Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac and “The Promise”

Director Terry George’s new film The Promise, which opened April 21st, sets a love triangle between an Armenian medical student (Oscar Isaac), an American journalist (Christian Bale) and the Armenian-born but raised-in-Paris Ana (Charlotte Le Bon) against the backdrop of the end of the Ottoman empire. The drama unfolds amidst the oft-under discussed Armenian genocide that took place beginning in 1915. It is a controversial subject that George and his cast hope the film can shed light on, even going so far as to donate all the film’s proceeds to human rights charities.

The cast, which also includes James Cromwell and Westworld’s Angela Sarafyan, gathered at their New York press conference to talk about what the film meant to them and some of the pushback making a movie on this subject can draw.

Conference discussion edited for article length.

Why did you decide to take this movie and what kind of approach did you take to your role?

Oscar Isaac

Oscar Isaac: For me, to my shame, I didn’t know about the Armenian genocide before I got the script and spoke with Terry. So it was new to me. And to read about that–to read that 1.5 [million] Armenians perished at the hands of their own government was horrifying and that the world did nothing…Not only that but to this day it’s so little known, there’s active denial of it. So that really was a pretty significant part of it. Also the cast that they put together. And then to learn that 100% of the proceeds would go to charity was just an extraordinary thing to be a part of.

My approach was to read as much as I could to try to immerse myself in the history of the time. And also in LA there’s a small museum that a few of us got to go to and see some stuff. And then for me, I think the biggest help was I had these videos and recordings of survivors that would recount the things that they witnessed as little boys and children. Whether it was seeing their grandmothers bayoneted…or their mothers and sisters sometimes crucified–horrible atrocities and to hear them recounted with, almost they would sound like they had regressed to those little kids again, and that was heartbreaking. So I did feel some responsibility to try to tell their story.

Christian Bale: And for me, continuing off what Oscar was saying, you know he was talking about the documentaries where you can see survivors talking about these horrific experiences that they’d seen their loved ones, families, that had been very barbarically killed…And to try to get into that mindset, to try in a very small way to understand the pain that they must have gone through, and the fact that people were telling them they were lying about what had happened. And they had witnessed it with their own eyes, had all of that emotion, but there were people who refused to call it what it is, a genocide. There are still people who refuse to call it that. We have yet to have any sitting US president call it a genocide–Obama did before, but not during–the Pope did, recently. But it’s this great unknown genocide, and the lack of consequence may well have provoked other genocides that have happened since. And for me, it became startlingly relevant because as I was reading the script and in the same way as Oscar was, learning about the Armenian genocide as I reading this–embarrassing, but I think we’re in the same boat as many people– I’m reading about…Armenians who were being slaughtered under siege on this mountain, and I’m watching on the news and it was the yazidis under siege, being slaughtered by ISIS… And just thinking this is so relevant…and so tragic, it’s very sad that it is still relevant.

Charlotte Le Bon

Charlotte Le Bon: By watching documentaries, I talked a lot with Armenian friends that I have in France…Also it was really present, just like Christian was saying–A couple months before the shooting I was in Greece just on a holiday, I was on Lesbos Island, who is the door to Europe through Turkey, and it was the beginning of the massive arrival of the refugees. And they were coming like a thousand per day, it was really really impressive. And I didn’t know about it by then. And I just remember being in the car and watching hundreds and hundreds of people walking by the street…and it was really really moving to see that. The only thing I could do was just like give them a bottle of water, you don’t really know what to do. And a couple of months later I was on set and recreating the exact same scene that I saw just a couple of months before.

Angela Sarafyan: I had known about the Armenian genocide because I grew up hearing stories from grandparents–the stories they had heard from their parents about their grandparents. So doing this film was very very close to my heart because it was a chance for me to give some light to that world in a very different way. It’s never existed on film, it’s a very controversial issue. So what I got to do was really look at the time and look at what it must have been like to live in that time. The simplicity of what that village was. And kind of survival and the romanticism of living in a small place. And learning how people survived in the atrocity. I didn’t really have to go through some of the horrendous things that you see, but I loved being able to kind of investigate that simple life. And I read more, because Terry had introduced so many books and scripts and material on it. So that was it.

Did the Turkish government give you any problems? Any kind of pushback?

