Interviews

Grand Budapest Hotel Cast

Wes Anderson‘s The Grand Budapest Hotel is his most ambitious film to date. Filled with locations, costumes, and set pieces, there is quite a bit going on in almost every frame including some well-crafted action. Anderson has proved himself as a capable action director over the past few years, what with the chases in The Fantastic Mr. Fox and, of course, Steve Zissou’s toe-to-toe battle with pirates. While Paramount may not be calling him to helm the next Transformers – not yet, anyway — he continues to show a real knack for action. Even though The Grand Budapest Hotel has a relentless pace, it’s still a character-driven story for Wes Anderson. It’s kind of a buddy comedy, following Monsieur Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes) and his lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), as they try to prove Gustave’s innocence in a murder case. That synopsis is reductive, but it’s the main focus of the story, which Anderson worked on with his buddy Hugo Guinness. Anderson has collaborated with other screenwriters on all his films, from Owen Wilson to Noah Baumbach to Roman Coppola, but this is his first solo credit. Our discussion with Anderson began with his penchant for not writing alone. Here’s what he had to say about his process, from his scripts to making commercials, at SXSW:

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We

This summer marks a very special anniversary. It’s fair to say we all remembered what took place on August 4, 2000. On that most likely quiet and peaceful summer day, one film dominated the cultural conversation, a true game changer unlike any other film of its kind. For years people had been asking, “What is this Coyote Ugly? Is it more than just some bar at the New York, New York hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada?” Kangaroo Jack director David McNally finally answered that question with his unconventional story of a small town girl trying to make it in the big city with Coyote Ugly. That picture co-starred Melanie Lynskey as Gloria, the young girl’s best friend. Needless to say, it’s not Lynskey’s best film — that honor goes to The Informant, which is her personal favorite as well — but it was the last film I watched of Lynskey’s before speaking with her at SXSW, so why not discuss it? Lynskey wasn’t at the festival to promote the upcoming 14th anniversary of Coyote Ugly, though. Instead she was down for We’ll Never Have Paris, Simon Helberg and Jocelyn Towne‘s romantic comedy starring Lynskey as a woman whose relationship is thrown off track by her boyfriend’s selfish neurosis. Since I hadn’t seen the film when I spoke with Lynskey, we mostly discussed other topics, including Coyote Ugly and never wanting to take a paycheck for something she doesn’t believe in. Check out our conversation below.

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imogen poots in need for speed

Imogen Poots‘s face is everywhere this year. She was recently seen in That Awkward Moment, has Need for Speed opening this weekend, Filth hits the states this summer, and maybe we’ll be lucky enough to see her in Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups before 2015. Another movie Poots co-stars in this year is writer-director John Ridley‘s Jimi: All Is by My Side. She plays the incredibly suave Linda Keith, a supporter and close friend of Jimi Hendrix (André Benjamin) in the film. Speaking with Poots at SXSW this week, I learned she clearly admires Ridley’s strict focus on their relationship as well. She spoke fondly of Jimi: All Is by My Side and, of course, a terrific French bakery in Los Angeles. Our conversation touched on plenty of other relevant subjects, too. If you’re curious about how beautiful Charlestown, West Virginia, really is, for example, read what she has to say about it below.

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Oliver Platt in X-Men First Class

It’s a scientific fact that if you add Oliver Platt to anything it gets 34% better. There are numerous examples of Platt elevating films even with his smallest of appearances. However, this week he took off his actor’s hat and served as a narrative feature juror member for SXSW. He also has a role as a food critic in Jon Favreau‘s Chef, which premiered at the festival, but Platt was in attendance to be a part of the festival, not to promote a film. And yet, he made the time to speak with us. Platt was my final interview of the festival, and it couldn’t have been a better note to end on. Interviews can be tough during SXSW. Sometimes you’re lucky to have more than 10 minutes with whomever you’re interviewing. In many cases, it’s never done in a helpful setting, either. Too often you’re in a small room or restaurant packed with people speaking at an excessively high volume. Or, in one instance, you’re on a stage under a spotlight in some darkly lit bar being watched by 15 strangers. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case with Platt. At the last minute, an interview slot opened up and we met him in his hotel lobby the following day for a lengthy conversation. It was an all around ideal situation, and we used it to explore the overriding theme of the festival.

