Wednesday 30 May 2007

So long, farewell...

Paul Newman, he of the twinkling blue eyes and amazing onscreen presence, has announced his retirement from the world of movies. The 82-year-old actor/racing car driver/salad dresser maker says he took the decision because he found he could no longer act as before. "I am not able to work at the level that I would want to," he told US TV's ABC News. "You start to lose your memory, you start to lose your confidence, you start to lose your invention."

Newman was one of the all-time greats: Somebody Up There Likes Me, Hud, Butch Cassidy, The Left Handed Gun, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, The Hustler, Harper, The Sting, Slap Shot, The Colour of Money (for which he won his only Oscar), The Verdict, the much underrated Twilight... the list goes on and on.

Happy retirement, sir.

Tuesday 29 May 2007

More ha bloody ha

USA Today has posted a couple of new Dark Knight photos including this one that looks suspiciously like Chris Nolan directing Heath Ledger as the Joker. Nolan's apparently shooting four sequences in IMAX, including the introduction of the Joker. More at:

Lorra bootie

Pirates 3 has taken more than $400 million worldwide since it opened last Thursday. Spidey 3's worldwide gross is around $800 million and Shrek 3 has garned $220million+ in the US in less than two weeks.

Who says no one goes to the movies anymore.

Sunday 27 May 2007

Like father, like daughter...

I remember interviewing Jennifer Lynch back in the early 90s about her debut feature Boxing Helena. While I didn't like the film, I liked Lynch enormously. I found her charming and funny, with a (perhaps inevitable) black sense of humour. Then, David Lynch's daughter [pictured above with Bill Pullman] seemed to drop off the movie map. For 14 years. Finally, Lynch is back behind the camera again, directing her second feature, Surveillance, and the New York Times' John Anderson has been on set.

And the winner is...

Christian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days which walked away with this year's Palme d'Or while the critics' fave, the Coens' No Country For Old Men, picked up... nada.
Other winners include:
Best Actor: Konstantin Lavronenko (The Banishment)
Best Actress: Jeon Do-yeon (Secret Sunshine)
Best Director: Julian Schnabel (The Diving Bell And The Butterfly)
Best Screenplay: Faith Akin (The Edge of Heaven)
And Gus Van Sant who picked up a Special Jury Prize for Paranoid Park.

Saturday 26 May 2007

A long time ago...

In a cinema far, far away... well, about thirty miles from where I now type, I saw Star Wars which is, incredibly, 30 years old. Happy Birthday!

As with a lot of people of my generation, the film was life-changing, although I always liked Empire Strikes Back so much better. Darker. More downbeat. That scene in cave. Yoda. Plus I had the hots for Leia in this one.

A guy at my school, whose dad worked on Empire's special effects, told me long before the film came out that Vadar was Luke dad! I was shocked, and I didn't believe him. How could it be! No! My reaction, I recall, mirrored Luke's own, upon finding out, although, fortunately, I didn't lose a hand.

By the time Jedi had come around I'd grown up sufficiently enough to find the Ewoks annoying and didn't enjoy the film in the same way as the two before. [And let's not even go there regarding the prequels.]

Even so, I never forgot the joy of those first two films. I have them on video. Laserdisc. DVD. I have so many toys, too. And plastic lightsabres.

The force will always be in this one.

Friday 25 May 2007

Nobody knows anything

As this year's Cannes enters its final stretch, the talk on the Croisette turns to debating who's going to win the Palme D'Or with the Coen brothers' No Country for Old Men, Romanian Cristian Mungiu's abortion drama 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly the apparent favourites, although if the critics' polls released everyday are to be indication, David Fincher's Zodiac also appears to be in contention. But as with most years, what the critics think and what the jury thinks aren't necessarily the same thing. The only thing most people agree on, however, is that the quality of films this year has been particularly high. The prizes are handed out Sunday. Check back for the results.

Monday 21 May 2007

Cannes 2007: A Mighty Heart

Michael Winterbottom is a smart man and a smart filmmaker and his latest, A Mighty Heart, looks as if it's another in his run of magnificent and eclectic pictures.

Premiere's Glenn Kenny calls it "involving and moving in the mode of another war-zone Winterbottom picture, Welcome to Sarajevo. Jolie and Pitt were very smart to get a director who doesn't do star turns to do Jolie's star turn. I dare say she's got at least an Oscar nomination locked."

