Indie Film Spotlight: ‘Project Eden Vol.1’ + Interview with lead actor Peter Christian Hansen

This is the first time I’m actually doing a three-part interview posts for a single film, but it’s the first time I’m featuring an International production starring a pair of Twin Cities actors! This weekend I posted my interview with Emily Fradenburgh, the female lead of Project Eden Vol. I, so today I’m featuring the male lead Peter Christian Hansen. Some of you might notice that he’s the lead actor in my script reading post, so before even seeing this movie, I already knew the filmmakers picked the right talent for the job!

I’m thrilled that Twin Cities Film Fest is sponsoring the Minneapolis premiere of the film this Wednesday, February 15 (you can get your tickets here). I’m also looking forward to seeing the duo filmmakers Terrance Young and Ashlee Jensen who flew in all the way from Sunshine Coast, Australia!


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Since Peter lived in town, we’re able to sit down for our interview. We went to this charming Irish coffee house, Claddagh Cafe on West 7th in St. Paul, as it’s not as noisy as the big chain coffee houses. We started off with conversations about his theatre background and general discussion about acting for various mediums before we dived in and talked about his work in Project Eden.

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Q: First let me ask about your theatre career as you’ve done an extensive amount of stage work here in town. How many shows do you typically do a year?

Depends entirely on the year. This past year and a half has been different for me as I’ve been doing a lot of film and I’ve done very little stage work. Usually I do about 3-6 shows a year. Well, more like 3-5 shows and then I’d do smaller workshops, readings and other smaller projects throughout the year.

Q: How do you approach a particular project. As you run your own theatre (Gremlin Theatre), how do you choose which plays you’d do there, as well as other stage work around the Twin Cities?

I do have the luxury of choosing which plays I would produce. But otherwise I’m at the mercy of somebody else. So I’d do auditions for other stage productions or someone might call me and say, ‘hey do you want to come in and do this?’

Q: Would you talk a bit about the inception of Gremlin Theatre?

I started it back in 1998, so about eighteen years ago right after college. We stared it because we were a bunch of young actors with weird schedules. So me and this actress I was working with at the time, we were doing this touring children theatre thing where we’d go around these different places in the Upper Midwest doing a bunch of different shows. So we’re on the road all the time and we couldn’t really audition for anything else or be involved in anything else, so over the course of the year, we’re always looking for something to do. So we and some other friends who had strange schedules thought ‘hey why don’t we start our own show?’ and so it got started that way and we just kept it up.

One of the first shows we ever did, we actually built out a space temporarily into a performance space. So that was our model for a while. We had a couple places that we rented for a little bit or we’d book a theatre. A couple of years later, we took another space and converted it temporarily into a theatre. Then after that we decided we wanted to build our own place, so we built our first space in 2002 in Downtown St. Paul. We had that for six years. It’s great because we had it as our home but we also could rent it out to other companies. So there’s a lot of opportunities for other performers to use that space, which is good.

Gremlin Theatre Artistic director/founder Peter Hansen sits in the St. Paul theater, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (Pioneer Press: Chris Polydoroff)
Gremlin Theatre Artistic director/founder Peter Hansen sits in the St. Paul theater, Wednesday, March 13, 2013. (Pioneer Press: Chris Polydoroff)

Then we moved to another space on University Avenue and that was a cool space. We had a lot of success so that was really great. But we’ve been looking for a space where we could be in for the long haul, so we closed down that space in 2013 because it wasn’t going to be that place. It wasn’t going to be in the long term. So the last couple of years we’ve been producing in various locations, taking on different projects that don’t have to be in our space, while we think about where we want to be. Well recently we found our space [in Vandalia Tower, St. Paul] and that’ll be great as we can be there for a long time. It’s going to be an exciting performance space. So yeah, that’s sort of the evolution of our company.

Q: So were you a theatre major in college in St. Olaf College? 

No, my majors were History and Latin. But I did tons of theatre when I was in college and also back in high schools. I just never majored in it, I think I’ve taken maybe two [acting] classes total. I think training is good, it’s worth a lot of things. But for me, the best training is by doing. I certainly learned by doing. One of the first jobs I got out of college was I got hired as an actor for the touring children company, and I was fortunate to keep getting work. And also, as a producer you can provide work for yourself. It’s great as you’re not always at someone else’s mercy and you get to choose projects that you think are worthwhile. The downside is that, well, what’s nice about working for someone else is they’d just hand you a paycheck.

Q: Now that you’ve done TV, films and theatre. What’s one main difference between those three formats in terms of how you approach the role you are playing?

I think the main difference is, unless you’re working on a movie that has like an enormous set of budget where you have a whole lot of time to prepare, in theatre you get a lot of rehearsals. With films or TV, you don’t get that. I mean you do have the script and you prepare on your own, but a lot of it is going as you go. You shoot as you go, you don’t usually get a lot of rehearsal time. But at the same time, it’s sort of like rehearsal and performing rolled into one in film, as you’d have to do a bunch of takes so you explore things as you’re going. For me, I always find that I learn about the story, about my role and other people’s roles while I’m doing [the scenes]. But in theatre, you get that during rehearsals, as well as during the live performances. But in film, the process is sort of rolled together…you learn as you’re shooting the thing. So I think there’s a different sort of way of how things are discovered.

Peter in a 2015 production of H20 with Ashley Rose Montondo
Peter in a 2015 Gremlin Theatre’s production of H20 with Ashley Rose Montondo

Also, the time commitment is so much less in film. But theatre is so much more time consuming. That doesn’t mean that [doing a] film is easier or less tiring as I find them to be just as tiring and demanding in very different ways. I usually feel really energized after I put in a really good day’s work, especially in a theater performance. It’ll take me a while to wind down and go to sleep. It doesn’t make me tired. Even if I’m exhausted, I’m still energized. It just stimulates my mind a lot, it’s a very physical thing what you do on stage. I’m not saying I don’t get that with films, it’s not that I never get the same sensation, but there’s a different rhythm to it. You have to pace yourself very differently, so I guess the pacing is what I find really different between the two mediums.

Q:  Do you feel that theatre is a “purer” form of acting, if you will, than films or TV?

No, I don’t feel that’s true. I would say that for something where you’re essentially doing the same thing, you’re using a different muscle, if you will. So there’s a root or a trunk that’s the same, but then you find different ways of what you’re going to do. I don’t think one is purer than the other. Some might say that film is purer because you can be so up close and personal an more natural, but I don’t find it to be the case either. I wouldn’t say one is necessarily ‘a mirror up to nature’ you might say [nice Hamlet reference there!], because you’re conveying someone’s story through two different mediums, so neither one of them is really sitting down at a table like I am with you. One of them is a film, the other is a stage. We fool ourselves into thinking that one or the other is like real life. It’s not that one is purer than the other. It’s just different.

Q: Now, spring-boarding into ‘Project Eden’. I’ve always championed female directors and here we’ve got a pair of male and female directors helming the the project. How was the experience of working with them?

It was cool as we’ve got two different perspective of going about things. Some of it is simply because Ashlee is a woman and Terrance is a man. But also partly because of the different focus they both brought into the project. He’s good in the technical side, whilst she worked more on the performance aspect for the characters. At the same time, I don’t want to give the impression that their worlds don’t overlap. It’s very rare that they weren’t on the same page as to what they wanted, both from the technical aspect and how they want the performance to be, how they want to tell the story. If that wasn’t the case, then it’s also to their credit as they’ve certainly done a good job in shielding that from me and the other performers.

Yes, there’s always that initial worry as to ‘Well who’s going to be calling the shots here? What happens if they don’t agree on something?’ But from the very first time I met them, I didn’t feel like it was going to be the case. We had an interesting audition process for this, and I really liked them both personally from the moment I met them. So I was really excited to work with them. It has been true the whole way through, I just really enjoyed them both as people, which makes working with them really fun. It’s been a delight working with them, and it’s not always the way it goes in my career. One of my favorite part about this whole project has been getting to know them and being a part of this whole journey of Project Eden.

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Photo credits Alyssa Schneider via Project Eden Facebook

Q: How did you come aboard this project? Would you speak a bit about the casting/audition process?

When the filmmakers decided they wanted to shoot partly here and brought some people from here to the project, they contacted my talent agency and so I went and read for them. A lot of the audition process is chatting with them about the project, but we also did some of the performance. So we did some scenes and they filmed it. They wanted me to bring in a monologue so I did a bit of that on camera as well, but we also spent some time together.

Q: Tell us a bit your character, Ethan Varick.

He’s a bit of a wild card. There’s a lot of unknowns in this movie, it’s about how we start to put the puzzle together as the film progresses. When we’re first introduced to him, we don’t necessarily know if we should trust him or not. In fact, that’s the question that goes throughout the whole the movie, we don’t know if we should trust him or not… Which side is he on? What is he after? He is conflicted a bit himself. He’s a character who has a very troubled past, someone who’s trying to find himself in the midst of a story that’s much larger than himself. He is searching for the truth. The thing for him is that regardless of some of the things that transpire in the course of the movie, centering around trying to figure out who everybody is, the core of what he is after, in his own way, is truth.

In the trailer it’s revealed that he’s lost his daughter and his wife, so that’s the common bond he has with Emily Fradenburg‘s character Evelyn whose son is in danger. But he seeks her out and she’s trying to figure out why he seeks her out, what does he know about her. And she’s been warned off of him, so the theme is who do you trust.

Q: I like that this is more of a grounded sci-fi, it’s a more relatable world like the one we live in now.

Yes, it is a sci-fi movie but the world it’s set in isn’t an outrageous world. It’s not a post-apocalyptic nightmare with monkey people running around. It’s pretty much like the world we’re in now but with a few twists. The world is different enough to allow us to explore interesting possibilities, as well as metaphysical ideas that pick up steam as the film goes along.

Q: Is it set in the future?

It’s set in the same world we live in now, perhaps a little bit in the future but the world isn’t quite the same world we live in. That’s the sci-fi part, otherwise it’s the same world. It’s not 100% clear where the characters and events are set in. So the world is familiar, but it’s not quite the same.

Q: The scenery that’s in the trailer, it looks absolutely stunning. Tell us a bit about filming in New Zealand.

New Zealand is a beautiful place. One of the things that’s great about it was you can go quickly from location to location. So we shot those beautiful forest and the sand dunes, it was like 20 yards away from each other. So in between takes, we were sitting high up on the sand dunes, Emily and I. It was kind of windy that day, I remember I started laughing like a little kid and she’s like, ‘what are you laughing about?’ And I said, ‘whatever else people might take away from this movie, when I watched this I’d feel like I’m watching Emily & Pete’s Travel Log, going from one exotic place to another.’

So yeah, we parked in the same lot. We shot the forest part, then we went down an access road and into the beach. There’s this huge dunes and whichever way you pointed the camera, it’s just ridiculously beautiful.
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Q: What’s the most memorable moment of filming? Any particular on-set snafus that stood out to you?

