"We're telling this story because it's a provocative one ..."
It's normally the practice that you interview the people involved with a film before its release; talking to them after -- even as little as three day after release -- can bring on an entirely different perspective. In Marc Forster's "Machine Gun Preacher," Michele Monaghan plays Lynn Childers -- the wife of Gerard Butler's Sam Childers, and the catalyst for his transformation form prisoner to preacher. Still, Sam's transition -- and Lynn's life -- go in very different ways than that simple synopsis suggests. We spoke with Monaghan by phone, touching on how you best play a real person, the challenges that "Machine Gun Preacher" faced in its first week in theaters, and which of her film's she'd most like to return to.
With 'Machine Gun Preacher,' the one thing I'm wondering about is, in a lot of ways, your character kicks off the big philosophical turn of the film, and does so on screen. When Sam Childers comes home, Lynn says, 'I've found Jesus, I've quit stripping, I've made an act of effort to change my life; you're onboard or you're not.' Was that interesting to know you would have all of that to convey without the audience seeing any of it?
Monaghan: Yes, because it wasn't just that. This is a woman that was conflicted. That's basically the start of her arc, really. My challenge in playing her was really to show a woman that was completely torn by two worlds. This is the world in which she feels so compelled to support her husband, who's doing great good in the world and continues to do that, but at the same time sacrificing her family's needs and her needs as a woman and as a wife, as a mother. That was the challenge in trying to convey that and having to spend a lot of time with Lynn, that actually became very apparent to me in what tools she uses in her day-to-day life.
When you're playing a real person, how much time do you spend with them? You want to absorb as much as you can while still leaving yourself some wiggle room.
Monaghan: That's exactly right. We started off speaking on the phone, and then I actually went to Central City and spent a weekend with them. That time I spent with them was invaluable, because all the questions that I posed Lynn and having her be so forthcoming and honest with me -- and they were tough questions, of course. Also, watching them as a couple and understanding their dynamic and what really keeps them together, that glue that keeps them together. They still, after all these years and considering everything they've been through, have a great passion for each other, great love for one another. The thing that binds them is their faith and their belief that Sam is doing God's work and he's really changing the world in a very great way.
But we went with a picture of (possible) star Angelina Jolie instead
Arrives on DVD and Blu-ray on Friday, September 30
What passes for a screenplay involves the discovery of Sentinel Prime, the former leader of the Autobots, on the dark side of the moon, and the Decipticon plot to enslave humanity to rebuild their homeworld. At least, that's the part that doesn't concern once and future hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) trying to land a job. Seriously, the kid who save saved the world -- twice -- and essentially signed the greatest living weapons in the universe to an exclusive partnership with the American military can't land a job, merely a supremely hot and utterly vacant new model girlfriend (Victoria's Secret model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley in her acting debut, though there's less action than posing and walking around seductively in runway fashions and underwear) and an absurdly luxurious Washington D.C. loft. What, no one in the Defense Department will give the guy a letter of recommendation?
Anyway, after an ingenious hook of an opening scene, Bay and screenwriter Ehren Kruger pile on caricatures (John Turturro as the obsessive Agent Simmons, John Malkovich as eccentric software genius Bruce Brazos) and comedy scenes (special credit to Alan Tudyk, who vamps tired bits with madcap commitment and wild intensity) until Sentinel Prime is revived with the voice of Leonard Nimoy (complete with gratuitous "Star Trek" gag) and the evil Decipticon scheme is revealed. Then the film revs up for an hour of non-stop combat. Because when you get down to it, this is a movie about giant alien robots who go to war in Chicago and destroy half the city along the way. Who needs a story?
Except it's no longer titled that
'Lamb of God' will presumably come to redefine 'annoying'
The actress hopes to make more movies after her TV show “Chuck” wraps next spring
How often do you find yourself singing the Polish national anthem with the cover model for Maxim magazine—while surrounded by U.S. troops! That’s where I found myself last week when I was at Edwards Air Force Base with Jason Statham and several cast members from his new film, “Killer Elite.” The actors had traveled to Edwards to screen the film for nearly a thousand troops, many of whom were either just back or about to leave for another tour of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. I knew that the Australian-born Strahovski, star of the NBC series “Chuck,” was the child of immigrants and that Polish was her first language. Coming from a Polish background myself, Strahovski and I were chatting about our heritage in a corridor at the air force base when we spontaneously broke into a duet of the Polish anthem. Jeszcze Polska nie zginela, poki my zyjemy… Our song produced stares from some of the air force top brass.
