Alex A. Kecskes has written hundreds of film reviews and celebrity interviews for a wide variety of online and print outlets. He has covered red carpet premieres and Comic-Con events for major films and independent releases.
Kodi Smit-McPhee, best known for his role as the boy opposite Viggo Mortensen in The Road, and Owen in the vampire thriller Let Me In, is the voice of Norman in the 3D stop-motion animated film ParaNorman. In this roundtable interview, Kodi talks about his voice role as Norman Babcock, the misunderstood local boy who speaks with the dead to prevent the destruction of his town from a centuries-old witch’s curse.
Is this your first voiceover work in an animated film?
Kodi Smit-McPhee: No, it’s my second. I just did a little thing in Australia. But nothing compared to this. Read more
Born and raised in Montreal, Peter Shinkoda studied civil engineering at the University of Western Ontario and post production for film and television at UCLA. In the 90’s, Shinkoda decided to focus on his acting and put his then job as an assistant film editor on hold.
Since then, he has consistently acted in a number of high-profile projects, including I,Robot, John Woo’s Paycheck, and most recently, WAR. Shinkoda will also be featured in director Joe Dante’s highly anticipated next feature, The Hole in 3-D. He’ll also star star as “Sektor” in Warner Bros’ “Mortal Kombat:Legacy” web-series with director Kevin Tancheroen at the helm.
In Steven Spielberg’s “Falling Skies,” Shinkoda joins Noah Wyle and the rest of the survival team as weapons and tactics expert, Dai. In this one-on-one interview, Shinkoda reveals what drew him to the role and its many challenges.
Best known as the blue-skinned Mystique in the popular X-Men films, Rebecca Romijn has also appeared in a number of TV series, including “Pepper Dennis,” “Eastwick” and “Ugly Betty.”
In “NTSF:SD:SUV” (National Terrorism Strike Force: San Diego: Sport Utility Vehicle) , a TV parody of police procedural dramas, Romjin plays Jessie Nichols, a nerdy lab tech.
The show was first featured in a set of mock promotional television advertisements. From the mock promos, the program was greenlighted to series with a 12-episode season, bypassing the usual TV pilot stage of development.
Each episode is more outrageously funny than the next. In one episode, Jessie and Sam (Martin Starr) are kidnapped by a Japanese sub that’s been lost at sea–searching for Pearl Harbor–for 70 years. NTSF must find the sub and stop their long-delayed attack on San Diego.
In this roundtable cast interview, Romjin talks briefly about the show and her character.
Haley Strode grew up on her family’s 4th generation farm in Owensboro, Kentucky. A highly versatile and talented actress, Strode has landed a wide range of TV and film roles, including “Castle,” “CSI: NY,” “The New Normal” and Only in LA. In the upcoming 40’s noir crime drama Gangster Squad, Strode plays Marcia Keeler, Giovanni Ribisi wife. She joins veterans Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in a stylish film that chronicles LAPD’s fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles. In this one-on-one interview, Strode reveals her passion for acting and some insights about a film many will soon be talking about.
Liam McIntyre grew to prominence in Australian TV for his work in “Rush” and “Neighbors.” US audiences may remember him as Lew in the Iwo Jima episode of the award-nominated HBO mini-series “The Pacific.” Taking over the role of Spartacus when Andy Whitfield tragically passed away from cancer last year, McIntyre found his footing in season two, “Spartacus: Vengeance.” In this roundtable interview, McIntyre reveals what viewers can expect in the series’ final season, “Spartacus: War of the Damned.”
So how do feel about this upcoming season?
Liam McIntyre: It’s different. Last season, I was untested, I was new. This season, I’m a bit more settled. It’s a different feeling, a cool feeling. It’s such a big show now. They’ve skipped ahead to the meat of the story and chopped out all the fat. I don’t know how they’re going to shoot it all. They built a whole city. We’re gonna wrap it up in an exciting way. It’s one of those lucky histories where all the details are a bit vague, so we can fill it with all the interesting plot points we want. People will die in different times and all sorts of exciting adventures. Every script that I’ve read has included something to surprise me.
