Aisling Franciosi – The Nightingale

September 3, 2019 by  
Filed under Interviews

In her two-episode turn as Lyanna Stark on Game of Thrones, it could be argued that Irish-Italian actress Aisling Franciosi’s role was both an integral and non-integral part of the award-winning HBO series. Without her, the narrative that captivated audiences for eight full seasons would’ve ceased to exist. She gave birth to Jon Snow, for Christ’s sake. Still, her actual contribution to the show as an actress was ancillary at best.

In her new film The Nightingale, there’s no doubting the immense impact Franciosi brings to the daunting role and to the disturbing story, which is set in early 19th century Australia. Written and directed by Jennifer Kent (The Babadook), Franciosi plays Clare Carroll, an Irishwoman seeking revenge against a British lieutenant (Sam Claflin) and the soldiers who raped her and killed her family. With help from an Aboriginal tracker, Clare ventures out into the deadly Australian wilderness to find the men and claim her pound of flesh.

During an interview with me last week, Franciosi talked about what drew her to the role, why the film is different from most revenge flicks and why she doesn’t feel like she has to defend the movie from detractors who are condemning it without seeing it.

What motivated you to want to take on the lead role of a film that is as dark and controversial as The Nightingale?

Jennifer [Kent’s] writing really struck a chord with me when I read the script. There is just something about the way she writes that is very authentic and truthful. It really resonated with me. The story is a very powerful one with a lot of big themes that I think she deals with intelligently. Also, from an actor’s point of view, I just thought, “Wow. This is a once-in-a-lifetime role.” In my career, I’ve played a lot of teenagers, which is great, but I really wanted to step up to the plate and prove that I could do more.

Most young actresses like yourself don’t get a chance to show their range in such a powerful, serious film. Honestly, it’s really amazing that you got to do that in a project like this so early in your film career and not in something like Halloween 12.

(Laughs) Honestly, I was lucky that this script came along. I did work my ass off to get it. I also wrote to Jen and told her that I would give her everything and that she could push me to the absolute limit if she gave me the role. But I can’t lie. I know that I’m lucky. I’m realizing more and more that these roles come maybe once or twice in a career. To have gotten one so early on feels like a real blessing, but also makes me realize I can’t compare every script to this one.

This story is set during a very particular time and location in history. Did you study what was happening in Australia during the early 19th century to get a better sense of what these characters were going through?

I did a lot of research. Between getting cast and filming, there were about nine months, so I used that time to devour every documentary and book I could find. I educated myself on the history of Australia and the Aboriginal history. I studied post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and violence against women and sexual violence in general.

The physical nature of your role must’ve taken a toll on you. What was the actual shoot like, especially since most of it is outdoors?

We were filming in pretty inhospitable locations. I knew it would be a grueling shoot. I think the shoot was for 54 days and I was in 52 of those. I was working 14-16 hours a day. A lot of prep went into it, but that’s a luxury that you don’t get on a lot of projects. I auditioned more than three years ago, so the wait seemed endless. It was torture.

Revenge films aren’t anything new, but why do you think this one feels different? The rage your character shows and the change she goes through during the film felt more urgent than most revenge films I’ve seen in the past.

I think one way it’s different is that you don’t get the payoff that you’re quite expecting. The film really looks at the cost of revenge. Things don’t get wrapped up neatly with a bow as they do frequently with films. Clare is going on a quest for revenge, but I, personally, don’t see it as a “rape-revenge” movie. She’s going after [the man] who stole everything from her. She had been enduring his abuse for a long, long time because she wanted to protect her family. When she goes for revenge, he has not only taken her sense of self and her body, but also her child and her husband and her future and her dreams.

What was your relationship like with Sam Claflin (the British lieutenant) when the cameras weren’t rolling? Did you try to steer clear of him to keep that intensity high on the set or was it a real working collaboration?

Sam and I had a discussion early on about whether we should hang out before and after the shoot. We thought it was an interesting idea if we kept some distance. But as soon as we started workshopping, we realized we had to do the opposite. I had to get as close to him as possible. It was important for us to feel like we were safe with one another. When you’re shooting the kinds of scenes you have to shoot together, personally, I can’t put myself in an emotionally fragile place to get an authentic performance without trusting the other actors completely. So, we really got to know each other very well. We got really close as a group. I was sobbing in between takes and they would comfort me and just hold me. Everyone was just so sensitive to what was going on and what we were trying to do with the performances.

