GREENLAND: A Talk with Director Ric Roman Waugh
Ric Roman Waugh has made a name for himself being as diverse as Hollywood itself. His resume reads from the ground up as a former stuntman, to writer, producer and film director. His first film IN THE SHADOWS (2001) was followed by FELON in 2008. Waugh wrote and directed ANGEL HAS FALLEN in 2019 and is not finished with the franchise.
Now, pairing back with Gerard Butler, Waugh has taken disaster one step further by bringing a story that branches out to how it not only affects the Garrity family but those around then. I had the opportunity to talk to Waugh about what drew him to the film and his belief in the military and those who serve.
Jeri: Hi Ric, how are you?
Ric: When I am doing anything with the military then I am good to go.
Jeri: That is so generous of you to say.
Ric: Thank you.
Jeri: First, what drew you to this film in particular?
Ric: I wanted to do something in the disaster/sci-fi/horror space, but I did not want to do it just about the event. I wanted to do it from the inside out, I wanted a more personal version. If you think about WAR OF THE WORLDS or A QUIET PLACE or CHILDREN OF MEN, we wanted to do more of it. When I read GREENLAND, it was like a dream come true because it was exactly that, that it was really about humanity. There is this great metaphor of husband and wife that are miles apart and very divided and lost their footing with one another. Trying to save their marriage they think they have all the time in the world until this all hits them in the face. They realize this is a matter of life and death and something like this tends to knock the rust away. This also gives them the realization of rekindling their love, remembering why they fell in love in the first place and wanting to hold onto that. It is a great metaphor for what is going on in the world today and hopefully knowing instead of focusing on our differences, we focus on how we do this together in a unifying way.
Jeri: I am a huge fan of disaster films coming from the era of POSIDEN ADVENTURE and EARTHQUAKE. So, you put a good disaster movie in front of me and I am all in.
Ric: I hope GREENLAND did not let you down.
Jeri: Not at all, in fact I found myself cheering quite a bit.
Ric: Oh, I love that. That is so great, thank you.
Jeri: I know you worked with Gerard Butler in ANGEL HAS FALLEN, was he in the first batch of actors you considered for the role of John Garrity?
Ric: There was nobody else! We wanted to work together again after ANGEL HAS FALLEN, we were lucky enough to have good chemistry and like each other as well. It is almost like we are brothers at this point. We were looking for something different. We did not want to do another big summer action movie right off the bat, so we waited for something different. When I read GREENLAND, I called Basil Iwanyk [producer] and told him I’m on and I know just the person to play John Garrity. I told him Gerry Butler and he did not take any convincing, we both called him together and Gerry read it that weekend and that was it. We did not think anyone else because it was always Gerry for me. The one we got really lucky with; because I love the sense that it wasn’t just about a man winning over the love of this woman, but it was very much about a husband and wife trying to win their love equally and having both husband and wife having equal footing in the movie. So, we really needed a tremendously strong Allison but also someone that had a lot of human qualities that and had the vulnerabilities to go through what Allison did so we just struck gold with Morena Baccarin. The way that her and Gerry, from the very, very first time they met when we had a chemistry read with the both of them, we knew right off the bat before they even read that here is our husband-and-wife team.
Jeri: The interesting part, and you did mention, and I noticed, is that in some films like this you do not have the strong female role where she is fighting just as hard as her male counterpart.
Ric: I totally agree with you. I attribute that to Basil that none of us wanted this to be about the cool wife who is just hanging off the storyline and just along for the ride. We wanted it to be an equal two-hander throughout and Gerry was very much about that at well. You do not see that with a lot of movie stars, man or woman. A lot just want that screen time to themselves to chew up the real estate. Gerry was very generous to the point that he really did want them to be on equal footing. I thought that was a beautiful way to have the movie from a dual point of view from a husband/father and wife/mother.
Jeri: Your film also shows, if you will, human being’s inhumanity to human beings.
Ric: The irony is that we made this movie pre-Covid. We have it made, tested, we were picture locked and in the throws of finishing the sound, color and visual effects -then Covid hit. You wonder how it is going to play and I remember watching the movie playback and I got really emotional because it reminded me of what I was living through in this pandemic. There is this sense of hope, that it is not a ‘woe is me’, it is really about a study in humanity. That we come together, and I love the message of it. Also, it is a sense of love, a love story, as I said from the beginning of this movie that when we strip all the garbage away, all we want to do is love somebody and to be loved back.
Jeri: And the military component?
Ric: The military aspect is a very big component for me. I am a very big supporter of the military community, veterans and making sure I do whatever I can to hire them in front of and behind the camera as well as bringing them into my business. When I read the script and there was a big component with the U.S. Airforce, I was really blessed to meet Lt. Col. Nathan Broshear and he made my life easier. The audience will see the military humanized and show their sacrifices because this is not a war time effort, it is a humanitarian effort, how they go about it with a sense of duty and self-sacrifice. My favorite thing about the movie is we were able to shoot on the Robins Air Force Base in Warner Robins, Georgia and what was beautiful is that 90%, if not more, of the men and women in uniform in the movie are all active duty and had never been on camera before.
Jeri: That is amazing.
Ric: The guards at the gate and the civilians in those scenes and their family members along with civilian contractors that worked on the base are in the film. It was beautiful, I just loved it! They would ask ‘How am I supposed to be? How am I supposed to act?’ and told them ‘You be you, how would you deal with people? Don’t do the movie stuff, do it the way you would do it”. You see the beauty of our military men and women and the sacrifices they make. I love that, and I love that part of the movie.
Jeri: The scene where Allison is pleading with the soldier ‘please, what if this was your child’ and she basically says, “I volunteered to be here” and for a moment it takes your breath because that didn’t not even occur, that someone would volunteer to be in that situation instead of ordered.
Ric: I am proud to say I am the one that put that line into the movie.
Ric: It was important to show the importance of our first responders and our military. We have first responders now who have actively put themselves in harm’s way to help us. I am so proud to be a part of that message to be conveyed in GREELAND. To have it come to real life and actually so quickly throughout it all, you are seeing it now with the vaccine and people complaining about when they are going to get it. Of course, you give it to the hospitals first, you give it to the first responders and people put in harm’s way and make sure that they are taken care of.
Ric: I like that message in GREELAND and that they were going to do their job to the end, to the final hour.
Jeri: My son in law is a prior Marine and now a firefighter and we have watched him do his job. You do not think about Covid and those things, you just go in and do your job. You put all that info in a bag and set it aside. You know it is there; you just do not open the bag but instead go out and do your job. You take care in the situation you are in.
Ric: It was one of my favorite part of GREELAND working with so many active military, we have stories to tell that are great entertainment but also have something to say as well.
Jeri: That is amazing. Like I said, I am a huge fan of disaster films and an even bigger fan when they are done exceptionally well. GREENLAND is done exceptionally well.
Ric: Thank you so much, I really appreciate that Jeri.
Jeri: You kept me going from start to finish and I have a short attention span.
Ric: <Laughing> I love it!
Jeri: I may be sixty, but I have the attention of a ten-year-old sometimes. I love the action and there is not anything about GREENLAND that I didn’t like. You did an amazing job keeping the story flowing and I always look at the ‘disaster element’ as a character in the film. It has to be a good character to fall into the story and it just was. And thank you for not leaving me hanging at the end.
Ric: We might come back to it you never know.
Jeri: I hate when the disaster happens and it’s like ‘okay, you’ve seen it, buh bye’. You show that the disaster is survivable. So basically, you got me Mister.
Ric: I appreciate you saying that thank you so much.
Jeri: Well, thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I cannot wait to see it again.
Ric: Get all your family around on December 18th and it will be on your television somewhere.
Jeri: We have got the 75-inch flat screen and the sound bar ready.
Ric: I love it, let’s do it and happy holidays!
And that is how we left it, ready to spend more time on the way to GREENLAND with Gerard Butler, Morena Baccarin, Scott Glen and brought together by director Ric Roman Waugh.
GREENLAND brings action, thrills and suspense to a genre that always keeps fans on the edge of their seat. This Friday – it is time to fight for survival!
The Story of ROBERT THE BRUCE Continues On Bluray
Interview with Angus Macfadyen
Coming to Bluray from director Richard Gray and Screen Media is the story of a man we have come to know as ROBERT THE BRUCE.
The film ROBERT THE BRUCE is one that I had always hoped would happen. In 1985, actor Angus Macfadyen had the emotional task of portraying Robert the Bruce in the film BRAVEHEART. This is a character filled with anguish, emotions and wanting to be the king Scotland needed. Being caught up in the games of his father and the nobles, Robert the Bruce watched a man he believed in – fall.
ROBERT THE BRUCE picks up after the king is full of self-doubt (much like his younger self) after so many military losses. It is 1306 and seeing the loss his army almost in pieces, the nobility leaving the fields and England’s King Edward sends out bounty hunters to find him, Robert the Bruce sets out on his own.
After being injured by an attack, he is discovered by children playing in the field and it is with their mother that takes care of his wounds. Finally mending, Robert the Bruce discovers that this family’s father/husband had fought alongside the king.
There are still part of the clan around this family that support England and would see Robert the Bruce captured but they aren’t going to let it happen. Spending time with a family dedicated to Robert the Bruce, he discovers a newfound life and vision into the heart of this king.
I had the wonderful opportunity to talk with ROBERT THE BRUCE himself, Angus Macfadyen. It is no secret that not only do I love the stories of history but find myself even happier when I can see them portrayed by consummate actors – Macfadyen falls into that category.
Although we are all inside and redefining entertainment, ROBERT THE BRUCE is a film that needs to be seen and Macfadyen is the reason.
Jeri: Lets jump right in if that’s alright. I know you have probably been asked this a lot but what made you decide to jump back into your own iconic role in BRAVEHEART?
Angus: To be honest when the film finished, I walked around for years wondering what happened next? What about the follow up? This guy just lost and lost and became an utter failure and finally he became the man he was meant to become. It’s like this ghost I had walking around behind me. The ghost of Robert the Bruce just wouldn’t let me go. I don’t feel like I really had any choice.
Jeri: When did you decide ‘let’s do this!’?
Angus: When I decided to do it was in 2006. I basically walked around for years, spoke about it and nobody wanted to do it. I had a friend [Eric Belgau] who was also a writer and we were sitting around talking about this. Eventually we were ready after several years and we sat down, just the two of us, and punched out our first draft of the movie. Over the course of four years we shrunk it down to the core which is what the film is now. It is the story of family because we at first had a sweeping historical epic. In 2010 we finally had a script but even after that it took another seven years to make the film.
Jeri: What did you do as far as research?
Angus: Whatever I could find, and I ordered every book I could find. Historically speaking I wanted to know what was going on. It is a fascinating time and there was a lot of tumult. The French King was going after the Knights Templar, that was a huge thing. He was roasting them alive in the public square in the Notre Dame cathedral followed by a huge seven-year plague. There was so much happening at that time, so it was hard to pick and choose what to write about. I focused in on the family aspect.
Jeri: I know you said it was like having a ghost of your back. Were you into history long before you took the role of Robert the Bruce?
Angus: Yes, I have always been fascinated by history. I love doing roles of real characters because there is such a wealth of information about them. I love to play people who were alive, and you can go study the period, find books about them, and get inside their heads a bit. There is quite a lot of stuff out there to discover about a character.
Jeri: The one thing that I noticed about your 1985 Robert the Bruce, you managed to recapture the same painful expressions and it is almost like you didn’t skip a beat. I recognized those expressions of pain, confusion and trying to figure out where life had taken Robert the Bruce since his time with William Wallace. Watching the film ROBERT THE BRUCE, I was just taken in by your expressions and emotions because they were so beautifully matched.
Angus: Wow, thank you. That is really nice. I did not pay too much attention to what I was going to do because I had so much more on my plate. I was producing the film as well and casting, there was so much going on. I realized the day before we started filming that ‘oh, I actually have to play this role tomorrow!’. I had to remember the accent, the voice and so I thought I will go to set and just do it. It is like going to a cupboard and finding a box with an old pair of slippers in it. You put them on, and they are nice and warm and comfy and you think ‘ahhhhh!’ and they feel great. It was like that; it was something very comfortable.
