Spotlight on ’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ – Interview with 3 surviving members of the security forces team

On Friday December 4, I had the privilege to interview three of the real-life soldiers depicted in the 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi film on Friday 12/4 afternoon at the Grand Hotel Mpls.

The film tells the true account of the events of September 11, 2012 when Islamic militants attacked the U.S. State Department Special Mission Compound (or simply – the American diplomatic compound, it was not the U.S. Embassy) and a CIA station called The Annex in Benghazi, Libya from the personal stories of five of the surviving American private security operators that were on the ground that day.

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Check out the green-band trailer below:

13Hours_bookI have to admit I was a bit nervous meeting them as I had never actually met a US marine nor Army Ranger before in my life, let alone famous ones who were involved in such a major military incident.

You might’ve seen them being interviewed by major media outlets since the novel the film’s based on, written by NY Times best-selling author Mitchell Zuckoff. As I was waiting for my turn for the interview, I continued reading the novel in the hotel lobby. It’s a real page-turner and full of details of the action of that night, as well as the previous nights before the attack happened. 

The three guys featured in the book are:

MARK “OZ” GEIST – Former Marine

JOHN “TIG” TIEGEN – Former Marine

KRIS “TANTO” PARONTO – Ex-Army Ranger

*Oz, Tig & Tanto are their actual radio call signs.

By the time I stepped into the room for the interview, Mark, John and Kris were busy signing the books. They’re friendly and courteous and made me feel comfortable and welcomed right away. Kris ‘Tanto’ Paronto went out of his way from the other end of the room to give me a big bear hug which was very sweet. I asked them to sign my book which they obligingly did. As I sat down, I immediately thanked them for their service to our country and that they’ve risked their own lives to save others.

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Q: How did this project come to be? Was the studio aware of the book being written [the book was published in Sept 2014] and wanted to do a cinematic adaptation of it?

MARK: 3 Arts [Entertainment], their literary division was the one who represented us when we did the book. Their primary division is a film production company out in L.A. We initially didn’t know where this would end up, we just wanted to get our story in print and bringing Mitchell Zuckoff as the author, and how he put together the book, the reviews of it, they felt that it would be a great fit for a film. So we went out to L.A. and talked to Paramount, actually we talked to several different groups and Paramount was the one that really, I think it resonated with them and they reached out to us about wanting to do the project and everything sort of fell into place.

Photo: Paramount Pictures
Director Michael Bay, Mark “Oz” Geist, Author Mitchell Zuckoff and John “Tig” Tiegen on the set of ’13 Hours’ – Photo: Paramount Pictures

Q: The book is a real page-turner, it’s very detailed and very intense. It made me wonder how the film would match the intensity. Since the film hasn’t come out yet, but you guys were there, so based on the footage you’ve seen so far, how realistic is it? Are you happy with the depiction?

KRIS: We’ve seen about 20-25 minutes footage, I think the intensity is there.

MARK: That’s why this is… I think this is made for Michael Bay’s [style]. He’s one of the few directors that I think can match the intensity that came across in the book.

KRIS: We’ve been very blessed that this has been handled by very good people. It shows that they had a sense, a sense to represent us correctly. They truly believe in the story, I don’t think if you truly believe in what happened that night, truly believe in how we are and want to know what actually took place that night and felt in their heart about getting it right, it wouldn’t have come out right.

Q: So they’re respectful about what went through that night? I mean, Michael Bay is known for his use of explosions, but there’s an emotional side to this story as well. I mean, this is obviously a very emotional experience for you guys.

MARK:  Things that people will see in the movie, and where he really… and I can’t say that he gets away from everything he’s done in the past in a sense that I mean you’re gonna feel every emotion… just as you read the book, you’re going to feel those emotions and he does the exact same thing, from fear, to sadness to anger. The movie’s not just about the actual event of that night, but it’s about our families too, our wives, our kids and he shows that in little snippets. It relates to how our kids… for example, he shows one scene of one of us with our families and the kid asks his dad ‘Daddy, why he has to go back, can’t you just do this?’ That really resonates with every single one of us, because most of us in the [security] contracting world are a little bit older and most of us have kids, we’re further along in our family life. So the kids are there and they’re talking to us… and that’s when he shows the compassion side of the movie and the troubles that we go through and serve our country the way we do.

