Sam Elliott – The Hero

July 15, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

In “The Hero,” Sam Elliott (“Mask,” “The Big Lebowski”) plays Lee Hayden, a beloved Western movie star and voice over actor in Hollywood who finds himself reflecting on his life during the twilight of his career when he receives a disheartening diagnosis from his doctor. Looking for a second chance to land a role with substance, and also a second chance to make up for lost time with his estranged daughter Lucy (Krysten Ritter), Lee is a man ready for change. When a young comedian named Charlotte (Laura Prepon) shows interest in him romantically, Lee must decide what he wants in life and how he hopes to be remembered as a father and entertainer.

During an interview with me a few weeks ago, Elliott, 73, talked to me about playing an actor for the first time in his career, working with director Brett Haley for a second time, and his opinion on receiving awards in Hollywood.

It’s obvious how important your voice has been throughout your career. How did it feel playing a character that has also benefited from the way he can deliver a line? Was it surreal?

Yeah, it was. It was the strangest thing playing an actor. I had never done that before. Bringing the voice over element into it made it more personal. It’s kind of a personal tale on some levels anyway, so bringing that into it really made it so.

What was it about “The Hero” specifically that attracted you to the role?

What attracted me to it was the opportunity to work with Brett Haley, the director and writer. We had done “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” so “The Hero” was born out of conversations Brett and I had when we were on the road doing promos for our other film. We logged a lot of miles together and ate a lot of meals together and shared a few drinks together. We really became close to one another. I really have a high regard for Brett. If all things go the way they should, which they normally don’t necessarily, this should be the start of a very long career for Brett. He’s an incredible filmmaker. I’ve had people write parts for me before, but I’ve never had anyone write a screenplay for me. The fact that he and Marc [Basch], the cowriter, went to the trouble of doing that, there was never a question to whether I was going to do this or not. It spoke to me right off the top.

Have your experiences doing voice over work during your career matched what is shown in the film? Is that how it worked for you?

That’s exactly how it worked. It’s very much true to the way it is and the doing of it. I don’t think I’d get as upset by being asked to do another take like Lee was. I’ve always looked at it as part of the deal. Even if [a director] knows they’ve got [a good take], they still want to hear one more for whatever reason.

These days, how do you decide on what roles you want to play? How has that changed over the years? I’m assuming scripts that are written specifically for one actor don’t come too often.

No, they don’t come along very often. A lot of [actors] dream about someone writing a part for us. In most instances, it never happens. Over the years, there were certainly times early on I was just eager to work period. If I got an offer to do something, I’d do it. Now, I’ve become a lot more selective about what I do. I’m always just looking for something that’s honest – something that rings true to me in terms of the story, character and dialogue.

In the film, Lee is given a Lifetime Achievement Award. How would you react if you were offered an award like that?

It certainly is an honor to receive awards from different organizations particularly those that have to do with Western heritage and with keeping the West alive. I’ve been honored a number of times for different projects I’ve done – by the National Cowboy Hall of Fame and The Western Heritage Awards down there in Oklahoma City. I am always honored by that. I’m not cynical about that at all. I always take that to heart. It’s always nice to get that kind of stuff, but that’s not why I’m in the game. It’s nice to be recognized, but I got in the game to do the work. It’s still that way today. That’s what’s most important to me – the work.

You’re in a business where awards seem to mean a lot in terms of success. I mean, if you’re an actor and win an Oscar, you’ll be marketed for the rest of your career as Academy Award nominated-actor so and so. Do you think awards are a good indication of what an actor has accomplished in his or her life?

I’ve always been a little skeptical about awards. I think it’s easy to award somebody that wins a footrace. I think if you had a group of actors that all play the same part then maybe you could make some kind of judgment about who pulled it off better or more interesting or whatever. For me, it’s not about the awards. It’s not about the money. I’ve wanted to do this since I was a little kid. I remember those days my mom and her sisters and her family from West Texas would always want me to sing. I was always a singer, for whatever reason. My mom took me to sing in the church choir when I was five years old and that was kind of the beginning of it. They always believed in me and encourage me about my dream to pursue an acting career. Those were the days.

In the film, Lee is an actor known for one major role in his career. You, of course, are known for a host of them in real life. As an actor, is there a role that you’d hope people remember you for? I loved you in “Mask” and, recently, “Grandma,” and, of course, “The Big Lebowski.”

There are special things about all of those. Often, it isn’t about the part, it’s about who I worked with doing the job. That makes it more special. I’ll always have a soft spot for a film called “Conagher” that my wife and I did together. We wrote the script together. It was an adaptation of a Louis L’Amour book. I produced it and we both acted in it. It was a TV show for TNT. It wasn’t a big screen thing.

I’ll have to seek that one out. I have to say, out of all your film performances, my all-time favorite is “Off the Map,” which I think is an underappreciated little masterpiece.

That was a nice little film. We shot that about 100 miles north of Santa Fe. It was a really special time. [Actress] Joan Allen was just unbelievable. I just loved working with her and being up in that country. It’s was breathtaking.

In the film, your character goes off on a cameraman from TMZ who is bothering you. Have you ever had an encounter in Hollywood with any of those guys before?

I’ve actually had a lot of encounters with those guys from TMZ. I live in Malibu and they used to camp by the market where I used to shop. So, I had a lot of encounters with those guys and they were always nice encounters. I’ve never been harassed. With that said, there have been times where I have been hounded and harassed by guys and I don’t particularly like that. I don’t know that I would overreact like Lee did, but I get that. I understand it.

War for the Planet of the Apes

July 14, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
Directed by: Matt Reeves (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”)
Written by: Matt Reeves (“Let Me In”) and Mark Bomback (“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”)

Director Rupert Wyatt may have kicked off an adequate reboot to the “Planet of the Apes” franchise with 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and made audiences forget whatever the hell director Tim Burton did 10 years prior with his unfortunate “Apes” misfire, but filmmaker Matt Reeves has taken this re-imagining to a level we could not have predicted.

