Virginia Madsen is one classy lady!
The veteran actress made her film debut in the early ‘80s movie Class, and went on to work with such iconic directors as David Lynch (Dune), Rob Reiner (Ghosts of Mississippi), and Francis Ford Coppola (The Rainmaker). But it was her role in Alexander Payne’s Sideways that earned her an Academy Award-nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Madsen would eventually work with legendary director Robert Altman on A Prairie Home Companion, and then appear in a string of high profile films including Firewall, The Astronaut Farmer, and The Number 23. Her latest film entitled Walter will open in theaters on March 13th.
Walter stars Andrew J. West (TV’s The Walking Dead) as the title character, a ticket-taker at the local cinema that believes he is the Son of God. He has agreed to decide the eternal fate of everyone he comes in to contact with. But when a ghost in purgatory (Justin Kirk) starts to haunt him, Walter begins to question everything he thought he understood about his world. Madsen plays Karen, Walter’s brokenhearted mother. In addition to West, Kirk and Madsen, the movie also features performances from Milo Ventimiglia (Wild Card), Neve Campbell (Wild Things), Peter Facinelli (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1), Jim Gaffigan (Three Kings), and William H. Macy (Rudderless), and was directed by first time feature filmmaker Anna Mastro.
I recently had the honor of speaking with the absolutely delightful Virginia Madsen about her work on Walter, as well as her memories of making Sideways and A Prairie Home Companion. The Oscar-nominated actress discussed Walter, how a first time filmmaker gets an Oscar-nominee to be in their movie, what she looks for when she is choosing projects, shooting her scenes with Andrew J. West, our shared experience on Sideways, working with the great Robert Altman on A Prairie Home Companion, and the truth about director Paul Thomas Anderson’s contributions to that film.
In my time as Managing Editor of IAR, I’ve had the pleasure to check several illustrious names off of my “interview wish list,” including Oprah Winfrey, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Bruce Willis, Mel Brooks, William Shatner, Adam West, Stan Lee, Mike Tyson, and Oscar the Grouch. But I can now cross off my wish list the name of one of the greatest screen actors of all time … Al Pacino!
It almost seems redundant to list Mr. Pacino’s incredible body of work, but here goes anyways. The Academy Award-winner made his screen debut in The Panic in Needle Park, but it was his iconic role as Michael Corleone in The Godfather that made him a household name. He would go on to appear in some of the best movies ever made including Serpico, The Godfather Part II, Dog Day Afternoon, …And Justice for All, Scarface, Sea of Love, Carlito’s Way, and Heat. The actor has won four Golden Globes Awards, two Emmy Awards, two Tony Awards, and been nominated for eight Oscars, finally winning Best Actor in 1993 for his performance in Scent of a Woman. Pacino’s latest film Danny Collins, which is one of his best in recent years, opens in theaters on March 20th.
Danny Collins features Pacino as the title character, an aging rock star who decides to change his life when he discovers a 40-year old letter written to him by John Lennon. After reevaluating his life, Collins attempts to reunite with his long lost son Tom (Bobby Cannavale), and Tom’s wife (Jennifer Garner) and daughter. The musician also befriends a hotel manager named Mary (Annette Bening), and soon begins writing new material that puts him at odds with his longtime manager (Christopher Plummer) and his fans. The film was written and directed by Dan Fogelman (Last Vegas).
I recently had the honor of sitting down with the great Al Pacino (along with a few other members of the press), to talk about his work on Danny Collins. The legendary actor spoke candidly about his new film, his process as an actor, how it’s changed over the years, what real life rock stars influenced his performance, and his signature role as Michael Corleone in The Godfather.
Where last year's Divergent was about rebelling against a rigid, dystopian social order, this Friday's sequel, Insurgent, is about full-blown revolution.
Based on the bestselling Young Adult novel by Veronica Roth, The Divergent Saga: Insurgent raises the stakes for our heroes and for the entirety of the scifi society Roth has constructed.
