Interview: Leah Gallo talks ‘The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’

Quirk BooksWhile fans of Tim Burton are waiting with burning anticipation for the release of his latest, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” one of the celebrated filmmaker’s closest collaborators has another look at the film in a most peculiar way.

In the new book “The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (Quirk Books), photographer/writer Leah Gallo documents the making of Burton’s new adventure fantasy. In addition to a myriad of behind-the-scenes photos and portraits of cast members, the book features an introduction by Burton as well as a foreword by Ransom Riggs, the author of the best-selling novel that the film is based upon.

“Ransom is such a genuine, down-to-earth human being, and he just brings a lot of enthusiasm to everything he does,” Gallo, a Pennsylvania native, recently said in a recent phone conversation from London. “Just being around him, it’s contagious. It’s always fun to hang out with him. We did photo shoots on the film, including Belgium, and he was a lot of fun to take photos of because he was game for whatever.”

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Like she did on her last book on a Burton film, “Big Eyes: The Film, The Art,” Gallo doubled her chores by writing the text as well as taking on many of the photographer duties. While on-set photographs from the making of the film were taken throughout the shoot, the most intensive period of work on the book in terms of the photos and writing took place between November 2015 and May of 2016. Joining Gallo on the book was her longtime collaborator Holly Kempf, who was in charge of design.

Gallo’s “The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” was unique in that the idea of Riggs’ novel was borne out of photographs, assembled from the author/filmmaker’s collection of unidentified vintage portraits that he assembled through trips to flea markets, antique stores and the like. Many were mysterious, if not eerie photographs of children, which led Riggs to conceptualize them in writing as “peculiar” with supernatural abilities.

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As a result, Gallo created similar vintage portraits of the characters in the film, which in effect placed her in a parallel universe, effectively, by recreating the original photographs.

“We wanted to keep the vibe of the original photos as much as possible. Whenever we could, we tried to be true to the essence of the photos and the ways the subjects posed in Ransom’s book,” Gallo said.

But unlike Riggs, Gallo said she doesn’t collect old, unidentified photographs of people — nor has she ever had the desire to.

“Whenever I see those old photo bins, I just feel a sense of sadness in a way,” Gallo said. “It’s like they’re pieces of orphaned history that creates a mystery. ‘Who was this person?’ It creates limitless possibilities. That’s why I think Ransom did a great job of curating his collection for his book, and choosing ones that were very striking, intriguing and creepy. I certainly appreciate them and find them compelling, especially in the way he’s constructed the narrative around them.”

“The Art of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” includes dozens of interviews with cast and crew members from the film, including executive producer (and Gallo’s husband) Derek Frey, and of course, the filmmaker behind the peculiar vision that fans will see on the big screen when it opens across the country Friday.

leah-gallo-3Leah Gallo, sketched by Tim Burton, from “The Napkin Art of Tim Burton” (Steeles Publishing).

Gallo recalled the first time she talked with Burton about what inspired him to make the film.

“The photographs from Ransom’s book are what attracted Tim to the project,” Gallo said. “He found them compelling and mysterious. They were a huge part of why he wanted to do the film. I think that’s he was attracted to doing the story of these peculiar children. There’s a similar narrative in a lot of his films, of the misunderstood.”

While she’s collaborated with Burton for 10 years, Gallo said it’s always fascinating to talk with the filmmaker about his newly realized big-screen visions. Essentially, no matter how much she thinks she knows Burton, she always ends up learning so much more about what goes into bringing those visions to life.

“Whenever I interviewed him for the book, he always had answers that surprised me,” Gallo enthused. “The depths in which he thinks about every little detail is amazing.”

Interview: Lana Parrilla talks ‘Once Upon a Time’ Season 6 preview for D23

ABCTim Lammers recently talked with “Once Upon a Time” star Lana Parrilla for D23.com about the upcoming sixth season of the hit ABC series. Here’s a preview …

Move over, Regina Mills: The Evil Queen has separated from her Storybrooke, Maine, alter-ego and is returning with a vengeance in the sixth season of ABC’s hit series Once Upon a Time. Needless to say, series star Lana Parrilla, who, with delectable deviousness, has brought her evil highness to life since the fantasy romance drama kicked off in 2011, couldn’t be more delighted.

