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Interview

Roundtable Q&A With The Director And Cast Of IT Chapter Two

Andy Muschietti (Director), James McAvoy (“Bill Denbrough”), Jessica Chastain (“Beverly Marsh”), Isaiah Mustafa (“Mike Hanlon”), Bill Hader (“Richie Tozier”), Jay Ryan (“Ben Hanscom”), James Ransone (“Eddie Kaspbrak”) and Andy Bean (“Stanley Uris”)

How much did watching the kids in the first film inform your performances in this one?

JAY RYAN: I watched Jeremy Ray Taylor’s performance even before I auditioned and tried to capture his sweetness and his humility.

JAMES RANSONE: All I did was I thought, “That kid talked really fast. If I can keep up with him, everything’s gonna be fine.” (LAUGHS)

ANDY BEAN: Absolutely, with the mannerisms, the posture and the sensitivity.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: In fact, my audition piece was a speech done by Chosen Jacobs in the first film, so I watched to see what he was up to with the character.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: I definitely watched the first film and specifically Sophia Lillis’ beautiful performance, and I tried to mirror the things that she was doing. When I rediscover the post card after all those years, I tried to mimic what she had done when she first received it, how she held it. I hadn’t told Andy [Muschietti] I was doing this, but I was holding my hands the way she did. When he saw me, he said, “You’re walking with her hands.”

JAMES MCAVOY: Yeah, I suppose I stole Jaeden Martell’s emotional vulnerability and his openness. As a kid, I think Bill is a strange mix of suppression and complete vulnerability, and Jaeden nailed that. So, I stole that from him, HARD. (LAUGHS)

BILL HADER: Yeah, Finn Wolfhard, it’s pretty easy. He’s not a very good actor (LAUGHS), you just have to kind of sleepwalk through the part. No, I absolutely worked within the character lines he had drawn.

Andy Muschietti—how important was it for you that they nailed the performances of the kids, or were you open to them bringing their own take on it?

ANDY MUSCHIETTI: It was both, actually. I didn’t ask them for a percentage, to capture an amount of what the younger actors had done. I just encouraged them to watch the performances in the first film—there are some important things, like the physicality. Mostly, it was just to help them get closer to these characters that audiences have seen and loved. But, I gave the actors the freedom to explore and let them decide what was good.

Did any of you have nightmares while filming?

JAMES MCAVOY: I did, in a strange way. I had read IT when I was a kid and really liked it, but it didn’t really scare me. Then, I re-read it again as an adult and I started to have nightmares about Pennywise. I can’t remember a hell of a lot of them, but I do remember one of them being him in bed beside me and stroking my back, while I pretended to be asleep. And that was pretty f***in’ terrifying.

BILL HADER: Yeah, that’s scary.

JAY RYAN: I had a weird dream about PJ [James Ransone], like just the other night. (LAUGHS)

JAMES RANSONE: That was so not the question!!!

JAY RYAN: No, actually after the ADR session, when I got to see some more of the film, I did have the weirdest dreams.

ANDY MUSCHIETTI: It’s amazing how all of the cast trusts you while you’re shooting. But, it’s not until you show them the movie edited, with the music and the visual effects, it’s like, “Oh, now I get it.”

Would any of you have been a member of something like a Loser’s Club?

GROUP: Nope!!!

(LAUGHTER)

BILL HADER: No, okay.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: A bunch of losers.

BILL HADER: A bunch of losers.

JAMES MCAVOY: Basically, during summer holidays, all the kids would sort of team up. But it would be intermittent—the next summer it would be different, and the summer after that. When I grew up, there were all these houses on a big huge row and they all shared gardens. I remember moments where we were going on adventures with our pals, and the adventure was to make it to the 20th garden along. But, there was a dog halfway there, and it felt like the whole world would collapse if we didn’t get past that dog. Nothing like this film—this stuff was truly adventurous and exciting.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: We just didn’t row that deep. We didn’t have seven people. We had maybe three, and then somebody’s relative would show up and you’d hang.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: You could play a fourth. That’s a squad.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: When we had seven, we were playing the game.

BILL HADER: Basketball.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: When there were seven, there was a ball involved.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: I didn’t have friends that were boys, which would have been nice when I was growing up. For some reason growing up, it was very segregated, where the boys hung out and the girls hung out separately. So, that would have been nice, especially to my development as a human being. (LAUGHS)

Tell us more about how you imagined your character was doing between the two films, in that 27-year span, and how that influenced your performance in this movie.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: It was pretty easy. Andy told me what my character was doing. (LAUGHS) He said, “You are the only one who stayed in Derry.” Mike was trying to figure out if this thing that happened so many years ago was going to happen again. I believe he felt a responsibility to stay in Derry, to be the custodian of this energy that they cultivated as a group. So, once that evil returned, he could call his friends and say, “Let’s do this thing again.”

The fact that your character never forgot, how did that shape your performance with everyone else? The other Losers don’t really remember until they come back to Derry.

ISAIAH MUSTAFA: I think just having listened to the audio book so many times, it was almost like I had lived in Derry for 27 years.

Andy Bean, what happened to your character during that time, in those years in between?

ANDY BEAN: I think the first seven years he joined the circus, to get over it. (LAUGHS) No, I think he developed the most normal life he could possibly create for himself, with the most routine, the most consistency. Finding his wife was his entire life. I think having a predictable life and enjoying the consistency and the contentment of his marriage—they were each other’s worlds. That became enough. It is quite a beautiful, content, comfortable life. I think Stanley was very happy with that, and he pushed down all of his memories of what happened for years and years.

And when the news comes back, with Mike’s phone call, would you say that idyllic life is thrown off-balance?

ANDY BEAN: Sure, yeah. I think he had buried his memories so deep that he didn’t really remember anything until he heard Mike’s voice—it’s his voice.

JAMES MCAVOY: In the book and in the film, the Losers that leave all become arguable winners, but they all have this tainted side to their success—none of them seem to be able to have children, for one. And there are these emotional issues that darken all of their, what seem like, perfect lives.

Jay, your character has a huge transformation.

JAY RYAN: Yeah, he has a polarizing physical change, becomes a Kiwi and moves to New Zealand. (LAUGHS) Ben, once he leaves town, he starts running, physically and emotionally, for 27 years. He learns how to say no, to stand up to bullies, and he becomes a leader in his profession. I don’t think he remembers the horrific things of Derry, but he remembers the good things and holds onto those, like Beverly, the friendship. It seems to the outside world that here’s a man who has everything, but he doesn’t really have any real human connections. I think he’s been waiting for this phone call from Mike for a while, and he’s ready to go back to Derry and really reveal his true self.

JAMES RANSONE: I think, for Eddie, there’s a lot of couple’s therapy and prescription pill management. (LAUGHS) Actually, I really think that he’s probably spent a lot of his time pretending to not think about his childhood by focusing on his wife—they don’t really love each other. I think that’s what it is. You get in those type of relationships, where it’s a constant project that needs fixing. You focus on that so that you don’t have to think about yourself.

Do you think it had a lot to do with his mother?

JAMES RANSONE: I agree with everyone in saying that the book’s about childhood trauma. And afterwards, a lot of people grow up and do really great things…but then, at a certain point, you have to deal with it. I think you get into adulthood and you aren’t focusing on those childhood events and, as some point, they come up again. I think that’s really what it’s about.

Bill, what about your character, Richie?

BILL HADER: I think he’s pretty good at repression –

(LAUGHTER)

JAMES MCAVOY: Repression?

BILL HADER: Yeah, like a lot of comedy people, you deal with stuff by joking about it. You say you’re being honest, but it’s really…

JAY RYAN: Depression.

BILL HADER: It’s depression. Yeah, exactly. I think that’s what he’s been not thinking about. He’s definitely someone who just doesn’t even want to. He’s the first guy, when they realize what’s happening, to say, “Oh, I’m outta here. F*** this.” He has deep, deep repression.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: For Beverly, she’s still living with her ideas of what love is. The first person she really loved is her father, so this idea—that love means someone you love can hurt you at the same time—has lasting impact on her. Also, choosing people who aren’t necessarily free. She falls for people who are, in some sense, tortured themselves. It’s all complicated for her. Love for her has always been something that hasn’t been easy. And when it’s not easy, she’s feels, “That’s what love is.” That’s where we meet her, 27 years later.

JAMES MCAVOY: Bill’s been off writing. He has all of this subconscious stuff—that he can’t remember—coming out in his work. He can’t finish his story because the story isn’t finished, in his head. Meanwhile, he’s trying to do a good impression of being in love. I think when he gets that call and he realizes that he’s been playing a role his entire life, he’s got to go home and get real.

ANDY MUSCHIETTI: In “IT Chapter Two” we’re telling the story of a bunch of adults who will face that one fear that is the most deeply buried. And in some cases, these are some things that we as an audience will not expect. These broken characters have been mostly successful in their professional lives, but they’ve been pushing down their original trauma. Obviously, it has to do with that summer, but it’s something that you don’t necessarily see coming, having watched the first film. It has to do with an event in that summer that they don’t remember—we didn’t see it, because they’ve repressed it.

This is a journey that the Losers need to take back to their childhood, to access the power of belief. But, they also need to look that one event from their past in the face, to be able to confront it, understand it and ultimately, overcome it. The conversations we all had were about character in general, but also about what these journeys meant for each of them. You can’t move past something you can’t recall, so this has basically cemented their paths as adults—they have just been running in circles. Beverly still has relationships with men that abuse her. She loves people that hurt her. Eddie has married his mum…basically.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDY MUSCHIETTI: These are the things you can basically surmise from watching the first film. But, there is other stuff that will be a surprise.

Are any of you actually afraid of clowns in your life, prior to joining this cast?

JAMES MCAVOY: I’m wary of them. I’d rather not be around them.

ANDY BEAN: They give me a really bad feeling.

JESSICA CHASTAIN: It depends on the clown.

ANDY BEAN: You know what scared me when I was a kid? Easter bunnies, when you go into a store. That actually scared me more. A six-foot Easter bunny.

BILL HADER: The “Magical Mystery Tour” album cover, like that animal mask. That dog mask thing bummed me out. Clowns, I was fine with.

