News Column

The Fresno Bee Rick Bentley column

December 9, 2013

YellowBrix

Dec. 09--One question that often gets asked is if I get star-struck talking to celebrities. When you've been doing these kind of interviews since Mary Pickford was an ingenue, it's a rare moment when talking to a star makes me nervous. The only thing that will shake my confidence is when I'm thrown a last-minute interview to do and I haven't had time to do any research.

I have seen celebrities get excited about other talent. That happened recently during interviews for the upcoming release of "Saving Mr. Banks," the story of how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) got the book rights to make "Mary Poppins." It was "Mr. Banks" screenwriter Kelly Marcel -- you may better know her for being selected to write the screenplay for the novel "Fifty Shades of Grey" -- who became flustered.

Marcel was 50 shades of excited as she sat next to Colin Farrell, who plays Robert Goff Travers in "Saving Mr. Banks." She started to answer a question about the irony of being a writer of a movie script about a writer who said no to turning her book into a movie script. Then Marcel's attention became a little split.

"I've been asked this question a lot and this particular process was kind of beautiful from day one. Everybody said 'yes' all the way including all of these amazing people sitting at this table, which sort of still blows my mind. It's, 'My God, Colin Farrell,' " Marvel said. She turned to the actor and said, "Hi."

Farrell smiled and said it's very nice to meet her.

Turning back to the topic, after Marcel explained her first thoughts were the Disney Studios would block such a movie but the company openly embraced the idea, Farrell jumped in to jokingly point out that their pleasure didn't come with a lifetime pass for Disneyland.

Marcel smiled and said, "No. But I still get to sit next to Colin Farrell."

Cedric's way

The current version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" is a big change from when Regis Philbin or Meredith Vieira were the hosts. Cedric the Entertainer has taken a show that once counted on suspense and turned it into a place for comedy.

On a recent week, each day's episode was themed to a certain decade starting with the '70s and ending with a look to the future. Cedric dressed appropriately. The week is an example of the approach Cedric promised he would take when named the new host.

"I think the big thing about it is the opportunity to be a stand-up, to be engaged with the contestants, a bit of the audience so that you can have fun. You can have fun and keep the show energetic while keeping the game play alive," Cedric says. "And I think that that's what most comedians find attractive about this particular form of entertainment."

Game shows have been turning to comedians as hosts from Drew Carey on "The Price Is Right" to Steve Harvey running "Family Feud." Maybe Will Ferrell will take over as the "Jeopardy" host when Alex Trebek retires.

It's a new "Millionaire," but Cedric the Entertainer hasn't forgotten the previous hosts.

"I just mainly wanted to be as sharply dressed as Regis and hug and kiss as many people as Meredith," Cedric says.

He gets serious and adds, "Both of them are really great, and they had different styles in which they did the show. Meredith was also very passionate, very kind to the contestants, where she paid a lot of attention to them. And I think that Regis, he just kind of jumps out with a lot of wit, which you need."

Bizarre is good

I have not been as big a fan of the second and third installments of "American Horror Story" on FX as I was the original, but the one great thing about all three has been Jessica Lange. In each incarnation, she's been doing her best work since her Oscar-nominated work in the 1982 feature "Frances." The reason her work is so strong is that Lange is so happy with the bizarre characters she's had the chance to play in the three versions of the show.

"I love madness. I do. I love playing that. So in the last season, I really felt that I was given this kind of plum, this juicy piece of possibility that I could play all the things that really interest me and to just go out there and be as kind of wild with it as I wanted to be," Lange says of season two. "I mean, I have to say that there were moments, when I was getting the shock treatment, that I thought, 'Oh, I remember. Yeah, I've done this before. I've done these scenes before.'

"So it was a wonderful character for me. I got to sing. I got to dance. I got to go mad. I got to spank people."

She's now involved with new madness. "American Horror Story: Coven" looks at the secret history of witches and witchcraft in America. Lange plays Fiona Goode, the long-absent Supreme who arrives in New Orleans determined to protect the Coven. Heaven help anyone who gets in her way.

"We move back and forth in time. So it encompasses a lot of different stories," Lange says. And, she's made the most of the stories in all three versions of the cable horror series.

New episodes air 10 p.m. Wednesdays on FX.

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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(c)2013 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

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