Will your character go through some changes in this next season?
LM: Yeah. He’s very much business now. He’s sort of closed the chapter on his personal journey and now he’s really trying to embrace his search for freedom. And it’s been a challenge because everything in acting is about relationships, so you can’t just play some general who is just out to win the war. But that’s kind of the story he’s got now. So that personal battle he’s been fighting is now in the past. He’s no longer facing combatants in front of thousands of people in the arena. His new role actually weighs heavier on him. He’s got to be there as a warrior general to win this thing for his followers. For all intents and purposes, it’s a seemingly impossible undertaking. Every episode is very heavy.
How do you feel about being a general this season?
LM: It’s nice for a change. One of the interesting things about being Spartacus this season is that he’s a general, but every chick he’s with dies. They’ve really upped the stakes this time. It’s very fresh. I don’t know how they’ve taken a basically “upstairs-downstairs” story and turned it into a battle royale story.
Historically, we know what happens to Spartacus. Will there be an upbeat ending of sorts in this final season?
LM: I haven’t read the ending but I have a feeling that they’re going to put a nice spin on the ending. It’s gonna be a heart breaker. It’s gonna have a nice message. By definition, it’s going to be a heavy ending.
Is there still a bit of friendly competition among the male cast?
LM: I didn’t stop training. Last season, I was a skinny dude and training my butt off, hoping maybe I’d be up for the role. So this season, I trained really hard. When I came to boot camp, I said, you know what, I’m going to be really good at this. And I’m not doing too bad. I was never able to run very well, but I was competitive. It’s one of the best places to put a cast together. You’re in an environment where you work together and you fight together, and it feels like the war you’re about to go through in the story. It’s pretty cool.
In the 3D stop-motion animated adventure/comedy, Paranorman, the small New England town of Blithe Hollow comes under siege by the undead. Only a misunderstood local boy, Norman Babcock, who has the ability to speak with the dead, is able to prevent the destruction of his town from a centuries-old witch’s curse. He takes on ghosts, witches, zombies and worst of all, the moronic grown-ups around him.
Anna Kendrick is the voice of Courtney, Norman’s obnoxious older sister. I recently joined a handful of other journalists in a round table Q&A with Kendrick. We wanted to know how this talented actress approached her first-ever animated film.
What’s it like voicing an animated film?
Anna Kendrick: I always wanted to do an animated film, so I jumped at the opportunity. This was my first one. I was really nervous, because I’m not ADR rated (Automated Dialogue Replacement), so I wasn’t sure how it was going to be, but it was actually really freeing. With an ADR, you’re watching the movie and you’re trying to say your lines. You feel like you’re in a really safe space. You realize it’s okay to make really ugly faces or really ugly body gestures, and to use all those things as tools was really helpful—all without being conscious about the way you look on camera.
What can you say about your character in Paranorman?
AK: She’s your typical obnoxious older sister. She’s really embarrassed by her younger brother. Even though her brother is extraordinary and ends up saving the town, she thinks he’s annoying and she wants him to be normal and do normal things. Unlike Stacey in Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Courtney doesn’t have her brother’s best interests at heart. She’s a selfish cheerleader type. At first, there’s not a lot of love from Courtney toward her brother.
Do you see yourself as the character when Courtney’s animated?
AK: Yeah. There are some things, like I would always bend at my waist. Kind of side to side, like I was really tired. So world weary that I couldn’t hold my own body up, which is a very teenage girl thing. I think Courtney does that.
How do you find the direction different from live action films?
AK: It depends on the director, but the difference for me is that I get to hear what they want and do it immediately. They tell me what they want, and the second my brain processes it, I say it and try it. When a director on a film set says, action, you get to sit there and stew with it for like five minutes for them to get ready, change the lights, re-set the camera and what not. So that’s the time you can get re-set in your head and you say, ok, yeah, I’ll try that.
Did you get to record with anyone else or are you always by yourself?
