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.
“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
A cult favorite, Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day reprises the roles of Connor and Murphy MacManus doling out justice with no mercy for hellbound souls.
For nearly a decade, the brothers have been living sans side arms with their father on a sheep farm deep in pastoral Ireland. Yet evil knows no rest as they are framed for the murder of a Catholic priest in Boston. Our honor bound duo must return to Boston and set things right as only the MacManus brothers can. In a recent one-on-one interview, Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery provided some insights on the sequel everyone’s talking about. Read more
Written and directed by Evan Glodell and filmed on a micro budget, Bellflower is an incendiary bit of filmmaking that unapologetically welds violence, loveless infatuation and post-teen angst. The characters are, for the most part, irresponsible losers in almost every sense of the word. Untethered from reality, theirs is a video-game existence that follows a crazy-eights destruction-derby path to self-annihilation. Yet, like a car crash, there’s something about Bellflower that draws us in and keeps us engaged.
The film opens with reverse vignettes of violence, foreshadowing the film’s bizarre, unconventional style that, at times, descends to film-school production values. We’re introduced to Woodrow (Glodell) and Aiden (Tyler Dawson) who devote part of their free time constructing a flamethrower and sprucing up a flame spewing car, a “black tarantula” called Medusa—all in preparation for a MadMax type of apocalypse that Aiden envisions is just around the corner.
Glodell’s characters exist in a universe where there are no jobs, no police, and seemingly no social order or framework. Lives, loves and ambitions are as disheveled as the squalor of their surroundings. Everything is focused on the carnal here and now, oblivious to consequences. When Woodrow threatens a huge beer-brawling patron outside a bar and expects him to apologize to Milly, we’re not surprised that Woodrow lands flat on his ass. Or when he trades in his car for a motorbike and rides thousands of miles from Texas to California with Milly, impulse trumps common sense.
Glodell’s obsession with “Lynchian” homages sometimes interferes with plotting detail and makes us question the motives of Bellflower’s characters. When Woodrow meets Milly (Jessie Wiseman) in a bar over a bug-eating contest, she becomes the monkey in Bellflower’s wrench. And for a while, the film segues into a kind of Blue Valentine tragedy. Milly’s abrupt change of heart and Woodrow’s rekindled relationship with Milly’s friend Courtney (Rebekah Brandes) both serve the script but leave the story line running on half cylinders. Milly warns Woodrow that things will end badly, which turns out to be the only predictable bit of narrative in this film.
The point is, Bellflower’s puzzle piece storyline shifts gears erratically like Medusa, roaring, squealing, careening and fishtailing aimlessly. The audience is left hoping that the film will slow down, settle in neutral for just the briefest moment and answer some basic questions–like where are these characters really headed? And what do they want out of life or their relationships? But this is not that kind of film. Glodell sustains the pedal-to-the-metal ride, sans logic, hoping you’ll stay with him for every emotional, violent funhouse turn as the film leaps relentlessly to its hellish conclusion.
A hugely successful British import that’s creating quite a buzz, Torchwood hit American shores with a bigger budget, lots of action and just the right blend of humor and romance. In this cast interview, Torchwood newbies and regulars express their thoughts about their characters and what excites them about the amped-up series everyone’s talking about.
Gwen is such a complex character. How will she change?
Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper): She changes in every episode. She’s got a new threat, a new man to fight. She changes all the time. She adapts all the time. She’s unstoppable. She’s so militant, so driven.
Do you have a direction that you want your character to go?
EM: Well, not that it would mean anything, but Gwen is going in the direction that I love to play. I love the action and her witty-ness. I could never come up with a better idea than the writers. I mean, I could say something, but it would be so lame. So, she’s going in the right direction. With all the fighting that Gwen does, my friends are starting to call me Kung Fu Cooper.
The action and martial arts are great. Do you have a stunt double for the fight scenes?
EM: Oh, I do. And she probably hates my guts. At the end, she comes in and gets all done up and she does the stunt. But I do all the fight scenes myself. Their staff is great. They’ll go through the fight scenes with me. It’s like a choreographed dance. I do all of it. I love it.
Did you go through any martial arts training?
