Stephen Schaefer’s HOLLYWOOD & MINE


Clea DuVall is Co-Showrunner, Co-Writer, Director and Executive Producer on the AppleTV+ ‘High School’ series, adapted from the bestselling memoir by the Canadian indie duo Tegan and Sara.  Identical twins who are both gay – and prominent in the LGBTQ community and causes – Tegan and Sara Quin had input into the series and actually found on TikTok the identical twins who play them.  DuVall at 45 has been acting for nearly 30 years, recently in the beloved ‘Veep’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’  She was Zoom interviewed for The Boston Herald; these are edited excerpts.

Q:  So Clea, as one of Hollywood’s most prominent lesbian activists, is everything you do going to have this component of, Let’s exhibit, Let’s examine how gay and lesbian life are people?

CLEA DUVALL: I don’t know. I mean, I really lead with story and character and ask myself, Is this something that I’m making something that’s going to add something to the world? That can be anything. That can mean so many different things. I do feel like telling stories that have not been told before. This is very exciting to me as a writer and as a filmmaker — and that can take on a lot of different things. And so far, there has been an LGBTQ component, but that’s not a hard and fast rule.

Q: Taking this story and putting it on camera, you have to start with finding twins. That’s a little hurdle. Did you ever consider having one actor play both roles, where you would do the thing where the back of a double stands in for a twin when they did scenes together one?

CD: Our goal was to find twins, that was always what we wanted. But there was always that ‘Orphan Black’ contingency plan, but no one wanted that. We really wanted to be thorough in our search and really how we found Railey and Seazynn Gilliland who played Tegan and Sara. It was really divine, like an act of God.

 
Q: You are listed as the creator, co-writer, co-producer, and I guess director occasionally. So why not be in it?

CD:  Something that’s really exciting to me as a filmmaker is creating roles for actors. I love them. I am not my favorite actor. There are so many more actors I’d rather work with. And I’ve worked with myself as an actor and, I think I’ve had enough. I’d rather hire Cobie Smulders [to play the girls’ mother].

Cobie Smulders
Cobie Smulders attends Amazon Freevee hosts 90’s dance party for new original series “High School” at No Vacancy on October 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images) 

Q: This is a very interesting because it’s so unconventional a portrait of a marriage. They’re not really married actually. Can you talk about that relationship and how you think it affects these young women, these high schoolers, who are growing up and going through life changes in the series?

CD: It was Tegan and Sara’s mom and stepdad. They did have an unconventional relationship and I think them being raised with a mother who was so strong and so not following societal expectations of what a woman should look like, what her relationship should look like, I think that definitely informed so much of who Tegan and Sara became. The relationship between Patrick [the stepfather] and Simone is so nuanced and complicated and not what you’re used to seeing on seeing on television — and that was something that was very clear in the book. That was really important to Tegan and Sara to make sure that we weren’t sort of sanding off the edges of what was a very layered relationship.

(L-R) Sara Quin, Railey Gilliland, Seazynn Gilliland and Tegan Quin attend Amazon Freevee hosts 90's dance party for new original series "High School" at No Vacancy on October 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)
(L-R) Sara Quin, Railey Gilliland, Seazynn Gilliland and Tegan Quin attend Amazon Freevee hosts 90’s dance party for new original series “High School” at No Vacancy on October 13, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images)

Q: You’ve got this young cast situated 30 years ago. What was your reaction to their reactions being in the 90s?

CD: It was very funny and made me feel really old a lot. Particularly because we had a lot of interaction with cassette tapes and cassette players. And they didn’t know what to do. Like, they didn’t know how to put the cassette in the cassette holder. Or they didn’t know how to put it into the tape player and how to play it. They were just like, ‘What? I don’t know.’ And we’re just like, ‘Oh my God, what’s happening?’  I wish that we had done like a supercut of outtakes of them being like, ‘Wait, how does this work?’ It’s so funny to me — and really just made a lot of the adults on set feel pretty old.

Q: When you look back at it all, is there anything that’s surprises you? That you look at it and go, ‘I never really expected that’?

