The New Legacy: Zoe Kazan

In 2001, Zoe Kazan enrolled in her first semester at Yale. One week later, the Twin Towers were attacked and the granddaughter of the late filmmaker Elia Kazan first encountered the baggage that comes with being part of a legacy. “A reporter called me and said she wanted to talk about the freshman experience right after 9/11,” says the 26-year-old actress, sighing into her cup of black coffee. “But when we met, she immediately started asking me questions about my grandpa.” Although she has been familiar with Hollywood from birth—her parents, Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, are both screenwriters—acting has never been about privilege for Kazan, whose first major film role called for her to disrobe in front of Leonardo DiCaprio in Revolutionary Road. “In our house, if you wanted to act, it meant you wanted to work,” she says. “It didn’t mean you wanted to get your hair done for a living.”

As for the craft itself, Kazan explains its draw. “Finding ways to deflect your pain?” she says. “I get that. I live in an escapist world. There isn’t a whole lot of time where I get to sit around being Zoe, and I think there’s a reason for that.”

But being Zoe doesn’t seem all that bad. The actress appeared in five films this year—among them, Richard Linklater’s Me and Orson Welles, starring Zac Efron and Claire Danes, Rebecca Miller’s The Private Lives of Pippa Lee alongside Robin Wright and as Meryl Streep’s daughter in the Nancy Meyers’ comedy It’s Complicated—and currently lives in the sleepy Brooklyn neighborhood of Carroll Gardens with her boyfriend, actor Paul Dano. “My taste in men isn’t exactly beefcake Americana,” she says, adding Steve Martin and Philip Seymour Hoffman to her list of celebrity crushes. She and Dano met on the off-Broadway, Ethan Hawke-directed play Things We Want, and recently filmed Kelly Reichardt’s Meek’s Cutoff together, but Kazan says, “If he did something else, I would love him just the same.”

Having grown up on the periphery of Hollywood, did you approach it, at the beginning of your acting career, with any baggage? It meant something more when I used to say I wanted to make a movie. I think that my parents expected me to take it more seriously. If I said I wanted to be a writer, it meant something specific, not some amorphous thing. Wanting to be an actor meant I wanted to work—as an actor—not get my hair done for a living. In terms of what I bring to the table, it’s different than someone who didn’t grow up in the business. It’s not like I’m jaded, per se, but I think that I have a more realistic view about what fame is, how I feel when people praise me in reviews, and how I react when a blog says something mean about me. I’m much less likely to pay very much mind to that kind of stuff, because the goal of the culture doesn’t seem to be anything except entropy: “Lets burn out a star!”

I wouldn’t think that growing up around your grandfather, Elia Kazan, would prepare you for the pitfalls of young Hollywood today. For one thing, I’m not interested in going out and living a young Hollywood lifestyle. The other part of that is, especially after watching what he went through with the whole brouhaha with his honorary Oscar, I feel like that was a real lesson to me, in terms of people building you up and tearing you down. People want to have an opinion about public figures. It seems very clear to me that there is a price to fame, which, might be foreign to somebody whose parents are dentists in the Midwest.

I also think it’s interesting, too, when young actors are congratulated for not turning into Lindsay Lohan. The fact that anyone would devolve into that of personality is absurd in the first place, but the fact that people are praised for not becoming that way is also equally preposterous. I guess it depends on what your goal is as an actor. If you want to be really famous for nothing, and be photographed places, I think that that’s a very different goal than wanting to have enough power to be able to do your work.

But that’s also a part of the business, being seen walking down red carpets. You’re right. I do have to attend openings, get dressed up and not look like a complete slob, but I guess I don’t think of that aspect as being a compromise to my work. It’s an obligation. Plus, I don’t mind getting dressed up and having my picture taken.

I read somewhere that your parents told you to steer clear of dating actors. How did that work out for you? [Laughs.] They say it’s easiest to meet people at work. My experience hasn’t been that much different. I feel like I’ve kept a pretty good balance of friends from the outside of work and friends that I’ve made at work. There are a handful of my friends—Caitlin Fitzgerald, who’s also in It’s Complicated with me, Carey Mulligan, who I did The Seagull with and Peter Dinklage, who I did a play with—they’re like my sisters and my brothers. In terms of dating actors, you know, the stereotype of an actor is a terrible thing: they’re maniacal and obsessed with their looks. But most actors I know aren’t really like that. And I know that I would love my boyfriend now [Paul Dano] just the same if he did something else. But it’s lovely to be able to come home and be like, I had a really tough time with this scene.

You began acting on stage, which is where you met Paul, no? It was a complete fluke that I started in theatre and so it’s sort of funny to me that I’m perceived as a theatre actress, because that was never the plan. But I love the theatre, playing someone every night for months on end, and it playing differently each time. I love being in front of an audience and having that visceral experience. Their breath! Are they cold, or hot, or are they drunk because it’s a Saturday night, or bored because it’s a matinee and it’s raining outside? But in film, I love that you’re not responsible for moving a story forward. It’s just you and the scene. That’s an intoxicating feeling.

