TIME remembrance

Gene Saks, Tony Winner and Neil Simon Director, Dies at 93

The prolific actor-director won three Tony Awards

(NEW YORK) — Gene Saks, a prolific actor-director who teamed with playwright and fellow New Yorker Neil Simon on hit Broadway and movie productions of such Simon comedies as “The Odd Couple” and “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” has died. He was 93.

Saks, who won three Tony Awards for his direction, died from pneumonia Saturday at his East Hampton home in New York, according to his son Daniel.

Saks’ grab bag of hits also included many without Simon. Among them were the musicals “Mame” (1966), starring Angela Lansbury and his then-wife Bea Arthur; “Half A Sixpence,” starting British pop star Tommy Steele (1965), and “I Love My Wife” (1977), as well as such comedies as “Enter Laughing” (1963) and “Same Time, Next Year” (1975).

The Simon-Saks collaboration had its beginnings in 1963 when Simon asked Saks — then a Broadway actor — to come to New Hope, Pennsylvania, and critique a tryout of “Barefoot in the Park.” Simon didn’t need much help. The play — under Mike Nichols’ direction — turned out to be one of Broadway’s biggest hits of the 1960s, running for more than 1,500 performances.

But three years later, when Simon was preparing the film version of “Barefoot in the Park,” he persuaded producer Hal Wallis to hire Saks as director of his first movie. The film, which starred Robert Redford and Jane Fonda, was a huge success.

Besides the famous trilogy of “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” ”Biloxi Blues” and “Broadway Bound,” their work together on Broadway included “California Suite,” ”Lost in Yonkers,” ”Rumors,” ”Jake’s Women” and the female version of “The Odd Couple.”

Their other films were “The Odd Couple,” — with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau — “Last of the Red Hot Lovers,” ”The Prisoner of Second Avenue” and “Brighton Beach Memoirs.”

“I don’t believe every director can direct every play,” Simon once mused. “But Gene and I have had such a common point of view that my instincts tell me lately, ‘Go with Gene.'”

In a 1987 interview Saks explained his affinity for Simon: “Aside from Neil’s wit, his brightness and his ability to characterize, he writes about things I know about and care about. We both came from middle-class, first-generation Jewish families, and our humor springs from the same roots.”

Saks had been an actor for 15 years, and his career was gaining momentum, when he moved on to directing after producer Morton Gottlieb had seen him direct a scene at the Actors Studio and was impressed.

Gottlieb asked Saks to direct “Enter Laughing.” It became a hit, elevating Alan Arkin to stardom.

By the mid-1970s Saks was one of Broadway’s most prominent directors, and at one point in 1977 he had three shows running concurrently on Broadway: “Same Time, Next Year,” ”California Suite” and “I Love My Wife.”

It was the Cy Coleman-Michael Stewart musical “I Love My Wife” that brought Saks his first Tony. He went on to win two more for Simon plays, “Brighton Beach Memoirs” in 1983 and “Biloxi Blues” in 1985.

Saks was born in 1921, in New York City, and grew up in Hackensack, New Jersey, where his father ran a women’s wholesale shoe business. He wanted to become a basketball star, but changed his mind when he played the title role in “Charley’s Aunt,” a venerable old farce in which a young man disguises himself as a woman.

He avoided talking about his ambition because “acting was so associated with femininity.”

Saks graduated from Cornell University in 1943 and joined the Navy. Being in the service in wartime changed his mind about acting. “I realized that life can be short and you’d better do what you want to do,” he reasoned.

After serving for three years, he studied at the New School for Social Research and the Actors Studio.

He appeared in such plays as Paddy Chayefsky’s “The Tenth Man” (1959), “A Shot in the Dark” (1961) and the Herb Gardner comedy “A Thousand Clowns” (1962) in which he played a children’s TV performer known as Chuckles the Chipmunk, a role Saks recreated in the film version.

But he decided he wanted to direct. “I liked telling people what to do,” he said.

In a 1985 interview, Saks had this to say about the twin professions of acting and directing: “For me, I had to overcome shyness to be an actor. But as a director you lose your subjectivity, your self-consciousness. And instead of just your role, it’s the life of the whole play that becomes a reflection of you.”

