Best of Celebrity

The following interview was done during the press campaign for The Ice Harvest.

Question: Another day another press junket. I hear it’s your favorite thing.

John Cusack: Yeah, if you like the movie. Did you like the movie? Be honest.

Q: I liked it a lot. I feel like it could have been a longer movie. Was there more of it before?

J.C.: No, everything we shot is pretty much in there.

Q: So what attracted you to the project?

J.C.: Well, Harold, and then I read a couple of pages and it was Benton and Russo, the guy who wrote Bonnie and Clyde, Bob Benton. These are great writers, and I think their take on this… I don’t know how you box a movie in, you call it a noir with comedy, but clearly a crime film and a film about characters whose illusions are exhausted and at the end of their rope, so I guess you come to that tradition, but I thought it would be interesting what all these guys would do with this. Some very well developed characters, sad kind of characters. I thought it was very interesting.

Q:  So you are a fan of film noir?

J.C.: Yeah.

Q: Which is your favorite film noir?

J.C.: Oh, you know, I made a couple earlier in my career, and I loved the ones in the fifties. You know, The Killers, Kubrick movie, I think. That was pretty good. Asphalt jungle, John Huston. I’m just thinking of them off the top of my head. I’m sure you could name four others that are better. I can’t remember, you know.

Q: The film explores American male masculinity. Is that a theme that appealed to you?

J.C.: Yeah, I thought it was a particularly brutal take on it, but it made me laugh. There’s another version of the movie, that actually I think some people are seeing, where it would be so grim that it would actually be unbearable to watch. Just as a straight drama it would be so depressing, on Christmas Eve in a strip club in Wichita, your family has left you, you’re drunk, and you’re a mob lawyer. You’re sitting here with these dancers who are dancing for money, but it’s for you. There’s a promise of sex, but there’s no sex, and it’s a business transaction, night after night. It’s pretty grim. This one actually seemed very human and funny. I don’t know why. I mean, I kind of do know why.

Q: What do you think people in Kansas will say about this movie?

J.C.: I don’t know, it could be Wichita, it could be any heartland city.

Q: But there’s a certain comment made about Kansas, particularly towards the end of the film.

J.C.: They’ll be alright.

Q: You’re a Midwestern guy in general. Did this resonate with a certain version of the Midwest that you recognized yourself?

J.C.: the thing about Wichita is that it’s kind of symbolic of  the heartland, some version of the American dream. I know that there’s more strip clubs and churches per capita than anywhere in the world. So that makes it a pretty interesting place.

Q: Six years after Pushing Tin, what was it like working with Billy Bob again?

J.C.: Great fun. Great fun. I love working with him. He’s such a talented man.

Q: Had the dynamic changed?

J.C.: No, it’s just like we picked it up where we left off. But we got to do sleazier, more interesting things.

Q: Is it more fun doing sleazier things like that?

J.C.: Yeah, I mean I think its fun because when the script is well written, you can understand why characters are doing what they’re doing, and you can start to fill in the blanks. You kind of accept their humanity. You’re not really judging them or accepting them, or saying this is morally acceptable behavior. You’re saying, I can understand how they got there and I can see my share in the humanity of the character, and then it starts to become sort of grim and funny.

Q: What is it about you that draws you to darker shades of comedy?

J.C.: I think the complexity of the characters. They’re just more interesting to do rather than just doing a stock archetype, or someone who’s just serving plot. If the motivation comes out of character, that’s pretty good. Characters in crisis make for the best comedy and drama, because a guy who’s really enlightened would sit in the same place and there wouldn’t be anything… there wouldn’t be as many interesting things to do. I just thought it was so interesting. He’d done his best to get what he thought American men are supposed to get, which was status, money, even get the trophy wife, get the women on the side, get all the alcohol you want, but none of it is making him happy. None of it’s filling him. Him and Pete, they’re looking at the picture of the table, they look at the chair, and there’s this great piece, he looks at the chair and says, “I couldn’t fill it,” and Charlie goes, “Neither could I, if it makes you feel any better.” That just sort of says it all. They couldn’t do it, so they’re leaving that version of the dream and their clinging to another one, which is the outlaw having one last big score and hitting the open road. That’s even dumber. These are some desperate cats.

Q: There were scenes where you were falling in the ice in this movie. Did you enjoy the weather in this film?

J.C.: I don’t like the wet part at all. The wet, cold part I don’t like, which I’ve been in a lot, but I don’t know why. I think writers and directors seem to want me wet and cold. I don’t know why. I love doing physical stuff. I love it.

Q: Do you find yourself being more selective in your work? You do a lot of edgy work. Is it important to you not to do just what Hollywood mainstream is?

J.C.: There’s so many reason to do stuff, and sometimes you do stuff because you want to work and that’s the best thing that’s offered to you, and sometimes you do stuff because you think it could be commercial and leverage movies to help you get movies like this made or Max, Grosse Point Blank, stuff that you like. But I think it’s always your response to a character or an idea, something that ignites your imagination, you think, “Yeah, I’ll go do that for four months, then wait for the editing process, and then go to press and talk about it. I like that enough to go do all that.” What that is and why you respond to that in life, I don’t know. Maybe it’ll be something different in a couple of years.

