Hannibal Lecter Comes to NBC in April

NBC is having a lot of problems, with its really good shows ending (RIP 30 Rock) or suffering from terrible ratings (save Parks and Recreation! I don’t know what the hell you should do about Smash). In a last-ditch effort to salvage the current season, the execs at NBC have set a date for the premiere of their new thriller, Hannibal. No, it’s not about the ancient military leader; this is NBC, not HBO. No, it’s obviously about the serial killer made famous by Anthony Hopkins in Silence of the Lambs (and then, regretably, in Hannibal and Red Dragon). Featuring Gillian Anderson, Laurence Fishburne, Hugh Dancy, and Mads Mikkelsen as the titular cannibal, the show premieres Thursday, April 4 at 10 PM. 

[via EW]

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Behind ‘Hitchcock’ and Beyond with Director Sacha Gervasi

“I enjoy[ed] playing [Alfred Hitchcock] with this untried director, Sacha Gervasi. He was one of the reasons I wanted to do it; he’d never work[ed] with actors before, and I think that’s all the more [motivation]. He had such confidence in himself. His enthusiasm was palpable.” Praise-laden words courtesy of Anthony Hopkins (via satellite during a press conference last week), the legendary actor’s assessment of the filmmaker speaks volumes.

And he’s not the only one pleased with the experience of making Hitchcock. Indeed, Gervasi is said to have fostered a fun atmosphere for all on set, at least according to actress Toni Collette, who plays Peggy Robertson, trusty assistant to Hopkins’ Hitchcock. “It felt light and free and focused,” said she of the environment.

Known for producing and directing the award-winning documentary Anvil: The Story of Anvil and for writing scripts for The Big Tease and The Terminal, this Fox Searchlight flick, which opens today in limited release and nationwide next month, is Gervasi’s narrative directorial debut.

A love story about one of the most influential filmmakers of the last century, Hitchcock conveys to viewers the bond, sometimes tenuous and sometimes tender, between Hitch and his wife, Alma Reville. Instrumental to both the happiness of the man and the success of the movie Psycho, Reville, portrayed by Helen Mirren, at long last receives the recognition she so sorely deserves.

Gervasi spent some time with us last week discussing this, along with Hopkins’ hijinks, the challenges that accompanied making this movie, and how permanently playing percussion for the band Bush wasn’t ever really in the cards.

So, there’s already a bit of Oscar buzz…
Who the hell knows? My mother’s behind it all.

[Laughs] So, why did this story need to be told?
[Hitchcock is] an iconic filmmaker. He’s a brilliant genius, one of the greatest directors of all time. What people don’t know is how important his wife was. Not just as his marriage partner, but also as someone who worked with him. She worked on the script, on casting, consult[ed] during production and was very involved in the editing process. I felt it was an interesting, unexpected, unusual story. A strange kind of love story. You picture Alfred Hitchcock and don’t imagine him listening to anyone. Well, he listened to one person and it happened to be his wife.

What did it take for you to get on board?
I’m fascinated with stories about creative marriages and creative partnerships. I had to convince them to give me the job, which was a big deal, because there were far more qualified directors in line for the job. But, you know, Tom Pollock and Ivan Reitman, producers of this film, really loved [my documentary film] Anvil, so I was given the job, against the[ir] better judgment. [Laughs] And then I met Tony Hopkins. I was very nervous, because he had to say yes. The first thing he said to me was, "I’ve seen Anvil three times." So, he was on board immediately. Then, once Tony was in, we had to persuade Helen [Mirren], and eventually the movie got made. So, it was very fortuitous, the whole thing.

Any funny stories from on set?
Oh my god. Tony loved to shock people, just like Hitchcock did. He would get in his Hitchcock outfit and ask, "Is someone new coming to the set?" Then, [when] someone new would appear, he would take great delight in tapping them on the shoulder and going, "Good evening." He would make people jump, like, five feet in the air. It was pretty funny.