I tell you one of the most memorable nights. We were shooting in this place called Waipu (about 2 hours north of Auckland). We were shooting a night shoot, an overnight shoot, it was a pretty ambitious schedule. We just had one delay and difficulty after another. We had problems getting up to the location, which you could ask them [Ashlee & Terrance] in more details, but basically it’s one of those nights that culminated into not shooting a 4-hour scene at the end of the night that we have to pick up the next day. I think it’s totally the right call that I’m glad they made, as it’s the end of a long series of events of things getting pushed back and having problems.

It was memorable for a whole host of reasons, including the power generator going down, being caught in this rainstorm that wouldn’t stop. We were shooting this car chase and the weather would come in and out. We were sitting in the car and it started to rain. So people would come over with these umbrellas to keep the camera dry and then try to keep us from getting wet inside. Then it would stop raining and they would have to wipe down the cars so they don’t look wet. We tried to shoot some scenes and then it would rain again so people would come in again so we’d do this over and over. So that was memorable.

Q: How was your experience working with Emily Fradenburgh?

She’s great. We’ve worked together on smaller projects like readings and stuff, but she and I haven’t worked directly on a project like this. I feel like I’ve known her for a long time but we’ve never collaborated that way. She’s very sweet, very conscientious, always wants to help out, she always tries to do the right thing. She’s very giving, just lovely to work with. I had a good time shooting this with her.
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I’m lucky with this project. I’ve been in a lot of projects, some are smoother than others. Sometimes you have to work with people you don’t care for that much. But I felt like we’re lucky with this one as everyone got along. It also helps that everyone was in on the project, everybody bought in. When that happens you have goodwill to fall back on. You have a sense of teamwork instead of just the hired hands.

Q: What’s your own favorite sci-fi films? 

I like movies but I don’t watch a ton of them. My favorite sci-fi films are the original Star Wars trilogy. And what I really like is the old Twilight Zone episodes where the world is kind of like the world that we know, but a little bit different and weird. I like that when you take the rules and mix them up a little bit. I’m a big fan of those classic sci-fis like those.

Q: Well I noticed the name is Volume I. So are you going to be on Vol. II? 

Well I don’t want to give anything away as I don’t want to give the ending of the movie, but you know what, I guess I can tell you that there will be Vol. II as I think it’s already on IMDb. We’ll see where we’ll film the next bit. In fact I’m hoping there will make three volumes, I think there’s enough materials for three films. So definitely there will be more because the movie gets us to a certain point of the story, and no farther. They’ve always planned for more films. The way we shot this movie, we’re only telling the first part of the story.


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Peter @ Claddagh Cafe, St. Paul – Feb 9, 2017


THANK YOU so much Peter for the delightful conversation.
Can’t wait to finally see this movie on Wednesday,
here’s hoping there’ll be a Project Eden trilogy!

Indie Film Spotlight: ‘Project Eden Vol.1’ + Interview with lead actress Emily Fradenburgh

It’s always a privilege when I get the chance to chat with indie filmmakers and actors from all over the world. I actually have heard from my dear friend Kirsten Gregerson, who has a small role in this movie, a year ago. Well, imagine my excitement when I heard that Twin Cities Film Fest is sponsoring the Minneapolis premiere of the film on Wednesday, February 15! (you can get your tickets here)

I got to meet Emily Fradenburgh last year at TCFF so I’m thrilled to be able to interview her for this film. It’s interesting how everything is connected, as it so happens that Emily’s co-star Peter Christian Hansen ended up doing my script reading last January! (stay tuned for my interview with him early next week!)


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Q: First let me ask you about ‘Project Eden.’ How did you come aboard this project?

I first heard about Project Eden when I received a call from my agency, Moore Creative Talent.

Q: Did you have to audition for the role? Tell us a bit about the casting process.

I did have to audition. I always try to gather as much information about the production team/project as I can before an audition to get a sense of their style. I researched Mad Anth’m and watched their first movie, 500 Miles. We were given a monologue and sides and were asked to perform an additional monologue. When I found out I was being called back I was given notes and was asked to wear a singlet…which is what we call a wrestling garment in the U.S…in Australia it’s basically a tank top- good thing I clarified before I came in for the second audition. I again performed the sides and did another monologue. Then Ashlee (Jensen) and Terrance (Young) wanted to get to know me more and asked my feelings about the independent film process and we touched on some themes of the movie. I later found out that it was this latter part of the callback that was the deciding factor in them casting me as Evelyn Green.

Q: Tell us a bit more about your character Evelyn Green, and what appeals to you about portraying her?

In this first installment we get a glimpse of what life has been like for Evelyn Green for the last 7 years. Despite all that she’s gone through, she remains a dedicated mother and is willing to go to extremes in order to find answers that could mean the difference between life and death. I was drawn to this role because she’s not just on a physical journey, we slowly get to see her transition emotionally too. Evelyn will go through a major transformation in Project Eden Vol. II, which I’m so looking forward to, but that’s all I can say about that for now 😉

Q: How was the experience working in New Zealand with the Aussie filmmakers?

Everything wonderful that you’ve ever heard about NZ is true! It wasn’t hard for me to act like I didn’t know what was going to be around the next corner: a forest opened up to sand dunes which unveiled the ocean- absolutely breath taking! Not only were the Australian filmmakers fantastic to work with but the cast and crew consisted of talented folks on both sides of the camera from all over the world: New Zealand, UK, Finland, Italy, US, Canada and South Africa. It was remarkable the way everyone came together to help tell this global story.

Q: It must have been fun to film all the action scenes. Any particular memorable moment from the set?

Indeed it was! We had fight choreographers, stunt coordinators, an armorer, and stunt drivers. One of the most thrilling days for me on set was riding in the truck with a stunt driver named Gareth. He was amazing! It also became a challenge as a performer- I had to fight my instincts to be giddy and cheer him on while filming a dramatic scene.

Q:  There were several Twin Cities cast members in the film, Peter, Kirsten and also Aleshia Mueller as the script supervisor. How was the experience working with them in an International production?

The MN actors and crew are top notch- MN really has it all. 10 of us were lucky enough to travel overseas to film Block 2. Peter Hansen and I were the 2 performers and the other 8 were part of the outstanding crew. When you film a movie, inevitably it’s like a new little family forms. This is especially true when you’re on the other side of the world for nearly a month and you’re living together.

Peter was awesome to work with. Not only is he a dedicated actor and completely invested, but he a great human being. I loved his confidence and commitment to the character and story. He’s also very open-minded and engaging in conversations…which led to us discovering more layers along the way. Working with him nearly every day was both exciting and comforting.

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Q:  You have done dozens of feature films and shorts throughout your career. What has been your most challenging role to date?

Often when I’m in the thick of preparing and filming a role, I tend to feel that it is the most challenging one to date. Roles can be challenging for different reasons- the character, the physical or environmental circumstances, the dynamics of the people I’m working with, and other various factors.  Thinking about a character though, I was in a music video recently where I portrayed a suburban mom who was also a heroin addict. As you might imagine, it was extremely emotional. I was filming with a young boy who, in real life, doesn’t know about the devastating reality of heroin, so we all tried to keep the mood light in between takes and scenes. It was taxing to jump in and out of character more often than I normally would, but I welcomed the challenge. This was a difficult one to tackle and hits close to home. I wanted to be very careful not to make a caricature out of her and I felt a dire responsibility to be truthful not only to the role but to the subject matter itself.

Q: How long do you typically take to prepare for a role? Specifically, someone like Evelyn who’s experienced trauma in her life. Does your psychology major help in tackling such a role?

I take as long as I’m given to prepare and it starts the minute I first hear about an audition- I’m all in! If I’m fortunate enough to be cast then I’m already off to a good start. If I’m not cast then I can walk away from an audition knowing I put absolutely everything I had into it. My psychology degree certainly helps with every role but especially with someone like Evelyn. After I was cast, Ashlee provided me with a detailed backstory of her character which I found extremely helpful. I had 7 months between being cast and Block 1 of shooting to prepare and was able to communicate with Ash and Terrance throughout that time. I changed my physical appearance a bit and spent a lot of time with the script and then walked away from it and spent time in nature trying to look at things like Evelyn would.

We filmed the movie in three Blocks and there were 8 months between Block 1 and 2 and another 2 months between Block 2 and 3. With so much time between Blocks I needed to keep Evelyn close while still trying to carry on with my “normal” life. To aid in this process I made a playlist of songs for Evelyn that I listened to quite a lot. After we wrapped it took me a few weeks to readjust and release Evelyn, it was a quite a process and I realized how close I had held onto her over the course of a year and a half. My psychology background helped with letting go too.

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Q: What’s your favorite genre of film? Which actors and/or directors whose work inspire you?

I can’t say that I have a favorite genre. Some of my favorite films are: Jacob’s Ladder, Harry Potter, The Burbs, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Neverending Story, Dead Poets Society, and The Usual Suspects. It would be a dream come true to be directed by Ron Howard and Tim Burton.

I have been inspired by countless performers and the list continues to grow. To name some: Kathy Bates, Cate Blanchett, Mary Louise-Parker, Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Hilary Swank, Millie Bobby Brown, and Daniel Day Lewis, Bryan Cranston, John Lithgow, Gary Oldman, J.K. Simmons, and Ashton Sanders.

Q: What’s next for you? Any future project you would like to mention?

Of course I’m thrilled about Project Eden Vol. II. I will also have a small part in a feature titled, The Dark Field, which is set to shoot in Germany. The feature of Evergreen is further in development and I look forward to teaming up with Adam Zuehlke (dir.) again on that. We did the short film, Evergreen, back in 2013.


THANK YOU so much Emily for your detailed, insightful answers to questions!
Here’s hoping there’ll be Project Eden Vol. II and III 🙂

 

Belated Birthday Tribute to Sam Riley

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I can’t believe I missed my darling Sam’s birthday yesterday!! My favorite actor turned 37 on January 8… and since he made his breakthrough debut in Control in 2007, he doesn’t seem to have aged a day!

He was born on January 8, 1980 in Leeds, West Yorkshire, England. I love his Yorkshire accent, spoken with his signature husky voice. He’s a chain smoker which likely contributes to that… and he’s got that devil-may-care attitude paired with self-deprecating wit that’s so irresistible!

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Oh Sam Riley… how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

Yes I know the word ‘underrated’ is not a popular word to use right now, but I really do think Sam is grossly under-appreciated as for whatever reason, he’s simply hasn’t gotten as much work as his fellow Brits. Maybe because he lives in Berlin, away from Tinsel Town or even the UK’s movie scene in London. And he’s a happily-married man, he’s been married to Romanian/German actress Alexandra Maria Lara for 8 years (a lifetime by Hollywood standards) and has a young boy together.

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Sam w/ Alexandra on the premiere of Free Fire, Fall 2016 – photo courtesy of SamRiley.org

They met on the set of Control, which is kind of a fairy tale romance in itself, and they worked together again in Suite Francaise in 2014.  Look at these two, such a gorgeous couple!!