The second chapter in The Divergent Series picks up where its predecessor left off. Having unearthed and survived a sinister conspiracy by the powerful Erudite faction, Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley, The Fault In Our Stars) and Four (Theo James, Underworld: Awakening) are fugitives on the run grappling with guilt over the lives that have been lost. They and their allies are desperate to evade Jeanine (Kate Winslet, Contagion) and her Erudite acolytes while digging
deep into the mysteries of their society and attempting to unite Chicago's Factionless for a war that could shatter the caste system of the future.
IAR was on hand for the Los Angeles press day promoting Insurgent, which opens nationwide on March 20th. Managing Editor Jami Philbrick, along with entertainment journalists from all over the world, participated in the Insurgent press conference, discussing the sequel with stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Ansel Elgort (The Fault In Our Stars).
All three actors enthusiastically talked about returning for The Divergent Series: Insurgent, working with a new director, how much has changed in the year since the first film's release, filming elaborate action sequences, why Caleb (Elgort) is the odd man out, and the unique relationship between Tris and Four.
Disney just can’t let Frozen go!
The animated musical was a runaway hit for the studio, winning Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song, as well as becoming the fifth biggest grossing movie of all time. After recently announcing development of Frozen 2, Disney has produced a brand new short film entitled Frozen Fever, which was released with Cinderella and is currently playing in theaters now.
Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee once again direct Frozen Fever, with Peter Del Vecho producing. Voice actors Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, and Josh Gad all reprise their roles from the original, while Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez composed a new song for the short. Frozen Fever takes place on Anna's (Menzel) birthday, as Elsa (Bell) and Kristoff (Groff) are determined to give her the best celebration ever. However, Elsa's icy powers may put more than just the party at risk.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with co-director Chris Buck and producer Peter Del Vecho to talk about their work on Frozen Fever. The Oscar-winning director and producer discussed the new short, the incredible success of the original feature, their master plan for world domination, purposely having John Travolta mispronounce Idina Menzel’s name at the Academy Awards, revisiting the Frozen characters, the Lopez’s new song, and the cute new characters from Frozen Fever that might just appear in Frozen 2.
Arguably, Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield and Bernard Hopkins are three of the greatest boxing champions of all time! Now their story can be seen in the brilliant new documentary Champs, which was directed by Bert Marcus and opens in theaters on March 13th.
The new documentary examines the rise, fall, and rise again of Tyson, Holyfield and Hopkins, and combines interviews with all three champions, old footage, and narrative footage used to represent their early lives. The film was produced by Marcus, Tyson, Tyson’s wife Lakiha Spicer, and actor Mario Lopez (TV’s Saved By The Bell), and also includes interviews with celebrity boxing fans like Mark Wahlberg (Broken City), Denzel Washington (Flight), Mary J. Blige (The Help), 50 Cent (Freelancers), Spike Lee (Oldboy), and Ron Howard (Cinderella Man).
The three champions share a lot in common having all rose to fame in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and overcoming childhoods in poor inner city neighborhoods. While Tyson and Holyfield will forever be linked in history by the infamous “biting incident,” they also both lost their fortunes after boxing, and Tyson and Hopkins have both served lengthy prison sentences. The documentary really uses boxing and the lives of these three champions as a way to examine bigger issues in our society like poverty, race, the American prison system, and economic inequality.
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with director Bert Marcus about his work on Champs. The documentary filmmaker discussed his new movie, why he chose to look at the lives of Tyson, Holyfield and Hopkins, how he used the project as an opportunity to examine important social issues, the evolution of Mike Tyson, why Tyson and Evander Holyfield will forever be linked together in history, Bernard Hopkins incredible life story, what the World Boxing Association should do to prepare fighters for life outside of the ring, and the decision to include narrative footage in his documentary.
Method Man is one of the founding members of the groundbreaking hip-hop group Wu-Tang Clan, but in recent years he has also become a very accomplished actor!
