semi-chellas

Deadline reports that Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts are in final talks to co-star in Ophelia, a re-telling of the Shakespeare’s Hamlet through the eyes of the famously doomed heroine. The project is adapted by Mad Men’s Semi Chellas from the award-winning novel by Lisa Klein, and will be directed by The Waiting City’s Claire McCarthy.

Ophelia is one of only two female characters along with that of Gertrude: she is gradually driven mad by Hamlet’s erratic behavior towards her, especially, as well as those around him. Unbeknownst to her, he also kills her father Polonius. Overcome by grief, Ophelia is later found drowned. It is not entirely clear in the play if she killed herself or simply suffered an accident. As per Gertrude’s poetic summation of her death, one of literature’s most evocative passages, Ophelia was “incapable of her own distress”.

“Set in the 14th century but spoken in a contemporary voice, Ophelia will put the titular character center stage.” said executive producer Daniel Bobker. “I have always treated this film like a jewel, since there’s something extra precious in bringing to life a treasured female icon, celebrated for centuries as an alluring figure in the shadows of Shakespeare’s most famous work, without ever really having her own story told.

MAD MEN Recap: "The Strategy"

NOTE: No, due to certain travel over the weekend I cannot and will not do this for the finale.  I’d rather watch that live.  Now for the spoilers.

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Matthew Weiner, The Art of Screenwriting No. 4

Interviewed by Semi Chellas

MW: And because I had gone to film school, I knew what commercial filmmaking was and knew I didn’t like it. In the nineties there was a stranglehold of formula on the movies. People would point to great movies like Chinatown as examples of how structure generates great works. But I always felt that these structures were derived from great works. The individual stories are organic, they come out of people’s heads. To say that the story of Jesus and the story of Moses are the same story is a horrible mistake. Are they both heroic? Yes. Do they both have inauspicious beginnings and unmarked graves? Yes. That does not make them the same story. But the studios were trying to consolidate films into a bulletproof system, they were trying to reverse engineer a hit—which, of course, is insane. In entertainment you’re a fool to try that.

One of the big things was, everybody hated “episodic structure,” as they used to call it.

SC: Meaning what?

MW: They were uncomfortable with a movie like The Godfather or a story like the Odyssey, where the only thing holding the events together is the characters. Now, there’s this monster, this obstacle, but there’s no real progression—the hero just keeps trying to get home. Sure, Michael Corleone starts off as a young war hero and ends up as the godfather, but the wedding takes up the first half hour of the movie. People liked to talk about “act breaks” and “rising action” leading to a climax, but what about Apocalypse Now? Someone’s on a journey, and sure, we’re heading toward a climax, but there are so many digressions. To me, those digressions are the story.

People would say to me, What’s holding this together? Or, How is this moment related to the opening scene, or the problem you set up on page 15? I don’t know. That’s where the character went. That’s the story. So many movies in the seventies are told this way, episodically, and they feel more like real life because you don’t see the story clicking. Movies like Days of Heaven—big movies that take time out to show the locusts. Do you need the crop duster in North by Northwest? No, but it is the most memorable part of the movie. It has no essential function in the story. Cary Grant has already been pursued. They’ve already tried to kill him. They’ve drugged him. They’ve poured booze down his throat. Remember how Cary Grant goes back to the house where the bad guys got him at the beginning of the movie and poured booze down his throat? He comes back the next day and says, This is where I was, they poured booze down my throat. Remember how he goes into the room where they poured the booze into him and they’ve changed the couch?

SC: Even now the hair on my neck is standing up.

MW: They’re so evil. They changed the couch! It’s preposterous, but delightful. Of course, anything that is epic is episodic in structure, whether it’s Lawrence of Arabia or The Godfather, which was already being treated like an art movie—the most successful commercial movie in the world treated like an art-house movie.

I liked episodic structure and I thought it worked. I still think it works. At the time I was especially interested in Billy Wilder and Fellini. I liked their grasp of tone, the way the movies are both funny and dark. You’re always scared and laughing and on the verge of tears somewhere in the middle of these movies. I could watch Sunset Boulevard and 8 1⁄2 over and over again. Everything you need to know about writing is in those two movies. How to tell a story, where to start the story, whose point of view it’s from, at what point you leave their point of view, when you should see a character in a scene by himself or herself—all this shit that drives you nuts when you’re trying to structure something. And then, the fact that there are no rules. That’s what both movies are saying—there are no rules, the audience is not as rigid as you think, and certainly not as rigid as the people paying for the movies to get made.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE. Mad Men, Sopranos, and much more.

Amazing interview.