Energized by her foreboding proclamation, the Dragon’s heart in hand, during the thrilling conclusion of Season 5 (“This is a war, and it’s just begun. The Queen … is back”), Parrilla is currently in production on the series in Vancouver, Canada. She recently took time out of her busy schedule to talk with D23 and give the legions of Once Upon a Time fans an idea of what to expect when Season 6 premieres on September 25.

D23: Congratulations on Season 6. When you first started, was it the goal of the cast and crew to mainly concentrate on the work of the first season in hopes that the show would find an audience, or did you have your sights set on Season 2, 3 and so on?

Lana Parrilla (LP): I have to say, I had a really good feeling at the start that we were going to go six seasons. I don’t know how far we’re going to go beyond this, but I had a good feeling early on about six. I think it was when I was saying goodbyes to family and friends in L.A. (getting ready to return for Season 2). Ginny Goodwin and I had a going-away party before we left to go to the set in Vancouver, and I just remember my goodbyes being longer and more emotional than other goodbyes. I looked at Ginny and said, “I think we’re going to be up here in Vancouver for awhile,” and she said, “Let’s hope so,” because we loved the show and wanted it to be successful. I would say to [creators] Adam Horowitz and Eddie Kitsis all the time, “We’re going to make it to six seasons,” and they were like, “Come on, don’t jinx it!” I said, “I’m not jinxing it. I’m just really confident!”

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D23: Judging by the awesome trailer for Season 6 that debuted at San Diego Comic-Con in July, you can’t help but come away with the feeling that this is going to be a big season for the Evil Queen.

LP: Yes it is. There’s a lot happening with the Evil Queen and Regina—and their face-off—which is fun to do. I can say that the Evil Queen is the real opposition for the heroes this season, and she has her hands in everything right now. She’s really creating turmoil in everyone’s lives, which is fun for me to play.

Read Tim’s complete interview with Lana Parrilla on D23.com.

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Movie review: ‘The Magnificent Seven’ remake lives up to title

denzel-washington-in-the-magnificent-seven“The Magnificent Seven” (PG-13)

Director Antoine Fuqua’s homage to the American Western lives up to its title with “The Magnificent Seven,” a magnificent update of Akira Kurosawa’s iconic “Seven Samurai” from 1954, which spawned the Yul Brynner/Steve McQueen classic “The Magnificent Seven” in 1960. Fuqua clearly was a fan of Westerns growing up, and he nails the spirit and tone of the great American film genre from start to finish in this highly entertaining remake headed up by his Oscar-winning “Training Day” star Denzel Washington.

Maintaining the core of the original story about a village under siege by ruthless bandits (led by a vicious land baron expertly realized by Peter Sarsgaard), “The Magnificent Seven” plays like a classic shoot-’em-up that is punctuated by a high body count.

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The new “Seven” promises a twist on the original films, but truth be told, the major difference is a racially diverse cast, made up of a brilliant ensemble including Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Martin Sensmeier and Byung-hun Lee. Haley Bennett also plays a pivotal role as vengeful widow who hires the seven after her husband is gunned down in cold blood by the bandits.

Apart from a different spin on the casting, Fuqua incorporates all the vital elements of the Western – sprawling vistas, classic heroes and a sniveling villain, a triumphant score and stylistic echoes of John Ford and Sergio Leone – reminding viewers of how great the genre once was and still could be. If “The Magnificent Seven” doesn’t revive interest in Westerns on the big screen, nothing will.

Lammometer rating: 8 (out of 10)


Hear Tim review “The Magnificent Seven” on “The KQ Morning Show” with Tom Barnard and Michele Tafoya, starting 8 minutes in.

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Interview: Ally Walker talks directorial debut ‘Sex, Death and Bowling’

Ally Walker

They’re three words that rarely exist in the same sentence, much less in a movie title — yet actor-turned-director Ally Walker has found a way for “Sex, Death and Bowling” to come together in perfect harmony.

