André Holland: A Leading Man For Television’s New Wave

Andre Holland, Film, TV

Photo by Eric Ray Davidson. André wears Rag & Bone jeans, Converse shoes, Alternative Apparel t-shirt, and his own jacket. Styled by Rachel Pincus.

As a television network, Cinemax may not be widely associated with the production of high-art programming. Yet it’s home to The Knick, the first series by director Steven Soderbergh since he announced he was leaving film for TV. On the show, actor André Holland plays Algernon Edwards, a young black surgeon who, after receiving a medical education in more liberal France, attempts to make his way at New York’s virulently racist Knickerbocker Hospital, which happens to be led by a heroin-addicted (and not un-racist) Clive Owen.

That a director like Soderbergh is bringing this kind of material to the small screen says a lot about TV’s new wave — including its ability to give actors like Holland their big break in a way that previously only the silver screen could. “The first time I met Steven was at a lunch, which was a part of my audition,” Holland says. “I was very nervous going in as I’m such a big fan.” But once he got past his nerves (and got the role) it was cinematic magic from there on out. “Steven is a fiercely intelligent guy; he doesn’t believe in making things any more complicated than they have to be. He surrounds himself with extremely talented artists and craftspeople. He really trusts actors to do their own work. He expects that actors will come in with their own ideas. He has a great way of hearing everyone’s ideas while also maintaining a strong sense of where he wants it all to go.”

The acting and cinematography on The Knick are incredible. Ultimately, though, what stands out is the story. The show doesn’t sugarcoat anything. “I loved the way the scripts didn’t shy away from racism,” says Holland. At every turn the audience is confronted with its appalling ubiquity: There’s no telling oneself that “I” would have been the “good” 19th century New Yorker. There was no such thing.

Similarly, Holland’s character is no angel. Yes, against all odds this young black man has become a doctor and is helping untold numbers. But there’s a “darkness and rage inside of him that occasionally comes out,” says Holland. “People have asked me why Algernon gets in so many fistfights. Well, I think he understands firsthand what racism and bigotry can do to a person. That rage that he has must come out in some way.”

It’s challenging material of the sort that doesn’t focus-group well, but in the hands of masterful talent, is emotionally shattering. Holland points out how germane these themes are — obviously — to current events, before being reminded of a James Baldwin quote: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.”

A Conversation Between Steven Soderbergh and Neil LaBute on Filmmaking

Whether its psychological thrillers, heist comedies, gritty emotional dramas, or schizophrenic post-modern masterpieces, Steven Soderbergh’s work as a director has always been wildly varied but with a clear through-line of authenticity and intelligence—bearing the mark of not only someone who intimately knows his craft but has a voracious appetite for the medium. And with his remarkable films also comes his highly informative and entertaining commentaries. From the more straight forward approach of commenting to conducting mock interviews with himself, his knowledge always provides a most valuable resource.

But with an affinity for bringing together different artistic voices, Soderbergh has brought on numerous guests to accompany him in discussion and today we’re taking a look at a conversation between he and playwright/filmmaker Neil LaBute (whom we had the chance to speak with back in December for Some Velvet Morning). In these two segments below, LaBute acts of a moderator, asking Soderbergh questions as the two explore the art and process of filmmaking.

So take a listen below and while you’re in the mood, also carve out some quality time for Soderbergh on Soderbergh: Listen to Insanely Wonderful Schizopolis Audio Commentary.

 

 

From Ernest Hemingway to Steven Soderbergh: This Morning’s Glance at Arts & Culture

Before you dive into your workday, here’s a healthy serving of what’s been floating around the world of arts & culture. Dig it.

Fighting With Ernest Hemingway

“My writing is nothing, my boxing is everything,” claimed Hemingway whose passions clearly resided in the romance of the fight. 

Slicing Up Her with Soderbergh

Somewhere in the cinema-sphere there might just be a Steven Soderbergh cut of Spike Jonze’s Her, and we’re going to need to see that. 

Deeper and Deeper Inside Llewyn Davis

A fifth and probably not final trailer emerges for the Coen brothers’ highly-lauded new feature, now screening at NYFF.

