Category Archives: Interviews

How to Interview: The Boys of “New Moon”

new-moon-movie-poster-sWithout going into it in great detail, the two Twilight movies have so far tapped into my inner-squeally 15-year-old pretty succinctly. For a few hours, it’s a great place to be. New Moon focuses on the growing friendship and affection between Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner), after Edward (Robert Pattinson) mysteriously leaves Bella, as well as the realization that Jacob is turning into a werewolf, ready to run with his fellow Native American wolf pack. Yes, there is a lot of shirtless-ness and rock-hard abs, which isn’t a bad thing at all.

Even though I had to sit through four hours of press conferences with the New Moon folks – from the three leads, to the Cullen family, to the Volturi to the wolf pack, to director Chris Weitz – it was worth it just to see all the hunky men parade through the ballroom. So, without further ado, here’s what the boys had to say [the girls will get their turn tomorrow]:

Step 1: Team Jacob or Team Edward?
Chris Weitz: “Making Jacob too appealing… It’s a balance, isn’t it, in terms of how he’s written and how Edward’s written, and how they’re shot. I think that for the diehard Twilight fans, nothing will ever beat Edward and so you’ve got this kind of very strong, simple fact that they know that he is the one, which allows you to push as hard as you possibly can and make Jacob as winning as Taylor has been able to be.  Which gives me a lot of latitude. We didn’t have to suddenly have a scene in which Jacob acted like a creep so that we’re reminded that we needed to love Edward. It’s just a love-fest.”

Taylor Lautner: “Honestly, I think it depends on what kind of girl you are, what kind of guy you like. Edward and Jacob are complete opposite guys. They’re hot and cold, literally. I personally love Jacob and Bella’s relationship, how they begin as best friends and it starts to grow into something more and more. Both guys are in love with Bella, both guys are always going to be there for Bella and they’re protective. I just think it’s what kind of guy you like.”

Robert Pattinson: “It was weird because I hardly did any scenes with Taylor. We just did the scenes at the beginning and the scenes at the end, and he had his entire storyline develop without me being around, which is interesting because I had no idea where his performance was going. It wasn’t really a competition or anything. It was independent. Whereas, in Eclipse, we did scenes together, all the time, with Bella. It really shows the dynamic in that film.”

new-moon-movie-photos-1.0.0.0x0.450x338Step 2: This isn’t just for girls … well, at least Robert Pattinson doesn’t think so
Pattinson: “It’s weird. I keep getting told by people, ‘Pump up all the stuff about the action, so the guys will go and see it,’ but it’s ridiculous. It’s like saying that guys can’t appreciate romance. I don’t think you can say that about Gone with the Wind. I’ve watched Titanic and I didn’t think, ‘Oh, this is a girl’s film.’  Especially in New Moon, and actually in the whole series, I’ve never played it thinking, ‘Oh, I’m in a series of girls’ films and I’m doing something just for girls.’ I don’t feel like I’m doing an animated Tiger Beat every week. I like doing romantic scenes. I felt like a lot of the storyline in New Moon is very heartbreaking and true. I didn’t think I was doing something, just for the sake of romance. I thought, in a lot of ways, that it was a really sad story.”

Weitz: “I think that there’s this wonderful audience that appreciates what we do, wants us to do well, and really wants to engage in an emotional experience. And so to me it made sense to be unashamed of the emotionality of the piece. And there’s werewolves fighting each other, vampires fighting each other, vampires fighting werewolves, and all sorts of great stuff for boys as well, but the girls needed to be given their due. And we, I think, deliver.”

Step 3: Focus on the role, Taylor, and it will be yours
Weitz: “I’d say there was a big possibility [Lautner wouldn’t get the role of Jacob], but I was always convinced that he was going to be able to do it. The doubts came up because he had very few scenes in the first movie. Also because he’s described as being 6’5″ in the second book, some reasonable facts that we had to come to grip with. But I like the sort of sweetness of this character in the first movie, and I knew that it was easier to take an actor in the direction of anger and rage than it was to find someone who is kind of a hunk or 6’5″ Native American and somehow turn him into that very sweet-natured persona that Taylor brings out so well.”

Lautner: “Honestly, I knew where my character went in New Moon and that’s all I tried to stay focused on. I couldn’t control the things outside, I couldn’t control the media, but I could control what I was doing to portray Jacob Black correctly, and that’s what I stayed focused on the entire time.”

-New-Moon-stills-HQ-twilight-movie-7408086-2000-1330Step 4: Then rip those shirts OFF, especially when Bella’s head is bleeding
Lautner: [laughs] “I start laughing every time I see that scene. ‘Oh, you’re bleeding? Let me fix that …’ Here’s the thing: There’s a reason [Jacob] is not wearing many clothes in the movie. 1) When he transforms, his clothes get shredded, he can’t help it. And when he goes into the woods to put something one so he’s not naked, it’s a ripped pair of jean shorts. 2) He’s also hot, he’s 108 degrees, so that’s another reason. I love this character, this story and putting on the weight and not wearing much clothing was required for the role. In a year’s time, if I love a story and a character that required me to lose 40 pounds, I’m ready to do it.”

Weitz: “I like to say it’s all essentially economics. You see, the Quileutes [the Native American tribe in the film] don’t have very high average income and they can’t afford the T-shirts they would need, given the amount of times they turn into wolves on short notice and their clothes burst. So, really, they’d have to go to Wal-Mart every 10 minutes. They just go around in shorts for that reason.”

