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Ian Freer gifts Fore st Whitake with a sp r ecial Rog ue One Em pire before th ey record the podcas t.

, inwash Mr. Bra bulous ive s fa lu e c h x T re r of ou n. creato -desig er, mid v o c r ribe c s b u s

Olly Gib bs, Ally Wybre and Te w, Chri rri Whit s Lupto e celeb n rate Em at the D pire’s w igital M in agazin e Award s.

Chris Hewitt with Walter Hill and

James Dye




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Edgar Wright in Los Angeles. It would seem they didn’t get the joke.


TWO DECADES AGO, Trainspotting came to our screens and became the backdrop to thousands of cider-splashed fumblings and all-night raves in houses you’d never see again. Along with certain records — What’s The Story (Morning Glory)? for me — it became synonymous not just with a time (the halcyon days of ‘Cool Britannia’) but a time of life. Many of us were at college or university. I was doing my A-levels, enjoying the taste of freedom the first heady rush of adulthood brings (you know, before proper responsibilities start to weigh on your shoulders). The film, and its stars, became iconic. In some respects, forever frozen in that time: still Renton, Begbie, Spud and Sick Boy to us. So it was of course with some trepidation that we received the news of a sequel. Some 20 years on. God, would it be all Mondeos, mortgages and mundanity? So we, along with the rest of the nation, breathed a sigh of relief when that trailer dropped. The beautiful spirit of the first lives on. It’s kinda like meeting old friends and discovering they haven’t changed one bit. Blimey, maybe we haven’t either. In a world exclusive, we bring you all of the action from the set (spoiler: we had a blast). Check it out on p.60. And our lucky subscribers are also treated this month to a bespoke piece of artwork on their front cover from renowned street artist Mr. Brainwash. W like Gutted you didn’t get one? Join us! We’re a cult but more fun! Find out how on p.58. T2 is just the first notable film in what is shaping up to be a great year. From Wonder Woman to War For The Planet Of The Apes to s: Episode VIII, VIII Alien: Covenant and Star Wars: hell, it could even be a vintage year. In our monster preview, we’ve gathered a mass of exclusive images and interviews to give you the definitive word on every film and TV show you need to care about. Don’t disappoint us, 2017. We’re pinning all of our remaining hopes on you. W

kids of ls the brilliant Chris Hewitt tel d how lan Ire emy in Northern Banbridge Acad a living. for s film ing tch to get a job wa


















IN CINEMAS JANUARY 1 in 2D & 3D book now





T2 TRAINSPOTTING The Danny Boyle classic has spawned a sequel. Choose life. Choose a film magazine. Choose the ‘Contents’ page. Choose so-called funny witticisms instead of useful information. Choose choosing. Choose... oh, sod it.


A MONSTER CALLS Liam Neeson voices a walking, talking tree. He plays the role to the Ent degree. You know, like John Rhys-Davies in The Lord Of Tbe Rings. Oh, please yourself.

Clockwise from here: T2 — judgment day?; Dane DeHaan seeks A Cure For Wellness; Akira; Michelle Williams and Casey Affleck meet-sad in Manchester By The Sea; Lewis MacDougall in A Monster Calls.


THE ULTIMATE 2017 PREVIEW Films set in 2017 include Pamela Anderson ‘vehicle’ Barb Wire, sections of Adam Sandler ‘comedy’ Click, the last bit of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows — Part 2 and Terminator Genisys. And you thought 2016 was grim.


THE DRIVER Walter Hill, the director of car-chase classic The Driver, is interviewed by Edgar Wright, the director of car-chase classic-inW waiting Baby Driver. It’s like Top Gear with more intelligent, better-dressed people.


VIOLA DAVIS The mighty star of The Help, Prisoners, Suicide Squad and now Fences gets the Empire grilling. If she wrote an autobiography, it’d be called ‘A History Of Viola’.


A CURE FOR WELLNESS Seen the ace trailer? Now Gore Verbinski spills the secrets. (Clue: it’s not Nurofen Plus).


MANCHESTER BY THE SEA Kenneth Lonergan’s heartbreaker sees Casey Affleck in a tie-dye shirt shouting, “Mad fer it.”



GHOST IN THE SHELL Scar Jo’s anime update. Not to be confused with ’80s Scouse horror ‘‘Ghost In The Shell Suit’.


LA LA L AND Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. How are they not the new UN Peacekeeping Force?


2 24

MOONLIGHT Is Barry Jenkins the most down-to-earth name for the year’s hottest indie director?


ASSASSIN’S CREED Michael Fassbender plays the next opponent for Rocky Balboa.





MICHAEL SHEEN Warning: contains the phrases “arse crack” and “ball sack”, who are not new Transformers.



ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY Would a Director Krennic standalone be called ‘Cape Fear’?

BROTHERHOOD Aka Oh My Days Of Future Past, Blud Simple etc.

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN A touching tribute to Gene Wilder, still puttin’ on the Ritz. JERRY MAGUIRE Cameron Crowe shows Chris Hewitt the money, had him at hello. AKIRA Edith Bowman checks out the Japanese classic. Don’t look back in manga, I heard you say.



JOHN WICK: CHAPTER 2 The Keanu Reeves hit man hit has spawned a sequel. Chapter 3 sees him team up with his long-lost brother, Hampton.

10 Years of Thanks. What started with “Chicken Little” on 100. screens has grown to more than 32,000. screens in 72 countries. We proudly and gratefully thank. the more than 1.5 billion moviegoers. who have chosen RealD 3D in. cinemas all over the world. Here’s to the next decade of perfecting the. visual experience for audiences everywhere.

Editors Editor-In-Chief Terri White

CONTRIBUTING EDITORS Simon Braund, Angie Errigo, Ian Freer, Dan Jolin, Will Lawrence, Ian Nathan, Kim newman, david Parkinson, nev Pierce, adam smith, damon Wise

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words: simon Crook, fred dellar, Mike diver, tom Ellen, alex godfrey, joseph howes, david hughes, sali hughes, Matt Kamen, travis Knight, andrew Lowry, hamish Macbain, olly richards, owen Williams, Edgar Wright, billy Zane. photography: Charlie Gray, Steve Schofield, Martin Schoeller. illustrations: Mr. brainwash, james Carey, jacey, justin Metz, si scott, Peter strain, david Mahoney, olly gibbs. subbing: Kat halstead



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Chief Executive paul Keenan group Managing director rob munro-Hall Managing director — sport & Entertainment patrick Horton business analyst natalie talbot Managing Editor sophie price

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Young At Art I have a pile of old issues of the magazine at home, so I asked my kids if they wanted to do something with them. We decided to cut them up and make movie collages. The orange one is by Flo (five), and the blue is by Vince (four). James, HatHersage

F Fantastic work from Flo and Vince. Kiddie art or a postmodern deconstruction of the current cinema of spectacle malaise? You decide. Empire's star letter wins a Picturehouse Membership, plus one for a friend! Valid for one year at 23 Picturehouse Cinemas across the UK, including the Picturehouse Central in London’s West End, each membership comes pre-loaded with four free tickets, and gets you access to priority booking and exclusive discounts on everything in the cinema. When you write to us, please ensure you include your full contact details so we can arrange delivery of your prize.

The Long And Winding Rogue james plater on ben mendelsohn’s casting as the sheriff of nottingham

“FANTASTIC ACTOR FINALLY GETTING THE RECOGNITION HE DESERVES. BUT SERIOUSLY, ‘ROBIN HOOD: ORIGINS’? WHAT NEXT, ‘WILLIAM TELL: RETRIBUTION?'” In Zane In The Membrane You’ve got a review of Titanic on one page then Billy Zane giving advice on the next. Who’s going to believe that guy? p paul mcgowan, ow owan, glasgow

Q. Five points if you can remember Billy’s character name in Titanic. A. Cal Hockley.

I’ve got the Captain Cassian Andor cover and I must say, if they ever do a biopic of the break-up of The Beatles, Diego Luna has to be a contender for Macca. If he can do a Scouse accent he’s a shoe-in! pHil DoDD, via email

You say goodbye, I say Erso!



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“and ally takes the chequered flag. good luck, Wybrew.”


february 2017

“I l e crafting bd wines at deliver e unexpected” DARK HORSE WINEMAKER

DARKHORSEWINE.COM © 2016 Dark Horse Wines, Modesto, CA. All rights reserved.







Getting healthy has never been more dangerous than in Gore Verbinski’s mysterious horror WORDS PHIL DE SEMLYEN

“DANE PUT UP with a lot on this film,” confesses director Gore Verbinski of his A Cure For Wellness star. Sure enough, early footage of the psychological horror shows its protagonist, Dane DeHaan’s cocky Wall Street gun, submerged, doused and generally over-hydrated as he endures the “false escape” of a mysterious Alpine sanatorium. There, he’ll find the spa’s woozy ambience much more hypnotic than he bargained for, even before its darkest secrets emerge. A contemporary Gothic that promises blind corners, curveballs and old-fashioned spooks, it sees the Pirates Of The Caribbean veteran swap summer tentpoles for more wintry chills. It’s a return to the genre roots that saw him remake The Ring, and it’ll drill deep into the zeitgeist. “I’m Ring hoping to tap into this sickness we all feel,” he explains. “Society is going through an existential crisis and in many ways we’re ripe for diagnosis, but what if the cure was worse than the disease?” Judging by his movie’s first trailer, an attention-snatching entrée into its portraithandsome but deeply creepy world, it could fulfil Verbinski’s high hopes for it. ���I’d love to do for V a trip to the spa what Jaws did to a day at the beach,” he says, half serious. Thought it was safe to go back in the waters? Think again.





Michael Fassbender breaks the bonds of family in a British gangster tale with a difference WORDS WILL LAW A RENCE AW PHOTOGRAPHY CHARLIE GRAY

Clockwise from above: Michael Fassbender is conflicted family man Chad Cutler; Lyndsey Marshal as Kelly, Chad’s wife, with Tony Way’s Norm; Brendan Gleeson is patriarch Colby, standing in his son’s way; 11-year-old Georgie Smith as young tearaway Tyson.

IN A BUCOLIC corner of Hertfordshire, Empire is watching Michael Fassbender and Empir a young lad named Georgie Smith balancing in a towering tree. The pair are shooting a climactic moment in Trespass Against Us, a gritty yarn about a family from the travelling community, and the tension is palpable. In the film, their two characters will leap from this lofty perch. The actors are reprieved, though, to the clear relief of one of them. “Georgie thought we would have to jump out of that tree for real,” grins Fassbender once the two have been safely collected by a cherry picker. “But he was prepared to do it. He’s a tough kid.” The film, from debutant director Adam Smith, casts Fassbender as Irish traveller Chad Cutler and Smith as his child, Tyson. This scene offers a handy metaphor for a father-and-son fable in which Chad bids to escape the shackles of family to provide a more stable upbringing for his kids. The problem for Chad had is his father, Colby (Brendan Gleeson), who wants his son to remain within the itinerant traveller tradition. “We’re dealing with very difficult dilemmas for this family,” says Fassbender, “but it never feels like preaching. It’s an honest and visceral story.” Its inspiration came from the notorious veller clan, they Johnson gang. A real-life tra traveller terrorised the Cotswolds countryside for 20 years, stealing more than £80 million in fine art and antiques from English country houses. Smith and his screenwriter Alastair Siddons took them as the starting point for a tale of prejudice and pride among the traveller community, as well as the conflicts they face with those who live a settled life. “One of the issues is whether we’re stereotyping travellers,” stresses Gleeson when he joins Empiree on set. “I’ve known travelling people, and they can do without negative stereotyping.” But the Cutler family are outsiders, even within their community. “They are too much trouble — nobody wants them,” adds Gleeson. “It’s almost as if Colby has declared war on everyone else.” Everyone else had better watch out.



Charlie Hunnam as adventurer Colonel Fawcett. Below: With director James Gray during filming. Bottom: With his team of explorers in South America.

James Gray’s The Lost City Of Z takes the indie filmmaker deep into uncharted terrain WORDS OWEN WILLIAMS

AS A DIRECTOR, James Gray likes to ring the changes. Vaudevillian 1920s drama The Immigrant ant was very different from the modern romance of Two Lovers, which was entirely unlike the gangland rhythms of We Own The Night. And The Lost City Of Z is yet another extreme departure: a historical jungle epic. “You don’t want to repeat yourself,” Gray tells Empire of his latest adventure. “The opportunity to explore new and different stories is a major attraction of this job.” The film, starring Charlie Hunnam as real-life Edwardian explorer Percival Fawcett, is an adaptation of a book by The New Yorker’s David Grann. But Gray jettisoned the parallel story of Grann’s present-day obsession with the yarn and focused entirely on Fawcett, who vanished in the Amazon in 1925 while searching for the ancient Lost City Of Z. The postmodern take, Gray believes, “has been done before, and recently, and well. I figured that sometimes the best way to go forward is to look backward.” Well aware of the pitfalls of that approach, Gray says political sensitivity to the colonial era was crucial. He didn’t want to mimic Lawrence



Of Arabia. “That doesn’t mean I think I’m better than David Lean,” Gray is quick to insist, “but that work is both beneficiary and hostage to its cultural context; Alec Guinness plays an Arab! I was trying to update that.” Gray says that every character in The Lost City Of Z, Z whether British or indigenous South American, is “validated as an independent being”. That quest for legitimacy also led Gray to attempt the outlandish, channelling Francis Ford Coppola and Werner Herzog by heading deep into the Colombian rainforest (the historically correct bits of Brazil now look, according to the director, “like Nebraska”) for a flirt with catastrophe. Extreme heat and humidity, thunderstorms, insects and snakes, and the Zika virus were among the perils, as was the rather more avoidable difficulty of shooting on film and having to ship the reels back to London every day. A studio set and digital cameras would have been cheaper and more controllable, but for Gray, “The authenticity was critical.” There is, however, no Burden Of Dreams or Hearts Of Darkness-style documentary to chart the madness. “My wife was going to make a film about me making the film,” Gray laughs, “but we actually didn’t get enough footage to make a great documentary from. I don’t like to harp on about the ‘hardships’ of this job. I know I’m in a very fortunate position.” Alongside Coppola and Herzog, he’s now part of an exclusive club, too. THE LOST CITY OF Z IS IN CINEMAS IN 2017



CHEMISTRY LESSONS Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women finds the indie auteur still doing things her own way WORDS PHIL DE SEMLYEN

IF YOU W WANT to work with director Kelly Reichardt — and plenty of actors do — a role in a recent punk-rock biopic probably wouldn’t hurt. “I’ve worked with three of the band members in The Runaways,” she laughs of recent collaborations with Kristen Stewart in her latest, Certain Women, and Dakota Fanning and Alia Shawkat in Night Mo . With a rep as an actor’s director nurtured Moves over two decades of quietly uncompromising work, A-listers now queue up to work with her.



For Certain Women, a Montana-set tableau of working women judged Best Film at 2016’s BFI London Film Festival, she’s added nonRunaways Laura Dern and her Meek’ss Cutoff lead Michelle Williams, as well as newcomer Lily Gladstone, who delivers a standout performance. Embroidered with moments of connection, it’s a slow-burner with the feel of a fuzzy, lo-fi Robert Altman. Yet, it’s the kind of film only Reichardt could make — and, you sense, the only kind she’d want to. Creating chemistry is key. “There’s a lot that can happen between the lines,” she says of her ethos. “Actors are into investigating that.” Her leads embraced the relaxed approach. “You’ve got to have a plan, but you’ve [also] got to be open to the gift of whatever’s coming,” says Reichardt. “Directing is not something you can master in my experience, because you’re dealing with a group of people and it’s a live thing,” she

muses on the special alchemy of a film set. “Gus Van Sant says that if you shoot a scene on Tuesday morning, it’d be different to the same scene shot with the same cast and crew after lunch on Tuesday,” she says. “I think that’s true.” Not every part of the process has stayed the same since her debut, 1994’s River Of Grass. “I’d walk into meetings where people would say, ‘Well, you’ve got a female director, a female producer and a female lead. That’s three strikes against you.’” Things have changed a little since then. “They don’t say those things out loud anymore,” she notes wryly. Her next project, an adaptation of Patrick deWitt’s Undermajordomo Minor, will offer a change of genre — it’s a juicy murder-mystery with shades of The Princess Bride. Somehow, you know it’ll still be unmistakably a Kelly Reichardt film. CERTAIN WOMEN IS IN CINEMAS FROM 3 MARCH

Left: Breakout star Lily Gladstone as a young ranch hand. Below from top: Kirsten Stewart’s lawyer/teacher Elizabeth Travis; Laura Dern as lawyer Laura Wells; Michelle Williams as Archie Wavell (Simon

Gina; Kelly Reichardt on location with DP

Williams) with Lord

Christopher Blauvelt.

Mountbatten (Hugh Bonneville). Below: Lady Mountbatten (Gillian Anderson) joins the Lord to front a modest household get-together. Bottom: Gurinder Chadha.

RAJ AGAINST THE MACHINE Gurinder Chadha’s ViceroyÕs House revitalises the India-set period picture


2017 MARKS THE 70th anniversary of the end of the British Indian colonial empire, and of Partition, when that empire was split into the Dominion of Pakistan and the Union of India. Gurinder Chadha’s Viceroy’s House wasn’t originally intended as a project to mark the occasion — she started working on the project seven years ago, and says she can’t believe it’s taken this long. But its arrival is now timely both for historical reasons, and as a reflection of was really current events. “The he partition of India was about politicians using hate to divide people,” people, the writer/director tells Empire. “Given what’s going on in the world today, toda it seems very timely to tell the potential po tragic consequences of that kind of politicking. It feels very resonant.” A personal project for Chadha, she says ays she first had the urge urg to tell the story when exploring her o own background for the BBC’s BBC’ family history series Who Do You Think You Y Are?. e?. er intention was to make mak “a big, e? Her traditional, Merchant erchant Ivory Iv British Raj movie”, vie”, but with the crucial difference of giving equal weight to the Indian and Pakistani voices: voices like lik her own. The seismic events ents are played pla out in microcosm in the house itself, with the decision-making upstairs ups directly affecting the lives of the staff s downstairs. A romance between a Muslim uslim girl and a Hindi boyy is at stake, for example,

because neither knows where the Indian/ Pakistan border will be drawn or to which country they’ll belong. The Viceroy of the title is Archibald Wavell rchibald W (Simon Williams), with Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson as Lord and Lady Mountbatten, who oversaw the British withdrawal and were scapegoated for most of the consequences. Political heavyweights on the Indian and Pakistani sides, Indian independence leaders Nehru and Gandhi, and founder of Pakistan Muhammad Ali Jinnah, are played by Tanv anveer Ghani, Neeraj Kabi and Denzil Smith mith respectively, respectiv with Chadha keen to keep eep the portrayals fair and balanced. “Jinnah innah in particular is always portrayed yed as a villain,” she explains. “In A Attenborough’ ttenborough’s Gandhi he’s heinous, and I was as at great pains to make him nott that person. Everyone was acting in their own wn interests, as they still are.” While parts of the story cast a dark shadow, w, however, Chadha’s ground in lighter films ((Bend It background ejudice Like Beckham, Bride & Prejudice Prejudice) ejudice) has had an effect on the film’s overall tone. “I’m generally enerally known for making quite life-affirming movies,” she says. “I hope once I’ve taken en you through the drama and the tragedy,, there is some hope at the end.” All ll being well, that means there’s there’ hope for the contemporary world too. VICEROY’S HOUSE IS IN CINEMAS FROM 3 MARCH




MANGA MANAGEMENT How anime classic Ghost In The Shell got an A-list reboot WORDS OWEN WILLIAMS

NO STRANGER TO post-human concepts, Scarlett Johansson has previously played a superevolved consciousness (Lucy) and an ultraadvanced AI (Her). In director Rupert Sanders’ Ghost In The Shell — a live-action take on the seminal cyberpunk anime — she’s tethered to physical form, but her body and brain are 100 per cent cyborg; only her soul (or “ghost”) remains human. “I’ve been a person without a body, now I’m a mind in a synthetic body. Eventually I’ll go back to playing a body and brain together,” she laughs. Johansson’s attributes in this case belong to The Major: head of Hong Kong’s multi-ethnic cyber-terrorism countermeasures unit Section 9, which also employs Pilou Asbaek, Juliette Binoche and Takeshi Kitano. The plot remains largely under wraps, but draws on material from across the franchise (Masamune Shirow’s original manga; Mamoru Oshii’s classic film and its follow-ups). Sanders is remixing as well as remaking, but promises “this isn’t the shit Hollywood version”. “This is a ride that’s not just explosive and exciting, but also curious and reflective,” Johansson believes. Top of the agenda for the remake? Preserving the franchise USP of sci-fi musings on humanity’s relationship with technology — only now with Johansson kicking serious ass.





SOLO PROJECT The lowdown on the next Star Wars spin-off



AS THE FIRST Star Wars War standalone story, Rogue One, One, continues its box-office bo domination, the second is about to get underway. underw ‘Young Han Solo: A Star Wars Story’ tory’ (not the official title) will w start to shoot in January or early February. ebruary.. So with ebruary a 25 May 2018 release date (up against Madagascar 4!), !), 41 years to the day since we first firs met the Corellian smuggler, this is what we kno know so far…

THE FILMMAKERS On 7 July 2015, Lucasfilm president Kathleen K Kennedy announced Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Miller the duo behind the Jump Street Str franchise and The LEGO Movie,, as directors. directors For all their hip, flip sensibility, they have a clear grasp of what makes Solo tick. “Hee is clever clev but smart,” Lord told Star tar Wars Celebration. “He “ doesn’t want to do anything that he’s told, and if he’s he’ told not to do something, he only wants to do it more. He’s vvery sarcastic and yet unreasonably optimistic. op He’ss basically a cynical guy with the biggest bigg heart in the galaxy.” Surely urely they think Solo shoots first.

THE HERO Alden Ehrenreich, hrenreich, best known kno for a stellar turn in Hail, Caesar! and Warren Beat Beatty’s upcoming Rules Don’t Apply, was chosen from 300 hopefuls including established names lik like Dave Franco, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, aylor-Johnson, Ansel Elgort, Jack Reynor and Miles Teller. “T Turns out that was a total waste of money because the person who got the part was the first person to audition, literally the first person to walk w in the door,” Lord said at Star tar Wars Celebration. Ehrenreich was buzzed to do a chemistry test tes with Chewbacca — confirming the unsurprising new news that the Wookiee stays in the picture — and revealed, W rev “The coolest part of that audition process w was when I went on the Falcon. Itt was pretty pre unbelievable.”

THE COHORTS Lando Calrissian, Han’s an’s old buddy, buddy will be played byy modern renaissance man Donald Glover, Glo best known for Community,, his self-penned show sho Atlanta and his musical alter-egos alter Childish Gambino and mcDJ. As seems compulsory these days for any actor joining a franchise, Glo Glover



Rebecca Hall as Christine Chubbuck. Below: Chubbuck’s anger spills over in front of Tracy Letts’ Michael. Bottom: Peg (J. Smith-Cameron), Christine’s mum, offers comfort.

PLAYING THE BLUES was a childhood fan — his first action figure was a Lando — and he has been read the riot act by his mother: “Don’t mess it up!” Lord and Miller seem confident. “These are big shoes to fill, and an even bigger cape, and this one fits him perfectly, which will save us money on alterations,” the pair said in a typically dry press release. Completing the central triangle (or square, if you include Chewie) is Emilia Clarke as a yet-to-be-named character. With Game Of Thrones, Terminator Genisys and now Star Wars, Clarke is cycling through sci-fi/ fantasy franchises like a demented Warwick Davis.

THE PLOT “This moves closer to a heist or Western-type feel,” Kennedy told Variety recently, playing squarely into the character’s roguish smuggler’s wheelhouse. Co-writer Lawrence awrence awrence Kasdan, working with son Jon, is a huge student of Westerns, with a particular penchant for The Magnificent Seven’s Steve McQueen: the character will likely be imbued with McQueen’s trademark swagger and poise. Expect meeting Chewie, winning the Millennium Falcon from Lando in a session of dice game sabacc, and an intro for Boba Fett (another potential standalone) to figure.

THE LOOK Kathleen Kennedy recently revealed a key visual source for the film. “We’ve talked about [Frederic] Remington and those primary colours that are used in his paintings defining the look and feel for the film.” Arrival cinematographer Bradford radford Young Young will be behind the camera and is already talking up Lord and Miller’s visual brio. “It’s gonna feel like a Star Wars film, but we’re definitely gonna break some rules, and we’re encouraged to do that.” Solo wouldn’t have it any other way. ‘UNTITLED HAN SOLO STAR WARS ANTHOLOGY FILM’ IS IN CINEMAS FROM 25 MAY 2018

Rebecca Hall tells Empire how she relived a true-life tragedy


FOR REBECCA HALL, there are some roles that are easy to leave behind, some that are hard, and there’s Christine Chubbuck. The central character in director Antonio Campos’ ((Simon Killer iller iller)) acclaimed new true-life drama Christine is a Florida news reporter who — it’s no spoiler to say — killed herself live on air in July 1974. Hard-working and driven, but lost in a fug of quiet despair, she’s a tragic figure who demanded all of the actor’s energy on set — and occasionally off it. “I’d wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat thinking I could be doing better,” Hall recalls of the film’s 29-day shoot. “Christine’s voice would be in my head telling me to do better.” It would be a harsh judgment. Her sympathetic, committed portrayal brings vividness to Chubbuck’s inner life and her battle with depression. With the illness, by its very nature, an internal struggle, the role brought unusual challenges. As Hall notes, Chubbuck was often forced to put on an act for the world. “It’s complicated to play the face that someone wants to project and to show the audience what they’re really feeling, too,” she tells Empire. “One of the first things I thought of was how good or bad an actor she was at various points.” When the mask slips, the WXLT-TV studio reverberates with Network-like fury. Hall’s three meticulous months of prep even saw her consult Juilliard School’s Director Of Movement to help hone her character’s body language. “He did one thing that was really useful

for me,” she remembers, “which was to give me a blank mask to put on. Taking my face out of the equation and looking in the mirror made me think about her in relation to my body in a way I hadn’t done before.” Sure enough, Christine conveys plenty even when saying nothing at all. With that weird reverse serendipity Hollywood has, another film about Chubbuck — Robert Greene’s meta-doc Kate Plays Christine — arrived just as Christine hit the festival circuit. “For obvious reasons, I haven’t seen it,” says Hall. “I’d be slightly concerned to see it, when its premise seems to be that you can’t turn this story into a film!” She laughs at the irony. “I will see it eventually. I just can’t quite bring myself to yet.” CHRISTINE IS IN CINEMAS AND ON DOWNLOAD FROM 27 JANUARY



MEET MISS SLOANE Jessica Chastain explains why her pill-popping lobbyist is the hero we need right now




JESSICA CHASTAIN’S HASTAIN’S HAST LATEST character, Elizabeth Sloane, hyper-competitive. loane, is h “If Sloane was a man we’d be like, ‘I know this guy,’” says Chastain. “He’s gonna get things done, he’s the rebel, he’s the renegade. But we don’t see a woman in this kind of role. Someone asked me yesterday, is that because women aren’t like this? I just think that for some reason our industry and our media hasn’t shown women that way.” The protagonist of John Madden’s Miss Sloane is a Washington DC lobbyist for right-wing trade initiatives who armours herself with high fashion, higher heels and layered, Machiavellian plans. Her look is based on one of the “formidable” real lobbyists Chastain met (“She was so done it put me off-guard,” she recalls of one), but Sloane’s drug-abusing, escort-using control freakery is all her own work. She’s offered a job by Mark Strong’s idealist to fight for gun control legislation and

accepts, though it’s not clear she’s a true believer. For Chastain, it is a story whose time has come: “A “A Att first, I thought it would be interesting because of the gun violence in the United States.” But the recent US Presidential election made the character even After A en more relevant. ““A fter the first debate the big criticism against Hillary Clinton was that she was over-prepared, which I’ve never heard anyone say about a man. I think we as a society have difficulty with female ambition and women who don’t apologise for knowing what they’re talking about. People know I’m passionate about interesting roles for women, [yet] I still sometimes get scripts from actors and directors I’d love to work with, and I’m like, e, ‘A ‘ re you kidding me? She’s the set dressing!’” The often ruthless Sloane — who is anything but set dressing — gradually finds her methods challenged, in particular by Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s


It’s back — time to cast your votes for the Empire Awards 2017

Jessica Chastain as the hard-as-nails but ultimately inspirational Elizabeth Sloane.

impassioned campaigner, Esme. “What Gugu’s doing is the heart of the film,” says Chastain. “Before her, people were just collateral damage [to Elizabeth]. She’ll sacrifice herself, she’ll sacrifice everyone around her. But Esme is the first time she’s forced to confront other people’s feelings and how she’s responsible for that.” Despite Sloane’s occasionally brutal methods, Chastain sees her as a positive, if unlikely, role model. “What we realise is she will sacrifice herself because she’s gotta accomplish what she set out to, and I think that’s a really good role model for men and women right now: Sloane at the end of the movie; not necessarily at the beginning!” Dogged, driven and adaptable, Miss Sloane could just be the first in a new breed of political heroes.

The empire AwA w rds keeps getting wA bigger. Our annual celebration of the year’s best movies and TV shows adds another new category to the roster in 2017, offering fresh opportunities to follow in the footsteps of this year’s big winners, Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road, when the great and good of movieland come together on sunday 19 march. every movie released between 31 January 2016 and 31 January 2017 will be eligible, so heavyweight contenders could include Arrival, Captain America: Civil War, Rogue One: A Star Wars Storyy and Doctor Strange. will Batman and superman need to settle their dif differences long enough to share an award for Dawn Of Justice? does The Jungle Book have the new Best 3d Film category sown up? will La La Land continue to add to its already burgeoning haul of nominations? it’s not just the biggest blockbusters in the running, though. Cult favourites like The easy Strangler and Green Room will be Greasy vying for Best Comedy and Best Thriller, while The Witch, Victoria and Hell Or High Water ater are all possible dark horses — not forgetting Empire’s own film of the year, Hunt For The Wilderpeople. But we don’t know this for a fact. why not? Because this is the only movie awards show voted for by you, the Empire reader. To pick your favourites, simply head to and get voting. Not only will you be help decide who wins in march, you’ll be in with a chance of being there to see it. One lucky soul will win a pair of tickets to attend the awards itself, including dinner and drinks, and witness it all first hand. don’t delay — you are the only academy that matters!

Daisy R idley an d John Boyega show o ff their B Newcom est er Award s in 201 6.

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MISS SLOANE is in cinemas from 10 february

february 2017


ONE FROM THE HEART Big-hearted and inclusive, Barry Jenkins’ sophomore film could be just the film for troubled times WORDS OLLY RICHARDS

THE RELEASE OF Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight has straddled two very different eras. It was released in the US, to rave reviews, in October in a time of progress. The first black President was in power and the first woman President was expected to succeed him. When it’s released in the UK in February Donald Trump will be America’s President. This timing would not necessarily be remarkable if not for Moonlight Moonlight’s subject.



The film tells of three stages in the life of Chiron, a black boy growing up gay in a poor part of Miami. It finds him first when he’s a shy pre-teen, then as an awkward, angry teenager, and finally as an adult who has built himself an identity he wears like armour. It treats everyone from drug dealers to violent criminals with understanding and sensitivity. It views all of its characters as people of worth; it allows them mistakes, but expects them to pay for them. It represents an open worldview currently being shouted down in America, where white supremacy is on the rise and division is stark. “[On day] I actually had people n election da tweeting me saying they didn’t know how to respond [to the result] and the only thing they could think to do was go and see Moonlight Moonlight,” recalls Jenkins. “Whatever you think of the US election results, the only real solution is to do

a better job of seeing one another and understand what other people are going through.” It was never meant to be a commentary on the world we’re now in. It’s just a story about who you choose to be versus who you are. Although it has the deep-hearted truth of a memoir, Moonlight isn’t Jenkins’ story. It’s actually based on a semi-autobiographical play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, In Moonlight Black gave it to me Boys Look Blue.. ““A A friend of mine gave and said it was kind of my story,” says Jenkins. “Which I didn’t really understand at first [Jenkins is straight]… but then I read it and it was.” McCraney and Jenkins grew up in the same impoverished part of Miami; in fact, they went to the same school, though they never met. Both their mothers struggled with drug abuse. “I was a quiet kid and I could identify with this sense of being something other,” says Jenkins. “I felt that

Clockwise from left: Chiron as a teenager, played by Ashton Sanders; Janelle Monáe as Teresa, Chiron’s surrogate mom; Trevante Rhodes ponders life as a grown-up Chiron; Naomie Harris as Paula, Chiron’s crackaddicted mother; Mahershala Ali as Juan, drug dealer and mentor to the boy as a child (Alex R. Hibbert).

Clockwise from left: Henry (Jaeden Lieberher) and Peter (Jacob Tremblay) play in their own world; Susan (Naomi Watts) is collaborating with her son to plan the perfect murder; Colin Trevorrow directs Tremblay in a school talentshow sequence.

sense of isolation Chiron has.” Putting well-known actors like House Of Cards’ Mahershala Ali, in the role of Chiron’s drug dealer mentor/father figure, and Naomie Harris in the role of Chiron’s mother, Jenkins scouted unknowns in Miami to play Chiron at his different stages of life. He settled upon Alex R. Hibbert, Ashton Sanders and Trevante Rhodes. “I wanted to cast fresh faces [to play Chiron],” notes Jenkins. “I didn’t want any association with past work. The physical similarity wasn’t as important for me as the idea that they had the same soul.” All three performances should make them known very soon, particularly Rhodes. Though it’s only his second film — his debut, Medicine For Melancholy, was a full eight years ago — Moonlight has graced many lists of the best films of the year, and done solid box-office numbers so far, accruing $11 million in the US.

“I could not have anticipated this reaction,” says Jenkins. “We got a standing ovation at the BFI London Film Festival, which amazed me. I understand you [Brits] don’t really do that, right?” Charged with momentum, Moonlight is now a decent bet for Oscar glory. Most will remember the #OscarsSoWhite embarrassment of last year, where room was found for several forgettable performances by white actors, while the likes of Jason Mitchell in Straight Outta Compton or Idris Elba in Beasts Of No Nation were overlooked. Moonlight is one of several pictures that should make it impossible, or at least indefensible, for Academy voters to repeat themselves this year. Along with Fences and Loving, as well as possibly Hidden Figures, Jenkins’ empathy-filled drama is part of a strong year for films with black central characters. That those movies are a mix of studio pictures and indies can only say good

things about the direction the industry is moving. Although $11 million is hardly blockbuster money, Moonlight cost under $5 million. Its popularity should be a reminder to financiers that small, intimate dramas of real quality will always find an audience. “We can all relate to the feeling of being an outsider at some time in our lives,” says Jenkins. “There are people who will see this movie who won’t know the place Chiron grew up but will be able to feel what that’s like. It’s a human experience.” For all the saddening, maddening events it depicts, Moonlight is a movie to make you believe in the goodness of humanity. After 2016, a year most will look back on with a ceaseless internal scream and possibly a bit of a cry, we could all use a little more belief in that. MOONLIGHT IS IN CINEMAS FROM 24 FEBRUARY



Lightning’s fateful crash. Below: Pixar’s favourite auto in happier moments...

SHOCK ABSORBER Director Brian Fee explains why Cars 3 won’t be quite as harrowing as its trailer


IT’S FAIR TO say, no-one saw the new Cars 3 trailer coming. Skipping comic beats entirely, it showed Pixar’s doughty red stock car Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) spiralling through the air and being scattered across the track. It was dark. Very dark. And hugely popular. Within a week it rack racked up 40 million YouTube views, while the film’s Facebook page was abuzz view with freaked-out fans. Two of the calmer posts read: “OMG, I can’t let my kids see this trailer!” and “Why so dark?????” Parents were rushing to reassure their children that their hero wasn’t about to put the ‘rev’ into The Revenant.



“The reaction I hear most is that this was not what people were expecting,” says director Brian Fee, with some understatement. “But I’ve not personally heard of any distraught children.” While the trailer’s vehicular carnage will appear in the movie, the former storyboard artistturned-director is at pains to point out that “it’s not the bitter end” for McQueen. “He doesn’t die,” Fee stresses. “He’s at a place where he can’t do the things he used to do and he’s going to have to figure out, ‘How do I get back to where I was?’” Helping him on this Rocky-like comeback trail is a new, so-far uncast character called Cruz Ramirez. “She’s youthful, fun and extremely positive,” explains Fee, “sometimes to a point of making him feel even older. The last thing he wants is to be paired against a super-positive person who doesn’t understand what he’s going through.” Yes, Lightning McQueen is having a midlife crisis. The film’s tagline — “From this moment, everything will change” — hints at a change of course not just for its hero, but the franchise itself. Cars 2, a globe-trotting race movie with a spy caper built in, took $560 million at the box office despite mixed reviews. The third part, though, promises a return to the more emotional story beats of the first movie. “When you watch Cars 1,” says Fee, “you feel like these are real people who have real problems. That’s certainly

what we’re back to. It’s less cartoony. We want to put something out there that everyone can relate to on some level.” Of course, not everyone has drunk the Cars Kool-Aid, despite the formidable grosses. Pixar, though, is promising something a little different this time for the yet-to-be-converted. Strap in, says Fee, it’ll be worth the ride. “I’m happy with the way the teaser turned out. It said: ‘There’s a Carss 3 coming and it’s probably not what you think it is.’” CARS 3 IS IN CINEMAS FROM 14 JULY

the quote quota The month’s most notable TV and movie bon mots




Sandra Hüller and Peter Simonischek as Ines and dad Winfried. Below: Winfried mid-Easter




egg-painting party.

