Tim Thomerson talks about his new film “Asylum of Darkness” and some of old favorites

Even if you don’t recognize the name, believe me when I say you know Tim Thomerson. From the hilarious television show “Quark” to supporting roles in such films as “Iron Eagle,” “Rhinestone,” “Near Dark” and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” to his starring performance as Jack Deth in the highly popular “Trancers” series, he has made good movies better and bad movies watchable.

While promoting his latest film, “Asylum of Darkness,” Mr. Thomerson took the time to talk about his long career and even indulged me in talking about some of my favorite films/performances of his.

Mike Smith: Can you give our readers a short introduction to your character in “Asylum of Darkness?”

Tim Thomerson: I play a detective named Kesler, which is a name director Jay Woelfel uses in many of his films (this is not the first time Mr. Thomerson has played a character with that name).

MS: Are those the roles you tend to gravitate too? Cop or soldier or someone else in authority?

TT: It’s really the paycheck that gravitates me to a role, you understand? (laughs) Any kind of money that they will give me that allows me to do what I like to do will count. No, no. I’ve known Jay for a long time and he’s a good guy to work with. Very easy to work with. I know his cameraman and I’ve done three movies with him. He knows my work and it was a pretty easy character to play for me. I just threw another trench coat on and parted my hair on the other side and wore glasses. I’m pretty sure in some scenes I’m wearing glasses. Probably because I’m reading my script off-camera. Like Brando. (laughs)

MS: It worked for him.

TT: It sure did, didn’t it!

MS: “Asylum of Darkness” features one of Richard Hatch’s last performances. How was he to work with?

TT: Richard was a good guy. I knew him for a long time. We had done a film together called “Unseen Evil,” which Jay had also directed. That was the first time I had met Richard. I knew who he was from “The Streets of San Francisco” and “Battlestar Galactica.” We’re both from California and he was an old-time surfer. I surf so we struck up a friendship. He was a real cool guy to be around. I would see him all the times at conventions and we would talk. He was a very mellow guy. The quintessential California person. The “Jeff Bridges” guy. Not from “The Big Lebowski” but Jeff in real life.

MS: I’ve got what I consider five of your best roles in films that fans may have missed but are definitely worth seeing. But before we talk about them, do you have a favorite role or performance of yours that you’re most proud of?

TT: Typically I never watch my work. If I happen to catch something, or if there is something I want to see to make sure I pulled it off…was I good in it or was I shitty in it? Did I do it how I was trained? (NOTE: Mr. Thomerson studied with the great Stella Adler for four years. Among her other students: Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Elaine Stritch and Harvey Keitel). I guess one of my favorite roles was a character I did on “Hill Street Blues,” where I played a slum-lord named Nat Rikers. The role was the farthest I’d ever gotten from myself. I worked really hard to become this character. That’s one of my favorite guys. Then there was a little movie I did that Bryan Cranston directed called “Last Chance,” where I played an alcoholic writer, kind of an Ernest Hemingway-type guy. He gets writer’s block and gets back on the booze. He goes to A A and becomes a truck driver. Bryan and his wife produced it and we shot it out in the desert outside Palm Springs in a place known as “Methadonia” because there are so many meth labs out there. It’s a good little movie about a guy who’s involved with a girl who’s stuck in a bad marriage. But working for Bryan, and the direction that he gave me, like I said I usually don’t sit and watch my stuff, but the best direction I got from him…I was kind of stuck because I usually play bad guys or comedy guys. But this was a real person and I had to drop all of the “tough guy” snarls and just BE this guy. So Bryan told me, ‘just say the words. Just talk.’ And I thought, “Wow!” Nobody had ever told me that before. Bryan took the time to say that and that’s all he had to say. So that is also one of my favorites. Those are two of the things that I actually saw and I said to myself, “I believe that guy is real.”

MM: OK, I’m going to give you the title of a television show or film that you appeared in and just give me the first memory that comes to mind.

TT: I’m ready.

MM: “Quark.”

TT: Oh man, that was fun. That was a lot of fun. It was really one of my first jobs. I mean a legit job. I had been doing stand-up for awhile and I think I had just done “Car Wash” before that. It was so much fun. We only did eight episodes. It was great to work with Richard Benjamin. Buck Henry created the show and wrote some of them. It was the first time I got to work with Geoffrey Lewis, the great character actor, and Henry Silva. And I got to work with Ross Martin, who was great. It was a fun show to do and it was fun to play that silly character. And it was pretty hip stuff. And it was funny. I mean, even doing it was funny. Richard Benjamin was such a funny person. And we had great directors. Directors who had been doing television comedy since the beginning. We had Hy Averback, who had done “Sgt Bilko” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.” It was the 1970s but we had guys that had been working since the 50s and 60s. Everybody laughed on the show. The crew and the cast. It was fun. Really fun.

MM: “Carny”

TT: “Carny??” Nobody knows that movie. Any time you get to work with Gary Busey it’s going to be a trip. There were a lot of really fine actors in that film. Robbie Robertson wasn’t too bad for his first film, but we had Jodie Foster and Ken McMillian and Craig Wasson. We filmed it in Savannah, Georgia at a real carnival. We worked nights. For two months. And two months of night work – in Savannah, Georgia in the deep South – can make you crazy. Working on that movie was fun. I had known Gary so to work with him was fun. He was a real good guy. It’s so funny you picked that one. Nobody knows that movie, which is a shame because it’s a well shot movie. Jodie was still a youngster so, when we were filming at night, they’d shoot her stuff then shoo her off the set. Get her away from the insanity! Because when you work until 4 or 5 in the morning, that’s when the party started. Bunch of stunt guys and crazy electricians. It was pretty nuts. I had a lot of fun on that movie.

MM: “Honkytonk Man”

TT: Well, of course, I got to work with Clint (Eastwood). That was a mind blower for me because I’d always been a fan. And, of course, he was so cool. We shot it on the east side of the Sierras in the oldest city in California called Genoa. Working with Eastwood….I mean it goes by so fast. (Does a pretty good Clint Eastwood impression) “All right Tim, we’re going to shoot your close-up. Step on in here. Are you ready?” I said, ‘yes sir, I am” and we did one take. That was it man. We were gone. He flew me in and flew me out. What was fun about working on that movie was that Clint’s son, Kyle, was also in it. Years later I was skiing on a mountain one day when a guy ski’d up to me and said (gruff voice), “Hey, how you doing?” And of course, it was Clint and his son. I didn’t recognize him at first because he had a buzz haircut because he was working on “Heartbreak Ridge.” He had the G.I. Joe cut, you know? And I kept standing there thinking, ‘what is this big guy looking at me?” Then I recognized Kyle. The guy I was skiing with said, “You know Clint Eastwood?” And I just said, “Yeah.” It was just a great experience. I also worked on a movie he produced called “Ratboy” that Sondra Locke directed. It was just fun being around him, no matter how little the time was. And talk about a quiet set. No bullshit…everybody doing their job. That really impressed me.

MM: Finally, one of my guilty pleasures. I don’t know WHY I love this movie so much. “Rhinestone.”

TT: (bursts out laughing for quite a long time) Did you just say “Rhinestone?” You’re not from Kansas City. You must be from Dixie.

MM: I grew up in Tampa so maybe that helps.

TT: I’ve got to tell you, I once was told that “Rhinestone” and another film I was in, were called the worst movies of the 1980s. (NOTE: I’m thinking the other film was “Metalstorm,” a 3D extravaganza that is pretty much on every “Worst Films” list. But I got to work with Dick Farnsworth. Dolly Parton. Stallone gave me the job. I never knew that until years later when his brother, Frank, told me that. I’d known Frank for a while and one night he said to me, “you know, my brother gave you that job in “Rhinestone.” And I was like, “are you shitting me?” And he said, “uh uh.” Then one time, later, Sly walked up to me and said (Mr. Thomerson also does a fine Sylvester Stallone impression) “I really like what you did in that ‘Trancers” movie. It was a great set. Not complicated. No drama. We knew each other’s beats and rehearsed if. And then Dolly…you just don’t get any better than her, she’s such a neat lady. That was a lot of fun. And the fact that I got to work with Richard Farnsworth. Such a great man to work with.

Stefan White talks about the upcoming Battle4KC LifeSaver “Star Wars” battle

If you’re a fan of “Star Wars” I don’t need to tell you that this May fans all over the world will celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the original film’s release. In Kansas City, fans will be attempting to set a Guinness World Record for the largest light saber battle while raising money for a great cause, the battle against cystic fibrosis.

On May 6th, fans can join with Friends of the River for the epic Battle4KC LifeSaver “Star Wars” Battle to benefit Children’s Mercy Hospital’s Cystic Fibrosis Center. The event will begin at 5:00 p.m. at Berkley Riverfront Park 1298 E. Riverfront Drive in Kansas City. Recently we spoke with Friends of the River President Stefan White about the upcoming event and the goals set.

Mike Smith: Tell me a little about the event.

Stefan White: Battle4KC is an attempt to set the Guinness Book of World Records mark for the largest l ightsaber battle. The event will benefit Children’s Mercy Hospital and their Cystic Fibrosis wing. May is additionally cystic fibrosis awareness month.

MS: How did you come up with this idea?

SW: Years ago Friends of the River Kansas City started “Movies on the Riverfront” where once a month we held an outdoor movie night in the park on a giant 36′ screen. Over the past half-decade we see more and more and more organizations offering that, and so I decided that the time had come to create a new “thing” and another idea that would be ours. Each board member was tasked with brainstorming an idea to replace Movie Night. It could be a weekly thing, monthly, annually, whatever they wanted to pitch – they could walk in the door and pitch the idea.

There were amazing ideas floated, we actually have the next four years planned out because of that one meeting. However, Steven Fuller, one of our board members, came in and told us about the work that Children’s Mercy is doing, and that the Cystic Fibrosis wing does not currently have any fundraising outside of the hospital’s general fund. For instance, Big Slick goes towards Cancer specifically. (NOTE: Big Slick is an annual Poker-themed event put on annually by local celebs Paul Rudd, Rob Riggle, Jason Sudeikis and David Koechner)

He then pitched the idea of tracking down enough Storm Troopers and leaning on community businesses, partners, and resources to take over KC. Specifically, on May the 4th we plan on taking over the hospital, and fully expect all of those kiddos to beat up each and every one of those Storm Troopers. Across the 4th, 5th, and the morning of the 6th there will be additional corporate and landmark takeovers across our city from partners. All this being an opportunity for us to speak about the work Children’s Mercy is doing as well as the cystic fibrosis community which resides here in KC.

I figured there was no way this idea passes the board. No way. At all. Never going to happen. And it did – unanimously. Our next step was taking it to Port KC, whom we are an arm of working within their property at Berkley Park, and again I thought there is no way and no how this passes and we are granted permission. They came back with a resounding YES – and a request of how they could help. They actually were our very first sponsor organization to get the ball rolling.

So here we are, 10 months later preparing for the Guinness World Record team to arrive in our city, filling the park with 10,000 of your closest friends and engaging in an incredible day of activities for kids of all ages, featuring an outstanding concert from the Phantistics, a local KC band, and setting a new world record.

MS: Is there an age limit or can anyone interested participate?

