Interview: Will Smith for "The Pursuit of Happyness"

By Garth Franklin
Thursday, December 14th 2006 5:27PM

It really doesn't get much bigger than Will Smith, one of the most bankable stars in modern Hollywood history. Yet in spite of all his many $100 million hits, Smith has confined himself to crowd pleasing action or fantasy blockbusters and romantic comedies with only the occasional diversion into dramatic territory like "Six Degrees of Separation" and "Ali". Now he's trying again in "The Pursuit of Happyness" about a man pursuing his dream, even as that dream costs him basically everything. He recently sat down to talk about his work and life:

Question: You're not always sympathetic in this film. What kind of choice or bridge was it for you?

Smith: I'm at such a different place in my life right now. The opportunity to work with Jaden [Smith's son in real-life], and it's really been the series... Michael Mann opened my mind to a completely different way of working and creating and it's grown through this process now with Gabriele Muccino and the last little spark coming from Jaden. I connected with Chris Gardner and we looked in one another's eyes. I said, "I'm going to learn your story and I'm going to tell your story." And he said, "Just tell the truth."

And I went and found the truth and I have so many roadblocks, emotional roadblocks to the truth of characters because I know what a character needs to do to be likeable. And my son has just developed me to a space where I'm starting to understand and starting to be more comfortable with the idea that the things that you don't do well are the things that are really going to help people. So it's new for me and I haven't completely figured out how to articulate all the things that are in my mind but I'm excited right now about the connection between the things that I believe and now being able to find a way to illustrate those beliefs in my artistry?

Question: What tips did Jaden give you?

Smith: He told me, Gabriele Muccino was, I was struggling with a scene. Seven , eight times he was coming up and giving me notes. With that particularly difficult scene I was struggling and Jaden said to me, "Psh, you just do the same thing every take, Daddy." And I was like, you know, I was a little offended by that. But what he was saying was that innately he couldn't understand how I was reading everything exactly the same way every time. He was feeling like well, that's no real. I thought we were supposed to be trying to make this real.

I started watching him and you know how kids are. If he decides he wants to get up and walk, he'll get up and walk. The cameraman will just follow him. But I had my blocking, I knew my left leg was forward, I knew that I was saying it with my left hand every time, so in order for them to make the edit, I would do it with my left hand every time. He broke me out of a mechanical space. I've always considered myself to be just average talent and what I have is a ridiculous insane obsessiveness for practice and preparation.

My father used to say all the time, "Luck is when preparation meets opportunity." So if you stay ready, you ain't gotta get ready. That is how I run my life. Just stay ready. Stay in shape and then you don't have to rush to train before the movie starts. And I'll show you my abs later because I'm in shape. But that idea, if you stay ready, you don't have to get ready. So I had this preparation, I had this performance, I've seen it in my mind and I know I'm going to go out there and deliver this performance that way that I want to do it. Gabriele told me one day, he said, "Don't pose for my camera." I said, "What do you mean?" He said, "You're posing for my camera. I don't want you to pose for my camera." He said, "You're making faces like you are hurt. We will shut down, you go away, you come back when you hurt for real."

I was like wow. He and Michael Mann are the two directors that I've worked with that know all my tricks. They can see right through me and all of the Willisms and the things that I know how to do to make the audience laugh or smile or cry, I know all of those things and they beat those things out of me. It's interesting, it's scary for me right now because I'm moving into a space where I just have no idea what's going to happen when I'm going into these scenes. I'm living in the moments. I'm shooting I Am Legend right now and I'm excited about the possibilities of finding that artistic space.

Question: Was it a Willism at the end when you got the job and didn't cry but your eyes turned red?

Smith: No, no, that is all authentic. Gabriele Muccino did a brilliant job of beating me away from my go to moves. It's like I felt like I'm thinking I'm Allen Iverson in the acting world. How you gonna not let me do my crossover? He was like, "Nope, that's not in this movie. You're going to find other things. You're Chris Gardner. So you're going to create in a different way, you're going to find different things and however long we have to shoot until you discover it, that's how long we're going to shoot. But what we're not going to do is the same face you made with K at the end of MEN IN BLACK."

Question: What would you say to the idea of struggle like this?

Smith: The first part of the question, I've been referring to a film called WHAT THE BLEEP [DO WE KNOW]. It's about quantum physics. You've heard the old phrase, if a tree falls in the forest, nobody's there, blah blah blah. The idea is that you have command over what you're future, what your situation is, that you internally and with your spirit or however you want to put it, the tao or muslim Allah or Jesus, whatever that universal force is that you connect to, you in sync with that force have command to will your future.

And in WHAT THE BLEEP it talks about the idea that objects exist if you acknowledge they exist. And that was something that Chris and I seriously connected on. In the film, there's no hint to any racism. And that was something specifically that Chris spoke about. He said, "Well, sure, there may have been racism but the belief that if you acknowledge it, you give it power over you. And your you cal it arrogance, you call it naivete, you call it whatever you want but I truly believe in a situation where you are hoping to create something, it is a much more powerful space to know that you will not be denied.

Whatever's out there, you're running over it. So we're not even going to spend no time talking about the white man or they don't have no spots left in this college so I'm going to apply somewhere. We're not acknowledging none of that. I'm going to that college, period." And there's a, I've always called it naivete with me that a few years ago I said that I honestly, truly believed that I could be the president of the United States . Now, there were probably political experts that laughed, but put me on a lie detector test right now and I absolutely, positively believe that I could be the president of the United States.

I absolutely, positively believe I could fly the space shuttle. Period. And that's where it starts. Chris Gardner laid down in a bathroom with his only child, seemingly the ultimate parental failure. The next morning, he woke up, he bathed his son in the sink and he went to work. You can't do that if there's a possibility this might not work out. You can't do that. You have got to believe that it's already a done deal. It's just a matter of time before you get what you're designing. To me, Barack Obama called it the audacity of hope. That's designed into the fiber of this country. This country's the only place that Chris Gardner could exist. I'm getting excited but to me, that is the essence of the power of this film.

Question: When you first heard Chris's story, what moved you that wasn't included in the movie?

Smith: Well, I first got turned onto Chris Gardner from the 20/20 piece. When I saw that 20/20 piece, Chris Gardner walks through and retraces the steps. There is a segment where he goes into the actual bathroom that he slept in with his son. I was like, "I'm making that movie." Then eventually I met with Chris. He was actually writing the book while we were shooting the movie. So he would be on the set three, four days a week and every week he'd give me 10 pages, just run me through some of the ideas. He was extremely helpful all through the process. We would do takes. If something's not feeling right, I would go away with Chris for an hour, just have him talk me through it.

Try to get me mentally into the space of the moment, what he connected to. He's extremely thoughtful. He's a lot like I felt like when I met Nelson Mandela. Chris, to have survived the things that he's survived and still have a big belly laugh, there's always going to be the scar tissue of traumatic experiences but he's so peaceful walking through it. It was an extremely valuable resource him there and have him walking me through the scenes and taking me through San Francisco and Oakland. When he watched the movie, I sat behind him when he watched the movie, which is the most gut wrenching thing you could ever do is make a story about somebody's life and then sit in the theater with him while they're watching it.

With Chris and with Ali, I'm not doing that anymore. Someone trusted you with their life story. It's their family, it's their experiences and it's not like there's going to be a second shot at it. It's one time and you'll find that most people don't even want to put the stuff out. It's hard enough for them to even talk about it, let alone hand it to somebody to do what they want to do with it on the screen. So they have to love it. It's a complete failure, if the movie makes X amount of 100s of millions of dollars and awards and all of that, and Chris doesn't like it, it's a failure. And he turned around after the film and I'm sitting there and my heart is jumping and he looked and he said, "I can't even talk to you right now." And he got up and walked out and I was like, "Well, what the hell does that mean?" But then we really went outside and he was crying. He just thanked me for the service to his family and he's forever indebted for bringing his story and for me, it was a win from that point, so all of this is gravy time now.

Question: In the wake of Michael Richards, a coalition of Jesse Jackson and such ask for a moratorium on the N word. What is your sense of that?

Smith: I directed an episode of ALL OF US, the TV show Jada and I have on the CW. I directed an episode where we went into the N word. The little boy says it at his birthday party, and he actually says it to a white kid. He has no idea what it means, he heard it and he said it. The thing that is interesting and difficult is there is no answer. I'm an actor. I can take the words I hate you and I can make it mean I love you. So there's no argument to the fact that [in happy voice] "Boy, I hate you so much, come here. Oh, it's awful you did that to me, I hate you!"

The argument can be made that the words don't matter. But then on the other side, there's so much blood and hatred and pain connected to that word, even if that's true, why would you use it? So it's a very difficult situation that will take a whole lotta years for the black community to decide where we stand as a whole and we probably never will decide where we stand as a whole on it. It could probably go from maybe 37 to maybe 40% of the rap lyrics. We could probably just pull it down a little bit. As far as Michael Richards, he shouldn't be saying it one way or the other. Let black folks figure it out. We don't need his help. We'll figure it out.

Question: How is I AM LEGEND going?

Smith: Yes, I'm working on I AM LEGEND right now. We're kind of breaking form a little bit. I'm interested to see how people react to it. We've designed something completely aggressive and new and different and we're sneaking a small art film character drama into the middle of a big summer blockbuster, so we'll see how it works out.