In the film, were there any ad-libbed or improvised parts?
I think there were a few. For example, the [scene where] Tony is directing Janet Leigh and he goes into this sort of frenzy and then the film burns, you see a wide shot of Hitchcock walking behind the screen in profile. That was an accident. Tony was actually going to get coffee. I’d already called cut, but we were [still] filming and Tony was walking across the set. It ended up in the movie. So, that’s a perfect example of something that was not intended.

Did any of the performances surprise you?
All of them. You never know what’s going to happen until the camera’s running. Tony Hopkins and Helen Mirren didn’t “audition.” None of the actors, frankly. So, you’re always surprised.

What did you find to be the biggest challenge?
We didn’t have much money and we didn’t have much time. We shot it in 35 days for a relatively low budget. The biggest challenge was getting everything we needed to get within the day that we had to get it.

Sounds like a parallel to Psycho.
Yeah, it was roughly the same schedule. It was shot in the same time. It was very interesting.

Did your wife fix your movie for you, too? [Laughs]
Yeah, she told me to do [Hitchcock] in the first place!

I thought you didn’t need convincing!
When I first read [the script], I wasn’t sure. Then she told me the Alfred and Alma story, because she was fascinated with it. So, she was a huge reason why I actually did it, because she thought it was a great story.

Indeed! So, how did you prepare?
I drank a lot of coffee. [Laughs] I did a ton of research. We had Stephen Rebello’s book, numerous biographies, numerous accounts. Even Janet Leigh wrote a book about her experience making Psycho. We read everything to try and acquaint ourselves. So, a lot of it was research, a lot of it was working with my team and trying to create those sets and trying to create the feeling.

Two scenes stand out to me especially: when Alma gives Alfred a talking to and when he’s privately conducting the score to the shower scene outside the theater…
That was a tiny line in the script, but it was really Tony. He’s a classical musician, so it’s really all Hopkins.

What was the most fun scene to shoot?
I would say that was one of the most fun. Going between the audience and him was tremendous fun.

What was the most difficult scene to shoot?
Probably the opening of North by Northwest. We had rain and umbrellas and crane shots and hundreds of extras. As we were shooting, there would be homeless people screaming out, What are you doing? We had street people of downtown L.A. ruining our takes, so it was complicated in that environment to try to make it work.

What was the impetus to bring Gein into Alfred’s present?
We wanted to find a fictional way to get inside Hitch’s mind. I thought it was funny that the most notorious serial killer of all time would be [Hitchcock’s] only friend and his shrink [in the film]. So, there’s a certain irony to it, which I hope the audience embraces. It’s fun, it’s dark, it’s “Hitchcockian.”

With all of this said, what are your thoughts on Hitchcock?
There’s been a lot of debate about Hitchcock [the man]. I think what we’re saying [in this film] is that he wasn’t good or bad. He was both. He’s such a fascinating, rich character. The reason we’re interested is because [his] films are so extraordinary. I hope [Hitchcock] provokes curiosity in Hitchcock. It was great having young people come to the screenings, now going and looking at Hitchcock movies. That’s a great byproduct of what we’ve done that we weren’t really anticipating. Plus, the relationship story. Giving Alma her due. If nothing else, the film is about that. Acknowledging the unacknowledged partner. Singing the song of someone who wasn’t seeking the limelight, but yet who made such a vital and valuable contribution.

You’re from the U.K., you shot in L.A. and now you’re in New York. Stance on NYC?
I love New York. I mean, I used to live here. So, for me, it’s like coming home.

Lastly, you once played drums in the band Bush. What would you be doing today if you weren’t working in film? Might you have been a rock star?
I’d probably be in rehab. [Laughs] I have no idea. I still speak with Gavin [Rossdale]. We’re really good friends. I’ve known him since I was five, so the idea of being his drummer…it was fun for a moment, but I think I had other things in mind. That being said, I loved being in that band. But, I don’t know. It wasn’t really my destiny.

