Wes Craven, A True Master of Horror, Dies at 76

Wes Craven, the creator of both the “Nightmare on Elm Street” and “Scream” film series, passed away today at his home after a battle with brain cancer. He was 76.

After briefly teaching English at Westminster College, he decided to pursue a career in the film industry, beginning as a sound editor in New York City. He also began working in a film warehouse along-side a former filmmaker turned musician named Harry Chapin. Chapin had been approached by a dentist-friend of the warehouse owner who had $50,000 to invest in a horror film. Chapin, who had earned an Oscar-nomination for his 1968 documentary, “Champions,” was no longer interested in filmmaking so he recommended his co-worker, Wes, for the job. The film became 1972’s “Last House on the Left,” which was the first of many horror films written and directed by Craven. Craven also worked in the early world of pornography, mostly writing and editing films. It is rumored that, under the pseudonym “Abe Snake,” he directed the X-rated film called “The Firecracker Woman,” in which a young Craven also has a small role (clothed).

In 1977 he wrote and directed the brutal “The Hills Have Eyes,” following that up with “Deadly Blessing,” “Swamp Thing” and “The Hills Have Eyes Part II.” In 1984 he wrote and directed a film that would change horror movies forever, “A Nightmare on Elm Street.” I was just getting into the theatre business when the film opened and I often filled in at the Town Theatre in Baltimore, which had the honor of being the theatre with the highest grosses during “Elm Street’s’ run. He finished the 80’s out by directing several episodes of “The Twilight Zone” television show and the films “The Serpent and the Rainbow” and “Shocker.”

He began the 90’s with “The People Under the Stairs” then turned to horror/comedy by directing Eddie Murphy in “Vampire in Brooklyn.” In 1996 he hit the horror jackpot again with the film “Scream.” A tongue in cheek look at the various tropes of horror films, the film went on to gross over $100 million and spawn three sequels. Proving he could do more than horror, he directed Meryl Streep to an Oscar nomination in the film “Music of the Heart.” He was currently serving as an Executive Producer on the upcoming “Scream” television show.

On a personal note, I’d like to mention that it was Wes Craven, who I had the good fortune to meet, that inspired me to write a screenplay about the life of one of my personal heroes, Harry Chapin. “If you ever sell it I’ll direct it,” he told me. Sadly, he’ll never have the chance.

Mr. Craven is survived by his third wife, Iya, and his children, Jonathan and Jessica. Jessica’s step-father is Tom Chapin, Harry’s brother.

Mickey Rooney, Beloved Star of The “Andy Hardy” Series, Dies at 93

Mickey Rooney, whose amazing entertainment career spanned an incredible ten decades, passed away yesterday (April 6). The four time Academy Award nominee (he was awarded two achievement Oscars during his career) was 93.

Born Ninian Joseph Yule, Jr on September 23, 1920 in Brooklyn, New York, the young man was soon appearing on stage in his parent’s vaudeville act. In 1926 he made his film debut in the short film “Not to Be Trusted.” The next year he began a successful run in a series of short films, detailing the adventures of young Mickey McGuire. It was during this time that he adopted his screen name, Mickey Rooney. These films led to him being signed by MGM and in 1937 he starred in “A Family Affair, ”the first of twenty feature films to spotlight his most popular screen character, Andy Hardy. It was due to the success of these films that the diminutive Rooney (he stood 5’2”) was named the Biggest Box Office Star in the World from 1939-1941.

But it wasn’t just comedy that Rooney excelled in. Films like “Boy’s Town” (one of my favorite Rooney performances), “National Velvet” and “Babes in Arms,” one of his many collaborations with Judy Garland, made him a favorite of fans everywhere. In 1940 he became the first teenager to be nominated for an Oscar in a leading role for “Babes in Arms.” He also received a Best Actor nomination in 1944 for “The Human Comedy” and earned Best Supporting Actor nods in 1957 for “The Bold and the Brave” and 1980 for “The Black Stallion.” He also received an special juvenile Oscar in 1939 and an honorary Oscar in 1983 for his body of work. Among his more notable films: “Young Tom Edison,” “Strike Up the Band,” “The Bridges at Toko-Ri,” “Breakfast at Tiffanys,” “Requiem for a Heavyweight,” “Babe: Pig in the City,” “Night at the Museum” and 2011’s “The Muppets.” He was filming a new version of “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” opposite another classic film star, Margaret O’Brian, at the time of his death.

