Saturday, November 19, 2011

Live reading of The Apartment screenplay

Last month I wrote about LACMA's new series of live script reads curated by director Jason Reitman, as a group of actors took on the script for the John Hughes '80s classic The Breakfast Club. Well, a couple of nights ago was the second installment as another group of actors climbed on stage to read something from writer/director Billy Wilder, The Apartment. In the 1960 original, the lead roles went to Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray. On this night in Los Angeles, those roles went to Steve Carell, Natalie Portman and Pierce Brosnan. Other actors were Ken Jeong, Mindy Kaling, Nick Kroll, Jake Johnson and Collette Wolfe.

As with the first live read, this isn't a performance of the script with the actors trying to recreate the physicality of the film on stage. No, the actors are seated, lined up in a row and do a basic table read, while incorporating their own style and quirks into the script. This is a fun little project, but I think it will have a very short shelf-life after seeing the read of The Apartment. There's something lacking in such a basic reading where there's only minimal "performance" involved among those on the stage. They are performing, but it's a dialed back performing taking place. Such a creative endeavor lacks the depth and power of the actual original film, or if it was a theatrical performance. It's still a fun way to re-visit a great piece of Hollywood's history, but how don't know if it will be as fun if it goes on month after month.

The Apartment highlights were Steve Carell, as the lead role was tailor made for his sweet, yet smart, style, Nick Kroll and Pierce Brosnan. Kroll repeatedly reaped big laughs despite having one of the lesser characters by giving perfectly timed lines. Ken Jeong got the biggest laugh of the night when he forgot he was up during the scene at the Chinese restaurant and then delivered some wicked stereotypical lines from the Asian waiter. Least up to the task? Natalie Portman. She basically flatlined the entire reading, almost never changing her tone, volume and emotion. Sorry, Natalie.

There's another reading in December and I'll post a report of that one too. The script? The Princess Bride.

***Left to right in photo: Jake Johnson, Mindy Kaling, Pierce Brosnan, Natalie Portman, Steve Carell, Nick Kroll and Collette Wolfe. Sorry the photo isn't better!***


hidden staircase said...

steve carell! pierce brosnan! i'm not surprised at natalie's performance at all. so overrated! maybe a little like the career of one of your old faves...miss ryder?! ah...!

have you seen zach g's 'between the ferns' "fake" talk show interviews on funny or die? there's one with steve c and one with natalie. hers is quite flat. check out the "episode" with sean penn.

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

I saw a few of those--your right, the one with NP was very subdued. Maybe that's just her personality?

Pierce Brosnan was a surprise replacement for JK Simmons and he actually was one of the better people up there. Steve Carell killed it. He's so talented.

I'm curious what and who will be involved in THE PRINCESS BRIDE next month. I'll try to have a better photo--need to borrow SJ's digital rather than my iPhone.

I wish Winona would make a dang comeback! Not sure it's going to happen though.

hidden staircase said...

i lv steve carell even though sometimes he's over the top. super talented. i just saw that 'crazy stupid love' and also the terrible re-do of veber's 'the dinner game'...'dinner with schmucks.'

ah! princess bride...that's a tough one. no one can live up to cary elwes!

i don't know about winona...they seem to throw her stupid things like that star trek movie. it'd be nice to see her in a good role. you and your winona! haha!

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

plus, princess bride has a huge cast too. stage is gonna be full for that one.

Eva said...

this reminds me - I watched Billy Wilder's directorial debut again this weekend(it had been a couple of years), The Major and the Minor - have you seen it? - I knew I liked it but had forgotten just how much!!

I had to laugh particularly much when the train conductors question that Ginger Rogers is not yet 12, and she says she is from tall Swedish stock with a gland problem, and they ask her to say something in Swedish then to prove it, and she says "I vant to be alone". I totally must have missed that when seeing it the first time!

Joshua Blevins Peck said...


I've never seen that film. Too many of Wilder's out there I need to see sadly.

Eva said...

Sadly?? Gladly!! It always makes me happy when I haven't yet covered everything of a great territory yet - it means I have stuff to look forward to and am not running out yet!

Netflix has it, by the way.

Joshua Blevins Peck said...

True! I always tell people something similar when I'm jealous that they haven't yet watched something or other.