Interview: Steve Zahn (“War for the Planet of the Apes”)

Steve Zahn’s “Bad Ape” brings the laughs to the latest “Planet of the Apes” film, “War for the Planet of the Apes”.

As funny as Bad Ape is, I’d say playing an Ape isn’t the easiest thing. So how did Steve prepare for this role?

“It’s a very long and complicated process. I’ve always been a physical actor … but this is a completely different thing. It’s not about imitating. I learnt that early on. You have to embody it. It has to become second nature because you have to play a complex character. When you’re acting the last thing you want to think about is anything physical because it just doesn’t work. So when I got there on the first day, I thought all about this and I got really scared. I really worked hard.

On the first day, when I did my first scene with Andy – you know my God! It’s like your first day on the team is playing in the superbowl. But because Andy is the type of person, type of actor that he is, he made it so much easier.”

Steve has seen himself on the big screen many times but this time it was different. “It was a moving experience. It’s hard to explain why it was moving. I think it’s because you put so much effort and time into it, and to actually see yourself as an ape. Not some created computer thing, you see your work. All those things you came up with – it’s really exciting.”

In order to get a great film on screen, great direction is crucial. One of Steve’s favourite director’s is Steven Soderbergh (he worked with him on the Jennifer Lopez/George Clooney film “Out of Sight”). He loves the fact that Steven didn’t call “Action!” on set. “I hate when a director does that.” But isn’t that the word you need to get the scene started?

“It depends on how it’s done. I don’t like a big kind of like “AND GO, ACT!” It’s kind of totally contradictory to the whole idea of  just do your thing. I hate when people do that. But it wasn’t like that on this film. Matt (Reeves) is one of a kind. That guy is a brilliant director.”

In his career, Steve has been a part of some much loved films. When I tell him that one of my all time favourite films is “Reality Bites”, he doesn’t seem too impressed. So, if it’s not “Reality Bites”, which of his back catalogue do most people want to talk to him about?

“It varies. It really does. It depends on who you are. There are so many different comedies, like “Saving Silverman” is a big one, or “That Thing You Do”, or now I have done the series of “Whimpy Kids”, so I have these little guys who recognize me. It’s interesting how perception or over time it changes. How you become a part of somebody’s subconscious mind. It’s fun to guess, when someone is walking up to you,  what movie is the one they like.”

Next up, Steve is working on a series called “The Crossing”. In the meantime, you can catch him and all of his ape cast mates at the cinema in “War for the Planet of the Apes”.

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Review: WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

The third film, in the reboot of “The Planet of the Apes” franchise is here and this time it is all about the Apes going into battle with the humans in order to regain their freedom.

Director Matt Reeves has described this film as a biblical epic where Caesar can be describes as the “Moses” of the Apes.

I’d have to agree with him – this really is an epic film. Everything about it is big. The battle scenes, the emotions and even the apes themselves.

Fans have loved every minute of this film. Many of them are not afraid to admit that they have been very moved by it.

Reeves has done an amazing job. It is visually spectacular. To think that he starts off with people in motion capture suits and is able to turn that into the phenomenal visuals and mammoth war film he gives us is mind blowing.

All of that said, this film is not for me. I could appreciate the beauty of it and the skill it took to make it, however, the world of the apes just isn’t for me. I got bored quickly and would not rush in to watch any of the Planet of the Apes films. Not because they are badly made, but because this all comes down to personal taste, and I personally don’t enjoy these films. I just can’t connect with the apes.

That said, my review is redundant as fans of this film have been blown away and are raving about it. So, if you like the Apes, go and check it out – you won’t be disappointed. If you are not a fan, go see “Baby Driver”, “Spiderman: Homecoming” or “Wonder Woman” instead.

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Review: THE BEGUILED

According to vocabulary.com, “being beguiled is like being captivated, charmed, delighted, enthralled, or entranced. When you’re beguiled, you really like what you see.”

A truer definition could not have been written about Sofia Coppola’s latest film, “The Beguiled”. A tale about a group of (multi generational) women who are cut off from the world and have taken shelter in their Estate, during the Civil War. Their lives are turned upside down when they take in a wounded soldier.