Step 5: Join a werewolf boot camp to get those six-pack abs
Chaske Spencer [who plays Sam, the leader of the wolf pack]:  “It was an hour of training, they got us a trainer. We went in, it was a guy who helped out on 300. It was a lot of circuit training and muscle confusion. We also ate a lot. We ate six meals a day, three protein shakes a day.”

Lautner: “I was in the gym about five days a week because it was important to get your recovery time. And not overworking yourself. I was trying to put on and if I was in the gym too much, I would be burning the calories I was trying to take in. The most important thing was the eating side. Everyone thinks it’s the gym but that was the easy part for me; I was motivated. But the eating was pretty hard. We found out I needed to eat at least 3,200 calories a day just to maintain, but I needed to gain and not just maintain, so I had to eat more than that, putting something in my mouth every two hours. And I’m busy, going downtown L.A. for meetings, so there wasn’t any time for me to eat. So I’d carry around a baggie full of meat patties, raw almonds, sweet potatoes. It’s not like every two hours I was eating ice cream. It was difficult.”

Pattinson: “I didn’t see Taylor until just a little bit before we started shooting, so when he came back, I had the same reaction as everybody else. I was like, ‘Now I have to go to the gym.’”

new_moon_wolfpack_photoAlex Meraz [who plays wolf pack member Paul]:  “It was definitely crucial to the bonding, too. That’s really what helped out with building the chemistry on set and even during filming, I think it really helped out a lot. We had a blast. We supported each other, we even made fun of each other – you know, like who could do the most push-ups or whatever. It really helped out with our characterizations.”

Spencer: “We helped [Jacob] phase. He doesn’t want to become a werewolf. No one wants this. It just happens, this is what we’re dealt.  When the Cullens came around, that’s when we started phasing.   My character, he was the first one to phase, so my relationship to these guys – I’m sort of the big brother, the mentor, the father figure to help them.  We are like a band of brothers, like a rock band, and suddenly Jacob starts to phase, and he has some choices to make and he has to join us.  We surround him and tell him it’s not that bad.”

Lautner: “It was a lot fun. Did you talk to them already? Oh boy, that must have been a fun room. They are great guys, and they each fit their characters perfectly. We had lots of fun on set, they made it exciting.”

Step 6: Throw down between Edward and Jacob, who would win?
Pattinson: “I don’t know. I think it’s actually a fact that Edward would win, if I read the books correctly. So, I guess I can hold onto that, for my ego.”

Lautner: “We were actually discussing this on set, like who WOULD win? Because there’s a scene outside Bella’s house in which Edward grabs Jacob’s shoulder, he’s mad and Jacob doesn’t take that, rips his arm off. At that moment, Jacob would transform into a wolf, but we’re having this discussion and get really deep, ‘If I were to poof into a wolf right now, what would happen? Who would win?’ Our discussion points were like, usually I’m with my pack so if I’m without my pack, am I going to be weaker? That discussion is still up in the air. You could probably get Stephanie Meyer on the line and ask her.”

Step 7: Throw down between Rob and Taylor, who would win?
Pattinson: “I did hear, the other day, that Taylor had agreed to an interview where the interviewer was going to fight him. I don’t think I’d ever agree to that. And, after looking at Taylor’s martial arts videos from when he was like nine, I wouldn’t really want to do anything. Maybe if I had some kind of weapon.”

Lautner: “I don’t know about Rob. He actually does a lot of boxing in his time off, so it could be a good match.”

Step 8: Appreciate how TORTURED Edward is
Pattinson: “When I read New Moon, it gave me ideas about how to play him in the first film. It’s the one I connected to the most, and the one that humanized Edward for me the most, as well. In the first one, he still does remain, from beginning to end, an idealistic character. But, in the second one, he makes a mistake that’s acknowledged by everybody, including himself. Also, he is totally undermined by more powerful creatures, and he’s undermined emotionally by people as well. That’s what humanized it. Since I read that book, I always liked him as a character, and I’ve tried to play that same feeling throughout the films. He’s the hero of the story that just refuses to accept that he’s the hero, and I think that’s kind of admirable.”

new_moon_michael_sheen_aro_volturiStep 9: Understand that vampires definitely dress better
Michael Sheen [who plays Aro, head of the Volturi, the vampire government and who also played the werewolf Lucian in the Underworld series]: “The tailoring is so much better as a vampire. I’ve been observing vampires for some time now and I finally got to give my own fang, although we don’t have fangs, do we? But no, it was great to be on the other side for a bit … I lose days just with my Lucian figure and my Aro action-figure fighting. They have their tea parties together. They like to fight and then they come back. I’m losing jobs because of it.”

Step 10: Be part of the Twihard fan machine
Pattinson: “Recently, I have less direct interaction with people because there’s way more security and stuff on set. But I always find it funny when older people come up. There was a woman who came up to me the other day who must have been in her 90s. It’s very unusual. And, they say exactly the same things as 12-year-old girls. That is kind of bizarre.”

Sheen: “I haven’t really experienced much of the Twilight fan stuff yet. But I did go into a store in L.A. to buy a pair of jeans and I went into the little cubicle to try my jeans on. It’s always a quite nerve-wracking time when I come out of the cubicle to look in the mirror anyway and I like that to be a private moment. As I came out, there was a woman shaking, going ‘You’re Aro, aren’t you?!’ and I just hid in my cubicle again. Whooo! That’s been really my only experience with that. Apart from also going into my daughter’s bedroom — she’s just got pictures from Twilight and New Moon everywhere — and seeing my own little picture, which I think she did out of pity. Have Dad up there as well.”