KRIS: Michael Bay’s critics don’t see how much he supports vets. The extras you see in the movie, they’re are also military people from special forces and SEAL teams. I don’t think people give him the credit he deserves when it comes to making movies and the fact that he uses real people when he needs an authentic military aspect. The fact that this is a military film and he has the experience because he’s been around military people throughout his film career. There were Seals in The Rock and even in the Transformers movies there were real army rangers who worked as extras and they’re friends of ours who’ve worked with us overseas. So I don’t think he gets the kudos when it comes to stuff like that.

Q: The film was shot in Malta and also Morocco. How involved were you in selecting the location, obviously it couldn’t be shot in Libya but did you have any input in location scouting?

JOHN: No, we weren’t involved in the location as they’d select the location that’d look best to represent Benghazi the way it was. As for input for the set, as far as set design, by the time we got there, they already got the design done so we’re sitting there in front of the set guy. He was telling us what it looks like and how they did it. Well I said, ‘well this is wrong, this wall wasn’t here, this was actually over there…’ and Michael Bay was like, ‘Oh great, you just cost us another hundred thousand dollars’ but they moved it, they did it. Same thing with the actors, I mean one of them took Oz’s (Mark) wife on a date and tried to get into detail how everything was.

KRIS: Best date she ever had, I reckon she said.

[Everyone laughs]

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From L-R: Max Martini (Oz), John Krasinski (Jack Silva), Dominic Fumusa (Tig) and Pablo Schreiber (Tanto)

Q: Which actor was that?

JOHN: Max Martini. But don’t tell his wife [laughs]

KRIS: Don’t tell Oz, I mean he’s here but don’t tell him.

JOHN: Even on the set, we’re constantly in talks with the actors even before and after we left the set. Like Dominic Fumusa [who played John in the film], I mean he’s emailing me once a week asking me questions.

Q: So John, you have twins don’t you? According to the book, you’ve been there three times?

JOHN: Well I’ve been to Libya four times but three times to Benghazi.

Q: So you did go back to Libya after that?

JOHN: We all went back to work after Benghazi.

MARK: Well not to there [Benghazi] but everybody went back to the Middle East after all. I didn’t because I was injured but we all went back to our security work in different places. 

JOHN: Yes, until about mid 2013 when we finally decided to do the book.

KRIS: This wasn’t exactly our idea y’know ‘oh we got in a firefight, let’s go write a book about it’ We all wanted to continue to work. We just saw that the truth kept getting…

JOHN: hijacked…

KRIS: Exactly, hijacked by both [political] parties, everybody in the media, even by people in general who were writing a book about Benghazi who had no idea what was really going on in there. It got to the point where… first of all, it’s disrespectful to the people who died and disrespectful to those who lived, those who completed the mission and saved lives. I mean, it just wasn’t the truth. So it got to the point where had to vote as a team, as a team we said this is what we’re gonna do, let’s tell the truth… and of course we had to resign and here we are. I mean, I never planned on y’know, when I was younger I never thought I’d write a book that’s gonna be made into a movie, never in my life that I thought that.

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Pablo Schreiber as Kris “Tanto” Paronto, John Krasinski as Jack Silva & David Denman as Dave “Boon” Benton

Q: Early in the book, I read about how Jack Silva and Rone Woods, the night before the attack, they were talking about the security of the diplomatic compound and the ANNEX building. They were talking about the holes in the defensive system and how it might be vulnerable to terrorist attack and all that. Now in hindsight, knowing all that and this happened. Have you been contacted or are there improvements being made to make sure this doesn’t happen again? Not just in Benghazi but in other diplomatic compounds in vulnerable locations.

JOHN: They’re still trying to fix the holes that they found in the Beirut bombings [in November 2015]

KRIS: The actual training for state department guys…this is just from our friends in the State Department, they’ve made some improvements. Now I don’t know how much more intense they’ve made it thought they told me it’s pretty intense. But as far as from the state department asking ‘hey what are you guys’ take on this? What should we do? What’s the after action?’ No, that hasn’t happened, I think there are still the same problems overseas. And this is just from the guys that… it’s a small community, we still know guys who work as security contractors. They can tell you right now, that some lessons have been learned, but I don’t think they’ve exploited all the lessons they could’ve learned to make improvements that could be made to these diplomatic compounds overseas.

JOHN: Well, there’s really no reason to do the improvements because there’s nobody ever held accountable. Until someone is held accountable, put their feet to the fire, nothing’s ever going to chance.

KRIS: [holding the book] But this helps. The secret soldiers of Benghazi. Hopefully one day they’ll read this or somewhere down the line someone at the State Department or Government will watch it and maybe a light will click on. This will serve as a reminder forever so that’s important. I mean, we did what we had to do. This is out there, we’ve done all that we can do from our point of view. And the State Department know where we’re at and they can reach out to us. If they want to know our assistance, all they gotta do is ask.