“The Beguiled” is stunning. From the captivating performances that leads Nicole Kidman, Elle Fanning, Kirsten Dunst & Colin Farrell deliver, to the charming and delightful supporting cast, to the absolutely beautiful imagery on screen.

It is also very funny, but herein is where the problem, at least for me, lies. I wasn’t sure whether or not the laughs were intentional. Was I laughing with the film or at the film? As a result, I felt quite uncomfortable watching it. But was this Sofia Coppola’s intention?

Vocabulary.com goes on to add, “When you’re beguiled, you like what you see so much that you can’t take your eyes off it — almost like being in a trance.” And that is what Sofia Coppola has managed to do. So even through my uncertainty, and sometimes uncomfortable moments, I was totally entranced with what was happening on the screen.

So was this an enjoyable experience or not? I am still having that debate with myself. “The Beguiled” has truly baffled me. However, Coppola has managed to leave a lasting impression on me with this film and for that reason alone it is worth checking this film out.

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Interview: Matt Reeves (“War for the Planet of the Apes)

Director Matt Reeves is back to direct the 3rd film, in the “Planet of the Apes” reboot, “War For the Planet of the Apes”.

He sees this film as a biblical epic where Caesar is the Ape Moses “because if you look at it in the history of this early ape civilisation, he is the critical figure. Without him, they wouldn’t be where they are. The idea, especially given the conflict of this story, which is a war story, was to put Caesar to his greatest test yet and in passing it, he will transcend into the realm of the mythic. He will be that ape that other apes will look back at and say, “he forged the path for us. He is why we are here.”

With a biblical film, comes a mammoth budget but it doesn’t mean that Matt can just spend all the money he wants in the way he wants.

“It’s interesting because the thing about these movies, the movies are enormously expensive but what is most expensive are the visual effects. The challenge of this movie was, I wanted to do an ape point of view movie. And that meant that the apes are in every scene. And so, in the other films there were always scenes that didn’t have apes in them and the apes shots are incredibly expensive. So the budget actually goes paying to make sure you see these close ups of these apes and that you are connecting to the emotion of what you are seeing. So, in a weird way, you’d be surprised how the production is not as grand as you think. However, given that, it’s a war movie, so we wanted to have battles. I wanted it to be like a David Lean movie. I wanted the movie to be the most ambitious apes movie yet and we were able to do that. It was thrilling. You know we went out and shot on 65mm and we shot on these beautiful locations. We have some pretty sizeable battle scenes. The thing that matters the most though, and the thing that really, most of that money went to, was the intimacy. Which is all of the stuff that really matters. It’s a war movie between the species but it’s the war for Caesar’s soul that really matters and so most of that money went to make sure that the emotions that Andy Serkis was giving us in his performance were translated into this photo real ape that you looked at and felt like you were seeing yourself inside.

In order for this film to work, we have to embrace these apes and have some sort of affection for them. That said, how does Matt go about casting an ape and how does he know that even though this is a good actor, a good actor isn’t going to be able to necessarily be able to convey the emotions you need for a good ape.

“It’s not that they can’t convey the emotions because a good actor can convey the emotions. The question is can they find a way to convey the emotions and still do what is required physically? What basically has to happen is that they have to be able to work with Terry Notary, to be in their bodies in such a way. It’s almost like you are learning a certain skill that then you have to forget, because the only thing that really matters is the emotional essence. But if you can’t as a foundation, do the ape movements, then the illusion won’t be complete. So the casting process is challenging. You know, the actors come in and I first have them do a scene, that is a human scene, and I see what they are like as actors. Then we start throwing at them these kind of more primitive exercises and then if there is an actor that I really like, we have them do call backs where I have them work with Terry Notary, and I talk to Terry and say, “So Terry, you know, I like this actor a lot, what was your sense about their ability to pick up these movements?” He gives me his thoughts and ultimately I make the call as to whether or not I think I am going to get what I need from that actor. So it’s an unusual process.”

I’ve always marvelled at how a director can see the end product even when what is being directed is far from what it will look like on screen. How does Matt do that?

