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'Alfie' director talks sexism

photo courtesy of Arizona theatre company
"A Streetcar Named Desire" - Arizona Theatre Company presents this Pulitzer Prize-winning play. It's so big that they spoofed it on "The Simpsons." Jan. 17 through Feb. 7. $25 - $39. 622-2823.
By Celeste Meiffren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 4, 2004
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The director of "Father of the Bride" and "The Parent Trap" is taking on misogynists and the male ego in the new remake of "Alfie," starring Jude Law.

Charles Shyer has been a family-friendly name for nearly two decades. He has written and directed a handful of films, mostly all of them aimed at the Sunday afternoon, post-church movie audience. Well, no longer.

"('Alfie') is a more daring movie than anything I've ever done. It's more out there, more reflective. It is reflective of where I am in my life now - the kind of work I want to do. You evolve, you change, you grow," Shyer said.

His decision to remake "Alfie" is a reaction to how he sees that women continue to be mistreated and objectified in popular culture and much of society.

"I think the story is relevant - as relevant today as it was when it was made, if not more so. I think there's risen up, in the last couple of decades, a new kind of misogynistic attitude that men have towards women. It is a bit revolting, and I just wanted to address that," he said.

"I think when the country moved to the right politically, it became more acceptable to have these misogynistic attitudes. I don't know. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's my observation."

"Alfie" is a movie that is rife with these attitudes. Its main character, after all, is a womanizer of grand proportions. He continuously objectifies women, seeing them only as sex objects. First Michael Caine and now Law have inhabited Alfie's skin, bringing the "player" attitude to the big screen. This player, ultimately, does not prevail.

"I thought it could be a great story to tell today. I thought it was a good cautionary tale with a real message, an interesting and real point of view, a great male role, and five fabulous women characters who have evolved out of what was made before. I thought there was a lot of possibility here.

"When we wrote it, I didn't want to be beholden to the original. I didn't want to improve it into a failure and bastardize the integrity of the original that Bill Naughton wrote. So, I tried to honor the original movie, but at the same time making this a stand-alone film that had its own credibility and its own integrity."

In order to make "Alfie" a stand-alone film, Shyer had to cast the perfect Alfie. It was an obvious choice.

"Jude Law is the best actor of his generation. I think he has the ability to be both light and dark. He has an innate quality that allows you to empathize with him, even though he may be doing things that maybe are politically incorrect," Shyer said. "You still don't hate him. When you act like Alfie, you better be cute, or you're not going to get girls."

Another way to make the new "Alfie" stand alone as a great film is to have really great music throughout. Mick Jagger monopolizes the soundtrack, giving it a specific sound quality and attitude.

"I think Mick Jagger has a '60s vibe, which I love. And I think he epitomizes it, although I think these songs are much more modern. I like him being the voice of Alfie. I think it's very proper," Shyer said. "He's been involved with the movie for a long time, and I think he was able to capture something that helped the narrative in a way that's indefinable and immeasurable."

By combining all these elements of filmmaking, Shyer has created a project that he is proud of.

"This is more the kind of person I am, this movie. It's more representative of the work I want to do in the future," Shyer said.

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