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Interviews

Interview: Director Declan Lowney Talks Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa

Alpha-Papa-Declan-Lowney

Declan Lowney, Wexford born director, cut his teeth directing music videos, television and even went on the helm a Eurovision song contest in Birmingham back in 1998. Probably his most memorable output to date were two seasons of Father Ted and more recently his direction on Little Britain and collaboration with Chris O’Dowd on the first season of acclaimed comedy Moone Boy. Lowney got his first Partridge hands on experience in 2012 for the Alan Partridge on Open Books with Martin Bryce TV special after which he came on board full time to help bring Norfolk’s favourite DJ to the big screen in Alan Partridge: AlphaPapa.

Lowney was good enough to sit down and speak to us all about the secret to making an audience laugh, Partridge’s influence on British comedy and why he looks twenty years younger now than he did twenty years ago…

Apart from great jokes, what do you think makes a really good comedy film?

Story, I would say. The story of Alpha Papa feels real – a siege at a radio station is something that could possibly happen.  You’ve got the seriousness of the situation, the events of the story, and the comedy layered on top of that.  This is something new for Alan, and because the story is so tense, he became a bigger character to make the comedy work.

What was the best part of making the film?

The relief when it was over!  The best aspect of it was seeing the film when it was finished.  It took a long time to evolve, and making a film like this is, in fact, intensely hard work, but it was a joy to see the final product and to realise how funny it turned out to be.

Was there room for improvisation on the set?

Steve did some improvisation sessions many months before we were shooting, but it was almost all on the page by the time we did it.  Having said that, one of the best scenes in the film came when Steve said he wanted to try lip-synching to a song.  He did three takes and it was brilliantly funny.

Does Alan start to feel like a real person when you spend a long time with him?

The lines can become blurred, but comedy acting is not like method acting, although when Steve puts on the wig it completely changes him.  Sometimes it was strange to see Alan Partridge talking to me but to hear Steve..

Alan looks younger now than he did twenty years ago.

I think Alan has become more comfortable in his own skin as he’s got older.  He’s not desperate to make it, as he was back then.

Is his relationship with Lynne an important element of the film?

I think it’s vital.  At the end of the film he redeems himself when he hears Lynne’s truthful words.  They have a fantastic relationship and it’s lovely to see the audience reaction when she appears.

Do you think Alan had an influence on characters like David Brent?

I do think Alan opened the door for David Brent.  I don’t know what Ricky Gervais thinks, but to me they are very similar characters.

How did the look of the film evolve?

Almost accidentally.  I shot the film in sequence and we might have been a bit staid in our approach at the beginning, but as we went on we loosened up and started using hand-held cameras, and there were long, loose takes, so Steve had the freedom to go wherever he wanted.

How was the premiere in Norwich?

Nerve-wracking.  It was the first glimpse of the public’s sense of the film and we got an incredibly warm response – thousands turned out on the day.  Bringing Alan Partridge back to Norwich was a little bit like bringing The Beatles back to Liverpool…

Many thanks to Declan for talking to us.  Alpha Papa is out on the 7th of August and we’ll leave you with the trailer

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Interviews

Interview: Shanley Caswell Talks The Conjuring

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James Wan is set to hit the big screen not once but twice this year. In fact twice in two months with The Conjuring releasing itself onto the big screen today followed by Insidious: Chapter 2 back from its astral projection on the 13th of September. In honour of The Conjuring‘s release, we spoke with Shanley Caswell who plays Andrea Perron in the story based on the real events of paranormal investigators Ed (Patrick Wilson) and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga). If you haven’t caught any of her work then as well as The Conjuring you have a low budget comedy-horror with Josh Hutcherson called Detention and an episode of iCarly to cram in to get your Caswell worth. We spoke with the young actress about working on a horror film with James Wan, her directing idols and being locked in a room to watch horror films. That may be less about her and more about me but regardless it’s a good interview with plenty of details about on set pranks, the pleasure of working with the cast and crew and Celebrity Ghost Stories.

How does it feel to be raking in the millions at the box office currently?

It feels awesome. [laughs] We’ve scared so many people, it’s awesome.

Working on a horror set would be difficult for me, I think, because I’d always worry that what’s happening on set could actually happen. Did you ever take it home with you and get a little scared?

There were a couple of sleepless nights that I had but it was not so much because of being on set of the movie – that was super fun – but I was reading a book alongside about the Warrens so that was the thing that really scared me and kept me up all night! Of course I would read it right before going to bed and wouldn’t be able to sleep. When you’re screaming and crying and imagining these things all day you take it home with you. But I never really actually thought there was something, you know, there.

So you never looked at your closet and got a little worried?

No, my closet is filled with pictures of my friends and family and stuff like that so it’s not scary. [laughs] Plus it’s stuffed and overfilled with clothes so I’m never scared there’s something in there.

James Wan is a director I admire. What’s he like to work with on set? Is he strict, does he allow for change, does he leave script notes out to really scare you?

969533_555700907825159_695507078_nHe is so awesome. He let us do our thing and we had two weeks beforehand to bond as a family and create this natural family dynamic – especially among the girls, the five daughters. He let us fall in to this natural rhythm and natural rapport that we went back and forth with which I think you can see on set. We’re very comfortable and you can see it. But he was never really strict with us and liked playing around. It didn’t really seem like we were working on a horror set. It felt like we were working on a family movie but in pyjamas, screaming and crying a lot. [laughs]

You got to work some pretty big names like Patrick, Vera, Lili and Ron, did they mentor you a bit and teach you?

I think it was just watching them on set. They all had extremely hard parts. They wouldn’t explicitly tell us anything but just being around them on set was nice to see how they acted in the film but also their dialogue off screen and how they acted around set. It was really interesting because you have four – Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson – powerhouse actors in one room. You would think that ego would get in the way but it’s just like they’re all getting together for a party or something. They’re all just talking and having a good time. It’s unbelievable. I was just watching amazed at how relaxed they all were and how it didn’t seem like we were working. It seemed like we were just hanging out. [laughs]

Did you have one specific scene or one day which you enjoyed the most?

Yeah there was one scene which I remember where we all kept laughing. It’s when the Warrens first come to the house. It’s a very sombre scene when you watch it but for some reason we were all so giggly that day. I think it was the first day we all worked together, it was the first day everyone was on set together. Everyone was like happy and giggly and we couldn’t take it seriously. It comes off on screen that we were all very upset so I don’t know how. They must have cut that well because we were just laughing the entire time – at least the girls were.

Horror sets can be notorious for pranks. Did you incur any on set?

There were a couple of things. The kids and I and Shannon Kook – who plays Drew in the movie – we’d all have these big wet willy wars. That happened throughout the entire film. [laughs] A lot of playing around. Also the person who plays Bathsheba in the movie, he would have all this make-up on since there was no CGI for his character, it was all real.  He was walking around on set looking like that and – you’ll understand when you see it – he would just stare at us. From the corner of the room, when we walked into the room – he wouldn’t do anything he would just sit there and watch us. That was pretty freaky after a while. That scared the crap out of a lot of us [laughs] to the point where we were always watching our backs and made sure we always knew where he was so he didn’t jump out at us. I think he was having fun with it.

It’s based on “true” events of the Warren investigators. Do you believe them or in the supernatural? If so, did that belief enhance the authenticity of your performance?

In order to believe in something I have to see it with my own eyes and I’ve never personally experienced anything like that but I really want to. I love watching all the ghost shows no matter how hokey they are. I can’t get enough of it. I’m the type of person who would want to go to an abandoned mental ward and sit there overnight to try and see something. [laughs]

I remember when I was last out in America I watched something like Celebrity Ghost Stories that one of the stories was about a picture frame moving. Is that still on?

[Laughs] Yeah, a pen rolls across a table! I think that show is still on actually. I watch that show… a lot. There’s that one, Ghost Adventures, My Real Ghost Stories and I just love them! I can’t get enough of ghost stories, I love them.

Did you watch any of James Wan’s films before working with him?

Oh yeah! I watched Saw, I’ve seen all of the Saw movies. I really like Insidious and Dead Silence I liked as well. I was a huge James Wan fan before we even started the film.

Was it a dream to work with him?

Yeah, yeah! You meet him and he’s completely the opposite of what I’d imagined. You think the person who created Saw would be this type of person who never leaves his house and imagines all these scary things but James comes out with this Australian accent and is really super friendly and always smiling, laughing. It doesn’t match up! [laughs]

There’s already news of a sequel. Could you potentially return to that?

This story kind of ends with this chapter of the Perrons. I think the Warrens will continue on but I don’t know if the Perrons will but you never know. They might throwback to us but The Conjuring is the end of their story.

This is your second horror film after Detention. Were they very different experiences?

Oh yeah but I don’t really think of Detention as a horror film. I think of it more as a multi-genre, horror-comedy thing. They’re still very, very different experiences. Detention was ultra low-budget, we had to fight for everything, we had to fight for money, we had to fight for time. That led us to being more creative with the way we dealt with the lack of money and how we still went on with the production. With The Conjuring we didn’t have a lot of money but we had more. That gave us a little more wiggle room, a little more breathing room to create the movie. Also the styles are completely different on both of them.

Did you research the period that it is set in beforehand?

Yeah. We had the two weeks beforehand there and so we got to went into these warehouses with all these clothes and all these vintage clothes and vintage antiques and everything. We also looked into old movies like The Brady Bunch and Love Story and stuff like that just to get the look of the character – how they parted their hair, how they wore a certain thing like jewellery, clothes and stuff like that.

1012611_559761684085748_1977489763_nYou said you were reading a book about the Warrens earlier. Did that help bring an authenticity to your performance?

My character in the movie isn’t a paranormal investigator but in the book it’s about paranormal investigation. If anything it gave me stuff to talk about with Vera and with people who had read the book but it did help me get into the mindset of the paranormal world and what the people experience when they’re experiencing something like that. I’ve never experienced anything like that so I don’t know. It was nice to hear about experiences by other people to try and implement that fear that comes across in the book into the movie.

Did you get a chance to meet the Warrens or anyone who has experienced the paranormal beforehand?

