I absolutely adores old movies (It’s black and white? The soundtrack is staticky? The camera never moves? I’m in!!!), but I understand that the movies themselves are a hard sell to many people today. If you weren’t lucky enough to be introduced to them at a young age, they can be hard to get used to (or at least that’s what I’ve been told). But one thing that is distinctly not old-fashioned, or boring, or difficult to understand is the stories behind the scenes. To be honest, Hollywood was a lot wilder in those days. With no Internet, and paparazzi little more than someone with a camera at a premiere, stars and studio executives could get away with a lot more. Sure, there were plenty of movie magazines, but gossip columnists could be easily paid off, whether it was in money or access.
My point is that there are a million stories to be told about that time period, and now, finally, we’re going to get one of the most important. Deadline reports that Lily Rabe has been cast as Mary Pickford in a biopic of the screen legend. Pickford was not only one of the first legitimate movie stars, but she was also one of the first to recognize the power of the celebrity and understand how that could be used to make a fortune in the movies. By forming her own production company, United Artists, with husband Douglas Fairbanks, friend Charlie Chaplin, and director D.W. Griffith, she took control of her career in a way that others hadn’t thought possible. In addition to being one of the richest, most powerful people in Hollywood, she and Fairbanks were also the social royalty of Hollywood. She was the first Really Big Deal in Hollywood, known as America’s Sweetheart (though she was Canadian!). Pickford looked sweet onscreen, but she was tougher than nails off it.
So now we’re finally going to get her story on screen. The film will be based on Eileen Whitfield’s biography “Pickford: The Woman Who Made Hollywood,” with Josh Fagin adapting for the screen. Julie Pacino and Jennifer DeLia are producing and selling the project at Cannes. They’ll also be casting Chaplin, Fairbanks, Pickford’s mother and manager Charlotte Hennessy, her friend and collaborator, screenwriter Frances Marion, and Griffith. Production is set to begin in early 2013.
Here’s the big quote from DeLia:
“Julie and I noticed an intriguing quality in Lily when watching her perform on stage – something that felt so authentic and pitch-perfect,” DeLia said. “And like Lily, Mary Pickford’s inner-fabric was made up in big part by her experiences with live performance in the theatre. Eventually though Pickford figured out, all on her own, the difference between acting in front of a live audience versus acting in front of the camera. For the role, we knew that we wanted someone who embodied those same qualities and who has truly experienced that seamless crossover as an actress. Mary became known for those instincts and those same instincts were what drew us to Lily, knowing how difficult that range is to achieve. Meeting Lily really sealed the deal as not only did she already know a lot about Pickford but also, we were instantly able to visually place Lily in that time, right into Mary’s shoes. Lily didn’t know that we were seriously thinking of her for the part but when we talked about Pickford, her passion for the story was clear. Lily as Mary Pickford totally crystallized for us and we couldn’t be more thrilled about her agreeing to take on this role.”