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MCM Birmingham Comic Con Press Panel – Michael Rooker

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Robb Sheppard (@RedBezzle)

Michael Rooker: Excellent. Greetings. Hello.  

Welcome to Birmingham. 

Thank you. I had a good time yesterday in Birmingham. I went downtown and I walked around. I went to the casket museum. They didn’t look that comfy though – I was hoping to see one that was calling my name, something I could lay down and stretch out in. You know what they were like? First class seating in a major airline. All narrow. You have no room – you’ve got plenty of leg room but no shoulder or ass room. You gotta be able to spread out with comfy and soft cushioning. 

So did Yondu have more room in his? 

Oh indeed he did. 

Of all the great characters that Marvel’s given usYondu seems to be an instant fan favourite. 

Well, the second film was an absolute continuation of the first. If you watch them back to back…you can watch them without any kind of issues. They really, really flow and work very well as one continuous film. I remember us talking about things in the first one, y’know, back story and motivational things, why Yondu would want to do a certain thing or not a certain thing. 

In the second one, a lot of the backstory we talked about developing in the first one, ended up being actual manifest in the second one. Which was very cool to see. You don’t usually get the opportunity to do that as an actor. You don’t get to talk about the development and maybe talk about what’s going on backstory and then do another movie and actually get to do it. That was very cool. 

Do you find a new generation of younger people coming to your work now? They won’t be familiar with things like Henry: Portrait of a Serial KillerThey’ll be more familiar with Yondu from Guardians of the Galaxy. Have you seen your fan base change? 

My fan base has changed quite a lot, especially with my casting in The Walking Dead. You’re on the tube, the TV and you’re there every week and you become sort of a household name. That’s what happened with The Walking Dead. Merle Dixon was quite a fun role for me. A very politically incorrect kind of guy. He’d almost say and do anything, practically. You were very into Merle Dixon, I’m not sure if you would be for Merle or against Merle. Whatever you thought about him, whenever Merle Dixon was on screen, you were glued to the screen. It was very cool to get a lot of younger fans and a bigger fan base because of that show and that’s just continued. 

After leaving that show I went on to do Guardians of the Galaxy which is a highly popular film. And then Vol. 2 of course. Very similar events happen from The Walking Dead: Merle Dixon dies in a very heroic stance and the same thing happened in Vol. 2. They had very similar responses from fans. They cried, they were upset, a lot of emotions went through both of those characters’ deaths and because of that I got a whole other group of fans. It’s very interesting how your career changes grows and develops and I’ve been very pleased and very happy for those changes. 

Did you have this feeling that The Walking Dead was going to be a big hit?  

Yes. The Walking Dead was, well, not before I was cast. Even before I had been cast, I thought “I don’t know if Middle America is going to dig this”, but boy, oh boy they did, and they enjoyed it immensely. I was very surprised by it and pleased.  

The goodbye scene between Peter and Yondu really hit people because it was very emotional and one of the only proper deaths in the Marvel UniverseCan you talk about working with Chris on both that scene and some of the more comedic scenes? 

The Mary Poppins line was a fan favourite and honestly, Chris sets that up extremely well. Without Chris’ comments, the Mary Poppins line would just be a standalone line. But his comments, along with my response is what made that line go absolutely crazy with fans. They loved it, it was a beautiful moment and the entire crew loved it – they broke up in laughter on nearly every take.  

For me, acting-wise, you just play it as the character. You don’t know what’s going to happen, right?  You’re just going through your life and doing the things you need to do. I’m not thinking about that end scene where I’m doing Mary Poppins. I try to keep it as simple as I can. I don’t try to think about other things when I’m in the moment of that scene. The hard part with film work is that they film out of sequence. I wasn’t sure, even in the beginning of my career, you mentioned Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, I ended up doing that movie simply because I wanted to see if I could even do this film work. It seemed so strange to have to jump to do the ending before doing the beginning and all that stuff. You’re flipping and flopping all over the place, right? I wasn’t sure if I was gonna be any good at it. Or if it would be rewarding for me as an artist. 

People still do remember that movie quite well and new people are seeing that movie now. I take it a moment at a time. It was a beautiful sequence, it was written quite well and it was set up geniously (sic). James Gunn makes it easy for the actors to be open and honest and real and in the moment. 