Lautner: “I don’t think there is any way to prepare yourself for this phenomenon. None of us expected it. When we were filming Twilight, we didn’t expect anything. We were just making a movie we wanted the fans to enjoy. And then it kind of blew into this whole other world. You can definitely say I felt a little bit of the pressure to bring Jacob’s character and Jacob and Bella’s relationship alive for the fans. This movie builds that relationship and sets up the love triangle, so it’s a very important story.”

robert_pattinson3Step 11: Just say the craziest thing you can think of about these Twilight stars
Lautner: “Honestly, I try and stay away from what’s been written about me because if you let that stuff get to you, that’s not true, it can drive you crazy. One thing that I have heard recently, which is NOT true, that I didn’t say, was that I’d never take off my shirt for a movie again. I didn’t say that. If I have to, if the character requires it, I will. Who knows in 10 years, I’ll do it. Like I said, if a character requires me to lose 40 pounds, I’ll do it. That was interesting to see.”

Pattinson: “Recently, some magazine had on the cover that I was pregnant. I was just like, ‘Wow!’ And, it was without a hint of irony or anything. I didn’t really know what to make of that one. I don’t even know if that qualifies as libelous because they can just say, ‘Well, it’s obviously fiction,’ but it’s written in a non-fiction magazine. I saw a couple comments under the article saying, ‘That’s why he always wears jackets. He always wears layers to hide it.’”

Step 12: Gives us a glimpse on the next Twilight movie, Eclipse
Lautner:Eclipse was my favorite book, so I was really excited about filming the movie. I just love that it’s the height of the love triangle. Twilight develops Edward and Bella’s relationship; New Moon develops Jacob and Bella’s relationship, and in Eclipse, the three of them are PHYSICALLY together. It has one my favorite scenes in that movie – the tent scene, where Edward is forced, and I guess it was a choice of his, to let me to sleep in the same sleeping bag as Bella just so she doesn’t die because she’s shivering to death. And I’m warm and the only thing that can keep her alive at that moment. It’s a funny scene, there’s a lot of ribbing going on between Edward and Jacob. It’s going to be a really good movie, and visually stunning, [director] David Slade is incredible visually.”

How to Interview: “Fantastic Mr. Fox”

wesandersonWriter/director Wes Anderson is one of my favorite filmmakers, ever since Bottle Rocket, his first film. I just dig his style – the stories about broken or unorthodox family circles, the great production design, the title cards always in the yellow Futura Bold font, the eccentric soundtracks. So, when I heard he was tackling children writer Roald Dahl’s delightful Fantastic Mr. Fox – as a stop-motion animated film about a clever Fox (George Clooney), who manages to steal from three mean farmers AND maintain a happy home life with his wife (Meryl Streep) and his son (Jason Schwartzman) – I had a feeling there would be some perfect symmetry between the two. I was correct (my review of the film to come soon).

Needless to say, I was more than a little excited to meet the director whose films I have so admired, and, as an added bonus, got to speak with Jason Schwartzman as well, a long-time friend and frequent co-star in most of Anderson’s films. God, I loved him in Rushmore. Here’s what the guys had to say about making Fantastic Mr. Fox – and about the man who inspired them as kids: Roald Dahl.

Step 1: Love your original source material
Wes Anderson: “[Fantastic Mr. Fox] was the first book I legally owned in our household, that was my property. I still have it and it has a little book plate in there from the school fair with my name on it. But I also loved all the other ones. My older brother would read them and hand them to me when he was done … A certain point [he and co-writer Noah Baumbach] would say, ‘So, what should we put here? Oh, let’s look at the book.’ We were also trying to figure out how to expand because the book is short. There’s not that much plot in it. Sort of just enough plot for the middle of the movie, we had to think about what happens next. But we had to do it and come up with something good. And because it was adapted from [Roald Dahl’s] work, we could sort of get into character as Roald Dahl, imagine being him and ask ‘What would he do?’ That was our method.”

Jason Schwartzman: “I knew it as a little kid. My mom read to me Charlie and the Chocolate fantastic_mr_foxFactory and The Twits, which was my favorite one. And the movie is so scary. Have you seen the movie? Whoa. I knew [Fantastic Mr. Fox] as a kid, too. It’s crazy that I could be a part of a real piece of literature, not only literature but something that means a lot to a nation, a world. I heard he was the most beloved in all of England. The country did a poll, he’s the No. 1 most loved writer.”

Step 2: If you want to get to know an author, live in his country house for a little while
Anderson: “It’s a wonderful place, that house. There’s so many details there, I’d think ‘One day I want to have THAT where I live, I want to do it like that.’ Even just simple things … for instance, the dining room table was sort of a long table with chairs. But where [Dahl] sat is unusual; it’s an armchair, with a little side table with a telephone with five lines, a notepad, all his stuff. It was like a dining room table AND his office. I really liked that. And now that’s where his wife sits, in this big chair. He was like 6’7” or something like that, big chair and she’s sort of small in the chair. But that’s where she runs the show from that spot. You really feel his personality in that place.”

