Children's television... it's a tough racket.
Randolph Smiley (ROBIN WILLIAMS) has it all--as the costumed star of the highest rated kid's show on TV, "Rainbow Randolph" has a Manhattan penthouse, a Times Square billboard featuring his beloved character, cars, boats, horses and all the indulgence that celebrity brings.
There's something else Randolph has--a healthy taste for Johnnie Walker and a penchant for taking bribes from stage parents who want their kids on his program. These under-the-table transactions are quite lucrative for the debt-ridden children's icon... until the Feds get wise.
Busted and instantly reviled, Randolph is a star no more. He's become the one thing a children's performer fears most: a scandal. Scandals don't play well to the under-8 demographic, and weasely network president Frank Stokes (JON STEWART) needs a squeaky clean replacement--fast.
Enter Sheldon Mopes (EDWARD NORTON) and his alter-ego "Smoochy," a puffy, fuscia rhinoceros. Eager to expand his audience beyond the Coney Island methadone clinic, Smoochy--with his innocence and unrelenting ethics--is the perfect remedy for what ails the network... and it doesn't hurt that kids love him. Now it's Smoochy who's got the swanky penthouse, the Times Square billboard and the smooth-talking agent (DANNY DEVITO). He's even captured the attention of Randolph's ex-girlfriend Nora (CATHERINE KEENER), the network's senior programming executive.
Sheldon soon learns, however, that children's television is a dangerous world steeped in corruption, back-stabbing and violence. But his biggest problem isn't ratings or corporate politics. It's Rainbow Randolph.
Broke and homeless, Randolph doesn't share America's enthusiasm for his opportunistic replacement. The way Randolph sees it, the righteous rhino has stolen his job, his house and his girl. He's convinced that the foam rubber carpetbagger is the face of evil sent by the devil to destroy him.
Revenge is the means, assassination is the end and Rainbow Randolph will not sleep until Smoochy takes a permanent dirt nap.
Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with FilmFour and Senator Entertainment, a Mad Chance production, the satirical comedy Death to Smoochy starring ROBIN WILLIAMS, EDWARD NORTON, CATHERINE KEENER, DANNY DEVITO and JON STEWART.
Directed by Danny DeVito from a screenplay by ADAM RESNICK, Death to Smoochy is produced by ANDREW LAZAR and PETER MACGREGOR-SCOTT. The director of photography is ANASTAS MICHOS; the production designer is HOWARD CUMMINGS; the editor is JON POLL; and the music is composed by DAVID NEWMAN.
Death to Smoochy will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, an AOL Time Warner Company, except in the U.K., where FilmFour will handle sales and distribution; and in German-speaking Europe, where the film will be handled by Senator Entertainment.
This film has been rated R by the MPAA for "language and sexual references."
www.smoochymustdie.com / AOL Keyword: Smoochy
The birth of Death to Smoochy began in the mind of Adam Resnick, a former co-executive producer of the acclaimed HBO comedy series The Larry Sanders Show, who was intrigued by the comedic possibilities of setting a film in the multi-million dollar, high-stakes world of children's television programming. Drawing inspiration from Barney, the iconic purple kids entertainer, and the recent explosion of marketing aimed at the under-10 demographic, Resnick conceived a story that satirizes the darker side of children's TV. "Wherever there's big money, there's going to be corruption... and a good chance that someone's gonna wind up dead," Resnick notes wryly. "The world of children's television is no different. It's just Enron with a prettier shell."
Together with Andrew Lazar, producer of the summer 2000 comedy-adventure hit Cats & Dogs, Resnick brought the hilariously twisted pitch for Death to Smoochy to Warner Bros. Pictures. "We pitched it as Trading Places set in the world of children's programming," Lazar recalls. "Death to Smoochy tells the tale of Rainbow Randolph, a shady performer who suffers a fall from grace and then obsessively seeks revenge against his squeaky-clean replacement, Sheldon Mopes, AKA Smoochy the Rhino, a third-rate entertainer with first-rate morals."
"I liken Sheldon Mopes' introduction to the world of children's television to Frank Serpico entering the police department," says Resnick. "Like Serpico, Sheldon is a naïve and highly principled person who enters a situation full of hope and optimism, never suspecting that it's a corrupt, cutthroat business populated by ruthless players who hardly share his honorable agenda."
Working from a detailed 20-page outline, Resnick swiftly delivered a screenplay so wickedly funny and compelling, the project came together in a matter of weeks--record time for a major studio feature film. "Our director and cast became interested quickly because of the strength of the material," says Lazar. "Adam's script is filled with vivid characters, inherent comedic conflict and original musical numbers. This story is smart, it's got heart, and it's highly entertaining. Ask any one of the cast, from Danny to Edward to Robin to Catherine Keener and Jon Stewart, and they will all tell you that the script made them laugh. A lot. Out loud."
"The first time I read the script, I was lying on my back at about two in the morning," Edward Norton remembers, "and when I was finished, I had these rivulets of tears running down my head because I was laughing so hard. Usually when I read material, I'll have a critique of some component of it, but with this script, I didn't want to change a comma."
