Interview: Actress Stephanie Beatriz

The Light of the Moon is one of the more important movies you’ll see this year. It details a woman’s struggle to maintain normalcy in her life after a sexual assault. I had the chance to speak to the lead actress of the film, Stephanie Beatriz (Brooklyn Nine-Nine), about the film. Stephanie goes in depth on her role, the impact the film had on her and the realities of sexual assaults. You can find the excerpts of the interview below along with the audio.

What attracted you to the role: 

SB: When I booked Brooklyn Nine-Nine, right before that I was doing a lot of regional theater and most of the stuff I was doing would be considered dramatic in the dramatic category. I was doing a lot of Shakespeare and American classics like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller. For me that was a place I loved living in as an actor. Really big drama. Then I booked Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the focus shifted to something else, which is common, fun, lighthearted, timing based. After a couple seasons of doing that I started feeling like, oh wait can I still act in this other way (dramatic)? I was itching to do something filled with challenges. I was already really wanting to stretch and grow.

How do you put yourself in to character to do a role like Bonnie and how do you approach it:

SB: I think if we’ve learned anything from the last couple months is that sexual assault is happening all around us to people we know. The popularity and tsunami wave of the #MeToo and how many people we all know that have been verbally assaulted on the street or physically assaulted in their lives, raped. There is so many men and women that this has happened to. I think it was just putting myself into Bonnie’s life.

MY TAKE: 

I was very interested speaking to Stephanie after seeing the film. She was so open and thoughtful. I appreciated how she answered each question I asked, but added so much more to it. There is no denying that she really understood the importance of her role and the film and how it can impact so many people.

It’s great to talk to someone like her that’s engaging in the conversation and truly wants to talk to you (talk to me in this case). The points she stated speak for themselves. She really does a fantastic job in the film. It was so poignant of her to mentioned how she wanted to show this movie to every teenager. I couldn’t agree more with that and getting them to be aware of these issues can be very beneficial to their safety and prevention of these incidents.

I urge people, men and women, teens and adults to go and see this film. Sexual violence is very real and this movie delves into the unseen truth of it.

The Light of the Moon is out now in select theaters

Interview: ‘Leatherface’ Director Julien Maury

The team of Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo are horror film aficionados. They are also the men behind some really good horror films, such as, Inside and ABC’s of Death 2. Their latest film, Leatherface, is an origins story to the classic horror movie villain from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre franchise. I had a chance to speak to Julien about the new Leatherface film and learn about what attracted him to the story and the approach he took telling it.

What attracted you to the script:

JM: Honestly what hooked us was that the narrative structure was very different from the others (Texas Chainsaw Massacre movies) in the saga, franchise. We basically have the same structure on every other film, where a bunch of kids are getting lost on the lens of the family and they are getting killed. Here it was was much more like road movie. That was something quite interesting for Alex and I. We felt we could bring it more easily to our universe. 

How important was it to separate to narrate the difference from the young version of this character from the one that everyone knows him to be:

JM: It was one of the challenges. In the first draft it was much more of a ‘who done it’ movie. A bunch of crazy teenagers, we didn’t know which one would become Leatherface. Versions after versions we lost a little bit of the suspects till the end. Honestly, it is really challenging for a director to have an opportunity to tell a story of bad guys, villains.

MY TAKE: 

My impression of Julien was first and foremost that he was a really cool dude. Very open and passionate. Someone who is easy to talk to and personable. I couldn’t ask for more. I liked how descriptive he was on how he wanted to change the character and not make it cliche, by also acknowledging how smart horror fans are, relating it to him being a fan himself. That sort of understanding of the genre and its pitfalls comes through in the way they went against the cliches in directed this film.

I thought it was interesting when he said that Alex and him love bad guys and finding the humanity in them. That’s a really neat perspective to characters who usually lack any sort of humanity in horror films.