I’m sure you know there will be people who dismiss the film without seeing it simply because of the violent aspects of it. As you talk about this film, do you feel like you have to defend it or would you rather it speak for itself?

I don’t feel I have to defend it, no. I think the nice thing about giving yourself wholeheartedly to a project is that we know that we did it for honest and honorable reasons. The reality is that these are realities of colonialism and war. We see it going on even today. You can’t tell an honest story and depict a time in history without showing the violence. If you’re going to do that, you need to show just how terrible it is. I’m really proud of how we’ve shown it because we really focus on not dehumanizing the victims. In our film, it’s really about looking at the human being and the emotional cost of violence. We’ve become so desensitized to violence and what it actually means to inflict pain on another human being. So, I absolutely stand by every frame of this film. I think it makes people angry because it makes people feel things they don’t want to feel. But I think art has a place in making us look at society and at ourselves.

Gregory Nava – El Norte (35th Anniversary)

September 3, 2019 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

The story of Gregory Nava’s grandfather was something his family never talked about. The director and Oscar-nominated screenwriter’s grandfather was one of two million people of Mexican heritage — many of them U.S. citizens — deported (or coerced to self-deport) during the Great Depression by local, and sometimes federal, authorities.

“My family was ripped apart,” Nava told me during an interview ahead of the rerelease of his 1984 drama El Norte. “It was a family secret. It took time for me to find out about it. People keep these kinds of secrets because they want to conform and assimilate.”

A one-night only screening of El Norte takes place in theaters nationwide September 15. Nava recognizes the film’s rerelease is a good chance for Latino parents to speak to their children about their family’s history — especially since U.S. history is repeating itself today with President Donald Trump enforcing, what Nava calls, “draconian policies.”

“We need to teach our children who we are and where we came from,” he said. “We need to stand strong and educate them to never forget their past.”

Some of the Trump administration’s cruel practices, Nava points out, include President’s family-separation policy introduced last year that removed thousands of children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border in an attempt to deter migration; mass deportation of nonviolent undocumented immigrants; policies that punish immigrants for accepting government assistance and Trump vilifying Latinos and other immigrants — an action many of the President’s critics say is responsible for the mass shooting at an El Paso Walmart earlier this month where 22 people were killed by a white nationalist targeting Mexicans.

“Our Latino community is in crisis,” Nava said. “All of us are under attack, not just immigrants. We are all in those cages with those children. All of us are in that Walmart in El Paso. We must rise to the occasion and get our message out about who we are, so that what’s happening in America right now can never happen again.”

Nava said it starts with compassion — the same compassion he wrote in his Oscar-nominated screenplay for El Norte. The film follows two indigenous teenagers who flee a Civil War in Central America to find a better life in the U.S. At that time, communist revolutions in countries like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala raged on, which inspired Nava to make his two protagonists Guatemalan.

“I was deeply moved by these true Americans — these Native Americans,” he said. “They had been ripped from their homes and suffering from genocide. I knew I had to tell their story, which is universal.”

In 1993, El Norte was selected for preservation by the U.S. National Film Registry in the Library of Congress. It celebrates the 35th anniversary of its theatrical release this year.

“[The rerelease of El Norte] is so bittersweet because 35 years later, the situation has not changed on the southern border,” Nava said. “In fact, it’s gotten worse. The message of El Norte is more relevant than when we originally made it. All Latinos need to get together again in a positive way. This should be a call for action.”

There is potential for a movement, Nava said. Today’s political climate reminds him of what took place after El Norte was originally released in the U.S. in 1984. Two years later, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which “legalized” most undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Nava likes to think El Norte had a hand in motivating immigrants to demand the government recognize them as citizens.

“[El Norte] had a tremendous impact when it was first released,” he said. “The thing I’m most proud of is how the immigrant community picked up on the film and went to the government and got protective status. We thought, ‘We’re on the right track.’ Yet, it’s gotten derailed and now we’re worse than we were before. It’s tragic.”

The country is suffering, Nava said, because the Trump administration “has no humanity.”

“They don’t understand who we are as a nation,” he said. “They don’t know that immigrants are the ones who built the United States and who keep it young and vital. From all those immigrants comes our future.”

