Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Denis Leary: When Hallmark Just Ain't Cuttin' Through...

...Music and writing, two of my first true loves...sometimes it's tough to see where they diverge in my mind's eye but one thing's for certain, they've always been there...I've seen the women come and go but the tunes and the typing have held steady...until recently...

...I've been kicking it with a super-cool chick and she's all-that-and-a-bag-of-chips, she gets me in places and ways that I don't have to always explain and it's weirding me out sometimes because I don't have to go there all the time; explain what I'm thinking (or writing) to the least common denominator, she's a lot like me but she's also her own person and therein lies the rub: she's so much like me that she forces me to ask the hard questions that I wouldn't ask myself straightaway which can take the piss out of you when you've slipped into your shiniest shoes of self-righteousness and gotten comfortably settled into your soapbox'standing-room-only perch...

...I'm opinionated, sometimes outright strident in my beliefs, I've accepted that in me and am used to going my own way, even if it means that I've got to give the proverbial finger to those closest to me...but she's not buying that shite and told me as much and she's sticking (damn you woman, you're forcing me to do that heavy, emotional lifting that I usually get away with between the lines of an article)...sometimes being a cunning linguist or clever is not necessarily the panacea for all the ills in your world-- one of the first lessons you learn while eating a hearty helping of crow...

...with all of the above in mind, a recent string of events have proven that this chick truly has what it takes to hack it through the (sometimes dense) mental jungles of what I'll call Crash-topia, she's not in the rear with the gear, she's charging straight ahead and it's scary to behold sometimes...she's called me out and told me that I'd never reveal something like this to my "gentle readers" and I thought I'd prove it: I'm many things but a liar is not one of 'em and although I'm not a white, suburbanite with a John Wayne/ Patton fetish, the chorus and refrain of the video below speaks directly to what I feel when I forget myself, cross the line and oh whatever...check it:

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Jimi Hendrix: The Voodoo Chile Lives On

...Today's the last day of Black History Month here in the US and I thought I'd end the series by pointing to Jimi Hendrix who got his start on the R&B circuit and later rolled on to cross the codified lines of race, blur them by fusing the sounds/ stylistics of the rock 'n roll of his day, imbued it with the blues and jazz that came decades before him and turned it all into something fresh and new, he continues to influence artists from across the spectrum to this day and I think it's a fitting note to conclude on: the past, present and future are all a part of the same thread and when one takes a look back, it's clear that this link nourished Jimi's muse from his early days are a couple of notes that you may already know but maybe not...who cares? Let your freak flag fly for a few minutes and read on...

As a teenager Hendrix taught himself how to play guitar by listening to the (mostly blues) records of such artists as Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, B. B. King, Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, and Buddy Holly. He never learned to write (sheet) music. He concentrated on reproducing what he heard on the radio or records. Hendrix’ lack of a formal musical education proved to his advantage. He didn’t have the sonic boundaries that many schooled instrumentalists develop from music theory standards. Hendrix thus milked sounds of feedback and distortion from the electric guitar and amp with consistency and masterful sensibilities, in addition to reinventing traditional blues motifs...

...In the pickup stage of his career, the young sideman Hendrix was always kept under wraps by the headlining performers with whom he played. The 1964 single “Testify” by The Isley Brothers is probably the only song (as a session musician) that gave a window of things to come...

Obviously a proficient instrumentalist, Hendrix was extremely self-conscious about his singing voice and rarely sung. He had never really stood out front until he began to perform with his own backing band, the Blue Flames in the early '60's...The unknown Jimi Hendrix opened for the “Pre-fab Four,” The Monkees, and was abruptly booed off the stage...Although the Experience was widely known in the U.K. in 1966, Hendrix would not perform in the U.S. with his chart-topping act until the summer of 1967...

At the Experience’s Monterey debut concert, Hendrix capped his performance by burning his guitar, which his fans came to expect at every performance...When Hendrix formed the all-black Band of Gypsies, following the Experience’s breakup, he went to Billy Cox and Buddy Miles, whom he played with backing Wilson Pickett...Billy Cox was a buddy of Hendrix’s when he was parachutist in the U.S. Army...During his second U.S. tour, Hendrix stopped his stage antics (playing behind his head, with his teeth, etc.) and concentrated on his performances. This got a hostile reception from his fans, who came to see a “show.”...Amazingly, Hendrix’s career span in the international spotlight, when he made the majority of his musical contributions, was only four years...Hendrix’s set at Woodstock was “semi standard” to some present. His searing, machine-gun rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” would settle all questions regarding his guitar artistry...The Isle of Wight concert was to be Jimi Hendrix’s last. He died in England a few weeks later...

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Daft Punk: A Harder, Better Blast from the Past

...from the "nothing-new-under-the-sun" Dept: ever hear a cut that made you think of something else that had absolutely nothing to do with said artist performing the song? The Daft Punk Video for "Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger" totally reminded me of the cartoon series Star Blazers which pre-dated the slick anime we see now... maybe it's the drawings but I kept expecting to see Derek Wildstar's brown Afro or his super-fine irlfriend Nova or somebody else from the Spaceship Yamato to show up ...good times, yo...if you see the series in a video bin, and sci-fi is in your bag, pick it up...the similarities to those characters and the one in this video brought a lot of great memories back...

Monday, February 26, 2007

I Heart Huckabees -- Why I Don't Totally Hate Mark Wahlberg

...I realized while watching the Oscars last night that Mark Wahlberg (who got nommed for his turn in The Departed) gets a bad rap for his acting chops for films like the Italian Job (which I ca instantly see is understandable) but I will say that he did hit it hard on films like Boogie Nights and I Heart Huckabees...I wrote a review for that film when it came out that started like this...

"Before you ask, Huckabees is not a herd of Australian marsupials, but rather the name of a chain of fictional stores in David O. Russell’s new ensemble comedy starring Jason Schwartzman, Dustin Hoffman, Isabelle Huppert, Lily Tomlin and Jude Law. The film follows Albert Markovski (Schwartzman), a tree-hugging conservationist who hires the "existential detectives" Bernard and Vivian Jaffe (Hoffman and Tomlin) to spy on him following a series of coincidences that cause him to continued here

Media:Ira Glass from This American Life Goes to TV

...I'm checking Terry Gross' Fresh Air and just heard that the radio show This American Life , one of my Public Radio favorites is going to be made into a TV's set to premiere on March 22nd on Showtime...Ira's a Peabody Award-winner and lots of people in the business (especially comedy) tune in to check the show for a few laughs; inspiration as they while away at whatever they do...I'm listening right now and Terry's interview is funny as hell..if the show is anywhere near as good as some of the radio stuff, it'll be awesome... if you want to check the internet feed, take a listen here

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Check it:Rage Against the Machine, Wu-Tang Clan Join Forces for Shows

...I just got this notice in my inbox and thought I'd pass it on to all you dyed-in-the-wool RATM/ WTC fans who drop by....

First it was the reunion of the Wu-Tang Clan in 2004. Then it was A Tribe Called Quest later that year. Now, ROCK THE BELLS will make history again as Rage Against The Machine announces their plans to perform three exclusive engagements with the critically acclaimed world-class hip-hop festival this summer. The epic line-up will see Rage Against The Machine join Wu-Tang Clan for two dates on the west coast (August 11--NOS Events Center, San Bernardino, CA, August 18--venue TBA, San Francisco) and for Rock The Bells’ inaugural venture into New York City (July 28-- Randall’s Island) for their only scheduled appearance on the eastern seaboard this year. The Wu-Tang Clan will support the release of their forthcoming album 8 Diagrams.

