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Daily Archives: August 14, 2011
Love or hate the “Glee” phenomenon, as our own Danny Miller discusses below, you cannot deny that it is a phenomenon — after all, you don’t see “Gossip Girl” doing cross-country international concert tours do you? (And more importantly, let’s not give anybody any ideas.) At the L.A. press conference for “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie,” the cast shared a few interesting facts about the international concert tour that brought about their 3D concert film — and about how there’s no rest for the world’s best-loved karaoke ensemble.
1) They’re Eminently Aware of How Post-Modern it All Is:
As Darren Criss, who plays the recently-added character Blaine, noted, the combination of social media and mass adulation for “Glee” can be both immediate and multi-layered. “There’s this fan presence that’s undeniable, but on social media, it isn’t immediately tangible because it’s inherently disconnected via computer screen or what-have-you. To experience all these people in real time is a pretty cathartic moment, because you have all these people from all around the world that you feel on your phone … but to have them cheering and dancing, it’s a very symbiotic thing: They’re celebrating this show with you, and we’re celebrating with their celebrating.”
2) They Know How to Get to Carnegie Hall:
Breakout star Lea Michele, whose work as Rachel is in many ways the neurotic heart of the show, had a few choice words for young people inspired by the show to give performing a shot — namely, that being who you are isn’t just a fuzzy platitude, but a good business strategy. “I think it’s also important for kids who know that they want to be performers, to find what you are particularly good at and your unique talent. I think that our television show really focuses on each person’s individual talent –whether you’re a singer who can move well or a fantastic dancer who sings well, find what you’re good at and go for that. People in this world right now are so craving people’s uniqueness.”
3) They Still Get Stage Fright
Kevin McHale, who plays wheelchair-bound Artie, explained that while there was still some safety in numbers, there was also no small amount of individual anxiety in his performing during the concert. “It’s easier when you’re onstage with 13 other people, so you’re not so nervous. I remember when I had to kill time before ‘Safety Dance’ for people to change … it was easy to take that for granted when we were in front of that many people, like, ‘Ah, this is easy.’ When you actually have to talk to them, and you don’t plan ahead what you’re going to say, and your joke doesn’t pan out and it gets quiet, it’s like, ‘Oh, God, I really am in front of 20,000 people.’
4) The All-Seeing Camera was Oddly Invisible
Michele noted how — even with the weird added distraction of staying in character for the behind-the-scenes footage used in the film — the cameras pretty much disappeared in the process of filming. “I think when we were backstage, I kept seeing people walking backwards, backstage. I was like, ‘Why is this woman walking backstage?’ Every time I would walk towards her, she would start walking backwards in front of me. I was like, ‘This woman, I think, has lost her mind.’ Then I realized she had a camera in front of her, and she was videotaping me walking. You might see my face as I’m walking backstage, I’m looking at this lady walking backwards. It was very bizarre.”
5) They Don’t Know What’s Going on With the Show Anymore than You Do
Naya Rivera — who plays the sassy Santana Lopez– doesn’t have a lot of insight into the recent flurry of publicly-made and then retracted statements about the future of the show: “Nothing’s been established or confirmed, so we’re focused on this season. I think that’s our attitude right now: We’re really excited to get back to work. It’s like going back to school.” Meanwhile, Amber Riley — the loud, proud Mercedes — felt like the film was going to reboot a lot of people into focusing on the songs onstage, not the intrigue behind the scenes: “The great thing is that this movie is going to put a lot of things in perspective for people, and they’ll get back to what the show’s really about. It’s not about gossip; it’s not about drama. It’s about these kids that are connected to each and every one of these characters, and our characters literally have grown up with them. We’ve been through adolescence, helping them through high school, helping them through junior high. I’m hoping that’s what this movie is going to do.”
6) They Were Exhausted
McHale — who had to stay in his wheelchair so he could stay in character, one of the weirder philosophical premises of “Glee: The 3D Concert Movie” — wasn’t quite aware of the physical cost of nightly performance. “I remember during the sixth show when I was pushing myself up the ramp and my arms were giving out. They were like, ‘Mmm-mmm, not tonight, Kevin. Not tonight.’” A laughing Rivera noted her way of beating the grind: “I went on a crazy steroid regimen before the tour, so I had no problems. I was rippin’ and runnin’.”
