> Chapter1-Take1

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

New trailer for Beautiful Boy starring Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carell #book2movie #trailer

Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy (2018)

Beautiful Boy stars Timothée Chalamet & Steve Carell

Amazon Studios released a new trailer for Beautiful Boy after its debut this past week at the Toronto International Film Festival. The big buzz is that both Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet turn in deep and powerful performances with Chalamet who was nominated last year for his work in Call Me By Your Name has done it again, Best Actor nominations are expected.

Nic and David Sheff, the father and son duo behind Beautiful Boy

The film, which also stars Steve Carell, Amy Ryan, and Maura Tierney, is based on memoirs written by the real-life father and son affected by addiction: David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy and Nic Sheff’s Tweak.

Beautiful Boy opens in theaters on October 12. It looks pretty powerful. Have you read either of the books? 

Monday, September 17, 2018

Mary Poppins Returns: The Official Trailer (because the world needs a heaping spoonful of sugar.)

Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Emily Mortimer, Julie Walters, Ben Whishaw, and Emily Blunt in Mary Poppins Returns (2018)

Mary Poppins Returns stars Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda

We’ve seen a teaser trailer before but Disney has now released the real thing, the first official trailer for Mary Poppins Returns starring Emily Blunt in the role Julie Andrews made famous. If you follow me chances are you know how important Mary Poppins was to my girlhood. No Barbies, I was a parasol and carpet bag fan all the way.

Image result for Mary Poppins: The Original Bestseller

In this new story, Mary Poppins returns to look in on the grown-up Banks children, bereft after the loss of Michael’s wife. It’s a star-studded production including appearances by Colin Firth, Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury, Julie Walters, Emily Watson and the legendary Dick Van Dyke—dancing on a desktop no less—but the trailer emphasis is on Emily Blunt and Lin Manuel Miranda with Ben Whishaw and Emily Mortimer in the key roles. Like the recent Goodbye Christopher Robin, Mary Poppins Returns is a kids' movie made for the adults in the room. Because life is hard and we need a hug.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Lauren Bacall: Born on This Day

Today we're paying tribute to the legendary Lauren Bacall on what would be her 94th birthday. We’re watching The Big Sleep starring Bacall and the love of her life the equally iconic Humphrey Bogart. 

The movie is the novel by Raymond Chandler. The acclaimed author William Faulkner wrote the script and the film great Howard Hawk directed. With all those legends you’d think the movie would have garnered a few awards back in the day, eh?

But take a look at this excerpt from a review that ran in the Times in 1946: 
Through it all, Humphrey Bogart stalks his cold and laconic way as the resolute private detective who has a mind and a body made of steel. And Lauren Bacall (Mrs. Bogart) plays the older of the daughters languidly. (Miss Bacall is a dangerous looking female, but she still hasn't learned to act.) A dozen or so other actors play various tramps and tough guys acidly, and the whole thing comes off a poisonous picture lasting a few minutes shy of two hours.
 Yikes! Well, you know the question those old Blackglama ads ask about legends?

Maybe the answer is time.

At the end of the day, who cares what the critics say? Awards or not, The Big Sleep endures not because of what the NY Times called ‘‘so much involved and devious plotting that the mind becomes utterly confused’’ we love it because it’s the sizzling chemistry of Bogey and Bacall together. Maybe one day in the future cinema lovers will celebrate Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in By the Sea. Then again, probably not.

 Now, check out this vintage trailer. I love it, not only for the heat of their chemistry but because the trailer itself opens in a library. What becomes a movie based on a book more?!

 You can stream The Big Sleep on Amazon, Vudu and iTunes. Check Netflix for current listings.

Can't get enough Lauren Bacall? Here you go ...

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Agatha Christie was Born on this Day: Celebrate with a Saturday Matinee

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Happy Birthday Agatha Christie!

Today marks the birthday of Agatha Christie, the grand dame of the modern mystery. What to watch in her honor? Far be it from me to tell you what to watch, how to choose from the plethora of adaptations of Agatha Christie’s work. You could watch any of the page to screen renditions of And Then There Were None After all the book is the Agatha Christie classic that made the Great American Read's top 100. I quite enjoyed Ordeal by Innocence with Bill Nighy, Matthew Goode, Morven Christie and Eleanor Tomlinson on Amazon. Murder on the Orient Express, the 1974 version with Lauren Bacall and Albert Finney, the Murder on the Orient Express episode of the acclaimed TV series with David Suchet as Inspector Hercule Poirot, all available on Amazon prime. Or the most recent Kenneth Branagh directed version. Despite critics, my hubs and I quite enjoyed it.

Gillian Anderson, Glenn Close, Terence Stamp, Amanda Abbington, Christina Hendricks, Max Irons, Honor Kneafsey, and Stefanie Martini in Crooked House (2017)

The last Christie mystery I watched was Crooked House also on Amazon: a very stylish affair with Max Irons as a detective called in to investigate a murder inside one of those grand old family estates where literally everyone is a suspect. Including his former lover Sophia (Stefanie Martini).

The cast includes Christina Hendricks as the American widow of the murder victim Aristides Leonides. Being the gorgeous buxom woman she is, naturally she’s the prime suspect. 

