Interview: Charlie Plummer on “All the Money in the World”

Posted on January 4, 2018 at 4:10 pm

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Copyright 2017 TriStar
Charlie Plummer stars in “All the Money in the World” as John Paul Getty III, grandson and namesake of the wealthiest man in the world. When Getty III was kidnapped at age 16 in 1973, his grandfather refused to pay the $7 million ransom. In an interview, Plummer (no relation to Christopher Plummer, who plays the flinty oil baron), talked about the challenges of the role and what he learned from director Ridley Scott.

For a story like this, based on a real-life incident, is your performance based exclusively on the script or do you do outside research about the people and the times?

I did do outside research. I don’t have a lot of experience and this is certainly the first time I played a character who was at all based on a real person. So I did take full advantage of that and I did do as much research as I could. But I also didn’t want to overwhelm myself with research because I wanted to do my own interpretation. I thought if I was going to do it, it would really have to come from who I am as well. I then spoke to Ridley to really see his vision of the character and who this person was at this time in his movie; that was also really important for me. So I think all of those components really made up what my performance ended up being like.

Your character is somebody has had great wealth around him but he himself has not been super privileged because his grandfather would not give his mother any money. How did that affect him?

That was one thing that I think really sparked my interest. This guy who has this status, this name and what that means and when he walks into a room he knows that all people are talking about him is if he’s this person but then he goes home and he doesn’t have all of that wealth. By the end of the film you see who he is when he does have all this wealth.

What’s interesting for me is at the start of the film where he doesn’t have it, though. He just has the name, the status. And so there is that emptiness inside of him. He had a certain emptiness in him and one that couldn’t be filled by status or wealth . John Paul Getty III got into this argument with a friend of his, actually the night he got kidnapped. He was drunk and they were fighting and the friend said “You’d be nothing without your name. No one would even care about you.” I think that that really does weigh on him in terms of who he is as a young person. At that age he was surrounded by these accomplished people, whether they were in politics or the arts, and really the reason why he was in those rooms was because of his name.

What was it like to inhabit the 70’s and what surprised you about that era?

Ridley is such a master for so many reasons and he had such a point of view on this decade and on this time. Janty Yates who did the costumes for the film and Ferdinando Merolla did the hair — all of that makes it a lot easier to slip into who that character was at that time. Janty was really the first person other than Ridley that I got to share ideas about the character with and so that was such an important relationship throughout. When that’s the first thing you see, it does have an effect on how the audience receives him and what they think his life has been like and so it definitely had an effect on my whole process. When you’re walking around and you see all the cars and the clothing and and it it all so iconic and it’s right at your fingertips — it really helped me slip into what that character was going through. At the end of the day it is not about the era. It is really is just about these people and what’s going on internally for them and that is certainly what it was for me.

What did you learn from your director, Ridley Scott?

I learned so much from him. Just being around him you learn so much and that was certainly the case for me getting to just be on set with him you and seeing how he speaks with people and how he works in his own environment I think was such a learning experience. Every time I see him he always asks what I’m doing and what I’m working on next. The way he is so interested in everyone and everything and the way that at age 80 how he’s still working as much as he is. I just saw him and immediately he started talking about the next thing he’s doing. For a young person especially that is such an important lesson to always keep moving forward and always keep fighting to learn and grow. He is such a good example of that.

Originally published in HuffPost

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Paul McGuigan on the Gloria Grahame Story “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool”

Posted on January 4, 2018 at 4:06 pm

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Copyright 2017 Sony Pictures Classics
Paul McGuigan directed “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool,” the bittersweet real-life story of Gloria Grahame, who was cared for by the family of her last lover in her final illness. Annette Bening is incandescent as the Oscar-winning actress, and Jamie Bell gives his best performance since “Billy Elliot” as Peter Turner, the decades-younger aspiring actor who loved her. Grahame is probably best remembered today for smaller roles in “It’s a Wonderful Life” (as Violet) and “Oklahoma” (as Ado Annie, the girl who “cain’t say no“) but she also starred in major studio films with Humphrey Bogart, Kirk Douglas, Charlton Heston, and Robert Mitchum.

