Quentin Tarantino is standing in the middle of the Louisiana countryside, by the side of a path lined with oak trees that drip with Spanish moss. We are 45 minutes outside New Orleans, at a sugar-cane plantation dating back to the antebellum period. The scars of this dark chapter of American history still linger: hidden between the trees along the side of the path sit rows of flimsy wooden shacks where slave families would live in one-room squalor. “You can feel the ghosts here,” Tarantino says, perched on his director’s chair, with a wide-brimmed cowboy hat on his head. “There was real blood spilt on this ground.”
At the end of a winding driveway, perched on a hill overlooking the Thames Valley, sits Hedsor House, a beautiful Georgian mansion. The Buckinghamshire retreat once hosted visitors such as George III and Queen Victoria, but at the tail end of 2011, it has been taken over by theatrical royalty.
Rain falls onto a filthy street in early-19th-century Paris. It’s night-time, and the only person in sight is a scruffy-looking girl called Eponine, who wanders oblivious to the downpour. Her tatty brown rags are saturated as she sings an ode to unrequited love, her voice piercing through the sound of falling rain. As the song reaches a crescendo, she drops to her knees, lost in the raw emotion of her thoughts. Softly, she finishes: “I love him… but only on my own.”
In their first film together, the cracking hit-man comedy In Bruges, the writer/director Martin McDonagh laid the framework for an award-winning, career-best performance from Colin Farrell. Four years on, they are back with Seven Psychopaths, in which Farrell plays a Hollywood screenwriter struggling with the mechanics of a story about pacifistic serial killers. As they awaited the film’s premiere in Toronto in the summer, I met them for lunch.
The vistas of the Pacific Northwest might match those of the San Francisco Bay area for beauty, but the home of Laika studios — in a nondescript industrial estate 35 minutes from Portland, Oregon — is nothing to the lush green campus of Pixar’s animation hub down south. And while Pixar’s head, John Lasseter, favours Hawaiian shirts and open-plan offices, Laika’s chief executive, Travis Knight, prefers greys and blacks, and can often be found alone, in the dark, on a small stop-motion set, serving in his other capacity as the studio’s lead animator.
Could Joss Whedon be Hollywood’s unluckiest man? The 47-year-old creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which ran for seven seasons from 1997 to 2003, reinvented television and created a cultural phenomenon with his tale of a high school student forced to battle demons both literal and metaphorical. But as subsequent work continues to draw critical praise and committed fans, Whedon’s ability to keep it on the air has been frequently tested.
Thirteen years ago, brothers Joel and Ethan Coen wrote, produced and directed The Big Lebowski and cast Jeff Bridges as The Dude, a character since permanently inked into the pages of pop culture history. True Grit, out in UK cinemas on 11th February, marks their first collaboration with the actor since that cult classic, and comes a year after Bridges’s Oscar-winning turn in the critically-acclaimed film Crazy Heart.
For many in the public eye, there’s only one question that is certain to puncture the ego: “Don’t I know you from somewhere?” For Dexter Fletcher, however, it’s a challenge accepted enthusiastically. “I have to look at the person and try to figure out what they’ve seen me in,” he says. “If it’s a geezer shouting from a van window, nine times out of 10 it’ll be Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. If it’s a woman with a blue rinse, Hotel Babylon. With cab drivers, it’s usually Band of Brothers.”
In the dying months of 2010, on a sound stage at Pinewood Studios, the boy who was Harry Potter is in the process of proving he has more to offer. There are two sides to Daniel Radcliffe on the set of this new film. The first is in front of the camera: pensive, still, silent. Radcliffe’s Arthur is a desperate man, still beside himself with grief at the loss of his wife, adrift in a creepy village itself all too familiar with death. Off screen, he is alive; high on the atmosphere of the set, to be found gossiping with the crew or reading aloud from a copy of The Timewaster Letters, Robert Popper’s zany correspondence with ever-patient department stores and industry associations. For Radcliffe, the attitude is as important as the acting. “I’ve seen film sets where the actors are playing up and they’re miserable,” he says. “I think you have a responsibility, as a lead actor, to be leading with energy as much as you can. I love my job and, generally speaking, I’m always happy on set.”
What would you do if you woke up tomorrow with telekinetic powers? “The answer isn’t that you’d make yourself a suit and swing from building to building saving the world,” says Dane DeHaan, the teenage star of Chronicle, a film asking just that question. “If a group of teens in real life actually got superpowers they would mess around, see how much fun they could have with it, and eventually it would probably all spin out of control.”