JAMES MCAVOY: I often feel that clowns are like slightly freaky uncles, who are trying so hard. And you see a little kid react to that, like “That’s f***in’ weird.” Even to an adult, I think clowns are like that. Why are you trying so hard? There are easier ways to make me laugh. Just talk to me a minute, make me laugh. There’s something creepy about the effort that goes in it.

BILL HADER: Why did you look right at me after you said that…?

(LAUGHTER)

All right. That’s it. Thank you.

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Interview

Q&A With Actress Estelle Terblanche Of #ActorsLife

What inspired this project?

I was feeling frustrated waiting for someone to give me a break and this kind of just happened. It is a combination of my own journey and my friends’ stories.

How did you come to the name “#Actorslife”?

#ActorsLife came quite late in the rehearsal process. I was searching for the perfect name and I was constantly annoyed by the social media posts perpetuating the image that an actor is constantly made up to the nines and on set…. I realized that this play shows the pressures to constantly provide a perfect image, but also shows the reality of what an actors life really is.

What is #Actorslife about?

It is about so many things. The deep desire to be a professional actor, to be taken seriously and respected, in conflict with the need for affirmation and wanting everyone to like you and dealing with the constant stresses and challenges of being an actor in our artificial industry.

Why should someone watch it, and why do you think this story is important?

Because they will journey with Christine, learn to know her, see her vulnerabilities and yet also see her unending strength and determination. It is important because we all play different roles, so anyone can identify. Audience members will laugh till they cry and walk out with a better understanding not only of Actors but also of themselves.

How are you preparing for your role?

Multiple ways. Extensive script analysis, using techniques me and Tam learned from Matthew Harrison. And then working with the elements and emotional core of each scene. Just a variety of play and research – and then learning to trust my own words and the work done by the entire team!

What have you found most challenging about this project?

Getting an unknown show by unknown artists taken seriously. Finding a new director was tough, multiple rejections and self-funding without compromising the quality of the work. And the technical side – my OCD nature makes it really difficult to let go of control on things that I really know nothing about.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

I love Christine. She has a million layers. As Tam says, she is the quintessential insecure woman. She is the actor in all of us. She captures so many vulnerabilities and yet refuses to give up. She is constantly growing and developing and I am only just starting to let her come out and have fun.

Why do you choose to write in English?

It really depends on the project and although it is primarily an English play, #Actorslife is a mixture. It reflects the conflict that some Afrikaans actors experience. I myself am often told that I do not look ‘Afrikaans enough’ to be cast in local projects and yet cannot reveal my Afrikaans background in an international casting environment for fear of having my accent and acting talent judged on that basis.

What do you want the audience to take away from the piece?

I want audiences to walk out having experienced with Christine, gained an insight and sympathy for the world of the actor, a respect for the actor as a professional entity and a greater understanding of themselves.

What advice would you give young actors?

Come watch the play! Just joking (kind of). Seriously though, don’t be naïve. Don’t become an actor expecting to be famous or thinking it will be fun or easy. It is a difficult career choice. So do your research, make sure it is what you want to do, be ready to work harder than you can possibly expect and find ways to make your own work. You have to be passionate about what you do, then all the long hours of work, money stresses, rejections and panic attacks will be worth it.

Read all about #ActorsLife

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Interview

Ready Player One : Cast, Writer, Author, Director Q&A

Synopsis

In the year 2045, the real world is a harsh place.  The only time Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) truly feels alive is when he escapes to the OASIS, an immersive virtual universe where most of humanity spend their days.  In the OASIS, you can go anywhere, do anything, be anyone—the only limits are your own imagination.  The OASIS was created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance), who left his immense fortune and total control of the OASIS to the winner of a three-part contest he designed to find a worthy heir.  When Wade conquers the first challenge of the reality-bending treasure hunt, he and his friends—known as the High Five—are hurled into a fantastical universe of discovery and danger to save the OASIS and their world.

Three-time Oscar winner Spielberg (“Schindler’s List” [director & picture], and “Saving Private Ryan” [director]) directed the film from a screenplay by Zak Penn and Ernest Cline.  It is based on the novel by Cline, which has spent more than 100 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller List, recently climbing to the #1 spot, as well as reaching #1 on Amazon’s Most Read Fiction chart.  “Ready Player One” was produced by Donald De Line, Kristie Macosko Krieger, Spielberg and Dan Farah.  Adam Somner, Daniel Lupi, Chris deFaria and Bruce Berman served as executive producers.

Q&A With Cast & Crew

What was it about this story and these characters that made you want to make Ready Player One your next movie?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: I think anybody who read the book and was connected at all with the industry would have loved to make this into a movie. I mean, the book had seven movies in it – maybe 12 [laughs]. It was just a matter of trying to figure out how to tell a story about both of these worlds, and to make it sort of an express train racing toward the third act, and, at the same time, a little bit of a cautionary tale about leaving us the choice: where do we want to exist? Do we want to exist in reality? Or do we want to exist in an escapist universe? Those themes were so profound for me, and are consistent throughout the whole book. But there are so many places we could have taken the story.

Themes of reality versus fantasy run throughout your filmography. Is the process different for you when you’re making an escapist film than it is when you’re exploring historical events or real life issues?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: This was my great escape movie. For me, it was a film that fulfilled all of my fantasies of the places I go in my imagination when I get out of town. I got to live this for three years. I got to actually escape into the imagination of Ernest Cline and Zak Penn; it was amazing. But I came back to Earth a couple of times. I made a few films. I made Bridge of Spies and The Post while I was making Ready Player One, so I got that whiplash effect of going from social reality to total escapist entertainment. And I’m feeling it. It’s a great feeling, but it also makes my wife and kids kind of crazy because they don’t know who dad’s going to be when he comes home in the evening, or which dad they’re going to get [laughs].

Your passion and joy is evident in every frame of this film. How did that play into the choices you made in telling this story?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Thank you. For one thing, I had a passionate and amazing cast. I think if you combine all their ages together, they’re still younger than me [laughs]; I fed off that energy. I’d come to work in the morning and Olivia would say, ‘Okay, what do we do now? I can’t wait!’ Then Lena would say, ‘Hey, throw anything at me. I’m ready for it.’ And Tye was completely the same. Ernie gave us a playground to basically become kids again, and we did. We all became kids again. Even though I was working with really young actors – except for Ben who’s way over that [laughs]. That’s where the energy came from.

You have to understand, also, that we made the movie on an abstract set. The only way the cast had a chance to understand where they were was through the virtual reality goggles we all had. Inside the goggles was a complete build of the set that you see in the movie. But when you took the goggles off, it was a big, white space. It was a 4,000 square-foot, white, empty space called a volume. But when you put the goggles on, it was Aech’s basement. Or it was Aech’s workshop. Or it was the Distracted Globe. So the actors had a chance to say, ‘Okay, if I walk over there, there’s the door and there’s the DJ.’ It was really an out-of-body experience to make this movie, and it’s really hard to really express what that was like.

OLIVIA COOKE: It was wonderful because we just lived in our own imagination for five months, and we hadn’t had a chance to do that since we were children. So, to be able to completely rely on our gut and our interaction with Steven and with the other cast – that was what made it so special and so different from anything that I think any of us have ever done before.

LENA WAITHE: When we got to live action, it was like, ‘Oh, okay, this is real world now.’

TYE SHERIDAN: When we got to live action, everybody was like, ‘(SIGHS) Oh, okay, I know how to do this.’

LENA WAITHE: It’s fun, but it’s not as fun as when you’re just in an empty space and anything is possible.

There is a spectacular mix of music in the film. Are any of the songs on the soundtrack from your own playlist, Mr. Spielberg? Also, did you play music on set to get everyone warmed up?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: We did. I played a lot of the Bee Gees on the very first day [laughs].

TYE SHERIDAN: I want to tell a story about that. I was extremely nervous on the first day. I actually didn’t even know it was going to be our first day. We had two weeks of rehearsals, just kind of feeling out the mo cap volume and getting familiar with some of these environments that we were going to be in in the movie. And Steven shows up on the last day of rehearsal and says, ‘Let’s shoot something.’ I’m thinking, ‘Oh sh**, I hope he doesn’t want to shoot anything with me.’ He’s like ‘Yeah, you can send everyone else home, I just want to use Tye.’ [Laughs]

Tye Sheridan (Parzival / Wade)

So, he brings me over to the side and says, ‘Have you been working on your Parzival walk?’ I said ‘What? What is a Parzival walk? I didn’t know I had to work on a Parzival walk.’ [Laughs] ‘Yeah, it’s kind of like the John Travolta walk in the beginning of Saturday Night Fever. You know, he’s got a certain swagger. I just want to capture you walking.’ I’m like, ‘Oh, okay.’ So there I am, standing on one side of the volume and Steven’s on the other side of the volume. And it’s just me and him, no one else is on the floor. And my heart’s racing. I’m just waiting for him to call action. He pulls out his phone and hits the screen, and then he starts playing ‘Staying Alive’ by the Bee Gees. Then he just starts walking towards me and he’s nodding his head and holding up his phone. And he goes, ‘And action.’

STEVEN SPIELBERG: And you can see that walk in Ready Player One. It’s in the movie. A lot of the songs. But I have to say that most of the came from Zak Penn and Ernie Cline, from their playlist.

ZAK PENN: We would confer late at night on the phone about which songs off of the giant playlist in the book. I mean, the playlist from his book is absurd; I couldn’t even load it on my phone. But we came up with some good options. And Ben threw in a couple of choices too, but they were more punk, which I respect.

BEN MENDELSOHN: Some of them didn’t like the playlist.

Mr. Spielberg, there are so many references in this film; how did you get the rights to all of them?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Kristie Macosko, who along with Donald De Line and Dan Farah produced the movie, can probably answer that question because Kristie spent three years with the Warner Bros. legal team getting the rights. And we couldn’t get all of them. They wouldn’t give up the Star Wars rights.

BEN MENDELSOHN: You could have called me on that one, Steven. I mean, I built the Death Star, I’m just saying [laughs].

Tye, can you talk about your experience with videogames prior to the movie?

TYE SHERIDAN: Actually, there’s a scene in the movie where I play an Atari game. And, I researched the game and watched videos, and did as much research as I possibly could without actually playing the game. So, when it came time to shoot the scene, I was like, ‘Listen, guys, I’ve actually never played an Atari. So you guys are going to have to teach me how to hold the controller, because I don’t want to look like I’m holding it the wrong way.’ So, I got lessons from Steven and Zak about the Atari controller.

