Interviews with cast and crew

InterviewsKiller Chords

Chords in Conversation: Emile Hirsch Talks The Autopsy of Jane Doe


Taking on any project or puzzle can be a mission of patience, frustration, skill and learning. The practice of autopsy – a macabre science throughout the ages – takes an authentic hand, even when performing before a camera. A profession taught and handed down for generations of families; the stories and experiences cutting into true horror happening to those unfortunante souls can chill anyone to the bone. Playing the character Austin, a son, an apprentice and young man at a crossroads in his life, is talented actor Emile Hirsch who embodies the mystery, conflict and connection in the critically acclaimed THE AUTOPSY OF JANE DOE currently released for screenings through IFC Midnight. Emile took some time coming off the set of one of his many film projects to talk a return to horror. Working with André Øvredal and Brian Cox as well as the chilling ring of a bell for….

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InterviewsKiller Chords

Chords in Conversation: Kika Magalhaes Talks The Eyes of My Mother


The importance, impact and power of a performance can be measured differently in each viewer’s eyes. The idea of casting is an art for some and a science for others. However, finding that perfection to elevate and solidify a film is so crucial, especially in dark dramas. Stunning, deadly and fragile as a snowflake, actress and performer Kika Magalhaes terrified as well as enchanted in Nicolas Pesce’s black and white horror tale THE EYES OF MY MOTHER which has been playing to critical acclaim. Playing the adult version of the lead female, Francisca, who is lonely and starves for love in any way she can obtain it, this coming of age story is sweeping with powerful actions, visuals and emotion so thick it’s palpable. Kika took some time out to talk with Jay Kay of CinemaChords about her Portuguese heritage, her character’s perspective of love and what is in the barn and how it impacts…

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Chords in Conversation: Ella Ballentine Talks The Monster


Following the acclaimed home invasion shocker The Strangers, and more recent sleeper hit Mockingbird, writer/director Bryan Bertino brings us The Monster, a chilling creature feature that pits a ferociously strong mother and daughter duo against two very different kinds of monsters: One being the titular creature itself and the other the relationship most toxic that said siblings share.

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Exclusive interview with Paul Hyett

Paul Hyett-1

On the eve of THE SEASONING HOUSE receiving its Network Premiere on HORROR CHANNEL, director Paul Hyett talks about the difficulty of casting the lead role, the virtues of listening and the proudest moment of his career (so far!)

Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in movies?

Yeah, when I was in my teens. I loved movies, they were such an entertaining escape for me and horror movies were my favourites – The Thing, Nightmare on Elm Street, Friday the 13th… I decided early on that as soon as I left school I wanted to work in the film industry. Because I loved sculpting, painting and art, coupled with my love for creatures and gore, I figured that special make-up effects was the way to go. 

You made your name working as a special effects make-up artist, can you recall what it was like being on set for the first time? 

Well, I went into the industry the very low budget route so it wasn’t daunting. Most of what I was working on were student films, short films and micro budget features, so everyone was learning together. It was exhilarating and so much fun learning my craft and being part of movies. I think when I got onto the more professional ones, it was a step up in responsibility and work ethic, and it was more daunting, but you grow and learn. Experience is key in this industry and I had to learn quick still being a teenager.

What would you say was your greatest make-up effect? 

Well, it’s hard to pin down a particular make up effect, I suppose ‘The Descent’ was a landmark as we were producing large scale manufacture of silicon appliances for the crawlers. As far aa I’m aware, no one was really doing that. It was a real step up from foam latex, and we did so much on that film, fifty applications of crawlers, mechanical heads, dead bodies, gore effects, dead animals, stunt weapons and a thousand bones in about six weeks of prep. It was an undertaking, and a major achievement in my career. 

Was becoming a director always part of your career plan? 

Not at first. When I was a teenager, it was all about special make up effects, creatures and gore. But over the years, the thought of putting my own visions on the screen grew. I was getting so much work in prosthetics, sometimes ten films a year, running large departments, that I had no time to pursue writing and directing. But about eight years ago I decided, enough, I want to make my own movie, and so I started to really pursue it, making time to write and that’s when about four years ago, we finally came up with ‘The Seasoning House’. 

The Seasoning House is getting its Network Premiere on Horror Channel this month, how did the project come together? 

I had known the producer Michael Riley for about fifteen years at that time, and the last few years before we made TSH we had spoken about doing a film together with me in the director’s chair. At the same time I had spoken to another writer. Helen Solomen, about a project she had about sex trafficking, about a young girl trapped in a brothel.  It was more a real life docu-drama, and I said I thought it would make a terrific horror thriller, I went away and wrote a fifty-page pitch and then brought on a co-writer, Conal Palmer, and we developed it into a feature length script. I then pitched it to Templeheart films, they loved it and raised the money and we made it.