SW: Not at all! Come young and come old. You do not need to be a “Star Wars” fan to play a role and be a part of this awesome evening either. Each ticket comes with a lightsaber built just for this event. Also, I want to make it clear that this is a family friendly event, families of all shapes and sizes, and also needs. We have partnered with the “Child Life” team from Children’s Mercy, who are a Godsend, and they are working hand in hand with us to make certain that no matter the child, the adult, and whatever needs there may be – you absolutely can participate. Nobody is excluded in the setting of this World Record. All we ask is that they shoot us a private message – don’t post publicly on our social pages because of HIPPA laws – and we will get you all setup, squared away, and ready for the event.

MS: Is there a current Guinness record for greatest light saber battle?

SW: There are many who have claimed to have set the record. If you hop onto the interwebs, so, so many have claimed it before. However, in speaking with our Guinness representatives, and our judges who are coming to KC – nobody has ever taken the proper and appropriate steps to do so. Therefore, if only one of you shows up…because we have the correct paperwork on file, we get the record. That being said, I have 10,041 lightsabers currently in my garage and would like to use each and every one of them in this attempt and the setting of the record.

MS: Can fans bring their own light sabers?

SW: You can bring your own. We do realize there are collectors and hardcore fans out there. HOWEVER, during the official battle, everyone must use the same light saber for the participants to count. It is a strange rule, I know, but it is the official rule of Guinness and we want to respect their wishes.

MS: Why is this such an important event?

SW: Sadly, a cystic fibrosis patient’s outcome 100% of the time is death…this is why we are fighting. This is why we are staging the event. Children’s Mercy Hospital is the #1 ranked hospital in the world for cystic fibrosis research – that is something to be darn proud of, and as Kansas Citians we need to stand behind them. The cure for cystic fibrosis is going to come from right here in our own backyard, from one of your neighbors. We would rather have the story light, while still taking a nod to the fact that we are fighting with a purpose.

For 14 years, Friends of the River has thrown amazing parties for the city, and on behalf of the city such as Riverfest. We raise funds and support other charities and organizations. Educational activities, park building, river cleanups, tree planting. This is the first time ever we have put the full weight of our machine, organization, and community ties into a cause such as this.

That is the vibe and story line I would prefer. As Kansas Citians we have the opportunity to find a cure for an entire people. Nothing is more important than that.

Website: www.Battle4KC.com
Social Media Handles: @Battle4KC

Louis Theroux on “My Scientology Movie”

British documentary filmmaker Louis Theroux is no stranger to controversial subjects. In his wide-ranging tv career, the unflappable Theroux has immersed himself in subcultures ranging from US TV infomercials to Neo-Nazis and the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. For his first feature film documentary, Theroux acted on a years-long fascination with the Church of Scientology. When the notoriously secretive Church wouldn’t admit Theroux to film their practices directly, the documentary took a much more unique approach. Theroux, director John Dower and crew turned instead to former Scientologists to share their experiences within the church and decided to film re-enactments of their stories. Their filming, including casting their own version of Church leader David Miscavige in the form of actor Andrew Perez, quickly drew the attention of the church. The crew finds itself being tailed, filmed and even confronted on public property. The resulting documentary is at once an entertaining examination of the alleged inner workings of the church as well as a realtime account of the lengths the church goes to to defend itself. The film made its debut at last spring’s Tribeca Film Festival where I sat down with Theroux as well as John Dower and Andrew Perez to discuss their impressions of the church and how the doc came together.

Lauren Damon: Before you started making the film, how much did you know, or thought you knew about Scientology?

Louis Theroux: I think I thought I knew quite a lot—

John Dower: You do know a lot.

Louis: Yeah, I mean but then to be honest with you, I’d first been interested in Scientology you know, more than 20 years ago. And then in 2002 or thereabouts, I made my first approach and took a tour of the celebrity center and basically was in negotiation to make a tv doc that way. That fizzled out. And then about ten years after that, our producer Simon Chinn came to me and said ‘Hey what about a theatrical doc? You know, we could do it on Scientology’ And by then—it was around then that the first book, Janet Reitman’s book,  Inside Scientology came out, I read that…I mean the fact is that you could really make a full time job of kind of reading the stuff that comes out on Scientology. The challenge in a way is to not kind of sink into the quagmire…there’s so many threads that you can follow, you know what I mean?

John: You know there’s stories from the past that could be made to whole films themselves.

Louis: You could make a film about just what [ex-Church leader and My Scientology Movie star] Marty Rathbun did in the 80s.

John: The Lisa McPherson Story…

Louis: The Lisa McPherson story. Or you could do one of Clearwater in the 70s and 80s or Bob Minton. About how he went from being a critic to being a Scientology supporter. Or at least agnostic. I mean it’s a lot of individual…and then there’s whole family stories. Not just Lisa McPherson but other ones…There’s a lot. The challenge is not kind of lack of material. It’s a sort of an overabundance.

LD: And that’s also just before you even get to researching what the beliefs are which is also so involved.

Louis: That’s right.

LD: And then Andrew, what had been your experience?

John Dower, Louis Theroux and Andrew Perez

Andrew Perez: I knew just I’d heard some stories of experiences just sort of on the top—the intro levels of communications and courses. I knew that it was on the surface, or to beginners it was a kind of self-actualization, a kind of self-help, kind of therapeutic…I mean going through past trauma and weeding out sensory things that you associate with that. And seeing The Master. So I did have a kind of a good intuition about the introduction to it and why it makes some people get into it. And also the fact that there was also a sort of deep sea of mystery after that intro couple courses or whatever.

Louis: It’s really interesting because—you know when you read Dianetics, like the kernel of what Scientology is is basically just a kind of take on Pavlov’s dog, isn’t it? It’s just about sort of sensory associations.

Andrew: Yeah.

Louis: And when you read Dianetics, it’s got a volcano and it’s like “This is the most amazing book I’ve ever read in my life!” it’s all “Rome fell because of not having a science of the mind!”…Then you find out it’s all about you stubbed your toe and an ambulance went by and now every time you hear an ambulance, you get a sore toe. And you’re like “That’s IT?!” That’s the modern science of mental health? How could anyone think that that was the answer to life’s mysteries?

LD: Then going back, when you considered doing it as a tv series, what do you think it was that made it warrant making a feature movie?

Louis: That’s a good question. And in a way that’s maybe something John would be better at answering.

John: This is my first feature. Yeah, there are…little nuts and bolts, like I think you need a great musical score for instance. And I do think the music in this film is amazing. The composer Dan Jones did an extraordinary score in this film and it needs a sense of scale. If you want people to play eight or nine quid or fifteen bucks, you know they need to feel like they’re getting something with a sense of scale. And I think Scientology has that built into it anyway. And it needs to be entertaining, it needs to feel like you know, it’s…You can ask Michael Moore, he says about his films he wants them to be like date movies. That people will go on dates. You know, it’s a big deal to go to the cinema these days. And I’d like to think that that’s in our film. I’d like to think that it’s entertaining. It’s got to be, it’s a movie.

Louis: For me, I think also it has to do with like in my tv stuff, it is fundamentally journalism and so I have agency but in terms of my place in the film and how I kind of change and push through the journey through the tv shows, but in this one I really do actually really kind of take the story—take the bull by the horns in a sense. So you’ve got—I’m much more of a protagonist which I think is important for the film to work….You know I’m the guy ‘on a mission’ in a sense.

LD: Had it ever crossed your mind to try and surreptitiously join the church?

Louis: Yeah we talked about it—

John: That was floated at one point.

Louis: Obviously when you’re brainstorming, you don’t—everything’s about ‘let’s talk about…well what’re the merits? What’re the ethics of doing this? How would it feel?’ I think quite quickly we concluded that it didn’t feel right.

John: Bad faith…for something like this.

Louis: Plus you wouldn’t even get to see very much. You know without actually having access to someone inside the SeaOrg and even then it might takes months to really get deep inside…Actually while we were making it, I did go along to the Los Feliz mission to just see what happens when you go in the front door. And just show up and say ‘What is this all about?’ To me it was interesting because I’m fascinated by Scientology but imagining if we’d been filming, it would not have been very interesting. It’s just there is a sort of hard-sell that they do at the church.

Marty Rathbun and Theroux filming an auditing re-enactment

LD: How long were you shooting your re-enactments before you were aware you were being tailed?

Louis: Marty said that ‘This car has turned up before’, do you remember that?

John: I think we were probably being tailed when we didn’t realize. There was a couple of times—that car, that white Toyota pickup truck that’s in that scene—one of our PA’s Shane said ‘I’ve seen that at the hotel before.’ You know, a good few days before. Maybe even on a previous trip. So we were probably being tailed but we didn’t realize.

Louis: The first time Marty tippled that we had been tailed, though I don’t think I believed him at the time, was the day we did the drills at the studio.

John: Oh yeah, he dashed around the corner, didn’t he?

Louis: Yeah, I mean that was the same day as two people turned up filming us who were journalists. I don’t know if they actually were Scientologists but on the same day Marty said ‘This car is suspicious.’

LD: So like a couple weeks in?

Louis: Well no, it was a while, we were filming more than a year. About two months in.

John: So how did they know that we put out a casting for David Miscavige?

Louis: I mean that casting went out on the wire, didn’t it?

John: I guess so.

Louis: So it wasn’t a secret.

Andrew: But yeah that’s one thing that we’ve said was that they knew that you’d done the casting for a young David Miscavige with Marty in the room.

John: With Marty, that was the kicker. So I wonder did they follow Marty the first day he arrived—

Louis: Maybe.

John: So maybe they were following us from the—

Louis: Anytime Marty came into LA, there’s a chance they might have known about it.

LD: Andrew, when you saw that casting how did you react to it? How did you feel knowing you were kind of playing half yourself and half re-enactments?

Andrew: I just came in, I knew they were doing re-enactments, it said like a BBC documentary on Scientology and I just—I knew that they were kind of shooting outside as I was entering, so I was aware of that and I just focused on playing the role. And I didn’t know where it was all going. It was kind of fun…They would go back to England and then they would come back and have some more material for me and it was kind of a workshop at first. Mike Rinder would show up, Marty was normally there. So I was learning through Marty. They were shooting the rehearsals. There’s a lot that you don’t see that was just the process of….So we were in a blackbox theater listening, watching Marty lead some auditing kind of sessions. Then we did that day at the Mack Sennett Studios, a full day of communication TR training and things. But yeah, I knew that there would be some stuff of just me being me…but I just wanted to focus on the role.

LD: Now do you guys have any idea of where all that footage that they shot of you goes?

Louis: I think it goes into an editing suite somewhere probably in Hemet, California and I think they will be piecing it together into some kind of online video.

John: I suspect they’re waiting for the film to be here. It’s already been seen in the UK—been to festivals in the UK, I think they’re more interested about…I have no idea.

Louis: I think they’re waiting to see what happens with our film and if our film reaches a certain kind of having a profile, that they will release their counterpunch.

John: It would be great if—obviously it would never happen but—I imagine theirs is going to be a shorter film given they only filmed us on two or three occasions…It would be great if, you know how they used to have shorts before the main feature? It would be nice to have theirs.

LD: Is the church as prevalent in the UK as it is here?

Louis: No. It exists and it has high profile kind of missions in locations—orgs, they call them— on Tottenham Court Road and by Paddington…but in terms of their actual number of followers, I think it’s really small.

John: No, it’s quite telling that there’s a road in London—Tottenham Court Road— and they have an Org on Tottenham Court Road and actually there was a time when it was very, in 90s even, I worked in the company around the corner and there were always people sitting outside, always people trying to get you to do a personality test but it’s just dead now. There’s like one person at the front desk, which is quite telling in and of itself.

