Thursday, July 26, 2018

THE MAGIC OF MILOS, by Judith Resell

“He had a magical way with actors,” Courtney Love recalls of Milos Forman, her director in The People Vs. Larry Flynt. “I didn’t have a lot of experience. I would miss my marks, step on Woody’s lines. But Milos went out of his way to cast people who were the character.” Love’s incredible performance as Larry Flynt’s wife Althea is ample proof of Forman’s casting judgment.

Courtney Love appeared following a screening of the film at the Aero Theater on June 30, 2018, along with the screenwriting team of Larry Karazewski and Scott Alexander. The program was one in a series of events paying tribute to Milos Forman.

Photo by Mario Jennings

The screenwriters recall that the movie was made by the same studio that Frank Capra called home (Columbia Pictures). “Can you imagine having to make a Frank Capra romance set in the world of pornography?” they laughingly comment. But the film is, in fact, a moving and beautiful love story of Larry and Althea as well as a hilarious and ultimately profound narrative of Larry’s court appearances, jail sentences, and surviving an assassination attempt in his fight for his freedom of speech under the First Amendment. As Larry Flynt would say, “even a pervert can fall in love.”

Karazewski and Alexander sold the story on a pitch. When the producer asked who they would choose to direct the script, they immediately said “Milos Forman.” Only Forman, they felt, could do films with really funny and really serious mixed together so effectively; he was a master of hybrid tones.

Larry Flynt himself was great to work with, as he could see himself as a character in a story. The screenwriters would get stuck with a plot point and Larry would wave his hand and say “It would work better if you used the countersuit for copyright infringement here” and the problem would be solved.

“We rehearsed so much,” comments Love. “Especially some of the key scenes with Woody.” (Woody Harrelson plays Larry Flynt in the picture). “Woody is one of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met.”

Photo by Mario Jennings
Love says she worked hard to capture the essence of her character. She wanted to show the strength of people in this media - the real, raunchy, and funny rock star women. Love is intimately familiar with that world: she was the lead singer for the band Hole and wife of Kurt Cobain.

Forman gave her two conditions for the part: know your lines, and don’t do drugs. “We shook on it,” she commented. The performance speaks for itself. Forman tapped Love a second time for the role of Andy Kaufman’s wife in Man on the Moon (1999), which also screened at the Aero as part of the series.

The O.J. Simpson trial was ongoing during the shoot for the film. Milos actually cast from the O.J. trial - judges, lawyers, etc. Larry Flynt himself famously plays a judge in the movie.

Karazewski concludes that, of all the films he’s worked on, The People Vs. Larry Flynt is the one that felt the best emotionally. "There was a liking among us all, a bonding into a group. Everyone felt good about what we were doing - very proud of it."

Judith Resell is a volunteer for the American Cinematheque.