Andrew Haigh – 45 Years

February 10, 2016 by  
Filed under Interviews

In his new drama “45 Years,” British director and screenwriter Andrew Haigh (“Weekend”) tells the story of Kate and Geoff (Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay), an older couple who is about to mark their 45th wedding anniversary with a grand celebration. When Geoff receives a letter revealing a heartbreaking event he experienced before he met Kate 50 years prior, both he and his wife must come to terms with the news and figure out a way to put it behind them.

“45 Years” is adapted from a short story called “In Another Country” by David Constantine. Rampling was recently nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as Kate.

During an interview with me last month, Haigh, 42, talked about how he confronted the love story between Kate and Geoff and whether being a filmmaker who is gay presented any interesting challenges. We also talked about the casting of Rampling and Courtenay and what similar attributes he saw in both of them.

When did you first read David Constantine’s short story “In Another Country,” and what about it resonated with you to adapt it into a feature film?

I read it when I was editing my last film [2011’s] “Weekend,” so it was quite a long time ago. A publisher sent me a collection of his short stories. [“In Another Country”] is probably like 11 or 12 pages. There was this central idea that was fascinating to me. It stayed in my brain and played around in there. It felt like a really good way to tell a story about a relationship and how we understand ourselves within relationships and how they can be more fragile than we think they are and how we can never really, truly know someone. It was a really great thing, especially coming off making “Weekend,” to tell another story about relationship, but tell it from the opposite end of the spectrum.

Your first two films – “Weekend” and “Greek Pete” – could be categorized as gay cinema. You’re a gay man yourself. Did making a film about a heterosexual couple present any interesting challenges?

Not really. To me, I never really thought of myself as making only gay cinema. In the end, there are more similarities between gay people and straight people than there are differences – when you start to look under the surface of things. I never felt like I had to change my mental understanding of relationships. Fundamentally, our concerns as human beings are pretty much the same.

Do you try and avoid getting categorized as a gay filmmaker?

I suppose there’s not much you can do about it. (Laughs) People decide to call you what they’re going to call you. I see that all the time. The world wants to put people in boxes. I don’t mind if people call me a gay filmmaker. I am gay and I am a filmmaker. But it’s almost like you have to ignore that kind of thing. There’s no point in me fighting against it. My films come from me, but they’re not always about gay subject matter. You learn to live with how people want to define you. You just do your best to try and stay truthful to yourself.

You’re in a relationship yourself. I’m not sure if you’ve been with your partner for a long time, but did that help develop the characters in any way in “45 Years?”

Yeah, I think when you’re in a long-term relationship you can’t help but use elements of that when you’re telling a story. I think it certainly helps. I think it’s fundamental. All of us are looking to be with someone – or most of us are anyway. As human beings we strive not to be alone in the world. Relationships become an important part of us.

What kind of relationships are you exposed to the most in your life? Do you hang out with married couples? Single people? Is there anything that links them together?

Yeah, I think I see a variety of different relationships. I see people who are married and not married and younger and older or divorced and still together and not together. I see a nice complexity of relationships. I think the thing that links them all together is that they are filled with people who are trying to make the best of their lives and trying to be happy. They’re trying to find what works best for them and trying to find someone they can be with and understand and who can understand them. There is a vast array of relationships in the world, but I think, fundamentally, they all come from the same place.

Did you do any kind of research on long-term relationships by talking to older couples who have been together as long as Kate and Geoff in “45 Years?”

Not really. I didn’t feel the need to go talk to people that have been together. Whether you’ve been together for five years or 10 years or 20 years or 30 years, I don’t know how fundamentally different that is. So, I was really just trying to understand these characters I was writing and trying to feel what they would feel rather than having to talk to people about relationships.

Talk about the casting process in “45 Years.” How did you come to bring Charlotte Rampling on board?

I didn’t write the script with anyone in mind. I don’t like to do that too much. You can always end up being disappointed when they say no. We had a casting director and we kept talking about people. Very quickly, Charlotte became someone we wanted to approach. I think she certainly has a very interesting kind of persona and an interesting way of being. She’s a great actress. So we sent [the script] to her. I thought she had that perfect combination of strength and vulnerability as a performer. I thought it was perfectly suited for Kate. I spoke to Charlotte and we had a long conversation on the phone. She agreed to do it very quickly.

And Tom Courtenay?

Well, we wanted to cast Kate first because it’s told from her point of view, but we found the perfect male lead to work alongside Charlotte with Tom. We sent [the script] to him and, like Charlotte, he had that very interesting combination of strength and vulnerability that makes sense in their relationship.

Did you hope Charlotte and Tom did anything on their own to get ready to play this couple in a long-term relationship? Or we you confident enough in their abilities for them to just show up on Day One and be believable as a couple who has been together for 4½ decades?

We didn’t really do much rehearsal. In fact, we didn’t do any rehearsal. I spent some time talking to them both. We talked about what the film was and what we wanted it to be. I don’t necessarily think actors have to live together. You hear these stories about actors in like “Blue Valentine” (Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams) who lived together and all these sorts of things. I know that Charlotte and Tom were not going to want to live together before they made the film. (Laughs) But they’re great actors and they knew for the film to work, they would have to show the audience that this is a couple who has been together for a long time. We knew that’s how we needed to start the film off. We knew what we had to do to make it work.

Are you the type of filmmaker that likes to explain some of the things that happen in your film or would you rather the audience come to their own conclusion? I don’t want to give too much away, but everyone, of course, is talking about the final seconds of the final scene and what Kate’s gesture really means for the future of her and Geoff’s relationship. Do you care to give us some insight to what that meant?

Yeah, I love the idea of people figuring it out for themselves or just having their own opinions. I think it’s so important. I love the idea that you make a film and it exists. I want people to see it at the cinema and have it take over their brain. I love films that come into someone’s life and then leave that life and you’re left to come up with your own conclusions. Life doesn’t end with a neat, tidy bow. It’s always a bit more messy and complicated than that. I love to try to engage the audience in the film and make them become part of it. That, for me, is the perfect way to tell a story.

This is your third feature film. Looking toward the future, what kinds of stories are you looking to tell?

I’m pretty convinced that, thematically, there will be things that link all my stories even if I’m the only one that knows what that thematic link is. (Laughs) I certainly want to tell different stories. The next project I got is an American-based project set in Oregon. It’s not a relationship story. It’s coming together at the moment, but I’m hoping to shoot that in the summer. It’s slightly bigger in scale and scope, but at the heart of it I think it’s trying to say a similar kind of thing as my other films.