As the Golden Age of Television began, Rooney kept himself busy with appearances on many of the popular shows of the day, including his most memorable role as Kris Kringle in the animated “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” He spent nearly two decades working successfully in the medium. As the 1970s wound down Rooney took to Broadway, starring opposite Ann Miller in the successful show, “Sugar Babies,” earning a Tony Award nomination for his performance. In 1981 he returned to television in a tour-de-force performance of a mentally challenged man in “Bill,” earning himself an Emmy and a Golden Globe award for Best Actor in a Television Movie or Mini-Series.

Married eight times, Rooney always said he never regretted a single day of his life. He was a true star that will continue to burn brightly!

Don Coscarelli talks about “John Dies at the End” and “Bubba Ho-Tep” and “Phantasm” sequels

Don Coscarelli is one of my favorites directors in the business. He has directed films like the
“Phastasm” series, “The Beastmaster” and “Bubba Ho-Tep”. His films just seems to grab this cult following and only grow over the years. I worked as part of the street team going back to “Bubba Ho-Tep” and it was such a great experience. If you are a fan of his work then you have already seen or need to immediately see his latest film “John Dies at the End”, which arrived on Blu-ray and DVD on April 2nd. It is a fantastic film and a great return for Don. Media Mikes took out sometime to chat with Don about this film and also got some tips about the “Bubba Ho-Tep” and “Phantasm” sequels.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us what attracted you to “John Dies at the End”?
Don Coscarelli: I am an avid reader and I always try to pick up books that are interesting. It’s not that easy to sit around and generate a completely new idea. I have done that a few times but it is a challenge. It is a lot easier when you find a nice piece of literature and turn it into a feature. True story, I got this email out of the blue in my inbox one day from a robot at Amazon.com. They told me that I would love “John Dies at the End”. I read the byline for it and thought that it would make a great movie. It is just an interesting testament to the power of these computer programs and algorithms that Amazon has in place to track our taste. I read the book and just loved the attitude and style, sense of humor, had some great characters and villains and I knew it was for me. So I tracked down the writer and bought the movie rights.

MG: The story is quite epic; where you ever concerned about the scale of the story before making it?
DC: Of course. For starters, I thought that the film would have been great for a major studio release. I might have been completely naive but I thought it would be a fresh new kind of horror with a little comedy mixed in. I went out and tried to get major studios to fund it and they just didn’t get it. Then ended up realizing that we would have to make it on a much smaller budget with the money I was able to raise myself and with investors. It was a very ambitious project going into and there were new challenges every day. It was a bit of an effort but it paid off for sure.

MG: There are quite a bit of visual effects used in the film; would you say this has been you-r most ambitious project yet?
DC: Yes absolutely. I think that part of it Mike is that I am a naturally optimistic person and I always put myself into these situations. In the first “Phantasm”, I had this pretty cool sequences written out with a flying sphere and goes into the persons head. I just thought, “Yeah, we’ll figure out how to make it fly and into his head later”. When we were out there in the mausoleum, we just sat there wondering how the hell we were going to pull this off. Thankfully using fishing line, paper clips and tape worked out for us. In this movie it was the same situation. We figured that we could find a way to make the meat monster and then send them to this other world as well and have this 80 foot long eye-ball creature. I just keep saying “We’ll figure out a way to make it work”. I get myself into trouble sometimes. I think the fact we were able to put some level of polished visual effects into the film and I am very happy with them.

MG: Tell us about the creature effects used in the film? Meat Monster?
DC: One of the benefits of having made some movies is that I have a lot of great friends out there. Robert Kurtzman helped us out on this film. He is also a great director as well and directed the film “Wishmaster” back in the day. He was one of the founding make-up effects artists with KNB EFX as well. Greg (Nicotero), Howard (Berger) and Bob have been so helpful with my career over the years. Bob created the Bubba Ho-Tep. Howard did the Bruce Campbell old age make-up. Greg was even an apprentice going all the way back to “Phantasm II”. So Bob has always offered to help out. He created the meat monster suit and it is a wonderful work of art. There is so much detail there that doesn’t even translate onto the screen. There is tons of stuff that you barely see like, a whole pineapple ham on one of the monsters hands. That was a totally old school sequence by the way. The entire shot was done with meat on fishing line. We choreographed it with all the meat on the floor. We even used some reverse motion and it was a lot of fun. There were some other great effects as well that Bob put together like the mustache bat. That was really cool. I was looking at it the other day in my office and it is this little mustache with the wing aperture on its back, like a bird. We filmed it on a green screen and then filled it in. There was a bunch of great old school stuff in this film.

