Reading between the Klines
Whether it is a musical, comedy or drama, Kevin Kline
is equally at home.
By Chris Betros
When you are a good singer, it's not easy to sing
badly. That's what Kevin Kline had to do in De-Lovely,
a musical biopic about legendary songwriter Cole Porter (1892-1964).
"He wasn't a very good singer, so I had to drop
down a bit," said Kline who sang live during filming
rather than lip-synching, which is the norm in musicals. "I
don't really think of myself as a singer, though. I'm
an actor who sings when he has to."
Kline, who studied music for two years at New York's
famous Juilliard School, has distinguished himself on the
stage as well as in comedy and dramatic roles on the screen
for the past 25 years in films such as The Big Chill, A Fish
Called Wanda (for which he won an Oscar), Chaplin (as Douglas
Fairbanks), The Wild, Wild West (which he'd rather
forget), and The Emperor's Club. Remarkably, this is
the 57-year-old star's his first visit to Japan. "They
never asked me to come before," he said with a shrug.
De-Lovely is one of Kline's more ambitious projects.
Directed by Irwin Winkler, it focuses on Porter's complex
sexuality as much as the great composer himself. Unlike the
1946 Cary Grant film Night and Day that glossed over Porter's
homosexuality, De-Lovely tackles it head-on. "I don't
think he thought it was much of a big deal. It's a
unique love story, one in which sex is taken out of the equation,"
Kline said of the composer's relationship with his
wife Linda (played by Ashley Judd).
Kline said he prepared for seven months, practicing the piano
so he didn't have to look at his hands when he played.
Then he had to try and get inside the head of Porter, considered
one of the holy trinity of 20th-century American composers
along with Irving Berlin and George Gershwin.
"Porter was a very social man, but also a very private
one," said Kline. "There is not a lot of TV
footage of him, apart from some appearances on the Ed Sullivan
Show, so I studied a lot of photos. I didn't want to
impersonate him, but rather capture his spirit and somehow
make it my own characterization." To appeal to contemporary
audiences, Winkler enlisted Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Alanis
Morissette, Natalie Cole and Robbie Williams to perform some
songs. "They did a great job," said Kline. "They
embraced the essence of Porter's style with a fresh
De-Lovely is Kline's third drama in a row, but he hasn't
given up comedy. "Growing older hasn't made
me less funny," said the actor who has just finished
a remake of The Pink Panther (with Steve Martin as Inspector
Clouseau). "You'll let me know if I'm
too serious, won't you?"
Photo credit: Chris Betros
Levis Red Ribbon Night
Denim fashion brand enlists youth music stars at WOMB to
promote AIDS awareness in Shibuya
|Clockwise from top left:
Levis staff on stage with Sora3000 (R) and a representative
of the Japanese Foundation for AIDS Prevention (L), Message
boards encouraging AIDS awareness, Rapper Miss Monday
, Sora3000; Sphere of Influence
Photos courtesy of Levis
|Photo credit: Mayumi
An animation director on Howl's Moving Castle, the
latest release from Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Ghibli,
Akihiko Yamashita has been working on anime since the early
80s. Yamashita also worked on Spirited Away, which won Miyazaki
the Best Animated Feature Film Oscar in 2003.
Why did you become a film animator?
When I first saw Hayao Miyazaki's Castle of Cagliostro,
I was only a high school student, but it had a profound influence
on me. I think it's the best animation ever, and it's
probably the biggest reason why I became an animator. The
fact that Miyazaki made it when he was my age made me a bit
What's your relationship with Miyazaki like?
He is like a father, a very strict father. He teaches me-everyone-about
What was it like making Howl's Moving Castle?
My body was in pain from being glued to the desk from morning
till late at night. But when it was finished and I saw it
for the first time with music, I cried. The music is amazingly
Did you get any days off after Howl was finished?
Yes. Lots! I went to Italy with my wife for eight days. I
hadn't taken more than three days off straight in the
last five years, so it was very relaxing.
What's your favorite movie?
The Seven Samurai. Takashi Shimura is the best actor ever.
He doesn't look he is acting. I don't think
any Japanese actors can act like that any more. As for foreign
films, I like The Poseidon Adventure. When I was a kid, my
parents didn't let me stay up to watch it so I snuck
a peek at the TV from my bedroom door. I was so touched that
I cried. About 20 years later, I watched it again and amazingly
I was even more touched.
What are you working on now?
I'm making three short animated films to be showed
at the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.
Which Ghibli character is most like you?
Kodama, the forest spirit in Princess Mononoke
Which animation do you watch the most?
Tom and Jerry
Read our review of Howl's
Moving Castle. MH
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