Have you had, up until now, a role that has spoken to you more than others? Maureen in Revolutionary Road was very far away from who I am as a person. But every girl knows what it’s like to be with a guy you know is bad good news but you move forward with it anyways. There’s a sort of self-loathing there, and the enjoyment of the affair. I played Masha in The Seagull this fall—she’s so angry, and abuses drugs to escape—I’ve never had a substance abuse problem, but I understand the psychology behind finding ways to deflect your pain. I get that. I live in an escapist world. I get to go to work and pretend that I’m somebody else. There isn’t a whole lot of time where I get to sit around being Zoe, and I think there’s a reason for that.

Can I ask you a question? What’s up with the Nia Vardalos movie, I Hate Valentine’s Day? Oh, man.

I haven’t seen it. I haven’t seen it, either.

It seems out of place. Everybody has a movie that they might look back on and not be as happy with. I did that after Revolutionary Road. Basically, I went from that movie into nine months of theater. So when I got out of that nine months, I did The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, Me And Orson Welles, I Hate Valentine’s Day, and The Exploding Girl

Sorry to cut you off, but I searched “exploding girl” on YouTube to watch the trailer… thanks very much for that. Ah, that’s terrible! But I’m really proud of that one. Anyway, I really shouldn’t have done that Nia Vardalos movie, not because of how it turned out, but because I needed a break.

It must be really nice to get to that point, when you can be a little more discerning about the projects you choose. My parents said something to me, which I probably should have listened to a little bit more. They said, “If you ever need help financially, we’ll give it to you because we don’t want you to take something really bad just to have money.” I wouldn’t have done that anyway, but I do think there is a great luxury in not having to take a bad movie. I’m just getting there, and it feels great.

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Top photo: Kazan wears dress by D&G. Ring by D. Roach. Bottom photo: Dress by Oscar De La Renta. Shoes by Gucci. Photography by Billy Kidd. Styling by Wilson Mathews III. Hair by Sarah Potempa @ The Wall Group. Makeup by Talia Shobrook @ The Wall Group.

Joshua Ferris Discusses His New Novel, ‘The Unnamed’

A man starts to walk. He walks and walks and walks. He can’t stop. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold or if it’s hot, or if he has some place to be. He walks for miles, for hours, for days, until he doesn’t. And then he tries to call his wife before he collapses from exhaustion, on the street, in a graveyard, at a stranger’s doorstep, in the slums of Newark. This condition is the emotionally taxing subject of Joshua Ferris’ second novel, The Unnamed, the follow-up to his bestselling, often-hilarious debut about office life, Then We Came To The End. Readers should be prepared: compelling and gripping, The Unnamed is not a light read. “The condition is unremitting, utterly destructive of [the protagonist] Tim’s life,” Ferris says over a decaf Americano at Brooklyn’s Café Grumpy. “My objective is, first and foremost, that there is something at stake, something very, very serious at stake.”

Ferris, 35, sold the book’s rights to super-producer Scott Rudin when he’d written just 120 pages. “I didn’t know how it was going to end and they didn’t know, either,” he says of the deal. “It was a leap of faith on everybody’s part.” Ferris had almost abandoned the book, before realizing that it just needed a bit of restructuring. “I began with Tim having the disease for the first time,” he says. “Narratively, it was a misstep. I thought it was just a failed novel. But then, when I had four or five months of distance from it, I was in a taxi in Detroit and I pictured Tim walking around that wasteland. I just knew that I needed to start in the middle. It was the key.”

Despite the New York literary scene’s love of Schadenfreude, Ferris is impressively unconcerned about how his sophomore effort will be received. “I hope that I have a readership that understands the book, but I don’t worry about my readership,” he says. “I want to please myself. And I have pleased myself.” Ferris has already begun work on his third novel, despite having an infant son at home. “I don’t procrastinate,” he says. “It sounds like great discipline, but I have more fun writing than when I’m doing anything else. Really it’s just selfish.”

I found reading this book really… Depressing?

Sort of! Brutal. He’s so trapped. It’s hard not to feel empathy for him, almost an unpleasant amount. How empathetic with him were you? I feel an enormous amount of empathy for him. I hope that the reader feels empathy for him. But I don’t think he’s helpless. And I think that’s what is redemptive about his condition. His condition is unremitting, utterly destructive of his life, but it has one redeeming feature—it allows him to return home one final time. To get a little bit more theoretical, one thing I was thinking of when I was writing this was the very famous quote from Camus and the Myth of Sisyphus that ends with him saying, “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” I’m not sure that Tim’s happy, but he carries his rock up the hill with a certain determined resignation and attempts as best he can to live a heroic life. So while it’s bleak and unrelenting, I believe that there is something that is redemptive to be found there. It might not suffice. I believe that for quite a few readers it may end up simply defeating them, the book’s unrelentingness may defeat them. And that’s ok. With all due respect to readers, if they give up on a book for its unrelenting quality I think that that’s much more satisfying for a writer than finishing a book and not being moved at all. My objective is first and foremost that there is something at stake, something very, very serious at stake.

