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Entries in interview (69)

Saturday
Mar222014

Interview: Alfre Woodard on Her Favorite Roles

Alfre Woodard has been an American treasure on screens large and small since the early 80s when she first broke through in a big way with her Oscar nominated supporting role as "Geechee" in Martin Ritt's Cross Creek (1983). Yesterday we learned that Alfre will be co-starring in a new series pilot "State of Affairs" starring Katharine Heigl as a CIA Operative. Woodard is tapped to play none other than the President of the United States who Heigl counsels.

That'd be shocking given how slowly American politics moves toward inclusiveness, were it not for Woodard's natural gravitas. Last year, that formidable screen presence was put to uncommonly good use as the fascinating Mistress Shaw, a slave who married her master, in the Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave. We recently celebrated that small but pivotal role right here in our own awards.

With 12 Years now on DVD and the announcement of her new role, it seemed like a perfect time to look back on her career beginning with that amazing cameo and working our way backward to her favorite roles. They might surprise you...

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Tuesday
Feb252014

Interview: Patricia Norris on 12 Years a Slave, Scarface, Twin Peaks

Patricia Norris with her lifetime achievement from the Costume Guild in 2007Patty Norris is a national treasure but I believe she'd be the last person to say so. When I spoke to the enduring costume designer over the phone about sixth Oscar nomination for 12 Years a Slave, she shocked me again and again with her modesty and her absolute lack of sentiment about what I've always thought of as a very illustrious Hollywood career. But her honestly was, shall we say, refreshing.

The 82 year old's career, as we know it at least, began over just over 40 years ago with westerns like Rio Lobo (1970) and Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971) but she doesn't get misty-eyed or nostalgic about her filmography. "I think it was just luck. I started as a stock girl at MGM and I've always been comfortable with clothes," she explains. But to hear her tell it, her developing career wasn't born of and ambitious creative drive, but from practicality.  "I was married but I was left with five children and I had to support them! So you start taking almost any work. There are a few I would like not to think about!" 

I instantly worry (aloud) that I'll touch on one of those accidentally but if I do in the ensuing conversation, she doesn't let on.

I assumed her current flurry of work (Killing Them Softly, The Immigrant, 12 Years a Slave) was a sudden return from retirement but she corrects the impression. She's just picky since she's been frugal. "It's one of those things. Save your money and you don't have to do anything. I do just what I want to do. If it doesn't come along I just do housework." 

Happily for fans of costume dramas, The Immigrant and 12 Years a Slave came along. And these she definitely wanted to do. [more...]

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Monday
Feb242014

Interview: Matthew McConaughey and the Body

McConaughey and those haunted eyes in True DetectiveIt's hard to get a moment with a major movie star. They're tightly scheduled and you have to go from 0 to 60 once you're in front of them, recorder on. Nevertheless the stars themselves usually seem relaxed enough through their long promotional efforts for Oscar films as the world's slowest seated wedding line commences with one journalist after another sitting down with them one by one for a quick conversation. I'm sure our faces all blur together forming one lumpy mecha-journalist for the star. Their faces, on the other hand, remain individualized and imprinted in each of ours from frequent exposure and mythology.

The first thing I notice about Matthew McConaughey in person, apart from the inevitable "how much weight has he gained back?" instant check, is his eyes. They're blue, sure, but the darkest blue I've seen up close and more than a little intense. They're so inky blue, in fact that they look dangerous and unfamiliar despite years of movie appearances. (I hadn't yet seen True Detective in which they reappear). The voice counterbalances them surprisingly well, instantly familiar and Texas friendly.

I sat down with McConaughey last year as his Oscar buzz was building for Dallas Buyers Club (he was on a weekend break from filming Interstellar when we spoke). I was surprised to hear that despite his busy schedule he's been getting the weekends off which he says he needs though he was sacrificing some to support his now Oscar nominated film "Which I am happy to do!" he added, quickly. I had planned to stay off the topic of weight loss (he lost 47 lbs for the role), which has been discussed too often for an award-winning performance that is most impressive for its emotional content, but I made the mistake of leading with it. And it's a topic he kept drifting back to. But then, why shouldn't he? His body has hardly been easy to separate from his acting, either, whether he's playing hunky romcom leads, male strippers, pumped up dragon slayers, or, as recently, an emaciated AIDS patient or an eerily stiff and sinewy police detective.

Our interview after the jump

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Wednesday
Feb192014

Interview: Lupita Nyong'o on 12 Years, Non-Stop and Her Future

On Lupita Nyong'o's Instagram account she captioned this one:

Yes, a chocolate BAFTA will do quite nicely, thank you!

A golden BAFTA woulda been better but what can you do?

Recently it came to me in a flash: Lupita Nyong'o is the new Jessica Chastain!  Think about it: classically trained movie actress in her early 30s goes from complete unknown to everyone's favorite in the blink of an eye in a critically acclaimed movie (movies plural in Chastain's case) and proves herself a complete and utter natural at celebrity, red carpets, fashion, and social media. 

Of course I didn't know all this when I first sat down with Lupita in the fall in the first rush of acclaim for Twelve Years a Slave, a meeting I shamefully neglected to tell you about until now. Looking over the transcript it occurs to me that the past few months have been so eventful that pieces of our conversation barely make sense. We're conversing as if she isn't a huge celebrity. But the right role at the right time can permanently change things for an actor. [More...]

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Tuesday
Feb182014

Interview: Michael O'Connor on "Fussy" Costumes & Principal Actresses

A curious reversal: I'm discussing Oscar-voting with costume designer Michael O'Connor, an Oscar winner for The Duchess (2008) nominated again for his work on the Dickensian romantic drama The Invisible Woman and he reveals that, though he takes voting seriously, he doesn't really think it's a good thing to know too much about the behind the scenes achievements on movies, beyond what you can see and judge visually. 

Michael O'Connor and one of his Oscar-nominated designs from The Invisible Woman

That’s why I don’t teach or do classes. I don't think it would be a good experience. I want the discussion when I’m doing it because it helps me work but when you watch [a movie] you shouldn’t know the discussions. When you watch a film sometimes and stay for the Q&A it’s changed the experience because now you know some of the secrets. Some of the magic is not knowing. 

And, yet, once you get Michael O'Connor talking about his craft, he doesn't quit (a wonderful problem in an interview) and his passion for Costume Design is always front and center. I'm not at all convinced that he wouldn't make a good teacher but his students would have to be quick, as he leaps from topic to topic, sometimes without warning. 

From our vantage point in 2014 his current status as an Oscar winning costume designer seems inevitable...

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