Bruce Kulick

When infamous glam rockers KISS shed the makeup back in 1983 and the alter egos of Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley was laid to rest for a time, the focus on the band moved away from their groundbreaking get-up and stayed heavier on the music. Bruce Kulick stepped into an exalted position in one of the greatest bands of our time. Arguably one of rock ‘n’ rolls most versatile and skilled guitarists, it was Kulick’s presence in KISS that helped produce more great music that would solidify the band’s position in music history, elevating them to legendary status. And the best thing about a living legend? Why, the stories they have to tell and the knowledge they have to share, of course.

Where better place to meet a rock ‘n’ roll legend, hear them play and share tales of days-gone-by than at KISS Konvention? Kulick and fellow member Peter Criss are making the media rounds for the massive event set to take place in cities across the country this month. “All of a sudden, I’ve got all these interviews for my upcoming trip, so I’m very excited,” Kulick exclaims. “This time I’m going to more places, we’re hitting places I’ve never been before and that’s very exciting.”

“No matter where you do them, the conventions are the best place for a fan in many ways to get up close and celebrate all things KISS,” says Kulick. “If you’re familiar with the band, KISS is one of those groups with obsessive fans and they’re incredible – they’re so detailed about their passion for the band. I represent the non-makeup version of the band.

“We did go to Australia in ’95 and Peter [Criss], having his history as an original member, then going back and doing the reunion tour, the fact that they can see two members of the KISS family, no matter if they have to travel or not, is pretty cool. We both do Q and A’s; we’ll both perform, and, of course, I get an opportunity to sign and to meet the fans.”

Kulick’s enthusiasm is evident, but what’s even clearer is the observations and awe he has for his fans at these types of events. In fact, Kulick’s humility around his fans is incredibly endearing. “I do notice though,” begins Kulick, “that this is a band that kind of attracts generations. The parents pass it on to the kids and then all of a sudden, I get these looks from these kids who are completely freaking out and some of them, you know, they weren’t even born when I was in KISS – that’s really rewarding.

“In the same way, I got to see a lot of amazing stuff growing up in New York and being a lover of the British Invasion – I got to see The Who, Cream, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix – but those are the bands that will carry on forever and even if you started to see The Who in the last five years, they’re still incredible and exciting, but how ‘bout seeing them watching them in 1967?!”

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“I know the power of YouTube and what’s available now for people to share, and it’s so easy with our smartphones that you can instantly become a fan of KISS by just exploring things. It doesn’t matter how they found out about the band, as long as they’re willing to explore they will find something that will turn them on if that’s how they’re wired.”

KISS, who are massive in the sense that they revolutionised the glam rock outfit, hadn’t enlisted Kulick for that part of their history. Instead, Kulick was present when the focus was shifted more on the music and it’s a colourful point of discussion to discover Kulick’s take on whether he feels he had bypassed a large part of the KISS label that is perhaps in many ways, still important. “I always sense the shadow of it, that’s how I refer to it,” Kulick says, with no hint of animosity whatsoever.

“That start for them, they really wanted to come out of the box completely different. They knew they were competing with Led Zeppelin and The Beatles and all and those guys just had this idea, ‘We’re gonna do this and we’re committed, wear makeup, and we’re gonna wear these outrageous costumes’. It was really lightning in a bottle what they developed there.

“Ultimately, if the music stunk and they weren’t talented it wouldn’t have mattered – in fact, it would have made it a joke, to be quite honest – so they became huge. There was a little resistance there, but by ’75 they were gigantic. They carried on, and like a lot of bands that hit it really big, problems happened; sometimes they may take a wrong turn and by ’83, they realised it was time to take off the makeup.

“They were kind of rebranded in a way, in a very exciting rock style – big hair, outrageous clothes in a different way – then you have two super talents like Gene and Paul who are unbelievable performers: writing great songs, singing, so perfect for rock ‘n’ roll and total rock stars in every way. I feel like when I joined for “Animalize” and “Crazy Nights” that, yeah, we weren’t that makeup-looking band but we were so really damn unique there was still something about us that stood out.”