I was literally hyperventilating last week when I saw BBC ONE’s preview featuring SS-GB … can’t wait to get my copy of the February edition of EMPIRE magazine. Lookie here, Sam in a glorious spread as a Scotland Yard detective, decked in a dapper suit and fedora? YES PLEASE!!

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Courtesy of @CarryOnScarlett tweet

I’m also super excited to see Sam in Free Fire! I’ve posted the first trailer here, which looks like a hoot w/ a terrific cast! So there are at least two of Sam’s work I’m looking forward to in Spring, hopefully more to come later in the year.


Photos courtesy of AdoroCinema

Well, I did a Sam Riley marathon last year which made me appreciate him even more as an actor. He’s so self-deprecating that he often says in interviews that they only hire him ‘to blow smoke rings and cry’ as his debut role as Ian Curtis is a forlorn, suicidal tortured soul who smokes like a chimney. But clearly he’s more versatile than that, having played a psychopath (Brighton Rock), Beat Generation pioneer Jack Kerouac (On The Road), a naval vampire (Byzantium), an Austrian cowboy (The Dark Valley), a man bird (Maleficent), a French farmer (Suite Française), and of course, Colonel Darcy (Pride + Prejudice + Zombies)… the role I fell head over heels in love with.

So in my tribute to the phenomenal actor who I think should get more leading roles… here are five key roles that will forever mark me as a Sam Riley fan.

CONTROL (2007)

A profile of Ian Curtis, the enigmatic singer of Joy Division whose personal, professional, and romantic troubles led him to commit suicide at the age of 23.

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Since January 8th was also the birthday of rock icon David Bowie, it’s only natural I include THIS very scene from Sam’s debut role in a feature film. It’s been a decade since that film came out and I think it’s still regarded as one of the greatest, most poignant rock biopic ever made. Sam’s devastating performance doesn’t just capture Ian as a musical genius, but he captured the enigma and inner pain of the young man, who’s dealing with epilepsy and depression as his band gained fame beyond his control.

On the Road (2012)

Young writer Sal Paradise has his life shaken by the arrival of free-spirited Dean Moriarty and his girl, Marylou. As they travel across the country, they encounter a mix of people who each impact their journey indelibly.

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Sam once again portrays a real-life persona, as his character Sal is basically Jack Kerouac. He sports an effortless American accent as a quiet, reflective writer observing his wild and carefree friend Dean. He works well with Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart, who at the time was at the height of Twilight’s mass hysteria. He’s the kind of actors who can disappear into his roles, he has an earthy every-man quality about him, yet he makes even the most mundane activity like typing or just scribbling in a notepad seems so darn sexy.

 

Byzantium (2013)

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Residents of a coastal town learn, with deathly consequences, the secret shared by the two mysterious women who have sought shelter at a local resort.

Sam didn’t have a big part in this film but his role of Darvell is an important one to the story. Like the rest of the cast, the actors portray their roles in two separate timelines centuries apart. I’ve done a full review of it here, it’s quite a mesmerizing film by Neil Jordan… eerie, ethereal and mysteriously romantic. Wish I could find the exact clip, but I love all the scenes between Sam and Gemma Arterton. It’d be cool to see them do a film together again one day.

The Dark Valley (2014)

Through a hidden path a lone rider reaches a little town high up in the Alpes. Nobody knows where the stranger comes from, nor what he wants there. But everyone knows that they don’t want him to stay.

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This is the film I tell everyone to see if they’ve only seen Sam in Control. It’s an excellent Schnitzel Western (read my full review) shot entirely in the Austria Alps where the characters are Austrian/German except for Sam. He learned German when he married his wife, and to me he sounds very much believable as a taciturn, lone-ranger type who exacts vengeance on a group of townsfolk in a meticulously-calculated way. I always love actors who could convey a lot of emotions with his eyes and facial expressions alone, and Sam certainly got to do that here, whilst also being a bad-ass cowboy at the same time!

Check out my Music and Cinematography appreciation for this film here.

Pride + Prejudice + Zombies (2016)

Five sisters in 19th century England must cope with the pressures to marry while protecting themselves from a growing population of zombies.

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Well, THIS is the role that got me to notice Sam, which is a major reason why PPZ is on my top 10 list of the first half of 2016. Though I’m a huge period drama fan, for some reason I’ve never been into Mr. Darcy. Give me Captain Wentworth or Colonel Brandon any day over Darcy, but that is until Sam’s COLONEL DARCY came along. From the moment Lizzy saw him arriving at the ball (beginning at 01:48 in the clip below) I was a goner!

Then of course there’s the initially-awkward proposal scene that ends in a glorious, sexually-charged battle between the two… woo wee… THIS is the kind of Darcy I’ve ever hyperventilated over. The chemistry between him and Lily James is off the charts!

Some might say Sam isn’t as dastardly handsome as Colin Firth (which I beg to differ), but he certainly imbued his Darcy character with an extra dose of badassery without sacrificing his romantic side. In fact, in his second proposal scene, he’s perfectly swoon-worthy!

Favorite Sam Interviews

Well I always say that I can’t fall for any actor who lacks personality… no matter how good looking *cough* Henry Cavill *cough* But Sam’s interviews are a hoot, they’re almost as entertaining as watching him act.

His voice is music to my ear too, and he’s just as entertaining to listen to in a podcast interview!


I literally could go on and on in this post about Sam… but I better wrap it up and post this. I hope you learned a bit more about the talented actor, and hopefully check out more of his work!


What film(s) have you seen Sam Riley in? 

TCFF Opening Night Film: ‘Blood Stripe’ – Interview w/ Remy Auberjonois & Kate Nowlin

Every year Twin Cities Film Fest selects a social cause to bring to light and this year the subject of the Changemaker series is veteran support. Five powerful films paint a picture of what our vets face post-combat and foster important discussions around how to better serve those who’ve given us their all, which starts with BLOOD STRIPE.

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A female Marine veteran, battling unseen wounds from her recent service in Afghanistan, flees her suburban life in search of solace and escape in the North Woods.

Directed by: Remy Auberjonois
Written by: Remy Auberjonois & Kate Nowlin
Runtime: 87 min
Cast: Kate Nowlin, Rene Auberjonois, Rusty Schwimmer, Tom Lipinski, Kristen Gregerson


Additional TCFF screening:
October 28 | 3:00 pm


I had the honor to speak to both the director Remy Auberjonois and lead actress Kate Nowlin, who also co-wrote the film. I interviewed them separately within the span of a couple of weeks. They are both so wonderful to talk to, I’m so inspired by their amazing talents, humility and generous spirits. I’m so thrilled to see the success of ‘Blood Stripe’, winning the Best Fiction Award at L.A. Film Festival is just the beginning. It couldn’t happen to two nicer people!

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Remy Auberjonois

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Q: What inspired you to that story about PTSD. Is that a personal thing for you is that something that somehow we come across something and then it’s like oh I want to make a story about this.

Remy: Oddly enough, the story was an organic outgrowth from the location in a way. We sort of decided to make a movie, first of all. Then we decided to make a movie on Lake Vermilion and then we were looking around to think about a story that we could tell that could feature Kate in a central role because I knew that I would have her full commitment and she would work all day every day. And I know what a wonderful actor she is. And and in doing that and figuring out what that character could be, we came upon the fact that there are a lot of veterans in that area. Once that opened up for us, then the story sort of took shape. There was been a tremendous amount of a lot of awareness about moral injury, about PTS, about veterans suicide and you know, it was sort of an undeniable aspect and military sexual trauma… there was an undeniable story where we felt that there was room to tell. It also appealed to me in the sense that I saw ways in which he could use the sort of tropes of a thriller film to get inside a sort of paranoid mindset. You know we’re not paranoid but hyper alert. So that aspect appealed to me as there are a lot of movies like that that I’ve really liked. Those that you know create a real sense of unease, and we wanted to try to get inside that.

I felt like the tools of both movies were a useful way to shed some light on that. And because we’ve seen a lot of documentary and we’ve read a lot about this thing that people call PTS or PTSD, we thought that telling a narrative story about it making a dramatic narrative feature about it was another way to contribute to that conversation, to that awareness. We were hardly aware of it except as regular consumers of news, but when we started looking into that character and things that that character might be burdened with, we started to really understand the scope of the really sort of epidemic of this thing. We thought ‘oh yeah this is something that we want to understand more about and we feel like the audience could as well.’

It’s me, Cinematographer Radium Cheung, and Underwater Camera Operator Steve Speers (who is a Minnesota cameraperson). – Photo by Andrew Messer
Remy, cinematographer Radium Cheung, and underwater camera operator Steve Speers (who is a Minnesota cameraperson) – Photo by Andrew Messer

Q: I think the fact that you are focusing on a female combat vet specifically sort of adds another layer of novelty to your film too, because there are so few meaty roles for women as it is. I know that’s what appealed to me immediately, I mean aside from the military aspect of it. And I’m sure it appeals to others as well.

Remy: Yeah, you know I’m a male filmmaker, and for me I didn’t really see a difference. I worked with a very high profile wonderful actress. At one point she was telling us, she was talking to a filmmaker friend of hers: ‘just write the part for a man and I’ll play it.’ And Kate and I in approaching this film, we wrote the part just for a person. It’s complicated… you know she does things that you don’t see women doing a lot of, but that women do. She’s chopping wood, she’s mowing the lawn, etc. She has a husband and then she has the potential connection with another man. She’d get to fight, you know. Not to give things away, but you know, we just wrote it for a good complex character for Kate who is a powerful, physically very strong woman and an emotionally deep actor.

Q: What a great combination, yeah. One of the reviews I read was from Variety, and the reviewer said that it’s kind of rare that you’re not using the method of flashback in this. And so narratively was that something that’s deliberate that you want the story to be in present but of course implies that something has happened in the past?

Remy: Yes. You know it’s interesting it was something that was unintentional in some ways and then became very important to us, as we’re going ahead. We’re going we actually have written an event that happened in the past and that was a factor of time and money that we didn’t get to shoot it. It was something that could happen in a totally discreet location. So we kept it out of our principal photography because our budgetary and time constraints were such that we couldn’t get that, in a way that satisfied me.

And then as we were looking at the footage and telling the story and cutting it, it really felt that there were there so much thing unsaid, I mean this is not a dialogue-heavy movie. Having that event felt like it would be incredibly limiting to what the audience’s understanding could be. I’ve since spoken to someone who made a comment about that very fact and said they appreciated that [the trauma] wasn’t pinpointed to one event. Kate was very interested in these people who were exposed to war time, in a foreign country for a year or 18 months, you know that kind of heightened experience is ongoing, extended… so what is that like. So to sort of narrow it down to say it was this one thing that created this condition is very limiting. There’s lots of things. Her relationship with a man in the film is very fraught. Maybe there was something there. She has some physical impact from the war that she carries. Maybe it’s that. We didn’t want to limit it. Plus, to shoot that [scene], it’s as if we’re trying to be a different kind of movie than we were. I had a scene that I could do that I could accomplish. We had it written and I knew how I was going to shoot it. But I eventually thought, you know Hollywood has made war movies. We’ve seen The Hurt Locker, American Sniper, we’ve seen a lot of great depictions of these wars and wars in general. Let’s trust that the audience has these associations and we’ll bring them in with that.