Q: Are you developing something on your own now?

J.C.: Yeah, I have a film I want to do next year called Pipe Dream, and I have another one which is more of a political satire in the vein of Grosse Point, with Jeremy Pikser, who wrote Bulworth and Reds with Warren Beatty. I’m developing a lot of my stuff and trying to have it reach critical mass where somebody actually puts money into it and you get to make them. When that happens it’s kind of mystical, so you just keep pushing. Someone says, “Okay, you get to make it,” and I go, “Really? I get to right now?” I don’t know when that happens. You just keep talking and meeting people until something happens and it becomes real.

Q: Are you interested in directing?

J.C.: Not yet. Someday, but I wanna just get them made, more like a writer and a producer than a director. I don’t wanna go to all those meetings. I like being in front of the camera if I developed it or wrote it. You get to work with people. I loved working with Harold and it’s not like I don’t feel like a filmmaker. You hire the director a lot of the time.

Q: In this movie, a lot of people comment that Charlie is not being himself that night. Does it pose a particular challenge to an actor to play a character who’s not being himself?

J.C.: Yeah, but in a way it’s interesting because what’s fun to do is figure out what’s going on in a character and then figure out what he would show, what he reveals to each character around him and himself. It’s kind of like in the beginning of the movie he’s had the best night of his life and he’s going to go on the adrenaline rush, I think because he’s been so inert for so long and he finally makes a break, he’s just on a kind of high from that and so he starts to act a little differently before things start to unravel. One of the great things about it is putting on the mask. The masks we put on to each other and to different people are different. So, that’s kind of a fun thing to play.

Q: So do you need to know as an actor what he would have been like a week before with all of these actors?

J.C.: I think you can imagine it, but that’s not what the drama is written about. The drama is usually written about people leading up to and after peak moments in their life. That’s usually where the action in a piece happens, but I definitely think you need to have a sense that him and Vic have been sitting on those bar stools talking about doing something different with their lives for a long time. I think you can hopefully feel that.

Q: How do you think he ended up there, sitting on those stools and working for the mob? He seems like a bright guy who could have been a lawyer in a different city.

J.C.: Yeah, I don’t know because the world is full of regret. You start to make some compromises, cut some corners, lie to yourself one too many times, take some short cuts, cheat on your wife, steal a little, and all of the sudden you wake up ten years later and you’re a different guy. It hasn’t happened to me, but we all know people.

Q: It’s also interesting that your character at the beginning of the film is not violent. He is just witnessing it.

J.C.: I don’t think Charlie has ever done violence. As a character I don’t think he’s been in two bar fights in his whole life.

Q: But then he is forced to.

J.C.: Yeah, he’s forced to, but he’s not a violent guy at all.

Q: What is The Martian Child about?

J.C.: It’s about a guy who is a science fiction writer and he’s a recent widower, and he and his wife were going to adopt a kid, but she dies and he gets a call from the adoption agency saying they have a kid for him. The kid thinks he’s from another planet, like a little David Bowie, The Man Who Fell to Earth. So it’s bout them trying to reach each other. He’s kind of a kid with special needs.

Q: Studio film?

J.C.: Yeah. New Line.

Q: What kind of dynamic do you and Oliver Platt have in that film?

J.C.: He’s play an agent, so he plays another funny character, but he’s not drunk. And he’s kind of a happier person than Pete is, but he’s very funny in it



Jake Gyllenhaal

The following interview was done during the publicity campaign for Brokeback Mountain.

Question: Riding a horse. I hear you hadn’t done much of that before.

Jake Gyllenhaal: No

Q: Is it fun taking a project like this when you can learn some new skill like that?

J.G.: The best thing that I got out of it was I got a dog out of the process. I started riding and I’d always wanted to a get a dog and I just thought, “well, maybe it’s time to get a dog.” I’ve had an interesting relationship to animals growing up; kind of a distant one. It was a real opportunity to get close to animals, you know, horses, and dogs, and sheep, and I took it on. For a city boy to be riding a horse, it was great. My dog has changed my life and since then my sister has two cats, my parents have three cats and I have two dogs. Literally since this movie.

Q: What dog did you get?

J.G.: I have a German Shepherd and I have a Puggle. It was too cute not to get.

Q: Was it a sheep dog?

 J.G.: No, I wanted a bigger dog than that, I wanted at first to get a guard dog, so I got a Shepard. German Shepard.

Q: I read that you felt drawn to the loneliness of this role. Why is that? Why this longing for loneliness?

J.G.: I don’t know, and it’s an unconscious thing, I think. I don’t know if it’s a longing for it. It’s just something I relate to. Something in it. I didn’t realize that either that it was going to be that lonely until we got out there. Both movies, both Jarhead and Brokeback Mountain were the topographies of…the topography of both the movies were like desert and then huge mountains. It was nothing but nature around, and your own mind. So, I don’t know if I really understood that that’s what it was going to be. When you read the script, you’re like, “Oh, cool. I get to ride horses,” and then you’re like alone for three months. I don’t know if I knew that at the time.