Born Clifford Smith, the Grammy-winning rapper made his big screen debut in the classic crime drama Copland, which starred Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro. He went on to appear in such films as One Eight Seven, Big Daddy, How High, Garden State, Soul Plane, The Sitter, and Red Tails, as well as the upcoming Judd Apatow comedy Trainwreck with Amy Schumer. On television, Method Man first appeared on the HBO series OZ, before co-starring in his own sitcom Method & Red with fellow rapper Redman. But it was his role as Melvin “Cheese” Wagstaff on the seminal HBO series The Wire that really began his evolution from beloved musician to accomplished actor. But now, the rapper/actor stars opposite comedic powerhouse Adam Sandler (That’s My Boy) in the new comedy fantasy The Cobbler, which opens in theaters on March 13th.
The Cobbler was directed by Method Man’s fellow The Wire alumni actor/writer/director Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent, The Visitor, Win Win). The new movie follows Max Simkin (Sandler), who repairs shoes in the same New York shop that has been in his family for generations. Disenchanted with the grind of daily life, Max stumbles upon a magical heirloom that allows him to step into the lives of his customers and see the world in a new way. Max soon learns that sometimes walking in another man's shoes is the only way one can discover who they really are. Method Man plays one of Max’s customers whose life he soon embodies. In addition to Method Man and Sandler, the film also stars Dan Stevens (The Guest), Steve Buscemi (The Big Lebowski), Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love), and Academy Award-winner Dustin Hoffman (All the President’s Men, Tootsie).
I recently had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Method Man about his work on The Cobbler. The rapper turned actor discussed his new movie, being directed by his former Wire cast member Thomas McCarthy, playing dual roles, working with Adam Sandler, understanding the business, and seriously studying the craft of acting.
This Friday, one of the most famous and enduring fairy tales gets a lavish big screen revitalization.
Disney previously adapted the seventheenth century folk tale as an animated fantasy classic sixty-five years ago, but the upcoming Cinderella marks the first time the studio has tackled the story of the glass slipper in live-action.
This new Cinderella is not, however, a revision, reinvention, or reimagining. Instead, it's a heartfelt, straightforward retelling of a downtrodden girl's magical romance with a dashing prince, infusing an old story with the unprecedented spectacle of modern blockbuster filmmaking.
The film is already critically acclaimed, and all the CG spectacle and gorgeous sets wouldn't matter if critics and audiences weren't responding to the core of the Cinderella story: Cinderella herself.
Lily James stars as the heroine, called Ella in the new movie. Best known as Lady Rose MacClare on the hit British series Downton Abbey, James breaks out as a full-blown movie star in Cinderella, bringing the title character to living, breathing life in a way that not even the finest animation can quite match and anchoring all the romance, pumpkin carriages, and ceremonial balls in a real, relatable humanity.
At the Los Angeles press day, Lily James star down with IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick and various other entertainment journalists to discuss Disney's Cinderella. The actress enthusiastically talked about her history with fictitious princesses, the influence of animation, dancing in a hugely impractical ballgown, acting against living legends Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter, working with director Kenneth Branagh, and how her take on Cinderella dispenses with outmoded concepts of gender.
In the past few years, actor/director Kenneth Branagh has taken what he learned over decades of adapting William Shakespeare plays for the big screen and has applied it to reinventing some of Hollywood’s most beloved film franchises.
Branagh is best know for directing such popular Shakespeare film adaptations as Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Hamlet (1996), Love’s Labour’s Lost, and As You Like It. He also directed Dead Again, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and the remake of Sleuth, as well as appearing in such high profile movies as Wild Wild West, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Valkyrie, Pirate Radio, and My Week with Marilyn, which earned him an Academy Award-nomination for Best Supporting Actor. But in recent years the actor/filmmaker has surprisingly directed such fan-favorite projects as the film adaptation of the Marvel comic book Thor, a reboot of the Tom Clancy series called Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, and now a live-action version of the classic Disney animated movie Cinderella, which opens in theaters on March 13th.