Sean Astin – Woodlawn (DVD)

January 25, 2016 by  
Filed under Interviews

Actor Sean Astin (“The Lord of the Rings” trilogy) has no desire to preach to audiences, but he does hope his newest faith-based film “Woodlawn” will open the minds of people who have never considered Christianity a belief system that could bring positive results. The film was just release on DVD/Blu-ray Jan. 19.

In “Woodlawn,” Astin’s fourth faith-based film of his career (his others are “Amazing Love,” “Moms’ Night Out,” and “Do You Believe?”), he stars as Hank Erwin, the real-life father of the film’s two directors, Andrew and Jon Erwin. The film tells the story of Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama in 1973 when the school became racially integrated and incited violence amongst the students.

During this time, Hank, a former Republican State Senator from Alabama, was a chaplain. He travelled to Birmingham to help reduce the tension between the students on the football team by offering them a spiritual change.

“[Andy and Jon] made this movie as a tribute to their father because he told them this story when they were children growing up,” Astin, 44, told me during a phone interview a few weeks ago. “[Hank] was deeply affected by the evangelical surge in the late 60s and early 70s with Billy Graham and others. He came away from his conversion and decided God was telling him he was supposed to go and find people to help.”

Bringing religion into a public school, especially without permission from any of the students’ parent, was as controversial in 1973 as it would be today. Astin, however, understands why the chaplain did it.

“There was no system in place to help the students learn how to bridge a lot of the conflict of racial animus they had with each other,” Astin explained. “He brought his message of Christ to them and they respond really well. This movie is about what that year was like when a team decided to lead with their faith and what the positive and negative reactions were to that and how it affected their school, families, and rivals.”

Astin, who considers himself a Christian, doesn’t want potential movie watchers to think “Woodlawn” is some heavy-handed film that is trying to force religion onto them.

“It’s not about imposing a worldview on the public,” he said. “These filmmakers are sharing their experience. In this particular case, I think these Christians have a take on the world that is really noble and good. I’m proud to be a part of their project.”

Choosing to be a part of these faith-based projects happens because Astin said he is compelled with the storytelling. The same thing could happen if he was asked to star in a really good movie about another religion or topic.

“As a professional actor, I’m more than happy to evaluate any part that comes to me – an atheist piece or a horror film or any genre,” he said. “My mind is open to all of them, including Christian films. I’m not afraid to do a movie or a part that perpetuates a worldview if I think there’s value to it or merit to it. I’m an actor and I’m willing to do all kinds of parts that may or may not go against Christian teachings. My responsibility is to my craft as an actor.”

Still, Astin believes Christians have been extremely underrepresented in films and is happy be making movies that could change that. Astin admits he doesn’t necessarily think he is the right person to speak on Christianity at length, but he’s willing to share his thoughts on religion and politics if someone is genuinely interested in his opinion.

“I don’t feel called by God to preach the gospel,” he said. “I am not an expert on the gospel. What I am comfortable with in Christianity are the ideas of peace and love and forgiveness. The rest of it, I’ll leave for other people.”

Emmanuel Lubezki – The Revenant

January 8, 2016 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Arguably the best cinematographer working in Hollywood today, Emmanuel Lubezki isn’t someone who is afraid of failure. He’s worked with some of the industry’s most ambitious filmmakers, specifically Terrence Malick, with whom Lubezki has made four movies; Alfonso Cuarón, for whom Lubezki shot “Children of Men” and “Gravity”; and recent Oscar winner Alejandro González Iñárittu. Yet failure is something the Mexico City native experienced plenty of times during the making of his latest collaboration with Iñárittu, “The Revenant,” opening in limited release this Friday, Christmas Day, on the heels of Lubezki’s back-to-back Academy Awards for Cuarón’s “Gravity” (2013) and Iñárittu’s “Birdman” (2014).

“The Revenant” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, an early 19th century fur trapper who seeks revenge on the man who left him for dead (played by Tom Hardy) after a vicious bear attack. While Lubezki admits the film proved to be a challenging one for him, his name is very much in the dialogue for end-of-the-year accolades, including a possible eighth Academy Award nomination. If Lubezki, 51, ends up with another win, he will be the first cinematographer in film history to earn three Oscars in a row.

We recently spoke with Lubezki about what he feels shooting “The Revenant” digitally and in natural light did for the film’s composition, what his relationship is like with other heavy-hitters in his field, and whether or not he feels shooting on film is an art form that might have some staying power despite more and more filmmakers moving on to use digital cameras.

What were some of the conversations you had with Alejandro before you started shooting “The Revenant?” Was using natural light always in the initial plans?

Shooting in nature and with natural light was definitely in the initial plans, but we didn’t know what we were getting into. It’s impossible to really predict that. We knew we wanted to do the movie in real locations and do them in the winter. We knew it was going to be incredibly rough. We wanted that spirit to trickle into the movie. You can never predict how the weather will behave. In terms of using natural light, we wanted the audience to truly feel immersed in this world. We wanted to take them through this journey. We wanted the style of the movie to be completely determined by the conditions [outdoors] when we shot it. We wanted to make a movie that had that visceral quality.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance is incredibly intense. Did that put pressure on you since it’s probably hard to recreate his scenes if, say, you want to shoot from another angle or if Alejandro wants another take?

Many times we could do multiple takes and many times we couldn’t. Sometimes [DiCaprio] would be in a frozen river and when he gets out of the river you can see the icicles floating in the river. The water was below 32 degrees. You cannot reproduce that on a stage or on a green screen. You also can’t ask Leo for more than one take. It’s incredibly brutal. It’s very painstaking because you want to capture the moment and you don’t want to ruin anything. But at the same time, you know that if you achieve [the shot] it will have a power that is unimaginable.

One of the scenes everyone is talking about, of course, is the bear attack. What were you and Alejandro’s ideas about that particular scene? There’s definitely a feeling of helplessness that happens in those few minutes.

That scene was very hard. It took many months of thinking and rehearsing and experimenting. When you see a canvas that is completely white, you have to start drawing and figuring out what the emotions are that you want to express and what you want the audience to feel. It took a long time. During the process we found a on the Internet that shows a man who falls inside a bear [enclosure] at the zoo and gets attacked. The fact that the scene is being caught in real time on a cell phone expresses something you can’t express otherwise. You can express the horror and randomness of the attack and the behavior of the bear that is so foreign to us.

