Sunday, August 28, 2011

My interview with Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz

Justin & Cameron: No more awkward moments
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated August 29, 2011 12:00 AM 

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Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake: We are great friends| Zoom
“Nah, we kinda know everything about each other!” Justin Timberlake quickly replied when asked if he and former girlfriend Cameron Diaz still found anything interesting and surprising about each other while doing Bad Teacher, Sony Pictures’ hit new comedy that’s set to open in the Philippines on Aug. 31.

The two stars met with this writer a couple of months ago during the LA junket for the movie. They were paired at the roundtable so when one asks Cameron a question, Justin would chime in and playfully answer the question himself. Cameron would likewise do the same during our freewheeling 20-minute interview with the two of the prettiest actors in Hollywood today.

“We are great friends. We knew we’d have fun together in this movie,” Justin continued but not after throwing in a number of funny stories and jokes.

“Yeah, nothing surprised me,” Cameron chimed in later after Justin finally quieted down. “I knew that he would do the job that he did so well because I know how funny he is and what he is capable and how talented he is.”

Although both stars were thrilled when they learned that they were going to make a movie together, there were apprehensive in the beginning on how the media will try to play up their pairing. “We knew that everybody would probably immediately make it into something that it wasn’t and we thought for a second, ëShould we not do it because of that?’” Cameron related. “We are adults. We know where we stand. We know what our relationship is and that’s all we need to know. They can say whatever they want to say as long as we can keep it out so that we can do our work because we didn’t want it to hurt the film.”

“It was a benefit that we knew each other and that we were friends,” Justin added. “I think that it takes a lot of chemistry to get on in film than not having any.” The actor was referring to one uproarious scene in the movie where he and Cameron engaged in what can only be described as the most innocuous sex scene in an R-rated film this year. “If it was anybody other than him, it would have been a totally awkward situation,” Cameron butted in. “We know where we stand. I didn’t have to worry about what lines were being crossed because we already knew what the lines were.”

In that particular scene, it is safe to say that Justin and Cameron sure make a very good couple on screen. They are so comfortable with each other that, at some point during the interview, Cameron even joked about a nonexistent rumor of Justin apparently being in the closet.

In Bad Teacher, Cameron plays Elizabeth Halsey, a, well, bad teacher whose main preoccupation is not to teach but to hang around singles bars every night in search of the rich guy who will marry her and make her instantly rich. Justin plays Scott, the quirky but wealthy and handsome new substitute teacher who becomes Elizabeth’s target towards the good life. Unfortunately, Elizabeth has to contend with a competitive co-teacher (played with absolute delight by talented British newcomer Lucy Punch) and a homely and middle-class P.E. instructor who is not so subtle in his admiration for her.
The ex-sweethearts in a scene from the film Bad Teacher

“Elizabeth really wasn’t a teacher,” Cameron explained. “She doesn’t go to school to do anything but sleep ó that is her time to catch up on her rest because her full-time job is trolling the bars at night for sugar daddies.”

And that is not her ideal teacher.

A good teacher “is someone who actually teaches,” according to the actress who shared with us her own horrible experience with a bad teacher in high school who bullied her. “I had a teacher who was very mean to me. She was mean but she had a lot of knowledge and was probably a really good teacher of that knowledge but I wasn’t fond of her because she wasn’t nice to me.”

Cameron, who went to the same Long Beach high school with the rapper Snoop Dogg, further related that, “one day she just really pissed me off and that was it, it was over. It was like war. War. Crazy, like pullinghair!”
It wasn’t all that bad in high school for her though. “I had another teacher who was good and super nice but wasn’t interested in teaching. The thing that stood out to me was how well he treated everyone and how much fun I had in his class and that meant more to me and gave me more in my life than the teacher who wasn’t nice.”

And if you ask Cameron if she goes visit her old high school, the answer is, “No, I don’t.”

Justin was lucky he didn’t have to contend with nasty teachers in high school. The actor, who is currently on hiatus from his music career, was at the peak of his N’Sync career during his high school years that he took classes on the road.

“I was touring the world at the time that I was going through high school. I did my studies on the road and I did get to see the places in person that I was learning about. It was a pretty, pretty cool high school experience.”
Does Justin think he missed something by missing the kind of fun one could only have by going to an actual campus?

“No, I don’t,” he replied with a noticeable change in his voice; he turned a bit serious. “I don’t actually feel like I missed out. In fact, I feel like a gained a lot. There’s nothing really to do in Memphis, Tennessee but either get arrested or get someone pregnant so I got some tattoos on the road ó that was my life commitment.”

But Justin credits Memphis for his talent in writing and making music ó to which, Cameron completely agrees.

My Amigo review/coverage

Story of Filipinos from an American perspective
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated August 29, 2011 12:00 AM 

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Joel Torre (with co-producer Margie Templo): Director John Sayles is an anti-imperialist| Zoom
“John is an anti-imperialist,” declared Joel Torre during the brief Q&A session after the recent screening of Amigo in Santa Monica, California.

