Category: Interview


Dark Seduction is a terrible film the story of which should be an inspiration to filmmakers. View full article »

You have no idea what Reality is

The Atlantic recently published an interview with Donald D. Hoffman, a professor of cognitive science. In this interview, Hoffman reveals some fascinating ideas about how reality is perceived and how that far off that perception can actually be. Furthermore, it’s possible that living beings are supposed to be that way in order to survive! Read on for more! View full article »

The Story of Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula

Gary Oldman as Dracula- 1992- Francis Ford Coppola

Gary Oldman as Dracula- 1992- Francis Ford Coppola

Well, it just wouldn’t be Halloween without a Dracula post! As it happens the NuArt theater in West Los Angeles recently showed a midnight movie of “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” by Francis Ford Coppola. As a special treat, the screenwriter, James V. Hart, came out and gave a special introduction: the story of how the film got made!

I’m grateful to see so many of you turning out. Any of you a first timer? Oh, my god. I can’t spoil it! Okay.. it’s about vampires!

This was a movie that nobody wanted to make in this town. No studio, no executive, nobody wanted to put a dime into it. And, God bless her, Winona Ryder, at age 19, took my screenplay off the bottom of a bunch of teen comedies and said “I want to make this film.” And her agents said, “What? Why?” “Well.. I want to make this movie.”

She called Francis Coppola. She took the script to Francis and asked Francis to read it to see if he thought it was the right kind of role for her to play in her career. She wanted to grow up a bit. Francis called her back and said “Not only should you do the role, but who’s directing?” That was the phone call I got.

And to his credit, those of you that know Gary Oldman’s work after Dracula, this is an amazing performance and I adore him because he admired and appreciated and defended every word of dialogue in this script. In fact, most of the actors did. We didn’t nominate hobbits and wizards and vampires back when Gary gave this performance. You’re about to see an Academy Award winning performance and the only other director I even wanted for this film was David Lean. People thought I was crazy. And I got Francis Coppola. I got the best possible maestro to realize this film. So, thank you for coming. Enjoy Bram Stoker’s, Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula.

There you have it. And Gary Oldman is, in fact, fantastic in this film. The visuals are luxurious and the story compelling despite its initial reception. If you see this in the DVD bin somewhere, you should pick it up.

Writer Travis Beacham on Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim

Fans of Pacific Rim got a treat recently as the NuArt featured the blockbuster at one of its midnight movies! What’s more, co-writer Travis Beacham took the stage to answer a few questions! The event was arranged and hosted by Witney Seibold of the B-Movies Podcast. Read on for answers on the first draft, the inspirations for the film and Guillermo del Toro’s contributions!

Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots

Question: Do you hate the “Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots” Jokes?

Travis Beacham: Eh…I don’t hate ’em, I mean, I sort of see where they come from, you know, it’s just… it’s like… You go in and you know you’re not making, like, Chinatown, you know you’re not making, like, A River Run Through It, you know you’re making a giant robot versus giant monster movie. So I don’t hate it, but I’d like to think there is more to it than that, but I don’t resent anyone for saying that there’s not. You know, it’s all totally subjective. We all bring our own sort of baggage to it when we watch it.

On Godzilla and Pacific Rim

Witney Seibold: This is very anime-inspired, very Godzilla-inspired. This is a Legendary film… Legendary also owns Godzilla… Has anyone approached you yet about the crossover between Pacific Rim and Godzilla?

Travis Beacham: I have not been officially approached about it, but it definitely is something that’s been discussed, you know, in and out of the room, you know… I’m not going to say “never”, but as I like to say, I’d like to get a few other Pacific Rim movies out there… you know, lay the groundwork, you know… I don’t want Godzilla to eat my whole baby!

Prequels

Question: Do you ever see the possibility of a prequel happening?

Travis Beacham: I really hope so. I really, really hope so! At first when we were talking about stuff like that it was like, “Oh, no way! Sequel, sequel, sequel!” but even now behind the scenes we’re starting to talk about prequels more and more. That’s an area of the timeline that’s just breezed over in the movie that I think is really interesting. Because then you can bring the Russians back and you can bring Pentercost back…

Witney Seibold: Yeah, those Russians… fuck you for killing those Russians, by the way, I love those guys!

Travis Beacham: They sacrificed themselves, and you know what? They knew what they were signing up for!

