Suffragette Press Conference

Suffragette - BFI London Film Festival

The BFI London Film Festival opens this evening with Suffragette. Director Sarah Gavron, screenwriter Abi Morgan, and stars Carey Mulligan and Meryl Streep were in London to talk about the film, gender equality, and the film industry…

On bringing the Suffragette movement to the big screen…

Abi Morgan: Film does take time. However, I think when a film is fronted not by one, but by an ensemble of women, and they are not being funny, it’s hard. And it’s not romantic, it’s hard. I think that became a huge obstacle, but we have an incredible group of producers and I think of them all as feminists. It has taken both men and women to bring this project to the screen.

On Suffragette‘s protagonist…

Sarah Gavron: What we were interested in was the story of ordinary women. No platform, no entitlement – working class women who were so often at the vanguard of change but rarely get talked about. There were these extraordinary accounts, so contemporary feeling. We thought to follow that woman would make it connect with audiences all over the world today.

Meryl Streep: I think the great achievement of this film is that it is not about women of a certain class, like Emmeline Pankhurst who worked as an abolitionist, as a pro-labour supporter for the rights of working people – men and women. It’s about a working girl. That’s part of why we can enter the film so easily and so empathetically. Carey plays this young laundress who looks like us.

On the contemporary resonance of Suffragette…

Carey Mulligan: What I always loved about this film is that it didn’t feel like a documentary about a time, it felt like a film about today. I always felt its resonance of where we are. It’s a film to mark the achievement of what these women did, what they gave to us, but also to mark where we are in the world. We still live in a society that is sexist, and that goes throughout our history.

Meryl Streep: There is no such thing as ‘women’s history’, there’s history that women have been shut out of. I knew a great deal about the suffragette movement in the United States, but I didn’t know about it here. And I also didn’t know the condition of women here in 1913. I didn’t know that the marriage age was twelve – that was shocking to me. I didn’t know that once a woman was married, she had no further claim to not only here name, but any property she brought to the marriage. Her own children were not hers; she had no say, really, in how they were raised or where they were educated, if they were educated. Or if the twelve year-old was basically sold to be married off. I didn’t know those things. To be it’s recent history because my grandmother was alive then, had a couple of children, and was not deemed capable of voting. I’m passionate about it – it feels recent.

Suffragette Press Conference

On women in film criticism…

Meryl Streep: In our business, part of it is driven by buzz. I was always thinking ‘what makes buzz? What controls that?’. So I went deep, deep, deep into Rotten Tomatoes and I counted how the contributors – critics and bloggers, and there is a very strict criteria that allows you to be a blogger, critic or something [on the site]. Of those people who are allowed to rate on the ‘Tomato-meter’, there are 168 women. And I thought ‘that’s absolutely fantastic’. If there were 168 men, it would be balanced. If there were 268 men it would be unfair but I would be used to it. Actually there are 760 men who weigh in on the Tomato-meter. I submit to you that men and women are not the same. They like different things. Sometimes they like the same thing, but sometimes their tastes diverge.

If the Tomato-meter is slighted so completely to one set of tastes, that drives box office in the United States. Absolutely. So who are these critics and bloggers? I went on the site of the New York Film Critics. They have 37 men and two women. Then I went on all of the sites of the different critics circles. The word isn’t disheartening, it’s infuriating because people accept this as received wisdom – ‘this is just the way it is’. You can take every single issue of female rights in the world and examine it under the same rubric because it isn’t fair. We need inclusion Rotten Tomatoes, this year it needs to be equal. Half and half.

The Intern Premiere

The Intern premiere takes place this evening in Leicester Square. Those expected to attend include stars Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro, and writer-director Nancy Myers. At last week’s New York The Intern premiere, Anne Hathaway got pretty excited to see Mariah Carey at the premiere, so it will be interesting to see who shows up for this one. Action is due to quick off at 6.15pm GMT, but you can see the trailer for the film here in the meantime.

The Intern is released in UK cinemas on 2nd October 2015.

Ant-Man Press Conference

Ant-Man Press Conference London

Last week, director Peyton Reed and stars Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Michael Peña sat down for the Ant-Man press conference in London. They discussed influences on the film, how Ant-Man was conceived, and future Marvel movies…

On Edgar Wright’s involvement…

Peyton Reed: I think it’s fair to say that none of us would be here, and there might not be an Ant-Man movie if it weren’t for Edgar and Joe [Cornish]. The idea to make Ant-Man a heist movie structure was all Edgar and Joe. The idea of Hank Pym and Scott Lang as mentor and pupil, again that was all their’s. I came on at the same time that Adam [McKay] and Paul [Rudd] were starting to do re-writes on the draft. There was some elements that had been in the comics but had not made their way into the script, that we wanted to bring into it.