MarkQuoteQ: I don’t want to make light of this event at all, obviously this was very tough for you guys. But there’s one point in the book where I thought, ‘I wonder if it’s going to make it into the film or not.’ I think in the Overrun chapter, Tanto you said ‘I’m getting too old for this.’ I think it’s when you’re about to climb an 8-foot wall. There’s definitely a sense of humor in the book.

[Everyone laughs as they’re playfully poking fun at Kris]

KRIS: Yeah, people think combat is all serious but we actually had a lot of fun. There’s a lot of jokes, I mean that’s your defense mechanism, it’s how you deal with stress, you tell jokes and you have a good times. And you’re with your buddies and that makes it ten times better. I mean you got bullets zipping by above your head and you hear that snap. You gotta put that on your bucket list, one time you gotta let that happen and you’ll see, you’ll think, ‘man this is kinda fun.’

Q: Oh I don’t know about that. Now, you guys seem very happy and calm now. I mean it’s been three years but how’s life been for you guys? Has the memory of the event still haunt you from time to time?

MARK: I don’t know that it necessarily haunt. I mean we’ll carry this memory forever and I’m proud to carry this memory with me, serving with these guys. Even the memories of Tyrone [Woods, former Navy SEAL, played by James Badge Dale] and Bub [Glen Doherty, former Navy Seal, played by Toby Stephens], they got killed right beside me when I got injured in the same explosion. I’m proud to have been able to fight with those types of guys, it’s a sense of privilege and honor to be able to do that. And it’s unfortunate that people died and get injured in these line of work but we’ve been around long enough and doing this long enough to know that this is one of the consequences. We even rationalized, dealt with that, or compartmentalized this long before it even happened.

Who’s who in 13 Hours:

Featurette on the men who lived the Benghazi attack:


THANKS so much Mark, John and Kris for chatting with me.13Hours_interview

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi opens wide in the US on Friday, January 15

Check out the worldwide release date here


Thoughts on the interview and/or the film? I’d love to hear what you think!

Short Film Spotlight: IN VITRO (2015) directed by Toby Stephens

In many ways, short films can be just more effective and compelling than feature films. IN VITRO is a prime example, which marks an excellent directorial debut from British thespian Toby Stephens.

In Vitro posterI found out about its Indiegogo campaign last year and I’m glad to be one of its backers. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it to the screening in London, and at present I’m still waiting for my request to interview Toby. I hope one day I could post that interview, but in the meantime, I want to spotlight his excellent work, currently available on We Are Colony.

In VITRO is only 18min long but it packs a punch. The film follows the fractured journey of a man dealing with the still-taboo subject of infertility.

In a commentary in We Are Colony, Toby “…wanted to tell the story from a male perspective because it is a largely unheard voice, but no less valid aspect on this subject, that helps reveal the moral complexities of procreation.”

Well, he certainly achieved that in this film, presenting the subject matter as it is without judging one side or the other. It’s not preachy nor did he try to push a certain agenda, but the story is definitely thought-provoking. This isn’t a topic that I think about much but it made me think about what if I were in the characters’ shoes… how would I feel? What would I have done?

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InVitro1

The film was written and directed by Toby Stephens himself and stars his Black Sails 2 co-star Rupert Penry-Jones, and Anna-Louise Plowman and Stephanie Leonidas. Anna-Louise happens to be Toby’s wife and both of them were also Penry-Jones’ co-stars in BBC’s miniseries Cambridge Spies back in 2003.

All the actors fit the roles nicely, with Penry-Jones skillfully carried the weight of the film. He’s a naturally likable presence, which helps as his character isn’t exactly a virtuous man. But I can’t help sympathize with his character despite his flaws.

InVitro_Director_Cast

I like how Toby frame the story in a non-linear way, which keeps things more intriguing. The cinematography by Simon Dennis is beautiful to look at. The use of music definitely fits the tone of the film and there’s an atmospheric quality to the nighttime scenes. I’d say this is an excellent debut from Toby and he’s definitely a promising writer/director. As a phenomenal actor himself, he certainly has a vision of what he wants from the performers and it shows. I sure hope he’ll continue to make films in the future, and perhaps star in his own feature film?

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Check out the trailer, courtesy of We Are Colony:


What are your thoughts of IN VITRO?

Everybody’s Chattin’ + Black Sails Season 2 Pictorial Appreciation

EverybodysChattinWinterHappy Wednesday everybody! I have a super special post coming tomorrow… y’know I love the fifth 😉 But before that I just want to highlight some great posts from my fellow bloggers, there are tons terrific reviews of films I can’t wait to see. So well done, my friends!

