Welcome back to Defamer Attractions, your regular guide to what's new, noteworthy and/or totally stillborn this week at the movies. For the second straight week, The Dark Knight has a legitimate challenger for box-office supremacy, while a smattering of other releases — including one of the year's best documentaries — reinforce this summer's unusually strong vintage. Even the latest DVD's are impressive. Who knew? So screw the Olympics and read on for the real must-sees; as always, our opinions are our own, but with 99.999996% accuracy, we wouldn't have it any other way.
For all the talk about Sir Ben Kingsley's sex scenes with Penelope Cruz and Patricia Clarkson, the new film Elegy arguably features an even more up-front intimacy between the Oscar-winner and Dennis Hopper — Kingsley's sidekick in academia who counsels him through an intense romantic relationship with an ex-student (played by Cruz). We won't spoil it for you; let it suffice to say the role is Hopper's latest in a marathon of work that has seen three films released this year and finds the 72-year-old halfway through shooting Starz' adaptation of the Paul Haggis film Crash. We tracked Hopper down this week to run through Elegy, Crash and the 50-plus turbulent years that preceded them — all in five convenient questions (and a few surprisingly candid replies) after the jump.D: So did you actually call Sir Ben Kingsley "Sir Ben" on set? DH: I did. Absolutely. With pleasure. D: Yet the viewer gets the sense you have the mandate to continually bust his balls, even off-camera. You also share a fairly shocking moment near the end of the film. What was your relationship like? DH: It was all written, really. It was a wonderful relationship that seems very real and honest; you can tell the two men really loved each other and respected each other. I think that my character realized that as professors at the university, Sir Ben was probably a little smarter, a little brighter, a little more removed — but certainly not as worldly as my character, who is advising him on having an affair with a younger woman. My character has had many affairs. It's the one moment my character has an up on him. In my career I never had a part that was really seemed like a real person — the emotion, the give and take between Sir Ben and myself were very honest, I thought. D: Your career is endlessly fascinating: You acted alongside James Dean twice; obviously there's Easy Rider; you've appeared opposite three Oscar-winners in as many films this year alone. Do you ever take stock of how many Hollywood storylines your work intersects? DH: Yeah, sort of. But not really. I think of my career as a disappointment most of the time. After Easy Rider and The Last Movie, not directing anymore was a really devastating affair for me. And for the last 16 years, trying to direct movies and not getting financing has really been very hard on me. I really want to direct. I know that through the years I've been very fortunate to act; Blue Velvet was wonderful. Apocalypse Now. But if you still always think about directing movies, it's a chore. And I had to take a lot of bad movies at times. Out of 150 movies that I've been in, there are maybe 20 that are really good movies. D: You've also got TV behind you and in front of you, including an cable adaptation of Crash. It's obviously a pretty polarizing film; will the series follow that same vein? DH: Well, you'll remember that that was three different stories that sort of all come together in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is still the basis of where it's all happening, though we're shooting in Albuquerque. The writers are the same — Bobby Moresco and Paul Haggis — but the characters are all different. I play a Phil Spector-type music mogul whose always trying to look for the next big move. He's hired a 22-year-old driver from Watts who wants to be a rap star. Their relationship is totally bizarre. But it's wonderfully written and I'm having a good time. D: But does the world really need 13 more hours of Crash? DH: These are different characters. But why do they need it? Why does the world need entertainment at all? Do we need TV? We have it. And we do have series, and they're usually 13 in the first run. This is going to be a good 13. I love it because I've never seen such incredible language, and the things you can do on cable television now you can't even get away with in movies. We had an orgy the other day. For me it's a joy.