Sunday, August 07, 2011

Interview with Vera Farmiga - 18th October, 2009

Promoting: Up in the Air
Venue: The Mayfair Hotel
Interview type: Press conference

Question (Q): It's a joyful script to listen to. It must have been a pleasure for you to read. How did you assess your character when you first read the script? Alex is a similarly free-spirited character, but of course with hidden depths that we discover later.

Vera Farmiga (VF): Yeah. I didn't have the luxury of reading the script without knowing what happens in the end, so I had preconceived ideas. And it was challenging to play a woman who was very much like a man. And oftentimes, when a woman behaves this way, it can be interpreted as – it was difficult for me to – it was a fine line, I found to tread, to have the softness and yet to sort of take control of her sexuality and unapologetically make demands that usually you see men making in scripts. And I really liked the male perspective on heartbreak that I hadn't read before.

Q: Obviously, unemployment features quite heavily in the film. Do you have any interesting experiences of being fired?

VF: I worked as an air-conditioning technician for Fedders & Emerson Fine Cool Air Conditioning, as a customer service representative, who repaired air conditioners over the phone, as much as I was able to tell them whether the VTU was too large a unit for the space they were trying to cool or whatever. And I guess I was too chatty on the phone. I didn't get fired, but they did want to demote me, take me off the phones and give me more of a clerical position, but I just shortened the chat.

Q: There were lots of real-life locations used in the film. Did that present any particular challenges?

VF: What was most amusing for me was to see the fanaticism that George attracts. I mean, that was overwhelming and so odd. For me, no-one ever knows who I am, they always think I'm a producer on the film, but watching George having to deal with that, and him having just to simply open a door and close it and then there's a standing ovation that goes for blocks! And he's so gallant and gracious and takes his bow. But I didn't think that it impeded any of the work.

Q: In the nude scene, was that really you? And if it was, how comfortable were you with it?

VF: I had shot this when I had about six pounds more trunk in my badunk-adunk. I was pregnant and I did do the scene. But I think my bottom had become too large (laughs). I didn't think so – I think that's a question for Mister Reitman, because I did attempt to do the nudity. I got to certainly choose my body double and I thought Jason did a good job of selecting someone that was pretty accurate – my body double, Trish has been in many films. Perhaps on the DVD extras...


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Interview with Anna Kendrick - 18th October, 2009

Promoting: Up in the Air
Venue: The Mayfair Hotel, London Film Festival
Interview type: One-on-one

Q: It's a joyful script to listen to. It must have been a pleasure for you to read. How did you assess your character when you first read the script? Your character is a bit more explained from the word go, but we do discover a bit more about her and about her background. What appealed to you about it?

Anna Kendrick (AK): First it's that sort of rare thing, this girl who's so intelligent and complicated and her character does not revolve around a romantic storyline. And that was enough to make it fascinating in itself because it just doesn't happen, you don't read scripts like that. And I guess I'm normally so timid in real life that I get really excited by characters who get to kind of tell people off and telling off George Clooney was pretty awesome.

Q: There's a wonderful scene where you go to pieces in the airport after receiving a text message from your boyfriend. How much of that was in the script and how much of it was you on the day?

AK: You mean in terms of the crying? I don't really remember what was in the script exactly, other than that she just starts crying. And I knew that, like so many of the scenes that in some ways are really heartbreaking for me and for Natalie (Anna's character) and there's almost this desire to play it really heartbreaking and really unfunny, I think. I knew it was supposed to be funny but that it couldn't really be funny for me. And it was a long day of sort of trying different noises and it was kind of brutal, because I was so upset all day. And Jason would demonstrate occasionally, because he knew I was running out of juice, various squeaks and moans and wails and stuff and trying to find the right thing that was still not funny to me, but hopefully funny to other people.

Q: There were lots of different real-life locations in this film, including several different airports. When you had the meltdown, was that in an actual airport lounge?

AK: Well, actually, it was in a hotel lobby. It was a little uncomfortable. I guess because it was a hotel, we could sort of shut down the lobby, so there weren't that many looky-lous, but it was still just the space and the extras and even though they're part of the film, you don't really know them and it's still sort of embarrassing, but I think on that particular day it was less about other people and was just more about the space and feeling very – I wanted something to grab onto, it was a very uncomfortable day.

Q: Your character has her views of love and life deeply challenged in this film. Did it affect your own views on those in any way? Was it hard to resist them when someone as seductive as George Clooney is trying to lure you to the lone wolf side?

AK: I think obviously Natalie has really considered ideas about what she wants and what she expects and I don't have many of those same ideas, so I know that there are things that I want and expect from life that I won't get and refuse to accept just yet. But her views on love are not my views on love.

Q: You've gone from playing quite a small role in Twilight, which was obviously a huge success, to playing a lead role in this film, which will obviously be a big success too and against George Clooney, which is amazing. How did you feel when you got this role?

AK: I was sort of shocked beyond belief, because I thought Jason hated me. My audition was very strange and I think Jason was not trying to psych me out by not showing any kind of enthusiasm, but I thought he hated me and then when I got the job I was so shocked and I thought, 'Oh, he's just like that – he's just going to be a tyrant on set', but he's very, very nice. But yeah, I was very surprised and thrilled beyond words, I mean, the script is so beautiful. And I sort of didn't really think that George was doing it – for whatever reason, I just assumed that it was too good to be true, for a script to be this good and to be working with George Clooney. I just thought it was one of those things that was rumoured and then Jason told me the Italy story and I got really excited. And that was one of those moments where I was sitting at lunch with him trying to act like, 'Oh, right, of course I'm going to be in a movie with George Clooney, because I do that sort of thing'.


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Interview with Jason Reitman - 18th October, 2009

Promoting: Up in the Air
Venue: The Mayfair Hotel, London
Interview type: Press conference

Question (Q): The film's based on a book, isn't it? If I read the book, would I recognise it in the film?

Jason Reitman (JR): Yes and no. The book is about a man who fires people for a living, this man Ryan, who obsessively collects Air Miles, but if I had directed the book exactly as it was, these two lovely ladies next to me (co-stars Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick) would not be here, because their characters are not in the book.

Q: That sounds like a considerable difference. So the book was source material but you were then able to fly with it, as it were, to take it beyond whatever's on the page?

JR: The way I use source material is, I kind of see it as a toolbox. Usually there's a story that I want to tell and I'm looking for the right words and I'll read a book, I'll read an article and suddenly it'll just be the language that I've been looking for to say something that I've needed to say or ask something that I've been meaning to ask and at that point it just becomes a toolbox of ideas that I can either follow literally or sometimes I take someone's dialogue and give it to someone else or, in this case, I really took the main character who – I liked his occupation, I liked his life philosophy and from there I built the plot around him to ask the questions that I wanted to ask.

Q: I read that you wrote the role of Ryan with George Clooney in mind. Is that correct?

JR: Yeah, I wrote the role with him in mind and with Vera and Anna in mind too. It's easier for me to write when I know who I'm writing for – that's often how I identify the voice of the character. I had met Vera before and seen many of her films and I knew the things that she was able to do that no other actress is capable of doing and it was because she's able to walk that very fine line of being aggressive and feminine at the same time that I was able to write Alex the way I did. It was because I saw Anna in Rocket Science and knew the kind of sparkling brilliance of her mind and how fast she is that I was able to write Natalie the way I did. And look, if you're going to make a movie about a guy who fires people for a living and you still want to like him, that actor had better be damn charming and I don't think there's a more charming actor alive than George Clooney. I was just very lucky he said yes.

