2010: A Look Back at a Lot of Interviews

At the end of 2009, I took a look back at 100 interviews I’d done over the course of the year, and it was exhausting…not only for me, but possibly also for you, the reader. Oh, I still think it was a heck of a piece, but I believe I made a mistake by numbering them. I mean, you get about 20 – 25 into the proceedings, and it’s, like, “Oh, geez, I’ve still got 75 left to go? Screw this, I’m out of here.” So this time, I’m not going to tell you how many quotes are in the piece. I’ll just say that I talked to a lot of really funny, fascinating, and decidedly forthright people during the course of 2010, and I’ll let you dive in. Hope you enjoy the chance to reminisce as much I did, and here’s to a great 2011 for us all!

Big Shots at the Box Office

“I was in Australia, touring with my films and live show, and I got an E-mail from my agent, saying that there was interest in me for Tim Burton’s ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ I thought, ‘Okay, that sounds good.’ I thought it would be for a day or two, maybe a few days or something, and I would’ve been very happy to do that. But then the offer came in, and it was for virtually the entire run of the film. I didn’t even know what part it was for, so I asked my agent, and he said it was for the Knave of Hearts. So I looked up the Knave of Hearts in the original book online and…it didn’t really seem like a character that would require the run of the film. I thought, ‘Something must be different.’ And then I got the actual screenplay, and it was extremely different. I could see that it was written as a sequel. But it was a great part, and I was ecstatic to be in it…and I’m still ecstatic to be in it!” – Crispin Glover, Alice in Wonderland

“They called my agent and said they were auditioning for (‘Inception’), so I flew myself back, I read for Chris (Nolan) once, and I left. I think it was later that day that I heard from my agent, saying, ‘They’ve cut everyone except you. Now, they’re going to go to London to see some people, and then we’ll know more after that. So don’t get your hopes up, but…this is great!’ Then I came back and read again, and I got the job. And then, as you might expect, I freaked out completely.” – Dileep Rao, Inception

“I was actually down at my ranch in South Texas, and my guys called me and said, ‘Hey, we’re trying to get you a meeting with Sylvester Stallone. He’s casting a movie called ‘The Expendables.’’ Several months went by, and he’d already cast ‘The Expendables,’ but he still wanted to meet me for potentially playing the part of Dan Paine. So I went in to meet Sly, it was the first time I’d ever met him, and I’m a huge fan. I remember watching ‘Rocky’ back in ’76 or whenever it was, then getting up the next morning, drinking eggs, and running down the street…and now here I am meeting with this guy!” – Steve Austin, The Expendables

“I was privileged and honored to work side by side with Sly (Stallone in ‘The Expendables’). Most of my scenes take place with him, and I’m telling you, man, he took me under his wing, and it was a brilliant thing. I don’t know what else to say. ‘Rocky,’ ‘Rambo,’ just everything he’s done is iconic, and it wasn’t lost on me. I love the man, and I can’t wait to do another one, ‘cause Sly’s the king of the sequels…and in my whole career, I’ve never done a sequel to any one of my projects. So I’m, like, ‘Sly, I’m ready for ‘Expendables 2,’ okay?'” – Terry Crews, The Expendables

“Jessica (Pare) was just about to disrobe…we were in the (hot) tub…and they were, like, ‘Ready!’ And she took off whatever was covering her in the tub. And somebody asked the boom guy a question just as she was disrobing, and all he could say was, ‘Yesssssss…’ He could only whisper. I didn’t make a joke about it, though. I was just, like, ‘Okay, Craig, keep it cool, keep it together…’” – Craig Robinson, Hot Tub Time Machine

“I made the mistake of using one term loosely and saying (filming in 3D) was a tedious process, and somebody made it sound really bad. The bottom line is that it took a little longer, and the one that suffered more than anybody was (director Kevin Greutert) and the camera guy, because they have to get it right. You know, calibration and being specific with lights and all that stuff. For me, it was a good excuse to go play with the crew that wasn’t on set and crack a couple of jokes, so I got to socialize a little bit more.” – Costas Mandylor, Saw 3D

“Usually, when you’re coming in completely blind with who you’re working with, you don’t know if you’re going to get along, nor do some people put the time in to try to get along. We were all in Pittsburgh, and we did do, like, two weeks of rehearsal before we started shooting (‘She’s Out of My League’), and in those two weeks, we hung out a lot…and, luckily, it went good rather than bad. Because sometimes it’s just awful, and you’re going, ‘I can’t stand that guy!’ So we were lucky. I know a lot of people always say this when they come off work, because they’re kind of trained to say it, but with this one, we all really got along, and I think that’s what helps our chemistry on screen so much: we thought each other were funny, we even liked to hang out afterward, and that played well. ” – Nate Torrence, She’s Out of My League

