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Entries in interview (74)

Friday
Oct172014

Birdman's Beating Heart: An Interview with Composer Antonio Sanchez

Birdman, the pitch-black comedy from Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu that recently took the festival circuit by storm, opens in theaters today. Among its most distinctive and arresting features is its drum-based score, composed by Grammy-winning jazz drummer Antonio Sanchez. A classically trained musician considered by both critics and peers to be among the foremost drummers, bandleaders and composers in contemporary jazz, the Mexico City native had never scored a film before his partnership with Iñárritu. Margaret caught up with him to discuss the project. The soundtrack was released on October 14, on Milan records.

Margaret: Since you’re a first time film composer, how did you get involved with Birdman

ANTONIO SANCHEZ: I met Alejandro [Gonzalez Iñárritu] a few years back—there’s a very famous jazz guitar player that I play with a lot named Pat Metheney—and Alejandro has been a big Pat Metheney fan for a long time. In fact, the first time I ever heard Pat Metheney was in Mexico City when Alejandro used to DJ this radio show back in the day.

Margaret: No way!

ANTONIO SANCHEZ: He had a radio show on WFM 96.9 in Mexico City that played really hip, modern music-- music you would not normally hear on Mexican radio stations. I became a fan really fast.

Years later I was playing with Pat Metheney in L.A., and Alejandro came to the concert. I met him afterward, we really hit it off, and we kept in touch. Last year he called me to say he was going to shoot a film in the next couple months and was thinking that the perfect film score would be just drums, solo drums. And while of course I was interested, I had no idea how it was going to work. Like you said, it was my first time scoring a film, and also just drums? I had no idea how that would sound 

[Dreams of EGOT & Internal Monologues after the jump...]

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct162014

Interview: Jorge Gutierrez & Guillermo del Toro on "The Book of Life"

Jorge Gutierrez has won two Annie awards and an Emmy, but in order to get his passion project The Book Of Life (which opens tonight!) onto the screen, he needed a little help. Gutierrez found it in Guillermo del Toro. The Mexican fantasy director has been using his production company to foster new visions in genres like horror and animation. A little bit Orpheus and Euridice, a little bit Dia de Los Muertos, and a little bit musical theater, The Book Of Life is anything but ordinary.

Anne Marie here. I was lucky enough to interview Guillermo del Toro and Jorge Gutierrez when they came to San Diego Comic Con in July. But before I could even start asking questions, del Toro noticed the squid design on my necklace, and launched into a rhapsodic monologue about his favorite movie, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. From that point on, I basically just held on to my seat as del Toro and Gutierrez riffed on each other with the ease of good friends and partners. They discussed everything from Ray Harryhausen to the purpose of a director to whether children’s movies need bad guys.

Here's how it went...

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: [20,000 Leagues Under the Sea] is a magnificent movie. And to this day I collect models of the Nautilus.

ANNE MARIE: Of the Nautilus?

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: Yeah. I have, I think I have most every one, except the ten meter one, which is too big for me... But I have the 3 ft one. I have the little ones, the medium ones, the electric ones, the ones that light up [JG laughs] the ones that make a little noise, all of that. That and The Time Machine are my two favorite sort of steampunk-y pieces of design.

JORGE GUTIERREZ: It’s awesome. It holds up, too. Anyways! [Laughs]

ANNE MARIE: You’ve both described The Book of Life as a personal pet project. Can you talk a little about the process of getting it going?

JORGE GUTIERREZ: Absolutely! Fifteen years I’ve been working on this, based on a student short I did at Cal Arts. When I graduated I pitched it everywhere. Everyone said, “Nah, you’re just a kid out of school. No one wants to see this stuff.”

GUILLERMO DEL TORO: “You don’t understand.”

JG: “You don’t understand. We need talking animal movies.” Literally, that’s what I was told at every meeting.

[More...]

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Sunday
Oct052014

Interview: Matthew Warchus (Pride, God of Carnage, Matilda The Musical) on Stage and Screen Transfers

Portions of this interview originally appeared in Nathaniel's column at Towleroad discussing "Pride," the year's most adorable movie. This is the full interview with additional topics, Matilda the Musical's upcoming film adaptation chief among them.

If you didn't get to cinemas these past two weekends, the year's most adorable movie is still waiting for you, eager to please. Pride has been playing New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco but will add new cities next Friday. I expect all Film Experiencers to turn out for it! If you've read my review (aka paragraphs of me drooling on the movie) you'll know it's the true life LGBT story of a group of activists in the 1980s that stood up for striking miners during Margaret Thatcher’s bullying reign. The film is looking to be a "word of mouth" hit in miniature, but CBS Films plans to nurture it towards larger sleeper status. They'll be expanding carefully.