MG: The flying mustache scene reminded me of the scene in “Bubba Ho-Tep”, when Elvis is fighting the Scarab in his room.
[Laughs] That’s funny Mike because when I read this book and I came across that sequence with the mustache, I thought to myself that this was sort of like “Bubba Ho-Tep”. There are other elements as well that are right out of “Phantasm”. It was my kind of stuff!

MG: David Wong (aka Jason Pargin) has written a sequel, “This Book Is Full of Spiders”; any interest in continuing the story?
DC: I would first like to say that the sequel is great. It is called “This Book Is Full of Spiders: Seriously, Dude, Don’t Touch It”. It is just a very cool follow-up and I think it is brilliant in many ways. It is a little premature now to try and decide for it to be a sequel. We would need to see how this film does. If it came the time and it seemed viable, I would certainly take it on.

MG: Since the ends credits of “Bubba Ho-Tep”, over 10 years ago. we have been waiting for a sequel; is that still in the cards?
DC: It is always in the cards [laughs]. The cool thing about it is that I learned from when I was touring with “John Dies at the End” is how many people freaking love “Bubba Ho-Tep”. It’s so great. I think that maybe the delay we had is actually a good thing because it is developing this great cult following. I for sure want to do it and I know that Bruce Campbell still wants to do it. I think we just need to find a way to pull it all together.

MG: Next year is 35 years since the first “Phantasm”. Since Phantasm: Oblivion” was released, there were talks of a fifth sequel; why do you fans keeping asking and why does this series refuse to die?
DC: Look I would love to take all the credit for that [laughs], but look I think it has to do with the power of those performances. The weird thing about it is that when this first came out we were criticized for some of the acting in the movie. Yet with these performances by Michael Baldwin, Reggie Bannister and of course Angus Scrimm folks really love them. After the fourth film, I was hoping to wrap up the story since it was a bit open-ended in a “Phantasm” way. So fans have always been asking for a “Phantasm 5”. The good thing is though the actors are in great shape. Angus has a nice role in “John Dies at the End”; I thought he pulled it off beautifully. This is something that I will be looking into in the near future, since there is a definitely an audience out there.

Blu-ray Review “John Dies at the End”

Actors: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman
Directors: Don Coscarelli
Rated: R (Restricted)
Studio: Magnolia Home Entertainment
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Run Time: 99 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

It has been over ten years since Don Coscarelli graced us with “Bubba Ho-Tep”, which starred Bruce Campbell. I worked on that film as a member of the street team handing out promotional material to assist in getting the word out. Over the years the film has become a very popular and loved cult classic. Don Coscarelli is also the genius behind the amazing “Phantasm” series. “John Dies at the End” is a fantastic comeback for him. It is unique, original and a shit load of fun. When I finished watching this film, I was left saying “WTF, just happened”. But I believe that was the goal of the film and what a pay off it had. I see this film becoming yet another cult classic for Coscarelli and I really hope that he doesn’t wait 10 years again to direct again. Horrorhounds, Do not miss this film!

The film itself is based off David Wong’s novel of the same title. It is genre crossing, focusing on horror but with comedy and also some sci-fi elements thrown in as well. There is no way that you will not leave this film with a smile and immediately wanting another viewing. I wasn’t too familiar with the leads Rob Mayes and Chase Williamson but they are a blast in the film. Also great supporting performances from Clancy Brown, Paul Giamatti and even Angus Scrimm pop in! BOYYYYYYYYYY!!

Official Premise: In “John Dies at the End”, it’s all about the Soy Sauce, a drug that promises an out-of-body experience with each hit. Users drift across time and dimensions. But some who come back are no longer human. Suddenly a silent otherworldly invasion is underway, and mankind needs a hero. What it gets instead is John (Rob Mayes) and David (Chase Williamson), a pair of college dropouts who can barely hold down jobs. Adapted from David Wong’s audacious trans-genre horror novel, “John Dies at the End” with screenplay by and directed by Don Coscarelli (“Bubba Ho-Tep”) and also stars Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman and Paul Giamatti.

