Most fascinating H’wood interviews of 2013
(First of a series)
LOS ANGELES – These are some of the interviewees who made us sit up and listen more closely than usual, think and laugh or simply inspired us to write.
How often does one have the pleasure of hearing Meryl Streep sing in person?
In London where she was filming “Into the Woods,” the legend said, “I’m in a very dark place with violence, with ‘August: Osage County’ so one bleeds into the other (‘Into the Woods’). I keep thinking…,” and here she sang and paraphrased some of the lyrics of “Children Will Listen” from “Into the Woods.”
“Careful of what you say, children will listen because that’s the story of ‘August.’ Careful of what you do, children will see and learn.”
Meryl admitted that at first she was “not eager to do this [vicious mother] part” in “August.”
“The reason I did was [that] a very dear friend said to me, ‘You had a great mother. She gave you your appetite for experience, curiosity, sense of humor. Your mother sang in the kitchen; mine hit me. Your mother made you feel you could do anything; mine made me feel like I couldn’t do anything. You have to do this for me and for all the girls like me who had bad mothers, who made it in spite of that, who got out, and for all the ones who didn’t, and to let them know it’s okay to leave that behind.’”
Asked what her fervent wish was these days, Meryl said, laughing, “Sleep for 12 hours.”
Robert Lopez, Filipino-American cocreator of “The Book of Mormon” and “Avenue Q,” teamed up with his wife, Kristen Anderson-Lopez to create instant Disney classic songs for Idina Menzel, Kristen Bell and others in Disney’s new animated film, “Frozen.” The couple earned a Golden Globe best song nod for “Let It Go,” sung by Idina.
“My father (Frank), who was part-Filipino, was born in a ship on the way to the United States from Manila,” Robert said. It was reportedly the last GI boat that left Manila right after World War II.
Robert scurried to the nearby piano several times during our interview. As he played, Kristen sang. They broke into these brief, spontaneous musical snippets throughout the interview.
Asked what advice he would give Ben Affleck, who is next wearing the Batsuit, cowl, cape and all, Christian Bale cracked, “[Make sure you are] able to piss by yourself… and turn your
head. Beyond that, I am in no position to give anybody advice.”
Christian, who plays Moses in Ridley Scott’s “Exodus,” on playing Jesus in the 1999 TV movie “Mary, Mother of Jesus”: “[The] Jesus [role] came after I finished playing Patrick Bateman in ‘American Psycho’ and my house was getting repossessed. Jesus came to me and said, ‘If you play this role, then you can save your house.’ So I did. Now, I am in different circumstances with Ridley.”
On whether his wife Sibi Blazic tries to change some of his habits, Christian remarked, “Oh yeah you have to, don’t you? I mean, some things you do willingly and for other things you are given an ultimatum. So you drink more whiskey.”
“So I came in and I had the back row (of St. Joseph’s church in Hong Kong). I was sitting by myself and all of a sudden, all these women started sitting [next to] me, squishing in and hanging off the side of the pew. I was like, ‘What’s going on here?’ Then I realized it was probably 98 percent women in the church. They were all Filipinos and they all knew that I knew Manny Pacquiao. I was like, I’m a hero now; I’m well-connected!”
Asked what helped him give a stunning performance as Rayon, a transsexual in “Dallas Buyers Club,” Jared answered: “I think it was a combination of things—script, role, fellow cast members, and there was some magic there. But you know what the most important thing was? Good old-fashioned, hard fu*king work. That’s what does it. It’s elbow grease, digging in, working, working and working some more. That’s how you get that. I am a big believer in the reality and a dream is just work. I am a worker; that’s what I do.”
Complimented that he made one pretty woman, Jared broke into a wide grin and remarked, “Well, thank you very much! I am a very beautiful woman, unlike Dustin Hoffman (in ‘Tootsie’). He had nice calves but I think my ankles put him to shame.”
Jared conceded that there were “really nice” aspects about being a woman on the set. “People treated me very well. It was always interesting. It was
always the biggest, toughest, strongest teamster who was a little bit flirty. He wanted to hold my hand when I got out of the van and said, ‘Right this way, ma’am.’ People really forgot it was me because I was in character the whole time. It was incredible.”