The complete line-up will be announced March 26th and tickets will go on-sale March 31st at 10:00am. For complete details and updates log onto the Guerilla Union page or the Official Rock the Bells website

Bricks are Heavy-- So is Jennifer Finch's Photography

...I put this piece up a month or so ago on my Mog page and thought I'd repost here...

...last November I pitched an interview with L7’s Jennifer Finch who has this sweet-ass book of photos she’d taken growing up as a teen on the punk scene here in LA…my query was based on an article I’d read during a ciggie break about her then forthcoming book, 14 and shooting which is a photo essay of what was going on behind the scenes of the (then) burgeoning punk scene here in Los Angeles…I was sold…the article had some really cracking pictures of legends long since gone and some who now have one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel…

here’s a couple of quotes from the LAW piece:

“Being a 14-year-old girl made me kind of invisible,” says Finch. “I don’t think anyone was even paying attention when I had my camera. A lot of the subjects were friends, some weren’t. I was always taking photography classes and so a lot of those early pictures are actually just lighting tests. It was just something I enjoyed, and it allowed me access. I would tell bands that I would take their pictures if they put me on the guest list so I could get in free. It was a way to meet people and be part of the scene.” continued here

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Ioan Gruffudd: On Amazing Grace & the Silver Surfer (Q&A)

...Last Tuesday I covered the press rounds for the movie Amazing Grace which opened in theaters nationally last week and is inspired by the life of William Wilberforce's struggle with Britain's 18th Century-era House of Commons to abolish it's ties with the brutal institution of enslaving Africans and shipping them to the colonial new world . Directed by noted documentarian Michael Apted (Coal Miner's Daughter, Bring on the Night) the film stars Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd (Yo-wan Griffiths) who's also set to return to theaters this summer in The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer...I had a cool sit-down with both Apted (which I'll transcribe later) and Gruffudd, here's what went down while chatting with Ioan...

Q: So how did you learn about William Wilberforce?

Ioan Gruffudd: I didn't meet any of his family member or anything, although I'd been in touch with one of his great, great grandsons-- after he'd seen the movie. I wasn't in connection with him to discuss or research him. So I read about as much as I could about him, many biographies on him but just to flesh out the character. [Wilberforce] is not incredibly well-known world-wide although we know about him in the UK, I was slightly ignorant of him, personally, so I needed to research as much as I could to bring him to life. But a lot of the story was in the script already and it was a such a perfectly written script that it sort of leaped off the page from the very beginning.

Q: What were you working on when you got the role of Wilberforce?

IG: I was doing the TV Set, this movie I was doing with Jay Kasdan-- Sigourney Weaver and David Duchovny. So, I was shooting that here in LA at the time and I auditioned with Michael Apted, sat down with him; did a screen test and whatever

Q: So you were in Titanic and then Black Hawk Down-- I saw you in Titanic but who were you in Black Hawk?

IG: I was actually very briefly in Black Hawk Down. There's a scene at the beginning of the movie where a character has an epileptic seizure who has to go home, that was me having the seizure. And then Josh Hartnett's character takes over the squad, so, literally, I was there for like two or three days on that movie.

Q: In this film William Wilberforce ages and you continue to play him, talk about how that was for you. You have any difficulties with it?

IG: I actually love having the aging process; the makeup, the wigs and the costumes, I mean personally I love all of that. It gives you the chance to put yourself in a whole different time. But, say, the going back and forth (in time), the continuity of it, as was the nature of the movie-- you're not going to shoot everything in sequence. So, it was a bit odd [when] one morning I'd be the young Wilberforce and the we'd take that makeup of and put on the old Wilberforce again-- it was a lot of fun. It's really satisfying as an actor to play someone over fifteen years of his life and to have an ailment, to have an illness to play-- that was a lot of fun to do.

Q; You come from the Royal Academy-- do you think having that background puts period pieces front and center in your actor's wheelhouse?

IG: I'll be honest with you, I suppose, yes, having the theatrical training, yes. I think that I [direct] myself more to those sort of I've got that lock or whatever, yeah.

Q: You started acting at an early age, like at 12, what made you want to get into it?

IG: Well, I think I was introduced to it as a twelve year-old, I mean, I didn't decide to go in-- they came to school, they auditioned and I tried out for the part, so I was introduced to it. I wasn't a good actor at all, that's why I wanted to go to drama college, to learn, so it wasn't a conscious decision [initially], I was introduced to it and then from that moment on I thought 'wow, I really want to do this-- I want to do this professionally'. I didn't see it before, there really wasn't a defining moment, I was just introduced to it and I was just smitten and wanted to do it for the rest of my life.

Q: So what exactly happened that day?

IG: They came to school to look for [someone to play] this character in a soap opera and we all tried out for it, I mean everybody wanted to have a go and I was game...and I got it. There's an incredible amount o f luck involved in the career of an actor, absolutely, and you need it in an abundance as well as talent and ability; being in the right place at the right time-- it's a combination of all those things.

Q: So are period pieces such as this what you enjoy doing most?

IG: I do love it but then, you know, I'm an actor-- I'd like to have a go at everything. It's just the way that these parts have presented themselves to me, they're such great, heroic parts but they happen to be based in history.

Q: You still play the oboe?

IG: No, I don' that on [bio] that I do? (laughs) ...No, I haven't played in a long while-- I played up to a really good standard when I was younger but I haven't played it since--

Q: -- but is it true or no?

IG: Yes, if they were making a movie about an oboe player tomorrow then I would play it (laughing) -- I'd definitely put my hat in the ring there.

Q: Did you go through a lot of weight changes while doing this because you back and forth in time on the film.

IG: Yeah, it's a tough one to do because, in order to look younger, it's better to have a bit of weight, a bit of puffiness, to fill out the cracks. But to play older then you need the cracks to [be evident] so it was so it was down to this incredible makeup artist that I had -- she was an Oscar winner for Elizabeth, so, thanks to her, we got that aging process right.

Q: You ever look in the mirror with your makeup on and go 'okay, so this is what I'm going to look like in 20 years?'

IG: Yeah, of course there's vanity that comes into it and you worry about it but, as an actor, you embrace those things, it's fun to do all that. I mean, it's acting in it's true sense of the word-- you're totally pretending to be somebody else, to be older.

Q: So what was it like on the set? I was expecting a Vanity Fair/ Pride and Prejudice kind of feel but there are points where it's a lot like Tristram Shandy, as far as the mood went.

IG: Oh, it was incredible, as you could imagine with all of those [veteran] actors on the set -- Michael Gambon and Albert Finney, they're great legends of screen and theater-- so it was a lot of fun to me. Michael Gambon is an actor who likes to keep it light [during a shoot] and fun-- he likes to camp it up the whole time. And Albert Finney is just a real lesson in humanity, such a great humanitarian-- it wasn't just a lesson in acting, he was just such a great guy. So, of course, these guys have got incredible war stories to recount, so every day was just a pleasure. I was listening intently to all of their great stories...When you watch these guys work there's so much ease about it, they make it look so easy but when you see it [on screen] you go 'wow, I didn't know all of that was going on? I didn't realize all of that was happening.' Because they were making it look so effortless.

Q: William Wilberforce developed a strong passion for abolishing the slave trade-- does Ioan Gruffudd have any passions as such?

IG: Wow, I'm really passionate about my relationship with my fiancee-- it's coming to a very exciting time, we're getting married towards the end of the year. So that's an exciting moment-- I never thought, as a guy, to be honest with you, that I would be that excited about getting married but it's true. It's something that happened over the last year. I'm like really excited about this.

Q: Is she in the business?

IG: Yeah, she's an actress and we met on 102 Dalmations years ago.