The filmmakers immediately approached acclaimed actor-director Danny DeVito about bringing the highly stylized characters and world of Smoochy to life. "Like me and all the stuff I do, this film has got an edge to it," says DeVito, making his fifth feature directorial foray with Death to Smoochy. "In fact, the way my cinematographer Anastas Michos lit and shot Smoochy, you might even say that it's a noir comedy. It's dark comedy, black comedy, comedy that's actually about some very serious stuff--bribery, jealousy, revenge, assassination. You know, all the good things in life."
For the riotously warped role of entertainer-gone-awry Rainbow Randolph, DeVito and Lazar turned to multi-talented performer Robin Williams. "Danny has a particularly dark sense of humor," Williams says. "In the wrong hands this material could be dangerous because it's darker than a coal miner's hole. It's Tarantino meets Mr. Rogers. It's Reservoir Rhino. But Danny's not afraid of anything. It's his demonic little flair that makes this film work so beautifully."
"I've known and admired Robin for many years," DeVito says. "We used to shoot Taxi right around the corner from Mork & Mindy. We've never worked together before, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to do so, and I knew Robin would be great as Rainbow Randolph. He infused this villainous character with all of the energy and outrageous, edgy comedy that he's known for."
And infuse he did. "It was quite fun playing Rainbow Randolph, especially because he can be so nasty while rocketing straight downhill past The Betty Ford Clinic," Williams reports. "He loses his job under a cloud of scandal, gets dumped on by the network and becomes a social pariah. Then he goes into an almost psychotic state because he begins to be delusional and revenge becomes his only motive in life. That's when Rainbow Randolph starts to resemble Wile E. Coyote."
The filmmakers' first choice for the dual role of virtuous Sheldon Mopes and his alter-ego Smoochy the Rhino was versatile actor-director Edward Norton. (In fact, screenwriter Adam Resnick had Norton in mind while writing the character.) "My first thought for Smoochy was Edward Norton," DeVito reveals, "because I think he's a brilliant actor, and this is such a different part for him. It's a funny movie, but I needed a really serious, strong actor who understands comedy and has the ability to mine the humor while playing Sheldon's sincerity straight."
"There aren't a whole lot of people I would step into a pink rhino suit for, but I trust Danny completely," says Edward Norton. "He's someone I've always admired, and Death to Smoochy is perfectly suited to his sensibilities as a director. His movies always come from a somewhat stylized, dark and surreal place, and I had a gut instinct that he was going to do something great with Smoochy."
Norton, who grew up on the cutting edge of progressive educational children's programming like Sesame Street, The Electric Company and The Muppets, found humor and resonance in the dichotomy of the principled performer who tries to bring ethics and education back to the cynical, corporate world of kids' television. "Whenever I read a script and examine a character, I always look for one descriptive kernel of who the guy is," Norton explains. "In the Smoochy screenplay, there's a line where Sheldon says 'You can't change the world, but you can make a dent.' And that was it. I read that line and thought, Okay, I know who this guy is now."
Rounding out the main cast as the corrupt profiteers looking to capitalize on Smoochy's squeaky-clean stardom are Danny DeVito as Burke, Rainbow Randolph's former agent, who sets his bottom-line sights on an unsuspecting Sheldon; Catherine Keener as Nora Wells, the jaded network executive who dubiously helps Kidnet turn Smoochy the Rhino into a ratings hit; and Jon Stewart as M. Frank Stokes, Nora's unscrupulous Kidnet boss.
While DeVito half-jokingly describes Burke as "a really, really bad guy," he characterizes Catherine Keener's Nora as "Chanel #5 meets a pit bull."
"I like pit bulls, so for me, that's kind of a compliment," laughs Catherine Keener, perhaps best known for her Oscar-nominated performance as the hilariously inscrutable Maxine in Being John Malkovich. "I think Nora started out as an optimistic innocent who gets involved with children's television for pure reasons, but she's become really jaded and hardened by the seedy reality of that world. But when she meets Smoochy, she begins to open up again."
"One of the aspects of the story that I really like is the relationship between Nora and Sheldon," Norton says. "Like the dynamic between Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell in those classic screwball comedies, Nora and Sheldon are really contentious with each other. I enjoyed playing the battle royale that goes on between them before they start to figure out that they actually have some common ground... and maybe even like each other."
Two characters that have no love lost between them--besides Rainbow Randolph and Smoochy the Rhino, that is--are Nora and her boss, weasely Kidnet executive M. Frank Stokes. As played by Jon Stewart, host of Comedy Central's popular news satire The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Stokes is motivated largely by greed and... his Caesar haircut. ("My homage to George Peppard as Banacek," Stewart reveals. "I'm hoping this role will be a launching pad to me playing the fifth lead in many movies. I hope to be typecast as a smallish Jew with a Caesar haircut.") "I see my character as sort of a Patch Adams of network television, healing through laughter," jokes Stewart. "I haven't finished reading the script yet, but I'm hoping that at the end, Stokes gets laid. But it's not looking good."