Witney Seibold: They are a noble people! A moment of silence for the Russians!

The Original Draft

Question: One of my favorite characters in the original draft was the Ivo Czerny, the doctor. I remember reading a while back that Willem DaFoe was attached to that role. I was curious what led to that entire arc being cut out?

Travis Beacham: It went through a simplification process. That’s just the trajectory of any movie of this size. You’re developing it, you know, there’s concerns from execs, that “is this too much to deal with”. Originally we went into the Drift and stuff like that in a lot more detail and we’re saving that now for later movies, we have an animated series coming out, we have graphic novels, but it was decided, you know, for this movie, for it to stand on its own, to work on its own, we had to focus on the plot lines that really told the kernel of the story that we really thought was important. And so that stuff was jettisoned for this draft. That’s not to say that this stuff won’t show up in later bits of the mythology.

Witney Seibold: Will you bring the character back?

Travis Beacham: I’m not gonna say! I’m not gonna say! If you’ve read the first draft, there’s things you might recognize later on.

Witney Seibold: I feel like the monsters in this one get a little bit short shrift. You watch the old Godzilla movies and they’re really overly explained and that’s kind of one of my favorite parts. Did you write more of the monster personalities in the draft or just sort of in a bible?

Travis Beacham: The first draft had a very lengthy… at the beginning where there’s a montage there was actually a very lengthy kaiju voiceover… I’m just kidding!

The Kaiju

Question: I noticed that there was really sort of a plot thread in the movie about Kaiju Blue that doesn’t really get fleshed out a lot. Did you intend to do more with that, or intend to do more with it in the future?

Travis Beacham: We do intend to do more with that in the future. The whole idea there being that Kaiju Blue, you know, where the Kaijus bleed, it’s really poisonous. I can’t remember how much detail they go into that in the movie, but it’s in the mythology and the [movie] bible. The idea being that even if you were to beat one of these things, they’re dangerous in death. So you can’t even blow it up without, like, without killing a bunch of people. So on every level the Kaiju were designed to be sort of the perfect weapons that you throw at a civilization and there’s nothing they can do about it. EXCEPT BUILD GIANT ROBOTS!

Question: What is your favorite Jaeger and your favorite Kaiju?

Travis Beacham: My favorite Jaeger would probably… it’s the boring answer, it’s the generic answer, but probably Gipsy Danger? Because it’s the first one that I named, the first one that I thought of… and I look at her and some many things like the little nose art of the scantily clad lady riding the bomb on the chest and the fact that she’s blue… I just remember so much of that description from the first draft and it’s rewarding to write something and to just see it on screen like that. Especially for feature writers where your drafts go through so many changes that by the time it gets to the screen it bears very little resemblance to what your wrote.

Guillermo del Toro

Witney Seibold: You’re only credited as co-screenwriter on this movie. It was sort of your idea, but Guillermo del Toro took a lot of it and added a lot of his own stuff. What did he add?

Travis Beacham: He adds a whole sensibility that I think he brings to everything that he does. And I think there’s a sense of fun that wasn’t necessarily there in my first draft? My first drafts tend to come out very long and dour and serious. It was pretty long. It was pushing like 150 [pages], I think… yeah. See, I had a lot of fights, but they were short fights. And Guillermo, I think quite wisely, said “No, let’s only focus on a few fights”. That moment where Gipsy Danger takes the oil tanker and smacks the Kaiju with it, that’s the perfect example of what Guillermo brought to the table.

Writing The Movie

Witney Seibold: Were you inspired by any movies specifically, because I see a lot of “Robot Jox” in this movie. There’s a lot of Godzilla in this movie.. I know this is just sort of an homage to all of that but were you thinking of any one film in particular?

Travis Beacham: Never any one in particular, I was just sort of moving back and forth between them, just depending on what the scenes were. I think, when I was watching Godzilla movies as a kid, I was always frustrated with that thirty minute chunk before Godzilla shows up, just people in suits, like, talking to each other.

Witney Seibold: All Godzilla movies are like 90 minutes long. First 30 minutes, no monster, next thirty minutes, monster shows up, next thirty minutes monster fight. That’s every Godzilla movie.

Travis Beacham: And I knew if we had a giant monster thing and it wasn’t tied to any brand that couldn’t be a boring part. The people had to be interesting, you know, they had to be just as interesting as the monsters. So that’s really what we tried to do.

