Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: Russo brothers talk direction of ‘Captain America: The Winter Soldier’

Never mind the thrilling and intense action scenes, the story’s well-rounded characters or the “Iron Man,” “Thor,” “Captain America” and “Avengers” films that came before it: When it came to making “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” the brother directing team of Anthony and Joe Russo said it was the cameo by Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee that had them fretting the most.

“Directing Stan was totally surreal, especially as comic book fans. It was mind-blowing,” Joe Russo, accompanied by Anthony Russo, told me in an interview Tuesday. “We grew up with him with comic books and cartoons, and suddenly, here we are in a room with him. It’s always impactful when you meet people who had an influence you as a child, and you couldn’t ask for a bigger influence here. Of all the things we pressured ourselves on because Marvel has raised the bar so high with the other films, the Stan Lee cameo was up there.”

Anthony and Joe Russo on the set of 'Captain America The Winter Soldier'
Anthony and Joe Russo on the set of “Captain America: The Winter Solider” (photo: Disney-Marvel).

New on Blu-ray and DVD (Walt Disney Home Entertainment), “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” finds the World War II-bred Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) after the events of “The Avengers,” still trying to adjust to the modern world. Trying to live a quiet life in Washington, D.C., Rogers suddenly finds himself on the wrong side of S.H.I.E.L.D. after the organization has been greatly compromised by unknown forces — and millions of lives, including his own, are at stake because of it.

With little time and few people he can trust, Captain America embarks on a perilous trek with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Sam Wilson/The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) in an effort to ferret out the mystery, even if it means destroying the very organization that the Avengers were built upon. Worse yet he’s forced to face off against an old friend, who has been molded into the villain dubbed “The Winter Soldier.”

The interesting thing about the Russos’ experience in the business is that it’s mainly in the comedy genre, whether it be films like “You, Me and Dupree” or comedy series like “Community” and “Arrested Development.” And while the brothers adapted to the high-octane action genre quite well with “Captain America: The Winter Solider,” it’s clearly their sense of being storytellers first that landed them the highly-regarded Marvel gig.

“We were known for a very strong sense of story and character in our comedic work, mainly because it’s the sort of storytelling we most enjoy,” Anthony Russo said. “We like to laugh, but we also like something else going on at the same time that audiences can feel. So, we brought that same work ethic to making an action film. Every beat of the action has to be imbued with very strong storytelling and very strong character moments, otherwise the action gets boring.”

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Both in their early 40s, the Russos say they want to maintain childlike sensibilities making films like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” because they vividly remember how similar, fantastical films impacted them as youths. Ultimately, the brothers want to do the same for today’s kids.

“As a kid, when I went to ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’ I got to the theater at 11 in the morning and left at 11 at night after seeing the film six times in a row in the front row,” Joe Russo recalled. “Whether it’s in a theater or in a living room, we want to pass that experience on to other kids. We want to have a cultural impact, otherwise why do it? It takes two years of your life to make a movie like this, we wanted to reach people in a way that they could have an emotional experience and that they remember it for a long time.”

The Russos, of course, will have a chance to create more lasting memories for moviegoers for the yet-untitled sequel “Captain America 3,” which is due out in May 2016. And while rumors are running rampant over which “Avengers” members will assemble for the film, the Russos hint at least that there will be more of the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), who in his earlier life before the evil forces of Hydra got hold of him, was Rogers’ best friend, Bucky Barnes.

“As storytellers, we always felt that the relationship between Steve and Bucky was not resolved by the end of ‘The Winter Soldier.’ We love that relationship. It’s so complicated and tragic,” Anthony Russo explained. “The relationship is so important to who Cap is, especially since he’s feeling so isolated in the modern world. It’s his connection to the past. The relationship with Bucky now isn’t exactly reliable and trustworthy, but it’s something that Cap has faith in nonetheless. That’s definitely something we want to continue dealing with in the next film, because their relationship remains critical, important and rich.”

While he couldn’t name anyone specifically, Anthony Russo added, “There are other characters very specific to the world of Cap that will also have a big role in the coming film.”

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Interview: Chloë Grace Moretz talks ‘If I Stay’

Chloe Grace Moretz in 'If I Stay'

From edgy superhero fare with the “Kick-Ass” films and fantasy drama with “Hugo,” to horror with “Carrie,” horror comedy with “Dark Shadows” and intensity with the upcoming crime thriller “The Equalizer,” there’s no question that Chloë Grace Moretz has had more variety in her roles before age 17 than most actors see in a lifetime.

But that’s the way Moretz likes it, which is why the acclaimed actress has cast yet another new mold as the lead role in the compelling new teen drama “If I Stay.” After all, Moretz, said, she’s a teenager, and teenagers like to change up things frequently.

“I think in a way I blame my teenage mind for the diversity in my roles,” Moretz told me in a recent interview. “As a teenage girl, I can’t really choose what to wear in the morning, and in the same way, I can’t really choose what my next movie is going to be. I feel that’s why my movie choices are all over the place. My emotions are changing every other month, so I think my movies change with me.”