Step 3:  Match your own sensibilities with the material. It’s OK, Wes, it works, trust us
Anderson: “My goal was to make [Fantastic Mr. Fox] as Dahl as possible. Even though I’m American and we made all the animals American, Noah and I wrote more comfortably and thought we could be freer and hopefully funnier writing in an American way. Our own idiom or something like that worked better for us. But we fully expected to expand it the way Dahl may have done himself. And in the end, it seemed like something I would have done, but it was not deliberate. I mean, it may seem that way because I was making the decisions but not because I wanted it to feel like another thing I did. On the last movie I did [Darjeeling Limited], people said they thought it was a lot like the other movies I’ve done, but I felt like, ‘We’ve gone to India, we are on a train, it’s totally different!’ I guess it’s not something I’m able to regulate, [my style] that comes through.”

fantastic-mr-fox-robbersStep 4: Make that style work with a stop-motion animated film, even if it kills you
Anderson: “I have a way of thinking about staging and design and sets. Of the whole range of things you can think of, my entire range is only here [indicates a small box]. And it doesn’t go outside of that. So when something is happening over there, I find a way to make it fit over here. Working with all these talented people whose lives are dedicated to stop-motion animation and making these miniature things seem like they are alive was amazing. There are techniques they’ve learned and ways to do it that are effective, but I had my own ways that come from NOT having experience with [stop-motion animation]. And I wanted to shoot it just the same way I would a live-action movie, which in the end became extremely challenging.

“I expected to do this more like Tim Burton, write the script, design the sets, draw up the shots and then hand it over and the team of animators would animate it. I thought I would go direct another movie during that time, come back work on the score. And I realized pretty early on that wasn’t going to be possible. Which then meant for two years, it was everyday, from the moment you wake up. So if you want one long shot and not cut during it and lots of puppets animated, it’s going to take longer. But I’m happy with it, we were under budget, so we managed to figure it all out.”

Schwartzman: “People touched it. On the one hand, you know it’s not real, that it’s animated but what gives it a feeling of reality is that it’s human. Humans made this movie, no computers.”

Step 5: Forget the sound booths, do it as a radio play
Schwartzman: “Do you know we did this movie in a very unorthodox style? Let me tell you about it. We actually did most of the recording live on location. On farms, all together. That was part of Wes’ whole concept. When he brought me in on Darjeeling Limited, he only had a small kernel of an idea: three brothers on a train in India. But parallel to this was HOW he wanted to make it. No trailers for actor, no craft services. All actors do their own hair and makeup. We are going to shoot it on a real moving train in the desert and we are going to all live together in a big house. And that is what we had with [Fantastic Mr. Fox]. He had a finished script, but he also had the way in which he wanted to do it, unorthodox, getting all the actors together and doing it as a radio play. You drive by these billboards of these animated movies and they’ve got the most awesomeness cast but then you realize, ‘Aw, they never met.’ And that’s fine. I mean, the way Pixar does it, they are the Beatles of animation, and I have a lot respect for a Pixar actor who has to sit in a room by himself  and having to generate an authentic performance. Even though I hadn’t done animation before, it was fun to do it in this new, fun way, really acting it out. For instance, if there was a scene outside, we all went outside. If we had to be digging in the scene, we’d all start digging in the ground. And if we were schwartzman-clooneyeating, we all were really eating. The sound was recorded with just one microphone. And that’s how we could get overlapping and mistakes. It’s always an adventure with Wes, now that I think about it.”

Step 6: Realize it’s not that bad to dig in the dirt with George Clooney
Schwartzman: “It’s surreal. When you watch this, you just realize what an incredible voice he has. Because we were doing this all together, there would be scenes I wasn’t in, so I’d sit there with Wes and George and Bill [Murray] and watch. I’d close my eyes, sitting close to George Clooney, listening to his voice. I know it sounds funny, but fuck, he’s got such an incredible voice – nooks and scratches and cuts on that voice. Pretty amazing.”

Step 7: Don’t underestimate kids
Schwartzman: “I know there are brilliant people who work at the studios whose job it is to dissect society and ask people questions, do polls and all kinds of stuff. So obviously, they do know something, but … I will say a couple of things: First, that’s the great thing about Pixar, they smuggle in so much. You’re watching it, and I’m laughing and getting so much out of it. And then I look at the little kids around me and they are laughing, too. And I’m wondering, are they laughing because we adults are? Somehow, it’s soaking into their bodies, like other messages, death whatever. Like in Up, that’s a heavy movie in the beginning. I think little kids are little humans, they feel so much. I’m now an adult, and that’s a problem so many adults speaking about what they think kids feel. And now I’m not even in touch with kids. I remember when I was a kid, playing video games when my parents were having a dinner party and some like older person with glasses, walks in and I’d see them thigh down and they ask ‘What are ya playing?’ I’m like, ‘You don’t know, get out of here.’ And now I’m THAT dude. I was at a party, ‘So what is this thing, you can play tennis holding this thing?’ … we are just like little people with so many emotions, angry and confused. Why do kids go lock themselves in closets for hours and hide from people? Had I seen [Fantastic Mr. Fox] when I was little it would have helped me. I felt little and that girls didn’t like me back. I felt different, I totally was different. Made fun of all the time, never as good an athlete that I wanted to be. So, I totally support filmmakers for making movies that are a bit complex for kids.”

How to Interview: “Gentlemen Broncos”

ronaldchevalierAs in director Jared Hess, his wife/writing partner Jerusha – the masterminds behind the indie gem Napoleon Dynamite and Nacho Libre – and actor Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords fame, who collaborated on Gentlemen Broncos.

Briefly, it’s a story of Benjamin (Michael Angarano), a lonely teenage boy, home-schooled by his eccentric mother (Jennifer Coolidge), who goes to a fantasy writers’ camp and has his sci-fi story ripped off by the very legend he was there to meet – fantasy author Dr. Chevalier (Clement). Benjamin then suffers further humiliation when his original story is turned into an amateur film, created by a local filmmaker. Yes, it’s another weird and wacky trip through Smallville, USA, as only the quirky Hesses could do it.

