Monday, October 31, 2005

Jamie Foxx: Jarhead Roundtable (Q & A)

A couple of weekends ago I got in on the junket for the upcoming feature film Jarhead starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jamie Foxx and, subsequently, I attended the press conference in which the film's talent supported the show and fielded questions from the press. The film's based on the novel of the same name written by Anthony Swofford who penned it as a memoir of his tour of duty during the first Gulf War and I think it's a good read, if for anything, to see what the war was like for someone crouched in a sandy fighting hole, six thousand miles away from home while trying to survive and maintain a semblance of sanity.

In Jarhead, Foxx portrays Staff Sergeant Sykes, a hard-bitten lifer in charge of whipping his team of snipers into shape in preparation for desert warfare -- a far cry from his roles in Ray or Collateral. While I don't cotton to press conferences (I prefer one on ones or even roundtables because they're more intimate and you get better copy/ direct answers to your queries w/o all the standing on ceremony). That said, I attended this press conference and sat amongst a herd of journalists/ scribes. I'm getting ready to write a piece on Foxx for a publication but thought I'd post some of what went down at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills last Sunday because dude touched on a time that I'd written about on this thing months ago
when I started blogging and I thought I'd tie it in -- also, I won't use much of this copy elsewhere and why waste it, yo? While I've included some of the "what's your favorite color?" kind of questions asked by some of my collegues, I think Foxx had a couple of pearls throw into the mix that wouldn't get much play elsewhere (especially the Mike Tyson stuff) so check it out...and also, check the film...or at least Swofford's book...

Q: When you got this part it was before the Oscar and everything -- and I was just wondering, what lead your decision to take on a supporting role?

JF: You know what? I think, in this situation, you look at (the director) Sam Mendes -- to get a relationship with Sam Mendes -- I think it was worth all of that because [he's] an Oscar-winning director and we had such a great time doing the film and in the future -- you know we had a good time - so, [maybe in the future we'd go] let's do some other things. And, like I said at the time, you really don't know what -- nobody really knew what Ray would do. Ray, at one point for a while, didn't have a home. So, you know, we had to get our hustle on -- and [Jarhead] was a great hustle -- because it's a good book. It's meat on the bone, it's not contrived, it's doesn't look like I went to go [and] try to "get all the money" and stuff right after the Oscars -- I did Booty Call -- (laughter) ...I mean, you stay in that vein of where [things are happening] -- because I don't want it to look like 'um, okay, I'm Johnny Carson now -- 'cause I've always enjoyed being the "Ed McMahon." Ed McMahon has always been the coolest spot and what I mean by that is like, Will Smith is Johnny Carson. Tom Cruise is Johnny Carson and I'm like "ho-ho-ho" [ imitating McMahon's laughter from the side couch] and it's been great, you know? So winning the Oscar's kind of like Ed McMahon when he got Star Search -- it's like 'oh, you got your own thang!' (laughter) So, you know, it's all good.

Q: What was the vibe on the set once you got back [after winning the Oscar]?

JF: It was great, man. It was great getting back to the set because those young guys was like 'yo man, how was it?' And I was like (in a quasi-stentorian voice) 'you know,well, I really felt that --' and they were like 'no, no, who was THERE?' (laughter) And I was like, 'aw man, it was Clint Eastwood and, you know, it was Meg Ryan -- it was crazy!' So, it was fun with those guys and I think it's fun with me, uh, having something like that 'cause when you look at other [black] Oscar-winners, you know it's like Halle and Denzel, you know, that's like 'wow', you know that's, kind of, you know -- hey, they won. But with me, you know, like I was down in Miami right after and was at [the stand-up night club] Wet Willie's, you know, crackin' jokes...I'm able to talk about things to those guys [in ways that] maybe some of the other Oscar-winners couldn't talk about it. So, I was giving them stories -- especially about the after-parties, it was crazy...

Q: Okay, your career is sort of split. I mean, yeah, you have the Booty Call era --

JF: --And I still don't understand why we got overlooked [by the Academy] -- (laughter)

Q: Can you talk about what the range is that you've experienced, I mean, you're still a young man --

JF: -- yeah, I mean it's like I said, it's been a great ride. If you look at In Living Color -- I know that some of the In Living Colors are running on B.E.T. now -- and when you look at it, you see the training ground. I mean, because, those guys were doing things -- I laugh even harder now -- and they were doing things that weren't just jokes in your face, they were doing real characters. We were trying to do -- get characters' different feelings, make them more than one-dimensional, so, it was a great training ground being under Keenan [Ivory-Wayans] and Damon [Wayans] and Jim Carey and all of those cats. So, with this, you're happy that you have that background and those tools to be able to -- to be able to go into some of the characters that we've gone into. Because we've played sergeants in some of our sketches. Now all that you do is knock off of the funny and actually play the sergeant. You do Ray Charles or Stevie Wonder -- knock off the funny -- and actually do the character, so, to see it play out like it's played out, it really makes you feel good on the inside of whatever's coming next -- you're going to be able to get into it and try to make it happen for you.

Q: -- And has Tookie Williams reached out to you?

JF: Yes, you know we're working on that right now. If you don't know, we did a story, called Redemption, a movie on F/X -- it was a great, great story -- we got 50,000 letters from young kids that don't want to gang bang anymore; e-mails and things like that. Tookie Williams, who's on death row in San Quentin, has written children's books in the past and they went all over the world -- he got nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. He's a tortured soul, a tortured man but out of all of that torture some great things happened -- so, they're planning on executing him. And not only that, it's like they can't wait. Because after the movie came out -- you know, I think it was a little too much for them because he became a different kind of icon. But we're trying to get him pardoned...We're trying to go straight to the top -- the governor, you know. And what's sad is they're executing him on my birthday...which is December 13th. And it just really makes [me] go, 'okay, you really got to get in there and fight.' At least you can say ' look, he's doing so, so much good for these kids' and a lot of the time it takes that for the young kids -- to hear somebody from the hood say 'yo man, this is really not what you want to do.' So we're on that like crazy.

Q: How have perceptions changed in the industry since you've won the Oscar? And do you find that you're becoming a LOT more selective about the kinds of roles that you want to do at this particular point in your career?

JF: As far as 'perception has changed' I don't know if that's necessarily [that] perception has changed but it has been a little bit of 'he thinks he's' know, 'he think he's...' so, what you have to do everyday is kill that Oscar beast and go out and try to take two or three steps back and not be the ugly person that, I guess, it could turn you into. And the way I've done that is [I've] just kept telling jokes about it -- um, just as if you're feeling like you're doing "thing" -- that you've done won the Oscar and you're feeling like you're at the top of your game, you're at the top of the mountain and you come off the elevator and there's a brother going 'ay Jamie, man, congratulations on that Grammy, dogg. I mean you did your thang, dogg.' (laughter) ...So it lets you know that like 'wait a minute, everybody ain't feelin' it. Everybody didn't get a chance to catch it like [the mainstream audiences did]. So, you take it and bring it back down and you use the Oscar for those things that you really wanted when you used to go up in the office and say (pointing toward the back of the room) 'I need those scripts back there' [and they'd say] 'nah, we ain't giving those scripts out -- can't have those scripts. I'd say 'why because I-I think we could do a great job' -- and now they're offering roles and what's great is, we create on the dribble. We like, we're like - we're basketball players. We create off the dribble. And so, we needed it. I mean we needed it so, like, we could set ourselves up for our careers in the future -- when I say 'create off the dribble' it's like when, you know, they always talk about, you know, like, they say 'the Oscar Curse'. And usually, that's a person that -- if you know basketball -- he's got to come off the screen and shoot it. Meaning that somebody's got to set it up for him. With us, we create it off the dribble -- we do stand-up, so we can go to our left. We do music, so we can go to our right. We can write the movies, so we can go around our backs. You know, we can shoot the three [pointer]. So, by having that, we use it as our tool and try not to bastardize it... because sometimes I've, you know,...used it for...the wrong...[reasons]...(laughter)

Q: -- How about Miami Vice?

JF: Miami Vice is going great, man. Colin Farrell's a great individual - a lady killer (laughs) You know what I'm saying? It's just great to see him get into that Crockett (role) and, again, I'm Ed McMahon oh, ho-ho-ho -- [ imitates McMahon's laughing from the sidelines] so it's right up your alley: guns, you know, the city - and the different look that Michael Mann's going to put on it. It's going to be hot!

Q: Okay Jamie, with Ray behind you, would you turn your back completely on doing any additional biopics in the future? Particularly with the talk of there being a Marvin Gaye story and a Rick James story?

JF: I always though that the Marvin Gaye story was incredible. I mean the Marvin Gaye -- do you know anything about the Marvin Gaye story? There's some things about Marvin Gaye that you don't know in this building - that would BLOW YOUR MIND -- as far as, not even his music. Just him as "the man" there's some things that would make you go WHAAT? So, whoever tells this story, you know it's going to be great. I actually thought --
Q: -- could you pull it off?

