The Noah Baumbach film follows the exploits of a floundering 27-year-old woman in Brooklyn who is trying to grow up
Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York, but doesn’t really have an apartment. Frances has a best friend named Sophie (Mickey Sumner) but they aren’t really speaking. Frances throws herself into her dreams even as their possible reality dwindles. Frances wants so much more than she has, but lives her life with unaccountable joy and lightness. “Frances Ha” is a modern comic fable in which director and co-writer (with Gerwig) Noah Baumbach explores New York, friendship, class, ambition, failure, and redemption. Filmed in glorious black and white, “Frances Ha” evokes the best of Woody Allen with a little Lena Dunham thrown in for good measure. The film also stars Adam Driver, Charlotte d’Amboise, and Grace Gummer. I spoke with Greta Gerwig in Los Angeles.
MSN Movies: This is such a great character and the film seems like it is a very personal project for you.
Greta Gerwig: It is, and it’s very exciting to finally be able to show it to people. Usually when I’ve acted in things I’ve come to it much later in the process so it’s not as long as a wait until it gets out there. But writing it and casting it and getting it into production and acting in it and the whole editing process—I feel like I’ve lived with it for so long now. So when people like it, you think, “Thank God, because that was two years of my life!”
When you co-write a character like this and then play that character, are there times on set where you think, “Hold it, Frances wouldn’t do that!” Did you and Noah Baumbach have discussions about what was right for Frances while you were making the film or were you always on the same page?
Well, when we were writing it, I actually had to not think about playing the character at all. I just removed myself from that completely otherwise I would have felt very self-conscious and creatively blocked. But once we were on set, we both kind of knew when it was working and when it wasn’t. There were days when it took me a second to find exactly how I needed to do it and to feel Frances’s rhythms and the way she should look and sound but other times it was there very quickly.
It must feel different when you’re the writer and the actor. I’m sure there are times on other movies when you’re struggling a little bit and find yourself thinking, “Who wrote this thing?” But here the answer is, “Oh crap—I did!”
(Laughs.) Yes, there were definitely moments like that! Especially because Noah and I were very specific about words and word order. We didn't really do any improvisation in this movie or changing of lines. People on this movie didn’t “make the lines their own.” We worked really hard in the writing stage to make the script as specific as possible. We had very specific rhythms and sometimes I would get so frustrated because I would be tripping over something that I had written and I would be like, “What does it matter if she says it this way or that way?” And then the writer in me would say, “It does matter! You don’t want other people to mess it up, so now you have to treat it with the same respect.”
I mean this as a total compliment, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if you said, “We had the basic idea for certain scenes but then we just let the actors go.” The dialogue just sounded that natural. But on the other hand, it makes sense to hear that you had a very tight script because some of those scenes could never have seemed as “real” and as uncomfortable if you were improvising that dialogue.
No, and it’s also much easier to disguise certain plot points if you have a solid script. I think that when you’re improvising, you’re not clever enough in the moment to finesse those moments but as writers, you can say, “Okay, this information needs to come out but it has to feel like they're not broadcasting it.” I like to improvise in my actual life, but I’ve gotten to a place with acting where I really enjoy sticking very close to a script. I find it’s more fun to work with actors that way. There are such great actors in this movie and they really get to show what they can do with text.
And obviously there are so many different ways you can approach a line, so I guess as actors you’re always improvising to some extent.
Her personal exploration of her own family's secrets is the subject of a riveting new documentary
What can’t Sarah Polley do? She was a beloved child star in the TV series “Road to Avonlea,” graduated to adult roles in acclaimed indies such as “The Sweet Hereafter,” “Last Night,” and “My Life Without Me,” achieved cult status with her starring role in Zack Snyder’s remake of “Dawn of the Dead,” and got an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for “Away from Her,” her directorial debut that starred Julie Christie. Last year I spoke to Polley about her second film as writer/director, the poignant “Take This Waltz” starring Michelle Williams and Seth Rogen, and now she's back with “Stories We Tell,” a truly remarkable and very personal documentary about her quest to uncover a big family secret, namely, the identity of her biological father. While her four siblings often joked that Sarah didn’t look that much like them, it was only as an adult that Sarah learned the truth—that her vivacious actress mother, Diane Polley, who died when Sarah was 11, had conceived her during an extramarital affair when she was on the road with a play. But “Stories We Tell” is far more than a talking heads exposé—all of Polley’s family members participate in the film in a big way telling their understanding of the story along with other family friends who knew her mother. Polley weaves this material together with “home movie” footage and excerpts from an explosively honest memoir written and read by Michael Polley, the man she grew up thinking was her biological dad. In giving voice to the ephemeral nature of family truths, Sarah Polley has created an unusual and masterful new documentary. I talked with Polley in Los Angeles.
MSN Movies: I loved this film so much that I can’t stop talking about it. It’s come to the point where people I know are saying, “We get it and we'll go see it. Now shut up already!”