Let’s start off with some TV-related posts…

Sati has been anticipating Season 5 of Game of Thrones and boy nobody made a trailer post quite like her! Meanwhile, Kristin lists her picks of Best TV Shows of 2014.

Josh is the most prolific movie viewer I know, and his viewing list in January alone puts most of us to shame. I’d be lucky if I even saw half of that in six months!

Wendell is currently hosting In with the New Blogathon where we pick a remake that’s actually better than the original. He picked 300 over 300 Spartans, and I concur! 😉

The year-end recaps still continues. Zoë just posted the first part of her Top 20 Movies of 2014.

Now on to reviews!

Stu reviewed Ex-Machina | Natalie reviewed Kingsman: The Secret Service | Keith reviewed A Most Violent Year– these are some of my anticipated list from this year. I’ve got my press screening for Kingsman next Tuesday, can’t wait!

Meanwhile, these are some movies that’s available to rent either now or very soon: Irene reviewed Calvary | Mark reviewed Birdman | Andrew reviewed The Double


Now time for some drool-worthy Black Sails 2 pics!

I’ve only seen one episode so far as I don’t have cable, so I literally has to go to my pal Prairiegirl’s house to see it. I’m gonna binge watch later March but I can’t help watching every clips out there on Youtube! I’ve got the photo of Captain Flint on his regal Captain chair as my desktop photo, and really, seeing those gorgeous blue ocean is just what I need when it’s a snowy 13˚F outside.

I’ll do a proper Black Sails appreciation once Season 2 is done, but really the main reason for me to see this show is Toby Stephens!! I LOVE LOVE all the flashbacks to his life 15 years prior when he’s still a British Naval Officer. Awesome to see him reunited with his Cambridge Spies’ co-star Rupert Penry-Jones, aka Captain Wentworth in BBC’s Persuasion.

If you haven’t caught up with this show yet, well what are you waiting for? 😉


Hope you enjoyed today’s post… stay tuned for the return of Five for the Fifth tomorrow! 😉

10 Brilliant Acting Performances Defined by One Look

I LOVE LOVE this idea from Brittani that I came across earlier this week that I had to take part.

“Sometimes a simple look an actor gives is nothing short of brilliant,”

I totally agree with her sentiment. Sometimes the quietest, most subtle look or gesture has the power to generate the most emotional response, no words necessary.

It made me think of some of those scenes and really, there are SO many examples that it’s tough to narrow it down to just 10. The fact that I remember these scenes despite the length of time that’s passed since I’ve seen it means they definitely left a big impression on me. In fact, from time to time I still look on youtube to watch that particular scene again. Ok so technically there are 11 here, as I paired up one of them, but I think it still count as one as it happens in the exact same scene where the two actors interact with each other. Anyway, here goes:

Christian Bale in Equilibrium

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I always have a fondness for this dystopian sci-fi thriller despite its flaws. Bale’s Preston came too late to save the woman he loves from being incinerated… and he had to watch her die right in front of him. Bale’s expression of utter despair just breaks my heart. It’s one of my favorite Bale performances from all the amazing work he’s done, even if the film itself is far from perfect.

Emily Blunt – Jane Austen Book Club

Blunt_JaneAustenBookClub

I LOVE miss Blunt and she adds so much gravitas and emotional complexity to her character of a French teacher going through an unhappy marriage. She’s just about to have a rendezvous at a motel with a hot, young student but something precludes her from taking another step. I don’t remember much about the entire film but I always remember this scene.

Toby Stephens – Jane Eyre (BBC – 2006)
Toby_JaneEyreI have to include at least one out of a plethora of Toby’s masterful scenes as Rochester. The no-wedding scene is definitely one of the most emotionally-charged. Rochester’s anguish is so palpable here when ‘bride in the attic’ secret’s been revealed. He was so close to finally be with the woman he loves, but in a single moment, that elusive happiness is snatched away again. As cheesy as it sounds, there’s such mesmerizing beauty in his look of pain and agony. It takes a real craftsmanship to bring such tortured soul persona so beautifully and Toby does it with aplomb.

Angela Bassett in Waiting To Exhale

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Fireman: Ma’am, were you aware that your car was on fire?
[Bernadine nods her head while smoking a cigarette]

Fireman: Ma’am, did you start this fire?
[she puffs smoke and plainly looks at him]

Fireman: You know, it’s against the law to burn anything except trash in your yard.

