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BLACK PANTHER In 1998, Blade effectively jumpstarted the age of cinematic superheroes. Twenty years on, another black hero headlines his own movie, and we were there every step of the way.

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MERYL STREEP AND TOM HANKS Steven Spielberg’s lead actors from The Post get together to talk about everything under the sun. Some will claim this is the first time Hanks and Streep have worked together, but who do you think played the volcano in Joe Versus The Volcano? Huh?

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THE SHAPE OF WATER Director Guillermo del Toro and his go-to creature guy Doug Jones reflect on a friendship that has spanned 20 years, six movies, and more rubber than a condom factory.

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REVIEW OF THE YEAR There are some who would say 2017 was a horror show of a year in which nothing good happened. Point those people at this celebration of all things cinematic, from Pennywise to Poirot’s magnificent ’tache. That’ll learn ’em.

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OSCARS SPECIAL Empire highlights some of the people and films we think will be bothering Oscar come March, from Gary Oldman to Margot Robbie. These aren’t cast-iron predictions, mind. We’re not that good.

Clockwise from top: Black Panther; Altered Carbon; Sweet

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12 STRONG Chris Hemsworth goes to war in a film that should be called Horse: Ragnarok.

THE COMMUTER Liam Neeson catches a train. There really is no end to his particular set of skills, is there? THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN The gang are back in a local photoshoot for local people. Warning: will cause nightmares.

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SWEET COUNTRY There’s a huge FOUR five-star reviews this month. Is this sweet enough? THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI Don’t worry if you didn’t see the first two ‘Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’ flicks. You’ll pick it up right away.

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI In the end, The Last Jedi was within us all along.

THE VIEWING GUIDE Brawl In Cell Block 99, a film more violent than two dozen icke hockey games. TERRY GILLIAM The naughtiest Python on his eclectic back catalogue as a director. Contains giggling.

BLACK MIRROR S4 Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the darkest social satire of them all? Why you are, dummy!

Country; Star Wars: The Last Jedi; Behind the scenes on The Shape Of Water.


#INVENTORS

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THIS MONTH AT EMPIRE WHEN I BEGAN my tenure as Empire editor in June 2017, one of the first people to reach out and congratulate me was Chris Murray — Empire’s founding editor when the magazine began being published in Australia back in 2001. Chris said he hoped I’d get to “enjoy the spoils of ‘the chair’ with gusto and abandon”, and that he also hoped to buy me a celebratory beer sometime in the future. This, to me, was akin to getting a blessing from the Godfather. As a young, wet-behindthe-ears writer from the country in the early-2000s, I found myself working in the big smoke on a magazine whose direct neighbour was Empire. As fun as my job was at the time, the truth was I had been a film obsessive since I was old enough to sit in front of TV — I wanted to work for Empire. Desperately. I mean, who the hell wouldn’t? I think Chris recognised me as a kindred spirit, a wide-eyed whippersnapper who loved movies and music just as much as he did. So began a friendship where Chris was very much like the effortlessly cool older brother you always wanted — forever pointing me toward obscure sights and sounds that widened my knowledge and appreciation. His passion was infectious, and simply knowing Chris increased your cool quotient by sheer osmosis. He was that guy. More importantly, Chris was, quite simply, a stand-up dude: witty, insightful, big-hearted and always great company. I didn’t get to see Chris as often as I wanted to over the years, but every time I did was a pure joy and an opportunity to talk movies or put each other onto the latest bands. And every time, Chris was still the coolest MF in the room without even trying. Chris tragically passed away in December, and sadly that celebratory beer never came. But I am thankful for every moment we spent together, and, as Empire’s biggest fan, I’m forever grateful for Chris’ role in its history — quite simply, without Chris there would be no Australian Empire. So wherever you are now mate, a heartfelt “thank you” from all of us. Chris also offered me another piece of advice during our correspondence last June: “Never be afraid to go to town, dress Empire up slick and excite/terrify the masses however YOU see fit — deal with the tired old smacks on the hand later, they never hurt.” If I can go forward into 2018 with even just a fraction of Chris’ boldness, enthusiasm for life and rebellious, punk rock spirit, then it’s going to be one hell of a year. Vale, my friend.

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EDITORIAL EDITOR JAMES JENNINGS 02 8268 4621 Star Wars: The Last Jedi ART DIRECTOR KATIE SMITH The Mountain Between Us PHOTO EDITOR KRISTI BARTLETT 02 8114 9493 Ingrid Goes West

CONTRIBUTORS Michael Adams, Liz Beardsworth, Elizabeth Best, Simon Braund, David Michael Brown, Jeremy Cassar, John Catania, Simon Crook, Nick De Semlyen, Phil De Semlyen, James Dyer, Danny Eccleston, Angie Errigo, Ian Freer, Alex Godfrey, Luke Goodsell, Jethro Haynes, Chris Hewitt, David Hughes, Dan Jolin, Luke Lucas, Danny Mackenzie, Ben McEachen, Jim Mitchell, Justin Metz, Anthony Morris, Ian Nathan, Kim Newman, John Nugent, Helen O’Hara, David Parkinson, Patrick Peters, Nev Pierce, Jonathan Pile, Kate, Poole, Olly Richards, Anna Smith, Damon Wise

ADVERTISING Brand Manager South Australian Advertising Queensland Advertising West Australian Advertising Director of Sales Sales Director, NSW & QLD Sales Director, VIC, SA & WA

Amanda Atkinson 02 8114 8085 Ben Wiles 08 8267 5032 Judy Taylor 07 3101 6636 Nicky Simpson 08 6160 8964 Fiorella Di Santo Jo Clasby Jaclyn Clements

MARKETING AND CIRCULATION Brand Manager Kathleen Chu Subscriptions Marketing Coordinator Thea Mahony 02 9282 8583 Circulation Executive Samantha Nelson 02 8116 9336

PRODUCTION Production Controller Chris Clear 02 9338 6175 Production Co-Ordinator Dominic Roy 02 9282 8691

EMPIRE UK Editor-In-Chief Terri White Associate Editor Liz Beardsworth International Director Simon Greves

With love and well wishes for a prosperous 2018,

A EDITOR

(...and our favourite film of 2017)

During his tenure as Empire editor, Chris would be photoshopped into famous film scenes — here’s three of his best…

BAUER MEDIA Publisher Andrew Stedwell

Empire is published in Australia by Bauer Media Action Sports Pty Limited, part of the Bauer Media Group, ACN 079 430 023, 54-58 Park Street, Sydney, New South Wales, 2000. © 2013, under licence from Bauer Consumer Media Limited. All rights reserved. The trade mark “Empire” and certain material contained herein are owned by Bauer Consumer Media. Printed by PMP Print, 31-35 Heathcote Road, Moorebank, NSW 2170, (02) 9828 1350. Distributed by Gordon & Gotch Australia Pty. Ltd 1300 650 666. Empire accepts no responsibility for loss of or damage to unsolicited contributions. ISSN 2205-0183 PRIVACY NOTICE This issue of Empire is published by Bauer Media Pty Ltd (Bauer).Bauer may use and disclose your information in accordance with our Privacy Policy, including to provide you with your requested products or services and to keep you informed of other Bauer publications, products, services and events. Our Privacy Policy is located at www.bauer-media.com.au/privacy/ It also sets out on how you can access or correct your personal information and lodge a complaint. Bauer may disclose your personal information offshore to its owners, joint venture partners, service providers and agents located throughout the world, including in New Zealand, USA, the Philippines and the European Union.In addition, this issue may contain Reader Offers, being offers, competitions or surveys. Reader Offers may require you to provide personal information to enter or to take part. Personal information collected for Reader Offers may be disclosed by us to service providers assisting Bauer in the conduct of the Reader Offer and to other organisations providing special prizes or offers that are part of the Reader Offer. An opt-out choice is provided with a Reader Offer. Unless you exercise that opt-out choice, personal information collected for Reader Offers may also be disclosed by us to other organisations for use by them to inform you about other products, services or events or to give to other organisations that may use this information for this purpose.If you require further information, please contact Bauer’s Privacy Officer either by email at privacyofficer@bauer-media.com.au or mail at Privacy Officer Bauer Media Pty Ltd, 54 Park Street, Sydney NSW 2000.


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CONTACT US VIA: EMPIRE MAGAZINE, LEVEL 8, 54 PARK STREET, SYDNEY, NSW 2000 / EMPIRE@BAUER-MEDIA.COM.AU / @EMPIREMAGAZINE (#EMPIREAUST) / FB.COM/EMPIREAUST

Printed letter writers this month will be the recipients of a brand spankin’ new Blu-ray copy of mother!, the freaky-deaky psychodrama-horror starring Jennifer Lawrence and Javier Bardem!

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Hey Empire, I had to write to you as a culmination of a project two years in the doing. Back in September 2015 I picked up a copy of your magazine ‘101 Movie Masterpieces’. Needless to say the essays were spectacularly written and I began the project which I called ‘Watching 101 Movie Masterpieces.’ I had already seen about 32 of the movies, but reading each essay before and after viewing each of the unseen movies made a huge difference to my viewing pleasure. I was extremely impressed with each and every movie in that they all had something to say in deep and meaningful ways — from the incredible achievements of the early silent movies mentioned (Intolerance and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari) through those with amazing stories to tell like Lost Horizon, Solaris, The Badlands, The Lives Of Others and Oldboy. Even the more difficult movies to penetrate (Eraserhead, A Clockwork Orange, 8½) all impacted and changed my thinking is some way. A lot of films highlighted how amazing some of the actors and directors were in the past. Bogart and Bacall in The Big Sleep? WOW! Billy Wilder’s direction of Double Indemnity? WOW again. My favourite film of the lot — and now my favourite film of all time — is Top Hat in which Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers are amazing as the leads. A truly funny movie with the best incorporation of dance into the plot ever. A perfect piece of cinema magic. So yes, two years on and I have seen all 101 movies. Now to go and find the 2016 ‘101 Movie Masterpieces Volume 2’! Thanks for a great journey, Empire. Be seeing you some more. DAVID CM, PALMWOODS, QLD

David, you are why we keep doing what we do. A standing ovation for your fine efforts!


COREY CONFUSION Just thought I would point out a bit of an error in your Coreys article Empire #199, October 2017). I would not normally do this but I am a huge fan of the lads and since Corey Haim is no longer with us I thought it would be the right thing to do by him. The article early on clearly points out that Corey HAIM dies in 2010. In the last few paragraphs at the bottom of page 61 it goes on to say “Everyone was on drugs,” Haim told Stratford in a Vice Interview in 2012. Now I have read the whole part of this a few times and thought maybe its how I have perceive things, or maybe it is Jennifer Stratford that has been quoted here in 2012, not Corey HAIM, but the more I read it I feel it is HAIM being quoted despite having been dead for two years. I am not blaming anyone at Empire for the mistake as maybe Stratford has stuffed her dates up. It just does not clearly convey the point properly and as a result ruined a great story. DARREN NAISBITT, MENTONE, VIC Thank you for getting to the core(y) of this problem, Darren. No Haim intended.

EMPIRE, HOW DARE HUGH! Dear Empire, love your magazine and read it avidly each month. However, I take issue with you about several comments you made about Hugh Jackman, one of my favourite stars. I know he can sing! His career is so much more than Wolverine! From 2000 to the final film Logan, he was a star in that role. In between he was in so many other roles including the musical Les Miserables. On page 51 of the December issue you state “he enjoyed a stint in musical theatre as a cub actor.” What bullshit! He starred on the London stage in Oklahoma in 1998, and made it into a film in 1999, then played Peter Allen in The Boy From Oz on Broadway 2003-2004, winning the Tony Award in 2004 and he later toured the show in Australia. In 2015 he toured Australia with the show Broadway To Oz. This was no “cub actor”. I reckon a correction is due, maybe even a bio article on Hugh sometime soon — I’m a fan, obviously.

and hand-drawn Porgs and weird title in the middle of the page. It’s okay, the content has been great and I love the mag and I certainly still love getting it delivered to my door. STUART SEMMENS, VIA EMAIL

Wait — you don’t like Porgs?! Outrageous!

REVIEW OF REVIEW I may be old-fashioned being into DVDs and Blu-rays, but my favourite section of your magazine was always ‘Review’. I liked how it wasn’t just about the big releases but also small, obscure movies or TV shows. Over the last few

months this section seems to be slowly disappearing, much to my disappointment. I know these days people watch a lot of content on Netflix, but I know Aussies are still buying DVDS and Blu-rays, so surely people other than me would be interested in your reviews? ZAC, VIA EMAIL

Thanks for the feedback,Zac! We don’t want to run reviews twice (both in ‘OnScreen’ and ‘Review’), but point taken. It’s hard to keep everyone happy, SPINE QUOTE but we’ll certainly always HONO R ROLE do our best to please!

IN THE OFFICE THIS MONTH

SPINE QUOTE #201 “I’ve come to help you. Hear my voice. Come back to the light.”

THE CONNECTION “Spoken by Arwen (Liv Tyler) in The Fellowship Of The Ring. The link is the struggle between the light and dark side which Frodo and Kylo share.”

MAGGIE COPE, SOUTH AUSTRALIA

THE WINNER Bradley Brynski, you’ve scored yourself a hat!

Sorry to hear you’re not “Cope”-ing with the article, Maggie (Best gag ever? Worst gag ever? Answers on the back of an envelope, please). What we meant was Hugh did musical theatre when he started out as a cub actor — this wasn’t meant to imply he never performed in musical theatre ever again. We would never “Hugh” such a thing! (Answers on back of an envelope, etc etc.)

Send answers to empire@ .com.au

PORGS, SCHMORGS! Just wondering what was up with the bizarre Porgs subscriber cover we received this month (Empire #201, December 2017)? After seeing the regular covers you’d promoted it was a real disappointment to get the boring black cover

We were lucky enough to hang with this shiny pair at a screening of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. They weren’t up for a selfie, sadly.

JANUARY 2018

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PULSE-Q UICKENING MOVIE AND TV NEWS EDITED BY JOHN NUGENT

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ON-SET EXCLUSIVE 12 STRONG OUT 8 MARCH

THOR GOES TO WAR From Asgard to Afghanistan, how Chris Hemsworth took on the Taliban in 12 Strong

DAVID JAMES

WORDS JAMES WHITE

Clockwise from left: Geoff Stults and Chris Hemsworth mid-fray on location; Director Nicolai Fuglsig briefs his star; Michael Shannon takes aim.

IN THE MIDDLE of a New Mexico desert, tanks are aflame, explosions tear up the dirt and Afghan warriors on horseback ride into battle. It’s all in service to 12 Strong (formerly Horse Soldiers), the true-life tale of a squad of American Special Forces, dispatched to Afghanistan after 9/11 to fight the Taliban alongside local tribesmen, swapping modern machinery for mares to navigate the mountainous terrain. After flexing his comedy muscles in Thor: Ragnarok, here is a reminder that Chris Hemsworth can still do tough, serious, gritty action. He’s not phased by the conditions. “This is most days,” Hemsworth tells Empire on set, matter-of-factly. “Dirty, explosions, gunfire, running around in heavy gear in the sand. I’m fucking busy, but we’re getting some great stuff.” Hemsworth is captain of a cast which includes Trevante Rhodes, Michael Peña and Michael Shannon — all taking orders from director Nicolai Fuglsig, a photojournalist who swapped snaps for shorts and ads, now bringing the story of the unlikely Afghan-American alliance to the big screen. “I knew we’d put a strong team together, and I wanted to find a strong leader,” Fuglsig says. “Chris has such an exuberance of leadership.” Inevitably, with such a cluster of testosterone, there were also workout competitions on set. Surely the God Of Thunder can bench more than most? “Not when Trevante’s around!” chuckles Hemsworth, who met his match with Moonlight’s muscle-bound break-out star. “People were saying to me: ‘Aren’t you supposed to be Thor?’ Apparently not when I’m standing next to that guy!’” He may be back on Earth, but some Asgardian spirit remains. JANUARY 2018

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Director Rian Johnson introduces The Last Jedi. Below: Johnson flanked by producers Ram Bergman and Kathleen Kennedy.

FIRST LOOK EXCLUSIVE A QUIET PLACE OUT 10 MAY

Weighing up the potential settings of Rian Johnson’s new nonSkywalker Star Wars trilogy

THE NEXT GENERATION? WORDS JOHN NUGENT

THE OLD REPUBLIC? THE CASE FOR: First mentioned by Obi-Wan in A New Hope, the Old Republic saw the Jedi as the guardians of peace and justice “for over a thousand generations”, before the Empire royally ballsed things up. It’s an ancient epoch in Star Wars mythology, covered extensively in non-canon video games and novels — but never on screen. Could it prove fertile ground for a new series? THE CASE AGAINST: The stakes are inevitably lower, as we know that the Old Republic is ultimately doomed to fall to the Empire. Plus, the phrase “Star Wars prequel” still sends shivers down certain spines.

THE UNKNOWN REGIONS? THE CASE FOR: Head west, just beyond the Outer Rim, and you’ll find yourself facing the Unknown Regions: a largely unexplored corner of the galaxy. Once thought to be impassable, it became a refuge for the Imperial fleet (and later the First Order) after the Galactic Civil War of the original trilogy. The Wild West of space, it could give Johnson free rein to let his imagination run wild. THE CASE AGAINST: Set apart from the weighty Jedi versus Sith saga, the lost frontier of the Unknown Regions might feel like small fry.

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THE CASE FOR: The new trilogy could easily do

for Star Wars what Jean-Luc Picard did for Star Trek: jump forward a century in chronology, ditch the established characters, and introduce a fresh, futuristic new setting — in the process, invigorating the franchise. THE CASE AGAINST: No new Star Wars movie has been bold enough to fully wipe the slate clean with entirely new characters and a new timeline. Is it too much of a dejarik-esque gamble?

A-list power couple John Krasinski and Emily Blunt team up for understated horror A Quiet Place

THE BOTHANS? THE CASE FOR: Famously inferred in Return Of

The Jedi, many Bothans died to gather intel on the second Death Star — and their story has never been canonically told. As Rogue One demonstrated, there are plenty of stories parallel to the main timeline yet to be explored — could the focus be on some unsung heroes of the galaxy? THE CASE AGAINST: Being overly entwined in the Skywalker shadow could limit the storytelling’s scope.

THE PORGS? THE CASE FOR: If

we are to believe certain corners of the internet, porgs are the future of this franchise: cosmic puffins whose cuteness, and canny merchandising strategy, has already dominated the conversation. Could these goggle-eyed cuddlemonsters one day rule the galaxy? THE CASE AGAINST: We see no downside to this idea.

WORDS HELEN O’HARA

IMAGINE SOMEONE, OR something, that hunts by sound: able to suss out a decibel across miles just as a shark can sense a drop of blood in the ocean. It’s a situation where dropping a plate could be deadly, a sneeze fatal. Swear because you stepped on one little piece of Lego and you’re a goner. Now imagine that you’re a parent to three small kids, and one of them is deaf. That’s the terrifying situation for the Abbott family in A Quiet Place, played by real-life husband and wife John Krasinski and Emily Blunt. “We’ve always talked about working together,” says Krasinski, who’s also writing and directing on the film. “But our whole theory was, you don’t want the headline of ‘they’re working together’ to be


Panic attack: Emily Blunt stars as a terrorised mother in husband John Krasinski’s new film. Bottom left: The couple enjoy a slightly less

GETTY, LANDMARK

fraught moment.

bigger than the movie. This one was so special, so different, that us being married weirdly helps.” Perhaps that’s because of the story’s insular nature, focused intently on one family, on a remote farm, facing a unique and terrifying threat. You have to believe in their relationship and reality if you’re going to experience absolute terror that this tiny, close-knit unit might g not make it through. It’s a story Krasinski got involved in while working on the up pcoming Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan T TV show. His producer, Andrew Form, h had a spec script by Scott Beck aand Bryan Woods, and asked if he’d be interested in starring. Though the scrip pt was more-or-less horror, a genre Krasinski says he’s usually too scared to watch, he was hooked by the low-volume, high-

concept premise. He asked to take another pass at the script, and in the course of rewriting was so obviously fired up by the material that Blunt encouraged him to pitch to direct as well. Then she read the script, and asked to be involved. Their onscreen children are played by two of this year’s youngest break-out stars, Wonderstruck’s Millicent Simmonds and Suburbicon’s Noah Jupe, alongside newcomer Cade C Woodward as the youngest of the bunch. Shooting took place on a farm in upstate New York. The location seemed heaaven-sent to Krasinski, uncannily close to the setting he had envisioned. “It took [cinematographer] Charlottte [Bruus Christensen] two hours to t believe that I hadn’t seen this before I wrote it.” A Quiet Place won’t be Krassinski’s first film — he previously directed 2009’s literaary adaptation Brief Interrviews With Hideous Men

and 2016’s family drama The Hollars — but it is his first studio film. As such, you might expect a certain amount of hovering from worried executives keen to keep the new guy under watch. Instead, they’ve sent him to the other side of the country and only visited occasionally, according to the director. “It could have gone completely differently,” marvels Krasinski. “[The studio] should have been all over me. They had every right to be on me every step of the way. But after my pitch to them that first day they just said, ‘Go make that movie, and if you make that movie that’s in your head and in your heart, that’s what we want. I was like, am I being punked? This is crazy.” Ashton Kutcher is yet to show, so it seems they were serious: no surprise given Krasinski’s evident confidence in and enthusiasm for his story. He clearly wants to shout about this from the rooftops — but given this film’s themes, shouting might not be such a good idea. So whisper it instead: this could be the break-out chiller of next year.

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SEA CHANGE Colin Firth tackles his darkest role yet in true-life sailing misadventure The Mercy WORDS JOHN NUGENT

“EVERYTHING I SAY now is a sailing analogy,” chuckles Colin Firth. “I’ve found myself saying, ‘Push the boat out,’ or, ‘Getting close to the wind,’ almost without thinking.” We should hardly be surprised. If Firth’s mind has been all at sea lately, it’s thanks to his latest movie role: Donald Crowhurst, an electronics salesmanturned-amateur mariner who in 1968 attempted to become the first person to sail single-handedly around the world without stopping. And as director James Marsh’s dramatisation of Crowhurst’s story, The Mercy, reveals, it didn’t end well. “One can really get immersed in Donald Crowhurst,” admits Firth, who was fascinated by the weekend sailor’s eight calamitous months at sea. “I was very struck by his stoicism. In interviews, he always had a very matter-of-fact, stiff-upper-lip quality to him. There’s maybe something in that, that he was a product of his cultural environment. It’s something I do relate to.” Yet during his voyage, Crowhurst underwent a torturous transformation, which required a transformation of Firth too, from a dashing dreamer with a strong selection of tie-and-cardie combos to a dishevelled, emaciated and mentally unhinged failure, facing his personal demons and suffering nightmarish hallucinations. It’s unlike anything we’ve seen from the Oscar-winning actor. It certainly looks painful. But Firth brushes aside any notion that he suffered for his art, though it involved a long stretch of filming at sea just off the coast of Malta. “There were times where it got a bit rough,” he says. “But it was more a case of relentless inconvenience than anything too hairy.” Firth did lose some weight for later scenes, but a non-chronological shoot meant he had to, as he says, “cheat it by contrasting it with a padded jumper”. The real acting challenge, he insists, lay in understanding Crowhurst, a man who made some appalling choices which only began with gambling his livelihood on the race and abandoning his family. Firth is sympathetic. Crowhurst’s poor

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Above: Donald Crowhurst (Colin Firth) struggles at sea. Here: Recording an audio diary for the BBC. Below: Crowhurst’s ordeal grows.

decision-making, as he sees it, came in “increments”. “A small compromise leads to another one,” he explains. “If he went forwards, he would die. If he went home, he was ruined. He felt compelled to look for a third way. Look, I’m not going to defend what he did. I understand the reaction. [But] you only have to look a little deeper to realise that’s not the full story.” THE MERCY IS IN CINEMAS FROM 8 MARCH


Thomas (Dylan O’Brien) leads the Gladers on their final mission. Below: Brenda (Rosa Salazar) and Jorge (Giancarlo Esposito) on a dangerous road. Bottom: Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) on the run.

How director Wes Ball overcame injury, delays and the YA bubble bursting to complete his Maze Runner trilogy WORDS JOHN NUGENT

WE SHOULD HAVE seen The Death Cure by now. The final entry in the post-apocalyptic Maze Runner series was due for release in February 2017, and was on track to hit that date — until its lead actor, Dylan O’Brien, was hit by a moving vehicle while filming an action sequence, and reportedly left with “concussion, facial fracture and lacerations”. Director Wes Ball, who has been with the trilogy from the start, is clearly still distressed by the ordeal. “It was shitty,” he says of the experience. “He’s my buddy. The image of it is locked in my brain forever. I felt like, ‘What have I done? It’s my set.’” Production paused for a year to allow O’Brien to recover, both physically and mentally, and Ball assures Empire that, “Once we got going again, he was the same old Dylan.” But the experience has changed Ball’s entire approach to filmmaking, he says; the action sequence in which O’Brien was injured was largely recreated with clever use of CGI. “By that point, I was not going to put Dylan on a moving car, period,” Ball insists. More pressing now, perhaps, is how the world has changed since their break. YA rival The Hunger Games is no more, while the Divergent series died a death at the big screen and moved to TV. Is there even an appetite for this sort of material anymore?

“I don’t see our movie as being similar to those movies,” says Ball defiantly. “I’ve just tried to make a fun adventure movie with characters who happen to be young. I hope that the quality of our story will be the thing that sets us apart from, say, Divergent.” Recent events, meanwhile, seem to make a scorched-earth dystopia more relevant than ever, Ball argues. “People are feeling unsettled and uneasy about the future,” he says. “Especially young people. I guess I still have faith in our humanity that we’re going to figure our problems out! At least, that’s how we try to end things [in the film].” Against all the odds, we will finally see The Maze Runner’s conclusion — and on something of an optimistic note. MAZE RUNNER: THE DEATH CURE IS IN CINEMAS FROM 18 JANUARY

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A sci-fi of infinite ambition From storytelling scale to immortality, Altered Carbon knows no limit

Clockwise from main: Ex-mercenary Takeshi Kovacs (Joel Kinnaman) is on the hunt for a murderer; Human consciousness can be digitised and downloaded into new bodies; Takeshi looks out on a brave new world; Quell (Renée Elise Goldsberry) is leader of the Envoys — elite

IMAGINE IF DEATH was not the end of your life but merely a minor inconvenience. That’s the world that Netflix’s new sci-fi-noir series Altered Carbon imagines: set 500 years in the future, it depicts a society in which humans can live indefinitely, with memories saved to a digital ‘stack’ in your spinal column and constantly reuploaded to a new body (a ‘sleeve’). Originating as a novel by British writer Richard K. Morgan, it was planned as a movie, but the vastness of Morgan’s 26th-century universe could not be contained in two hours. “Frankly, it was too dense,” says executive producer and showrunner Laeta Kalogridis, who approached Morgan directly for the rights. “The world he created is too deep and rich.” So it became a 10-hour Netflix show, with more than a whiff of Blade Runner in its existential themes and cyberpunk aesthetic, an influence Kalogridis acknowledges. But more important was hardboiled film noir. “Not just in terms of look,” she explains, “but the story. I grew up on the intensity of the transgressive quality of noir.” That influence is clear from the first episode, in which ex-mercenary Takeshi Kovacs (played by Joel Kinnaman, and at least two other actors) is ‘resleeved’ by Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy) to solve a murder: his own. “It’s the sort of thing you dream of, as a showrunner — as any artist really,” marvels Kalogridis. Spanning centuries, planets, languages, and even multiple actors for a single character, Altered Carbon’s scope borders on boundless. JOHN NUGENT

interstellar warriors. ALTERED CARBON IS ON NETFLIX FROM 2 FEBRUARY

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Director Warwick Thornton.

Sergeant Fletcher (Bryan Brown), Sam (Hamilton Morris), Lizzie (Natassia Gorey-Furber) and Fred Smith (Sam Neill) in Sweet Country.

Q&A The Australian film director on his stunning new Outback western Sweet Country WORDS JAMES JENNINGS

Congratulations on Sweet Country, which seems to be collecting awards left, right and centre. Thank you. Yeah, all fun and games. It’s good for the film, bad for my ego. Can you tell us about the real-life events the film is based on? It’s based on my sound recordist David Tranter’s grandfather’s story. We grew up together in Alice Springs and he’s done sound on every film I’ve ever made. He said, “I’ve got a really good idea for a film.” I kinda get that a bit from grips and gaffers and the occasional make-up artist, you know, “I’ve got an idea for a film.” And you go, “Okay, well go and write it.” That’s how I kind of get out of it. But then David did something about it. He sat down and he bloody wrote it, and the script was there. Another man named Steve McGregor came along and helped work on it with him and made it really beautiful. It’s based on a true story set in the late 1920s in Central Australia. It’s been changed a fair bit to help with the dramatic arc and three acts.

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Some of the Indigenous characters in the film want to stay connected to their cultural heritage, and others feel like they have to assimilate. Was that something you wanted to examine from the outset? That was there from the outset to examine that, yeah. That’s based on reality, really. After World War I there was a massive land grab through the desert. A lot of places full of cattle station owners made a lot of money in World War I because of the price of cattle, the price of leather, the price of horses. Everything sky-rocketed by a thousand percent. They all made a lot of money. People pushed to claim a stake of Australia, and obviously Indigenous tribes were living on that land and had been there for 40,000 years. There was two ways you could actually act about it in person. If you wanted to be connected to the land that you actually were spiritually a part of, you either had to stay and conform, or you left. You know what I mean? A lot of people actually stayed and conformed. That was sort of the way there was a lot of free labour because aboriginal people on these cattle stations and sheep stations didn’t get paid, they got rations from the government. To stay and to be connected to the land you had to work on that land, which was quite difficult. The film feels like it’s really shining a light on a lot of Australian history that has been swept under the rug and not talked about… Yeah, you don’t read about any of this sort of stuff in year 8 in school, you know what I mean? That’s the great thing about cinema. Having that access to your screens and having access to an audience. You wanna have a rollicking great old western, and you wanna have a rollicking great old romantic comedy, but as a filmmaker you wanna give the audience access to stuff that they have never been privy to before because our education doesn’t actually have it in the curriculum. A bold stylistic choice in the film is that you have no music at all… We just wanted to keep a sort of realism. As the director I didn’t wanna start dictating to the

audience to be happy or sad, or start dictating the emotional journey through music. I decided to pull the music out so that it felt like you’re listening to the landscape, and you’re listening to the desert, or you’re listening to the voices — you’re not listening to the director trying to tell you, “You’ve gotta be sad right now. You have to be happy right now” because of a piece of music I play. It made the producer happy because they didn’t have to pay for it! You also decided to cast a lot of Indigenous people who’d never acted before… I wanted Indigenous people who actually had a connection to the country and a connection to the story. So I said, “I wanna cast the whole film with Indigenous people from Alice Springs so that this story is their story,” because all of these people grew up on cattle stations, the land that was originally theirs, their grandfather’s had to work for free and all that kinda stuff. So I wanted people who emotionally and spiritually actually were connecting that way, because I saw that was more important ... I can teach people to act, because that’s pretty easy. That’s just about confidence, and about breaking down the barriers. That’s something that I couldn’t teach, that connection to country and spirituality, which I think shines through between Hamilton Morris and Natassia Gorey-Furber... When they’re walking that country there’s a real ownership of the land, even though they are on the run. That was more important to me. What’s next on your slate? I’m promoting this at the moment but I’m in negotiations at the moment to do a 10 one hour vampire series set here in Australia, which could be really exciting. Completely out there, total rock and roll. Set in Coober Pedy. That’s gonna be interesting. We’ve basically written the script so maybe at the end of next year there’ll be something really exciting on television. SWEET COUNTRY IS IN CINEMAS 25 JANUARY AND IS REVIEWED ON PAGE 26


The huge success of It has inspired a full-on Stephen King resurgence. Here’s what’s on the horizon WORDS DAN JOLIN

CASTLE ROCK I know, I think just a documentary about him would be a horror film. There’s not much you need to do there, the work’s been done for you. There’s just a lot of stuff that is horrific, and if something in the news is horrific, that means it would make for a good horror film.