Sarah Polley: That’s awesome! I did that with “There Will Be Blood.” I never stopped talking about it and I kept running into Paul Thomas Anderson because it was the same year that “Away From Her” was nominated and there was a moment where he'd had enough and actually said to me, “Sarah! I get it--you like the film more than ANY-body else in the world!” It’s really great to know that someone’s doing that with my movie!
I think everyone will resonate with the themes of family secrets and the different ways we tell family stories. My sister and I are constantly fighting about “it didn’t happen that way, it happened this way.” Your siblings are all so great in the film. What would you have done if one of them had been like, “Ugh, you can’t make this film! I refuse to participate!”
I think that if any of them had had serious objections, I probably wouldn’t have made it. To be honest, I was amazed at how agreeable and open to it they all were. That was a really amazing advantage to have.
You seem like a fairly private person—is doing press for this film difficult? I mean, how can we NOT ask questions that are really personal when we’re talking about this film?
I think that’s part of the deal. I think when you open up a film like this, anything that’s in the film is fair game to talk about. I’ve actually strangely enjoyed this process. Usually I kind of dread promoting a film because it feels like you’re selling something—it feels very separate from your job and you end up answering the same questions over and over. But with this one the questions are never the same. It feels like an ongoing part of the process of the film—it’s about storytelling, it’s about different versions of the same event, it’s about interpretation and misinterpretation. I think it’s very interesting to see the different perspectives that people take away from the film and how they project their own family lives onto it. I love that I’m hearing as much about other people’s families, like what you just told me [Sarah and I had just had a long discussion about the personal connections I felt to the film based on my own family story] than I'm talking about my own. To me, those exchanges are such a gift!
Well, speaking of very personal questions, when you found out about your biological dad, did you have any resentment toward your mother for not telling you about it when she knew she was dying?
I’m not sure she did know that she was dying. She probably did, but I was only eleven at the time and I’m not sure how you’d talk to an eleven-year-old about this stuff.
Do you think she mostly kept it a secret to protect your dad?
Yes. To be honest, I really think it was the right decision to not tell me. I think it’s great when people know from the beginning of their lives who their biological parents are, obviously, but I also think it’s fine to not know. I don’t know what it would have added to my life as a child except confusion. I think as an adult it was really interesting information to discover. Maybe she would have told me as an adult, I do wonder about that. But I think to put that on a child at the age of ten or eleven would be kind of an odd decision.
Was she ever part of the joking about your parentage that your family members did? Or did that all happen after she died?
That was after she died. I don’t know if any of this information would have ever come out if she had lived.
Have you thought about what her reaction would be to the film?
On fight-scene envy, the future of science, technobabble and comic relief.
As physician Leonard 'Bones' McCoy and Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott, Karl Urban and Simon Pegg get to provide the Enterprise with its brainpower -- and, as actors, provide the film with more than a few sidelong laughs and moments of meta-commentary. We spoke with Urban and Pegg in London about jargon, fusion, fights, accents and more.
MSN Movies: Playing Scotty and Dr. McCoy, do you guys ever get fight scene envy? You get great lines, you get great action bits, but you two don't exactly get to turn the five into one and put that fist into anyone's faces.
Karl Urban: (Laughs) I like that. That's a good one.
Do you have fight-scene envy?
Urban: No I don't, actually, and it's because I've done quite a few films where I get to do that. So for me it's a real pleasure to play a character that's based partially in comedy and in medicine.
Simon Pegg: I actually got to deliver what's called a 'Glasgow kiss' in this film.
Urban: You did. You get to fight in this film.
Pegg: I had a fight sequence, which was a lot of fun.
Urban: I'm so envious.
Pegg: So you do get it! So that was nice, but Kirk in the end is the real brawler. So yeah, we all look at Chris, although Zach gets some extraordinary fight scenes.
He also has that great action run like something out of "Terminator 2," the whole stiff-elbow ready-to-kill.
Urban: The Tom Cruise action run!
The fest kicks off with an okay 'Gatsby' and the button-pushing 'Heli'
Amat Escalante takes a long, hard look at how organized crime warps one Mexican family
The antihero returns and, you know, now it's personal
It seems we've missed the fervor over one of Vin Diesel's most iconic roles - as antihero Riddick, the perma-escaped convict who can see in the dark, utterly destroy his enemies in battle, and continually get away from the apparent hordes of bounty hunters coming after him. Diesel's Riddick has starred in (and survived, somehow) two films already - 2000's "Pitch Black" and 2004's "The Chronicles of Riddick" - and now he's back for more. Because that's what people want? Seriously, is this what people want? We've missed the spaceship here. We're more fans of "Fast and Furious," really.
So what's on board for the newest Riddick film? Well, it seems like more of the (apparent) same. We'll just let the press release explain this one, as we're still at a loss when it comes to the appeal and mythology of the character: "the infamous Riddick has been left for dead on a sun-scorched planet that appears to be lifeless. Soon, however, he finds himself fighting for survival against alien predators more lethal than any human he’s encountered. The only way off is for Riddick to activate an emergency beacon and alert mercenaries who rapidly descend to the planet in search of their bounty. The first ship to arrive carries a new breed of merc, more lethal and violent, while the second is captained by a man whose pursuit of Riddick is more personal. With time running out and a storm on the horizon that no one could survive, his hunters won’t leave the planet without Riddick’s head as their trophy." Okay...so, that will be fun? Or violent? Or entertaining? Or all of those things?
