Nicolas Winding Refn + Wife Liv Corfixen Talk Her Revealing Documentary ‘My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn’

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Sometimes the only way to find the truth behind a person is to see them with their spouse, and for the hour-long documentary My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn, which had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin over the weekend, Refn’s wife Liv Corfixen peals away the auteur’s ultra violent façade to reveal a loving family man filled with insecurities and pressures. 

The documentary (being released by Radius) was directed and shot by Corfixen during production of Refn’s 2013 film Only God Forgives, as she and their two children went with Refn to Bangkok to make the film. And though the obvious comparisons will be made to Eleanor Coppola, Fax Bahr and George Hickenlooper’s incredible Hearts of Darkness, where Eleanor also brought their kids to the production of Apocalypse Now, My Life looks more intimately at their subjects.

Like Hearts of Darkness, there’s a unique insight into Refn’s process in My Life, which in one instance includes Refn in front of a wall of colored index cards that he constantly mulls over, comparing the structure of his stories to playing chess, where one shift gives him power over the audience and once false more can leave the audience disconnected. The latter seems to haunt Refn for almost all of shooting as he struggles with pushing the boundaries in all aspects of the film and obsessively keeping from making anything that resembles his previous success, also starring Ryan Gosling, Drive, while being conscious of the audiences’ needs.

But the most compelling parts of My Life are Corfixen capturing Refn with her and their family. Playing with his youngest daughter; reprimanding his older one when she tells him she climbed over their balcony railing to retrieve his shorts that had fallen; confiding in Corfixen about his doubts about the project, then being elated by what they’re shooting, then back to depression leading to him telling her during post “I wasted six months of our lives.” Then there’s Corfixen’s own anxieties of wanting to be more than a housewife, being stuck with the kids in Bangkok, asking Refn to open up more than he is about filming. The roller coaster of emotions gets to the point that Corfixen calls on family friend Alejandro Jodorowsky for guidance (let’s just say his advice is what you’d expect from the man who gave us El Topo and The Holy Mountain). 

At its core, My Life Directed By Nicolas Winding Refn is a fascinating study that shows the challenges of juggling family life with your passion, which also happens to be your job. We caught up with Corfixen and Refn in Austin to chat about why they opened their lives to the public this way and how it has helped their relationship.

Liv, I can understand wanting to bring the family to Bangkok to be with Nicolas, but why film it?

Nicolas Winding Refn: [Laughs]

Liv Corfixen: Because I could go to work and not just be a housewife. That was enough for me. The line producer came and asked if I’d maybe be interested in filming the process of Nicolas making Only God Forgives and I was like, “Hell yeah!” Because then I’d have to go to work everyday. But I thought it would be more interesting to show how it is to live with someone like him. How hard it is to live with an artist and how difficult it is to pick up your children and take them away from your country. The whole process, not just him making the movie, but being a family with someone who has a life like this. 

And this was the first time you and the kids came with him while he’s shooting?

NWR: Yeah.

LV: Yeah. On Drive I traveled back and forth and would stay three weeks and go back and come back again, and that was just too hard for us. The children missed him and we missed each other. 

NWR: I think for Bronson you came once and said, “Fuck that.” 

Nicolas were you game for this or was there some convincing on Liv’s part?

NWR: No. No. God, what could I have said? We were actually subjects of a documentary seven or eight years ago called Gambler so we had done it before together and I’d done numerous TV spots over the years so it was a natural evolution. And whatever made her happy. Asking her to take six months out of her own life to go to Bangkok with me, and of course she’s the one who’s going to take most care of the kids because I was working. It would be dangerously selfish of me if I didn’t do it. 

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Liv, did you watch Hearts of Darkness?

LV: Yeah. I did watch it because everyone told me to. I hadn’t seen it so I did watch it. 

Did it scare the hell out of you?

LV: No. Not at all. I liked it but watching that I knew the style that I wanted for this movie. From early on I knew I didn’t want something with talking heads, I wanted it to be intimate and show people’s vulnerability. 

Talk about the editing, did you let Nicolas see anything?

LV: He didn’t really want to see anything. He didn’t want to come to the editing room, which was a good idea because it would be weird. Of course, at the end when it was almost done I wanted him to see it, if there was anything major he didn’t like. But no, it was just me and my editor.

In a strange way was this marriage counseling or family therapy?

LV: Definitely. Not so much because of the movie, but after the movie we went to couples therapy and it was a relief for me because in the editing room I felt, This is fine, and then I would realize that people are going to see this. It’s not just me and my editor. Then I felt, This is too private. But I put my opinion aside and saw what was most important for the project and that is those personal moments and vulnerabilities. I see it as, this is how it was back then. We’re so different now, this was three years ago, so already I feel we’ve moved on. This was just a peek at six months in our lives at that moment.

Nicolas, have you done any self-evaluation seeing yourself in this?

NWR:  I look fat.

LV:  [Laughs] Stop it.

NWR: It’s hard for me to have anything because it’s so weird in a way.

Any critique of your directing?

NWR: Well, it’s obvious to me that I should have gotten the Palme d’Or from Cannes that year. There’s no debating that anymore. But seriously, what I find interesting about this from an objective point of view, I would say thank God someone made this because that’s how I feel. I think it’s important that we all say this is what it’s really like. We live in a world of a certain persona, of certain visions of how we want to be presented and we live in a celebrity culture that’s much more aggressive and much more hungry for sensations but, again, it’s not what it’s about. I’m a huge lover of reality television and for me this is what reality TV should be.

And watching this film I felt the insecurities you show isn’t just on this one film, probably every film you go through this.

NWR: Every single time. It’s going to be like this on the next one and the next one and the next one.

Please tell me you didn’t do your counseling with Jodorowsky?

LV: No. [Laughs]

NWR: Not with him. But I do it creatively. I went to him last month while I was in L.A. via Skype. He’s always so goddam right.

A big revealing moment in the film is you reading a bad review Hollywood Elsewhere gave Only God Forgives following your Cannes premiere. Liv, did you have to convince Nicolas to read the review on camera?

LV: No. 

NWR: Someone sent that to me and I was like this is the review you want to frame because then you know you’re the Sex Pistols and he’s the establishment. 