Did you intend for Tim’s condition to be allegorical? I think that there are a lot of things that you could say about what his condition is and is not. It certainly lends itself to a lot of interpretation and debate. But I certainly don’t have those answers. It was not my intention to be willfully obscure about the open meaning of the condition, but the early readers have thrown out possibilities and they’ve run the gambit from being highly entertaining to being profoundly thoughtful. Is it fun for you to hear what people make of it? That’s fun. I mean I’ve nearly been sort of strong-armed against the wall to give an answer, but I can’t do that because I just simply don’t have an answer. It would be like asking, to take an analogy from the art world, to ask Jasper Jones, “What does the target meaning? What does the flag mean?” You know, it is a painting, but it’s also a symbol. What’s it a symbol of? Perhaps he has an answer, but perhaps he doesn’t. But it’s not really up to me. And I think that’s another reason why, what is perhaps sad about the book is alleviated because you have the possibility to get creative about what it ultimately means.

Are you anxious about how this book will be received given how successful Then We Came To The End was? I hope that I have a readership that understands the book, but I don’t worry about my readership. Again, with all due respect to readers, I have those readers that I have always had for my entire writing life, and those readers are the ones that I want to please. But I first and foremost want to please myself, and I’ve pleased myself just merely by finishing the book. So ultimately, the book has to do the work as a public artifact, as a released item out in the world, it has to worry about that. you know?

That’s so non-neurotic of you! Well, I’m extremely neurotic about the writing itself, but the selling and the buying of the book, the judging of the book, the book’s place in the world is really not up to me. I did the best I could, and if I could go back I would actually revise the book to include some things that have come to me since I finished. I would change some things, but ultimately I feel like I’ve put my best foot forward, and now a lot of the things that make for the public life of the book are completely out of my control. So to worry about them is only to sort of generate a lot of internal turmoil.

That doesn’t stop most of us. I would probably be worried at some point in time, but I think I have a fairly good handle on it.

Where did the idea, of this man who can’t stop walking, come from? I wish I could tell you. I’ve tried to reconstruct it and I have no memory of it. I remember telling a friend of mine about it, another novelist, and he was excited about the idea because he saw the potential, but I cannot reconstruct the flash of insight that came to me one day and I will never be able to remember. It’s essentially a one word premise, he walks and he can’t stop walking. And it seemed to my friend as rich as it seemed to me. I didn’t know at the time whether or not to pursue it, but I started writing and it felt right.

I read in a previous interview that when you started writing this you walked away from it for a long time because you started in the wrong place. What was the wrong place? I started the book with him having the disease for the first time, so the reader and him discover the condition simultaneously, and narratively it was just a misstep.

Because it’s not really about him discovering what’s wrong. And it’s not really about the walking. You’ve probably noticed, but there’s not a lot of narrated scenes in which you watch him take step after step. A lot of the walking has actually been cut. It would have grown awfully old and long in the tooth if I had narrated every walking scene. I had just not known that intuitively, and needed to find that out through the writing. I probably spent four or five months going in the totally wrong direction. And then I put it down. I couldn’t figure that out immediately, I thought it was just a failed novel. And then I had another four or five months distance from it. And all of a sudden I was in a taxi in Detroit, and I pictured him walking around the wasteland of these parts of Detroit. For some reason I knew that it should start after him having suffered this thing two or three times. So he’s got two or three periods of his life in which this has already happened to him. I came back from Detroit and I just knew that I needed to start in the middle, basically. I still needed to figure out many things, but it was the key to a new beginning and ultimately writing the ending.

You sold the film rights to this book about a year and a half ago? Was it finished? It wasn’t done, no. They must have seen about 120 pages or something like that. I mean I was pleased, but I still didn’t know that they were making a wise move. I didn’t know how it was going to end and they didn’t know how it was going to end either. It was a leap of faith on everybody’s part.

You’re in the middle of writing your third book? I wouldn’t call it the middle. I wish I could call it the middle. I would say that the ship has almost left the port and it still has a lot of ocean. A lot of exploration. This will be a longer book in the making. It will take a little longer.

Will you ever write a book in the first person? Yeah, I hope every book to be different, and I hope to take all the approaches that are available to a writer. I hope to never feel repetitive. And that will require me to use all of the various techniques at a writer’s disposal. The first person is a very daunting one, because—this is to get into a little bit of criticism—what’s happened is that the first person narrator has become so traditionally unreliable, and it’s been done so very, very well that any writer with any serious intent has to try to figure to what extent they want to tackle the question of reliability. And that’s a very daunting thing to consider. So I think that the first person doesn’t necessarily have to be about reliability, but they almost sort of go hand in hand. When you have a first person narrator, and it’s saying “Hi, I’m so-and-so and I’m telling the truth,” the first thing you think of is that he’s lying, and I think you really have to—they go hand in hand.

You’re on an 8-hour work schedule everyday. Do you ever procrastinate, or are you good about not doing that? I don’t procrastinate willingly. I procrastinate when I’m forced to by my family or by some other external cause, but, no, I don’t procrastinate.

