Joe Berlinger, director of ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,’ is an Emmy-winning and Academy Award®-nominated filmmaker. Read more
Tag: shari k. green
Saturday, January 26th 2019
WHAT: THE LEGO® MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART Mini-Room Multi-City Tour
WHEN: Saturday, January 26th
Open to the Public: 10:00 am
*event access on a first-come, first-served basis
WHERE: Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall
7014 East Camelback Road
Scottsdale, AZ 85251
*located in the food court area, event is free
WHO: Emmet and you! THE LEGO® MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART Mini-Room is a unique, limited-time only, traveling experience visiting 11 markets across the country leading up to the film’s release in theaters on February 8, 2019. Fans will experience Bricksburg as never before, with a sneak peek into the world of LEGO hero Emmet, by visiting a hyper-detailed micro recreation version of his living room. Guests will be able to sit on the couch with Emmet and his pal Planty for a unique photo moment. This special photo can then be captured and delivered to the user in real-time via MMS or email.
*About the film: The much-anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed, global box office phenomenon that started it all, “The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part” reunites the heroes of Bricksburg in an all new action-packed adventure to save their beloved city. It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are now facing a huge new threat: LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than it can be rebuilt. The battle to defeat the invaders and restore harmony to the LEGO universe will take Emmet, Lucy, Batman and their friends to faraway, unexplored worlds, including a strange galaxy where everything is a musical. It will test their courage, creativity and Master Building skills, and reveal just how special they really are.
This film is rated PG.
‘Rose & Walsh’ by Neil Simon
Directed by: Deborah Lee Hall
Starring: Marney Austin, Tom Koelbel, Julie Lee and Jason Isaak
Phoenix! Don’t miss ‘Rose & Walsh,’ Neil Simon’s thirty-third play which closes this weekend on Sept. 2nd. I’ve never been to a live performance of a Neil Simon and the fact that he just passed away made the experience of this being my first that much better. He said of ‘Rose & Walsh’ that his play, ‘Follows two great literary figures and the depth and consequence of their enduring love.’ The literary minds are those of Rose Steiner and Walsh McLaren, a couple who were together in life and who are still together even though he has been deceased for five years.
Playing Rose and Walsh are Marney Austin and Tom Koelbel respectively. Marney, who hopped all over the globe performing, producing and directing, continued to do the same after returning to the U.S. She serves on the board of the Theater Artists Studio and was excited about the opportunity to play such a fun yet heartbreaking character. She’s impressive in her performance. While watching her you realize she’s energized the room. She’s so comfortable with her co-stars, especially when arguing that she’s right and they’re wrong. Switching from a comedic to a dramatic moment was not a problem for Marney. I’d like to see more from her and I hope I do.
You’ll treasure watching Tom McLaren’s Walsh. Tom, a Theater Artists Studio member has opened several plays there and is thrilled he’s part of their 13th season. He’s played some incredible roles outside of Walsh, including Atticus Finch in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and George Bailey in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and has received three ‘Zoni’ nominations. A ‘Zoni’ is an award for theatre excellence. His enthusiasm for the studio and the parts he chooses shows in his strong portrayal of the characters. His comedic timing, especially playing off Marney Austin’s Rose, comes from years of experience that were obvious to the audience. As Walsh does, Tom commands the room when he speaks. He’s compelling to watch, and it comes from great confidence in knowing Walsh, trusting his co-stars and believing in himself that you can’t look away.
Jason Isaak plays Gavin Clancy, a writer hired to be a ghostwriter to finish a novel that Walsh hadn’t completed before his death. You can’t help but detect a certain magnetism he exudes when on stage. He’s dynamic and though he’s only been with the Studio since 2016, you can see that he’ll be a part of it for a long time to come.
Which brings us to Julie Lee, our final cast member. She plays Arlene Moss, friend to Rose. Like Marney, she, too, has directed and produced for the studio. She owns DYNAMIC! Productions with her husband, Don Woodard and has been involved with the Studio, one way or another, since it came to be. Her Arlene ends up being someone you weren’t quite expecting to meet and Julie’s exuberant, spirited and passionate take on her, is not to be missed.
All four actors do an exceptional job bringing the story of a woman who spent all of her money on clothes instead of essentials who, at the breaking point, gets an opportunity of a lifetime via the man she can’t let go of. She gives an opportunity to a new writer and ends up playing matchmaker at the same time. By the end of the story, it’s she who, once again, finds herself with her true love.
The set was great and never seemed to get old. Though the stage wasn’t large, it wasn’t small either and it felt very much alive. The staff is pleasant, and the intimate theatre will have you excited to be there; thrilled to be a part of it… so much so that as the lights go down you’ll be wiggling in your seat. Check out ‘Rose & Walsh’ tomorrow through Sunday! It’s your last chance but be sure to pick up a brochure regarding the rest of the season.
Former Marines, Mark “Oz” Geist and John “Tig” Tiegen, were unable to quiet their minds and bodies on September 11, 2012. They were in Benghazi, Libya, when what they were trained and ready to do, not what they were actually there for, kicked in; and luckily for anyone who survived because many wouldn’t have, had these men not been willing, ready and able to be, not in their words, heroes. Read more
Interview with “Unsullied” director Simeon Rice
Directed by: Simeon Rice
Starring: Murray Gray, Rusty Joiner, James Gaudioso, Erin Boyes, Cindy Karr and Nicole Paris Williams
By Shari K. Green
“Unsullied” is a film made by Simeon Rice, who directed and helped write the film after film school. He graduated film school after he retired from pro-football in 2009. He played for the Arizona Cardinals and also earned a Super Bowl ring in 2003 when he played for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
He was a very good football player but I’m not so sure that he’s going to be as successful behind the lens unless he learns more about what he’s doing. We do need to keep in mind that this is his directorial debut, but he should take on smaller films and lighter topics first, “pay his dues” so to speak, because as it turns out, the film is sloppy and chaotic… muddled, and the problems with it were exactly what you’d expect from a new director who needs a bit more experience.
When learning that there were several writers on the project, you can see why so much commotion made it to the screen. I won’t lie to you… if you like the type of action/horror movies that come from indie or student filmmakers, this is what “Unsullied” has in store for you and you’ll like the film. It isn’t special and it isn’t new. What doesn’t work? It’s in conflict with itself and its overall message is unclear. What works? Well, Rice has surrounded himself with some good people, chiefly, his cinematographer, Scott Winig. The movie looks good so, Rice has some experts in his corner and if he wants to continue making movies, his love of film and eye for talent behind the camera could begin to work for him.
As he declares in my interview with him, he’s very passionate about filmmaking and is humble enough to ask for assistance when he needs it. It’s my belief that as he learns more about the game, as he did in football, there’s little doubt he’ll improve and even become good at this. That said, “Unsullied”, a story about Reagan (Gray), a track star who is kidnapped by a pair of sociopaths for a game of cat and mouse, is an extremely formulaic “B” movie, made more for Rice to get a feature under his belt than for an audience to love and then tout for their new favorite director.
I hope he absorbs the criticism about his film and what is said about him. He should make improvements based on his mistakes and focus on creating a story that isn’t rife with commonality and concentrate more on entertaining his audience than proving something to himself and his friends.
SG: Everyone dreams of a second career and I know you’ve been asked this question a lot, but I must ask you… why film?
Rice: I have a passion of storytelling. I have a passion of… of creating concepts and being able to express yourself on a theatrical standpoint so… film, to me, is one of the ultimate levels of expression and freedom. To be able to do that and tell your own stories in your own way from facts to fiction is just one of those things that resonated with me… and improved itself over time.
SG: You had made a short film, a comedy, and then you tackle an entire feature next. Why such a tough project right away and what is the ultimate message you’d like to convey?