In “If I Stay,” opening in theaters nationwide Friday, Moretz plays Mia Hall, a high school senior and gifted cellist who is on the road to musical greatness when a car crash kills her family and leaves her in a coma, clinging to life.

Through an out-of-body experience, Mia recounts pivotal moments in her life, and is reminded through the whispers of an emergency room nurse that it’s only her fight that will determine whether she lives or dies. The dilemma, however, comes with a difficult choice: If she emerges from her coma and survives, she will become an orphan yet be with the love of her life – the budding rock musician Adam (Jamie Blackley). If she dies and moves on into the light, she will reunite with her family in the afterlife, but effectively leave the people who promise to be her family in the aftermath of the tragedy.

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Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Gayle Forman, “If I Stay” also stars Mireille Enos (“The Killing”) and Joshua Leonard (“The Blair Witch Project”) as Mia’s parents, and legendary actor Stacy Keach as her grandfather.

While Mia is effectively tasked with a choice to stay or move on, one could easily argue that “If I Stay” effectively examines the idealism of  Free Will. And while Moretz agrees with that observation, she also said “If I Stay” isn’t a film isn’t necessarily a film about faith.

“The interesting thing about ‘If I Stay’ is that it’s not religion based,” Moretz explained. “We made a movie that’s a lot about the subject (of Free Will), but what was cool is that didn’t have to force feed religion down your throat with it. We leave it up to your interpretation. Its ideas are whatever you want them to be. I think it’s more interesting that way instead of telling the story from a biased point of view. It’s told from a very open-minded point of view that’s more interesting than others.”

Having been exposed to film properties with built-in audiences before — “Kick-Ass” was based on a comic book series, while “Carrie” is remake of a 1976 horror classic based on Stephen King’s classic bestseller — Moretz says she very much respects fans’ opinions when it comes to screen adaptations of beloved source material.

“Whenever I do a movie based on a novel with a very large fan base or following, it affects me,” Moretz said. “I definitely try to use the source material to help me because the readers are the true fans of it. They’re the first fans of the material.”

And with “If I Stay,” Moretz said her approach was no different.

“I’m a fan of the novel, to

o, so I definitely tried to do the material justice and be honest and true to the fans of it,” Moretz noted. “Without the book, we wouldn’t have the idea for the movie.”

And while some actors purposely avoid the original source material and wouldn’t even think of reaching out to the author with questions, Moretz said she had no problem talking with Forman. The interesting thing is, Moretz didn’t necessarily ask Forman about what was in the book, but about smaller specifics that author used to build her character that didn’t make the pages.

“I asked Gayle things like, ‘What is Mia’s birthday?’ and stuff like that — smaller things that I couldn’t get from the book,” Moretz recalled. “Immediately, it became a super-collaborative process between me and Gayle. A lot of her answers were like, ‘I had no idea what her birthday is. Let’s make it up together to see who she is.’ She was very collaborative in the film in the beginning, and continued to be that way. I got very lucky with that.”

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Interview: Brenton Thwaites, Odeya Rush talk ‘The Giver’

Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush in 'The Giver' (photo -- The Weinstein Co.)

Jeff Bridges is one of the stars and producer of the new big screen adaptation of the classic young adult novel “The Giver,” but at times it sounds like he was channeling his famed character, “The Dude” Lebowski.

Trying to keep his young co-stars, Brenton Thwaites and Odeya Rush, mellow to the harsh realities of the world both real and cinematic, Bridges who plays the title character in the film, gave them some valuable advice.

“Jeff actually sat me down a few times and gave me some advice about how I should never take life too seriously,” Rush, sitting with Thwaites, told me in a recent interview. “He also said not to take what we do so seriously, especially with a movie like this that has a really dark side to it. Jeff said it was OK to allow yourself to be the fool and just jump in, and that’s he does, and Meryl Streep does and Brenton does.”

“The Giver,” based on author Lois Lowry’s 1994 Newbery Medal-winning children’s novel of the same name, is set in the future in a seemingly utopian society where the “Sameness” has eradicated the pain and strife” of peoples’ lives, but also their capability to experience emotions because of daily injections.

However, the society begins to unravel when the teen Jonas (Thwaites) has inherited the position of Receiver of Memories from The Giver (Bridges), a person who stores humankind’s past memories before the Sameness came about. Even though Jonas is under the watch of the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep), he begins to defy the system as he discovers their existence is in more of dystopian environment that one of bliss — a discovery that puts his and the life of his close friend, Fiona (Rush), in danger.

Opening in theaters Friday nationwide, “The Giver” also stars Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgard and Taylor Swift

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“The Giver” is a unique project for Thwaites, 25, and Rush, 17, in that the actors were born in Australia and Israel, respectively, and didn’t have exposure of the American-penned book growing up. In some ways, Thwaites found that to be advantage when tackling the role.

“I wish I had read it growing up because I would have had an understanding of the story going in,” recalled Thwaites, who most recently starred opposite Angelina Jolie in “Maleficent” as Prince Phillip. “But I’m glad I didn’t because it gave me a fresh, new feel for the material.”