If 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” wasn’t evidence enough that Reeves had created something exceptional, “War for the Planet of the Apes” will have you hoping the 41-year-old director/writer can somehow get his hands on every action film project for the foreseeable future. “War” is compelling, suspenseful, moving, funny and an all-around epic. It’s the type of blockbuster summer movie that transcends the idea of blockbuster summer movies.

Besides “War” having Reeves’ fingerprints all over it, it’s just as much actor Andy Serkis’ film as anyone behind the camera. Not that Serkis has to prove anything to anyone any longer as the go-to actor for all things motion-capture, but his lead character in this franchise, even more so in “War,” is stunning. From the beginning, Caesar has never been just an animated primate rendered together by graphic geniuses. In “War,” however, Caesar goes beyond his anthropomorphic qualities and shatters the notion that technology is the main reason Serkis’ performance is so powerful. Caesar is king and Serkis is the puppet master.

“War” transitions from a film about combat to revenge to one centered on a prison break in seamless fashion. Picking up a couple of years where “Dawn” left off, Caesar and his army of apes are in search of a safe haven to start anew without the threat of humans who are still hell-bent on destroying them for introducing the Simian flu, which killed off millions of people. Leading the charge again the apes is a man known as The Colonel (Woody Harrelson), who becomes the target of Caesar’s rage and sets Caesar on a course to seek vengeance.

With dark, atmospheric and ominous cinematography by Michael Seresin (“Angela’s Ashes”) and an incredible score by Oscar winner Micahel Giacchino, both of whom worked on “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” “War” without question is not only a visual pleasure, but also a complex and memorable end to an overall brilliant trilogy. If Reeves is up for it, this franchise is one of the few that has definitely not overstayed its welcome and should continue in full force.

Selenis Leyva – Spider-Man: Homecoming

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

After a handful of seasons as a recurring character and then a series regular on “Orange is the New Black,” Selenis Leyva – the half-Cuban, half-Dominican actress who plays inmate Gloria Mendoza on the Netflix original series – is starting to turn more heads, and has found herself in one of the biggest blockbusters of the summer.

While her role in the newest Marvel Studios film “Spider-Man: Homecoming” is a small one, Leyva is not taking anything for granted. She realizes movies like this don’t come too often, and takes pride in the fact that filmmakers saw something in her that resonated with their vision for the reboot of the franchise.

In “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” Leyva plays Ms. Warren, a high school physics teacher whose student, Peter Parker (Tom Holland), is coming to terms with the responsibilities he has adopted as superhero Spider-Man, which include battling a villain known as the Vulture (Michael Keaton) as he tries to annihilate the world. In the original comic, Ms. Warren is actually portrayed as a male science teacher.

Easily the funniest of all the Spider-Man films, “Homecoming” also feels more genuine than the others for the simple fact that Holland, despite being 21 years old, portrays Spider-Man as a real teenager with real teenage problems. Holland is not some actor in his late 20s, as was the case in past movies starring Toby Maguire and Andrew Garfield, and it shows.

The authenticity of the film is strong, especially during Peter’s interactions with his fellow students at school, a setting that is important in keeping with Peter’s boyish character makeup. As Peter’s teacher, Leyva adds to that sense of community. She is someone looking out for the best interests of her students. In one particularly funny scene, Ms. Warren catches Peter’s nerdy best friend Ned (Jacob Batalon) secretly hacking away in a computer lab during the homecoming dance. When she asks Ned what he is doing, he makes up the worst possible lie any kid could give an adult in that situation.

During a recent interview with me, we asked Leyva about her new film and if she feels “OITNB” has given her more opportunities as an actress. We also discussed the latest season of “OITNB” and how her character has evolved over the last five years.

Do you think OITNB has opened more doors for you in Hollywood?

Absolutely! “OITNB” has propelled my career and given me a wonderful platform so people could pay attention. I’m still the same actress that I was before “Orange,” but now people are more interested in me because of the platform that I have. Now with this movie, “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” I certainly feel an even a bigger platform has opened for me. I’m so happy and fortunate that Marvel and Sony decided to open up the possibility of this character being a Latina woman. It’s such a wonderful cast. It’s really, truly diverse.

What was your relationship like with Marvel growing up?

What kid doesn’t obsess over Marvel and superheroes? For me, it was huge. I have to tell you, my family is very excited that I’m a part of this film. They think I’m cool! It’s like I have street cred now.

Would you like to see a Latina superhero movie happen?

I know that’s next. I think that’s what we’re winding ourselves up for. We’re seeing it with African-American superheroes. It would be nice to see a Latina superhero. Latin women are strong and fierce and devoted and have superhuman strength already. When I was little, I always thought my mother was a superhero with everything that she did. She always had everything in control. I had a superhero mom.

How did you prepare for your more emotional scenes during Season 5 of “OITNB?”

I focused on the moment. Gloria has been such a huge part of my life for the last five years. I love her and I’ve grown to really feel for her. The actress in me really takes her story line to heart. It was really easy for me to go there as a mother myself and feel the character’s pain. What I’ve always wanted to do as an actress, no matter what role I played, is to be authentic, to be real and to be natural. This season, I was able to showcase a little bit more of my talents on the show. I’m really grateful for it and feel really fortunate that it was such a strong character.

Since snacks play such an important role in Season 5, what snacks do you prefers the most: Hot Cheetos or Takis?

Oh my God! I was all about Cheetos, but after shooting Season 5, my daughter got me into Takis. They’re amazing! They burn you. They stain you even more than Cheetos. But I have to tell you, putting them together is a good combination – Hot Cheetos and Takis. You just made my mouth water.

How do you feel Gloria has changed in Season 5?

