Tuesday, April 23, 2013

L.A. Times Festival of Books - Inside Hollywood

This panel featured moderator Margaret Woppler, Alex Espinoza (The Five Acts of Diego Leon), Adam Braver (Misfit), Matthew Specktor (American Dream Machine) and Nina Revoyr (The Age of Dreaming)

Alex Espinoza:
  • Became interested in Hollywood's transition from silent films to talkies.  Silents could be used worldwide, but sound required foreign-language versions to be shot.  During this period the "Latin Lover" was popular with filmgoers.  However these stars were not necessarily treated as well by Hollywood as their Caucasian counterparts.
  • In discussing the layers and complexity of reinvention of self, he mention how early Hollywood would "Latinize" actors who looked the part, even if they weren't Latino.  He told about the silent star studio executives dubbed Ricardo Cortez, who was actually a Jewish New Yorker born Jacob Krantz.
  • Like many of the "Latin Lovers" of early Hollywood, Espinoza was born in Mexico and eventually moved to Los Angeles.

Adam Braver:
  • Misfit focuses on the last weekend of Marilyn Monroe's life, especially in terms of what Hollywood does to people, their identity and need to reinvent themselves.
  • Attracted to Marilyn as a subject because she was a great, real-life complex character.  He felt the key to writing someone like her is finding the core human part of a character.

Matthew Specktor:
  • His father was legendary Hollywood agent Fred Specktor, whose clients included Gene Hackman and Robert De Niro.  Because Hollywood is constantly depicted negatively, he wanted to describe a place inhabited by real people.  In American Dream Machine, the stars are in the background and the experiences of the fictionalized agents sons are not limited to Hollywood.

Nina Revoyr:
  • The Age of Dreaming is about a Japanese former silent star who is tracked down by a young reporter with a script for him.  He is excited about a comeback, but hopes no one looks too deep into his past.
  • Sessue Hayakawa was an inspiration.  Despite his stardom, like the Latin Lovers, Asians were also not treated well by Hollywood.  In addition, growing anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. at the time meant that Hayakawa was limited to sinister and villainous roles.  This created animosity toward him back in Japan, where his countrymen felt that his roles contributed toward negative Japanese stereotypes.  Revoyr wanted to explore the idea of being hugely successful in an industry that doesn't accept you, and the personal cost of making the necessary compromises to attain that success.

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