Billy Gil graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and has worked for People and Daily Variety. He is the editor of the Pipeline section and IndieFile, both of which highlight independent films on DVD. For IndieFile tips and inquiries, email email@example.com. For inclusion on IndieFile's Feedroom channel, contact Renee Rosado (firstname.lastname@example.org). Follow IndieFile on Twitter, at Twitter.com/IndieFile.
Barney’s Version a Feast for Actors26 May, 2011 By: Billy Gil
Barney’s Version, the filmed version of Mordecai Richler’s novel of the same name about a TV producer’s storied life, presents several actors of great renown (Paul Giamatti, Dustin Hoffman and Minnie Driver, among others) to sink their teeth into meaty roles that evolve over many years throughout the story. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment releases the film on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack June 28 at $38.96.
The combo pack includes a piece on Richler, a making-of featurette, a red carpet featurette from the Los Angeles premiere, a Q&A with Giamatti and a commentary with director Richard J. Lewis, writer Michael Konyves and producer Robert Lantos.
The film follows Giamatti as Barney Panofsky, a man who, after his first wife dies during his bohemian days in Rome, takes a job as a TV producer and marries a shallow woman (Driver) he is set up with, only to meet the love of his life (Rosamund Pike) on their wedding day. Although many of the proceedings in Barney’s life are dead serious, such as an accusation of murder and his struggle with alcoholism and the toll it takes on his third marriage, Giamatti says the film’s dark humor manages to sneak through.
“I actually think that the humor weirdly sustains all the way through, even when it gets dark and darker and darker, there’s still weird humor,” Giamatti said.
Although some have pointed out that the role of Barney is somewhat similar to that of Miles in Sideways, the first role for which Giamatti was nominated for a Golden Globe, Giamatti said his Golden Globe-winning role as Barney is unlike that of Miles, in that the previous role was more of a loveable loser type, while Barney seems to always come out on top.
“I suppose there are similarities in that they’re both prickly, difficult guys, but I was never thinking of that character,” Giamatti said.
“Barney’s more of an optimist than that character,” Pike said. “He’s very successful, he gets a lot done. …. There aren’t enough big livers. Everyone’s too worried about who they’re going to offend and what people are going to think of them. Barney doesn’t have any of those concerns. It’s so refreshing.”
Director Lewis said getting Giamatti on board was crucial.
“He just felt right,” Lewis said. “We knew that Paul was kind of the go-to guy. Once we started rehearsing with him … we knew that we had found our Barney. … With Paul and the script, I think we were able to get the attention of a lot of good actors, including Dustin.”
The film also offers strong roles for actors Scott Speedman (“Felicity”) as Barney’s aimless, alcoholic writer friend, Boogie, and particularly Driver as the sassy second Mrs. Panofsky, giving the role biting humor.
“I connected in terms of the self-destructive parts,” Speedman said of his role. “You know, everybody has a little bit of that. But I think he was a really talented guy who sort of loses his way.”
Of her role, Driver said: “I definitely grew up with a couple of girls who were very princessy, as it were. …It was an amalgam of a lot of different people. She was very well-written …I just added a bit.”
Producer Lantos said he wanted to make the film after reading the novel, which made him laugh and cry. Lantos also produced the 1985 film Joshua Then and Now, starring James Woods, which also was based on a Richler novel.
“I was on an airplane when I first read it, and I tried to hold back because there was a guy sitting right next to me, and finally I couldn’t,” he said. “… If it could do that to me, I just took it for granted that it could do that for others.”