Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: Denise Di Novi, Cheryl Ladd talk ‘Unforgettable’

While Denise Di Novi has been an influential producer since the early 1990s with such films as Tim Burton’s “Batman Returns” and “A Nightmare Before Christmas” — and more recently with “Crazy Stupid Love” and “Focus” — she’s never really had the desire to direct. Intent on raising her two children, the filmmaker said in a recent phone conversation from Los Angeles said that producing gave her “a lot more flexibility” with her family life.

Ironically, Di Novi said, it’s a family dynamic that powers the dramatic thriller “Unforgettable,” which marks Di Novi’s directorial debut. Written by Christina Hodson, “Unforgettable” follows Tessa (Katherine Heigl), the devastated ex-wife of David (Geoff Stults), who after the end of their marriage finds love with Julia (Rosario Dawson). Complicating matters is the bond Julia forms with Tessa and David’s 6-year-old daughter, Lily (Isabella Kai Rice), pushing Tessa to get Julia out of David’s life at any cost.

With such of a female-driven narrative, Di Novi said the timing was perfect for her to transition from producer to the director’s role for the first time.

“For Katherine’s character, there are definite emotions that come up when she sees her child being mothered by another woman and the husband she’s still in love with being happier with that other woman,” Di Novi said. “How do you deal as second wife with a first wife who’s clearly unstable? These are tough things that people deal with and I loved that they were written from the female perspective.

Opening in theaters nationwide on Friday, “Unforgettable” also stars acclaimed actor Cheryl Ladd as Tessa’s mother, Helen. While Tessa and Julia are at the center of the conflict in “Unforgettable,” Helen is pivotal to the plot in that she’s effectively responsible for her daughter’s irrational behavior.

“She thinks she’s a wonderful mother who loves her daughter dearly, and her heart is so closed off because she’s lived this closed off perfectionism her whole life,” Ladd said in a separate phone conversation from Los Angeles. “She’s trying desperately to save and help her daughter, and she doesn’t realize how painful the things she says are to her daughter and not helpful. She has no idea, though. She thinks she’s being a wonderful mother, but she’s criticizing her daughter so much and it’s just like she’s throwing bricks at her. Plus, she’s working on her granddaughter, too, trying to make her the same way.”

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

Ladd feels that whether people want to admit it or not, they’re going to find Tessa, Julia and Helen relatable in “Unforgettable.” If you’re not or once were one of these characters in real life, you certainly know one or all of them.

“Some people really have a difficult time keeping it together under that mountain of pain and disappointment, and that mountain of insecurity,” Ladd observed. “For some people, they just snap and they just lose it.”

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.Katherine Heigl, Denise Di Novi and Rosario Dawson on the set of “Unforgettable.”

And if moviegoers are in denial that they’re one of these characters, Ladd hopes that “Unforgettable” will wake them up to the truth.

It’s such of a woman’s story, with all of the walls we put up and the image we try to project, and in the meantime are hiding our feelings, our vulnerability and things that bring us pain, because we have to buck up and get on with it,” Ladd said. “When you’re raised to just swallow your feelings and do the right thing at every turn and not misstep, it’s very difficult when life hands you disappointments or you make a bad decision — and you don’t even know how to start coping with the bad decision you made.”

Di Novi said casting the role of Helen was difficult because they wanted to find someone “as flawlessly put together as Tessa.” And while Di Novi found exactly what she was she was looking for with Ladd, she was slight hesitant because the “Charlie’s Angels” icon’s kind demeanor in real life is she’s the exact opposite of Helen.

“Cheryl is so sweet and gracious, I wondered if she could be this cold, uptight character,” Di Novi said.

Ladd, however, is thrilled Di Novi went with her gut and cast her because the idea of taking on such a cold and calculated character is why she loves acting so much.

“That’s why I was interested in doing the character,” Ladd said. “The nice thing about getting older and having a long career is when things come up, I can say ‘No,’ and if it’s something I feel that I’d really like to tackle, I say, ‘Yes.’ It’s a nice place to be, and I’m just finding that the characters at this age are deeper, wider, interesting and more challenging, and I love it.”