Q: Well getting back to the films, you've got this film, which is a period piece, and you've got The Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer coming out-- talk a little bit about the Fantastic Four movie.

IG: That's what I love about being an actor is that one minute I could be in a movie like Amazing Grace and then the next one you can see me as Mr. Fantastic, so I'm glad that there's that great contrast. The Fantastic Four, as the title suggests, is about the rise of the Silver Surfer, when he arrives-- I really hope they're not going to take that franchise away from us and make it all about the Silver Surfer from now on, you know what I mean, (laughs) -- I hope we get to do a third movie. The Silver Surfer is just very exciting and the [special] effects that they have for this character is going to be-- you remember the T-1000 from Terminator 2? It's going to be that sort of mercury-sheenish look...

Q: And that comes out in 2007, then?

IG: It comes out in June-- we just finished shooting at Christmas. They're putting it together now, there might be a few re-shoots, I don't know but I haven't heard anything so no news is good news...In this movie, we are now, much more, in control of our powers, we're embracing our powers-- [Mr. Fantastic] is becoming more of a leader whereas in the first movie I was-- not a nerd but a scientist, geeky sort of guy but this time I'm becoming more of a leader. So it's a lot more fun to play this time.

Q; You see any of yourself in William Wilberforce at all?

IG: I would never want to try to compare myself to somebody who achieved so much in their lifetime, you know, to help humanity. Just to meet me, I think I'm genuinely compassionate, i think we all are, and I just have to tap into those elements and try to ramp it up to 100% because that's the kind of guy [Wilberforce] was, he was compassionate towards everyone, towards every animal-- he was just an extraodindary character...when I read about him, I wondered 'wow, how am I going to represent someone as amazing as this person?' That's why I wanted to make him more of a human, you know, because when you describe him, it seems like he's too good to be true. So I wanted to try to give him a bit of a human touch, an eccentricity so that you could relate to him.

Q: Like what? What do you think are the things you added to your portrayal to achieve that?

IG: Things like, he was always moving. He was always very open, he didn't care care about how he looked, he was always tired, his stocks (leggings) were untied and his pockets were full of books or pieces of paper, his fingers were covered in ink the whole time...Apted] was trying to depict someone who lived in that time period...just little touches that I didn't want to be [done] in vain in any way, you know, because I'm incredibly vain.

Q: Was there any moment in your life, maybe in your career where you saw yourself at a defining crossroads, such as the one that William Wilberforce found himself in?

GI: Well, I wouldn't want to compare it to the life of an actor but, as far as persevering, as career, as an actor you start at a young age, you train and then you leave drama college. And then it's all about perseverance and continuing to go to those meetings; auditions and knocking down doors to get to the stage that I'm at now. It's been a long process, it's been 12 years since I left drama college to get to this stage and it's a nice feeling to have achieved all that in these ten years. So, the perseverance aspect of it, yes. But I think what's interesting is that's perseverance toward self advancement, you know, it's like a selfish thing whereas [William Wilberforce] was persevering on behalf of these other people-- that's what's extraordinary about it.

Q: Any difference working with an American director than it is with one from Britain?

IG: Well, there's the language barrier (laughs), no, in my opinion, I would say that Ridley Scott -- he's British, James Cameron and Michael Apted, what sets them apart is that they're so well prepared when they come to the set. Everything runs smoothly or if something comes to affect [a shoot], they've got a plan B, C, D and E set in place. They're composing as they go along, they have a clear vision of what they want to do, they arrive on set and then they just go and shoot what they want that day and you finish at about 5:30 every day-- it's like 'I'm done, I've got what I want' and we move on. It keeps that energy going, you know, that buoyance, that energetic set and it keeps the crew happy as well, if you move quickly like that and not laboring over one particular shot. But then you also assemble a team of brilliant people in their [respective] fields; lighting/ camera man, makeup artists, costume designers and production designers...

Q: So, at what point did you realize that you no longer had to sing for your supper?

IG: As an actor?

Q: Yeah, did you ever get to a point where you stopped worrying about the next gig?

IG: I don't think you ever stop worrying, that's the thing and I hope it's something that I never lose. For example, I finished [Amazing Grace] at the end of last year, then I went to do Fantastic Four...okay, I know it's only the end of February but I'm feeling antsy already because I don't have the next thing to go to. So, I hope I never lose that because it keeps driving you forward-- and I'm sure if you were to ask George Clooney, he would feel the same way. You never want to lose that anxiety and excitement, you know-- because you never know where it's going to take you next.

Amazing Grace is in theaters now...

Friday, February 23, 2007

30 Rock's Rockin' the TV

...a few years ago I had an interview with Tina Fey who was working on this idea for a TV comedy that would take a look at what goes on behind the scenes at a comedy show and, to be honest, I didn't think anything of it because actors are always working on something (most of it goes away or gets put on the shelf for years)....anyway, I missed the pilot when it came out and didn't watch the show when it went on the air but about 2 months ago I got some free epis from iTunes and I've gotta say, this show's funny as hell...

...Tina, who executive produces and stars in 30 Rock writes some of the funniest jokes I've seen performed in a while and the rest of the cast come together in a way not unlike the actors do on the Office to take the piss out of showbiz TV among them is Alec Baldwin who pull out all the squinty-eyed stops as Jack Donaghy and crushes it..

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bit Torrent & YouTube: Shameful to Watch...But I Cannot Look Away

......YouTube is down right now so, as I take a little break to read the rest of this month's Vanity Fair, I came across a smoking article by Steven Daly called Pirates of the Internet's a pretty sweet read as the author dives into how sites like UK Nova might've unwittingly put the film industry in a hurt locker ; why the film industry's up in arms about the whole BitTorrent craze,'s a pretty sweet read (starts at page 278 if you've got a copy of the Oscar Issue) and should be made me wonder about the recent spate of SNAFU that some of the big companies have had with YouTube's content-- it makes me wonder what they're scrubbing off as I type this up ("we're busy pushing out some new concoctions and formulas" my arse) bad are file sharing sites for the seems that the handful of media conglomerates (you can literally count 'em on one hand) that hold most of the keys to the digital content kingdom are looked at by the public as huge-faceless entities and that's true to a certain extent because we only see the "movers and shakers" who get wheeled out when the shite hits the propellor blades but there are also the newer artists and the production people...

...I'm torn on this issue because on the one hand, the purveyors of software like Bit Torrent threaten sa grip of people's livelihoods-- and I'm not talking about the lot on with the stock options and golden parachutes, I could GAF what happens to the ultra-rich -- I'm speaking on those new artists, production people...the admin folks who count the beans on the super-unsexy 9 to 5 tip who, nonetheless keep the wheels greased in the clockwork of the media machine, so to speak...

...Everyone here is well aware that Los Angeles/ Hollywood is a company town but more than once, I've seen the results of those cutbacks mentioned in blurbs by CFOs on news shows; witnessed the ripple effects of "restructuring" as adjustments get made in the big offices a freelancer, who telecommutes a lot, I've visited offices and seen the aftermath of a fourth quarter adjustment in the real-- I assure you, there are few sights more chilling to those working on an open contract basis than walking into what was days ago a busy department and seeing rows of empty cubicles that were once's been happening for years around here (read Michael Medavoy's You're Only As Good As Your Next One ) but I think the frequency is on the increase...'s hard to know how to feel because on the one hand you get to find content that you just can't get your hands on through the traditional channels but on the other licensed work is made such for the purpose of generating revenue (sad but true) and still, on the other hand, if you're not one of those golden parachute types, purchasing each and every piece of music and film that you want would clean out the piggy bank...I don't feel shame but I do feel something...I just don't know what it is yet...I wonder if YouTube's stable yet...nope...