Christian Bale and director Terry George

Terry George: I had a very healthy exchange with a Turkish journalist in LA, a representative of the Hollywood Foreign Press, who presented that the Turkish perspective is that a genocide didn’t happen, that it was a war and bad things happen and lots of people died on both sides…I pointed out to him that that’s exactly true but in the case of the Armenians, it was their own government who was killing them. So we talked…and you know, we had this thing where IMDB was hijacked, we had the sudden appearance of the Ottoman lieutenant movie four weeks ago that was like the reverse-mirror-image of this film right down to the storyline. And there’s a particular nervousness in Europe about the film and about the current situation…So it’s an extremely embroiled subject. But our idea, as always with any of these subjects, get it out there, let some air in, let’s discuss the thing. I’d be more than willing to sit down with any representative of any Turkish organization and talk this out in terms of our different perspectives and present our perspective on it. So we want to bring air to the subject rather than hide away…let’s have this discussion.

Bale: Maybe I shouldn’t say this but don’t you think also though that’s there’s kind of a false debate been created–a bit like climate change, you know?–as though like there’s as strong evidence on one side as on the other? There isn’t. There isn’t as strong of an argument. And then similarly with this. The evidence just backs up the fact that it was a genocide.

Was there a scene that particularly moved you?

Bale: Terry and Survival Pictures decided not to show the full extent of the barbarity of the violence that was enacted during the genocide. There were multiple reasons for that that I’ll let Terry explain. But there was one scene where Mikael, Oscar’s character, he sees many of his family members and also members of his home town who have been slaughtered…that was a very emotional one I think for many people that day. So seeing Armenians who were directly connected, or had family members who knew that their origins had come–that their families had gone through that previously–that was a very affecting day for I think for every single one of us on the film.

George: …Just as I did on Hotel Rwanda, I was determined that this be a PG13 film. That teenagers, schools, people who might be squeamish about the notion of seeing an R-rated genocide movie, that the horror be psychological. And that put the burden–and carried magnificently by both Oscar and Christian on that scene–the horror of the genocide is told through how Oscar conveyed those moments of what he found in his face…

Christian, your character is a journalist who experiences questioning over everything that you’re reporting, did the relevance of that today go through your mind?

Christian Bale

Bale: Yeah yeah of course I mean that was sort of developing during filming and then obviously has become much more present in the news–What’re we calling it now? “Post-truth” era? Just how important it is to have a free press for any democracy. So yeah, that’s another aspect of the film that’s become much more relevant.

I’d love to know more of your thoughts of the web hijacking of IMDB and RottenTomatoes against this film, who do you think organized this or do you think these are individuals?

George: You know it can’t have been 50,000 individuals decided, after we had two screenings in Toronto, to [rate] us 1 out of 10. Seems like a miraculously spontaneous thing to happen. So I definitely think that was a bot, or a series of bots that were switched on…Then we had the contrary reaction from, which I genuinely think was 25,000 votes from the Armenian community–because we didn’t have a bot going–voting 10 out 10. It brought in to highlight the whole question of, not only IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes…just the whole question of manipulating the internet, and manipulating reviews and people being swayed by that. And it’s a whole new world.

For any of the actors, in your research, can you talk about any of the unsung heroes that you found out about? Secondly, can you talk about how this movie may have changed your outlook on specific causes you’d want to support as a person?

Bale: There’s Aurora Mardiganian , she’s a real Armenian national hero…who the award is named after as well, who’s a phenomenal woman who went through real tragic circumstances but came through and told her story with film as early as 1919…She was phenomenal. I mean talk about a fierce, strong woman who overcame phenomenal tragedy. She was very inspiring.

James Cromwell

James Cromwell: I think Morgenthau [Cromwell’s character] is pretty impressive, I didn’t know anything about him when I started. And also you can’t leave out the fact that there were consular officers all over Anatolia who were also sending briefs back to Washington. And that’s one of the reasons that we have the record that we have. Morgenthau’s biography, his memoirs, and these reports which were eyewitness reports.

It strikes me as amazing that today there are no people with that sort of moral outrage as part of our state department. There are ambassadors to Yemen, there are ambassadors to Sudan and Somalia and Assyria and Libya and you hear nothing. No one stands up for the people who are being oppressed all over the world now as far as taking responsibility in the way Morgenthau took responsibility. Wilson was supportive, but not the legislature, not congress. Congress was against him. And after Wilson, Hoover was very much against him, against supporting his work and against establishing the Armenian state.

