BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- For Larry David aficionados, this definitely qualifies as one of those good news/bad news/even better news situations.
If you're a fan of David's uniquely ill-tempered humour and his not-quite-autobiographical HBO series Curb Your Enthusiasm, you'll be thrilled to know he's got a new movie comedy, Clear History, premiering this week on HBO Canada.
If you're thinking this would be a great opportunity to see your favourite cranky comedian try something new and different, you're probably in for disappointment.
But if what you're after is more of Larry being Larry, even if this time he's not playing a version of Larry or even a completely fictional character named Larry, well, Clear History should be a big deal in your summer-TV experience.
Clear History, which premieres next Saturday (Aug. 10) on HBO Canada, finds David playing an unfortunate soul named Nathan Flomm, who -- thanks to some clever hair and makeup applications -- looks nothing like Larry David but, not too surprisingly, sounds pretty much exactly like him.
Flomm is a marketing executive at a fledgling electric-car company who gets into a disagreement with his boss (Jon Hamm) over what their soon-to-launch eco-vehicle should be called. Will Haney (Hamm) has decided to name the car after his son, Howard; Flomm thinks it's a stupid name and says so very loudly.
In the argument that follows, Nathan decides to quit his job and sell back his 10 per cent stake in the company. Ten years later, the Howard is an international sensation and the company is worth billions of dollars; Flomm humiliated, divorced, broke and destroyed, has changed his name to Rolly DaVore and is eking out a modest existence in the seaside community of Martha's Vineyard.
Everything seems to be going pretty well -- 10 years later, Nathan/Rolly is bald, grey and clean-shaven, so he's no longer recognizable as the long-haired loser who made headlines for walking away from a billion-dollar fortune. Until, that is, Haney and his beautiful wife, Rhonda (Kate Hudson), arrive in Martha's Vineyard as the new owners of a huge estate that they're planning to rebuild into an even more massive mansion complex.
Rolly is devastated, and finds himself forced to decide: Should he leave the Vineyard? Continue to try to conceal his identity as Haney becomes part of the community? Or, perhaps, hatch some kind of insane and ill-considered plan that will afford him a level of revenge while forcing Haney to be the one to leave?
It isn't hard to figure out which way this one's headed.
For his part, David said it was all about doing something for HBO that wasn't just another season of Curb. When it was suggested that despite the different setting, the tone and attitude of Clear History are a lot like what he delivers in Curb Your Enthusiasm, David was insistent that this project stands on its own.
"I would say this," David offered in his usual semi-confrontational tone when he met with the press during HBO's portion of the U.S. networks' semi-annual press tour in Los Angeles, "I was thinking about (doing more) Curb or thinking about doing a movie, and I thought, you know, perhaps it's time I tried something else. So I decided to do the movie.
"But it's not like, 'Oh, I have these ideas that I can use on Curb, but I want to do them in a movie.' Because I wasn't thinking that way. I was thinking either of doing either one or the other, and I just thought it was time to try something else."
What does make Clear History different from Curb Your Enthusiasm is the heavy layer of makeup David was forced to endure in the movie's early scenes. David said his original plan was to have Nathan be a clean-cut guy who later, as Rolly, grew out his hair and beard to disguise his identity.
He's glad he made Nathan the long-hair and Rolly the Larry lookalike.
"The main reason (for the makeup) was we didn't want Jon Hamm's character to be able to recognize me," David explained. "So it had to be extreme, and actually, as conceived, it was supposed to be the opposite, where I was going to be bald and myself at the beginning and then grow the beard and the hair.
"Thank God we didn't do it that way, because the makeup was intolerable -- to get to sit in that chair for an hour every morning to put that on, it felt like I had 10,000 insects on my head. I couldn't stand it. But I thought I cut quite a figure."
One thing this movie shares with his long-running HBO series is that it displays David's ability to attract a powerhouse roster of co-stars. In addition to Hamm and Hudson, Clear History features solid guest-starring performances by Danny McBride (Eastbound & Down), SNL veteran Bill Hader, Michael Keaton, Eva Mendes and, in an uncredited sort-of cameo, Liev Schreiber.
David said he was particularly happy to get McBride on board, because the structure of the movie -- largely improvised from rough outlines written for each scene -- demanded a lot from its comedy-minded cast.
"Danny was amazing in the movie," he offered. "He improvises some of the funniest lines in the movie. I would do scenes with him, and I just couldn't believe how fast he was, how sharp he was... He kind of had the part of my sounding-board pal, and a lot of scenes weren't designed for him to be funny, but because he's so fast and so good and such a great improviser, every scene he was in, he was terrific."
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HBO highlights: During HBO's portion of the TV press tour, network execs announced airdates for a few other upcoming titles (most will air on the same day/date on HBO Canada). Leading the list are Boardwalk Empire, which returns for its fourth season on Sept. 8, and Eastbound & Down, which begins its fourth and final season on Sept. 29. The acclaimed post-Katrina New Orleans drama Treme also returns for its fourth/final season later this year (date TBA).
Slated for new seasons in 2014 are Girls, Veep and Game of Thrones.
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