‘Eclipse' director pushed for bolder ‘Twilight' By Gina Piccalo For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Wednesday, June 16, 2010 LOS ANGELES -- David Slade, director of “The Twilight Saga: Eclipse,” knows his way around the macabre. He famously helped launch the winsome Ellen Page into the murderous mind of a sociopath in 2005’s pedophilia thriller “Hard Candy,” and spilled buckets of blood in “30 Days of Night,” a hard R-rated vampire horror film. But the British director has never attempted anything on the scale of the billion-dollar “Twilight” franchise, a bona fide cultural phenomenon borne of author Stephenie Meyer’s epic series of young adult best-sellers. That’s not to say Slade suffered much self-doubt when he accepted the offer to direct the third film in the romantic vampire series. Even before he was hired to direct Kristen Stewart, as vampire-loving teen Bella Swan, and Robert Pattinson, as her fanged boyfriend Edward Cullen, Slade made clear he wanted to do everything differently. “Generally I wanted to be much more cinematic about the film,” Slade said, perched on the edge of his chair in a hotel room at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles. The film’s June 30 release was just two and a half weeks away, and the director had put the final finishes on it the night before. “It was more sophisticated in its story. ... The other two films were very stylized, and I wanted to make a much more realistic film.” There’s a lot going on in “Eclipse”: an increasingly tense love triangle between Bella, Edward and teen werewolf Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner), the threat of a vampire vs. werewolf war, not to mention Bella’s own struggle to decide whether to become a vampire herself. (The book version weighs in at 640 pages.) The movie demanded equal parts action and romance, violence and longing. At the center of these converging plot points is Edward, the vampire with the Elvis hair and the heart of gold. Slade knew right away the character needed some butching up. For all his loveliness, Slade pointed out, Edward is still “a carnivorous monster.” And in at least one memorable scene in the new film, he demonstrates that. “I wanted him to be stronger, more aggressive, more dangerous,” said Slade. For Pattinson, Slade’s insight meant rethinking his entire idea of Edward, something the actor hadn’t done since the first film “Twilight,” shot two years ago. “On ‘Eclipse,’ I felt like I was doing a completely different movie and a completely different character,” Pattinson said. “I guess [Slade] was really fighting to make it not so solemn; to speed things up.” Slade came to the project in April 2009 with no time to spare second-guessing himself. He was hired within a week or so of having read screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg’s first-draft script and met Pattinson and Stewart on the set of “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.” Production started about four months later. He had just 50 days to shoot it in Vancouver, a slim window of time for a film of such “epic proportions,” said Slade. “It was nothing like anything I’d done before,” he said. “I learned more in the last year than I did in the last two films put together -- about all kinds of things.” Entertainment industry insiders considered Slade an edgy choice for the series, particularly after “New Moon’s” Chris Weitz, a writer-producer with a resume heavy on romantic comedies. Like Slade, “Twilight’s” director Catherine Hardwicke came from an indie drama background with experience directing young casts. But she had far more feature films in her repertoire than Slade, albeit as a production designer. Slade spent 16 years directing commercials and music videos before “Hard Candy.” Ultimately, though, he made his mark on the cast with his singular focus, his self-described “bulldozer” approach to his formidable deadlines and his meticulous work style. Stewart, for instance, pointed out that she learned early on to ask cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe just how close the camera was because Slade -- who favored extreme close-ups -- didn’t tell the actors. “Most actors are crazy and neurotic and don’t want to know the camera is up their nose,” she said, chuckling, “but it’s good to know.” Pattinson, meanwhile, sounded as if he was still trying to wrap his head around Slade’s direction. Compared to the first two directors, he said, Slade was strikingly bold. “When Chris Weitz came on, he came with the opinion that he liked the first one, he liked what the actors were doing,” said Pattinson. Slade, on the other hand, told the young superstar, “ ‘Doesn’t matter. I just want to do something completely different.' ” For his part, Slade acknowledged that his approach could be intense. “I prepare to the nth degree,” he said, “and I follow through with that.”

