Category Archives: Interviews

Interview: Nicola Peltz, Jack Reynor talk ‘Transformers: Age of Extinction’

Bigger is the operative word for the latest film in director Michael Bay’s “Transformers” franchise, “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” but not always in the way you would expect.

Can we say once again that there’s more than meets the eye?

“It’s a lot bigger — the effects are on a different level than anything that we’ve seen before,” actor Jack Reynor told me, joined by co-star Nicola Peltz, in a recent interview. “A lot of the camera work is very dynamic and very new, and at the heart of the film is a really great human story more than anything else.”

Opening in 2D, 3D and on IMAX screens nationwide on Friday, “Transformers: Age of Extinction” stars Mark Wahlberg as Cade Yeager, an auto mechanic who makes a discovery that not only draws the Autobots and Decepticons to them, but some very determined CIA agents who have a sinister agenda to carry out. Peltz stars as Cade’s daughter, Tessa, and Reynor plays her boyfriend, Shane Dyson.

Transformers Age of Extinction stars Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor (photo Paramount Pictures Tony Nelson)
“Transformers: Age of Extinction” stars Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor (photo: Paramount Pictures/Tony Nelson).

“When we start the film, the Autobots are in exile and are afraid of humans, and humans are afraid of them,” Reynor said. “Through the relationship between Mark’s, Nicola’s and my characters, we try to restore their faith in humanity. It’s at different scale. We really hope it’s going to be an enjoyable thing for the audience.”

The odd part about working on “Transformers: Age of the Extinction,” Reynor says, is while he comes from the independent film world, working on this franchise at times was much like work he was used to.

“It was still an intimate environment, because at the end of the day, it was still Mark, Nicola and myself,” Reynor said. “That makes it feel smaller than you would imagine. Even though the movie is incredibly big and the effects are on a different level of anything we’ve seen before, between the three of us, at least, it felt like it was a small environment to work in.”

Peltz, who has done green screen work before in big-screen adventure “The Last Airbender,” said she was surprised by the amount of practical effects and props used in the film, something that ultimately aided everybody’s performances.

“I actually thought there was going to be more green screen than there actually was working on the movie,” Peltz said. “Instead, Michael makes these beautiful, huge sets, which are all real, and the car chases and the explosions are real. So having the tools and being in situations where we could use them was really amazing. Of course, we had to use our imaginations when talking to the Autobots and talk to nothing in those cases.”

At the time of the interview, neither Peltz or Reynor had seen the completed film yet, but already had the thrill of seeing themselves among Autobots, Decepticons and Dinobots for the first time with an 11-minute presentation of footage at CinemaCon in Las Vegas earlier this year.

“Watching the footage, you go, ‘Oh, my God, when I was filming that scene, there was nothing there.’ But when then add the CGI, it’s truly mind-blowing,” Peltz described. “It’s so crazy to watch knowing you were part of the experience.”

To help his actors stay engaged without any Transformers visually present, Bay found a way to keep his everybody working on the film motivated, Reynor said.

“It’s a real cool thing Michael does about every three weeks, where he puts together a sizzle reel, which has about 10 minutes of footage of film from the last three weeks we shot,” Reynor recalled. “Even without any Autobots in it or any of the rendered effects, it still looks really, really impressive, and it’s really exciting and fun. That was a big confidence boost to us all. We felt like we were making a really cool film, even though we hadn’t seen any Autobots or Decepticons while making it. It’s a really clever thing that Michael does and it really boosts the morale of the cast and crew.”

On set, Peltz said, Bay is ball of energy.

“Michael told me even before we started filming, ‘I move very quickly and you’re not going to be sitting in your trailer. Whether it’s your scene or not, you’re going to be on set learning and studying.’ I love that,” Peltz enthused. “His energy is so contagious because he is so excited about this film, so to work on it with him and feel that is really wonderful.”

Transformer Age of Extinction poster Wahlberg, Peltz, Reynor (photo -- Paramount Pictures)
“Transformers: Age of Extinction” poster featuring Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz and Jack Reynor (photo — Paramount Pictures).