Writer-director Leigh Wannell on keeping things fresh in he and James Wan’s Insidious series WORDS JAMES JENNINGS

Is it difficult keeping a horror film fresh when you’re up to the fourth in a series? We’d gone through different iterations of a haunted house movie in the past, but I’d never approached it like a mystery before. That was really the key that unlocked this film, to use a metaphor that relates to the movie itself. If you’re talking in terms of the horror genre itself and keeping that fresh, I think the only thing that’s going to keep the horror genre alive is filmmakers who are doing new things. I think Get Out, which was a huge hit in the US, is a perfect example of how you can use social issues that are dominating the headlines as a fertile ground for horror films. Going right back to George Romero making Dawn Of The Dead as a kind of gory satire of consumerism, it shows you that horror is great at being metaphorical for this stuff. The great thing is, the section of the audience that can recognise those metaphors and themes and subtexts, great, they get it. Those that just want to go and watch zombies eat people’s brains, they’re also entertained. You can disguise your themes within the giftwrapping of the horror genre, and so my hope for the genre is that social issues that are in the news right now start to surface more. How about a Trump horror film? I imagine that wouldn’t be all that difficult to write…

Insidious: The Last Key is a prequel. Did you study any other prequel films for pointers? I actually didn’t go back and investigate prequels so much. I think that with the Insidious movies we’ve kind of written ourselves into a corner, in the sense that the character of Elise [Lin Shaye] died in the first film. James Wan and I have a terrible habit of killing off potentially lucrative characters, leaving the producers and writers with migraines figuring out how to keep them going in the story post their death. I knew that I wanted the film to be about Elise. As soon as you make that decision to put her in the lead, you realise you have to go back in time, because there’s no more story to tell. I certainly didn’t want to do the Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze version, where my character is sitting there talking to Elise’s ghost. I wanted Elise very much alive. Lin Shaye is a firecracker of a human being, if you’ve ever met her you’ll know that. You don’t want her wandering around in pale make-up, you want her alive and kicking. I realised I wanted to make the film a prequel and go back into her childhood. Lin must be thrilled you brought her back… Exactly. Her and Tobin Bell [from the SAW films] are having cocktails at the “characters that are dead, but continue to star in movies” club. It only has two members. I’m the maître d’ at the club who makes sure that the right people are getting in.

Take a variety of characters from the King ‘universe’ and mix them together in one prestige, psychohorror TV show. Sissy Spacek, Scott Glenn and Bill Skarsgård (aka Pennywise) all star.

IT: CHAPTER TWO It director Andy Muschietti is returning to Derry to adapt the other half of King’s colossal novel, which focuses on The Losers’ Club once they’re all grown up, in 2019.

PET SEMATARY This long-in-development-hell ‘remake’ of the King favourite about the grave dangers of bringing back the dead recently got resurrected by Paramount. Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer (Starry Eyes) are on board as directors.

REVIVAL King’s 2014 novel about a Dr Frankenstein-like faith healer is in development at Michael De Luca Productions with Josh Boone (The New Mutants) as director.

THE TALISMAN Arguably the best-loved King novel to remain unadapted (though co-written with Peter Straub), this parallel-world-hopping quest is being produced by Frank Marshall for Amblin Entertainment.

DOCTOR SLEEP The sequel to The Shining, picking up with Danny Torrance 30-odd years after his stay at The Overlook Hotel, is being adapted by Akiva Goldsman (Batman & Robin, A Beautiful Mind), with King himself in an executive producer role.

FIRESTARTER Another new take on a previously adapted novel (Drew Barrymore starring in 1984). Jason Blum, the producer behind Get Out and Split, is driving it forward, with Akiva Goldsman (him again) directing.

INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY IS IN CINEMAS 8 FEBRUARY AND IS REVIEWED ON PAGE 33

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A WOMAN APART Why Chilean drama A Fantastic Woman is making waves with breakout trans star Daniela Vega WORDS OLLY RICHARDS

THERE ARE TWO reasons Daniela Vega should be one of the most talked-about actors of 2018. The first, and most important, is her performance in A Fantastic Woman. For Sebastián Lelio’s drama, the 28-year-old plays Marina, a waitress and lounge singer whose much older boyfriend suddenly dies. Marina is left homeless and questioned about her involvement in his death. She just wants to grieve as any other girlfriend would, but her boyfriend’s family and various government authorities won’t allow it. The reason? Marina — like Vega herself — is transgender. The vast majority of people she meets treat her with suspicion, like some curiosity they’re trying to work out, and Vega plays the raw pain and determination of someone who battles every day just to be accepted as who she is. The second reason she’ll be talked about: already, Vega is considered a serious contender in the Best Actress race this awards season. Any nominations would be a major step for transgender actors. In 2016, transgender actor Mya Taylor won an Independent Spirit Award for

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Tangerine, and in TV Laverne Cox, of Orange Is The New Black, has twice been Emmy nominated, but an Academy Award nomination for Vega would be an Oscar first. When Empire asks about all this attention, the Chilean actor, speaking via a translator, puffs out her cheeks and exhales heavily. “I just hoped the movie would be seen,” she says. “What happens next… We were never expecting this explosion of interest from all over the world.” The level of talk around Vega, in her first major film role, seems a heavy weight to bear. With transgender issues in the public conversation more than ever before, any trans person with a public profile becomes in effect a spokesperson, expected to answer complex questions about LGBT politics, from Trump’s proposed military ban to Theresa May’s proposals to reform the Gender Recognition Act. It’s not something Vega is comfortable with. “No, no, no, I only speak for myself,” she insists. “Other people who are activists can answer the questions about the experience of being trans.” Vega is keen to shift the conversation around A Fantastic Woman from being a film about a trans woman’s grief and struggle to simply a story of a human’s grief and struggle. “I think everybody has experienced violence at some time in their lives,” she says. “I think that’s what makes anyone able to connect with Marina — whether man, woman, cis or trans.” A FANTASTIC WOMAN IS IN CINEMAS FROM 22 FEBRUARY

Marina (Daniela Vega) with lover Orlando (Francisco Reyes). Below: Vega preps on set. Bottom: Fantastic woman.


Liam Neeson and Jaume ColletSerra discuss their new action thriller The Commuter

ALAMY, REX FEATURES

WORDS CHRIS HEWITT

THIS MIGHT COME in handy down a pub quiz one day: who’s the director Liam Neeson has worked with the most? Not Neil Jordan, with three. Not Christopher Nolan, nor Martin Scorsese, nor even the great Olivier Megaton (two each). No, the honour goes to Spanish film-maker Jaume Collet-Serra who, with The Commuter, has racked up his fourth movie with the greatest living Northern Irishman. This late-blooming beautiful friendship began in 2010 when Neeson, scouting for a

director for Unknown, was shown Collet-Serra’s bonkers horror thriller Orphan by producer Joel Silver. “It just scared the shit out of me,” laughs Neeson. “After that, I was really excited to work with him. We love each other’s company on set. We have this shorthand going on between us.” At first glance, The Commuter’s plot — in which Neeson becomes embroiled in a high-stakes whodunnit aboard a New York train — seems to be a retread of their second film Non-Stop (air marshal has to find hijacker mid-flight) but, its director assures us, “I couldn’t make two movies that are the same.” To set the two apart, The Commuter posits Neeson as an ordinary guy and embraces the actor’s age. His character is 60 years old and, while he can still handle himself, is far from the unstoppable daughter-rescuing machine we’re used to seeing. “It’s always on my

mind,” says Neeson. “I did turn 65 this year. I’m very aware that audiences aren’t fools. The day I ’t ft t i d fi hts, n’t be ges als to st yet a says uld ther? ore!” MAS

e: Liam on with tor e t-Serra t. Left: Neeson Michael, surance man on unt.

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Edward (Reece Shearsmith) and Tubbs (Steve Pemberton), photographed exclusively for Empire in Old Granada Studios, Manchester, on 18 October 2017.

As The League Of Gentlemen returns, Empire joined them on set — and recreated some iconic moments from movie history WORDS ALEX GODFREY

PORTRAITS DAVID VENNI

IT’S AN ABSURD old afternoon in Manchester. On a crate masquerading as the bow of the Titanic, Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith are playing Tubbs and Edward playing Leonardo and Kate. Tubbs is wide-eyed with joy, arms outstretched, Edward hugging her tightly. Off-camera, dressed as a female council worker, Mark Gatiss looks on, delighted. “Edward should be pushing Tubbs off the ship,” he grins. Royston Vasey’s very own Rose and Jack are recreating the scene for a special Empire photoshoot, which also includes Gatiss recreating (and possibly ruining) American Beauty’s most iconic moment. It can only mean one thing: The League Of Gentlemen is back. When the show appeared on TV screens in 1999, we’d never seen anything like it, and nor have we since it ended — three series and one madly meta movie later — in 2005. It was a multi-legged beast, the fictional town of Royston Vasey conceived as a framework to house sketches concerning an eclectic array of oddballs, from ghoulish shop-owners Tubbs and Edward, to freak-wrangler/wifekidnapper Papa Lazarou, to shady butcher Hilary Briss. Now, after 12 years in self-imposed exile, it returns to television for three Christmas specials. With Empire’s shoot over, we move to a dressing-room — in the studio down the hall, they’re filming the final scenes of what Gatiss is calling “a weird half-series”. It’s odd to be conducting interviews with Pemberton and Shearsmith, fully costumed and made up as Tubbs and Edward — Empire has to concentrate firmly on the eyes, trying to ignore the snouts, wigs and incredibly authentic burn scars (the couple were last seen surviving a fire). A reunion was inevitable, they say. The show came to an end after 2005 film The League Of Gentlemen’s Apocalypse because they were worried it might lurch into self-parody. But, says Pemberton, “We always talked about doing ❯ something again.” Finally, this May, with 2017

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LOCAL HEROES


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Gatiss), photographed exclusively for Empire in Old Granada Studios, Manchester, on 17 October 2017.

marking the 20th anniversary of the radio show, Pemberton, Shearsmith, Gatiss and co-writer Jeremy Dyson decided to clear their collective diaries and get to work. “It was borne out of us wanting to spend some time with each other again,” says Shearsmith, “because we never quite do it anymore. We meet each other all the time in separate configurations, but it’s never more fun than when we’re all together. We cry with laughter.” To reacquaint himself with how he voiced some of the old characters, Gatiss watched the first two series, and found himself surprised. “It was a lot stranger than I remembered,” he says. “I used to get quite impatient with people saying, ‘Oh, I couldn’t watch it, it was too dark.’ I’d think, ‘Oh for fuck’s sake, grow up.’ Then I watched it again and I thought, ‘Hmm.’” He laughs. “It’s not so much the horror stuff, it’s just that thematically it’s often extraordinarily dark. Abusive relationships. But it’s a variety show: you can go from that to an

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exploding dog, to something quite sad, to something broad and bizarre.” The new shows ignore the meta events of the film, Pemberton explains. “That saw us as ourselves wrestling with the desire, or not, to carry on with The League Of Gentlemen, and our characters fighting for life,” he says. “We’re not addressing any of that; this is classic League Of Gentlemen, as if it’s series one or two.” (The third series was more dramatic in style.) Plot-wise, they’re keeping schtum. All Empire is told, courtesy of producer Adam Tandy, is that “there is a threat to Royston Vasey”. As far as the characters go, says Gatiss, “There’s an inevitable, quite pleasing melancholy about where they might have got to.” Gatiss also draws parallels to the real world. “Part of the over-arching story is a sort-of response to where this country’s got to. I think Britain’s become Royston Vasey. We’ve become a local country for local people: ‘There’s nothing for you

here.’ That seems to be the message we’re projecting to the world. So I think Britain seems to have caught up with us, in a strange sort of way. But obviously Royston Vasey is its own particular thing.” Shearsmith underlines that last sentiment, stressing that this is not “a Brexit special. We’re not doing anything clever with it,” he says. “It’s just going to return, like it’s never been away. And I think it really delivers everything fans will want. Jeremy said it’s like the Star Wars reboot [The Force Awakens] — it feels like the same again, but lovingly redone in a way that’s not upsetting.” We then head onto the set, where Empire gets to watch Tubbs and Edward in full flow — circumstances are different, but otherwise it’s business as usual for the local shopkeepers. It’s weird, it’s dark, it’s grotesquely sexual. And it’s funny as hell. Welcome back. THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN CHRISTMAS SPECIALS AUSTRALIAN AIRDATE IS TBC

HAIR AND MAKE-UP: MARCUS WHITNEY, ALISON WEBB, TORI ROBINSON,ELENI KYRIACOU. COSTUME: CLAIRE FINLAY THOMPSON. COSTUME SUPPORT: JOHN DUNN. PHOTOGRAPHER’S ASSISTANT: JON FENN

Aunt Val (Mark


d to that us green-screen, and no matter ppened as build-up, you have ely unengaging ending. Even Wonder he crown jewel of the DCEU, was a similarly bland finale. It’s a tricky t even Marvel has consistently but when they’re at their best train set, Civil War’s Iron Man fight) it’s because it’s in service racters. Batman can’t fight a god. ng him.

In the w League, suggests we’d like the DCE ILLUSTRATION

1 __ A GREAT VILLAIN

PILE, DEPUTY EDITOR

He’s got a giant horny helmet. H his name with a Canadian rock b he’s mates with some Parademon Steppenwolf proved a total dud, about magical boxes and lacking or history with the heroes. Unfort he’s just the latest DC villain-fail. Lex Luthor was turne jittery, Jolly Rancher-sucking Jo Suicide Squad’s Enchantress was handed timewaster; and David T a moustache in Wonder Woman w Thewlis with a moustache. Cravin enough: whoever’s up next needs agenda for their devilry, a bit of p absolutely no Jolly Ranchers.

W SUPERMAN moment in Justice League when xcited; when the very prospect of uperman arose. Imagine if he to be brought back to life to save . Again. Maybe he was finally d the rest of the League were mmit the most selfish act of all by him (also, hello, Buffy Season 6 ut just as soon as it was dangled, sed, as was any chance for to have an emotional arc with Henry Cavill has, for me, always to connect as Superman: he has the innocence, but not the power and t may be time for another tall, g brunette to step into his shoes.

NICK DE SEMLYEN, ASSOCIATE EDITO

2 __ SMALL-S

TE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF

It’s telling that for have taken on the counterparts conti strength. The secre team behind The Arrow, The Flash, Tomorrow) has nev that these are stori foremost. By de-e of heart and humo these characters to all their wanton de truction have rarely come c ose to. JAMES DYER, EDITO -IN-CHIEF

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3 __ FEWER C FINALE No matter which C film you’re go ng nto, you know how it’s oi to end: with at le 30 minutes of supe - owered adversaries punching, kicking r throw ng each other into things t minimal effect. They’re superhero s, the barel

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movies in. Only one, Wonder Woman, an outright triumph. What to do? in. An expensive gambit, James Wan’s Aquaman has already d, Suicide Squad 2 and Shazam! pping — but once they’re done, all down. And, after a suitable pause ection, begin again with plan and a Kevin Feige-type place to oversee everything closely. oment, while DC writer Geoff involved, the DCEU does appear to too-many-cooks syndrome. But at person is, they should retain the he people behind that outright ty Jenkins and Gal Gadot. In fact, shouldn’t just be kept, she should und which this new, improved rotate. ASSOCIATE EDITOR (RE.VIEW)

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TEH EMPIRE GUIDE TO EVERYTHING IN CINEMAS THIS MONTH ★★★★★ 26

JNAUARY 2018

EXCELLENT

★★★★

GOOD

★★★

OKAY

★★

POOR

AWFUL

EDITED BY JONATHAN PILE


SWEET COUNTRY ★★★★★

OUT 25 JANUARY RATED MA15+ / 113 MINS

Warwick Thornton Hamilton Morris, Natassia Gorey-Furber, Sam Neill, Bryan Brown, Ewen Leslie, Tremayne Doolan, Trevon Doolan, Gibson John, Matt Day, Thomas M. Wright DIRECTOR CAST

The Northern Territory Outback, 1929. Aboriginal stockman Sam (Harris) and his wife Lizzie (Gorey-Furber) are sent by their boss Fred Smith (Neill) to assist landowner Harry March (Leslie). When Sam kills March in self-defence, he and Lizzie go on the run, pursued by a small posse led by the steely Sergeant Fletcher (Brown).

PLOT

SWEET COUNTRY OPENS with an unblinking close-up of a billy on the boil. A handful of white sugar is poured into a froth of black tea, the mix soon bubbling rapidly to the top. Off camera, a tense scuffle is heard; the racial epithet “black bastard” barked out with aggressive contempt. It’s a striking marriage of image and sound in a film resplendent with such stark moments, and a bold statement of intent: this harsh Country you’re entering is an unrelenting, primal melting pot, and even if it’s sometimes safely out of view, extreme violence has the potential to erupt at any given second. Indigenous Australian director Warwick Thornton’s second feature film after Samson & Delilah — based on true stories told to coscreenwriter David Tranter’s grandfather — is timely in the extreme: although set in 1920s Australia, its blunt, painfully honest depiction of troubled race relations and themes of assimilation, loss of culture and an unjust legal system could just as easily be ripped from today’s headlines. Crucially, Thornton gives a voice to the silenced and those written out of the history books in Sweet Country, excavating the sins of the past that, whether acknowledged or not, continue to have an indelible imprint our national identity. As important as its themes may be, it would all be for nought if Thornton’s Outback western failed to entertain on a cinematic level. And entertain it does: Sweet Country not only has a lot to say, but it functions as a tense, taut and highly effective chase thriller that plays out across dazzling, desolate Australian landscapes. It’s no surprise the film has already collected a swag of accolades and standing ovations here and abroad.

The cast features a stellar array of Indigenous non-actors, none more important than the central duo of Sam Harris and Natassia Gorey-Furber: as stockman Sam and his wife Lizzie, the pair exude a quiet dignity and unwavering loyalty to each other, despite the injustices they face together after their compassionate ‘man of God’ boss Fred (Neill) — a rarity in the film due to his belief in equality for Aboriginal people — fatefully agrees to send them to assist unhinged war veteran neighbour Harry March (Leslie). Events involving a young, impish Indigenous station-hand named Philomac (twins Tremayne and Trevon Doolan) leads to March’s demise at the end of Sam’s rifle, resulting in he and Lizzie going on the lam in the Outback — a place they know intimately, but one that presents as daunting and dangerous to the duo’s pursuers: March’s racist, self-righteous neighbour — and Philomac’s abusive father figure — Mick Kennedy (Wright); the stone-hearted Sergeant Fletcher (Brown), who’s obsessed with bringing the fugitives in and Fred, along for the ride to ensure justice isn’t substituted for brutal revenge. It’s Sam and Lizzie’s desperate retreat into the wild where Thornton, a seasoned cinematographer who also acts as the film’s DOP, allows his painterly eye and cinematic instincts to fully shine. The Australian Outback has played a key role in films previously, but never quite like this: Thornton instinctively knows how to capture its varied aspects, presenting the land as a grand, beautiful tightrope walk between life and death. There’s also a sense of deep connection between the film’s Indigenous cast and the land they inhabit that can’t be faked: Thornton’s decision to cast those local to the area adding a layer of soulfulness to the film that highlights the subtle beauty to be found within the vast empty spaces. Another clear pointer that Thornton is in total control of his craft is his ability to evoke all manner of heightened emotions from the viewer without the aid of music: Sweet Country is all natural sounds and ambient noise, never relying on an orchestral swell to hammer you over the head with a cue to feel something. Instead, it’s the assured directing and across the board great performances that provide the tenterhooks for audiences to hang from. The spartan soundscape is thoroughly required: as the creeping dread mounts and Sweet Country funnels towards its harrowing conclusion, there’s only room for stunned, awed silence. JAMES JENNINGS VERDICT Warwick Thornton confidently stakes his claim as one of the country’s finest filmmakers with a thrilling modern masterpiece that shines a much-needed light on Australia’s troubled history — and present.

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PHANTOMTHREAD

★★★★★

OUT 1 FEBRUARY RATED TBC / 130 MINS

Paul Thomas Anderson Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, Lesley Manville

DIRECTOR CAST

PLOT An acclaimed 1950s dressmaker (Day-Lewis) meets his latest muse in an out-of-town waitress (Krieps), and the two carry on a romance that not only interferes with the former’s fussy creative process, but also threatens to undo his worldview.

REYNOLDS WOODCOCK (DAY-Lewis) is a man who knows exactly how his day should play out. Without his meticulous daily routine, he would never have sewn his way to the top of post-war London’s competitive haute couture scene. It’s not merely that he needs his overblown breakfast menu met down to the particular flavour of jam, but that he requires those that join him butter their toast with the utmost discretion. His work is coveted by royalty and celebrity due to its painstaking specificity and detail,

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so why should his life be marked by a different set of standards? Enter Alma (Krieps), a young waitress who Woodcock expects will slot into his ever-refreshing collection of lovers-slashmuses like any other sheet of patterned material fits onto a model’s body, but who enters the house of Woodcock more outspoken than he’s accustomed. Ensuring his demanding, almost toddler-like needs are met is Cyril (Manville), his domineering sister — a woman who oversees everything from his dressmaking to his dating. But Alma’s inability to play a part challenges his sense of self like it’s never been challenged, and by the film’s brilliant, unexpected end, the two meet at a point of disturbing compromise. The final flabbergasting moments of Phantom Thread prove that you should never assume where a Paul Thomas Anderson film is heading. If you do, you’ll no doubt arrive at the end-credits with a bad case of whiplash. It helps that you have Daniel Day Lewis bidding farewell to acting with what is perhaps his most mature performance — one that shuns complete transformation in favour of a vulnerability we haven’t seen since In The Name Of The Father, and that leaves room for Krieps and Manville to leave memorable marks.

Daniel calls it a day.

Phantom Thread is, in many respects, not your typical PTA joint. While the man behind Boogie Nights and There Will Be Blood could never make a film that isn’t “directorly”, this is the closest he’s ever come to exercising restraint. His camera (in this case quite literally, as Phantom Thread is Anderson’s first foray into cinematography) is patient, precise, and almost never intrusive — seeming to only ever move when it needs to. And while you could never say that the film is traditional or lacking the director’s signature off-kilter cinematic sensibilities, it is his most classical, and most technically straight-forward. But what’s not straight-forward is the increasingly complex relationship between the two fantastic leads. Through it, Anderson asks us a bunch of questions at once: about masculinity, artistry, and romantic love — the answers to which you’ll be negotiating long after the end credits roll. Phantom Thread proves that he remains one of a handful of working directors who continue to excite, and whose best work may still lay firmly in front of them. JEREMY CASSAR VERDICT Anderson,

again, delivers audiences something they’ve never quite seen before. At once sumptuous and unnerving, this is a remarkable achievement begging for an instant re-watch.


Frances McDormand’s Mildred is steadfast in her mission.

THREEBILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI ★★★★★

OUT NOW RATED MA15+ / 115 MINS

Martin McDonagh Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson, Lucas Hedges, Clarke Peters, Abbie Cornish, Peter Dinklage

DIRECTOR CAST

PLOT Mildred

Hayes (McDormand) is seeking justice for her dead daughter, provoking local police — including sympathetic Chief Bill Willoughby (Harrelson) and racist officer Jason Dixon (Rockwell) — into action by paying for messages on three giant billboards. But will Mildred ever get that justice, and who’ll still be standing when she’s through seeking it?

THE THIRD FILM written and directed by profane poet Martin McDonagh is a rough meditation on the true nature of loss, grief and vengeance. Yet, it is not a tale simply of loss, grief and vengeance. And it’s certainly not the simple tale you presume it to be at heart: that of a mother’s most primal pain and her redemptive path away from it. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri dwells and squats in the ugly pain, the very fire of the grief, muddying preconceptions and presumptions beyond recognition, while still speaking to both small realities and

profound truths. This is McDonagh at his most complex, painting entirely in greys as he surveys the cruelties born from barely buried hurts. It starts with three battered billboards on a road outside of Ebbing, Missouri that nobody drives down anymore. Though it actually began seven months prior when Mildred Hayes’ daughter was raped and burned and left for dead on the side of the road. The silence that has defined the investigation into her killer since has made Mildred (McDormand) battle-hardened and battle-ready. When we see her laying down $5,000 to rent the billboards for a month, she’s warrior-like in navy overalls and a bandana pulled tight across her forehead; her face, voice, her entire being rendered raw by her desperate thirst for justice. Her messages are soon writ large in 20-foot type: “Raped while dying”, “Still no arrests” and finally, “How come, Chief Willoughby?” Willoughby (played with pained tenderness by Harrelson) is the local police chief, and the man she holds responsible for the lack of justice, though it’s not a burden he alone carries. She blames his squad, the local news, her ex-husband, the world. And there, the white and the black trickle and meld as it becomes clear that Mildred’s singularity is at a price. And she remains steadfast even when that price includes her son Robin’s (Hedges) happiness or the health of Willoughby (when he shares that he has cancer, she responds that the billboards “won’t be as effective after you croak”). There are the briefest glimpses of who Mildred could be, but also

a firm sense of resignation — that woman is dead, if she ever really existed. In her stead, there stands a grizzled rock of a human being, who is nothing but sharp edges and solid, cold centres of infinite black. McDonagh’s twisted, incendiary, often hilarious screenplay (his best since In Bruges) plays beautifully in McDormand’s mouth — eliciting empathy when none would seem deserved, including a monologue to a local priest that is worth the ticket price alone. Three Billboards isn’t just Mildred’s tale though — alongside her story runs that of local cop Dixon (Rockwell), a racist cop with a low IQ and complete disregard for civil rights. And yet somehow this man who deserves no redemption and a woman who needs it to survive (even if she doesn’t know it) are on the same path. Where the lives of these two converge is where the soul — if not necessarily heart — of the film lies. Sam Rockwell has steadily, softly built a career as a character actor but in Dixon he creates simply a truly great character. Dixon’s arc — in a little over two hours — is remarkable, seeminglyimpossible even, and yet never strains credulity. In this, and so many other ways, the film continues to shock, stun and surprise until its very final moments. TERRI WHITE VERDICT Funny,

brutal and breathtakingly beautiful. Two exceptionally raw lead performances, supercharged by a bold script from Martin McDonagh, could make Three Billboards this year’s Awards-upsetter.

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THE POST ★★★★

OUT NOW RATED M / 116 MINS

Steven Spielberg Meryl Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk, Bradley Whitford, Bruce Greenwood, Sarah Paulson DIRECTOR

CAST

PLOT When a classified government study about the Vietnam war is leaked to the press, Washington Post owner Kay Graham (Streep) and editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks) are keen to publish exposés. Standing in their way? Only the US government.

THE WASHINGTON POST and the US government have previous. Famously. It is, after all, the paper that brought down a presidency — its months-long investigation into a break-in at the Watergate Hotel forcing Nixon into a no-win ‘resign

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or be impeached’ quandary. (He resigned.) But that’s not the only runin it’s had — before Watergate, there were the ‘Pentagon Papers’. First, the history lesson: commissioned by JFK and LBJ’s Secretary Of Defense Robert McNamara, the Papers were a 7,000-page report on the United States’ involvement in Vietnam between 1945 and 1967. The basic finding being the government knew they couldn’t win, but kept sending troops rather than admit defeat. With the war claiming nearly 60,000 American lives, that revelation was a pretty big deal. And, when the papers got hold of the documents, they wanted to publish stories. Nixon’s government, unsurprisingly, was less keen. The Post (retitled ‘The Papers’ during production, but since renamed back) is the story of The Washington Post’s role in reporting on the leaked study, with particular emphasis on the roles of owner and publisher Kay Graham (Streep) and executive editor Ben Bradlee (Hanks). She’s trying to secure the paper’s future by launching on the stock exchange, so

needs to keep the bankers happy. He’s a news guy — he believes it’s his duty to publish, even if it means jail time. The back and forth between these two acting heavyweights, and the subtleties of their differing stances as they wrestle with the magnitude of their decision, is where the film comes alive. It’s Streep who gets more with which to work. Graham was the United States’ first female newspaper publisher, a job she hadn’t asked for, but one she was landed with after her husband’s death left her in charge of the family business. And she’s often lost in a male-dominated world that gives her little respect: spoken over in meetings, bullied by those around her, but trying to do the right thing — by the paper, the American public, and by her friends. One of whom happens to be one of the men in the firing line — Robert McNamara (Greenwood). It’s just she’s not clear exactly what the right thing to do is. What good is publishing if the paper loses funding and goes under? Will the story put American troops in danger? But what about holding the government

“But, I am holding the front page...”


Whoever had started on her pint would shortly regret it.

MOLLY’S GAME ★★★

OUT 25 JANUARY RATED TBC / 140 MINS

Aaron Sorkin CAST Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Chris O’Dowd

DIRECTOR

Former competitive skier Molly Bloom (Chastain) moves to Los Angeles in search of a fresh start, and finds a career running a high-stakes celebrity poker game. Initially she has wild success, but as she gets deeper, the temptation to cross a line into illegality grows. PLOT

accountable for its deceit? We have been here before, of course. In many ways — not least actually in the Post’s newsroom for All The President’s Men (Bradlee then played by Jason Robards). And so much of it plays out as you’d expect — with news conferences, phone calls to sources and sudden breaks in the story that come at just the right moment to propel the plot forward. It’s in comparison with similar films that The Post suffers. It has a decent story, Hanks and Streep are two compelling leads, and Spielberg is laughably over-qualified to direct it, but it’s neither as thrilling as All The President’s Men, nor does it have the emotional heft of Spotlight. But there’s no shame coming second best to those two titans of the genre. On its own considerable merits, The Post is first class. JONATHAN PILE VERDICT Set

nearly half a century ago, but remarkably prescient in these “fake news” times, The Post is an engaging and masterfully acted tale sure to be in the running come the Oscars.

POKER IS A game of skill rather than chance, but despite the fact that livelihoods and lives can hang on the turn of a card, it has given us no end of heavyhanded and uninvolving films, without even the visual panache of sliding into home base to lift the storytelling. Aaron Sorkin’s based-in-fact directorial debut cleverly sidesteps this by focusing on the games runner not the game, and it’s when keeping his eye off the cards that he best captures the impossible tension of play. We meet Jessica Chastain’s Molly Bloom aged 20 as she enters the US team’s Winter Olympic trials. Disaster follows, she’s injured, and the devastated athlete instead heads to LA. While working as PA to a Hollywood sleazebag, she starts to run his weekly celebrity card game, and soon reinvents herself as a powerful and untouchable poker hostess. She doesn’t gamble, doesn’t get paid for her services, and lives off the extravagant tips of her high-rolling clients. It’s enough to keep her in Balmain and Louboutin, but there’s an ultimately devastating power differential. That’s why we flash-forward to an older Molly, who’s been arrested and

charged with involvement with the Russian Mafia and is desperately seeking help from Idris Elba’s wary lawyer, Charlie Jaffey. Bloom’s challenge is convincing him to take her case, never mind overcoming the government’s campaign to put her in prison. The question is what cards Molly is willing to show to secure her release. Will she dish the dirt or stay silent and suffer the consequences? From The West Wing to The Social Network, Sorkin has been deservedly criticised for his female characters, but Chastain is great as the determined, beleaguered Bloom and brings dramatic weight and nuance to a woman the tabloids reduced to a party-girl stereotype. But the showiest performance here is Sorkin’s, in the first time that the screenwriter-turned-director has been given entirely free rein. Bloom’s narration is delivered in fluent ‘Sorkinese’, where Chastain and Elba lecture each other on one another’s backstories as a means of turning exposition into know-it-all character trait. The effect is exciting and effective, but it’s awfully familiar. The film’s biggest challenge is going to be context. In a post-Weinstein era, its moral feels murky. Molly’s act of defiance seems less laudable now, the behaviour of some of the men she deals with more worrying than she seems to think. While Sorkin makes it clear who’s deserving of praise or disgust, you sense audiences will fundamentally reject his conclusions. Sorkin may condemn a world where women like Molly are mistreated by powerful men, but he doesn’t propose any revolution. As such, this feels like a small story, well told, but stopping short of risking anything high stakes. HELEN O’HARA VERDICT It’s an intriguing look into a secret world and a great performance from Chastain, but Sorkin’s directorial debut never quite makes the leap from great poker movie to great movie.

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Jeff Bauman (Gyllenhaal) adapts to his new reality.

STRONGER ★★★

OUT 8 FEBRUARY RATED MA15+ / 119 MINS

David Gordon Green Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown DIRECTOR CAST

PLOT Jeff Bauman (Gyllenhaal) loses both his legs after the Boston Marathon terrorist attack. Hailed as a hero by his hometown after he helps to identify the culprits, Bauman must begin a tumultuous journey to walk again, aided by his mother (Richardson) and girlfriend (Maslany).

HOLLYWOOD HAS ALREADY rushed one dramatisation of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings to the screen — but while Peter Berg’s Patriots Day invented a composite cop character for us to root for, David Gordon Green’s Stronger chooses a more personal and more authentic route. Based on the painfully honest memoir by Jeff Bauman who lost both his legs because of the attack, the focus here is on the aftermath rather

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than the event itself — the bombing happens within the first half hour and the two terrorists responsible are never named or shown on screen. This is not their movie. It’s a survivor’s tale, and one that’s, refreshingly, unafraid to portray that survivor in a negative light when the situations demands it. Played with startling commitment by Jake Gyllenhaal, Jeff is a regular schlub, a funny but flawed man who self-medicates with booze and drugs, gets into bar fights, and passes out in pools of his own vomit. As he publicly becomes a symbol of the ‘Boston Strong’ ideal, privately he’s insecure, shirking his responsibilities and suffering from PTSD. Bauman and his family are blue-collar Bostonites, and director David Gordon Green, whose curiously pendulous career has swung between indie dramas (Joe) and goofy stoner comedies (Your Highness), doesn’t shirk from this reality. Every scene with Jeff’s family crackles off the screen, offering the best and worst tropes of a Boston working-class family. They might sometimes seem clichéd, but Green pulls no punches in a warts-and-all approach. Queen of this brood is Miranda Richardson as Jeff’s mother Patty, a pissed-up matriarch who bellows baritone Massachusettisms through puffs of cigarette smoke and glugs of cheap

Chardonnay. If Jeff is a screw-up, Patty is the tree he fell from. Richardson’s larger-thanlife turn might not be for everyone, but she’s impossible to ignore, and threatens to steal focus from everyone she shares a screen with. This includes Tatiana Maslany, as Jeff’s on-off girlfriend Erin. Her performance is impressive, and equally as vulnerable as Gyllenhaal’s — but despite Stronger being sold as a romance, her character occasionally feels like a motivational tool for Jeff to work towards. (Plus, the redemptive-power-of-love theme rings a little hollow when you learn that the real couple separated shortly after filming concluded.) Things do veer into predictability in the final act as Jeff cleans up his act and begins to embrace the hero mantle with which he’s been bestowed. At this point, what started as a sensitive study on trauma and its aftershocks devolves into a conventional Inspirational Prestige Drama, and it’s less interesting because of it. There’s still a definitive movie to be made around the Boston bombings — although Stronger does come close. JOHN NUGENT VERDICT A

deeply human and often brutally honest depiction of trauma and recovery, anchored by three superb performances — though it often falls victim to formula.


INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY ★★

OUT 8 FEBRUARY / RATED TBC / 103 MINS

Adam Robitel Shaye, Spencer Locke, Angus Sampson, Leigh Wannell DIRECTOR CAST Lin

HAPPYEND ★★★★

OUT 8 FEBRUARY RATED TBC / 108 MINS

Michael Haneke Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz, Fantine Harduin, Franz Rogowski, Laura Verlinden, Toby Jones

DIRECTOR CAST

PLOT Following the hospitalisation of her mother from an overdose, 12-year-old Eve (Harduin) goes to live with her father’s (Kassovitz) twisted family in Calais. Did we mention Eve might have poisoned her mother? Welcome to Haneke country.

MICHAEL HANEKE’S HAPPY End features the greatest performance by a hamster ever depicted on screen. In the second scene, disturbed 12-year-old Eve (Harduin) is experimenting on the family pet by feeding it her mother’s anti-depressants. Livestreamed on Eve’s camera phone, the hamster delivers a death scene Daniel Day-Lewis would be proud of; surprising, heart-breaking and true. This year’s Best Rodent In A Supporting Role category is a lock. It’s a dark moment that is a good barometer of Happy End’s mood. If Haneke’s previous film, Amour, found slivers of heart unusual in his work, his latest is back to his trademark coldness. Having one foot in the kind of upper-class ennui that Antonioni minted in the ’60s, its portrait of a fractured well-to-do family is so chilly you expect AT-ATs to stomp across it; euthanasia, selfloathing, deception and depression all play a role, and that’s just the comic relief. It feels like a retreading of familiar Haneke ground, but in parts is a powerful look at lives bereft of compassion. At its heart, Happy End is Haneke’s take on a soap opera centred around the affluent Laurent family, a clan so twisted you’d need a whole series of Who Do You Think You Are? to unravel it. The patriarch is Georges (Trintignant), the now senile

founder of a construction business who simply wants to end his life. He shares his Calais home with his avaricious daughter (Huppert) and twice- married son Thomas (Kassovitz), who is looking after his daughter Eve while her mother/Thomas’ first wife is recovering from a drug overdose. Around this nucleus revolve Thomas’ current wife (Verlinden), Anne’s English boyfriend (Jones) and her troubled son Pierre (Rogowski) who rebels against the family business as they screw over the immigrant community. And we haven’t got to the house staff yet. Haneke never spoon-feeds so it takes around an hour to get the relationships and dynamics straight. Once it does, the bleak connective tissue in the family becomes absorbing. Huppert is impeccable without show-stopping scenes worthy of her talent, Kassovitz is effectively restrained and Rogowski gets an extraordinary set-piece singing Sia’s Chandelier, a desperate slice of karaoke that sticks out from the rest of the film like a sore thumb. But the most eye-catching work is done at opposite ends of the age spectrum. Fantine Harduin turns little-girl- lost innocence and calculated viciousness on a dime, while 86-year-old Jean-Louis Trintingnant invests Georges with a blunt, stern resolve to die. The pair make a fantastic double act. As ever, Haneke’s rigid control of form is breathtaking. Working with his usual DP Christian Berger, the film is appropriately polished and glacial. There is a stunning unbroken tracking shot following Georges in his wheelchair down a boulevard that doesn’t end the way you think it will. Conversely, if his early work focussed on the distancing effects of video, he has now upgraded to the disconnectedness of social media, placing his unflinching gaze at Thomas’ filthy Facebook chat with his lover. Equally impressive is his control of tone, from shocking violence, to naked confession, to jet black comedy in its final frames. As you might expect, the notion of a happy end in the Hanekeverse is impossible. IAN FREER VERDICT It

is perhaps not top-notch Haneke but Happy End is an intermittently gripping film about loveless people in a joyless world. They could all do a lot worse than go on holiday with the characters from Paddington 2.

DESPITE A PROVEN track record of box office success, the latest installment in the Insidious franchise has a lot to contend with: it’s the fourth part in a horror series — a genre that seems to have very few compelling, fresh dark corners left for filmmakers to explore — and has reached a point where the series chronology has the potential to confuse casual fans (this is the sequel to prequel Insidious: Chapter 3, which arrived after the first two Insidious films). Regardless, the franchise soldiers on with Insidious: The Last Key, which explores the history of Lin Shaye’s psychic Elise Rainer, revealing a horrific childhood filled with real monsters (her physically abusive father) and the things-that-go-bump-in-thenight kind. Despite her former family home resembling a dwelling that even Freddy Krueger would find too creepy to inhabit, the modern-day Elise decides to revisit the ghosts from her past when — gasp — strange things begin happening to the new tenant. (Speaking of Mr. Krueger: the film takes several cues from the scarred child-slicer’s own sequel A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: The Dream Warriors.) Joining Elise once again on her questionable mission are Australian duo Leigh Wannell (the film’s screenwriter and the franchise’s co-creator along with James Wan, who’s clearly off busy placing Jason Momoa in large volumes of water) and Angus Sampson as Specs and Tucker, a thinly drawn duo on hand as comic relief. Directed by Adam Robitel (co-writer of one of the Paranormal Activity films), The Last Key makes a play to be a genuine mystery film but, at its heart, remains your typical ‘haunted house’ horror with all the expected jump scares that come along with such an exercise. Character motivation and plot points often defy logic, and there are far too many moments when simply turning some lights on would save everyone’s blood pressure from rising to unsafe levels. Everything leads to a too easily won climax against an evil force that’s given no clear purpose or context, resulting in a film that’s all cheap surface thrills and not much else. After The Last Key, it might be time to let the Insidious franchise rest in peace. SL

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The team behind the tunes

1 Traditional Mexican Folk

__ The melodies in Coco are, says composer Germaine Franco, “written in the Mexican songwriting tradition. We [made] sure the songs were singable.” They use instruments like the guitar, huge guitarrón and even a traditional percussion instrument: a jawbone.

COCO ★★★★★

OUT NOW RATED PG / 109 MINS

Lee Unkrich, Adrian Molina Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Alanna Ubach

DIRECTORS

CAST Anthony

PLOT Miguel (Gonzalez) is a 12-year-old boy whose family have banned music. He longs to play, but when he steals a guitar belonging to his deceased icon, Ernesto De La Cruz (Bratt), he’s transported to the Land Of The Dead and must escape before dawn.

AFTER INSIDE OUT, Pixar dips again into the metaphysical with a trip into the afterlife. Of course, being Pixar, it doesn’t simply slip beyond a veil but stride across a gigantic arched bridge made of marigolds, because there’s no concept so difficult that Pixar can’t make it breathtaking. Powell and Pressburger would cheer. While this film packs in adventure and desperately colourful characters, it’s ultimately a moving story about family connections and the complicated ways we love one another. Coco is also one of the most impressively animated films ever. There are sequences in the ‘real’ world where the attention to detail creates such a life-like environment that it’s almost jarring to see an animated boy running along what appears to be an actual, fluorescent-lit Mexican street. From the glow of candles to the magic shine of a huge, otherworldly city hanging in the air to the ugliest cute dog ever put on film, every design element here is spectacular, and the sheer beauty holds the attention even during the film’s more familiar chase sequences. Our hero is a young boy called Miguel (Rodriguez — a real talent) who

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longs to sing and play guitar just like his movie-star hero, Ernesto De La Cruz (Bratt). But there’s a problem — generations before, his great-greatgrandmother’s heart was broken when her musician husband abandoned her, and since then she has forbidden the entire family from enjoying or playing music. Miguel can’t bear the restriction, but when he steals a guitar from his idol’s tomb, he finds himself transported to the Land Of The Dead. And while the skeletons that surround him there are remarkably friendly, they’re still skeletons. Miguel discovers he is unable to get home unless he finds a (deceased) member of his family to give him a blessing — he then teams up with deadbeat dead man Hector (Bernal) to find his missing ancestor and get home. There’s a fair amount of expositionary heavy-lifting to establish the rules of the Land Of The Dead and the Dia De Muertos when the deceased can visit the living, but once that’s done the film races towards an immensely touching finale via a series of spectacular musical numbers courtesy of Frozen’s Robert Lopez and Kristen AndersonLopez. The commitment to Mexican culture is absolute — with Pixar good-luck charm John Ratzenberger the only non-Mexican voice in the film. Local foods and traditions such as alebrijes (folk-art sculptures of fantastical creatures) are everywhere — and that representation is not just a moral good, but makes for more original storytelling. What’s more, the themes about creativity, love and family are universal. Our appealing hero ultimately has to find peace in the land of the living with the help of the dead, and the way he does so will squeeze a tear from all but the hardest heart. HELEN O’HARA

VERDICT Pixar

has raised the animation bar again, with its most musical — and arguably most magical — film yet. If this is the afterlife we’re all headed to, don’t fear the reaper.

2 Oaxaca culture

__ “Some of the traditional songs were specifically from the Oaxacan state because it takes place there,” says Franco. “But we didn’t want only Oaxacan music, because if you go to small towns you’ll hear accordian music, reggae, electronica. It’s not a documentary.”

3 Grupo Mono Blanco

__ This Mexican group contributed the band in the plaza. “They are an institution,” says cultural consultant Camilo Lara. “We’re very lucky to have them.” The animators filmed the musicians playing as a reference.

4 Pedro Infante

__ For Ernesto De La Cruz they created Remember Me, a song that’s meant to be iconic. “It’s a song everybody would know, like Cielito Lindo,” says Franco. “We wanted this Hollywood-meets-Mexico sound in the style of [actor and singer] Pedro Infante.”


JUMANJI: WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE ★★★

OUT NOW RATED PG / 119 MINS

DIRECTOR Jake

Kasdan Johnson, Jack Black, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Madison Iseman, Alex Wolff CAST Dwayne

PLOT Four teenagers serving detention are sucked into a video game called Jumanji. Finding themselves embodying avatars, they must find a way back to the real world before they run out of lives.

SO, IT’S COME to this: Hollywood’s increasingly desperate search for IP — any IP — that can be mined for a few coppers has led to Jumanji. The 1995 Joe Johnston original, based on Chris Van Allsburg’s book, is perhaps best remembered for groundbreaking (at the time) CGI and a fun Robin Williams lead turn, but it was built on the

fascinating idea of a mischievous board game that comes to life. That’s a concept good enough to generate a dozen movies, so here we are with a very belated sequel. It’s cynical enough to make you roll your eyes, so here’s something to wash away that weariness: Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle is something of a quiet delight. Of course, board games are not sexy enough anymore, so Jake Kasdan and his team of writers get that out of the way in a prologue with a sly comment on Hollywood’s need to reboot things, having the sentient Jumanji transform itself into a Nintendo-style video game. It’s a fun idea — once our heroes are sucked into the game’s world, it allows Kasdan and co to have a lot of fun with video game tropes; the idea that the movie’s characters only have three in-game lives not only nicely imbues the film with something close to stakes, it allows the big-name cast to live-die-repeat in a series of inventive set-pieces. But it’s that cast who make the film such a pleasant surprise. After getting to know their vaguely Breakfast Club real-world counterparts (nerd, jock, princess, basket case) in the first 20 minutes, the switch to Jumanji’s jungle world ports them into avatars and unleashes the big names, doing just enough with the archetypes they play to keep things interesting for them and us. So the gangly nerd (Wolff) becomes Dwayne Johnson’s Dr Smolder Bravestone; imposing US football player Fridge (Ser’Darius Blain) winds up as a mini-fridge

in the teeny-tiny shape of Kevin Hart; the basket case (Morgan Turner’s Martha) becomes hotpants-wearing sex object Ruby Roundhouse; and vacuous It Girl Bethany (Iseman) winds up as her worst nightmare: a tubby brainbox named Shelly Oberon (Black). Watching them spar verbally (and sometimes physically) with each other, while playing against type, is a constant joy. Admittedly, there aren’t a ton of bellylaughs, rather a stream of constant chuckles, but it feels churlish to quibble: chemistry like this is very rare. So it’s a shame when the group’s ranks are bolstered by a new member (identity redacted), who doesn’t quite possess the comedy chops of his counterparts. Weirdly, for a film in which anything can happen due to the ‘living video game’ conceit, it all gets a little predictable (you could set your watch by the scenes of emotional growth that follow major action beats), while Bobby Cannavale’s scorpion-loving bad guy is so inconsequential that they probably should have consigned him to a cut scene. But when the main quartet are together, bickering, dance-fighting or eating too much cake, this is a lovely welcome. CHRIS HEWITT VERDICT A

consistently inventive and chucklesome reinvention of the Jumanji concept. Okay, so it coasts on the charm of its lead quartet, but when there’s this much charm, that’s no bad thing.

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MARY AND THE WITCH’S FLOWER ★★★

OUT 18 JANUARY / RATED PG / 103 MINS

Hiromasa Yonebayashi Kate Winslet, Jim Broadbent, Ewen Bremner, Morwenna Banks DIRECTOR CAST

MENASHE ★★★★

OUT 8 FEBRUARY RATED PG / 82 MINS

Joshua Z. Weinstein Menashe Lustig, Yoel Falkowitz, Ruben Niborski DIRECTOR CAST

PLOT Menashe (Lustig) is a thirtysomething widower in New York’s Hasidic community. Tradition forbids single parenthood, so he reluctantly embarks on a search for a new wife while striving to preserve his relationship with his son, who is being forced to live with strict relatives.

BROOKLYN’S HASIDIC JEWISH community is famously closed off to the outside world, so it’s a minor miracle this film exists at all. Not only is it a wonder of access — the entire cast are non-actors and all dialogue is in Yiddish — but, even more impressively, it manages to be a generous-spirited examination of how practicality can rub up against tradition and culture while never reaching for low-hanging and melodramatic narrative fruit. Authenticity is never in doubt: the story is based in part on the real experiences of leading man (and web comic) Menashe Lustig. He’s a real find: melancholy, shambling, scruffy and amiable, approachable charm personified. This highly specific character becomes, ironically, a kind of everyman: like all of us, he’s just doing his best, and his best is only occasionally good enough. Pressured by his family and community to remarry after his wife dies so his son can come back to live with him again, Menashe hits what must be one of the most limited dating pools. He’s perfectly happy in his world, but not exactly one to toe any lines — constantly berated for his poor timekeeping, scruffy dress and his general failure to be the upstanding member of the community those around him want him to be. It’s hard not to warm to him. Lustig’s wry double-takes when his dates complain to him about rabbis allowing women to

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drive or his colleagues fret about selling lettuce that has not been rabbinically approved would do Buster Keaton proud, and his scenes with Ruben Niborski as his son have an unforced naturalness many actors would kill for. The Hasidic Jews’ traditional dress may serve as a barrier on the street, and the film does indulge itself occasionally in playing on the incongruity of the suited and hatted men making their way around modern New York, but seeing the generalities of life reflected in such a particular setting amounts to a genuinely powerful insight into some of the universal themes of love, sacrifice and (gentle) self-improvement that are here handled with a charmingly light touch. It would have been easy for director Joshua Z. Weinstein to frame the strict religious rules that govern this community as some oppressive nightmare there only to be escaped from, but he’s careful to offer a matter-of-fact vision of a highly regulated life. It may look like a total ballache half the time, but there are virtues: a sense of community rare in modern American cities, and they live in the one part of Brooklyn that’s not infested with insufferable people squandering their trust funds on MFAs. Coming from a documentary background, Weinstein doesn’t put a foot wrong: the entirely non-professional cast act out their community’s rituals and rites in a way that feels totally real, and allows a story that plays with some big themes of identity and how much we should let ours be determined by those around us while never hitting you over the head with it. Indeed, given the Hasidic community’s not-exactly active embrace of documentary filmmakers, this is likely to be the closest look we get at their world for some time. That it works both as a comedy and a goodnatured meditation on religion, tradition and their persistence in the modern world is a very thick layer of icing on the top. ANDREW LOWRY VERDICT Doubling

as a fascinating look at a subculture that is normally sealed off from the rest of us and a gently amusing comedy of manners, this manages to say an awful lot by, paradoxically, saying it endearingly gently.

AFTER CUTTING HIS teeth at Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli on classics like Arrietty (2010) and the Oscar-nominated When Marnie Was There (2014), Mary And The Witch’s Flower is director Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s first film out of the shadows of the legendary anime production house. Based on Mary Stewart’s 1971 children’s book The Little Broomstick, this animated adventure is a bright and breezy witch’s brew that both charms and confounds. After 20 years working at Ghibli starting with Princess Mononoke, Yonebayashi has adopted the studio’s breathtaking painterly style. The eye-popping backdrops are stunning to behold as the wide-eyed titular Mary finds herself in a witch academy after her cat guides her to a magic broomstick. Alas, we don’t need no education. The Little Broomstick may have been written decades before J.K. Rowling first put pen to paper, but after Harry Potter’s escapades at Hogwarts and the likes of Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, the derivative supernatural school is out for this witch. It may be unfortunate timing for this adaptation, but we’ve seen it all before. Despite the overly familiar storyline there is still plenty to enjoy. The strong female heroine at the heart of proceedings is most welcome and her talent for adapting to the most desperate of situations is refreshing. The denizens of the witch’s university are a wacky bunch, often due to accents provided by the talented dubbing cast. The friendly leprechaun, voiced by Ewen Bremner, who looks after the students’ brooms is a headscratcher, but the animals who have been transformed by the megalomaniac teacher Doctor Dee (Jim Broadbent) are a delightful menagerie of crazy mutated creatures. The medical practitioner is joined by Madam Mumblechook (Kate Winslet) and the duo make for formidable villains, even if their dastardly plan really makes no sense. Ultimately, however, what wins the day is the incredible imagination on display and the big-hearted heroine. While Mary And The Witch’s Flower blossoms with a mind-blowing visual exuberance and the technical wizardry you’d expect, at its core it’s a rich emotional journey of discovery. DAVID MICHAEL BROWN


THE GREATEST SHOWMAN ★★★

OUT NOW RATED PG / 105 MINS

Michael Gracey Jackman, Michelle Williams, Zac Efron, Zendaya, Rebecca Ferguson DIRECTOR

CAST Hugh

PLOT P.T. Barnum (Jackman) is a nearpenniless dreamer determined to build a better life for himself and wife Charity (Williams). A circus brings profit but not respectability — so he gambles it all on a tour for opera star Jenny Lind (Ferguson).

A YEAR AGO, La La Land was hailed as the saviour of the movie musical, but it only went so far, aping the look but not the tone of the old classics. The Greatest Showman, on the other hand, is an unabashed throwback, consciously modelling itself on the likes of Carousel and The Greatest Show On Earth, but adding modern pop tunes and a whole heap of CGI. It races along at a

breakneck pace and occasionally stumbles into mawkishness, but is carried along by Hugh Jackman’s total commitment and some appallingly catchy songs. Our hero is Phineas Taylor Barnum (Jackman), who we glimpse at the height of his circus fame before flashing back to a tough childhood on the streets — though he still manages to win the heart and hand of rich girl Charity (Williams). Dreaming of better times for them both, he cons his way into a bank loan and opens a wax museum, but when that threatens to go under he adds a collection of “unique individuals”: a bearded lady (the stunning Keala Settle), the diminutive Tom Thumb (Sam Humphrey) and more. Success follows, but Barnum is still confined to the fringes of high society. So he gambles all he’s built on the “Swedish nightingale”, opera singer Jenny Lind (Ferguson), who hypnotises him and threatens his marriage, and a highclass tour of the country’s opera houses. The film races through its plot so there’s more time to lavish on its bigproduction numbers, and it’s here that director Michael Gracey’s comfort with tech is both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, his meticulously planned dazzle really does glimmer with colour

Hugh’s Eyes Wide Shut remake was a much livelier affair.

and flash, but he leans a little too heavily on the CG to stitch together impossible camera angles, create trapeze wires that don’t obey the laws of physics at all and add in animal accompaniment, in a way that sometimes amplifies artificiality in an already tall tale. Perhaps that’s in keeping with his subject — Barnum did, after all, put his giant on stilts and stuff the shirt of the “world’s fattest man”, so perhaps too much seemed like just enough. Still, the story’s more or less just a hook for, firstly, a succession of songs by Dear Evan Hansen’s Pasek and Paul, and they largely deliver. There are four or five absolute bangers here, and you can count on at least one sticking in your head for a week or more. And secondly, it allows us to watch a brash, big-hearted, blindly optimistic turn from Hugh Jackman as the unsinkable Barnum himself. It’s ultimately about that hoariest of clichés — learning what’s really important in life — but it’s delivered with such sincerity and heart that it’s hard to mind. HELEN O’HARA VERDICT It

may not be quite the greatest show on Earth, but Gracey, Jackman and the entire cast are deeply committed to entertaining and leave you feeling an old-school musical thrill.

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PITCH PERFECT3

★★

OUT NOW RATED M / 93 MINS

Trish Sie Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Anna Camp, Hailee Steinfeld, Ruby Rose, Elizabeth Banks, Brittany Snow

DIRECTOR CAST

PLOT Post-college life is no picnic for the former Barden Bellas acapella group, so they leap at the chance to reunite for a USO tour of Europe. But up against bands with actual instruments, how will they cope?

IT’S WORTH REMEMBERING how charming and fresh Pitch Perfect felt in 2012. It gave Anna Kendrick a role that played to her sceptical strengths, offered a female-led ensemble that didn’t have a weak link and showcased Kay Cannon’s sharp-witted script. The follow-up was still funny, but this third outing sadly follows a law of diminishing returns. Perhaps the problems are baked in to the premise. Having all graduated from college, a reason for the Bellas to get

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together takes a little more set-up. But never fear: Anna Camp’s Aubrey has a dad in the military who can get them all on a USO tour, and the promise that one of the groups involved will perhaps get to open for DJ Khaled (playing himself and playing grand piano) on a huge tour afterwards is the prize dangled to replace any a cappella contest and drive the plot. The only problem is, the contest is almost completely irrelevant to anything else happening. Similarly, Ruby Rose’s Calamity and her rock band, Evermoist (ew), are quickly established as the villains of the piece but provoke no reaction from the Bellas and barely affect the plot. Meanwhile, Fat Amy (Wilson) finds herself back in touch with her long-lost dad (John Lithgow) and must decide whether she can trust the former drug dealer in another storyline straight out of nowhere. Amy’s at her strongest when in the corner puncturing the pomposity of the leads, so it feels an odd choice to give the character a dramatic family background. Kendrick does the best she can to keep it together. Beca is now established as a record producer, and is half-relieved, half-mortified when she’s forced to reunite with the girls for one last go-around. Camp and Snow continue to do a lot with

The girls are back in town.

relatively few lines, walking the fine line between popular cool girl and complete weirdo, and Snow even gets a love interest. But others in the cast are less well-served, and while once the weird asides were reserved for Fat Amy and Hana Mae Lee’s Lilly, now it feels like everyone is getting in on the act, to far lesser effect. Many of the jokes are still fun, even if they verge on a little too knowing — “That sure was a lot of exposition,” offers Chrissie Fit’s Flo at one point — and the warmth between the stars helps. But even before the end credits show glimpses of a whole lot of scenes that never appear in the finished cut, you’ll have the suspicion that director Trish Sie (Step Up All In) and her team ran into trouble somewhere. The film only truly comes alive in its performance scenes, which is as it should be, and a succession of pop hits guarantee toe-taps in the cinema. Music, at least, never lets these girls down, even if the rest of their lives — and their movie — fails to live up to what’s on stage. HELEN O’HARA VERDICT A

tired retread of better jokes in the first two movies, this drags along to an admittedly heartwarming conclusion. But it’s a good thing this caps the trilogy because it’s coasting on fumes.


SWINGING SAFARI ★★★

OUT 18 JANUARY / RATED M / 96 MINS

Stephan Elliott Radha Mitchell, Guy Pearce, Julian McMahon, Kylie Minogue, Asher Keddie DIRECTOR CAST

ALLTHE MONEY INTHE WORLD ★★

OUT NOW RATED MA15+ / 132 MINS

Ridley Scott Michelle Williams, Charlie Plummer, Mark Wahlberg, Christopher Plummer, Andrew Buchan, Romain Duris, Marco Leonardi, Olivia Grant DIRECTOR CAST

PLOT 1973. After John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer) is kidnapped, his mother (Williams) struggles to convince his grandfather, frugal oil tycoon J. Paul Getty (Christopher Plummer), to pay the ransom. Instead, she is assigned the services of his security advisor, Fletcher Chase (Wahlberg).

IT’S HARD NOT to view this film through the lens of its much-publicised behind-the-scenes woes. Director Ridley Scott faced an unprecedented task when he had nine days to replace Kevin Spacey’s meaty supporting role after those allegations of sexual harassment came to light. As a feat of damage control, this film is a marvel as the substitution is not only virtually seamless, but Christopher Plummer steals the show as J. Paul Getty. If only the film, on its own, was as impressive. It starts out well enough, using a continentand-timeline-spanning backstory to let us into the richest lineage on Earth. We see Getty Sr. (Plummer) become the first man to tap into Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves, and learn of his escalating obsession with money, one that left no room for a relationship with his son, John Paul Getty II (Andrew Buchan), daughter-in-law Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) or grandchildren, including the eventually kidnapped John Paul Getty III (Charlie Plummer). We see their financially motivated reintegration into Getty Sr.’s empire, one which requires a relocation to Rome. We witness Getty

II’s spiral into wealth-induced drug addiction, and Gail’s renewed disconnection from all-things Getty. She gives Getty Sr. the bargain of a lifetime: she expects nothing from her divorce settlement but custody of, and child support for, her children. So, when John Paul Getty III is kidnapped by an Italian crime syndicate who demand a ransom of $US17 million, Gail is forced to go crawling back to her father-in-law and ask for the cash, a request he has no trouble in refusing due to the fact that payment would set a precedent. Instead, Getty Sr. sends former CIA operative Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) to track down the kidnappers and make “a deal”. Things don’t go as planned, as Chase incorrectly assumes Gail and her son have staged the kidnapping in lieu of a payday, and the kidnapping drags out for months on end. And boy does it drag out. The film begins treading water around the halfway mark, and we spend the rest of it watching the incremental back-and-forth dealings between Gail/Chase and both the kidnappers and Getty Sr. Gail goes through a cycle of handling the matter herself and failing, approaching Getty Sr., and being denied or manipulated. Chase, her allegedly expert sidekick, is reduced to concerned-looking lackey. The kidnapped Getty is moved around, sold to third parties. He escapes and is recaptured. By the time the kidnappers finally resort to violence to force Getty Sr.’s purse, the plot has zigged and zagged too many times for us to care. And even then, it continues to do so up until the film’s final moments. The performances are a mixed bag. Both Plummers are great, but Williams’ emotional routine borders on hammy (blame the script, not Williams), and Wahlberg lacks the depth to pull off such an allegedly astute part. Character motivations shift at will, and we never really get a sense of what’s truly propelling the main players — love, or money? JEREMY CASSAR VERDICT Proving

that a true story is sometimes too convoluted for engrossing drama, All The Money In The World is a competent thriller that unfortunately ends up testing your patience.

THE ADVENTURES OF Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert hangs around writer/director Stephan Elliott’s neck like a sequinned albatross. All his films since have failed to hold a feather boa up to his beloved Outback road trip, and some — hang your head in shame, A Few Best Men — have been risible at best. Now with Elliott returning to familiar territory with this semiautobiographical coming-of age comedydrama, the director is certainly more comfortable in his surroundings. Set against a sweltering 1975 summer in the seaside suburb of Nobbys Beach, the film focusses on three “rudderless” families who live on top of each other in a coastal cul-de-sac. Here 14-year-old aspiring filmmaker Jeff Marsh (newcomer Atticus Robb) is trying to survive his childhood, his parents and the first yearnings of young love. With his 8mm camera constantly to hand, he shoots his death defying Evel Knievel-suited mates doing increasingly risky stunts for a succession of delightfully titled shorts including ‘Jaws: 2 People: 0’. Meanwhile the children’s parents, played by Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue, Julian McMahon, Radha Mitchell, Jeremy Sims and Asher Keddie, try to spice up their lives with a fondue party that rapidly descends into a wife-swapping fiasco. The ’70s setting is a hoot. Coconut-oiled skin glistens in the blistering sun, lava lamps bubble in garish hues, hair is big and flares flap in the wind. A blonde, moustachioed Pearce spends much of the film in the type of tight pants that his on-screen wife Minogue made her career in as fun is poked at fashion, food, music and shockingly irresponsible parenting, especially when Jeff goes on a date micro-managed by his parents. No surprise the film was originally going to be called ‘Flammable Children’. Edited at a cracking pace but overstuffed, jokes fly by at an alarming rate, although the satire is all surface. The tone also often jars: while the adults feud, the feral kids run rampant and a dead whale decomposes on the local beach. Ultimately Swinging Safari proves that there’s only so much mileage you can get from a cavalcade of bad taste gags. DAVID MICHAEL BROWN

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BRIGHT ★★

NETFLIX OUT NOW

DIRECTOR David

Ayer Smith, Joel Edgerton, Lucy Fry, Noomi Rapace

CAST Will

PLOT In an alternate Los Angeles where fantasy creatures are a fact of life, Detective Ward (Smith) and his orc partner Jakoby (Edgerton) respond to a call, only to discover a terrified elf (Fry) with a magical artefact that practically everyone is willing to kill for.

IF YOU CAN imagine a world in which Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings is classed as a historical documentary, then you’re not far off the setting of David Ayer’s Bright. Two thousand years after ‘The Dark Lord’ was defeated, a menagerie of fantasy creatures co-exist in modern America. Elves swan around Rodeo Drive shopping for Gucci loafers, fairies sift through rubbish like sparkly, winged raccoons, while orcs have been relegated to

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a brutish underclass, still living down the millennia-old faux pas of siding with the Big Bad. It’s a superb conceit that draws on Tolkien lore, throws in a dash of ’90s RPG property Shadowrun and acts as a mirror for the racial divisions of modern-day America.   At least that’s the idea. The execution, unfortunately, doesn’t live up to the premise. From bigoted cops to slimy IA suits and supercilious feds, the characters are drawn with strokes broader than a cave troll’s buttocks. Even Smith, one of the most effortlessly charming actors alive, is reduced to a growling, surly flatfoot, barely concealing his resentment at a partner foisted upon him by the department’s diversity initiative. The racial subtext itself would have more potency if the fantasy factions weren’t so stereotypical themselves. Snooty elves are portrayed as the social elite, while orcs are thrash-metal-loving street thugs who sneer at any who remain ‘unblooded’ — a barely explored ritual that seems to sub for an orcish bar mitzvah. The broader fantasy setting is squandered, too, with a centaur traffic warden and the silhouette of a lone dragon flapping across the Angelino skyline that only hints at a deeper mythology. Parallels to modern prejudices

Where’s Gandalf when you need him?

are still felt, but it’s hard not to feel this was all achieved more artfully by Alien Nation back in 1988. The story is similarly undeveloped. Magic users (‘brights’) are regulated by federal law and magic wands treated as eldritch WMDs. So when Jakoby and Ward stumble upon one such glowing MacGuffin, we’re pulled into a street-level pursuit movie, scrambling from venue to venue while dodging fire from a potion of Latin gangsters, an orcish death cult and Rapace’s band of ninja elves. There are sparks of solid action amidst the confusion, but Max Landis’ script contains too much stilted dialogue to properly ignite. Coming after Suicide Squad, this isn’t the David Ayer return to form we’d hoped for. Neither is it the big win Netflix wanted, having dropped $90 million on the project and won a bidding war with Sony and Warner to prove that blockbusters are no longer the domain of cinemas. Netflix may indeed prove that streaming is the future, but that future isn’t Bright. JAMES DYER VERDICT Worth

watching for the sight of Will Smith beating a fairy to death with a broom, but it takes a far more sophisticated grasp of the fantasy concept to really get away with Mordor.


STAR WARS: THE LASTJEDI

★★★★

OUT NOW RATED M / 152 MINS.