In an interview, McGuigan talked about his favorite Grahame performance and the two love stories in the film.

What is your favorite Gloria Grahame performance?

“In a Lonely Place.” is my favorite. I just love that film and I just love her. I mean that has been the greatest joy for me, to watch her movies over and over again as a part of my research for this film.

What was it about her as an actress that made her so memorable?

I think she was just very modern, she was unique and she was fascinating. She was funny, she was sexy and she was herself. She was always herself which I liked, she always made the role a part of her and that’s what I’ve always seen in Annette Bening as well. They both have that funny kind of playfulness, very similar in style. I think Gloria Grahame is when you look back at her work, which is incredible, she could go toe to toe with any of the world’s most macho guys from those days which is very few actresses could can do. She could create a woman that everyone fell in love with. She always played that kind of femme fatale.

I love the way you staged the flashback scene about how Gloria and Paul met when she impetuously asked him to come to her apartment and dance with her. It is so charming and delightful.

There were lots of scenes which were emotionally quite hard on everybody, not just the actors but the crew, so it was lovely to come across a scene that was just a dance sequence and it was kind of joyous. It was good for us all to have our hair down and have a good time. So I just talked to the director of photography, Urszula Pontikos, and I said, “just put the camera on your shoulder and let’s just see what happens.” I always had a Plan B, which was a choreographer on set that we could work with, but I just wanted to see what would happen. So what did happen is we had the song, the real song, “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by Taste of Honey. I put the song on and they just started to dance and that’s what you get. We did two takes and then Annette started to complain. She was like, “Why are you only doing two takes? I was having such a good time getting to dance next to Jamie Bell.”

What was it about that relationship that made him the one to call, even though they had not seen each other in a year, and what was it about her relationship with his family that made her want to go there to be cared for?

There are two love stories in this movie. There’s the love story between Gloria and Peter and there’s the love story between Gloria and Peter’s family. These families in Liverpool and where I come from in Glasgow are working class families. They’re very tight. They have also the kind of family that if you bring someone in and you say, “This is the person I love,” then they unconditionally will love the other person.

It’s not all wine and roses, it’s not all bouquets and flowers; there are always tensions and all that but deep down they really do have a genuine love for her. I don’t think Gloria had that in her life. Her personal life was very fraught and it was very complex and it wasn’t necessarily the environment that was conducive to taking care of someone. I don’t think she felt comfortable with anyone but with Peter’s family. She felt that they would not judge her and whatever she wanted to do, she could do it there. She just wanted to rest.

Ultimately Gloria never thought she was going to die. She wasn’t really going back to Liverpool to die. She just thought that she was going there for a few days and get ready and then she was going to go back into the play. Jamie’s character knows that she is dying. He knows she’s dying, the family knows she’s dying; the mom certainly knew she was dying but Gloria doesn’t know she was dying. but she felt comfortable within that family; she felt comfortable within that environment. It was the environment that was of safety to her and non-judgmental.

When he goes to the hotel room to pick her up, he’s quite angry at her because she hasn’t been in touch. That was an interesting starting point and then he takes her home and the first thing is the family waiting on her and she kisses them like she would kiss her own family.

What was it like having the real Peter to respond to what you were doing?

Peter was very respectful of everyone and it was great to have that resource. I said, “Let me take your story for a minute, and then we’ll give it to you back.” I wanted to keep that true kind of very, very distilled idea of memory, a very distilled notion of a love affair. I loved the way it was structured, very fluid, because that is how we remember things. I wanted to bring the audience to this love story and then color it with Gloria Grahame’s real life past and her cinematic past and shoot the film the way that maybe one of her movies would have been shot back in the day.