WHO IS TONI ERDMANN? A three-hour German epic could be the funniest film of 2017. No, really WORDS PHIL DE SEMLYEN




FORGET DAVID BRENT. If you really want to squirm in your cinema seat, Toni Er Erdmann is the character for you. Grinning behind a set of fake gnashers, posing as a lifestyle guru or just bringing big-hearted chaos to his ladder-climbing daughter’s life, he’s like a cross between Barry Humphries and a box of Christmas crackers. He’s impish, deeply embarrassing and based on real life. “I was inspired by my father,” laughs Maren Ade. “I gave ga him a set of fake teeth I got at the Munich premiere of Austin Powers and they became his most important prop. A bit like in the film, he’d put them in if he wanted to tell us something important.” Ade’s hilarious,, moving and slightly autobiographical film has been a darling at festivals from Cannes to Toronto, stirred talk of a US remake, and looks set for an Oscar nod, too. Yes, German ermany’s pick for Best Foreign Language Film will wow Academy cademy members with scenes of nudity, nudity, pastry-based sex and whoopee cushions. Just three of the things they didn’t get with The White Ribbon. Erdmann is actually the alter ego of another character in the film, septuagenarian prankster Winfried (Peter Simonischek). Trying to bring a smile to the face of his hard-bitten

offspring (Sandra Hüller), he surprises her in Bucharest as she finalises a major oil deal. Things, needless to say, go badly in the most awkward ways imaginable. “There was a lot of work with Peter to make Winfried visible [underneath Toni],” recalls Ade of her creation. “He’s an amateur; that’s the funny thing about him. It was important for the film that it was believable that a real person was doing this.” One of Toni’s surprises sees him inexplicably turning up at his daughter’s birthday party in a Wookiee-like costume. “It’s called the Kukeri,” “ she explains of the garb’s folkloric roots. “It comes from the mountains of Bulgaria and people wear it to scare evil spirits aaway. It was as 40 degrees in Bucharest, so we had to get a stuntman tuntman to wear it. We put ice onto his body to cool him down.” Iff this all sounds a bit Pythonesque, you’d be on the right track. “The “ ’70s were, for me, the birth of modern humour,” humour says Ade of her influences. “People “P like Andy Kaufman and Monty Python.” Hearing a Python, Terry erry Gilliam, was at Empire’s screening, the director instantly turns fangirl. “Oh “ hm my God, that’s so cool!” The admiration cuts both ways, it seems. TONI ERDMANN IS IN CINEMAS FROM 3 FEBRUARY



INSIDE INFORMATION Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton on the twisted third series of Inside No. 9 WORDS NICK DE SEMLYEN

L COMIC anthology series THE DARKLY LY Inside No No. 9 (which sets each instalment in a place linked to the titular digit) has become a cult TV favourite since its launch two years ago, with creators Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton recruiting a roster of fresh stars, from Gemma Arterton to David avid Warner, for each new show. a With the firs first episode of Series 3 airing over the festive season and five more following early in 2017, we asked Shearsmith and Pemberton to talk us through their latest twisted tales…





Steve Pemberton: It’s about a group on holiday in an Alpine cabin, who become convinced they’re being plagued by the Krampus. The beauty of doing an anthology series is you’re free to take it off in any direction, and we decided to film this one exactly like an [episode of ] Armchair Thriller from the 1970s. Reece Shearsmith: It’s not full-on Acorn Antiques, but we did go back in time to a ridiculous degree. We shot it with really old technology at Elstree over two days. All the cameramen were over 70, because no-one knows how to film that way anymore. Nothing like it has been shown on TV since 1979 — we had to get special dispensation for it to be broadcast. Pemberton: It was just a nice experiment, in the same way that in the first series we did a silent episode and in the second we did one on CCTV.



Pemberton: One day we were sitting having lunch in Muswell Hill and saw three people arguing over whose turn it was to pay the bill. They all wanted to be magnanimous in front of the others. Shearsmith: It’s a bit like Art, Yasmina Reza’s play — four friends argue over a very small thing and it just escalates. This row just gets bigger and bigger. Pemberton: We thought, “Can we make an argument about a bill last half an hour?” And, well, we did it.



Shearsmith: Some characters are invited to a private view of an art exhibition. None of them know why they’ve been chosen. Pemberton: It’s always a designer’s nightmare







once you set something in a gallery, because you have to create a room full of original art. We put in a lot of mannequins, which is sort of shorthand for “something bad is going to happen”. It’s a dark episode but funny as well. I play a health and safety officer; Reece is an art lecturer. Felicity Kendal, Fiona Shaw and Peter Kay are in it, too.



Pemberton: The title is the literal meaning in Japanese of “karaoke”. My character has been promoted and is celebrating in a karaoke booth with his office colleagues. But of course there’s lots going on beneath the surface. The story is told through the songs they pick. Shearsmith: It was probably the most challenging one to make. We were in a square

box with a glitterball and it was like hell for a week. I’ve done musicals, but had never actually done karaoke before. Pemberton: We’d spend a whole day on one song, so by the end, talk about an earworm. Everyone would be humming Whigfield’s Saturday Night. We all went a bit mad.



Pemberton: The idea was: “Can you dramatise the completion of a crossword?” Something which is inherently unfilmable. We have a professor who is trying to teach this young girl, played by Alexandra Roach, how to solve a cryptic crossword. So within the episode you get a mini-tutorial. But it’s also a thriller in the vein of Sleuth. Shearsmith: When the BBC got the script they said it was like a cross between Sleuth and

Educating Rita. But they also said it read like it had been written by psychopaths.



Pemberton: We came up with this story literally on the way to the office. We saw this shoe by the side of the road and thought, “Who would leave that there? And what if someone became obsessed with finding out who it belonged to?” Reece plays the man who slowly becomes fixated on this shoe. Shearsmith: When I was doing Hamlet at The Royal Court [in London] I saw a single shoe on the King’s Road. I texted you, didn’t I? You start seeing them everywhere once you start looking. INSIDE NO. 9 IS ON BBC TWO IN LATE DECEMBER (‘THE DEVIL OF CHRISTMAS’) AND CONTINUES IN EARLY 2017





Sam Riley tackles violent crime — and the SS — in Nazi-held London WORDS SCARLETT RUSSELL

A RED FLAG FL emblazoned with a giant swastika hangs from the ceiling at Central Saint Martins art school in London. Beneath it, two SS men slouch against a wall; rifles in one hand, ressed in a na iPhones in the other. Dressed navy overcoat and trilby, Sam Riley leans out of a window and lights a cigarette. Empire is on the set of SS-GB, Robert obert Wade and Neal Purvis’ take on Len W Deighton’s 1978 thriller. It’s set in an alternative 1941 where Germany has won World War II, the Nazis control London and Scotland Yard is run by the SS. Still, “no smoking” signs must be obeyed. The five-part BBC One series pitches Riley into this murky world as homicide cop Douglas Archer who faces a bleak moral dilemma: collude Archer, with the enem enemy or join an unstable resistance. iley “He’s not a Nazi, “He’s ambiguous,” says Riley. iley. but he thinks there has to be law and order... His neighbours see him driven to work by the Gestapo and don’t know if they can trust him.” The adaptation sees Bond screenwriting pair Wade and Purvis working on the small screen for W the first time. “We had more freedom than with the Bond films, which are so heavily deconstructed,” explains Purvis. “It’s great fun having a large canvas to tell a story with twists, turns and subtle plot [shifts].” And if SS-GB -GB seems to be following in the jackbooted steps of Amazon’s The Man In The High Castle, Castle the writers disagree. “We see that as science-fiction,” stresses Wade, “whereas we’re exploring the consequences of what living through the occupation could really have been like.” The series will be long on historical vverisimilitude and short on heel-clicking clichés. “We have Germans playing crucial roles, instead of English actors putting on dodgy accents,” says Riley. iley. iley For the actor, a “film noir with Nazis” was too good to turn down. “As my dad put it, people might actually watch something I’m in now,” he laughs. “Plus, I’ve always wanted to play a detective and my ego saw I was in every scene. I’m hoping it will up m my odds for playing Bond, too.” Well, now he has Purvis and Wade to put in a good word.



Clockwise from above: Sam Riley as Detective Superintendent Douglas Archer; Director Philipp Kadelbach (right) on set; Kate Bosworth plays American journalist Barbara Barga; Archer with his boss, Fritz Kellermann (Rainer Bock), head of the police force in Great Britain.

MONTH 2016



IS WESTWORLD THE NEW GAME OF THRONES? With ratings sky-high and a new season commissioned, Westworld is officially a hit. But does the sci-fi Western match HBO’s other blockbuster show for quality? ILLUSTRATIONS DAVID MAHONEY



LEAVING ASIDE THE obvious similarities for a moment — the outbreaks of bloody violence, the clothing-optional scenes — Westworld ld is a more than worthy successor to the triumphs and tragedies of Westeros. In just one season, the show has developed into a complex, compelling and vibrant series series, full of scenes and ideas that stick in your brain long after the credits have rolled. The show has been accused of being overly concerned with impenetrable mysteries and lacking characters you can truly connect with in the manner of an Arya Stark or Tyrion Lannister. Which is abject rubbish: the fascinating sstorylines, played out through clever writing and careful drip-feeding of information, kept you thinking. Some fans figured out a few of the bigger reveals



earlier than the creators might have wished, but that didn’t remove the power of the first season finale, which had plenty more on its mind. And as for connecting to characters? If you don’t feel for the ‘hosts’ — the human-like AIs populating the titular park, including Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton) — as they struggle with the hellish nightmare that is their reality, you must surely have a heart made of pure, chilly titanium. Have aave you checked for the quiet whirr of cogs and gears? Death is a constant on Game Of Thrones, and while Westworld’s ld’s ld hosts don’t necessarily have to worry about that (James Marsden’s unfortunate cowboy Teddy isn’t the only one to die regularly during the show), that makes it no less impactful. Our heroes (and they are the heroes of the show, make no mistake) suffer through looping, traumatic lives, die horribly and are then brought back, a situation that only worsens as they start to wake up to what’s going on. And peppered through the first season, we’ve seen the human characters fall to conspiracies and the final masterplan, orchestrated by Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Robert Ford. The co-creator of the park helps

the hosts start the robot revolution, one sparked by a bullet straight to his brilliant, calculating brain. The cast is uniformly excellent; the production design and visuals are jaw-dropping, with nods to both classic Westerns and science-fiction stories, and the show has proved it has plots to spin for years to come. If that’s not the platonic ideal of the zeitgeist-prickling show, and a worthy replacement for Thrones, then what is?



TO ILLUSTRA R RA ATE ATE THE difference between Westworld ld and Game Of Thrones, you only need to ask one question: what is the show’s story? Game Of Thrones, from its first episode, established it was about the battle for the Iron Throne. Every


Is Westworld too artificial, or does it

Movies and TV shows in the works

have heart?

1 Amy Schumer has signed on to play the title role in Barbie. The live-action movie, set to put a feminist spin on the iconic Mattel doll, will send the actor to the perfect land of Barbies, where she’ll learn the importance of being herself.

2 John Wick co-director Chad Stahelski is remaking ’80s cult favourite Highlander. Previous directors attached to the project, in the pipeline since 2008, include Justin Lin, Cedric NicolasTroyan and Juan Carlos Fresnadillo.

episode has brought us closer to finding out who would claim it and why they want it. After a whole season, Westworld ld hasn’t truly told us what it’s about. We know the robots believe they’re real and don’t want to be killed for entertainment anymore. They’re now fighting back. Okay, but what is the endgame of that fight? What are we aiming for? It’s not clear. Westworld ld has much more in common with Lost or Heroes, and like those it confuses teasing with storytelling. It’s not trying to help us get to know its characters better, but to continually show us that what we thought we knew about them is untrue. They exist to facilitate twists, props in parlour tricks. There is nobody to invest in. The humans have mostly been dispatched and the heroes are now exclusively the ‘hosts’, whose stakes couldn’t be lower. Dolores, Maeve and Teddy all have the same motivation: to prove they are more than machine. There is no variation in their stories because they haven’t lived lives. They haven’t formed relationships. Death or suffering in Game Of Thrones has consequence. When Joffrey dies, it has multiple knock-on effects for others who love or hate him.

If a host dies, it affects nothing. Each individual’s existence matters only to them. It makes the show a series of dead-ends. Westworld ld is a great idea for a TV show, with lots of huge themes to explore. What is it that makes us human? Without fear of consequences, what are we capable of? A great idea, yes, but a frustrating show, because it’s only glancingly interested in exploring those themes. If it wanted to investigate them it would balance the robots with empathetic humans (see: Exx Machina). ld is much more Machina Westworld concerned with examining itself as a TV show, continually rearranging its elements like a Rubik’s Cube being twisted by someone who has no idea how to solve the bloody thing but just likes the colours. Game Of Thrones is a story of people who all want the same thing, power, for very different reasons. The stories within that are infinite. Westworld ld is a saga of automatons that all want the same thing, autonomy, for the same reason: it’s better than what they currently have. That’s empty. Like the hosts, Westworld ld has no soul.

3 Jodie Foster has joined Iron Man 3 cowriter Drew Pearce’s directorial debut, Hotel Artemis. The film is a thriller set in a distinctive crime universe in the near future, and Foster will play a mysterious character known as ‘The Nurse’.

4 Damian Lewis has joined the new Ocean’s Eleven spin-off, Ocean’s Eight. The actor will play the mark for a gang of female robbers that includes Sandra Bullock, Helena Bonham Carter, Cate Blanchett and Rihanna.




MICHAEL SHEEN How will he fare in Udderworld?



What is the strangest interaction you’ve ever had with a fan? There was a lady who came to hundreds of performances of a play I did. [At] the stage door, she’d say, “Hello, Michael,” and I’d say, “Hello.” Because of its unstrangeness, that was very strange.

When were you most starstruck? I was in a restaurant with Arthur Miller once. A formative moment for me was watching The Crucible when I was about 13, but he did also have sex with Marilyn Monroe, and shamefully that did sweep through my mind. Also, I once walked around Pinewood Studios with Barbara Windsor, and I remember her saying, “This is where we shot the bit where my bikini came flying off in Carry On Camping.” That was possibly the moment I got the biggest chills.

What is the most unusual place you have ever thrown up? When I first came to LA, I’d have meetings with people who run studio casting departments. [In one of them] I started to feel really rough. I was being asked a question and I said, “I’m terribly sorry, but I think I’m about to be sick.” I started throwing up as I was walking out of her office, and I threw up all over the walls of the waiting room. She never gave me a part, but she remembered me.

Who did you play in your first school play? Farmer Munchkin in The Wizard Of Oz. I only had one word: “ZOOOOOOOM.” I gave it gusto! I think I marked myself out as a potential star.

How much is a pint of milk? Well, I buy it in half-gallons over here, so that’s just under $2 depending on where you get it. In Britain it’s just under 50p I think, isn’t it?

What would you call your autobiography? I’m always saying, “Oh, that’ll be the name of my autobiography,” when I hear a really funny line. Maybe I’d call it, ‘That’ll Be The Name Of My Autobiography’.

Have you ever knowingly broken the law? Me and a friend thought it would be interesting to see if we could get from one end of the street to the other, just on people’s roofs. At night. We managed, until a police car turned up. So we


jumped off someone’s roof into what turned out to be a muddy bog. Then we had the slowest chase in the universe as we waded through this bog. What is your earliest memory? I’m walking down a corridor towards this door. I open the door and a voice from downstairs says, “Michael, what are you doing?” I realise I’m doing something naughty and I close the door again. On the other side of the door my new baby sister is sleeping, and I think I’m going in there to kill her. I think! We’ll never know because my mother’s voice stopped me. Maybe that’s the title of my autobiography: ‘Michael, What Are You Doing?’ On a scale of one to ten, how hairy is your arse? I’m going to get some help with this.. [Shouts [Shouts] Shouts] Sarah! [Silverman, Sheen’s girlfriend] On a scale of one to ten, how hairy is myy arse? [[Pause ause]] It’s immaculate, she says. I wouldn’t trust anything she says. Sarah once told me she liked the smell of my armpit, so for her birthday I put bits of cotton under my armpit, my arse crack and my ball sack all day, then I put each one into a little test tube, in a presentation box. She says she didn’t need arse crack, but that was a little freebie. PASSENGERS IS IN CINEMAS NOW


Do you have a signature dish? Well, I won [Star Baker on] The Great Comic Relief Bakee Off with my lemon pavlova, but I refuse to ever make it again. It was a miracle that happened, so I don’t want to try to repeat it.


Francis Ford Coppola’s timeless masterpiece The Godfather, starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino and winner of three Academy Awards, will be shown on the big screen whilst Nino Rota’s immortal score is performed simultaneously by live orchestra.






















Lonergan Affleck, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams

CAST Casey

PLOT Scratching out a living as a handyman in Boston, Lee Chandler (Af (Affleck) is suddenly called back to his home town on the Massachusetts coast by the death of his br brother (Chandler). This loss rreturns him to the scene of an even greater grief, threatening to tip him over the edge for good. gr

“SOME FILMS YOU watch,” hailed Ordinary

Casey Affleck in the happiest scene in the movie.

People’s poster back in 1980, “others you feel.” By P that same tagline logic, Manchester By The Sea, another story of grief and loss, is a film you get socked hard in the chops by. It’s an emotional tour de force by a filmmaker and writer, Kenneth onergan, who draws dra a career-best performance Lonergan, from Casey Affleck and lays to rest the frustrations and false starts of his last film, litigation-mired drama Margaret. Somehow, you emerge enriched, if a little bruised, by the experience. Like Ordinary People, Robert Redford’s Best Picture winner, Lonergan’s film tackles the heaviest of themes, unbearable personal tragedy and guilt, although with a notably lighter touch. For every moment of heartbreak, every quiet gesture of unspeakable sorrow, there’s a sharply judged laugh or killer put-down. It’s gritty and often devastating, sure, but soulful and surprisingly funny with it. It might just be bound for Oscars, too. We meet its central figure, Affleck’s hunched, doleful divorcee Lee ee Chandler, shovelling snow, clearing drains and dealing with the tetchy, demanding residents of a Boston tenement. He lives in a box room and picks drunken fights in nondescript bars. He’s a man doing penance in a purgatory of blocked loos and black eyes. News of his older brother’s death, however, soon sends him back to Manchester, a seaside town an hour up the coast and the site of a loss so profound and inexpressible, no-one even mentions it. Only the sideways glances and whispered asides of locals hint at the magnitude of what passed. He’s no longer Lee Chandler here; he’s the Lee Chandler. Using flashbacks that bring warmer shades to the leeched-out, wintry frames, Lonergan introduces the past players in Lee’s drama. His wife, Michelle Williams’ smart, sparky

Randi, completes a domestic idyll of playful roughhousing and happy kids. His older sibling Joe, played with gruff warmth by Kyle Chandler, is diagnosed with a terminal heart condition in a hilariously dysfunctional family gathering at his hospital bedside. The two brothers continue to take to New England waters on Joe’s boat, taking turns to spook Joe’s young son Patrick (in flashback played by Ben O’Brien) with unconvincing tales of schools of killer sharks uncon beneath. What none of them know is that, in everyday life, there are even greater perils lurking just under the surface. The exact scale and circumstance of Lee’s tragedy is finally laid bare in a truly harrowing scene. It’s a typically understated sequence — this is not a film that milks its twists for dramatic impact — and all the more devastating for it, with Lonergan’s camera focusing on the faces of bystanders as the emergency services buzz around them. It’s a smart narrative device, too. For the viewer, finally dealt into this hitherto unspoken catastrophe, there’s newfound understanding of Lee; a surge of insight into his state of mind. Uplift comes in the shape of an odd-couple relationship with his nephew Patrick (Lucas Hedges), now 19 years old and, thanks to a shock clause in Joe’s will, his ward. Newcomer Hedges is terrific, a funny and warm foil for a man who’s lost his ability to relate. He shoots the shit with his friends about Star Trek, plays in a punk band, and awkwardly asks Lee if his girlfriend can stay over. “Am I supposed to tell you to use a condom?” comes the puzzled response. Patrick masks his own grief much better than his uncle, until it finally pours out when a freezer spillage sparks a panic attack. Typically, Lee misinterprets it. “If you’re going to freak out every time you see a frozen chicken,” he offers, “I think we should go to hospital.” Emotionally tone deaf as they are, it’s in these tiny moments that you can feel Lee’s sense of self inching back. Affleck is revelatory in a role once earmarked for Matt Damon (who, with John Krasinski, originated the project). In one unforgettable, searing scene, already one of 2017’s best, he and the terrific Williams try to bridge the ocean that’s opened between them, only to find the distance too great. In a career full of stalwart work, Manchester By The Sea is the perfect showcase for his full range. From playful and boisterous to husked by sorrow, he flickers from boyish to broken as the timeline shifts. A mix of sadness, self-loathing and dormant charm, there’s even something in it that recalls Brando in On The Waterfront ont — and there’s not much higher praise than that. PHIL DE SEMLYEN ML MLYEN Masterfully told and beautifully acted, Manchester By The Sea is a shattering yet graceful elegy of loss and grief.




The Force wasn’t at its strongest in


17th-century Japan.


OuT 1 january CeRT 15 / 161 mins

Director Martin

Scorsese Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver, Liam Neeson, Yôsuke Kubozuka, Tadanobu Asano cast

17th-century Japan. Two priests, Father Rodrigues (Garfield) and Father Garrpe (Driver), set out to find Father Ferreira (Neeson), their mentor, believed to have committed apostasy (renounced his religion). The pair struggle to survive as they try to stay true to their beliefs.


A AT T THE TIME of writing, it is not clear what Pope Francis thought of Martin Scorsese’s Silence (the rumour is four out of five mitres) after the special Vatican screening, but he surely must have admired its burning sincerity. Adapted from Shūsaku Endō’s 1966 novel (previously made into a film in 1971), it is a passion project as personal to the director as anything involving Italian gangsters. From 1967’s Who’s That Knocking At Myy Door to now, Scorsese, a failed priest, has conducted


february 2017

a 50-year investigation into how spiritual feeling butts up against the flesh and blood world. This is the clearest articulation of his ideas to date. On paper, Silence sounds like a devout-menon-a-mission movie as Fathers Garrpe (Driver) and Rodrigues (Garfield) go in search of their missing mentor (Neeson). But the actuality is lower octane. Arriving in Japan, the priests are drawn into the struggle of ‘hidden Christians’ clandestinely practising their faith while the Shogunate Inquisitor (Issei Ogata) and his men relentlessly stamp it out, chiefly through baiting Christians to tread on fumi-e, copper images of Christ, to renounce their faith. As you’d expect, Scorsese doesn’t flinch from cruelty — men are drowned tied to crucifixes, women set on fire — but, working with DP Rodrigo Prieto, it is shot through with a painterly beauty. A God’s-eye view of a ship at sea. Severed heads in the mist. The images are as poetic as the dialogue. The priests get separated and Garfield’s Rodrigues takes centre stage. The second half becomes a battle of wills as the Inquisitor’s interpreter (a terrific understated Asano) tries to slowly separate Rodrigues from his faith through whispered mind games. It’s a film about Rodrigues’ interior journey and, in a career-best performance, Garfield realises it beautifully, his rock-solid belief slowly undermined by

doubt. When Rodrigues is asked to step on the fumi-e to save the lives of converts, it doesn’t end how you expect.     If the film is steeped in Japanese cinema like Mizoguchi and Kurosawa, it also bears strong ties to European heavyweights. It is a rare American film that can stand intellectually with Ingmar Bergman but Scorsese doesn’t flinch from the big questions: chiefly why does God remain silent as believers are drawn into cruelty in His name? As such, it’s a slow, tough watch. Sometimes Scorsese overplays his hand (Garfield’s reflection in a stream morphs into Jesus) but this is the director working without his usual arsenal. Save a twisty-turning Cape Fear ear camera move at a crucial point, there’s little in the way of trademark visual pyrotechnics, razzle-dazzle editing or intrusive music. It’s as if Scorsese doesn’t want anything to detract from his story. At a time when Christians are still persecuted in Syria, Egypt, Pakistan and beyond, when we venerate the creeds at the expense of the message, he understands this tale from the 1600s couldn’t be more timely. ian freer VerDict less showy than The Last Temptation Of Christ, more gripping than Kundun, the third part of scorsese’s unofficial ‘religious’ trilogy is beautifully made, staggeringly ambitious and utterly compelling.


W H AT D I D S H E S E E ?


O N DVD & B LU-R AY 6 TH F EBR UA RY Exclusive edition on DVD format only. Stickered stock only, subject to availability. Selected stores only. © 2016 Storyteller Distribution Co., LLC. All Rights Reserved. Packaging © Entertainment One UK Limited 2016. All Rights Reserved.



Alejandro Jodorowsky Adan Jodorowsky, Pamela Flores, Brontis Jodorowsky, Leandro Taub DIRECTOR






Pablo Larraín Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Billy Crudup, John Hurt DIRECTOR CAST

In the days following the assassination of JFK, his wife Jackie (Portman) battles with her private grief and her determination to make sure that her husband’s life is remembered as it should be — and she’s remembered along with him.


WHY DO WE remember Jackie Kennedy? The mention of her name still evokes images of the perfect First Lady, ever camera-ready, a fashion plate, cool and poised by the President’s side. Or the darker vision of a grainy shock of incongruous pink crawling across the back of a limousine as her husband lay dying on the back seat, his skull shot open by Lee Harvey Oswald. We remember her visually, yet what did she do? W Pablo Larraín’s insightful biopic draws her as a woman whose purpose w was to frame history. Not to create it in any political sense, but to package it for the people, to make it memorable. Jackie’s timeline cuts across just a small number of days. It begins a few weeks after JFK’s assassination, with Jackie (Portman) inviting a reporter (Crudup) to her home to interview her. She’ll only allow him to print quotes she approves, insisting after a sobbing account of watching her husband die, “I hope you don’t for w one second think I’ll allow you to publish that.” Then we cut back and forth across the days just before her husband’s murder to his grand jus spectacle of a funeral. It’s only a brief part of Kennedy’s life but it’s enough to show a complex person. It depicts a woman who is performing at almost all times. She knows what the public wants from her — something like American royalty when her husband is alive; a symbol of the nation’s grief



after his death — and she means to give it. She’s not embarrassed by her belief in the importance of image. Jackie’s pet project of restoring the White House interiors is laughed at, but she believes the President’s home should live up to the public’s impression of it. She is ridiculed for making her husband’s funeral as huge a spectacle as Lincoln’s, despite the difference in the two Presidents’ achievements, but she believes the American people deserve to have their grief writ large. As Noah Oppenheim’s perceptive screenplay says, Jackie came to fame in a time when television made modern history a visual record, not a written one, and she knew how to present that. It’s not suggested Jackie’s motivations are entirely for the country. Not a bit. There’s a selfishness to her desire not to have her moment fade to an historical footnote, to have her husband be a Lincoln, not a James Garfield, but it’s a human selfishness. It makes Jackie a person, not an icon. This complicated characterisation asks for a complicated performance and Natalie Portman gives the best of her career. She has Jackie’s precise vowels and stiff, Stepford walk, but this isn’t imitation. She shows the steel and fragility under the surface of a woman who can stand up to the government to demand the funeral she wants, but also stagger around the White House drunkenly trying on all her old gowns in an effort to control things in the only way she knows how, by deciding how they will look. Shot in almost constant close-up, perhaps to convey just how closely Jackie was watched, Larraín doesn’t give Portman a second to relax. Y You couldn’tt aavert vert your eyes if you wanted to. There’s a moment when Jackie says, “The people on the pages of history books become more real to us than those who stood beside us.” Film does much the same. Whether this is an accurate portrait of the woman or not, Jackie brings its subject to vivid life. You Y will remember her. OLLY RICHARDS VERDICT Jackie does what the very best biopics should: it makes you view someone you’ve seen countless times as if you were seeing them anew.

the second instalment of 87-year-old Alejandro Jodorowsky’s proposed five-part memoir sees the aspiring poet rebel against his shopkeeper father and learn a little about sex and excess in bohemian 1940s Santiago. Brimming with quirky wit, kinky erotica, mischievous provocation and visual bravura, this ramblingly episodic and bullishly played saga is pretty conventional by Jodorowsky’s standards. But it’s often thrillingly bold and inventive, as he makes light of a meagre budget to create canvas façades, cardboard props and colourful costumes that vividly capture the backstreets, nightclubs, political rallies and carnival parades of his eventful youth. A cineaste’s treat. DP


OUT NOW / CERT 15 / 111 MINS

John Hamburg Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Zoey Deutch, Megan Mullally DIRECTOR CAST

THERE’S A SOLID premise to this holiday comedy, with an eccentric tech millionaire (Franco) going to extreme lengths to impress his girlfriend Stephanie’s (Deutch) family, often with disastrous results. Surprisingly, Franco is the standout as an amiably chaotic guru with a ludicrous lifestyle, a bit of a shock to the system of Stephanie’s conservative, financially struggling dad Ned (Cranston). But no two characters seem to be in the same film, and the overall tone veers from holiday heartwarmer to raunchy rom-com to indie-tinged family dramedy with no concern for consistency at all. It has some laughs, but it feels like there’s probably a better film left somewhere in the edit room. HOH

Who doesn’t enjoy


pretending to be a plane?



Damien Chazelle Emma Stone, Ryan Gosling, John Legend, J.K. Simmons DIRECTOR CAST

Following a soulless LA party, wannabe actress Mia (Stone) meets frustrated jazz pianist Seb (Gosling) in a bar. The pair get together and their future looks set, until Seb lands a lucrative gig with an old musician buddy (Legend), an offer that tests the strength of the couple’s bond and dreams.


PURE UNADULTERATED JOY Y is in short supply these days, both on the big screen and off. Which makes Damien Chazelle’s irresistible La La Land all the more cherishable. More than just a throwback to MGM musicals, it is a funny Valentine to the entire history of the genre, as light on its feet as Fred Astaire, as big in its heart as Judy Garland. Just as Chazelle’s Whiplash was intense, La La Land, especially in its first half, is footloose (not Footloose) ootloose) ootloose and

fancy-free, buoyed by a clutch of great new songs (take a bow Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul) and carried by the chemistry of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling. The movie gets a lot of flavour from its twisted heritage. It is a US indie do-over of a French New Wave take on a classic American genre, part New York, New York, part The Umbrellas Of Cherbourg, part Singin’ In The Rain. A bigger-budgeted upgrade on Chazelle’s musical short Guy And Madeline On A Park Bench, the story — aspiring actress Mia (Stone) meets jazz pianist Seb (Gosling), and sparks fly until career aspirations get in the way — is simplicity itself, enlivened by some Pulp Fiction-esque narrative tricksiness. The film’s capricious genius is present in its opening sequence. On paper, the idea of an LA freeway traffic jam bursting out into song and dance sounds up there with root-canal work but here, as a solitary singer snowballs into the world’s best flash mob perfectly captured by Chazelle’s sinuous camera, it’s a riot of colour and euphoria. Subsequently Chazelle fully embraces the corny (Mia and Seb literally dance among the stars, at the Griffith Observatory or singing under streetlights), but for all the film’s love of retro, it’s not dusty. Chazelle’s staging (check out the 2:52: 1 ultra-widescreen) and wit make the vintage feel new.

Much of this bright, shiny quality is also down to its leads. Following pairings in Crazy Stupid Love and Gangster Squad Squad, Stone and Gosling have chemistry and charisma to spare. It would be easy to diminish Mia as a bright-as-a-button type, but Stone spools through many colours, from luminous to spirited to distraught — her wistful rendition of ballad Audition (The Fools Who Dream) (written for the film) will be murdered by The X Factor actor contestants for years to come. If Stone is the film’s heart, Gosling is the soul, caught between art and commerce, as moody as the genre will allow (he is also not afraid to look ridiculous, playing A-ha on a keytar). The pair are not the world’s greatest dancers but they are having so much fun doing it, you will too. It’s perhaps a tad overlong and, embroiled in the indie drama of Seb and Mia’s relationship, almost forgets to be a musical during the final third. But this doesn’t detract from the film’s mighty charms. A film about love made with love, it’s hard to imagine any 2017 movie will leave you on a higher high. IAN FREER VERDICT Audacious, retro, funny and heartfelt, La La Land is the latest great musical for people who don’t like musicals. The new dream team of Chazelle, Stone and Gosling will slap a milewide smile across the most miserable of faces.



Was Crème De La


Mer really worth £100 a pop, he pondered.




Bayona Lewis MacDougall, Felicity Jones, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Kebbell, Liam Neeson CAST

Twelve-year-old English boy Conor O’Malley (MacDougall) gets bullied at school. His father (Kebbell) lives in California and his mother (Jones) is terminally ill. But he finds a sort of companionship with a gigantic, storytelling tree-creature (voiced by Neeson) who seemingly holds the secret to saving his mum.


IT’S DIFFICULT TO think of a film more brazen than A Monster Calls. With its regular transitions from gloomy real-world drama to earthy fairy tale and its narrative focus on a troubled child, it can’t help but be compared with 2006’s elegant dark-fantasy Pan’s Labyrinth. And that’s a high comparison. That Labyrinth Barcelona-born director J.A. Bayona and Pan’s man Guillermo del Toro have been friends



since the early ’90s (del Toro executive produced Bayona’s debut feature The Orphanage Orphanage) only further pushes the comparison. But while its central creature may be larger and far more destructive than the freakish fiends of del Toro’s Labyrinth, A Monster Calls is actually a much gentler film — less thriller and more weepie. Creatively it bears none of del Toro’s fingerprints, based instead on a novel by American young-adult writer Patrick Ness — who also wrote the script — which itself was conceived by author Siobhan Dowd shortly before she died. So there is an acutely poignant, intensely personal core to the film, which Bayona handles sensitively; for as well as being a heart-squeezing portrayal of a fiercely imaginative boy dealing with his young mother’s mortality, it also explores the power of storytelling. Much of this is done by the Liam Neesonvoiced Monster of the title (having the one-time Aslan and Zeus give vocal life to a millennia-old nature god is about as nailed-on as casting gets). After irritably removing his churchyard yew-tree disguise and loping stroppily over to Conor’s bedroom window, this towering über-Groot promises to tell the kid three revelatory stories in exchange for one from him, in which Conor will have to tell “the truth”. The Monster’s stories introduce a third layer of narrative, where the

action shifts to animation, rendered in a unique, visually appealing style that somehow feels like watercolours done as stop motion, featuring Princess Bride-style interjections from Conor, irked by the way the tales defy comfortably cut-and-dried interpretation. Whether A Monster Calls should be considered a children’s film or adults’ film about childhood is uncertain. There’s a good chance it’ll play too young for many grown-ups, while it may prove too emotionally raw for younger viewers, especially during its final scenes. It would be a shame if it fell between these two posts, because Bayona’s artistry is as impressive as his and Ness’ clear refusal to soften on any harsher plot points. Bayona reveals Lewis MacDougall as a talent to be reckoned with, whether we’re watching the wan tyke square up against his formidable grandmother (Weaver) or, indeed, that giant tree-man. Not that the Neeson-voiced creature is truly the monster of the title. That would be grief itself. Which is why, if you let the film in, it’s unlikely to let you leave the cinema with dry eyes. DAN JOLIN VERDICT Part fairy tale/creature feature/ domestic melodrama, this adds up to far more than a ‘one boy and his monster’ story — and is a tougher emotional journey as a result.



Lilti Cluzet, Marianne Denicourt, Isabelle Sadoyan, Félix Moati CAST François

LEAV A ING BEHIND THE city hospital of AV Hippocrates, doctor-turned-director Lilti descends upon a remote country practice for this considered study of evolving medical methods and the state of French healthcare. Concealing his own cancer diagnosis, GP Jean-Pierre (Cluzet) resents being saddled with a newly qualified assistant until he realises he is not irreplaceable. A couple of cases lapse into melodrama, but Lilti draws on his own experiences as a locum in Normandy to capture the pace of provincial life, as well as the messianic mindset that makes medics so devoted to their patients. Leavened with wry humour and shrewd insight, this is intelligent, authentic and sincere. DP




David Frankel Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kate Winslet, Keira Knightley, Michael Peña, Naomie Harris, Helen Mirren, Jacob Latimore


Still mourning his daughter three years after her death, ad exec Howard (Smith) pens letters to Love, Death and Time, concepts that define his work life. Intercepting the mail, his colleagues (Norton, Winslet, Peña) hire actors to embody the three abstracts to shake their boss from his stupor.


