Emile Hirsch’s newest movie, Lone Survivor, is filled with lots of long, ponderous voiceovers espousing platitudes about the triumph of the human spirit and the will to fight, and tons of aggro rhetoric that seems ripped right from gym class. There is also a gunfight that lasts for close to a half-hour and is choreographed like a video of someone playing Call of Duty. But talking to Hirsch, who’s starred in thoughtful movies like Into the Wild and engaging movies like Speed Racer, gives the impression that Lone Survivor wasn’t made out of aesthetic advancement. It was made because it needed to be told on the behalf of those who lost their lives during a failed SEAL mission to capture terrorists in Afghanistan.
When I talk to Hirsch in a hotel room at the Mandarin Oriental, his conviction is almost palpable. It’s surely convenient to have a star who can speak so earnestly about the movie’s intentions, but listening to his story, it’s impossible to not feel a little swayed by his righteousness. Hirsch is a new father, which I thought might’ve accounted for some new perspectives about life; surprisingly, he was most reticent to talk about that. Instead, we talked about the movie, the chances of a Speed Racer sequel, his life as a former teen idol, and more.
The first thing I was wondering is that this seems like kind of a departure compared with some of the movies you’ve been in, like Into the Wild and Speed Racer. How did you get involved with this?
Pete [Berg, the director] told me “no,” to my face originally when we talked about it. He flat out told me, “No. Listen man, you aren’t the guy. You’re not right for it physically,” and I felt that he was wrong. I wanted to portray Danny Dietz so much, and so I started calling him and emailing him, and I started eating more and gaining weight and working out. Eventually he put me in a pro-camp that he selected to test me with T.R. Goodman at Gold’s Gym. He still didn’t give me the role, and he still said it probably wasn’t gonna happen, but I started going. I basically had to do whatever he said to even be in contention. He was still meeting other actors. So I went six days a week at 6AM for three and a half months for training, and it wasn’t about the second or third month that—of everyday, six days a week—finally even him giving me the offer on the movie. My agent was like, “This is crazy. This is a bad move. You’re not safe in this move.” I said, “I don’t care. I gotta see what’s gonna happen. I can’t quit this.”
You talked about wanting to play Danny so much. What was it that made you so insistent?
I had read the book Lone Survivor and Danny was so unique. He was an artist and he wasn’t your traditional G.I. Joe guy. This was a guy who drew anime. He originally wanted to be a ninja. He was an atypical guy, and I guess I identified with him. He wasn’t a loud guy. He was kind of a quiet guy, an intense guy, but he had a lot of soul and he had a lot of love. I admired the courage that he had, and I mourned the loss that his death brought.
Since you trained with real SEALS, what was the environment on set like? The movie is very emphatic about all these dudes and all their beards.
We were all dipping, like chewing tobacco and stuff, hanging out, just joking around. And then those switches would just get flipped, and it was like, “Alright. It’s all business. Where’s your gun? Where’s your weapon system? Let’s get into position. Let’s fucking do this.” It was an exhilarating environment to be a part of. But it was also really sad because a lot of these tragic scenes in the battle, these guys had been through all that. So I’d see the toughest, most badass guys tearing up at times, walking off, and having cries by themselves. It brings it back home that this isn’t just a movie.
How many of your own stunts did you do in the movie?
Some of the stuff I did, but I have to give a lot of credit to Kevin Scott, the stunt coordinator and his team of guys. These guys are some of the most incredible stunt guys I have ever seen, and the stunts that they did are—for an actor to try to take credit away from these guys would be a fucking crime. These guys are geniuses and not only are they incredibly physically coordinated and talented, but they sacrifice their bodies a lot for what they did. One guy shattered his ribs and punctured his lung. It’s not CGI, these guys just threw themselves down these cliffs. When you see it, you can tell that it’s not a special effect. I think one of the reasons why Lone Survivor is so powerful is because when those cliff falls happen, we can tell that’s real. You can tell that they are really falling down those cliffs and that those are human beings.
Switching gears for a second, you are a new father now. Congrats.
Have you found yourself lapsing into any sort of dad behaviors—telling bad jokes or falling asleep at inopportune times?