“Well the direction is actually easier for me, than the putting together. Because the direction, look I am looking at Andy Serkis in the first version of the movie that I am making is not Planet of the Apes, it’s planet of these people in these mo-cap suits. That movie works. That’s the movie I first cut together. But what happens is, you then have to find a way to, in post, represent that movie and so much of what is supposed to be there isn’t there, and you have to look at it as if it is there. So you do this weird thing where, you know as a director, my job is to respond to what I am seeing. Here I have to block out things I am not supposed to be seeing and yet respond to the essence of what is going to be there. So it’s a weird mind trick you play on yourself and that’s the hardest part actually.”

In the past Matt has said that he sees Planet of the Apes as more than just three films, does he still see it that way?

“For sure. Yeah, I mean one of the things we were seeding in “Bad Ape”, was this notion that there are more apes out there, that aren’t Caesar’s apes, and that the world is much larger than the apes ever imagined. And I think, those apes might not just be pockets of one and two, there might be communities of apes that wouldn’t have had the benefit of Caesar’s leadership and so the conflicts in the future may not just be between humans and apes, they might be between the apes.”

But Matt’s world isn’t all about the Apes, his next big film is the much anticipated film, “The Batman”. How is he feeling about this project?

“I’m excited. We’re at the very beginning. I just finished this movie. I mean literally, the one thing about doing a movie where the main characters don’t exist until they are realised through the most complicated visual effects that there are today, that means the movie is not done until literally you are done. So I finished the movie about eight days ago, literally. That is  what is so weird. I have been working on this film for the last three years, and the last year is all about the realisation of shots. And then what happens is around the time that the last shot comes in, because we will work up until the very end, you’re done. So suddenly I am like, so that’s the movie, and then it’s like, “Here’s the movie”. It’s a very strange process. So, the point of that being, I haven’t even begun working on “The Batman” yet but I am very excited about it.”

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is in cinemas now.

 

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Interview: Edgar Wright (“Baby Driver”)

Edgar Wright is back with a fresh take on the action/heist film, like only he can make!

I love that in this day and age of reboots, remakes, reimaginings, sequels, etc., Edgar has come up with something original! “It isn’t easy getting an original film made these days so I have to give credit to MRC and Tri star who financed this movie, because it’s so rare to get an original movie these days – especially in the summer. I think you get a lot around awards times, but I think this summer, there’s only a handful of original movies, so I feel very fortunate that I got to make it. I think you have to work harder to get it off the ground because you have no pre-existing awareness of what it is. It basically does not exist in anybody else’s mind until they see a trailer and you’ve read some reviews.”

In “Baby Driver” the music is just as important as the film itself, so what came first the songs or the scenes?

“The initial spark of the idea was from a song that I used to listen to a lot when I was 21. It’s the first song that’s in the movie, “Bell Bottoms” by The John Spencer Blues Explosion. I would just listen to that song all the time and I would visualise this car chase, and I wasn’t a director at the time but I could just visualise the scene and then I sort of thought, I have to come up with the film that goes with the scene. So then when I actually wrote the script, which I started doing 10 years ago, I wouldn’t write the scene until I had the right song.”

So why is now the right time to have made this film?

“As I said, the original idea goes back 21 years ago, I tried to write it 10 years ago, I finished writing it 6 years ago. I think it was just building up the confidence to do it. I mean, I don’t think it’s a movie I could have made 10 years ago. I feel like I have been building up in confidence to do this.”

Although Edgar wrote the film with songs in mind, he didn’t write parts with certain actors in mind. Well there was one person he always knew he was going to cast.

“The only person that I wrote it for in mind was Jon Hamm, because I knew him. I’ve known him for about nine years, and so I wrote the part of Buddy with Jon in mind. Everybody else, like obviously people like Ansel and Lily and Eisa, are younger, so they weren’t on the scene when I was first writing the thing. And then people like Kevin (Spacey) and Jamie (Foxx), if anything are bigger than I was imagining. They’re sort of, ‘Oh wow, I can’t believe I have these guys to do these parts. It’s amazing’.”

Edgar is of the belief that “the worst crime is to get kind of really complacent.” So does he not like to take the easy way out and just keep making the same reliable films?

“I don’t know. I think in terms of doing sequels and stuff, you know, the films take so long. So say you’ve been working on a zombie film for three years, the last thing I want to do for the next two years is doing another zombie film. So you just want to keep switching it up and doing different sorts of subject matters. That’s not to say that I would never do a sequel. But I think if you have the opportunity to keep doing different stuff, then you should take it.”

