Celebrity, Movies

Bill Murray on Literally Chilling Out Shooting ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel.”

No Comments 09 March 2014

Murray the 6 foot two inch elf reveling at the Berlinale (Fox Searchlight)

Murray the 6 foot two inch elf reveling at the Berlinale (Fox Searchlight)

Always improvising — not! It may seem like the actors on the set of Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” were always just bubbling and burbling with their own antics. But Bill Murray, who has appeared in every Anderson film since “Rushmore,” set the record straight while talking to a small core of American press in Berlin:

“Well, it’s pretty much done as written. Wes is very specific about it. But, once again, it’s that third-dimension thing, where when you put it on its feet. There’s something required that’s not there. You go, “Uh oh, I got to get from there to here.’…

So, did Bill add something to the mix on the fly? Murray, secure in his place in the Anderson firmament, took the modest road. “Maybe. I kind of, the, the speeches are tongue twisters. Try to speak some of those lines sometime. Especially in the cold, because we were shooting outdoors, like in the cabs and all those sort of escape scenes where you’re in the car talking. Those were shot outdoors. [CHUCKLES] At night.”

Cold much in Gorlitz, Germany in the dead of winter? Yes. “It was freezing cold. Now you think, ‘Okay, how cold can it be?’ Well, it’s zero. Let’s just say it’s zero. Okay? So it’s zero, but it’s not zero really, it was about minus ten or fifteen. So let’s say it’s minus fifteen. What they call minus fifteen over here, which is about ten degrees here. And you’re doing this scene for hours because the camera’s not right, the light’s not right, you know?

“So it’s okay in the first hour or so, you’re speaking kind of normally and then [SLURS WORDS INTENTIONALLY]. It’s starting to get a little heavy like that. And then, third hour, you’re just trying to get the words out. And all the time you’re trying not to breathe too much because you don’t want to blow smoke everywhere ’cause your air, your breath is making all this smoke. So you’re trying to really kind of control your [MUMBLES INTENTIONALLY] so you’re sounding a little bit like this. [MUMBLES] And that’s what that was like.”

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Celebrity, Movies, Oscar Race

Q&A: Cate Blanchett Sniffs ‘Blue Jasmine’ – and Oscar

No Comments 19 February 2014

In honor of the Oscars on March 2, I’m pulling up some of my Awards Season interviews, like this one of Oscar frontrunner Cate Blanchett: Between performing in "The Maids," and dining with her three sons, Cate Blanchett, 44, could be mistaken for another multi-tasking mother, struggling to juggle career and family. But in Blanchett’s case, the load also includes the burdens of being an early Oscar frontrunner – again – this time for playing the title character of Woody Allen’s latest, "Blue Jasmine." In this film, Blanchett plays a New York socialite forced to move in with sister in San Francisco after her shyster husband’s financial empire collapses. Blanchett’s character is a tragicomic cross between Blanche Dubois from "A Streetcar Named Desire," a character she played at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2009; the wife of Bernie Madoff; and yet another fluttery, neurotic chip off the Allen mold.
How much of Jasmine really is Blanche? I sat there waiting for Bobby Cannavale’s character to rip off this T-Shirt and ravage her. (He never does.) "Streetcar" was a while ago, there was never any discussion with Woody about that at all. Obviously, there are parallels in the set-up. Jasmine is a grand character and she’s deluded. Also, the fact that Jasmine has difficulty navigating the fine line between reality and fantasy, the world is too horrifying and her social shame, that’s something that she and Blanche share. But the way this story unfolds is very contemporary. It has the rhythm and tone of a Woody film. To try to overlay one character over the other would be futile.
Jasmine is so thin-skinned and emotionally porous; did you take the character home with you? My children were in town with me and they weren’t interested in meeting Jasmine at the dinner table. You have to shed one thing and move on. When the character is so well-drawn and her set of experiences is so entirely different form your own, the leap is easier. Still, there is a certain feeling and texture that overhangs. I love San Francisco as a city, but I was psychologically ready to go to New York for happier days.