JF: -- could I pull it off? I'm sure that I could give a good crack at it. I think the Mike Tyson story is the most interesting story...I think that the most interesting story, the one you don't know -- nobody knows the stuff that I know. The stuff that I found out? It would blow your mind. Mike Tyson gives you phrases that if you listen to [them] it would blow your mind. He said -- they said 'Mike how do you feel?' and he said (imitating Tyson's voice) 'I'm happy. I'm more happy now, I don't don't have any money.' and they said 'why Michael?' -- [as Tyson] 'I don't have to worry about anything. I'm just here.' And it was an interview -- I don't know if you saw it -- and he was with a kid. And he was teaching the kid how to box, he stopped and said 'I'm so happy. I'm so glad I don't have any more money. So I don't have to worry about it anymore. Nobody has to do me wrong. Nobody has to, you know, "F" me over. I'm just glad.' And I said 'that's where you go. Do the story about that.' About how he feels now - after he looks back on what all happened...And he made another phrase, statement. [a reporter asks] 'Mike, I mean, things are just crazy for you -- why is it so crazy Mike?' And [Tyson] says: 'You give a kid, who's 19 years old, 60 million dollars and see how crazy it would be for them.'...

Q: What do you think the message of Jarhead is?

JF: I don't think, necessarily, that there's a message but I think it was great to see the different views, of how it all works. When you look at these guys and the job they have to do, you know, Staff Sergeant Sykes he was trying to explain to them simplicity. 'This is what you do, if you don't do this, you'll get killed.' A lot of the time, since we're in Hollywood and we drink capuccinos and we go to brunch -- we think [about things] a lot. And a lot of these guys are from places where they don't "think" a whole lot -- like my friends, when they come from Texas, they go 'why're y'all always talking? Y'all are just debating everything, man. Why don't you be quiet?' And when you do go to Texas, what do you see in Texas? You see somebody on the porch [pantomiming sitting in a rocking chair while staring blankly into the distance] (laughter) -- not saying anything. And so, that was what was in this movie. Like, Jake (Gyllenhaal) and I, when we first started doing this, we'd think 'wow, don't they feel bad? And don't the feel --' But being in the military, it is a simple life, you know? And it just happens that war breaks out, so it complicates it a little bit but it's a simple way of thinking is what Staff Sergeant Sykes was trying to get across.
Q: You ever have a tough time and think of quitting this business?

JF: Oh yeah, man! I moved to Vegas -- right after In Living Color, I couldn't get any work. If you live in L.A., you know if you live in L.A. you got to have your shine on -- if you ain't shining, you dip quick! The minute they found out that the show was over, the scene was like -- I remember seeing this girl, and this was when I knew it was time for me to get out. This girl was walking towards me and I was like [with bragadoccio]'ooh yeah, she's probably seen the show' and she said ' you know where Chris Tucker is?' (laughter) I was like duh-duh../(stammering) and I was at the Comedy Store. So I said, 'yeah, I'm trying to find him too I-I-I think he's somewhere over there, yeah, yeah, yeah...Then she looked back and said 'You look so familiar.' (laughter) and I was like 'oh man, my shine is gone.'So I’ll never forget moving. I had to move to Vegas because it was bad here. Because cats was going, ‘Whatcha’ gonna do now man? That stuff is over.’ And another Chris Tucker story, at one point I had gotten so into myself because I thought everybody was watching In Living Color -- everybody wasn't watching In Living Color. I'll never forget going up on stage one day and doing rich jokes, like in front of these folks from the hood. I was up there like ‘Yeah, man, I just got that Range Rover. Anybody else?' (laughter) '...My house went into Escrow. Anybody? Man, it’s crazy when your house go on escrow.’ It was like 'motherfucker, What are you talking about?’ So I dropped the mic, ‘Thank you, I’m Jamie Foxx.’(mimics feedback on from a dropped mic) I walk off stage and as I’m off stage, outside the club talking to somebody, I hear the doors open [and the audience roars with laughter]. ‘Who is that? What is that? What are they laughing about? I just left the stage.’ And I walked in and it was a young, thin black guy with bulging eyes by the name of Chris Tucker. This was years ago and he was killing them. And I sat down and I said, ‘That’s what I need to do. I need to go back and find what it is that I do’ because I had lost it. So I moved to Vegas and then we put our heads together and Warner Brothers at the time was looking for some shows. I like the people that like me. It wasn’t ABC, it wasn’t CBS, it was Warner Brothers. We went there and we did The Jaimee Foxx Show and I got a brand new start. I said, ‘I don’t want to ever slip like that again.’ Then I’ll tell you, years went by and I’m in the Laugh Factory and they bring out, ‘Coming to the stage…’ and it was Chris Tucker. And he had a suit on and a red tie and he was telling rich jokes. ‘I wonder if you girls really love me for me or for my money.’ And it was like wow. I went to him and said, ‘Yo, I see what’s happening. You’ve gotta go back and get it.’ And I challenged him, I challenged Cedric the Entertainer, I challenged Bernie Mac, I said, ‘Now, don’t lose that because once you lose that, it’s hard to try to get it back.’

Q: How is your pickup with ladies changed since the Oscars?

JF: It’s changed drastically. I bought a Lamborghini too. It’s crazy. I think what it is is that it’s a different type of women when you win an Oscar. All the young in the club, I ain’t messing with you right now. I got this over here, the 35 and over with their own companies. They break down everything. ‘You know, that night I was so touched.’ ‘Girl, I’m gonna touch you again.’ That’s the thing that I can say that maybe Halle and Denzel can’t say because I’ll never forget the joke I told Will. It was like I’m making love to this girl right after I won the Oscar. She said, ‘Oh, Jamie.’ I said, ‘No, no, no, that’s not my name.’ ‘Oh, Academy Award Winner Jamie Foxx.’ Oh, baby. So I’ll tell you, if you ain’t got one -- get you one.

Q: Jake and Peter (Sarsgaard) were talking about the craziness of shooting in the desert -- Something about insanity on the set?

JF: It was like if you allow yourself to be in those characters and you allow yourself to get into things of where, these guys, even though they were shooting blanks, they still wanted to make it look as if they were the best at what they do, so you had a healthy amount of competition, healthy amount of that and that’s what it’s all about. And I think that when you look at the Marines over there, ex-marines, marines that are in the corps, they have sort of like a social club in a sense. They were talking about things that were pertaining to what if this happened, what if that happens? You find your way. You find your way to hang and you find your way of keeping things interesting. There’s always interesting people that you meet that are from different parts of the world that you bag on and dump on, stuff like that. So it was a lot of fun.

Q: Did you come away with any specific judgments about Marine Corp life? It seems hard, barbaric and a tough way to exist..."

JF: No, that’s what I’m talking about. See, you’re away from it. I think it’s your demographic. It really comes down to. I mean , when I talk to my friend who’s a black guy, he says, ‘Yo man, I think he got ‘em dawg.’ I say, ‘What?’ ‘That Saddam, man, he got the weapons of mass destruction.’ They believe it. I said, ‘No, I don't know. I don't think so. I don't know.’ In LA, we ponder. In New York, whatever, you ponder, you think, you wonder. But the demographics where a lot of these guys are from, it’s not barbaric to them because we look at life as we want to be the thinking people and figure out things. But for them, when you go back to our home town and you have that soldier’s uniform on, you’re heralded. You went and you did it. You went and did something for your country and I know it sounds weird but people still say, ‘God bless America’ in parts of this world. Although it’s weird for us to say America because like I said, we’re thinking of what is America portraying? They don’t think like that. So it’s like for them, that is their superbowl. That is their Oscar. That is their Stanley Cup. And you come back and you say, ‘Yo, man, I went out there and I protected y’all.’ That’s where you have to get. You have to get in there and sit with them and see how it really is.

Q: So, what's next for you?

JF: Miami Vice is right now. Dreamgirls later on. And then I will do Kingdom. And we got the album out there that Kanye West, I call it Smithereens now -- it’s not just a smash. "Take My Money" is killing right now. I think that’s some kind of history too. I don't know too many Oscar winners that had number one songs. We’re doing that and then I got my own clothing line coming out, I got my own shoe, I got hats -- I’m kidding. No, but actually December 6, my album comes out and that’s one of those things. It’s like the guest list alone, it’s on J Records, the guest list we got Snoop, we got Timbaland, we got Ludacris, we got Mary J Blige and I fooled ‘em a little bit too because I got some young stuff at the beginning and young stuff at the end but in the middle there’s our stuff. Some make love, how you doing, get to know you, treat your woman like this, treat your man like that so infidelity here, infidelity on both sides...we’re dealing with things like that so in that -- in the middle -- you get all that so you all don’t go, ‘Oh, this is some junior-ass stuff.’

....Jarhead opens in theaters nationwide, like, this Friday, November, 4th...Laters...