Remy, Kate, and producer Julie Christeas of Tandem Pictures – Photo by Andrew Messer
Remy, Kate, and producer Julie Christeas of Tandem Pictures – Photo by Andrew Messer

Q: I think that’s what they appreciate this reviewer appreciate. It’s like they just you know don’t spoon feed too much. You don’t want it to challenge the audience.

Remy: Yes, we wanted to respect and challenge our audience. I think some people find that infuriating because they want to be told something. And I think some people have really appreciated it. We had a guy on one of our screenings, he said I felt so smart watching this movie because I kept on being forced to make connections, to connect the dots. As a movie goer, I’m usually quite a head of a particular film. I don’t know that anybody is surprised by what happens in our movie, in terms of the sort of outcome insofar as you really know what the outcome is. And you don’t, we don’t make it very explicit.

Q:  For this film, did you talk to anybody like from the military field to make sure you get certain things right?

Remy: You know we did a lot of reading, we did a lot of watching. We also have a female Marine veteran on set with us. But we had already written the script by then and she was great in terms of validating a lot of the right thing. I sent it to that vet but because we weren’t shooting the war. It was a creative, imaginative exploration of the thing. So we watched some wonderful documentaries like the film Lioness, The Invisible War to see stories about female marines. A lot of really wonderful books, there’s one by Sebastian Junger called War. But we wanted to sort of imaginatively take the hallmarks and the symptoms and the sort of generalized story of what those people experience and then imagine it into our location and our story. We wanted it to feel authentic and we’ve been very gratified. You know, Kate spent four months in physical training for the film. We wanted to have a sense of authenticity but we also wanted to not be telling a certain story. And hopefully that that approach is the thing that makes [the subject] a little bit more universal.

Q: I see. It’s a character driven piece so it’s not about a specific event. 

Remy: Exactly. It’s a lot about the performance, about [Kate’s] understanding of it. There’s some of her own experience which she was able to bring to [the role], but she’s also just a very skilled actress and has a lot of technique.

Q: Last question. Is directing something you want to keep doing in the future?

Remy: Yeah I would love to get the opportunity to do it again. I have a couple of different projects in the beginning of story development and we’ll see which one I can get more traction on. I’m very much hoping to direct it again before too long. Maybe another film, and I’d love to direct episodic television actually. There’s a lot of exciting, wonderful thing happening in that medium, but it’s a difficult thing to get into. It’s hard to get a movie made, but at least it’s a discrete thing and in some ways it’s up to you.

Q: Yeah that’s true, but at the same time now it seems like there’s a blending between TV and films now, it’s not a big divide like was before. Lots of TV directors doing major, big-budget films and the other way around.

Remy: Yeah, who knows. We’ll see where it takes me.


Kate Nowlin

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Q: What I got from Remy’s was that the story grew organically from the location in Lake Vermilion. So I’m just curious how do you approach that role of the female Marine. I mean do you have any military experience or or was there any research. Do you have to do more to prepare?

Kate: Oh god no, no military experience before. Tremendous research.

Q: How long did it take you to do that? I mean did you have somebody on set?

Kate: I feel like I’m still doing research. I started when we started writing in October and we were shooting in August. I was doing research the whole, the whole time we were writing and learning about the subject matter, which evolved organically. Once we just decided on the subject matter, we felt obviously a real responsibility to this type of story, as we would to really any story. But this one was, we realized it was a large undertaking and something I knew nothing about, from a strictly military standpoint. In terms of dedication and exploration of her strength and her vulnerability, and just being a human being, I think there’s ways in which we can all relate. So the military part, I did my homework and then eventually yes I met I spoke to a number of servicemen and women. There’s one in particular, a woman named Amber Patton who’s a Marine herself.

Q: Is her last name spelled like the famous general?

Kate: Yes Patton, like the general. She’s a Marine veteran, USMC got her in. And she was on site. We met here in Minnesota and then we offered her I said ‘would you read the script and consult with us?’ We had some questions and we talked about some story points, and then I said ‘what are you up to this summer?’ As she was interested to get more into it. I mean she was in the film industry but she wanted to keep working on that, and so we said if you want a job, we’d love to have you on our set as a production assistant. So she came on as a production assistant but obviously she served as a consultant. She just was like my right hand she was, an assistant to me and in many ways and in the creation of the story.

Q: That’s cool because you’d want to make sure that the story is truthful and accurate and she’d have the experience.

Kate: Well there were there were things that we could research, but there were very practical things about like how the uniform is worn, things like that. She’s been an invaluable part of the process, and she’s still you know, we’re still close and and she was an invaluable part of the team.

Kate in a scene on Lake Vermilion
Kate in a scene on Lake Vermilion

Q: As for Lake Vermilion, it seems that you both wanted to shoot the film there and it works because there’s a lot of veterans there, so that makes sense.

Kate: Yes, there’s a tremendous amount of veterans. There’s a woman in the town, when we were just considering that idea [of filming at Lake Vermilion], she had just been named soldier of the year by Army Times in Cook Minnesota. And so we kind of thought… even though we didn’t tell her story but we wanted to give a little nod to keep moving in that direction.

Q: Remy mentioned that you both wanted to add to the conversation about the condition of PTSD. Tell us a bit more about that.

Kate: We want to add to the conversation about the traumatic aspect, but also really more about the female soldier, the female Marine. It’s rarely depicted even though they make up about 15 percent of our military, 20 percent of our reserves. So they should be more represented. I think as we were writing there was this great New York Times op-ed piece saying why aren’t we telling the story [of female soldiers] in film. So we were like, ‘we’re writing something, we’re doing our part, we’re trying to do our part!’ So it was so interesting how it evolved, but yes we were trying to add to a conversation about a lot of things… women in media, how women are portrayed in the media. The female fighter, the female warrior, representing them, representing veterans issues, across the board. You know, so we kept sort of packing the bag.

Q: That’s great. I just think female driven narrative is still rare, which you would think by 2016 that’s not the case. But yet it is. That is why on my blog I always champion female-driven stories, especially independent stories. I mean if it’s something like Wonder Woman or whatever, those already get the studio backing, but the smaller stuff I really want to support. So I’m grateful you are working on this. 

Kate: Yes me, too. You know, it wasn’t our intention, conscious intention when we started. I mean we know Romney wants to direct and I was a resource of his. But it evolved into that and it became a very significant to us too. And I was aware that there was a lack, just in the scripts that I was being presented or the roles that I would read. I was just like ‘can we create someone full-fledged, someone who’s fully-dimensional… who happens to be a Marine.

Q: I was just wondering as I was reading the cast list. Your character is described only as Our Sergeant. Is it deliberate that there’s no specific name given to your character?

Kate: Yeah it is. It is deliberate. We want her to stand in for a lot of people like her, to be able to sort of let the audience project a lot onto her. Honestly, creatively, as we’re working the name just never came. We never had a name and it always just felt like that there’s a sort of space around her character so people could project whatever they want to. Not necessarily a name but that she is, in some ways, unaccounted for and that she’s nameless.

Q: So the fact that she is nameless is almost a message in itself.

Kate: I think so yeah I think so. And we actually, there was one point when we made her uniform. So on the one hand she’s standing in for someone’s wife, sister, daughter, we keep that open. Once you’re in the military and you have a title, that’s an important part of the identity. That comes first, in that mindset you’re committing your life, you know, to serving your country and then that is an important part of the identity. So that felt like that was going to be an important part, maybe more important than the personal identification. So when we she was in uniform at one point we created a name tag that we chose to be nameless in Norwegian because I’m Scandinavian and there’s a lot of Scandinavian people in Northen Minnesota. At one point we did choose a name. So it was Navnløs, which is Norwegian for nameless.

Kate, 1st. Assistant Camera Yousuke Kiname, 2nd AC Chris Savage (Minnesota based) – Photo by Andrew Messer
Kate, 1st. Assistant Camera Yousuke Kiname, 2nd AC Chris Savage (Minnesota based) – Photo by Andrew Messer

Q: Now this question, it’s up to you whether you want to speak to this or not but given the subject matter, I was wondering if you have dealt with something similar to your character and whether that impact your approach to the role or not.

Kate: No I really haven’t. Not to that degree. But I think as we’ve said, trauma is a universal experience. It doesn’t have to be military-related. So I can understand it, but no, I have not dealt with it, nowhere near anything she had going through. It’s interesting because I’ve been asked that question a lot and I think that. I guess my answer is no, but I understand what I understand about struggle. It’s my job to be able to portray someone who’s different than I am. That I have to investigate and find my way in the way that I can to create something in an authentic way. I think there are universal things that we know and that we share and feel as human beings and that’s my job to explore that. Because I was writing her, co-writing and co-creating her, I was able to track her so to speak.

Q: Cool. So how was that process when you’re writing. Co-writing with Remy. I mean how do you do that division work goes?

Kate: I loved the writing. We really just sat across the table from each other and sort of plotted things out. Once we got off the note cards you know at first we put everything on no cards and then we sort of sat down. We each had a computer in front of us and we talk through scenes, we created dialogue. I would sort of think about her voice when she did speak. Remy was really good at writing the sort of what we saw, the breakdown the scenes. The emotional journey, in some ways was hard to do because it was all brand new. And because we were doing it in such a really a relatively short period of time. it’s hard to kind of understand or quantify what that experience was. We were just sitting down every day for three hours doing what we could.

Q: How about the physical training. I mean you kind of have to bulk up a bit don’t you? I mean you probably already are a fitness enthusiast.

Kate: Yes I’m naturally athletic. Being forced to play sports growing up and I was a dancer as a kid and all of that. And then of course in graduate school or whatever you do a lot of movement training and stuff. But no, I work from probably about three and a half months, not a tremendous period of time but I work six days a week. I worked with a trainer once a week starting in May, June, July, August, so about three and a half months. That’s on how to get into the role, that’s a mindset. I had to transform my metabolism, my metabolic system. I was inspired by how strong they are and the rigors that they go through in order to become a Marine. And so I knew I had to do something I hadn’t done before and get a kind of mental toughness and physical strength also to set an example, to represent how strong these women are. I just want to create a different portrait of a female in the film. Something we don’t get to see very often.

Q: So now that you’ve written a film that you start in, what’s next for you? Do you want to keep doing it, being a content creator on top of being an actress?

A: Absolutely. Oh that’s you can’t go back. I feel like it’s it’s a hard thing to come back from once you start oncw you start making your own stuff. It’s more challenging in ways but you get to say more… it’s a much more dimensional creative space and I find that incredibly gratifying. I have never been happier from an artistic point of view as when I was making this thing, as we’ve been making this thing. As hard as it’s been, it’s so fulfilling so. And I found that over the course of it that I have things I’d like to say. I really enjoy the writing. Not like a soapbox, but I think that there are I think that there’s room for all sorts of stories and I’m drawn to what I’m drawn to. I like the research, I like immersing myself in new world from scratch.