So what’s next for Edgar?  “Shadows” is listed as Edgar’s next project on IMDB, is this his next project? “Yeah, don’t believe everything you read on IMDB … It’s something that David Walliams (and I) wrote a draft for but I don’t know if that’s necessarily going to be something that I am working on.”

Whatever he is working on next, I can’t wait to see. In the meantime, we can all sit back and enjoy the thrill and joy that is Baby Driver. It is in cinemas now.

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Interview: Ansel Elgort & Lily James (“Baby Driver”)

Ansel Elgort stars at the “Baby Driver” in the film of the same name, from writer/director Edgar Wright.

I caught up with Ansel and, his co-star/love interest in the film, former Downton Abbey star, Lily James to chat about the film, working with big stars and Ansel finding his groove.

“Baby Driver” is such a fresh, fabulous, fun film so how did Lily and Ansel feel when they found out they were going to be a part of it?

“I was very very excited, because I already knew that Ansel, Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey and Jon Hamm, it was pretty much all cast and also, it’s Edgar Wright and I’m a huge fan of his movies, so I was thrilled.” Lily said.

Ansel felt the same as his co-star, “I was pretty thrilled too. It took me a while to get it. I first read it in 2014 and I don’t think I got it until 2015 – about a year later. And I had met with Edgar a lot, and had auditioned with him a lot. And I loved this film from the first time that I had read it. When I first read it, the script had the music in the script too.  So it was an application on an ipad. So instead of reading a paper script, you read it digitally and you could listen to all of the music because the soundtrack was written in initially because the music is such an intricate part of the story telling”.

Edgar Wright has said that he has had the idea for this film twenty years ago, when he heard a Bell Bottoms track. Lily said that Edgar told her that “really the reason it’s taken 20 years is because he has been waiting for Ansel to become a leading man, to play the part.”

Starring in a film written and directed by Edgar Wright and working alongside big names like Kevin Spacy, Jamie Foxx and Jon Hamm is no doubt thrilling, but it is also, no doubt, a little nerve wracking. How did Lily and Ansel feel the night before their first day? Were they able to get any sleep?

Lily “felt excited and nervous but I think it’s really comforting to know that you are around these incredible, phenomenal actors because you know that they are going to support you and make you better”

Ansel reckons that he slept well. “Usually I don’t sleep well the night before my first day but I was so excited and I had so much confidence that this movie would be so great. Apparently if it is going well on set, then apparently it’s not going to be good.  Even though this was difficult because it was long hours and an ambitious shoot, it was pretty clear that we were doing something great.”

Like his character, “Baby”, Ansel is very passionate about music. He recently tweeted “Expect at least one single every month for the next year. This time I mean it.” Given how busy he is with his acting, how is he planning to make this happen?

I have so much music. I am making so many songs right now. I am just pumping them out and it feels so good, and it feels like I found my sound, I found my groove. I know who I am.”

He has so far kept to his word, releasing his latest single … on …

It’s a busy few days for Ansel, he has kept to his word, releasing “All I think About is You” on 22nd June, and as of today, as well as listening to his new music, you can also see him (and co-star Lily James) on the big screen, as Baby Driver is in cinemas now.

 

 

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Interview: Brendan Gleeson (“Hampstead”)

Brendan Gleeson stars alongside Diane Keaton, in the romantic comedy, inspired by actual events, “Hampstead”.

I always love sitting down for a chat with Brendan Gleeson. You are always guaranteed an interesting and fun chat.

This time around we spoke about his new film “Hampstead”, how he and Diane made their very different acting styles work, his real thoughts about fame/celebrity and lots more.

Brendan was attracted to this story because it “is full of heart and then I read the trial scene, and I said, ‘This is so bizarre, it must be true.'”

Diane Keaton plays Harry’s love interest, Emily. Both Brendan and Diane have two very different acting styles, so how did they make it work?

“It can be frustrating (the 2 very different styles), but the thing is, the way she works is genuine, and the way I work is genuine and you can always get around that. It’s where you have people playing games and not being entirely, either collaborative or truthful about what they’re doing, that’s when you have an issue.