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Jason Bateman in Bad Words

Bad Words is a really dark comedy. Its lead, Guy (Jason Bateman), is crude and selfish, and he won’t stop until he proves his point. Sometimes he goes about his plan in mean-spirited ways, but for Bateman it’s pivotal that an audience embraces the character. That’s not as difficult as it sounds. He makes the National Spelling Bee contest actual fun, so you’re already on his side from the start. Not only is Guy likable despite his edges, but he’s also empathetic. Andrew Dodge‘s script gives him the right kind of motive that never interrupts the film’s initial comedic tone. There’s just enough of Guy’s past and his twisted and sweet friendship with a kid, never too much of it to make him an unbelievable softie. There’s plenty of tonal tightropes in this movie, but Bateman, who was also in the director’s seat for the movie, was well-aware of them from the start. I spoke to Bateman at SXSW this week, and this is what he had to say about his anti-hero character, directing for the first time and more:

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Only Lovers Left Alive

When a well-known actor takes a job for the cash, the final result generally comes off as little more than a paycheck for all involved. Actress Tilda Swinton is lucky, in that regard. Her work-for-hire performances have served the likes of David Fincher, Tony Gilroy, the Coen Brothers, and the perfectly fine adaptation of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. Those pictures aren’t Swinton “selling out,” but taking on respectable gigs with people whose work she admires. What revs the actress up the most are the kind of projects that represent who she is. “That’s just the way I roll,” says Swinton on her long history of staying in the trenches with the projects and filmmakers that she deeply connects with. She’s someone that stands by her director. If you recall, when Bong Joon-Ho’s director’s cut of Snowpiercer was in danger of being chopped up for its US release, Swinton quickly came to the his aid, saying, “Maybe an effect of the film is that when one has spent two hours in the claustrophobia of this train we can leave the cinema and feel the relief that we can make life wider, so maybe it’s a sort of aversion therapy to sit in the train for two hours. That’s two hours, not one hour and forty minutes.” Clearly, Swinton is an actress you want by your side during all the trials and tribulations of filmmaking. She also went to bat for director Jim Jarmusch for this long-in-development Only Lovers Left Alive. She’s been attached to the project […]

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Kathryn Hahn in Bad Words

Cinema has no shortage of great sex scenes. Just last week we saw a prime example of steamy hate sex from 300: Rise of an Empire. Eva Green’s snarling dominance over a soldier will never be forgotten. It’s up there with some of the finest sexual encounters in history: Kevin Costner going at it while driving in Revenge; Mulholland Drive‘s much talked about piece of lovemaking; the opening shot of Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead; and the orgy in Eyes Wide Shut. Someone all those scenes were seriously lacking: Kathryn Hahn. If Kubrick wanted to turn the heat up during that orgy, then he would’ve thrown Hahn into the mix. She’s proven herself as more than capable when it comes to making sex much funnier and even more awkward. Who could forget when Alice (Hahn) rode Dan (John C. Reilly) like an animal in Step Brothers? If that didn’t do it for you, then Alice’s “stay golden, pony boy” goodbye sure did. We discussed Hahn’s finer moments of acting at the Bad Words press day during SXSW. Here’s what she had to say about how awkward sex makes her career come full circle.

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Karen-Gillan-in-Oculus-2013-Movie-Image

On Doctor Who, Karen Gillan played Amy Pond, known as “the girl who waited.” That label stemmed from her first episode of the British sci-fi series, in which the title character showed up in her backyard with his TARDIS — a time machine in the form of an old, blue British police box — and invited a 7-year-old Pond to be his traveling companion. But then he didn’t return to pick her up for over a decade. The actress has had better luck with her own promise of travel and adventure, starting out as a model before landing roles on UK television straight out of drama school, including that prime gig on the internationally popular Doctor Who program. From there, she didn’t have long to wait before a movie career whisked her away to Hollywood. And as it turns out, her initial means of coming to America also involved a man with something resembling an old, blue British police box. “I was in my childhood bedroom in Scotland,” she explains about her first Skype meeting with Mike Flanagan, who directed her in her first gig in the U.S., the creepy, cleverly edited new horror movie Oculus. “And he took a swig of coffee out of a TARDIS mug, which made me realize I had a good chance of getting it.”