Marvel's “Ant-Man” Press Conference

On inspiration for their characters…

Michael Peña: As far as I know, there is no comic book called ‘Luis’. I am portraying someone that actually lives in Chicago, he may or may not be a criminal. He may or may not be in jail, I cannot say.

Paul Rudd: The idea of Scott doing everything that he does for his daughter is from the comics. That’s the imprint we used for the film. When we were working on the movie and writing the script… both Adam [McKay] and I felt that we never veered too far from something that doesn’t make sense in the Marvel universe, or something that isn’t true to the comic.

Michael Douglas: I was never a comic kid growing up. They were kind enough to send me the script of the Ant-Man along with a leather-bound copy of two years of the comics. There was more backstory for Hank Pym than any of the so-called ‘reality’ movies that I might done. So I had a pretty good blueprint to follow.

Michael Douglas on starring in a comic book movie…

Michael Douglas: I was very excited about this opportunity when they came to me because I never had really done anything in this milieu. My entire career is contemporary-based, not by choice, just by characters. All the things I’ve done in forty years, except for one, is contemporary, never did an effects movie. I was also a producer, so I was really curious about how this whole thing went together. I have tremendous respect for Peyton in keeping all these pieces together. I enjoyed the experience, and I also have a great appreciation for actors who work with green screen, because there ain’t anything there.

On genre in Ant-Man…

Peyton: I think Marvel have always done these sub-genres. I think that’s one of the things that keeps the Marvel movies so interesting. When you look at last year, Captain America: The Winter Soldier owes to a sort of 70s political thriller, a paranoia thriller. And Guardians of the Galaxy is this crazy Gonzo space opera. Our movie happens to have the structure and feel of a heist movie.

Marvel's “Ant-Man” Press Conference London

On the future of Ant-Man…

Paul: I have no idea what the future holds. I’m excited about it, I’m interested in playing this part in whatever way Marvel sees fit I suppose.

Peyton: If we’re fortunate enough to make another Ant-Man movie, I think there is a lot of story left to tell with these characters. I think there is a freedom at Marvel to kind of tonally do whatever we think is best, what serves the story best.

On filming Captain America: Civil War…

Paul: It was weird; it made this whole thing seem real in a way that it wasn’t even real for all of us. I think we were kind of shooting in a bubble when we did this [Ant-Man].

Ant-Man is released in cinemas on Friday 17th July 2015.

Avengers: Age of Ultron Press Conference

Avengers: Age Of Ultron Press Conference

On Tuesday director Joss Whedon assembled with the cast of Avengers: Age of Ultron to discuss the new Marvel movie. On hand to discuss the film were Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Elisabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Paul Bettany…

On on Avengers: Age of Ultron as a sequel…

Joss Whedon: There are restrictions, but a lot of the questions have already been answered, so you know going in what you have to work with. It’s a bit of a comfort actually.

On what excites them about coming back for the second instalment…

Jeremy Renner: I’m excited about hanging out with these degenerates.

Mark Ruffalo: Coming back to the world and seeing where these crazy people that we’re playing are headed. And knowing that Joss is going to take us there, to his own twisted psyche.

Robert Downey Jr.: Probably my first costume fitting; me surrounded by many full-length mirrors.

Chris Evans: Marvel has a done a great job at bringing a lot of the same people together, not just in front of the cameras, but behind the cameras. Coming back to as a group, it kinda feels like a family of familiar faces. It’s like a high school reunion or something.

Scarlett: Johansson: I would say I get most excited about reading Joss’ script. It’s the big pay-off after a long wait.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson: I’m just excited to be a part of it.

Paul Bettany: Box office bonuses!

Avengers: Age Of Ultron Conference

On a possible Black Widow film…

Scarlett Johansson: She’s a very slippery fish for her job, but when you get her, Natasha, she’s in herself, which is kind of cool… A Black Widow movie? That would be cool. I am always happy to put the catsuit back on.

On story arcs in Avengers: Age of Ultron…

Robert Downey Jr.: Hawkeye has a heck of an arc this time.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson: It was great to dive into Mark Ruffalo’s character, to see such a sensibility in that beast.

Elizabeth Olsen: My favourite moment is the first time we watch Black Widow talk down the Hulk.