“Many of my fans, they were turned on to KISS post-makeup,” Kulick continues, “They saw me and I was the first guitarist and it meant a lot to them, and that’s why I’ve continued to be asked to sign so many “Asylum” and “Crazy Nights” and “Revenge” albums.”

The rewards of such an enterprise, and, indeed, Kulick’s skill as a musician prove again to be a point of humility for him as he says: “I’m very humbled and I do have big shoes to fill. Ace (Frehley) is a legend—he’s an icon—and being the new guitarist of KISS at the end of ’84 was an awesome burden for me to embrace and to perfect. I was up for the challenge – looking back at it, it was much bigger for me than when I was doing it if you get what I mean?”

There’s a domino effect in place when it comes to a musicians icons and mentors – Kulick certainly had his in late ’60s British rock bands, then to join such a prominent group filling the place of an already legendary guitarist, Kulick can only now pay it forward. At KISS Kovention, Australia’s own Sisters Doll will take to the stage and perform their own brand of classic glam rock, reborn for the 21st century. Performing on stage with them in a more than special appearance will be none other than Kulick, the icon and mentor for this next generation group. “Yes! I met them in 2015 when I did the expo in Melbourne and we wound up in Adelaide and did a regular gig – these kids are amazing!”

“They’re three brothers, they’re so talented, big fans too and so respectful. I am brutal when you rehearse with me, I am the boot camp sergeant you don’t want because I want it right and I want them to understand it. I want them to know the song like they know their phone number and they know their parents’ names. I know how to whip it into them but I’ve never had better students than these three young men. To me, they’re like family and I’m very much looking forward to seeing them again.”

Hearing about young bands like Sisters Doll having mentors and indeed fans such as Kulick is rewarding for any old school rock fan to hear – such guidance and admiration helps turn people on to a genre that isn’t necessarily dead. Even today, with the touring and playing he does, Kulick says he still finds a massive demand for the glam rock style, despite the industry being temperamental. “Music is so all over the place now, as you probably know, it’s very single orientated. If you’re talking about new artists, they’re usually young and they usually dance – I don’t pay a lot of attention to that because it just doesn’t have that kind of hold on me.

“Yeah I respect some of those artists and I’m aware of them but the point is, with Sisters Doll and the attention they get – KISS will always get attention, that’s a given – but they really plugged into something that is a complete throwback in many ways and I applaud them for their dedication and love of it.

“It isn’t a new thing that would have been happening in the ’80s or something, but they’re revisiting it their way and I’m hoping it keeps catches on! Because you know what? It’s good to have rock ‘n’ roll. It’s more about young crushes and looking good and having a good time and it’s all in a good spirit and is very close to what KISS’s creed is – you know, I don’t want to say it flippantly but I wanna rock ‘n’ roll all night and party every day. It’s an attitude about believing in yourself and enjoying life, living it to the fullest and I do see a lot of that energy in these kids and it’s great.”

But what a thing for Kulick to know that he was a part of the reason Sisters Doll ever took to music. “It was probably very surreal for them but to see how they hung on every word and every direction, I nearly cried when I remember coming back and seeing Austin, the bass player, exactly learn what I told him – ‘You go study this’, and he came back and nailed it, perfectly! I was like, ‘Wow!’ It really meant a lot to me – this is unique, very unique.”

Clearly, Kulick is all about the giving back, and who more to give to than his fans. His profound thanks to his Australian fans is unwavering and Kulick is anxious that they know he holds them in high regard and hasn’t forgotten them. “I certainly want everyone to know I can’t always come to Australia because for one thing, I’ve been playing lead guitar for Grand Funk Railroad, touring with them since 2000. The band is tremendous but that’s my main gig, and also why I don’t have a band so when I go to Australia, I’ll pick up a band when I’m there. In this case, Sisters Doll.