Although Reynor was born in Colorado, he moved with his family to his mother’s native Ireland at age 2. One thing Reynor discovered, though, is no matter where you grow up, the Transformers — which began as Hasbro toys and were featured in cartoon form before becoming big-screen characters – will eventually find you.

“Since it was a Japanese concept and was around about 25 or 30 years before they made the first film, and it expanded across Europe quite quickly,” said Reynor, 22. “The generation before me grew up watching ‘Transformers’ on TV in Ireland, so it was definitely something I was exposed to in a big way and I had a full line of toys. I’ve always known of ‘Transformers’ because I’ve always been a fan of it, so to eventually to become a part of the franchise myself was an incredible opportunity.”

In a way, Reynor said, Transformers toys prepared him to work on the film, because while playing with the figures, he was making movies in his mind.

“The cool thing is, it doesn’t change a lot when you’re standing there on the set of the franchise yourself,” Reynor said. “You can try to relate to what you’re doing the same way you did when you were a kid. It brings a level of authenticity to what you’re doing and it makes it tangible for you in your own head. It really helps your performance.”

Being around six brothers growing up, Peltz, 19, more than had her share being around Transformers toys in her youth.

“I definitely knew of Transformers growing up, but it wasn’t only a boys thing,” Peltz said with a laugh. “I didn’t play with any of the toys, but my oldest brother loved them and my two youngest brothers are obsessed with the movies. All of them are very, very excited for me because of the film.”

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Interview: John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, Michael Lomenda talk ‘Jersey Boys’

Not only are Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons workin’ their way back into popular culture with the film version of the Tony Award-winning musical “Jersey Boys” — thanks to the introspective direction of screen legend Clint Eastwood, the story of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group is being told from a unique, new perspective.

That’s because “Jersey Boys,” the movie — based on the 2006 Tony Award-winning musical — isn’t so much about classic songs like “Sherry,” “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Who Loves You” or “December 1963 (Oh, What a Night),” as it is the fascinating true story of four guys from New Jersey who through humble beginnings and tumultuous times form and sustain one of the greatest singing groups in pop music history. The songs are expertly performed and have their right place in “Jersey Boys” to be sure; it’s just that the film is much more than your standard movie musical.

“I would call it a musical biopic much in the way of ‘Ray’ and ‘The Doors’ – they have music in them, but they’re classified as biopics. We certainly wouldn’t call it a jukebox musical,” John Lloyd Young told me in a recent interview, joined by fellow stars Erich Bergen and Michael Lomenda.

'Jersey Boys'  2 (photo Warner Bros)

Young, who won the Best Actor in a Musical Tony for the original stage production, reprises his role as Valli for the film version, while Bergen plays Bob Guadio, who, sang, played keyboard and co-wrote many of The Four Seasons’ songs with producer Bob Crewe. Lomenda plays Nick Massi, who played bass and sang in the original lineup of the group and was responsible for many vocal arrangements; and Vincent Piazza rounds out the core cast as Tommy DeVito, the guitarist, vocalist and linchpin of the group who recruited Valli and fell headlong into the trappings of fame.

Even though the stage version of “Jersey Boys” moves along quite swiftly, Bergen likens the movie version of the story to smash Broadway drama “Lady Day,” which recently earned star Audra McDonald her record-breaking sixth Tony Award.

“It’s the story of Billie Holiday and there’s about 20 songs in the play, but it’s not considered a musical. The reason why, is, the songs further plot and serve the story,” Bergen told me. “It just so happens that Audra is playing a famous singer, much like we do in ‘Jersey Boys.’ The songs are a product of the play and serve as some of the plot points. There’s really not that much in ‘Jersey Boys’ about the creation of the music. ‘Sherry,’ ‘Big Girls,’ ‘Walk Like a Man’ — the songs are what these guys were doing for work. ‘Jersey Boys,’ though, is really about four guys growing up and going through life together and experiencing the problems of brotherhood.”

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Fans of the stage versions of “Jersey Boys will no doubt hail Eastwood for sticking to his guns and casting the best people possible for the roles instead of casting familiar Hollywood faces in attempt to appease a demographic. Young, Bergen and Lomenda were all personally selected by Eastwood after he watched them perform their roles on stage, and while they knew the stage production backwards and forward, they loved how the Oscar-winning filmmaker had them perform their roles in a new sort of spotlight.