For the rest of my interview with Emmanuel Lubezki, click HERE.

Simon Pegg – Man Up

December 24, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

He might be breaking box office records this week with his role in “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens,” but British actor Simon Pegg says he’ll always keep independent film close to his heart.

In his new indie British romantic comedy “Man Up,” Pegg, who broke into the mainstream in 2004 with the zombie parody “Shaun of the Dead,” stars as Jack, a 40-something guy trying to land on his feet while maneuvering through a messy divorce. Making a first attempt to meet someone new, he agrees to a blind date with a woman only to see it get hijacked by another girl (Lake Bell) who finds herself in the middle of a case of mistaken identity.

During an interview with the me, Pegg, 45, who has been married for 10 years, talked to me about how thankful he is not to be part of the dating scene, dancing on film to Duran Duran, and what was up with all the “Silence of the Lambs” references in his new rom com.

What do you think the biggest difference is between British romantic comedies and ones made in the U.S. and what was it about “Man Up” that you found so interesting?

I don’t know if there is a huge difference, really. I mean, it’s dealing with the same thing, which is the quest for love and the kind of misadventures we get into on that road. Obviously the attitudes are different slightly. The British…there is a lot of drinking involved in this one. (Laughs) People seem to rely on that in order to loosen themselves up socially. I think ultimately, though, they tend to be about the same thing. It’s a very human idea – the search for love in a sea of confusion and mistakes. [“Man Up”] is particularly full of those things because the whole thing starts with a misunderstanding or a deception and takes place over one crazy night. It was a real fun screenplay to read.

What characteristics, if any, do you think you share with your character Jack?

Well, I’m happy married. Jack is a 40-something divorcee. I can only imagine what it must be like to suddenly be “out there” again like Carrie Fisher in “When Harry Met Sally.” The idea of your entire reality sort of breaking down and you suddenly being back out in the trenches having come away from all that to settle down, I can’t imagine how awful that must be. (Laughs) I’m sorry if you’re going through that. So, one thing you can look forward to is a lot of meaningless relationships for a while before you try and find “the one” again. It’s a terrifying world, I think, for people who are dating.

How do you think you’d fare if you were thrown back into the dating scene today?

I don’t know. I was never really out there anyway. A lot of girls I had relationships with I had met at parties. I didn’t do that thing where you designate a time and place and you sit opposite each other and decide whether or not you want to have sex, which is kind of what a date is, really. (Laughs) I just went straight to the sex. I don’t know. I think I would probably be terrible. I think I would try and use my meager celebrity to impress girls and go home miserable when it didn’t work.

If you were a single guy and you decided to hang out with Jack for a night on the town, who would have better luck with the ladies?

Well, Jack is not as famous as me, but he might get a lot of the backwash. (Laughs) I’m really making myself laugh. I don’t know. Jack is very damaged and burned from his previous relationship. But there is something vulnerable and sweet about him for that reason. Once he stops trying to be someone he’s not, he’s actually a sweet guy who is just trying to find his partner in the modern world. I think that’s an appealing thing. He’s not as funny as me. And funny is the key. Looks fade, man. Funny is forever.

What would be your first instinct if you were at a club in real life and someone started playing Duran Duran? Were some of those your best moves we saw in this movie?

Yeah! That was something [screenwriter] Tess [Morris] came up with. At this point Jack and Nancy (Bell) are at odds and arguing. The deception has been revealed. But somehow they find themselves in sync by this weird dance routine that they somehow remember from their younger days. It’s a way of showing Jack and Nancy in perfect harmony as well as having a fight. It’s really a clever little device. We choreographed the dance. If you hear the song in a discotech, you would, of course, jump up. When I was 16 and that song came out I was like, “Ugh, Duran Duran.” Now it’s a stone-cold classic.

Instead of Duran Duran, was there ever any talk of you dancing to “Goodbye Horses” since there are so many Silence of the Lambs references in the film?

(Laughs) With my tail between my legs? Yeah, I think that might’ve been just too creepy. (Laughs) That would’ve just pushed it one note too far.

Are most people picking up on the “Silence of the Lambs” edit in the final scene?

Yeah, I think that’s a lovely little nod. Obviously the film is referenced early on in the movie. It pays off. I’m a big fan of that sort of foreshadowing. I know for a fact that Tess, who is currently in Los Angeles, is screening Man Up as a double bill with “Silence of the Lambs.” It’s one of the most eclectic double bills in film history, but not without some sort of connective tissue.

Is it pretty effortless at this point in your career to go back and forth between smaller projects like “Man Up” and then jump into things as massive as “Star Wars” and “Star Trek?”

Yeah, it seems to be. It’s not like their different buses, really. You go script by script. It’s not like I specialize in blockbusters. I’ve been fortunate enough, maybe because of J.J. Abrams and my friendship with him, to latch on to some of these huge movies. I’m from independent film. That’s where I started. I always want to have some place there. I love the industry and the passion that goes into independent filmmaking. It’s something I want to stay with.

This interview first ran at sacurrent.com.

 

Brie Larson – Room

November 20, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

In her first lead role since breaking out in the 2013 indie “Short Term 12,” Brie Larson stars in Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room,” a drama adapted from Emma Donoghue’s New York Times-bestselling novel of the same name. In the film, Larson plays Joy Newsome aka “Ma,” a woman who is held captive in a small garden shed she calls “Room” with her five-year-old son Jack (Jacob Tremblay). With Jack unaware of the world outside “Room,” Joy devises a dangerous plan to escape from their confines and from the man who put them there, prepared to do anything to give Jack the chance to live a normal life.

During an interview with me, Larson talked about approaching her role as a mother, bonding with nine-year-old co-star Tremblay, and why “Room” is ultimately a unique meditation on the process of growing up.

Portraying a mother on film is something fairly new for you. Since you’re not a mother in real life, how did you confront a role like this, especially with all the emotion there is between you and actor Jacob Tremblay?

I talked with my mom quite a bit about what it was like to go through pregnancy and to raise a child and knowing what to do initially. I think a lot of it comes from being compassionate. I think a mother’s heart grows so many sizes when she has a child. This child becomes like a floating piece of yourself that you can’t imagine living without and would do anything to protect. It wasn’t a far reach because I love this planet and humanity so much. It was easy to project that onto this beautiful little boy, played by Jacob, who is one of the greatest and most wonderful people I’ve ever met.

What kind of relationship did you and Jacob have to create with each other before going into production to make it feel like the mother-son relationship was authentic? Did you spend a lot of time with each other prior to making the movie and what kinds of things did you do?

