Featuring a cameo appearance by Charlotte Rampling, channeling Mr Oliver Hardy?

December 7th, 2012

Contemplating the career of Ludivine Sagnier, Xan Brooks came up with a striking comparison:

[In her early 20s…] she gave us a 21st-century riff on the French gamine: at once innocent and perverse, beautiful and bent out of shape. The press promptly touted her as "the new Bardot", although that barely scratches at the surface of her wonky appeal. On screen, Sagnier manages to be at once coolly carnal and haplessly gauche. For me, she's like Stan Laurel as played by Marilyn Monroe, though I'll concede that this description may well not catch on.

Not a parallel that occurred to me when I first watched Swimming Pool.

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Interview 2.0 meets Curiosity 1.0

March 13th, 2012

I think I'd have responded the same way Grig Larson did to this job interviewer's question…

Riddled (from Grig Larson)
Not too long ago, I applied for systems administrator job. The interviews were going very well, and I had to return twice because they flew people in to meet me. One of them was a guy who, God love him, seemed like a great person but his interview skills were a little hackneyed. […]

"If you had to move Mount Fuji," he asked, "how would you do it?" I recall thinking, "why is he asking this? What does he mean by Mount Fuji?"

"You mean, Mount Fuji, the volcano in Japan?"

He looked confused I asked. "Er, yes. How would you move it?"

What he didn't know was I was a science fiction author as well. I spent a lot of time asking odd questions like these. […] But like a writer, I had to have a principal motive of the protagonist.

"Why?" I asked.

The man chuckled as if he had never thought about that before. "Just how would you move it?"

I felt I didn't explain my question. "I mean, who is my customer? Why does he or she wish to move Mount Fuji? I mean, to move Mount Fuji seems like the middle of a plan; it's a verb that has an end mean. Like, does my client want the rubble? Do they want to move it 10 meters to the left? What drives such a vast plan?" […]

… which means it's probably just as well that I haven't had to undergo a job interview in almost fourteen years now. If that's the state of the art in interview questions then I'm destined to be a long time unemployed if my current job ever goes away.

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'What the hell is going on? Where are the girls?'

January 13th, 2012

Alan Parker is one of a number of actors, musicians, photographers and directors the Guardian invited to recall their big career firsts:

[On making Bugsy Malone…] We spent a long time developing the splurge guns. I had imagined firing a projectile that was like the custard pie of silent movies. We settled on ping pong balls and some skilful lobbing of handfuls of synthetic cream – all disguised by artful editing. Also, the bike sedans were mostly pushed along by the assistant directors and prop men. On some lower shots, you can see that the sedans have four wheels and 10 legs.

Bugsy Malone is the kind of film you only make at the beginning of a career when you know nothing. The more you know, the less you attempt to do what's difficult and maybe impossible. It never occurred to us that we were attempting the absurd. […]

* For the record, the quotation in this post's title isn't about Bugsy Malone: it's Kristin Hersh's reaction upon encountering the UK audience for Throwing Muses for the first time.

[Via Feeling Listless]

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Just type in 'Ah! The bees!'

November 26th, 2011

The AV Club's interview with Molly Parker was going so well, right up until they brought up her role in the Neil LaBute/Nic Cage version of The Wicker Man:

AVC: You haven't seen the YouTube compilations of Nicolas Cage screaming?

MP: What? No! I'll have to look.

AVC: When you were working on the film, were there any warning signs that this would be the fate of the film?

MP: It was such an odd thing, and I don't know how to talk about it without… [Pause.] I'd have liked… [Pause.] I have been intrigued by… [Pause.] I guess what I had hoped for was that Neil LaBute would have a take on the original that would be interesting, given the films he had made before. I don't know what else to say. [Laughs.] It's really odd, isn't it? A very odd thing. I liked working with Nicolas Cage. I liked that a lot. He's a very interesting man, and a pretty bold actor. He's certainly done some great work in his lifetime. But I'll check out the YouTube thing.

Not her most convincing performance, I'm thinking.