Avengers: Age Of Ultron European Press Conference

On the possibility of a Hulk movie…

Mark Ruffalo: [to Joss Whedon] Do you want to tell them?

Joss Whedon: No, you go.

Mark Ruffalo: I can’t.

Joss Whedon: Sorry, it’s too amazing!

Avengers: Age of Ultron is out in cinemas from 23rd April 2015.

Star Wars Celebration – London

Star Wars Celebration London

I was very excited to be invited to the Star Wars celebration in London yesterday evening, an event which featured a live stream to the Anaheim presentation of the brand new trailer for The Force Awakens, plus a q&a session with J.J. Abrams, Kathleen Kennedy and others. Here is what happened…

R2D2 and C3PO

We were greeted by two ominous-looking Stormtroopers, however Any apprehension was soon eased by the appearance of everyone’s favourite robot duo. C3PO and R2D2 were on hand at the Star Wars Celebration to offer a more friendly welcome. Despite 38 years passing since the release of the first Star Wars film, these two looked sprightly as ever.

Warwick Davis

Before too long, the show began, with Willow Ofgood himself (aka Warwick Davis) presenting the Star Wars Celebration event for the London audience. Davis makes an excellent host; he was highly amusing throughout the evening. After some events for fans, the presentation was about to begin.

Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams

Director J.J. Abrams and Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy looked genuinely thrilled to be at the Star Wars Celebration event in Anaheim. The emphasis was definitely on going back to Star Wars’ roots with The Force Awakens. Numerous times, J.J. Abrams, mentioned going back to the original trilogy with both the look and the feel of the new film. It definitely felt as if both Abrams and Kennedy wished to steer away from memories of the less well-received prequel trilogy of the late nineties/early noughties.

Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and J.J. Abrams

After answering some questions, it was time to bring out more guests including the makers of the new R2D2, plus the robot himself and B8, a new robot addition to the Star Wars franchise. Fans at the Star Wars Celebration then got to meet the main stars of The Force Awakens; John Boyega (Finn), Daisy Ridley (Rey) and Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron). All three spoke of their memories of Star Wars growing up, and their excitement of working on the film at being at the Star Wars Celebration.

Peter Mayhew, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Anthony Daniels

Next, it was time for some old faces to appear, in the form of Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Anthony Daniels (C3PO) and Peter Mayhew (Chewbacca). The cast from the original franchise spoke of their affection for the films and their joy at coming back for the new films. The main event arrived at the every end of the presentation, with the first screening of the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer.

Reception to the trailer was extremely positive. Earlier spoken of “retro” aspects are apparent at this new glimpse, with the look of the film a great reflection of the original franchise. There are some wonderful shots, including the desert landscape opening shot, the image of Pol Dameron in the pilot seat (echoing Luke Skywalker) and decaying helmut of Darth Vader. The teaser also posed some interesting questions, particularly in who Luke is speaking to when he talks about family. I would assume it is a child or nephew/niece of his, which posits Rey or Pol Dameron as the likely audience of this speech. Then again, this teaser gives away so little that this may be a red herring. The final shot of Han Solo and Chewbacca, unsurprisingly got the biggest cheer of all; fans were certainly glad to see the return of this duo.

After the excitement of seeing the new teaser on the big screen at Empire Leicester Square, it was time for the Star Wars Celebration to conclude. There was a definite air of excitement about the new footage at the event; the venue was buzzing with discussion of what was screened as I left, goodies in hand.

Star Wars Celebration London memorabilia Star Wars: The Force Awakens is released in cinemas on 18th December 2015.

Cinderella Press Conference

Cinderella Press ConferenceThe Cinderella press conference took place in London last week. Director Kenneth Branagh was joined by producers David Barron and Allison Shearmur, costume designer Sandy Powell, and stars Lily James, Richard Madden, and Holliday Grainger to discuss the latest Disney fairy tale…

On costumes in the film…

Sandy Powell: It was a costume designer’s dream. What really struck me was it was a film about girls. A lot of the main characters were girls, and ok there were male characters too, but it was predominantly women which doesn’t happen that often. It was a dream and I ran with it.

Disney's Cinderella

On adapting the story for a modern audience…

David Barron: When Ken [Branagh] mentioned to me that Disney had been in touch about a live action version of Cinderella, I said: “ooh, interesting”. I thought; how do you do something that is relevant for a contemporary audience, and in its own way faithful to the animated classic. Ken had a very clear vision on how to make this a film for today. This central message of courage and kindness… it just seemed that it would work for today and for a contemporary audience.

