His outsized life and unique career are revealed as never before: here are the words of his family and friends, and a few enemies, as well as the agents, writers, crew members, producers, and stars who worked with him, including Meryl Streep, Warren Beatty, Tim Robbins, Julianne Moore, Paul Newman, Julie Christie, Elliott Gould, Martin Scorsese, Robin Williams, Cher, and many others. There is even Altman himself, in the form of his exclusive last interviews.
After an all-American boyhood in Kansas City, a stint flying bombers through enemy fire in World War II, and jobs ranging from dog-tattoo entrepreneur to television director, Robert Altman burst onto the scene in 1970 with the movie M*A*S*H. He revolutionized American filmmaking, and, in a decade, produced masterpieces at an astonishing pace: McCabe & Mrs. Miller, Thieves Like Us, The Long Goodbye, 3 Women, and, of course, Nashville. Then, after a period of disillusionment with Hollywood - as well as Hollywood's disillusionment with him - he reinvented himself with a bold new set of masterworks: The Player, Short Cuts, and Gosford Park. Finally, just before the release of the last of his nearly 40 movies, A Prairie Home Companion, he received an honorary Oscar for lifetime achievement from the Academy, which had snubbed him for so many years.
Mitchell Zuckoff - who was working with Altman on his memoirs before he died - weaves Altman's final interviews, an incredible cast of voices, and contemporary reviews and news accounts, into a riveting tale of an extraordinary life. Here are a series of revelations that force us to reevaluate Altman as a man and an artist.
©2009 Mitchell Zuckoff; (P)2009 Random House
"A brilliantly researched, near-cinematic evocation. . . . Altman never gave up creating his cinematic portraits of people on the margins-con artists, prostitutes, gamblers, theives, clowns, movie executives-if only to shed light on the falsity behind his country's seemingly indefatigable, desperate pursuit of success." (The New Yorker)
"Scrupulously intelligent and entertaining. . . . Noisy, funny, slightly ill considered, a bit chaotic, and wholly believeable. In short, Altmanesque." (The New York Times Book Review)
"I just now put [Robert Altman] down feeling heartbroken but happily and deeply inspired. . . . Wonderful." (Wes Anderson)
This book made you feel like you knew Bob Altman...the first big movie, the wives, the genius, the alcohol and pot. The narration is brillliant. Highly recommended.
Given what I do for a living/with my life, this feels like the most significantly helpful and meaningful biography of a filmmaker I've ever experience. Mr. Altman's work has had a profound effect on me and now this celebration of his life and work has, too.
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