Q: What would have happened if you'd written it with him in mind and he'd said no? Do you then go to a Clooney clone? A George Cloney?

JR: I don't think there is such a thing? I'd have probably just ended my career right there and then. The story is actually kind of funny – I'd been writing it for six years and I told his agent, 'Look, I'm about a week away or a month away from finishing it, but in the middle of that I'm going to Italy on vacation with my wife' and he said, 'Well, if you're going to be in Italy, you should just go see him!' And I said, 'That sounds like an awful idea. I don't want to go see him if he hates my screenplay' and he's like, 'No, no, no, just go, he'll love to see you'. So I said, 'Well, look, I'll send him the screenplay and if he enjoys it, then certainly, I'll drop by'. So I get to Italy and I call his agent up and I say, 'Did he like it?' and he said, 'Yeah! Go see him!' 'But did he like the screenplay?' 'Just go, look, here's the address'. So I drive there, I get to his address in Como and one of the first things he says to me is, 'So, what are you working on these days?' I said, 'There's a screenplay, it's called Up in the Air' and he said, 'Oh, I have to find that – I gotta read that' and for two days, my wife and I stayed in his home and I was just trying to prove that I was a man to George Clooney. I played basketball with him, I hadn't done that since eighth grade, I never drink, I tried drinking with George Clooney. He opened four bottles of wine between the three of us, so for an evening I – I don't know how I didn't die of alcohol poisoning and finally, about the end of the second day, he disappeared for a while and, I don't know, he walked into the room and he said, 'I just read it, it's great, I'm in'. And those are words that I feel changed my life and probably one of the greatest moments I'll ever remember from my career.

Q: One of the fun things about the film is that it balances against the darkness of everyone getting fired and then the optimism of these people finding new jobs and kind of the cherry on top of that is the song that came in at the end of the credits. Was that dumb luck? Was that something you were looking for? How did that come about?

JR: That was dumb luck. After Juno, I've gotten kind of used to teenagers sending me songs with the idea that it'll appear in one of my films. But I was speaking at a college in St Louis and a man in his mid-fifties came to me with the song. That was unusual. And he handed me a cassette tape. So, first off, I had to find a place to actually listen to this, but we found a car with a cassette deck and I really was ready for something ridiculous and instead on came this voice, which you know is in the credits now, and he introduced himself, explained how he had lost his job after being there for a decade, decade and a half and he was now in the middle of his life, trying to figure out the purpose of his life and he started singing this song that is not the greatest song ever written, but it's an authentic song. And I guess my feeling was that we're in the middle of one of the worst recessions on record in America and about a million people had lost their jobs in the last year, but we really have no experience of who these people are – they're just often numbers on newspapers' mastheads, percentages – and here was a guy who was able to sing, very authentically, about how he felt about it and I felt what better tribute than to end the movie with it. And I knew, halfway through listening to it that it was going to be in the credits.

Q: One of the pleasures / sadnesses of the movie are the interviews that are conducted by Anna's character and Clooney's character, with apparently real people. How was that done? Obviously J.K. Simmons is an actor, but were some of the others genuine people who had lost their jobs?

JR: Well, when I started writing the screenplay seven years ago, the economy in America was very different – we were basically at the tail end of an economic boom and I decided to write a corporate satire about a man who fired people for a living and I wrote comedic scenes in which people lost their jobs. And by the time it came to shoot this film, it just wasn't funny anymore and I couldn't go about shooting these scenes as written. And we were scouting in St Louis and Detroit and the idea just came to me, that we should try and use real people, so we put an ad out, in the newspaper, in the Help Wanted section, saying we're making a documentary about job loss and we're looking for people who would go on camera and talk about their experience. We had an overwhelming amount of response and we brought in a hundred people and twenty-five are in the finished film. So, outside of the people you recognise, like J.K. Simmons and Zach Galifianakis and Pamela Jones, everyone else who loses their jobs in this movie is a real person who came in and sat down at a table with an interviewer and for about ten minutes answered questions about what it's like to lose your job in an economy where really, there's nothing available and you have to consider some very dire decisions. And then after that we fired them, so 'We'd like to now fire you on camera and we'd like you to either respond the way you did the day you lost your job or, if you prefer, you can say what you wish you had said'. And this would turn into improv scenes in which they would pelt our interviewer with all sorts of questions that he did not know the answer to, about their severance, about why they lost their job instead of Jeff and, you know, it just went on and some people were really angry, some people got emotional and cried, some people were very funny. And I'm so grateful for their participation in the film, because I could have never written the type of things that they said.

Q: You've got a history of writing strong female characters, like with Juno and then this film as well. Do you think there's a shortage of those in Hollywood right now?

JR: Yeah, I think that's why I write them. I like to write original films and I think many of the men's stories have been told and so many of the women's stories haven't and I've fallen in love with many really smart women over the course of my life – the most recent and presumably the last one being my wife – and I enjoy it and I enjoy spending time with my wife talking about these scenes. The best thing I've ever written, I only wrote half of and it's the scene in this movie where Vera and Anna talk about what they look for in a man at each of their ages and the only way I could write that is I asked my wife to have a conversation with herself at 18 about what she looked for in a man and so everything that they say is true to her, which breaks her heart every time she watches it, but I basically laughed at her for five minutes. But no, I enjoy writing for women and I enjoy working with great actresses and I've just been very fortunate, I've made three movies now and throughout all of them, from Maria Bello on Thank You For Smoking and with Ellen and Jennifer on Juno and then not only Anna and Vera on this one but also Amy Morton and Melanie Lynskey, I've just been surrounded by great actresses that I hope I can work with more and more.

Q: You mentioned that you started this script seven years ago and obviously you've had a couple of films come out in between that time – Thank You For Smoking and Juno. Does that mean you put this on the back-burner for a while, while you did Thank You For Smoking? How does the time-line work?

JR: The time-line is that no-one would make Thank You For Smoking and so I started looking for something else to write and direct and I found this book, I fell in love with it and I started writing it and then out of nowhere, a millionaire – one of the creators of PayPal, who had sold PayPal to eBay for one and a half billion dollars with his partners – decided he wanted to make movies, he read my script, he got it from a friend, he called my agent and said, 'Hey, I'd love to make this movie' and he wrote a cheque for six and a half million dollars and made Thank You For Smoking, so all of a sudden, I wasn't writing Up in the Air anymore. I made Thank You For Smoking, went back to writing Up in the Air and then Juno came into my life and was just this irresistible screenplay that I knew if I didn't direct, I would regret for the rest of my life. The interesting thing was that I basically finished the screenplay after Juno and about five years in, I had basically got to the end of the script having never gone back and reread what I'd been writing and as I read from start to finish, I watched myself grow up. You know, over the course of the six years that I wrote the script, I became a professional director, I bought a home, I got married, I became a father and I watched myself in the first act be kind of a cynical guy in his 20s who was really just a satirist and then over the six years I became, I don't know, a bit more sophisticated as a writer and I also realised at least what was important in my own life and that really changed Ryan's journey as I continued to write.

Q: There are lots of real-life locations in the film, including several different airports. Did that present any particular challenges?

JR: Oh, it's a total pain in the ass. Shooting in airports is very difficult and we shot in four international airports. There was actually a fair amount of access and because American Airlines was our partner in this film, basically our trade was that they were our airline and they gave us access to all their check-in gates as well as their departure gates, but still, all the actors had to go through security every day, on the way to the set. And I think they would, on purpose, put George through as much security as humanly possible. I'm surprised he didn't get pat down every time he went through. And you know, we can't bring our own food in there, we have to bring in our own electricity, we have to bring in our own wire for our generators through an airport – it was really tricky.