The super strong cast includes Glenn Close, Gillian Anderson, Julian Sands, Terence Stamp and was well worth watching. Lots of fun trying to guess whodunnit, and a satisfying, if slightly disturbing ending.

What's your favorite Agatha Christie adaptation?

Friday, September 14, 2018

Emma Thompson: On Hoffman, Hopkins and Hillary Clinton

Emma Thompson in The Children Act (2017)

Emma Thompson stars in The Children Act

Sometimes the absolutely best part of an actor promoting a film is hearing that what actor has to say about things other than the actual movie they’re promoting. Especially if it’s someone beloved and feisty and feminist like Emma Thompson and the interview is long and lovely. I’m such a fan of Thompson’s I’m sharing the entire interview she did with David Marchese for Vulture magazine. The movie Thompson is promoting in The Children Act based on the  Ian McEwan book, opening here in the US today, Friday September 14th. It’s McEwan’s year with three projects that came to the screen: in addition to The Children Act, we had the heartbreaking On Chesil Beach as well as The Child in Time starring Benedict Cumberbatch. 

Before you check out the interview I’ve posted the trailer for The Children Act for my fellow British Isle Friday followers. Those of you in the UK and other places where the film opened earlier this summer, I would love to hear your thoughts:

The way in which I frame my past,” says Emma Thompson, sitting in her cool Manhattan hotel room on a sweltering late-summer day, “is always changing.” And yet some things stay the same. The poise, intelligence, and warmth of the British actress’s breakout early-’90s work in Howards End and The Remains of the Day has never diminished, and radiates throughout her performances in The Children Act, an adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel that’s in U.S. theaters September 14 (and on DirecTV now), and as Goneril — opposite her old sparring partner Anthony Hopkins — in King Lear (streaming on Amazon Prime Video beginning September 28). Such consistent excellence is a rare thing, and as its purveyor knows, worth enjoying. “I don’t think,” says Thompson, a bawdier conversationalist than some of her screen roles might suggest, “that I have ever enjoyed being alive as much as I do now.”

In The Children Act, Thompson plays Fiona Maye, a judge in the midst of both professional and personal turbulence: At the same time as her marriage is slowly dissolving (Stanley Tucci plays Fiona’s husband, Jack), Maye is presiding over a case in which she must determine whether an ailing 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness can, against his and his family’s wishes, be administered a blood transfusion that will save his life.

Image result for emma thompson, the children act

Stanley Tucci and Emma Thompson in The Children Act

Your character in The Children ActThompson plays Fiona Maye, a judge in the midst of both professional and personal turbulence: At the same time as her marriage is slowly dissolving (Stanley Tucci plays Fiona’s husband, Jack), Maye is presiding over a case in which she must determine whether an ailing 17-year-old Jehovah’s Witness can, against his and his family’s wishes, be administered a blood transfusion that will save his life. is in a marriage where the couple’s love evolves in a way that isn’t usually shown in film. Did portraying that make you think about how your own view of love has changed?

Absolutely. What we see in the film is the relationship between my character and Stan’s [Stanley Tucci’s] crumbling, and then a new one starts to grow. Which is what happens in all long-term relationships. Or if it doesn’t, someone’s in denial.

You think a “crumbling” happens in every long-term relationship?
Not necessarily crumbling, but if the relationship hasn’t changed for long periods of time then the people in it are probably serving a facsimile of what the relationship used to be. People change and life changes and you can’t have the same relationship as when you first met. When people say, “Our relationship has been bliss,” I just go, “I don’t believe you.”

This is reminding me of an old op-ed you wrote — I want to say it was more than 30 years ago — where you argued that “love is converted into romance and romance is a con.” What were you referring to?
Romance is a very interesting subject. I don’t know whether I’d say it’s a con now. Back then I was challenging romance for all the right reasons. I was angry about the lies and fairy tales that were sold to young women — that romance was the be-all and end-all. Now I’d say that what happens after happy-ever-after is where love begins. Falling in love is an exalted state, but it is a temporary state, and I suppose what I was taking issue with was the idea that this temporary state was supposed to last. Nobody told us it doesn’t. It’s like childbirth: Everybody lies. Nobody tells you the truth.

What are the lies people tell about childbirth?*
Maybe lying’s not — no, they do tell lies. There’s no honesty about “yes, it’s painful” and people are now terrified of that pain. So you’re getting an awful lot of elective C-sections, which is a huge operation and very difficult to recover from. The pain of giving birth is now “optional” and yet there’s no honesty about what that option can actually do to your body. It’s odd how frightened we’ve been made to feel about the pain of it [childbirth].

In the press materials for The Children Act you talk about the time you spent with women judges in preparation for playing one, and how you wanted to honor those women’s work. What was it specifically about women judges that you wanted to do justice?
I always want to do justice to women because we’ve been so unspeakably oppressed for so long — and still are in so many ways. So there’s that, and women judges have often managed to enter into an exceptionally male bastion by doing twice as much work and being twice as competent. And the women I know have children. The way in which women have to run their lives in order to be able even to step foot in a courtroom is heroic and we don’t talk about it. It’s doubly difficult for women. That’s why I wanted to do them justice.