Interview: Jack Black and Kyle Glass "Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny"

Interview: Jack Black and Kyle Glass
"Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny"
Posted: Monday, November 13th 2006 12:34AM
Author: Paul Fischer
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Jack Black may be a standalone actor and movie stars, but he doesn't forget he's tenacious - as in Tenacious D. He and Kyle Gass have been on the road is this weird comic music duo for years, and now the 'D' is on the big screen. Harking back to their genesis, this hilarious, no holds barred comedy bares all, and Jack and Kyle are in top form. They spoke to Paul Fischer.

Question: Were you guys always thinking about turning the D into a feature?

Jack: The D..

Kyle: I think it started happening pretty seriously after our HBO show and we were going to do a run at HBO.

Jack: Wait a second. We did the HBO show and that thing was cancelled.

Kyle: Not really?

Jack: Whatever. We fuckin' said, or mutually agreed that it was bullshit.

Kyle: Can we just say it was cancelled?

Jack: We have to say that we fuckin' killed it?

Kyle: They offered us ten episodes and wanted to fire us from being executive producers. We said, 'F-you. We'll go make a movie'.

Jack: Yeah. They said, 'yeah, we want to do a lot with you without you having any creative control. We want you to be more like The Monkees'. We're like 'what? Why would we do that when the first ones were so good when with us fuckin' in charge'?

Kyle: They said 'do you want to make the show'?

Jack: 'Fuck you. We're beyond it. We're gonna go make and movie, then we'll show you whose [overlapping sounds like: whose shit don't stink???].

Kyle: You know why? Because success is the only revenge.

Jack: But then Cage [he calls Kyle Gass Cage for KG] was like 'dude, fuck the movie. The only thing that matters is the album', remember?

Kyle: Yeah.

Jack: So then we made the album.

Kyle: And I was right.

Jack: Then, you changed your tune.

Question: Was it hard to get some of the people to be in the movie?

Jack: It was easy when we were talking with New Line and we were saying 'let's make a five million dollar movie. It'll be incredible. It'll be funny. We've got fuckin' enough fans already that's it's gonna make money. And then it expanded and we said 'wait a second, it's actually more like 18 or 19 million or 20'.

Kyle: Is that okay?

Jack: And then there was only one studio interested. We went all around the Horn and then New Line was the only one that said 'yeah. we'll put our money on that one'. Nobody else was interested. It was too expensive. None of them thought we could do it.

Kyle: We had to take no money. On the back end. If it does well, we're going to be on Barbados with...

Jack: Mai Tais.

Question: Jack, since the show and the album you became a huge movie star. Has that changed Tenacious D at all?

Kyle: Yeah. I hate him.

Question: You're as big as he is.

Kyle: I'm bigger.

Jack: I like to think that we would never have gotten the movie made if I hadn't built some sweet...

Kyle: There you go. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. As big as Jack was getting, it could only help get a name I think. That's all they really think about it bankability.

Question: But has it changed you, Jack?

Jack: Has it changed me? Oh, yeah.. we've gone on tour after "School of Rock".

Kyle: We've played shows. We've had great tours. I think people seem to separate it pretty much.

Jack: It was a bummer after "Shallow Hal" when people were carrying around the Shallow Hal billboards at the concerts [he indicates people holding them up over their heads]. That's not really heavy metal to look out in the audience when you're tryin' to rock and there's a Shallow Hal cardboard cutout.

Question: They'll have Nacho Libre posters next.

Jack: That I don't mind.

Kyle: It's just the way it is. You've got two jobs. People can separate it.

Question: How do you describe your style of humor?

Kyle: Childish, sophomoric, scatological.

Question: Satiric?

Kyle: I suppose there's an element of that.

Jack: What are we satiring? Satirizing? Damn, what's the saturnization about in this?

Kyle: The saturnization really begins with.. I think we're poking fun at the pomposity of rock stuff.

Jack: A little bit, kind of.

Kyle: It's really just about us though. These guys rockin'? People respond to the weird confidence about the mission. We have this grand mission to rock and we have acoustic guitars. It seems to connect that way.

Question: When was the last time you were in an apartment like yours in the movie?

Kyle: This morning.

Jack: No. You've bumped it up since then.

Kyle: I had to get out of there.

Question: Rock of Ages, the movie ever?

Kyle: It was great. They're gonna do it in New York City in the Spring at the [sounds like: a nice] theater downtown. It's gonna be great.

Question: Jack, you got to fool around with Kate Winslet?

Jack: Yeah. What was it like?

Question: The movie looks rather nice.

Jack: It's very sweet and my mom's gonna love it I'm sure. I haven't seen it yet. It's a departure for me in that it's romantic and sweet.

Kyle: Mmmmm. More than "Shallow Hal"?

Jack: More than "Shallow Hal".

Kyle: Cuz at the end you said , [baby voice] 'I don't care if she's fat'.

Question: Was there a scene in this that was hard to get through because you were cracking up?

Kyle: We're pretty good at not cracking up because you don't want to blow the take. There were a couple of times. You take movies apart so much...some weird close-up.

Jack: I was laughing all the time. I haven't had this much fun on a movie ever.

Kyle: I think the very last scene we had a good time when we're smoking out of the Devil's bong and we put some real pot in there.

Jack: Yeah. I got too high and I was paranoid that there were some SAG secret officials there that were gonna bust us for smoking real pot. It's too powerful. Someone put the [sounds like: Kronk] in there. Two bong hits. I'm a lightweight too. So, it's like Aaaaaaaah. Driving home was a real challenge.

Question: Can you talk about the physical aspects of the D performance?

Jack: You've got to be in the best shape possible.

Kyle: We're like Jackie Chan. We do all our own stunts.

Question: Is what you do on stage choreographed?

Kyle: You pretty much have to choreograph for the movie.

Jack: You have to block basically.

Kyle: Cuz' lighting is so difficult.

Jack: But, on stage they did a lot of camera movement and let us do whatever we want. It was pretty lose up there.

Kyle: Keep it fresh and relaxed.

Question: Your music is really good. Does it have to be good before it's funny? What comes first?

Kyle: I think it's important for us that it's as good as we can do it just musically-wise.

Jack: Yeah.

Kyle: I think it's what makes us a little different from some guitar comics. We love music and just try to make really great songs.

Question: Do you start with the tune before the words?

Kyle: We usually have an idea and we do a lot of improv and Jack will riff a lot of the lyrics.

Jack: Kyle is always a bubbling cauldron of tunes. He's always playing and working on little melodies and riffs and then I would need to have something that I think is funny, a concept that I want to riff on, or, I need a type of song that I want to make that we've never made before. Then we can just start jammin' and always recording.

Question: You are so busy. How do you balance Tenacious D, movies, marriage and children or child?

Kyle: You're busy.

Jack: I'm very, very busy. But the way I do it is..

Question: Hanging out at Jar...

Jack: Jars' the best. Love Jar. It's all about the pork chop...What did you have? Here's how I do it. I look ahead on the future calendar and I can see that, come February, I have nothing on the schedule and I can always, not matter how hard it is, no matter how little sleep I'm getting, I know that there is sleep at the end of that rainbow.

Question: How is Kung Fu Panda going?

Kyle: That is rock and roll.

Jack: I'm just a voice. It's a sweet gig if you can get it. You go in like once a month, a few hours, once a month for eight years. At the end there's a fuckin' great cartoon and you are the star of it. It's a sweet gig.

Question: Are you the Kung Fu Panda?

Jack: [In big Panda voice] I am the Kung Fu Panda! I haven't seen them in a few months though. I hope it's still happening. Maybe they scrapped it and it's the Kung Fu Giraffe starring someone else now. Maybe they're waiting to see what happens with this movie. This one might ruin my career as an entertainer for children.

Kyle: You can be like Kate Moss or something [what??]

Jack: With the cocaine. Dude, we may be back to coffee houses after this.

Question: How much of this story is true?

Jack: Glad you asked. It's all true except....

Kyle: His father is one of the most supportive men..

Jack: My parents were always very supportive of my rocking.

Kyle: He was not a fundamentalist Christian.

Jack: No. I was actually raised a Jew. I went to Hebrew school and got bar mitzvahed. So that was a lie. But the rest.. true.

Question: Are you still a good Jew?

Jack: No. After my bar mitzvah I never went to synagogue again. Too much Hebrew school. I started to resent it because I didn't like school and then, on top of that, you're gonna send me to extra school? Hebrew school on top of school? Maybe if it had just been Hebrew school but don't sent me to another place. If it had all been in one place. If it started at eight and ended at three, okay but then you start tacking on more school.. it's crazy.

Question: How much did you practice the power slide and how was the car chase?

Kyle: We had to go to special driving school. No, we had stuntmen to do all that.

Question: The director said you got carsick, Kyle.

Kyle: Well, they have a special car that they make to do stunts that has these huge wheels and it kind of spins around and you're sort of driving it but they're driving you in the car. It's a barfy ride. I'm not gonna lie to you. It's a barf machine. It's fun though.

Question: On the power slide?

Jack: I got a little rug burn, yeah.

Kyle: But it was a pretty old school special effect. We were just being pulled.

Jack: And Kyle didn't lean back far enough.