7) None of them Saw where Things were Headed
Cory Monteith, who plays the lovable lunkheaded Finn, explained how it was the overnight success of the gang’s version of “Don’t Stop Believin’” that really drove home how things might take off. “I think that was one of the first experiences, that how resonant that song was was such an indication of where the show was going. I think that once again, I don’t think any of us could have imagined the lengths that it would go. That was one of the first early moments. Myself, I was shocked at how widely it was being received across demographics, across age groups. That was a big moment for me.” And as for early naysayers suggesting the show was overly inspired by a similar-seeming Franchise, Monteith broke it down: “(‘Glee’ is) like ‘High School Musical’ — but punched in the stomach and (with) its lunch money stolen. I think it was pretty fast, people (knew ‘Glee’) was a different animal and it was trying to do a different thing.”
8) Nowhere is Safe
According to Criss, the seemingly all-American “Glee” phenomenon is spreading worldwide with the speed of the credit cookie in ‘Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” with a strong European contingent coming out for the shows in London and Dublin. “It wasn’t just England. We scraped the surface ; a lot of Western Europe went. We were meeting, at meet-and-greets, as many people from Scandinavia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, etcetera. It was a big hub for most of Europe. It was a crazy crowd. I thought it was crazy here. …”
After from jumping from commercials and lowest-common-denominator MTV programming to the big screen with “Zombieland,” director Ruben Fleischer fast found himself a sought-after talent. For his follow-up, he chose “30 Minutes or Less,” a crime-comedy (based on a far less cheerful true story) where Jesse Eisenberg is strapped with a bomb by low-rent criminals Danny McBride and Nick Swardson and then forced to rob a bank.
Fleischer’s currently casting and in pre-production for “Gangster Squad,” a ’50s L.A. crime saga with Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin, Emma Stone and Sean Penn. We spoke with Fleischer in L.A. about keeping the gas down for “30 Minutes or Less,” how he cant really think art imitates life, and about how “Zombieland 2″ may be a victim of its own success.
When did this project first come across your bow as something you might do?
Fleischer: I guess it was about a month or two after ‘Zombieland.’ It was before Christmas of last year. No, before Christmas of 2009. ‘Zombieland’ came out in October, so it would have been November, December of 2009. Obviously I had this completely revolutionary experience with ‘Zombieland’ where all of a sudden after being a struggling filmmaker who was dying to make his first movie, I was being presented with all of these beyond imaginable opportunities. I was a bit overwhelmed. Then I met with (producer) Stuart Cornfeld at Red Hour, and he shared that script with me. As soon as I read it, I was pretty sure that was the one that I wanted to do.
And you knew you wanted to work with Mr. Eisenberg again. Was that ‘Done and done; I’ve got my guy?’
Fleischer: I love Jesse. I loved our collaboration on the first movie, and I was extremely excited to reunite with him.
How important was it to keep the film moving? This is a really briskly cut, really brief film. It never is in danger of outstaying its welcome, but more importantly, it moves forward — not quite in real time, but it moves swiftly. How important was that in terms of keeping the velocity of it going?
Fleischer: We pared it down significantly through the entire process. We shot lots more than what ended up, but the reality is as soon as Jesse’s got the bomb on him, it becomes a race to the finish. Anything that wasn’t essential felt indulgent. We didn’t want the audience to ever forget the stakes and the immediacy of everything that he’s faced with.
When you’re doing scenes with talented improvisers like Mr. McBride and Mr. Swardson and Mr. Ansari — and, even to a certain extent, Mr. Eisenberg — is that A-to-B momentum of the plot a little bit problematic in that people can’t quite wander off as much as you might like for comedic purposes?
Fleischer: Not at all, because so much of what’s in there is improvised. I think we were able to have the best of both worlds in terms of keeping it tight and keeping it fast, but also allowing the actors the opportunity to elevate each of the scenes with their own original ideas.
After the challenges of ‘Zombieland,’ after creating the apocalypse, on what was a fairly reasonable budget, you did really well with not much money. On a production level, did ’30 Minutes or Less’ offer any particular challenges, or was it all stuff that you had faced down before?
Fleischer: Definitely. For me, it was a chance to work with, like you mentioned, some really talented improvisers. For me it was exciting to find even more in the moment and to get a greater comfort level working in that style and having some incredibly talented people to collaborate with and learn from. That was a new challenge. ‘Zombieland’ did a good job of working between the genres that it was dealing with. This was a real challenge in terms of finding the right tone so that it was dark and challenging but never too dark or too horrific, being able to allow the comedy to survive despite the circumstances.
There’s been some stuff in the news about the family of the gentleman who was involved in the real-life equivalent of this case and whether or not it’s a disservice to the real gentleman’s memory. At a certain point, do you throw your hands up and say, ‘I read a script, and I’m making a movie?’
Fleischer: I think you summed it up. I couldn’t have said it better myself, honestly.
What was the biggest challenge in making the bomb vest? I spoke with Mr. Eisenberg and he suggested the thing was hot.