In the end, the cast trusted DeVito to deftly blend the film's dark humor, multiple genres and numerous story elements. "Death to Smoochy is a black comedy, it's a satire, it's a social commentary and it's a love story," Williams notes. "Underneath it all, it's a peek into the darker side of show biz; in this case, children's programming, where everyone has skeletons in their closets and a selling out point under the table. Except, of course, for Mr. Sheldon Mopes, who is clearly the only real man in the land of the eunuch. This film accentuates the idea of artists who come into a ruthless world with a vision, heightens the tone for effect... and ultimately puts it over on the lethal side just for fun."
And only in Death to Smoochy does "the lethal side" involve multiple musical numbers. "The film can be considered a musical in that Edward and Robin perform several song and dance numbers on their respective 'kid shows,'" DeVito says. "And we have quite an extravagant, spectacular ice show with skating Nazis, a Valkyrian diva and Fellini-esque little people. It's also a great love story involving Edward and Catherine and a mobster yarn complete with Irish hit men with high-powered rifles and low IQs."
DeVito chuckles. "As Robin has said, we all want to make a film that we can take our kids to... but this is not that movie."
So what exactly should a singing, dancing rhinoceros look like?
To answer that question--as well as create the wardrobe for the entire Death to Smoochy cast--the filmmakers tapped costume designer Jane Ruhm, who designed and oversaw the physical construction of the Smoochy costume, built by a half a dozen artisans at Chip's Creature Creations, a premiere Hollywood specialty shop.
Guided by director Danny DeVito's initial vision of a friendly and benign rhino that kids would trust and respond to, Ruhm drew copious versions of the rhino suit. "I put the basic shape of the costume onto Edward, and he gave us notes," Ruhm says. "He had done a lot of research and brought in nature photographs of rhinoceroses. Inspired by the photos, he asked me to make the face less round, and more angular and rhino-like."
Comprised of handmade layers of foam covered in fake fur, the eight-piece Smoochy costume consists of the headpiece; a sleeveless torso, which fits over a separate tunic that connects the arms; the legs, fashioned as loose trousers; two slip-on feet; and two slip-on paws. To give Smoochy maximum options for conveying his emotions, Ruhm outfitted the rhino with "a whole tray of eyes" that could be applied and removed with Velcro to affect a range of expressions.
To ensure that Smoochy would be a hit with kids, Norton (who plays guitar) tested Smoochy's act on his target audience before filming began. "We had this big moment when Danny introduced me and I came out in the costume. He said, 'You know who this guy is,' meaning, 'It's Edward Norton, the actor.' And all the kids shouted Smoochy! Their reaction felt so pure and real. Apart from the movie, it felt like we managed to create a character in a show that kids were really responding to."
The rhino ensemble is so vivid and cumbersome, Ruhm and her wardrobe team referred to the costume as "the sofa," prompting the on-set battle cry "Get the sofa!" whenever it was time for Norton to suit up for filming.
"Normally, a male actor of Edward's caliber wouldn't agree--let alone suggest--that their rhino wardrobe be hot pink," Ruhm enthuses. "And most actors would've complained about wearing such a bulky, awkward costume. But Edward was fabulous. He was actively involved in the design process, and not only danced and played guitar in the suit--he ice-skated in it! He was a dream to work with."
Principal photography on Death to Smoochy began January 17, 2001, in New York City. Although the production used several exterior locations in New York, including locations in Chinatown, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the world-famous Coney Island restaurant Nathan's, the majority of the three weeks of shooting took place in Times Square.
Tourists and New Yorkers alike got "Smooched" if they came anywhere near "The Crossroads of the World" during late January or early February. Smoochy billboards, pixel boards and video footage of the puffy fuchsia rhino peppered the world-famous tourist hub. (By all accounts, the production was the first ever to construct a massive visual effects green screen right in the middle of the Square.)
Military Island, the cement median "island" located just south of where Times Square splits between Broadway and Seventh Avenue, served as a home base for the filmmakers, cast and crew.
"I'm glad we shot most of the love scenes and attempted suicide scenes on that little island," says Robin Williams. "It gave us a sense of controlled distance. Times Square is Blade Runner time, especially at three a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm."
But the crowds in Times Square weren't the only witnesses to Williams' outrageous antics-as-Rainbow Randolph, like the scene in which Randolph douses himself in gasoline and threatens to light himself on fire to protest Smoochy's rising popularity. "I feel like I've been witnessing a career funny performance from Robin," Edward Norton attests. "It's honestly one of the funniest characters I've ever seen him do. I was incredibly impressed by his restraint and discipline in terms of the use of his own comic wizardry, because he really danced beautifully with the script."
"I worked with Robin for about a week, and it was a week of bliss," Catherine Keener adds. "Edward and I would look at each other, trying to maintain composure, and most of the time, we couldn't get through scenes without laughing."
