July 25--BEVERLY HILLS, CA: Here's what we didn't find out at today's TV Summer Press Tour: Who will be the new "Doctor Who."
Here's what we did find out:
--Larry David is just as amusingly irascible in person as he is on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." David, who was on hand to promote "Clear History," his new HBO movie, batted reporters' questions around like a large cat toying with a stunned mouse.
When someone commented on the Jewish influence in his humor, and wondered where it came from, David cracked, "It comes from Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay, Apartment 1-D," as in his all-Jewish neighborhood growing up.
Asked if he's doing another season of "Curb Your Enthusiasm," David said he hadn't made up his mind, because it's a big decision, plus he's indecisive. "Ask me in six months."
The clips of "Clear History" have a definite "Curb Your Enthusiasm" quality, and David said it was mostly improvised. He plays a guy who rashly walks away from a start-up electric car company, and suffers humiliation and ruin once the company goes on to make a gazillion dollars. The cast is a doozy: Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes, Bill Hader, Kate Hudson, JB Smoove, Danny McBride, Amy Ryan, Philip Baker Hall. Greg Mottola directed.
"Clear History" debuts on HBO Aug. 10.
--Alec Baldwin is not impressed with most of the TV criticism he reads in New York media. Baldwin appeared via satellite, standing before a window that gave a view of lush green vineyards behind him. His chief objection was critics whose writing indicates, to Baldwin, that they don't understand how the production of a TV show works, and blame actors for faults that should lie at the feet of the director.
Duly noted. Moving on: Director James Toback was at the Beverly Hilton Hotel ballroom, talking about "Seduced and Abandoned," the project he and Baldwin shot at the Cannes Film Festival last year. The duo go around the fest, seeking financing for a movie inspired by "Last Tango in Paris." It premieres on HBO on Oct. 28.
--Stephen Merchant is a witty chap. Which we knew already, from his collaborations with Ricky Gervais ("The Office," "Extras"). But Merchant was here to discuss his solo comedy, "Hello Ladies," in which he plays a nerd trying to find love in Los Angeles, though the odds aren't in his favor.
The 6-foot-seven Merchant says it's difficult for him to fit into the same frame as Hollywood actors. He's always surprised by how short they are. Most, he says, are "pitifully small." "Hello Ladies" premieres on HBO Sept. 29.
--Despite the title, "Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight" isn't about the boxing legend's career in the ring. Instead, it's the story of how Ali's campaign to attain conscientious objector status during the Vietnam War went all the way to the Supreme Court. The film focuses on the justices' process, and the cast includes Christopher Plummer as John Harlan, Frank Langella as Chief Justice Warren Burger, Harris Yulin as William O. Douglas, Danny Glover as Thurgood Marshall and Ed Begley Jr,. as Harry Blackmun.
Stephen Frears ("The Queen") directs, from a script by Shawn Slovo ("A World Apart"). The film debuts on HBO Oct. 5.
--BBC America is busy. Matt Smith, the departing "Doctor Who," was on hand to talk about his farewell episode, and the series' 50th anniversary. He was joined by costar Jenna Coleman and producer Marcus Wilson. Wilson said the search for the next actor to play Doctor Who is continuing, and it's a matter of finding the right actor for the role. Which is about what you'd imagine, isn't it? The 50th anniversary special premieres Nov. 23 on BBC America.
Other shows in the BBC America pipeline: "Broadchurch," a drama about the investigation of a death of a young boy in a U.K. seaside town, which has been a big hit in Britain (debuting Aug. 7); and "Atlantis," a fanciful spin on Greek mythology, whose cast includes Mark Addy ("Game of Thrones") as, of all people, Hercules. It debuts in the fall.
--McDreamy's true dream: Patrick Dempsey, who plays Dr. Derek Shepherd on "Grey's Anatomy," talked about how racing is his passion, and about his new Velocity channel miniseries, "Patrick Dempsey: Racing LeMans." The show chronicles Stewart training to try and compete in the racing classic.
The contrast between Dempsey's tepid attitude about "Grey's Anatomy" -- and acting in general -- and his enthusiasm for racing was pronounced. "I'm grateful I have the gig," Dempsey said about 'Grey's Anatomy," but added that it doesn't compare to racing.
"Racing LeMans" debuts Aug. 28 on Velocity.
-- Kristi Turnquist
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