Q: Did you find God?

J.G.: Oh, wow. I don’t know. Umm…I can’t… No.

Q: At least on Jarhead there were a lot of other people in the cast. This was much lonelier I am assuming.

J.G.: Yeah. I mean in a different way too. Yeah, it was much lonelier. There was a real sense, you do understand that when you’re in the armed forces they put you with twelve to fourteen guys that you’re pretty intimate with, because there is a comfort there. It’s a real comfort. It’s not as comforting being on your own or with just one other person and not speaking. There’s a real structure and there’s a reason for the structure. And also just when we were shooting, I remember I would go home on the weekends and I’d be alone for two days in Calgary and the only thing I’d be waiting for was the Calgary Stampede, which was going to happen in a month and a half. I remember being like, “What are we going to do? The Calgary Stampede’s coming in like a month and a half! Yeah!”. So, yeah, it’s a different mindset.

Q: But your character is actually quite gregarious compared to Anis, who is the real loner.

J.G.: I think there’s a part of him that wants to progress, wants to change, and wants to move forward and he’s constantly pushing Anis to come out of his shell, but it’s that dance between the two of them that I think makes the two of them fall in love. If Anis were to completely come out of his shell, would the two of them still be in the relationship that the two of them are in throughout the film? I don’t know. And it was a struggle to keep that up when you’re feeling a little lonely.

Q: You had mentioned how making Jarhead changed your perspective of the military. Did the making of Brokeback Mountain open your eyes to anything in particular?

J.G.: I wanted you to say, “Did it change your perspective on gay cowboys”. It’s very hard to make this experience into a literal one, or the movie into a literal one. It’s about the struggles of two people dealing with intimacy, to me. What I learned from the movie was that those imperfections, and at the same time that you don’t have this ideal idea of love. You know, this thing you see in movies all the time, which is like, “Oh, it’s supposed to happen between these two people.” You know? Particularly a guy and a girl. You’re supposed to get the girl, you’re supposed to lose the girl, and you’re supposed to get the girl again. And when you get the girl again then the whole thing is all good. You know, yeah we talk about sometimes when you wake up the next morning and you’re brushing your teeth together, but we don’t ever usually talk about that in movies, and when we do it’s with a guy and a girl and we know that. But this was like putting it in an environment we had never seen before, and if I learned anything it was working with Ang Lee there’s a real benevolence in everything he does. I remember when I saw Sense and Sensibility, my Mom always says that I walked out saying, “I feel so clean.” I think you walk out of this film feeling devastated in a lot of ways but also feeling a real sense of benevolence, and I think the process of making the film produced that too. I mean, yes, he manipulated us. Yes, in a way he very gently abused us, but I walked out of this experience going, there’s a real benevolence to this. Like if Heath and I could do this, then it should be okay for the real people who are really doing this to do it.

Q: When you and Heath had to approach the intimate scenes, did you discuss it before so you would have a comfort zone or did you just throw yourselves in? Did you have a shot of vodka?

J.G.: Heath did, I think, but not me. Yeah, we talked about it, we joked about it, we would poke fun while we were doing it. Actually, I don’t really remember as much as I would like to for a press junket, unfortunately. It was one of those things where you don’t make it into the biggest deal. I mean, it was really important for me to portray a marine in the right way. It was very important to me, but if I thought about all of the soldiers now that I was trying to play, I think it would have put too much pressure on me. Just like it would have put too much pressure on the scene if we were like, “What are we going to have to do? Oh my God, we have to do this!”. I wasn’t up the night before. To me the physical stuff was easy. It’s a choreography. It’s a dance. That’s how we did. Just like in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, it was like the fight scenes were like love scenes and everyone draws a metaphor for those. It seems to be harder for everyone to go, “Oh, the love scenes in this movie are like fight scenes.” And they are very similar. They do have a choreography. Very aggressive and that for us was like doing a dance. We were choreographing a fight scene. It was a choreography, so for me it was just getting the steps right for the camera and for Rodrigo. It’s amazing as an actor the things you are feeling how it translates, and when you’re not, how it translates.

Q: The scene in the backseat with Anne Hathaway; the same thing?

J.G.: Now it gets more complicated. That was…She’s a very beautiful girl. That’s all I can say. She’s very, very beautiful.

Q: You mentioned that the characters have to do a dance with each other. What about Jack’s dance with the rest of his life? Do you think he was living two lives, or was he comfortable with himself having part of that in reserve?

J.G.: I think Jack is a bad dancer, first and foremost. He can’t waltz very well, and in the scene where he has to waltz with the girl, Anna Faris’s character, I couldn’t ever get it. I don’t know why. I look like a fool if you look at it again. I think Anis is balancing things much more than Jack is. I think the world Jack lives in is a different kind of world of a different kind of denial. He and his wife are necessarily the most communicative kind of people. You don’t really spend a lot of time seeing how the two of them really love each other, as you do with Anis and Alma. It’s funny, I walked into all of those scenes with Anne thinking, “She knows.”  I never was hiding anything from her as an actor. I just thought, “We both know. I’m going off to go fishing. She knows what I’m going to do. How could she not?” Heath’s whole thing was hiding, and hiding, and hiding. I think that’s what makes the two of us different as personalities. I’m just not the kind of person who can really hold in. You ask any of my friends. Unless it’s a very important secret or something they really need me to hold onto, I’m the first person to be like, “I’m really feeling this, and I really need you to know.” I think that our personalities definitely play into, but I do think he’s dancing but his dance is more of a rain dance than a ballet.