So as far as a cause is concerned, it just shows us that at the top, down to the average citizen, we have been so desensitized to the suffering of people, that we cannot recognize ourselves in the other. Which is one of the reasons you do a film like this. That it has a narrative at the core, so that the audience can come in and feel what other people feel. And that by doing that you do what Shakespeare said: ‘Hold a mirror up to nature; to show virtue her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.’ That’s what we do…

Oscar Isaac and Angela Sarafyan

Sarafyan: For me personally, it would be in my family, the orphans really. Because all of my, I guess great great great grandparents were orphaned. They didn’t have parents left, they were all taken away. So the mere fact that they were able to survive and then able to kind of form families…One of them fled to Aleppo actually to start a family in Syria, and it seems like it’s coming full circle with people today fleeing from Syria to find refuge in other countries. So I find them personally as heroes in my own life. And the mere fact that they were able to survive, form families, have a sane mind–because I think that kind of trauma changes you genetically. So I guess they really would be the heroes and for me doing the film was kind of continuing that legacy and making it kind of live forever. Instead of it just being a story that was told, it kind of lives in cinema and it will be an experience for people to watch and have as their own.

Win a DVD of Christian Slater’s Latest, “Way of the Wicked” [ENDED]

MediaMikes.com has teamed up with Image Entertainment to provide two of our readers with a free DVD of the new thriller, “Way of the Wicked.”

The film is directed by Kevin Carraway (7 Below) and stars Christian Slater (Stranded, True Romance), Vinnie Jones (X-Men: The Last Stand, Snatch), Emily Tennant (Juno, Mr. Young) and Jake Croker.

After a series of inexplicable murders sweeps a small, isolated community, Father Henry (Slater) goes to a local police detective (Jones) with a theory on why the murders are occurring. The two learn that a troubled teen with a dark past has recently moved to town and has set his sights on the cop’s beautiful, young daughter. Father Henry, who turns out to have secrets of his own, finds himself pitted against a demonic force more diabolically evil and twisted than any of them could have imagined.

 All you have to do to win a copy is let us know below your favorite Christian Slater film.  Was it his early stuff, like “The Name of the Rose” or “The Legend of Billie Jean?”  Or was it his classic role as J.D. in “Heathers” or the audience-friendly George in “Kuffs.”

Two random entries will be chosen and the winners will receive a copy of “Way of the Wicked” on DVD.  This contest will run through May 23.

“Way of the Wicked” will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on May 20, 2014.

Christian Pitre talks about new film “Bounty Killer”

Christian Pitre plays the role of Mary Death in the upcoming action film “Bounty Killer”. The film written by Jason Dobson tells the tale of Mary Death a bounty killer living in a world of chaos and greed who will stop at nothing to get her man. Media Mikes had the chance to talk with Christian recently about the film and what it was preparing for such a physical role.

Adam Lawton: Can you tell us a little bit about the film?
Christian Pitre: “Bounty Killer” is post apocalyptic like a lot of things these days but this film takes place 20 years after these things called “The Corporate Wars” take place. Once the stock market crashed all of the major corporations start fighting for control of the earth. The earth ends up destroyed and a special council is put in place to serve death warrants on the remaining corporation leaders. The bounty killers are the people who go out and hunt these people down.

AL: What was it that interested you in the role of Mary Death?
CP: I read the sides for this character and instantly fell in love with her. I loved her strength, confidence and sexiness. At the time I didn’t know the vulnerability she had as I was just reading the sides but you could just see the depth that the character had. The creators of the film have been working on it for so long that when you are around them you know there’s a lot you have to catch up on. There is year’s worth of back story there. This role was definitely a challenge I had never done anything like this before.

AL: What was your audition process like?
CP: I wasn’t represented at the time so I was just doing what every actor does when they are not represented in that you submit yourself for roles. I was doing that every day and I got a call to come in for “Bounty Killer”. That was the one audition I got called for so I figured I better book it. (Laughs) Also it was a really great project. My husband helped me prepare for everything. We practiced with a real knife and that was something I brought to the audition. At one point I whipped out this real knife and they loved it! I also told them I was Mary Death and not just reading for the character.

AL: Being that the role was very physical what type of preparation did you do?
CP: I did a lot. My co-star Mathew Marsden is a black belt in Tai Kwan Do. I on the other hand am a nothing belt. (Laughs) I knew I had a lot of preparation to do. I found a guy here in Los Angeles and we trained quite a bit. I then worked with the stunt coordinator as fighting for real and fighting on film are very different. Everyone around me had a lot of patience.

