The last time we saw a fairly nude Jennifer Lawrence in scaly, blue body paint was two years ago, when she took on the role of shapely, shiftly, shape-shifter Mystique (five times fast). Since then, Lawrence has ascended to stadium status, so naturally, a new photo of her looking the exact same as she did two years ago is a gargantuan deal. Bryan Singer, director of the next installment in Marvel’s mutant saga, X-Men: Days of Future Past, tweeted a photo of the actress in her costume (is it a costume if there’s no clothes?), and, well, it’s Jennifer Lawrence in blue paint. Only now there’s a certain mystique that surrounds her. See what we did there?
When R&B suave-meister Miguel took the stage at last night’s Billboard Music Awards, he had no idea that the following day, thousands of very bored people would be photoshopping an image of him caught in a mid-air leap, onto everything from a scene in Breaking Bad to a good ol’ fashioned rodeo. But that’s what happens when said leap lands on someone’s face. Congratulations Miguel Jontel Pimentel, you’re now a meme. It happens to all of us at one point or another. But who does Miguel owe his newfound internet fame to? The answer is Ethan Miller, a workhorse photographer for Getty Images, and who was front and center at the award show. But this wouldn’t be the first time Miller snapped his shot at exactly the right nanosecond. Above, we found 14 other examples of Miller’s uncanny knack at capturing what Cartier-Bresson dubbed, “The Decisive Moment.”
At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Lake Bell officially became a triple threat. The versatile actress pulled double duty in Park City, there to promote her role in the thriller Black Rock, but also to premiere In a World… a witty comedy set in the wacky world of voice-over talent which she wrote, directed, and starred in. Bell, who until then was best known for roles in How to Make it in America and Children’s Hospital, got the ultimate pat on the back when she was awarded the festival’s prize for best screenwriting. But before she gears up for In a World…‘s late summer release (August 9, to be exact), Bell was busy promoting Black Rock alongside castmates Kate Bosworth and fellow triple threat Katie Aselton, who also co-wrote and directed. The thriller follows three lifelong friends looking to mend their fractured relationship with a weekend getaway to a remote island off the coast of Maine. We won’t spoil what happens, but what starts off as a moody relationship drama quickly descends into a fight for survival. We spoke with Bell recently about her transition behind the camera, her upcoming wedding to tattoo artist Scott Campbell, and her ideal writing environment.
As a female actor who’s written and directed her first feature, did you feel some pride watching Katie do her thing on the set of Black Rock?
Oh. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I shot Black Rock before I shot In A World…, so it was absolutely inspiring, and we definitely have a little team of comrades who take on this multitasking storytelling aspect of moviemaking. Most of the people in Black Rock are that way, whether it’s Mark [Duplass], Katie, and Kate Bosworth, who produces. Even our DP directed something. They’re all storytellers. I think that a community of filmmakers with a multitude of occupations is a cool place to roll in. I feel honored to be included. I think the Duplasses both patted me on the back and were like, ‘Welcome to the club, buddy.’ Doing a movie like Black Rock where you kick ass and then go into directing is totally fitting.
As a female director, did it feel like you were entering a Boy’s Club?
I personally didn’t. I’ve had an incredible experience coming up in the independent film world. I feel like if I look to my right, I look to my left, I might see a female filmmaker or a male filmmaker, but I never felt ostracized, and I still don’t. I think in the studio system it’s a different can of worms, but my comrades and teammates in this community, I feel absolutely welcome. It feels very even. I know that statistically it’s not, but my personal experience has been very positive. I’ve never felt like people have been like, ‘Listen, girl, why don’t you get your long-stemmed legs out of this office and make me a cup of coffee.’
Did you tailor you part in In a World… specifically to your talents?
I would only want to write something I’d feel like I was going to excel in. As a director, I’d only want to put the right actor in the role. So, if I wasn’t right for something, I’d be like, ‘I’m not going to put myself in it because it’s not for the good of the piece.’ For my friends, I want to cast all of my friends in everything. I have a ton of my friends in In a World… because they were really right. And I just know them and I wrote it for them. Then there are other roles where, you know, I could have put a friend in it, but it wouldn’t have made them look as good. It’s your responsibility as a filmmaker to pay attention to the through line of the movie and the tone of the movie and to make it enjoyable and not distracting.