After wrapping work in New York, the production moved to Toronto, where the cast and crew completed another twelve weeks of filming. In addition to several weeks of work on sound stages, the production also utilized facilities at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) headquarters; the gritty waterfront docks of nearby steel town Hamilton, Ontario; and two weeks in the city's historical landmark, Maple Leaf Gardens, which served as the locale for the show-stopping musical climax of the film, "Smoochy on Ice."
"In the conceit of the film, 'Smoochy on Ice' is actually written by Sheldon to reflect all the things that have happened to Smoochy during the course of the story," DeVito explains. "All of the plot twists and turns are reflected in this little ice opera, including the gunplay, the Nazis and all of Randolph's outrageous attempts at revenge."
The ambitious ice opera--as well as all of Rainbow Randolph's dance numbers, Smoochy's numerous musical routines, and the seminal Clunky Wunky dance--was designed by award winning choreographer Barry Lather.
In choreographing Smoochy's routines, especially for the ice show, Lather collaborated closely with Edward Norton. "Edward had specific ideas for the way he thought Smoochy would move, and I incorporated that movement into the routines," says Lather, who has choreographed music videos for Janet Jackson and Prince, skating routines for Olympic Gold Medallists Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton and Katarina Witt, and he co-choreographed the elaborate 2002 Britney Spears Pepsi commercial campaign. "I also had to anticipate how those steps would translate when he performed them in costume. Everything worked really well. Edward was very focused and consistent--he nailed it take after take."
"Danny created an environment that allowed a lot of creative exploration," says producer Andrew Lazar. "Therefore, everyone felt free to play in their own respective areas of expertise and the ice show is a perfect example of that freedom of expression given to all the artists and technicians. It's much too surreal to try to describe. You really just have to see it to believe it."
Unlike Catherine Keener, who "didn't even know how to stand up on skates" when shooting began, Edward Norton is an adept skater. "I played hockey all of my life growing up," Norton says, "but skating a huge, interpretive ice dance show of a rhino's life in Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto is definitely way up there in my book of unique experiences."
As with all film productions, it took time for the Smoochy production crew to prepare the camera, set and performers for shooting each individual sequence... but entertainment was in no short supply, even when the cameras weren't rolling. "We'd have 1,500 extras waiting while the crew set up for the next shot, and Robin would take a microphone and do stand up comedy for the crowd for literally 45 minutes," Lazar reveals.
"Robin brings such tremendous energy to the process," Lather adds, "but for all of his wild craziness, he can also buckle down and focus with unbelievable intensity."
To create an epic, dramatic mood while filming the ice show sequences, DeVito had opera music playing as the skaters performed, including the highly cinematic "Cavalleria Rusticana." "I've always loved that piece of music," Norton reveals, "and I always thought it was so great that Robert De Niro got to shadowbox to that music in Raging Bull, and Al Pacino got to die at the end of Godfather III to that music. I said to Danny, 'Now I get to skate through fog in a pink rhino suit to that music, surrounded by 40 little kids dressed as rhinettes in sparkly suits. It's not exactly what I envisioned, but I'll take it.'"
Like the creative freedom he allowed his production team, director Danny DeVito gave his actors room to explore and experiment as well. "When you're working with Danny, it means complete freedom from self-consciousness," Edward Norton enthuses. "You can do the most off-the-wall, goofy stuff. You can throw anything out there as an attempt to find the gems, and you know that Danny has the instinct for what is best."
"Danny's got perfect pitch with people," says Catherine Keener. "He has a knack for picking people who he feels are going to be compatible and who have the same kind of approach to the work. In this case, we all took the comedy very seriously and had a blast being serious about it."
"It's a pleasure to watch Danny act, but it's even more fun to watch him work behind the camera," producer Andrew Lazar observes. "He makes a seamless transition between directing and acting. He uses a stand in while the shot is being framed and lit, and then steps in knowing exactly what he wants to do for his character. It takes a tremendous amount of talent and skill to juggle the absurdity and the emotion and the comedy in this stylized universe, and Danny's done it effortlessly."
But DeVito takes it all in stride. "Every movie I've directed, I've always acted in as well," he says. "I've never done it any other way. It's a lot of work, but it's also one less actor you have to talk to."
Robin Williams (Randolph) is one
of the most gifted and abundantly talented actors of our time. He is the
recipient of the 1997 Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for bringing compassion
and intelligence to the part of Dr. Sean McGuire in
Good Will Hunting, a role for which he
also received the Screen Actors Guild award for Outstanding Performance by a
Male Actor in a Supporting Role.
Williams first captured the attention of television audiences with his guest-star role as Mork on the hit situation comedy television series Happy Days. His rapid fire, sharply hilarious yet heartfelt portrayal won him instant stardom, with viewer response so great that he was quickly signed for the now-legendary spin-off series Mork and Mindy.