Originally published on HuffPost

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Revvin’ Up the Reindeer with Brady Rymer

Posted on December 12, 2017 at 1:44 pm

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Brady Rymer’s tuneful new holiday album for families is Revvin’ Up the Reindeer. In an interview, he shared his own family’s favorite holiday traditions and the inspiration for his songs about untangling Christmas lights and rainbow candles for Hanukkah.
You have toured with some of the greats — what did you learn from performing with them in front of such huge audiences?
Copyright 2017 Bangin’ Out a Melody Music
My grown-up group From Good Homes did a very special tour with Bob Weir back in 1995. He was one of my idols growing up — his rhythm guitar playing was very inspirational — so here I am with my buddies in a band, years later sharing the stage with him – it was incredible! We were on tour with Bob the day Jerry Garcia passed away, and I remember the show after Jerry passed Bob saying, “Let’s go on and do our thing. Jerry would want it that way.” That night, I saw the power of music to heal, communicate, connect us all. Giving us joy, sadness, hope to carry on – it was all there as we celebrated through song an artist that we all loved and who gave so much of himself. Later on the tour, I asked him how he had kept going after all of these years (roughly 30 at that point). He simply said, “You gotta have fun.” He said he wouldn’t be doing it all these years if it wasn’t fun. So, guess you can just take it from the good ol’ Grateful Dead: Just go out there and do what you do and have fun! Don’t try to be something that you’re not — share your passion and talents in an honest way.
How are kid audiences different from grown-ups?
I struggle with this one because in a lot of ways they are similar. They all wanna get rockin’. They both wanna see the band having fun, and they both like to dance. Both grown-ups and kids have been known to get rowdy; they both wanna hear their favorite songs, they both wanna connect with the artist and each other and experience something. One difference is that it’s hard to do the longer improvisational and instrumental stuff for the kids! No space jams for them! Ha! But I don’t know, maybe it would work if I just asked them all to pretend they were all ballerinas for the next 10 minutes. At the core they seem the same. We are always trying to connect with our music and songs and as people. At live concerts, we are all together for a little amount of time, singing, dancing and experiencing something magical together.
I don’t think there’s ever been a song about untangling Christmas tree lights before — what inspired that?
That’s one of my holiday tasks! Year after year I get to untangle the lights and hang ‘m on the tree – aren’t I lucky! So, a few years back I was untangling a particularly knotted, stubborn batch when I just started singing to help manage the time and frustration. I recorded a little bit of it, and you can hear on the tape the sound of the lights being untangled. That version actually became the basis for the final song, I went back to it when I was writing the lyrics. The original tape of me singing was about 50 minutes long, so we had to cut it down a bit for the album!
Why is music such an important part of celebrating Christmas?
So much emotion, memory, is wrapped up in the holiday music. When you hear it again it opens up and hopefully you open your heart to a sweet time and some magical feelings. Music is a great way to spread the love and cheer. It just seems to mix well with the snow, chill, peace, hope and magic that comes around each holiday season.
What are some of your family’s favorite holiday traditions?
Cooking (& eating)! We usually host lots of family. My wife, Bridget & I love planning a different menu each year, and we create special cocktails to serve, etc. Now that our two kids are older they are involved as well — suggesting recipes and helping along. I also love getting up every Christmas morn to see what kind of surprise Santa has left each year. Last year, because it was so warm on Christmas, Santa moved our entire Christmas situation — the tree, all the presents, the stockings – everything was moved from the living room to our (typically freezing) enclosed deck space where the kids have been wanting to have Christmas since they were little. It was just too cold in past years. So, how did Santa know that the weather was perfect last year? It was so crazy when the kids ran into the living room on Christmas morn expecting the tree and all the presents to be there… they yelled, “Santa! Where’s our Christmas?!”
What was the first instrument you ever learned to play?
Well, I played the baritone horn in elementary school for a bit but it had a hard time competing with a shiny, cool (and loud) electric guitar! Led Zeppelin riffs were not being played on the baritone horn. Around the same time (5th or 6th grade) my brother and our friends also picked up guitars, basses and pianos & we started a rock band. It was the thing to do. After a few nights in my parents’ garage we had a few songs down. That was it for me – I loved it.
What was the first rock concert you ever attended?
KISS with my dad & brother! Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ, July 10th 1976 – I’ve even seen it on Youtube! They were on their Destroyer Tour and the show started with explosions, and I loved the huge rock n roll sound and spectacle! It was incredible. It was a great bill. And the other bands left just as much impact — it was Bob Seger and the J Geils Band. Kind of a strange bill, but it worked. And wow, what a scene, so much to see at an outdoor rock concert in the 70’s! My head was spinning. I think my dad’s was too.
How do you approach writing a song for Hanukkah?
I remembered a book that was in my kids’ preschool classes called “Rainbow Candles.” I thought that would be a sweet thing to sing about and a great way to write about the holiday. I didn’t have any songs in waltz time so I tried it in ¾ time. I also wanted it to have a Klezmer flavor so it’s in a minor key.
What parts of the holiday are most music-friendly?
I knew I wanted to sing about kid-friendly Hanukkah treats like latkes and donuts, dreidel spinning and lighting the menorah. But I also wanted to express the feeling of love, hope, family and joy. The idea of a festival of lights is so lovely – the hope, promise, peace, that image & idea made its way into a few other holiday songs on the album as well. Those ideas became somewhat of a holiday theme. And as Bob Weir said – just trying to have some fun with it all.
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Interview: Writer/Director Ron Shelton and “Just Getting Started”