EM: I’ve always done that sort of thing. I started boxing at a young age. You get taught stagecraft combat. Some people can do it, others can’t. If I thought for one minute that I was really taking a chance in doing something, that I’d risk breaking my neck, I’d tell the stunt double, okay, you can take over from here. There are so many great fight scenes coming up. I can’t wait for you to see them. Actually, there’s one scene where my stunt double smashes through a wall and into a shop. They wouldn’t let me do that one.
Will Esther’s character grow in the CIA?
Alexa Havins (Esther Drummond): She changes drastically. She’s the character that changes the most and grows the most. She’s a little meek and by-the-book. And we all know that you can’t do that with Torchwood. When you’re out there, there are no rules. It’s crazy. It’s dangerous and it’s raw and real. You’ll see an emotional growth and a physical growth with Esther.
What’s going to happen to Esther romantically?
ED: She wants a little Mekhi in her life. You’ll see that in the first couple of episodes–he’s rough, emotionally shut off from the world and he’s focused on work. So she’s trying to get through, “knocking at the door.” You’ll see their relationship develop but it kind of takes a turn, so it develops in a different direction. The biggest relationship is with Captain Jack and Gwen. They [writers] really take her under their wing and develop that.
Do you work with the writers on the script?
ED: No, we don’t. We talk. And say, “wouldn’t it be great.” But the writers are so darn good. Every script you get is great. They put so much time and thought into story development. Some ideas have been bounced around for years–like the Miracle Day concept. Russell [Davies] is a brilliant storyteller and he brings in Jane [Espenson]. I did sit down with them and they said this is kind of where we are and this is where we want Esther to go. It was a really strong place for her. She’s initially a little nervous, a little out of her element. But she has a fun place to go. It’s a good experience.
Your character is perhaps the most fascinating. What’s his journey?
Bill Pullman (Oswald Danes): Well, he’s trying not to go to Hell. He’s got a great journey and I think it comes from Russell’s sense of humanity, which never abandons characters. He’s ready for any character to take surprising moves. Russell is always appreciative of his audience. But he doesn’t want to be told what to write or how to tell a story. And I think there’s a kind of mischief in him that wants to set up an expectation and then turn it around and around again. Some of that is just good storytelling. And some of it is just heh, heh, heh!
How did you prepare to play such a creepy guy?
BP: You know actors. That’s kind of the gift you get, to go off and build a separate reality. I have always found that sometimes clearly delineated characters are the easiest to do–rather than, like, a male lead in a romantic comedy, which is the hardest thing to prepare for. Oswald is great because you got stuff to read, you got YouTube, and you got your own time alone. You know you’re going to a place that’s different from yourself, so you give yourself the time to separate from the father, the check writer, the kid’s school chauffer. So you go, “okay, I got some work to do. I’m going to be away for three hours now.” It’s like a joy. I love getting a job because it’s like, I don’t have to figure out how to fix that tractor anymore.
We’re already seeing changes in Rex. Where’s your character going this season?
Mekhi Phifer (Rex Matheson): What’s great about playing a strong character like Rex– who’s thrown into this Torchwood world–is the arc that I get to play. He’s hard edged and a little set in his ways, and he can be a bit abrasive at times, but once he really realizes–and Torchwood realizes–that we need each other, you start to see the change in him. We peel back his layers like an onion and you begin to see what makes him tick. We get a glimpse of what his family life was like and what his lifestyle was like. So he’s going places. It’s a really good journey.
Did you do some background research on the CIA to get up to speed on how they operate?
MP: You know, it didn’t really require that much background work, although I did my own personal research on the Internet. On my last show, I got to play an FBI agent, so I worked with the FBI. I’m also a big espionage film buff. I’ve seen a lot of movies about the CIA and what they go through. But the show is really character driven rather than procedural driven. So we don’t have to be so locked into procedure. And the CIA is more unorthodox, not like the FBI who wear suits and ties. The CIA get to wear whatever they need to blend in to do their job efficiently, so it changes to whatever’s on the page.
Do you like the humor in the show?
MP: I love it. It’s not slapstick. It’s borne out of real situations.