Yeah, I met Lorraine Warren and also all of the Perrons. They spoke about their experiences firsthand. It was kind of scary.

It must have been quite terrifying when they’re describing what happened.

Yeah it was freaky. They have so much that they say happened to them so when you’re talking to them – of course, me, who is a super geek like that and loves hearing all that stuff, I loved it – it’s a little freaky. When they’re talking about it, it makes it seem super real.

You’ve done a lot of TV work which has been very different from this. You’ve done an episode of iCarly which is like a total opposite. What differences occur in TV and in film and do you approach the role any differently?

Of course. Shows like iCarly are four camera sitcom shows, a lot more like theatre with a lot of larger than life acting and making a fool out of yourself for comedy. Then when you do things that are more realistic it’s a lot more understated and you’ve got to be more careful and more subtle with your emotions. That’s how people are realistically. It definitely varies on what you’re working on. For kids shows the comedy is a lot different to the comedy on SNL. It also depends on what type of cameras they’re using. If it’s four camera, two camera comedy, if it’s a single camera film; it all varies. I’m still learning about all that, I’m still trying to gain an understanding of every single thing and every single method of filmmaking, I’m not an expert. From what I’ve understood it’s all very different.

So you started off in theatre. Do you still do that now or are you looking to do more in the near future?

I would love to do theatre again but right now it’s not on my plate because I’m focusing more on films; being in LA, that’s where the emphasis is. If I ever went back home or if I ever went to New York then I’d love to do theatre, it’s really like a first love of mine.

It’s got to be asked as you’re in one but are you a horror film fan?

Oh yes I am! I love the horror genre. My first favourite horror film was The Ring and I think that’s because I watched it at a birthday party with my friends. [laughs] I think the reason people really love horrors is because you go with your friends and it’s an adrenaline rush, it’s like going on a rollercoaster together. Everyone is getting scared, then they’re laughing about it, then there’s nervous laughter. It affects people so much. I think that’s the big reason I love the horror genre because it’s something you experience together as a group of friends.

I know you said The Ring just now as your first favourite horror film but what is your favourite horror film?

The Ring is my first favourite one and there are others. I thought more of Poltergeist and The Exorcist but The Ring is the one that I’ll always be afraid of. [laughs]

That’s what Scream is like for me because my brothers locked me in a room to watch it when I was about 7.

Oh my God.

Every time I watch that film – even though I love the horror genre now – it still absolutely terrifies me because it brings me back to when I was a kid.

Exactly. It takes you back to that primal fear that you had as a kid. I’m so sorry that you were locked a room, that’s scary! [laughs]

[Laughing] No, no, it’s fine. It wasn’t that bad. It was just my brothers being brothers.

Well my cousins did the same thing to me as a kid and it terrified me.

Older people aren’t nice when you’re young.

Older kids aren’t nice at all. [laughs]

You mentioned The Exorcist there and one cinemagoer in the UK said that “it made The Exorcist look like Peppa Pig” about The Conjuring. Do you know what Peppa Pig is?

No, I don’t know what that is.

It’s an animated kids’ show. [laughs]

I saw that quote but I didn’t know what the pig was. [laughs] That’s funny it’s a kids show, I’m glad it scared them. [laughs]

Are you hoping that this success will take you into more things?

Of course. I’m always hopeful that there will be more work.

Is there anything that has been confirmed yet?

Not right now. I’m going to study abroad in England in August actually and then after that I’m going to come back and audition and stuff. Then I’ll be auditioning for stuff after that, from there I’ll see what’s next. For right now I’m trying to finish school.

What are you studying?

I’m going to be taking a study abroad course to get a few classes done but my major is Anthropology.

Do you have stories that you’d like to bring to the screen in the future?

Yeah, there are a lot of stores I’d like to. I don’t think I have the formal knowledge to make them into a movie yet but I’d definitely like to have some friends of my mine who do have that knowledge to make these ideas into a movie. That’d be pretty cool.

Is there a director that you’d love to work with in the future? Whose work you really admire and would just love to be a part of?

Yeah I love David Fincher, I think he’s amazing. James Wan was one of them! [laughs] David Fincher because I love Fight Club, Se7en, The Social Network, really almost every one of his films I love. [laughs] I also recently have been liking David O. Russell with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Aaron Sorkin as a writer, I would love to work with Aaron Sorkin or do his work in the future, I think he’s a great writer…

The Conjuring bursts out of a quiet pause into cinemas today. There’s also a mini fan club that Shanley and I are now a part of but unfortunately the first two rules stop us from telling you about it.

ARVE Error: no id set

Synopsis:

Before there was Amityville, there was Harrisville. Based on a true story, “The Conjuring” tells the horrifying tale of how world renowned paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren were called upon to help a family terrorized by a dark presence in a secluded farmhouse. Forced to confront a powerful demonic entity, the Warrens find themselves caught in the most terrifying case of their lives.


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Interviews

Interview: James Wan Talks The Conjuring

james_wan_interview_the_conjuring

James Wan, the accomplished filmmaker behind the scare-your-socks-off hits Saw and Insidious brings his latest horror/ghost-story The Conjuring to UK cinemas this Friday. Sticking to a similar premise to that of the recent Insidious, the film centres on a haunted family and the paranormal investigators tasked with ending their woes. What separates this from Insidious, however, is that The Conjuring alleges to be a true story, always something sure to add an extra chill down the spine, even for the more incredulous among us.

The story focuses on the Perron family home, plagued by unexplained supernatural phenomena.  The parents of the family (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) decide their only resort is to call in paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) to deal with this powerful entity.

The real life Ed and Lorraine Warren investigated the Perron’s Rhode Island farmhouse back in 1973 and both Lorrain Warren and Andrea Perron served as consultants to James Wan, stating that the movie is indeed an accurate account of what really happened to the Perrons during the decade they spent living at their farmhouse. Just to creep readers out a little more, Andrea Perron, who wrote a three-part book based on her own experiences, House of Darkness, House of Light, cites the film as an actual work of art rather than a work of fiction.

In our interview with Wan below, he discloses what entices him to true-life supernatural stories and discusses the film’s period angle and how it compared to his previous projects, his adulation for classic horror movies, his own fears and much more. Look out for Mr. Wan at a local cinema near you as he has been known to ‘cinema hop’ to witness audience reactions to his movies…

Does the period angle make the movie more effective?

I don’t know. Not necessarily, because films like Saw and Insidious and Dead Silence were all contemporary but if you look back at the movies I’ve made, I’ve always had a love for nostalgic throwbacks. Dead Silence was my love for Hammer Horror that came out of England. I loved that very stylised, almost campy feeling. I lovingly embraced it. And even Death Sentence, which not many people saw, was a revenge thriller made in the mould of The French Connection, which is the kind of films I love too. Having said that, The Conjuring is set back in 1971 and I do think the period setting gives it a really interesting ambience. I think it brings a sense of authenticity to the true life story of it.

With practical effects as well, it feels like the analogue version of horror?

I love that. I kind of miss that. Now it’s all gone digital and there’s something fun from a nostalgic standpoint. That aside, I wanted to find something that was a bit different. I didn’t want to do the same thing again, so the stories of the Warrens take place in that world, but I wanted to give it a very different flavour. Setting it in a different time period helps a lot for me to be able to play with the production design and camera work from that period. That made it more fun.

the-conjuring-vera-farmigaWhat were the biggest challenges for the movie?

Just trying to stay as true to the stories that the Perrons and the Warrens would tell me. And trying to make a movie that is scary! To make a scary movie that is effective, despite the fact that I’m basically recycling a lot of classic horror movie tropes, haunted house tropes. The creaking, slamming door, hearing sounds, all that stuff that we’re so familiar with, but because I wanted to stay true to the stories, I couldn’t just branch out of it and create something so stylised, so that was a big challenge too.

Are you superstitious? Were you worried something might follow you back from the production?

Yes, I am somewhat superstitious. I try not to walk under a ladder if I can help it, that stuff. Believe it or not, I’m really scared of things in general, so I don’t want to tempt fate. I did the movie because I love the story of the Warrens. And the chance to scare the crap out of people, I love that too!

Have you ever experienced anything yourself?

Not to the extent that is in this film.

What scares you most in the whole wide world?

The whole wide world! Seriously. I think what happens in our world is so much more frightening than anything I can come up with in my movies.

Which horror movie scares you most?

I don’t know… That’s a hard one. I have so many. I can say that the films I went back and drew inspiration from, more for the flavour than anything else, not so much for scares, but Let’s Scare Jessica To Death, a pretty obscure movie from 1971. I watched Don’t Look Now. I didn’t go back and watch Amityville because I think the film already strays a bit close to it, so I didn’t want to go and revisit that. I would say the movie that has the biggest influence on me for this was The Haunting, the Robert Wise version.

Do you enjoy watching audiences and how they react to movies?

Definitely. I think that’s my favourite thing about making these movies, watching people watch them. When my films come out, I like to cinema hop and know what moments are coming up, I pop my head in and watch people squirm or slide down in their seats. I like that sadism!

Is it better to erase the clichés and make new methods, or continue them?

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to do something completely different and there are filmmakers out there trying to do completely different things. I think you should aspire to want to do fresh things all the time, so it’ll be awesome in the future to see someone come along and do something so outside of the box that we haven’t seen before. I think it’s a good thing to try and push cinema much further along. I could not do that with The Conjuring, because I’m trying to adhere to the story and what the people went through, but I tried to show it in a different light. To cook the same dish, just with different ingredients.

Is your style very different because of your background?

I don’t know, because my style is very influenced by Hollywood. But because I am a student of cinema, I watched lots of European films, lots of Asian films, so I have a big diet of films from around the world. I filter it all through my own sensibility.

Is it tricky working with young children on a horror film? How do you protect them from getting screwed up?

Conjuring-infestationLuckily the kids are already messed up! They can’t blame me. No, it was difficult on Insidious because my talented child actor in that one was very sensitive to what was happening. But on The Conjuring, these girls were so fearless. And they were so professional, they got that it was filmmaking. They could be crying in tears, freaking out, screaming, but the moment I called cut, they turned to the camera and smiled. They were so cool! I couldn’t believe how experienced they were. Even the youngest girl, playing April, she’s never really made a movie before but she was a little star. I’d give her directions sometimes and she’d look at me as if to say, ‘I’m going to do it my own way…’ It’s cute. They were really great to work with.