We had about three weeks of what we called “rehearsals,” but it was really an opportunity for the two of us to hang out and get to know each other. We would draw portraits of one another and play with Legos. We built the toys you see inside [the room] in “Room.” We spent a couple of hours every day just playing in [the room] in “Room.” It became a really safe, wonderful place for us. We were both alone in Toronto, so we spent a lot of time just goofing around. We’d play silly games or anything that got us to feel a sense of comfort with one another. More than anything, you have to be comfortable as an actor to really go for it. We really wanted Jacob to just feel like he was so loved and supported that he had the freedom to do what whatever he wanted to do with his character.

As I was watching the film, the room itself made me feel confined and very restless. How did you handle the space as an actress and did it ever get overwhelming?

No, because I think we really helped create that space. [The room] in “Room” never felt small. It felt like a very sacred place. It felt very special to us. That door [in the room] during filming could actually be open. It was never locked like it is in the story, so we did have the ability to leave. Because the space is so small, it did cut out any extra people that were on set. So, it would usually just be me, Jacob, our director, and a few core people it would take to record the scene properly. It wasn’t easy to get in and out a lot of the time because the door would be in the way or it would hit someone. It meant that you couldn’t bring your cell phone in and you had to be very respectful of the space and create a world that was very intimate and very loving.

When I say as a viewer I felt very confined, is that what you were hoping for?

Yeah, it’s so necessary to feel the confinement and the pain or feel the situation [Joy and Jack] are in. That’s the set up for them to escape. You have to feel that the space is so dire that it would have to make sense for them to attempt such a risky escape in order to have a better life. I think that it’s perfect that you felt that way. I think it is totally necessary.

To read my entire interview with Brie Larson, click HERE.

 

Phyllis Smith – Inside Out (DVD)

November 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

In what is surely the best casting in an animated film this year, actress Phyllis Smith (TV’s “The Office”) was tapped to give voice to one of the five main characters in the newest Pixar film “Inside Out.” In the critically acclaimed animated dramedy, Smith plays Sadness, one of the five personified emotions in charge of running the day-to-day operations in the mind of an 11-year-old girl named Riley.

Finding it difficult to adjust to her and her family’s recent move from Minnesota to San Francisco, Riley tests the limits of her emotions, including Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust, as she tries to settle into her new surroundings. But when an emergency happens at headquarters where Joy and the other emotions work, the team must band together to help Riley discover who she is and put her back on the right path to find happiness.

During an interview with me for the recent release of “Inside Out” on DVD and Blu-ray, Smith talked about how she settled on the sound of Sadness and how self-conscious she’s always been about her own voice. We also discussed which emotion she would want to add to the film’s roster.

What was your initial reaction when you saw what Sadness was going to look like?

I loved everything about the look of Sadness. Actually, the very first drawings I saw of her were a bit different. She looked more like a teardrop. Then she morphed into her cuteness with her little pigeon toes and her stringy hair and her glasses. I thought she was adorable.

How did you decide what an emotion like sadness should sound like?

[Producers] Pete Docter and Jonas Rivera heard my voice in another project I had worked on. I can remember the very first session that I had, I was trying to feel sad but I was trying too hard. Then they played me a portion of my voice from that other project, which was “Bad Teacher,” and when I reheard my voice I realized it was my energy level I had to change.

Are you the kind of person that hates to hear her own voice?

I used to be! When I would hear my voice when I was speaking into a microphone or something, I was very insecure about it. Somewhere along the line that fell to the wayside. I never really thought of my voice as being anything different or unusual. In fact, I’ll tell you a story: a friend of mine asked me one time, “Why do you talk like that? You’re never going to get any work with that voice. You have to talk with authority.” This was when I was working in offices, not “The Office,” but offices. So, all I can say to that person is, “Hmm” because I never changed a thing and I’m glad I didn’t because it worked out the way it should.

How do you think a character like Sadness can help kids deal with their own emotions?

Well, when they see the film they can see that it’s OK to be sad. Maybe it’ll help them want to talk about it or help others who are going through an emotionally down day. They can just sit and listen to someone else and that could be helpful to them as well. Usually sadness is thought of as a negative, but it could still help to find out that not necessarily always the case.

Would you consider Sadness a bit of a drama queen?

(Laughs) Yes, of course! But she does it in an inoffensive way. I think she’s kind of cute with how she picks her leg up and wants to be drug around.

What emotion is usually in charge of your personal dashboard these days?

After seeing the film, I did do something thinking about that. Joy and Fear are my two driving forces. Fear that I’m not going to do [something] right or whatever. But I’ve be a very blessed person, so I think Joy is the main one in my life.

If you could add another character to the roster of emotions in “Inside Out,” which would you add and what would he or she look like?

(Laughs) I think irritation might be fun. It would be like an offshoot of anger and disgust – in between the two of them. Irritation might have wiry hair or something.

Who would win an award for most melancholy animated character, Sadness, Eeyore or Droopy Dog?

Well, I know who I’d like to win it. (Laughs) I’m going to go with the one closest to my heart, which is the little blue one.

Who is getting the DVD/Blu-ray as a stocking stuffer next month for Christmas?

Oh, a number of people on my list! (Laughs) They can binge watch it and have a good cry.

Aaron Eckhart – My All-American

November 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

In the true-life sports drama “My All-American,” actor Aaron Eckhart (“The Dark Knight”) plays late UT football coach Darrell Royal, who won national championships with the Longhorns in 1963, 1969, and 1970. Part of the film covers the time when Royal recruited safety Freddie Steinmark, who, after playing in the 1969 “Game of the Century” against the Arkansas Razorbacks, found out he had a malignant bone tumor above his knee and had to get his leg amputated. Steinmark lost his battle with cancer in 1971 at the age of 22, but not before inspiring the U.S. Congress and President Richard Nixon to write the National Cancer Act of 1971 into law.

During an interview with me, Eckhart, 47, talked about what he learned playing the iconic UT coach, his thoughts on the passion of college football, and even chimed in on the excellence of the San Antonio Spurs, specifically future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan.

Describe what it was like to take on such an iconic sports figure as UT Coach Darrell Royal?

I knew nothing of the story of Coach Royal or Freddie Steinmark. I came into this completely clean. I got to know what he meant to the community and his players and what he meant to UT and to college football. He is the one that basically pioneered the triple option and the wishbone [formation]. I talked to everybody from [former UT coach] Mack Brown to [former pro cyclist] Lance Armstrong. Everybody came out of the woodwork to tell me a story about [Coach Royal]. I went out to dinner with [his wife] Edith. I did everything I could do to know who he was.