Well I always tell bad jokes anyways, so now I just have an excuse for it. I think it affects everybody differently. Maybe some guys start telling better jokes. It’s not very likely though.
As a former teen heartthrob, did you ever have a crush on another teen heartthrob?
A crush on another teen heartthrob? [long pause] Strangely enough, I think I liked a lot of girls that were doing it, but I don’t know if… I’ve always thought Kristin Stewart was just adorable. I felt that she was really sweet in Into the Wild, and she was really great. Seeing her in all those Twilight movies, she’s just so stunning. I think that’s the closest to a crush on a teen heartthrob that I’ve had. Or did you mean dudes?
What are the odds of a Speed Racer sequel happening?
Zero. That movie lost 200 million dollars.
Damn. That sucks. I really liked that movie.
Thank you. I loved the movie, too. I think it’s fucking hilarious and fun. It’s one of those movies that had visionary filmmakers behind it, but for whatever reason, it lost 200 million dollars. So, we probably won’t make a sequel. I love the Wachowskis though.I’m really looking forward to Jupiter Ascending, their next movie.
I heard that you’re playing John Belushi.
Yeah, I am.
Are you playing fat John Belushi?
It’s gonna be early John Belushi but, you know, yeah.
So what’s your method for gaining weight?
I haven’t really started it yet. So I’ll probably explore a lot of different options.
It’s a different type of gaining weight than getting in shape for Lone Survivor.
Yeah, it’s a whole different ball game.
How did you get involved with that?
They just called me, and I met with the director. I thought it was a great script and we’ll see what happens. It’s sort of one of those things where I realized everyone’s got a fascination with it. But I try to dodge every question when people ask me about Belushi because I don’t wanna say anything before I make it. It’s almost like a magician talking about a magic act before he does it. I wanna wait and then make it. You understand, probably? I understand why people are so interested. It’s John Belushi. The guy is incredible.
Outside of a filming environment, could you beat your Lone Survivor costar Taylor Kitsch in a foot race?
No, well, me and him actually raced. The last part of the race, that last final shot of the two of us running, all the crew was putting money down. It was like a full-blown sprint race. It was probably 100 yards. Pete put a lot of money down on me. Pete lost some money on me. I have never ran faster in my entire life than in that shot in the movie. Never. I was in the best shape of my life, and I was fucking running as hard as I could. Taylor, I gotta give it to him, he’s an incredible fucking athlete. The guy is a physical fucking specimen.
Is there an old haircut you’ve had that you wish could be banished from the Internet’s memory?
Let me think here. Yeah, just the cheesy 80’s hair. Which now I love, like ironically. I had really cheesy 80’s hair in Prince Avalanche, which is just awesome. It’s like Kurt Russell feathered. But there’s a couple of pictures where I’m like, “Man, that’s corny!” But at the same time, if you sit around looking at pictures of your old hairstyles from years ago, you probably need to get your head examined versus your hair.
Everyone is reacting with surprise that Tila Tequila, infamous boob-haver, and onetime MTV reality show human posted a photo of her boobs and also the rest of herself dressed as a (sexi) Nazi yesterday. As a few sites have pointed out, it’s not her first dalliance with Naziism. Here’s something she wrote called “Why I Sympathize With Adolph Hitler,” which I’m not reading in a million years, but you should go ahead and check out.
But none of this is even remotely shocking. In fact, when you’ve spent your entire life trolling for attention, and have little else to offer, a sudden rightward lurch is about the only move left in the provocateur’s playbook that will get people to notice you anymore (See: McInness, Gavin). The worst part is, it keeps working. Here we are giving her the views she craves just because a sad crazy person is crazy.