When you’re writing a script, how do you avoid procrastination?
Writers’ retreats, because I do enjoy procrastinating online. I try to work without deadlines. When I wrote the column for The Hollywood Reporter and I had deadlines, I obviously hate that. I have the luxury of when you’re writing a screenplay, it’s really on your own terms. It’s up to you to get the fucking thing done. So, I like to create three to four day fake writer’s retreats that are within my own home.
What I’ll do is I’ll clean up my entire house until 8:30 a.m., when you get yourself set up for that first day. This is probably very type A, but anyway. I allocate a certain amount of time, I clean up the entire house, I make sure the fridge has all the good treats in it. Just like all good healthy shit and good drinks. Just stacked like it’s a hotel. I get up that morning and I put sneakers on and an outfit that’s comfortable, but no fucking pajamas because that’s some bullshit right there. You got to dress to impress. And then I go to it. Procrastination is usually me searching something online, but it’s a great way to curb your procrastination because you can say, ‘Okay. All during the week I’m going to get whatever shit I have on my mind out and then these three days there’s no fucking around.’ You’re going to put that phone away. The biggest, the smartest piece of advice is to just show up.
You’re about to get married. When’s the date?
It’s in June.
Are you more excited about your wedding day, or In a World…’s release date?
(Laughs) It’s so hard. No. Um. Look. That’s a really horrible question. Um. No, I know. Um. These are both equally exciting moments.
Eli Roth needs no introduction, but what the hell. Ever since the fiendishly funny Cabin Fever hit theaters in 2002, the Boston native has been working tirelessly to establish himself as the master of the horror universe. Mission accomplished. The success of Hostel and its sequel, Hostel II, made Roth the primo purveyor of so-called “torture porn”—a label Roth rejects—and pretty much gave the filmmaker carte rouge to lend his hemoglobin-soaked vision to a bunch of diverse projects. They include everything from a role in Inglorious Basterds, to the Vegas tourist deathtrap Eli Roth’s Goretorium, to Netflix’s latest attempt at original programming, Hemlock Grove (Roth directed the pilot and is executive producer).
Roth’s latest fever nightmare is Aftershock, a blood-n-guts disaster romp he stars in and co-wrote with the film’s director, Nicolas Lopez. The movie, which is loosely based on Lopez’s real-life experiences, follows three bros who head to Chile for some VIP partying, only to discover how much things can suck when an earthquake traps them in an underground club. But the twist: things suck even more when they finally escape—think escaped prisoners, general lawlessness, and worst of all, no cell service.
Roth recently returned to the director’s chair with The Green Inferno (Amazon, cannibals, total fucking chaos), and we caught up with the delightfully talkative mini-mogul to discuss his insanely busy life, the power of the retweet, and some “asshole” from The Hollywood Reporter.
In the last few years you’ve stopped directing movies and focused much more on your brand. What’s behind that?
A whole lot of marketing. Right from the beginning, I saw five stages to make a movie. Write the movie, then you raise the money, then shooting, then editing the movie, and the last stage which is the most important, which is the promotion. And it never ends. I remember when I was shooting my first feature, making sure the behind-the-scenes was as funny as the movie, and mine was the first DVD that had multiple commentary tracks. I had five of them in Cabin Fever, and people didn’t even know you were allowed to do more than one. I had a lot to say. I wanted it to be a DVD for people to listen to over and over, and slowly digest over a thousand years. But really I put myself out there as the new face of horror, and people liked me because I could speak articularly, be camera-friendly, and I looked very much against the type of what people expected directors to look like, and especially people that made horror movies to look like. But also I have had very interesting opportunities in my career, like the collaboration with Tarantino as an actor, and then collaborating with RZA in Man with the Iron Fist. Life presented me these strange and wonderful opportunities and I just fully dove in it.
Is it hard to figure out what it is you want to do? You must be presented with a plethora of opportunities.
Yeah, and I certainly think I exceeded my bandwidth last year. I was opening a haunted house in Vegas, the Goretorium, which is going great. Tourists are going there and freaking out and throwing up. But it does become hard to pick and choose and narrow down what you really, really want to do, because it like you’ve waited your whole life to do all these things and suddenly you can do all of it. I certainly think my new word for 2013 is “streamline.”