The epic story of Spartacus continues in Season 3 with rich storytelling, stunning visuals and realistic gladiatorial combat unlike anything seen on TV. Australian actor Liam McIntyre takes over the role as the fierce Thracian warrior in Spartacus: Vengeance. The part of Spartacus was played in the first season by acclaimed Andy Whitfield, who was forced to leave the show due to health issues. In this interview, cast members and Executive Producer Steven S. DeKnight reveal their passion and emotional investment in the series that has captivated so many fans.
The producers have sworn you to secrecy. That said, where do you hope Gannicus will go? What’s his journey?
Dustin Clare (Gannicus): He’s pretty solo, really. He’s a journeyman. He continues to be a man of his own world. He’s got a pack on his back and he gets to make his own decisions when we find him again. He doesn’t have anyone to answer to. He’s not controlled by the caste structure of the ludus. He’s very much a master of his own destiny.
You put a challenge out to Crixus. Will you be running into him? Or at least looking for him?
DC: He’s going to run into everyone again. He’ll be visiting new characters. He definitely has relationships that he’ll have to re-establish and re-connect with. We also see a change in the man, a change from where we saw him in the prequel. He hasn’t exactly been away studying how to be a hairdresser. He’s been changing and growing. We’ll see a different man. A man who has a lot of skeletons to deal with. I’m excited to see where the writer’s will be taking the character. I like to keep the audience guessing as to where he’s going and where he’s coming from. Some of his foibles will remain intact, but after 5 years, we’ll be seeing a change in Gannicus.
Will Gannicus have a love interest? Will he find someone?
DC: I think Gannicus always has love interests.
Will he be fighting for pay? How will he survive?
DC: Good question. Just scraps, basically. He’ll live off the earth.
What will happen to Lucretia?
Steven S. DeKnight: She’ll be introduced in episode one. You’ll get an inkling of what’s going on with her. How she survived the stabbing, you won’t know right off, but it will be explained.
Will the baby Survive?
SD: I can’t tell you that. But it’s one of my favorite story lines.
What was your boot camp like?
Liam McIntyre (Spartacus): It’s agony, obviously. That’s kind of a prerequisite. But because I come from a place where the last film I did, I had to lose weight and get in shape, by the time the official boot camp came up, I’d already done like four months of boot camp, so I was like, I’m feeling up to this. It’s exciting, too, to be able to keep up with the grueling routine. It was very demanding.
Where do you hope your character will go?
LM: The beauty of this is that it’s kind of a vaguely pre-written history with enough dot, dot, dots to make it as exciting as you want it to be. So, I’ve got no complaints with the way the history goes. I think leading a massive army is a pretty exciting job.
Lucretia took a sword in the abdomen the last time we saw her. Are you hoping her unborn child will live?
Lucy Lawless (Lucretia): I’m hoping for that, yes. I don’t know how that’s going to go down. If the baby dies, she would have lost the promise of a nuclear family. She would have lost all support, all male support. She would have had nothing in ancient Rome. Without a man to prop her up, she would have no money, no talent. So what’s she going to do to survive? I don’t know. And raising that kid. Whew!
Now that you and Ilithyia (Viva Bianca) have become such close friends, will you be looking her up?
LL: Close? Et tu Brutus. Our relationship becomes much more tangled. I love that Viva Bianca is the actress playing Ilithyia. She’s a great colleague and a great acting partner. We like to mess with the audience’s mind. You’ll get to see more of her. The episode is called Angel and my character has a lot of payback to dish out.
You have a family. Do your kids watch the show?
LL: All of my children have survived to at least 8 years old and they’ve never seen the show. One of my kids loves horror–the youngest one. He can totally handle those types of shows. My daughter, who is now 12 years old, works on the show.
Can you give us any clues about Lucretia’s romance in the new season?
LL: All I can tell is that she continues to use sex as a weapon.
You have a score to settle with Gannicus. Will you run into each other?