We’re showing a more vulnerable side of Gloria. Gloria has been the one that takes care of everyone. She’s strong. We’ve already seen her be sassy. We’ve seen that side of her. I love the fact [the writers] peeled all that back and exposed her the way they did this season. As an actress, I felt so fortunate to be able to go to different places with the character since Season 1. She fell apart this season because she was focused so much on her personal life, but I have a feeling we’re going to go back to a more ferocious Gloria Mendoza.

When do you start shooting Season 6 and what are you looking forward to the most?

There is no start date [for filming] right now, but I know it’s going to be somewhere between the last week of July and sometime in August. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens after the chaos of Season 5 and having all these key characters in a dangerous position. People are getting on buses and we don’t know if we’ll ever see them again. We don’t know what happens when all those men with guns go through those doors. I can tell you that [show creator] Jenji Kohan is not afraid to get really down and dirty. So, I have a feeling Season 6 is going to start with a bang!

Chris Silcox – Spider-Man: Homecoming

July 7, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

As a student at Churchill High School in San Antonio in the early 2000s, Chris Silcox could never have imagined the time he spent on stage with the drama department would lead him to an unconventional career in Hollywood.

In the new Marvel Studios reboot “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” which opens at theaters this Friday, Silcox was hired as one of three stunt doubles for actor Tom Holland, who portrays teenager Peter Parker (AKA Spider-Man). The job sent Silcox traveling between Atlanta, New York City and Berlin for nearly three months last summer.

“It was one of the craziest and best things that has ever happened to me,” Silcox, 30, told me during a phone interview this past weekend while on a promotional tour for the film in Seoul, South Korea. “I got really lucky.”

After graduating from Churchill in 2004, Silcox, who was born and raised in San Antonio and practiced gymnastics at Alamo Gymnastics Center, studied acting and theater at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He also competed in NCAA gymnastics while attending college. Silcox always knew he wanted to be an actor, but didn’t know where his path would lead him to reach that goal.

His career after college began when he landed a gig as an acrobat with Cirque du Soleil, where he worked for the next four years. When one of his Cirque tours ended in Los Angeles one year, Silcox decided to stay in the city and see if he could somehow break into the film industry.

“I really didn’t know what I was going to do,” he said. “It was an uphill battle, but slowly I started getting work as an actor and a stunt performer.”

Then one day last year, Silcox received a random email from a man named George Cottle, who asked him for his clothing measurements, but offered no other information about the request. The mysterious nature of the email deterred Silcox from offering up the personal information so easily.

“I wrote him back and asked, ‘Why’ and ‘For what movie,’ and he wrote me back and said, ‘Nevermind,’” Silcox said. “Then I Googled him.”

Cottle turned out to be a stunt coordinator and stunt performer for several high-profile films, including “The Dark Knight,” “Inception” and “Kong: Skull Island.” His filmography also listed him as the stunt coordinator for the upcoming blockbuster “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”

“I wrote him back and profusely apologized and told him that I loved all of his films,” Silcox said. “He thanked me and said they were sending 12 people in for a fitting to see who was the best size to be a stunt double for actor Tom Holland.”

After the fitting, Silcox and two other stuntmen were chosen for the job. The next thing he knew, Silcox was on the set with the entire stunt crew rehearsing for the new film. Jumping onto a lamppost, getting hit by a bus and getting dragged across the street were standard duties for him most days.

“We were given storyboards and had to figure out how to get stunts done,” Silcox said. “It was like a stunt academy. I got dropped on my head and my back and punched in the stomach. It was so much fun!”

Although Silcox admits it is a bit difficult to know exactly which Spider-Man he is in the final version of the movie since he “did a bit of everything during filming,” he knows he had his hand in every action scene, even if it was pulling the wires his stunt colleagues, and even Holland himself, swung from.

“Whichever one of us is on screen, the others are behind him pulling him into the air,” he said. “It’s a funny industry.”

As much fun as he had hanging upside down in a harness in front of a green screen, Silcox said one of the most surreal moments working on the movie was the first time he tried on an official Spider-Man suit during production. It was then when Silcox felt like he was “a real superhero – like a god.”

“It was unimaginably cool,” he said. “All you want to do is jump around and climb up walls and save damsels in distress. It was fucking epic.”

With “Spider-Man: Homecoming” behind him, Silcox is now anticipating the release of his next film this Christmas, “The Greatest Showman,” starring Hugh Jackman. The musical drama tells the story of P.T. Barnum, the founder of the now-defunct Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. In the film, Silcox works as a stuntman, but is also credited with a role as a circus performer.

Until then, Silcox is waiting patiently in the wings ready to swing in to save the day if called upon.

“We’ll see if Spidey or L.A. have anything else in store for me,” he said.

Miranda Cosgrove – Despicable Me 3

June 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

In “Despicable Me 3,” actress Miranda Cosgrove (“School of Rock”) reprises her role as Margo, the oldest of the three little girls that the villainous anti-hero Gru (Steve Carrell) adopts after the original 2010 movie.

In the new sequel, while Gru is tracking down his long-lost brother Dru (also voiced by Carrell), Margo and her sisters, Agnes and Edith, are learning what it’s like to have a mother figure in their lives after Gru gets married to Lucy (Kristen Wiig) in Part 2.

During an interview with Cosgrove, 24, earlier this week, I talked to her about returning to the franchise and how her character has changed, her favorite parts of the film and how she would like to branch out and work on more “mature” projects in the future.

It’s been seven years since we first met your character Margo in the original “Despicable Me” movie. As the actress giving her a voice, how have you seen her change from then till now?

Well, in the first movie, Margo is all about protecting her two little sisters. She’s kind of like a mom in a way because she’s the oldest. In this movie, there is a big change because it’s all about her having a mom for the first time. She’s getting used to that. There are a few point in the movie where she’s kind of helping Lucy. She tells Lucy that it’s OK to put her foot down sometimes—telling her how to be a mom in a way. She also really enjoys having a mom.

What do you think about the decision not to age the girls? Does it give the film a more timeless feel? I mean, Andy grows up in “Toy Story,” but not these little girls.