My Scientology Movie is in select theaters, OnDemand and available to stream on Amazon and iTunes starting March 10th. For more information visit MyScientologyMovie.com.

Vincent D’Onofrio talks about his new film “In Dubious Battle”

The Marine recruit slowly going mad. The Norse-God looking garage worker. Orson Welles. A farmer inhabited by an alien bug. A New York detective. These and dozens more are characters created by Vincent D’Onofrio. From “Full Metal Jacket” to “Adventures in Baby Sitting.” From “Ed Wood”, “Men In Black” and the long running television series “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” From “Jurassic World” to the current “Daredevil” and “Emerald City” series, D’Onofrio is a true chameleon, adapting his talents for every new challenge. In his most recent work, he stars as London, a man with the ability to inspire and lead others, in the new film “In Dubious Battle,” based on a novel by John Steinbeck and directed by James Franco. Mr. D’Onofrio took some time out of his busy schedule to talk about the film, collaborating with Stanley Kubrick and what he’s working on next. Or as much as he can.

Mike Smith: What attracted you to the project?

Vincent D’Onofrio: Well, James is just an awesome dude. There’s that. And it’s something different. To do this kind of movie, out in the fields with a very low budget. No frills. Everybody there is there because of the author of the novel. The novel itself and what it means today. Just wanting to be there and participate. Knowing that it’s going to be a very unique variation of this novel in a style that lends itself to what the novel stands for in the first place. Unity.

MS: Had you read the novel before you were cast? And if not, did you read it to get a sense of Steinbeck’s take on your character, London?

VD: That’s a good question. I’m pretty sure I read it when I was younger because when I did read it a lot of it seemed familiar. Maybe because I’ve read so many other Steinbeck novels it seemed familiar. I can’t say for sure I read it as a youngster but I did read it.

MS: You have also directed in the past (Mr. D’Onofrio directed the 2010 horror film “Don’t Go in the Woods”). Is it easier – or more comfortable – for an actor to work for a director who has a true understanding of the acting process?

VD: No. All directors are different. You have to learn that. As a young actor I think you want a director who understands acting but you actually want to work with different kinds of directors. Some directors want nothing to do with your performance. Stanley Kubrick wanted nothing to do with your performance. He didn’t want to discuss the story other then how you were going to approach a particular scene. But that had to do with the writing of the scene and not the performance of it. Not what the result of it was going to be. He didn’t want to discuss it. Now we did re-write some scenes. Not just me but Matthew Modine and Lee Ermey with Stanley. We would come up with dialogue and Stanley would sit there with a typewriter and write it all. And once he wrote it would stick. There was no improvisation after that. It’s different each time and you actually welcome that as an actor. Different kinds of directors are exciting to work with. I loved that James was an actor and that he was in the film and directing at the same time. It’s really comforting to act with the director.

MS: The film has a great cast of actors. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with yet that you’d like to?

VD: Oh my God…there are so many. It would be ridiculous of me to even start the list. We could talk about that all day, Mike. All day. There are so many great actors that have since passed away. There are so many young actors today that I love. There are so many actors from my generation that I love that I haven’t worked with. From the generation right before me…it’s a thrilling business to be in and to be the peer of great actors is so interesting and so uplifting.

MS: What do you have coming up next?

VD: My gosh! I think the last thing I did that isn’t out yet – I think it’s still in editing – is the remake of “Death Wish.” Eli Roth directed it. Bruce Willis plays the lead in it and I play his brother. Not much more I CAN tell you. Everything is so hush-hush. I may do a play before the summer. But I Tweeted about it and got in trouble. You can’t talk about anything these days. It’s such a bummer. I’ll just say I have a lot of stuff coming out. A lot of stuff in the can.

Director Matt Brown on “The Man Who Knew Infinity”

In 1914 a self-taught math genius named Srinivasa Ramanujan left behind everything he knew when he boarded a ship that would take him from his life in Madras, India to Cambridge University in England. He was drawn to the prestigious school via a correspondence with English mathematician G. H. Hardy who recognized Ramanujan’s enormous potential not just for discovering known theorems without any formal education, but for seemingly cracking brand new ones.
Their collaboration is charted in director Matt Brown’s new feature The Man Who Knew Infinity starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons as Ramanujan and Hardy. Despite the left brained subject at hand, Brown’s film delves further into the very human story of a man faced with living in an entirely new world. Patel and Irons make for a compelling duo experiencing a huge, but ultimately fruitful, culture clash. The pair are supported by a roster of talented actors including Stephen Fry, Toby Jones and Kevin McNally. The road from Robert Kanigel’s book of the same name to its film adaptation was one that took over twelve years to travel and Brown spoke with me on the phone about how it all came together (Spoiler: It didn’t involve shoehorning in an unnecessary romantic subplot!)

Lauren Damon: First off, speaking as someone who knows nothing about math, you made a very touching film!

Matt Brown: [Laughs] Thanks, I don’t know much about it myself so thank you.

LD: Since this is your second feature since 2000, how long ago did you come across Ramanujan’s story and what made you decide to make it?

MB: Well…my aunt was a member of a book club and about twelve years ago I was visiting her and she introduced me to Robert Kanigel biography. I had done a small film right out of school that I never really got to finish and so this was my first sort of opportunity to do a little bit of a bigger film–or we were hoping it would be–but it was a long road. I mean it was twelve years trying to get this film made so I sometimes joke that I think I was nervous to go through the process of having to make another film and I picked maybe the hardest film in the history of the world to try to get made. [laughs]

LD: I read that you had had an interest in World War One, which this story takes place during but it’s not really the focus…

MB: No it doesn’t, it’s just with–You know I’d read Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks and I was really fascinated by the period, as anyone that has read that incredible book might be afterwards, and this was set against the great war and that just sort of got my attention for a second look at it. Once I’d read it, I really fell in love with the human story and the relationships. You know, as a writer, you’re always looking for conflict and drama and it just had two characters that couldn’t have been any more different. So it drew me in. I was drawn into the isolation that Ramanujan was going through…This illness and everything he went through was something I could really relate to because I was helping caretake actually for my brother at the time. I was helping with his wife because he had cancer. He subsequently got better and wrote all the music for the movie, so it was a happy ending.

LD: That’s amazing.

MB: It was pretty amazing.

LD: There are many biopics that handle these mathematical geniuses–like Theory of Everything or A Beautiful Mind–did you look to any of those?

MB: Sure I guess like over the years, I couldn’t not have. You know it was over such a long period of time, and I’m a movie lover so I’ve them all at this point, I think! [laughs] And it’s funny because we all have perceptions of films and they’re not always totally accurate what our perception is of what the film was. I remember watching Beautiful Mind one time to try to see how they portrayed the mathematics visually in it. And it was shockingly small, the amount actually. It was like the one moment where he adjusts the tie, and he makes the pattern of the tie work. And it was like small and subtle. I don’t even know if there was another moment in the movie that did it besides doing lots of math on the chalkboards. People writing furiously. You know and I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to do a film that was organic. Anything we tried to do we wanted to do it in the camera. And it was really important to me to just portray the mathematicians as multidimensional human beings that weren’t crazy and weren’t like frenetically insane and were actually, you know, complex flawed characters. So I didn’t need to make it into something it wasn’t already. I think just trying to be authentic to what the story as more than enough. I mean this had so much drama: Man breaks caste, leaves his country and his home, gets trapped by the war, goes all the way to England only to find that the one person that brings him there is emotionally completely unavailable…And how these two had to come together.

LD: Throughout the film, so many of the actors have to speak so passionately about what their characters are working on. Did any of them delve into studying what they were talking about?

MB: Yeah they both spent some time trying to–Well, first of all I just would say it was really important to Robert Kanigel who wrote the book that I philosophically understood some of what was going on with the mathematics. And certainly I came to respect them as artists, pure mathematicians. It was really important to Jeremy and to Dev. Jeremy, I know read A Mathematician’s Apology, they both read the biography and I think that they both wanted to do right by this story. So they, they did a lot of research on their own and they worked with [mathematician] Ken Ono who came to set and worked with me while we were shooting which gave the actors a lot of confidence that the script was right. That when they would point at a formula or when they would look at the notebooks, everything was exactly right. And you know it’s one of those things that afterwards you know people always say that ‘well, the math people of the world will love your movie’ but I’m like ‘well, actually you don’t take that for granted.’ It’s really been humbling that I can have Freeman Dyson or Steven Strogatz be like ‘You got us. You did it.’ You know and that really means a lot to me. And so that aside, I want the movie to touch people that are not mathematicians. It’s very important that–that’s who I made for was for people like me or you or anyone that doesn’t know math and maybe we could just respect it as an art form and come to see their passion with it. Really the movie is about acceptance and the human story.

Jeremy Irons with director Matt Brown

LD: Meanwhile, I feel like Dev Patel probably wasn’t so much a household name until after Slumdog Millionaire in 2008, but you had the rights to the story for so long, how did that casting come together?

MB: I mean it’s been, it’s just been a process. I think when we started Dev was  you know just had  done [Slumdog Millionaire]. It was so long ago. You know, we went through different actors at different points over twelve years trying to get a movie made. But you know I think it was sort of–I have to think that there’s a plan for these things in some sense. And I knew that I wasn’t gonna compromise on the film in terms of the overall authenticity of it. I mean I’ve mentioned to the press at different times that [producer] Ed Pressman really stood by me when we had been offered opportunities to make the film if we would have Ramanujan fall in love with a white nurse to get it financed. And we didn’t do that. So I think there’s just a bigger plan at work and it happened the way it happened. Dev was ready to go at the right time and committed to it and felt like this was a character–he saw the nobility of the character and it was really important for him to play this role. And it’s a different kind of role for him than we’ve seen him in before and he does it brilliantly.  And for Jeremy, I think it was an opportunity to revisit something in a different way as an actor for him. And he, his performance is just so pure and beautiful.  I’m just humbled to be part of it.

LD: You also have an amazing supporting cast with Stephen Fry, Toby Jones…

MB: Yeah and Jeremy Northam, all those guys. You know, Stephen Fry is amazing–they’re all amazing–but Stephen you know he had his own project, for ten years trying to get it made,  and when we found out that we were gonna be making the film I reached out to him and I said do you wanna maybe join our team for this? And he did! And he flew all the way to Chennai for a weekend. Just took two days to shoot, to play Sir Francis Spring in it. And it was such a big thing for the movie to have the first time you see British actor to have that kind of gravitas that Stephen Fry could bring to it. That authenticity was a really great gift that he gave the film. But they were all wonderful.

Dev Patel and Stephen Fry

LD: How long were you filming in India?

MB: Not long, about nine days. Which was really…it was hard because it was an independent film and you obviously get compared to I don’t know, movies like–I mean, I’m really flattered anytime anybody ever mentions like the John Nash film for instance that was about fifteen times our budget [laughs] you know? So if it’s even in the conversation. But you know, we had a very short shoot compared to those kind of movies and we did twenty two days in England and then we had to say goodbye to our crew after we’re in a great rhythm. And then we switch to India, to Chennai, which is nothing like Madras in 1914. It was a real challenge and a brand new crew all of the sudden which is Indian and goes to a totally different rhythm. It was a tribute to my team–my production designer Luciana Arrighi, the cinematographer [Larry Smith], my costume designer [Ann Maskrey]– that they all came out alive and in one piece. [laughs]

LD: I’ve read now that you’ve also adapted an Ian Fleming biography, are you actively working with that?