Does this mean you’re going to make an appearance in the new Mary Poppins movie? 

(Laughs) It doesn’t mean anything like that. Did I say something that insinuated that? No, I’m not in that movie. (Laughs) 

Another beautiful thing in Guardians was that you had the chance to work with Sylvester again. It was great to see you guys on screen again. How was it? 

We had a great little scene together. If you remember in Cliffhanger, I was the one yelling at him, in this one he was the one yelling at me. We just flipped a little bit. It was really great to see him. 

Going back to earlier in your career, you were in Mallrats – did it give you a sense of the size of the comic book industry you’d eventually work in? 

The comic book industry is massive. The gaming industry’s massive. We’re only just now beginning to utilise the technology to bring these things to life. It’s only going to get bigger, better and sweeter. Look at what you’re seeing on the screen now. All that technology is only gonna grow and make it simpler, easier and cheaper for filmmakers to bring almost anything to life and have it look very natural and very realistic. 

Are you still afraid of chocolate-covered pretzels? 

Oh no, I’ve never been afraid of chocolate-covered pretzels, on the contrary. As a matter of fact I absolutely adore chocolate-covered pretzels. I love them. This is not an ad, but I love the Godiva chocolate-covered pretzels in the can. Those are just killer. I could sit down and eat a whole can in ten minutes! No, love ‘em! 

From the can, not from the hand. 

Totally, from the can, not from the hand, yeah. 

Can you talk about the physical transformation that took you from the handsome man in front of us to the creation we see in the film? 

He’s way too smart. The prototype fin was just as easy to put on as in the first film. As a matter of fact, I forgot it was on many times and I forgot to duck. I literally almost knocked myself out several times. 

Did you leave a trail of blue paint all over the set? 

No, the paint didn’t come off. I could sweat through it, it was breathable. They took several months to develop the paint. I had 5 or 6 layers of different shades, different colours of paint on me. They would do airbrushing it on so it was quite thin and as I said it was breathable. The first time I had it on I went out and did a jog – I went out running around up and down stairs – just to work up a sweat to see what would happen with the paint. 

Did you get a lot of strange looks? 

Oh yeah! But it was still top secret so I had to run around the back lot and I got a good sweat going. Technically, it was beautiful. I was sweating, the paint was not dripping. It was perfect.  

As you know we did two movies, the first instalment (Guardians of the Galaxy) took about four hours. Total. A lot of prosthetics, all the painting and the wardrobe. Everything, about four hours. I was ready to go in four hours. We cut it by about forty five minutes for the second one. We cut out one of the layers of paint and replaced it with a base layer of material that helped the removal happen quicker. So the base layer, protected my skin, and it helped everything come off easier. 

So we cut the time by forty five minutes to an hour and the less time you’re in the make-up chair, it gives you more time to prepare, to get ready for the scene, to get your wardrobe on, chill out a little bit. It took about an hour and a half to get off, unlike a movie I did called Slither. Which is another James Gunn movie. That was a seven and a half hour job. And it took about two and a half hours to come off. 

Last question! Can I really whistle? *whistles* Thank you guys.

Interviews

An Interview With… Steve Hodgetts & Arabella Burfitt-Dons (Love Possibly)

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In the mockumentary, Love Possibly a documentary film crew follows the hopelessly romantic, Alex, on his quest for love. Following their wins for “Best Feature” and “Best International Feature” at the LA Edge Film Awards and Catalina Film Festival, Che Grant and Michael’s Boccalini’s new feature is now screening at the Raindance Film Festival.

Lead Actor Steve Hodgetts and Producer Arabella Burfitt-Dons sat down with Movie Marker’s Marion Donnellier to talk about Love Possibly

Q. Steve, your transformation into “Alex” is impressive. How did you prepare for the role?

SH: Alex is very different from any character I have played before. In terms of research, I watched a lot of youtube videos to try and master the lisp as best I could. Alex is a very anxious and socially inept person so I tried to remember certain traits people tend to have when they are nervous. For instance, he uses his hands to mask his face and dances his eyes around. These are all different traits I took from people I have met. Also I think everyone deals with anxiety to a certain extent and I just tried to amplify my own anxiety x 1000.