But can Hollywood help sustain a brighter future for America by simply making movies like El Norte, Sin Nombre, A Better Life and others? Do fiction films really wield that much power? Nava believes it’s vital that Latinos are portrayed on screen in positive ways, so that more people know that in real life we’re not all drug dealers and criminals — an identity Trump has tried to cast on the culture since announcing his run for presidency in 2015.

“It’s an important thing to do, and we need to do more of it,” Nava said. “Hollywood has a major part in this. They have to open up their pocketbooks to let more Latino filmmakers get their films made. People don’t see many of us on screen, and when they do see us, we’re narcos. That negative portrayal creates a negative effect.”

Getting more opportunities for Latinos is something Nava has been fighting for his entire career. He’s had to prove himself every time he wants to make a new movie that his last success — from El Norte to Mi Familia to Selena — wasn’t a fluke and that Latino stories are important enough to tell.

“It’s a sad commentary that Latinos have the worst representation of any group in our country,” he said. “But, I believe a sea change is coming. We have won our place at the table. Now, Hollywood has to respond. They need to see our heart and soul.”

This interview was initially published by

Marc Maron – Sword of Trust

September 3, 2019 by  
Filed under Interviews

Best known for his popular podcast WTF with Marc Maron and for his role on Netflix’s GLOW, comedian Marc Maron has been branching out as an actor over the last couple of years.

In his newest film, Sword of Trust, Maron plays Mel, a pawn shop owner in Alabama who attempts to help a couple sell a sword to a group of conspiracy theorists who believe it proves the South actually won the Civil War.

Along with Sword of Trust, Maron stars in the stand-alone film Joker later this year, which features Joaquin Phoenix as the title clown. Maron also has roles in the crime-drama Wonderland, directed by Peter Berg (Lone Survivor) and starring Oscar nominee Mark Wahlberg (The Departed), and in the U.K. drama Stardust about musician David Bowie’s first trip to the U.S. in 1971.

During an interview with me last month, Maron talked about expanding his horizons as an actor, the difference between film reviewers and film critics and why moviegoers who aren’t necessarily comic-book movie fans should be excited about Joker.

You’ve received acclaim for your role in GLOW and you do an amazing job in Sword of Trust. Was acting something that came second nature to you or did you have to hone it as much as you did with stand-up comedy?

Alongside comedy, I always wanted to do it. I did it a bit in high school and college. I would take classes here and there. I don’t know if it’s second nature, but I think I have the ability to be present and not notice there are cameras around me. I’ve been working kind of hard to learn more about it. I’m comfortable doing it, so it’s a mixture of natural ability and just learning on the job.

I’m sure as a stand-up comedian and as a podcast host, you have to be on your toes when it comes to what the audience or the guest might throw at you. Would you consider that practice for Sword of Trust since it’s a film that had more narrative freedom than most movies?

Sure. With most of my stand-up [comedy], I create it in real time on stage through talking. I can improvise like that. But that’s usually on my own. Certainly, the podcast has taught me how to listen better and engage my empathy with other people. As I act more, I went out of my way to have more actors on the podcast to get free acting lessons.

Well, the acting lessons seem to have paid off in your new film, especially the scene in the back of the moving truck. Where did that come from? Was that soliloquy you give all from your head? It was very touching.

Well, apparently this movie was all improvised, but there was an outline. There was a story in place. For that scene, the direction on the page was, “Get to know each other in the van.” [Director] Lynn Shelton had some backstory points that were somewhat similar to my life. Then there was this whole other element that I just had to create in the moment. But I’ve become pretty good at creating memories for the people I’m playing and locking into them and believing them. That was nine hours in a van. By the end of the day, I was at the end of my rope. It was hot and I was angry. The last shot of the day was that close up. I was really able to connect to the story emotionally.

Is there something specific you’re looking for when a script comes across your desk? Has that changed since you first started taking these acting gigs?

I really didn’t do much acting [before]. I didn’t really pursue it as a job. I was a comic. I really didn’t have an agent. I really didn’t like auditioning. It was too brutal. Acting is always something I wanted to do, and I’m grateful that I am able to do it, but I don’t have to do it. It’s not really my job. But I like to do it. In terms of projects, I want to take more risks as an actor. But until I feel really confident in doing that, I look at things to see if I can see myself in the part and whether it’s in my wheelhouse and how long it’s going to take and who I’d be working with and what are the chances of it actually happening or being finished. There’s a lot of little things that I look at. But I don’t have to do it, which is a nice place to be. The ability to say no and not worry about it is definitely a gift.

