TagsAmy Adams Angelina Jolie Anne Hathaway Cameron Diaz Carey Mulligan Daniel Radcliffe Darren Aronofsky David Fincher Dwayne Johnson Edward Norton Elizabeth Banks Emily Blunt Emma Watson Gary Oldman George Clooney Gwyneth Paltrow Jack Black Jake Gyllenhaal James Franco Jason Bateman Jason Segel Jason Sudeikis Jesse Eisenberg John C. Reilly Johnny Depp Joseph Gordon-Levitt Julia Roberts Mark Wahlberg Matt Damon Michael Bay Michelle Williams Mila Kunis Natalie Portman Owen Wilson Paul Rudd Reese Witherspoon Robert De Niro Robert Downey Jr Ryan Gosling Sam Worthington Seth Rogen Steven Soderbergh The Avengers Tom Cruise Twilight: Breaking Dawn
Daily Archives: March 2, 2011
How cold was it at the Independent Spirit Awards on Saturday in Santa Monica? It was so cold, I joked, that you couldn’t feel Harvey Weinstein stab you in the back. After a two-year experiment in holding the Spirit Awards in downtown Los Angeles, the awards returned to their traditional location on the beach at Santa Monica last Saturday. What the ceremony gained in metaphorical heat, though, it lost in literal temperature, with chilly winds whipping off the ocean fast.
But plenty of the attendees had the warm glow of victory to comfort them, including Best Cinematography winner Matthew Libatique of “Black Swan.” Libatique had a certain cocksure charm — he said of the Spirit Award “This is my Academy Award” and joked about “200 million dollars worldwide” — and yet still spoke with sincerity when I asked him if he felt the award was a vindication for shooting on film over video. “I honestly think this digital-versus-film thing is blown out of proportion,” he said. “Digital’s just another choice, so I never look at it this way, and I don’t want to get into a philosophy of ‘film is better than digital’ or ‘digital is better than film.’ The one thing is, digital has allowed a lot of people who wouldn’t normally make films to make films, so that’s cool with me. I’m just happy; it’s hard to make a thriller, man.”
James Franco — on the eve of his hosting the Academy Awards — was bundled up and beaming when he met the press in the wake of his victory for Best Actor for “127 Hours” to face questions about his hosting duties the next night for the Academy Awards alongside Anne Hathaway. “The Oscars … are a thing,” he said. “They’ve been going on for 83 years. I’m kind of joining a bigger apparatus, so it’s gonna be pretty familiar in some ways. They’re allowing us to be relaxed. They’re not stretching us into some mold where we don’t fit.”
Asked about the difference between acting in an independent film and a big-budget enterprise, Franco delivered an answer that only he could: “As some people in this tent might know, I just did some different parts on ‘General Hospital’ … and before I did that, I thought, ‘Am I going to have to act differently? Am I going to have to act like I’m on a soap opera? And what does that even mean?’ And when I got there, I realized that I didn’t have to act any differently: My job is to act as realistically in the parameters of this world as possible. The acting, at its core, is kind of the same whether you’re on a soap opera, an independent film or a big-budget film; it’s just that the context around you changes, and each project has its own reality.”
Meanwhile, “The King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper — winning for Best Foreign Film — was living his own soap opera, facing the prospect of his film being re-released, cut to meet a PG-13 rating. Hooper was getting ready to see the altered cut on Monday — but, I had to ask, was he at all happy about the idea of his film being recut? “Until I see it I can’t tell,” he said. “I’m certainly unhappy with kids being unable to see it here, especially because it touches on so many issues to do with childhood — (namely) please don’t carry the trauma of childhood through your adult life. In other countries — in the U.K., in Canada — I’ve had wonderful e-mails from 8-year-olds, 9-year-olds seeing the movie and being moved by it.”
With Nicole Holofcener‘s ethics-in-the-city comedy “Please Give” winning the Robert Altman Award for Best Ensemble, Holofcener, Amanda Peet and Catherine Keener met the press. I asked Holofcener if making “Please Give” resolved any of the moral questions she explored in the film, or if it just raised new avenues of confusion for her. Holofcener laughed: “Well put. No, it didn’t resolve anything for me. Now everybody knows my problems.”
Best Supporting Actor winner John Hawkes of “Winter’s Bone” explained the preparation that went into his role as the scary, charismatic criminal and meth cooker Teardrop. “Well, I was lucky enough to grow up in a small town where there were a lot of … characters,” he said. “And people who scared me a lot. So I drew from that.” Considering that Hawkes has been scary in films like “Winter’s Bone” and the upcoming “Martha Marcy May Marlene” and likable in projects like “Me and You and Everyone We Know” and “Deadwood,” I asked him which was more artistically satisfying — and, more importantly, which paid better. Hawkes smiled. “Well, I would have to add it up,” he said. “I’m not sure whether playing mean folks or sweet folks pays more money. I’m always looking for the best people — the best character, the best story — I can find.”