‘Hitchcock’’s Toni Collette on Acting, Accents & Australia

When it comes to accomplished actresses, Toni Collette is as versatile and disarming (in a good way) as they come. From The Sixth Sense and About a Boy, to In Her Shoes and Little Miss Sunshine, the Aussie star can’t be faulted for not exploring enough genres or assuming enough varying roles. Take her show United States of Tara alone and you’ve got several characters right there! Indeed, the 40-year-old mother of two has thus far assembled quite an impressive oeuvre, and she’s just getting started.

In Hitchcock—the comedy-drama about Alfred Hitchcock’s relationship with his indispensable wife Alma Reville, as portrayed during the making of his seminal movie Psycho—she acts alongside the likes of legendary actors Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren; the role of Hitchcock played by Hopkins (in full makeup and fat suit) with Mirren as his better half. Collette takes on the role of Peggy Robertson, longtime assistant to the “Master of Suspense,” a discerning and discreet right-hand-woman to the oft-challenging horror honcho of Hollywood. Both entertaining and informative, the 98-minute flick opens in limited release this Friday and nationwide come December.

Last weekend, we were lucky enough to steal some time with Collette to chat about her stance on Hitchcock and Hitchcock, what it was like to reunite with Hopkins, and her hatred for structured dialect learning.

What was it like working with Anthony Hopkins again? You acted together so long ago on The Efficiency Expert.
When I was 17. My first movie! 

What was it like to have that reunion?
It was lovely. We had a very short rehearsal with Sacha [Gervasi, the director] before we started shooting. We arrived and I sat in [Hopkins’] car with him and we reminisced about that [earlier] movie. I was a baby! 

I’m really lucky to have another chance to work with him. He’s a legendary actor, but also a complete sweetheart. I think when I was 17 I was too nervous to really get to know him. On this job I feel like I have. He’s just a wonderful person and such an incredible actor.

Was he goofy at all on set?
Oh yeah. He’s always joking. Tony’s very easy to work with. In no way like Hitchcock, except that he’s good at what he does. 

Any funny stories?
Nothing specific. The set just had an air of fun, a fun vibe. Suddenly, it feels like this big movie. It’s about to come out and people are talking about it in a context that’s kind of beyond me. But, in making it, it was so easy. It felt light and free and focused, but I think Sacha created a very pleasurable set. And, I think that’s smart, because it allows people to feel relaxed and hopefully do good work.

You have a great range of facial expressions and personalities within your work. But in this film you needed to be more restrained and not express everything going on inside. How was that for you? 
That’s very much Peggy. She takes everything in her stride. The fact that you recognize that there’s something underneath is a good thing, because that’s what I wanted it to feel like. She’s almost like the silent partner. He’s making all these seemingly crazy decisions and he’s incredibly moody and she just takes it, moves through it, doesn’t take it on. But you can hopefully see that she’s got her own opinion underneath the obvious. 

Definitely. You’re also accustomed to taking on various voices and accents for your roles. Did you ever, or do you now, have a coach for this?
When I first came to America I worked with a woman for an hour and found it completely distracting; I never worked with anyone again. On About a Boy, I worked with a British dialect coach and I recently worked in London again where the producers wanted me to work with a dialect coach. It was the second day after arriving, I was completely jetlagged. I was basically lying down talking to this poor woman and I just thought, Oh my god. If I have to think about the things that I’m being told to think about, it’s just a complete distraction. I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants, I-hope-I-get-it-right kind of person. 

On that “free spirit” note, did you prepare at all to become Peggy?
A lot of it was imagined, because there was very little information about her. Not as much as the more famous elements in the movie, in Hitchcock’s life. I watched a couple of interviews with her, read as much as possible, looked at a few photos. She was a very stylish lady, very well put together, so I found it great fun wearing Julie [Weiss]’s costumes. I feel like I had the best costumes in the movie, actually. [Laughs]

So, how did the process play out?
Piece-by-piece. Everything starts with a script. That kind of determines where you leap off from. I loved the script. I found it interesting that this woman, like Alma, Hitchcock’s wife, is incredibly strong and capable and very much an individual. But, she also dedicated her life to somebody else’s work, which I found to be a strange combination. I just loved that she didn’t take any shit from him. That’s what made their relationship so successful and [enduring]. The fact that she’s just real with this guy who’s very intimidating to other people [is great].