In Aftershock, you’re in front of the camera. You obviously don’t need the money. Are you doing it just for kicks?
Yeah. All of it I do because it’s fun. Aftershock really came from my conversations with Nicolas Lopez, whose films I love. He’s so innovative. He’s the one who figured out shooting on a Canon 7D. That’s what our approach to Aftershock was. Let’s shoot it in five days. If you put a Zeiss lens or a nice Canon lens on it, it looks like you’re shooting film and nobody cares what it’s shot on, because they’re going to watch it on iTunes, they’re going to watch it on their iPad. It’d be great if they’d see it in the theater, but it’ll be digitally projected anyways, so fuck it. And we wanted to do something that felt like an old school disaster movie where we really destroyed shit. And there’s a little bit of CG, but it’s 99% practical in the movie. We wanted to make an old school movie where you really, really felt the destruction. And his stories of that night of the earthquake were so fucking horrifying. We didn’t have to invent anything. We just strung different events together in a row.
In the third act, Aftershock veers away from the disaster element and becomes more about humans turning on each other. Why did you take it in that direction?
We’re making a movie that shows society unraveling. That’s what the film is about, the collapse of society and people reverting to some feral state of survival or attack. The film’s about moral choices and what do you do when you’re presented with these various challenges. We are also are making a horrific movie, so we wanted to show the horror of what humans are capable of. If a prison breaks open, prisoners have to behave like prisoners. One of the nice things about independent cinema is you don’t have to play by anybody’s rules. I find most movies are so boring, because I see the same thing over and over and over again.
You often retweet fans’ positive reactions to your work. What’s it like having such immediate access to your audience?
It used to be the IMDB message board. First it was the Ain’t It Cool News review and then all the fan comments which were always, fuck you, this sucked. Then you could see IMDB message boards or message threads. I’d go on Bloody Disgusting or Dread Central and read the threads of what people were saying, but that’s a specific type of fan. I would say fan boy. And they’re coming from a different place.
Horror fans, too.
Horror fans, they fucking hate everything and they hate you, especially. No matter what you do, you’re fucked. But Twitter is incredible. House of Cards was like the greatest show ever made, so after House of Cards, anything was going to get killed critically. You’re not making the show thinking you’re going to be compared to House of Cards. And then you see the fan response and it broke records for downloads. It just blew everything away.
When it comes to retweeting fans positive reactions, you’re very prolific.
It’s partly marketing. Yeah, I’m going to lose followers by re-tweeting, but fuck it. People love the show. They want me to know they watched all 13 episodes, and I’m letting them know I appreciate that. And by the way, Netflix is counting and looking and watching, and they have data on how much #HemlockGrove gets re-tweeted, what’s the buzz word, and are we a trending topic? You can’t imagine the impact that data makes on a corporation whose stock price depends on this stuff. So part of my job is to get out there and trumpet the success of it and let other people know that people love the show. And I know this asshole in The Hollywood Reporter ripped me a new one, but fuck it.
He was just like it’s the worst thing ever that happened in history. It’s hilarious. It’s so bad it makes you want to watch the show.
What do you mean he ripped you?
They tore the show to pieces and me in particular, because I’m the brunt of it. I put myself out there as the face of it, so of course I’m going to be attacked. It doesn’t matter. People love it and they’re dying for season two.
After Hostel 2, so-called “torture porn” faced a backlash. Do you resent that term?
I think it’s silly. It’s like parents describing that “damn rock’n’roll music.” Whoever uses that phrase, you instantly know they’re not into those movies, and they have some agenda against them. It always says way more about the person using it than the movies themselves. And chances are they never watch them and never would watch them and use it as a platform to feel morally superior.
Selena Gomez has a tiny cameo in Aftershock. Was there ever any pressure to use that in your marketing?
No, no, no. Of course not. It’s a cameo. We didn’t cast Selena. Selena’s a friend. She was doing a concert in Santiago. We were shooting nights, and I said, do you want to come by on set and see what we’re doing? She came by just to hang out and was so impressed and so into it, that we were like, why don’t we just shoot something with you. And we made up a scene and shot it. If you blink, you’ll miss it, but that’s part of the fun was. I was like, we’re not going to sell it as a Selena Gomez film. I know what her name means, and it’s not fair to do that to her. That was never the spirit of what we did. It’s just fun and random and a nice little aside. Besides, my name’s enough to open it. You’re not going to sell a horror movie on Selena. I love Selena, but you have me, so sell it from my name.