IF YOU SUBTRACTED the A-list stars



H. Lee Neeson, Lee Jung-jae, Lee

Beom-su THE COVERT MISSION of this Korean war drama’s title was an ingenious move by UN General Douglas MacArthur. rthur. “Ingenious”, rthur though, is not a word that could be used to describe the risible dialogue Neeson has been given to portray the man, which even his solemn gravitas cannot save. Fortunately, Neeson actually gets far less screen time than his billing might suggest, with the focus instead being on the South Korean spies (lead by the brilliant Lee Jung-jae) who’ve been dispatched to gather intelligence. Their journey is bloody, brutal and exciting enough to almost make you forget soliloquies like, “A A long time ago, I promised myself I would live as though I expected to live forever.” Almost. HM

(say, swap Will Smith for Steve Guttenberg) and big-budget studio sheen, Collateral Beauty might feel at home on Channel Played hannel 5 around 3pm. Pla out in a twinkly New Y York, its high-concept idea — a grieving man is taught life lessons by incarnations of Death, Time and Love — and penchant for greeting-card sentiments suggests a tale of schmaltz that would play perfectly in Y David a pre-Neighbours slot. Yet avid Frankel’s film a never really hits the broad emotional spots (let alone the nuanced ones), partly because it trades in a glossy sense of the solemn and partly because it never creates a story world that unifies its mixture of Dickensian fantasy, bereavement drama, soap opera and New York Y life. It’s slick, with a smattering of decent performances, but ultimately undone by sledgehammer levels of subtlety. The movie is at its most engaging in its opening stretch, when playing out its scam of three actors embodying notions of Love (Knightley), Time (Latimore) and Death (Mirren) to force grieving ad exec Howard Inlet (Smith) into feeling something. This is intercut with Howard’s stuttering attempts to join a bereavement group, led by Madeleine (a warm, appealing Harris). As Howard’s story moves on,

Allan Loeb’s screenplay mechanically uses the Madeleine storyline as a yardstick to measure how the three abstracts are bringing him back to life. How these two storylines ultimately coalesce is both the film’s biggest reveal and dampest squib. If it is not enough that the three muses attempt to ‘cure’ Howard, they are also working to rejuvenate the lives of their paymasters. Norton’s Whit is struggling to connect with his daughter (like all modern NY Y dads, he offers to buy her tickets to Hamilton) after an extramarital affair — so he gets to spend time with Love; Peña’s Simon is dying of a terminal disease he won’t divulge to his family — so he is forced to confront Death; Winslet’s Claire has given up a chance at children and family life in favour of work (we only know this because she endlessly looks at adoption websites) — so she hangs out with Time. It’s programmatic and heavy-handed stuff, enlivened by the likes of Norton (who shares good chemistry with Knightley), Winslet and Peña. Frankel, capable of the sublime (The Devil ada Marley Me) and Wears Prada), ada), ), the cutesie ((Marley ley & Me) the forgettable (The Big Year), ear), offers touches of confident craft (each of the abstracts emerges out of beautiful soft focus) amid DominoToppling Symbolism. The quality supporting cast add colours to thin characters and cod philosophy (“Time is a stubborn illusion”): best in show is Mirren who, especially early on, has fun as a true thesp, citing acting guru Stella Adler and worrying about her reviews from Howard. If the opening scene of Howard rallying his troops is pure Hitch, the rest of the movie is Smith in Seven Pounds miserablist mode. He is somnolent through the entire movie, never really suggesting Howard’s inner life or anguish. Taken alongside A New York’s Winter’s Tale, Smith clearly has a jones to make a heartwarming NYC tale. On this evidence, it’s a shame he has little idea how to deliver it. IAN FREER VERDICT In a month of A Monster Calls and Manchester By The Sea, Collateral Beauty serves up a hollow portrait of grief. Despite its quality cast and slick visuals, the result is sombre and saccharine rather than uplifting.







Justin Kurzel Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams CAST


Death row prisoner Callum Lynch (Fassbender) is taken to a secret facility after his ‘execution’. There, he’s introduced to a secret society who want to import him into the memories of a 15th-century ancestor ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, so they can track an important artefact...



WHEN IT COMES to video game adaptations, cinema has notoriously been an elephant’s graveyard. After Warcraft aft became the most recent title to stagger in and immediately keel over, all eyes now turn to Assassin’s Creed... The film’s pedigree is impeccable, having been made by the trio that drove last year’s Macbeth to notable heights: director Justin Kurzel and the starring duo of Marion Cotillard and, of course, star/producer Michael Fassbender. After successfully tackling Shakespeare, a Ubisoft game must have seemed like literal child’s play, but while the result is often spectacular, the story is not. It is, as the Bard once phrased it, “a tale… full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” The he problem from the off, as Kurzel whips K us through multiple time periods and introduces his main characters, is that it’s all taken far too seriously. Assassin’s Creed eed is a game that, for all

its grim and gritty trappings, revolves around a plot device — porting into the memories of an ancestor via a machine called the Animus — that is stupendously daft. And Assassin’s Creed eed is a movie that revolves around a MacGuffin called the Apple Of Eden. That kind of material demands a lightness of touch. Instead, the whole endeavour is heavy-handed and po-faced, cloaked in murky browns and cold cobalt. The only time Fassbender flashes his megawatt grin, it’s in a moment inflected with ironic bitterness. In addition, all of the past-set sequences are subtitled. While we applaud the nod to authenticity, it exacerbates the situation: not only are they being far too earnest, they’re doing it in Italian to boot! The assassins are deadly with a fork from 300 paces, but you suspect the thing that would really kill them is if someone asked them to crack a joke. The story is a tapestry of old-world


OUT Now / CERT 15 / 105 MINS

Will Speck, Josh Gordon Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, Kate McKinnon, T.J. Miller DIreCTorS CaST

In A yEAR of Bad Moms, Bad Santas and Bad Neighbours, this is, essentially, ‘Bad Employees’: another irresponsible-adults comedy of volcanic indulgence that erupts like Animal House in the IT sector. Branch marked for closure by his Scroogey sibling CEO (Aniston), Miller’s boss throws a monstrous office shindig to impress a crucial client. As the party explodes out of control, we get slapstick, sex farce, gross-out and romcom. The party scenes smack of secondhand hedonism. A third-act car chase seems beamed in from another movie entirely. A gifted cast glue an erratic script together but, ironically, for all its overblown carnage, it’s McKinnon’s party-pooping HR nazi you’ll remember the morning after. SC

The live-action adaptation of chess put the knights in some serious peril.


OUT 13 jaNuary y / CERT 15 / 83 MINS

Peter Foott Alex Murphy, Chris Walley, Hilary Rose, Dominic MacHale DIreCTor

mysticism and sci-fi tech that hangs together but also proves hard to follow if you haven’t played Ubisoft’s games. Meanwhile, the characters, while appealing in their own right, would have benefited from proper definition: the most we learn about Fassbender’s Callum Lynch is that he killed a pimp, and he’s angry at his dad. Meanwhile, Cotillard’s Sophia, who runs the futuristic clinic where Fassbender keeps being sent back into his forebear Aguilar’s body, has similar father issues with Jeremy Irons, and forges a tenuous bond with Lynch. However, there’s little depth here, and the interesting threads that are developed aren’t wrapped up in one go; instead, fate is tempted with an ending that leaves things wide open for a sequel. Always a risky game to play. All of that said, the frenetic action is Assassin’s Creed’s eed’s saving grace. Inventively eed choreographed and beautifully executed, its game-inspired brand of wushu-meets-parkour

delivers some genuinely awe-inducing feats. A mid-carriage-chase wall-flip and a dead-eye ricochet shot steal the breath and are delivered with a dizzying, kinetic energy that helps compensate for the dramatic lulls. Meanwhile, the Maltese locations provide an impressive stand-in for 15th-century Constantinople, lending the past sequences an aging grandeur that proves an effective counter to the cold steel and stark halogens of the Animus segments. Neither a direct hit, nor another body for the pile, Assassin’s Creed eed is one of the better pixel ports. The action delivers in spades, but as Lynch runs around ancient buildings trying to decipher clues, it’s hard not to see this as a Dan Brown novel with added gymnastics. jaMeS Dyer VerDICT often confusing and far too po-faced, Kurzel’s stabby period piece is redeemed by its sumptuous vistas and top-notch fight work.


WRITER-DIRECTOR PETER Foott makes a fine feature bow with this hilarious story about two teenage misfits cycling to the west Cork coast to find a missing €7 million bale of cocaine. Dodging their despairing parents, a dogged cop and a disabled drug dealer, newcomers Murphy and Walley bicker and banter like Laurel and Hardy with acne and bumfluff. But the supporting cast also excels in a road romp filled with glorious scenery, stinging one-liners and offbeat set-pieces involving a sticky lolly, a confused chicken and a bouncing nail gun. y yet what makes this one of the best Irish comedies since 2011’s The Guard is Foott’s deft use of seemingly insignificant details. pp

february 2017




Chris Wedge Lucas Till, Jane Levy, Thomas Lennon, Rob Lowe DIRECTOR CAST

A THROWbACK TO the 1980s family




M. Night Shyamalan James McAvoy, Haley Lu Richardson, Anya T Taylor-Joy, Jessica Sula DIRECTOR CAST

Teenagers Casey (Taylor-Joy), Marcia (Sula) and Claire (Richardson) are abducted by multiplesplit-personality Kevin Crumb (McAvoy). Casey plays Kevin’s alter egos off each other, and learns they’re expecting the arrival of a malign new personality.


AROUND THE TURN of the century, AR writer writer-director M. Night Shyamalan essentially created his own genre with The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and Signs: suspenseful character studies with a paranormal vibe, a reverse spoof approach whereby subjects (ghosts, superheroes, alien invaders) usually played tongue-in-cheek are presented in high seriousness, through intense, anguished central performances from established male movie stars, and the sort of last-reel twists associated with The Twilight Zone (all Shyamalan’s other traits can be found in Rod Serling, as it happens). One sign of Shyamalan’s success is that other people started making M. Night Shyamalan-type movies: Joel Schumacher with The Number 23, Alex Proyas with Knowing.  Perhaps as a response to becoming an imitable brand and perhaps down to the muted (and sometimes peculiarly hostile) response to The Village, Lady In The Water ater and The Happening (all interesting films), Shyamalan moved away from his personal cinema to take shots at fantasy (The Last Airbender), bender bender), ), sci-fi (After (After Earth) and found-footage shocker (The Visit). isit). Split, he isit With Split ight Classic’ mode. W returns to ‘Night mode. We’re back in sombre Philadelphia where soft-spoken, wellheeled folks go quietly mad and a psycho thriller plot evolves into something weirder on the boilinga-frog principle of slowly adding bizarre, freakish elements to an extreme case study. This time,



perhaps frustrated by the attention paid to his most easily parodied habit, Shyamalan holds off on a twist in favour of a measured development of a far-out premise, though an intensely fansatisfying development pops up near the end. All actors want to play Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and McAvoy seizes with obvious relish on the role of one man with 23 personalities due to be usurped by a 24th who is more animal than man.  Head finely stubbled as his Professor X cut grows out, he uses a few props (glasses, a woolly hat) but mostly conveys Kevin’s alters — who range from a gay fashion designer through an OCD caretaker and a sinister British matriarch to a tittering child — with changes of expression and voice. It’s a show-off tour de force, and McAvoy is dazzling throughout — funny, creepy, threatening, pathetic and monstrous by turns. Note especially set-pieces like his perfectly uncoordinated demonstration of what a nine-year-old might think are radical dance moves, and the unsettling moments where one of Kevin’s more controlled, sinister personalities impersonates a more open, appealing one to reassure his analyst (Betty Buckley) that things aren’t going south in his skull. As often with Shyamalan, the actual plot is less important than the character business. Even Kevin loses interest in two of his young captives, who get shoved into storerooms as misfit Casey (Taylor-Joy) emerges as the heroine, realising she’s most likely to survive by engaging with her captor than by crawling through ventilation ducts or relying on teen-princess karate lessons.  That Casey’s life experience has prepared her for the ordeal is established in tactful, unsettling microflashbacks which feature standout work from Izzie Coffey, whose wide eyes perfectly match TaylorJoy’s. After The Witch and Morgan, Taylor-Joy is shaping up as the weird chick of her generation — but she has to work as hard as her character to find her screen-space here when her co-star is busily upstaging himself, let alone her. KIM NEWMAN VERDICT This psycho-thriller showcases an awards-worthy performance from James McAvoy. Avoy. Shyamalan papers over plot-holes with A dry black humour and well-judged suspense, and — as always — holds back some surprises.

creature features, this achieves *batteries not included levels of charm, though it never approaches the heights of E.T. Till stars as Tripp, a put-upon teen who’s building his own truck when he encounters an intelligent squid-like creature. It’s up to Tripp and bright chemistry student Meredith (Levy) to protect his new friend from an oil company by, er, hiding him in the truck. The monster is sweetly puppy-ish and well-realised, but Tripp himself veers from childish silliness to action hero machismo too often to convince. Only Levy and Lennon’s squirrelly scientist inject the necessary humour to keep us going until an entertaining action finale. HOH



Eric Summer, éric Warin Elle Fanning, Dane DeHaan, Maddie Ziegler DIRECTORS CAST

FRANCE, 1879. ESCApINg rural brittany, a ballet-obsessed orphan steals a student’s place at paris’ grand Opera House. Can she bag a part in The Nutcracker before she’s rumbled? Imagine The Karate Kid with grand jetés and you’ve got this vivacious French-Canadian cartoon, and its target audience of ballet-mad little girls will find everything on pointe: the animation’s bursting with character and the dancing, created by ballet star Aurélie Dupont, spins off the screen. The fairy-tale story is considerably less adventurous, but it’s refreshing to see a Cg toon that’s 100 per cent critter-free and with an honest message: if you’re going to chase your dreams, be ready to graft for it. Dane DeHaan voices a farting inventor. SC

The kitchen section of IKEA really


was the future.



Morten Tyldum Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, Michael Sheen DIRECTOR CAST

Three decades into a 120-year trip to colonise a new world, two of the starship Avalon’s passengers emerge from cryosleep prematurely. With nearly a century to go and no way back, Jim (Pratt) and Aurora (Lawrence) are, for all intents and purposes, the last two people alive.


IF YOUR MONEY Y was on Bridget Jones’s Baby or Allied for 2016’s most heart-fluttering romance, The Imitation Game’s Morten Tyldum just cost you some cash. Neither the stammering jus charms of Mark Darcy nor Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt’s torrid World War II affair manage the emotional tug of this unlikely three-hander about a pair of space travellers and a robot bartender. New lovers act like they’re the only ones in the world, but Passengers’ dreamy-eyed duo become

precisely that after an interstellar commute is disrupted by asteroids on the line. A cascade of system failures leads to a hibernation malfunction and, while their 5,000 neighbours sleep, Jim (Pratt) and Aurora (Lawrence) wander the ship alone. Unorthodox the setting might be, but the blossoming romance is entirely familiar — from bantering over lunch to sharing a box of popcorn at the cinema. It just happens to play out within the glossy white halls of a starship resembling an Apple-sponsored shopping mall. Pratt and Lawrence are magnetic as the literal star-crossed lovers, convincingly seduced by each other over the passage of time; an awkward, space-suitbumping kiss giving way to a passionate, Cheerios-all-over-the-floor breakfast shag. Aside from an obtuse computer (voiced by London Underground’s Emma ‘Mind The Gap’ Clarke) and a clutch of skittering Roombas, their only company is Michael Sheen’s sagacious android barman. Arthur is the couple’s only sounding board — part relationship counsellor, part conscience and occasionally a necessary plot device. Sheen injects a welcome third perspective, breaking into the lovers’ solipsism and laying bare their flaws — which are more than just passing. Jim and Aurora’s relationship is built on a lie, one that covers obsession, self-interest and crushing guilt. The love story,

far from saccharine, unfolds to provide the darker aspects of need and greed ample room to fester. The couple’s divergent backgrounds make for early comedic fodder (her ‘Gold Class’ breakfast leaves him staring mournfully at a bowl of cosmic Weetabix), while Aurora’s introduction to the ship’s leisure facilities conjures images of Jack and Rose dancing in steerage. The Titanic parallels are felt throughout, sometimes in explicit nods (a giddy space walk stands in for ‘flying’ on the prow) and elsewhere in the films’ broader structure. Much like Cameron’s nautical yarn, Passengers’ early love story gives way to a latter disaster flick: metaphorically as the couple’s relationship is riven by betrayal, then literally as the malfunctioning Avalon begins a spiral towards destruction. Having survived a trip almost as drawn-out and uncertain as the Avalon’s (Jon Spaihts’ screenplay appeared on The Black List back in 2007), Passengers is as surprisingly traditional as it is undeniably effective. A timeless romance wedded to a space-age survival thriller, it may be a curious coupling but Tyldum’s Turing follow-up is a journey well worth taking. JAMES DYER VERDICT Titanic amongst the stars — this is a touching, heartfelt tale of loss and love for the Gravity generation.




Their smoke rings needed some work.


OuT 13 january CERT 15 / 129 mins

Ben Affleck Ben Affleck, Zoe Saldana, Chris Cooper, Elle Fanning, Sienna Miller, Robert Glenister Director cast

Disillusioned by his experience fighting in World War I, cop’s son Joe Coughlin (Affleck) becomes a small-time hood operating in Boston. But after falling foul of Irish gangster Albert White (Glenister), he winds up working for the Mafia in Tampa, Florida, fuelled by vengeance and ambition.


BEN AFFLECK’S FOURT R H film as director RT is also his second to adapt Boston-noir master Dennis Lehane. In 2007, he ably demonstrated his behind-the-camera nous with taut, focused crime mystery Gone Baby Gone, which proved a sign of such great things to come that it wasn’t long before people were giving him the ultimate actor-turned-director accolade by calling him “the new Clint Eastwood”. With Livee By Night Night, Affleck further pushes the Eastwood comparison in the


february 2017

role of soldier-turned-outlaw-turned-mobster Joe Coughlin, delivering every line in a raspy, Clintesque half-whisper and opening his eyes barely wider than a squint. But, despite mining the same novelist’s work, the film itself is not nearly as taut, focused or gripping as Affleck’s impressive debut. Livee By Night opens unsurely and doesn’t quite know when to end, making it — like Affleck himself, now perma-beefed to Batman proportions — a whole lotta middle. Over-dependent on tellrather-than show voiceover, it attempts a sickbedreflection starting point, then flashes back to a Miller’s Crossing-style tale of love triangles and double crosses. Then it returns to that starting point and dumps what you’d expect to be two main characters, before jumping forward a few years and deciding it’s now a revenge movie, completely shifting location from an autumnal Boston to the salsa-soundtracked streets of Ybor, Tampa, in Florida. Except… it forgets it’s a revenge movie and settles into the familiar rhythm of a gangster rise-to-power narrative — with added flavour from the Ku Klux Klan and Christian fanatics. Such loose structuring can be fine in novel form, but Affleck has somehow turned Lehane’s book into a two-hour movie that feels three hours long. Which is a shame, as it’s by no means lacking in memorable moments. Every frame brims with visual quality, thanks to Robert Richardson’s

ever-steady eye; the DP captures the sharp, expressionist contrasts of classic film noir in vibrant colour. Early on, Affleck pulls off a bravura heist-getaway chase scene, which feels like The Bourne Supremacy in Model T Fords; he gleefully smashes them together, sends them tumbling along orange-leafed forest roads, sets them alight and artfully dunks one in a lake. And later on, he treats us to an almighty shoot-out in an ornate, Floridian hotel, taking as much note from the Coen brothers’ ‘Danny Boy’ scene in Miller’s Crossing as he does from Brian De Palma’s Scarface. Sadly, though, the rest consists of narration which goes over things the audience already knows (or can figure out for themselves), while the ‘good man in a bad world’ theme doesn’t quite wash. If a thirst for revenge drove this former small-time crook to join up with the violent mobsters he once derided, then Affleck’s script never quite makes sense of Joe’s decision to stick with this life once his retributive passion has apparently subsided. Which sadly makes this a thoroughly disappointing follow-up to the crackingly scripted Oscar high of Argo. Dan jolin VerDict a handsome period drama with the occasional impressive flourish, but despite its matter, its af fleck’s weakest film rich subject matter afffleck’s yet as a director.



Mark Waters Billy Bob Thornton, Kathy Bates, Tony Cox DIRECTOR CAST

A PhOTOCOPy Of a photocopy, this could perhaps be the nadir of the wave of decade-too-late comedy sequels. The plot, identical to that of the first film, pairs Billy Bob’s boozy misanthrope with his old partner and — the film’s sole invention — his mother on a Chicago charity heist on Christmas Eve. The talented people behind the first film clearly understood the mindset of a hateful drunk, but this feels like a lame imitation, with hardly any of the shock gags landing. It’s a pity, because Thornton will never find a better character to display his flair for scumbag intelligence, and his weird elegance among the degradation does persist, but there’s no doubt the inspired character deserves better. AL



Thierry Demaizière, Alban Teurlai Benjamin Millepied, Nico Muhly, Virginia Gris, Letizia Galloni DIRECTORS CAST

DESIGNED TO PRESENT a backstage account of Black Swan star Benjamin Millepied’s first original work as dance director of the Paris Opera Ballet, this is a superficial documentary that says more about its makers than its subject. forever pursuing crises and conflicts with creative, administrative and technical staff that simply never materialise, the co-directors waste their access to Millepied by reducing his rehearsal sessions to fragmented montages that fail to capture the energy of the dance or its narrative or thematic significance. Cluttering the screen with captions and imposing a countdown that generates no suspense whatsoever, this is a pale imitation of frederick Wiseman’s La Danse. DP




Garth Davis Sunny Pawar, Dev Patel, Rooney Mara, Nicole Kidman, David Wenham DIRECTOR


The true story of Saroo Brierley (Pawar), who was separated from his family as a child and adopted by a Tasmanian couple (Kidman, Wenham). As an adult, Saroo (Patel) uses Google Earth to locate his home.


IT’S AN ALMOST universal childhood memory: you go out with a parent, perhaps to a supermarket, carnival or sports event. Then you suddenly realise you’ve mislaid them. They were there a few moments ago, their hand wrapped around yours, but something caught your eye and now the hand you’ve just clutched belongs to a stranger. You look up and find yourself in a towering forest of unknown adults and you’ve never felt more lost, alone, vulnerable and scared. A director For his feature debut, Australian Davis (BAFTA T -nominated for his work on TA Garth Da 2013 crime-mystery series Top Of The Lake) e) has adapted a real-life story which takes that feeling and intensifies it a thousandfold. Even if you haven’t read Saroo Brierley’s autobiography A Long Way Home, it doesn’t hurt to know how the story ends or the details of his life. Lion is more of an emotional odyssey than a plot-driven film, and Davis (working with Luke Davies’ script) unfussily halves the running time between child and adult Saroo. Thankfully lacking a spoon-feeding voice-over or lazy framing device, his tale is allowed to unfurl naturally and gradually, experience by experience, so you feel each moment as directly and keenly as possible. Which isn’t to say Lion is a difficult watch. Far from it. Davis and cinematographer Greig oxcatcher somehow raser (Zero ( Dark Thirty, Foxcatcher) oxcatcher) Fraser

imbue Saroo’s world — even the slums of Calcutta — with a delicate, magical quality that in no way sterilises the reality of the drama. And, nd, portrayed portra in infancy by astonishing discovery Sunny Pawar, the young Saroo beams with a strength and determination that makes you marvel at his resourcefulness as much as you fear for his well-being. Though his accidental train journey takes him to a strange land 1,600 km away from home, where the Hindi-speaking boy doesn’t even understand the language (Bengali), he is quick to adapt and driven by a deep-rooted confidence that someday, somehow, he will find a way back to his mum. This isn’t some jaunty kids’ adventure, but neither is it a gruelling ordeal. Lion’s impact does soften during its second half, just as its pace slackens. As you’d expect, A watching an adult, Australian Saroo (Patel) obsessively scan Google Earth for his Indian birth home is inherently less gripping than the street-based trials of his five-year-old incarnation. But the story also shifts down a gear to become a domestic drama about adoption and identity. While it’s ably handled, it rests in this mode for a little too long, holding us back from a circle-completing resolution that, when it finally arrives, feels a little too brisk. That said, Patel turns in a career-best performance which finally delivers on his early Slumdog Millionaire promise, while Kidman is the most impressive she’s been in years — since The Hours, in fact — in the relatively minor A mother, Sue. Her role of Saroo’s Australian performance during one short but excruciating dinner-table scene is a mini acting masterclass. So, despite its latter-half sag, Lion is a triumphant debut for Davis. In one sense it’s epic, capturing an amazing life divided between two very different worlds; but it maintains an intimacy with Saroo that is so engaging, you can’t help but feel lost with him — and also profoundly glad to have found him. DAN JOLIN VERDICT An astonishing true story that’s treated with an admirably light and artistic touch, rather than an overly dramatic heavy hand. Despite a weaker second half, it is ultimately deeply moving.







Gareth Edwards Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Ben Mendelsohn, Donnie Yen, Mads Mikkelsen, Alan Tudyk, Jiang Wen, Forest Whitaker W CAST


Rumours abound of a new Imperial superweapon, powerful enough to crush the Rebellion. Will a ramshackle platoon led by ex-con Jyn Erso (Jones), the daughter of the device’s creator, be able to find its schematics and save countless lives?



IT TAKES AKES A pair of Death Star-sized balls W prequel at this point. As to release a Star Wars George Lucas learned back in 1999, hitting fans’ nostalgia circuits will only get you so far: you also have to deliver an experience that feels fresh. (The absence of Gungans helps too. ) Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One walks this tightrope with very little wobbling. There are plenty of series callbacks to please devotees, but also a slew of offbeat new characters, first-rate visuals and a truly ballsy third act. The pitch, courtesy of VFX legend John Knoll, ILM’s very own Obi-Wan, is beautifully simple: a World War II men-on-a-mission movie, rejiggered for the Star Wars universe. Instead of the guns of Navarone or V-1 rockets, the target is that mother of all giant orbicular firearms, the Death Star. And instead of a pack of army grunts, the heroes that comprise this scraggly suicide squad are a bunch of assorted underdogs from

throughout the galaxy. Future Star Wars ‘stories’, such as the forthcoming Han Solo spin-off, will doubtless be lighter than the main Episodes, but director Gareth Edwards here ramps up the stresslevels. Gone are the series’ trademark wipes and other retro editing tricks. There is a comedy robot, lumbering tinhead K-2S0 (Tudyk), but his wisecracks are subdued, fuelled by cynical sarcasm, rather than slapstick. Rogue One is dark and earnest: for the first time in the franchise, it feels like anyone, and anydroid, is expendable. At points the gloom threatens to eclipse A the fun. Like Luke Skywalker and Rey, heroine Jyn Erso has a tragic backstory, meaning rso (Jones) ( she’s had to grow up alone. But unlike them she’s a fairly dour screen presence, already battle-hardened when we meet her. Jones brings impressive intensity, as does Luna as a Rebel intelligence officer with a secret mission, but it’s hard not to pine for the presence of

Clockwise from left: Life’s a beach and then you die; Cassian Andor and Jyn Erso delay combat for the last Westworld; The Death Star takes sinister shape; Who’s this joker?; Ben Mendelsohn’s Orson Krennic. Not to be trusted.

a Solo, or even a Dameron. In this critical phase of the conflict, quips are in as short supply as kyber crystals. On the plus side, for the first time in Star Wars history an instalment amplifies its Eastern roots. The original was influenced by Kurosawa classic The Hidden Fortress, and here Donnie Yen and Jiang Wen play riffs on the same Fortress characters that inspired R2-D2 and C-3PO in the ’70s. Yen in particular is riproaringly badass as the blind Chirrut Îmwe, a kind of space-Zatoichi who employs what can only be described as ‘Force-fu’. It’s a new direction for the saga; it’ll be interesting to see if it’s one that gets expanded in Episodes to come. The most crowdpleasing stuff, however, comes courtesy of the villains. Mendelsohn is gloriously hissable as white-caped, permanently furious Imperial slimeball Director Orson Krennic: when someone pleads with him, “You’re confusing peace with terror,” he sneers back,

“Well, you have to start somewhere.” But post-viewing chatter will be all about the return of two characters: Darth Vader (who gets to finger-point and Force-choke his way through several scenes) and another iconic originaltrilogy baddie, resurrected via CGI. The latter is very close to escaping the Uncanny Valley and shows just how far digital artistry has come in the past decade. The Dark Lord of the Sith’s appearance is the more impactful, though, undoubtedly contributing a couple of entries to future Best Vader Moments lists, and finally answering the question, “Who would choose to live in a fortress with a lava waterfall?” At points Rogue One does resemble Star Wars bingo: here’s a glass of blue milk, there’s a mouse-robot sound effect, there’s that character you like doing that line he’s famous for. Some of it’s clumsy, some of it’s great (watch out for some ingeniously repurposed archive footage from

Hope But like The Force Awakens before A New Hope). it, the movie gets better the more it deviates from past triumphs. Unlike Awakens, which slid into Star Wars cliché as it went, this standalone story struggles through a slightly uneven middle section but ends on a high, with a triumphant third act set on the tropical planet of Scarif. Taking its cue from Churchill — “We shall fight them on the beaches” — it’s part heist, part battle, a thundering action spectacle with AT-ATs stomping down palm trees, death troopers splashing in azure waters and some truly surprising twists. It’s here, when Rogue One shakes off formula and goes rogue itself, that it finally fulfills its promise. James dyer Verdict the ultimate Star Wars fan film, it’s short on whimsy but when it gets going there’s enough risk-taking and spectacle to bode well for future standalones.

february 2017


TV & streaming




Frank Spotnitz Alexa Davalos, Rufus Sewell, Rupert Evans, Luke Kleintank, Stephen Root, Bella Heathcote CAST


In the defeated USA of 1962, erstwhile resistance operative Juliana Crain (Davalos) endeavours to discover the truth behind the mysterious underground film reels that somehow show it wasn’t the Nazis and Japanese who were victorious in War World War II.



WHILE HBO’S BIG, shiny, humourless new headliner Westworld ld has hogged all the Twitter acclaim and pop theorising, Amazon’s flagship sci-fi show has quietly been getting on with its dystopian business with great assurance. Faithful to the framework of Philip K. Dick’s classic — far closer, in fact, than Blade Runner or Total Recall ever kept to their texts ts — exex-X-Files alumnus Frank Spotnitz has fashioned a second binge-friendly series of many guises: sci-fi period piece (this is a nuclear-powered 1962), political drama (as Hitler ails, it’s Game Of Thrones with SS factions), espionage thriller (confronting the psychology of an American defeat) and mysto-historical timewarp (think Lost where the entire USA is crackers). What Spotnitz may not have foreseen — although there’s no ruling out Dick’s paranoid presentiment in such matters — is how chillingly relevant this vision of a fascist America was going to become. Let’s call it their Trump card. To recap: according to Dick’s alt-history — neatly paraphrased over the opening credits

using sinister DadÕs Army arrows and a death’s angel cover of Edelweiss from The Sound Of Music War W — the Axis Of Evil was as triumphant in World W II.. With Washington flattened by an A-bomb, the Nazis now occupy the USA to the A from New York Y prairies, while the Japanese have annexed the West Coast. Across the Rockies lies the Neutral Zone as a buffer between the imperialist conquerors. The fragile peace between the former allies is beginning to crack. The deviousness of Dick’s story is that he wasn’t reconfiguring World War II inasmuch as recasting the Cold War. As Season 1 closed, the Japanese had come into possession of the secrets behind the German’s ‘Heisenberg Device’. Without leaning too heavily on CG swastikas draped over the New York skyline, Season 1 was a triumph of concrete world-building. A Nazicompliant Middle America proved chillingly easy to imagine, with apple-pie Americans happily swapping apping ““Sieg heils” from their doorsteps. Season 2, luxuriating in an increased budget, expands its

Clockwise from left: Dodgy dealing between store owner Robert (Brennan Brown) and counterfeit antique producer Frank (Rupert Evans); Ruthless Nazi guard dog John Smith (Rufus Sewell); Alexa Davalos as resistance operative Juliana.

global reach to rebuild Berlin according to the thrusting, cod-Roman Disneyland of Albert Speer’s architectural blueprints and throws in some supersonic Nazi jet liners and monorails, but sensibly sticks to the claustrophobic, film noir interiors and intense back-alley shoot-outs. The action is bracing rather than epic. The compelling spin of Dickian strangeness was Season 1’s discovery of a series of film reels, which once threaded into a projector (a repeated nostalgic motif ) revealed history as it ought to have been with the Allies victorious. Now, as new reels come to light, so do appalling visions of a future wracked by nuclear devastation. Is this expertly faked propaganda or a true glimpse into other realities? The new series begins with moody heroine Juliana (a mostly dull Alexa Davalos) gaining an audience with the titular wizard responsible for curating these substitute timelines. In a delightful, hyperbolic Yoda routine, Stephen Root channels Dick’s own paranoiac ramblings, ranting in

dizzying circles while he reveals a warehouse full of film canisters, each its own possible past or future. The high castle he claims to have in mind is just that — the mind. As the show progresses, one of the challenges confronting Spotniz’s credible re-orchestration of history is also making satisfying sense of Dick’s trippy, alt-consciousness concepts. History, he warns, can be endlessly rewired; which, when you think about it, is exactly what Dick and Spotnitz are doing. For now, the show is better grittier. And in the aftermath of Heydrich’s (Ray Proscia) foiled attempt to usurp the Führer er that climaxed Season 1, the central love triangle of Juliana, her conscience-crippled boyfriend Frank Frink (Rupert Evans), and potential flame and morally awakened (or still fooling) Nazi swine Joe Blake (Luke Kleintank) variously fail and succeed to evade the clutches of the Kempeitai secret police or jackbooted SS. While this yo-yoing of capture and escape

remains thrilling, you have to trust that Spotnitz has an end in sight. As with Game Of Thrones, it is the villains who are most likely to provide the compelling through-lines. One of the most powerful ironies is how slyly the show elicits our sympathy for the devils. Especially a standout Rufus Sewell as the wonderfully named Obergruppenführer er John Smith, the scowling Nazi puppet-master gradually being humanised by sad revelations of his own. More audaciously still, the show wonders if we can feel sorry for a frail, Parkinson’s-shot Hitler (Wolf Muser) obsessively binging on the mysterious alt-movies in the loneliness of his mountaintop retreat — another man in a high castle. Maybe he’s got Amazon Prime. IAN NATHAN VERDICT This powerfully envisioned adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s alternative timeline strides boldly if cheerlessly onwards, with special mention for Rufus Sewell as television’s most absorbing Nazi bastard.



She could see now,

TV & streaming


netflix OUT now EPISODES VIEWED 8 of 8

director Zal

Batmanglij Brit Marling, Emory Cohen, Scott Wilson, Patrick Gibson cast

Seven years after she disappeared, a young woman (Marling) is rescued from a river where she has attempted suicide. Not only that, when she went missing, she was blind — and now she has her sight. Where has she been all this time? And how is it possible she can see again?


THERE’S AN UNDENIABLE confidence to The OA, co-written by star Brit Marling and director Zal Batmanglij. Take the cold open for the first episode — it’s 57 minutes long. Only when the scene is well and truly se set do the credits appear and the story begins for real.  This conviction runs throughout the show. It’s clearly been designed for binge-watching —  there’s little regard for a standard episode


february 2017

but she’d sprung a pretty serious leak.

length. Of the eight, they range from 70 minutes to half an hour — Batmanglij simply tells the story and when that section is finished, so is the episode. Why should it bother the viewer? After all, the next part is only a click away. The story, in essence, concerns one thing: what happened to Prairie Johnson? But, in the same way Twin Peaks wasn’t only about who killed Laura Palmer, The OA has far more going on — from vengeful Russian gangsters to near-death experiences, and from other plains of existence to dealing with high school angst.  Much of the plot is told in flashback as Prairie recounts her seven years away to a disparate group from her hometown. But her story isn’t an immediate source of answers, instead it concocts a multi-layered mystery that will have your head whirring with theories, arguments and counter arguments as you try to solve the puzzle about where all this is heading. And, indeed, even what the show’s title means. It’s smartly plotted in that way — rarely, if ever, does it show its hand too early. Instead you discover Prairie’s secrets as her listeners do, including their real purpose in all this.  It’s vital that the opening episodes are so gripping because, about halfway through, Marling and Batmanglij throw in a revelation that requires a leap of faith — are we still along

for the ride, or has this all become too silly? You know it when you see it, it involves interpretative dance and has the potential to split viewers in much the same way “it’s a magic island” was basically the answer to the mysteries of Lost. But by this time there are such big questions still to be answered, and the interpersonal relationships of both the flashback and current day are so compelling, it’s ultimately a small leap to take.  There are other quibbles, too, such as the Titanic issue that the person narrating the flashbacks is describing events she wasn’t present for — although for the most part these could be explained away by assuming other characters told her what happened offscreen (we only see a small portion of those seven years, of course). And for the others? Well, who says we can trust everything Prairie says anyway? And these are just small issues — ultimately, the The OA is a mature and intriguing mystery that begs to be watched in its entirety as quickly as possible, then debated at length afterwards. jonathan pile Verdict another netflix drama destined to saturate your social media feed. don’t wait that long — the joy of The OA is the mystery it builds, then slowly reveals over its sevenhour-plus running time.


BBC / OUT NOW / CeRT TBC / TBC MINS epiSOdeS vieWed 2 OF 2

Julian Jarrold Toby Jones, Andrea Riseborough, Billy Howle DIRECTOR CAST

FOLLOWing in THe bloody footprints of last year’s And Then There Were None, this two-parter continues the BBC’s newly minted tradition of serving up an intriguing slice of seasonal Agatha Christie. Toby Jones stars as John Mayhew, a war-ravaged 1920s solicitor tasked with defending a man who stands to inherit the fortune of his recently murdered socialite lover (Kim Cattrall). Yes, there are clichés – a detective literally has the commissioner “crawling up [his] arse” — but the high-wattage cast delivers (especially Andrea Riseborough as an enigmatic chorus girl), director Julian Jarrold conjures a fog-choked gothic atmosphere and the final twist is as black as a lump of coal. JF



Steven Moffat Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Amanda Abbington, Louise Brealey SHOWRUNNER CAST

With Moriarty dead and Watson (Freeman) a new dad, things at 221B Baker Street are looking up. Yet Holmes (Cumberbatch) is convinced trouble is on its way. Could it be that his diabolical nemesis is still alive after all? Or is something even worse on its way?