The film also stars Karl Urban, Jordi Mollà, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Bautista, Bokeem Woodbine, Raoul Trujillo, and Nolan Gerard Funk.
Check out the first trailer for "Riddick" after the break.
"It's nice to part of something that's a little bit more ... enigmatic.'
In a grey cardigan and white t-shirt, Benedict Cumberbatch couldn't possibly look any less like John Harrison, the villain and rogue Starfleet operative he plays in "Star Trek Into Darkness." Greeting the press with a warm smile -- which nonetheless must tightly keep the film's secrets -- Cumberbatch spoke with us in London about playing the bad guy, getting in shape, J.J. Abrams' secrets and more ...
MSN Movies: How comforting is it as an actor to just put on the apparatus of evil? The dark clothing, the menacing poses, the threats?
Benedict Cumberbatch: I try to play with those elements, but also to try and carve out something new; this is a man who cries and has deep emotional and very sort of justifiable reasons behind his terrifying actions. Yes, he's terrorizing and scares the living daylights out of you, but at the same time there's a real moral purpose to his actions. He's a terrorist, but he's also another man's freedom fighter. And he's home-grown; he comes from Starfleet. So there are those kind of complexities that I think we try to pull him into, which was there in the writing of J.J.'s direction. But especially those kinds of psychological warfare that goes on when he's a still body and not wreaking havoc on ships and space on the ground and on Earthand everywhere else he's wreaking havoc, but you know, it's fun to play with their minds as well as the brawn.
Your character John Harrison has a number of secrets. Were you informed of those before you read the script, or did you discover them like the audience is going to?
No, I knew of them. And that's a good thing obviously because you need to have that sort of thing to back up the decisions you're making at any given moment. It's a contextual thing so if you know what your previous circumstances are and what your end game might be it's helpful to understand the tactics that you're employing to get what you want in the scenes. So I kind of needed to know. But yeah, it was a bit of a process to get the script. It was actually flown over here in person from someone from Bad Robot who (had it) ...
Handcuffed to their wrist?
Yes. And it didn't self-destruct after five seconds -- I'm joking. But it was a joy. And that kind of makes it a thrill you know? It's a thrill that hopefully the audience will enjoy it because they'll walk in and they won't have a checklist of what they've seen, supposed even trailers, or interviews like this. They will just discover it in the moment of the scene in the theater. So I think that's a rare thing in our modern, saturated, kind of publication of things and publicizing things, and it's nice to be part of something that's sort of a little bit more enigmatic.
Audiences best know you from that terrific, new iteration of "Sherlock Holmes" that you do, but was it gratifying to be able to jump into something a lot more physical with a capital 'P?'
'3:10 to Yuma' and 'Jubal' get the Criterion treatment
"3:10 to Yuma" (Criterion)
Delmer Daves was a Hollywood pro with a long career and an impressive filmography. He established himself as a screenwriter with a series of light comedies and romantic melodramas (including the original 1939 "Love Affair") before stepping behind the camera with the World War II adventure "Destination Tokyo." Like most directors of his era, he moved easily between all genres – war pictures, romances, melodrama, and a few noir-inflected dramas (notably "The Red House" and "Dark Passage"), but he proved his affinity for the western from his very first effort in the genre, the 1950 classic "Broken Arrow." Along with his fine eye for imagery, Daves brought a psychological dimension and an adult sensibility to his westerns. In his best films, his characters had relationships and emotions that came out of real life.
Criterion's stamp on two of his most interesting westerns may help bring a little more attention to the director. "Jubal" (Criterion) is the first of three westerns Daves made with actor Glenn Ford, already a seasoned western presence by 1956. Here he's an itinerate cowhand and a wary loner hired by rancher Ernest Borgnine, a garrulous, generous guy who becomes both father figure and best friend to the emotionally bottled up cowhand. It's been called "Othello" on the range, with Rod Steiger as the bitter ranch hand playing Iago to Borgnine's Othello, but the Desdemona of this piece is no innocent victim but a dark, exotic beauty (she's Canadian, apparently to explain away Valerie French's accent) in a stifling marriage to the sincere but crude and boisterous cattleman. Young and deeply disenchanted, she sets her eyes on the simple, stoic cowboy.
This is less a Shakespeare western than a Hollywood melodrama in chaps and Daves was a seasoned hand at both genres. He favors suspense to action and violence, tightening the tension until Steiger (himself spurned by French) finally pushes his boss over the edge and the cycle of violence begins. Even then, the violence is brief and abrupt and Daves leaves the most brutal assault offscreen. Noah Beery Jr. and John Dierkes offer easy-going support as Ford's friendly bunkmates and fellow cowhands and Charles Bronson takes a small but key role as a plain-speaking cowhand whose loyalty to Ford's Jubal is unshakable even when Steiger turns the town against him. Daves brings out Bronson's easy-going humor and understated style, a side so rarely tapped by other directors.