I think it’s nice. I think at some point I’d like to see them get older because I think it would be fun to see. I definitely like it this way because Agnes (the youngest sister) is one of my favorite characters. I don’t think it would be exactly the same if she was bigger just because she is so cute right now.

Being seven years older yourself, were there any unforeseen challenges when you stepped inside the recording booth for this one?

I think the biggest challenge was probably just sounding young. When I first started, I was 14 and now I’m 24 and the character is still 12. But I guess that wasn’t even too challenging because I think my voice just sounds naturally young. Also, it was fun thinking about being in fifth grade again and being younger and having crushes on guys for the first time. It’s fun to remember being little like that.

Yeah, maybe they have to change the character’s age if it’s a boy because a male actor’s voice is going to naturally get deeper after 10 years.

(Laughs) Yeah, it gets really low. That’s true. I think my voice has changed a little, but it’s sort of the same.

Looking back at “Despicable Me 2,” along with it being a really fun animated film, it was also known for Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy.” Do you think any of the songs in this new sequel are going to have the same kind of effect?

Yeah, I love the music in this movie. It was one of my favorite things about it. I love the whole vibe. One of my favorite songs is the one Pharrell does during the scene when all the Minons are dancing in jail (“Freedom”). They’re snapping and doing this synchronized dance. That was one of my favorite parts. I loved all the 80s music, too, because I love Madonna. I knew all the 80s songs. I got excited about all of that, for sure.

When you hear people say that the Minions steal the movie, as I’m sure you did for the first two films, what are your thoughts about that? Are you OK with the idea that some people come specifically to see them?

(Laughs) I’m definitely OK with it. It’s so cool. When I did the very first movie, I remember I came in about halfway through [the production] to record and that’s when they decided to add the Minions. They came up with the idea at that time. I remember pictures for the first time—these little drawings. They went through changes over the course of [pre-production]. I always thought they were so cute. I feel like it’s so hard not to love them. I remember before the first movie trying to explain to my friends what the Minions were, but it’s really kind of hard to explain. You sort of have to see them to understand what they are. Now, I think it’s pretty cool that everyone knows what a Minion is.

Well, they are cute and funny, but they’re technically villains, too. Why do you think it’s so much fun to root for the bad guys in this franchise?

I think with the Minions, they’re evil, but they’re kind of not. (Laughs) It’s part of their charm because they’re basically the cutest things ever. They’re these chubby yellow balls of cuteness. They just happen to have an evil streak. I see a little bit of that in Gru, too. Maybe Gru isn’t as cute as the Minions, but I think people like his character because he started off as a villain. He’s all about family and loving people for the first time. That’s what turned him around.

During your career, you’ve been known for popular kid and family-friendly TV shows and movies. Now that you’re 24, would you like to branch out into other types of roles? I noticed you were recently in a thriller (“The Intruders”).

Yeah, I would. I like comedy, so I think if I was to do anything, I would like to do more comedy. But maybe something more mature. Right now I’m just going to school at USC and trying to finish. I try to take some time off to do pilots and different parts. But if I could do anything, I’d like to continue with comedy and be on a really funny show sometime.

You’ve built such a big following with your young fans. Of course, those fans are getting older, too, so do you think it’s important to evolve with them or do you worry that you could lose that base if you get too far away from what they initially knew you for?

I think it’s kind of cool that a lot of people who liked “iCarly” and “Drake and Josh” seems like they’re almost my age now—like 18, 19 and 20. So, hopefully, whatever I do next, people my age can still enjoy it. Hopefully it’s something I’d want to watch and they would want to watch, too.

If this franchise continues after this trilogy, is it a given that you’ll be part of it? I mean, can you really say no to a gig like this?

I definitely hope I’m a part of it! I’ve had a really great time. It’s been fun doing publicity and stuff with Steve Carrell. He’s one of the funniest and coolest people I’ve ever met. I would love to continue to be a part of it—for however long.

Eiza González – Baby Driver

June 29, 2017 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

As the most critically acclaimed movie of the summer thus far (it’s currently sitting at 98 percent on RottenTomatoes), the action-musical hybrid “Baby Driver” is like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Written and directed by Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz”), most of the action sequences in the film are thrown into high gear by its diverse soundtrack, which is choreographed and edited in sync with the images flashing on screen — guns blazing, cars swerving, things blowing up. It’s a revved-up symphony that stimulates the senses in the same vein as Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 action-drama “Drive,” except a lot less glum.

As eclectic a cast as the music featured (the playlist includes Danger Mouse, the Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, Queen, Barry White and everything in between), “Baby Driver” stars Ansel Elgort (“The Fault in Our Stars”) as the title character Baby, a getaway driver who chooses to drown out the buzzing in his head by always listening to music from his iPod earphones. Trapped inside a life of crime, Baby is the man behind the wheel in a series of bank robberies planned by his persuasive boss Doc (Kevin Spacey). Along for the ride: Bats (Jamie Foxx), an ex-con who doesn’t seem too impressed with Baby’s cool demeanor and skills behind the wheel, together with Buddy (Jon Hamm) and Darling (Eiza González), a hot-blooded couple who would put their lives on the line for one another without question.

While names like Academy Award winners Spacey and Foxx, and TV heartthrobs like Hamm (“Mad Men”) might be familiar to moviegoers, it’s González who breaks out in a big way. Originally from Sonora, Mexico, González, 27, started her career working on Spanish-language TV shows before landing a recurring role in director Robert Rodriguez’s small-screen remake of his 1996 horror-action movie “From Dusk Till Dawn.” On the series, which ended last year, González starred as Santanico Pandemonium, a character who shared the same name as the vampiress Salma Hayek played in the original film.

In “Baby Driver,” González’s Darling isn’t the quintessential arm candy you might find in other testosterone-heavy heist films. She is no damsel in distress and holds her own with the men on her crew. At the same time, Darling leaves a mysterious impression as one of the main characters of the film. We know where her heart lies, but are never too sure if a more ruthless side of her personality will take charge before all is said and done.

