Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: Director James Mangold talks ‘Logan’

Don’t kid yourself: Even though the newest entry into the “X-Men” movie saga, “Logan,” draws its inspiration from the “Old Man Logan” storyline in the Marvel Comics series, this isn’t your grandpa’s Wolverine.

Starring the man who defined the role of Logan/Wolverine — Hugh Jackman — for the ninth and perhaps final time in the “X-Men” movie saga, it’s clear from the beginning of “Logan” that Jackman and director James Mangold, his collaborator on 2013’s “The Wolverine,” were going to make a decidedly different mutant film. Rated R and presented in gritty and brutally realistic fashion, Mangold and Jackman were intent on making sure Logan — as well as Patrick Stewart’s Professor Charles Xavier — had a deliberately harder edge to them.

Most importantly, however, unlike anything the saga’s fans have seen with the characters before, “Logan” finds the aging duo tired, ill and sadly, facing mortality. To do the film, Mangold said in a recent phone conversation from New York City, that sort of narrative was a must.

“I very much enjoy these movies as a whole, but I do think that they’ve gotten into a bit of a rut, in the sense that you could almost make a Mad Magazine version of these movies, where they always seem to be about some dark force arriving and is going to destroy the world,” Mangold said. “You can almost cut the trailer in your mind where some character is saying, ‘This is the worst we’ve ever faced,’ and if they don’t level a city, they level a continent, and if they don’t level a continent, they blow up the Earth, and the threats, the stakes are always so high and global.”


Audio slideshow: James Mangold talks “Logan”

Quite simply, Mangold said, a movie like that simply has to dial things back not just a bit, but a lot.

“When you’re making a movie where there are 10 protagonists, a supervillain and five, giant set pieces of action, the principal characters end up with about four minutes of trying to sketch out their character problem and eradicate it later,” Mangold said. “It’s no wonder that sometimes we feel like these movies are emotionally flat or thin in characterization. The characters have devoted all their time to other tasks and become people making cameos in these giant spectacles.”

And spreading the characters too thin is only one of Mangold’s concerns.

“At some point, I think for me, that the old adage of ‘Less is more’ comes in,” said Mangold. “It’s where I’ve started experiencing an overload, where I’m sitting in a theater with the sound blasting and spectacular, amazing, insane visual effects, and I start to feel like Malcolm McDowell in ‘A Clockwork Orange,’ and I want my eyes to just roll up in my head and pass out because I’ve had enough. We really wanted to make a different film in tone in that sense. Yes, we wanted to deal with the mortality of the characters and their fragility, but we also wanted the space to explore those ideas without the sensory overload.”

Opening in theaters and on IMAX screens Friday, “Logan” finds Wolverine and Charles in the year 2029, where mutants are virtually extinct. Along with Charles and another mutant, Caliban (Stephan Merchant), Logan is forced out of his hiding on the border of Mexico when he is suddenly tasked to protect a young girl, Laura (Dafne Keen), who appears to have the same mutant abilities as he does. On the run from a militaristic government organization seeking her capture, Logan must find a way to transport Laura to a safe haven in the northern part of the U.S.

LINK:  See Tim Lammers’ archived video and audio interviews, including Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Viola Davis, Francis Ford Coppola and more on  his new YouTube channel.

With far fewer mutants and subplots to concentrate on, Mangold had the benefit of not only making an “X-Men”-themed movie, but the opportunity to combine the mythology with the sensibilities of the previous character dramas he’s directed.

“Our real goal was to try to create enough space for ourselves, as if I were making ‘Copland,’ ‘Girl, Interrupted,’ ‘Walk the Line’ or ‘3:10 to Yuma’ or another one of my movies, and ask, ‘How can I take these really interesting characters that we have mainly only seen through the prism of these ‘Save the world’ storylines, and view them through a much more intimate storyline?’ Mangold recalled. “My initial proposal to Fox was that I wanted to make very bloody, existential version of ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ with Logan and Charles Xavier.”

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Apart from the graphic violence (Logan has adamantium claws, after all, so they’re going to cause some damage), the purposefully R-rated film has its share of F-bombs, and the explosive use of the language doesn’t come from the idea of using the word simply because they can, but because there is meaning behind it. When you see and hear, perhaps shockingly so, that the aging Charles suddenly has a penchant for dropping the F-bomb, you’ll understand why.

“Many people have gone through it — even with very graceful parents — where that moment sets in and your systems are failing you, it’s incredible sometimes to hear ‘The Exorcist’-level of obscenity to come out of an old person’s mouth where their world is losing its moorings a little bit,” Mangold said. “But the use of the language also, honestly, fits in the whole tone of the film from the beginning to the end. It’s just a little bit more raw than what we’ve seen in the other pictures. That was quite intentional.”

Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

While Jackman and Stewart are naturally the names on the marquee that people will instantly recognize, there are many times where Keen, whose storyline is quite significant in “Logan,” steals the show from both of them. What’s amazing is that she commands your attention at times even in a non-verbal way, and that was only one of the many requirements Mangold had for the integral character.

“She’s incredible. We searched high and low, and it wasn’t exactly easy. I said I needed someone between 10 and 12 years of age, physically capable, brilliant actress, Hispanic descent and bilingual. Now you try that on,” Mangold mused. “Worldwide, that adds up to producing about five or six kids. When the tape arrived in an email from London of this wonderful 10-year-old at that time who was reading for this part — it was this little iPhone tape that he dad had made of her, climbing around on bookcases and doing a couple of scenes — I knew the second I saw it without even meeting her that she was the young woman for the part.”

Copyright 2017 DirectConversations.com.

Tim Burton Book 2
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Tim Lammers creates YouTube channel for interviews

Tim Lammers has created a new YouTube channel to highlight his extensive interview archive. Please click in and subscribe to it today!

Tim has talked with about 2,000 major actors and filmmakers over the years for TV, radio, print and online. New on his YouTube channel are clips from those interviews, including Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Tim Burton, Morgan Freeman, Hugh Jackman, Mark Hamill, Kathy Bates, Matthew McConaughey and Christopher Nolan, with new interview clips being added daily.

Here are some sample clips:

Interview: Chris McKay talks ‘LEGO Batman Movie’

Sure, director Chris McKay has been at the helm of such irreverent shows as “Robot Chicken,” where there are no limits to the skewering of pop culture icons in stop-motion animation glory. Still, when it came to handing the keys of its monolithic superhero brand over to McKay for “The LEGO Batman Movie,” Warner Bros. and DC Comics had nothing but trust in McKay to use LEGO’s bricks to help build a wonderful story about the Dark Knight and several other DC superheroes — even though it parodies them.

“I think in some ways they knew I would be OK because I have a giant Catwoman tattoo on my arm,” McKay said with a laugh Tuesday in a phone conversation from Los Angeles. “Plus, I’ve expressed my love for DC comic books and some Warner Bros. movies in general, like Richard Donner’s “Superman” and Tim Burton’s “Batman,” as movies that made an impression on me as a kid.

“Yes, the companies want to be very careful in how they present these characters and under what circumstances, but fortunately, they do have a lot of trust and faith in me,” McKay added. “I’ve been really lucky that let me do the things I’ve been able to do with this movie. Yes, we make jokes, but they are loving, affectionate jokes involving these characters.”

McKay is no stranger to the DC/LEGO universe, having served as an editor and animation supervisor on the 2014 blockbuster “The LEGO Movie.” Of course, that film featured LEGO Batman (voiced by Will Arnett), who now — along with his alter-ego Bruce Wayne — gets his own adventure in Gotham City, where he takes on such nefarious criminals as the Joker (Zack Galifianakis) and Harley Quinn (Jenny Slate).

The film, opening in theaters and on IMAX screens nationwide on Friday, also stars Rosario Dawson as the voice of Barbara Gordon/Batgirl, Michael Cera as Dick Grayson/Robin and Ralph Fiennes as Wayne’s loyal butler, Alfred Pennyworth.

Behind-the-scenes footage from the film shows several of the actors in front their microphones, recording  dialogue with their LEGO counterparts in hand, and McKay said they weren’t the only ones who used the tiny characters to glean some inspiration.

“We had bowls of bricks in the conference rooms so people could play with stuff when we were having meetings, and if you look at the animators’ desks, you’ll see stuff they started collecting from the first movie that they used to work out animation or design problems, or just to have fun,” McKay said. “I tried to promote that sense of play as much as possible and try to get LEGO to give us as many things as possible to do stuff. On the first movie, I had people doing building exercises with teams. We got a Death Star, Millennium Falcon and Star Destroyer, and split people up into teams to build stuff together. It was fun to see people get nerdy about all the details and geek out about it.”

Much like “The LEGO Movie,” “The LEGO Batman Movie” has a distinct, stop-motion animated feel to it, And while the animation in both films is completely computer-generated, McKay – whose credits in addition to “Robot Chicken” include “Moral Orel” and “Titan Maximum” — would love to somehow implement stop-motion into future L

EGO movie projects. In the meantime, he said, it’s key to have people on the films that have stop-motion sensibilities.