Has your thinking about feminism changed over time?
Oh yes. I find it incredibly exciting at the moment because this new generation of girls — Generation Z, I believe — are challenging me all the time. I’m learning new things. Gender fluidity is fascinating to me. Every time someone says you’ve got to learn words like cisgender or trans, or when someone asks me to refer to “thee” or “thou” I get so excited. This is where we might be able to leapfrog some of the rigid definitions of what it is to be human. We might have a generation — and God knows we need it — that may help us leapfrog the death throes of the old ways. I mean, Brett Kavanaugh coming is just fucking hell, but at the same time other things are happening. You think about what might happen here with Roe versus Wade, and then also think about what happened in Ireland where abortion and gay marriage were made possible — extraordinary. The shifts in the sands of our development are so interesting at the moment.

I heard a colleague describe the current situation with women’s rights in America as extremely upsetting but also long-term hopeful. Insofar as we’re likely going to end our lifetime behind where we started on things like abortion, but 100 years from now we could be much further ahead.
That’s right. The thing is, you were asking how my thinking has changed: I was reading The Madwoman in the AtticProfessors Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s landmark 1979 book in which they reexamined Victorian literature from a feminist perspective.  when I was young and I suddenly realized there was a whole other way of seeing the world, which filled me with joy and absolute rage — and I still feel that rage — about how women are treated. I get very passionate about this stuff. I reread Betty Friedan’s book. That’d be, of course, 1963’s The Feminine Mystique.  recently. It’s so fucking brilliant about the 1950s — the ways in which women were completely brainwashed about what it was to be female. Then I think about the women I’m listening to on The Guilty Feminist podcast and I go, “This is fantastic! There are new voices describing what it’s like to be female.” So women are less lonely, less fearful, less weirded out by themselves. There’s less going, “You mean I’ve got to fit into that mold?” Which is good, because these gender roles that we’ve created are so reductive and painful and dull. They’re so fucking boring.

Speaking with BBC Newsnight, Thompson referred to Weinstein as “at the top of the ladder of a system of harassment and belittling and bullying and interference and what my mother would have referred to in the olden days as ‘pestering.’” 

I read a quote of yours about Harvey Weinstein, where you said he was at the top of a ladder of systemic misogyny, but that the system was larger than one man. Have we seen changes to that system beyond the removal of the most egregious offenders?

No. That’s going to take a while because you’re talking about power structures that have been around for millennia. Our power structures aren’t healthy. So we have to undo them, and that’s going to take an awful lot of imagination and work. We have a party in the U.K. called the Women’s Equality Party, which is very interesting.

They’re who you supported after leaving Labour?
Mm-hmm. Their leader, Sophie Walker, is a terrific woman and one of the first things noticeable about her is that she really isn’t interested in power.

What does it mean for the leader of a political party to not be interested in power?
It means that she wants everyone to be powerful. Here’s a story to describe what I mean: I was in Ethiopia doing some work for an NGO and I met a woman who was very good at healing. She was taking us around, showing us what plants she used, and I said, “How have you managed to avoid being picked upon for having that power? How have you managed to avoid becoming the witch of the village?” And she said, “I show people the plant, and then I tell them what to do with the plant, and then they do it.” That’s what I mean. Sophie shows people the system and how to do things.

But with the entertainment business, do you have a sense of what will cause the systemic changes that haven’t happened yet?
Well, Frannie McDormand had a very good point about inclusion riders. An inclusion rider is a stipulation that actors and actresses can have inserted into their contracts which demand certain levels of diversity among those hired to work on a film: Make sure that you include people. It’s about behavior, too. You have to challenge behavior that’s entitled or bullying or sexist or racist or homophobic — all the time. Because if you don’t challenge it, as repetitive as that might get, the behavior becomes normalized. If a bullying producer is not called on it by groups of people saying, “You can’t behave like this,” then they carry on and it just gets worse.

One more question on this topic — and if you don’t want to get into it, I understand. But somebody with whom you’ve worked a couple times, Dustin Hoffman had a situation last year where it seemed that he didn’t understand what he was accused of having done wrong and why it was coming to light years later. The answer is because it took that long for the accuser to feel able to bring the accusations up. But there are generational differences about these things, for men and for women, and there’s the understandable desire now to draw hard lines and say, “Get rid of all these people.” But Dustin Hoffman aside, not every situation is the same and maybe every response can’t be the same — I’m really sorry; I’m conflating way too many things. I have no idea what my specific question is. This is such a complicated subject.
But what you’re identifying are, indeed, the complications. And the complications are the things that we need to discuss. There’s no clear pattern to all these situations. We have to recognize that Dustin might well have felt very confused. But also that John Oliver, (While hosting a panel discussion prior to a 20th-anniversary screening of Wag the Dog, Oliver questioned Hoffman about the allegations made against him. Hoffman responded to the allegations (“It is not reflective of who I am”); Oliver continued to press (“It is reflective of who you were.”)  when he challenged him, was extremely brave. As a woman, I was very proud of him [Oliver] for doing that even though I love Dustin. Dustin and I haven’t talked about this. I don’t know what he would have said to me about it. But if you think about — okay, another story: I was doing a thing with trafficking.