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A Chat with director Patrick Hughes and actor Ryan Kwanten of “Red Hill”

Patrick Hughes and Ryan Kwanten of First-time feature directors — especially when they’re essentially financing their films — tend to make low-key stories without much in the way of action. Often, they are offbeat romances or perhaps something about a bunch of guys in their teens or late twenties avoiding the responsibilities of adulthood. Directors who emerge from the world of commercials often wind-up making movies that rely on flashy visuals and employ the worst kind of ADHD editorial approach. To his everlasting credit, Patrick Hughes, a first-time self-financing feature director with a background in commercials, did none of those things in his first feature, “Red Hill,” an often violent suspense tale with elements of classic westerns, monster films, and a strong sense of its Australian heritage.

Its star, Ryan Kwanten, is by far best known as Jason Stackhouse of “True Blood,” an occasionally likable dim-bulb of a character who would pretty much be nothing if it weren’t for his athletic good looks and sexual prowess. But Kwanten as an actor is certainly no mere boy-toy, even if he remains a favorite of young female fans and looks about a decade younger than his actual age (he’ll be 34 later this month). As the rather archly named Shane Cooper, the earnest, violence-averse policeman hero of “Red Hill,” he must be believable dealing with the rampage of revenge waged by an Aboriginal escaped convict (Tommy Lewis) while protecting his loving and pregnant wife (Claire van der Boom), dealing with the barbs of his taskmaster of a new boss (Steve Bisley), and spending a good chunk of the movie marinating in his own blood and believably fighting on. If that isn’t proof that Kwanten is, you know, a real actor, his next non-“True Blood” role appears to be as Charles Manson.

I met with voluble writer-director Hughes and actor Kwanten – who, as befits this film’s low budget provenance, come across as remarkably down-to-earth in person – during a press day held at Strand Releasing’s east Culver City office. A short time later, Kwanten would be chatting telephonically for a solo interview with my colleague, Will Harris, who’d be concentrating on his career, definitely including “True Blood.” No prima dona, and you’ll see just what I mean by that later in the interview, he was fine with surrendering some of the spotlight to director Hughes, who kind of dominates the discussion during the first half of this interview. However, do not fear, Kwantenites: we do hear from the very talented actor starting just past this interview’s halfway point, as he discusses crucial matters of blood, guts, and pig poo.

01._Ryan_Kwanten

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True Blood 3.12 – Sometimes, The Wrong Thing To Do Is The Right Thing

Season 3 of “True Blood” has come to a conclusion, and I’ve got to be honest with you: it couldn’t have happened a moment too soon. Between having to blog both this show and “Mad Men” more or less live, I’d reached the point where I’d begun to dread Sunday nights…until I realized that, no, it wasn’t so much that I was dreading Sunday nights as it was that I was dreading having to blog “True Blood.”

But we’ll get back to that.

Since I’ve already watched and written about the show, let’s go ahead and just tackle the events of the season finale first, beginning, of course, at the beginning.

So Eric and The King are just, y’know, kinda hanging out in the parking lot and catching some rays, like good buds sometimes do…except, of course, that good buds don’t tend to be handcuffed together (unless they’ve taken their friendship to a, uh, higher level), and being exposed to the rays in question means imminent death. In the case of The King, it’s kind of a good-riddance-to-bad-rubbish situation, but for Eric’s, it’s definitely a case of suicide by sunshine. So is the spirit of Godric really visiting him, or is it just his rational mind trying to get his attention? Either way, Godic’s pleas for Eric to forgive The King fall on deaf ears. Meanwhile, Sookie’s running through the forest to catch something that looks like a cross between E.T.’s ship and a chandelier, but it turns out to be something like running toward the light, since she suddenly wakes up from what was apparently a dream and slaps the shit out of Bill for betraying her again…except that, really, he only pretended to betray her in order to save her again. Yawn. As soon as she realizes that Eric’s outside, sacrificing himself in order to rid the world of The King, she refuses to allow it, instead running outside and allowing The King to goad her into using her fairy powers to separate Eric and The King from each other. Rather than save them both, however, she slams The King against a wall, dragging Eric inside and leaving The King to burn…although, frankly, I don’t know why she didn’t do something to actively finish him off, given that he was continuing to threaten her even as she departed.

