One of the biggest events that you can have a cinematic calendar year is the release of a brand new Star Wars film. With that in mind, there was little wonder that people were lining up to get tickets to midnight screenings of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story even though they were a little worried about the fact that this was a one-off story not featuring any of the stars of The Force Awakens.

 

It’s little surprise then to hear director Gareth Edwards, who made a name for himself with the low-budget alien flick Monsters say that when he was putting together this film he looked to the past and not the future for inspiration. “I think it’s funny because people think of Stars Wars as the future with lasers and stuff but it’s not it’s always been very grounded and historical in its influences,” he explains. “The second you start analysing costumes or guns you realise that they all have historical influences. You go around the props department, and they have all the guns out, and there is your favourite gun from Star Wars, and then they show you a gun from World War II, and they are pretty much identical. Even Han Solo’s gun is a gun from the World War II era with a few things stuck on it, and that is what is brilliant about George (Lucas) who knew if you took something and just pushed it a little left or right then where it normally is you can’t instantly recognise it. That’s really what Star Wars is all about, taking things that we are really familiar with and giving them a twist and making them that little bit futuristic.”

 

During the interview, Edwards also quickly reveals himself as a big fan of his leading lady Felicity Jones who plays Jyn in Rogue One. “She does make it seem so easy that you forget what she is going through sometimes. As amazing as it is to make Star Wars it is also very hard and whenever I found myself going through a hard patch and thinking ‘I think I have one of the hardest jobs in the world’ I’d just look to my left, glance at Felicity and then go ‘no you’ve got the hardest job in the world, carrying Star Wars’. Carrying a Star Wars movie, when you think about it, you really couldn’t ask anybody to do anything harder, and she never made it a problem.”

 

While many Star Wars fans were surprised that Felicity Jones was cast in a lead role in the film they were gob-smacked that the little known Diego Luna was picked as her male co-star, something that Edwards laughs at. “With Diego, you have one of the most likeable guys in the world. When Diego walks through a door, you just want to be his friend straight away. I don’t know what he has or how he got it, but he has it. So I was looking for the most likeable, lovable and relatable actor I could find, and that was Diego. When he showed up I was like ‘yeah this is the guy’, and I gave him a gun and gave him some training and could see that he could be a soldier.”

 

So with all the pressures of being a new director in the Star Wars universe was there anything that Edwards got to enjoy? “I really enjoyed the opportunity to tell a story that is magical but is told through the eyes of a normal person and how you don’t have to be superhuman to affect the world. That idea that you need to be a Jedi to do anything good in the world or to make a difference is the wrong lesson in Star Wars. The lesson in Star Wars is that no matter your background, no matter who you are, you can make a difference.”

 

 

 

The other man who has big shoes to fill in Rogue One is Australian actor Ben Mendelsohn who has the challenge of playing Orson Krennic, the latest Star Wars’ bad guy that joins the realm of Darth Vader and Darth Maul. Mendelsohn says that Director Krennic is really the ‘prime mover’ of the Death Star. “He oversees the entire Death Star,” he explains. “The Death Star is really his life. It’s his project and his everything.”

Mendelsohn laughs when he reflects on fans likening Krennic to a young Darth Vader. “When you have Darth Vader on the playing field you don’t have to worry because nobody is taking his spot. Darth Vader is one of the all-time great movie villains or whatever there will ever be. So, you don’t ever really have to stress out because nobody is ever going to top Darth so you can just do what you need to do because you’ve always got Darth and when you’ve got Darth things go okay.”

 

Speaking of the fans, Mendelsohn is aware that this role is perhaps like no other role he will ever play in his career again. “People believe in Star Wars,” he says his tone suddenly becoming serious. “People want to take it… and you have to give it your all. You have to give it all you have got because you don’t want to leave anything in the tank because you don’t want to leave wondering was there something else that you should have done or could you have tried this or tried that. You really want to give it absolutely everything that you can give it because it is Star Wars and it is very, very important in that regard. And there are a few series of films that are important but Star Wars is different. Star Wars is really in a league of its own.”

 

When asked about what it was like to work with director Gareth Edwards on the film Mendelsohn’s wide grin returns. “Nobody is happier to be working on this film than Gareth,” he laughs. “He is the happiest man among us. It’s more important to him than… it just means so much to him. Gareth is able to do such incredible and beautiful work with his visuals and his effects stuff; he’s really good at it. It’s beautiful, and it’s fantastic. I just think that you have a guy that kind of feels like the luckiest guy in the business in a lot of ways.”

 

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is out now in cinemas.

