Monday, July 28, 2014

The Hundred Foot Journey: The Food Feud Featurette

I've been following the making of The Hundred Foot Journey - the Helen Mirren film coming out next week on August 8th - sharing behind the scenes looks at production design and images from the French location courtesy of Sally Tharpe Rowles blog, Between Here and There. The link will take you to Sally's take on the book by Richard C. Morais. 

Today I'm sharing a short featurette/trailer combo featuring Oprah Winfrey and Steven Speilberg, both producers on the movie. They talk about that '100 foot journey' representing everything we go through, whether it's out of love or friendship, that you have to walk a distance to achieve something of value for yourself.

I think my favorite bit is the father, the owner of the Indian restaurant, played by the acclaimed Indian actor, Om Puri, when he tells Mirren "Enough of you! Always up there like a queen or something." A nice nod to Mirren's Academy Award winning role in The Queen.

The Hundred Foot Journey stars Helen Mirren, Om Puri, Manish Dayal, Juhi Chawla and Charlotte Le Bon, directed by Lasse Halstrom from script by Steven Knight based on book The Hundred Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais. 

Bon Appetit!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Game of Thrones at Comic Con 2014: George RR Martin tells the cast "Don't ask for a raise."

Wise words for the actors hoping to last another season or two, especially as the television series doesn't necessarily follow the books exactly. Some characters that are still very much alive in George RR Martin's world are already dead to us watching the HBO hit. Who is safe from Martin's mind AND the minds of the show's creators? No One! Don't ask for a raise indeed!

Over 130,000 people converged on Comic Con in San Diego this year. That's the largest turnout ever for the three day event where Hollywood unveils its upcoming film and television shows to a eagerly waiting fan base. What started as a gathering place for geeky comic fans who come in full costume has become much broader; it's not just for Batman freaks anymore. Ordinary, everyday crowds aren't my thing; crowds so large you have to camp out overnight for a chance to get into a coveted panel? No way. 

Instead, since this is my slacker Sunday, thanks to technology, we'll check out the Game of Thrones panel without dealing with the crowds.

Craig Ferguson hosted the discussion featuring George R.R. Martin, the show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss along with many of our favorite dead and still living - for now - Game of Throne characters; Oberyn (Pedro Pascals), Jamie Lannister (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Gwendolyn Christie (Brienne of Tarth), The Hound (Rory McCann), Masie Williams (Arya Stark), Margaery Tyrell (Natalie Dormer), Sansa Stark (Sophie Turner), Jon Snow (Kit Harrington), Rose Leslie (Ygritte) and Samwell Tarly (John Bradley). 

Ferguson, a huge fan himself, opened up the panel for discussions early on, fielding a fast and funny lineup of fan questions. The panel doesn't go really deep, but it's a great time, with lots of laughter, not something we get much with the show itself, obviously.

The panel also introduced the new characters we'll be seeing in Season 5:
Keisha Castle-Hughes (Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge Of The Sith, The Whale Rider)
will play Prince Oberyn Martell's eldest bastard daughter, Obara Sand, a fearsome warrior in her own right.

Jonathan Pryce is joining the cast as the High Sparrow, a pious man whose fellow believers have swarmed King’s Landing, ministering to the lowest and decrying the corruption of the highest. 

The additional new cast members are Alexander Siddig as Doran Martell, Toby Sebastian as Trystane Martell, Nell Tiger Free as Myrcella Baratheon, DeObia Oparei as Areo Hotah, Enzo Cilenti as Yezzan, Jessica Henwick as Nymeria (“Nym”) Sand, and Rosabell Laurenti Sellers as Tyene Sand.


Part two

Friday, July 25, 2014

Rooney Mara replaces Jessica Chastain in The Secret Scripture

I just heard that after Rooney Mara wraps Joe Wright's Pan - currently shooting in London [we talked about that yesterday], she'll head to Ireland to replace Jessica Chastain in the adaptation of Sebastian Barry's The Secret Scripture.

Bummer! I wrote about the book-to-movie back in November 2013 and I was really looking forward to seeing Chastain as the younger version of Vanessa Redgrave's character, Roseanne, a 100 year old woman who shares the details of her life - spent mainly in mental institutions - in a secret diary. Rooney will now play the younger Roseanne who survives a terrible childhood but then suffers at the hands of a cruel and vindictive Catholic priest. 

