Friday, December 12, 2008

Tangling with Snape

Last week I covered a junket for Nobel Son, a little Guy Ritchie-esque black comedy/thriller by this husband and wife DIY indie writing/directing team. Seemed like it wouldn't be very exciting, but that was wrong.

#1 The junket was not at a hotel like usual, but instead in some sort of a soundstage/hanger at the Culver City Studios. It was an uncommonly cold/foggy day (hello! It's not January, people!), and since the giant warehouse doors and loading bays of the thing were open, it was basically freezing in there. There wasn't much food (normally they ply us with food), and one of the roundtables was in this trailer-like room with a washing machine in it. This was no Four Seasons, indeed.

#2 During one of the interviews (with Bill Pullman), the background noise was ridiculous. There were giant trucks rumbling around the lot, and they were basically pulling right up in front of us, parking, and then making an ungodly racket. Bill Pullman would have to yell to answer our questions. We were all laughing. RIDICULOUS.

#3 Interviewees: Randy Miller, Jody Savin, Danny DeVito, Bill Pullman, Eliza Dushku, Bryan Greenberg, and Alan Rickman.

A. (filmmakers) Randy Miller & wife Jody Savin: normal, boring except for the revelation that a lot of the evil father (Alan Rickman) character was based on his real-life dad. Now that was one for Freud.

B. Danny DeVito: everybit as miniscule-ly tiny as you think. He was wearing giant bifocals and was kitted out in It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia wear (baseball cap, jacket). He was very sweet, kept forgetting what he was talking about, and reminded me of every youngish Italian grandpa I ever met.

C. Eliza Dushku & Bryan Greenberg: the stars. Dushku is kind of nuts. She is high energy/party girl/fun/scary and Greenberg looks so much like every Jewish TKE brother I ever met that I honestly felt like I must have seen him in something before, but upon checking his IMDB profile discovered that I haven't, but obviously did go to one too many frat parties in my day.

D. Bill Pullman and Alan Rickman: i.e., the men who are exactly how you would imagine them to be.

Pullman is the nicest, most pleasant man on earth. He was worried about us being cold, and was trying to get a fellow journo to borrow his jacket. He gave great, long answers, seemed happy to be there (even when telling us that his part was small enough that he wasn't sure why they really needed him at the junket), etc. Just a truly pleasant guy. He also started making up outlandish funny stories as to what the noises were going on in the background were. The truck sounded like it dropped a car and he started claiming it was transporting an elephant, etc.

Rickman, however, is just as eccentric as you'd expect. Wearing the perfectly in place theatreman scarf, purring in his upperclass accent, giving very terse answers (i.e., i have no interest in being here and am not going to go out of my way to help you by being chatty) and most of all, interestingly, LOVING putting people off kilter with his demeanor.

We asked him about playing bad characters (e.g. Snape, Sherrif of Nottingham, every one he has ever played) and he said that he doesn't always play bad characters. That in fact he plays way more nice ones and 'doesn't undertstand' that question. I decided I wasn't going to let him get away with that and pressed him. He said would you like me to list them? I said, No. He thought he'd be fun and try to trap me, 'Is Snape BAD?' but lo and behold I have read all the Harry Potters (SPOILER ALERT), so I was able to say well, ultimately he is not, but he sure as shit is unlikeable all the way. Now some of the others at my table are starting to titter nervously because they think Rickman is going to eat me alive and that I must be nervous, too. But I'm not nervous because I can see his little smirk and hear it in his voice and know that he is just having a ball trying to fuck with me, and probably having more of a ball because I'm not scared, so we're just playing slightly antagonistically.

I don't blink and he actually gives somewhat of a real answer, but now you know: If You Ask Alan Rickman About Playing Bad Guys, He Is Going To Give You Shit--probably because he gets that question constantly and probably because he might even bring more of an edge to a character than is even written into it because of just how he comes off/who he is. Or not. Welcome to my dime store psychology.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Adam Sandler is a human

Last year I covered Reign Over Me, which, if you don't know, is a really good, really heavy post 9/11 drama with Adam Sandler playing the lead role about a guy who lost his family and has severe PTSD. Indeed, not your standard Sandler flick.

The junket was a press conference with him, director Mike Binder (who I used to love in the HBO series Mind of the Married Man), Jada Pinkett Smith (Mrs. Will!), Liv Tyler, and Don Cheadle. What I remember most about this press conference was that Adam Sandler seemed painfully shy, which, needless to say, isn't what you expect from a professional comedian--let alone one whose bread and butter is really base meathead potty humor.

Regardless, he was very quiet, and seemed almost in pain when he had to answer at all. I have a friend who used to be an assistant in the Sandler posse and he says that is de rigeur. And also that Sandler isn't very into his more serious roles; he much prefers his goofy comedies.