Manu Bennett (Crixus): Words were exchanged at the end of the prequel along the lines of “We’ve not yet proved ourselves in proper challenge.” There’s a lot of scores to settle in the show. I don’t think I’d place that one as the most important. It’s a big possibility. All the characters that the fans expect to see will show up at some point. Even some characters they don’t expect to see, like Lucretia. The season’s called Vengeance, so that’s where a lot more of the energy lies. I don’t have vengeance against Gannicus, necessarily, but I do have an eagerness to test my mettle against him. This season is definitely more about retribution–on both ends. The Romans want vengeance against us for staining their pride, and we’re now free men with swords in our hands. That said, we’re in the middle of the enemy’s country. If they can find us, we’ll take our vengeance upon them. There are a lot of things that are plotted through the series so far that give us even more reason to want vengeance. It’s a good title for this season.
Will your character change this season?
MB: I’ve always tried to change my character all of the time. One of the things I’m always thankful for as an actor in portraying Crixus is that he’s always changing. He always has to confront something—either of the heart or a physical challenge or the darkness. There are things in the mix going on that make this season for me especially challenging. Things about manhood and leadership that keep changing my character. But I think that’s what makes our show interesting for the audience. The stagnation of potentially one set, one character, one neighborhood, is not the case with our show. One of the great things about this season is that instead of being shot around the ludus and the fighting arenas, we actually go out in the real world. And one of the biggest things we were discussing was exactly what that world would look like. On a television budget, can you do it, can you have a great result? Episode one of season one was pretty challenging for our creative team because they had to start off with nothing and we got a lot of criticism about how that world looked a bit unreal. But in season three, you’ll see an aerial shot of the mines. It looks like the diamond mines in Africa. And it’s so real, we wondered how we did it on our budget. The world that we’re in looks amazing. The forests, mountains, valleys, rivers, seaside villages, everything looks amazing.
Will you run into Ashur (Nick Tarabay)? You didn’t exactly leave on the best of terms.
MB: Well, he didn’t die. He’s a sneaky bugger. Everyone knows he’s going to show up at some point. It’s called Vengeance.
Written and directed by David Mitchell, The Myth of the American Sleepover takes us back to the Wonder Years of John Hughes and Richard Linklater, putting teens and those still longing to find their best teen years under a microscope. In Myth, four young people searching for love, acceptance and inescapable boredom, each step up to new plateaus of self-discovery in their last weekend of summer. In this insightful one-on-one interview Mitchell reveals what drove him to make this film and the various casting and cinematic techniques he employed to add a fresh new look to the teen self-discovery genre.
What was it like directing Myth, your first feature?
Doing an independent film and putting things together is a challenge. I’ve done quite a few short films and I sort of understood the tone that I wanted to convey in this film. But going from a 10- or 20-minute short to a feature is a huge difference. A lot of it is just the physical act of that much filming, maintaining the energy level and keeping track of where you are from scene to scene. It was scary when we started, but after we got going, I was pretty confident about what we were doing.
When you got the idea for Myth, did it evolve slowly or did it all come to you at once?
I had done a lot of short films that were a mixture of autobiographical and stories that had this particular tone. I wanted to do a feature version of those films, and I thought that this would be a nice backdrop and structure for telling those stories. There seemed to be something iconic about it. I had all the main characters early on in my mind and I slowly developed their stories. They were all there by the first draft. I did have to further define all the extra characters. There was a point when the script was longer, with a number of extra characters and small, branching storylines. I had to trim some of that in the writing stage because we made this film for very little money. We knew that what were setting out to do was huge, so I tried to cut a few things.
The casting is absolutely perfect in this film. What were you looking for in your actors?
It was always our intention to find new actors. A year before production, we put the word out through community papers and used word of mouth to let actors know that we were casting for this film. We held the casting calls ourselves and we just read everyone. I was looking for a certain amount of screen presence and natural charm. It was satisfying to find them and to match them up to the different roles. Actors at this level usually don’t carry a movie, but it worked.
Were you influenced by John Hughes (Breakfast Club), Richard Linklater (Dazed & Confused)?
I’m a huge film buff. The number of influences and films that I aspire to is long. The big influence for me structurally was American Graffiti. I also like Dazed and Confused, 16 Candles, and Breakfast Club. Those films are burned into my brain.