Q: I hate to ask you to speak for Heath’s character, but at one point you say that it’s so difficult going without. Do you think that Anis is going through that same thing, or is he just missing you?

J.G.: My interpretation is that I don’t think he is. I think he’s just missing me and I think that I’m just missing him.  I think that people have different ways of trying to find intimacy, and searching for intimacy. You know, you close your eyes and you picture someone, you know what I mean. I think there is with Jack, he has had experiences before, and I don’t think that Anis has. Ang and I have talked about that a lot, before we shot the movie. But I think that Jack going to Mexico is the same thing as never ever, ever, ever going to Mexico. They’re like a ying and a yang, which is why you ask yourself, “How does Anis even know there’s stuff like that in Mexico?”

Q: Does he?

J.G.: He does, because he says to him, “I heard what they got for people like you in Mexico.” So that choice for the two of them to do the opposite thing…

Q: Did Anis want to go to Mexico?

J.G.: No, in some ways I think maybe Anis’s love is even stronger in that way because there is a faithfulness to that, and I think you see that happen. I think Jack eventually goes, “I’m going to have to go on with my life. I’m going to have to find someone else and find an intimacy with him and try and figure that out.” And he does. He says at the end… His Dad says he brought some other guy here and they were gonna work on the farm.

Q: You appear to be a very kind person, but then you were kicking some guy in Jarhead. Is there a darkness in Jake Gyllenhaal?   

J.G.: I don’t know. If you don’t know it yet, you’ll know it soon. I will hopefully play roles where all that stuff comes out. Darkness is a pretty broad term. I don’t know what that it, but there’s definitely, hopefully, much more sides than I’ve shown in film up to this point. Hopefully I’m not done yet.

Q: What are you doing next?

J.G.: I’m doing this movie, speaking of darkness, I’m doing Zodiac. David Fincher. About the Zodiac Killer. I play a cartoonist, actually. I play Robert Graysmith who is a cartoonist who became obsessed with the case and eventually solved it, even though they never found Zodiac.

Q: We all care a great deal about what people think of us, which is a large part of the film. How do you feel about it?

J.G.: Well, I think Jack in particular is someone who cares a lot about what others think of him. I do think that there’s a big part of that I can relate to, but I also think that there’s a part of me…I made this move almost two years ago now, and I’ve really changed since then and am changing. Ang says a really beautiful thing about the movie. He says, “ I think Brokeback Mountain is a place where the two of them get to go where nobody is judging them and nobody is worried about pretending to be something they’re not, and that we all have our Brokeback Mountain. And if you’re in love with somebody now, or you’re married to somebody now, or you’re in a relationship of any kind, and if you bring them to that place and you’re still in love with them, then you’re truly in love. We all have that part of us. Ultimately it kind of goes away when you’re really intimate with someone.

Q: You and Heath achieve an onscreen chemistry that most male and female leads don’t manage. What was the process you used to achieve that? How did you choose to play it?

J.G.: There are so many complications to this and describing exactly what it is… For Heath and I, I think it was a friendship and a trust. As actors we were going to go someplace we both were afraid of and we knew that we were, and we just trusted each other somewhere. And in that trust I think there was a chemistry and there was a connection. I’m describing it like we were on special teams. It was like Heath and I were a team and then Anne and I were a team and Michelle and Heath were a team, and we all were sent out to run different plays. We just had to trust each other. So there was this really interesting. I don’t know what it was for us, being straight. We didn’t have that complication that you usually have when you’re working with someone that is a female. We would be here for an hour with me trying to describe this. I think he was a great guy and we were just sort of friends from the beginning and we both admired what it took to play both the characters we were playing. It was like we knew at a certain point we only had each other, because never knew how people were going to respond to the movie. So we just joined up and said, “Fuck ‘em, let’s go for it.” And we did and I think you probably see that and that’s a lot of the chemistry. I’ve done scenes with women that I haven’t necessarily been attracted to in movies, and I’ve done scenes with women I probably shouldn’t have been as attracted to. But I relate to that and at a certain point it is pretty mundane and pretty cold no matter what you’re doing or who you’re doing it with. But Ang did it is such a tasteful way that it’s kind of hard to look at it… There are many things that if you had asked me to do, I would have said no, but it was done in such a respectful and beautiful way



Roundtable with Tony Jaa

This was my first interview with a celebrity, and it was done through a  translator. Tony Jaa and Ong Bak began the surge in Thai cinema. At the time I was working for The Z Review, but it was reprinted on Jaa's website;

I recently sat down and had a roundtable with Thai action star, Tony Jaa. Tony was in Los Angeles publicizing his new film, Ong-Bak, which is filled with all sorts of amazing stunts that he choreographed and performed himself, without the help of wires, stunt doubles, computer graphics, or any other tricks. Tony is the real deal, able to perform any of the stunts seen in his films.

