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Photog Greg Friedler Becomes Stripped Naked in Las Vegas

When I got the press release about this film, Stripped: Greg Friedler's Naked Las Vegas, that was being released asFriedler a DVD and as part of Showtime's rotating schedule, I figured, "What a weird thing to do to yourself." Here is a film shot by a documentary filmmaker about a photographer as he does a documentary photograph book about people willing to be photographed naked.

So when visual artist Greg Friedler decided to mine the making of his latest book as material for a documentary, what happened in Las Vegas didn't just stay in Vegas. The feature-length documentary chronicling this avant-garde photog creating his latest book in his Naked series premiered in March 2010 on Showtime.

Friedler got a chance to have others step into his world when he enjoined director David Palmer to fashion this film. A New York native, Palmer has worked in Hollywood for over a decade as a director, photographer and editor on docs, features, commercials, branded content and music videos for such talent as Juvenile, Nelly, Toni Braxton, Lil Wayne, The Dandy Warhols, The Charlatans UK, and Tripping Daisy. Palmer completed two half-hour TV docs for Rip Curl, and his next film is an indie mocumentary, Brothers Justice, starring Dax Shepard and Tom Arnold.

But this isn't 39-year-old Friedler's first nudity project -- he made three previous books before this one set in New York, London and Los Angeles. Most photographers are lucky if they have one book in their lifetime these four and more. And he has had two films made about his work already: Naked London on the BBC in 1999, and now Stripped: Greg Friedler's Naked Las Vegas.

Stripped: Greg Friedler's Naked Las Vegas is still garnering attention; it will be featured at the Las Vegas Film Festival on June 6, 2010, with the Colorado-based photographer attending. Currently shooting three new art projects, Friedler's gearing up to teach his workshops, to write a book about human suffering and to shoot his first narrative short this summer in Denver. And he is launching a new website,, that will be live later this week alongside Still, he found time to sit down and denude the core of his art.

Q: What's the fascination with getting people to expose themselves, of becoming naked in public?

GF: Spencer Tunick is [the photographer] who does [the public thing].
Q: By "in public," I mean you’re seeing them clothed, then seeing them naked. It’s in a book and a movie going out to the world. So it’s "public" in that sense.
Greg Friedler [photo: B. Balfour]GF: This deals with documenting people in a non-sexual, non-erotic way. This is not about sex; it’s about showing the entire person as they exist in society.

The clothed and unclothed, what they do for a living, their age -- all ties into my fascination with documenting society. Showing how someone looks if they’re a banker. How do look in their clothing? Then, how do they look when they’re naked?

When they’re naked they’re on [an equal] playing field because there are no demarcations of what they do for a living, their wealth or their poverty or whatever. It’s just the raw person. I saw the opportunity in Vegas because of what I did in London and the BBC documentary in London. I just had a vision for it and we did Stripped: Greg Friedler’s Naked Las Vegas.
Q: When you made the film, did people react differently than when you made it strictly as a book? You're asking people to be in a movie about it, so it has a different layer or level of exposure, so to speak.
GF: I took photos of 170 people in Vegas, which is a huge number because only 75 people make it into the book. I think only one out of those people didn't want to be in the movie, only one. So they went for it and it was great.
Q: There’s got to be a slightly different permutation to making a movie versus making a book.
GF: Well it's a different paradigm; it's a different starting place. The book is, "Okay, I’m going to shoot you clothed in three shots, three shots nude, ask what you do for a living and your age, and then, 'nice meeting you,'" and moving on to the next person.

The film is just a different set of assumptions. But only one person out of 170 did not want to be in the film, so it worked out.
Q: In New York, you can walk up to people on the street and say, "You want to be naked in a book?" Naked Cover

GF: That's not my style exactly.

Q: You obviously were trying to get different walks of life, so how did you find people when you got to individual cities?
GF: I found people through websites; I placed ads on places like Craigslist. You find people however you can find them. I talked to the bartender at the Stratosphere, where I was staying, and he did it. You just talk to people and you feel them out and see if you think it would be something they'd be interested in.