During an interview with me earlier this month, Gonzalez, who is re-teaming with Rodriguez on his newest movie “Atila: Battle Angel” next year, talked about working out the little details of her character to give her what she describes as “feminine energy,” and explained how that blended with her co-star Jon Hamm’s role. She also described one of her favorite scenes in the film, and why timing was such an integral part of the shooting process.

What was the auditioning process like on this project and did part of it include just seeing how cool you looked holding a gun?

I had to use a lot of air guns in the audition, which was always very awkward. Honestly, I was very nervous. I went through a lot of auditions. I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. The thing that was most nerve-wracking for me what that I was so in love with the movie. I had high hopes and wanted to be a part of it. As an actor, you’re crushed when you’re so in love with something and you don’t get it. Luckily, it all worked out for the best and I got a chance to be a part of this unbelievably amazing movie.

What was your reaction when you found out you landed the role?

I cried profusely. I was very excited. I had gone to about four auditions already and I was waiting for their call. They were still making their choice. After getting a chance to work with Edgar, I found out that he is very specific. I was walking to a coffee shop and I got the call from my whole [management] team. They told me, and I could not believe it. I called my mom and we cried and screamed. I was outside on the street in Los Angeles, so it was actually not that weird.

What kind of conversations did you have with your director Edgar Wright about the kind of character you wanted Darling to be? What kind of character did you want to create?

I was very respectful and wanted to hear what Edgar had in mind first. He had waited for so long to create this beautiful movie. I heard what he had to say and heard the backstory. And then, I sort of added my own take to it and we started adding all these little things to the character. I’ve always been an actor who thinks you can find a big performance in the little details. I thought she was very outside of herself — a space cadet. When we started shooting, none of the bubblegum or the lollipops were in the script. I thought it was a key thing for her to have. I wanted to give her this feminine energy. I thought it was important for her to be chewing gum and shooting guns. At the end of the day, she’s a bank robber. She’s using her primal instincts. It was really fun to engage in that feeling.

She has a tattoo on her neck with the word “His” in cursive. What does that marking say about her?

Buddy has one, too, that says “Hers.” I loved that subtle, hidden message that Edgar sends with that, which is this feeling of ownership. It’s this feeling of “We are one together. I’m yours and your mine. I’d die for you. I’d kill for you. I’d do anything for you.” That’s [Darling and Buddy’s] dynamic. When things go south, their love had to be paved during the beginning of the movie so you could really believe how it ends. [Buddy] is so obsessed with her, and they have this co-dependent relationship. They were two very raw human beings that found themselves in each other. That was very beautiful. Even talking about it now makes me feel hopelessly romantic.

Do you think that’s the kind of connection people are looking for these days—to find someone that would die for you?

We’re always looking for that person who will give us everything — not necessarily to die or kill, but definitely passion and love. Don’t we all look for that in our lives subconsciously? I think Edgar was very smart in the way he layered the two relationships in the film. You have the innocent relationship — the light of the story — which is Baby and Debora (Lily James). It’s their first love and the beginning of everything. Then, there is the end of everything, which is Buddy and Darling.

How physical did the film get for you in terms of stunts?

We would barely use our body doubles. Edgar really wanted to have that feeling of us in the car, and with good reason. After watching the film, I finally understood why. As an audience, you can see the actors flying across in a car and that just makes it more real. It was like Disney for adults. I love adrenaline. I really enjoy that part of the job. As an actor, we don’t get to do that on a daily basis. I really enjoyed being able to do it on screen and being around people who are so good at it like all our stunt drivers. We were learning from the best. I tried to milk it as much as possible. I knew Edgar would never put us in a risky position, so I had a blast.

The film is fun for a lot of different reasons, but, of course, people are really loving how Edgar was able to use music to style it in a very interesting way. Are there any scenes that resonated with you the most because of the music?

I really like the “Tequila” scene (performed by the Button Down Brass). I think it’s such a dynamic, fun scene. It has a lot of action. Everyone shines. Everyone does a great job. It was a hard scene to shoot, but the outcome of it was absolutely amazing. It was probably the heaviest musical scene through the whole movie. Every gunshot played on every beat of “Tequila.” Even the bullet casings hitting the floor were timed — the movement, the punches, the driving. It was wild. I was really excited to see the outcome because it was so hard to shoot and the result was amazing.

If you, Eiza Gonzalez, were walking into a building and pushed open a pair of doors and all of a sudden everything started moving in slow motion, what song would you want to start playing at that exact moment? What would you want your theme song to be?

(Laughs) Maybe something sultry. Or maybe something like “Waiting for Tonight” from J-Lo — something super feminine and super girly, but really fun and sexy.

This interview first ran at

Dominic L. Santana – All Eyez on Me

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

In the new Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez on Me,” actor Dominic L. Santana takes on the biggest role of his young career as music producer and co-founder of Death Row Records Suge Knight. The film covers the life and untimely death of Shakur (Demetrius Shipp Jr.), from his rise to fame in the early 1990s to his career in the rap game with the controversial record company Knight helped create, which included artists like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg.

During an interview with me, Santana, who is half Puerto Rican, talked about getting to the truth behind the personal and professional relationship between Shakur and Knight, and how he was able to humanize such a complex character. He also discussed the influence of Shakur’s music and other Death Row rappers had on him growing up on the West Coast, and what he would like to ask Knight if given the chance to meet him one day.

What was it like when you found out you’d be part of this film and play Suge Knight?

It was surreal. I thought, “Is this really gonna happen?” I ended up being a part of it and got to see how much love and care and professionalism went into the film. Tupac is more than just a rapper. We didn’t come at it like that. We didn’t treat it like that. We came to the movie and Tupac with much respect. I can’t believe it’s here now for the world to see.

It’s been reported that Suge wasn’t very happy with the way he was portrayed in the film “Straight Outta Compton.” Did you think about that at all? Did you feel any pressure?