MB: No that’s something I had written a while back. That’s, I’m not really sure what the state of that. I think that they said that that was going into production this year though so that was exciting. I have another movie called London Town that I think is in the Los Angeles film festival right now and then doing, I think it’s having a premiere maybe in Cannes. And that’s about falling in love with a band for the first time. A young man coming of age story with the band The Clash and Joe Strummer. Jonathan Rhys Meyers stars in that.

LD: That’s quite a change from Mathematics and World War One!

MB: Right? But you know what, it’s not though. That’s the funny thing, I thought the same thing then I was thinking about it more and more…It’s socially conscious kind of and it’s about artists, you know, so in a weird way it isn’t so different. But yeah, it is different because it’s a little easier on the face of it to rock out to Joe Strummer.

I screened The Man Who Knew Infinity as part of the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival. It is currently in limited theatrical release with national expansion in the coming weeks.

TFF: Keegan-Michael Key on “Keanu” and the Upcoming “Don’t Think Twice”

Keegan Michael Key rose to fame on Comedy Central with Jordan Peele on their hit sketch show “Key & Peele”. The television duo rode off into the sunset of that series this past September but they’ve already reteamed on the big screen in the action comedy Keanu which opens today. The film finds the pair fighting drug gangs to recover Peele’s character’s stolen kitten. Keegan was in attendance at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival to premiere Mike Birbiglia’s Don’t Think Twice which he stars in alongside Birbiglia, Gillian Jacobs and Chris Gethard. On the red carpet, the hilarious Key was glad to joke about working with the many felines of Keanu as well as his role in the touching improv-centric Don’t Think Twice.

Lauren Damon: So how was it working with that cat?

Keegan-Michael Key: The cat was super difficult. The cat—lemme explain to you—this cat, you wouldn’t believe how fast this thing became a prima donna like ‘Nah, I’m not gonna eat cat food anymore. I’m only going to eat caviar. The salmon has to be from Alaska.’ I mean, it’s like what are we doing?? It took like—I can’t believe we got the movie finished to be quite honest with you. [laughing] In real life, it was seven cats. So the thing is it was each cat was given the job of doing a particular thing. So some cats run from point A to point B. Some cats really relax and chill out in your arms and some cats put their paws up and go ‘meeeeow!’ All this kind of stuff. So they were actually not as hard as you would think. Especially for kittens. Like they’re trained. They always say it’s hard enough to ‘herd cats’ well, imagine herding kittens! But we had amazing trainers. Really amazing trainers. And a lot of kibble. [Laughs] Like a lot of cat food and catnip to keep ‘em in line. 

LD: Was it a relief for you coming off “Key & Peele” to get to work with Jordon so soon again?

KMK: Oh yeah! And also it’s easier even though a movie’s longer, it’s easier to play one character. You know, it’s easier because there’d be times you’d be in wardrobe and looking in a mirror but learning lines for a different sketch as you’re like ‘I’m dressed like an Egyptian pharaoh but these are the lines for the gangster!’ You know, and so just to play one character and have there be an arc was really helpful.

In Don’t Think Twice, Key plays a member of an improv troupe who snags a job on an SNL-like comedy show, seriously affecting the dynamic of the whole group.

LD: Did the theme of Mike’s film–that idea of “going above” your peers [in having your own comedy show]–resonate with you? Had you experienced it from either side?

KMK: Yeah, it resonates with me. I think that because you have to remember at the end of the day, do everything in your power to just to make it be about the work. Because the success will trip you up. If you start thinking things like you’re better than somebody it’s of no use to anyone. It’s not helpful, it’s not kind. And so I think that what I’ve been trying to discover or negotiate is just working. Work as hard as you can. If somebody else is at the same level or different level works—does work that inspires you, let that continue to inspire you, even if you’re ‘higher than’…you know? That doesn’t mean anything. That’s not real. Those are just labels. Good art is good art no matter what level it’s being made at.

The cast of Don’t Think Twice

Keanu opens in theaters April 29th (read our review here). The fantastic Don’t Think Twice is scheduled for release this July.

Tom Hiddleston and Susanne Bier Premiere AMC’S The Night Manager

Tom Hiddleston and Olivia Colman in “The Night Manager”

“The Night Manager” recently completed its first series run in the UK to much critical acclaim and strong ratings throughout. Fortunately for American viewers, the series gets its stateside premiere tonight on AMC. Based on John Le Carré’s 1993 novel of the same name, “The Night Manager” follows Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) an ex-soldier-turned-titular-customer-serviceman in a posh Egyptian hotel. He’s presented with the opportunity to help British Intelligence agent Angela Burr (Broadchurch’s Olivia Colman) take down jet-setty guest and illegal arms dealer Richard Roper (a superbly sinister Hugh Laurie) from the inside of his operation out. Outraged by Roper’s behavior, and with some very personal motivations as well, Pine swiftly accepts. What follows is a taut spy thriller that features an amazing cast that also includes Elizabeth Debicki and Tom Hollander.

The series premiere screened this weekend as part of the Tribeca Tune In series celebrating television. I caught up with Hiddleston and director of the series, Susanne Bier, for a quick chat on their red carpet.

Susanne Bier is an Oscar winning director (2011’s Best Foreign Language film, In a Better World) who was eager to take on this project in any capacity. “Well I mean, this project I would have done had it been a puppet show!” Bier enthused, “Because I love John Le Carre and I love the novel. But I was also very tempted to do TV. I mean the format of doing six hours as opposed to two hours was just really tempting and really interesting and compelling.”

With the show having already gone over so well in England, Bier was looking forward to opening it up to a new audience and maybe a new perspective on it:  “I think there’s always different perspectives. I mean American audiences are responding just as [excitedly] about it up til now, so I hope so!”

One of the chief changes made from the novel to the series was the switching of British Intelligence agent Burr from a male to a female character. For Bier “Part of it was updating it. Part of it was the fact that by updating it we could take it out of the sort of public school white heterosexual world and maybe actually have a bit of the diversity which is where the world is actually at.” And of the brilliant Olivia Colman, the director added: “And she was absolutely the right choice for it!”

Tom Hiddleston

With Tom Hiddleston‘s Pine reporting to Olivia Colman’s Burr, I wondered if the actor saw a pattern of his recent projects whereby his characters’ fate was in the hands of his strong female leads (Such as Jessica Chastain in Crimson Peak or Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive) . Hiddleston—who, it must be said gave thoughtful answers to the entirety of this NYC press line— took some time to reflect on those roles before answering  “I haven’t thought about it consciously in the work. I mean…it seems very true to life, doesn’t it? For men to be in relationship to women? [laughs]” He paused again, “I don’t know that they are, how was it you phrased it? Their ‘fates were in the hands of women’–it’s an interesting interpretation!…It rings true to me that each character would have specific relationships to women, but I would never—I would have to think about it longer to think of it whether his fate were in their hands…It is a new interpretation and I’m not disagreeing with you. My point is I think everyone is responsible for their own actions and that responsibility in each of those characters is shared out. I think Pine’s responsible for what he does and he would never discredit Burr by saying that [the mission] was her idea. He does things on his own volition that he’s responsible for and Pine’s fate is in Pine’s hands.”

As for looking back on his recent characters, he did stipulate: “The only instance who I would say that you brought up is [Crimson Peak’s] Thomas Sharpe who is governed by a very toxic relationship with his sister and out of the sense of duty and codependency he feels trapped. But again, his fates not in her hands, I just would question…I suppose I’m being pedantic about phrasing. But I think everyone’s fate is in their own hands.”

Hiddleston not only stars in “The Night Manager” but he took on the more demanding role of executive producing as well which he “loved,” adding “It recomitted my engagement with the material in a very serious way. I loved the extra responsibility. Responsible for the story, for the script, for the thing running on time and it just gives you greater–to me–the extra responsibility made me give even more commitment. So yeah, hoping there will be more of that.”

The Night Manager premieres tonight at 10pm on AMC.

Sitting down with “Everybody Wants Some!!” stars J. Quinton Johnson, Glen Powell and Wyatt Russell


Described by its writer/director, Richard Linklater, as a “spiritual sequel” to his popular 1970’s set film Dazed and Confused, Everybody Wants Some!! follows the fun times being had by a small college baseball team in 1980. To promote the film, co-stars J. Quinton Johnson, Glen Powell and Wyatt Russell sat down with me at the Alamo Drafthouse Theatre in Kansas City. Johnson enters the room in full voice, performing a song he literally just wrote. Powell, the most outgoing of the group, sits between the other two, eager to chat. Russell, a former hockey player and the son of Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn (he has his dad’s eyes) busies himself with his phone. And so we begin:

Mike Smith: What was it like going back in time to 1980?

Glen Powell: It was a transitional time and everything. Clothing. Presidents. Everything was kind of shifting and changing. Our relationship with the world was changing and I think this movies about guys who were shifting from either college to the real world or high school to college. And that shift not only in their world but in the world at large is what the film is about.

Wyatt Russell: So it’s AWESOME! [everyone laughs]. I mean we talked about the clothes and the hair and the music. I think everything was much sexier then I just love that era.

GP: Nowadays we have social media…smart phones… so when you go to parties today everyone has their phone out to show how good time they’re having. But in that era it’s like having a good time with these people right here.

WR: I’m at the Bieber concert!

J. Quinton Johnson

J. QUINTON JOHNSON: I’M AT THE BIEBER CONCERT!!!

[Note: Justin Bieber was in Kansas City the same week as the guys]

GP: And when we’re having a good time, we’re also athletes on the dance floor. Rick [director Richard Linklater] told us that back then athletes were peacockers, in every sense of the word. When I was an athlete, we were almost wallflowers. You go to practice and then you go home and do your thing. I mean these guys are drinking beer. Today it’s much more competitive.

JQJ: You’re not going to be out at the club.

WR: I played hockey. When I played in Europe it wasn’t a problem going out for a few drinks. But when I played in the states it was pretty rigid. Back then it wasn’t for a career you were going to make a lot of money and become a brand and sell a lot of clothes.

GP: Rick also talked about the body type of an athlete back then. Today everyone takes supplements…they’re all almost like Adonis, they’re all shredded. Back then Rick said we would’ve been in what you would call pretty good shape. I mean you are athletes but you just don’t look like one. It’s a different body type now.

MS: Was it easy to film the baseball scenes? I mean you all had participated in athletics before, right? Wyatt, you played hockey…

JQJ: I played basketball.

Glen Powell

GP: I played football. On the set we would have baseball practice every morning. We had a couple guys who had played professional ball. One had played for the A’s, and a couple of played in college. So those guys helped out the guys who might not have had that much baseball experience. We also had to do a skills video as part of our audition. I think Quinton had the most entertaining non-baseball video.

JQJ: I mean I was an athlete. I could catch a ball. I could throw a ball. But I wasn’t a baseball player and Rick knew that instantly. So what I did is I added more flair as an artist. Again I played basketball so I threw a dunk in there. And I kept trying to throw in more as a person. I was juggling. I had a shot of a dog running through the park, set to the tune of Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys are Back in Town.”

GP: I was filming Ride Along 2 so I went to a batting cage and filmed mine. And then I just laid a bunch of 80s music on top of it. Mine wasn’t nearly as fun as yours.