Two weeks back I had the opportunity to talk with the director Matthew Warchus who had just attended a pre-release screening with a "tumultous reaction" in LA. The 46 year old director, a stage veteran and Tony winner, recently replaced Kevin Spacey as the artistic director of the Old Vic so he isn't leaving the boards, he's just multi-tasking. He's already working on his follow up to Pride, a big screen adaptation of the Tony nominated hit Matilda: The Musical.

I talked to him about both projects, his stage directing skill set and how it affects his film work and how he approaches moving a property across mediums.

NATHANIEL R: You’ve done a lot of stage work before this. What do you think most prepared you for to tell this particular story and on film? 

MATTHEW WARCHUS: One great bit of preparation: I grew up in a village in the middle of nowhere in the North of England surrounded by coal mines and massively isolated. We had moved into that village so we were outsiders, wanting to to assimilate and be accepted. That gave me an understanding of how those communities work and the positives and minuses.

[Adapting musicals, sharing Pride, and more after the jump...]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul292014

Interview: Adapting "Guardians of the Galaxy" for the Screen

Anne Marie interviewed Nicole Perlman, the screenwriter of Guardians of the Galaxy which opens this weekend

Nicole Perlman, Screenwriter"Nicole Perlman" has been a name shrouded in mystery since Marvel announced Guardians of the Galaxy two years ago. Though the screenwriter has received awards for her writing, Guardians will be her first official screen credit. (She shares co-screenwriting credit with Guardians director James Gunn). I sat down with her over the weekend at Comic Con to learn a little more about the woman who turned Guardians of the Galaxy from cult comic hit to Marvel's biggest blockbuster experiment. We talked about Guardians, her new project with Cirque du Soleil, and how screenwriters make terrible movie audiences.

ANNE MARIE: You started with getting your Challenger screenplay on the Black List, which is really cool, and then did a complete jump into Marvel. Tell me about that!

NICOLE PERLMAN: I had moved to Los Angeles after Challenger. It was on the Black List, it won the Tribecca Grant for Science and Film, and I was getting a lot of science-related screenplay projects, which was great, and I love science-related stuff. So I was happy about it.

I did a Neil Armstrong biopic for Universal, and I was doing things in that realm. And I would go out and pitch on projects that were science fiction or action and I got a little push back about it. I got, 'This doesn't seem like your genre, or your world.' There was a little bit of that like 'This is a really masculine movie. We don't know if you could handle it.' And I'm like, 'But you thought I could handle it enough that I could pitch on it, so that's interesting.'  But it was mostly a feeling of [having a] question mark, of could I handle something like that.

When I was having a general meeting with Marvel Studios, they mentioned they had a writers program, and they wanted to know if I wanted to be a part of it. And of course I leapt at the chance, I wanted that stamp on my resume. And I also wanted to show that like I could do the fun big action movies that I loved, and the science fiction movies. And it worked out really well, so thank goodness! 

Yeah, clearly! The President of Marvel has stated he never thought of Guardians of the Galaxy as movie material until he read your stuff.

Oh that's nice! That's really lovely.

So what made you choose Guardians out of all of the list of options for projects?

[more...]

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jun242014

Filming Dance in "Test"

One of this year's best indies Test is about a young understudy dancer in San Francisco. Though it's only made a teensy bit of money in a microscopic theatrical run (that's happening to more and more indies) at one point it climbed to the top 15 on iTunes' indie chart.

TEST's dance troupe at rehearsal

It's a topic for another time perhaps but I wonder how far we are away from box office reports that include money from On Demand and iTunes now that so many films hit all three venues at once or in quick succession?

The following are unused excerpts (edited for length) from my Towleroad interview last week with Chris Mason Johnson the director. I thought they were well suited to you cinephile savvy musical-friendly nuts anyway. It's rare that we get such attentively filmed and beautiful dancing onscreen so I had to ask him about the camerawork and how his history as a dancer played into the movie.

Chris Mason Johnson with his prizes from "OutFest"Nathaniel: Test is your second movie and it feels confident.

CHRIS MASON JOHNSON: Well after The New Twenty (2008) -- making movies is a combination of a hugely difficult set of skills. In the old days all the famous directors we know from the classic era, they apprenticed forever. I think Robert Altman did 11 TV movies before his first feature. In our culture it's this crazy kind of 'come out of the door fully formed and go to Sundance' mythology. It's bullshit. TV is the new Hollywood in a way -  people can learn their craft there.

Why the long break between your two movies?

I tried to get something much more commercial off the ground. It was the classic story of waiting on money. Almost getting going, etcetera. It was such a demoralizing experience because you have no power. At a certain point I said 'Screw it. I know how to make movies and I'm going to do something small and personal.' 