RELATED: ‘Blue Jasmine’ Premiere

There’s already Oscar buzz for your performance: do you take that in stride? Oscar? That’s nice but there are a lot of movies coming out. My focus has been the production of "The Maids" in Australia. Not long after I talk to you I’m going to get in my pajamas and see my children.
You have three sons with your husband, the playwright and director Andrew Upton. Do you try to shelter your children from your career, or immerse them in your world? We don’t quarantine them from what we do. Andrew and I run a theater company. They’re backstage. It’s a fun place, full of play and adventure. They also see the hard work that goes into the production department and see the commitment. They watch the set being bumped in. They see the hard work behind the outward glitz of it all. They don’t see just the product, they see the process. I think that’s interesting and they enjoy it.

RELATED: First Person: How the Diceman threw Drama for the Woodman

Did that carry over to the set of "Blue Jasmine?"

You look at all of Woody’s films: there’s a chemistry about the ensemble. The kids see it’s never just one person. Everybody has to be on, including the cinematographer and the focus puller. It’s a communal focus.

Even though it’s an ensemble, this is a movie, like "Annie Hall," with a woman’s name in the title. It revolves around your character and her complexities. Jasmine’s like so many women who’ve fallen from grace. Hopefully I’ve presented her warts and all. Hopefully, in the end, her naiveté and how deluded she is humanizes her. There’s no malice, there’s just an incredible amount of pain, damage and delusion. Still, it’s not all heavy. Just look at the sister’s names: Ginger and Jasmine sound like a Thai restaurant.

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Celebrity, Movies, Oscar Race

Oscars Q&A: Steve Coogan Navigates between the Rocks of Schmaltz in ‘Philomena’

No Comments 30 November 2013

Steve Coogan and Judi Dench in Philomena In the arthouse hit, “Philomena,” an elderly Irishwoman searches for the son she reluctantly gave up for adoption. Credit comic Steve Coogan for bringing her story to the big screen. The “Night at the Museum” actor optioned the Martin Sixsmith bestseller, produced, tapped director Stephen Frears (“The Queen”) and co-wrote the script with Jeff Pope. He also wisely snagged Dame Judi Dench to play the title role. Coogan also crafted a juicy role for himself as the cranky, recently fired political journalist Sixsmith, who turns to Philomena’s human interest story as the subject of a marketable book with very little interest in humans himself. It put the British comic actor in the perfect position to, as he told Yahoo Movies last week over the phone, “navigate between the rocks of schmaltz.”

Question: The movie starts almost like an episode of the brilliant British TV show “The Thick of It,” which spawned the movie “In the Loop” and the HBO show “Veep.” Sixsmith gets sacked from his job at the ministry and it’s instantly clear this man has just been trampled.

Steve Coogan: It’s funny, that’s one of the notes from Stephen [Frears]. We wrote it originally with only a slight reference to Martin being fired and Stephen gave us a good note to include it. It shows Martin at a low point.

Q: Since Martin is based on a real man, was Sixsmith as cranky as the character in the movie or did you bring that?

SC: I brought that. When I interviewed Martin there was always a kernel of truth. I said to him, how did you feel when you were fired? And he said, “I felt sorry for myself.” I put a lot of myself into Martin. I said I need to change you a bit for this story. When I spoke to Martin about his character, we both referred to him in the third person. The character is a mixture of Martin and me. The cynicism is me and the spikiness. And, although that is me, I’m also aware of the limitations of that viewpoint. I want to attack my own cynicism.

Q: In contrast, Philomena could not be less cynical – but that doesn’t make her a pushover either.

SC: We see her on the surface at first. She’s from an an old conservative generation of women who on one level have a simple view of life, maybe not intellectual but have an intuition that is incredibly incisive. She’s actually experienced life. And Martin’s in some ways a journalist and an armchair theoretician. He has had the luxury to let his thoughts flow freely from his fingertips, while Philomena has had to get on with her life. She’s a doer. She walks the walk and Martin’s all talk.

[Related: Critic's Pick: 'Philomena']

Q: The beauty of the movie is that it sheds light on the human condition, but that condition also includes laughter.

SC: Jeff and I were very keen not to have it be too portentous, to seduce the audience by having them laugh along the way rather than hitting the characters over the head with a book.