Q. How much of your personal experience did you use?

SH: I think there is a little bit of Alex in everyone. I just tried to remember my own anxiety and try to magnify it as best I could.

We all know someone that looks like Alex.

SH: Absolutely. I think Alex is just very socially unaware. Especially due to his speech impediment, I don’t think he’s had an easy upbringing. I think if I’d met him, I’d be mate with him.

ABD: I think the idea behind the character of Alex is that everyone can relate to him in a way, whether it is because of his anxiety, loneliness, finding love or heartbreak. Because the story is mainly based on the cast and crew’s own experience, we hoped that people could relate to it.

Q. Such as in Alex’s favourite film, “Sleepless in Seattle”, modern rom-coms all have a similar structure. How do you think the character of “Alex” would fit in one of them?

ABD: I think it would be very interesting to put him in a very conventional rom-com and to see how it would play out. I think it would be very beautiful and would resonate with the audience of a normal rom-com.  It is kind of what we tried to do here. It is a spin on a rom-com ,which is a recurring theme throughout the film. It is meant to be an non-conventional and ironic rom-com. I think if we put him into a character in a normal rom-com, it would probably achieve a similar thing and would be relatable to the audience.

SH: I think a way it would be slightly better because he is quite relatable. He is more of an “everyman”.

Q. You mentioned most of Love Possibly was improvised. Was there a point while shooting when the story or tone deviated from what was originally intended?

SH: The directors knew the narrative they wanted to achieve from the start. The plot never changed as a result of the improve and it only allowed a couple of changes in scenes. I would say 75% of it was improvisation and brought a certain realism to the film.

ABD: Although the narrative is still very close to Che and Michael’s original vision, we stripped everything back in post production and started from scratch in terms of brainstorm, how to plot out the story and how to piece it all back together. At one point we were brainstorming without even referencing the footage that we already had just to see what came up. Whilst we pieced it back together, because it is improv and always very open, we managed to pull together the final edit. Improv opens up opportunities of changing the storyline in a positive way as well as being, obviously quite difficult.  It is exciting as a filmmaker because it allows you to take your story in another direction and it still works.

Q. How do you choose the project you want to work on? What’s the most important factor(s)?

ABD: Script! I really enjoy spotting upcoming talents and really enjoy working on under represented art forms. That is the beauty of working in independent films, you get to see such incredible and varied projects that wouldn’t normally get made by the big studios. Personally that is something I like and catches my eyes.  I also enjoy projects that really connect with the audience and with me. And obviously amazing talents as well. Working with filmmakers, directors and actors that are incredibly talented and helping them bring their talent to life.

SH: Always the script I would say and interesting characters. In terms of acting, I would definitely rather play someone that is widely different than a character that is similar to me because it wouldn’t be very challenging. Which is why Alex was always so fascinating, because he is so different.

Q. What did you learn from Alex?  

SH: Always think before you say something. Probably not to worry as much. He makes situations worse because he is so worried.  In some situations, Alex is the normal one and surrounded by crazy people. His mum is very out there and her boyfriend is nuts.

ABD: Expending on the anxiety theme, I think when you make a film that highlights and showcases a difficulty that a lot of people have, it resonates with you as a filmmaker. Everyone has anxiety to a certain extent in this day of age. There is statistic that was release recently that shows significantly high number of millennials suffer from anxiety because of the nature of the period with live in. I have learn from Alex character because I know anxiety but seeing it in that form, makes it all the more relatable.

Q. We don’t see many rom-coms dealing with mental health. Most films are either entirely focus on the topic or omits it entirely.

ABD: I would like to see it more in characters in bigger films and that is why I wanted to explore it in that film. I think when films do cover that topic it tends to be all about the anxiety but what is nice about “Love possibly” is that although it deals with that topic there isn’t a massive emphasis on it, it is just part of it.

Q. The film was financed through Kickstarter. Do you have any advice on how to run a successful kickstarter campaign?

ABD: A lot of it is about the talent behind it. Pulling together a very good pitch that justifies what you are trying to do. Show that you are serious about it. Show that is a serious project as well as a passion project. Put it out there to as many people as you can, there is no better way than to kick-start the project.

SH: Find someone that has a lot of twitter followers or lots of money!