"The sad saga of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl has made it to the bigscreen with facts, figures and beating heart intact in A Mighty Heart," writes Variety's Justin Chang. "In his first studio venture, Michael Winterbottom coaxes forth a staggering wealth of detail from this terse, methodical account of Pearl's kidnapping and murder in Pakistan, seen through the eyes of those who sought his return. Given audiences' resistance to films dealing with 9/11 and its aftermath, soberly restrained pic reps a mighty tough sell, though Angelina Jolie's performance as Pearl's widow should broaden prospects for the June 22 Stateside release."

Silly questions

So Polanski walked away from a Cannes press conference in a huff because of the stupid questions he was being asked by journalists. Speaking as a journalist of many years, I'm surprised more actors/filmmakers don't do the same when you hear some of the queries chucked their way at these kind of events...

Cannes 2007: No Country For Old Men

The Coens, you gotta love ‘em. From their debut with Blood Simple, these filmmaking siblings have scarcely put a foot wrong, even if some of their films — I’m thinking of The Big Lebowski which I’ll admit I didn’t get the first time I saw it — take a while to fully coalesce in one’s brains as a fully fledged masterpiece, while others — BS, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink — hit it out of the park first time out. I’m so desperate to see their latest, No Country For Old Men, adapted from a novel by Cormac McCarthy. It’s not out in the UK till the autumn, and judging by the word coming back from Cannes, it’s going to be a looonng wait.

“A scorching blast of tense genre filmmaking shot through with rich veins of melancholy, down-home philosophy and dark, dark humor, No Country for Old Men reps a superior match of source material and filmmaking talent,” says Variety’s Todd McCarthy. “Cormac McCarthy's bracing and brilliant novel is gold for the Coen brothers, who have handled it respectfully but not slavishly, using its built-in cinematic values while cutting for brevity and infusing it with their own touch. Result is one of the their very best films, a bloody classic of its type destined for acclaim and potentially robust B.O. returns upon release later in the year.”

And then there's Empire's Damon Wise who writes: "To put it (blood) simple: No Country For Old Men is terrific, not simply a return to form but a return to roots, a tense, funny thriller that recalls not only their genre-bending debut but the wicked mischief of Fargo and the internecine vagaries of Miller's Crossing. Though it's based on Cormac McCarthy's novel, the Coens have taken his bloody neo-western and made it their own."

Ha bloody ha...

I like this. I like this a lot. Heath Ledger's Joker.

UPDATE: Apparently this isn't The Joker from Chris Nolan's The Dark Knight. It's another internet scam. And we've been duped. Ok. But I still like it as an image.

Saturday 19 May 2007

Cannes 2007: The Banishment

I loved Andrei Zvyagintsev's The Return which won the Golden Lion at Venice a few years back. It was simple, elegiac and inordinately powerful. As such, his second feature, The Banishment, has been eagerly awaited but this Competition entry sounds terribly disappointing.

The Hollywood Reporter's Kirk Honeycutt writes: "The Banishment" (Izgnanie) starts off like a thriller with a car roaring into the city and a clandestine surgery by a man to remove a bullet in his brother's arm. Then, ever so slowly, the movie falls into the clutches of long, solemn stares into space, meaningful drags on cigarettes, cryptic dialogue revealing little and a tiny drama that feels old, tired and empty of real purpose. In other words, Art House Pretension without apology or concern."

Time Out's Dave Calhoun was just as underwhelmed: "[It] plays like the wet dream of a Tarkovsky fanatic so much does it owe visually to Zvyagintsev's Russian forbear. It's only for its virtuoso image-making, though, that The Banishment can be applauded: its plot about a family from the city who fall apart during a sejourn at their remote country home when the wife annouces that she is pregnant by another man is unsatisfying and more conventional than Zvyagintsev would admit, such are his efforts to obscure and prolong its unfolding and his - certainly admirable - attempts to craft a tale that is devoid of place and time. There are many moments and scenes to enjoy... But the overall effect of The Banishment is wearying and disappointing."

Friday 18 May 2007

Cannes 2007: 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

The surprise success of The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, which did much to put Romanian cinema on the world stage, looks set to be reproduced by Cristian Mungiu's Competition entry 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days which Variety's Jay Weissberg calls: "Pitch perfect and brilliantly acted... a stunning achievement, helmed with a purity and honesty that captures not just the illegal abortion story at its core but the constant, unremarked negotiations necessary for survival in the final days of the Soviet bloc. Showcasing all the elements of new Romanian cinema -- long takes, controlled camera and an astonishing ear for natural dialogue -- Mungiu's masterly film plays only one false note in an otherwise beautifully textured story. Further proof of Romania's new prominence in the film world, pic will attract discerning auds in Stateside and Euro arthouses."