“A lot of people ask me: ‘When are you going to put out some new music?’ and I have teased with some pictures online of the studio, a microphone, guitars, and a new single is coming out soon. I do know a lot of fans are asking about new music and I am very proud of this.”

All new Kulick on the way but for now, your best bet to witness the mastery of Kulick’s playing and the fascination of his stories is to get on down to KISS Kovention.

Written by Anna Rose

In discussing your staples of heavy metal listening, the name Brother Firetribe is not likely one you’d mention. But as these melodic metalheads continue to break ground on a global scale, they’ll soon become an essential element in your heavy listening routine. Already 15 years into a successful career centred predominantly in Europe, the embers of Brother Firetribe are spreading like wildfire out from their native Finland to conquer the metal forests of the world. With their latest release “Sunbound”, Brother Firetribe generates a warm buzz of music that borders on glam, heavy rock, and strong Nordic metal.

“Sunbound” is the release set to put Brother Firetribe on the global map as it dips into elements of all the best of metal’s subgenres. But, as vocalist Pekka Ansio Heino explains, from a production perspective the band has done nothing differently with “Sunbound” compared with their previous three studio albums. “It’s always gone the same route in a way,” Heino says. “Me or Emppu [guitarist Erno “Emppu” Vuorinen] write the songs – it’s really spontaneous how it all starts. Either one of us comes up with a chord or melody and we start sparring.”

With “Sunbound”, it’s that aura of positive energy surrounding the band’s musicianship and each aspect of the album that is surely putting an ‘X’ on the Brother Firetribe map. From conception to promotion to their fantastic new production team, Heino asserts that this release is centred on happiness and good vibes. “All in all, as to the title itself, it’s all about the vibe and mood of the band ever since we sat down and started throwing around ideas – every time we sat down to come up with a song, it sounded so good it led us to write the next one.

“It went on until the day we got the mastered version in our hands and everything was rolling along really nicely. We have people now who are making things happen for the very first time in the band’s career. We have the new mixer guy putting down. The guy who had mixed the previous album couldn’t make it so we had to find a new one and thank God we did! We ended up using Mikko Karmila, an old friend and a huge name. He has done Rammstein, Dreamboat; we know him because he’s from the same small city we are from – he got the hang of it pretty quickly and came up with the sound for the album. You know, Brother Firetribe has never sounded this good! We really felt like we were walking toward the light, so that really is what the title is about.”

The subtle hints at big things happening for Brother Firetribe don’t go unnoticed and as Heino elaborates on his hints, the news should have Viking-metal fans knocking together their many tankards in celebration.

A little probing into Heino’s subtle nods of big things happening for Brother Firetribe and he reveals the true rate at which things are finally speeding along for the band, unveiling yet more possibilities for their newfound infamy. “Basically, we have a manager, plain and simple. Our songs have been put out everywhere, tours have been put together and that has never happened for us before.

“We’ve always suffered from us being the only ones doing anything and this time it seems a bit different – I wouldn’t be talking to you if it wasn’t for our manager arranging stuff, it’s great!”

Melodic metal of the calibre of Brother Tribe is extremely successful in Europe and, indeed, Finland, but with nothing but the influence of original rock seeping through their sound, Heino is loath to go with the categorization assigned to his band by his peers. “I do understand you have to categorise music and people need to know what they’re talking about,” says Heino, “but I don’t really consider us a metal band, quite far from it, in fact. But we do get dropped on that box quite easily and that’s fine.

“Metal in general here in Finland is huge. I think Finland is probably one of the leading countries for it, but the kind of music that we do—the melodic rock thing—it’s pretty much marginal music. You have your power metal which is pretty big in central Europe but people call us AOR, and that’s fine with me.