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Interviews

An Interview With… Selena Tan (Crazy Rich Asians)

Selena Tan, who plays Alix Young- Cheng in the film spoke to Movie Marker’s Rehna Azim about the success of the movie and her life as a ‘Dim Sum Dolly!

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At the time of writing Crazy Rich Asians has grossed $166,791,962 at the Us box office and $55,100,000 overseas for a Worldwide total of $221,891,962. Audiences are not only flocking to repeat viewings but also turning this movie with no big stars into something of a cultural phenomenon.

The film is being credited with reviving the near dead rom-com genre and boosting tourism to Singapore. Importantly, the film is also being celebrated for bringing to the Hollywood forefront an ethnic minority group that is not aggressively pushed by the media and in advertising.

Selena Tan, who plays Alix Young- Cheng in the film spoke to Movie Marker’s Rehna Azim about the success of the movie and her life as a ‘Dim Sum Dolly!

Q: You started your professional career as a litigation lawyer then moved into the entertainment world. That’s a brave leap. What made you make the change?

A: I had dabbled in theatre and singing since I was at school. From the age of 14 I had been involved in community theatre. It never occurred to me I could do it full time or make a living from it. So I did a law degree and qualified as a lawyer when I was 23 but I soon realised that I had been performing for 10 years and was a way more experienced actress than a lawyer. But law is demanding and it consumed all my time for the first 2 years. But after a while I began to get the itch to perform again. I started doing some theatrical work on the side but really it was like having two careers at the same time. I was constantly exhausted.
So I sat down with my parents and said, I can always go back to the law but I have a real passion for acting. It gives me room for expression the law doesn’t. They were supportive and that’s when I started thinking about what I could do in the entertainment field and how I could best connect with an audience as an artist.

Q: What is a Dim sum dolly?!

A: (laughs) It’s an idea I developed in 2012. Three very different girls performing together; different sizes with different talents and capabilities. I wanted to create a cabaret/comedy/musical act that was socially aware and politically topical. In particular I wanted to tackle taboo subjects. We put on a lot of makeup and that seemed to help us get away with controversial topics because we made people laugh. It was like being able to serve a fluffy cake with a raisin in the middle!

Q: Was Crazy Rich Asians as fun to make as it is to watch?

A: More so! I really lucked out with that movie. But you know, I initially turned down the audition. I’d just finished a big production with my company and had a holiday booked in Phuket. I really needed that break and took it over doing the audition. Fortunately, I was offered a second audition when I returned from holiday because they hadn’t found the right actress for the part. The stars aligned and it all worked out for me. I thought it would be great because I could just be an actor and not worry about the directing or putting the production together.

Q: What was it like on set?

A: Like a resurrection! A total new injection of zest and life. It was like I’d been jump started. I was surrounded by so much talent from around the world and everyone was so passionate about the project. I got to make wonderful new friends and show them my country, its places, its people, the food. Since the film came out I’ve been approached by so many people, including old friends from my past who have all been touched by this movie and what it’s done for our country. Young people tell me they now believe anything is possible. Tourism will go through the roof. It’s just a beautiful film about my country. It’s a love letter to the country actually. Until now people used to say, ‘Singapore? Which part of China is that?’ Now they know who and what we are.

Q: The film has been praised as a step forward for more diversity in cinema but it has also faced some criticism for focusing on one group in Singapore which is multi-ethnic. What do you think the film offers the push for diversity?

A: The push for diversity is a movement. A single film can’t do everything and yes, some people have asked, where are the Singaporean Indians and other groups in this film. Yet the spirit of representing minorities is being embraced by our film and by all those around the world who are going to see it. Certainly , there is a need for an ever more diverse Singapore to be showcased, including people on the fringes of society.
But, you know, the film has already inspired so many people around the world. I have a niece in the UK who suddenly feels that, yes, there might be opportunities for her now in the acting field which she didn’t feel before. She’s excited that maybe she could be like auntie Selena and that thrills me. Young people in India, Malaysia are watching the film and being encouraged in their ambitions. At the same time we’re reaching audiences in LA and New York. It’s mind-blowing!

Q: The success of the film has been tremendous. Of course fans want to know, will there be a sequel?

A: At the premiere in Singapore Warner brothers did say they want to do a follow-up. I certainly want to be in it!