Jeri: Well, you did it beautifully and seamlessly.
Angus: That’s so wonderful, thank you.
Jeri: You mentioned casting and producing which is an amazing feat considering you are also acting in the film as its title character. How did you go about choosing the cast?
Angus: The director and I sat together watching tapes and auditions. The accent was very important so I had to make sure that who ever was going to do it had a good ear and that they could pick up the accent. A Scottish accent is not very easy to do.
Jeri: The children, what amazing kids.
Angus: I know, both L.A. kids born and raised. They are remarkable. The two younger kids are brother and sister (Gabriel and Talitha Bateman). I think this is the first time they worked together actually, and it actually paid off. The relationship showed on screen. They were so enthusiastic and just wanted to go. Even when there were blizzards and we all wanted to go home, they said “no, we want to work, let’s go!”.
Jeri: Oh, the energy of the young.
Angus: Yes, they just wanted to work, and they were pros.
Jeri: It really does show. Tell me about the location of the film?
Angus: The executive producer lives on the land where we shot. We built the farm out of real rock and those things will be standing for 100 years after this. We basically shot all around on his land for eight weeks and then headed to Scotland to get that unique look.
Jeri: From the time you first played Robert the Bruce until deciding to find out more about him till now, this has been a serious journey for you.
Angus: It kind of took me twice as long to make the film about Robert the Bruce as it took him to actually get Scottish independence. It only took him seven years; it’s taken me 14 years to tell the story and make the movie of it.
Jeri: So, do you feel now that maybe the ghost is not following you anymore?
Angus: No because I have the next story written from the ending of this film to Robert the Bruce actually becoming the King and declaring independence with the Declaration of Arbroath. If this film does well then, I hope to raise the funds to finish it off, the third and final chapter and then I will be okay. I hope to finish it sooner rather than later because I’ll be too old.
Jeri: I am actually very excited about this. That’s amazing! Now everyone gets to be happy. There is something about your character, you’re right because at the end of BRAVEHEART you see that there is something more in this man who would be king. The change that takes place or call it removing the obstacles to being himself and if you don’t know the history, you are providing it. It’s so cool that you are doing a third!
Angus: Yes, I have it ready to go.
Jeri: Will you have the same team working with you?
Angus: I don’t know yet, I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Its definetly a bigger film because there is going to have to be some big battle because it’s the final battle. It’s going to be a larger budget, but we shall see.
Jeri: How do you feel about doing a big battle scene again?
Angus: I’m not a big fan of battle scenes. I sort of grin and bear it and get through it. I prefer scenes where people talk.
Jeri: You don’t like sharp objects being hurled at your person.
Angus: Quite frankly the scenes are boring. It’s all about the editing but you have to show up for the scenes to do it and the stunt men are there anyway.
Jeri: You have to swing a sword once or twice to make us all happy.
Angus: Yea, I’ll try to do that.
Jeri: (we are both laughing) We aren’t going to let you get away with not doing it, sorry. Are you doing anything in between all of this and quarantine?
Angus: I have a film that just came out called HENRY THE IV which is a Shakespearean film set in America, it’s a modern day version where I play Falstaff. I directed/adapted Macbeth Unhinged which is a modern version as well. It is just being wrapped up and the score is being written and I hope it will be released this year.
Jeri: You are not just quarantining in quiet?
Angus: This is all the stuff that has just been done and now I’m climbing the walls.
Jeri: If you could manage to do all that maybe you can do something else creative while you are waiting this out.
Angus: With my home movie camera maybe.
Jeri: Everyone is being creative.
Angus: Maybe make a movie with my iPhone. Wait, I can’t go out of my house.
Jeri: Make a movie through the window about being trapped inside the house.
Angus: I could do that. Or get a drone and shoot things outside the house.
Jeri: See, your brain is already clicking off ideas, run with it. When I told people I would be speaking with you today, one thing they wanted to say is that they loved the characters you have chosen to play through your career but wanted to know if you’d ever do a sci-fi movie. Would you do it?
Angus: Of course, I happen to love sci-fi really.
Jeri: Oh, do you?
Angus: Yes, anything besides the present I’d do. I’ll do the movies set in the past and in fact I just did a movie about the future, it’s called 3022 (directed by John Suits) and it’s a movie set in space. I just finished it last year. It is about the end of the world so there you go! Something to cheer everyone up!
Jeri: You know, during this time the best movies to watch are disaster movies, makes you feel a lot better about life.
Angus: Yes, yes, you can say ‘see at least it isn’t THAT bad!’
Jeri: I want to thank you so much for speaking with me today about the film. It is brilliant and now I’m even more excited to see how you finish out the story of Robert the Bruce.
Angus: Thank you, I really do hope to get it made and want ROBERT THE BRUCE to do really well.
Jeri: Enjoy your quarantine time and want to see that iPhone movie!
Cast also includes Jared Harris as John Comyn, Anna Hutchison as Morag, Gabriel Bateman as Scot, Talitha Bateman as Iver, Emma Kenney as Briana, Melora Walters as Ylfa, Kevin McNally as Sean, Brandon Lessard as Carney, Daniel Portman as Angus McDonald, Diarmaid Murtagh as James Doublas, Shane Coffey as Finley, Zach McGowan as Brandubh, and Patrick Fugit as Will.
Screen Media is an international distributor of television series and films, licensing content through theatrical, home video, pay-per-view, free, cable and pay television, and subscription and advertising video-on-demand platforms. The company is continually looking to add films and television series to its content library. For more please visit www.screenmedia.com.
The Bluray includes the Bonus Material Audio Commentary with Angus Macfadyen and Director Richard Gray and The Making of ROBERT THE BRUCE.
The release of ROBERT THE BRUCE also happens to coincide with the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath. The film was also nominated by the Edinburgh Film Festival for an Audience Award.
ROBERT THE BRUCE is a film about the continual journey of a man still finding his rightful place in Scotland. Instead of battles, ROBERT THE BRUCE takes us deeper inside what this character must find for himself if there is ever to be a free Scotland. I believe that is what I felt most drawn to. Beaten and, without question, broken, it is time for Robert to take a step back and come to terms with what has happened in his life.
Even when it becomes clear that the family who saves him is also divided about their house guest, like Robert, the truth needs to be aired on both sides. The family admitting to their pain and anger and Robert admitting that he has lost himself.
What happens to both sides is that they clear the air, talk out their fears and find their center again. Robert is taught by this small family to accept who you are, straighten your crown and get back to the business at hand – Scotland.
There is not a moment of the film I did not adore. The story takes its time to allow the characters to develop making each performance extremely special. Macfayden sharing scenes with the kids is something to behold as it is the kids who have powerful feelings that affect the character of Robert deeply. They are strong and determined to stand by the side of the king – just as their father did.
Watching this story of ROBERT THE BRUCE, it is only right that we all be patient for Macfayden to bring the crescendo to the life of this unique man who would be king. Experience ROBERT THE BRUCE! Having Macfadyen return to play Robert the Bruce seems only fitting to my way of thinking. The cast and crew clearly made every effort to bring us back to a time of kings and the people who sometimes pay the price for following.
In the end – he fought for freedom to defy an empire!
DEEPWATER HORIZON is Stunning: Talking with Peter Berg
This week in theatres Summit Entertainment brings director Peter Berg’s film about the PB oil disaster and the courage of those aboard DEEPWATER HORIZON.
In April of 2010, a drilling rig known as DEEPWATER HORIZON owned by BP oil was a floating rig that could travel to any spot for drilling. Mike Williams (Mark Wahlberg) boarding the rig along with Jimmy Harrell (Kurt Russell), and Andrea Fleytas (Gina Rodriguez).
With questions already looming about the readiness of the rig, Harrell has questions for the execs already on board. Already in conference are Vidrine (John Malkovich) and Jimmy calls them out on the inspection that seems to have been bypassed. Mike isn’t happy asking Caleb Holloway (Dylan O’Brien) who is working the pipes if the inspection has been done.
Agreeing to a pressure test, everyone on the rig waits as the first test fails. It is Vidrine who consistently tries to out-talk the crew on what BP is expecting from the rig and there is nothing wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth when later in the evening the earth decides to revolt against the rig.
The explosion brings out courage of the many to save lives!
Director Peter Berg has taken the story of Deepwater Horizon and made it into a film that tells the story bringing Mike Williams to the forefront as a hero. This isn’t the first film Berg has brought to the screen with an intense story about courageous individuals. In 2013 he directed the film LONE SURVIVOR about Marcus Luttrell (played by Mark Wahlberg) and his team on a mission to capture a Taliban leader. In 2017 has the film PATRIOTS DAY will be released about the Boston Marathon bombing and the city-wide manhunt for the terrorists.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Peter Berg about DEEPWATER HORIZON and what pushes him to tell stories of extraordinary people and events.
JJ: Thanks for talking with me today Peter.
PB: Of course Jeri, it’s my pleasure.
JJ: Tell me what interested you in wanting to take on this project?
PB: There was a 60 Minutes piece about Mike Williams and it really just got to me. I thought it was a great story and it spoke to me.
JJ: Did you realize the monumental scope of the making this film when you decided to go ahead and make the film?
PB: I did, I knew it was going to be a challenging movie and I felt absolutely ready for it. I was actually really excited to get involved and get it going.
JJ: Did you already have a cast in mind?
PB: Mark [Wahlberg] was already to go and we knew each other which was obviously part of the reason I was excited about the film.
JJ: He and Kurt Russell together are so fantastic and amazing in the film. Was Kurt some one else you knew right away needed to be in the film?
PB: Not right away but pretty quickly I thought of Kurt. I am a really big fan of his.
JJ: John Malkovich as well? I know I’m a huge fan.
PB: Absolutely, same here, I am a big fan of his work as well.
JJ: He is so amazing, his accent is pretty good.
PB: Perfect right?
JJ: Building the set, it must have caused a little bit of a shock to put together something so spectacular?
PB: It was fun!
PB: Yes, because we got to big a real big set. We got to be kids with Lincoln Logs but bigger!
JJ: That’s a pretty massive Lincoln Log Peter.
PB: Yes it was. It was a massive Lincoln Log and fun to do at the same time.
JJ: I was surprised to see you in it as well, which is a nice bonus.
PB: Thank you, it was actually fun to do it.
JJ: You took on the film and started putting it all together, did you see it was going so big. I mean you have your human characters but now you have this big other character (the rig) to control. How did you manage the double duty?
PB: It was fun too. Making movies is always super challenging and for me it is getting myself fired up and getting excited for those challenges. The set was a big challenge and executing it in New Orleans with the heat and the water and you have to be up for it. As long as you are I find it all works out pretty well.
JJ: The storyline is so intense and you didn’t sugar coat anything?
PB: My grandmother Ruth said ‘shoot straight and don’t sugar coat’.
JJ: I was wondering how you were going to get around the BP situation and thank you for being straight with the story telling.
PB: BP messed up big time and you have got to be accurate with the facts if you are going to point the finger at some of BP’s behavior.
JJ: The scene with Russell and Malkovich when they are doing the pressure test, I have to say their interaction felt so brutally honest.
PB: I appreciate that. My grandmother also said honest is the best policy so I went with that.
JJ: I think that is what makes this film bigger than just the action, that you were telling the story honesty. Now, dealing with all that mud and oil, how did you make that happen?
PB: We had this guy name Burt Dalton who is a physical production designer for films and he brought in all these gallons of mud and oil and this incredible pumping system. He was able to get heavy pressure and throw that mud around. I had my son and his friends from high school on summer break and made them clean it all up.
PB: It’s true!
JJ: It looks like the cast took a beating. You’ve got fire, mud, falling metal, water – that’s pretty intense. How long did it take you to shoot the film?
PB: It was done in sixty days or around that. It didn’t take as long as you might think, we moved pretty quickly.
JJ: Working with such Malkovich, Russell and Wahlberg who you have worked with before. How is that for you as a director to look at that cast and think ‘wow’.
PB: I look at everything and say wow! I like my cast, crew, getting to meet Mike Williams and the men and women who were on that rig. It is all a process that I like very much and I’m very grateful to have participated in all of it.