Max Landis Samuel Barnett, elijah Wood, Hannah Marks, Fiona dourif SHOWRUNNER CAST

dOUgLAS AdAMS’ ‘HOLiSTiC’ detective (Barnett) hits modern-day Seattle in this mind-frying, fitfully effective new series from Chronicle writer Max Landis. Sensibly forgoing the straight adaptation of 2005’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, this eight-parter instead transposes Adamsian absurdity onto an original tale that features dirk, a reluctant assistant called Todd (Wood), a missing girl, evil jump-suited skinheads, the FBi and an indestructible contract killer killer. Barnett impresses as the investigator but, even allowing for a conclusion that ties up all those disparate tangents, it feels over-stuffed and not nearly as charmingly quirky as it wants to be. JF

special, ‘The A Abominable Bride’, proved divisive: a mash-up of horse-drawn Victorian melodrama and Inception-esque mind-trickery, it pleased some and made others fling their remotes across the room. The show returns to steadier ground with ‘The Six Thatchers’, this opener for Series 4, a comparatively straightforward mystery, but one which still manages to fit in sharks, a paramilitary snatch team, Tibet and the titular British PM. Most impressively, it shows tonal control, as it starts light and breezy, slowly sliding into darkness and climaxing with perhaps the most combustive bombshell to date. And no, it’s not that Sherlock has finally bought some tasteful wallpaper. As it opens, Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes is, very amusingly, experiencing PMWS (PostMoriarty Withdrawal Syndrome). With his bête noire vanquished, he should be kicking back with a scientific journal, but instead he’s gone into hyperdrive. More specifically, he’s logged onto Twitter. Tapping up a frenzy — and even coming T up with his own hashtags (“#221BringIt”) — he’s solving cases in 140 characters or less, even during classified briefings, much to the chagrin of his brother Mycroft (Mark Gatiss). Martin Freeman’s Watson, meanwhile, is adapting well

to fatherhood; as he points out, having Sherlock as a partner is excellent preparation for looking after a pissy, self-centred infant. His marriage A bbington), on the other hand, to ex-spy Mary ary ((A Abbington), is perhaps not going quite so well... Based (extremely loosely) on Arthur Conan Doyle story The Adventure Of The Six Napoleons Napoleons, the tale retains such classic elements as the black pearl of the Borgias and a set of busts of a famous figure, which are being tracked down and smashed by a mysterious n’er-do-well. (The élan with which the likenesses of the Iron Lady are wrecked on screen suggests showrunners ha Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat mayy have enjoyed those scenes.) True to Sherlock form, however, the case veers closer to home than is originally suspected. Sherlock is at its best when there’s a devilish villain tormenting our heroes, whether it’s Andrew Scott’s impish Moriarty or Lars Mikkelsen’s serpentine blackmailer Charles A Augustus Milverton. Series 4 promises to add a humdinger to this line-up, with a blondbarneted psychopath played by Toby Jones. But that’s still to come. ‘The Six Thatchers’ does ha have a bad guy, but he’s very much in the background. Instead, the episode focuses on the cracks starting to form between Sherlock, John and Mary. ary. ary The emotional events of the final act change the dynamic of the show irrevocably; it will be fascinating to see where it goes from here. With all the darkness — and this episode gets pretty darn dark — Gatiss and Moffat make sure to keep a current of fun fizzing through it. This comes in the form of wry revelations (it turns out Sherlock instantly deletes any text message that begins with “Hi”), callbacks to Doyle (Toby the bloodhound, from The Sign Off F Four, finally makes an appearance) and bold bits of production design (the visual motif for this week is “sharks”). Energetic, smart, finely polished and just a little pleased with itself, it’s quintessential Sherlock. The boys are back in town. NICK DE SEMLYEN VERDICT A very solid return to modernity for Watson and Holmes, with a dab of silliness, a smidge of globetrotting, and a shocking ending that might just give you sleuth-ache.





Nickolls Victor Nosslo, Karen David, Stjepan Back CAST





Ueda Tatsuki Ishikawa, Hiroshi Shirokuma, Masaki Aikawa CAST

A young boy (Ishikawa) awakens in a cave next to Trico, a chained and wounded beast. Together the pair must escape, their progress narrated by the boy, now an old man (Shirokuma).


NINE YEARS AND one change of console platform into its lingering development, the release of The Last Guardian has been burdened with seemingly unmanageable expectations. The third title from the creator of Ico and Shadow Of The Colossus had become almost mythical, a game players feared they might never see at shika Y play as a sandal-wearing boy (Ishikawa) all. You shikawa) who awakens covered in tribal tattoos in an underground dungeon next to a hulking creature — seemingly once a protector of this place — chained and bleeding, on the cobblestones beside him. Together, the pair must bond and collaborate to escape the overgrown city in which they find themselves, with its ghoulish patrolling knights, and towering masonry. To proceed you must lure and coax Trico, as the composite animal is called, using waves of the hand and treats, in this way convincing the AI to batter down gates, leap tall buildings while you cling to his feathers, or provide an impromptu platform to a narrow ledge. It’s this aspect of the development that must have provided the headaches and delays. Companion AI has been the scourge of many a blockbuster. And yet, in the final reckoning, Trico’s behaviour is nothing short of a revelation. Wonder is found first in Trico’s animation. While he is a fictional beas beast — part bird, cat, dog and rat — he moves with the elegance and character of a beloved pet (the way he rolls in



puddles then shakes the rain drops from his back; the waggle of the ears; the sniffs of the wind; the pained yelp and cringe whenever a foe’s spear finds its way into his flesh). The natural, well-observed animation is not mere dressing: it helps create a close bond between player and animal. While, in the substantial game’s opening minutes there is distrust, fear and even some antagonism, in time the boy and his beast come to rely upon each other not only to progress but also to survive. The first time you make an impossible leap into the air in the hope that Trico will snatch you from certain death is set to become one of modern gaming’s defining moments. Ueda has a talent, not only for cinematic pacing and drama (aided here by Takeshi Furukawa’s tasteful orchestral soundtrack), but also for wonderfully organic puzzle design. There is little of the typical video-game designer’s contrivance here. Rather, ather, Ueda uses the environment to give cues for puzzles and Y might need to lure Trico into solutions. You a body of water, in order to raise its level and enable the boy to reach a ladder. Or, at times you will find yourself staring at the architecture, trying to figure out a possible way to climb, Lara Croft-like, to the next place, only for Trico to leap over the entire structure in one bound. The animal’s power to upset the usual rhythms and expectations of video games cannot be understated. He is a revolutionary force let loose in Ueda’s playpen. An affecting one, too. Through co-operation a deep and caring bond develops between Trico, you and your avatar. The animal, so clearly abused and neglected, must be regularly fed in order to keep his energy levels up, and when startled, he must be calmed with back rubs and cooing words. By the game’s conclusion, the bond is unbreakable. You Y are his guardian, as much as he is yours. And in that connection, an unforgettable game is made. SIMON PARKIN VERDICT The Last Guardian’s interminable delays have ultimately proven to be time well spent; this is astonishing, groundbreaking game-making.

CAPCOM’S FOURTH ENTRY R in the RY Dead Rising series is quite the celebration. It’s not only set at Christmas, it also adds some much-needed sparkle to the familiar gameplay. Taking you through events occurring some 16 years after the original game, zombie apocalypse 2.0 brings you the walking dead in their thousands. The storyline is solidly entertaining throughout, but it’s the chaotic playground of zombie slaying that will keep a grin plastered to your face. Weapon crafting is cranked up a notch to maximum bonkers, with some welcome festive fun incorporated, too. Plus lus the variety of dif different zombies keeps things feeling fresh. Hilarious, creative and satisfyingly bloody. SL



Tabata Ray Chase, Amy Shiels, Adam Croasdell, Chris Parson, Robbie Daymond CAST

AFTER A DECADE in development, Final Fantasy XV surprises simply by being good. Its story — exiled prince Noctis and buddies Gladiolus, Ignis, and Prompto go roadtripping to reclaim his lost kingdom — won’t win awards, but its slick real-time combat and vast, visually striking open world might. It’s a stark departure from previous instalments though, with stats and character management buried in submenus. Having four heroes initially feels redundant, too, as only Noctis is active, but their combo skills in battles prove a delight. The changes are ultimately positive, successfully breaking the game out of its genre ghetto. This is a Final Fantasy for the modern audience, and all the better for it. MK

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february 2017

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february 2017


Old habits die hard for Jonny Lee Miller’s Sick Boy and Ewan McGregor’s Renton.

JONNY LEE MILLER WA W S BRICKING IT. It had been ten years since he’d seen Robert Carlyle, longer since he’d crossed paths with Ewan McGregor and Ewen Bremner, and two decades since the Trainspotting comrades had all been in a room together, at the film’s wrap party. So when, a week before shooting was scheduled to begin on long-awaited sequel T2 Trainspotting last May, Danny Boyle asked the cast to get together to rehearse some scenes, it was a big deal. Miller was anxious as it was, of making a film that could potentially tarnish the legacy of Trainspotting, of disappointing an entire generation. And, to add to his already fragile tra condition as he travelled to the set for the first time in Bathgate (midway between Edinburgh and Glasgow), he contracted food poisoning from the breakfast he’d picked up en route. By the time he got there, he was done for. “I was so nervously excited,” he remembers, “and I ended up throwing up in the bathroom. It was like, ‘Nice to see you, I gotta go vomit.’ And it just felt weirdly, awfully appropriate for Trainspotting, throwing up in a bathroom, having not seen these guys for years, hoping that they didn’t think I’d developed some awful drug habit.” Miller wasn’t the only one with jitters, and with good reason. Danny Boyle’s 1996 adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s 1993 novel — not, ultimately, a film about heroin but about a gang of friends testing, goading, fighting and escaping each other — made icons of its characters, and stars of its director and cast. The cinematic epicentre of Cool Britannia, Trainspotting seemed to define a generation: student dorms all over the country were adorned with the orange-and-monochrome poster, on which Begbie (Carlyle), Diane (Kelly Macdonald), Sick Boy (Miller), Spud (Bremner) and Renton (McGregor) grinned and growled, indelibly ingrained in pop culture. “People want to see them again,” producer Andrew Macdonald tells Empire. “They know their names. It’s the only film I’ve been involved in where that’s been the case. Y You hardly remember who the guys in Shallow Grave were,” he says of the same team’ss previous film. ““And then we made a film straight after Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary, nobody remembers that.



Danny Boyle and Irvine Welsh chat to Robert Carlyle (Begbie) on set. Below: Welsh — the man with the golden pen.

Nobody’s wanted to see whatever the fuck they’re called, Celine and Robert, you know... Nobody’s wanting to see that again, are they?” We wouldn’t like to say. “Exactly!”

It’s June 2016 6

and Empire is hanging around a toilet on the set of T2. Not, alas, the one Jonny Lee Miller threw up in a few weeks earlier, but a row of toilets constructed for a scene in an Edinburgh nightclub. It’s dark, it’s dank, and it’s riddled with graffiti. “Mike you fanny” is one such scrawl. “Saggy titties” another. Empire’s favourite is daubed above a toilet, simply reading “Narnia”. Business as usual, then. “I, more than anyone, had flirted with the idea for a sequel the longest,” says an enthusiastic Boyle when we meet him later. “Because I’d answered so many questions in interviews asking if there was gonna be one.” 2002 saw the publication of Welsh’s sequel Porno, which, against a backdrop of the gonzo porn industry, focused on Sick Boy and Begbie’s attempts to

Renton and Sick Boy rediscover their lust for life.

take revenge on Renton, who made off with their swag at the end of the original story. Boyle and Macdonald commissioned John Hodge to write a draft closely following Welsh’s book, but no-one was overjoyed with the result. His heart wasn’t in w it, says Hodge, and Boyle, similarly unenthused, didn’t send it to any of the cast. For a few years, they just let it go, despite the constant questions. “I was asked about it all the time,” says McGregor, “and I always said I would never do anything to damage the reputation of the film we made and that ev everybody loves. Trainspotting means everything to me. It’s a really amazing film and I just thought it was a bad idea to do a sequel ten years after. But mainly I just didn’t feel the same connection to Porno that I had done to the novel of Trainspotting, which really moved me. Also Danny and I went through years of not working together, and so there was all that going on as well.” Ah, yes. After A Life Less Ordinary, McGregor was set to star in The Beach, which would be his

fourth film with Boyle, but the director cast Leonardo DiCaprio instead, enabling him to raise more investment funds for the budget. More than losing that particular role, McGregor felt hurt by losing his place in the team: they were, he had thought, in this together. The wound was deep, and for years they had no contact. But time is a healer, and in 2009 McGregor saw Boyle in a restaurant and felt only affection. “I went over and we chatted for a little while and it was so nice to see him after all that time,” says McGregor, who later that year, at the 2009 BAFTA LA’s Britannia Awards, introduced Boyle to the crowd before the director came up to the stage to receive the John Schlesinger Award for Artistic Excellence In Directing. It was a touching speech in which McGregor paid tribute to Boyle, closing with, “I love you and miss you.” “He was really sweet,” says Boyle, who regrets the way he handled The Beach’s casting switch. “We weren’t particularly respectful towards him, way back in the day. But he’s always

been very, very generous. So we met and talked and I said how sorry I was, the way we had treated him. And it rebuilt from there.”

In early 2014,

Boyle decided it was time to revive sequel talks. 2016 would mark the original’s 20th anniversary, so plans to see if they could produce a worthy successor for around that time got underway. Boyle organised a trip to Edinburgh for himself, Hodge, Welsh, and producers Christian Colson and Andrew Macdonald to kick around ideas, and the day before Boyle was set to travel up from London, he bumped into McGregor. “It was odd, and fateful, I suppose,” says McGregor. “By that time I was up for doing a sequel, and I told him I was looking forward to reading a script.” In Edinburgh, the team pored through Porno, read Hodge’s old drafts, and started again. “The idea was to light a fire under John,” says Welsh. It worked. “Something happened to  him,” says Boyle. “Those sessions unlocked



something in John that he was able to write about. It was like the first one: as soon as you started to read it you just knew, ‘This is gonna work.’ It’s him unleashed, really.” What John Hodge wrote was a story that not only revisits Trainspotting’s various reprobates 20 years on, but explores that very passing of time — how it changes us or, in some cases, does not. How we reflect on our past and live with it, and whether or not we truly evolve. The film retains some of Porno’s key narrative strands, particularly Sick Boy and Begbie’s vengeful retribution, but is generally new material. It also draws heavily on the first film itself. “Some bits are from Trainspotting, in the same way that one’s present life also includes elements of the past,” says Hodge. “We all live with our past all the time, and these characters are the same. It’s not Ocean’s Thirteen, which really has got nothing to do with Ocean’s Twelve or Eleven. In real life we carry around a lot of emotional baggage, even if we don’t think we do. So if you’re seeing it visually, that’s because it’s there, in their heads.” The script was sent to the actors, and slayed them. “I was crying,” says Robert Carlyle of first reading it. “I thought, ‘Why the fuck am I crying at this?’” He’s still emotional now, as he was throughout the production. Everybody was, he says. “Danny felt it, Ewan and Ewen felt it, Jonny, we all felt this real emotional connection to these characters and to this world. But that first read — I was speaking to Ewan McGregor, saying, ‘I cannae believe I’m feeling like this.’ I’ve never cried when I’ve read a screenplay before. Ever.” In summer 2015, the key cast and crew (other than Miller, who was shooting Sherlock Holmes show Elementary in New York) met in a members’ club in Soho for a read-through. Although some of them had crossed paths or worked together over the years, this was the first proper reunion since 1996. “To hear their voices reading new material in that Spud voice, in that Begbie voice, in that Renton voice, was like, ‘Oh my God,’” says Boyle. “That felt really good. I remember thinking, ‘Let’s make sure there aren’t any hiccups now. Let’s make sure we do this.’”

There are e lots

of DVDs in Sick Boy’s flat. There are lots of lots of things in Sick Boy’s flat, a swanky, brash and cluttered pad. Empire has been given free rein of the sets, so we’re being nosey. What’s here? A foosball table. A synth. Stacks of car mags, crates full of empty cans of lager and cider, a stupendous amount of dirty washing-up, and yes, mountains of DVDs, including, naturally, lots of Bond films — Sick Boy/Simon is, lest we forget, a 007 aficionado. We then venture into his pub, the Port Sunshine, a dilapidated drinking hole which will play host to some key encounters. Including Renton’s first meet-up in two decades with Sick Boy, who, it turns out, has aged surprisingly well. “I wanted to go all out,” bemoans Miller. “Like, ‘Why don’t I shave my head and show up  bald?’ My hair’s getting pretty thin anyway, so



Renton and Spud (Ewen Bremner) take stock of their lives as they look out over the city.

february 2017



1993 _ Trainspotting


Welsh’s groundbreaking novel began an odyssey that’s showing no signs of slowing.

1994 _ Trainspotting (PLAY) The play, in which Ewen Bremner played Renton, was adapted by Harry Gibson not long after the book had been published, and did well in Edinburgh before storming the London stage.

1996 _ Trainspotting

Sick Boy, Renton and Nikki (Anjela


Boyle’s film adaptation startled the film industry. “Hollywood come in,” wrote Empire, in a quote used on the film’s official poster, “your time is up.”

Nedyalkova) toast the gang’s eagerly awaited return.

2001 _ Glue (BOOK) Welsh’s novel had structural similarities to Trainspotting, and featured cameos from Begbie, Renton, Spud and Sick Boy.

2002 _ Porno (BOOK) Welsh’s sequel catches up with the boys a decade after the original story. Sick Boy dreams of directing porn, and teams up with Renton to make it happen.

2012 _ Skagboys (BOOK) Welsh then wrote a prequel, introducing a younger version of the group in early ’80s Leith, exploring how they get into heroin.

2012 _ Trainspotting



This Chicago stage production transported the action to Kansas, and featured additional material by Welsh.

2015 _ He

Ain’t Lager

It’s less fists out and more feet up for Begbie.


A little Christmas tale written by Welsh for The Big Issue, catching up with — and thoroughly subverting — a happy, settled Begbie.

2015 _ A

Decent Ride (BOOK)

Welsh’s novel about Glue and Porno’s taxi driver ‘Juice’ Terry Lawson features a brief cameo from Sick Boy, now running a website called X-tra Perversevere.

2016 _ The

Blade Artist (BOOK)

Welsh’s latest novel has a starring role for Begbie, now calling himself Jim Francis and living with his wife in California. Soon, though, things turn sour.

2016 _ Trainspotting

Live (PLAY)

An update of the original play, Trainspotting Live is playing at The Vaults, London, until January 15.



I thought I could look completely different, but Danny said the blond hair was such a huge part of the first movie and it had to be there. So we ended up doing it but with the roots coming through, and you can really see hair loss.” Boyle had said in the past he didn’t want to make a sequel until the actors looked physically older. “Anybody other than Danny might have rushed the film, done it ten years ago,” says Carlyle. “They might have put the grey through the hair and the lines on the face. But the grey is already on the hair now, and the lines are on the face. You can’t get any better than that.” Carlyle arrived on set with long locks and a full beard, leaving options open. As T2 begins, Begbie is in prison, and Carlyle, after looking at reference photos of prisoners, decided the hair had to go — but the moustache would stay. “That’s his signature, right there,” he laughs. “One of the inspirations behind doing the film was The Likely Lads,” says Boyle, referring to the 1960s British sitcom — a surprising

influence on T2. “Because then they came back with Whatever Happened To The Likely ely Lads? Lads?, seven years after, but it felt longer. And it had that great song: ‘What happened to you, whatever happened to me? What became of the people we used to be?’” Boyle takes a deep, emotional breath. “Fuckin’ hell. Because film and television freezes people in time, so seeing them unfrozen and presented to you, cheek to cheek, it’s like, there you go, your heroes. It’s like music — you don’t wanna see them when they’re past it. It’s brutal.” The cast arrived in fits and starts, thanks to busy, globetrotting schedules. Bremner was first, then Carlyle, who was overcome with emotion when they were then joined by Miller after he’d finished filming Elementary. “Out of everyone, Jonny and I were probably the closest,” says Carlyle. “Jesus Christ. Big, big, big hugs. Just holding onto each other, actually.” Immediately after the hugging, Miller ran to that toilet to throw up. And a week later, when he had finished work on his directorial debut, American Pastoral, al,

Spud brings the bouquet. But who are the flowers for?

McGregor arrived, just as worried, concerned he might not be able to “find” Renton again. On the first day, in the lunch queue, he met Bremner. “I said, ‘I’m really fuckin’ nervous, Ewen. I’m scared about it,’” admits McGregor. “And he said, ‘Don’t worry, as soon as you get in there you’ll be fine.’ And he was right. As soon as I got the Adidas on and got on set I was alright. Because I’m Renton, and Renton’s me. There was nothing to find — he was already there.” In what sense are they interchangeable? “There’s something about his story and my story,” he continues, then pauses, collecting his thoughts. “I hadn’t seen Danny for all those years, and Renton hasn’t seen his mates for all those years. He fucked off, and I fucked off. I haven’t lived in Scotland since I was 17. He’s coming back, I was coming back. There were an awful lot of parallels, you might say.” On set, Empire watches as Boyle directs McGregor, who’s found himself in a tense altercation with another character. Renton’s teeming with adrenaline, and McGregor’s

wide-eyed, lapping up instructions from Boyle, asking how he wants him to play it. It’s a simple scene, but it’s swirling with electricity. When Boyle calls cut, the crew cheers. “Well done, gentlemen,” says Boyle, practically bouncing. McGregor’s beaming. The likely lads are back.

In mid-November,

Empire meets Boyle in his Soho production offices, where he and editor Jon Harris are finishing the film, the walls plastered with sequenced screenshots. In October, they watched a rough cut back-toback with the original film, to contrast and compare — if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ll know there are overt nods to Trainspotting in T2, from frantic street chases to Renton’s adventures with car bonnets. “Because it lives in the shadow of the first one,” explains Boyle. “And how much you step out of that shadow, or stay in it, defines it. You’re not just making it in a vacuum. And also we just wanted to make sure we hadn’t made

some howling fuckin’ cock-up. ‘He’s circumcised in that film, and now he isn’t!’” Only here, in post-production, says Boyle, is he truly discovering what the film’s about. yhood “You know Richard Linklater’s Boyhood? yhood? Well, this is ‘Manhood’,” he says. “For all those years I kept jokingly making the excuse that the actors weren’t ready to make the film yet because they didn’t look old enough, because they were in spas every weekend pampering themselves, blah blah blah. But actually, when I look at what we’ve done... I think I wasn’t ready to do it. Because of my own age. You’ve got to have a personal reason to make a film. And I think I was waiting.” On the phone, Empire speaks to Bremner, who says he’s been profoundly touched by the entire experience. “The characters in the original film, they’re so virile,” he says. “Their spirit is very strong. But growing up, and we’re still all growing up, that can pass. You don’t grow up without losing things that are dear to you, and having your identity challenged and being rocked by events that are out of or in your control. I think the film perfectly captures the cruelty of ageing. It’s a really powerful film, I think.” “Trying not to face up to decline is a part of life,” adds Hodge. “When you get to 50 you suddenly realise all the big events coming your way are not good ones. Being young can be hard, you can feel insecure, and might be economically disadvantaged or whatever, and you can get to a certain age and look at the achievements in your life, but really the great time is when you’re young. All the rest is a waste of time.” Does he really think that? “Yeah! After you’ve been 15, 20, 25, there’s never anything like that again. At 45, whatever, you’re struggling to keep hold of a strand of that, and that’s part of the theme of the film. I don’t mean to sound unnecessarily dismissive of existence after the age of 25, but if you think back and then look forward, there’s no contest! All these people who say, ‘Life begins at 60, look at me, I’m playing golf every day,’ I mean, so fucking what?” But for all the talk of midlife crises, T2 promises at least as much energy as the first film, with at least as much attitude. The mere title is a clue — a boisterous two fingers up. James Cameron’s Terminator erminator sequel is commonly known by the same name, but was never officially called that, so Boyle nicked it. “We called it that because that’s what the characters would call it,” he says. “They wouldn’t show any respect for it.” Everyone is buoyed by the rough cut, though there is still, of course, trepidation. “We want the film to satisfy everybody,” says Bremner. “We have to live with the consequences of it, on a daily basis. I have to walk down the street with people maybe saying, ‘Hey, Spud! You shouldna made the second one, should ya? Was a bit crap!’ We’re all up for it. We gave it our best shot.” In a sea of sequels, it’s heartening to have one made for all the right reasons. Certainly, nobody can accuse them of rushing it. T2 TRAINSPOTTING IS IN CINEMAS FROM 27 JANUARY









here’s a scene in Taken aken en 3 where Liam Neeson climbs over er a fence. As crack CIA operative Bryan Mills,, the actor jogs over to a parked car, scrabbles onto the roof and heaves himself over the eight-foot, t, chain-link fence before landing on someone’s lawn. The sequence lasts just six seconds,, but is cut together from 15 separate shots ts of Neeson (and a swarthy stunt double) vanquishing the obstacle. Quick cuts and clever angles, as much as bullets and bombs,, have become the weapons of choice for modern action movies. Whether employed byy Greengrass, Nolan or Taken 3’s Olivier Megaton, vertiginous ertiginous camerawork can create powerful werful illusions: be it Jason Bourne taking out a dozen zen assailants in the blink of an eye, or an ageing spyy clambering over a railing. Rapid-fire editing is jarring and disorientating, replicating the chaos of combat; the maelstrom of limbs savagee and primal, sucking viewers into the fight. It is a tried and tested technique that



has underpinned some of the most visceral fight sequences of the past decade. “It’s also complete bullshit,” adds Chad Stahelski. And he should know. The director of John Wick: Chapter 2 is an accomplished martial artist with more black belts than a Reiss summer sale. A former fighting instructor, Stahelski is also a veteran stunt co-ordinator with more than 60 titles on his CV, including all three Matrix films. “Fast editing is cheating,” he continues. “You watch any of the great Hong Kong guys like Jackie Chan or Bruce Lee and it’s all wide shots. Why? Because you’re not watching pretend martial arts. You’re watching an extremely talented individual kick some ass.” Empire is talking to Stahelski on the Brooklyn set of his trigger-happy revenge sequel, currently dressed to resemble the interior of a modern-art gallery. As if to illustrate his point, the director gives us a pointed look before he

Ruby Rose’s Ares

Reeves and director

and (below) Riccardo

Chad Stahelski like

Scamarcio’s Santino in

what they see on set

the hall-of-mirrors fight.

in New York.

One man and his dog: Keanu Reeves returns as John Wick, with a new



canine friend.

calls action on an extended fight scene. With the camera set well back from the action, Keanu Reeves’ world-class assassin cuts a swathe through a phalanx of hired muscle. It’s an intricate ballet of punches, kicks and well-placed bullets that ends with Reeves standing alone. One shot. No cuts. Stahelski grins. 2015’s John Wick was a revelation. Arriving without fanfare or hype and hiding behind its nondescript title, the film came hot on the heels of Taken en 3 and The Equalizer, seemingly just another entry in the ongoing trend of vigilante rampage films. But John Wick was different. Like its central character, it was slicker, deadlier and more confident than the competition. Executed with minute precision and unwavering skill, John Wick was an old-school Hong Kong action movie, coated with Hollywood gloss. Made for just $20 million, the movie went on to gross more than four times that amount as audiences responded to its comic-book

ultra-violence, charismatic antihero and supercool gun-fu. Laurence Fishburne was so impressed by it that he approached Reeves at a party and asked his former Matrix co-star for a role in the sequel. Eli Roth liked it so much he made Reeves act out scenes on the set of Knock Knock and volunteered to direct a stage adaptation (sadly John Wick Live has not yet come to pass). Meanwhile Stahelski’s co-director David Leitch — whose directing credit was nixed by DGA red tape — landed Deadpool 2 off the back of it. Real action with no bullshit, John Wick was the super heavyweight cage-fight to Taken’s WrestleMania panto. “It’s no secret how we did it,” says Stahelski, jerking a thumb towards his leading man. “This guy’s been doing martial arts for 25 years. He’s been trained by Yuen Woo-Ping, he’s been trained by Tiger Chen — some of the best guys in the world — plus I’ve been working with him since 1998.”

The director takes a breath to contemplate the art of mayhem. “Listen, there are two ways to do action,” he continues. “I can take any one of you out for six weeks, teach you 20 moves and guarantee those are going to be the exact moves you need. Or I can just make you fucking good. For the first film, we didn’t teach Keanu three judo moves. He spent two years learning judo. And sambo. And jujitsu — both Japanese and Brazilian — on top of all the stuff he already knows. Then we stuck him with Taran Butler, who’s the fastest draw in the United States and the best tactical three-gun champion in the world. Rather than fake it, we just said, ‘Let’s make Keanu a weapon. Let’s make him that good and then put him in front of a camera.’”


his prey through a hall of mirrors, the black-clad star’s image glares back from every conceivable  angle. The effect is more than a little unsettling.



Riccardo Scamarcio and Orange Is The New Black’s Ruby Rose back gingerly through the reflective halls, jumping at the slightest hint of movement, gun barrels flickering left and right. A showdown of Stahelski’s design, the setting is the director’s nod to Enter The Dragon, a film that had a huge impact on his life. But there’s more to the setting than a wink at Robert Clouse’s iconic kung-fu flick. “In John Wick, nothing’s as simple as that,” says Reeves, laying down his custom Heckler & Koch handguns between set-ups. “It’s certainly an homage to Bruce Lee but there’s also something in there about the relationship between him and his target, about how Wick sees himself in his own reflection. It’s about what we see, what we do and who we are as well as what’s going on around us.” He breaks into a smile. “There’s a lot of storytelling involved with the location.” With shaggy locks framing a bearded grin (his face-fuzz another nod to ’70s cinema), Reeves’ scruffy appearance cuts a sharp contrast with the hard, charcoal lines of his immaculately tailored suit. Immaculate, that is, save for a bright crimson smudge on one crisp, white shirt collar. Wick is a contradiction: softly spoken but utterly without mercy; a human wrecking ball dressed for a GQ fashion shoot. “I love playing this guy,” Reeves says. “I like his will and I like his passion. I like how much he feels and how that pulls him out of this other life. I like how he fights for his individuality. I think he’s a good guy but he just wants to be left alone. He wants to live his life. He’s done and now he wants to be free.” The sequel picks up several days after the previous film, with Wick’s rampage of revenge now complete. They may have killed his dog and stolen his car, but with half the Russian Mob lying broken in a shallow grave, his bloodlust was slaked. There’s no peace for the Wick, however, and an old acquaintance (Scamarcio’s Camorra boss, Santino) calls in a debt and compels the newly unretired killer to take on an impossible job. That task requires a change of scenery, shifting the scene from the looming high rises of New York to the baroque piazzas of Rome, where Wick sets about thinning the ranks of the Italian Mafia. Standing between him and his target, however, is Common, who plays a former associate — another assassin and a member of the same shadowy fraternity as Wick himself. John Wick’s comic-inspired mythology painted a world where assassins existed in a fairy-tale, homicidal sub-culture, operating with impunity but with adherence to a strict code of honour. The heart of this society is the Continental, a hitman Hilton where assassins mingle freely as long as they abide by the rules. Overseen by Ian McShane’s enigmatic hotelier, Winston, the Continental offered a glimpse into an alternative reality where favours are bought and sold with mysterious gold coins and the killer elite are treated like rock stars. “We’re really opening up the underground



Reeves suits up for part two. Right, from top: Wick takes his revenge in John Wick; With Ian McShane’s hotelier Winston, who also returns; James Bond needs to up his game; Chapter 2 sees Wick head to Rome, to face even deadlier opponents.


world a lot in this one, which is fun,” says Reeves. “There are rules that are a huge part of this world, it’s what keeps these killers civilised. We look at what happens when you break those rules.” Despite its name, the Continental is very much a global entity, its influence reaching even as far as the Eternal City. “The Continental in Rome was actually the first one ever,” explains Stahelski. “It’s been around for 900 years; it’s kind of the birthplace of this society.” This shadowy mythology was only teased at in the first film; neither Stahelski nor Leitch had ever planned to pull it further into the light. But after the first film’s unexpected

success, possibilities began to take shape. The pair had kept a notebook full of ideas they hadn’t managed to squeeze into the first film and, bit by bit, they coalesced into a story. Leitch had already committed to make The Coldest City with Charlize Theron (before signing up for the aforementioned Deadpool 2 2), so Stahelski agreed to return to expand John Wick’s fantasy world alone. “Dave and I came up with the Wachowskis and Zack Snyder — very visual directors. We wanted something that took the assassin genre and made it colourful, vibrant. Sergio Leone was a big influence — him and Kurosawa. The ‘Man With No Name’ series was so cool, and we wanted to make that movie but with an assassin vibe. We wanted a way to make it chic.” Armed once again, Reeves has returned to the set’s reflective halls. The mirrored corridor opens into a shimmering atrium, where pools of water send ripples dancing across the walls. Inside it’s no surprise to find a well-armed squad of hired muscle lying in wait. As Reeves emerges, the bullets fly, the peerless killer double-tapping each in turn: one in the chest, one in the head. As he closes in on his quarry, Reeves rounds a corner and runs straight into Ruby Rose’s Ares, who lets loose with a barrage punches — each warranting careful consideration thanks to the punch dagger protruding from her fist. Reeves, unarmed, slips outside a swing and replies with a thunderous roundhouse kick that sends Rose flying. Stahelski yells, “Cut!” and the numerous corpses pick themselves up off the floor, shaking dust off their Italian suits. Reeves himself is barely out of breath. Watching him in action, we have absolutely no doubt Reeves could break us in half faster than we could blink — he could certainly navigate a fence in one continuous shot. If Reeves wasn’t tough as nails beforehand, becoming John Wick has turned him into a force of nature. As if reading our mind, Stahelski beckons over his stunt supervisor, J.J. Perry, who has been watching Reeves in action with a look of paternal pride. “We carpet-bombed him,” he explains. “We put him together with Navy SEALs, SWAT, Special Forces, even a guy from the Duvdevan, who are the elite Mossad commandos. We fed him a steady diet of murderers so he could keep getting better.” Perry hands us his iPhone. On it is playing video footage of Reeves at a gun range. Armed with an assault rifle, a pistol and a 12-gauge shotgun, the star storms through the course like a raging demon, obliterating two dozen targets as he ducks and dodges, switching between weapons as each one empties. Never stopping. Never missing. “Man, in this movie he’s gonna kill more people than the bubonic plague,” grins Perry. “If they were going to send somebody to kill James Bond, they’d send John Wick.”












february 2017





When you name your film A Monster Calls, you’d best deliver on the monster. And that’s exactly what director J.A. Bayona has done, creating one of the most memorable big-screen creatures of recent times: a 40-foot-tall talking tree that bludgeons its way into the world of a 12-year-old boy (Lewis MacDougall) at the most fragile moment of his young life. But Bayona didn’t pull it off alone. Here, he and his key collaborators, including a rather tall Northern Irish actor, tell us how they forged it from the roots up.

CREATING THE MONSTER The monster was always going to be a yew tree. That’s one thing novelist Patrick Ness knew when he started to write A Monster Calls in unusual and tragic circumstances. Siobhan Dowd, who had come up with the concept and sketched out the opening chapter, died from cancer on 21 August 2007, aged 47. Asked by Walker Press to take on the project, Ness had liberty to create his own story (in which young lad Conor struggles to cope as his mother battles cancer), but kept Dowd’s original idea for the monster. “All the things about the yew tree in the film are true,” says Ness, who also wrote the screenplay for the film adaptation. “It is used to find cancer drugs, they do live for a thousand years, they do plant them in cemeteries. It has this whole history that’s extraordinary.” Ness took pains to avoid describing the monster in any great detail in the book. “I was always very interested in keeping the monster ambiguous,” he explains. “I knew it would be illustrated, and I’m more of a words guy.” The decision to illustrate the book had been made by the time Ness came on board. The job went to Jim Kay, whose startling, jagged, often black-and-white designs complement Ness’



words by never fully showing the creature. Many of them show a huge, raw, elemental figure, clearly not to be trifled with, but he shied away from filling in the blanks. “The beast is far more frightening when you don’t see it,” he says. Kay was a struggling artist at the time: with no major achievements under his belt, he was suffering a crisis of confidence, not to mention a lack of funds that forced him to work in his freezing Edinburgh flat, wrapped in an electric blanket. He thinks both factors fed into the look of the monster. “I had no confidence in drawing it at all,” he explains. “So I didn’t draw it. It was done using ink that was blown, or anything that made a mark or a splatter. And I couldn’t draw detail — my hands were too cold!”

Here and right: Illustrations by Jim Kay for Patrick Ness’ novel A Monster Calls. Far right and below: Concept art created for the film by DDT SFX designer Daniel Carrasco. Bottom left and previous page: Further concept art by Headless.

DESIGNING SIGNING THE E MONSTER The scriptt for A Monster Calls, which Ness wrote on spec, bounced around Hollywood for a while. But its unusual combination of fantasy, harsh reality and an unflinching attitude towards death and grief found no takers. Then along came Bayona, yona, who had already tackled those subjects to various degrees in his previous two films, The Orphanage and The Impossible. When the director came on board, he knew he had a big challenge: to come up with a talking tree that felt fresh and real in a post-Treebeard, post-Groot world. “In the beginning, we did 200 drawings of different kinds of monsters,” he recalls. “And there was a moment when we realised everything had been done. So I went back to Jim Kay’s illustrations and realised it was not about originality; it was about how w powerful that image of this figure was. The tree is the shape of a man. Somehow there was as some poetry that was missing when we were trying to make the monster very spectacular.” Bayona yona worked with a group of concept artists ts to find the right look for the movie monster. Kay was one of them, brought back in to revisit and augment his creation. “I always had an idea of what his physical body looked like,” he explains. “You have an armature of branches, overlaid with moss and leaves. But some of the other concept art was way better than my stuff.” A lot came from Bayona himself. The son of a painter (“He was the one who taught me to draw”), Bayona is no slouch with a pencil. “I did a lot of sketches,” he admits. “For me, storyboarding is a way of rewriting the film. You’re starting to see the movie come alive.” Bayona drew upon a number of influences for the monster, including Goya painting The Colossus and the English legend of the Green Man (also an inspiration for Ness), but kept coming back to Kay’s elemental mess of twigs and branches. “It’s about simplicity. When you make it simple, then you’re not spoiling the imagination of the audience.” With the monster designed to his liking, now Bayona just had to find an actor capable  of filling some very big shoes...



