Oscar-nominated actress Keira Knightley said she leaped at the opportunity to star in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” mainly because she was dying to do a movie where she wasn’t, well, dying.
“I got to the end of ‘Anna Karenina’ and I went, ‘OK, I really need to not do anything dark for a while because the characters I’ve been playing for the last five years keep dying. It’s been all death and destruction,'” Knightley told me with a laugh in an interview while “Jack Ryan” was still in production.
New on Blu-ray and DVD (Paramount Home Media Distribution) Tuesday, “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” is an origins film based on the Tom Clancy’s iconic spy, Jack Ryan — who in his early career as a CIA analyst, is sent to Russia to thwart a terrorist attack that will cripple the U.S. economy. Chris Pine (“Star Trek”) stars as Jack, while Knightley plays Dr. Cathy Muller, Ryan’s future wife who’s completely in the dark about her husband’s spy mission.
Kevin Costner also stars as Ryan’s boss, Thomas Harper, and Kenneth Branagh — in addition to directing the film — stars as Victor Cherevin, the mastermind behind the plot.
Knightley said the main reason she signed on to “Jack Ryan” was for her chance to work with actor-director Branagh, the Oscar-nominated actor-filmmaker whose career as a director has included mysteries (“Dead Again,” “Sleuth”), horror (“Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein”) and superhero action adventure (“Thor”) films. But it was Branagh’s Shakespeare film adaptations that influenced Knightley the most.
“‘Much Ado About Nothing,’ ‘Henry V,’ and ‘Hamlet’ were such massive parts of why I wanted to be an actress,” said Knightley, 29. “I wore out my VHS copy of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ because I watched it so many times, so actually getting to work with him as an actor and director is amazing. It’s fascinating watching him do his actor-director bit. One minute you’re playing a scene with him, then all of a sudden he’s running around the camera directing. It’s really interesting watching him snap back-and-forth and watching him work. It’s been a privilege.”
Knightley believes Branagh was the perfect hire for “Jack Ryan” because of the way he has time and again realized his vision to make a film complete.
“‘Jack Ryan’ is a thriller, and thrillers are pieces of work that aren’t being made very much because they’re really difficult to make,” Knightley said. “They require storytellers, and there are very few storytellers, really, and Ken is definitely one of them.”
Look for Knightley next month in the music-themed dramedy “Begin Again,” formerly titled, “Can a Song Save Your Life?” Like “Jack Ryan,” Knightley embraced the role because of a change of pace from the more dramatic fare she’s used to doing. The film also stars Mark Ruffalo, Hailee Steinfeld, Catherine Keener and singer Adam Levine.
“It’s a lovely film about friendship and making an album,” Knightley said. “It’s very positive.”
Although Bill Paxton has known Tom Cruise in passing over the years, their paths have never crossed on a movie set until he traveled to London last year to work on director Doug Liman’s new sci-fi action thriller “Edge of Tomorrow.” And while Paxton has had his share of physical roles since he career kicked off in the early 1980s, it didn’t take long for the acclaimed actor to realize when you sign up to do a film with Cruise, you hit the ground running — even when it’s in a metal exo-suit.
“When I arrived in London, Doug took me to a sound stage where Tom was trying on one of the exo-suits that the special effects guys built. When he saw me walking across the stage he yelled to me, ‘Hey, Paxton. It’s about time you got here! Are you ready to work out? These things are going to be punishing.’ I was kind of like, ‘Oh, f—,'” Paxton told me, laughing, in a recent interview. “I had already been working out, but these suits were about 70 pounds.”
Paxton said the special effects artists “made the suits as light as they could, but because of what they had to do, there were a lot of metal parts.”
“That was the most challenging part of the role – the physicality of it,” Paxton said. “But Tom loves a challenge and he’s a very physical cat, so he’d just egg all of us on to do what he was doing. You can’t complain when No. 1 isn’t bitching about the suits.”
Opening in 2D and 3D theaters nationwide Friday, “Edge of the Tomorrow” stars Cruise as Maj. William Cage, a military officer who recruits soldiers for an international coalition to fight off brutal alien invaders, even though he has never seen a day of combat himself. Cage’s luck runs out, though, when he is suddenly thrust into a suicide mission against his brutal enemies and is killed within minutes — only to instantly wake up at an earlier point in time in his life to discover that he’s been thrown into a mysterious time loop.