Equally enamoured was Screen International's Dan Fainaru who called it: "A deceptively simple tale carrying a tremendous wallop. The market may not be bowled over at first sight — after all, critics were more than a little circumspect after first seeing Cristi Puiu's The Death Of Mr Lazarescu, which shares much of Mungiu's vision of the world — but in due course this will easily beat most other, far more pretentious, arthouse products being peddled around. The film should give Mungiu and his cast a better than average shot at a reward with this year's jury."

Very. Very. Very. Excited

The new Transformers trailer is online. Prepare to be gobsmacked. July can't come soon enough. Until then;_ylt=Ant_kxFZrfgnHFILpfouv_JfVXcA

Cannes 2007: Triangle

I like my Asian action cinema as much as the next fanboy and rate John Woo's The Killer and Hard-Boiled very high on my Best Action Movies ListTM. And so the idea of a trio Hong Kong filmmakers teaming up for one movie is something I've been cautiously looking forward to. The result, according to Variety's Derek Elley, appears to be a mixed bag. "Three Hong Kong cult helmers play pass-the-parcel in "Triangle," a seriocomic crimer by Tsui Hark, Ringo Lam and Johnnie To that's a diverting, sometimes head-scratching experiment that will mostly chime with Asian movie buffs rather than satisfy general auds as a single, homogenous pic. A continuous narrative that roughly falls into three segments, each strongly marked by its director's individual style, pic will garner fest and ancillary action on strength of the powerhouse lineup of names. But theatrical fortunes look more moderate compared with their solo works."

Thursday 17 May 2007

Cannes 2007: Control

Kicking off the Director's Fortnight was Anton Corbijn's eagerly awaited biopic of Joy Division's Ian Curtis, Control. The first reviews are in and it's gone down a storm.

"Somber, sad and compelling, Ian Curtis biopic Control, about Blighty '80s post-punk band Joy Division's lead singer, is a riveting, visually arresting portrait of a soul in torment," writes Variety's Russell Edwards. "Central perf by Sam Riley is a winner, surrounded by a strong ensemble of thesps. First feature helming bow by photographer Anton Corbijn manages to present working-class Northern England in a wide range of appealing grays that make the description "black-and-white film" inadequate. Widely anticipated by the band's legion of fans, pic is assured a warm welcome and a successful worldwide tour."

The Times' Stephen Dalton agrees: "Overall, Control treats Curtis and his legacy with respect but not stifling reverence. Corbijn’s economic style is rooted in the European auteur tradition, favouring cool understatement over the ripe melodrama seen in most rock biopics. Which may limit his film’s appeal in America and elsewhere, but it makes for a handsome and lyrical drama."

While Xan Brooks called The Guardian called it: "quite superb; a sort of kitchen-sink, social-realist rock-opera, topped off with an eerily good performance from the previously unknown Sam Riley as Ian Curtis."

Today at Cannes...

Jerry Seinfeld, dressed as a bee, hurled himself off the Hotel Carlton to promote his upcoming movie called, er, Bee Movie...

While Zodiac, which is in the Official Competition, started its international roll out. The movie barely made a dent at the US box office earlier ths year despite overwhelming critical support. David Fincher's detail-obsessed film opens here in the UK tomorrow and remains Double Feature's Favourite Film Of The Year So FarTM. You'd be foolish to miss it. End of public service announcement.

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Just because...

I like this pic and the film's been getting such a pounding. After his earlier quick post, Jeff Wells laid into MYB with gusto. " A horribly written, woefully banal self- discovery mood piece (the word "drama" really can't be applied)," he begins, adding "I don't know which is worse -- the whole waitressing-in-Memphis section of the film, or the endless soul-searching section with Law in the pastry shop. But put 'em together and wham, you're looking at your watch and going "holy bejeezus, this is dreadful." It's time for Kar to say "okay, it didn't work" and hightail it back to China. He doesn't get America (he's not the first foreign-born director to distinguish himself in this regard) and he sure as shit doesn't get how people talk here." Geez.

It's Natalie Portman, from My Blueberry Nights, in case you're wondering.

And another one

James Christopher in The Times is kinder than most when he claims My Blueberry Nights is "an epic by one of the great romantics of art house cinema... visually arresting... Wong’s first English language film reveals what a superb artist he is. Visually his film looks stunning on a giant festival screen... The scenes between Jones and Law have all the wonderful hallmarks of Wong’s masterpiece, In the Mood for Love." And then he ends his three star review with "This is a seriously pleasing way to start the race for the Palme d’Or, and hopefully an omen for even better things to come."