BEN MENDELSOHN: The younger generation [laughs].

For everyone, what was the one thing in the movie that spoke to you personally? The movie speaks to all generations, so which reference really geeked you out?

LENA WAITHE: Well, the thing that I liked the most was the Chucky doll, just because I used to be genuinely afraid of those movies. So now, as an adult, it’s kind of nice to play a character who uses Chucky as a weapon [laughs]. But, also, in terms of the music, there’s a moment where they’re playing ‘Just My Imagination,’ which is a song that my mother played all the time when I was a kid. So, hearing that in Aech’s warehouse was kind of cool.

TYE SHERIDAN: I guess for me it was The Iron Giant. That was a movie that played so many times during my childhood. I have a very sentimental connection to that figure, and it was just super cool, even when we were shooting the movie, because we could see our avatars in real time on a 2-D screen. I would look over and I could see my avatar, and then the Iron Giant’s foot. I’m like, ‘That’s Iron Giant’s foot.’

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Yeah, Brad Bird is a genius. I saw Iron Giant when it was in theaters the first time, and have been a big fan of Brad Bird’s. We actually worked together on something called Family Dog on television a long time ago. So this was to honor Brad Bird and to honor the Iron Giant.

Olivia Cooke (Art3mis / Samantha)

OLIVIA COOKE: I used to go disco dancing when I was a kid in my hometown, so I really relished getting to learn the Saturday Night Fever dance. And Tye and I got very close, very quickly, with these dance lessons [laughs]. I don’t know how much of it is digitally enhanced in post-production, probably a lot. But that was a lot of fun.

TYE SHERIDAN: All of my dancing was digitally enhanced [laughs].

LENA WAITHE: No, you were good! You got good, man!

OLIVIA COOKE: That was the highlight of the job for me.

TYE SHERIDAN: It was so much fun. Yeah, we spent like three weeks on wires. But then three weeks just rehearsing after work or in between, or yeah.

ERNEST CLINE: Tye played John Travolta’s son in a movie, right? Has he seen your performance?

TYE SHERIDAN: I didn’t tell him. I texted him and said, ‘I just want you to know that you’ve got to see this film, because it’s a huge nod to some of your stuff.’ But you were great friends with him, weren’t you, Steven?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Yeah. John Travolta and I have been friends for like a long time. We met on the set of Carrie, which was 1976, something like that? So we’ve been friends since ’76 and I can’t wait for John to see the film.

HANNAH JOHN-KAMEN: I think I’m with Olivia on the dance sequence in the film for me; I just got chills. And I didn’t know that the Saturday Night Fever walk was the inspiration for Tye’s. But actually looking back, I’m like, ‘Oh yeah!’ I thought it was so cool; he just looked awesome. So, yeah, I think that was pretty cool.

BEN MENDELSOHN: You used to be able to rent a place that was either the guest house right next door or the guest house of The Nightmare on Elm Street house. So I’m going to say, Freddy getting blown away early on [laughs].

ERNEST CLINE: Well, for me, it’s the BACK TO THE FUTURE time machine, the DeLorean. It was always my dream car from the time I was a kid, even before I saw Back to the Future. But then, when I saw Back to the Future, I always dreamed of owning a DeLorean someday. And when I sold my novel, and I realized I could finally buy a DeLorean and use it in my author photo, because it’s an ‘80s time machine, which is kind of what my novel is. And then I could drive it around the country on my book tour and it would be a business expense [laughs]. So, it worked its way from the novel into my life, and now it’s in the movie.

Inside The Oasis – DeLorean from Back to the Future

ZAK PENN: The spaceships. I really like that there’s the Galactica and the ship from Silent Running. I think Steven was the one who pointed that out. And I was like, ‘Oh my God, of course, the Silent Running ship. Because you wouldn’t let us put in the mothership from Close Encounters,’ which I had originally written in as a joke.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: There comes a point when I would have had to just defer to somebody else who liked my movies and not make a movie about my movies. I let a couple of little iconic characters in from my films, especially the DeLorean, which came from the book directly. But otherwise, there were a lot of things that we could have put in.

ZAK PENN: Oh yeah. I don’t blame Steven. I didn’t know Steven was going to direct the movie when I wrote the joke. But, anyway, all those spaceships, to me, sum up the wonder, and that’s directly from the book, the idea of everybody having their own spaceship.

PHILIP ZHAO: Mine would probably be the Iron Giant, because I was a kid when that was filming.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: And now you’re an old man [laughs].

PHILIP ZHAO: Yeah, now I’m an old man. I’ve aged quite well, I think [laughs]. When I saw The Iron Giant on screen, which was played by Lena, I was really impressed. Lena had this, like, pink ball on top of her head when we were filming it, and we had to look at that.

TYE SHERIDAN: That was difficult because when you’re shooting motion capture, whenever Lena says her line, they’ll say ‘Look up, look up.’ And you look over at Lena but you look at her face first, and you’re like, ‘Dang, I’m supposed to look at the ball.’

PHILIP ZHAO: And you had to talk to a ball, which was really weird.

WIN MORISAKI: Yeah, for me it’s definitely Gundam. Japanese fans are going to be screaming out, ‘WHOA!’

ERNEST CLINE: You also got to drive the Mach 5 from SPEED RACER. You got cool toys.

WIN MORISAKI: Yeah, thank you!

For the younger cast, having not grown up in the ‘80s, how did you immerse yourself in that era? And was there something you hadn’t seen that you now really love?

LENA WAITHE: I was born in ’84. So a lot of the 80s I didn’t remember, I don’t really know a ton about. But because I grew up in the 90s, a lot of the stuff I remember is the music. Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston – really that’s where they began, in the ‘80s. So it was not hard for me to revisit. But we did, Tye and I watched some ‘80s movies together, just to get in the vibe. And the interesting thing about that time was that everything was so big and loud and happy and colorful. It was a prosperous time. So, that’s why I think I’m kind of happy I was born in that decade. And I think that’s why it really translates on screen. There’s so much joy, and it’s reminding us of a happier time. And that’s why we’re so obsessed with it.

STEVEN SPIELBERG: I think we’re nostalgic for the ‘80s because it was a decade when there wasn’t global and domestic turbulence, chaos and seismic change. In the ‘60s we had seismic change with the Civil Rights movement. There was so much change with the assassinations of Jack and Bobby Kennedy, and there were all these different eras.

TYE SHERIDAN: I guess it also makes sense because the OASIS stands for the great escape. It’s anything you want it to be. And because the ‘80s was such a vibrant decade, full of all this crazy hope, I think it makes total sense that there are all these references to ‘80s pop culture in there.

Special effects has changed so much in the past 30 years. Have you ever considered going back and digitally redoing some shots, like George Lucas did with Star Wars, in E.T. the Extraterrestrial?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: Well, I actually got in trouble for doing that. When E.T. was re-released, I digitized five shots where E.T. went from being a puppet to a digital puppet. I also replaced the gun when the F.B.I. runs up on the van – now they’re walkie-talkies. So, there’s a really bad version of E.T. where I took my cue from Star Wars and did a few touch-ups in the film. And in those days, social media wasn’t as profound as it is today, but what was just beginning erupted in a loud, negative voice about how could you ruin our favorite childhood film by taking the guns away and putting walkie-talkies in their hands, among other things [laughs]. So, I learned a big lesson and that’s the last time I decided to ever mess with the past. What’s done is done, and I’ll never go back to another movie I made and I have control over to enhance or change it.

The film got an incredibly enthusiastic reaction when you recently previewed it at the South-by-Southwest Film Festival. What was that like for you?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: I was hiding in the back [laughs]. But I heard a lot of it. I’ve made a lot of movies and I’ve gotten a lot of interesting reactions to my films; I’ve never heard anything like this before. And we were right in the center of the action.

LENA WAITHE: I was just happy to be there because I had seen the movie prior and enjoyed it thoroughly sitting there by myself. But it was great being able to experience it with these people, and I spent a lot of time watching the audience, and they were right there, just leaned in and revved up, because I think it brought a real sense of joy. Talk about a time when we want escapism and want to feel good again, and I think Spielberg represents that for a lot of us. He’s been such a huge part of our lives.

I remember seeing Jurassic Park in the movie theater with my family and how I was one person before I walked into the theater and a different person when I walked out. So, to be in this movie and to be around these people who are having that exact same experience, I saw that they were different when they walked out of that theater. They were lighter; they were walking taller and smiling and slapping hands. I’ve never experienced anything like that before and I’ll never experience that again, and it was phenomenal, and I’m glad I got to experience it with all those fans.

The Stacks

Can you talk about your relationship with nostalgia and how that may have changed over the years?

STEVEN SPIELBERG: That’s a great question because I have the most intimate relationship with nostalgia. It’s based on the fact that from when I was 11 or 12 years-old, I started taking 8mm movies of my family on camping trips when I was a kid growing up in Arizona. When videotape came in, I started taking videotapes. And then I started taking my 8mm sound movie camera when I was hanging around with [Francis Ford] Coppola and [George] Lucas and [Martin] Scorsese and [Brian] De Palma, and that whole group, back in the ‘70s. I’ve got something like 60 hours of footage of all us growing up and making movies together, which someday might make an interesting documentary – if I can get the rights to any of these guys – probably 80% of the footage, they would not want released to the public [laughs]!

Today in my life, I do all the videos of my family growing up. I have a really great editor, Andy, in our office, and he cuts together the whole year in the life of my family – all of my children, my grandchildren – and every year we have little screenings. It’s called the Annual Family Video. So, I basically live in nostalgia, and that might be the main reason I reacted so positively to Ernie’s book and Zak’s script. Because I’m kind of livin’ that way most of my life [laughs].

Read the SAMDB review of Ready Player One.

Categories
Interview

Game Night: Q&A With Directors John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein

Synopsis

Jason Bateman (Zootopia) and Rachel McAdams (Doctor Strange, A Most Wanted Man) team up in New Line Cinema’s action comedy GAME NIGHT as Max and Annie, whose weekly couples game night gets kicked up a notch when Max’s charismatic brother, Brooks, arranges a murder mystery party, complete with fake thugs and faux federal agents. So, when Brooks gets kidnapped, it’s all part of the game…right? But as the six uber-competitive gamers set out to solve the case and win, they begin to discover that neither this “game”—nor Brooks—are what they seem to be.

