Celebrity, Movies

Joaquin Phoenix and Director James Gray, the Leo and Scorsese of the Indie World

No Comments 13 June 2015

Artistic spouses Gray and Phoenix

Artistic spouses Gray and Phoenix

This was one of my favorite interviews for Yahoo Movies ever. I was passionately in love with James Gray’s ‘The Immigrant’ and proud that I at least kept Phoenix at the table for most of our interview despite his clear desperation to escape like a kindergartner anticipating recess.

Actor Joaquin Phoenix and director James Gray have one of Hollywood’s most successful codependent relationships. The pair have been collaborating for more than 15 years, first with the city-corruption tale The Yards (2000), then on dramas We Own the Night (2007) and Two Lovers (2008). Their fourth joint effort, the lush historical tale The Immigrant, opens May 16 [2014] in limited release and features Phoenix as a hustler and pimp in 1920s New York who lures a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant (Marion Cotillard) into his girlie show.

Yahoo Movies sat down with Gray and Phoenix (who next stars in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice) in the courtyard of the Greenwich Hotel in New York City, so that a mercurial Phoenix — his hair a modified mullet dusted with gray — could inhale American Spirits and exhale asides. Not surprisingly, Gray did a lot of the talking, answering questions with a scholar’s precision and prompting responses from Phoenix that gave a good sense of their long-nurtured creative relationship, one that has become brotherly in every sense of the word.

Did you meet cute?

James Gray: We met at a restaurant [in New York City] called Piadina. Joaquin apparently read the script to The Yards. I had seen To Die For. And I said, “Who is this guy?” And that is when I said we should meet. I liked him instantly.

And, Joaquin, had you seen James’ [1995] debut, Little Odessa?

Gray: He didn’t like it.

Joaquin Phoenix: I didn’t.

I love it.

Gray: Did you hear that? I really do appreciate that.

Phoenix: [Deadpans] I don’t like her taste.

Gray: [Laughs]
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Celebrity, Movies

A little bacon, a little rose with Killer Films’ Christine Vachon at Le Petit Lardon

No Comments 03 June 2015

Christine Vachon became the queen of Cannes with the success of "Carol"

Christine Vachon became the queen of Cannes with the success of ‘Carol’

Up a narrow pedestrian walkway off the Croisette at 3 Rue Bateguier sits the unassuming Le Petit Lardon, or “the little bacon.” The restaurant seats twenty and serves traditional French fare as delicious as it is unassuming, while offering a friendly service uncommon in Cannes. This culinary gem is where you are likely to find Killer Films co-founder Christine Vachon, returning to the festival with Todd Haynes’ competition film, Carol, a lesbian romance starring Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett.

Vachon, a brilliant woman as bold as she is intimidating, will likely be drinking rose and holding forth on the challenges and joys of producing. Only last year she and partner Pamela Koffler celebrated the 20th anniversary of their fiercely independent company. Whether it’s food or film, you can depending on Vachon’s expertise in getting value for her money.

“It’s tiny,” Vachon says of Le Petit Lardon via phone before dashing to attend Variety‘s Power of Women in New York luncheon, “It’s where we went to celebrate after Velvet Goldmine won a special jury prize almost 18 years ago. We left the Palais after the ceremony – Todd, Toni Collette, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and the producers. I think we stayed until about six AM.”

le petit lardon

“Todd’s movies haven’t been in competition for a while. This is almost a homecoming,” Vachon says. “”We’re really proud of Carol,” which she co-produced with Elizabeth Karlsen.

Vachon continues: “Todd and I have had the great good fortune to have a collaboration that works for both of us based on trust. We enjoy each other. We went to Brown together but afterwards our relationship began in earnest. When I worked on his short feature Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, and saw how funny it was, how provocative, and ultimately how emotional, I thought, wow, I want to make sure he never makes another movie without my name on it. And, so far, he hasn’t.”

