I Was Here," "Veronica Mars," "Reach Me" and the upcoming "Ned Rifle."Wish I Was Here (2014) Zach Braff fronted a campaign to direct and star in this coming-of-middle-age film, raising $3.1m in the process, and though it was certainly typical of Braff's style, critics felt that its similarity made it limp in comparison.IMDB: 6.7/10 User RatingMetacritic: 43 Metascore, 6.7 User RatingRotten Tomatoes: 46% Tomatometer, 62% Audience Score Veronica Mars (2014) A chance to tie up all those loose ends and return to a well-loved but canceled TV series gave Rob Thomas the opportunity needed to reunite screen star Kristen Bell and the rest of the cast thanks to $5.7m total donations on Kickstarter. Wisely, given the distributed nature of its online fan commnuity, the film was given a same-day VOD download as its limited theatrical release.IMDB: 6.9/10 User RatingMetacritic: 62/100 Metascore, 7.9 User ScoreRotten Tomatoes: 78% Tomatometer, 80% Audience ScoreReach Me (2014) Not one but two crowdfunding campaigns were proposed -- first on Kickstarter, then replaced on Indiegogo -- to make up a shortfall when one of the film's more established backers pulled out during production, and eventually raising $181k. Its big name cast included Sylvester Stallone, Kelsey Grammer, Terry Crews, Kyra Sedgwick and Danny Trejo, but the finished article wasn't so much of a success.IMDB: 4.9/10 User RatingMetacritic: 21/100 Metascore, tbd User ScoreRotten Tomatoes: 0% Tomatometer, 59% Audience Score Ned Rifle (2015) With independent film director Hal Hartley looking to complete an intergenerational trilogy, Kickstarter visitors pitched in to the tune of $395k, ensuring that Aubrey Plaza would join returning cast members Parker Posey and Liam Aiken. Initial film festival screenings have led to a positive swell ahead of an April 2015 debut.IMDB: 6.1/10 User RatingMetacritic: 76/100 Metascore, tdb User ScoreRotten Tomatoes: 71% Tomatometer, tdb % Audience Score Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Movies

Nyong'o at home in East Africa for Disney production
Monday Mar 30, 2015
Nyong'o at home in East Africa for Disney production

After a film about a king of Scotland, Ugandans are getting excited over a new movie about a "queen", starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o.The Hollywood star, born in Mexico to Kenyan parents, jetted into neighbouring Uganda a few days ago for her first job in East Africa since taking the 2014 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in "12 Years a Slave". "I'm loving the food, I'm loving the people, I'm loving the style," she said ahead of the start of production for the film "Queen of Katwe". "I don't feel like leaving. People just have an innate style, so I'm taking notes. And I'm really loving working on this film." The Disney production, directed by Mira Nair, is a biopic looking at chess coach Robert Katende and his star pupil Phiona Mutesi, who grew up in Kampala's Katwe slum. After happening upon chess as a famished nine-year-old, Phiona, now 18, quickly developed a talent for the game and became a national champion, going on to participate in international Olympiads and becoming a Woman Candidate Master (WCM). Nyong'o is portraying Phiona's mother, Harriet Mutesi, in the highest profile film project to come to Uganda since the 2006 movie "The Last King of Scotland" about Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, which garnered an Oscar for Forest Whitaker in the title role. An alumna of Maisha Film Lab, a training initiative for up and coming East African filmmakers founded by Nair, Nyong'o said the movie was an "empowering story about what's possible if you allow yourself to dream". "I didn't know that chess could make such a difference in people's lives, a fundamental difference in how they look at themselves and deal with the life ahead of them," the 32-year-old told reporters at a press conference with Nair, Katende and Mutesi. "It's not very often that you see a positive image of Africa on screen." Despite her Kenyan roots, Ugandans are also proud of Nyong'o, and part of her Oscar speech is painted on the wall of a local cafe. But she has reportedly gone unrecognised by some locals since arriving. "It's so lovely to be around people that are my complexion all the time, that's been a breath of fresh air," said Nyong'o, wearing a long, tight-fitting black and white gown by local label KWESH. "What I love about being in Uganda so far is that I can be myself. I don't feel restricted." "Queen of Katwe" will also star "Selma" actor David Oyelowo, with 20 street kids as "chess pioneers". Katende's chess programme is now running in five Kampala slums as well as in former camps for internally displaced people in northern Uganda, and he hopes to expand it to Kenya. He said Nyong'o was "so humble" and "down to earth" despite being a film star. Phiona, who has been sitting exams, arrived in her school uniform as Katende had not told her about the event until the last minute to avoid distracting her. "I don't believe it... I'm meeting Lupita. This is overwhelming," she said. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