Did you worry about strange things from working on the film?

Vera and I had very similar things. When we were preparing to make this movie, we were pretty affected by the subject matter. Vera would tell me that when she first got to Wilmington to shoot the film, she kept waking up at about 3:00am. So naturally she just connected it to the film. I don’t think it had anything to do directly, per se, but I think because she’s so caught up in the world, and because actors want to live their characters before they play it, that affected her in some way. When I started designing how I would want to shoot the film, it wasn’t fun. Especially when I had to work on it at night.

The writers talked about you knowing you were on to a good thing when you get scared. Conversely, does working on scary movies make you less likely to be scared by them?

I’m not scared of my own film. You just can’t be. I’m just not. The only time I can really experience how effective it is, or not, is when I watch it with an audience. I do get scared when I watch other people’s films. I can hang my filmmaker’s hat outside the door and just watch them for what it is. I am extremely squeamish, I know you have a hard time believing that since I’m the grandfather of torture porn, but I’m bad with gore and blood and guts, so when I watch a movie I didn’t make, I have to look away.

Did you visit the original house?

No. God, no! I didn’t want to. I was invited to visit both the Perron house and the Warren house and I was, like, ‘No f*****g way!’ I was too terrified. But Patrick and Vera went to visit Lorraine at her place, just to pick up a vibe, see who she was. Vera did not want to go down into the haunted museum, but Patrick did. I don’t know what I was doing, but I was just hanging with friends and I get this text message from Patrick and it’s a picture of him with Annabelle the doll! I started cracking up and telling him the doll’s going to latch on and go home with him… I don’t know if Patrick believes in it as much as the others. He’s definitely a lot stronger.

the-conjuring-1What inspired you to turn the Annabelle doll from a Raggedy Ann doll into what we see in the movie?

I’ll tell you what the inspiration is: lawsuit! I didn’t want to be sued. I can’t do a Raggedy Ann doll! That’s what the real Annabelle is, but I can’t go to the company and say, ‘Would you mind letting me show to the rest of the world that the product you’ve made is a conduit to demonic creatures?’ So I had to take artistic licence there.

Why did the doll look like Linda Blair?

Really? She wasn’t the inspiration! Through the process when I was prepping the movie, I was doing a lot of sketches, and at one time she was in a bright costume. I don’t know what it is, but I find ghost brides so scary. I was trying to capture the image and I showed it to the guy who built the doll for me, and he did a few sketches as well and I got my costume designer involved with the outfit.

Did you want to keep the pace relentless throughout?

It’s funny, people have said it has a relentlessness to it, while others have said it has a slow burn! Which one is it? I think it’s a combination of the two. A lot of the scares have a classic slow burn – I didn’t just jump straight into it. I tried to creep you out at first, create this palpable sense of dread so that when I do get to the scare where you’re jumping out of your seat, you’ll hopefully hit the ceiling. But I do think that towards the end it gets ramped up so much that people walk out so beaten up by what happens at the end. But there’s hardly any blood or gore, and yet people are telling me how scary it is!

Do you feel proud of Saw, now 10 years have passed?

I can definitely appreciate it more now, because I really hated being labelled the torture porn guy. I felt like that marginalised me as a filmmaker. I despised it, and that was a reason why I didn’t want to make another Saw film, and why I’m doing an action film. But it’s been 10 years and I can look at it now and see it for what it is, and appreciate it. People talk about the Saw movies from a nostalgic standpoint now. It shows how fast we progress. The last Saw came out three or four years ago and it feels like so long ago now.

Are you afraid you’ll have no horror in the next movie (Fast & Furious 7)?

Afraid? No! I’m thankful for that. It’s good to do something non-horror for a change. I’m done with horror for now. But I want to go and rejuvenate and I think I’ll come back to it one day…

The Conjuring will be creeping into UK cinemas this Friday (2 August). In the meantime, we’ll leave you with a trailer for the film to keep you on edge until the release date.

ARVE Error: no id set


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Interviews

Interview: Nicolas Winding Refn on ‘Only God Forgives’

Nicolas Winding Refn

Director of 2011’s critically acclaimed Drive is back with cohort Ryan Gosling for his latest, divisive and controversial film Only God Forgives. The two films had opposite reactions at Cannes with the former receiving a standing ovation for 10 minutes while the other was booed and labelled pseudo-intellectual, pretentious and everything in between. One thing that Refn undoubtedly does is handle criticism well, welcoming it because he loves the reaction. Below in a very special interview we ask him about his latest, his greatest and what’s next on the cards for the controversial ultra violent director.

You approach your work like pin-ups as you’ve said before. What inspired you to make Only God Forgives and what motivated you to make it?

It’s a combination of many things really. It’s not always one thing, it can be an accumulation of ideas or thoughts that sometimes suddenly make sense if you put them in the right order.  I was actually making Only God Forgives before Drive so I was already set to go but I just decided to do it afterwards instead.

Your past three films now have been particularly dialogue sparse. Your anti-heroes in all three are men of few words and One-Eye is a man of none. How do you control the silence in your films to say what you want it to? Is it down to the performances, the music, the camerawork?

Once you remove dialogue it becomes very much about devices to tell the story like the camera, music, sound, lighting. A lot of technical elements start to creep in and act as storytellers. It’s a fun medium to try and evolve in.

How do you write those moments and get the actor to understand what you’re trying to portray?

You talk about it, you know? Like anything else. Instead of having dialogue, you talk about other ways to express it. A lot of the time it tends to be physical movements.

960295_544972728886132_1997115978_nIt helps that you have Ryan Gosling as well who is someone you can always watch, who’s always interesting in his performances.

Yes, he’s great. [laughs]  He has this amazing ability to have no dialogue whatsoever yet say a thousand words. That’s is by far the best type of canvas to work with.

In fact, all of your leads are anti-heroes in a way. Do you think it’s more of a challenge to get an audience involved with an anti-hero or is it just what draws you at the time?

No, I think anti-heroes are what people like to watch; people who are morally ambiguous, people who have good and evil inside them. Who’s more interesting to watch, Han Solo or Luke Skywalker?

They’re usually associated with vengeance. What do you find so intriguing about it?

It’s a primal instinct of mankind. It’s almost what makes us human beings – that we have these thoughts of vengeance which is an emotional reaction.

I know you get asked about violence in every single interview but I hope this is a little different: how do you decorate your violence to be picturesque?

Well basically by just shooting it the way I want it to look. [laughs] At the end of the day it’s like painting a picture.

There are some brilliant little things that happen in Only God Forgives like the little kick to the back of the leg Julian does. Do you realise when you’re writing stuff like that moment that it’s portraying your character to be effortlessly cool? 

No, I don’t think like that. I just think what would I like to see up there on the screen and that’s how I approach it.

Personally I loved Only God Forgives; it’s resonated with me, I’ve continually thought about it trying to decipher its personal meaning to me. It’s had, let’s just say a lukewarm reception, I’ve noticed that you are OK with that and don’t mind what people think. How do you separate the criticism from the feeling of personal attacks when some people are so vitriolic?

Whether people love it or hate it it’s always interesting because then there’s plenty that everyone is talking about.

Is that what you want from your films, people talking about them?

Not as an agenda but as a part of it. Diversity is not a bad thing. Polarisation is not a bad thing. On the contrary, it’s usually how we define the success of art.

Do you think that when people look back on it, it’ll be less polarising? It seems that the most polarising films at a certain point end up becoming cult classics. Do you have that feeling?

Well it’s certainly interesting to see because the film is doing very good business and that’s how people define success. So something must be working.

My personal interpretation of this is that Ryan Gosling who feels like he’s a god himself but wants to fight another god which would be Lieutenant Chang right there. I know art is open to interpretation but is there an idea of its meaning for you?

It sounds about true. [laughs]

Oh good! So that’s what you were trying to come across?

Well everything is possible. [laughs]

Drive is one of my favourite films of all time. What do you think is the key to its success, personally? What do you see, when you watch it back, that works so well in your work?

I don’t know. I don’t think like that. If you do then you become too calculated. If you become too calculated then you lose a sense of purity.

You’ve made films all around the world now. Any other countries you’d love to direct in?

After filming in Bangkok I think something set in Japan could certaintly be interesting.

There are a lot of projects linked to you on IMDb. Is there any truth in them since IMDb can be sometimes unreliable to say the least. There’s I Walk with the Dead, The Dying of the Light, Barberella, Untitled Nicolas Winding Refn Project (Comedy), Untitled Maniac Cop Prequel, Untitled Heist Project and Button Man: The Killing Game. Any truth to any of these?

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet. [laughs] But for right now I’m concentrating on Barberella. I was supposed to be doing Logan’s Run with Ryan Gosling as our third film in a row but that fell through as I decided to go with the Barberella project instead.

You’ve had supernatural experiences while you were out in Thailand which required you to move. Your two year old daughter can see ghosts and she would wake up constantly pointing at the walls in your haunted apartment. Now what I think would be interesting is you doing a scary horror supernatural flick or something similar. Do you ever think of turning your real life experiences into a film?

I certainly wouldn’t rule it out. I mean, with Only God Forgives I certainly tried to create this relationship where the son’s need to confront his mother manifested itself in the form of a third person who is half supernatural force half real person. This in itself was related to my own personal experiences with my daughter’s ability to see ghosts. It was a struggle but it involved me dealing with, and accepting, the fact that we live in two different levels of reality…

Only God Forgives hits screens on the 2nd of August.

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Interview: Will Yun Lee Talks Playing Harada in ‘The Wolverine’

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Sixth time for Hugh Jackman in his latest The Wolverine, first time for Will Yun Lee who’s an addition to the franchise in its Japanese culture take on the long-running story. He graciously gave up his time to talk with us about The Wolverine which had him running across a lot of rooftops. Seriously, a lot. When you see the film you’ll understand that it’s by no means an exaggeration. In fact, those scenes are the best in the film.