When you show them a published book like Naked New York or something, all they can do is say yes or no, and I would say I'm 50/50 -- 50 percent of the time they say yes.
Q: How different were each of the cities?
GF: Well, New York was the original city, so I did it as my thesis for grad school at the School of Visual Arts. I shot in a friend's dingy, tiny loft in Chelsea on West 27th Street between 10th and 11th before it became nice.

I shot that over a year. I placed an ad to begin with in The Village Voice, and 11 people responded. I met with them at the ScThe poster for the filmhool of Visual Arts in a studio and talked to them, then somewhere within those two weeks, I decided I didn’t want to shoot them naked in the studio. I wanted to shoot them clothed and naked in a loft, and did that.

I shot it over a year and it was an amazing project. L.A. was next and that was quite different because L.A.'s got a very different feel to it, a different energy and culture. L.A. was good but not great.

London was amazing. Not exactly with L.A., but New York and London are very, very old cities with deep roots. Vegas isn't like that. It's a very new city. It's a very specific, transient culture in Vegas.
Q: What was a common thread with the people that were willing to be naked?
GF: Well, you have your nudist contingent. You have the everyday Joe Blow lawyer/accountant who's got kind of a wild streak to them who wants to be in it. You're got your sex workers, which were a very huge population of Vegas. You have people that are dealing with entertainment and gambling.

But I knew going in I wasn't going to get celebrities, or get people that are Playboy models; and I wasn't going to get people that are hanging out at the Palms casino. I wasn't going to get that demographic because they have no reason for doing it. It doesn't promote their career at all.

Some of the people I shot were high on meth. The meth problem in Vegas is worse than anywhere else in the country; it's insane. There were four people I tried to track down. I went through friends, and they were like, "Yeah, they're dead. They moved." Meth is a huge problem in Vegas.
Q: How did it feel to be the subject as opposed to being the documentarian?
GF: I don't really love it, but I put up with it. I cringe when I see myself on screen.

Q: This film project was directed by David Palmer. Did you ever consider directing it yourself?
GF: I was thinking about it. The whole thing was my idea; I came up with the notion of doing Naked Las Vegas and documenting it. In 1999, I went to London for eight weeks and they did a documentary about me shooting Naked London, which aired on the BBC.

Q: What was it about this particular director that made you feel he was the right guy to do it?
GF: He was very excited about it. He had the right kind of energy and ideas, so we hooked up.
Q: Did you fight the urge to micromanage?

GF: I didn't want to micromanage.

Q: Were you shooting the movie while taking the pictures?
GF: During the entire month of August 2007, I was shooting pictures and he was shooting the movie.
Q: How different was it having David shoot the movie while you're doing the pictures?
GF: Not very different. I tried to keep it real and just let him do what he wanted to do. He would have me go and open a door or do certain things so that he could edit it back into the film later on.
Q: The difference between the book and the movie is that people are sharing directly into the camera. You’re getting their feedback. There’s something communicated by the wordlessness of the book, but by having the words heard here, what effect did that have for you and the viewer? Does it change or enhance the experience? You're the subject of the film, but you’re not; you’re the generator of it but you’re also the subject. Being videotaped doing the process makes for two different subjects.

GF: Sure. The real subject matter…
Q: There's documenting you doing it; it’s a layer upon a layer. It’s different from documenting something that’s just happening. It’s one thing to go into the whorehouse and go in to videotape it.
GF: It’s a documentary of me on my journey and Naked in Las Vegas. It’s a documentary that has its ebbs and flows of what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling, what I’m wanting.

During some of the film I’m really down. I’m not in a good mood because Vegas is an exceptionally crazy place to go for 30 days; it’ll hurt your soul big time.

I ran into a lot of problems with not being able to find people to shoot, and what I ended up doing, which was very wise, is Vegas, like Denver and some other cities, has First Fridays.

Usually I would shoot over a weekend and shoot 15, 20 people a day, if that. On First Friday in August of 2007 we put up a banner and I shot 55 people in the back of a gallery in three hours.
Q: What were the similarities and differences between people from New York, LA, London, Vegas?
GF: One good one is there was a gap from London, which is 1999, to eight years later in Vegas. One big thing is lack of pubic hair. A big lack of pubic hair, almost no pubic hair.