That aside, thinking this type of shit isn’t even rare is it? (See this great piece on Complex from Foster Kamer about Kanye’s weird comments about jews recently for example). How shocking! Hating jews. Hating jews is one of the oldest pastimes in the world. Literally any, and almost every, piece of shit throughout history has dabbled in it at one point or another. It’s just as boorish, and boring, as it ever was. Speaking of which, here’s some lyrics from her new song. (h/t)
Jewluminati motherfuckers hate me
Oh no they don’t wanna date me
Nor you nor you nor you too
Worldwide Genocide blame it on the jews
Anything that comes out of the mouth of Benedict Cumberbatch, the personification of English-ness, sounds 50% more regal and fraught with import. Even some shitty R. Kelly lyrics, it turns out, as we learned on Jimmy Kimmel’s show last night, when both sex symbols were guests. Watch Cumberbatch, which is a name so goofily sexy it sounds like an R. Kelly lyric itself, recite some of the man’s lyrics. For example: “Body’s so freaking soft. I can’t wait to turn you on. You got me like la la la la la, baby. It’s how you make me feel baby. I can feel your body flowers, while I’m kissing on your thighs.” (h/t)
It’s funny because he’s a white English guy and R. Kelly is an American black guy.
The unorthodox marketing plan for Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac continued in predictably unpredictable form last week, when the very NSFW trailer was accidentally shown at a theater near Tampa. NBD, right? Except it was during a screening for Disney’s Frozen, which as far as I can tell doesn’t feature any blow jobs. What’s a blow job, you might be asking right now, particularly if you’re a child in the Tampa area.
Lynn Greene of Largo was at the Regal Cinemas Park Place Stadium 16 with her grandchildren when it happened. She said there were some technical difficulties that delayed the start of the movie, so the theater temporarily played another cartoon.
“They put in the filler, it looked like ‘Steamboat Willie,’ the old Mickey Mouse cartoon, and then all of a sudden it goes into this other scene,” Greene said.
A spokesperson for Regal Cinemas said the other scene was part of the wrong movie playing accidentally.
Although the movie company said the clip only played for less than two minutes, Greene said it seemed to last much longer.
“It seemed like forever when you’re trying to, you know, cover a little guy’s eyes,” she said. “I didn’t have enough hands to cover his ears too and he got the sound down real good.” Fox Tampa Bay
One viewer in attendance claims it was the explicit clip, although a spokesman for Magnolia films says that would’ve been impossible. Like everything else on the internet now, however, the whole thing is probably made up.
No one actually thinks that James Franco will win an Oscar for his gawdy take on the Southern wannabe gangsta in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, but stranger things have happened, like that time three minutes ago when my left eye ball fell out of its socket. Anyway, A24, the production house behind Spring Breakers, seems to think Franco has a shot, probably because his character, Alien, is arguably the most iconic movie character to emerge this year, and people are still quoting his famous “shit” speech. In fact, the very grave trailer below, reminding us what a stretch this performance was, can’t help referencing it either.
Lindsay Lohan is reportedly set to take legal action against Rock Star Games, the makers of Grand Theft Auto 5, alleging they used her likeness for promotional materials, and as a Lohan-like character in the game who lives in the Chateau Marmont in West Hollywood, where she once lived, and who players have to protect from paparazzi, take photos of having sex, and [5,000 words on why video games are Art.]
Does the not yet official suit have any imaginary merit in the make believe court of Hypothetical Town? I’m not a lawyer, but probably not. At least one of the characters in the game said to look like Lohan is actually model Shelby Welinder, as the Daily Dot points out.
Then again, as one Twitter detective uncovered, she may have a better case than any of us thought:
Lindsay Lohan is suing the makers of GTA V, claiming that they stole her likeness for a character. She is 100% right. pic.twitter.com/fzO3JJVUJq
— Brian Altano (@agentbizzle) December 2, 2013
Ever since Paul Walker’s tragic death over the weekend, tributes from his peers in the entertainment industry have been pouring in, mostly in the form of tweets and instagrams. Wu-Tang headmaster RZA went the extra mile and wrote a song for the actor, whom he met on the set of their upcoming action movie, Brick Mansion. The song, called “Destiny Bends,” is not what you’d expect, meaning there’s no rapping in it, or even a beat. Instead, it’s a solemn ballad performed by Will Wells. The song is accompanied by a note from RZA that sheds light on his relationship with the fallen star.