I know you don’t have to act, but I think you could definitely use Sword of Trust as a calling card moving forward if you want to show directors that you have range.

I hope so. I always wanted to do my own TV show and act as somebody who wasn’t really me in a TV show. Both of those dreams came true. The other thing I wanted was to have a solid, small part in a movie that would really showcase what I’m capable of. I thought it would be in a big movie, but it turns out to be in this nice, little movie that Lynn made. Yeah, I hope that it gets me some interesting opportunities to act. That would be exciting.

One of my favorite podcasts of yours – and I’m being biased because he’s my favorite director working today – was the one with Paul Thomas Anderson. Are there any directors working right now that if they called you up and offered you even a small part in a movie, you wouldn’t hesitate to say yes?

[Anderson] is definitely one of them. I think David O. Russell would be fun to work with. Obviously, [I’d like to work with] all the directors we’ve grown to know and love in our life, but there’s a lot of new people doing work that … I look at their movies and I think they do amazing stuff. I’m pretty open. As long as it’s collaborative and has big minds behind it and big creativity in it. I’m sort of excited about doing that kind of stuff.

Something I didn’t know about you until recently is that you minored in film criticism in college. How do you see that landscape today? Do you think it’s over-saturated?

There’s a difference between a review and real criticism. When you read thorough criticism that puts the conversation about the film into the context of art and film and literature and genre expectations, I like reading that stuff – if it has some depth to it. There are probably enough film reviewers around. I think real criticism is a different animal. I think there is always room for that.

How do you confront reviews of your own work? Do you read them? Ignore them? Do you take them to heart?

If someone is smart and they’re thinking about the film, then maybe I can learn something about myself and my performance from that. I’ll only take things to heart if they make me look at it in a different way. I’ve always learned stuff from smart people who have the ability to be honest and whose opinion is founded in something logical or intelligent. I don’t Google myself or anything. Certainly, I’ve been offended by things that are just mean or nasty or condescending. But if someone is smart and they have a point, I’ll take it to heart and think it through.

Well, you definitely have a lot of smart people as guests on your podcast. As engaging as I’m sure each of them are, is there a topic that might come up where you would immediately feel out of your element? Would you slink into your chair for 18th century Russian opera?

I don’t slink into my chair, but I certainly – at some point in my life – realized that it’s better to say, “I don’t know,” than to pretend like you do. Generally, I won’t slink into my chair. I’ll say something like, “I don’t know much about that. Can you tell me what I need to know so I can learn something?”

Do you still enjoy the podcast aspect of your career as much as you did when you started a decade ago? Or has it become a chore as most things do if you do them for a long time and aren’t loving it as much as when you first started?

It’s a job. We have a schedule to meet. We post two new shows every week. I find that anytime I get tired of it … I talk to new people and I never know what’s going to happen. I always get the same amount of anxiety and dread and nervousness behind every conversation. Every conversation is a new thing. Almost none of them have I not been completely engaged or interested to have. Talking about myself at the beginning, sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to say. But we just keep doing it because there’s no reason to stop. No matter how much I get tired of it, I still love talking to the people that I talk to.

In the past, you’ve said you do limited research on your guests. Do you still work that way?

It depends on how interested I am and how much research I have to do. I like to be familiar with people. Sometimes I go out of my way to get a deeper handle on people than I used to. But I still don’t write a list of questions.

I’m not a big comic-book movie fan. I loved Logan, but I’m not going to die if I’m not the first one in line to see Avengers 12. That said, I am very much looking forward to Joker. Why is someone like me, who is not invested in comic-book movies, so excited about this particular one?

I think it’s because there’s a different approach to [Joker]. It’s not a cape and leotard movie. There are no flying people in it. I think it’s because of the way [director] Todd Phillips approached the character of the Joker – with a certain amount of license around an origin story movie. I think he took it on as a gritty character study of a mentally ill person whose journey through life molded him into this character who compromises his sense of morality and becomes this monstrous presence. I think there is a bit more intimacy and grit and humanity to it. I think it’s going to be an exciting movie.