AK: I got to record my first day with Casey Affleck. He’s never done animated voice work, either. It was a great way to start out, especially because, by the end of the day, we were getting more comfortable with it and it became a bit competitive to see who was willing to embarrass themselves more.
Were there any improv moments where you were allowed to vary from the script?
AK: Yeah, Yeah, that was the other great thing about having Casey there. I have a crush on him in the film. So we got to do a lot of stuff. The directors were so open to improv because the process is so slow and precise that those moments of spontaneity are so important. Like anything you can do to keep the process spontaneous helps them later.
How much of the visual elements did you have in front of you to figure out how to interpret the character?
AK: They showed me the picture of the puppet and it was not what I expected at all. She’s got hips on her, which is cool, so I liked that. It certainly made me feel that I could go really far in the characterization, and not just seeing Courtney, but seeing all the characters and discovering their world and the tone that went with it.
Was it different to act out the character in an animated film?
AK: Yeah, because in a film, you get to throw your whole body into it. And you can’t help but be aware that you’re on film, and you want to be able to look at this piece of film and not go, Oh, my God, why did I do that scene with my mouth, or why did I do that thing with my hands, like what kind of weird tick is that? But with animated films, you can throw everything into it. And I did spend a lot time in the booth with my hands on my shoulders and my feet all twisted underneath me.
Do you find yourself overly emoting because you’re in a booth doing voice only?
AK: Yeah. It’s definitely a heightened universe. I was certainly trying not to do a cartoony voice. The directors are really grounded in real emotion and they’re all about the story. You never felt like you were doing cartoony stuff, but it definitely felt like a heightened world.
Did you audition for the role of Courtney?
AK: No, they just offered it to me. And it was a thrill. I thought it was because of my work in Twilight because I play a similar character in that. I’m not exactly sure what the process is, but they talked about taking audio from my interviews and Casey Affleck’s interviews and cutting them together to hear what our voices sound like side by side. And I asked them if that was normal and Chris (Butler) is like, yeah, it’s pretty normal. And Sam (Fell) was standing behind him going, No, that’s not the typical process.
How do you deal with that process, stuff that you didn’t know would be an audition?
AK: Well, I guess it would only be kind of a bummer if they tried it and said, Oh God, no.
With all the other animated films out there, what will set this one apart?
AK: I think this form of stop motion is sort of a dying breed and it’s wonderful that people are still so committed to it. The level of artistry is really admirable. I have nothing but respect for all forms of animation, but there is something really special about the people who are so passionate about this art form that they do what they do.
What’s it like seeing your character on the screen while you’re in the sound booth?
AK: You’re watching yourself and you’re tying to match up to your voice. You’re waiting on those horrifying BEEPs—they haunt my dreams. Usually when you’re on set and somebody calls, action, some actors will say to themselves, they’re ready, so when I’m ready, I’ll start. With those BEEPS, you’re literally waiting and waiting to get this line and do it right. It’s the pressure of ADR.
Unless you’ve been abducted by aliens or stranded on a remote island, you’ve heard of Suzanne Collins’ trilogy, The Hunger Games. If you’re a fan, you’ve read her books at least three times and seen the first film as many times.
In Collins’ futuristic tale, North America (now called Panem) is divided into 12 Districts. In this cruel, dictatorial society, two teens (tributes) from each district are forced to fight to the death in annual televised Hunger Games. The film features Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen and Josh Hutcherson as Peeta Mellark, two tributes who pit their skills against other teens to survive.
Once selected by weighted lottery, each of the 24 tributes are trained for combat and groomed for live TV. In the first film, Katniss’ 12-year-old sister, Primrose (Willow Shields) is initially drawn to compete, but Katniss comes to her rescue to take her place. Once the games begin, Katniss forms an alliance with Rue (Amandla Stenberg), a 12-year old girl from district 10 with uncanny abilities in climbing, plant harvesting and whistling to mockingjays (genetically altered birds that can hear a conversation or song and replay it perfectly). While Prim lives on (to possibly compete in another Hunger Game), little Rue is killed in what many regard as one of the most poignant death scenes in the film.