Someone likes it!

And so the negativity continues. Xan Brooks' two star review for The Guardian begins thus: "Tradition has it that the Cannes' opening night film is always met with a passionate response, either cheered to the rafters or booed to oblivion or sprayed with a turbulent cocktail of the two. My Blueberry Nights, by contrast, wrapped up with a discreet shuffle towards the exit door. On balance that seemed the most damning verdict of them all." And later Brooks proclaims that the film is "full of such false notes, such lost-in-translation moments that might conceivably have worked in a Hong Kong setting but fall flat on the road to California."

But there is a lone voice calling out from the Croisette in MBN's favour. Anne Thompson, esteemed deputy editor of and a former Premiere colleague of mine appears to be the sole person who's come out in print and declared she likes My Blueberry Nights. In her essential column, which can be found at, Anne calls it "a delicious mood poem, a visually stunning ode to the lips of Norah Jones and Jude Law, who deliver the film's highlight: a soft, sumptuous, slow kiss."

So there.

Cannes 2007: My Blueberry Nights

Cannes kicks off tonight with Wong Kar-Wai's eagerly anticipated English-language debut My Blueberry Nights. Wong Kar-Wai is a Cannes fave and was president of the jury last year. I remember being in heaven there a few years back watching his In The Mood For Love which won him the best director award but should have scooped him the Palm D'Or too, then being poolside at the Hotel Du Cap a couple of years later with a bunch of other folk waiting for news on whether the print for his 2046 was even going to show up, meaning we'd have to leave the pool and head back into town to see it. It did and I fell asleep for some of it.

My Blueberry Nights stars singer Norah Jones in her acting debut, as well Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Rachel Weisz.

Jeff Wells of is the first to post a comment calling it "a mystifying shortfall for a respected, world-class director and a full-on mediocrity that comes close to being a rank embarassment".

Wells' disappointment is shared by Variety’s Todd McCarthy who writes: “As much a trifle as its title suggests, My Blueberry Nights sees Hong Kong stylist Wong Kar Wai applying his characteristic visual and thematic doodles to a whispy story of lovelorn Yanks. With pop music sensation Norah Jones floating through the episodic tale as a blank-page heroine striving to overcome the blues, beautifully embroidered pic generates increased interest as it travels from East to West and encounters Rachel Weisz and Natalie Portman along the way, but its ambition and accomplishment remain modest in the extreme."

McCathy then goes on to say that Blueberry Nights echoes Kar-Wai's earlier In the Mood for Love "in its moody melancholy, claustrophobic settings and highly decorative shooting style. But while the actors' dialogue delivery is perfectly natural, the aphoristic philosophical nuggets Wong favors sound banal and clunky in this context, leaving the film thematically in the shallow end of the pool.”

Time Out’s Dave Calhoun, meanwhile, calls it “a contemporary love story that blends elements of the classic American road movie with a visual style and a concern for emotional longing that could only belong to the director who has become a veteran face at Cannes and a darling of the world art house scene”, but was equally underwhelmed, insisting that the film “is likely to disappoint many among his wide international following. This is Wong watered down and plagued with poor performances and weak writing.”

Oh dear.

The Long Good Friday being remade

I'm not dead set against the idea of remakes per se if the new film has a new take or at least something to say. John Carpenter's The Thing springs to mind as a terrific example of a film that didn't negate the Howard Hawks-produced original and became a classic unto itself. It helps, too, if the original isn't so great.

And so I'm not sure what to think about today's announcement that Handmade and Resident Evil director Paul WS Anderson are remaking John MacKenzie’s masterful thriller The Long Good Friday. Having watched it again recently, the film, which featured a career-best performance from Bob Hoskins as Harold Shand, East End mobster-turned-wannabe Thatcherite property developer out to turn Docklands into a commercial playground with the help of some American friends (ie. the Mafia), retains it power, even if it does look a little dated now. I'm not one for whom the mention of Anderson's name attached to a project necessarily fills me with dread the way it does some. I've met him several times and have always found him to be engaging, charming and extremely passionate about what he does, although his films don't always live up to the talk. To be honest, I'm less keen on the fact they're relocating the story to Miami.

“The Long Good Friday was an astonishing view of 1980’s gangland that shocked audiences with its urban crime and violence," said Anderson in a statement. "I am delighted to have the opportunity to put a new spin on this classic film which promises to reveal today’s gritty underworld in an equally shocking fashion.”

First, though, Anderson has another remake on his plate, his long in development version of Roger Corman's Death Race 2000.