Bernadine: [flicks off ashes from her cigarette] It is trash.

Miss Bassett is simply awesome, period. It’s been over a decade since I saw this film but I never forget Bernadine’s rage and heartache when her husband leaves her. She’s crestfallen, but yet she never loses that bad-ass sensibility. Her look says it all, ‘Don’t mess with Bernadine.’

Russell Crowe in The Insider

Crowe_TheInsiderI’ve always believed that Crowe got robbed of his Oscar in this film. As fantastic as his portrayal of Maximus was, the way he completely disappeared into Jeffrey Wigand is nothing short of astounding. This scene at the hotel room is mesmerizing, powerful and heart-wrenching and Crowe only communicates with his body language. There’s a bit of a dream sequence here that was crafted masterfully by Michael Mann, but it’s Crowe’s stillness and inner tumult that you won’t soon forget.

Chiwetel Ejiofor in 12 Years A Slave

Chiwetel_12YearsASlaveThis scene is one of the most haunting, which is saying something given how many heart-wrenching scenes there are in this film. At first Solomon didn’t join the other slaves singing Roll Jordan Roll, but somehow, halfway through the song, he started singing. His facial expression stirs up so much expression as I watched it. It’s as if he’d reached the lowest point of his life, losing all hope of ever escaping his fate as a slave… all the grief, desperation, anger and sense of helplessness is all there. Yet there is a glimmer of defiance in him, a flicker of hope still left in him that gets him through another day. Ejiofor deserved an Oscar win just for this scene alone.

Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday

Peck_TheHolidayThe finale remains one of the most beautiful and poignant film endings ever. And I think Peck’s facial expression conveys so much. The restrained tears in his eyes, the rigid way he’s standing, it takes so much out of Joe not to say how he feels about Ann. Yet his expression speaks louder than words could ever do.

Kate Winslet in Titanic

Winslet_TitanicIt’s been ages since I saw Titanic but for some reason, this subtle scene of Rose during dinner with her family and Cal still stands out to me. There’s this glazed look on her face, like she finally stops caring about her privileged life that feels more and more like a prison. “That fire is gonna burn out,” Jack tells her at one point and it’s as if it finally sinks in that he is right and she wants out.

Joaquin Phoenix in Gladiator

Joaquin_GladiatorThis is truly one of the greatest scenes in film history IMHO. There’s just so much going on in this scene on psychological and emotional level. Of course Crowe is simply astounding in his ‘Maximus Decimus Meridius’ monologue but one thing that always struck me is Commodus’ stunned reaction. His lips quiver, eyes wide open with shock and his whole body trembles with a combination of rage and fright. It’s like ‘WTF! How could you still be alive?’ He knew at that moment, everything he’s planned so carefully is in shambles. As Lucilla said, at that moment, a slave did become more powerful than the Emperor of Rome, and it’s all written in Commodus’ face.

James Cromwell & Kevin Spacey in L.A. Confidential

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There are certain phrases in movies that will forever be stuck in my head. “Rolo Tomasi” is one of them, and thanks to both Cromwell and Spacey for creating such an iconic and chilling scene. That’s the name Exley (Guy Pearce) gives the unknown murderer of his father just to give him a personality. “Have you a valediction, boyo?” Capt. Dudley Smith asked the dying Sgt. Jack Vincennes. It’s a powerful and totally unexpected response, and one he never thought would eventually lead to his own demise. Even nearing death, Jack still manages to deliver quite a blow to Dudley.


Well, what do you think of my picks? Please share your own picks of great acting defined by one look.

Five for the Fifth: OCTOBER 2014 Edition

FiveForFifth2014

Welcome to FlixChatter’s primary blog series! As is customary for this monthly feature, I get to post five random news item/observation/poster, etc. and then turn it over to you to share your take on that given topic. You can see the previous five-for-the-fifth posts here.

1. Inspired by my recent viewing of Gone Girl which features yet another collaboration between David Fincher & Trent Reznor, it made me think of other great director/composer partnerships.

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Fincher & Reznor have collaborated on Se7en, The Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo previously. There are many other similar partnerships that have churned out amazing works: Steven Spielberg & John Williams, Christopher Nolan & Hans Zimmer, Ridley Scott & Hans Zimmer, J.J. Abrams & Michael Giacchino, Peter Jackson & James Horner, just to name a few. Wiki has a list of all director/composer partnerships if you’re curious.

So what’s your favorite director/composer collaborations?
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2. I just want to highlight a couple of new trailers that came out in the last couple of weeks. The main draw for me for both of these are the filmmakers. Now, first one is Blackhat.

