Archive for Interviews

Interviews: JACINDA BARRETT (Maggie James) Q&A

Jacinda Barrett plays Maggie James in the new adventure blockbuster Poseidon. She is one of the few hundred survivors of a luxury cruise ship hit by a rogue wave. She and a few others must forge a path together through layers of wreckage as the ship continues to sink.

QUESTION: What was it like spending so many hours in the water?

JACINDA BARRETT: It’s intense working in water. You deal with a whole bunch of stuff that you couldn’t foresee. All your senses are shut down under water, which is fine if you’re just frolicking in the pool. But if you’re doing a scene where you’re swimming to one point under a tunnel, and there’s only one access, one way you can get out. It, it can be a little scary because you’re totally blind. I had Mike Vogel swimming in front of me, who had steel-cap Fry boots on. So, I don’t know how close I’m getting to him. Is he gonna hit me underwater? The only thing you have to reassure you is that water safety people are looking out for you. So, if anything happens, they’ll pull you out. But it’s just the idea that you’ve got your safety in someone else’s hands. You have to let all your fears go and just dive in.

QUESTION: You did most of the stunts yourself. How was it going down the hallway flat on your back?

JACINDA BARRETT: That was really hard, learning to do those stunt jumps, because I had a space of about this wide to do it in and obviously, it’s upside down. There was a steel-covered light right there and corpses here and so you’re doing it in these confined spaces and that was a little hard.

QUESTION: Your character has an intense moment with her son in the film. How is it to do emotional scenes underwater?

JACINDA BARRETT: In that scene, I just connected to the fact that no matter what, I have to make him feel like he’s gonna be okay because if he panics, he’ll drown in there. That overrides everything else. Because your mother instinct kicks in and you’ve got to protect your child. Nothing else matters. You risk your life for your child. So, it must be horrible for any parent watching that scene to think about their son being trapped like that. Um, so that’s just how I approached that stuff. Forget everything else and just stick to the most important thing, which is to make him feel safe.

QUESTION: How much do you surrender into the genre?

JACINDA BARRETT: We would have discussions in the mornings and what was written would always become a totally different scene once you saw the set because it’s all related to the situation. What are the obstacles you’re dealing with in that situation to stay alive? We did a lot of discussions and Wolfgang was really open. That dialogue with my son is mostly made up. It’s what I was saying to him – “I’m here with you and you’ve got to be strong. And I’m not gonna leave you.” It was all stuff I was just making up with the actor, Jimmy, who played Conor. And the bit where he gets pulled under, that just happened. He went under in the scene. And they left it in because it worked; it was just an accident. Something happened where he lost his balance and Wolfgang was really open to seeing what the honesty of the situation would be once we were in it. But there are so many things that I’d never done in a movie like this that you’re dealing with. You’re shooting with always more than three cameras, which changes everything. If I move so much for camera A, I screw up camera B’s shot. You can’t overlap as much. You have to be mindful that you’re in close-up while you’re also in a wide shot, while still also over the shoulder. You couldn’t move because of the safety issues, of how far your harness would let you go or what CGI thing was actually going to be put in there. So, you are very much a small piece of the puzzle as the actor, unlike a character-driven drama where you get to decide, you’re gonna go here and go here and do. You very much have to work within all the other elements and actually, I enjoyed that, seeing my place in the picture differently and surrendering to the bigger picture of the movie. I learned a tremendous amount about filmmaking.

QUESTION: How did you act while doing all that?

JACINDA BARRETT: In every scene, it’s up to you to make it truthful. So, in that way, no matter what you’re doing, you’ve got to be honest. But you have to surrender to a lot of different situations. You’ve got to go with it. Kurt said to me early on, “You do as much as you can, and you’re always finding the truth and then there are certain situations where the stages are as they are. And the effects are as they are. And you have to learn how to get in there and accept it make that honest for you.” Right before that, I’d done this movie called The Last Kiss up in Montreal, which was all about the characters and I had five-page scenes where we could move wherever we wanted and it was all about our emotional intent in the scenes. And, so, I literally wrapped that one night and the next morning was on Poseidon. And It was so different. It was a such a bigger movie in every single way, from the five sound stages to the enormous crew that was involved, all the stunts, all the CGI people. So, it is an adjustment so is doing a comedy; so is doing a period drama. Every time you walk in, you have to surrender your preconceived ideas and go with whatever this director envisions. And if you don’t, you don’t get very far forcing your will.