“Melodic rock is not really big in the sense that we do it – it’s based on the late ’70s and early ’80s where keyboard and guitar are equal in the mix.”

With those heavy ’70s and ’80s glam influences so prominent within Brother Firetribe’s sound and the band avoiding a pigeonhole, when writing new material the band will shy away from anything going on in current times; preferring instead to draw on the past and honing in on rock music of old. “I can only speak for myself but it’s in my DNA,” says Heino. “Everything I know about creating a melody comes from that period of time, but everything else, we never sit down or talk about influences or whether we should take a certain direction or whether we should sound a bit modern. All we do is come up with a song and when it sounds good to our ears, we put it out. And for some reason, the kind of stuff that sounds good to our ears is the music you hear on the Brother Firetribe album.”

“I’m not against modern music, not against modern rock, I just don’t follow it that much.”

Brother Firetribe certainly does have a uniqueness in its melodic rock route, addressing a small niche in the market that could certainly use bands such as this to inject a dose of imagination into an—at times—repetitive industry. Perhaps there’s something to be said for the classicism of the ’70s and ’80s that seep through this band. That being said, disappointingly, the greatness of Brother Firetribe is not yet great enough for the group to shake up our shores… yet. “Obviously, we’d love to, no question,” exclaims Heino. “But first of all, I didn’t even know our records were being released in Australia and the fact I’m sitting here talking to you is unbelievable. It’s great.”

“I can imagine that if we were to come down there, say, tomorrow, there’d be an audience of you and, maybe, a couple of friends I know there – I don’t know, it could be a riot!”

Written by Anna Rose

It couldn’t be truer to say that the new album Graveyard Shift from Motionless In White is a play on words for the point they’re at in their careers. “I’m not even sure if it’s a straight metaphor for how we’ve been doing this for 11 years, muses frontman Chris “Motionless” Cerulli.  

“11 years, constantly pushing and grinding and working our assess off and last year when we came up with the album title we were proud – it works aesthetically with the band and works to our deeper mean with that title.”

Graveyards, ghouls, goths and other dank things, Motionless In White have certainly plastered themselves a stellar career as goth rock stalwarts, up there with the likes of Wednesday 13 and DOPE. And of course with such a bleak, gloomy mantra comes the look to match – never ones to shy away from dressing how they feel comfortable, Motionless In White sport a fine range of gothic attire in their latest music videos, Motionless himself donning a rather nifty jacket that’ll make even the most “normal” of gals jealous. Laughing, Motionless admits, “We would only go to a stylist if we needed something specific, that’s just not how we are. 

For us I think it’s a matter of everyone trying to show their personality and each one of us does look different to one another and that’s because we have a personality rather than having a uniform, so to speak.”

This is said with no hint of irony but yes, there really can be varying shades of black, and the freaky fashion show of Motionless In White is as fun as it is far out. That being said, the new album is just as eclectic within the bounds of rock ‘n’ roll as the band’s wardrobe. With Graveyard Shift, though they retain that dank misery so fitting to their style, Motionless In White dip their liquid eyeliner in to the pots of other genres. The bluesy hard rock opening to single ‘LOUD (fuck it)’ doesn’t really draw influence from anywhere, rather it takes all this different elements to form an attitude. “It’s definitely a song that lyrically, has attitude,” says Motionless. 

“We worked on the song before the lyrics and had a punk rock energy that felt right, this punk rock fuck it attitude to it, and I don’t know, it just feels loaded with attitude. Most of our music is either angry or moody or scary and this one just has a fucking attitude, a snarl to it that makes a noise.”

And what indeed are such a band saying ‘fuck it’ to? Why, the haters, of course. Goth rock was arguably, in its prime back in the noughties and with attention deferred on to other genres, progressive metal and punk-pop say, Motionless reflects on the genre’s popularity, haters and fans, saying, “It’s always had its group of people that have been against it and relate to it as an atmosphere as a whole – I think you see a lot more negativity toward it with the internet being more than what it was in that time period [2000’s]– whether they look like that or not it’s still just music.”

