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The Black Dahlia


I wanna talk about The Black Dahlia, by Brian De Palma, based on the Ellroy book, and with Scarlett Johansson, Mark Wahlberg, Josh Hartnett, and Hilary Swank.

here are some imbd’s informations :

The Black Dahlia (2005)


Writing credits (in alphabetical order)ÂÂ

James Ellroy  novel

Josh Friedman  screenplay

Cast (in credits order)ÂÂ

Josh Hartnett … Bucky Bleichert

Scarlett Johansson … Kay Lake

rest of cast listed alphabetically

Hilary Swank … Madeleine Sprague

Production Notes/Status:

Status: Pre-production

Comments: Starts Shooting on or about March 15, 2005

Status Updated: 16 October 2004

I personally love the book of Ellroy, it was excellent, one, of maybe my, fav book.

The project was originally on the hands of David Fincher, who wrote a script of 200 pages. But was remplaced with no public reasons when De Palma announced that he was interested by the project. I think Fincher could have been excellent, and he was very involved on this project. So if someone has mor einformations about this…

When I heard that Scarlett Johansson was on the project, I thought that she will be a great actress for the role, Hilary Swank can be good too. But I think that Josh Hartnett isn’t the better choice, and neither does Mark Wahlberg. First, Hartnett is too handsome for the role (Bleichert isn’t that handsome and has sharks teeths). Second, Wahlberg isn’t enough muscular (he is, but not enough for the role, I think). So I hope that Hartnett will have the famous sharks teeths of Bleichert, and that Wahlberg will have more muscles to be just like the big Lee Blanchard.

So I hope that somes will post pictures, news, and so on, as soon as you can !

sounds promising, although i am not a de palma fan

Have you already heard about it before you read this topic ? Because maybe it would explain why I have so few answers… :-</E> You know, it sounds, yes, like a pretty cool movie. De Palma can do it good, I’m not a fan, I love his work when he was young, but less now…


 Three years after my first meeting with Brian De Palma, I’ve been to Sofia, Bulgaria, the last 18th may, for observing the making of the new Brian De Palma film.

 Needless to say that I was so excited because of meeting again the person who is, for years, my favorite film-director, and especially on the set of his new movie, The Black Dahlia.

  [I’ll tell the less as possible about the scenes that I observed, I don’t want to waste the pleasure that will have the audience. No pictures of the actors  because of the image rights of course, and the places where the movie is still shooting will be keeping secret]

 During these six surreal days, I realized that lots of shots, of sequences will make happy the De Palma fans. Thanks to the production coordinator, Maggie, I have all the informations about the Black Dahlia (casting, crew, notes, even the screenplay by Josh Friedman!)

 Thursday 19th may

 I came the first day on the set, in the middle of the Los Angeles from 1947 - fabulous works of Dante Ferretti! Sue, the script supervisor, has the kindness to introduce me to the whole crew (the crew is international, there were americans, tcheques, italians, bulgarians, french…). I meet again Brian, we shaked hands and don’t speak a lot - he’s very busy. I meet Brian’s AD, somebody who’s really wonderful - her patience and her kindness helped me a lot during my trip. She’s one of the best person I’ve ever met. I meet Josh Hartnett, who’s playing Bucky, the main character of James Ellroy’s novel. We talked about my website, about his character, other De Palma movies(he likes very much Travolta’s character in Blow Out), and the famous works of Ferretti. I discovered somebody who’s really smart, very friendly, obviously in the skin of his character (he had to play it three years ago, when David Fincher had to make the film, but the project broke down)…

 I meet Steve Eastin, who played a detective - a wonderful person whose I talked about The Black Dahlia, or Polanski’s Chinatown… I found he have an incredible voice and I saw him played, he was so great! I’ve also seen Mike Starr - he played Russ Millard, and he’s fantastic! So very very nice casting. I discovered that Brian is somebody who like to work with three cameras for a same scene. What I saw on the monitors was simply fan-tas-tic! I knew that some of the scenes has already been shot before, but they had many problems at three times with the negatives in bulgarian labos, so they had to shot again the same scenes.

  Shaking hands with the crew, I realized that they are very nice people, very friendly, but also interressed by their work. Not only Vilmos Zsigmond, the director of the photography, who has already worked with Brian -he was really pleasant, and full of humour- but also Rolf, the Danish who’s the set potographer, people like Alexandre the clapman, the “props girl”, all the ADs, the 1rst ass director, Jean-Paul and Sam from the sound department (both have already worked with Brian for Femme Fatale), also the Aaron Eckhart’s and Josh’s AD, and David Varod, and Dante Ferretti, etc. I hope that those that I forget will pardon me. Anyway, it’s a wonderful crew, and one of the best that De Palma have ever have - they’re making their best for making a great esthetic film.