Question: Were there any giant fighting robot anime that were an inspiration or just giant fighting robots in general?

Travis Beacham: It was both. I really like Evangelion, was always like a touchstone, I think, and it was so serious. When I was a kid I remember, like, Voltron, you know, that was sort of like my first, you know, “Oh yeah!”. When you see these latter-day anime takes on it, they’re more tailored for adults. I think that really opened my eyes to… I really liked Big-O on cartoon network! Art Deco giant robot, yeah! Fantastic! I could go on and on and on, but it was like a general sort of love of it all, I think.

Witney Seibold: Is the upcoming animated series anime designed or is it American?

Travis Beacham: It’s somewhere in between. It’s sort of like the American-slash-anime style, you know. But the stuff I’ve seen looks really great. But it focuses on characters and tells a part of the story that I think is going to be surprising to people.

Question: I wanted to know if it was a conscious decision and if it was a fight that Raleigh and Mako don’t kiss?

Travis Beacham: It was a conscious decision and it wasn’t a fight, really, though. Because we kept going back and forth on the development of the screenplay. Like, “Should they kiss? Should they not kiss?” and there were times when it took place over a longer time. There were drafts where the movie took place over the course of weeks, or months even, and they had time to develop a relationship, but as we developed the story and it got more and more compressed, there just wasn’t… there was no believable amount of time to pass for them to develop that sort of relationship. And so we thought, instead of force it and have this obligatory sort of romance, to have it naturally develop and then it ends wherever it ends. I think that’s the non-patronizing way of doing it. I’m not, in general I’m not opposed to romances between lead characters, what I’m really opposed to is when you have the female character who seems to only be there to reward the man at the end with a kiss.

Witney Seibold: With this one, the reward is “Monster” and “Punch”

Question: I have to say that “Tonight we’re cancelling the Apocalypse” is probably one of the best motivational speeches since, I don’t know, Bill Pullman in Independence Day… Was that you?

Travis Beacham: Thank you! Thank you! Yes, yes that was my line. It was around the time, I can’t remember, it was like 2012 or something… I just got sick of people always talking about the Apocalypse, talking like the end of the world was near, that kind of thing. And through all these arguments and discussions I was having with these people, this line just poured out of me, just like, it was like, “We’re fucking CANCELLING the Apocalypse! You know what? Our footprints are on the fucking moon, you know? We’re not just going to sit down and die! We’re canceling the Apocalypse!” Yeah, I wrote that line.

Witney Seibold: Were there other zingers that you were proud of that didn’t make it into the final one?

Travis Beacham: I think all the zingers, all the really good ones, the whole thing about fighting a hurricane, that was one of my favorites, cancelling the Apocalypse… no, I think all of my favorite-favorite lines are basically in there. I wish I could say there was some golden speech or something that you’ll never see, that was lost like all volumes in the fires of Alexandria, but no, it’s all up there, so…

Thanks for the memories

Audience Member: I just wanted to say, thank you for the thought you put into it. So often, these action films, they’re so thoughtless, so I really appreciate not only, visually, it’s such a visual orgasm, but the thought that goes into the story line. So thank you!

Travis Beacham: Thank you, thank you! No, that means a lot to hear! Thank you so much!

Witney Seibold: I would love to see the phrase “A visual orgasm” on the poster!

Travis Beacham: Yeah, that’s the pull quote!

And with that, Travis and Witney got off the stage and the movie began! And it was indeed a visual orgasm… Until next time, folks!

A team of student outcasts find power in The Craft

Fans of behind-the-scenes stories got a treat Friday night. The NuArt held a midnight showing of The Craft, a 90’s movie about a coven of teenage witches. The showing was arranged by Kory Davis, a young Los Angeles producer and a 90s movie enthusiast. He’s put on shows before at the NuArt, but this time was a special treat. Kory was able to get director Andrew Fleming and lead actress Robin Tunney to come to the show! The Q&A was a fantastic look into the making of the film. For those that weren’t there, well, keep on reading! We’ve broken their stories down from the first ideas to the final wrap!