I mean it is an interesting kind of a mix because I do kind of worry the thing, like a bone, before I go onto it and then that’s it and kind of jump in. Whereas with her, when she’s in there, it can go in any kind of direction. I like to be able to do that to but it’s kind of trying to make sure that it just doesn’t all become a free for all. But like, there’s elements of me that says, ‘Well, what are you being a control freak about, just let it go?’. And there are elements of her kind of saying, Well OK, that kind of works. So you couldn’t help but enjoy her. She’s a wonderful presence. You’re getting off camera, what you’re getting on camera, so there’s no competition with her, no game playing… so I remember at one point deciding to just enjoy it, what else could I do, but enjoy it. What else should you do – you’re crazy! You’re working with Dianne Keaton – enjoy it!”

Brendan got into acting for the art not the fame, so how does he feel about the press and how does he strike that balance in press junkets of giving away some of yourself, enough to keep things interesting, while not giving everything away?

“Generally the press over here, in Ireland, has acted pretty well. There are a few times when people tried to start doing toe-rag stuff, and I don’t think it was particularly popular and so the press has dealt well with us up to now.”

“I don’t want to be famous, to be honest with you it’s a price that you have to pay. That you can’t go into a place and just melt into it. At times it can be lovely, particularly over in South Carolina, where I have been for the past five months. People were very generous about what they’d say, and they would move on. They would give you a little gift and they would move away. Whereas a lot of people actually want to take stuff from you and put you on their day, and fill up their day with your stuff, and that becomes a bit relentless. But it is nice to feel that you are making an impact with the work but I never agreed to giving people my life, and you know, I had the kids before I went into this thing, so they needed to be protected in that way too, in that they didn’t sign up to it.

And from our point of view, we’re very passionate about the work, and it is really about the work, and we are trying to get people to see the work, so we appreciate the fact that people are putting it out there. But I don’t think you have to sign up; you know the notion of celebrity, I think is very dull. Why do you want to know the way I brush my teeth. What’s wrong with you? Who cares? I think there’s this odd notion of celebrity and we try not to buy into it.”

Brendan has a very eclectic acting CV. Just this year he will be seen in,  “Live By Night”, “Hampstead”, David E Kelley’s upcoming, 10 part, TV series, “Mr Mercedes”, and Paddington 2! So how does he decide what he will say yes to?

“I kind of had a rule of thumb that I would do one thing a year that had an artistic side of worth, I didn’t want to be fluff the whole time. At the same time, when I started doing this, it became so clear, I remember the first time I went out onto a big film set. It was down in Temple Bar and it was “Far and Away”… just the enormity of the story telling  – the scale of it, I kind of remember saying to myself, I’m not going to allow myself to get so grim about it. I really am serious about it as an artistic pursuit, for want of a better term, but you’ve got to enjoy it! But it also has to have quality – “you have to treat the audience with respect but at the same time, if you can’t have a laugh, what are you doing in the industry?”

Brendan’s CV boasts over eighty films. Many of us have enjoyed a rake of his films but does Brendan sit and rewatch any of his own films?

“‘The General’ is one every so often that I would take out and look at because it was the first one and ‘Braveheart’ is one that comes on a lot, and I find it very hard not to watch ‘Braveheart’ because it’s such a well made film that if you get caught for 10 – 15 seconds, next thing you know, you are parking your bum on the side of the couch.

But there is a whole lot of work that has just disappeared and some of them would have been very heartfelt and you poured a lot into them. You kind of feel that film lasts, but actually, it doesn’t. There’s so much film now, there’s a lot of stuff that you may as well never have made it.”

So what’s next for Brendan? He has David E. Kelly’s 10 part TV series, ‘Mr Mercedes’. While he found the 5 month shoot challenging at time, he was glad he took the risk.

And is there something that he has yet to do but would love to?

” I don’t really have bucket lists to be honest with you but I haven’t worked with the Coen Bros. I may be doing it though. It’s a tiny little thing (shooting in August) but I don’t care, that was one thing (I always wanted to do) … they’re just so great, so hopefully this will come about.”

I really hope that comes about too. But while we are waiting to see that on the big screen, you can catch Brendan and Diane Keaton, in “Hampstead”, in Irish cinemas, from today.

 

 

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