JJ: I’ve seen interviews with Mike Williams, what an amazing person.
PB: I’ll say.
JJ: You seem to really enjoy doing films working with amazing people.
PB: I like non-fiction and I’m at a point in my life where I meet people who have gone through extraordinary experiences like Mike Williams and Marcus Luttrell (from the film LONE SURVIVOR) or some of the FBI agents, police and citizens of Boston (coming soon PATRIOTS DAY) who were involved in the hunting down of those who hurt people in the Boston Marathon, those are the stories that excite me.
JJ: It gives you an opportunity tell those truths.
PB: It gives me so much inspiration. You spend time with the people who went through it and obviously it’s a more authentic experience and gives me access to that part of the process that inspires me. Every director is different and some like science fiction, I like non-fiction.
JJ: Finally Peter, what do you want the audience to walk out of the theatre understanding about DEEPWATER HORIZON?
PB: There is never any one thing. I think certainly one of the things that resonates with me is that there were eleven people who died on that rig because of corporate bullying. They could have all run and jumped into life boats and they all would have been back with their kids. They did their jobs when a lot of other people like the executives who got off that rig. These working class men stayed on that rig and they died, it cost them their lives. To me that is worth knowing.
JJ: That means everything, thank you Peter. In DEEPWATER HORIZON Peter, it is nothing like I expected yet everything I want in good and true storytelling well done sir!
PB: Thank you Jeri, thank you so much.
Once again Director Peter Berg brings a true story to the screen and does it in a big way. From set design to casting, everything about the film is big. That being said, that is only a fraction of a moment thought compared to the truly amazing story that is told shooting straight from the hip.
Not only did Berg tell the story of DEEPWATER HORIZON, but he took the time to explain it all. The performances of Wahlberg, Russell and the rest of the cast is so well done that it kept myself, as well as the screening audience totally engrossed from start to finish. This is an epic movie going experience!
In the end – inspired by the true story of real life heroes!
THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS Stuns on Bluray and a Talk with Director Derek Cianfrance
On Bluray from DreamWorks Pictures is one of my favorite films of 2016. THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is a film that is captures everything about being a flawed and frail human being. Surrounded by only the ocean, a lighthouse and miles of nothingness, THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS doesn’t confound with special effects but instead dares us to feel – everything!
Tom Sherbourne (Michael Fassbender) is a man looking for isolation after experiencing war. Taking a job as a lighthouse keeper he finds exactly what he needs. In the middle of the ocean stands a lighthouse on an island where he beings the process of inner healing. What he doesn’t expect is to fall in love with the beautiful Isabel Graysmark (Alicia Vikander) who shares his love of isolation.
The two begin their lives at the lighthouse with the hope of having a family. When it becomes clear that Isabel only suffers from trying to have a child, a drifting row boat brings them a miracle baby.
Their life becomes even happier as the years roll like the waves they are surrounded by. While visiting family, Tom sees a mysterious woman named Hannah (Rachel Weisz) who has the potential to change all of their lives
I had the wonderful opportunity to speak with writer/director Derek Cianfrance about what drew him to the film, the process to find the perfect place to film and his hopes for what the audience will take away from the film.
Jeri Jacquin: Thank you for talking the time to talk with me today about the film
Derek Cianfrance: You’re very welcome
JJ: I wanted to first say that THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS is absolutely brilliant on so many levels. It’s beautiful, moving, original and cinematically stunning.
DC: Well thank you I do so appreciate that, my mother-in-law agrees with you.
JJ: That’s because she’s got amazing taste. Can you tell me how you became involved with the film?
DC: Coming off my film A PLACE BEYOND THE PINES (2012) I was looking for an experience doing an adaptation and was reading scripts that I wasn’t making a connection to. I had a meeting with DreamWorks because Steven Spielberg was a big fan of BLUE VALENTINE (2010) so they asked me to come in and talk about what was next for me. There was this pile of books they gave me when I left and the book on top was A Light Between Oceans and I was intrigued. I thought about it cinematically, about a lighthouse keeper and thought it mirrored the experience of being in a movie. A light shining out projecting through the darkness and so I started reading the book.
JJ: What about the book touched you?
DC: I just felt it strongly had the themes of family, forgiveness, legacy, paternity and relationships that I have been exploring in my own movies. I felt like it had this rock solid narrative that I was really interested in exploring. It took me about a year to get it and I had the book memorized by that point. It was just a total privilege to be working on the film.
JJ: That is a big part of what I so love about the film. First of all I love the isolation idea of lighthouses and I’m sure many have wondered about that life at one time or another. Even more so is that there isn’t an emotion in this film that doesn’t illicit strong responses. When there is sadness you feel it strongly, when there is moral conflict it is so intense, when there are moments of joy you embrace it and I have to say I was emotionally exhausted by the films end.
DC: For me too!
JJ: Exactly for you! Was it difficult to find this amazing location? How long did it take you to find it?
DC: It took me about six months to find the location because it is fictitious in the book. I wanted to find a place where I would be isolated with my actors and I started out going to Australia going to every island lighthouse I could find. We were almost ready to shoot off the coast of Tasmania when another film came in. New Zealand was close by and they had an offer for us to bring the film there and the first thing I did was go to every lighthouse island I could find and there were great locations. So one by one it was either the lighthouse was too short or there was an indigenous population of endangered lizards were on the island so no human beings could go there. Finally, the very last place I looked was this place called Cape Campbell and initially I was resistant to go there because it is all about process for my actors wanting them to feel and have an emotional experience. The problem was it was literally hour’s long drive down a dirt road to get to the lighthouse location.
JJ: Seems as if the location spoke to you in an important way.
DC: Absolutely, I wanted to keep the film very true to the location so when it came time to present it there were questions about how to get a large crew there. That’s when I said I would rather have 10 crew people living at the location than 30 hauling back and forth. We talked it over in great detail how to make it work.
JJ: Did you have to talk with the actors about that decision as well?
DC: Yes, I actually called Michael Fassbender and told him my idea. I explained that living at the shooting location would bring the actors an amazing experience. Being surrounded by the wind, waves, and the isolation that his character is feeling is a major part of telling this story. He told me he’d give me a day to show him how it would all come together and seven weeks later we filmed an amazing story.
JJ: What do you want people who see THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS to take away from the film?
DC: When putting a book like The Light Between Oceans on the screen it is important to make sure every aspect of the story is there. There are of course very strong themes in this film of love and family and those ties that keep us together. I think that the one thing I hope audiences take from the film is that of forgiveness.
JJ: Congratulations and thank you Derek for bringing such a beautiful film to us all.
I have read the novel by M.L. Stedman and believe director Cianfrance took what I saw in my mind and transformed it straight to screen. Fassbender, Vikander and Weisz bring such depth of emotion laying everything out bare from these broken characters that, at times, it is heartbreaking to watch. In other words, it is everything I want from a story.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to see THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS then pick up your own copy on Bluray and Digital HD. This is a film to be experienced at such a deep level that I highly recommend tissue.
In the end – love demands everything!
DESIERTO: Speaking with Director Jonás Cuarón
In theatres this week from writer/director Jonás Cuarón along with Mateo Garcia and STX Entertainment is a film that opens a bigger dialogue regarding those who put their lives at risk in the DESIERTO.
The film tells the story of a group of people trying to cross into the United States led by their coyote. When the truck that is their transportation breaks down, the group has no choice but to begin the long walk to the United States/Mexican border. Warned to stay together, they will face the toughest terrain.
What they don’t count on is Sam (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), an angry man with a rifle and gun who doesn’t like immigrants crossing his land. When he sees a group crossing, Sam doesn’t hesitate to open fire on them.
Not realizing that Moises (Gael García Bernal) and Adela (Alondra Hidalgo) with others have fallen behind, they witness everything. They might have escaped Sam’s wrath if not for his dog who alerts the gunman to their presence.
Now survival takes on a whole new meaning!
I had the opportunity to speak with director and if that name seems a bit familiar well it should. He is the son of GRAVITY director Alfonso Cuarón, the 2014 Oscar Winner for Best Director and wrote the screenplay with his father.
What most don’t know is that was working on the script for DESIERTO at the same time! Here is the interview discussing the reason behind the film and the choices he made in every aspect of the film.
Jeri Jacquin: Thank you for talking with me today Jonás.
Jonás Cuarón: Oh you are very welcome Jeri, thank you as well.
JJ: What drove you to put this movie together?
JC: It started around 10 years ago when I had already been living in the United States quite some time. I was traveling through Arizona and there were a lot of anti-immigration laws being promoted then. There was this really strong rhetoric going on with hatred toward migrants and foreigners. As a Mexican growing up in the United States, what I truly admired about living here is the cultural diversity. I felt it was something I wanted to talk about and it wasn’t until a few years later that I had the chance to finally write about it for the film. I wanted to do it in this genre with horror because it would connect with audiences in a way they are not use to, connecting in a more visceral way.
JJ: Working with Mateo Garcia and writing this together, where the ideas in the way to tell the story about the same?
JC: What happened was that I wrote a first draft and showed it to my father [Alfonso Cuarón] and he would make notes for me. When my Dad read it, instead of giving me criticism he said, “I want to make something like this!” He became very intrigued with the idea of an action movie that had very little dialogue and characters but ended up telling a bigger story. When we started putting that concept towards space we started working on GRAVITY. At the time I was invested in GRAVITY but also wanted to work on DESIERTO and I approached Mateo, my cousin, and I admire him as a writer. From then on while I was half of the day working with my Dad on GRAVITY, the other half of the day I was working with Mateo. In that sense it was an interesting back and forth.
JJ: I was going to say that had to be a challenge for you working on the vastness space with GRAVITY while working on the vastness of the desert for DESIERTO.
JC: I always find it very interesting that they both sprang from the same concept and have that as far as similarities but at the same time because the context are so different the stories became completely different. I thought GRAVITY was more of an allegory for the existential issues and DESIERTO is down to earth. Being in the desert specifically between the United States and Mexico it had geo-political undertones.
JJ: I have been out in that section going to Yuma, Arizona and there is that very long section of nothingness. That can be very frightening to look at let alone be out in the middle of.
JC: Definitely, the desert is one of the hottest landscapes I’ve ever been in and even during the shoot and we were lucky to have water and shade. I thought to myself that people really get lost in this landscape. Now that you mention Yuma, ten years ago when I was in Arizona, one of the things that really touched me was a book I found called The Devil’s Highway. It narrates the story of the Yuma 14 which is a case of a group of Mexican that the human traffickers abandoned. I think there was only one survivor of that group who reached Yuma, Arizona. That is the horrifying thing. Obviously I have never read of a Minuteman doing the things like you see in the film, it is just more a metaphor of what hatred can do to a person. Humans die every day in that desert which is why I called the film DESIERTO.
JJ: Tell me about the casting of Gael García Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. What was it about these two actors that you knew you were seeing Moises and Sam?
JC: As I was writing the script I knew I wanted to work with Gael. I grew up watching his career and admired what he was doing and wanted to work with him. When I did my research and started studying the issue of migration, I noticed that Gael had done a lot of documentaries either as a director, producer or actor in the pieces. He took a journey with a group of migrants all the way from Central American through Mexico to the United States. I knew Gael had a closeness with the subject matter that I knew was going to be very helpful for the film. With Jeffrey, when I started looking for the guy to play the villain I was immediately intrigued by him. He is a big scary guy but on the other side of him he is very charming! Now there is this contradiction that I found interesting. I didn’t wanted Jeffrey’s character to be human, not just a two dimensional bad guy. I was already intrigued but when he came to the meeting I saw he drove a pick up truck and he has tattoos. I mean the ones you see in the film are really his own. During our first meeting he talked to me about his dogs so in that sense he was ready to play that character.
JJ: Also, Alondra Hidalgo as Adela, she carries fear on her face that is so believable.
JC: Adela’s is one of my favorites in the film because I was able to touch on a lot of issues with the character. I really wanted to find a new face, a face that would show the hardship women go through. There is this violence that they live through when they go through the journey, it’s horrific. I saw a casting of Alondra and I knew immediately it was her.