  Friday 20th

 The day after, they’re shooting by night, in interior this time, always in an incredible set, for a spectacular scene (this shooting of this scene took a long time - four days). For a De Palma fan that I am, I had a wonderful meeting: I shaked hands with William Finley! The man is very friendly, very nice, and I talked with him a lot - not only about Black Dahlia or Phantom of the Paradise for exemple, but also about everything. I saw him alone, talking with Brian, both of them sitted on Black Dahlia’s chairs during that the crew preparing the next scene, and Sam told me: “Hey, there’s a shot to make!” I came to Brian and William and asked them if I could take a picture… and they said “yes!” Now, thirty years after Phantom of the Paradise, I’ve got the picture of Brian with William both back on a movie set…

  Saturday 21st

 On the third day, no shooting. I went to a party with some members of the crew, and I’ve seen that they were really cool.

  Sunday 22nd

 On the fourth day (or “on the fourth night”), the shooting with Finley and Eckhart continues, and I was so happy to see again William and talked with him. I never had the time to talk with Eckhart unfortunaly, just shaked hands with him on the last day of my trip. Brian was surprised that I haven’t put my repports on my website, I explained him that I haven’t the Internet in my hotel room, he answered that “the whole world have to know how is it on the set, and Geoff have to know”, which was true… Unfortunaly, the time was also a reason, so I’ve put this section when I was back in France.

 Monday 23rd

 On the fifth night of shooting, it was always the same spectacular scene, this time with Josh Hartnett. I meet Bill Pankow who is the editor for this movie, and he has already edited lots of De Palma films. It’s a  news! I talked a little with Brian, explained him why I’ve created a website, told that I discovred his terrific visual style with Carrie, and that Body Double is my favorite movie of all-times. By the way, it was Sue’s birthday, and I’ve also made an interview with Brian about the Black Dahlia for my website!

  Tuesday 24th

 Last time that I’ve been on the set, in another place this time (and what a place!). I shaked hands with Bill Pancow who is the editor of the movie… I had to take my plane to Paris during the morning, after the shooting. At the end of the night, I shaked hands with Brian, said bye, thanked him, took my stuff and went to the airport… I didn’t have the time to say “bye” to everybody, like Alex the clapman, who’ll pardon me I hope…

Interview with Brian de Palma

Sofia, Bulgaria, 23th may 2005

 Romain Desbiens: The Black Dahlia is an adaptation from a James Ellroy novel. There’s in the story your favorite themes: there’s suspense -'cause it’s a thriller-, the idea of a main character who’s becoming focused on his investigations, AND of course the topic of the double. That’s good for you! How have you been engaged on this project?

 Brian De Palma: Basically, it came because of Art Linson, who had worked with Fincher before on Fight Club, and this was a project that Fincher was going to do. But they could never get a script for it. They developed it for years and years and years… and it just was not getting any better. Art was sort of convinced that Fincher wasn’t going to make the movie, so they finally were able to say, “Are you going to make this or not?” And Fincher said, “Well, it’s not ready.” So they said, “Well, we’re going to have to go to another director.” And that’s when they brought the project to me. I’d read the novel in the mid nineties and thought it was fantastic, but very difficult to adapt into a motion picture, because of the many complex plot twists and turns.

  RD: I like very much the credibility that Ellroy brings to his story. Of course it’s based upon real facts, but first it’s a novel. I like the fact that there’s no weak zone, the kind of weakness that sometimes an author tries to hide by the elegance of his style when his story is badly built. In one way, it’s almost ready to be a movie, even if it’s a book and it’s too long for being a movie as it is… Did you made a lot of changes?

 BdP: You have to simplify the material. It’s very complex as it is, and Ellroy has many subplots that got away from the main story, which is basically between Bucky and Lee and Kay, in between them. And then you have the whole, you know, corrupt Sprague family that is involved in the murder of the Black Dahlia. Then, of course, you have the whole Black Dahlia story and why she has been so memorable and why we keep thinking about her. My theory about the Black Dahlia -and something I tried to get into the screenplay- is that it’s the way the pictures were taken at the death site, in which she was so horribly carved up and displayed: Those are pictures that when you see them, you never get that image out of your mind. How this sort of would-be actress, struggling on the fringe of show business, ended up like this.