An Not so Fabulous Fallout 

Ab-Fab’s Jennifer Saunders explains how BBC has now become a top-heavy place for executive idiots. 

The Animosity Surrounding the Cast of Blue is the Warmest Color Ceases to End

We’ll be sitting down with film’s star later this week, but in the meantime see Lea Seydoux and Abdellatif Kechiche have recently divulged about the controversial three hour lesbian romantic drama.

Baby, Your Going to Miss That Plane

Taking a look at the ten most romantic films of all time that happen to also be ten of the best movies of all time.  

Stevie Nicks Writes Game of Thrones FanFic

Well, fan poetry and wants to write music for the show. Need we say more?

A Clockwork Orange sans Kubrick, Starring Mick Jagger

It’s almost impossible to imagine but Mick Jagger (much better suited for the Nic Roeg world) was almost cast in as Alex DeLarge directed by, well, who knows. 

Watch Steven Soderbergh’s Keynote Speech at the San Francisco International Film Festival

Yesterday, we clued you into the fact that Steven Soderbergh was penning a novella…on Twitter. And today, we bring you another gem from the wonderful world of the "retired" director; for someone who has apparently taken himself off the directorial front—for film, for the time beging—he seems to be everywhere. And this past weekend, San Fransico held their 56th annual International Film Festival and of course, Soderbergh stepped up to the plate as the keynote speaker.

In his speech he covers everything from the costs behind Ocean’s Thirteen to quoting Steve Jobs about the value of intellectual property, and the "fungible algorithm that’s used when audiences want say no without, really, saying no." You can watch the speech below or read it in its entirety HERE.

Steven Soderbergh is Writing a Novella on Twitter

From his Oscar-winning, beloved, and acclaimed narrative features such as Traffic, Sex, Lies, and Video TapeThe Limey, Che, Side Effects, Magic MikeErin Brockovich, etc. to his documentary works like Gray’s Anatomy and And Everything’s Going Fine, there’s no denying Steven Soderbergh is as genius as he is prolific. But when you look back on his body of work, it’s hard to imagine that his 36 directorial features stemmed from the same bizarre and vast mind. And if there’s one pocket of that mysterious brain I’d always wished he’d return to, it’s wherever he stored the magic from his 1996 comedy Schizopolis.

And although he’s now "retired," Soderbergh is still pumping out projects left and right, and last night apparently took to his shadow Twitter account—not technically varified but he’s confirmed to be so—to do a little storytelling for us. With the handle Bitchuation, he’s posted little diddy’s and one-off things in the past, but as of yesterday, decided to grace us with seven chapters of a novella titled, Glue. It’s totally weird and nonsensical and maybe brilliant, making me feel like if this was an actual thing, could totally live in the world of Schizopolis. Beginning with the epitaph "’I am a human being, so nothing human is strange to me.’ Terentius" he then adds another epitaph before starting in on his tale, which hops and skips from photos, to brief snippets of story: "Your first memory of her was her neck. Neither of you said anything worth hearing that night, the first of three at the Nacional," to more of this: "turner’s fucking cat food if he doesn’t PHONE yes? BEAT hello? BEAT hi, ted, i was BEAT yes, i know i BEAT i don’t really have one right now."
 
When he’s not being dramatic, Soderbergh’s humor has always elicited the kind of laughter that’s almost silent, you know, that inaudible pitch of hysteria that causes you to flop over into the fetal position, rocking away. But whatever this novella tweeting is, I love it and fully support it. So take a read over on the page, and in while we’re here, let’s just watch some amazing moments from Schizopolis, because that’s what this was really an excuse for anyhow.
 

Shane Carruth & Steven Soderbergh Talk Cats, ‘The Limey’, and ‘Upstream Color’ at IFC

This past Saturday, I walked to the IFC Center for a mid-afternoon showing of Upstream Color to find the line for ticket holders longer than a city block. It was a beautiful day out and I truly didn’t mind waiting and was especially pleased because it reminded me that, okay yes, people are interested in seeing good films and the hunger for cinematic experience is still there. For a film as small and self-distributed as this, the success it’s had thus far is amazing—and I couldn’t be happier.