Fleischer: Luckily I didn’t have to wear it. If he wasn’t skinny already, he definitely sweated out a lot. I think it was making it look authentic and homemade and scary but not too scary or too gruesome, because it’s so present that you want it to be a threat but not a distraction.
Are there alternate takes of scenes where you went, ‘No, we’re not making a scary thriller here, we’re not making a version of this film that would star Christopher Walken and unfold in real time and with a James Horner score?’
Fleischer: I think there were moments with Jesse where he played the reality of that character’s situation to an extreme in terms of the fear and the helplessness. At times, maybe we’d cross the line and that’s why they’re not in there.
It is this great symbolic moment of existential dread, having a bomb strapped to you that an idiot could set off. I really can’t think of a better parable for being trapped in a godless universe.
Fleischer: I appreciate that. It’s an incredible compliment, too.
What’s occurring with ‘Gangster Squad?’ I know you’re working on it, you’re bringing everything together, people are being cast, but tonally it’s going to be so different from anything you’ve ever done. Is this something where you’re rubbing your hands together and watching a bunch of stuff to start getting the flavor of it in your head, or are you still so caught up in negotiations and casting that thinking about the A to B connectivity of scenes is impossible?
Fleischer: No, we start shooting in four weeks, so I’ve got to be ready for it. I’ve been watching a ton of period noir films, some classic Westerns, and some of my favorite gangster movies from recent years, from ‘The Godfather’ to ‘Chinatown’ to ‘The Untouchables’ to ‘L.A. Confidential.’
You mentioned Westerns — are we talking about, like, Anthony Mann stuff?
Flesicher: I love (Sergio) Leone, and I love the scale of his films and the iconic frames. There’s a parallel to be drawn between our film and ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ so I watched that recently. I would say Leone and ‘The Magnificent Seven,’ and to a lesser degree, ‘Wild Bunch.’
Should fans of ‘Zombieland’ stop holding their breath for a ‘Zombieland 2?’
Fleischer: It pains me to say it — and I don’t think it’s because any of us don’t want to make it –but it feels like the momentum or the reality of that happening gets further and further away every day. Emma’s got sequels that she owes, Woody’s tied up with ‘The Hunger Games’ now, and Jesse after ‘Social Network,’ there’s so many opportunities that it might be hard to corral everyone — myself included, just with my obligations to ‘Gangster Squad’ for this next year, and then who knows what lies beyond that.
If you had to hand ‘Zombieland 2′ off to any other director, who would it be if you got to pick? Just like movie nerd fantasy baseball.
Fleischer: That’s a great question. It’s obviously not one that I’ve considered very much, but I would be excited — I don’t know if this is the right answer — for (‘Zombieland’ screenwriters) Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese to take a crack at it. They created the world and know it so well, and I know they have aspirations of directing, so I could see them doing a great job with it.
Perhaps best known for his work as the effortlessly entrepreneurial Tom Haverford on “Parks and Recreation” — or as the swaggering, shouting stand-up Randy in “Funny People” — Aziz Ansari is now playing the best pal. Of course, this being the crime-comedy “30 Minutes or Less,” Ansari is playing the best pal to Jesse Eisenberg’s wired-to-explode pizza delivery man, cringing at a safe distance even while standing by his friend. We talked with Ansari in L.A. about improvisation, Lunchables, tipping and how true equality means getting to play flawed characters.
This script comes across your desk and you’re being told, ‘Hey, you’re the best friend; you’re the straight guy, but it’s your version of the straight guy.’ How do you put that together?
Ansari: I got the script, and I thought the premise of the movie is about two regular guys that are best friends are forced to rob a bank while having a tumultuous time with the friendship. That was a good idea. Ruben really let me make the character my own and add whatever voices I had. So I was pretty comfortable with that, taking the part, even though on paper in a sense it’s a statement part because I’m not the guy going through crazy things. I knew I could figure it out, and I think I did.
That chance to figure things out, that was moments like making up the crazy, ‘This is how we paint our guns / when we’re going to get shot in the face’ song?
Ansari: There was things that I improvised that made it in, but there was funny stuff in the script for that character. It wasn’t a boring straight man part/ There’s been a lot of hilarious straight men performances recently. I think a lot of stuff Seth Rogen does is really funny in that vein. Michael Cera in ‘Superbad.’ I don’t really think of it as written as a straight man part. We’re both characters, but he‘s going through the crazy thing with the bomb.
How satisfying is it to get slightly into the mode of being a bad teacher?
Ansari: (Laughing) You mean as in the film ‘Bad Teacher?’
As in your character.
Ansari: Yeah, I know. I’ve done a few things where I’ve worked with kids and just been really mean to kids. That’s always really fun. During that scene, I told them, ‘Let’s add something here and make it a funny scene.’ I did that text-message thing (reading a student’s text message out loud in class.) — that was fun.
