Showing posts with label Writers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writers. Show all posts

Monday, November 15, 2010

Interview With Filmmaker Douglas Elford-Argent

The Brazen Bull

The new film, The Brazen Bull, starring Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill), is now available on DVD; so if you're in the mood for a creepy thriller you should pick up a copy. I recently had the chance to ask the director and writer Douglas Elford-Argent, who like me has a strong interest in the film history of Los Angeles, a few questions about his latest film. Here's how it went:

Like me, I know you have an interest in classic films, but before we talk about that why don't you tell us a little about your latest film The Brazen Bull. What's the movie about? 

Sure, The Brazen Bull is a Thriller set in an abandoned building where our lead character, played by Michael Madsen, feels he has been robbed from the economy and takes his revenge on three young kids.

How did the story come about?

 I wrote the first draft 6 months before production began (May 2009) we went through a few changes and I handed my draft over to two great writers, Thomas Bilyeu and Chris Van de Polder. They are responsible for the final script that's up on the screen. Gregg Luckman (EP) gave me total creative control on this movie, so I have a lot to thank him for, his trust for a young director was fantastic, he's a great Producer and hope to work with him again.

What was it like directing a star like Michael Madsen? 

Michael is an old school actor, he loves improv and respects any young director that will let him run free. What ended up on the screen was about 80% of the script, Michael added his Madsen touches and filled the gaps. He's a true listener and trusted my vision and direction.

Working with a veteran actor like Madsen, did you learn anything in regards to your directing? 

Yes a lot, he showed me how to think on my feet and to trust the actor you hired for the role, Michael likes to shoot a scene and then start to play with it, showing me what he can bring to the table.

Michael Madsen and Douglas Elford-Argent

Can you tell us a little about the rest of the cast? 

Yes, we have Rachel Hunter who plays a Detective and mother to our lead actress played by Jennifer Tisdale. My wife, Gwendolyn Garver, played a supporting role along with David Fletcher.

It seems like you could have set this story in a few different metropolises. You're from London originally, so why set this story in Los Angeles? 

Well I moved to LA about 7 years ago, I have shot many movies in London which I am very proud of, London is a great backdrop with it's historic buildings. I think people forget how much history Los Angeles has, there is so much to uncover in Hollywood. 

On this blog I often do posts on classic film locations. I think sometimes it's just as exciting seeing where films were made as seeing the movies. Can you tell us about some of the locations you filmed at? 

We found a 14 story office building (Van Nuys) that was abandoned during the 1994 Northridge earthquake, we had total access but there was no power on each floor which made my crew go a little mad. All of our sets were built inside this building on the 1st floor, we had 4 sets built in total, from a torture chamber to apartment buildings. For the exterior shots of each apartment building we visited Downtown LA, where there are many old buildings that have the 'New York' feel, we chose two great looking buildings on 7th and Olive.

Now let's turn to you. Why did you leave London for Los Angeles? 

I have loved LA ever since I was a young boy, I grew up watching Chaplin and Harold Lloyd movies and dreamed of making movies in their town. I ran the New York Film Academy in London and that's where I met my wife 'Wendy', we both decided that Hollywood was the place to start.

Douglas Elford-Argent at the camera.

Did you always have an interests in films? 

Yes right from when I turned 11 years old, back then I wanted to be a camera operator, but I have never wanted to do anything else but make movies.

What are some of your favorite movies? What films have really inspired you as a filmmaker? 

That's always a tough question, there are movie that inspire me as a director and I learn so much from their work, but there are movies that I simply wish I could have my name on them. I learn a lot from David Fincher (Seven, Zodiac) and Spike Lee (Do the Right Thing, Malcolm X) both these directors showed me both camera and acting skills. I am a big fan of disaster movies so I envy Irwin Allen and his franchise. 

Who are some of your favorite classic actors/actresses/directors? 

Directors I love - Lee and Fincher, for actors I love Downey Jr and DiCaprio.

Getting back to The Brazen Bull, where can people go to see this movie? 

It's hard to book theaters for such a small movie, but our film is available everywhere on DVD, there is also a great behind the scenes featurette on the DVD too, or people can watch the film being made at

Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions. Any last comments? 