 

 

 

Written by David Griffiths

AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES FRANCO

Director Paul Hamburg is no stranger to making hit comedies. He is the man behind films such as “Meet The Parents” and ‘Meet The Fockers” and this holiday season sees him return to that tried and true meet-the-in-laws formula with “Why Him?”, a film that essentially pits Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston against Oscar-nominated actor James Franco.

 

A quick look at the trailer for “Why Him?” may leave the audience thinking that Franco’s character, Laird Mayhew, may well be one of the rudest and most disgusting people to have ever graced the screen but Franco laughs as he admits that there is more to Laird then meets the eye. “I play a guy who is dating Bryan Cranston’s daughter. I’m a video game designer. I’m very successful, but I’m also a bit unpolished, rude and I have tattoos, and I use crude language. So I’m everything that Bryan Cranston’s character wouldn’t want in a son. So, I ask him for his blessing because I want to ask his daughter to marry me and he refuses, so I spend our Christmas holiday trying to win him over. Essentially Laird is not a bad guy; he’s actually a really nice guy! So I just said to John that initially we need this guy to be very frightening to a father and one of the ways to do that is to make his exterior frightening because actually inside he’s actually everything that you probably want in a son-in-law. So there was this gag that we had been wrestling with from the beginning about Laird trying to do something when he initially meets the family that he thinks is a gesture of solidarity and a welcome and they read it completely differently and so there were a lot of different incarnations of that and finally we settled on the idea that he would get a tattoo of the family on his back and then John added on that that he only had a Holiday Card photo of the family and that’s the photo that he used, and the tattoo artist also included the Happy Holidays on it.”

 

So was it the fact that Laird Mayhew that is comedy gold that drew Franco to the role? “I think the first thing that drew me to the movie was John Hamburg,” explains Franco. “He was actually my teacher at NYU when I was there for the Graduate Film Media program. He was actually my teacher there when I was doing 127 Hours, so I wasn’t there a lot but we talked a lot and I got to know him on the phone but yeah he was the initial thing that drew me to this, and I’ve always liked his writing. And then I heard, and he told me that he was thinking about Bryan Cranston for the father role, and I didn’t know Bryan, but I saw him backstage on the last episode of The Colbert Report, and he said ‘hey I heard you might do this and I might do this. What do you think?’ so we started talking, and Bryan Cranston is just the greatest human being ever.

 

Of course playing alongside Franco in Why Him? is Bryan Cranston who aside from playing Walter in Breaking Bad had a long stretch playing a frustrated father in hit comedy Malcolm In The Middle, so what was it like for Franco to co-star alongside a comedy legend. “I think he had a blast,” says Franco laughing out loud. “ He hasn’t really done comedy since Malcolm In The Middle, and what was that over ten years ago now, so I think he had a great time actually and you wouldn’t expect that Bryan is sort of the one to push the envelope, but he would always make a suggestion for a scene that was just too far, not only for his character but for everybody and I love that. I mean that I love that in Bryan.

Franco also admits that like on most of Paul Hamburg’s sets the actors did have a little bit of ‘free reign.’ “John works in a way that is similar to a lot of the movies I’ve done before, where there is always room for improvisation. You know you start with a script and then kind of role from there and see what you find. And I guess what you always want in that situation is that you want somebody that can give good suggestions. I mean if you are riffing and then they can sort of build on that. You want somebody like that behind the camera that can help support you.”

For Bryan Cranston though he says that he had an instant personal connection to the film and to the role of Ned. “You know there is the truth about the Dads,” he says with a huge smile on his face. “You know I can remember when I was dating the Dads didn’t like me very much and I didn’t know why. I NOW KNOW WHY! I think Ned wants to be open, although it is tough enough as a Dad myself to see your child grow up and become an adult. For us to have to be responsible for them for all of their lives and then just voluntary let go of that grip and away they go, and the choices they make you are just like sheesh, and you are a little fearful about how all of that is going to play out. Of course these two guys, Ned and Laird, are different in every way. Different level of education, in the way that they were raised, who they were raised by, the principals by the way they were raised, everything, the way they live, their taste in music, their generation, everything about them is a complete opposite to each other. So naturally you would think that there is going to be friction because they just can’t relate to each other in any way. Laird just doesn’t have a filter, but what is great about the Laird character though, and we really talked about this a lot before we got into production, is that he is not capable of lying, he is clumsy, he is socially crude, and he hurts feelings sometimes because he just says what is real, what is honest and what is true, and we know that that isn’t always the best policy. He can’t help it; he just doesn’t have that gear to be able to control himself. But on the other side, he also doesn’t have the gear to be dishonest or purposely hurtful. He just can’t do it.”