Feliz Ramirez – Grand Hotel (TV)

September 3, 2019 by  
Filed under Chaléwood, Interviews

Although her focus was on playing volleyball as a high school student at Antonian College Prep (c/o 2010), Feliz Ramirez never forgot how passionate she was as a child about becoming an actress.

With a father who worked in the advertising industry, Ramirez started auditioning for roles in the Spanish-language commercials he produced when she was only four years old.

“My first commercial was for Paragon Cable,” Ramirez told me during an interview a few weeks ago. “As soon as I got in front of the camera and they started putting a little bit of makeup on me, I was like, ‘OK, I like this!’”

Twenty-plus years later, Ramirez still enjoys how glamourous it feels to be in the spotlight. She said she gets to “play dress-up” just like when she was a kid living in San Antonio on her new ABC series Grand Hotel. Executive produced by Eva Longoria (TV’s Desperate Housewives), the new soapy drama follows the lives of the Mendoza family led by patriarch Santiago Mendoza (Oscar-nominated actor Demián Bichir), who owns the Riviera Grand Hotel in Miami Beach. The show is a remake of the Spanish soap opera Grand Hotel, which aired in Spain from 2011 to 2013.

Currently on the fourth episode of its debut season, Ramirez has been a standout as Santiago’s self-absorbed stepdaughter Carolina, who has already (in just the first three episodes) cheated on her fiancé with a celebrity rapper, backstabbed her sister and won’t stop desperately fawning over the new waiter hired at the hotel who has zero interest in her.

During an interview a few weeks ago, Ramirez talked about her time in San Antonio, what it has been like showing off her character’s “evil side” and the diversity on the show.

Grand Hotel airs Monday nights on ABC at 9 p.m. CT.

Before we get into the show, tell me about your life in San Antonio.

I grew up there my whole life. I was born in Santa Rosa Hospital downtown. I grew up on Woodlawn near San Pedro. Then I moved to the Medical Center and went to grade school at St. Paul’s Catholic School and went to high school at Antonian College Prep. I lived in San Antonio all through high school and then I moved out of state for college.

Where did you go to college?

I played volleyball, so I got a scholarship. My first year, I went to a school in North Carolina, Mount Olive College, to play volleyball. Then, I transferred to St. Francis College in Brooklyn. The reason I transferred is because I wanted to move to a place where I could pursue acting. I knew I needed to leave small town North Carolina and go to Los Angeles or New York. [St. Francis] offered me a full ride, so that’s how I got to New York. I lived there for eight years.

And now 20-something years later, you’re starring on an ABC drama executive produced by Eva Longoria. What attracted you to the role of Carolina? So far, she’s not a very nice person.

(Laughs) Carolina is such a fun character even though she’s not the nicest person. She can be ridiculous in an entertaining, funny way. A lot of people tell me, “You know, you’re nothing like Carolina in real life,” which I appreciate. I like challenging myself. She’s ridiculous, but she’s got this really strong personality that I love being able to take over. You’ll see a development in her throughout the season.

The relationship between Carolina and her sister Yoli (Justina Adorno), so far, has been the most enjoyable one to watch unfold. The evil stepsisters from Cinderella are referenced in the first episode, but Carolina seems to be the only one of the two who fits the bill.

Yeah, I think what they meant by that is that Carolina always feels like she needs her sidekick. They’re sisters, so they do depend on each other, but they fight all the time. Carolina throws her under the bus a few times. But, yeah, I think [Carolina] takes on more of the evil side. At times, I felt like the evil stepsister personality come out, but I think it’s a little different. I think when you see the rest of the season, the evil transforms. There are some heartfelt moments and some dynamics that you’ll be surprised come from the sisters. A lot of times, when you think of evil stepsisters, you think of these crazy, mean girls. But Carolina comes in just wanting to have a party.

As a Latina actress, what do you think about what your executive producer Eva Longoria has been able to do behind the scenes in the TV industry in the last few years? She’s been able to create content on shows like Telenovela, Devious Maids and now Grand Hotel for actresses of color who might not get the same opportunity on other shows?