Is it more difficult playing the part of a person who existed in the real world, versus a fictitious character?
I think so. There’s a certain amount of responsibility. Having said that, Peggy wasn’t famous like the other characters represented in the movie, so there wasn’t as much pressure. Phew!

What’s your overall take on the film?
It’s a confident film in terms of the filmmaking. In a way it kind of represents Hitchcock himself. His acerbic wit [is] sewn throughout the piece. I love the story. I’m sure this is a common reaction: you think, Oh, it’s a movie about movies. And, in a sense, it is. [But], it’s so much more than that. It’s about his relationship with his incredibly talented, strong, capable wife. And, also, the rest of the women. His relationship with women in general is kind of strange and interesting and funny. 

Absolutely. Unlike a lot of actors working in the film and TV industry, you live neither in New York nor in L.A. You live in Australia. What’s that like?
I’m from Australia, so it feels normal to me. It’s a blessing and a curse that it’s so far away. When I go home, I feel like I’m on another planet. It’s very relaxing and familiar and easy. When I travel, it feel[s] like a work-oriented venture. I have two small kids now, so things have kind of changed. But, we are a bit of a traveling circus. We don’t spend much time at home, but we make the most of it. It’s fun. It’s a great life. It’s a really interesting way to be. I don’t want to do it forever. It’s exhausting. But, I’m really lucky to be working on the quality films I’m working on, especially this year. 

Can you tell me more?
Every single [film] has been a great experience, both personally and professionally. I’m not lying, every single film I’ve done this year has been fantastic. Really satisfying. But, I am looking forward to going home and lying down for a minute. 

What all have you conquered this year?
I did Hitchcock. Then I did a film called The Way, Way Back, which was written by the guys who wrote The Descendants. I got to work with Steve Carell on that. It was set on the beach in Massachusetts, so I would literally walk out the front door and ride my bike to the end of the street to go to work. It was lovely. I have a little part in a Nicole Holofcener film. Again, great story, great actors, a very Holofcener vibe, which I dug. I recently completed a film called A Long Way Down, which is another adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel. I love, love, love the story. Initially I was nervous to play my character; I thought I’d been miscast. I thought she was very different from me and I didn’t know how to make her real, but I loved playing that character. The story’s really beautiful. So, yeah, it’s been bloody brilliant. 

Anthony Hopkins + Pillows + Turkey Necks = ‘Hitchcock’

How do you turn Anthony Hopkins into Alfred Hitchcock? Stuff a couple of pillows up his shirt and slap on a few prosthetic chins, apparently, and then let the master do his worst. Yes, in addition to HBO’s The Girl, there’s a big-screen biopic of the great director, this time focusing not on his creepy feelings toward Tippi Hendren but on his fascination with murder and the making of Psycho. (Don’t worry. I’m sure Hopkins makes plenty of awkward advances toward Scarlett Johansson’s Janet Leigh.)

With a star-studded cast including Helen Mirren (who needs no extra make-up, as she’s been in her sixties for, oh, TWENTY YEARS NOW?), Toni Collette, Jessica Biel (sure, throw her in there, too!), Danny Huston, and James D’arcy ("star-studded" is a relative term, folks), Hitchcock proves to be the most exciting biopic since that other Truman Capote movie came out with Sandra Bullock as Harper Lee and Gwyneth Paltrow as Peggy Lee. Check out the trailer below:

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Movie Reviews: ‘Buried,’ ‘You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger,’ ‘Howl’ & More