Max Joseph is probably best known for his role in front of the camera as Nev Schulman’s salt-and-pepper-haired sidekick on MTV’s Catfish. But behind it, Joseph has mastered the snappy, digestible art of the web video. Take his short, Follow the Frog: A whip-fast, entertaining clip with a strong message that reveals itself in the final moments—tailor-made for generation ADD (the video won TED’s Ads Worth Spreading challeng). The New Yorker has also helmed award-winning ads for Nike, Pepsi, Starbucks, and just released his latest digital effort, the 13-minute documentary, 12 Years of DFA: Too Old To Be New, Too New To Be Classic, about the legendary New York record label. Joseph is currently working on his first feature film for Working Title, but before he leaves the web behind for big-screen glory, we asked him to leave us with his essential tips on the way to achieving viral success.
Well for starters, who am I to write about the steps to making yourself a better director? I haven’t made anything longer then 20 minutes, I haven’t won an Academy Award, and I haven’t directed an episode of an HBO series. To this point, I have been pretty much a web filmmaker, which I guess is a new breed of director. You can’t really even call it “directing,” since you are generally writing it, shooting it, and editing it by yourself or with a small team. That’s filmmaking. It is also worth mentioning that I am addicted to the game of getting views, likes, and shares. I want people to see what I make. I want my films to go viral. And if the film has a strong simple concept and is well-executed, chances are it will. I have not by any means perfected the art of making web films, but I have found that these tips make me better.
1. It’s got to be better than porn. Let me explain. Someone who owned a bottled water company once pointed out to me that he considered Coca-Cola to be his competition. He needed to think that way in order to build a product that could hold its own on the beverage shelf where Coca-Cola dominates. Well, the most watched films on the internet are porn films. The experience of watching your film has to be better and more stimulating (intellectually at least), then watching the most depraved sexual acts ever to be caught on camera. Good luck.
2. Comedy is king. If you can make people laugh they will pass your movie around. One of my problems is that I am not a comedian (although my films generally do have a sense of humor). In my mind I am competing against porn AND really funny people. That’s stiff competition.
3. Simple Concept + Great Execution = Good Web Film. I think this is the winning formula for any good web film that’s not comedic or pornographic. You need one simple clever concept that you then must illustrate extremely well. A concept my buddy Casey Neistat came up with was: instead of making the Nike commercial he was hired to direct, he would use the budget to fund an adventure around the world with his buddy Max. Very simple to understand and immediately intriguing. But a clever concept is not enough. It’s just a promise you’re making to the audience. Now you’ve got to make good on your promise by showing the most interesting and exciting aspects your concept. This involves good storytelling. Giving it a good beginning, middle, and end.
4. Figure out the A to Z. For a story to have a beginning, middle, and end, it must start somewhere and end somewhere else whether that distance is emotional or geographical. In order for the viewer not to get bored she has to feel like she knows exactly where she is in the film—or more specifically how far she is from the end. If she doesn’t, she’s lost and bored. Present a clear track at the outset of your film so that the viewer knows story-wise when the film will end. In the example of my film for Nike with Casey the viewer knows the film will end when we make it all the way around the world.
5. Before making your movie tell your idea to lots of people. Don’t get nervous they will steal it. The more times you tell it to people the better your delivery gets. And the better your delivery gets, the better your story gets. As you’re saying the words you begin to change things, add things, omit other things just based on the other person’s reaction. As you get better at telling your idea notice where people smile or seem engaged. That will give you the basic blueprint for how to tell your story.
6. As you’re shooting always be willing to throw out your plan and improvise based on what you discover on the day. Sometimes that’s where the best moments come from. As I was shooting a scene for my Follow the Frog film, there was a huge wildfire in the desert and no one was there. So we walked right up to it (foolishly) and found a way to incorporate it into the movie. Then the fire trucks showed up and we bolted.
7. Keep it short. 2:30 for me is the golden number for internet films. But that’s just a guideline. The longer a film is, the better it must be. Be brutal and cut everything that’s not necessary.