, the guy in the film who’s the homeless man -- I fell in love with him -- is just amazing, he doesn’t have any pubic hair. The guy doesn’t know where he’s going to sleep every night, and he’s shaving his pubic hair. That befuddled me.

That's why I am into being an artist, to ask, "Why is this woman wearing fake nails and why is she wearing this type of fake nails and what does that mean about her and what does that say about her humanity?"
Q: You are right. What amazes me is that even normal, ordinary people shaved in this thing.
GF: In the film, I talked about the lack of pubic hair and then  -- Oscar Goodman’s the mayor of Vegas -- I say as a joke, “Yep, it’s almost like Oscar Goodman put out a mandate: 'No more pubic hair for females.' ” He’s in the film; it’s hilarious. I cannot believe he signed a release and went in the film, but it’s hilarious.
Q: But not naked...
GF: No. Are you kidding me? He’s with the book and says, "I'm going to have to look at this after 10 martinis."

Q: Do you think of the gap in terms of era? Or is it more about place?
GF: Something changed in society. I don't think it has to do with London versus Vegas. And I wonder about these things. Where do they get the idea of shaving their pubic hair?
Q: You say there's an obvious gap between New York,  London and this book. New York was your first shoot.
GF: New York was in 1995.
Q: Would it be interesting to go back and do an addendum to New York and see if it was any different?
GF: It would be interesting to see if people look any different, if the people that came forth did anything different for a living.
Q: Or go back to the same people.
GF: Well that would be the only way to do it. I can't do it because I don't have contact with those people, but if I so choose, and I wouldn’t choose, but I would probably go back and do London if I could find those people. London was a very rich experience. It’s an amazing city; it's a big city, and I got people from all walks of life. When I get my hands on Naked London, I'll send it to you. You can watch that DVD.
Q: And how was LA versus New York?
GF: L.A. was very difficult. I succeeded, I did a good job, but it's not as powerful a book.
Q: Who would have thought L.A.? Because they go to the beach and they’re virtually half naked.
GF: It’s hard to get in touch with people in L.A. They’re so spread out and it's a car culture. It's very different. L.A. was not my favorite at all.
Q: I was in L.A. recently; I stayed in Venice part of the time.
GF: Venice is where I shot the L.A. book.
Q: I love Venice.
GF: I do too. I shot in a private outdoor courtyard.
Q: How did you find it?
GF: Through a friend who’s an artist who had a space next door. A guy that used to date Sandra Bullock who's an artist found me the space; it was brilliant.
Q: Did you find a difference in the kind of jobs that people had in L.A. versus New York or any of the other places?
GF: No.
Q: What also interests me is the difference between the men and the women. Do you find that the women are more willing to be naked -- or the men?
GF: You know what? It's even. There’s no way to really know it. People came forth, and they were very open, very loving, very nice, and they didn't have a problem with it.
Q: Any differences in terms of age range?
GF: It's always harder to get older people, always.
Q: I'd be hesitant just because I'm fatter than I used to be and it bothers me.
GF: Younger was not a problem. Middle-aged was not a problem. It's just a little older and was a little bit harder. I got more people in New York and London that were older.
Q: You were saying that when you do a book like this, you're also getting a sense of the character of the people.
GF: I do a book in a specific city because I'm interested in the culture; I'm interested in the people; I'm interested in the place. I get to know the people through the city and the city through the people. It's all one.

It's not about shooting naked people; it's about educating yourself about what a place is about. What is the culture? What are the trends? What's the energy?

And I did it in Vegas, and that's why Tokyo would be exquisite. If I do another book, like in Tokyo, I'd want to do that a little bit more, but it will not be another Naked book. It will be a massive survey of Japanese culture which involves my photographs and the work of three writers. We'll see what happens.

Q: That’s another reason why it was good documenting London or Vegas as a film… you’re learning about the people there. That isn’t easy to convey unless you have a camera there to share it.
GF: It’s conveyed in Stripped. It sheds light on a lot of things.

Q: The books offer one kind of aesthetic experience. Seeing images is one kind of experience. Seeing them in a film, it's almost like an adventure story unfolding as opposed to just seeing the end result, a document.
GF: Of course; it's a film versus a book, a film versus an art project. It's seeing something on a printed page versus motion picture. It uncovers a lot more.