Getting It Off The Ground

Andrew Fleming, it turns out, never intended to direct The Craft. He just sort of fell in love with the story. In his own words:

Andrew Fleming: Peter Filardi, who wrote Flatliners, wrote the first version of the script and I was brought on as a writer. And I brought in a bunch of story elements and ideas and we worked separately. And I was just going to write it and then let somebody else direct it. But, it “cast a spell on me” and I decided I wanted to direct it and I ended up directing it. Sorry, it’s a really bad joke. It’s late you guys! It’s late.

Robin Tunney: It doesn’t seem like it’s the first time you’ve told it. Like, it worked the first time…

Casting

For her part, Robin Tunney had just finished filming Empire Records a month prior when she got the call to do a screen test for The Craft. Unfortunately, there were a couple problems, largely to do with the fact that on Empire Records she shaved her head.

Robin Tunney: I had no idea [that she would get the call to do The Craft] and I had grown my hair out a bit… and then I decided I was going to bleach it blonde, and then they told me they wanted me to go do a screen test for The Craft. And I really wanted to play Bonnie. I didn’t want to play Sarah, I wanted Neve’s part. And I was like “Well I have platinum blonde hair, I have to go get my hair made brown”, and they turned it green and I had bright green hair. And I was like, “there’s no way they’re going to cast me in this movie as a catholic school girl”, so I put a wig on for the screen test and no one at the studio knew that I didn’t have hair!

Andrew Fleming: I knew.

Robin Tunney: It was like my big dirty secret. It was this bright green hair underneath the wig.

In addition, Tunney didn’t want to play the role of Sarah in the first place! It was already known that Fairuza Balk was also auditioning and she was a lock for Nancy, the goth witch who becomes drunk with power during the film. Because of this, Robin Tunney wanted the role of Bonnie, the scar-covered witch. This role eventually went to Neve Campbell, which forced Andrew Fleming, by now the official director, to find a way to talk Robin into taking the role of Sarah.

Robin Tunney: And, um, they eventually cast me as Sarah…

Andrew Fleming: I had to talk Robin into playing the lead instead of playing the other part.

Robin Tunney: I was like “She’s the good girl! You’re going to want to stuff her in the locker and tell her to shut up! I don’t want to play that girl!” It’s so much more fun to be bad and Fairuza was clearly going to play Nancy and I was like “I’ll be somebody else!”

Oddly, if it wasn’t for a fluke, Robin Tunney would never have landed the part at all. Kate Winslet was auditioning for the role of Sarah as well. Fortunately for Tunney, Winslet had just starred in Peter Jackson’s Heavenly Creatures. This was a film in which was about an actual murder and allegations of a lesbian relationship. This seemed to have poisoned Winslet’s chances with Columbia Pictures, the production company behind The Craft. With that, Robin Tunney was in.

The Green Light

Initially, the studio was unsure whether or not to go ahead with the film. Usually this is where a story is told about people who believe in the project fighting the good fight. Instead, something very different happened:

Robin Tunney: They [Columbia Pictures] didn’t know if they wanted to make the movie and they brought us all out to do a screen test. We filmed two scenes, like all together and apparently the studio, they were fast-forwarding through all the speaking scenes. But the thing that made them go “We want to make this movie” was us all in Catholic schoolgirl outfits walking to a Morrissey song with our boobs shaking. They’re like “That looks good!”

Andrew Fleming: And they’re like, “We get it.”

Heavy Days Filming

Andrew Fleming: It was actually a very heavy shoot. It seemed like somebody cried every day. It was really not very funny… It was dark every day.

Andrew Fleming: There was a sequence where, it was like a dream where Fairuza stabbed you [Robin Tunney] in the chest… where you had to wear that armature-

Robin Tunney: It was my birthday… I had to, like, basically they built a fake body into the back seat of the car, with enormous boobs too. Thanks for that! And I was getting repeatedly stabbed, but my [actual] body was in the back of the hatchback and I was sticking my neck out… Yeah, it was like 12 hours in the weirdest position in the contraption and at the end of the day the crew was outside, like with a cake and I was inside the trailer crying because my back hurt. I was like “I can’t believe I’m doing this movie!”

Paranormal Experiences

Andrew Fleming didn’t want the stereotypes that had come with witchcraft in previous films. In particular, Fairuza Balk, a practicing Pagan at that time, was very concerned with realism. As a result, Pat Devine, a witch, was brought in as a technical consultant. Pat created the incantations that were spoken in the film. In addition, the Fleming and the cast visited actual rituals to make sure they got the details right.