On Cinderella‘s influences…

Kenneth Branagh:[To be compared with Powell and Pressburger] is a wonderful compliment, because I revere those guys. A huge personal inspiration, that particular partnership.

Sandy Powell: For me, it was the nineteenth century, all over the nineteenth century, bits of the 1940s and 1950s thrown in for the Stepmother. I was looking at those 1940s actresses like Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, and when they were in films made in the 1940s set in the nineteenth century, and I really liked that look for Cate [Blanchett]. For the sisters I went a decade higher to the 1950s fashions, but keeping the nineteenth century look.

Cinderella Lily James

On the character of Cinderella…

Lily James: [She has] this strength can come from within. This dignified strength and grace… that in doing so she finds such joy and happiness in her life regardless of her situation. Even if it’s just talking to little Gus Gus! When I read the script I was just bowled over by the fact that it was such a faithful retelling of the fairy tale without any tricks or twists. It felt really strong. This was a girl I really wanted to play and felt inspired playing.

On the ballroom scene…

Kenneth Branagh: The kind of films that were wonderful to go and visit [for inspiration], apart from Powell and Pressburger were, well we looked at again The Red Shoes, we looked at Gone with the Wind, The Wizard of Oz, Visconti’s The Leopard. We also looked Cyrano de Bergerac, the Rappeneau film for some wonderful camera work, particularly the sweeping shots that end up on close-ups of our heroine. The Age of Innocence is a Scorsese film that I love for its immersion into a world that you can feel, see, taste and touch and smell. Certainly we went to the classics.

Cinderella is released in UK cinemas on 27th March 2015.

Paddington Cast and Crew Q&A

Paddington filmmakers

Last weekend, Paddington‘s writer-director Paul King, producer David Heyman, and cast members Hugh Bonneville, Madeleine Harris and Samuel Joslin gathered in London for a question and answer session following a screening of the film. Here is what they had to say…

On bringing Paddington to the big screen…

David Heyman: My mother gave me a Paddington Bear when I was around five years old, and this was the beginning of the journey. Rosie in my office around eleven years ago said “why don’t we do Paddington?”. I mentioned it to my mum, who is a hoarder, and she brought out that Paddington Bear. Then I met Paul King, who cam along to write and direct Paddington. When you find the right person, the film all of a sudden takes shape. And Paul was the right person. He is Paddington Bear! My son was born six years ago, and then comes the urgency to get things going. It’s not often that you get to make the film that your young child can go and see.

Paul King: I was very keen to get it right. I met David and we had the same sort of ideas about the character. Part of you does sort of fear the idea of doing a Paddington film because I loved the Ivor Wood [illustrations] so much. We thought there was a proper, movie-sized story to be told about Paddington.

On the appeal of Paddington…

Hugh Bonneville: It was sort of like, “you had me at Paddington” really! Like millions of people, I grew up with this beloved bear as part of my childhood. I was concerned when the script arrived, but when I read it, I was in. I was surprised at how moving the script is.

Madeleine Harris: I knew of Paddington before the auditions, but as I went through the auditions, and when I got the job I learnt so much about him, so much about the story of him.

Paddington dog

On the technical achievements in the film…

David Heyman: The ability to put a bear, to have a central digitial character, was just not possible [many years ago]. Technology really has moved on. Fur, for example, you just couldn’t do it. And now we can.

Hugh Bonneville: I think it is astonishing; the work of Framestore and all the other effects teams that worked on the film. It shows the level to which animation and digital effects animation has got to. I am so convinced that bear is real, and that we worked with him!

On casting the film…

Paul King: We asked, and Nicole Kidman’s agent said that it’s definitely not going to happen, but they would send her the script. And she said “Paddington Bear? I love Paddington Bear!”. She read the script overnight, and the following morning, she got on the phone saying she would love to do it. She was the easiest person to cast.

David Heyman: Much easier than Bonneville!

Paul King: Ben Whishaw wasn’t our first choice for the voice of Paddington. We started with Colin Firth, and we worked with Colin for a while and we recorded him for a piece of the film. And you heard the voice, and you didn’t believe that it was coming out of this small creature. We sat down and we all felt it wasn’t working.

David Heyman: To give Colin his credit, he sensed it before even we did.

Paul King: It all worked out brilliantly. I think Ben is wonderful; he’s got a lighter, younger, slightly sort of ‘other’ voice. We’re thrilled with the results.

Paddington is out in UK cinemas on 28th November 2014.