DIRECTOR Rian

Johnson Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro

CAST Mark

PLOT The Resistance, led by General Leia (Fisher), are on the run. As the First Order close in, their only hope is if Rey (Ridley) can tempt Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Hamill) back to the fight.

“THIS IS NOT going to go the way you think!” Luke Skywalker warns Rey on the Jedi Temple island of Ahch-To. It sounds like a quote designed for a trailer but now feels like the opening line from Rian Johnson’s pitch. The Last Jedi delivers everything you want from a Star Wars movie — fierce lightsaber

action, space dogfights, exotic creatures, people off British telly as bad guys (hello, Ade Edmondson as a First Order Officer) — but layers it with story twists, character arcs and an emotional wallop that you could never have predicted. It doesn’t all work, but it’s a long time since a huge franchise movie has delivered the thrills and feels in such surprising ways. This rug-pulling starts from the get-go. For all those who felt Episode VIII would start with a lightsaber handover (when it happens, that moment is fantastically throwaway), Johnson launches into a breakneck sequence of the Resistance evacuating their base as the First Order attack. Out of the melee, everyone gets more to do. Poe Dameron (Isaac, registering stronger here than in The Force Awakens) is both fly-boy and military leader, butting heads with Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (played by a purple-haired Laura Dern being all Laura Stern); Finn (Boyega, clearly having fun) joins maintenance worker Rose Tico (a likeable Tran) on a mission to disable the First Order’s tracking device that now works through hyperspace; and, on the dark side, Supreme Leader Snoke (Serkis), more formidable in person than in

That was a pretty rubbish lightsaber by anyone’s standards.

hologram, plays Kylo Ren (Driver) and General Hux (Gleeson) off against each other. Even BB-8 gets bigger action licks rather than cute comedy asides. Still, if Episode VII was Han Solo’s movie, then Episode VIII belongs to Luke. Whether it’s stepping back onto the Millennium Falcon (it’s a hard heart that doesn’t melt when he meets Artoo), or learning to live with regrets, Hamill crafts a moving performance, perfectly capturing how a gosh-andgolly farm boy can become sarcastic and embittered. A more assured Ridley stands toe-to-toe with him, but is even better in her ‘relationship’ with Ben Solo. Johnson’s conception of their bond is potentially embarrassing: Ridley and Driver not only make it work, they make it gripping. Time and again, Johnson finds a cinematic grammar that feels new to Star Wars: big close-ups (tender touching hands), top shots, elegant camera tracks and pulling out in-world sound, leaving just music and image. In fact, there is a moment involving Leia that is as poetic as the series has ever been. And Johnson isn’t afraid to go trippy, either — a scene in which a character ❯ repeatedly clicks their

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fingers could have come from a ’60s arthouse flick. This is also the first Star Wars film to heavily indulge in flashback as opposed to visions. Be warned: those revelations will prove divisive. But happily, Johnson gets Star Wars, too. His action is thrilling but elegant (there is the most nonchalant lightsaber kill yet). He is not afraid to embrace the cornball, but never goes too cute: the porgs (not as adorable as you hoped, nor as irritating as you feared) are the butt of the film’s darkest gag. Hell, even the art of comedy ‘Imperial’ officers has returned. But you know he really gets Star Wars in the respect he affords Leia (Fisher, dignified but still with that unmistakable twinkle), or the way he understands the emotional weight of golden dice passed between characters. It doesn’t all work. The middle section loses its shape and is subject to longueurs. Finn and Rose’s mission takes them to Canto Bight, a kind of Monte Carlo peopled by extras from Babylon 5, which feels like it is just ticking the Weird Alien Bar box started by the Cantina. A ride on space horses also feels like a needless diversion, as does Benicio Del Toro’s space rogue, whose strange, laconic presence never really makes a mark. But in its last hour, Johnson serves up bold, gut-wrenching narrative moves you should discover on your own. Throughout, there are beats from the Empire Strikes Back playbook — a version of the dark side cave, walkers and speeders battling across a glacial plain — but this is not The Dark Middle Act; it’s a multicoloured adventure that juggles different moods and tones. Johnson even bravely channels Return Of The Jedi, to the extent that Episode VIII wraps up leaving Episode IX with almost a clean slate. And that, for an Act II, is no mean feat. IAN FREER

The Force Awakens raised a lot of questions, The Last Jedi tackles them head-on, delivering answers that will shock and awe in equal measure. Fun, funny but with emotional heft, this is a mouth-watering set-up for Episode IX and a fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

WHAT THE LAST JEDI MEANS FOR STAR WARS’ FUTURE James Dyer on how Rian Johnson’s film has set the franchise on an entirely new path

VERDICT If

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THERE’S A SENSE of discomfiture when watching The Last Jedi. It’s a subtle, nagging feeling; hard to pin down but impossible to ignore. It’s a sensation of unfamiliarity: that, having expected to see an old friend, you’ve just met someone new. Someone interesting

and magnetic, who you’d like to know a whole lot better. And you’re going to get the chance, because that person is Rian Johnson and in November, Kathleen Kennedy, devourer of film directors, handed him the keys to the Star Wars universe. On the


Star Wars is assaulting every imaginable medium — here are just a few

strength of The Last Jedi, he was granted carte blanche to forge a fresh trilogy of his own devising, one that will form the basis for Star Wars going forward. No writers’ room, no story groups, no world-building by committee. Rather, the singular vision of a man whose career has been forged telling powerful, personal, character-driven stories in his own unique voice. With Episode VIII, Johnson seized the threads that appealed to him and wove them anew, breathing life into archetypes and subverting tropes with glee. Conversely, he stripped away everything else, giving short shrift to subplots — and characters — that didn’t suit his vision. His interest, clear from the very first scene, was in establishing his own framework, not inheriting someone else’s.

Clockwise from left: Rian Johnson on the Last Jedi set with John Boyega and Oscar Isaac; Kylo Ren and Rey cross ’sabers in The Force Awakens; J.J. Abrams with Chewie on the set of Episode VII; The Millennium Falcon takes flight in Episode VIII.

But it isn’t just J.J. Abrams’ shadow that Johnson has emerged from. Now, for the first time, Star Wars gives the impression that it has moved beyond George Lucas; the last remnants of the old guard have been swept away. Whether in deliberately undoing Lucas’ missteps (one character’s move from digital to practical feels almost pointed), or in demolishing established patterns, Johnson has demonstrated that he owes little fealty to the saga’s creator. Unlike Lucas, Johnson is a filmmaker who deals in emotion and nuance, not spectacle and set-pieces. His characters are bestowed with an inner life that reaches beyond the charisma of their players, written with layers even the original trilogy couldn’t muster. In Johnson’s galaxy, characters are not puppets acting out a story, but living, breathing, complex beings about whom the narrative shifts and coalesces; a narrative unrestricted by the reductive duality — light, dark, Jedi, Sith — that has formed the galaxy’s boundary up ’til now. “Let the past die,” instructs Kylo Ren. “Kill it if you have to.” It’s a sentiment that, intentional or not, perfectly captures The Last Jedi’s impact on the saga. It’s uncomfortable and unfamiliar but, looking to the future, that’s something to embrace, not something to fear. In the short term, it poses a not insignificant challenge for Abrams, who must conclude a story now so resolutely Johnson’s own. Beyond that, it sets a bold new agenda for the next decade of Star Wars, one set to forge ahead without slavishly looking back. As we close the Skywalker saga and head into the unknown, leaving behind Star Wars’ 40-year origin story, it’s comforting to know that, in Johnson, we may have found a new hope.

TV Rebels ends next year but a liveaction Star Wars show is in development, arriving on Disney’s streaming platform in 2019. Whether it will make use of the 50-odd scripts developed for Star Wars: Underworld is unknown.

BOOKS Younglings will devour Chewie And The Porgs, not to mention the Forces Of Destiny tie-ins. For grown-ups, the second instalment in Timothy Zahn’s new Thrawn series arrives in June.

COMICS Last Jedi tie-ins aside, Darth Vader and Poe Dameron have ongoing series, with a DJ one shot incoming, while a limited-run Thrawn series, based on this year’s novel, is set for early 2018.

GAMES While Battlefront II had a rocky launch (micro transactions lead to anger, anger leads to hate etc), EA has another, story-led game in the works. Meanwhile, Titanfall developer Respawn is also working on a super secret Star Wars tie-in.

THEME PARKS Star Wars comes to California in 2019 when Galaxy’s Edge, the galacticthemed wing of Disneyland, opens to the public. You’ll also be able to stay in the site’s Star Wars hotel — binary sun views available. JAMES DYER

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HOW BLACK PANTHER — THE FIRST MAINSTREAM BLACK SUPERHERO MOVIE — COULD CHANGE COMICBOOK FILMS FOREVER WORDS TERRI WHITE

AFTER RYAN COOGLER signed on to direct the biggest movie of his career, his wife Zinzi insisted they go back, together, to the place where it all began, where Black Panther first came into his life. In many respects, it actually began before that first encounter, when Coogler, still a kid, would follow around his comicbook-mad cousin seven years his senior. “He was reading everything, man,” Coogler remembers. “Stuff from Superman, stuff from DC, from Marvel.” With a lifelong appetite seeded in his belly and further cultivated by the X-Men comics that he bought in the shop across the street from his elementary school, Coogler wanted more. And specifically, more of something he hadn’t yet seen. “I was going in there and wanting to find a superhero comic book where the main character looked like me,” he remembers. “So I walked in and talked to the guy at the front desk and he pointed me to Black Panther.” Front Desk Guy talked him through at length the different Black Panther runs they stocked. And Coogler, who until that point had only seen one secondary black comic-book character, Bishop in X-Men, was completely blown away by the series about an African king and superhero. “I mean, to have a dude with his own comic book named after him and he had this whole run and this pretty cool history — I thought it was amazing.” Having his own schoolyard epiphany just a few years earlier was executive producer Nate Moore — the man who would call Ryan Coogler up after seeing his second film, Creed. “There was a Captain America cover with Captain America in the foreground, flanked by the Falcon and Black Panther,” he says ❯ of his very first comic. “That was the

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first time I saw Black Panther. And he was awesome. I liked him almost immediately.” It was Moore who had actually brought Black Panther to life at Marvel Studios, championing the character since joining Marvel’s writers programme back in 2009. Before he got to Coogler, he had called someone else: actor Chadwick Boseman. Ultimately, they had an origin movie in mind, but for now, the intention was to debut Black Panther, aka T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War. His appearance in 2016 was electrifying, a standalone movie assured — Black Panther would be making history as the first mainstream black superhero film ever made. From wishing two decades earlier that he could see himself on paper, a face like his in ink, 31-year-old director Ryan Coogler was now at the helm of not just a huge tentpole movie from one of the biggest film studios in the world, but arguably one of the most significant comic-book movies ever made. And to mark that moment, before the madness began, Coogler (and his wife) returned to

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that comic-book store across the street from his elementary school, picked up a copy of Black Panther, snapped a picture of himself and sent it to Marvel boss Kevin Feige. He was ready to do this. They were ready to do this.

THEFIRSTDECISION

for Coogler and his team was which of the several Black Panther runs to pull from. After debuting from the pen of Stan Lee in the Fantastic Four in 1966, T’Challa joined the Avengers in ’68 and landed his own series in 1977. Co-creator Jack Kirby wrote the original series, followed by Christopher Priest in the ’90s, Reginald Hudlin in the Noughties and Ta-Nehisi Coates since 2016. Moore says that they pulled from pretty much all the runs. “It’s really about, in the classic Marvel Studios fashion, taking the best highlights of anything from the history of any character and trying to craft a cohesive narrative. When people watch the movie who are familiar with all the

Director Ryan Coogler on set with Chadwick Boseman.

runs, I think they’ll see pieces of each creator in there.” The story of Black Panther on film picks up straight after the events of Civil War, in the wake of King T’Chaka’s death. T’Challa returns home to assume power, just in time to defend his kingdom of Wakanda — one of the world’s most technologically and scientifically advanced nations — from enemies old and new. This setting is crucial, for this is not just the story of a black superhero “but even sort of more interestingly, the first mainstream African hero,” emphasises Nate Moore. “And I make that distinction because it’s something that we found very important in making the film — that T’Challa and Wakanda felt very African. And so we, with Ryan especially leading the charge, were going the extra mile to get all the details of what that would mean in the film.” Though African-American himself, the ability to tell a specifically African ❯ story weighed on Coogler initially,


MICHAELBJORDANIS... VILLAIN ERIK KILLMONGER You’re playing a villain for the first time! For me, this is a chance for me to go furthest away from who I am. As far as just the darkness of the guy. Because the guy was really dark, even though you may empathise with him, and understand his point of view. I think that the greatest villains are the ones where you can see their point of view. How did you get into the psyche of this character? It took me to a dark place. Honestly, I can’t really go through all I went through to get into it because I want to keep that close to me. But it stuck with me afterwards. You see performances as an actor, and as a fan — you look at Heath Ledger’s performance, say, in The Dark Knight, and it’s like, “Wow.” I want to try to get something like that. You want Michael Fassbender’s Magneto. Just trying to find my place amongst those roles, and strive for that, even if I don’t make it. Tell us about your dynamic with Chadwick Boseman. Chadwick’s a very talented dude. He’s lived with this character for a movie already. He had to mentally establish who this guy is, and he has that sense of confidence and understanding when he comes on set. There’s definitely an understanding of where we’re both coming from. Of finding out what our characters really want and need. We had a lot of fun on set. There’s a lot of physical moments and action sequences throughout this film that caused us to really challenge ourselves, and also fall deeper into character.

From top to bottom: The dastardly Erik Killmonger confronts T’Challa/Black Panther (Boseman); Danai Gurira as badass bodyguard Okoye; The neon streets of Black Panther; Lupita Nyong’o is elite warrior Nakia.

Did it feel as though you were making something very special? Yeah, without a doubt. It all starts from the top [with director Ryan Coogler]. He sets the tone, and everybody else falls in line after that. That’s what I’ve been used to dealing with and working with for a while now. He empowers people; there are no dumb questions. Then, looking around and seeing a majority of black cast is something I haven’t really had too many opportunities of being a part of. That’s another level of like, “Wow, this is crazy, man.” It’s something that you pay attention to. What are your hopes for the film? I think it’s something for everybody. There’s a love element, there’s pride elements, there’s a family element, there’s an identity element that I think everybody can relate to. I just hope people take away all of those things wrapped in one. It’s an all-black cast for the most part, and it’s set in Africa, but it’s universal in so many ways to everybody around the world, so I feel like it’s something that everybody can take something from.

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having never been to the continent himself. Before signing on Coogler made it very clear to both Kevin Feige and Nate Moore that he would need to go to Africa before he could start writing. “None of my family had ever had the opportunity to go,” he says. “So it was almost like a mythical place to us — to a lot of us, as African Americans. And that was a very big deal for me to be able to tell this story. I frankly didn’t feel qualified to do it just because I look like this.” Coogler spent several weeks in various locations in South Africa — much of it alone — before being joined by other members of the crew, including production designer Hannah Beachler. Though Wakanda is a fictional place, they wanted it to be born from the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of the real place, to feel real, to feel African. For first and foremost, Coogler is a filmmaker interested in authenticity. When directing Creed, he spent time in Philadelphia to make sure he knew

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exactly how people talked and how they moved and how they dressed. However, with Black Panther, there was the added sense of responsibility that comes with representing not just a city, but an entire group of people, who very rarely see themselves represented. “And when they do it’s often skewed and they’re often misrepresented,” Coogler notes. “Or represented in a way that’s narrow, or thin, or as a plot device… They’re represented in a way that’s damaging and hurtful. You’re dealing with all of that, so I wanted to make sure I got out there and spent some time.” While all films of this scale and ambition and budget come with a certain weight that only a director can shoulder (it’s also worth remembering that this is only Coogler’s third feature film, after Creed and Fruitvale Station), in the case of Black Panther the pressure of representation presented a huge opportunity but also responsibility for Coogler. “Frankly, that was the biggest

Nakia with Ayo (Florence Kasumba), head of security for T’Challa.

thing that I thought [about] as I was filming,” he says. “[But] if you think about it too much while you’re trying to make something, it can be paralysing. So my biggest thing was to try not to over-think it. Because at the end of the day, you gotta make a good movie. You know what I’m saying? That’s how you service the folks that you’re responsible to.” Once Coogler had done his research and stood on the soil, he got to work with one question at the forefront of his mind: what does it mean to be African? “We’re trying to explore that through every means of communication,” he says. “Through the music. Through the language. Through clothing. Through production design. Through the structures of the building and the colour of walls. And through the ugly stuff, too. Through conflict. Through weapons. It’s all those things. We tried to look at both sides, and as you would with any human being or human society. You know what ❯ I’m saying?”


DANIELKALUUYAIS... W’KABI,CHIEFOFSECURITY Tell us about your character. W’Kabi one of T’Challa’s oldest friends and he’s basically the leader of the border tribe. Everything is hidden, they protect what’s out, and look really humble, but underneath, there’s a very — not sinister — but a much more military aspect to them. It’s about protecting the country — they are the first port of call when you come into Wakanda. From Skins to Get Out and Black Panther — that’s a pretty mad journey. Yeah, it’s been pretty insane. It just keeps on growing. I think it’s one of those things that probably will really set in, like, a year or two from now. When did you become involved in Black Panther? Ryan Coogler saw a short film I did years ago called Baby. And then we Skyped during the summer when I was in a play. I had the matinée and then was like, “Wait, I have to Skype Ryan Coogler really quickly. I’ll be back for the evening show!” I really respect Ryan as a person, so I was like, “Cool, man. I’ll go to war with you, man.”

ANGELABASSETTIS... QUEEN RAMONDA

From top to bottom: T’Challa with security chief W’Kabi (Daniel Kaluuya); Shuri (Letitia Wright), who boasts exceptional

Tell us about Queen Ramonda! She’s like any mother and adores her son. She’s in mourning, because of her husband’s death, which is still very fresh. He was a wonderful king and now her son is rushed much sooner into a position [of being king]. She’s there to help him along without stepping out front — allowing him to come into his manhood and go through the mourning period.

science skills; Angela Bassett’s Ramonda with her son; Coogler with executive producer Nate Moore.

It’s a very different film for you as an actor. Yes, very different. Big movie, big world. I got a call from Ryan [Coogler] at home. I was a tremendous fan of his previous two films. I had great confidence in this story that he was trying to tell about Black Panther, and this universe… that he would make something notable and beautiful. Do you feel the significance of telling an African story? It’s the imagery of this black king. Of their tech, their intellect, their advancement. The expectation for it is so high, but not just from black fans. Comic-book fans. I’m proud to be a part of it. A long time coming, but it’s here, now. It’s here now.

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STANDINGSHOULDERTO

shoulder with Coogler, ready to explore the African identity and experience, was his star. Chadwick Boseman’s own journey began with the Russo Brothers in Civil War — he travelled to South Africa before the film and worked with an African dialect coach. One of the most significant moments — which Coogler describes as beautiful — is when T’Challa speaks to his father (played by John Kani) in Xhosa — a Southern African language that is actually the native tongue of Kani. It’s a language that is carried through into Black Panther. “I think to hear a leading character speaking in that voice, speaking with an African accent and African dialect, you know, it debunks what is usually a very European playing field,” says Boseman. “It becomes another fabric that you can use to tell the story.” Inspired by Boseman’s proficiency in Xhosa on set — he was speaking to his dialect coach daily by phone or Skype — Coogler made the decision to have all

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of the tribes, bar one, speak in the language, a decision he “found to be really exciting” and a “profound” moment for him personally. For Boseman, though, it was about much more than simply sounding right in Black Panther. He assembled a team who “I could draw from and identify with”, in addition to his dialect coach — musicians (including an old drummer friend), martial artist Marrese Crump and choreographer Aakomon ‘AJ’ Jones, who had worked with Boseman on James Brown biopic Get On Up. “It needed to be grounded in real language, real dialect, real dance, real clothing, real science, real everything, things that actually do come from a continent,” says Boseman simply, of the elements necessary to create not just a compelling superhero, or even a compelling king, but a compelling human being, a compelling man. This, he believes, is key to the universality of the story, to all audiences connecting with

Black Panther takes on Erik Killmonger. There may well be blood.

the character and with the film. “Anytime you have a well-rounded character, where all of the dimensions — physical, spiritual, mental — are there, when people have certain ideas about what that type of person is, they get lost in the story and they begin to feel the same things that that person feels. And so, if you’re watching it and you’re not of the same race, not of the same culture, yet you can identify universally with this detailed experience, it breaks certain things that have been strongholds within you.” That the first African superhero film could speak to Western audiences at scale is remarkable. But potentially even more so is that little boys and girls like Ryan Coogler and Nate Moore won’t need to go up to Front Desk Guy to find themselves. They’ll see themselves many times over writ large on the cinema screen. BLACK PANTHER IS IN CINEMAS FROM 15 FEBRUARY


MARTIN FREEMAN IS... CIAAGENTEVERETTK.ROSS Do you read comic books? I’ve dipped into comics but more so graphic novels. Just good books. I wasn’t pathological about it or anything. What about the Christopher Priest Black Panther run, which features Everett Ross? Yeah, I looked at a bit of that. I wanted to be familiar with it but not overly familiar because it’s got to be my version of this comic-book character. What I was adamant about is that he couldn’t just be a comedy character. Tell us about your relationship with Ryan Coogler. He’s very warm, collaborative and unassuming. He got everyone on his side just by the strength of his personality. And he loves the material. He is a very smart, gentle bloke, you know. How did it feel to be working on something that breaks such new ground? It does feel like it breaks new ground, definitely. But me and Ryan talked about how that’s all great, [but] it’s got to be good. Now we just have to stand behind it.

DANAIGURIRAIS... OKOYE,HEADBODYGUARD

Top to bottom: Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman) with gangster Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis);

What drew you to Black Panther? My manager said, “You have this offer,” and when he told me that Ryan Coogler was connected, it sounded too good to be true. I didn’t know a lot about Black Panther, so I decided to read all this material — it felt exciting and fascinating and amazing. I was a big admirer of Ryan and his work. The fact that he was giving storytelling new hype.

Spiritual mentor Zuri (Forest Whitaker, left); Gurira and Coogler rehearse on set; Shooting an elaborate set-up.

What excited you about Ryan? His vision for the story. Being a Zimbabwean American, my interest [is] in bridging the gap between two places. To actually become part of something that does that in a way that is unprecedented... It’s a really exciting story and an exciting character to play. Did you feel it was signficant? Absolutely, because being that I am a black woman, an African woman, living in the West, living in the world as a whole, I have the same thirst to see these stories told. You can feel when a need is being met. We grew up with superhero stories not having our faces, or our names. I’m excited that black and brown kids can go to this and they see themselves in that realm.

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WORDS IAN FREER

PORTRAITS BRIGITTE LACOMBE

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It might have been at a Shakespeare In The Park production of Macbeth. Or at one of the countless awards bashes where they probably gave ridiculously witty acceptance speeches. Streep thinks she met Hanks’ wife Rita first, but isn’t sure. The only cast-iron fact is they have never shared the big screen together. Until now. Fittingly, it took a filmmaker of Steven Spielberg’s stature to bring the titans together. Set in 1971, The Post centres on The Washington Post’s race against The New York Times to publish the previously suppressed ‘Pentagon Papers’, revealing the level of US involvement in Vietnam. Streep is the Post’s publisher Katharine Graham, a singular woman in a distinctly male world; Hanks is executive editor Ben Bradlee (previously played by Jason Robards in All The President’s Men), trying to get the scoop of his life. It’s a story awash with modern-day resonances — attempted government censoring of the press, the battle for gender equality — and is far from stuffy awards fare; it’s a tense, funny, suspenseful thriller. Spielberg’s film seemed like the perfect excuse to bring the two actors together to talk about… well, whatever they want. Holed up in a basement suite in New York’s Ritz-Carlton hotel, their wide-ranging chat takes in all the good stuff — movies, politics, feminism, old friends, real-life ghostbusters — punctuated with humour, intelligence, candour and a genuine sense of affection towards each other. But they began with Empire’s obvious conversation-starter: why the hell haven’t they worked together before? Streep: There’s a lot of people of our generation we haven’t worked with. You’re younger than I am, so that’s part of it.

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Hanks: I’m a youthful 61, if that means anything. Streep: I’m 68. So in Hollywood years, our pairing would never work. If anything you should be 20 years older than your co-star. My co-stars were always 20 years older: Robert Redford, Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman. They are all in their eighties now. Hanks: There was just never anything with a part for you and a part for me. We never landed anywhere until this. Streep: I liked that this movie is lots of different things. You go in thinking it’s one thing, which is probably good, because it is a discovery. It’s more fun to not know what you are going to see.

Hanks: It’s a scavenger-hunt film, isn’t it? It’s like, “Hey, something is out there [the Pentagon Papers] — let’s go get it.” When I watched it yesterday I noticed you, [as] Kay Graham, walk through a bunch of women to go through doors, only to be surrounded by a bunch of men. Streep: It’s the way it was. It’s why we are where we are right now, because we’ve come from that place which used to be separated realms. It’s an apartheid movie. Hanks: The original draft we read back in February was based on Kay Graham’s autobiography that Liz Hannah turned into a movie by framing it around the search for the Pentagon Papers. I think we all read it independently and said, “Jeez, I’d like to do


this.” Then the next thing I know, “Holy cow, I’m in a movie with Meryl Streep.”

NIKO TAVERNISE, ALAMY

The Post is not the first time Streep has worked with Spielberg. Little-known fact: she lent her vocal talents to the Blue Fairy, an integral player in 2001’s A.I. Artificial Intelligence.

Above: Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep with director Steven Spielberg on the set of The Post.

Streep: When I worked on A.I., I went and recorded the voice of the fairy at his place in Long Island. All we did was talk about how his house was haunted and did I know a ghostbuster. And, of course, I do. So I sent him an exorcist. Hanks: That’s a good story. Streep: Everything is clear down there

now. In my mind, he had a settled grandeur — a filmmaker who was so important, had this incredible CV and always talks about this well-oiled machine [his crew]. So I was completely unprepared for how improvisatory his work is, how it is created in the moment. Someone was going like this with a pencil [taps it furiously]. We’d done one take and he decided, “That’s going to be the percussive energy of the scene. Everything is going to rev to that.” I thought, “How?” And the whole thing changed. It was exciting to work with him. Hanks: It’s so much in the moment. The well-oiled machine he is talking about allows him this freedom and clarity in

which I’ve made… This is the fifth movie I’ve made with him. Streep: Wow. Hanks: And there are times when you come in and he will say to you, “I am not sure how I am going to shoot this scene.” So you start playing and you work it out and then he lands on it. And there are other times you come in and he knows exactly what is going to happen. Streep: But it’s all on film because he doesn’t rehearse. That I didn’t know. Nobody told me that. Hanks: When you come in for the first breakfast scene, how did the bump with the chair occur? ❯ Streep: It was a mistake. I bumped

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into the chair and he said, “Do it again.” Then it gets hard [laughs]. Spielberg, Streep and Hanks dedicated The Post to another great filmmaker, Nora Ephron. Ephron is a director revered by both actors; Hanks starred in Sleepless In Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, Streep in the Ephron-written Silkwood and Heartburn, plus her last film as a director, Julia & Julia. Ephron sadly died in 2012 from complications from leukaemia. Hanks: Every time I come into New York City, I think, “Great, I get to see Nora… No, I don’t get to see Nora.” Streep: At least once every other day, I think, “I have to tell her that.” Or,

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“I know who will know this…” Of all the people on the face of the Earth, I am so unhappy Mike [Nichols] and Nora can’t see The Post because [leans over to Hanks and screams] THEY WOULD LOVE US SO MUCH IN THIS. Hanks: They would tell us the thing: “Well, you know…” Streep: They would give us such shit. Hanks: I was oftentimes afraid of Nora. Streep: Oh my God. Me, too. Hanks: Sometimes Nora would have a question and I thought, “If I don’t have the right answer, an opinion that’s not going to live up to her expectations, I’m going to end up on her shit list.” It was intimidating. She suffered no fools. Streep: But what a creative mind and


Tom Hanks and Meryl Streep, photographed in New York City on 9 December 2017. Below left: Streep’s Kay Graham holds court. Below: Hanks’ Ben Bradlee and his journalists have a tense time in the newsroom.

generous nature. Hanks: Totally. She appreciated the effort you put in. If you were really trying to get down to examine a theme, she felt for you and she would help you do that. Streep: But when she was younger, she was terrifying because she was mean. She could be mean about people. Hanks: Oh, yeah. Streep: And that was also part of the ethos of females, the feeding frenzy on each other. That’s how you’d call out, “If there’s only space for one woman at the table, it’s going to be me.” That’s kind of the way it was. And I hope that is going away. Hanks: I think a new code of ethics — not code of conduct, that’s enforcement — a new philosophy is going to be formulated. I would not be surprised if pretty soon there is going to be a big sign in front of the Hollywood Way gate, the entrance to Warner Bros., that says, “Anyone entering this gate will obey this code of ethics.” Streep: Oh, I don’t think that will do it at all. I don’t think we need any kind of code of ethics. I don’t think anyone needs any kind of sensitivity training. I don’t think people need to be educated on any of these issues. Hanks: Oh, that’s going to happen. They’re going to have all those programmes. Streep: They will pay out their money and say, “Well, we did that.” The whole thing has to be at the leadership level. Right now, all the whining and complaining and abuse is at the bottom of this pyramid. This pyramid is a very satisfied group of people — male. And when that leadership is completely shared, like Justin Trudeau did when he made his cabinet half female, none of these shenanigans will happen. They’ve had the 17 per cent thing that everybody is very comfortable with: we can have two or three women on the board, that’s not a problem as long as there is not any more of them. When there is an equal inclusion of sensibility, everything will change. Not only that, what’s on offer will change because we don’t have the same tastes. We don’t want to see the same things. Hanks: I’ve always wondered why there isn’t some county, some city, somewhere that women move to and not just have 50 per cent but 80 per cent of the city council. They should target, like, South Dakota. Streep: Well, it won’t be any better! But it will be different. We’ve tried this other way for, oh, seven millennia. Hanks: So the code of ethics in front of the Hollywood Way gate will say, “The

decision-making process will include 50 per cent of each gender.” Streep: I am very optimistic this could happen because people will ask for it now. The natives have not been restless until now. Right now, women are saying, “You know what? It’s shameful.” The directors branch of the Academy is 87 per cent male. It’s not wrong; it’s shameful. And there’s no reason for it except like hires like. We have to break it open. We have to demand it of the agencies, the studios, the funding level at the investment banks. Hanks: Well, here’s my question, Meryl Streep. Will that become an economic reality? Will people show up to see whatever product is put out? Let’s just take a look at superhero movies right now. There’s one woman and always five super-guys. When it starts turning around, is that great dividing line of profitability going to pay off ? I think it does on television in spades. Streep: That’s what I’d say to you. Look at TV. It’s just the movies. The movies are run by men. Hanks: That’s when you look at what Greta Gerwig is doing. Or [producer] Amy Pascal. Streep: And [Universal Studios’] Donna Langley. All the women are there, but there is still a tokenist thing. As soon as we get parity, I think it will change everything. With Hollywood’s gender problems addressed, talk turns to acting. Which of each other’s performances do they most admire? Streep: Most recently Sully, of course, but Captain Phillips killed me. Bridge Of Spies was absolutely great. All the way back to Forrest Gump and the film with Penny Marshall where you are jumping on the big piano. [She means Big.] Hanks: I’m gonna go back a while. I was in college when I saw [Streep’s 1977 film debut] Julia… Streep: Julia? Bullshit. I can’t believe you liked that. I did a whole improvisation with Jane Fonda and then they took the lines from that scene and put them on another scene. Hanks: I hate it when they do that. But I swear to God, in the college drama department, we all talked about things very seriously. Julia. Sophie’s Choice. A Cry In The Dark, which was such an under-appreciated movie. Streep: I was way more confident when I was younger. I thought I knew everything. I really go in now thinking, ❯ “You’re an idiot. I can’t believe they let

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Dream team: editor and publisher take on the US government.

you do this.” And the expectations are so fucking high, that you can’t do anything but fail. And that’s good for me. That terror, that blank, that is all good. Do you know what? The best I feel about the work is when I am least certain that I know what is going to happen that day. And so, when Steven comes in and says no rehearsal, I find the less I know, the better I feel. Hanks: Those expectations are a bitch. Streep: I think actors always feel unnerved and uncertain and that’s good. We need to know the director feels confident. We have to know the director’s got this. Hanks: I think I might have a better self-awareness of whether we got there or not. Streep: Oh yeah? Hanks: I will tell you this. I love the hang more than ever. The atmosphere of making a movie, the creativity on a big ensemble like this… Streep: You were lucky. You had the hang. I did not have the hang. Hanks: Sorry. I had a bunch of great people. We had the newsroom. There was no reason to linger in the trailer on this, because in the newsroom we had a great place to lie down, we had food. I got to pretend to smoke cigarettes, so I always had something to do. And the scenes in Bradlee’s house were the same thing. We all just sat around in the living room between shots. Streep: All I did was sit in my trailer. Anxiety, anxiety, anxiety. That’s sort of who I was in the film. It’s interesting.