'Home' comfy atop North American box office
Monday Mar 30, 2015
'Home' comfy atop North American box office

Animated children's flick "Home," about an unpopular space alien forced to flee his own kind, took up residence over the weekend at the top of the North American box office, estimates showed Sunday.The computer-generated movie, featuring Jim Parsons as the voice of "Oh" the extraterrestrial and Rihanna as his Earthling friend, landed $54 million in its first weekend out, box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations reported. Trailing by $20 million, comedy "Get Hard," about a prison-bound white executive (Will Ferrell) who hires a black car washer (Kevin Hart) for lessons on surviving the slammer, debuted in second place with $34.6 million, despite criticism from some corners for racist and homophobic jokes. Dystopian thriller "Insurgent," the second big-screen adaptation based on Veronica Roth's best-selling "Divergent" series, fell to third with $22 million, after its debut at the top last week. Meanwhile Disney's live action "Cinderella" remake worked its magic in fourth, earning $17.5 million, with Lily James as the enchanted princess and Cate Blanchett as her wicked stepmother. Indie horror flick "It Follows," which opened weeks ago but debuted over the weekend in wide release, took fifth place and $4 million in ticket sales. Sixth went to British spy spoof "Kingsman: The Secret Service," with $3.1 million in its sixth weekend out. Action flick "Run All Night," featuring grizzled tough guy Liam Neeson playing a hit man going up against the mob, was seventh with $2.2 million. Sequel "The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," featuring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Richard Gere, raked in just under $2.2 million to earn eighth place. Religious drama "Do You Believe" took ninth with $2.15 million and Sean Penn action movie "The Gunman" fell into 10th with $2 million. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Oscar-nominated Czech cameraman Miroslav Ondricek dies at 80
Sunday Mar 29, 2015
Oscar-nominated Czech cameraman Miroslav Ondricek dies at 80

PRAGUE (AP) — Miroslav Ondricek, the Czech director of photography who was twice nominated for the Academy Awards, has died. He was 80. Czech public television announced Ondricek's death Sunday, citing his son David, also a filmmaker. No cause was given. Ondricek was behind the camera in some 40 movies but was best known abroad for his cooperation with his friend, director Milos Forman, who settled in the United States after the 1968 Soviet-led invasion crushed the Prague Spring's liberal reforms in Czechoslovakia. His work on Forman's "Ragtime" and "Amadeus," which examined the relationship between Mozart and rival composer Antonio Salieri, earned him Oscar nominations. In 2004, Ondricek received the International Achievement Award from the American Society of Cinematographers. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Moore denies racism in comments on next Bond
Sunday Mar 29, 2015
Moore denies racism in comments on next Bond

James Bond legend Roger Moore insisted Saturday he had said nothing racist about fellow British actor Idris Elba -- tipped to play the superspy next -- in a French magazine interview.The 87-year-old star, who played the suave British agent in seven films from 1973 to 1985, insisted his meaning had been lost in translation. "An interview I gave to Paris Match implies I said something racist about Idris Elba. That is simply untrue," Moore wrote on Twitter, using the hashtag "Lost in translation". He added: "When a journalist asks if 'Bond should be English' and you agree, then quotes you saying it about Idris Elba it's out of context." Reproductions of the interview have led to Moore being blasted by Twitter users. In the interview, Moore was talking about the different actors who have played agent 007 on screen. In the 23 official Bond films to date, the title role has been played in turn by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan and Daniel Craig, who is currently shooting "Spectre", due out in November. In a translation of the quotes printed in French in Paris Match, Moore told the magazine: "Though James has been played by a Scot, a Welshman, an Irishman, I think he should be English-English. It's nonetheless an interesting idea, but unrealistic. "Some years ago, I said that Cuba Gooding Jr would make an excellent Bond but it was a joke!" - Words 'faithfully transcribed' - Benjamin Locoge, who is in charge of Paris Match's culture section, said the recording of the conversation "backs up that Roger Moore's words have been faithfully transcribed". "The journalist (who conducted the interview) is certain about the term "English-English": he said it like that, it's on the tape," he added. He claimed: "Roger Moore implies that it would be difficult to have a black James Bond in the sense that one cannot imagine General de Gaulle being played by a black actor and James Brown by a white (actor)." "One should not interpret his words as racist and the Twittersphere has without doubt got carried away a bit too hastily." Elba, 42, is from Hackney in east London and was born to a Sierra Leonean father and a Ghanaian mother. His most famous film role to date is that of former South African president Nelson Mandela in "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom". On television, he played drug lord Russell "Stringer" Bell in US crime drama series "The Wire" and the title role in the BBC detective series "Luther", which won him a best actor Golden Globe. British bookmakers across the board have Elba as their clear favourite to be the next Bond after Craig, who has held the role for 10 years. William Hill price Elba at 2/1, followed by Tom Hardy at 9/2, Henry Cavill at 6/1, Michael Fassbender at 13/2. Paddy Power and Ladbrokes have the same actors as their top four. Ian Fleming's original Bond novels say the secret agent was the son of a Scottish father and a Swiss mother, who spent much of his early life outside of Britain. Orphaned at 11, he then lives with an aunt in southeast England and is educated in Edinburgh. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Lauren Bacall's life possessions on sale in New York
Sunday Mar 29, 2015
Lauren Bacall's life possessions on sale in New York