I recently sat down with Willow and Amandla at a press round table in San Diego’s Hard Rock Hotel. I was joined by a handful of fellow journalists and we were quickly impressed by the maturity and demeanor of both girls. The questioning began, as it most often does in San Diego, with Comic-con.
So how are you guys enjoying Comic-con?
Willow: We love it. Amandla: We love it. It’s pretty awesome. Seeing all the costumes is the best part.
Did you see a lot of Hunger Games costumes?
Willow: We saw a Katniss costume. Amandla: And Lara Croft. We also saw the alien from Prometheus.
Now that you’ve done Hunger Games, do you get recognized when you’re out?
Willow: Yeah. We can’t go anywhere without someone recognizing us. Amandla: Yeah. They’ll go, “Oh, you’re Rue” or “Oh, you’re Prim.” For me, if I’m wearing my hair up, I’m like whoever. But if I’m wearing it down, the reaction is, My God, it’s Rue!
Have you guys seen the (Hunger Games) DVDs yet?
Willow: No, we haven’t. Amandla: There was a camera on the set every day. Filming stuff behind the scenes, so we got a glimpse of what was being filmed.
Willow: It’s going to be really cool to see us goofing off and being ourselves. Amandla: People have to realize that we are not like our characters.
Willow: I’m not Prim, I’m Willow. Amandla: Everyone just calls me Rue now.
Have you guys seen your action figures?
Amandla: I just got it. I was playing with it. It’s pretty cool, yeah. Willow: I’m hoping to get mine.
Have both of you read Susanne Collins’ books?
Willow: Yes. We’re big fans. Amandla: Yes, I was a fan girl before I even auditioned. I was super nervous during my audition and super stoked when I got the part.
What was the audition like?
Amandla: I actually went on two auditions. There was one on the show with the casting director, Debra Zane, who gave me advice for the callback, which was to dress up like Rue. The next audition was at director Gary Ross’ house, where I completely dressed in torn clothes, with mud all over me, and leaves in my hair and everything. And he has a really nice house, of course. So I had to be really careful walking through the house to keep from leaving a trail of mud. And I couldn’t sit with everyone else. I had to sit on this stool instead of the nice suede furniture.
Did you meet Susanne Collins?
Amandla:Yes. I met her at the premiere. And on location in North Carolina during filming. She came for my death scene and she gave me advice.
How hard was it to do the death scene?
Amandla: It was hard and kind of weird. I tried to get into the mindset of Rue and imagine what she might have been thinking as she was dying.
When you saw the film with an audience for the first time, what went through your head? Were you looking at the screen or the audience?
Amandla: It’s funny because, you’re looking up at the screen and you’re thinking, do they even know who’s sitting next to them? Actually, the first time I went to see it was with my friends and family. And, of course, my death scene had just appeared and my best friend was literally sobbing. She was a bit terrified. So I said, “it’s okay, I’m right here. I’m not dead, I’m alive.” And I’m trying to make her feel better. So she turned to me and she said, “Shhhh, you’re ruining the scene.”
Do you get a lot of reaction during the death scene?
Amandla: Yeah. They’ll say, “Oh, I cried when you died.” I get a lot of that when I’m signing autographs. Like what do you say to that–I’m sorry?
Willow, have you talked to Francis (Lawrence) yet?
Willow: I have not talked to him, but I’m really excited to work with him. Gary was an amazing director and I’m really sad to see him go. I’m really excited to see what transforms with Catching Fire.
In this the first film you got to work primarily with Jennifer? Who are you looking forward to working with now?
Willow: I’m excited to work with Josh Hutcherson and Woody Harrelson. They’re both amazing actors and I’m looking forward to doing scenes with them.
What’s been the reaction of your parents? Are they treating you differently now?
Willow: No. Not really. Amandla: No. They’re not treating me differently–so I won’t act differently, if that makes sense.
What scenes affected you most?