JJ: You brought the right people into a film that does provide a touchy subject matter especially during an election year. Instead you managed to humanize the film.
JC: Thank you, when I started this project ten years ago with Mateo it was to just create a story. I didn’t think back then that one of the criticisms it would face when it came out was that people would say it was a far fetched situation. Now, after ten years and everything that’s happened, I have to wonder how far fetched the scenario truly is.
JJ: Congratulations sir on a job well done, the casting is well done and the cinematography takes the viewer along. The scene where Gael is standing on the hill looking down at cactus and sand to the nothing that went for as far as the eye can see – it was relatable to anyone who has been in the desert themselves.
JC: Thank you Jeri, that means a lot to me and I’m glad you enjoyed the film.
It is not hard to become wrapped up in the storyline when Gael García Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan both deal with their characters demons to a conclusion that will leave everyone talking. DESIERTO won the International Critics’ Award at the Toronto Film Festival and was nominated for Best Film by the London Film Festival.
DESIERTO is gripping, horrifying, and raw bringing out the primal instinct to survive!
INCREDIBLES 2: Speaking with Story Artists Andrew Jimenez and Bobby Rubio
Coming to Digital and Bluray Multi Screen Edition on November 6th from director Brad Bird and Walt Disney Home Entertainment is the release of INCREDIBLES 2.
This fantastic family film has so much to offer everyone in the way of superheroes, family fun, laughs and everything we have come to love about the Parr family. I had the great opportunity to speak to Andrew Jimenez and Bobby Rubio about their experience working on INCREDIBLES 2.
Andrew Jimenez is a Story Artist/Motion Graphics Lead and graduate of San Diego State University and Bobby Rubio is a Story Artist who graduated from CalArts. It could easily be said that both of these hometown boys made good being part of Pixar and they share with us the process of becoming part of this iconic family and what it takes to bring Brad Bird’s vision to life.
Jeri Jacquin: Hello Andrew, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today about your work on INCREDIBLES 2
Andrew Jimenez: Of course.
JJ: We are going to jump right in, tell me a little bit about how you got involved in the project.
AJ: After film school in San Diego and I was interviewing for positions. I think everyone knows how difficult it is to get into this work in Los Angeles but I got work on a piece called THE IRON GIANT. Brad Bird was working on the film and they wanted to try something new at that time called animatics with storyboarding. That's how I met Brad and that process of storyboarding and animatics worked out really well on that
project and when he came to PIXAR to do THE INCREDIBLES he brought a few people with him to use that process. The storyboarding process is pretty much the same for both 2D and 3D. I ended up in the Bay area working with Brad on THE INCREDIBLES.
JJ: First of all a shout out to San Diego, second, THE IRON GIANT is a family favorite. I've been to Pixar and it is like turning into an excited five year old because it’s such an amazing and fascinating place. How was it for you walking onto that campus knowing you were working on pieces that have become so iconic?
AJ: It was a bit overwhelming in the right way. There is a long walkway that leads to this beautiful lawn pathway and I thought it would be great to have a steam train along that pathway. It's also good to know that I wasn't the only one who thought that. What added to my excitement on the first day of employment in 2000 is that it was the first day that this particular campus was open for everyone to start working in. It was a great equalizer because whether it was your first day like it was for me or a new day on the new campus we all had the same questions. It was nice to figure it out together.
JJ: What I noticed at PIXAR is the free environment of thought and ideas. It seems like it is set up for you all to be free flowing.
AJ: Just this morning that happened as I was getting my coffee in the atrium. We were having nerdy talk about Star Wars and work stuff for the day. The best part of it was that it fed into everything we are doing, this place encourages these kinds of conversations and that is an amazing part of being here. A conversation about puppetry versus CG and the authenticity of drawing versus computer animation - it is all applicable and essential to what we do here.
JJ: Getting into the INCREDIBLES 2, I have to say that the flow into the first INCREDIBLES film into the second is seamless. It just doesn't feel like there has been a gap in time at all. You pick up right where the last left off. How did you manage to do that?
AJ: You are right in that there are so many years between the two but our level of interest in wanting to know these characters hasn't changed. So if you go in with the honest you can tell that story. Instead of just coming in with the super hero elements, we look at how Bob, Helen and the kids are adjusting. We can relate that to our own lives so coming back to them is like meeting up with old friends and you feel as if time hasn't been lost at all because you know that person so well. I think it's like that with these characters in the film because when we see them again it actually is like time hasn't passed. We have been honest with reintroducing these characters to the audience.
JJ: At the end of the first INCREDIBLES, we all did have that thought wondering what was going to happen to the Parr family. It is like you got inside our heads and in INCREDIBLES 2 you put that right on the screen and now on Bluray. We are thrilled so thank you for that.
AJ: Of course.
JJ: We have to talk about Jack-Jack.
AJ: Yes, we do.
JJ: I was amazing at what you all have done with Jack-Jack.
AJ: Brad does so with weaving character based story into all of it, there are scenes with Jack-Jack The vocalization of Jack-Jack in the scene where Bob is going crazy and Frozone is trying to help with it all but Jack-Jack sees on television an old interview with Helen and he gives the most priceless 'mama' but the little seed planted is what triggers him to turn into these crazy characters. He wants his mom! Brad puts these magical gems in the film that are pretty cool to catch.
JJ: It actually reminded me of a toddler going through the terrible twos! I think I have seen all of that in a toddler a bit but the visual is hilarious.
AJ: If you can turn into jelly-laser-shooting-fire-monsters this would be exactly it.
JJ: With your work in this, what was the process like for you? I know it has to be labor intensive so how do you go about taking Brad's thoughts that are on paper and turn it into the magic we see on the screen?
AJ: I think what is amazing about Brad's storyboarding process and what I love about the story boarding process is that it is the blue print for the foundation of everything we do as we make the film. It's not just little drawings, no, with Brad he wants to figure out everything very early. The great thing about that is we can change things later when we've tried other options and know what will work perfectly. Because we have figured it out early on we know what works and that's kind of where I come in. If you can imagine that there is six drawings to a shot with screen direction, when we are watching it the film is in a critical stage. Story boarding gives us a chance to make all the critical decisions before a scene goes into production before all the time, money and effort takes place. To learn these things early is very beneficial and the film is in its most vulnerable stage so the story boarding is important. I take those story boards and make animatics which is a visualization taking the actual drawing and moving a camera over the art work. This allows us to make crucial decisions and actually see the movie flow shot to shot as the closest approximation to it being later. We are making better and informed decisions.
JJ: Also you aren't working with real actors
AJ: Yes, and sometimes when we are watching it play out we are doing the voices ourselves. I know when I hear my voice I giggle. The danger in that is what if we find things humorous but the outside audience doesn't? To closely approximate what the film will be early on we use our scratch voices, temporary stuff to build the foundation of what the film will eventually become. One of the biggest compliments after screening the story reels is that the audience thought it was the finished film.
JJ: Thank you so much for talking to me today Andy!
Now it the opportunity to speak with Bobby Rubio who brings a bit of both professional and a life long dream of not only working with director Bird but being a part of Pixar!
Jeri Jacquin: Hi Bobby, thanks for taking time today to talk with us as well about the INCREDIBLES 2.
Bobby Rubio: No problem at all.
JJ: I asked Andy this same question now I will ask it to you, how did you get involved with this project?
BR: I casted into the role of the story board artist and we all get picked to do certain projects. I have a background in comic books and love super heroes. I go to San Diego Comic Con every year and have ever since I was a little kid. I think they knew that I could fit into this world.
JJ: With the INCREDIBLES 2 and your love of superheroes, what was it like to find out you were chosen to work on it?
BR: It was a dream come true. The funny thing is when the first movie came out I was at Walt Disney Feature Animation and I remember my buddy telling me 'oh my gosh we are working on a movie and you would love it', when I finally saw it I was so jealous because I wanted to be a part of it. Now here it is fourteen years later and I get a shot with it.
JJ: Tell me your part in INCREDIBLES 2.
BR: I'm a story board artist and I would get the script from the director Brad Bird and he would give me certain sequences that I would story board. I did certain sequences that I'm pretty happy about.
JJ: Working on the whole process, did you think was going to turn out as it did?
BR: In certain aspects yes and in other aspects no. Seeing the first film directed by Brad Bird, I idolized him because I loved his work on The Simpsons, RATATOUILLE and the IRON GIANT. I guess I was a little star struck working with him and he is a great director and I've learned so much from him. The other side was that I also saw that he was human and there was things to figure out. INCREDIBLES 2 was crafted several times before it worked and although it all was hard, it was absolutely fun.
JJ: I'm sure a lot of people think this all looks so easy for you to do. I was saying to Andy that it just flows so seamlessly that it does look easy. Of course I know there are nuances and hardships in making something like this as well yes?
BR: Definitely, I tell people and my friends that it isn't always sunshine and lollipops and it takes a skill to be here. There is such amazing talent here at Pixar and you want to bring your talents to the table as well. You want to keep the ship moving forward and
the momentum going and yes, sometimes it's not easy. With a team like we had and the talent we had working on INCREDIBLES 2, we worked together so well and it was also a lot of fun.
JJ: The collaboration I have seen for myself when I visited and maybe I was having a little geek out moment myself like your experience with Brad but I still saw the ebb and flow between everyone there. I saw everyone sitting and talking with the back and forth and I think that makes where you are so amazing. It shows in what you create and do.
BR: I agree, it’s definitely a team effort. I enjoy collaborating with everybody on the team and Andy was great. The funny thing is that there were three of us from San Diego on the team with Derek Thompson as well. We talked about our home town and what our years there were like.
JJ: In all the work that you've done and you see it now on the screen, two things, what does that mean to you personally and what do you hope audiences get from seeing the film.
BR: Seeing my name in the credits, it’s very gratifying and I know it makes my Mom and Dad proud and my family. I've been told by friends from San Diego 'wow, you made it' and I appreciate it and am grateful to be here. I know when I go to SDCC with my comics and I talk to kids who want advice about what I do. I remember when I was a kid and I wanted to get here, I tried to get as much information as I could. Now I try to be as
inspirational as I can. I try to represent San Diego the best I can, I will always love San Diego as I was born and raised there so I do my best for where I'm from.
JJ: What do you hope audiences take away was the second question.
BR: I hope that audiences know its family first and that even though you are going
through the bad times you can rely on your family that will always be there. Everyone in their family chips in to rise to the occasion and we are all superheroes in our own way.
JJ: Thank you so much Bobby, it means a lot coming from a San Diego-Comic-Con-Pixar fan. Speaking with you brings back my visit to your campus that I hope to do again one day. Congratulations on such an amazing film.
BR: Thank you so much!
I truly enjoyed speaking with both Andy and Bobby about their work on INCREDIBLES 2. The first film as well as the second are so brilliantly done and bring us all the family fun we are happy to say works for all ages. The creation of this family gives us a glimpse of their superhero life as well as the life where they try to be as normal as they can be – a feeling which we can all relate to.
That’s what makes INCREDIBLES 2 work! Picking up where the story left off in 2004 giving us the feeling that no times has passed. Another fantastic part of this is now having both films as part of our Disney Pixar entertainment library so we can visit the Parr family again and again.
Once again thanks to Andy and Bobby for sharing their work on INCREDIBLES 2 with us and they should be proud of their work and bringing us such a flawless film.
In the end – it’s time to suit up again!
Director Donovan Marsh Gives Us the Inside of HUNTER KILLER
Coming to theatres this Friday from director Donovan Marsh and Summit Entertainment is the intense military thriller HUNTER KILLER.
Gerard Butler is first-time-out submarine Captain Joe Glass and this isn’t a run of the mill outing he is about to go on. There is something happening in Russia that has sunk two submarines and Washington wants answers.
There are four parts to the film that come together as Captain Glass looks for the subs, Navy Seals put boots on the ground, the Russians are playing their own game and Washington looks at the political ramifications if one more thing pushes everyone over the brink.