Why did you choose so many delightful, dialog-free moments to explore Maggie (Claire Sloma) emotions?
That’s the thing I wanted to bring to this film. I sought to make a film in the teen discovery genre, but I also wanted something that would reflect my own personal style. I love conveying things visually. That’s what film does so well. I wanted to suggest emotion and tone through point of view and by placing the viewer in these spaces. There’s something visceral about placing the viewer in the backyard hanging out with friends, riding a bike down a suburban street on a lazy summer day. These are things that bring back memories for the viewer, and they can sometimes be more effective than a lot of dialog.
You mix characters of innocence with more worldly high school seniors and grads, each with their own moments of self-discovery. Why did you choose to mix these archetypes?
There were a lot of different stories I wanted to put into this. I felt if I presented characters in different stages, it would add some depth to the journeys that some of the younger characters were going on. Seeing what was happening to the younger characters would add perspective to Scott and some of the older characters. For me, mixing them made it a stronger film.
Why did you choose Maggie as the transitional character, a girl that wanders from the girls’ sleepover to a guy’s party?
When I started writing the script, she was the first character that I started working on. Her spirit and sense of adventure was fun and it sort of drives the film. I felt the audience could start with her and that she could take us through this journey. I don’t know if there’s a main character, but if there were, it would probably be Maggie.
When Maggie does her dance routine in front of partygoers, what were you going for here?
I thought it would be really fun to put a dance sequence in this little indie movie. I like a lot of the 40s and 50s musicals. I love the feeling that you get from those scenes, so I thought, why not put it in here? I tried to not be afraid of putting things in the film that I enjoyed, even if tonally, it wouldn’t be a director’s first choice. I wanted to stretch the boundaries of what people imagine this kind of film would be.
What is Claudia (Amanda Bauer) looking for in this film?
She’s just trying to figure out her place, to discover the person she is, the friends she wants to have and where she fits in. Her storyline is a bit more subtle and internal than Maggie’s. She has a lot of options and possibilities for friendships. I wanted to show the social layers, the social stratosphere that Claudia found herself in. And how she moves through it.
Rob (Marlon Morton) spends the night searching for Avalina (Madi Ortiz), but she’s not what he expected in “the tunnels.” What were you telling the audience here?
The spark of that is sort of my American Graffiti homage. Even the moment when Avalina passes by in her mom’s car, there’s a little hint of that. It’s showing that there are things that we long for, and that we occasionally find those things, but we discover that they’re not what we expect or want.
Before Scott (Brett Jacobsen), goes all out to pursue twins (Nikita and Jade Ramsey), he’s watching what looked like the two tiny twins of Shobijin in Mothra on TV. Why did you include that?
It’s funny, we actually shot that ourselves to make it a kind of movie within a movie and to be able to connect it to what he’s going through. I love Japanese monster movies and I just thought it would be fun to have him see twins as he thought about Ady and Anna who he had a crush on in high school. While there’s something fairly deep about what he’s going through, there’s also an element of comic relief there too.
There’s no texting or slang that contemporary teens can identify with in Myth. Why did you remove any time-stamp identifiers and make Myth more universal?
We wanted to do something that was fairly timeless. I felt if you put too much specific technology into the film that it does timestamp it. Like, “I see there’s an iPhone 4.” In mixing production design and different elements from different eras, the hope is that you don’t know exactly when it is, but it might feel like your childhood or things that you remember. I didn’t want to alienate a specific audience and I wanted to maintain the kind of dream-like feeling the film has.
What’s your next project?
The next project will be tonally similar. It’s called Ella Walks the Beach. It’s about a young woman in her 20s. In the beginning of the film, she breaks up with her boyfriend and she goes out with some friends to a California beach party on the 4th of July. We just follow her for a night and day as she wanders around the beaches by herself. She has little adventures and conversations with strangers. Ella is the lead character and she interacts with a ton of other characters in the film. It’s an ensemble piece, but it has one main storyline. There are some really wonderful characters that she comes across. It’s not so much a coming of age film—though we see that aspect of her character in her first love when she’s younger. I’m really excited to put this one together and cast it. The film is written, and we’re basically putting the film together now—casting, etc. We’ll be trying to shoot it in the Spring. I also have a horror film and several other coming-of-age scripts that I’ve written.