Amandla: The death scene affected me most, even just reading it in the book. I was ten years old and listening to the book on tape. I wondered why? How could this happen? People always ask me if I cried when I saw myself die. But I think you have to be really self involved to react that way. Like, oh, my God, what’s the world going to do without me? What actually made me cry was the cornucopia scene. It was so disturbing and shocking to see all my friends beating each other up and stabbing each other. That was so weird to see.
Is there anything in the movie that surprised you the way it turned out?
Amandla: When you’re shooting a movie, you don’t really know what it’s going to look like.
Willow: Everything was different when we saw it on film, compared to when you’re shooting.
What was it like living in what must have seemed like a ghost town where you were filming?
Amandla: Like with Katniss running with her bow and arrow, you see a background of beat up old houses. We actually shot in an abandoned little village. There was this old house with creaking stairs and old props and it was kind of scary.
Talking about the cornucopia scene, there are some really strong ideas Suzanne Collins was trying to convey in her trilogy. Was being inside this story changed the way you look at the world outside?
Amandla: Yeah. What’s so powerful about the book is that there’s no werewolves or vampires. It’s a very powerful message in that her world is not that far from our own. It’s like a warning or prediction. So I think that definitely had an effect on me. Willow: Yeah.
What’s next for both of you?
Willow: Catching Fire for me. And then a TV show called the “Haunting Hour.” Amandla: I have a couple of projects in the works that I can’t talk about yet.
Born and raised in Tennessee, Rachel Boston is best known as Detective Abigail Chaffee in the TV series “In Plain Sight” and as Daphne Bloom in “The Ex List.” Her long and varied TV credits also include Erin Sinclaire in “Mad Love,” Tanya Leterre in “Scoundrels,” Beth Mason in “American Dreams” and appearances in such hit shows as “NCIS” and “Grey’s Anatomy.” More recently, Boston starred in 500 Days of Summer, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past and The Pill.
In the upcoming It’s a Disaster, Boston joins Julia Stiles, Erinn Hayes, David Cross, America Ferrera, Todd Berger, Jesse Draper and Jeff Grace in an end-of-world satire. The film centers around four couples who meet for Sunday brunch only to discover they’re stuck in a house together as the world is about to end. In this one-on-one interview, Boston reveals her insights into this quirky disaster-comedy and her varied, successful acting career. Read more
“Teen Wolf” is MTV’s “Buffy-esque” foray into the teen vampire genre. And it’s actually fun to watch if you don’t take your lycans too seriously. The goal here is to wrap just enough teen angst, Friday Night Lacrosse, and body count macabre into something that’ll keep teens from switching channels, texting each other, or playing “Tour of Duty” on their desktops or iPads.
The first season introduced us to slightly insecure high school student, Scott McCall (Tyler Posey), who was bitten by an Alpha werewolf (your top of the line lycan). This empowered Scott with all sorts of neat lupine abilities, the most problematic being morphing into a furry faced, glowing-eyed creature while trying to get cuddly with his first big crush, newbie student Allison (Crystal Reed). Read more
Best known for her critically lauded role in Inception with Leonardo DiCaprio, Alex Lombard has appeared in such popular TV series as “Big Love” and “How I Met Your Mother.” Raised in South Carolina, the talented Lombard will delight fans as Gabrielle in the much anticipated Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. In the film everyone seems to talking about, Lombard will play the love interest of vampire Henry Sturgess (Dominic Cooper). Before heading to New York for the world premiere of Vampire Hunter, Lombard was kind enough to answer a few questions about her role and her life as a rising young actress. Read more
If you’re a fan of the network cable series, Spartacus, you’ll be happy to know that the series is alive and well. Spartacus: War of the Damned, currently in production in New Zealand, is scheduled to air January 2013.
The final season segues out of the defeat of Roman commander Gaius Claudius Glaber. Spartacus and his men have scored major victories against the Romans after the Battle of Vesuvius. The rebellion launched by the former slave and gladiator has mushroomed to more than 30,000 slaves. We see Rome beginning to tremble at the growing threat of Spartacus and his slave army.