Thing is, Jared and Jerusha Hess aren’t really those eccentric L.A. types. Having met at BYU, the couple lives in Utah, near most of their rather large families (each have five or six brothers). A lot of the stuff they write is about experiences they’ve had with those they know and love – combined with a nicely skewed sense of humor. And as with Dynamite‘s Jon Heder, they’ve found a kindred spirit with Clement. Let’s just say, they get each other. Plus, as Jerusha explains, “I think Jared really just wanted him because they look similar. Jared could step in in case he took ill.” It’s true; they both look a LOT alike.

In chatting with them, you get the picture they had a bit of fun making this movie:

Step 1: Be inspired by the ones you know

Jared Hess: [Jemaine Clement] initially wanted to play the character as an American but we told him to watch the original Logan’s Run and try and do like a Michael York voice.

Jemaine Clement: “Yeah. I love that film anyway, so I watched it again. But also I had a lecturer, logans-run-michael-yorkewho was a sci-fi writer, a professor. He was an author and he would talk about his ideas. I even kind of changed one of his short story ideas a little bit when my character is talking on the phone about his other ideas. I used one of his ideas. It was about a time-traveling bakery. Was it in there? It’ll be on the DVD, probably.”

Step 2: Then impersonate them

Jemaine: “The lecturer spoke with a very deep voice, so I kinda mixed Michael York’s accent with my professor’s tone. That’s how you make a voice.”

Jared: “So he called back up. He’s like, [doing a dead-on impression of Jemaine] ‘Yeah, I’ve been trying it on Miranda, my wife. Check it out: [then switches into Chevalier’s voice] Hello, Dr. Chevalier.’ We were like all right, that’s what we’ll do.”

Jemaine: “I know [Jared Hess] does everyone else. Whenever he tells a story about someone, he does their voice. I was wondering, ‘Does he do my voice when I’m not around?’ There’s this one part, actually … he’ll come up with other line additions, either because he feels like line isn’t working or he’ll come up with some other idea for the joke. He’s like [doing his own dead-on impression of Jared Hess], “Dude, uh, when Chevalier comes up the podium, um, I want him to say [doing the Michael York blend] Salutations.’ He’ll go into it. I’m sure he was better at than me in the end. And he does every character.”

Step 3: If you’ve got a comedic style, stick with it.

Jared: “Yeah, we’ve just tried to stay true to the things that inspire us. We live out in Utah and our environment and the people that we know and interact with there are definitely a big part of the characters and the stories that are in our films. Because we lived it.”

jared-hess-nacho-libre-premiere-in-los-angeles-V2F4vxJerusha Hess: “But we have some secrets up our sleeves. When we’re writing, it seems like we’ll write something funny and then instead of responding to that, we’ll write a pause. To read it and to see it is a little awkward so I think we understand this awkward teen thing pretty well. Sorry, that’s our whole purpose. We want to make you guys feel weird.”

Jemaine: “I definitely feel something in common with those guys. When I first saw Napoleon Dynamite, I hadn’t heard of it, just a friend took me when we were doing some Flight of the Conchords gigs. To me, I felt like, ‘Oh, someone else is doing what we’re doing in New Zealand, saying weird things and being totally serious about it.’ And yeah, I relate to the comedy.”

Step 4: Explain the title Gentlemen Broncos, please

Jared: “My mom had a really weird parenting book growing up called So You Want to Raise a Boy, because she had six boys. It’s a really old book written in the ’50s but there’s a chapter in there called ‘The Gentleman Bronco.’ It refers to the ages of 15 to 16. I can’t remember the age group exactly, but the age when a young man likes to take his shirt off and mow the lawn. It has very little to do with the film other than that’s kind of the age of Benjamin.”

Step 5: Sci-fi geeks?

Jared: “It’s funny because I was more into the science fiction films, but I loved the science fiction cover art. I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t really read a lot of sci-fi stories. The sci-fi stuff I read wasn’t really sci-fi but it was like my mom’s Reader’s Digets UFO: The Continuing Enigma book. I’m a believer, man. It was those things that fascinated me. The cover art of science fiction books have always been inspiring.”

Jemaine: “I liked some sci-fi films, but I wouldn’t say that … I had a couple of posters of sexy robots on my wall. But other than that, I wasn’t that dedicated.”

gentlemen_broncos_michaelangarano-500x317Step 6: Ad-lib, ad-lib, ad-lib!

Jared: “It’s great. As prepared as you can be as a director and coming in with a game plan, we like to storyboard all of our films. It’s good because it kind of gives you a point of departure. You know what you need to make this scene or to make that work. So that gives you time. It liberates you in a sense to when you’re working with people like Jennifer Coolidge or Sam Rockwell or Jemaine, people that can improvise and have really fun ideas, it’s good to be able to take advantage of that. It doesn’t always end up in the film, but it’s cool.”

Jemaine: “Yeah, we’d always do some ad-libbing. And I’m so used to that from The Conchords. I’m not used to having to learn lines because on Conchords we make up the lines, so no one is going to tell us what it’s supposed to be. I’m just used to remembering the idea of the scene, cause that’s what we all do on Conchords. We always tell our actors not to learn their lines, not properly. I’d probably do that out of habit, just wander off on some tangent. It would be hard to stop me from doing that.”

Step 7: Indie vs. Big Studio

Jared: “I think when you’re working with a lower budget, it kind of grants you a little more creative license to cast the film the way you want and have final cut. Those things are very important to us so it’s a lot of fun. And with limited resources, it makes it fun especially with the science fiction sequences in the film. It kind of added to the charm.”