 

It doesn’t take listening to Bryan for long to learn that he really enjoyed his time working on Why Him? and he is only too happy to explain why. “Being able to play with these actors has been a blast. They were all fabulous. I love doing dramatic roles and doing things like Trumbo and All The Way, and doing stage and doing film and Breaking Bad was fantastic but you don’t have as much fun as you do when you do comedy because the whole idea is to be thinking of different approaches of how to make something funny and when your job is to go to work, and you laugh and you make other people laugh then that is a good day. When I first read the script, the script was funny, and I said ‘can we work on this’, and they said ‘oh yeah we are going to work and work on this until you are sick of it’ and I loved that, I loved the all in nature. John brings a sensibility that is very inviting. He allows the actor room to fail and I don’t mean that in an ‘oh he’s going to fail here’ way it’s more of an ‘okay, yeah try that, try it, try it’… that is really his motto. And it is has been so much fun; we’re like children. We do the scene as written and then we are not only allowed to change it but are encouraged just to go crazy and add whatever is appropriate to your character.”

 

The fact that the cast had so much fun making the film is not a surprise when you walk out of a theatre still laughing after viewing Why Him? – a film that has turned into a surprise comedy hit this summer.

 

“Why Him?” is showing in cinemas right now.

 

 

Written by David Griffiths

New suspense-thriller “Allied” is one of those films that has risen to notoriety before its release not because of what critics have been saying about the film but because of the rumours and innuendo that have surfaced about its stars – Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. With all of those stories circulating it seems that everybody forgot that for the third time, Pitt was starring in a fairly decent war film.

Pitt’s co-star Marion Cotillard says it only took her reading through the script to realise that this was a film that she certainly wanted to do. “When I read the script I wanted to see the movie,” she says grinning. “I thought that it was such a beautiful story. It was a mix of a very entertaining film and very deep emotions and questions about love; it’s really a beautiful, beautiful love story and it has this spirit of ‘old movie’ about it and knowing that it would be directed by a visionary like Robert Zemeckis made the project even more exciting. It is at the same time very entertaining and it talks about what are you choices in an extreme situation like the war, especially when your work is being a spy and you are pretending that you are somebody that you are not. In the beginning of the movie both of us are spies and they don’t know anything about each other and they pretend to be this loving couple and it is going to turn into this very extreme situation that the war creates, so part of the movie is very entertaining and part of it is very serious with all the questioning about choices and all the questioning about love.”

Cotillard also admits that one of the reasons that she was attracted to making Allied was because she was a huge fan of the film’s director, Robert Zemeckis. “He was really part of my desire to be an actress,” she says thoughtfully. “I’ve watched all of his movies, and I knew what he wanted to tell with this story because when we first met, he said ‘I’m not used to telling love stories like this one, this is really new for me.” It was very exciting to see him be so honest and so committed to doing something that he is not used to delivering and he was so good at it, all the questions that we had, all that we shared during the preparation time that we had. We had little more than two weeks where we all sat together, with Brad Pitt, with Robert, with Steven Knight who had written this amazing script, and to have this period of time where we could get to know each other, get to really understand what we wanted to tell with this movie was really fascinating and I was really fascinated by Robert on set because of all the movies that he had directed already and all the special effects that he has been part of creating. He has really changed cinema with what he has done and the movies he has done. So yeah I was in awe a lot and really fascinated by the way he directed this one.”

When it comes to the man himself, Robert Zemeckis, he says it was the characters that really drew him to want to direct Allied.

“What I really liked about the project when I first read the screenplay was that this story had these two unbelievably well-written characters. These two characters were very complex and very passionate, that was what I was drawn to. The way that the screenplay was written so elegantly and these characters just really, really jumped right off the page, and that really attracted me as well. I think the question at the heart of the film is one that is universal, a universal question, which is – does love trump all? Is love the key driving emotion in everyone’s life and what happens when you love somebody and the circumstances get very, very complicated and what choices should we make?”

“Those questions are all very universal and have been there all through time, and they are the ones that I think are very dramatic and very interesting. That is one of the things that I like to do and one of the things that I think cinema does very well and that creates tension and suspense. It is interesting in this movie that the tension and suspense come from the emotions of these two characters, and this incredible passion that they have for each other in these circumstances that are very, very complicated and dire. To have that much tension and suspense come from within characters was a wonderful challenge for me and something that I enjoyed doing.”

Zemeckis also seems genuinely excited when he gets to talk about having to recreate the past for the film. “I did a lot of research,” he explains. “It’s one of the things that movies do really well, they can evoke and re-create past periods of time and the way that you do is you do a lot of research and look at a lot of photographs, a lot of footage – a lot of historical footage – and then you talk to people that really know – people like historians – what was going on. We were lucky on our film because the Imperial War Museum were our consultants, so we had great people surrounding us.”