Monday, February 19, 2007

Check It: Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros

...I've been on a Mescalero kick for the past couple of days, it reminds me of the fall of 2001 when the world went crazy and I left LA and shot back to the East Coast to be closer to my family because, well you remember how nutty shit was...this album's one of my faves from Joe Strummer's body of work-- it's a nice listen coast to coast it's choc-full of great tunes like "Cool 'n' Out", "Bhindi Bhagee", "Mega Bottle Ride", "Mondo Bongo" and "At the Border Guy" (which I first heard on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic and hooked me on the LP) my book the nicest slice on this LP has to be "Minstrel Boy" (tagged above) which closes the set out. Clocking in at 17:49 it has an infectious Irish swing that becomes hypnotic about four minutes in...continued with video

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Heather Graham: Takes the Wheels Off the Roller Girl Image (Q&A)

Heather Graham's one of the few actresses who's worked with Coreys Haim and Feldman and is still acting on a regular basis. She made her first big splash on the movie scene with her role in Boogie Nights which lead to roles in films like Bowfinger and Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged me and many others. I caught up with the actress last week at the Regent Beverly Wilshire where she and the cast of her latest starring vehicle, Gray Matters, were on hand to do interviews. During our session she talked about the newer film, kissing Bridget Moynahan being Roller Girl and kicking a little ass...

Q: Tom Cavanagh said that playing this role; your brother, came easy to him, what about yourself?

Heather Graham: I think I probably related it more to some friends of mine; I have a friend and, basically, we just [physically] abuse each other-- it's really fun, like I push her, I say mean things to her it's a really good way to get out your aggression. When you really love someone and you really feel-- like, someone that you can just say any mean thing you want to. Also, there's a friend of mine that does hair, I have a really good relationship with him where I just really [comfortable enough] like I can push him and hug him and yell at him...

Q: At what point did you know that you guys had this great chemistry during the shoot?

HG: I don't know, it's weird, I think it's definitely when-- I'd never met him [before the shoot]-- so when we met, I just felt like he's really easy to be around. He's really, genuinely a good person and him you just have free range to do whatever you want. Because I think one day I pushed him and I was like 'oh, I'm sorry, I hope that wasn't rude' and he was like 'do whatever you want. like punch me, hit me, whatever.' I was like, 'oh, this is fun.'

Q: He did say to ask you about Valentine's Day-- what's the wildest thing you've ever done on Valentine's Day--

HG: Oh my God, I know he told you that because this morning they asked and the both of us drew a total blank. That's why it's fun doing interviews with him because he can't stop talking, he's like 'blahblahblah' he's like a joke machine, it was really fun doing all of those interviews with him.

Q: What drew you to this material?

HG: I like, when I first read it, that I thought 'I like this story about this person who feeling confused and isn't sure if she likes who she is and at the end she goes 'I love myself and I don't care, I'm going to celebrate who I am'. And I could relate to that and I just felt like I could understand that and I think that that's a nice thing to put out there in the world-- like just be happy with who you are.

Q: I get the sense that things would've been easy for you in your career, you're always so easygoing and everything but do you feel that in the character of Gray that you had to enter some tough time in your life to get to the point of being like 'I will survive'?

HG: Well, I don't think that things have been easy in my career, I'm very lucky in a lot of ways but, to me, I feel [that] I've struggled and it was hard and I have hard moments. And I have to say I do think I am a happy person and I try to prioritize that. Because I think that sometimes you can just get so ambitious and get an idea in your head of what you think you're supposed to be...more and more now though, I just think I want to be happy and I'll just do whatever makes me happy.

Q: So you do enjoy doing comedies, then? I thought you were awesome in Bowfinger.

HG: Oh yeah? Thanks, I love Bowfinger-- oh my God that was so fun. I love Frank Oz, he's so nice. I love comedies, so, I want to do more.

Q: Comedy does seem to come naturally to you, do you find it easy to do?

HG: I guess this part does have a lot of similarities to me and I think I analyze a bit. I do do things intentionally that people think are funny, so I like that.

Q: So how did you create Gray as a character

HG: Ummm, basically I though that I should go out and just have sex with a whole lot of women. (laughs) I put out an ad in the paper to try to see what it would be like-- no, I didn't do that.It was so funny, actually, as I was saying [in another interview] earlier, I was saying something about the X-rated scene that was cut out-- between Rachel Shelley and me. And basically how that was cut out and then the [interviewer] was like 'why do you think they cut it out?' But I talked to the director's sister -- she's who the movie's based on -- and she talked to me about a lot of stuff and I have a few (gay) friends who I asked some questions. And then I just related it all to my own life- you know, certain things about myself that I felt judged about and how I learned to, eventually, like myself.

Q: You've worked with some really high-profile directors, like Paul-Thomas Anderson, etc. What was it like working with Sue Kramer, who's a first-timer in that capacity?

HG: Well, it's fun to work with someone who has passion and she had a lot of passion for this story and I thought it was a really great part. And, from the moment I met her, she was just a lot of fun and she had a lot of enthusiasm. There was a few times where we almost had the money going and then the money fell out at the last minute, so [the pre-production] took place over, probably, two years. to get this movie made. So, we finally made it [and] we were just happy to be there.

Q: You'd mentioned judgement and being judged and in the end being able to like yourself. Talk a little bit more about all of that what were you thinking then?

HG: Well, I think that I probably grew up in a more conservative way than, probably, I am right now. And I'm probably a bit more liberal and-- just even being an actor, you know, people definitely judge you and I [just learned to go] 'that's fine-- it's okay, I still like myself.' It's fine if someone judges me or someone puts me in US magazine and they say something that's not true or if they say, you know, 'your outfit's stupid'...there's always going to be people that don't like you and it's just a good place to be when you go 'I don't care.' Like, 'I think I'm great' and I feel that that's what the character get to at the end of the movie where she just says 'this is what I am.' If you have enough good people around you to support you, then, those other voices just aren't that loud.

Q: So personally, you're at a place now where you don't feel like, at the back of your mind, wanting that parental approval or anything? Do you ever wonder what they'd think or have you left all of that behind?

HG: Not completely, I still have moments where I definitely feel judgmental of myself but I feel I [now] go through that a lot faster. So whereas before I would have like a week where I'd be just like 'ohh' but now, like after an hour, I'm just like 'whatever.' And I think that at a certain point you just go, 'well, life's too short-- why am I worrying about these things?' It's just like I'm happy to be alive and I have a lucky life. I mean, I feel so lucky, there's not a war going on in our country, we have enough money to eat and I just think it's important to appreciate what you have.

Q: You're one of the few actresses who's worked with both Corey's Haim and Feldman who's still out there working. How did you pull that off?

HG: Winona Ryder, actually--

Q: -- yeah, but I said 'the few' --

HG: --yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah (laughing)...that's so funny-- that's a funny question. I don't know, to be honest, I've feel really lucky that I've survived. It's a hard business and, I don't know, I try to do things that I feel excited about and then when I do it, I want to make [the character] as real as possible because I like doing it. And I guess there's a certain aspect of luck to it, I think it's a mixture of having talent and having luck...maybe the Coreys could be doing something cool right now.

Q: You said that you had a conservative upbringing, one of the things I've read about you is that your father was in the FBI, is there any truth in that?

HG: He was, yeah.

Q: Is all of this a process of pulling away from that conservative past?

HG: No, it's not-- I'm finding myself, like in the movie, if you grow up and your parents are a certain way and I think that-- we have a lot of parents that would rather have their kids be the same way as [they are], instead of have them be different. So I kept going 'well, I guess I'm different than my parent are and that's okay. They're fine and I'm fine and it's okay that I'm not the same as them.

