HAPPY 64TH BIRTHDAY TO SONS OF LEE MARVIN FOUNDER JIM JARMUSCH

Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank are quite familiar with the connection indie film director Jim Jarmusch has to the legacy of Lee Marvin. Jarmusch turns 64 today and in honor of his birthday, allow me to recount the tale.

Cult director and Sons of Lee Marvin founder, Jim Jarmusch

Jarmusch has been avoiding mainstream success for decades by making and occasionally appearing in his own indie films (Mystery Train, Down by Law, Stranger Than Paradise, Dead Man, Ghost Dog, etc). He’s also an avowed Lee Marvin fan, dying his hair white in tribute. Consequently, when I was still in the earliest stages of research of Lee Marvin Point Blank, I came across his tale, or at least his version of it, of how his ‘secret’ organization, The Sons of Lee Marvin, came into existence. I was standing in the middle of the Buena Park Public Library perusing back issues of Film Comment magazine. They used to have a semi-regular column called “Guilty Pleasures,” in which renowned filmmakers detail their love of movies they know are not very good but they love them anyway. I was not yet fully sold on committing myself to a Lee Marvin bio, but when I read Jim Jarmusch’s account of how The Sons of Lee Marvin came to be as part of his column, I was shushed for laughing out loud. It helped sell me on the idea of the book as in all my years of reading and researching films and stars I have never come across such an amazing tale! I was hooked.
In the interim, I was to discover (and later join), a shadow organization known as the BSOL. How they came to be introduced to the real son of Lee Marvin is also an intriguing exclusive of Lee Marvin Point Blank.

The main logo for The Bastard Sons of Lee.

A logo for the more accessible organization known as the BSOL, sometimes seen in Pasadena’s Doo-Dah Parade.

But I digress. The point here is that like all talented filmmakers, even fiercely independent ones, like birthday boy Jarmusch, has a knack for creating mythology. I was to discover how much of a mythology it is when I ultimately met and made friends with Christopher Marvin, Lee’s actual son. As Lee Marvin Point Blank readers know, Jarmusch’s tale of Chris Marvin and Tom Waits is, how shall I say it? As our current POTUS has coined it, an “alternative fact.” To know the truth, read Lee Marvin Point Blank. Until then, enjoy this page from my research binder in which Jarmusch himself recounts the tale in his Film Comment article. Happy birthday Mr. J. and keep the mythology growing! Enjoy……

The original FILM COMMENT article in which Jim Jarmusch explains the formation of the Sons of Lee Marvin.

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WHO COULD DIRECT A LEE MARVIN BIOPIC? PART I

A while back I raised the hypothetical of who could play Lee Marvin in a biopic based on my book, Lee Marvin Point Blank. Those previous posts can be found here, by the way: Part I and Part II. Since the response was so very positive, now I’d like to pose yet another hypothetical:  Which director, working today, has a style and vision that best suits the kind of film a Marvin biopic would be? I’d appreciate the thoughts of any reader interested in chiming in. As for myself, I have a couple of possibilties, a dirty dozen if you will of more than appropriate contenders. Truth be told, I do indeed have my favorites. So, the order, to avoid the appearance of favoritism, is strictly alphabetical…..

Guillermo Del Toro:

Director Guillermo Del Toro on the set of HELLBOY.

Director Guillermo Del Toro on the set of HELLBOY.

The Pan’s Labrynith director is on record in conversation with Robert Rodriguez as being a very big fan of Lee Marvin’s films. He told Rodriguez in a 2015 interview: “When I was a kid, my favorite movie, was a Lee Marvin movie. Lee Marvin, James Coburn, these were guys who were not handsome. They had real faces. Tough guys. One of my favorite movies was Emperor of the North [directed by] Robert Aldrich with Ernest Borgnine and Lee Marvin. The fight at the end with the axe and the chain, it’s an amzing movie. I want that on the screen. I’m not interested in young people’s movies.” As a visionary director, the imagery he could lend to a film about Marvin is indeed intriguing.

James Gunn:

Young upstart director, James Gunn.

Young upstart director, James Gunn.