    

Capturing Time: 8 Things Richard Linklater Told Us About ‘Boyhood’

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Originally published in January 2014 during the Sundance Film Festival.

Last night at the Sundance Film Festival, Richard Linklater unveiled a preview screening of his long-awaited, 12-years in the making film that looks at a family’s life titled Boyhood.

With a running time of just under three hours, the film is an incredible piece of filmmaking that follows the lives of Mason and his sister Samantha from their troubled childhood into adulthood. Actors Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (the director’s daughter) grow in front of our eyes as they deal with their mother’s (Patricia Arquette) numerous failed marriages, their immature father (Ethan Hawke) and the usual awkward existence that is your teenage years.

To call this a labor of love would be a gross understatement. Through constant support by IFC Films, Linklater has finally come to the end of a magnum opus that started 4,207 days ago (yes, he counted) and will add to the numerous iconic titles he’s already given us.

Following the screening Linklater, along with his cast, took questions from the audience at the Eccles Theater. Here are eight things Linklater talked about that we thought were fascinating.

HOW IT STARTED

“I wanted to do something about childhood. But I couldn’t pick one [thing]. I got this eureka moment of why don’t you do little bits throughout [someone’s life]. I did talk to some producers about doing it and they were like, “No, we don’t know how to do that.” But with IFC we had just done Tape and they were down to do it.”

ETHAN HAWKE’S REACTION

“We were sitting in a café in New York and he had a weird look on his face and said, ‘It’s the craziest thing, but yeah, I’ll do it.’”

THE PROCESS

“The structure of the film was worked out [early]. By the second year I knew what the last shot was. Every year we’d shoot. It would be intensive 3-4 day shoots… 39 days total.”

LORELEI’S HAD ENOUGH

“I remember, like, year three, Lorelei came to me and asked, ‘Can my character, like, die?’”

CHARACTER EVOLUTION

“It was always going to go eventually where they went. The early conception of the characters became them [as they got older]. But they aren’t autobiographical.”

SHOOTING ON FILM

“From the start I wanted to shoot on 35mm. We ended in October and it felt like the end of an era. It was getting harder to use, there weren’t a lot of labs. But I didn’t want to shoot Hi Def. We would have gone through five different evolutions through filming and I didn’t want it to be technologically different.”

EDITING

“We’d edit every year and make it fit from the previous segment we shot. Transitions were important. In the early years I tried to make [the transitions] more clever, but as it went on I went to them being more seamless.”

FINISHED…BUT NOT REALLY

“Music is such an important part of your life so we knew that would be important. We would take stuff that Patricia was listening to at the time or Lorelei was listening to. We tried to take from all their interests. But we haven’t cleared all the music. We barely got here.”

 

Bong Joon-ho on Bringing His Tilda Swinton and Chris Evans Led Epic ‘Snowpiercer’ To America

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Tilda Swinton in Snowpiercer

Following the success of films The Host and Mother, most thought it was only a matter of time before Bong Joon-ho’s slick style would be snatched up by the Hollywood system. But unlike his fellow South Korean directing peers Park Chan-wook and Kim Jee-woon who recently jumped into American produced films Stoker and Last Stand, respectively, Bong’s sci-fi thriller, Snowpiercer—his A-list talent infused English language debut—was actually produced in the comfort of his home country. Though that didn’t mean he was immune to American scrutiny.

Bought by The Weinstein Company for its U.S. release, Snowpiercer—which is an adaptation of the French graphic novel Le Transperceneige by Jacques Lob—was touted as one of their big summer releases. However, when the film was completed Harvey Weinstein wanted to cut 20 minutes from the film’s 129-minute running time and include a narrative voiceover. After a year of back and forth, which in that time the Bong-approved cut was released in South Korean and other parts of the world to high acclaim, the Bong/Weinstein stalemate finally ended with the film going forward without any Weinstein tweaks, but would now receive a limited run through its specialty arm, Radius-TWC (opening this Friday).

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Snowpiercer is that sophisticated action/sci-fi thriller that rarely shows up in the summertime. With incredible Blade Runner-like production design and Bong’s patented mixture of action and dark comedy, it’s a triumph in genre filmmaking. And like all great sci-fi it’s the emotional tug—in this case a focus on social class issues—that makes it stand out.

In the film we are thrust to 2031, global warming has caused an ice age with the lone survivors aboard Snowpiercer, a massive train in which its occupants are divided into a class system. The privileged reside in the front of the train, with all amenities you can imagine, while the poor stay in the tail, sleeping in drawers and constantly harassed by armed forces. Curtis (Chris Evans) begins the revolt to get to the front, leading to a bloody journey through the massive train filled with outlandish characters (Tilda Swinton almost unrecognizable as the villainous Minister and Allison Pill as a deranged teacher) and surprising admissions, even by our hero.

To celebrate a unique title like this, the folks at Radius decided to get creative. This past weekend, through their relationship with the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, they presented the film, with Bong in tow, as part of Drafthouse’s “Rolling Roadshows.” Guests were put on a train in Austin and traveled by rail to Burnet for an outdoor screening. And in typical Drafthouse style, there were many surprises, including as a snack the black, jello-like bars the rear of the train devour in the movie while the front of the train dined on sushi (yes, just like the movie). There was also a disco train, and if you were in the right place you could see Nicolas Winding Refn (who was in town shooting a commercial) chewing on sushi while chatting it up with Bong then lounging on a lawn chair among the rest of the crowd during the movie.

On the ride back, in a quiet section of the train and trying to take in his first visit to Texas, Bong chatted with us about brining the graphic novel to life, what he learned from battling with Weinstein and if he’ll ever succumb to Hollywood.

What were the things that grabbed you about the graphic novel?

The idea of a two-hour movie all on a train is such a unique and cinematic space; that just really excited me. But I wasn’t going to go and make a documentary about trains. This movie is about people. Outside the world is frozen over, inside the idea of the rich being in the front and the poor in the back, that was a stimulating concept. They are all human but they are all fighting each other.

Did the visuals in the graphic novel inspire the cinematic style you decided on?