Ladd said that she couldn’t have been any happier working with Di Novi on “Unforgettable,” not just for what she did for her character, but for every character in the film.

Look at the picture Denise made. There’s not one false step from a character,” Ladd said. “Each character is so deeply real and deeply relatable in how they go about their lives and the hiding of their feelings. Everything comes from real truths from within these women, and that’s why I think it’s even more scary and relatable because you sense they’re real. It’s got it all I think Denise is going to be directing a lot of movies and I hope I get to be in some of them because she’s wonderful and so talented, and really knows how to tell a story from beginning to end.”

Copyright 2017 DirectConversations.com.

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Interview: Alan Arkin talks ‘Going in Style’

Big screen legend Alan Arkin has without question been one of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood over the past 50 years, making indelible impressions in the mid-60s with such classic films as “The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming!” and “Wait Until Dark.” The films signaled an auspicious debut for Arkin in the film industry, paving the way to such hits over the years as “Catch 22,” “Freebie and the Bean,” “The In-Laws,” “The Rocketeer” and “Glengarry Glen Ross.”

Of course, Arkin’s career hit overdrive in 2007 with his Best Supporting Actor Oscar win for “Little Miss Sunshine,” which led to plum roles in such films as the 2012 Best Picture Oscar winner “Argo.” In short, Arkin has done it all — that is, with the exception of doing a movie with fellow iconic actors Morgan Freeman and Michael Change. But that’s all changed with “Going in Style,” a poignant comedy new in theaters.

In the film, Arkin, Freeman and Caine play Albert, Willie and Joe, respectively, a trio of lifelong friends who have toiled for decades at a steel mill. Trying their best to enjoy retirement, the friends are shocked to learn from the mill that all company pensions have been dissolved. All broke and with a mortgage foreclosure pending for one of them, Albert, Willie and Joe hatch a plan to rob the bank that’s involved in the pension fiasco to recoup what would be coming to them if they hadn’t been swindled by their company.

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

A remake of the 1979 comedy of the same name, director Zach Braff’s “Going in Style” is updated to reflect the financial crisis hitting seniors today. It’s a brutally honest reality to confront, but often times great comedy is rooted in truth, Arkin said in a recent phone conversation from New York.

“Even the most outrageous comedy has to be rooted, even subliminally, in some kind of truth or else it has no meaning,” Arkin said. “I was thinking about that connection with the Marx Brothers. Interestingly enough, people don’t analyze the statements — and I don’t mean messages — but emotional statements that exist in comedy. People think having a good time doesn’t warrant examination. But even with the Marx Brothers, even though it’s a much more stylized version of what we’re doing, it’s the same idea: Three kids from the Bowery on the lower east side stickin’ it to the man. That’s what most of the Marx Brothers’ material is about.”

Photo Courtesy of Warner Bros.Alan Arkin, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine in “Going in Style.”

“Going

in Style” also stars screen great Ann-Margret as Annie, a fiery grocery store clerk who wants to develop a romantic relationship with Albert, a longtime musician who worked in the steel mill to support his passion for music. And while Annie wants to make a different kind of music with Albert, they do at one point in “Going in Style” take to the stage to sing some karaoke.

Funny enough, Arkin, whose first feature film appearance came as a singer and guitarist with his group The Tarriers in the 1957 film “Calypso Heat Wave,” was a bit anxious to take center stage again 60 years later.

“It was a little bit terrifying because we didn’t know what song we were going to sing until the night before we did the scene, and we had no rehearsal whatsoever,” Arkin said with slightly nervous laugh. “They threw us up in the bandstand and I was amazed that anything worked at all.”

And while some actors use fear as a motivating factor in prepping for a scene, the comedy great, 83, said he’d prefer to leave that method of working to somebody else.