What impressed you the most about him?

He was a hard-nosed, tough-ass coach that wanted to get it right. He was meticulous. He had a work ethic. He was well mannered and expected his players to be well mannered and disciplined. He loved to win. At the same time, he was best friends with [musician] Willie Nelson and could be found on the weekends or during the week out at Willie’s place just listening to music. If you dig deep enough into any human being, you’ll find out that people can surprise you and are very interesting.

What does “My All-American” say about a player like Freddie Steinmark and what he endured in his short life?

Well, he was inspirational and optimistic and had a great spirit. He influenced everyone around him. He was an undersized kid that became the first out-of-state recruit for UT. He was never expected to play. I don’t even think Coach Royal expected him to play. Yet he fights his way onto the first team and becomes the inspiration of the defense. He did it with a smile on his face. He had his faith and did it in his own way. I think that’s to be respected.

What kind of athlete are you? Did you grow up admiring any of your coaches?

I grew up playing sports. I can remember my coaches from my earliest days. They always impressed me and always tried to teach me hard work and discipline. I think, if anything, it would be my dad who I’d say taught me work ethic and taught me how to do things right and to the best of my ability. Directors that I’ve worked with or producers or other actors are always instilling into me what it means to be a professional, which, in my opinion, is the highest compliment.

Could you feel during the making of this movie how big Texas football is?

You can see how big Texas football is if you go into the UT weight room. They have the most impressive weight room. It’s enormous with state-of-the-art equipment, locker rooms, and stadium. Just walking down the hall with [former UT football All-American] Jordan Shipley and listening to him explain to me about all the All-Americans and talking to former players and them telling me what the “Game of the Century” was like (Texas vs. Arkansas in 1969). I understand Texas football is king and that there are expectations with being the coach of a program at Texas. The same thing can be said of Louisiana and LSU. Plus, there’s all the money that’s involved in Texas football and the boosters and the faculty and the university. I found out there is a lot of pressure that comes with being a coach.

But if they’re good at it, coaches can become icons. What do you think when coaches are placed on such high pedestals for their success in the sport?

I think as soon as we put them on a pedestal, we find out they’re still human beings. I think football is important, but I think the life lessons learned in football are more important. I think, ultimately, they’re just coaches. They coach something we love. Now, I do think [athletes] are special people. There are only five quarterbacks in the world that can throw a football competently out of six billion people on Earth. Those are special people and they should be rewarded. I don’t think, however, we should idolize them to the point of deity.

Do you think winning is everything in sports?

If you’re paid to win football games than you should do whatever you can to win football games. Now, I don’t think winning trumps cheating. I think winning needs to be done honestly and fairly. I think there is still honor in defeat depending on how you played. But I do expect to win, yes. I think winning is the name of the game. I think everyone involved in the program should expect to win and should work to win. That’s where I think things get a little confused because people say, “Oh, you’re hurting the kids by playing them too hard or practicing them too hard.” I think anybody who signs up for it should know what they’re getting into and should expect to do the work to win. I do not think they should be criminalized if they don’t win.

What do you think about the fact that college football players are going to start getting paid?

Well, I understand that if someone is going to make money off of someone’s name, that they deserve a cut of that. I mean, heck I’m in the entertainment business. It’s something I know very well. However, I’d hate to see amateur sports go pro. I think there is way too much money in the game. That’s just life, but I think when you put money into the equation things change. I’m an old-school guy. I like hard-hitting football. I like giving the ball back to the ref after you score a touchdown and getting back to the game. But things have changed. I think people now are protecting a brand sometimes more so than actually playing football. But the results are there. All I have to do is not turn on the TV. Sometimes I don’t.

Do you think college football is a more passionate sport than pro-football?

I do. I think the players are still aspiring to get somewhere. They still want to get into the pros. They’re more willing to play a freer kind of football. They have more passion because there is more at stake. I think when you give pro football players a big contract they know they have to protect that contract and protect their bodies. So, I think overall the experience for me is better when I’m watching college than pro.

Who do you root for these days?

I’m an issues-based guy. I liked to watch the best. If I see Alabama going up against Florida State, I just like to see the top guys play. I went to Brigham Young, so I watch them. I watch the [Oakland] Raiders. I also like to watch Denver [Broncos] for [quarterback] Peyton [Manning] or New England for Tom Brady. I just like to watch excellence.

San Antonio knows a little about excellence in sports with the Spurs.

Well, yeah, the Spurs are what I’m talking about in terms of guys out there getting the job done. There’s not a lot of fanfare, but they are superb players. I think [Tim] Duncan epitomizes what I’m talking about. He’s a guy who is a Hall of Famer, Top Ten guy of all time, perhaps, who just gets it done. There’s not a lot of fanfare or talk. He inspires his teammates. He has respect for his coach. He listens to his coach and his coach listens to him. He’s got a big heart. I’m a big Duncan fan.

Some people might say “not a lot of fanfare” equals “boring.”

It doesn’t. I think that’s just something someone created. I think maybe the networks created it. I don’t equate that with boring at all. I think it’s just the opposite. I mean, I’m a big Kobe [Bryant] fan. The reason I’m a big Kobe fan is because he wants to win. He does everything to win. People call him a ball hog or whatever, but I just like guys who will push themselves beyond their limits to win the game. Duncan is one of those guys. Kobe. Dirk [Nowitzki]. I just like watching guys like that.

It’s going to be a tough final couple of years for Kobe on that current Lakers team if all he wants to do is win.

Well, Kobe can’t win it by himself. He’s hurt. I think the big knock on Kobe is his contract. If he were getting $5 million for coming back [instead of $48.5 million over two years], nobody would care. I have no doubt in my mind that Kobe wants to win and thinks he can win. I’ll tune in for that. I’d rather watch a hurt Kobe play or a hurt Michael Jordan or Kevin Durant than a guy that has it all, but he’s not willing to put it all out there and not running as hard as he can.

You don’t have to name any names, but have you run across actors in the industry that do their job half-assed like that?

Oh, yeah. (Laughs) Yeah. Look, there’s no difference between two.

Even when their paychecks are that huge?

Oh, yeah. (Laughs) Much more than I’m getting.

If you went out to play a game of pick-up football today and played wide receiver, what route would you run?