Rice: That I’m a filmmaker. That I’m telling a story and I can create details. I want to go so far left of what people would expect from me and to show that I’m a serious filmmaker; as a storyteller and as of a responsible storyteller. I have a film going into theatres nationwide and it comes from a very organic place. Those tales I create are going to stay in the pulse of people. I watched the film “No Country with Old Men” and as I sat and watched that film, I was so enthralled and into this movie, that I said, ‘I want to make a film similar to this’… one that’s going to lead you to the edge of your seat… that’s going to be an adrenalin rush of a film, that’s going to take you to epic heights and the lowest of lows, and things of that nature… so, I wrote “Unsullied” and “Unsullied” to me… it typifies the tipping point of what an action/thriller/suspense could be.
SG: You achieved all of that. It’s crazy, this movie. Murray Gray was the perfect choice for it. She was tough mixed with innocence. Were you involved in casting her?
Rice: Yes. I cast her. She was brought to me by a casting agent slash one of our producers, Michelle Gracie and… yeah… I watched a lot of girls. I sat in that process and ultimately picked the one who suited this role the best. Her and her ability to translate emotion really spoke to me and she really went after this role and took on a full commitment and the responsibility of what a lead actress would do and I’m overjoyed with her performance.
SG: Now the cinematic side. You had to have spent many days in the woods, not a Hollywood set, and shot day for night and such in those woods. I have to commend you for picking the right director of photography, as well, Scott Winig, who started his career shooting music videos and won many awards there. He got some really beautiful shots that had to have been equally as difficult to capture. How many days did you spend in those woods?
Rice: We were there just about twenty days. The shoot was twenty-three days and we were in the woods about seventeen or eighteen of those days.
SG: Wow. That’s a LOT of work! What was the biggest challenge for you there?!
Rice: I dealt with a lot of challenges but I think the biggest challenge was just… ummm… the anxiety of it. Dealing with my own anxieties before shooting and having confidence in my own ability as a director. But once I got on set, I think the biggest anxiety was the unknown; the fear of the unknown when you’re going into production. But once I got on set, it all made sense… it all felt natural and I felt that I shouldn’t have been anywhere else but right there in the director’s chair creating this film.
SG: Well, congratulations.
Rice: Thank you.
SG: I must know your opinion here. Which do you find harder, a three-week film shoot or a seventeen-week football season?
Rice: They both have their inherent strengths. You have to endure so much as a player. You have to endure so much as a filmmaker slash writer slash producer and executive producer. They are both very respected in their own different ways. Obviously playing football has a toll on me physically and creating films, you deal with great highs and lows… they both are different but both have their levels of complications. I respect both professions.
SG: Who came up with the title, “Unsullied”? Are you a “Game of Thrones” fan?!
Rice: I’m a “Game of Thrones” fan but it was more related to what she went through. It begs the question, “Unsullied”, does she or does she not, you know? It was just one of those things… the fact that the guys were so sullied… so tainted, you know? She goes through this and we want to know, does she lose her way?
SG: Right. Does she stay clean?
Rice: It’s also an open-ended question.
SG: Exactly. So, what was your favorite part of directing?
Rice: My favorite part of directing? I don’t really deal in favorites because that’s an absolute. I kind of enjoyed every aspect of it but really connecting with the actors is my biggest joy in terms of directing. To connect with the actors in terms of the role, in terms of expression, in terms of casting them and communicating an idea and then working through some of the complications that come with it… that’s a joy.
SG: Is there anyone out there you’d like to work with in particular?
Rice: I’m so humble. I’m so fortunate if anyone would work with me. There are so many great actors out there in the platform of theatre and production that if I’m connected with anybody out there that wants to tell a great story, I’d be overjoyed.
SG: What’s your advice for anyone who wants to go into filmmaking?
Rice: Come in the game very prepared if you want to see your story through. Tell your story. Tell your tale. Be dedicated. Make sure, whatever you do in terms of storytelling, that you have an outlet for the big game. Be honest in your creativity. Be honest in your storytelling… but be a responsible storyteller and make sure that the message you’re trying to convey is parallel with the message you want to get out there.
Interview with Nicholas Sparks for the release of his film “The Choice”
By: Shari K. Green
PHOENIX, AZ – Nicholas Sparks, as you know, is the author of books such as, Message in a Bottle, The Notebook and The Best of Me, which have all been turned into big Hollywood money makers, not to mention the fact that these films widened his already immense and devoted audience with each movie; suddenly books had to be seen by his fans and the movies had to be read… pretty good deal for a Carolina Panthers fan. When he came to town for a chat, I had to go there with him. I asked and, yes, he’s for Carolina in the Super Bowl this weekend, of course, and I’m for the Broncos. We’ll see. Anyway, he sat with me and a few others to discuss his most recent offering, The Choice, opening in theaters starting February 5th.
Very bubbly and fun, he walked in the room and gave us a ‘How are ya’ll doin’?’ Then he grabbed himself a Coke, offered everyone else one, as well, before finding a seat and introducing himself. He tells us that he generally has water the rest of the day, but touring means he usually has caffeine ‘til noon and this throws him off his normal healthier schedule, and how can you blame him? This is how he gets through these long days of interviews. His energy was very nice to be around and I find him to be quite warm and genuine; a very kind soul… sincere. He looks you in the eyes when he speaks to you, making sure that not only he is heard and understood, but to be sure to give you the feeling that you are heard and understood. He’s a very easy person to talk to and one I’m glad I had the chance to spend some time with. Here are some of the questions from our time together. Enjoy!!
*FYI There will be SPOILERS
Shari: You are one of the only writers to give us these deep romance stories from the man’s perspective. Do you get stopped on the street and get asked advice on romance all the time?
NS: No. In fact, I don’t know that its ever happened before so how about that. I’m not recognized by men. I’m recognized by women sometimes, but never men. Unless I’m supposed to be in… they know kinda where I’m supposed to be, I’m very seldom recognized at all. Like, for instance if people know I’m in Phoenix doing stuff, they might see me in a hotel lobby and recognize me but had they not seen me on the news that morning, they might not. So, in the history of my career as far as I know outside of my hometown of New Bern, North Carolina, I think I’ve been recognized… less than a dozen. I had a lady sit next to me on a plane, reading my book, staring at my author photo… and she didn’t recognize me. So no; but to answer that question I do, often by journalists, get asked, ‘can you give romantic advice?’ And I say, ‘I don’t think so.’ He laughs.
Shari: So you’re not going to start a column or anything?
NS: Absolutely not. I just try to write the best novels that I can.
Shari: Being that you’re going through some change right now, what advice would you give to students on making a life changing choice?
NS.: In general? I’d say, ‘choose your struggles wisely because it is your struggles that will define the life you live.’ What do I mean by that? If you ask people what they want, if you ask almost anyone what they want, everyone pretty much wants the same thing; they want a job they enjoy and great personal relationships, they want to be close with family and get along with friends, they want to be healthy, right? Everyone… the answer is so common it’s ubiquitous, however, if you ask someone, ‘How do you choose to suffer?’ That’ll tell you a little bit about the person. I choose to write novels. I isolate myself from friends and family for hours on end. The time vanishes when one writes it feels as though you sacrifice a bit of your life. I’m willing to put up with the torture of creation, you know, the struggles of writers’ block, to get to the end, right? That’s one of the struggles that I choose. So, choose your struggles wisely because how you choose to suffer will largely define the life you live.
Shari: Is the suffering worth it?
NS: That’s the question. Most people don’t, I find, get what they want. They really just didn’t want it bad enough ‘cause if you really want something, you really will do what it takes to get there.
Shari: For someone who does spend a lot of time in their room, maybe on the computer or what have you, what would you maybe say to someone who needs to maybe break away from that mold and to kind of get into that “romancesphere”?