8. Grab your audience right away (and never let go). If a video doesn’t grab me in the first three seconds, I click on something else. Hit me with your best shot.
9. Make Mix CDS. The emotional flow of a movie is the most important thing. If I ever taught a class in filmmaking I would have everyone make a mix CD as an exercise. Because a good mix CD is actually a perfect movie. The mix CD is designed to seduce its listener. Inherently, we all know to kick off a mix cd with something fun, light and fast. Then as it goes on, you vary it up. Three fast songs in a row can be exhausting. So you throw something a little softer in to break it up. Eventually you’ll want to drop that soulful love song that’s going to make the other person start crying about you. But you can’t just put it anywhere. You’ve got to lead up to it. It’s got to feel earned, like a logical step from the song before it. And then end strong. A song that feels like it has a sense of finality. A good mix CD maker can make great films.
10. Get better haircuts. As you grow beyond the do-it-all-yourself method of filmmaking, you realize that you have to rely on and work with other people. This is not art, it’s leadership. When I got into filmmaking I didn’t realize that to make films you have to basically lead a small army. But you learn quickly how to work with others to get the best product. The best analogy I’ve found to collaborative filmmaking is getting a haircut. Most people can’t cut their own hair so they go to someone who can. If you sit down in front of a hairdresser who has never cut your hair before, it is your responsibility to tell them what you want. The same is true if you are working with a cameraman or an editor. This is a creative partnership and it can go in a few different ways. You can say nothing (“make me look good”) and let them have their way with you, oftentimes resulting in profound bitterness and no tip. You can micro-manage their every snip until you both hate each other’s guts and made worse by the fact that you still don’t like your haircut; or you can give them a clear and specific direction leaving enough space for creative freedom. I oftentimes find that showing a hair-dresser a picture of a haircut I like is the best way to go—a common visual reference (there was once a time where all I had to say “Tom Cruise. Mission Impossible” and not a word more). If you can’t get a good haircut then you’re going to have a hard time making a movie.
11. Find your voice. Make something only you could have made. To put it in more cliched way: be original. Everyone has a very specific way of looking at the world and nothing is more exciting than hearing a new voice. Don’t emulate your favorite filmmakers, figure out what you can do by doing it fast over and over again until you can see the patterns shining through. That’s your artistic voice. Embrace the idiosyncrasies and own it. Everyone will want you and while you may inspire impersonators no one will ever be able to do what you do.
So how do you get attention on an Internet that pukes up a zillion new videos a day? It’s easy: You collect a whole bunch of money and then use it to buy a stripped-down Dita Von Teese on a pink mechanical bull; you purchase Olympic it girl Jordyn Weiber to work some of her magic in slow motion; you toss some cash at a morbidly obese woman and ask her to do a seduction dance wearing just a bikini; you call up a lion, a zebra, and some of their pals from the zoo to come hang; you kidnap two fencers and force them to fight; and then you stage a good old fashioned, multi-colored chalk fight to close the whole thing out. Oh, and it helps if you have a shirtless Jared Leto in full-on rock star mode—he does it so well—belting out his band 30 Seconds to Mars‘ epic new single, “Up in the Air.” Over 2 million views later and voila, you have a video success. We found this clip so mesmerizing, so baffling, that we went to Leto himself for some answers.
How much creative control does your band have over your videos?
Absolute. It’s the only way I know how to work. It’s important that there not be too many decisions by committee with creative endeavors like this.
Did you conceive “Up in the Air” or did you trust your director to take care of it?
Bartholomew Cubbins and I have a very unique relationship. You could say that he and I are almost one in the same. There isn’t a move he makes on these little films without me and vice versa.
In an age of shrinking attention spans, why make an 8 minute video?
I felt it was appropriate given the material. I also think that if content is compelling enough it can be longer. Not everything has to be “Charlie Bit My Finger.”
The video is full of striking, surreal imagery. Is there meaning behind those images, or are you trying to make a video that looks awesome?
Although I purposefully threw out the idea of narrative, it is still very metaphorical. In a way, it’s a love letter to art and design.
The video has been viewed more than 2 million times on Youtube. What’s it like to be able to see how the exact number of people clicking on your video?