A man is released from prison to help American and Chinese authorities pursue a mysterious cyber criminal. The dangerous search leads them from Chicago to Hong Kong.

Now, I’m most curious to see this mostly because I LOVE Michael Mann‘s work and he’s the kind of director who’d go into great lengths into researching his films. His last film he directed was Public Enemies in 2009, and though it’s my least fave film of his, I’m still hugely anticipating what he’ll tackle next. I wonder if he’s spent the last five years researching about cyber crime, but that doesn’t seem far-fetched to me. The casting of Chris Hemsworth as a hacker is a bit odd, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. I’m a fan of Viola Davis however, and the cast & scenery does have an international flair to it. Btw, did you catch that ‘big hammer’ reference in the trailer? 😉

The other one that really piqued my interest is Paul Thomas Anderson‘s comedy caper Inherent Vice.

In 1970, drug-fueled Los Angeles detective Larry “Doc” Sportello investigates the disappearance of a former girlfriend.


Confession: I haven’t seen any of PT’s film before. Yes I know, I know, I guess I better get on that. This one might be the first of his movies I’d see on the big screen. It looks like a dark comedy and there are some goofy parts in the trailer, which is interesting as I don’t normally see him directing comedies, but it intrigues me even more. Plus the cast is fantastic, especially Joaquin Phoenix who’s such a chameleon!

Does either one of these trailers pique your interest?

3. Now, this is a VERY special topic for me, considering how big of a fan I am of the massively talented Toby Stephens. Not only is he joining Twitter, woo hoo, he’s also making his directorial debut in a short film called In Vitro, hence his Twitter handle. Ahah, his Twitter background photo is hilarious!

TobyOnTwitter

As Toby’s described in his own words, In Vitro is a film that subtly explores how infertility can erode a marriage, and what can happen when cold science, replaces passion and a sense of mutual purpose. It’s a subject that’s rarely explored in film, but it’s one that [he] feels needs to be. Sounds like one of my fave British actors, Rupert Penry-Jones, have signed on to be the lead actor! How awesome, as both will be in Black Sails 2 next year!

Toby’s looking to get support via the crowd-funding site Indiegogo, here’s the direct link to his project. I’m so thrilled for him and you can bet I’m one of the contributors! 😉 Check out the video w/ all the details:

Thoughts on this project? I’m also curious which crowd-funding project(s) are you supporting and/or planning to?
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4. Last night I watched Jon Favreau’s Chef which was pretty enjoyable. Man, even though we watched it after dinner, those food porn shots definitely got us salivating.

ChefMoviePics

Chef is the perfect feel-good movie for the weekend, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The story is pretty engaging though editing could’ve been much tighter. I think a 90-min film would’ve suffice for a story like this one, and the two Iron Man cast (RDJ & Scarlett Johansson) weren’t given hardly anything to do in their gratuitous cameos. Still, the food stuff are incredible. It certainly made me want to take up more cooking and I wish there’s a Cubano food truck like El Jefe here in town!! Last time I was wiping my drool as I watching was when I saw Julie & Julia and Today’s Special.

What are YOUR fave food movies you’d recommend?

5. This month Five for the Fifth’s guest is my pal Melissa from SnapCrackleWatch blog!

SnapCrackleWatchBlog

Originally we’re going to discuss holiday movies, but let’s table that until November 🙂

CharlieBrownPumpkinSpecialSince it’s October, and a lot of people are excited about Halloween, Melissa was wondering if you have a film tradition, whether it’s horror or otherwise, to celebrate the season. Melissa mentioned the Charlie Browns Pumpkin Special, which is something I’d be far more inclined to watch than any of the horror offerings out there. For those not a fan of scary movies like me, there are some horror-comedies that are fun to watch year after year, like Shaun of the Dead, Beetlejuice, Ghostbusters, The Corpse Bride, etc.

So, do you have a Halloween viewing tradition, if so what is it? 


Well, that’s it for the October 2014 edition of Five for the Fifth, folks. Now, please pick a question out of the five above or better yet, do ‘em all! 😀

Interview with Black Sails’ actor Sean Cameron Michael (aka Richard Guthrie)

FCInterviewBannerChattinWithSCMAs most of you know, I’m a big fan of Starz’s latest flagship show Black Sails, which has been renewed for a second (possibly third?) season before its initial season was done, yay! I was fortunate enough to chat via email with one of the cast members, Sean Cameron Michael, a South African-based actor who played Richard Guthrie in the series.