That’s were good directing comes in and Donovan Marsh was given that task being part of the film industry since 1992. Marsh has put himself on the map with his award winning film SPUD which won at the South African Film and Television Awards. That was followed by the sequel SPUD 2: The Madness Continues. He is also in pre-production for the film VALHALLA and I can’t wait to see it. Writing, editing and producing, along with directing, means Marsh is someone who doesn’t shy away from good film and television making.
I had the chance to speak with Donovan Marsh about HUNTER KILLER. He speaks of keeping the film authentic while enjoying a ride aboard the USS Houston for a bit of research.
Jeri Jacquin: Hello Donovan, thanks for speaking with me today.
Donovan Marsh: Oh no worries at all.
JJ: Congratulations on the film. I’m going to jump right in and ask what was it like to direct four different stories in one film?
DM: Oh you are correct about that and its very difficult to not get distracted with different points of view. It’s a matter of taking these four points of view and finding out if there is a way to cut them while ratcheting up the action. That was a real job during the editing. It was a matter of choosing and knowing where I wanted the audience to be looking without distracting them too much. I think the editor did a fantastic job of that.
JJ: Was it difficult for you to do each of those things? I mean one minute your dealing with the Russians, then off to the politics of Washing etc.?
DM: We divided it into subsections and were very methodical about it. I was able to focus on each of them exclusively for a couple of weeks at a time. We did two weeks in the submarine and a week in “Russia” which actually was Bulgaria and it is carefully scripted. If you have a plan and know what you are doing it becomes all about where do you want the audiences attention to go and who’s point of view has the most tension at the time you are watching.
JJ: You made it look seamless.
DM: Thank you!
JJ: You have such a stellar cast in each section of the story you are telling. Gary Oldman and Common together, what an interesting choice.
DM: Yes, you couldn’t get two more different actors. Gary is an Oscar Winning actor for THE DARKEST HOUR and Common is a musician who brings a warmth, energy and naturalism to his performance. It is interesting to watch their contrast in the war room scenes. It was quite a magical thing and I am happy with the outcome.
JJ: Your Seal team, what a group of amazing guys.
DM: Oh thank you, yes, well we put the four of them through hell. Every day it was running, diving, crashing and jumping. I wanted it to feel like the real deal so we put them through a lot of training and go them really fit. They got the culture of the Special Forces and we wanted to make sure to get that right. I’ve had Special Forces guys look at the film and they’ve said ‘that’s exactly how we are with each other’ with the joking and the time to be focused and serious. I was happy to get that accurate.
JJ: The Russian part of the film, I mean its not that hard to believe it could happen.
DM: Look, what would it take to set off a war between America and Russia? What’s it going to mean to both countries? It’s not going to take much. It could be a submarine under the ice. You look at the press of late and how the Russians are posturing with MIG’s or destroyers, you are not sure what could happen next. So playing the what-if game is the delicious part of the film. I mean what if these kinds of events occurred and what would be the outcome is what makes this film.
JJ: The actors are so good.
DM: I wanted to use Russian actors, except for Michael Nyqvist of course who is Swedish, I wanted them to speak Russian. There is an authenticity to them being Russia and knowing the Russian life that I thought important enough to cast them for the film.
JJ: In the submarine, when I heard Gerard Butler was the commander I thought it was an interesting choice.
DM: I know people are use to him kicking ass on land and this is a totally different environment.
JJ: I heard that you and Gerard spent some time on the USS Houston?
DM: That’s right, we went on board from Pearl Harbor and we actually ran through all the scenes of the film. I asked the captain what actually would happen with this or with that. Show me exactly how you would react if this were to really happen. The Captain was game and the crew was game and it was amazing to see it really play out on a US submarine. It was the most expensive prop I think I will ever use again but it was great to see it play out. We wanted to make sure that we depicted it as accurately as possible.
JJ: What did Gerard think of it?
DM: It was amazing, he dressed up as the captain and the crew referred to him as Command Glass which is the name of his character for the film. They treated him like a real captain and he got to do some commanding. It was great for him to feel like he was in character in some respects for the film.
JJ: When you finally starting filming the submarine scenes, you are in pretty tight quarters and there are a lot of people in those quarters. How did you manage that?
DM: Yes, it is encapsulated definitely. I wanted the set that way, I wanted the actors to feel what it was like so there were four walls, floor and ceiling. I built the set on a hydraulic set called a gimbal and was able to tilt it 15 degrees at any given moment. The set was tilting as it would in a real submarine and it felt like you were in it. I never wanted to film the same scene in the same way twice so I took out sections of the wall, brought a crane in and always tried to find other ways of filming it for drama. That was a real challenge but I’m so glad I did it that way because it gives the true feeling of being in a submarine.
JJ: There is a scene where the sub is diving and the crew leans to keep themselves upright.
DM: Yes, that really happened when I was underway on the Houston. If you don’t lean you’ll fall out. I wanted to depict it in the film and it adds so much to that scene.
JJ: What initially drew you to the project?
DM: I get scripts and I’ve seen scripts in this genre and I find it difficult to get a good script in this genre. There have been submarine dramas and such and I wasn’t sure there would be a plot to tell. I read the script and I thought it was fantastic with the twists and turns and not knowing what was going to happen next. I was drawn to the realism of it and thought it was a really good script. I also couldn’t predict the end! There are a lot of action films were half way through you know how its going to end and this one did something different.
JJ: What do you want audiences to take away from seeing HUNTER KILLER?
DM: That’s an interesting question because I think there are many layers to the film. I think you could walk into a theatre and think it a popcorn film and just enjoy it for the thrills and spills. Also, there is a deeper geo-political commentary about war and how collaboration with the enemy is way more important than fighting the enemy. It’s another part of the reason I took the film was the collaboration between America and Russia. I feel it’s important for geo-politics. Movies talk about collaboration and ‘we are all in this together’ and I hope that comes through in the film. I hope that some people will take that away and not just see it as a thrill ride. I also hope people come away with a greater appreciation for the unsung hero’s of the US Navy submariners. We don’t know a lot about them, it’s not the most glamorous job in the world. I wanted to show what they go through and what it’s like to go to war in this encapsulated steel cylinder where you can’t see what’s happening. Instead, all you have is trusting your instrumentation. I want everyone to appreciate the men and women serving. We played this movie on a Naval Base for 1,300 people and they went bananas for it. After the film was the question and answer portion and wives would say ‘thank you for shedding light on what my husband does’ and a child got up to say ‘thank you for showing me what my mother does because I now have a bigger appreciation for what she does’. That was really moving.
Indeed it is, when a film comes along that gives us all an insight into what it takes to do a job then it becomes even more successful. HUNTER KILLER not only does just that but puts us all in the intensity and action in a what-if scenario. The twist and turns bring another layer of the film into focus making us think that in the midst of crisis – anything is possible.
Marsh has taken this genre of film and given it something for us all to think about. From the storytelling to the intricate set design, it all lends itself to bringing us all in on the ride.
HUNTER KILLER opens in theatres this Friday so prepare to dive!
HUNTER KILLER: Speaking with Authors Ret. Commander George Wallace USN and
Don Keith Authors of Firing Point
Coming to theatres this Friday from director Donovan Marsh and Summit Entertainment comes a story based on the book Firing Point of cat and mouse when you are a HUNTER KILLER.
This film tells the story of American submarine USS Omaha and Commander Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) who is given orders when an American ship goes down to go into Russian waters. Getting his crew ready, the top brass in Washington led by Admiral Charles Donnegan (Gary Oldman), want answers. So does Rear Admiral John Fisk (Common) and ears for the White House Jayne Norquist (Linda Cardellini).
While the sub is readied, Fisk sends in an elite team of Navy Seals to have boots on the ground. Led by Lt. Bill Bearman (Toby Stephens), his men are ready for the mission’s objective. Especially when it is discovered that Russian President Zakarin (Alexander Diachenko) has been overthrown by Defense Minister (Vladimir Sutrev) and what he proposes is all out war.
Commander Glass arrives to discover that the American submarine has indeed been sunk, but so has a Russian submarine and people are still alive. They rescue Captain Sergei Andropov (Michael Nyqvist) and the level of mistrust is extremely high.
Now would be the time for everyone to take a deep breathe and work together because this isn’t going to be easy – not by a long shot.
HUNTER KILLER is based on the novel by George Wallace and Don Keith. Wallace is a retired Commander in the United States Navy after serving twenty-two years as an officer on nuclear submarines. Keith is the co-author who covers the military and submarines in the work he does.
I had the honor of speaking two them both and this is what they had to say about the book Firing Point and watching their vision come to the big screen.
Jeri Jacquin: Good morning gentlemen, thank you for joining me this morning.
George Wallace: Thanks for talking with us Jeri.
Don Keith: Yes, it is so appreciated.
JJ: am really curious after seeing the film, what drew you to this story?
GW: There was a number of dynamics that went into writing it. One is that we wanted to write about what the submarine lifestyle is like and at the same time make it exciting because frankly sometimes submarining could be considered boring most of the time. We drew on events that were happening during the time we were writing and projected them into the future. It’s a good story and talks about what submarining is like, especially under the ice, and at the same time it is fun with lots of adventure. We think it will do well in explaining what that life is like.
DK: For me I’m a story teller so I wanted to take an average person and put him in a situation where he does remarkable things. There are 125 people on the submarine and four Seal Team men doing remarkable things in the book and in the movie.
JJ: I like the dual story telling of being on the sub as well as being on the ground to deal with the issues the film is about.
GW: That was the idea frankly, to mix it up with the action for the Seal team and the submarine. The Seals deal with a lot of gunfire where as the submarine is a little more intense.
DK: And contained! Remember you also have the third element going on back in Washington making decisions based on a lot of factors that didn’t necessarily affect the submarine or the Seals. It affected them yes, but they had to take other things in account that were more political than what the people in the sub and on the ground were dealing with.
JJ: What was the researching like for the book?
GW: Well, researching wasn’t a lot actually because I am a retired submarine Captain and I commanded the USS Houston several years ago. I spent a lot of time working with the Seals so I drew on that experience. I did have to talk to Seal friends a little bit for things like the Halo jump and make sure it was right. I mean Don and I have never done a Halo jump.
DK: Nor do I want to. I think the biggest researching was that of Russian names! [laughing] There are so many Russian names in the book.
GW: Yes, we did have a little bit of a struggle with that because we were trying to hard to get them correct and we wanted to make sure we could pronounce them.
DK: I had a spread sheet of all the Russian names in the book.
JJ: Did you use your own code like G for good guy and B for bad guy?
DK: That’s a good idea; I’ll have to do that for my next book.
JJ: How do you feel now after writing the book to know that it would fit in the climate today?
GW: [laughs] We wrote this book in 2004-2005 and back then the Russian economy was in the tank, there were bread lines and real concern if Russia was going to be a viable country anymore because it was falling apart. Obviously it has changed considerably since then and what we were looking at is that the Russians are a very proud people, proud of their country and so what would happen if a Russian in some form of power wanted to restore the Motherland? How would he go about doing that? That is the general gist of what we started with.
JJ: A good ole’ fashion coup.
GW: Yes, that how he felt he had to deal with things with that response. He felt others around him were weak.
JJ: The scene where they go through the mine field, where did you come up with that?
GW: That whole scene came up when I was presented with that problem during Commanding Officer school. This is in the attack center where I had to penetrate a mine field to get to mission success which was a boat on the other side of the mine field. Off the top of my head I had to come up with a tactic to do that. I had to do it on my own. That’s where the idea came from.
JJ: From story idea to book, how long was that.
GW: This book was quick, it sort of flowed.
DK: That happens sometimes.
GW: Yes, everything just fell into place which made it easy to write. Other of our books, those weren’t so easy to write.
DK: We painted ourselves into a corner a lot.
JJ: You two seem to be a good team!
GW: We were very happy with it.
JJ: When you were told this was going to be a film, watching your book go to script, how was that for you to see that happen?
GW: Changing a 690 page book into a 160 page screenplay, that process was not easy. It was painful on several different levels not to mention psychologically. They whacked at a big chunk of our story.
JJ: Messing with your baby.
DK: There are things in the book that obviously didn’t make it in to the film but like George said it’s like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. They kept the strongest storyline to make the best film.
GW: They took what might be a 16 to 18 hour read down to a two hour film.