In the end, though, it was “Black Swan”‘s afternoon, with Libatique’s award and taking Best Director for Darren Aronofsky, Best Actress for Natalie Portman and Best Picture honors. Wearing the kind of neckwear that gets you “Best Scarf” honors as well, Aronofsky was loose and funny in the press tent. What was it, he was asked, that America and the world seemed to be responding to? “I’ve got no f—ing idea, and it’s really exciting,” he said. “The word that keeps coming back to me is ‘fun.’ People are having fun. I guess that’s the best compliment you could get as a filmmaker.” The director of “Pi,” “Requiem for a Dream” and “The Wrestler” paused: “I never got that one before.”
Aronofsky also got to sum up the afternoon — what, he was asked, does “independent” film mean in this day and age, anyhow? “I think ‘independence’ is when you’re independent of the financial realities,” he said. “It’s a very hard word to describe, and people have been trying to figure it out for years. Basically when the filmmakers are in control of the movie as opposed to the people paying for them, I think that’s independence.”
And warmed — even if only figuratively — by that happy thought, the Independent Spirit Awards came to a close for 2011.
Nicolas Cage‘s “Drive Angry” may have cratered at the box office — coming in ninth, ouch — and be currently enjoying a 27 percent “fresh” rating from the Top Critics group at Rotten Tomatoes, but it did afford us the chance to see Nicolas Cage trying to kill demons with bullets engraved with Latin phrases. In 3-D. Strangely, Summit Entertainment only held a press day last Wednesday — two days before release — but that still afforded your correspondent the chance to speak with Nicolas Cage. Here — without addenda — are the highlights of that all-too-brief chat.
• “I was very excited about the possibilities of doing my first 3-D movie in live-action — and what could I do with it? I was like a kid in the candy store. There was even one scene where I stuck my tongue out when I was (kissing) this waitress in the diner, hoping that the tongue would go into the fourth row of the audience and how I could mess with it in a playful way. That didn’t make it into the movie, and it’s probably a good thing. But at the time, I was really excited.”
• “I always wondered why Werner (Herzog) said (regarding Cage’s work in “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans“) ‘Let the pig loose.’ The pig is an interesting animal in history. In mythology, it’s one of the power animals in ancient Celtic mythology, and for some reason it’s considered a divine animal. I don’t think that’s what Werner meant by it. I think he was talking about in terms of the pig being something that just wanted to fill its appetite and passions and feed itself and be naughty about it. With Milton in ‘Drive Angry,’ it’s a completely different kind of energy entirely than Terence McDonagh in ‘Bad Lieutenant.’ Terence is a man who’s got an addiction, who will do anything to serve the addiction; no matter how wrong it may be, he will get his drugs. Milton is a living dead man, which is pretty complicated when you think about it. He’s not a human being, really; it’s more like a phantom or a ghost or wraith that raises more questions than answers. What would it be like if a ghost walked into the room?”
• “It’s no secret that I like to think what I call ‘outside the box’ when it comes to acting. What some people may call ‘over the top’, I’ve always called ‘outside the box.’ I also believe in what I call art synthesis, where no art form has to be any different than any art form, because it all aspires to be music. That includes film acting, although some would argue it’s a craft and not an art form. I maintain that acting is still an art form. If you believe in that, you can get abstract and you can get avant-garde and you can get modern with it. Just like you would with music, with John Cage, or you could with painting, like Picasso, any art form — you can also do with acting. The problem is, with film acting, if you want to do that, if you want to be avant-garde, you have to do it in a way that still connects with audiences. One of the only ways you can still sell tickets and be abstract and avant-garde is horror and sci-fi and fantasy. I can inherently be weird and still sell tickets if I go into those genres.”
• “I was reading our poet laureate Walt Whitman’s ‘Leaves of Grass.’ He would put things in his poems that, for me, came out of nowhere. He referenced drinking mead from a skull. That struck me for some reason: ‘I think Milton in ‘Drive Angry’ should drink beer from a skull.’ I don’t know why; it was like, it was so ancient, it was probably something people did in primitive cultures. I wanted to make it look good. I wanted people to think, ‘I might like to try that.’”
Set over Labor Day weekend in 1988, “Take Me Home Tonight” is producer and star Topher Grace‘s attempt to craft a rearview-mirror comedy like “American Graffiti” and “Dazed and Confused.” At a rented party house on the quiet streets of Beverly Hills, Grace explained the artistic, and comedic, appeal of looking to the past. “It’s a trick,” he said. “It makes it seem like you’re going to totally escape — and you do totally escape your time, your problems, what’s going on — yet the protagonist and the situations are completely timeless. That’s really important, too: sugarcoating the pill.