AL: How much of your stunt work were you allowed to do on your own?
CP: I was able to do almost all of it. I fought pretty hard to make that happen. They wanted to make everything safe and look good so we had to be careful. A lot of times I would show up to do a scene and my stunt double would be there. I would then ask why I couldn’t do the scene. There were only just a couple scenes where it wasn’t me. I figured out that I have a horrible fear of heights. (Laughs)

AL: Was there any footage that was shot but didn’t end up being used for one reason or another?
CP: Not a lot. We had 18 days to shoot the movie and we just worked like mad to get everything done. There was a scene that involved my character that was shot but it didn’t end up being used as it was thought to be a little confusing to the viewers. The film is really fast paced as it is so they didn’t want to add any more possible confusion so it was decided to leave that part out.

AL: Have there been any talks of doing a sequel?
CP: We have all been talking about doing a sequel since even before the first film was done shooting. None of us wanted to stop shooting. It was so much fun and the characters are so colorful. I know things were written with sequels in mind as there is so much more background and stories to be told. The guys had been working on this project for 10 years prior to it even being shot. I hope that we get to tell the rest of these stories someday.

AL: Do you have any other projects in the works that you can tell us about?
CP: Right now all of my time is devoted to promoting “Bounty Killer”. I have had some other scripts come and I am currently looking at those.

Christian Jacobs talks about “The Aquabats! Super Show!” and plans for Season 2

Christian Jacobs is lead singer for the California ska band The Aquabats! and is also the Co-Creator of the popular children’s television show “Yo Gabba Gabba!”. Season 1 of “The Aquabats! Super Show!” was recently released on DVD and season two of the show will kick off in June on The Hub Network. Media Mikes had a chance recently to speak with Christian aka “The MC Bat Commander” about the show and what we can expect from season 2.

Adam Lawton:  What made you decide to take The Aquabats! from the stage to television?
Christian Jacobs: That was an idea we had early on. The band started in 1994 and by 1999 we had already shot a pilot for Disney/Buena Vista Television. I had grown up acting and being around television and when I wasn’t playing in the band I was doing production for music and skateboard videos. The whole idea behind the band was very organic and the idea for the show was something that just clicked in my head. I thought it would be cool if we were like a punk rock version of The Monkees. I didn’t want it to be a band that was put together by the studio and playing songs written by Neil Diamond. I wanted this to be about guys who were friends that played songs together in the garage. We were never trying to change the world or anything with this band we just wanted to have fun. We knew the days as a band would be numbered so taking it
to television was a way to keep things going. We have been around now for almost 20 years and the fact that this stuff is now just coming out is really weird. I think the main reason we stay together as a band is because of the television show. We don’t go on tour much anymore but we are always playing together. We just kept going hoping for the show to come along. I got a lot of questions from friends and family as to why I was still doing this band. Now that the show has finally happened I feel vindicated.

AL: Was it hard adapting the bands live show in to a television format?
CJ: For me that was the trickiest part. I was always a fan of shows like “Ultraman” and “Batman” so the tongue and cheek aspect of things was the easy part. The hard part was how we were going to build the music into the show. We didn’t want it to seemed force which tends to be the case with a lot of shows that evolve around music. We decided to skip over the band aspect of things and went right for a musical type approach. Yes we perform on the show but we don’t talk about it or glorify the fact that we are a band. It leaves a lot of things unanswered and I like it that way.

AL: How did working on this show compare to working on “Yo Gabba Gabba!”?
CJ: Scott the other co-creator of the show and I have been friends for a long time. We had both been trying to get “The Aquabats!” show off the ground for quite awhile. We decided to focus on this other idea we had and see what would happen with it. It seemed like with “Yo Gabba Gabba!” nothing could go wrong. “The Aquabats!” was totally the opposite. I have never had something move so quickly and organically as “Yo Gabba Gabba!”. This show was born like a magical unicorn and the “The Aquabats!” was like the hunchback with one eye. (Laughs) Working on “Yo Gabba Gabba” gave us a lot more energy to put towards “The Aquabats!”

AL: Can you give us any ideas as to what’s in store for season 2 of “The Aquabats! Super Show!”?
CJ: Season 2 of the show kicks off in June and we have some really cool stuff happening this season. We have pro skateboarders Tony Hawk and Eric Koston playing some roles n the first episode and they are not skateboarding which is pretty funny. Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo has a very pivotal role this season. Gerard Way from My Chemical Romance helped us write a couple episodes and he actually directed the last episode of the season which was really cool. I think the biggest thing for season 2 is that it deals with the back story of “The Aquabats!” Each separate member of the band has their own recollection of how the band came together and that’s fun because it ends up leaving more things unanswered. There’s going to be some new villains this season, some crazy chase scenes and a lot of stuff we weren’t able to do in season one. It’s a bigger season for sure.