Step 8: Don’t be nervous to show your stuff to your family

Jerusha: “I think Jared’s still nervous to show his movies to his grandparents, so I think some of that comes into play.”

jermaine-clementJared: “Yeah, my grandma was talking to my brother the other day and she was like, [doing his grandmother] ‘I sure hope Jared has other things in line because this comedy thing sure isn’t gonna last much longer.’ I don’t think she’s gotten any one of our films, but that’s OK. I still love my grandmother very much.”

Step 9: And be careful not to plagiarize

Jemaine: “I’d say yes [he may have been plagiarized], but you know it’s hard to say. I used to work in advertising a little for a radio station and a big advertising company copied one of my ads. I went in and played them this ad I made for them, that they had me to write for them, but it didn’t work out. Then the ad they did make up for the thing was just like mine, like my ad. That just happens. But you can do it accidentally, too. For instances, I used to write sketches and I remember one sketch I handed in, about these old people complaining about all these things they had to do and how hard it was. It was based on my parents and uncles talking when I was a kid. The producers I gave the sketch to said that it was just like a Monty Python sketch. I’d never seen Monty Python, so I checked it out, and it was pretty much the same. I then realized that when I was a kid, my aunties and uncles and mom were probably quoting Monty Python, so I accidentally plagiarized Monty Python.”

How to Interview: Hilary Swank

Film Review AmeliaOh, she’s quite easy to talk to – has lots of insightful things to say and is genuinely pleasant. Of course, she’s also really the ONLY choice to play Amelia Earhart, if you ask me. I’ve mentioned before my childhood crush on the Amelia Earhart, having done about five or six book reports on her. Her life – but mostly, her death – endlessly fascinated me. So, when I heard who was starring as Amelia in the latest biopic, and then saw the trailer, I knew they’d hit the nail right on the head.

I have since seen the movie and even though the biopic itself wasn’t as engaging as I wanted it to be, watching Swank portray the famed “Lady Lindy” felt like I was watching the real deal. I mean, she is a spitting image. And yes, Swank is playing another tomboy type, a determined woman who wants to live her life on her own terms. But damn it, if she doesn’t excel at those roles, which has won her two Academy Awards for her performances in Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby. Is another Oscar nomination on the way as Amelia? Hmmm …

Before talking with Hilary, we sat down with Amelia director Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, The Namesake), who gave this little tidbit about the actress playing this iconic role:

“She imbued everything there was to know about Amelia. The cadence, the cocking the head to her shoulder, the hair, the smile – I would say to her ‘Hil, little less Amelia, please. Don’t give me so much Amelia.’ And she just loved that. But what she really brought, and that I can’t direct, is the adrenaline, is the daredevil. She loves to fly, to go to that place that scares her, and then she has the talent and the craft to meet that fear and make it something.”

That sounds about right. When Swank finally came into the room, she seemed fearless, confident – and definitely gushing about the woman she just played onscreen.

Step 1: Be an inspiration
“That’s what is incredible about this movie to me. I’ve never had such an outpouring of people coming up to me, saying, ‘I cannot WAIT to see your film.” [Um, that would be ME] More so than any other movie I’ve ever done. What a lot of people know about Amelia they learn in textbooks and this iconic image of who she was. But I think people also realize that this was a woman in a time when following your dream was a man’s job, and she is an inspiration to us to continue to follow our calling. To take it even a step further, I think this was a person who made no apologies for living the life she wanted to live. And even if she were living in 2009, she’d still be ahead of our time. I think it’s very challenging to live our lives on the path we want, whether you are a woman OR a man. To me, more than anything, that’s what people are responding to and it’s exciting to see. Especially in the difficult economic times we are living in.”

Step 2: Study the famed aviatrix
300px-Amelia_earhart“I know exactly to the minute how footage is out there on Amelia – about 16 minutes of newsreel, mostly of her waving. So a lot of her speaking was limited and what we had was her public persona. I found about 45 seconds of when she didn’t know the camera was on, so I got a little bit of insight into the other Amelia. I didn’t want to parody her, but the accent was very specific, the cadence, the way she carried herself. As it is for all of us. If I was playing YOU, for example, I’d want to break down your exact mannerisms. There were big shoes to fill and I really couldn’t take a lot of fictional licenses that I could probably take if I were playing you. It was daunting.”

Step 3: No, REALLY study her
“There were three things – the newsreels, the literature on her and then the firsthand stuff, her letters and correspondence between loved ones. But I tell you, she was such a private person, as you see, that getting to know what she felt was something you had to read between the lines. Studying her childhood because I think our childhood makes up a lot of who we are and how we carry ourselves in the world. The gifts her parents gave her, her dad encouraging her to explore the world and her sister pushing education.”

Step 4: Then find some surprises
“I didn’t recognize truly how unapologetically [sic] she lived her life. I found it quite remarkable, and at the same time, she wasn’t threatening to people. She didn’t say, ‘Screw you all!’ and leave a bunch of people behind. She really cared about people. The more I read, the more endearing she became. She was a very prolific writer. She was writing poetry at the age of 5! She was definitely someone I wished I could have met and talked to.”

amelia-hilary-swank-and-richard-gereStep 5: Is Amelia stuck on the Lost island?
“I do believe she ran out of fuel. I know there are a lot of different ideas about what happened. Was she kidnapped by the Japanese or stranded on an island? Believe me, during my press, a lot of people say, ‘I really don’t think that’s how you should have ended the movie.’ And I appreciate that there could have been a lot of different ways. Maybe if the movie is successful, we’ll pretend she DID land and do a sequel.”