Over the course of one chaotic night, the friends find themselves increasingly in over their heads as each twist leads to another unexpected turn. With no rules, no points, and no idea who all the players are, this could turn out to be the most fun they’ve ever had…or, it’s game over. Jason Bateman and Oscar nominee Rachel McAdams team up in New Line Cinema’s action comedy “Game Night.”  John Francis Daley & Jonathan Goldstein are directing the film, marking their second film as co-directors, following “Vacation.”

Q&A

What drew you to GAME NIGHT?

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: It was a very smart script with some great plot twists.

We both loved that it was a different kind of comedy, in that it wasn’t purely a comedy. It gave us an opportunity to do something that was a mash-up of genres, and we keep talking about the film as a comedic thriller. We wanted to try and reinvent the genre a little bit.

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: We’re big fans of twists and surprise endings in films, and we haven’t seen that very often in the comedy genre. So, it was a fun chance to flex not only the humor muscle, but the surprise one, as well.

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: We wanted to keep the audience off-balance – beginning with the way we play with the Warner Bros. logo at the beginning of the film. Right away, audiences will sense that they’re watching something that’s, surprisingly, a little ominous. They might start wondering, “Oh, I thought this was a comedy.”

Do you have any touchstones – other films that you’ve enjoyed over the years that you had in the back of your mind when you began work on GAME NIGHT?

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: We tried to make GAME NIGHT what we call “David Fincher Lite,” in that it evokes the moody and edgy lighting he uses in many of his films. We are also huge fans of the Coen brothers’ Fargo, which is darker than our movie but blends traditional humor and black comedy in a skillful way.

Do you split up directorial duties?

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: Because we’ve been writing together for over ten years, we kind of do it all together. Sometimes we wish we could split it up; we’d probably get more done. But we tend to do it all in the same place and do a lot of preparation before we ever get to set.

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: We largely come from the same position and have similar ideas on how things should go, but we often disagree and that’s actually where some of the best ideas come from, because it’s nice to have a sounding board and someone you can bounce ideas off of and create something more refined than it would be if it were coming from one brain.

How do you resolve conflicts?

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: Whoever wins the fistfight [laughs].

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: You know, it gets pretty bloody.

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: We have them pad every director’s trailer that we work in so that we can pummel each other without anyone knowing.

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: Seriously, the best idea wins. With comedy, it’s always good to have a lot of alternative ideas you can play with in the editing room and sometimes something that you’re so certain is going to work doesn’t actually work when you see it in the cut. It’s always good to have multiple options.

Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams portray a married couple in the film, and are at the heart of the comedy and action in GAME NIGHT. What was their dynamic like?

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: They complement each other so well. It was refreshing to see Rachel in a comedy, because she hadn’t done one in years. They had very different energies that fit together really nicely.

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: As different as Jason and Rachel are from one another, they share an understated acting style. We recently saw Jason in the television series Ozark, which highlights his skills as a dramatic actor. And Rachel has always been a naturalistic actor. You put those two together and it really feels like they’ve been a couple for many years.

What was your approach to casting the other actors – and the department heads?

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: We cast people who you don’t often see in comedies, like Rachel, Kyle Chandler and Jesse Plemons.

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: Our main note with all the actors was don’t play for the comedy. Treat GAME NIGHT as though it is a thriller. And the humor inherently comes out of that because you’ve suddenly raised the stakes and you’re not betraying the stakes with jokes.

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: We cast our department heads like we cast the actors – they’re best known for their dramatic work. Our composer Cliff Martinez made his comedy debut with GAME NIGHT. He’s scored several of Steven Soderbergh’s films.

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: We just listened to the final mix of Cliff’s score. We knew from the get-go that we wanted almost entirely a synth score because it evokes the moody fun of 1980s movies that take place in one night. Hearing him go in that direction with this modern slant was one of the most exciting parts of making GAME NIGHT.

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: We had long conversations with our director of photography, Barry Peterson, about visual comps of films that we loved and inspired us. Our production designer, Michael Corenblith, who has worked mostly on dramas, had a great line that we embraced, which was, if you were watching this movie with the sound off, you shouldn’t know it’s a comedy. That informed a lot of what we did.

GAME NIGHT is about competitive people. Who’s the more competitive between you two?

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: Don’t ask us that, because we’re both so competitive that we’ll start fighting! [Laughs]

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: I am definitely the most competitive and I don’t care what John says.

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: Jonathan’s wrong.

In the film, there’s a strong element of sibling rivalry between Jason Bateman’s and Kyle Chandler’s characters. Did you ever engage in those kinds of games of one-upmanship with a brother or sister?

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: Well, I have a brother who is three years older than me and he was not easy on me when I was a little kid. We did play a lot of games together but his age advantage allowed him to almost always win. Some of that comes across in the movie’s notion that Jason’s Max never beat Kyle’s Brooks, at anything.

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: I’m an only child, but that has probably made me more competitive in some ways, because you start to have a high opinion of yourself. So, I started hosting game nights every week with our most competitive friends and it would often become ugly between us because we took it all so seriously. What’s fun and relatable about the concept of game nights is that it’s a way of letting off steam. They usually happen at the end of a long week of work and it is a chance to really flex that competitive muscle.

What is your favorite board game?

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: I am a huge fan of Stratego. It’s only a two-person game, but it’s like a combination of Guess Who? and chess, which I think is a cool mix.

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: I always loved the game of Life because it’s so unfair. Basically, your fate is determined in the first five minutes of the game. You’re either a doctor or a lesser-earning person.

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: Which is pretty accurate.

What do you hope audiences take away from GAME NIGHT?

JOHN FRANCIS DALEY: The biggest compliment we got from the early screenings of the film was people saying, “I’ve never seen anything like this,” in a good way. And if most people who experience this movie come away feeling like it was unique and different and special, then we’ve accomplished what we set out to do.

JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN: This film is very much a ride in that it’s relentless in the way revelations unfold in almost every scene. There are jokes that are funny because you don’t see them coming. We really tried to make it look different from traditional comedies, and that was one of the more challenging and gratifying experiences.

Game Night opens 3 March 2018, in South African cinemas.

Categories
Interview

Q&A: Owen Wilson And Ed Helms Of Father Figures

In Father Figures, you play twin brothers who find out as adults that the father they grew up believing was dead is very much alive. Having grown up with brothers yourselves, did your real-life relationships inform the dynamic between Peter and Kyle at all?

ED HELMS: Yeah, absolutely. Peter and Kyle are sometimes at each other’s throats, but beneath that is a sort of soft underbelly of love and affection. That certainly was the dynamic with my brother.

OWEN WILSON: I was one of three boys, and there were always shifting factions when I was growing up. So, Kyle and Peter’s relationship felt quite familiar. And Larry [director Lawrence Sher] has a twin brother, so he had a unique insight into the dynamic between these guys.

In the film, Peter and Kyle’s mother, Helen, is played by Glenn Close. What was it like working with an acting legend like Glenn?

OWEN WILSON: You expect her to be a great actor, and Glenn doesn’t disappoint. But I especially enjoyed having the opportunity to get to know her.

ED HELMS: Glenn is really quite the bon vivant. I really loved her spirit and joie de vivre.

You also had an amazing ensemble playing the guys’ potential fathers – like J.K. Simmons, Ving Rhames and Christopher Walken. How was it getting to work with them?

ED HELMS: They were all great. We all make a lot of assumptions about what actors may or may not be like, based on what we’ve seen them do in movies or TV. People even do this to me – assuming I’m a certain way they imagine me to be. But when you work with someone like Christopher Walken or Ving Rhames or any of our co-stars in this movie, it’s fun to get to see their human side.

One of the possible dads they meet is American football superstar Terry Bradshaw – playing himself. How does that go for the guys, and how was it working with a sports icon like Terry?

ED HELMS: It was super fun. I love that scene. Terry is a hero to both Peter and Kyle, and he immediately takes a shine to Peter, who is a little gruff and has an angry edge, while Kyle is so effortlessly charming that most people would instead connect with him. So, that was a really fun dynamic to play. Peter is super excited to have all that attention and affection from Terry Bradshaw, and it was great for me to just enjoy that because Terry is such a hilarious and warm and gracious guy.

OWEN WILSON: I grew up in Dallas, Texas, and our football team – the Cowboys – was the arch-rival of Terry’s team, the Pittsburgh Steelers. And I remember the Cowboys’ heartbreaking losses, many of which were due to Terry’s incredible skills.

One of the funniest scenes in the film is when Peter and Kyle are arguing and there’s a hitchhiker [Katt Williams] in the back seat screaming because a train is barreling down on their car. What was it like being in the midst of such a complex, large-scale sequence?

OWEN WILSON: It was intense. On top of this huge, dramatic stunt – with a real train hitting a real car – and all the coordination and logistics that goes into that, we were dealing with a lot of other factors, including some bad weather. I always find it so cool to get another window into how these big, crazy scenes come together. Sometimes I still feel like a little kid wondering, how did they do that?

We also had a lot of emotion to play in that scene, which is hard to do at three in the morning, when it’s raining and you’re cold and tired [laughs]. But, it’s all just part of the magic of making a movie.

You guys spent quite a bit of time together in the car when you were filming. Was that a bonding experience in any way?

OWEN WILSON: That’s one of the things I had a lot of fun with on Father Figures. Each morning, I’d be going to work and thinking about the subject that Ed and I were going to explore that day. What world problem were we going to solve [laughs]? That might have been a problem for our director. Ed and I had too much to say to each other, and Larry would sometimes have to get us back on track!

ED HELMS: Every day was like being on a road trip with someone you like. It was fun. I mean, we’re shooting a road trip movie, and we did have to spend a lot of time confined in a car. Thank God it was with Owen.

Any memorable moments while you were filming on the road?

ED HELMS: Yeah, it was during one of our driving scenes in the suburbs of Atlanta. As usual in these kinds of scenes, we were being trailed by a caravan of support crew and suddenly, some guy drove by and just started screaming at us [laughs]. Maybe he was upset we were holding up traffic. And you know what? He had a good point. But there was something about his attitude and his anger that made us chuckle a bit.