“[It’s] not just maintaining the look or the sound, it’s about keeping people interested in the music – it’s really fascinating to me that people seem so eager to hate the music and be negative before they hear it or know anything about it.”

Taking that message of music across the globe, Motionless in White are eager stand p and enjoy their new sound with their fans. “This year is definitely gonna be based on how it went with our last record,” says Motionless. “The next two years will be nonstop worldwide touring, right to Europe and right back to the states it’s kind of a continuous machine.”

Hold up. Where’s Australia in this grand tour of the globe? Chuckling again Motionless says, “I got overexcited about a lot of things last year and then they didn’t work out that way [I’d said] so I’ve very much learned my lesson to not say things about things I’m not 100 per cent sure about – but we have been in touch with our agent and we are working heavily on getting to Australia, hopefully this year!

“We for sure wanna learn from mistakes in the past and spend more time and put ourselves behind the magic 8 ball of time and write more, but I know a lot of Aussie fans have expressed frustration about us and I just want them to know we are always actively trying to make it to Australia – Japan, the UK, don’t think we don’t come because we don’t want to, when it happens it happens – we are fighting for it.”

Written by Anna Rose

INTERVIEW WITH

Warren Ellis

When you watch a movie at a film festival as prestigious as the Melbourne International Film Festival the one thing that you don’t expect to get is an audible reaction to a film during the actual screening. These are serious, seasoned film lovers watching the movies and while you may get a round of applause or a standing ovation at the end of the film, during the film, it is dead silence – no crinkling of chip packets (which is bliss) and very little reaction – something that can be a little daunting when nobody is laughing during a comedy. You could imagine the surprise then when the Australian thriller Bad Girl, directed by Fin Edquist (Little Deaths), had the audience gasping when it delivered a twist that nobody saw coming.

Starring Samara Weaving (Mystery Road) and Sara West (The Daughter), this great Western Australian thriller keeps its audience on edge all throughout the film and helping raise that suspense is the score from legendary Australian composer, Warren Ellis, who in the past has worked with Nick Cave to create the film score for films such as Lawless, The Proposition and The Road.

For Ellis, the fact that for Bad Girl and his last film, Mustang, has been made without the help of Nick Cave he says has given him a new sense of ‘freedom’. “When the producer sent me the script, I sat down and read it and I found that it was a different kind of film and the kind of film that I haven’t worked on before,” he explains.

Bad Girl – Warren Ellis: “In the past, a lot of the films I’ve worked on with Nick (Cave) have been about men lost in wildernesses or trying to figure something out. So we have always been wanting to get different things to come in and sometimes that hasn’t always been available. But with this one there was just something about it – it was great to read and it had a great energy about it – and it came after I had just done another film called Mustang, and it was something I could tackle on my own. Up until that point, I had always done my scores with Nick and Mustang showed me that I could work in a certain way, that I could work on a small budget film… and I like the economy of that; I like what that provokes in you because it forces you outside of your comfort zone. Doing Mustang for me was a huge learning curve, it was a very different film and I found myself working very, very quickly, actually, and it showed me that I could take the training wheels off in a way. Similarly, Bad Girl was a very lean affair and I really like the energy of smaller budget films, there just isn’t that flabbiness that can be contained in the big studio films and there’s a different energy in the way that the directors and the producers are working. I had a few rules with this one: I couldn’t go into a studio because I was on tour with Dirty Three, so I wanted to just do it on my laptop because it was all I could really do with it and they were really into that idea. So I just started throwing ideas together based on a really lengthy discussion with the director about approaches and how the music would be used and my reference, I guess, was a kind of Mad Max very-impacting score that comes and goes out of nowhere, which was kind of wild for the editing of the film. So I guess I had a couple of ideas and then just started making it and I got addicted to the process. I didn’t sleep much in January, I just sat in my hotel room rehearsing by day and making this score by night with a couple of synthesisers and old pieces I had laying around. It was pretty liberating, actually.”