Q: Did you ever think about getting naked yourself and doing your own portrait?
GF: Not really in these books. I'm in a couple of books naked. There's a book called Self Exposure where I do a self-portrait.

For now I'm over the naked thing and just moving on to other things. Things kind of ebb and flow as an artist, and you've just got to shoot what you want to shoot.

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Christopher Mintz-Plasse Wants to Kick Ass

Finally, a costumed crime-fighter film that's honest. In Kick-Ass, there's none of this smarmy above-it-all New York Times crit shit -- this is a comic book fan's movie, one for those who used to draw their own stories in grade school. Christopher Mintz-Plasse

For the supposed heroes here -- from naive teenager Dave Lizewski aka Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) to Damon McCready a.k.a. Big Daddy (Nic Cage) to his daughter Mindy a.k.a. Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) -- crime fighting is risky business, especially when superpowers are absent. It's best to be armed with weapons that can deliver injurious, even fatal, results.

Based on the cheeky comic-book miniseries by writer Mark Millar and artist John Romita Jr., this film, directed by smart Anglo Matthew Vaughn, employs action as a style statement. Of its stars, Cage may be the most recognizable, but it's really the kids as teen avengers that make it a sweaty and dirty-mouthed masterstroke.

Within this context comes the deliciously inept and insidiously flawed Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who might have been Kick-Ass' real buddy had he not been such a narcissistic jerk-off. Beaten down by his Mafioso capo father, Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), he hungers to please. To gain his father's respect and love, he does something that as a comic-book fan he normally couldn't imagine doing: He becomes a turncoat, and lures his costumed cohorts into an ambush.

Kick-Ass' conflicted nature, Red Mist's betrayal, hypnotic violence and nuanced 21st-century twists (Kick-Ass becomes famous through MySpace) elevate this movie from a dimwitted parody to a twisted psychodrama.

And while Moretz may be the real action figure, and Johnson, the potential heartthrob, Mintz-Plasse plays the un-crime fighter with all the pent-up angst and sexual awkwardness that effectively connect him and his character to his fanbase. Whether as McLovin (the iconic role he played in his cinematic debut, Superbad) or as Red Mist, M-P nails the overwrought state of teenhood. And his gangly angularity just enhances this role, whether intentional or not.

Having managed to establish one iconic character in a career remarkably scant on credits, M-P is a scene stealer with a hangdog face. Here, as in his upcoming turn on the cult-hit Starz sericomedy Party Down, Mintz-Plasse turns out to be a real actor, one who yearns to get beyond his own caricatures.

Nonetheless, when he saunters into this small roundtable interview a little late, he jokingly explains with a characteristically McLovin swagger that he was down the hall "doing coke and having sex with whores." We are not fazed. So to get down to business...

Q: Were you familiar with writer Mark Millar’s work and comic books in general?

CM-P: I wasn't too familiar. My dad has been a huge comic book fan since the '70s; he's got [more than a] thousand in our garage and by the toilet, something to read when he's going number two, and by his chair.

He's a massive Mark Millar fan, and I know I've read some of his comics back in the day, but I can't quite remember. Once I got the movie, my dad was so excited. He flew to London to hang out with Mark actually for a couple of days. He was very excited for that.

Q: In the comic, your character is quite a bit different. How did you get to be Red Mist?

CM-P: He's tougher, more the bad boy. I think Matthew [Vaughn, the director] wanted to change that because he wanted my [character's] father to be the main bad guy. So he wanted me to be kind of the son that's never the son his father wanted him to be. And he always wants to be in the family business, but then he created Red Mist. He's smarter; he creates it to lure Kick-Ass to him. I think it's very genius.

Q: Given your [real-life] father's [fan-boy] proclivities, did you get John Romita Jr. to do any drawings or artwork for him?

CM-P: Of course. The funny thing is that, 10 years ago, actually more like 12 years ago, my dad ... he can kind of draw, and my brother is a huge Iron Man fan, so he painted a mural of Iron Man on my brother's wall. It was actually Johnny Romita's Iron Man that he copied. So he took a picture of it, printed it out, brought it to the set, Johnny signed it, and then my dad also brought like 50 comics for Mark to sign. I felt really bad. But he was really excited about that.