“One thing I try to do is hire stop-motion animators who know a little bit about CG,” McKay said. “The rigs are simple enough for somebody who has a passing knowledge of CG to come in. On ‘The LEGO Batman Movie,’ I brought in one of my favorite stop-motion animators from ‘Robot Chicken’ — her influence on the animation and her character animation was so great that I thought she was absolutely essential to making this movie.”

Copyright 2017 DirectConversations.com.

Tim Burton Book 2
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Interview: Daisy Ridley, director Otto Bell talk ‘The Eagle Huntress’

Sony Pictures Classics

Fortunately for director Otto Bell, not one, but two powerful forces came together for his thrilling new documentary “The Eagle Huntress”  a force of nature embodied by a teenage Mongolian girl and an actress who harnessed the power of “The Force” in the biggest film of 2015.

Now playing in select cities and expanding to more theaters Friday, “The Eagle Huntress” examines the time-honored tradition of eagle hunting in Mongolia and how 13-year-old Aisholpan Nurgaiv works to defy the conventions of a practice only reserved for fathers and sons. If she’s successful, Aisholpan will become the first female eagle hunter in 12 generations of her Kazakh family.

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The film is narrated and executive produced by Daisy Ridley, the breakout star of the international blockbuster “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens.” The opportunity to get involved with “The Eagle Huntress” couldn’t have come at a crazier time for Ridley, but despite her commitments to that galaxy far, far away, she was compelled to make time for the project.

“I was in the throes of the production of ‘Episode VII’ when my agent sent me the film, saying, ‘It’s amazing and all about empowerment,’” said Ridley, accompanied by Bell, in a recent phone conversation from Los Angeles. “I saw it and I was incredibly moved, and asked how I could become involved.”

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Ridley came on board “The Eagle Huntress” in January, just in time for the documentary’s film festival run. Bell said the moment he learned of Ridley’s commitment to “The Eagle Huntress” is one he won’t soon forget.

“It was the night before the film’s debut at Sundance, and I had terrible butterflies in my stomach and I got this lovely phone call,” Bell said. “When I spoke to Daisy, it was clear to me that she was picking out corners of the film that only I had cared about. It was very clear to me that she had studied it and had been very moved by it.”

Running start

Bell first met with Aisholpan’s family about filming “The Eagle Huntress” on July 4, 2014. The meeting was a serendipitous one, since it was the day the girl and her father were about to find her the eaglet that would become her hunting companion in the film. Even though Bell and his crew weren’t expecting to start shooting that day, he knew that such a pivotal moment in an eagle hunter’s life was one that couldn’t be missed.

“We were having tea and her father stood up and said, ‘We’re going to steal an eagle from the mountainside this afternoon. Do you think it’s something you would want to film?'” Bell recalled. “Of course, we jumped at the chance. We weren’t exactly ready to start with the production, but we had to get that shot since there was such of a slim window to film it in, and we happened to be lucky enough to be on the ground for it.”

Bell especially feels fortunate that he was able to capture Aisholpan’s story as it was unfolding — a rare opportunity for any documentarian.

“So often with documentaries you’re filling in the blanks,” Bell said. “Something has already happened and you’re using archive footage, retrospective interviews and the like to fill those in. In this case, we were lucky enough to be there from the start of her journey. Her first step to becoming an eagle hunter always begins with the young apprentice stealing the baby from the nest and we were right there on the spot to film it.”

Also new on Direct Conversations.com — Interview: Tim Burton, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”

From there, Bell captured on film the rest of Aisholpan’s major milestones: the training of her eagle for a revered, annual festival where all eagle hunters compete, and the final step and going out and hunting in the frigid winter to graduate to full eagle huntress.

While Ridley’s path in life couldn’t be any more different from Aisholpan’s, there was a common bond that had resonated with the film star.

“There are similarities with my family because Aisholpan is part of an incredibly supportive family,” Ridley said. “In particular, in the film we see the relationship between her and her father, and the kids are so encouraging. In that respect I felt a resemblance to my own life with my parents and my sisters.”

Ridley’s participation in “The Eagle Huntress” says a lot about the character of the 24-year-old London native. Coming off a role in one of the biggest box office hits in movie history, Ridley could have easily opted for a big payday in any number of scripts that landed on her desk after “Star Wars” — yet she immediately committed to a smaller-scale production that she believed in.

“Going forward, the thing I’m most interested in is being a part of good stories,” Ridley said. “Aside from that, ‘The Eagle Huntress’ is a brilliant film. It’s just beautiful to look at even if you’re not concentrating on what the message is.”

Tim Burton Book 2
Click book cover for info on how to buy!