While the theme of characters being ‘lost’ has always been a big thing in the films that Ellis has worked on he says it is different this time around. “I think there is a real strength and independence with the female characters in both Mustang and Bad Girl,” he emphasises. “I’m not sure the girls are really lost, but more victims of their environment. But someone like Lale in Mustang is definitely not lost—she’s anything but lost—she’s trying to make sense of everything and trying to empower herself and her sisters… she doesn’t want to be a victim of her own environment and that was a very different scenario to me. There’s something very empowering about these two films. I love the energy of Bad Girl. When I eventually saw it, I loved the staging of it and the editing of it.”

As talk turns to how a composer goes about putting music together for a film, Ellis says there really are not any set rules. “For me, I’m not sure how my approach is different or the same to other people (it depends on the film), but generally there is a discussion and if I’m working with Nick we might have a discussion about the sound and what will be necessary… certainly what the sound palate will be,” he explains. Then you might talk to the director but it is very different with each film, like with The Road, for example, we had a discussion with John (director John Hillcoat) about the sound and what would be generated. Then we tried to make sounds that we thought would exist after an apocalypse, so things like wind going through wire, bottles, water boiling and stuff. I sat around the house making sounds. All the backing sounds were generated using things that I thought might exist after the apocalypse – what sounds might be coming out. It’s a little general idea but it gives you something to aim towards and then you can go from there. I guess with every film you just try to get a sound palate going on and then you sit down and start working. Normally, it’s with Nick, and we just start making music and let some accidents happen. This, to me, is not a job. It’s something I love doing and I still feel like an outsider in this world. I’ve made some films but it’s not my job. With Bad Girls, I wanted an energy and I wanted it to be impactful. I wanted it to be economical and I wanted it to be something that was minimal, but something that would help with the energy of the film and I wanted it to be loud… I wanted it to be overwhelming.”

Bad Girl is out in cinemas now and has been reviewed at www.heavymag.com.au

Written by Dave Griffiths

INTERVIEW WITH LILY COLLINS

Howard Hughes has to be one of the most intriguing characters in American history. While a majority of his life was explored in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator—in which Leonardo DiCaprio played the eccentric billionaire—now, Hollywood legend Warren Beatty takes a look at the latter stages of Hughes’ life with Rules Don’t Apply.

The film sees Beatty return to directing for the first time in more than a decade. Here, he also portrays Hughes as a man who wants to shun public life but has just hired a new driver, Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich), who dreams of becoming a businessman himself, along with a young actress who has stars in her eyes named Marla Mabrey (Lily Collins).

Rules Don’t Apply is a change in direction for Collins (the daughter of music legend, Phil Collins), who, up until now, has appeared in big films such as Mirror Mirror and the ill-fated The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones. Collins says it was almost fate that she landed this role, seeing she knew about this film when it was still in concept stage.

“I first became aware of this film five years ago when a friend of mine was telling me about these magical meetings that he was having with Warren Beatty at his house and spending time with his family. He was telling me all these amazing stories and I just sat there in awe thinking, ‘Oh, my God, that is the dream; that’s crazy. That is something I’ll never get to do, but just, wow. Good for you.’ Then, cut to five years later and I got a phone call while I was prepping for a premiere of a film that I was about to premiere and they said Warren Beatty wants to talk to you about his film, and I just would never have thought that five years later I would have come full circle.”

It is obvious as Collins talks that she really admires Beatty and is proud of the fact that she has now had the opportunity to work with him and she says that she became aware of Beatty’s work at a very early age. “I was very aware of Warren Beatty’s work before the film,” she explains. “One of my Dad’s favourite movies is Heaven Can Wait so I’ve been hearing about Mr Beatty since I was a little kid. After I was cast, my mum and I rewatched all of them to just update me again and I loved seeing them a second or third or fourth time… they never get old.”