Q: How does the music tie into your whole creative process, Sue Kramer [the director] said that you were a fan of Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."

HG: Oh my God, I love that song. I was saying in another interview [earlier] that I'd just remembered when I went through this breakup and I remember being at this party and just hearing that song and singing: 'I will survive!'ll come back to this door!' - which he never did. But it's really like I've had so many moments with that song. That "I Will Survive" is just a perfect song to listen to when you're feeling like crap and and want to feel better-- it was really exciting to meet [Gaynor on the set of the film]--

Q:-- and you got to sing with her.

HG: I know! It almost felt like a dream-- I can't believe it happened. It was so cool that I can't even believe that it happened, you know?

Q: Sue said at some point she was going to get Neil Sedaka to do a song but you were into Gloria Gaynor--

HG: -- she had a bunch of different people in mind and I was like 'there's no way that you're going to get Gloria Gaynor because to me she's like the pinnacle [performer] of that kind of song. And when she got her, I was so happy.

Q: Was your brief flirtation with series television enough to whet your appetite or do you want to do more of it?

HG: I actually think that I'd never want to do it again-- it wasn't that fun, you know. It seemed like it wasn't that much fun, that whole experience but who knows. There's some great shows out there but obviously...

Q: What lead you down that road anyway because you seemed like you had the whole movie thing going.

HG: That's true, I noticed on some TV shows that I was watching, I really like the English [version of] The Office and I really like the American [verision of] The Office and I got really obsessed with Sex in the City and I thought 'oh, if you could do a TV show that was really fun, then it would be worth it.' And then my experience wasn;'t that pleasurable but I don't know-- I've kind of gotten into working on developing movies. I want to do films and work as an actress but I also want to do my own thing. I guess I just feel like everything that happened pushed me along the way, maybe that was the signal that I need to focus on producing these movies that I want to do.

Q: So what was it like kissing Bridget Moynahan?

HG: It was very fun to kiss Bridget, she's so beautiful and I guess I was a little nervous but she's a good kisser-- a really good kisser. And she's very soft...I talked to Sue's sister [who's lesbian] and I asked her 'what was it like the first time that you kissed a girl?' And she was like 'suddenly everything felt right and it just fell into place and it was like, if you'd been in the desert and someone gave you a glass of water and you're just like oh my God but at the same time you're like 'oh no, what does this mean?' So on the one hand I was thinking this could be fun to kiss the pretty Bridget Moynahan but on the other hand I was like 'this is a big moment for my character, I better try to get this right!'

Q: What was it like to work with Paul Thomas Anderson [on Boogie Nights] and did you have a feeling that it was going to be as big as it was?

HG: I thought that it was an amazing script and when I got the part-- I hadn't been working a lot at that point-- and I was just thinking that this is a huge break. I don't think that you ever really know and I just had an amazing experience [Paul Thomas Anderson] has just got so much passion, he really makes you feel good when you're working with him and it was really fun too. It was an exciting moment just to feel like 'oh I'm this actress struggling' and then suddenly you're in this movie and you're getting offered other jobs-- so that was really cool.

Q: Did you ever get sick of being called Roller Girl?

HG: No, obviously, I think if I'm like walking down the street-- there's been a few moments when it was kind of creepy, I think I was waiting outside at this concert and these guys were like "hey Roller Girl" and I was like [ugh], you know? No but actually I like it, I think it's cool that someone remembers a part that you did. I feel flattered that anyone might've remembered it, I guess.

Q: Something that kind of trips me out and I just remembered, that bus station in Bowfinger, when your character arrives in Hollywood and gets off the bus, is totally gone now. It's been razed and now the those movie theaters are there but that Greyhound bus station is caught on that film.

HG: Oh wow, that's right, that's where the Arclight is at now...

Q: Getting back to that kiss, you say it was very difficult for your character because the light bulb goes off-- did you find that difficult to portray?

HG: What I wanted to do was to be like 'suddenly everything makes sense', like 'this feels so right, it feels so good and I feel like this is who I am; I like this', you know, like 'this is incredible'. But then after a while I was like 'I don't want to do that'. I was a part of this straight world which is probably easier to be in, especially if you're been in it your whole life, and now I'm just going to have to be a part of this other group-- so, I just tried to do that.

Q: Did working with Molly Shannon, who comes from such an improvisational background, raise the bar for you as an actress in the scenes you did with her?

HG: She's actually a really close friend of mine and we've been really good friends for about five years, so, when she agreed to be in the movie, I was so happy because I've always wanted to work with her and I think she's so talented. And, just to be honest with you, it was really fun to just watch her -- like that scene where she just rants about Oprah -- I was like 'what?' (laughs) I mean she just has so much energy. I was just loving her, I was like 'you're amazing!'

Q: So, was she free-forming all of that?

HG: Sometimes she would add things but a lot of it she was just doing-- she added a ton of things like being paranoid about people listening (in on their conversations), there's different things she would just add. All around, she's really just such an amazing person, she's so funny and she really studies [the] psychology [of her characters], she's very analytical -- the both of us-- so we'll get together and analyze our characters and we'd both be talking, talking-- we both talk so fast -- so at the end of the day we'd be exhausted from talking so fast.

Q: How difficult was the dance sequence to master?

HG: It was so hard. Sue had the idea in mind for a very complicated [dance sequence] and so she brought her friend, this choreographer, and I didn't realize that this was a five minute dance....we rehearsed it for the next net two weeks for like hours every day. We were sweaty but it was really fun and at the end of it I just felt like it was a dream come true because when you watch those old movies and the people dancing, I always wanted to do that [on screen] it was so fun.

Q: So what's coming next for you, film-wise?

HG: I did a movie called Adrift in Manhattan and I did a movie called Broken and I have these three movies that I've been developing, that I'm going to produce; two this year and one next year and I'm going to act in them as well.

Q: You have any prank stories from behind the scenes while working with Tom, since you guys got so close?

HG: Well, one day we were doing the wedding scene and Tom is like a marathon runner-- he's a really [experienced] runner; he's really athletic. And after [shooting dance scenes] he'd go to the gym and work out and then he went running again and then afterwards he'd go on long walks at night for like an hour-- it's like the guy works out six hours a day.

Q: How about you, how much do you work out?

HG: I do work out, I work out like five times a week-- for an hour, 45 minutes, it's not like how he does it. I mean he runs a marathon in like three hours.

Q; Are there any directors that you really want to work with?

HG: I really want to work with Spike Jones, that'd be really cool.

Q: What's your favorite film of his?

HG: I like Adaptation.

Q:: I hear that Adrift in Manhattan is quite a departure from this type of role. How do you compar the two projects-- was it a stretch?

HG: Well, [Gray Matters] is a very light-hearted, happy story with definitely some emotional stuff underneath it but in [Adrift in Manhattan] I'm a mother, my child dies and there's kind of this twist at the end that I don't want to give away-- it's much darker and more intense. But ultimately it's about healing and it was weird because when I was doing it, I was going through this dark moment in my life and I thought 'well, ok, maybe I can just get all of this out' but the minute I got [on the set to shoot it] I'd start having fun-- it was fun [acting] in it and it totally took me out of the dark place that I was in.

Q: How was it on the set on this film in NYC was it cold?