Step 6: Don’t let anyone stand in your way
“I had one teacher who asked me when was I going to give up my hobby. Look, everyone is going to have an opinion. It’s obviously difficult when you are pursuing your dream and have people trying to dissuade you. I was also told one time I was too ‘half-hour’ when I was trying to get into drama. Some of them – neither of those – can be constructive. The other stuff is silly. You have to learn to decipher what’s constructive, that you can take in and incorporate to be a better actor. As actors, we really do where our hearts on our sleeves, so it’s easy to have that stuff thrown at you be upsetting.”

Step 7: Finally, learn to fly
“I did learn how to fly. You CANNOT play Amelia Earhart and not learn how to fly. And it was just as exhilarating and freeing and exciting as she writes about.”

Step 8: So you get it.
“I totally get it.”

How to Interview: Kristen Bell

astro-boy-kristen-bell_lAsk her about singing Disney’s Little Mermaid and Aladdin songs into a recorder at age 10. As cute as a button as she is, Ms. Bell also has a nice sense of humor about herself. Getting her start on TV as Veronica Mars, she has always played spunky, personable characters with a fair degree of fanboy in her. Now, of course, she’s a full-blown cinephile, starring in comedies such as Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Couples’ Retreat and the upcoming When in Rome. But this time around, I had a chance to sit in a room with her – and a few other journalist types – to talk about her involvement in the animated Astro Boy, a re-imagining of the Japanese manga icon.

In this modern redo, Astro Boy (Freddie Highmore) is created by robotic scientist Dr. Tenna (Nicolas Cage) after his real son is killed, but even with all his nifty hidden gadgets and powers, Astro is rejected and has to leave Metro City, a metropolis in the sky. He ends up on the Earth’s surface below, now a virtual wasteland of trash, and meets Cora (Bell), the sort of teenage den mother to a band of kids who have all been abandoned one way or another. Soon, Astro and his new-found friends must help save Metro City from a megalomaniac trying to control it … and find their place in the world.

Bell, like me, hadn’t really heard much about Astro Boy, but she thought the story was “timeless” and jumped on board. I think she secretly wanted to belt out “A Whole New World” one more time, but that’s just me. Here are some of Kristen’s thoughts on the matter:

Step 1: Become infatuated with Disney musicals … and ducks
“I was obsessed with Aladdin and The Little Mermaid. I loved all those Disney movies and on TV, I was into Duck Tales. Anyone? Dark Wing Duck? And Tailspin – not sure why many of them involved ducks. This might also sound a little weird, but since I was so obsessed with Aladdin and The Little Mermaid as a kid, I wanted to get myself on audiotape singing the songs. Feeling like that was SO necessary. I don’t know what I was going to do with them, but somewhere there are tapes that exist of me with my tiny boom box, when I was 10 or 11, next to the television, singing along into the recorder. I hope they never surface. I hope my mother has lost them.”

Step 2: Learn to like the original “cool cat”
“I’ve always knew I wanted to be part of an animated film. Then I read [the screenplay for] astroboy1Astro Boy and liked it so much. I had always known the name in my head and known it was a character from somewhere but didn’t know how iconic he was overseas and how influential he was in so many people’s lives. It was all just a learning experience for me about what a cool cat he was and how timeless the story was.”

Step 3: Then switch things up a bit
“I purposely didn’t familiarize myself with the original stuff because I was playing a new character and didn’t want to know too much about Astro going in. Because from my perspective, the story is about Cora and Astro getting to know each other. I do feel [our new storyline] provides a little more of the female perspective, little more estrogen, if you will. Cora probably ran away as a little girl, out of a rebellion that most young teenagers have, fighting with your parents and you think they don’t want you. And got caught up with the wrong crowd. But she’s a kind enough person to know she misses that sense of community and family and that’s why she’s the Peter Pan character, looking out for all the other kids. It’s a great way to show a friendship Astro builds and the rocky road it leads until they realize they are true friends.”

Step 4: Also, love the ones you’re with
“I have a couple of surrogate families in L.A., for sure. I think the idea of community, like what Astro finds on the Earth’s surface, is so vital to my way of living. I’ve had roommates before and we all lived in the same house, kind like a functioning commune. Look, switching out beds is perfectly normal, guys [laughs]. I find my friends out here are my surrogate family and I think that’s important for my sanity and well-being.”

Step 5: Do it in your PJ’s
“I shouldn’t be giving this away, but yes, we knew when the cameras would be there [for the behind-the-scenes featurettes for the DVD]. Because when they weren’t there, I was in my jammies, FOR REAL. Even if we were shooting at 5:00 pm, in principal, I’d change back into my pajamas.”

Astro_bell coraStep 6: Recognize your animated self
“It’s different because Cora has dark hair, it was more difficult for me to envision myself since she wasn’t blonde. I don’t know why. The one thing I loved was that I was able to take myself out of it and watch it as an audience member, which speaks to how good the film is. I can’t speak for all actors, but I’m always deconstructing my performances and criticizing. So it was nice to take a step back and enjoy myself. I even cried at the end and I knew what was going to happen!”

Step 7: Go see other movies, too
“I really liked Wall-E, and I was amazed how much I liked with there being so little dialogue. It reminded me so much of Short Circuit, which I LOVED as a kid. And I loved District 9! I liked the AUDACITY of that director and those producers to make a documentary and then all of a sudden abandon the documentary, but it didn’t matter because you were still so invested. Anything that is delivered with such a sense of reality with fantastical elements like aliens and spaceships, is impressive.”