Walker, whose numerous acting credits over her nearly-three decades-long career include such hit shows as “Santa Barbara,” “Profiler,” “Sons of Anarchy” and most recently, “Colony” and “Longmire,” also wrote the family comedy drama, which is new on Netflix, Amazon and iTunes.

“Sex, Death and Bowling” surrounds the answers about death an 11-year-old boy, Eli (Joshua Rush), seeks as his father, Iraq War veteran, Rick (Bailey Chase), fights cancer in hospice in his final days. With Rick’s death imminent, his estranged brother and famous fashion designer, Sean (Adrian Grenier) returns to their small home town. His welcome is met with resistance by the brothers’ father (Daniel Hugh Kelly), who has never been able to accept the fact that Sean is gay.

Looming throughout the film is an annual bowling tournament that, as it turns out, is about more than pride. “Sex, Death and Bowling” also stars Selma Blair, Melora Walters, Mary Lynn Rajskub, Drew Powell and Drea de Matteo.

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There’s no question Walker’s heart is behind the passion of her feature directorial debut, a soulful family drama that confronts some very difficult subjects, including terminal cancer, strife within families and the acceptance of family members for who they are – not the way you want them to be.

“It really is a film a hope. I lost quite a few people, mainly to cancer, all around the same time. I was helping people die, including my father, my best friend and my sister-in-law, ” Walker said in a recent phone conversation from Los Angeles. “The statistics of people getting cancer in this country are staggering, and I began thinking, ‘Nobody talks about it, everybody’s afraid of it, and people really run from other people with cancer many times.’ Except for family, nobody really wants to deal with it. It’s almost as if they’re afraid they’ll catch it.”

Much like Eli in the film — a boy obsessed with what happens to people after they die – Walker said it was her own three sons’ reactions to death around the crucial time in her life that helped inform the narrative of her film.

“My little boys were very young at the age this happened – 2007 through 2009 – and they asked me ‘Where’s Pa (Walker’s father) going?’ So I started watching how people reacted to death,” Walker recalled. “Children are very honest, so through Eli’s eyes in telling this story, we get to see how people react. Eli just wanted to know where they went and when he’d see them again. It was an amazing journey for me to write about everything I had seen.”

Ultimately, Walker said, “Sex, Death and Bowling” is a story that people will relate to because it’s about all of us.

“At the end of the day you have to love the people you love and be happy,” Walker observed. “It’s a very simple story, but these are very complex people. I just found that the movie was a love letter to all the people in my life that I had lost.”

Still very much a part of Walker’s life is the person she based Sean on — fashion designer-turned-filmmaker Tom Ford — and an encounter with him galvanized the idea of where Grenier’s character became a vital part of the narrative.

“I went to school with Tom Ford in Santa Fe, and that’s where that character played by Adrian, comes from,” said Walker, who grew up in New Mexico. “I ran into Tom around the time I was helping people die, and dealing with my children’s reaction to it, and I remembered Tom as a 14-year-old. A few of us girls knew he was gay. He was gorgeous and we were swooning over him, but we knew. I thought, ‘What must that be like to have that secret and be careful who you tell and not tell everybody?’

“Then I thought, ‘If you’re dying of cancer, you don’t really give a s— if he’s gay or not. If you’re dying, you’re probably wondering, ‘Why do I care if somebody’s gay or not? What does it matter who somebody loves?'” Walker, 55, added. “So I started looking at how petty everything was. I think that’s what gets me — we live in a very petty society now. It’s ‘Look at me! Look at me! Look at my selfie!’ Don’t we want to aspire to something like, ‘Let’s connect. Let’s be there for each other. Let’s do the right thing and love everybody.'”

Walker said she knows that viewpoint may come off as Pollyanna, but she’s very sincere in her beliefs.

“Honestly, I’ve held people’s hands when they were dying, and they didn’t really care that their boy was gay or they weren’t the most popular one, or they were a famous celebrity. It doesn’t matter,” Walker said. “It’s about that moment of who loves them and who they loved.”

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Original Interviews, Reviews & More By Tim Lammers