Wyatt Russell

WR: I had like five minutes to do mine because I had a go somewhere. The casting director called me on Friday and said you have to have it in… By 5 o’clock… On Friday. It was a big festival going on and all my friends were out of town. I didn’t even have a baseball glove. So I ended up going to my brother’s house and had him film me using my seven-year-old nephew’s glove.

MS: The film is full of great 80’s music. Did you listen to any particular songs to get into the feel of the era?

GP: Yes. Rick gave each of us and iPod nano with 100 songs from 1979 and 1980 on it. And so were ever we went… whatever we did… we listened to the music. And if we are in his game room playing ping-pong we listened to the music. It was a big part of getting us in tune with the times.

Everybody Wants Some!! is now playing in select cities. For tickets, visit everybodywantssomemovie.com

Fat Mike of NOFX talks about the bands new book “The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories”.

Mike Burkett better know to the world as Fat Mike is the bassist/lead vocalists for California punk rock band NOFX and owner of Fat Wreck Chords. Together with first time writer Jeff Alulis and his band mates Eric Melvin, Aaron “El Hefe” Abeyta and Erik “Smelly” Sandin the guys have just released their first tell autobiography aptly titled “The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories”. The book which is being released via Da Capo Press is a down and dirty tale of punk rock debauchery told candidly by those who lived it. Media Mikes had the chance to speak with Fat Mike recently about the book and also about the bands upcoming album and tour.

Adam Lawton: Where did the idea for you guys to do a book come from?

Fat Mike: It was something that we had been talking doing now for awhile. It wasn’t until I read “The Dirt” by Motley Crue that I started to take doing our own book seriously. Once I read that book it got me thinking that NOFX could do a really good book because I think our stories our better. Our stories are a little less rock and roll. I had also read the book “Please Kill Me” which really changed me as I thought the book was just so good. Our story is right up there but totally different so we said “let’s do a book”.

AL: Did the other members of the band have any reservations about doing this type of book being that it was going to go pretty deep?

FM: There were things that I knew the guys were going to be a little uneasy to talk about. Eric Melvin had never talked about being molested before and Smelly never wanted to talk about his times with Courtney Love. Those guys went in and gave it all up for the book. Smelly really told everything which makes the book his in a lot of ways. We had to wait this long to do this because 10 years ago guys wouldn’t have wanted to tell these stories. You have to get to a point in your life where you are comfortable to talk about these things. For me the chapter which talks about cross dressing was something we added at the last minute because as of 2 years ago I wasn’t ready to talk about that publicly.

AL: Was it difficult revisiting some of those darker memories that make it into the book?

FM: The chapter where I talk about killing my mom was from a very hard part of my life but at the same time I think it was one of the best things I have ever done. My mom brought me into this world and raised me and I was able to give her the greatest gift I could ever give by helping her when she needed it. I wanted to put this in the book because it’s a heroic thing to be able to do that when someone needs your help in that way. Just letting the doctors take care of it is bullshit. That’s what a coward would do. My lawyer didn’t want me to put that stuff in the book so there’s a line stating that it’s the only part of the book that’s not true. (Laughs)

AL: What was it like going back and reading some of the chapters written by former band members?

FM: The chapter with Dave Casillas was really funny because he denied a lot of the stuff at first but then by the end of his interview he said “I guess it could have all happened”.  During the older days of the band when everyone was doing a lot of drugs I only drank beer so my memory from those years is really good. I remember stuff no one else does. It’s the past 15 years that I have a problem remembering. (Laugh)  I just remember those early days so well. Nowadays we will do a House of Blues tour or something like that where everyday kind of blends into the next however, when we first started we would stay at some ones house and sleep on their floor for 3 days, get crabs and then get told not come back. (Laughs) Those are the things you remember.

AL: Were there pieces of the book done separately or were there portions that everyone worked on together?

FM: Everything was done separately. That was something that Jeff Alulis wanted so that we would be able to open up more. What I love about the book is that after reading it we all learned things about one another that we had never known. There was one part of the book I had to call Eric Melvin about just to give him a warning about what he was going to read because it’s a pretty hard thing to read.

AL: What was it like working with Jeff in this capacity as compared to the group’s previous video work with him on “Backstage Passport”?

FM: It was difficult and very trying at times. He didn’t change any of our stories but he did change some of the wording to make himself look like a better writer. (Laughs) He used words that I would have never said. It was still the same thing but he just cleaned it up a bit and made it readable. We went with someone who had never written a book before because we didn’t want someone with a lot of experience who would take our experiences and change them. Jeff felt his way through the book and the early reviews have been great so I think we made the right decision. I am really proud how it turned out.

AL: Did you notice any similarities between writing a book and writing an album?

FM: Our new album is I think our most personable album yet. For me it was like peeling off my skin. The new album which will come out in June is the first album that I wrote and recorded a lot of while I was using drugs. In the past I have always gone into the studio and recorded sober. What I found while working on this album was that I cared more. After I would do a line I became extremely focused on making whatever song I was working on the best it could be. A lot of this came from not only writing the book but also from when I was working on the “Home Street Home” musical. With a musical you can’t put in one word that’s not needed as you have 2 hours to tell an entire story. You can’t waste a word. You will definitely be able to tell the influences of the book and the musical on this new album.

AL: With a book and album coming out this year what are the bands tour plans?

FM: When we make a record we tend to not tour like a lot of other bands do. Our schedule generally doesn’t change in that we will do a two week tour, have six weeks off and then we will do another two week run of shows. With having a book out we really want it make the New York Times Best Seller list so we are going to be doing a bunch of signings and stuff like that to help promote the book. The book was already in its fifth run of printing prior to the release on April 12th so we are really excited for everything.

Be sure to check out our review of NOFX’s “The Hepatitis Bathtub and Other Stories” in the book review section of the site.

 

A Conversation with Deadpool’s Greg LaSalle

If you’ve made the right decision this Valentine’s Day weekend and have checked out Deadpool then you may not have heard Greg LaSalle but you definitely saw him. Sort of. LaSalle is one of the tech wizards behind the Academy Award winning MOVA Facial Performance Capture system used in bringing Deadpool’s X-men reinforcement, Colossus, to the screen. While Colossus’s body and voice were provided by actor Stefan Kapicic, LaSalle stepped in front of the MOVA cameras to give the metallic facial performance.

The morning after Deadpool made its New York debut amidst a Deadpool fan costume contest, I sat down with LaSalle for a conversation on Deadpool, other Marvel films and this amazing process used to bring characters such as the Incredible Hulk and Thanos to life.

Lauren Damon: Did you go to the fan premiere last night?
Greg LaSalle: Oh yeah, that was a lot of fun.

How many Deadpools showed up?
LaSalle: Oh you mean the people who dressed up? Oh I don’t know, I think there were quite a bit. I think they chose like seven of them or something, it was pretty funny. One in a tutu, I mean…it was hysterical.

Are you someone who goes to conventions in general seeing that?
LaSalle: No–
“Avoid them like the plague!”
LaSalle: [laughing] No, it’s not that, you know it’s just I have so many things to do. I don’t get a chance to do that very often.

Can you talk about what MOVA Facial Performance Capture is?
LaSalle: I’ll start by telling you first a little bit about what motion capture actually is–which is where you would wear the reflective markers. And that system, those systems were actually developed to deduce where a skeleton is moving. So as those cameras became higher resolution, people started shrinking the dots and gluing them to people’s faces. The data set you get from that is only like 200, 250 points. So a friend of mine in the bay area decided that he would fund the development of research to find out how to actually capture the entire surface of the skin deformity and that’s where MOVA comes from. That development.

So it’s super high resolution, it captures about 7000 data points, all the wrinkles, all the subtlety of the performance is captured. So it’s basically like capturing a scan per frame of the film of the actor. And then about two years ago Digital Domain developed a technique to take those and apply them mathematically to a computer generated character. So the entire performance gets carried over so it really looks, you know, all the performance is captured.

I heard that it’s captured through paint instead of dots?
LaSalle: We apply, it’s invisible makeup in white light that just is applied as a random pattern and then the system has strobing black lights and white lights. So certain cameras take a picture when the black lights are on and all they see is this random pattern makeup. And that’s what’s used to create the scans and track the points across the face.

Seeing as you worked on both Avengers and Age of Ultron and a couple years had passed between them, did the process for capturing the Hulk change? If you worked on the Hulk?
LaSalle: I did, in the first Avengers that’s what it started out as actually, it was before filming was working with Industrial Light and Magic to capture Mark [Ruffalo] to see how he would move as the Hulk. On set they used a bit of different technology so this new technology that we used for Colossus is actually the first time it’s been used. This mathematic transferring of the performance. Things like in the past, like in Avengers, we surveyed the actor. We’d get all the information about how the actor’s face would move and then companies would build a rig which is just a way of animating and when you run a slider, the lip goes up and it goes up as if it was the actor. But it doesn’t have all the subtlety and nuance of the variation in a performance. The new technology the does.

Did you have any hand in that Hulk-smashing-Loki scene?
LaSalle: Well we only specialize in the facial stuff, so only the expressions part of–but that was my favorite part of the first Avengers movie. That ‘boom boom boom!’ [LaSalle does some pretty accurate Hulk smashing motions] It’s a shame though to see Tom Hiddleston beat up like that because he’s such a nice guy.

You captured his face for that? Wasn’t it just grunting?
LaSalle: Yeah yeah…It’s so many years ago now and we’ve done so many things that I can’t remember exactly what we did. If I remember correctly, they put a pipe with some foam on the end and they kept [jabbing motions, laughing] like they’re pushing the back of [Tom’s] head so that he’d [jerks his head]…It was very strange!

What did you work on for Age of Ultron?
LaSalle: Actually I only did the–Thanos. Working with Josh Brolin.

Also on Guardians of the Galaxy too?
LaSalle: Mhmm.

I don’t know if Marvel would let me ask you but when is he coming back?!
LaSalle: That’s really funny because I was convinced while we were filming Age of Ultron that they’re gonna–I just have this feeling that something will happen. I mean he’s like the baddest dude in the whole universe and they have to do something–

Yeah coming up of course we have [Captain America] Civil War, that’s Earth-bound but [Thor] Ragnarok is coming and that’s out there! He’s waiting in the wings…
LaSalle: I mean I wish I could say. I’m not privy to those kinds of things to begin with. But it would be really cool to see a bad ass movie with Thanos. I mean they have so many characters and so many things to do. Kevin Feige–he’s the president of Marvel–knows this universe probably better than Stan Lee and he has this all mapped out in his head. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

Do you keep up with the other projects in between what you’re working on?
LaSalle: I don’t actually like actively keep up. I look for within the industry, what we could work on and how we could pull things off.

So working as Colossus, you’re performing his scenes and they just transfer your face into his?
LaSalle: Yes, in simple terms, yes. It creates a scan first and then this fancy math transfers that by figuring out where–you teach it ‘Okay, this is where the center of my cheek is and this is the center of where Colossus’s left cheek is’ and it mathematically calculates what else is going on in that area. It transfers it.

How did it come to be this split performance where you’re on the face and Stefan Kapicic provides the body and voice?
LaSalle: Tim Miller understands this technology really well, so he figured he could take the best of what different people had to offer and Frankenstein all that together. And he was adamant about having an authentic Russian voice. I believe he even recorded another and he just didn’t like it and then he found Stefan. And I think it works extremely well. It’s a pretty cool way of using the technology.