Everything but the kitchen sink would be one way to describe the staggering array of possessions owned by Lauren Bacall that go under the hammer in New York next week.From fine art to kitchenware, from avant garde to the kitsch: hundreds of items collected and loved by the Hollywood siren go on sale Tuesday and Wednesday at Bonhams auction house. The collection is nothing if not eclectic. It includes jewelry and clothes, Aboriginal and African art, English and French furniture and items bought in antique shops around the world. Items that date from her marriage to legendary on-screen co-star Humphrey Bogart and sculptures by English artist Henry Moore are among the most prized items. "One thing with Lauren Bacall, when she collected she didn't collect because of value or potential value," said Jon King, vice president and director of Bonhams in New York. "An item that cost $100, if it appealed to her she would buy it. If it was $100,000, if it appealed to her, she would buy it... her aesthetic sense that's all that mattered," King told AFP. Bacall greatly admired Moore, visiting him in England and treasuring his work. She kept most of the small maquettes next to her bed and the most expensive of which is valued at $40-60,000. At the lower end of the spectrum, die-hard fans with a several hundred dollars might be able to snap up some walking sticks. Bacall, one of Hollywood's great golden age actresses, died last August aged 89 in her nine-room home overlooking Central Park, which is also on the market for $26 million. The proceeds of next week's auctions will go to her three children. All 740 lots -- from Yves Saint Laurent evening wear to a cheese slicer, silver tea strainer, suitcases and papier mache ornaments -- filled Bacall's plush Manhattan apartment, and have toured the world attracting potential buyers from China to France. Above all they reflect Bacall's personal taste. - Clinton invitation - From the Bogart years, before he died from cancer in 1957, are his black granite games table and a pair of silver candelabras from their marital home in Los Angeles. Many of the lots have associations with some of her famous friends drawn from the literary, musical and political worlds. There is a landscape by English playwright Noel Coward, an invitation to Bill Clinton's inaugural ball complete with handwritten notes from him and wife Hillary, and a lithograph of daffodils painted by the late senator Edward Kennedy. Bacall was a staunch Democrat and is photographed in the catalogue at a birthday party of Hillary's in New York. "She was known to be a friend of Democrats. She admired Bill Clinton. She admired Obama too. She thought that he was very strong and decisive and just a very good man," said King. The piano, used by Bacall to rehearse for Broadway musicals, was also played at parties by composer Leonard Bernstein, with whom her youngest son, Sam Robards, remembers singing Christmas carols. There are Ashanti scales from Ghana used to weigh gold, a spoon from the Democratic Republic of Congo, combs from the Ivory Coast, and two headrests from South Africa. The auction house said Bacall became interested in African art while on location for "The African Queen" starring Bogart and Katharine Hepburn, which was filmed in Congo and Uganda. Other items from around the world include Indian miniatures, a Japanese portable brass tea set and a marble table inscribed with "in the name of Allah" in Arabic calligraphy. King, who forged a close relationship with the star, said Bacall would have mixed feelings about the auction. "She'd be very happy to see the response from her fan base. But she loved each and every one of these and probably, I don't know, she'd be sad that it's being disbanded I think." He says it's possible some of the items could end up in museums, but expects the majority to go to private collectors. Interest has been "tremendous" from Hong Kong and mainland China, as well as Tokyo, Los Angeles and Paris, Bacall's favorite city, he said. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Events

Nyong'o at home in East Africa for Disney production
Monday Mar 30, 2015
Nyong'o at home in East Africa for Disney production