Saks married Arthur in 1950 and they had two sons, Matthew and Daniel, before the marriage ended in divorce. With his second wife, Karen, he had a daughter, Annabelle.


This story contains material compiled by late AP Entertainment Writer Bob Thomas.

TIME movies

Home Proves Stronger Than Get Hard at Weekend Box Office

Film Review Home
DreamWorks Animation Characters Oh, voiced by Jim Parsons, left, and Tip, voiced by Rihanna appear in a scene from DreamWorks' "Home."

Last week's winner, Insurgent, fell two spots

DreamWorks’ animated alien film Home pulled in a surprising $54 million at box office this weekend, soaring above the $34.6 million earned by the Will Ferrell-Kevin Hart comedy Get Hard.

The early success of Home is a much-needed win for the animation studio, which saw a recent string of box office flops like Turbo (2013) and Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2014), Variety reports. Home, which features a star-studded voice cast led by Jim Parsons and Rihanna, was DreamWorks’ biggest debut since Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (2012) scored a $60.3 million opening weekend.

Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent, fell to third place with $22.1 million after two weeks in the top spot.


Read next: Affable Aliens in Dreamworks’ Home

TIME Television

Watch ‘The Rock Obama’ Throw John Boehner Through a Window on SNL

And see the first appearance of "She Rock Obama"

Dwayne Johnson reprised his role as “The Rock Obama” on the March 28 episode of Saturday Night Live.

In the cold open sketch, the “normal” President Barack Obama (Jay Pharoah) loses his temper with House Speaker John Boenher (Taran Killam), who unilaterally invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress; Texas Senator and 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz (Bobby Moynihan), who called Netanyahu an “extraordinary leader” upon his recent election victory; and Sen. Tom Cotton, who sent a letter to Iran behind Obama’s back regarding a potential nuclear deal.

The President then transforms into “The Rock Obama” (Johnson—”Oh my god, it’s happening!” exclaims Michelle (Sasheer Zamata)—before he shows his political foes who’s in charge. But it turns out the President isn’t the only one with a hulky alter ego: find out who angers Michelle so much that she transforms into “She Rock Obama” (Leslie Jones).

TIME movies

Hugh Jackman Hints at ‘One Last Time’ as ‘Wolverine’

20th Century Fox Film Corporatio—Everett Collection Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in X-MEN.

He last starred as the mutant in 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past

As previously reported, Fox has slated an untitled Wolverine project for March 3, 2017, and now it seems it might be star Hugh Jackman’s last turn as the X-Men character. The actor posted an Instagram on his account Saturday of his hand, complete with characteristic claws, captioned: “WOLVERINE …ONE LAST TIME. HJ”

Jackman last starred as the mutant in 2014’s X:Men: Days of Future Past. There’s no confirmation whether Jackman will appear in that film’s follow-up, the May 2016, X:Men: Apocalypse (which will also be Jennifer Lawrence’s last outing as Mystique). The most recent standalone film spotlighting the character was 2013’s The Wolverine.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME celebrities

Watch Angelina Jolie’s Uplifting Speech at the Kids’ Choice Awards

Her first appearance since announcing she had surgery to remove her ovaries

Angelina Jolie gave the audience at the 2015 Kids’ Choice Awards on Saturday a few words of inspiration after winning “Favorite Villain” for her role in Maleficent.

Here’s what the actress told her fans:

I want to say when I was little, like Maleficent, I was told that I was different—and I felt out of place, and too loud, too full of fire, never good at sitting still, never good at fitting in. And then one day I realized something, something I hope you all realize. Different is good.

The 39-year-old’s uplifting speech was her first public appearance since announcing last week that she had recently undergone surgery to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Wrapping up her remarks to the crowd, she advised to “cause a little trouble, it’s good for you.”

Read next: Why Angelina Jolie Chose to Have Her Ovaries Removed

TIME movies

Sacha Baron Cohen Won’t Star in Freddie Mercury Biopic

Sacha Baron Cohen attends 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Feb. 22, 2015.
Venturelli—Getty Images Sacha Baron Cohen attends 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted in Beverly Hills, Calif. on Feb. 22, 2015.