I would just go deep. (Laughs) I would run straight down the middle of the field to the goal post and then put up my arms.

Would you catch it?

Uh, yeah, I would. I’ve had a lot of quarterbacks throw me the ball. It’s not as easy as it looks, I’ll just say that.

David Guggenheim – He Named Me Malala

November 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

In his new documentary “He Named Me Malala,” Oscar-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”) explores the extraordinary life of Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 at the age of 15 for promoting education for Pakistani girls.

Since the assassination attempt, Malala, now 18, has become a spokesperson for girls around the world about their right to an education. She was named one of Time magazine’s Most Influential People in the World for three consecutive years. She was also honored with the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, making her the youngest laureate ever.

In an interview with me, Guggenheim, 51, talked to us about what it was like to spend time with her family and how her father’s encouragement has helped Malala continue to fight for the issues most important to her.

You spent a lot of time with Malala during the making of this documentary. What did you learn about her aside from the political attention her story has earned over the last three years?

I’m a guy from Los Angeles. My father is Jewish and my mother is Episcopalian. I didn’t know what it would be like to meet this Muslim family. I took a cab to their house in Birmingham, England and knocked on their door and didn’t know who I was going to meet. Malala opened the door and she let me into this incredible family. They are very smart, but they are also very irreverent and funny. In the movie she arm-wrestles her brother. She goes online and looks up pictures of movie stars. She can be an ordinary girl. That’s sort of the message of this movie. This ordinary girl can become famous and extraordinary because she made a brave choice. She chose to risk her life for something she believes in, which was her school. The Taliban was taking away her school and she fought for it.

Did you feel any added pressure making this documentary because you were the first filmmaker to get access to the family in this way? I mean, it’s unlikely another filmmaker is going to get the chance to do the same thing any time soon.

It’s true. I felt a tremendous responsibility. Malala is so special when you’re with her. I wanted to get [her story] right. I’ve never really met anyone like her. She decided at a very young age to risk her life and to speak out for what she believes. [Her family] lived in a very peaceful valley [in Pakistan] where they built a school and the Taliban wanted to shut it down. I thought it was very inspiring and a good message for girls all around the United States. You should speak out if there is something you believe in, even if you’re risking you’re life. It’s still important to raise your voice, especially now in this time and in this world. It’s amazing how the movie is so universal. I’ve shown it now for girls and families all around the United States and it has this great inspiring message for everyone.

The film is about Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, as much as it is about Malala. Why did you decide his story was so important to the narrative?

I’m a father and I have two daughters. Selfishly, I wanted to know what kind of magic this man and this girl did to become who they are. It’s very interesting because he named her Malala after this mythical character (Malalai of Maiwand) who spoke out and rallied the Afghans against the British to win the [Second Anglo-Afghan] War. This girl spoke out and was killed for it. [Ziauddin] decided to name her after a girl who is killed for speaking out. Malala herself speaks out and is shot for speaking out. The movie has this sort of question of destiny. Did Malala become this person because her father gave her this name? Or is she her own person who became this advocate and this hero on her own? Watching this movie helps you decide that and helps you understand what the true nature of a good father and a good daughter is in a family.

For the rest of my interview with filmmaker Davis Guggenheim, click HERE.

Daniel Pemberton – Steve Jobs

October 26, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

The first time British composer Daniel Pemberton read Aaron Sorkin’s script for “Steve Jobs,” he had no idea where any of the music he was asked to write would fit in to a movie that was so dialogue-heavy. It wasn’t until director Danny Boyle explained his thematic ideas for the film that Pemberton knew exactly how he wanted to approach this massive challenge.

In “Steve Jobs,” which explores some of the career milestones of the late Apple co-founder and his relationships with his colleagues and estranged daughter, the film is broken down into three distinct acts. The first act takes place in 1984 with the launch of the Macintosh. Pemberton said Boyle described this act as “Vision.” The second act is set in 1988 during the launch of the NeXT computer, four years after Jobs was fired from Apple. Boyle described this act as “Revenge.” The final act happens in 1998 with the launch of the iMac. Pemberton said Boyle described it as “Wisdom.”

With those three words, Pemberton was put on a track to write a score reflective of some of the technological advancements Jobs was able to create during the highs and lows of his incredible career. During an interview with Tribeca, Pemberton, 37, talked about why writing music for the “Revenge” section excited him the most, what kind of research he did for the project, and how he feels Steve Jobs himself has changed the way he works as a composer over the last 20 years.

You’ve had quite a year writing the scores from “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” and now “Steve Jobs.” What was your reaction when Danny Boyle asked you to compose a score for his new film

Well, I had a meeting with Danny last year that lasted half an hour. He was a really big fan of my work on “The Counselor.” After the meeting, he flew off and immediately started filming, so I really didn’t have any time to take it all in. It was amazing to be asked. I mean, how would you feel if someone asked, “Do you want to do the new Danny Boyle film with a script by Aaron Sorkin about Steve Jobs?”

I read that when some of the actors were auditioning for their roles, they weren’t given the real script to read from because the studio didn’t want any of it to leak. When did you actually get to see a script to start working from it?

I got the script early on. I thought it was phenomenal. Then all this Sony hacking kicked off, so I didn’t really get back to them. I thought, “Well, they probably don’t want to hear from me right now. They have too many things on their plate.” Two weeks later, I remember asking my agent, “Is anything happening with the ‘Steve Jobs’ movie?” He was like, “You haven’t told them you like the script?! Email them back now!” So, I sent them an email and two minutes later they wrote back and were like, “Oh, we’re so glad you want to do it!” So, I kind of played it cool in the most stupid way possible.

To read the rest of my interview with Daniel Pemberton, click HERE.

Amy Ryan – Bridge of Spies

October 16, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

Oscar-nominated actress Amy Ryan (“Gone Baby Gone”) has worked with some heavy-hitters in the film industry over her 15-year career, including fellow Oscar nominees like directors Bennett Miller (“Capote”), Ben Affleck (“Gone Baby Gone”), and the late Sidney Lumet (“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”). In her latest film “Bridge of Spies,” Ryan takes direction for the second time from three-time Oscar-winner Steven Spielberg after her bit part in his 2005 sci-fi remake “War of the Worlds.”

In the true-to-life story, Ryan plays Mary Donovan, the wife of James Donovan, an American lawyer who is recruited by the CIA during the Cold War to defend a captured enemy spy in the courtroom and then to oversee the safe return of an American pilot held prisoner in the Soviet Union.