The Filipino actor was addressing a question from an audience member who asked how John Sayles, the American writer and director of the movie, came to know of the United States’ aggressive territorial expansion into the pacific at the turn of the 20th century and what was his motivation in bringing the story to the big screen.

John was not present during the screening (he was scheduled to appear the following week for another Q&A session) and Joel had to answer on John’s behalf. His co-producer Margie Templo joined him on stage.

The screening drew Filipinos and Americans who applauded enthusiastically at the end of the screening and gave Joel another resounding applause when he took to the stage.

In Amigo, Joel portrays Rafael Dacanay, the amigo in the title — and the Cabeza de Baranggay of the fictional town of San Isidro, who was caught in the middle of the war between the invading Americans and the Filipino guerillas who were trying todrive the invaders away from Philippine soil.

The movie is told from his character’s perspective and in some way illustrates how the modern Filipino psyche came to be — his constant struggle for independence and freedom yet always falling to the ways of the old. Apparently, the Filipino from a century ago is not quite different from the modern Filipino. We are easy targets for oppression because half of us want independence by surrendering our ideals while the others believe in sacrificing their lives for total and complete independence.

Oscar-nominated director John’s in-depth and revealing movie may not be a historically accurate account of what really transpired during that period but by telling the story of Amigo and showing how the Americans used Filipino spies to betray their compatriots, John made a clear point that no successful invaders get to rule a nation when the citizens of the country are united against it.

The greatest tragedy in the story is not how the Philippines fell quickly into the hands of another foreign invader just after gaining independence from the Spaniards but in how easily the Filipinos took for granted the heroism of the likes of Andres Bonifacio. When the small barrio decided to hold a fiesta celebration in the middle of the war, the filmmakers seem to suggest that the Filipinos can be easily manipulated to accept almost anything as long as they get to hold a party.

During the American occupation, “the Philippines lost out a lot but we can’t keep a grudge,” Joel remarked. “We have to move on. It’s a strange dance between the two countries.”

It’s a strange dance indeed: A century after the war, the two countries are still trying to find the perfect dance. Today, an American director is telling the world the story of the Filipino.

Not that there’s no lesson to be learned. The story of the Filipino is a sad reminder of opportunities gained and opportunities lost. When the world finally gets to see the movie and gets to know our history, it will finally understand why the modern Filipino has this dissonant notion of patriotism and confused sense of national identity.

On the surface, the movie is a powerful indictment against war — although, as one friend commented, the narrative seemed to favor more the Americans — there is no denying that the movie condemns war and its unwanted atrocities. But, somehow, if one were to peer closer into the narrative, one would discover that beneath the obvious was the real story of the Filipino-American war. There really was no “Filipino-American” war. The Americans only triumphed because the Filipinos allowed it. The Filipino character was split during the war: Those who fought for the country’s total independence and those who decided to help the enemy and fought for his own self. The subplot featuring the betrayal of Rafael by his envious brother-in-law Nenong is a sad reminder of this contemptible trait.

Amigo was made without the Philippine government offering any help. The director used his own money to finance the movie while Joel and his Philippine crew provided logistics and other support. “This is John’s labor of love,” Joel said who beamed when someone mentioned that the New York Times singled out his performance in a glowing review.

Although American critics have embraced the movie, it is still too early to tell how the movie will play to mainstream American audience. But, if the screening’s reception is any indication, Amigo will definitely have a good box-office run in the US.

In the Philippines, Amigo was released in late 2010 and, not surprisingly, it didn’t get the audience it deserved. One can only surmise what the ordinary Filipinos were busy with during its Philippine theatrical run that only a few individuals took time to support the movie.

The Manunuri ng Pelikulang Pilipino named Amigo one of the best Filipino films of 2010 yet if you poll ordinary folks on the street, all of them would most likely give you a blank face if you ask them if they have seen the movie or if they are aware of the brief war that broke out between the US and the Philippines at the turn of the past century. The indifference of some Filipino to his history is testament to how far we have come as a nation. We will not be truly independent if our sense of history only goes back to, say, the last elections?

Amigo will continue its US theatrical run throughout the months of August and September in key cities.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Sean Bean Story

Sean Bean: Not your typical Hollywood actor
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star)

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Sean plays the heroic Lord Eddard Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones| Zoom
Five minutes are precious at any Hollywood junket: A delay of even just a minute would send any hardworking publicist into a fit of frenzy — junkets are typically planned weeks in advance and every minute is accounted for. Talents have no less than 10 domestic and international roundtables to sit through and a dozen or so TV interviews to do over a span of a single day — and that does not even include any additional 30-minute press conference that most of the cast usually do if the junket involves a blockbuster movie or a huge television production.

Last January, this writer was invited by HBO to its winter press tour to introduce the newest series, the Emmy-nominated epic-fantasy Game of Thrones at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills. We would have six roundtable interviews that day with English actor Sean Bean fourth on the schedule.

