Carlos Sanz on “Stronger” with Jake Gyllenhaal

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Copyright 2017 Lionsgate

One of the most powerful scenes in Stronger, with Jake Gyllenhaal as Jeff Bauman, who survived the Boston Marathon bombing, was the scene where Jeff finally meets Carlos Arredondo, the man who saved his life. A photograph of the two of them at the scene became instantly iconic as a symbol of humanity, heroism, and resilience in the midst of unspeakable horror.

Arredondo is played by actor Carlos Sanz, who told that he and Gyllenhaal did not meet before they filmed the scene, to heighten the authentic feelings of uncertainty. “We agreed that Jake and I wouldn’t interact until we did this scene so we didn’t rehearse it at all. I was outside the bar, it was really early and David Gordon Green comes out and he says ‘How do you feel about just shooting this thing?’ And I said ‘let’s do it.’ so when I walk in and I say to him, ‘Carlos,’ and he says, ‘Jeff,’ that’s the first time we actually connect. It had this kind of real organic quality to it that I think you’d really feel, at least I did on the day. This particular type of scene is so intimate that you feel like you’re in that third chair, you feel like you’re almost sitting at that table.”

He spoke about his audition, and how he prepared to tell the film’s most emotional story. “What’s interesting is that when I got the audition and I looked at the scene in particular I couldn’t get through it. Every time I started reading it I would get halfway through the scene and I would be just like, ‘Oh my God, this poor guy,’ and it took me quite a bit of time just to put together this idea of who this guy was. When I went to the audition my goal was just ‘don’t break down like you did in your office.’ I managed to get through the whole thing and I just put my head down and I let a little sigh of release out and when I looked up everybody in the room was crying and I thought. ‘Well, that’s how you do the job.’”

“I spoke to David Gordon Green quite a bit mostly just about trying to keep it very real and grounded and centered.” He watched Arredondo interviews to get the accent right, but declined to meet him before shooting. “I did meet him I think it was the last or second to last day I was working in Boston but I didn’t want to meet him beforehand because it felt like I had a firm grasp on who this guy was and I didn’t want to do an impersonation. When I met him he was such a sweet, sweet man that I think it might have changed what I ended up doing….For me, mostly I always feel like every character I play is me. It’s a different part of me, it’s a version of me and what I have to find is the truth and the reality of every single moment. For this particular character I think the real connection was that love you have for your children and then when they’re gone the kind of devastation and the kind of fortitude that you have to have as a person to overcome that. I felt that there was not a moment in this thing where I didn’t really connect. So for me it was easy to latch onto every aspect of this character’s persona. We did the scene a myriad of different ways and each time it was more powerful. There were obviously different types of takes but the take that eventually makes the movie is probably as close to what we got at the audition than some of the other stuff that we did.”

He says that playing Carlos affected him as a person as well as an actor. “I kept thinking about how there’s a kind of a strength in caring and taking care of others. That’s what this guy is saying and that’s what he’s doing and that was his great lesson in his life and it reverberated for me when I was dealing with my mom and my brother and my family after my father died because I sort of have that role in my family. I remembered that and it’s interesting because now it’s sort of life imitating art and it is a part of who I am now.”

Originally published on HuffPost.

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Stephen Frears and Ali Fazal on “Victoria and Abdul”

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I spoke to the director and co-star of the new film, “Victoria and Abul,” based on the real-life story of Queen Victoria’s last friendship, with the Indian man she called her “munshi” (teacher).

At rogerebert.com, Stephen Frears said there was one aspect of Victorian times he’d like to have now:

Confidence. In Britain we were very, very wealthy. We were very secure and very confident. Nowadays everyone is so neurotic; the country is so neurotic. We were robbers and thieves, though, so the confidence would have been nice but unfortunately it was all based on imperialism. Very, very tricky; never have an empire.

And he explained why he had to have a native of India to play the part of Abdul.

There are a lot of Indian actors in England, Asian actors in England but you couldn’t get that sort of wide-eyed quality. We hired an Indian casting director and I went to Bombay and a bunch of Indians came in to see me. When Ali came in, by the time he left the room I said, “Well, I can see why she’ll like him.” It was really as simple as that.