Yun Lee plays a character somewhat removed from the character portrayed in the comics – sorry purists – but one that is mysterious, never clear, never definitive until the end. After the jump we talk about The Wolverine, whether or not Hugh Jackman really is as nice as everyone says and plenty more…

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What can you tell us about your character in the film? There’s a bit of mystery to him throughout.

Obviously a lot of people still haven’t seen it so, without giving too many spoilers away, he’s this mystery character who kind of has complex relationships with Mariko and it all ties in with The Wolverine and Hugh, his character. You have to watch the whole course of the movie to see where his allegiances lie and you never know whether he’s after him or what side of the line he was going to play on. For all the people who are going to watch the movie, without giving too much away, he’s that kind of character. He struggles with his own morality and what the right thing to do is.

You play Harada who seems like Hawkeye in this movie as he pings arrows with scary accuracy. Did you do much of that yourself, the whole running around on buildings, jumping, shooting bows?

Yeah, that part of the sequence in the beginning of the movie, in this big scope piece where you’re in the funeral and it has the traditional architecture of Japan and then, all of a sudden, I’m running on rooftops in the middle of Tokyo – that was shot in actual Tokyo. I saw an interview that James [Mangold] did a week ago and it was interesting because a lot of those scenes were shot guerrilla style. We would actually be on rooftops saying ‘Hurry up! Hurry up! Shoot!’ and I’m literally peeing in my pants because we’re so high up there, attached with one little wire and trying to look cool and trying to get the shot whilst they’re tying it all in with Hugh Jackman on the ground of chaotic Tokyo with Mariko. They’re doing this wonderful over the shoulder shot looking down at them so they’re literally there – they’re waiting in the car and they’re yelling action and Hugh Jackman’s running around the middle of Tokyo, arrows flying and people falling over and [laughing] the people’s reactions on the streets were real because they had no idea what was happening. We’d get that shot and we’d move on. [laughs]

Did that take many takes or did you only get the chance to do one?

Yeah there were so many where we had to literally move to the next building. There’s a sequence in the movie where I shoot a character, he falls to the ground and all of a sudden you hear ambulances coming in and a policeman on a bicycle rushing in who sees this Yakuza on the ground in the middle of Tokyo with an arrow sticking out of his back and we knew that was the end of that sequence because we had to move to the next building. [laughs]

How much did you train for the film?

I did about 3 to 4 weeks of training with the action team 87-Eleven. I’ve done a few projects with them before so it was like coming back to family, just shorthand. What we obviously worked on in this movie was the archery and we were just making sure – you never know how a fight goes until you get to the actual set. There’s a lot of traditional Japanese stances and just the movement we wanted to keep very real in terms of the Japanese culture.

Did you do much research into the character beforehand by reading the comics or seeing other incarnations of the character? Or did you work solely from the script and try to bring that characterisation across?

That was interesting because when I first got the audition I knew it was one of those ‘top secret projects’ because you get this phonecall where it’s like ‘You’re going to have to go to Fox and sit there, sign your waivers, and you can’t leave with the script!’ [laughs] You’re sitting there in a chair, reading this thing for two hours, then they give you the audition sides and usually you know what you’re auditioning for but all these sides and audition material at the top of page just said Mario. [laughs] There can’t be a Mario in a Japanese-esque Wolverine. I didn’t know what the character really was and then they started giving more information when I got on the aeroplane. When I touched down in Australia I really went over the character with James. It was really interesting how he wanted to weave – not just my character’s arc but – all of the other characters. You know, he just kept you guessing which side that each character was playing on and who was who. I thought he did that very well.

It sounds like quite a stressful audition process! The fact you’re given two hours to prepare yourself and just got to work from that.

Yeah. Auditions are a whole different beast. You’ve got nerves. You know you’re walking for the guy who directed Walk the Line and 3:10 to Yuma. You have all this anxiety walking into an audition like that but what’s amazing is the way he… Well I mean, usually you walk in, read your lines, they say thank you very much for coming in. He actually shot the audition as if he was shooting a scene. That definitely gets you feeling more comfortable and that was nice.

You have pretty muddled allegiances throughout because it’s somewhat confusing who you’re doing it for until the end. Was it a complicated arc to portray?

I think the most difficult part I had was learning the Japanese. Making sure it was right. Fortunately I had Hiroyuki Sanada as a Japanese teacher and he would just give me countless hours and days of work and work. When we’d shoot the scenes we would shoot a take in English, a take in Japanese and then shoot a take with mixed. That was making sure you knew what your intentions were by flipping to different sides of the brain. That was the most challenging part for me.

Wil-Yun-Lee-in-The-Wolverine-2013-Movie-Image-600x888Did you ever feel the pressure or strain of the name, the franchise, the budget and so on when working or was it a lot of fun?

It was a lot of fun because the set pieces were so massive, whether we were in Tokyo or Australia. The most memorable set piece for me was when we were shooting in Australia and there was a huge fight scene between like a thousand ninjas versus The Wolverine. It was just so real in what they created. We would shoot that at night and we’d finish when the sun came up but because they had an incredible amount of fake snow, you actually felt colder than you were. It wasn’t actually that cold but everyone was freezing by the end of the night. It was just a lot of fun, a lot of fun!

I heard James Mangold was always open to trying new things. Did you get to do much of that with your character?

The thing so special about James Mangold is he’ll make you try things 20-30 different ways, he doesn’t let you off the hook and he’s very passionate but he also always comes from this place of ‘What does that mean for the next scene?’ We would shoot a certain scene and it wasn’t a big scene but he would tell me something like ‘This happens at the end of the movie, you need to bring it down here a little.’ He was always very meticulous – especially on how the relationships played out.

Everyone must always ask you about working with Hugh Jackman but I think everyone’s curious there might be a slip in his personality because he’s billed as the ‘Nicest Guy in Hollywood.’ How was he to work with?

[Laughs] It really is Six Degrees of Separation of anybody in Hollywood with him. When you tell people that you’re about to go and work with Hugh Jackman, everyone has somehow connected and worked with him in some way or another and they all say he’s literally the nicest guy to work with. You get on set and there are people who are really nice and people who are genuinely nice and he is that guy. I don’t remember an English actor who will eat 95%/98% of the time with the regular cast and crew during every meal. He’d wait in line. It’s special. He really makes you feel like a peer rather than this is his movie.

There’s always a possibility with stars that there could be an ego because it can build up accidentally or on purpose. I’m not saying all stars do have egos but there’s always a chance that they could go that way with fame.

I haven’t done it that long, I’ve been acting for about 14 years, and him and Pierce Brosnan are those kind of guys that really have that graciousness about them. It’s truly genuine. He makes you feel like you belong there no matter who you are.

I must say it was really refreshing to see Japan in a blockbuster and have it leave the States for a different culture. Was it great fun shooting out there?

Yes. I remember one of the big scenes that we see early on in the movie which was just massive and the scope of it was just beautiful but the funny thing is when someone wanted something, like props needed an arrow or a sword, it would have to go through four different people in translation to get what you needed. [laughs] That was always funny to watch how the one thing you needed had to go through these people.

I unfortunately don’t know this myself since I haven’t visited there – yet, hopefully – but was a lot of it authentically Japanese?

I know that James really worked closely with Hiroyuki Sanada, Rila and Tao, really making sure things were right. The way I look at the film is that I was watching Unforgiven with The Wolverine. It was that very Clint Eastwood-esque thing. He put so much care into making sure that the nuances were right. I think he really trusted Hiroyuki Sanada who is a legend in Japan and they really crafted this samurai warrior code and the movie stuck to it.

This was Rila Fukushima and Tao Okamoto’s first feature film. How was it working with them?

I didn’t work a lot with Rila but I would see her takes. When I actually saw the end result I was like ‘Wow!’ She’s so magical and gets so much excitement out of you watching this movie, you would never have known she was a first-time actress. Tao just has this kind of openness and general life and it just comes across. When I saw it for the first time in London it really was a treat because I didn’t see a lot of these scenes as my character is such a loner – he’s always on rooftops. I’ve never been on so many rooftops in my life! [laughs] My character is by himself so much that it was a treat to watch this movie for the first time because I really was watching it for the first time. They’re amazing.

I actually didn’t know they were first-timers until after I saw the film and had a look to see if they’d been in any films that I should have seen but apparently not!

I think the magic was watching them work with James. It was really special. The process I enjoyed watching was that they’d do a lot of takes in Japanese and then when they understood what those scenes were in Japanese, James would flip it on them and say ‘OK, now we’re doing it in English.’ It breathed a whole new life into the scene when they did it in Japanese first.

wolverine_ver14_xlg__scaled_600If they asked you to return to the franchise, would you like to?

I would be there in a heartbeat! [laughs]

You’ve played a lot of different roles in various formats. What’s it like going from say the video game Sleeping Dogs to then this huge blockbuster?

Sleeping Dogs was one of my favourite experiences because the cast they brought together was so top notch; acting opposite Tom Wilkinson or Emma Stone. I never actually met them but I’d act opposite their voices in the booth. The way I think video games are made now is a meeting of all the mediums in the middle. I had a special time with it and it took two years to make on my end. You just go for it. There were so many sequences where they were shooting it and it’d feel like Avatar with hundreds of cameras surrounding you and you go in like you’re shooting a movie.

There’s also an interesting credit for you that I saw which is that you did some additional voices on The Amazing Spider-Man video game and I know this is kind of a shot in the dark but with three films announced do you think there’s any possibility of you being added to the franchise?

I was lucky enough to get into one of the franchises. [laughs] I won’t push my luck but I’m always interested in the genre because it’s a lot of fun.

I know a lot of people feel that Hollywood is too white-washed as they call it. Would you agree with this? Do you find that you’re pigeon-holed slightly as an actor?

I think being any ethnicity is a bit more difficult because there are few roles written and there’s such a big talent base of Asian actors here in Los Angeles. There are thousands of incredible actors! You’re fighting for the same role, it is pretty tough. I do think it’s getting better and I think television has pushed the momentum with the Daniel Dae Kims, Masi Okas, Grace Parks, Sandra Ohs of the world, John Chos; they’ve pushed the envelope forward so hopefully it’ll keep moving in that direction.