I think it’s incredible and so important, especially during this time. I feel very honored to be a part of this project. I love the diversity in our show. We had such a variety of directors throughout the season (including Longoria) – a lot of women. Our DPs (director of photography) are female, too. It’s really nice to see that Eva is very passionate about diversity, not only Latinos, but all races.

Ari Aster – Midsommar

September 3, 2019 by  
Filed under Interviews

From Joni Mitchell to Taylor Swift, it’s no surprise when a musician writes a song about a breakup to help them find closure. Filmmakers, however, rarely get the opportunity to share their experiences of a failed relationship unless they are, well, actually making a movie that includes a failed relationship.

Such is the case for writer/director Ari Aster (Hereditary) with his second feature film Midsommar, an abstract exploration of the end of a relationship he experienced five years ago. The horror film, which is much more symbolic in nature than an average “breakup movie,” follows a troubled couple (Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor) during a trip with friends to Sweden to attend a fabled mid-summer festival. The festival, which only occurs every 90 years, turns out to be operated by a pagan cult.

During an interview this past weekend, Aster and I talked about his intention in writing a breakup movie like Midsommar, his frustration with some mainstream horror and why he’d rather leave interpretation to the audience.

You’ve been open in recent weeks about how you wrote the script for Midsommar after experiencing a breakup. Was there something specific you wanted to say about the kind of pain you went through during that time?

Yeah, I went looking to do a breakup movie that felt as big as a breakup feels. From anyone else’s perspective, it’s a minor enough event. If it was a relationship with any real consequence, then a breakup can be cataclysmic and turn your life upside down and almost feel like a death. I wanted to make a big, operatic breakup movie that felt and played as consequential as the end of a relationship feels to the parties involved.

Without revealing too much information, does this person you experienced the breakup with know you’ve written a movie based on it?

I don’t know. I imagine they might have some idea. I can’t imagine they’d be happy about it. But it’s not about them or the relationship itself. It was written as I was piecing through the ruins of that relationship.

When you write something as twisted as Hereditary and Midsommar, do you find that people tend to think the person creating the stories must also be twisted? I’ve talked to horror directors in the past that think it’s difficult sometimes for people to separate the creator from the material?

Yeah, but that’s an occupational hazard. I’ve made peace with it.

Some of the imagery in both Hereditary and Midsommar stays with you long after the credits roll. Is that a goal as a horror director?

Yeah, if you make a horror movie, why not try to make an impression on people? I have my own taste. I’m not somebody who’s into jump scares. I feel like everything we see day to day is infused with dread. I enjoy building suspense and also creating a mood. I’m somebody who is more affected by images and ideas than I am by jolts.

That must be frustrating, especially since those are the kinds of horror movies mainstream audiences flock to the most.

They kind of irritate me. It’s just a matter of taste. I just don’t watch them. That kind of filmmaking is frustrating to me, but I also don’t do it or watch them. I watch all sorts of movies and I hope to make all sorts of movies. [Hereditary and Midsommar] are just my contribution to the horror genre.

Do you mind explaining to people what your movies are about or would you rather them come up with their own meanings and ideas?

I’m a pretty firm believer that what’s in the film is what you need to know. I’m happy to answer people’s questions to a point and I’m honored that people want to talk to me in the first place. I’m very fortunate to be making these films, but ultimately, I’d rather not explain anything. I’m more than happy to talk about influences and what drives certain things and give some insight into what inspired me to dive into this work, but I try not to be too insufferable in my explanations.

Looking to the future, what kinds of films would you like to make – if not horror?

I’d love to play in every genre. I love romantic comedies. I love Westerns. I love musicals. I love sci-fi. I try to come to everything from a place of character. That’s my way in. Genre filmmaking offers you a structure and a framework. From there, you can play around and find a way to add your signature.

Gaspar Noé – Climax

April 25, 2019 by  
Filed under Interviews

Provocative French-Argentine filmmaker Gaspar Noé (Irreversible) might be the first to admit that his new horror-dance movie Climax isn’t necessarily something audiences haven’t seen before, but you might beg to differ.

In Climax, Noé introduces moviegoers to a large group of dancers who are celebrating a successful day of rehearsals with an after-party at their studio. The evening begins with the dancers enjoying each other’s company – gossiping, drinking, and dancing – but spirals out of control when they realize the sangria they’ve been consuming all night long has been laced with LSD.