QUESTION: Are you losing your Australian accent?

JACINDA BARRETT: I know. I know. It’s sad.

QUESTION: You’re actually from Brisbane, right?

JACINDA BARRETT: I am.

QUESTION: Your dad’s a firefighter?

JACINDA BARRETT: He is. Well, he was. He’s retired now.

QUESTION: Did your background prepare you at all for the role?

JACINDA BARRETT: Growing up in Australia, water is such a part of your life. You learn to swim almost before you can walk. You have the swimming lessons from such a young age; people don’t do that here.

QUESTION: It’s more important than walking and, and reading.

JACINDA BARRETT: Almost. Yeah. So, so for that, the water part, I was so comfortable already. And the fire stuff, well that’s all regulated and watched and stuff. As far as my accent goes, I’ve been living away for so long, ever since I was 17 and a half. One month out of high school, I left Australia.

QUESTION: You went to Japan and England?

JACINDA BARRETT: Yeah. All over Europe. And the thing is, I didn’t lose my accent until I started acting and had to play American in so many roles and then I married an American. I’m sure that has something to do with it. So, it started to go away a little bit. I’ve got to get it back. I’ve got to go back and live in Australia for a little bit, get it back.

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Interviews: Alan Bennett Syndicated Interview

Since his emergence as one quarter of the Beyond The Fringe team Alan Bennett has cemented his reputation as one of Britain’s most successful playwrights. His work for the stage includes Forty Years On, Habeas Corpus, Kafka’s Dick, An Englishman Abroad and A Question of Attribution. He adapted The Wind In The Willows for the National Theatre in the 1990s, and wrote The Madness of George III.

Directed by Nicholas Hytner, this was turned into an acclaimed film in 1994, re-titled The Madness of King George. Among Bennett’s other writing for the screen is A Private Function and Prick Up Your Ears, while his award winning television work includes Talking Heads.

In 2004 he reunited with Hytner to bring The History Boys to the National Theatre, an 80s set story of eight aspirant grammar school pupils sitting their Oxbridge exams. Guided by the twin teaching influences of the inspirational but flawed Hector (Richard Griffiths) and the cynical Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) they find themselves torn between romance and pragmatism at an important stage in their lives.

How personal a project was The History Boys for you?

“It was personal to me in the sense that I went to a northern grammar school, a state school in Leeds, which didn’t normally send pupils to Oxford or Cambridge. Our year was not particularly clever I think, but the headmaster had himself been to Cambridge and decided to try and push some of us to go through the scholarship examinations. About half a dozen of us did get in, not all reading history – in that sense it’s not like the play – but I did history, so I suppose in that sense it mirrors my own experience.”

And university did prove a life changing experience for you, leading to Beyond The Fringe and your subsequent writing and performing career, didn’t it?

“What happened in those days was, before you went to university you had to do your national service. It happened that in my national service I went on a course to learn Russian and that course was taught at Cambridge. So I spent a year at Cambridge, I’d got a place to study at the university proper afterwards, but I thought that since I’d been to Cambridge now maybe I ought to try to go to Oxford. So I ended up going to Oxford.”

When did you and Nicholas Hytner think that this could be another film?

“I never thought of it as a film really. We didn’t start talking about it until it had been on at the National for nine months or so. And then he said if we were to make a film of it it would have to be in the summer holidays [to get a suitable school location], so we ought to think about it. We talked about it and everyone in the cast was keen. We then devised the method with [producer] Kevin Loader of financing it. Then I started writing the script, though there wasn’t much writing to do, it was mostly cutting and Nick was as good at that as I was. He’s as responsible for the script as I am.”

It was important to secure the original cast members, particularly the eight ‘boys’ who originated their roles at the National, wasn’t it?

“Yes, though you would have been a brave man to tell them that their roles were going to be played by somebody else. There was never any question that it would be re-cast, they had such a grip on their characters. But they’d enjoyed doing it, and they’d enjoyed doing the film and the fact that they’re at the start of their careers and they’ve had a success like this was wonderful.”

How much did they bring to the development of their characters?

“When I wrote the script originally I had a list of names, this was before we cast anybody, but I didn’t really know what they were going to look like or what they would be like. And so I just wrote down ‘Boy 1’, ‘Boy 2’, ‘Boy 3’ and then Nick allotted the stuff, according to the boys who turned up. We found that Timms, who’s played by James Corden, was very funny so he tended to get funnier lines. Once you found he could do a lot with them you tend to write more for him. Even when I was writing extra lines for the film script I’d still put ‘Boy 1’, ‘Boy 2’, ‘Boy 3’, and then left it to Nick to share them out.”