One of the biggest differences in “The Giver” compared with its original source material is the age of Jonas, who is approaching 12 in the novel and is a teenager in movie. Thwaites is hoping diehard fans of the book understand why Bridges, director Phillip Noyce and their fellow filmmakers opted to make Jonas older, as well as other changes.

“In the book, Jonas talks in first person, but in film, you can’t really do that, so his character had to be structured in little more to make sense,” Thwaites said.

Plus, Rush added, some characters in the book have been

given expanded roles.

“A lot of the characters became more complex. The Chief Elder in the book doesn’t have that big of a role in the story, but in the movie is played by Meryl Streep, so of course it’s bigger because it’s Meryl. In the book,” Rush observed. “Fiona is a lot different and is more developed in the film. On the whole, the film carries the same spirit of the book.”

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Thwaites and Rush admitted that they were put at ease at the heavy presence of Lowry on the set.

“Lois came to the set and with us at San Diego Comic Con, and she also has a good relationship with Jeff and Nikki Silver, who is another one of the producers,” Rush said. “When she came to the set, I asked her about everything I could. I felt like, ‘If she’s OK with something, then nobody else can get mad at me.’ I would ask, ‘Are you OK with what I’m wearing? Are you OK with how my hair looks?’ She was really cool with everything. She was just happy about the whole situation.”

Interview: Michael Rooker talks ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’

Like his acclaimed role as the anti-hero, Merle Dixon, in “The Walking Dead,” Michael Rooker is finding himself in the middle again – but this time he’s a blue-skinned alien in Marvel Studio’s “Guardians of the Galaxy,” light years away from the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic Earth of the popular AMC series.

Rooker’s “Galaxy” character, Yondu, is interesting in that he’s not an out-an-out bad guy, and in some ways, he has a propensity to be good. Walking that fine line is something Rooker, 59, has not only enjoyed in several projects throughout his storied career, but his whole life, and director James Gunn wanted to tap into that experience.

“James wanted to write something for me that I’m good at — I’m good at doing bad things and still having people like me,” Rooker told me, laughing, in a recent interview. “Even as a 10- or 12-year-old, I’d be doing something bad, like climbing trees, and people would yell at me for doing it yet be smiling at the same time. I never understood what was going on with them. The great thing is, it still happening.  James wanted to me to have the ability to say and do anything on screen and still have people like me, and dig the performance and dig the way I do it.”

Michael Rooker in Guardians of the Galaxy (photo -- Disney-Marvel Studios)

Rooker brings a good ol’ boy approach to Yondu, a space pirate who takes Peter Quill from Earth as a young boy after his mother’s death. After growing up and learning the ways of Yondu’s group, the Ravagers, Quill (Chris Pratt) betrays his mentor and keeps for himself a mysterious orb he’s stolen from a powerful space lord, only to learn the sphere holds powers far greater than he ever could have imagined.

Like his fellow “Galaxy” cast mates (including Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper and Vin Diesel), Rooker has the unenviable task of portraying a beloved character whose origins date back more than four decades in the original Marvel comic books. And while he respects the fan’s opinions, Rooker said it was a necessity to make changes with the character of Yondu for the sake of the film.

“I don’t really worry about all of the reactions, but of course, it’s always there in the back of my head,” Rooker said. “I know there will be some people who will be disappointed that Yondu doesn’t have a big fin on the top of his head, but they have to realize the roof on my spaceship is pretty low. I would have had to duck when I was walking around for the entire production. The change was decided before I got there, and basically I had to take what was in the script and run with it.”

Interview: Dave Bautista talks Drax the Destroyer

For anyone familiar with his character in “The Walking Dead,” Rooker has been the subject of makeup artists before as a zombified Merle, so he knew was he was in for to turn Yondu blue.

“We’d start with a three hours of makeup, then we had a little break for food before more makeup and wardrobe, so in total, it was about five-and-a-half hours each time,” Rooker recalled. “That’s not so bad. For my role in ‘Slither’ (a 2006 horror comedy, which was also directed by Gunn), it took seven hours to put on and two-and-a-half to take off. Yondu’s makeup only took 45 minutes to take off.”

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And while extensive makeup is a part of the job that some actors dread, Rooker said he loves the process and has absolutely no complaints about it.

“When I go to work, I get to go to a set. It’s like a 12-year-old kid saying goodbye to his parents, running out the door and playing all day long, and coming back for supper at night,” Rooker enthused. “That’s my life now. When I go to the set, it’s like going to a playground and doing all kinds of stuff.”

And lucky for Rooker, those sets have been filled with a variety of roles in several different genres.

“With ‘Guardians’ I get to be a blue alien who whistles to use a great weapon. In ‘Eight Men Out’ I got to play baseball all day long and on ‘Days of Thunder’ I got to drive race cars. In ‘Henry (Portrait of a Serial Killer)’ I got to kill people,” Rooker said with a laugh. “You get to use your imagination all these sorts of crazy, creative ways. Some ways are quite dramatic, some are hokey and some are fun. You just get to go everywhere.”

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