J.A. Bayona consults Liam Neeson as the pair work on a scene at Audiomotion Studios in Wheatley, Oxfordshire, in September 2014.

BECOMING THE MONSTER “Liam Neeson is associated with the idea of wisdom,” laughs Bayona. “He is a Jedi.” When Bayona cast the star as the monster, he always intended it to be more than just a simple voiceover gig. Instead, he wanted Neeson to be the tree, and so the first two weeks of shooting on A Monster Calls took place on a mo-cap stage, with just two actors: Neeson and MacDougall. And only one of them was, in the words of Neeson, wearing a “skintight suit with little ping-pong balls stuck to various points on your body”. Bayona and Neeson admit to teething troubles during the process as they, mo-cap virgins both, eased their way into the process. The scene shot on the first day, for instance, was reshot on the last. Without physical sets, virtual models would be overlaid over the footage shot, and Neeson would sometimes find himself standing on things he shouldn’t



have been standing on. “For an actor, you can feel the freedom,” says Bayona. “But it was a 40-foot character, so we had to be careful. Every time you moved your hand you could destroy the set.” Once he got over the self-consciousness that even someone who’s been in Krull can feel wearing a mo-cap suit, Neeson became excited by the possiblities. “It was an ongoing process,” he says. “I trusted that I would be enough for this, and that the computer nerds would give me the digital make-up that was needed.” While mo-cap was completely new to him, he hadn’t pretended to be a tree for decades, not since drama school at least. “I had no real set idea other than my imagination,” he says. “They showed me a model of what they thought this monster, this yew tree, would look like, and that was a big help. It gave me an idea of how this force might walk and talk.”

ASSEMBLING THE MONSTER In the finished film, the monster is a CG creation. It had to be, otherwise Neeson would have spent two weeks in a leotard for nothing. But for Bayona, bringing the monster to life wasn’t just a case of enlisting those “computer nerds” and sitting back. An old-school director with a yen for practical effects, he had various elements of the monster built and present on set: a giant foot here, a humongous hand there, a massive wooden head. “I love the idea of handmade things,” explains the director. “When you see the hand grabbing Conor you can tell it’s a fake hand, but when it’s fake it feels more alive. It feels like it has soul. Sometimes CGI gets cold.” Félix Bergés, a long-time Bayona collaborator and the film’s visual effects supervisor, had the task of ensuring the CGI wasn’t too hot, nor too cold, but safely in the Goldilocks zone. “One of the things that is difficult is that the monster speaks a lot,” Bergés explains. “You need a lot of expression and you have to be very restrained. This is a very intimate movie.” The decision to shoot the mo-cap scenes at the beginning wasn’t just to benefit Neeson’s schedule. It helped Bergés and his team get to work on the CGI (as with all of Bayona’s movies to date, a lot of time was allowed for postproduction; a luxury he may ma not be afforded

Rough animations and speakers on set helped Lewis MacDougall to react.

on his next one, blockbuster sequel Jurassic World ld 2). 2 And it allowed them to put together rudimentary animations of the monster, which Bayona could overlay on his images live on set to capture the sense of scale. This, along with Neeson’s voice, which would routinely boom out of loudspeakers, gave MacDougall something to react to. “It’s important,” says Bergés. “It’s possible to use greenscreen and a stick with a light, but it’s good for the actor to see the monster.”


The evolution of a shot. Storyboard sketch by Ian

A Monster Calls is not a happy-clappy kids’ tale, one of those movies where the magic was inside you all along. The monster reflects that: it is gruff, hectoring, and sometimes downright terrifying. “It should be quite threatening,” says Neeson. “Very elemental and ancient and wise. And angry.” The finished creation contains elements of Jim Kay’s original sketches, unmistakable touches of Neeson in the creature’s mannerisms, and plenty that is pure Bayona, including the red veins that course through it. Visually impressive and rich in symbolism — “It represents the man Conor is becoming,” says Bayona — it’s a hugely impressive achievement, even more so for having multiple creators. “On the book I took the idea from another author and ended up doing it with an illustrator,” reflects Ness. “Novels are not usually collaborative, but it was seeing that someone else could bring something amazing, and the book could end up being more than any of us individually. That’s the movie a hundred times over.”






THE RULES OF engagement are clear: fight fur with fire. As this piece of exclusive concept art shows, adventure epic Kong: Skull Island will see everybody’s favourite big-screen (and just plain big) ape pitted against modern combat technology. Well, not quite modern. Rather than yanking the traditionally old-school tale into the present day, the blockbuster reboot is set in the early ’70s, at the tail end of the Vietnam war. That inferno you’re looking at might just be caused by the source of Colonel Kilgore’s favourite smell: napalm. “The script I first read took place in 1917,” says director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. “But when I started talking to the Legendary [Entertainment] guys, I was thinking, ‘What weird King Kong movie would I want to see?’ So I pitched them the Vietnam War connection. Literally thinking they were gonna laugh me out of the room. And to Legendary’s credit, they said, ‘Cool. Let’s figure it out.’ The aesthetics of that time mixed with King Kong makes for an incredible genre mash-up.” The beleagured band of visitors to Skull Island include pro tracker Conrad (Tom Hiddleston), war photographer Weaver (Brie Larson) and Randa (John Goodman), a bureaucrat working for Monarch, the shadowy organisation introduced in Legendary’s Godzilla. And then there’s Samuel L. Jackson’s Colonel Packard, jungle-hardened and trigger-happy. “He becomes hell-bent on killing Kong, because Kong kills some of his men, and he didn’t lose any men during the war,” explains producer Alex Garcia. “He’s like Captain Ahab in Moby Dick — he’s obsessed with bringing down this creature.” Determined to return to America with some kind of victory, Packard and his ’Namveteran loyalists have a state-of-the-art arsenal with which to topple Kong. (“Guns, grenadelaunchers, formidable weaponry,” promises Garcia.) On the other hand, never discount the devastating potential of a well-placed banana skin. NICK DE SEMLYEN




Vin Diesel returns as premier petrolhead Dom Toretto. Below: Team Fast & Furious hit Cuba.

THROUGH THE STREETS of Tokyo? Check. Off a bridge in Brazil? Check. From the top of one Dubai skyscraper to the top of another? Doublecheck. Could it be that after seven nitro-blasted movies, the Fast & Furious franchise is running out of places at which to throw fast cars? Hell no, says the director of the new one. “Our goal at the outset was to figure out, ‘How do we top 7?’” says F. Gary Gray. “The last Fast was amazing, in terms of the stunts, the action and the set-pieces. But we have a few surprises, you know. Cuba is one of them.” The start of Fast & Furious 8 sees Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) finally enjoying their long-delayed honeymoon. Having picked Havana as their destination, they are, of course, living their romantic break a quarter-mile at a time. “We open with a street race,” reveals Gray. “It’s all about going back to the basics, and where better to do it than in a place with hardcore American muscle cars from 60 years ago? Very quickly Dom is involved in an amazing chase through the city and off the beach and down the Malecón. We’ve made history there by bringing the first helicopter into Havana. The



locals crowded around the monitors to see their city from the air for the first time.” After celebrating with Cuban cigars (“Don’t tell my doctor, but I smoked one every day,” laughs Gray), Team Fast headed to their other locations, which include Iceland and, intriguingly, the not-famous-for-its-speedy-traffic New York. Is it safe to assume that Dom, the gang and their new nemesis, hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron), won’t be stopping at red lights? “Yeah, we didn’t

want the Lord Of The Rings version, with them going 35 miles an hour,” says the director. “Pulling off high-speed chases in the city of Manhattan — that’s a feat in itself. It’s pretty insane what we’ve been able to do. To shoot action in places like Times Square has always been somewhat impossible... but we’ve made it possible.” The City That Never Sleeps is about to become The City That Never Brakes. NICK DE SEMLYEN





We scour co-creator Mark Frost’s new book, The Secret History Of Twin Peaks, for clues of what to expect in the revival ILLUSTRATIoN JACEY

‘VOL. 1’ WAS Marvel Studios’ biggest gamble to date, zipping into space to hang with a gang of little-known characters. And, boy, was it a hit. Vol. 2 has all that success to trade on. And writer-director James Gunn feels confident. “I don’t wake up at three in the morning wondering if I’m making Pluto Nash 2 anymore,” he laughs. “Now we have characters that a lot of the world loves, there’s a certain amount of anxiety I don’t have this time around.” Gunn is reluctant to share specific plot details for his space-caper sequel, but does confirm that the relationship between Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) and his long-lost father (Kurt Russell) is central, while much of the movie’s conflict and comedy comes from exploring how this group of rejects learn to cohere as a unit. “They’re outsiders within a family,” Gunn says. A family, that is, with a baby Groot. Forget science-fiction. This is domestic drama with a difference... DAN JOLIN


Major Garland Briggs __ The Secret History is a dossier of clippings collected by ‘The Archivist’, ultimately revealed as Major Briggs (Bobby Briggs’ father). Briggs Sr was played by Don Davis, whose passing in 2008 means he won’t be returning to the show — unless he’s recast, which seems unlikely, if not out of the question. FBI Special Agent Tamara Preston __ The archives have notes by ‘TP’ — FBI agent Tamara Preston. Asked about the possibility of her making an appearance, Frost has said only, “You’ll find out.” Agent Cooper __ When we last left Agent Cooper, he had survived an encounter with a snarling Bob and his own double — leaving Coop smashing his head into a bathroom mirror and maniacally repeating “How’s Annie?” Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is back, but will he also be playing his doppelgänger? A phrase in The Secret History — “fear the double” — hints he might. Harry S. Truman __ Michael ontkean isn’t returning, and now we know why: his character, Sheriff Harry S. Truman, was killed two years after the events of the original series. Instead, actor Robert Forster — who was originally offered the role of Twin Peaks’ Sheriff, but was unable to accept due to a prior commitment — will appear as a character named Frank Truman, possibly Harry’s brother. Ufos __ Judging by the number of The Secret History’s pages devoted to UFos, we may learn more about a woodland spaceship encounter by Carl Rodd (Harry Dean Stanton) and budding Log Lady (Catherine Coulson) when they were little. How this connects to the Black Lodge, the Red Room, Bob or owls has yet to be explained. DAVID HUGHES

RAW IT’S THE ARTHOUSE, not Hollywood, that’s pushing the boundaries of horror. Centred on a vegan veterinary student who turns cannibal after a hazing ritual, French indie Raw has huge crossover potential. Unlikely as it sounds, it’s this year’s The Witch. “It’s weird, but the films have a lot in common,” says debut director Julia Ducournau. “They’re both about a girl struggling with sexual awakening while trying to escape her family.” Powered by a breakout turn from teenager Garance Marillier, Raw’s realistic, chewy effects have caused walk-outs and faintings on the festival circuit, but don’t believe the hard-gore hype: chances are you’ll be too taken by the characters to think about puking. “It’s a risky movie to digest because it doesn’t present a taboo like a circus freak,” adds Ducournau. “I just wanted people to love a cannibal.” With body-horror and metamorphosis as its core themes, it’s a unique, Cronenbergian experience. Be afraid. Be excited. But maybe skip the hotdogs. SIMON CROOK





as ROGUE ONE rolls out across the world, we are less than a year away from the next saga instalment, for the moment known only as Episode VIII. After filming in Skellig Michael (the island at the end of The Force Awakens), Pinewood, Dubrovnik, Croatia and County Cork, principal photography wrapped on 22 July 2016. Although deep in post-production — John Williams has already started recording the score — writer/director Rian Johnson took the time to answer Empire’s burning questions about the current state of play, the film’s influences and his cameo in Rogue One — did you spot him? How are things going on E Episode pisode VIII? Great! We’re in the thick of editing, really digging into it. It’s taking shape and I’m very excited. Name three non-Star Wars films you watched in preparation. Twelve O’Clock High was a big touchstone, for the feel and look of the aerial combat as well as the dynamic between the pilots. Three Outlaw Samurai for the feel of the sword-fighting, and the general sense of pulpy fun. And To Catch A Thief was a great film to rewatch, for the romantic scale and grandeur. What are your memories of the first day of shooting? Our first day of shooting was actually several months before principal photography began: we had three days on Skellig Michael island. So not only was it day one of Star Wars on this incredible natural location, but because the island was so inaccessible it was a very stripped-down, run-and-gun crew. Pretty much the perfect start to the whole adventure. What is the hardest thing about writing Star Wars dialogue? I found myself constantly wanting to push modern idioms into the dialogue, and sometimes that can work, but you have to be very careful. If


february 2017

you go too far you can break that Star Wars spell. The other challenge is the tech talk, which has to be simultaneously complex enough to sound real and conceptually simple enough to follow. The original films were brilliant at that. y you ou played Imperial Officer In firing Chamber in Rogue One. What was that experience like? It was so much fun. I was jealous of my producer Ram [Bergman] — he got to wear the full Daft Punk helmet. Also it was great because we knew we couldn’t get cut out of the movie! The ONE THING they absolutely have to do is fire the Death Star! What surprised you most about directing a Star Wars film? I guess the biggest surprise was the intimacy of the process. It’s huge, sure, and it’s filled with pressures great and small. But at the end of the day, it boils down to the same things as the smaller films we’ve made: telling a story we care about with a camera and some actors. And a Wookiee. IaN freer




THE MOST COMMON criticism of Ridley Scott’s 2012 Alien prequel Prometheus was that it wasn’t terrifying enough. Hardened fans expected more creeping dread with their space exploration and less philosophy. After all, while other directors had added action beats or conspiracy theories to the series, Scott’s original was a straight-up horror, a haunted house in space that chilled generations. The good news is that his Prometheus follow-up, Alien: Covenant, should keep everyone happy. “It’s going to be really scary, this film,” says Michael Fassbender, the only returning cast member. “It’s going to be scarier than Prometheus, definitely. More along that line of Alien.” The tonal blend of Scott’s two previous instalments reflects the film’s timeline, since this is both sequel to Prometheus and prequel to Alien.



Fassbender returns as android David, restored to function (no longer a severed head) and escaped from the Engineers’ planet with Elizabeth Shaw. David is now marooned on a new world, alone. A colony ship called Covenant hears the distress call and comes to investigate — bringing aboard David’s doppelgänger Walter (Fassbender again), a more advanced but less emotional synthetic lifeform. The two have very different views on life and humanity, setting up fresh Prometheus-style musings. “After Prometheus a lot of people said, ‘Well there’s a lot of philosophising,’” acknowledges Fassbender. “But Ridley has merged those questions and the thriller element together here really, really well.” The course shift causes Covenant’s crew to awaken early from hyper-sleep — among them


THOR: RAGNAROK WHERE THE FIRST two Thor movies pingponged the thunder-wrangler between Earth and Asgard, the latest one goes full cosmic. In the words of producer Brad Winderbaum, it’s an “intergalactic adventure” which has allowed Marvel “to try something new and send him off into space in a very linear plot”. Up until now, space has been the territory of the Guardians Of The Galaxy on screen, but in the Thor comics the hero often headed off to the stars. “And that’s where a lot of fun, trippy stuff that we’re bringing to the screen has come from,” says Winderbaum. For director Taika Waititi, recruited fresh from 2016 fave Hunt For The Wilderpeople, that

meant going “over the top — but not in a negative way”. So not only is Thor reunited with his Asgard-destabilising brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), but he also winds up on a wormholeridden trash-planet run by a combat-arenaowning Jeff Goldblum (as the Grandmaster), where he discovers the star gladiator is an old, green and very angry frenemy. Meanwhile, his latest nemesis is none other than Hela, queen of the underworld (above), played by Cate Blanchett, with huge, elaborate CG-antlers of darkness. All of that sounds like a lot to get to grips with. Will it be too much weirdness to handle? “It’s what it needs to be,” insists Waititi. “Especially to live up to a name like Ragnarok, you know? If we’re gonna do Ragnarok, we gotta do it properly. We just gotta throw it all in there.” DAN JOLIN


The calm before the alien hits the fan. Below: Ridley Scott directs his new Ripley — Katherine Waterston’s Daniels. Bottom: Michael Fassbender (as Walter) with crewmate Carmen Ejogo.

Katherine Waterston’s Daniels, set to be the Ripley figure. Waterston, however, tries to ignore that legacy. “These are the things you actively don’t think about until you get interviewed to remind you that you should be pissing yourself,” she laughs. At least she can channel that terror. “Unlike Sigourney in Alien, [Daniels] is in a survival mode of sorts from the beginning. She’s not the captain, but she’s a natural leader so in times of crisis she falls into that position quite easily.” And times of crisis will find Daniels, as the paradise the crew discovers has a sting in the tail and acid in the blood. “It’s cool to weave in some of the elements from the original Alien and have those beats in there,” says Fassbender. If all goes to plan, Scott’s new Alien movie could match its ancestor for chills as well as smarts. HELEN O’HARA

TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT “IT’S GOT ROBOT dementia,” says Michael Bay. That’s his medical diagnosis of a shapeshifting World War I tank we’ll see in Transformers: The W Last Knight, the franchise’s latest and, says Bay, biggest outing yet. The director has lots to say about upgrades, revamps and new characters, as The Last Knight sets the stage for the expanded mythology we’re going to get from here on (the next two films are already outlined). “This movie is much more of an adventure than the others,” he explains. “There’s a ton of legend stuff.”

He likes legend stuff. Age Of Extinction had terraforming alien ‘Seeds’ destroying the dinosaurs, and this one will feature Arthurian knights and, for good measure, Hitler. Bay, then, is fiddling with history again? “Absolutely,” he grins. “That’s the fun of it, right?” If this is Bay’s final stint at the Transformers helm, he’s going out with the mother of all bangs. “Listen, we’re literally the only movie in the world shooting in IMAX 3D,” he says when we ask about scope. “We’re shooting a lot of IMAX 3D. To do that is very expensive. It’s hard, it’s the first time an IMAX 265 camera’s ever been in 3D. But that’s what it takes to get great eat 3D. All the other 3D’s bullshit. It is, it’s just bullshit. I really want people to see this in 3D, especially in IMAX!” In conclusion: this is going to be big. ALEX GODFREY




Alexander Skarsgård’s Leo seeks his missing girlfriend in a future Berlin. Below: Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux are the crooks he’s up against.

IN A PARALLEL dimension, Mute would have been Duncan Jones’ debut feature, but in the real world, because of a confluence of happy accidents — including a writers’ strike that freed up the soundstages of Shepperton Studios — that honour went to cerebral thriller Moon. Jones followed up with the futuristic Source Code and, after detouring into fantasy with Warcraft, he is now returning to sci-fi and his long-gestating passion project, a tale set in a neon-soaked Berlin 30 years from now. Ironically, though, Mute (which is coming directly to Netflix) was supposed to play out in the modern day, telling the neo-noir story of Leo, a mute American ex-pat looking for his missing girlfriend in the city’s seedy underworld. But after a lot of “tinkering”, Jones’ story found its mojo, growing to incorporate such hot-button topics as the corporatisation of everyday life and, in a contrast heightened by having Leo come from an Amish family, the tyranny of new tech. Says Jones, “What I found really interesting about moving it into the future is that when you live in a society that’s become so reliant on technology, how do you function if you’re technophobic?”



Despite its shimmering, state-of-the-art surface, Mute is firmly rooted in the past, notably a slew of very different films made between 1967 and 1982 that are represented by the film’s sleazy, mysterious villains, played by Paul Rudd and Justin Theroux. “It’s a thriller with a very weird tone,” says Jones. “I’ve said in the past that it’s my homage to Blade Runner but, in a way, the references to that are more superficial than the references to things like Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H, Paul Schrader’s Hardcore and Don Siegel’s Point Blank.” Alexander Skarsgård, who plays Leo, namechecks two further influences. “I didn’t know Duncan at all — I was just a fan — and then he sent me the script,” he says. “I thought it was such a different story. It’s a sci-fi but with these very dark film-noir elements to it. It definitely has that Maltese Falcon, Casablanca film-noir vibe. Tonally, it’s like the movies from the ’40s, although we’re not trying to tap into a specific movie.” Well, that’s not strictly true. Fans of Moon will be thrilled to see elements of that story recurring — a sly tip of the fedora to the film that started it all. DAMON WISE





As the fantasy show heads into its final chapter — the two-part Season 7 — three Hollywood stars tell us how they’re feeling

MEET DAN MAKTA A — he’s kind of a big deal. An ambassador usually found at council meetings on Alpha Station, aka the City Of A Thousand Planets, he belongs to just one of roughly 2,000 species of alien you’ll meet in Luc Besson’s sci-fi epic. “Most of the time when you see aliens in a film, they’re trying to destroy things,” says the director. “But Alpha is the city of science and culture: everybody is exchanging knowledge. It’s a very rich world.” As cops Valerian (Dane DeHaan) and Laureline (Cara Delevingne) chase a case across the planet-sized space station, they’ll encounter all manner of beings. Many are peaceful, like the information-trading Doghan Daguis and oceanic Poulong farmers. Some are not. “The K-Trons are the mercenary robots on Alpha,” grins Besson. “If the light on their head is blue, you’re fine. If it’s red, they shoot.” Sounds like a job for Dan Makta, xeno-diplomat. NICK DE SEMLYEN



SAMUEL L. JACKSON _ “I don’t have any real predictions — I like to be surprised. I read all the books and I’m still kinda pissed that homeboy hasn’t written the last two. I actually only started to read them because I wanted to see Joffrey dead so bad — I had to know that motherfucker died. And then I just kept on reading. I just want the show to be as exciting and intriguing as it always has been. But I do think it would be too easy for it to end up being Jon Snow or Daenerys on the throne. It’s going to be more interesting than that.”

OCTAVIA SPENCER _ “Game Of Thrones is my decompressing time. I want to be alone and I don’t want any noise. If there’s any yelling and screaming at the TV, it’s me: “OH MY GOD! WHY ArE YOU DOInG THAT?!” I’m totally that person. I think Daenerys and Jon are going to turn out to be sister and brother. And I think they’re going to team up to defeat Cersai and take the Iron Throne. They couldn’t do it without Tyrion — he’s the strategy dude. And the dragons are a key element. They’re going to help defeat the armies.” DAISY RIDLEY _ “My opinion on the next season? There will be sex and killing and many breasts. I’m friends with Gwen [Christie] and I text her all the time. She’s probably like, ‘Oh my God, can she stop texting me?’ Here’s what I think will happen. The one-eyed raven or the three-eyed raven, he will be around. Khaleesi will have some dragons. And Gwen will kill some people.” NICK DE SEMLYEN

COCO “I WAS WITH my family at the Mexican Pavilion at Disney World promoting Toy Story 3,” remembers director Lee Unkrich, “and it reminded me I’ve had this long-standing interest in Día De los Muertos. I pitched an idea to John Lasseter and within weeks I was on a plane down to Mexico on a research trip.” Yes, Coco sees Pixar tackle the most famous Mexican holiday: the Day Of The Dead. “It’s colourful and celebratory,” Unkrich says of the film. “It’s a very music-filled movie, although not a break-out-into-song Disney-style musical.” The story sees 12-year-old Mexican villager Miguel (Anthony Gonzalez) stumbling into the Land Of The Dead. There he tries to track down his idol, a long-dead singer called Ernesto de la Cruz (Benjamin Bratt). But while death is a key theme, Unkrich promises hearts broken by the death of Ellie in Up or Bing Bong’s demise in Inside Out won’t be traumatised afresh. “The film is not about death,” he says. “It’s about family, and how those who came before us shaped who we are.” Genealogy, the Pixar way. PHIL DE SEMLYEN




WHILE THEY WERE shooting Logan, the third solo Wolverine film — following X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) and The Wolverine (2013) — the cast had a group outing to see X-Men: Apocalypse. There, Stephen Merchant got his first look at his character, Caliban, on the big screen — but played by another actor, Tómas Lemarquis. “I don’t know how that will upset or offend the die-hard fans who might be frustrated it’s not the same person,” muses Merchant. “He’s more villainous in Apocalypse. He has a German accent there, I think, so whether I’ll end up dubbed into a German accent, I will have to see.” Since Logan is set some 40 years after the events of Apocalypse, perhaps the character has just evolved. But there’s no question that



Merchant’s Caliban is a very different figure. While an ageing Logan (Hugh Jackman) attempts to carve out a living as a limo driver, Caliban is the one who stays in a desolate location, catering to the needs of an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and hiding away from a hostile world where not a single new mutant has been born for a quarter-century. “Logan and I snipe and growl at one another quite a lot,” says Merchant, “and I felt it was quite important to show we do sort of care about one another, too. So there’s this idea that I’m cooking and there’s a discussion about what I should be cooking, and I think I’m ironing clothes in another scene, so I’m essentially the housemaid. I’m Wolverine’s housemaid.” And that’s certainly not a job description we ever

expected to be filled. The disparity in Caliban’s characterisation may indeed irritate the more pedantic wing of X-fandom, but it reflects the determination of all involved in Logan to do what felt right for this particular film, without paying too much attention to the series’ increasingly tangled timeline. By setting the film later than even the ‘Happy Mansion’ coda to Days Of Future Past, director James Mangold and star/producer Jackman have given themselves space to tell a very different Wolverine story. “Jim very much wanted to carve out his own version of things,” is how Merchant puts it. “What intrigued me about this is that it feels like a different flavour. I kept on wondering if James was going to ask me to do some comedy of


THE DARK TOWER FOR YEARS, STEPHEN King hasn’t been able to write a grocery it ocery list without Hollywood snaffling snaf up and turning it into a film. Yet The Dark Tower, an eight-volume epic that spans the author’s career, remained stubbornly out of reach, thought too intricate, too ambitious to adapt. Until, as they say, now. For here comes The Dark Tower, with Danish director Nikolaj Arcel at the helm. Inspired by, but not slavish to, the first instalment of the series, The Gunslinger, it follows Jake Chambers (Tom Taylor), a New York teen drawn into Mid-World, a dark version of our Earth. Once there, Jake finds himself amid a conflict between gunslinger Roland Deschain (Idris Elba) and


Stephen Merchant goes full cueball as mutant loner Caliban.

some description, but it was never something he encouraged and I was more than happy to not go down that road. We kept Caliban feeling like a world-weary character whose life seems to have been one tough slog.” Merchant’s biggest challenge, as it turned out, was the character’s baldness. “It was terrible!” he sighs. “I thought there was going to be mollycoddling and some nice ladies would give me a cup of tea and talk me through it like I was having a boob job. Instead it was just two men with some razor-clippers. They sat me there on an old, hard wooden chair and just clipped my hair off. It was all pretty shocking, to be honest. Making this movie has been just an endless string of new experiences for me.” Old Wolverine, new tricks. HELEN O’HARA

Matthew McConaughey’s Man In Black. The driving force behind their enmity: the eponymous edifice that sits at the heart of all existence. The Dark Tower ower promises to be many things — fantasy, Western, horror — but Elba has a comparison that, these days in particular, is specifically commercial. “For me, he’s a superhero,” he says of Roland. “Superheroes need to have character. That was really important to me in Roland. He’s a man of few words and few emotions.” There’s no doubt Roland has superheroic qualities (he never misses with his sandalwood six shooters, and looks awesome in a long cloak). And if the film connects, and leads to sequels and mooted interstitial TV series, Roland could soon be giving Tony Stark, Bruce Wayne et al a run for their money. CHRIS HEWITT

IT HOW DO YOU go about reinventing one of the W een monsters of all time? Well, most iconic screen if you’re Andrés Muschietti — the Argentine director of 2013’s breakout hit Mama and the man charged with rebooting Stephen King’s It — you start by admitting said monster never really freaked you out in the first place. “I understand Tim Curry’s Pennywise is a cult horror moment,” says Muschietti, “but I was never scared by him. I think he’s great — he scared the shit out of a generation — but I was older when I saw the [1990] TV series. For me, to make something scary you have to look inside yourself. I wanted Pennywise to be child-like. For me, this is a monster created by the imagination of children. That’s why it must keep killing; it will cease to exist if children stop believing in it.” The tale of an inter-dimensional evil with a penchant for fright wigs, It has been split into two movies, the first of which will concentrate on the group of kids who uncover the sinister presence of the monster (Bill Skarsgård) lurking in their town. Muschietti’s end-game is simple: to traumatise a whole new generation. And his methods couldn’t be more timely, thanks to the bizarre recent spate of creepy-clown sightings across the globe. “After all the monster-clown iterations through the years, you’d imagine people would be fed up with them,” the director grins. “But they’re still really eally frightened. Honestly, there were people on my crew who regretted taking the job...” TOM ELLEN





subconscious. The Dark Knight Rises presented an entire city under siege. And Interstellar pushed the very laws of physics to their extreme. Where next for the ever-ambitious Christopher Nolan? The most colossal conflict in human history, that’s where. “Filmmakers always look for gaps in cinema,” Nolan tells Empire. “And Dunkirk is one of the greatest stories in human history, untold in modern cinema.” Joe Wright’s Atonement tackled the epic evacuation of 330,000 Allied soldiers between 26 May and 4 June 1940 after the Battle Of France was lost, but no movie has made Operation Dynamo its focus since Leslie Norman’s Dunkirk in 1958. That film had used Trevor Dudley-Smith’s



novel The Big Pick-Up as its chief inspiration, focusing equally on the retreating soldiers and the plucky boat-owning civilians who mucked in to help. But Nolan says he found his in “the many first-hand accounts of people who went through this unique experience”. Which meant gathering quite an ensemble to struggle in the sand. Joining such fresh faces as Fionn Whitehead, Will Attenborough (grandson of Richard, who appeared in the ’58 Dunkirk), Dunkirk Barry Keoghan and Harry Styles (yes, that one) are Nolan regulars Cillian Murphy and Tom Hardy, plus a few impressive veterans — namely Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance. “Chris is the most serious and interesting filmmaker,” says Rylance, whose exact role has

yet to be revealed. “This is his war film; every great filmmaker, at some moment, makes one. He’s made a powerful, simple and pure war film. About a retreat, a loss. A miraculous loss.” Nolan is maintaining his reputation for keeping things as practical as possible. “Because there’s no CGI, everything has to be created in front of the IMAX camera,” reports Rylance. “It was


THE MUMMY IF ALEX KURTZMAN, director of The Mummy, is feeling the pressure of kickstarting a cinematic universe populated by Universal’s classic monsters, he is wearing it very lightly, like an unravelling bandage. “It’s so much fun to be able to make a real monster movie at this level,” he says. “Let’s travel all around the world, film in the most exotic locations and do crazy things like literally shoot a sequence in zero gravity. How can you have more fun than that?” The plot follows traditional Mummy lines, as Tom Cruise’s Nick Morton unearths — and unleashes — a long-buried malevolent force. Yet

there are tweaks to keep things fresh. As opposed to the ’20s-set Brendan Fraser romps, this Mummy is rooted in the here and now. “All of our modern technology is useless against ancient evil,” Kurtzman says. “To me, the beauty is this collision between magic and science.” But perhaps the biggest shake-up is the decision to make the Mummy female — Kingsman’s Sofia Boutella. “Turning the character into a woman, this whole world of story possibilities opened up. It felt like a reason to make the movie.” Also along for the ride is Russell Crowe as Dr Henry Jekyll, who may provide clues as to where this series is going. For now, though, the focus is on the present. “You have to make great individual films,” says Kurtzman, “and the rest will follow.” One shuffling monster at a time. IAN FREER

Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema and director Christopher Nolan on location. Left:


Tom Tom Hardy as Farrier.

fascinating to watch.” The production shot on location in Dunkirk, using elaborate cut-out props of military vehicles to populate backgrounds, reconditioning French Navy destroyer the MailléBrézé and crashing an antique aircraft for real. “I wanted to use my large-format camera to immerse the audience in this incredible journey,” says Nolan. “The movie puts the audience into the boots of someone there on the beach, into the cockpit of a spitfire pilot, onto the deck of a civilian yacht entering hell.” As Rylance puts it, “It lands running. It’s just BANG! Straight into the middle of a desperate situation.” Nolan confirms that it’ll be a visceral experience. “It’s an IMAX odyssey,” he says. “Virtual reality without goggles.” DAN JOLIN

THE SNOWMAN A NEW GARMENT is about to join Columbo’s mac, Dick Tracy’s yellow trench and Bergerac’s leather jacket in the pantheon of screen-detective accoutrements. The green parka worn by Michael Fassbender’s driven Oslo ’tec Harry Hole in The Snowman may soon be just as recognisable, the kind of statement made by a man too busy solving murders to fret about fashion. “An iconic outfit is important for these things,” says Fassbender. “Will it become ubiquitous? I hope so. I have different jumpers, but they’re the only things that’ll change.” The creation of Norwegian crime writer Jo Nesbø, Harry Hole has starred in ten different novels, with another on the way. Number seven,

2007’s The Snowman, is the first to get a movie adaptation, bringing the offbeat gumshoe (his favourite band: Slipknot) to a whole new audience. “A lot of times when you have these characters, they’re almost bulletproof,” Fassbender continues, “but Harry seems like a real human being. He’s got a lot of flaws.” On the trail of Norway’s first serial killer and confronted at each crime scene by a macabre snowman, Hole has his work cut out. So, too, did Fassbender in realising the character, right down to the contents of his jacket pockets. “He’s written so well in the books,” he says of Nesbø’s punchy prose. “He loves his job and he hates it.” And in those pockets? Ciggies, lighter, police badge, sweets and a black notebook. “They’re big pockets,” laughs the star. PHIL DE SEMLYEN




THE MUDDY BATT BA LEFIELDS of World War I are no place for a superhero. They offer no hissably evil Nazis to stand against, no truth and justice to defend: just a relentless, morally murky struggle for survival. Yet those khaki plains are the setting for the first solo outing of Gal Gadot’s Wonder Woman, aka Diana Prince, as director Patty Jenkins takes the iconic heroine from the sheltered, all-female island of Themyscira into the mud and blood of Flanders. “My approach was to focus on telling the story of mechanised war and how that would look to a god visiting our world for the first time,” explains Jenkins, “[I wanted the audience] to understand the horrors that a war of this scale makes possible, and how shocking that would be to someone who comes with a strong sense



of honour and justice. She doesn’t realise yet just how senselessly dark the world can be.” If you’re going to give a reality check to a young woman who has spent her life dreaming of becoming a warrior, they don’t come much more thorough than the War To End All Wars. After her fully formed appearance in Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, in which she briefly joined forces with Bruce Wayne and Kal-El, this is very much a Wonder Woman origin story. It will give Gadot a chance to demonstrate why she’s the perfect person to play a Prince among men. “She is everything Diana is,” enthuses Jenkins. “Good, kind, strong, admirable, funny, fun, beautiful and innocent, yet wise. She emanates the message of this movie because it comes so naturally to her.”

Wonder Woman will be aided by Chris Pine’s Allied soldier Steve Trevor, whose plane crashes in Themyscira as he tries to deliver vital information to Allied command. Their mission: to save lives and stop a madman intent on magnifying the slaughter. It’s not — like it might be for Captain America or even Superman — about defeating the Central Powers, but about protecting as many lives as possible. Still, the scale of the carnage comes as a blow to the idealistic newcomer. “She’s vulnerable because of how deeply she cares,” says Jenkins. “What motivates her is philosophical. She isn’t just taking out bad guys or fighting crime. She believes in goodness and love. [She] is fierce and willing to fight, but only to protect a better vision for mankind. Hers is really a coming-of-age


SPIDER-MAN: HOMECOMING SO YOU’RE MAKING the sixth Spider-Man movie in 14 years. Not only that, you’re restarting with the third actor to slip their limber limbs into the red-and-blue skintights. How do you freshen up the most cinematically familiar Marvel character and serve the audience something new? The answer, it seems, is to do a Rodney Dangerfield and… go back to school! Though our hero again faces a scientifically enhanced threat, in the form of Michael Keaton’s winged menace The Vulture, Homecoming is as much high-school movie as superhero adventure,

harking back to the earliest Spider-Man comics in which Peter Parker’s school life was central to storylines with a distinct teen-soap flavour. It’s a point of difference emphasised by the fact Spider-Man is now, finally, sharing a universe with other Marvel heroes. “All the other [SpiderMan] movies existed with him in this superhero vacuum,” says director Jon Watts. “So it opens up a completely new world of possibilities when you place him in a world where the Avengers exist, and where you’re able to have him be what he was originally in the comics — the kid.” That is certainly what appealed to 20-yearold Tom Holland, the youngest actor to take on the role. “This movie is like every kid’s dream,” he beams. “To see a kid do what you would do if you were given these crazy powers...” DAN JOLIN


The wondrous Gal Gadot takes Diana Prince on a solo spin.

story.” Even as she learns about humanity’s capacity for evil, it’s a fair bet that her presence on the battlefield — all red and gold and ferocious — will inspire the better angels of our natures. Luckily, her powers give her the ability to survive the ordeal and make a difference even in this morass. “She is incredibly strong, fast and one of the best trained and skilled fighters in the superhero universe,” Jenkins posits. “She also has some classic tools at her command, which we finally get to experience in their full and modern glory. Turns out a lasso is a lot more fearsome than one might have imagined.” In this clash between a woman with a bit of rope and entire armies equipped with mortars and mustard gas, our money’s on the one with the tiara. HELEN O’HARA

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: SALAZAR’S REVENGE WHILE THERE’S NO questioning the continued popularity of the Pirates franchise — 2011’s On Stranger Tides made over $1 billion — it’s not been the same since the early, funny one. Good news! Jerry Bruckheimer says Salazar’s Revenge recaptures the spirit of Curse Of The Black Pearl. “We previewed the picture recently,” says the producer. “A lot of the audience says it harkens back to the first.” And that’s not purely down to tone. This is a reunion. As well as Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow and Geoffrey Rush as Barbossa, who have appeared in every movie, Pirates 5 will

bring back Orlando Bloom as Will Turner, last seen doomed to a life as captain of the cursed ship the Flying Dutchman. “Will’s son [Brenton Thwaites] has been hunting for him for years,” says Bruckheimer. “That’s the backbone of the story, the search for his father.” Getting in the way of that quest will be Javier Bardem’s villain, Captain Salazar, who has some murky history with Jack. “You’re not quite sure if he’s dead or not,” laughs Bruckheimer. “He’s a little supernatural. He’s on a real mission of vengeance for something Jack did to him when he was 18. He’s a pretty nasty character.” With an Oscar-winning villain and the biggest battles yet (Bruckheimer promises 13 ships facing off), this could be the Pirates to sail the franchise back onto the fun course it set 14 years ago. OLLY RICHARDS




IN THE 1970s, the Planet Of The Apes films got smaller and smaller, attempts to maximise profits leading to diminishing creative returns. Four decades on, the opposite is true for the revived franchise, where the key word might be “escalation”. Origin story Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes was almost a domestic story, leading to intellectually awakened apes assaulting the Golden Gate Bridge. Sequel Dawn upped the action and had its share of big battles. But writer/director Matt Reeves’ latest instalment in the adventures of chief chimp Caesar (Andy Serkis) is an all-out War For The Planet Of The Apes. “We looked at the original movie, of course,” says Reeves, “but this time we also took inspiration from films like Paths Of Gloryy and The Bridge On The River Kwai.”



