Roger Moore and Talia Shire Take Sequel Break : They’re shooting a romantic comedy on the coast of Maine : Moore, Shire
Some captivities are a good deal more pleasant and endurable than others, but in the end all captivities begin to chafe at least a little.
Ever since he launched his long run as television’s The Saint, for example, Roger Moore has been the amply rewarded captive of his considerable gift for portraying an adventurous, romantic insouciance. The gift went on to serve him well through seven outings as James Bond. But after a while you do wonder, as Moore has, if there is not more to the acting life than the arched eyebrow and the amiable leer.
Here on the rockbound coast of Maine, sacred to vacationing presidents past and current, Moore is enjoying a change of pace, playing a cynical bounder turned OK guy in a romantic comedy called “Bed and Breakfast.”
Talia Shire, who is producing the film with her husband Jack Schwartzman, has her own experience of captivity and she is similarly in quest of a change of pace in “Bed and Breakfast,” playing the principal romantic lead opposite Moore.
It is as Rocky’s wife that she is recognized and hailed as she walks around York, Biddeford Pool and the other locations where the film is being shot. Indeed there is “Rocky V” in her near future, and very likely (although neither she nor anyone is yet able to say for sure) there will be another outing for her brother Francis Coppola in his long-speculated-about “Godfather III.”
After “Bed and Breakfast” she will play a very spiritual nun in the Nicolas Roeg film of Brian Moore’s novel “Cold Heaven.” But for the moment she is out of the supporting mode and into a leading role.
Like Moore’s, her character undergoes the kind of transformation actors are always grateful to play. She is at first the embittered, withdrawn widow of a charismatic politician who was a public hero and a private heel and whose ghost she can’t seem to exorcise, at least until Moore washes ashore. Then the whole and vibrant woman re-emerges.
Colleen Dewhurst, lately an Emmy nominee for “Murphy Brown,” plays Shire’s mother in “Bed and Breakfast,” and she too is enjoying a change of pace from the strong but often formidably austere characters she has played on stage, as in the work of Eugene O’Neill, and in her relatively infrequent films.
This time she is an outspoken, earthy grandmother in whom the sexual fires have not been banked and who enjoys a romp that might have given even Auntie Mame a momentary pause.
The story, a first produced script by Cindy Myers, an American Film Institute graduate, has Moore as an English con man who has conned the wrong victims, been savagely beaten and leaped or fallen from a yacht. He’s discovered half-dead amid the driftwood and seaweed on the beach of a failing bed-and-breakfast run by a grandmother, mother and daughter--Dewhurst, Shire and Nina Siemaszko, a 19-year-old who played one of the children in “Tucker.” Moore, not so subtly named Adam, turns the three women’s lives and several others (including his own) upside down.
“I’ve always been fascinated by The Stranger who comes in and changes everybody’s life,” says the director, Robert Ellis Miller (“Reuben Reuben,” “The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter,” “Any Wednesday”). “There’s such a literature, from Dostoevsky forward and backward.”
On a hazy-bright, warm and muggy afternoon, Miller & Company are shooting on a sloping street near the water’s edge at Biddeford Pool, a lobster-fishing hamlet on a sheltered bay just off the Atlantic. It is a long tracking and dollying shot as Moore and the granddaughter, who has her own crush on the stranger, walk up the road to the corner, she full of questions about his mysterious past.
The bad guys have not stopped looking for Moore, which makes for some nice cross-cut tension. Now, as the scene ends, Moore sees their classic red Porsche barreling down the street, and he slips away.
“We have some unusual villains,” Miller says; “young and well-dressed and very rich and very dangerous. The rich have a fearlessness that is very menacing.”
There is a sizable crowd of villagers in a great semi-circle behind the camera, learning the first great lesson about film- making, which is
that it is extremely slow and tedious work both to watch and to do. The camera tracks are laid and carefully leveled. The camera moves tried and retried with the locally-recruited stand-ins, a college student, Darin Bunstad, from the University of Maine, an art teacher, Barbara Grieg, from Cape Neddick.
The actors are called at last from their caravans. As Moore moves through the crowd, a woman says in a loud whisper, “That’s Roger Moore!” “You mean he’s still alive?” Moore asks, turning in mock surprise.
He has not made a film since his seventh Bond, “A View to a Kill,” four years ago. Earlier this year he startled everyone by agreeing to appear on stage as the romantic singing lead in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Aspects of Love.”
“Andrew had heard me sing on the telly one night,” Moore said over dinner in the York Harbor Inn. “It was a foolish bit with Dame Edna Everidge on the Barry Humphreys show, but Andrew said he knew I could do the musical. I began taking lessons and I convinced myself that I could do it too.
“Then came the rehearsals. I found to my horror that there’s a difference between singing by yourself and having to sing for the other singers around you, giving them a note when you haven’t a clue yourself where the damned note is. It became a nightmare. Sleepless nights. Awful. And it’s a wonderful show. If it hadn’t been such great music I’d have done it.”