CD: I don’t want to say surprise, because I think that implies something that you didn’t think was going to happen. But something that just blew me away every day was seeing our lead actresses who were working in pizza restaurants! That we found on TikTok. They just came in and blew everybody out of the water. Every. Single. Day. It was so exciting to watch them every single day just get better and better.  They start the show as people, as complete novices and by the end it’s like watching seeing them being like real actors. They’re so talented. I am so proud of them and just love them so much.

 

 

NEW DVDs:                                         Frank Capra’s beloved 1944 black comedy ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’ (Blu-ray, Criterion Collection, Not Rated) has now been given a brand-new, first-rate commentary in this Blu-ray upgrade.  Charles Dennis, whose book, ‘There’s a Body in the Window Seat: The History of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” qualifies him as super knowledgeable on all things ‘Arsenic,’ is a genial guide to areas of this hyperkinetic farce that you may never have imagined.  As in what paranoid-about-sex sticklers the Breen Production Code office was when they forbade any joking around, much less sexual panting, for newlyweds Cary Grant and Priscilla Lane to consummate their marriage.  Why, the world will always ask, did not Boris Karloff not repeat his stage performance as a lunatic killer who looks exactly like Boris Karloff and see Raymond Massey do it?  Greed, is the answer.  The Broadway show’s writing-producing team of Howard Lindsay and Russell Crouse – they were really big deals on both coasts – did not want to release Karloff, their stage star, for 9 weeks when filming coincided with the holiday season.  They pleaded with Karloff to understand how they didn’t want to diminish their box-office and told Jack Warner he could have Karloff in the movie only if he lent them Humphrey Bogart, a Warner contract star, as the replacement.  Grant and Capra finished the film just 5 days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that brought the US into WWII.  Dennis counters Grant’s dismissal of his delightfully manic work here by viewing it personally.  The plot has Grant scheming to get his 2 homicidally crazy aunts admitted to a lunatic asylum – and for laughs.  But there was no comedy in Grant’s aborted relationship with his mother.  Cary Grant’s father was an abusive alcoholic and Grant took a hike into vaudeville as soon as he could.  He didn’t know his father committed his mother, who was mentally ill, to an asylum.  Grant’s father never told him where she was, what happened.  Decades later he discovered the truth about why she had never replied to his letters. he brought his now-frail and still mentally ill mother to the US.  So ‘Arsenic’ may have been a laugh riot for audiences but for Grant, could it have been simply a nightmare?  There is audio of Karloff here as a Bonus, doing ‘Arsenic’ in an abridged radio version.  Karloff would play the role on many stages – and he never forgave Lindsay & Crouse for depriving him of cinematic immortality with what was his only comedic triumph.

Cary Grant in "Arsenic and Old Lace."
Cary Grant in “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

 

 

HALLOWEEN ANYONE??                                   Is Rob Zombie doing not a Treat but a Trick with his all-new ‘The Munsters’ (Blu-ray, Universal, PG)  movie which is rated PG!!  This is kind of an origin story about Lily, a lovelorn 150-year-old vampire, who is struck as if by lightning the minute she sees all 7 feet of Herman, a ‘green experiment’ with a heart of gold.  Yes, a sweetly comic Transylvanian romance. One complicated by Lily’s Dad, aka The Count, who has, as you might imagine, other plans for his daughter.  Zombie as writer-director casts Sheri Moon Zombie in the starring role and features Cassandra Peterson, Elvira herself. Bonus: Zombie’s feature commentary and a featurette: ‘The Munsters: Return to Mockingbird Lane.’

 

 

GO AHEAD & SCREAM                                      Let’s face it: The original ‘Scream’ with Drew Barrymore getting a terrifying and very early exit is a hard act to follow.  After all, screenwriter Kevin Williamson’s ‘Scream’ was an instant classic; it’s easy to see why it spawned a franchise.  The cast remains immortally right: Neve Campbell, then coupled Courteney Cox and David Arquette, Jerry O’Connell, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Jada Pinkett and Liev Schreiber. Plot here is a copycat is killing and terrorizing after the notoriety of the original.  The steelbook 25th anniversary limited edition ‘Scream2’ (4K Ultra HD + Blu-ray +Digital Code, Paramount, R) has an audio commentary by late director Wes Craven along with his producer and editor.  There are also outtakes, deleted scenes, music videos and a featurette.

