We have a new still and a couple of details about the Documentary Now episode starring Cate Blanchett entitled “Waiting for the artist”. Enjoy! The episode “Waiting for the Artist,” is set to air on IFC, March 6.
In the case of “Waiting for the Artist,” a riff on the Marina Abramovi? documentary “The Artist Is Present,” the process involved coming up with several decades’ worth of performance-art pieces, replete with photographs and performance videos shot on period equipment. Ms. Blanchett went through 13 wigs in four days.
“She provided some of her own costumes,” says Mr. Thomas. “She really met us on the plane of obsessive detail.”
MEYERS: Yeah! They said, “Who is your dream for this?” and that was the answer, and they came back and said she was in (laughs). That was surreal. But because we all of a sudden weren’t just picking things that we thought Bill and Fred could be good at, we could just take any documentary and just cast based on what fit best. Obviously no one has more range than Bill and Fred, but there are still limits to that range and certainly Cate Blanchett’s a good example of how it would not have been the same if it was still a Bill and Fred only show.
It’s worked out. I miss Bill and I miss Fred in half the episodes, but it’s great to see people like Cate Blanchett or Michael Keaton in this. What’s the process of choosing the documentaries like? Does that happen before you cast the people I guess?
MEYERS: Yeah I mean Far Side was a holdover from Season 2 as far as an idea, but then everything else was new business. And then it was just trying to find things that felt unique versus previous seasons, so we’d never done a sports documentary which led to bowling, and we felt the art world would be a fun place to look which led to Waiting for the Artist.
I wanted to get into a couple of the episodes specifically. Without spoiling the ending, I’ll just say that Waiting for the Artist is very carefully constructed and the punchline is amazing. How did you hit upon the ending, and how was that one put together?
MEYERS: I really like The Artist Is Present, but there’s not really a narrative thrust other than just, “Here’s her career. Here’s the show.” And in the early drafts of it we felt it was lacking a narrative arc, because the reality is a lot of Abramovic’s art is pretty hilarious to begin with, so to do different versions of it felt a little one for one (laughs). We started watching other art documentaries and building out the character of Fred and sort of making that a character that, while you were paying attention to one thing, we managed to lay in that there was another thing happening, which is it wasn’t just a retrospective but it was also sort of a story about how even women who are incredible artists and you think have power, there’s always gonna be some guy who’s fucking it up for them (laughs). And again it was a perfect role for Fred to bring alive.
I’m fascinated by selling Cate Blanchett on this. I know she’s done comedy before, but this is such a silly and funny idea. Were there any discussions beforehand or anything?
MEYERS: I only heard she said yes (laughs). Really, three days after I said her name she said she was in. I had never met her and we sat down in New York for coffee one morning. I had heard she wanted to have coffee and so I went into it prepared to get her notes and hear what she wanted to do with it, but the only way to describe it was totally game. She had a take on how to play it, but she didn’t have any issues or suggestions for the script. Obviously if you watch it it’s like your dream for being a writer on it or for the directors of it, she just jumped in with both feet. It’s just a joy to watch. You think that there has to be this really protracted negotiation to get somebody like Cate Blanchett, but one of the things she told me was, “No one really asks me to do stuff like this.” And you realize sometimes you’ve just gotta take a risk and realize that somebody like Cate Blanchett’s just waiting for the day to go to Budapest and shoot for five days to make a fake documentary (laughs).
I mean she seemed to have a blast making Thor: Ragnarok. I think it’s funny that a lot of people think actors of her caliber aren’t interested in silly comedy, but clearly this shows her range.
MEYERS: It’s really true. There is something similar with the way she performs in Thor, which is, “Oh this is somebody who really likes to have fun.” Sometimes people who are as great an actor as she is, people just assume, “Oh what she does must be so arduous,” but the reality is to get a part like this or to get a part in Thor must just be such a relief to her to just let loose and have a great time.
[…]the episode from this season that I will re-watch, and that deepened my engagement with the documentary form, is “Waiting for the Artist,” in which Cate Blanchett guest-stars as the performance artist Izabella Barta. Blanchett perfectly captures an essence of Marina Abramovic, who allowed a crew to follow her as she staged her MoMA retrospective for the 2012 film The Artist Is Present. The self-aggrandizing mission statements, the anxiety meltdowns as the show nears, the abstruse declarations about the purpose of performance art—Blanchett mimics all of these. Famous Barta pieces include “Gender Roles on Spin Cycle,” in which she sits inside an industrial dryer; “Domesticated,” in which she drinks from a bowl of milk on the floor while she screams “I am human!” over and over to a cat; and “Ein Tag, Ein Frankfurter,” in which she eats only one hot dog, very slowly, every day for a year as a way to process a breakup.
These pieces seem absurd, but no more than many that Abramovic really staged throughout her career. Consider “Carrying the Skeleton,” in which she hoisted a skeleton on her back and walked around with it as a way to show that she was confronting grief. In her real MoMA show, Abramovic sat in a gallery of the museum all day, allowing members of the public to sit across from her and experience her presence. Many cried, or said they had spiritual revelations. In Documentary Now!, Blanchett stages the same sort of experience, except it takes place in a sculpture of a public bathroom, in which patrons pass toilet paper to her underneath a stall (many cry, many have spiritual revelations). It is not that the episode doesn’t take performance art seriously; it simply suggests that perhaps Abramovic’s work has always been in dialogue with comedy.?
In real life, Abramovic often worked with her longtime lover, Ulay. When they broke up, they made the separation official by staging a grand performance of meeting each other to say goodbye in the middle of the Great Wall of China. In “Waiting for the Artist,” Armisen plays the Ulay character, here named Dimo, a provocateur who is constantly trying to take credit for Izabella’s work and admits that he was cheating on her while she was ascetically devoted to her art. Abramovic had an emotional reunion with Ulay in her documentary, when he sat across from her and grabbed her hand in the museum. The parody offers no such closure. Instead, it allows Barta to humiliate Dimo in such a public and emasculating way (which I won’t spoil here) that the episode almost doubles as a radical work of feminist art.[…]
Take the season’s biggest swing in terms of guest star casting: Two-time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett, playing a variant of performance artist Marina Abramovi? in “Waiting For The Artist.” Armisen and Hader have both demonstrated that they can play women at a level that defies easy labels like “parody,” but it’d still be hard to swallow a tale of female artistic empowerment like this—especially from a creative team so overwhelmingly white and male—without a woman of commanding skill in the leading role. And because we haven’t seen Blanchett play any other characters on the show, it short-circuits the little voice in the back of your head that whispers “That’s such a Hader part” every time he shows up on the screen. Instead, she simply is Abramovi?—or rather, Izabella Barta, creator of such modern-art masterpieces as the blatantly self-harming “Bucket” series. (It doesn’t hurt that Blanchett is unsurprisingly gifted at feeding the silliness of her characters’ artistic ideas without ever sacrificing her dignity and humanity in the process.) Buono and Thomas frequently discuss pulling their writers back from the urge to make the show a cavalcade of jokes, ruining the reality of its carefully crafted universes. Casting an actress of Blanchett’s skill in the part achieves a similar effect: By forcibly giving up the comfort of Hader’s comic skills, the show’s third season of fake documentaries feels “realer” than anything that’s come before.
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Huge thanks to the fans from CBF Chat for sharing these infos with us!!!
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