This leads to being asked what was it like working with two of the biggest movie stars of current day – Brad Pitt and Marion Cottilard. “Working with both Brad and Marion was a real thrill because they were both professional and very focused and very hard working. Brad also a very good attention to detail and I was very impressed that he went down so deep and gave such an emotional performance, one that I had never seen him do before, so that was a thrill. Marion is amazing, I mean she is one of the best and greatest actresses that I have ever worked with. She is one of those actresses that can make anything work and she pays such close attention to her character and does an amazing amount of work on her own preparing, so when she comes onto the set, she is ready to deliver and does.”

Allied is in Australian cinemas now.

 

Written by David Griffiths

 

With Oscar season just around the corner, talk has once again turned to young actress Hailee Steinfeld being a strong contender to be nominated for the coming-of-age drama/comedy “The Edge Of Seventeen”. Of course, it’s not the first time that Steinfeld’s name has been mentioned alongside the prestigious awards – she was also nominated for 2010’s “True Grit”. Hearing Steinfeld talks about her role of Nadine, a depressed teenager who feels like she has been betrayed by her best friend you get a real sense that she had a personal connection to this film.

“When I was auditioning for this film I went in, talked to Kelly (the director) about a number of experiences that I had at school that were so similar to Nadine’s,” she explains. “It felt very weird going there and being like ‘I went through this’ because of course, you do want them to believe that you went through this or something similar, but it is just weird to be in this vulnerable state which I felt I was in because I did go in there and say ‘This is so similar to what I’ve been through in my life and what I know so many of my friends have’.”

Steinfeld is also quick to admit that Nadine is also a vulnerable character who has a number of different relationships throughout the film. “Nadine wears everything on her sleeve, and even when you know, she is trying hard not to let whatever she is going through get to her – you know how she is really feeling. There is something so refreshing about seeing someone feel. You know there is so much that she goes through with so many different people in this movie, from her best friend to her mother to her father to her brother. Her relationship with Krista (her best friend) is more than a best friend relationship. It is a relationship where if you aren’t in the same room you are texting the person, or you’re on FaceTime with that person talking about you’re doing or not saying anything at all because you’re just there. Then there is her relationship with her brother, and that is so complex, and again it’s so layered because there is so much hatred for this person that she looks at and sees that he got absolutely everything. She sees that he got everything beyond the looks, he’s got the grades, the school success, he’s got that thing where everyone that walks past him in the halls turns to him and gives him a high-five, and they show him attention and love. And then I walk down there, and people just look at me up and down. Although we are related people look at us like I am the last person that he would ever be related to because he’s so not like me, he’s so different. ”

 

Of course, Steinfeld is joined in the cast of “The Edge OF Tomorrow” by another Oscar nominated actor Woody Harrelson, and she says Nadine has an interesting relationship with his character, Mr Bruner. “Mr Bruner is the only person who pretends to show any interest in my conversation. And the great part about how it is written is he’s there for her, and he listens to her, and he welcomes her to an extent but he is just so unphased about what she has to say, and that has her on her toes and keeps her thinking of what she can possibly say for that shock value and I guess that is what I love so much about Nadine, she just doesn’t hold back, she just goes for it.”

 

Bringing Mr Bruner to life is Woody Harrelson who is quick to say that The Edge Of Seventeen is a very different film to what he is normally part of. “I suppose it’s not the kind of story I would normally see myself involved with,” he says with a small smile. “This story about a high school gal who is in the middle of all these crises, but you know it is really wonderful writing. It’s very funny; it’s very smart and also unique so… you know… I was psyched to jump in.”

 

He also says that audiences shouldn’t be expecting his character to be the ‘typical’ teacher that you see in most films. “I think Mr Bruner is one of these guys who is probably pretty good at his job, but he really is one of those guys who comes in, punches the clock, then looks forward to getting home to his girlfriend and his baby. So in some ways, he is not the model teacher ah but has a kind of special relationship with Nadine in that he really likes her. He tells her that she is his favourite student but only after he really upsets her, and he’ll make a joke about something after she’s been quite vulnerable so for some reason, Nadine, who in this scene is feeling really lonely and doesn’t connect with anyone else in the school, connects with my character and while my character isn’t the most sentimental guy it is obvious to her that he cares about her. I don’t think my character is the catalyst for all the changes that happen with her but I think I am her sounding board and like I said I’m not the most sentimental guy, so it’s not like I’m giving her deep and emotional advice or anything, but I’m kind of there for her”

When asked what it is like working with Hailee Steinfeld Harrelson says, “I think there is a kind of chemistry there. I think she is an extraordinary actress and I really was amazed when we did our first scene together. I was really amazed at how she just flows with everything and trying new things and she is just a very creative and a very smart actress. She really has the goods, and even when a scene is a little more complicated, she knows what she is doing. It’s great to see someone with that ability at this stage of her career, and I mean such an early stage of her career. I think she has the capacity to be acting for the next sixty years, she really is good.”