Was it a difficult movie to cast as Rosie Day and Kevin Howarth, in particular, are outstanding?

Well I’d known Kevin for years and thought he’d be great for the role of Viktor, a manipulative, cunning swine. The role of Angel was more difficult, we saw 130 girls in open auditions, and Rosie was in the final ten, I was worried, then Rosie came in, and she blew us away, her strength, her vulnerabilities, she was fantastic from the start, she nailed it.

How nervous were you sitting in the director’s chair for the first time? 

Not at all, I feel more comfortable on a set than anywhere else, and I think that took away the nervousness, I had in my head what I wanted to do, and just did it, I had a great producer, and a lovely cast and crew. 

It’s a bleak and challenging film, what was the atmosphere like on set? 

It was always in our heads that we weren’t making an exploitative film, and the girls wanted to do justice to a real life horror in the world. On set it was a fun atmosphere, we all got on so well, considering the subject matter, everyone had a fun time. 

Was it a tough shoot? 

Not really, it was only four weeks long, and it was mostly just cold, The real challenge was doing a movie with strong performances, lots of stunts, wire work, VFX work, SFX elements, chases through woods in the cold winter, all in such a short space of time. 

How nervous were you when it premiered at FrightFest in 2012? 

YES! VERY nervous. But the FrightFest crowd was lovely and so welcoming.  And Alan, Paul, Greg and Ian really made it special. It as such an exhilarating experience, easily the proudest moment in my career. 

What did you learn of the craft of directing whilst making The Seasoning House? 

Always prep as much as you can, listen to your cast and crew, bring out people’s skills, let them flourish as artists. You’re as good as your cast and crew, as long as you bring a vision, and know exactly what you want it should all fall in place. I’ve been lucky to have good producers, good cast and crews on my films. 

Would you approach it any differently if you were to make that movie now? 

I would cut out Angel arriving at the woman in the pig cottage, I think it slows down the pacing at that point, but because she changes costume, we couldn’t change it in the edit. It’s the one mistake I regret, painting myself into that corner. 

So what can you tell us about your latest movie, HERETIKS?

It’s the movie I was initially going to do after ‘The Seasoning House’, when Howl came along and I jumped onto that one first. ‘Heretiks’ takes place in the 17th Century, where a young woman, Persephone (played by Hannah Arterton), is saved from execution by a mysterious woman, played by Clare Higgins. She is taken to a priory to serve penance looking after the sick. However Persephone realises there is a much darker evil already there. 

Paul Hyett, thank you very much.

THE SEASONING HOUSE is broadcast on Horror Channel on Sat 27 Feb, 10.45pm.

Paul will be attending FrightFest Glasgow 2016 on Sat 27 Feb to present an exclusive clip from HERITIKS

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DVD NewsInterviews

Chords in Conversation: Robert Downey Jr. Talks AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON

robert _downey

Marvel Studios unleashes the next global phenomenon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron. Good intentions wreak havoc when Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) unwittingly creates Ultron (James Spader), a terrifying A.I. monster who vows to achieve “world peace” via mass extinction. Now, Iron Man, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) – alongside Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) – must reassemble to defeat Ultron and save mankind.

To celebrate the 3D Blu-ray™, Blu-ray and DVD release of Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron this week, we talk to Robert Downey Jr. – who plays Tony Stark/Iron Man in the movie – to discover his thoughts on the action-packed adventure…

What do you hope the audience gains from watching Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron?

I hope people say ‘Wow’ after they see this film. When you have a big movie like this, there are big expectations. I hope that audiences feel as good about this as they did when they came and saw the third Iron Man. And the same as they did when they saw the most recent Captain America and Thor. This movie is incredibly fun and thoughtful – and it has great themes. There is also a whole bunch of new characters and it really raises the bar. That’s when I know it has my seal of approval.

Where is Tony Stark when Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron opens? And how would you describe his relationship with The Avengers now?

When the movie starts, Tony is hosting The Avengers in his tower in New York. He’s working on a system that will make it so The Avengers don’t have to do what they’ve been doing all along, which purportedly should be the end game.

Marvel's Avengers: Age Of Ultron..L to R: Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)..Ph: Film Frame..?Marvel 2015
L to R: Steve Rogers/Captain America (Chris Evans), Bruce Banner/Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Tony Stark/Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)..Ph: Film Frame..?Marvel 2015

Captain America appears to be the leader of The Avengers in Marvel’s Avengers: Age Of Ultron. Is Tony Stark happy about that?

There are really only two relationships in Tony’s life that he’s been willing to assume a lower status. One is with Pepper Potts, obviously. And the other is with Captain America.

Why did he decide to let Captain America take charge?

Tony believes whoever does the job best should probably do that job. And while Tony brings a lot to the table, Captain America has the most experience. No one’s more battle seasoned than Captain America.