The young upstart director of the surprise blockbuster, Guardians of the Galaxy has also stated his appreciation of Lee Marvin and that can only be a plus to what he might add to the mix. Okay, I admit I haven’t personally seen the film as I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the plethora of comic book-based movies that has infected the market of late. But, the fact that he had a surprise hit with the subject based mostly on his interpretation of the source material — at least from what I read, anyway — makes me optimisitc. The St. Louis native is a Troma Films alumni and didn’t make it into mainstream filmmaking until mainstream filmmaking became a little quirkier than it had been previously. Sort of like the way Lee Marvin didn’t become a leading man until the mid-sixites, when Hollywood morphed into the culture’s changing tastes. I like that.

Walter Hill:

Legendary action film director, Walter Hill.

Legendary action film director, Walter Hill.

This once prominent director (48 Hours, Streets of Fire, The Long Riders) and screenwriter (The Getaway, The Drowning Pool, Hickey & Boggs), might be considered less than up to the task as he is now in his 70s and has not had a mainstream hit in some time. I, however think otherwise. The director of Charles Bronson’s best vehicle, Hard Times, as well as several other gritty, muscular films, he’s on record as stating Point Blank was an inspiration for him in terms of its spare style and writing. Heavily influenced by European and Asian action films, Hill has said recently, “I hadn’t had a good-sized hit in quite a while. And, frankly, I went through a couple of experiences that left me pretty disgusted with it all, and I was thinking the time had passed. I was just sitting at home reading magazines and looking out the window….” A Lee Marvin biopic might be just the tonic.

Ron Howard:

Oscar winning director and former actor Ron Howard (left) as he appeared in an ad for Monte Walsh starring Lee Marvin (right).

Oscar winning director and former actor Ron Howard (left) as he appeared in an ad for Monte Walsh starring Lee Marvin (right).

We all know the Oscar-winning director started out as an actor — from The Andy Griffith Show to Happy Days — but do you know his connection to Lee Marvin? He costarred with him in the 1974 film, Spikes Gang, along with Gary Grimes and Charlie Martin Smith as Marvin’s young gang of neophyte bank robbers. Even more impressive, Howard, a gifted storyteller when it comes to film making, is on record as stating that Lee Marvin’s The Dirty Dozen turned him into a huge movie fan: “It was perfect. I was twelve, thirteen years old; going through puberty. Here was this totally macho rock ’em-sock ’em, heroic action movie — one of the best ‘mission’ movies ever made,…Everything about it, top to bottom, was cool. And it turned me on to the movies. In a lot of ways, it made me want to go to the movies every single week to try and have the kind of experience that would just take you away.” As far as I’m concerned, such enthusiasm can only enhance a Lee Marvin biopic.

Jim Jarmusch:

Sons of Lee Marvin founder and stubbornly independent film maker, Jim Jarmusch.

Sons of Lee Marvin founder and stubbornly independent film maker, Jim Jarmusch.

The mastermind behind the Sons of Lee Marvin, director Jim Jarmusch has not been shy about his admiration for Marvin. Granted, the organization he founded with fellow Marvin fans Tom Waits, Nick Cave, etc. may be more fictional than fact (Readers of Lee Marvin Point Blank no what I mean), but the admiration is undeniabe. As a filmmaker his work seems to drag at times, but a subject such as Marvin’s life & times may possibly change that. His New York underground ‘indie’ roots are still on display in his work but who knows? That may be a good thing. Ether way. he is defintely in the running.

Christopher Nolan:

Stylized Britsh director of American action films, Chrstopher Nolan.

Stylized Britsh director of American action films, Chrstopher Nolan.

Best known for resurrecting the Batman franchise with Christian Bale, this British filmmaker has also made some wonderfully intense and thoughtful thrillers, such as Memento and Insomnia that are head and shoulders above the Batman films. Although I grew up loving the original DC Comic (Jim Aparo & Neal Adams’ renderings being my favorites) I for one am not a fan of the rebooted franchise(s). I think Bale and many others were miscast . Nolan’s direction of the action scenes are so muddled that it’s almost impossible to keep track of who is pounding who. My thinking is that Nolan’s take on a Marvin biopic would be (hopefully) less like Batman and more like Insomnia.