Much more exciting was actually Don Cheadle, who, for some odd reason I thought was British, but is actually A. from Kansas City and B. hilarious. Also more exciting was when one of the other particularly crazy junketeers started yammering at Liv Tyler after the junket was over as we all waited for the elevator about how much she loved her dress, and then actually reached into Liv Tyler's dress to check out the label when Liv said she didn't know. Nice.

ANYHOW, so yesterday I covered the junket for Bedtime Stories, a giant new Disney schmaltz-fest that I do not recommend seeing unless you are five/have a five-year-old whom you enjoy watching have fun while you are bored shitless. Sandler headlined the movie, so I went in to the press conference prepared for the silent shy Sandler shtick.

Turns out he was chatty, happy, and jokey the whole time--nothing like the introverted, grave guy who was at the Reign Over Me junket last year. Given, insane British comedian Russell brand gave him a run for his money joke/attention-wise this time, but nonetheless, it was basically like Sandler was a whole different person.

Turns out celebrities have moods and lives and sometimes don't suck it up and tap dance even if they have to be in front of the press. Either that or he's on really good anti-depressants and he wasn't before. Who knew?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Back in the saddle again

You may have noticed that there are a great deal of 'last year I went to this junket posts' and not so many 'this week I covered' posts. This is because a few months ago I was laid off from my main dayjob in junketville as my poorly managed company started its long-predicted decline 2 years after starting up.

In the meantime, I have been on somewhat of a hiatus from the junket world--poorly timed, given I had just launched this blog. Mostly, I have been holing up in my basement and working on scripts of my own, and taking the odd piece of junkety work that fell my way without my having to do anything to track it down myself.

Well, like all good phoenixes, it is time I must rise again, hopefully this time in the guise of a full-time freelance junket-ite. We'll see how that goes; I'm still more threat than action on that front. There are just only so many hours in the day, and mine are still primarily devoted to purging my soul of all the pet projects that have been quietly simmering away on my neverending range of back burners. But still, you can (hopefully) expect to see a few more contemporary junket discussions cropping up from here on out.

To that end, I give you: The Reader. I was excited to take this one because I read the book (it was on Oprah's book club--Version 1.0--and I long ago realized I needed to get over my gut instinct to hate on her book club as I was forced to admit that she picks good books). The book was decent--not my favorite of her selections, but I am blaming that on the fact that it was translated from German and somehow I think I have trouble really connecting to the emotional content in translated books. Blah blah blah blah.

ANYHOOT. So, The Reader was adapted by David Hare and directed by Stephen Daldry, i.e., the same team that adapted and directed The Hours. Not surprisingly, it was beautiful and very well done. Lots of critics sniffling throughout the screening, although I was oddly stone cold--likely because I a. read the book and knew the story already (see above) b. am very familiar with the subject matter (post-Nazi German guilt, amongst other things) and am oddly desensitized to anything that has anything remotely to do with the Holocaust thanks to enough years of Hebrew school to break the spirit of a far more religious person than myself and c. am a heartless shrew.

The leads are played by Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, but very unfortunately neither of them did the junket. Instead, Daldry and the other lead, a new young German dude named David Kross (I know, I know, I wanted it to be Tobias Funke, too, but Kross is no anal-rapist, just a twee little German teen). They were late so they were paired instead of separate as they were supposed to be, which is probably just as well as Kross isn't confident enough in his English (it honestly was terrific, but he was I think nervous enough to only give short answers) so Daldry did most of the talking.

I then had a 1:1 with Daldry. He wanted to go out on the patio so he could smoke a cigarette. He's a prototypically cute mid-40s British director type, i.e. very not caught up with himself despite the fact that his main credits to date are Billy Elliot and The Hours and everyone thinks he is a king of emotional dramas. I probed him on his mentioning that he had debated which way he wanted to go with the ending, out of purely personal reasons because I am having issues deciding on which way to go with the ending of something I am writing right now. Mostly the interview was boring and fine and normal, the most exciting part being that he laughed when I told him that I had sympathy for a Nazi character--and I'm Jewish (always a killer punchline).

Also, for you Michael Chabon fans out there, there is still no movement on his adaptation of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. Says Daldry: it's still in limbo due to bullshit studio politics. But one never knows what kind of boost it might get once this one comes out, as this one will surely get good reviews and maybe even some Oscar buzz (although for various more political reasons Winslet is likely going to get a bigger push for Revolutionary Road and obviously powers that be don't particularly want her up against herself. But perhaps her really spectacular performance will overwhelm. Also, he said Chabon did a great script for Kavalier & Clay, so cross your fingers. Not that I liked that book, because I didn't.

The most exciting part of this junket? Honestly, since it's been a few months since I've been there, I met new people. Two power-chicks in fact. Often there are some serious characters at the junket circuit, and these two women were pretty cool. So, I'm psyched. Now go see The Reader when it opens (limited) next week. The end.