You were trafficking?

[Laughs.] It’s just when I’m a bit low on cash. But, no, I was at a do raising money for victims of gross human exploitation, and I was sitting next to a terribly posh Englishman. I immediately made assumptions: Oh, Christ. This fucking asshole. Probably went to Eton. I started talking to him and he was saying, “Surely these women know what’s happening… ” I said, “Well, no, often not because there are certain vulnerabilities …” I banged on. Then he said to me, “I was abused for years at Catholic school and it affected me all my life. Thirty years later a group of us got together and brought a civil suit against our abuser and it was thrown out of court because it [the abuse] was too long ago.” So woe betide you when you judge, because it always comes back to bite you on the arse. This man — the pain, the horror he felt. And when you’re young, you think everything is your fault. That’s why people don’t say anything. We are given to feeling ashamed. So when things do come to light, we have to recognize the fact that it is confusing. But let’s listen to who’s talking and work with them. And let’s talk. The conversation that is perhaps missing at the moment is the conversation with Weinstein, with [Kevin] Spacey. They need to talk: Where does their entitlement come from? No matter how dreadful the behavior, you’ve got to learn why it happened.

Well, I very much appreciate your ability to make something useful out of my fuzzy cloud of a question. But to get back to your career, I think it’s fair to say that from about your first Oscar nomination in 1992 to Primary Colors in 1998 was the period when you were most in the Hollywood fame spotlight. I’ve read you talk about that period as being difficult. Why was that?

I can’t remember saying it was difficult.

Wasn’t it around that time that you also became clinically depressed?
I forget — let me think. Certainly I have had clinical depression, but for all sorts of reasons. The thing is, I don’t think of my career in phases. There’s a great interview between [Henri] Cartier-Bresson and a young journalist who said something like, “Oh, monsieur Cartier-Bresson, you said in 1965… ” “What I said in 1965 is irrelevant. It is 1985.” And this young journalist says, “Yes, but you said … ” and Cartier-Bresson said, “Mon ami, there is the moment and there is eternity and that is all.” So I always get infinitely depressed when I have to think about things I said 30 years ago because I’ve forgotten what it was.

I’m sorry for asking.
No, please don’t apologize. I’m explaining that I have changed, and my ideas have changed, and my memories have changed. I don’t even think of myself as ever having had a Hollywood career on any level. I felt like an outsider and I liked that. I always lived in Europe and being a visitor meant I was always welcomed here. The best bit of working in America was meeting and working with Mike Nichols.

How come?
Because one of the greatest connections I ever had in my working career and my personal life was with Mike and [Nichols’s wife] Diane [Sawyer]. And to me he represented — he was so connected to what I thought of as Hollywood. That’s a Hollywood career. Actually, I’ve been rewatching great ‘70s movies like All the President’s Men and The Parallax View and Three Days of the Condor.

Thompson had quite a run in the ’90s: Between 1992 and 1995 she was nominated for five Oscars, winning two. She took home trophies for Best Actress (for her role as Margaret Schlegel in Howards End) and Best Adapted Screenplay (for Sense and Sensibility). Thompson remains the only person to have won Academy Awards for both writing and acting.  

Those movies certainly fit today’s mood.
Yes, I just happened to be watching those. Gosh, they’re good. You should watch The Parallax View again. It’s amazing. Anyway, we’re straying away. I can’t honestly, hand on heart, look back and say anything was particularly bad about that period you mentioned. I did find the Oscar stuff quite hard. I got ill every time. I used to get chest infections. That glare — I don’t think I would have liked the fame that Dustin and [Robert] Redford had. The effects are often deleterious, shall we say?

Is it really true that Hillary Clinton was not a model for your performance in Primary Colors?
She wasn’t. I was doing a Chicago-y accent but I didn’t watch her or try to model my character on her even though John [Travolta] was doing Bill [Clinton]. I thought that was probably enough indicating. I also thought I might get sidetracked if I was trying to impersonate somebody. And Mike [Nichols] agreed.

So you don’t feel playing that role offered you any particular insight into Hillary as a person or public figure?

I’m not sure. I haven’t met her and I haven’t read her book. I imagine it’s got an awful lot of insights into what it’s like being married to someone who’s extremely powerful. The exploration of sex and power is something that, again, we’re very unwilling to face. I thought the sudden emergence of the new Puritanism following the whole Clinton scandale was extraordinary. The denial about what power is, what it does to people, how attractive it makes them. I wanted to ask people, “What on earth do you think goes on?” This is what happens and it’s always happened because our power systems have always been about a massive power imbalance. That’s the whole idea! It was all so fucking dishonest. Those politicians, the press — their dishonesty and hypocrisy fucking blew my mind.

And there’s been this bizarre turnabout where someone can be caught on tape saying “grab ’em by the pussy” and certain people just shrug their shoulders.
And say, “It doesn’t matter.” You want to say to those people, “You probably thought Bill Clinton was a really bad person and now you’ve voted for someone who …” It’s all so messed up.