After a film about a king of Scotland, Ugandans are getting excited over a new movie about a "queen", starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o.The Hollywood star, born in Mexico to Kenyan parents, jetted into neighbouring Uganda a few days ago for her first job in East Africa since taking the 2014 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in "12 Years a Slave". "I'm loving the food, I'm loving the people, I'm loving the style," she said ahead of the start of production for the film "Queen of Katwe". "I don't feel like leaving. People just have an innate style, so I'm taking notes. And I'm really loving working on this film." The Disney production, directed by Mira Nair, is a biopic looking at chess coach Robert Katende and his star pupil Phiona Mutesi, who grew up in Kampala's Katwe slum. After happening upon chess as a famished nine-year-old, Phiona, now 18, quickly developed a talent for the game and became a national champion, going on to participate in international Olympiads and becoming a Woman Candidate Master (WCM). Nyong'o is portraying Phiona's mother, Harriet Mutesi, in the highest profile film project to come to Uganda since the 2006 movie "The Last King of Scotland" about Ugandan dictator Idi Amin, which garnered an Oscar for Forest Whitaker in the title role. An alumna of Maisha Film Lab, a training initiative for up and coming East African filmmakers founded by Nair, Nyong'o said the movie was an "empowering story about what's possible if you allow yourself to dream". "I didn't know that chess could make such a difference in people's lives, a fundamental difference in how they look at themselves and deal with the life ahead of them," the 32-year-old told reporters at a press conference with Nair, Katende and Mutesi. "It's not very often that you see a positive image of Africa on screen." Despite her Kenyan roots, Ugandans are also proud of Nyong'o, and part of her Oscar speech is painted on the wall of a local cafe. But she has reportedly gone unrecognised by some locals since arriving. "It's so lovely to be around people that are my complexion all the time, that's been a breath of fresh air," said Nyong'o, wearing a long, tight-fitting black and white gown by local label KWESH. "What I love about being in Uganda so far is that I can be myself. I don't feel restricted." "Queen of Katwe" will also star "Selma" actor David Oyelowo, with 20 street kids as "chess pioneers". Katende's chess programme is now running in five Kampala slums as well as in former camps for internally displaced people in northern Uganda, and he hopes to expand it to Kenya. He said Nyong'o was "so humble" and "down to earth" despite being a film star. Phiona, who has been sitting exams, arrived in her school uniform as Katende had not told her about the event until the last minute to avoid distracting her. "I don't believe it... I'm meeting Lupita. This is overwhelming," she said. Copyright AFP Relaxnews, 2015. This article was from AFP Relax News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Ludacris, Chrissy Teigen to host 2015 Billboard Music Awards
Monday Mar 30, 2015
Ludacris, Chrissy Teigen to host 2015 Billboard Music Awards

NEW YORK (AP) — Ludacris and Chrissy Teigen will host the 2015 Billboard Music Awards in May. Dick Clark Productions announced Monday that the rapper and model will host the show May 17 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. It will air on ABC. Nominees will be announced April 7. Teigen is married to singer-songwriter John Legend. Ludacris hosted the awards show last year. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Robin Williams' wife, children head to court in estate fight
Monday Mar 30, 2015
Robin Williams' wife, children head to court in estate fight

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Attorneys for Robin Williams' wife and children are headed to court in their battle over the late comedian's estate. The lawyers are scheduled to appear before a San Francisco probate judge Monday to argue over who should get clothes and other personal items the actor kept at one of his Northern California homes. In papers filed in December, Williams' wife, Susan, says some of the late actor's personal items were taken without her permission. She has asked the court to exclude the contents of the San Francisco Bay Area home she shared with Williams from the items the actor said the children should have. Williams' children, Zachary, Zelda and Cody, said in response that Susan Williams is "adding insult to a terrible injury" by trying to change the trust agreement and rob them of the late actor's belongings, including jewelry and memorabilia. Susan Williams' attorney said she was only seeking guidance from the court about the meaning of certain terms in the trust. Robin Williams died at his home in Tiburon, north of San Francisco, in August. The coroner ruled his death a suicide that resulted from asphyxia caused by hanging. The actor's wife has said he struggled with depression, anxiety and a recent diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. Williams' trust granted his children his memorabilia and awards in the entertainment industry among other particular personal items, according to court documents. Susan Williams says that because he wanted her to continue to live at the Tiburon home, it makes sense that he intended for his children only to have the specific personal items kept at another home he owned in Napa. The two sides also disagree over items put in storage, watches Williams owned and his memorabilia. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Destiny's Child reunites at Stellar Gospel Awards
Sunday Mar 29, 2015
Destiny's Child reunites at Stellar Gospel Awards

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A reunited Destiny's Child took the stage at the Stellar Gospel Music Awards on Saturday as singer Erica Campbell took home six awards, including the night's top honor. BeyoncĂ© and Kelly Rowland joined Michelle Williams in a surprise performance of Williams' single, "Say Yes," which also netted an award for music video of the year. Campbell was the night's big winner at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, winning artist of the year as well as female vocalist and CD of the year for "Help." Tiffany Joy McGhee's "Amazing" was named song of the year, and Deitrick Haddon took male vocalist honors. Deitrick Haddon's LXW also won in the contemporary choir category. The awards will be broadcast April 5 on the TV One network. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