Through the help of Special Forces Warrior Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), Cage learns how he can effectively “re-set” his day by dying. His multiple deaths ultimately give Cage the opportunities to relive the same battle over and over again, but each time learning his enemies’ moves as he develops his own skills and precision — leading him one step closer each time to the key to winning the war.
Paxton stars as Master Sgt. Farrell, a tough-as-nails combat leader who initially holds sway over Cage, only to eventually outsmarted by the soldier since his time-loop secret has only been shared with select people.
>“Edge of Tomorrow” is packed with lots of action and stunning visual effects, naturally, but woven within the film is a smart, mind-bending plot laced with lots of wicked humor. It’s the sort of thing Paxton said he craves as an actor.
“The role played to all of my strengths. I love playing these real ramrod characters. I also love that was this real perversity built into it — it had this nice vein of dark humor that runs through all of it from the script. Plus, Doug Liman has great sensibilities as a director as well as an entertainer.”
Working virtually nonstop in both film and TV for the past 30-plus years, Paxton has done it all, from action, comedy and drama, to crime thrillers, horror and science fiction. The 59-year-old actor told me that he’s not necessarily drawn to one particular genre, although he’s glad that directors like James Cameron and Liman have called on for science fiction fare like “Aliens” and “Edge of Tomorrow.”
“It’s a luck of the draw, really. I like science fiction and using my imagination, and love the scale of sci-fi,” Paxton said. “I also love the production design of sci-fi films. You have to remember I started out in the art department on films. That’s how I met Jim Cameron, as a set dresser years ago on the movie ‘Galaxy of Terror.’ The big visions the films have are challenging, physically, but I love to see spectacle. You pay the price, though, because they are painstaking to make. You can spend many endless days just to shoot a three-minute sequence, like on the battlefield of ‘Edge of Tomorrow,’ for example.”
Paxton said he feels blessed to continue getting opportunities to work with directors the ilk of the Cameron and Liman because as effects-heavy as their movies are, the visual tools they use never outweigh the importance of the narrative.
“Jim and Doug are top directors, and as a film actor, you look to see who’s directing the picture before you sign on,” Paxton said. “I’ve been lucky lately to work with some really good directors. Sometimes you take a chance on a new director, but you go in to talk with them and you feel their passion, but it’s a no-brainer when Jim Cameron or Doug Liman calls you up because you know you’re going to be in good hands because they’re really good storytellers — I get just as excited about the director on a film than I do any other aspect of it because it all starts and ends with them.”
That’s not to say Paxton doesn’t appreciate his fellow actors — especially one as enthusiastic as Cruise.
“Tom was super-personable on the film and really encouraged me,” Paxton said. “Early on he said to me, ‘Paxton, you’re killing this part,’ and I said, ‘Tom, we haven’t even shot anything yet!’ Then he, ‘Yeah, but you’re killing it!’ You want to be with good actors like that because they’re going to bring your game up. It’s like a tennis match. The better players you play with, the better your game gets. Tom has a great sense of professionalism and brings a real passion and conviction to whatever’s he’s doing.”
Angelina Jolie is back on the big screen Friday in“Maleficent,”which may end up being her biggest film hit to date. But before her escalation to the A-list, though, Tim Lammers talked with her in 1999 for “The Bone Collector,” her last film before her Oscar win for “Girl, Interrupted.” Take a look at the video below.
Also, read Tim’s interview with Jolie HERE for the 2004 crime thriller “Talking Lives.”
Whether he’s sporting adamantium or bone claws, Hugh Jackman is no doubt as sharp as ever as the Logan/Wolverine in “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” But perhaps no performance of the legendary character prior to this new chapter in the “X-Men” and “Wolverine” film series stands out more than his three-word cameo in 2011’s “X-Men: First Class.”
It’s a brief, but memorable scene, where the young Erik Lensherr/Magneto (Michael Fassbender) and Charles Xavier/Professor X (James McAvoy) walk into a bar to recruit the grizzled mutant for a new initiative. After briefly introducing themselves, Logan, sitting at the bar and chomping a cigar, says unflinchingly, “Go f–k yourself.”
“I remember (director) Matthew Vaughn pitching the idea to me, and I asked, ‘Is anyone else swearing in the movie?’ and he said, ‘No.’ So I said, ‘I’m in,'” Jackman told me, laughing, in an interview for the theatrical release of the film. “I literally went in for a half a day, and when I left, I hoped that I’d get a chance to work with these guys again. They were awesome. Michael was in the makeup chair, telling jokes the whole time. We got on really well. Both guys are phenomenal actors.”