Step 8: Lure Kristen back to TV?
“I’m always on the hunt for good material, period. A frequent question I get is why have I chosen such genre projects. It’s not that I’m out to just do sci-fi stuff or fanboy stuff, that’s just the best material I’ve run across. I have done a few more mainstream movies being released this year, so I hope my fanboy fans will still like them, whether it’s their cup of tea or not. I’m just constantly looking for good material and good people, and whether that’s TV or film, I really don’t care.”

How to Interview: Drew Barrymore

whip-it_02Not to sound all stalker-ish or anything, but I really do think I have some weird psychic connection to Drew Barrymore. Like if we weren’t doing what we do and met randomly, we’d be good friends.  We are both blondes (usually) who like to twist our hair, have cute lisps, are accident-prone and definitely go for the quirky, nerdy types who make us laugh. Of course, I’m slightly older than she and didn’t have the very messed up childhood that she did, but I’m just saying … in another time and place, we’d be like THIS [fingers crossed].

Just from the Whip It trailer alone, I knew Drew picked the absolute right film for her directorial debut – a debut, mind you, that is long in coming given the vast experience this woman has had in the industry, as an actress and as a producer, with mentors like Steven Spielberg to give her tips. Thankfully, I was right about the film, a delightful finding-yourself-heart-tugger about a wayward Texan teenager (Ellen Page), whose mother wants her to be a beauty queen but who discovers her true passion: roller derby. Whip It just screams Barrymore.

So, I was more than a little excited to meet and talk with her, but at our little table of journalists, we were told we only had five minutes with Drew. Collectively, we groaned, but we shouldn’t have worried. In that short period of time, she managed to pack it in, giving us some great insights on why she picked this project, her aversion to the Hollywood ending and using her clumsiness to its full effect onscreen.

Step 1: Remember, it’s not just a sports movie; it’s personal.

“I think there are two aspects to this film that are the most central themes: the roller derby — finding your tribe, empowering yourself, being your own hero, and also the mother-daughter love story. I wanted to find a film I could really make personal for me. I didn’t want to be a director telling a story, I wanted to be a person who could take all the emotional experiences I’ve had, cultures I’ve learned. The music I’ve loved. The films I’ve studied. The nature of how a film works through being a producer for 15 years. And really just apply that into something that could be not just a movie to me but really my heart. This story really fit the bill because my heart is something that doesn’t like heaviness; I don’t want to watch strum and drang amongst a family. That said, I whip-it-scenelike comedy but I find when comedy has heart, it’s all the more funny and poignant to me.”

Step 2: Form your own tribe.

“I feel with my own friends, they’ve been so great and honest with me along the way. They’ve supported me and encouraged me but have also said, ‘Hey, I think you’d to check yourself there or I think you’re repeating a pattern there.’ I think these women are to Ellen [Page], they way my friends are to me.”

Step 3: Connect the dots.

“I really related to the metaphor of [beauty] pageants and Hollywood. I was very surprised when I did research on pageant in film, dating back to the ’60s. It’s always parodied. [But the beauty pageant] is really not that at all. It’s a rite of passage, a door-opener, a way of life. It’s just not right for [Ellen Page’s] character. And I feel the same way about Hollywood. There’s a lot of aspects of it that aren’t wrong, they’re just not right for me. I don’t think you should have a perfect body shape or live a certain lifestyle. Or have to act a certain way or its taboo. This perfectionism is impossible to live up to. I found out, wow, I’m more like a derby type of girl. I want to go out there and kick butt and have a sense of humor. Enjoy my life and not be afraid of what other people think. Try and be empowered by that. So, I just found a movie I could really relate to and put myself into this. “

Step 4: Forget the typical Hollywood ending.

whip-it“I worked really hard not to make it a Hollywood ending. Life goes on. In my 20s, I was obsessed with happy endings, which was great. A fairytale aspiration for me, and I liked telling those kinds of stories. But in my 30s, I’m like a good day is a GOOD DAY. It was great as a director for me to see a young girl’s side of it AND the parent’s side. In my mid-30s, I understand a parent who wants the best for their child. They may come from a different generation or may not be seeing eye to eye, that doesn’t mean they are a bad person. I didn’t want to villainize them. I kept trying to take the archetypal aspect or the Hollywood aspect out of it. By the end – through lying, cheating, stealing and doing everything they can to finally having everything fall apart – to be honest about it and have some moment of peace in their family. And to me that is a great triumph.

Step 5: Direct AND act; it’s easy.

“It would have been easier on some levels because juggling pre-production while training and doing all of that, but for me, I felt it would have been more difficult because I’m not a sideline dictator. I like to know what the girls are going through, and I know the value of a training camp having to go through one for Charlie’s Angels movies. Actors doing their own stunts, I wanted to be in the trenches with them. I’ve never really related to those directors who seem like they are at the top of the pyramid. I feel like directors who are really, you know … they may be coaches to the team but they’re a TEAM.”

Step 6: Don’t sweat the bruises and concussions.

“Yeah, I did [get hurt]. But I hurt myself walking down the street, so I might as well put it to some good use.”

How to Debate “Transformers 2”

Stand up for your beliefs! Kinda a slow day in movieland, but I did find this tidbit from G4’s Attack of the Show. Two critics I know, Todd Gilchrist of Cinematical and Devin Farci of CHUD.com, talk pro and con on Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Here, watch:

Valid points on both sides, but ultimately Todd is right —Transformers 2 isn’t for the critics but for those masses who want to see “truck nuts.” The money doesn’t lie.