The movie picks up two years on from Dawn, with apes and humans still at loggerheads. Following the destruction of their habitat at the end of the previous film, Caesar has led his tribe back into the woods, and become an almost mythical figure to the human military forces on his trail, led by Woody Harrelson’s Colonel (see right) and his elite unit, the Alpha-Omega (a nod to the bomb cult from 1970’s Beneath The Planet Of The Apes). Saddled with a war he didn’t want thanks to the actions of Koba, Caesar is in an anguished state, the peace he desires seemingly unattainable. “He’s at rock bottom,” says Serkis, “and it’s been interesting playing a side of him that’s full of rage, but buttoned-down because he’s on a mission. He’s usually a peace-broker who considers everything

carefully, but this time something tips him over the edge. There’s an event early on that sends him off on a revenge journey.” Hellbent on completing his quest, he only grudgingly allows Maurice (Karin Konoval), Rocket (Terry Notary) and Luca (Michael Adamthwaite) to accompany him. After two largely static films, the series’ scope is set to become broader, the apes’ journey taking in lush forests, beaches, abandoned hotels, military compounds, caves and ultimately a mountain range — where Serkis says the technology is “snow-cap” as opposed to mo-cap. Between Rise and Dawn there were considerable developments in motion-capture technology, resulting in much excitement about wet fur. This time the leap has been more incremental, but there


Meet the Colonel, every simian’s worst nightmare

Relations between humans and apes are showing no signs of getting any easier. Well, it’s not called ‘Polite Wager For The Planet Of The Apes’.

will be frosty pelts, not to mention many complex environments for the VFX techicians to negotiate. As Caesar and his cohorts trek on, there’s a mystery to be solved involving the Colonel’s enigmatic background, and the impromptu adoption of an orphaned human child (Amiah Miller). Then there’s the revelation that ape intelligence has spread beyond Caesar’s immediate community: Caesar encounters a new ape (Steve Zahn), who escaped from a circus years back and has been evolving alone. “A French journalist asked me a couple of years ago if French apes are smart too,” smiles producer Dylan Clark. “I thought that was a great question, and here we get the answer: there are definitely other smart apes out there.” As well as boasting spectacular set-pieces,

this promises to be the most emotional instalment yet. Serkis enthuses about Caesar’s “really rich arc” in the film, as he comes to realise the futility of the path he’s taken. Reeves says there are also Western elements, particularly evoking Clint Eastwood’s gritty ’70s classic The Outlaw Josey Wales. “You’re getting all these incredible actors to play these apes and relating to them as real characters,” the director enthuses. “We never lose sight of what’s going on at an intimate level.” As is traditional for the Apes series since its beginnings in Pierre Boulle’s novel, War For The Planet Of The Apes provides ample opportunity for metaphors relating to our own world. The spectacle continues to serve the central gloomy question: why can’t we all just get along? OWEN WILLIAMS

THE GREATEST THREAT to Caesar and his troops in War For The Planet Of The Apes is the apparently unnamed Colonel, as played by Woody Harrelson. Writer/director Matt Reeves says “villain” is a misnomer, but we’re definitely allowed to call him the film’s antagonist. “He’s driven by extreme circumstances. That’s why he’s extreme. There’s no way the humans will survive if they don’t win — as we know from the ’68 film. His arguments for doing what he’s doing have tremendous weight.” Already a fan of the series, Harrelson was, says Reeves, intensely invested in the character and eager to face off against Andy Serkis’ fiercely driven Caesar. “The way he and Caesar kind of orbit each other is extraordinary,” Serkis tells Empire. “And the way the scenes evolve and the way they perceive each other and reflect each other is fascinating. I’ve got a couple of fantastic scenes with Woody: quite centrepiece scenes; amazing scenes for him.” The Colonel has a dark and enigmatic backstory, one that isn’t yet being revealed. What we do know is he’s a Special Forces commando, and the leader of an elite military splinter unit called the Alpha-Omega, dedicated to wiping out the ape threat and taking back the planet for humanity. Reeves reveals that the Colonel is almost a legendary figure among his own men: “More than human, somehow; almost god-like to them.” In other words, Colonel Kurtz if he really hated chimps. OWEN WILLIAMS




SPACED FEATURED TURED A character called Tyres. Hot Fuzz saw Simon Pegg pursue Timothy Dalton in a police cruiser. So perhaps it was inevitable that sooner or later Edgar Wright would make a full-on car movie. Baby Driver is that car movie, and it will be full-on. “The chase in Hot Fuzz was pretty small, and there’s a tiny bit of car stuff in The World’ss End as well,” reflects the director. “But this is something else.” The tale of hearing-impaired getaway driver Baby (Ansel Elgort), who gets caught up in a series of high-stakes heists, Baby Driver is the first film written solo by Wright. Expect something grittier than your average Cornetto. “I saw that it’s listed on Box Office Mojo as an action-comedy,” says Wright. “And I was thinking, ‘That’s not



entirely right.’ Obviously it has bits of humour and stylistic flourishes, but it’s closer to a crime film. If it was released ten years ago, it would be in the ‘Action-Thriller’ section in Blockbuster.” As prep-work, Wright consulted a veteran of 23 bank robberies, learning about state-ofthe-art tech such as “privacy goggles”, which blur your face on CCTV. Then, script complete, he assembled a crackerjack cast. Kevin Spacey plays crime boss Doc. Lily James is Baby’s waitress girlfriend, Deborah. And Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Jon Bernthal are assorted lowlifes with whom the young wheelman finds himself sharing car-space. Many of the actors performed their own stunts. “There are a few shots where Jon and


BLADE RUNNER 2049 “I’M HAVING THE time of my life on this, but it is insane for sure,” admits director Denis (Arrival Arrival), Villeneuve (Arrival ), well aware of what it is to follow in Sir Ridley Scott’s Spinner trail. “Because it is so insane, it gives you freedom. A lot of people on this [film] are children of Blade Runner, raised with the imagination and energy of the original, and have been inspired by those images all our lives.” While the new film is based on an idea by Scott and original screenwriter Hampton Fancher, Villeneuve must make his own Blade Runner. The specifics of which are, for now, as hard to pin down as glittering C-Beams.

Bats (Jamie Foxx),

We do know Michael Green’s script returns Harrison Ford’s unverified skin-job Rick Deckard to a still-inclement Los Angeles (weather forecast: acid snow). Ryan Gosling joins Ford, presumably as another Blade Runner (if Replicants still need retiring in 2049), while Jared Leto, Robin Wright and Dave Bautista also play roles. Despite synth-god Vangelis being replaced as composer by Villeneuve regular Jóhann Jóhannsson, the director reassures fans that his sequel comes fully retrofitted. “There are a lot of digital effects,” he says, “but we are trying our best to do it in the spirit of the original.” We haven’t run a Voight-Kampff test on him, but we’re willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. IAN NATHAN

2017’s other movie and TV big-hitters

J.D. (Lanny Joon) and Baby (Ansel Elgort) poised for action. Left: Baby charms Deborah (Lily James). Bottom left: Baby, Bats, Darling (Eiza Gonzalez) and Buddy (Jon Hamm), up to no good.

Ansel have done their own driving,” Wright reveals. “There are some things the insurance company wouldn’t let them do, but there have been chases and shoot-outs which the cast have been right in the thick of. It was surreal to watch Jon and Jamie and [legendary 76-year-old songwriter] Paul Williams in a gunfight.” As ever with Wright’s oeuvre, tunes play a major part too. The movie will be powered by Baby’s playlists, which he listens to as he drives. “The big thing for me when I cast Ansel was the fact he’s so into music,” the director says. “He can play piano and sing and dance.” Just as well Blockbuster isn’t around anymore, because ‘Action-Thriller-Romance-Crime-Comedy-Musical’ is a lot to fit on one sign. NICK DE SEMLYEN

KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE (29 SEP) will see the sharp-suited secret agents battling Julianne Moore’s American not-so-sweetheart... David Ayer’s BRIGHT (TBC) pairs Will Smith’s human cop with Joel Edgerton’s orc cop for a fantasy-tinged crime case… Netflix will boldly go where no streaming service has gone before, with new series STAR TREK: DISCOVERY (TBC)… Dan Stevens goes furry for Disney’s lavish live-action BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (17 MAR)... And then goes mutant for X-Men TV spin-off LEGION (8 FEB), as Professor X’s son… JUSTICE LEAGUE (17 NOV) teams all the major DC heroes, plus Cyborg… PADDINGTON 2 (10 NOV) pits the marmalade-mainlining bear

against a dapper thief, played by Hugh Grant… STRANGER THINGS (TBC) is about to become Strangerer Things, as the small-screen smash adds Sean Astin and Paul Reiser… THE LEGO BATMAN MOVIE (10 FEB) reassembles Will Arnett’s Caped Crusader for a solo adventure... After five years, Lena Dunham’s GIRLS (TBC) is wrapping up. But will its characters finally grow up?... Guns, guns, guns — expect tanned biceps (and other body parts) galore in BAYWATCH (12 MAY)… More guns, of the pointy-shooty type, in Ben Wheatley’s FREE FIRE (31 MAR)… Doug Liman’s AMERICAN MADE (25 AUG) will see Tom Cruise go rogue for his nation, as a CIA-backed drug smuggler.



I n ou r s e con d dI r e cto r - on - dI r e cto r b e hI n d c u lt 1 9 7 8 ca r - c h a s e t h rI l l e r 100

february 2017

words chris hewitt portraits steve schofield

IntervIew, the man behInd thIs summer’s BaBy Driver talks to the man T h e D r i v e r . e dg a r w rI g h t a n d wa lt e r hI l l , sta rt you r e n gI n e s february 2017



Walter Hill’s second film, The Driver, as a teenager, late at night on the BBC, quite possibly sitting too close to the telly. Given that this 1978 slice of neo-noir takes place almost entirely in it’ the dark streets of a deserted downtown LA, A, it’s really a perfect midnight movie. I discovered it through having enjoyed Walter’s later successes, 48 Hrs. and The Warriors, and because of a short Leonard Maltin review that stated it had ‘great car chases’. That was more than enough to convince me to stay up and watch it on a school night. But 91 minutes later I was totally spellbound by this diamond-tight, minimalist masterclass, which stars Ryan O’Neal as a getaway R driver (known only as The Driver) and Bruce Dern as the cop (known as The Detective) out to get him. Its influence on video games is very clear and in movies its style has echoed throughout the work of Michael Mann, James Cameron, Quentin Tarantino, Nicolas Refn and now me with my new film (ahem), Baby Driver. Yet it wasn’t until 2011, when I asked Walter Hill to do a Q&A A with me at the New Beverly Cinema in LA, A,, that I realised I had to con convince its own director of its significant legacy. When I told Walter I was showing it, he replied, ‘I’m not sure anyone will show up.’ He was wrong and was finally rewarded with his first full house for the action classic. Six ix years later later, at the invitation of Empire, I headed to a key location from the movie, the Westin Bonaventure, to continue reminding the legendary writer/director what a hard-boiled gem it is.”

Wright: Frank Marshall [who was associate producer on The Driver] er] sends his love. He also sends this photo [the Mercedes door signed by members of the cast and crew (on page 105)]. I was amazed that he had this. I can’t believe you don’t havee this in your house. “A “ sk W Walter if he remembers this...” Hill: [laughs] laughs laughs] That’s from one of our big scenes, the ‘Exhibition’ [where The Driver proves his mettle to a gang by screeching around a parking garage at high speed]. That’s the Mercedes door. That scene always got a reaction. Wright: The Driver er wasn’t commercially successful at the time, but when I was a teenager I had no knowledge of that. A At no point until talking to you was I even aware it was a flop. Hill: The movie actually got a very good reception in Europe, critically. I don’t think you can say the movie did commercially well anywhere, except Japan, where I believe it did reasonable business. It did not find an audience. Wright: To me, especially for your second movie, it’s incredibly confident in terms of state-of-theart action. Unlike a lot of contemporary action films, it’s geographically correct and spatially aware. Were you proud of it at the time? Hill: There’s no simple answer to that. You’re a filmmaker. You start out with a big vision, a big appetite, a dream. A At the end of the day they all fall short of the dream, in my opinion. But I certainly thought I’d done a good, professional



Clockwise from here: Walter Hill (right) with Frank Marshall on set; Ryan O’Neal makes standing next to a car with a gun look cool; Hill chatting with Edgar Wright.

job in the straightforward sense. I knew when I was getting ready to do the movie that I was taking a chance. This was not meant to be an everyday action movie. I was trying to do something a little more, or a little less, but I was trying to do something else. When the movie came out, I was already making another movie [The Warriors], s], so I had a parachute on. You never know. You know this very well, it’s an odd way to be making a living. If they decide they don’t like you anymore, the phone may not ring. Wright: One of the things that is amazing about your scripts is the way you write. There’s almost a beat-poetry element to the stage direction.

I actually read the Driver er screenplay before I started writing my movie because I wanted to know, how do you write a car chase? I have to write this thing in words which is only going to be really exciting in action on screen. However, you really write action beautifully. It’s almost like little haiku of action. Hill: You’re probably too kind in your assessment. When I was beginning as a writer, there was a bland Hollywood style that everybody seemed to appropriate for their scripts. I had the temerity to try to do a little more. I wasn’t first, I don’t think. Maybe I pushed it a little further than some of the others.

Wright: [[producing the screenplay for or The Driver from om his bag] bag This is one I got from the library at CAA. What’s amazing is you have an entire page of stage directions, which is usually a no-no, but the way you laid it out is thrilling. It’s unusual to see a page like that in contemporary screenwriting. Hill: I thought that approach made people read with greater intention. It’s spare in detail but written to dramatic effect. You could maybe capture the mind of the reader a little better. Wright: It’s interesting to me that you were the second AD on Bullitt, and that’s obviously a major car-chase film. Hill: I wasn’t in charge of anything creative on Bullitt,, but I was scared to death! I was there Bullitt for every shot. Wright: Scared to death in what sense?

Hill: It was my job to set background and also to set it up with the police. We had to organise every shot so people wouldn’t wander out into the middle of the street and be hit. Wright: Mown down by a Mustang! Hill: Right. So every time we did a shot I was scared to death. I can’t tell you how many times I’d need to grab people that were innocently trying to cross the street or got tired of waiting. I was afraid something would go tragically wrong, which gave me a very different perspective when I got to direct a car chase myself. Wright: What, if anything, did you learn from seeing Peter Yates do that movie? Hill: In the simple technical sense, I was amazed at how much time and effort was committed to shooting from inside the cars. The chase took, if I remember correctly, a little over two weeks. Wright: I can say with certainty that setting car mounts is no quicker today. I stood there at the side of a road going, “How long’s it going to be, guys? An hour? Really? I’m ready!” Hill: Then I would go to dailies and quickly realise how wrong I was. What made the Bullitt chase remarkable was not just stunts. It was the technique of shooting from inside. You really felt it was a rollercoaster ride as well as something  you were observing. I made damn sure that



when I was doing The Driver er I filmed an enormous amount of inside shots. Wright: The opening chase, shot right outside this hotel, is all rear-mounted, locked cameras, or the front-point-of-view camera, locked to the rear-view mirror. It’s always going with the car and his point of view of the police, seeing it from the getaway car. Hill: Mirror shots. Wright: Very tricky things to do.

Hill: What nobody had really done at that time, or I was unaware of it if they had, was a big chase at night. You have to light the streets as well as do all the maps and that business. It was a rough undertaking. The chases were all done at the end of the film. We shot the drama, then we shot the chases. Wright: So you could build up to it? Hill: We wanted to get the day stuff out of the way and then kick over to nights. I thought doing them at night would be very much more in the spirit of what the storytelling wanted to be. It’s not meant to be a realistic depiction of what real criminals are like, or what real life in the city was like. I was not interested in any of that. By the way, the first chase was, in my opinion, kind of a failure. It was meant to lead up to a much more spectacular finish. Wright: With him driving against the cops. Hill: The night we were to shoot the end of that was the last night of the movie. An electrician sadly fell off a roof and was terribly hurt. Went to the hospital. Because that happened, we just cobbled a little thing together and I never really got the chance to come back and shoot it again. It was meant to be a much bigger version of that. It was a sad thing. Whereas I think what we called the Exhibition, the thing with the Mercedes in the garage, and the end chase with the pick-up truck, they’re as fully realised as I could get them to be. Wright: Before you started directing, the other credit that has some bearing on this movie is writing The Getaway for Sam Peckinpah. How did you come to do that? Walter: Polly Platt read one of my scripts and recommended me to Peter Bogdanovich. Peter had been hired to direct The Getaway and he hired me to co-write with him on the script.



When I was hired, he was w in the last month of prep on What’s Up, Doc?. He started shooting that and then I was up in San Francisco again. Wright: All these movies have action scenes on hills in San Francisco! Hill: It didn’t work out with Peter. I never really understood it. The official version was availability. I think Steve [McQueen] wasn’t happy Peter was doing another film ahead of his film. I don’t know. Wright: How did you get to work with Sam Peckinpah? Hill: I was told, “Just keep writing, let’s get a draft.” Frankly I was in no position to walk away in a huff. I worked in splendid isolation for another five weeks, did a first draft. Steve wanted to do it and, of course, Steve wanting to do it meant the movie was going to get made. Steve had just been working with Sam… Wright: On Junior Bonner. Walter: Yep. They had gotten along. Sam was also in post on Straw Dogs, so he was very busy. But I thought he did a wonderful job on The Getaway. And Steve was terrific in it. The picture came out and critically it was not well received, but it was a huge commercial success. It was really how I got to be a director; the fact it had done so well put me in line to get a shot. Wright: Had you written The Driver er at this point? Hill: Oh, no. Wright: Hard Times was written first? Hill: I got a job with Larry Gordon, who I’d known a bit. He made a deal over at Columbia. He wanted to do something about these guys

who did this unofficial fighting in back alleys and warehouses. I found that subject appealing, of course, given my nature. I rewrote that script rather extensively and liked working with Larry very much. The idea that [The Driver] er] would be set around a guy who was a professional driver, that was Larry’s. That started the wheels turning. Wright: I guess there had been films about bootleggers before, but nothing specifically about a getaway driver. Hill: Right. So I sat down and it seems like I wrote it over the summer of 1975. We had finished Hard Times, but there was a long lag time before the studio tudio put the movie out. They wanted to hold it because [Charles] Bronson had made several other ther films, and they were in the pipeline ahead of ours. So I started writing The Driver. Wright: right: The movie — and you’ll think I’m overpraising erpraising it again, but I’ve got you captive here so I’m going to do it — is as precise as if the main character were making it. When I think of the ‘Walter Hill style’, I think of The Driver. Maybe ybe because it’s so clean and simple and pure. Hill: I would say I never tried to screw anything that tight again. I now like everything to be a little tle looser around the edges, as we say. Wright: right: It was written for Steve McQueen. Or you certainly had McQueen in mind. Hill: I thought he could play it tremendously well, absolutely. Wright: right: Ryan O’Neal is a very different presence from Steve McQueen. Even though I know it wasn’tt your intention, one of the things that is so enigmatic about the movie and to me really makes es it, is O’Neal. Obviously Steve McQueen would have been great, but you know what that movie vie would have been. It becomes a much more beguiling movie with Ryan O’Neal in the lead. Hill: I remember I was so pleased with Ryan in the movie and I was very disappointed that people didn’tt particularly give him any credit for what he did. To o me, he’s the best he’s ever been. I cannot imagine another actor. When you don’t get who you want, ant, sometimes you really do get lucky.


Clockwise from top left: The Driver prepares for the opening getaway in flashy style; O’Neal in the iconic MercedesBenz 280S (W108); The Mercedes door signed (and illustrated) by the cast and crew; The cops give chase to The Driver; O’Neal behind the wheel.

Wright: How close did Steve McQueen come? Hill: I sent it to him and he said, “Nah, I don’t want to do another car thing.” Wright: Too many lines! What is it The Driver says, 350 words total? Hill: I’ve no idea. Not many, I’ll say that. Wright: How did you go from McQueen to  Ryan O’Neal?



Teeth emerges gingerly from the car-chase wreckage; The Driver with Bruce Dern’s The Detective; Walter Hill and Edgar Wright discuss the intricacies of filmmaking; A mysterious Isabelle Adjani as The Player; Teeth tries to extract information from The Connection (Ronee Blakley); The film’s 1978 poster.




left: Rudy Ramos’


Clockwise from top

Hill: There was a list. There’s always a list. Because he was a big star and I had done a successful film with him, we had to go to Charlie [Bronson]. Charlie was quite mad at me, so it didn’t get very far. He thought I had edited Hard Times in a way that had not favoured Jill Ireland [Bronson’s co-star, and wife]. In a sense he was correct, so this was an area of tension, shall I say. Wright: He seems like too much of a bruiser to be a getaway driver. Hill: I never thought it was a good idea. And I never thought he’d do it. Ryan was an interesting idea and I was delighted when he said he’d do it. I thought we pulled it off, but I’m sorry to say people didn’t see that, particularly at the time.

Wright: Did you change the script for Ryan? Hill: To the best of my memory it remained the same. I changed some dialogue for Bruce. I wanted Bruce’s personality. Audiences get nervous about movies that don’t have a lot of dialogue. They like dialogue. These long, visual sequences that are the delight of film directors are not always audience-friendly. Wright: You’re making me nervous, Walter. Hill: They like a balance. I wanted Bruce to very much offset the distance of The Driver. Wright: He’s an incredibly talkative foil. He has probably 80 per cent of the dialogue in the movie. Hill: The studio recommended Robert Mitchum and I thought Mitchum would be a great idea. I went over to Talbot Productions, his company. He was in an office on Sunset, right where it bends into Beverly Hills. He had two sofas and inbetween there was a little refrigerator. He would reach in and pull out a bottle of vodka. And this was noon. So I had a long session with him and the vodka. Then he called about a day later and said, “Nah.” Wright: I love Robert Mitchum, but I cannot imagine anyone playing that part except for Bruce Dern. Hill: I can’t either. Wright: I love the ending. The cop doesn’t arrest him even though he has enough evidence to. The Detective lost the game and The Driver gets to walk away. Hill: Couldn’t say it better myself.

Wright: One of my favourite things in the movie is the magical jump-cut at the end, where the cops are all suddenly standing there in the train station and The Driver doesn’t hear them come in. That’s a little bit of magical realism. Hill: My producer and I had some interesting conversations about that. Wright: Did Larry think it was too comical? Hill: He thought it was too weird. Wright: “How the fuck did 20 cops get in here without making a sound?” Hill: He said, “Can’t we have a lot of rustling like that?” I said, “Well, he’d of feet and things lik look up,, then. then.” Wright: What are your memories of the actual shoot? t? Something Some magical starts to happen when you’re re doing a film that’ that’s all nights. Hill: You geet into a weird zone. Wright: Where were you living at the time? Hill: I had a small house up in the hills hills. I remember people alw always being worried that I’d d fall asleep driving home and crash and die. Wright: It’ss tough after night shoo shoots. Hill: It is.. It’ It’s like you’re swimming underwater or hypnotised. tised. And I’m I’ a person that stays up late and wakes es up early early. But staying up night after night after night really threw me out. Y You make decisions you canno cannot explain. You just intuit. Wright: It mak makes sense to you at four in the morning. Hill: It’ss probably hell for an anyone around you. But it’ss a ques question that anybody who gets a chance to direct a mo movie probably comes to, I think, which is: is it all choice and rational thought? Or at what point do you le let your instincts tincts tak take over? Which is better? There isn’t anyy answer. ans Wright: There’ There’s that quote about the Velvet Underground Andy Warhol hol album — nobody bought it at the time, but the people who did buy it went on to form a band. I feel the same way about The Driver. The people who were watching are directors — we watched that movie and were excited and inspired. And I had to make a movie called Baby Driver er just to prove to you that The Driver er is influential. Hill: [laughs] laughs laughs] That’s all too kind. Wright: You can’t outrun it forever!

WITH THAT, T, THE two directors are called away to be snapped by Empire’s photographer. While they pose, they chat about — among other things — Hill’s return to the Westin Bonaventure (recently bought by the Marriott Group) for the first time in nearly 40 years, and the 16mm print of a TV version that Quentin Tarantino owns. There’s a definite sense that Wright’s campaign of attrition is working, that at last Hill is learning to appreciate the hidden classic on his CV. “That somebody can remember something you did 35 years ago and still see some value in it?” says Hill. “It makes an old man happy.” FOR CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE INTERVIEWING WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ABOUT THE FRENCH CONNECTION, SEE ISSUE 329.








Viola Davis, photographed exclusively for Empire in the Four Seasons hotel, Los Angeles, on 3 December 2016.



VIOLA DAV AVIS IS, no doubt about it, a big deal. Since her breakthrough in 2008, she has quickly A established herself as one of the most consistently excellent actors currently working. In any film she turns up in, be it an awards heavyweight like The Help or silly summer movie like Suicide Squad, Squad you know that, regardless of what’s around her or what kind of script she’s given, she will be great. Her characters tend to be tough, commanding and memorable. She has been nominated for an Oscar twice. She has won an Emmy. But what she’s experienced is the opposite of overnight success. As a child growing up in Central Falls, Rhode Island, she never knew where her next meal was coming from, sometimes jumping into maggot-infested trash cans to find something to eat. She began acting at the age of eight, using performance as a way to take her mind off her family’s troubles. Slowly perfecting her craft, she spent decades doing stage work, garnering a reputation as an in-demand actress with vast range. Finally, at the age of 43, her acclaimed screen performance in Doubt put her on the path to fame and fortune. Her latest project, Fences, brings the two parts of Davis’ career together. An adaptation of an A August Wilson play, directed by and co-starring Denzel Washington, it sees her play Rose, the submissive wife of Troy, a man who never realised his potential and has let his resentments sour his relationships with the rest of his family. Both Davis and Washington played the same roles on stage in New York in 2010, winning Tonys. A woman who keeps her own grievances quiet until she can hold them in no longer, Rose is a part that stretches all Davis’ acting muscles. Unsurprisingly, it’s made ha a set of the her the favourite for this year’s Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Iff she wins it, she’ll have biggest awards in stage, film and TV (she won an Emmy for her show How To Get Away With Murder). der). der When we meet Davis at the Four Seasons hotel in Los Angeles, there’s a sense she still hasn’t adjusted to her massive upswing of fortune. She’s initially rather shy — she is “very much an introvert” — and says the peculiarities of celebrity still confuse her. Over the course of our hour together, though, she becomes more relaxed and animated, her gesticulations getting larger and her laugh louder with every anecdote. She loves to entertain. A After four decades of practice, she’s very, very good at it.



You performed the role of Rose for 13 weeks on stage. What made you want to play her again on screen? The characters in this are endlessly fascinating. They’re vast. There isn’t any amount of re-examining of it that could be enough… I always tell people I never got the final scene [right] in 13 weeks in New York. Never hit it, until we did [the film]. Rose is marginalised in her own marriage. Everything is according to Troy’s desires. What interested you about their relationship? I first saw Fences in a production years ago in yed Rose, but Providence. A great actress pla played I felt like when she first came out on stage she was mad. Every time she gave Troy a line it was harsh and hard, so by the time the marriage fell apart, I never felt the loss. I just thought it was fractured from the very beginning. I was adamant not to do that. I wanted it to look like something that may not be perfect, but was working. Listen, man, they’re having sex after 18 years. That’s something. They’re always

Clockwise from main: Davis with Denzel Washington in Fences; In Suicide Squad (2016); Alongside Sullivan Walker in Get Rich Or Die Tryin’ (2005); In Prisoners (2013).


having sex. I wanted to pack a wallop with Rose. I wanted people to feel like they could envelop her. With films like Fences, Loving, Moonlight and Hidden Figures, it’s been said this is one of the best years ever for films focused on people of colour. What’s your perspective on that? That’s absolutely true. And it’s not only films with African Americans in them and about African American life — it’s actors finally getting their due. That’s what I really want people to know, that we’re out there. Look at Stephen McKinley Henderson enderson [Bono [ in Fences]. He’s been out there for 40 years. He was in the first class at Juilliard. This guy has done hundreds of plays… Taraji P. Henson. Octavia Spencer. Naomie Harris. These are actors. These are not just black actors who are getting attention because of the colour of their skin. They’re getting attention because the opportunity has met the preparation. That’s what’s exhilarating to watch. And it’s deserving.

Why do you think it’s happening now? A lot of people would say it’s partly a response to ‘Oscars So White’. It’s the Obama effect. Who knows? I think America is changing. Or America is just being revealed for what it’s always been: a melting pot of different cultures, of people who are interracial, people who want to see their own images on the screen, who are desperate for it. People need the volume of different narratives. The audience is changing. How do you square that progress with what’s happening in America more generally? Trump represents the opposite of multiculturalism. To almost shy away from the political answer, but not to shy away from it, I’m going to answer it like an artist. During Doubt, [the writer] John Patrick Shanley said a lot of the nuns who were his teachers in Catholic school came to see the play. They loved it, but they said, “We weren’t that mean.” I thought that was hysterical because it’s a known fact that it’s brutal in Catholic school. People have an inability to see themselves for who they are. I think America is

very much a country that embraces redefinition of oneself. That’s what happened when people came through Ellis Island. We traded in our names, giving up ones that reflected our culture in order to become a part of the American dream. And you’re embraced because of that. In America, you can be anyone you want to be. But then who are you? That’s always the conflict with our political structure. People vote against their own interests because we don’t know who we are. You’re a very good illustration of the American dream. You grew up very poor and now you’re extremely successful. As a child, what made you believe being an actor was something you could do? Unless you grew up poor, you don’t know how hard it is. It is brutal on your psyche. It’s traumatic. When you’re poor you don’t have a choice; you have to either dream big or not at all. There’s no middle ground. You can’t be passive about your future. You’ve got to be passionate and very clear. A therapist once told me, “Viola, you’ve always  had drive. Drive has never been your




february 2017

problem.” That’s true. Dreaming was something to do, as opposed to having nothing to do. When did you start to feel it might really happen? When I was 14, Mr Yates, my English and drama teacher, told me, “Viola, this could be a possibility for you. You need more technique, but if you get it, this could be something you could do. You’re that good.” I was like, “Wow, really?” Or it could have been when I was 18. I was in my freshman year of college and I had no money. I had to get a job so I could get an apartment and a car. I didn’t have parents who even had the money to send me a care package. I didn’t have a way into acting that was practical, so I gave it up. For my first semester I became an English major. I dropped into a huge depression. It felt like a death. I had to act in order to be happy, so I decided I had to do it no matter what. For many years your success was on stage. Did you ever have an eye on film? That’s like someone saying, “Did you ever think about climbing mountains or going to Antarctica?” When you’re from Central

Any time a role said “girlfriend” I knew I wouldn’t get it. “Attractive”, I knew I wouldn’t get it. So me playing someone’s girlfriend… Then I went to do it and said, “Steven, so what was it?” He said, “It was two things. It was your stillness, and it was that hair. I couldn’t get past the hair.” Okay! Him and me just click. You call Out Of Sight your big break, but most people would say it was Doubt. You had a single scene in that film but it brought you an Oscar nomination and a film career. How did you react to that? I felt like I won the lottery. At that point I was a journeyman actor. Someone who’s been out there in the field, doing character roles. Then something pops you out that makes people start saying your name. I couldn’t believe it. Of all the films you’ve made since then, one stands out as unusual: Suicide Squad Squad. Why did that appeal? Are you serious? Why not?! It’s an action movie. I got to play Amanda Waller. Are you serious? Sometimes I just want to have fun. I’m getting a little long in the tooth now, but there are times I wish I was 20 years younger because

By virtue of being African American and achieving what you have, you are put in a position of being a figurehead. How do you feel about that? It’s twofold. I feel okay about the responsibility of being the first African American woman to win [an Emmy for] Best Lead Actress in a Drama. I feel okay about being a role model, a dark-skinned woman who’s 51, who’s given other women of colour who are a different size, a different hue, almost permission to do what they do. The part I have difficulty with is the unspoken responsibility. For instance, I’m on Facebook and I have people write to me about anything from money to reading their scripts to coming to their house and giving their children advice. That’s when I have issues, because I didn’t know that was part of the whole game. I didn’t know that was my responsibility. That’s too much for me. I try to the best of my ability to give people comfort. I think I have enough heart to want to do that, but people will be like, “Can you talk to my dying mom, or someone who’s going through something traumatic? Can you just say your lines from The Help? That would help them a lot.” That’s hard for me. And I’m not criticising, at all. At

“When you’re poor you don’t have a choice; you have to dream big or not at all. There’s no middle ground. You can’t be passive about your future. You’ve got to be passionate and very clear.”


Falls, Rhode Island? No. I didn’t see myself in movies. I never won any beauty contests. I was never a cheerleader. One of the very first people to put you in his films was Steven Soderbergh, who gave you small roles in Out Of Sight, Traffic and Solaris. How did that relationship originally come about? I don’t know. I would audition a lot for TV and film and never get anything. The audition for Out Of Sight... I remember they put me on tape at my agency. That’s when I would do my own hair, because I couldn’t afford to pay for anyone to do it. I would buy hair from a shop in California, His ’N’ Hers Beauty Supply, that would mail me the hair and I would braid it all in myself. I didn’t know what I was doing, I just knew my hair couldn’t be big enough. Remember Chaka Khan back in the day? She didn’t even have as much hair as I had. You could not tell me I did not look cute. My agent said I had to audition for Out Of Sight and I said, “I’m not going to get that. I never get these auditions. And it’s two lines? Okay, I’m just gonna memorise them and say them, that’s it.” That’s what I did. And I got it! That was my first big break. I was shocked. “I’m playing someone’s girlfriend? I’m playing Don Cheadle’s girlfriend?”

I want to kick somebody’s ass on film. I just want to kick somebody’s ass. Amanda Waller was a chance to do a little bit of that. I loved being a badass. And I’m wondering where people thought I was in my career that I had the kind of power to not do something like Suicide Squad. I don’t get seven-figure salaries. I’ve always been the journeyman actor. On Prisoners I did eight days. Ender’s Game I did five. Beautiful Creatures I did eight days. Doubt I did two weeks. I could go on. Most of my jobs have been three days here, one day there, and that’s it. It wouldn’t be like you asking Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock. I’m not on that level in terms of money or exposure. In fact, How To Get Away With Murder der is the job that changed my life. That and The Help. How did The Help change your life? I was nominated for Best Actress and it made money. It’s like Denzel says, the business part of show business is so important that it might as well be called ‘business show’. It’s a business. I was in a big money-making, crowd-pleasing film. How To Get Away With Murder der was the highest-rated pilot in history. Now it’s in its third season and it’s in 158 territories. It’s as simple as that. And then I won the Emmy... I have more opportunities now.

all. I get it. But it’s difficult. I try to give them what they want, to the best of my ability. I’ve done a lot of videos of, “You are smart. You are kind. You are important.” But always it makes me feel uncomfortable, because I’m not God. I’m just an actor. As you say, you’re 51 and you’ve worked incredibly hard to get where you are. What is there still to do? There’s a lot of things I haven’t done. I’ll tell you one thing coming up that’s scaring the crap out of me: Steve McQueen’s Widows [an adaptation of the Lynda La Plante drama about a group of women who take over from their criminal husbands after they’re killed]. Why does it scare you? I can’t tell you. If I even say it I’m going to be hitting the vodka, seriously. But I would say it’s a role that is going to force me to do things a little outside my comfort zone. Will you get to kick some ass? Oh, I most definitely will kick somebody’s ass. And I’m going to kick ass as a 51-year-old woman. that That is beautiful. How is that? FENCES IS IN CINEMAS FROM 17 FEBRUARY









Noel Clarke takes us inside the final part of his trilogy of thrillers




CerT 15

What we said: “The final film in Clarke’s trilogy may lack the punch — if not paunch — of the previous two, but it remains a unique look at the realities of British inner-city life.” Notable extras: Making of featurette, deleted scenes, commentary with Noel Clarke and Jason Maza.


THE NIGHTCLUB __ Like Kidulthood and Adulthood Brotherhood is very much informed Adulthood, by Clarke’s knowledge of w west London. The opening nightclub shooting was filmed in and around futuristic-looking Ladbroke Grove club Mode. “It used to be called subterranean,” says Clarke. “I used to go when I was younger. I still live in the borough, so the location manager’s job is � hard — I tend to know where I’m writing about.”