Q: Coogan and Dench are not two actors often mentioned in the same breath. Was she always your Philomena?

SC: Whenever I considered who would play the part, I kept thinking Judi Dench. She’d played Iris Murdoch, and I said there aren’t a plethora of great parts for older actors. They tend to be supporting roles. They play an old person and that’s the most defining characteristic of that part. But Philomena, she’s just a human being and her age is only part of it. It’s not what defines her. She had a life. She was young once. So we hoped it would attract her as an actor. We went to her house and told her the story. She was a little trepidatious about playing something like this; she’s no different in that regard. She wants to do something a little different. She has an Irish background and it appealed.

Q: The scare factor: Were you worried about playing opposite Dame Judi?

SC: I was so preoccupied with producing, writing and getting her I almost forgot that I would have to act opposite her. I was a little daunted. And then I saw Judi trying to figure out how she was going to do it at the camera test. She was talking to herself in the character. I saw that she was flesh and blood and she had to struggle with things. I thought, “Oh, good, she’s not able to do it immediately.” She’s a working actor. That was good to see.

[Related: 'Philomena' Wins Appeal to Overturn R Rating for 2 F-Bombs]

Q: As an actor more accustomed to getting laughs than sobs, what worried you about playing the dramatic scenes?

SC: I said to Frears, I don’t want to be overacting. All I did was listen to and react to what she was doing. It would have been a lot harder acting with someone who wasn’t experienced. I just saw Philomena, when I was making her laugh, not Dame Judi Dench. The chemistry we had was real. I spent a lot of time in the car with her, laughing. She used to accuse me of having Botox and Collagen. Stephen wasn’t overly deferential. She likes that. When she was saying she wasn’t happy with some element on set, he’d say in front of her, “Has anyone got Helen Mirren’s number?” That would rattle her a little bit. She’d give him the evil look out of the corner of her eye.

Q: Did you pull out your Bond impressions for Dench since she’s played M so often in that franchise.

SC: Yes. I did my Bonds repertoire. She’d say, “Do some more of this, or that.” I became a performing monkey for her.

Q: A performing monkey that wrote her a role that may land her an Oscar, and potentially one for you as well for adapted screenplay.

SC: It’s a bit surreal but gratifying. It’s a story I pursued from reading something in a newspaper. The process itself is good, and the recognition is fairly nice, but part of me is very nervous. You can be killed with kindness, as Carrie Fisher might have said. I already started writing the next thing with Jeff. It’s good to talk about what you do, but it’s more important to get on with the work. My father used to tell me a Chinese proverb: before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood carry water. You’ve still got to do a day’s work.

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Celebrity, Movies

‘Catching Fire’ Q&A: Director Francis Lawrence Identifies With His Heroine Katniss

No Comments 30 November 2013

Francis Lawrence with the cast of The Hunger Games It could have been challenging for director Francis Lawrence to be that other Lawrence, the dude, on the “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” set. But J.Law made it easy for this music video director, who’s worked with everybody from J. Lo to Lady Gaga, Justin Timberlake to Britney Spears, and also has “I Am Legend,” “Like Water for Chocolate” and “Constantine” under his belt. Question: Is there a character you identify with the most? Francis Lawrence: Katniss. I do. She’s the center of the story, and I just buy her, I just believe her. I understand what she wants, and I understand what she’s thinking, and I understand what she’s going through. I believe in her choices. Q: Can you be more specific? FL: Sure. Her father died in a mining accident, and she started to provide for her family. So her objective in life is to provide for her family, and I think, mostly, for her sister. And she took on that role. And then her sister was taking on a different role, who suddenly is gonna be chosen to go in these games. And I get the sacrificing yourself for her sister, for that innocence.

And I relate to all the other choices that she makes. It’s about survival. It’s very simple. I don’t think it would have worked if she was really dwelling on love. Because I don’t buy that people do that in those situations where it’s life and death at your doorstep every second of every day. It just happens right: you’re bonding with somebody, maybe, in a moment in a cave, right, or you’re injured. But it’s because you guys are going through stuff together. You’re not thinking about, ‘Is he gonna be my boyfriend?’