For a low-budget film, “John Dies at the End” looks stunning on Blu-ray. The film also feels like it is scaled way higher than its budget.  Don did a great job utilizing some impressive visual effects even including a meat monster.  Yes a meat monster…and he looks amazing in the film, kudos of Robert Kurtzman’s Creature Corps. Along with the fantastic 1080p transfer, this Blu-ray also come with a very impressive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track.  It is clear, sharp and works perfectly with Brian Tyler’s (who also composed “Bubba Ho-Tep”) score.

The special features are pretty kick ass as well.  We start off we are fun commentary track with Director Don Coscarelli, Producer Brad Baruh, Chase Williamson and Rob Mayes.  Must listen for all fans of Coscarelli’s work.  There are nine deleted scenes, which were cool but well cut.  ”Getting Sauced: The Making of John Dies at the End” is a behind-the-scenes look at the production.  It is a little too short but me but there is some good footage. “Creature Corps: The Effects of Soy Sauce” is my favorite extras, which looks into the prop and monster design. There are Casting Sessions from the actors auditions. “Fangoria Interview with Paul Giamatti” is a great chat with the actor and his love for the genre.  Lastly there is a trailer included for the film and David Wong’s book “This Book is Full of Spiders”.

Larry Hagman, television legend, dies at 81

Larry Hagman, who will forever be remember for his portrayal of one of television’s best loved (and hated) characters, died earlier today (November 23) after a bout with throat cancer. He was 81.
Born in Fort Worth, Texas, Hagman’s parents were Benjamin Hagman, a local district attorney, and his wife Mary (nee Martin). The two had met in high school and Benjamin convinced Martin’s parents to allow them to marry when she was seventeen. His parents divorced when Hagman was five and he and his mother moved to California, where they stayed with his grandmother. It was while in California that Mary was signed to a contract with Paramount. In later years she would become a star on Broadway, originating lead roles in musicals like “The Sound of Music” and “South Pacific.”
Hagman attended several schools as a young man, including the Black-Foxe Military Institute. While his mother went off to New York he remained with his grandmother until her passing, then was sent to boarding school. It was at these schools that he developed a liking for drama classes. He graduated from high school in 1949 and, on the advice of his mother, decided to give acting a try professionally.
While attending Bard College he took some time off to appear in a New York City production of “The Taming of the Shrew,” then spent the summer traveling the country in a variety of musical road shows. In 1951 he joined his mother in the London production of “South Pacific,” remaining with the show for over a year. In late 1952 he was drafted by the United States Air Force and spent four years in London entertaining troops stationed there. After his discharge he returned to New York City where he appeared in several plays, both on and off-Broadway, and the occasional television program. In 1961 he joined the cast of daytime soap opera “The Edge of Night,” playing Ed Gibson for two years. He made his film debut in 1964 in the comedy “Ensign Pulver” and later appeared opposite Henry Fonda in “Fail Safe” that same year.
In 1965 he was cast as Captain Anthony Nelson in the hit television series “I Dream of Jeannie.” The show featured Hagman as the “master” of Jeannie, a beautiful blonde he discovers when he finds an old bottle on the beach. The two eventually married and the show ran until 1970. For years after the show was canceled Hagman refused to associate with anything connected to it, refusing to appear in the two subsequent made for television movies. Although Eden did make an appearance on “Dallas” it wasn’t until 1999 that he agreed to appear with Eden and fellow co-star Bill Daily for a reunion on “The Donny and Marie Show.”
In 1977 Hagman was cast as J.R. Ewing in the nighttime soap opera “Dallas.” As the oldest son of Jock Ewing, J.R. was the bad guy you loved to hate. His scheming and conniving ways came to a head at the end of the second season when J.R. was shot. That summer the phrase “Who Shot J.R.?” became a business in itself, with T-shirts and bumper stickers popping up all over America. That summer also saw Hagman asking for a large raise. The story I was told goes like this:
The producers called Hagman’s agent and asked him and Hagman to come to their office on Monday morning. When they arrive they are taken to a screening room where they are shown the last scenes of the last episode. They see a body being put into an ambulance and the ambulance speeding away. Suddenly another vehicle hits the ambulance, which bursts into flames. The screen goes black and the words SIX MONTHS LATER flash across it. Fade in on a face heavily bandaged. Off screen a voice says, “Because of the extensive plastic surgery we had to do you may not look the same Mr. Ewing.” The bandages are removed and there in the hospital bed is Robert Culp.
A deal was finally made and on November 21, 1980 (ironically 32 years ago this week) the world discovered who had shot J.R. The show ran until 1991, earning Hagman multiple Emmy and Golden Globe nominations as Best Dramatic Actor. In 1995 Hagman underwent a liver transplant. He had acquired a drinking problem as far back as high school and was reported to drink up to four bottles of champagne a day on the set of “Dallas.” He also quit smoking that year, becoming a spokesman for the American Cancer Society in later years.
After “Dallas” he continued to work, appearing in such films as “Nixon” and “Primary Colors” as well as recurring roles in such television shows as “Orleans” and “Nip/Tuck.” In the summer of 2011 Hagman made two major announcements about his life and his career: “As J.R. I could get away with anything — bribery, blackmail and adultery. But I got caught by cancer. I do want everyone to know that it is a very common and treatable form of cancer. I will be receiving treatment while working on the new Dallas series. I could not think of a better place to be than working on a show I love, with people I love.” He revealed to the world that he had stage one throat cancer while also announcing his return to the role he loved in the updated version of “Dallas.” The show debuted earlier this year to great success, brought about, no doubt, by the presence of the irascible Larry Hagman. A true television legend who will be sorely missed