It was apparently "a small joke"

UPDATE: It appears we might have gotten excited over nothing—Queen guitarist Brian May posted on his website that the band’s manager Jim Beach was just throwing in “a small joke” when he claimed that Sacha Baron Cohen had officially signed on to the long-delayed project. Cohen’s rep has not returned our request for comment. The initial report is below.

A biopic starring Sacha Baron Cohen as Freddie Mercury, the dynamic Queen frontman who died in 1991 at the age of 45 due to complications from AIDS, has been in the works for nearly seven years. It was confirmed as happening as early as 2010 and confirmed as not happening as recently as 2013—reportedly due to Cohen “not seeing eye to eye with the remaining members of Queen who have script and director approval.” Apparently the band was interested in a PG-version of the rock star’s life, while Cohen had hopes for a “gritty R-rated tell-all.”

During the project’s long gestational period, Cohen brought in the likes of Peter Morgan to write and David Fincher and Tom Hooper to direct the film, but all were rejected by the band. These differences appear to have been worked out, however, with Queen manager Jim Beach announcing that Cohen will depict the singer, as well as write, direct, and produce the film himself.

At the Artist and Manager Awards held on March 26, Beach used his acceptance speech—for the Peter Grant award for outstanding acheivement—to make the announcement. “You have probably followed the saga of the famous Queen-Freddie Mercury biopic which has been developing in Hollywood for the last seven years. An important breakthrough is that we have now managed to persuade Sacha Baron Cohen to write, produce, and direct this movie, and he has also agreed to star.”

When the film will get underway was not discussed. Cohen’s camp has yet to confirm his involvement.

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME Theater

Vanessa Hudgens Chronicles Her Journey to Broadway Stardom on Instagram

Vanessa Hudgens (L) and Corey Cott (R) rehearse a scene of 'Gigi' at the Kennedy Center in Washington on Jan. 15, 2015.
The Washington Post—Getty Images Vanessa Hudgens (L) and Corey Cott (R) rehearse a scene of 'Gigi' at the Kennedy Center in Washington on Jan. 15, 2015.

The actress will be making her official debut of 'Gigi' next month

From High School Musical star to budding Broadway ingenue, Vanessa Hudgens had definitely come a long way. The actress is set to make her official debut on the Great White Way next month as the lead in the revival of the 1958 rom-comGigi, which is currently in previews at the Neil Simon Theatre in New York City after playing a pre-Broadway engagement in Washington, D.C. earlier this year.

“I love this character so much,” Hudgens previously said. “I think the story is so relevant. Gigi’s a very strong, powerful young woman who knows who she is.”

And Hudgens is thrilled about heading to stage—the 26-year-old has documented every move of her Gigi journey on Instagram, from when she first received the news that the show was Broadway bound to prepping for the show backstage in the Big Apple just last night.

Gigi officially opens on Broadway April 8th. For more information, and to buy tickets, visit gigionbroadway.com.

Getting ready for another @gigionbroadway show! Can't wait!

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

Best part about wearing a wig? The after math of pin curls 😉💁 wearing @camillawithlove

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

My new home!!! Repost via @napacott

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

That moment you realize you made it to Broadway @gigionbroadway

A video posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

@gigionbroadway #gma! click the link in my bio to watch the full performance!!

A video posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

I can't. even. handle it. Top knot party at @gigionbroadway rehearsals with the goof @naponacott. I can'ttttttttt

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

Just finished day 2 on @gigionbroadway

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

Back in NY, but wanted to give a shoutout to my LA @soulcycle family. Thank you for the lovely send off!

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

Umm woooooow this is crazy @gigionbroadway

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

Last show in DC!!!!! @gigionbroadway

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

It's happening!!!!!!!! @gigionbroadway

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

Best way to start the day. @soulcycle ride for @gigionbroadway 🚲💪😍

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

Oh snap. Countdown @gigionbroadway

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

Wore only the best @aliceandolivia last night #openingnight @gigionbroadway so excited. So grateful. And oh so blessed.

