Celebrity, Movies

Outtakes: Julianne Moore on Doing ‘The Hunger Games’ — Thanks to her Kids

No Comments 27 May 2015

Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore looking into the future: it isn't pretty but they are.

Jennifer Lawrence, Julianne Moore looking into the future: it isn’t pretty but they are.

De-cluttering the cutting-room floor — this time from my interview with Julianne Moore in the New York Observer that ended up concentrating on her race to the Best Actress Oscar.

Ms. Moore’s drive to be attached to quality material extends beyond the Oscar circuit. Regarding being cast in the box office hit The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, Ms. Moore confessed: “which I did call about.” She credited her children for the discovery five years ago. “I’m like here, Caleb, here’s the third volume in the series you like (because you always want 12-year-old boys to read.) And then a few years later my daughter, who’s now 12, was reading The Hunger Games. We were on vacation and I had nothing to read. I picked it up. I was like ‘this is great.’ I downloaded the other two and I read them really fast. Then in the last book there’s this character Alma Coin and I’m, like, go for that part. She was the only character I could play. And that’s how that happened. I met the director, Francis Lawrence. That was one of those projects I pursued because it was interesting.”

[Related: What Your Daughter (and You) Can Learn from the Hunger Games]

In the case of Mockingjay, the material was more attractive than the actual part of the severe President of District 13, a powerful figure that does not carry the narrative thread like Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss Everdeen. The book interested Ms. Moore because “it’s political allegory with adolescent overtones whereas a lot of things that you read in YA are simply adolescent. There’s nothing wrong with that… but what the author Suzanne Collins did is she really wrote about political systems and ideology and rebellion turning into revolution and civil disobedience and what class systems do to people and what totalitarianism does. I read it and I was like, Jesus! And the character of Alma Coin is thin in the book. She’s not fully fleshed out in the movies either because the movie’s not about Alma Coin but she’s an interesting character with an interesting evolution.”


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Books, Celebrity, Movies

The Manson Family, Mommy Porn and Love Maps: Still Waters Runs Deep

4 Comments 26 May 2015

John Waters

John Waters

(This interview first appeared in Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art.)

The holy grail of the interviewer is ferreting out the nugget, the defining truth, the revelation that we have, like big game hunters, captured our prey (on paper or video). For me, the best interviews are nosy and messy and reveal a curiosity about the human condition and a generosity of spirit. These qualities define artist John Waters’ work as a filmmaker, author, television personality, raconteur – and interviewer.

On stage last June at Waters’ annual “Filmmaker on the Edge” interview at the Provincetown International Film Festival, the 68-year-old Baltimore native asked Naked Lunch Director David Cronenberg if he’d done drugs with the source material’s author, William Burroughs. “No,” the Oscar-nominated Canadian replied, “I think at that time, he was just doing methadone.” Waters confessed, “I smoked pot with him.” Whereupon Cronenberg genially one-upped his interrogator, saying he’d accompanied Burroughs to Tangier, Morocco and witnessed the beat writer’s reunion with writer/composer/subject Paul Bowles after 17 years apart. Talk about a collision of hipster culture: That was an interview!

What is most impressive about Waters, besides the fact that he could charm a crack stash from a Baltimore junkie straight out of The Wire, is how he seamlessly mixes high and low culture, from tea-bagging to the mainstream, popular singer Johnny Mathis. And, for those who just know him as the director of outsider art Pink Flamingos and mainstreamed Hairspray, the hyper-organized multi-hyphenate is a voracious reader, his annual top ten films list appears in highbrow Artforum and his last two books, Carsick and Role Models, were New York Times Bestsellers.
Every winter Waters takes his pencil mustache and trademark Comme Des Garcon jackets on the road with “A John Waters Christmas,” an outrageous holiday stand-up act. It even played in Poughkeepsie, where I had the out-of-body experience of being at the absolute epicenter of cool in that upstate town. After the show, I went backstage to congratulate Waters in the claustrophobic institutional green room and encountered Rachel Weisz and Daniel Craig, who had come backstage to praise Waters’ show – and share Baltimore stories. James Bond and “The Pope of Trash,” together in 144 square feet of space . . . . You don’t need hallucinogens to find the life circling John psychedelic, a mix of high and low, old world courtesy and trash talk and bold-faced names.

When Waters picks up the phone, having apologized for being fifteen minutes late, he says: “I’m having a bad day but I won’t take it out on you.”

Columbia Journal: Anything big?

John Waters: Nothing I will remember in a week.