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Grand Budapest Hotel

It’s funny to think one of the most honest movies about families stars stop-motion foxes. Then again, when you know Fantastic Mr. Fox was helmed by none other than Wes Anderson, it’s no surprise that the ins and outs of family have been explored with wit and earnestness. His newest movie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, doesn’t have any foxes voiced by George Clooney, but that doesn’t mean Anderson doesn’t strive again for the same nuance underneath the grand theatrics. The magnificence of the acclaimed filmmaker’s eighth feature film comes from both onscreen and off. Some critics have called this his most ambitious work to date, covering various time periods, a huge ensemble cast, and heavy themes reinforced by a sharp sense of humor. It’s also his bloodiest movie yet, which Anderson finds amusing. With all the fascists at this party — attended by a stellar cast too long-winded to namecheck — it makes sense there’s more blood drawn in this crime picture than any of his previous movies.

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Jaume Collet-Serra Non-Stop

Some commercial directors are not filmmakers. They may be able to craft a few pretty images, but it’s a different medium. Even Steven Soderbergh once expressed befuddlement at the idea of handing over heaps of money to commercial guns-for-hire to make their first features, and last year alone we saw a few directors disappoint us in that regard. While Non-Stop director Jaume Collet-Serra didn’t set the world on fire with his leap into film, he’s gone on to carve out a strange and successful career for himself. His first film, House of Wax, was a routine teenage horror picture. At the time of its release more people were focused on Paris Hilton’s perfectly fine, non-night-vision performance than Collet-Serra’s glossily moody style, and when you have her running around in her bra, “the direction” isn’t going to dominate the conversation. Still, it’s competently made, especially in its superior first half, but it’s not the movie Collet-Serra wants to be remembered for. “For me, it was a learning experience,” Collet-Serra tells us, explaining what he dreamt for with his first feature. “My hope for House of War was to learn as much as I could and to do a good job for them, to see how it works. As I’ve had the chance to make more movies, I’ve been able to have more control.” House of Wax did decent business, but Collet-Serra wouldn’t have had the chance to make the movie today. “It was a time in Hollywood where they were giving these commercial directors, like myself, the opportunity to do these kind of big horror movies, which […]

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mcg shooting 3 days to kill

Imagine a med student with orange dreadlocks down to his ass during the early 1990s. Do you have that horrifying mental image yet? Any takers on who that now-famous man might be? That’s right, it’s Joseph McGinty Nichol from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Like plenty of driven young filmmakers, Nichol one day dropped out of school, packed his things and moved to Hollywood. Without any connections, he pushed his way into the industry with the help of a pizza delivery service. He put a copy of one of his music videos in a pizza box and had it delivered to an executive, who was tickled enough to give it a watch. That box of pizza gave birth to the man we all now know as McG, the director behind Charlie’s Angels, We Are Marshall, Terminator Salvation and his newest film, 3 Days to Kill. Nichol has had that nickname ever since he was a kid. In some ways, it is representative of his career: a little silly, but self-aware and unapologetic. “It’s never been fun to critically praise a ‘McG movie,’” he jokes. “It even begins with my ridiculous name. My name is who I am. My movies seem to further that difficulty. I try for drama, humor and action and yet try to make well-rounded movies.” General audience members could care less about Nichol’s nickname, but it’s turned him into a punching bag on the Internet, for both fanboys and, sometimes, critics.