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I’ve had this experience on a number of movies now. The Devil Wears Prada, the Margaret Thatcher movie [The Iron Lady] and now this. The woman who is the boss and a kind of solitary, isolated figure. [On The Devil Wears Prada] Stanley Tucci had the great hang with Emily Blunt. All lots of fun. I walk in and there’s like a… [she makes sound and hand gestures of a building collapsing]. Hanks: Everybody was afraid to approach you. I’d come by and say, “You wanna run this scene?” And you’d be like [adopts theatrical voice of a grande dame], “Can we please run these lines?” [Streep laughs uproariously] We’d do back and forth, it was a fabulous game of catch. That’s where the hang is so magnificent. “Let’s go over it a few more dozen times…” Streep: It is funny. I would have loved to have done something funny with you. Because you’re really funny. And with that our time is finally up. Streep stays in the suite as Hanks says to Empire — “You guys are the last ones standing, the only true cinema magazine in the world” — before heading out in search of his jacket and phone. We never did get to the bottom of how they first met. Perhaps we should just be grateful they did because, on screen and off, together they are magic. THE POST IS IN CINEMAS NOW AND IS REVIEWED ON PAGE 30


Steven Spielberg talks his heavyweight stars Steven Spielberg is a happy man. It’s Wednesday 29 November, the morning after the National Board Of Review Awards, and The Post has won Best Film, Best Actress for Meryl Streep and Best Actor for Tom Hanks. “We are so thrilled, it feels like we never won anything before,” he says. Here, the director gives us the lowdown on Streep, making her on-screen debut for the filmmaker, and Hanks, now on his fifth Spielberg film.

SPIELBERG ON HANKS:

Top: Saving Private Ryan. Middle: Catch Me If You Can, The Deer Hunter. Left: Kramer Vs. Kramer. Top right: Streep, Spielberg and Hanks enjoy a break from filming on The Post.

“My favourite performance of Tom’s is always the last performance he gives. Fortunately, in this case, it’s once again for me! “Without any broad strokes, just by making subtle adjustments, Tom can be completely swept into an entirely different characterisation. He’s not only one of our great leading men; he is one of our great character actors. “Ben Bradlee was a character Tom hungered to play. He understood Ben. He understood that there was a kind of an old-fashioned machismo about the way he comported himself around the news floor. Ben was tough as a bear. He was forgiving but also exacting as to what he expected his editors to bring to the public. He was a tough guy: a former naval commander of a battleship in World War II when he was 22. He knew about leading men into battle. And he knew about leading a newsroom into the battle for the truth. Tom Hanks embodied all of that.”

SPIELBERG ON STREEP:

“I first saw Meryl in a TV mini-series, Holocaust, then on the big screen in The Deer Hunter. I don’t think I’ve missed a movie since. One of the most difficult roles she ever played, because she didn’t garner our sympathies, was Dustin Hoffman’s wife in Kramer Vs. Kramer. It broke my heart when I got to hear her side of the story and understand why she left the second time without her son. She is one of the most nuanced actors working today. “There was nobody in the world who could play Kay Graham better than Meryl. I had always wanted to work with her but had never found the right part. She played the voice of the Blue Fairy in A.I., but that was just half an hour in front of a recording machine so that doesn’t count. This was finally the subject matter and the opportunity to work together. “Meryl is a stickler for detail. It’s not the kind of detail that she or anyone expects an audience to notice, but there is enough layering that every moment we are seeing brings an authenticity to the performance. She does some of it consciously and a lot of it unconsciously, which is why every take is different. She does not find a formula and stick with it, which gave me a lot of choice in the editing room. I had always marvelled as an audience member watching her, but now I got to go into the lab and see how she mixes these magical chemicals.” IAN FREER

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ACROSS S IX FILMS SPANNING 20 YEARS, DIRECTOR GUILLERMO DEL TORO AND ACTOR DOUG JONES HAVE CREATED SOME OF THE MOST OFF-THE-WALL CHARACTERS IN MODERN CINEMA. INSIDE HOLLYWOOD’S MOST FANTASTICAL KINSHIP WORDS CHRIS HEWITT

PORTRAITS JASON BUSCH

ILLUSTRATIONS GUY DAVIS

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Far left: Doug Jones’ two Pan’s Labyrinth roles, the Faun (above) and the Pale Man (below). Middle left: Fish man #1: Hellboy’s Abe Sapien. Left, top: Mime artist Jones steps in to play Long John #2 in Mimic. Left, bottom: Hellboy II’s the Chamberlain, one of three roles Jones took in the film. Above: Fish man #2: The Shape Of Water’s Amphibian Man. Top right: Jones’ third Hellboy II character, the Angel Of Death. Right: As Edith’s mother in

alone, Guillermo del Toro and Doug Jones are a match made in heaven. One is tall and almost cartoonishly thin; the other is shorter and, by his own admission, squatter. It’s a classic combination. Little and Large. Del Boy and Rodders. The Pixar lamp and ball come to life. Silhouettes, though, only matter if you’re a comedy duo with music halls to pack out. Instead, del Toro and Jones are judged by a different metric — their unforgettable work together on six of del Toro’s meticulously crafted fantasies. Here’s how it works: del Toro, the Mexican maestro, comes up with characters that seemingly nobody on Earth could play: ethereal, eerie, elegant. Then Jones, a 57-year-old American who doesn’t look remotely like he’s 57, somehow plays them, always buried under a layer or 10 of latex, yet still able to find the grace in the grotesque; beauty in the beasts. And sometimes he just plain scares the shit out of you. They’re still a match made in heaven, but there’s also a little bit of hell in there for good measure. The two have been working together now for 20 years, but they’ve saved the best until now. The Shape Of Water, a lavish romantic fantasy, stars Jones as an amphibian man who becomes romantically entangled with Sally Hawkins’ mute cleaning lady. Arguably del Toro’s finest film since his Oscarwinning Pan’s Labyrinth, it also features possibly Jones’ most nuanced turn for his old friend. So there was no greater time to get them together, at an LA hotel on a warm November evening, to chart the course of this crazy, beautiful, fantastical friendship.

That someone else was Jones, who was already attracting attention for convincing character work swaddled in sticky foam in the likes of Tank Girl and Hocus Pocus. He came in, latexed up, leaned to del Toro’s liking, and put the mime in Mimic. His second day was when he first properly met his director, over a working lunch. Right from the off, they were finishing each other’s sandwiches. “I ate his tortillas,” laughs del Toro. “I said, ‘Are you gonna finish that?’ A Mexican and his tortillas are never far apart.” Jones fake-grumbles: “I could have used another tortilla.” This coming from a man who could pass through the tines of a fork, and who looks like he’s never eaten a tortilla in his life. Del Toro took a keen interest in Jones’ CV to date, reeling off make-up artists the actor had worked with. “He was unlike any director I’d met before,” says Jones. “I thought, ‘There’s an eight-year-old boy behind those eyes.’ He asked for my [business] card that day.” Jones duly obliged, and almost immediately regretted it. “I had drawn a picture of myself and had it mimeographed,” he grimaces. “It was the worst card I’d ever seen,” laughs del Toro. “It looked like one of those cartoons you get made at the beach. It said ‘Doug Jones’ and a number.” Still, it was a number he called when he needed someone to bug out for a teaser trailer “that never got used, in true Dimension/Miramax fashion”. After another false start, in came Jones. His job: to walk on a treadmill in front of a greenscreen. “I get out there, do a walk, Guillermo yells, ‘Cut!’, throws his hands to the skies and yells, ‘Thank you, God!’” They were off to a good start.

MIMIC (1997)

HELLBOY (2004)

LONG JOHN #2 Del Toro had already fired two Doug Jones types before he found the real thing. It was roughly three weeks before Mimic — his first foray into American movies and a “horrible experience” you imagine one day might form the basis of a really good book — was due in cinemas, and del Toro was working on the lastminutest of last-minute reshoots. He needed an actor to be turned into one of the film’s giant humanoid bugs, stand on the edge of a fake roof and do a diagonal lean. Sounds simple; wasn’t. “I said, ‘Who else?’” recalls del Toro. “They said, ‘There’s this guy who’s a mime.’ I said, ‘BRING THE MIME!’”

ABE SAPIEN Del Toro and Jones’ working relationship didn’t begin in earnest until 2004’s Hellboy, the director’s adaptation of his beloved Mike Mignola comic book. Again, it started with someone else getting the heave-ho from the key role of uppity fish-man Abe Sapien. “It was nothing he did,” says del Toro of the unfortunate, unnamed actor. “He was shorter than I needed, and it was my mistake.” Realising he needed someone tall and gangly for Abe, del Toro had another epiphany when Jones’ name was thrown into the ring. “I said, ‘YES! I HAVE HIS CARD!’ I still had it. There is, in all my wallets, this silly compartment where I put cards I want to remember. Doug’s was there and we called him.” This time, Jones would be doing much more than a diagonal lean. Abe was the film’s third lead, and required the actor to form a complete character, again enclosed in a full body suit. “I’ve never been able to see or hear well on anything I’ve played for him,” laughs Jones. “But on a Guillermo del Toro film it’s well worth it.” Jones has a process that’s worked for years. “I’ll go to a dance studio, stand in front of a mirror and say, ‘What posture is going to work for this?’ I work out some physicality, then the make-up tests start.” That test on Hellboy still sticks in his mind. “Remember it?” he asks del Toro. “You said, ‘I feel like I’m waiting for my bride to come out!’ Then we presented Abe to you, and I remember looking in the mirror and going, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the most beautiful creature I’ve ever played.’ I even teared up inside the mask.” Jones’ take on Abe was florid, employing grand hand gestures, fulfilling del Toro’s vision of a “preppy, Ivy League guy”. There was just one issue: his complete performance wasn’t quite complete. Although he voiced Abe on set, David Hyde Pierce was brought in to do it for the finished film. “Guillermo did me the honour of calling me before the story broke,” recalls Jones. Del Toro demurs. “Directing means one thing: you have to be brutal sometimes,” he says. “The only thing you can do is deliver the news❯ yourself. But I would say that was the floor of our relationship.”

Crimson Peak. JANUARY 2018

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PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006)

CRIMSON PEAK (2015)

THE FAUN/THE PALE MAN Del Toro had moved Heaven and Earth to accumulate a modest budget for his fantasy film about a young girl encountering fairies and fauns during the Spanish Civil War. The script called for one actor to play two creature roles — the titular, trickster Faun, and the terrifying, child-gobbling Pale Man. And, even though he was working in Spain, in Spanish, with a local cast and crew, del Toro knew exactly who he wanted. “We’ve never discussed this,” he says. “Doug was American, and we were flying him over and putting him in [the film]. It was a huge victory in a Spanish movie. I said, ‘This is the only guy on Earth who can play this.’” Jones looks visibly taken aback. “That’s a huge compliment,” he gasps. “It’s hard to live up to that.” Jones admits to being “terrified” by the prospect of shooting for two months as the only American on set, unable to speak a word of Spanish. “I had no confidence in myself,” he admits. “But Guillermo sees something you don’t in yourself.” With the faun, that was Jones’ mastery of body language, able to chart the faun’s progression from aged and crusty to young and vibrant. “I knew he could be seductive and charming and beckoning,” says the director. “The other stuff is secondary. I said to Doug, ‘At the end, you’ll almost be in your own musical.’ Pan has the structure of a musical — if it were a musical, he’d be Joel Grey in Cabaret, the Master Of Ceremonies.” It was Jones’ first time pulling double duty on a del Toro set. The Pale Man, a hideous monster who crops up in a memorable sequence menacing the film’s young heroine, Ofelia, was part of the package from the off. As a further sign of del Toro’s growing trust in Jones, he showed the actor, long before anyone else, the film’s most iconic image: the Pale Man, whose eyes are embedded in the palms of his hands, putting them over his face, all the better to see Ofelia with. “That moment was a secret,” recalls del Toro, “something I didn’t share until the last moment. Most of the crew thought I was insane, doing a fairy tale in post-fascist Spain, but that was the moment when some of them thought I was onto something.”

EDITH’S MOTHER/LADY SHARPE The duo don’t always work together, and they’re okay with that. Skipping Pacific Rim completely (“I couldn’t play a Kaiju,” laughs Jones. “They’re a hundred feet tall!”), they reunited on Crimson Peak, which required Jones to tap into his inner woman as two female ghosts, a gliding black-clad figure and a red-skinned, naked spectre. “On take one, I wanted to push the woman side,” says Jones. “But after stepping out of the bathtub, Guillermo said, ‘CUT! Dougie! It’s a bit too sexy!’ I thought, ‘Yes! I pulled it off!’” It was the first ghost, however, with her spidery “piano fingers” and unsettling presence, that was key for del Toro, particularly for a scene where the ghost, the mother of the film’s heroine Edith (Mia Wasikowska), appears behind her, and embraces her in a tender but unsettling fashion. “That came from a memory my mother had,” says del Toro. “I don’t know if I ever discussed this. When her grandmother died, my mother was in her bed and heard the fabric of the dress of her grandmother, smelled her perfume, felt her sit on the bed, and felt her grandmother embrace her. She turned around and there was nobody there.” Jones, now lit by fairy lights in the gloaming of the Los Angeles evening, sighs. “That’s goosebumpy,” he says, finally. “Extraordinarily beautiful.”

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (2008) ABE SAPIEN/THE CHAMBERLAIN/ THE ANGEL OF DEATH Both del Toro and Jones see Pan’s Labyrinth as the moment when collaboration became friendship. “I trusted him with something, and he delivered way beyond,” says del Toro. “I think out of fear!” That trust was cemented on the Hellboy sequel, which saw Jones return as Abe Sapien, only this time completely. No more David Hyde Pierce; now Jones would be responsible for the whole kit and caboodle. “I had such faith in Doug,” says del Toro, simply. “Hellboy II opens with Abe. He had as important a storyline as Hellboy.” Jones suddenly found himself essentially the co-lead, a daunting prospect, and with Abe involved in a love story with an elf princess, he modified the character’s body language. “I wasn’t quite as fluid,” he says. “I needed to be more manly, to contrast the princess’ femininity. I loved it.” Across del Toro’s career, perhaps only Ron Perlman has had more screentime than Jones. Even then, it would be a close call. Jones is helped somewhat by playing multiple roles, and on Hellboy II del Toro asked him to play two more: the nightmarish figure of the Angel Of Death (“a beautiful character” says Jones) and the looming, lumbering Chamberlain, a character informed by the sort of shorthand a director and actor develop after working together for a decade. “Guillermo said, ‘I want you to give the Chamberlain a sort of eeeeep,’” says Jones, making an extravagant hand gesture to accompany the high-pitched squeal. “That’s all he said, and I knew what he meant.”

(2017)

AMPHIBIAN MAN There are other actors adept at the man-in-suit thing, from the bulkier Brian Steele (Hellboy II) to the elastic Javier Botet (Crimson Peak), and most have worked with del Toro. But the Mexican director finds himself repeatedly drawn back to Jones. “He is an extraordinary actor. He can embody things that nobody else can,” says del Toro. “When you say, ‘You are going to play opposite Sally Hawkins,’ that’s not a casual decision. Then you think, ‘That’s an actor.’” There is no longer any danger of Jones suffering the fate of the poor schmoes who preceded him on Mimic and Hellboy. When approaching The Shape Of Water, del Toro and Jones anticipated the inevitable comparisons to Abe Sapien. After all, fish men are all the same, right? Not quite. The Amphibian Man, inspired partially by the Creature From The Black Lagoon, is truly a monster; a mute being with few human traits, but very much in possession of a soul as he bonds with Hawkins’ character. Again, Jones went back to his mirror routine to find the character. Again, he had the long make-up tests. Again, he thought, “This is the most beautiful creature I’ve ever played.” He recalls: “I had Guillermo’s notes — Silver Surfer [who Jones played in 2007’s Fantastic Four sequel] sprinkled with matador. And if I was being too human, Guillermo would chomp, to tell me to go back to the animal place.” More shorthand, more evidence that the working relationship is as tight as it’s ever been. “Guillermo is a perfectionist, but not a persnickety, annoying perfectionist,” says Jones. “He knows what he wants, he has a vision and he won’t stop until he gets there. That’s what I felt right away.” Twenty years on, Jones feels that hasn’t changed; instead, it’s been enhanced and augmented by a loyalty that can only come from true camaraderie. Watching the easy rapport between the two men this evening, their off-screen friendship is apparent. “I’m friends with Ron Perlman,” says del Toro. “I’m now friends with Doug. I really love the man.” Which leads us to the big question: would the pair embark on the ultimate test of any friendship: a long road trip? Jones nods. “It would be a hoot.” And who would be in charge of the stereo? “You do get tired of my Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey,” says Jones, ruefully. Del Toro considers the prospect, then puts his foot down. “I’m pretty sure it would be me,” he laughs. Looks like we’ve found the one thing he would fire Doug Jones over. THE SHAPE OF WATER IS IN CINEMAS FROM 18 JANUARY

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FROM THE NEW DIRECTOR WHO WOWED HOLLYWOOD TO THE WOMAN WHO CREATED POIROT’S IMAX ’TACHE, WE SALUTE THE PEOPLE WHO LIT UP OUR SCREENS THIS YEAR TYPE & ILLUSTRATIONS MARK WARD JANUARY 2018

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N N IC O L E K ID M A

T R A O R D IN A X E R U O F E H T TA L K S A B O U T

WORDS TERRI WHITE

NICOLE KIDMAN CONFESSES that she chooses not to mark time by years. But if she did, she would probably think how pretty damn remarkable 2017 was, with two critically acclaimed films and two buzzy TV shows, which amassed a clutch of awards between them. Kidman chooses instead to measure it by her own “artistic journey”, as well as those travelling beside her. “It was

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H A T D E F IN E D Y PROJECTS T

exquisite to share it with my husband [musician Keith Urban],” she tells Empire. “To have somebody to go, ‘Wow, this is amazing.’ My family are so embracing of my artistic path. I’m not a single woman, so my decisions are made as a collective.” What, then, does the Kidman Collective hope for the next collection of months that we shan’t call a year? “I hope women have stronger voices and protection, that we use our collective voices, that there’s peace and more compassion and kindness,” she says. Hey, where do we co-sign?

H E R 2 0 17

BIG LITTLE LIES (FEBRUARY) “So many times you have these grand ideas,” says Kidman. “And they don’t get realised. But we knew the depth of the material from the start. When we saw the first episode, I texted Reese [Witherspoon] and said, ‘Oh God, I hope people love this as much as I do.’ My niece’s friends, my mum’s, my husband’s, they were all watching it — to connect across all of those people was so unusual. The genesis of it was Reese and I and our production companies. Women can make decisions very quickly, get things done. To be part of a


THE PORGS, STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI ’S WADDLY WADERS, LAUNCHED A THOUSAND INTERNET MEMES. HERE ARE SIX OF THE BEST

groundswell like that creates opportunity. It allows other people to go, ‘I can do that.’ I have a video of my daughters watching me win the Emmy and they screamed and jumped around and cheered, and that’s what I’ve got for a lifetime. It literally brings me to my knees and tears streaming down my face when I watch it.”

THE BEGUILED (JULY) “Sofia [Coppola, the director] said, ‘I’m going to write The Beguiled and would you do it with me?’ Sofia is an exquisite creature. She is very quietly spoken, very elegant and has enormous power in that place that she works from, which is deeply feminine. She’s so femme. Her films are so femme. We didn’t have an enormous amount of money, so we had to be scrappy and committed and hope for the best — in five weeks [the length of the shoot], there isn’t much margin for error. And look what she did in five weeks! We never expected [Sofia to win Best Director at Cannes]. We were just happy to go and hold hands and walk up the red carpet.”

@GAMEwestwood, via Twitter

Via Reddit

TOP OF THE LAKE: CHINA GIRL (AUGUST) “Jane Campion [creator, co-director, co-writer] is one of my best friends; I’ve known her since I was 14. I loved playing that character [Julia], this fantastic lesbian feminist mother. We evolved the look with our friend, make-up artist [Noriko Watanabe]. I loved looking like that. As a woman, it offered me freedom. Freedom from my identity, freedom from my physical looks, and I relish that — for expression and to blur the lines for people. Men get to do it, so why don’t women get to have the blurring of age and all of those things in the same way? I just don’t think we’re given opportunities half the time, so it’s carving that path for myself and for other women so that we have the place to create from that’s very free.”

THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER

@GenePark, via Twitter

@McJesse, via Twitter

Via Reddit

(NOVEMBER)

“I’m drawn to international filmmakers — Yorgos [Lanthimos] is Greek. He has a very distinct voice in the world right now. You can recognise his films within about five minutes of watching them. I’m a huge supporter of directors that oversee every aspect of their film — he’s an auteur and I wanted to work in the way he works and be under his spell. It’s not a mainstream film, there was a limited amount of money, so that requires actors to go, ‘Yep, I’ll do it, I’ll just show up.’ You have to have a nature that’s committed artistically; you have to put your head down and say, ‘It’s all about the work.’ So, we shot it in Cincinnati! I just like people that want to try not to conform. Everything I’ve done is a little bit off-kilter. I’m a left-handed female, so I’m in the place of having a very different take on the world.”

zvoidx, via Reddit

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JORDAN PEELE ON HOW HIS EDGY DIRECTORIAL DEBUT, GET OUT , BECAME A SENSATION WORDS DAN JOLIN

BEFORE GET OUT, director Jordan Peele was best known for being one half of comedy double act Key & Peele. The closest he’d come to making a movie was co-writing and starring in catnapping caper Keanu with Keegan-Michael Key; the nearest thing he’d done to a thriller was appearing (alongside Key) in the first season of Noah Hawley’s Fargo… as comic relief. So you can forgive him for thinking his directorial debut, a thriller in which one black man’s visit to his white girlfriend’s family home turns into a surreally twisted nightmare, might not do well. “I didn’t know if people would go to see it,” he tells Empire. “I worried I’d be putting the audience through these tense moments and stressful scenes.” But there was something even bigger going on in his head, he adds. “The systematic lack of representation in genre movies of black voices, and voices of the other, had me in serious doubt as to whether or not this movie could get made.” But life, as they say, is full of surprises. First, Peele was surprised that producers Jason Blum, Sean McKittrick and Edward H. Hamm Jr “took a chance” on him. Then he was surprised to watch

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Get Out not only garner almost universal critical acclaim, but also storm the box office, making $253 million worldwide on a budget of $4.5 million, and become the highest-grossing debut based on an original screenplay in Hollywood history.

However, what surprised him most of all was the way people instantly got Get Out. “I thought the movie would be treated like popcorn entertainment. Then maybe someone would stumble onto some of the messages and themes I was dealing with. But I just love that people did that instantly.” The think-pieces came thick and fast, digging into Peele’s modern take on slavery and his tackling of ‘West Wing’ liberal America’s ignorance of race issues, while announcing his film as nothing less than a cultural phenomenon. Peele is overjoyed by this. “Oh, that’s my favourite thing. If anyone were to ask me why I was making this movie and what good it would serve, I would have said, ‘Well, if it gets people having a conversation about race that they’d never had before, isn’t that enough?’” Though one take on Get Out did confuse him a little. “Somebody had this theory that it’s in the same universe as Being John Malkovich,” he recalls. “That Catherine Keener’s character Missy Armitage is Maxine years later…” Enjoying the new path Get Out has put him on, Peele is prepping another movie which is, he says, “in a similar genre, the social-thriller genre. It’s just a space I’m obsessed with.” There’s no plan, he insists, for a Get Out sequel. Although he admits, “I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have ideas of where I could take that universe.” Perhaps, Empire suggests, he could cast John Malkovich in a role. “Yeah,” he laughs, “we’ll do the full trilogy!”


HE HAIRLINE

__ “[The receding hairline] is just to conjure up that weird, unsettling feeling of looking at a character and feeling both the horror and innocence. Babies are often born with full heads of hair and lose it. Little babies suddenly start looking like little men. Thankfully, it’s only for a short period of time, speaking as a father!”

D E S IG N E R S IC T E H T S O R DP IT M A K E -U P AUNF F J R T A L K S U S T H R O U GNH T O M W O O D RF P E N N Y W IS E , T H E C L O W R E S T H E L O O K O H E D A M IL L IO N N IG H T M A T H AT L A U N C HN WORDS JO

NUGENT

HE HAIR

__ “The bright red hair in the Tim Curry version really supported a classic clown look. [The orange hair] wasn’t a deliberate response to the TV version, but you always want to put your own thumbprint on something. [Curry’s] Pennywise is a classic clown in every respect. We didn’t just want to repeat that.”

THE MAKE-UP __ “The shape is like Salvador Dalí’s moustache, taken to an extreme. It’s almost like hooks, they look dangerous because of the bright blood-red points passing right through the eyes.”

THE TEETH

__ “One of [director Andy Muschietti’s] first drawings had enlarged incisors, long and pointed, but we dulled down the points because we didn’t want to carve up the inside of Bill’s [Skarsgård] mouth. When he put them in, his lips embraced them and they pulled back. It’s literally like you’re looking at a CG effect sitting in the make-up chair.”

THE CHEEKS

__ “We applied some very subtle touches under the cheeks that filled in the hollows, so that it gave Bill’s jawline a very rounded shape. We also gave him a little nose-tip — the cute little button-nose anatomy underneath the make-up.”

AS MUTANT X-23 (AKA LAURA) IN LOGAN , 12-YEAR-OLD DAFNE KEEN WAS 2017’S MOST SURPRISING BADASS T

HN NUGEN

WORDS JO

What was the best thing about playing Laura? I think it would be how hard it was, because she was a very complex character. She was a child, but she had d this beast inside her, which made her unable to be that child.

always singing and happy. I never saw him cross or sad, apart from when he was in character. Every Friday, he would bring these little lottery papers and go around the set giving them to the crew, saying “Lucky Friday! Lucky Friday!”

Do you have a favourite memory from the shoot? I loved being in the make-up trailer, seeing how they put the faake blood on everything. Also, on the last daay, they put me up on a wire, as high as I was allo owed to go. That was my reward for being goo od!

Did you get to keep anything from the set? I took the unicorn T-shirt. I was supposed to get the claws, but they wouldn’t pass border control.

Have you kept in toouch with Hugh Jackman? Yes. I love him. W We write emails to each other. He was really nice to work with. He was

A spin-off film for Laura has been announced. Do you want to be involved? Yes, of course! I’m in love with the character; she feels part of me. I’d like to keep playing her. And to work with Jim [Mangold] again would be the best ❯ thing ever.

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DAVID HASSELHOFF POPPED UP HERE, THERE AND HEY, HE’S PROBABLY BEHIND YOU RIGHT NOW! RDS S JAMES WHITE

THE YE N O S N I K A T T Y J E NT H E T O P P R O T C E DIR R OVER E H T U P T H AT

Were you happy with Baywatch? The Paramount guys showed me the movie and I went, “It’s not even close to Baywatch, but maybe people will like it.” It wasn’t my cup of tea, but I went out and met the cast and fell in love with those people, so I said I’d do my best to promote it. Will there be a sequel? I would say if you’re a betting man, don’t bet on it. But I have some great ideas — what if we had a tsunami and the whole cast is in the trees? It could be a dream!

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You got one of the best character names of the year: Zardu Hasselfrau in Guardians 2. I’m known as that now. I sign all my texts as ‘Zardu’. James Gunn said they were going to put me in the Guardians ride at Disneyland, a little cameo. They named a crab after me [a hairy-chested Antarctic crab Kiwa tyleri, nicknamed ‘the Hoff crab’ by scientists], so I at least have to have a cameo in a ride. What are your plans for New Year’s Eve? I’m booked to do New Year’s in Berlin and probably sing Looking For Freedom to another million people at midnight. My fiancée wanted to go to Dubai, and I said, “No, we should go to Australia because it’s really great to be on a boat with fireworks at midnight, wearing summer clothes.” But the plans are to be in Berlin singing to everyone.

WORDS CHRIS HEWITT

SOME FILMMAKERS WANT to be anywhere but near their film when it opens. There’s the famous story of George Lucas, who couldn’t face Star Wars’ opening weekend, so he took his best bud, Steven Spielberg, to Hawaii, and while they were on the beach avoiding news of grosses, came up with Indiana Jones. Patty Jenkins didn’t fancy that. When Wonder Woman opened on 2 June, she knew exactly where she wanted to be: New York. “I was there for a long time before I moved to LA,” she tells Empire. “It’s where my heart is. I lived off of Central Park and spent so many days in that park thinking about the filmmaker I wanted to be.” Opening night found Jenkins wandering around the city with her leading man, Chris Pine, “eating at restaurants and talking about all kinds of things”. Then they decided to pop into a midnight showing, to gauge how their little movie about the most famous female superhero in the world was going down. “And it turned out to be a bad

NEALE HAYNES/ CONTOUR BY GETTY IMAGES

You appeared in Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2, Baywatch and Killing Hasselhoff this year. Why the Hoffnaissance? Haven’t a clue! But it’s been a cool year. I also worked with [Dutch violinist and conductor] André Rieu on some concerts, 10 shows across three weeks, which got broadcast in cinemas. And I’m working on a new album.

AR


Above: Director Patty Jenkins on location with Gal Gadot (Wonder Woman) and Chris Pine (Steve Trevor). Left: Jenkins and Gadot share a joke between filming.

experience!” laughs Jenkins. Not because the audience were booing the film. The opposite, in fact. “At midnight people can’t be enthusiastic enough, and I didn’t know how to judge it. But seeing the people dressed up in Wonder Woman costumes in the lobby was amazing.” It’s fair to say that there was a lot riding on Wonder Woman. For Warner Bros., whose run of DC adaptations had stuttered critically and commercially. For Jenkins, who was making her first film since 2003’s Monster and was coming off a bad and aborted experience on Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World. And for women the world over, for whom Gal Gadot’s Amazonian princess was symbolic of a decades-long struggle for equality. No biggie. “I was aware of the pressure to make the first Wonder Woman and all that entailed, but I tried to tune it out,” admits Jenkins. “Nothing about thinking about it being important for women helps you make a better movie. But I didn’t want to take it lightly and mess around in a way that would have been hurtful to women.” When the movie came out in June, it was one of the success stories of the year. Making $821 million worldwide, it became the highest-grossing superhero origin movie of all time. But it also garnered almost unanimous critical garlands, a first for the DCEU. Not to mention the stream of people who have come up to Jenkins to tell her what her movie means to them — “so much so I could cry right now, thinking about it. I’m so grateful by how positive it’s been”. For Jenkins, it’s been a reminder that, though it might not have seemed it at the time, not directing Thor: The Dark World (that old chestnut, creative differences, was to blame) turned out alright for everyone, including Marvel, Warner, Taika Waititi (who might not have directed Thor: Ragnarok otherwise) and, of course, her. “It confirmed to me that that wasn’t the right movie for me, and this was,” she says. “This really was a much better fit.” After a year like that, some filmmakers would be forgiven for immediately taking a massive holiday. Not Jenkins. She plunged headlong into work, reuniting with Pine (“I’d work with Chris Pine and Gal Gadot on every movie if I could”) on the upcoming TV show One Day She’ll Darken, and signing a lucrative deal to return for 2019’s Wonder Woman 2. “It’s not what you’d expect a banner year feels like,” she laughs. “We’re not standing around high-fiving. Straight into Wonder Woman 2.” Well, there was some time off. Just a couple of weeks, really. And Jenkins’ destination of choice? “I went away to Hawaii,” she says. Just like George and Steven. Time will tell if she came up with her own Indiana Jones there, but after the year Jenkins has had, you wouldn’t rule it out. Chris Pine had ❯ better keep his schedule clear.

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WORDS CHRIS HEWITT

ASK TAIKA WAITITI to give his 2017 a mark out of 10, and you’ll get a fairly simple answer. “I would rate it 17 out of 10,” he says. “It’s been amazing.” That’s an understatement. It’s the year when the Kiwi director broke into the mainstream in flamboyant style with Thor: Ragnarok. It was the year when he became something of a fashion icon. It was also the year he was convinced he was going to cark it. “I had a pain in my shoulder for a couple of months, and I couldn’t lift my arm up,” he tells Empire. “I thought I was having a heart attack. I went to a barbecue and was explaining it to someone, and another guy went, ‘Are you talking about the pain and the heart attack thing? Don’t worry about it!’ And once I delivered the film, it disappeared. I don’t show stress from the neck up. But from the neck down, everything shrivels up.” It’s hard not to see where this outbreak of “extreme anxiety and stress” might have come from. Waititi spent most of the year cooped up in an editing suite finessing Thor: Ragnarok, and though the end result has been rapturously received critically and commercially, he also

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Top: A dapper Waititi consults with Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth on set. Above: Waititi — here rocking his, er, striking pineapple shirt at Comic-Con — also provided the voice for Korg in the film.

acknowledges that, for a man used to working on independent New Zealand films like What We Do In The Shadows and Hunt For The Wilderpeople, stepping up to the blockbuster crease cranked up the pressure. “On my other ones, it doesn’t matter because the budgets are small,” he says. “The scale difference is huge. You have to remind yourself to stop looking over your shoulder at 300 people waiting around for an answer. Then it becomes like any other movie.” Cooped up he may have been, but Waititi was allowed out from time to time, attending his first San Diego Comic-Con in July, while living in LA inspired him to hold course with his raucous, goofy approach for Thor. “I remembered when I was a kid and seeing movies and leaving the cinema with a smile on my face,” he says. “Driving past theatres in LA, nobody smiles anymore. I wanted people to have a cool escape. How we did that was running unapologetically towards a crazy, comic, cosmic adventure.” Waititi’s brief sojourns into the spotlight also gave the world the chance to take in his unique approach to fashion. Pineapple shirts and shorts are often the order of the day, and he somehow makes it work. Dressing down is not an option for Hollywood’s Most Fashionable Director. “I would say I’m Hollywood’s Least Qualified To Dress Himself Director, because I’ve no fucking idea what I’m doing,” he laughs. “I’m recycling stuff from a suitcase. Whatever’s clean, I put on!”