The boys are great in their roles, but clearly the casting of Richard Griffiths as Hector was equally crucial, wasn’t it?

“I’d not thought of him for it, although I had worked with him before. But once you cast him it all fell into place somehow and it did seem like you couldn’t have thought of anybody else – which is what good casting is. They inhabit the role so completely that you can’t see round it any more.”

The production seems to make no compromises to the very English story and setting, and yet you enjoyed great success with it on Broadway. That must have been very pleasing.

“When it went to New York I was booked to go about a fortnight before it opened in order to listen to a preview audience and see what jokes didn’t work. I went along and I couldn’t really see there was any difference. The audience seemed to respond in exactly the same way as the London audiences had done. So we ended up not altering anything. At the time it seemed more of a gamble, but in retrospect you can see that the theme of trying to get into a good university, and the clash between an education that’s based on examinations and qualifications and an education for life such as Hector represents, that’s a fairly universal thing. In that sense it’s not surprising.”

Now that the stage run has ended, it must be nice to have a version of it preserved forever on film, isn’t it?

“It’s a particular pleasure because in fact the film is a very good account of the play. It’s shorter obviously, and there are some parts of it that have been cut. But the actual spirit of the film is the same as that of the play.”

How much of a political piece did you intend it to be, either in the 1980s Thatcher era setting, or did you perhaps have some more modern reading in mind?

“It’s only set in the 1980s for a reason which has nothing to do with politics really. It’s because that was the last time that Oxford and Cambridge examined in the way that they do in the film. That’s why it was set in the 80s. I didn’t think of it as a political parable in any way, and politics isn’t particularly referred to. I think that kind of teaching though, which Irwin represents, is much more prevalent now than probably it was 20 or 30 years ago. Teachers who’ve been to see the play say that there just isn’t time for the kind of teaching Hector does now, that their schedules are so horrendous that if they wanted to teach like that now they couldn’t do it. And it wouldn’t be fair on the children because they are keen to get through their exams, if they want to get anywhere.”

The thumping 80s soundtrack is surely the least likely of any that has accompanied one of your movies, isn’t it?

“It’s all a mystery to me, I didn’t have anything to do with it. When we were choosing the music for the film I think Nick asked the boys what they’d like and they made a list. It was mainly a list of things they couldn’t stand. They wanted as much of Kate Bush as they could have, they didn’t want Madness – which I like. So a lot of them were their choices.”

The actors who play your History Boys are about as old now as you were when you found success with Beyond The Fringe. And yet they feel so much younger, don’t they?

“I’m still, in my 70s, trammelled and inhibited by class and upbringing and all that. But when the Prince of Wales came to the charity screening we had in aid of the Prince’s Trust, and he and the Duchess of Cornwall came round, James Corden was so totally uninhibited by either of them. He’d say ‘that’s a lovely dress, I do love that dress’. I thought ‘I wish I was as carefree as that’.”

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Interviews: Syndicated Interview with Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman won an Oscar in 2005 for his role in Million Dollar Baby, the culmination of an impressive run of performances in films including Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Unforgiven, The Shawshank Redemption, Seven, Kiss The Girls and Under Suspicion.

In The Bucket List he co-stars with Jack Nicholson, with both men playing patients diagnosed with terminal cancer who resolve to seize the day and fulfil a wish list of long cherished dreams.

Did you know Jack Nicholson before working with him on The Bucket List?

“I’d watched just about every movie he did after Easy Rider, so I knew him but we weren’t hanging out buddies. We’d met each other, you know how life goes particularly with performers, you wind up in the same place often enough. We know each other anyway, actors know actors, you meet an actor it’s not like meeting a total stranger.”

Was your approach to your roles similar?

“We probably approached the material pretty much the same way in that you memorise it and then you do it. Jack, however, works the script. He makes notes, he changes words, he does things to it and then asks how it sounds. You don’t really have to do research to create a character. You have to do research to recreate a character. By that I mean if I’m going to play you then I have to do some research. I have to study nuance in the things that make you you. But if you just write a character and I’ve got to do it I don’t have to go somewhere and sit and figure out how to manifest that character. There are actors who have diverse, shall we say, ways of approaching their work. Some have to immerse themselves in experience. By that I mean when I did The Shawshank Redemption there were actors who went and stayed in jail to get that feeling. That’s mind altering stuff, and I don’t think it informs you. I don’t think you’re going to learn anything.”