Why does Tony Stark care for The Avengers so much in the movie? In the past, he has been a pretty selfish guy…  

By having them all together, he feels like it allows him to still be the engineer and the mechanic who wants to help them all do things a little bit better. It’s like buying a football team and then wanting to redo their uniforms and give them better equipment and make them stronger, faster and safer on the field.

Tony Stark spent a lot of money upgrading Stark Tower to become The Avengers Tower in the new movie. Where does he get all this money?

I don’t know of anyone in the history of any Super Hero franchise who seems never to run out of money! Tony’s footing the bill and he can swing it, obviously. Pepper has taken over the business largely, so everything’s going to be a little more stable than when daddy was just writing checks.

What was it like to wander around the set of the Avengers Tower?

When I walked onto the set for the first time, I said, ‘Wow, this is really impressive.” But then, as we went along, somehow it wasn’t factored in what would happen when all of the candy glass from the action sequences got ground into the floor.

Did it become difficult to walk around the set?

It basically became a futuristic ice rink that was almost impossible to navigate. The floors looked so beautiful, but they were so slippery that it added unforeseen amount of excitement and danger to walking three steps. It also made everyone a much better dancer.

Every Marvel movie brings something new and different to its audience. What does Marvel’s Avengers: Age of Ultron bring to the world this time?

Having new people in the cast is great. We now have Elizabeth Olsen and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver. We have Paul Bettany, who’s been the voice of Jarvis all along, but now he gets to do something new with a character named Vision. And I think James Spader was a brilliant piece of casting for Ultron.

ultron-spaderWhat’s it like to work with James Spader?

There are a lot of full circles going on with this movie. Probably the most personal one is James Spader. He was the first person I saw when I came to Los Angeles and he really took me under his wing. He’s just a couple years older than me, but I think it was a very inspired casting choice [to have him in the movie]. Not just because he’s on everyone’s lips and minds again, but he really is a bit of an American treasure. I’ve certainly borrowed from his style more than a few times over the years.

What was it like to have Paul Bettany on the set of the movie this time?

Another great full circle moment in this film is Paul Bettany coming in as Vision. Paul’s been essentially with me from the beginning and it was so nice to actually get him on set instead of at the premieres. He’s an amazing actor and it’s a fantastic character.

What made you perfect for the role of Tony Stark? And how did you create the character in the first place?

It was just this perfect storm of feeling like I could create the character within the guidelines of what he was always supposed to be. I always thought he was so cool when I read the comic books. I thought, ‘Let’s just keep it human and make sure there’s enough wit in there so people don’t think he’s a stiff. If I do that, it will work out alright.’

How excited were you to return to the Marvel universe with another Avengers movie?

I read Joss Whedon’s script and I said, “I think this is great.” Kevin Feige [the president of Marvel Studios] said, “You never say that. You can’t mean that.” I said, “Yeah, I think it’s great. Let’s go shoot it.”

What did you like about the script?

What I loved about this script was the further development of the complexities of the relationship between all The Avengers. I loved that Thor has a beef with me and then eventually has to give in and say I’m right. Joss created some great new situations for Tony to be in. So, rather than digging my heels and trying to rewrite every scene – to make them even better – I just showed up, and it turned out great.

What is it about the dynamic between you and Joss Whedon that works so well?

It’s a respect. Every director-actor relationship is so different. Joss is really in control and he likes to have authorship over things. For me, it was about being a little more receptive. In some ways, it makes the job easier because he has it figured out already. It’s been great…




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I Am Big Bird: Caroll Spinney Interview

Experience: I am Big Bird

IABB_Poster“Who doesn’t know who Big Bird is?”

Never a truer word has been said as it echoes around the documentary of I Am Big Bird. Any child growing up with a television will attest to that, the yellow ball of feathers and fun took us through a spiralling world of education. Sesame Street was a pivotal part of growing up. I still remember rushing home from nursery, sitting my chubby butt down and munched on cheese sandwiches as I lapped up all I could from the American show. As adults, we still watch clips and moments from the series just maybe with a Starbucks latte on our iPads. There hasn’t been a show like it. And at the helm of that is Big Bird, who was evocatively portrayed by the excellent character puppeteer Caroll Spinney.

 “The first puppet show I ever saw was by students. I was five and it was three little kittens who had lost their mittens and had no pie,” says Spinney, taking a few moments of his day to talk to me over the phone and seas. The artist, who has spent 46 years portraying both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on that acclaimed street, had been immersed in the world of puppets from a young age. “I was eight when I got a monkey puppet for five pennies and my mother had made this felt snake. I built a little puppet theatre and was charging outside the mart for people to watch. I made two cents. Well, I thought I was going to be rich.”