I went into it comfortably. The attitude of the producers and the director was that it would be fair and there wasn’t going to be any sugarcoating. We weren’t going to purposefully make someone look worse than they really are. It was going to be the truth—whether it was an ugly truth or a beautiful truth. L.T. [Hutton], who is the main producer of the film, started at Death Row. He was friends with Suge then and he knows Suge now. He let Suge know what was going on and how he was going at it. When Suge found out it was L.T. who was making the film, he was cool with it from that point on. That’s the difference between your enemy making a film about you and someone you’re cool with.

In other films, Suge is portrayed as the the villain. Do you think “All Eyez on Me” does that?

It’s not aimed at him as being the villain. Now, does he do some villainous things in this movie? Yeah, but you can’t deny that those things happened. But it was a fair balance. He was humanized. They didn’t do that in other films. In this one, he is a human being. He has some bad sides and some good sides. You get to see a wider range of Suge and a more purposeful version of Suge. Yes, there are some crazy things that happened, but some of those things you can relate to.

What kind of research did you do to prepare for this role?

The first thing I did was look up old videos—the ones people are familiar with. Then, I really dug deep to find obscure, candid videos of Suge and Pac interacting at clubs or behind the scenes at music videos and stuff like that. I wanted to see that relationship when they didn’t know the camera was on them. I wanted to see that brotherly love they obviously had. I studied Suge’s face just to get the mannerisms and little nuances. I’m big on details when I’m playing a character. Then, having some of the guys from Death Row [on the set] like L.T. and [Young] Nobel that could tell me stories and things I could use to build up the personality of Suge in my mind helped.

I know you didn’t get a chance to meet Suge, but if you did, what do you think you would’ve asked him?

Oh, man, I have a million questions I’d like to ask him. I think the first thing I would ask him is to describe what was his relationship was like with Tupac outside of the music, money and fame—just him as a man and Tupac as a man.

How did Tupac’s music and West Coast rap influence you as a kid growing up, if at all?

Some of my most formative years were spent listening to Tupac. I’m originally from Fayetteville, North Carolina. When I was a kid, my mom remarried and we moved out west. It was at the time when Death Row was just hitting its prime and was exploding and ruling the music scene on the West Coast. That’s all we heard out there—Death Row and West Coast artists. That’s what I was listening to—Snoop, Pac, Dre, all those guys. These are guys that I still listen to today. I loved East Coast music as well, but I think it was a time in my life when certain things just stuck with me forever. West Coast rap really stuck with me and has always been my favorite.

Is there a specific message you want audiences to take from this movie?

There are a lot of jewels that drop in this film. There are a lot of things you can take from it. If you’re already a Tupac fan, you’re going to love him even more and you’re going learn a lot more about him as a person. If you don’t know who Tupac is, then this is a great introduction to him. I’m sure you’ll be a fan after you come out of the movie theater.

What part of your Puerto Rican heritage do you feel closest to?

Latinos are all about the tribe and taking care of each other and brotherhood. In the Puerto Rican culture, you don’t have to know each other and you could walk up to someone on the street and go, “Hey, what’s your last name,” and suddenly you’re family. I don’t think that kind of togetherness is that common in mainstream America.

You’re fairly new to Hollywood. What do you ultimately want to get out of this career? Are there specific goals you have set for yourself already?

I’m a writer and producer as well as an actor. Ultimately, what I want to do is bring forth my vision. When you write a film and sell it, people can come in and change it and do whatever they want. One of my biggest dreams is to star in a movie that I wrote, directed and produced. That’s a tall order to take on. Right now, I want to do more films and other projects and then bring it back around when I feel like I’m ready. I want to do it right because it’ll probably be only once or twice I’ll get to do that in my life.

Beatriz at Dinner

June 16, 2017 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton
Directed by: Miguel Arteta (“Cedar Rapids”)
Written by: Mike White (“School of Rock”)

Personalities and political opinions clash in superb fashion in director Miguel Arteta’s satirical, dark dramedy “Beatriz at Dinner,” a film that is thematically timely in the volatile partisan climate the country finds itself in today, but doesn’t overstate its message one way or another. Arteta and screenwriter Mike White (“School of Rock”), by staying vague about their personal political views, keep the narrative ambiguous and provocative, which fares well for its polar-opposite main characters.

In “Beatriz at Dinner,” Salma Hayek, giving her best performance since her Oscar-nominated title role in the 2003 biopic “Frida,” stars as Beatriz, an Los Angeles masseuse a holistic healer who has recently felt more alienated as a Mexican immigrant after one of her neighbors purposefully kills her pet goat. Emotionally drained, Beatriz finds herself at a client’s home in an upscale L.A. neighborhood for a massage appointment. Beatriz has known her client, Cathy (Connie Britton), for a while now. She used to give therapy to Cathy’s cancer-stricken daughter. There is an obvious history and a quasi-friendship present—at least a superficial type, since Beatriz is there providing a service.

The dynamic of their relationship is altered, however, when Cathy invites Beatriz to stay for a dinner party after Beatriz’s car won’t start and she has to wait for a friend to pick her up. Cathy’s husband Grant (David Warshofsky) really doesn’t think it’s a great idea that she stays, since they are hosting a couple of his business partners, including billionaire real estate mogul Doug Strutt (John Lithgow), so they can talk about the new shopping mall they’re going to build.

Ideologies come to a head when Doug, a Donald Trump-esque character (although “Beatriz at Dinner” was written before Trump ran for President), and Beatriz find themselves sitting across from each other at the dinner table and later in another part of the mansion for dessert and drinks. Beatriz is dismayed when she realizes that Doug might be the real estate tycoon who ruined her home town in Mexico with his invasive construction projects. Their conversation comes to a boil when Doug shares pictures with the group of his recent safari expedition where he killed a rhino.