Eclipse’ director pushed for bolder ‘Twilight’
Wednesday, June 16, 2010

'Iron Man 2' bound to draw moviegoers. Goal of director, cast was give the ticket buyers ‘a good time.’ By Gina Piccalo For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Friday, May 7, 2010 Robert Downey Jr. was speaking in his usual rapid-fire way, those nervous dark eyes darting around the vast hotel ballroom, chiding the hordes of movie-junket journalists for ruining his grand entrance by crowding the dais too soon. Indeed, the usually forlorn group of reporters gathered at the Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles was uncharacteristically eager on this day. “Iron Man 2,” which opens today, marks the beginning of the busy summer blockbuster season. And its high-caliber cast, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Samuel Jackson, Mickey Rourke and Scarlett Johansson in a cat suit, makes it one of the year’s most anticipated movies. When someone asked whether Downey and “Iron Man 2” director Jon Favreau felt any pressure to live up to the 2008 original, which earned $585 million worldwide and rebooted Downey’s career, the actor leaned into his microphone and blurted out his answer first. “You mean, like it’s past tense?” he said with characteristic bite. “I didn’t sleep last night!” Early reviews suggest “Iron Man 2” won’t share the critical acclaim of its predecessor, but it probably won’t matter much at the box office. From a moviegoer’s perspective, the film is a fun ride with clever dialogue and fantastic performances. Favreau, for his part, is more confident. “We knew people were going to show up,” he said of “Iron Man 2.” “We just wanted to make sure everybody who showed up had a good time.” “Iron Man 2,” inspired by the Cold War-era Marvel Comics series, is set just six months after billionaire playboy Tony Stark (Downey) publicly reveals that he’s the one who has been flying around in the shiny red suit fighting bad guys. The celebrity hasn’t been good for him. He lives large. Too large, it turns out, for his battery-powered heart, which has a fast-approaching expiration date. Meanwhile, Russian ex-con Ivan Vanko (Rourke) is readying himself for revenge on Stark on the grandest scale. Rourke’s entrance as Whiplash is one of the film’s most spectacular scenes and his otherwise quiet performance brings surprising gravity to a comic book villain. Fortunately, he’s far more Viggo Mortensen in “Eastern Promises” than the purple plume-adorned, red tights-wearing Whiplash of the comic book. Strangely Rourke and his memorable exchanges with Sam Rockwell’s oily trouble-maker Justin Hammer bring some respite from the breakneck pace of the rest of the film. The story takes lots of jagged detours, the result of a heavily improvisational set. So much, in fact, that writer Justin Theroux, a lifelong Iron Man fan who is new to the franchise, was often rewriting scenes a dozen or more times during the shoot. At times, the script — particularly the scene depicting Stark as a falling-down drunk — seemed to embody the real-life Downey and his love-hate relationship with fame. At the press conference, Downey skirted admission of the parallels between Stark’s struggle and his own. “The mental and emotional aspects of developing Tony were for me a lot more, it’s strange to say personal, because it’s not necessarily related to my life,” he said, dropping the thought entirely. Instead, Downey reminded everyone of his drug-fueled infamy in another way. When asked whether, when he was growing up, he’d ever donned a super-hero costume, Downey quipped: “Growing up, no. But in my mid-30s. In Palm Springs. Right before an arrest. Yes. It was a premonition.”