In 1980, Williams made the leap to feature films, debuting in Robert Altman's Popeye. Audiences then embraced a more poignant Williams in his portrayal of T.S. Garp in George Roy Hill's hugely successful The Word According to Garp, followed by Paul Mazursky's Moscow on the Hudson. Barry Levinson's landmark film Good Morning, Vietnam earned Williams his first Academy Award nomination, with Peter Weir's Dead Poets Society, an enormous critical and popular success, bringing him a second Oscar nomination.
Williams next starred opposite Robert De Niro in Penny Marshall's Awakenings followed by Terry Gilliam's The Fisher King, for which Williams received his third Academy Award nomination. He additionally starred in Barry Levinson's Toys, Steven Spielberg's Hook, and Mike Nichols' The Birdcage.
Williams received a Golden Globe Award for his unforgettable performance in Chris Columbus' Mrs. Doubtfire and also earned a Special Achievement Award from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for his vocal contributions as Genie in Walt Disney Pictures now-classic animated blockbuster feature Aladdin.
In 1996 E! Entertainment Television named Williams "Celebrity of the Year" for his singularly outstanding feature film career, which now includes the immensely successful Flubber and the 1998 box office hit Patch Adams, directed by Tom Shadyac. In 1999 Robin Williams executive produced and starred in Blue Wolf Productions' Jakob The Liar, a story of life in a Nazi occupied Polish ghetto. In 2000 Williams re-teamed with director Chris Columbus in the screen adaptation of the Isaac Asimov story Bicentennial Man.
Born in Chicago in 1951, Williams attended high school in Marin County, California, where he was known for his natural comedic talents. In his senior year, his classmates voted Williams "Most Humorous" and "Least Likely to Succeed."
After a short stint studying political science at Claremont Men's College in Southern California, Williams entered College of Marin to study theatre. His innate comedic and dramatic skills led to his acceptance at The Julliard School in New York, where he spent three years under the tutelage of acclaimed actor John Houseman and other noted professionals. In 1998 he performed on stage with co-star Steve Martin in Mike Nichols' off-Broadway production of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot.
Williams, who began his career as a stand-up comedian, has won four Grammy Awards, including one for Robin Williams Live at the Met on HBO, the culmination of a 23-city SRO tour. He also won Emmy Awards for the television specials Carol, Carl, Whoopi and Robin and ABC Presents a Royal Gala. He is also active in several humanitarian organizations, and has been a primary force in Comic Relief, a benefit to aid the homeless, which has raised American consciousness and 50 million dollars to date.
Edward Norton (Sheldon Mopes / Smoochy)
has starred in the films Primal Fear, Everyone Says I Love You, The People vs.
Larry Flynt, American History X, Fight Club and The Score. He made his directorial
debut with Keeping The Faith, which he also produced and starred with Ben Stiller
and Jenna Elfman.
Norton received an Academy Award nomination as Best Actor for his performance in American History X and a Best Supporting Actor nomination for Primal Fear. That performance also earned him the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor. He has been recognized for his work by the National Board of Review, the Los Angeles Film Critics, the Boston Film Critics and the Texas Film Critics Associations.
Norton serves on the Board of New York's Signature Theater Company where he first performed in the 1994 premiere of Edward Albee's Fragments. He also serves on the National Board of the Enterprise Foundation, an organization dedicated to providing affordable housing for low-income families.
Norton is currently filming Red Dragon, opposite Anthony Hopkins and Ralph Fiennes, directed by Brett Ratner.
Catherine Keener (Nora) has
established herself as one of today's most respected actors with her unguarded,
yet grounded reality of the characters she plays. Her celebrated role in Spike
Jonze's Being John Malkovich brought accolades and an Academy Award nomination
for Best Supporting Actress.
Keener will soon be seen in Nicole Holofcener's Lovely and Amazing, which made its debut at the Toronto Film Festival; Simone, opposite Al Pacino and in Steven Soderbergh's Full Frontal, opposite Julia Roberts and Blair Underwood. Other film credits include Matthew Warchus' Simpatico, Steven Soderbergh's critically acclaimed Out of Sight with George Clooney and Jennifer Lopez and Neil LaBute's controversial ensemble drama, Your Friends and Neighbors.
Her credits also comprise four notable films collaborations with independent film director Tom DiCillo: The Real Blonde; Box of Moonlight; Living In Oblivion and Johnny Suede.
Keener's television credits include the critically acclaimed HBO anthology, If These Walls Could Talk, which was produced by Demi Moore and directed by Nancy Savoca, as well as a notable guest appearance on Seinfeld.
Danny DeVito (Burke) has consistently
been associated with the smartest, freshest projects in Hollywood. A two-time
Golden Globe nominee for Best Actor for Throw Momma From The Train and Ruthless
People, having co-starred in two films which won the Academy Award for Best
Picture, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Terms of Endearment, DeVito has
reached the highest heights of critical acclaim while never forgetting his
sources of support.
It was the part of Louie DePalma that propelled DeVito into national prominence as star of the hit television show Taxi (1978-1983). Winning an Emmy for his role in 1978, this character has proved unforgettable. A 1999 readers' poll conducted by TV Guide voted DeVito's Louie DePalma number one in "TV's Fifty Greatest Characters Ever."