DK: The other big concern was that they would take the story and muck it up or get it all wrong doing things with technology that doesn’t exist. Thank goodness they did not do that with help from the Navy.
GW: The level they spent to get the authenticity right was amazing. My wife and I went over to see the set that they were filming on in London a couple of years ago. When I walked on the set I thought I was in the control room of a submarine. It was so very realistic.
JJ: So they got the dimensions and everything about a submarine right?
GW: Yes, they got the dimensions right, everything was in the right place and they even got the wiring color right. Some of the signs on the bulk head were actually correct. They even had the sub up on gimbals so that could make the sub rock and roll and dive and rise. It felt like you were on a submarine.
DK: One think you might not notice because the film is so intense and full of action is the scenes were the sailors are doing things they really do on a submarine. Things hanging on the wall or guys on the exercise bikes, you can really see what life on a submarine is like.
GW: It was pretty realistic.
DK: I think the Navy will see it as a two our recruiting film because people are going to look at this and say ‘that’s pretty cool!’
JJ: How do you deal with the intense proximity inside the sub?
GW: Being a submariner it just feels natural to me, it feels comfortable. Mr. Butler and Donovan Marsh went to see on the USS Houston for a few days so they got to see what it was really like. The rest of the actors spent time on the set that felt like they were on a real sub. The USS Houston Commander Scott McGinnis said that Mr. Butler was a true gentleman during their visit and when one of the sailors asked him to do a Mother Day’s greeting for his Mom and he did it. Of course the others wanted to do one as well and Gerard did them all.
JJ: So once you went to book to script to screen, what did you think of the final product?
GW: I think the final product is great and tells the story we wanted to tell. We understand it’s a bit different from the book but its also a different audience. I thought it was very, very good.
DK: I’m a story teller by trade being I tell lies for money writing fiction but I consider the perfect story taking average people and putting them in situations were they can do remarkable things and that’s exactly what the book did and I’m proud to say it’s also what the movie does as well.
JJ: It is intense to watch that’s for sure. Watching it I’m holding my breath and leaning toward the screen waiting for the next thing to happen.
GW: Yes, that what will happen.
JJ: When people see the film, what do you want viewers to come away with?
DK: For me, I’d like the viewers to have enjoyed a very exciting motion picture but also have a deep appreciation for what these service members do. The submarine service, or the silent service as it is so aptly named, gives people a look at what they do. I mean the ultimate way to deal with the enemy is not having them know where you are but knowing you can do a lot of damage if attacked. I hope people have appreciation for them knowing they are on the front line.
GW: What can I add to that? Our goal going into this was to tell the story of submarining and I think the movie does that and I think the book does that. To have the average submariners come away saying ‘this is us…this is our story’ and that means everything to me.
JJ: Thank you for your time and congratulations on Firing Point and the film HUNTER KILLER.
This film brings action, adventure and appreciation for what our military go through both the Navy Seals and submariners. HUNTER KILLER is definitely a thriller in the sense that the story telling is filled with unexpected twists and turns. So grab that huge buck of popcorn and hold on to your seats because this is a ride from start to finish.
In the end – courage runs deep!
THE 15:17 TO PARIS Brings the Real Heroes onto the Silver Screen
Speaking with Spencer Stone, Alek Scarlatos and Anthony Sadler
Coming to theatres from legendary director Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. is a film about adversity, courage and being on THE 15:17 TO PARIS.
It made the news around the world when, on August 21, 2015, a terrorist attacked a train heading for Paris with 500 passengers aboard. The event could have had life shattering consequences but for three men – Airman Spencer Stone, Specialist Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler.
These three men took it upon themselves to rush in while others were rushing out. What makes these three even more outstanding is that they have been friends since childhood. That’s where the story begins, Spencer and Alek are having problems at school as teachers and administrators see them as needing medication to keep them in line.
Not about to have it are their mothers Joyce (Judy Greer) and Heidi (Jenna Fischer) who are not about to be told how to parent – especially out of a medicine bottle. It is in school that they meet Anthony and a bond is formed out of mutual acceptance. Although they each have to go their separate ways, that bond becomes stronger as they grow up.
Spencer decides he wants to join the military but soon discovers that the job he wants is not where the military sends him. Struggling with studies and keeping up, he becomes frustrated which makes things even harder. Alek is over seas when, along with Spencer and Anthony, plans are made to see the sights of Europe.
Reunited once again, Spencer, Anthony and Alek become tourists going from place to place enjoying their freedom. After visiting Italy and Amsterdam, they board the Thalys train #9364 for Paris where the lives of everyone aboard will change.
I had the amazing opportunity to speak with Spencer, Anthony and Alek who director Clint Eastwood decided would portray themselves in the film. Let me say first off that I found these three young men to be exactly how I expected them to be. They are very welcoming, funny and with a laid back ease I so enjoyed.
Jeri Jacquin: Hello gentlemen, it’s such a pleasure to meet you.
Spencer Stone: Oh, I think we are missing one. Alek will be back in a sec.
Anthony Sadler: If we let him back in the room.
(they immediately start laughing and I sense a plot forming)
JJ: Well, lets hit the ground running before he gets back then.
JJ: First of all, it’s so weird; I mean you look exactly like yourselves.
Anthony: (laughing) I know right, I get that a lot.
JJ: I saw the film and I have to ask you, is it very strange when you watch it? Because it is like you are watching yourself doing something you have already done.
Anthony: It’s weird on so many levels. It’s our story on camera with music with Clint Eastwoods name on it and it’s also weird watching how accurate it is because we lived it. It isn’t all Hollywood’ up so seeing us doing what we did two years ago is strange for us as well.
JJ: I felt like I was intruding almost while watching in a way.
Spencer: Yes, that’s exactly what it feels like putting it out there.
Anthony: We hope that people like it and it spread like wildfire. We want the audience to feel like they are there and see exactly how it happened and who it happened to. It’s not documentary and I know it gets tagged that because we are not actors but it’s not that. It’s like you are literally there.
JJ: Even more so for you.
(we are rejoined by Alek Skarlatos and immediately Spencer and Anthony give him a good natured hard time with lots of brotherly joking)
JJ: Hello Alek, I’m Jeri.
Alek: Awwww man, you started without me?
JJ: It’s not that we don’t love you or anything but the clock is ticking.
Anthony: Yea dude, we have things to do. (again they start laughing at each other)
Spencer: Back to the question Alek (chastising as only a brother can do), you have to be okay with everyone knowing everything about your life. Not everything in detail but a majority of it out on a big stage with Clint Eastwood. It’s a scary decision but an exciting one.
Anthony: We are a week away from release and we have shot the movie, promoted it, wrote a book about it and have talked about it all over. At this point it is so weird to be in this place because millions of people are about to see it. It’s just an interesting time and pretty surreal and we are excited for everyone to see it. I just really want to know what everyone thinks of it actually. I want to know how it touches them and makes them feel.
JJ: When you were first approached, did you think the film was going to go as far back into your life as it does? Because you are dealing with a 94 minute film but going back to when you were kids.
Anthony: When Clint picked it up the book I knew there was a strong possibility and I was wondering how much of our childhood he was going to show because I didn’t know how relevant it was. We were all three discussing it amongst ourselves wondering what was relevant to the story and what’s not. It’s weird because when I read the script I wondered why some scenes where there but when I watched the finished product I thought – he’s such a genius. Every scene in there had a theme in it that set up the bigger picture.
JJ: Oh absolutely.
Anthony: No matter how trivial it looked, like going to the principal’s office because that speaks to a bond that we shared even as children. Ever scene mattered and only Clint Eastwood would have a vision like that.
JJ: Did he tell each of you why he decided to use you instead of actors?
Spencer: Not directly, the information we had was of interviews he has done talking about it.
Alek: I’m so glad he did though because the first time we watched the film with our families and having our relationships on camera – the way we talk to each other – even they could tell that’s really how we act. We weren’t being different people so the film really shows that that is who we really are and it’s very accurate.
JJ: Earlier you said that some people were hinting the film was like a documentary and I can see why they might say it even though they are pretty much wrong (the laughing commences again). When you are speaking to each other on the screen there aren’t ‘characters’ acting like you – it’s you three being –well, you three! Again, there is that eavesdropping feeling.
Anthony: Clint didn’t want us to act either. He didn’t want us to…
Alek: …do too much.
Anthony: Yes, do too much. We were trying to be ourselves and not overplay it. He took the weight of a motion picture out of the situation. He said be friends and forget what the script says. He said, ‘you were here and you know how it was, do that and I’ll capture it’. The trust goes both ways because we trusted him to tell the story and he trusted us to just be ourselves. His trust was huge and we didn’t want to disappoint him. We wouldn’t have trusted anyone else to be so personal with our story and when we saw the picture we just wanted to be happy with it and we are. We are thrilled that he did the film justice.
Spencer: I don’t think we would have been happy with the film if it was anyone other than Clint Eastwood.
Anthony: He gave us the confidence to try. We thought if Clint sees something, I don’t know what it was but if he sees something then we will do it.
JJ: Clint always does stories that share something of a character, but here it is the three of you so it is much wider of a story being told.
Anthony: We are all so very different as well.
JJ: Yes, you certainly are.
Anthony: The movie will show that we are three very different individuals. Typically you wouldn’t think we would be friends and not only friends but life long friends. We risk our lives for each other and that’s a huge theme of the film.
JJ: I think you literally proved that.
Spencer: I guess we did.
JJ: One scene that touched me was your troubles Spencer growing up and struggles with the military. I recognize that in you, I can’t exactly say ‘your character’ because it’s you! Did you ever in a million years think all those struggles would be called upon in a fraction of a second?
Spencer: Absolutely not, I felt like even all the way up to the train attack I was feeling very unfulfilled and kind of angry because I felt like that’s all I ever wanted. I felt like joining the military was the first time I ever truly applied myself just to have it stripped from me. It was devastating for me. Then to be put in another career that I wasn’t too excited about and to fail out of that just felt like a huge waste of time. It’s just funny how I would be pushed away from the things I wanted and guided towards the things I needed in my life. I think that wasn’t something I was able to fully comprehend until I went through this experience. Now having that perspective in my life it has much improved how I see things in a hundred different ways. It is something I can carry throughout my life in any situation and just feel calm and at ease and pretty much know that I am here for a reason, I don’t know what that is but I need to trust.
JJ: Life is busy chugging along while you are busy making plans?
Anthony: That’s perfect!
JJ: So Alek, I heard people refer to you as ‘the quiet one’, is that true?
Alek: I mean…depends on the context.
Spencer: It depends on who is around.
Alek: Yea, it does depend on who is around. If it’s these guys then I’m not but other people I might be quiet.
Spencer: If there was a cute girl he would be all chatty.
Alek: Yep, that’s right.
JJ: I kind of got that feeling with the scene in Rome.
Spencer: Oh look at the pretzels!
(a joke that took these boys almost to the floor laughing)
JJ: So Alek, seeing yourself on screen did you see anything about yourself that you didn’t notice before?
Spencer: Oh, good question.
Alek: I think how ridiculous I look sometimes. If you add up between the pretzel scene and me drinking the baby soda it’s like wow, I’m kind of stupid. That’s very accurate to who I am but you don’t notice those idiosyncrasies in an objective manner until you see them on screen.
(Spencer and Anthony are cracking up at Alek’s answer so the Mom in me steps in)
JJ: Stop teasing your brother!
Spencer: (explaining the laughter) Every time we hear a good word we bank it so that we can use it next time. Now we have to look it all up.
Alek: Google it!
JJ: You guys are too much. Okay onto a serious note because we have to go there. Watching the attack scene the train begs the question for you Spencer of how do you manage to do that again? Your face is so focused.
Anthony: You put anything in slow motion and add music to it; it’s going to look good.
(They have fallen out cracking themselves up again)
JJ: Now you will go through the rest of your life putting music and slo-mo in your head to everything you do.
Alek: (still laughing) Right?
Spencer: We have to give the entire credit to Clint and his whole crew. They went into such detail and as far as having the same exact clothes we were wearing that day, the same luggage, being on the exact same train going to Paris – it’s insane. We had Mark and his wife and everyone else there.