Q: Anna Kendrick says that she thought you hated her after her audition. Why did she think that?

JR: Well, one, I'm a mean guy, but two... I wrote the role for Anna and Anna auditioned against thirty of the best actresses of her generation. I needed to know that she could actually do it – I basically saw her in one movie. I thought, 'Oh, she's great, but I need to see her actually read the lines.' And when she came in, I didn't want her to get psyched out by saying, 'Hey, I wrote this role for you' because then she'd probably freak out and not be comfortable, because then it would be kind of hers to lose, but since I'm a horrible actor myself, in trying not to show that I was already a huge fan of hers, I probably wasn't as nice as I could have been. It's kind of like when you meet a pretty girl but you don't want to show her that you think she's pretty, so you're trying to act as straight as possible and then you're not acting like yourself and then pretty soon you're acting like a jerk.

Q: I just wanted to tell you how much everyone enjoyed the film. When Anna gets dumped by text and Clooney says the line “I guess it's kind of like firing someone over the internet”, the whole cinema was in stitches.

JR: That brings up something worth mentioning and that is that this is the first film that my father (Ivan Reitman) and I have actually worked on together. I'd avoided doing that with the first two, because I wanted to make a name for myself and once I'd made a couple of films there was nothing that would make me more proud. Now, my father wrote one line in this movie and that line is “Oh, it's kind of like firing people online”. It's a MONSTER line, it gets applause every time the movie plays. If the reaction to that is a ten, the next biggest reaction to a line is a four. So, I don't know, I'm a little jealous, but it's a really proud moment for me. It's as if he's a baseball player, he can just, like show up and go, 'Oh, you want me to hit one? Sure, I'll hit one' and then he knocks it out of the park.

Q: One of the pleasures for film fans is when well known actors turn up in tiny roles. You mentioned JK Simmons, who has a very unselfish cameo and also you had Sam Elliott in the film. How much explanation do they need?

JR: Well, once I gave them a great role, like the ones I gave to Vera and Anna, I presume that on the next film they'll come in free and do three or four lines of dialogue each. No, I invited all of them to come in and do those roles and they've all been very gracious and have done them. I try and keep strong relationships with them so that when I ask they come back and do these roles. When I started my career, my biggest goal was I want to be a director that actors want to work with. Actors make movies, not only fiscally but they make them work and I just knew that the only way I'd ever be a successful director in the way that I want to be a film-maker would be if good actors actually wanted to work with me. And I'm slowly working my way towards that and I look at people like Sam Elliott, who would show up for a day and do that role and that makes me more proud than anything.

Q: Could you talk about your choice of music in your films? Is that drawn out of your personal taste? What was the case with Up in the Air?

JR: I start up an iTunes library while I'm writing the screenplay and I'm very specific about music and there are some very personal things for me. I originally thought this movie was all going to be done to Hank Williams music and then I got into the edit and realised I was wrong and I started moving into kind of folk music, but yeah, it's very personal for me.


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Interview with Paddy Considine - 27th October, 2009

Promoting: Le Donk & Scor-zay-see
Venue: Warp Office, London
Interview type: Round table

ViewLondon (VL): Who were your influences as a kid? Did you grow up watching films? Are you a bit of a film buff?

Paddy Considine (PC): Yeah. I'm not a film buff now, in terms of, you talk to some people about a film and they can tell you when it was directed, what film stock it was shot on, who did the catering and all that, but I was hugely influenced by films and television. When I was really young I was just totally obsessed with the escapism of Star Wars and the Superman movies, Clash of the Titans, things like that. It wasn't till I got a bit older, when I saw Rocky, that was the first film really that I watched and kind of went, 'Oh, wow'. Also, on TV there were things like Walter, Stephen Frears' film, I still remember that, the night it went out, on Channel 4, the first night of Channel 4. And then it turned into a lot of sort of drama, Alan Clarke's stuff, which was speaking a bit more about where I was at the time. And then the world opened up when it got into the Scorsese stuff and Coppola, who I think is the most astonishing film-maker living. Why he doesn't make films now, I don't know. And then the more realist territory, that kind of work. Ken Loach's Kes, for example, is my favourite British film ever made. I think when you see such naturalism in the performances, you're growing up in that kind of place, it speaks to you.

VL: Can you talk us through how Le Donk came about? You'd made short films with the character beforehand, hadn't you?

PC: Yeah, we did. We'd had him for a long time. I was just mimicking guys around the music scene in Burton-on-Trent, the little town we lived in. I just started mimicking these characters for mine and Shane's amusement and then after Shane started making films and I did Romeo Brass with him, we found ourselves with a lot of time on our hands, really – I was back on the dole and stuff trying to get work, so in that time we found ourselves making short films and I just put on wigs and put in teeth and would just do characters. We literally had nothing planned, we'd just grab a floppy hat and a wig and some teeth and create characters – it was liberating to do that, to go into town that day and say, 'Can we get into Burton Albion football ground?' to do some filming and that's how the short films came about. Le Donk was like that, it was just literally put the hat and wig on, let's go for a drive and see what happens. And we would go round people's houses who weren't expecting us to be there – it was a bit unfair, really, on some of them, but Le Donk would just pile in the house and away you go. And we always found it funny, but we always just thought it was just an in-joke and would only be funny to us.

VL: When did you decide to use him in a film?

PC: We tried to do something bigger with him before – we wrote a film with him as the main character but it didn't work. Whenever you tried to script him or anything, it was just bad, it just didn't work. He just has to sort of be alive and let this stream-of-consciousness come out of his gob and let him get on with it. But he wouldn't go away and so we got the opportunity to be at this Old Trafford gig where the Arctic Monkeys were playing and we just took him up there and made a story up and it just all fell into place. And it really was how it happened, Scor-zay-zee came on board, all the stuff about him walking around and plugging in a keyboard is true. And it was really liberating – I think I'd got a bit fed up of waiting around for other people to tell you when you can go and be creative. There's a process with making films and a certain way of doing things and with Le Donk we just thought, 'We didn't use to have to do this, we didn't use to have to have script meetings and wait for you to give us the go-ahead' so we just did it off our own backs and hoped that people liked it and if not, it was just an expensive in-joke. Well, not dead expensive, but a fifty grand in-joke.

VL: Speaking of in-jokes, I love the gag with [co-star] Olivia Coleman's baby. You didn't just think, 'Well, let's just use a different baby?'

PC: Oh yeah. No, it was just one of those things of like, if that's how big it is, we'll just have to get around it. And it's part of the charm. Because a lot of references have been made to things that have influenced this film, like Saxondale, and it wasn't that at all – I've only ever seen half an episode of that. I was working in Canada years ago and it was more stuff like the Trailer Park Boys and this Canadian film called FUBAR, which was also all improvised, like Le Donk. I thought that was fantastic and I showed it to Shane. So it's more from that than anything we've seen over here, although someone made a reference to Paul Calf's Video Diaries, which was fair enough – he was a bit ahead of his time in terms of how reality goes and everything.

VL: Since you mentioned Saxondale, someone mentioned at the Edinburgh Q&A that Steve Coogan ripped Saxondale off Le Donk because he'd seen the videos. Is that true?