NS: I would say that unless that’s what they truly want, they probably never will… and to accept that. And it’s okay… to each his own. (He thinks a moment and speaks again). To… to step out of a box in which you’re very comfortable and put yourself in an uncomfortable position, you have to really want to do that and there are certainly joys and wonders that can come about but there’s also heartbreak and sadness which are also part of the game. You know, everyone wants a wonderful relationship; they pretty much want the view from the top of the mountain but ya gotta be willing to walk up the mountain. Ya gotta be able to do the climb so, if they’re not willing to then have them accept themselves and to make the most of the lives they can with the friends they have and life’s about enjoyment. Life’s not only about work, it’s about enjoyment so as long as they’re good, I’m good.
Shari: Has anyone made a decision that you didn’t like? One that you had no say in; that’s the way it’s going to be?
NS: Has anyone made a decision I didn’t like. Sure! We can start with my children. (Laughs) Of course, you know? And… I suppose it goes to the nature of the question that was up to require the decision, right? Most of the time I try to live my life by simple words that my mom taught me, ‘If someone says something you don’t like, or you disagree with, say, (And this is true though) it’s your life you can do with it what you want… you can.’ Now how I deal with that, that’s up to me, but you can do whatever you want. My children hate when I tell them that. They hate it with a passion, like, ‘Put all the burden on me!’ But it’s very true. I don’t know how successful you’ve been at running someone else’s life, but I already found that it’s not very successful so I try not to give advice.
Shari: What are their age ranges?
NS: Fourteen to Twenty-Four. But it’s not just them, it’s siblings and people you work with. People are going to do what they’re going to do and the only thing you can control is how you respond to it.
Shari: Religion became a part of the narrative of the story, subtly and not so subtly; where Travis pulled away from his faith. Do you think that after the story ended, that Travis would go back to his faith?
NS: My opinion is that it would be difficult for Travis not to go back to his faith. That would be my thought on that subject but, of course, that’s just my opinion on the matter. And that was not an element that was within the novel. That was an element that came about in the film… and so, I suppose an even better person to ask would be Ben Walker for his version of the character and the director (Ross Katz).
Shari: How did you bring Gabby (Teresa Palmer) and Travis (Benjamin Walker) together?! They had such great onscreen chemistry.
NS: First we cast people who we thought were immensely talented and then throughout the casting process, we look for chemistry. How do they seem to get along, do they seem to be friends… and Teresa has one of these personalities that draws everyone in, and so does Ben, in fact. And so, what they had was just magnetic, even in the read, so, when we put them on screen, when you get them in the big picture, it comes across as being incredible. But it’s something that we definitely look for.
Shari: The brother/sister relationship that you had occur… is there something in your personal life that you drew from because the sister is very likeable. Her character brought a lot to the film.
NS: The sister in the novel was an even broader character. I’ve been asked numerous times to write a story about the sister cuz she had it all together and she really did. She was as comfortable as he was, with herself and I find that a wonderful element to someone’s personality… just the comfort with who they are. So, yeah, I was very close to my siblings growing up and I’m still incredibly close to my brother; we actually took a trip around the world and I wrote a non-fiction book about that called “Three Weeks with My Brother”. And, I’d say I’m close to my sister, too, but she passed away. She passed away from a brain tumor about sixteen years ago… so… yeah, the relationship between Ben and his sister was very much inspired by the relationship that I have with my siblings. I had parents that really stressed the fact that your siblings will always be around. Your friends will come and go but your family’s there forever. In many ways, they are the people that you can tell anything to and they still keep coming back… right?
Travis Shaw (Ben Walker) and Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer) in THE CHOICE. Photo Credit: Dana Hawley
Shari: Up to the accident, you have your love story… and then the accident happened and I’m in tears; multiple times throughout. What about trauma do you think makes the story that much better?
NS: Well, I write in a very distinct genre… it’s really called a love story as distinguished from a romance novel; a romance novel is really about romantic fantasy and it’s really supposed to be able to allow the reader to escape into a world and you go through conflicts but you pretty much know that the couple is going to get together in the end. That’s what it’s about and that’s why you read them and it’s certainly a very valid, you know, it’s a wonderful genre; Cinderella. I mean, it works every time. This is a love story and a love story is not necessarily romantic fantasy, although there are romantic elements. The purpose of that is to move the reader or the viewer through all of the emotions of life; to make it feelreal so you might call it romantic realism versus romantic fantasy. And that realism requires the reader or the viewer feel all of the emotions of life, cuz otherwise something’s missing… you know that; and the simple fact of life is that everyone goes through tragedy. There’s not one of us that will escape scot-free. So, we have characters that feel real then they go through emotions that feel real… and they allow you, the viewer or reader to live someone else’s but to feel like it was a full life; like you got it all even though it was just a snippet… a point in time.
Shari: You have romance down, for sure, have you ever, even if you did it under a pseudonym or something, considered writing maybe a horror novel ala Stephen King; try a different genre?
NS: No. I don’t. I’m very happy writing the kind of novels I write. One of the wonderful things about the genre in which I work, is that I’m able to pull elements from all sorts of genres and build them into my novels. For instance, “See Me”, is my latest novel; it’s a love story; these two opposite characters meet, it’s my first Hispanic character and she’s a lawyer and this guy is a reformed bad-boy and, okay, they’re going to make it work… overcome these obstacles. And somewhere around the halfway point the novel starts devolving into a very twisty mystery thriller. Something like my attempt at what Harlen Coben would do. And I’m not saying I did it but it was my attempt to do what he does so expertly well… and part of the fun of that novel is, the tension is increasing and you’re not even sure what’s going on. The reader is as confused as the characters in the novel. You can just feel the tension growing and growing. So, I can put elements of mystery into my novels. I put elements of the supernatural in “Safe Haven”… take that for what it’s worth… it’s very light. Uhh… Epic. I’ve done epic sweeping stories like “The Longest Ride”. So, all of these elements that are particular to various genres, I’ve been able to put into mine.
Shari: Have you ever or are you now, writing with a specific actor in mind?
NS: No. The only time I did that was for “The Last Song”. If the movie got made it would be for Miley Cyrus and that’s because I worked with Disney on the project.
NS: No. No. (Laughs) I never… never… no. (Laughs again)
Shari:. I love the cast, especially the side characters, Tom Wilkinson and Tom Welling are terrific… umm… were there any jokes on the set or how was Ben feeling about stealing Superman’s girlfriend?
NS: There weren’t any particular jokes about that. It was a very familial set because we asked all of those characters to have arcs; even the father had an arc, you know, the sister had an arc. So, because they all had arcs, we all asked them to do various things emotionally and… we wanted them to be very comfortable, really experimenting… pressing themselves, going out on a limb, really (allowing) them to evoke these emotions in the viewer in a real way and we did that by having it become a family setting. When they’re filming the backyard for the bbq, things like that, it was like we were at a backyard bbq. The dogs were running around, the kids were over there… the sun, it’s beautiful, it’s warm, you’re in your shorts, you’re cooking on the grill; it was like, ‘I can’t believe we’re working.’ It was more like that.
Shari: What’s it like seeing your novels come to life from a producer’s point of view?
NS: It’s a lot of thought. I love the fact that viewers are going to see a new way to hear the story that I conceived. I have my chance to tell the story the way I did in the novel… but let’s see how someone else does with my story, you know? What kind of colors, who are we going to cast, how are we going to frame this… what elements do we keep, what elements do we change to capture the whole spirit of the story and the characters. For me it’s a wonderful way to experience the story in a different medium.
Shari: Have you ever thought of just skipping the whole novel thing and just writing the screenplay and producing films yourself?
NS: Sure I have and I’ve chosen to do that in television not as far as film. Television is a bit more like a novel so you have a longer opportunity to tell a specific story. I’m currently, for instance, writing a pilot for HBO but that’ll give me ten episodes to tell a full story.
Gabby Holland (Teresa Palmer) and Travis Shaw (Ben Walker) in THE CHOICE. Photo Credit: Dana Hawley
Shari: The big ending, whether she lives or dies… what was the deciding factor for you? Was there a deciding factor?