Of course, at the time, Jackman had no idea at the time that he’d get his wish to work with Fassbender and McAvoy again, much less in an “X-Men” movie — until the director of the first two films in the “X-Men” franchise, Bryan Singer, approached him about the unique idea of playing the central character in a film that showcased mutants in their past and future incarnations for “Days of Future Past.”
“When he sent me a one-pager of the idea, I got about halfway through it, knowing I’d say, ‘Yes’ to the movie. It was such of an awesome idea,” Jackman recalled. “It was such an organic way to bring everyone together.”
New on Blu-ray and DVD, “X-Men: Days of Future Past” begins in a dystopian future where Wolverine, Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Magneto (Ian McKellen), Storm (Halle Berry) and a host of other mutants are clinging to survival. The world has become overrun by Sentinels — giant robots infused with mutant DNA — which have not only decimated the mutant population, but targeted any humans sympathetic to the mutant cause.
As it turns out, there was a key event involving a mutant 50 years earlier which led to the creation of the Sentinels. In the hope of changing the course of events, Kitty Pryde (Ellen Page) uses her powers to enable Wolverine’s mind to travel back to 1973, where his consciousness would be implanted in a younger version of himself to find the young Professor X, Magneto and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) in a desperate attempt to avert disaster.
While Jackman has been heavily involved in the X-Men universe since the film franchise kicked off in 2000, the actor admits that he was only vaguely familiar with the fan-heralded “Days of Future Past” storyline from Marvel Comics’ X-Men canon.
“I had heard about it, but had never read the comic book. So the idea of doing it on film never even crossed my mind until I read the one pager, actually,” Jackman explained. “It was really great for all of us. Everyone really loved getting back together again, because we’re all like family now.”
As Jackman found, however, the storyline turned out to be a double-blessing in a sense for the filmmakers: With a narrative that examines the idea of altering the course of history, it gave them the opportunity to right some wrongs in previous “X-Men” movies that raised the ire of the fan base.
“The fact that it came from a part of the X-Men lexicon only helped give this new movie some credibility,” Jackman said. “It’s a brilliant device to clear up some of the inaccuracies we had before, and to make it feel like a fresh beginning. It’s very, very clever and Wolverine feels more complete now. It was great playing him and doing something a little more out of the box for my character. It’s also sort of a wonderful throwback to the first movie, but now it’s a complete reverse of what Professor Xavier was doing for my character. Now I’m doing it for his.”
There’s no doubt an immeasurable amount of brutal training and commitment for Jackman that went into the creating the incredible physique of Logan/Wolverine for seventh time with “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” But the vital element that’s often overlooked in Jackman’s physical transformation into the character is an unseen weapon that doesn’t necessarily happen while he’s preparing to play the character for a film, but what transpires in the theater.
The actor’s Weapon X, if you will, is called stamina, and it’s all thanks to Jackman’s three turns on Broadway, and he’s soon heading back for a fourth with “The River” (after hosting the Tony Awards for the fourth time, no less) to stay with the flow.
“I often feel after being on stage and going to fill that I feel sharper. It’s a great discipline,” Jackman enthused. “You have to do eight performances a week and hit it 100 percent. You have to be there at the top of your game. Nothing’s harder than eight shows a week. There’s performing, dancing, singing. I think the hardest I ever worked was doing ‘The Boy from Oz’ (which earned him a Best Actor Tony in 2004). I can still tell you the finish date of the production, which was the 16th of September, because it was kind of like crossing a marathon finish line.”
Giving it his all, after all, isn’t a choice for the Tony winner and Oscar nominee – it’s a way of life, and he’s committed to being all there all the time. He’s keenly aware of the fact that people spend their hard-earned money to see him, and he never, ever, wants to disappoint.
“For any member of the audience, it could only be the once-a-year thing for them. The theater could be a special outing for somebody, as is the movies. Hey, I know. I have two young kids, so getting to the movies is not so easy,” Jackman added.
With any luck, Jackman will continue his trek as Wolverine and entertain audiences for years to come. Of course, in the age of franchise reboots, the fact that role will go to another actor someday is inevitable. At age 45, Jackman admits the idea is definitely weighing on his mind, but he’s not going to preoccupy himself with it.
“There’s got to be an end date, but I think I can do 21 or 22 more movies, something like that,” Jackman told me, laughing. “I just want see the party finishing before someone pushes me out the door. You need to help me out there. Just call me up and say, ‘Buddy, this should be our last interview for this character.'”
Original Interviews, Reviews & More By Tim Lammers