PC: Well, the truth of it is, we'd shot the short films and when I did 24 Hour Party People, I gave Steve all these shorts that we'd done and he watched Romeo Brass and he watched these shorts and he really liked them. That's as much as I know about it. And then when it crops up years later as a series about a roadie in the Midlands it's like, “That's Le Donk”. I'm not kidding you – I had about a dozen calls and texts that day, who knew, going, 'Have you read this thing? It's Le Donk.” So you can call it coincidence. I think the point from us is, I don't care if Steve saw Le Donk and digested it and somewhere in his head then forgot it and came up with a great original idea – I don't care about that. I think our annoyance was that we want people to know that we did not rip off Saxondale, that's the only important thing.

VL: What have you got coming up?

PC: I'm doing a film called Submarine, with Richard Ayoade. We're shooting it in Wales and it's a great little character, a bit of a David Icke-style guru. It was just fun to do and with Richard, who's directing it, there wasn't a second thought about doing that film. I just really wanted to work with him.


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Interview with Kevin Spacey - 15th October, 2009

Promoting: The Men Who Stare At Goats
Venue: Vue West End, London Film Festival
Interview type: Press conference

Q: Did you approach the characters as if you were recreating a real-life person, or did you start from scratch?

Kevin Spacey (KS): To me it was all in the script. I mean, there are times when you're playing someone who really lived and there is a responsibility about trying to make that as accurate as you can and even if it's not an impression, to embody that person, particularly if an audience happens to know who they were. But in this case, nobody knows who any of these characters were, so you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want. And also, my character was the most fictionalised of all the characters in the film, unlike the other characters.

Q: Have you ever had any paranormal experiences?

KS: I think working with George Clooney is about as paranormal as it gets.

Q: Did you go home and practise some of the psychic techniques that you learnt, or were you actively encouraged to do this by the director?

KS: I can admit I ran into a lot of walls in Puerto Rico. I never got through any of them.

Q: You've been away from the screen for a while, focusing on the stage. I wondered if you were waiting for the right script before you take a lead role again or are you just taking a break?

KS: I don't know – I did three movies last year, I did two movies the year before, I did two movies the year before that. I don't know what this break is you're talking about (laughter).

Q: Well, obviously you had the voiceover in Moon and the supporting role in Men Who Stare At Goats, but I meant an actual lead.

KS: Oh, an *actual lead*. No, I don't do those anymore. (laughter) No, I just finished two films in a row in which I'm the *actual* lead. I did a film called Casino Jack, about Jack Abramoff, who was a Washington lobbyist and a comedy I just did called Father of Invention. But I suppose I've been focused on building the theatre company over the last six seasons and things are going very well there so I had an opportunity to go out and do a couple of movies that I really enjoyed – I enjoyed the scripts and enjoyed the experiences of doing them. But my priority for the next six years will continue to be the Old Vic and I'll make films when they both suit my schedule and also to suit what interests me.

Q: There's a documentary that's just come out, called Starsuckers, that looks at the way that newspapers run made-up or exaggerated stories about celebrities. Do you think the media's obsession with celebrity is out of control?

KS: I don't get it. I don't understand the notion of people who might call themselves journalists, or who are in the profession of that, who would just make up stuff. I don't understand it as a function as a human being, I don't understand why that's of interest to somebody, to write something that's absolutely false in the hopes that 1800 outlets will print it. Obviously we live in a time – and maybe we always have, I don't know – where if you even bother to say, 'Oh, that story has no whit of truth to it', then they don't write that that story is false, they write that you have denied that that story was true, which is not the same thing as saying 'What we wrote was absolutely wrong'. So there's some people who choose to fight these kinds of things in the courts and there's some who choose to just go, 'You know what? It's yesterday's news, it's fish wrapping and I'm not going to worry about it'.


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Interview with George Clooney - 15th October, 2009

Promoting: The Men Who Stare At Goats
Venue: Vue West End, London Film Festival
Interview type: Press conference

Q: Were there long discussions about the tone of the movie?

George Clooney (GC): The book, and there was a documentary done as well which was also very funny, it had such a unique tone, and I thought Peter just nailed the script. This is a script that’s been around town for a while, and all of us have been aware of it for a bit, it was named as one of the best un-made screenplays, so we were all anxious to get our hands on it, and see if there was a way we could do it, and [director Grant Heslov] had the right ideas.

Q: What was it like working with Ewan McGregor?

GC: After the restraining order, it was really hard to actually work with him. (laughter) It’s sort of shocking how absolutely fun and normal he is. We talk about the motor-cycle trips he takes around the world and down through Africa. He fits into this group of actors that are really fun to work with, they’re all professional, they do all their work before they show up, and so by the time you’re on the set, there isn’t a whole lot of misery. There’s the work between “Action” and “Cut” and then the rest of the time, you remember the rubber band fights, it’s fun. Actual food fights. I’m a big fun of his.

Q: Did you approach the characters as if you were recreating a real-life person, or did you start from scratch?

GC: It was whatever the script called for. We’ve done films before, like Good Night and Good Luck, where we had a great responsibility for accuracy, but this is one where we thought there’s something funny to be had, and we could just do it.

Q: Why has it been so hard to make films about the Iraq war, and are we now in a stage where we can make war films that will work?

GC: Any topical subject, if it’s Hollywood, will be a couple of years later, because you’ve got to write it, produce it and distribute it, so automatically you’re never going to be right on the cutting edge of stories. I think that we’ve been a little too close to the situation, and at times it’s such a polarising moment that it’s hard to make films that directly deal with that subject matter, since we’re in the middle of it still. We didn’t think of this as an Iraq war film, it’s a very different story completely. I’ve done an Iraq war film with Three Kings, which holds up and seems to be still relevant. I think this one is just a glancing blow at Iraq, it happens to take place there.

Q: You can’t seem to stop working with Grant [Heslov], writing and producing. Directing you in this, what was that relationship like on set, and who’s the boss?

GC: Grant’s the director, he was the boss. That’s the fun of it, directors are the dictatorship. I had nothing but faith in him, he’s incredibly talented and smart, so I’m lucky to be his friend for almost 30 years.

Do you believe in the paranormal?

GC: I’m not a big believer in much of that. Everybody goes through déjà vu and things like that, but I’m not a big believer in many of those things, I find them to be mostly coincidence.

Q: On a similar note, did you go home and practise some of the psychic techniques that you learnt, or were you actively encouraged to do this by the director?

GC: We kept trying. Busted a few clouds. It’s funny, there’s things that are made up in this screenplay, but the wackiest things are actually the real ones. When you read the book and you read about them literally trying to run through walls, they really did that - they believed they could.

Q: The script had been around for a while. Was there a eureka moment which caused you to take the script on as producer?

GC: These screenplays after they’ve been around for a while - even when they’re really good screenplays, things get attached to them and they get harder and harder to get made. There’ll suddenly be 30 producers and other people brought on, and it gets this baggage to it, that it really requires everybody being willing to come in. (So we were lucky to get) Kevin and Jeff and Ewan all being willing to come in and play ball and have fun on a film that isn’t necessarily a slam-dunk. It’s not Transformers.

Q: How was it working with the goats?

GC: Yesterday I was a fox (at the Fantastic Mr Fox press conference), now I’m working with goats. I tell you, this goat was a particularly nice goat. We spent a lot of time together. He wanted to go over the dying around me, so we worked on that for a while. The funny thing is, the goat was a great actor. He’d work it and really stare at the camera. If we could get Ewan to do that, it would help.

Q: Do you think the media’s obsession with celebrity is out of control?