Recently I was discussing Birdman with Alejandro G. Inarritu and the Oscar-winning writer-director said, “The definition of intelligence is the capacity to have two completely opposite ideas living at the same time and at the same time to be capable of functioning, the battle with a double nature.” Could you describe yourself in those terms?

Having two completely different ideas is the only thing that ever interests me. Everything I ever write about I don’t understand. To me I wrote about things that I can never fully understand. Even [Manson “Family” member] Leslie Van Houten: It’s a different thing to make a movie about murdering than doing the deed. It’s difficult to have the huge success Johnny Mathis did without racism and never going off deep end. I’m always interested in people that have more extreme lives than I have, good or bad, and things that are not easy, or why they acted the way they did. That’s the human condition. Continue Reading

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Celebrity, Movies, Oscar Race

Julianne Moore’s Long Red Carpet to the Oscars

No Comments 21 May 2015

Julianne Moore sighs over a mondo coffee cup in 'Maps to the Stars' and wins Best Actress at Cannes 2014

Julianne Moore sighs over a mondo coffee cup in ‘Maps to the Stars’ and wins Best Actress at Cannes 2014

Can it be only a year since Julianne Moore owned the red carpet at Cannes — and won the festival’s Best Actress — for playing a diva on the verge of a nervous breakdown in Maps to the Stars? And then David Cronenberg’s bitter little Hollywood pill lost its way to the theaters and what had once seemed like Julianne’s yearstumbled. And then came Alice, Still Alice and Moore was back in play. Here’s my interview of Moore for the New York Observer that appeared on January 21st on finding Oscar without a map:

It was a lunch at Le Cirque, it was star-studded, and actress Julianne Moore was at Table One. The star of Still Alice—a tough, raw portrait of an academic, wife and mother coping with the disintegration of her identity due to early-onset Alzheimer’s—looked, at 54, terrific. Friends surrounded her: Kate Capshaw, wife of Steven Spielberg, on her right; Ellen Barkin to her left. The mood was hopeful, even giddy, with a side of wood-knocking: Ms. Moore was and is the frontrunner for the Best Actress Academy Award. Last week, she received her fifth nomination and, if it happens February 22, this would be her first win.

It’s no coincidence that Cate Blanchett held down that same circular table last year on her juggernaut to the Oscar for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, also, not coincidentally, distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. But while Ms. Blanchett held the Best Actress lead from a midsummer release to the Oscars, it’s not an easy position to maintain. Ms. Blanchett’s frontrunner status could easily have been torpedoed by the abuse scandal surrounding director Woody Allen Continue Reading

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Celebrity, Movies

Outtakes: Bill Hader, the voice of Fear in ‘Inside Out,’ Rattled Bones in ‘The Skeleton Twins’

No Comments 20 May 2015

Hader in a wig with Wiig

Hader in a wig with Wiig

Bill Hader is a worrier who defuses the tension with humor, and more worry. In honor of the acclaim Inside Out is receiving at Cannes where Hader is the voice of Fear, I’m reviving the longer interview I did with him during Oscar season. If you haven’t seen him in The Skeleton Twins” yet – rent it! Rent it now! Hader deserved an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Milo, the suicidal gay brother in The Skeleton Twins opposite Kristen Wiig. It was a case of The Academy being challenged to recognize that great crossover from sketch comedy into darkly comedic drama. So I started out asking Hader about his escape from the sketch comedy and the result was some pretty intelligent improv:

Bill Hader: The difference between working at SNL and the first time I got to play a dramatic role, I really got to go in depth. Sketch comedy is by definition pad and pencil and quick sketch. With Milo, this was really the first time I got to get in depth with a character. Most of it was drawing form people that I knew, gay friends of mine. Because Milo attempts to commit suicide, I actually had a good friend from high school who had attempted suicide freshman year at college. I called him and after we made small talk he told me he had attempted to slash his wrists with a razor blade in a bathtub. We had an open and blunt conversation about it and he gave me some insight. He didn’t consider himself depressed just feeling like he had no other way to turn at college, missing his family and he wasn’t doing well, and drinking too much. He told me that the minute you start actually doing it this weird final, primal switch flipped in his head. He started screaming for help, And I told the director that. We did a couple of version of that scene but when we did the full panic attack we realized it’s hard to start the movie like that so, instead, we went for the in between version.”

What other preparation did you do, Bill?

BH: What I also did was a learning process, reading the script and then working with all these great artists, like the costume designer, on what he’s going to wear, the wristbands to cover up the scars, the bands Milo likes, and the Production Designer on what his apartment would be like. You do all this research and you show up on set, and you have all this knowledge and then it’s just reacting to people like Kristen [Wiig] and Ty [Burrell] and Joanna [Gleason] and Luke [Wilson]. You’re just listening to people but you have all this info. I never worked that way before and it was really rewarding.
[Related: Sundance Scoop: Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader Pair Up as ‘The Skeleton Twins]

What surprised you about playing Milo?