Buried – Here is an abbreviated list of phobias that might be triggered by Buried, the first English language feature from acclaimed Spanish director Rodrigo Cortés: claustrophobia (fear of restriction and suffocation), taphophobia (fear of being buried alive), achluophobia (fear of darkness), autophobia (fear of being alone), and ophidiophobia (fear of snakes). Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), an American truck driver working in Iraq, regains consciousness after receiving a blunt blow to the head, only to find he’s been, yep, buried alive in a wooden coffin under several feet of desert sand. With only a cell phone, a lighter, and fuzzy memories of his convoy’s ambush, Paul attempts to lead rescuers to his grave through a series of frustrating calls to his government, his family, and the insurgents who put him there. A lesser actor wouldn’t have been able to carry the film, but Reynolds is sublime, conveying fear and resolve with every gasp of rapidly thinning air. —Victor Ozols

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger – If New York is Woody Allen’s one true love, then London, at least around the release of 2005’s Match Point, was his oversexed mistress, a place where the legendary filmmaker was able to “recharge his batteries.” This is precisely the effect that Charmaine (newcomer Lucy Punch) has on Alfie (Anthony Hopkins), who marries the young prostitute shortly after his divorce from Helena (Gemma Jones), his wife of 40 years, in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Predictably, the spark soon fizzles between Alfie and Charmaine, not unlike Allen’s brief but exciting European affair. At its best, the film is a pleasant morality play focused on a warring British couple (Naomi Watts and Josh Brolin, as the Allen stand-in) and their extramarital conquests (Antonio Banderas and Freida Pinto, respectively). At its worst, this grass-is-always-greener tale of ennui and moral vacuity is Anything Else with an affected accent. —Nick Haramis

Howl – Poet Allen Ginsberg once wrote, “It isn’t enough for your heart to break because everybody’s heart is broken now.” It’s a kernel of wisdom that most biopics—so often manipulative and pandering—should heed, and it’s precisely what makes filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s Howl such a frenetic, charged piece of cinematic poetry. The film is divided by three caesurae: the much-ballyhooed obscenity trial centered on Ginsberg’s Howl; an interview with the poet, whose every tic and quirk is brought to life by James Franco; and an impassioned coffeehouse reading of Howl set to out-of-time animation that champions all of the beauty and filth of the American classic. By focusing, as the title suggests, on the poem rather than the poet, one actually gets further into the mind of the man for whom a generation was “destroyed by madness.” —NH

Never Let Me Go – Most film adaptations of great literary works don’t deserve to share a title with their source material. Fortunately, Kazuo Ishiguro’s haunting disquisition on the future of medical science fell into the capable hands of director Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) and screenwriter Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Sunshine). Centered on three students at a boarding school in England’s hinterlands, Never Let Me Go follows Tommy (Andrew Garfield), Ruth (Keira Knightley), and Kathy (Carey Mulligan) as they go about their seemingly charmed lives. From the onset, though, it’s clear there’s something unusual about the students, their school, and the mysterious squad of authority figures who monitor their every move. Ominous words like “donation” and “completion” are exchanged, and, as these living, breathing trial studies grow to maturity, we’re forced to examine exactly what constitutes a human life. With moving dramatic performances from the leads, the film humanizes a future that feels disturbingly, inevitably close. —Eiseley Tauginas

Enter the Void – For all its sweeping camera tricks and otherworldly lighting, Gaspar Noé’s latest orgy of muck and ire is hopelessly ugly. It will certainly draw criticism for its cheap, exploitative thrills: the first-person perspective in a head-on car collision, the unrelenting abortion scenes, and the inner-vaginal view of a penetrating penis. But despite its rampant adolescence, Enter the Void is also searching and soulful, a piecemeal memento mori of a young man’s troubled life after it is cut short during a botched drug deal. Wayward Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) is told that death is life’s greatest trip—something he experiences firsthand, moments after being shot by Japanese police, when his spirit considers his strong (and possibly incestuous) bond with his sister, Linda (Paz de la Huerta). Flawed and perhaps ill-paced—the film runs long at 150 minutes—Enter the Void is also a lighting bolt of visual mastery, jolting and unlike anything that’s come before it. —NH