As director and co-writer of the horror/drama Wake Wood, David Keating adds a unique style and vision to the horror genre. The film underscores the extremes to which parents will go to spend three more days with a daughter they lost to a violent dog attack. In this one-on-one interview, Keating reveals how he approached the film, the creative tools he employed, and the metaphorical references he used to convey Wake Wood’s sinister undertones.
Where did the idea for Wake Wood come from? Were you influenced by the Monkey’s Paw? Steven King? Pet Cemetery?
That’s a question that I’m asked a lot. I was aware, when I first read the script by Brendan McCarthy, that it was resonant with stories warning about what you wish for. I hadn’t seen Pet Cemetery, but I had read “Monkey’s Paw” years ago, and Wake Wood just seemed thematically unique, so I didn’t worry about too close a resemblance to those stories. When people ask me, is this film about transgression or being mindful of what you wish for, I tend to say it’s not nearly as much about that as it is about how much we love our kids.
Why did you choose cattle for the motif of birth and death?
The film is set in Ireland’s countryside where horses and cows are valuable animals. So a working country vet deals mostly with farm animals. As a teen, I grew up in a dairy farm and my co-writer, Brendan—his father and my father—were both qualified veterinary surgeons. So it just seemed natural to use farm animals as a motif.
Why did you choose a period of three days for people to be reunited with the dead?
Three’s a magical number that crops up in all sorts of mythologies and religions. It’s a beginning, middle and end. It’s being young, middle aged and old. It’s birth, life and death as Timothy Spall’s character noted. So it’s a number used throughout history—why did Christ come back from the dead for three days? It’s the Trinity.
What was the metaphorical significance of the giant wind turbines?Were they the pagan guardians of Wake Wood? Its sinister heartbeat?
They weren’t in the original script. I was scouting for locations for a marker, something that would visually and dramatically establish Wake Wood’s boundary, something the audience would see and remember. I wanted it to be physical and clear. I had also been thinking of the return, the evolution of how we bring the dead back to life, which was originally conceived as quite nebulous and achieved through some sort of digital effect. But I soon realized that this story is about something that’s much more tactile and visceral. Those who work on a farm know that it’s muddy and dirty with machinery. So when I saw these large wind turbines, I saw them as an extension of farm machinery—dangerous, powerful, yet functional. Then I started to think about what’s turning these turbines—is it the wind, the force that’s in this place?
Why did you choose a teen girl to first foreshadow what might become of Alice?
That’s a really good question. I knew we had to have this scene between the Mary Brogan character and Louise; the fact they both had lost daughters seemed to give the two women more common ground. They would simply be more sympathetic to each other.
Why did you go for the almost Alfred Hitchcockian ending–where Patrick Daly seems to turn the tables on Wake Wood’s pagan rite in a bizarre sort of way?
At that point in the film, we’re unsure about what’s going on. What happens to Patrick’s wife is unconventional, so we really don’t know what the rules are at that point. They change the rules because Patrick’s got some leverage with the town, since he’s a veterinary surgeon. We get the feeling that his wife is complicit in what follows. As my father used to say, “You can always give the hangman a kick on the shins on your way upstairs.”
Your previous works were basically comedies and documentaries. Do you plan on pursuing the horror/thriller genre?
I love horror films. I’ve tried to do them before but we just couldn’t get the financing. This is the first horror film I’ve had a chance to make, so I’m looking forward to making more of them.
Anything in the pipeline that we can look forward to?
Brendan McCarthy, my co-writer and producer onhas written a script called the Cherry Tree, which is like a companion piece to Wake Wood but it’s set in suburbia. It’s more teen oriented about a father and daughter.
The talented Eve Myles returns as Gwen Cooper in the Starz Original series Torchwood: Miracle Day. Fans who have kept up with the original series will be delighted to learn that Cooper will retain her salty edge as dutiful mom, warrior and defender of the human race.
A gifted actress who is up to the challenge of bringing Torchwood to American audiences, Myles has won Best Actress from the Welsh branch of the BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) for her work in season one of Torchwood.