So if you go into your room and sit at your desk, and no one calls you, you will work all day? Yeah, and I’ll avoid email for that purpose.

You’re like superman. Well I just like it. I mean it sounds like great discipline, but I’m having more fun than when I’m doing anything else. So it sounds a little oppressive, but really it’s just selfish.

When you do procrastinate, do you feel bad about it? Yeah, if I have not been at the desk for a while I will start to feel withdrawals.

That’s like, I don’t exercise, but I have this fantasy that if I exercised enough there would come a day that not exercising would make me feel really gross. Well that’s actually a really interesting analogy because if you do exercise a lot—I run every other day—your physical and mental constitution starts to change. And you start to start of jones for an exercise, for a run or whatever it may be, because you are not facing the world with the same equanimity that you once did. And that is the same case with writing, because it is a purely mental exercise, but it is calming and restorative. Don’t get me wrong it’s still very, very hard for me. And I still have the same difficulties that every writer has, the same self doubt and the same insecurities. But it’s ultimately where I love to be the most and when I’m doing it, even if it’s a sort of shitty day and nothing will come of it, I know that something will come out of the lack of success of that day. And that is an enormously comforting feeling because I’m being productive, I’m being creative and suddenly I do face the world with a different disposition.

Photo by Billy Kidd, Grooming by Jillian Haluska

The New Exception to The Rule: Gabourey Sidibe

When news surfaced that she had won two prizes for her starring role in Lee Daniels’ Precious, Gabourey Sidibe reacted as one might expect of a woman in her position. “I changed my Facebook status,” says the 26-year-old actress while sipping a rum cocktail at Bistro Milano in midtown Manhattan. “I can literally tell people I’m an award-winning actress,” she says, with a violent, characteristic burst of snort-punctuated laughter. “And that’s pretty bomb.”

Adapted from Sapphire’s 1996 debut novel Push, Precious is the story of an obese, impoverished and illiterate teenager in 1980s Harlem who has been twice impregnated by her drug-addicted, HIV-positive father, and is humiliated on a daily basis by her abusive mother, played with feral intensity by Mo’Nique. “I’m not a victim of incest, so I had to learn to play Precious through empathy. Growing up, I lived in some pretty rough neighborhoods, but that’s where the overlap ends,” says the charismatic Sidibe, whose father is a cab driver, and who was raised by her musician mother in Brooklyn and Harlem.

“It’s always considered a courageous move to get all ugly, Charlize Theron-style,” she says of her transformation into a sweaty, sloppy girl whose chin and cheeks, in one scene, are slathered in chicken grease. “But it’s like, so what that I’m not wearing makeup? I wasn’t wearing makeup when I decided I was beautiful in the first place. You want to know the real me? Every picture I take and every photo shoot I do is revenge for every boy who didn’t want to hold my hand, for every girl who knew she was so much prettier than me, and for everyone who told me I wouldn’t be worth anything until I lost weight.” In light of the buzz that surrounds her performance, I tell her that could be her Oscar acceptance speech. Instead of laughing, she looks down at her drink and smiles.

Photography by Tim Palen. Hair by Giannandrea @ The wall Group. Makeup by Christian McCulloch @ Tim Howard. Production by Ryan Wickers.

Itinerary: Michael Fassbender’s Life in the Fass Lane

European actor and recreational archer Michael Fassbender, of 300 and Inglourious Basterds, has just moved to Los Angeles. Now he’s taking aim at Hollywood. “I miss all the things about London that I hated when I was there,” says 32-year-old actor Michael Fassbender, when asked to compare his old stomping grounds to his new home in the City of Angels. “I miss the Tube, my motorcycle and my friends. But I love the weather here.”

Public transit and bouts of loneliness aside, Fassbender, who landed his first break in the Steven Spielberg-produced war miniseries Band of Brothers, has few regrets about his Hollywood migration.“The time was right for me to come out here. With Hunger and Inglourious Basterds, I felt like I had enough ammunition.” Fassbender stars in this month’s Fish Tank, a jury prizewinner at Cannes, about a troubled high school girl who develops an illicit relationship with her mother’s boyfriend. He will next star opposite Megan Fox in the 2010 western, Jonah Hex. “I love horses,” he says of the training required for the role. “Any opportunity I get to do a film with a horse, I jump on it—no pun intended.”

image Rancho Park Archery Range 2459 Motor Avenue I’ve done archery at an amateur level since I was a boy. The first bow I had was made from bamboo, and I used it at home with a straw target. My Pilates teacher reintroduced me to archery, so I’ve been coming down here. It’s like riding a bicycle—I’m not brilliant, but I’m comfortable. It’s a Zen sort of experience. All you’re thinking about is the target and the fluid motion. I go with my girlfriend, my Pilates teacher and her husband. It’s a strange double date. The joke is that we’ll soon start hunting each other.