For the Motion Picture Association of America website Where to Watch, Ali Fazal talked to me about the magnificent costumes.

Oh God, I loved all of them. Every time I got into something, it was almost like what do we have on the menu today? That would be the sort of marvelous majestic-looking wardrobe and costume that I had. Consolata Boyle is truly a genius when it came to the authenticity of costumes that I wore, of course my particular favorite was the one he wears in Florence the scene where we’re dancing together. I give her a lot of credit for how I was able to flesh out the scenes. It’s the costumes that really tell the passage of time and the progression. So it was a really, really intimate journey that Consolata and I had over the costumes in this film. So yeah I’m very, very deeply attached to my costumes, every single thread and the buttons and the hooks and the Angrakhas and everything.

And what he hopes people will see in the film:

I think as clichéd as it sounds, it talks of love and hope and they’re the most abused words on the planet right now. We’ve tried war and politics and diplomacy and none of it really works. I really hope people see that, that in the middle of all that chaos there was something like that, this relationship that existed. It can happen today.

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Ed Skrein Turns Down a Mixed-Race Role

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Ed Skrein (the bad guy in “Deadpool”) agreed to play Ben Daimio in the new “Hellboy” movie. But when he found out that the character is half Asian he turned down the role, saying he did not think it was appropriate for him to take the part. “Representation of ethnic diversity is important, especially to me as I have a mixed heritage family. It is our responsibility to make moral decisions in difficult times and to give voice to inclusivity. It is my hope that one day these discussions will become less necessary and that we can help make equal representation in the Arts a reality,” he wrote.

On one hand, there is the view that any actor should be able to play any part. But given the extreme disparity in the treatment of minority actors, that should not apply until as many non-white, female, GLBTIA, and disabled actors are being cast in any part that does not specifically rely on being a cis-gender white male. We salute Skrien for taking this position and hope it shames the producers into hiring an actor whose ethnicity is consistent with the character he is playing.

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Tribute: Jerry Lewis

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We mourn the loss of one of the great figures of 20th century entertainment, Jerry Lewis, a performer who was at the top in nightclubs, movies, radio, and television. He was a successful and innovative director of film as well.

He was an extraordinarily gifted physical comedian.

He liked to describe his act with Dean Martin as “the handsome man and the monkey.”

After Martin left him, Lewis was devastated. In one of his most successful solo films, “The Nutty Professor,” a sort of reverse Jeckyll and Hyde story, he essentially played both roles.

Lewis became a director who learned every technical aspect of filmmaking, down to loading the camera. He invented the instant video feedback system that is now standard.

He was also a superb dramatic actor, most notably in Martin Scorsese’s “King of Comedy,” playing a kidnapped talk show host, opposite Robert de Niro.

He was also a tireless, if sometimes controversial, fundraiser for muscular dystrophy with annual Labor Day telethons.

Shawn Levy’s insightful book, King of Comedy: The Life and Art Of Jerry Lewis, has the best description I’ve seen of the complicated relationship between Lewis and his audience. His talent could be overwhelmed by his voracious need for attention and his barely hidden hostility. He had a rare combination of ferocious commitment to entertaining, putting everything he had into it, but holding a great deal back, never showing us who he really was, as any truly great entertainer should do.
But at his best, with Martin and working with director Frank Tashlin, he was as good as it gets.

May his memory be a blessing.

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Interview: Gretchen Mol on “A Family Man” for Where to Watch

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My interview with Gretchen Mol about “A Family Man” appears on Where to Watch.  She talked about giving some complexity and depth to the “you’re never home” wife character.

The movie is not “A Family Woman.”  So much of it is his perspective and his journey. But one of the important things about playing a part like this, that it’s so important for my character to love him. She is there to show the audience that he is loved and loveable even when that might otherwise be hard to believe.  It’s hard sometimes not to judge her for loving him but I had to as the actor kind of come to a point where I had to understand why she does.  It’s funny because when I initially read the script I didn’t think of them as being super successful necessarily, but I did think she is attracted to his sort of kind of cockiness or that nature of that person. When he says, “What’s not to love?” she really loved that.

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