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by Jordan Hiller


The Shape of Things (2003)  

Plays are vital, films are immortal. No one can resist immortality, even if sacrifices need to be made. To quote Stan Lee, “´Nuff said”.

Neil (Nurse Betty) LaBute, maverick writer/director, master of respectable twisted ugliness, brings his London stage play to the screen with the original cast in tow. Sorry – can’t tell you much about the plot – it’s one of those movies. How’s this though? Adam (Paul Rudd) is an overweight spaz until he meets hot, trend setting artiste, Evenly (Rachel Weisz) and…things – all sorts of things – begin to change in this four character drama.  This ain’t Swordfish. LaBute wants to draw you in and #&%$ you up in the head.

Hey, I’m all for brain teasers in the unconventional sense and there is no greater compliment to a filmmaker than having their audience lie in bed at night in the shadows and just stare at the ceiling, going over scenes, going over lines, going over expressions. My only reservation is, if I’m going to spend my time thinking about your film, I need to believe you are for real.

Go see The Shape of Things, a peculiarly acted, nasty caper, and decide for yourself whether we are being set up by LaBute with a manipulative device or if he is speaking to our frailties and telling truths. I am undecided – and that #&%$s me up.

Q & A with Paul Rudd, Gretchen Mol, and Rachel Weisz


BIO: Were you interested in moving your stage act to film?

Gretchen Mol: I was just happy to have the opportunity to be part of something that will be this little piece of time and history. It was a memory but now that it is committed to film – that’s just a really cool idea. But it was hard, not in terms of making the film, but it made me realize how much I love theater. I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but I thought that it is ultimately for an actor…neat, because going then to film it became not ours anymore. We used to get to the theater at seven thirty and we would take this ride, this journey every night. Then you get on set and all the different actors are showing up at different times and then it takes this amount of time to light it and it becomes like little pieces and you don’t get that flow we got with the stage process…so I missed it. I missed that. But still the bigger picture of having it translated to film was a great idea.

BIO: Like film is the necessary evil.

GM: [Laughs] Well, in a weird way…for me it was very hard. I enjoyed never having to see it. I mean, I did it but I never had to see it and now going to the screening it’s really hard to sit down and watch it. It feels different to me. It’s hard to say this is just one performance. It’s hard to do two hundred performances and then take one and essentially have an editor decide what that is and a director…It really is Neil’s piece – I mean he wrote it and he really put a stamp on it, especially now that it is a film. You really see Neil in it more so than with a play where the actors really get to bring a lot to it.

BIO: Paul, when you were in school, did you consider yourself a nerd or a cool guy?

Paul Rudd: At the time I classified myself as a cool guy…Looking back, then I realized that having Michael Hutchence wannabe hair and having a Nagel painted on the back of my acid-washed jean jacket, that I really fell more into the nerd category.

BIO: How dare you say that about Michael Hutchence!

PR: I love Michael Hutchence. Michael Hutchence is great, but you see the thing is…I wasn’t Michael Hutchence. I wanted to be Michael Hutchence. Actually, I fell somewhere between Michael Hutchence and John Oates.

BIO: How dare you say that about Oates!

PR: I love Hall and Oates.

BIO: They’re so back.

PR: They are. I just bought a double album. But, you know, when you’re looking at a Jewish kid in Kansas who’s eighteen trying to go for that…

BIO: Now that you brought up the Jewish angle…

PR: I’m always going for the Jewish angle.

BIO: How are you celebrating Passover?

PR: Um, my parents were in town this weekend and mother brought some macaroons and cinnamon balls. She usually sends them out every year, but she brought them, and my dad and I put up some shelves.

BIO: This question is purely for my audience…

Rachel Weisz: Wait, who is your audience?

BIO: Jewish in New York.

RW: Oh.

BIO: My research tells me that you are a Jewish girl?

RW: My father is Jewish…

BIO: Ok. Being that it is Passover now; did you celebrate in any way?

RW: No.

BIO: Back to the film itself: Is the film purely a parable or is it a reflection of real life? Do you believe these events could take place or is Neil just trying to teach us something?

PR: I don’t know if Neil is trying to teach anybody a lesson. I don’ think he even has…I think he understands Adam and he gets Evelyn’s argument. I think he wants to present something interesting that hopefully people will have a reaction to. He just doesn’t want to make a movie that people are gonna go to and be bored. It is stretched to somewhat of an absurd level. I’ve heard him answer the question. I spent the last week with him and people have asked him this. He said, I’m only concerned with “Is it possible?” and not just with this movie but anything he does – “Is it possible?”  Is it possible that two guys would find a deaf girl and make her fall in love with them [the plot of LaButes’s In the Company of Men]? It’s possible. It’s not impossible and it’s not impossible that this [plot of The Shape of Things] would happen. It is an imagined story but, yeah, it could happen.

RW: I would say…I would agree and that it is a parable and Neil is trying to make us think about something. I think all of his tales are like moral fables or parables, and they’re pretty extreme. Could these people exist? Um…

BIO: Could this story take place?

