Maggie Smith is feigning her own murder. It’s for the benefit of the CCTV camera she’s just spotted in the corner of the room. “Who’s looking at it?” she wonders. “If you murdered me, they could play it back on the news, couldn’t they? It’d all be on film. Should I act it out?”
What’s the difference between a Broadway theatre, ancient Egypt and Bletchley Park? There might be some witty punch line to that question, but the answer is at the heart of the expanse of production design that went into some of this year’s top Oscar contenders. Kevin Thompson, Arthur Max and Maria Djurkovic faced the most disparate and disconnected world-building briefs when they signed on to create the looks of the current-day Birdman, as well as Exodus: Gods and Kings and The Imitation Game—both of which take on two polar opposites of the historical spectrum. The challenges they faced demonstrate the flexibility required by those toiling in production design today.
Despite winning this year’s Best Actor prize at the Cannes Film Festival, and being hotly tipped for BAFTA and Oscar nominations, ‘Mr. Turner’ star Timothy Spall says acting demands more than a passing familiarity with pain. “You spend a lot of time identifying with people who are in pain,” he says.
John Frazier is Michael Bay’s explosive best friend. The special effects veteran has made a career out of smashing stuff, flipping stuff, and making stuff explode, and he’s worked with Bay on all his films since Pearl Harbor. In his own words, he explains what it’s like making things blow up for the bombastic director.
The following unabridged conversation is the result of two interviews I conducted with writer/director Joss Whedon. The first and longest interview took place in February 2012, whilst Whedon was in London overseeing the scoring of The Avengers. The second interview took place at the Glasgow Film Festival a year later – February 2013 – when Whedon presented Much Ado About Nothing.
It’s a tough ticket to get, being one of the first people in the world to be given a hands-on preview of Grand Theft Auto V, the newest chapter in gaming’s most groundbreaking series. In film terms, it’s like asking to flip through the script of the next Star Wars movie. The GTA series has notched up sales in excess of 125m copies, and its last main entry, 2008’s GTA IV, made $500m in its first week alone, on its way to becoming the most lucrative entertainment release of all time — of any kind. GTA V is expected to be more successful still, making George Lucas look like a small businessman.
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.”
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.
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.”