Ong-Bak, which opens in a surprisingly large amount of theaters in the United States this Friday, is Tony’s introduction to American audiences after already breaking all sorts of records in Thailand. Armed with a new edit and new music from producer Luc Besson, the version brought to America is sure to amaze audiences all around.

Ong-Bak is a film that was years in the making, meticulously choreographed, and has done great things for everyone involved. Tony, small in stature but with a commanding presence, speaks softly in Thai as his translator tells us what he is saying. He has a humble attitude, gracious in every way to be sitting around and talking about his passion.

Q. I just wanted to say, it was an awesome film. A lot of action and a lot of energy. My first question would be, how do you feel being a spokesperson; A, for the film, but also for your culture and your fighting style.

Tony Jaa- I’m really proud. I am very proud to be exhibiting Thai culture through film, especially since not even all Thai people know about it, and for all the world to see, especially Muay Thai, the ancient form of Muay Thai that you don’t see anywhere. This is really the first film. I’m like an ambassador for Thai culture and Muay Thai.

Q. What do you think about the western reactions to your film?

T.J. - I’m so happy and so proud after the responses I got when we were in San Francisco, and the warmth and the love that you get from the audiences when they’re watching the film. They cheer on the film like they’re watching a boxing match.

Q. What are your feelings about the direction that most martial arts films have taken recently?

T.J. - There are different styles presenting it for different people. Bruce Lee has his Kung-Fu and his hard definite style of fighting, where as Jackie Chan uses his comedy and his ability to incorporate the things around him, and Jet Li has his fluidity and agility, and I combine all of these things that make up these stars into me, along with Muay Thai, which makes me Tony Jaa.

Q. How does it feel to be in their shadows, and to be trying to take that next step, to be coming off their shoulders, and you do that physically as well. But how does that make you feel as someone who looked up to them?

T.J. - My inspiration comes from these three people, and they were the inspiration for me reaching my goal to presenting Muay Thai through film, and for people all over the world to see no matter what race or religion you are. You receive this feeling of love and friendship through watching these films and this film.

Q. Film and the entertainment business has a reputation of being really false and fake, and money oriented. I’m wondering how the spiritual aspect of martial arts is compromised by being a star, and having to worry about things like the events you go to, and talking to the right people, and making the amount of money that you make. How can you reconcile the tenants of martial arts in the spiritual sense with something like being a film star?

T.J. – I look back at my younger years, where I wanted to do this, and the love and the perseverance that went through it gives me the faith and dedication to do these things because I don’t do it out of wanting fame or money, but it’s because I want to present these things through film, and I want people to see the love and dedication that I put into it, and to be able to express myself through the films and being able to do the action things just makes me proud. That’s why I do it. If I didn’t have that love and dedication I wouldn’t be here to talk to you today.

Q. All of the stars we have talked about found their place in American cinema. Do you see that for yourself eventually, or would you like to remain in Thailand making films?

T.J. – I want to work in Thailand for now, but it’s a matter of the future, but to make quality films and good films, and to present to the world and to have something in the form of film, it can be presented for the world to see anyways. If I were to come to work in Hollywood, it would be a good opportunity to present Thai culture and Muay Thai for the world to see.

Q. Now that you’re making films and edits and redo’s and practice; how has film changed in your vision. Is the mystic of film gone? Has the adventure of film gone, for you? How important is it to you to not include CG, not include doubles, not include strings; these other things that make film bigger than life. How important is it to stay as part of life as a real film, or a real presentation?

T.J. – In terms of CG, it’s part of the development of technology, and it’s great, but I choose to present it in a different way, where you see my real abilities first and not everybody can do those things, but I choose to present those things in that way through training and dedication.

Q. How is Muay Thai different than other forms of martial arts that we are used to seeing in film?

T.J. – There are things that are different, and the same with every type of martial arts. All martial arts have roots in nature and no matter what martial art you practice; they all have the same philosophy of humanity for the human kind through the martial arts. But what makes Muay Thai different is the customs that go into it. Martial arts may have the same moves, but the customs that get passed on, and the culture that goes into it makes Muay Thai different. These things are passed down from your ancestors, like the respect that you pay to your elders and your teachers, when you practice Muay Thai, and also the moves that you use. They use the elbows and knees more in Muay Thai. To give an example, Muay Thai uses the humanity in inner meditation to come out. You have to combine the body and soul as one. Before we practice Muay Thai we have a ceremony where we thank the masters including our parents and anyone that has passed down the tradition to pay respect to elders.

Q. When you hit someone with your elbows, obviously there is a lot of training, but it seems like it would be a strange place to hit someone with.

T.J. – Of course it takes a lot of training involved, but also the choreography involved with making a film is different than in a ring. Where what you see in a ring, there’s rules involved, but in a making an action film, the choreography and the stunts and really important to get it right, otherwise you could really injure yourself.