‘Iron Man 2’ bound to draw moviegoers.
May 7, 2010

‘Losers’ director a part-time Atlantan By Gina Piccalo For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Tuesday, April 20, 2010 Paris-born director Sylvain White got his start doing music videos. But after he made his phenomenal debut with the 2007 blockbuster dance film “Stomp the Yard,” he was offered every dance picture script Hollywood could muster. He had something else in mind. White got hold of one of the hottest projects in town, the adaptation of the irreverent DC Comics graphic novel series written by Andy Diggle and illustrated by Jock. And he was determined to beat out the other higher profile filmmakers clamoring for the picture. But it didn’t come easy. White, 38, had to hard-sell Warner Bros. executives with an elaborate presentation. Even after he got the picture, though, he was under some serious budget constraints. Here he sings the praises of Southern life, (he’s a part-time Tucker resident), talks about his daredevil cast and the thrill-a-minute production, where even the most pyrotechnically difficult shot was done in just one take. Q: What intrigued you enough about the graphic novel “The Losers” to pursue making this film? A: I grew up reading graphic novels. I love video games. I really gravitate towards very eclectic sort of material. My first movie was kind of a dance film. And of course the way Hollywood works I got a bunch of dance movies after that. But I thought no that’s not what I necessarily do. All the directors I admire have had very eclectic careers. And I’m hoping that’s what I’ll be able to accomplish. Q: How did you end up doing this film from Stomp the Yard? Did you get the script and say this is the one? Did you have to sell yourself for this? A: It was a highly coveted project and a lot of people were up for it. I fell in love with the graphic novel. I’m from Paris and there’s a huge industry there. I always had a passion for it. That and video games. So I was always looking at those two industries for source material. I got the script. I re-read the graphic novels. I did a lot of research on it. I thought this could be a very original movie combining a humoristic tone with this hard-core action. I put together a huge visual presentation and a big pitch. I went into the studio and pitched my vision for the movie. It was supposed to be R-rated. I thought it should be PG-13. All my ideas for characters, actors, my vision for use of color. I wanted them to understand how I was going to make this different than what was expected. Q: For a film with a modest budget, you made it look spectacularly sophisticated. Did you actually shoot in all those different locations, Miami, Dubai, Bolivia? A: We shot the entire movie in Puerto Rico and we cheated all these locations. We were on a relatively tight budget for this movie and didn’t have the time to go all over the world to shoot all these scenes. So we found a place we could actually simulate all these locations. And that turned out to be Puerto Rico. It’s so rich in its environments and its infrastructure that you can really recreate a lot of different looks there. From Bolivia to downtown Miami. Q: It was strikingly shot film. Some shots look as if they were taken directly from the frames of the graphic novel. A: There were two elements in the graphic novel that I really gravitated toward. The first thing was the tone, this amazing thing in the writing that combines these fun characters with this cool action. Secondly the aesthetic of the graphic novel is beautiful. I collaborated pretty closely with the British illustrator Jock making sure the movie would mirror and reflect the tone and atmosphere of the graphic novel without having to necessarily replicate frames. For example, he’s got an amazing use of color. ‚ You turn the page and suddenly you’re in a completely new environment. ‚ I really wanted to stay true to that. Q: Some of the stunts in this film are pretty daring. The mid-air collision of the exploding Ducati and the plane. That fight scene in the middle of a burning building. You must have had a pretty experienced crew managing that. A: A lot of the stunts were done by the actors. Ninety percent. . . When you see Zoe [Saldana] and Jeffrey [Dean Morgan] in the middle of this room on fire, there’s no [computer generated effects] there. It was really them in the middle of a room on fire. We only had one take. Then the room literally burned down. And that was it! That was the end of the day! ... Normally you would have five days to shoot this scene and we did it in a day in a half. We did it in two takes. Q: Any other stunts that were particularly tricky? A: I like to do a lot of my effects in-camera. We didn’t have a budget for a bunch of special effects. . . . What you see is what was shot. We really did launch that motorcycle in the air, exploding toward the plane. . . . And at the same time, we only had one take. When I blow up that car in Miami, there was only one car to blow up. One take. And you just have to get it right. Q: You live part time in Atlanta. What is it about the city that convinced you to live here part-time? A: As you know, we shot Stomp the Yard in Atlanta. I spend quite of bit of time there. I fell in love with the city. It’s such a great city. I fell in love with a woman from Atlanta. My brother lives in Atlanta. I found a beautiful house in Tucker. I just decided to make that move. It’s a great way to get away from Hollywood and go back to something that’s a little more real. . . . Unfortunately a lot of the cliches and stereotypes about Los Angeles are true. Atlanta is a completely different city. It feels much more rooted and real to me. It seems that it’s fast developing and also on the edge. There are a lot of cool arts going through Atlanta. There’s really nice diversity that I like. It feels like a moving city. A developing city. It’s a place that’s happening. Having had such a great experience working there I just felt it was a great place for me to be. For me, Los Angeles is much more a work environment. In the film business you have to be here. I love to get away and go back to a place that’s more normal. More real. I feel like there’s a certain quality that people have in the South in Atlanta. A nice approachability, great social qualities that people have. And I love the food!