Overall, he gave great breakdown of the film and the thinking behind what they ended up doing. I liked when he said that the more realistic you are in the beginning, the crazier you can get at the end. Such smart and true perspective.

One of the best answers I’ve gotten from anyone I interviewed was when he told me he was involved and passionate about ecology. His laugh was infectious.

Leatherface is a unique origin story and interesting watch with enough scares and gore to satisfy your horror expectations. A really good horror movie to see for Halloween.

Leatherface is out now in select theaters (check local listings), On Demand and DIRECTV 

‘Thank You For Your Service’ Free Screening For Veterans & Servicemembers

From the man who wrote the hit American Sniper, comes Thank You For Your Service, a film starring Miles Teller, Haley Bennett and Amy Schumer, about U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq, who are struggling fitting in back with society and civilian life.

Active-duty servicemembers and U.S. veterans will be able to see a free screening preview of the film at participating AMC Theaters on October 26. Check out the following details below for more information:

On Thursday, October 26th at 7:00PM, Universal and AMC will grant the first 25 servicemembers access to see THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE for free at participating AMC Theatres.

10,000 free tickets will be presented to U.S. veterans and active-duty servicemembers for DreamWorks Pictures’ Thank You for Your Service—at more than 400 AMC locations nationwide. Each of the first 25 servicemembers (per location) with valid, government-issued ID who request a ticket will be given one free admission to the 7:00 p.m.preview screening. 

For additional information you can visit www.ThankYouForYourService.com

Interview: ‘Jungle’ Director Greg McLean

Director Greg McLean is stepping into the Jungle. The man that introduced us to Wolf Creek and the recent The Belko Experiment delivers possibly his most ambitious and intense film with Jungle, starring Daniel Radcliffe. I had a chance to speak to Greg about the film and the challenges he had to endure during the making of it.

What made you wanna tell this story: 

GM: It was a script sent to me by a producer friend of mine. I read it and fell in love with the idea. The reason I fell in love with it was because I was very interested in the fact it was a true story. I thought it was a very inspiring tale of what people are really capable of. The real reason was that I thought it was an amazing parable of how people use their imagination to escape from uneasy situations of horror in their life. 

Since this film is based on a real person and their story, how much freedom did you have to incorporate things on your own, or did you just try to honor all of the facts and reality that was available to you:

GM: Well because it was based on a book and because I had the writer of the book, the real person there with me when I was prepping and shooting, you know my job really was to try to use my filmmaking craft and skills to tell the story. I was trying to get out of the way and trying capture the essence of the real people, the real texture and atmosphere of what really happened. To me the most interesting part about was trying to authentically recreate the scenario and these relationships. As a filmmaker I tried to get out of the way of the story and tried to tell it very simply and honestly.

MY TAKE: 

I really enjoyed Greg describe the process of making Jungle. I feel he elaborated well and really makes you understand what they went through and the conditions that were presented while filming. I can only imagine how the rain threw them a curveball attempting to film the river scene. I could sense in the way he spoke about the river scene that there was genuine fear for the talent attempting that. Looking back on it, even in the movie it looks daring.

The casting of Daniel Radcliffe simply works for this role. This is the most physically demanding and intense role I’ve ever seen Radcliffe in. His range and diversity of roles he’s taken in recent years is noticeable. He’s really good and to think he plays a real guy who actually endured all these hardships is quite incredible.

I thought it was awesome that Greg plays video games, collects Marvel comics and Star Wars memorabilia. That’s the fun part of talking to these talented filmmakers and actors, you get to know a side of them and their interests away from the business. They are the same like every one of us, but just happen to be doing a really cool job they are passionate about, but also have their own passions and interests on the side.

Jungle is out now in select theaters (check local listings), Digital HD and On Demand

Interview: ‘Escape Room’ Director Will Wernick

Lionsgate’s Escape Room is a perfect mystery horror film treat for Halloween. The film is out now on DVD and I had a chance to talk about it with the director Will Wernick. This interview contains the film’s *SPOILERS* so beware while listening.