What do you hope audiences around the world will take away from Father Figures?

OWEN WILSON: I hope they’ll be entertained – that they’ll go along for the ride and enjoy the story and have a good time with the two brothers and their journey.

Categories
Film Interview

Lego Ninjago Movie – Q&As

Synopsis

Sharing the heart, wit and irrepressible sense of fun that made THE LEGO® NINJAGO® MOVIE and THE LEGO® BATMAN MOVIE so unforgettable, The LEGO® NINJAGO® Movie explores another cinematic world – the fantastic, faraway island of NINJAGO®.  The battle for NINJAGO® City calls to action Lloyd, aka the Green Ninja, along with his friends (Kai, Cole, Jay, Zane and Nya), who are all secret ninja warriors and guided by their own elemental powers of water, earth, lightning, ice and fire.  They fight using the art of Spinjitzu and their awesome machine mechs. Led by their teacher Master Wu, they must defeat the evil warlord Garmadon, who also happens to be Lloyd’s dad.  What really sets this film apart from previous LEGO® movies is the real-world environments (real water, foliage) and (spoiler alert) a real cat!

Q&A Lloyd

Dave Franco (“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”) / “Lloyd“
Names: Lloyd, the Green Ninja
Elemental Power: Green Energy
Mech: Green Ninja Mech Dragon

 

For those who don’t know the world of Ninjago, can you tell us your name?

Sure. I’m Lloyd.

And your last name?

I’d… rather just leave it at “Lloyd” if that’s cool with you. Last names aren’t very important. Yeah, “Lloyd” is good.

Is that because your last name is “Garmadon” and you’re related to the evil warlord, Lord Garmadon?

Well, yes, technically we’re related. But we are deeply, deeply estranged, and the only time we’ve spoken in the past 16 years is when he accidentally butt-dialed me. Also, we’re not closely related at all. I’m just his son.

We imagine being the son of Garmadon can be pretty tough. What kind of treatment do you get from the other kids at school?

Oh, it’s not so bad. Every day on the ride to school, I get a whole half of the bus all to myself. And I’m pretty popular. Everyone knows my name and is always talking about me. And, yeah, whenever Garmadon attacks, kids usually “boo” me and whatnot – but it always feels like they’re booing with me, not at me, you know?

Ouch. Sounds rough. So, do you have any friends who’ve got your back?

Totally. I’ve grown up with an awesome group of friends who have supported me since day one. There’s Kai who is always around to hug you until you pass out. Nya gives me rides on her sweet motorcycle and will fight anyone who messes with me. Cole is a super cool DJ who helps me block out the noise from all the haters. And Jay is always worried about me and tries to hide whatever insults somebody has written on my locker. Oh, and I can’t forget Zane, who is the best at offering warm, human companionship… even though he’s a robot.

That’s great. And what about the rest of your family?

I live with my mom, who always does everything she can to take care of me. She worries whenever Garmadon attacks and she can’t find me – but I always tell her I was just watching the Secret Ninjas from a safe distance with the other kids. And there’s also my uncle, Master Wu, who trains me and my friends in his dojo.

He trains you? You mean like trains you to be ninjas—?

(stammering) Oh, uh, not train-train… and definitely not at ninja-ing. He trains us in boring stuff like doing our homework, or practicing good manners, or finding our inner peace. Nothing ninja-related in any way. I just want to be one hundred percent clear about that.

Got it. But being a ninja does seem pretty cool. If you could be one of the Secret Ninjas, which one would you be?

Probably the Green one. I mean, I’ve never really thought about it before, but it would be cool to fly around in an awesome dragon mech, and be to be loved by the entire city, and the uniform matches my green hoodie… but, yeah, like I said — never really thought about it before.

Hmm. Now that you mention it, the Green Ninja is the only ninja who has a deeply personal investment in fighting Garmadon. And you and your friends are always taking bathroom breaks whenever he attacks. Are you sure you’re not the Green Ninja?

Uh…what? I mean, what’re you talking about? I mean, of course not, that’s ridiculous. I don’t know anything about being a ninja …and I never take bathroom breaks.

You’re totally the Green Ninja, aren’t you?

(sighs) Okay, just please don’t tell anyone. We are the Secret Ninja Force, you know?

Your secret’s safe with us. Last question. What’s your plan for the next time Garmadon attacks?

Funny you should ask because I’ve got a pretty good feeling that he may not attack again anytime soon—

ALARM rings out, people SCREAM, stuff EXPLODES

Actually, it sounds like he’s attacking right now.

Ummmmm… I gotta go …

GARMADON Q&A

Justin Theroux (“Megamind 2,” “The Leftovers”) / “Lord Garmadon”
Names: Lord Garmadon, the Worst Guy Ever
Mech: Garma Mecha Man

A lot of people think you’re pretty evil. But is there any chance you’re just misunderstood?

Yes. I’m very misunderstood. Because I’m not just evil – I’m super evil. Mega evil. So ridiculously evil that it will forever change your conception of what evil really is. But the most misunderstood thing about me? I’m also a great dad.

Really? So you must spend a lot of quality time with your son, Lloyd?

I’m sorry, who?

Your son. Lloyd Garmadon.

Ohhh, you mean La-Loyd. That’s how you pronounce it. “Laaa-Loyd.” L-L-O-Y-D. I know ‘cause I named him.

You must be very close. What’s your favorite thing to do with your son?

There are so many things. I love blowing up buildings, operating giant shark mechs, smashing stuff, listening to screams of terror from innocent citizens—

Sorry, what exactly are you talking about?

My favorite thing about conquering NINJAGO. Isn’t that what you asked me?

No. The question was ‘What’s your favorite thing to do with your son?’

Oh, no idea. I haven’t seen him in 16 years. I’ve been pretty preoccupied with conquering NINJAGO.

But you’ve never actually conquered it. The Secret Ninja Force always stops you. Especially the Green Ninja—

Okay, you know what? Enough with the “gotcha” questions! I’m not here to talk about the Green Ninja! I thought I was here to talk about my awesome mechs, or what it’s like to have four arms, or my sweet volcano lair, which I should go ahead and fire you out of…

Okay, take it easy. There’s no need to fire anyone out of a volcano. Let’s talk about what’s so important to you about NINJAGO. Is there a specific reason why you’re so determined to conquer it?

Well, I’ve already conquered all the other ‘Go cities. KungFu-Go, TaeKwon-Go, Chicago. It just makes sense to have the complete set.

So it has nothing to do with your son, Lloyd?

Who?

Sorry… ‘La-Loyd.’

Pfft! No way! La-Loyd can’t even walk! He’s bald, has no teeth. Did I mention he can’t even walk??

I think you’re describing your son as a baby. He’s 16 years old now. He’s a high school student, full head of blond hair, big fan of the Green Ninja—

I told you, no more Green Ninja talk! That’s it, I’m gonna go ahead and fire you out of this volcano. Consider yourself fired.

WHOOOAAAAAA!!!

Man, I wish La-Loyd was here to see this. I’m such a great dad.

MASTER WU Q&A

Jackie Chan (“Kung Fu Panda,” The Karate Kid”) / “Master Wu”

 

 

Many people are surprised to discover that Garmadon is your brother. What was it like growing up with an evil warlord?

Very challenging. He was always stealing my toys, picking fights with me, and firing our mother out of a volcano. A real problem child.

Luckily, you’ve trained the Secret Ninja Force to protect NINJAGO from Garmadon. Did you teach them how to build their awesome mechs?

No. I do not approve of those crazy machines. A true ninja only needs a clear mind, an open heart and a giant flying boat to fight evil.

We’ve heard you’ve got some real skills with that flute. Can you play us a tune?

One cannot simply ask for a tune. When you have fully embraced the ninja way, the right tune will present itself to you. Also, I’m not a human jukebox, you know?

Out of everyone you could have recruited for the Secret Ninja Force, you picked a bunch of teenagers. Why?

These students were born with incredible elemental powers and it is their destiny to defeat Garmadon and ensure the safety of Ninjago. But, yes, teenagers are tough. It would have been a lot easier if this was the destiny of trained warriors or mercenaries.

Your age is a topic of much speculation. Any comment on the rumors that you’re 167 years old?

Petty gossip is not the ninja way. But the beard ages me.

Despite having such a stressful job, you always seem so calm and centered. Any tips for how to find your inner peace?

It is very simple: Meditate regularly, become one with the elements, and avoid eating spicy foods before bed.

In addition to being a Ninja Master, you’re also an accomplished author. Can you tell us a little about your book, Ninjanuity?

Yes. It was a NINJAGO Times Bestseller; it will teach you how to unlock your elemental power; and it’s 550,000 pages long.

550,000 pages? Sounds like a pretty slow read.

Yes, but it really picks up after the first 100,000 pages.

KOKO Q&A

Olivia Munn (“X-Men: Apocalypse”) / “Koko”
Names: Koko, Mom, the former Mrs. Garmadon

 

You do so much to take care of your son in every way. Any tips for being a great mom?

Well, it’s easy to be a great mom when you have such a great kid. And Lloyd is the best. He’s sweet; he’s sensitive; and he has such a positive attitude about being the son of an evil warlord who attacks his hometown with reckless abandon.

That brings up an interesting question: How did you and Garmadon get together? Did you really fall in love with a warlord?

It’s complicated. But I was really into bad boys back then.

What’s the hardest part about raising a teenager these days?

Well, if there’s one thing Lloyd does that really irks me, it’s that whenever Garmadon attacks, he always goes missing for long periods of time. I get so worried, but it usually turns out that he was just watching the Secret Ninja Force save the city – from a safe distance, with the other kids. Phew!

How do you help Lloyd deal with kids at school who pick on him because of his dad?

I like to start every morning with an inspirational pep talk. I figure the more times I remind Lloyd that he’s the sweetest, kindest, most lovable little guy in the whole world, the more it will finally sink in!

If you could ask the mothers of the Secret Ninja Force one question, what would it be?

Did any of your kids lose a ninja mask? Because I think I found it under Lloyd’s bed.

NYA Q&A

Abbi Jacobson (“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising”) / “Nya”
Names: Nya, the Water Ninja
Elemental Power: Water
Mech: Water Strider

You’re the Water Ninja. What is it that drew you to the element of water?