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Thank You Sister Rosa Parks (1913 - 2005)

When Rosa Parks stood up by sitting down on that segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama back in 1955 she sparked the flame that would burn away the weeds of Jim Crow Laws -- the legal codes that kept black citizens cordoned away from the whites in what were ostensibly considered "seperate but equal" living conditions...Sister Parks was fed up with that shite and wasn't going to take it anymore. So when that white bus operator told her to get up so that some white dude could sit down or he'd call the po'po', Rosa said,"Call the police! I ain't moving!" and the rest, as they say is herstory...from the tiny acorn grows the mighty oak, yo...The seamstress' act of defiance, the resulting arrest by a group of jack-booted thugs shone a light on the hypocrisy of the codified racism that was on the American legal books. It galvanized people to jump into action and protest with boycotts and sit-ins, like an obscure young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King..."When that white driver stepped back toward us, when he waved his hand and ordered us up and out of our seats, I felt a determination cover my body like a quilt on a winter night." Parks said in her autobiography "My Story" Rosa's stand against the North American version of Aparthied and the ripples of change it caused forced this country to hew closer to the ideals grandiloquently espoused in it's Constitution but never applied to it's sepia-toned citizenry...what Ms. Parks' actions taugh me as a child is if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything and for that I'll always give thanks for Sister Rosa's stance...

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Johnny Cash: Complete Sun Recordings 1955 - 1958 (Review)

Time Life is issuing a retrospective of Johnny Cash's recordings that he cut while on Sam Phillips' storied Sun Records label back when Elvis, Roy Orbison and J.C. himself were virtual nobodies to the mainstream listeners. On this 3-disc compilation you'll find classics like "Hey Porter," "Folsom Prison Blues," "Get Rhythm" "Luther Played the Boogie" (ooh wee!) and, of course, "I Walk the Line." The four on the floor format is the standard old school country style that hearkens back to when small town white boys -- influenced by their black blues contemporaries -- cut a swath through (then) popular idioms and got country widdit and makes this collection all that and a bowl of grits. Cash spoke the tongue of tough times -- living through loss and walking to the proverbial edge and living to talk about it in ways that few are brave enough to shimmy around -- which wasn't lost on Rick Rubin when he staged Cash's "comeback" with the recordings he produced with the aging rebel a few years ago on those Def American recordings -- even Bono & U2 managed to squeeze in a cut with him (which can be found at the end of their Zooropa LP). While the first disc is the best of the lot in my book -- that's word -- if you don't own any early Cash, and you know what's good for you, you'll scoop this joint up with a quickness. The Man in Black doesn't disappoint, son.

Johnny's new joint is gonna drop on November 8th -- get rhythm, yo...Laters...

The Family Stone: Feel the Wuv (Review)

Cast: Sarah Jessica Parker,Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Luke Wilson, Claire Danes and Craig T. Nelson

Director: Thomas Bezucha

Ah, your kinfolk. You can't pick 'em like your friends. And nothing says it better than a movie like The Family Stone which follows Everett (Mulroney) who's taking his icequeen of a girlfriend Meredith (Parker) over to his parents' house for the holidays. In his world, Everett's a buttoned-down captain of industry but it soon becomes apparent that he wasn't always that way based on his extroverted family. Director/ screenwriter Tom Bezucha cover's all the filmatic yule-tide bases without (surprise!) making the seasonal setting the wingnut-cliche that keeps all the wheels on the wagon. As the family matriarch, Diane Keaton seems to be reprising her Something's Gotta Give role at points and Luke keeps the Wilson family's laid-back slacker comic tradition alive; SJP seems to go on Carrie Bradshaw-in-power suit auto-pilot which isn't that bad -- but it ain't too good, either. Rachel "in theaters every 3-months" McAdams, on the other hand, proves she's got mad skills making with the funny while Shopgirl Claire Daines phones in her performance. With all of that said, let's face it, there's gonna be a lot of these kinds of films released during the "Thanks-nukkah" season , so if you're going to succumb to peer pressure you might as well get it over with and go to see this one, preferably at a matinee. Laters...

I think this one's coming out nationally on December 13.

Jarhead: Film Review & 5-Spot w/ Anthony Swofford

In 1990 a 20-year old Tony Swofford enlisted in the Marine Corps and soon found himself in the Desert of the real that was the first Gulf War. Thirteen years later, his memoirs of what took place over there, Jarhead, became a critically hailed best-seller and spent two months on the NY Times list. As fate would have it, the book has been made into a film...

Q: So, how surreal was it for you to see Jake Gyllenhaal playing you up on the movie screen?

AS: It's rather strange to see an actor onscreen being called "Swoff" and Swofford and the long list of obscenities that were sent my way by drill instructors and other warm folks.

Q: And seeing your romantic and military relationships in the past played out again?

AS: Yeah, with Christina? Yeah, well that was weird. But that was a long time ago, like fifteen years ago now. You know, about broken hearts. It's a pretty common experience for young men who go off to war things at home fall apart. The great line in the film that comes from the book was "Swoffard's a jarhead. What happening here doesn't matter to everyone back home - their lives go on." That's really important in the book and the film.

Q: You're obviously here because you like the film but did you have any input in the film making once you sold the rights to your memoirs?

AS: Everyone was very concerned with how they were going to treat the script and how they were going to treat the adaptation from the book. We all agreed very early on that there were certain scenes that had to move from the book to the film During the last rehearsals I came out one day and met Jake one afternoon for lunch, Bill and Sam were both there and Sam sort of lead the conversation. He was asking a lot of questions -- the answers to which he already knew -- I think for Jake's sake, like biography from beyond what's in the book.

Q: You write in the book and we see in the movie that other war films like Platoon and Apocalypse Now were utilized to get soldiers fired up just before going into combat. Are you at all weary that the same thing's going to happen with Jarhead?

AS: I have that fear in terms of my book too. What I think the book does different than the films that I mentioned is that it slows down the action...It's not full of combat scenes. It's not full of arms getting blown off and gaping, sucking chest wounds. Because we know that. We see that. People go to war and they die these gruesome deaths, we've seen them on films. Jarhead the film slows down that action as well. And there's a lot of time for the interior, psychological space of the warrior to be rendered onscreen.

Q: Did you write this memoir to gain catharsis on what your service in the Gulf War really meant and how surprised were you that Hollywood wanted to make your book into a film?

AS: I'm not really sure that it was cathartic. I wrote the book not for catharsis but because I felt like it was an essential, important American story and, as a writer, it was the subject that was right in front of me that was most relevant. For my first book, to write the best book, the most vivid book that I possibly could I think that I needed to go through this experience. I think Hollywood likes good stories -- exciting, compelling stories and I think that Jarhead offers that -- I'm not surprised.

Jarhead Review

War!Good God!What is it good for? Apparently book topics and movie screenplays...Set in 1991, Jarhead's based on Gulf War Veteran Anthony Swofford's memoir with the same title. In the film, "Swoff", played by Jake Gyllenhaal, follows in his father's footsteps and enlists into "mother Green and her fighting machine" - the U.S. Marine Corp -- which puts him smack, dab in the middle of the desert of the Persian Gulf. Swofford, and his homebiscuit Troy (Sargaard) crank things up a notch and sign up to train as snipers in a STA unit which puts them under the tutelege of Staff Sgt. Sykes (Foxx) -- who's born-again-hard about keeping his men's powder dry on the battle field with rigorous rounds of physical endurance testing and mind games. In Jarhead Oscar-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) peels the onion off of Swoff's perspective of everything with dialogue filled to the brim with military jargon (the title says it all) and a narration with Gyllenhaal's "whatever-dude" speech pattern thrown in for texture. Some might think that this film's all about warfare but it really isn't. Like the book, it's about a newly-christened warrior, who just happens to be caught in a conflict. Surprisingly, the screenplay stays incredibly close to what was written by the author and still Mendes manages to pull a rabbit out his arse with an absorbing, ricky-tick pace and some surreal-ass oil-fire sequences that'll peel your wig back. Go see this film, if for nothing else, to get a better visage of the living hell a soldier faces while fighting the war within and without.

Jarhead is set to be released on October 28th in L.A. & NY and then nationally on November 4th...I think, Laters...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

GYST: Get Yourself Together

Sometimes the best wisdom to be found comes from within. I was rummaging through my cassettes (again) and I found a live recording of Full Stop on one of our first shows in New York. While listening to the tape I was reminded of how alive I felt that night -- winning over that hard-boiled Manhattan crowd and making them have a good time with my band's the end of the set (we were opening for an NYC band called The Authority) the crowd was loving us, yo. I was talking to a friend earlier today and she's really getting her ass handed to her both emotionally and financially -- and it felt helpless; like I had nothing to say that would calm her down...then I remembered that show I did in NYC at the (now razed) Wetlands Club years ago and the lyrics to a song called "Get Youself Together" or G.Y.S.T. -- that I'd written while going through a serious mental shitty of my own -- an ill advised confrontation with a girlfriend's racist father and the ugliness of the break-up that ensued. When you're young, sometimes you espouse wisdom beyond your years but in this case I was just living through a moment & speaking with my heart...Laters

Get Yourself Together

When you feel bad Karma dominate your perfect skies
When what is seen ain't fixed and you feel dissed by an all-consuming evil eye
Check the time!Brace yourself!
Don't grit your teeth and wonder why -- he waters beneath your bridge just seem to swallow everything you give...

