Tarsem Singh

When you watch a Tarsem Singh film, you figure out pretty damn quickly that you’re watching a Tarsem Singh film. The auteur filmmaker isn’t the type to play it safe, and he’s clearly not afraid of polarizing an audience. Even with his modern take on the classic Snow White fairy tale, Mirror Mirror, he goes for an unabashedly childlike and wacky tone – which may not be for everyone. Tarsem’s films are rather similar to his persona: unfiltered, without any hint of compromise. This is the third time I have spoken with Tarsem in the past year, and although heaps of ground can be covered with him in mere minutes, courtesy of his rapid conversational style, it was a real treat to finally have an actual conversation with the filmmaker. Tarsem is one of a kind in terms of his filmmaking and demeanor. Whether you love or despise his films, the man is certainly an original. Here’s what Tarsem Singh had to say about polarization, the goal of not being different for the sake of being different, and the glory days of hanging with the college versions of Michael Bay and Zack Snyder:

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Anyone who’s seen a fraction of Tarsem Singh‘s work knows the man is about as ambitious as a filmmaker comes. Even with last weekend’s wonderfully kiddie Mirror Mirror, he delivered the unexpected, and not only when it came to defying that hellish trailer. But Mirror Mirror‘s ambitions can’t touch what Singh did on The Fall, a project he sunk his own cash into, took 17 years to get made, and shot in over 20 countries. Whether you love the film or loathe it, you can’t deny that isn’t passion. Singh’s name has been tied to a few projects in the past few years, but when recently speaking with him, I had to ask if he’s got another big passion project similar to The Fall which he would love to make. As it turns out, he does:

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Let’s come right out with it: Mirror Mirror is a disaster; a jokey, stagy bomb that sputters around like the worst faux-clever high school play you’ve ever seen before it mercifully comes to an end. After 10 minutes, I’d had enough. By the time Armie Hammer licks Julia Roberts’s face, I envied the old lady in Airplane! who hanged herself rather than listen to the rest of Ted Striker’s story. There’s nothing worse than a movie featuring material that everyone involved clearly found hilarious, forgetting to let us in on the joke. Director Tarsem Singh (The Fall) is a great visual stylist, but he’s the wrong director for a campy Snow White rehash that’d barely qualify for ABC Family. The movie looks like a grandiose pageant, boasting the filmmaker’s trademark outsized visual compositions and some ridiculous costumes, but it’s tongue-in-cheek slop, with a bunch of phoned-in dramatics and sprinklings of vaudevillian humor that would have been dated during the vaudeville days. Roberts delivers an annoyingly self-absorbed turn as the evil Queen, who appoints minion Brighton (Nathan Lane, giving the exact performance you’d expect) to kill her step daughter Snow White (Lily Collins), the famed “fairest of them all.” A proud young woman, Snow naturally escapes her fate, finding her way to the seven dwarfs in the process. Together, they engage in banditry and plot to take back the kingdom, while winning over a hopelessly slow-witted handsome prince (Hammer) in the process.

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The use of drones in military exercises is becoming a more and more popular topic of debate and discussion. It’s a glimpse into the possible future of war where avatars can do the recon and, to some extent, the fighting in place of human soldiers and airmen. FilmNation is keen to explore the issue with a thriller from Five Minutes of Heaven writer Guy Hibbert. Until recently, Downfall director Oliver Hirschbiegel was on deck for the project – titled Eye in the Sky – but The Playlist is reporting that with him out, visual dynamo Tarsem Singh is actively pursuing the gig. “It’s about a drone attack, and what it means to the people playing with their thumbs in Nevada, what it means to the people saying, ‘Go ahead and strike,’ what it means to other politicians at war in Europe, and what it means to the people on the ground where it happens [in East Africa]. There are people who become collateral damage around the globe in a lot of ways. It’s a really contemporary, emotional piece,” said Singh. The director also claimed he should know in about a week whether he got the job or not, which means you’ll know in about a week as well. At any rate, the giant film, featuring 62 acting roles would be a challenge for the director who is normally known for crafting effects and flat characters – not intricate thrillers with a ton of moving parts.

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Immortals Director Tarsem Singh

The last few days have been pretty huge for director Tarsem Singh. First, his latest feature Immortals opened up to less-than-stellar to fairly middling reviews. Then he shocked the cinematic world with the completely ridiculous trailer for his next film Mirror, Mirror. And finally, he’s capped off his week by becoming attached to another film, this one called Killing on Carnival Row. According to Deadline Shahkot, Killing on Carnival Row was the first big spec script sale made by Travis Beacham, who has gone on to write things like Clash of the Titans and the upcoming Pacific Rim, but who never saw his first effort get produced. Killing on Carnival Row is described as a noir fantasy thriller set in a future city that resembles 18th century London much more than any sort of future city we usually imagine. Guillermo Del Toro was circling the project for a while, but like with most things Guillermo Del Toro, that didn’t end up working out. All of that previous stalling seems to be over though, because the producers putting this project together have said they now have studio backing, though they won’t reveal from who. And in Singh they feel like they’ve finally found their man to direct.