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THANK YOU so much Remy & Kate for chatting with me about Blood Stripe!


Hope you enjoy the interview! If you’ve seen Blood Stripe, I’d love to hear what you think!

Guest Post | Classic Actor Spotlight: Richard Widmark – Consummate Utility Infielder

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Greetings all and sundry!

And allow me this opportunity to state that those rumors of my being deodar mysteriously abducted by aliens have been grossly exaggerated. Though, I have endured two side trips to Northern Virginia’s massive, expansive Mother Ship of Specialized Medicines, INOVA (A sub state unto itself. With superior doctors and eerily always smiling staff) for problems related to age. Leaving me with a surfeit of time to root around, excavate and shine some light on a stalwart of the thespian trade. Whose talent and trade craft, those not always “A-List” or Top Notch through the 1950s, 60s and beyond. Did manage to easily bring many memorable characters. Sometimes heroic. Sometimes creepily slimy, to life under the guidance of some of the best directors Hollywood had to offer.

So, allow me but a few moments of your time while I wax nostalgic and meticulous about one of the near forgotten greats of the trade with:

Richard Widmark.
Consummate Utility Infielder!

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First crossed my path as a wide eyed eight year old kid indulging in the forbidden fruit of “Late night” (9:00pm) television movies. And WTTG’s “Movie Greats” presentation of Kiss Of Death. A more than medium budgeted 1947 treasure that, unbeknownst to me at the time; was shot all over key locations throughout Manhattan and its five boroughs. Which added enormously to the film’s strength and tense, gripping story line. And would lock this tile away as a long time favorite.

Focusing around down on his luck Nick Bianco (Victor Mature). Who decides with three others to rob a jewelry store in the upper levels of a skyscraper to improve the lives of himself, his wife and two daughters. The heist goes off well enough. But the proprietor sets off the alarm. A cop intervenes and shoots Nick in the leg. Nick is caught. Held at the Tombs prior to arraignment. Keeps his mouth shut throughout the trial and catches a 20 year sentence at Sing Sing for his efforts. Unaware until three years later that his wife committed suicide after being raped by one of his accomplices, And that his daughters have been sent to orphanages.

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Bianco is anxious to cut a deal. But all that he knows and can do has been made useless by the passage o time. So the District Attorney, D’Angelo (Brian Donlevy) arranges an early parole and points Bianco towards another case. Putting the word out from Sing Sing that Rizzo squealed and sold out not only Bianco years ago. But is leaking to the cops information on the third member of the robbery crew, Tommy Udo (Mr. Widmark in his debut film role.). Well, but not richly dressed. With an upturned sneering smile that barely hides his close to the surface inner Psychopath. And his paranoid aversion to “squealers”.

Tommy finds Rizzo’s paraplegic mother (Mildred Dunnock) in her apartment and questions her about her son. Mrs. Rizzo says that he is out and will be back later. Udo thinks she’s lying. Ties her into her wheelchair and pushes her down a long and lethal flight of stairs, killing her,

Bianco is finally released and has a “chance encounter” with Udo. Who shows Nick around. Takes him to clubs where there are about twenty parole violations within arm’s reach before calling it a night. Bianco goes running to D’Angelo with a boast or two of Udo’s referring to recent murders.D’Angelo tells the local cops to scoop up Udo for murder.

Bianco gets cold feet. Udo is let go. Udo and Bianco meet at a restaurant. Udo makes threats against Bianco brand new family. A showdown looms on the cobbled, rain reflected streets. Bianco calls D’Angelo. Warns him about what is about to happen. Then exits the restaurant without a gun. A henchman of Udo’s draws on Bianco, but Udo shoots the henchman. Aims at Biance. Fires and hits Bianco as uniformed cops unload on Udo. Killing him in the street, And leaving Nick Bianco with a bright and pleasant future!

Overall Consensus:

Required viewing. Not just for the layered tale itself. But just to relax and bask in what Greatness can truly be!

Now. What Makes This Film Good?

Henry Hathaway in charge of one of the earliest and best “Organic” New York films. Filming on several different locations and lighting each and their surroundings in ways to intimate and hint at danger or lascivious delight hidden within. And making me a decades long sucker for most any film or television series shot in and around New York City

Add Victor Mature, Brian Donlevy, Karl Malden and Coleen Gray to the mix. Give them intelligent dialogue from Ben Hecht and Charles Lederer that moves the plot along without deliberately telegraphing what is to come. And you have the makings of smart entertainment. Enhances by Cinematography by Norbert Brodine. Music by David Buttolph. Art Direction by Leland Fuller and Lyle Wheeler, Plus Editing by J.W. Webb, Jr. help to place this near forgotten early Noir classic high in the genre’s pecking order.

Now. What Makes This Film Great?

The adversarial pairing of veteran, Mature opposite a just starting out Mr. Widmark. Whose film time and scenes are dwarfed by others. Though, in those minutes Mr. Widmark can call his own. He does make the most of and makes them his own. Violence and his scary. creepy laugh not withstanding. Had a lot to do in earning this ingenue a Golden Globe win. And an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Along with a nomination for Best Original Story by Eleazar Lipsky.


With Mr. Widmark firmly locked into my “Actor To Watch” category. Pursuit and finding him in other films was part and parcel of the WTTG’s ‘Movie Greats” and “NBC’s Saturday Night At The Movies” to find Mr. Widmark playing a similar, more powerful and lucrative role in The Street With No Name a year later.

Then a shift in gears and character into “Jealous Sap Territory” in 1948. For a B&W, Noirish trifle directed by Jean Negulesco titled Road House. Where Mr. Widmark’s Jefferson T. “Jefty” Robbins owns and runs a road house out in the sticks, Hires and falls hard for Ida Lupino’s tough talking Torch Singer, Lily Stevens. Who starts playing Jeffty’s restaurant owner and partner, Pete Morgan (Cornel Wilde) against him. So, Jeffty starts to frame Pete for embezzlement. And worse once Pete proposes to Lily.

Making time through 1949 for a whaling tale. With Mr. Widmark going upscale, cast wise. Taking on the First Mate’s role, Dan Lunceford. But also the tutor of the Captain Bering Joy’s (Lionel Barrymore) grandson, Jed (Dean Stockwell) in Down To The Sea In Ships. Under the direction of Henry Hathaway. In a surprisingly good maritime drama as young Jed learns about honesty, courage, teamwork and responsibility.

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And an upgrade in directors the next year and Panic In The Streets. For the first of its kind police and medical procedural directed by Elia Kazan. And his take of tracking down the carrier of pneumonic plague in the port city of New Orleans. The unwitting carrier and future “Patient Zero” is Jack Palance. And the hero is Navy Lt. Commander Clint Reed, Aided by Police captain Tom Warren (Paul Douglas) as they canvass, interview and slowly eliminate others and narrow the suspect pool as Palance’s slimy ‘Blackie’ slinks around the piers and seeks a way out after a failed robbery.

Then a ground breaking racial drama and thriller. No Way Out (1950) under the direction of Joseph L. Mankwicz with Sidney Poitier and Harry Bellaver, Where Mr. Poitier plays Dr. Luther Brooks. Who works on wounded low rent racist thief, Ray Biddle and his brother, George. Who dies on the table. And sends Ray on a deep and very personal mission of revenge

Followed by the Marine service drama, Halls Of Montezuma with Jack Palance and Richard Boone. The Frogmen. A personal favorite. With Dana Andres, Gary Merrill, Robert Wagner and Harvey Lembeck. Dircetor Lloyd Bacon renders a pretty fair exposition about what Underwater Demolition and the removal of barriers and obstructions is all about before a sea borne invasion. Then onto parachuting “Smoke Jumpers” in Red Skies Of Montana. And the drama involved when two of Mr. Widmark’s Park Rangers and firefighters die after a tragic wildfire. Not a bad film, actually. Under the direction of Joseph M. Newman. And all four films being early top choices for ‘NBC’s Saturday Night At The Movies’.

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Another contender from 1953 is an odd WWII film from Robert Wise. Destination Gobi. Where Navy meteorologists are dispatched to the Gobi desert to set up shop and record and transmit weather data to a picket ship to aid the air war against Japan. When not bartering with Mongols for assistance and protection in the form of saddles for their horses. Another ‘Saturday Night At The Movies’ offering. And Robert Wise’s first color film. With Mr. Widmark as a lowly chief Petty Officer (NCO) in charge of Don Taylor, Martin Milner, Darryl Hickman, Alvy Moore and Earl Holliman. In a surprisingly good film which has a pronounced hardscrabble, no frills “You’ve Got To Start Somewhere” vibe, cast wise. While using several parts of the Mojave Desert, Fallon, Nixon and Yuma, Arizona to fill in for Mongolia and southern China..

General Concensus

To this point, Mr. Widmark seems to have spent far more time in military uniforms than civilian finery. Becoming on of the “Go To Guys” along with Martin Miler, Richard Jaeckel. Ty Hardin, Marshall Thompson, Robert Ryan, Van Johnson, James Whitmore and Dana Andrews to play G.I.s, sailors and Marines in immediate post war Hollywood. And to Mr. Widmark’s credit, he did pull those roles and characters off quite well. Usually in the lead. Though often as a small part of a larger objective or story.

And Mr. Widmark’s luck was about to change in a very noticeable way. By signing onto low budget, independent maverick director, Sam Fuller. And the director’s embellished screenplay about pick pockets flourishing around 1950s Manhattan. To include Russian agents,hollow coins and microfilm regarding atomic bomb secrets and blueprints in the minor 1953 “Red Scare” classic, Pickup On South Street.

Where Mr. Widmark plays Skip McCoy. Two time loser and somewhat gifted “dip” or “cannon” (pick pocket) making his living on the city’s crowded subway trains. Who runs afoul of a cell of Russian agents by snatching the wallet of an unassuming courier, Candy (Jean Peters). And later rifling through an envelope and discovering highly classified documents and microfilm. While still unaware that Candy was being watched by US Federal agents hoping to discover the higher up on the receiving end.

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Creating an equally compact and intriguing, noir-ish B&W film that clocks in at 75 minutes. Excels in cramped, neglected and dirty sets and sound stages of 20 Century Fox’s many back lots. Yet looks like thr film was shot on many locations throughout New York City. As the cops stick their noses in. Interviews are logged. Deals are made. Specifically between local soft crime maven, Moe Williams (Thelma Ritter) and Detective Dan Tyger (Murvyn Vye) to narrow the number of suspects down to Skip McCoy. Who has no problem dealing with the highest bidder. Even if it isn’t the US government.As Candy’s boyfriend, Joey (Richard Kiley and a silenced pistol) tidy up loose ends.