During our interview, Ryan, 47, who has also starred in last year’s Best Picture Oscar winner “Birdman” opposite Michael Keaton, talked about how she learned about the real Mary Donovan when not much information was available online, and what it was like working with Spielberg this time around.

What resonated with you the most about your character Mary Donovan? Was it because she was a devoted mother and wife or did you look at this with more historical context?

I loved how strong she was. This film is set on the background of the Cold War and during a time when this country was living under a blanket of great fear. I love that this college-educated mother of three is able to stand up to her husband. She loves him dearly, but she’s right in protecting her family. She’s right that if James takes on this case, it puts the family in a great line of danger to defend what was considered at the time America’s No. 1 enemy. She has no problem expressing herself. You don’t see that much in film. Women usually just stand by their man.

What kind of research did you have to do on Mary herself? Was there anything out there that you were able to use when creating this character?

There’s wasn’t much you could find on the internet about Mary. There is a lot about James Donovan, of course. Coincidentally, a really dear friend of mine knew [Mary’s] granddaughter, so he put me in touch with her. She shared with me tons of family photographs and stories and details about Mary. I was even able to ask her if she had an accent because she was from Brooklyn. She could talk about her in such detail. All of that helped me portray her. You’re never going to quite see the full person, but you can see a version of them. You want to get that truthful somehow.

It’s amazing you were able to connect with her granddaughter like that. What if you hadn’t been given that opportunity?

I would’ve just guessed! (Laughs) I would’ve just made stuff up. That’s why it was such a gift. I would’ve made it up, but I would’ve also been holding my breath the whole time like, “What am I doing?!” But just having those images of her – all these beautiful photographs with me in my dressing room – helped me fall into the look and expressions on her face. It helped me try to recreate those little details. Any little detail helps when you’re building a story based on true events.

You’ve worked with Steven Spielberg before. How was this experience different from the small role you had in “War of the Worlds?”

When you’re working with Steven Spielberg, you really don’t want it to ever be over. Having a larger part just means having this great gift of being with him longer and seeing how he makes films. When I first met him during “War of the Worlds,” even with a smaller part, he treated me with such great respect. He treated me as if I was a major part of that film. That is such a testament to Steven. Every detail of his film matters to him. He gives everything great attention and makes you feel like you’re an equal.

Tom Hanks and Steven have such a longstanding relationship with each other. This is their fourth film together. Would that be something you’d like to do – build a really strong relationship with a specific director who always thinks about you when he or she is making a new film, or are you more interested in different experiences as an actress?

A little bit of both. It depends on the director. I had the great fortune of working with the great, late Sidney Lumet three times. Each time you’re language gets shorter and you can talk in shorthand. You drop away any nerves because you’re more familiar with the person, especially when you work with great directors. The relationship gets deeper. I’d love to work with dozens of filmmakers again that I’ve already worked with. I’ve been spoiled with working with some of the best in the business. In a heartbeat I would work with all of them again.

Jena Malone – Time Out of Mind

October 12, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary for actress Jena Malone (“Inherent Vice,” “The Hunger Games – Mockingjay”) working in the film industry. She’s only 31, but Malone got her start in the business as a pre-teen, most notably when she was cast as a young Jodie Foster in the 1997 sci-fi film “Contact.” Since then, Malone’s filmography has been one that any former child actor could only dream of. From the 2001 indie cult favorite “Donnie Darko” to the 2007 drama “Into the Wild” directed by Sean Penn to Paul Thomas Anderson’s Oscar nominated 2014 film “Inherent Vice,” Malone says she loves doing it all.

In her latest project, “Time Out of Mind,” Malone plays Maggie, the estranged daughter of a homeless man (Richard Gere) who is trying to form some kind of relationship with her despite the fact she wants nothing to do with him. “Time Out of Mind” has been praised for the guerilla style filmmaking director Oren Moverman instituted during production. During scenes where Gere is on the streets of Manhattan and interacting with New Yorkers, people never realize it is Gere playing the role of a homeless man, which brings an authenticity to the picture.

During our interview, Malone and I talked about the homeless population and how she feels knowing people living on the streets are usually brushed aside by society. We also talked about her passions as an actress, what other art forms she loves, and why she still considers herself a child.

Talk about working with director Oren Moverman for the second time in your career. Of course, you starred in his film “The Messenger” in 2009. What was it about him that made you want to return to one of his sets?

When you ask an actor, “What’s your favorite script you’ve read,” a lot of them would say one of his scripts. A lot of his scripts were always around in Hollywood. He was on the tip of everyone’s tongue for quite sometime. He was writing these incredible character-driven pieces that were so simple and mind-blowing. When I did get an opportunity to sit down with him and work with him on “The Messenger” it was a gift. He’s got such a beautiful vision and a wide-open, vast heart. He’s interested in exploring hard-to-understand parts of our human nature, which I think is really courageous.

Is there a different dynamic on set with a director you’ve worked with before?

Absolutely. You already have a shorthand with them and know what to expect. You also already trust the person. It’s easier to dive in even deeper. It takes a while to gain trust and then to gain a language with the director. So, the fact we could just dive right in without a lot of discussion really was invaluable.

What did you find interesting about your character Maggie?

I think it’s something every woman can relate to – the relationship with her father and the expectation that you have of parents being the caretakers. Sometimes you become the caretaker. There is a sort of anger and estrangement that can happen. Maggie is a young woman who is trying to find her own voice, which sometimes means you have to break down the voices of your parents.

Was the father-daughter dynamic you had with Richard Gere in this film something you had ever experienced as an actress before?

Not really. I feel like this was kind of a new thing for me.

It reminded me a little bit of the relationship between Mickey Rourke and Evan Rachel Wood’s characters in “The Wrestler.” Have you heard that comparison yet?

I haven’t, but I also know that it was about an estranged relationship. I haven’t seen it. I want to see that film.

“Time Out of Mind” and another one of your films, “The Soloist,” are very different, but they do share a similarity in that both lead actors, Richard Gere and Jamie Foxx, played homeless men who have been tossed aside by society. This film isn’t based on a real person like “The Soloist,” but I’m wondering if you allow yourself to think about the people who are in these kinds of situation in real life? Are they on your mind at all when you’re making a movie like this?

Well, for “Time Out of Mind” I really didn’t want to do any research about that because where [Maggie] is coming from is like where the audience is coming from, which is very much a place of judgment. As much as you can care about someone, she just didn’t want anything to do with [her father]. I really wanted to keep that, which I think is a very human thing. We don’t want to see what we don’t understand. We don’t want to take on what hurts us.