Q. There are an amazing amount of stunts, having to do with jumps, fire, and some water. Were there any stunts that you were nervous to do?

T.J. – No, because we had already thought about it and if it was something we can’t do, then we don’t do it. And then we look to see how it looks on the screen. If it looks good on screen then we’ll go with it.

Q. Was there any stunt that you considered, but decided not to do because it was too dangerous?

T.J. – There were some that we tried, and we filmed it, but they didn’t look quite as good as we had in mind, so we changed it to get one that fit the scene.

Q. You’ve incorporated a lot of the culture into this action packed film. Would you ever consider doing something less action oriented? Do you see yourself involving the culture on a more subtle basis?

T. J. – One thing that I want people to receive from watching this is to be able to see Thai culture and be pleased, thrilled, and enthralled by the movie along with it. That’s part of the goal in making the film. People have different needs and desires. What you see on film is everything, from those you want to see action or those who want to see culture.

Q. Would you consider that fact that it is an action film helpful to being a vehicle for distribution of Thai culture and yourself?

T.J. – Yes it is a vehicle, and it was my dream since I was a child when I saw my mentors, Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Jackie Chan; to be able to use film itself as a vehicle to show people our country’s martial art and culture.

Q. Are you excited about having female fans? Do you have a message for the women going to see your film?

T.J. – In terms of female fans, I’m happy that they are so excited about the film and they embraced me so well, they have come and asked me for hugs and stuff like that. For those who are not interested in martial arts, if you do come and see the film, you’ll receive something good about it that you can use in your every day life.

Tom Hanks, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer;
Moderated by Leonard Maltin
The 10th anniversary of Apollo 13 was celebrated with an Imax presentation of the film at the California Science Center in Los Angeles and the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral.
Screenings were followed by a Q&A electronically linking up film's topliner Tom Hanks and producer Brian Grazer in Los Angeles with helmer Ron Howard and Capt. Jim Lovell in Florida. Leonard Maltin moderated the discussion.

Leonard Maltin: What was it like portraying a real person? Was it ever intimidating?

Tom Hanks: We were on the set one day and we were shooting the moment when Jim Lovell looks out the window of the command module and he sees the oxygen venting off into space, and it couldn’t have been more fake. It couldn’t have felt more silly. We might as well have been making McHale’s Navy. It wasn’t all that different from the hardware we were using. We were sitting on little boxes and teeter-totters. But, in fact, Jim was there that day, and I said, “Hey Jim, was that what it looked like?” He said, “That’s exactly what it looked like”. So that is the highest measure of embrace you could get, from the man himself.

L.M.: Was there one pointer he gave you that was especially helpful?

T.H.: It wasn’t an individual sort of pointer, but I must say he taught me much in the same way he leads, by example. Jim is a confidant man. He showed nothing but confidence in his ability to take me and mold me as much as he could into a portrayal of himself. I think that brand of confidence is something that certainly a requirement of being an astronaut in the first place, as well as being a commander of a mission that turns out to be as it was with Apollo 13. Confidence comes from preparation and truth and training and education, and Jim has it.

(There is suddenly sound from the satellite feed in Florida.)

L.M.: Captain Lovell, sorry we couldn’t hear you a few moments ago.

Captain Jim Lovell: Can you hear me now?

L.M.: We are on the line finally. Well, now I’m going to ask you, what was it like to see yourself portrayed on screen like that?

C.J.L.: Well, actually, it was quite nice. To suddenly be in an audience and see (yourself) and say, well, my name is Jim Lovell. I have to tell you, Tom did an excellent job, because when we had him down to our house in Horseshoe bay he would secretly look at all the clich├ęs that I was saying or write down ways that I was saying words. Then when I saw the movie, all that stuff came out. I couldn’t believe that I was looking at myself say the same things that I thought I said. He was really good at reproducing what I was doing, and playing the part. But I have to tell you one other thing. While I was out there watching the filming, Ron came up to me and said, “It’s kind of intimidating for a good actor like Tom Hanks to portray somebody who’s still alive, and hanging on the back-end of the camera.” What I’d like to say was, “Tom, step aside, this is how it’s really done.

L.M.: Ron, I want to ask you…You started off your career doing the lowest of low budget movies here in Hollywood, and then you graduated to doing things of this magnitude. How do you even begin to take in what you’ve gotten reproduced on the screen? Where do you start?