  RD: I think you’re very gifted to find the right persons to play in your films, you prooved it by the past. How did you choice the actors in this film? You choose the actors?

 BdP: Oh yes… Josh (Hartnett) had been involved with it when Fincher wanted to do it. Art thought that Josh was very good for the role and I met with Josh and I agreed with Art. The rest of them, we basically decided upon and we’re very fortunate to get. These are the best young actors around. I mean, you know, Scarlett (Johansson) and Hilary (Swank). I’ve known these ladies for many years. So it was a combination of thinking they were right for the parts and they wanting to play this particular role with me directing that sort of made it all come together. We were very fortunate, even down to Mia Kirshner who plays the black dahlia, who had come in to read for Madeleine. I liked her quite a lot, but then when Hilary became involved, and I’ve known Hillary for many years and I’ve always wanted her to play, you know, the sexy woman that she is. And she’s never done it, so she took it as a great opportunity to do that.

 RD: In the novel, the character of Madeleine is very close to Betty Short. I was surprised that you were not going to have the same actress to play both roles.

 BdP: Well, the problem with that is that you’re dealing with a real person, and it’s the interesting mixture of the real story juxtaposed against the fictional story, so I think you have to separate them. I don’t think you can have an actress playing both characters – the fictional one and a real one. And I was, as I said, very lucky to get Mia to play the black dahlia. It wasn’t a very big part, but we developed it into a bigger part, because I wanted to give the black dahlia character and substance so that you got involved with her tragedy.


RD: I said that you’re very gifted to chose the right actors, even for the crew: I spoke a little with them, they are very nice, and they are very professionnal. They know what they have to do.

BdP: This is an odd situation, because… No one wanted to finance this movie because it’s so bizarre, and it’s so dark. That’s why it’s been around for years and years… So we were able to raise the money internationally, but the deals kept on falling through, because it was a very expensive movie. It was in the 40-45 million dollar bracket, and that’s expensive for a foreign movie that’s financed completely without an American distributor. But we kept at it, and the movie fell apart many times. We’d have the financing and then something would happen, and we’d lose the financing. So we’d stop and start and stop and start and stop and start. Ultimately, we were able to get enough people together to finance the movie, but the kind of people we got together are basically people that wanted a kind of classy movie, who usually produce kind of grade-B, you know, exploitation pictures. But this is their chance to sort of step up and get in the big leagues, so they of course wanted us to work with them. The problem is that we attract very high-level talents. We have Dante Ferretti and Vilmos Zsigmond, Jenny Beavan. All the people in the key departments are like, you know, the best there are working in the business. And they come to the project because of the material, and because I’m directing it. The problem is, they’re working in a whole structure that is basically not used to this level of excellence in terms of the way things look, the way people are dressed… everything having to do with the visual aspects of the movie. So consequently, you have this… you know, I walk in one day, and I look at the hair of the stunt man, and it’s dark. And I say, “Well, that’s supposed to be Aaron’s hair.â€? You know, “He’s blonde. When you throw a stunt man over, you’re usually shooting the back of his head, because you can’t shoot his face, and the guy that you got to play the stunt person is black-haired, and you haven’t figured out a way to make him a blonde?â€? I mean, these are the kinds of things that [to us] are like the ABCs of making movies, and things like this happen all the time. When you blow up something, like a vase or a chandelier, and then you say, “Well, let’s do another take,â€? and they say, “Well, we only had one.â€? And you go, “You think we only do one take when we do this? We usually do five, or maybe ten!â€? And there’re all these ways of trying to save money, which ultimately costs them a lot more money. So you have this battle going on all the time, between these kind of A-level professionals, and this basically kind of low-budget group that’s not used to dealing at this level. We really care the way everything’s done. So that’s been a bit of a struggle, and needless to say, there’s been a lot of, shall we say, shouting occasionally.

RD: I learned that you chose James Horner for the music?

BdP: Yes.

RD: It’s a surprising choice because you’ve never worked with him before. Why did you chose him?

BdP: Because he’s one of the best composers around in Hollywood today. I read on my Web site how everybody is horrified that I’m using James Horner. This guy has written some great scores!

RD: He made the score of Aliens (James Cameron), also that one for a movie with Robert Redford called Sneakers…

BdP: Sneakers! Of course… I’ve used a lot of his scores to temp track my movies, and I’ve always wanted to work with him. He has never really done a kind of dark, moody movie like this. So he was excited very to do it and he was very excited to work with me because, of course, I employ composers in a way in which you hear their music.