Kyle: We did it all day, okay?

Jack: He's like.. [indicates arms straight up over head.. not leaning back at all].

Kyle: I know. How come I'm not sliding?

Jack: People ask, is there anything you would go back and change? Just that one thing, the power slide.

Question: How about having Meat Loaf sing your music?

Jack: Powerful stuff.

Question: Was he a good choice for playing your dad?

Jack: Yes. It had to be Meat Loaf.

Kyle: He was one of those guys written into the script.

Jack: [yawning] and if it wasn't Meat Loaf what were we gonna do?

Kyle: Frank Black, somebody. Larry thought Meat Loaf was okay.

Question: Are you going to take a break now?

Jack: No! We've got a grind coming up. Going to New York and do Letterman, we're going to go to London and do Jonathan Ross and premiere in London and come back and rehearse hard with our band. We've got a full band now. When we go on tour, it's not just me and Kyle anymore.

Question: You guys are big now.

Jack: We're big, bigtime, yeah. U2 is opening for us now.

Kyle: We're thinkin' we'll make them play acoustic.

Jack: Bono doesn't go all the way down on his knees.

Kyle: And we'll say 'Bono, lose the sunglasses'.

Jack: Oh man, hamstringed. We just took him off his game.

Question: Whose idea was it to have in the beginning KG be more aggressive or more the leader?

Jack: That's just kind of how it was.

Kyle: It really was. What's true? It's all kind of emotionally true but I was older and Jack was kind of....

Jack: Kyle was never like a fraud. I don't think he was ever going to put one over on me like he did in the movie.

Kyle: But, I knew that you were a fan and I started to take advantage of that and be the smart guy.

Question: How did you meet?

Kyle: We met in '89 through a friend [argument over what year it was]

Jack: I had been a fan since '86 or '87 because I had gone to see him. The first time I saw you perform was Carnage at the Mocha. When was that.. late '80's.

Kyle: But Jack got in a production that we were doing in the Actor's Gang called The Big Show and I would do all the music usually for the Gang stuff and Jack came in there and started contributing and threatening my very existence.

Jack: That's right.

Kyle: But it was a case of 'if you can't beat 'um, join 'um'. I couldn't beat him.

Question: There is going to be a lot on the DVD in deleted and extended scenes. Are there any you are hoping we'll get to see?

Jack: Yeah. We know what on those scenes.

Kyle: Dave [sounds like Keckner] had a really big scene we had to cut. There's a really good song in it.

Jack: There's the song "the Government Totally Sucks" It's a shame we had to cut it but it's on the record and it'll be in the deleted scenes.

Kyle: I think a lot of times when I'm talking.

Jack: There's a lot of little chunks but not whole scenes. There's a great scene in my fantasy sequence where Kyle is actually a cock monster and I go and punch on him, punch him out and punch on his balls with my feet .

Question: Was this a real dream you had?

Jack: No. It was just a flight of fancy.

Question: Some people call this a great love story?

Kyle: It's a threesome.

Jack: It actually is. It's about two men in love with their music.


Interview: Christian Bale "The Prestige"

Interview: Christian Bale
"The Prestige"
Posted: Monday, October 16th 2006 2:42AM
Author: Paul Fischer
Location: Pasadena, CA

Christian Bale's career may well have been given a kick start with last year's Batman Begins, but his career is going full steam ahead with or without the caped crusader. In The Prestige, directed by his Batman helmer Christopher Nolan, Bale plays a turn of the century magician obsessed by rival Hugh Jackman. Bale will also be seen in Harsh Times, a gripping, Indie thriller which he helped produce. Bale talked to Paul Fischer.

Question: So when Chris Nolan wants you to do something, is your curiosity automatically peaked?

Bale: Inevitably yeah. If you work well with someone you want to try to strike gold again. Chris didn't actually come to me with this. I actually read the script and I called him up and said 'I want in. I like Borden. I can really nail this character.' You know the question was could he see me as anything other than Bruce Wayne? He said 'yeah go for it.' I do think he's one of the best around and I think you're in bloody good hands. It's nice to work with someone a number of times. You do get a nice little short hand between you and you can really hit the ground running much quicker. Chris was doing a ship shaping kind of thing in terms of his directing styles between the two movies.

Question: Why did you think you could nail this character?

Bale: He just was one that I was fascinated with throughout. The fact that this relies upon secrecy not only for his livelihood, but his for his very life and the fact that he was somebody who saw this as being so vital and such value for his life and pretty much the only thing he's valued for by anybody. That it came first. It was his first love regardless of other relationships, the secrecy was paramount and his obsession which you know is absolutely necessary for achieve the level of skill that he does. There were so many mysteries surrounding this one character that he was immediately the one I wanted to play.

Question: Chris Nolan was saying the magicians Ricky Jay and Michael Weber he consulted wouldn't show him the tricks, only the actors and that was only if it was absolutely necessary.

Bale: Barely. He barely showed us as well. If we needed to know for the shot, then yes he would show us. But, that was very seldom because for this movie as you know is not a movie about showing magic tricks. In the movie rightly I think Chris felt that with editing you can do anything you know. It's really not so impressive to watch magic tricks being performed on film. It's centered on the one particular trick that my character develops that just infuriates the hell out of my rival who can not understand how it's done. As for the rest of it, we needed to show some of their performances, but it was more of finishing up on tricks or starting on tricks. Just giving the impressions of the magicians of this day being the top entertainers. Being the top pull. I like this very much. It's kind of a take on the story that Chris changed somewhat from the book "The Prestige." This great kind of fascination and so much mystery about science itself. Obviously now a days we know everybody understands it, but at that time the likes of Telsa appeared liked wizards. How is this done? People did not know exactly what he was doing and how he managed it at all. So there was that ability to confuse audience members as a magician. Perhaps some people did posses some kind of power beyond which the rest of us are able to call on. So they truly were magnificent performers of the time. That's an era that can never be regained you know. We've gotten beyond it now. You can't strip that knowledge away.

Question: What was the hardest scene for you to do?

Bale: Well the trouble is, if I were to answer that I'd give away some things which we just can't give away for the movie.

Question: Are there any secrets that would stand between you and love?

Bale: Not secrets in the way that he has secrets. That's something which only his particular circumstances really meant that he had to hold onto those secrets. I mean I certainly agree in terms of if you're talking family and etc than no. I would necessarily call them secrets, I would just say maintaining some kind of keeping something for yourself. It's essential in all walks of life. Not giving everything away.

Question: Are you as obsessive as he is?

Bale: Listen I think that you know I get obsessive, but over shorter terms you know. Obviously a movie lasts a few months and then you're done with it. With him it's life long of this single obsession. This one particular trick that he knows will make him immortal. So I have an obsession, but it's a different kind of obsession. It's more kind of short term obsessions.

Question: Earlier you said you were afraid Chris Nolan wouldn't see you as anything other than Batman. Are you were concerned about that with other people as well?

Bale: I wasn't worried about that because my feeling has always been with anything like that it all depends on the following roles I take and just ability as well you know. If it turns out that you know what I'm just doing different variations of Bruce Wayne for the rest of my life than you know what who would want to keep hire me for anything so I wasn't that worried about that. Especially because of the way that we approached that of doing "Batman" and "Batman Begins." Although he's obviously larger than life, obviously we were referencing many of the graphic novels it's somewhat in my mind less of a character than he was represented in many of the other versions. I kind of watch it and believe him as a real character in this sort ridiculous animated personality. So I think that again, I was able to kind of stay under the radar a little bit more.

Question: Will there be more depth to Bruce Wayne in the next movie? Will the film get much further into his psychology?

Bale: I have no idea.

Question: You haven't seen the script?

Bale: No, I mean look. I've spoken to Chris about it. I haven't read anything yet. I trust him completely. I'm sure he's been coming up with something improved upon our first one. We also have the knowledge that everyone has confidence in what we're trying to do now because the first one worked. People embraced it. Beyond that, Chris is just a real solid foundation. You don't worry too much if he's going to come up with the goods. He is. To me also in the way that he adjusted the book to the movie. I just love what he did with it. The twists and turns that he's added. The take that he found interest in. He's one of the best around. I've got totally trust in him and I have no problem reading the script a week before we start. I'm actually pretty confident. I mean look of course, I'd love to be able to talk with you more and we will about the actual character and where we can take that and where we want to take him. But, beyond that I enjoy this kind of air of secrecy about it and I don't mind not being in right there in the inner circle until Chris decides ok you need to be there now. He's need me to know about it and he needs my input as well. So far that hasn't happened.

Question: This is one of the best detectives in the comic book world. Are you hoping they explore that side of Batman in the upcoming film?

Bale: You know what I have no clue. I have no clue what we're going to be doing and I haven't paid a lot of thought to it. I'll pay a lot of thought to it once Chris sits me down and tells me what he's trying to achieve for the next one. When I sit in the safety vault and read the script you know being monitored on all sides and then I'll know more. Then I'll move forward with it from there. But, before then I'm truly not thinking about it.

Question: Are you obsessive about your career and do you let that get in the way of your relationships like your character?

Bale: No you know look people understand that I enjoy one of the best things to me about this job is the level of commitment that you have to put into it otherwise it just ain't going to work at all. I enjoy that. I enjoy that obsession. Everybody around me, my family and my wife and little girl they get that. They understand it and they enjoy it too. They don't mind it.