Venice Beach Recreation Center 1800 Ocean Front Walk Venice is special to me because I spent two months here by myself, in a bungalow by the ocean, losing weight for Hunger. I love the outdoor exercise area—the boxers and dancers, the basketball and handball courts, the rings and the pull-up bars. It’s accessible, has a creative vibe and it’s great for people watching.

image Book Soup 8818 Sunset Boulevard I love browsing here. It’s such a peaceful place to get away and just take a moment. One of my favorite writers is Hunter S. Thompson. I like his journalistic style, which takes away the sentimentality in the writing. I just started The Road so I’ll probably come back to pick up more of Cormac McCarthy’s work after I finish this one.

image Jim Wayne Salon 9555 Santa Monica Boulevard If I need a trim, I come here. It’s relaxed and friendly, and I end up chatting with everyone. The owner, Jim, who cuts my hair, likes to talk cars and motorcycles. A lot of guys like it here because it’s low-key. B.J. Novak [Fassbender’s co-star in Inglourious Basterds] gets his hair cut here, too.

The New Holden: Michael Angarano

Michael Angarano looks too young to buy the cigarettes he smokes. And the 22-year-old actor, star of the recent Gentlemen Broncos, admits it’s not just his fresh face that makes him appear underage. “If I wasn’t acting, I’d just be coming out of college,” he says. “I would already have had four years of being on my own, but now I’m kind of just starting.” Anganaro is successfully making the transition from child to adult actor (he’s been working since he was 5, and his résumé includes supporting roles in Almost Famous, Lords of Dogtown and Will & Grace). In his next film, Ceremony, Angarano plays a young Turk intent on destroying an older crush’s wedding (Uma Thurman plays the object of his desire). “It’s a coming-of-age story about a boy realizing he’s a boy,” Angarano says, “Instead of a boy realizing he’s a man.”

Unlike many former child actors, the New York native, who moved to Los Angeles when he was 12 and still lives with his folks, insists his childhood prepared him for a career in Hollywood. “As a kid, I was able to distract myself and not have work take over my life completely,” says Angarano, who found himself splashed across tabloids when he was still dating his ex-girlfriend, actress Kristen Stewart. “If I didn’t have that experience growing up, I don’t know that I would be able to keep work from taking over now.”

You’ve been acting since you were 5 or 6? Like 5 and a half.

Do you feel like a part of “young Hollywood?” I just do what I like doing. And that sounds very arrogant, but in a way it’s all I can do. I have no thoughts about being anything.

But it’s good to be you. Of course it is. Acting is like a trade, like any other trade, so when people appreciate it for what it is and understand what you’re doing and what you’re going through, that’s what you do it for. Of course you like being acknowledged but at the same time it means nothing really.

Can you talk about making the transition from child to adult actor? It gets harder as you get older. The roles get harder. Life gets harder as you get older. As a kid I always had distractions, even when I was on set I was always worrying about school. My mind was always very busy. But as an adult when I’m on set it’s all I have to do and when I’m off set that’s also all I have to do. As a kid it’s easy not to have work take over your life completely. And it’s very important to live outside of your career.

What role have your parents played in your career? My parents have honestly been the most supportive people as far as my own career goes. They basically relocated my entire family when I was twelve years old so we could live in L.A. and I could have more opportunities to be seen by people. In a way it worked out for all of us. Both of my parents grew up in Brooklyn, so I think they saw an opportunity for a better life, to go live somewhere, to live more outside of yourself, not in the same place. My mom owned dance studios in New York all my life, but now she has a dance studio out in L.A. Both my sisters have gone to college out in L.A. It just worked out that way, with me as the catalyst for changing our lives a little. It’s great.

How many siblings do you have? Three. Older sister, younger sister, and a younger brother.

What’s your relationship like with your siblings? It’s really close. It’s always been extremely close. I have a very tight family. Even the family I have back in New York that I don’t get to see as often, we’re all very tight.

When you’re on set and not at home do any of your family members ever drop in? My father has actually been coming to sets with me since I was five. This trip was the first time I was in New York on my own really. It’s a crazy feeling. I don’t feel sheltered at all because I’ve traveled a lot. But I’m 21, if I wasn’t acting I’d just be coming out of college, I would already have four years of being on my own, but I’m kind of just starting to be on my own. But it’s amazing, realizing yourself.

Do you live by yourself? No, I still live with my parents.

What do you do for fun? I like traveling a lot. And I’ve been doing a lot of reading. The second I stopped going to school, I started reading exponentially more. I never read and now I read a lot. I’m reading a book called An American Dream by Norman Mailer and it’s really good. I’ve read Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead and it changed my life completely. I love those books so much.

Tell me about Ceremony. In Ceremony my character is kind of a complete sociopath. The kind of person who really doesn’t care about anyone’s feelings except his own. The plot of the movie is that he tricks and manipulates his best friend into coming on this vacation with him for a weekend. But unknown to his friend, the only reason he wants to go is to break up the wedding of an older woman. The guy is maybe 22 years old, but just by the way he dresses and talks you would think he’s like 35 yeas old. He’s one of those people that, the major elephant in the room is how this person is acting. You feel like if you say something about what they’re doing, how false it is, it would pull the rug out from under them completely. That’s the kind of line that he walks.