Twenty-five years ago, when you won your Oscar for Howards End, you said in your acceptance speechThompson closed her Best Actress acceptance speech thusly: “And finally I would like, if I may, to dedicate this Oscar to the heroism and the courage of women, and to hope that it inspires the creation of more true screen heroines to represent them. Thank you so much.”  that you hoped winning might inspire more strong roles for women. All these years later, are things better creatively for women in the movie business?
Well, the problems have been identified more cogently and persuasively — largely by Geena Davis’s excellent institute: Young people are going to films and seeing a lot more men than women. It’s so annoying to be female and consistently going, “Have I got to see a fucking story again about a guy who does things that I’ve already seen a guy do a million times?” So I’m bored. The difference now, as I get older, is that I’m released by my boredom. I no longer bother. I’m free to go and look for new ideas and new voices. I’m able with absolute comfort and ease to reject so much. It’s fantastic being this age. I’m old.

You’re not that old! What are you, 57?
Fifty-nine. I mean “old” in the really good sense of the word. Ageism is another aspect of what we’re talking about. We’re constantly watching films where older men have wonderful roles and older women really don’t. But I’m a character actor, don’t forget. If you’ve got form and you’re a character actor, you’re much better off because you’re not fighting the way you once looked.

Does the prospect of turning 60 have any special significance for you?

It feels extremely fortunate. My dad died at 52. My uncle was 51. My sister-in-law, a couple years ago at 51. I’ve got quite a number of friends who have dropped off. You can’t take survival for granted. What else do I feel? The work I’m doing is more fulfilling and happy-making than ever. I think your 60s, if you are well, are the most fantastic decade. No more periods: resolved! Menopause over: hooray! Kids grown up: bye! Marriage, if you’ve managed that long — 20 or more years — you’re fine. So this should be one of the most powerful patches of your life, the youth of old age as it were. I’d say it’s the best bit ever.

This is going to sound trite, but sometimes I feel like appreciating one’s life is such an obvious thing to try for, but is so hard to actually do in any holistic way. I’ll have a moment of deep gratitude and then get on the crowded subway on a hot day and immediately I think screw this.
Absolutely, but you’re young. When you get older it’s much easier to hold onto that appreciation because you’re more mortal. I want to enjoy every minute and use the wisdom that I’ve accrued whilst acknowledging my fallibility and the continuance of all sorts of foolishness. It’s so enjoyable to be alive in this state.

You’re honestly bringing a tear to my eye.

Good. I hope it makes you feel optimistic about your own aging. So many young people are confused and unhappy. All the demands and the judgments and the better-than, less-than culture — it’s fucking disastrous. Although we mustn’t get gloomy. Lots of things are better today: dentistry.

Not a small a thing.
Not a small thing.

You started out in comedy, right?


Did you ever try stand-up?


Do you remember one of your jokes?

Sure: So my boyfriend, anyway, he gave me thrush, which is what you call candida. So I said, “Okay, go get some yogurt for me, so that I can you, know…” And he came back with tropical fruit and nut flavor. That’s a 35-year-old joke that I told on various occasions. I also remember I did a Reagan Out rally in Trafalgar Square — tens of thousands of people — and I did stand-up on Nelson’s Column. Such a stupid idea. Those people were angry. They didn’t want to listen to my jokes about herpes and Margaret Thatcher — both very big at the time.

Did you like doing stand-up?
It terrified me. But I did scary things like that when I was a young woman. I had all of my 20s to fail. I wanted to be a stand-up and then I wanted to be Lily Tomlin. I had a chance to experiment, and that’s riches beyond compare. Young people who are successful now can’t do that because the spotlight is there all the time.

What made you confident that you could pursue drama?
I was doing sketch comedy as well, and I worked with Robbie Coltrane. He was then cast in a wonderful thing that this Scottish artist called John Byrne had written. That’d be Tutti Frutti, a six-part BBC Scotland drama series about the tribulations of a rock band that aired in 1987.  They needed to cast a role, and he [Coltrane] said, “You should see Em for that because she’s half-Scottish; she can do a Scottish accent.” And I remember being there on the first day of shooting thinking, Oh, I’m scared, and then I realized that drama was just like doing a character in a sketch, only for longer than three minutes.

Drama wasn’t this whole other thing.
It absolutely wasn’t. Comedy is your best training anyway.

Because in performance, however serious, there has to be some humor underneath. I’m not describing something as obvious as being tongue in cheek. Maybe it’s a matter of personal taste, but the greatest actors I know have a sense of irony. Humor gives everything a real edge. I’ve always felt that humorlessness is the root of all fascism, really.

Which performances of yours stand out as personal breakthroughs? I mean in terms of your craft, not visibility or financial success.
There were two recently: Playing Robert Carlyle’s mum in the movie he made [The Legend of Barney Thomson]. I played a 77-year-old serial killer. I loved playing somebody so far removed from myself. And also doing Sweeney Todd in London and on Broadway. A lot of the time, even with something like The Children Act, you’re using particular colors in your palette because that’s the nature of that character. But those other two performances were full throttle. I could really let rip.