She has appeared in numerous television programs including Merlin, Doctor Who, Tales of Pleasure Beach and Soundproof. Her most recent work includes playing Maggy in the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “Little Dorrit.”
In this insightful one-on-one interview, Myles reveals her thoughts about Torchwood, her role as Gwen, and how the popular British series will play on this side of the pond.
What drew you to the role of Gwen Cooper?
Eve Myles: I was in Doctor Who, and from that show, Russell Davies wrote the part of Gwen Cooper for me. When I read the script, I couldn’t believe my luck and I jumped on board as fast as I could.
Do you like the delicate balance of humor and drama in Torchwood? Do you find yourself tilting toward one or the other?
EM: I think it’s absolutely essential when you’re doing a show like this that you have both light and dark moments, because there’s some very heavy moments in this series. You have to be able to laugh sometimes. Because I just think it’s a more rounded show when you add the humor element. As an actor, playing with comedy is one of the hardest things to do. When you do get it right, it’s very rewarding. Gwen has become a very dry, very witty woman, and I absolutely love the one-liners she delivers.
Torchwood has become the highest-rated drama on BBC Three. Do you think it will connect with American audiences as strongly?
EM: It was news to us that it was the highest rated show. We didn’t realize that Torchwood had this huge cult following. It came from nowhere. I think that, with this new season, with such a fresh narrative and format, and that it’s now co-produced with an American company and BBC, that it’s got the best of both worlds. I think people will absolutely love it. I’m a little scared that it will get so big, that it may get a bit out of control. I just hope that people love it and enjoy it.
Will you adapt your character to American audiences, if at all?
EM: It’s quite funny, but as the characters go to Los Angeles, you see Gwen and Jack struggle with American culture and language, and things like driving on the wrong side of the road. It’s all very funny and brilliantly done. Gwen is supposed to be this earthy, strong warrior and yet she can’t figure out why fizzy lemonade is flat, or what the hell an ATM is. Just seeing this Welch girl survive a day in America is funny. She comes from a very honest place, and that makes her more endearing.
Gwen’s role is somewhat physical—lots of dodging bullets, leaping out of buildings, fighting men. How do you prepare for that?
EM: I have to be very careful playing this character because I do my own stunts. I have to make sure I’m not injured. I’ve had a grueling schedule–15 hours a day for seven months this year. Three months before starting the show and early this year, I worked with a physical trainer for three hours a day. Not to lose weight or rework my shape, but to make sure I had the strength to do the action scenes, to fight with a man and run 6 or 7 hours a day. I just needed to get that level of stamina built up. You should see me at the end of the day: I don’t look anything like Gwen Cooper. I look like a broken elf. Honest to God, I look like I’ve been hit by a truck most days. I walk off the set and tell myself, “I’m getting too old for this shit. This is hardcore. This girl is killing me.” But I still love every second of it.
Does Russell allow you some leeway with the character–in terms of dialog and story?
EM: Not at all. I get the script when it’s ready and I’ll get a heads-up as to what Jack and Gwen will be doing. But basically, it’s as much a surprise to me as when viewers see it for the first time. I think Russell enjoys having me jump off something or fight 50 men; that’s his sense of humor. He thinks it’s quite funny—“See if you can handle this, Myles.”
I know you can’t talk about future episodes, but where do you hope your relationship with Jack will go?
EM: I don’t know really. I hope they never get together. They can’t get together. I hope they grow. In this season, they form the best of partnerships. They become the best of friends and soul mates. You’ll get scenes where they’ll finish each other’s sentences. They’re like the terrible twins this year. It’s wonderful. It’s a relationship that I’ve never experienced in my personal or professional life. It’s a difficult kind of relationship because it’s a kind of love that hasn’t got a title yet. They have a lot of respect for each other.
Oswald Danes’s character is pretty powerful. Do you think Torchwood is sending a social message with the direction his character is going?
