CNN Showbiz


Actors get to improvise until 'Blue in the Face'

October 20, 1995
Web posted at: 10 p.m. EDT

Sherry Dean From Correspondent Sherry Dean

NEW YORK (CNN) -- "It's a dinky little nothing neighborhood store. But everybody comes in here." (55K AIFF sound or 55K WAV sound) When Harvey Keitel says everybody comes to the Brooklyn Cigar Company, he means everybody who's anybody.

Stars like Madonna, Michael J. Fox, Roseanne and Lily Tomlin, who plays a man, grace the "dinky" den of smoke, spouting lines from the top of their heads. They're all a part of the new unscripted, fully improvised film "Blue in the Face."

Keitel explains this unusual process of filmmaking. "To create characters, one must build background. And one of the tools we use is improvisation."

And the tools work well. The high-profile cast, thrown up against the backdrop of a dingy New York corner store, put the fire in "Blue in the Face." The film is a sequel to the "Smoke," also starring Keitel and set in the same cigar store.

Mel Gorham Actress Mel Gorham says the process used to create the sequel was unusual, to say the least. "What is an instant film? It's six days. No script. A bunch of great actors together. The cameras rolling and the director says, 'Just go.' It's an instant script."

Co-directors Wayne Wang and Paul Auster created the characters and set up the situations for the improvisations.

Mira Sorvino For example, Mira Sorvino was told to play a liberal-minded yuppie whose bag is stolen outside the cigar shop. "There was a sort of diagram," Sorvino says. Wang and Auster gave her a rough idea of how to get the bag back, but left the rest of the scene up for grabs. "Everything else that was said was really stuff that came out of our own heads," the actress says.

The difference between "Smoke" and "Blue in the Face" is that they are two sides of the same coin, says Auster, who wrote the first film. "'Smoke' is a scripted film. It's a very literary film, a very serious work of art," Auster says. "'Blue in the Face' is a romp. It's kind of a modern-day vaudeville."

crowd Madonna backs up that observation quite well as she bumps and grinds while delivering a singing telegram in the film.

All of the actors involved in "Blue in the Face" worked for scale. Most of them were just happy to be given the freedom to create their own lines.


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