In a film that threw critics, select politicians and J. Edgar Hoover for a loop. The critics loved the film’s low budget, Mickey Spillane grittiness. While politicians and the FBI had conniptions over Widmark’s and Skip McCoy’s arrogant, “You’re gonna wave the flag at me?!” line and its inherent “Anti-Americanism”. Especially in the backwash of the House Un American Activities Committee Hearings and The Cold War. Though, for a skint 780.000 dollars. Sam Fuller put together a cramped, claustrophobic and shadowy masterpiece that rises up into the firmament of “Required Viewing’. With an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Thelma Ritter. And a Venice Film Festival Gold Lion win for director, Sam Fuller. Reaffirming his position as a Master of cinematic”Bang For The Buck!”

Which Mr. Widmark would return the following year. After a brief detour to the Army’s anwer to Hell On Earth, Fort Bliss and the city of El Paso, Texas for a Richard Brooks directed Basic Training drama, Take The High Ground!. With Karl Malden training draftees, Steve Forrest, James MacArthur, Russ Tamblyn and others for crucible that is the Korean War. Before returning to Sam Fuller’s next project.

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A neat, compact little Cold war thriller titled, Hell And High Water. Where Mr. Widmark takes on the role of former Navy Sub Commander, Adam Jones.Who is mysteriously approached by a group of nuclear scientists in Japan. Who want Jones to take over a retired Japanese sub and check around a string of islands north of Japan. The scientists suspect that China may have had something to do with a recently exploded nuclear device outside the continental US.. And may have designs to join “The Nuclear Country Club” and intimidate their neighbors to the west.

The sub goes out with Jones and a small crew of Jones’ shipmates. Following a Chinese freighter into the North Pacific. Though, due to events. the Japanese sub left in pursuit. Without time to inspect its torpedo tubes. Leaving the boat nearly weaponless. A cat and mouse game with the Chinese navy ensues. A Chinese sub is rammed as the specific island is found. With either a restored American B-29. Or Russian TU-4 in a US paint job on the island’s bare base taxi way (A superb glass matte painting!). One of the scientists sneaks ashore of Capt. Jones. Signals the bomber’s take off… And I’ll leave it right there!


Surely in the simplistic realm of kid and schoolboy fantasy. But superb, well thought out and executed low budget kid and schoolboy fantasy. Director Fuller again raises the tale with deft sleight of hand, excellent model and pool work for the Japanese sub and its Chinese protagonist. And some well spent money (1,870,000 dollar budget) on artists and matte paintings. Since outside of some lush on location shots at Orly Airport, The Arc de Triomph and sights around Paris to establish the plot. Mr. Fuller and company never left 20 Century Studios. Its sets, sound stages and properties.


Setting the stage for three years of training and yeomanry work in post war thrillers and westerns( The Prize of Gold, Broken Lance, Garden of Evil, Backlash, Run Fro the Sun, Saint Joan, The Cobweb). Before joining up again with Karl Malden in the director’s chair for a neat and compelling 1957 post Korean War procedural titled Time Limit. Where Mr. Widmark plays Colonel William Edwards. A JAG officer trying to determine the limits of The Military Code of Conduct for POWs experiencing near Arctic cold, starvation and torture at the hands of the North Koreans. When one can snap. And the end results of possibly finding a traitor among their ranks. With Richard Basehart and Rip Torn under suspicion, Martin Balsam as the Colonel’s aid and conscience, Dolores Michaels as Corporal Jean Evans. And Martin Balsam as the Colonel’s Top Sergeant and conscience.

Then three more years of westerns before an upgrade in cast members with John Wayne directing and starring in The Alamo. Along with Richard Boone and Laurence Harvey. And major stage piece whose parts would be used again in The Green Berets. Giving Mr. Widmark a chance to add to an exceptional ensemble cast as Colonel Jim Bowie. In a fairly accurate depiction of those historic thirteen days. Plus an upgrade in directors to John Ford for his project.

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Two Rode Together
. With James Stewart, Shirley Jones and a swath of Mr. Ford’s cinematic regulars re-indoctrinating those captured by Indians back into the world and society. And continuing his high end ensemble streak with Stanley Kramer’s Judgement At Nuremberg, With Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Maximilian Schell, Judy Garland, Montgomery Clift, Marlene Dietrich and a “Who’s Who” of Next Generation talent filling any and all remaining roles. Followed quickly by larger than life, generational family Magnum Opus, Covering the Gold Rush and Comstock Lode. To the Civil War. Manifest Destiny. Captains of Industry and the Railroad in How The West Was Won. With not just one director, but four! Henry Hathaway, John Ford, George Marshall and Richard Trope. Each with their own tale or area of expertise to heighten and tell. And enough old and new talent signed on and assigned characters to fill a medium sized high rise apartment complex.

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And making the mid 1960s the time when Mr. Widmark seem to come into his own. With small films which made large impressions. With Stanley Kubrick alum, James B. Harris’ The Bedford Incident with Sidney Poitier, Martin Balsam and James MacArthur on a navy destroyer trying to surface a Russian sub inside Territorial Waters. And what can go wrong. Alvarez Kelly. With William Holden and Mr. Widmark as an eye patched Confederate officer wanting to follow the tenets of William Quantrill and John S. Mosby in rustling and hijacking cattle and horses. As long as Mr. Holden’s Alvarez Kelly teaches them how.

It has often been said that I am a sucker for any film shot in Manhattan and its boroughs. And one of the better ones of the 1960s is a near forgotten police procedural with Henry Fonda, Inger Stevens, James Whitmore, Sheree North, Michael Dunn, Don Stroud, Steve Ihnat, Susan Clark. Raymond St. Jacques and Harry Guardino in the Don Siegel directed, Madigan.

Where Mr. Widmark plays Detective Daniel Madigan assigned to a precinct in Spanish Harlem and partnered with Detective Rocco Bonaro (Harry Guardino). Who lose their guns after a third rate low life, (Steve Ihnat) gets the drop on them, And now have 72 hours to catch the creep and get their guns back. In one of the better made for TV “Partner Movies” to be generated by NBC and clocking in at 110 minutes full of dirty, cramped and un glamorous places, sights and sounds rarely seen in 1968. Which adds to the film’s grittiness and no apologies attitude. Ane was so well received as a pilot. That NBC created a six 90 minute episodes package for their Sunday night ‘NBC Mystery Movie’ series in 1972.

Returning to ensemble work for Sidney Lumet’s Murder On The Orient Express with Albert Finney, Lauren Bacall, Sean Connery, Jacqueline Bissett and John Gielgud two years later.

The Doomsday thriller, Twilight’s Last Gleaming with Burt Lancaster and directed by Robert Aldrich. Stanley Kramer’s 1977 political thriller, The Domino Principle with Gene Hackman as an expendable Presidential assassin.

And Mr. Widmark preparing to go out on his own terms with Michael Creighton’s Coma the following year. Then playing a high ranking US hostage in Ian Sharp’s well detailed and executed gritty, sweaty, no frills British Special Air Service (SAS) against an IRA splinter cell gem. The Final Option. And a final return to “Bad Guy Territory” in Taylor Hackford’s Against All Odds. A film that tries very hard to be an updated remake of Jacques Tournier’s Out Of The Past, but doesn’t quite make it!

Overall Concensus

Like so many actors while I was growing up. I cannot remember a time when Mr. Widmark was not working. Consistently supplying grist for the imagination with often more than one film a year. And on the whole, very good films at that. Good guy. Bad Buy. In uniform and out. Mr. Widmark offered something unique in most of his characters. The possibility that there may be a double cross at worse. Or that proposed events would not occur in their correct order.

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Slowly covering the spectrum of character types. For his initial “Creep” with Tommy Udo in Kiss Of Death. To “Rebel” in Pickup On South Street and Panic In The Streets. To racist “Thug” in No Way Out. A side trip to Rugged Individualist in The Alamo and How The West Was Won. And “Hero” in War Films, Don Siegel’s Madigan and its later mini-series!


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Check out Kevin G’s other posts and reviews


What are your thoughts on Richard Widmark? Differing Opinions are welcome. The floor is now open to discussion!

Weekend Roundup: RIP Charmian Carr – My tribute to her performance as Liesl in ‘The Sound of Music’

Happy Monday all! How’s your weekend? Mine was quite a busy one and given the glorious weather on Saturday, my hubby and I tried to be outside as much as we could. We made a stop at the Guthrie Theater as we love to visit the endless bridge and get a great view St. Anthony Main & the Stone Arch bridge over the Mississippi River. It’s the second week run of Sense & Sensibility there and I actually caught a glimpse of a couple of the actresses during intermission of the 1pm performance! I’ll be seeing the play on Oct 14, can’t wait!

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On a sad note, Charmian Carr, best known as Liesl in The Sound of Music just passed away this weekend at the age of 73 😦

I felt such a pang in my heart when I heard the news Sunday night. I was writing a review of the film I saw this weekend, but when I heard of her passing, I felt compelled to do a tribute for her instead.

The Sound of Music is one of the three major Hollywood classics that my late mom first showed me. She brought home three VHS from her trip to the US: Gone With the Wind, My Fair Lady and The Sound Of Music. Those three films hold a special place in my heart (as those are amongst a handful of films that defined me)… so I get sentimental whenever I hear news about the film and/or the cast.

But more than that, since I saw the film when I was in my early teens, I so identified with Liesl and Carr’s performance is so beautiful and indelible. Her Sixteen Going On Seventeen rendition (with Daniel Truhitte’s Rolfe) is such a joyful and sweet celebration of young (and oh-so-innocent) romance that never fails to put a smile on my face.

I also love the reprise of the song later in the film with Julie Andrews‘ Maria. Even though Maria wasn’t Liesl’s real mother, there’s such a formidable bond between them.

It wasn’t just that Carr was beautiful and could sing beautifully, she brought the character of Liesl to live in such a wonderful way. The Sound of Music is as beloved and memorable as it is today because we all root for the Von Trapp family, and as the eldest, Liesl is certainly the most developed character of the seven children. She fell in love, went through a heartbreak, and later had to face the harsh realities of war when the boy she loved joined the Nazi party.

This Edelweiss scene where Liesl sings with her father (Christopher Plummer) always gets me all teary eyed. It’s perhaps one of my favorite on-screen duets of all time.

Though Charmian Carr only had a single film credit in her career, her contribution to film is so tremendous. I think it’s only fitting that I ended with this delightful farewell scene performed by the Von Trapp children…

Farewell Charmian Carr and rest in peace.
Thank you for your beautiful performance as Liesl…
your iconic performance shall live on.


 

Indie Film Spotlight: ‘The Trouble With the Truth’ + Interview with writer/director Jim Hemphill

Just a month away until the film festivities begin, Twin Cities Film Fest is hosting a Minnesota theatrical premiere of the indie drama The Trouble With The Truth. 

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Starring Minnesota native, Lea Thompson and written and directed by Minnesota native, Jim Hemphill. Both Ms. Thompson and Mr. Hemphill will be present for a Q&A session following the screening!