The 60th Cannes Film Festival begins today. I won't be there this year but I'll be posting a "best of" review round up to keep everyone up to date on the goings on on the Croisette.

I love Cannes. The sun. The sea. The films. It seems only yesterday I was drinking champagne with Isabella Adjani, when she was president of the jury for the 50th festival, along with Holly and Matt.

But that's another story for another day...

Au revoir for now.

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Finally... Tintin

After almost 25 years of trying Steven Spielberg looks like he's finally going to bring Tintin to the big screen. It was announced today that Spielberg and Peter Jackson are teaming to direct and produce three back-to-back features based on Georges Remi's beloved Belgian comic-strip hero. According to Variety, the films will be produced in full digital 3-D using performance capture technology and two filmmakers will each direct at least one of the movies. "Herge's characters have been reborn as living beings, expressing emotion and a soul which goes far beyond anything we've seen to date with computer animated characters," Spielberg said. "We want Tintin's adventures to have the reality of a live-action film, and yet Peter and I felt that shooting them in a traditional live-action format would simply not honor the distinctive look of the characters and world that Herge created." For the generations who grew up on Tintin and for those kids still to enjoy them, this is exceedingly good news.

Monday 14 May 2007

Enough is enough

Please, no more lousy remakes of spooky Japanese horror films. The Ring might have worked box office wise — even if the original Ringu remains vastly superior — but the makers of Pulse (DVD, Paramount), the Eastern European-shot remake of Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s 2001 original, Kairo should hang their heads in shame. The film's a mess. Incoherent. Ridiculous. Boring. Plotwise it makes no sense whatsoever. And isn't remotely scary. Reportedly there were problems in post-production, but it seems to me the problems lie with the script, for which Wes Craven is awarded co-credit. Not even the presence of Veronica Mars herself, Kristen Bell, can redemn it. Turgid.

Raising Capone

I'm a sucker for Brian De Palma. Even his bad movies (and, let's face it, there have been a few down the years) have such inspired moments and amazing camera technique that I tend to forgive them their ridiculous plot twists and/or lack of narrative cohesion. Carrie, The Fury, Dressed To Kill, Blow Out, Phantom Of The Paradise, Carlito's Way, Casualties Of War and, of course, Scarface remain firm favourites of mine. I have a soft spot for Raising Cain and I can even find something of merit in his pretty lamentable adaptation Bonfire Of The Vanities. His version of the Elliot Ness/Al Capone saga, The Untouchables, was, along with Mission: Impossible, about as mainstream as De Palma's got over the years with a great Ennio Morricone score to boot. I'm not sure what to think about the idea of De Palma doing a Capone prequel, especially with Nic Cage taking over the role from De Niro. Cage hasn't made anything for years that's got me cinemabound, but here's hoping De Palma can get the best out of him. If not, there'll still be some amazing Steadicam moments to keep me interested.

Sunday 13 May 2007

On the set of Harry Potter 5

I wrote a piece for the LA Times' Summer Sneaks issue in which Dan Radcliffe's talks about this fifth film's political subtext and director David Yates muses on his intentions for number six. Find it at,1,7092100.story?coll=la-summermovies

A Mighty Heart

My favourite of Michael Winterbottom's many, many films — the guy's so prolific he puts most other directors, save Soderbergh, to shame — are 24 Hour Party People, In This World and the criminally underrated The Claim. Hollywood has long been trying to get hold of him, but he's done it on his terms, getting an A-list star (Angelina Jolie) to star in one of his films, A Mighty Heart. I felt for sure this would be in competition at Cannes but they've given it an out of comp slot. Not sure the thinking behind that. Still, this trailer has only succeeded in whetting my appetite even more than before. Find it at

Friday 11 May 2007

Total Film 129

Out now. With a 28 Weeks Later set piece of mine. And lots of stuff about some movie called Pirates 3 somethingorother. You might have heard of it.

Rose Byrne Q&A

Australian actress Rose Byrne has appeared in Troy, Wicker Park, and opposite Peter O’Toole in TV’s Casanova. Recently seen in Sunshine, Byrne has the kind of captivating presence that demands your attention. When she’s onscreen, you can’t take your eyes of her. “My thing about Rose is that Rose tiptoes on to every scene, and then she just walks off with the scene,” says Danny Boyle who directed her in Sunshine. “She does it with everything she does. She literally backs into the scene, but when she turns around she takes the scene away with her. But as a person she’s not like that at all. She did it in Troy, there’s all these blokes in skirts and everything and she’s like Catherine McCormack in Braveheart, she walks on and steals everything. You get to the end of Troy and all you keep thinking is, Who is that girl?” Byrne stars in this week’s release 28 Weeks Later. I spoke to her during filming.