You enjoyed playing a part far removed from the real you. What about the converse: Which character of yours felt closest to Emma Thompson?
[Howards Ends’s] Margaret Schlegel was probably the closest: That sort of loud-mouthed bluestocking with the slightly conservative side, but who finally has to break the rules in order to survive. Yes, there was a lot of me in her. That was the only time that I actually wrote to someone and said, “Please give me this role. Because I know how to do it.”

At this stage of your career, do you feel like your acting is still improving?
Absolutely. I’m fearless now. I was doing King Lear with Tony Hopkins and he said, “Isn’t it great? I can do absolutely anything now.” That’s how I feel.

I know it’s hard to talk about acting in concrete ways, but can you explain what makes Anthony Hopkins so good, and so good to act with?
He watches and listens and he’s completely without defenses or any internal systems that might get in the way. He’s not protecting himself. You know that you can do anything and what will come back from him has nothing to do with the actor and everything to do with the part. He’s remarkable in that way.

This is maybe weird, but when I was watching Lear, I found Goneril’s metallic-blue nail polish striking. Can you tell me about that choice?
I loved those nails — claw-like. Mike Nichols had this wonderful way of describing people. He said they’re either metallic or porous. And of course Goneril is profoundly metallic because she’s had nothing but abuse since she was a child. She’s been ignored, she’s been rejected, she’s been belittled and has defended herself accordingly. Her nails were of a piece with the armor of her clothing.

In addition to those great nails, Thompson’s Goneril appears in this Lear in a series of imposing power dresses, which, when the film aired on BBC Two in May, some British viewers believed were intended to evoke clothing worn by Prime Minister Theresa May.

I realize this is a hackneyed question but I’ll ask it anyway because I’m interested: Do you see differences between British and American acting?  
I kind of do. Back in the day when Brando turned up there was a huge difference. That kind of film acting [Brando’s], which was born and bred in America, was a completely new thing in my country. And since then everyone says, “We’re all so old-fashioned in Britain. It’s all shouting and histrionics.” There was the belief that the more naturalistic style was better. For a while that belief persisted, but I think everyone’s beginning to realize that good acting can be all sorts of things. Sometimes naturalistic is great but other times you want someone to give a fucking performance, you know?

And what can you tell me about the Nanny McPhee musical?

I’m writing it at the moment and I think I’ll direct it, too. We’ve nearly got to the end of creating the music. We did the workshop for the first act in February and we’re doing the workshop of the second act in March next year. I’m using more or less the plot of the first film. What’s been interesting about adapting is how different it’s turning out to be. The characters change — it’s fascinating what happens when it moves into a different medium.

Along those lines, when you were adapting Sense and Sensibility, how difficult was it to write for the mind-set of characters created in 1811? Did you have to stop yourself and think, would they use this word or this is not an idea they would’ve had?
It’s a really good question. I’ve read so much literature from that period that I’m slightly more versed in that language than I am in the modern day. So writing Austen-ian I actually didn’t find that challenging. I mean, as I was growing up there was an internal moral pugilism going on in my head that was influenced by the writing of Austen and George Eliot, but also Henry James, Edith Wharton, and the Brontës. There was this battle going on inside where I was trying to be wild and free, and I had one voice going, “You slut. You’ll never be any good. You’re morally degenerate.” And another going, “Live! Live! You have to live!”

And as I’m sure you know far better than I do, the more you read about the preoccupations of people from earlier eras, the more you realize how little people have changed.
Yeah, there’s a very good book by Neil Postman called Building a Bridge to the 18th Century — I really get that. There’s also a fantastic book that was hugely influential on me called The Swerve [by Stephen Greenblatt]. The people who influenced me are those writers. And Montaigne.

During our conversation, Thompson also mentioned her admiration for Sarah Bakewell’s biography of the French philosopher, How to Live: Or a Life of Montaigne in One Question and Twenty Attempts at an Answer. (Bakewell’s follow-up, At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails is also very, very good.)

I was reading Montaigne last night! I love how you’ll be in the middle of an essay of his about, I don’t know, the nature of fathers’ relationships to their children, and all of sudden there’ll be a digression about the best time to take a dump.
I know! He was an extraordinary figure. What I’d like to do in the future is a series of essays about what it’s like being human now. I’ve even started writing a few little vignettes on living in Scotland. The first one I wrote was about what happens when you’re up a glen in Scotland and it won’t stop raining and you get depressed and the things that go through your mind. You get bored of being depressed and you think, Actually no, I’m gonna clean out my cupboard. And you clean out the cupboard and you find something in it that leads you to another task, which you get terribly involved in, and you think, Great, that’ll take me another day. Then the following day the sun comes out and you can’t do this other thing because the sun’s come out and you’re depressed again but for a whole other reason. So it’s about weather in Scotland, but also about how contrary we are; what happens when you’re prevented from doing something that you imagined you wanted to do, and the journey to something that you do do.