Well, water is a life source for our entire world. It nourishes us, cleanses us, purifies us.

Kai is your twin brother. Is there any sibling rivalry between the two of you?

No way. We’ve never been competitive like that. Mostly because I’m stronger, tougher, cooler, smarter, funnier, and have a way sweeter mech than he does. What’s the point of being competitive when I’m obviously better at everything, you know?

We’ve heard some crazy rumors that you ride a motorcycle through the halls of your high school – that can’t possibly be true, right?

No way. That’s ridiculous. I ride a souped-up, super-charged, limited edition turbo-chopper with a sick custom paint job. ‘Motorcycle’ is such an old-school word.

Tell us about your mech. When saving the city, do you prefer to skim over the water or dive underneath it?

It depends. Wherever there are innocent people to be saved or bad guy butts to be kicked is where I want to be. Other than that, I’m good either way.

It sounds like Lloyd relies on you to stick up for him at school. You really have his back, don’t you?

Oh yeah. I don’t let anyone bully my friends. And Lloyd can always use another friend to stand up to the tough guys on the football team, or basketball team, or the student council, or the cheer squad, or the debate team, or the glee club, or the PTA…

We heard you’re a big fan of the famous ninja Lady Iron Dragon. What would you say to her if you ever got the chance to meet her?

I’d ask her how she balances the duty of being an awesome fighter with all the homework. It can be a lot to handle!

You’re a real role model to lots of girls out there. What do you say to all the young fans who look up to you?

I say follow your dreams because you can be anything you want to be in this world. And you don’t have to be just one thing. You can be a ninja AND ride a sweet bike AND be better than your brother at everything.

KAI Q&A

Michael Peña (“Ant-Man,” “The Martian”) / “Kai”
Names: Kai, The Fire Ninja
Elemental Power: Fire
Mech: Fire Mech

So, you’re the Fire Ninja. Does that mean you’re kind of a hothead?

What did you call me, bro??… Psych! Just kidding. I’m not a hothead at all. I’m just warm-hearted! There’s a difference. Come here, gimme a hug. I didn’t mean to scare you.

Oooookaaaay, this hug’s a little too tight. It’s getting tough to breathe.

We gotta hug ’til we both pass out. That’s the only way to do it.

We spoke to your sister, Nya, a little earlier. It sounds like things can get pretty competitive between the two of you.

Competitive? Nah, we’re not into any of that …Wait. Why’d you talk to her first? I’m the older one! Not cool, bro!

Imagine you didn’t have access to your mech anymore. Is there any other way you could make fire?

Oh yeah. Master Wu taught me how to rub two sticks together and make fire using patience. Here, watch. I’ll do it for you now…Patience… Patience… Patien … Ugh! Well, as you can see, it’s a work in progress.

Yikes. If you don’t mind us saying, that was a little hotheaded.

I know, my bad. Come her and gimme another hug.

COLE Q&A

Fred Armisen (“The Jim Gaffigan Show,” “SNL”) / “Cole”
Names: Cole, the Earth Ninja
Elemental Power: Earth
Mech: Quake Mech

 

So in addition to being a high school student and a ninja, we hear you’re also an amateur DJ.

Amateur? No, my spinning skills are very professional. Check this out.

Oh, nice. So what’s it like being—

Hold on, I’m not done yet.

Cool. Just let us know when you’re ready for the next question…

Almost done… Almost done… Almost done… and…BASS DROP!!

Okay, we’re just gonna keep going with the interview. So, you’re the Earth Ninja. Why do you think Master Wu chose that element for you?

Probably because I’m the most grounded one in the group. The one who has a spiritual connection to the world around me. Who is always listening to everything all around us.

Wow, that was really powerful. Did Master Wu teach you that?

Uhhh, I’m not sure. I usually tune out whenever he’s talking.

If you had to choose between being a DJ or a ninja for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

Man, that’s tough. I mean, it’s so rewarding to wake up every day and inspire people, and to be an icon to a city and do something that has the power to truly change the world… but being a ninja is pretty cool, too. Tough choice.

JAY Q&A

Kumail Nanjiani (“Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates”) / “Jay“
Names: Jay, the Lightning Ninja
Elemental Power: Lightning
Mech: Lightning Jet

There are a lot of different personalities on the Secret Ninja Force, but you’re the one most often described as—

Cunning? Fearless? Boyishly handsome on the outside but an old soul on the inside?

We were going to say “terrified of everything.” Any comment on that?

Oh, come on. That’s ridiculous. I’m the Lightning Ninja! I’m not afraid of anyth…AAAAHHH! What’s that on my shirt??? It’s a spider! Get it off! Please, get it off!!!

Actually, that’s your lapel mic. So, we can record the interview. It’s completely harmless.

Are you sure? You know what? I’m just gonna take it off anyways. Just to be safe.

Speaking of being the Lightning Ninja, are there ‘sparks’ flying between you and anyone special lately?

Well, I don’t want to start any rumors, but I’m definitely sensing a pretty strong vibe between me and Nya lately. I mean, you know what they say about electricity and water…

That it can kill you?

No, I meant… Well, actually… The point I was trying to make was… Okay, it wasn’t the best metaphor. I can see that now. Umm…by the way, did Nya say anything about me in her interview?

Uh…

Thought so.

ZANE Q&A

Zach Woods (“Silicon Valley”) / “Zane”
Names: Zane, the Ice Ninja
Elemental Power: Ice
Controls: Ice Tank

 

What’s it like being the only member of the Secret Ninja Force who is actually a robot?

Incorrect. I am one hundred percent a human teenager. My life is a combination of angsty frustration and raging hormones. Hashtag: Teen life.

Oh, sorry about that. Well, your parents must be proud of everything you’re doing to help NINJAGO then.

My mother is an old dial-up modem and my father is Joseph Engelbricker, the father of modern robotics.

This is confusing. Are you sure you’re not a robot?

Darn. You got me. If I had the capability to experience human emotion, I would be overwhelmed by remorse for deceiving you.

Don’t worry about it. And speaking of emotion, you must see a lot of it from your friend Lloyd, since he has to struggle with being the son of Garmadon every single day.

Oh, yes. I envy Lloyd’s ability to feel a wide range of emotions: sadness, irritation, annoyance, rage, grief, embarrassment, humiliation, mortification, and deep shame, just to name a few. Lloyd is so lucky!

So, when you’re not busy saving NINJAGO, what do robots do for fun?

Many things. We update our operating systems, enjoy some relaxation in sleep mode, and ponder the inevitable dawn of the singularity. And video games.

Ninjago – By The Numbers

  • 1 New animated adventure – The LEGO® NINJAGO® Movie – that explores the fantastic, faraway island of NINJAGO, with a new ensemble of characters and its own signature style.
  • 6.9 Meters – the height of NINJAGO Tower, which is the tallest building in NINJAGO City, a dazzling metropolis bustling with activity and color.
  • 19 Percent of the film’s objects with the world “ninja” in their names.
  • 34 Animals and insects.
  • 57 Colors comprise the film’s palette – the total number of existing LEGO colors.
  • 80 Unique minifigure faces.
  • 100 Unique rocks built for the movie.
  • 150 Unique minifigure wardrobe designs.
  • 196 Minifigs designed for motion.
  • 254 Unique NINJAGO plant species.
  • 315 Characters in the movie.
  • 1034 Shots featuring NINJAGO City.
  • 3463 Unique bricks, added to the existing digital LEGO brick library created since the first movie.
  • 6800 Years it would take to render NINJAGO on a single CPU.
  • 10,565 Minifigure characters and vehicles in the film’s largest crowd scene.
  • 12,000 Possible facial combinations for the characters in the movie.
  • 40,637 Bricks comprising the NINJAGO logo.
  • 6,493,248 Hairs on the fully digital, larger-than-life cat and accidental villain that threatens NINJAGO City.
  • 12,680,043 Bricks making up NINJAGO City.
  • 100,000,000+ Grains of sand appearing on NINJAGO’s beach.
  • 9.22.2017 Date The LEGO NINJAGO Movie lands around the globe when the film is released in 3D and 2D theaters worldwide, from Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Read the SAMDB review of the Lego Ninjago Movie.

 

Categories
Film Interview

Q&A With Unforgettable Stars Katherine Heigl & Rosario Dawson And Director Denise Di Novi


With fists flying and eyes like daggers, Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson are locked in a no-holds-barred, winner-take-all throwdown … and, battered but not broken, the two accomplished actors seem to be enjoying every punch, every choke hold and, yes, every handful of hair.

This epochal fight caps off an intricately constructed campaign of revenge between the two complex women at the core of director Denise Di Novi’s upcoming thriller Unforgettable, which promises to serve up equal parts shock and awe, emotion and suspense, and outrageous jump-in-your-seat moments.

Starring as the calculating, challenging – and, at this point, more than a little unhinged – Tessa, Katherine Heigl is detouring to the dark side of love after delivering a string of acclaimed performances in popular rom-coms like Knocked Up and 27 Dresses. Starring as Julia, the former’s unsuspecting and open-hearted target, is Rosario Dawson, who prior to celebrated turns in recent hits like the animated The LEGO® Batman Movie, cut her teeth on harder-edged roles in films like Sin City and Death Proof.

And, in sports parlance, Heigl and Dawson are in it to win it.

We really go at it. It is a knockdown, drag-out fight…winner-take-all,” Heigl quips. “Somebody’s going to die!

And Tessa is doing everything in her power to make sure it’s not her – having set into motion an intense psychological game of cat-and-mouse designed to engineer Julia’s self-destruction by making her believe she’s losing her mind and question who she is as a person.

But if Julia is the mouse in the scenario, this is the moment in the film when the mouse turns and bears its teeth. Dawson adds, “Julia comes into this particularly susceptible to someone pushing her buttons. It’s only when she’s backed up against a wall that she realizes she has nothing left to lose and fights back, which is such a fun and amazing journey to play.”