Of course the drawings are really important for comic book fans, so the first thing you look at are the drawings and the illustrations. The way Jacques Lob created the images was really progressive. As far as comparing the visual inspiration from the graphic novel to the film, the way the tail section is conceived, the poor are stuck in drawers in the back of the train; that was inspired greatly from the graphic novel. And the sauna section and the design of the train engine, that’s all the work of our production designers and the conceptual arts team.

The line that stays in my head is when Curtis admits to cannibalism and that “babies taste best.” Talk about how that scene came about, it was a shocking revelation.

I personally like those kinds of scenes, where there isn’t a lot of cuts and it’s just one person telling a story. So it’s a story within a story. Like in The Host the father does it and in Mother there’s a scene like that. When I was young I saw Jaws and was really fascinated by the scene where Robert Shaw talks about everyone getting killed by sharks and since I’ve always wanted to do a scene like that. In this scene with Chris I promised him that I wouldn’t cut away to any flashbacks or even the other character he’s talking to, I wanted to keep it very simple and classic, just Chris talking. And one of the producers, Park Chan-wook, suggested that perhaps I do some flashbacks but I ended up not wanting to do that. I plotted out the scene and figured out the flow of the dialogue and then [co-screenwriter] Kelly Masterson came in and really worked on getting the dialogue right, and that line, “babies taste best,” came from him. On the day I shot the scene with Chris he was very calm and focused, almost like a monk inside a temple, and he came up to me and said, “Shoot as many takes as you want, 10 or 20, whatever angle you want.” He really made me comfortable in that scene. 

How many takes did you end up doing?

Not that many takes were needed because Chris was so prepared, maybe five or six takes. 

What’s more satisfying, pulling off the effects-heavy action sequences or a scene like that?

I like to focus on the characters and with dialogue it reveals the characters more than with an action sequence. Even with the axe battle scene we went to slow motion and it wasn’t to try to make it stylish but to show how lonely the character Curtis is even among all these people. 

There were so many reports on the back and forth between you and Harvey Weinstein in regards to the final running time of the film for the U.S. release. What did you learn from that experience?

From the production side it wasn’t that hard because I had prior training. In the short Tokyo! I shot that with Japanese actors and crew and with The Host there were a few American actors and we worked with special effects companies from Australia to San Francisco, so it was quite easy to work in that system. But once The Weinstein Company came on board it took a year to get to this point. The process was a bit strange, it was my first experience encountering this, but I felt prepared and I knew The Weinstein Company has a way of doing things and I tried to respect that and work with them. But the previous films I’ve made I’ve had 100 percent control in making them so it wasn’t easy to go through this. But the results are good. The worldwide version of the film is the same version that’s going to play here in the U.S. But if this kind of thing happens in my next film I’ll encounter it with more experience. I did struggle with going through it this time around. 

Your peers, Park Chan-wook and Kim Jee-woon, also had challenging experiences making American movies, what have you three talked about going through this?

We were all shooting at the same time. While I was in Prague, Park was in Nashville shooting Stoker and Kim was in post production. So everything overlapped. There wasn’t a lot of time to talk. But we would text each other and talk about how hard our situations were and how we missed Korean food and wanted to go home. Cheesy texts like that. 

What do you want to do next?

I’m preparing two projects. Two ideas. One is much smaller than Snowpiercer budget wise and they are Korean language films. But the bigger of the two films is a mixture of actors Korean and American, locations in Korea and the U.S. But it is a Korean movie, not a Hollywood studio movie. 

Would you want to do something through the Hollywood system one day?

Following the 2006 screenings of The Host in Cannes and Toronto I got a Hollywood agent right away. So since then he’s sent me scripts, sometimes the script is very stupid and sometimes they are excellent, but I’m a writer and director and am accustomed to write for myself. So even though I read a great script I feel, “Wow this is a great script, I want to see this movie in the theater next year,” but it’s hard to find something that I feel in my gut to make that I haven’t written. Last year of all of the scripts that I read there was one that was based on a sci-fi short that I took very seriously and had several meetings with the producer, but I wanted to rewrite the story and they had already been in development with a script so it was hard to work it all out. But one day I do want to try to take on a Hollywood script. 

Before tonight’s screening you said that this is a Korean film with American actors, is that your preferred comfort for making films, keeping it Korean but taking in American elements?

Whether it’s Japan or Europe or American it doesn’t really matter, the mechanism of making films is the same everywhere, that is the way I describe this film but it’s really about how good the story is.

Interview translated by Dooho Choi 

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The Creators of ‘Charlie Victor Romeo’ Talk About Their 15-Year Journey From Stage To Screen

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Filmmakers have always had a knack for playing with our most primal fears to make their art. And no other fear has been more enticing—and at times more taboo—to delve into than flying. From Richard Donner’s masterful Twilight Zone episode “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” to Alive to United 93, there’s nothing that gets us to grind our teeth and grip that elbow rest a little tighter than watching something go wrong in the sky.

Playing with these fears may have partially been the intention of the theater company Creative:Unconscious when they began work on their play Charlie Victor Romeo in their small Lower East Side theater in 1999—but it certainly was on most of the audiences’ minds as they filed in to watch it for its 13-year run. Using actual flight transcripts from the “Black Box” recorders on the planes, Charlie Victor Romeo highlights six real-life airline emergencies and showcases the harrowing attempts by the pilots and crew to take back control of their planes. From the navigation tools on the dashboard malfunctioning to birds flying into the engine, each example has its own unique problems and is only shown from within the confines of the cockpit with the dialogue spoken only taken from what was actually said in those faithful moments.

The play has now been made into a feature-length 3D film, which following a festival run that included stops at last year’s Sundance’s New Frontier section and the New York Film Festival, is now being shown in theaters. For the creators of the project, making “CVR” into a film not only gives more people the chance to see it but it also gives their work that has been championed by aviation groups and the U.S. Defense Department a fitting end as for years to come it will still live on even if lack of funding or logistics makes it impossible for them to perform it live.

I sat down with two of the project’s creators, Robert Berger and Patrick Daniels (Daniels also stars in the film), to talk about the show’s long history (which has included performing in front of victims’ families and the pilots who survived), the importance of continuing to do CVR following 9/11 and why after watching the film you become less terrified about the “friendly skies.”

I had read that this idea blossomed over burritos?