Tell me about your role in 28 Weeks Later.
RB: I play Scarlet, she’s a military doctor. She’s working for the American military over here. They’ve come in to rebuild Britain, they’ve quarantined the country and are slowly bringing back people into this area which is Canary Wharf and they’re calling it District One. She’s been stationed there for a few months and it’s about a family that’s been reunited basically and what happens if they get separated once again because the outbreak happens. And then Scarlet steps in and she becomes a bit of a surrogate mother to these children and the family kind of reforms in a very different kind of way. That’s what I read into it, the original concept behind her and whereas Doyle’s character is Special Forces, very violent, systematically killing, Scarlet’s a lot more anti-violence, anti-war, which is putting her in a compromising position which was the interesting part for me as a performer, to find that balance, that goes against everything they kind of stand for, to save the day.

Are you a horror fan? Had you seen 28 Days Later, for instance?
RB: Yes I had. I’ll never forgot it. I saw it while I shooting Troy and I was in Mexico, and we kind of got to the cinema not knowing what we were going to see, one of those situations where you know nothing about the film and it scared the Jesus out of me, I got the shock of my life, it was terrifying, it really shook up because of the way it was shot was very interesting and because of the way they made the genre film, the horror film, different because of what Danny [Boyle] did. And I love horror films. I used to beg my mum to go and rent out A Nightmare On Elm Street for me when I was like eleven because it was rated R so I could never get it from the video shop and my girlfriends and I really wanted to watch it and she’d have to go up and I loved it, I love Freddy Krueger and all that stuff, and Fright Night and Halloween, I get a total kick out it.

How have you found working with Robert Carlyle? He’s really scary when he’s infected.
RB: I agree, he’s so good at being scary and being a mad person that he’s almost too good — it’s terrifying. I saw some of his stuff the other day, when he’s infected, and it’s amazing. It’s so scary, he doesn’t need the blood, you know what I mean, he’s already got that darkness within him, seemingly, that he can access very easily. But working with him was awesome. It was my first day on set and I came in really last minute so I was pretty on the back foot but he was great, he’s very easy to work with, he’s very on the ball, smart, into it, very good with the kids, and it was very exciting for them, having seen a lot of his work.

How last minute?
RB: I came in about three days before shooting. They were sort of going another way with the role and then it fell through and I got this last minute call that was quite a surprise, and I was in Australia at the time on a holiday so I was very taken aback. I’d met on the film a month previous and hadn’t got the part and so moved on. Then they went another way with the role but then it didn’t work out and I got this last minute call. That’s what happened on Sunshine too. I got a last minute call a week before rehearsals and was on my way to Australia as well.

Talking of Sunshine, what was it like working with Danny Boyle?
RB: Danny was excellent. He’s the most enthusiastic director I’ve ever worked with, he’s endlessly enthusiastic and has endless amounts of energy and encouragement, and he’s so into films and filmmaking, but not in a way that’s alienating or in a way that’s super cerebral because I think a lot of directors talk about other films all the time and he doesn’t do that, really, he’s very into what you’re doing and the other person’s doing, and I don’t think I’ve worked with a director who’s enthusiastic before, it’s incredible. He’s like a big kid or something and for an actor that’s really inspiring and really great, when it’s four o’clock in the morning and it’s really cold and you’re in Three Mills and you just want to go home to bed and you don’t want to be in a spaceship any more and he’s still got that enthusiasm, so I think that’s really commendable and he’s also got a good sense of humour, very English [laughs], he’s great like that.

Let’s talk about the filming of 28 Weeks Later, and wandering around an empty London.
RB: It definitely helps for sure, the whole scenario of it, in terms of where the story is at that point. It’s really wild, to be honest, it’s beyond my wildest dreams, it’s so strange to be on Shaftsbury Avenue with five people walking down the street. The time frame that we had was like a blink of an eye, we had two minutes to stop traffic for us to limp down the street and around the corner in those two minutes and it was wild, it was amazing, it was so early in the morning and I was half asleep anyway, walking down this road, there was the pub at the end of Shaftsbury Avenue just out of shot and there were people who had been in a lock in, and they were just losing it, leering and having the time of their lives, making faces at us as we walked past. They were all off their faces and the most embarrassing thing is they were all Australians inside the pub.