Strahovski was on her way to sign movie posters and copies of the October Maxim for the troops and their families. I watched as she engaged each person who came up to her and lit up their faces, one after the other. Someone had brought cases of the men’s magazine for Yvonne to sign and I admit it was a bit odd seeing so many women and young boys and girls walking around with copies of Maxim! Yvonne’s pictorial in the issue is titled “Stripped to Kill!” but don’t worry—the pictures of the stunning actress are nothing you need to hide from the kids!
“Killer Elite” is a testosterone-based action film that features Strahovski as Jason Statham’s love interest and one of the main reasons he’s trying to break free from his life as an assassin. After the signing, I talked to Yvonne about what attracted her to the role.
Strahovski: It was a cool script and I liked the fact that there was a love story that went much deeper than what you’d usually see in that kind of film with the “token girl.” This was much more than that—the love story added a lot of meaning to the movie, it was sort of the anchor of Jason’s story.
You got to use your actual Australian accent for a change.
Strahovski: Yes, that was great! It was such a bonus that we shot the film in Australia. And the project kept growing. When I first signed on, it was just Jason Statham, which was exciting because he’s so awesome, but then Clive Owen signed on and then Robert De Niro. What a thrill to work with those guys!
The "Willy Wonka" author's other children's books have fared well at the movies
As a lifelong Roald Dahl fanatic, I was thrilled to learn today that DreamWorks recently nabbed the movie rights to another of the late British author’s children’s books. “The BFG” is about a Big Friendly Giant who is an outcast among his own kind. He teams up with an orphan girl named Sophie and the misfits work together to save the Queen from a murderous plot. The Wrap reports that the live-action film will be produced by the team of Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall (“The Bourne Ultimatim,” The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) with a screenplay by veteran writer Melissa Mathison (“E.T.”) whose last film was the 1997 Martin Scorsese Dalai Lama epic, “Kundun.”
Roald Dahl understood the darker side of childhood more than any children’s author I can think of. When I was young, my two favorite books were Dahl’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach.” At first glance they seemed to be fun, colorful children’s stories, but in reality the books were macabre studies of human fallibility. While protagonists Charlie and James seemed like the models of innocence despite their bleak, poverty-stricken lives, they were surrounded by a coterie of unsavory, mean-spirited, even sadistic characters. When the first movie version of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” came out, I wrote to my favorite author and was delighted to receive the following response:
“My dear Danny—Your splendid letter has followed me here. Thank you so much for writing. With love from Roald Dahl.” I used to study the Rand McNally globe in my bedroom and imagine the journey my “splendid letter” took as it traveled from my home in Chicago to the Buckinghamshire, England estate where Dahl lived with his wife, actress Patricia Neal, and their children, to the vacation resort in Spitsbergen, Norway, where the Dahls were staying.
The next children’s book that Roald Dahl published was called “Danny, the Champion of the World.” What was I to think? The author was obviously so moved by my letter that I had inspired his new book. Well…maybe not, but I’m happy to grant DreamWorks the rights to this excellent story as well. As long as I have full casting approval for the main role!
The musician/actor will star in a biopic of the late record producer Neil Bogart
Get our your disco balls, kids. In what promises to be a gloriously campy period piece, Justin Timberlake will play the lead in “Spinning Gold,” a movie bio of the late record executive Neil Bogart who founded Casablanca Records and made superstars out of KISS, Donna Summer, and the Village People. Timberlake seems perfectly cast as the flamboyant Brooklyn-born Bogart. Indeed, two of Bogart’s children, Tim and Evan Bogart, whose Boardwalk Films will produce the music-heavy drama, couldn’t be happier. They’d been trying to get the rags-to-riches bio off the ground for decades (Neil Bogart died of cancer in 1982 at the age of 39) but couldn’t find anyone to embody the spirit of their father. Finally, someone suggested Timberlake. “When Justin walked into the room, that was the moment I had been waiting for 29 years,” Tim Bogart said. “He has the exact same energy as my father, the same glimmer in his eye.”
Justin Timberlake’s star continues to rise following his knockout portrayal of Napster co-founder Sean Parker in “The Social Network” and his star turn opposite Mila Kunis in this year’s “Friends With Benefits.” Before donning his disco threads for “Spinning Gold,” Timberlake will be seen as the lead in the sci-fi flick “In Time” with Olivia Wilde and Amanda Seyfried.
Timberlake will also get his first producer’s credit for the Bogart biopic. No director is attached yet but Boardwalk hopes to start shooting some time next year. The movie is bound to be full of plum character parts, terrifying polyester and spandex fashions, and crazy choreography. Who do you think should be hired to play the outrageous disco stars of the 1970s?