Tag Archives: Interview

Interview with Robert Eggers

26 Oct

Remote location, relentless weather had effect on ‘Lighthouse’ filming, not just on characters

Robert Eggers reveals at least one secret behind his stormy new movie

Robert Pattinson and Willem DaFoe in Robert Eggers’ “The Lighthouse,” playing now at Davis Square’s Somerville Theatre.

Don’t spend too much time looking for answers about the meaning of “The Lighthouse,” Robert Eggers’ sophomore film, from Eggers himself.

Eggers, interviewed on a swing through town before “The Lighthouse” began screening Thursday at Davis Square’s Somerville Theatre, said he didn’t set out with a specific theme or statement, but “wanted to raise more questions than provide answers.”

The character study of two clashing personalities (Willem DaFoe and Robert Pattinson) tending to a New England beacon far offshore during the late 1800s is in throwback black and white, hard to define – it’s not really arthouse horror or a psychodrama, but a dabble of both and then some – and hits some pretty dark depths. It might not have been made had Eggers not caught Hollywood’s eye with his 2015 Calvinist colonial beguiler “The Witch,” which made a splash at Sundance and won him the Directing Award.

Robert Eggers. (Photo: Tom Meek)

“I had to choose very carefully,” Eggers said of his follow-up, invoking the notoriously fickle nature of the industry. Eggers, intentionally vague, mentioned a flirtation with a bigger project that got made by another filmmaker while “The Lighthouse” came to fruition from a script he and his brother Max had worked on years earlier, inspired by an old Welsh poem and the works of maritime penners of the era such as Melville. 

The film, with the provocation, tricks of the light and a dash of the outré now identified as part of Eggers’ signature style, landed two very big fish as its stars with surprising ease. “I didn’t think ‘The Witch’ would find much of an audience, [but] one of its fans was Willem Dafoe, who contacted me and asked me out for lunch – which was like ‘Wow,’ because he was a huge hero of mine. And Robert Pattinson had similarly been in contact with me,” Eggers said. “When they greenlit ‘The Lighthouse,’ I thought, who else?”

Of his journey into film, New Hampshire native Eggers has it down pat: “My dad was a Shakespeare professor at UNH, my mom had a kids’ theater company and I got bad grades – so the only college I got into was an acting school in New York.” Afterward, Eggers joined a theater troupe, where set design became his forte and a skill that ultimately elevated him in the theater and filmmaking industries. Those roots are on display impressively in the “The Lighthouse”; the structure of the title looks like an authentic relic but was built from the ground up for the film. “Anyone who could hold a hammer in Nova Scotia helped out, because we didn’t have a lot of time,” he said.

Because much of the film takes place during a relentless nor’easter that drives the action, that set was erected on Cape Forchu, a rocky peninsula on the southern tip of Nova Scotia that Eggers calls a “the most punishing location we could find that had good road access.” 

“It really delivered, but I had never been so cold in my life. I mean, I had experienced colder weather, but the gale force winds on that rock in the North Atlantic were just so relentless, and there’s no respite with all the saltwater spray coming at you,” Eggers said. Many of the scenes are in driving rain – mostly natural, though sometimes driven by a fan and only occasionally helped by a firehose. The short time on location, weather and physical demands of filming meant there was little time for relaxation.

Aside from Dafoe and Pattinson, who give performances worthy of award consideration, the other big star of the film is a clamorous seagull who menaces Pattinson’s newbie with all the brio of the bullish goat Black Phillip in “The Witch.”

“Actually it was three trained seagulls,” Eggers said. “They’re rescue birds, and they’re so smart and clever.” For the scene where the seagull files up to a window and pecks it three times, Eggers thought he was going to have to cut the elements together and maybe use CGI, but the bird did what was in the director’s head on the first take. 