Collins wasn’t awestruck though and admits that she saw the chance to work with a screen legend like Warren Beatty as something she could gain valuable lessons from. “I can’t count on one hand the amount of stories that Warren told us, and every single day as I heard them, I soaked them in and thought: ‘I’m going to want to remember these when I’m older so I might write that one down.’ I actually kept a journal while we were recording of these interesting tidbits of information that he told us, the wisdom that he imparted on us—stories—as well as creative critiques that he gave me throughout the shoot that I wanted to remember because I would be doing myself a disservice not to remember those, because he was really like a mentor, as well. I was constantly getting the note from Warren to ‘let go more.’”

It was something I had never been told before so I was hyper-aware of it when he said it and I didn’t realise how useful and magical things can get when you just let go, especially when you are doing take-after-take-after-take. You have to start just relinquishing all self-control in a way and really stop thinking about what you planned to do. Even as an actor, I know it is all about spontaneous moments, but you do have to have a bit of a guideline to where you are going. But once you get to that fifth, sixth or even seventh take, you have to start playing around with ways that you weren’t even expecting and it is in those moments when some of the most brilliant things happen that would never have happened on take one. So I think I will always take that with me.”

She also says that Beatty really did put his own stamp on the story and the film. “What is so brilliant about what Warren created in this tonally is that it is what one would call a very dramatic story, but he has such a lightness to the tone. He adds a sense of humour when you are least expecting it. Part of what you are not expecting is this romantic relationship between Mr Hughes and Marla and that is what makes the film so comedic. Our scenes together, especially the drunken scene, are epically long – I think it was a twelve or thirteen-page scene that is just so funny and I love that you can mix a drama with comedy in such a beautiful way and have it become something that people not only enjoy but are constantly surprised by.”

The film’s title raised some eyebrows when it was first talked about in the States, but as Collins talks about her character, she says the title fits perfectly. “Marla Mabrey is a young, very religious girl that comes from Virginia. She is contracted under the eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes to become a Hollywood star and she comes under the assumption that there are a certain set of rules that a young woman must abide by in the entertainment industry to be successful and it’s throughout her journey in Los Angeles and throughout the important lessons that she must learn. It’s also through her relationship with Frank, who is also a contracted driver under the Hughes Corporation, that she, throughout her experiences, realises that the rules really don’t apply to everyone and it is about their interactions with the craziness of Mr Hughes. I think it’s really interesting because at the start of the story, Mara comes to Los Angeles with her mother and she is very naive, she is very religious, and she kind of thinks she knows it all; which I think anyone coming to L.A. at that age would have thought the same thing. But throughout the story and throughout the lessons that she learns and through her relationship with Frank and her interactions with Howard Hughes, she really becomes a strong and independent woman. And it’s throughout those experiences that it really defines her character as strong. She has to become independent because she is no longer there with her mum and it’s through those roadblocks that she is thrown that she realises that she is in a sink-or-swim situation and she develops an individuality from that.“

Rules Don’t Apply is in cinemas right now and has been reviewed at www.heavymag.com.au

Written by Dave Griffiths

INTERVIEW WITH 

Jessica Chastain

Bad movie! That is a term that it is become more clear that Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain just does not know the meaning of. Her body of work over the last few years reads like a best of list in itself – Zero Dark Thirty, Interstellar, The Martian and Miss Sloane just to name a few. Now Chastain returns in The Zookeeper’s Wife a film that has already got some people tipping that their more awards in the offering.

The film is based on the best-selling novel by Diane Ackerman and has been brought to the screen by director Niki Caro who has wowed audiences over the years with films like Whale Rider and the brilliant North Country. The Zookeeper’s Wife sees Chastain play Antonina Zabinski who alongside her zookeeper husband tries to protect a number of people at their Warsaw Zoo during the Nazi invasion.