EM: I think there’s a lot of social messaging going on in this season. But it’s not in your face. It’s done so beautifully within the narrative that you can make something of it, or maybe not. It’s up to the viewer. We know that we have very intelligent fans that watch this show. Some shows tend to spoon-feed an audience, and there’s nothing more boring. We’ve stayed clear of that. We’ve allowed people to make up their own minds. So if someone wants to get something out of what we’re trying to do with that character, then great; but our first protocol is to make people think and emote. If we’re doing that, then great.
What do you think your dramatic theater experience brings to the role of Gwen?
EM: My theater work has all been with the Royal Shakespeare Company and with the National Theater Company in London. The only way it kind of influences me is that it’s given me stamina to play Gwen. In theater, you’re playing on stage three hours a night. And before that, you’ve got preparation, and you’ve got to have this high level of energy every night. So theater prepares you for whatever you want to do in this industry. It strengthens your backbone and gives you a bloody good work ethic.
How did you break into the business? What was you first paid acting job?
EM: I was working toward my degree in drama school and my degree in theater studies in English. In my second year, I auditioned for a part in a drama show and got it. From then on, I worked consistently. My first job was a dreadful pilot for BBC called Hang the DJ. I played a very naive chocolate-gorging secretary. On my first take with a live audience, I had to bite into this giant bar of chocolate and I cracked three back teeth. After that, one of the reviewers noted, “This little character is so funny, she winces in pain whenever she speaks.” The truth is, I was absolutely in agony.
What were you like in high school?
EM: Very naughty, with the attention span of a gnat. I was always up to something. But nothing that ever got me in trouble. I was always making the teachers laugh. There wasn’t a lot they could do with me, so they joined in half the time. I was a good kid, but not very serious unless it had something to do with drama, the theater or dance. I was very much into the arts.
A low-budget thriller that creeps up on you until you find yourself carnally engrossed, Wake Wood offers slime-glistening birth scenes, violent deaths, and the moral lesson that when people die they should stay dead. There’s plenty of pathos here, and ritualistic remote village paganism. Both viscerally connect viewers to one undeniable truth: how deeply parents can love their children.
Between flashbacks and solace-seeking slices of life in a small rural village–appropriately named Wake Wood–we’re introduced to a young professional couple trying to come to grips with the tragic and violent loss of their nine-year old daughter Alice (Ella Connolly). Veterinarian Patrick Daly (Aidan Gillen) and his pharmacist wife Louise (Eva Birthistle) are still in pain and find it difficult to deal with the daily reminders of their loss.
Early on, Wake Wood foreshadows what’s to come as Patrick skillfully performs a Caesarian section on a cow. When Arthur (Timothy Spall) the village elder takes an interest in the young couple’s grief, we sense a sinister undertone that beguiles them to consider an “alternative” to their suffering. This dovetails nicely with a woman who enters Louise’s shop accompanied by a freakishly disturbed teen with a ghastly pallor. Three days later, the teen is paraded out of the village by a cultish group playing wood clicking drums. Patrick and Louise are told that the village elders of Wake Wood have a solution to their grief. Of course, there are promises to be made and consequences if they’re not kept. Severe consequences.
The Daly’s finally agree to all terms. But they weren’t completely honest with the village elders, and as those accustomed to these tales will tell you: never lie when you make a pact with stewards of the undead. The film exploits the birthing motif, uniting it with a pagan ritual of mud that creates life from death—if only temporarily.
Keating milks everything he can out of his actors and locations. There are plenty of foreboding glances, knowing smirks and dialog-free moments that communicate more than could be said. The unspeakable is clearly not spoken of, yet viewers get a sense of what’s to come—a Money’s Paw arrangement that goes horribly bad for the Dalys and several of the villagers. Then there’s the creepy atmospherics created by the massive wind turbines on the outskirts of Wake Wood. They are the sentinels that guard Wake Wood from the infidels who violate its covenants. Relentlessly churning like giant demon heartbeats, they perform a unique function far beyond simply juicing the village with power.
Wake Wood is clearly a film whose death scenes are far less disturbing than its depiction of bizarre births. Animal husbandry serves as a metaphor for the violence of birth and the abrupt finality of death–as when a stun gun is used to kill a bull or when a Caesarian section draws life out of spilt blood. It’s all wrapped up nicely in a Hitchcockian ending we had an inkling was coming.