Clarence Daniels III

JJ Abrams on how much is too much when it comes to world-building; Danny Elfman came up with The Batman score in an airplane bathroom; and we remember the great Clarence Williams III. All in today’s Movie News Rundown.

But First: Savannah College of Art and Design graduate Jess Farran talks about her film “The Awakening” for our New School series on great talents emerging from film schools. “The Awakening” combines her love of fashion with her tree-climbing, lake-jumping, very outdoorsy upbringing in Michigan, and you can watch it here.

JJ Abrams: The writer-director-producer, well-known for world-building and rebuilding on projects from Lost to Mission: Impossible to Star Wars, talked to Margeaux Sippell about when to say when. Abrams talks about how creatives need to “disappear” so that audiences can’t see the work that they’re doing. “You’re doing your job, and yet at the same time, your job is to disappear and not be doing your job, not to be seen as doing your job.” Lisey’s Story, his latest collaboration with Stephen King, is out now.

Conjuring Up Dollars: The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It was the top movie at the box office this weekend with $24 million. That number is more impressive when you consider that it was also available for home viewing on HBO Max. It was the third biggest opening since theaters reopened, IndieWire notes. A Quiet Place Part II earned about $57 million over Memorial Day weekend, for the best opening since the pandemic hit. Godzilla vs. Kong, which was also released on HBO Max and in theaters, earned $48.5 million in its first five days. It was more of a you-must-see-this-on-a-bit-screen movie, which probably helped.

More Quiet Place: A third film in the series will be out in 2023, Deadline reports. This one will be directed by Jeff Nichols, and based on an idea by John Krasinski, who directed the first two.

Batman on a Plane: Danny Elfman said on the WTF With Marc Maron podcast that he was hit with the inspiration for his 1989 Batman score at a very inconvenient time: while flying from London to Los Angeles. Afraid of forgetting the music, he made several trips to the bathroom to play the passages in his brain on his recorder. Flight attendants became concerned. “And they were probably going, ‘What the fuck he is doing so frequently? You can’t do that much blow. You can’t shoot up that often,'” Elfman told Maron, as transcribed by The Hollywood Reporter. “What is he doing in there?!’ And I piece by piece was working out the Batman score in my head.”

R.I.P. Clarence Williams III: The actor, who brought verve to good-guy roles and diabolical cool to villainous ones, has died at 81, The Associated Press reports. After rising to fame as hip cop Linc Hayes on The Mod Squad, he appeared in projects including Purple Rain (playing Prince’s father), Twin Peaks, Deep Cover and Lee Daniels’ The Butler. The AP detailed his recollection of his first audition for director John Frankenheimer, for his 1986 adaptation of Elmore Leonard’s 52 Pick-Up: “He asked me to read for the part of one of the blackmailers, but after only four lines, he told me to stop. I thought it was all over, but he said, ‘Have your agent call me. It will be a 10-week shoot. Thank you for coming in.’ That was it.” They became frequent collaborators. Bill Duke, who directed Williams in Deep Cover, tweeted: “Great Actor, Great Man, Great Spirit, He will be missed.”


Comment of the Day: “This is an excellent article,” says Ed in response to our piece about a Pittsburgh theater getting into film distribution to make sure smaller movies get into cinemas. “Every movie can’t be a blockbuster, and as the distributor points out here this movie (which I saw last year) is exactly the kind of movie with slightly recognizable stars and an interesting tone, that was ubiquitous 30 years ago and used to win awards 40 years ago. I’m not saying it’s at the same level, but when you think about a movie like Annie Hall you realize that kind of movie, which won Best Picture and was a big hit, has no place in today’s movie world. NONE. No one wants it. So, it’s great to see someone like this taking a chance. And thanks to you guys for writing about it.” Thank you, Ed!

Class Dismissed’: Here is Clarence Williams III striking fear into Dave Chappelle’s character in Half-Baked.

Main image: Clarence Williams III at the 2013 premiere of Lee Daniels’ The Butler. Courtesy of Shutterstock.