Ron Howard: Well, first of all it was a great story, and I think that one of the things that Tom did when he came on board, and fairly early in the process, was that… Tom is such a space aficionado and far ahead of me in the learning curve. But he just kept underlining the fact that we really had to just trust the story and not Hollywoodize it, and not dress it up, and I agreed and we went through the process of just understanding the mission in as much detail as possible. And I actually wrote across the front of my script, “Just show it,” because the more kept learning about every facet whether it was home-life, whether it was mission controllers or the guys from the capsule, the details were in fact really incredible and really fascinating. Now the most daunting thing that we were facing was really creating the weightlessness, because every time you looked at the archival footage it was fascinating to see these guys up there. Every move just looked odd, unusual, like something you’ve never seen before, and yet when you’d see movies made where actors were trying to portray it, it was never very convincing and it was frustrating to me and I was concerned about it. With Backdraft, the movie that I had done a few years before… I went into that film not really knowing how we were going to bring the audience into the fires in a way that you hadn’t seen a million times before. And we began pre-production and actually got a fire lab going and just started experimenting with the ways we could control fire, shoot it, how actors could inter-relate with it, and so forth, and we really yielded some great stuff, so I just had confidence that somehow we’d find a good way to do it. One day I was talking to Steven Spielberg and he said, “Oh, I don’t know, maybe you should just go up that KC-135, that vomit comet, maybe they’d let you shoot up there.” I went back, and became obsessed with this idea. Later he told me he was just kinda joking. But in fact, we first got a test mission, a trial mission, a flight... Which we actually had to pass a physical and a written test and do a lot of other things, jump through a lot of hoops to get cleared to do it. I thought the very least, the actors will learn how to interact and really feel what it’s like to be weightless. But while we were doing that work I also learned, or actually re-learned from something I knew from before, which was the Gemini astronauts had practiced E.V.A.’s, or initiating the space walk with a bolted down axel, and when I heard that I thought, “Hmmm, bolting down things.” Basically we bolt down our set, and I started exploring that and I think we acquitted ourselves well in that test run, and frankly I think Jim’s backing the film and vouching for us to a large degree, we got the clearance to do something no movie had ever done, which was to actually film sequences that way. And as a director it’s probably the most exciting aspect of the whole experience.

L.M.: Brian, your job as a producer is to make all of this happen. Someone could write a script, Ron can want to direct it, but then its got to happen. The logistics would seem very daunting with a film like this. How did you begin to approach it?

Brian Grazer: Well there’s a couple of components. The logistical aspect, the thing that Tom and I were just speaking of, was getting NASA to embrace us, because NASA was very leery of, not only of us, but of filmmakers that were trying to make movies about astronauts, and probably for good reason. So that was the stages, to get the locations and trust of NASA and the space program. Probably the more difficult thing was to get clearance ultimately to use this KC-135 jet, which was this long arduous process that was almost comical because it was so difficult. The thing that I think, from a producer’s standpoint, is not the logistical dimensions of getting made, but more, will the movie be any good, and I always wondered, long prior to Tom’s involvement… These three are up in this tiny little space capsule, the containment of that, they don’t really speak much to each other, there’s two other arenas. People in the space program and mission control, for the most part in my experience are emotionally antiseptic people. How are we going to make any of this interesting? How are we going to feel or understand stakes, also, when we know how this thing ended. That their mission was unsuccessful but they made it back and the world really knows that. So I just kinda questioned all of those elements and Ron and I talked about everything and he found a way, and got very excited about bringing a certain point of view to the movie that would in fact give the audience a sense of stakes even though we already know in our mind what happened. As far as casting went, it was a eureka moment when Tom said yes. We actually offer Tom every movie. We did Splash and hadn’t gotten him in anything since then, but he happened to have this tremendous interest in the space program, so it was a fortunate series of events.

L.M.: Tom, is this a kind of dream come true to get to play act, and I don’t mean that in any condescending way, but play at something you had always dreamt of?

T.H.: Well, in fact, about a year prior to ever learning about the film I had sat down with my crack team of show-business experts, a couple of middle age ladies who work for me part time. We get down to Denny’s for the breakfast special a couple times a week, and I just finished making A League of Their Own, a baseball film, Penny Marshall. I said, you know what, I’ve always felt that Apollo 13 would make a fabulous movie. They said, “Which one was that, the one where they landed on the moon?” and I said no and went into the story and I talked about the specifics about how it had an element to it, specifically in the character of Jim Lovell, a man who was like Odyssius strapping himself to the back of the space shuttle while he hears the sirens calling him. I thought, this is really bold stuff, and people have probably forgotten about it. Well nothing ever happened with that. They said, “That’s nice” and we went on our way. About a year later I’m in a hotel room and I get a call from my team, and they said, “You won’t believe it. We’ve just read that Imagine has a screenplay called Apollo 13”. I said, “Do whatever you can to get it to me, and do whatever you can to let them know that I would love to be in it. I’ll play Fred Hayes if nothing else.” I play Bill Paxton’s role. This was a substantial moment for me as a professional actor. I was going to get to play something that I had literally been carrying around inside my head since the week that it happened.

L.M. Only in show-biz, right?

T.H.: Well, yeah, if you’re lucky.


This past weekend I sat down with three comedic talents from the upcoming film, Rapture-Palooza; Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry, and Rob Huebel. The press junket was held at a hotel, as they often are. This time it was in Beverly Hills on a Sunday, so I arrived early without the city’s usual traffic to slow me down. They had the usual spread of food out for the press, including this particular hotel’s signature imitation of a Hostess ho-ho. I refrained, going for the artesian imported bottled water instead.