Now, the world may look a hostile mess just get yourself together
When the cess impales your consciousness just get yourself together
You begin to feel the stress supreme, just get yourself together
And it may seem the mix is mean because the grass is always greener

Tunnel of pain-and-pressure your vision is cloaked in a shroud of smoke
So rough in texture, dig your fix and regurgitate that hoax
That mends your culture and your psyche, though you broke it first
And naïve mankind will suffer in a world of hurt
To those who hate and the shitty deals they still create
I could pull my gat and waste
Spread the shame
Who's to blame?
Be that as it may, you'll see the fences tall and trenches deep
Know your fate, get it straight and we'll survive, at least, the grief...

Sometimes there is no solace in the things that people say
Ignorance is just a sickness - bliss, the mind is what it plagues
So look ahead and not besided you to avoid them and their spies
Oh yeah! Buried in a void of black they tell you not to seek the facts
I'll do the right thing, not the "hype thing"
--So you wanna live inside the peace?
My request is that I live to be myself and never weak
Sometimes I curse the world we live in
Don't you know that we could never give in?
So I'll stand firm to shake you down
'cause the youth stay safe with sound...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Dermot Mulroney & Luke Wilson: Family Stone (Q & A)

Like I'd mentioned earlier, I got a chance to rap with Luke Wilson and Dermot Mulroney who were doing press for The Family Stone which also features Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson. Here's some of what went on earlier today at the Ritz-Carlton in Pasadena...[Luke was in another room finishing his breakfast but Dermot came in and started to roll]...

Q: You want to wait or do you want to get started?

DM: ...Yeah, before he comes in here. (laughs) I was thrilled to work with Luke then I'd heard he'd got into the movie and I was afraid he was going to bail -- you know, for some higher-priced part -- and drop out at the last minute. So, honestly, I was rather anxious about that at the beginning of the movie [shoot]. And I knew that I was going to like him right away too -- I mean, I could just tell from his movies that we'd be compatible. And he'll probably tell you different, but we ended up being pretty good friends.

[Luke walks in and his people leave]

Q: So, for the both of you are you guys like the kind of people who like to greet [others?] with the hugs like the family in the movie?

DM: No, we shake hands. Don't we?

Luke: (sitting down) Yeah.

DM: He's a "non-hugger," for sure.

Luke: I'm friends with the tennis player Pete Sampras and he's always criticizing Hollywood men for hugging each other -- which they do.

DM: You fall into it.

Luke: You's part of the [Hollywood greeting] process. You roll up to a guy you barely know and...(hug him).

DM:'s really weird. But, I'll tell you what -- you work with Sarah Jessica Parker and Claire Danes and Rachel McAdams, believe me, you're hugging every morning! (laughs)...Good morning, dear - all that...

Q: Have either of you ever went out with a girl but you really liked her sister?

DM: No. That has never happened...

Luke: I liked the mom. (laughs)

Q: What about growing up, did you ever steal Owen's girl or anything? Or vice versa?

Luke: It never happened. I just never would cross that line, I don't know. That's the kind of thing that might cause a serious rift in our friendship or family -- I wouldn't do that to those guys.

Q: Different tastes in women?

Luke: Um, that's a tough one. I don't think so, not necessarily.

Q: What's Christmas like in your houses?

DM: It's pretty crazy, (looking at Luke) you've got two brothers, I've got three and a sister and so, at this age it's so hard to get everybody together and have this kind of thing. But when you do -- our family really plays hard too (looking at Luke ) --

Luke: It has to be nice to have a son, though. I figure that once you have a child, like Dermot [has], then it kind of comes full circle. You kind of enjoy [the holidays] again.

DM: Yeah, and you get to bring him over to the family house and you get to sleep in -- which is nice -- because he's hanging with his grandmother.

Q: I can imagine a Wilson family get-together is it as fun and funny as one might think?
Luke: Um, we like to have a good time. And yeah, I think, we're one of those families that instead of -- our way of showing affection is to kid [around with] one another --

DM: That's us too.

Luke: -- sometimes we have to, kind of, tone it down or else it kind of builds and builds and builds until you're being kind of mean. (laughs) But no, we all get along great and my folks are still together and so we all enjoy being around each other.

Q: Can each of you talk about what brought you to your respective roles in The Family Stone and what did you like about your characters?


Luke: You want me to get started here?

DM: Yeah, why don't you? You've probably got your arms around that one already.

Luke: For me, it was just one of those things where it was my character on the page -- and then also the other characters -- where it seemed like it would be fun to be around those people. And I don't know that there's anything I don't like about Ben, except that maybe he does seem kind of aimless. But I mean, my feeling in the movie is that a lot of the way that each character is driven by what's going on with Diane (Keaton's character) like maybe Ben's extra easy-going and extra-relaxed just to offset this underlying tragedy. And the same with [Dermot's character], maybe he's getting more and more uptight just because of what's going on with Diane. You know, like when Rachel McAdams -- or maybe it's Diane's character -- says "what're you doing wearing a tie?" Like maybe he's trying to keep everything in his life together because the thing that everyone cares the most about in the movie is Diane and Craig (T. Nelson) --

Q: -- Do you think comedies or, like, family comedies are becoming a Wilson family business with you and your brother?

Luke: I think we -- and maybe we're kind of drawn to comedies -- maybe that's what we have the most fun doing. But yeah, also, family comedies and I like the idea of working with my brothers -- which I've had the chance to do a couple of times -- it's just like working with a great old friend or something. Not that we don't have our differences but we do have very similar tastes and stuff like that where you don't have to spend the time on a movie getting to know somebody. Starting a new movie is like going to a new school -- it's like, maybe, you're kind of awkward. You don't know how everybody works and you want them to like you and you want to do a good job. And you need to feel comfortable.

Q: With Wendell Baker coming out is there a lot to live up to with all the scripts that Owen's done?

Luke: Um, maybe in other people's eyes but, I mean, not for me. I mean I'm more, kind of, influenced by Owen and Wes Anderson and I would hope that it would have some of the same qualities those movies have. But I liked the movie and people that I'm close to that have seen it, seem to enjoy it. Like people whose opinions I respect but yeah, of course, you worry if it'll do well. But in terms of living up to those movies, I mean, I hold those guys in such high esteem with the work they've done together that I wouldn't think of..[having to live up to or top them].

Q: Is there any particular character, in a movie, that you've played that's more like "Luke Wilson in reality?" I mean like this guy, Ben, in The Family Stone or maybe Mitch from Old School?

Luke: I think, it's like I'm not doing, like, Gary Oldman parts -- you know, totally transforming myself --

Q: -- Like Bram Stoker's Dracula or something?

Luke: Yeah, so I think there's elements of me in everybody I play. But yeah, I mean a lot of the time I'll start out with good intentions but usually I just end up playing myself. After the first couple of weeks. (laughs) works.

Q: Have either one of you ever ask a girl to "fly her freak flag" like Ben does in the movie? (got tongue-tied on freak flag)

Luke: It's hard to get out isn't it? Um, I don't know --

DM: -- I like women that are already loose. (laughs) Q: That wasn't your line, that line was already written in the script, right?

Luke: No, that was one of Tom's lines. That was a phrase that I didn't feel comfortable saying so I tried to say it like it was some piece of sage advice. Something like, " I once heard the Dalai Lama say 'fly your freak flag' or something like that. (laughs) I was trying to make it seem very [Biblical]...

Q: Dermot, what're you working on?

DM: I'm on a low-budget movie called Griffin and Phoenix with Amanda Peet -- we have another six days of filming in New York.

Q: So that is happening?

DM: Yeah, finally. It was almost started a year ago and then the financing fell apart and so forth, so, they're making it [properly] instead of hurrying it and doing it the wrong way which was what would've happened a year ago. But we started with the script and now we're in the home stretch now.

Q: Is it a romantic comedy?

DM: It is but -- there's illnesses involved.

Q: Was it difficult learning sign language for your parts for this movie?

DM: It was pretty fun. I really was fascinated by it. Jack Jason is a really well-known sign language interpreter -- coach or technical advisor, I guess you'd call it -- and he was great to work with. I ended up just trying to do exactly what he did, you know, and just imitate his hands. But the more you learn it, the more you realize how really beautiful this language is --

Luke: -- Certain people were really good at it. Dermot was really good, Diane was especially good -- I think she'd [learned] it before -- I had trouble with it but I think it was a horse race between me and Craig (T. Nelson ) who was worse.

Q: The director and producer said it was Craig.

DM: Yeah, it was...

Luke: But he had more lines and I just quietly, kind of, stop doing them -- and hoped no one noticed. One time I was trying to make Craig feel uncomfortable about it, to deflect attention from myself, and I was like "Craig, you looked like a third base coach up there and he's like "I know, I'm really having trouble with this." He's like "I was practicing in my trailer and I almost put my damn eye out." It is difficult yet you do see when people are good at it -- it is one of those things, that it makes, most of the stuff makes sense, all those signals. And Thad (Stone) was really helpful and patient with people. And he always has a guy with him, who's translating for him, and...he's also good at reading lips too. You know, you'll kind of see him focusing on your mouth -- I thought it was just because he thought I had a pretty mouth. (laughs)

DM: And what [Thad] will tell you is that people really do start to enunciate more when they know that their lips are being read. But then of course, he says, then I can't understand a word you're saying because it doesn't look like you're actually talking. Even like when Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) does in the movie where she talks too slow and people start to laugh at her and stuff, like "what an idiot."