Question: Do you choose roles now and be more selective because of your family?

Bale: You know I think there's not a single person whose life doesn't affect the decisions that they're making for any project. (There was another sentence here, but I couldn't hear what he was saying) Certainly I know there are scripts that maybe I don't find interest in right now, but two years ago I might do.

Question: Would you still do something like The Machinist?

Bale: I love The Machinist.

Question: You were endangered yourself?

Bale: I didn't feel like that. I felt invincible. I felt like I could do this. Everyone else is getting worried about me, but oh shut up.

Question: Have you seen Harsh Times yet? I saw it in Toronto.

Bale: That's coming out November 10th. We shot it in 24 days. I mean that's as independent as you can get. David [Ayer] paid for it out of his back pocket literally. It was all of his money. It's just something that the script stuck with me. I read it a few years back. I read it with Dave. Liked him and just the character is like a shark. He can not stop. I find him engaging, hilarious and you know as the piece is called incredibly harsh as well. I found it to be topical and timeless one at the same time. I liked the kind of raw beginner's attitude that they've had. He's achieved it magnificently. But, there was a definite lure from going to Batman where we shoot for seven to eight months straight to shooting a movie in 24 days.

Question: When you do start working out for Batman?

Bale: On man don't remind me for that.

Question: Did you do anything before Batman?

Bale: Yeah I just finished doing a Todd Hayes movie and I'm just started doing called "3:10 to Yuma."


Interview: Clint Eastwood "Flags Of Our Fathers"

Interview: Clint Eastwood
"Flags Of Our Fathers"
Posted: Monday, October 9th 2006 2:55AM
Author: Paul Fischer
Location: Los Angeles, CA

The tall, strident figure who enters the room is unmistakable. Age, as has been said, has not wearied him. Clint Eastwood still looks impressive at 76. No longer the Man with No Name or Dirty Harry, these days he's a formidable force behind the camera, an Oscar winning filmmaker known for his economy of scale. But Eastwood's latest film, the World War 2 drama Flags of Our Fathers, is an anomaly for Eastwood, a big-budget epic work that is in sharp contrast to the likes of his acclaimed Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby.

A film centered around the tragic Battle of Iwo Jima, one of the most crucial and bloodiest battles of the second world war, it culminated with what would become one of the most iconic images in history: five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. The inspiring photo capturing that moment became a symbol of victory to a nation that had grown weary of war and made instant heroes of the six American soldiers at the base of the flag, some of whom would die soon after, never knowing that they had been immortalized. But the surviving flag raisers had no interest in being held up as symbols and did not consider themselves heroes; they wanted only to stay on the front with their brothers in arms who were fighting and dying without fanfare or glory.

'Flags of Our Fathers' is based on the best selling book by James Bradley with Ron Powers, which chronicled the battle of Iwo Jima and the fates of the flag raisers and some of their brothers in Easy Company. A book originally set to be filmed by Steven Spielberg, Eastwood, who picks projects that interest him on a personal level, says that he wanted to tell this particular war story "because there's never been a story on Iwo Jima, even though it was the biggest marine corps in marine corps history," says Eastwood. "What intrigued me about it was the book itself and the fact that it wasn't really a war story."

The director, who says he had been involved in a few war films as an actor, says he never set out to do a war movie per se, "but I liked this, because it was just a study of these people, and I've always been curious about families who find out things about their relatives much after the fact. The kind of people that have talked to me about this campaign and many other campaigns, seem to be the ones who have been the quietest about their activity. It's a sure thing that if you hear somebody being very braggadocio about all their experiences in combat, he was probably a clerk typist somewhere in the rear echelon, but there seems to be a commonality with these kind of people."

Much has been said of the parallels, if they exist, between World War 2 and contemporary events, but Eastwood denies making any kind of a contemporary parable, and the two wars represent vastly different ideologues. "World War 2 was a different time in history, of course. When the war was brought to us in Pearl Harbor, it became a reality that if we didn't fight this one out, we might be speaking another language today, so it was sort of simple. Most of the young men and women who went to war were about 19 years old. You figured they were probably all born in the late 20s early 30s, and they were over there, but they all had the spirit. So it was important to tell this story for that reason, as it told of a time in our history when there was a lot of spirit.

As for today -- I suppose war is war whenever you're in there. If you're in the front lines, there are always various problems you have to deal with that are hard for us to understand who are in a non-combat situation unfortunately. The country seemed much more unified than it is today, because the war we're in today -- excluding the Iraq War in the front lines -- is a different kind of war, incorporating Ideology and religion. There are a lot of factors coming in to it that may make the next war much more difficult, but World War 2 was much more cut and dried."

As Flags is, in many ways, an old fashioned, classic war story, for today's audiences, Eastwood hopes that through this film, "they get to know these people, and what they went through, as well as perhaps give the audience a feeling of what it was like in that time, what these people dedicated or donated their lives for." But also, he adds, he wants audiences to know more about what it has been defined as The Greatest Generation. "A lot of people talk about the greatest generation so it was fun to just try to visualize that. We now live in a time where it's different. We have an all voluntary military, the country's a lot more comfortable, economically and is in fact right now probably a lot more spoiled than we were then, so war is more of an inconvenience now where then it was an absolute necessity."

Like in much of Eastwood's recent work, his films offer a reflective comment on the humanity, coupled with a certain physicality, and this is particularly evident in Flags, that shows off the two sides to the director. Eastwood says that he has little difficulty in reconciling or balancing these two facets of his persona. "I just kind of go along. I think as I've matured -- which is in a way of saying aging -- I've reached out to different sides of different stories. I started out in movies with a lot of action and that sort of thing, but as I got to this stage in life now where I'm sort of retreating to the back side of the camera, I just felt that it's time to address a lot of different things that are closer to me than maybe fantasy characters that I might have been involved with."

In a career spanning half a century, Clint Eastwood can afford to pick and choose what he wants to do on either side of the camera. With little to prove, either to himself or audiences, the director still insists on pushing himself, and that includes shooting not one, but two films about Iwo Jima. Opening early next year is the Japanese perspective, Letters from Iwo Jima, and Eastwood does laugh when asked if these days, making two films back to back is his most serious challenge. "Sometimes I think I'll take some time off, and it goes in waves. I did "Mystic River," and I was going to take some time off after that project, then I read "Million Dollar Baby," and said, boy, I gotta do that, so I went right into that. I had tried to buy this book sometime earlier and DreamWorks at bought it and I ran into Steven Spielberg and he said why don't you come over and direct this film. I told him I liked the book very much, we shook hands and I said, yes, I'll do that. He didn't have a screenplay he was happy with so we had to kind of start from scratch."

It was part of the way into the research for Flags of our Fathers that he started getting interested in Lt. General Korubioshi the Japanese commander at Iwo Jima. "I was kind of wondering what kind of person he was to defend this island in a very clever way by tunneling the island and putting everything underground, doing it differently than most of the Japanese defenses were at that time. I sent to Japan and got a book about General Kuribayashi, which was a book of letters to his wife, daughter and son."

As Eastwood's films tells of a father and son, asked whether he would want his own children to depict his life on film, the ferociously private Eastwood smiles. "No, no. I don't feel my life is that interesting, which is maybe why I became an actor." In summing up his own life, Eastwood adopts the brevity that has often defined him. "I just feel like I do a job. I've been lucky enough to work in a profession where I enjoy it and still do. Obviously I'm doing it still and I don't seem to have any ambitions about retiring. If I do, I haven't kind of found out about them yet, so maybe I'm just waiting until they retire me."


Interview: Billy Bob Thornton "School for Scoundrels"

Interview: Billy Bob Thornton
"School for Scoundrels"
Posted: Monday, September 25th 2006 1:11AM
Author: Paul Fischer
Location: Los Angeles, CA

One thing one can say about veteran Oscar nominee Billy Bob Thornton, is that he is often the antithesis of the characters he plays and that can only be a good thing. A funny, smart and savvy actor, Thornton appears to be somewhat typecast of late, playing, well there's no kind way of describing them, but they're assholes, let's face. While many are somewhat redeemable, that cannot be said for his 'Dr P', the unscrupulous character he plays with effortless glee in the Hollywood remake of the 1960 British classic, School for Scoundrels.

Thornton admits that it always remains "a challenge to play those parts, but you know it's a lot a fun because you get to do something you can't really do in real life, or talk to people that way in real life. But it's not that hard to do, because you don't really have to think about it that much. I just played the character as it was written and it was written like that so, you just go out there and do it."

In this version of Scoundrels, Jon Heder is Roger, a beleaguered New York City meter maid who is plagued by anxiety and low self-esteem. In order to overcome his feelings of inadequacy, Roger enrols in a top-secret confidence-building class taught by the suavely underhanded Dr. P. Aided by his assistant, Lesher, [Michael Clarke Duncan], Dr. P uses unorthodox, often dangerous methods, but he guarantees results: Employ his techniques and you will unleash your inner lion.