Something just occurred to me. I think every actor I’ve spoken to has, in some fashion, said what you said earlier: that they feel like an outsider and that they’re a character actor at heart. Do people say those things because they’d feel too weird saying the opposite?
Actors shouldn’t fit in for God’s sake! Actors should be beyond the pale. That’s what we’re here for! I’m conjecturing about myself, which feels weird, but I wonder if all my challenging of issues is a way of placing myself somehow “outside.” I’m busy saying, “I don’t agree with this; I don’t agree with that. Don’t you fucking try and label me.” And yet, hilariously, now I’m a Dame.
Just this past June, Thompson was awarded damehood in recognition of her services to drama. Her citation hailed her as “one of Britain’s most versatile and celebrated actresses.”  So I guess my approach didn’t work. And I’m jolly happy about that.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens & Omar Sy Hear The Call of the Wild #book2movie

Image result for Call of the Wild, jack london

Harrison Ford, Dan Stevens and Omar Sy star in The Call of the Wild

But who plays the Buck, the sled dog?

Did you know? Jack London’s classic The Call of the Wild is coming to the screen with Harrison Ford as John Thornton, a prospector searching for gold in the Yukon and Buck’s last—and most fitting—master. Dan(Downton Abbey, Beauty and the Beast) Stevens is onboard in an unspecified role but I expect he’ll play Hal, the inexperienced gold hunter. Also in an unspecified role, Omar Sy (Untouchables), joined the cast today according to Variety. Any thoughts on who he might play?

The book has been adapted several times before, the big difference this time will be the technology used to help create the dog-sled racing sequences with a visual effects studio bringing the dogs to life.

I bet it’s been a long time since you read The Call of the Wild—although it’s not at all clear how close to Jack London’s novel the script will stay. 

About the book

Part St. Bernard, part Scotch shepherd, Buck is a sturdy crossbreed canine accustomed to a comfortable life as a family dog -- until he's seized from his pampered surroundings and shipped to Alaska to be a sled dog. There, the forbidding landscape is as harsh as life itself during the gold rush of the 1890s. Forced to function in a climate where every day is a savage struggle for survival, Buck adapts quickly. Traces of his earlier existence are obliterated and he reverts to his dormant primeval instincts, encountering danger and adventure as he becomes the leader of a wolf pack and undertakes a journey of nearly mythical proportions. Superb details, taken from Jack London's firsthand knowledge of Alaskan frontier life, make this classic tale of endurance as gripping today as it was over a century ago. One of literature's most popular and exciting adventure stories, The Call of the Wild will enrich the reading experience of youngsters, and rekindle fond memories of a favorite among older generations.
Clark Gable, Loretta Young, and Buck in Call of the Wild (1935)

Call of the Wild starring Clark Gable / 1935

Related image

The Call of the Wild starring Charlton Heston / 1972

Call of the Wild starring John Beck / 1976

Image result for The Call of the Wild, Rutger Hauer

The Call of the Wild starring Rutger Hauer / 1997

Call of the Wild (2000)

The Call of the Wild (TV series) starring Nick Mancuso / 2000

Let's watch the trailer

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Boy Erased starring Nicole Kidman, Joel Edgerton & Lucas Hedges #trailer #book2movie

Boy Erased (2018)

Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe and Lucas Hedges star in Boy Erased

I can’t get over this trailer for Boy Erased, the movie about gay conversion therapy making its debut at TIFF this week. Part of what makes the movie so emotional is that it’s based on a true story as told by Garrard Conley in his memoir of the same name. 

Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman in Boy Erased (2018)

Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe play the parents of the gay teen

Boy Erased stars Nicole Kidman—rapidly taking over the title of Queen from Meryl Streep—and Russell Crowe as the parents of the gay teen. Joel Edgerton both directs and plays the preacher in charge of the conversion therapy program in Arkansas. And if you think that’s a lot of Aussies in one place, Lucas Hedges who plays Jared (Garrard) is pure Americano.

Lucas Hedges and Théodore Pellerin in Boy Erased (2018)

It’s stunning to think that ‘pray away the gay’ is actually still happening in this country, in this second decade of the century! 

About the book

The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality. When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalized Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness.  

By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heart-breaking, at times triumphant, Boy Erased is a testament to love that survives despite all odds.

Boy Erased opens in the US on November 2, followed by Australia on the 8th. Sorry to my friends in the UK, you have to wait until February 8th! To my other readers around the world, check out the list of release dates on imdb.com

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

If Beale Street Could Talk Trailer: Based on the book by James Baldwin #book2movie

Kiki Layne and Stephan James in If Beale Street Could Talk from Barry Jenkins based on the book by James Baldwin
Barry Jenkins If Beale Street Could Talk

In case you missed it (I did!) the trailer for If Beale Street Could Talk was released earlier this month. The movie comes from the Oscar-winning director of Moonlighting by Barry Jenkins and is based on James Baldwin’s 1974 novel.

Image result for if beale street could talk
Penguin/Random House calls it a moving story of love in the face of injustice. 
Told through the eyes of Tish, a nineteen-year-old girl, in love with Fonny, a young sculptor who is the father of her child, Baldwin’s story mixes the sweet and the sad. Tish and Fonny have pledged to get married, but Fonny is falsely accused of a terrible crime and imprisoned. Their families set out to clear his name, and as they face an uncertain future, the young lovers experience a kaleidoscope of emotions–affection, despair, and hope. In a love story that evokes the blues, where passion and sadness are inevitably intertwined, Baldwin has created two characters so alive and profoundly realized that they are unforgettably ingrained in the American psyche.