GETTY

THOR: RAGNAROK DIRECTOR TAIKA WAITITI ON HIS WEIRD, WILD, PINEAPPLE-PACKED 2017


Tiffany Haddish? I love all those women so much! And we have gotten together — not all of us at once, because we’re busy women. We keep ourselves connected. We have our little Flossy Posse group chat!

GIRLS TRIP ’S REGINA HALL ON HEADING UP THE SURPRISE HIT OF THE US SUMMER WORDS JAMES WHITE

Girls Trip made over $100 million on its opening weekend in the US alone, which few people saw coming. Were you and the rest of the cast surprised, too?

Definitely! Happily surprised. And summer time is scary — there’s so much competition. We were up against Christopher Nolan! Why do you think audiences embraced it? There’s a lot going on here in the country and I think it was a nice respite to be able to laugh. And it just resonated with people; we have a lot of images, because of reality television, of women fighting, but the movie had humour and heart. Did you celebrate the film’s success with your co-stars, Jada Pinkett Smith, Queen Latifah and

1 INSPIRATION

MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS HAIR DESIGNER CAROL HEMMING ON POIROT’S WHISKERS WORDS NICK DE SEMLYEN

“I found a quote from Agath ha Christie’s Hallowe’en Party that inspired me: ‘There was one thing about his appearance which pleased Hercule Poirot, and that was the profusion of his moustaches.’ Because she called them ‘m moustaches’, Ken [Branagh] liked the idea of having a double effect.”

2 REFERENCEES

“We looked at hundreds and hundreds of photographs, dating right back to the 17th century. Some were from the Wild West, because in the books Poirot is quitte physical and vital. There was a Danish astronomer who was quite a big inspiration.”

Did you get to see the film with a crowd? I watched it with a crowd at the American Black Film Festival. The moment at the hotel where the gentleman decided to reveal himself at the window, people were really surprised by that. And then kind of from there, they were with us. Do you think the success of the movie is a positive thing for the industry in general? I think so. A lot of times in movies, the women don’t really play a major role. But this was four women, four black women, and we got to objectify the men. So I think it’s going to open up what studios believe audiences will support, which is great.

3 CONSTRUCTION

“Ken grows brilliant moustaches: when we did [stageplay] Winter’s Tale he grew it for real. But this one was so magnificent, it had to be built. It was made of many, many contingents: human hair, cashmere, mohair, yak. We blended in everything, even layering in some of Ken’s own hair to help it along.”

4 APPLICATION

“We practised for weeks on two life casts so we could get it on Ken as quickly as possible. There were two of us putting on the moustache and a third person measuring it as we went along. We got it down to minutes. It was like training for the ❯ moustache Olympics.”

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NT 17 ’S M O S T P R ES C IE 20 G IN Y LA P N O S S EL IS AB ET H M O O FF R ED IN TH E H AN D M AI D ’S TA LE C H AR AC TE R , LIN

WORDS DAN JO

ON 27 JUNE this year, three dozen supporters of campaign group Planned Parenthood converged on Capitol Hill to protest a bill which would restrict funding to healthcare centres that provide birth control. All the protesters were women. None spoke a single word during their protest. And they were all dressed in long red robes, their bowed heads clad in crisp, white paper bonnets. It’s the striking, disturbing uniform of The Handmaid, as worn by Elisabeth Moss’ Offred — a once-independent woman reduced to a

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depersonalised breeding chattel for Christian fundamentalist fascists — in Hulu and MGM’s astonishing TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s dystopian 1985 novel The Handmaid’s Tale. “That was really extraordinary,” says Moss, speaking to Empire in late October at the end of a long day filming an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale’s second season. She’s not just referring to the 27 June demonstration. There have been numerous ‘Handmaid’s Protests’ around America this year. “I’ve been a part of shows that have had an impact

Aunt Lydia (Ann Dowd) keeps Offred (Elisabeth Moss) in check.


ALAMY

that’s been very visible, but I’ve never been a part of anything where it was used in the political realm, or in a way to actually enact change.” She can’t help but sound humbled. “I put on a costume in the morning and get paid to do what I do. These are women who are stepping outside of their comfort zone. They’re the true heroes. So it’s very moving when you see that.” Moss’ Emmy-winning performance as Offred is, in its own way, heroic. Not only because it requires her to undergo recreations of atrocities and indignities that women suffer in a very real way around the world today (“It’s not a science-fiction show, it’s happening now”, Moss points out), but also because it sets the female perspective, as expressed by Moss’ eloquent, often witty, inner voice, as the very focus of the narrative. It must be quite gruelling — or at least exhausting — for her. “Oh, that’s my new normal,” she laughs. “I love what I do and I really relish the challenges and I relish dramatic material. You give me a scene where I cry and get angry and fall on my knees and bang around and I’m happy as a clam!” For one scene in the pilot episode, she also had to be slapped hard around the head… By Offred’s own creator Atwood, in the guise of a stern ‘Aunt’. “She was so sweet, because the first few takes she didn’t wanna do it too hard. She didn’t wanna hurt me. She’s not a monster. We had to convince her to do it hard enough [that] it looks real, and finally the last take she hit me and my hat got knocked askew and that’s the take in the show.” Moss’ relationship with Atwood is something she clearly cherishes, enthusing about how it’s gone from her being nervous and feeling like “the child in the corner who had nothing intelligent to say” to being “on a hugging level”. One of her favourite memories of the Handmaid’s experience is seeing the author receive a standing ovation at the Emmy Awards. “It was a really special moment,” Moss says. Just as gratifying, she tells us, was hearing the news that The Handmaid’s Tale would continue, showrunner Bruce Miller taking us beyond Atwood’s original text (with the author’s consent, approval and consultation). “As a fan of the book, as a person who was so pissed off at that ending, I was just excited to find out what happens to [Offred]! There’s so much story to tell, and I have so much more to do with the character.” More than that, the show’s success assures Moss there’s a growing hunger for female-led stories. As someone whose first big role (as Zoe Bartlet in The West Wing) coincided with the start of TV’s current Golden Age, she’s felt “an incredible shift” in that direction. “It’s really changed so much during my career,” she says. “Now you’ve got shows like Big Little Lies, which was just all women. I really think television is leading the way in that regard.” And, while Moss also led Jane Campion’s mystery drama Top Of The Lake this year, it’s undoubtedly her performance in The Handmaid’s Tale that’s made the greatest impact. Hopefully in the near future it’ll come to look more like fiction.

OU R FA VO UR IT E FI LM S OF TH E YE AR , AS VO TE D FO R (F OU GH T OV ER ) BY TH E EM PI RE TE AM

1

GET OUT

5

star wars: the last jedi

9 THE disaster artist

13 PADDINGTON 2

17

RAW

2 BLADE RUNNER 2049

6

10

DUNKIRK

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME

14 WAR FOR THE PLANET OF THE APES

18 THE FLORIDA PROJECT

3 ali’s wedding

7

GOD’S OWN COUNTRY

11

THE BIG SICK

15

4

MOONLIGHT

8

12 THOR: RAGNAROK

16

BABY DRIVER

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA

19

THE LOST CITY OF Z

LOGAN

20

MOTHER!

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BEST PICTURE

DA R K E S T H O U R

WITHTHEWORLD ONTHE BRINK OFWAR, ONE MAN LIT A CIGARAND FACED DOWN HITLER. INSIDE CHURCHILL EPIC DARKEST HOUR WORDS IAN NATHAN

e has practised the voice for over a year,” whispers producer Eric Fellner as Gary Oldman steps up to the despatch box for another take, the South Londoner nearly but not quite unrecognisable beneath layers of prosthetics. Like a wind machine roaring into voice, the throng of MP extras begin a chorus of heckles and cheers, waving wads of white paper in the air. Calm is gradually restored. As the camera glides upwards, the British actor, arguably our finest, strides the floor of the House Of Commons in the guise of arguably the UK’s finest Prime Minister. He begins pontificating, showboating, and changing the course of history. “We shall fight… On the beaches…” Theatrical pause. Oldman-Churchill spins on his heels, a sprightly 65-year-old politician thrilling to the moment, an actor playing an actor on the biggest stage possible. “We shall

H

fight… On the landing grounds…” “It gives you goosebumps,” beams Fellner. “Gary has memorised every word of the script.” It’s January 2017 and we’re at Hertfordshire’s Leavesden Studios, where the famous chamber has been immaculately recreated to its wartime specifications (it would be extensively remodelled after bomb damage). No more than a brisk stroll from here were once the halls of Hogwarts, where Oldman charmed his way into Harry Potter’s heart as the selfless Sirius Black. Somehow they are the same man. Darkest Hour is days from completion, and Churchill’s legendary rallying cry has been deliberately left late into production. Director Joe Wright wanted the entire production to feel the blood-rush of history. Working Title, the production company that has come to represent a refined but diverse British sensibility on the world stage, had been toying with a Churchill movie for years. What greater subject could there be — the big kahuna of our national identity, one of the most revered and ❯ misunderstood historical figures of all time?

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All of which is easier said than captured on film. “With these incredible men and women,” sighs Fellner, “the breadth of their lives can be too great.” How could they ever hope to capture the gravity of Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill: the aristocrat adventurer who had experienced action in the Boer War and World War I, who grew in girth and range, entering politics, jumping parties twice, being exiled from government, picking up a Nobel Prize for Literature for his extensive familial biographies, before returning, in the hour of need, to save the world? How could you ever hope to capture the truth of such a man? Only George Washington has inspired more biographies. And a fleet of recent TV films, starring the likes Albert Finney and Robert Hardy, have done stately if predictable jobs of capturing different aspects of his lordly World War II presence. Brian Cox explored his cantankerous side in this year’s Churchill. Young Winston, a sturdy enough 1972 Richard Attenborough biopic, brought to life the early handsome years. Fellner admits they were stumped. “We just didn’t know what our moment should be. We developed a TV series, we worked our way around it, but never really got anywhere.” Churchill waited on his plinth in Parliament Square. Then, from nowhere, Anthony McCarten, who had successfully deciphered the life of Stephen Hawking in The Theory Of Everything, offered his take on the British Bulldog. The Kiwi screenwriter had been fascinated by the idea of “Churchill as orator”. That the greatness and complexity of the man could be portrayed via three pivotal speeches he gave over a four-week

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Above left: Lily James as Churchill’s secretary, Elizabeth Layton. Here: Gary Oldman chomps on Churchill’s signature cigar.

period in 1940. As the British Expeditionary Force huddled on the beach at Dunkirk awaiting rescue — curiously, chronologically speaking Darkest Hour serves as both prequel and sequel to Best Picture rival Dunkirk — the newly elected Churchill faced down immense pressure from within to strike a deal with the might of Hitler. “What I have tried to play,” Oldman explains later, those familiar New Cross tones sliding out from beneath the jowls of history, “is that this man knew in his DNA, in his core being, that this monster had to be resisted. He couldn’t say those words, they stuck in his throat: ‘I capitulate; I am going to do a deal with Satan.’ That for me was the darkest hour.” It was an instinct that would ultimately bring about victory. AFTER A MIXED spell sojourning in genre movies (Hanna was remarkable, Anna Karenina experimental, Pan bewildering), Wright was back in the market for the kind of big-house drama which had made his reputation — grand, actorly, British,

with a dash of subversion. A sturdy North London education had provisioned Wright with the basics of the Churchill myth, and he had done a fair amount of troop-level research on the evacuation at Dunkirk for Atonement. “But I hadn’t looked at the story from his point of view, I guess.” He means the big picture, where the lives of thousands are sacrificed on the decisions of heavy-set men with plummy voices in shadowy rooms. What impressed him so much about McCarten’s script was that it humanised Churchill, exposing the doubts, the flaws, the rages and petty squabbling, the slumps into “black dog” depression, and the sparkling humour. A man who had made many, many mistakes, but when his country called was not found wanting. “It was easy in hindsight to imagine he was a someone who always knew he was right, and he never doubted himself,” says Wright. “But he wasn’t a prophet, he was a man who was valuable, and in a way that makes me admire him more.” The crucial question, of course, was who would


The

Competition Our bets for the other Best Picture nominees

Dunkirk _

Darkest Hour’s darkest hour could come courtesy of 2017’s other film about Britain on the brink in 1940, which is considerably heavier on gunfire.

Call Me By Your Name _ Luca Guadagnino’s sun-baked coming-of-age tale is the smallest of the frontrunners, but is casting a big spell on critics and audiences.

While we see events partly through the eyes of his secretary (Lily James), this is not the orderly period drama of Downton Abbey, or even the modern-leaning literary shapeliness of Wright’s Pride & Prejudice and Atonement. Nor is it a war film in a traditional sense — we hopscotch across the Channel to brief CG bombing raids, but the drama is caught in lockstep to Churchill’s hustle. “We have got to look different,” insists Fellner, glancing across the Commons, through shifting light the colour of fine brandy, “and I hope we will, because our central performance will be a tour de force.” This is a tour de force of a tour de force.

THE IDEA OF building an entire film around a single — and in this case singular — personality and Streep unite for a timely is what fascinates Wright as a filmmaker. “How film about the freedom of the to express one person’s experience of life,” he press. It could only be more says. He has developed a reputation for being Oscar-y if set on the Titanic. an actor’s director. “Often people think that acting is some kind The Shape Of Water _ of magical alchemy, and there is an element of Films about a cleaning lady and something magical happening,” he laughs. “But a fish-man don’t usually bag that magic can only happen if it is supported by Oscars. Or get made at all. But a very practical process.” Guillermo del Toro’s Golden He and Oldman spent five months preparing Lion-winning fantasy-romance the role together, judging the level of humour, the could be the exception. countervailing tragedy, and testing out the prosthetics, which was very much part of the character process. “We Ben Mendelsohn would try the latest iteration of the is King George VI, make-up, then go into a room and he who re-examined would try walking and breathing as his position on Churchill. Finding the breath appeasement. was important. It was important that he wasn’t too shouty.” They rehearsed with the other actors, seeking what Wright calls the “musical rhythm” of scenes. With rhythm, he says, comes meaning. On the day, he clears out the crew and charts the geography of the scene with his cast, locating the tension, where the crescendos lie. “It can be quite a vulnerable process,” he admits. He always asks his leading actor to be the “company leader” and look after the rest of the cast. play their antihero, invigorating the iconic Oldman has been a beacon of statesman, grouching through a veil of cigar smoke, leadership both off screen and on. with real life. Watching the reams of existing Wright has thrilled to the dances that have footage (Churchill had a very modern instinct for developed between his star and the rest of the cast. publicity), Wright saw someone who had “an The relationship between Oldman and Kristin Scott extraordinary, dynamic energy and intensity”. That Thomas, as Churchill’s devoted wife and emotional is why he thought of Oldman. So what if they were crutch Clementine, has been tender. There has been physically miles apart? Prosthetics could figure that huge respect between him and Ben Mendelsohn, out. The more he thought about it, the more he rigid as a statue as King George VI. In one of a few could see they shared the same drive, wit, talent delicious elaborations on history, the film and, above all, mischievousness. As a film, Darkest concertinas the slowly steadying relations between Hour needed to hum with Churchillian spirit. a distrustful monarch and his boorish head of

The Post _ Spielberg, Hanks

state into a series of magnificently strange encounters between opposites — both characters and actors. Mendelsohn, Wright delights, is as “all over the place” in style as Oldman is precise and intellectual: “It was like watching two master swordsmen fencing.” What has been odd is that for three months, the director hasn’t laid eyes on his leading man. Each day, Oldman arrives hours before everyone else to begin the rigours of adding his Churchillian cheek; then he would still be in the make-up chair, losing his mask, as they arrived home. The film shot between late 2016 and early 2017, and during the Christmas hiatus Oldman stayed in the UK, unwilling to dilute his London frame of mind with an exile’s Californian sunshine. He came for turkey at the Wrights, and the director was confronted with a man he hardly recognised. Ten years younger, five stone lighter. Wright is well aware that Churchill’s achievements have often been hijacked to espouse a nationalistic viewpoint, but he is determined his film isn’t political in any modern sense. “I thought a lot about this,” he says, “and in the end I chose to resist the temptation to embellish the relevance of the movie on contemporary British and global politics.” This is a film, he says, entirely specific to what we faced at that time that asks what would you do? If the audience happens to gain a perspective on current affairs, then that’s their business. A strong favourite for the Best Picture Oscar, Darkest Hour is better viewed as a celebration of Britishness in a more primal sense. Fellner, for one, finds it entirely fitting that the man who once played Sid Vicious — in the producer’s very first film no less, Sid & Nancy — is sticking two fingers up to the system as Winston Churchill. “There is a trajectory there that is extraordinary,” he laughs. “There is definitely something quite punk rock about Gary,” agrees Wright. There is a moment the director loves that comes right at the very end, where a triumphant Churchill, dropping the metaphorical mic, parliament rising as one to acclaim his name, strides out of the chamber and into war. “Gary gives it a bit of swagger as he leaves,” Wright says with satisfaction. “A little bit of South London, a little bit of Sid Vicious.” Bring it on. DARKEST HOUR IS IN CINEMAS NOW

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BEST ACTOR

G A RY O L D M A N

THE ICONIC BRITISH ACTOR JOWLS UP TO BECOME A CHURCHILL LIKE NO OTHER WORDS IAN NATHAN PORTRAIT JOHN RUSSO

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hen the idea was first put to him, Gary Oldman could only laugh. How did he feel about playing Winston Churchill, the triumphant bulldog of British history who kept Hitler at bay by sheer force of will? “Not because I didn’t think I could,” he says of his reaction. “I thought intellectually I could play him, but the physicality was crazy.” Even at 59, Oldman has chiselled features, a fine head of hair and, if not the punk-rock skinniness of his youth, a slender frame. He knew this would require serious prosthetics, a body suit for the drinker’s midriff, a gruelling physical transformation beyond anything he had ever endured before (Dracula had only required a pancake of undead wrinkles and a dinner-lady wig). “No discourtesy to Daniel Day-Lewis,” Oldman smiles, “but he gets out of bed and looks like Lincoln. I had to know that I could see it.” As soon as he signed up he personally enlisted eminent make-up designer Kazuhiro Tsuji — who had previously plumped Eddie Murphy to nutty proportions — to create a prosthetic architecture. Tellingly, they found that the closer they got to a “full-on” Churchill, the more something was lost. Without glimpsing the actor’s presence, we wouldn’t feel the performance. In a year-long process, the pair went through five different looks, a journey in finding the character. “[Gary’s] mannerisms and the expression in the eyes changed,” says Tsuji. “Subtle nuances started to emerge.” With each test, Oldman would summon up the speeches and walk around, perfecting the voice and the impish hustle of Winston’s walk. Slowly, surely, he became convinced they were going to pull it off. On set, each day was a trial: three-and-a-half hours in the make-up chair to apply Churchill (Oldman sometimes arrived as early as 1am), 40 minutes to remove him. The actor would count down the days in remaining “applications”. But he would never complain. This wasn’t about make-up. He was stirred by the idea of probing beneath the cliché of the rotund icon. “I’ll tell you what it is,” he says intently. “There are a lot of people out there, people who will go and see the movie, who think they know him.” Oldman thought he knew him. But then he delved into the endless biographies, Churchill’s voluminous writings, and extensive footage. Over the four critical weeks of 1940 encompassed by Darkest Hour, as Churchill struggled to stave off British capitulation, Oldman saw not a portly old curmudgeon but a dynamo. “I saw a sparkle and a humour in his eyes, as well as a rather cherubic face.” This would be the crux of his performance:

CONTOUR BY GETTY IMAGES

W

The

Competition Our bets for other Best Actor nominees

Daniel Day-Lewis _ He already has three Oscars, more than any living actor except Jack Nicholson. Could his final role, as a lovelorn dressmaker in Phantom Thread, make it four?

Denzel Washington _ Gritty courtroom drama Roman J. Israel, Esq. may not have a snappy title, but it does have two-time Oscarwinner Denzel Washington as an eccentric legal genius.

Timothée Chalamet _ Previously best known as Matthew McConaughey’s son in Interstellar, the 21-year-old took everyone by surprise with his electric turn in Call Me By Your Name.

Andrew Garfield _ True-life disability drama Breathe is the kind of project that historically sucks up Oscars, and Garfield is terrific in it. But the generally lukewarm reviews won’t help.

a man cannonballing through history. His Churchill is madcap and very funny, dispelling the pompous myth upheld by previous renditions. “People don’t remember Churchill,” grumbles Oldman. “They Will it be V for remember Robert Hardy or victory for Gary Albert Finney.” Or Timothy Oldman in his role as Spall, Brendan Gleeson, Winston Churchill? Bob Hoskins, Ian McNeice (in Doctor Who) or any one of over 200 cigarchomping grumblers. Plus, for that matter, Winston Churchill, who specialised in playing Winston Churchill. He was, Oldman points out, a great self-promoter. By any estimation, this is a whopper of a role, the greatest challenge of his career, and the one that could finally bag him an Oscar. But he has always had a sneaking suspicion that Churchill was his destiny. His parents lived through the war, his father serving in the navy, “one of Churchill’s men”. As a kid, he bought a plastic bust of him from Woolworths. “I had that forever, painted it, melted it, and cut it with scissors to see inside it.” Decades later, while mulling over the Darkest Hour offer, Oldman wandered into a Mayfair antiques shop and found a similar-looking bust for sale. “It’s from Woolworths,” said the shopkeeper. It cost him quite a bit more the second time. Churchill marks the culmination of an extraordinary facility for historical oddballs: Sid Vicious, Joe Orton, Dylan Thomas, that patsy Lee Harvey Oswald, Ludwig Van Beethoven. In fact, everything Oldman has ever done can be found in this battleship of a part: Hitler’s most formidable opponent prone to his own chorus of furies. Wright wonders if those mood swings, flip-flopping from ecstatic energy to what Churchill christened his “black dog” depressions, might signal manic depression, or bipolar disorder. For Oldman the humanising flaws are the soul of the part. “He’s an essential man in the history of the Earth, and it took everything he had. He could see the Nazi menace coming and was viewed as a scaremonger. Of course, he was bang on. And he never surrendered.” What a perfect fit they make.

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BEST ACTRESS

MARGOT ROBBIE

Ice HOW MARGOT ROBBIE TACKLED THE RINK — AND CONTROVERSIAL OLYMPIC SKATER TONYA HARDING — FOR I, TONYA WORDS NICK DE SEMLYEN PORTRAIT MAARTEN DE BOER

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M

argot Robbie had no idea who Tonya Harding was. She didn’t know she was a US figure skater. She had no clue she had been implicated in a brutal attack on her Olympic rival, Nancy Kerrigan. And even though it made headlines around the world — “TERROR ON ICE”, screamed the cover of People magazine — she was unaware that the incident had ruined Harding’s life, career and reputation. But Robbie had a good excuse: she was little more than a toddler in Dalby, Australia, when this all went down in January 1994. In fact, the first she heard of America’s one-time number-one villain was when the script for I, Tonya landed her on her desk. She knew she had to be in it. There was only the small matter of a physical transformation and learning how to figure skate without ending up in traction. This seems like a daunting role in many ways. Were you immediately sure you wanted to do it? The first thing I did after reading the script was

The

Competition Our bets for other Best Actress nominees

Meryl Streep _

She’s been Oscar-nominated 20 times and won three. She’s appearing in Spielberg prestige picture The Post. Are you really going to bet against her?

Frances McDormand _ Her grieving mother in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is a C-bomb-dropping force of nature — but will the Academy find that too edgy?

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Saoirse Ronan _

The 23- year-old two-time nominee (Atonement and Brooklyn) is back in the running for her performance as a rebellious young Californian in Lady Bird.

Jessica Chastain _ She proves more than a match for Aaron Sorkin’s whip-smart dialogue in Molly’s Game, as real-life “poker princess” Molly Bloom.

go online and start researching some things, because it was so wild. It was one of the most mental scripts I’d ever read. The structure of it was what struck me as being very original — the mockumentary style and non-linear storytelling and all the unreliable narrators. It made the whole thing feel unique and nothing like a biopic. And so it was nuts when I realised it was all true. But it was daunting, for sure. I’d never been the lead of a film before. My character had never been in the title of the film. You did four months of training for the skating sequences. Did you have any previous experience? My brief stint on an amateur ice-hockey team in America was about the extent. I had a long way to go. It was a lot more difficult than I ever could have presumed it would be. But I was lucky to have a phenomenal instructor, Sarah Kawahara, who actually lived through the whole thing — she choreographed Nancy Kerrigan and was asked to choreograph Tonya but didn’t have the time. I got there in the end, but with a lot of bruises. The camera gets right up close to you as you skate. Were there any mishaps? I definitely hit it on an occasion or two. When you’re watching competitions on TV you’ve got these beautiful stationary shots and long lenses and it looks very easy from afar. But it’s anything but. We wanted the camera to be so close you could feel the raw power of the skating. Thank God our camera operator, Dana [Morris], was a great skater, because he was on the ice with me the whole time and it ended up being a weird dance between the two of us. We put all the skating at the start of the schedule, taking the gamble that I wouldn’t get injured. And sure enough, I got injured. What happened? I herniated a disc in my neck. If I wasn’t a producer on the film I definitely would have

walked off set: “Okay, I’ve got to go to rehab now!” Funnily enough, two movies later I’ve just screwed my neck again. I messed it up doing a stunt the other day, so I currently have a neck brace on again. But it’s fine! You play Tonya from the age of 15 to 44. Which was tougher, going younger or older? Going younger was difficult because there was more footage of her in her forties. There was one documentary made about her when she was 15 — I think it was called Sharp Edges — which exists because a college student who knew her somehow followed her around and made it as a project. But it was difficult to nail that feeling of adolescence. The braces helped. Besides the braces, you sport bleached eyebrows, frizzy hair and high-waisted jeans. Tonya is a long way from Harley Quinn… Working on the whole look was really fun. Deborah [La Mia Denaver], our make-up designer, was very clever with contouring and the way she changed my face shape and hairline. I remember Adruitha [Lee], our hair designer, kept going to strip malls to look for really cheap hair colour to dye this beautiful wig. She was like, “I can’t get the terrible colour right!” Because it was an indie film, we really didn’t have the luxury of endless hours in the hair and make-up chair. We needed to shoot something like 260 scenes in 31 days, which in film terms is madness. But there were only a few days when we needed to apply prosthetics for older Tonya, which took three-and-a-half hours.

What did the real Tonya make of the film? She said she wished she’d brought some friends to watch it with her, because it was more emotional than Margot Robbie as she’d expected. I’ve only met her the embattled figure one time, a week-and-a-half out from skater Tonya shooting, but we’ve spoken by text Harding. ever since and she’s a really tough, incredibly kind person. The goal was never to prop her up as some kind of hero, but neither was it to paint her as some sad victim. It was just to humanise her. I hope she appreciated that approach more than anything. I, TONYA IS IN CINEMAS FROM 15 MARCH

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BEST DIRECTOR

RIDLEY SCOTT

RIDLEY SCOTT, THE FASTEST-WORKING MAN IN SHOW BUSINESS, IS BACK. AND GUNNING FOR OSCAR GLORY WITH GRITTY REALLIFE KIDNAP DRAMA ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD WORDS SIMON CROOK

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ome, July 2017. The Italian city is being vulcanised by a vicious, beating heat wave. In fact, it’s 36 degrees even in the shade on the set of Getty kidnap thriller All The Money In The World, and Empire is sweating from pores we never knew we had. The location for today’s shoot is the Giannini depot in Magliana — an artisan garage that restores vintage super-cars for the super-rich. Upstairs in Giannini HQ, Ridley Scott is doing some vintage restoration himself. Seemingly pickled in the 1970s, the Giannini offices have never been refurbished, frozen in the era’s oppressive beige and a perfectly eerie double for the Il Messaggero newsroom circa 1973. That’s 10 November 1973, to be exact — precisely four months to the day since 16-year-old oil heir John Paul Getty III was kidnapped by the Mafia. Set in an editor’s office, the scene being shot looks unmistakably Ridley, all creamy cigarette smoke and white light streaking through the blinds. At the head of a large, glossy walnut table sits the editorial team of Il Messaggero. At the other end, Michelle Williams. Dressed in winter wools, her hair a lacquered meringue, Williams is the spitting image of Gail Harris, the embattled mother of JP III. When, “Silencio!” is yelled and Scott calls, “Action!”, the atmosphere instantly descends into cool anger, contrasting with the searing heat outside. During his five-month kidnap ordeal, JP III had his right ear hacked off, then posted by his captors to Il Messaggero. If the ransom wasn’t paid, read the note, he’d be “released in pieces”. At this point, the Getty kidnapping had become a media circus, and Il Messaggero was hell-bent on publishing a photo as a front-page exclusive. Harris has been called in by the editors to negotiate a price over her son’s ear. As the scene plays out you realise, with mounting dread, that you’re watching an auction for a body part. The tone is the condensed essence of Scott’s movie: intense, horrifying, absurd, desperate and glazed in black comedy. Two takes, and the four-minute scene is already in the can. The cinema of Ridley Scott, arguably the greatest stylist Britain’s produced since Hitchcock, is so painterly, so visually arresting, it’s not unreasonable to imagine he agonises over every shot. But watching him at work, Scott turns out to be the anti-Kubrick. He shoots at the speed of an action painter — except, as we later discover, every striking splash is designed way in advance. ❯

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Ridley Scott gives direction to Charlie Plummer as John Paul Getty III, grandson of John Paul Getty.

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DESCRIBED BY SCOTT as “a thriller, a farce and a modern tragedy”, All The Money In The World marks a career milestone for the man from South Shields — this is his 25th film. Nominated for a Best Director Oscar three times (for Thelma & Louise, Black Hawk Down and Gladiator) but never a winner, there are already on-set murmurs that this could be The One for Ridley. Sony clearly see it that way: Scott’s latest was fast-tracked to drop in the heat of Prestige Season. (For a film of this scale, the turnaround is astonishingly fast: from shoot to screen in five months.) All the Academy ingredients appear to be there: a white-hot Black List script by David Scarpa; a kudos cast (Williams as Harris; Mark Wahlberg as Getty’s ex-CIA ‘fixer’, Fletcher Chase; Charlie Plummer as JP III); plus a pinch-yourself true story (one so astounding that Danny Boyle is currently also turning it into a TV series called Trust). Scott’s notorious for immersing audiences in sleek fantasy worlds, but there’s another, less celebrated side to his CV — a grittier oeuvre drawn towards raw reality, hard truths and murky morality. Like Black Hawk Down and American Gangster, All The Money In The World is based on fact — barely believable though it is. When John Paul Getty III was snatched from the streets of Rome in the summer of ’73, the Mafia issued a ransom for $17 million. This, says screenwriter David Scarpa, amounted to “just a parking ticket”, and yet John Paul Getty, then the wealthiest man on the planet, refused to cough up. Getty’s decision to sacrifice his own flesh and blood to the god of money resulted in a five-month stand-off with his grandson’s mother, Gail Harris, who found herself negotiating with the Mafia, the media and her father-in-law for her son’s release. It took his grandson’s mutilation for Getty to blow the cobwebs off his wallet. And even then, he only paid $2.2 million of the eventual $3 million ransom: the maximum amount that was tax-deductible. “Anyone who had a brain during the 1970s knew about the kidnapping,” recalls Scott during a brief break in filming. “I remember it vividly — it was a big deal at the time.” Curiously, Scott shares a personal link with the case. Back in 1996, Balthazar Getty, the son of JP III, starred in his maritime disaster movie, White Squall. This, Scott insists, is a cosmic coincidence. What drew him to Scarpa’s script, which landed on his desk by accident just over a year ago, wasn’t the kidnapping itself — it was the drama that played outside the media glare. “There are two stories

being told here,” he says. “First, why the richest man in the world refused to engage with his grandson’s kidnapping. And second, how his mother fought to get her son back. It’s a story full of wonderful ironies.” Slotting into the Ridley Tradition of resourceful, whip-smart heroines, Williams’ Harris is the film’s emotional core, but Getty is at the dark heart of All The Money In The World. Decoding his contorted motivations is as much a mystery as where the ransom money went (only $12,000 of the $3 million was ever recovered). In public, Getty declared that if he paid the Mafia, his other 14 grandchildren would end up kidnapped too. To make things worse, he believed it was all an extravagant hoax invented by his grandson so he could extract some cash, which is why he sent his envoy, Fletcher Chase, to spy on Harris in case she was in on it too. With a monstrous One Per Center like Getty, the challenge is excavating some compassion and making him human. “I mean, here’s a billionaire who washed his underwear in the sink and had a pay-phone booth in his mansion for visitors to make calls from,” says Scarpa. “Getty was a classic miser, pathologically cheap. It’d be very easy to turn him into Montgomery Burns from The Simpsons but I think he truly did love his grandson. But there was another part of his mind that was simply unable to part with the money. It had an immense gravitational power over him.” Initially, Kevin Spacey was cast in the role, buried beneath extensive prosthetics. There was even talk of a Best Supporting Actor nod. But then, in late October, accusations of harassment, sexual misconduct and assault from several men began to emerge. Incredibly, on 9 November Sony announced that Scott would reshoot all of Spacey’s scenes with Christopher Plummer and re-edit the film, without altering its release date. It seems impossible to most people. It didn’t to Ridley Scott. BACK ON SET, ear negotiation wrapped, Scott motors onto the next scene. Over the course of the day, the Giannini hangar will serve as three locations for the price of one — the Il Messaggero newsroom, a post-office sorting warehouse where

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Anxious mother Gail Harris (Michelle Williams) with ex-CIA agent Fletcher Chase (Mark Wahlberg) and The Doctor (Maurizio Lombard). Below left: Harris waits patiently at her father-inlaw’s office.

