…But Gary Oldman doesn’t necessarily agree with me, either. Hard to tell what he thinks about my choice of 2001’s Hannibal as one of the Best Films of the 00’s — he’s a cagey one. And I like that. I actually had my first opportunity to interview him at the Batman: Dark Knight junket, then a few times on press lines as he was accepting awards on Heath Ledger’s behalf. Even though there was kind of cloud over those talks, I could detect twinkles of his playful sense of humor. He’s not warm, but very likable and definitely classy.
I had seen Oldman’s work before (Sid & Nancy, for sure), but I know with certainty it was for his performance in 1992’s Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula that I became a true fan. I never, ever would have thought of him as Dracula but he was compelling, commanding, alluring. That whole movie still holds up (and yes, I even like Keanu Reeves in it — his innate woodenness works for Jonathan Harker, because Harker is supposed to be first mesmerized, then in a state of shock).
After that, I followed Oldman’s career — adored him in Romeo Is Bleeding, True Romance, Immortal Beloved — then I started to notice an over-the-top element creep in with Lost in Space. He was even whackier in The Fifth Element, then came Hannibal… I was gun-shy, but as it turned out I loved him as Mason Verger! He was like a bedridden Lon Chaney channeling Paul Kersey. Such nuance under all that makeup, and I think he captured the character from the novel perfectly. Exactly as I’d envisioned.
As for the movie itself, I could’ve sworn I’d reviewed it (a special edition DVD), but I can’t locate it. So, here is a user review I found on IMDb.com that pretty much says everything I would. Except I think maybe he or she left out mention of the operatic tone… it’s definitely got that.
I did favorably review another Hannibal movie nobody else seemed to like, either. I still think Hannibal Rising is underrated, dammit!
Anyway, I was the last one in the room to interview Oldman for The Book of Eli, so I took a moment afterward to tell him I’m also a critic and that I’d completed my Best of the 00’s movie lists, that Hannibal was on it, and that furthermore a few readers had disagreed. I asked him what he thinks of the movie himself, in retrospect. He took a moment to ponder, and said, “Well, I certainly enjoyed making the movie.” I told him I loved it and still do, but I do think it should have ended as the novel did. And he said, “Oh. How does the book end?” Ha! So funny. That made my day.
After that, I interviewed Denzel Washington. He plays Eli, in case you didn’t know. I’ve talked to him before for Déjà vu, but never 1:1. The first thing he did was take my hand (and didn’t let go, as he was talking; a little disconcerting, but not altogether bad :)) and say: “What’s this polka-dot, pinup, blue streak look you’ve got going on here?” I told him I’d gotten a great compliment the day before (from Paul Bettany, but I didn’t say that), that I looked like a “punk-rock Rita Hayworth” — and he totally agreed. Nice!
BUT WAIT! There’s more… see below
At the end of the interview, Denzel said, “Bye, Rita.”
Next up was Mila Kunis, who plays Eli’s sidekick in the film (BTW I didn’t like the movie much, unfortunately… and normally, I am totally on board with what The Hughes Bros. do… I even enjoyed much of From Hell — especially the visuals, and Johnny Depp and Robbie Coltrane’s performances). She was neither here nor there, as per usual. But she was having a bit of fun that day playing “Junket word jumble” — you see, sometimes to break up the monotony of having to answer the same questions all day long, actors will play a game where someone gives them a crazy word or phrase which they have to incorporate into the interview no matter how much it doesn’t fit. For Chris Monfette, who went in just before me, it was Abraham Lincoln. For me, it was hippopotamus. (We’ll see if SciFiWire.com uses that bit in the video clip!).
The final interview of the day was The Hughes Bros., paired. I prefered that to the separate interviews they did for the international press day a couple of months back. They remembered me from that afternoon, so we got off to a good start. Allen noticed my ZOSO necklace, and asked what the symbol means. I told him it was the title of “Led Zeppelin IV” and that the song Stairway to Heaven is on that album. Which prompted a great story (before the cameras were rolling, unfortunately) about them directing Gary Oldman — Albert said he was trying to get Oldman to ramp it up for one of his big lines, “It’s not just a book!!” by telling him, “No, we cannot do a more subtle version. Gary, the fans want you to play Stairway to Heaven.”