RD: Most of your fans were maybe expecting somebody like Ennio Morricone because of his work for The Untouchables…

BdP: Yes, but I’m always looking to work with new composers, and it’s very exciting for me to finally get a movie that he wants to do of mine.

RD: I look at the monitors, and I saw that it’s very “expressionnist”.

BdP: That’s just your style. I mean I’ve worked with Vilmos on many, many movies. And, you know, you have a certain way of shooting movies and a certain way of lighting them. That becomes your style as a director. I’m very conscious of the way things look and where the camera is, and that’s what you notice in my movies. So it’s a combination of those things that makes those sort of images jump out of the screen.

RD: I’m always shocked when I read some press, some people who destructs your movies. And just before the shooting of The Black Dahlia, there’s was an article by a columnist from FowNews…

BdP: Oh, yeah, yeah yeah. Right. Underaged girls…

RD: Yes. (laughs) How do you react when you see that kind of things? (*)

(*NOTE: A FoxNews columnist made a stupid controversy about lesbian scenes

with a 13 years old girl - this story was quickly contradicted,

but it showed that american leader-writers are always trying to set De Palma in fire)

BdP: Oh, I’m so used to it. I’ve lived with it for years, and it doesn’t… it’s ridiculous. And we’ve gotten worse since the seventies, much more conservative in America, you know, with this religious president we have. But I mean, this is just ABSURD! So I’ve never paid very much attention to it. You know, you do what you feel is correct and you see. I mean, when I made Scarface they almost took me out and set me on fire, they were so offended by it. But now they think it’s terrific. So who knows!

Interview with Dante Ferretti

2005-02-12, Ã



James Ellroy, author of The Black Dahlia, appeared on CBS’ The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson last night (June 23rd). After discussing Ellroy’s book, My Dark Places, and the unsolved murder of Ellroy’s mother, the talk segued into The Black Dahlia:

Ellroy: I heard about the Black Dahlia on the occasion of my eleventh birthday, in '59, seven months after my mother died. My mother’s case and the Black Dahlia’s case merged. Many years later, I write the novel, and they’re filming The Black Dahlia now, here in L.A.

Ferguson: They’re filming the…

Ellroy: The movie version.

Ferguson: The movie of your book.

Ellroy: Yeah.

Ferguson: Who’s in it?

Ellroy: Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Hilary Swank, Aaron Eckhart, directed by Brian De Palma.

Ferguson: Couldn’t they get anybody?


Ellroy: It looks great!

When we came out of the subway on Hollywood & Vine we were all of a sudden standing on a fifties street. Complete with cars, cabs, transformed houses and a huge cinema.

It appeared to be the set of The Black Dahlia. At first we did not know yet, but when we came back from the movie we saw that the set they we’re building was almost done and filming was about to start. After we asked around for a bit it became clear to us that a few major stars would be on set so we waited.

Eventually Josh Hartnet came onto the set in his costume and he took place in a car which was set up on a truck for some driving shoots. Lighting the scene took forever… Also there was a huge crane for the raining in the scene.

When the scene was filmed Scarlett Johansson also came to take a look and Brian De Palma was present as well.

After the whole shoot it was 1:30 in the morning and everybody began to strike the set. I took my chance and walked up to Scarlett for an autograph, which she gave me… The rest was already gone except for Josh Hartnet who was kind enough to wave.

In a later posting yesterday, van Keeken described more about the shooting of the film:

When we arrived for the second time a stand-in was sitting in the car that was standing on the truck. He was probably there so that Josh could finish his BLT sandwich. He had the exact same costume, just was a little bit shorter than Josh… (which is kinda strange for a stand-in come to think of it)

When they we’re done with the lighting, Josh came up and he took place in the car which backed up for about 100 feet. Then at the ‘Action!’ all the extra’s started moving and the cars started rolling, at the second action the main rigged car with Josh started driving and the rain fell down. Of course from such distance no dialoque could be heard. They did the scene four times and then they were done.

Scarlet did not appear in this scene, nor was she in costume. She just sat with a few people in one of those really cool filmset chairs with the movie title on them.

We were not allowed to make pictures with flash and unfortunately none of the flashless pictures turned out very well… When I went for the autograph it was either that or a picture since she was only a few feet away from here trailer… I went for the authograph…

Meanwhile, David McDivitt (see story below), who was scheduled to have his second day on the set yesterday, received word that he would not be needed a second day after all.