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Competition Our bets for other Best Director nominees

Christopher Nolan _ Incredibly, he’s never had a nod in this category. With the thunderously intense, virtuoso Dunkirk, that’s likely about to change.

Guillermo del Toro _ Merman/mute romance The Shape Of Water is his most assured film since Pan’s Labyrinth, even throwing in a Busby Berkeley dance number.

Steven Spielberg _ He’s won the directing Oscar twice before, but not in the past 20 years. 1970s-set newspaper drama The Post could make it the hat-trick.

Joe Wright _

Darkest Hour isn’t just a feat of acting. Wright paints a vivid, hugely impressive picture of London at the beginning of World War II.

Getty’s ear festered in an envelope for three weeks thanks to a national strike, and a policestation garage. The latter, a key location in the final act, features Wahlberg’s Chase flanked by machine-gun-wielding cops, swinging bag after bag of ransom money into the boot of a vintage Fiat before driving off to meet the kidnappers. There are five cameras set up to capture the action. Hunkered down in what looks like a bird hide, Scott is surrounded by five small screens, one for each camera, plus an 18-inch monitor. This monitor is his canvas. When the scene starts shooting, Scott speaks to his video operator, literally calling the shots as he cuts between the five images on his flatscreen canvas. “I genuinely don’t know of any director who works like him — he’s more like a conductor, with images instead of music,” whispers producer Kevin Walsh. “What you’re watching is the movie, edited live, in real time.” Again, the scene wraps after two takes. “Working with Ridley is like the ultimate Swiss watch,” Wahlberg tells Empire afterwards. “The shoot never stops — everything is in perpetual motion.” Scott’s kidnap thriller will play out as a race against time. Same goes for the shoot. How does he do it? To understand Scott’s distinctive, dizzying process, you have to go back to the drawing board. Or, more accurately, the storyboard. “Ridley is always drawing,” reveals Walsh. “In a car, on a plane, at the hotel — anywhere he can. Every scene in the movie is meticulously hand-drawn by him.

Then, on the day of filming, his artwork is passed to the crew so everyone knows exactly what, and how, the scene will be shot. It’s extremely precise. Ridley has this rare ability, an eidetic memory, that allows him to view memories as photographs. He can pre-visualise an entire movie. It’s extraordinary to watch, and extraordinarily fast.” Ridley’s regime also sounds extraordinarily rigid, but there’s a methodology behind it. With mood, staging and visuals set so far in advance, Scott is free to focus on the spontaneous sparks that light up a film set: the performances. Actors love working with Scott. “I didn’t know what to expect, but it turns out that filming with Ridley is like doing a play,” reveals Williams. “There’s no downtime, so your engine is always running. I’ve been on sets where scenes get beaten to death. Not here. Ridley does so few takes, when you play a scene it matters.” Boasts Scott: “Not once have I cast an actor who’s said to me, ‘Jesus Christ, we did 50 set-ups today.’” In fact, when Williams mentions there’s no lunch break, it turns out she’s not kidding. On a Ridley film set, lunch is for wimps. Today is a typical Scott shoot — a ten-hour day, 8am until 6pm, during which a “French lunch” will operate. Food is available but — this is unusual for a film set — never a communal crew meal. “What they don’t teach you at film school,” says Scott, “is that there’s a clock with a dollar sign on it, and it’s always ticking.” The sheer speed of Scott’s technique was embedded pre-Hollywood, when he cracked out TV commercials. You also suspect there’s a trace memory of his Blade Runner experience, a protracted four-month shoot that went overschedule and over-budget, and an experience that Scott swore would never happen again. By the time his new film is released, Scott will be 80 years old. We have to ask: where does the energy come from? “Well, I still think I’m 40,” laughs Scott. “It seems that the older I get, the more I get asked what my ‘secret’ is, as if I’m the guardian of a magic formula.” He pauses, then a wily smile creeps across his face. “I’ll tell you what my secret is — I’ve never worked a day in my life.” And with that, he’s off. There are set-ups to set up, scenes to be shot, and time is burning. As Scott walks on set, his shoes clack on the concrete. Tick-tock, goes his walk. Tick-tock… ALL THE MONEY IN THE WORLD IS IN CINEMAS NOW

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR

ARMIE HAMMER

ARMIE HAMMER TRANSFORMS FROM ACTION STAR TO INDIE FAVOURITE WITH CALL ME BY YOUR NAME WORDS OLLY RICHARDS PORTRAIT MAARTEN DE BOER

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rmie Hammer spent the first few years of his career being shoved into a box marked ‘Big Action Hunk’, with his matinée-idol looks and frame cropping up in the likes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Lone Ranger. But here’s something that upset Hollywood’s plan: Hammer can act. And he didn’t want to be boxed in. This year alone he’s been charismatic in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, oily in Cars 3, and sympathetic in Final Portrait. But the film that’s brought him the most attention of his career is gay romance Call Me By Your Name. His deeply affecting performance as Oliver, a student who has a brief, intense affair with his professor’s 17-year-old son, Elio, makes him a solid bet for a Best Supporting Actor nomination. Call Me By Your Name is quite different from your earlier films. Was it a deliberate shift? I made a conscious decision at one point that I wanted to work on the kind of projects they tell you about in acting class. Where it’s not about

The

Competition Our bets for other Best Supporting Actor nominees

Willem Dafoe _

Bad guys nabbed him Oscar nominations for Platoon and Shadow Of The Vampire. The Florida Project sees him play against type, as a kind-hearted motel manager.

Sam Rockwell _

His racist cop in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is by turns abhorrent and sympathetic. It might be Rockwell’s most nuanced performance to date.

practicality or money; it’s about the dream. Doing a project that challenges you, forces you to grow, shifts your perspective. The Birth Of A Nation was the first film I did in that kind of vein. I’m not sure I’m capable of controlling the stages of my career, but right now I’m really enjoying working on the projects I’m doing. When did you start to feel like you wanted to make that change? I don’t want to sound ungrateful for any opportunity I’ve had, but it was after The Lone Ranger and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which were two of the best filming experiences I’ve ever had in my life. But it also felt like inorganically trying to catch a wave that wasn’t there. They tried to put me in front of these big films, and it didn’t work. That’s okay, because it doesn’t have to. That’s a big admission to make to yourself, that you’re not the marquee leading man. I’ve tried it. It’s too much fucking pressure. I don’t want that kind of life. Why did you want this film particularly? I wanted to do any film that [director] Luca Guadagnino was working on. That was the impetus. I loved his prior work and after having meetings with him I loved him as a person. Did you meet him for this specifically? It started probably six or seven years ago. We had a wonderful meeting in LA. I went over to his place and we sat and talked about life and film and philosophy and everything for five hours. It was one of the best meetings I’ve ever had. I walked out thinking, “That’s going to turn into something, hopefully.” I didn’t hear anything from him for about six years! One day I got a call and [my agents] said, “Luca’s doing a new movie.” I said, “I’m in!” They said, “Maybe you should read the script first, but we think it’s a good idea.”

The chemistry between you and Timothée Chalamet is vital. How did you develop that? Timmy and I were sequestered in this gorgeous little Italian town with no English speakers, so we just spent almost every waking moment together. One of the gifts of the universe is that we genuinely got along. We still talk on the phone all the time. At least a couple times a week we’ll get on the phone and catch up. I don’t have that relationship with any other actor I’ve ever worked with. It was a really special thing. You were 30 and he was 20 when you made this. What did you connect over, when you’re at such different stages of your life? I don’t know many 20-year-olds who would have the emotional wherewithal to deliver a performance like this, so we have to acknowledge we’re not dealing with a normal 20-year-old. For me it was never weird that he was only 20 — I’m not so much older and wiser. Music and film were two of the main things we bonded over. I am a little bit older, so part of me was saying, like, “You’ve never seen Cool Hand Luke?! That’s one of my favourite movies!” You must have known the film was good, but were you expecting the reaction it’s had? This entire project was a labour of love for everybody. It was a passion project. Everybody put a lot of sweat into it. To have it ubiquitously accepted and appreciated is really nice, but the pessimist in me is still waiting for the other shoe to drop. Hopefully it won’t.

Mark Rylance _ Amid all

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And when you read the script? I thought, “This is amazing. This is intense. I’m in.” I thought, “Whoa, those are some things I’ve never seen anyone do on film before. That’s interesting.” I heard everyone had a similar reaction [to the film’s peach scene, in which Elio masturbates with a peach, which Oliver starts to eat]. Even Luca [initially] said, “I’ll do the movie but I don’t want to do the peach scene.” That was everyone’s knee-jerk reaction. The first thing that really hit me aside from that was that this was one of the most beautiful love stories I’ve ever read.

the explosions, Rylance’s gently spoken but dogged boatman is the heart of Dunkirk. It’s not a showy performance, but it lingers long after the film ends.

Jason Mitchell _ In

Oliver (Armie

Mudbound, Mitchell plays a World War II veteran battling prejudice in racist America. It’s a powerful turn that confirms the 30-year-old’s chops.

Hammer) and Elio

CALL ME BY YOUR NAME IS OUT NOW

(Timothée Chalamet) face heartbreak.

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BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

HONG CHAU

HOW VIETNAMESE UNKNOWN HONG CHAU MADE DOWNSIZING ’S BIGGEST IMPACT WORDS CHRIS HEWITT

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ention actor Hong Chau to her Downsizing director Alexander Payne, and his face lights up in an involuntary smile. “Isn’t she great?” he says, before adding, with absolute certainty: “Birth of a star.” Time will tell on that, of course, but Chau isn’t off to a bad start. She had already made memorable contributions to David Simon’s HBO series Treme and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, as well as popping up in this summer’s Big Little Lies, but it’s Downsizing that should supersize her stature. Her performance, as indefatigable one-legged Vietnamese dissident Ngoc Lan Tran — who forms an unlikely friendship with Matt Damon’s everyman Paul Safranek after they both decide to be shrunk down to a mere five inches and live in a vast community of small people — is far and away the film’s greatest triumph. For all its other incidental pleasures — Matt Damon dancing; Christoph Waltz being none more Christoph Waltzy; the novelty of watching major effects sequences in an Alexander Payne movie — it’s Chau’s performance that resides in your mind long after viewing. Ngoc Lan, as she’s known in the movie, is a fascinating character: funny, thoughtful, impulsive, wilful, sensitive. A force of nature, she arrives fairly late in the movie and almost single-handedly wrestles the focus away from Damon with an aplomb that should see her feature in the Academy’s thoughts. Which would be reward for Chau’s tenacity in bagging the role. “I read in the trades that Alexander Payne was gearing up to do his next movie, a sci-fi satire,” she explains. “I asked my manager if I could get a hold of the script out of curiosity because I’m a huge fan. I pestered them. When I got it, I read it that night and felt so tingly after reading it.” For there in the script, completely unbeknownst to Chau, the Thailand-born, America-raised daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, was a character for which she was

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The

Competition Our bets for the other Best Supporting Actress nominees

Lesley Manville _ She’s been up for a BAFTA three times, but never an Oscar. That could change with her role as a seamstress to the elite in Phantom Thread.

Miranda Richardson _ As the brash mother of Jake Gyllenhaal’s crippled Bostonian in Stronger, Richardson is a world away from the poise we usually associate her with.

Holly Hunter _

It’s been over a decade since Hunter’s last nomination. Her role as Zoe Kazan’s vehement mum in The Big Sick should change that.

Allison Janney _

As Tonya Harding’s icy stage mom in I, Tonya, Janney is nearunrecognisable, sporting short hair and a pet bird on her shoulder.

Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau) makes

a perfect fit. “I’d never seen a character like that in recent cinema,” she says. “I don’t know why. We’re having this conversation about diversity in Hollywood and I don’t want to make any strong statement about that, but I hope that people can look at this movie and be inspired; that you can push this kind of character to the centre as opposed to the background, and have it be entertaining and touching and complex.” Script secured, tingles tamed, Chau auditioned for the role and soon found herself on set, ready for her first day on only her second movie. It was 1 April 2016. “I took a little snapshot of the call sheet and sent it to some of my friends and said, ‘This is not a joke — I am actually number two on the callsheet, under Matt Damon, on an Alexander Payne movie,” she laughs. That day was dialogue-free. What followed wasn’t. Ngoc Lan has two of the movie’s biggest speeches — a delightfully profane musing on the nature of the F-word, and the emotional turning point for her character, a moving monologue about hope. Both are delivered in the character’s very mannered, staccato way of speaking, which Chau calls “a little bit of a hybrid, where it is the writing of an American male of a Vietnamese female character. It’s something you recognise as something both foreign and very familiar.” And both were nailed by Chau, in particular the monologue, which required her to hit a multitude of heavy emotional notes in front of her esteemed co-stars, Damon (an Oscarwinner) and Waltz (a double Oscar-winner). “That was the first scene after lunch, and I hate shooting after lunch,” she recalls. “You’ve just had a bellyful of food and you’re kinda comatose. Alexander told me not to worry about doing the big monologue, that he’d cut the scene into two parts and do different set-ups. I said, ‘You don’t have to cheat it for me. I did a threeand-a-half-hour play, I can do this!’ And that was the first take that’s in the movie. The reaction from the other guys across the table was the reaction in real life.” You can see what Payne sees in her, and why a star might indeed be born. What happens next, you sense, is as much up to Hollywood as it is Chau. Imagine if Tinseltown follows Payne’s lead and regularly writes compelling, challenging roles for people of colour and minorities. If that happens, there’s no limit to how big Chau can get.

a connection with Paul (Matt Damon).

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Martin McDonagh on set with Frances McDormand, who plays grieving mother Mildred.

BEST ORIGINAL S C R E E N P L AY

MARTIN MCDONAGH

WITH THE BRILLIANT, BLISTERING THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI , MARTIN McDONAGH HAS DELIVERED THE SCRIPT TO BEAT WORDS DORIAN LYNSKEY

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lmost 20 years ago, Martin McDonagh was travelling across America from Baltimore to Nicaragua when he spotted two billboards demanding that the police deal with an unsolved crime. “It flashed by but I never forgot seeing it,” he says. “The pain of it stuck with me.” Back then he wasn’t yet a screenwriter. He aspired to be but he thought he could make more impact in the theatre. “Because most playwrights aren’t that good,” he says, laughing. “There was never anyone I felt that I couldn’t beat.” Billed as the Anglo-Irish Quentin Tarantino due to his flair for violence, humour and baroque profanity, he was an instant phenomenon but he still dreamt of making movies. It took him over a decade to channel the memory of those billboards into a screenplay and several years more to turn it into his third feature film. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri answers the question he asked himself on that road trip. “Who would put that up?” he says. “Once I decided it would be a woman and a mother, Mildred popped out. She’s someone who’s going out of her way to cause outrage for all the right reasons and that was the perfect starting point.” Grief-enraged Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand) hires the billboards to shame the local police department into solving the murder of her teenage daughter. “I assume you can’t say nothing defamatory and you can’t say fuck, piss or cunt, that right?” she asks the shell-shocked billboard salesman. Sheriff Bill Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) and his redneck deputy Jason Dixon (Sam Rockwell) don’t respond warmly, and nor do the citizens of the small (fictional) town of Ebbing. Mildred’s desperate act sets off a chain reaction of revenge, guilt, sorrow and violence, related with McDonagh’s characteristic synthesis of bloody tragedy and very black comedy. From the start, he wrote Mildred with McDormand in mind (“It had to be somebody with integrity”) and Dixon for Sam Rockwell, who appeared alongside Harrelson in Seven Psychopaths. “Casting is 50 per cent of a good film,” McDonagh says. “I know that from plays. You can’t have a weak link in a play. Then you try not to get between them and the script.” McDonagh likes to develop his central characters until they feel like autonomous beings, then let them guide the story. “I didn’t plot anything. I never do. Everything is borne out of the characters reacting to each other.” He thought up one of Three Billboards’ pivotal events just before he wrote it, then found that it changed the tone of the whole movie. “The story became more about hope and moving on rather than solving the crime,” he says. “It was interesting to have the toxic cop over here and the heroic mother over there and show that there’s elements of one in the other. Mildred’s not the perfect avenging angel.”

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Dixon, conversely, isn’t the dim, racist thug he first appears to be. “You have your own morality and you hope it will seep through but you never want to impose that on the characters or the story,” McDonagh says. “In real life I would make those judgement calls but this isn’t real life. Obviously you don’t want to make a racist cop a hero, so it’s a fine balance. But if humanity is your first port of call, then you hope people will go with it.” Before making Three Billboards, McDonagh rewatched Seven Psychopaths and his 2008 feature debut In Bruges. “Seven Psychos was a bit too smartarse,” he sighs. “I wasn’t thinking about having empathy for these characters. They were like puppets who you twist to have a moral message and that doesn’t work.” In Bruges, however, for all its bloody, profane humour, took time to reveal its characters’ inner lives. “That’s what I had to get back to in this,” he says. “When Mildred is with other people she’s like Jaws, just ploughing forward, but when she’s alone there’s room for what she’s hiding to be there in her eyes.” McDonagh became a director to protect the integrity of his scripts, “because I know the screenwriter is always the lowest form of life on a film set”. Every word on the page matters — an insistence which caused occasional friction

with McDormand, who wanted to pare down the dialogue. “She was so good that, for once, I started relaxing about those arguments.” As Oscar season heats up, McDonagh is more excited about recognition for his cast than for himself, because he’s been there before. In Bruges was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and 2004’s Six Shooter, his modest cine debut, unexpectedly won Best Live Action Short Film. “It was as good as anything,” he remembers. “When I was younger, knowing the history of the people who never won and all the good films that were ignored, I took it with a pinch of salt but since having one I’m like, ‘This is actually brilliant! They’re really thoughtful people!” Hopefully there will be no need to campaign in the style of Mildred Hayes. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI IS IN CINEMAS NOW. THE SCREENPLAY OF THE SAME NAME IS PUBLISHED BY FABER & FABER AND IS ALSO OUT NOW

The

Competition Our bets on other Best Original Screenplay nominees

The Big Sick _ Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s coma-centric romcom is sharp, moving and contains the line, “He’s like Daniel Day-Lewis except he sucks.”

Get Out _

It was a brilliantly ballsy move for Jordan Peele to make his first solo script a scary-funny riff on racism. It paid off, and might just win him a little gold man.

The Florida Project _ Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch are surely poised to get their first Oscar nod for their tale of a mother and daughter living next to Walt Disney World.

Lady Bird _

Greta Gerwig’s crowd-pleasing and semiautobiographical coming-of-age story is frank, funny and treats its minor characters as lovingly as its bright hero.

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SPOILER WARNING

THE INDISPENSABLE GUIDE TO HOME ENTERTAINMENT

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EDITED BY CHRIS HEWITT


THE EMPIRE VIEWING GUIDE

BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 Director S. Craig Zahler and star Vince Vaughn detail their hard-hitting thriller WORDS CHRIS HEWITT

THE VERDICT BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99

★★★★ RATED R18+

What we said: “Takes its time with its set-up, but that only makes the action that follows all the more effective. And Vaughn as an action hero works surprisingly well.” Notable extras: Journey To The Brawl and Making-Of featurettes.

00:01:21 MONSTER, INK

__ The opening scene of S. Craig Zahler’s insanely violent Brawl In Cell Block 99 showcases its usually wisecracking star, Vince Vaughn, in a way that lets you know this is not going to be Dodgeball 2: shot from behind, with a massive cross tattoo on the back of his shaven head. “That’s a strong way for the character to enter,” says Zahler. “Coming at him back to front is a way in which you’re going ❯ character first.”

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00:07:47

00:13:35

01:06:32

Bradley is a) laid off and b) finds his wife Lauren (Jennifer Carpenter) has been cheating on him, he takes out his anger on his car, ripping it apart with his hands. “It was a real car,” recalls Vaughn. “Some things were set up [to be safe], but there’s no CGI.” For Zahler, it’s Bradley’s defining moment. “You’re seeing the boiling blood within, and eventually that shit’s going to boil over.”

key exchange between a solemn Bradley and a remorseful Lauren ends with the two vowing to make their marriage work. Bradley’s simple, “Will you abide?” is a key phrase for Zahler. “The answer to that question is a renewed commitment which drives these characters,” he says. “There’s a formality to, ‘Will you abide?’ that’s also very Southern.”

__ In a movie that takes its time, things accelerate when Udo Kier’s Placid Man visits Bradley in prison and lays out the plot: Bradley must be transferred to a new prison, and kill a man in cell block 99 or unspeakable things will happen to the now-pregnant Lauren. “Writing that scene, I didn’t expect it to get as dark as it did,” says Zahler. “The arrival of that character signals the hard left-turn that the movie takes.”

01:12:25

01:22:20

01:51:47

‘oof!’ moment, but this is the first fighting ‘oof!’” laughs Vaughn of the moment when Bradley expedites his transfer in brutal fashion, by snapping the arm of prison guard Andre (Mustafa Shakir). “The arm-break is the one where 100 per cent of the crowd has some sort of reaction,” adds Zahler. “That’s the one that really changes the tone.”

literally hellish prison, Red Leaf, Bradley finds himself in the dankest, darkest prison cell in movie history — which features a toilet with God knows what blocking it. “That [toilet] was built to order,” says Zahler. “It took me 20 minutes to get the mysterious contents of it correct. It was really gratifying. Half the time I watch that scene, I cough. Even on the day I was coughing.”

reveals the film was initially called Three-Day Brawl In Cell Block 99. “But once I started writing it, I said, ‘These people aren’t surviving very long.’” And so it begins, two hours in: the fight in which Bradley stomps, punches and kicks the men threatening his wife and unborn kid into oblivion. “This is a guy who has so much rage in him that just pours out on these guys,” observes Zahler.

01:57:20

02:00:45

02:04:56

__ In a sequence of stomach-churning gore, pride of place goes to the way henchman Johnny (Jonathan Lee) is offed, with Bradley scraping his face on the floor. “There’s no joy in Mudville,” says Vaughn. “It’s definitely a business trip for him.” For Zahler, this scene was evocative of “the badass-guy movie I haven’t seen for a while, like Bring Me The Head Of Alfredo Garcia or Dirty Harry.”

and Don Johnson’s Warden Tuggs, Bradley makes a heartwrenching call to Lauren, knowing he’ll never see her again. “That’s my favourite scene in either of my movies,” admits Zahler. For Vaughn, it was the scene he wanted to nail — and Carpenter wasn’t even on the line. “Someone was on set reading those lines,” he says. “But I had her with me in that moment. It was an incredible experience.”

COMPLETE CAR-NAGE __ After Vaughn’s

HAVE A BREAK __ “Udo’s speech is an

DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE

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ABIDE WITH ME __ A fascinating, low-

HELL CELL __ Transferred to an almost

SAYING GOODBYE __ Trapped by guards

UNWANTED VISIT

BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 __ Zahler

NO BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 100

__ Bradley submits to Tuggs’ unique justice. He was always meant to die, but initially with a simple fade to white. “But that felt too soft.” Instead, Bradley’s head is torn apart by bullets. “This dude is dead,” says Zahler. “That’s the way it lands.” BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 IS OUT NOW ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD


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THE EMPIRE MASTERPIECE Director Sam Raimi’s gloriously gory, groovy horror sequel

1987 / RATED R18+ WORDS CHRIS HEWITT

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THERE’S A SCHOOL of thought that, in order for a movie to be considered a masterpiece, it has to be about more than just sight and sound. It has to have something to say. It has to be about something. It has to illuminate insight into this crazy little thing we call the human condition. Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead II is the glorious exception to this rule. It’s the crazy, coruscating Ofsted report that shuts down that school of thought. It doesn’t have a profound message, or a weighty theme, unless that message is “don’t turn on a tape recorder in a creepy old log cabin in case it contains a message that will resurrect an evil spirit you’ll spend the entire night battling”. It doesn’t have a thought in its demented, blood-spattered head. And yet it’s

as pure a piece of audio-visual cinema (and what audio, what visuals) as it’s possible to get. It came from a position of adversity for its director. Raimi and his old high-school chums, Robert Tapert (producer) and Bruce Campbell (jutting-jawed leading man), had burst onto the scene in dramatic fashion with the lo-fi The Evil Dead in 1981. Billed as “the ultimate experience in gruelling horror”, it gained notoriety for its relentless grot and got caught up in the British video-nasty commotion, but marked the obviously talented but undisciplined Raimi as one to watch. After that, anxious not to get typecast as a horror guy (the trio had chosen to make a horror film for their debut primarily because it was a lucrative market), Raimi moved onto


KIDS WATCH CLASSICS Big films tackled by little people ILLUSTRATION OLLY GIBBS

The horror: Ash (Bruce Campbell) and f(r)iend.

his ambitious caper comedy Crimewave… and had about as awful a time as it’s possible for a young director to have. Overruled by the money men (Campbell was reduced from star to bit-part player), the film was a disaster, with few of Raimi’s signature flourishes surviving intact. Critics hated it. Audiences shrugged. Licking their wounds, Raimi, Tapert and Campbell retreated into the welcoming bosom of the evil dead. With funding from Dino De Laurentiis, and a script co-written by Raimi and Scott Spiegel, they headed to Wadesboro, North Carolina, to start production on a movie that would once again pit Campbell’s beleaguered hero, Ash, against a group of vicious, mocking demons in a cabin in the woods. That’s the basic logline, but it doesn’t even begin to describe the

lunacy that transpires in Evil Dead II, a movie in which an entire roomful of objects comes to life just to laugh and point at its hero. Watching Evil Dead II now, it feels like the work of a director who fears he may never be allowed to direct a motion picture again, so he’s deploying every trick in his arsenal, and breaking every rule he can think of, while he still can. It’s a film in which anything goes, established from the off by the decision to effectively remake The Evil Dead in the first five minutes. There are seemingly impossible tracking shots, and crash zooms aplenty. There is stop-motion animation. The film is speeded-up, slowed down, stretched. The sound design is incredible, growls and otherworldly screeches lurching at us like a stranger in the dark. It is an extraordinary tour de force of technique. One key decision was to recalibrate the film as a horror-comedy, changing The Evil Dead’s bleak, fatalistic tone into something far funnier and OTT. There are still plenty of scares in a film billed as “the sequel to the ultimate experience in gruelling horror” (Raimi has the timing of a master when it comes to jump shocks), but the decision to showcase the director’s impish, Three Stooges-inspired sense of humour gives the film a delirious, feverish freedom. It allows Raimi to construct a deliciously daft toolingup montage, or have its hero drenched in gallons of sticky multi-coloured goo, or throw in a last-minute twist ending that out-Planet Of The Apes Planet Of The Apes. And he has, in Campbell, the perfect collaborator. Ash was once voted the greatest horror character of all time by Empire readers, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a wonderful performance, neatly sketching Ash’s transition from shocked, shaken survivor, to brittle coward, and finally badass, chainsaw-wielding hero. Campbell never became the megastar he deserves to be, but this glorious, gurning performance will be his legacy. It’s become almost a cliché to refer to a film as “the Citizen Kane of [insert genre here]”, but in Evil Dead II’s case, that description fits like a glove. It is the Citizen Kane of horror films: a technical exercise where a director, giddy with the potential of cinema, runs wild and shows other directors the way ahead. But — and this is one hell of a hill to die on — it’s better than Citizen Kane, because instead of a bloke banging on about a sled, it has a bloke attaching a chainsaw to the stump where his demonically possessed right hand used to be, then using said chainsaw to slice off the head off an evil witch. You can shove your subtext up your arse — this is what a purely cinematic masterpiece looks like. And it is groovy.

What did you know about the film before you watched it? I have already seen the remake with the girls in it, so I knew it was about ghosts and capturing them. I also knew there was a marshmallow man in it, that’s huge. What was the funniest part? When the marshmallow man squirted them in marshmallow goo and the look on the Ghostbusters’ faces made me laugh. What did you think was the scariest part? Well, I thought the scariest part has to be when the ghosts’ hands came out of the sofa, that bit scared me a tiny bit, and when it puts its hands around the woman’s face. I had to hold my mum’s hand at that bit. Did you think it was funny? I thought there were a few bits in it that were really funny. It reminds me a bit of the film Goosebumps. Did you like the film? I really enjoyed the film, I didn’t think I would like it as it’s really old. Although I do prefer the new version as it has girls in it. Did you like the song Ghostbusters? Yes, I liked the song as it is very catchy and makes you want to sing along to it. Would you like to be a Ghostbuster? No, although I like slime and I’m good at making it. I want to be a hairdresser. How many stars would you give it? I think because it made me laugh, I would give the film five stars.

EVIL DEAD II IS OUT NOW ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD

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BEST OF TIMES |WORST OF TIMES WORDS CHRIS HEWITT

COSTUME The Crossbones costume [from Captain America: Civil War]. It’s the character my kids identify most with. Putting that costume on was the best. Nobody needs to see my face. It was just cool to be in that costume.

A couple of times I’ve had to wear a cop uniform. End Of Watch was one. I don’t like wearing uniforms. Whenever I had a cop uniform on, it didn’t feel right and it’s hard for me to get into that character. I could never be a cop.

DITI I auditioned for The Pacific for Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks. We literally played for 40 minutes, improvising, and I got lost in the process. It was so organic and phenomenal. Steven hugged me when I left. A week later, I got a call saying, “They’re going another way.” That’s the life of an actor.

Many years ago I was screen-testing for a new TV show called CSI. I absolutely, from the moment I started, knew I wasn’t getting it. I was terrible. I ran out of there afterwards and I literally started to cry. I thought my career was over. Everything happens for a reason, but that day will never leave my mind.

ADVICE/DIRECTION I was really down at one point. A show I was working on had been cancelled. Kevin Huvane, who is one of the principal owners of my agency, said, “There are no rules for success, except you cannot give up.” I give that advice to young actors all the time. It’s been my mantra and it’s got me through a lot.

Early in my career, I was in a soap opera in New York called Guiding Light. One day I had pages of lines and I couldn’t get it. A director said, “Let me tell you something, son, I’ve been directing for 18 years. You don’t have what it takes.” The day got worse from there. Since then, I’ve never heard of the guy.

ALAMY, CAPITAL PICTURES, LANDMARK

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When I did The Grey, I was in Smithers, British Columbia, and it was the winter and 35 degrees below zero. It was the most brutal thing I’ve done, yet it’s probably my favourite movie.

Probably Morocco, by the ocean. It was exotic and beautiful. I was doing a film called Intersections [now Collision] that Luc Besson was producing. It was a very cool place.

NT I did a movie called Disconnect with Jason Bateman, Alexander Skarsgård and Andrea Riseborough. We got accepted into the Venice Film Festival. At the end of the screening, we got a 16-minute standing ovation. I have a picture of it hanging in my office. I had never experienced any kind of adulation for something I was so proud of. I wanted them to stop, but I didn’t want them to stop.

