I was emotionally worn out by the end of the tough, gritty Tigerland, as I so generously told its star, Colin Farrell. "So was I," he said, laughing. "So the fuck was I." The film is Joel Schumacher's mud-caked, hyperintense look at a Louisiana boot camp filled with shirtless studs toughly, grittily training for Vietnam, and at times it makes Full Metal Jacket look like Duets. Farrell, the 24-year-old Irish hotshot, has gotten splashy attention for his performance as Bozz, the rebellious recruit who'll do anything to get his naughty ass out of the war. To my ever comparative eyes, he looks like a young George Clooney and sort of acts like one too, but with a well-hidden brogue and an extra pinch of smolder, thank you.
"We broke our backs making that movie," Farrell told me by phone from Texas, where he was shooting the Jesse James flick American Outlaws ("a popcorn movie" by contrast, he said). He was speaking in rapid, blurry tones, clearly exhausted by his relentless schedule of shooting and promoting, but rallying bravely. All the fuss about him, Farrell said, "hasn't really interfered with anything. I'm doing the work and taking it day by day. But I'm tired!" he admitted. (An insouciant, talented guy who's also sensible and honest? Everyone line up for a bite!)
Farrell certainly looks appealing on the Bruce Weber-photographed cover of Interview, and it was an extra treat for everyone's new dream trick that he didn't know he'd be the coverboy. "It's worth a giggle," he said, when asked about the photo. "Me with an American football in my handI can't even throw the fucking thing!" (I don't know about you folks, but I'm adding points for that.) Like so many stars on the way up, the guy has a refreshingly self-mocking sense of humor; typically, when I told him he must have charmed Schumacher to get the part, he laughed and said, "One does one's fucking best."
Farrell even pretended to fuck his fucking best, though parts of Tigerland's big (straight) sex scene were hideously cut. "That's fine," he said, "because it would probably be weird to see me with a five-foot cock on a big screen." I assured him that the camera adds a few pounds, but not that many. Still, even with the edits, a lot of people are finding the film deeply homoerotic. Could that have just possibly been intentional? "Of course not," Farrell said, "but people can find fucking eroticism or sexuality by watching anything. Guys get turned on by watching a dog fuck a woman, so of course gay guys and straight women may get turned on by this." Those remarks may sound more than a little callow, but our pesky new star did then add, "If someone gets a hard-on, I'm all for it." And how can you argue with that?
I was hoping to continue that desperately raunchy level of conversation with my next celebrity conquest, Gore Vidal, but Vidal told me that he'd just guested on Judith Regan's show and "she wanted to do nothing but fag talk." So I plugged it up for a while.
The more-celebrated-than-ever author is represented on Broadway with the revival of The Best Man, his 1960 play about presidential campaign ethics, set a decade before Tigerland, when disillusionment wasn't quite as institutionalized and mud was flung rather than trudged through. Vidal told me at the Plaza that the current production is better than the original one because "forty years ago the actors didn't know anything about politics. Whether they like it or not, actors today are marinated in it."
We all are, to the point where the playwith its threatened smears against mental illness and sexual anticshas proven to be amazingly prophetic. "I do at times feel like life is a little too much like the movies," Vidal said, picking "goo" out of his eye because of an infection. "I thought of it when Eagleton was kicked off the ticket and again when George W. Bush started in on McCain and said, 'Does he have all of his marbles?' " (Maybe he wanted to borrow some.)
It turns out that mental problems may have marred the '64 movie version of The Best Man, which Vidal likes except for the performances of Margaret Leighton ("She was having a nervous breakdown. I don't even think she knew what she was in, so we had to keep cutting her out"), Ann Sothern ("She paraphrased everything and carefully lost every laugh that she had"), and Edie Adams ("miscast"). But the film still towers over other adaptations of his works, and Vidal's the first to admit it, languidly saying, "My failures are far more famous than most people's successes. Caligula, Myra Breckenridge, The Left-Handed Gun, Visit to a Small Planetthese aren't just bad movies, they're grotesque movies, a chamber of horrors. Mind you, I haven't seen any of these. I have high blood pressure." In fact, it was on Regan's show that he first caught a clip of Myra and almost choked.
They should have left the making of that flick up to him, of course, but his early proposal that they get John Wayne for the transsexual lead "did not play terribly well in patriotic America." Even though the Duke's real name was Marion.
And now for the fag talk: Has Vidal been the victim of homophobia through the years? I wondered with a carefully rehearsed pensive look. "I assume so," he said, "considering the continuing hatred of The New York Times for me. They set out in the '50s to clear the fags out of the theater. They got William Inge, who turned to novel writing and finally killed himself. And they contributed a great deal of fag baiting to Tennessee Williams's mental breakdown, which officially was too many Nembutals and vodka. But they missed Thornton Wilder. He lived in New Haven with his sister and was never a Broadway type." Note to self: Move to New Haven with sis.
Of course now it's the opposite situation, whereby anything gay seems to get an automatic Times rave. "That's even worse!" said Vidal, who really is the best man when it comes to acid commentary of any sort. He has no goo in his eyes at all.
A straight movie just got a rave from the Timesthe lush In the Mood for Love by Wong Kar-wai, who was reasonably buoyant when I ran into him at his Thalia restaurant party. "It's the first time I got a good review from them," he said in a state of near shock. Alas, I wasn't listening, as the free buffet had just been unveiled. The sparser food at the party for the very sweet Two Family House made it easier for me to concentrate on what that film's creators had to say. But writer-director Raymond De Felitta wasn't gloating much about his good reviews. "I feel nervous," he admitted. "I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop. It's a hard movie to get people to go see. At Sundance, we thought, 'They're gonna laugh us out of town with their edgy, bloody indie movies.' " But they didn't, which is why one of the film's leads, Katherine Narducci, came up to me shrieking, "God has blessed us with this movie! I've faced the toughest critics and they can't deny cracking that smile!" Even I had to grin a little with thatuntil scowling again in search of a decent hors d'oeuvre. And they think boot camp training was tough.
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