How are they going to market it? I’ve been trying to think about that. I think it will probably be marketed as this love story about this young guy trying to win over this woman and show her how manly he is and how capable and confident he is as a person. But it’s really a coming of age story about a boy realizing he’s a boy. Instead of a boy realizing he’s a man.

Any hints of Rushmore? Kind of. Max Winkler, the director, loves Wes Anderson and P.T. Anderson. I would say it’s influenced by them, but it just feels like it’s something that hasn’t been done ever. It kind of reminds me of a Billy Wilder movie. It moves extremely fast and the characters are very off-putting. It’s really biting and smart, but it’s also so sad. It’s about emotions really, about people being really selfish with themselves. It’s exciting. Especially after reading the Ayn Rand books.

What do you look for when you look at a script? I have no idea what to say when people ask that? I can only do things that I really like. I guess from a decision making mindset, you want to try something different, you want to challenge yourself with new things, so anything that’s new I like.

Forbidden Kingdom was a success in the box office. Did you think it would be? I think a movie like that is really rare, because you know it’s going to be somewhat successful. You know what you’re doing is going to get at least some kind of default profit because of the people involved, like Jackie Chan and Jet Le. You know it’s going to do semi-fairly well. But by no means when I signed on to that movie did I do it because it was going to be a big movie or anything. It was just like anything else; an incredible challenge. Independent movies are character driven and really simple and no special effects, but they can still be so ambitious, with the story they’re trying to tell. But a movie like that, that’s like the most ambitious movie you can make, because you’re really trying to make something people will revere and be surprised and entertained with. Even if it’s simple entertainment and even if what you’re doing is not like The Godfather, you’re still trying to tell a really whimsical, fantastic story.

Was it a physical challenge? It was ridiculous. It was five months in China and everyday we would be in like 125 degree weather. It was so weird because it was an all Chinese crew and literally there would be times where no one else on set would speak English. So it was a very uninvolved type of experience, and simultaneously it was one of the most crazily intense, life-altering experiences you could have.

What was the most useful martial arts maneuver that you learned? We were learning the choreography of each fight literally ten minutes before we were doing it. The more you fight the better you get at it. Even with fake fighting, the more you do it the better you get at it and the faster your mind works. The more you do the more you have control of your body in a spontaneous situation. You have to act quicker and let go of what you’re thinking. The less you think and the more you let your body decide what it wants to do, the better.

Angarano wears a T-shirt by Calvin Klein, jeans by Hudson. Photo by Billy the Kid, Styling by Wilson Matthews III, Hair by Charlie Taylor, Makeup by Lauren Whitworth using YSL Beauté.

The New Party Starter: J. Cole

When North Carolina native J. Cole packed his bags, moved to New York and enrolled at St. John’s University, he had a specific four-year plan: to land a record deal. With no intention of actually securing a diploma—“School is for lot of people,” he says, “but not me”—Cole got on his grind, trying to produce, rap and network his way into the music industry. But almost two years after graduating, J. (born Jermaine) still wasn’t any closer to realizing his dreams. Instead, he slogged through his day job as a newspaper telemarketer for $10 an hour.

But then Cole’s music caught the ear of one Mr. Shawn Carter. Three weeks later, the 24-year-old rapper became the first artist signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label. He has since released a mix-tape and recorded a verse on “A Star is Born,” a track from Hova’s recent album, The Blueprint 3. “One day, I want to have the biggest album of the year. I’ll let some kid I believe in get on a verse and change their life,” Cole says, paying it forward in his head. But despite his powerful backing, Cole understands that his success is up to him. “Jay is not the type of guy that’s going to take you from level 1 to level 10,” he says. “You’ve got to work all the way to level 8 and then he’ll take you from level 8 to level 10. He’s given me a great opportunity, but it’s up to me to fulfill my own destiny. If I succeed or fail, it won’t be because of Jay-Z. It’ll be based on what I did.”

Listening to your mixtape The Warm Up, it sounds like you feel entitled to success. Is that because you’re talented or have you just worked hard enough for it? It’s a little bit of both. I always felt like I was good enough but I realized once I got to a certain age that the talent wasn’t enough. You can’t just be the best basketball player in the world and not have work ethic or drive and it’s the same thing with rap. It’s like, okay, you’re really good but what are you doing with it? Are you really trying? So The Warm Up is from the standpoint of me sending all these guys my beats and songs and not getting hit back. I felt like nobody was even listening; I was doing it for years, trying to get my foot in the door. As a matter of fact, ninety five percent of The Warm Up was done when I didn’t have a deal. I didn’t know for sure that the deal was coming, I was just going off a feeling like — This is my year, I’mma be signed this year. It was that type of attitude, like “I deserve this shit, I’mma show ya’ll.”

You moved to New York to pursue your rap career and used college as a medium to get there. Is that your version of the benefit of school? I don’t want to minimize the importance of college. If somebody’s going to be a dentist or a pharmacist or something like that, great, school is for you. School is for a lot of people but I was a smart kid and school was never really hard, so for me it was just the next phase. It was something I knew I was going to do, but it wasn’t like, man I’ve got to graduate, I’ve got to come out of here with this degree so I can get this 9-5. There was no career plan involved with my college experience.