Surrounded by a band of misfit classmates, Roger's confidence grows and he makes his way to the head of the class, even finding the courage to ask out his long-time crush, Amanda [Jacinda Barrette] . But Roger quickly discovers that star students have a way of catapulting Dr. P's competitive side into high gear. Soon enough, the teacher sets out to infiltrate and destroy Roger's personal and professional life. Nothing is off limits for Dr. P, not even the object of Roger's affection. In order to show Amanda Dr. P's true colours, Roger must rally his new friends and find a way to beat the master at his own game.

While some actors may strive to find a sense of humanity in a character such as this, Thornton said there wasn't much to find. "it didn't really call for much of that, like in Bad Santa and Bad News Bears where I played guys who were kind of assholes but really led with their heart as it turns out, while this guy it's really all about the head. So this was maybe a little harder to play simply because you can't let go and ever show that part of you."

Having now played a few of these darker characters of late, Thornton says, with one more coming out [next year's comedic Mr. Woodcock], it's time they release a unique set of DVDs. "The Asshole Box Set is right there so I think I've done it," he says, laughingly. "So I think after Woodcock comes out I think that's going to be the last one that you'll see from me at least for a very long time."

Over the past 10 years, Thornton has managed to be that unique force in Hollywood: both a leading man and character actor, and that balance suits him just fine, "I can go play a leading man and then in the next movie play an extreme character and people kind of expect that from me, so I think it's good that I started out playing characters because people will always be used to it when I do it. And the other thing is, is when I play leading men they're still characters, which I think gives me a little extra something."

At 51, the challenges for the actor, he says, are to still find "a really good script with an interesting story and interesting characters. I'm not looking for any certain type of things and I'm pretty content with my career so if I can just keep it where it is. I don't really want to be more popular or more recognized, but I would just like to be able to keep it where it is for a while longer." And Thornton, an equally accomplished director, hopes to be back in the director's chair soon.

"I'd like to direct again. I have something that I want to direct but I'm just having a hard time getting it financed. The studios have really cracked down on budgets now and it's really hard to get a movie made, and the one I want to make is about a 25 to 30 million dollar movie. It doesn't seem like a lot but my story is la sort of a human drama, a very heavy story and a period piece, so you have a period drama, which is not at the top of their list for a sure thing, and so if you have one of those they want you to make it for like 12 to 15 million dollars, but if you have a big franchise superhero movie they'll give you 150 million, but anything in between they're really tough about," he says, laughingly.

11 years after the actor astonished moviegoers with his Sling Blade, Thornton continues to ride high with success. He says that he remains surprised as to how his career continues to go from strength to strength. "I get surprised sometimes, but more with the success of a movie. Like we didn't know Bad Santa was going to do so well, just like I didn't know Sling Blade was going to become this iconic movie, so I've been surprised several times. You know what's kind of funny to me is that I'm a veteran now, so when I work with these young guys like Seann William Scott or Jon Heder, they say, man, I watched your movies growing up, so I'm one of these guys that is like, Paul Newman or somebody was to me, and I just find that so amusing."

Asked to recall why he wanted to be an actor in the first place, Thornton laughs. "I don't know and I really couldn't tell you. I just always loved characters and stories, was in drama in high school and just always loved doing it." Born in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Thornton was not exactly encouraged to act by his parents. "Where I grew up they didn't know anything about actors, but my mother always sort of believed in me and believed in all that and supported everything. If my father were still alive he'd probably think it was pretty shocking."

In the meantime, Thornton is very proud of his future acting gigs, including The Astronaut Farmer, about which he remains genuinely enthused. "That's the next movie after Scoundrels and I'm really glad about that because again, that's a drama and it's in between these two comedies. So I think that's real good for me."

The actor adds that Astronaut Farmer is going to go on his list of the top four or five movies that he's ever done. It's just a beautiful movie. I really hope you like it because this is sort of my Jimmy Stewart role. We made it for 12 million dollars, but it looks like a big studio movie. Anyway, it's the Polish brothers and their movies have been darker and this is their first more accessible movie. It's a story of a guy who was in NASA and dreamed of being an astronaut and because of some family problems he had to wash out of the NASA program. Then he goes back to his farm, and since he knows how, he decides to build his own rocket, so it's his struggle as a dreamer in this country right now trying to do that against a system. It's really quite subversive in a lot of ways." Thornton says that this story of a dreamer is something that he could identify with, given his one time dreams of success in Hollywood. "There's no question about it, in that I fit in this part like a glove."

Thornton is also set to star in a film being produced by Brad Pitt's company. "It's called Peace Like a River and we don't have a start date yet for it but we're going to try to do it some time next year."


Interview: Orlando Bloom & Zoe Saldana "Haven"

Interview: Orlando Bloom & Zoe Saldana
Posted: Thursday, September 14th 2006 9:00AM
Author: Garth Franklin
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Orlando Bloom has spent a lot of time in the Caribbean in recent years, and not just filming pirate adventures. The British hunk stars in and produces "Haven", an indie thriller set in the Cayman Islands about a a disapproved of love affair in paradise which turns deadly. Shot a few years back, the film had difficulty finding distribution until the Yari Film Group, the same company behind last month's Summer sleeper hit "The Illusionist", picked it up and is now unleashing it on the world. Bloom, and his co-star love interest Zoe Saldana, sat down recently to talk about the film:

Question: How was it producing and having the film pushed back?

Bloom: That's really a question Bob Yari because he's the guy getting the movie out now. He wanted to, he set up a distributing arm for his company and he wanted to distribute the movie himself, so that's what has happened, and this is the time for the movie to be released. And I'm very, very happy because I've been talking about this movie for a long time, we all have, and I feel very happy that the movie is coming out now. I'm really proud of it, it's an honest little movie; it was a real labor of love on the part of everyone involved. It doesn't pull any punches, it is what it is.

Saldana: It's totally guerrilla filmmaking where everybody's collaboration was really the inspiration every day. I've never been on a set where, the sad part came when you had to wrap for the day. You were like, 'Let's just do one more; we can squeeze this other take.'

Question: What was it like on your off time down there?

Bloom: We had a lot of fun; we were a bunch of kids playing in the sand really with lots of cameras - not that many, but - it was only a small movie; we had a lot of fun. I certainly didn't have a lot of off time; I remember the first night of shooting, I was on the phone to my manager going, 'I've got eight scenes to shoot tomorrow.' I mean, I've never had eight scenes to shoot in a day before. The thing about a big movie is that they allow a lot of time because there's a lot of time to set up the stuff, and this was like, 'We're shooting it now.' If you're not in the moment, the moment's gone. So you gotta be there and ready to go, and I loved that. I love independent movies, I've always loved independent movies, and I've loved all the movies I've been involved in. I've had great good fortune to be involved in them, but this one came from the heart because it was really a family effort.

Question: When you read the script, what jumped out at you?

Bloom: Frankie did this film called Swallow, really emotional, beautiful film. And he brought this script to me, and he actually wanted me to play the character Fritz, which I didn't really kind of relate to. And I said, 'Look, I like the character of Shy, but he's a young Caymanian kid.' He said, 'Give me 24 hours; let me mess around with it.' He came back, and I kid you not, the shooting script that we have is the one he came up with 24 hours later, and it was done so well. It didn't feel like, "Okay, this is a star vehicle moment; we're going to get this and do this like this.' It was done with a lot of integrity and it really gave I think Shy and Andrea a heart.

Saldana: More depth.

Question: Were there any discussions on how ugly to turn you after the attack?

Bloom: I wanted to lose an eye; I wasn't allowed and I should have been because I'm the producer, right? Actually, you know why I didn't? Because there wasn't enough time; the makeup girl did - she's amazing. I work with her all the time and she did an incredible job of doing that scar, which I thought was really effective. But to lose an eye and everything else, it would have taken too long.

Saldana: We would have needed three more weeks of planning or something. I think also with the scar, it didn't matter how intense or how gory it could have gotten because he was known on the island. There were references in the script and the story where he's just a charming man, everybody loves him; whether because the girls think he's very attractive or because he's very graceful. And the same people who put him up on that pedestal, when he loses his looks, those are the same people that isolate him because they don't know how to treat him, so he doesn't really know where to go. It also goes to show where we put our priorities - that a person's heart lies in the features in his face, and if that's disfigured then what's inside.

Question: In the film, paradise turns out to be hell. Do you think Hollywood fame is like that?

Saldana: Yeah, I'm from the Caribbean, so that's what I loved about this story was how accurate Frankie was in terms of the social structure of it and how there's no middle class: you're either rich or you're poor. And the ladder to success is not really a ladder, it's a chain; once you reach a certain level, you can't go back and you can only keep going forward. And also, how accurate he was by showing where we really base our principles; it has nothing to do with the color of someone's skin, it has to do with money and their class. And I think it is very similar to Hollywood; it's a very interesting, symbolic sort of parody - it's beautiful on the outside, everybody wants to be in it, everybody wants to live in Cayman. I mean, I want to be a waitress. The average waitress makes $75-90,000 a year, and she doesn't have to report it; that's amazing. So everybody wants to be a superstar, but once you're living there, you realize you become very comfortable, very spoiled and you start abusing the resources that give you the privileges that you have.

Question: Do you want to continue producing more films?

Bloom: I really enjoyed the creative; yeah, I do. I really enjoyed the creative process of being part of this movie - from the beginning, talking to Frankie about his character with Shy and developing that and whether it was the music or the posters or the artwork or whatever, we all collaborated, we kept the balloon rolling. But I really enjoyed the process of doing that.