NS: Well, it was during the course of the novel and, of course, that’s what happens in the novel is what I’m trying to say there; and I knew all along that she would come out. I knew. I didn’t… I didn’t want to… uhhh, I just knew but it was to bring the reader through all the emotions on the way to get there because… because sometimes these things happen; sometimes they don’t. When they do, there’s a really magical and wondrous feeling with it.
Shari: The husband in a film called 45 Years that just came out, says “All of the big decisions that we make, we do when we’re young; big decisions /choices”. And he had a real defeatist attitude which I don’t agree with. What is your take on that? I think we can make life changing choices every day.
NS: Of course. And at the same time, there’s some validity (in it), when you’re young is usually when you choose your career, you might choose a partner or a spouse to be with; you might choose whether or not to have children and there are certain points in time when some of those are no longer valid. If you’re a woman and all of the sudden you’re fifty and you never had children… you can’t bear them. You might be able to adopt, but you can’t bear them. So, some choices, just by the nature of time itself… yeah, they come and go and they’re focus is more when you’re young. However, there’s always major choices that one can make because there’s always the kind of life that you want to live and the new strugglesor the new sufferingsthat you’re willing to experience to get there; right? You want to go climb Mount Everest? Sure. Someone’s done that in their seventies. Alright… you’re willing to do that suffering; all the training… are you willing? Do you really want to climb Everest? That would be one example, but sure it’s possible.
I know what else is possible… you running to the theater this weekend and checking out Lionsgate presenting a Nicholas Sparks / Safran Company / POW! Production of The Choice starring Benjamin Walker, Teresa Palmer, Maggie Grace, Alexandra Daddario, Tom Welling, Brett Rice, and Tom Wilkinson. Don’t forget to come back and let me know what you think of it!!! Have fun and Go Broncos! *Although, I have a feeling Sparks will win this one… just like his film will. Bring a tissue!
Having just watched the screening of Super Troopers 2 the night before, I had a really fun time when a very small group of us press members sat down with most of Broken Lizard, the men behind the hilarious film franchise, the next afternoon for a bull session.
I could have talked to them all day but was, unfortunately, given a time limit. I spoke to Jay Chandrasekhar, the member of the five-man comedy troupe who directs the films, the night before, but only slightly as I hadn’t realized in time that he wasn’t going to be joining in on the interview or I would have brought my recorder to get a quote or two for this piece. Luckily for us, the four who were there, Erik Stolhanske, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter and Kevin Heffernan were chatty enough and quite entertaining, as was their film.
In fact, I was nervous for them as I went into the screening because often times films suffer from the sophomore jinx, but ‘Super Troopers 2’ is not one of them. They were happy to hear that I felt that way about their efforts as they were worried, themselves.
Read on because they also hint of a ‘part three’ which sounds intriguing. I say, ‘Go for it!’ Why stop now? But they made us wait long enough for this film… they need to get moving already, right?! I digress.
Interestingly enough, the most serious of the bunch was Kevin, known to most as the frustrating but cuddly ‘Farva.’ He had a more contemplative tone and seemed to analyze the questions more before forming his responses, which, here and the night before at the screening, seemed to be direct and to the point rather than trying to fit some mold a person may have expected from him.
Steve (Mac) is the more playful in the group. The class clown, so to speak. They all fit that description, in a way, but he seems to always be on. When not speaking, he’s waiting to speak, however, does give the speaker his ear. He’s genuine and warm and a pleasure to get to know.
Erik (Rabbit) is the quiet one but he’s not shy. He’s very sweet. Respectful. You can tell when talking to him that he was reserved as a youngster. He’s the one who politely waits his turn to speak and sometimes gets skipped. No member is rude toward the other, don’t mistake what I’m about to say, but like brothers often do, they jump on top of one another, metaphorically speaking, in certain situations which can turn into a free-for-all. If it does, someone gets left at the bottom. Erik may sometimes take a place at or near the bottom but seems comfortable there. What I mean is, if you watch him, his wheels are always turning. When it’s his turn to work or speak, he’ll burst from the pile and you better watch out. Don’t get in his way. This is all conjecture, by the way… just an observance.
Paul (Foster) is a little of all these characteristics rolled into one. He’s studious and insightful and he respects the audience, as they all do. They share a mutual appreciation for their fans and are aware they’d be nowhere without them. Knowing this, they’re very approachable and grateful.
Broken Lizard. A brotherhood has been created here and it was fun to witness it come to life. They finish each other’s thoughts and are hip to where the other is going with a point, cognizant of where each one stands on a subject. There’s a comradery, a reverence and admiration between them, that I’d say will never break.
Kevin starts by talking about the film.
Kevin: There was a lot of pressure about whether people were going to like this movie or not. Because there’s so many fans of the first one that they don’t want you to screw it up. Inevitably the concern that they raise to you, even in those groups, you know, it’s like, ‘I was so afraid it was going to suck!’ My wife said the same thing.
Paul: Our fans have never been shy about saying what they feel because you get people every day, like, ‘Yeah! Loved ‘Super Troopers!’ ‘Club Dread’ sucked.’ Or ‘I loved ‘Beerfest’ but ‘The Slammin’ Salmon’ sucked.’ So, we know people. That’s actually good. That’s helpful to see. What’s working and what people like. I think it’s nice; the response. We’ve shown the movie a few of times, especially to the Indigogo backers, people are so positive. I really believe they’re satisfied.
Question: Do you think that’s because they have a stake in your game?
Kevin: Maybe. I think it’s more of a wedding toast kind of situation, like, they want you to succeed. They’re on your side. You’re like family, right? So, you can go up there and, hopefully, not screw it up.
Steve: Kevin’s right. You feel a sense of release. I mean, from us, too. We just didn’t want to suck and thankfully it doesn’t. A lot of people are saying it’s as good as the first one, maybe better, so…
Paul: Yeah and certainly, we spent a lot of time on both scripts, but I think that what I like here is we spent more time thinking about what makes a good story or what makes a good movie so, you look at the first one and we’ll admit that it’s really, sort of, an excuse for set pieces after set pieces but we really wanted this to be something with an interesting story and you wanted to know how it ends and a cool hook about this chunk of Canada and, you know, I think we’ve ‘plus upped’ just the story telling of it.
Erik: Let’s face it. We made a great movie.
They all laugh and talk over each other having a great time, most likely, remembering moments of making this film as they smiled with congratulatory grins. All earned.
Then Paul jumps in with a worried face.
Paul: He just jinxed the shit out of us.
Question: When writing, what type of research did you do, in terms of Canada? I know that Bruce McCulloch (Kids in the Hall) was on set but, myself, I’d watch ‘Strange Brew’ or ‘Kids in the Hall’ or something like that, but did you pull from your past or do research or–
Erik: Yeah. I lived up there for about ten years.
Kevin: We had a lot of interaction. There were times when we’d go up there and, you know, have fun.
Erik: And for Touring and stand-up.
Kevin: There were times when we’d go to Montreal for the Just for Laughs Festival and you’d be in that area and there were… funny elements of it. There’s a lot of French Canadians who don’t want to speak English to you. There were a lot who were kind of gruff when it’s normally the Canadians who you think are nice people but they– so it was kind of a cool area; thought it would be fun to have some fun with it.
Steve: Plus, we’re neighbors and we know nothing about each other, truthfully, you know? We were in Calgary and we met a Canadian person who was saying some untruths about Americans and we’re like, do you know anything about the United States? How many states do we have? And he’s like, ‘I don’t know forty-eight?’ And we’re like, ‘Holy shit! That’s a ridiculous answer.’ And he’s like, ‘Well, how many provinces are in Canada?’ And we’re like, ‘I don’t know.’
Erik: What’s a province?
Paul: Forty-Eight? Seventy? That, to me, is why we left every joke in the movie is because, at the end, it looks like we’re all friends again and then Linda Carter basically says, ‘No. It’s going to be status quo again.’ And we immediately turn on each other. And that ‘Burn down your White House, again!’ and ‘What the hell are you talking about?!’ ‘The war of 1812. Learn your history.’ That’s my favorite joke because it is like, we didn’t even know our own history.