Have you ever thought about moving into writing, directing or producing?

Yeah. [Laughing] I think every actor has a script under his or her arm, the cliché actor running their own script. We always dream about it but it’s such an art in itself that I don’t pretend to be that but I do aspire to have a good script that I want to do and produce one day!

Do you have any future projects that you can talk about?

The next project I have coming up is Intelligence. It’s a TV show for CBS with Josh Holloway from Lost. It’s a cool sci-fi show. It’s almost like a reboot of The Six Million Dollar Man. That’s what it felt like when I was doing it. I play the guy who is trying to create the nemesis to The Six Million Dollar Man. [laughs]

Is there any director that you’d absolutely love to work with that you haven’t yet?

There’s obviously the greats like the Martin Scorseses of the world. One of my dreams is to work with Wong Kar Wai. His films are really special and did I see a lot of those kind of influences in The Wolverine

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The Wolverine is out in cinemas now. We also have two takes on The Wolverine here and here on the site, both of which are rather positive.

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Interview: Actress Yayaying Rhatha Phongam Talks ‘Only God Forgives’

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Cinema Chords recently caught up with Thai actress and pop star Yayaying Rhatha Phongam, one of the leading ladies in Nicolas Winding Refn’s latest Only God Forgivesreuniting the Danish director with Mr. Ryan Gosling following their dexterous collaboration in Drive. This being Yayaying’s first feature film, she told us of the new challenges she faced during filming and how Only God Forgives is another love-it-or-hate-it flick.

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How did you get involved with Only God Forgives?

Although it seems like the norm now, at the time this process was very new and foreign to me. There were auditions held by a casting director in Thailand who knew me and I went in to read for them. After getting a call back I met with Nicholas and the rest is history.

Can you tell us a bit about the character you play in the film?

I play a Thai prostitute who is the love interest for Ryan Gosling‘s character in the film. She has a strong singing background like myself and although she is a prostitute she’s one of the few characters who holds a lot of dignity and self-respect.

What attracted you to the role?

Many things attracted me to the role – I really think she is different from the standard prostitute role you see in most movies, but really it was the cast and crew working on the film.

tumblr_mn3qumkaBa1s0rg2oo1_500What was it like working with Nicolas Winding Refn? Had you seen any of his previous work?

I saw Drive when it came out so I had seen his work before, but working with him was really a dream come true. He taught me so many things as this was my first film.

Did you face any challenges on-set?

Well, we acted out a lot of moments where we were just silent and staring at each other and that was a bit difficult as you’re not sure how many silent stares you can possibly give.

Ryan Gosling is probably one of the most popular actors at the moment. What was it like working with him?

He is incredibly down-to-earth and comforting to work with and of course very easy on the eyes.

Only God Forgives, so far, has been receiving some very mixed reviews, did you expect this?

I think when you sign up to do one of Nicolas’ movies you have to go in expecting to have some people love it and some people hate it. They are never for everyone.

But will Nicolas Winding Refn fans be disappointed?

His fans will definitely not be disappointed. Interestingly enough he actually wrote this film before Drive so this project has been in the works for a long time.

What are your favourite characters to play?

I like to play characters that are a bit challenging – and challenge can come from anywhere. For me it was challenging on set to remain quiet and not say many words especially when Kristin Scott Thomas was yelling and degrading me. I had to remember that my character was really in love and she was willing to put herself in certain situations.

If you had to choose between singing and acting, which would you choose and why?

I would choose acting. Singing is something I love and that will always be with me but I am focusing on acting in this chapter of my life.

What are you currently working on, film wise? What are your future plans?

Apart from Only God Forgives I have already shot five films in Thailand, one being The Protector 2, with Thai actor star Tony Jaa where I play a Thai kick-boxing killer.

Only God Forgives gets its UK release in August 2nd and if Yayaying is correct, Nicolas Winding Refn fans will not be disappointed.

We’ll leave you with the trailer for a taste of what’s to come.

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Director Interview: Dennis Dugan Talks ‘Grown Ups 2,’ Terrible Scripts and ‘Mother’s Day’

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Love him or hate him, he’s successful and has been the man in the chair for some of the biggest and most famous comedies of the past 20 years. Dennis Dugan was the man behind such classics as Happy Gilmore, Beverly Hills Ninja and Big Daddy in the ’90s and even the smaller successes like National Security starring Martin Lawrence alongside Steve Zahn. Let’s face it, he’s done a lot and clearly he’s done it well since audiences return time and time again for his brand of comedy which usually involves the marmite man himself, Adam Sandler. Personally, I love Happy Gilmore and Big Daddy and I grew up with those films as my dad was such a huge fan. He put them on play to exhaustion point and I can probably quote you them entirely. Recently, the comments keep getting nastier about his work from critics but Dugan doesn’t care and you’ll find out why below.

Whatever your personal thoughts on Dugan, below is an insightful interview with a huge success who thankfully took his time out to chat with us. You may think he’s a man who makes films to just wipe his ass with $100 bills because he doesn’t care nor respect filmmaking but you’d be so wrong. He loves filmmaking, he loves making people laugh, he loves his work and, more importantly, the audience loves his work. He was lovely to chat to, very open to giving detailed answers and enjoyed different questions. We spoke for a good thirty minutes – accidentally cutting into his next interview – apologies to the person that went next – and would’ve been for longer as there was plenty more to ask and plenty more he’d love to have talked about. Below the director reveals his working partnership with Sandler, the dream of working with Pacino and his views on critics, which is pretty brutal. If you’re likely to get offended, I’d skip the last couple of questions!

Many actors tend to agree that working with a director who is, or has been an actor, is always a winning combination. Would you say your experience as an actor helps you to see things from the actors’ side of the camera?

Yeah, definitely. One, there’s a common language we have and we all understand which helps me shortcut a lot of the direction. Two, I understand the anxiety and the ego portion of having to stand an entire crew and a camera. Three, it definitely helps me in casting.

Because you know what you’re looking for?

Yeah, I know what I’m looking for and I feel like it’s a language thing having been an actor and having an understanding. Maybe if I go up to an actor and say ‘Hey, let’s pick this up a little bit, do it a little faster’ it might be different from somebody else who wasn’t necessarily an actor and would just walk up and say ‘Come on, do it faster!’ [laughs] I just feel there’s a way to say “Do it faster” when you’ve been an actor as opposed to when you haven’t.

More often than not when it comes to comedy movies, there tends to be a lot more freedom to let actors run away with improvisation. Obviously with Adam you have built up a great rapport and you will know how each other work but when working with new cast member do you find yourself drawing a lot more limits? Not letting them improvise as much maybe?

No, no, I don’t. I feel that we hire actors and we hire them because we like them for whatever part it is and they bring a lot to the table. The way that we work, there’s a lot of time spent by the writer and by Adam – unless Adam is the primary writer – and Adam rewrites, rewrites, and I give notes. By the time we’re ready to shoot, we have a script we really like. So we will do the script word for word, whatever scene it is until we get that right. Then we usually have a writer on stage and the writer would be writing jokes as we go and Adam would be throwing stuff in and then other people would be throwing stuff in. We work from structure to chaos. Then we’ll just let them go. Again, we hire talented people – I don’t want to put any limits on anybody. What I want them to do is to be able to just be free and do whatever they please. Like when we did Jack & Jill we had Al Pacino and he obviously has done funny movies in his time. This was a little different for him but once Al, who is a classically trained Shakespearian actor, commits to it he just goes. I remember the first time we did a scene with him we got to the end and I had everything I wanted, Adam had everything he wanted and Al Pacino said ‘One more for free!’… and we did one more. [Laughing] He did that on every scene! We’d also get to the end and Al would go ‘One more for free!’ Just let it go one more time. Who knows, we might get something cool.

It’s good to see that you have such an inherent trust in your actors because I think in some films – without being too critical – you can sort of sense that they aren’t having fun on set sometimes. Do you get what I mean?

Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. I work very hard to make people comfortable – especially because I deal with classical actors but I also deal with a lot of comedian actors. Doing stand-up comedy is a frightening thing. I do everything I can to make it feel like everybody is in my living room and we’re just fucking around.

grown.upscb.2Out of all the cast members of Grown Ups 2, would you say, when it came to improvisation, anyone went too far?

In our world there’s no such thing! [laughs] There are times when Sandler will just go! They will just go off on tangents and I just sit there saying ‘OK, go ahead.’ [laughs] Sandler is the king of going too far and Nick Swardson will go to dark and weird places that have not been mapped yet.

I could see David Spade taking it to all new levels of self-deprecation.

For sure, for sure! They all have their own weird caves that they’ll occasionally go to. [laughs]

That’s such a nicer description for it. Obviously you work with Adam Sandler a lot. I know it started in Happy Gilmore but where did the partnership begin and what makes you go back to working with him over and over?

Originally, I tried to get him on before, 3 years or 4 years before Happy Gilmore. I tried to get him in a movie that I was directing and the producers wouldn’t hire him. He wasn’t Adam Sandler yet. Not only that, they also wouldn’t hire Jim Carrey. That was too bad because we could’ve had both of them for $18.43. [laughs]

Really? I bet that studio really laments themselves for that.

Yeah! I brought Adam in four times. I didn’t even know he was associated with Happy Gilmore because I got the call really late and they said ‘Oh we’ve got this golf movie, you should go in’ and I went in and Sandler was there and he said ‘Hey! This was that guy that tried to get me into that movie! He brought me in four times and I always thought I had the job and I didn’t and you stuck by me so you’re directing this one!’ I didn’t even pitch myself, I got my job from trying to hire him before. [laughs] I got the job for being his advocate.

Was there always an intention for a second Grown Ups and was it written before or after the original movie? What drew you to a continuation?