What was the most fun about being Colossus?
LaSalle: Well I’ve known Tim for a long time and I just like working with him. He’s fun, he’s actually a lot like Deadpool in his comedy and the way he’s sarcastically funny. So I enjoy working with him on that. But I also did the tests which we did like six years ago so it’s been really awesome to see it finally get made. So just the general overall feeling of being happy about that.

Was Tim involved at all in how Deadpool was treated in [2009’s] Wolverine?
LaSalle: No

Was there discussion about just getting away from that entirely?
LaSalle: Tim is a huge comic book fan. He reads a ton, he likes graphic novels. He knew that he wanted to take what’s on the page and have that be what’s in the film. He wasn’t going to mess with it, he wanted to–as a fan he knew that that’s what everybody wanted to see. That’s what he wanted to do.

How instrumental was Ryan Reynolds also in getting this?
LaSalle: I think it was a collaborative effort because they all have their understanding of the character so they–and Tim is great that way. I know he had people that they discussed it: ‘This is what I’d like to see, this is what you’d like to see’ and then they figured out a way to get that all to happen.

This is your second time in front of the camera [after an appearance Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb] is this what you’d like to do more of?
LaSalle: Well I think it’s fun, I’ve been acting for a while and that’s why Tim gave me the part. But I like to do both. I think it’s fun to play the computer generated characters because you get to do really wacky stuff. And then but I also like really small, intimate type live action things. So I’ve been shooting a few short things.

What’re some of your favorite films this past year?
LaSalle: Oh, I liked the Big Short, I liked Trumbo if you’ve seen that. I thought Trumbo was really good.

Yeah, it was weird to watch that in the context of “Award season” since there’s so much of Oscar in the storyline…
LaSalle: I know! You gotta block all that stuff out. Well it’s so interesting too. I mean it’s doubly cool that it’s true.

Do you have more acting roles coming up?
LaSalle: I just finished filming, ironically with Blake Lively [married to Reynolds]. A movie with her called All I See is You which there’s what we call invisible effects. It’s a live action movie but they wanted to use this new technology to drive her newborn baby being born and a character that she sees in her head. So I played both of those parts.

Playing a fetus?!
LaSalle: Not the fetus! As soon as it’s born I had to do the scenes of taking the first breath of screaming and crying and opening the eyes and looking around. They wanted all this subtlety. They figured a live performance would do that more than trying to animate all that subtlety into it.

[This next question features discussion of a specific Deadpool moment, so for the SPOILER-shy, skip down past this one!]

Does that mean you had anything to do with Deadpool regrowing a baby hand? [A brilliant moment after Deadpool cuts his off to escape Colossus’s handcuffs]
LaSalle: (Laughs) No! No. It’s so funny because I’d known that he cuts his hand off for a very long time but I never go to see anything–I only knew because Colossus ends up with his hand. And I never knew what happened. So when he cut his hand off, the first time he saw the movie it was like ‘OK now how does it grow back? How does it grow back?’ And then they even made that funny, it was awesome. I didn’t know what to expect because I don’t like to see the movie until they’re completely done because there’s just so many things that pull you out of it, you know? So I wanted to wait til it was done and I think that all this talk–the blood and the guts and the R-rating, it’s perfect. I don’t care!

It would be weird if you had this much violence and then just no blood, it’s annoying when PG-13 movies do that–
LaSalle: Plus it’s there because it needs to be, a couple of short seconds and it’s not gross. It’s just real.

[Spoiler over!]

Back to Deadpool , considering there are so many films now in the ‘Marvel Universe’, what do you think is most appealing about this character, what does he bring?
LaSalle: Well I think his authenticity to the original character. And the comedy. I mean I think there’s a lot of funny stuff in the Avengers movies and some of the other stuff, but that’s what Deadpool’s character is built around. And I think that that just makes it’s different and stand out.

If Deadpool had to be pitted against any of the Avengers, who do you think would win out?
LaSalle: Oh…This might sound bad but I think Deadpool is way smarter than those other characters. So I think he’d win a lot of stuff. Because he thinks differently than they do.

Black Sails’s Ray Stevenson on Playing Blackbeard

When Starz’s Emmy-winning series “Black Sails” returns for its third season, the usual inhabitants of Nassau are set to be joined by the iconic pirate Black Beard. Black Beard (real name Edward Teach) cut an striking figure on the seas of the 17th and 18th century, often relying on theatrically in his attacks to further intimidate his enemies. Many of his flourishes were the basis for the way piracy was portrayed in pop culture thereafter. At 6’4″, Irish actor Ray Stevenson (HBO’s “Rome”, Punisher: War Zone, the Thor films) can certainly fill the shoes of that scary scallywag on screen while being completely affable and a joy to chat with when he sat down with me at this year’s New York Comic Con.

Lauren Damon: I’m a huge Marvel nerd, so of course I’ve seen you as Volstagg [In the Thor movies]–
Ray Stevenson:You saw a lot of me! [laughs]
So I was wondering going from that to Black Beard, have you nailed down the ‘beard acting’ between these characters?

Stevenson: Well you know it’s more about beard preparation. That you just sort of you know like abandon hope as you go into the makeup room. Just like say ‘alright…‘ Yeah ’cause it was about the same time. Cause again, that magnificent Volstagg beard was like this one, was individual pieces. And it’s almost like strand by strand it’s laid on. But the horrible thing is that you’re up at four in the morning, and you get in there about half past four or something and it’s still dark. And it’s just your body’s screaming that nobody should be up at this time. You should be going home. And you lie down and the first thing they do–you’re obviously clean-shaved–so you’re shaved. And then they slap glue on your face. They basically paint your whole face with tacky tacky glue and it just…never feels good. You never get used to that. And then it’s this sticky sticky stabby process.

But I am–I wasn’t freaked out by it. I was kind of used to it. Yeah so as far as ‘beard acting’ is concerned, yeah. The only thing I did this time was that it was my mustache. Which was fine when you’re shooting and then when you’re not shooting, walking around with this massive sort of handlebar mustache which I’ll never do again [laughs] because it was neither one nor the other. It wasn’t me, it wasn’t the character. So it was fine when we were shooting. So this time they’ll have to provide that as well. I tried it.

Playing one of the most notorious pirates of all time, what steps did you take to make it unique and what steps did you take to research so you’re true to the character?

Stevenson: There’s a lot of research available, a lot of material on the character itself. Which is a double-edged sword as well because like all these things, history is a thing that is written by the victors…It’s like the American cowboys, that whole civilization of ‘the Wild West’ and all this that was sent back east to titillate over and get excited about and stuff like this. So there’s a lot of that going on at that period. They were writing about you know, “Ye Olde Pirates” and cutthroats and all this. So in amongst that, there’s a thread that you can glean.

And obviously there was some serious historians trying to put this stuff together. There comes a point where, with everything, you have to push all that sort of general knowledge aside sort of thing and concentrate on the script. Because ultimately you’re playing the script. And what you could bring to it was there was–and what’s beautifully portrayed I think in the series–is it’s much more about the man. The myth and the legend has already been established. So he’s coming in as ‘Blackbeard’…This is not about him establishing his legend.

He’s…it’s like if you have Keith Richards walk in a bar, and there’s guys there and they go like ‘He used to play the guitar…’ You know what I mean? It’s like he walks in and there’s guy in the tavern going [hushed voice] ‘He used to be a pirate, you know what I mean?‘ It’s just, he has that effect. He has that charisma. You wouldn’t actually lock eyes with him. He just carries that with him. And carries from, not out of bluster I think, because that’s it. He’s earned it.

And so you’ve got a guy who’s–you’re trying to play somebody who has got that presence and that charisma. It’s like unleashing a kraken, he just turns up. If he looks at you, you sort of…it puts you straight on edge. You go ‘well, why is he lookin’ at me? Am I glad he’s looking at me? Or am I not?’ I mean…so a lot of it is done in subtleties and in the writing. And then when he engages with the likes of Rackham and Vane and what have you, he knows what he’s bringing with him as well. And also he’s got quite a bit to say.

So the research and all this is great to a point, but obviously you have to avoid the fact that he was from Bristol. And so that heavy Bristolian accent unfortunately is the big cod accent that most people they think about when they think ‘pirates’. That sort of you know ‘ARRR‘ and all this sort of stuff. Whereas the Bristolian accent is wonderful and rich, BUT it would lend itself towards you know perhaps that sort of assumption of you know, getting a little too cod piratey. But that’s not what it was about. But it was the essence of the man from Bristol, who was actually a tremendous strategist and seaman and captain. And knew all about the power of display. And that’s why he would dress the way he did. He was 6’3″-6’4″. In the 1720s, that man was a colossus, he was a giant. So he basically knew about the theatre of putting that effect on so that the other ships they were after would just hopefully capitulate. Because there was no loss of life and they’d get all the booty and everybody’s happy, there’s no bloodshed, he didn’t lose any crew members living off the legend. And maintaining his prowess. It’s a strange thing to try to make that balance but ultimately you’re playing you know, you’re serving the piece. You’re playing the drama itself.

Between this and “Rome”, Thor and other roles, you have all this weapons training. At this point do you have a preference? Do you feel more comfortable with one or…

Stevenson: [Laughs] The one’s that win! No, because they all–it’s amazing working with the weapons guys. Like on Punisher[:War zone] we worked with the Marines and also with some Force Recon guys and they were just…I mean I wanted to make sure we didn’t have those, you know the old Hollywood guns that never ran out of bullets. So I mean–and GI Joe as well–there were mag reloads and all sorts of stuff. You want to do it enough times so that it becomes automatic. Because sometimes, like with Punisher especially, a lot of the people that watch it, maybe they’re going to be the army guys. Who are training and training and training and they’re going to see something like, even your hand position on your weapon, the use of the weapons, the reload, and they’re gonna say ‘Do you know what, that’s we’ve been doing…‘…So they’re not thinking like ‘Ehh he knows nothing.‘ That sort of authenticity.

The weapons training obviously with things like [The Three] Musketeers, thigh-killing training. Because it’s a certain type of sword fighting. Which anybody who goes to the gym I think they dread, ‘And now, lunges!’ Well that’s what it all is. But it’s lunges with intent. I think when you’re working with weaponry, I work harder than when I ever work at a gym. Because it’s fun. And you’re basically working on a choreographed dance as well. So you’re doing all this extra work. At the end of the day, you’re just shaking like jelly. I never– I’m never at the gym like that. But because you’re rendering your hand and you’re learning these set pieces and moves…I mean ultimately the person is the weapon. That’s what you learn throughout all the weapons training, no matter what period it is, the real weapon is the person behind it. And you know, if you get that right, then how you handle the weapons is just second-nature.

How is the dynamic between Blackbeard and the other alpha male characters–Vane and Flint–but also if you go deeper than that with some of the other characters?

Stevenson: Well he does because coming back to Nassau, after such a protracted period away, he’s got his own reasons for coming back in. I think it’s a lot to do with the lack of a son and an heir apparent. Even after eight marriages, eight wives, there’s no son. And the closest thing he has to any of that would be this pirate captain who he mentored, which is Charles Vane. And to see if there is–is there anything left? Is there any relationship? Because in this period in history–because there were nothing like the numbers of people we have on the planet now and a man’s standing and his status and his legend that he leaves behind was the most important thing. If you lost status in life, pffft! That was it. You may as well throw yourself off the top of your rock. So to see if there was any spark of something that you know, could be reignited.

