Few people have done as much as Kenny Ortega to keep the magic of dance alive. Even before programs like “Dancing With the Stars” came along, Ortega would show through his direction and choreography the true art of dance. And he showed it to a broad audience.
Fans of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” always talk about the parade sequence. That was Ortega’s work. The lift scene in “Dirty Dancing” is an iconic moment in film history. That was Ortega’s doing. Toss in the “High School Musical” productions, “Descendants” and the recent TV version of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and Ortega keeps bringing dance to the masses.
You can see his work in “Descendants 2” when it debuts in late July.
Ortega tells me that all of his productions have one thing in common.
“The music and dance have to move the story along. The production can’t just stop for a number. It has to be part of the whole story,” Ortega says during an interview at the Disney Channel offices to talk about “Descendants.”
He learned the lessons about the importance of dance to a story through one of the greatest dance storytellers to ever put on a pair of dance shoes –Gene Kelly. They worked together on “Xanadu,” one of Ortega’s first feature film credits as a choreographer and Kelly’s last.
An example of how a dance number is vital to a story comes in “Dirty Dancing” when Johnny Castle (Patrick Swayze) lifts Baby (Jennifer Grey) above his head on the dance floor. That scene was always in the script but another moment with the lift was added later.
“The suggestion came from Patrick and Eleanor Bergstein, the writer. We were filming near this incredible lake and they came to me and said wouldn’t it be beautiful if they were practicing the lift in the safety of water where Baby wouldn’t get hurt,” Ortega says.
It’s those kind of moments that have made Ortega such a proponent for dance that continue through “Descendants 2.” you can see his work when the film debuts Friday, July 21.
A lot of fans had been wondering what character Sylvester Stallone would be playing in “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2.”
If you weren’t among the masses who hit theaters over the weekend, I could tell you but it is best you learn for yourself.
No, it’s not Rambo or Rocky in space. It’s also not a sequel to the 1993 action film “Cliffhanger” despite the fact Stallone worked on that film with Michael Rooker, who plays Yondu in the “Guardians” movies.
The closest to a “Cliffhanger” sequel is that Rooker says working with Stallone again was like old times.
Anyone who has seen the film can tell you the best thing to do is to pay VERY close attention to every scene Stallone is in because once you get the full grasp of who he is playing, it is a cool discovery for fans of Marvel Comics.
Stallone did join a cast that had already made one film together. Being that he was the new guy, there were a lot of initiations.
“It kept us all up all night. Snapped up some wet towels. Donate blood. Things like that,” Stallone says.
If you haven’t picked up on it, Stallone is joking. He found blending into the project easy once he walked on the set and was surrounded by alien creatures and robots. The fact none wanted to go 15 rounds with him was a bonus.
Stallone says working on “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” was “better than being up a tree in Burma.” He has a long history of working in the jungles for the “Rambo” movies. He doesn’t have a lot of experience with films set in space or super hero tales except starring in “Judge Dredd.”
Is doing a big super hero movie in another galaxy another item off his bucket list? Stallone deadpans an answer: “The only thing I haven’t done is really perform brain surgery on myself.”
He gets serious and adds, “I’ve been very, very lucky, and I’ve spared Shakespeare undue stress by not doing that. You’ve got to know your strengths and your weaknesses.
“This is definitely venturing into a new area and it takes a lot of skill to work in these films. It’s one thing to do the kind of action movies I do, but this thing, there’s a lot to it and I was very, very impressed by the patience and the professionalism and just the overall skill set that these people possess.”
All of that helped him play … Oops! Can’t tell you. You will have to see the movie for that answer.
Because of downsizing at The Bee, this is Rick Bentley’s final Hollywood Notebook. Follow him on Twitter: @RickBentley1