Hayek and Lithgow are perfectly cast in their roles. The moments they share of brazen offensiveness and sheer discomfort might leave audiences squirming in their seats as they witness two strong characters who refuse to back down from confrontation. The film is reminiscent of two other character-driven movies released 20 years apart, the 1995 dark comedy “The Last Supper,” and the 2015 Brazilian film “The Second Mother.” The first pits a group of left-wing young adults who host dinner parties for conservative guests and end up poisoning them if their politics are too offensive to their liberal sensibilities. The other, focuses on the way a well-to-do family’s dynamic shifts when they invite their housekeeper’s daughter to live with them before she gets ready to go to college.

In “Beatriz at Dinner,” Arteta and White keep the dialogue biting without allowing either Doug or Beatriz to maul each other with their incompatible beliefs. The open-ended final minutes of the film might turn some viewers off, who were hoping for some kind of final showdown, but like life, there are usually no winners when it comes to politically-charged discourse and discord.

Val Kilmer – Cinema Twain

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

Actor Val Kilmer isn’t a stranger to portraying real-life men in history. From playing musician Jim Morrison in the 1991 biopic “The Doors” to gunslinger Doc Holliday in the 1993 Western “Tombstone” to porn star John Holmes in the 2003 crime drama “Wonderland,” Kilmer has made these type of performances some of the cornerstones of his extensive career over the last 30 years.

In “Val Kilmer Presents Cinema Twain,” which is a 90-minute film version of his one-man stage show “Citizen Twain,” Kilmer takes on a new real-life persona in Mark Twain, 19th century American writer and humorist, best known for his novels “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” During the satirical performance, Kilmer, who considers Twain “an honorary Founding Father,” waxes philosophical on politics, family and faith.

“There’s nothing different between playing all these real-life characters,” Kilmer told me during an interview earlier this month. “It’s just more challenging because he’s a genius. It’s hard to play a genius. You have to pretend to be smart, and that’s a bitch.”

For Kilmer, “Cinema Twain” is sort of pre-production work (and practice) for another film he is planning on directing, writing and starring in called “Mark Twain and Mary Baker Eddy.” The film tells the story between the two contrasting lives of Twain and Eddy, the founder of Christian Science.

“I needed to take time before pre-production to prepare for the role,” Kilmer said. “The fastest, best way to do that was to create a stand-up show, like [Twain] used to do.”

Kilmer admits the stage production took on a life of its own and “engulfed” him before he knew it. Suddenly, Broadway producers where calling him asking if he’d be interested in taking the show on the road.

“Theater is my first love,” he said. “So, I created a tour to refine it, but I had to cancel because of a health issue (Kilmer recently revealed he was battling oral cancer). Now I’m back in perfect health, but still healing. So, while my voice returns, I’m screening the film of the play to sold-out comedy clubs and cinemas across the country.”

Although Kilmer has starred in a few comedies in his career (“Top Secret!,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang,” “MacGruber”), it’s not a genre he is necessarily known for. However, he hopes “Citizen Twain” helps him flex those comedy muscles.

“I’ve been trying to do more comedies for 15 years but it’s a locked system in Hollywood,” he said. “They want the name recognition on the movie poster like the wonderful Owen Wilson or Jack Black. It’s just one of those rare hurdles—a Catch 22.”

Jon Heder – Napoleon Dynamite (13th anniv.)

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

He probably won’t get a chance to draw any ligers or hunt wolverines like his title character in the 2004 indie cult hit Napoleon Dynamite, but actor Jon Heder, 39, is ready to have a killer time nonetheless when he makes his first trip ever to San Antonio for the Alamo City Comic Con May 26-28. The Current caught up with Heder last week to talk about all things Napoleon, including his famous dance scene.

When you think of San Antonio, Texas, what comes to mind?

I think of “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” and (sings) “Deep in the heart of Texas!” When you do something as memorable as that, it’s like a big commercial for San Antonio.

When did you realize “Napoleon Dynamite” was more than just a small indie film?

We didn’t know when we were making it, but we certainly thought it had potential. We knew there were a lot of great one-liners in the movie. We would all sit around and daydream about the possibilities like, “They could make our characters into talking dolls or action figures!” I didn’t know it until after it came out on DVD, but even when it was out [at theaters], people were already quoting it.

If social media was around in 2004, do you think Napoleon would’ve had a Facebook account?

Oh, no. If he had a phone, it would’ve been a flip phone or something Uncle Rico sold to him for $100. He would’ve saved up all his money and then been like (as Napoleon Dynamite), “What?! You can get these for free on eBay?! What a rip off!”

Do you consider it a blessing or a curse to be known for playing Napoleon?

At the end of the day it’s a blessing. Because of it, I’ve been able to form a career. At the same time, when you do an iconic, cult film character, a lot of directors and producers are like, “Well, he’s that guy and it’s hard to see past that. It’s too distracting.” At the same time, it’s great to have something like that. I know actors who would kill for that. You are remembered for something—always.

Do you still know the choreography to your dance scene?

It was all improv—off the cuff. The dance wasn’t something I poured over or tried to perfect every little nuance. It sounds cheesy, but to do the Napoleon dance, all you have to do is dance from your heart. It’s less about dancing and more about the randomness of it.

Have you ever tried to do the dance again in public?

I tried to redo the dance, kind of, at my [10-year-old] daughter’s father-daughter dance at school earlier this year. I felt like a fool. I was trying to remember all these moves I came up with on the fly. Everyone was getting into it. She had fun—at least I hope so.

Thirteen years later, where do you think Napoleon would be? What’s his job? Is he married with kids?

He wouldn’t be married, but he would have one or two kids. He’d be single-dadding it because it didn’t work out. He’d be working in the food services industry and maybe still going to school to get his degree in marine biology. He would want to train sea lions. He’s into certain animals like that. Llamas, not so much.

Eugenio Derbez – How to Be a Latin Lover

June 1, 2017 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez (“Instructions Not Included”) isn’t a Latin lover, but he plays one on the big screen.