Saldana: Nurturing something and caring for it and watching it evolve and delivering it.

Bloom: Yeah, it made me much more emotional.


Interview: Ben Affleck "Hollywoodland"

Interview: Ben Affleck
Posted: Thursday, September 7th 2006 7:32AM
Author: Garth Franklin
Location: Los Angeles, CA

After a relatively quiet last few years, Ben Affleck comes back in a big way in the noir mystery drama "Hollywoodland". The film follows the real life scandal in 1959 when TV's Superman, actor George Reeves, apparently committed suicide.

The Oscar-winning writer has been criticised for many years as being a pretty boy actor, one who is more notable for his looks than his talent. Now at last it looks like he has proven them wrong with a performance that is receiving acclaim for all sectors. He recently sat down with us to talk about his work on the film:

Question: Kevin Smith told us that you were keeping a low profile. What will getting back in the spotlight entail?

Affleck: You see how successful I am. It's just more about [that] I didn't do some movies for a while. I wanted to sort of take a break and keep things quiet and I kind of made the decision to just do the kind of movies that I really like to be in and that I can be proud of being in and not work for money or work to be famous or any of that stuff. I got really lucky that the first movie I did in that period was this one, which turned out really well, actually. I mean, I'm really proud of it anyway. I really like it. To work on this script and work with these extraordinary actors and work with this wonderful director and it feels great. It's great to be up here talking about a movie that I'm really proud of. It's a really nice feeling.

Question: Ben, you're playing a real person. Can you talk about that and how you see George Reeves and why you wanted to play him?

Affleck: Obviously, yeah, George Reeves was an iconic guy because of who he played and that was, in some ways, tragic for him. And that very tragedy and kind of paradox - in the sense that he got the thing that he wished for and ultimately it was very destructive - is part of what makes the story so good and part of what makes the character so good. The onus was on me and on Allen [Coulter, the director] and on the writers to be consistent with who the guy really is, because there is a kind of a burden and a responsibility and I think even moreso because I think of George as a guy who never really got a fair shake. And so I thought it would be the least we could do here to give him his fair shake, finally, that he kind of didn't get in his career or following his death. So I researched it pretty meticulously and there was a tremendous amount of research that had been done before I came on that I was a beneficiary of in terms of the screenplay and Allen and the producers and what they'd done. So I was keyed in to where to look and who to talk to and I wanted to play his as authentically as possible. And fortunately he left behind a body of work that I could look at and watch. I saw all 104 episodes of the television show - 52 in color, 52 in black-and-white. And then So Proudly We Hail!, this movie he did with Claudette Colbert. He had other work. Obviously he was in the beginning of Gone With the Wind. There's stuff available so that was a great help to me. But to not belabor the point, yes, I really wanted to try to treat him fairly and you benefit from a whole wealth of information to draw upon. If I screw that up, I really have no excuse.

Question: Were you attracted to Hollywoodland because there was the ability to tell the true story about somebody in Hollywood who was misunderstood?

Affleck: I was attracted to the project because of Allen and because of the screenplay and because of the actors I was going to get a chance to work with and because the story itself was pretty great. The way that I got into looking at the character, I think that I identify with him for, among other things, this idea of feeling like you were someone other than who the outside world saw you as, the injuries that he sustained, in some ways, from that. There's a lot just about him that he went through and dealt with as a person that I think a lot of people could identify with. I think he was an interesting guy who thoroughly lived his life and that offered a lot of entrees to understanding him and it was a pretty rich character.

Question: This movie is about your life in Hollywood not really going the way you planned. Could you talk about having those moments in your own Hollywood life?

Affleck: There's a line where he says like, 'Should have been enough for a life,' what George Reeves had. For me, it's about the condition of humanity, whereby it's never really enough, that feeling, that ambition that drives you to achieve and people to invent rockets and to build machines and the industrial age and also keeps us perpetually kind of dissatisfied. That sort of grass-is-greener thing and that those two things that at once propel, at the same time frustrate and stifle us and trying to live and manage those two things. It's really that contradiction, contrary impulses, that are universally human and that I think everyone can understand and that are really painfully. I'm like, 'How is my life not living up to my dreams? If I just had this then I'd be happy.' Getting that and finding out that's not the thing. And I think that's really at the root of the thing, for me. I think it really kind of transcends Hollywood, although it's a really good example of that kind of thing, because it's to the extreme.

Question: Is Hollywood a little bit more forgiving today for a bad role and that kind of thing than it was back then? And secondly, do you think that this film will be impacted one way or the other by the release of Superman Returns earlier in the summer?

Affleck: I think Hollywood is really different now than it used to be. There were three networks, one kind of studio-approved magazine and some whistle-stop tours for stuff back then. It was a much more different thing. It had not become - for better or worse - the kind of cult of personality, culture of celebrity, kind of continual carnivorous, voracious machine of 15 outlets - How many of you guys are writing for the Internet? - the Internet, bloggers, gossip, every kind of... there's just additional layer and layer and layers just because there's people out there who are demanding that. So that is a really different facet - almost an immediate news cycle now and there's more mouths to feed, so to speak. And also, there was a kind of, ironically, there was a certain polite distance then. You know what I mean? You'd be Rock Hudson, everybody knew you were gay, but it just didn't get written about. That wouldn't be how it would be now. It would be really different. I'm not sure exactly how it'd be if you were Rock Hudson ... But even then, we interestingly highlighted the kind of beginning of that period, like he got in his car accident and none of the articles mentioned him by actual name. 'Superman Crashes Car, Faints at Sight of Own Blood.' 'Man of Steel Blah Blah Blah.' A kind of wry, sort of schadenfreude, slightly smug, detached putting down of people who are supposed to be elevated and that that practice of journalism - which none of you practice, I'm sure - has grown over the years, but I think that was the very first beginning of having idols who seemed bigger than everything and then the treat of it, the perverse thrill of it, was finding out that they weren't really Supermen, that in fact they were human, and then seeing them be destroyed to prove it and then lamenting them and looking back on the good things they did.

Question: How has being a dad changed your life, and can you tell a little about the film you're directing [Gone, Baby, Gone]?

Affleck: Sure, without going on for too long so as not to bore my fellow members of this panel. I love being a father, it's wonderful. It's changed my life. It all sounds like platitudes and clich�s because they're true. It fast became the most important thing in my life and I reorganized my priorities instantly in a way that feels really good. I love that. My wife is spectacular, a spectacular mother, spectacular everything, so that's really nice.

Question: Can you give any advice to new parents?

Affleck: I am not the person to come to for advice. ... I'll tell you a quick anecdote. Two days ago my wife had to go to work. I was there. I was taking care of the baby. I was trying to make sure everything was going to be okay. She said, 'Okay, I'm running out,' she gave me the baby. She said, 'Okay, you know how to feed her with the solid food?' I said, 'Yes, I know how to feed her.' She said, 'You take the peaches, you stir that up and you put that in with a little oatmeal and then put that in with a little bit of the crushed pears, and you mix that up,' and then she looked at me and said, in all seriousness, 'Is this too complicated?' This is [what] my wife thinks of my parenting abilities. Clearly, I should not be offering advice to anyone else.

Question: Was it too complicated?

Affleck: Actually, it wasn't too complicated, but the fact that she thought it might be speaks to something. What was the second part of your question? Directing. I was just telling Allen before this started that I had a wonderful time doing this movie, and I had the sense, there I was, and I thought really that the whole movie was about me and how I played George Reeves, and my work I was doing and the research that I was doing, my lines, and sometimes I would look at other actors ... and basically that would be the movie. And then I directed my own movie, and then I didn't know whether to thank Allen or apologize to him, because I realized the whole movie is actually about Allen, and what he's done. And this is in my opinion a fine movie, it's beautiful and it's about something really real to me, and I think it's evocative of something that's resonant and that you can't quite put your finger on. And I think that's a testament to - I got to work with spectacular actors who are all sitting next to me, but Allen did a fabulous job, and I just now learned how exquisitely difficult that is, and I've just learned to appreciate it. He is spectacular as a director.

Question: What was it like directing your brother in Gone, Baby, Gone?

Affleck: Horrible. No, he's great, he's a good actor. I'll be back I'm sure at some point [to talk about that film].

Question: Hollywoodland, as far as that period went, the audience was primarily interested in characters and not so much the actors' personal lives, whereas today it seems the opposite. Has that made your job harder?

Affleck: That effort creates a genuineness that then seems like you're invested in the genuineness of that trauma, of the character of Louis Simo, so then it stands to reason that whatever I read about Adrien [Brody, who plays Simo in Hollywoodland] additionally in his personal life I would also be interested in, because it's sort of the same human drama, in fact it's the same character, it's the same face. You become kind of like an actor on a soap opera that you have no control over the script or the direction, you just look at the paper every day and you find out what you did on this week's episode. Adrien's also right in that the actual art of what he does, the actual beauty and the grace and what it take to do that, people kind of aren't as interested in really. It is really interesting, but actually what happens is what everyone wants to know about is the other side. You know what I mean? You don't want to see the sausage getting made, but you like to eat it. That's sort of what's interesting. And it's a shame because I think actually the other stuff is much more interesting.