Tony winner and Neil Simon director Gene Saks dies at 93
Sunday Mar 29, 2015
Tony winner and Neil Simon director Gene Saks dies at 93

NEW YORK (AP) — Gene Saks, a prolific actor-director who teamed with playwright and fellow New Yorker Neil Simon on hit Broadway and movie productions of such Simon comedies as "The Odd Couple" and "Brighton Beach Memoirs," has died. He was 93. Saks, who won three Tony Awards for his direction, died from pneumonia Saturday at his East Hampton home in New York, according to his son Daniel. Saks' grab bag of hits also included many without Simon. Among them were the musicals "Mame" (1966), starring Angela Lansbury and his then-wife Bea Arthur; "Half A Sixpence," starring British pop star Tommy Steele (1965), and "I Love My Wife" (1977), as well as such comedies as "Enter Laughing" (1963) and "Same Time, Next Year" (1975). The Simon-Saks collaboration had its beginnings in 1963 when Simon asked Saks — then a Broadway actor — to come to New Hope, Pennsylvania, and critique a tryout of "Barefoot in the Park." Simon didn't need much help. The play — under Mike Nichols' direction — turned out to be one of Broadway's biggest hits of the 1960s, running for more than 1,500 performances. But three years later, when Simon was preparing the film version of "Barefoot in the Park," he persuaded producer Hal Wallis to hire Saks as director of his first movie. The film, which starred Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, was a huge success. Besides the famous trilogy of "Brighton Beach Memoirs," ''Biloxi Blues" and "Broadway Bound," their work together on Broadway included "California Suite," ''Lost in Yonkers," ''Rumors," ''Jake's Women" and the female version of "The Odd Couple." Their other films were "The Odd Couple," — with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau — "Last of the Red Hot Lovers," ''The Prisoner of Second Avenue" and "Brighton Beach Memoirs." "I don't believe every director can direct every play," Simon once mused. "But Gene and I have had such a common point of view that my instincts tell me lately, 'Go with Gene.'" In a 1987 interview Saks explained his affinity for Simon: "Aside from Neil's wit, his brightness and his ability to characterize, he writes about things I know about and care about. We both came from middle-class, first-generation Jewish families, and our humor springs from the same roots." Saks had been an actor for 15 years, and his career was gaining momentum, when he moved on to directing after producer Morton Gottlieb had seen him direct a scene at the Actors Studio and was impressed. Gottlieb asked Saks to direct "Enter Laughing." It became a hit, elevating Alan Arkin to stardom. By the mid-1970s Saks was one of Broadway's most prominent directors, and at one point in 1977 he had three shows running concurrently on Broadway: "Same Time, Next Year," ''California Suite" and "I Love My Wife." It was the Cy Coleman-Michael Stewart musical "I Love My Wife" that brought Saks his first Tony. He went on to win two more for Simon plays, "Brighton Beach Memoirs" in 1983 and "Biloxi Blues" in 1985. Saks was born in 1921, in New York City, and grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, where his father ran a women's wholesale shoe business. He wanted to become a basketball star, but changed his mind when he played the title role in "Charley's Aunt," a venerable old farce in which a young man disguises himself as a woman. He avoided talking about his ambition because "acting was so associated with femininity." Saks graduated from Cornell University in 1943 and joined the Navy. Being in the service in wartime changed his mind about acting. "I realized that life can be short and you'd better do what you want to do," he reasoned. After serving for three years, he studied at the New School for Social Research and the Actors Studio. He appeared in such plays as Paddy Chayefsky's "The Tenth Man" (1959), "A Shot in the Dark" (1961) and the Herb Gardner comedy "A Thousand Clowns" (1962) in which he played a children's TV performer known as Chuckles the Chipmunk, a role Saks recreated in the film version. But he decided he wanted to direct. "I liked telling people what to do," he said. In a 1985 interview, Saks had this to say about the twin professions of acting and directing: "For me, I had to overcome shyness to be an actor. But as a director you lose your subjectivity, your self-consciousness. And instead of just your role, it's the life of the whole play that becomes a reflection of you." Saks married Arthur in 1950 and they had two sons, Matthew and Daniel, before the marriage ended in divorce. With his second wife, Karen, he had a daughter, Annabelle. ___ This story contains material compiled by late AP Entertainment Writer Bob Thomas. Copyright (2015) Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. This article was written by Mark Kennedy from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.