[Related: ‘Carol’ Producer Christine Vachon Talks Being Queen of the Croisette]

Coming to Cannes represents both an artistic and personal homecoming for Vachon, who has dual citizenship. Her late mother, Francoise Fourestier, was French, while her father was the American photographer John Vachon. According to the Manhattan native, “My fluency leaves much to be desired. I have a lot of family in France that I’m very close to. I enjoy they’re being able to celebrate with me while I’m there.”

Dinner table conversation at Le Petit Lardon will likely touch on two Killer Films projects that are about to start shooting: Goat starring Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer, and Todd Solondz’s Weiner-Dog with Annapurna Pictures. Haynes’ next film, the Peggy Lee biopic for Reese Witherspoon’s Pacific Standard, is still in development.

“The last time we had a film in competition was Velvet Goldmine,” concludes Vachon. “I was a lot younger. An early night was going to bed at 4 AM. Times have changed…a little.”

(This article was originally written for Variety‘s Cannes daily before Carol premiered and before co-star Rooney Mara eventually shared the Best Actress prize. )


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Celebrity, Movies

Interview Prep: Mark Ruffalo

No Comments 01 June 2015

Infinitely Mark Ruffalo

Infinitely Mark Ruffalo

I had a wonderful Sunday crowd-sourcing questions from my social media coven yesterday. I threw out the first ball: I’m interviewing Mark Ruffalo Monday morning for his movie Infinitely Polar Bear. He has become the thinking woman’s stud muffin — who reals/reels us in with his bruised charm and keeps us awake with his political activism and emotional engagement. Questions? Thoughts?

Writer Sheila Weller, who just published an amazing article on the Black Dahlia murder case for DuJour Magazine, chimed in immediately and wrote, in part, “I am in the Older Woman Who Have the Hots for Mark Ruffalo club. I love his voice — it is utterly distinctive and has a kind of…slow, shhh-for-sss earnestness…for lack of a better word…that tantalizingly complicates his gritty sexiness. Does he know that? An d `use` it?”

I’m curious about Ruffalo playing a bipolar father in this current movie, and his character Bruce Banner/The Hulk is arguably a bipolar superhero in the Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde mold. There is both huge charm and huge vulnerability and darkness to this man — and is that what modern women are seeking? (Or not?)

There is an eight-minute CBS interview with Ruffalo during the Foxcatcher Oscar campaign that netted him a second nomination for Best Supporting Actor but the link is wonky. So, instead, I’m adding two lighter moments from Ruffalo on the Graham Norton Show, including one where he gets a smooch from Meryl Streep:

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Books, Celebrity, Movies

Waters, Dr. John Waters

No Comments 31 May 2015

Waters doctored up at RISD

Waters doctored up at RISD

I didn’t change; society did,” John Waters told the graduating class of the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) yesterday at the Rhode Island Convention Center. John aka The People’s Pervert aka The Prince of Puke got an honorary doctorate — but not tenure — as he told the 667 graduates assembled and their families the secrets to his success and exhorted the students to ” “Remember, you must participate in the creative world you want to become part of…. Keep up with what’s causing chaos in your own field…. Read, read, read. Spy, be nosy, eavesdrop!”

Here’s a portion of his speech:

In a recently published interview I conducted for Columbia: A Journal of Art and Literature, Waters discussed how the culture has changed since he made Pink Flamingos:

“That’s the whole point of my films: what parent would be liberal enough to be thrilled for her son in drag eating dog shit [like Divine did]? That was the whole reason Pink Flamingos was successful. Can you imagine if my parents saw this?….Now people bring their children to see Pink Flamingos. It’s amazing how things have changed even though I haven’t, really. My last film got an NC 17 rating. I try to keep up with the times. Carsick and Role Models were both on the New York Times bestseller list. I could have gone to jail for those books in the ’50s. Lenny Bruce went to jail for saying “fuck.” “Howl” was a huge case. It’s amazing what is on cable TV now that makes [Bruce and Allen Ginsberg] look pale.”



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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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