Andrew Fleming: I was into it! I was totally into it! No, the whole idea was… the witch movies had always been like, they had black pointed hats and they were green and it was like “Let’s make a movie that’s like what they actually do.”

Robin Tunney: Authentic, yeah. And we went to, like, the spring “Manon” festival and yeah…

Andrew Fleming: We were into it!

Robin Tunney: I think Fairuza was really into having things be authentic.

Andrew Fleming: She was a practicing wiccan.

Andrew Fleming: The one [paranormal] thing that absolutely happened was that there was that one shot where they were doing the incantation on the beach. This is an overhead shot and we had said “Let’s build a ring of fire inside the highest tide line” and we did and the Ranger was there, but every time you guys did the incantation the surf came up. At one point it washed out the set. And the Ranger said the waves have never come up that high. And it was a calm night! And it’s in the movie! You can see it in one of those overhead shots! It washes out the ring of fire! I’m just telling you, this happened!

Robin Tunney: I was like a 22 year old smart-ass. I was like “He’s just trying to sell the movie! I don’t remember that!” I was tired…

After It Was All Over

Robin Tunney: It was like a bonding experience, and I don’t think any of us had any clue that the film was going to become sort of a cultural phenomenon. I mean, like people watched it at, like, sleepovers and different things… but we were making at as just young and excited and… the first screening it tested well and I remember Fairuza called me and she was like “I think the movie’s going to be… big!”

Andrew Fleming: We had, uh-

Robin Tunney: Pat.

¬†Andrew Fleming: Pat the witch, our technical advisor, and she gave us chants… and during post-production she wrote an incantation that said “I want this movie to be Number 1″… and it was Number 1 at the box office!

Robin Tunney: I remember after the film came out, it was coming out in Japan. All I wanted to do was go to Japan and I called Andy and I was like “We’re going to Japan!”, he’s like “They don’t want you in Japan. They want Pat the witch!” They [the Japanese] were like “Not interested.” Pat the witch went to Japan!

Andrew Fleming: Really?

Robin Tunney: Yeah. They sent Pat the witch.

Robin Tunney: There was that scene… there was a scene after I get date-raped [in a scene with Skeet Ulrich]. And I remember we were doing this scene, and it was with the girls where I come back to to tell them, and they didn’t include it in the movie, but Fairuza’s like “I’ve been raped too” and I was “Fuck, really?” but it was as the character! And it was like this complete… and she was really good! I was riveted! I was like “I didn’t know that Nancy was date-raped too!” But Andy was so great with us because he let us do, as far as like improvising anything, doing things, it was so free and you really felt like you had a voice. And I think, you know, being a 22 year old actress, everybody seems like grown up so they’re the ones that are, like, giving you the rules and I think it was just a really free, great experience. He was so good with us.

Andrew Fleming: I just didn’t know what I was doing, was basically it.

And with that, the NuArt screened the film! It was great to see Robin Tunney and Andrew Fleming in person and great to hear their stories!

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Inside the mind of Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman is, of course, the brilliant writer behind The Sandman, Coraline, American Gods and many other works. Recently it came to light that Gaiman is returning to The Sandman, the comic that made his name and a title that he has not written for in 25 years. I once heard that Gaiman was writing and performing poetry to his mother before he could read and that he finished every book at the local library before he finished high school. Tall tales to make a talented man look like a prodigy? Maybe, but there’s no doubt he’s a talented man. CNN had a chance to sit down with him to discuss his return to The Sandman. Here are some interesting snippets of the conversation.

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Alan Moore and Grant Morrison and drama in comics

Few people believe me, but I actually attended college. And, while there, I would engage in lots of comic book discussions with fellow comic book geeks. When you’re in the dorms and it’s 2 in the morning and everyone is relaxed, tired and ready for the weekend, well, discussions get going. It’s fun.

One of the discussions we had was on comics. Not the particular characters, but the people behind them. The artists, the editors, the publishers, and so forth. I loved comics, but I have to say that the people in comics occasionally annoyed me. My argument was that the world of comics was a smaller scale version of Hollywood, but with more intense drama. My theory was that this was largely because most comic creators don’t actually have to deal with the scrutiny. I guess I was right.

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