This song, entitled “Destiny Bends” was written last night after hearing the tragic news of the loss of a good man named Paul Walker. I met Paul on the set of the film Brick Mansion, where we talked, laughed, and exchanged ideas of life and fatherhood. I only knew him personally for less than a year, but we knew each other through our work and art. We saw in each other a kindred spirit of men coming from unlikely circumstances, and rising to be the light and beacon of our family and loved ones. Men who learned the joy and pains of love in life, and success, while coming to realize that nothing is more important than family, friendship, and the brotherhood of humanity. Millions of people get to know an artist or movie star through their work, but few are allowed to cross each others’ paths and see through the veil of stardom and find the common denominator that we share. As all physical things will decay and wither away, film, art, and music remain longer than the vessel that delivered them. In this vein, the one thing we can’t take away or give back is time. So, thus, time is the most precious gift. I dedicated my time to compose this song with my two sons and new friend Will Wells, who was kind enough to sing and perform it for me. We dedicate it to Paul Walker. A good man. We had plans to continue working with each other in the future. It seemed destined, but “destiny bends”. *Note* This song is not for criticism, it’s just a sketch demo. Please enjoy and reflect.
Your comrade in the struggle,
With White Reindeer, director Zach Clark has crafted a twisted take on the familiar home-for-the-holidays formula. In the dark comedy, Suzanne (Anna Margaret Hollyman) has to somehow cope the with her husband’s murder right around Christmas, imbuing a macabre fog over what’s normally a festive, heartwarming genre. The movie , Clark’s third feature, struck gold with critics at last year’s SXSW and opens this Friday at the IFC Center in New York, with expansions across the country the following two weeks. Clark is a Virginia native who edits and writes all of his features, and makes the kind of movies that he wants to make. We asked Clark to let us in on his secret blueprint for getting a movie made, which is a very hard thing to do.
1. Tell everyone you know that you are going to make a movie and when you are going to start making it. Impose as many arbitrary external pressures on yourself as possible.
2. Steal as much as possible from real life. Reveal deep personal secrets about yourself. Borrow freely from the lives of your friends and loved ones.
3. But change it all around so people think you made it up.
4. Think of things that you can point a camera at that are free for you, but add a lot of production value to the movie. Beautiful places, seasonal decorations, cool road signs, whatever. Write them into the script so you don’t forget about them, so they take on a larger significance.
5. Exhaust all available resources, call in all favors, and be constantly appreciative of every single person who is going out of their way to help you. They do not have to do this.
6. Work with people who are nice and fun to be around. One jerk can ruin a whole set. Don’t forget that you have lots of amazing, talented friends. Directing a movie is essentially about establishing a tone on set wherein the cast and crew can do their best work.
7. Feed everyone really, really well. Ask people what they like to eat beforehand. After you’ve shot for a week, ask people what they liked and didn’t like and bring back the popular dishes.
8. Wrap on time as much as possible. It’s better to shoot all the scenes than to spend way too much time focusing on one set-up, scene, etc and losing time, missing things you wanted.
9. Be ready to totally throw the script out the window if it isn’t working on set. But also don’t forget what you really love about what you wrote and be as true to it as possible.
10. The scene you think sums up the entire point of movie, the scene you poured your heart into the most, that you can’t fathom the movie existing without, will probably get cut out. This is good. If you’ve done your job well enough, you won’t need to spell anything out.
Michel Gondry sits alone in a room at the IFC offices in New York, sketching an image of a pawn on a stack of index cards. Outside of his door awaits a collection of film critic media types and important people in interesting scarves discussing how awesome he is. His door creaks open, and the crowd starts shouting “Michel! Michel!” like they’re hailing a French Maître D’ at an expensive restaurant. It’s interesting to witness, considering he just wrapped up a documentary Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?, tracing the mental process of nouveau philosopher Noam Chomsky. Meanwhile, Gondry himself has bevies of people hoping to someday decode his beautiful mind. The French director-slash-screenwriter is known for having a healthy catalogue of movies and music videos that straddles the line between overt and abstract. From having Bjork as one of his visual muses to having directed one of the greatest mind-fuck films of all time (Eternal Sunshine Of the Spotless Mind), Michel Gondry is a jack of all frames.
In Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy?, he speaks with Chomsky on the inner workings of the human (and at times non-human) mind and even manages to get Chomsky to speak about his personal life. The film is 95% animation, 5% real, but only when the camera is pointed at Chomsky. Shot on the clickity-clackity Bolex camera, the film combines Gondry’s intense inquisitiveness on human behavior with his clear love of doodling. We took in some face time with Gondry to discuss the process of the documentary, philosophically bumping heads with Chomsky, and where this new direction in film might take him.