Unforgettable marks the directorial debut of veteran producer Denise Di Novi, who is taking the helm amid a heavy-hitting career producing a body of work that runs the gamut from edgy fare like Ed Wood and Edward Scissorhands to the tween-anthemic Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants films

Di Novi couldn’t resist taking the helm. “As a producer, I’ve worked in pretty much every film genre over the years, but I’ve never made a thriller,” she tells us tells us during a quick chat as the crew resets. “So, when the opportunity came up to direct a compelling story of two women – with the taut pacing and intricately structured maneuvers of a psychological/sexual thriller – I was immediately in.”

As her vision for Unforgettable took shape, the lifelong Alfred Hitchcock fan – along with producer Alison Greenspan and screenwriter Christina Hodson – drew inspiration from the pioneering director’s landmark female-centric thrillers, whose alchemy of craft and artistry still casts an intoxicating spell.

To conjure her own, Di Novi enlisted cinematographer Caleb Deschanel, the five-time Oscar nominee behind such films as The Natural and The Right Stuff. And just peering into one of the big monitors on the set’s “video village” reveals the legendary cinematographer’s precise and lyrical eye in the bold visual contrasts he is drawing out between the icy, composed beauty of Tessa and the earthy, unpracticed loveliness of Julia – while infusing the imagery with visual hints that nothing is as it seems.

In Deschanel’s camera, notes Di Novi, “Katherine nails the perfect posture of the classic Hitchcock blonde – cool but still very sexy and womanly. But, at the same time, she is so loveable, which is why she’s been wonderful in so many romantic comedies. Katherine can make people love Tessa and be terrified of her at the same time.”

As opposed to Julia, whom the director describes as “spontaneous, funny, loose, sexy and doesn’t care about making a mess. There is a vital heart that drives Rosario to be a good person, to do the right thing, to think the best of everyone—and that’s what Julia is.

Though Tessa and Julia are on opposing sides of the ring at this moment, each in many ways has been driven to this point by the same maddening, ever-present demand they feel to be perfect.  “To me, the relentless drive for perfection is one of the most resonant and compelling subtexts of both these characters’ journeys,” Di Novi reflects. “Whether it comes from partners, parents, other women or society itself the often unspoken demand to be perfect is a reality for women – and men, too, by the way – everywhere in the world. That kind of pressure can drive you crazy, and I think a lot of people will find fascinating points of connection with these characters in how they express it, particularly Tessa.

To understand the inevitability of the tour-de-force confrontation being captured on set today, it’s necessary to go back to the intersection of lives and loves that sets the unstoppable force that is Tessa on a collision course with the immovable object that Julia is forced to become.

At its crux is a whirlwind, love-at-first-sight affair between the ex-husband Tessa can’t quite let go of – David, played by Geoff Stults – and Julia, who, in the throes of their mad romance, gives up her old life in San Francisco to begin a new one in Southern California with David, immediately setting her on a collision course with his tightly wound ex-wife.

Cue the hand-to-hand combat. “We have amazing stuntwomen on this film, but, as you can see, it’s almost all Katherine and Rosario,” the director raves.

Though carefully choreographed and monitored by stunt coordinator Steve Ritzi, the intense mano a mano brawl delivers the raw power of the real thing, which Di Novi credits to the emotion and sheer physicality that Heigl and Dawson are bringing to it. “This is key moment in their character arcs – these two women are past the point of pretense. It’s intense and violent, and about these emotions that are pouring out of them. So, this scene is definitely a challenge—and more than a little emotional—for them, and for us.

Watching it play out on a monitor, it’s impossible not to root for the underdog, which the director attributes in large part to Dawson’s “inherent goodness. “Rosario brings so much positivity and openness to Julia that you understand why being with her would be a relief to David after being married to Tessa. At the same time, those same qualities drive Julia to try be friends with her, to make it work. She doesn’t want to believe that Tessa is a bad person.

While Di Novi allows that the latter is ostensibly the film’s Big Bad, “It’s important to me that you also have some compassion for Tessa, and Katherine is so inherently good and kind, it’s impossible not to like her. I think your heart really does break for Tessa … at least initially. After all, anyone – male or female – who has had a really bad breakup can relate to that sense of rejection and displacement.

Of course,” she adds with a wry smile, “Tessa takes it to such an extreme level – and Katherine is courageous enough to really embrace that darkness. Watching her unravel quickly goes from heartbreaking to terrifying to insanely fun.

In producer Alison Greenspan’s words, “We love watching the meltdown and talking back to the screen—‘Don’t go in there! Come on, she’s nuts!’” she laughs. “And this movie definitely delivers as a fun thrill ride. But, on a deeper level, it’s a story about how women define themselves as mothers, spouses and partners – and what the fear of losing all of that can provoke.

For Heigl herself, exploring the complex and twisted psychological geography of Tessa is both the fun and the challenge of embodying this woman on the edge. “I want there to still be some sympathy for Tessa,” she says. “It’s important to me that she is not so alienating that there isn’t a team of gals on her side—before she goes too far—who get her and her behavior.

What I’m really hoping,” she adds with a laugh, “is to see ‘Team Tessa’ and ‘Team Julia’ t-shirts out there.

Looking none the worse for wear in spite of the grueling sequence, Heigl sees a certain logic to Julia’s downward spiral. “In Tessa’s mind, it’s her world,” she argues. “She’s just trying to maintain the upper hand and hold on to what she knows is hers. It’s as simple and as basic as, ‘Hey, Julia, there is no place for you here and you are not welcome.’”

Not helping is the fact that Julia is everything Tessa’s not. “Where Tessa is controlled, practiced and studied, Julia is effortlessly beautiful and charming,” she continues, “She’s also far more vulnerable than Tessa would ever allow herself to be. And to see that naked vulnerability… well, Tessa just can’t bear it. What naturally runs through her mind is, ‘How could David choose her, a woman so completely different from me? Is he repelled by who I am?’

But what pushes Tessa over the edge from strained tolerance to furious vengeance is Julia’s budding bond with her young daughter, Lily, played by newcomer Isabella Rice. Says Heigl, “It’s not just her ex-husband that’s been taken from her—it’s her daughter. And it’s the shops, where she is the best customer – it’s her whole town!

Katherine Heigl and Rosario Dawson

Behind the scenes, there are no such power plays between Heigl and Dawson, who would be equally at home portraying lifelong besties instead of the two women at loggerheads. Heigl calls Dawson “a dream! Rosario is just the most effervescent, lovely, outgoing, wonderful woman. It might seem kind of strange because our characters go to a place that is so violent and explosive, but Rosario is just so supportive that she makes it easy to play with that and have fun.

In between setups, we get a chance to speak with Dawson, whose whole face lights up – in spite of the carefully applied scuffs and bruises – when talking about her sparring partner. “I marvel at Katie and what she is able to do with Tessa,” she says. “She brings so many layers and dimensions to Tessa that no matter how far off the deep end she takes it – and she takes it quite far – you really do feel compassion for Tessa.

Dawson tells us that Julia enters this story “at such an interesting point in her life. She’s in that honeymoon phase when she’s happy and in love. Despite having been damaged by a previous, poisonous relationship, and having no experience being a partner or a parent, she’s willing and excited to begin this new life with David.

Of course, what she doesn’t count on – what no one in the throes of true love even considers – is the presence of a formidable opponent with a vested interest in seeing her relationship fail. “Julia’s on Tessa’s home turf, which obviously puts her at a disadvantage in this situation,” Dawson says. “She’s so insecure she’s even hiding the engagement ring!

But when the gloves come off, as today’s scene spectacularly demonstrates, “Julia is willing to fight tooth and nail, even to the point of self-sacrifice,” Dawson attests. “For her, this moment is really about making a choice between staying in her corner and dying a sad, little death, or standing up to her fear. And what she decides is that she’s not going to let anything – or anyone – compromise the people she loves.

Geoff Stults, who plays David, the ultimate quarry of Tessa’s reign of terror, good-naturedly demurs from backing either party in this all-or-nothing face-off. “As an actor, I’ve had so much fun working with Katherine and Rosario, so there’s no way I could choose,” he smiles. “They’re fantastic, super-strong and super-talented actors, and both are very real in these roles.

Stults has similar high praise for his director, whom he credits with helping him better understand the motivations of his onscreen ex-wife. “Denise is bringing up some things I would never have been aware of,” he tell us, “like having some sympathy for Tessa, who’s watching her ex-husband and daughter arm-in-arm with this beautiful woman, Julia, who just came to town.

Still, David is in way over his head, leading to suspense, shocks and stand-up-and-cheer moments delivered by the two fascinating women at the core of the film. “I wanted to make a film that explores a complicated relationship between two very strong, but very different women – and there is no better genre to explore that dynamic without pulling any punches than the thriller,” says Di Novi, who is aiming to bring many shades of the female experience to the screen. “We see a lot of wonderful and inspiring stories about women fighting the good fight – and I love those kinds of movies. But I think there’s a clear appetite for women-driven movies of every genre, from a scary movie to a heist thriller to an action epic.

Unforgettable’s provocative mix of love, obsession and paranoia is in the tradition of white-knuckle classics of the ‘90s – like Fatal Attraction, The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and Single White Female – yet the new film couldn’t be more relevant, or resonant, in today’s world of social media and spyware. “I think we all experience the fear that somebody is tricking and manipulating us without us realizing it,” Di Novi reflects.

And, over the course of making the film, it’s an idea that strikes a chord in the reactions of many to this story. Says Greenspan, “Everyone brings a little bit of their personal lives into their experience of this film, and that’s what makes it so horrifying, scary and thrilling.

What amazes me,” Di Novi adds, “is how many people say to me things like, ‘I’ve gotten so jealous that I thought about doing some pretty extreme things.’ I think that’s what draws us to psychological thrillers – even if we would never, in our darkest hours, even contemplate the things Tessa does in this film, it’s fun to experience that vicarious thrill of seeing just how far we might go.

Audiences will get their chance when Unforgettable hits cinemas worldwide, from Warner Bros. Pictures.

Unforgettable opens 26 May 2017, in South African cinemas.

“Unforgettable” is the first film in the director’s chair for veteran producer Denise Di Novi (“Crazy, Stupid, Love,” “Focus”).  Rosario Dawson (the “Sin City” films), Katherine Heigl (“27 Dresses,” “Knocked Up”) and Geoff Stults (TV’s “The Odd Couple”) star in the dramatic thriller.