Wednesday 9 May 2007

Robert Carlyle Q&A

Robert Carlyle has been responsible for two of the most enduring characters of recent British cinema: Begbie, the foul-mouthed psychopath in Danny Boyle’s sensational adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s cult book Trainspotting, and Gaz, the mild-mannered father and unemployed Sheffield steel worker turned reluctant stripper in Peter Cattaneo’s blockbuster The Full Monty. With a CV that also includes memorable roles in movies as diverse as Face, Ravenous, Carla’s Song, The Beach, Angela’s Ashes, and The World Is Not Enough, as well as Durza in last year’s hit Eragon, the 45-year-old Scottish actor has continually proved his versatility and talent on stage, TV and in the movies. “I think he’s one of the great actors of my generation, he’s always good,” says 28 Weeks Later producer Andrew Macdonald. “And he’s a bit of chameleon, so he’s always a bit different.” In 28 Weeks Later, Carlyle plays a role that seems to bring together his greatest roles into one terrifying part. As Don, husband of Catherine McCormack’s Alice and father to Andy (Mackintosh Muggleton) and Tammy (Imogen Poots), Carlyle’s character survives the original outbreak by holing up in a country cottage, before being reunited with his two children in an “infected”-free London that’s now under the command of the US military. When the virus breaks out again, Don becomes one of the “infected”, a role that requires him to wear red contacts and to try and kill his kids. I spoke to him on the set of 28 Weeks Later.

Why you were interested in playing Don in 28 Weeks Later?
RC: The initial thing was an obvious one: it came through Andrew [Macdonald] and I knew that Danny [Boyle] and Andrew were the executives. I thought Danny was directing it at first, then realised he was an executive producer. I know it’s not a reason to do a film but it was enough to get the ball rolling; I’m always interested in working with the guys. So I read the script and I think Don is a really interesting character. It’s difficult to talk about this because it gives the game away but he’s very human in the respect that he gets scared. He’s run away from his wife and that is haunting him. The thought of me as an actor, imagining that… [that’s] horrific to carry that around with you. And [then] in your worst nightmare she returns. And it was two scenes: a lie that he tells to his kids about what’s happened, and then the scene in the quarantine chamber. [It] was the two scenes when I definitely thought I’m going to do it, because they’re great moments, just great moments, and films are made up of moments, and the more moments the better. And doubly, the audience know what’s happening before he does. And that’s drama. It’s one of those ‘Oh fuck’ moments in the cinema, when people are watching it [going] ‘Don’t…’ ‘Don’t open the door…’ So it’s nice that… the audience gets very close to this character. I’m always into confusing the audience: what do you think of this character?

He undergoes quite a physical transformation too.
RC: Completely. He goes through a big range. That’s what I like about the ordinariness of the first scenes in the country cottage, in the way he’s got himself dug in. He’s quite content, doesn’t want to open the door, to anyone, and again that’s another part of the attraction to the script is when they open the door, the audience know they’re in fucking trouble. A lot of second-guessing goes on in the script. But when you get towards the end of it, there are a couple of moments you’re not going to expect… So it’s a question of all these things, good scenes, good moments, pretty entertaining moments, Danny, Andrew, Juan Carlos seemed a cool guy. I’d seen his movie, Intacto, liked it, thought this was worth a gamble.

In terms of getting into character, how have you tried to humanise Don as one of the “infected”?
RC: When I met Juan Carlos, I was 90% going to do it, but if there was a 10% it was about halfway through [the script] he’s a scary monster and one of the first things Juan Carlos said, without me talking about this, I really feel for the infected and I was like, Right, I thought that was quite cool. And I thought if he’s coming at it from that angle then Don’s going to be protected in a way and so far so good. And the difference this time from the previous film is this time the infected have a logic through this character; you can see that there’s logic there. It’s just something I felt quite early on, when this happens to him, he’s lost his kids again, right. Not only has he lost his kids, they’re away with a soldier and a military nurse and a wee family has formed, a wee unit, so that anger and that rage is then directed at them, for taking them away. And then the logic goes a stage further. If he can bite them, he has them back. So it’s not as simple as ‘Kill everybody’. There’s a reason why he wants to kill the soldier [played by Jeremy Renner] and the nurse [Rose Byrne], and there’s a reason why he wants to have a bite, a reinfected family.

How do you get that humanity across? Seeing you play the role, there seems to be something in the eyes of Don as the monster…
RC: Well this is the beginning in a sense, it’s just happened and the infection’s started to break out, and there’s a couple of wee moments where he appears and he’s watching, and those are the moments I’m going to focus on, in terms of the eyes. I’ll drop a lot of the physicality of it, the cosmetics of it and just concentrate on getting something out of these red eyes, which is quite hard to do because you’re fighting against the make up in that sense, but I’m going to give that a go, so you can see something of hurt in him. I’m going to try and do, show the audience that he’s hurt, he’s not just a raging maniac monster now. Yes he is, but he’s also hurt by that.

