Noomi Rapace is at a turning point.
I don't consider it the end-all be-all goal of actors to work in giant Hollywood movies, but that's often how it is treated. Think of the same basic cycle we see play out over and over again. Someone plays an interesting role in an international release and then suddenly they're in every movie released by Hollywood for about a year, and then if they don't have a hit, they're gone again, back to the world of foreign-language movies. It's treated like a major league/minor league situation, whether that's true or not, and it's brutal to watch some of these very accomplished actors get chewed up by the Hollywood machine.
"Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows" is the Hollywood debut of Rapace, who gained international attention playing Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish adaptations of the "Girl With The Dragon Tattoo" series. Her work in those films has earned her some staunch supporters, and even if I'm not among them, I was curious to see how she was used in the film. She's also in "Prometheus," the Ridley Scott "Alien" sidequel that's coming out next summer, so one could say she's getting a fair shot and then some.
Noomi Rapace is at a turning point.
It's not often that I double-dip with interviews for one movie, but that's exactly what happened this past week with Guy Ritchie for his new film, "Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows."
Earlier in the week, I ran our podcast interview, which was about twenty solid minutes with the director talking about a number of different aspects of making the film, including working with Robert Downey Jr., a demanding collaborator by all accounts, and how they handled Moriarty. But one of the things we didn't have a chance to talk about it is actually one of the things that interests me most in the film.
I think it's safe to say I've been preoccupied with London most of my life. I fell in love with English pop culture young, and one of the great pleasures of my professional life has been the way I've been able to repeatedly visit London and tour various corners of it, including some of the soundstages and studios where many of my favorite films were made.
It's strange when you realize that the people who you flip out about meeting are rarely the ones you expect will make you have that reaction. I've met people whose work has been important to me my whole life and handled it with relative grace and calm, and then I've also met a few people who rattled me face-to-face simply because I didn't understand quite how significant their work is to me.
William Joyce is one of those people.
I love reading to my kids, and the books that end up in the constant rotation, the ones that we come back to over and over again, are the ones where the art and the prose are both approached with care and with soul. We've sampled books from dozens if not hundreds of authors, and there are certain guys who went right to the top of the permanent pile as soon as we read the books for the first time, and an uncommon number of those books were written and illustrated by William Joyce.
They are gorgeous, designed and painted with delicate wit and a lush sense of imagination, books like "Bently and Egg" and "Buddy" and "Santa Calls" and "The Leaf Men," and he's the creator of the "Rolie Polie Olie" books and TV show. His work has been a key part of films like "Meet The Robinsons" and "Robots," and he's just published two new books as part of what sounds like the biggest overall property of his career.
I am dying to see how "Jack The Giant Killer" plays out next year, both as a movie and as a commercial release, because both things are important to the ongoing development of Bryan Singer as a filmmaker.
Creatively, I feel like Singer's one of the most successful guys working who doesn't really have what I can point at as a particular, recognizable voice, nor is there any special theme that runs through his work, aside from perhaps an odd preoccupation with Nazis. And one could argue that his two biggest films were big because of a general interest in X-Men, not because of Singer.
He's also been one of those guys who has developed a number of fairly pricey films that haven't come to fruition, big movies like a "Logan's Run" remake or a "Battlestar Galactica" bigscreen reboot. And his "Superman Returns" was a very very expensive almost, well-crafted but generally underwhelming. He's in a position right now where he is still considered an A-list filmmaker, but it's about time he starts actually being that filmmaker.
Sitting down to talk to Jared Harris about his work in the new film "Sherlock Holmes - A Game Of Shadows," I was excited not just because he's playing Professor Moriarty in the sequel to Guy Ritchie's first big hit adventure with the pulp detective, but also because of the full body of work that Harris has been putting together.
It must be hard as an actor when your father is not just a well-known person, but an undeniable legend. There's no other way to describe Richard Harris, though, and a career like his casts a shadow over the entire English film community, not just the career of his son.
Despite that, Jared Harris has been very good over the course of his career at defining himself on terms totally removed from his father's identity. He's been great on "Mad Men" the last few seasons, and he's always been a bit of a chameleon, vanishing into roles in a way his father never could. I still remember being impressed by his run of films around '95, '96, when he was in "Smoke" and "Dead Man" and especially "I Shot Andy Warhol," and he seemed like such a great new presence.
One of the ways you know Lionsgate is feeling good about the prospects of "Hunger Games" is by the way they have already promoted Liam Hemsworth to "last-name-only" status in the new trailer for "The Expendables 2."