I love the immediacy. And it’s exciting to know it’s connecting with people around the world. I make a lot of short form content but there is something magical that happened with this latest project. Very grateful it has found an audience.
Academy Award–winning French filmmaker Michel Gondry turns back the hands of time and revisits a few of his forward-thinking films.
Nine years after its release, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004) is a certified modern classic. Screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s story, which centers on a former couple (played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet) who attempt to erase each other from their memories using an experimental procedure, won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, and made Gondry, who until then was known for his music videos, a name-brand director.
“As soon as I read Charlie’s screenplay, I knew he’d done something really special. The most challenging thing we shot was when Jim comes back to see the doctor and stop the erasing process. We shot it all in one take and Jim was playing two parts of his character—one from his memory and one in the real world. He had to change costumes in the middle of the take many times. It was all choreographed, and he gave a very good performance. It was a Friday night and nobody thought we could make it, and when it finally happened, everybody behind the video monitor started cheering and applauding. It was only the second week of shooting, but I had my crew on my side after that. I finally felt like I knew what I was doing.”
Stéphane (Gael García Bernal), a shy dreamer, becomes infatuated with his neighbor Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg) in THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP (2006), Gondry’s most personal film to date. Working from his own screenplay, the French director created ingenious dream sequences using household detritus—a Polaroid camera transforms into a time machine; a swath of cellophane turns into an ocean—and solidified his reputation as an auteur who can do a lot with very little.
“I use tons of digital technology in my films, but I like the idea that magic already exists in front of the camera. I use budget limitations to my advantage, and my technical limitations are part of the aesthetic—for example, when I used editing to make the time machine work. It’s something I developed when I started making music videos. When I imagine my effects, I imagine how I will do them, and I’m very optimistic, but of course there are times when I have to be realistic and give my project a haircut to make it more produce-able.”
With THE GREEN HORNET (2011), Gondry abandoned the handcrafted aesthetic that characterized his earlier, more cerebral work for the big-budget sheen required of a story about a billionaire playboy–turned–masked vigilante (Seth Rogen). Still, despite studio-inflicted prerequisites (bombastic car chases and a third-act blowout), Gondry managed to insert flashes of his own conceptual ingenuity throughout, such as 16 simultaneous split-screens and a POV-style camera technique dubbed Kato-Vision.
“I remember one of the first meetings I had with Sony executives. At one point, they looked me in the eyes and said, ‘Michel, you’re not going to do a grainy, handheld movie. You’re going to do something commercial.’ And I said yes, which felt so easy at the time. But then I actually had to keep my word. I always feel a level of incompetence—like I’m not going to finish the job, or like I have to pretend I know what I’m doing—but I always find a way to make it work. In the end, I think the movie could have had a little more edge, but I’m still happy I made it.”
If The Green Hornet forced Gondry to temper his artistic vision, then THE WE AND THE I (2013) is the director’s creative spirit unleashed. Set almost entirely on a South Bronx bus, this scrappy, vérité-style film chronicles the after-school dynamics of innercity teenagers (played mostly by non-professional actors) as they navigate social hierarchies and herd mentalities.
“The bus driver is actually an official MTA driver, and she did great as an actor. She picked the bus up every morning at 5 a.m., drove it to the Bronx, and brought it back at night. She was amazing. We planned a different loop for the bus each day, and each loop would last approximately 10 minutes, so we would see the same landscape and we could edit for continuity. We found the kids at this after-school program called The Point. We just called it The Bus Project and hired the first 40 kids who showed up. Some of them knew me from my videos, and it’s interesting to be a part of this video era, because it’s connected me to kids who otherwise would not know my work. It was really important that I keep my word to them and actually make this movie, because it wasn’t really financed at the beginning. We had no idea if we’d be able to find the money.
In MOOD INDIGO (2013), Gondry returns to his natural habitat: fantastical romances grounded in very real emotions. Based on the popular French novel, L’écume des jours, by Boris Vian, the film tells the story of Colin (Romain Duris), a man who must care for his new bride (Audrey Tautou) after flowers mysteriously begin to grow in her lungs.