Growing up in Summit, New Jersey, DeVito attended Our Lady of Mt. Carmel grammar school and Oratory Prep School and appeared in one school play as St. Francis of Assisi. After graduation, he was accepted at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York. Graduating two years later, he made the rounds of open auditions but was unable to get work in New York. So Danny bought a round-trip ticket and headed for Hollywood, where he was sure casting directors and chic people were gathered around pools waiting for him to walk into their lives.
After years of unemployment, Danny returned to New York. He called an old friend and former American Academy professor who, serendipitously, had been seeking him for a starring role in one of three one-act plays presented under the title of The Man With the Flower in His Mouth.
Soon Danny was into big money ($60 a week), and other stage performances followed in rapid succession. Today DeVito's amazing list of stage and feature film credits include Down the Morning Line, The Line of Least Existence, The Shrinking Bride, Tin Men, Hoffa, Last Action Hero, Junior, Renaissance Man, Jack the Bear, Batman Returns, Twins, Romancing the Stone, Jewel of the Nile, Get Shorty, Matilda, Rainmaker, L.A. Confidential, Man on the Moon, The Virgin Suicides, The Big Kahuna, Living Out Loud, What's The Worst That Could Happen and Heist.
DeVito carries his success well. Never forgetting that there were more difficult times, he maintains a healthy sense of perspective. As Taxi character Louie DePalma would say, "If you don't do good today, you'll be eatin' dirt tomorrow."
A New Jersey native, Jon Stewart (M.
Frank Stokes) is considered one of America's top social and comedic voices.
Launched into the anchor chair of Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon
Stewart in 1999, The New York Times said that Stewart "has breathed new life
into a show that hadn't even seemed to need it." In 2001, The Daily Show
received the prestigious Peabody Award for excellence, won the Emmy for
Outstanding Writing for a Variety, Music or Comedy Program and was Emmy-nominated
for Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Series.
Stewart's other television work includes his experience in the dual roles of creative consultant on HBO's critically acclaimed series-within-a-series, The Larry Sanders Show, and spending time onscreen playing a familiar character: himself. His other television credits include the one-hour HBO comedy special, Jon Stewart: Unleavened; guest hosting CBS' The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder; NBC's NewsRadio and HBO's Mr. Show with Bob & David. Stewart has also hosted the Grammy Awards for the past two years.
The multifaceted Stewart's debut book, Naked Pictures of Famous People, made several bestseller lists including the New York Times Bestseller List. Stewart has also written for such lauded magazines as The New Yorker, Esquire and George.
Stewart's film credits include co-starring with Adam Sandler in one of 1999's biggest hits, Big Daddy, the romantic drama Playing By Heart opposite Gillian Anderson and The Faculty, a horror-comedy directed by Robert Rodriguez.
The vibrant Harvey Fierstein (Merv
Green) is a three time Tony Award-winning writer, actor and Gay Rights activist.
In 1983 Mr. Fierstein received the Best Play Tony for writing his pioneering
play, Torch Song Trilogy and received a second Tony for his performance in the
lead role. The following year he won his third Tony for writing the script of
the musical La Cage Aux Folles. His other plays include Safe Sex, Spookhouse
and Forget Him.
Movie audiences know Fierstein best for his scene-stealing antics in Mrs. Doubtfire, Independence Day, Kull the Conqueror, the film version of Torch Song Trilogy and as the voice of Mulan's soldier friend Yao in Disney's Mulan.
Fierstein received the 2000 Humanitas Award for writing the HBO special animated presentation The Sissy Duckling, which will be released in book form this May.
His many television appearances include voicing the character Karl in the unforgettable "Simpson and Delilah" episode of The Simpsons and an Emmy Award-nominated performance in Cheers. He has guest-starred on Ellen, Murder She Wrote, The Larry Sanders Show and Miami Vice. Children recognize him as the Easter Bunny from the Emmy Award-winning Elmo Saves Christmas. Fierstein also won an ACE Award for writing the HBO film Tidy Endings, in which he co-starred with Stockard Channing.
Fierstein's talents also include being a seasoned concert performer. He has made appearances across America and the world with his one-man show of songs, stories, monologues and mayhem. A CD recording of his live performance at New York's Bottom Line is called This Is Not Going To Be Pretty.
Pam Ferris (Tommy Kotter) was born in
occupied Germany and later attended Lianelli Girls Grammar and was a lazy but
well-behaved pupil. Her wanderlust family moved to New Zealand in 1962, where
Ferris attempted to finish her education at Christchurch Girls High. But the
curriculum was so far behind that Pam became bored and was forced to extend
her interests to the Drama Society in order to remain biddable.
