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Is the super-exclusivity of Hollywood live reads a fantasy?

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Hollywood live reads are currently all the rage, but are they really just a cynical ploy to ‘humanise’ the industry?

Last week, everyone in Hollywood was desperately trying to get their paws on a ticket to the world ‘premiere’ of Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight. After the original script was leaked back in January, Tarantino announced, livid with rage, that the project was being scrapped. After he quietly picked up his toys and put them back in his pram, he decided that he would re-write it with a view to have the movie back in production.

What film fan wouldn’t love a chance to hear scripts before anybody else, laugh in the right places and applaud at the end?

And that’s where it currently stands. The movie is still a work in progress. So how, you ask, did The Hateful Eight premiere last week? Enter live reads – not a new concept, but something that is certainly gathering huge momentum. A live read is an event that usually only happens in the offices of production companies, where the writer, director, cast and producers will sit around and read out the script, in order to gain a sense of direction, pick at the plot holes and see what works. What film fan wouldn’t love a chance to sit in on these meetings, hear the script before anybody else, laugh in the right places and applaud ferociously at the end?

With the recent emergence of public live read events, that dream is becoming a reality. However, is it a heartfelt attempt by the industry to create a warm, loving community for fans to be involved with the projects they will later champion? Or is it a cold ploy to commodify an industry that is fighting back against illegal downloads and leaked scripts?

pulp fiction jackson travolta

Live reads of existing scripts have been creating quite a buzz recently. Director Jason Reitman (Juno, Thank You For Smoking) has curated events for the Film Independent series at LACMA, where most notably Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen teamed up for a series of live reads of Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. How many times have you thought to yourself “I wonder what Joseph Gordon Levitt would sound like imitating John Travolta”? Wonder no more – for up to $200 a ticket, you can find out.

One belief is that – in the age of Netflix – live reads are reintroducing exclusivity to Hollywood

Live reads aren’t particularly a new concept. We’ve already seen the all-black Reservoir Dogs, where – as the name would suggest – an (almost) all-black cast read out the Reservoir Dogs script. This too was brought to us by Jason Reitman. You may believe he pioneered the concept all on his own, but looking back all the way to 1910, Alistair Crowley created a series of events called Rites of Eleusis, public performances of ideas usually discussed in private by creative types but open to regular folk for the princely sum of 50 guineas a ticket. Are live reads merely another attempt to line the pockets of directors and actors, to rob dedicated fans of their hard earned guineas?

One slightly less cynical belief is that live reads are a way of reintroducing exclusivity to the film industry. In an age where films are readily available at any given moment, how can the hardcore fans differentiate themselves from the Netflix marathon masses? By attending live reads, not only are you gaining a new perspective on your favourite film – look, there’s Paul Rudd as Westley from The Princess Bride – but, by attending, you can smugly announce, “You don’t know The Princess Bride until you’ve seen Paul Rudd in The Princess Bride”.

Read more on film: Bryan Singer, and the X-Men conundrum

anchorman 2 paul rudd

Fans love extra-referentiality – when your favourite show references another show that you love, you can hop up and down excitedly in your seat and proclaim “I know what they’re talking about! I’m so totally in!” Seeing Seth Rogen and Nick Kroll act as Maynard and Zed in the Pulp Fiction live read is the same thing. You know the actors, you know the characters, but this is all new and, apparently, totally different. This is your chance to witness something incredibly post-modern and therefore super cool. Then you’ve got the added fact that entry into these events is harder than gaining access to than The Batcave.

As long as they’re disguised as homage to great cinema, live reads can continue to gain hype and become the Next Big Thing

Another reason people could be so desperate for a ticket to live reads could be that nobody is digging ‘soulless’ anymore. What with the world crushing on Jennifer Lawrence for stumbling up the stairs and ‘normal guy’ actors like the aforementioned Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen pulling in the big bucks, is this LA’s way of normalising Hollywood? We’ve all sat around at a friend’s house with a pizza and a beer, watching our favourite films, quoting every line (Role Models or Hot Rod work perfectly for this, should you care to try it). Now Hollywood is offering you the chance to sit around in a theatre with a considerably more expensive beer and watch the stars re-enact their favourite films.

And surely there’s something comforting in knowing that bona fide celebrities are just like us. Or is this one last ditch attempt from the industry to cash in from fans that desperately want to be a part of the magical world of cinema, or the more pretentious that want to be in with the cool crowd? As fun as a live read may be, it’s rather conceited by all involved to feel they could provide such loved roles the justice they deserve. However, as long as the events are disguised as homage to great cinema, live reads can continue to gain hype and become the Next Big Thing.

 

More on film: Is Eli Roth’s The Green Inferno exploitation?

 

Featured image: Dan Dickinson (via Flickr)

Inset images: Miramax; Paramount

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