Immediate support came from his mother, who was born in Bolton and had been inspired by the Punch & Judy shows in Blackpool Pleasure Beach. Moving to USA and Canada, never really knowing her own mother, had invested her time, passion and love into Caroll and his siblings. “Unbeknownst to me, she made me Punch & Judy puppets and a theatre with help from my brother (an unwilling helper, I think) for Christmas and my birthday. Its right after my birthday – that’s why I have my name, my mum was on the kitchen floor all through the night. Anyway, under the Christmas tree, over this silk blanket was this home-made theatre and I was thrilled. Little did she know she was giving me my career.”

His mother was an active part of his career up until she died aged 91 and despite an initial turbulent relationship with his father, both grew up proud of their son, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. “I gave them a bunch of postcards with Big Bird on them and they’d go up to children sitting in shopping carts at supermarkets. They’d say ‘We’re Big Bird’s Mummy and Daddy’ and the kids must’ve look at them like they are crazy because he’s a bird and they weren’t!”

“Dad was upset that I wouldn’t go into the factory,” Caroll carries on in his soft spoken voice but admitted that his father would eventually grow to support his career which took him to the Air Force one and local television. “I was 21 when I had my own puppet show on the Vegas Strip and I made about $10 a week. I was also shipped to Germany who were happy despite the fact we bombed them. But it was really television that I wanted to get into and eventually, I did.”

After attending a Puppet convention, years after working Bozo’s Big Top and in a trope wth friend Judy Valentine, he was discovered by Jim Henson who invited me to work with The Muppets and his new show – Sesame Street. “Jim Henson was a wonderful creator of great puppetry,” says Caroll when talking about the characters he plays most famously – Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, “He’d seen me performing and decided I should play with him. So we developed the characters together. For Oscar, he was based on a grouchy waiter that Jim once had. His voice came from a taxi driver with a lot of colour. As for Big Bird, he started off really goofy. He had to be a big kid, discovering the world such as the alphabets and such.”

Caroll has been playing the roles for 45 years. In fact, the show has just finished filming its 46th anniversary series which will show in autumn. At one point, he had wanted to leave because he was unhappy with the move and feeling like he didn’t belong. But despite this, he carried on and has gifted us with an engaging rich character. “It started off as an experimental show – how children can learn through television – and it didn’t test well. But it gradually got awareness because children related well to it.” Spinney continues as he talks why the show is still going strong and his characters are still popular today. “You know 1900’s to 1945, which is the same period, saw such huge changes.  We’ve been to the moon, terrible wars with no sign of stopping, and people have to react to the changes. The show has evolved with all this colour. But I think the real heart of it is that it’s just as funny as it is educational. I think that’s really important.”

His career has been surrounded by different types of characters, he has never felt the pull to play someone else or bring in a new addition to his puppetry portfolio. “I did have two different characters on the show but they didn’t stick. Which was probably for the best. I wouldn’t want to add any now as I’m retired, though I still do those too. I am enjoying living this lifestyle. I have acres of land. I enjoy doing my painting, ” he says as he begins talking about his happy idealistic lifestyle surrounding by his wife Debra. You can hear her laughing and pottering about in the background which conjures this incredible image of blissful married life that has longevity and strength. She’s apparently washing in preparation for a big family visit. “The best thing was marrying Deb and then Big Bird. I married into the most wonderful family. There’ll be sisters, brothers and children and grand-children. A whole new batch coming. It’s wonderful.”

The documentary showcases some testaments to Spinney’s character and it’s a glorious watch to see all the great things people have said about the talented and passionate man. “I think it’s been a wonderful journey and seeing it on the big screen was – wow. When they first offered it to me, it seemed strange but it was worthwhile in the end.”

“It’s hard to feel it. It’s so overwhelming,” says Spinney as he is graciously thanked by this reporter for his dedication to thousands of children globally who have been inspired by Big Bird, Oscar and Sesame Street. “When we started, within a year we had nine million children watching a day in America – not counting Canada – then 14 million. It went to England, and the woman thought it was ‘too American.’ Then Russia had it’s own equivalent of Big Bird. Kuwait had a twisty candy because you cannot have graven images and unfortunately, the filmmakers were taken off air by Saddam Hussein. Israel had their own show with Israelites and Palestinians, it was the only place where they were getting along.” I feel we’ve been through it with children all over the world.”

“I want to take all the love people feel and just put it in my heart”

It’s time to wrap up but as I say my continuous thanks and admiration for Spinney, two characters pop up to say thank you – Big Bird and Oscar The Grouch!

“Thank you very much. Have a nice day, Sarah” says Big Bird making my heart sore (and a little tear) whilst Oscar the Grouch tells me to “Have a rotten day!” which prompts an argument between the pair.

“Don’t say that to the nice lady. I can’t believe you said that” says Big Bird before saying, “Thank you very much Sarah!”

Which is proof that even at 26, a girl can still be amazed by the incredible Caroll Spinney!

I Am Big Bird is out on DVD June 1st.

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