I hope I can continue to show Hollywood as a growing city and not a has been.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Hollywood Canteen - Where Servicemen and Stars Meet

Hollywood Canteen - 1451 Cahuenga Blvd. Hollywood, CA
Above is a vintage postcard of the famous Hollywood Canteen. The Canteen, created by film actors Bette Davis and John Garfield , along with MCA president Jules Stein, was a place where the Hollywood stars fed and entertained United States servicemen, as well as servicemen from allied countries, during World War II. From 1942 until Thanksgiving 1945, servicemen who ventured into Hollywood for a night out could gain access to the Canteen if they were in uniform. Everything was free of charge.
Below are pictures of where the Hollywood Canteen used to stand.

Looking Northwest at Cahuenga Blvd & Sunset Blvd
On the left of the above photo is where the Hollywood Canteen used to stand. Today there is a tower for CNN and a parking garage. Across the street is Amoeba Records, one of the best record shops in the country. And just a block and half north on Cahuenga Blvd are a few film locations from the Buster Keaton film, The Cameraman. Check out my past post on that here.

Looking Southwest at Cahuenga Blvd. & Sunset Blvd.

Cary Grant entertains the troops at Hollywood Canteen
The Andrew Sisters, Jimmy Durante, James Cagney, Betty Hutton, Danny Kaye, Shirley Temple, Ruby Keeler, Ronald Reagan, Dorothy Lamour, Dana Andrews, you name it - if you were a big Hollywood star you volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen. Some served food, others sang and dance, the comedians cracked jokes - the actresses even danced with the servicemen. The one millionth guest to visit the Hollywood Canteen was lucky enough to receive a kiss from Betty Grable! On one night, at the nearby corner of Sunset and Wilcox, a tent was set up where Orson Welles performed magic tricks. One of the tricks was sawing his wife Rita Hayworth in half!
But it wasn't just the stars that volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen. Producers, writers, technicians, costumers, agents, assistants, publicists and many others who worked in Hollywood volunteered as well. Even the murals painted inside the Canteen were the volunteered work of some of Hollywood's cartoonists.
In 1944, Warner Brothers made a film titled Hollywood Canteen. The film was a celebrity circus. Many of the hundreds of stars that volunteered at the Hollywood Canteen appear in the film. Here is a trailer for the movie:
I would love to hear the stories the GIs who attended the Hollywood Canteen must have to share? What it was like chatting with so and so, or dancing with whatever actress, or if the partied continued afterwards at such a place...
Your thoughts?

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Tribute to Mel Brooks

Mel Brooks
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will be honoring living legend Mel Brooks on Friday, July 24 at the Academy's Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. The event, hosted by Leonard Maltin, will feature some very special guests who will be sharing their personal stories about the comedian. These guests include Carl Reiner, Cloris Leachman, Tracey Ullman, Richard Benjamin, Teri Garr, and Lesley Ann Warren. And of course, Mel Brooks himself will be appearing in person!
For more info on this event and to purchase tickets visit

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Day of the Locust

Parva Sed Apta Apartments
The Parva Sed Apta Apartments, located at 1817 Ivar Avenue, just a couple blocks north of Hollywood Boulevard was the home to author Nathanael West while he wrote his screenplays and his most famous novel, The Day of the Locust. While living here West got to know the Hollywood neighborhood as it was during the 1930s, including the many different characters that were also part of this community. Some of the people that West met while living in this building are said to have been inspiration for the characters he created in his novel.

1817 N. Ivar Ave. Parva Sed Apta Apartments
When The Day of the Locust came out in 1939 it was not a commercial success. It wasn't until years later that the book would take off in popularity. Unfortunately, West died a year after the book came out in a car crash. West was driving home from a hunting trip and died the day after his good friend and fellow author F. Scott Fitzgerald who had a heart attack.

I've never been inside the apartment building but I've heard the units were originally small one room spaces with a Murphy wall bed and kitchenette. Apparently now the units have been converted into larger one bedroom apartments.

If you're visiting Hollywood Boulevard just walk 2 blocks north up Ivar Ave and you will find this apartment building. Also, neighboring the Parva Sed Apta Apartments are the Alto Nido apartments which can be seen in the film Sunset Boulevard. Check out my previous post on Sunset Boulevard locations here.

Your thoughts?


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