Anthony: People think it’s traumatic for us.
JJ: I think that is how most people would see it.
Spencer: Clint knew that we didn’t have much experience and that he was going to do this in a positive way. Being back in the moment for us, Clint made it easy to get back to that moment.
Anthony: The first 24 hours after the attack we went back to the hotel while Spencer went to the hospital. All we wanted to do was to see Spencer, that’s all we wanted. Finally the next day we laughed for like twenty minutes in the car saying ‘can you believe that happened?’ This is the day after!
Alek: I mean we are drinking champagne as the Ambassador’s house talking about a terrorist attack.
Anthony: We are just a bunch of young guys living the dream. Clint Eastwood came along and put the stamp of ‘badass’ on it all for us.
Spencer: I mean if Clint Eastwood says something is badass, then its badass.
JJ: When the attack scene was made, did the adrenaline flow? You can not walk away from that and now feel something about it.
Alek: I would say that while we were shooting the scene the adrenaline absolutely did because those feelings came rushing back. It was very realistic like Spencer said but after it was over we were chilling with the gang again.
Anthony: People expect so much, it’s not that deep, it’s pretty simple. We are pretty simple guys.
Spencer: Not going through something this crazy before and I’m sure there are people who have gone through crazier things in their life before, I feel like we have been able to cope with it very well. It’s not that we aren’t affected by it; it’s just that we have been able to deal with it well.
Anthony: We’ve had the luxury of talking about it on such a large scale whether it’s the initial media frenzy or the book or the movie process. We have talked about it so much.
Alek: We’ve dissected it.
JJ: You have been each other’s therapist.
Spencer: Exactly, that’s why talking about it has been so helpful and therapeutic.
Anthony: We’ve been able to share and it’s out there.
Spencer: Even now we’ve done about 200 interviews and we get to talk with other people and each other in a way that means something to us.
JJ: So being together has made all the difference.
Spencer: Absolutely it has.
Alek: Always together. Whenever one is uncomfortable we have the other to make it easier and joke around like we do. We have three brains. If it had been just one of us on that train we would have been all alone in it.
JJ: Nobody else would understand it.
Alek: Yes, no one would be able to understand it and couldn’t make jokes about it.
Spencer: They would look at you like you were crazy.
Alek: Exactly. Going through it with these two has been fantastic.
JJ: Here is the final question.
Alek: Ut oh!
(Spencer and Anthony laugh with Alek)
JJ: You have said that about a lot of my questions Alek.
Spencer: Getting all serious on you now Alek.
Anthony: Just when we were having so much fun.
JJ: Oh it’s not that tough of a question. Okay, here it is, what would you like the audience to talk about after they see THE 15:17 TO PARIS.
Alek: I would just like them to remember that if they ever are in a situation where they can help – then help. You really don’t have to just stop a terrorist attack to contribute positively to society. If you see a car accident and you don’t know first aid you can call 911 and find someone who does. You can always help by doing something positive. It’s rare because people seem to want to just whip out their cell phones and watch instead of doing something. Also, remembering the importance of friendship.
Spencer: It is important to show how God has played a factor in our life and this is a good way of showing that on such a big stage. Terrorist attacks and things like that we have been asked ‘what advice would you give me to stop an attack’ and I can’t really give you advice because nothing is the same. You are probably more than likely not to be on a train where a terrorist who has a gun that doesn’t go off on you. Nothing is the same but the only thing we can offer as advice without putting someone in a bad position because I’m not telling anyone to run toward a loaded gun. I would never tell anyone to run toward a man with a loaded gun so just ask yourself what you would do and have an answer. That’s all you can do. We have talked about it so many times before it actually happened so something engrained in our minds.
Anthony: I just hope it inspires people. People think there is something special about the three of us and say ‘what do you three have that’s so special’ and I think the movie shows that we are just three guys. Maybe someone will see something of us in themselves and be inspired to know they are capable of being extraordinary themselves and overcome adversity as well. It doesn’t have to be a terrorist on a train, just any obstacle and they need to know that they are on a journey and capable of being extraordinary. It’s not just us.
And that ladies and gentlemen is why I love what I do. These three men shared a moment of time with me and will forever be in the hearts of those they saved. I thought it extremely important to share their playfulness because it is a bond created by their friendship that endured the difficulties of childhood up to the most important moment of their lives.
Yet, it didn’t change their friendship; in fact I see how it made them even closer than can be imagined. Their belief in one another and the ability to not to take life so seriously is the lesson created in childhood and the lesson they take with them from their experience.
That is not to say what happened hasn’t had an effect on their life at all, of course it has, but as they all agree that having their friendship and the ability to lean on each other has made all the difference. We should all be so blessed to have friends like that in our lives.
Experience the journey as director Clint Eastwood brings THE 15:17 TO PARIS to theatres this Friday.
HISTORY Offers Up the New Intense Drama Series with KNIGHTFALL
Speaking with Tom Cullen
The History Channel has once again brought amazing story telling and on December 6th you will experience a story of the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail with KNIGHTFALL.
During the Middle Ages, the Knights Templar were an order of men with one goal – the protection of a prized relic known as the Holy Grail. An order of warrior monks, they will do what ever is required to carry out their duty.
Landry (Tom Cullen) is such a warrior monk along with Godfrey (Sam Hazeldine), Tancrede (Simon Merrells) and Gawain (Padraic Delaney). After an attack on their stronghold, they are all forced to flee and fifteen years later find themselves in Paris.
Now a friend to King Philip IV (Ed Stoppard), Queen Joan (Olivia Ross) and Princess Isabella (Sabrina Bartlett), Landry visits much to the hostility of William De Nogaret (Julian Ovenden). The brothers gather to discuss how to do what is right by the all the people they vow to serve. That brings discourse when Landry wants to know why they have not spoken of returning to the Holy Land.
Godfrey leaves to handle business outside Paris and asks that Landry be in charge which makes him instantly suspicious. Parsifal (Bobby Schofield) witnesses what happens on the open road and is given a mission that will cost him dearly.
When a Jewish businessman kills another man in the square in broad daylight, the King orders that the Jewish people must evacuate. What he doesn’t know is that there are others within the palace walls that have more frightening plans. In the chaos, there is a hint that the Holy Grail might be closer than any of the Knights Templar could have hoped bringing Pope Boniface VIII (Jim Carter) to their door.
With this news brings hope of a return to the Holy Land and the Holy Grail!
I had the opportunity to conference call with Tom Cullen, the actor who marvelously portrays the role of Landry. Having spent my Sundays with Downton Abbey I was drawn to see Cullen’s performance in Knightfall and equally thrilled to talk to him about it.
Jeri Jacquin: Hello Tom, thanks for talking with us today.
Tom Cullen: Thank you too.
JJ: Can you tell us about your experience filming Knightfall?
TC: This is the kind of project I’ve always dreamt of being involved in ever since I was a little boy. I grew up in Wales and I grew up next to a castle. That kind of history is really woven into the fabric of my DNA like I think it is in many European’s DNA. When I was a kid, my dad gave me this wooden sword and shield and I used to go up there with my mate and we just used to run around pretending to be knights and warriors. I think that the older we get the more baggage we carry and I know that I spent a lot of time pining after that kind of innocence. This job really opened up the gateway to accessing the kid again and it felt like every single day I had little Tom next to me swinging a wooden sword around with his mates in a castle in Wales. That was my favorite thing about the job; being able to have as much fun as I had while filming this show and I loved it.
JJ: Besides your informal and very cool childhood training, did you more intensive training?
TC: In drama school in the UK we do a lot of fight training. I’d done a lot of sword training prior and I found that I had the propensity for killing people, ironically. *laughs* I hadn't swung a sword in about eight years, so it was all very new in many respects. The stunt team that we had was led by an amazing Frenchman, Cédric Proust. He is a top stuntman and fight choreographer. He really put us through it and we had a great swordsman named Roman. The entire team wanted us to be at a very, very high level. So every day on set they would drill us and I did about three months of physical training beforehand to get myself and my body ready for the fighting portion of my character and the series.
Working on Knightfall was a full-on experience because the team wanted it to look authentic and real, and when you watch the fights they are absolutely incredible. I'm so proud of all of the actors who've participated in the battles because we've really done a great job and the stunt guys have really trained us well and they're epic battles and muddy and gruesome. And they feel very real, which I think is something I’m very proud of.
There is an incredible battle sequence in the final episode which is the biggest thing I've ever been involved in. We had like 400 guys on a battlefield fighting for about two weeks. It's epic, amazing and the real geeky nerd in me – because I am one – just can't believe that I’m in it. I’m extremely proud of it.
JJ: How did you react to getting the role of Landry?
TC: I genuinely love to do stuff that is different from the last thing that I did, and something that really scares me and something that is new. Knightfall was truly a dream come true for me. It's something that I've always dreamt of doing since I was a kid. I grew up on films like ROBIN HOOD - Prince of Thieves and BRAVEHEART and those films had a huge influence on me as a kid. When I read this script it was like my dreams were coming true. It’s really amazing to be a part of a project like this one.
JJ: The Knights Templar and the Holy Grail are fairly known because of documentaries, film and television. I have to say I’m also drawn to that mysterious period of time. Did you research yourself?
TC: Yes. I wanted to know as much about the crusades and about the politics at the time. Not just the politics in Europe or in the Middle East but also Mongolian politics because they had a huge influence.
You just need to immerse yourself in the world and know everything that these men would have known, understand every single and the political permutation that is affected where they reach –where they are at this point and what drives these men and women to do the things that they do. I think that's something that you have to do.
You take history for granted and history should never be taken for granted because it's essential for us furthering ourselves as a society and as a culture, because the one thing that history teaches us is that it's cyclical. So yes, I read a lot and we had a fantastic historian on set. His name is Dan Jones. He’s just released an amazing book that you must read called The Templars which is on the New York Times Bestseller’s List; it’s brilliant. He was there on hand at all times feeding into us and making sure that what we were portraying was as accurate as possible.
So anything that would come up in the script that we didn't know, we would use him as a source of knowledge and he would say, “Go and read this, go and read that,” or just tell us because he he's a real fountain of knowledge. That wasn't just the access that put me in the world of the Knights Templar.
The costume design, the art direction, the production design, makeup, etc. it was all so dense and real that you're feel like you’re right in it as soon as you turn up on set. It's just all there for you, you know, and you can really immerse yourself into the world.
The days we spent on set were amazing. We filmed on the biggest sets in Europe at Barrandov Studios. They built medieval Paris. I've never seen anything quite like it and in the show I have to do this shot where I'm riding down this nearly 200-meter long street that they built. There're 350 extras and each extra has a job, each extra has a name. It is a real world and you just forget that the cameras are there because it's so extraordinary.
Our costume designer, Diana Cilliers, was amazing. I remember the first time we did our screen test so they can see what it looks like on camera with the makeup and the hair. I remember putting the costume on, the chainmail and everything, and it weighed 50 pounds which was like an insane amount of weight. I struggled to walk down the corridor to get to the studio to do the screen test.
I was like, “Guys, why is the costume so heavy. How are we supposed to move and fight in this?” The answer was that Diana tried out lighter material such as plastics and other materials but they just didn't look authentic. So they put us in the most authentic costume that they could and we just had to deal with it. We got bigger and we got stronger, and so very quickly we were able to run and jump, get on horses in the 50-pound costumes and do everything that we needed to do to play our parts.
You can see the difference in way that the costumes move and the way that your body moves in them. It's just authentic and I think it makes for a very real experience when watching the show.
JJ: The relationship between Landry and Godfrey is such a mystery. Can you tell me more about that?
TC: The relationship that Landry has with Godfrey runs throughout the entire first season. In Episode 1, Godfrey is Landry's surrogate father. Landry was an orphan and Godfrey essentially took him in and saved him from this orphanage. Because of the promise Godfrey saw in him, Landry became a Templar at the age of 11 which is very, very, very rare.
One of the Templar rules is that you must become a Templar of your own volition because it's such a monastic lifestyle where you do things like eat your food out of the same bowl as another man. There's no vanity and no possessions. It's completely monastic so it's very rare for a young boy to join the Templars like Landry did.