Date: Wednesday, Sept 21st @ 6:30pm
Location: Showplace ICON Theatres, The Shops at West End

$20 per ticket
(click image for more info & to purchase tickets)

Synopsis: Musician and starving artist Robert reconsiders his own failed marriage to Emily after his daughter announces that she’s engaged.


I had the pleasure of seeing the film last week and I really enjoyed it! The key to creating a film set in a single night with just two characters is that the script has to be extra sharp to keep your attention. Kudos to Jim Hemphill as The Trouble With The Truth certainly accomplished that. The dialog feels very effortless and natural, and I found the conversations engaging. The story gets even better as the film progressed and never overstays its welcome. It certainly doesn’t hurt that they have to charming leads in a role that utilized their talents and charisma.

jimhemphillJim Hemphill is an award-winning screenwriter and director whose films include THE TROUBLE WITH THE TRUTH and BAD REPUTATION. In addition to his filmmaking endeavors, he is a regular contributor to American Cinematographer, Filmmaker Magazine, and the Talkhouse Film site, among other outlets. He is also a programming consultant at the American Cinematheque in Los Angeles, where he has moderated discussions with Peter Bogdanovich, Jane Campion, William Friedkin, Elliott Gould, Barbara Hershey, Michel Legrand, Adrian Lyne, David Mamet, Paul Mazursky, Ron Shelton, Jim Sheridan, Paul Verhoeven, Wim Wenders, Haskell Wexler, and many others.

Check out my Q&A with Jim Hemphill below on how the story came about, the casting process, challenges of making the film, and more!

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So you started out as a critic and script reader for David Fincher, did you start writing then? What inspired you want to make your own films?

Directing was always the primary goal, from when I was around nine or ten years old. I was a movie nut from a pretty young age, and as a little kid I was particularly obsessed with Clint Eastwood. At some point I realized that I was responding to something in his movies beyond his on-screen persona…I wouldn’t have been able to articulate it this way at the time, but I was connecting with his philosophy as a director.

At around the same time that I became conscious of Eastwood’s role behind the camera as well as in front of it, I also discovered the movies of filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Brian De Palma, John Carpenter, Martin Scorsese, Walter Hill, and John Landis – I didn’t completely understand what a director did, but I could feel continuities in their movies that made me aware of the fact that there was an author responsible for the ideas I was responding to. By the time I was in high school the floodgates had completely opened and I was studying directors constantly – via their movies, interviews, books, etc. – and I always wanted to follow in the footsteps of my heroes. Script reading was just a way of paying the rent, and I wouldn’t really call my writing about films criticism… I’m not a critic the way that somebody like Matt Zoller Seitz or Violet Lucca is. I’m more of an enthusiast – or even a kind of evangelist, beating the drums for movies I feel passionate about. It’s a little more personal and less analytical than what a real critic does, though obviously some of our best critics are very personal writers.

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Jim (center) filming with John and Lea

How did the idea of The Trouble With The Truth come about for you? Can you share what inspired you to the story and/or the characters?

First off, I wanted to avoid the mistakes I made on my first movie, which was a teen horror flick called Bad Reputation. On that film I was straining against my resources the whole time – I was trying to make what should have been a $5 million-dollar Blumhouse or Screen Gems movie for ten grand. I think there’s a lot of good stuff in that movie, but it feels very, very ragged, and the unpolished look of it always bugged me. So for my second film I wanted to write something that I knew I could make look great even if I didn’t have an enormous budget. That meant minimal characters and minimal locations, because the fewer people and company moves the faster I could shoot the movie. So I knew off the bat I wanted to do something like My Dinner with Andre or Talk Radio, where you’re essentially in a few rooms the whole time.

In terms of coming up with the characters, Robert is slightly based on my grandfather, who was also a jazz pianist who kicked around playing in hotels and things and lived the life of the bohemian – some might say starving – artist more or less until the end. But really both characters are different sides of me…I certainly have a lot of the same fears and interests and feelings, though John Shea’s character represents my more realistic, cynical side and Lea is kind of the less rational, romantic part of me.

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How did the casting of Lea Thompson & John Shea come about? Their chemistry is amazing and totally believable. Lea is the producer also, did you know her prior to making this film?

My only interaction with Lea prior to the movie came when I interviewed her on stage at a Back to the Future screening in Hollywood – I moderate these Q&As at the American Cinematheque, and Lea came to speak during a Back to the Future marathon. I always fantasized about making a movie with her, because when I met Robert Zemeckis in film school he said Lea was his favorite actress he ever worked with. This guy’s made movies with Meryl Streep, Michelle Pfeiffer, Jodie Foster, and other pretty major actresses, so that statement always stuck with me. I gave her the script for The Trouble with the Truth in the usual way, sending it to her manager or agent or somebody, and after we talked a little and I convinced her I wasn’t insane she agreed to do the movie.

The producing thing came about because over the course of the project she became more and more involved both creatively and just getting the damn thing out into the world, which is tough these days if you don’t have a multimillion-dollar marketing budget. Probably the most important thing she did was suggest John Shea – I have to give her full credit for that. When she came on board we talked about potential male leads and she gave me a list of four or five guys she thought would be good. John was at the top of her list, and I immediately loved the idea.

I had been a fan of his since Missing and was particularly fond of a movie he made with Alan Alda called A New Life, which as a great movie about marriage and divorce kind of influenced The Trouble with the Truth. John had worked with Lea before on a miniseries and was eager to do so again, so he agreed to do the movie and we were off. The fact that they knew each other saved me a ton of time and work, because they just jumped right in and, as you say, had instant chemistry.
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The conversations, all the bantering between Robert & Emily is engaging right from the start. How long does the writing process take for you from the time you came up w/ the idea?

This was probably the fastest I’ve ever written anything in my life, aside from a couple for-hire writing gigs where I was under a tight deadline. It’s certainly the fastest I’ve ever written anything good. Once I had the general idea mapped out I gave myself a rigid schedule of writing four pages a day, no matter what – that way I knew I would have a first draft in a month. I wouldn’t be able to do that on every script, but for this one I could because everything was coming more or less out of my imagination – there was no research or anything like that. After that first draft that took me a month I rewrote a little, but the script didn’t change that drastically…I would say altogether it was a few months of writing.

I always think that films that take place mostly in a single night & a single location are tricky. What’s the biggest challenge as well as inspired moments of making the film for you?

The biggest challenge is convincing everybody else that it can work, to be honest with you – there were times where I think the actors and crew were skeptical that the movie would remain interesting from beginning to end. But, you know, I don’t think you need a lot of locations or razzle-dazzle to make something interesting if the writing and acting is solid – I mean, that movie where Ryan Reynolds spends the whole thing in a box buried underground [Buried – ed.] is great! I think the upside of doing a movie like this is there’s a kind of concentrated emotional power; if the movie works on you, it’s because you’re so intensely focused on these two people and their issues, with no distractions.

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There’s a lot of dialog in this film, which I found very natural and has an effortless flow about it. But I notice there’s no background music at all when they’re talking, despite the fact that Robert is a musician. Is that a deliberate decision? If so, why?

That sort of speaks to the no distractions idea; we actually had more music in the movie, and it was all terrific – the composer, Sean Schafer Hennessy, is incredible, and I’m hoping maybe he’ll get some of the unused cues out on iTunes as a soundtrack album or something. But throughout the post-production process, my editor Michael Benni Pierce kept stripping things away to focus on the essential, and I think it was the right choice – we had two great actors, and I felt like the way to go was to follow Ingmar Bergman’s example and just make the movie about these people and their faces and voices. So a lot of the music got dropped in the mix, though there is a lot of great jazz throughout the opening bar scene if you listen closely – you can hear it better in a theatre, where the sound mix comes off the way it’s supposed to.

You’ve directed and written your last two films. Which one do you enjoy the most?

Directing, by far. I don’t really like writing, but it’s something you have to do in order to have something to direct. But to be honest with you, the only part of the filmmaking process that I actually enjoy is being on a set and working with the actors and cinematographer. Everything else is kind of an ordeal.

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You’ve tackled horror, drama and your next one is an adventure fantasy. Is there a genre you’d love to work on?

Well, I’m not doing an adventure fantasy, though I did work as a writer on a Hercules movie for, as Nicholas Ray would say, bread and taxes. Without question my bucket list genre is the Western – I have one I’ve written that I’d like to make if I can raise the money, and I might write a few more in the near future. I like all kinds of movies, but if I had my way I’d probably do nothing but Westerns, melodramas, and musicals – I’d have been a lot better off working in the Hollywood of the 1950s!

As a writer/director, who have been your inspirations (is Fincher one of them)? Would you share your top three fave films of all time?

There are so, so many, and certainly Fincher’s one of them – I think Gone Girl and Zodiac are two of the greatest movies ever made. Aside from the people I listed above, I’m inspired by the work of Francis Coppola, Oliver Stone, Sam Peckinpah, Ron Shelton, Paul Schrader, John Ford, Yasujiro Ozu, Kathryn Bigelow, Blake Edwards, David Lynch, Brian Trenchard-Smith, Paul Thomas Anderson, Budd Boetticher, Peter Bogdanovich, Michael Cimino, Nicholas Ray, Joe Dante, Elia Kazan, Steven Soderbergh, Alfred Hitchcock, John Cassavetes, George Romero, Terrence Malick, Michael Powell, Paul Verhoeven, Orson Welles… God, the list never ends. I hate to make one since I leave so many people out.

As far as my top three favorite films of all time, that’s a little easier: Boogie Nights, The Age of Innocence, and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.


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The Trouble With the Truth is currently available on DVD from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as streaming on Amazon Prime, iTunes, and Vudu.
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Thank you Jim for taking the time to chat with me about your film!


Hope you enjoy the interview! Thoughts on The Trouble With The Truth and/or the interview?

Indie Film Spotlight: ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ + Q&A with screenwriter David Solomons

I have mentioned this delightful Scottish rom-com Not Another Happy Ending on my blog a few times. I first saw it a little over a year ago on Netflix, April 2015 to be exact, and have watched it a half dozen times since. I’ve posted a Deleted Scene from the movie, as well as dedicated a Music Break post, and I still listen to the awesome soundtrack regularly.

Well, it so happen that today is Stanley Weber‘s birthday, the French actor whom I discovered from this movie. Last year I posted a Birthday Tribute in his honor, and this year I’m delighted to have a Q&A with the movie’s screenwriter David Solomons!


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When a struggling publisher discovers his only successful author is blocked he knows he has to unblock her or he’s finished. With her newfound success, she’s become too damn happy and she can’t write when she’s happy.The only trouble is, the worse he makes her feel, the more he realizes he’s in love with her.

I’m not always a huge fan of rom-coms, but many of my favorites are usually British rom-coms. Not Another Happy Ending is so darn charming with an effortlessly funny, likable cast. The Scottish aspect, the witty dialog, cast and Glasgow scenery, is really what makes this a fun movie to watch repeatedly.