With that kind of glowing praise from an actor as talented as Woody Harrelson, it’s not hard to see why Hailee Steinfeld is shaping up as a real Oscar contender for her performance in The Edge of Seventeen. Now it is just a waiting game to see whether she gets the nomination or not.

 

The “Edge Of Seventeen” opens in Australian cinemas on the 1st January 2017.

Written by David Griffiths

ARTIST OF THE MONTH

NEAL WALTERS

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Neal Walters if you have any hand at all in Australia’s alternative music scene, but if you haven’t then there’s an even better probability that you’ve encountered one of his shots without knowing the man behind the camera. He’s made quite the splash in music photography, which isn’t easy to do when there’s twenty photographers to two reviewers at every show you’ve been to in the past year. Having worked his ass off establishing his talent, Walters is now getting rightfully recognised, receiving The Unified Grant of 2016 for his upcoming photography book.

 

“I guess the process just revolved around me putting in an application”, he shared when describing how exactly he got involved with the grant in the first place, clarifying that it was for something he “believed in”. That something is a book that will capture portraits of music industry figures, presenting something that goes beyond a candid shot before they head on stage.

 

“Basically the book is going to be based on what makes people happy”, Walters states. Not only will there be a portrait of these people, but there will also be an elaboration as he calls it, “That person in what we’re calling their happy place”. Walters’ project is one of five that The Unified Grant has been awarded to, with other recipients including Ashleigh Hills (the founder of Tram Sessions), Georgia Beach (of Office Gossip Design), Michelle Grace Hunder and Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore (of Her Sound, Her Story) and mixer/producer/engineer/audio extraordinaire Aaron Dobos.

 

“It took me about 15 minutes to write the application”, he noted, “Because I knew everything I had planned it to be”. The point is to provide an insight that goes beyond what you’d see on the surface of a snap, and the strength of Walters’ convictions leaves little doubt that it’s going to be a success. The only question is when. “We’re starting early 2017”, he identifies, “but at this stage, I wanna say that it’s gonna take however long it takes”. If everything goes to plan, you might even have it by Christmas.

Considering how well his career in the industry is going, it’s interesting to consider the fact that Walters didn’t actually start out with a view towards being a music photographer at all. It was “relationships” that made up his path to this point in his life rather than an initial positioning towards this field. “I started by shooting my friends”, he explains. His friends started bands, and now he’s here.

 

Even though he claims that he’s not mature, when asked about the bands that he’s grown up with throughout his career he makes an effort to point out the longevity of his ongoing relationship with Melbourne outfit Storm The Sky. From where both parties started to where they are now has been a long distance, but Walters points out that they’ve been “a band I’ve been lucky enough to work with” over his and their tumultuous years, having undergone lineup changes without breaking up like many of the bands he started out with. “They’ve matured massively”, he states with pride. “Their last album wasn’t heavy whatsoever, but it was brilliant”.

 

It’s clear that even though Walters has a passion for photography, he also still cares about music, which is a nice observation to make in a scene riddled by jaded former fans. Walters has some damn good stories to share, some of which he’s probably not allowed to let loose, but he does recount one particular gem of a time that occurred in Germany.

 

“We were in Berlin with Northlane and Volumes and it was probably 4 am”, he starts his story with. “After the show in Berlin, we had gone out; obviously everyone went to numerous places and hung out. I think the bus was leaving when we got back, and Chris [Moretti] from Hellions was there”, apparently with “no pants on” and “sat on a traffic cone just on the side of the road”. There’s more to the story, as there is to every photo Walters has ever taken, but you’ll have to keep an eye out for his book to find out exactly what he wants to share about the figures that he tours with.

 

Even though he’s gotten to where he is, Walters still has doubts. “I still pinch myself”, he notes, but he also shares the alarming piece of news that the day before winning The Unified Grant, he almost stepped out altogether. “On that Wednesday, I was like ‘maybe this isn’t gonna work’”, he states. “And Thursday I got the call”. That’s good timing if we’ve ever seen it.

 

 

Written by Peyton Bernhardt

 

GET TO KNOW NEAL WALTERS MORE

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www.nealwaltersphoto.com

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