Moore’s wife Luisa, who has joined him here with their three children, Deborah, Geoffrey and Christian, chimed in: “I think he still wishes he had.”
“The public can blame Andrew Lloyd Webber for having me inflicted on them again,” Moore remarked cheerfully. Dropping out of the musical made it possible for Moore to do “Bed and Breakfast” and, he says in his most debonair way, to quell any dark rumors that he was retiring. In fact the film was rushed into production (after two years in preparation) to fit the few weeks Moore had free before he is scheduled to film a thriller, “Bulls Eye,” with his pal Michael Caine, in England and Scotland, with Michael Winner directing.
“Bulls oi-vey, Michael says,” says Moore. Moore now carries his own fax machine with him everywhere, and he and Caine and a circle of other pals now exchange almost daily messages. Historians who have worried that the telephone was creating a terrible shortage of papers on which to base biographies and other interpretations of the past can take heart. The fax machine may even bring back the epistolary novel.
An agent brought Jack Schwartzman the script that became “Bed and Breakfast” because the widow’s role seemed ideal for Shire. “It was called ‘Snakes’ then, and the guy was a 40-year-old New York Italian crook,” Schwartzman said during a lunch break at Biddeford Pool. That characterization didn’t excite him but he and his wife agreed that the widow’s part had great promise for Shire.
The couple met Moore at a party and sent him the script as it was, asking him to imagine it rewritten for him. He liked it and the rewrites were done. “I wanted a change of pace; I needed a change of pace,” Moore says. Then Moore elected to do the musical. “That was really meant to be a change of pace.” The picture seemed indefinitely delayed, until Moore dis-elected to do the musical.
Schwartzman, an entertainment lawyer before he went into production, and Shire have financed “Bed and Breakfast” themselves, raising part of the money by selling the foreign rights, but waiting until the film is finished to make a domestic distribution deal. Moore is partnered with them, and director Miller and other above-the-line principals are defering most of their salaries: “pooling our risks,” Shire says, “against a share of the rewards.”
“Roger, Talia and I are the owners and financiers,” Schwartzman says. “There’s nobody we have to call every day and say, ‘May we?’ It’s great for the director. There’s no superstructure imposing its will from thousands of miles away.”
“This kind of film is no longer being programmed for the screen,” Shire says. “There’s a whole range of actors, actresses and directors who just aren’t getting to do the kind of work they should be doing. The studios have a moral obligation to do a variety of films, but they’re only making blockbusters.”
“Bed and Breakfast” will come in for less than $10 million. Schwartzman and Shire hope to have it ready for a possible Academy Award nominating run in December--”if we really think there are two or three possible nominations in it,” Schwartzman says. It will in all events open, very carefully, in the first quarter of 1990. “This isn’t a slam dunk; you don’t open on 1,500 screens.”
The captivity of the sequel, which has touched both Moore and Shire, is peculiar, and it really is a kind of imprisonment, inflicted by the audience (or by producers for whom repetition is the sincerest form of flattery).
“I know; I’m a person who’s been in sequels,” Shire says. “People think you’re being unfaithful if they see you in anything else. What you’ve got to do is find a role that helps the audience say, ‘OK; we’re going to relax and free you.’ It can be maneuvered beautifully if you do it right.”
As for the Moore role, Shire says, ‘He’s able to come in as an archetype, the smooth, cynical charming crook, and emerge as a full-fledged hero. I think, and he thinks, it’s an ideal role to make his audience relax and want to see what he’ll do next.”
A production scout found a perfect, empty house on the ocean, near the end of a private road at York Beach, with the constant sound of buoy bells in the channel and the Cape Neddick lighthouse just off the next point. The house, of weathered shingle and field stone will, like the characters themselves, be transformed, from near-dilapidation to a bustling commercial enterprise, before the story is done. (Not for nothing is the Moore figure a con man.)
But transformations are never simple. “We bought $3,000 worth of black-eyed Susans or whatever they were for the front lawn,” Schwartzman says. “From ground level it looked like a whole field of daisies. Then we did a crane shot. From up high, all those flowers looked like a hair transplant that hadn’t taken yet. We’ll have to figure something else.”
Schwartzman and Shire have come off a couple of difficult productions. They did the maverick Bond film, “Never Say Never Again,” with Sean Connery. It drew more process servers than customers. “Lion Heart,” a period piece about the Children’s Crusade, was test marketed in two cities and fared so ill that Warners will not release it theatrically at all in this country but go right to cassettes.
But, as much as you can ever tell about a film in production, “Bed and Breakfast” feels good to all those involved. “If it works,” Shire says, “others will be encouraged to try it this way, pooling the risks to share the rewards. Think what it could do for the business. Others will do the biggies as always. It’s the small ones you have to fight for.
“This script gives you such hope that love is available at any age,” Shire says. “I think people want to hear that.”
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