Q: In the book, Katniss and Peeta share a bed for comfort. FL: Because when they sleep, they have nightmares and night terrors. They both have gone through the same thing together and that bonds people, when you go through traumatic experiences. And so, to answer your question, I just believe Katniss as a human, I really do. It’s not that I disbelieve other people but, because this story is so centered on her, I believe Katniss.

Q: But in this installment, it definitely opens up. “The Hunger Games” was so in Katniss’ head and seen through her yes. FL: Well the story opens up a little bit. For the most part, we’re telling it through Katniss’ point of view. We break a little bit, a few times. But we made a rule that it really always had to be about Katniss in some way, or because of something that Katniss has done. And that’s the way we connected it. So we grew and blew it open just a little bit, in terms of the Plutarch and Snow scenes.

Q: Those are the scenes that weren’t in the novel between the new Head Game Maker, Plutarch Heavensbee, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Donald Sutherland’s President Snow. FL: We had to backwards engineer those scenes. When Katniss gets back from The Districts, or from her victory tour, she’s back in The District, and she knows she’s failed. She sees Snow, and he shook his head at her at the party. She’s knows she’s endangered families. Gale is in danger. She’s going to come home. She’s going to want to run. And suddenly, these peacekeepers are showing up, right?

We know these things happened in the book. So we now have to figure out what was Snow thinking. What is the moment when he and Plutarch got together? What was the process when they decide to send peacekeepers to the District to crack down? And so we had [to] come up with just what their step-by-step plan is, to get rid of Katniss Everdeen.

[Related: Review "The Hunger Games: 'Catching Fire']

Q: Looking ahead, you’re leaving for Berlin to scout locations for “Mockingjay.” FL: We already made a couple of trips out to Paris and Berlin to scout. This is the tech scout. We’re going with the crew, because it’s our last opportunity to go out all together to really do all the technical and logistical planning for what we’re gonna do in each of the locations, and walk the crew through, what we’re planning on doing everywhere. So we’re gonna go do that over the next week, in Paris and Berlin. And we end up going there later next year in the spring.

Q: What’s the roll out over the next two movies? FL: It’s basically this time next year, and this time the year after that.

Q: And you’ve signed on to direct both “Mockingjay” movies, right? FL: It was a decision that was made early on while we were prepping “Catching Fire.” I’d only signed on for “Catching Fire.” And I was approached to do “Mockingjay” as well. And that was really exciting because the people are great, and it was really creative and collaborative, and a nice group of people. The only thing I was really nervous about was this movie because, if this one for whatever reason didn’t turn out so well, and the actors didn’t like it, or if people didn’t show up, or it got horrible reviews or something, it would be really awkward going back to the shoot. We go back to shooting, in about two weeks.

Q: While the books were originally on the YA shelf, “The Hunger Games” series has a wider appeal. FL: The stories just keep getting more and more interesting. The stories keep growing up, as does the fan base.

[Related: Is 'Battle Royale' the Japanese Version of 'The Hunger Games' (Or Vice Versa?)]

Q: Who is the audience for “Catching Fire?” FL: I think the audience is everybody. I wouldn’t take small kids. It’s pretty intense. But I think that it’s really for everyone. The genius of the material is that Suzanne Collins wrote a series of books about the consequences of war for teenagers. But she didn’t treat teenagers like children, which is one of the reasons that teenagers really ate it up. Because of that approach, I think it’s crossed over into the adult world. There are big ideas, and I think that they’re smart, and I think that they’re very moving. And so, I don’t think that it’s just for teenagers.

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Celebrity, Movies

Oscars Q&A: Jared Leto: ‘I Didn’t Know If I’d Ever Make a Film Again’

No Comments 30 November 2013

"Dallas Buyers Club" star Jared Leto

Ever since “Dallas Buyers Club” premiered in Toronto two months ago, the Oscar buzz has been building for Jared Leto, who plays a drug-addicted transgender woman with AIDS and a way with blush and lipstick.