__ As the cast list unfolds, Clarke’s name doesn’t appear until the end, when he takes an “and Noel Clarke” credit. He insists this wasn’t a deliberate gambit to prepare the audience for the possibility of Sam’s demise. “I’m writing the film, I’m directing it, I don’t need to be number one on the call sheet,” he says. “If you give that to another actor, it bolsters them, makes them happy. And you can get them cheaper!”

__ For Clarke, who returned to Sam Peel’s world after a decade away, the film was a chance to show how much had changed. Including his physique. Here, Sam studies himself in a gym mirror. “He’s older and out of shape,” says Clarke. “I always write these films from where I am. I’m older. I put on a stone-and-a-half for that — difficult to lose.” One shot, of Sam in the shower, was “reframed” to remove Clarke’s arse from view.

__ Early on, Sam’s seduced by Tonia Sotiropoulou’s Janette in an attempt to blackmail him into working for Big Bad Daley (Jason Maza). “That was a scene of contention,” admits Clarke. “But I put it in to show that Sam is massively flawed. I spoke to my wife about that scene. She said, “Would you do that?” I said, “I’d never put myself in that situation!” For the sex scenes later on, Clarke wore a pouch to encase his family jewels.




__ Talking with crime kingpin Uncle Curtis (Cornell John), who has targeted Sam for revenge, Clarke delivers, for him, the movie’s key lines: “No matter how much you try to evolve, no matter how much you try to dull the memory of it or explain to people that you’ve improved as a person, they always try and drag you back in.” Says Clarke, “That speech encompasses Sam in the film, and where I was in my life.”

__ As Sam leaves the meeting with Curtis, he finds his way blocked by a gang of kids who fall about laughing when Sam says, “Out of my way, blud.” “Times have changed,” admits Clarke. “In Adulthood we said ‘blud’ a lot, and I saw a video mocking that. Over the years, people stopped saying it, so I thought I’d take the piss out of it.” If you want to know what’s street now, Clarke can’t help you. “They say loads of different things.”

__ With Sam resisting all attempts from Curtis to lure him into a confrontation, an inciting incident is required. So they pitch Sam’s mum (Adjoa Andoh) off the balcony of her flat. Clarke says he went through many permutations, considering several of Sam’s relatives. “The people you’re closest to are your kids and your mum,” he says. “But I thought [killing the kids] was too much. It was a big decision, but it had to be done.”




goes on something of a rampage of revenge at the end, take note: he doesn’t actually kill anyone. Yes, he takes a nail gun to one particularly odious opponent, but he’s not in the business of snuffing people out. “He can’t,” admits Clarke. “He’s spent his whole life regretting killing someone [at the end of Kidulthood]. If he kills someone, he hasn’t learned Kidulthood anything. The whole three films are about that.”

__ In one of the most surprising scenes, not only does Henry (Arnold Oceng) talk the threatening Yardz (played by grime artist Stormzy) out of killing him, but Yardz reveals a softer side, turning his back on crime. “For me, it’s an important scene,” says Clarke. “Sometimes these kids are just kids and it’s not what they want to do. But what the fuck else are they going to do when they feel they’ve been given no opportunities?”

__ “It’s done.” With the film’s last line, and a “Christopher Reeve look to the camera”, Sam declares his position on future skulduggery. Again, Sam is speaking for Clarke. “When you do something too much, people can turn against it,” he says. “I’m done with these films.”



THE ANGEL OF PEACE __ Although Sam













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Mel Brooks and Gene Wilder’s monster monster comedy




TO SAY THAT HA in the early ’70s Gene Wilder HAT was in the midst of a career slump might sound absurd. The string of flops he was enduring included the incontrovertibly brilliant The Producers and the now cult hit Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Sure, may love them ure, people ma now, but not many wanted to see them then. Off the boil as an actor, it was both the worst and best time for Wilder to venture into screenwriting. On the downside, nobody was really watching him. On the plus side, nobody was really watching him. Wilder started playing with an idea he’d had for a little while: what if Victor Frankenstein, the hero/villain of Mary Shelley’s classic novel Frankenstein, had a grandson who was embarrassed by his ancestor’s experiments with cut-and-shut cadavers? What if he wanted to lead a normal life

but was tempted back to his genetic destiny, finishing what ol’ grandpappy started, with the help of sundry idiots in a spooky castle? During shooting on Blazing Saddles, which would soon be the massive hit Wilder needed, not that he knew it at the time, he approached that film’s director, Mel Brooks, with the suggestion of collaboration. Tickled by the idea, Brooks agreed to co-write and direct. Together they constructed one of the most ingeniously stupid films ever made. Visually, it’s a very calm film, with Brooks and DP Gerald Hirschfeld painstakingly recreating the stately camera work and elegant black-and-white look that James Whale (director of the Boris Karloff Frankenstein movies) or Tod Browning (who turned Bela Lugosi into Dracula) gave their 1930s Universal horrors. If it weren’t it might not


Teri Garr, Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman and Mel Brooks create a monster — specifically a strapped-down Peter Boyle.

get away with many of its gags, which can teeter on the edge of end-of-the-pier corniness. Whether it’s horses whinnying in fear at every mention of the name Frau rau Blücher (nneeeiiggghh ( ) or Marty Feldman delivering punchlines directly into the camera, eyebrows awaggle and googly eyes agoggling, it’s frequently the stuff of panto, all arch innuendo and deliberate misunderstanding. This is much of the film’s pleasure, the combining of gags written with intricate wit with those that slap you round the face with a big, daft, honking crassness. It’s all in the telling. Even the punchline you can see charging towards you from miles away can still land when the delivery is perfect, and there is not a single joke here that’s badly told. That’s what happens when you give one of the great comedy directors a cast of unrivalled gifts.

Rarely has there been this much comic talent in a single film. Wilder, Feldman, Madeline Kahn — these are among the finest comic performers in cinema history, which is to take nothing from the enormously good Teri Garr, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman and Kenneth Mars (whose manic, Peter Sellers-esque turns in this and The Producers mean he should never be forgotten). Even Gene Hackman, not exactly renowned for being able to find the funnybone, is a riot in a glorious cameo as the blind hermit who tries to assist the Monster. Yet there is no evidence of competition between them. Nobody is trying to elbow anyone else out of the way for the bigger laugh. If you watch a modern cast of comparable fame you can often see the improvisation, a desperate need to have the final, funniest word. In Young Frankenstein there is not a syllable that doesn’t need to be there. Joke done, move on. Sometimes it’s one actor’s turn to deliver the laugh; sometimes it’s someone else’s. Take the legendary ‘Puttin’ On The Ritz’ sequence. Wilder, as anyone who’s watched The Producers knows, is not averse to a screaming, limbs-flailing performance, yelling at a joke until it crawls, wrung-dry, off stage. Though there’s every opportunity to mug, throughout Frederick’s tap dance with his Monster, Wilder’s face is inert. As Boyle, as the Monster, passionately keens his “HEEETNONNNARREEZ” line, Frederick just stares on quietly, proudly. And it’s weepingly funny. It’s one joke throughout the whole song, and it never loses its strength by repetition, because everyone is absolutely committed. That’s the kind of teamwork that makes a great comedy, and it happens throughout Young Frankenstein. There is a heart here, too. It’s a story, for most of the characters, about accepting who you are, rather than being who society believes you should be. Whether it’s Frederick facing up to his past, Kahn’s Elizabeth throwing off her society lady furs to become the shock-haired sexually liberated lunatic squealing to get out, or the Monster learning to live with the fact that he’s alive, there are genuine, well-drafted character arcs. With jokes about huge schwanzstuckers. Wilder would go on to write many screenplays after Young Frankenstein, but none would match its wit. He would have many more hits as an actor, but none would so well employ his loudest and quietest gifts. This would, creatively, be his apex. Wilder died on 29 August 2016, aged 83, 42 years after the release of Young Frankenstein. Is it sad that one of the great comedians did his best work when he still had exactly half his life to go, that he’d never reach those highs again? No, because he did what anyone wants before they die: he left behind something to show he mattered, that he was here, and he left the place more cheerful than when he arrived. He will always have this one perfect, strange creation to his name, a beast made of mismatched pieces that somehow seamlessly lock. It screamed into life from hopelessness, and as long as there is breath to laugh, it will never die.

Big films tackled by little people IllusTrATIoN olly gibbs

JOSEPH HOWES — 6 HIGH NOON what do you think the film was about? It was about a cowboy [Will Kane] who was worried about this evil cowboy coming back, because the main character was worried he would kill him because he sent him to prison. but why wouldn’t anyone help the marshal in his fight? They were afraid they would get killed as well. would you have helped him? Not really... why not? I don’t want myself to be killed. and what if you were the marshal? At one point he’s leaving town but then he changes his mind and comes back, saying he’s never run away from anything. I’d probably just continue with my run, to be honest. Because I don’t really want to kill myself in a battle. so what do you think of the marshal? Did you like will Kane? He’s brave and bold and doesn’t think about how he might hurt himself. a the end, you were quite nervous. at why was that? If he was going to win or lose or not, it just made me tense. Did you mind that it was in blackand-white? No, not at all. I think I might prefer it in black-and-white than colour. what would you give the film out of five stars? Four, because I don’t see the point in Four going back for guns. Why would you go back to fight? Is it the most precious thing in your life? Why would you go back for it?

YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN is out now on DVD, blu-ray anD DownloaD

february 2017


On the rob: Brothers Toby (Chris Pine) and Tanner (Ben Foster). Below: Director David Mackenzie.


Director David Mackenzie and writer Taylor Sheridan share seven secrets behind Hell Or High Water’s success WORDS PHIL DE SEMLYEN


A four-hander with Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham as laconic cops on the trail of bank-robbing brothers Chris Pine and Ben Foster, Hell Or High Water ater offered an immediate kind of alchemy that made it stand out as one of the best films of last year. “Usually there are big fights in casting,” says screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, “but here it just seemed obvious. The chemistry worked so well, and you care about these characters.” Having the pairs shoot their scenes in two separate blocks in New Mexico added depth to their dynamics, explains director David Mackenzie. “The first half was a real adrenaline ride with the young ones, because we shot so quickly, but we found lots of lovely pleasures in that second odd couple.” Bridges and Birmingham took their guitars along to screenings of the cut-in-progress and serenaded the cast and crew. “There was a real sense of family,” remembers



Mackenzie, “and I know that fed into the chemistry on camera.”


A devoted cineaste, Mackenzie took inspiration but not direct influence from films like Charley Varrick, Thunderbolt And Lightfoot oot and McCabe & Mrs. Miller. “I’m not a fanboy director,” he stresses. “I’m highly attuned to clichés and was quite keen to avoid them.” Each of the film’s bank robberies plays out in unexpected ways. Smaller characters lend texture in surprising standout moments, as when a routine diner scene is stolen by Margaret Bowman’s crotchety waitress. “In the script she’s just ‘Waitress’,” says Mackenzie, “but Margaret called her Maisie and gave her an enormously elaborate backstory.” Sheridan lauds the director for not varnishing the film with a Hollywood

gloss. “There’s a lack of sentimentality to the way David directs,” he stresses, “and that was really important for this.”


The stakes are perilously high for Pine and Foster’s Howard brothers. Jail, or worse, awaits them if their complex plan unravels. “There’s a line where someone says, ‘You don’t do these things and live to spend the money,’” recalls Mackenzie of his modern-day Butch and Sundance. One robbery ends with the pair discovering they’re far from the most heavily armed customers in the bank. “It’s an NRA version of a Western,” laughs the director. “I was worried about sailing ailing on the wrong side of poor taste with that one, but while there’s a lot of serious things in the film, it was about making it exciting [too].” There are plenty of bullet-peppered SUVs to testify tify to that.


The Dungeon Master’s column turns 200. Happy birthday, Kim

Despite riffing on Western traditions of bank robbers and lawmen, the story is anchored in relatable, contemporary concerns. Poverty and struggle are ubiquitous. “A film has to be about something that matters to me,” stresses Sheridan. “This is not a stylised version of rural America; the exodus [of people] is a constant wherever you go.” Sheridan’s own Texan upbringing added authenticity. “I know these towns so well you could draw a road map from the script.” He lent his local knowledge to a cameo as a cowboy, too. “I think that clinched the deal,” he laughs.


Much faster to shoot the shit than their side arms, both robbers and cops have a lovely line in playful (and occasionally not-so-playful) banter. It provides a handy tension-breaker, even in Bridges’ racist slurs against his Mexican partner. “It’s an interesting game, that,” admits Mackenzie. “We were sensitive and awkward about it when we were doing it, but we all agreed we should just confront it. It felt like it’s part of the world. There’s a lot of humour between Ben and Chris, too.”


Mackenzie reunited with his long-standing cinematographer Giles Nuttgens to capture the full heat haze of America’s Southwest. “Most [DPs] like to shoot in magic hour when the light is going down,” says Mackenzie, “but I wanted to go for that extreme contrast, midday-sun kind of feeling. It seemed like such an important part of what this world is.”


Unknown to Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, their scores for Westerns like The Proposition and Lawless were Mackenzie’s choice of temp music. After he’d toyed with using female country vocals or no score at all, the solution became obvious. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we ask them?’, recalls the director. “We sent them a copy, apologising for having appropriated their music already.” By turns mournful and epic, Cave and Ellis’ “atmospheric without being twee” cues offer an elegy to an Old West beset by modern woes. Oscar nominations surely await.

The Break-Out: Electra Woman & Dyna Girl Originally a series of net-friendly A zEITgEISTy SUPERHEROINE comedy, episodes, this is fairly seamlessly edited into oman & Dyna Girl is a reboot of Electra Woman a short feature — though the story dawdles a 1976 kids’ TV show which was a less to allow for sketch routines and guest turns. camp but eye-abusingly colourful genderHelbig and Hart, US comedians cast for switch version of the Adam West Batman. their y youTube followings, actually play In a world where ‘the Shadow War’ has characters rather than redoing schtick defeated all the villains, superheroes — Helbig is funny as a no-hoper have been reduced to self-involved who gets what she wants while celebrities hawking energy QUOTE OF trying to ignore the awful drinks or courting attention THE MONTH things that come with it, with publicity stunts. Lori, “How would you like while Hart shows some aka Electra Woman (grace to wake up knowing depth as she tries not to feel Helbig), and Judy, aka Dyna you had parts of a cat let down by her best friend. girl (Hannah Hart), are D-list in your stomach?” given the pair were slackers, until a clip of them Count Yorga, already a female take on foiling a robbery goes viral, Vampire Batman and Robin, this hasn’t landing the team a contract with excited men’s rights idiots the way Creative Masked Management. Torn 2016’s Ghostbusters did — and, for what between embarrassment at playing the it’s worth, it takes the time to focus on the game and the lure of nifty uniforms, the engaging relationship between its heroes team try to get along — but the marginally (and villain) in a smarter way than that allless self-involved Judy quits, to fall into the women reboot did. Extra points for making clutches of an actual supervillain, the team’s Dyna girl gay but just leaving it there. teenage neighbour Bernice (Matreya Fedor).

The Round-up: the horror!






What we said: “Taut, tense and burnished by Jeff Bridges at his best. This is a deceptively simple tale of Texan cops and robbers that drags the Old West into the modern age.” Notable extras: Three featurettes, premiere footage, interview with director David Mackenzie.

Oz PERkINS, ANTHONy Perkins’ lookalike y son, scored an early acting credit as ‘young young Norman Bates’ in Psycho II. Now his first films as writer-director are lurking on ondemand platforms and are well worth a look. Februaryy features demon possession and murder in a snowbound girls’ school, and I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives In The House is set in the home of a dying novelist (Paula Prentiss), which either inspired her book, or is haunted by its heroine. These allusive, icily beautiful movies are as likely to frustrate as beguile, but showcase strong leads (Emma Roberts, Ruth Wilson) acting out of their (and everyone’s) comfort zones.

The British indie horror scene is so busy that unheralded franchises are wriggling into existence. Drew Casson’s alien-invasion picture The Darkest Dawn is a sequel to his earlier Hungerford, with sisters struggling to get out of London as spaceships hover overhead. Now-familiar Britain-in-ruins stuff is well done on a tiny outlay. Even more on the cheap is Warren Speed’s Zombie Women Of Satan 2. This resurrects the director-star’s hardly beloved Pervo The Clown, who is clunkily pursued by burlesque dancers who (like some film-renters) want revenge for the earlier movie. In the words of Ricky Jay in Boogie Nights, “It is what it is.”



FULL BLUM Producer Jason Blum — the king of low-budget horror — on his greatest hits WORDS CHRIS HEWITT

three years,” he laughs. “It was a wild ride.” But one that led to five sequels and a total gross of $887 million, before bowing out with Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension in 2015. Was Blum quitting while he was ahead? “That’s generous,” he laughs. “We might have quit one earlier!”

INSIDIOUS __ (2010) BLUMHOUSE PRODUCTIONS, RUN by the indefatigable Jason Blum, has become one of the biggest success stories in Hollywood by sticking to one simple rule: making a succession of horror movies with the emphasis on low budgets and big profits. We asked Blum to talk us through its standouts.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY __ (2007) Oren Peli’s micro-budget (it cost just $15,000), supernatural home-invasion story was looking for a distributor when Blum first saw it. “I didn’t think it was the greatest movie ever made, but I definitely thought it was effective.” Blum hooked up with Peli and screened the film at his house multiple times before he sold it to Paramount. “It took



Still thrumming from the success of Paranormal Activity, Blum recalls getting a pitch in his “little office” from the guys who had made Saw, director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell. Their idea: a haunted-house movie that goes full-on berserk by the end. “James said the third a act was going to be very David avid Lynch, which scared a lot of people,” recalls Blum. “Most executives don’t like scary movies. Happily, appily appily, I love them.” Blum said yes to Wan, as long as he could make it for $1 million. He did. And so far the series — three and counting, with Whannell now directing — has made over $350 million worldwide.

SINISTER __ (2012) Blum went to college with Ethan Hawke, so when he was looking for a name to anchor Scott

Derrickson’s demonic thriller, he knew just the guy to call. “Ethan doesn’t like horror movies!” laughs Blum. “One of the reasons he didn’t want to do one was that he thought acting in a horror movie would be scary. But he loved this idea that it was about a guy choosing his career over his family, and that we could use genre as a way to deliver drama.”

THE PURGE __ (2013) Hawke enjoyed his first dalliance with the horror genre so much, he immediately signed on to star in dystopian home-invasion movie The Purge. And, with Blumhouse aiming to bring all original movies in for $5 million, Hawke agreed to help keep costs down in an unorthodox fashion. “He stayed on our sofa,” laughs Blum. “He actually did.” Blum is proud of the success of his formula, with big-name actors working for scale in the hope of big percentages coming their way further down the line. “We’ve paid out a lot of money to people,” admits the producer. “I put the cheque in the mail and film myself putting it through the post office.”

MAN ON TRAIN The bit-part players who stand out


Clockwise from main: The Purge: Election Year; Whiplash; Insidious; Sinister. Inset: Jason Blum.


WHIPLASH __ (2014) At first glance, Damien Chazelle’s drama about the battle between a young jazz drummer and his tyrannical teacher is the outlier in the producer’s recent output. Not just because it won three Oscars, but it’s not a scary movie. Blum disagrees. “It’s a Sundance version of a horror movie,” he says. “Especially in terms of its themes and tone.” Blum also produced the original short that was a proof of concept for the movie, which cost around $3 million to make, but then struggled to sell the full-length feature. “We did a pretty crummy deal with Sony Classics, but it’s a great reminder: keep your head down and do your thing. If you listen to the noise, you won’t do anything.”

THE GIFT __ (2015) Another Blumhouse maxim: the director is in control. And that extends to first-time directors and actors-turned-directors. In the case of Joel Edgerton, he was both when he pitched the dark psychological thriller (initially called Weirdo) that is now recognised as one of Blumhouse’s very best. “I feel a movie either works or doesn’t

work because of performance,” says Blum. “Who better to deal with that than actors? I’ll hopefully do another movie with Joel.”

THE PURGE: ELECTION YEAR __ (2016) When it comes to sequels, Blum loosens the purse strings a bit. “If you have a movie that works, the risk goes down exponentially,” he explains. “The Purge: Election Year ear was $10 million. That’s still incredibly cheap by Hollywood standards, but by Blumhouse standards it wasn’t.” The Purge series bloomed — or Blumed — from that first house-bound horror, with writer-director James DeMonaco introducing more characters, bigger action, and a political streak a mile wide. Releasing a movie about a dystopian America in 2016, and calling it Election Year, takes some cojones. “We were very cognisant that it was an election year, and we wanted to make the third one more political for sure,” says Blum. “I think James has a crystal ball. He saw into the future.”

IT’S A DEpRESSINg fact that if you’re a young actress you can expect to see a disproportionately high number of casting calls for strippers or hookers. Chelsea Mee is not exempt, and says she generally rolls her eyes and passes on such roles. But Dog Eat Dog was an exception. “It was a paul Schrader movie with Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe,” she laughs. “I was like, ‘You know what? This sounds pretty okay...’ I walked into the audition in a tight spandex dress and the highest high heels. I wanted them to envisage me as a stripper.” Her appearance in Schrader’s demented crime caper is brief but memorable as she swaps laconic lines with Cage while giving him a lap dance. Cage, she reports, “would basically talk about anything other than the fact I was undressed. Although he did ask me what sort of clothes I normally wear.” He was also interested in her tattoos. “He told me he’s got a lot, too, and that he only gets them done in Beijing.” None more Cage. Relatively new to acting, Mee has already filmed scenes with Bruce Willis in the forthcoming actioner First Kill and Tyler Mane in horror Bring Me A Dream, and has three self-penned screenplays she’s hoping to get off the ground. Her eye-catching turn in Dog Eat Dog has also worked wonders for her socialmedia profile (you can find her on Twitter as @Chelsmeezy). “None of this makes sense to me yet!” she beams. “I can’t even fathom the things I’ve gotten to do so far, and I can’t wait to see where it’s all going to lead.” OWEN WILLIAMS DOG EAT DOG IS OUT ON 30 DECEMBER ON DOWNLOAD, AND ON 2 JANUARY ON DVD AND BLU-RAY




Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) realises that Dorothy (Renée Zellweger) completes him.

HE HAD US AT “YOU HAD ME AT HELLO” Twenty years on, writer-director Cameron Crowe looks back at Jerry Maguire




BILLY WILDER GOT right to the heart of it. Billy Wilder got right to the heart of a lot of things, but on this day in 1995, he was getting right to the heart of Jerry Maguire. Cameron Crowe, a huge Wilder fan, had been trying to persuade the great director to cameo in his movie as Dicky Fox, a mentor to the title character, a slick sports agent who develops a conscience, only for it to derail his life. Wilder had said no, but Crowe arranged one last meeting and brought along his wildcard: his star, Tom Cruise. “We W We told him the story briefly,” recalls Crowe, over 20 years later. “We get to the end and he goes, ‘But why would you care about this sports agent?’” Crowe laughs at the memory of being shot down by an idol. But he was

undaunted. “What I wanted was for people to care about that sports agent.” And they did. When it finally arrived in 1996 — with a Sony Pictures suit, Jared Jussim, in the Dicky Fox role — Jerry Maguire grossed over $200 million worldwide, and was nominated for five Oscars (winning one, Best Supporting Actor, for Cuba Gooding Jr.). More than that, though, it entered the collective consciousness in a way few films have — phrases from the movie abound to this day, and over the years it’s become regarded as a classic. It may be Crowe’s finest movie and, after supervising a new Blu-ray release, he told us how he managed to make people care about a simple sports agent…

Gordon Gekko and, “Greed is good.” If, “Greed is good,” was a benchmark of the ’80s, here’s a character that comes to Jesus, realising, “Greed is good,” is not a way to live a full life, and then gets fucked over immediately. Gordon Gekko was misread by people. The same with Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross. Did people misread Jerry Maguire? Did they see Bob Sugar and become agents as a result? I’ve heard that. I think it’s because an actor with charisma is such a seductive thing. In the end, you can almost forget what they’re saying and get lost in the charisma, which is somewhat Trumpian. You can be seduced by the delivery and miss what’s being delivered. We always wanted the movie to be a fable about moral compromise. Even the ending, I always felt that Jerry Maguire doesn’t get everything in the movie. He still has a conflicted feeling that he’s trying to overcome about his marriage, he’s still trying out the suit of clothes of a married man. Rod Tidwell could get crunched the next week and he’d have no clients. You kinda get lost in the victories of Jerry Maguire and sometimes don’t realise the moral compromise that happens along the way with the character. Cruise was going to play the role, but you had written it for Tom Hanks. Hanks was the first guy to read it and was tempted by it, but he wanted to do That Thing You Do!. His suggestion was John Travolta. But immediately, knowing how in demand Tom Hanks was, I had started thinking about Tom Cruise pretty early on. I had met him a couple of times and he had called me after Say Anything... and said, “I really love this movie and it would be fun to do something together.” That was on my mind. “Hey, remember that conversation we had?” He responded immediately when we sent it to him. How much of you is in Jerry Maguire? There’s a lot of me in it. I felt that Jerry Maguire’s journey in the movie came from my life, for sure.

Was the film always about a sports agent? Yes, the relationship between a sports agent and his client. I remember thinking, “What if that guy is his only client?” It was great to see the nuance a sports agent has compared to an entertainment agent. But essentially the thing that was really fascinating was, the sports agent always wanted to get in the room with the family. That was pretty unique. We detoured pretty quickly into, “What can we say with this movie that makes it of the moment?” That’s how we got into the idea of starting where some movies might have ended. When we meet Jerry, he’s already wildly successful. Exactly. We were talking about Wall Street eet and

From top to bottom: Sports agent Jerry finds himself conflicted; Jonathan Lipnicki, who played Dorothy’s cute son Ray, stole hearts; Cameron Crowe (left) on set with DP Janusz Kaminski; Cuba Gooding Jr. took home an Oscar for the role of football player Rod Tidwell.

Was that something you were going through at the time? You’d had success up until that point. But were you wondering about your path? A little bit, a little bit. I was also keen on getting this thing in the script that is, when you’re really down, often you’re completely surprised by the people that say, “I’m there for you.” Often the people you depend on, when you’re truly down, don’t show up. This was heavy in my mind: a good friend of mine had told me at one point, “Hey man, if you ever need me, I’ll be there for you.” I took him up on it, which I never do. I try not to ask anybody for favours, but it was like, “I need you to be there for me.” This good friend of mine said, “Well, I didn’t say I’d be there for you!” And I remember the shock of that. Wow. It’s so  easy to have a misperception about who your



Below, from top: Laurel Boyd (Bonnie Hunt) supports sister Dorothy;

The name — where did that come from? It’s really true and so fun when you come up with a name that’s fun to say. I knew I wanted it to be Jerry, but I didn’t have a last name. I remembered my first editor, who was a guy who ran an underground paper, and his name was Bill Maguire, spelt the same way. It came to me standing on the street in San Diego, remembering this guy, Bill Maguire. It became Jerry Maguire and never changed. They’d probably test-market the hell out of it today and we would now be talking about ‘You Complete Me’. They’d find a way to get Batman in there. Oh yeah. It would be called ‘Batman’! In terms of your filmography, it has pierced the cultural bubble more than others. So many phrases from the movie have lived on. Do people quote it around you? I see a lot of, “You had me at…” That’s always funny. The coolest thing or biggest surprise was seeing it in George Bush’s State Of The Union address. And Obama quoted, “Show me the money,” later too. That was pretty surreal. There was no attempt to do a mass-appeal movie. Where did, “Show me the money,” come from? I was sitting in a hotel room with a wide receiver named Tim McDonald. He was saying, “Man, I don’t have that much time left in my entire career. Where’s the money? Where’s the money? I gotta support a family!” It grew from that. It was a noble thing for him. It wasn’t, “Greed is good.” So I thought his plaintive, “Where’s the money?” could become a war cry. Show me the money. How did you shoot it? I shot ’em separately but they were both there for each other. For Cuba’s side, the big walking and talking shot through the house, Tom was already on Eyes Wide Shut. He was on the phone from England doing it. On his birthday. On Tom’s side, I had Cuba there in a car outside the soundstage, yelling his ass off. There was a studio security guy that tried to bust him. He was like, “Who’s this guy in a car yelling, ‘SHOW ME THE MONEY!’ and, ‘I LOVE BLACK PEOPLE!’” He had his hand on his gun walking up to the car with Cuba. Where did, “You complete me,” come from? Some people later would say to me, “Do you realise that, ‘You complete me,’ is like a narcissists’ thing? You complete me so I get to love you because you complete ME? Did you realise that it’s such a selfish way of saying, ‘I love you?’” Laughs] It was only a couple of years ago that [Laughs [Laughs] I realised where it actually came from, while I was listening to the Joni Mitchell album Court And Spark again. It’s from the song Court And Spark, where she says, “You could complete me, I’d complete you.” I have a terrible fear of public



Jerry pulls a Say Anything... pose; Rod puts loyalty above lucre; Kelly Preston as Jerry’s fiancée Avery.

speaking but I sucked it up and gave a speech honouring Joni Mitchell a couple of years ago. It was really fun to be able to say to her this line that people had developed an ambivalence for over time. But when I tell people it was actually an homage to Joni Mitchell now they go, “Oh, I get it.” It’s funny sometimes how lyrics just invade your soul and come out in different ways. It’s been parodied and quoted a lot. Does that feel strange? It’s fun. It’s used in the upcoming LEGO Batman movie too, I’m honoured to tell you. I’m humbled by the whole experience. You never know if something’s going to resonate or if it’s going to affect people. “You complete me” seems so simple. But I guess it was elemental in a way, particularly the way Tom did it. He feels it so much. He dares you to laugh at it. That’s why I added, “We live in a cynical world.” I anticipated there would be some people who would laugh at a guy who says that. Renée Zellweger’s Dorothy says, “You had me at hello,” literally seconds after that… That came in the moment writing it and never left the scene. That whole scene is influenced by the last scene in The Apartment. “Shut up and deal.” That kind of line and the way it felt when you’re watching The Apartment is the way I wanted those lines to feel if we got lucky enough in Jerry Maguire. We did it so many different ways because I wasn’t sure which one would work. I think we even reshot it. I was kinda obsessive about how it would work in the right way. Renée had nailed it early on, of course. She had me at take two, I believe. Which brings us right back to Billy Wilder. Did he ever lament passing on the role of Dicky Fox? He did. He called me after the movie, which was a big thrill. He said, “Who was this guy who played myy part?” [[Laughs Laughs Laughs]] What was the Billy Bob Thornton movie that came out that year? Sling Blade. Yes. He said, “I enjoy your picture, I enjoy your picture. But I think I enjoyed Sling Blade more.” JERRY MAGUIRE 20TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION IS OUT ON 30 JANUARY ON BLU-RAY



What we said: “Director Cameron Crowe has written and directed a deft, funny, shamelessly upbeat romantic comedy, and to top it all drawn out the finest performance of Tom Cruise’s career.” Notable extras: Brandnew documentary, deleted and extended scenes.


real friends are in this life. That, I felt very strongly about.


words chris hewitt

COSTUME when i did Ever After, i had this medieval prince outfit. it had a massive codpiece and i enjoyed parading around in that and wearing a sword and big leather boots. Did i insist on the big codpiece? it was just practical.

i remember playing Moses in The Ten Commandments, and wearing a fucking hair shirt. it was so uncomfortable and i didn’t wear underwear, so it was grinding against that. that was a real pain in the arse. Literally.

PERFORMANCE I did a [four-part Irish] TV series called Father & Son. I was playing this Manchester gangster [who returns to Ireland after seven years in a British prison]. I’m not that, but I loved the journey of discovery through that process, the research in creating that character. He was a million miles away from me. If the writing’s there, it makes your job so much easier.

I did a movie with my wife [Claire Forlani], which was a disaster. It was called Love’s Kitchen. They lost all their money, so we had to shoot it in two weeks. It was a kick-bollock scramble and it looked like shit. I don’t think I was bad, I think the movie was bad. I’ve never been bad. You know I’m lying, don’t you?

AUDITION it was to play this New y york cop in Frequency, and the dialect coach and i went walking around talking in a Queens accent to prepare for the screen test. they hey offered of it to me as soon as it was over, but the actor who was also in it pulled out, and then i had to go do this other movie.

i’m ’m lucky. lucky the ones i do are the ones i get offered. of auditioning is painful. i remember once when i was auditioning for a play, and i had to say, ’m just going to the lavatory lavatory.” but all i could say was, “i’m going to say “i’m the lavoratory.” all i could think of was “laboratory”. Didn’t get that one.

LOCATION People get so offended if you say somewhere’s a shithole. But Hamilton in Canada? Not a great place to film on Hemlock Grove. Your fucking face freezes off. don’t want to go there again. Put that down.


I did a movie called Perfect Creature in New Zealand. I stayed in this place called Kauri Cliffs, and it was exquisite, beautiful, magical countryside. It reminded me a lot of scotland, actually.

MOMENT On Ripley’s Game, i remember doing this scene with [John] Malkovich where we’ve laid traps outside the house. he said, “Let’s throw it around a bit.” he’s an incredibly generous guy. i don’t think i’m ever going to work with someone as genius as he is as a fucking actor actor. that moment, on that day, on that set, i thought, “i don’t think i’ll ’ll ever be happier happier.”

a couple of years ago i was so frustrated about not, i felt, getting the opportunity to do the things i really wanted to do. i’d ’d be of offered things and think, “this is fucking shit.” so i decided i was going to develop stuf on my own again, and that became exciting. stuff LONDON TOWN is Out NOw ON DOwNLOaD

february 2017


MOVIE MEMOIRS Sali Hughes on the films that shaped her life



I WRITE THIS post-holiday, slumped under a dog on the sofa, mainlining tea. When you read this you will, in all likelihood, be pyjama-top deep in post-Christmas gloom, blood thick with Brie chugging slowly through your arteries. It’s probably raining outside, or you may be off sick with a J January cold, diseased tissues strewn across the living-room floor. In any of these eventualities, I prescribe an urgent screening of a low-quality made-for-TV movie, ideally Magic Beyond Words: The J.K. Rowling Story, a woefully Bey unknown classic of the genre.



This, as the name makes abundantly clear, is a biopic of the world’s most famous living writer. In the first two minutes alone, we learn that Joanne Rowling has a supportive (if unconvincingly Scottish) fiancé, but still wishes her dead mum was here. She has written a book called Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone (thank you, Leicester Square premiere crowdmember holding book, perfectly still, to camera), and she’s now very famous after years as a nobody. W then dissolve into misty flashbacks of We childhood larks with a broomstick, and Joanne at her school desk, where — from her daydreaming POV — we see a classmate wearing round, metal-rimmed specs while her teacher suggests that if only she’d just concentrate, she might seriously consider a literary career. All this is seen hilariously through the faintly Dickensian lens of an American writer and director (at one point, we see Rowling sitting in front of some stock footage of bucolic idyll, ostensibly on a train to London, when a sage cockney nana in a tabard chirps by with a trolley-full of liver and tripe). The whole thing is about as taxing as a two-piece jigsaw. In my view, Magic Beyond Words happens to be the greatest TV movie (The Room of the small screen, if you will), but the genre is truly a spoil of riches. Their effect is as much anaesthetic as entertainment. Found daily on Channel 5 or

J.K. Rowling (Poppy Montgomery) wonders whether she’ll ever make it.

fourth-tier cable channels, these are pedestrian melodramas acted competently by the likes of Lindsay W Wagner, Brian Dennehy, Powers Boothe or someone out of thirtysomething. Accessible 24/7, they wrap around you like a knitted shawl on a cold day, and demand not even the slightest effort — every last subplot, dream sequence and meaningful look is signposted like a fire exit in a care home. The plot, linear and simple, is arranged in an arc one could have drawn around a protractor. One need not think when watching a made-for-TV movie, only consume it like strained soup, perhaps taking a short nap in the middle without consequence — especially if, as is common, the film is based on a familiar, invariably unauthorised, true story — maybe the life of Karen Carpenter, the backstage horrors of The Jackson 5, the dastardly acts of Joey Buttafuoco, the untold story of Adolf Hitler (spoiler: it has been told). My worry is that made-for-TV movies are a dying genre. The truly authentic examples I find on my Sky menu are almost all made over five years ago. Nowadays big, credible movie stars are hoovering up telly work, thanks to high-quality subscription channels with global audiences and bottomless budgets. Gentle, clichéd, predictable and comforting, TV movies reduce cortisol, relax the synapses and give viewers a weirdly compelling excuse to do sweet bugger all.

The villainous Stephen Lang, seen here in

what did i miss?

Don’t Breathe, and below in Avatar and The Hard Way.

FLEABAG The smut and smarts from the ace BBC Three sitcom


Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag was perhaps the most complicated character on TV last year: sexually voracious (she masturbates to obama talking about democracy), angry, mischievous and grieving. From the get-go we are given insights into her psyche from conspiratorial asides to camera.

THE ROGUE ONE Stephen Lang, back on terrifying form in Don’t Breathe, reflects on his greatest villains WorDS NICK DE SEMLYEN



Episode two opens with Fleabag on the London Underground. A beat starts on the soundtrack and the other passengers contort their faces into silent screams, then go back to normal. The surreal cycle repeats until Fleabag turns to camera and quips, “I think my period is coming.”