I saw them shooting on last Sunday (11th) at this same location, it’s in the front of the pantages theatre, lots of old cars, and they had the rain machines pouring rain the whole time, a bus go’s by and some people come out of the theatre, watched them shooting this over and over again, till i moved further down the street and actually saw De Palma, and could see a telephone booth where someone was going into,making a call talking for a few seconds then hanging up, i finally saw who it was when he came out to see the playback, it was Josh Harnett, dressed in a brown trench coat, he took it off to reveal a gun harness. It looks pretty good, from what i’ve see so far.

As we [David McDivitt and Josh Hartnett] did not talk to each other, He seems to know how to take instruction from the director. Today the 19th was hot. Standing on the steps of LA’s City Hall, just BSing with another cop as other background actors had to walk up and down the steps. over and over for the right shot. Hartnett has to pass me on this one shot so you should get a good strait on shot of me as he passes. Later he drives a 1950’s car into the police station and I am walking down the ramp and have to move aside.

The actress also recently worked with Brian De Palma on the 1940’s film noir, The Black Dahlia. Johansson was asked to compare De Palma to Bay as well: “Michael is so incredibly energetic. He never leaves the set. I was convinced he never went the bathroom for five months… Brian is a 65-year-old man. He’s been doing it for a long time. He ends his workday at 5:30. We start at eight, we end at 5:30. It’s very civil. (Laughs) He’s very quiet. It’s a totally different experience because we’re doing a film noir drama precisely to the film noir standards, so it’s a different kind of focus that he has. Michael is busy directing 300 extras on a huge, huge action movie, where as The Black Dahlia is so much lying and a whole twisted story. Brian is only focusing on the actors. There’s not much, other than a couple of really gory and violent [scenes]… Which Brian does very well. (Laughs) And sex and all of that fantastic stuff that he can do so well. It’s a character-driven film completely… It’s a totally different experience…”

For all the news about the movie, check out there :

The shooting is officialy finished.

DePalma is my favorite director so I cant wait for this one. Ive been following the set reports by Romain and it sounds awesome.

Yes, sounds very exciting ! Have you read the book ? You should before have seen the movie. James Ellroy is an excellent novelist :wink:

I’m just reading the novel now and I’m wondering if anyone has any more information on the film? imdb says that Wahlberg dropped out to do Italian Job 2, and other than that it’s pretty vague. It mentions a character named Sgt. John Carter, was that a name change or a character that appears somewhere after page 282 in the book, which is as far as I’m up to so far. I thought I read somewhere that Billy Bob Thornton was involved in this, was I drunk or did someone else hear that? He would be nothing shy of awesome as Fritzie Vogel, I think. Troy Evans (Frank from ER) is in it, it doesn’t say who he plays. Did they ever film anything with Wahlberg as Lee Blanchard, or has it been Aaron Eckhart from the beginning? And does anyone know exactly how much of the Sprague (name changed to Linscott in the film, according to imdb) storyline and Bucky’s hunt for the Dahlia killer got excised in favor of the Bleichert-Blanchard-Lake triangle? First one that gives me some answers, I’ll yell out your name the next time I’m doing my girlfriend. >:D

IMDB lists two different upcoming movies of the Black Dahlia. Quite strange…

I didn’t hear anything about Billy Bob Thornton, but if he was Fritzie it would be perfect for him ! I think Wahlberg was Blanchard at the begining, but there aret no photos of him, so we have to conclue that he wasn’t there for the shooting and had been chnaged for Aaron Eckhart. Concerning the names of the characters, lots of names have been changed because the novel inclued real name and fictional ones, and for the movie they couldn’t use the real names. So maybe it explains why we don’t which characters plays some actors of the movie.

There aren’t many informations about the movie, because De Palma wants to keep it secret…

I hope it will help you.

First one that gives me some answers, I’ll yell out your name the next time I’m doing my girlfriend. >:D

Allright, so what’s about that now ? ;D

Im so looking forward to this film, i really love the book so i have high hopes!

Ahah ! Did you see, I was almost alone to post in this topic :-X

oh hell yeah, this could very well be De Palma’s return, it’s been 10 years since he’s made a film worth seeing, i’m very much looking forward to it, he’s going back to balls out thrillers which is great

sweet this from the same guy who directed scarface right? fuckin cool

Ahah ! Did you see, I was almost alone to post in this topic :-X

Yeah, i saw that! But that will change! :smiley:

oh hell yeah, this could very well be De Palma’s return, it’s been 10 years since he’s made a film worth seeing, i’m very much looking forward to it, he’s going back to balls out thrillers which is great

Yes, i agree. I think it will be awesome.