Happily, this interest in drama propelled Pam to her first professional job at age 18 and further leads at Auckland's Repertory Theatre. In 1972, Ferris moved to the United Kingdom and worked for a decade in various theatres and touring with Mike Alfreds in the early days of Shared Experience Theatre. An agreeably prolific mix of film, television, radio and theatre followed until Ferris starred as Ma Larkin in the British television show The Darling Buds of May, which broke all viewing records in 1990.
Of her work since then, Ferris is most proud of her role in Matilda, directed by Danny DeVito. An element that added to Pam's enjoyment of the role was the fact that DeVito had no idea he was casting Ma Larkin as the terrifying Miss Trunchbull!
Ferris currently enjoys her wide variety of work and recently won Best Performance for a solo piece, Bessie and the Bell, for Carlton TV.
From Shakespeare to The Sopranos, Michael
Rispoli (Spinner Dunn) has an extensive list of acting credits that
encompass film, television and theatre. Most recently, Rispoli starred in
the feature film Two Family House, which won the Audience Award at The Sundance
Film Festival in 2000 and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award in
2001. Other film credits include Spike Lee's Summer of Sam, Rounders, The
Third Miracle and While You Were Sleeping.
Rispoli started the Willow Cabin Theatre Company, which produced Wilder, Wilder, Wilder at Circle in the Square, 3 by Thornton and Balm in Gilead. Rispoli starred in the Fox Series The Great Defender and has recurring roles on The Sopranos and Third Watch.
A bright, funny man and marvelous floor-prowling storyteller,
Danny DeVito (Director) has been called the most
likable person in Hollywood. As an actor, producer and director he has been
called one of the entertainment industry's most versatile players.
Under a grant from the American Film Institute in 1975, Danny and his wife, actress Rhea Perlman, wrote and produced Minestrone, which was shown twice at the Cannes Film Festival and has been translated into five languages. This dynamic pair also wrote and produced a 16-millimeter black-and-white short subject, The Sound Sleeper, which won first prize at the Brooklyn Arts and Cultural Association competition.
DeVito emerged as a feature-length filmmaker in 1984 when he directed The Ratings Game for Showtime/The Movie Channel. In 1987 DeVito directed his first feature for theatrical release, Throw Momma from the Train, with the DeVito trademark of darker comedic themes. That success led to other directing projects: The War of the Roses, Hoffa, Matilda and the upcoming Duplex, currently in pre-production.
In 1992, DeVito added another aspect to his career when he partnered with producers Michael Shamberg and Stacy Sher to form Jersey Films. Jersey Films has produced 18 motion pictures, including such outstanding films as Man on the Moon, Pulp Fiction, Out of Sight, Get Shorty, Hoffa, Matilda, Reality Bites, Living Out Loud, Drowning Mona and Erin Brockovich. Other films produced by DeVito include How High, The Caveman's Valentine, Gattaca, Feeling Minnesota, Sunset Park, and Eight Seconds.
In 2000, another manifestation of DeVito's creative life came to fruition when Jersey Television was launched with the TV series Kate Brasher. Jersey Television also produces UC Undercover and The American Embassy.
Adam Resnick (Screenwriter) began
his career as a writer on Late Night With David Letterman, where he shared an
Emmy Award in 1987 and several Emmy nominations in the following years for
Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program. Resnick's success and
acclaim continued when The Larry Sanders Show, on which he was an executive
producer and writer, was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series.
Resnick was also a writer-producer for the cult sitcom Get A Life, which he created with writer-performer Chris Elliott (with whom he worked at Late Night With David Letterman). He and Elliott re-teamed for the feature comedy Cabin Boy, which Resnick co-wrote and directed. He also created, executive produced and wrote for the quirky HBO series The High Life. Resnick lives in New York City.
Andrew Lazar's (Producer) films
share one major defining element: originality. Among his producing credits are
the visual-effects laden blockbuster Cats & Dogs, which featured the voices
of Alec Baldwin and Tobey Maguire; the acclaimed and controversial cult classic
Bound, directed by the Wachowski Bros.; the teen comedy 10 Things I Hate About
You; the hit Space Cowboys, directed by and starring Clint Eastwood with Tommy
Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner; the existential action film
Assassins, starring Sylvester Stallone; the sophisticated psychological thriller
The Astronaut's Wife, starring Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron; Nora Ephron's
lottery-comedy Lucky Numbers, starring John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow, and the
independent black comedy Panic, starring William H. Macy and Neve Campbell. At
present, Lazar is producing Charlie Kaufman's adaptation of Chuck Barris' novel
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which stars Julia Roberts, George Clooney, Drew
Barrymore and Sam Rockwell, and also marks George Clooney's feature directorial
In association with Warner Bros. Pictures, Lazar's production company, Mad Chance, currently has more than 30 projects in active development. His television company Exit 135, which he formed with partner Rand Ravich, is currently in production on Time Tunnel, an update of the '60s TV series for the Fox Television Network.
Known as one of the best hands-on producers in the business,
Peter Macgregor-Scott (Producer) has produced Batman
& Robin, Batman Forever, The Fugitive, Revenge of the Nerds and most
recently, A Perfect Murder.
