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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Connery's take on life in the movies

Ten things I learned while talking with Sean Connery:

1. In his new movie, "Finding Forrester," Connery plays a reclusive writer who is drawn out of hibernation by a bright black kid. The veteran actor, who just turned 70, read a first draft of the script and not only committed to the project but agreed to co-produce it. That despite the fact that the screenwriter, Mike Rich, had never made a movie sale before; he wrote it while working as a newsman for a Portland, Oregon radio station.

2. It's basically a two-character movie involving a great novelist and a teenager named Jamal who hides his academic ability by pretending to be more interested in basketball. Connery's co-star, 16-year-old Rob Brown, had never acted in a movie before, and this was a big role in basically a two-person story. "I did a test and it was obvious that the boy was really something and his instincts were all right. It's pretty rare, you know, to get that. In terms of learning, he was wide open and he's very smart; straight A's in his subjects and everything; he's still in school. He's only turned 16. And listens, works, works. He never disappointed me any way along the line."


3. "We did it all step-by-step in an old-fashioned professional way--get the jokes right and the characters right and you get as much humor and what have you--and rehearsed for two weeks in Canada, and then finished dead on time."

4. On the character of Forrester: "I went for the mix of J. D. Salinger and William Burroughs as I imagined them. 'Finding Forrester' as a title really means you do find Forrester, and he finds himself in a way, and the real key to it is the boy."

5. "I like going mostly on instinct in choosing roles. I choose what I would like to see, and 50 or 60 percent of the time I'm satisfied with how it goes. 'Red October' is one thing and 'Robin and Marion' is another. 'Finding Forrester' is very compact, intense--an emotional movie. It's about friendship. 'The Man Who Would Be King' is the only other film I've done that touched on the subject of friendship. Friendship is not first in the queue of movie commodities and has to be firmly dealt with to get the real message across. Forrester and Jamal are two of the most unlikely people to end up across the table typing together. But everybody who's seen it has been emotionally caught by the story."

6. "I think my most overlooked picture was 'Family Business' (1989). I've never been able to work out why it had absolutely no curiosity value. I don't know anybody who went to see it. I know the mistake of the film but I liked the idea. The character I played, the father of Dustin [Hoffman], the grandfather of Matthew Broderick, dies in a hospital and of course I had the solution but it was too late: He should have come to his own funeral, explaining he wasn't dead because he had switched cars. That would have solved it. But I still don't understand why there wasn't any measure of curiosity about that picture."

7. "With James Bond, people are sure there's gonna be a bit of sex, a bit of fun, a bit of action, a bit of drama and it's gonna be a bit of a joyride. My personal choice is 'From Russia With Love' because that's got all the glamour and the locations and the twists and the humor and rather good storytelling, and places like Istanbul. The Bond pictures will continue on, I suppose."

8. The key to the whole Bond series came from Terence Young, who directed "Dr. No" and "From Russia With Love," the first two, as well as "Thunderball," and added the consistent note of droll humor.


9. At 70 Connery is still considered one of the sexiest men alive, and recently played a romantic lead opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones. What's the secret of still playing in that league, I ask, and he grins: "Have good hairpieces. But also one of the things is that I started quite early going without hairpieces, in 'Robin and Marion' and in films like that and although Robin was mentally 12, the sense of playing that kind of hero changed all the boundaries and limitations. As for baldness, they're all shaving their heads now. My wife says in the Japanese warrior movies, they shave the head out of a gesture of respect for age."

10. "It's not a teenager's movie--but it might be, you know. And there must be quite a sea of black audiences who'd be interested in seeing somebody who is a rather marvelous character like that boy."

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