Q: Are you working on Super Ex?

Luke: Yes, I start this week.

Q: What's that about?

Luke: It's um -- it should be funny -- it's a comedy with Ivan Rietman directing and Uma Thurman. I play a guy that starts going out with who I think is just a regular girl and she turns out to be a super hero for Manhattan. But then, she's kind of tough to be in a relationship with and I break it off. And then she starts using her super powers against me.

Q: A lot of special effects?

Luke: Yeah, there'll be a lot of stuff. I fly but I had to do this thing that's called the scan. You go up to this place in the [San Fernando] Valley and I went into this room and they were like "could you just put that on for the scan?" and you like see a bikini. I mean this thing was like, literally -- I looked like I had both genders when I put it on, it was so tight. I looked like I had everything.

Q: Dermot, I wanted to ask you, have you seen Capote?

DM: Yeah.

Q: So Catherine's (Keener) seen it too is she excited about it?

DM: Yeah, definitely. I think she's really pleased. It's a beautiful movie, the way they made it. It's just incredible and all of the performances are off the charts, it's unbelievable! Have you seen it yet?

Q: No, I was reading about it in Vanity Fair, though, and they had a little bit about Cathy and they said she blew it up.

DM: Yeah, she sure did. It's really, really a great work. All through that movie -- yeah, she's phenomenal.

Q: Do you guys work, like she'll do something then you'll do something...?

DM: Well, you try but you really don't have any say about the [shooting] schedule so much -- and that one, for example, I was working on that terrific movie, Must Love Dogs while she was travelling back and forth doing Capote. So you know -- I mean the only reason that I was back at work was because Must Love Dogs was [shot] in town. Because of the age of our son and so forth, it's pretty complicated but we have worked at the same time...

Q: Well, you tell Cathy I said good luck with Capote, fingers crossed.

DM: I will, I will. Thanks a lot, man

The Family Stone opens nationally on November 4th...

Reggie Hammond Redux

I was told a long time ago on the side of a stage (after I'd descended from it and still basking in the afterglow of performing in front of a few hundred people ) that one day I'd have to make a decision. I'd have to make a choice between the life of satisfying my soul with fulfilling experiences and doing what had to be done from a practical, "gotta make the doughnuts" standpoint. I think it was my mom, but then, it could've been my granny...I thought of that little nugget today while puttin' on the Ritz...

I just got in from The Family Stone junket over at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Spa and it was like I'd stepped through an invisible, gossamer partition between the world I know and into that of monied "Trust-a-farians'," that the hoi poloi can only glimpse on episodic TV. When I pulled up on the scene, the spa staff gave me the "Hammond Treatment" -- remember that scene in Trading Places when Reggie Hammond (Eddie Murphy) arrives at the townhouse owned by the Duke brothers (played by Ralph Bellamy and Don Ameche) and as he approaches, just out of earshot, Mortimer (Ameche) looks over at Randolph (Bellamy) and sneers "Look at him! Probably've been stealing since he could crawl." What a funny (and telling) line about the way things are for some people...I'm no class warrior, though -- there's bad apples in every social strata and that includes my working class one...

Once it was ascertained why I was there and who I was working with, however, everybody's tune changed and everything was copacetic. Too, I'll admit that no one was brazen in any instance...I guess I just don't look like one of their regulars -- the suburban L.A. gentry. Whatevers, yo. After kicking it with the film's talent (Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Luke Wilson and Dermot Mulroney), I nixed the luncheon that was being served in the hospitality cottage -- I'd eaten a big ass breakfast when I got there and although one of my philosophies is "if you're gonna be a bear, be fuggin' grizzly," today was not the day to get all John Belushi and go Animal House on the free vittles...As I walked out, I had to negotiate around well-heeled machers and monied nuclear families having Sunday brunch in the midst of blue-haired dowagers and over-the-hill patriarchs. I had a pulsing urge to dip, so I did just that. While strolling past the pool-side dining area I had to restrain myself from pulling a "Cleavon Little" by screaming at the top of my lungs: "Hey! Where all the white women at?" like he did in Blazing Saddles to lure some Klansmen into a trap...I giggled at the image as I crossed the picture-bridge overlooking the loaded lot scarfing down egg-white omlettes and bloody marys in the California sun.

Instead, I strolled it toward the parking area to slide back on into my world and though I live about two miles North, getting back to my zip code seemed to transport me galaxies mom (or grandmother) was right about one thing, better be at ease with whatever decisions you make in life and get on with it because they're all yours -- own 'em, son...Laters...

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Charlize Theron: North Country Woman (Q & A)

As I mentioned earlier, I'd rapped with Charlize Theron about her upcoming film North Country which also features co-stars Woody Harrelson and Francis McDormand. Directed by Niki Caro (who also helmed Whale Rider) this new Theron vehicle might get her another Oscar statue because without standing on ceremony, the South African actress goes against type in the role of Josey Aimes, a single mother trying to survive in the hinterlands of a small Northern Minnesotan mining town, she and a group of other women sign on to work in a traditionally male-dominated trade and needless to say the "bubbas" aren't happy — so drama's just around the corner, yo. Charlize is very kicked back as a person and is very easy to talk with. I'd never met her before but I got in on a roundtable with the actress a couple of weeks ago at the Four Seasons in Los Angeles and here's some of what went down...

Q: So, what touched you about this woman’s story?

CT: That it was real. That it actually happened. That it only happened very recent; this was only settled in ’95. It’s incredibly naïve as a woman to kind of sit in my fortunate circumstances never having to have dealt with anything like that and to think wow, you know, we’re all good, everything’s great. And to find out that this doesn’t just happen in little rural communities it happens everywhere.

Q: Have you ever run into sexual harassment in your work? The casting couch, per se. Salma Hayek said that when she first started out some producer guy offered her a job and then said “well come out to dinner first” and then she said she realized halfway through dinner that it wasn’t about the job. Did that ever happen to you?

CT: Nothing really — here’s the thing, I know Salma a little bit, she’s a firecracker — I’m sure she kicked him in the balls. The only thing…a very well known director, actually — and this was before I did anything, this was when I just got here and I didn’t have a manager or an agent or anything and I told my modeling agent that I was going to try the acting thing and asked if they heard of some small parts or something like that to please let me know and they called me and said that they were casting for some extras in this film, big action film. And um, they said you have to go to the director’s house on Saturday night at 9:00. Now I had never been on an audition in my entire life so I thought well maybe that’s what they do, what do I know, you know? And I showed up and he answered the door in his pajamas and then continued to make drinks. I was like, interesting (raising her eyebrows). Wow, it’s really not formal this whole casting procedure. And it lasted about 10 minutes...with me it’s not an option. I mean seriously, it would just get really ugly.

Q: The setting of this film reminded me a lot of the beginning of Coal Miner's Daughter which starred Sissy Spacek in country singer Loretta Lynn's biopic. How was it working with Sissy?

CT: Yeah, she’s just incredible. She really is so — I think this is such a beautiful, quiet performance from her. She’s so powerful through the eyes. Every single actor that got on board, I mean every week Niki would call me and it’d be like Frances [McDormand] just signed on, Sean Bean just signed on, Woody Harrelson, Sissy Spacek and by the end I was like shit, I hope I still have a job! [Spacek] is very mothering and nurturing just naturally. She’s got two daughters, she just completely took me under her wing. As far as she was concerned I was her daughter. Yeah, she gave out to me, she told me not to smoke...she was just great.

Q: What about Richard Jenkins? [who portrays her father in North Country]

CT: Amazing. The events are based on truth and the characters are — my character is completely fictional. She’s a combination of a lot of characters. The real woman is incredibly private and we want to just respect that.

Q: The woman you play is someone who wants her father’s approval and finally gets his respect — which is a wonderful moment in the movie. Was that something that Niki wanted to put in or was it there from the beginning?

CT: It was always there and a lot of these women that I talked to all said, you know, you have to understand that it’s a small community and they — not only did they grow up with their fathers, their grandfathers, their brothers, their uncles going to work every morning or every night to this mysterious mine, um, it was also — when they started working there it really affected those people because they worked there as well. And so a lot of that relationship is based on a lot of true stories.

Q: Was there any part of Josie that you felt was a lot like you? Parts you could really relate to?

CT: Um, she’s…I think she starts off very much like me. I think she’s a girl that had a great personality and could take anything in high school and then took one knock after another after another after another and in this community, instead of dealing with things you kind of keep them in and because of that she just started kind of becoming more insecure, shier. She reminded me of a tortoise, she kept pulling her head deeper and deeper into her shell and so when the sexual harassment stuff happens it’s not just that, it’s years of stuff that she’s never been able to stand up for in her life.

Q: Has Hollywood has done that to you?

CT: No, no. What I was going to say is that’s very different from me. In many ways I’m much more like Glory [Frances McDormand], you know, and I think what I liked abou — even though it wasn’t very much like me and I’m not interested in me — what was great was that she was the quieter one. When she walked into the room, she was probably the least likely one to change or do something historical and that’s what I liked about her. So, I don’t know, I would hope to think that if I had children that my primal instinct would be as strong as hers. I think it will. I could relate to that, you know, standing up for your kids and doing anything —

Q: Are you thinking about kids?