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I think he’s one of the strongest performers on the show and I love his character arc as the richest black marketer in Nassau where the story takes place. I’m particularly intrigued by how his character would affect the fate of the series’ protagonist Captain James Flint, as well as his lover Miranda Barlow. Check out the interview below:

1. How did you end up working on Black Sails? Was there an audition process that you had to go through?

I believe that they had worldwide auditions for the show back in 2012. I was in Johannesburg, South Africa at the time shooting a movie called The Challenger Disaster with Oscar-winner William Hurt. I had also just wrapped on the popular Strike Back TV series working opposite Game of Thrones’ Charles Dance, so it was a very exciting time for me in my career.  

The opportunity to audition for Michael Bay’s first venture into cable television was exhilarating and knowing that this was Starz Entertainment’s next big original series (having been responsible for the amazing Spartacus franchise) was an added bonus.  I had two auditions for the show before I was confirmed as Richard Guthrie.

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2. Please tell us how you prepare for your character Richard Guthrie. Did you read Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island before?

Although the story of Black Sails takes place about 20 years prior to Stevenson’s Treasure Island, I did read his book and watch the 1950’s Bobby Driscoll film, as well as the 2012 Eddie Izzard movie.  I also referenced a couple of other books based on the time period, including Colin Woodard’s The Republic of Pirates and George Woodbury 1951 edition of The Great Days of Piracy.

I watched the Spartacus series again to get a feel for the style of TV drama that Starz has a clear niche in, as well as shows like Downton Abbey to see what kind of accent Mr. Guthrie might have. We worked with wonderful dialect coaches, as well as top hair & make-up artists and costume designers to ensure that the look and feel and sound of these characters would be spot on. As an actor, you take all that information and reference material, and kind of let it settle in the background and try to just “be in the moment”. Of course we were also fortunate to work with some of the best writers, directors and producers in the industry today, so the amount of input and support is incredible.

3. What’s your favorite filming experience in South Africa? The set with the giant Walrus ship looks incredible, that must be a treat working on such an intricate set.

Once you’ve read the detailed scripts and walk onto the most amazing sets, you are automatically transported to that period in history. It all just falls into place quite perfectly and as the cameras roll, you just breathe, smile and be as honest and as real as possible. It’s all quite a mind-boggling and exciting experience. Unfortunately my character didn’t get to spend much time on the awe-inspiring ships, but yes, it is quite breathtaking to behold and there were moments when I felt like a kid again, taking it all in and thinking “Gee wiz, this is a cool experience. I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”  The sets constructed at the Cape Town Film Studios are certainly world-class and easily compete with anything found in the US and Europe today.

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4. You had quite a few scenes with Toby Stephens who played Captain Flint. Could you share your experience working with him?

Working with Toby was an absolute treat. Besides being a consummate professional and certainly one of the UK’s finest and underrated actors, he also happens to be very down-to-earth, friendly and funny in person, continually making jokes. When actors meet and do a scene together for the first time, we’re very often testing and perhaps challenging one another, to get a feel for what sort of level in performance we can expect from one another. Toby is a very passionate and giving actor, and I thoroughly enjoyed working on some truly intense and hopefully captivating and entertaining scenes with him.

5. How’s filming Season 2 different than filming the first one? Any tidbits about Season 2 you could share with us?

Before we started shooting season 2, we had the opportunity to watch season 1 in it’s entirety prior to it’s premiere screening around the world. When my scenes were originally filmed for season 1, they were obviously shot out of continuity with the rest of the story. So to finally see these scenes, intertwined with the rest of the intricate story and it’s characters, was helpful and informed me where I needed to go with Richard Guthrie in the next season.  

As an actor, you prepare and then film your scenes under great direction, delivering your best possible performance, but it’s only after the entire show is edited together and you watch the final cut of the episodes months later, that you are able to truly experience first-hand what you hoped to create on set at the time. I believe in season 2 I was able to delve even deeper and get closer to the true essence and heart of what makes Richard Guthrie tick and what drives him as a man in a once very powerful position, but also as a father to his daughter Eleanor. I could not be prouder of my work on season 2 and I cannot wait for audiences to experience what I have dedicated the past year of my life to.

Here’s the trailer for Season 2:

6. Lastly, what other project(s) are you working on right now?

TheSalvationPosterMy latest feature film The Salvation premiered in May this year at the Cannes Film Festival to a six-minute standing ovation.  It’s currently screening all over Europe and due for release in the States in the coming months. I was fortunate to work opposite Hannibal’s Mads Mikkelsen which was a fantastic experience.