GC: I’m the son of a news-man, I grew up around news. I can understand the issue which is, as papers are losing subscribers and they’re getting less and less outlets - it’s a tricky thing. You’re going to have to sell papers. The problem is, there’s so little reporting anymore. Someone will write a story and it’ll be in 1800 outlets from one person’s story. You’ll have no recourse, it’ll be false and you go, “It’s not true,” and they’ll say, “We’re not saying that, a London tabloid has said it,” and they’re re-printing and re-printing things that aren’t necessarily true. I understand why it happens, but it’s certainly an issue.


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Interview with director Marc Price and actor Alastair Kirton - 6th October, 2009

Promoting: Colin
Venue: The Horror Room in the Movieum, London
Interview type: One-on-two

ViewLondon (VL): Where did the zombie point-of-view idea come from?

Marc Price (MP): I was always a fan of zombie movies and I thought it would be great to make a zombie movie but I wanted to something that – to me, as a zombie fan – I thought I hadn't seen before. And the idea of doing a movie from the perspective of the zombie gave me so much to play about with, such as the lack of dialogue – I thought it would be interesting to use the language of film to engage an audience rather than a bunch of actors running around saying how they felt, which is how I write dialogue, because I'm just not very good. And I had Alastair very much in mind to play Colin. So it grew from there and then we looked at what locations we had available to us and other actors we wanted to work with who we knew and we based the script on that. And there were a couple of scenes that were kind of over-reaching but I felt that was important as well, because it's a challenge and it's fun.

VL: So, Alastair, were you there right from the beginning? You knew each other before?

Alastair Kirton (AK): Yeah, we'd worked on a couple of short films together. I think I was pretty much in Marc's mind when he first came up with the idea.

MP: No, you were at least fourth or fifth choice (laughs).

AK: (laughs) Thanks, man. Yeah. Dean Gaffney wasn't available. Yeah, Marc pitched the idea to me really early on. He didn't have a script, so he used wooden stirrers and sachets of sugar in a coffee shop to mark out the film and I knew he wanted me to do it when he stopped saying “And then Colin gets hit in the face with a hammer” and started saying “And then you get smacked in the face with a hammer and bundled into a car”, so I was like, “Oh, brilliant, he wants me to play a zombie. That's...terrifying.” But yes, I wanted to get involved and having worked with Marc a couple of times before, I really love the way he approaches things. Just his enthusiasm and joy at film, really. And we had a lot of the same reference points, movie-wise. So when you go into a project like that it's nice to know you're both on the same page and working towards the same goal.

VL: So are you both big zombie fans then? What was your first zombie movie?

MP: Dawn of the Dead was mine. We'd borrowed – of all the films – Ah'm Gonna Git You Sucka. My aunt had taped it for us and on the tape at the end it wound down and there was the end of Ghostbusters and we were like, 'Oh great, Ghostbusters' so we watched the end of Ghostbusters and then that wound down and then something else had finished and Dawn of the Dead was starting, so we missed the title but it was the shot of waking up and all the chaos in the television studios. And I just watched it, thinking 'This is fucking amazing' and then the tape ran out! And I was like 'Argh! What's this movie called?' I was about 11 then. And then, when I was 14, I think Alex Cox had it on Moviedrome and it came on and I recognised the shot straightaway and then it just blew me away. I couldn't believe all that amazing stuff was happening so early in a movie.

VL: Which zombie movies were a big influence on the film?

AK: Well, Day of the Dead was a big influence, in terms of Bub [a named zombie in the film]. Marc said that when he watched Day of the Dead he got really deeply emotionally concerned for that character. So Marc gave me Day of the Dead – I'd seen Dawn and a few other things, but I hadn't seen Day of the Dead – so we watched that and Bub was obviously a big influence. But then we kind of just chatted about what we thought the best way to approach it was. The idea was really to think that he didn't have much vision, he was just a creature very much caught in his own small circle of consciousness and just the way he approached things, the way he picks up objects and plays with them like a child, that was how we approached it.

VL: Tell me about the special effects, because the effects are amazing for such a low-budget film.

MP: In terms of make-up effects, we were really lucky to have someone like Michelle Webb. We put out a sort of casting call to make-up people and we said 'Hey, why don't you come? You're going to have to bring your own equipment because we don't have any money but you have total freedom to create any zombie you like, providing we have the ones that we need for the sequence'. And all the make-up people who came down were fantastic with that, but what Michelle Webb [make-up artist on X-Men: The Last Stand] did that was exceptional was that she'd show us how to apply these make-up effects ourselves and leave her equipment with us and say 'Okay, see you next week – good luck with the week's filming'. And then she'd come back, see what we'd done and say, 'Right, okay, you can do this now...' and she'd help us and teach us more. And where that ends up being a truly amazing thing is you've got someone like Justin Hales (who owns the production company with me, because he knows how to set them up), who's normally a very technically-minded guy, he's now an amazing make-up artist. And that's just through wanting to do something, not wanting to wait around for us to start filming. We were even leading the make-up session at Raindance with him.

AK: I think the other thing that really helped was the fact that, being shown how to do it and you knowing how to capture things and the way to shoot things is that you just worked out the best way to cheat stuff, like the eye gouge and the face being pulled off. It's knowing what you can do with make-up.

MP: And then how to light it and what the camera should be doing to sell it.

VL: Did that all come from trial and error or from Michelle pointing you in the right direction?

MP: It was more a case of what I'd read about film productions in the past. And also the setting I wanted to apply to the movie, how in the stiller moments where there isn't that human influence, the camera's fairly static or smoothly gliding along, but whenever the human is the dominant force we wanted it to have that sense of panic and franticness in the camera. And in the case of the street battle, if the camera was smoothly moving around then you'd see that none of those people are actors and none of them are capable of faking a decent fight (laughs).

VL: How did you decide on Colin as the name of the film?

MP: It's my dad's name. And I thought it was a gentle enough name and then we have him biting someone's face and ripping someone's arm off.

VL: What was the biggest difficulty? I imagine there must have been times when the low budget meant you couldn't quite get something you wanted?

AK: There was one make-up effect that we wanted to do, which was after the street battle, when Colin has a hammer lodged in his head and we tried so hard to get the damn thing to stick. We tried latex, we tried sellotape and I think the last thing we tried was four rubber bands, which were cutting off the circulation to the top of my head. And then we walked out and Marc was like, 'It's on the wrong way round', so we just lost it.

VL: Which scene are you most proud of?

MP: I think the street fight, what with the explosions and the very small amount of people we had there to shoot that scene and how we dealt with that, in terms of framing.

AK: I just enjoyed the slower, more pensive bits, like the bit with the pigeon. Just the little bits, like Colin on his own and being a bit vulnerable, from a distance.

VL: What's your next project, both of you?

MP: We're working together again on something else. It takes place entirely on a Halifax bomber, returning from a mission over Europe. The plane's badly damaged, it's limping home and a creepy creature attacks one of the gunners. But it's not like the monster's killing everyone on the flight, it's only attacking this one guy. It's called Thunderchild, which is the name of the plane and hopefully it's an exercise in tension and it'll be an exciting ride.


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Interview with Rufus Sewell - 25th September, 2009

Promoting: Vinyan
Venue: Revolver Office, Notting Hill
Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): I thought Vinyan was extremely disturbing, and unlike anything I’ve seen for quite some time. I can't think of anything that's comparable to how disturbing it is, although obviously it's thematically similar to films like Don't Look Now, with a couple losing a child and then descending into madness.