At the time, did New York seem like your only route to landing a record deal? Looking back, I understand that anything is possible and if I’d just known what to do from home, I could’ve done it there. But when I moved, I was clueless; I didn’t know anything about the game. Now I have a clear perspective on how you get these guy’s attention and I could’ve stayed home and put out the most incredible music within my city and state because the music speaks for itself. I could’ve found a way to promote myself and I feel like they would’ve come knocking but at the time I didn’t see it like that. It just thought, I’ve got to get out of here, because ain’t nobody checking for me.

When someone like Jay-Z signs you and gives you a verse on the biggest album on the year, some people might say that you’re being handed your success. Are you prepared to deal with that mentality? I’m prepared for it because I feel like once they actually listen and hear my story and hear the talent they’re going to realize it wasn’t a “give me” situation, it was earned and it was deserved. Not to mention that I’m not content with that — that feature was great and I’m grateful for it but my career plans are so much greater than what that verse is. One day I want to have the biggest album of the year and let some kid who I believe in get on a verse and change their life. That’s where my thoughts are, it’s not on “man, I hope people don’t think this is a hand out,” because I know it’s not a handout, I know it’s earned and deserved and I think that’s going to come through in the music.

Do you think your success will be equally based on your own effort and Jay-Z’s help? I think it’s more about my work. Jay-Z is at a position in his life and his career where he doesn’t have to do anything but push a button. Jay is not the type of guy that’s going to take you from level 1 to level 10. You’ve got to work all the way to level 8 and then he’ll take you from level 8 to level 10. If you use him too early, he’ll probably take you from level 1 to level 5 but I don’t want to use that card too early. Even though I’m on his album, he’s not out there everyday screaming my name with his arm around my shoulder, promoting me heavy. He’s giving me a great opportunity, but it’s up to me to fulfill my own destiny. Basically, what I’m trying to say is that if I succeed or fail, it won’t be because of Jay-Z, it’ll be based on what I did.

Jay had no intentions of making Roc Nation a rap label but when he heard you, he obviously changed his mind. Does that put on any added pressure to do well? I get the pressure question a lot but I didn’t really understand it until lately. I didn’t dwell on but then I started realizing that there is a positive pressure — I just don’t want to let these guys down. My manager Mark Pitts was Biggie’s manager but he’s been out of the rap game for so long because he’s been turned off. Now he’s working with me and he’s got high hopes, so it’s like I almost brought him back into the rap world. Same thing with Jay and my team – they’ve got high hopes for me, they believe in me and my team is so strong that I feel like a first pick in the draft. With that said, I can either be like Kwame Brown or I can be Lebron James. The difference is that they’re both talented but Kwame Brown couldn’t handle the pressure of being that first round pick and Lebron said, “I’m going to show you why I’m the number one pick.” I want to have that attitude.

Has recording the new album been challenging at all? I came into the album process with a stack of potential songs to weed through and see which ones were actually going to make it. They’re all incredible and the new songs I’m doing are incredible also, so it’s a little scary because it’s getting to the point where I’m on such a streak that before I know it, I may have too much great material to choose from. Seriously — I don’t know if any of this sounds too crazy or overconfident but I’m just almost impressed with myself. I’ve already got all this material and I feel like I’m only getting better and doing better music.

You’ve resided in the North for a few years now, but does being a Southern rapper add a different dynamic to your career? Definitely. Ten years from now I want to be on the top five list — I really want to be number one. So ten years from now when some kids form North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia are having these “greatest of all time,” conversations, they’ll be like “Yeah! We got one.” Right now I guess the only people we’ve really got on that list are Andre 3000 and some kids out there have Lil Wayne on their list, so I just want to add to the cause. Add to the respect of southern rappers and change the direction a little bit. I think that when I come out, there’s going to be a lot of kids down there that’s not going to be afraid to be more lyrical and more creative.

Southern rappers are fans of ‘colorful’ names, especially the ever popular “Lil” prefix but your alias is derived from your full name Jermaine Cole. Why so simple? It just seems so gimmicky now. I’m not saying that everybody has to use their real name, because my rap name used to be “Therapist,” for a long time and even when I was 13, “Blazer,” was my rap name. But it just felt like too much of a persona now. I don’t want to be called “Therapist,” — what the fuck is that? I wanted to be something that really reflected me, so that it’s more relatable to everyday people.

Rappers do take on a persona to put an interesting spin on their music. Are you comfortable going that route or will you try to keep focused on reality? A lot of rappers just find new ways to say the same shit and there’s nothing wrong with that, just like a lot of directors somehow continue to make the same movie. If you watch Fresh Prince, you know Will Smith’s character and you know that every episode, one of a few things are going to happen — he’s going to fuck up somehow, or there’s going to be some girl he has a crush on etc. It’s the same few stories recycled in a new way, that’s kind of how rap is, and I don’t know if that’s a bad thing or not because your story is your story. I’m not going to be just a struggle rapper my whole career but my first album, of course, is going to touch on that because it’s just a lot about my life. I’m getting really personal, so it’s not just The Warm Up topic anymore, it’s family issues and a lot of deep shit that I’m not sure if I even really want to put out there.