‘Losers’ director a part-time Atlantan.
April 20, 2010

‘Titans’ star picks roles with passion By Gina Piccalo For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Wednesday, March 31, 2010 Sam Worthington seems a bit over-determined to trump the superstar stereotype. He rode his bike to a news conference at the lavish Four Seasons Hotel in Los Angeles and sauntered onto a dais wearing a faded Iron Maiden T-shirt and a smirk. The 33-year-old Australian then regaled the small clutch of reporters with his salty language and unvarnished attitude about Hollywood, occasionally filling the room with his staccato laugh. Here he talks about living out of his car before James Cameron cast him in “Avatar,” his commitment to giving fans their money’s worth, and how he fought to change Perseus before he took on the role in the upcoming “Clash of the Titans” remake. Q: Is it true you lived in your car for a while before all this success? A: I hit 30. I woke up looking in the mirror one day. Didn’t like what I saw. So I sold the [expletive] mirror. Sold everything else. I call it Control-Alt-Delete. I had a great career — don’t get me wrong — in Australia. I worked for 10 years. Solidly. I just didn’t like the position I was in. So I sold everything to my friends at an auction at my house. It’s like that Rudyard Kipling poem: “Risk it all on a pitch and toss and lose. Breathe no word of your loss. And you’re a man!” I thought that was quite inspiring. I got in the car and drove and thought something’s got to give. Something’s got to crack. Little did I know that a man [James Cameron] would come along who could change my life. But I think also when you’ve got nothing to lose, you’ve got everything to gain. That was key ... So I put myself in the position where I had nothing. ... I still live the same way. I don’t own anything. Still got a couple bags. A bag of books and a bag of clothes. That’s all. Q: After “Terminator” and “Avatar” are you itching to do some intimate little character drama? A: No. I like to make movies that I would go and see. And I think that’s a good barometer on how I chose my movies. “Avatar’s” given me a lot of freedom. I’m not in this profession to be famous. That’s a by-product of the size and scope of the movies I do. You want to be famous; you’ll go broke. This job is too hard. And it requires a lot of skill and a lot of passion. So if I’m going to invest six months of my life in something it should be something worthwhile, and hopefully give the audience their 16 bucks worth. That’s how I look at the job. ... You get to the point where you play with the big boys, and I want to do big movies. Q: Has James Cameron shared with you any ideas of the next chapter of “Avatar?” A: Yeah. He’s mentioned many ideas. Even when we were filming he’d bring up ideas. I think with any undertaking and the manpower and time that it takes to make that kind of movie; Jim’s got to find the challenge. He’s got to push the bar again. He’s a man that raises the bar. Dares everyone to jump over it, to have the courage to jump over it. But he’s got to find the challenge for himself. ... Jim had an arc for three [films]. [But] we didn’t even know we’d get to a second one until it got embraced. The fact that it got embraced so quickly, so amazingly, was mind-blowing for all of us. Q: “Clash of the Titans” director Louis Leterrier said you changed his whole concept of what Perseus was going to be. A: I had an idea he shouldn’t be a god. Even though he embraces god’s gifts in the story. I’ve got a 9-year-old nephew. That’s a terrible message to give to him. That he can only succeed as a god? That’s a terrible message for all of us. So I really hammered home hard how [Perseus] should step aside and do it as a man. Then my nephew can go, “If you look deep inside yourself, you can achieve anything.”