Moving from England to the United States in 1970, Macgregor-Scott produced his first film, Ride the Tiger, that same year. He went on to produce three hit films starring the comedy team of Cheech & Chong: Cheech & Chong's Next Movie; Cheech & Chong: Still Smokin'; Cheech & Chong's The Corsican Brothers as well as Cheech Marin's Born in East L.A. His other early credits include The Jerk, The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, Gotcha! and Troop Beverly Hills.
Macgregor-Scott then co-produced three films starring action star Steven Seagal: Marked for Death, Out for Justice and Under Siege. He also produced the critically acclaimed Black Beauty, adapted for the screen and directed by Caroline Thompson.
Anastas Michos (Director of
Photography) has worked for more than a decade as one of the industry's most
respected and sought-after camera and Steadicam operators. His credits include
Robert Redford's Quiz Show; Martin Scorcese's The Age of Innocence and Oliver
Stone's The Doors and Born on the Fourth of July, among numerous others. He
collaborated with Oscar-winning cinematographer Philippe Rousselot for six
films: Sommersby, Flesh and Bone, Interview With The Vampire, Mary Reilly,
The People vs. Larry Flynt and Instinct.
Michos received his first cinematography assignment from producer Jake Eberts on the 1997 film The Education of Little Tree and has partnered with Danny DeVito several times, including Milos Forman's Man on the Moon. He is currently shooting in New York City with DeVito again at the directing helm.
Howard Cummings (Production Designer)
most recently designed for the comedy What's the Worst That Could Happen?,
starring Danny DeVito. His numerous other film credits include The Next Best
Thing, starring Madonna and Rupert Everett; Double Jeopardy, starring Ashley
Judd; Francis Ford Coppola's The Rainmaker; The Long Kiss Goodnight; The
Trigger Effect; The Spitfire Grill; the award-winning The Usual Suspects; The
Underneath, directed by Steven Soderbergh; Mortal Thoughts and A Shock to the
In addition to the acclaimed Indictment: The McMartin Trial, Cummings' television credits include The Stalking, Assault at West Point, Caught in the Act, Strapped, the Sandra Bernhard Special and Incident in Baltimore.
Cummings graduated from NYU with a Masters of Fine Arts for scenic design, and spent several years working as a production designer at American Playhouse before extending into feature films and television.
Jon Poll's (Editor) recent credits include several incredibly successful collaborations with Jay Roach: Meet the Parents, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and Mystery, Alaska. He also served as editor on Monkeybone, Krippendorff's Tribe, The Beautician and the Beast, Dunston Checks In, Forever Young, Weeds and Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken.
David Newman (Composer) has
contributed memorable music scores to a wide variety of feature films for
nearly two decades and is a member of the famous Newman family of film
composers, which includes Randy, Lionel, Thomas and Alfred.
Newman's recent motion picture credits include The Affair of the Necklace, Dr. Doolittle 2, Bedazzled, Nutty Professor II: The Klumps, 102 Dalmatians, Galaxy Quest, Bowfinger, Anastasia and The Nutty Professor. Newman's other feature film scores include Boys on the Side, That Night, Honeymoon in Vegas, The Mighty Ducks and Heathers.
He also composed the score for Walt Disney World's Epcot project Cranium Command and three short films for the Disney/MGM Studios: Back to Never Land, Tourists from Hell and Michael and Mickey (with Michael Eisner and Mickey Mouse). David has previously scored for Danny DeVito on the films Matilda, Hoffa, Throw Momma From the Train and War of the Roses.
Jane Ruhm's (Costume Designer)
feature film credits include Matilda, directed by Danny DeVito; Cameron
Crowe's Singles in 1992 and Say Anything in 1989; Three O'Clock High; Cutter's
Way; I Never Promised You A Rose Garden and Death Race 2000.
Her television credits include the HBO series Tracey Takes On, for which she received four Emmy Awards; Nikki; The John Larroquette Show and Amazing Stories.
Barry Lather (Choreographer) has
choreographed videos for top music performers Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson,
Prince, Paula Abdul and Sting, amongst others. He also co-choreographed the
2002 Britney Spears Pepsi commercial campaign and Michael Jackson's short film
Lather choreographed the Miss America Special 2000, which garnered him a 2001 Emmy nomination for choreography in a T.V./Variety Show. Additionally, he choreographed the 1998 Superbowl Halftime Special, and has been a recipient of an MTV and Billboard Award for his video choreography. Not only an honored guest at award shows, Lather has choreographed elaborate production numbers for the Academy Awards, Grammy Awards, American Music Awards and MTV Awards.
Lather has also crafted numbers for Olympic Gold Medallists Kristi Yamaguchi, Katarina Witt and Scott Hamilton for "Stars On Ice." He also choreographed the ice show productions of Grease on Ice, Disney's Jungle Adventures and Toy Story 2 On Ice, which have toured internationally.
Lather's other film credits include Blues Brothers 2000, National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation, Super Mario Bros. and the upcoming Who Shot Victor Fox.