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Looks like the Snow White feature film death race of 2012 has kicked off its second leg with a bang – a terrible, gobsmacking, color-dazzling nightmare of a bang. Tarsem Singh‘s take on the tale of the snow-white-skinned princess and her vertically challenged woodland friends is the more comedic of next year’s dueling Snow White features – Mirror, Mirror is the one that stars Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, Julia Roberts, Nathan Lane, and Sean Bean – though after this first trailer, absolutely no one will mix it up with Rupert Sanders‘ darker Snow White and the Huntsman. Tarsem’s take on the Grimm Brothers fairy tale has long been rumored to be a comedic family adventure, though this first extended look at the film looks more like a comedic adventure for drug addicts and people who think Julia Roberts is capable of pulling off an accent that is somehow not totally laughable. Tarsem’s seemingly pulled together all the elements of the Snow White story – evil queen, lovely princess, dumb bunny hunk o’ prince, dwarfs to save the day – without even a smidgen of irony. Take a bite of the acid-laced apple that is Mirror, Mirror and check out the first trailer after the break.

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Immortals Director Tarsem Singh

One of my favorite experiences at Comic-Con this year was interviewing Tarsem. I was never scheduled to speak with the man one-on-one, and was only meant to participate in the roundtables for Immortals. Luckily, after the roundtables were coming to an end, I noticed Tarsem standing alone by himself. He mentioned how most people find The Fall to be the biggest piece of shit or the best thing ever made, and I fall heavily in the latter, so I decided to tell him that. Tarsem was so receptive to a basic compliment, he gave me an interview on the spot. Whenever a publicist tried to drag him away, he’d basically tell them to buzz off since I said I love The Fall. I left that encounter with a big grin on my face, to say the least. This time around, my chat with Tarsem started off on the same fun note as our previous encounter, but ended on a more disappointing note. Last week when we spoke, I had not seen Immortals. That type of interview is never ideal, but I didn’t want to miss the chance to speak with Tarsem again, who I guessed was knee-deep in Mirror, Mirror. Once he found at I hadn’t seen the film, he demanded the publicist to reschedule… which, unfortunately, didn’t happen, for one reason or another. Currently, I’m left with another hundred questions left I wanted to ask Tarsem. Then again, any amount of time with the fast-talking director is more than appreciated. Here’s what Tarsem […]

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr goes to war. He strips down to his muscular awesomeness and shimmies into a codpiece. After applying a solid gold breastplate, he’s too exhausted to actually go to war, so he heads to the local movie cinema to catch Immortals, wondering if Isabel Lucas has ever eaten a carbohydrate in her life. Then he slips into a housedress and sneaks into an early screening of J. Edgar. After a quick nap, he tries to escape the horror that is Jack and Jill, but alas, that did not happen. You can send him care packages now, courtesy of his local mental institution.

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Henry Cavill and Frieda Pinto in Immortals

Oh, Tarsem, that one-name wonder. Tarsem blew the doors off with his first film, the 2000 thriller The Cell, starring Jennifer Lopez of all people. He brought his music video past and introduced the film world to his visually striking signature style. While you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’d call The Cell a great film, you’d be just as hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t give at least some credit to the visuals. The Cell presents the inside of a killer’s mind with incredible flair. It is nightmarish and enveloping, and when Tarsem decided to write and direct his next feature, we knew what to expect. The Fall certainly lived up to those expectations, pairing Tarsem’s skill in painting visual portraits with a compelling story. So there are certainly more expectations going into Tarsem’s third feature film, this weekend’s Immortals.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news column that isn’t holding out hope that it will be chosen to host the 84th Academy Awards. It has never had a good working relationship with Brian Grazer. Earlier today the entire film world was talking about Brett Ratner’s departure as producer of the Oscars because of a whole bunch of controversy over some comments he made that offended fans of rehearsals. Everyone wanted him out, and they got it. The also got the bonus of Eddie Murphy jumping ship as host, two-for-one discount style. And now they’re getting something else, which might be seen as a bonus. The Academy confirmed this evening via a press release that Brian Grazer will produce the 84th Academy Awards telecast. The odds on Tom Hanks hosting just went through the roof.

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Director Tarsem Singh (or, as he tends to go by, just the single and crazy chic “Tarsem”) has just two features under his belt (The Cell and The Fall), yet he is already known for his distinct visual style that places a premium on color and costuming. It seemed like a no-brainer that the helmer would get picked up for a 300-styled flick with a historical setting. Thus, Immortals. We got a look at the film’s teaser back in April, then Tarsem himself talked to Jack about it during Comic-Con, but the actual plot of Immortals has remained relatively veiled. Tarsem told Jack that the film is “a big epic journey,” but what the hell does that actually mean?