Interview: Oliver Stone & The Cast "World Trade Center"

Interview: Oliver Stone & The Cast
"World Trade Center"
Posted: Thursday, August 10th 2006 6:33AM
Author: Garth Franklin
Location: New York City, NY

This Summer's most controversial film "World Trade Center" sees Director Oliver Stone tackle the difficult topic of the events on 9/11 by doing a film about two Port Authority policemen who become trapped under the rubble of the falling twin towers. Nicolas Cage, Michael Peña, Maggie Gyllenhaal and Maria Bello star in the project and the quartet, along with Stone, have been doing press conferences across major US cities including New York itself. Here's what they had to say:

Question: Mr. Stone, this movie seems like such a departure from you, so what attracted you to doing a movie about these events at this time?

Oliver Stone: Don't pigeonhole. I change. We don't have time, but I think if you go through the film-by-film list, there's quite a bit of changes that go on. I mean, it goes from "Heaven and Earth" to "Natural Born Killers," and then... pigeon holing... This film is another one. It's just another departure in the sense of stylistically it's a simpler film, a modest film about working class people, and we have here a series of facts, a line, a chain of evidence, that's amazing, and it's still fresh enough after five years, that we can go back and have Will [Jimeno], John [McLoughlin], Scotty Strauss, Scotty Fox, numerous rescuers, the transcripts of Chuck Sereika and Dave Karnes, to help us actually put together--I can't say a documentary--but it isn't cinema verite. It isn't "United 93." It is a very tightly connected, emotional, in the tradition of Hollywood, the tightly connected emotions of four characters. Two wives, two husbands. That's a challenge, to do things that way. That's not to say I'll do it always that way. I might surprise you next time and do something with fantasy or sci-fi.

Question: Since the events of 9/11 were so traumatic, what drew you to this particular story?

Oliver Stone: There's three thousand dead, approximately, and twenty survivors. These two men--I can't speak for the other eighteen--but these two men went through the epicenter of the story symbolically, they were at the very center of the collapse, and because of John's foresight, they went to the elevator shaft that saved their lives. Only two of the five made it. And it's a story waiting, dying to be told, and the rescue of the men by this accountant in Connecticut, this ex-Marine, is something from the Hollywood movies. People don't believe it at first. We had previews, people were shocked, they didn't think that this guy existed. He did. He went to Iraq. And the rescuers themselves, Scotty Fox played himself, many of the rescuers played themselves, Scotty Strauss cooperated with us in the beginning. Each rescue was very complicated; Will was a rescue onto itself. That was finished by midnight. Very few people realize that John was rescued from about midnight to seven thirty in the morning. That's a whole other ball game, so two different types of rescues, so many challenges in this movie. Why not tell that story, because it's dying to be made.

Question: Did you make a conscious decision to go away from your last movie, "Alexander," or does a certain film just come along and catch your attention?

Oliver Stone: It's partly that. And Andrea [Berloff]'s script caught my attention, slammed me in the side of the head and said, "This is it. This is the one to do." And partly because, you know, I've been in the world of Macedonian royalty and politics and Persian courts for three years. It certainly was refreshing to come back to working class New York. I had done working class movies, "Born on the Fourth of July," part of "Wall Street," "Any Given Sunday," "Platoon"--it's good to come back and remind yourself, these are very extraordinary people because they do it everyday, they do it consistently. John McLoughlin wakes up at three twenty nine. Will gets up at what, four o'clock. I mean, these guys are out the gate and they go to work, and they're not thanked very often for it. It's a tough job.

Question: For the actors, what were your conversations like with your real-life counterparts? What did you pick up from spending time with them?

Nicolas Cage: Well, I never met anyone before who had been tested to the level that John McLoughlin had been tested on that day. So I did go into those first initial meetings with some nervousness, but he put me at ease right away. He allowed me to video tape him and ask him literally thousands of questions about the experience, how he got through it, what he relied on, images of his family, Will Jimeno, the two of them, keeping each other alive in prayer. So it was enormously helpful. I really wanted to get it right. I didn't want to let John McLoughlin down, I didn't want to let Will down, I didn't want to let the rescue team down, the families, and Oliver Stone. And all the producers and creators of this film. Without John McLoughlin's help, it wouldn't have happened.

Maggie Gyllenhaal: Everyone's been answering it, but I think, I heard that Michael [Pena] kind of moved in with you guys. He was there all the time, and he would sort of more, what you're saying you did, ask thousands of questions and spend lots and lots of time with Will. And with Allison [Jimeno] and I, it was a little bit different. I guess I felt like I also didn't want to let anyone down, and I wanted to make a movie that was as affecting as possible. I guess for me, I thought the way to do that was to experience the things that Allison experiences in the script, myself. I felt like I was worried about falling into the trap of trying to imitate Allison as opposed to experiencing it myself. But at the same time, every time I was with Allison, there was this really intense experience that really impacted me, and I think I was mostly interested in just being near her, less than actually asking her about the specifics of the day, although we did some of that. Most of what was going in was just being near you [this is said to the actual Allison Jimeno who is in attendance], but then when I watched the movie, I kind of thought I'd be like her, and I think that has to do with you [to Stone], actually. I think you had more to do with that than I.

Oliver Stone: [to Allison] I had the instinct of Maggie and you. You and I met, and it was good; we had conflict. I like her, she's a thoroughbred.

Michael Pena: I did some of what they both did, We got along right off the bat, and I asked him a lot of questions, and I was asking so many questions, so many questions, and I really, just like everybody else, I didn't want to let anybody down. And I just felt fortunate that I was even in this movie.

Oliver Stone: Well that's just not true. Will was complaining to me, he said, "How are we gonna get this wimp to play me?" And we had to build Michael up. We had to send him on running expeditions with Will. Right, Will? Tell the truth.

Michael Pena: The thing that I wanted to get right, more than anything, is I don't know, just the brotherhood, and the real feel of like un-cheesy love that you had for the people that you worked with and the people that you're trying to save. There's a line specifically, he said, "My whole life I just wanted to be a cop." I'm like, "I think we should cut it." And the first time I met him, that was like the second thing out of this mouth, so I was like, "Okay, I've got to re-evaluate the whole thing."

Question: Michael, being the least experienced of the cast, what was it like getting to work with Nick and Oliver Stone?

Michael Pena: Well, I would have to say it's an amazing experience. When they tell you that Oliver Stone wants me in his office, he wanted me to be in this movie, you think that they're joking. I thought it was bull crap. I did. But it was amazing. Working with Nic was very specific and very, very prepared going in, and I took some lessons from that, and actually to be honest with you, it was very easy to work with him, and he was encouraging me, like any chances that I thought were interesting, he really encouraged me. I'm glad that the first of these roles that I had, was with somebody like him, and then Oliver also did the same thing and encouraged me, and was saying that I'm gonna bring, you know, hopefully every role that attention to detail. He has tremendous passion for that, and it was sometimes more important how he said something, as opposed to what he said, because of the passion. He would say, "You've just gotta get it right." [laughs]

Question: Maggie, do you think you can better identify with the character you played now that you are pregnant yourself?

Maggie Gyllenhaal: I really was a little bit pregnant at the end of shooting. I was a little bit, but no one knew but me. But most of the time, yeah, most of the time I wasn't pregnant. Yeah, I think being pregnant now, trying to imagine what pregnancy is like I think for anyone who hasn't been pregnant is very hard. I mean, it's very different than you kind of think it's gonna be. So, yes, I do think maybe now I can relate to some things that Allison went through. At first I just got hit by how - you're so emotional when you're pregnant, but I've also found that I'm also pretty strong and pretty clear in pregnancy in a way that I wasn't before, so maybe there's a kind of mix, you know, it was probably both more emotional and kind of a little more rooted, for Allison, that I imagined it might have been.

Question: Oliver, can you talk about how you created the Ground Zero site?

Oliver Stone: Yeah, we built these vast interior halls in Playa del Rey in California, as well as an exterior rubble set. These were vast sets, and we had the actors in different modules, and they never saw each other, in the whole time. That's an interesting aspect to that scene. They don't even have visual contact, so it's all suggested. I think the key is lighting, I really do. There's not much camera work you can do, and I think [director of photography] Seamus McGarvey deserves tremendous credit for the work he did to really give it. When you see it, I hope you appreciate the shot. To me, the story is always about shadow and light, and they were in the darkness but they were reaching for the light, and one of the great shots, is Nick coming out of the hole at the end, into the light, and his struggle for the light, and even at home, that's why we go out to the families, because there's light there, as the day sets and their hopes diminish, you see the night comes on, so it's sort of we reversed the holes, in the domestic situations, where it becomes darker, and the holes become lighter at the end. So there's a whole kind of concept of light and dark that we're playing with.

Question: How did it feel being trapped on that set for such a long time while making the movie?

Nicolas Cage: Well, it was actually quite liberating, I'm a very kinetic actor, I like to move, but I was in that hole, boxed in like that. I didn't have to think about movement, so I was able to go inward and rely on my imagination to try to re-create, in some small way, what John's experience might have been like.

Michael Pena: Similar thing to me, in a weird way, for me, dealing with that, it was almost like doing one big monologue, and then whenever he spoke, it was like it was his thoughts that were in my head.