There was no such thing because people have always said ‘You should do Happy Gilmore 2! You should do this 2! And this 2!’ And Zohan, there were a lot of people saying you should do Zohan 2. We could do Zohan 2. I don’t know what we’d do but we could. None of them really ever felt that rich and one of the things that Adam insists on is everything be as new as possible. If we’ve done it before, let’s not do it again. Let’s not repeat ourselves. Let’s try to push ourselves to be new and funny in new and funny ways. Then this one came out and was a hit and people were gonna be like ‘You should do Grown Ups 2!’ This one actually didn’t feel like it was cheating. It didn’t seem like we had to squeeze this thin little thing out and call it 2 and make some money. It felt like with all of the different characters and all of the families and all of the kids and stuff, that there was still a whole lot of stories that could be fun, that could be fresh and could be new.

grownups2-taylor-blog630-jpg_225202Who are the new additions to the cast this time around and how are they?

We have Taylor Lautner from the Twilight series and he’s just great. He fit right into the family immediately. He’s funny, he’s fun, he’s an all round terrific guy. He does all his own stunts in the movies! He’s nuts! He’s the Brazilian world champion at kickboxing guy whatever. Then we have Shaquille O’Neal. [Sincere] Shaquille O’Neal is a really, really funny guy. I didn’t know he was that funny. He’s genuinely funny, he’s a comic. He’s good in the picture. We also have Alexander Ludwig, the bad guy from The Hunger Games.

Is he as funny as the rest of the cast?

He’s funny in his own deep, dark, threatening, scare-the-shit-out-of-you way. [laughs]

When you reunited on the set, was it pretty much a giant party going on?

Well we all see each other a lot – back and forth through the years – but it’s very good. We had a really fun time. Everyone had their families and their girlfriends or whatever and dogs on the set for the first one. We recreated that so while we are making a summer movie we are living a summer movie.

What do you think are the differences between your ’90s work – Happy Gilmore, Beverly Hills Ninja, Big Daddy – and your recent years with the shift in Grown Ups and so on?

I think just naturally, you know? He’s [Adam Sandler] growing up. When I first met him he had no wife, no kids, no dogs; now he has a wife, kids and dogs – same with all of them! They were who they were, at that time, 20 some years ago: young, hot, rebellious comedian actors. Slowly but surely they got picked off and married and had kids. As a comic and the material that you gather from your life and with their lives starting to change a little bit, they start mining the comedy out of their life which consists of kids and dogs and wives and houses.

As well as Adam, you have this thing for bringing some great cameos into pretty much everything you have done since Happy Gilmore. Are there any actors you have tried to get involved in your films that have turned you down because they weren’t interested in ridiculing themselves?

I’m trying to think of somebody that I’ve always wanted to have in and haven’t been able to… I’ve been very lucky because I’ve worked with almost everyone who has come out of Saturday Night Live except for three girls that I would love to work which are Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Kristen Wigg.

Have you ever approached them?

No, I haven’t. I tried but the security pulled me away. [laughs] In answer to your question too, I think the other two I am still missing from my dream list are Hugh Grant and Sandra Bullock.

Oh those two are interesting choices.

And Will Ferrell! Sorry! That’s the sort of squad of six people that if I can check off my list before I die then I’ll be a happy man. Then also there’s Melissa McCarthy! She’s crazy funny!

As a director, you must get a lot of scripts through the post. What’s the worst script you’ve ever received?

I read one a little while ago. You know when they’re that bad – the last one that I hated was actually so bad that I continued on because I couldn’t believe it!

Is it so bad that it’s good?

It’s so bad that it’s just terrible! It was so terrible that I couldn’t believe that someone and their loved ones hadn’t said ‘You know what, don’t continue this, and if you do don’t put it out in public! Don’t let people see that you’ve done this!’ I wish I could find it, we could both get a laugh or I might get sick again! My big thing is that somebody sits there and thinks it up, then they outline it, then they tell their wife or boyfriend or husband or girlfriend or whatever, that person encourages them to move forward with it, then some agent gets it and goes ‘Let’s print this! Let’s print this and put one of our agency covers on it!’ and nowhere along the line no one said ‘This is shit! Stop it! Don’t do this anymore!’ One of the things you’ll see is that they get established and they’ll pull something out from 10 years ago that’s their passion project. They say ‘This never was anything but it could be!’ and you’re just like ‘There’s a reason this wasn’t anything, this is shit.’

Have you ever been tempted to do a film that wasn’t a comedy? Sandler moved away in Reign Over Me, Punch-Drunk Love and Funny People in a way.

I would maybe if it was something that I really felt something about. I’m good at comedy and I really enjoy it. I enjoy the process, the science of it. I enjoy the people who do it and I don’t need to go and do my thought piece or my soul piece. I’m happy doing comedy. I like to make people laugh and I like figuring out how to do that.

I feel that comedy doesn’t get enough recognition as a genre. In the Oscars, obviously, with the exception of the Bridesmaids nomination, how often do they get rewarded?

Yeah, exactly. We got rewarded like last night; starting at 7 o’clock last night we made $2.5m. To me that’s the good review: when the people who like comedy pay for tickets. That’s what I consider a review.

What do you try and do to gain your audience back? They keep coming back for more but what do you think they keep coming back for?

We try to think of a clever story or clever premise. We try to make it a good story and then we try to make it as funny as possible and we try and get as many funny people in it as we can. Again, we’re always trying to be fresh, we’re always trying to come up with something new if we can.

Sandler’s been on the screen for over 20 years now so there’s that comfort of having him on screen as well which keeps bringing your audience back too.

Yeah, that too. That can work for you if you’re doing your job but it can work against you if you get lazy.

You’re also confirmed with Mother’s Day. You’re shooting that right now, aren’t you?

No we’re still writing and casting.

When’s that scheduled for release, Mother’s Day next year or the year after?

No I think we missed the window on next year’s so it’ll probably be the year after.

Is there much you can tell us about that, like the cast you’ve got involved?

No, I don’t want to talk about the cast yet but it’s in the same vein as Love Actually, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day. It’s that thing of six or seven interwoven stories with stars.

Do you ever get lines quoted in the street to you? Is that something that happens often?

When Zohan came out they’d say ‘Smell it, smell it, smell it! Now take it!’ [laughs] You know, there’s classic stuff in all these movies so yeah I get that. I’m just happy that people see the movies once and they take them home and they see them enough times that they start quoting them.

You never read reviews, obviously, you’ve said that often.

No, never.

Why is it that you think the critics give you such a hard time when the audience clearly loves you so much?

I don’t know. I feel like the newspapers are partly responsible because they have one critic who will do Mud and then it’ll do Django Unchained and then it’ll do Grown Ups 2. Rolling Stone would never have their rock and roll reviewer do the new Plácido Domingo opera album. They would never have their classical guy review a hip-hop album. They wouldn’t because they don’t know what they’re talking about! What they know is a certain genre and so if you had a person that understood comedy and was sympathetic to comedy and just didn’t dismiss all comedy as nothing then maybe you could have a reviewer coming and saying ‘In this context, up against Charlie Chaplin, up against W.C. Fields or the Marx Brothers, this is how we feel where this movie falls in this genre that these people have chosen to do.’ Then you might have some sort of logical discourse. Right now it’s just crap.

Wow. You feel pretty strongly against critics then.

Yeah, I just don’t care. If we didn’t make movies they wouldn’t have a job. We do the creating and they leech off it and attack it. So I don’t care. They can do whatever they want. I’m happy that they have a job. In the end I’m hoping that everyone in the UK goes and sees the movie! [laughs]

I’m sure you will after topping the US box office, Grown Ups 2 will now move on to other countries and dominate theirs.

The film is released in the UK on the 9th of August where it will play to packed screens. Also look out for Mother’s Day which will be hitting the big screen in 2015, hopefully. We wish him luck and thank him for his time although, for the record, I liked Mud, Django Unchained and Big Daddy.

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Peter Jackson Talks ‘The World’s End’ With Wright, Pegg and Frost

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The most anticipated pub crawl in history finally begins tomorrow, 19 July, as The World’s End brings its green mint choc-chip flavour to cinemas, bringing the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy to its culmination.

Given the film’s inclusion at this year’s Comic-Con, with a specific panel this weekend, Peter Jackson — who you may recall put in a cameo appearance in Hot Fuzz — sat down in his stocking feet to chat with Wright and the two leads, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, after a Wellington premiere of the film.

If all 22 minutes of that isn’t enough to keep you happy, three exclusive clips from the film have also been unleashed to give us a really good taste of Wright’s minty new flavour.

Head back here tomorrow for the lowdown on what the cast and crew had to say at this year’s Comic-Con panel after which you can head straight down to your local multiplex to watch The World’s End which opens in all of 24 hours time.

In the meantime, enjoy the aforementioned videos below. Here comes Barmageddon…

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Plot Synopsis:

20 years after attempting an epic pub crawl, five childhood friends reunite when one of them becomes hellbent on trying the drinking marathon again.  They are convinced to stage an encore by mate Gary King, a 40-year old man trapped at the cigarette end of his teens, who drags his reluctant pals to their hometown and once again attempts to reach the fabled pub – The World’s End.  As they attempt to reconcile the past and present, they realize the real struggle is for the future, not just theirs but humankind’s.  Reaching The World’s End is the least of their worries.


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Interview: Alexandre Aja Talks Remakes, Space Pirates and a Scanners TV Series

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Last week we had the pleasure of speaking to horror director and scribe Alexandre Aja all about the upcoming movie Horns, starring Daniel Radcliffe and Juno Temple and based on the novel of the same name by Joe Hill. During our conversation it was only natural for us to ask him for his take on the whole horror remake debate. Find out below what his particular reasons are for choosing and accepting to take on remakes together with a few bits of revealing information about a Scanners television series and a film project he has had floating around his head since as far back as he can remember, Cobra The Space Pirate.


Most of your films tend to be remakes or revamps. The audience is very split about these as most never tend to live up to the originals. How do you view this entire process?

Well it just seems to be the Hollywood system right now really. Obviously when you are tackling this territory you have to be as respectful as possible of both the original films and their creators. I have had the great pleasure of being able to collaborate with the likes of Wes Craven on The Hills Have Eyes and William Lustig on Maniac and it’s always an amazing experience to be able to create this rapport with the people who first created these movies that you love.

If I’m not mistaken, I understand that, despite having directed so many remakes, you have only actually accepted to tackle films that you thought were bad in the first place. Is that right?