Tessa Connover (Heigl) is barely coping with the end of her marriage when her ex-husband, David (Stults), becomes happily engaged to Julia Banks (Dawson)—not only bringing Julia into the home they once shared but also into the life of their daughter, Lily.  Trying to settle into her new life, Julia believes she has finally met the man of her dreams, the man who can help her put her own troubled past behind her.  But Tessa’s jealousy soon takes a pathological turn until she will stop at nothing to turn Julia’s dream into her ultimate nightmare.

The main cast also includes film and television star Cheryl Ladd as Tessa’s mother, Helen; Sarah Burns (HBO’s “Big Little Lies”) as Sarah; Whitney Cummings (“The Wedding Ringer”) as Julia’s best friend, Ali; Simon Kassianides (TV’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”) as Michael Vargas; Isabella Kai Rice (“True Blood”) as Lily, and Robert Ray Wisdom (HBO’s “Ballers”) as Detective Pope.

Di Novi directed “Unforgettable” from a screenplay by Christina Hodson.  Di Novi, Alison Greenspan (“If I Stay”) and Ravi Mehta (“Get Hard”) produced the film, with Lynn Harris serving as executive producer.

The behind-the-scenes creative team included multiple Oscar-nominated director of photography Caleb Deschanel (“The Right Stuff,” “The Natural”), production designer Nelson Coates (“Flight”), editor Frédéric Thoraval (“Taken”), and costume designer Marian Toy (HBO’s “Ballers”).  The music was composed by Toby Chu.

Warner Bros. Pictures presents a Di Novi Pictures Production, “Unforgettable.”  The film will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

www.unforgettablemovie.com

 

Categories
Interview

Q&A With Kong: Skull Island Cast Toby Kebbell And Jason Mitchell

Kong: Skull Island, the latest incarnation of the mega-ape himself, opens in South African cinemas 10 March 2017. And to whet the appetite of the viewing audience, a treat of some questions and answers to some of the upcoming films cast, Toby Kebbell (Warcraft: The Beginning) who plays Maj. Jack Chapman and Jason Mitchell who plays W.O. Glen Mills.

A team of explorers, soldiers and scientists venture to an uncharted island in the Pacific, where many a terrifying monster dwells, and where the mythical Kong lives.

Read the SAMDB review of Kong: Skull Island.

Was it exciting for you to be in a big monster movie?

JASON MITCHELL: Absolutely. You can’t top Kong. I really wanted to be a part of this movie.

You learned to fly a helicopter for the film. What was that like?

TOBY KEBBELL: Yeah, they trained us to fly. I learned that getting your pilot’s license is difficult because the classroom work is incredibly intensive. Also, helicopters are in some ways more difficult than to fly than planes. In a helicopter, you’re using two pedals, a pitch-up and what they call a stir. We were trained to come in and hover. It was pretty crazy—like balancing a bowling ball with a darning needle.

JASON MITCHELL: It was pretty intense.

Did you spend some time together before you started shooting?

TOBY KEBBELL: We did a workshop for about a week. We’d spend the best part of the day working on our characters. It was a phenomenal experience.

What was it looking working with acting legends John Goodman and Samuel L. Jackson?

JASON MITCHELL: John Goodman has such a great way of breaking the ice. He’s so good at being himself, even though he’s an acting legend.

Sam, on the other hand, is going to mess with you as long as you let him mess with you [laughs]. He’s my guy, though. It was a privilege to watch them work.

TOBY KEBBELL: Sam is incredibly bright and literate. He has a vast knowledge of many subjects, some of which are pretty obscure.

The film was shot in Hawaii, Australia and Vietnam. What were some of your favorite locations?

JASON MITCHELL: In Vietnam, in Halong Bay, we experienced a 30-minute boat ride to get to base camp—which was on a boat.

TOBY KEBBELL: Actually, it was two boats, strapped together.

JASON MITCHELL: One day during filming in Halong Bay, I wasn’t feeling well. I was trying to hold it together—my face was about turn green—when I saw a school of jellyfish and some monkeys. It was a weird, but great experience.

TOBY KEBBELL: In Australia, there was a panic about some spiders.

JASON MITCHELL: I’m really afraid of spiders, too, which was something that Jordan kind of worked off of, because at one point he had the idea of some giant plant trying to eat my character.

What was the most memorable scene for you to shoot?

JASON MITCHELL: There was one time, where I was in a kind of army stance, with my legs fairly wide apart, and I feel this boop, boop, boop, boop. I’m thinking, what just happened? It was an eel swimming through my legs. It got to the point where Jordan was saying, “I’m not going to deal with everybody being scared. I’m just going to get in the water with you guys and show you that it’s not that bad.”

 

Categories
Interview

Q&A With Director Gavin Hood – Eye In The Sky

Eye In The Sky, a film about a commander in England, drone pilots in The United States, terrorists located somewhere in Kenya. Do they have the authority to strike at these high value targets on foreign soil? How far can they take this action, and what are the stakes. All these are weighed up in this thriller about remote warfare.

Eye In The Sky

SAMDB had the opportunity to do an Q&A with director of Eye In The Sky, Gavin Hood (writer / director Ender’s Game and Tsotsi, director X-Men Origins: Wolverine to name but a few).

Eye In The Sky

What inspired you to become a film director?

I was an actor before I became a director. There were very few films being made in SA when I started in the industry in the mid 80’s. Mostly dreadful B action movies for the US straight to video market. I realized at some point that if I wanted to do better work I needed to generate my own work and I started working hard at my writing. Directing followed from writing my own scripts.

Films such as Eye in the Sky are shot and set in many varied locations. How to you approach such a project, and prepare yourself to realise the written story in a visual format?

That’s a very broad question. But it all starts with a great script. I then spend a lot of time gathering visual references and ideas online. Then I put together mood boards that indicate camera, lighting and color palette ideas and I do rough sketches of how I think I might layout the floor plans of sets to best stage action and be able to accommodate camera moves etc. Finally I take these initial ideas to my team – production designer, cinematographer, pre-vis and story board artists etc and with the help of many talented people it all slowly comes together.

Being from SA, and being able to shoot various films here (including Eye in the Sky), do you try bring a piece of your SA heritage to each project?

My emotional and political experiences growing up in SA definitely influence the way I see the world and the themes I’m drawn to.

Film or digital? And why?

Digital. It’s come so far. Cameras are lighter and you can shoot for longer in way less light. Get over film. For all practical purposes you can achieve any film effect you want in post. And I love the digital intermediate process where you have so much control over the image.

Any advice for aspiring film directors?

Make short films to practice your craft. That’s where you learn in a safe environment. Don’t make a feature until you’re sure you are ready. I’ve seen so many bad first features. Remember, there’s only one thing harder than raising money for a first feature film, and that’s raising money for a second feature if your first one was bad.

What’s next for you?

That depends on what audiences think of Eye in the Sky!

We are grateful, and thank Gavin for sharing his experiences, and journey with us.

Categories
Interview

Q&A With Megan Gill – Eye In The Sky

Eye In The Sky, a film about a commander in England, drone pilots in The United States, terrorists located somewhere in Kenya. Do they have the authority to strike at these high value targets on foreign soil? How far can they take this action, and what are the stakes. All these are weighed up in this thriller about remote warfare.

Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell
Helen Mirren as Colonel Katherine Powell

SAMDB was fortunate enough to catch up with the film’s editor Megan Gil for a Q&A, who’s credits include the Oscar winning Tsotsi, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Spud and several others that will be familiar.

Eye In The Sky

How did you get your start in the film world, and what made you focus on editing?

I had taken a year off from university and done some travelling and was waitressing when a friend asked me if I would like to help out on a TV series she was working on. So I started as an apprentice in the cutting room on Agter Elke Man, got a third assistant job on a feature straight afterwards and never went back to university. I assisted on mostly features for neary 10 years before I started cutting.

Do you have a software preference for edit work?

Over the years, I’ve worked on 5 or 6 different systems. They all ultimately do the same thing once you learn the quirks of each system. At the moment, I prefer working on Avid. It has become really affordable. It’s the most reliable and I find it the most intuitive. Probably because it was one of the first systems I learnt to use.

Talk us through your edit workflow, and how you approach editing a feature film. It must be a very collaborative process?

I approach each film slightly differently, depending on the way it has been shot, the story etc. Eye in the Sky was particularly difficult because each character/location was shot separately because of budget constraints. For example, all of Helen Mirren’s scenes were shot first and Gavin played all the characters she interacted with on the set to feed her lines. Then we shot Aaron Paul and Gavin played all the Helen Mirren parts to him. So it was really like cutting one long phone conversation. I couldn’t cut many of the scenes until all the film had been shot because I had to wait for all the pieces of the puzzle before I could complete it. Once I have a full first cut, then the collaboration with Gavin begins. We obviously stay in touch during the shoot, to make sure we both feel like things are working, but the real work begins once I have a full cut that we can begin to pull apart and rearrange.

You’ve worked with director Gavin Hood a few times in the past. Have you found that the familiarity makes the work easier?

Yes, definitely. I understand his sensibilities, he understands mine. We have a shorthand that comes from working together so often. We don’t always agree but we always find a way through that, borne out of our respect of each other. He always says if one of us isn’t happy, then there’s something wrong and we need to find a way to make it work.

A film is made three times; when writing the script, when filming, and then when editing. Is it often that you would find the story changing in any major way?

Yes and no. Editing, I think, is where you find the essence of the film. It is where you throw out the stuff that doesn’t serve emotion or story. Often stuff is written or shot that over explains. Hopefully, editing is where you keep the essentials and leave behind the superfluous without losing the emotional journey.

What advice would you have for any aspiring film editors?

See lots of films, read lots of books, watch lots of people. Our ability to tell stories comes from our understanding of the world and the way humans exist in it. If we only live in the vacuum of film, we start talking to ourselves. Novels are where I got my love of storytelling. Knowing how people react and live in the world helps inform a sense of reality in the storytelling. And film is only that, another medium for telling stories.

What’s next for you?

Well, I have just finished working on Shepherds and Butchers for Oliver Schmitz, which premièred in Berlin, so I’m taking a bit of a rest. After that, I’m not sure. I am waiting to hear about a couple of South African projects I’m very excited about. And then, hopefully, Gavin’s next movie, which will probably be next year.

We are grateful, and thank Megan for sharing her experiences, and journey with us.