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J.K. Simmons

March 15th, 2011

J K Simmons, talking to The A.V. Club about being cast as Vern Schillinger in Oz:

Homicide: Life On The Street (1996) – "Colonel Alexander Rausch"

AVC: This kicks off your first role as a white supremacist -

JKS: A hugely pivotal moment. It was a nice meaty part, and then it started relationships with Tom Fontana and Ed Sherin that turned into Oz and Law & Order. Within a year or so after [Homicide], they were casting Oz. They didn't even have scripts yet. I'm just a theater actor who's barely making my rent and I'm auditioning for Tom Fontana for, we didn't know at the time, it wasn't supposed to be a regular on the show, but it was going to be a good part. And I was excited about it, but I was also nervous about it, because I had gotten so much attention playing that Nazi white-supremacist murdering bastard on Homicide. I thought, "I really don't want to be stuck playing this character for the rest of my life, and be like the Nazi of the week on every TV show."

I went into that meeting with Tom when I should have just been lying down at his feet saying "Please hire me!", and instead I was like, "I'm a little apprehensive… I'm afraid it could hurt my ability to have the career that I would like to have, being a versatile actor playing different parts, like I've been doing in theater for 20 years." Tom really put me at ease and said "The character is going to start out to be a guy we think is a good guy, and then there's going to be changes. Trust me, you'll love it." And I said "Great!" Of course the character went from being a potential nice guy to a rapist bastard in the first half-hour of the first episode, but it was a fun six years.

It wasn't six fun years for poor Tobias Beecher, but I know what Simmons means. Oz could be distinctly melodramatic at times, but it was also compelling viewing from beginning to end.

The amazing thing was that Vern Schillinger, much as he tortured Beecher, wasn't even the nastiest piece of work on the show: that would be either Ryan O'Reily or Governor Devlin, IMHO.

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Ruin, Space, and Shadow

February 9th, 2011

BLDGBLOG isn't the first place I'd have expected to see an interview with Hellboy creator Mike Mignola, but it turns out that Geoff Manaugh is a big fan:

For half a decade now, I've been an avid fan of the work of Mike Mignola […] It's become an addiction: the incredible old castle interiors and snowbound mountain landscapes of Conqueror Worm, the Mesoamerican design motifs emerging like mazes from pitch black walls of shadow in Seed of Destruction, the graveyards of ships wrecked on rocks before coastal citadels in Strange Places, and all of it shot through with Mignola's dark sarcasm and humor.

Mignola's work outlines an endlessly captivating world, somewhere between H.P. Lovecraft and Norse epics, Dracula – as rewritten by Jules Verne – and the Discovery Channel. Equal parts archaeology and horror fiction, Indiana Jones and The Thing, heretical mythology and conspiracy science, once Mignola's work digs its plot lines and landscapes into you, it seems impossible to shake. […]

The post includes numerous gorgeous examples of artwork from Hellboy, B.P.R.D. and various other stories Mignola has produced over the years.1 All Mignola's work is well worth a look, not just for the lovely art but for the stories and characters he's created. If you have even the slightest interest in rollicking adventure stories featuring Lovecraftian horrors, mythical beasts, ghost Nazis, plagues of frogs or bizarre 19th-century scientific experiments gone terribly awry then you owe it to yourself to pick up one of the trade paperback collections of Mignola's work. Any one of them will give you a decent taste of what Hellboy's all about.2 You will then be ready for the joyous nuttiness that is The Amazing Screw-On Head.

  1. Some of the art isn't by Mignola himself, but by Duncan Fegredo, who Mignola brought on board a few years ago to let him concentrate on writing his stories. It's still worth a look, though there's nothing quite like a Mignola-drawn story IMHO.
  2. I enjoyed both the Hellboy film adaptations quite a bit, but they don't quite give you the full flavour of Mignola's world. They do, however, feature an excellent central performance from Ron Perlman; I just hope that he's still young and fit enough to play Hellboy by the time Guillermo del Toro finds time in his busy schedule to make a third Hellboy film.

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Why?

October 25th, 2010

From the New Statesman's interview with Bill Bryson:

NS: Baseball or cricket?