Do you hang out with Mr. Eisenberg a lot to create that illusion of friendship, or do you not hang out with him a lot to create that illusion of being slightly on the outs?
Ansari: I think we hung out a lot, so we could have a rapport and have a relationship that would be what we see onscreen as a variation of our lives, back-and-forth as far as the comedic chemistry. We hung out and tried to become best friends, and we got along really well and we’re still good friends.
Is it very much the case that you know people like Eisenberg’s character, you know the man-child who has Lunchables?
Ansari: I don’t know anyone that out of control, I don’t think.
Do you feel like you’ve come to terms with the whole thing of growing up and taking responsibility for your life the way Eisenberg’s character has to, or is part of the reason why a life of showbiz appeals because of that slight element of arrested development?
Ansari: To me, if you’re doing this kind of work, if you’re successful, it’s a lot of hard work and you’re pretty smart and responsible. I don’t think you’re going to get very far if you’re poof-ing around and not really focused on the work. I think that the nature of my work, comedic or whatever, I’m smart about what I do and I work really hard, so to me it’s a regular job.
When you come onboard a project like this, and there’s people like Danny McBride and Nick Swardson, how much of you is playing comedy sponge? How much of you is listening, to go, ‘Okay, I now get how they get laughs; I now get their sense of rhythm?’ Or are you somebody who’s such an idiosyncratic performer that you don’t do that whole ‘eavesdropping on other comics’ thing, even unconsciously?
Ansari: What’s great about all of us in the movie is we each have our own unique thing and that’s what we do. To me, my answer would be no. We each have our own thing and we connect.
What kind of a tipper are you when you get to delivery food? Do you try to show a little respect to delivery nation, or do you just say, ‘No, you’re on your own; maybe you should have thought about that before you dropped out of community college?’
Ansari: In general, I tip very big. I feel like other people are jerks, so I try to compensate.
Is that a southern hospitality thing?
Ansari: Yes. Or just in general how I was raised to be a nice person.
How was shooting in Grand Rapids? It really has that great look, but also doesn’t really feel like a major metropolis.
Ansari: It was great. It was a fine town. I didn’t get a ton of time to really explore the town. When I was there, I was filming all the time, and I would just come home and rest and get up and film. I was pretty much working. It was great.
When you’re doing things like making up the ‘spray painting the gun’ song, does it vary, now and then you throw things at the wall and nothing seems to stick, and now and then you — bang! — get it in one? Are you somebody who can just do this stuff fairly instantly, or is there a lot of hidden sweat that goes into it to look effortless?
Ansari: That song, I did it a few times. I had it in my head how I wanted to do it, and then I finally hit the thing way I thought. It’s a lot of rewriting on the spot sometimes. You try, and then it can kind of work, and then you refine it and you get a version that works. A lot of times you say things in the moment and it sticks. That Lunchables that we mention, I just said that in one take. I had that idea, and I said it. That came out, and that was a one-time joke; it worked. Other times, a longer thing you might want to refine it and then get it right.
Do you find we’ve transition into this period where the irresponsible, charismatic, but slightly unlikable characters has opened up a little bit in terms of the fact that with the ‘Harold and Kumar’ films, we’re establishing that in comedies, characters who are not necessarily the white, Anglo-Saxon dominant paradigm can be slightly flawed, slightly goofed up, slightly slack people, and it’s not a pejorative judgment; it’s more like these are fully dimensionalized characters with the same right to make mistakes as anyone?
Ansari: I think that’s just people catching up with the way that the world really is. Every Asian kid isn’t really some diligent, hard-working kid. There’s Asian kids that are stoners that listen to rock music all the time that people are like, ‘Let’s see that person in a movie; let’s make a person that’s more normal.’ Not to say other people aren’t normal. I think it’s moving away from making these ethnic caricatures. They’re rounded people, and I think there’s more and more of them in recent years, and in every sitcom has that Indian guy. It’s not like the kind of Indian guy you would have seen in a movie or a TV show 20 years ago.
When you said there are Asian people who do drugs and listen to rap music, all I could think, ‘Yes, there are. I learned that from ‘Grand Torino.’ I learned that from Clint Eastwood.’ I don’t know if you’ve seen that.
Ansari: I didn’t see that, no. That’s where he’s racist, right?
It’s chock full of Korean gangbangers. It’s really a blow for equality. If there were a hypothetical ’30 Minutes or Less’ sequel, would you want them to double the delivery time or half it? Would it be ‘An Hour or Less,’ or would it be ’15 Minutes or Less?’
Ansari: 15, so there’s more tension. It would be a tough one to make a sequel for.