“I’ve had enough of that,” Arkin deadpanned. “I prefer these days of not having fear being a motivation for anything.”

Arkin has earned a stellar reputation over the years of being such a natural, and you can definitely feel it through his relatable character in “Going in Style.” Part of the relatability no doubt stems from the actor’s natural gift of improvisation, which he’s used quite often over the years.

“I spent a long time in improvisational theater, so I know how to work with dialogue. When it’s not working, I spend a lot of time changing dialogue,” Arkin said. “If people don’t like it, they can hire somebody else. I don’t spring new dialogue on people, but I change stuff a lot – I’ve done that on at least half the films I’ve worked on. I’m very happy to comply with writing that has texture, dimension and depth.”

Copyright 2017 DirectConversations.com.

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Interview: Ann-Margret talks ‘Going in Style’

Big screen icon has Ann-Margret has starred in many classic films over her illustrious 56-year screen career, including a pair of movies about two “Grumpy Old Men” (Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau) from Minnesota in 1993 and 1995.

And while scripts containing the flavor of those films undoubtedly landed on the actress’ doorstep for the past two decades, Ann-Margret avoided taking any roles involving more grumpy old men — that is until an opportunity came about to work with Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin that was too good to pass up.

In a recent phone conversation from New York City, Ann-Margret said her impressions of the legendary actors were exactly as she hoped they would be.

“I had done a film with Alan Arkin before, so I knew him and we’re friends. But to see these three guys together — ‘the boys,’ I call them — I saw them as teenagers; as 17-year-olds,” Ann-Margret said. “Sometimes when you look at someone and try to imagine what they were like when they were younger, and the boys are still the same.”

untitled-09590.dngAnn-Margret and Alan Arkin in “Going in Style.” (Warner Bros.)

Opening Friday in theaters nationwide, “Going in Style” is a remake of 1979 comedy that starred George Burns, Art Carney and Lee Strassberg, but in director Zach Braff’s version, it’s been updated to reflect the volatile climate retirees face in today’s society.

Caine, Freeman and Arkin play Joe, Willie and Albert, respectfully, a trio of lifelong friends whose pensions become a casualty of corporate America despite devoting their lives to their work. Hard-pressed to keep up with their bills, the retired steelworks hatch a plan to rob the very bank that ripped them off.

Ann-Margret plays Annie, a fiery grocery cashier who takes a liking to Albert, even though he feels his days of romance are far behind him.

“I think it’s cute that she gets a crush on Arkin’s character — this grumpy old man who never looks at her and never smiles,” Ann-Margret said, laughing. “But she gets this vibration from him. She goes after him. She’s been divorced for a long time, but she gets this feeling from him and feels blessed that she’s getting that feeling again.”

Ann-Margret said she felt blessed to work with Arkin again following their pairing as the in-laws of Tim Allen’s St. Nick in “The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause” in 2006, and the screen legend said in a separate phone conversation that he feels the exact same way.

“She’s an absolute delight,” Arkin said. “She’s like a kid doing her first movie. She’s game, she’s fun, and she’s got a wonderful sense of humor and will try anything. She’s just a delight.”

Ann-Margret said like the “Grumpy Old Men” movies, she was drawn to the script of “Going in Style

221; because it doesn’t treat men and women of a certain age as punch lines. Even though the film is a comedy and the characters up in their years, they most definitely are made up of substance,  emotion and in Annie’s case in particular, passion.

“I love the fact that I’m playing this woman who is living, I mean she’s really living her life,” Ann-Margret, 75, enthused. “You’re not dead when you reach a certain age, and you can still have love and passion and everything if you’re lucky enough. You have to keep living and not sit home and watch TV alone. You have to participate.”

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

Luckily for Ann-Margret, Arkin, Caine and Freeman were more than willing to participate with “Going in Style,” and she can’t even to say how much of a blast it was working with them.

“I had such fun. These guys are adorable,” Ann-Margret said. “They’re mischievous and full of life.”

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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
Click book cover for info on how to buy!