“The movie was a big machine and came with a big crew. The book was written in the 1940s, but it’s set in a parallel world. I didn’t want to have this historical period as a marker, so I had to make it look different without being retro or typically scifi. I created a Paris that is sort of from the future, but not really. We had to design the cars to look half from the past and half from the future, and we modified some architecture. There are some science fiction elements at play, but I’ve done it in a low-key style. It’s a very important love story in France, and it’s basically about how people change less than objects. It’s a point of view I really like and one that’s influenced my directing.”
It’s days like the one we’re having today, and weeks like the one we just had, that makes an entertainment media guy like myself feel like a real piece of shit. There are hordes of law enforcement types in the Boston area, at this very instant, who are risking their lives by going after some screwball with explosives strapped to his chest, so they can bring a sense of closure to the terrible week that city and this country has just endured. And meanwhile, I just posted something about Thierry Mulger’s return to his eponymous line. Wha?
It’s an interesting dilemma (existential crisis) I face every time a large-scale tragedy unfolds. On Monday, immediately after the marathon bombing, while the rest of the country’s media outlets kicked into overdrive covering the horror and heroism of the day’s events, I was left with a post about some “synth-y new track everyone has to check out,” which suddenly felt about a thousand times more pointless than it normally does. I felt the same way after the ungodly events in Aurora and Newtown. How can I possibly do my job in the wake of such unthinkable terror? Should I just log out of WordPress and call it a day? Probably.
But following the Aurora shooting, I didn’t do that. Because it happened in the cultural sphere, at a midnight screening of the year’s most anticipated film, I tried to play pop psychologist and capture it in my little entertainment bubble. That way, I could at least feature something about the shooting on my website’s homepage and feel like I’m being a real journalist type. The result was a little ditty called “How Will the Colorado Shooting Affect Going to the Movies?” The answer to that essential question was: it won’t, and it didn’t. But hey, at least I got to infuse my website, normally populated by “hot rising stars” and “sweet fashion models,” with a little gravitas, some heart.
Like most of you, I’ve been following Twitter breathlessly since events crescendoed in Watertown late last night. On my way to work this morning, every single tweet on my feed was in some way related to the standoff with the marathon bombing suspect. If the new Man of Steel trailer dropped this morning instead of a few days ago, would anyone give a rip? There was a movie happening on our smartphones! In real time! With no end in sight! But now, just a few hours later, with still no end in sight, some of my entertainment media type brethren are starting to emerge from their self-imposed blurgatrory. The good folks over at SlashFilm just shouted out the new Thor poster. (It’s boring.) And wow, breaking news: Entertainment Weekly is reporting that ‘Big Bang Theory’ REPEAT beats ‘American Idol’. That’s big, manhunt or no manhunt.
I’m aware that after a while, when Boston gets back to being Boston and not some Grand Guignol theater for everyone to gaze lustily upon, that I’ll no longer feel this way. My totally revealing profile on Imogen Poots will gain back some of its relevancy (especially when she like, becomes the huge star she’s for sure destined to be). But until that time comes, maybe I’ll just hang back, ease up off all the important fashion and entertainment news that’s trickling through the wire, and most importantly, not look for a culture-related hook on the Boston tragedy and its aftermath, just for the sake of keeping my website relevant in a time of real and palpable sadness.
When it comes to favorite movie eras, everyone’s got their sweet spot. For Imogen Poots, it’s the period between the late ’80s and early ’90s, Hollywood’s last gasp before succumbing to green-screen fever. And while most fresh-faced female actors might keep Hepburn, Streep, or Winslet atop their Greatness Index, Poots name-checks Taylor, Plimpton, and Mathis—that’s Lili, Martha, and Samantha—as her celluloid goddesses. “And then of course there’s Winona,” she gushes, bowing to the Queen Bee of plucky, Gen-X ingenues. “I Shot Andy Warhol, Running on Empty, and, of course, Reality Bites, are unreal films. I’ve always wanted the chance to access these stories I’ve watched for so many years through my own work.”
The 23-year-old London native got that chance two summers ago, when she and a band of independent filmmakers set out across New York City to tell the story of how, in 1991, Jeff Buckley, an aimless California musician, became Jeff Buckley, rock music’s falsettoed prince. In Greetings from Tim Buckley, Poots plays Allie, an emotionally available free spirit who cracks the young Buckley’s (Penn Badgley) shell when the singer travels to New York to headline his late father’s tribute concert. “He was this brooding, melancholic guy with all these insecurities, and she was there to make fun of him. That’s what has to happen. You have to bring idols down to a human level,” says Poots, who’s back in New York putting the final touches on Are We Officially Dating?, a raunch-com in which another Hollywood heartthrob, Zac Efron, charms his way out of bachelorhood and into her arms.