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

My vocal coach Eric Vetro is the best. #openingnight @gigionbroadway

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

My bb girl @ashleytisdale came to see me last night @gigionbroadway love u boo

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

First looksie!!!!!!!!! @gigionbroadway @naponacott

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

A WHOLE PAGE IN THE NY TIMES!!!!! @gigionbroadway Dress by @flynnskye

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

Getting ready 💁🎶😉❤️ @gigionbroadway

A video posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

Ahhhh so close to having an audience!!!! So excited for tomorrow @gigionbroadway ❤️❤️❤️❤️💋💋💋

A photo posted by Vanessa Hudgens (@vanessahudgens) on

This article originally appeared on InStyle.com.

Read next: Sutton Foster Talks Younger, Bunheads and Broadway

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TIME Music

Listen to Ben Stiller’s Little-Known Punk Rock Music

His old album 'Roadkill' will be reissued on vinyl

Before Ben Stiller was a comedic juggernaut, he was just another an angsty teenager doing what angsty teenagers do—trying to make it as a punk rocker. Stiller was the drummer in a band called Capital Punishment; in 1982, the group self-released its only album, Roadkill.(Do you feel the angst?) Unfortunately, the trio disbanded shortly thereafter, ne’er to be heard of again—until their tracks appeared on YouTube last year.

But when the actor stopped by SiriusXM this week to promote his latest movie, While We’re Young, on Howard Stern, it came out that Captured Tracks, the independent Brooklyn label, is officially reissuing the album on vinyl. Hear Stiller discuss the band in the clip below—and get ready to order it (maybe).

This article originally appeared on EW.com.

TIME movies

Leonard Nimoy’s Son to Direct Spock Documentary

Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock in the STAR TREK episode, "Spock's Brain." which aired on Sept. 20, 1968.
CBS/Getty Images Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock in the STAR TREK episode, "Spock's Brain." which aired on Sept. 20, 1968.

Zachary Quinto and William Shatner will be part of the film

Just one month after the death of Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock on Star Trek, his son Adam Nimoy has announced plans to produce a documentary about the iconic character titled For the Love of Spock.

Nimoy’s fellow Star Trek actors will help honor the star in the documentary. Zachary Quinto, who played Spock in the last two Star Trek films, will narrate. Filmmakers say that William Shatner, who starred opposite Nimoy in the original series as Captain Kirk, has also agreed to appear in the film.

Adam Nimoy hopes to release the film in time to honor the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, which first aired on Sept. 8, 1966. Nimoy, who has directed episodes of Gilmore Girls and The Practice, told Variety that he and his father had discussed the project for months before the elder Nimoy’s death. Adam Nimoy says that the reaction to his father’s illness has inspired him to go ahead with the film.

“He felt as if he had plenty of time, but then he declined precipitously,” he said. “I was struck with the outpouring of affection for him after he died, so this feels like the right thing to do.”

Leonard Nimoy announced via Twitter last year that he had been diagnosed with COPD, a chronic respiratory disease caused by smoking that has no cure. He encouraged fans on Twitter not to smoke. Nimoy died on Feb. 27.

Read next: This Is How the New Spock Said Goodbye to the Old Spock


TIME movies

See Ryan Reynolds Lying on a Bearskin Rug in His First Picture as Deadpool

20th Century Fox Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool

The film is set to hit theaters in February 2016

Ryan Reynolds has pushed hard for a Deadpool spinoff movie from the X-Men franchise, and now that he has it, he’s celebrating in style. The actor spoofed Burt Reynolds in the first picture of Deadpool released by Fox, posing on a bearskin rug in front of a fire. Reynolds tweeted the picture for comparison, along with a disclaimer:

Reynolds has been talking about making a Deadpool movie since 2005. “I would love to play that role,” Reynolds said at the time during a convention. “The merc[enary] with a mouth … it’s like that’s the reason I stepped out of my mother, to play that role. So someday. Hopefully.”

The character, who has super healing abilities and thus is very difficult to kill, last appeared in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, a box office disappointment compared to other entries in the franchise. But fans responded positively to leaked test footage of Reynolds playing Deadpool, likely convincing Fox to give the project the green light.

Reynolds is currently filming in Vancouver. Deadpool is set to hit theaters in February 2016.


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