 

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Interviews

Behind Closed Doors with Harley Di Nardo

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Movie Marker Magazine went behind closed doors with actor-musician Harley Di Nardo to talk about his latest movie ‘Dead Envy’.

Can you tell us about your early beginnings growing up, and how you transitioned to life in Los Angeles?

I am a New Yorker, born and bred. I got into hairdressing at a very young age, and it came in handy when it was time to style my bands hair. Their image was in my hands… literally. I always cut hair to make a living in between touring. Now I own a salon in Malibu, and I used to own salons in New York. All this added up. Movies, Hair Industry meets Music World. I had to come to Los Angeles, before it was too late. So about three years ago, I sold that salon in New York and drove West alone. It took me four days, and I documented the trip on Facebook. I just hit the ground running. I scraped together all the funds that I could, and we made a movie. Now it’s about to come out and here we are. I’m very excited… I now live in Silver Strand Beach, Oxnard. I love it… I just go into Hollywood for meetings and if I have an event there, it’s a reason to make a night of it and stay in town.

Harley Di Nardo

You have had a successful music career so far, what inspired you to take the writing-acting-directing journey?

Since I was a kid I always had my mom film me doing like Karate moves etc… hehe. Then I wrote a script when I was about ten years old. It was called the Golden Glove, a story about an Italian boxer who fights for his girlfriend’s honor. I still have it. Anyways, I loved making stories… until I got into high school and met a friend that was in a band. Rock and Roll took over.  I forgot all about movies. That turned into an obsession that saw me moving to New York City and making two albums for major labels. It was quite a ride. I wrote music every day for about five years. I knew that I would want to take a shot at filmmaking. I’ve always had a passion for it. Everyone tells me I’m a walking movie quote. When someone says, or does anything, I’ll relate it to a movie. It’s just the way I see the world. Through movies. It’s always had such an effect on me. About ten years ago I enrolled in the Lee Strasberg Institute. I studied Method Acting and Script Development. From there I started making short films, music videos, anything just to get some experience.

Your latest feature, ‘Dead Envy’, is set to release next month.  Can you tell us about the movie?

Sure. It’s an independent film filled with psycho stalker moments and some dark humor. It’s the tail of a musician/hairdresser (just like me) who enlists the help of a strange drifter to help stage a comeback… and then it all goes horribly wrong. I wrote what I knew. For one, I already knew how to look and behave like a hairdresser/rock n’ roller. I think that really comes across in the film. It’s all very natural. The script has been with me for some time. I had to get it all out. I had to get this hair and rock movie out of my system. The next one I’ll play a doctor or something…

Can you tell us about the music in the movie?

Yeah… There really isn’t any score exactly. I just used a few of my songs that fit into certain parts of the film and also used friends’ songs. Great songs that never got the proper push that they deserved. We just signed a soundtrack deal with Artisan Fire Records. They are excited, and I am excited. It’s been a while since I’ve released music. The soundtrack will be released the same day as the theater release, August 24th. Available on all digital outlets.

As the director and lead actor in the movie, how did you approach one over the other?

Well, it was a learning experience, that’s for sure. It’s hard to see the frame when you are in it. So, I think the next one I’ll take a much smaller role and direct the hell out of it! I always want to stick myself somewhere in the film. I want to be there like Woody Allen or Lena Dunham, but I think a smaller supporting role will be enough. I’m making the film… I just wanna be in it. I love acting.

How close is your character, David Tangiers in the movie to your own personality?

Well, it’s pretty much me. I am him, he is me.

What else can we expect from you over the next few months?

I am writing a paranormal thriller about a young, widowed mother of two, who is repeatedly sexually assaulted by an incubus. She takes matters into her own hands by hiring a YouTube ghost hunter that is pitching a show for Bravo. I might be playing some gigs to promote the film and the soundtrack.

Thank you, Harley for taking the time to chat to us at Movie Marker. We look forward to seeing more of you on the big screen!

To learn more about Harley Di Nardo visit: www.cine-museproductions.com
Follow Dead Envy: www.deadenvythemovie.com
Instagram: www.instagram.com/deadenvythemovie/
Facebook: www.facebook.com/DeadEnvythemovie/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/deadenvymovie

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