CT: Sure. I want it to be very organic and…it’s something I’ve always known, that I want to have kids and it’s not something that is happening for me right now. You know you get a little older and you start thinking…But it’s not like I’m in a rush or anything — if it would happen tomorrow it would be a blessing, it would be great. If it didn’t I would be totally fine with it too.

Q: How long have you been married and how does it work with two actors?

CT: Almost five years now. You know, I think the most important thing is not what the person’s occupation is but just the personalities. It’s those two personalities that have to live together and he challenges me and keeps me on my toes. He’s a fire sign, I’m a fire sign and — I’m what I like to call a Sagi-terrorist — but, you know, I think, the only thing I could say is that we understand each other’s jobs, but that’s really it. We’re very supportive of each other. We know how much our careers mean to us and so we never stand in the way. We always say we’ll make it work. You know, whatever happens you make it work. That’s all.

Q: But being gone for months at a time would be hard on any relationship…

CT: Yeah, I mean we talk every day and…You know, he’s my best friend and I don’t see my best friend every single day either. We’re individuals and we spend more time together than most of the couples that we know. We like spending time with each other. We make time for that. But if I go to work on something and — it’s not like I go away for three months and I don’t see him.

Q: What about when you’re totally immersed in a role? Do you go into a hole?

CT: No. The only thing that’s hard — and it’s not because I’m in a hole or — and it’s not with Stewart, and not with my mom, but with most of my friends is that you just don’t have the time to call everybody every single day or — that’s the only thing I really miss during the three months is that you just don’t have that much time or headspace to really stay in touch with your friends and things like that. But I don’t like bringing my work home because it makes my work not as effective, I think. I need the energy, I need to be able to switch off and rest.

Q: So you can walk out the door and say goodbye to the characters you create onscreen?

CT: It’s discipline. I really believe every actor can do it. It’s discipline. It’s just easier to wallow in self-pity.

Q: Do you get that from your dance background, you think?

CT: Maybe, but also because I love my life. I really love my life. Just as much as I love my work and I don’t want the two to kind of override each other.

Q: What about the really heavy roles like in this movie and in Monster. Like in that scene on the stairway with your son, you went pretty far with that —

CT: Do you know how that scene ended? I’d been making fun of my driver the entire day because she had a Martha Stewart Living magazine in her car and she got very excited and she said ‘look what I’m going to make, hen cake!’ So the whole day I was making fun of her, saying, [singing] ‘she’s gonna make a hen cake’ and that scene actually ended — Niki, that day, I told her the story about it and we had a laugh about it and so we asked one of the drivers to go and find a cake that looked like a hen. And so the last take of that scene is literally me sitting on the porch and Thomas coming out with a hen cake. And that’s how we ended that night. I think — it almost sounds wrong because the subject is so serious, but we had an incredible time on this film. I think laughter is so healthy and so necessary, otherwise we would all slit our wrists.

Q: Was North Country your cinemaatic redemption after Monster?

CT: I’m really influenced by directors and the only thing I can say is I got really fortunate to stalk the director that I wanted to work with and then she gave me a job. That was really it, and, you know, I think it would be incredibly selfish to think about going through what I went with Monster ever again in my career. This is just the story I — you guys know, I love my drama! When I read this I was all over it.

Q: Do you feel like you’ve proven yourself? As being more than just a pretty girl?

CT: I’m incredibly proud of my career. I’m proud of my choices, you know there’s a lot of things [that don't get written about]. It wasn’t an easy journey but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I like things hard. I like to fight for things. I like things to be a challenge. I think it would have been a real let-down if I’d kind of showed up and everybody just gave me great parts, said 'here, you’re fabulous, go on.' You know, there’s something to be said that you went and accomplished something and of course I’m proud of.

Q: Was there ever a big down part, though? Where you thought, ‘I’m giving up?’

CT: Well…there’s nothing else I really want to do.

Q: You’ve always been selective in your roles but after winning the Oscar there’s always talk of a let down — the Oscar curse, if you will. Now it seems that you may have another chance to get an Oscar nod but was that something that bothered you or influenced the way you looked at roles?

CT: No. I took this role a week before I won the Oscar. So, you know, I would be stupid to say it wasn’t because of the noise. You know, I’m sure it had a lot to do with it. But I agreed before I actually won the Oscar. Niki and I had dinner about a week before the Oscars and, it was a hot day, she finished my sentences, I finished hers, we were on a complete page, I fell in love with her. I was so inspired by her as a woman and I said, 'look, if you’ll have me I’d love to do this.' And I also did that with Aeon Flux. When I won the award I never even entertained any other offers. I never read any other scripts. I haven’t read a script since, you know, Aeon Flux and this one, North Country, in the last two years.

Q: The trade announcement came after the Oscars.

CT: I had said yes, then they go and do all the paperwork — I had completely committed myself to these two projects because of Karyn Kusama and because of Niki [Caro]. Those are two filmmakers that I really wanted to work with, they felt like two projects that were day and night from each other, I liked the physical aspects of Aeon, I liked doing this with Niki, and then I just never read anything else or even entertained anything so it wasn’t like, 'now I’ve got an Oscar, what do I do now?' And I think maybe that was great, you know?

Q: I heard you could have been crippled at one point, during the filming of Aeon Flux, if you had moved an inch in the wrong direction or something.

CT: It was a herniated disk in my third and fourth vertebrae. It was bad enough but good enough to not be too bad.

Q: What happened?

CT: I did a back handspring and my feet slipped from underneath me and I landed on my neck like this, with my body straight (makes a perpendicular angle with her hands).

Q: But weren't you secured on a wire?

CT: I was on a wire, but the thing is, I was learning gymnastics and you only get speed from not really using the wire that much so the wire was guiding me, the wire was not lifting me…And I was getting to a place where I was really starting to be good at it, where the wire was just a safety for me. But the problem with that is the wire’s really slacked because you’re doing it all by yourself and so to really get somebody up you have to really be pulling hard.

Q: Are there any residual effects? Are you okay now?

CT: I have one more check-up to go for — the reason why we had to shut down [the shoot] was because if I had any other smaller accidents like a car accident or if I slipped and fell or anything like that it was really very close, if it had moved any more it would have pressed on my spinal cord.

Q: And would that mean you couldn’t walk?

CT: Yeah, I’d be left paralyzed. The nerve damage was what was really problematic. I lost all feeling in the right side of my body…[I went through] intense physiotherapy, cortisone treatments and things like that.

Q: Did you know you were in trouble in the moment it occurred?

CT: No! Because I had been in so much pain on that movie that I thought it was maybe just a spasm. So I got up and said 'no, I’m fine, maybe I just pulled it a little bit. I’ll lay down for a second' and I started to stretch for a little bit and within twenty minutes the pain got so intense that, uh, we went to the hospital and did a CAT scan.

Q: How long was the movie shut down, then?

CT: Seven weeks.

Q: And during that period did you say to yourself 'never again will I do a gymnastics role?'

CT: No. Accidents happen and you get over that fear…I wouldn’t have wanted to make that film if I couldn’t — the physical aspect was what I was so interested in. I come from a background of telling stories with my body and I really thought this was a great throwback to that. And I really wanted to do it that way, so…You know, this character doesn’t say a lot and I love that about her. So for me to go and not do the physical stuff…

Q: Besides the obvious, how different are you now than you were back during 2 Days in the Valley?

CT: I’ve got an Oscar now! I only talk to the selected few. (laughing)

Q: But you’re still so down to earth — what’s kept you that way?

CT: Because my mother beats me! (laughs)

Q: But in spite of all of this, are there things you still want to prove with your life?

CT: Always, yeah. You know I think what’s so great about this job is [that] the creative process is never done. You know, it’s a constant. It never felt like I could sit back on any performance and say, ‘well I really fuckin’ nailed that one!’ It’s just a constant —every time I watch something I learn — I mean I wasn’t classically trained, so I learned on the job and I learn by making movies and so I fail on a lot of movies. And I see that when I watch my work. I see where I’ve made mistakes and I see where it doesn’t work and so the next time around I’m even more excited to go and not make those same mistakes and to challenge myself even more.

Q: What does your mom think of all this? She’s been such a champion of yours and you’ve talked about her a lot—

CT: She’s hilarious. She’s become this person (puts her hand to her face like it’s a phone) ‘Oh, so you think you don’t have to call me back now ‘cuz you won an Oscar’ everything I do bad now’s like ‘Oh, we think we’re little miss hot shot ‘cuz we got an Oscar?’

Q: But you guys have gone through a lot of stuff together— did you channel her for scenes with the kids in Caro's film.