Rooney Mara seen here in the upcoming drama Carol, 
based on Patricia Highsmith's lesbian love story, The Price of Salt

Shooting begins in Ireland in September with Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot) directing from a screenplay by the beloved late Irish writer Johnny Ferguson. Ferguson, known for the Irish television series Fallout and Gangster Number One, died too early in April of 2013

Chastain goes on to other projects; both The Zookeepers Wife, based on Diane Ackerman's book about the husband and wife who saved the Warsaw Zoo during WW II, and Blonde, in which the red-head plays the ultimate blonde icon, Marilyn Monroe, in the adaptation of Joyce Carol Oates 'novel'. So many thousands of words have been written about the mysterious Marilyn, earnestly trying to get to the roots of the blonde beauty's identity while Joyce Carol Oates, who has said she never wanted to or planned to write about Marilyn, uses a fictional approach to lay bare the truth of the star's world. 

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pan, the Peter Pan origin tale, set to fly into theaters next summer

I have to admit I'm more than curious to see Christopher Walken as Captain Hook in the live television production of the Peter Pan musical coming to NBC. While I clearly recall what the network did to the Sound of Music - or maybe because I remember what they did, I'm expecting this adaptation to be a hootWalken, who is a glorious dancer, will play a dancing Captain Hook. Shiver me timbers! And yet. While I truly love the actor, in part because my husband is one of those legions of men who do a mean Christopher Walken, there's something too modern about him. Walken as Hook, dressed in pirate finery, puffy shirt and all? It doesn't quite fly.

What will fly? Pan, touted as an origin tale based on characters by J.M. Barrie, just might. Slated for a summer 2015 release, Pan is being directed by the visionary Joe Wright - remember his failed but ambitious Anna Karenina? While Peter Pan feels like it's been done to death, if you're looking for a new take on an old story, Wright seems like the guy to do it. In his version, scripted by Jason Fuchs, there's not a Tinkerbell listed on the imdb page but there is a Blackbeard. He's being played by Hugh Jackman who can don a puffy shirt with the best of them. Captain Hook, on the other hand, is being played by the younger Garret Hedlund (On the Road, Inside Llewyn Davis and the upcoming Unbroken). Rooney Mara (Social Network, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) is Tiger Lily, while Amanda Seyfried is listed on as 'Mary'. I may be having a brain lapse but I can't recall the character so I would guess she's part of this re-imagined version. 

While the script relies on Barrie's characters we can expect them - and their new friends - to veer off the Peter Pan story we know by heart. In this iteration we won't see Peter as the audacious boy who wins Wendy's heart; in this 'before' story, Peter Plan (Levi Miller) is "a young orphan who is spirited away to the magical Neverland. There, he finds both fun and dangers, and ultimately discovers his destiny — to become the hero who will be forever known as Peter Pan."  

What do you think? The Peter Pan musical that's going to air on live television or Pan, a whole new take on a beloved book and play?

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Simon Pegg in new Hector and the Search for Happiness trailer

Hallelujah! Hector and the Search for Happiness is finally finding its way to North America. The film based on the book by the French psychiatrist Francis Lelord will debut at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival prior to a limited release in September. September the 19th if you want to set aside the date. 

We've been given a poster and a new trailer for the occasion! I notice someone online calling it the first trailer but really, we know better! I posted the first trailer back in February and posted another trailer back in June! We've been waiting for signs of life for such a long time - since we first heard about the Peter Chesolm-directed adaptation back in April of last year; I'm so glad we're closer to seeing Simon Pegg - who stars as the inquisitive shrink - and the rest of this killer cast of amazing actors: Rosamund Pike (his girlfriend, Clara), Toni Collette, Stellan Skarsgård, Christopher Plummer, and Jean Reno. The film follows a quirky psychiatrist (Pegg) who has become increasingly tired of his humdrum life. As Hector tells his girlfriend, Clara (Rosamund Pike), he hasn’t really tasted life, so it feels wrong to offer advice to patients. [Do psychiatrists ever actually give 'advice'? Could have fooled me!] That's why Hector decides to break out and go on a global quest in search of finding real happiness.

Let's watch the new trailer, shall we?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Second trailer for Angelina Jolie's period drama Unbroken

A brand new trailer - the second one in less than a month - has been released for the Angelina Jolie film Unbroken, set for release this Christmas. The film is based on the life of Louis Zamperini, the Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.