Rufus Sewell (RS): Absolutely, in a way there is an homage in there, it’s not accidental. I asked Fabrice (director Fabrice Du Welz) because that is a favourite film of mine. When I read the script it reminded me of so many different things that shouldn’t go together. It reminded me a little of Jacob's Ladder; I’m talking about films I really love – movies that fuck with your head. One of the frustrating things for me, which I knew, was they would have trouble marketing Vinyan. One of the reasons certain people react against this film is due to the marketing. In some areas they tried to market it as pure unadulterated horror – it’s not! I wouldn’t even call it a horror film. When I read the script, that's not what I read - I read a very painfully truthful psychological thriller that I found very moving. Put that along the side the fact that Fabrice believes he is making a ghost movie at the same time; which I think that contrast is extraordinary, in that it's a genre shifting film. To start off with, the film has a sort of John Cassavetes style to it. Very rough and hand held camera - close up, psychological drama. Which proceeds to get weirder, and weirder; and that is a very difficult thing to sell. It’s a very difficult film to even describe, in a way that doesn’t confuse people.

VL: What was it like, working with Emmanuelle Beart?

RS: Working with Emmanuelle was very easy, she is a very easy person to connect with. We just immediately felt like a couple. We were very relaxed and trusting of each other. I loved working with her. It was one of the easiest, automatic relationships I’ve ever had on screen. To use an American expression, we had each other's back; which is something that I never had to worry about, because it was just there.

VL: Your character is obviously in a very dark place, psychologically. How do you prepare for something like that?

RS: Well I don’t know if it’s about preparation really. Being a father, when I read it just hit me with a wallop. I didn’t need to sit and – you know, I had a natural reaction to the material. In terms of preparation, no it’s just the matter of being in the situation and letting it affect and infect you. I tried to just be as open and honest with each situation. The situation itself was so affecting, and oppressive you just had to struggle through it. I never had to search for it, it was there waiting for me. It’s such a powerful and horrible idea; there was no reason to be ghoulish during the preparation. It just happened that I had a natural and visceral reaction to it.

VL: I was more thinking along the lines of the preparing for a character who loses their mind and dealing with that element?

RS: Well, for a start, it’s always interesting, the moment you discover, as you go into the jungle that your directors’ hero is Werner Herzog (laughs). That was what was fantastic about working with Fabrice. I knew that, and loved that about him – I don't mean in any deranged way! That is what we were all excited about, the idea of going there. Fabrice arranged it in such a way that shooting was pretty much chronological. The beginning was the beginning, the middle was the middle and the end was very definitely the end. We did kind of unravel, which you know a lot of it is pretending. My relationship with Emmanuelle remained fantastic, it’s just that we spent less time giggling around the poly-styrofoam cups towards the end, because we were just exhausted.

VL: Since you shot it chronologically, the last scene in the film being pretty horrendous, how did Emmanuelle prepare for that, and were you around for the filming?

RS: Yes, I was around. A lot of the film had a very tight script, but a lot of things were forced because of the elements. The script really came together as we were doing it, if a scene didn’t turn out to be practical or if we had other ideas – like, there was massive rainstorm that we incorporated into the film – the incredible scene of us on the jetty, that was real rain. It just started raining, and Fabrice thought, “Fuck it, let's use this”. He an idea for a scene right then, which wound up being filmed. It was wonderful because he was so open to whatever the elements threw at us, because that is what the film is about. At the end I think they ended up with a crane shot they decided didn't work, and then it started raining and the children started going this way and this thing just happened and it was very much something they directed but it was spontaneous. I wasn’t there, but I remember talking to them all about it afterwards, and how excited they were.

VL: Do you know if the sound design was planned from the beginning?

RS: Oh absolutely, it was a very, very strong part of it. The sound guy, the sound team we had to work with was there right from the beginning; it wasn't something that was tacked as an afterthought.

VL: Had you seen Calvaire (Fabrice's previous film)?

RS: Yes, I had. When I read the script I knew I already wanted to do it. Then I saw Calvaire, and it was doubly exciting. For a start, in this country, it’s a role I often don't become aware of until I’m in Blockbusters to be honest; they don’t send them to me. It is something that is changing though. The fact that this is a French film with a Belgian director, that's no coincidence; otherwise it wouldn't have come to me. I thought to myself, thank God finally a normal guy in extraordinary circumstances, not some twat on a horse. I was very excited about that, because I thought it was such a great script; and you know an English bloke who has that kind of cultural frustration and blocked anger which he's emotionally ill-equipped as he finds himself in this terrible bind – and I wanted to play it and I pretty much told them that and then I saw Calvaire and then I was like, 'Oh Jesus, this guy is nuts' - in the best way! He's got this extraordinary imagination.

VL: You’d never worked with Emmanuelle before, had you even met each other?

RS: No, never. I didn’t know what to expect, and I had seen some of her work before. It wasn’t until I went over to France for an early read-through, that we immediately hit it off – it was easy. Talking about it sounds weird, like people are expecting to see signs of it on screen. If the chemistry is there, it's all pretty straight-forward. If it's not there, it's amazingly complex to fake. But if it's there, it's amazingly work-a-day – it's just a couple and you believe them. It’s something you see on the street every day. It’s not like, “Oh my GOD, look at their chemistry!” - we were just naturally relaxed with each other, and you buy it on screen. You see couples all the time, and you don’t need to read their biography. It's something that you can work out for yourself, because you believe the basic silhouette.

VL: What was the hardest scene to film?

RS: The underwater scene was quite difficult, because when she fights, she really fights. I really couldn’t point out one. As we got further and further into filming, it became more and more zombiefied .

VL: I had read a review that suggested the red shirt on the child in the video was a reference to Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. Was that a conscious thing?

RS: What, from a Belgian director? Yeah, well that’s the internet for you, isn't it? No.

VL: It was Sight and Sound!

RS: Really? Well, there you go. No, there is nothing behind that. People have their jobs to do; I’ve found that people in writing can be a little disingenuous. They say things they might not necessarily believe, but there is a certain copy.

VL: I suppose the red top also calls back to Don't Look Now again.

RS: Absolutely. And if you're talking about that, then also Schindler's List and anything from Michael Powell to Raging Bull. Red is a really good colour! (laughs) But thematically or media-wise, these things are British flashpoints, but these are French and Belgian film-makers, and these things vary by country.

VL: A French film-maker with a British actor, one can make the connection?

RS: Yes, but what I mean is the person who wrote the script comes from a culture where that red top doesn’t have the same implications.

VL: What are you doing next?

RS: Right now I am working on a thing in Budapest called Pillars of the Earth, which is being produced by Scott Free Productions (owned by Ridley and Tony Scott). I believe it’s going to be 4 part two hour mini-series. There is money coming in from all different cultures, which means there is isn’t one conglomerate making all the artistic decisions. The director, Sergio Mimica-Gezzan, who was Steven Spielberg’s First AD for a very long time. The story is based on the novel by Ken Follet, and has been really well adapted. And the cast is great, it's got Donald Sutherland, Ian McShane, Eddie Redmayne, Haley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen – a really good cast. I play a builder named Tom. It's why I've got this big butch beard.

VL: You're not on a horse, then?

RS: Ha, no, not on a horse! For me, the caricature I’m not interested in playing, it's not so much about period drama, it’s the specific type of one-dimensional baddie. And in fact, if I want to play another one, I fucking will, actually. It's just as long as there is a choice involved. For me, playing a working man and a father is no different from playing anything else but difficult for me to be cast in those roles. So I'm really enjoying playing somebody who can move a fridge.

VL: You say Vinyan is a departure for you, was that part of the appeal as well?