The bittersweet news for Spartacus fans is that the sword-and-sandal saga will conclude with the upcoming final season. The story of a slave who defied Rome has brought a unique visual style to the small screen. The critically acclaimed series has become the most successful on the STARS network. With over six million weekly viewers, last season’s Spartacus: Vengeance drew more than 2.5 million Facebook fans and has aired in 150 countries in more than 15 languages.
“Fans have been tremendously supportive of our show,” says creator and executive producer, Steven S. DeKnight. “We did not come to this decision lightly. It was an extremely difficult and emotional decision for my partners and I. Yet, in the end, the story was best served by rolling all of the remaining action and drama of Spartacus’ journey into one stunningly epic season that will be extremely satisfying for everyone who’s been along for the ride.”
The Emmy® nominated series, promises to deliver even more in the final season with the construction of a full city, a Roman Villa, and the scene of the epic battle along the Appian Way. Spartacus: War of the Damned will bring back Liam McIntyre (Spartacus), Manu Bennett (Crixus), Dustin Clare (Gannicus), Dan Feuerriegel (Agron), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Naevia) and Ellen Hollman (Saxa). New to the cast will be Todd Lasance as Gaius Julius Caesar, along with Simon Merrells, who will play Marcus Crassus and Anna Hutchison as Laeta.
The grand finale will be a feast for the senses with lots of action and the usual intrigue.
Shot in New Orleans and China, Looper is a time-travel action film starring Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt and Joseph Gordon-Levitt that will debut this September. The story depicts a time when crime syndicates can send their enemies back in time to be “taken out” by killers known as ‘loopers.’ This leaves no evidence of the killings in the crime syndicate’s present time. The story raises a moral time-travel paradox when hitman Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) working for the mob of the future recognizes one of his assigned targets (Bruce Willis) as his future self. Does he take him out? Will he cease to exist if he does?
At a recent Wondercon press conference, Levitt who has successfully broken free of his “Third Rock” image (he landed four film roles just this year), talked about his hitman role in Looper.
Asked what it was like to transform himself into a Bruce Willis character, Levitt replied, “It was about studying him and getting to know him. We’d hang out a lot. Yet there were a few really tricky moments. My parents came to the set. And when I was standing next to my mom, she kind of freaked out because I was a lot like myself but I looked totally different. Then a good friend of mine, Jerod, came to the set and said, ‘I can’t talk to you. I don’t like this guy.’ And that thrilled me because it meant that I had transformed enough to convince even my close friend that I was someone else.” Read more
The web-shooting crusader returns to theaters this July as Andrew Garfield takes on Peter Parker’s role as Spider-Man. Peter is the outcast teen once again fighting for good–and the girl—this time heatthrob Gwen Stacey (Emma Stone).
Now living with his Uncle Ben and Aunt May, Peter must unravel the mystery of his own past and win over his high school crush, Gwen. When Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase belonging to his father, he uncovers a secret that will ultimately shape his role as “Spider-Man” and bring him face to face with the alter ego of his father’s former partner–the Lizard. Read more
Yes, boys and girls, the undead will return this September with our indefatigable heroeine once again fighting the evil Umbrella corporation in Resident Evil: Retribution.
In this 5th installment of the Resident Evil franchise—in full 3D no less—Alice (Milla Jovovich) teams up with a resistance movement in the ongoing battle against Umbrella and the undead. Once again captured by Umbrella, Alice awakens in their facility to explore the complex, reveal more of her past, and ultimately find those responsible for the outbreak. This time, she joins forces with resistance teams from major cities around the world and discovers a stunning truth, one that forces her to do some soul searching about who she really is and role of the Umbrella Corporation.
The tension is eerie and palpable as The Sound of My Voice moves with skill and alacrity into the bizarre world of futures cultism. The story centers around L.A. documentary filmmakers Peter (Christopher Denham) and Lorna (Nicole Vicius) as they follow Maggie (Brit Marling), a hauntingly beautiful young woman who claims to be a time traveler from the year 2054. Her mission: to recruit and train an army for a coming civil war. Read more