But what happens when he arrives back in Nassau, he sees that–and this is what he says to Rackham and Vane–he looks around and he says ‘I see what you’ve done, you’ve basically done the worst thing ever, you’ve made it prosperous You’ve turned them soft, there’s no pirates around’ Because they’ve all got their money…He basically comes back and holds them right up and says ‘What?!’ And of course, because it’s him, this sets in motion a sort of–it’s a real dressing down. And we’ll see the dynamic as to whether or not–because this is very much a kind of father-son relationship, or you know heir apparent with Vane, and how that plays out. And that’s what I love about…couched in all this world of ships and the huge set pieces and the galleys and a the fights and the battles, and all this sort of stuff, there is this real human condition of father-son, mentor, founding member, one of the original drafters of the pirate charter and walking living sort of legend. That people sort of stop their breath, the last thing they expect to see is this guy walking into a tavern or walking down one of the streets. He has that effect which he’ll use to great effect. And if challenged, he’ll meet it out swiftly…

And then the relationship with Flint is dealt with very well. Like they’re kept at a kind of distance initially because we’re establishing other things and Flint’s away…And then there is a coming together, ultimately, of course, right? And that’s all I can tell you about that. We’ll see!

How about some of the female characters?
Stevenson: How about some of the females? Aren’t they great! How about those girls? [laughing]
I mean, you know, look, he’s from a different era and he has his own, he has a long standing sort of thing with one woman who you get to meet. And where he’s off the island of Nassau and he’s actually on some spit of land or some island somewhere…it’s probably only on his maps where he goes with his crew. Where he–he basically sees these islands as launchpads not as new states or new societies. Next thing you know, he says these pirates will be farming, they’ll be setting up law-courts, they’ll be setting up judicial…and then where are you? He basically lives by example and shames people around him and with the Guthries, he’s got no love lost with the Guthries.

Black Sails season three premieres on Starz Saturday January 23rd at 9pm.

Director Todd Haynes and Stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara Speak about ‘Carol’

CAROL

The works of author Patricia Highsmith have been crafted into some truly great films including Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train and Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley. This weekend, Todd Haynes’s latest film Carol from Highsmith’s The Price of Salt adds to these successes with brilliant work from a cast lead by two-time Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett and Oscar-nominee Rooney Mara. Blanchett plays the Carol Aird, a wealthy soon-to-be-divorced socialite in 1950s New York who begins a complex relationship with Mara’s younger shop girl Therese. The two navigate their feelings for one another while being challenged by the social norms of that time period. I attended Carol’s New York press conference this week where they, along with screenwriter Phyllis Nagy and fellow castmates Kyle Chandler and Jake Lacy joined moderator and WOR Radio film critic, Joe Neumier to discuss the film.

Director Haynes began the conference by discussing his approach to Highsmith’s work and this powerful romance at the center of the film:

Todd Haynes: I really was taking it on, as if for the first time, looking at the love story. Something that I felt I hadn’t really ever accomplished directly in my other films. And that really began with reading The Price of Salt, Patricia Highsmith’s beautiful novel, and the gorgeous adaptation of Phyllis’s script that first came to me with Cate attached. So it was quite a bundle of incentives when it first landed with me in 2013. But love stories are, you know unlike I guess war which is about conquerring the object, love stories are about conquerring the subject. And so it’s always the subject who is in a state of vulnerability and peril at some level. And through much of Carol that is the character of Therese who occupies a much less powerful position in the world in Carol…is younger, is more open, is sort of experiencing this woman with a freshness that is different from Carol’s life and experience. But what I loved about this story was how what happens between the two women really moves them through a series of events which change them both. And ultimately by the end of the film, it’s shifted sides. Carol is the one who comes to Therese with her heart on her sleeve at the end of film. So all of that made a lot of the smaller elements of looking and who’s being looked at and who is doing the looking and all of those questions, something that was very conducive to the cinematic language.

I asked Cate Blanchett, who had a supporting role in The Talented Mr Ripley in 1999 if she had studied Highsmith’s work in preparation for that film and how her perception of Carol changed upon revisiting it for this role:

(L-R) KYLE CHANDLER and CATE BLANCHETT star in CAROL

Cate Blanchett: Yeah it’s one thing entirely reading a novel and quite another when you’re then reading it again when you’re going to play a character in the book. I mean I read everything of hers I could at the time we were making Ripley. It was actually, much to shame, the first time I’d ever encountered her work. But I also was very interested in you know all of the sort of filmic incarnations of her work as well…And there’s some wonderful observations and parts of internal monologue–well more internal monologue that Therese has–but observations of Carol that’re in the novel that were really really useful to read. I just read at the time, the first time I read the book as a reader but to then to try and make that stuff manifest was really exciting.

Screenwriter Phyllis Nagy actually got to speak extensively with Highsmith before she passed away in 1995. Moderator Neumier followed up with Nagy as to whether Highsmith was nervous about this novel becoming a screenplay for film:

Phyllis Nagy: Well she was dead by the time this came to me. So we didn’t have that conversation…[laughs] I’ll have it with her later tonight. She didn’t like many of the film adaptations of her work.
Cate Blanchett: Didn’t she?!
Phyllis Nagy: Oh no, she couldn’t stand them. Especially Strangers on a Train.
Cate Blanchett: Oh what does she know!?
Phyllis Nagy: You know from her perspective–the guys trade murders in that book and in the film of course they don’t and it was one of the first arguments we had when I said ‘Oh, I love Strangers on a Train!’ she said [frowning] ‘Hmmm’ really with disgust. But she liked aspects of the films, Robert Walker she loved and she thought Alain Delon was extremely attractive, of course. So I hope that she would find this entire enterprise extremely attractive. I think she would. I think we are all of us not betraying the intent and the tone of the work. Which, really I think is the only thing you can do to be reverent to a source material. Everything else is up for grabs.

ROONEY MARA stars in CAROL.

Rooney Mara praised Haynes’s film for portraying Carol and Therese’s romantic relationship honestly without preaching:

Rooney Mara: I think one of great things about the film is that it’s not a political film, it’s not a film with an agenda, it’s not preaching to the audience. So people are allowed to just watch it for what it is which is a love story between two humans.

Later, she addressed whether or not Therese having an older female lover lessened the chances audiences would see the age gap as something Carol was exploiting.

Rooney Mara: …Would it ever feel predatory? It’s not like I’m 17 years old. You know, Therese is younger than Carol and she certainly is–they’re at different stages in their lives but I don’t think that she’s so young that it would be…it never felt predatory to me and I don’t think it ever really would have, male or female.

Rooney’s character at the start of Carol is already in a relationship with an over-eager boyfriend Richard, played by Jake Lacy who spoke about Richard:

Jake Lacy: Todd spoke a little when we first met about the idea that, for Richard the world is there to take, you know. He’s young, he’s in New York, he’s first generation American. He’s smart, he’s handsome, he has a job and a girl. You know, the world is his for the taking and yet it slips away from him. And sort of without knowing it, thank god that it does because otherwise…he’s fifteen years or ten years earlier than Carol and Harge and that world if he and Therese stayed together and created a life like them. It wasn’t a life anymore, you know?…To me, for Richard the idea of a dream that then falls apart, or that someone is not willing to be a part of that dream and trying to wrangle them into it…

Kyle Chandler plays Harge, Carol’s husband who is grappling with losing his perfect family in his divorce from Carol. Chandler spoke about the importance of playing his character without making him stereotypical:

Kyle Chandler: …It allowed me, I think at some point I realized that it could be a stereotypical character very easily. And [to] portray what you would imagine Guy from the Fifties under these circumstances…but what happened was at some point, the worst possible moment in a man’s life or a woman, when they’re in love, and they realize they’re not in love anymore. And this character never realized he wasn’t in love anymore. He was always in love and he was intensely in love. And he also had this little child. Not just his wife, not just his child, but his family unit. So important to him, and so important to say nothing of his social status and what he was. But he refused to give that up. So that…allowed me I think, to stay within that and never lose love or respect; But still be very confused on what is going on. Which goes back to that one direction that [Haynes] gave me when [Sarah Paulson’s character, Carol’s ex-lover Abby] is walking in the room and I look across and I go, ‘Who ARE you?’ basically.

SARAH PAULSON stars in CAROL

Paulson as Abby, Carol’s ex-lover, is one of Carol’s strongest bonds in the film, who she actually calls upon to pick up Therese when they hit some obstacles. Paulson spoke about her character being in this tricky situation.

Sarah Paulson:
…I do think, I wonder what I personally would do if someone I loved and still had feelings for, if I was called upon to come in and rescue the person that she currently loves…I don’t know, I don’t know. It was to me a very big testament to her friendship and her love and I think the desire to be around Carol and in Carol’s orbit no matter what. I think that Abby’s sense of society–and I don’t mean literal society but her community, her friendships, you know they were probably quite narrow at that time. So to lose something like that would be…the consequences of that would be too enormous. I just started thinking about things like that…

Haynes also commented on how a modern audience views all of Carol’s female relationships versus how people within that time period in the film would have seen it:

Todd Haynes: There are also things that a modern audience has to keep reminding ourselves we’re quite different at this time, counterintuitively. Where an older woman could invite a younger woman to lunch and it was absolutely totally appropriate. Where she would have never invited the head of the ski department to lunch. Or they could check into a motel together as two women but if they were a heterosexual unmarried couple, checking into a hotel at this time would have been a scandal. So there’s ways in which the morays and the codes of the time are also things that we’re learning and reading against their actions and gestures.

Carol is now in theaters, you can read my 5-star review here.

When It Was Time To Party, We Partied Hard – An Interview With Andrew W.K.

I have been listening to Andrew W.K.’s music since “I Get Wet” was released in 2001. The music has such a positive vibe and energy to it, that I would almost call it “addictive”. Much of the time, people attribute negative connotation to addiction, but I feel in the case of Andrew WK, can you really be faulted by forming a habit for music and messages that bring you up from the darkest places and make you feel alive? Notoriously fan friendly, motivational and a seemingly endless fountain of “life”, Andrew W.K. is someone that I have long waited to meet, and I finally got my chance before his full band performance at the State Theater in St. Petersburg, FL, on January 29th.

Eric Schmitt – When did you decide that your music should take a positive approach in the hard rock and metal genres?
Andrew WK – It’s a great question. Even more so than lyrically or ideologically, the big question for me early on was whether to use major or minor keys. I like all types of music, both major and minor chords, but I was always, in terms of energy, really driven by  chromatic minor music. Like traditional heavy metal, especially very brutal heavy metal. It was very aggressive and I always drew great energy from it’s power. I wanted to do that, but I never felt I could do it as well as the masters. I had this strong feeling, like a pinpoint where I could use this major key, but I didn’t know if people would like it. I had these doubts that it somehow wouldn’t work, or the metal community wouldn’t like it. I remember very clearly coming back from this family trip, where I decided “okay, I’m just going to do it. I’m going to make this music that’s in my head.” I could hear how it sounded, and I just had to believe that I could do it. And it all formed from that, the major key is a cheerful sound, and everything just formed from that cheerful sound.