RS: Yes, but you say departure, but for me it is more a departure from the kind of role I can get. The biggest departure I’ve ever made was to play a baddie actually, because the truth is I’m a comic actor. The biggest departure I’ve ever done is any job I ever do. The problem is I live in the real world where it is actually a question of convincing pen-pushers and secretaries to give me the opportunity to do what I do easiest. For me, it was a chance to do something I felt comfortable with, but not something people were comfortable in casting me in. That is why I’m so pleased to be playing a father now because a lot of the characters I’ve played are people you wouldn’t let near your children. I don’t like the word departure, because that would suggest that for me, it is; for me it's not. It's just an opportunity.


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Interview with Georgia King - 24th September, 2009

Promoting: DVD release of Tormented
Venue: Premier PR Office, London
Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): I see you're a recent convert to Twitter. How did that happen?

Georgia King (GK): I had absolutely no idea what it was. And I actually like the old-school Judi Dench-types who believe their private lives are their own and keep them to themselves and I feel like it's getting a bit too like, celebrities, let's know every detail about everyone and it's kind of all sort of mashing into one, so I actually didn't want to be a part of Twitter, was going to go off Facebook, you know, the whole works – I was going to start a revolution, with no followers (laughs). But Jon Wright, the director of Tormented said, 'It's really important you go on it, because it's just the way things are nowadays and actually, doing Tormented and doing all the press and doing all the DVD extras, with the flip-video cameras and things, it really is about that – people are really interested to know what the person is like. And I actually wanted to differentiate myself from the characters that I've been playing, because I think people can look at you and go, 'Oh, you're a real mean cow' or 'You must be so gentle and soft because you only ever do period dramas' – someone said that about me, which is very, very far from true. So I went on Twitter, but I literally only just discovered the 'Replies' button the other day and there were all these messages I hadn't responded to! But it's important, because I think the positive side of the public is a very good side to hold on to, because obviously, the negative is huge, to everyone, not just me. So I am slightly, reluctantly, converted.

VL: You are all over the Tormented extras. How was it doing all the behind-the-scenes stuff?

GK: I love doing behind-the-scenes. I have no qualms about appearing in front of a camera, it's just watching the end product! They gave us so much stuff – I was immediately so impressed, on the set, when they came in and told us about all the extras. They rigged up a fake toilet cubicle and I think a couple of people were like, 'No, I will not go in there, it's too personal', but I loved the place (laughs). It's brilliant! It's an interview, but I get to choose the questions, which is amazing and also a real privilege. It's lovely to have people invest their time and energy in very inventive ways of getting extras from us. And then, the flip-video cameras, when we're in character, which a lot of people didn't get on YouTube, originally. So they were watching me going, like, 'Oh, I hate this girl, she's so vain, she's so shallow' and I was kind of tempted to write back under some fake name like George, George Kingdom and reply, saying, 'It's not really Georgia King!' But I think people have cottoned on now, which is great. But yes, the behind-the-scenes stuff was great, we had Alex Tanner, who directed all the extras, he got so much footage and it's a shame he couldn't put more on the DVD, because he had some cracking stuff.

VL: What's the reaction to the film been like? Have you been recognised from it?

GK: I have been. I actually had my hair dyed very dark brown for a role, which made me look so different that no-one recognised me, although someone actually hit me on the head as they ran past and went, 'You're from Wild Child!' (laughs) and just kept running and I was like, 'Yeah! Bye, buddy!' It was a very weird moment, the other day. But now I'm back to blonde, people do give me little comments here and there. With Tormented, I think for those that got it – because it's actually very, very clever and very funny – they loved it. It's amazing – if you understand what it's saying and what it's doing, it's brilliant. It's not meant to be the scariest thing you've ever seen – I think a few people were under the impression that it was just a horror film and it's a slasher-horror, it's a comedy horror. And I'd like to think it's very unique – the cast and the look and the feel of it are unlike a lot of horror films that are made. And I think they took bold choices with their casting that paid off, like with Tuppence, who'd never made a film before. And also, I'm not the skinniest girl and I have that scene in my knickers and I've definitely got hips and a bum, I think we all learned that, watching that film (laughs). And, FYI, the camera adds at least 25 pounds, to me personally. So I'm definitely aware of not being skinny, but that's great, I think that's really important, again, that people aren't just looking for one type of girl, which is tiny, petite, very thin. I'm hoping that more normal women are being accepted in the film industry, which I think they are. And curves are good! Guys like curves! They are under-rated in the film industry. I think film stars have always looked after themselves and been very thin, but I think as a generation we're much bigger now, so the contrast between those size zero actors-slash-models and normal people is that much more extreme. And I'm not saying 'Be obese' but I do think being healthy should be the priority.

VL: What else have you got coming up?

GK: I'm in St Trinians 2, briefly, I just did a small role in that. And then I've got Tanner Hall, which I was downloading my lesbian bath scene from, for my showreel the other day – it's actually one of my best scenes! Also, weirdly, I was in Wild Child, but I just auditioned for another film called Wild Child too. Very strange. But Tanner Hall was my first American film, the first audition I did when I got to L.A. It's about four girls at a very old, run-down boarding school in New England and everything's very still and beautiful. And these girls are at that weird, big gear-change in their teenage years, so one's having an affair with another man, another's not sure about her sexuality and is terrified about it and the other one is so sure of her sexuality that she abuses it. And then my character, Victoria, is the new girl who goes in and destroys them all! But it's quite cool – it's got a kind of Virgin Suicides, dream-like quality to it. And it's directed by two women and if you knew them, it is absolutely a product of these two women – they're the most dream-like, ethereal creatures and I've never met two people like them.


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Interview with Rumer Willis - 25th August, 2009

Promoting: Sorority Row
Venue: The Sanctum Soho Hotel, London
Interview type: Press conference

Question (Q): What attracted you to Sorority Row?

Rumer Willis (RW): When I read it I was really intrigued by how unique it was. All the death scenes, the way these girls were talking to each other… It was a female-driven cast, which I thought was great because most of the time in these horror movies all you see is a couple making love in the corner, then you see the killer outside the window, the girl ends up dying two minutes later. I was excited by the female-empowerment aspect to it.

Q: Had you seen the 1983 original film?

RW: They didn’t want us to watch it.

Q: You spend most of the film screaming and crying with snot hanging out your nose. Do you worry about not looking pretty on screen?

RW: God no, I would never want the responsibility of being the prettiest girl in the room. That would be too much. But after I did House Bunny I don’t think I could look any worse. I mean, I was in a metal back brace, so after that the snot and the tears were kind of easy.

Q: Have you encountered any total bitches like the ones in the movie?

RW: Definitely. All through elementary school, high school, middle school – they’re everywhere. How did I cope? You just don’t surround yourself with people like that, although it’s fun to play them in movies.

Q: You’ve had vocal training. Did that help when it came to all the screaming?

RW: I’m sure it did. I don’t know where the screams come from. I had no idea I could scream that loud. The sound guys by the end of the movie were not so happy with me. You definitely lose your voice afterwards but I like screaming, it’s fun. But I was a little jealous Briana got to do all these stunts while I was hiding in the closet the whole time.

Q: Did you research the great horror movies for your scream?

RW: I watched Scream and those other ones before that. Neve Campbell has some great ones in the Scream movies. You take things like that and keep changing it up.

Q: Have you played any pranks at parties?

RW: No, although I hear if you put saran wrap on a toilet it’s pretty funny. I always forget on April Fool’s Day to do stuff like that.

Q: How did you celebrate your 21st?

RW: I got to hang out with Briana, which was awesome. We went to Las Vegas, hung out, had a great time, Elvis sang to me… It was great.

Q: There was a lot of jamming on set, wasn’t there?