Kevin: We were in Calgary and someone, one of the Canadians, was telling us this whole story about how they burned down the White House and we were like, ‘What?! We don’t remember it that way!’
Steve: I had never heard that before. We were like, ‘The war of 1812 you burned down the White House? That doesn’t even sound familiar.’ We looked it up on Wikipedia. ‘No, actually, the Brits were renting YOUR land and THEY burnt down the White House in the war of 1812.’ But the Canadians were like, ‘No. We did it.’ We’ll let them have that one. We’ll give it to them. It’s fun.
Steve: We also didn’t realize they didn’t become a real independent nation until 1983.
Paul: The more you dig around, it’s just fun… just funny stuff; the real history.
Steve: But we don’t just take the piss out of them, you know? If you watch the movie, we’re the ones who come over the border and we’re making fun of them. We’re the ugly Americans. And then it gets flipped immediately and we’re kind of the bad guys.
Kevin: We cast Canadians in those lead roles, Will Sasso and Tyler Labine, Emmanuelle Chriqui; they’re all Canadian and we kind of brought that whole thing to the table.
Erik: And they’re all from different parts. Will’s from Vancouver, Tyler’s from Ontario and Emmanuelle’s from Montreal… it’s such a wide range.
Steve: And our philosophy with Broken Lizard, comedy wise, is never to be mean-spirited and never to pick on anybody. We’re joking about how silly Canada is but the point was that we were setting ourselves up intentionally to have these guys smear us all over the place. That’s the thing about Canadians. They don’t take themselves too seriously.
Erik: I showed some clips up in Toronto a couple of weeks ago and they were very excited.
Question: Jay isn’t here right now so this is your chance to tell us about him.
Steve: Our chance to bash him? Terrible director. Terrible actor.
Question: C’mon. Give me something juicy.
Paul: He sleeps with his eyes open and snores really loudly.
Steve: It’s freaky as hell.
Paul: Days where we would share a hotel room and sometimes even share a bed with the guy, like, you’d wake up and he’d be staring at you and he’s snoring.
One of the four makes a snoring sound.
Erik: I wonder if he’s human.
Paul: And he’s deaf in one ear.
Kevin: It was also fun to have him direct this movie because… since the first Super Troopers movie, he’s directed 100 episodes of TV so he does have a different rhythm now than he did then and it was kinda cool to see how he did things a little bit differently. It was more about pacing and having efficient coverage. So, he definitely learned, you know?
Steve: This is my impression of Jay Chandrasekhar, (deepens his voice; speaks slowly) ’Uh… speak faster.’ (They laugh)
Paul: But I feel for him because he has to direct and act, which, I don’t think about how hard it is until I watch him. You can see he’s acting but his wheels are turning as a director and you have to snap him out of it. Brian Cox did that a couple of times, which is the great thing about having someone like Brian Cox on set sometimes. He wants to make sure you have your shit together as a director but as an actor too, so it makes you up your game.
Steve: And Brian Cox, naturally, when the sun starts going down, he starts to get a little crusty. He certainly doesn’t have time for any tomfoolery.
Steve: Cuz when the sun goes down, we start to become a bunch of monkey’s.
Erik: In Trooper, we worked him too hard. We worked him overnight.
Paul: He’s awesome. His eyeball exploded ¾’s of the way through the shoot. What happened with him? A blood vessel burst—
Kevin: He burst a blood vessel in his eye so, as a matter of continuity, we had to go in and digitally remove the red from his eye for certain scenes, otherwise, in his closeup you would have seen that his eyes was all—
Steve: If you know which scenes the blood vessel burst for, which we do, now I can only focus on the white of his eye and it’s brighter than it normally should be.
Kevin: We won’t give those secrets away. You can see it on the DVD.
Erik: I mean, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen Steve reacting to it.
Eric suddenly looks horrified and alarmed. The room bursts into laughter at the memory.
Erik: That bloody eyeball was right there. Makes you jump.
Steve: A bloody eyeball is a terrifying thing.
Paul: He has a malevolent presence at times. He’s a jovial guy and he loves doing these things with us but when he turns to you with a big bloody eye…it’s the stuff of nightmares.
Question: I enjoyed the hell out of the movie. You guys don’t take yourselves seriously and you’re very passionate about what you do and it comes through in spades but you’re never rude about it like, we know you make fun of the Canadians but you don’t blame the Canadians’ right?
Question: Your passion shows through. So, what influences you, beyond the sequel, what influences you as actors to want to continue these characters?
Kevin and Steve argue over who’s going to answer the question first.
Kevin: A lot of this is based on us being friends. And it’s on… the philosophy is, ‘Hey, we’re gonna create this world and you can come and hang out in our world with us and be happy and be comfortable in this world because we’re having a good time; you’re having a good time.’ And so, I think that influences us to want to do these worlds in this way, you know?
Steve: That’s what I was gonna say. And we have drafts of things where the guys are bickering with each other or arguing, and we look at it, ‘No… no. We don’t want it to be that way.’ These guys are just joking around and having fun with each other and there’s the one asshole that everybody has in their workplace that’s gonna come in and ruin everybody’s good time and that’s this guy (gestures to Kevin) and so any obnoxious line that isn’t pc or not what we want someone to say, we just pop them into his mouth and we can get away with it.
Kevin: But you still like me.
Steve: But we still like you.
Erik: You’re lovable.
Kevin: Thank you.
Paul: The guy you love to hate.
Steve: And now we have a French-Canadian version of Farva, too (Paul Walter Hauser).
Question: From ‘I, Tonya,’ right?
Kevin: From ‘I, Tonya.’ What’s a great story is that I had done a comedy show with him, a live show… I had met him. And so, we’re trying to cast a Canadian Farva and I was like, ‘This guy I met; he’s fantastic. Let’s have him come in.’ So, we sent him to the casting director to go on tape for our movie and so we did our movie and they were casting for ‘I, Tonya’ and it was the same casting director and she was like, ‘I’m gonna call that guy in again cuz he was so great.’ And she called him in for, ‘I Tonya,’ and he got the part because he did ‘Super Troopers,’ which we were so excited for him about. And now the guy’s taking off. He’s in Spike Lee’s new movie (BlacKkKlansman). He’s done a bunch of stuff since.
Paul: It’s like we’re going around launching everybody’s career except our own.
Kevin: It’s good. It’s exciting.
Question: So, ‘Rabbit’ gets a love interest!?
Erik: Yeah! I’m tired of being shaving creamed!
Paul: That’s the last thing I want to do, is do the love stuff. Go and make-out and be mushy and have to do real acting? But, as silly as our movies get, you still have to have that scene. You still have to have that.
Question: Is there a girl out there for Farva?
Kevin: I don’t know. We talked about that. Maybe in ‘Super Troopers 3,’ we talked about maybe Farva finally finds his love. Maybe. But for now, I locked lips with Lemme in the movie, so… yeah… I’ll stay with Mac. Farva and Mac having a moment.
Steve: Pretty romantic stuff.
Kevin: Why not do it with the guy you know.
Paul: There’s no mushiness here.
Steve: That would be a great thing. In ‘Super Troopers 3,’ (gestures to Kevin) if Mac says, ‘I need to talk to you for a second. I can’t stop thinking about you.’
Question: Tell me about the writing process. How do you bring it all together?
Paul: It’s like this. It’s us around a table and there’s sort of these stages of just general ideation. Obviously, the world had already been built so that was good but generally speaking, we ask, ‘Where do we want to go with this?’ You, sort of, refine with each phase of starting, ‘Okay. Let’s go with that… let’s beat it out, how would something like that work?’ And with every phase, you’re almost always just throwing out bits or set pieces or comedy that you keep off to the side and you kind of build the structure of the storytelling. It’s just about populating as much comedy as you can.