HG: It was really really fun and it was so beautiful to look out at the New York scene at night it was gorgeous. It's exciting when you work with actors, someone like Alan [Cumming], this really celebrated Broadway actor and he's done all of these interesting movies and he's directed-- it's just fun to think that 'oh, I'm in a movie with him'. And I really felt that way too about Sissy Spacek because, I guess, growing up and watching all of these different kinds of actresses and the roles they were playing, she was definitely somebody where I thought 'wow, she's one of the best actors there is' and she's incredible. And then when you go to work one day and she's there, you're just like 'this is crazy'-- it feels so good...She's so normal-- she's really nice -- so it wasn't like when you meet someone [that you're going to act with] and you're really so excited to work with them and then it's just a huge let down-- she was really cool.

Q: When you're going through the scripts are your agents reading them or do you read them too?

HG: They go through them and then I and I read them too...but, yeah, I guess I read them and I think scenes strike you because you feel like you're going through them or you just have a reaction to the script.

Q: You seem to be able to pick interesting characters to play, so I was just wondering if your agents around you are really loyal to you and your sensibilities.

HG: I think it's a mixture because sometimes they'll be like 'oh, you should really think about this [role] and I'm like 'I don't know' or I'll be like 'this is great' and they'll be like 'I don't know', so, it's a mixture.

Q: Being in NY for this film and working with both Tom and Alan, who both have a lot of stage experience, did you ever think about doing that?

HG: I did one play in New York and it was fun but I found it really exhausting. You know, I found that if there's an intense moment in a movie, then you have that for that one day and you know to focus on that on that one day. But in a play you have to do it every night-- I found it really hard. I really like doing film and television, I like the idea of just doing little pieces [of acting] and I like the idea of being a par of a group-- because there's all of these people around you and the [friendships] and just hanging out. And when you're doing a play, you show up and it's just really you-- I don't really like having the audience there. I like just having the camera there and you try it, you're with all of your friends and you're just doing this thing and when you're done, it's like you're not waiting for a reaction [from an audience] just feels like you're in your own bubble.

Q: Well, that's refreshing to hear.

HG: It's probably something bad [to say as an actor], I probably should want to be in theater but I don't care. (laughs)

Q: Sue said that she saw you for this role as the romantic lead, do you see yourself doing more of that sort of thing?

HG: Oh yeah, I love those movies, I've always wanted to do that. But it's kind of hard to just slot yourself into that because there really are people who do that-- there are people who only do romantic comedies. And I always liked watching them when I was a kid and I loved all of the classics, like Tootsie-- I always wanted to do romantic comedies, I'm a girl.

Q: You ever consider doing action films?

HG: Yeah, I would love to do an action film but I'd want to be the one who kicks ass. I don't be the one like 'save me!' I want to be the one who's like 'I have special powers!'

Q: I was just thinking of a David Lynch interview where he said that there's no messages in his movies. Do you think there's a message in this movie?

HG: Oh my God, David Lynch said that there's no messages in his movies?

Q: Yeah, he was like 'I just make them and let the audience take from it what they want'.

HG: Really? That's hilarious. I do, I think the message is: don't let anyone tell you not to be yourself; to just celebrate who you are and enjoy yourself-- unless you're, like, killing someone. Other than that, just feel good about who you are.

Gray Matters opens nationally on February 23rd...

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Bootsy Collins: Stretches Out in Music History

The Black History Month posts continue today and picks up with William “Bootsy” Collins who was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, and began performing with his guitar-playing brother Phelps “Catfish” Collins. The two eventually formed the Pacemakers, and the outfit got gigs playing in local bars (though Bootsy was underage) as early as 1967...Discovered by King Records’ Bud Hobgood, who was James Brown’s production manager at the time, the young group was offered session work at the label backing bigger recording artists like Arthur Prysock, which led to touring gigs for label acts as well. The young Collins brothers outfit was called to the front lines of the performance scene when the Godfather of Soul’s own band became unhappy during a tour. Brown remembered the Pacemakers from the studio, had sidekick Bobby Byrd find them, and sent his private plane (to Ohio from Georgia) so the fledgling act could back him in that evening’s scheduled performance. The extemporaneous lineup change effectively infused the “new JB’s” into Brown's recording/performing band as Brown instantly began to record with the “new blood.” In a little less than a year, Collins was featured on recordings of such James Brown staples as “Sex Machine,” “Talkin’ Loud And Sayin’ Nothin’,” “Soul Power,” “Get Up, Get Into It And Get Involved,” and “Superbad”— at the ripe age of 16.

...Collins adopted his “wild style” dress code while touring with the JB’s in Europe and witnessing the duds that the crowds were sporting at discos, years before the styles would become mainstream fare in the States...In spite of the opportunities that touring worldwide with the Godfather offered, Collins began to experience firsthand exactly why the band they replaced stopped working with James Brown in the first place: constant touring, strict regiment, and overall draconian policies. Collins decided to go back to Ohio to do his own thing with the House Guests. When Bootsy and Catfish left the JB’s in ’71, they were joined by other J.B.’s luminaries Maceo Parker, Frank “Kash” Waddy, and Fred Wesley. This would forge the practice of a core group of musicians performing and recording under various names (much like jazz musicians in the decades before) and affiliations, a habit that bled over into the Parliament dynasty to follow...

Constant comparison with the only other local funk contention, Funkadelic, led to a self-imposed rivalry between Collins’ group and George Clintons’ lineup. The two were fatefully introduced but instead of the implied competition, Collins’ House Guests joined Funkadelic, filling spots vacated in the aftermath of chronic drug abuse, etc....The 1978 Parliament crossover “One Nation Under A Groove” was the group’s only single that cracked the Top 40 on the Pop charts...Parliament’s live shows have been loosely compared to the Grateful Dead’s. Uncut marathon live jams and countercultural concepts only added to two group’s similarities. At the height of the group’s popularity, they took their acts to arena presentations, selling out New York’s Madison Square Garden two days in a row...The many-headed hydra known as P-Funk has been through many permutations over the course of the years with Collins often making inroads to outside acts in America and abroad such as Praxus, the Sweat Band, and, most significantly, his Rubber Band. In addition to these, Bootsy backed other artists in their varied endeavors as well as produced for some of them...

...The contributions that Collins and crew have made on the American soundscape cannot be denied. Their sound has been sampled by rap musicians since the birth of hip hop (Parliament ranks #2 as “the most sampled group in music” only outshadowed by James Brown, with whom Collins played) and continued to take root in the alternative-funk-rock sound of groups such as Fishbone, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Primus. Collins and Clinton’s foundation of funk has stood the test of time from the days of ’70s disco to the present day gangsta-rap rock subgenres and all syncopated idioms that lie therein...Bootsy's solo debut holds two of the bassist's signature cuts which are "I'd Rather Be with You" and the title track...Check this footage of Collins laying it down on stage back in '76 with this live footage of "Stretchin' Out (In a Rubber Band)"...

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Gabrielle Union: Can a Material Girl Have a Heart of Gold? (Q&A)

...I covered the film Daddy's Little Girls which was written and directed by Tyler Perry who first made a splash in the movie game with "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" which he wrote produced and co-starred in. His newer outing stars Gabrielle Union, the UK's Idris Elba, Louis Gossett, Jr and Tracee Ellis Ross...I've got to wait before writing any reviews but you can get the gist of the film by at the official website (click the header)...I caught up with Gabby and the rest of the cast over at the Four Seasons a couple of days ago; here's a piece of what went down while chatting with her which touches on the film and what she's been up to...

Q: So are you really that "material girl", or what?

Gabrielle Union: "Am I that material girl?" No, not fully. I mean, there are things I like; I like nice things but I'm not like: 'it's got to be seven karats"...

Q: You ever find yourself going against who you are as a person to play the role?

