There’s a story about Steve McQueen being offered the role of architect Doug Roberts in The Towering Inferno. McQueen turned it down, asking instead to play fire chief Michael O’Hallorhan, claiming that there’s no way an audience would find him believable in any role other than a straight-ahead man of action. The part of Roberts, instead, went to Paul Newman. At that point, in 1974, Newman’s most successful roles had been as outlaws, con-men and rebels – characters arguably not that far removed from the kind of people who peppered McQueen’s own CV. But it says a lot, perhaps, about how cinema audiences were prepared to accept him, that despite the succession of outsiders and wild ones he’d played, there was something inherently likeable and appealing about Newman.


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At the tail end of 2006, I interviewed George Clooney in New York for our short-lived and sadly missed sister title, UNCUT DVD. It was around the time of Good Night, And Good Luck and Syriana, two movies that conspicuously harked back to the Seventies’ cinema of conscience. Syriana, particularly, referenced the political thrillers of the era, and during a lively, 40-minute conversation the man who in another life was the voice of Sparky the gay dog in South Park spoke enthusiastically about his love of great movies like Dr Strangelove, Network and All The President’s Men, and especially the classic alienated heroes from ‘60s and ‘70s cinema.


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Washed up fighters make great movie characters. Think of Robert De Niro as Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, Marlon Brando’s “I coulda been a contender” speech in On the Waterfront, Clint Eastwood in Million Dollar Baby and Stacy Keach, pissing blood in John Huston’s underrated Fat City. Add to their ranks Randy “The Ram” Robinson, played here by Mickey Rourke in the role that's justifiably attracting much talk of an Oscar.


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To Leicester Square this morning, and the launch of this year’s London Film Festival. There’s always something of a guessing game, prior to the announcement of the line-up, about what’ll be showing. This year, for instance, I’d been hoping we might get John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, Mickey Rourke’s apparently astonishing comeback in The Wrestler and Sam Mendes’ film of Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates' novel I recently read and thought was incredible.

No such luck as at least two of them aren't finished yet, but still – the line-up is pretty strong. There’s an artful of choice of marquee name movies mixed with some excellent left-field selections, a fantastic looking documentary about one of the great 60s folk singers and a film which, despite having the most unwieldy name in film history, will be one of the biggest hits of the year.


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I can’t off the top of my head think of another instance where you’ll find a former US President queuing up alongside the head of the Hell’s Angels to dispense hosannas on one man. But that, perhaps, says much about Hunter S Thompson’s influence on American culture – particularly during the late Sixties and early Seventies when, as Alex Gibney’s brilliant documentary rightly identifies, Thompson was, unbelievably, one of the most influential men in the country.


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Don LaFontaine
1940 - 2008

It’s a fair bet that you don’t recognise the name. But the voice, surely, is as iconic to moviegoers as Harry Lime’s final act appearance in The Third Man, Omar Sharif’s entrance in Lawrence Of Arabia or the great white’s tail fin in Jaws.

Don LaFontaine was the unseen star of Hollywood; he was the guy who provided over 5,000 gravely voiceovers for movie trailers.


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The movie career of Steve Coogan has so far proved to be a fascinatingly erratic subject. Sure, it’s not unusual to find a successful British TV comedian struggle to establish himself in movies, particularly in Hollywood. For every Dudley Moore, who became a huge movie star in the States with Arthur and 10, you only have to look at Peter Cook - the true genius in that partnership - whose transatlantic film career barely made it beyond Supergirl.


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As the Reading Festival moves into its second day, you wouldn't be wrong to expect a hint of nostalgia in the air. Yesterday, after all, there was heavy rock, and the return of old favourites Rage Against The Machine. On Sunday, there will be the return of the reassuringly sturdy Metallica, and with them, yet more heavy rock.


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It was back in March that Tropic Thunder first made it onto my radar. I was skimming through a copy of Entertainment Weekly, and found a full-page picture of Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jnr in combat fatigues, rifles at the ready, creeping through the brush in a jungle setting clearly meant to represent Vietnam. What struck me, first, was the idea of these excellent comic actors making a Vietnam spoof could be a brilliant wheeze; secondly, the rather jaw-dropping fact that Downey was in blackface.


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Welcome to Waitsville. A place where bad jokes are good, Vaudeville never died, and the talk is of smoking monkeys, weasels and the mating habits of the preying mantis.


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Reviewed: Respect Yourself: Stax Records And The Soul Explosion by Robert Gordon


As Robert Gordon reminds us in Respect Yourself: Stax Records And The Soul Explosion, his terrific account of the rise and fall of the great Memphis soul imprint, the Stax story is more than a record-label history. “It is an American story,” Gordon writes,”...