The new film is a reinvention of the classic fairy tale and was written by Academy Award-nominee Chris Weitz (About a Boy). In Cinderella, when her father (Ben Chaplin) unexpectedly passes away, young Ella (Lily James) finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella's fortunes begins to change after meeting a dashing stranger in the woods, who turns out to be the Prince (Richard Madden). In addition, the film also features performances from Nonso Anozie (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit), Stellan Skarsgard (Nymphomaniac: Vol. I), Hayley Atwell (The Sweeney), and Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club) as the Fairy Godmother.
I recently had the absolute honor of sitting down with the great Kenneth Branagh to talk about his work on Cinderella. The extremely accomplished actor and filmmaker discussed his latest movie, how adapting Shakespeare plays prepared him for his current work, sifting through years of mythology to find the best story, redefining Cinderella for a new generation, casting Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter as the Stepmother and Fairy Godmother respectively, finding the right actress to play the title role, and why he decided to include the mice from the animated film in his live-action adaptation.
Producer Jason Blum is taking over Hollywood!
After founding his company Blumhouse Productions in 2000, he went on to produce some of the most successful horror thrillers of the last fifteen years including the Paranormal Activity franchise, Sinister, The Purge, Insidious: Chapter 2, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, Oculus, The Purge: Anarchy, Ouija, and The Boy Next Door. Not to mention that later this year Blumhouse will release the highly anticipated new movie Jem and the Holograms, which is based on the popular ‘80s cartoon. The super-producer also recently won an Emmy for his work on the HBO mini-series The Normal Heart, and was nominated for an Academy Award for producing Whiplash. But now, Blum returns to the genre he helped reinvent with the new horror film The Lazarus Effect, which opens in theaters on February 27th.
In the new movie, which was directed by documentary filmmaker David Gelb (Jiro Dreams of Sushi), a group of medical students discover a way to bring dead animals back to life. But when Zoe (Olivia Wilde) accidentally dies, her husband Frank (Mark Duplass) forces the group to help bring his wife back from the dead. While the experiment is successful, things become dangerous when they realize that Zoe’s personality has been altered. In addition to Wilde and Duplass, the film also stars Donald Glover (The To Do List), Sarah Bolger (In America), and Evan Peters (X-Men: Days of Future Past).
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with producer Jason Blum to talk about his work on The Lazarus Effect, as well as Jem and the Holograms, and The Purge 3. The Academy Award-nominated producer discussed The Lazarus Effect, its cinematic influences, faith vs. science, his friendship with Mark Duplass, Olivia Wilde’s difficult role, working with first time narrative filmmaker David Gelb, Blum’s role on set, the current status of Jem and the Holograms, and an update on the development of The Purge 3.
Focus, hitting theaters nationwide today, is all about the con, but when the conmen are Will Smith and Margot Robbie, you'll actually feel happy about being swindled.
International megastar Smith (After Earth) stars in this comedy-drama-caper-thriller as Nicky, a charming longtime grifter who takes the beautiful and inexperienced Jess, played by Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street), under his wing, teaching her the ways of the conman. Until, that is, she gets too close and he promptly kicks rocks, leaving his onetime protege in the dust.
Three years later, however, while Nicky's preparing for a huge and highly dangerous con in Buenos Aires, Jess reappears. This time, the student may very well have become the master, as Nicky's onetime "intern" is now a formidable operator in her own right, a schemer who might just turn Nicky's most ambitious graft into a shamblefest that could cost them both a fortune. or their very lives.
Focus makes perfect use of both Oscar-nominated stars' peerless charisma as each character uses their charm to sweep marks off their feet and conceal their true motives. At the Los Angeles press day for Focus, however, Smith and Robbie appeared sincerely enthusiastic about their new movie.
IAR Managing Editor Jami Philbrick was on hand to discuss Focus with the stars, who happily talked about their onscreen chemistry, how Robbie snagged the role, improvisation, Smith's new mindset, the love story beneath all the cons, and the philosophical implications of graft.