Deep Inside Hollywood: ‘Silent Life’ Explores Hollywood’s Bisexual Golden Age

Lisa CholodenkoLisa Cholodenko; Photo: KathClick

Bisexual identity explored in Hollywood

By: Romeo San Vicente*/TRT Special—

Documentary Now! loves Company

We see you out there, those of you devoted to Documentary Now! You’re not the mainstream TV viewer, to be sure, but you know a good Bill Hader-as-Spalding Gray segment and Errol Morris parody when you see one, and that means you deserve some kind of television entertainment.

Well, the upcoming season of the acclaimed IFC series, created by former Saturday Night Live cast members Fred Armisen, Seth Meyers and Hader, which in each episode parodies a different classic documentary—from Grey Gardens to Stop Making Sense—is going to get even more specific. They’ll be tackling D.A. Pennebaker’s 1970 film, Original Cast Album: Company. It featured the first cast of Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical—Dean Jones, Elaine Stritch, Beth Howland, Donna McKechnie—as they spent all night in a recording studio working on the cast album for that show. The DN! version of this will be called Original Cast Album: Co-Op and will feature guest stars Taran Killam (SNL), James Urbaniak (Venture Bros.), comedian John Mulaney, Tony Award-winning star of Hamilton, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and School of Rock’s Alex Brightman. We’ll be watching, if for no other reason than to see who’ll be singing the fake version of “Ladies Who Lunch.”

Brace yourself for more Less Than Zero

If you were around during the 1980s, you remember Less Than Zero, the shocking novel that exposed the depraved lives of a bunch of fictional rich kids in Los Angeles. There were things in that book that cannot be described in polite company even now, and it put its young author Bret Easton Ellis on the map. Then came a hilariously dorky just-say-not-to-drugs-and-behave-yourself film version in 1987 starring Andrew McCarthy, Jami Gertz and Robert Downey Jr. What endures from that debacle is a very cool soundtrack album and a cult following of snickering Gen Xers. Now Hulu has decided to give it another go, this time as a TV series from Lost writer-producer Craig Wright. It’ll star The Walking Dead’s Austin Abrams as Clay, the bisexual drug-addicted college freshman home for Christmas break contending with his equally drugged friends, as well as Lily Donoghue (The Goldbergs) and Cooper Koch (Fracture). We’re hoping it’s a nice period 1982 series, with all the fashion adventures and new wavey details that promises. And it had better be bleak, like no-holds-barred, really, really, bleak. Otherwise, you might as well just watch Degrassi.

Silent Life explores Hollywood’s bisexual golden age

Twin Peaks’ Audrey Horne, actress Sherilyn Fenn, has a new role. She’s playing bisexual silent film star Alla Nazimova in what’s being called a “fantasy biopic” about Rudolph Valentino (translation: maybe it happened, maybe not, probably not, but it’s fine). From director Vladislav Kozlov, Silent Life will explore cinema’s first male sex symbol in a story that toggles from past to present. It co-stars Isabella Rossellini, Franco Nero and director Kozlov as Valentino, but we’re most excited about Fenn’s character, the legendary Nazimova. The acclaimed Russian stage actress moved to Hollywood and earned a lot of money in silent films, eventually opting to produce and write them, too. She was also notorious for her Hollywood lesbian clique, known as the “Sewing Circle,” and for the wild parties she threw at her mansion called “The Garden of Alla.” In post-production now, expect this one sometime in 2019.

Toni Erdmann loses Nicholson, gains Cholodenko

Update time: that American version of Toni Erdmann is still happening, but everything has changed. We loved the critically acclaimed German comedy from filmmaker Maren Ade. It’s about an unhappy, middle-aged woman stuck in a joyless, dead-end corporate job, and her elderly weirdo of a father who keeps trying to jolt her out of her miserable rut by forcing her to participate in a series of pranks played on the world around them. The English-language version went into development almost immediately, with Lena Dunham attached to direct, and Kristen Wiig and Jack Nicholson to star. At this point, however, Wiig is still in, Nicholson has dropped out, as has Dunham, and Lisa Cholodenko (The Kids Are All Right) is now slated to direct. We think Cholodenko is a wise choice here; the story requires a strong female perspective. And though we’re a little bummed not to see Nicholson make his comeback here, because the role seems tailor-made for him, now the field is wide open for any number of older actors looking for a chance to go very, very odd. Somebody call Gene Hackman.

*Romeo San Vicente stans for Poseidon Adventure-era peak Hackman swagger.

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