In the film, you mention that at some point, you had just started renting DVDs or buying DVDs on Noam Chomsky. What brought on that curiosity?
Sometimes I’d just rent DVDs for no specific reason. I’d know just the title and his face maybe, but I was ignorant. I didn’t know who he was, and you read a few comments on the back of the DVD and there you go. Then I’m watching, and I saw him and it was mostly about his activism. They were made with that as the subject of the documentaries, so I was really compelled by his analysis of the media, his critiques on foreign policy, and his commitment to oppressed communities. Then I realized very soon after what he had contributed in science and linguistics. His approach, a sort of biological approach of linguistics, resonated with me a lot. His specific point of view is that language didn’t come from a long succession of little steps, but more in one mutation, which is something I’ve always liked.
In the film, you mention that the process of film lets you manipulate the subject in a way, and you were saying that animation leaves it subject to a lot of interpretation. However, when Noam is speaking, you keep it as him. You didn’t make it an animation of him. Was that intentional?
I just wanted the people to know I met him, you know? It’s very basic, and I think it’s nice to see him smiling or thinking at times. But what I did is I had the same camera that I used for the animation.
That was my starting point. I had interviewed a physicist on the phenomenon of fire. I explained how fire works, and it was like five minutes. I did some abstract animation to help the understanding. I felt that was something I wanted to do on a bigger scale, because to me, Noam was one of the greatest artists alive. I found it was perfect.
You state more than once in the film how you really wanted to do this in time for Noam to be alive to still see it, and then we learn in the film that he had this strange obsession with death. In the beginning he had this big fear of it, and then it was something that he started to come to terms with. Was he aware that you were trying to make sure that he was still alive for this process?
No, but I found no refrain to mention it because he had no issues with his death. So that’s why I talk openly about it. This is very immature, but I did it. If he watches what I’ve done, I’ve been doing that for three years just thinking of him all this time, and I want him to watch it! It’s like what I’d do with a video for Bjork. I want her to watch it and tell me how she feels about the video. It’s like an infant or a young kid who wants to have his parents give him their approval. I mean, not everybody functions like that, but I have to admit I am a bit like that.
So in between the first part of the filming and then the final part of the filming, you also did The Green Hornet. How did your perception change for directing while having these conversations with Noam on perception and how we read things and view things?
Well sometimes you feel bad, because you’re doing a story with guns and explosions, but I think that when nothing else, a lot of Hollywood movies have a very conservative underlying purpose, and I don’t think I had that. But I felt a little inconsistent maybe, but my brain was really working. I had this theory that I tried to get through him, but he was not accepting. He’s like, “Okay, you have this theory, but then you have to do your homework and prove it to them and find a way to prove it,” which I couldn’t do.
Your body of work is so diverse. How do you switch gears?
I think I’m very curious of people and territories I don’t know. So I meet with Bjork, and I had done videos to start with on my own, with mixed animation and live action, so she responded to this work. So I meet with her and I get really excited, so there we go. We did seven or eight videos together! I met Dave Chapelle, and I have always liked Black music, whether Jazz or Rhythm & Blues. I was very captivated by that. So I meet Dave Chapelle, and he wants to do this concert with all these bands. Then I realized there is a sense of community there, and sometimes I was the only white person in the room and I sort of tried to understand, and I go full gear in this direction. Then of course I meet Noam Chomsky, and I go in that direction. Then I go to Hollywood, and I meet the people and they want me to do big movies, so I go there. I think it’s about curiosity and diversified interest.
Is there another subject that you have your eye on to do this type of animated film with?
Yes. As I said, I started with the father of a good friend of mine who’s a physicist to illustrate a very basic phenomenon like water or fire or air, and this kind of element that you can dig deeply into, if you go to the molecular level. And for instance, I always watched and read about Richard Feynman, which I talk about in the middle of the film. I always liked his way to express and illustrate complex phenomena with simple words. It’s very democratic, and he mentions that anyone can understand, so that was something I was interested in. But I think the difference with Noam is he has this complex understanding of science, but at the same time, his activism and his politics are as strong. Most scientists I can see or hear or read, when they step into the political or general views of the world, they become very vague, if not generic. So he’s a unique person in my perception, in the sense that he has both sides of the equal levels of depth.