What made you want to direct this film:

WW: I was working on another film with one of our producers Kelly Delson and her husband, I was at their house one night, at the end of a meeting he pulled me aside and asked why hasn’t there been a movie about an escape room? I said that was a really good question. So I went home an outlined it and came back the next morning and said I have a writer that can write this quickly and we can get it going and we were shooting three months later. I’ve never seen anything get financed that quickly. 

This movie seems like it’s set in real time, there is a lot of mystery, is this something you were going for: 

WW: Absolutely, I’m a big fan of fun thrillers. We didn’t stick with it, but in the original outline the idea was that there would be a clock that you always saw, so escape room portion would be exactly an hour. That doesn’t really work out when you make a movie, but I think we we were pretty close. It ends up being a little less.

MY TAKE: 

This is the kind of movie that I’m fortunate to speak to the director of it about. Escape Room is like a puzzle and it leaves you with a few interpretations, especially the ending. I enjoyed hearing Will elaborate on the motives and ideas they had for the characters and plot. Will proved me right, when he confirmed that the movie was supposed to and was consciously trying to have the escape room take place in real time.

The actors chemistry really worked, so I was surprised to hear that they haven’t met or knew each other prior to the filming. Credit to their professionalism and skills. This movie couldn’t have been done without a solid ensemble cast that clicked together.

Escape Room really impressed me. It’s a thought provoking movie with a compelling story and theme. The ending had me wanting more, so I’m glad Will is working on a sequel. I’ll be looking forward to it.

Escape Room is out now on DVD, Digital HD and On Demand

‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’ Director Simon Curtis Discusses The Film

It’s safe to say that majority of kids in this country and around the globe grew up with Winnie the Pooh in some way. Whether it was your favorite bedtime story, favorite animated film, or even your favorite plush toy (I had a Piglet and Pooh push toy). Winnie the Pooh is one of the trademark Disney favorites, but the story of Pooh didn’t start out as a Disney tale.

In Goodbye Christopher Robin, director Simon Curtis brings forth the real story of Winnie the Pooh and the people that brought it to life. I sat down with Curtis at the Park Hyatt Hotel on his press tour stop in Chicago. I walk into the hotel room, Curtis walks over and introduces himself to me and shakes my hand. He sits down on the couch comfortably leaning in my direction, as I sit down in a chair to the side of him. We delve into the movie immediately.

“I wanted to tell a story about a father and son,” said Curtis, discussing the important element of the story that he wanted to tell.

Curtis points out that aside from the creation of the Winnie the Pooh story, there are other important factors he was glad to depict. He mentioned how important it was to to highlight the father-son relationship, but also the trauma of PTSD that A.A. Milne silently suffered through.

“Back then there was a shame associated with PTSD, they called it as shell shock, that no one wanted to talk about, people wanted to avoid talking about the war.”

The film depicts the life of A.A., played by Domhnall Gleeson, and the personal struggles he had to endure prior and during the writing of the Pooh story. A.A. isn’t a present father figure for his son, Christopher Robin.

“During the time that the story takes place in England, especially the upper middle-class families, the nannies took care of the children and often spent more time with them than the parents” Curtis said.

In the movie, the nanny, Olive (Kelly Macdonald), plays a critical role in raising Christopher Robin (Will Tilston). She’s the mother figure to the boy, while the actual birth mother Daphne Milne (Margot Robbie) goes on a hiatus and leaves him and his father behind.

Tilston is terrific as Christopher Robin. He has these adorable dimples that radiate on-screen. The search for Christopher Robin wasn’t an easy one as Curtis described.

“We auditioned hundreds and looked through thousands of boys until we found Will. He looked like Christopher Robin and was just terrific.”

Indeed Tilston is wonderful and very likable in the film, but so is the older version of Christopher Robin, played by Alex Lawther.