Only a couple of hundred pages which I'll hit up prior to seeing If Beale Street Could Talk when it opens this November. In the meantime, some pages from the novel read by Maya Angelou. Followed by the trailer.

If Beale Sreet Could Talk stars Kiki Layne (Chicago Med) as Tish and Stephan James (Selma) as Alonzo.

Monday, September 10, 2018

The Old Man & The Gun starring Robert Redford: Ready to fall in love again?

Robert Redford in The Old Man & the Gun (2018)

Robert Redford stars in The Old Man & the Gun

You can take this with a pinch of salt because of my lifelong devotion to Robert Redford but this trailer for The Old Man & the Gun made me think Redford shouldn’t retire from acting after all. When I heard this film would be his last onscreen, I thought to myself: that’s fine, I don’t blame you. He has made a tremendous contribution to the world of film behind the scenes while onscreen, his line delivery has always taken me a minute because it's so flat, so underdone. Not unlike, perhaps, the way most of us talk, without high drama. But watching this trailer, I'm seeing something different. Like he settled into himself and finally got his old guy groove on. Then there’s the chemistry he and Sissy Spacek rock which frankly, makes me fall in love with this old geezer all over again.

Robert Redford and Sissy Spacek in The Old Man & the Gun (2018)

Robert Redford & Sissy Spacek in The Old Man & the Gun

The Old Man & the Gun is based on the true story of Forrest Tucker, an old man—with a gun—who spent his life robbing banks and getting tossed back in jail. David Grann the author of The Lost City of Z, and the upcoming Martin Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio project Killers of the Flower Moon wrote an article about the seventy-eight-year-old robber in The New Yorker in 2003. Redford read the article and held onto the idea of bringing it to the screen for a decade, finally hiring David Lowery to both write and direct the film based on the piece.

I don’t know if this is Redford’s onscreen swan song but if it is, I'm hearing it’s a tender, career high of a goodbye. Also starring Sissy Spacek, Casey Affleck—as the good guy out to get him—Danny Glover, Tom Waits and Tika Sumpter (Raina in Gossip Girl) The Old Man & the Gun, screening this week at TIFF, comes out in the US on September 28th. It hits the London Film Festival on October 28th.

Watch the trailer and tell me what you think. Cuz, me? I’m loving it.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Queen Anne and the Story Behind The Favourite starring Olivia Colman, Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone

The Favourite (2018)

Olivia Colman, Emma Stone & Rachel Weisz star in The Favourite

Olivia Colman—you love her in Broadchurch, and can't wait to see her as Queen Elizabeth in The Crown—is Queen Anne, with Emma Stone as Abigail Masham, the lady-in-waiting accused of being not just The Favourite, but of being the Queen’s lesbian infatuation by Lady Marlborough (Rachel Weisz). 

Image result for Olivia Colman, Venice

Congratulations to Olivia Colman for winning the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival! The Favourite also took home the Silver Lion.

The film is scripted by Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara with no source material credited that I can find BUT ... hard to imagine the writers didn’t consult the acclaimed Queen Anne, The Politics of Passion by Anne Somerset. The movie from Yorgos Lanthimos (The Killing of the Sacred Deer, The Lobster) doesn’t come out until November so there’s plenty of time to add this to your must-read pile. The story of her reign sounds absolutely fascinating. And watching the trailer will surely put The Favourite on your must-see list. Especially if you like your British historical dramas.

Image result for queen anne, anne somerset
Queen Anne was one of Britain's most remarkable monarchs. With a personal life riven by passion, illness and intrigue - she presided over some of the most momentous events in British history. Like books by Antonia Fraser or Amanda Foreman and based on years of original research, Queen Anne is historical biography at its best. WINNER OF 2013 ELIZABETH LONGFORD PRIZE FOR HISTORICAL BIOGRAPHY In 1702, fourteen years after she helped oust her father from his throne and deprived her newborn half-brother of his birthright, Queen Anne inherited the crowns of England and Scotland. Childless, despite seventeen pregnancies that had either ended in failure or produced heartrendingly short-lived offspring, in some respects she was a pitiable figure. But against all expectation she proved Britain's most successful Stuart ruler. Her reign was marked by many triumphs, including union with Scotland and glorious victories in war against France. Yet while her great general, the Duke of Marlborough, was performing feats of military genius, Anne's relationship with his outspoken wife Sarah was becoming ever more rancorous. Political differences partly explained why the Queen's earlier adoration for Sarah transformed to loathing, but the final rupture was precipitated by Sarah's startling claim that it was the Queen's lesbian infatuation with another lady-in-waiting, Abigail Masham, that had destroyed their friendship. Drawing widely on unpublished sources, Anne Somerset vividly depicts the clashes of personality and party rivalries that aroused such strong feelings at the time. Traditionally depicted as a weak ruler dominated by female favourites and haunted by remorse at having deposed her father, Queen Anne emerges as a woman whose unshakeable commitment to duty enabled her to overcome private tragedy and painful disabilities, setting her kingdom on the path to greatness.

Connecting with Joy Weese Moll's British Isles Friday
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