Was how strong the guy was. There’s a scene with Ty Burrelll [who plays his former high school teacher and first lover] where we get in a fight in the movie. I’d always seen that as a scene where Milo is trying to get his way. This is the first person Milo ever had sex with. He has that power over Milo. And when we were rehearsing it, I realized the status had changed so we blocked it that way where I stood up over him looking down at him. The words were still the same but it changed the whole dynamic of the scene. You do all this research and it’s just reacting, in that moment I was surprised and scared. It really came to life. I’d never had that kind of a moment before in acting. For me that was the first time where the character was leading me instead of the other way around. It’s true. I’m not behind the wheel anymore and Milo is. After that, it feels false or stale or wrong when you struggle for the wheel.

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Celebrity, Movies

Diane Keaton: New York Doll

No Comments 17 May 2015

Keaton by Paul Kisselev

Keaton by Paul Kisselev

This interview originally appeared in the New York Observer on May 6, 2015:
We’re in the catacombs of the Crosby Hotel, off in a corner, and Diane Keaton has just watched, for the first time in decades, one of the greatest romances on film. “I was visiting my brother and for some reason Gone with the Wind was on,” she explained. “It’s been 30 years since I’d seen it but, oh my God, Vivien Leigh is so great in that movie.” She rises. “You should have seen her float down the stairs, she wears this huge sweeping gown, and her dress went out that far,” Ms. Keaton gestures. Animated and enthusiastic, she recreates Scarlett O’Hara’s hoop-skirted sweep down Twelve Oaks’ circular stairway—despite her own slim-hipped, impeccable Thom Browne herringbone suit.

“It’s like you’re watching a dance because every time she would move it would flow,” Ms. Keaton continued with a swirl. “I didn’t expect the movie to be so strangely beautiful to look at and almost modern. She was completely a modern actress…”

And so, of course, is Diane Keaton. This tall, slim woman—pretty not beautiful if one believes her own estimation in her book of essays, Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty—has ridden to $1 billion in box office grosses playing winsome yet strong-minded dreamers. In person, the Oscar-winner (for Annie Hall, 1977) seems that same character, but life-sized and approachable. One has the false feeling that one knows her, having seen her mature with so much vulnerability and neurosis and passion from Sleeper through The Godfather and so many other classic comedies and dramas and romances to her latest movie opposite Morgan Freeman, 5 Flights Up.

[Related: Keaton on Marriage and the Enduring Romance of Scarlett and Rhett]

Sitting in the chic Crosby, where the upholstered furniture wears nearly as much tweed as she does, Ms. Keaton, 69, sports a black leather belt wide enough to gird a WWE wrestler around her slender waist, a black handkerchief with white polka dots peaking out from her breast pocket and short square nails painted a matching black and white herringbone. With her slightly tussled hair and black-rimmed specs, there’s a little Charlie Chaplin to her. If Chaplin was very, very feminine.

The subject of our talk in Soho is love. As the longtime muse of Woody Allen, partners on-screen and off with Al Pacino and Warren Beatty, and great good friends with Jack Nicholson, that interplay of intimacy, fictional and real, is always a question with Ms. Keaton. In her charming latest film, her paramour and husband, (lucky girl) is Morgan Freeman.

The movie’s characters of Ruth (Ms. Keaton’s New York school teacher) and Alex (Mr. Freeman’s mid-level artist) find themselves in the enviable position of being able to make a killing on an apartment bought for convenience and affordability when they moved to Brooklyn years ago, when it was considered akin to moving to Pittsburgh. But nothing, of course, is easy.

Ms. Keaton finds the depiction of the strong bond between Ruth and Alex (the original title of the Richard Loncraine romance from Jill Ciment’s novel) comforting. “When you see it you just feel reassured that a great marriage can happen because it’s him, Morgan Freeman, because he’s playing the husband, because he’s the everyday.”

But, whether she means to or not, Ms. Keaton clanks her large, modern silver rings on the table noisily when asked whether she could have ever had the kind of bond with longtime companion Al Pacino. “I think that it never could have worked. Ever. Not in a million years unless I were a different woman. And that’s true with all the great loves of my life, or the men that I was intoxicated by for a while, or they with me, or whatever. It wasn’t reasonable. I didn’t know how to run it. No.”

Continue Reading

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