ROBERT BERGER: Burritos happened after the idea blossomed. Basically, in 1999 Irving Gregory, one of the author’s of the play, and I were walking from the theater on Ludlow Street to Broadway because I’d ordered a book at Shakespeare and Company. We were having a discussion, or as Patrick put it—

PATRICK DANIELS: An argument.

RB: About whether reality-based programming in television in 1999 was an example of Millennialism? Was it a sign of people going crazy at the turn of the Millennium, as other Millennial turns had presented things of people going crazy? And at the time in 1999 reality-based programming was Cops and American Gladiators

PD: And game shows.

RB: And game shows. So we’re having this conversation and we find ourselves in Shakespeare and Company and of course Irving and I are loudmouths and at one point I see a book about aviation accidents that I had read a few years previous when I was a cameraman for the news covering Flight 800. So I told Irving to go look at the book as I went to go get mine I was picking up. I come back to him and I see that he’s reading what looks like a script but it’s a transcript from a flight accident. And I’m looking over his shoulder and I said, “Hey, Irving, that might be a really good idea for a play.” I told him what I thought and he said, “That’s a great idea.”

We left the bookstore and walked back to Collective:Unconscious and Patrick was at the theater and we all went out for burritos and sketched the whole thing out on a cocktail napkin. What the set would look like, how you would do the stage. So in 10 minutes we had it.

PD: And I said I want to cast it and I can build the set, that’s pretty simple, and it’s perfect for our space because it’s this small microscopic environment and it’s also, content-wise, the most serious material I’ve ever worked on and in that way it really piqued my imagination. I was like, “This is what I’ve been struggling to want to work on.”

RB: We were desperate to do something serious, and do something that was not just comedy. Not that it’s easy to do comedy, but at that time in 1999 there was this huge appetite for huge spectacles of comedy and sci-fi [in the theater world]. But the opportunity to do something powerful, something dramatic, something meaningful in a way that that other stuff wasn’t was something that we were hungry for.

And Patrick, as one of the actors, was there a challenge to express the emotion needed for the characters where the only source material were transcripts?

PD: It’s a real gift to be presented with material such as this. It’s an opportunity to commit to something because it’s real. It’s based in reality. I personally have a struggle with believing in imaginary circumstances and that struggle does not exist in this case. One of the things that is interesting, and we’ve had to recast a couple of times over the years, every time we hold an audition people are rushing to get into the door. They want to do this. And as soon as someone sits down with one of the sides that we have and reads through it a couple of times, it’s obvious who is going to be good in it.

How is that?

PD: There are people who are really fantastic actors who wouldn’t be able to work this material. Their capacity for speaking just wouldn’t work. But the people that are, once they start reading you go, “Oh yes, there’s a pilot right there.” And not only are they going to be able to work up to being a good pilot but this individual right here is obviously a serious, committed performer. And for me that’s where it all turns. Because the people that we have in the cast of the film, who are also the most recent cast of the live experience, all at the drop of the hat when we say, “Hey, we’re going to do the piece,” they are all like, “Okay, let me quit my job, I’ll be there tomorrow.”

RB: [Laughs]

PD: And that kind of interest and intensity in something, I think the material inspires that.

How did you guys choose the flights?

RB: We had three things in mind and there were a lot of resources to study and lots of places to read the transcripts, and we read a lot of them.

And this is all available to the public?

RB: Yeah. In the United States, after an investigation by the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board] a report is published that includes thousands of pages of the history of the investigation and the conclusions and if what is spoken in the flight deck air craft and the cockpit voice recorder transcript is relevant to the accident, and usually in some way it is, then a transcript is produced. The transcript is produced by a bunch of engineers and pilots and representatives of all the different participants sitting around listening to something and they decide if they all agree unanimously that this is what is said or heard then it goes into the transcript. If it’s decided that they couldn’t figure out what was said then the transcript would have both thoughts of what was said or if they think what was said wasn’t relevant it would be redacted.

So we read a lot of them and we were looking for three things: things we thought were interesting from a dramatic perspective, interesting to perform. We were looking for things that were interesting from an aviation perspective, we wanted to show some that are well known and some that aren’t so well known, show a variety of different things that people dealt with. Lastly, and I think more importantly, we wanted to show that the situations we were depicting are actually not different at all from the situations we as laypeople, our audience, have in their own lives. Experiencing a crisis in your life these days goes from your kid falls down cuts his leg and he needs stitches, to you narrowly avoid someone who swerves into your lane on the highway, to your mom’s laptop WiFi isn’t working and you’re trying to help her out over the phone. So the circumstances these pilots are getting into aren’t that different from the circumstances that we get into and we wanted to make sure that we were drawing parallels between the regular lives of laypeople and the regular lives of professionals.

The big difference between these two sets of people you’re taking about though is the layperson would probably freak the hell out if they were sitting in the cockpit and everything on the dashboard went blank. 

[Laughs]

Watching this it seemed—or the way you guys performed it—that until the bitter end all of these pilots thought they were going to land these planes.

PD: Reading through the material as we were trying to figure out what would make it into the show, I was surprised that there wasn’t more in the way of freaking out. And apparently from what I’ve read over the years that’s the exception rather than the rule. I mean the way Robert parallels between people’s everyday lives, the stakes are much different, but people deal well with stress and the way people deal with their fear in crisis moments is what exposes their capacity. Even when people aren’t dealing with situations well, the attempt is still correct for what is going on. Yes, you’ll have people yelling and screaming if there’s a problem, but you’ll hear stories day in and day out about a guy who ran back into the burning building to rescue someone. They weren’t emotionally connected to those people, they just did it, and that’s a beautiful thing and speaks to humanity. These pilots and crew on top of that are highly trained, recertified all the time, and psychologically made up to be inclined to never stop trying to fix the problem.