For all the sex talk, Waller-Bridge’s writing is also touching and profound. When Fleabag attends a wellness retreat, she runs into the Bank Manager (Hugh Dennis) who turned her down for a loan. on a vow of silence, she can only listen to the small things he wants in life, perfectly delivered by Dennis. FLEABAG IS OUT NOW ON DVD AND DOWNLOAD

The Party Crasher (The Hard Way, 1991) “I was coming off a big hit on Broadway, as the original Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men. Coming off a Marine haircut, the idea of doing something funky and fun was appealing. We built up the look — Chuck Taylor sneakers, peroxide hair, this wonderful silky shirt — and turned him into something akin to a cartoon character. I remember bits of my hair would break off from time to time. And I remember Michael J. Fox knocking me out cold with a frigging two by four. He was meant to bring it across my shoulders and brought it across my head. I was gone for 30 seconds.” Colonel Miles Quaritch (Avatar ( , 2009) “I ran into Steve Guttenberg the other night and he had just watched Avatar. He started kvelling about the scene where I jump out of the burning Dragon Ship in my AMP suit. He said, ‘That’s about as classic a movie-villain moment as you’re ever gonna get.’ Another moment people tend to mention is the cup of coffee he drinks in the big battle. I said to the props guys, ‘Get me a black coffee, scaldingly hot, in a metal cup.’ They brought me this plastic cup and I said, ‘Is this all you got? This is a big movie, fellas.’ And for some reason they never got the steam going on the thing. Quaritch will go on his own journey in the sequels. The story is magnificent, but the

schedule is a Mongolian clusterfuck, you might say.” The Blind Man (Don’t ( Breathe, 2016) “There’s a Job-like quality to this guy. He’s a tragic figure, but has moved past self-pity and created a kingdom where he can exist. Despite the dark things you learn about him, hopefully you feel a certain amount of empathy. That to me is the real strength of the film: it’s why it transcends the horror genre. To prepare I tried to go about my usual routine as if I was blind. It’s hard to do the balancing series in yoga with your eyes closed. But I did get pretty good at making health shakes with a blender. Some avocado skin snuck in at one point, but I’ve still got my fingers.” DON’T BREATHE IS OUT ON 16 JANUARY ON BLU-RAY, DVD AND DOWNLOAD



Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay) tackles a prostitution ring in Season 16’s ‘Girls Disappeared’.

PROPER PROCEDURE It’s built on clichés, unspeakable topics and implausible twists, yet Law & Order: SVU has outlived its siblings. Here’s why this police procedural reigns supreme WORDS TERRI WHITE

IT BEGINS, ALWAYS, with a sound. DUN-DUN (or chung-chung, or even doinkdoink, depending on phonetic preference). A sound that, along with the authoritative vvoiceover proclaiming, “In the criminal justice system, sexual-based offences are considered especially heinous…”, is the rigorously adheredto opening gambit of a show that, while being dismissed as pulpy, remains one of the longestrunning and most successful procedural dramas in television. A After 17 years, with countless “I’m sorry, what?!” plotlines and most of its police procedural kin — CSI CSI, NYPD Blue, Cold Case, all the other Law & Orders — lying cold in the telly graveyard, what is it about SVU SVU? SVU APPEARED IN N 1999, EXPELLED EXPELLE FROM the brain of the creator of the original Law & Order, Dick Wolf. Wolf, an ex-staff writer on W W Hill Street Str Blues, had gone to NBC bosses nine years before with a simple premise: an episodic drama series in which the first half focuses on the investigation of a crime, the second half the prosecution. SVU SVU, the first spin-off from the main show, zeroed in on sex crimes (its



original title) and premiered with a solid 18 million viewers. Crucially, while the individual story explored is new each week — and often based on real-life cases like the Cleveland house of horrors and Rihanna’s assault (though their version killed off a singer whose likeness is purely coincidental) — the storytelling arc remains consistent: the crime, the investigation on the wrong track, the investigation on the right track, and resolution (spoiler: they’re guilty). The other constant: the cast. They provide a perspective; the perp always viewed through them. In this case, the eyes belong to Sergeant Olivia Benson (Mariska ariska Hargitay), Hargita a tough-astacks woman in a man’s world investigating — primarily — crimes against women (backstory: she’s a product of rape herself ). She’s the moral compass who — comfortingly, but yes, in a stretch of credulity — believes the victim without question and fights, often at personal cost, for what is just. Alongside original partner Elliot Stabler (Oz’s Christopher Meloni) and now DA Rafael Barba (Raúl Esparza) and Det. Fin Tutuola

(Ice-T, T, who has some of the best lines including: “They glued pubic hair to his face and told him he was the wolfman!”), Benson is the anchor of this dysfunctional yet familiar family. They fight (Benson and Barba), bond (Benson and Stabler) and protect (Tutuola and Benson). They make the shadowy streets of New Y York and brown walls of the squad room feel like home. One we’re welcomed into every week. In there it’s warm. It smells of burned coffee. Outside of the core cast, the guest stars Cooper Whoopi are impressive — Bradley radley Cooper, Goldberg, Zoe Saldana, Patricia Arquette, Chloë have Sevigny, Sharon Stone and Norman Reedus eedus ha appeared, as has Martin Short as a demented killer psychic; Sarah Hyland as a demented killer teenager, and Robin Williams as a demented audio engineer (more terrifying than it may ma initially sound). NAT NA ATURALLY RALLY NARRA IVELY), VELY), VEL TROPES RALL (AND NARRAT are relied upon, offering a strange security in their recognition. The squabbling couple — he’s balding — return to a blood-stained bedroom, the kindly counsellor takes too close an interest

Benson, Billy Tripley (Will Keenan) and Elliot Stabler (Christopher Meloni) face the press in Season 5’s ‘Sick’.

Fin Tutuola (Ice-T) gets ready to deliver another zinger in Season 12’s ‘Wet’.

Season 17’s ‘Devil’s Dissection’ sees Benson and Amanda Rollins (Kelli Giddish) face shocking truths


close to home.

in an artistic but troubled student, the pinkcheeked Midwestern girl tiptoes into a frat party. While SVU prods our primal fears, and though not every episode sees a pounded gavel and declaration of, “Guilty!”, it simultaneously offers reassurance that if the worst happens, it will be okay in the end. The verdict is delivered and the world, which 50 minutes ago had gone wonky, is righted. Law & Order, and star Sam Waterston’s ever-expanding eyebrows, left this world in 2010 having tied the record for longest-running

live-action drama serial with Gunsmoke, but SVU shows no sign of following it to the knackers’ yard. In fact, it’s on season 18, just three away from breaking that record. Be it that it feels like a pair of warm slippers. Be it Ice-T’s zingers. Be it the dun-dun/the chung-chung/the doink-doink. Maybe the heart does just want what the heart wants. As Amanda Palmer sang, “Who needs love when there’s Law & Order?”

ONE INAMILLION IN A MILLION How a Raquel Welch poster became iconic

“Mankind’s first bikini!” screamed the publicity for Hammer studios’ One Million Years B.C.. The poster turned a doe-skin two-piece into a pop cultural artefact, and a then 26-year-old Raquel Welch into a star. Surprisingly the image itself, of cave girl Loana ready for action, does not appear in the finished film. Instead, it was captured by an unnamed photographer who took Welch to the top of a volcano in the Canary Islands and snapped away. Welch thought nothing of it until she landed at Heathrow Airport. “There were all these photographers waiting,” Welch marvels of the ’60s equivalent of going viral. “I thought, ‘How did they know who I am?’ And they said, ‘This poster.’ I said, ‘What poster?’ I had nothing to do with it. Not consciously.” The film did fairly well at the box office, but it’s that image that stuck. For Welch, it’s nothing to do with skimpiness and everything to do with attitude “I think it’s that girl standing in that posture, ready for combat,” she says. “It broke the mould of prissy little pin-up photos we mostly see that are submissive and coy. I never liked prissy.” Perhaps its greatest tribute came in The Shawshank Redemption, where “lovely Raquel”, as Morgan Freeman’s Red calls her, was one of the posters (with Gilda and Marilyn Monroe’s pose from The Seven Year Itch) used to mark the passing of time as Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) dug for liberty. “[Director] Frank Darabont called me,” recalls Welch. “I thought it was a beautiful homage because of the company I’m in... I was very honoured to be a part of that film and an image that represented great freedom.” IF ONE MILLION YEARS B.C. IS OUT NOW ON DVD AND BLU-RAY




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BINGEWATCH Each month, our marathon man straps on to a sofa for a no-holds-barred binge

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RELEASED IN 1954, Seven Samurai is one of cinema’s elastic classics: it’s been stretched, twanged and jerked into countless contortions. How a movie set in feudal Japan can re-materialise in space one minute, an ant-hill the next, is down to its universal three-act blueprint: all the films here feature an under-siege community, a gathering of heroic misfits and a Pyrrhic victory over impossible odds. So, here we go. Seven versions: 13 hours of the same story, again and again. Akira Kurosawa’s epic spawned numerous men-on-a-mission imitators, but its remorseless mood remains unique. Get this for desolate: the Seven Samurai aren’t in it for glory; they’re fighting for food. Add crop-stealing bandits to a world that hostile, and any heroics hit all the harder. Paced like an approaching war-drum, here’s a film drenched in jeopardy that peaks in a hellish Somme of muddy slaughter. Toshiro Mifune’s arse-flashing, volatile maniac is rightly celebrated, but the film wouldn’t work without Takashi Shimura’s shrewd, weary ronin. Mifune’s the movie’s guts. But Shimura’s the heartbeat. After three-and-a-half hours immersed in A Kurosawa’s bleak, stormy nihilism, John Sturges’ The Magnificent Seven, the first official remake, coming six years after the original, feels bizarrely lightweight. Translated to a lawless frontier of

gun-slinging vigilantes, the setting fits the story, but any complexity’s lost to the Western’s simpler macho code. Yul Brynner’s all-stars sacrifice themselves for the hell of it. Still, you can’t knock the coolly rugged cast (McQueen! Coburn! Bronson!) or Elmer Bernstein’s score. 1980 was blessed with two Samurai ai clones, both under the spell of Star Wars. Battle Beyond The Stars swaps swords for spaceships as John Saxon’s galacto-Nazi threatens to vaporise the planet Akir. Cue an unholy casserole of alien warriors, space Vikings and the late Robert Vaughn riffing on his mercenary from The Magnificent Seven. It’s vintage cheddar, surprisingly faithful and throbbing with dodgy innuendo. Also from 1980: Hawk The Slayer. Given they share similar quest-recruit traits, a dungeons-and-dragons ai makes perfect sense, but the result is Samurai Tolkien staged as regional panto. This time, we get Mr Slayer enlisting a dwarf, an elf, a witch and a giant to protect a nunnery from Jack Palance’s scenery-gobbling mega-bastard. That distant whirring sound? Kurosawa, spinning in his grave. The format’s now so familiar it’s crying out for parody: enter ¡Three Amigos! (1986). In John Landis’ comedy Western, Steve Martin, Martin Short and Chevy Chase rescue a village from Mexican bandits. Or at least, pretend etend to — they’re

actually film stars on holiday by mistake. Not all the gags land, but the casting’s innately funny: every cowboy cliché gets skewered by the Amigos’ gormless naivety. Especially notable for Chase getting upstaged by a singing bush. Next up: Seven Samurai ai on six legs. Pixar’s audacious, underrated A Bug’s Life (1998) shrinks the story into an ant colony menaced by Kevin Spacey’s grasshopper. It’s packed with in-jokes and callbacks to previous incarnations: pill bugs Tuck and Roll look suspiciously like mini-Mifunes, all shaggy eyebrows and samurai-armour shells. Antoine Fuqua’s recent reboot retools the story as a capitalist allegory — razing a town for the sake of a gold mine, Peter Sarsgaard’s robber-baron is the One Percent personified. The movie’s USP, however, is its multi-ethnic mercenaries — Comanche Indian, fiery Latino, Korean knife-thrower, Denzel Washington’s badass cow-bro... I’m all for diversity, but it’s used as character shorthand here — there’s no depth to the Seven, or Fuqua’s direction, who quotes so many classic Westerns it wanders into nostalgia tourism. Fuqua’s film is a quick-draw remix: it goes in one eye and out the other. THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN IS OUT ON 23 JANUARY ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD







on a subway grate, cooing in delight as her white, pleated skirt billo billows around her hips. It’s an image so iconic that it’s been riffed on by everything from Pulp Fiction to The Tigger Movie. Other have been more ther tributes ha elaborate. In 2011, artist Seward Johnson created a 26 foot-tall, 34,000lb statue of the moment which has been displayed in New Jersey, Chicago and Bendigo, Australia. More A bizarrely in Japan, villagers from Inakadate, a prefecture of Aomori, paid homage to it in 2013 with a 140 by 100m recreation in a rice field made from nine different types of rice. Yet, when he captured the moment while Y shooting The Seven Year Itch on 15 September, 1954, Billy Wilder took a while to realise just what he had. “I was so stupid, because we were looking for a representative ad,” he told interviewer and superfan Cameron Crowe, “and it did not occur to me that this thing, where she’s kind of trying to keep the dress down, that this is it!” The set-up: having just seen The Creature From The Black Lagoon, married Richard F Sherman (Tom Ewell) and The Girl (Marilyn Monroe, whose character is never named) exit the Trans-Lux Theater in Manhattan on an illicit date and, as a subway train passes below, a breeze blooms her skirt. Yet, Y rather than rushing to cover her modesty, she boldly revels in the moment. “Isn’t it delicious?” she asks, perhaps rhetorically. The result is multi-faceted: a provocative encapsulation of Monroe’s appeal, a totem for a 1950s Hollywood (male) fantasy, and a fleeting depiction of onscreen joy that belies the pain coursing through Monroe’s offscreen life. And, of course, it graces the film’s poster. The shot was initially captured in the earlymorning hours on the corner of Lexington and 52nd Street. Some 1,500 spectators and photographers watched Wilder put Monroe through 14 takes.. “A “A Att first it was all innocent and fun,” recalled Monroe. “But when Billy kept shooting the scene over and over, the crowd of men kept on applauding and shouting, ‘More, more Marilyn — let’s see more.’ What was supposed to be a fun scene turned into a sex scene.” Monroe took steps against inadvertent exposure — she doubled up on two pairs of white underwear — but all for naught: legend has it the loud cat calls ruined the sound recording and led to the scene being re-shot under controllable conditions on the Fox lot. The iconic white dress — actually ivorycoloured rayon acetate crepe, because white registered grey on film — was created by Monroe’s go-to designer William Travilla, ravilla, who ra dismissed it as “that silly little dress”. In 1971, Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds bought the dress for $200. In 2011, when Reynolds auctioned it off to stave off bankruptcy, it went for a silly little $4.6 million. Some itches, it seems, never go away. THE SEVEN YEAR ITCH IS OUT NOW ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD




Filling in those filmic blind spots, one person at a time




THE RULES OF the First-Take Club are incredibly simple. Each month, we ask someone to peruse our list of the 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time (as voted for by the Empire readers in 2014) and select a film they haven’t seen before. Then they watch the film and tell us a) why the devil it took them so long and b) what the devil they think about it. This month’s inductee into the club is broadcaster, DJ and author Edith Bowman, whose movie-based soundtracks podcast, Soundtracking, is a mustlisten. And Edith’s choice? The film that she hadn’t seen, to her eternal shame? It’s number 236 on our list, widely considered the greatest anime of all time — Katsuhiro Ôtomo’s 1988 classic, Akira. Over to you, Edith.

I’ll admit I’m not any kind of expert on Japanese animation. The closest I get to it is my eightyear-old’s obsession with Pokémon, which I’m well aware began life as a game for Game Boy. So, Akira had passed me by until now. I’m glad I’ve seen it — it’s a different league of animation altogether. I’ve never seen anything like it. I won’t recount the plot details here. Largely because it would take me a very long time, as the story is incredibly complicated. Short version: Tetsuo Shima is a psychic who runs with a biker gang in a dystopian futuristic Tokyo (or not that futuristic — the story is set three years from now). It’s directed by Katsuhiro Ôtomo, who adapted his original manga series, which had over 2,000 pages of artwork. No wonder it took him eight

years to make. It’s tense, funny and wonderfully entertaining. And, when Tetsuo hallucinates toys coming to life, terrifying and revelatory. Doing some reading around the movie, I noticed that Ôtomo cites both Rebel Without A Cause and 2001: A Space Odyssey as an influence on his work. A lot of similar themes — alienation, the nature of humanity, the dangers of technology — can be found in Akira. Other themes are universal and so relevant — the battle between science and the military is something we see time and time again in sci-fi. Yet it’s one that constantly fascinates me, and one that is not always done well. I had very low expectations of an animated film being able to get so deep and touch on such heavy subject

matter. Then I watched Akira. In fact, I forgot I was watching animation after a while. It is not just considered a landmark of Japanese animation, but regarded by many as one of the greatest animated movies of all time. I have to agree. It’s certainly influential — you can see elements in films like The Matrix or even TV show Stranger Things. The animation is faultless and uses light in a way that I can’t quite get my head around. It’s the simple things, like how Ôtomo and his team capture the buzz of neon. And the soundscape is stunning — bursts of traditional music through sparks of Shoji Yamashiro’s score blend perfectly with the explosions, gunfire and loud vehicles, to add real depth of emotion and tension.

In a way, it’s timeless. About 15 years ago I hosted a series of the travel show Rough Guide, and Japan was one of the countries we were lucky enough to film in. For one segment I got to hang out with a real Bōsōzoku gang for a night. The specificity of the gang mentality that I witnessed first hand is told with such honesty and colour in Akira, from the noise of the bikes to the blatant disregard for life and their fearlessness. It’s astounding for animation to capture this. For me, it’s definitely ignited an interest in Japanese animation. Perhaps my son can put away the Pokémon and join me. AKIRA IS OUT NOW ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD



From top to bottom: The Sarlacc-referencing monster with a hundred giant eyeballs; Travis Knight had long wanted to create a Lord Of The Rings-style “transporting journey”; Entering the Hall Of Bones.

UNRAVELLING THE STRINGS Travis Knight, director of Kubo And The Two Strings and CEO of Laika, on the inspiration behind his latest stop-motion wonder WORDS TRAVIS KNIGHT

THE EPIC INSPIRATION The idea was simple, and it was ridiculously hard. The challenge I set for the team was to do a stopmotion David Lean film, a Kurosawian myth in miniature. On Kubo, we really learned how to push the medium to its breaking point, and then push beyond it. Tolkien has been a north star for me since my mom tucked the Lord Of The Rings series into her hospital bag when she was recovering from giving birth to me. I have always wanted Laika to tackle fantasy, grand adventures and transporting journeys, so when Kubo And The Two Strings came to us as an idea, it really spoke to me and I felt we were finally ready as a studio to attempt the scale and scope. The idea of making a small-scale film look like a large-scale epic that’s been shot on a sweeping, endless vista was kind of absurd on the face of it, but we’ve got such a wide array of



techniques — people who are creating technology and people who are doing things the way Georges Méliès was doing [them] when he sent rockets to the moon. It’s that combination of craft and technology — we take the raw and the refined and we merge them.

THE JAPANESE INFLUENCE In conceiving and designing the characters of Monkey and Beetle, we looked to animals indigenous to Japan. For Beetle, we drew from the Japanese rhinoceros beetle, known natively as kabutomushi, which literally means “helmet bug”. The insect’s features resemble the headgear worn by medieval samurai. In Japan, the rhinoceros beetle is associated with strength and fighting prowess. And in mythologies and cultures around the world, the beetle is a symbol of transformation and metamorphosis. Since transformation is a central theme of the film, this is an instance where the film’s thematic core fused with design for a perfect narrative synthesis. We based the face design of Kubo’s evil aunties, The Sisters, on classical Japanese Noh theatre masks. The Sisters’ masks have the traditional ‘neutral’ expression which worked well to cover the nature of their true characters and lent itself nicely to a spooky effect wherein we hear them, but don’t see their lips moving.

THE SAITO IMPACT We delved into so much of the Japanese arts that we revere, but ended up returning again and again to a 20th-century block-print artist named Kiyoshi Saito. He was trained in traditional Japanese block printing, but he was inspired and highly influenced by other European artists including the French Impressionists. Saito’s use of the natural grain of the wood texture in his block-print art inspired us to use it as a signature throughout the film. Not only did we think of each frame as a wood-block print on its own, we used the idea of the lovely wood-grain texture in many applications: from ground plane in Kubo’s cave, to the sides of his sharply angled mountain, to textures we see on the village homes and roofs. We used that same texture across every sequence in the movie — it became Kubo’s visual signature.

THE OBLIGATORY STAR WARS REFERENCE It made sense to us to include an homage to the magnificent Star Wars in the underwater sequence when Kubo is beneath the surface attempting to bring the armour up.  Kubo encounters a monstrous sea creature with a hundred giant eyeballs that are hypnotising our hero and attempting to drag him to the depths below to devour him. It’s clearly our take on the Sarlacc. It’s also a call back to Steven Spielberg, whom I adore (along with the rest of the world), and who is the reason I was introduced to Akira Kurosawa.

THE HARRYHAUSEN EFFECT Our young hero Kubo battles with colossal creatures. We at Laika are huge fans of the great Ray Harryhausen and his animated fantasy epics. The opportunity to make the giant skeleton practically [in-camera] inspired our crew to pay tribute to the master stop-motion filmmaker. One of the key influences for the Hall Of Bones scene was the iconic skeleton fight from Harryhausen’s Jason And The Argonauts. It’s our attempt at one-upping our idol with a pitched battle showcasing a skeleton puppet so immense that it dwarfed the animator bringing it to life.  I think Uncle Ray would be proud of us! KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS IS ouT oN 16 JaNuary oN DVD, blu-ray aND DoWNloaD



What we said: “Yet another success for stop-motion giants Laika, Kubo boasts big laughs and effective scares in a typically gorgeous animated tale.” Notable extras: Multiple featurettes, plus Travis Knight commentary exclusive to Blu-ray.

LISTEN TO YOUR FRIEND BILLY ZANE He’s a cool guy. He’s trying to help you Hi billy I recently joined a popular dating app and met a girl whose company I enjoy. But we’d only been on a couple of dates, and I wanted to keep my options open, so set up a date with another match. But when I told the first girl this, she went ballistic. I didn’t think we were exclusive, just having fun. But she’s saying she won’t see me anymore. Am I in the wrong here? Yours, KW Quite simply, KW, you sound like a man, and she a woman. I commend your honesty, but must correct your timing. establish the terms of engagement before your ‘dates’, to avoid any misunderstanding at the gate, and use it as an organising principle while choosing your partners. Now to elaborate upon my first comment: this will not ensure missile defence from a ballistic missile, I’m afraid. Dear billy Love this column. Didn’t think I’d write into it, though! But something’s come up. A few months ago, I moved into a spare room. My landlady is a lovely woman, about 20 years older than me. Not my type at all. But lately I’ve found myself fancying the pants off her. Oh, slight spanner in the works: her son is my best mate. What do you reckon? Cheers, eJ Stifler’s Mom? Dude! Make the move. If she accepts, then ask her how or if she wants to inform her son. The level of intensity around the relationship will also inform the decisions to follow. y your bigger issue is lodging. Prepare for back-up accommodation as this will inevitably lead to you needing your own place in a pinch. I doubt crashing on your mate’s couch is an option. Hi billy I’m a budding filmmaker, trying to make my first short with a guy who’s been my best friend since school. However, we

had a blazing row about creative control and now we’re not speaking. I’m the director, my friend is the writer (and lead actor), and I think I should have final say. But he’s not budging, and is threatening to sabotage the film with a deliberately bad performance. What should I do? Yours, aD Deliberately bad? really? That’s his sweet revenge? fact-check that and come back to me. I think you are projecting a lot. y you signed off on the script, right? y you are happy with it, I assume? It’s a short film you are bootstrapping with your mate. Neither of you should have creative control. Collaborate and compromise. Try to have fun together. remember, emember, it’s film. emember It’s too important to take seriously. Dear billy This may seem daft, but should I get a 4K TV? I wouldn’t ask, but I’m the guy who always backs the wrong horse. LaserDiscs? I got ’em. And I still have my HD DVD player. So what do you think? Cheers, bM More and more content is being shot in 4K, purely because broadcasters must fill the pipe they spent a buttload on to accommodate it. However, I’m not a fan of watching movies in HD on an HD TV, let alone in 4K, simply because it’s ugly to my eye. It’s too sharp. Too real. I like grain and diffusion, personally. That said, sports rock in 4K! but I say save your cash and wait at least until the 4K TVs get cheaper cheaper, and the content for it gets even more readily available. Don’t get rid of your old TV. y you will savour its unique low-fi quality like a delicacy, as they get phased out and as hard to find as bad weed these days. SeND your QueSTIoNS To bIlly ZaNe VIa bIlly@eMPIreMagaZINe.CoM. bIlly HaS DoNaTeD HIS fee for THIS ColuMN To CHarITy

february 2017


























































01 Big Trouble in Little China 02 Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 03 Predator 04 Escape from New York 05 The Dark Knight Rises 06 The Karate Kid 07 Aliens 08 Dredd 09 Kill Bill 10 Almost Famous 11 Office Space 12 The Dark Knight Rises 13 Inglourious Basterds 14 Big Trouble in Little China 15 The Martian 16 Hot Fuzz 17 Aliens/Facebook 18 Green Room 19 Close Encounters of the Third Kind 20 The Witch 21 The Big Lebowski 22 O Brother, Where Art Thou? 23 Aliens 24 The Thing 25 Star Wars 26 Tarantino Films 27 Kill Bill 28 The Blues Brothers 29 Whiplash 30 High-Rise 31 Blade Runner 32 The Wicker Man 33 What We Do in the Shadows 34 Raiders of the Lost Ark 35 Back to the Future Part II 36 High Fidelity 37/38 Aliens 39 Groundhog Day 40 Ghostbusters II 41 The Last Starfighter 42 Big 43 Scanners 44 Aliens 45 An American Werewolf in London 46 Jurassic Park 47 Ex Machina 48 Army of Darkness 49 Blade Runner 50/51 Star Wars 52 The Crow 53/54 Jaws





What do you dress up as when you first seduce Viggo Mortensen in A Hist History Of Violence? A cheerleader cheerleader. You see David Cronenberg’s films and think he’s insane, but he’s the loveliest guy. That movie was the greatest acting experience of my life. Hey, here’s a challenge for Empire’s readers: in one of the bedroom scenes, see if they can spot the plastic seabass. We had this thing about hiding fish in various scenes and it got way out of control. Correct.



Robert Rodriguez


Guillermo del Toro


Werner Herzog


Christian Slater


Bryan Singer


John Waters



After the plane lands in The Mummy: Tomb Of The Dragon Emperor, Evelyn asks, “What is that godawful smell?” What is it? Yak shit? No, wait... Yak sick! “The yak yakked!” Correct.




Quentin Tarantino



In Thank You For Smoking, David Koechner’s Bobby Jay Bliss tells you the secret to fooling a breathalyzer test. What is it — and what’s the slogan you come up with? I don’t know. It’s crazy to think that was Jason Reitman’s first film — he was like a baby director


David O. Russell

West Village a year before I was cast in that movie so I didn’t do any research: I was Lil. I was the girl running around in cowboy boots, hanging out at Hogs & Heifers and getting into fights [laughs]. laughs]. laughs Correct.


In Assault On Precinct 13, 3, Ja Rule guesses your character’s star sign. Which is? Easy — Aries, the same as my own star sign. Correct.


Christopher Lee

back then. I love those characters: they deserved their own sitcom spin-off. The correct answer is by chewing activated charcoal tablets. The slogan is: “If you must drink and drive, suck charcoal.”

Which dogs does Jocelyn breed in The Jane Austen Book Club? No idea. [Hears [ answer er]] Rhodesian Ridgeback? How can I forget that! My ex is from Rhodesia. I don’t remember the dogs as much as I remember the cast. The director [Robin Swicord] made us do an actual book club and the only person who read all the books was Maggie Grace. Shameful, right? I was the worst st book club member. The correct answer is Rhodesian Ridgeback.


Ben Kingsley

In Lights Out, Out you enjoy a movie night with your son. Which film do you watch? You gott me there. [[Hears the answer what er]] Auntie what? Never heard of it. We pretended we were watching the movie while we were shooting then they added it digitally. You know, I’ve always wanted to see a ghost. I stayed at the Padre Hotel in Bakersfield where two phantom girls walk the hallways, and set the alarm for 3am. They didn’t show up. The correct answer is Auntie Mame.

“Slow down, honey” is a line from which of your movies? The Cooler? No?? [Hears [ the answer er]] It was Grown Ups? People still talk about that scene because I’m breastfeeding, like, a five-year-old! The correct answer is Grown Ups.


Lil lists her five favourite men in Coyote Ugly. Who are they? They’re all liquor. Jim, Jack, Johnny Red, Johnny Black... and... Argh! José! I was a bartender in the

When you first hook up with William H. Macy’s Bernie in The Cooler, you ask for some music. What record does he put on? [[Starts Starts singing] singing] ‘Luck, be a lady tonight...’ Bill and me were naked so much on set that we threw a ‘Show Us Your Ass’ party on the last day. We had a photobooth and toilet-paper prizes for Most Original Ass, Hottest Ass, Most Artistic Ass... There’s a book somewhere of the entire crew’s asses. Correct.


Since ER, you’ve played two doctors. Which films do they appear in? I was a psychiatrist in Assault On Precinct 13. What the fuck was the other ther one? [[Hears answer er]] Demonic? I’ve still not seen that film! Half a point. The correct answer is Dr Alex Sabian (Assault On Precinct 13) and Dr Elizabeth Klein (Demonic).


“I have a terrible memory. People ask me what I ate for lunch yesterday and I don’t even remember that. But that was fun.” LIGHTS OUT IS OUT NOW ON DVD, BLU-RAY AND DOWNLOAD



THE GUIDE Everything else coming your way this month




NEW COMMENTARY BRING ME THE HEAD OF ALFREDO GARCIA DVD, BLU-RAY Sam Peckinpah’s most nihilistic movie arrives with a new commentary from Peckinpal Stephen Prince, and the UK

MONSTER DOCUMENTARY DAS CABINET DES DR. CALIGARI BLU-RAY Film’s most famous piece of furniture gets a new lease of


steelbook life — under its original title — including a new


Caligari To Hitler. There will be a test, so pay attention.





two-hour documentary about German cinema called From


debut of 1993 documentary Man Of Iron.



Z NATION: SEASON 3 DVD, BLU-RAY FEAST YOUR EARS VARIETÉ DVD, BLU-RAY This classic circus-set silent melodrama gets a new lease of life with not one, not two, but three scores for you to choose from, from Stephen Horne, The Tiger Lillies and Johannes Contag.


of Greek myth and modern madness at the Rio Carnival.

Howard Hawks’ classic battle-of-the-sexes comedy


Comes laden with new interviews and a documentary

gets the Criterion treatment with a most unusual extra:


about the film’s resonance and relevance in Brazil today.

a restored version of the 1931 comedy The Front Page,


of which His Girl Friday is a remake.






Criterion presents Marcel Camus’ Oscar-winning merging













7/17 Benedict Cumberbatch’s part surgeon, part sorcerer superhero (6,7) 8 — Than Bombs for Jesse Eisenberg and Isabelle Huppert (6) 9 Simon, known to the dead as Shaun (4) 10 The location of Wes Anderson’s Grand Hotel (8) 11 Top Gun-style fun for Josh Lucas (7) 13 For which Michael Fassbender donned a papier-mâché head (5) 15 Hawke lost amid Kenneth Anger (5) 17 See 7 Across 20 Director who launched the Fast And The Furious film franchise (3,5) 21 Sodium chloride — or an Angelina Jolie-starrer (4) 22 Could be Beatty, could be Oates (6) 23 “You see what it wants you to see” ran the tagline for this 2013 horror movie (6)


1 Pattinson or a 2015 horror movie (6) 2 This 1997 thriller starred ed Mario Van V Peebles and Andrew McCarthy (4) 3 Film for which Jack Lemmon won a Best Actor Oscar nomination in 1981 (7) 4 Wesley Snipe’s vampire superhero (5) 5 Dario Argento’s classic Italian horror release (8) 6 Could be Judd, could be Willie (6) 12 Federico Fellini’s 1973 classic (8) 14 Harry Dean seen in The Gr Green Mile (7) 16 Pierce Brosnan found himself entangled in The — Crown Affair (6) 18 The bad side of Andy Serkis’ The Lord Of The Rings character (6) 19 Ashen, like George Stevens’ great gunfighter Western (5) 21 Sounds twisted, this Jason Schwartzman and John Leguizamo release (4)

one of the most surprising films of 2016, the animated Sausage Party, starring the voices of seth rogen, salma Hayek, Kristen wiig and Jonah Hill, reveals just what happens after groceries leave the store. okay, we all know what happens in real life, but this is the magic of the movies, and following a botched excursion into the ‘Great Beyond’, sausage Frank (rogen) finds himself on a quest to discover the true nature of his existence. if that sounds somewhat highfalutin, don’t be fooled — Sausage Party is one of the filthiest but also funniest films of the year. it’s out on dVd, Blu-ray and download now, and to mark its release, we’ve got a smart 4K Ultra Hd 49” Led TV, Blu-ray player and Blu-ray copy of the film for one winner. so if you fancy finding out the fate of Frank, solve the crossword, work out the anagram and text your answer to the number below. SAU S AUS AUS SAGE P TY is oUT now on dVd, AGE PARTY BLU-ray -ray and downLoad -ra

COMPETITION ENDS 23 JANUARY HOW TO ENTER Take the letters from each coloured square and rearrange them to form the name of an actor, actress, director or character. Text ‘EMPIRE’ to 83070, followed by your answer, name and address (with a space between each element of your message!). Texts cost 50p plus standard operator costs. Lines close at midnight, 23 January. Winners are selected at random. See below for terms and conditions. JANUARY ANSWERS across: 7 Lolita, 8 Ed Wood, 9 Gere, 10 Polanski, 11/13 Sausage Party, 15 Alice, 17 Del Toro, 20 Angry Men, 21 Nemo, 23 Rififi, 24 Thelma. down: 1 Code, 2 Pixels, 3 Rampage, 4 Belle, 5 Rwanda, 6 Rock Star, 12 Atlantic, 14 Kenneth, 16 Carrie, 18 Tender, 19 Imrie, 22 Mama. ANAGRAM MICHAEL FASSBENDER Terms and condiTions: One entry per person. Texts cost 50p + standard network rate. Ask the bill payer’s permission before entering. Entries must be received before 24 January or will not be valid (but the cost of the text may still be charged). One winner will be selected at random. The model of the TV and Blu-ray may vary. Competition promoted by Bauer Consumer Media Limited t/a Empire (“Empire”). Empire’s choice of winner is final and no correspondence will be entered into in this regard. The winner will be notified, by phone (on the number the text was sent), between seven and ten days after the competition ends. Empire will call the winner a maximum of three times and leave one message. If the winner does not answer the phone or respond to the message within 14 days of the competition’s end, Empire will select another winner and the original winner will not win a prize. Entrants must be over 18, resident in the UK and not be employed by Empire. The prize is non-negotiable with no cash alternative. Empire is not responsible for late delivery or unsatisfactory quality of the prize. Entrants agree to the collection of their personal data in accordance with Empire’s privacy policy: Winner’s personal details will be given to prize provider to arrange delivery of the prize. Bauer reserves the right to amend or cancel these terms or any aspect of the competition (including the prize) at any time if required for reasons beyond its control. Any questions, please email Complaints will not be considered if made more than 30 days after the competition ends. Winner’s details available on request (after the competition ends) by emailing For full Ts&Cs see

FeBrUary 2017



Simon Pegg: “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls is not the best film ever made, but it boasts a sequence so brilliant in execution, so artful in set up, it deserves recognition. I love the sheer industry involved in the set-up — a series of dummy gags used to carry exposition — all to facilitate a wildly ridiculous visual gag, executed with expertise by Jim Carrey.”

Sweat pours down his face. But then he sees Quinn hand the man an envelope.

r from end. Then Ace’s arm appears. rom a hole in its rear A pair of safari vehicles pull up. A family — dad, mom, two kids — gets out of the first Jeep.

aCe: I had a dog, and his name was... BINGO! Quinn and the man go their separate ways. aCe: Time to get some oxygen. He turns the wheel to open the door, but nothing happens.

DaD: Come on, girls! Quiet quiet quiet quiet… look look look. Now Ace’s head is pushing against the fabric of the rhino’s rectum. It looks like... MOM: Oh look. The mother rhino is giving birth!

INT. faKe rHINO — Day aCe: No! Come on… Ace (Jim Carr Carrey) has constructed a fake rhino from which to surveil Burton Quinn (Bob Gunton) as he has a clandestine rrendezvous with a man. aCe: Meeting secretly with sinister types much? Ah, not too much. Ah, much too much! Then the fan packs in. Ace taps it. It’s dead. He groans, and takes off his shirt.

The wheel comes off in his hand. Panicking, Ace thrusts his shoulder against the exit to no avail.

Ace’s face emerges, tongue-first. He’s making an inhuman squalling noise. The mother looks on and sighs, awestruck. Then, as two arms emerge from the rhino, she looks concerned. Next is Ace’s head, as he begins to chew his way out of the rhino.

aCe: MAYDAY! LITTLe GIrL: Mommy! Now a cable breaks, covering him in fluid. Alarms begin to sound. Ace gasps for oxygen. aCe: Must… have… air!

aCe: Kinda hot in these rhinos.

Now Ace’s upper half slithers out. He roars like an angry walrus. The dad gags. Ace then slides out of the rhino and falls onto the ground in a foetal position. Completely naked.

Ace spies a shaft of sunlight behind him.


Time passes. The sun beats down. A nownaked Ace peel peels off his underwear with a wet plop.

eXT. XT buSH — Day XT. a ay

aCe: WARM!

From outside the rhino, we see a finger poke out

february 2017

LITTLe bOy: y: Cool! y The boy’ boy’s parents don’t agree. They hustle their kids back into the Jeep.






Empire UK – February 2017