Well that was sort of the idea for doing the remakes although I wouldn’t consider Piranha a remake as the original was actually pretty damned good and my version was a completely different take. You are right though in the sense that I did see room for improvement for the other remakes I have accepted to take on.

For that very reason I in no way wanted to get involved with The Last House on the Left and I would never have even dared try and take on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. For me those two films are just perfect recipes that just mustn’t be messed with.

Another remake I have done that I wouldn’t really tie in with your question is Maniac as I consider the original to be one of the best horror movies ever made. Let’s just say that when I accept to make a “real” remake it’s because I feel the movie can be enhanced in some way. When I did Maniac and Piranha I just tried to do something so different to ensure that the originals could exist in their own right rather than me trying to compete with something that I couldn’t even try and compete with.

So you say you have turned down offers to do remakes. I know you have often said that you would kill anyone who even tries to remake Deliverance.

Yes, I would say I get remake offers a couple of times every month and I tend to have to say no because of what I just said. Most of the movies Hollywood want to remake are just too important for me and really shouldn’t be messed with.

A lot of current horror movies do blend in a lot of comedy nowadays and I believe this is something you sternly try to avoid? Is this down to your love of`’70s and ’80s horror or do you just believe there will never be chemistry between those two genres?

It’s all about creating fear for me. If you want people to feel the fear then you have to try not to bring in comedy as that waters down the tension of a movie.

piranhaxBut Piranha was exactly the opposite as it brought comedy into the mix in a big way. It was a very tongue-in-cheek affair. What made you decide to forget your “no comedy rule” when it came to that project?

Basically, when I went into that one I went in not wanting to make a scary movie. I just wanted to create this fast paced guilty pleasure about young Americans getting massacred by prehistoric piranhas. I’m really happy with the result because it seems like a lot of people were really eager to see Spring Break under attack.

And were you ever attached to make the rather poor Piranha sequel with the Hoff?

Not at all. What happened was exactly the same as with The Hills Have Eyes. We certainly had ideas for sequels for both films but both studios involved opted for less expensive routes which is why I ended up having nothing to do with either. I haven’t seen the Piranha sequel but from what I have heard it’s a shame our version didn’t get made as we had a great idea that would have followed in the same vein as our original and would have been much less of a spoof compared to what ended up being released.

Going back to your love for everything ’70s, you always try to keep CGI effects to a bare minimum and have worked with some of the best make up artists in the business such as Giannetto De Rossi who has worked with the likes of Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento.

I try to keep things as real as I can and most of the films I have done so far have required a lot of makeup work which we often then enhance using some CGI. Everything is about making people believe what they see and if you aren‘t buying what you are watching then you are out. This is vital when making a horror movie which sort of goes hand in hand with what I was saying about the comedy element.

A lot of horror directors certainly try and stick to makeup effects as much as possible nowadays. The effects in the Evil Dead remake are a great example of what you can do just using makeup.

Oh yes! Evil Dead was absolutely amazing in terms of makeup. That has to be one of the most amazing movies I have seen recently. I was like WOW impressed.

Coming back to the present, you’ve got Maniac popping up in various corners of the world and Horns set to release late in the year. What else can we expect from you in the near future? How are you plans for Cobra The Space Pirate going?

Well that’s a project that is so dear to me that I will wait all the time necessary to ensure it gets made exactly the way I have it envisioned. It’s a space adventure that will be amazing but it will also be a very expensive project to produce so it may take a bit more time that it usually takes but it will definitely get made.

I know you loved the animated series on the television as a child so I can only start to imagine how long this idea has been going around in your head.

I used to literally run home after school to catch the latest episode on the television and then I later discovered the Manga and Cobra the Pirate literally became on of my favourite characters.

As for the idea, the script is completed and we are already meeting various actors to make decisions and we’re looking to get the film made within the next few years.

When you say it will be an expensive project, is this something that you take into account when preparing a script or do you write the script and then see how the production team can make your ideas a reality?

I keep those kinds of thoughts well out of mind if possible. The thing is you have to see the writing process as just paper and ink. You really have to strive not to restrain your ambitions when it comes to writing. I need as much freedom as possible.

ScannersAnd apart from movies, horror television series more often than not seem to be hitting all the right notes with audiences. Have you or would you consider writing and/or directing something with a much longer story arc involved?

Well we have actually been negotiating a series for quite some time. It’s a televised series version of Scanners and I think that this should come to fruition very, very soon.

As a final note, many fans, particularly fans of High Tension, are eager for you to write and direct something on the same hardcore level as the aforementioned film. Would you agree with some of your fans who are saying your films have become a bit more diluted?

To be totally honest I thought that my last release, Maniac, was seriously hardcore. I love the horror genre but as a writer and director I just want to avoid falling into the pitfall of repeating the same film over and over again. I hope to be able to surprise audiences with each new project I am involved with and I hope Horns does just that.

We’d like to thank Alexandre for the time he took to speak to us. Horns will be released in the US on October 11, 2013 whilst a UK release date is yet to be announced. In the meantime, we’ll leave you with a trailer for his latest release, Maniac which premiered here in the UK at the Film4 FrightFest last year.

[youtube_sc url=zVI32sbeJcw]

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Interview: Anthony Wilcox Talks ‘Hello Carter’

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Anthony Wilcox has had a career in the film industry for over a decade now working on things like Terence Davies‘s The Deep Blue Sea to Hot Fuzz to Layer Cake, Pearl Harbour, W.E. and many others. Now he’s gotten his chance to lose the “assistant” tag and become a director. His first feature, Hello Carter, stars Jodie Whittaker, Paul Schneider and Charlie Cox with a great supporting cast of up-and-coming British actors. It’s too broad to define and wants to bring a unique voice to British storytelling. Anthony spoke to us while working on post-production for Hello Carter to tell us a little bit more about the film, himself and its influences.


Your first feature is an extension of a short you did a year or two ago with Dominic Cooper. Was it a short extended into a feature or a feature condensed into a short?

What we did, myself and Julian Bird [producer], was talk about working for a while. We’d done short films before but we were at a point where we thought we were ready and wanted to make a feature film. We thought we’d work out the best way of doing that and I had an idea for Hello Carter. What we decided to do was to make a ten minute version of it to show what kind of film we wanted to create, the people we could attract to it and how it would serve as a tool for raising money. The short film was made with the intention of making a feature film rather than in a traditional sense, trying to tout it around festivals and see what happens. The actual script for the feature didn’t exist until after the short film was made which seemed to go down well. We sort of went from there, really.

When you were writing it, did you have your cast in your mind?

hello-carter-shotNo. I think it’s a bit of a dangerous thing to do. [laughs] I’ve written short films and this – you kind of have ideas but they can sort of change. In this instance, specifically for Hello Carter, there’s one part which was an American in London and I did write that specifically with Paul Schneider in mind. He was someone that I knew and had worked with when I was an assistant director on Bright Star. Again, we talked about working together, I wrote this part very much hoping that he would do it because it was an American role. It would’ve been tricky if he’d said no. I think you have people that you want to work with rather than necessarily writing with them in mind. Jodie Whittaker was someone I worked with on the short film and someone that I very much wanted to work with again but the part she plays in the feature film is completely different to the one she plays in the short film. Everyone else was cast in a more traditional way. People like Charlie [Cox] were people that I’d admired for a long time and was delighted to get the opportunity to work with.

I was going to ask about Paul Schneider because he seems like such an odd choice as he’s been on Parks and Recreation and had a part in Away We Go so it seemed like an odd choice for him to go into a small British film.

I was the second assistant director on Bright Star and he was the only American actor in that so he was staying in London for that and we hung out a bit. Paul is a filmmaker himself – he directed a film, he went to film school – he fell into acting really. Filmmaking is his love, I think. He was always going to be supportive for my first film. I sent him drafts of scripts as it went along and honed the script for him. He’s playing an American actor visiting London. I engineered that part to accommodate him really because he’s someone I know and like and get on with and one of the most talented actors of his kind. He’s an extraordinary talent, really funny and an all round amazing presence on screen.

Dominic Cooper was in the original short. How come he didn’t come back for the feature film?

We made the short film at a certain time, when people were available, when they wanted to be a part of it. By the time the feature film came around – again, it’s like DPs, cameramen, editors – we had a strict timeline of when we wanted to make the film by. The casting for the rest of it was done in quite a traditional way. We met people who were interested and potentially available, as soon as Charlie was – who fitted in that bracket – it was an easy choice to make.

The film features quite a lot of up-and-coming actors like Antonia Thomas, Christian Cooke, Annabelle Wallis and Henry Lloyd-Hughes.  Did they get involved in the standard casting way as well?

I didn’t know any of them personally. One of our producers, Fiona Neilson, had worked with Antonia before. We had an exceptional  casting director, Shaheen Baig – who is someone I have worked with previously -, and was very supportive. We’ve got quite eye-catching executive producers in Michael Winterbottom and Andrew Eaton. When you’re going to cast, it helps to have those names around if you’re a first time feature director to make it an attractive prospect. Then you get the opportunity to meet people and it all carries on well from there and they do it. All those other parts were cast in a traditional way but I think the package of the whole project was helped on by Shaheen and everybody else who was attached to it.

You filmed in January and February for 5 weeks but the story has you moving all over London. Was it a tight schedule?

Yeah, it’s a strange thing with films [laughs]; no matter how much time or money you get you always feel like you could do with more. For a film as small a budget as ours, I think 5 weeks is quite a decent amount of time. I think we were able to push everything and work everyone quite hard but we managed to achieve everything we wanted to. It was a nice balance between having a very full schedule, keeping everyone busy and working, but we luckily weren’t tipped into that horrible area being strangled for time every day. We didn’t have that. It was the right sort of balance for the type of film we were making.