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goodman

The past few years have been kind to John Goodman: Monsters University was a worthy followup to Monsters Inc.; Inside Llewyn Davis was the best film of 2013; he stole the show in Flight; he was a part of a best picture winner with Argo; and he was in two kids films that will never be forgotten: Speed Racer and ParaNorman. The fact that that list of films doesn’t begin to  cover all of Goodman’s good fortune goes to show how blessed he’s been. Really, how hard he’s worked. Settling into his fifth decade of acting, Goodman is hitting his stride. Yet it’s the actor who accredits this success to pure chance. “It’s just the luck of the draw,” Goodman explained, while discussing The Monuments Men. “It’s total luck. Boy, I’m grateful everyday for it. The last few years have been a great ride. I look forward to going to work everyday. I wouldn’t trade it.” And why would he? He’s appeared in many critical and commercial darlings, and he’s even back on a series with Amazon’s Alpha House, which, from the sound of it, he had a blast making. The same goes for his time spent on The Monuments Men.

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mann

Michael Mann‘s Thief  is like a ticking-clock thriller without an actual ticking clock. Frank (James Caan) is in a rush to make up for lost time, to achieve the life he wants, and is represented by his photo. A part of the film’s conflict is that Frank’s life of crime will lead to an inevitable blowup. As Mann would say, he’s a rat in a maze. That idea has sneaked its way into Mann’s later work, from Collateral to Public Enemies to Heat, as his characters are inexorably drawn towards an inevitable outcome for their actions. But it all started with Thief, which has now been released on Blu-ray by Criterion. From the hypnotic sounds of Tangerine Dream‘s score to the sumptuous beauty of Donald E. Thorin‘s cinematography, this 4K restoration of this landmark crime film has made Mann’s “rat in a maze” seem even more immersive. Despite his busy work on an untitled thriller (aka Cyber) Mann spoke with us about his classic directorial debut, offering his thoughts on its style, the virtues of editing as “the ultimate kind of writing” and the unparalleled intimacy of digital cinematography in a post-celluloid age.

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JACK RYAN- SHADOW RECRUIT

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit isn’t an action movie. Sir Kenneth Branagh‘s reboot of the Tom Clancy-based franchise is a straight-up thriller, and that’s an important distinction to make. The film may have a globetrotting story, which goes from New York to Moscow, but Branagh’s set pieces are all contained, even the motorcycle chase at the very end. If you counted the amount of bullets fired in this movie, it would be drastically less than most spy thrillers. That fact likely spoke to Branagh, who was more invested in Jack Ryan’s quick thinking than the character’s skills in combat. If you asked him about Thor a few years ago, he would’ve expressed more interest in the themes of brotherhood than Thor swinging his hammer around. Branagh has always been a character-driven filmmaker. When you make a juicy four-hour version of Hamlet, you have to be. Everything from that Shakespeare adaptation to even Peter’s Friends seems to play a part in Branagh’s blockbuster filmmaking. The director and co-star (he plays the Russian villain, Viktor) recently discussed his progression towards tentpole filmmaking with us, along with the excitement and education that comes with it.

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SAVING MR. BANKS

There’s plenty of heartwarming to be had with John Lee Hancock‘s Saving Mr. Banks. Tom Hanks‘s smile alone tugs at the heart strings, but underneath the picture’s cuddly side there’s a darkness to be found in the flashbacks to P.L. Travers’ (Emma Thomspon) childhood. Playing her father, Travers Goff, is Colin Farrell. Goff is an alcoholic who often hides his pain through storytelling. The parallel for Travers is obvious, but it’s also true in the case of Walt Disney, at least when it comes to the film’s take on Disney. The young Travers informs the older Travers, and the same goes for Goff. It’s a performance we haven’t seen from Farrell before, but ever since Tigerland — Joel Schumacher’s best movie — you could say that for most of his roles. He’s not an actor who repeats himself often or falls back on certain crutches, and that’s likely because, as he tells us, he tries to find roles that push him as an actor. Saving Mr. Banks certainly does just that. Here’s what Colin Farrell had to say about his wonderful time on the film, wanting his experience dictated to him, and, of course, Miami Vice:

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mckay

As their world keeps evolving, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) and his news team remain the same guys we met 10 years ago in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. They’re stuck in their adolescent and ignorant mindsets, which Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues challenges. For a man like Burgundy, real drama is having to accept a black woman as his boss. Heavy stuff. The old Channel 4 news team may not have changed, but their sequel has. Co-writer/director Adam McKay and his characters were barely bound by structural rules, giving Anchorman 2 some wild directions to go in. To no surprise, McKay took full advantage of those opportunities, and 60% of the time it worked every time. I spoke with McKay, who explained his improv method for the film in depth, described his minor battles with the MPAA and revealed the cameos he wanted but couldn’t get.