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Having not spent my childhood as an eyeliner-wearing outcast, my knowledge of the Emily the Strange character is quite limited, leading to lots of personal speculation, such as “how do you find narrative in a lunchbox?” The truth is, you don’t, but luckily for fans of Ms. The Strange, there’s actually a wealth of material to mine for a feature film that goes far beyond cheap tee shirts from Hot Topic (but I don’t put it past anyone to make a film about based on a tee shirt). That’s good news for screenwriter Melisa Wallack, who has just signed on to write the Emily the Strange feature film script. Wallack most recently penned the script for Tarsem Singh’s untitled Snow White project over at Relativity (that’s the one with Lilly Collins, Armie Hammer, and Julia Roberts), but she’s also got two Black List projects under her belt, 2007’s Meet Bill (which she also co-directed) and Science Fair (currently in development). If you’re going to turn a logo into a film, signing on a talented screenwriter is a good way to start.

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“Coming this fall: an action event from the director of The Cell and The Fall.” Yeah, it still sounds odd to me, too. Once it was announced that Tarsem would be tackling a big swords and sandals epic, it elicited a feeling of both excitement and confusion. As for the exciting part — wouldn’t it be interesting to see how such a visionary can put a spin on this genre and what he could do with an action beat? As for the confusion — isn’t this a big studio picture? With epics such as this, directors have countless people to answer to. But Tarsem didn’t seem interested in answering to those people. This a director that couldn’t have a greater distaste for by-the-numbers filmmaking. As he says below, he’s a polarizing filmmaker. Both The Cell and The Fall received both wild appraise and heaps of venom. Can Tarsem still bring that interesting polarization to a sizable fall release? From the sound of it, yes, he can. When I approached Tarsem to discuss The Fall and wish him luck on Immortals, the very funny and honest filmmaker ended up giving me a quick and unplanned 1-on-1 about not dealing with studio suits, his work ethic with actors, and the methods of Mickey Rourke.

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The comparisons to 300 will be inevitable, so let’s just get them out of the way. Yes, the teaser for Immortals makes it look an awful lot like 300 (and the “From the Producers of 300” bit only amplifies it), but it looks like a far more visually dynamic version. Snyder’s movie looked amazing, but Singh has a more varied palette and a bigger paint brush, so everything here seems a bit more vibrant instead of automatically being washed out in sepia tones and blood reds. Those are definitely still there, though. This teaser is intense, and it showcases Singh’s best strengths as a filmmaker: his eye for production design. Check it out for yourself and get your blood flowing:

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One of the “Snow White” projects just got its title character even if it doesn’t have a title yet. Lily Collins – who played Sandra Bullock’s character’s daughter in The Blind Side – will star as the fairest one of all for Relativity Media’s version of the fairy tale being directed by Tarsem Singh. The movie already has Julia Roberts signed on as the Evil Queen who creates the Sleeping Death, and Armie Hammer as the handsome prince who saves the day with a kiss. All of it seems like the formulation of a fairy tale, but Singh is gauranteed to make the thing look eye-bleedingly beautiful even if the story and acting sinks. This might be sacrilege, but I guess I never realized there was much of a story to the story. Snow White is left in the forest, hangs out with a bunch of dwarfs, gets attacked for being too pretty, and then gets kissed, right? Is there really much going on to create a feature narrative here that doesn’t feature a ton of songs? I ask this honestly. [THR]

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The Armageddon vs Deep Impact of old German folktales is currently raging, and the production teams behind both are busying themselves trying to find the pure unadulterated embodiments of evil. Universal is looking to Charlize Theron to play their nasty witch queen for Snow White and the Huntsman, while Relativity is looking to Julia Roberts for The Brothers Grimm: Snow White. (And just for fun, the movie Maleficent is also in development to provide yet a third actress the opportunity for the role to play a totally different witch from a different story.) Both are perfectly fine actresses, and Roberts scared the hell out of everyone with her performance in Eat Pray Love. Plus, it will be a sight to see these two veterans give us their own spins on an iconic character within a few months of one another. Who do you think is going to be scarier? [Cinematical]

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While there’s no title for it yet, the prospect of Relativity Media doing an adaptation of the Grimm Snow White isn’t exactly something to whistle while you work about. The story has been done before, and promising that it will be “edgy” is comical, because I doubt the wicked queen will be eating what she thinks is a human heart (just like in the heartwarming tale of our youth!). Or maybe she will now that Tarsem Singh has signed on to direct. The man is a visual master, and a dark fairy tale is exactly the kind of project that sees him rubbing his hands together and cackling in sheer delight at the possibilities. This is exciting news. The production is aimed at families still, and it’s not to be confused with Snow White and the Huntsman which is set up over at Universal, but there’s assurance now that even if the story is terrible, the film will look spectacular. [The Wrap]

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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