CT: Niki became a parent right before filming and I was very frightened about it. I wasn’t going to be running around with babies here, I was running around with a 13 year-old and a 5 year-old and they are as smart as they come, you know, and — I didn’t want to screw up kids. I think they’re at an age, when they work in this industry — I don’t want to be part of that, I don’t want to mess them up. But then I also wanted to have a connection with them where this relationship was real because I felt like if you didn’t believe that, then the stakes weren’t high enough with this woman. Because everything she does, she does for these two kids. And if you didn’t believe — not that she’s this great mother, because I think she’s very flawed—to pick her up at the beginning and see her put her kids constantly in these bad relationships because she has no independence and, you know, the only way she knows how to put food on the table is by being with a man and every time she does it she gets involved with a bad guy who beats her or is an alcoholic. But for her to own that at the beginning of the film and to load those kids up and say I’m not doing this anymore. She’s a very flawed mother, but then to get to a place of saying yeah, maybe I’m not the greatest mother but I will do anything for these kids.

Q: What’s next for you?

CT: Nothing, I’m going to live life. I’m going to go live life. I’m doing a five episode character on Arrested Development and — I really didn’t think I’d go back to acting for the rest of this year but then they called and I said 'oh, God, I love the show.' I would love doing some comedy but other than that — I’m producing a couple things which doesn’t take me away from home. Stewart’s working nights, so…

North Country opens nationally on October 21st.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Charles Mingus: Wham, Bam Thank You Ma'am!

I've got a grip of favorite bass players (Aston "Family Man" Barrett, Norwood Fischer, Charlie Haden, Bootsy Collins, Jaco Pastorius, Adam Clayton and Oscar Pettiford to name a few -- a cello's still a bass in my book, yo) but the biggest bad wolf in the whole pack has to be Charles his prime Charlie cut a whole heap of phat tracks like "Goodbye Porkpie Hat," "Haitian Fight Song," (you might've heard it on the film Jerry Maguire) "E's Flat and Ah's Flat Too" and of course "Wham Bam, Thank You Ma'am" which he cut with Rahsaan Roland Kirk (another jazz fave of mine but he sat in the reed section)...I highly recommend this cat to anyone looking for the real deal and to those who don't know his shite, start listening to LP's like Pithecanthropus Erectus, Mingus Dynasty or Oh Yeah which are all top notch recordings, cousin'...hell, before he died even Joni Mitchell had to give him his propers...Laters...


1942 Performs with Kid Ory in Barney Bigard’s ensemble.

1943 Charles Mingus goes on the road with jazz legend Louis Armstrong.

1947 Gravitating more towards rhythm and blues, Mingus begins to perform with Lionel Hampton.

1950 Performing as bassist for the Red Norvo Trio, Mingus starts to gain valuable national exposure and make major inroads towards the forefront of the ever evolving jazz world.

1951 Charles Mingus moves to New York and starts performing with jazz performers such as Billy Taylor, Stan Getz and Art Tatum which put him deeper inside the NYC scene.

1952 Mingus forms Debut records with his wife and Max Roach, in an effort to get a wider variety of jazz recorded.

1953 Mingus plays bass at the famous Massey Hall concert in Toronto- sitting in with Charlie “Bird” Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, and Max Roach. The bassist also began to compose for the Jazz Workshop group.

1955 Gunther Schuller conducts an orchestration called “Revelations” which combined jazz and classical motifs. He and a 22 piece orchestra perform Mingus’ composition “ Half-Mast Inhibition”, which rockets Mingus into the upper eschelons of contemporary jazz composers.

1956 Pithecanthropus Erectus is released by Atlantic Records, heralding a decade of definitive work to come.

1962 Mingus performs the infamous Town Hall concert in an attempt to financially free himself from the shadier side of the jazz music industry’.

1964 Again, in an attempt to break free from the murky dealings in the jazz recording industry, Mingus launches the short lived Mingus Records.

1965 Mingus is thrown off the Monerey Jazz festival bill and retires from playing live all together.

1969 In an effort to avoid fanancial failure, Charlie Mingus returns to the stage after a three year absence.

1971 Mingus is awarded the Slee Chair of music and spends a semester teaching composition at New York State University, Buffalo. Later in the year, his autobiography “Beneath the Underdog” is published.

1972 Charlie Mingus resigns with Columbia records.

1974 Forming a new quintet, Mingus records the album “Cumbia and Jazz Fusion."

1977 Charles Mingus is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease and is eventually confined to a wheelchair.

1978 The legendary bassist recieves White House honors and later in the year begins to collaborate with folk rocker Joni Mitchell, who wrote lyrics to Mingus’ songs.

1979 Charles Mingus dies on the fifth day of the year in Cuernavaca, Mexico. His ashes were scattered in the Ganges River.

1989 Ten Years after his death, Mingus’ masterwork “Epitaph” is discovered, with a grant from the Ford Foundation it is transcribed and eventually performed in a concert produced by Sue Mingus at Alice Tully Hall. The 30 piece ensemble was conducted by Gunther Schuller.

1995 The landmark recording, "Jazz At Massey Hall"(Debut, 1953) with Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Bud Powell, Max Roach and Mingus is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

1997 Charles Mingus is posthumously awarded the Grammy Lifetime achievement award for his contributions to music.

1999 Mingus Dynasty (Album) -Columbia, 1959 is inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.


-Raised in Watts, California, Charles Mingus formally studied double bass and composition while moonlighting with popular musicians like Lionel Hampton and Kid Ory.

-After hearing Duke Ellington, the young Mingus first tried to play trombone, then cello and eventually ended up on the double bass.

-Mingus’ composition instructor was Herman Rheinshagen-principal bassist of the New York Philharmonic/ quantitatively, he studied technique from bass legend Lloyd Reese.

-Joining the New York jazz scene in the 40’s, Mingus performed behind such genre luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Bud Powell and Art Tatum.

-In addition to writing and performing jazz compositions, Charles Mingus pioneered the melding of classical music with jazz- fusion.In 1960, Mingus canoodled his way out of performing at the Newport Jazz Festival and instead formed the Newport Rebel Festival (which included saxophone iconoclast Ornette Coleman) but these "alternative" dates were not recorded.

-When asked to comment on his musical achievements, Mungus said “... my abilities as a musician are the results of hard work but my talent for composing comes from God."

-Unhappy with the way that record companies treated jazz musicians, Mingus decided to form his own publlishing/record company as well as the “Jazz Workshop” , where aspiring musicians could go and woodshed concepts and record ideas in a supportiive setting.

-Mingus ignored the standard approach to the bass and chose to solo in ways ascribed to piano and woodwind instruments.Well known for his aggressive behavior, Mingus was not above stopping a show (mid-performance) to berate musicians in his ensemble if they didn’t perform up to his standards.

-Charlie Mingus is the only musician that Duke Ellington personally fired from his band.

-Although unable to play piano in his final years of life, the ever formidable composer continued singing new ideas into a tape recorder.

-A pioneering composer writing elaborate scores throughout his lifetime (recording over 100 albums and writing over 300 scores), Mingus wrote “Half-Mast Inhibition at the age 17."Tijuana Moods" was recorded in 1960 but not released until 1962- upon it's release, Mingus submitted "This is the best record I ever made."

-The National Endowment for the Arts provided grants for the Charles Mingus foundation “Let My Children Hear Music”. This microfisced catalogue of all of Mingus’ works is kept in the Music Division of the New York Public Library where they are available for scholarly study/ reference , which was a first for jazz.

-Mingus was convinced that his 4000 composittion “Epitaph” would never be performed in his lifetime (hence the title)- he said” I wrote it for my tombstone. This masterstroke of his undeniable compositional acumen has been heralded as “the first advance in jazz since (Duke) Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy.

-The magazine New Yorker wrote:” For sheer melodic and rhythmic structural originality, his compositions may equal anything written in the 20th century. The Mingus Big Band formed post-humously (in '81) to continue performing his musical legacy.


