Category Archives: Interviews

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” 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.”

Tim Burton Book 2
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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 the

ir 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 LEGO 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
Click book cover for info on how to buy!