RW: Yeah…Yeah it could.

PR:  I just think it started from an idea. When Neil did In the Company of Men a lot of people who interviewed him asked him if he thought a woman would do what Aaron Eckhart did in that film and he said, well yeah I think a woman can be manipulative but a woman would go about it in another way. She would keep things to herself a little bit more.

BIO: I wonder if there are people like Adam who would go to such extremes and people like Evelyn, who go beyond manipulator, to almost pure villainess. Almost like a character from The Wizard of Oz?

RW: If that’s your take on it, that is completely acceptable. She would argue that she’s an artist and this is her art. That’s her argument. I mean, what’s so bad that happened to him? He’s a good looking guy now. What’s so bad? You got your heart broken. You’re twenty-one. So what? That’s what she’d say. Big fucking deal. I’m being Evelyn now. She didn’t kill anyone. She’s just broken someone’s heart. It happens everyday, all the time. He was unfaithful to her. What’s so great about him? He was vain. He agreed to have a nose job. I mean why didn’t he say no. He agreed to go to the gym. Why didn’t he hang on to his old friends? He was unfaithful when he got good looking…

BIO: Yeah, that is Evelyn talking…

RW: Like, that’s what she would say. A lot of people say she’s a heartless evil bitch.

PR: It’s too easy to say that my character is a victim and Rachel is a bitch. I don’t think it’s painted in that broad of a stroke. I know that Neil doesn’t believe in good guys and bad guys. As do I. It’s much more complex than that. I know for a fact that the way Evelyn goes about doing this…I know Neil feels much more responsibility to be a decent person and I don’t know if he agrees with what she does, but he doesn’t judge her.

BIO: The bottom line is Adam made all these changes for her, presuming he would get love in exchange and that was false. Isn’t it that simple?

PR: You see this conversation we are having now? This back and forth? That’s exactly what Neil wanted.

Email from Nate Teibloom @ Jewhoo in response to my dismay after reading about Rachel’s Judaism on his website. His letter provides great insight.
I regret to say that I believe you are right. I backtracked the reference I found to her mother being Austrian Catholic on a "lousy" site and see it originated on the Guardian web site. The Guardian is usually accurate.  I vaguely remember a very old notation in something about her mother being of "Jewish blood" but Catholic.  Other reliable sites describe both parents as Jewish. But the Guardian is very good on such details and I tend to trust them---it was part of a long profile. However,  I suspect that you might get a different answer out of her depending on how you asked the question and how well you know her. Not that her mother is Jewish---but how she identifies. See this excerpt from an interview with a woman reporter she knows. And this reporter says both her parents are Hungarian in the intro of the interview. So people make mistakes.  I can't figure out the reporter's identity from the web site---but she also is Jewish---see the excerpt---and established a sense of solidarity--as it were--with Weisz.  Weisz opened up with this woman in a way that Jewish actresses hardly ever do on the record and refers to herself as Jewish. (I saw actress Randi Ingerman---a gorgeous thing who works mostly in Italy---say almost the exact same thing in an interview with Troy Beyer--a half Jewish/half black actress.  That she has a hard time getting parts in Hollywood---all the Jewish executives see her as a wife and that acting is something 'shiksas' do--and they would like to marry her---but not cast her---I suspect that both may be exaggerating---but there is a kernel of truth---besides most people are not cast in most things they want---they look for a reason---and this reason is not personal to them.)

RACHEL: It was me. [laughs] It was me photographed by David Bailey, who had some kind of concept that because it was for a Russian film, I would be wearing a Russian hat. But you can't really see the hat, just fur everywhere. And my nose looks like it's … just a really outsized nose, you know.
EMMA: But, you see, you're holding back from saying what you said at the store, which was that you thought you looked too Jewish. Is it limiting as an actress to be perceived as being too ethnic in any way?
RACHEL: Well, I think you and I have always felt the same way — that we're Jewish but we can get away with just being exotic. We're kind of Jews in disguise. Those cultural stereotypes about the Jew with the big hooky nose and the fleshy face rub off on you. That's terrible to admit, isn't it.
EMMA: Well, it's that Jackie Mason joke about how no Jewish woman wants to look Jewish: "'You think I look maybe a little Italian, I look a little Russian, perhaps I can be Spanish?' … 'You look Jewish!'"
RACHEL: Hollywood's run by Jews. I was advised by an American agent when I was about 19 to change my surname. And I said "Why? Jews run Hollywood." He said "Exactly." He had a theory that all the executives think acting's a job for shiksas.
EMMA: Of all the self-loathing Jews in the world, the most self-loathing are the Hollywood Jews. They don't want to see images of themselves on screen. That's why Lauren Bacall had to hide her identity, and Winona Ryder changed her name from Horowitz.
RACHEL: In some way acting is prostitution, and Hollywood Jews don't want their own women to participate. Also, there's an element of Portnoy's Complaint — they all fancy Aryan blondes.


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The Oscar Preview 2002

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