“You know whenever I play any part it is important to do as much research as possible,” Chastain explains when asked about The Zookeeper’s Wife as a novel. “I read the book… The Zookeeper’s Wife… and it was very informative, especially when thinking about what she was going through because it is in her own words… that is what the book is based on. – her journals. It helped fill out the interior of the character. I started by reading the book to try and get into character and I went to Auschwitz in order to … I had never been to a concentration camp and I wanted to feel the energy of that place and to understand the sadness. I don’t think you could ever fully comprehend that or what happened there or what that is but it was important for me to go. I went to Warsaw and went to the zoo and I met with Teresa, Antonina’s daughter, and I saw the house that they lived in and I looked at pictures. It was definitely an immersion.”

Of course the old mantra in Hollywood is to never work with animals or children and it only takes one quick glance at the poster for The Zookeeper’s Wife to see that Chastain had to work with a number of animals on the set including a lion – so how much of a challenge was that for her. “I love working with animals and children,” she says smiling. “When you are an actor it’s a great challenge because they are so in the moment, you never know what they are going to do and they can always surprise you and it’s wonderful to act to that. Plus I LOVE animals and children. I worked very closely with the animal wranglers so what I would do was before those scenes with Lily (the elephant featured in the film) I would feed her a bunch of apples and then right before they said action I would show her an apple and I would walk away and hide the apple so she would know that I was the one to go to for the treat. It’s a trick with a trunk but that way she would play with me while looking for food.”

When asked to describe her character in her own words Chastain says “Antonina Zabinski is married to Jan (played in the movie by Johan Heldenbergh) who is the zookeeper at Warsaw Zoo… the two of them run the zoo. During World War II when her zoo is bombed and the Jews are being forced into the Ghetto her and her husband decide to risk their lives, and the lives of their children, to smuggle people out of the Ghetto and hide them in the zoo.”

Chastain also says that director Niki Caro also brought a lot to the film. “I loved working with Niki,” says Chastain. “She is so incredibly intelligent and fierce. She has a very strong point-of-view and that is important for me when I’m finding a director to work with. She was so good at kind of wrangling in this huge group of people and animals and of course this whole period drama. You never felt like the set was getting away from her and I felt that she was a great collaborator that I could come forward and try whatever I wanted to. I could take risks and she was always there to support me.”

The other major player in this film is Daniel Bruhl who for the lack of a better term plays the bad guy in this film but Chastain says he was a major help with morale on the set. “I’d been a huge fan of Daniel Bruhl. I loved him in Rush and all the incredible films that he has done. One thing that really shocked me about working with him was how funny he was. He brought this great sense of levity which I think was really important for the story because every scene was so important and rich and heartbreaking and you feel just really depressed but then in between takes Daniel is there to lighten the mood and think that was really important for the morale on set, but also important for the character that he is playing because he is playing a pretty dark person and he’s able to give it a sense of humanity that you may not be able to get with someone that just came in with only darkness.”

Chastain was also impressed that The Zookeeper’s Wife shows a different side to being a hero as well. “I think with heroism there is a stereotype that it comes with violence – that you are defending someone or that you are fighting to protect your country. That is our definition of what a hero is but there are many other ways that somebody can be brave and strong and I think that Antonina shows that. She shows that compassion and is an incredible form of strength. I think it is important for people to see this film because it tells the story from another perspective and another point-of-view. Going to school in the United States I didn’t really read that much about women and history. I read a lot about men in history but not so much about the incredible women and the sacrifices that they had made in history. I was so moved and inspired by Antonina and the empathy that she has for other people. At the end of the day it is a movie about hope, love and family. I think it shows that no matter how dark life can be and how dark it gets love will always be there and you can find it and there is something beyond this moment.”

The Zookeeper’s Wife is in cinemas now and has been reviewed at www.heavymag.com.au

Written by Dave Griffiths