In his new comedy “How to Be a Latin Lover,” Derbez, 55, stars as Maximo, a lifelong playboy who is dumped by his much-older, wealthy wife and has no choice but to move in with his estranged sister Sara (Salma Hayek) and her young son Hugo (Raphael Alejandro). As he tries to find another rich nonagenarian to seduce into marriage, Maximo learns what it means to be part of a family and why money doesn’t always deliver happiness.

During an interview with me last week, Derbez, whose 2013 comedy “Instructions Not Included” became the highest-grossing Spanish-language film released in the U.S., talked about caricaturizing stereotypes, the types of roles he’s turned down recently and how stereotypes are seen differently in Mexico than they are in the U.S.

What attracted you to a character like Maximo? Are there any similarities between you two?

There aren’t many similarities between Máximo and I, thank God. I always wanted to do “Latin Lover.” I was always flirting with girls at school, but I’m kind of shy. When I was playing Máximo, I love the confidence he has. I was like, “I should’ve known this confidence when I was young!” I was very shy and I’m still shy. I hate that. On the other hand, that’s good because then I would’ve been married many times by now.

What would you say to critics who say that “How to Be a Latin Lover” perpetuates stereotypes of Latino men?

I was really curious about this cliché that everyone has in the U.S. Every time I wore a suit or a tuxedo, every single Anglo was like, “Oh, you look like a Latin lover!” I thought it was funny and that we should do something with that. I think the best way to break down a stereotype is to poke fun of it. I decided to make this movie to break down the stereotype of the Latin lover by making fun of the character. I think it’s very original.

As a comedy actor, do you find the comedy genre helps to do that with stereotypes? I mean, could you?

I use comedy for everything. For me, comedy is like therapy. Every time I want to heal something or criticize something or get rid of an idea, I use comedy. In this case, it was no exception. I thought it was the best way to tell people that this is just a stereotype. Latinos are not afraid of laughing, shouting, yelling, dancing, touching, and hugging. We all kiss each other. I notice that when I’m here in the U.S. and I meet someone and I go to kiss their cheek or get a hug, I can tell when people feel uncomfortable. They get stiff and it’s funny. But I like the way we are.

Can you give me an example of a role in a film you’ve turned down?

Since I came to the U.S. after “Instructions Not Included,” a lot of doors opened. I moved to the U.S. and they were offering me a lot of the same kind of roles—the criminal, the drug lord, the narco, the murderer. I decided not to go that way, at least for now. I’m not saying I’m never going to play [a role like that] in my life. One of the things people say they loved about “Instructions” was that they were watching a Latino on the big screen who was a good father and good human being and who was very successful. They were like, “Finally!” So, I decided not to go for those other roles for the last two and a half years. I declined a lot of offers in really great projects from really great directors because I wanted to try doing something different.

How are stereotypes viewed in TV and film in Mexico? In the U.S., it seems like audiences have become a lot more conscious of it nowadays.

It’s different because [Mexicans] are not that sensitive. I think in the U.S., at least before Mr. Trump, it was too much. I remember about two years ago, I went to a restaurant with some friends. All of us were Mexicans. We asked for some hot sauce. The waitress said, “It is kind of spicy.” And we said, “Ah, it doesn’t matter! We’re Mexicans!” And she was shocked. She was like, “You’re not offended by that word?!” We were like, “What?! We’re Mexicans! That’s what we are!” It’s like the people that say we’re not allowed to say “Latino” anymore. We have to say “Hispanic.” Apparently, that’s the correct word to describe people who speak Spanish in the U.S. I’m like, “Come on guys. We’re going too far.” In Mexico, we don’t care. We don’t care about being politically correct. We’re more open. In the U.S., everyone is so conscious about not offending anyone.

What kind of future do you see for Maximo? Does he go find true love or does he stay a playboy forever?

He’s not that romantic. When we were writing the character, we tried to be faithful to the character. I know guys like Máximo. They’re interested in having a great life and a good time. They don’t care about romance and love. They just care about having a good life. That’s Máximo. He would never go for love. He learns a lesson about the importance of family and that it’s more important than money. But very deep in his soul, the only thing that matters to him is to have a good time. I don’t think he’ll ever find his true love.

Rob Schneider – stand-up comedian

May 30, 2017 by  
Filed under Interviews

For an actor who has starred in movies where his characters have to dress in a big diaper and baby bonnet (“Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo”) or try to hump a goat (“The Animal”), comedian Rob Schneider can be a pretty serious guy—especially if politics gets into the conversation.

While movie roles and voice work continue to be his go-to gigs (friend Adam Sandler still casts him in his projects), Schneider found a new voice on stage a few years after he returned to stand-up comedy in 2010. Instead of rehashing stories about his time on the set of “The Waterboy,” Schneider, who also stars in his own Netflix series “Real Rob,” started taking on some significant issues and has tried to give them his own humorous spin.

“I talk about what’s going on in the world,” Schneider, 53, told me in a phone interview. “The way I approach politics is very different. Half of the act is me talking about what is happening in America right now and what I think about it.”

Schneider will be performing at the Improv Comedy Club inside Rivercenter Mall from May 26-28, and will also be at the Alamo City Comic Con on those same days.

Away from the stage, Schneider has ventured into some polarizing topics. He is an outspoken critic of childhood vaccinations and during our interview called California governor Jerry Brown a “dipshit” for signing a new law that eliminates personal and religious belief exemptions on vaccinations.

“The Democrats are the party to make fun of right now,” Schneider said. “But I make fun of [Donald] Trump, too. I think you have to hit both sides.”

During his stand-up show, Schneider, who considers himself more of a conservative, promises to talk about everything from the attack on freedom of speech to the minimum wage hike to what’s going on in the White House.

“I don’t want to force my opinion on people, but I think you have to challenge them and get them to laugh at the same time,” Schneider said. “I don’t want to call myself a contrarian, but I like to swim against the tide. Hitting things that are closer to the bone is more interesting than avoiding it.”

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