Steve: Yeah. ‘Lonnie Laloush,’ the Canadian Farva, is a great example of that cuz that’s something where he just existed as dialogue. Down the road we thought, ‘We should probably see this guy.’ So, we wrote him into one scene but then we loved his audition tape so much we were, like, ‘God. We gotta see this guy a bunch and American Farva and Canadian Farva should meet up with each other at some point so… you just keep rolling it out and with each new draft, you have three, five, ten more jokes. It just makes the script better.
Question: Does anyone ever get their feelings hurt?
Kevin: Yeah. It definitely happens.
Erik: I’d say it happens.
Paul: Not over a joke but…
Kevin: We’re passionate.
Paul: We are passionate but it’s not necessarily a ‘This is funny.’ ‘No, it’s not.’ ‘Yes, it is.’ ‘No it’s not!’ The fights seem to be more, ‘Is it, at all, realistic?’ It tends to be more tonal stuff like, ‘That’s too broad, like a Zucker Brother’s joke. It’s funny but I don’t know if it exists in that world.’ Then the guys tend to roll up their sleeves.
Erik: Sometimes it’s like ‘Survivor’ where you have to form an alliance. Like, if you have a joke you’re trying, you have to get three out of five people on your side to get the joke approved. (Kevin laughs) So, often times, you’re trying to form alliances. Sometimes you even have to act it out. If you catch my joke but someone else isn’t seeing it, you have to get on your feet and sell it.
Paul: But then you can also sabotage a joke by reading it in a shitty voice. (Mocks a bad reading of a joke.) ‘Well, when you read it like that, asshole, of course it’s not funny!’
Paul: That’s the best way to sabotage.
Steve: But that’s the problem, too. When you get in these creative disputes, after the first round of, ‘Hey. I don’t know if this’llwork.’ It becomes, you just want to win a fight! And so now you got guys who have their heels dug in and there’re just going toe to toe. And three guys will just sit back and watch it. Like, we’ll smirk at each other while these other two guys are just butting heads.
Paul: And when you’re one of those combatants and you want support from the other guys, you’ll always get shot down because there’s nothing more fun than when you’re one of those guys watching two guys fight. And you don’t want to get involved. You just wanna sit back and eat popcorn and watch it. But it’s also maddening when you’re like, ‘Come on! Help me out here!’ And the other guy’s like, ‘You guys figure it out.’
Erik: You’re doing great. Hang in there.
Question: Kevin, you have a law degree.
Kevin: I do.
Question: You passed the bar in two states.
Kevin: I did. In two states. Yeah.
Question: If you became a lawyer and didn’t do this, looking and watching these guys, how would you feel about them?
Kevin: I’d feel they need a Farva, these guys!
Erik: Everybody needs a Farva.
Question: Any other careers anyone else were considering, instead of doing this? Your passion?
Steve: I don’t know what else I would do.
Erik: I don’t think we’re qualified for anything else.
Paul: I had a desk job for, like, one month.
Kevin: You guys could come work for me at the law firm if you want. Come make some copies for me. Do some research for me.
Paul: That’s good to know.
I believe he would. I hope you liked this interview. I know you’ll like the movie.
My second interview of the year was with young actor and singer, Anthony Gonzalez, who was touring for the film he starred in which releases this month on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital. Anthony brought the wonderful character Miguel to life in the Disney•Pixar film, “Coco” which is Pixar Animation Studios’ 19th feature film. In the movie, Miguel dreams of becoming a polished musician and for such a young man he’s, much like Anthony himself, well on the way. Not only can Anthony act with the best of them but he has been singing almost his entire life, a talent he picked up from watching his older siblings. It’s appropriate to proclaim he has a beautiful singing voice and he’ll go far with it. He’s also passing the tradition of performing on to his younger brother. Read on to learn more about this sweet person, Anthony Gonzalez, so you can prepare for when you hear much more about him.
Q: Tell me about ‘Coco’
AG: ‘Coco’ is about a boy named Miguel who loves music, that’s his passion, but he has to keep his passion for music a secret because his family has banned it because what has happened with his family in past generations. He kinda struggles with that because he doesn’t have the support from his family. Because of that, he goes on a magical journey through the Land of the Dead and where he gets to meet his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz. Yeah, I really loved doing the movie and the two things I love to do and have been doing since I was four years old! I have never sang and acted in the same project so that was amazing, especially all the amazing songs that ‘Coco’ has!
Q: What was your favorite part of the film?
AG: I have a lot of favorite parts but one of them is when Miguel is getting ready to sing Poco Loco. I also love a lot of the scenes where Miguel is interacting with Mama Coco because I feel like that’s so sweet.
Q: Okay, now what was your favorite song from the movie?
AG: I really love Proud Corazón a lot because I love the message that it gives. It talks about the family and I love the melody, it’s so catchy. That’s the one I sing the most. I, obviously, love Poco Loco because that one is just so much fun! Remember Me or Poco Loco was the first ones I recorded and that was so much fun.
Remember Me… I love the song so much because of the message. When I was singing it, I got the emotion because I really connected a lot with Miguel singing this to Mama Coco and it really reminded me of my grandfather who passed away when I was six. He was very special for me because he was always there for me and he would support me. He inspired me. When my mom would take my brother to singing competitions, he would tell my mom, ‘Take Anthony, too, because he loves to sing and he’s good at it!’ So, I definitely thank him. It was really emotional for me to get to sing, Remember Me. It was a way for me to connect with my grandfather again and be with him again. It was an amazing experience to get to record it.
I also love The World Es Mi Familia because the message… the world is my family, music is my language… it really shows the love Miguel has for music.
Q: I was wondering what it was like being in the sound booth for you. Was it hard to do that and were you finding yourself really getting into it?
AG: At first, I was like a bit nervous because when I was ten I went to Pixar. It was my first time there and they were telling me about the movie and that was the first time I really knew it was a Disney•Pixar movie so I was, like, ‘Wow!’ I was a bit nervous the first time but then after I started to go a lot more often, I kinda got used to it. I love this movie a lot because, umm… I really identified myself with Miguel a lot because we both have a passion for music and we both know the importance of family and, yeah, it was so much fun doing the role of Miguel; especially alongside the amazing director Lee Unkrich. And the amazing producer Darla K. Anderson and co-director Adrian Molina were just an incredible help when I was recording.
Q: Generally, you work with other people when acting but what’s it like to work on building up that enthusiasm when you’re alone in the sound booth?
AG: At first, I was like a bit nervous because when I was ten I went to Pixar. It was my first time there and they were telling me about the movie and that was the first time I really knew it was a Disney•Pixar movie so I was, like, ‘Wow!’ I was a bit nervous the first time but then after I started to go a lot more often, I kinda got used to it. I love this movie a lot because, umm… I really identified myself with Miguel a lot because we both have a passion for music and we both know the importance of family and, yeah, it was so much fun doing the role of Miguel; especially alongside the amazing director Lee Unkrich. And the amazing producer Darla K. Anderson and co-director Adrian Molina were just an incredible help when I was recording.
Q: That’s obvious to me now. So, you won the Annie Award for Best Voice Acting in an Animated Feature.
AG: Yes. That was amazing!
He uses the word amazing a lot, which so fits his personality. He also smiles a lot with a massive grin that brightens any room and is very animated as he speaks. He seems to constantly be in motion, unable to contain the energy coursing through him.
Q: What did that mean to you to win an award?
AG: That was just incredible because when they told me, ‘You’re nominated for an Annie Award,’ I was like, ‘Oh…uh…cool. I don’t know what that is.’ But then the director told me it was like the Oscars but in animation. I was like, ‘Wow!’ That’s a big deal for animation! And I was just so happy I was nominated. But something a director told me was, ‘Never expect anything.’ Because then, like, let’s say you’re so happy like, I’m gonna get the award but then you don’t… and you feel so bad. But like, if you don’t expect anything, it’s not as difficult.