Is it more a question of having a good imagination then?

“Well, let’s say you’re playing a character on a ship. It helps if you know a little bit about it. A little research there would help, I think. Maybe if you were driving a race car it would help to drive one to get the feel of how you handle a race car. Things like that. But just normal character development, I think that just comes with practice and you start practicing very early in life. I look at people and right away I start summing them up. It’s not like I can tell you what kind of character you are, but I get a sense of you.”

Was your Bucket List character, Carter Chambers, difficult character to get under the skin of?

“No, like I said before, difficult characters are real people. I don’t think any other character that you agree to do is difficult. I don’t think you agree to do it because it’s difficult. If it’s difficult you say ‘I don’t think I can handle this, because I can’t see it,’.”

Would that be because the script wasn’t quite right?

“You can’t say that because the script that I say I can’t do, you give to the actor who says he can do it and he takes it to the Academy Awards. In my case I’m talking about knowing your limitations in terms of your performance.”

You’ve spoken before of having a great focus, is that something you’ve had throughout your career?

“I think it’s one of the things that has defined me as a person, all my life. This ability to focus. But it’s short term. I just recently took up golf, and nothing else is on my mind most of the time but golf. If I ever get good at it, and I won’t, then I’ll move on to something else. So I can rest assured that I’m going to be with golf for the rest of my life because I’m never going to master it. That’s not something you can master.”

So why take it up then?

“I took it up because I’m a pilot, I fly small airplanes. I started realising that in travelling and flying from home – I live in Mississippi – to LA or to New York, I’m sitting still for hours at a time. Two or three hours. And I’m not active enough to do that without some compensation. What I mean by that is at this age – I took up flying at 65 – sitting this long in one place you’ve got to start worrying about blood clots in your legs. It all just pooling right under your thighs there and not getting to move around enough. So my business partner said ‘why don’t we take up golf?’ and I said ‘something else,’ Then after a while I thought ‘maybe golf,’ So as soon as I said that he went out and bought all the stuff, somebody gave me a set of clubs and there it was. And once I started there it was. If you can get past the first week or so of trying you’re pretty much hooked. I love it.”

Your success as an actor did not come immediately; in hindsight do you think that was a good thing?

“Well of course, because that’s what happened. Of course I think it served me well, but who knows? What happens with life, life is what happens, it’s for the best. Knowing my character it’s probably good that it waited a while before I got to a certain level of success.”

How come?

“I’m experimental. There are very few women I say no to, things like that, I could wind up in deep trouble.”

Is it true we’re going to see you play Nelson Mandela soon?

“The rumour is true; I was originally set to Long Walk To Freedom, which is his based on his autobiography. That never quite came to fruition because we never got a script after ten years of trying. But another script has come along about the rugby match between the Springboks and New Zealand, the All Blacks. A great, great script. I’m going to play him, it’s called The Human Factor, and we should go into production around October. I’m looking forward to that. I’ve met him on numerous occasions.”

Finally, and to echo a theme of The Bucket List, is it ever too late for anything?

“There’s one moment in your life when it’s too late, and that’s when it’s your last gasp.”

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Interviews: WOLFGANG PETERSEN (Director) Q&A

QUESTION: You have made several movies taking place on water.

WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Obviously, I like to work with water. I find it very, very dramatic. For a movie, for a story, it’s very good. I grew up in Hamburg, northern Germany. I’m close to the water. I’ve always liked it so much, hanging out there, looking at the horizon. It was always a wonderful thing to let your imagination just fly. And then also watching when the water was coming and when it really got bad. The power of water is unbelievable. I was always impressed as a kid how strong it is, all the damage the water could do when it just turned within a couple of hours, and smashed against the shore. It was just amazing. But then also as a filmmaker, a storyteller, when I’m feeling okay, if you are out or lost on a boat, and you just don’t know how to get back, or the boat is sinking, or it’s just stuck, it’s a great dramatic setting. It somehow stuck with me. When I got Das Boot, I had the feeling you can learn maybe more about the whole vast phenomenon of war if you have just 45 people stuck in a submarine and see how they deal with war and with attacks and with being attacked and everything and at the same time being stuck and not able to run. You cannot just run away. So, it’s more intense than in other war stories because you’re stuck in a claustrophobic situation, no windows, no nothing. You cannot just desert and run. There’s no way. So I found that extremely dramatic. And I liked this concept very much. Then, when I came across The Perfect Storm, I had the feeling, “Oh my God, this is a similar story, but only six people now out in the Andrea Gail and the Grand Banks, with fish. And the biggest storm of the century coming.” So, again, a situation that is not war, but close to it. Now let’s see how they react. So, always the feeling that audiences will like very much the disastrous situation of very, very extreme circumstances that have to do with nature or with war, where they are tested to see what they really are made of in this extreme situation. What would you do? How would you react? What is really there? Peel off the surface and look inside your heart. Who are you? That I think is dramatic. And then, here with Poseidon, same thing, so it’s even more interesting, maybe, to see it is not really trained professionals who go through a absolute dramatic situation like the capsizing of a huge, wonderful, luxurious ship, thousands of people, and focus on the group, see how they deal with disaster. I thought it was fascinating, and very much now like you and me, they are definitely not trained, definitely not prepared that anything like that will happen. For that night, I think they had other things in mind.

QUESTION: Why did you want to shoot this film on stages?

WOLFGANG PETERSEN: I really learned that on The Perfect Storm. The Perfect Storm was done 80% also on stage. And it looked very real. Actually Das Boot was done a lot on stage also.

QUESTION: Was this much bigger than those films?

WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Yes. We had enormous sets. Many, many. And also we wanted to build them with real sets. For example, the ballroom: we built completely a four-room wall set, and the same huge set we also shot upside-down. The same thing with the lobby – upside-down and right-side-up. It’s a big deal to do that. It’s a big logistic thing now to connect all the elements to it because you have to work with a lot of CG, of course, still.

QUESTION: Did you have to drain the stages daily?

WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Oh, yes. They were very supervised. Everything is kept clean and warm enough. In the film the water is very cold. In reality it was very warm. Not that warm, but very warm. And, yeah, it’s dangerous business. I mean, the actors, they did an unbelievably tough job almost every day in dealing with being underwater for so long and being thrown about by the water. It was very hard and very intense. And because of that we have to be very careful. Because it’s dangerous if you don’t take all the precautions, and have the safety guys and the divers there always ready to immediately jump in. It’s tough.

QUESTION: What kind of films influenced you?

WOLFGANG PETERSEN: I like spectacular films. I like getting the audience into a really visual experience and also get them in a place where I and they have not been before. That’s always fun. For example, I have not been on a big cruise ship in my life and wanted to get an audience inside a ship like that. But especially what’s interesting is when it’s upside-down – the disaster version of the cruise ship. I like that, to get them into a submarine or so. But also, I’m very much interested in the people, not just spectacle. What influenced me? I love films like Lawrence of Arabia, for example, which is a big, spectacular film, or also The Godfather, or such films like that. I’m very much a fan also of very small films like High Noon, from Zinnemann, or The 400 Blows from Truffaut. Truffaut was one of my favorite directors when he was alive. And he worked on a very small scale. So, I always try if I can, not always succeeding at first because it’s very difficult to balance the spectacular nature of a film with a very good and intense portrayal of people inside of it to balance it. It’s not just to overwhelm people with spectacle but also get them inside the people. Here I thought, in Poseidon, it was a very good chance because it’s an interesting concept – we don’t know these people. I don’t do long explanations of where they come from, and they talk about “I’m this, who are you?” And “I’m an architect. What are you doing?” That kind of thing. In a story like this, it’s not allowed. Ship goes over, and now they come together and they don’t know each other. It’s like a bunch of people, 10, 12 people, who have no idea who the other people are, and now they have to cling together and spend probably like two or three of the most important hours in their life together with complete strangers. It’s not a whole family gang who’s going. This is all strangers. And to see how they interact is quite fascinating. So, this human element is: how do these people, who are all of them like you, like me, very normal people. So the cast is also not known. It’s just an architect there. It’s a stowaway from Spain. It’s that little waiter from the kitchen. It’s a guy who’s a poker player. And so that’s interesting to see how they handled it. I think it draws you in. It draws you in the sense of saying, “Aha. What do I do? What would I do? This is not about Hollywood characters. This is about us.” It’s cruise ship. It’s the most normal thing in the world. Everybody does it. And it’s New Year’s Eve. And everyone gets drunk and wants to have a great time. And it’s over. Now, what now? Boom, over. Interesting.

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