Posted on December 12, 2017 at 1:40 pm

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Copyright Broad Green 2017

Writer/director Ron Shelton understands the way that people — especially men — communicate through competition that can be both amiable and cutthroat at the same time. And he knows how funny it is to watch. In his new movie, “Just Getting Started,” Morgan Freeman, Tommy Lee Jones, and a cast of great character actors play residents of an idyllic retirement community in Palm Springs who try to top each other in golf, poker, and the affections of a new arrival played by Rene Russo. In an interview, he talked about the differences between men and women, spending Christmas in the desert, and And he quoted one of his most famous characters, “Bull Durham’s” Annie Savoy.

One of the funniest characters in the film is the mob wife played by an unrecognizable Jane Seymour. What did you have in mind with the look of her character?

She’s supposed to be outrageous. Jane said she wanted to come in and have some fun, and she told me she had two different wigs; one blonde, one brunette. I said, “Bring them both and wear one in each scene.” She’s a woman who married into a criminal wealth and we wanted to have fun with it.

It’s unusual to see a movie with Christmas in the California desert, no snow, no pine trees.

I’m a native of Southern California so I grew up with Christmas at the beach. I looked it up and Southern California is on the same latitude as Bethlehem so I’ve always joked about that but half the world has hot Christmases. I was in Palm Springs one time around Christmas and it was one hundred ten degrees and there were dust storms blowing and Johnny Mathis was singing “Let It Snow” and everybody was perfectly happy so I thought it was a good backdrop for not your normal Christmas setting.

Your films often feature guys and their relentless competition, even in the smallest of ways. Why do they do that?

 Obviously if I knew I wouldn’t keep trying to explore it in dramatic ways. Honestly, I think it might be chemical. It is supported by conditioning and the world. Writers are storytellers and forever we have been exploring the why of all that without ever coming to an answer. I think on the other side of guys and that alpha male thing, guys also forget and forgive much quicker than women. All my women friends in life completely agree. Men say, “That’s over; let’s play golf, let’s have dinner, let’s have a drink.” The women go, “Oh, wait aren’t there unresolved issues?” As Annie Savoy says in “Bull Durham,” “It’s wonderful how men get over things.”

Is it different to write for older characters?