BB: Baseball. I understand cricket – what's going on, the scoring – but I can't understand why.

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Animals in the yard

October 12th, 2010

John Malkovich on making Con Air:

You know, I loved doing Con Air because with all the guys in the airplane, most of them weren't actors, they're like convicts and boxers and hockey enforcers and professional football players and stuff, and it was just like having a pack of animals in your yard. I thought they were hilarious, and I loved being around them. Quite often – a lot of the work I had done had been extensively with women. Most especially in the theater, but also quite often in the movies. That has its own delights, and maybe pitfalls too. But I never really did something like that with all these guys, many of whom should be in jail. And some of whom had been. And I loved it.

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Casting, Coen-style

August 11th, 2010

Richard Jenkins on being cast by the Coen brothers:

[Joel and Ethan Coen] are two of the easiest guys in the world. They move quickly, they know what they want, and they want you to contribute something to the role. They don't talk about their work much. I played the part of the gym manager [in Burn After Reading], and I got a call once on my cell phone from Joel and Ethan, they said "Uh, Richard, could you work out before we start the movie?" And I said "I already do." And there was a pause. Then they said "Could you lift weights?" And I said "I do." Another long pause. They said "Never mind." [Laughs.] I guess I didn't look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Cover versions

July 4th, 2010

Tilda Swinton came up with a rather nice metaphor regarding her habit of popping up in supporting roles in high profile films:

[Re her work in Benjamin Button, Burn After Reading, Michael Clayton]

Well, those films of course were not my idea at all; they were people coming to me with a sort of projection that they were slapping on me and asking me to provide, and I was very happy to do so. Those particular films, those what I would call "away games," are projects I was involved in tangentially. They are films that I think of as the invitations to people's parties: I went to them very happily and provided something. Mainly because the people involved I liked very much – I liked the Coens very much, I liked David Fincher very much. I got that out of it, but in terms of those pieces of work I don't think that anyone would think they were very creative experiences for me, because I didn't create them. [Laughs.] They're me covering my own work, maybe; but they're covers.

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Party with Gaga

May 22nd, 2010

Caitlin Moran prefaces her account of an epic interview-cum-night on the town in Berlin with Lady Gaga with an explanation of how she became a fan:

Since [seeing Lady Gaga perform at Glastonbury last year], I have followed Gaga's career like boys follow sports teams. As a cultural icon, she does an incredible service for women: after all, it will be hard to oppress a generation who've been brought up on pop stars with fire coming out of their tits.

She's clearly smart and clearly hilarious – she pitched up at the Royal Variety Performance on a 16ft-high piano, modelled on Dalí's spider-legged elephants – but has never ruined the fun by going, "Actually, I'm smart and hilarious," like, say, Bono would.

And, most importantly of all, she clearly couldn't give a f*** what anyone says about her. When she appeared on The X Factor, it was the week after Simon Cowell had said that he was, "Looking for the new Lady Gaga." She performed Bad Romance in an 18ft-long bathtub with six dancers – then played a piano solo on a keyboard hidden in a pretend sink, while sitting on a pretend toilet. Clearly, Simon Cowell would never sign up anything like that in a million, billion years. It was very much in his face.

[Via No Rock and Roll Fun]

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They popped the popcorn for three months…

April 21st, 2010

William Atherton, talking to The AV Club, describes special effects technology in the days before CGI became commonplace:

AVC: Real Genius had some serious special effects, and quirky ones, like the big ending, where your house is filled with popcorn and collapses.

WA: They popped the popcorn for three months. There was a machine in the studio that did nothing all day long but pop popcorn.

AVC: Really?

WA: Yeah. It just kept popping popcorn. Then they had to worry, because they had to be careful that the birds didn't eat it, because the popcorn had to be treated so it wouldn't combust. So there was fire retardant on it, so you didn't want the birds to die or get high or something. So they were doing all this stuff, covering it, so the birds wouldn't OD, and everything was going to be ecologically sound. Then they took it way out to canyon country and a subdivision that was just being built, and they threw it into this house that they pulled down. It was real old-fashioned stuff. Now they'd do it digitally, I guess, but in those days, you had to pop the dang popcorn and put it in a truck and schlep it out to the valley.