Anyhow, the line for this particular screening was even more long than the next showing because post-film there was to be a Q&A with director Shane Carruth, moderated by the one only Steven Soderbergh. After seeing his 2004 mind-bending time travel film, Primer, Soderbergh became a big fan of the up-and-coming filmmaker, who had been a massive fan of Soderbergh’s for years. He also was part of the producing process along with David Fincher to get Carruth’s unmade epic A Topiary completed a few years back. But on Saturday, the two took to the stage to discuss an array of things from the pattern of conspiracies in life, to the non-presence of cats in the film, whether or not Carruth’s boots proved he was intact an outdoorsy type.

The Playlist has a transcript of the wonderful Q&A, sprinkled with questions from the audience as well. Here are a few great moments but to read the rest, visit HERE. Also, take a look at our thorough interview with Carruth for more insight into his stunning and wonderful sophomore feature.

Warning: although this won’t "spoil" the film for you, there are a few things that might not make exact sense unless you’ve seen the film but whatever, it’s a great read anyways.

Soderbegh: Here’s a real question: are you prone to believe in conspiracies? Do you see patterns in the world as a person?
Carruth:
No, but it’s interesting, I’ve never been asked that and I actually feel the opposite. I would point to things in the film that showed the opposite — the lack of conspiracy. This story didn’t start with its weird elements, the life cycle, the worm/pig/orchid, it started at the center with these characters that I needed to strip of their identity and their narratives so they could be forced to regrow it and that leads to a whole set of other things. But I needed a construct to make that happen, so that’s where these other elements came into play and they are specifically made in a way that there is no conspiracy and there is no management — the thief, the pig farmer/sampler and orchid harvesters are all performing these little tricks in nature that benefit them, but are not, in their minds, they don’t care what came before or after. They’re not aware of that. To me, I was trying to create something that was long-lived and permanent and universal and not conspiratorial. And not good or bad, not malicious or benevolent.

Soderbergh: Should this have been called "Downstream Color"? Cause water goes…
Carruth: Oh, my god! You’re right! Because everything in it is so disconnected, especially the central characters being so affected by things off screen and at a distance — in my head it meant something that you couldn’t know where it was coming from. That it would also seem to be coming from some place that is — you would expect some effort to go and find it.

Soderbergh: I like cats, but there are no cats in this. What’s up with that?
Carruth: Laughs, you’re right. Unfortunately, you’re right. I had to pick a target demographic and yeah, pigs. People respond to livestock and not felines.

Soderbergh: I noticed you did a lot of jobs on this film, but not the catering.
Carruth: I had to leave something for my mom and sister in law.

Soderbergh: Just how much of the cutting to black in the film was a re-centering?
Carruth:
That’s interesting. The parts you’re talking about are the middle third which to me is the most subjective. If the first third of the film is mainly about the mechanics of the world and its more locked down than the rest of the film and it’s about control and putting Kris (Amy) through a process, the next third of it is much more subjective and seeing Kris and Jeff react to the events that we know they’ve been through, but they don’t know so my attempt was — as well as I could without any dialogue, without any POV shots — to convey subjectivity, their experiences. The music, the editing, the cinematography is meant to communicate that. Even using sound and soundscapes to as a way to show connectedness, or light and flares of light to suggest a presence. So those cuts to black they are my attempt at removing any sort of concrete timeline or sequence. I don’t think you can nail down exactly how much time has passed — whether this is a relationship that bloomed in a week or two and they got married they married 6 months later or the next day or what, its all meant to be a bit fragmented to convey that.

Photo via IFC Center

See a Wonderful New Trailer for Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Behind the Candelabra’

This past Saturday I had the great pleasure of watching Steven Soderbergh moderate a Q&A with Shane Carruth after a sold-out mid-afternoon screening of his incredible new film Upstream Color. Of course, Soderbergh, "retired director" asked a sprinkling of serious questions about the film but also went on to question such things as: for all the pigs in the film, why were there no cats? And so on. But when not interviewing beloved young directors for awestruck audiences, Soderbergh is currently putting out the highly-anticipated Liberace drama for HBO, Behind the Candelabra. In an interview back in January, he said that the film was, "really fun. The world of it was just bananas. It was great to see Michael [Douglas] and Matt [Damon] jump off the cliff together. Nobody can accuse them of being shy. They just went for it. It’s pretty gay." 