Oh, that’s why: Sookie offers up her blood to save the day, and once Eric’s in better shape, he announces that he wants to spare The King. Yeah, good plan: he sure talks and acts like he’s really going to be sparing humanity when he gets released. Sookie sits around, reading Star Magazine and listening to The King rattle on with huge monetary bribes, but she’s not letting him out of his chains. As a backup, he tries to make her feel paranoid about the value of her blood to Bill and the other vampires. She openly mocks him for believing that he can bring his lover back to life with her blood. Instead, she pours his remains down the sink and cranks up the garbage disposal. Ew.

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True Blood 3.11 – “Be brave. We’ll die together.”

I’d like to begin this week’s blog with a plea to the publicists at HBO to provide us with some more photo assets for “True Blood,” because I have to believe that you’re just as sick of looking at this all-purpose promo shot as I am. But what can I do? We haven’t been given new shots in ages, and that’s really the most appropriate picture I’ve got to kick off the proceedings. Basically, what I’m saying is blame HBO, not me. In the meantime, though, have another look at the gift that keeps on giving, week after week after bloody week…

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let me applaud Alan Ball and his crew for offering up an awesome nod to the competing programming – yes, the Emmys – by kicking off tonight’s episode with “True Blood: In Memoriam,” which was a little bit of genius…and, if I’m to be honest, was more effective that the Emmy’s “In Memoriam” segment. (Loved the song, Jewel, but the pacing of the whole thing was off, possibly because they’re not used to scoring it to something other than just some plain old orchestral music.)

On to the episode proper. Bill blows into Fangtasia on a quest to find Sookie, but on his way toward the basement, he’s stopped by Pam, who tries to tell him that he just needs to chill out and put things into their proper perspective. He ignores her and heads for the stairs, but he’s taken down by Pam’s handy-dandy silver spray. As it happens, Sookie looks to have another savior: Eric’s Russian stripper girlfriend, who’s bitter at being blown off by him – possibly because he’s been underestimating her (who knew she was a cardiologist?) – and decides to let Sookie go…and the timing couldn’t be more perfect, since she pops up and saves Bill from Pam’s wrath. Pam’s kinda pissed about the situation, since she’s of the belief that things are going to go to hell if Eric isn’t able to present Sookie as a gift to The King.

Lafayette and Jesus are coming down from their crazy-ass trip. Jesus was clearly moved by the experience, but Lafayette, while admitting that it was pretty unique even for him, isn’t particularly interested in revisiting the situation again…and that was before he had his first flashback. But how about that second flashback, with all of the dolls coming to life and talking to him? Loved it.

So Jason’s girlfriend is a were-panther, eh? You can’t blame him for being a little upset at this revelation, especially since – as he informs her – he’d figured that her big secret was “shoplifting or something.” He bristles at her suggestion that he might not be a real man, but, hell, compared to the guys in her family, he actually is kind of a wuss. With no one to talk to, Jason finds himself wandering over to the the football field, where he finds his young high-school student nemesis from earlier this season alienating his girlfriend and pissing off his teammates from working them so hard, but I can’t tell if it’s because he’s on something or if it’s because he’s just kind of an obsessive jerk. (It’s probably both.)

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True Blood 3.10 – Once Evil, Always Evil

If I’m to be perfectly honest, this week is the first time since Season 3 began that I’ve been legitimately excited about tuning in for “True Blood.” Granted, you have to take my position with a grain of salt, since I wasn’t watching when episodes 3.7 and 3.8 originally aired, so I’m willing to admit that it’s possible I could’ve had that feeling as a result of one of those. Even so, though, I’m willing to bet that just about everyone who watched The King rip out the heart of that poor newscaster at the end last week’s episode was desperately seeking an answer to the question, “What’s going to happen now?”

I know *I* certainly was.

It was therefore mildly disappointing to have the episode begin not with The King but, rather, with Bill finally revealing Sookie’s true identity to her. Fortunately, Sookie’s reaction served as an instant salve for the wound: “I’m a fairy? How fucking lame!” I think you’d have to say that Bill didn’t exactly do the best possible job of playing up Sookie’s ancestry, and things only got worse when he was forced to admit that her people were reportedly wiped out of existence by vampires, owing to fairy blood being magically delicious. He can’t exactly confirm that the stories are true, but he can at least vouch for the awesomeness of Sookie’s blood. This immediately makes her suspicious of why Bill’s interested in her, but he swears up and down, “It’s not your blood I love. I love you – your mind, your heart, your soul – and I will foreswear ever feeding on you again if that’s what it takes to convince you of that.” Aw, isn’t he just the sweetest vampire?

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