Next up for Eggers is “The Northman,” a 10th century viking revenge story staring Nicole Kidman, her “Big Little Lies” costar Alexander Skarsgård, Dafoe and Anna Taylor-Joy (the star of “The Witch”). I had to ask Eggers how he became so obsessed with off-the-grid period pieces. “It’s what rings my bell,” he said. “I prefer to understand where we are and where we are going by exploring where we came from.”

Interview with director Olivier Assayas

16 Mar

Inspired By Progress For Women, A French Filmmaker Prefers To Keep His Movies About Them

Kristen Stewart and Olivier Assayas on the set of "Personal Shopper." (Courtesy IFC Films)closemore

French auteur Olivier Assayas, whose kinetic style and eclectic works have enchanted cinephiles over the past 30 years, doesn’t particularly relish the term “muse.” “It’s somewhat cheesy,” he notes during an interview to discuss his latest release “Personal Shopper.” The inspiration garnered from his lead actresses, Assayas says, germinates from a more genuine and iterative process.

Past partnerings with Maggie Cheung, his wife from 1998 to 2001, yielded the deconstructive melodrama “Irma Vep” (1996) and the sobering “Clean” (2004). With fellow countrymate and longtime friend Juliette Binoche, he churned out “Summer Hours” (2008) and the top 10 list-maker “Clouds of Sils Maria” (2014).

“Personal Shopper,” which opens in Boston this Friday, marks Assayas’ second collaboration with American actress Kristen Stewart, who starred alongside Binoche in “Sils Maria” and has since become a highly sought-after talent. Stewart made the unlikely transition from the box-office bait, teen-targeted “Twilight” saga, to an art house darling collecting raves for her recent efforts in “Café Society,” “Still Alice” and “Certain Women.” And “Personal Shopper,” which scored Assayas Best Director honors at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, will likely only raise Stewart’s stock.

“I discovered Kristen when doing ‘Clouds,’” Assayas says, “and [during filming] I learned how capable she was and I was fascinated. Once that was done, I was inspired by her and wrote the part [of Maureen Cartwright in ‘Shopper’] with her in mind.”  Continue reading

Archie’s Betty

1 Jun

Perhaps you think you know Archie, but even if you’re a passionate fan of the comic-book kid who became a national sensation in the ’50s and ’60s, you might not know the true roots of the fictional town of Riverdale and its high school, where Archie Andrews and his lot cooled their heels. There was real flesh and blood behind the goofball redhead, his offbeat buddy Jughead (the original slacker), the reluctant object of desire Veronica, her good girl offset, Betty – shyly harboring a thing for Archie – and the knucklehead nemesis Reggie. The identity of the town of Riverdale, the actual school façade and the personalities that inspired the teens are unearthed in “Archie’s Betty,” the new documentary film from Cambridge filmmaker, film scholar and critic Gerald Peary.

052915i Local Focus Archie's BettyThe film marks Peary’s second feature documentary. His first foray, “For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism,” took nearly nine years to make; “Archie’s Betty” took less than half that, and both were crafted on a shoestring budget, of which Peary sighs, “That’s almost 14 years of filmmaking without a salary.”

Peary grew up the son of Jewish immigrants in rural West Virginia and felt largely disassociated from the community, but took solace in the discovery of Archie and his posse. In 1988, inspired by a printed letter that hinted that Archie had roots in Massachusetts, Peary was commissioned by The Boston Globe and traced the roots of Riverdale to Haverhill, where Archie creator Bob Montana had attended high school (he died in 1975). The new ripple in Peary’s docu, which gets its New England premiere Saturday at the Institute of Contemporary Art, is placing a face on the personas behind each member of the Riverdale gang – especially Betty.  Continue reading

The Final Chapter

17 Mar

The final chapter

Sylvester Stallone discusses Rocky Balboa

By TOM MEEK  |  December 19, 2006

It’s been 17 years since Rocky V and 30 since the original. This week, Rocky Balboa opens, and you can almost hear the comics and late night TV hosts sharpening their knives. After all this time, why make another beat-the-long-odds boxing movie, especially when the franchise’s star, Sylvester Stallone is 60?“The fifth one ended with no emotion,” said Stallone, looking fit in jeans and a white button down during an interview at the Ritz Carleton. “It did not come full circle. The optimism that is usually associated with Rocky was not there. There was no moral message, nothing uplifting, zero.”