 

THE EVIL A MAD SCIENTIST CAN DO!                                 Rouben Mamoulian’s 1932 version of Robert Louis Stevenson’s ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ (Blu-ray, Warner Archive, Not Rated) was a tremendous hit, mostly due to the sexual savagery inherent in the story where a kindly prostitute is sexually abused by the Neanderthal-like Hyde. Notably a pre-Code picture of a man divided between his good and evil selves, Fredric March, in an Oscar-winning performance, reaped deserved glory.  The great Miriam Hopkins (‘Old Acquaintance,’ ‘The Children’s Hour’) is Ivy, the prostitute Hyde tortures – and kills.  MGM mounted a faithful remake with Spencer Tracy and Ingrid Bergman in 1941; it was so faithful that the studio rounded up every copy of the Mamoulian and tried to destroy all prints!  Pretend it never existed.  It wasn’t until 1967 that March’s onscreen transformation was again seen. This Blu-ray boasts 2 commentaries with 3 film historians.  Bonus cartoon: ‘Hyde and Hare,’ plus the 1950 Theatre Guild on the Air radio broadcast.

 

 

CLASSIC BRUCE WILLIS MISFIRE                           When Bruce Willis segued from being a mid-1980s TV discovery opposite Cybill Shepherd in ‘Moonlighting’ to an overnight movie star with 1987’s ‘Die Hard,’ there was initially some resentment to this brash actor’s demeanor – and his then record $5 million payday for his first movie.  By the time Willis starred in 1991’s action vehicle ‘Hudson Hawk’ (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, R), his career was questionable after the 1990 ‘Bonfire at the Vanities’ had gone up in flames — critically damned and decidedly a big flop. ‘Hudson Hawk’ which Willis co-wrote was mired in production problems as it filmed on NYC locations and bad publicity.  Also, it was hugely expensive for its time with a reported $65 million budget and only $17 million in box-office.  But it’s a surreal try at being different in many ways and when I interviewed Willis not long after, he said of ‘Hudson Hawk’ that from that point on he knew that one flop didn’t matter.  Bruce Willis had arrived at that spot where he could work for as long as he wanted.  Special Features: Director Michael Lehmann’s audio commentary, 2 featurettes and the Dr. John music video of the Hudson Hawk theme (which Willis also co-wrote).

 

SCARED OF HEIGHTS?                                          For those with deep fear of heights, ‘Fall’ (Blu-ray + Digital, Lionsgate, PG-13) may not be quite the fun thriller you envisioned.  The plot begins as 2 best buds find themselves at the top of 2,000 foot radio tower. Yes, they’re stranded up there with no possible way of getting down – alive.  The 2 – Becky and Hunter — had been mountain climbing when Becky’s husband lost his footing and died. A year later, a boozed-up, depressed Becky is taunted by her Dad (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to get herself together and climb that mighty tall tower in the middle of nowhere (okay, the desert).  That’s how the 2 find themselves stranded and increasingly desperate for water, for help.  Bonus: Audio commentary by producer/co-writer/director Scott Mann and producer James Harris, a Making Of, and the Madison Beer music video ‘I Have Never Felt More Alive.’

 

 

PRE-CODE?  DEFINITELY                                    There’s a lot of nearly naked chorines in ‘Earl Carroll’s Murder at the Vanities’ (Blu-ray, KL Studio Classics, Not Rated) as well as 2 rightly legendary musical numbers.  Carroll was a Ziegfeld-style Broadway producer who liked to boast about the beauty of his lovely ladies whose risqué costuming meant this was a lucky 1934 pre-Code release.  A murder mystery set on opening night of a big budget musical, ‘Murder’ features Victor McLagen (soon to be a Best Actor winner for his doomed Irishman in ‘The Informer’) as the blustery detective, Kitty Carlisle the endangered singing soprano,  but its ‘Marijuana,’ a paean to the wonders of getting stoned and getting high sung by Gertrude Michael, and Duke Ellington with his band doing ‘Ebony Rhapsody’ that makes this a classy classic.  Ellington’s no-big-deal racial integration means movie houses in the South couldn’t cut either number that were bound to irritate them mightily – because each song ends with a crucial plot point revealed.  Film historian Anthony Slide does the commentary.