Movie Reviews: Kick-Ass, I Love You Phillip Morris, The Greatest

I Love You Phillip Morris – “This really happened. It really did.” So read the subtitles at the beginning of I Love You Phillip Morris, informing the audience that the mind-boggling exploits of protagonist Steven Russell (Jim Carrey)—con man, embezzler, impersonator and frequent jail-breaker—are all true. But 15 minutes into the film, when the camera cuts away from Russell, a seemingly cheerful family man, dedicated Christian and potluck-frequenting police officer, to Russell euphorically sodomizing another man while chortling in voice-over, “I’m gay, gay, gay!” those subtitles take on new meaning. Forget the neutered “Will & Grace”. Forget the tortured Brokeback Mountain. This is a movie starring Hollywood heavies Carrey and Ewan McGregor (playing the love of Russell’s life, Phillip Morris) as unapologetic, unconflicted homosexuals who like to screw. This really happened. It really did. If neither Carrey nor the film is plausible in the more earnest moments, well, it’s the movie’s sexual politics, not its weaknesses, that will have everyone talking.—Willa Paskin

Kick-Ass – “How come nobody’s ever tried to be a superhero?” wonders Kick-Ass, and then spends two twisted and exhilarating hours answering: “Because it’s a bloody, dangerous, delusional occupation.” To break the monotony of high school mediocrity, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) turns to vigilantism, becoming the masked avenger of the film’s title. The problem is, Dave is Peter Parker without the IQ or the spider bite—the only ass getting kicked is his own. When Dave gets caught up in a war between some seriously skilled justice-seekers and a mob boss, we’re introduced to superheroes played by Nicolas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and, best of all, 12-year-old Chloe Moretz. As the pint-sized assassin Hit Girl, the foul-mouthed Moretz steals the movie from its lead and earns herself a spot in the superhero pantheon. The violence is visceral and real; the humor is R-rated. Needless to say, the movie kicks ass.—Ben Barna

The City of Your Final Destination – No one comes from a nuclear family anymore. The Gunds are no exception. Director James Ivory (Howard’s End, Le Divorce) follows aspiring biographer Omar (Omar Metwally) as he travels to a Uruguayan estancia to save his fledging academic career. Omar hopes to persuade the family of Jules Gund, a deceased and celebrated author, to give him permission to research the literary hero. The film follows the academic as he eases into the Gund family’s extraordinary, damaged lives. A talented cast—Laura Linney as the late writer’s wife, Charlotte Gainsbourg as his mistress and Anthony Hopkins as his brother—plays out a complex soap opera against an enchanting South American backdrop, rivaling the best Merchant- Ivory productions.—Eiseley Tauginas

The Thorn In The Heart – Michel Gondry’s latest, a documentary about his aunt Suzanne, a schoolteacher, never justifies its existence. Suzanne is a charming, lively, no-nonsense woman, but as Gondry takes her through places from her past, he never makes clear why hers is a story worth telling. The film’s meandering narrative torpedoes any chance of Suzanne’s mildly dramatic story appealing to a broader audience. Beautifully shot and gently dreamlike as it is, the movie is uncomfortably similar to a stranger’s home videos.—Michael Jordan

The Greatest – Like Ordinary People and Moonlight Mile before it, The Greatest is a small drama about a family coping with death. One irony of this particular genre is that it insists on the vast pain and messiness of grief, only to tidily resolve said grief before the closing credits. Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon (who also starred in Moonlight) play the parents of an 18-year- old student (Aaron Johnson of Kick-Ass) who dies in a car accident shortly after losing his virginity to Rose (An Education’s lovely Carey Mulligan). A pregnant Rose arrives at the grief- stricken parents’ door, and, ultimately, healing ensues. The Greatest is memorable mostly due to Mulligan, Johnson and Johnny Simmons, who plays Johnson’s former burnout of a younger brother. Mulligan and Johnson, already two of Hollywood’s brightest rising stars, seem deservingly destined for long, impressive careers, but Simmons outshines them both. —W.P.