RB: Nobody in this film is crashing an airplane; everybody in this film is landing an airplane. And the reviews for this film or even people hearing about this film and it’s about aviation accidents or emergencies, we all bring a lot of baggage to that subject and we all have preconceived ideas from Final Destination, from The High and the Mighty, from our American culture’s relationship with aviation, that puts all of that stuff in our heads and a big part of this project for us has been to sort of play a little bait and switch with the audience where all of that stuff you’re welcome to come into the theater thinking all of that, I don’t have a problem with that, because the reality of what we’re putting on stage and the screen shows things from a different perspective. Not of special effects, or media coverage of the suffering people who are victims or connected to victims, but to try to just show people that struggle with an out of control monster. And I’m not trying to say that Charlie Victor Romeo is good therapy for nervous flyers, but what I am saying is that over the years the most surprising thing we’ve heard over and over again from people who have seen it, including our mothers, is “I expected to be afraid after seeing it,” and amazing for us and one of those weird things is that many, many people say afterwards, “I feel a lot better about my anxiety about flying after seeing this.”

That was the strangest thing for me, as the movie went on I had a feeling of reassurance about the pilots and by the end I felt an ease about having to fly in the future because I just see how dedicated they are to their jobs.

PD: The gathering of knowledge is what helps you live with your fear. What you are describing for me is, “I know more now than I ever had,” so it’s not that my fear is gone but it’s controllable, I can live with it. And from a performance point of view, having that fear in you as energy is valuable and it’s something that we take advantage of from the audience as well. Giving people information and consequently raising their knowledge is helpful to them but people’s fears are still there. It’s just the way they deal with it.

RB: And challenging the audience. One thing that I’m so proud of was we didn’t presume. Some people ask, where’s the context? What’s the passengers doing? What’s going on outside of the aircraft? All those things we specifically chose not to show, we made a film and a piece of theater that invests the trust in the audience’s ability to pay attention, to learn something from context and most importantly, that when you see this film our intent for that experience is that you’re seeing it in a theater full of people sharing that experience. Our biggest fear in the making of this film and what we wrestled with the most was how can we bring this incredibly special experience sitting with a group of people and that you’re definitely aware of the people around you and keeping that tone, that sense of community alive? That’s something that the 3D and the sound and what’s chosen to be in the film and trusting the audience to fly with us and step back and then step in.

Doing work as an audience member is the most challenging part of putting art in front of anybody. You want desperately for people to not just react but to be affected and yet because this subject is so scary and we’re using things that were never intended to be thought of as a script for a play or a script for a film the burden of managing our relationship to these things and trying to craft something that at the same time is challenging and respectful and “entertaining” is what the efforts of the last 15 years has required.

How vast were the ideas you had when thinking of adapting this into a film?

PD: From our own perspective given infinite time and money we would come up with something that is different then what this is, however the item as it stands is very, very close to our hearts in terms to the kinds of things we look to go see ourselves. We’ve had experiences over the years of people who would say, “That was an amazing piece of theater, I would love to make a deal for the rights and make a film so the first thing we have to do is change it this way,” and those conversations are interesting because that’s the kind of conversation that makes you expand your capacity for imagination.

So on an abstract level it’s good to have those conversations, but it’s frustrating to talk to folks like that who not only have a lot of ideas about how they would do it but they’re not really interested in including you in their efforts, or paying you enough of money to make it worth your while to just let go. So early, early on, maybe a year in or not even a year into production, I started thinking to myself how would I add to this [for a movie version]? There’s an Air Force incident in the film. It’s really short. And what becomes before what you see in the film in the transcript is this amazing preflight track monologue with everyone on the plane and cracking jokes and there’s this guy that shows up right before they take off and they joke that they should take off with him still on board and there’s a fly in the cockpit and someone kills it, beautiful stuff. It didn’t fit within our capacity to present it but my first thought was we can expand on all of this through a film. I mean I could go on for hours on what I thought of doing. But what we narrowed down to is what you see in movie theaters these days and it’s the core. The effort has been to get to the core of the content and that was important and try to present that as truthful as possible.

The play started in 1999, when was its final live show?

PD: The last time we performed was directly following the shoot of the film, we performed for a month in the space we shot the movie in. That was 2012.

How was it doing the play after 9/11?

RB: On 9/11 I was sitting in a living room watching TV, I was in Cape Cod, I had moved out of New York three weeks after it had happened, so I became obsessed with tracking down my friends and family and after I did that I realized I have a group of friends who work in the Defense Department at the Pentagon. These were the guys in 1999 who discovered Charlie Victor Romeo through aviation related websites and had a group of combat photographers from Utah come to the Lower East Side to video tape a production of Charlie Victor Romeo in agreement with us to make a training film for Crew Resource Management. By 2000 we had received a Defense Department Award for creativity in their visual media. We’ve received a letter from a Major General thanking us for contributing to saving the lives of guys who are operating aircraft. So we were the only theater perhaps in New York that had a defense contract in the window of their theater.

So when it happened at the Pentagon I reached out to my contact there and I got a response that was like, “We’re all fine, what are you going to do with the play?” And I never thought what am I going to do with the play. And stream of consciousness I wrote back an email and immediately I got a response from them that was, “You’re absolutely goddam right, whatever you do don’t stop.”

PD: Because what this is about isn’t that. 9/11 is a totally different thing and any change in attitude or presenting it in a different way begins to allow that terrorist effort to be successful. We had some rescheduling and some cancelations happen and initially with that I was really frustrated but you have to give people their space. But I thought to myself if we don’t do this they will win, we have to keep going. And for us, this is a monster movie, it’s man against machine so there’s no human on human element and there becomes a lot of political complexities when you begin to talk in those terms. The politics on Charlie Victor Romeo is we’re trying to make the system better.

RB: That’s the only political parallel I can find. That the way the people are trained to respond in these situations, whatever, the burning house, car accident, the horror of 9/11 regular people jumped up and doing whatever they could do and risking their own lives to help other people. Thinking about what people are like they are making those choices and not thinking about the potential ramifications of what it means to try to help somebody else, those are amazing moments.

Did anyone in those cockpits survive?

PD: Yes. In fact, the last incident we show, everyone you see in that cockpit survived and more than half the people in that aircraft survived the crash. And we’ve met Captain Haynes a few times.

He’s the pilot you play?

PD: That’s right. And further, Charlie Victor Romeo has been presented at a few fine arts centers in conjunction with a training project for medical entities. We went to the Scottsdale Performing Arts Center and they also brought Captain Haynes, he presents a slide show and does a lecture about post-traumatic stress and his experiences. So what these medical professionals wanted from us was to perform Charlie Victor Romeo in a small theater and then the audience would walk across the hall and into the big theater and receive Captain Haynes’ presentation. Amazing. And we did that twice. In Scottsdale and Honolulu.