During the discussion, Curtis decides to present an impromptu quiz by asking, “Do you know what movie you remember seeing him (Lawther) from?”

I had to ponder. Struggling to put that familiar face with the character in a movie I could remember seeing. Luckily, Curtis was there with the helping answer.

“He was the young Alan Turing, the younger version of Benedict Cumberbatch in Imitation Game,” Curtis says excitedly.

When the book gains worldwide popularity, Christopher Robin becomes a huge celebrity figure. The boy didn’t understand why he was being exploited and why strangers paid so much attention to him, he struggled with the fame as he was bullied as he aged and turned into a young adult.

“Christopher Robin may have been the first celebrity child with these showbiz parents. He didn’t want anything to do with the fame, he just wanted to be a regular boy.”

I asked Curtis about why the film didn’t touch upon the Disney connection, but he felt that it was important to tell the story of the people involved and there wasn’t any Disney involvement necessary, as that was something that happened after the events that he wanted to detail in the movie.

As the interview was winding down I mentioned how I felt a personal connection to the story and related it to the relationship I had with my father. I told Simon that I recently lost my father who he did have personality similarities to A.A. Milne, as he struggled with showing emotions and bonding with his children also. This movie made me reflect on that relationship we had. Curtis told me he was very pleased and touched that the movie connected with me on that level. In response to what i shared, Curtis said, “That’s all I could hope for, to have someone have that reaction and meaning from it. That’s wonderful that you did. Thank you.”

No, thank you Simon. Thank you for making a movie that made me feel and reflect on something personal. Thank you for making me shed a few tears and experience emotions watching this film. Thank you for making a movie everyone can enjoy and take something out of it. There is a little bit of Christopher Robbin in all of us. Look no further than below.

IMG_4071

Me on the left, aka the apparently toothless Christopher Robin look alike. My sister (with teeth) on the right. Adorable puppy in the middle. 

Goodbye Christopher Robin is out now in select theaters in NYC & LA and opens Chicago & nationwide on October 20. 

Interview: Director Brent Craft Talks ‘Lady-Like’

One of the best indie gems of the Fall is Lady-Like. It’s about girls being girls and the ups and downs of friendships. This terrific film is relevant to guys as much as it is to girls. I had an opportunity to speak with writer and director Brent Craft (a guy), who came up with the story about these modern women. In the interview, Craft discusses the making of the movie, the casting process and much more. Below you can find some excerpts and the full audio.

How did you manage to get inside the mind of a woman and make it appealing to everyone:

BC: I think I got lucky in that I captured the main characters voice pretty well in my own head as a writer. A lot of the other roles probably aren’t as flushed out as I would have liked.  I think a lot of the credit goes to these girls for elevating the material and making it come to life and making it feel authentic. There were definitely times when a line was said verbatim from the script on the set and it just wasn’t ringing true. We would be like scratch that and make it yours.

On the casting process of the girls and the importance of it:

BC: We took the casting process about as serious as you could. We went through thousands and thousands of auditions on Backstage. We also ended up partnering with a casting director. We really did sort of meticulously comb through auditions to find the right girls and then play out the right mix. I would print out each girls headshot and try to imagine how they would interact together.

MY TAKE:

What a pleasant guy Brent was to speak to. My first impression is how genuine and thankful he was to be able to make this film. It’s really a feat to make a film of this quality for a first time writer and director. I was taken by how relatable it was. A movie about college-aged women, yet it’s so relatable to men because we all go through these trials as individuals.

The casting was really a key, Stephanie Simbari and Allie Gallerani are tremendous and have excellent chemistry, so that match making Brent talked about certainly paid off. I found it was important to ask Brent about the struggles and things he learned during his first movie shoot. The weather being a big factor is an answer I didn’t expect, but to think of it, it’s very relevant and something you wouldn’t notice watching the movie.

I was excited to talk to Brent and hear about the film I enjoyed so much that he was a central part of making happen.

Lady-Like is out now on Digital HD