In Episode 1 there is a truth revealed to Landry about Godfrey that he didn't know. Landry, like a classic hero that we all know as the protagonist, he hunts and searches for the truth at all costs. He is like a boar who gets physically beaten, emotionally beaten and he just gets back up by himself and charges towards the truth.
Godfrey is pivotal in that circle of truth that Landry is striving towards and it isn't a very easy journey for Landry to go on throughout the first season. It's a very satisfying journey for the viewers. Every time the scripts would come in there would be a new revelation and it would be a new shock, a new turn and it was very cool to read and really fun to play. I hope that the audience enjoys it as much as we enjoyed making it.
JJ: The Knights Templar have very strict religious views that is talked about in detail in Knightfall, how do you reconcile that with their mysterious history?
TC: The one thing that history will always do is prove itself cyclical and that human beings have very short memories. We forget very quickly what we've already been through and we tend to make the same mistakes. I think it's really important to remind ourselves of those mistakes.
Of course Knightfall is a show that is about the Templars and you'd be remiss to not talk about the holy wars; though the show actually doesn't take place during that period of time, it takes place 15 years after the holy wars. The show is about the Templars being disbanded and rounded up. That's essentially what the show would be over three or four seasons.
The Templars were a very interesting group of men because they were founded to protect pilgrims on the road and that was their purpose. Not to fight wars but to protect people who were going to pray and they were very respectful of all faiths. There is a very famous story of being held captive in the Templar temple. They made space for them so that they could pray with ease and they gave them their space because they respect faith.
I think the show touches on what faith is and how faith can be manipulated to one's own needs and how faith is often used for political games which is something that has nothing to do with religion. The Holy Grail in our show is used as a pivot of power in which people circle around it and use it in order to gain political favor.
That for me is really a very interesting world to live in. It doesn't pit religion against religion but it talks about how religion can be manipulated to man's want and need for power.
JJ: You have touched on just about every theme regarding the Knights Templar. How do you think this will reach the viewers?
TC: I think what I'm very proud of in the show is that you can kind of look at Knightfall objectively from the outside having not seen it and say, “Oh, this is about guys swinging swords and that’s what the show is about,” but the show is so much more than that. The show is about politics. We have a lot of stuff that takes place in the French Court at the time, dissecting, and breaking down the politics and the machinations of political interplay, which I just love that kind of stuff.
It has a fantastic central spine through the show; an amazing love story which I'm surprised at how strong and moving that story was as we were filming it. It kind of grew into this thing that we had no idea it would become. The show talks about revenge and betrayal, brotherhood, loyalty, faith, humanity and mortality.
I truly believe the show has something for everybody. I think that it is by no means a gendered show. I think that women would love it as much as men will love it and that is something I'm really proud of too. It has fantastic strong female characters. They are actually probably stronger than all of the male characters and they're just as complex and rich as the male counterparts, and it's very moving. I've watched the last episode three or four times now and I've shed many tears every single time. It’s a great rollercoaster.
JJ: Is there anything that makes you nervous about your role in Knightfall?
TC: There's so much that scared me about this role. The size of it and the responsibility of playing a lead in a show as big as this, it was terrifying. Also just the physical and emotional commitment that was required to make this show work. If I wasn't committed 100% to the show, it wouldn't work. They really, really put me through it in the best way possible making sure I became the best Landry I could be. That was a terrifying challenge and terrifying to have to pull off.
I was learning new skills like horse riding and fighting. The biggest thing that was terrifying for me was that – and this is something that I've been dealing with my entire life – I was doing something that I love. I read the script and I wanted it so badly because I thought it was so good. That really terrifies me.
I'm much more comfortable in that way. I come from a poor area of Wales where I'm much more comfortable with rejection than not. What terrified me was that I wanted to do it and doing something that you love and that you want is often the scariest thing that you can do because if you fail at it, that’s a big journey to go on.
JJ: Is there something in particular that drew you toward the medieval era?
TC: I’ve always been obsessed with the medieval time period because I think it’s a time that we can look back on and learn from. Actually 800 years isn’t that long ago and that this is the time really when the world that we live in today was created and formulated. We’re still feeling the repercussions of the actions and choices the people made in the medieval period today.
It’s also a period that is grimy and dirty and dangerous. The line between life and death is so thin, it’s really interesting to learn about. I think that’s a fantastic place to make a drama in. It’s a very rich world since life and death was so next to each other and it’s world rich in terms of human wants and needs.
Nowadays our lives are reasonably comfortable for certain people, especially in America. We typically don't have that kind of life and death threat every single day where we are going to drop down with scurvy or have to go into battle.
Our choices aren’t as drastic but if you have a lifespan of 35 years, every choice you make is loaded. I think that the world of the medieval period is one of very high octane and people making life and death choices every single move. That for me is an exhilarating period of time to make a drama in.
JJ: The costume designer Diana Cilliers has done some amazing work. Can you talk about the garments and some of your favorites?
TC: Yes. Unfortunately, I only ever had one costume really which is either with chain mail or without chain mail but most of the time with chain mail. But Diana made it so that it was completely authentic even in terms of the undergarment underneath the chain mail. We had a very, very thick heavy muslin underneath like a linen dresser with leather underneath and the same on our bottom half as well. The chain mail was real metal and so it gave that kind of weight and movement to it.
The tunics were made in the same way that they would have made the fabrics back at the time. Things like the crosses they spent a lot of time discussing what cross to use. Templars used many different crosses depending on where they were based, and later in the series, we meet another group of Templars and they have a different cross than what you see me wearing.
Diana talked about how they would have died, the wreaths, the crosses and how they would have stitched them and sewn them on, and how the draper would have done it. They stitched in the same way that they would have stitched then. They had a huge workshop at our studios, Barrandov Studios in Prague, with the most incredible costume teams who worked tirelessly. I don't think people realized how much work it took because I certainly didn't realize it.
When you have 400 extras on set, the costume team starts work at 2 o'clock in the morning to start dressing all of these men and women so that we're ready to start filming at 7:00 am. Then they wash all the costumes and they go to bed at an insane hour and they do it in shifts. The work that goes into making 400 beautiful costumes is unprecedented. In terms of the court costumes, I was really jealous because their costumes were incredible.
Queen Joan and Princess Isabella played by Olivia Ross and Sabrina Bartlett, their costumes were inspired from real medieval images and fabrics that they had used and they are just unbelievable. Like every time I saw Olivia, she was in this new extraordinary costume that Diana fashioned and created out of seemingly thin air in no time and they're just stunning works of art really.
What is amazing is that the way they were made is the way that they would have made them back then. Diana was really collaborative as well. I think each of us wanted to have our own unique way in which we wore our costume or we wore our belt or the color of our cross and so she allowed me to choose the color of my cross and how I would have dyed it. All of that really detailed history and information about The Templars is fascinating and we loved going there and making it as authentic as possible.
JJ: Landry is such a complex character from childhood to when we are introduced to him. How do you think becoming a Templar at the tender age of 11 shaped him?
TC: I think that when we first meet Landry at the top of Episode 1 he is 20. He is brash and young –he is a maverick, incredibly cocky and is kind of emboldened by the fact that he has God on his side and he thinks that he's invincible, which I think a lot of 20 year olds think, regardless of whether they have God on their side or not. I know I certainly felt like that.
What we see at the top of Episode 1 is his entire life flipped upside down when they lose Acre, the last Templar stronghold in the Holy Land and they lose the Holy Grail. We flash forward 15 years and when you've been brought up as a as a warrior, and that's all you know, everything you know, it’s a tough reality to deal with. He's like a caged animal, unable to fulfill what he thinks is his only purpose and duty which is to fight.
When we meet him, he is this very, very complex, pulled apart guy in Episode 1. He is battling with his humanity and he is secular yet he is also still mentally devout. He is very loyal to his brothers, his family yet he is lying to them. He is having an affair with a woman yet he is a monk. He is the bravest, most fearless warrior yet he's starting to feel a sense of his own mortality.
I think that’s why he kind of falls in love with this woman. It’s not that he's doubting God or that he’s doubting the Templars or religion, but that he's doubting himself. He is in a conflict, in a battle with himself, which are the stories that I love to watch where your hero is so full of contradiction and battle and personal complications. Throughout the first season, we see him work through that and battle through that and try and find out who he really is. It's an awesome journey for me to play and to take viewers on.
JJ: Talking about more seasons, do you know where Landry and the show will go?
TC: We love the show and we really hope that we can continue making it for as long as possible because we're a real family and we're very, very proud of it and we love making it. There’s also still a lot of the Templar history that has yet to be told. We have an idea of where the show will go and where it will take us. What actually happens is that while you're making a show it becomes this dialogue that happens between the writers, the actors, directors, the costume designers, the art director, the production designer, makeup artists, etc. where you're constantly kind of feeding into this pot which is the show.
It evolves and changes and moves in ways that you would never expect it to. It's like a living organism but that surprises you. Though we have an idea of where this is going, actually the truth is that we don't in many respects. We have the structure of history and what actually happened which we have to stay with but in terms of the characters, and their fuels and wants and needs and how they navigate their way through that history is something that we're constantly being surprised by with the characters. That's a really exciting place to work with.
Especially as an actor, I don't want to know where the character is going because in life I have no idea what I'm doing tomorrow or how it's going to pan out. And so I can only be in the present and I can only make choices in the present, and so that's what you want your characters to do. The writers actually withheld scripts from us and didn't tell us what was happening later in this first season so that we could be surprised in the moments whilst we were making the episode, which is a really fantastic and authentic way to work.
Once we get the script we kind of talk about them and collaborate on them. Dominic Minghella is an incredible show runner. He is a force of nature and an amazing man and a brilliant writer, and he really values the actors’ input. He is always very good at fielding ideas and whether he takes them or not is up to him but it feels like a very collaborative process where everybody is feeding into it and we all have ownership over the show and that's really exciting.
JJ: I won’t deny that I am and always will be a huge Downton Abbey fan. How was it for you getting together with a few of your DA costars?
TC: I was so happy to work with Jim Carter who plays Mr. Carson on Downton and Julian Ovenden who plays Charles Blake on Downton Abbey, because they are just unbelievable actors. And I think that the caliber that they have only reflects so well on Knightfall, you know. The cast that we've assembled on Knightfall is one of the best that I've ever worked with. They are really amazing actors and amazing sponsors.
To have someone like Jim Carter who is a multiple Emmy nominated actor and the fact that he was so excited and hungry to do our show, I think is really a testament to the scripts of Knightfall. We hope that everyone likes it as much as we do.
I can confidently say that the History Channel’s new series Knightfall will be a series that will have viewers coming back for more. There is a complexity to these characters that challenges their humanity and power against the history of the Knights Templar, the Holy Grail and Kings of other country’s involved in it all.
There is intrigue that tests loyalty and a brotherhood that is going through pains of its own from inside their own house. Bringing it all together with fantastic costuming and set design, Knightfall draws the viewer in and takes us on an adventure through the medieval era.
Dan Jones is the New York Times best selling author who is also responsible for Summer of Blood: England’s First Revolution, Magna Carta: The Birth of Liberty, The Plantagenets and The Wars of the Roses as well as The Templars: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of God’s Holy Warriors.
There is plenty of time to learn all you can about Knightfall and the History Channel has made it even easier. Go to http://www.history.com/shows/knightfall/pages/dan-jones-knights-templar to see stories and videos including Pilgrims, Warriors, Heretics: Who Were the Knights Templar?, The Templars’ Crusader Origins, From Pilgrim Bodyguards to Master Warriors, How the Templars Made and Lost a Fortune, How Religion and Greed Toppled the Templars, From Medieval Myths to Modern Mystery and Were Crusader Knights Really Protecting the Cup of Christ?
The History Channel brings more stellar successful series to television with The Hunt for the Zodiac Killer, The Curse of Oak Island, The WarFighters as well as the continuing series such as American Pickers, Pawn Stars, and Ice Road Truckers. Let us not forget the absolutely stunning series VIKINGS that returns November 29th.
Knightfall premiers Wednesday, December 6 at 10PM ET/PT on History!