Richard D. Zanuck, producer of “Jaws,” dies at 77

Richard D. Zanuck, who rose from out of his famous father’s shadow to become one of the most successful film producers in history, died yesterday in Los Angeles after suffering a heart attack. He was 77.

Born of Hollywood royalty (his father was legendary studio head Darryl F. Zanuck, his mother actress Virginia Fox), Mr. Zanuck began working for his father, then head of 20th Century Fox, as a producer, finally elevated to President of the studio. It was while at Fox that he met fellow producer David Brown. In 1967, after the failure of such films as “Dr. Doolittle,” Zanuck was fired by his father. In 1972 he teamed up with Brown, forming the Zanuck/Brown company. Their 16 year partnership produced such films as “The Sting,” “The Sugarland Express,” “Jaws,” “The Verdict” and “Cocoon.” In 1989, with his new wife, Lili Fini Zanuck producing alongside him, he produced “Driving Miss Daisy.” The film would go on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Later films include: “Rules of Engagement,” “Road to Perdition” and six films with director Tim Burton, including this years’ “Dark Shadows.”

In the 1960s Zanuck married actress Linda Harrison. They raised two sons, Harrison and Dean, both now producers in their own right. One of my favorite stories of Mr. Zanuck concerns the production of “Jaws.” He had assured his wife, Linda, that she would play Mrs. Brody in the film. Unbeknownst to Zanuck, the head of Universal Studios, Sid Sheinberg, had promised the role to HIS wife, actress Lorraine Gary. To keep peace in the Universal family, Sheinberg called producer William Frye, who was currently making “Airport ’75.” “Bill,” he said to Frye, “you’ve got another passenger on your airplane!”

CD Review: Otherwise “True Love Never Dies”

“True Love Never Dies”
Century Media
Producer: Jay Baumgardner
Tracks: 14

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

“True Love Never Dies” is the debut release from the hard rock band Otherwise. The 5 piece Las Vegas based band consists of Adrian Patrick- Lead Vocals, Ryan Patrick- Guitar/Vocals, Flavio Ivan- Bass/Vocals, Corky Gainsford- Drums/Vocals and Vassilios Metropoulos- Guitar/Vocals. “True Love Never Dies” is being released via Century Media Records and was produced by acclaimed producer Jay Baumgardner (Godsmack, Bush, Papa Roach).

A straight forward rock album is what you get from the debut release from Otherwise. Standard straight forward production allows the 5 piece band be just that. The no frills album gets right to the point. Producer Jay Baumgardner created a solid mix which gives each of the 14 songs an intense musical feel. Tracks such as “Die For You” and “Scream Now” feature catchy sing along choruses while songs like “I Don’t Apologize (1000 Pictures)” and “Soldiers” feature slightly softer arrangements which showcases the bands diversity.

Though I found the album to be a little generic in its approach it was still an enjoyable listen. Otherwise is not reinventing the hard rock wheel with their debut release but who cares! Each of the 14 songs showcased a band that appears to have a bright future in the ever changing rock world. “True Love Never Dies” is a good foundation and I will be curious to see what is next for Otherwise.