“This film really was created in the spirit of ‘American Graffiti’ or ‘Dazed and Confused.’ It’s funny; now I think of ‘American Graffiti’ as being made in the ’50s. That means they didn’t make fun of the decade: They celebrated it. We wanted to be the first (film) about the ’80s that wasn’t spoofing it, that was really about it. ‘The Wedding Singer,’ which I love — it’s a really great romantic comedy — spoofs the ’80s. It points out, ‘Look at this crazy cell phone. Can they get any smaller?’ ‘Compact discs won’t ever take off.’ That makes sense, because it was made eight years after the ’80s ended. It hadn’t been over that long. It would be like if we made a movie out of the ’90s now. There are two things I love: I love looking back at all this stuff that was weird, and then I also have this real affection because I loved all those John Hughes movies. I don’t know if there weren’t a lot of great John Hughes movies from that time if it would have been as interesting to us.”
So, was Grace was aiming for John Hughes-style laughs, and did he feel like he got them? “Sure,” he said, “but it was more ’80s movies than John Hughes — although tonally John Hughes has both handfuls of heart and raunch, which we wanted to go for. We wanted to have someone steal a red car; we wanted to have someone chasing a girl; we wanted to have that moment where the whole party starts singing one song. We (also) wanted to mess with all those conventions: They steal the car, but they get caught; he has a platonic best friend, but it’s his twin sister, so it’s not going to go in that direction. We wanted to have some of those conventions and then challenge them.”
Also challenging? Getting a R-rated comedy into theaters loaded with sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Was knowing from the outset that the film would be rated R important for the film? “Really important,” he said, “mostly because if you don’t have people peppering your language with ‘f—’ and ‘s—,’ and if you don’t have someone doing cocaine when they’re in their mid-20s — at a party in Beverly Hills — you’re lying; you’re starting off lying to your audience. This is not how people talk, or how it is. It almost would have made it undoable, or a fool’s errand. We didn’t pull any punches; we did exactly what we wanted. That cut is our final cut. That’s what we wanted to do, so we didn’t have anyone tell us at the end of the day that it had to be a certain way.”
Less perfect? ’80s style. “Thank God we don’t still have the side ponytail,” she said. “I think that (we’re) bringing back some of the great things of the ’80s, in terms of fashion: the shoulder pads!” Was there a lot of attention paid to the fashion and style of the era in “Take Me Home Tonight”? “A lot of effort went into that,” she said. “I think that the ’80s is a character in itself in this movie. That includes the music and the outfits and the hair. It was imperative to get that right, and we worked on it a lot. We tested lots of different outfits, and I know that Topher wanted to make sure that Tori really was the golden girl, so what better way to do that than put her in a gold sparkly dress? It’s vintage Halston. It was nice. It took us a little while to find the right tune, but it was good. I’m happy with what we came up with. ”
Palmer, of course, had her own style drama growing up in Australia: “I was what they refer to as a floater,” she said, “which meant that I would go from group to group hoping that someone would want to accept me. At one point, I was listening to Marilyn Manson and really trying to get in with the goth gang, but they weren’t that into having a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl join the group.”
Palmer also has a scene that suggests the audience is going to get an eyeful of her, uh, assets as she disrobes — before the camera cuts to the reverse angle and the audience gets a spectacular view of her shoulder blades. Palmer laughed. “Yes, they do! It wasn’t about the fact that ‘I don’t want to do any nudity,’ because I’ve done a film where I’ve been topless in the film, and it really served the character well. In this movie, there’s something more beautiful about alluding to the fact. It’s the mystery about what that could look like.” Palmer does a similar fake-out in the music video for the film’s soundtrack single, Atomic Tom’s cover of the Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me,” where she almost recreates Phoebe Cates‘ infamous shot from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” “When she gets out of the pool and she goes to unbutton (her bikini top), and then she actually does and you do see her (breasts) in the film. In the music video, I go to unbutton it, and same deal, I’m about to show the (breasts), but I stop. I think there’s something quite cheeky about that — cheeky’s a term we use in Australia for naughty — but in a good way. I’m glad that we didn’t show them. It’s a little wink.”
Audiences know Palmer from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” but “Take Me Home Tonight” is in fact one of her first American films and is finally being released after production delays. “It was the best entry into the pool,” she said. “The only problem with it was because we had such an incredible time I think the bar’s so high: I expected to have that same experience on every single film afterwards. That’s not the case. I was lucky: It restored my faith in Hollywood. I’d had a really awful experience on a movie right before I did this film. I was fired from a movie called ‘Jumper.’ Me and my amazing co-star, Tom Sturridge — who’s now blown up into this incredible indie actor — we had both been replaced by more-famous and older actors. I was heartbroken and damaged from that experience, but then (“Take Me Home Tonight”) landed on my doorstep and I had the total opposite experience. I had the best time of my life.” And besides, I noted to Palmer, you must have seen “Jumper,” so you know you dodged a bullet, right? Palmer smiled: “I know. I will say, I did, yes.”