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The c-word

March 27th, 2010

Whatever you do, do not call Drew Barrymore a celebrity :

Drew Barrymore, whose first film appearance was as a three-year-old and who, at 35, is, by virtue of pedigree, productivity and insanely laconic vowels, the youngest grande dame that ever was, is rousing herself to condemn the state of the entertainment business. "Celebrity!" she says, casting a furious eye across the Manhattan office. "It's become the most disgusting word on the planet. It makes me sick to my stomach." I have just asked whether celebrity aids or inhibits her in studio meetings. Now her earrings are shaking. "When I started out I was an actor. And now when someone calls me a celebrity, I want to shoot them. I want to go, thank you for reducing me – I've worked for 35 years, I've killed myself to be established as someone who is responsible, reliable and accountable in my field of work, yet you're calling me a name of someone who basically got famous for no reason." Her eyes widen to fill her whole head. "It's like the worst name on the planet. I hate it. And people say it all the time: 'You're a celebrity.' No, I'm an actor. I'm a producer. I'm a director. I'm a toad. I'm roadkill. I'm anything but a celebrity."

It's amazing to think that Barrymore is only 35 years old: she seems to have been around forever, though of course it's really just that she started out really young but stayed in a business where so many young actors fall by the wayside.1

  1. I wonder what the chances are that we'll be reading an interview like this with Dakota Fanning in 2030?

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Norm

May 5th, 2009

George Wendt remembers past glories in a conversation with The Onion's AV Club:

Cheers (1982-93) – "Norm Peterson"

[…]

AVC: Is there a getting-into-character element with Norm, or are you just Norm?

GW: [Laughs.] No, it's not like I put on the buckteeth and a humpback or anything. Walk with a limp.

AVC: Is that really the case, that you're just yourself with that character?

GW: Yeah, as long as "myself" had awesome dialogue written by award-winning, hall-of-fame Hollywood comedy writers.

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John Lloyd interviewed

April 11th, 2009

My favourite part of this interview with John Lloyd1 is the anecdote at the end about Norman Tebbit.

  1. That's the TV producer of Not the Nine O'Clock News, Blackadder and Spitting Image fame, not the tennis player.

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White teeth

March 16th, 2009

Craig Charles on what happened after Red Dwarf went off the air:

"All of a sudden there's no bloody film, and we've all got these new teeth."

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Being Boring?

March 14th, 2009

Neil Tennant sums up The Pet Shop Boys' approach to their career in a single sentence:

The Pet Shop Boys don't talk loudly on our telephones on the bus.

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"As you know, I've long been ambivalent about the whole movie star thing. But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't like to, uh … work."

December 30th, 2008

Debra Winger – having been absent from our screens for far too long – gave an interview to Rachel Cooke in this Sunday's Observer:

Winger and I meet for lunch in the lobby bar of the Algonquin Hotel – her choice. She used to be famously difficult in interviews, furious and truculent, but today she is neither. Sure, I can see that she is probably still a tricky sort of a human being, but then, aren't all the best people? Physically compact, like a particularly athletic teenager, she ticks with energy and opinion, like a bomb. She also looks a decade younger than her 53 years; an achievement that is mostly down to her genes, I guess, but which is also testament to the grand irony of the plastic surgery culture: unlike virtually all her contemporaries, she has left her face – the most puckish and determined face in movies – alone, and so – ha! – looks more youthful than any of them. She arrives on foot, having travelled into New York from her home in the suburbs on the train and, tidily installed in her seat, orders a gin and tonic, followed by three courses, and fully caffeinated coffee. Jeez. No wonder she was never keen on the whole "movie star thing".

I sit beside her, and once I've calmed down a bit – I was a giant fan of hers when I was a teenager, and the Joe Cocker theme from An Officer and a Gentleman is playing on a loop in my head – all I can think is that Kate Winslet is in for a rude awakening at some point in the not too distant future. If Debra Winger can't get a decent role lined up, what hope is there for anyone?

[Via Nerve Screengrab]

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