‘Titans’ star picks roles with passion.
March 31, 2010

‘It’s really about the here and now’ By Gina Piccalo For The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Thursday, Nov. 26, 2009 When it comes to his work, Viggo Mortensen is nothing if not thorough. He took a road trip through the Midwest and spent time recording co-star Maria Bello’s uncle, a Philadelphia native, to nail his accent for “A History of Violence.” To understand his Russian mobster of “Eastern Promises,” Mortensen set out alone for Moscow, St. Petersburg and the Ural Mountain region of Siberia, spending weeks driving around without a translator. But for “The Road,” the 51-year-old Dane was already physically and emotionally spent, having just shot “Promises” and “Appaloosa” back to back, then attending to the rigors of being an Oscar nominee (for “Promises”). He hardly needed much preparation for his striking turn as a man wracked by loss and the physical strain of staying alive long enough to save his own son. While sipping a cup of Yerbe Buena tea in a hotel room that overlooked Beverly Hills, Mortensen talked about how he braced himself to portray a man living at the end of the world. Q: What was it about this role that struck you as important? You had been working a lot when you got this script, but then you read it and you felt you needed to do it. A: I wasn’t really in a good physical or mental state. I was kind of tired just from shooting two or three movies in a row. And then promoting them. I hadn’t stopped for a day and needed to just recuperate physically and mentally and just spend time with my family. And all those things. Life, you know? ... [But then] I read it. I said, “Oh wow. This is an emotionally tough journey, but it makes me feel and think so many things.” It’s a very personal kind of story. ... It could transport you and remind you of things you know in your heart about the value of life itself, about the importance of being kind, even if there’s no reason to be, of continuing of wanting to survive. That there were some answers here to be found. So I said, “Yeah. I’ll do it. At least I’m really tired. I’ll have a leg up there.” Q: When were you shooting this? A: This movie was almost ready but not quite this time last year. And I’m glad they didn’t put it out. Because if they weren’t sure, I don’t think it was probably structured as well as it is now. It wouldn’t have been as good an adaption if they’d rushed it. ... So the time we were shooting was quite a while ago. I got the role and was in the middle of shooting “Appaloosa” and at the same time, somehow promoting on evenings and weekends “Eastern Promises” and then surprisingly being nominated for awards and also having to travel to places. The day before we started shooting, I was at the Oscars, you know? Which is why I had that beard. It was kind of stressful. But that stress put me at a fragile place to begin with which probably helped me, just take that leap that I was going to have to take one way or another. Q: You prepared so intensely for your role as the Russian gangster in “Eastern Promises.” How did you prepare for this one? A: This wasn’t the same. I couldn’t really do that. ... I did do what I usually do. I was specific about where the character was from and what his name was and why I spoke with a particular kind of accent based on being from a certain specific place and having moved to another. ... I listened to certain kinds of music, watched certain kinds of movies, read certain things, to get myself in that frame of mind. Q: What kinds of music? A: All kinds of stuff. Mostly classical music and some older songs just because of the lyrics and what they evoked in me. Q: Which movies did you watch? A: I looked at, for example, Maria Falconetti’s performance in [the 1928 film] “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” which I watched too many times. But that was sort of a touchstone. And then, visually, some [Andrei] Tarkovsky movies. For the boy, [the 1962 film] “Ivan’s Childhood” and some others. [Aleksandr] Sokurov’s [1997] movie “Mother and Son,” this beautiful poem of a movie. But in the end, I had to kind of cast them all away as you always do. But never more so than in the experience of shooting this movie, telling this story, because it really didn’t matter any more than knowing why the world was in the state it was. It’s really about the here and now. And I felt like that the environments that we were shooting in, that were so real and so naked, were a measuring stick. I had to be at that level. That kind of helped me. Not just that it was cold and stuff, which helped both of us, actingwise. But the brutality of the environment and this open wound of nature in its death throes, the toughness of that. You had to be at that level somehow. Q: Did you come to any conclusions or reach any sort of epiphany after working through this material so rigorously? A: It’s always better, no matter what excuse there is for not being kind, to be kind. To be loving.

It’s really about the here and now.
Nov. 26, 2009