John G. Avildsen (The Karate Kid) directed the first and fifth Rockies, while Stallone, who cooked up the series and penned each script, helmed the others. Balboa, he says, will be the final chapter, and a tone of therapeutic necessity marks voice of the ’80’s icon. “I just wanted to end the series on the right note, and to do that, you’ve got to do it yourself. You go back to basics. If it stumbles, you’ve got nobody to blame but yourself.”  Continue reading

Ray Manzarek

17 Mar

Interview: Ray Manzarek of the Doors

The return of the Lizard King, sort of

By TOM MEEK  |  April 5, 2010

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Photo:http://www.visum-reportagen.de

It’s been nearly 40 years since the death of Jim Morrison, but the surviving members of the Doors, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger and percussionist John Densmore have kept soldiering on, playing in various reformations (Densmore has, for the most part, largely declined to partake) of the ground-breaking band.  The meteoric rise of the band, during Morrison’s brief stint, is chronicled in the new documentary, When You’re Strange directed by longtime indie stalwart, Tom DiCillo (Johnny Suede and Living inOblivion).

Manzarek has openly called the film “the true story of the Doors” and the “anti-Oliver Stone,” in reference to the 1991 bio-pic The Doors, starring Val Kilmer. I spoke with Manzarek via telephone to get his input on the film, Oliver Stone, his relationship with Morrison, and his upcoming East Coast tour (including a Boston stop) with Krieger as Manzarek–Krieger (with former Fuel front man Brett Scallions filling Morrison’s large shoes).

So how did the project come together?
Dick Wolf, the TV producer.  He was a big fan of the Doors and booked the Doors when he was in college a long time ago.  So he’s been a Doors fan ever since, and he came to us and said, “Let’s make a documentary.”  He had won an Academy Award with a documentary short about two firefighters who died during 9/11 [Twin Towers, 2003] and he wanted to make a feature and hired Tom DiCillo, a guy who had made documentaries and did well at Sundance. So we talked to Tom and he had a lot of great ideas, especially the whole shamanic thing with Morrison driving in his car and hearing about the death of Jim Morrison.  It was something Tom wanted to cut back to [in the film]; Jim Morrison coming back to Los Angeles even if he was dead, or is he? [The footage was from a short film Morrison made during the recording of L.A. Woman, the Doors last album with Morrison]. I thought it was an in interesting idea.  Continue reading

Edward Zwick

17 Mar

Interview: Edward Zwick, director of Love and Other Drugs

Beyond Glory days

By TOM MEEK  |  November 26, 2010

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Folks most immediately identify Edward Zwick as the director behind Glory (1989), perhaps one of the greatest Civil War dramas ever rendered on film. Not bad for a sophomore outing — one that came as a  stark contrast to Zwick’s first feature film, About Last Night, a 1986 cheeky romantic comedy starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore. From there, Zwick — who’d worked in drama at Harvard and cut his teeth in TV with the popular serial thirtysomething — would embark on a cinematic directorial career encompassing a diverse and wide-sweeping range of subjects: Zwick was the hand behind such films as The SiegeDefiance, and The Last Samurai.

Equally impressive are Zwick’s endeavors as a producer. His name is etched on such Academy Award golden children as Shakespeare in Love and Traffic.

For his latest, Love and Other Drugs (read our review here), Zwick writes, produces, and directs. This one’s another rom-com, with some darker issues at heart and centered on the late-’90s pharmaceutical bubble crowned by the introduction of Viagra to the marketplace. The inspiration for the movie comes from Jamie Reidy’s novel Hard Sell: The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman and stars desirable, upwardly mobile talents Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway. I recently had a chance to sit down with Zwick and discuss the film and his life behind the camera.