It seems to be quite a British comedy with hints of Richard Curtis when it comes to the plot outline. Who were your influences for it?

hellocarterAbout 10 years ago I watched After Hours, a really early Scorsese film. It’s about a guy who’s looking for a girl and gets trapped in this crazy sequence of events. All told in one night in downtown Manhattan. I remember watching that film, not really attached to the idea of Hello Carter yet, and I was thinking that you don’t often see that spirit of film made in London. I think there’s something – in terms of influence – I watch quite a lot of American independent films. The type of films that walk quite a fine line between comedy, drama, real life and heightened situations and are quite hard to pigeonhole into what they are. Call them a romantic-comedy or a quirky-comedy – I think there’s lots of examples of those kind of films. Whereas, here – as you pointed out – it has to be either ‘are you a Working Title thing, or a Ken Loach doing this thing?’ We were able to put something together which I hope emulates that spirit of those smaller American independent films and, dare I say it, quite a unique voice really. Not necessarily be too pigeonholed as a certain type of thing. What I was ultimately interested in doing was telling a story about real people in a real place – a city I know well – but doing that within a heightened set of situations and circumstances.

You named After Hours, there as an influence but were there any other American independents that you either took influence from or liked the style of and felt like emulating?

I watched a lot of Wes Anderson films, stuff like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and then less comedic stuff like Cassavettes films, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie which I love. I think there are lots of films like that and there’s a Polanski film which I’ve now forgotten the name of which is set in Paris. Frantic it’s called! About men quite isolated in a city. Of course there are British ones like Wonderland and Naked. It was trying to draw on different types of films in terms of an aesthetic and spirit in a way. It’s pretty wide-ranging, Lost in Translation is another one. As everyone does, you watch a bunch of stuff and draw little bits of moments out of each one that you like and maybe want to try and capture.

You’ve been involved in the business for over a decade now. Were you originally wanting to be a director or did you enjoy your time as an assistant director?

I enjoyed it for a while. I had no filmmaking background or family or anything. I knew I was interested in filmmaking and I didn’t necessarily know what all the roles were until I started working within it. I started at 19 doing bits of work experience, working as a runner. Before you know it you’ve done a couple of jobs as a runner then someone offers you a third AD job. Before you know that, you’re suddenly a first AD. I was very fortunate to work with some brilliant directors – the directors that I’d love to go and watch their films if I wasn’t working with them. That was constantly invigoratingly inspiring. If I’d have gotten trapped in 4 years of Midsomer Murders I might’ve leapt slightly quicker than I did. [laughs] Being able to work with the people I got to work with allowed me to get very inspired and make contacts and get me in a place that I was confident I could start making my own films.

As an assistant director, you worked on an eclectic amount of films – Pearl Harbour, Hot Fuzz, Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj – so did you learn a lot from the directors while being around them? Did you take influence from their directing style or try and do things in your own way?

I’d never say I wanted to make a film like so-and-so. I think I’ve managed to work on 2 films as an AD that have made front page news as “The Worst Films Ever Made” [laughs] but then I’ve worked with Lynne Ramsey and loads of other brilliant people. What you can always do – and what I always do because I was constantly fascinated in this world I worked in – is learn things. You learn things with every job, every day almost. On set, every actor that comes in, every location, you keep your ears and eyes open and have this vision what to do each day. You soak all that up. I don’t think necessarily you make conscious decisions of doing that-like-that. If you’ve absorbed all that experience, all that first-hand knowledge in the right way, then it undoubtedly comes out in your own work. I’m sure it does. I couldn’t necessarily tell you now in what way it has but maybe in a couple of years I’ll be able to look back and make that judgement.

You worked with Terence Davies, that must’ve been quite amazing because he’s like a British legend.

I think that was my last ADing job. That was an incredible experience. It was a really fascinating job for lots of reasons. Terence hadn’t made a film in so long himself. The high regard that everyone held him in, the whole crew and the cast, it was quite extraordinary to see someone that has that aura and status about them. You can see why all these talented people get drawn into a project like that, not to make lots of money but to be in that atmosphere and watch someone like that work.

Have you got anything else that you’re working on after Hello Carter?

I’ve got a couple of things which we’re developing. I’m still deep on post-production of Hello Carter and probably still will be until August. We’ve got – I’m not sure I can say too much about it at the moment. There’s a film which we’re hoping to make next summer which is not in England. Trying to write something for somewhere sunnier and better weather. [laughs] Telling a story about some British people abroad really. That’s the next plan but that’s all early stages.

Could you at least tell us what genre or style it will have? Comedic, dramatic etc.

Again, umm, a comedy-drama let’s call it.

So another amalgamation of everything?

Yeah, exactly. Archipelago meets Kevin and Perry, let’s call it that. [laughs] Maybe don’t call it that! [laughs]

I won’t haha. When is Hello Carter due for release?

We have a sales agent and basically the next stages of the film are to put it into festivals and pick up distribution from festivals. We made the film without a UK distributor but with a sales agent. We’ll hopefully know that in the next 2-3 months. Once it’s ready we’ll be showing it in festivals and see where it goes from there…

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Exclusive Interview: The Makers of 2000AD Fan Film ‘Judge Minty’

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Judge Minty is one of the finest and most elaborate fan films I have ever seen, and it is available for free online here.

I spoke to writer/director Steven Sterlacchini and director of digital effects and photography Steve Green.

For those who are yet to see ‘Judge Minty’ can you give them an idea of what it’s all about?

SS Judge Minty is a NOT for profit fan film based in the world of the 2000AD character Judge Dredd. The story focuses on Judge William Minty, a minor character created decades ago, who only made a couple of appearance in the comic. As well as being a great character, the story touched on some elements which became important to Dredd later. From the synopsis – “Judge William Minty has spent his entire adult life policing the violent streets of Mega-City One – and now he’s slowing down. When a lapse of judgement almost ends his life, he knows that it’s time to quit. He can choose to teach in the Academy, or he can leave the city and walk alone out into the anarchy of the Cursed Earth, taking law to the lawless.”

Why did you make this film?

SG Partly to see what could be done – previously fan films had been shot on DV, but HD was becoming more common, making green screen a lot more accessible (although still has certain drawbacks).

Software at the desktop level has been around for a while, and I have a background in entirely CG animation, but I’d always tinkered with mixing live-action and CG. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to do it. Also, at the time, the only screen Dredd (bar a video game cutscene Dredd) was the Stallone one, and another Dredd world film seemed miles off.

Parts of it look like a mega budget Hollywood blockbuster – how on earth did you manage that on no money?

SG The costumes and props helped a lot – the exterior locations were great, I think we just picked our battles – like adding a few wrecked blocks to the various quarries, and all the dust etc. There were some compromises since I was doing the majority of the VFX work as well as shooting it, so it was spread pretty thinly – I could easily have worked on shots for a lot longer, but it had to be out at some point.

SS Also the number of people, both fans and professionals, who gave their time for free was a key factor. People like editor Ben Woods, Sound Designer Travis Hefferen and composer Phil Oates, all added their valuable expertise for free.

What were the most fun and most challenging aspects of making the film?

SG I enjoyed the green screen studio shots, I’d never really shot any before, so there were technical things to learn – things like the helmets picking up the spill from the side walls, best practice for shooting (we were shooting on DSLRs which are OK, but not ideal for keying).

The most challenging was probably Wales – the weather was pretty abysmal at times.

SS Seeing the results of everyone else’s works was lots of fun. Dan’s props and costumes, Steve’s effects, Jared Butler and Fryda Wolff‘s voice over work and of course Edmund’s performance. That and meeting up with the people who volunteered to be actors and extras, much of the time providing the enthusiasm which kept us going.

What has the reaction been like so far?

SG Very positive – we were always aiming at the fans, and there have been a lot of great comments – there will always be some griping, but you can’t please everyone.

SS Even some of the criticism has been from people who have taken the time to watch the film in great detail, which I personally still get a bit of a thrill about. With our budget and time constraints, it’s obviously far from perfect, but it’s nice when people put that aside a little and ‘jump on board’ to enjoy the film for what it is.

Who are your main influences?

SG Well, Star Wars was a pretty big influence (not very original I know) – I love Kev O Neills concepts, and Mick McMahon‘s stripwork. I guess Spielberg, John Carpenter, James Cameron, Ridley Scott. More recently Neill Blomkamp.

Also a big shout out to Andrew Kramer who runs the Videocopilot site. Minty was pretty much my baptism of fire in the world of After Effects, and the tutorials on that site really helped get me up to speed, and put ideas in my head of ways to approach doing the effects.

SS I’ve definitely been inspired by people like Mick McMahon and Terry Gilliam, to at least try and do something creative.

What are your thoughts about 2000AD?

SG It’s been enormously influential, and I’m surprised that so little of their IP has made it onto screen, either as commercial TV or film or as fan films. It’s also great to see the newer artists and writers coming through, and it taking advantage of digital copies, for those outside the UK that must be a blessing.

What do you think of the two Dredd films?

SG I didn’t mind the Stallone one as much as some, I’ve got it on Blu-ray… I even borrowed the Hall of Justice for Minty, there was some great design work in there.

The 2012 Dredd was great, Karl Urban did a wonderful job. I’m a big John Carpenter fan, so it felt like a ‘lost’ early 80s John Carpenter film, and would love to see where they could take it.

Has the internet opened up things for filmakers like yourself?

SG Sure, just from the delivery point of view – you now have a couple of areas to show your work around the world. Obviously with fan films you can’t make money from it, but as a way of getting it out there it’s great to have the option.

SS It also allows you to get in touch with like minded people a lot easier. Even something like tracking down an actor such as Edmund, is much easier to do.

Can you tell us a bit about your previous work?

SG I’ve a background in games, but have been freelancing for about the last 8 years – broadcast/event graphics/corporate stuff mainly.

SS My background is mainly in design and art direction. Judge Minty, is the first finished film project I have worked on.

What are your plans and what do you hope to achieve in the future?

SG Get paying work in. Beyond that, I’m not sure – chatted about a few things, I’ve no idea if anything commercial will come off the back of Minty, but even if it doesn’t it’s still been enormous fun, and we’ve learnt new things.

SS I think we’ve got a few ideas bubbling, but nothing definite yet. I doubt we’d announce anything until we had it all planned. It would need to be something that could be turned around in a much quicker timescale.

Anything else you’d like to tell us?

SG Anyone wavering about whether to do something, just give it a go – it doesn’t have to be a 27-minute epic (in fact I’d advise against it being that long…).

There’s only so many cat videos Youtube can take…

We’ll leave you with the short film, Judge Minty:


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