Question: Can each of you tell us where you were on 9/11 and what was going through your mind?

Nicolas Cage: Thoroughly unexciting. I was at home and I got a phone call saying you can't believe what's on television, turn it on. And I saw those images, and like the rest of us, I'll never be able to get out of my head. It's as simple as that.

Oliver Stone: Me, too. I was in Los Angeles at home, sleeping. My wife woke me up.

Maggie Gyllenhaal: I was living here [in New York], but actually alone, out of the country at the time. And I happened to check my email and my mom said, before anyone knew what had happened, that the World Trade Center had been bombed. Then I did everything I could to get home, took a little while, it was hard.

Michael Pena: Yeah, I was at home in Los Angeles. I got the phone call, and it brought about some interesting instincts that I think the movie touches on as well. At that point, you had like the need - I went to a friend's house, and it was funny, like twenty, twenty-five people went there. That's a reason that I was excited about this movie in particular, is because we all know what happened on that day, but this is a different story, and more of a story that touches on the need to be with each other, and like how people, they pull together in times like this.

Question: How did you try to express this rollercoaster of emotions that New Yorkers went through on that day?

Oliver Stone: Through the wives. I mean, we can only do it through the wives, Donna and Allison, and what they go through. We wanted to not only get out of the hole, to relieve the burdens of the hole, but to get to the light, to go back to Jersey. But these women went through hell. I mean, there had to be a moment in that day when they accepted that their husbands would probably not come home, and that was a very important moment, to go beyond clichés, you know? And what makes Donna--married to John for 25 or 30 years with four children--what keeps them together? It's just a cliché. If you say you're married, that doesn't mean anything. What is marriage? What are the little things in life that they will miss, take for granted. You have to ask Allison and Donna, we did, Maria [Bello] and Maggie played it the way they thought was right. And for them, it was hell. So that's the only way we can relate to it, we can't live the New York experience, only through them. And the Marine.

Question: You had the Marine in the movie express that the attacks were an "act of war." How did you feel about the resulting war and the fact that we still haven't found Osama?

Oliver Stone: I think it would've been politically correct to sanitize that, and I couldn't live with that. The film is accurate to every single person that was in it, and their emotions are naked, sometimes with things we don't like, but we gotta live with. Our movie ends on 9/12, and that's probably the story we're gonna tell. You've gotta go one day further and say, "Where were we on September 12th, 2001, and where are we now?" I think when you answer that question honestly, you have to wonder that something went wrong.

Nicolas Cage: I really don't want to attach politics to this movie. This movie is a triumph of the human spirit, it's about survival, it's about courage, and I think trying to link it to anything else right now, would take away from what the movie is really about. It's a very emotional film, it is not a downer, you walk out feeling like yeah, angels do exist, these people are heroes.

Question: How does this film exemplify the way civilians are the primary victims of conflicts, rather than soldiers?

Oliver Stone: We made the point at the end of the film that citizens from eighty-seven countries were destroyed. Most of them were civilians. It's the nature of modern warfare since Dresden, since World War II, and it's gotten worse and worse and worse. Where is it gonna end? I don't know. And I can't. I can't tell you, I'm not a war expert. I just hope to God that we can move to a peaceful world, wherein we can respect the rights of civilians, and I don't know how to do that except through international bodies and a sense of commitment from everybody to stop this destruction of civilian life.


Interview: The Cast & Crew "My Super Ex-Girlfriend"

Interview: The Cast & Crew
"My Super Ex-Girlfriend"
Posted: Wednesday, July 19th 2006 6:12AM
Author: Garth Franklin
Location: Los Angeles, CA

Uma Thurman is kicking ass yet again in "My Super Ex-Girlfriend", a new comedy in which she plays a bookish, glasses-sporting, conservatively dressed woman who, unbeknownst to the outside world, is really the super-sexy superhero G-Girl. She soon starts to date Matt (Luke Wilson), a good guy to whom she eventually reveals her true identity. It's fun for a while, but soon Jenny's insecurities get the better of her, prompting Matt to break off the relationship, which sends Jenny into a super-frenzy in which she makes his life hell.

Uma Thurman (Paycheck), Luke Wilson (Around the World in 80 Days), Rainn Wilson (Galaxy Quest), screenwriter Don Payne (The Simpsons) and director Ivan Reitman (Ghostbusters, Evolution) attended a joint press conference in New York City to talk about the film:

Question: Some people are upset that it's G-Girl and not G-Woman. Your thoughts?

Uma Thurman: Get a life [laughs]. Move on. Let's just move forward. As a real, full-fledged and aging woman, I just love the G-Girl thing.

Don Payne: I think that there's a long history of "woman" and "girl" in the names of super-heroines. So that's my defense.

Question: What does the G stand for in G-Girl?

Don Payne: What does it mean to you?

Question: Do you have a specific idea of it?

Uma Thurman: Well, has anyone ever heard the letter G used in a specific manner? Just go with that.

Ivan Reitman: We like the mystery of it [laughs].

Question: Is it more of an upside or downside that there are so many superhero movies out right now?

Uma Thurman: Well, I think that one of the great things about the script is that unlike the typical valiant-type superhero that's like, "Oh, yes, I must go save the world"--unlike that, there's a whole comedy base here with the reality of it all. Here's this girl, like any of us, who stumbles on a rock. And, by the way, she says girl because she is girl, and so if she called herself woman at 17 she would have a problem. But she really is more tense than kryptonite. She's just a real person. She wants to have a real life. She just deals with her responsibility of having super powers, but she really resents it. I guess that's the humor in the piece.

Don Payne: Absolutely. I think that it's more difficult to be a superhero than to not be. I think that it raises all kinds of problems--legal and ethical.

Uma Thurman: Financial. Fashion-wise.

Question: Do you think that this film is more of a sex comedy than a romantic comedy?

Ivan Reitman: No.

Luke Wilson: A sex comedy? No. I think that it's definitely a straightforward comedy. I think that you would agree that there [are] a couple of pretty humorous sex scenes, in a way.

Question: And you walking down the street with your sore crotch after the sky-bonk sequence?

Luke Wilson: That was a really fun thing, because Ivan had that idea, and we were actually shooting something else that day and something at night, and you get there and we had about an hour and a half of daylight, and Ivan had me get out there and do that. But it was fun to do that.

Question: Did either of you watch Fatal Attraction at all?

Uma Thurman: You caught my reference. Alex was back.

Luke Wilson: It's like Fatal Attraction in that a lot of people--you're supposed to leave that movie thinking, "Don't cheat on your wife." But I knew a lot of people that were like, "It's OK to cheat, but just stay clear of the crazies." They weren't like, "God, I really have to change the way I'm doing things."

Question: How do you prepare for these kinds of bedroom romps?

Ivan Reitman: [Laughs.] You just kind of do them.

Uma Thurman: Oh, come on. He was very easy with me. We were OK. We were very careful, and I have great precision, too. [Laughs.] They trained me, those Chinese guys. Luke was safe.

Luke Wilson: You just kind of get into them, but the fun thing about them is that usually when you have a scene like that it'll get very quiet on the set, and people are walking around in robes and it'll be a closed set, but this couldn't have been more relaxed and kind of fun. You had two huge guys down there shaking the bed. I'm like the new Ford Taurus. I'm an extremely easy ride. We don't want to shy away from the whole sex theme, sex thing--it's a part of all of our lives, I think.

Question: What were the hardest scenes for you guys to shoot with all the special effects?

Luke Wilson: The wire scenes were the most difficult to shoot because I hadn't done green screen before, where you kind of shoot everything a couple of times and they put plates up.

Uma Thurman: The sky-bonk scared you, right? That one was a challenging one.

Ivan Reitman: Yeah. I didn't want to do that scene at all. One thing that was hard was that it was really cold this [past] fall. This was one of the coldest falls that we've ever had, and we had carefully sort of tried to schedule the finale out on the street in the early part of the schedule so that we could get everyone in there, because everyone is in that one. We had a lot of scheduling issues on this film as well. We were finally able to do it in the beginning of November, hoping that "Well, New York, beginning of November, it's usually quite nice. It should be all right." It turned out to be like minus 10, minus 5. It was horrible out, and we were dying out in the street. That was the worst part of it, but it's not about that. The special effects are difficult because they're not as fun to do. Most of the time it's fun to do these things, because you have really talented actors doing humorous things together, and that's the joy of it.

Question: Is this film a metaphor for the lives that you lead as celebrities and stars?

Ivan Reitman: That's a good question.

Luke Wilson: That is a good question. I would say that there's really one superstar here. I hear what you're saying, but I wasn't really ever drawing any metaphors like that from my life.

Rainn Wilson: Do you know what the word metaphor means? [Laughs.]

Luke Wilson: The guy has been using that line for two days, and they love it every time. Yesterday was about the word hubris. No, but I'm in the process of trying to answer your question. I really don't know what to say to that. I probably shouldn't have been the one to answer that question.

Uma Thurman: Sometimes I would catch Rainn crying in his trailer. The girls just kept him up all night long. No one understands him, and no one talks to him for who he is. Luke, the same thing. On some simple level there is that, sure. Of course it's that thing that fame or something like that, just the extra special-ness of it all--there is a nice side to it, but sometimes you want it just extra-normal and it's not just quite the same, but it's not a big deal.