“Clint Eastwood puts the story in front on you. The music is what they do, but we also go behi

nd the story of these guys,” Young observed. “Whereas on Broadway, the music is put in front of you and it’s electrifying every time they do a number, and that’s great. I love both mediums. The play is like looking at the outside of a mansion, and you could see where the guys lived. But ‘Jersey Boys’ the movie is like taking you inside that mansion for a tour. The psychological reality of these characters is much more immediately on display in a close-up on film than you would get in an evening on stage.”

“Jersey Boys” is bold in that it’s a warts-and-all story of the founding four members, including their ties to the local mob in New Jersey, the in-fighting between the group’s members, and the critical role each of them played to truly make The Four Seasons gel. And while most identify the group by Valli’s trademark falsetto, the movie delves into less-celebrated aspects of the group, including Gaudio’s role as songwriter, DeVito’s muscle to find success for the band at any cost, and Massi’s melding of the vocals.

“Frankie has sometimes said that Nick was his first vocal coach, and you see a little bit of that in the film which is really cool. He had great ears and helped shape Frankie’s raw talent,” Lomenda said. “Nicky was a musician first and his talent was arranging, so it’s great to see him partially get credit for putting Frankie’s vocals up top and all that harmony below.”

Unfortunately, Massi and DeVito earned their credit the hard way through the troubles they experienced as the group started to come together.

“People, of course, know of Frankie, but story opens the curtains for the other guys,” Lomenda said. “Not only do we see their musical history, but we see that they’re hardcore, from the wrong side of the tracks guys who were in and out of jail. It took them a while to form The Four Seasons, because they couldn’t stay out of jail.”

“Nick learned how to play guitar in jail. They called the jail ‘The Rahway Academy of the Arts,'” Lomenda added with a laugh. “The thing that’s cool about them is that they’re singing songs like ‘Sherry,’ ‘Walk Like a Man’ and ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry,’ which some people consider as bubblegum pop. But these guys were really scrappers.”

Jersey Boys
John Lloyd Young, Erich Bergen, VIncent Piazza, and Michael Lomenda in “Jersey Boys” (photo: Warner Bros.)

Parallel universes

Those who caught the Tony Awards recently will no doubt recall the brilliant stage duet between “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” star Jessie Mueller and the real Carole King. However, because of the old wounds “Jersey Boys” opens up for the Valli, Young doesn’t expect to experience such a surreal moment anytime soon, even though the singer, 80, is still touring and is active as ever.

“He would never want to do that. Frankie is very possessive of his own life and career, and he sees them and ‘Jersey Boys’ as two separate things,” Young said. “Frankie would much rather have a documentary of his life made … because the way some of the things portrayed in film were done for dramatic effect. That’s interesting to play for actor, but that’s not true to life from Frankie’s perspective. He’s got a mixed-up feeling about it, and the mixed-up feeling the man has for the story being out there is something I can build from and put it into my character.”

Bergen said the feeling is exactly the opposite for Guadio, though, as the legendary, 71-year-old  songwriter has been intricately involved in “Jersey Boys” since the beginning.

“Anyone who has done a ‘Jersey Boys’ stage production has worked with him,” Bergen said. “He’s very involved in the music, and he’s produced the cast album and the soundtrack to this film. On the touring production I was in, he really encouraged us to leave out theater voices behind, and really found the R&B and doo-wop sound. We have a different relationship with him than we do with Frankie. Bob is very much a producer of the show and will do whatever the audience likes.”

Interview: Keira Knightley talks ‘Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit’

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.

Keira Knightley in 'Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit'
Keira Knightley in “Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit” (photo: Paramount Pictures().

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 lov

ely film about friendship and making an album,” Knightley said. “It’s very positive.”

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Interview: Bill Paxton talks ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

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.”

Bill Paxton in 'Edge of Tomorrow'
Bill Paxton in “Edge of Tomorrow” (photo: Warner Bros.).

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.”

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