GU: No, it was kind of an extension, like a hyper-version of myself, a bit of a campier version of myself because Tyler wrote it (with) my own voice and personality in mind. And there are certain things that I am anal about, one of them being drivers-- part of that is from what I want to say to some the one that decide to join me inside of a restaraunt and sat down at the table and ordered up lobster and didn't pay. I was just like 'are you okay?' But some of it is like, you know, a hyper version of myself but I'm not THAT crazy...there are sometimes, I don't know -- I don't parallel park very well-- so, if there's no seems "bourgie" but it's really because I can't parallel park.

Q: How was it working with a British actor/ Idris Elba?

GU: Yummy, I love his accent and he's very manly-- that was the word that we all kept using [to describe him]. He's such a man, with everything-- wow! Like, when you see him with his own daughter, you're just like '[sighs]', and when you see him with either of the girl on screen or around the set and it's just '[sighs]' and then you see him at the club and it's like 'hmmm'-- he's THAT GUY. Like, I hate cigarettes and Idris smokes, and I was like 'nicotene' (laughs) He's just that guy and an incredible actor...and he's just naturally gifted with amazing breath. (laughs)

Q: So you had a little bit of a crush.

GU: Oh my God, everybody, everybody, like the craft services lady was like [to Idris] 'I made you a sandwich' and his sandwich was like this big with mayonnaise and tomatoes and I'd have like peanut butter and jelly on eight-day-old bread. And I was like 'hmm, somebody's popular'-- [and it's] not me.

Q: Have you ever had any blind dates, like your character Julie in the film?

GU: No, I don't believe in blind dates. I believe in good, solid Googlng, background checks, so no, I was saying [in another interview] earlier, that I have found myself, after two years in a relationship, sitting across the table from somebody else like 'I don't even know you', like 'what am I doing?' Like your milk was spoiled a year and a half ago and I just kept you beyond the expiration date. So, I've had the same feeling and the same sentiment [before] but no, no blind dates.

Q: As an actress who's well known to the public, how much of a challenge is it to date, especially in LA? Do the guys freak out or -- ?

GU: -- no, they don't freak. But it's not LA, it's everywhere. I talk to my girlfriends, who live in all parts of the country -- I don't think my situation is unique-- it's unique, more so with finding guys who are comfortable with what I do-- I go off for a month at time to kiss Idris Elba or Morris Chestnutt or LL Cool J or Will Smith...that's more of a challenge. I find a lot of nice, great, generous, sweet, thoughtful men. It's just that first date I've got to go off the set it's like the demon comes out-- that's more of a challenge. But that's men everywhere.

Q: Do you have a group of girlfriends who keep you in check?

GU: -- very much so. (laughs)

Q: So you're dating down or something?

GU: I wouldn't say 'dating down' but dating the wrong guys, certainly. [Her girlfriends] are very vocal, they're very vocal...they were very happy -- like, my girlfriends who don't live in Los Angeles -- when they thought I was dating Derek Jeter and I was like 'girls, you know that would've been the first call [made] before the parade that I would've thrown in honor of my courtship with Mr. Jeter [it it were true] but they were very excited about my fantasy lovelife...they're very encouraging but we're all in the same boat as being women, in our 30s, who've been independent for a long time and we're not looking for "Captain Save-a-Ho"...I need you to walk beside me, you know what I mean? I need you to walk beside me, I don't need you to carry me or drag me along and I don't want to drag you along. But, if I'm financially independent and you are financially independent and accountable for however your life is and whatever form that takes, that's great. That's all we need. We can walk together and have a spiritual partnership that Oprah talks about. I think a lot of us, even we are financially independent, get caught up [with] this antiquated Prince Charming that we've developed at nine years old that has no place in an adult woman's life...Like, we have this idea that they should come from "this" kind of family and have "this" many zeros at the end of their paycheck and a white horse or a white Porsche or whatever. And we forget that we always say 'I want a good man!' Well okay, good men are everywhere-- they might not have all of the other trappings but if you really are being honest, and what you want is a good man, they're everywhere.

Q: So you're saying that you want a good man?

GU: Yeah

Q: Like a garbage man? have a certain standard or a certain type of man you're looking for?

GU: - if you're a garbage man and you can maintain the style with which you're accustomed with your own paycheck, then yeah -- and if you're fine (laughs). No, I don't have a problem with that. I've dated men of all different socio-economic [backgrounds] know, there was the beauty school dropout and I was sticking in there with him but then he just wanted to smoke weed and play basketball all day. I can't ride out for that. If you're just not down with what you're passionate about -- I could ride out with you for a minute, provided you're twelve. But if you're a grown man, I would hope that you were on some sort of path. If you want to be a garbage man, be the best. I don't want to date the guy who's like 'hey, it's just a job' and [I'm] like, 'no, I want you to be happy with what you do' and fulfilled. I don't want anyone who's looking for me to validate them or fulfill them, financially or with swag or anything else that they think comes with being me...I've dated the whole spectrum.

Q: You gat any war stories of when you went on a date with a baby with a beard?

GU: A baby with a beard?

Q: A childish man?

GU: Oh, oh...I was like 'a baby with a beard'? Oh God, I don't date that much-- I just found myself dating in the last year. But I haven't been dating that much. No good stories, though.

Q: How much of your personal life informs your performance in the film?

GU: It did because [Tyler Perry] wrote it based on a lot of our conversations and it was incredibly difficult-- the scene that was shot in the car where I made the vow to put myself out there in order to keep him was incredibly difficult. It's not the fact that we were shooting at 2:30 in the morning at the end of a very long day it was just emotionally trying. As actors, if it's not your coverage [in the scene], not that you don't give your full [performance while standing outside the shot] but you're certainly not crying and I look over and Idris' face is just wet, he's crying with me and he's holding my hand-- [the cameras] are not even on him. He was just there for me because with all of our conversations and him knowing what my last year has been like. He was more of my friend at that moment then, than my fellow actor. In those situations like that, very much so, my personal life is bleeding into my character.

Q: So what about you professional life. When Julia starts talking about being the sole black woman, being the only brown face there, you ever feel that?

GU: Well, yeah. I mean, obviously, in our town unless we're doing FUBU film-making which is what we were doing [last] summer, which is what we call 'for us, by us'- film making, you are normally THE ONE and it's incredibly challenging to find a mate, much less find a comfort level. And to find that place where you feel comfortable in your abilities and confident in your surroundings, you're not the token and you're there because you have ability and that you're there because you're qualified. Once you get past that, trying to find somebody within the dating structure is a whole other set of issues. But that's really not hard for me to relate to, because I'm not in corporate America but I can relate in terms of being an actress when there's just not that many of us in front of or behind the camera. When you're not doing a FUBU film

Q: So it was more pronounced, you felt more comfortable on the set of this film, then?

GU: Oh yeah! I mean any time you don't have the burden of carrying your entire race on your back when you go to work is [freeing]'s hard when you know that every day that you're on time, you're chipping away [at a stereotype]-- it shouldn't be that way! But you know that you have the responsibility and you better know your lines, don't cause a ruckus-- you know bring an entourage; all the stereotypes about black entertainers that you carry with you at every step. You hope that each time that you do well, that the film does well and people have a good experience with you that's opening up more doors and cutting down stereotypes...

Q: What do you have coming up next?

GU: I have Footballer's Wives, a pilot for ABC that we start in about a month, I'm excited about that-- I've got a little experience as a footballer's wife. (laughs)'s a comedy which is what I love to do best.

Q: So what is it? What happens in it?