Dance gives the familiar backdrop [the AIDS crisis in the 80s] such a fresh angle. 

It's just as much about dance as it is about anything else. In terms of the dance, I did a fun thing with the dance climax scene where the understudy goes on. That's been the über dance narrative from 42nd street through The Red Shoes through The Turning Point through Black Swan. That's always the story and I wanted to do that again but I wanted to do it how I'd experienced it. I'd gone on multiple times, one time with Barysynikov, one time in New York and you prove yourself and it's amazing. And then you go back to work the next day, the person gets better, and you're watching it again.

It's very different than the Broadway version where you become a star. So I put the dance in the middle of the movie. That's always the climax of those movies but I put it smack in the middle which is a different kind of structure. 

As an aficionado of musicals, I have to tell you that it was hugely refreshing to see a complete dance number that didn't cut every second to a new angle or stay with closeups. That makes me so crazy. You pulled the camera back. Thank you!

It makes me crazy, too. In terms of the overall style we wanted to hit this perfect balance where real dancers would like it and it was real dancing but also just fun for an audience. We knew we wanted to do really exciting contemporary dance. In terms of framing there's this happy medium where you frame the full body and you respect the space but you also cut enough and move the camera enough for dynamics. Otherwise it would be inert. Pina did a genius job of that. I loved that.

For me the moving camera is like a moving body is in choreography so I love playing with that. 

The cinematography is beautiful which surprised me. That's a craft that's hit & miss with indies.

This was $200,000 [budget]. In some sense people really only understand indies on that microbudget level if they look microbudget: down and dirty and gritty. Everyone gets that mode. When you get something that looks really polished and cinematic, it's harder for people to make sense of it on a microbudget. My cinematographer's name is Daniel Marks. It's his first feature out of AFI but I've known him for ten years. He's just super talented. The script was not dialogue based so we planned it as images. I really love an image based cinema and that's not the dominant strain in America.  I'm really happy with the way it looks.

Even though you've said you'd like to move toward TV, I hope you're planning to continue with dance. TV needs more dance that's not reality show competitions.

The question is did Smash ruin the theater for network? From the powers that be point of view 'Oh we tried it, it didn't work!'

Have you seen Test yet, readers? Do you love the trope of the understudy who goes on?

Monday
Jun162014

Bobby Holland Hanton: The Man Who Has Been Thor, Batman, and Bond

Bobby Holland HantonHave you ever fantasized about being a superhero? Bobby Holland Hanton doesn't need to. He's done it time and again.

Though he's only been in the movie business since Quantum of Solace (2008), the young fit Brit stuntman has already worn the Batsuit, Thor's cape, James Bond's suits, and... well whatever it is anyone was wearing on the set of Green Lantern before it was replaced by CGI. You can see Bobby somewhere in the battle sequences of Maleficent at the moment, albeit much less foregrounded than he usually is due to doubling a who's who of A list leading men.

A former gymnast, he competed for Great Britain until he was 17, he lives a very regimented life. Before any shoot, he shifts the training to "match" the body of whoever he'll be stunt doubling for. He's stepped in on the difficult stuff for Christian Bale, Daniel Craig, Jake Gyllenhaal, Ryan Reynolds, and Channing Tatum. He's with Chris Hemsworth all the time now, which is hard work due to his size.

Hemsworth is huge and when he's Thor he's massive"

To prepare for The Avengers Age of Ultron he was training six days a week, twice a day to look like the God of Thunder. You'll see Bobby -- but you won't know you're seeing him since that's the magic and the craft  -- as Hemsworth's more acrobatic twin on two 2015 pictures: Heart of the Sea and the superhero sequel. He's also doing Captain America stunt work on Ultron somehow though we hope not in the same scene. 

I spoke to this in-demand stunt man by phone. Superpowerless mortal that I am, I couldn't very well fly to South Korea to drop in on the day's filming of The Avengers! He was out of Thor's wig on a rare early finish day (it's usually "six to six and longer") and he'd already had dinner, trained, showered and applied all his Dove Men + Care products*. He'll start the routine again the next day in the wee hours of the morning, for makeup and costuming, clipped and banded into Thor's long blond tresses all of which is rough on the hair and skin, hence the products. [*Yes, this is your requisite product placement scene within the movie. Bobby is a spokesperson for the line. I received a set in the mail after the interview which was a most welcome surprise.]

I'd never spoken to a stuntman before so at first I had to get the skinny on how one gets started. Gymnasts are naturals which should surprise no one...

[Bobby talks Hemsworth, Tatum, Batman & Bond  AFTER THE JUMP...]

Click to read more ...

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...

Click to read more ...