Standing up and then walking like a woman, he continued, “A couple of times, I would walk down and see a teamster walk by, checking me out.” (He demonstrated this.) “It was great.”
“In my eyes, I’m 43, very tall with blonde hair and long legs.”
When we asked the living music legend for at least three film scores that he’d like to be remembered for, one of his picks was a surprise.
“I always remember certain passages in ‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’ that I particularly enjoy playing with orchestras, away from film, so that may be indicative of something.”
He added, “And several movements of ‘Star Wars’ I also continue to have interest in as a performer. I did a television version of ‘Jane Eyre’ years ago (1970), directed by Delbert Mann. I wrote that new score in London many years ago. I have continued to enjoy revisiting that. So, in my case, that’s been a good measure of what I like that I have done in the past. If I don’t pick it out of the library and don’t want to perform it, it means that I don’t particularly want to return to it.”
T Bone Burnett
As an award-winning musician, songwriter and producer, T Bone Burnett has worked with the Who’s Who in music’s various genres—from Bob Dylan, Elton John, Tony Bennett, Robert Plant, Justin Timberlake to Marcus Mumford. T Bone’s big break came when he played guitar in Bob Dylan’s legendary Rolling Thunder Revue in 1975. “What did Dylan take from me?” T Bone repeated aloud a question during an interview at New York’s The London Hotel. “Nothing, I think. I took almost everything from Dylan, I have to say.”
The man who metamorphosed from a financially broke kid sleeping on couches into a music legend was doing his best to give back. For one, he made sure to spotlight emerging young artists in the NY concert tribute to the Coens’ excellent “Inside Llewyn Davis” (he is the film’s music producer).
T Bone said, “In the embattled world of music right now, so much of my time is spent holding the door open for the people that are coming after me like these kids last night (from that NY show). I’m lucky I can still work. A lot of people can’t work. They’re trying not to pay people anymore. It’s tough out there, so I’m lucky. Those kids who were on that stage last night—they needed to be heard so anything I could do [to help them I would]…”
On listening to Oscar Isaac, Golden Globe-nominated for “Inside…,” sing and play guitar live for the first time: “I saw this tape of Oscar and I thought, wait, he was actually good. So he came in, he played and he did it. He did the same thing that Don Everly (T Bone produced the Everly Brothers’ ‘Gone, Gone, Gone’ single) did …
“Oscar played ‘So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad),’ in a living room. It broke my heart. Everybody started crying. That was what Oscar did. He just came in and broke your heart. That’s what that’s supposed to be. These ‘bad’ musician people—that’s what they do—they go around and break people’s hearts.”
In a world press conference via Skype from the Ecuadorian embassy in London where he has been holed up since June 19 last year, controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said, “I have my heart and soul in this work that I am doing.”
Then he opened up about fears for his family. He has a son and a daughter. He is separated from his wife, Teresa. “Of course, I have a family and that situation is difficult. I have a family who had to move and change their names and who have been the subject of threats, of US right wing blogs calling for my son, for example, to be killed to get at me. We take security precautions to deal with it. I’m scared about it but we have to stand.”
Sthanlee B. Mirador
Sthanlee is a pioneering Filipino-American photographer in Hollywood. You’ve probably seen Sthanlee’s photos of the biggest Hollywood celebrities on the covers of popular magazines, from People to US Weekly; in the inside pages of Rolling Stone and InStyle; or on such TV shows as “Entertainment Tonight” and “Access Hollywood.” Sthanlee has been covering major red carpet events for 17 years now.
On the challenges and tough conditions that the public doesn’t see when he takes red-carpet photos: “It’s not as glamorous as it seems. I’d say photographers are treated poorly at events. The writers and video folks are always treated well. Patience is key to what we do in this business. There’s a lot of waiting for celebrities to arrive, or for an event to start.”
Who are the most challenging to shoot and why? “Julia Roberts and Charlize Theron, to name two. Julia tops my list. For me, she just doesn’t pose well. You can tell she doesn’t like to be on the red carpet. She hardly gives you eye contact and she’s always in a hurry. I can say the same of other female talents. You’ve been there for hours waiting for them, and they rush on the carpet.”
(To be continued on Sunday)
E-mail the columnist at email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/nepalesruben.
PHOTOS BY RUBEN NEPALES
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