Zamperini - who died on July 2 at the age of 97 - is played by Jack O'Connell with newcomer C.J. Valloy as Louis when he was a boy. Garret Hedlund, Domhnall Gleeson and Jai Courteny costar as fellow captives, his buddies who we see forced by the Japanese to pummel Zamperini in turn. Joel and Ethan Coen wrote the script based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand but it's not the only Louis Zamperini story out there. According to the LA Times, Zamperini's own memoir The Devil at My Heels was optioned by Universal in 1956 with Tony Curtis 'penciled in' to star. Except Curtis went on to do Spartacus instead, and Zamperini's story was left in the dust.

This time around the stars are aligned. Truly. Jolie has gathered top names in their fields, stars in their area of expertise, if you will. Besides the Coen brothers (Fargo, No Country for Old Men), Jolie had the acclaimed Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, Skyfall, Revolutionary Road, Barton Fink, The Big Lebowski, Doubt, Oh Brother Where are You? Prisoners) - considered by many to be the best cinematographer working today - as her director of photography and hired on the marvelous Monsieur Alexandre Desplat who has given us scores of heart-swelling music before ala The Grand Budapest Hotel, Philomena, Benjamin Buttons, ArgoThe Fantastic Mr. Fox and so many more, to score the soundtrack. 

Let's watch the trailer.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Staring at the Flame: John Le Carre on Philip Seymour Hoffman in The New York Times

I'm stealing from the New York Times today and shamelessly sharing John Lecarre's heartfelt essay about Philip Seymour Hoffman, whom I love and I think a lot of you do too. Hoffman stars posthumously in A Most Wanted Man based on LeCarre's novel, one of this year's movies based on books, which opens this Friday, July 25 and along with Hoffman, stars Rachel McAdams, Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright, Daniel Bruhl and Grigorly Dobrijin. The film was directed by Anton Corbijn from a screenplay by Andrew Bovell.

Staring at the Flame

Anton Corbijn/Schirmer/Mosel, Munich. From the recently published Schirmer/Mosel book, Anton Corbijn - Looking at A Most Wanted Man. All Rights Reserved.

I reckon I spent five hours at most in Philip Seymour Hoffman’s close company, six at a pinch. Otherwise it was standing around with other people on the set of “A Most Wanted Man,” watching him on the monitor and afterward telling him he was great, or deciding better to keep your thoughts to yourself. I didn’t even do a lot of that: a couple of visits to the set, one silly walk-on part that required me to grow a disgusting beard, took all day and delivered a smudgy picture of somebody I was grateful not to recognize. There’s probably nobody more redundant in the film world than a writer of origin hanging around the set of his movie, as I’ve learned to my cost. Alec Guinness actually did me the favor of having me shown off the set of the BBC’s TV adaptation of “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” All I was wanting to do was radiate my admiration, but Alec said my glare was too intense.

Come to think of it, Philip did the same favor for a woman friend of ours one afternoon on the shoot of “A Most Wanted Man” in Hamburg that winter of 2012. She was standing in a group 30-odd yards away from him, just watching and getting cold like everybody else. But something about her bothered him, and he had her removed. It was a little eerie, a little psychic, but he was bang on target because the woman in the case is a novelist, too, and she can do intensity with the best of us. Philip didn’t know that. He just sniffed it.

In retrospect, nothing of that kind surprised me about Philip, because his intuition was luminous from the instant you met him. So was his intelligence. A lot of actors act intelligent, but Philip was the real thing: a shining, artistic polymath with an intelligence that came at you like a pair of headlights and enveloped you from the moment he grabbed your hand, put a huge arm round your neck and shoved a cheek against yours; or if the mood took him, hugged you to him like a big, pudgy schoolboy, then stood and beamed at you while he took stock of the effect.

Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing. The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death. Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t. Philip was burning himself out before your eyes. Nobody could live at his pace and stay the course, and in bursts of startling intimacy he needed you to know it.

No actor had ever made quite the impact on me that Philip did at that first encounter: not Richard Burton, not Burt Lancaster or even Alec Guinness. Philip greeted me as if he’d been waiting to meet me all his life, which I suspect was how he greeted everyone. But I’d been waiting to meet Philip for a long time. I reckoned his “Capote” the best single performance I’d seen on screen. But I didn’t dare tell him that, because there’s always a danger with actors, when you tell them how great they were nine years ago, that they demand to know what’s been wrong with their performances ever since.

But I did tell him that he was the only American actor I knew who could play my character George Smiley, a role first graced by Guinness in the BBC “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” and more recently by Gary Oldman in the big-screen adaptation — but then, as a loyal Brit, I was claiming Gary Oldman for our own.