It turns out to be the same because I’m an older character and I don’t think of myself as older, so they don’t either. You and I are still thinking about what are we doing next, about doing what are we doing today, what’s my next job, my interview, my script, my movie, whatever. I’m more active than I’ve ever been. I can’t jump as high or hit a golf ball quite as far, but I think I’m a lot wiser. I don’t make as many of the same mistakes. I’m a better parent and grandparent. I wanted to treat them like people and not go to all those usual sort of go-to default reflex Viagra jokes.

They’re toasting the Christmases to come, looking ahead, not back. So are the actors. Morgan’s eighty, Tommy seventy. Nobody in the movie was under sixty except the two young kids and everybody was active and vibrant and full of energy.

You have made some classic sports movies, and of course there is some golf in this one. We don’t get those adoring portrayals of athletes you see in Turner Classic Movie films like “The Stratton Story” and “Pride of the Yankees.” Why is that?

I think we know too much. Television and iPhone and video cameras and paparazzi and confessions mean we cannot pretend that these people are anything other than the brilliantly talented and flawed people they are. Back when those movies were made there were no televised sports. People didn’t know what the athletes looked like. All I try to do in my stories is put the camera and the story where the television cameras can’t go.

Do sports build character, reveal character or both?

Both; without question. I’m a big believer in sports. It’s great training for people, I know it’s a cliché but it’s true — you learn life lessons. People ask me “what did you learn from sports?” because I went to college on a basketball scholarship and played professional baseball. I say, “you learn to lose” You never win in sports. You have good years and bad. You deal with disappointment. You learn to figure out, “How does that make me stronger? How do I put it in perspective with everything else going on in my life?” So, that’s a great life lesson. It’s what you keep in your heart and mind as you play, whether you are eight years old or thirty or sixty.

 Originally published in HuffPost

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Dan Stevens and Bharat Nalluri on “The Man Who Invented Christmas”

Posted on November 29, 2017 at 4:06 pm

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It was a great pleasure to interview actor Dan Stevens, who plays Charles Dickens in “The Man Who Invented Christmas” and the director, Bharat Nalluri.

Dan Stevens shared his thoughts about A Christmas Carol:

It has a lot to say about those in positions of power and wealth and influence and how they wield that in the world around them and how much they’re prepared to overlook in the society around them. That has not changed, and neither has the possibility of redemption. In Dickens’ time, though, it was very unusual to have a character that time travels and went through his own life. It’s almost sci-fi in a way the way he travels back. But also he’s able to go from the archetype of a really not very pleasant character, overnight he’s transformed. And that goes back in the history of theater and literature. You have these archetypes and they pretty much stay bad. The fatal flaw is ultimately fatal. The bad guy comes on stage and we know who he is and he stays pretty bad; he might learn a lesson but here there is more because there is redemption. He has a second chance. He goes through this transformation. It’s so epic and so full of hope that somewhere inside there must be good in this man and that gives us hope about ourselves and the people around us and the possibility of change.

And Bharat Nalluri told me how A Christmas Carol taught him the meaning of Christmas:

When he was writing A Christmas Carol, Christmas celebrations were pretty austere. He wrote a book that gave you a picture postcard idea of Christmas as a time for kindness and generosity. I think the reason it resonates over the decades upon decades and never been out of print is because it actually says something about the human condition. Personally he did invent Christmas for me. I was born in India and my parents brought me into the north of England and Christmas wasn’t a thing that was always huge in my family. I didn’t really know what Christmas but I was surrounded by people in the north of England on the Scottish border where Christmas was just huge and it was a really joyous time for people. I couldn’t quite get it because it just didn’t register with me and then when I was about 10 or 11 I read A Christmas Carol and it completely clicked. I completely got what it was. So in a weird sort of way Dickens really did invent Christmas for me. We all look back and we have this wonderful image of what Christmas should be, that combination of everything we want. We want family life, we want to be around a roaring fire, we want to be roasting chestnuts, we want to hear snow falling but we also want to be good to each other in the human spirit. It’s that combination which is combined so beautifully in Dickens’ book and which we pay tribute to in our film.

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