From there, Noé’s scriptless dance party transforms into a nightmarish scenario where the dancers slowly lose their minds and find themselves participating in some of the most deviant behavior imaginable, including extreme violence, self-mutilation, and sexual perversions.

During an interview with me last week, Noé discussed where the idea for Climax originated, how shooting without a script was a liberating experience and why he decided to flip the camera upside down for long stretches of the film.

Where did the idea for Climax come from?
I was thinking of a disaster movie or a zombie movie. Some of those movies look so realistic when they’re shot in documentary style. I was thinking about a community that builds up something and then everything goes wrong. It could be a cult movie or a disaster movie or a horror-zombie movie. I started watching videos online of dancers in Paris and decided to mix these stories together. Even if [Climax] starts as a sort of musical comedy, it turns into something like a realistic horror movie.

I really like the idea of creating something beautiful and then destroying it in a horror film.
Yeah, if you’ve seen the movie Shivers by David Cronenberg, it’s about a perfect building that has been constructed for all the richest people in town and then something goes wrong. It’s like The Towering Inferno where the fire starts in the middle of the building. Human creations take a long time to build up and then it can all be destroyed. In this case, there is a substance (LSD) that is put into the sangria and everyone turns crazy and paranoid and aggressive. It’s about a whole community turning into reptiles because of their fear.

How difficult is it as a director to make a film as demanding as this without a script?
I’m lucky because [Climax] is produced by the best producers in France. They like cinema and they wanted the movie to exist, so they invested their own money. Without them, this movie would never have happened. I heard that [legendary French filmmaker Jean-Luc] Godard could get financing for his movies with just two pages of a script. I always dreamt of being as free as Godard could be at that time. He was allowed to do movies in a way that weren’t usually done.

As a filmmaker, is it important to you to make audiences feel like they’re watching something on screen that they’ve never seen before?
Yeah, but there’s nothing new in this movie. You’ve seen many movies with crane [camera shots] over dancers. You could look at movies like La La Land or Fame. There are movies about dancers in a school where things go wrong. There’s been disasters movies where rich people are dying. There’s nothing new in this movie. It’s just kind of different, but I did not invent anything. The only thing I hadn’t seen before that’s in this movie is an upside down title card. I liked that idea.

Well, you also turned the camera upside down for long stretches of the film, too, which I don’t think I’ve seen before.
For a long time, I wanted to see a movie with the camera upside down. There are some painters who exhibit their painting and portraits upside down, but I had never seen that in a movie. I always wanted to see a whole scene in a movie upside down, so in this movie I finally did it. As a director, you get bored, so if you can find any new idea that makes you feel like you’re not replaying your own movies or someone else’s movies, it’s very enjoyable. I also had never seen a movie with the main credits in the middle [of the movie], so I did that, too. You have to have fun and amuse yourself.

I have to admit, during the long upside down scene, I cheated and turned my head upside down to watch for a while until I realized it was going to go on for a while.
(Laughs) Did it look better? If you put it in the right sense, there is less going on than if you put it upside down. Upside down seems scarier because you can’t really read the images.

How else did you keep yourself from getting bored making Climax?
For the first time I used a drone! We improvised the opening scene. Probably now I’ll be addicted to drones.

Was it ever an idea to allow your cast to become method actors and actually drop acid to shoot this film?
Nah, because we had such a short time to shoot it – 15 days. I didn’t want anyone to be drunk or wasted in front or behind the camera. We were all being very professional. We couldn’t fail. And to tell you the truth, most of these dancers are between the ages of 18-23 and when I asked them about drugs, none of them really used or tried any. They were all clean by choice because when dancers are wasted or drunk, they turn into bad dancers.

Jason Drucker – Bumblebee (DVD)

April 3, 2019 by  
Filed under Interviews

In what most critics are calling the best film in the Hasbro “Transformers” franchise, “Bumblebee” follows the titular robot character, a member of the Autobots who finds refuge on Earth as the villainous Decepticons attempt to track him down.

While on Earth, Bumblebee (AKA B-127) meets Charlie (Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld), a 17-year-old outcast who pulls the broken-down robot (disguised as a yellow Volkswagen Beetle) from a scrapyard and makes it her new car. She soon realizes that Bumblebee is much more than just an old junker when the Decepticons land on Earth with plans to destroy him and the planet.

