Welcome, readers. I’m Mike De Luca and this is ON THE SLATE. This is where we talk about what’s hot, what’s not, what’s overrated, what’s underrated, what’s awful, what’s awesome…well, you know, we met at that party at Cher’s house. I was wearing my Pocahontas fetish costume. I approached you and asked, “Can you turn back time?” You said, “Yes, I can with my….” We ducked into the bathroom, and beneath a nude photograph of Sonny Bono holding a banjo, we….Wait, that wasn’t you? Shit. Man, I really have to lay off the bourbon. Hold on. It’s all coming back to me now. Oh God. Those chiseled abs. That perfectly shaved head…TYLER PERRY? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! Anyway, welcome! One week we might talk about Rupert Sanders’ sexual prowess, of offer up unfiltered commentary on my days as John Travolta’s private masseuse (that chin is like velvet). But, before we begin, there are three things you need to know — #1 — This is ON THE SLATE with Mike De Luca. #2 — I am not producing a film called “Black Light” (though you wouldn’t want to shine one on me). #3 — My snozzberries taste like snozzberries. Let’s begin…

Let’s assume for a moment that director Werner Herzog isn’t crazy as a brick shithouse. Let’s assume the man who battled Klaus Kinski on the Amazon (and while pulling a steamboat up a mountain) is perfectly balanced, a fact further evinced by his pairing of Nicolas Cage and iguanas. How then should we explain his casting of the over-emotive Rob Pattinson as T.E. Lawrence in Herzog’s “Queen of the Desert”, a title that, surprisingly, does not refer to either Pattinson or T.E. Lawrence. Or Terence Stamp. No, it refers to Gertrude Bell, an archaeologist played by Naomi Watts (or as I call her, King Kong’s biotch). Bell was an English writer, traveler, archaeologist, spy, and political officer who, through, her mapping and expert knowledge of the Middle East, became an invaluable asset to the British Empire in the early years of the 20th century. With T. E. Lawrence, Bell would have a large hand in putting in place monarchies to rule over new countries like Iraq and Jordan. This effort would place a great strain on Bell, who would later say of her dealings with King Faysal, who she helped place in charge of Iraq: “”You may rely upon one thing – I’ll never engage in creating kings again; it’s too great a strain”.

The great “Lawrence of Arabia” himself described Bell as being able “to ignite fires in cold rooms”. Werner Herzog probably had the same approach in mind when he decided to supplant our memories of that hack Peter O’ Toole with the chiseled visage of future Academy Award Winner Robert Pattinson.


Herzog: “I would travel down into hell and wrestle the devil and tell him, ‘That’s what she said’”. Next!

In 1998, Martin Scorsese had a dream (no, not the one where he and Leo get drunk and stumble upon a comely Marion Cotillard — wait, that was my dream, one I call La Vie En Sex). Anyway, Scorsese’s plan was to make a biopic of Dean Martin called “Dino”, based on Nick Tosches 1992 book of the same name. “Goodfellas”/”Casino” screenwriter was to be on hand to help Scorsese with the script. And Scorsese’s cast wish list included: Tom Hanks as Dean Martin, ON THE SLATE favorite John Travolta as Frank Sinatra, Hugh Grant as Peter Lawford, Adam Sandler as Joey Bishop, and Jim Carrey as Jerry Lewis. Such an all-star lineup would even rival that of Sandler’s later film “Grown Ups”. Could you imagine Travolta pissing in a pool? (I don’t have to.) Anyway, the project fizzled out. HBO moved forward with its own Rat Pack movie (creatively titled “The Rat Pack”), helmed by “The Fast and the Furious” auteur Rob Cohen. Don Cheadle was Sammy Davis, Jr., Joe Mantegna did a spot-on Dean Martin, and Old Blue Eyes was played by Ray Liotta, which tells you everything you need to know. For the record, Ray Liotta and I are just good friends.


“Yeah, whatever, Mike. You know I like your snozzberries.”

In 2009, still probably peeved about the whole “Dino” thing, Scorsese announced he had worked out an agreement with the Sinatra estate to make a film called “Sinatra” (again with the creative titling) which would tell the Chairman of the Board’s life by using “collective scenes and moments that form the overall story as opposed to a conventional timeline”. You know, like “Raging Bull”. The script was to be written by Phil Alden Robinson (“Field of Dream”). Because nothing says “Sinatra”, quite like the guy who equated baseball with divine worship and made a thousand guys cry with their dads. Yep. Frank would love that like he loved nuns, which is, to say, not at all, baby. Anyway, that cat Phil got the heave-ho, and, in 2011, that swinging fella Scott Rudin got involved with the ring-a-ding. And, finally, after all that jazz, baby, the man my Irish grandfather once called “a thug who could sing”, will now be immortalized by Billy Ray, the swinging daddy who wrote the “The Hunger Games” for the kids, and by Little Leo DiCaprio, that pretty boy who was in the movie with the boat.


“Shut up. You know you want this ass.”

All I can say is, remember Ray Liotta. Moving on…

Lastly, we once again this week have sad news to report, and I have lost two titans of my childhood: Mel Stuart and Carlo Rambaldi.

Both men made dreams come true. Imagine a world where Stuart had not directed 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”. Now I love Tim Burton’s work. I’ll even go to bat for “Dark Shadows” (despite its messy third act) as an example of a director and star using studio resources to make an at-times glorious pastiche on 70’s kitsch entertainment (Segal, Alice Cooper, Carpenters). But, for me, there is only one bona fide adaptation of Roald Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”, “The Candy Man”, warts and all. Oh, what a joy it was to be a child and see that factory floor, with its forest and chocolate river. Or to see what a snozzberry looks like. Or an everlasting gobstopper jawbreaker before they made it into a real-life crappy candy. Or that insane boat ride. Or the sight of Gene Wilder finding that middle ground between genius and madness, not to mention, sweetness. If it wasn’t for video and DVD and blu-ray and the occasional print, all those memories would be lost, like tears in “Chocolate Rain”.

Italian special effects artist Carlo Rambaldi was a visionary. Without him, the Alien’s inner jaw would not extend from its mouth, extracting pieces of Harry Dean Stanton’s brain and scaring the crap of generations. Without Rambaldi, Roy Neary would not be met by those same beautiful benevolent creatures at the end of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. And, above all, without Rambaldi, there would be no E.T. And that, my friends, is everything.

Until next time this is ON THE SLATE reminding you that just because Rupert Sanders wants you, does not mean you have to reciprocate.

Your white chocolate,



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