Track Listing:
1.) I
2.) Die For You
3.) Lighthouse
4.) Scream Now
5.) Don’t Be Afraid
6.) Vegas Girl
7.) II
8.) Silence Reigns
9.) I Don’t Apologize (1000 Pictures)
10.) Crimson
11.) Full Circle
12.) Soldiers
13.) III
14.) Heaven

Blu-ray Review “Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies”

Starring: Ben Lewis, Anna O’Byrne
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Distributed by: Universal Studios
Release Date: May 29, 2012
Running Time: 121 minutes

Film: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

When it comes to “The Phantom of the Opera” it is a hard act to follow. So pretty much it doesn’t matter how good “Love Never Dies” is, it will be hard to compare to its predecessor. Luckily, it doesn’t disappoint and still captures some of the charm. I really enjoyed the show’s music and it’s production scale was out of this world. The sets on this show spared no expense and looks beautiful…even on Blu-ray, you still feel like you are there. If you are fan of “The Phantom of the Opera” and expect the same kind of magic, you might be disappointed. But if you are open-minded and looking for a stunning wonderful journey revisiting the wonderful story, you will enjoy this quite a bit.

“Love Never Dies” takes place in the year is 1907, 10 years after the Phantom’s disappearance from the Paris Opera House. He has started new in New York, where he setup show living in Coney Island. In this new electrically-charged world, he has finally found a place for his music to soar. The Phantom still yearns for his love, Christine. When she travels to New York and perform at a renowned opera house the Phantom lures Christine in a final attempt to win her love.

If you have ever been a Broadway film, there is nothing like seeing a live production. Of course luckily Blu-ray is the closest way to experience this. With shows like “Love Never Dies”, it is presented in beautiful 1080p transfer with an aspect ratio of 2.35:1. Since this is a musical, the audio presentation is very important and sounds amazing with its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. The special features on this release are lacking with only one behind the scenes feature “The Making of Love Never Dies”, running just shy of 15 minutes. It features not only cast and crew but also Andrew Lloyd Webber focusing on the musical’s extensive production.

Oscar Winner Cliff Robertson Dies at 88

Cliff Robertson, an Oscar winning actor whose career spanned seven decades, died earlier to day, one day after his 88th birthday. According to his secretary of 53 years, Evelyn Christel, Mr. Robertson passed due to natural causes.

Born in Los Angeles on September 9, 1923, Robertson began his acting career with small, uncredited appearances in low budget films. In 1952 he began working in early television programming, working up to the title role in “Rod Brown of the Rocket Rangers.” Other early appearances include “Hallmark Hall of Fame,” “Celebrity Playhouse” and “Robert Montgomery Presents.” In 1955 he made his first credited film appearance opposite William Holden and Kim Novak in “Picnic.” Other roles followed including “The Girl Most Likely,” “The Naked and the Dead” and “Gidget.” He also continued working in television, appearing on programs like “The Twilight Zone,” “Ben Casey” and “The Untouchables.”

In 1962 his star rose when he was personally chosen by President John Kennedy to portray him in “P.T. 109,” which was based on the true story of the sinking of Kennedy’s boat during World War II. After the release of “P.T. 109” Robertson’s roles got a little better. He played Charly Gordon, a retarded man who, because of a medical experiment, becomes a genius, in “Charly,” the film adaptation of Daniel Keyes’ best selling book “Flowers for Algernon.” For his performance in the film Robertson received the Academy Award for Best Actor. He was that success to direct a script he had written called “J.W. Coop,” about a rodeo cowboy who returned to the circuit after spending several years in prison.

Despite his Oscar, Robertson continued to work in television as well as films, including a tongue in cheek performance as the villain Shame on “Batman.” Though he appeared in some fine films in the 1970’s, including “3 Days of the Condor” and “Obsession,” it was a film he didn’t appear in that earned him notoriety. In 1977, while preparing his taxes, he noticed a $10,000 payment from Columbia Pictures that he never received. Upon investigating it was discovered that David Begelman, then head of the studio, had written a check to Robertson and others and cashed them himself. Begelman was quietly fired and, in 1995, committed suicide. Urged to keep the dirty business secret, Robertson went to the press. The resulting investigation became the basis for the book “Indecent Exposure,” one of the best “Hollywood” books I’ve ever read.

His film output wasn’t as great in the 80’s, with Robertson claiming to have been blacklisted because he spoke out about Begelman. He did appear in Bob Fosse’s “Star 80” and Douglas Trumbull’s “Brainstorm ,” but neither were popular at the box office. He worked sporadically the next two decades. In 2002 he became a star to a new generation of fans when he appeared as Uncle Ben in “Spider-man,” a role he would continue in the two sequels.