Captain Haynes actually went to our theater in the Lower East Side to see the play. After the incident he recovered in the hospital and then went back to flying.

RB: Amazing.

What’s the reaction you’ve gotten from victims who’ve seen the play?

RB: Over the years from Captain Haynes, who was the first to see it [out of the real people who were on the flights], to performing in Ohio and having a post performance discussion where passengers from one of the flights were there, people who were first responders at the accidents, people who worked on the investigations, people who knew these people, we’ve gotten emails from people who were related to the crew who died. It’s a blessing and the motivation to make this as tight and as good and speaking for what we are trying to say as best as we can because we carry the responsibility to answer who we are and where we are coming from by doing this and not educate but show.

PD: And it’s a reminder. I’m aging further into the part as I get older which is kind of nice but as I get older I’m thinking about things in different ways, I think of this in a more memorial way than I did when we first began and the contact that Robert is speaking of I can’t get those kinds of things out of my head so our activity has to deal with that and you have to be sensitive to whatever anyone in that capacity is going to say.

How do you follow this up? Is there an attraction to do something similar?

PD: From my point of view it’s keeping your eyes open. There are a lot of amazing possibilities in making the next movie or piece of theater. It’s just a question of jotting it down on a piece of paper and beginning to work and choosing the people to work with.

RB: There’s a lot of ideas over the last 15 years. A lot that is not Charlie Victor Romeo. And I’ve been working on three or four of them and I’m really looking forward to executing some of those in a different way for the screen. But this is the first and only time that we’re ever going to open our first feature film in New York and Los Angeles with the kind of press and interest in the work that we’ve done, how could you not think about your ability to take your momentum and start working on the next thing?

* **Charlie Victor Romeo is currently playing at New York’s Film Forum and L.A.’s Downtown Independent.***

Kings of the Road: Chatting With Directors Aaron Katz & Martha Stephens and the Cast of ‘Land Ho!’

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When you think about ego-driven filmmakers it’s hard to put Aaron Katz and Martha Stephens in that category. Both have had impressive careers thus far, making their own brand of films (Katz with mumblecore milestones like Quiet City and Cold Weather; and Stephens with intimate tales like Passenger Pigeons and Pilgrim Song)—but when it came time to make a film in Iceland that explores the friendship of two retirees, the two decided it would be best to collaborate. It kind of sums up the serendipitous spirit that surrounds their film Land Ho!—with little knowledge of Iceland before heading out and two actors who didn’t know each other, the four would embark on a friendship building experience, that is certainly evident in what you see on screen.

In Land Ho! Earl Lynn Nelson (who has starred in Stephens’ films) and Paul Eenhoorn (This Is Martin Bonner) play former brother-in-laws who meet up after having not seen each other in decades. Nelson’s Mitch is a brash, horny, loud mouth with a heart of gold who loves everything life has to offer, while Eenhoorn’s Collin is quiet, reserved and still hurting from his divorce. But Mitch hopes to change that when he springs a surprise trip to Iceland on his buddy, expenses paid. This leads to a fish-out-of-water journey to some of the most beautiful locals in Iceland filled with hilarious scenes, lush photography and a superb score by Keegan DeWitt.

We caught up with Katz, Stephens, Nelson and Eenhoorn at a bar in Park City days after their premiere at Sundance to talk about the experience making the film and why this may not be the last time we see this gang together.

What inspired this?

Katz: Martha texted me in January of last year and said, “Do you want to make a movie together?” And I wasn’t sure, so I called her and we talked and thought we should take Earl Lynn to Iceland. I said those two things sound great, and then we saw our friend Chad Hartigan made a film that was here last year called This Is Martin Bonner that starred Paul and we saw that and said let’s get him too and do this.

Nelson: But Aaron had never met me before.

Stephens: But Aaron had seen Passenger Pigeons and Pilgrim Song.

Katz: Yeah, we all met for the first time when we shot for the first five days in Kentucky back in May. We drove up and were shooting the next day.

Stephens: We were all bunked up in Earl Lynn’s house and it was getting together and having a big party all weekend.

What were some of the challenges shooting this?

Stephens: Weather. Making a film in a foreign country. A lot of things were different, like the price of fuel, it’s like $10 a gallon, food is two to three times as expensive as it is here. Other than the weather, and we shot all over the southern coast, so it was packing up and moving around a lot. It wears on you.

Was there a certain time of year you wanted to go there, just for the look you wanted?

Stephens: We knew we needed to be there anytime before winter because there is no access to many of the places where we shot. I mean, we were a week away from a lot of those roads closing.

Katz: And I think one of the biggest challenges for Paul and Earl Lynn is in the order of the movie we start to move farther and farther into the countryside, but because of the weather concerns we shot it backwards.

Eenhoorn: Completely in reverse.

Katz: So we really would get everyone together and focus on what we had to do that day.

Paul, did you and Earl Lynn talk at all about the characters?

Eenhoorn: I don’t really do any backstory. I worked a lot with Earl Lynn in just improvising and these guys let us figure it out.

Nelson: I didn’t need any backstory. But it was interesting, the first part of the movie we’re getting personal and the characters were going in as friends of twenty years, but after chopping some onions together we ourselves found a connection with each other.

Katz: One reason we did the shoot in Kentucky was, I’d never met Earl Lynn and Martha and Paul had never met each other so we just wanted to see what it would be like all working together. So what we found out was Paul and Earl Lynn have a perfect balance for each other. The movie is about opposites in many ways and I think Martha and I are opposites in some ways, and the two characters are opposites, so shooting in Kentucky gave us an idea of what it was going to be like.

How was it sharing the directorial reigns?

Katz: We didn’t talk about any of that. You know, “Martha is going to do this, I’m going to do that.” It wasn’t like that. We just did it and because we had both made our own features we were comfortable doing anything. We exchanged glances on set and that was enough.

Martha, looking back is this what you imagined when coming with Aaron with the idea?

Stephens: Yeah. I went and scouted Iceland with my husband and chose all the locations through our experience traveling around. Looking back I don’t think there’s much I would have done differently.