Perhaps I was also remembering that, like Guinness, Philip wasn’t much of a lover on screen, but mercifully, we didn’t have to bother about that in our movie. If Philip had to take a girl in his arms, you didn’t actually blush and look away as you did with Guinness, but you couldn’t help feeling that somehow he was doing it for you rather than himself.

Our filmmakers had a lot of discussion about whether they could get Philip into bed with somebody, and it’s an interesting thought that when they did finally come up with a proposal, both partners ran a mile. It was only when the magnificent actress Nina Hoss appeared beside him that the makers realized they were looking at a small miracle of romantic failure. In her role, which was hastily bulked out, she is Philip’s adoring work mate, acolyte and steadying hand, and he breaks her heart.

Photo credit: Kerry Brown/Roadside Attractions

That suited Philip just fine. His role of Günther Bachmann, middle-aged German intelligence officer on the skids, did not allow for enduring love or any other kind. Philip had made that decision from Day 1 and to rub it in, carried a well-thumbed paperback copy of my novel around with him — and what author of origin could ask more? — to brandish in the face of anyone who wanted to sex the story up.

The movie of “A Most Wanted Man” also features Rachel McAdams and Willem Dafoe, and opens in a cinema near you, I hope, so start saving now. It was shot almost entirely in Hamburg and Berlin, and numbers in its cast some of Germany’s most distinguished actors in relatively humble roles, not only the sublime Nina Hoss (the film “Barbara”), but also Daniel Brühl (“Rush”).

In the novel, Bachmann is a secret agent on his uppers. Well, Philip can relate to that. The character’s been whisked home from Beirut after losing his precious spy network to the clumsiness or worse of the C.I.A. He has been put out to grass in Hamburg, the city that played host to the 9/11 conspirators. Its regional intelligence arm, and many of its citizens, are still living with that embarrassment.

Bachmann’s self-devised mission is to put the score straight: not by way of snatch teams, waterboards and extrajudicial killings, but by the artful penetration of spies, by espousal, by using the enemy’s own weight to bring him down, and the consequent disarming of jihadism from within.

Over a fancy dinner with the filmmakers and the high end of the cast, I don’t remember either Philip or myself talking much about the actual role of Bachmann; just more generally, about such things as the care and maintenance of secret agents and the pastoral role incumbent on their agent runners. Forget blackmail, I said. Forget the macho. Forget sleep deprivation, locking people in boxes, simulated executions and other enhancements. The best agents, snitches, joes, informants or whatever you want to call them, I pontificated, needed patience, understanding and loving care. I like to think he took my homily to heart, but more likely he was wondering whether he could use a bit of that soupy expression I put on when I’m trying to impress.

It’s hard now to write with detachment about Philip’s performance as a desperate middle-aged man going amok, or the way he fashioned the arc of his character’s self-destruction. He was directed, of course. And the director, Anton Corbijn, a cultural polymath in Philip’s class, is many wonderful things: photographer of world renown, pillar of the contemporary music scene and himself the subject of a documentary film. His first feature, “Control” in black and white, is iconic. He is currently making a movie about James Dean. Yet for all that, his creative talents, where I have seen them at work, strike me as inward and sovereign to himself. He would be the last person, I suspect, to describe himself as a theoretical dramatist, or articulate communicator about the inner life of a character. Philip had to have that dialogue with himself, and it must have been a pretty morbid one, filled with questions like: At which point exactly do I lose all sense of moderation? Or, why do I insist on going through with this whole thing when deep down I know it can only end in tragedy? But tragedy lured Bachmann like a wrecker’s lamp, and it lured Philip, too.

There was a problem about accents. We had really good German actors who spoke English with a German accent. Collective wisdom dictated, not necessarily wisely, that Philip should do the same. For the first few minutes of listening to him, I thought, “Crikey.” No German I knew spoke English like this. He did a mouth thing, a kind of pout. He seemed to kiss his lines rather than speak them. Then gradually he did what only the greatest actors can do. He made his voice the only authentic one, the lonely one, the odd one out, the one you depended on amid all the others. And every time it left the stage, like the great man himself, you waited for its return with impatience and mounting unease.

We shall wait a long time for another Philip."

John le Carré is the author of “A Most Wanted Man” and, most recently, “A Delicate Truth.” “A Most Wanted Man” will be in theaters on Friday.

Copyright © David Cornwell 2014

Let's watch the trailer ...