Were you able to talk to Richard or Oren at all about their experiences doing their own research on the film? I know they met with a lot of homeless people to understand what they were going through on the streets.

Yeah, they did quite a bunch. I didn’t talk to them too much beforehand, but after we finished the film they told me all of these incredible stories. How they were able to make this film is a story in itself – being able to shoot in places where a lot of people didn’t know it was Richard Gere on the street. Someone was giving him money and giving him an apple and they were actually shooting the movie. What they did was extensive, exhausting research to make it real and actually seeing what happens when a man gets estranged from society.

It’s amazing to me that no one looked at him long enough to realize who he was. Do you think that says anything about the society we live in today and how we brush aside the less fortunate and don’t want to recognize they are there?

Yeah, I mean, homelessness sort of becomes this black hole of humanity. We no longer see it. There’s nothing to see. We judge it and just let it be. I think that’s the worst thing you can do to any human is not know anything about them.

Do you feel this film has a message about the homeless population or do you see it more as a character study on one man who may or may not represent others who are in his situation?

I don’t think it’s trying to talk about homelessness in this grand, sweeping, cure-it-all, fix-it-all type of thing. I think it’s saying that these are humans that have lost their way and have found themselves in these situations. It’s something that we can’t stop seeing. We can’t keep looking away.

What kind of mindset do you have to be in to work with someone like Richard Gere? You’ve worked with some very talented leading men over the years. What was it specifically that connected you to him?

I think he’s a great actor. I think when I found out he was taking on this role I really respected him even more. It’s a thankless part. It’s a very hard character to get into, particularly because of how he’s been viewed in his career. I think it was a bold and a quality move.

I read this film was a passion project of his and that he’s really been wanting to play this role for a long time. Have you experienced that kind of role yet in your career – something you feel passionate about and would do anything to make it happen, but hasn’t materialized yet?

There’s been a couple. I’ve really been trying to make this film about [Southern gothic writer] Carson McCullers for a while now (“Lonely Hunter”). For me, each film is a passion project. It’s kind of the only reason why I’m still doing it after so long. Some projects just take longer. Some are just harder to make.

Next year you’ll be celebrating 20 years in the film industry. After all these years, what excites you the most about acting? It is working with geniuses like Paul Thomas Anderson or making indie films or getting cast in blockbusters like “The Hunger Games” and “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice?”

It’s all the same. It’s about wanting to work with incredible visionaries and wanting to build things I’ve never built before. I’m just trying to push myself and get lost in it more than I’m getting found. The older that I get, that’s more of what I want.

Along with acting, you’re a musician and a photographer. Do you envision acting always being a part of your life or do you think there will come a time when you want to focus on your other artistic abilities and talents?

Well, I think I’ll probably be in the storytelling business until the day I die. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. It’s something that fascinates me. Whether it’s through music or photography or writing, they’re all different forms of narrative. I feel like they are all similar things.

Are you able to take criticism about things that come from you as an individual artist like music and photography more than you might if a film critic doesn’t like a movie you were in?

I think it would be harder. I think I am totally OK with criticism in film, but I’m still learning. I’m still kind of a child in the other narratives.

Is there something as a musician and photographer that you might want people to see out of you that maybe doesn’t come across to them when they see you act?

I’ve never thought of it like that. I think maybe within music and photography I get to do my own form of directing. It’s all coming from me and I get to figure out the aesthetics and the narrative and how it’s seen and what is heard. If anything, I think [music and photography] would be coming more deeply from me instead of maybe a film where I’m just a part of it.

 

Sir Ben Kingsley – Learning to Drive

September 19, 2015 by  
Filed under Interviews

In “Learning to Drive,” Academy Award-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley (“Gandhi”) plays Darwan, a humble Sikh cabdriver in New York City who takes a recently single N.Y. woman (Patricia Clarkson) under his wing and attempts to teach her how to drive. During a short interview about the film, Kingsley, 71, spoke to me about what drew him to the role of Darwan and described how it feels to teach someone something in real life.

What was it about your character Darwan that intrigued you to be a part of this film?

You know, the wonderful thing about playing my character Darwan is that I think he is a descendant from an ancient mythological figure called the ferryman. You get on the ferry on one bank of the river and he ferries you across to the other bank. When you disembark from his boat you feel like your molecules have been rearranged. You’ve learned something. You’re not quite sure what it is, but something has happened to you on that modest journey. I think Darwan, in a sense, is one of life’s ferrymen.

That’s a great way to describe him. What else do you think makes him unique character?

He’s incapable of being in someone else’s company without telling, giving or imparting some knowledge or some help. He’s a university professor who is exiled and can’t go back to India because of the violence against his family. I think in his DNA, he is a genuine teacher. He’s not a teacher hungry for power over his pupils. He’s much more democratic. He treats everyone as an equal. He’s very generous and very kind and a good and decent man.

It sounds like you really respect the character.

He was a wonderful character to play because he would probably be the kind of guy that describes himself as ordinary although he is extraordinary. He is a very gifted man. It’s impossible, I think, to spend time with guys like this and not feel like you’ve learned something. I have spent time with men like this, of course, on the film set – great directors, fellow actors. It’s changed something in me for good – forever. I think Darwan is one of those men.

What about the film itself? Was there anything specific that made it an attractive project to work on?

What was so attractive about the film is that it has its shadows and its light. It can be immensely funny as well as be immensely moving.

Darwan created a life for himself in the U.S. much different from the one he knew in India. How do you think he is able to do this and still keep his strength?

I think it is his decency. His brother was killed and his family was tortured in India. Exile is not a state I’m acquainted with, but I would imagine it is extremely difficult to start a new life on the premise of terrible loss.

And that loss is paralleled with the loss felt by Patricia Clarkson’s character Wendy right from the start, correct?

Yes, she also begins the film in a state of loss because her husband has just walked out on her.

Have you ever been a ferryman for someone? When is the last time you tried to teach something to someone? How well did it go?

I’ve had the opportunity to teach English literature to university students in America and in Europe. I’ve had wonderful opportunities to hold master classes in acting. It was very flattering. To work for two hours with these young students and not interrupt the process of delicate growth was very exciting. These students took very brave steps in front of maybe 150 of their colleagues. They did a difficult scene for maybe the first or second time in their life. I always asked them to rehearse something quite challenging. In the process of working with the students, I rediscovered a great deal about the wonderful process of acting and storytelling.

 

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