IMO, this is the great thing about not going into any interview with stock questions, an agenda, and nothing written down. While occasionally my method backfires, usually winging it works well. The interview with The Hughes Bros. was fantastic, and it’s because of that conversation about Stairway to Heaven, which prompted my first question, which was about the choice of music in Eli’s headphones (Al Green’s How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, a BeeGee’s cover). Then that question reminded me of the opening sequence of the film — which I’d kind of forgotten about, but it really is intense and well done — and I got another awesome answer. I really like those guys, they are super-cool.
Here’s a funny little addendum… as I was leaving the room, Allen said he’d check out “Led Zeppelin IV” and added, “Thanks, love you!” I thought, “Wow. How sweet of him to say.” Then I thought again: “Ah-ha. Now that you’ve been so sweet to me, I can’t review the movie. Well-played, Mr. Hughes. Well played, indeed. Touché.”
And speaking of winging it and Paul Bettany’s colorful compliment, following are some screen-caps and recollections from the Legion junket. Dear John, from the same studio, was also presented on that day. I really like those double junkets — it’s fun to talk about two different movies at once (that’s how I was lucky enough to get the I’m Not There junket in New York in ’07; it was piggybacked with The Mist).
The night before the junket they had the screenings of both movies, back to back. I took Pamela as my guest for Dear John, since she likes romance movies much more than I do. We had coffee first; I got her favorite drink, a chai soy latte. With her is the only time I ever order that, even though I really do like it. Anyway, she loved Dear John (a Lasse Hollstrom film, based on a novel by Nicolas Sparks… yes, that is sap you see dripping off this blog). At least one of us did (though I do think the casting and acting was fantastic — Richard Jenkins owns!).
After that, they showed Legion (Pamela left; she hates horror films), and lo and behold, Paul Bettany was sitting right in front of me. I could have given him the down-in-the-trenches public movie-going experience of kicking his chair and answering my ringing cellphone, but I refrained. He was eating popcorn, and the next day at the junket, a tray of chocolate and coffee entered the room just as I did… that’s awesome. I’d had the exact same thing a few minutes before… which just may explain the crazy sugar-high, highly caffeinated interview we had.
Some reporters don’t like to eat before an interview because they’re afraid there will be something in their teeth on camera, but I find it’s better to have something fueling my brain (studies have shown eating carbs before a test is a good idea). Caffeine and chocolate makes me really bubbly… and giggly. Too much, but at least I’m friendly.
Anyway, Bettany’s answers were really short, jokey, and snarky. I can use those for Horror.com’s portion of the slot, but I don’t know if SciFiWire.com will find anything usable! It’s kind of frustrating when the actors do that; I don’t mind a sense of humor of couse, but they should be balanced with concrete answers. Oh, well.
Then again, I suppose some of my questions weren’t terribly concrete either. The first thing I said was, “I was driving in to the junket this morning, and I noticed a billboard for a movie coming out on 1/22 — there was a strapping, half-naked guy on it with wings… and it was The Rock. What gives? Is he trying to steal your thunder?” Then Bettany launched into this hilarious litany about The Rock, and Tooth Fairies vs. Angels.
Above are three movies about winged men… I saw Legion, won’t be seeing The Tooth Fairy if I can help it, and will gladly be re-watching Wings of Desire on the Special Edition DVD I just bought!
One thing pretty much everyone brought up at the Legion junket was The Ice Cream Man, played by the dear Doug Jones. See how sweet he is?
But then, WHOA!
Aptly enough, the swag they gave us at the junket included a cool Ice Cream Man tee-shirt!
On that note, you might also want to check out the exclusive interview I did with Legion’s screenwriter, Peter Schink.
Let’s see… We also got some Dear John stuff that I thought was pretty on-the-nose — I especially liked the idea of personalized postage stamps.