Poots began acting professionally at 15 and skipped college as her career accelerated, but she speaks about the making of Tim Buckley like an excited Cultural Studies major. “When I first read the script I fell in love with it, because my character was talking about [playwright] Richard Foreman, performance art, and Kafka, and I was going through that, too, in a very ridiculous, romantic way,” she says. “You read a book like [Patti Smith’s memoir] Just Kids, and you’re mentally in a place where all of that makes sense. Then something like this movie comes along that encapsulates everything you’ve been feeling.”
Later this year, Poots, who comes across as both a youthful romantic and self-effacing goofball, will be seen playing another rock muse, this time to André Benjamin’s Jimi Hendrix in the guitar god’s origin story, All Is By My Side. “She was the one who sort of discovered Hendrix,” Poots says of her character, Linda Keith, who also inspired Keith Richards to write “Ruby Tuesday.” For the period piece, Poots chopped off her hair—at the moment a banged tangle, bleached Cobain-blond— into a black ’60s bob. “I was more aware I was making a film about Hendrix, because it was the ’60s, whereas Tim Buckley is a bit more childish, and that’s its charm,” she says. “Because the Buckley movie was set in the ’90s, it was a lot easier to live in its world.”
Poots grew up in the ’90s, but didn’t come of age in them. She was barely 11 when the decade ended with a Y2whimper. At 14, she signed up for a local theater group in her West London suburb, and, with her best friend, spent two hours each weekend writing sketches and “doing weird shit.” By 16, with the help of a boutique talent agency, she was playing a young Natalie Portman in V for Vendetta, and two years after that, outrunning a zombie flash mob in 28 Weeks Later. Only then did the notion of acting as a career begin to crystalize. “I didn’t know if I had permission to be an actor, from the universe or from myself,” she says. And then, without a dot of sarcasm: “I have this warped idea that if you really, really believe in something, you can make it a reality.”
Poots’ current reality is as one of the most sought-after young actors in Hollywood. Following her 2011 portrayal of the vacant socialite Blanche Ingram in director Cary Fukunaga’s carnal retelling of Jane Eyre, she toplined her first studio film last year, opposite Anton Yelchin and Colin Farrell, in the revved-up horror remake Fright Night. Since then, with just “a couple of weeks in between,” according to Poots, most of her life has been spent on movie sets. This year alone, she’ll appear in an adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel Filth; as a drug-addled party girl in Michael Winterbottom’s tawdry drama The Look of Love; as a woman contemplating suicide in the Nick Hornby tale A Long Way Down; and alongside Christian Bale, Natalie Portman, and Cate Blanchett in Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups. “It sucks balls that I can’t talk about it,” she says of the notoriously secretive auteur’s new project. Poots, who, with the help of storytellers like William Faulkner and Bob Dylan, romanticized America’s heartland growing up—“I just wanna jump into a fucking pickup truck and ride into cornfields”—has loved Malick since she saw his sweeping 1973 Midwestern odyssey, Badlands. She describes the moment Malick called to inform her she’d been cast as “one of those things your mind can’t compute.”
Still, of all her upcoming roles, the one that will project Poots’ bright face across the most screens is that of a street-smart car dealer in next year’s video game–inspired production, Need for Speed. Some might argue that a loud, fast, American blockbuster isn’t befitting of a diminutive British charmer like Poots, but it’s her hunger for experiences that fuels her choices, notoutside expectations. “I’m curious about the world,” Poots says, “and the way I intend to experience it is through this profession.”
Photography by Charlie Engman. Styling by Jessica Bobince.
If a face-painted Heath Ledger posing sheepishly with his supposed assistant was the Joker picture to end all Joker pictures, then this new picture showing Tom Hardy posing with a young fan dressed as his villain from The Dark Knight Rises is the Bane picture we deserve. There are layers here that we’ve only begun to unpack. We’ll let you know when we’re done. In the meantime, enjoy.