RW: We’d get back to the hotel at around 5 o’clock in the morning when we were done shooting. There was a piano on the second floor and we rocked out, which was fun. Maybe we’ll try karaoke while we’re here in London.

Q: What are your favourite horror movies?

RW: It’s so hard to pick one because there are so many different horror genres. I’d like to do something where I’m the bad guy, a good psychological horror film.

Q: Is having a famous surname a help or a hindrance?

RW: I don’t think you can ever look at anything you’ve come into this world with as either good or bad – it’s just what you get and you can’t do anything about it. Everyone has opportunities and different doors that are open to them in different ways to whatever they want to do. The thing in the end is if you’re talented you’ll get work and if you’re not then you won’t. It doesn’t really matter who you know in the end. You could go and get an audition but if you go in there and you suck they’re not going to give you the job.

Q: Are you parents supportive of your career choice?

RW: They’ve always been entirely supportive and extremely great in that way. I couldn’t ask for anything better.

Q: Did you ever consider any other careers?

RW: For a while when I was a kid I kind of wanted to be a doctor, but I don’t know why. It sounds like so much work. But I figure one day I could play a doctor in something and get that out of the way.

Q: Would you come back for a sequel?

RW: Providing my character makes it to the end of the movie, I would love to be in the sequel if that happens to work out for me. To get to try other things, other genres, would be fantastic but you can’t be too picky.

Q: What do you most enjoy about acting?

RW: Being able to connect with people. [Laughs] I hope people aren’t going through similar events to those in Sorority Row, but if you can connect with someone and they don’t feel alone because they saw something you were in. Or you can play a part that changes someone’s entire idea about something. And it’s like getting to play dress-up all the time and you get to do all these different things – especially a film in which, say, you have to learn a new skill for. I’m not a great dancer but if I got to do a film where had to learn something completely new, I’d love to do that.

Q: How was it filming in Pittsburgh?

RW: We had a great time there and found some great restaurants. I’d definitely go back.

Q: Was Ellie the character you most wanted to play?

RW: I actually went in for Jessica and Leah Pipes, who ended up playing Jessica, went in for Ellie. I’d love to play a character like Jessica – to really go for it. But I really liked Ellie and when I saw Leah doing Jessica at the table read I realised she was perfectly cast.

Q: Was she such a bitch in real life?

RW: No, she’s the complete opposite. She couldn’t be sweeter.

Q: Do you feel pressure as a young woman in Hollywood to always look fantastic and be in great shape?

RW: I miss being able to walk to the grocery store in my PJs, but what are you gonna do? But one of the most important things that I would love to do, if hopefully it all works out and I get to continue doing this, is to set a really positive role model for young women about their body image and about eating. In the past few years this idea of perfection that has come up in Hollywood, there needs to be a shift in that – especially in the younger generations. I have two younger sisters in high school and I hear about it all the time, and I would like to give out a much better body image message.

Q: And what would that message be?

RW: That girls don’t need to be stick-thin where you can see your bones through your skin. It’s not a good look. You don’t need that to be beautiful or to fit in. What you are is exactly what you should be. You can’t let other people dictate how you live your life or how you look. That’s not living. That’s another reason why I love being an actress. When you stop working you forget you don’t have someone to do your hair every day. You go on set and you look like crap and an hour later you can look beautiful. I could never spend that much time on all that myself.

Q: But isn’t everyone in the movie in incredible shape?

RW: But they’re just normal looking girls. We didn’t go in and hire a bunch of girls who had no body. But it is a bit ridiculous when there’s a shot of them drawing the fat circles on one of the girls – that’s just so ridiculous.

Q: How important is it to you to play strong female characters?

RW: Obviously Hollywood is still run by men and to be able to be in a film that is full of strong, empowered females is amazing.

Q: Are you any good at keeping secrets?

RW: I’m OK. My own secrets I’m bad at keeping, but other people’s secrets I can keep.


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Interview with writer-director Rémi Bezançon - 23rd June, 2009

Promoting: The First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Venue: The Edinburgh Film Festival

Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): Where did the idea for the film come from?

Rémi Bezançon (RB): The film is about how time is spent. I wanted to pose that question and talk about time, so I thought the best way to do this would be through the depiction of a family. I was thinking about Italian family comedies and the dramas that result through the different generations in the family. The idea then was to tell this story in an original way, so I chose five different days within the family and had a large amount of time pass between these five different days, to highlight the idea of time.

VL: Was the structure of the film something that came through the writing or something you had in mind before?

RB: That was my idea from the beginning. I deliberately left so much time between the five days to allow the audience member to fill in the gaps between them, using their own memories and reflecting on their own experiences. It's interactive, in a way. I wasn't so sure that it would work, at first. In order for it to work, the family needed to experience or live things that every day-to-day family could live, not things that were out of this world. Things that people could identify with.

VL: How much of the film was drawn from your own family and experiences?

RB: A little. Very, very little. For example, for the Super-8 film sequences, I was inspired by some home movies that my grandfather made with my mother when she was a girl. But there are also a few little things and some lines of dialogue. When my family saw the film, they didn't recognise any of it, which is a good thing.

VL: Do you have a similar family unit?

RB: I have two big brothers and one little sister, so it's like I've stepped outside and am looking in at my own family. I can put myself into every different member of the family.

VL: Can you tell me about the casting? How long was the casting process and did you know which actors you wanted from the start?

RB: Not very long. I cast the parents first and the first person that I cast was Jacques Gamblin. I chose him because he has a special air about him and I very much like him, as an actor. After that I cast Zabou Breitman as the mother. I liked her very much, because she has a huge range – she can play comedy, she can play drama and I was very much drawn to the tragi-comedy that she brings to the role. But in France, these actors aren't particularly bankable. So it was quite difficult to get the go-ahead to make the film with them, but I really wanted both of them for these roles. When I cast the children I really wanted to find a family that could hold the comedy that I wanted, so I was trying to find a family atmosphere when I was casting.

VL: The younger son, Marc-André Grondin was the lead in a film called C.R.A.Z.Y. Had you seen that?

RB: Yes. When I was writing the script for the film, the casting director told me to see C.R.A.Z.Y. And Marc-André Grondin was very good in C.R.A.Z.Y., so I cast him from that. And C.R.A.Z.Y. was cool too – there are a lot of similarities between C.R.A.Z.Y. and The First Day.

VL: Where did the title come from?

RB: From American Beauty – Kevin Spacey says something similar in the film. Also there's a song with the same title, by Etienne Daho, which comes on at the end of the film.

VL: Do you have a particular favourite scene in the film?

RB: I like the scene with the cushion at the end, when the mother lets the air out of it. That was actually the first scene that I wrote.

VL: Did you cut out anything that you really hated to lose?

RB: I didn't really cut a lot, maybe one or two scenes I had to readjust. You often have to choose scenes like that, but I didn't cut too much.

VL: You mentioned Italian family comedies earlier. Are there any specific directors that have influenced you in the same way?

RB: Yes, definitely. Wes Anderson, for example – I love both The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited. I also like Sam Mendes. There are a lot of influences from American cinema, but also from French cinema, particularly the films of Claude Sautet. There are so many other things. I love the six hour Italian mini-series, The Best of Youth – that was very, very good. That was a big reference for me. And the American series, Six Feet Under – that was a big reference for me too. I love it. Psychologically, that was a fantastic series.

VL: What's your next project?

RB: My next project is an adaptation of a book called The Happy Event, by Eliette Abécassis. It's about a pregnant lady. It's a very good book and I hope my movie will be very good too. I have finished the script and I hope to start shooting in March.


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