The first interview started on time and so did the second and third. When it was Sean’s turn to join us in our suite, it was the publicist assigned to us who showed up instead to tell us that the actor would be late for a few minutes. She explained that the actor had a minor hold-up and had to go up to his hotel room to check on something.
When Sean finally joined us some five minutes later, he was understandably apologetic and explained that he had to attend to his 12-year-old daughter who wanted to use the hotel pool. “She’s not been to America before,” he said. “She’s just gonna go down to the pool and check out a few things.”

This side of Sean, the father who gives equal priority to his kids as he would to his duty as an actor, is the reason why he is not your typical Hollywood actor. When he is not working, he lives mostly out in Sheffield, the English town where he grew up, and shuns the regular places frequented by celebrities.

He admits that he does not have the most easily recognizable name but film fans know him quite well with his indelible villainous turns in movies with Harrison Ford, Nicholas Cage and Robert de Niro, among others. To regular moviegoers though, he is most easily recognized for his breakthrough role as Boromir in the critically-acclaimed and worldwide hit Lord of the Rings (LOTR) trilogy.

In HBO’s Game of Thrones, fans will take delight as the 52-year-old actor returns to the genre that made him one of Hollywood’s most sought-after character actors. This time, he plays the heroic Lord Eddard Stark, a stoic and duty-bound lord and warden of the north realm. He embodies the values of the fictional northern kingdom created by award-winning author George R. Martin in the bestselling fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, which the series is based on.

It’s been nearly 10 years since the final installment of LOTR hit the theaters and Sean thinks it’s about time he goes back to the genre and, being a fan of the book, the hulking actor revealed that he was flattered when he was chosen by the producers to play one of the central characters in the series. “I was delighted,” he shared before adding that he “found the book very exciting, very luxuriant, very dangerous, very edgy, very sexy.”

In a separate press conference with the Television Critics of America held one day before our interview, Sean was asked if he isn’t afraid that, with his new role in Game of Thrones, people will now always associate him with the epic-fantasy genre, to which he playfully replied, “It’s a good thing to be typecast, isn’t it?”

“I certainly enjoy this genre,” he added. “I happen to enjoy playing those kind of roles with riding horses and swinging swords and having fights and wearing wigs and growing beards even if it takes you about three hours in the morning to get ready.”

“I do have affinity to that kind of role, and I think the good thing about Game of Thrones is that there is such score for it. Whereas Lord of the Rings — there were three films and they thoroughly researched it. But with what George has created, it’s a very different world. Goes on much, much further and much longer, and there’s many twists and turns.”

HBO’s production of Game of Thrones is comparably smaller in scope to the history-making LOTR trilogy but the series’ 13 nominations at next month’s Emmy Awards is testament to the great storytelling that went into it and the impressive visual grandeur provided by the rustic and rugged northern Ireland locale where they shot most of the breathtaking exterior scenes.

“I think the amount of production value that was put into Game of Thrones was incredible, and it’s unlike anything I’ve seen on any other production, including LOTR,” Sean proudly declared. “I saw the sets there, and it was a wonderful production, of course, I was very proud of that! But I was absolutely impressed by the detail, the size of it, the craftsmanship in the studio, the sets. Everything was so detailed, so vast, it was like working on a big feature film every week.”

And, with HBO behind it, the actor thinks that the transfer of the multi-layered and intricate tale from the pages of the novel to the screen was in good hands. “You got people behind you, and it’s an edgy, sexy, violent, dark, brutal piece where nobody’s safe, so many twists and turns, and the characters are so well-drawn as well. I think everybody who sees this is hopefully fascinated by what we have achieved.”

And, quite interestingly, Game of Thrones is set in a land where five minutes do not even matter — summers span decades and winters last a lifetime in the ravaged kingdom called Westeros where two families are eternally engaged in a deadly war to gain control of the Iron Throne, the seat of power that controls the four corners of the kingdom, including the so-called Ancient Wall that protects the kingdom from the encroaching darkness.

Like Tolkien’s LOTR series, the world created by the author is mostly inspired by accounts and legends of the chaotic middle ages. “Most written fantasy, even if it’s set in the imaginary world, is inspired by the history of the middle ages,” author George R. Martin explained, during our separate roundtable with him. “It’s full of castle and lords and swords and knights and all of the other trappings.”

Series producer David Benioff would later emphasize that what sets Game of Thrones apart from the other epic-fantasies that came before it is that “it is not your typical epic battle of good versus evil. These are characters of enormous complexity and shades of gray.”

Fans and critics did agree with him. When the series premiered in the US last April, it was welcomed with enormous acclaim and HBO would later announce that the series would return next winter for its second season. There are seven books in the series.

Game of Thrones will have its premiere this month on HBO Asia with a back-to-back screening of the first and second episodes beginning at 10 p.m. on Aug. 28. All eight succeeding episodes of the series will air back-to-back and uninterrupted for five consecutive Sundays the entire month of September. - entertainment