The interviews were to be held in hotel room which had tables and chairs in place of beds. Waiting for the talent to arrive, I found myself needing to use the facilities, releasing that fancy water from the oblong-shaped bottle back out to sea. As luck would have it, I was exiting the restroom at the same moment that Corddry was entering the room. As is the case in nearly every hotel I have ever been in, the restroom is located near the room’s only entrance, so Corddry and I had an awkward shuffle. As we sat down, Corddry asked how long I had been in the restroom. I looked at him with complete seriousness and responded, “I’ve been in there since last night. This is my hotel room. I have no idea what is going on.”


There was a great deal of joking when I talked to these three guys. Robinson even broke into a little impromptu singing when discussing his improvised vocal riffs in the film, but there was a serious aspect to the interviews as well. The film is a comedy, but one which was filmed during a time that some seriously believed there was a possibility it would soon come true. It is a film about the coming of the end of times, and the production took place during the May 21st predictions of 2011. On the evening before, director Paul Middleditch made an announcement to his cast and crew, saying “if I don’t see you on Monday, obviously they were right.”


It is no secret that when Hollywood finds something that works, there are bound to be a dozen duplicates following. The success of a product results in an increase of production; this is just simply supply and demand, but it begs a larger question. Why is it popular in the first place? In the past decade there have been films about the end of the world within the framework of many different sub-genres. Nearly every monster of horror movies has resulted in the destruction of civilization. This year alone has several science fiction films which deal with a post-apocalyptic Earth.

Rob Corddry has been in three post-apocalyptic comedies recently, including last year’s Seeking a Friend at the End of the World and the zombie romance, Warm Bodies. Craig Robinson has two out this year. As Corddry puts it, “We as a people are obsessed with our own mortality.” But how is it that this obsession has become so humorous in the past year? Rob Huebel informed me with deadpan expression that he believes the end of the world is “probably going to happen this year.” Could he be right? Or is there another explanation for this sudden shift into apocalyptic comedy.


Rob Corddry as a zombie in Warm Bodies

In Hollywood Genre: Formulas, Filmmaking, and the Studio System, Thomas Schatz proves that film genres are both a ‘static’ and ‘dynamic’ system. What this simply means is that there are elements of films, of all genres and sub-genres, which will always remain the same as long as those particular films continue to be made. Conversely, there are aspects of a genre which are forever in flux.

 Schatz agrees with a “lifespan” of genres as stated by Henri Focillon in The Life of Forms in Art. This lifespan plays out in stages after the genre first appears in films. The first is “an experimental stage, during which the conventions are isolated and established”.The second stage, the classic stage, is described by Schatz as a time when the conventions are “mutually understood by artist and audience”. These are the films that conform to the expectations from the experimental stage. The third stage is the age of refinement, “during which certain formal and stylistic details embellish the form”. During this stage, the films are becoming more self-aware. Style replaces substance, as the substance becomes more familiar to audiences. Reviews for Oblivion have praised the visual appearance of the sci-fi apocalypse blockbuster, while the film’s plot seems a hodgepodge of many similar films.

The final stage is a baroque stage, “when the form and its embellishments are accented to the point where they themselves become the ‘substance or ‘content’ of the work. These are the films that can only exist with the knowledge of previous genre patterns. This is where the apocalyptic comedies seem to be coming in recently. When the initial wave of apocalypse films popped up, the emphasis was on the fear and hopelessness of the situation. In films such as The Road, Book of Eli and countless zombie films, the future looked bleak and the end of the world was no laughing matter, but these movies work as a cathartic tool for helping society to address specific social anxieties, making it possible for the arrival of a new wave of films which allow us to laugh at these same fears. “Religion, and God, and the Apocalypse is a real fascination for me,” admitted Coddry, “so it’s fun to pepper that with F-bombs.”

But even the comedians can appreciate the reason for the new wave of these films. Work is work, and as Corddry puts it, “if you’re gonna throw a dart a movie, you’re gonna hit an end of the world one.” Screenwriter Chris Matheson (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) created a film about The Rapture in Rapture-Palooza, but it is also in many ways a satire about the state of modern America. As director Middleditch simply describes the film, “It’s about the Apocalypse at the end of your driveway.”

Even though the film was on a “micro-budget” and was shot in only 18 days in Canada, there is an extremely high amount of talent involved in the production. Corddry praises the method of filmmaking such as this, which says “Let’s take not a lot of money and a lot of people that will work for not a lot of money, that we know will have a report and get them in a room to tell jokes. It seems like that’s happening more, which I love.” This group of people includes Academy Award Nominee Anna Kendrick (50/50, Up In the Air), John Francis Daley (“Freaks and Geeks,” “Bones”), Ana Gasteyer (“Saturday Night Live”), Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911!”), Paul Scheer (“The League”), John Michael Higgins (“Arrested Development”), and Tyler Labine (“Reaper”). “I feel like there has been a trend lately,” Huebel added, “where a lot of movies and TV shows are starting to use more improvisers.”  This is definitely one of those films, and a collection of talent like this makes me anticipate the deleted scenes they must have compiled for the bonus features of an upcoming DVD and Blu-ray release.
Rapture-Palooza will be released in theaters on June 7th, 2013.


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