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banks

Shooting one quaint room with only four inhabitants doesn’t exactly scream “cinematic,” at least not in the conventional sense of the word. For a considerable portion of Saving Mr. Banks, we’re watching creative sessions involving P.L. Travers (Emma Thomspon), screenwriter Don DaGradi (Bradley Whitford), and songwriters Richard (Jason Schwartzman) and Bob Sherman (B.J. Novak) attempting to adapt Mary Poppins. Generally absent from those scenes is Tom Hanks, an actor with no shortage of charisma. Not having Hanks’s Walt Disney participating is fine though as the others happily match his charm. Director John Lee Hancock (The Blindside) cast these roles based on the energy needs of that room. Discussing those scenes with Hancock, it’s apparent how much those moments standout for him as well:

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tucci

Stanley Tucci can now add “LaBute’s classical ass” to his profile. Writer/Director Neil LaBute has always been known for writing vicious men who put their female counterparts through the ringer. Naturally, that’s what Tucci’s character does in Some Velvet Morning. Tucci plays Fred, a man attempting to worm his way back into Velvet’s (Alice Eve) life. He toys with her, manipulates her, and tries to break her down just enough that she comes crawling back into his arms. Some Velvet Morning is set in one house with two characters, which means Tucci and Eve are in the camera’s eye for all 82 minutes of its runtime. It makes for a challenge, but Tucci was more than game for the film’s fast schedule. Of course, there were a few things that helped.

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cooper

43-year-old Scott Cooper didn’t direct his first feature film until he was 37.  2009’s Crazy Heart scored Jeff Bridges his first oscar, and it also made Cooper a director on the rise. The film cost only $7m and went on to earn more than $47m worldwide, making it both a critical and financial smash. That’s not a feat we see often, but for Cooper, he couldn’t have asked for a more welcoming result for his debut. His follow-up, Out of the Furnace, is an entirely different kind of film, featuring an ensemble cast, life and death stakes and suspense. Before it premiered at AFI Fest last month, one of the producers compared Out of the Furnace to The Deer Hunter, inferring that they didn’t set out to make a film that goes down easy. The talent in attendance clearly stated their intention: they wanted to make a movie about America. Not the big booming cities, but the small towns that have been left in financial turmoil. That wasn’t the story Brad Ingelsby‘s set out to write in the beginning. “The original screenplay was based on the idea of a man who gets out of prison and must avenge someone,” says Cooper, delving into the film’s subtext. “The rest all comes from a very personal experience. As I said in those opening remarks [at AFI], I wanted to show the turbulent world we’ve lived in the the last five years. I thought it was important to express my personal and artistic worldview through that lens, and out comes Out of the Furnace.”

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news oldboy1

For many years now a potential remake of Park Chan-wook‘s Oldboy has been striking fear into the hearts of fans. No matter the level of talent involved, scoffs were heard loud and clear around the Internet. Why remake such a recent classic? Probably because, outside of cinephiles, it’s not exactly well known. But that’s beside the point. Even when Steven Spielberg flirted with the project, fan interest remained low, which is a shame because when Spielberg really likes to get cruel as a filmmaker, it’s pretty spectacular. Like Justin Lin and others, Spielberg eventually moved on, as did one-time potential star Will Smith. However, someone who stayed with the project through the years is screenwriter/co-producer Mark Protosevich. Protosevich, who scripted The Cell and chunks of I Am Legend, has always been a serious cheerleader for this remake. I say remake, because, despite what Spike Lee and others tell you, Oldboy is definitely a remake, not a reinterpretation. There’s nothing wrong with that, and Protosevich, he doesn’t treat “remake” as a dirty word either.

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