It’s easy to hear that you’re a serious lyricist, but will that translate well to commercial success on the album? I don’t worry about making pop songs. It’s about the lyrical side — which I possess — then translating that to a mainstream audience without compromising your integrity. It’s just about finding that balance, which think is very possible. I think I’m onto something with this album.

J. COLE’S TOP-FIVE PARTY SONGS TO RING IN THE NEW YEAR 1 2Pac’s “I Get Around.” 2 Rich Boy’s “Throw Some D’s.” 3 Pastor Troy’s “Vice Versa.” 4 Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me).” 5 Dr. Dre’s “Xxplosive.”

Photo by Randall Slavin. Grooming Will The Barber. Production Sara Pine @ Creative 24.

The New Sartorialist: Hanneli Mustaparta

“It’s sort of like writing a hit song—there really is no recipe for success,” says streetstyle photographer Hanneli Mustaparta, describing her criteria when choosing the high-fashion-in-everyday places that surfaces on her eponymous blog. “Some people think the more accessories on an outfit the better, but real style is so far from that. It’s all about being confident and knowing how to choose good things for the proportions of your body.”

Although the 27-year-old Norwegian is still new to photography, she’s no stranger to the fashion industry, having modeled for eight years. During that time, she says, “I always kept my eyes open, even if I was observing makeup or hair. I was always watching, sneaking peeks at everything they do behind the scenes.” She has since strayed beyond the runway, grabbing a camera and using her discerning eye to capture couture and ready-to-wear on everyone from French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld to complete unknowns. “An outfit is only there for one day. It’s going to disappear. The next day it will be something different,” she says. “I’m documenting and stopping time a little bit for other people to see.”

Dress by Louis Vuitton, Photo by Billy Kidd, Styling by Bryan Levandowski, Hair Charlie Taylor, Makeup Lauren Whitworth using YSL Beaute.

The New Pin-Up: Jessica Stroup

When 90210, the beloved ’90s teen soap, relaunched last fall, it was treated like chum by critics and media sharks. Only now, in its second season, is the show living up to its hype, stepping out from the shadow of Shannen and Tori, and embracing a lighter, frothier high school experience. Leading the charge is Jessica Stroup, the 23-year-old actress who plays the bipolar Erin Silver, Kelly Taylor’s half-sister.

Stroup, who skipped out on her own high school graduation to film a Target commercial (“In my mind, I was so cool,” she says), moved from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Los Angeles when she was 17 years old. “When I came out here,” she says, “I was a baby. I was kind of naïve and just going with it.”

Luckily, innocence is a trait directors admire, especially when it comes to horror flicks. In the last few years, Stroup has stretched her vocal cords, filling cinemas with her high-pitched screams in Prom Night, The Hills Have Eyes 2 and Homecoming (not to mention Bret Easton Ellis’ unintentionally horrifying The Informers). Although she has enjoyed the scary movie experience, she perks up as soon as the conversation turns to future roles. “A dark comedy,” she says, when asked what she’d like to do next. “Being funny. That’s the most terrifying thing for me.”

Stroup wears bra by Calvin Klein. Photo by Hellin Kay. Styling by Lia Davis. Hair Jenny Cho @ The Wall Group. Makeup Mai Quynh @ The Wall Group.

The New Starving Artist: Aaron Bobrow

Motor oil. A plastic tarp. Self tanning lotion. These are just a few of the materials artist Aaron Bobrow uses to invest his clean, graphic paintings with deeper meanings. “My work has a lot to do with transportation,” he says to explain the motor oil. “Industrialized society runs on oil. Gasoline, too, but oil is the real lubricant.”

The tarp served as the deteriorating canvas for “BALCO,” a nod to the crooked company that supplied professional baseball player Barry Bonds with steroids. And the self tanner? Well, Bobrow applied it to a monochromatic painting to look like cell phone service bars, his attempt to link vanity with radiation.

The 23-year-old Parsons graduate, who was born in San Francisco, lives in Manhattan and works in Brooklyn, churning out paintings at a frenetic pace. “I’m interested in making the work as fast as possible. Not in terms of the speed with which I make the paintings, but in terms of the feeling of them.” But life in Manhattan sometimes gets in the way. “New York is a hard place to get shit done,” he says. “Try going to get a piece of plywood with no car, and then lifting it up a fi ve-story walk-up. It’s important to work outside of your bedroom, so I go to Brooklyn and empty out all the unnecessary stuff that confuses my brain.”

Although the term “starving artist” has become more literal due to the economic downturn, Bobrow isn’t all that worried. “I’m not selling as well as I’d like to be,” he says, “But older friends of mine are doing better than ever. A gallerist told me that nobody is buying the work of relatively unknown young artists. In my opinion, that person was just a bad gallerist.”

Photo by Billy Kidd, Hair by Charlie Taylor, Grooming by Lauren Whitworth using YSL Beaute. .