Talking to the Dear John actors was a pleasure. I’d never seen any of Channing Tatum’s movies before, and really didn’t know who he was, so it was odd (but nice) to be greeted with a huge hug from him. He was very sweet, friendly, open, and candid… I will wait a few years and see how all that changes and he’s more like Dennis Quaid! 😦
Amanda Seyfried was as lovely and forthcoming as ever (if a bit babbly… she was fortified by copious amounts of cold meds to get her through the day, the poor thing). She is so beautiful; she looks like a Margaret Keane waif come to life.
Another junket I completed recently was for The Last Station, a movie I saw a couple of months back. It’s the Leo Tolstoy story, and it’s a very well-made, entertaining film. I agreed to do the junket a long time ago, even though Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer (the main name-stars) weren’t on the list. It would just be James McAvoy, as far as I knew. I like him (talked to him on Wanted), and he’s got a big role in the movie, so it was fine. Then I got an email saying Helen Mirren would be at the junket after all! I was happy, because I love talking to her. She has got such charisma, charm, wit and beauty.
Well, I’m not the only one who thinks that, because her schedule wound up being so full at the junket, her publicist cut several outlets — ours was one of them. I did see her, though (she loved my leopard Steve Madden heels paired with leopard tights, and a basic black dress). She was wearing a bright blue frock, but her personality outshone it by far — just like anyone else, she came into the green room / cafeteria, sat at a table and had some borscht. (That was one of the few junkets where the lunch matched the movie’s theme — sometimes they do that, which adds a nice touch IMO — there was also chicken kiev.) She was so exuberant, and seemingly thrilled by the soup; simple pleasures!
Even though we didn’t have Helen Mirren, we did get James McAvoy (who plays a virginal secretary in the movie), and the added bonus of Paul Giamatti and Kerry Condon. In spite of the terrible video quality (from the source), I think the interviews will be posted at YouTube soon because the content is great. I loved to talking to all of them (and the director, too!).
Of all the junkets I covered here, which movie are you most excited for?
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Name Drop Blog… KLUNK!
I wonder how battered, bruised and beat up Name is, what with being dropped all the time?
Even before John Lithgow (klunk!) posted this on his Twitter feed…
…I was thinking about doing a name-drop blog. For instance, I don’t really think John Lithgow was dropping names to be pretentious; those other actors really are his friends, and he was happy to be hanging out with them in New York. It’s the same thing as any other Twitter user naming their pals in any post.
Sometimes I am concerned that I am name-dropping. But it’s my job to associate with actors and directors and the like, and if I’m describing my day it’s only natural to mention them. If somebody asks me what I did today, and it was a junket where I interviewed famous people, how can I not?
Occasionally those drop-worthy folks become friends, and then when and if I mention them for a specific reason, I feel it is the same as me naming my non-famous friends (which I also do). I remember once when an actor I know was responding to one of my blogs to me via email and complained that I *didn’t* mention her by name when I’d said I went to lunch with “a friend”. I didn’t feel it was relevant to the story. So, you just can’t win…
Still, blatant name-dropping in front of strangers *is* kind of tacky… I remember Dee Snider (klunk!) doing it on his cell phone at a junket, and Brett Ratner (klunk!) also stands out in my memory as such (I’ve noticed him doing it a few times, speaking up so that everyone around can hear).
But I think with social networking being so prominent right now, with everyone saying what they are doing, and with whom, name-dropping isn’t such an issue — especially with 20-something people. What do you think?
And so in this vein, I think I’ll bring up a couple of actor friends’ upcoming projects. One is an acting class from John Gulager’s dad, Clu Gulager. This a pretty rare opportunity, I think, to sign up for his class. There is info over at Gulager.com/acting
Clu is quite a character — I hope I can audit one of the classes, so I can learn more about his technique. (I don’t act, but I am very interested in what actors do.)
One of my favorite actors also happens to be a friend, and so I was really happy when I got Doug Hutchison’s latest DVD, Give’Em Hell, Malone, in the mail the other day. I haven’t seen it yet, but it’s rainy and lazy today so pretty soon might be the perfect time to watch this so-called “pulp noir comedy” — Thomas Jane is the classic private dick, while Doug plays a creepy character called Matchstick.
Here’s Doug, in a rare not-scary moment!
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My Latest Review: Blood Creek
Well, I’ve written a blogful. That’s it for a few days at least, I think. Whew!