JANUARY 2018

I wasn’t working. I got rejected by an agency, a mid-level agency. It was New York, it was winter and it was the lowest point of my life. A week later I booked a pilot and I was right back in it again. You’re a phone call away from your life changing. BEYOND SKYLINE IS OUT ON 17 JANUARY ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD


BINGEWATCH One man. One sofa. Many movies. His buttocks don’t stand a chance

this month:

WORDS SIMON CROOK ILLUSTRATION PETER STRAIN

HERE WE GO, then. A movie marathon about movies. From making ofs to meaning ofs, these seven documentaries are a diverse bunch, but all are chronicles of obsession, and highly contagious. The first two are proper odd-bods: docs on films that don’t actually exist. Lost In La Mancha sees Terry Gilliam screaming at windmills as his cherished Don Quixote adaptation wheezes to a halt. First come flash-floods and hail. Then his star, Jean Rochefort, crumples from a hernia. I can practically taste the bitterness left by this tale of production purgatory, but there’s a sweet ending: after 19 years and eight attempts, Gilliam shot The Man Who Killed Don Quixote this year — without the cast spontaneously combusting. At least Gilliam’s cameras rolled. Featuring galactic messiahs, cosmic vaginas and Giger-designed planets, Jodorowsky’s Dune presents a vision so grotesque, so terrifyingly original, Hollywood predictably chickened out. Which is a tragedy: resurrected via animated storyboards, Alejandro Jodorowsky’s space-opera fizzes like an acid tab. Coming across as a cult leader who lost his disciples, the Chilean director is still fuming, but the doc is a huge success. The film flickers to life inside my head; his obsession becomes mine. After these heartbreaks come two heart attacks: a double bill of FUBAR movies that got lost in the

jungle. Francis Ford Coppola’s wife Eleanor had her camera on throughout Apocalypse Now’s 238-day grind. The result, Hearts Of Darkness, logs every calamity: the set-gulping typhoons, the rampaging tigers, Martin Sheen’s breakdown... Her footage is hideously candid — by the end Coppola, Kurtz-like, is a gibbering wreck, albeit of artistic ruin. It’s a wonder he, and the film, survived. Likewise Werner Herzog and his epic folly, Fitzcarraldo. Instead of using FX, Herzog had a tribe of natives haul a massive steamboat over a hill in the Amazon. Les Blank’s Burden Of Dreams captures the savage poetry of his lunatic venture. There are landslides, dysentery, death threats, and a film set that mutates into a POW camp. “There’s no escape from this fucking stinking place,” seethes Klaus Kinski, his eyes boiling out of his head, and you sympathise. I might be slumped on my sofa, but the vicarious doom of seeing four disasters is becoming weirdly stressful. I could do with a laugh. “I’m the child star of the worst film ever made,” says Michael Paul Stephenson in his intro to Best Worst Movie. That film is Troll 2, the tale of a family pestered by vegetarian goblins, and so terrible its fanbase have hailed it as a Plan 9 From Outer Space for the ’90s. Tragically, I’m one of those saddos, and desperate to know how it was made, but this cast-reunion doc settles for larky self-indulgence.

Still, Troll 2 director Claudio Fragasso, convinced he’s made an unsung masterpiss, is priceless. My binge is proving filmmakers are masochistically persistent, but audiences can be just as manic. Room 237 argues The Shining isn’t a portrait of insanity but a cryptic thoughtexperiment, and quickly becomes a portrait of insanity itself. Is it about the genocide of Native Americans? The Holocaust? NASA’s faking of the moon landings? Hot gibberish abounds. Still, 78/52 makes it look slapdash. Psycho’s shower scene ripped taboos, reinvented violence and birthed the slasher. And it’s all over in 45 seconds. Shot in Hitchcock’s clinical black-and-white, Guillermo del Toro, Peter Bogdanovich et al comb every frame like a crime scene. Much of the scrutiny is pub trivia (24 melons auditioned for the stabbing sound — a honeydew won), but the forensic deep-dive unearths genuine surprises. Particularly sharp: composer Danny Elfman, who reveals Bernard Herrmann’s shrieking score was written to mimic Janet Leigh’s heartbeat. I went into this thinking exposing a film’s secrets would strip away the magic, but what happens is the reverse: they became even more mythic. 78/52 AUSTRALIAN RELEASE DATE IS CURRENTLY TO BE CONFIRMED

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STORY OFTHE SHOT WORDS IAN NATHAN

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ALLSTAR

“THAT IS ALL backlot,” recalls Ridley Scott, the memory intact. He had scoured Los Angeles for Deckard’s shabby-chic Downtown block, but nothing matched his imagination. The two sections of retrofitted rooftop were built on wheels so cinematographer Jordan Cronenweth could vary the backgrounds. The windmills were Scott’s idea: defunct power generators, failed life-support. “This would be the last night,” he continues. “They would pull the plug on me at four in the morning. By then I was very unpopular and they were very unpopular with me. So there was a battle royal, because I was determined to get what I needed — what I wanted.” Put simply, Rutger Hauer’s replicant rebel Roy Batty grabs Harrison Ford’s desperate detective, losing his grip on the rain-slicked girder. An unseen cable, attached to a harness beneath Ford’s costume, granted Batty his superhuman strength. Why Batty chooses to save his foe is another bone of contention. The original voice-over unconvincingly reflects on Batty’s late appreciation for life. Scott told Hauer it could simply be a reflex. As a Nexus 6, Batty would first react then wonder why. When the script was still called ‘Dangerous Days’, a dead Batty, his hand clamped around Deckard’s wrist, almost drags him over the edge. In hindsight, Scott puts it down to superiority. Batty, “knowing he is on the way out”, wants Deckard to bear witness to the passing of a brief, extraordinary life. Which leads to the famous ‘tears in rain’ speech. He’s seen things you people wouldn’t believe… “Rutger wrote those words,” remembers Scott. At one in the morning, during a brief lull in filming, the exhausted director was informed the star wanted to see him. He was content that “time to die” was a fitting enough replicant valedictory. “But Rutger said, ‘Listen to this...’ And he enacted what he had written and I thought it was beautiful.” In Paul M. Sammon’s history of Blade Runner, Future Noir, Hauer confesses it was co-writer David Peoples who penned most of the evocative soliloquy. “I cut a little bit out of the opening then improvised these closing lines: ‘All these moments will be lost, in time. Like tears in the rain...’” Still, it was all about Hauer’s delivery. Batty’s haunting images of “attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion” and C-beams that “glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate”. This is the story of a shot (or shots) you can only imagine. “What was important to Ridley was not what he shows but what he doesn’t show,” says Denis Villeneuve, director of sequel Blade Runner 2049. “The power of suggestion in the first movie is very beautiful. I have images of those things, but they are blurred, like dreams, and I love that.”  BLADE RUNNER IS OUT NOW ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD

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THE LESSONS OF GILLIAM Python-turned-director Terry Gilliam tells us what his films have taught him WORDS DAN JOLIN

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FORTY YEARS AGO, Monty Python’s token American, Terry Gilliam, finally struck out alone (well, mostly — he cast two Pythons) as a fully fledged film director. That film, the dingily detailed medieval fantasy-satire Jabberwocky, has recently been buffed up to 4K standard by the BFI National Archive in the UK. Although his memories of making it are rather less polished: “I don’t have anything except muddled thoughts,” he chuckles when we speak, interrupting post-production on his latest project, the 25-years-in-the-making The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. That said, he’s happy to reflect on life


I had pages of storyboards and a young boy, Craig Warnock, who’d never been in a movie before and was in awe of working with James Bond. After a few hours of seeing me trying to get all of this stuff done in one day, Sean just said, ‘Stop. Listen. All you do is get my shots done quickly, and then you can spend time on the kid’s.’ It was great to have somebody with that much experience saying, ‘Simplify all this, otherwise you’re doomed.’”

this way and that way and the other way. The trick is to keep the stars in the foxhole with you. Because then the studio can’t touch you.”

sharing a laugh with

DO NOT COMPROMISE

BEWARE THE WEINSTEINS

Matt Damon and the

Brazil (1985)

The Brothers Grimm (2005)

late Heath Ledger

“If the studio says, ‘Chop this, change that,’ you say, ‘NO.’ And you fight to the death. That’s really what Brazil was about. Because if you’re going to put your name on what you do, you better make sure it’s what you love to do. Which doesn’t mean that you’re right, it’s just my mistakes are more interesting than the studio executives’ mistakes.”

“Oh, I learned what I already knew. That’s the horrible thing. I learned never to work with the Weinsteins. I knew it’d be a bad marriage. They are what they are, and I am what I am. It’s just not gonna work. It was probably the worst experience of my life. But Matt [Damon] and Heath [Ledger] were just an utter joy to work with. They were the main reason I’d get up in the morning and go to work, because everything else was so painful.”

Above: Fellow Python Michael Palin as young cooper and dragon-hunter Dennis in 1977’s Jabberwocky. Top right: Terry Gilliam directs Johnny Depp in Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas (1998). Above right: Gilliam

on the set of 2005’s The Brothers Grimm.

BEWARE OF PRODUCERS The Adventures Of Baron Munchausen (1988)

since (and just before) Jabberwocky — and even share a few things he picked up along the way…

FLY SOLO Monty Python And The Holy Grail (1975, co-directed with Terry Jones)

“I did learn a lot there. And the biggest lesson was not to work with any more Pythons! As a director. They were moaning the whole time. Except Mike [Palin]. Being The Nice One, Mike doesn’t moan.”

DON’T CRITIQUE CRITICS

JAY BROOKS/CAMERA PRESS, ALAMY

Jabberwocky (1977)

“I was trying so hard not to have it referred to as ‘a Monty Python Film’, I wrote a letter to the New York Critics demanding Python and Jabberwocky were never connected. A bit foolishly, with Mike playing the lead, me directing it, Terry Jones being in there as well… And I got pilloried. So I learned you don’t tell critics how they should approach a film. They just went to town on me.”

LISTEN TO SEAN CONNERY Time Bandits (1981)

“Sean Connery taught me something on this. First day, we were on this plateau in Morocco and

“Don’t work with a producer who’s a bullshit artist. But I never learned from that lesson, that was my problem! We had a shooting schedule of 21 weeks, I’m working in Italy with no experience or knowledge of what things cost there, and the first budget we worked out was $60 million. So he [Thomas Schühly] fired the accountant and got one that said it was gonna be $40 million. And he fired him. Because what we had was $23-anda-half million. I think he fired four accountants before he found one that said, ‘Yeah, we can do this for $23-and-a-half’…”

TRUST IN YOURSELF The Fisher King (1991)

“I learned I don’t need all these special effects to make a good film. It was an interesting experiment: to see if I could do a less flamboyant film. And I seemed to discover I was very good with actors. I may have been good with actors before, but the critics never seemed to notice. This time they did!”

MAKE FAMOUS FRIENDS Twelve Monkeys (1995)

“If you’re doing a studio film, make sure the stars are on your side at the end of the process, when the studio is hammering you to change it

JUST SAY YES Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (1998)

“Here’s something I didn’t learn, and it still haunts me: I didn’t learn what acid is like. I was gonna say when we finished the film, ‘Alright, I’m gonna take an acid trip,’ but I never did it.”

DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS Tideland (2005)

“I learned from my First A.D. [William Spahic] the phrase: ‘Assume nothing.’ And I keep having to tell myself that. It’s a fatal mistake.”

PEOPLE ARE GOOD The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus (2009)

“Well, I learned what to do when your main star [Heath Ledger] dies halfway through the shoot: make sure he’s got a lot of A-list friends! [laughs] But really I learned that in this cynical world of Hollywood, when somebody is loved, their friends rally round. That says so much about Heath that Johnny [Depp], Jude [Law] and Colin [Farrell] stepped in, and gave their fees to Heath’s daughter.”

DO THE JOB The Zero Theorem (2013)

“I learned I just have to work. The Man Who Killed Don Quixote had just gone south again, and I did it because I just had to get behind a camera. I learned I need to make movies to survive! [laughs]”

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THE CROWN: SEASON 2 ★★★★

NETFLIX OUT NOW EPISODES VIEWED ALL

CREATED BY Peter

Morgan Foy, Matt Smith, Vanessa Kirby, Anton Lesser, Matthew Goode, Victoria Hamilton, Pip Torrens

CAST Claire

PLOT Picking up in 1956, a year after the conclusion of the first season, we follow Queen Elizabeth II (Foy) through the tumultuous early phase of her reign, from the Suez Crisis to the Profumo Affair in ’63.

IF ABSOLUTE POWER corrupts, then what does constitutional (ie purely symbolic) power do to somebody? That’s the question at the centre of Peter

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Morgan’s grand plan to dramatise the entire reign of Queen Elizabeth in six seasons. So in this second 10-episode set — sadly, the last in which we’ll see the excellent Claire Foy don the royal cardies — we repeatedly find her perched on chintzy furnishing, presented problems either about political events she can’t (or isn’t permitted to) solve, or troublesome family matters that must be handled discreetly, if not just quietly buried. It doesn’t sound like it makes for great drama, but Foy is an actor who portrays beneath-the-surface turmoil to astonishing effect. In playing Elizabeth, she has mastered the fine art of the smile falling slowly off her face, before forcing it quickly back on for the next audience; and the distant gaze being snapped back into polite focus on the latest snafu that requires her glassy attention. She manages to humanise Her Majesty while resisting the easy lure of soaped-up melodrama — or even a forced sense of heroism. And it’s a fine line that needs to be walked nimbly for The Crown to work.

While no-one would suggest it’s a breeze being a royal, it’s also tough to swallow the idea of anyone really suffering amid such ostentatious privilege. Not that this entire season (which admittedly suffers slightly from not having a figure like John Lithgow’s Winston Churchill to absorb some attention) is merely an opulent study in suffocation and frustration. Morgan uses the Windsors as a prism through which momentous history can be examined at a personal level. The disaster of the Suez Crisis plays out alongside the Queen’s own realisation that Philip (Matt Smith, as brusquely charming as ever) might be playing away. A panic that the Commonwealth could lose Ghana to the Soviets is affected by Elizabeth’s obsession with American First Lady Jackie Kennedy’s (Jodi Balfour) own adeptness at statesmanship. And dark revelations about her uncle, The Duke Of Windsor (Alex Jennings), coincide with her soul-searching encounters with American evangelist Billy Graham (Paul Sparks). All the while, she has to contend

“What do you mean, this is the last season we’ll be in?”


What next for The Crown’s major characters?

with the reality that what she does — her entire raison d’être — is becoming increasingly less relevant, or indeed beneficial, to British life. It’s not all about Liz, of course. Vanessa Kirby’s love-starved Margaret embarks on her own problematic relationship with louche photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones (a perfectly cast Matthew Goode), while Philip is given far more attention this season, both through flashbacks to his tragic youth and allusions to his private antics. But the strongest episodes keep Foy at the forefront. Though it’s a pristine production, extensive in its scope and scale, blessed by a strong cast and impeccable scripting — and even knowing how great Foy’s S3 successor Olivia Colman is — it’s hard to imagine The Crown working so well without her. DAN JOLIN VERDICT The

Morganisation of modern British history continues to impress, with Foy quietly shining in her final stint.

Queen Elizabeth II Claire Foy

Philip, Duke Of Edinburgh Matt Smith

Princess Margaret Vanessa Kirby

If Season 1 was all about Elizabeth being suddenly thrust into the royal spotlight after her dad’s untimely death, Season 2 focuses on how isolating life is at the top — and how hard it is for her to keep up with the shifts and changes in British society far below her.

Adjusting to life as a passive Queen’s consort continues to prove testing for the brash Duke, whose surprise reentitlement as ‘Prince Philip’ is covered in this season. As is his troubled, controversial upbringing in Nazi Germany, and his suspected philandering.

Having been denied permission to marry the love of her life — divorcé Peter Townsend (Ben Miles) — we find Margaret despondent, listless and resentful of her big sister. Until, that is, she falls for a new man who might prove even more challenging for her convention-bound sibling/monarch.

Anthony Eden Jeremy Northam

David, Duke Of Windsor Alex Jennings

Tony ArmstrongJones Matthew Goode

The man known as King Edward VIII, whose abdication and estrangement was tackled last season, still chafes at his treatment by his family, here once more seeking his way into British public service... Though there are big, swastikadecorated skeletons in that particular royal cupboard.

The first of two new regular characters, suave, cynical photographer Armstrong-Jones (later Lord Snowdon) becomes pulled into the Windsors’ orbit via his attraction to Princess Margaret. And it’s through him that Buckingham Palace gets its very first taste of the swinging ’60s.

From foreign secretary in S1 — always standing in the shadow of Churchill — to PM in Season 2, we rejoin Eden as an eager leader, keen to carve his own legacy. So when the Egyptian government seizes control of the British-run Suez Canal in 1956, he finds the ideal cause to fight. What could possibly go wrong?

Tommy Lascelles Pip Torrens The stony-faced, iron-spined, Saharadry Private Secretary to the Sovereign retired in Season 1, but Peter Morgan obviously realised he was too good to keep off-stage. With the monarchy still bouncing between crises and scandals, Tommy returns as a consultant in the dark ways of the old school.

Harold Macmillan Anton Lesser The second new recurring character (portrayed by Game Of Thrones’ sinister Maester Qyburn), Macmillan comes closest to taking the huge spot left vacant in the story by John Lithgow’s Churchill. Though he’s nowhere near as memorable, we do follow his private travails as much as his public tribulations. DJ

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BLACK MIRROR: SERIES 4 ★★★★

NETFLIX OUT NOW EPISODES VIEWED 6

Charlie Brooker Sonia Sawar, Andrea Riseborough, Joe Cole, Georgina Campbell, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jesse Plemons, Michaela Coel CREATED BY CAST Kiran

PLOT A memory-scanning insurance claim investigator, two singletons navigating a matchmaking platform, a retro space adventure and the parental filter you can insert into a child’s head... Charlie Brooker’s dark tech-themed anthology series returns with six more twisted tales.

FOUR SERIES AND six years into its disquieting existence, Black Mirror returns at something of a critical stage. It’s not only that real life is increasingly putting Netflix’s dystopian anthology series out of business. No, more specifically, plenty of viewers will simply be wondering how creator Charlie Brooker will follow a

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breakthrough like ‘San Junipero’: the uncharacteristically hopeful 2016 episode that became an instant pop-culture sensation and won two Emmy awards. So has Yorkie and Kelly’s ride into the virtual Californian sunset prompted more surprise happy endings? Or is Brooker kicking against any charges of losing his edge by cranking up the bleakness? You’ll probably find you can make a convincing case for both those readings. Opener ‘Crocodile’ gets things off to a stylish, bone-chilling start. Starring Andrea Riseborough and the impressive Kiran Sonia Sawar (Murdered By My Father), it envisages a future where insurance claims are ratified by a machine that can turn witness’ memories into video footage. But what happens if a bystander reveals something embarrassing or even incriminating? As with all the best Black Mirror episodes, the futuristic piece of technology is merely a means to explore some dark corner of the human psyche. And here, Brooker and director John Hillcoat conjure a frigid, thrilling noir. ‘Hang The DJ’ is a post-Tinder vision of dating that locks would-be partners in a commune of sorts and algorithmically sets them up in micro-relationships that may last a few hours or years at a time. Rising Brit stars Joe Cole and Georgina

Campbell are well cast as two singletons questioning the logic of machine-led matchmaking and it has a sitcom-y bounce that comes as a relief in a series replete with sudden, intense bursts of violence. Here, ‘Metalhead’ — a monochrome blockbuster that’s like The Terminator spliced with The Revenant — is a gritty case in point that just about works thanks to Maxine Peake’s gutsy charisma. Elsewhere, there’s ‘USS Callister’, a brazen, near-feature-length Star Trek spoof with a strong cast (Michaela Coel, Jesse Plemons) and a smart inversion of Galaxy Quest’s blurring of fiction and reality. The big names don’t always improve the experience. ‘Arkangel’ — an examination of extreme parental anxiety starring Rosemarie DeWitt and directed by Jodie Foster — doesn’t wring a satisfying story from its intriguing central idea. And ‘Black Museum’ — an Easter egg-filled trio of tales — may be too much of a self-referential narrative nesting doll for some. But these are mere wrinkles. Black Mirror remains one of the small screen’s most unsettling, unpredictable and audacious operations. JIMI FAMUREWA

VERDICT Charlie

Brooker escapes the shadow of ‘San Junipero’ with a series that successfully balances bold genre experiments with intimate horrors.

Space Trekking: a lawsuit waiting to happen.


MY MOVIE MASTERMI Does the Cars 3 star have the drive to succeed?

LEADER BOARD

WORDS JAMES WHITE

Ben Kingsley

9.5

Christopher Lee

9.5

David O. Russell

9.5

Quentin Tarantino

9.5

Paul W.S. Anderson

9

Werner Herzog

9

Franco Nero

9

Robert Rodriguez

9

Guillermo del Toro Joe Dante

1

Where did the Rolex watch your character wears in Nocturnal Animals come from? Switzerland. Final answer. Wait! Let me think about it. It was Tom’s [Ford, the director]. Everyone got fake everything, except for my character. And I drove his car, but only about six feet. Correct.

2

What movie does your character, Clyde Tolson, watch in J. Edgar? ‘G’ Men. Correct.

3

ALAMY, LANDMARK

You appeared in Arrested Development as Student #2. What line did you deliver to George Michael? “Hey, Star Dork!” It’s all been downhill from there, that’s for sure. I have a plan to get back on the show. Student #2 is a nothing name, so I’m going to show up and say, “It’s actually my name. I have hippie parents and my name is ‘Student’ and my last name is ‘#2’.” I shall go back in time and give myself the name of my character. I keep pitching that to Jason [Bateman] and Ron Howard, and no-one’s listening. Correct.

4

Which book does The Lone Ranger’s John Reid consider to be his ‘bible’? Er... ‘The Treatise On Law’? The John Locke book. I know it’s ‘The Treatise Of Law’... something. ½ point. The correct answer is Two Treatises On Government.

5

In Mirror Mirror, what does Prince Alcott say to Snow White after she breaks the spell he’s under with a True Love kiss? I’m not gonna lie, I have no idea. Maybe I blocked it out. I was tied to a chair for that scene and I got hit in the face with a raw fish about 20 times. I will be totally honest, it was one of those times when I was going, “What the fuck am I doing here? I am going to kill my agent!” I was thinking, “I hope the next time I get hit, I get an aneurysm and die.” Incorrect. The correct answer is, “The Queen is nothing compared to you.”

6

Complete this line from The Social Network: “We can do that ourselves…” “… I’m 6’5”, 220, and there’s two of me.” I can probably complete any line from that film, not because I’ve seen it, but because I said every one of those lines probably half a million times. Correct.

7

In George Miller’s unmade Justice League movie, you were Batman. Name three of the other five actors playing the Justice League. I can name them all, I still talk to them all. D.J. Cotrona was playing Superman, Anton Yelchin, may he rest in peace, was the Flash, Adam Brody was also the Flash, Hugh Keays-Byrne was Martian Manhunter, Common was gonna play Green Lantern, Megan Gale was Wonder Woman, Santiago Cabrera was going to be Aquaman. Correct.

9 8.5

8

What does U.N.C.L.E. stand for in The Man From U.N.C..L.E.? United Network Command For Law [And] Enforcement! Correct.

9

What is Jackson Storm’s race number in Cars 3? That’s a dirty trick! Jeez... I’m kind of torn, like part of me thinks it’s a single digit...[but] I feel like there’s a zero in it somewhere. How embarrassing, as this is the actual film I’m supposed to be promoting and this is one I don’t know! ½ point. The correct answer is 2.0.

10

How many people does Ord kill in Free Fire? He definitely kills the sniper. I think the answer is one? [Hears answer] So, Ord shoots the shit out of Patrick Bergin’s character, and he’s dying. He says, “Since it’s you, and I’m dying, I’ll tell you who it is,” and before he’s able to spit it out, Brie Larson’s character kills him. So Justine kills him so... zero. Incorrect. The correct answer is zero. Ord shoots Howie but he is killed by someone else.

ARMIE HAMMER SCORES 7

“I’m going to flog myself after this. How else do you expect me to learn my lesson?” CARS 3 IS OUT NOW ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD

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CALL OF DUTY: WWII ★★★★

OUT NOW / PC, PS4, XBOX ONE DIRECTORS Bret

Robbins, Dennis Adams Josh Duhamel, Brett Zimmerman, Jeff Schine CAST

ASSASSIN’S CREED: ORIGINS ★★★★

OUT NOW FORMATS PC, PS4, XB1

DIRECTORS Jean CAST

Guesdon, Ashraf Ismail Abubakar Salim, Alix Wilton Regan

PLOT Egypt, 49BC. Bayek (Salim), Medjay (a type of police officer) at the Siwa Oasis, sets about on a quest to avenge his son and, in the process, founds the Assassin’s Creed.

ASSASSIN’S CREED HAS taken us from the Holy Lands in the 12th century, through Renaissance Italy, the American War Of Independence, Revolutionary France and Victorian England. It’s been quite the tour, taking in 900-odd years of world history and introducing us to some of mankind’s most interesting figures — Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin and Donatien Alphonse François (you’ll know him as the Marquis de Sade). For Origins (and the clue’s in the title) we’re going back further than we’ve ever been before — to Egypt, 50 or so years before the birth of Christ. The temptation to call this ‘Ancient Egypt’ is wide of the mark. The great civilisation Egypt used to be was all but over after Alexander The Great conquered it in 332 BC. By the time of Bayek (Origins’ main character — no Ezio or Evie Frye, but better than III’s dreary Connor) the pyramids are over 2,000 years old. This is an Egypt unsure of its future, ruled by Ptolemy XIII who faces a coup led by Cleopatra, which would bring a dynasty to a close. It’s an incredible place to spend time in, vast, mountainous and, especially considering Egypt is mostly a desert, teaming with life. Both human and beasts. Assassin’s Creed usually delivers on that front. The previous game, 2015’s Syndicate, was a perfectly decent game elevated by its recreation of Victorian London. But for Origins,

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perfectly decent would no longer cut it. Ubisoft rested the franchise for a year to give the team a chance to rethink what an Assassin’s Creed game was, and could be. The hope being that we’d see a leap of quality comparable to the improvement between the first and second games. Sadly, that hasn’t quite happened. The biggest change the development team has incorporated is a more overt move towards an RPG. Levelling up has long been a part of the franchise, but now your progression through the game is gated. Wander somewhere the game doesn’t want you to and the over-powered wildlife will make short work of Bayek — and not just hippos or crocodiles, even the most apparently inconsequential creature can take you down if it attacks. As is standard with such RPGs, crafting mechanics have also been added, as have loot drops. And while there’s a lot to like about this change, it does add grind to the game as side quests become necessary for you to level up enough to progress. Combat has also been updated, requiring you to lock on to enemy you want to attack (you can cycle through them if there’s a group) then unleash light or heavy attacks, while dodging or parrying theirs. It has more in common with the likes of Bloodborne than, say, the Batman Arkham games, and requires more skill to truly master. Just learning a couple of moves and repeating them will get you killed. What’s also worth bearing in mind, with the recent release of the Xbox One X, is how the various iterations of the various consoles handle the game. And there are no surprises here — as the most powerful console, the X handles it the best. But the base models do cope. There’s no Unity-style issues here. So while the game isn’t a massive leap forwards for the series, it is better. And a good starting point for the next game to build on. Wherever, and whenever, that may be. JONATHAN PILE

VERDICT A

triumphant return for the series. It may not have changed as much as expected, but the refinements on show are worth the wait.

CALL OF DUTY’S latest chapter (the 14th) takes the series back to World War II (for the first time since 2008’s World At War). There is, of course, a cinematic single player campaign, which succeeds because it manages to emotionally resonate without skimping on the blockbuster rivalling action. But it’s the online multiplayer that most buy the game for, and the team have added some fresh ingredients to the franchise’s familiar recipes (including new mode ‘War’, that favours teamwork and objectives over simply scoring as many head-shots as possible), while the Zombies co-op mode adds narrative beats and story-based goals. It all adds up to a compelling package that’s the best entry to the series in some time. MC

WOLFENSTEIN II: THE NEW COLOSSUS ★★★

OUT NOW / PC, PS4, XBOX ONE DIRECTORS Fredrik

Ljungdahl, Jens Matthies Brian Bloom, Alicja Bachleda, Gideon Emery CAST

THE SET-UP FOR this Wolfenstein sequel is surprising close to real life — it has Nazis roaming the streets of America. There are differences to our Trump-influenced present, though. This takes places in an alternative ’60s where the Nazis won World War II and then spread across the globe. It begins with B.J. Blazkowicz (Bloom) waking up from a five-month coma (from injuries he sustained during the events of the last game), then setting out to liberate the United States, on a tour that takes in New York, the Deep South and Washington DC. There’s an option to take a stealth approach to the game, but far more effective is simply opening fire and painting the walls red with blood. Subtle it isn’t. But it sure is fun. JP


crossword

giveaways WIN! BLADE RUNNER 2049 ON BLU-RAY DIRECTOR DENIS VILLENEUVE achieved the seemingly impossible with this film: a sequel that more than holds up to the cherished original sci-fi classic. Blade Runner 2049 is a visual feast, and we have 10 Blu-ray copies for readers to get their paws on! TO ENTER, TELL US WHAT YOUR FAVOURITE SCI-FI SEQUEL IS, AND WHY.

WIN! BATTLE OF THE SEXES ON BLU-RAY EMMA STONE AND 1Steve Carell star as real-life tennis champions Billie Jean King and Robert Larimore Riggs in a true story about their highly publicised and controversial 1973 tennis match. We have 10 blu-ray copies of the movie up for grabs! TO ENTER, TELL US WHAT YOUR FAVOURITE SPORT-RELATED MOVIE IS, AND WHY.

ACROSS

DOWN

Acclaimed French actress Isabelle (6) She was famously linked with Thelma by Ridley Scott (6) 9 Could be Death, Rat or merely Great (4) 10/21 Across Confused Cinerama dame provides a recent Tom Cruise thriller (8,4) 11 Jenny, the unforgettable railway child (7) 13 In which Ray Winstone was initially confined to a residential home (5) 15 In which Sandra Bullock drove a bus (5) 17 This Western was one of Steve McQueen's last films (3,4) 20 Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal of a 2013 Boston marathon bombing survivor (8) 21 See 10 Across 22 “Everyone does it, no-one talks about it”, ran the tag-line for this James Marsden-Lena Headey starrer (6) 23 Matt, Crash’s bigoted Officer Ryan (6)

1

7 8

2 3 4 5 6 12 14 16 18 19 21

Her films include Salmonberries and Eye Of The Beholder (1,1,4) This piglet attracted seven Oscar nominations (4) Roman Polanski’s buccaneering bonanza (7) Elizabeth seen in Captain America: Civil War (5) Ernst, legendary German-born director noted for his romantic comedies (8) The Fifth — (Benedict Cumberbatch) (6) Will Ferrell’s 2017 abode (3,5) Steve Zahn and Paul Walker’s 2001 horror trip — originally, at least (3,4) In which George C. Scott received an Oscar for his portrayal of a controversial general (6) It follows a Black Dog in this James Franco thriller title (3,3) The Prince Of —, DreamWorks animation (5) For which Sean Penn won his second Best Actor Oscar ar (4)

WIN! THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US ON BLU-RAY KATE WINSLET AND Idris Elba star together in a film based on the novel of the same name by Charles Martin about a surgeon and a journalist who fight for survival after a plane crash. We have 10 Blu-rays of the film to win for lucky readers. TO ENTER, TELL US WHAT YOUR FAVOURITE SURVIVAL FILM IS, AND WHY.

COMPETITION ENDS 10 FEBRUARY FOR A CHANCE to win these prizes, email us at empiregiveaways@bauer-media.com.au, write the prize in the subject line, your preferred format if there are both DVD or Blu-ray options and complete the answer in 25 words or less, not forgetting to include your contact details. All competitions are open to both Australian and New Zealander Empire readers. For conditions of entry visit www. bauer-media.com.au/terms/competition-terms

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DAVENPORT (Raymond Huntley): Messerschmitt 109-F, sir.

Perry looks at his man. Silence. He recognises that morale is low. Something is needed.

PERRY: That’s right. This one. Luke?

PERRY: Stainer, have you got that machine of yours?

LUKE (John Laurie): Stuka, sir. STAINER: Yes, sir. PERRY: That’s right. He picks up a model plane. INT. CAFÉ RISPOLI — DAY

PERRY: Brewer?

Lt Jim Perry (David Niven) is addressing his platoon, who have gathered in the Café Rispoli.

BREWER (Stanley Holloway): Focke-Wulf 190, sir.

PERRY: I had hoped we would have seen rather more enemy aircraft around here than we have done, so that you could have kept up with your aircraft recognition without using these model things. However, all we have seen is a couple of rather dreary-looking reconnaissance planes, so we’d better just run through the German types to make quite sure you haven’t forgotten them.

Perry puts it down. He picks up another model.

He unfolds a chart and points at the airplane on it.

PARSONS (Hugh Burden): Different undercarriages, sir. The wings of the Henschel are swept back, and on the Lizzie they look as if they’re swept forward but they aren’t really.

PERRY: We’ll start off with a few questions. What’s this one? Davenport?

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PERRY: Stainer?

PERRY: Well, play it and the rest of you, for heaven’s sake, sing. Stainer produces his ukulele and starts strumming Lily Of Laguna. Brewer starts humming along, the men join him with whistling. They start singing. ALL: “She’s no gal for sittin’ down to dream, she’s the only queen Laguna knows...” Perry checks to see if they’re all singing. Rispoli, the café owner (Peter Ustinov), looks on.

STAINER (Jimmie Hanley): Lysander, sir. PERRY: Parsons, what’s the difference between a Lysander and a Henschel 126?

ALL: “I know she likes me/I know she likes me/ Because she says so/She is my lily of Laguna/She is my lily and my rose/She’s my lady love, she is my dove, my baby love.” Perry joins in. And now his men fully commit, their voices rising and building as one as the song draws to its conclusion.


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