Douglas and Damon take center stage in the film that focuses on Liberace and Scott Thorson—his companion/lover/friend. And with wonderufl a new trailer released, this looks to surely surpass the glitz and chintz, as the actors provide a deep emotional base for the story as they disappear into their characters. We also get a look at Rob Lowe as a plastic surgeon, Dan Aykroyd as Liberace’s manager, and Debbie Reynolds as Frances Liberace. And although it will be premiering on HBO on May 26th the film will have its debut at Cannes earlier in the month as well.

Check out the new trailer and stills from the film, thanks to The Playlist.

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A Look at ‘Behind the Candelabra,’ HBO’s Fantastically Coiffed Liberace Biopic

Several weeks ago, we were all aflutter at the prospect of David Mamet’s HBO biopic of producer Phil Spector, featuring Al Pacino donning an enormous ‘fro, and then when it aired, we were left shrugging our shoulders about it all. But HBO’s not out of the biopics-of-enigmatic-musical-figures-with-amazing-hair game yet. Over the weekend, we saw another brief but intriguing look at Behind the Candelabra: The Secret Life of Liberace, Steven Soderbergh’s long-brewing made-for-TV film about the life and work of the legendary pianist and entertainer. 

Michael Douglas plays the singer, awash in pompadours and sequins, seen in the teaser grinning and showing off his plumage and trying to channel the charm that made the masses fall in love. But it’s Matt Damon, who plays Liberace’s boyfriend Scott Thorson (who wrote the memoir upon which Soderbergh’s film is based), who steals the trailer, even if he barely says a word. It’s the hair. Somewhere between Starsky and Hutch and Bon Jovi, it’s a sight to behold, staying intact under Sgt. Pepper-style military hats and even while he’s in a hot tub with Douglas, drinking champagne. Man, the ’70s were quite a decade, weren’t they? Watch the teaser for the film, which premieres May 26th, below. 

Paul Schrader Calls ‘The Canyons’ ‘Cinema for the Post Theatrical Era’

Paul Schrader once said, "What fascinates me are people who want to be one thing but who behave in a way contradictory to that. Who might say, ‘I want to be happy, but I keep doing things that make me unhappy.’ He’s always been a man of contradictions and juxtapositions—whether’s it’s been within himself or in his films. Schrader wanted to be happy but would sleep with a load gun in his mouth; Travis Bickle wanted love but frightened people away.

And Taxi Driver aside, if you’ve seen his 1979 Hardcore, which is pure id Schrader, you understand that his vehement use of sex is never really about sex but about fear or perversion or guilt. And when I first heard he was teaming up with Bret Easton Ellis, I was a little perturbed but thought that if the two of them could meld their common interest the psychological dismantling of sex and aggression, this could be great. But with everything that’s been reported about the film, between the NYTimes pieces to SXSW’s rejection of the film—not to mention those heinous teasers—I’ve grown more than skeptical. 

But there are those who have seen the film. Scott Foundas, a critic for the Village Voice described The Canyons as "a fascinating meeting of the minds between Paul Schrader and Bret Easton Ellis." Steven Soderbergh, who was rejected from his offer to edit the film, recently said during a Side Effects Q&A that the film is "fascinating" and that there’s a "spectacular sex scene in it." Oddly, Nicolas Winding Refn has also seen the film but who knows what he would have to say.

However, Schrader still holds confident, calling it: "cinema for the post theatrical era." IndieWire reports that Schrader claims, "we are working with a new echoic paradigm." "We are in a  very fluid exhibition world where there are so many platforms," says Shcrader who was inspired by Ed Burns’ use of social media-led projects. "theatrical just has to be seen as part of a panoply of options. Straight to video isn’t even a relevant term anymore."