Katz: I wouldn’t have done anything differently. We couldn’t have expected every single thing that happened, but part of what we wanted to do was set up circumstances where we didn’t know what was going to happen.

What elevates the film is the music, talk a bit about developing that.

Stephens: The music is really an ode to buddy comedies like Planes, Trains and Automobiles or Tommy Boy, so we wanted the music to capture that era of film. We went for a almost Bruce Springsteen “Tunnel of Love” meets Paul Simon “Graceland” meets cheesy ‘80s score and really wanted to embrace global music. So there’s Celtic stuff and some Australian stuff. I mean, Keegan DeWitt [who did the music] had no time and made something magical in a week of work (Read more about Keegan’s work on this and fellow Sundance entry Listen Up Philip). And the pop song we were able to get was Big Country’s “In A Big Country,” which was a childhood favorite.

Will we see a sequel?

Stephens: I’d love to do a sequel.

Nelson: We’ve talked about a sequel. We talked about Hawaii.

Katz: Of course I’d do it. There are so many unknowns in this and that was part of the challenge and for me what was exciting, but I think it was a really great experience.

Stephens: I think our sequel could be The Muppet Movie where we have cameos by famous people.

Eenhoorn: No, it’s going to be like Fast and Furious. But seriously, sometimes in this business there’s serendipity and this is that.

8 Things Richard Linklater Told Us About ‘Boyhood’ At Sundance

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Last night at the Sundance Film Festival, Richard Linklater unveiled a preview screening of his long-awaited, 12-years in the making film that looks at a family’s life titled Boyhood.

With a running time of just under three hours, the film is an incredible piece of filmmaking that follows the lives of Mason and his sister Samantha from their troubled childhood into adulthood. Actors Ellar Coltrane and Lorelei Linklater (the director’s daughter) grow in front of our eyes as they deal with their mother’s (Patricia Arquette) numerous failed marriages, their immature father (Ethan Hawke) and the usual awkward existence that is your teenage years.

To call this a labor of love would be a gross understatement. Through constant support by IFC Films, Linklater has finally come to the end of a magnum opus that started 4,207 days ago (yes, he counted) and will add to the numerous iconic titles he’s already given us.

Following the screening Linklater, along with his cast, took questions from the audience at the Eccles Theater. Here are eight things Linklater talked about that we thought were fascinating.

HOW IT STARTED

“I wanted to do something about childhood. But I couldn’t pick one [thing]. I got this eureka moment of why don’t you do little bits throughout [someone’s life]. I did talk to some producers about doing it and they were like, “No, we don’t know how to do that.” But with IFC we had just done Tape and they were down to do it.”

ETHAN HAWKE’S REACTION

“We were sitting in a café in New York and he had a weird look on his face and said, ‘It’s the craziest thing, but yeah, I’ll do it.’”

THE PROCESS

“The structure of the film was worked out [early]. By the second year I knew what the last shot was. Every year we’d shoot. It would be intensive 3-4 day shoots… 39 days total.”

LORELEI’S HAD ENOUGH

“I remember, like, year three, Lorelei came to me and asked, ‘Can my character, like, die?’”

CHARACTER EVOLUTION

“It was always going to go eventually where they went. The early conception of the characters became them [as they got older]. But they aren’t autobiographical.”

SHOOTING ON FILM

“From the start I wanted to shoot on 35mm. We ended in October and it felt like the end of an era. It was getting harder to use, there weren’t a lot of labs. But I didn’t want to shoot Hi Def. We would have gone through five different evolutions through filming and I didn’t want it to be technologically different.”

EDITING

“We’d edit every year and make it fit from the previous segment we shot. Transitions were important. In the early years I tried to make [the transitions] more clever, but as it went on I went to them being more seamless.”

FINISHED…BUT NOT REALLY

“Music is such an important part of your life so we knew that would be important. We would take stuff that Patricia was listening to at the time or Lorelei was listening to. We tried to take from all their interests. But we haven’t cleared all the music. We barely got here.”

Here’s some examples of the songs currently featured:

“Yellow” – Coldplay

“…Baby One More Time” – Britney Spears (sung by Lorelei)

“Soak Up The Sun” – Sheryl Crow

“Hey Ya!” – OutKast

“Wish You Were Here” – Pink Floyd (performed acoustically by an actor)

“Get Lucky” – Daft Punk

Dermot Mulroney on Being Part of ‘August: Osage County’ and Acting In Movies That Don’t Suck

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When you think of Dermot Mulroney, “accomplished character actor” doesn’t come to mind. But think about it, the guy has pretty much done it all—and done it well. He’s played the outlaw, the heartthrob, the serious thespian, and has pretty solid comic chops. Though he’s not put in the same sentence as the John C. Reillys and John Hawkes’ of the world, he’s right up there if you take a second to glance over his IMDb page (and double check that you’re not looking at Dylan McDermott’s).

Now, he’ll be the first to tell you he hasn’t made the best choices. In fact, he’s been in quite a few stinkers. But he always seems to rebound by finding a solid director or cast to latch onto. He’s been on a good streak of late: an entertaining recurring role on New Girl, a stirring cameo in Stoker and completely killing it in the little-seen trippy horror The Rambler.

With his striking looks, sideways smile, southern twang and that hair(!) Mulroney was perfect for the role of Steve Huberbrecht in the latest adaptation of a Tracy Letts play, John Wells’ August: Osage County. In the film, he plays the oblivious ladies man who finds himself thrust into one of the most dysfunctional families you’ll ever see on screen.

Earlier this month, I sat down with Mulroney to talk about being a part of the star-studded drama, his transition into television, and why he doesn’t regret any role he’s taken—even in the movies that weren’t so good.

Thanks for talking to me.
Sure. I’m thrilled to talk about this movie. I’ve been in a lot of movies that aren’t quite as good. I don’t know if you noticed.

I would say you always bring your best to any role you tale on.
That’s true, and I have done that in even the worst films I’ve been in. I wouldn’t give them up.

But I’m sure you’ve been half way through a movie and realized, “This isn’t working.”
[Laughs] Yeah.

However, there’s something you hold on to that keeps you positive?
I don’t even break it down. I’m not judging as I go. I take the job, I commit, and I’ve enjoyed every job I’ve ever been on, even when I know in advance that it’s not going to be the biggest movie or the best movie. A film set is where I’m most comfortable and it’s my favorite place to be, so even if I’m making crap I always see myself as being privileged to be working in this way.