 

NAHE_davidQuick bio on David per NosyCrow.com:

David Solomons has been writing screenplays for many years. His first feature film was an adaptation of Five Children and It (starring Kenneth Branagh and Eddie Izzard, with gala screenings at the Toronto and Tribeca Film Festivals). My Brother is a Superhero is his first novel for children. He was born in Glasgow and now lives in Dorset with his wife, the novelist Natasha Solomons, and their son, Luke.

I had the privilege to get a bit of insights from David about this film, how he came up with the idea, and how he handled the casting switch of the male lead. Check out the Q&A below:

1. ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ was your third feature film. What was your background before you got into screenwriting?

I was working as an advertising copywriter in my home-town of Glasgow. I’d say that working to a screaming deadline for highly demanding clients who want to squeeze every last drop from the budget is excellent preparation for entering the film business as a writer.

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Director John McKay with Karen on set

2. What inspired you to write this story? In the behind-the-scenes video, I thought you said you came up with the idea during a blind date? Would you elaborate on that?

Ah yes, the blind date. Not only did I acquire an idea for a film from that evening, I also met my future wife, Natasha. At that time she was studying for a Masters in English Literature at Glasgow University and bounded into the restaurant and my life. She was doing some work that touched on the relationship between creativity and depression, and, as you would when hearing about the miserable lives of poets, I immediately thought what a great idea for a romantic comedy.

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3. You also wrote a novel version of this film, what’s been the biggest challenge of writing the same story in both formats?

The challenge is accepting that what works in one medium sometimes doesn’t in another. For instance, it had always been my intention to start the film with Jane and Tom getting together and splitting up within the first five minutes. I thought it would be funny to subvert the rom-com trope of keeping the boy and girl apart until the end, and I like stories in which characters have history together. And that’s how we shot it, but no matter how much we recut the sequence it didn’t play. So we ditched it and now there’s a more conventional beginning. However, in the novel it works a treat. I suspect it has something to do with the novelist’s ability to depict his characters’ thoughts. We get more of a sense of these two people than we can in the crash-bang first five of the film.

4. I’ve always been intrigued by stories about writers and I love the character Jane as the protagonist. Are you happy with how Jane is portrayed in the movie by Karen Gillan?

I love Karen in the film. I think she is a really special actress. She is whip-smart, endlessly enthusiastic, treats her craft with utter professionalism. She’s got terrific comedy timing and has that indefinable movie star glow.

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5. In the ‘We Are Colony’ bundle, there are a lot of deleted scenes that involve the male lead Tom Duval. I feel that his character is a bit under-developed and now I realize why because so many of his scenes were cut. How do you feel about that?

I put all the deleted scenes into the novel!

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Stanley & Karen in one of the Deleted Scenes

6. I read that Tom was going to be played by a Scottish actor, but as Stanley Weber is French, was it difficult to rewrite his role to accommodate the casting switch?

I seem to remember that when we cast Stanley we did a draft that explained how he had come to Scotland to run his own publishing company. I have a feeling that one of the deleted scenes you mention above was an expositional moment that was ultimately cut. In the end it was decided that the exposition wasn’t necessary or got in the way. As for changing dialogue to accommodate Stanley, I don’t recall making any substantial alterations, apart from that he lapses into French in moments of high anxiety.

7. As a screenwriter, how much did you collaborate with the director (and actors) during filming? 

Sometimes as a screenwriter you feel (or you’re made to feel!) as if you’re intruding on the business of filmmaking. However, making Not Another Happy Ending was a very happy experience. John (McKay), the director, was hugely welcoming, including me in everything from early rehearsals with the actors to costume fittings, etc. In fact I would have been on set throughout the entire production except that I had to leave because my blind date (remember her?) was due to give birth to our first child smack bang in the middle of the shoot.

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David on set of NAHE

8. Lastly, what tips would you have for aspiring screenwriters?

Going back to your question about collaboration, I’d say that it can come as a bit of a shock. I’m not sure that as a debut writer you can be prepared for the process. What I mean is that the one thing you want above all, i.e. getting your screenplay into production, necessarily entails losing control over it. And that’s a good thing! Seeing a talented director and cast bring your characters to life is an amazing experience. Once pre-production begins your role changes. It’s now all about serving the good of the film. You have to be adaptable, fleet of foot (in the writing sense) and sometimes that means making compromises. That scene you love with the camels on the Orient Express? Can we make it one guinea-pig and a model train?

Of course, if reading that make you uncomfortable, then there is a solution: become a writer-director. But you’ll still have to lose the camels.

And one last piece of advice. Stay healthy. Not Another Happy Ending was picked to close the Edinburgh Film Festival that year. It was the highest accolade and promised to be a fabulous night – a chance for all of us to celebrate the culmination of what had been a long journey. I gather it was an amazing night, but I wouldn’t know. Instead of walking the red carpet I was lying in a hospital bed at the other end of the country. So, y’know, take long walks, breathe fresh air, eat five-a-day, and don’t miss out on your world premiere.

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Hope you enjoy the interview! Have you seen ‘Not Another Happy Ending’? I’d love to hear what you think. 

Happy Birthday Eva Green! Scenes from some of my favorite roles of hers.

BdayEva

I LOVE Eva Green! Though her filmography isn’t very extensive, the Parisian-born actress certainly left quite an impression to me ever since I saw her in Kingdom of Heaven. Like most of the actors I tend to obsess over, I love actresses who have a gorgeous voice to go with their beautiful faces. Eva’s got a voice and British/French accent that I can listen to for days on end, just like my other faves Cate Blanchett, Carey Mulligan and Rebecca Ferguson.

I’d watch to her interviews just to listen to her talk, whether in English or French … it’s quite mesmerizing. Here’s one talking about her recent role in SHOWTIME’s Penny Dreadful. I’ve only seen a few episodes of this (too scary for me) but I was really impressed by her performance as Vanessa Ives:

A quick bio thanks to IMDb:

Eva Gaëlle Green was born on July 6, 1980, in Paris, France. She has a sororal twin sister. Her father, Walter Green, is a dentist who appeared in the 1966 film Au Hasard Balthazar (1966). Her mother, Marlène Jobert, is an actress turned children’s book writer.

She studied acting at Saint Paul Drama School in Paris for three years, then had a 10-week polishing course at the Weber Douglas Academy of dramatic Art in London. She returned to Paris as an accomplished young actress, and played on stage in several theater productions: La Jalousie en Trois Fax and Turcaret.

There, she caught the eye of director Bernardo Bertolucci. Green followed a recommendation to work on her English. She studied for two months with an English coach before doing The Dreamers (2003) with Bernardo Bertolucci.

I have to admit I haven’t seen Bertolucci’s The Dreamers yet, in which the Italian direction dubbed her ‘so beautiful it’s indecent,’ but I have no doubt she made an impression. She has no qualms about taking her clothes off, but it’d take more than just a hot body to be successful in this business. I think she can be as ravishing fully clothed, as you can witness in the scene where Vesper first met Bond on the train to Montenegro.

Here are some clips and images from some of my favorite Eva Green roles:

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Eva_Sibylla

I’m not a fan of this film initially because of Orlando Bloom’s miscasting, but I definitely remember Green’s Sibylla. Her green eyes are so mesmerizingly piercing through her veil, it’s hard to take your eyes off her whenever she’s on screen.

 

Franklyn (2008)


This is an obscure movie most of you likely haven’t heard of, let alone seen. But thanks to my crushing on Sam Riley, I actually bought the movie partly because I also love Eva. She actually has the biggest role in the film, even more prominent than Ryan Phillipe who’s supposedly the lead. That’s a good thing in my book, though of course I wish Sam has more screen time. I love that Eva can do crazy and still manages to make ’em look sexy. And I do love the few scenes between Eva’s Emilia and Sam’s Milo, I wish they’d work together again one day!

Casino Royale (2006)


I think most of you already know that Green’s Vesper Lynd is my all time favorite Bond girl. I’ve watched all of the Bond movies from Dr No to Spectre and yep, she’s still the reigning champ… a Bond girl who’s very much 007’s equal who’s no damsel in distress. She may’ve betrayed Bond in the end but she also saved him. She’s a multi-layered character, not just a shag subject with a body to kill for, and Green’s as smart as she is incredibly sexy. I’ve posted the scene on the train in this post, I’m including a couple others I love from CR:

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For (2014)

SinCity2_Eva

She shines even in a not-so-good movies like Sin City 2. In fact, she’s the only one worth watching in this movie. I’d say it’s perfect casting as I totally believe her as a dame worth killing for!

 


Hope you enjoy my tribute to miss Green. What’s YOUR fave Eva Green role(s)?

Music Break: Hunky Dory (2011) featuring Minnie Driver & Aneurin Barnard

HunkyDoryMovieI have to admit I stumbled upon this movie as I’m currently besotted with this freakishly talented Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard. Yep, same guy who got me all obsessed with Richard III  😉

Having enjoyed Sing Street recently and the fact that this is from the creator of Billy Elliot, I knew I’d enjoy it. To be honest though, I actually never seen a single episode of Glee (never had much interest on it to be honest), and I haven’t seen School of Rock, two things which this movie has been compared to. But the fact that this is a British (Welsh to be exact) indie is always a major plus for me. I do love Minnie Driver and I love the idea of her as a sympathetic teacher.

Set in a small town in Wales in the summer of 1976, drama teacher Vivienne fights sweltering heat and general teenage apathy to put on an end-of-term version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

This movie didn’t quite have the exuberant, vivacious energy as Sing Street, but it does have a ton of awesome retro songs. This time it’s from the 70s, so we’ve got music from David Bowie, The Beach Boys, Jeff Lynne, 10CC, etc. The title is obviously named after Bowie’s album, but it’s also a British expression that means everything is just fine.

Check out some of my favorite musical scenes from the movie:

Based on the interview from SXSW, Aneurin said that all the musical segments were filmed live, so the kids really did play those instruments and the actors actually sang the songs. I love that authenticity, so the sound and performances feel organic and natural.

I’m glad Minnie also got to sing in the film. She’s a recording artist as well as an actor, and her voice is just lovely. She also sang the song in the end credits, Goin’ Back by Carole King.

This clip below has the song from pop-rock group The Turtles, sung by actor Tom Rhys Harries in the movie. There’s also a rendition of the late English singer Nick Drake’s Cello Song that Tom sang beautifully, but I can’t find the clip for it.


The 70s songs are just awesome, here are a couple more songs from the soundtrack that Aneurin sang:

Aneurin’s an Olivier-award-winning actor (for his performance in the West End’s Spring Awakening in 2010). It’s only a matter of time that Hollywood will discover him like Hiddles, Hardy, etc., but he’ll be seen in Chris Nolan’s Dunkirk so that’s a good start!

I wish I could see him perform live one day, he looks AND sounds like an angel!! The finale is awesome and it made me want to get up and cheer! I mean you can’t go wrong with Bowie, and the kids pretty much channeling the glam rock era with the boys wearing glitter and guyliners.

Check out the trailer of the movie, which you can rent on iTunes or HULU:


Hope you enjoyed this week’s music break! What do you think of the songs, which ones are your favorite?