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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“Leverage” finishes strong

I wrote back in early January that “Leverage” seemed to be getting better, and then Will Harris had a chance to spend 10 minutes interviewing Christian Kane (who plays Elliot Spencer on the show), just before the two-part season finale aired.

After watching the finale, I think it’s safe to say that the show finished strong. The two-parter focuses on Nathan Ford (Timothy Hutton) and his obsession with taking down the head of the insurance company (that he used to work for) that failed to pay a claim that might have saved his son’s life. We meet Nathan’s ex-wife, Maggie (Kari Matchett), and Nathan’s rival at the insurance company, Sterling (Mark Sheppard), makes for a good foil.

Sure, the gang relies on a house-of-cards type progression to get through most of their jobs, but if you don’t spend too much time thinking about how ridiculous some of these plot points are, the show can be quite enjoyable. (I especially like the budding romance between Parker and Hardison.)

The series definitely has an “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Hustle” (BBC) feel to it, though I think that it would work better as the occasional two-hour movie than it does as a television series. (However, I do applaud TNT for limiting the season to 13 episodes — I would be frightened to see what kind of filler we’d get if it ran 22+ episodes.) TNT already greenlit a second season, so new viewers can dive in without fear that it will be canceled.

  

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10 Minutes and 10 Questions with Christian Kane

Tonight brings the first of the two parts of the first-season finale of TNT’s “Leverage.” We’ve commented on the show in the past here on Premium Hollywood, but after a slight false start in the early days of the series, it’s become an enjoyable blend of action, drama, and comedy that allows the viewer to escape into a world where the little guy actually gets to win once in awhile. We had a chance to talk to Christian Kane, who plays the rough-and-tumble Eliot Spencer on the show, and quizzed him about how the show’s gone for him. (We also snuck in a quick “Angel” question and checked on the status of his music career, too.)

1. If you can approach “Leverage” as a viewer rather than a fan for a second, are you surprised that “Leverage” was able to find an audience? Because a lot of series are in, out, and done in just a couple of episodes, but you guys found an audience quickly.

Yeah, we did, man. Y’know, it’s always surprising to me what works and what doesn’t work. I mean, I can’t believe that some of the stuff that’s on right now is on, and I can’t believe that “Arrested Development” ever went off the air. (Laughs) But it wasn’t surprising to know the track record of the people behind it. I mean, it was Tim (Hutton)’s first series (since “Kidnapped”), and I felt comfortable with that, but also John Rogers is an unbelievable writer, and Dean Devlin has had unbelievable success in the entertainment world, so we came in with a couple of big guns pulled out, unlike maybe some of the other people. So I felt confident in that. And then I started watching, and I got more confident. But then I remembered that, with the economy the way it is and the way the entertainment business is going… (Laughs) …it got a little bit scary for awhile, y’know, because you start thinking of stuff. But then when I went back to the economy stuff, and I went, “Y’know what? In this day and age, when The Man is sticking it to everybody, I think people are really going to want to sit back on the couch and really be part of the team and watch some people go out and stick it back to The Man.”

2. The “Ocean’s Eleven” comparisons that were being thrown around in the beginning were obviously really, really apt. Do you think the series has found its own identity yet, or is it still finding it?

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“Leverage” seems to be getting better

In the interests of full disclosure, I would have cut “Leverage” from my playlist after a ridiculous second episode (“The Homecoming Job”) if not for the insistence of my wife, who liked the first two episodes a whole heck of a lot more than I did. The premiere was solid, even if it was a little rough around the edges. It’s understandable that a show that tries really hard to be cute (a la “Ocean’s Eleven”) might struggle at the start as the relatively unknown actors get used to playing their characters and working with each other. In “Ocean’s Eleven,” audiences already knew and liked Brad Pitt and George Clooney, and had seen them acting “cute” dozens of times before, so their act went over well.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. “Leverage” is a TNT drama, which (for me) has been a little hit or miss when it comes to original scripted series. I am hooked on “The Closer,” but was never able to get into “Saving Grace” and was too annoyed by Mark-Paul Gosselaar’s distractingly long hair in the promos for “Raising the Bar” to even bother with that show. (I did enjoy the paramedic drama, “Saved,” but it was canceled after only one season.) “Leverage” is about a group of thieves that decide to go the Robin Hood route by enacting their own brand of justice on those that would take advantage of others.

At the center of the show is Timothy Hutton, whom I’ve liked since the days of “Turk 182” and “Beautiful Girls.” He plays Nathan Ford, a former insurance investigator who recently lost his son when the company he worked for wouldn’t cover his son’s experimental procedure. He enlists the help of four criminals — a con artist, a cyberthief, a cat burglar and a martial arts expert — to, and I quote, “pick up where the law leaves off.”

“Leverage” tries very hard to be witty, and it often hits the mark. There was the aforementioned second episode, however. At one point, Ford and his beautiful con artist cohort had to create a distraction at the L.A. shipping docks. So they pose as an obnoxious couple on vacation, complete with Hawaiian shirts and awful attitudes. They were even dragging their luggage around the shipping docks of L.A. — in a post-9/11 world. It was simply ridiculous.

The good parts of “Leverage” actually remind me quite a bit of “Hustle,” a British television show that was also about a group of con artists. Their intentions weren’t as noble as Ford’s, and that’s one thing that bothers me about “Leverage” — they don’t seem to want to keep any of the money. For example, in the third episode, “The Two-Horse Job,” a trainer hires them to retrieve an injured horse from his nefarious owner after the owner set fire to the trainer’s stable. The gang does its thing and manages to get the horse back and steal $12 million from the greedy owner. Do they keep any of the dough? Nope. They give it all to the trainer. This just doesn’t seem realistic to me.

I’ve always been fascinated with the dark side of society which is why I’m often drawn to anti-hero stories like “The Shield,” “Rescue Me” and “The Sopranos.” “Leverage” doesn’t get nearly as dark as those series, but it does live in that grey area between right and wrong. I’d like to see the moral ambiguity get a little thicker, as the victims of the con jobs are often caricatures of villains (with no discernable positive qualities).

So for now, I’m going to keep watching. But if I see Timothy Hutton dressed in a Hawaiian shirt traipsing through the docks of Los Angeles again, I’m going to delete my season pass and not look back.

  

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