August: Osage County has a cast that includes Meryl Streep, Julia Robert, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis and Abigail Breslin—where you aware of the cast when you signed on?
I knew Meryl and Julia were in, Chris Cooper, Margot [Martindale], and I think Abigail was in front of me, too.

You must have been pretty pumped.
I couldn’t believe it. And I’ve worked with extraordinary casts before, but I could even see in advance of getting this part that this would surpass anything that I’d ever done.

Were you familiar with the story’s playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts?
No. Not at all.

Had you seen Killer Joe?
No. I’d never heard of the guy. I thought he was a woman.

He’s an actor too. He’s on Homeland.
I know. He’s a tremendous actor, he won a Tony this year. He and I have become friends. But I have to be honest with you, I didn’t know the play or the playwright so that’s a sign of how out of touch I am in the theater world.

What I find interesting about Letts’ work that I’ve seen on film is he likes to have confrontations come to a head around the dinner table. It’s very different what happens in Killer Joe versus Osage County, but how was it shooting that scene?
I had shot a few things first, but in the play that’s my character’s entrance.

Yes, you driving around in the red Ferrari with the most ridiculous music imaginable was quite entertaining.
[Laughs] I have to admit I’m very proud of hitting that mark. Julia is driving [her car] and the cameraman is in the passenger seat shooting over her and they’re going 60 miles per hour. So I have to drive along side them, meaning I have to drive faster than her, pull to the side and make sure everyone is in the shot and drive off. We had to been going 95 mph by the time we drove away and they cut. It was really fun. We probably did it three of four times.

You probably could have done it a couple of more.
Oh, I would have loved to. That car was pretty sweet.

But back to the dinner scene, it’s such an intense scene. Were you nervous going into it?
I wasn’t nervous because I had confidence in the production and the director and the script. That’s when you have nothing to worry about. I’m only nervous if it’s looking like it’s not going to go right. We shot it for four days, I think we got it done early in fact, I think it was three and a half days. It was phenomenal to see take after take of this performance instead of just the one you guys have to settle for. I asked John Wells after seeing the film, “How from all of those takes, all of them perfect, all of them different, how did you choose the one?” And he said, “Believe it or not there was one take, it was almost easy.” For whatever reason one take served the story or helped that beat or had the rhythm of the original language, he said it was bizarrely simple. But from my point of view, having done multiple takes, I could see each one change ever so slightly from how Meryl started it. It would shift everyone’s emotion all the way down the table. It was amazing.

Is it fun playing a character like Steve who just has zero moral compass?
That’s what I loved about him. And it was nice because so many people in the play are struggling with their morals. How to treat their son. How to die gracefully. Those are moral questions that everyone will encounter in their life. Steve didn’t have any of these worries. So it was kind of free and obviously in any script where you are coming in as the outsider is a great seat to be in.

And if there are any places in this movie where the audience feels it’s okay to laugh, it’s probably the scenes you’re in.
Yeah. That’s what that’s character is for.

Are there any tweaks to the Steve character from the play to the film version?
There’s slight differences. In fact, there’s a scene in the play where he touches Jean’s [Abigail Breslin] face. It’s very shocking in the play. So the tip off to Steve happens more distinctly and a littler earlier in the play than in the screenplay. It’s a much slower reveal in the movie of what his true intentions are.

The way that scene is cut, things get serious quite dramatically.
And that actually was how it was written in the script. That there are voices and then you cut quickly to what’s going on.

What are the things that interest you now, you’re doing some great stuff on TV.
Yeah. I’m really thrilled to be on this TV show for NBC, it’s called Crisis, and I’ve never had a job where I don’t know how the story ends.

This is the one where you’re a secret service agent and something goes wrong on your first day on the job?
Exactly. There’s a hijacking of the bus that has the president’s son on it and then you quickly learn that all of this has been arranged by some mastermind. It’s a great job and it’s totally unlike anything I’ve done. You get the script a couple of days in advance so there’s no long period of analysis or breaking these things down. It comes out in March if they stick to their plan. And it’s the longest job I’ve ever had. This is the only time that I’ve ever known how much money I’m going to make in an amount of time rather than cobbling together B movies. The last time I had a steady job like this I was washing windows in college.

This one is paying a little better.
This one is.

But is there a different process in doing TV compared to movies?
The one thing I notice is even a movie like this with a budget that’s right for what needs to be accomplished, you get three takes. The days of a director thinking about it and doing 14 takes, obviously there are still director’s that are famous for doing takes over and over again.

You worked with David Fincher, so you know what that is like.
I know what that is like, and that’s wonderful but that doesn’t happen any more. You just don’t have the time to let you explore and rehearse on film. We arrived on August: Osage County prepared and on any given angle, even with Meryl doing 15 minutes of dialogue, it’s a couple of takes, two or three. So in the past that was always the difference. TV is shot so fast. But now there’s no difference, the only difference is I don’t know how the story is going to end and I don’t have the material in advance. So there is a speed acting quality to TV, but it’s not like you’re lingering on film sets anymore exploring your character. You used to be able to do that.

Do you like that fast paced tempo?
I do but the pressure is bigger because you have to nail it in the first take and then hope you get two or maybe three more to make the story work. And for something like this TV show I’m on the story is so important that if it goes off the rails it misleads. It’s rapid fire but it’s exciting.

Before I go, I’m a big Calvin Lee Reeder fan and thought you were great in The Rambler.
Oh! I love The Rambler. I think we’re the only two guys who do.

Are you guys planning to do something again?
I saw the short of The Rambler and saw The Oregonian and loved them. We’ve talked about doing stuff again, it’s a tough spot right now making independent films and the stuff he makes is a struggle but I’d work with him again in a heartbeat.

So many people haven’t seen that movie. It had its moment at Sundance this year; it was well received for being so bizarre, but I currently see The Rambler as an investment—something will come out of it. It hasn’t come yet but someday it’s going to become its own cult classic, it’s out there still which I like. The Rambler for me was a mystery, something that is unanswerable so I love that movie. I have this experience now of waiting for it to tell me why it exists.