Q: But you won. What was it like getting it?
AG: Yeah, so, when I went there, I was so nervous because I saw the other voice actors that were nominated. So many famous people were there, too, like I got to see Angelina Jolie and Kobe Bryant was there, which was amazing. I got to meet them both which was so much fun. They were so good, I couldn’t believe it. When I got the award, I was just in shock because this will be, like, marked in history! I was just so happy that a lot of people appreciated the hard work that people put in the film, the heart they put in the film… all the work they put to make it. Just ‘Coco’ in general, all the awards they were nominated for! They even broke a world record! It just made me feel so happy to see that a lot of people were appreciating the movie. It made me feel so good about myself that I even got an award which was amazing and alongside so many people that were experts in animation, like, so many people that were there that have been doing this for so many years.
Q: Well, what was your first acting job?
AG: My first acting job? I’ve never had that question before!
How is it possible he has never been asked this question?! Oh, yeah… he’s thirteen! Anthony giggles for being asked the question, something he does throughout the entire interview. He’s quite amusing to watch. I can’t wait to see the films he does in the future and how he turns his flair for the dramatic and his strengths and gifts into Oscar gold someday. Back to the interview…
AG: Well, I remember my first acting job. I was very young. It was for an Oscar Meyer commercial. About two or three years ago, I filmed another Oscar Meyer commercial and what’s funny about that is that in the commercial, I was with Renee Victor, which plays Abuelita in the movie (Coco) and that was amazing because we didn’t even know her, and we were going to be in the same movie!
Q: What did you have to do to get the part in this film?
AG: So, I auditioned when I was nine years old and what I had to do to get the part? I really had to put a lot of emotion in the voice and I really pretended that I was in the situation, like, if my family didn’t support me… if I was going through this journey… if I was in Miguel’s shoes. That was something that really helped me. So, I just said it like if it was me… like, it was something I would say. It turned out great.
Q: I bet it was a lot of fun.
AG: It was just so much fun getting to explore a different universe and getting to explore different things I didn’t think I’d get to experience.
Q: I heard you got to sing in your audition.
AG: Yes! What’s also cool, and I read this in a magazine I think, it said I was auditioning just for a temporary voice and I was like, ‘Wait! I didn’t know that!’ (Laughs) I was like, ‘Woah! Really?!’ They told me, later on, that Miguel was just gonna sing Remember Me but because they saw that I was able to sing, they actually added Poco Loco, The World Es Mi Familia, Proud Corazón. That… that was just, like, amazing! I couldn’t believe that.
Since my first audition, when I went to Pixar, (I knew it was about music) I was like, ‘Wait, can I sing for you guys?!’ (Laughs, smiles) And so, I did sing. I sang a song in Spanish and they loved it so much and I was so happy to show them what I’ve been doing since I was four years old. I never knew that singing would come in handy for a role! (Laughs)
Q: I loved the emphasis on family in the movie. Would you say there was a representation that you identified with, like, in terms of your own family and upbringing?
AG: Yeah, yeah! I knew coming into this film that family’s important cuz like, I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for my family. I started singing because of my brothers. They started singing and inspired me to sing. They grew up doing street performance and dancing in (inaudible) a very Mexican place. There’s a lot of restaurants there and music; that’s all you hear… it’s just amazing. My two sisters would dance and sing and my brothers would dance and sing. I would just look up to them and I would, like, see that a lot of people would enjoy their performances and would have a smile on their face and they would clap, then I see my brothers would feel happy. Well, because of them, I started singing. That’s why I feel that family is important. It also shows that message in ‘Coco’ which I really resonated with a lot. And also, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my parents, for the support they give me and for always being there every step of the way.
Unfortunately, Miguel doesn’t have that in the movie because his family has banned music for their whole life. Miguel could have shined shoes for the rest of his life but he decided to follow his heart and follow his passion and, umm, be a musician which is what he loved to do. And that’s one of the things that I… I really look up to Miguel because he can serve as a role model and a leader to many of the kids who have a passion and many other kids who want to sing and want to play the guitar, so I feel that he’s a leader. I’m happy to do the voice of Miguel.
Q: Is seeing your heritage in films like ‘Coco’ important to you?
AG: This movie was amazing because it was very unique to all the other Disney•Pixar movies. Obviously, they make you laugh, they make you cry but this one also touches on the Mexican tradition and this was very unique. It touches on the wonderful celebration of the Day of the Dead. A lot of people didn’t even know the celebration even existed, or they thought it was just like Halloween but it’s actually totally different. It’s about remembering your ancestors and connecting with them again and to know they’re not gone. They’re still here with you, their spirits are still with you, and that’s one of the things I love most about the movie! It taught other people about the culture so, yeah… representation is important because a lot of people learned many things along the way. It also touches on the importance of family and follow your dreams but besides that, there’s (sic) not many movies that show the celebration of the Day of the Dead. For Disney•Pixar to do a movie about it and represent many Latinos is just amazing and I feel so proud to be a part of that representation and to be doing the voice of Miguel.
Q: You’re from a big family, correct?
AG: We’re five. My little brother is nine, I’m thirteen and my older brother, who inspired me, is fifteen… and my two older sisters, who go to university now. We’ve all been into singing, we’ve all been into music. We all sing and we all act. See, my little brother just copied me every day. Every time he wins an audition he’s like, ‘I’m catching up to you!’ He takes it like a challenge and that’s what makes it fun. That’s why he loves doing it. In fact, I’m always there to help him in any audition. To support him and, yeah, it’s kind of like a competition but it’s also fun and we help each other out. That’s the good part of having people there that do the same thing to be there for you and help you… so that’s cool.
Q: What’s your best advice for young people who want to get into film?
AG: To just do what you love! If you’re having fun doing it, then do it. I really love singing and acting so I’m doing it! Thankfully, I have the support from my parents and my siblings so it’s easy for me to do it. And, just follow your heart, do what you love and never give up! Be really resilient… don’t do something you don’t love. You only live once! Miguel could have just done shoes, shined shoes for the rest of his life, but he decided to follow his heart and that’s good advice for other people… to just follow their heart. Do what you love and there’s always a happy ending!
He smiles when we’re done. This is a signal not only of how happy he was to have been the part of such an outstanding film but of the fun he had while being interviewed. Being interviewed is something he’ll master soon as it is this interviewer’s opinion that Anthony Gonzalez will be spoken to a lot through his many successful years in show business that is to come. It was a true pleasure getting to know this young actor and be in the presence of such a phenomenal talent and bountiful spirit of intensity. Before long, he’ll get his sea legs and navigate his way through promotional tours with ease and I hope he never loses sight of the fact that the reason doing these events is not just for promoting a film, a DVD or himself but for his fans, soon to be in the millions, to get to know him better. I hope this Q&A helps you do just that but here’s some info on the home release of the film.
Alex Roe Interview
I got a chance to sit down with Alex Roe, born Michael Roe-Brown, a handsome English actor who has been in films such as 2000’s horror/thriller, ‘The Calling,’ the action/sci-fi film ‘The 5th Wave’ in 2016. In 2017, he was in both the horror film ‘Rings’ and the drama ‘Hot Summer Nights,’ which also starred Timothée Chalamet. Now this year comes the romance and his biggest part yet in ‘Forever My Girl,’ for which he not only played a country singer but did the actual singing on two songs in the film. By the way, not only is he good with his accent, he sounds like an authentic country singer from the south when he belts out the tune, ‘Don’t Water Down My Whiskey.’
He’s just fantastic and has a big career ahead of him. Born on June 18th, he shares a birthday with another famous Brit, Paul McCartney, he’s much younger, of course. Born in 1990, he’ll be turning twenty-eight this June. He was really nice to talk to and was charming and genuine. Alex sings when he knows no one is around to hear him, yet gets himself in a movie where he’s a big country singing sensation. He’s not a bit shy but has such a gentle personality that he comes across that way. He definitely leaves an impression on those who meet him, as he does in the film. I hope you enjoy the interview.