ES – How have you seen some of the positivity of your music manifest in your fan base and other external areas?
AWK – I never initially thought it would be a positive thing. Music itself makes you feel good. Music of all sorts, even if it’s a sad song, angry song; I don’t think anyone would listen to music to feel physically worse. It has a good feeling – it’s magical really. I feel that any music you put out there has the ability to generate that feeling in people. Certainly, when you can add to that already positive feeling in music, a positive message, or specifically focus on getting motivated and powered up, feeling good about life, then it gets amplified by a billion times! You fuse these two things, cheerful music and positive mindset, and it goes through the roof. So I was really excited and very influenced by people reacting to the music I was putting out early on – finding positivity in it. So I said, “okay, I’m going to commit to this”. A lot of the lyrics aren’t positive in a blatant way, they’re kind of all over the place, so it was really people finding that in it. I definitely wanted to be cheered up myself, so when I saw it was working for other people, it sort of became a team effort. We were using this music and a Party mind-set as a centerpiece to build around.

ES – Describe your mentality when writing music – specifically when piecing together the Wolf, which ventured into more serious territory than “I Get Wet”. For instance, “Never Let Down” is a significantly different song than anything that was on “I Get Wet”.
AWK – Well, there wasn’t a whole lot of rhyme or reason to it. A lot of the songs on the second album, “The Wolf”, were actually written at the same time as the “I Get Wet” songs. Some of them before. I guess I just chose to make the first album, like it will be these types of songs. Then the second album I would open it up to more tempos. But also, I think the first album started this party, then the second album was almost like singing about how that felt. Again, I didn’t intend for it to be that way. A lot of the lyrics and feelings that I got across on the second album were my amazement that any of this was happening, and recognizing it and trying to amplify it. It was “here’s the party starting“, and then “this is what it feels like”.

ES – What factored into you writing the “Party Bible”?
AWK – Being asked, probably first and foremost. Writing a book wasn’t something I planned on, at least right now. But, I had some people that were very supportive. Initially, my book agent, Simon, he said I should make a book. I’ve done writing throughout my work, advice columns and posting stuff, you know? I always liked writing, but a book was a huge undertaking. I, of course, was intimated by the challenges that it implied, but having someone there that believed I could do it was nice. Then several years later, Simon & Schuster actually came through with a book offer. So I started writing it (the Party Bible) and it’s not really an autobiography, more about partying and the stuff we’re talking about now. Hopefully it’ll be done soon, I’ve been writing it for a couple of years. It was definitely harder than I thought it would be.

ES – Do you think we’ll see an “I Get Read” book tour when the “Party Bible” is released?
AWK – (Laughs) That’s a great title for a book tour! Of course, I want to do a book tour and you know, not just do book appearances, but party lectures like I’ve done before, and play some shows. I love touring, so any reason to tour is great. Having the book, of course would be a whole new version of a tour experience.


I had never seen Andrew perform live, and having his full band on hand before trekking down to Miami for ShipRocked 2015 was certainly an added bonus. I’ve always envisioned Andrew WK as the “party guy,” but the interview gave me a glimpse into the intellectual away from the stage. I don’t know if I was still hung up on that aspect, but when the band blasted into “It’s Time to Party,” the State Theater crowd erupted and I was swept up in a tidal wave of emotion and sweaty metal heads. It was the most intense level of fan interaction I have ever seen at a live performance!

Song after song, bodies would fly from every corner of the stage, some being caught by partying revelers, the others falling to the sticky alcohol mess of the floor. But there was no strife, no anger, no machismo – the entire crowd was united under the “Party Banner”. I had never seen anything like it, and I stood my ground 6 feet from the stage so that I could absorb the energy in all its glory.

Sporting 4 guitarists (!), a bassist, drummer and Andrew on keys and vocals, the band was almost militant in it’s musical assault on the crowd. The performance was an unrelenting barrage of good feeling, and the crowd was more than eager to reciprocate. Constantly singing along, invading the stage to dance with band members and raining down applause after each tune! ANYONE that walked into that performance mid-set would have been swept off their feet by the energy – it was that strong! After playing the majority of the “I Get Wet” and “The Wolf” albums, AWK closed the show with the title track from the first album and “Don’t Stop Living In the Red”. It was towards the latter song that my wife, who has never really been a fan of Andrew’s music, was converted. The look in her eyes said it all – She had indeed, Partied Hard!

Mike O’Meara & Robb Spewak talk about their podcast “The Mike O’Meara Show”

“The Mike O’Meara Show” is a daily podcast available through their website or iTunes. The show is hosted by Mike O’Meara and includes Robb Spewak and Oscar Santana. The show is also streamed via video through their website or Ustream. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Mike O’Meara and Robb Spewak to chat about the podcast.

Craig Kish: Throughout your careers in broadcasting you were just a W-2 employee of a major corporation, and now you guys are co-owners of your own small business. How has that transition been, going from just worrying about your day to day duties as compared to being concerned with about all aspects of the show?
Mike O’Meara: I can’t speak for Rob, but I had an experience on my own for a very brief period of time back in the 1980’s when I left a small radio station company to run my own production company. I did contract production actually before I started working with Don. So I had a taste of it and I liked it. I liked the fact that I was independent of a corporation, but unfortunately that did not allow me to continue because the money just wasn’t there. So I ended up getting back into radio on the talent side; I had it on the management side. So, I had a taste of it – but this is much different because we are able to do it on our own but still as a collaborative effort. We have such a great group of guys and we kind of narrowed it down in the last year. We have more of a little circle but we all know what are jobs are and our responsibilities are and it’s just a lot of fun. Watching it grow is even more fun because we know that the circle is small – that if the show does well that we are all going to do well. So it’s a tremendous thrill for me.
Robb Spewak: And to add to that. It’s always been an exciting job for me; I love what I do. I think Mike will agree with me that in the past four years it’s probably been even more exciting because we are working so directly with our partners. It’s not diluted by the fact that before we make a decision we no longer have to go through three levels of management in New York City. It’s three guys making a decision and is much more immediacy, much more excitement, and it’s been a lot more fun than the last year we had on the terrestrial side.

CK: How has the change from being just co-workers previously to now being co-owners and running the show yourselves changed your relationship between each other?
Mike: Well, Rob talked about the fact that we don’t run things up the flag pole with management and all the different layers, but at the same time the three of us – Mike, Rob and Oscar – when we come in every morning anybody that had anything that’s great material that they think – not that I think but they think – is great material, it gets on the show and if It doesn’t it’s an oversight on my part because I just forgot it. But there is total creative flexibility with these guys as well as myself. We bring whatever we want into the show on a daily basis and if it’s good material we try to get to it. Sometimes I am guilty of not getting to everything in the 79 minutes or so we do the show. I really love it when one of the other two guys comes in with something special and we can go in a totally different direction. But as far as the content for the bulk of the show, now it really is a collaborative effort as well.
Rob: Having worked with mike the past 20 years I’ve gotten to know him better the past 4 years because of the freedom we have in the show. Sometimes we can really spin out and really be ourselves and show different sides of us that you never saw before.
Mike: It’s not like on the old radio show we didn’t have to pre-approve content. But after the fact you would never know where the fallout was going to be and if you said something. Especially after the whole Janet Jackson incident we were so scrutinized and we had meetings about standards in what we could say and what we couldn’t say and once your trained that way you never forget it and our shows are inherently broadcast friendly. But with just a little more freeform that allows you to relax. We relax; we work hard and always thinking about creating good content. It’s a relaxed atmosphere and we have confidence that the material we are providing is being well received by our audience and that is the most important thing to us.
Rob: It’s almost impossible to be spontaneous and funny when you have to second guess yourself before you say something. That was the environment we left when we left terrestrial. We probably didn’t have to be that way but it was so drummed into us like Mike said and now we are a little more relaxed with our presentation because we are just being ourselves more the less. I think the show is funnier because of it.

CK: We talked about how you guys go through the show day to day and how it’s been a change versus terrestrial radio. I know your broadcast on 1630 (A.M.) in Iowa, and you had another station you were broadcast on and the station just recently dropped off, right?
Mike: That was WTNT here in Washington D.C. The show is formatted for radio so if there is a fit out there that wants us and we felt it would be good for us we would do it. So we tried an experiment with WTNT that was not a fit basically because of the absolutely abysmal signal at WTNT. They had a format change coming up at the same time and they had overtures to go bring us to this other signal they had. I think we are done with that experiment. If we are going to be on in a market I’d rather be on in a market that has better coverage. We tried it with WTNT and do we regret it? No, but I also thought when they said that they wanted to make a change as far as moving us to another signal, I said, “Yea I think that experience is over now.” We always keep the door open to get this particular incarnation of the show on radio. I like radio, but the show from this point forward will pretty much be “they will take what we give them and if they don’t want it, oh well.” There are not a lot of program directors out there that like to do that. They want to do their own thing, and it’s tough to find a fit in this day of right wing talk and sports talk, too. It’s very tough to find the right station, but I am always curious about it and I will always entertain it. We will never shut the door on that at all, but at the same time our primary audience is our online audience and that is the foundation of the show and the way it works now.

CK: So you don’t actively shop the show to terrestrial companies?
Mike: I don’t actively shop the show, but at the same time I am connected, Rob has connections in the business, and you never know – but I can see the show sometimes being on some radio station. If someone got creative again then it becomes a possibility, but as far as actively pursuing – no. The active thing we are focused on is our online following and catering to the online following. That’s why we developed a new website in November and we restructured how we deliver our premium content as well. And, we focused on our business operation – making that better and more customer friendly and improving our customer support. The online community is we really were making most of our efforts.
Rob: To take a step back, I think for myself I was pleasantly surprised after launching the show. My thought was after launching the podcast the next natural step would be to be picked up on radio station. After we stayed at it for a couple of years we realized how much passion and support we received from the online community. The radio tie-in seemed to me anyway less important because the passion that existed for the show was more that I could have imagined. Something that I really come to love and enjoy about doing the show is that being online allows a, for lack of a better word, more “intimate” relationship with the listener we never had a chance to have before. Like Mike had said before, we will never shut the door to radio – but I am much more enthusiastic about our internet presence than I was when we launched the show. I just didn’t realize the passion was there.
Mike: Going forwards in a perfect world I would love to gather more listeners on a daily basis. We are always looking for new and innovative ways to do that. As we move forward we are continuing to focus on doing that. We know we have a great product and we want to expose the product online to as many people as we possibly can and set the hook in as many mouths as we can too. We know we have a fun thing and if we can hook you on it we can make you part of the family. That is really the way we see our listeners – as one big extended family. People communicate with us like we are relatives, not like we are doing a radio show – so that’s what we want to do. We want to try and get the word out, if we can get more and more people to get involved we can keep this thing successful for a long time and keep doing it for a long time.

CK: Where do you see the show going in the future? Are there any projects you are working on, or anything you haven’t implemented in the show yet?
Mike: The future of the show is going to involve some technological changes. It is going to involve a lot more travel. It’s going to involve a lot more location broadcasts, starting with the Consumer Electronic Show (UPDATE: this was in January, and the broadcasting was fantastic!). We are going to be having the equipment installed in everybody’s domiciles. It’s not going to be concentrated in the living room studio and we are very excited about the fact that we don’t really lock in where we are going to travel to. You know where the show is going to be broadcast from but you are going to see a lot more different locations from different guys. We had a lot of fun with Oscar in China, all of us in Maine and me alone in Maine last year. You are going to get a lot more of that. I think that is going to bring a lot more excitement and diversity to the show. We are really looking forward to that!