GU: Well, it's based on a UK series, that's a huge hit over there, based on soccer players' wives-- it's kind of like the lives of like Posh Spice and those kind of women. And we just adapted it to the NFL. So, I play this up and coming Pop star who's engaged to this Chad Johnson-ish wide receiver and there's the wife of he Bret Favre-ish kind of character and she's kind of ruthless and cunning and there's the new wife and, basically, [it's about] how of our lives intersect and all the things you go through as the wife of a professional athlete. And I think it's a lot of what's in the news with certain athletes and them going through their various divorces and relationships-- there's a wealth of information and storylines. I think a lot of people are excited and interested in what these women [in the news] are going through.

...Tyler Perry's Daddy's Little Girls opens nationally on February 14th...

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Hannibal Rising: Gaspard Ulliel's the New Man Behind the Mask (Q & A)

For those of you who couldn't read enough about Hannibal Lecter in the Thomas Harris book series and the Silence of the Lambs films, you'll be pleased to know that on February 9th, the fava bean and fine chianti-drinking cannibal first brought to life by Anthony Hopkins back in 1991 is set to return to theaters in Hannibal Rising. In the new flick, director Peter Webber circles back to the masked murderer's storyline and retraces his tale to where it all began, in Lithuania during WWII and the younger Lecter is portrayed by French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who's making his cinematic debut in the US. Here's a bit of what went down during a Q & A last week while Gaspard was doing press for the new film.

Q: So, filling in Hannibal Lecter's shoes, what did you think when you finally knew that you'd secured the role?

Gaspard Ulliel: Well, it was a bit of a surprise that they came to me for this role. I think, I'd never imagined working on this character-- I was very excited and very scared too. I knew that it was a bit risky and it's such a popular series and character [and] I knew that there would be a lot of from the audience, so, I was a bit hesitant. And then I met Peter [Webber, the director] in Paris and I watched his first film [Girl with a Pearl Earring] and I was very seduced by this film. And I just thought that it was a very nice idea to pick someone like [Webber] to direct Hannibal Rising which is very different from his first film. And then he asked for a proper audition and we went on three scenes of the film [for] two hours and there I could see that he was very motivated by this film, he knew exactly what he wanted and I could see that he would help me throughout the whole experience. I was very comforted with him, also, it was very exciting to work on this character and I think that when you start working, even for just two hours, you can't stop. It's very addictive and we wanted to keep going and do the film.

Q: How difficult is it to create empathy for a character like Hannibal "the Cannibal?"

GU: I had a nice script that gave a lot of human aspects to the character and then, for me, it was easier to give this [character] more human aspects to the character because it's closer to me in real life. But to give him the more mean and scary aspects, I tried to pretend as much as I could-- reading books on real serial killers as much as I could to get relevant information for [building out] my own character.

Q: You not only had a dialogue coach, but you had a movement coach as well for this. How did that work?

GU: Well, this was just one meeting, during one afternoon for a few hours, maybe just one hour, and I regret because it was very interesting but I just felt on the set that I couldn't use those tricks. It didn't feel natural to me because, I think, I didn't work enough with this movement coach to digest all of these movements and tricks so that it would feel very natural [to enact] -- I think you have to work a lot for [the learned movements] to become natural, that's the only point. But, yeah, it was very interesting to work on the breathing and the stillness and the way of walking. But you know, the idea for me as not to [add] too much because the character is still human, if I could say so, I just tried to [add] a few things that we know would later become what we know as [mannerisms of] Hannibal Lecter. So my work was just to [provide] a glimpse of his future behavior.

Q: How was it working with Gong Li who had an interpreter during filming.

GU: Well, she understood pretty much everything that was said in English but, yeah, she needed an interpreter and that's okay. She was very nice and very cheerful and we had a lot of fun. It was great to work with her [as an actor] because she has a very concentrated and serious way of working-- she's very precise and that's very helpful, I think.

Q: What was it like having all of those body parts lying around while shooting those scenes?

GU: Well, when you're on the set, it doesn't look real at all. You just say 'cut' and then the dead man get up and talks to you. (laughs) And the blood is strawberry-flavored and it's just like a game. It was very fun to do.

Q: This is a serious film in which to get introduced to the American public, did that play into your initial reservations for taking the young Hannibal part?

GU: Not really, I'm glad to be able to [be seen] in other countries, to have this international exposition is good for me as a young actor-- it was a good thing about this experience. But, of course, it's a bit scary too.

Q: What's the most important thing that you took from Anthony Hopkins' portrayal of Lecter for your enactment.

GU: I think it's not that precise, but you [do] have very important things that you can [take] notice [of] in Silence of the Lambs, for example, his stillness is very scary sometimes and so you can see that he's always very relaxed, very comfortable and all of his eye movements, blinking, are very interesting too. So yeah, I [studied] a few things like that...when you have a big film like this and a short time to shoot it, most of the work with the actors is done before the shooting, during the preparation. And so we went through a lot of different readings, discussing our different points of view and I think we created most of the character before the shooting. So when I arrived on the set, I knew exactly what Peter [Webber] wanted from me-- it was kind of precise, no improvisation.

Q: Did you ever get a chance to meet Thomas Harris at all?

GU: No, I think he's the kind of man who likes to stay at home and, I think Peter met him a few times. The only thing I had from him was a small note, a few lines, on the character that he wrote a very long time ago, I think during the first novel, and it was a kind of secret note. He passed it to me through the producers, saying that it was secret. It was very helpful at some times because-- it was very short, just a few lines -- basically, it was [about how Hannibal behaves and what he'd experienced in school and just a few things like that. But it was nice to have these signs from the creator of the character.

Q: Was it all serious during filming or did you get to have fun too?

GU: I had a lot of fun and the crew, an English crew, were always drunk but, yeah, it was fun. We shot the film in Prague, it's a lovely city. It was cold but it was fun and I think that when you're working on such a dark and savage [subject] you have to have a little fun, otherwise it would be so depressing.

Q: Was acting in your family background? When did you get into it?

GU: I just started it by chance and I started really young at eleven or twelve years old. It was a friend of a friend of my mother who was opening an agency, she was looking for young actors, so I just tried out of curiosity. And quite [quickly] I had some small parts in TV films and then bigger parts-- I had a very slow and regular progression. And I just kept doing it for fun and I think around 16 years old I decided to keep going in this industry. I started to read books on cinema and see old films and I think I developed a real passion for cinema. But I don't think that I had this really strong passion for acting, it was more for cinema in general. So that's why after school, I went to [cinema school] in Paris, for two years, and I think, obviously, the first thing that attracted me was more the idea to write and direct my own film and to be able to express myself through my own films. But I just kept working as an actor and [now] I really like it and I take a lot of pleasure [in doing it] and it's very interesting but I hope one day I'll be able to do my own film-- but it's a very, very tough job and I don't feel ready yet.

Q: The role of Hannibal's been portrayed by English actors in the past, were you ever worried that the audience might not fully embrace a French actor's interpretation of him?

GU: Yeah, well, I thought about this a lot before accepting the role and I knew that I would have some criticisms but then, I just wanted to work on this film; I just accepted the role and I just said to myself 'let's just see what happens.' [Acting] is a job where you never know in advance what's going to happen the next day and you can't really expect [anything]-- you will always be surprised. And you know that you will always have critics and bad things, bad thoughts [pointed] at you-- you have to accept it...this was a very special situation where the script was written by the creator of the whole series and the whole character, Tom Harris. So it's not as if the director had written the script with a [screenwriter] who would be able to change everything during the [shoot]. We had to keep really close to the script.

Q: What's next for you?

GU: I have another project in English with a director from New Zealand, Nikki Caro, who did Whalerider and North Country-- it's a nice, small, arthouse film about a winemaker who's going to meet his guardian angel. So my role is very different from Hannibal's (laughs)

Hannibal Rising releases nationally February 9th...

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