The movie also stars Eva Green, Michael Raymond-James and Jonathan Pryce [as well as Jeffrey Dean Morgan – ed]. I’m currently filming a new South African TV series based on the atrocities of apartheid in the mid-eighties, as well as a short sci-fi film to be released on the festival circuit.

Here’s the full synopsis of The Salvation:

In 1870s America, a peaceful American settler kills his family’s murderer which unleashes the fury of a notorious gang leader. His cowardly fellow townspeople then betray him, forcing him to hunt down the outlaws alone.

And you can watch the trailer on youtube.


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Thanks so much Sean for taking the time out of your busy schedule to chat with me.
Can’t wait to see season 2 of Black Sails!

Follow Sean on Twitter   and check out his 2014 Actor Reel on Vimeo

http://vimeo.com/109154971


Hope you enjoyed the interview. Have you seen Black Sails? Are you as excited for Season 2 as I am? 

Weekend Roundup: TCFF Sneak Peek, a French comedy & the Great Gatsby

Happy Sunday everyone!

Well it was a rather packed weekend starting with the a TCFF Insider Series event on Friday night. It was the perfect venue for early September as a touch of Autumn filled the air as we gathered poolside at the University Club in St Paul on top of Ramsey hill, whilst sipping cocktail & munching delicious hors d’oeuvres.

TCFFSneakPeek

We watched a compilation of 12 trailers of some indies/docs/features films that’ll be showing at the film fest in mid October. One of the features are already on my most-anticipated Fall movies list, yay! I can’t tell you yet which films are playing as details are still being finalized, but let’s just say I’m super excited!

Well I only got to see two movies this weekend. Somehow my hubby and I have been in the mood for French comedies lately. Last week we saw The French Minister, well this weekend we saw…

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (2010)

I’m not always a fan of Luc Besson movies but this one turns out to be entertaining. It’s got a bit of Indiana Jones/The Mummy but with a female heroine instead. But this movie is more of a zany fantasy-comedy with some laugh-out-loud moments involving mummies being brought back to life. Louis Bourgoin as the protagonist is fun to watch. She reminds me a bit of Katherine Heigl with dark hair but with more spunk and likable presence. Mathieu Amalric (who I remember as the villain in Quantum of Solace) has a small role but entirely unrecognizable here under heavy *ugly* makeup.

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The movie is loosely based on a French comic of the same name that takes place in in 1910s Paris which features some gorgeous scenery of the city of Light. Some of the movie’s more fun and fantastical part involves a large Pterosaurs that hatched when a Professor uses a telepathic technique. The CGI looks pretty good and definitely enhances the fantasy element of the story. I was quite surprised however, that the reason for all those adventures Adèle went through turns out to be quite a heart-wrenching, albeit there were some creepy moments involving Adèle’s sister. Besson made some hilarious *historical* reference as to the origin of the pyramid in front of the Louvre, though the cliffhanger involving a doomed ocean liner is rather odd.

Overall I enjoyed it, I think if you like the two action-adventure movies I mentioned above, you might enjoy this one too.

3.5 reels


Sunday night is usually reserved for some Toby Stephens watching and this time I chose this TV Movie of …

The Great Gatsby (2000 TV Movie)

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I’ve seen this movie three times so far and I enjoyed it every single time. Sure it didn’t have the lavish style of Baz Luhrmann’s version nor its budget to depict the lavish, over-the-top parties in Gatsby’s house, but it certainly didn’t put me to sleep like the 1974 version with Robert Redford. I wish this adaptation had captured the manic energy of the roaring 20s though, even the music was a bit melodramatic. But the two performances, Toby as Jay Gatsby and Paul Rudd as Nick Carraway, won me over. In fact, just like in the 2013 movie, there’s more chemistry between Jay & Nick than Jay and Daisy.

Toby made for a charming & suave Gatsby, with that signature smirk of his and looking dapper in those tailored suits, but what I like about his performance was how emotional and real it was. The way he looked at Mira Sorvino’s Daisy made you believe he truly was infatuated with her, that he was besotted beyond reason. I’ve grown to like Rudd’s performance here as well as the story’s most relatable character. I’ve seen him mostly in comedies but he certainly had dramatic chops and he makes for a compelling and sympathetic narrator of the story. What’s more important than the visual style and costumes, which this adaptation lacked due to budget constraints, it does capture the tragic story of Gatsby and like Nick, I certainly was on Gatsby’s side.

Since I bought the dvd, it came with a great biography of its author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who undoubtedly has lived an intriguing life that rivals his most famous literary hero.

3.5 reels


Well, that’s my weekend roundup folks. So what did you see, anything good?