Well I don’t think I can speak as deeply as he does.
The artist formally known as Jordan Catalano has had a damn good year. For starters, he looks great. His hair is spectacular (just ask Anna Kendrick ), and as far as I can tell he hasn’t aged in a decade. He had a career-defining role in Dallas Buyer’s Club as Rayon, the sassy transgendered AIDS patient with a big heart, complete with a reception that’s rife with Oscar buzz. His band, 30 Seconds to Mars, released their fourth studio album, which peaked at number 6 on the Billboard 200. He’s even managed to turn all that legal ugliness with Virgin Records into Artifact, a documentary coming out next week on iTunes. Yes, Jared Leto is almost at a point where we’ll stop making irritating My So-Called Life references. Almost.
Recently, Leto directed an eleven-minute long music video slash documentary for his band’s impossibly catchy alt-rock ballad, “City of Angels.” The short film juxtaposes stars like Kanye West and James Franco against street impersonators and Lindsay Lohan (Just kidding LiLo – your candidness was actually a highlight of the video), musing about their attempts to make their dreams come true in LA. To add to Leto’s laundry list of recent successes, the film has reached over 3.2 million Youtube views. And if 2013 wasn’t memorable enough for Jared Leto, he also got to talk to me on the phone for ten whole minutes.
Where are you right now?
I’m actually in the UK. I’m on tour, about to walk onstage.
The video for “City of Angels” is incredibly romantic. How did that idea come about?
Well I had this song, a really personal song about hopes and dreams, about heading west to make the impossible possible. I wanted to tell the story, not just of why people come to California, but what it is about creativity that’s so important, what it’s like when you achieve dreams and what it’s like when you don’t. So I made this documentary that’s not so much specifically about Los Angeles, but about a community. I interviewed some of the biggest stars in the world, as well as people that haven’t had their dreams come true. People that live on Hollywood Boulevard who are homeless and are faced with enormous challenges day in and day out.
I thought that juxtaposition was extremely effective. Did you get any “No’s” when you were sorting out who to include?
I didn’t. I got a lot of “Yes” and I think that’s probably because of the consistency and history of the work, or at least that’s what we heard back. In the past Kanye had asked me to direct a video for him, so there was some history there with him. I think that people felt like they were in good hands, they trusted me to take care of them. I was really, really interested in making something special and finding out the truth of some of these circumstances and situations. I’m a curious person and we have pretty fascinating people in front of the camera, so it was an incredible process.
Having now had such a long and rather varied career, what advice would you give your younger self when you first moved to LA?
I would probably say nothing because you have to learn your own lessons. I think failure is underrated. Failure sometimes is more important than success, it’s when you learn. If I was to reassure myself of anything it would probably be to continue to believe in myself.
As you mentioned, Kanye is in this video. He was the first guest on Bret Easton Ellis’ podcast, and on it he mentioned that when he goes through customs, he is tempted to write “Creative Genius” as his occupation. As someone who does a number of creative things, what do you write on your customs form?
It’s funny, what came to mind first was “Outsider.” I’ve often written artist because you’re right, I do so many different things. People mainly focus on musician and actor, but I spend a great deal of time editing, producing, and directing . I spend more time with those and dealing with technology and creating content than I do most other things. I’ve always been an artist. I started off in art school before I switched my major to filmmaking, and ended up dropping out. But I think an artist pretty much sums it up.
I saw Dallas Buyer’s Club this past weekend. You clearly lost a ton of weight for that role. Have you been enjoying eating like a regular human being on tour?
You would think that you fast and you lose 30, 40 pounds and you get down to 115 pounds that you would gorge on food, but what happens is your stomach shrinks so much that the first big meal you eat is about the size of a tablespoon. So it’s not as much fun as you’d think. And then there’s a whole weird psychological recovery process that comes into play when you start putting on the pounds. But it’s the role of a lifetime. It was an incredibly intense process and we’re really blown away by the response to the performance and to the film.
Well congratulations, you’re having quite an awesome few months.
Well you know, that’s what you get when you’re a creative genius.
Photo by Terry Richardson.