We start and as I turn on my H5 Zoom Recorder he looks at it with concern.
AR: It looks like it could survive a nuclear attack, this thing.
SKG: It probably could, actually.
He eyes me suspiciously.
AR: You know something I don’t, don’t you? All of your equipment is nuclear proof.
SKG: I know I can count on it to get a good interview.
He puts his hand to his head.
AR: Radio to sound dude. And…
Alex pauses a moment before saying, ‘Speeding!’ Which is what is said when sound is ready to go and start to record. I said, ‘Exactly!’ Actually, I wanted to tell him I could use his talents on set as a sound engineer the next time I shoot a short film but decided to get on with why I was actually there as time was of the essence… nor would I dare say such a thing. Anyway, I had to know about his singing.
SKG: Did you pick this role because you know you have a good voice and wanted to show off that talent?
AR: I picked this role because… uh… because I thought it would be a really interesting challenge. To have a go at playing a country singer.
SKG: You were already prepared then?
AR: I had sung at home and stuff and I had sung, like, in the shower and like when people were out so, I knew I could carry a tune and if they were ready to take the risk on me, that I would be able to work hard enough to hopefully make something work. But, umm… yes, I definitely took it partly because of the challenge of that.
In case you missed that… he sings in the shower. One can only imagine. Okay, on to the film.
SKG: Forgiveness played a large role in the film, as well.
AR: I thought the story of forgiveness and family and home and all of that kind of stuff was… nice. It was different than the stuff I’d been doing.
SKG: The strongest message in the film, I thought, was to forgive and move on with your life. Do you find that an easy thing to do?
AR: I think everyone finds it really difficult to do but I think it’s really important. I think you can really, kind of, be set free by forgiveness, you know?
I nod my head in agreement as I believe it, too. It’s so obvious that holding onto regret and anger will eat you alive. His character, Liam, has many regrets that even being a mega-rich country singer can’t wash away. Alex recognizes this.
AR: There’s a real strength in it. Even with, like, little moments where you could not forgive, and you do, there’s definitely this empowering feeling cuz you’ve made the decision to forgive so therefore you’re in control of it and I like that it’s part of this movie.
SKG: Why, in your opinion, does your character, Liam, leave?
AR: (Takes a deep breath) I… think…yeah, that’s tough. I think, really deep down, I think that he hadn’t really dealt with the loss of his mum. (He’s silent for a moment.) And I think that as he kind of explains and kinda comes to terms with it, I think he was just running away. Running away from the potential of feeling the pain that he had pushed aside with his mum and the potential of maybe, like, losing Josie and all of these things. I think fame was this really, really easy, like, gratification for him… that he could run towards and feel good, like, temporarily; because all these people adore him and stuff like that so, it became, kind of, an easy fix for his problems but those easy fixes are, umm, not long lasting. They’re easy for a reason. So, when he comes home he, kind of, figures out how to actually deal with this stuff. That’s coming home and reconnecting to his roots and stuff.
SKG: Is there at all a possible chance that he didn’t want to end up like his father, even with religion? His father is a pastor so maybe even speaking to the religious aspect of the film, maybe he didn’t want to be. And are YOU religious?
AR: I don’t like to talk too much about my beliefs and stuff, really, but I think that… I don’t think he was necessarily running away from the religion. I think that it was more of a personal thing than a religious reason why he was leaving town.
SKG: You are building quite a resume of characters. Is there a certain school of acting or method you like or prefer? Meisner, Adler… Stanislavski?
AR: I kind of like to take little bits from all of those. I’ve taken classes and intensive courses and stuff and that was my schooling really. Taking little bits of everything. And I think you, kind of… when you start working, you don’t necessarily draw on those techniques… you don’t really realize that you’re drawing upon those techniques that you learned but you are. They’re ingrained there. So, like, if it’s listening; like the Stella Adler listening and observing, then that’s something that you, that you just naturally do, hopefully. Or, you notice that, ‘I’m not listening and observing right now and I need to.’ Cuz that’s what acting is; acting and reacting, ultimately.
SKG: So, nothing specifically?
AR: I don’t know, there’s not one specific school… I think I’m just going to keep learning and keep studying and… yeah… hopefully figure it out at some point.
I certainly don’t think he has much to figure out. He’s a strong actor who commands the screen when he’s on it and with his parts growing ever larger, he’ll have this thing licked before he knows it. Now, regarding the movie, and a child actress in it, I had to quote W.C. Fields to him who said, ‘Never work with animals or children.’
SKG: In ‘Forever My Girl’ you worked with this little doll of an actress who plays your daughter. Her name is Abby Ryder Fortson. W.C. Fields famously said, ‘Never work with animals or children.’ You didn’t listen and Abby completely stole the scene.
AR: Every scene! As she should. Yeah, I’m glad that you know who it was that said that cuz people have quoted that to me, but I didn’t know that, that was the person who said it. But yeah… don’t work with kids and don’t work with animals. I think with children, there’s an attention span that’s a little bit less than adults, definitely understandably, but I couldn’t get more lucky than to work with Abby. She’s so smart and so, like, brave and she takes direction really well but is also down to improvise which is really amazing. Half the stuff that made it into the movie was just Abby and I messing around.
SKG: Oh, really?
AR: Yes. It was us like, ‘Let’s do this in this scene.’ And she’d be so down to have a go at it.
SKG: Pretty fearless.
AR: I got really lucky cuz she didn’t seem to have a nervous bone in her body, you know? She was just having fun and enjoying it. And it definitely makes you check yourself cuz enjoying it is so important. Seeing a kid enjoy it that much… it kind of reminds you that, ‘Yeah! You gotta enjoy this. It’s fun!
SKG: At what age did you start?
AR: I did my first movie when I was ten, so I could relate to her as far as, that two-month shoot that I did felt like a lifetime, so I knew that for her this shoot, like, every little moment was gonna feel like a month of experience. So, that was really cool for me to see someone experience something that I did.
SKG: You were into it really young.
AR: That was when I did my first movie. I kind of took a little break from acting and I was playing soccer and, cuz that initial movie I just kind of fell into it… because they did an open audition at my school and I went up to the director and I said, ‘Look, I know that I haven’t done a lot,’ I was ten years old and I was like, ‘I know I haven’t done a lot but I’m good. I promise.’ I was like really confident.
SKG: You have to have that kind of confidence.
AR: I think so. Abby definitely has that in spades.
SKG: Yes she does.
Wanting some sort of scoop, I pushed my luck a little bit. Okay, it moved away from the film, I guess, but you can definitely check out my review, for more information.
SKG: Tell me something, give me something, that you haven’t told anyone else before.
AR: (Thinks a moment) Something I haven’t told anyone else. Oh! This is… umm… wow.
After a moment.
AR: I’m so open, I tell everyone everything.
SKG: (I point at him) Now that’s not true! You wouldn’t tell me if you were religious or not.
AR: I know. (Laughs; continues to think) What’s something that I haven’t told anyone? Oh, I’m sorry. I can’t think of anything quick enough.
SKG: Okay… favorite song and favorite movie. Let’s hear those.
AR: Favorite movie, acting wise, I think ‘Mean Streets.’ Robert De Niro in ‘Mean Streets.’
SKG: And Harvey Keitel.
AR: That’s a really great one. Then, favorite song… I think ‘Jolene’ by Dolly Parton.
SKG: Jolene? Dolly Parton? Did you just say that?
AR: You like Dolly Parton?
SKG: Oh, of course. I used to live in Tennessee.
AR: Wow. Okay.
Alex smiles. Dolly Parton. Wow. I wouldn’t have seen that coming. Anyway, check out ‘Forever My Girl’ this weekend for some romance. I think you’ll agree that Alex Roe has a big future in the genre… or any genre he so chooses, for that matter. Maybe he’ll record an album someday? Oh! I should have asked him that question! Missed opportunity.