1952 -- Strings And Keys -- Debut
1954 -- Moods of Mingus -- Savoy
1954 -- Jazz Composer's Workshop -- Savoy
1954 -- Jazzical Moods, Vol.1 -- Period
1954 -- Intrusions -- Drive Archive
1955 -- The Jazz Experiments of Charles Mingus -- BCP
1955 -- Jazz Collaborations -- Debut
1955 -- Jazzical Moods, Vol.2 -- Period
1955 -- Chazz -- Fantasy
1955 -- The Charlie Mingus Quintet + Max Roach -- Debut
1955 -- Mingus at the Bohemia -- Original Jazz
1955 -- Plus Max Roach -- Original Jazz
1956 -- Pithecanthropus Erectus -- Atlantic
1957 -- The Clown -- Atlantic
1957 -- Tonight at Noon -- Atlantic
1957 -- Mingus Three -- Capitol
1957 -- Tijuana Moods -- RCA
1957 -- New Tijuana Moods -- Bluebird
1957 -- East Coasting Bethlehem
1957 -- Scenes in the City Affinity
1957 -- A Modern Jazz Symposium of Music & Poetry -- Bethlehem
1958 -- Weary Blues -- Polygram
1959 -- Mingus in Wonderland -- Blue Note
1959 -- Blues and Roots -- Atlantic
1959 -- Mingus Ah Um -- Columbia
1959 -- Mingus Dynasty -- Columbia
1960 -- Mingus Revisited -- Emarcy
1960 -- Pre-Bird Mercury
1960 -- Mingus at Antibes -- Atlantic
1960 -- Charles Mingus Presents Charles Mingus -- Candid
1960 -- Mingus Presents Mingus -- Candid
1960 -- Mysterious Blues -- Candid
1960 -- Mingus! -- Candid
1961 -- Oh Yeah -- Atlantic
1962 -- Town Hall Concert (UA - live) -- United Artists
1963 -- The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady -- MCA
1963 -- Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus -- MCA
1964 -- Mingus Plays Piano -- Impulse
!1964 -- The Great Concert of Charles Mingus (live) -- Prestige
1964 -- Right Now: Live at Jazz Workshop -- Original Jazz
1964 -- Town Hall Concert (OJC - live) -- Original Jazz
1965 -- My Favorite Quintet -- Charles Mingus
1965 -- Charles Mingus (CM) -- Charles Mingus
1970 -- Reincarnation of a Lovebird -- Candid
1971 -- Let My Children Hear Music -- Columbia
1972 -- Charles Mingus and Friends in Concert (live) -- Sony
1973 -- Mingus Moves -- Atlantic
1974 -- Mingus at Carnegie Hall (live) -- Atlantic
1974 -- Changes One -- Atlantic
1974 -- Changes Two -- Atlantic
1976 -- Cumbia and Jazz Fusion -- Atlantic
1977 -- Three of Four Shades of Blues -- Atlantic
1977 -- Lionel Hampton Presents Music of Charles Mingus -- Who's Who in Jazz
1978 -- Something Like a Bird -- Atlantic
1978 -- Me, Myself an Eye -- Columbia
1990 -- Epitaph -- Unique Jazz
2000 -- Charles Mingus Meets Cat Anderson -- Unique Jazz
2000 -- Live in Stutgart 1964 -- Unique Jazz


1946 -- The Young Rebel -- Swingtime
1951 -- The Complete Debut Recordings -- Debut
1952 -- Thirteen Pictures: The Charles Mingus Collection -- Rhino
1954 -- Welcome to Jazz: Charles Mingus -- Koch International
1954 -- Charles Mingus -- Everest
1954 -- Jazzical Moods -- Fresh Sound
1955 -- Charles Mingus -- Prestige
1956 -- The Art of Charles Mingus -- Atlantic
1956 -- Passions of a Man: The Complete Atlantic Recordings -- Rhino
1957 -- New York Scetchbook -- Charly
1957 -- Charles Mingus Trios Jazz Door
1957 -- Debut Rarities, Vol. 3 -- Original Jazz
1959 -- Jazz Portraits -- United Artists
1959 -- Nostalgia in Times Square -- Columbia
1959 -- The Complete
1959 CBS Charles Mingus -- Columbia/ Legacy
1959 -- Shoes of the Fisherman's Wife -- Columbia
1960 -- Better Git It in your Soul -- Columbia
1960 -- The Complete Candid Recordings -- Mosaic
1960 -- In a Soulful Mood -- Music Club
1962 -- Live at Birdland (1962) -- Jazz View
1962 -- The Complete Town Hall Concert -- Blue Note
1963 -- Reevaluation: the Impulse! Years -- Impulse!
1964 -- Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Vol. 1 -- Ulysse Musique
1964 -- Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Vol. 2 -- Ulysse Musique
1964 -- Live in Oslo 1964, Vol. 1 -- Landscape
1964 -- Fables of Faubas (Jazz Time) live -- Four Star
1964 -- Live in Oslo -- Jazz Up
1964 -- Live in Stockholm -- Royal Jazz
1964 -- Live in Stockholm 1964: The Complete Concert -- Royal Jazz
1964 -- Astral Weeks (live) -- Moon1964 -- Meditation (live) -- France's Conce
1964 -- Live in Paris 1964, Vol.2 -- France's Conce
1964 -- Live in Paris 1964 -- Le Jazz
1964 -- Revenge! (live) -- Revenge
1964 -- The Great Concert (Paris 1964 live) -- Music Club
1964 -- Mingus in Europe, Vol.1 (live) -- Enja
1964 -- Mingus in Europe, Vol. 2 (live) -- Enja
1964 -- Mingus in Europe -- Enja
1964 -- Mingus at Monterey (live) -- VDJ
1964 -- Portrait -- Prestige
1964 -- Paris 1964 (live) -- Le Jazz / Charly
1965 -- Music Written for Monterey, 1965 (live) -- JWS
1969 -- Statements -- Lotus
1970 -- Charlie Mingus in Paris (1970 live) -- Ulysse Musique
1971 -- Charlie Mingus -- Denon
1971 -- With Orchestra -- Denon
1972 -- Live at Chateauvallon (1972) -- France's Conce
1977 -- Giants of Jazz, Vol. 2 -- Who's Who in Jazz
1977 -- His Final Work -- Gateway
1978 -- Soul Fusion -- Pickwick
1990 -- In Europe -- Rhino
1992 -- Debut Rarities, Vol. 2 -- Original Jazz
1992 -- Debut Rarities, Vol 1 -- Original Jazz
1993 -- Collection -- Castle
1994 -- Jazz Portraits/ Mingus in Wonderland (live) -- Blue Note
1994 -- Debut Rarities, Vol. 4 -- Debut
1994 -- Paris 1967 (live) -- Le Jazz
1995 -- Parkeriana Bandstand
1995 -- Jazz Classics -- Peter Pan
1995 -- Stormy & Funky Blues -- Moon
1995 -- Goodbye Pork Pie Hat -- Jazz Hour
1995 -- Live -- Affinity
1995 -- Soulful Mood -- Music Club
1996 -- Goodbye Pork Pie Hat -- Eclipse
1996 -- Sound of Jazz -- Intercontinent
1996 -- Better Git It in your Soul -- Sony Legacy
1996 -- Live at Carnegie Hall -- Rhino
1996 -- This is Jazz, Vol. 6 -- Sony
1997 -- Priceless Jazz Collection -- GRP
1997 -- Summertime -- 32 Jazz
1997 -- Charles Mingus -- GRP1999 -- Alternate Takes -- Sony
1999 -- Wednesday Night Prayer Meeting -- Hallmark
1999 -- Volume 5 Galaxy Sound
1999 -- Immortal Concerts (live) -- Giants of Jazz
1999 -- Pithecanthropus Erectus -- Giants of Jazz
1999 -- Backtracks Renaissance
1999 -- Summertime -- Intercontinent
1999 -- Orange -- Moon
1999 -- Fables of Faubas (Giants of Jazz) -- Giants of Jazz
2000 -- Les Incontournables WEA International
2000 -- Lionel Hampton Presents Charlie Mingus -- Giants of Jazz
2000 -- Abstractions -- Affinity
2000 -- Jazz Workshop Abstractions -- Affinity
2000 -- The Complete 1959 CBS Charlie Mingus -- Mosaic
2000 -- Meditations on Integration -- Bandstand

Saturday, October 01, 2005

What's Your Rush King Tut?

"Fifteen minutes late," I said to the bum who was busily digging for gold in the garbage can with one hand and his nose with the other...guess he wasn't waiting...The phone, buried in my backpack started to ring, I answered it. "Where are you? What's your 20?"...old yeller strikes again...

Unlike the cacophony of taxi hacks, cross-town, uptown, downtown, express shuttle, NJ Transit, PATH train and interstate lines that could shoot you wherever you needed to be on Manhattan's tall and tight cityscape, getting around L.A. takes hours off your life that you'll never get back -- because the city's spread over such a wide geographic area. If you've never been here, you can't fully understand what will drive those with weaker resolve to break down in a froth of road rage, get "chitty-chitty bang-bang" and scatter buckshot all over the freeway asphalt...Mind you, the MTA is quite extensive and goes everywhere It can get downright daunting when you're trying to get to Point B in a timely fashion; the tantric discipline that one has to muster in order to keep the wolves of commuter hostility at bay and remain peaceful while waiting for their connection going to the other side of town can raise the bar of said endeavor to Torquemadian proportions and it'll put you in a real mental shitty if you let it...better bring a book, son...

I glared at the face of my watch again as I lobbed a string of muttered epithets back in time at the civil engineers who lacked foresight back in the 40's to connect the inner city with the suburbs and slam-dunked their plans to construct a proper rail system into the round file which pleased both the automobile and oil industries...the bah-stuhs!...30 seconds since the last time I looked Westward, past the cars slowly merging and turning up Fairfax..."still not here," I thought (having harvested a couple of empty soda cans and boogs, the grubby guy had moved on down the road)...I looked across the street at the list of upcoming events at LACMA (L.A. County Museum of Art) and realized that though I'd planned to since June, I hadn't made it to the Tutankhamun Exhibit yet and noted to myself that I should get in there to see it before the circus left town on November 15th...I looked down at my shoes to check if they were both securely laced -- they were, by the way -- and realized that the Fishbone logo was actually lifted from the L.A. DWP signage denoting sewer outlets that emptied into the ocean which makes it forbidden to dump shite like bleach into them...the #720 came shortly after my little microphany and it was practically empty -- a rarity during rush hour on Wilshire, to be certain...when sitting on a bench soaking in the UV rays of the blazing SoCal sun I notice little things like mind begins to wander...which is why I always have a pen and memo pad on my person...this has been one of those times...Laters...