What drew you to this project?
I had always been interested in human behavioral comedy. I had done it before in my career and gone back to it with My So-Called Life and thirtysomething, so it’s not like I ever left it. I think it’s really important for an artist to remain a moving target, and I think I have focused the past couple of years on pieces that were larger in scale and that were often in a historical context or epic, and I just wanted to bring it down to something that was only about the performances and only about the smaller moments and try to talk about what is epic in personal lives. Continue reading

The Ban in Iran

16 Mar

An Interview with filmmaker Jafar Panahi in a May 2001 Boston Phoenix – linked here for as long as the Phoenix’s archives (RIP Phx!) remain online, text below.

The ban in IranFilmmakers around the world confront the same issues that Hollywood has to contend with: lack of money, lack of talent, production snags. In many countries, however, cinematic artists face an even bigger hurdle: governments that exercise regulatory control over film content. To Live, Zhang Yimou’s 1994 epic chronicle about China in social-political transition, was banned in his homeland — though it’s been seen by Western audiences. Now with The Circle, an indictment of Iran’s oppression of women, filmmaker Jafar Panahi has suffered a similar fate. The film won the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival but has yet to be shown publicly on Iranian soil.

I would very much like to have people in my country see the film; it makes me sad, ” says the director. Panahi made The Circle in response to his two earlier films, The Mirror andThe White Balloon, both of which were about young female protagonists. ” I wanted to see what they would be like as adults. Would they be as bold? There would be more restrictions on them and they would be less innocent. They would be aware and have knowledge of the controls around them — the circle of restriction that they are caught in and cannot escape. That’s what I wanted to explore, and the idea came together after I read about a woman who committed suicide after killing her two children and I began to contemplate the reasons why, because the paper made no such notation about a motive. ”

To make the film, Panahi had to find his own funding. ” There are two types of films in Iran, propaganda films, like films about the Iran-Iraq war that are financed by the government, and private films that are made on bank loans. These either are made for commercial profit or are arthouse films about human interest like mine. I made The Circle with money I had made from my first two films, and I got help co-producing it with the Italian company that had picked up my other films. “

Throughout the process Panahi had to get government approval at regular checkpoints. ” When I first wrote the film and submitted it for review, I did not hear back for a long time, many months. And then they let me make the film, and when I was done, I gave them a print, and again I did not hear from them. ” At that juncture Panahi became fearful that no audience, national or international, would see his film, but then a fortunate sequence of events occurred. ” We have this festival called Fajr, which is a big deal in my country and many people come to it, and when I couldn’t show it there, I took some of my friends, associates, and fans from other countries to my house and showed it to them. One of them, from the Venice Film Festival, where it took top honors, said they had to show it, and the government, believing that a copy of the film had made it out of the country, allowed it to be shown [in Venice] with only three days to go, but it is still not permitted to be shown in my country. “

Given his penchant for such provocative subjects, does Panahi see himself as a political filmmaker or a feminist? ” My films are humanistic, though many have said they are political and I can understand that, but I am an artist trying to shed light, to enlighten, to jolt the mind, I am not political, I am not going to change the world, I am just showing things. As for being a feminist, my films are about daily struggle, not just about women, but for all people, they could be about men, too. “

Last month, however, on April 15, Panahi was detained by police during a layover at New York’s JFK airport. Although details of the incident remain unclear, he maintains that he was humiliated, denied requests for an interpreter, and then, many hours later, led back onto a plane in shackles. In an open letter, the director returned the (American) Freedom of Expression Award and challenged the awarding board and the ” US media ” to ” dare to condemn the savage acts of American Police/Immigration Officers. ” Like his films, the letter appears to be just another intrepid act of a nonpolitical person.

By Tom Meek