It was in the summer of 1981 that I first started reading about genres and filmmakers outside kids films and scifi/fantasy movies, even though it would be some years before I actually watched some of these pictures. Now in 2012, I have found an interesting (though rather thin and far-fetched) thread that links together 3 of the most talked about film personalities of 1981.
One of the films making a buzz that summer was The French Lieutenant’s Woman. Besides getting Meryl Streep her 3rd Oscar nomination, it was the first major starring role for 32-year-old British actor Jeremy Irons. A few months later, he hit TV screens playing Charles Ryder in the TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. He was nominated for a BAFTA for both performances and thus, a major character actor was born, whose gravelly voice and precisely accented delivery I have never tired of listening to.
Around the same time, audiences’ jaws were dropping while watching the special effects in An American Werewolf in London directed by John Landis. Mr. Landis was already famous for directing the quintessential American frat boy comedy Animal House in 1978 followed by the musical-comedy The Blues Brothers in 1980. But this foray into horror-comedy broke new ground in the field of horror make-up and eventually got John Landis the job of directing the video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller two years later. I remember seeing pictures in magazines and wondering if I would ever have the courage to watch this movie; in fact, I have yet to watch the movie though of course, I have seen numerous clips of the legendary werewolf transformation scenes.
Also in the summer of 1981, a veteran director/ comedian/ actor/ producer was releasing what would be among the last of his successful movies – History of the World, Part I. Through the late ‘60s and ‘70s Mel Brooks had audiences in splits with the TV series Get Smart and comedy classics like The Producers, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein which were both critical and commercial successes. When adjusted for inflation, the US grosses for Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein would be $502 million and $362 million respectively, putting them in the same league as the Harry Potter and superhero films of today. Young Frankenstein remains one of my favourite comedy films to this day.
What does all this have to do with the title of this post, “The 3 Maxes”? Well, by sheer coincidence, these three gentlemen all have sons named Max and all 3 ‘boys’ have started making quite a name for themselves in the entertainment business today.
The least established of the trio is Maximilian Paul Diarmuid Irons (27) who has overcome childhood dyslexia and associated difficulties in reading scripts to become one of the buzzed about new faces in Hollywood. He landed a lead role in 2011’s horror film Red Riding Hood and has a potential breakthrough role playing Jared Howe in next summer’s scifi-romance The Host. This adaptation of Twilight writer Stephanie Meyers’ 2008 novel will have her fans out in droves and is a guaranteed hit. Young Max follows this up playing Antonio Vivaldi in the biopic of the Italian composer-violinist.
Max Landis (27) started writing stories as a 16-year-old and sold his first script by the age of 18. In 2011, he got a lot of fanboy buzz for directing the 17-minute ‘commentary/parody’ short film The Death and Return of Superman. A year later, everyone in Hollywood was paying attention to his story and screenplay credits on the found-footage scifi film Chronicle. He is now officially on Hollywood’s screenwriter buzz list and like his father, is likely to have a successful career writing and directing films across multiple genres.
The oldest Max is Maximilian Michael Brooks (40), who rose to fame in 2003 with the release of The Zombie Survival Guide, a supposedly non-fiction publication describing zombie outbreaks dating back through history, along with detailed tips and techniques on how to survive a zombie attack. Then in 2006, he released the highly acclaimed World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, which is being released as a Brad Pitt summer tentpole film next year. He has also co-written a story called The Great Wall which puts a zombie spin on the construction of one section of the Great Wall of China. The story is going into film production next year and will be Henry Cavill’s next movie after playing Superman in Man of Steel. Although he started his career as a writer for Saturday Night Live, clearly Max Brooks has chosen to make a niche for himself in the world of zombies and it will be interesting to see if he ever branches out into any other genre.
Clearly, something about the name Max is clicking in Hollywood right now, so I guess I should be keeping my eyes open for emerging stars named Max!