And I'll say this for Lionsgate… I've been watching companies mount online campaigns for movies for the last fifteen years, and you can tell when a studio is all-in on something. And right now, there's no one working harder for something that's coming out next year than Lionsgate is for "Hunger Games," and today is a milestone for them, one they've chosen to commemorate with an online Poster Puzzle Hunt that uses Facebook, 100 different websites, and Twitter in one fell swoop. We've come a long way from when Gordon Paddison and New Line decided to bet big on an Internet presence for "Lord Of The Rings," and when Lionsgate asked if we wanted to play along this morning, we jumped at the chance, if only to see how the whole thing's going to work.
The first time I sat down with Robert Downey Jr. to talk about all things "Sherlock Holmes," we were on the set of the first film in London, and I was still working for Ain't It Cool. As a result, much was made of the idea that Moriarty was going to be visiting that day, and it turned out to be one of the strangest days on a set I've ever had.
Strange, but good. What struck me right away was that Downey has that ability to focus his full attention on someone in a conversation in a way that cuts out the rest of the world, making you feel like there's nothing more urgent than whatever the two of you are discussing.
I took him a gift that day, a copy of a fascinating piece of literary criticism by Pierre Bayard called "Sherlock Holmes Was Wrong: Reopening The Case of The Hound Of the Baskervilles." I figured it was completely appropriate, and he responded to the gesture by giving me more and more time over the course of the afternoon. It ended up being published as two different articles over at Ain't It Cool, and that was the end of my use of the name I published under for a full decade-plus.
I have a feeling "The Dictator" is going to be an important movie for Sacha Baron Cohen.
"Borat" was lightning in a bottle. He'd been building up to that moment for a while, and 20th Century Fox did everything right in releasing the film. They turned it into a moment where you had to see what it was, even if you didn't want to, just so you could be part of the conversation.
With "Bruno," there was an entirely different set of expectations placed on the film and its performance, and it was harder for Cohen to shoot because people were aware of him and aware of his techniques. And while I think it's a very funny film, I also think there's only so far you can go in ambush comedy. What makes me respect Cohen's work isn't the "gotcha" element of springing something on an unsuspecting person, but rather the depth of character work he does in creating these comic personas.
Lately, he's been taking roles in other people's movies, and he's doing very good work. I liked him a lot in "Hugo," and I'm excited to see what he does with the character of Scotty in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained." The things I've heard about the work he's been doing on the Freddie Mercury film he's been trying to get made gives me real hope that it's going to be something special.
There are few filmmakers whose work speaks more directly to me on an aesthetic level than David Fincher.
Even so, my first exposure to his work as a feature film director left me convinced that he was not worth paying attention to at all. Considering how little he has to say about "Alien 3" at this point, it seems he agrees that it was not the best foot forward, and all accounts of the experience make it sound like it was a nightmare for all involved.
As a result, when I walked into his next film, I had no expectations at all, and I think I even had a bit of a chip on my shoulder about the movie. A few hours later, I sat there, totally flattened by "Se7en," amazed at what the film accomplished and just how rough it played. It seemed like a film made by someone who had decided to never compromise again, and there was something genuinely dangerous about it. Immediately, my opinion of Fincher shifted, and in the years since, he's proven himself to be an immaculate visual artist, capable of creating some of the most arresting, electrifying images of the last fifteen years.
I know this is confusing, but this podcast was recorded between the Bret McKenzie and the Edgar Wright one. I just wanted to get the Edgar one up before tonight's programming began at the New Beverly.
The first time I met Guy Ritchie, Harry and I were trying to get him to bring "Snatch" to Butt-Numb-A-Thon. We had lunch with him and with Matthew Vaughn, who was still Guy's producer at the time, and by the end of the lunch, we had the film, and I'd really come to like the two of them just as film fans and guys.
The next time I saw him was on the set of "Sherlock Holmes," and he'd covered quite a bit of ground as a person and as a filmmaker in the years between those encounters. What struck me about that encounter was that he seemed to have made a choice about what he wanted, and that choice involved giant-budget tentpole movies. I certainly don't think that big-budget films are "better" than independent movies, or vice-versa, but I do think that the best way to get some creative freedom is by making a studio some serious money. Ritchie was coming off a series of misfires like "Swept Away" and "Revolver," and it seemed fitting that he had Robert Downey Jr. starring in his film, as Downey had also made that jump into franchise filmmaking with a real passion.
Now, as Ritchie prepares to release his first sequel, we sat down to talk about how he approached his interpretation of Professor Moriarty, the most famous villain ever faced by Sherlock Holmes, and how he felt about stepping back into the world. It's a pretty loose conversation, one of two I had with Ritchie last week. You'll see the other one as a video interview sometime this week.