In Part II the possibilites are continued with some less the obvious surprises. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

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BIOPIC: WHO COULD PLAY (OLDER) LEE MARVIN? PART II

BIOPIC

Okay, gang, here’s Part II of Who Could Play Lee Marvin, but this time around, the discussion concerns older actors who would play the older, more well-known Lee Marvin. Of course, it’s purely conjecture but it’s interesting to note that in the section in Lee Marvin Point Blank in which I consider some of the films Lee might have made, several of these actors do indeed pop up.

One in particular, who would have my vote if he were not 68 years old is the great Tommy Lee Jones. Alas, age has taken its toll on the wizened Oscar-winner, but there are other possibilities.
What must be kept in mind is not only the Marvin look, but the fact that Marvin was 6 foot, 3 inches, posessor of an amazing and resonant voice and one of the most original screen presences ever. Several more enligthened folks than myself have said that for these reasons NOBODY could play Marvin and perhaps they’re right. However, it’s fun to consider the possibilites as seen below….

Lee Marvin, in his prime, as a reference point...

Lee Marvin, in his prime, as a reference point…

To begin with (and again, this list of possible actors for a biopic is strictly alphabetical),

Australian-born rock singer, Nick Cave

Australian-born rock singer, Nick Cave

My personal choice, actor Thomas Haden Church

My personal choice, actor Thomas Haden Church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Sons of Lee Marvin” charter member Nick Cave (there are several others on this list) is an Australian-born rock singer and Bad Seeds front man who is also 6’2″ and is currently 57 years old. The resemblance is striking but other than a few indie films he hasn’t done much acting…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My own personal choice, as well as that of my girlfriend, is actor Thomas Haden Church. Oscar-nominated for his role in Alexander Payne’s Sideways (2004), Church is a well-known character actor and fan favorite ever since his supporting role on the NBC sitcom “Wings.” He’s the youngest actor on this list at 55-years-old and stands 6 foot even. He also posesses a deep, resonant voice and his resemblance is striking.

Cult director and Sons of Lee Marvin founder, Jim Jarmusch

Cult director and Sons of Lee Marvin founder, Jim Jarmusch

 

 

 

 

Film director Jim Jarmusch may be one of the world’s biggest Lee Marvin’s fans. As the founder of the mysterious organization “The Sons of Lee Marvin” he keeps the flame alive with his fellow brethren and even bleached his hair white to maintain the resemeblance. According to Lee Marvin’s actual son, the late Christopher Marvin, much of what Jarmusch expounds on the secret group is more mythology than fact but it does keep the great man’s name out there. Besides his white hair, Jarmusch is also, like Lee, six foot, two inches tall. I wonder how he did that?

 

In 2011 playwright Nick Zagone mounted a production of his original play entitled, “Lee Marvin By They Name” in the city of Modesto, Calif. Veteran actor Jack Souza — who’s hieght and age eludes me — remains so far the only actor to acutally play Lee Marvin in a dramatic production, hence his inclusion here. Wish I could have seen it as the play itself, as graciously submitted to me by Zagone, is actually pretty good.

Regional actor Jack Souza shown in character as Lee in Nick Zagone's play "Lee Marvin Be Thy Name"

Regional actor Jack Souza shown in character as Lee in Nick Zagone’s play “Lee Marvin Be Thy Name”

Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton

Oscar winner Billy Bob Thornton

 

 

 

 

A long time ago, I casually asked Lee Marvin’s first wife, Betty who she thinks could play Lee Marvin in a film. Her answer took me by surprise as it was none other than Billy Bob Thornton. She knew Marvin as well or better than anybody so I deign to her knowledge and experience in casting her vote for 59-year-old, five-foote-nine inch Thornton but for myself, I just don’t see it.

 

 

And then there’s singer/actor Tom Waits, also a charter member of The Sons of Lee Marvin. His run-in with Christopher Marvin is documented for the first time in Lee Marvin: Point Blank and it’s a version that makes more sense than Jim Jarmusch’s since Christopher played drums on Waits’ album, Mule Variations. Unfortunately, the six foot tall Waits is already 65-years-old and that famous whiskey rasp could never do justice…..

Singer/Actor Tom Waits

Singer/Actor Tom Waits

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two last minute additions I completely forgot about and was recently reminded of AFTER posting this blog that absolutely MUST be considered and included. Thank you, Barbara and Claudia….

J.K. Simmons

J.K. Simmons

 

Bryan Cranston

Bryan Cranston

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