You’ve dabbled in most genres and yet Ravenous is the only other horror film you’ve starred in apart from 28 Weeks Later. Is it a genre you’re interested in? Were you a fan of 28 Days Later?
RC: Again it goes back to your first question and the reason why I loved the first one. I thought it was great, I thought it would have nice to have been involved in it. It’s a nice companion piece to the first film, [it’s] taken the story a wee bit further. But Ravenous is probably where my real love of that type of film lies, it’s more psychological and more kind of mind fuck type film, and of all the films I’ve ever done, Ravenous is my favourite. There are just moments in it where the visuals and the acting and the music and all the rest of it all come together. And I’ve been fortunate to be involved with other films like that but there’s just something about the double character in that and the moments of madness in [my character] Colqhoun which is pretty fucking scary even for me to look at. Ravenous, if I say so myself, [is] a top film.

A lot of actors say they enjoy playing “bad guys” more than playing the hero. Would you agree?
RC: Yeah, most of the time. Not always, but most of the time. They’ve got more of a journey in the story, they’ll come from some place and end up probably badly or dead or something will happen and that journey will be interesting. Whereas when you’re playing, for want of a better word, the good guy, the good guy’s got to be the good guy. Even myself, I try and subvert that as much as I can. If I’m playing a good guy I’ll try and put a bit of darkness in there but it’s hard to do that because then you start blurring it all and the audience don’t know where they stand, so it’s easier with the villain in a sense to lose yourself, to become something else, to become somebody else, you know. Psychologically it’s a more interesting journey.

Going back to Don in his “infected” state, have you tried to bring any particular physicality to the role?
RC: We were talking about a visual thing, and you’ll see very little of these people in close up, most will be in mid shot and wides. For myself it’s less about that. If I get too involved in that then I’ve lost the humanity entirely. I thought about it. Before I started, I thought about a stance and a posture and all that, but it started getting in the way. The way I’m thinking about the physicality with Don when he’s infected is there are moments of real stillness in him, and if you can make it slightly different from the first film as well, you see the face and then the attack happens. So I’m playing it up here [the face], I’m playing it in close up.

What differentiated the “infected” in 28 Days Later from the creatures in zombie films was their speed of moment. But if you have the speed, you can’t have the humanity because you can’t see it.
RC: Yeah, that’s it precisely. If you go down that road, the 1000 miles an hour, you’re fucked, and it just becomes that rage thing which is fantastic and it works extremely well but I think there’s enough of that going on in the film that I don’t have to do that. You’ll see it a couple of times, to know he’s capable of that, but again for me that’s page one acting, just show enough, not too much. Once you’ve shown enough, it’s there.

How have you found working with Juan Carlos? The producers very purposefully tried to get what they term a “real” filmmaker who could bring a new take on the material.
RC: I liked the first film and I think the most successful element of the first film was the high rise block with Brendan and the girl and I thought that unit as very, very interesting and I think that’s what Juan Carlos probably saw it as well, because he’s really concentrated in the family aspect [in this one] and what that actually means. It’s interesting sometimes working with European directors because they cut differently and you can see that sometimes with the crew going Huh, is this going to cut together? They don’t care so much, they’ll chop at it to make it work, so I’ll appear… the scene where I’m attacking Catherine, if he showed that way we shot it, it isn’t going to work, but I’m confident he’s going to cut it to bits, so it will work and it’ll work well and it’ll probably be quite stylised in the end.

Thursday 3 May 2007

It's Miller time

Hollywood loves Frank Miller. And now Frank loves them back. It wasn't always such. Don't get him started on RoboCop 2. Aut after Sin City and 300 it's turned into a mutual lovefest. Meaning, Miller's directing The Spirit and now it's his Ronin that's getting the big screen treatment. It's a dense, complex tale, not necessarily easy to adapt for cinema. I wish director Sylvain White the best of luck.

Wednesday 2 May 2007

Flippin' heck

Just when you think it can't get any cooler, this appears in the latest Entertainment Weekly. It's Iron Man, by the way.

Tuesday 1 May 2007


I wasn't too impressed by the first Fantastic Four film. Apart from Chris Evans' star-making turn, I didn't find too much to get excited about (not even Jessica Alba). So this summer's Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer hasn't been high on my want-to-see list. Having said that, I thought the teaser looked promising, but after this latest trailer, well, consider me impressed. I'll definitely be there for this one.