 

JARED RANGER                                                When Chuck Norris starred in ‘Lone Wolf McQuade,’ an action-filled 1983 hit Western where he scored as a Texas Ranger, could he have had any intimation that that Lone Wolf would a decade later be ‘Walker, Texas Ranger’?  And that 30 years later Walker would have morphed to one Cordell Walker and still be riding the range?  With Jared Padalecki as Walker, this reboot is a solid hit.  ‘Walker: Season Two’ (DVD, 5 discs, Paramount, Not Rated), all 20 episodes, continues Cordell’s search for the truth about his wife’s death. (She was played by Genevieve Padalecki).  Gag reel, deleted scenes.

Jared Padalecki stars in "Walker," premiering Thursday on The CW.
Jared Padalecki stars in “Walker.”

 

 

AND THE BAND PLAYED ON                                         ‘The AIDS Show: Artists Involved with Death and Survival’ (DVD, Milestone, Not Rated) is a one-hour concert filmed in 1986, a year before ACT-UP was founded to demand the government do something about the deadly plague.  It’s for the gay men who were the most affected.  The concert is interspersed with interviews of the show’s creator and performers – and a personal narration by the filmmakers Peter Adair and Rob Epstein. Bonus: The 22-minute ‘The Shanti Project performance of The AIDS Show’ from 1985 and Leland Mass audition and interview.

 

 

YEARS PASS & HERE’S THE PREQUEL                    The 2009 ‘Orphan’ was genuinely frightening and very clever as the final act reveal upended what you had taken for granted. Now comes all these years later a prequel, ‘Orphan First Kill’ (Blu-ray + Digital Code, Paramount, R). Once again it’s all about Esther (then, now and always Isabelle Fuhrman) who as the film opens has escaped from an Estonian psychiatric hospital (otherwise known as a prison for dissidents). After a few minor murders, Esther is in the USA and impersonating the missing daughter of a wealthy couple.  Nothing that follows can be characterized as anything but insane.  Fuhrman’s terrifically effective, especially convincing as a 31 year old woman impersonating a 10 year old – and doing so without CGI.

 

GOLDEN YEARS                   A riff on the old George Burns hit ’18 Again!’ ‘Mack & Rita’ (Blu-ray + Digital, Lionsgate, PG-13) lets Mack, a young woman, slip into a tanning bed and thru hocus pocus step out as a 70-year-old who looks (and dresses) exactly like Diane Keaton.  She calls herself Aunt Rita.  While the Burns comedy was all about revisiting your youth, ‘Mack & Rita’ is dedicated the proposition, currently popular among a wide swath of the population, that the Golden Years are really the best.  Two Bonus featurettes – on the fashion (it’s Keaton!) and ‘Becoming Our Truth.’

Diane Keaton, center, stars in 'Mack & Rita.' (Gravitas Ventures)
Diane Keaton, center, stars in ‘Mack & Rita.’ (Gravitas Ventures)

 

TOP DOG                                                  ‘Rumble’ AND ‘Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank’ (Both Blu-ray + Digital Code, Paramount, PG). ‘Rumble’ is set in a world where monster wrestling rates as a global sport. The Bonus offers a meet with the behemoths inside the Mon-Stars of Wrestling, a tutorial to learn to Salsa like Rayburn, ‘Four Rounds in the Animation Ring’ and deleted scenes.  In ‘Hank’ we have a hound who dreams of becoming a hero. With heroic voice talent indeed: Mel Brooks, Ricky Gervais, Michelle Yeoh, Samuel L. Jackson and George Takei.  The Bonus offers an Intro to the characters, a character drawing tutorial by director Rob Minkoff and behind the scenes with the voice cast.