There to support Charlie and Bumblebee is her family, including Charlie’s younger brother Otis (Jason Drucker), a funny and sarcastic kid who knows how to annoy his older sister, but is there for her when she really needs him.

During an interview with Drucker, who is also known for the Nickelodeon series “Every Witch Way” and the 2017 comedy sequel “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” talked about how much he knew about “Transformers” before landing the role, working with Oscar nominee Hailee Steinfeld for the second time and revealed the actor he would most like to work with in the future.

“Bumblebee” was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 2.

I know you’re 13 years old now. How old were you when you shot “Bumblebee?”

I believe we began shooting in the summer of 2017, so I was 12. I think I turned 12 on set.

Does it feel like a lifetime ago?

It honestly does feel like a lifetime ago! I just remember waiting for the premiere. Waiting a year is pretty long. It might as well have been 10 years. We worked very hard on the film.

What was your initial reaction when you got the phone call that you booked the role of Otis?

I was in a complete state of shock. I got it on my first audition, so I thought that was already pretty impressive. And, I mean, it’s a “Transformers” film, so that is amazing. I never really imagined that I would be this fortunate in this industry. But I’m really grateful and thankful for all the things I’ve accomplished already.

You are way too young to have watched the original “Transformers” cartoon growing up, but did people tell you about it when you landed this role?

Yeah, my dad did. I’m pretty sure he watched them. He showed me a few episodes on YouTube. I just grew up with the 21st century cartoons and, of course, the films that already existed. I’ve seen the first, second and third ones. I was already a pretty big fan of [the franchise].

Well, personally, I think “Bumblebee” is easily the best “Transformers” movie of the franchise, and I’m not alone in that regard. How do you feel when people tell you it’s the best movie out of the bunch?

I feel really grateful because I am a part of a franchise that has been so successful. It seems like everyone is really liking [“Bumblebee”], including myself. It was such a blast to film. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it – that I’m in a “Transformers” film.

Your character, Otis, is a bit of a sarcastic kid. How close in real life are you to him?

(Laughs) Honestly, I think [Otis] has a big portion of my true personality. This is actually the third character I’ve played that almost resembles me – chatty and sarcastic half the time. Sometimes I can be a bit rude to my siblings like Otis is with Charlie. But, of course, like in the movie, I do become accepting of Charlie, so that resembles me, as well, in real life.

Something a young actor like yourself doesn’t always get a chance to do is work with an Oscar-nominated actress like Hailee Steinfeld. What was the experience like working with her?

Something a lot of people don’t know is that this is my second film with her. (Drucker and Steinfeld also starred together in the 2015 adventure-comedy “Barely Lethal”). Getting a second film with her was great. But like you said, she is very talented – acting and singing. She is very wise as well. A couple of times on set, she pulled me to the side and spoke to me about education and how my life was going. It’s always a blast to work with her.

What about someone like John Cena? Were you a wrestling fan at all?

I wasn’t a superfan like my friends were. It was actually my friends that got me into WWE and I watched it for a good half year. Of course, John Cena was my favorite wrestler. Now, he’s getting into movies as well. I’ve seen a couple of them. So, to be in a movie with him is just insane. Getting to meet him was awesome, too.

Can you give us any news on any sequel talk that might be out there?

For the most part, it’s all classified, but if there is a sequel, I would love to be in it.

Moving forward in your career, is there anyone you would like to work with specifically – and actor or a director?

Jim Carrey. He would definitely be an honor to work with. I’ve seen a bunch of his movies. I love his comedies. To be able to work with him or at least meet him would be an absolute dream.

What’s your favorite Jim Carrey movie?

“Ace Ventura: Pet Detective,” for sure. Actually, both of them. I just rewatched the second one (“Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls”) two weeks ago. It’s even funnier the second time. Will Ferrell is also another one of my idols.

It’s too bad they already made an “Ace Ventura Jr.” movie a few years ago. You were too young to star in it back then.

Wait, they did?!

Yeah, it’s Ace Ventura, but he’s a kid.

Oh, dang! I’ve gotta watch that!

OK, so we know you’re definitely into comedy. Would you like to try another genre – maybe drama or horror?

Oh, a horror movie, for sure. I am a huge horror movie fanatic. I’ve seen every horror movie possible, so to be able to work on a horror movie would be insane.