Leto’s Rayon partners with Matthew McConaughey’s rodeo rider-turned-activist Ron Woodroof to bring potentially healing but illegal drugs to HIV-positive Texans in the wild west of the epidemic, the 1980s. However, the Thirty Seconds to Mars musician, 41, best known for TV’s “My So-Called Life” and Darren Aronofsky’s “Requiem for a Dream,” hadn’t acted for film in six years. While waiting in the wings to play a gig in Frankfurt on a successful world tour, the singer-songwriter paused to tell Yahoo Movies how Rayon lured him back in front of the camera.

Question: Jared, what reservations did you have taking this role as Rayon?
Jared Leto
: None. None.

Q: Then why the long absence from movies?
: I had some hesitation about making a film. I hadn’t made one in six years. I didn’t know if I’d ever make a film again. [He takes a deep breath.] I’d made films for a number of years and I was pursuing other things, mostly Thirty Seconds to Mars. We’ve had more success than we ever dreamed possible, playing in arenas and stadiums around the world and making our dreams a reality. I was content and challenged and inspired and doing a lot of work with film. I was behind the camera a bit. I made a short film, a documentary, music videos, commercials.

[Related: Thirty Seconds to Mars Talk Oscars at iHeart]


Q: So, acting was never your first love?
J.L.: I started out studying to be an artist and painter. That’s what I thought I would be until I discovered photography and film while I was in arts school. I was at the School of Visual Arts at the time and quickly dropped out because I wanted to make art. I was too impatient to remain at the school.

Q: What helped change your mind and accept the part in ‘Dallas Buyers Club?’
J.L.: In some ways it was a test. I wanted to see if there was anything left in that world for me. I also fell in love with the role, with Rayon. It was an incredibly gifted group of people and I wanted to be part of it. I suppose in some ways I was seduced and wanted to experiment and see what it would be like to return to the screen.

Watch Jared Leto in action in a clip from “Dallas Buyers Club”:

Q: Did playing Rayon change the way you look at women?
J.L.: I have a newfound respect for what it takes to be a lady — and sometimes it takes a village. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it: the waxing, the heels, the eyelashes, the wigs the skirts, the tights, off with the eyebrows, and on with the eyebrows.

Q: Was Matthew McConaughey’s involvement a factor?
J.L.: McConaughey was a big contributor. It was a definite plus that he was starring in the film. He’s a guy who’s been doing some phenomenal work. What an opportunity to get in the ring with somebody of his caliber. I thought that he and I could do something special.

Q: The characters the two of you play are opposites, yet complementary Rayon’s flamingo pink, Ron’s green.
I think they are definitely on opposites sides of the color wheel. They’re definitely flip sides of the coin. The thing of being on either side of the coin is that they both are very much a part of each other. They do speak to each other in a really polarizing way: the way they interact, the way they connect. They’re from completely different sides of humanity: One is a f–king cowboy from Texas, the other is a drag queen. In some ways it’s like the movie “Midnight Cowboy,” with Dustin Hoffman’s street urchin and Jon Voight’s slightly naïve cowboy. The characters are so different they somehow fit.

[Related: Matthew McConaughey Talks Sharing Jared Leto's Pink Robe]

Q: When we talked to McConaughey in Toronto, he had high praise for you: “He got rid of all the s–ts and giggles, all the props, all the pansie-ations. He got rid of all those frilly things that would be legitimate.” And we observed that there was a scene where Ron puts on Rayon’s signature pink bathrobe reflecting how far his character has come. Can you comment?
There’s a parallel moment where I wear Ron’s suit to see my father. The first and only time that I wear men’s clothing in the whole film and it’s Ron’s oversized suit. In that scene, because I had been wearing women’s clothes for so long, I felt like I was in drag.

Q: Did playing Rayon change the way you look at women?
I have a newfound respect for what it takes to be a lady — and sometimes it takes a village. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it: the waxing, the heels, the eyelashes, the wigs the skirts, the tights, off with the eyebrows, and on with the eyebrows.

Q: You must have movie offers flooding in. What’s your next step?
My next step is on to the stage in Frankfurt in front of tens of thousands of people to play an incredible show with the rest of the guys touring Europe and then back to the states. I don’t know what the future holds as far as making films. There is so much that I love about film, and I’m always excited to see a great film. I’m really thankful to have played this part. It changed my life in many ways.

Watch Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner talk “Dallas Buyers Club”:

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