Q: I heard that someone thought that Red Mist is sort of like Adam Lambert.

CM-P: I was going for the David Bowie look, and then some asshole was like, "Hey you look like Adam Lambert," and I'm like, "You ruined it all for me, man." I don't want that; that's not what I think.

Q: What was your inspiration for playing that character?

CMP: The Chris D'Amico part is very tame and low-key; he's always looking for his father's acceptance. Then when he created Red Mist, he allows his alter ego to come out: freer, smoking weed, blasting music and dancing with Kick-Ass. That more party side to him is what I was going for.

Q: One interesting thing about Kick-Ass is that it's about regular guys or kids. You spend a lot of time in that costume. Did you have some kind of training?

CM-P: I didn't have to do too much training. Chloe did a lot of training for this movie. But I hated that costume. It was awful. The first day it was amazing because I look so cool in it, and then after that you wear it for 12 hours a day and sweat non-stop, so you've got to just keep hydrated. Then the cape was tied very tight around my arms, and it would cut and I would get bruises and weird rashes in places. It was very, very uncomfortable.

Q: Aaron has discussed the jock strap problem of the costumes.

CM-P: Yes. And he had a one-piecer too, so it was very hard for him to go to the bathroom.

Q: Was there just one costume?

CM-P: They had two or three of them. They had one just regular and then they had one dirty one for the warehouse scene, when it burns down and [the uniform] gets all smoky and dirty. And they had two regular ones.

Q: Any regrets that you didn't get to be massively trained by all the wonderful stunt people?

CM-P: There's always that. But then four months into it, I'm just sitting there eating a sandwich and drinking a coke while [Chloe's] stressing out and working so hard. I was just kind of kicking back. But if there is a sequel -- knock on wood -- if there is one, I think I would train for that one and do some pretty cool stuff.

Q: Is it interesting to do an action movie where you might not usually be considered for that kind of role?

CM-P: Yeah, that's why I got excited when they sent me the script. And then I read it and I was like, "Oh, my part doesn't even do any action." But to be a part of something like this is amazing because these are my favorite kinds of movies, very well-done action movies.

Q: Do you ever worry about getting typecast?

CM-P: Not yet. In Superbad  I was kind of a nerdy character, and [in] Role Models [I] was kind of a nerdy character, but polar opposites. The McLovin character was very confident, and in Role Models he just had no friends. In Kick-Ass, he's not really a nerd or anything, so I'm not too worried yet.

Q: Was there any concern that the amount of X-rated language and violence was going to limit the audience?

CM-P: In my opinion, if I heard people complaining about a movie having too much violence, I'd be like, "Fuck, yeah, that's good, I want to go see that movie even more."

Q: But in terms of the ratings...

CM-P: I don't know. I don't listen to that kind of stuff because whoever it is that's complaining, they haven't seen the movie.

Q: In the UK, where it's out, there's been a lot of controversy.

CMP: Really? Who's doing it?

Q: One of the critics was saying...

CM-P: Oh, is it the Daily Mail ? They bash on everything, though. Fuck that [newspaper]. You can quote me on that -- "I don't care, man."

I just have to say, it's a comic book movie, it's all taken from the comic. If you have a problem with the movie, then you have a problem with the comic. There's nothing we can do about it. That's your fault for not enjoying the movie.

Q: Do you worry about kids imitating it?

CM-P: You'd have to be pretty stupid to imitate what happens in this movie. There aren't going to be any 11-year-old girls going out and trying to murder people. I know that. Or maybe there will be.

Q: The swearing wasn't really bothersome; it was more the violence.

CM-P: See that's the thing. People are always like, "Oh, you swear," and I'm like, "What about the violence?" I'm glad you say that, because people are always worried about the swearing; but she murders people.

Q: Was it weird to see her on set doing that stuff?

CM-P: It was awesome. It was so cool to witness it backstage and happening right there. It was very cool, very exciting for her.

Q: But 16-year-old vigilantes... You can see this little girl going after Mafiosos.

CM-P: I guess so. Do it at your own risk. I'm not promoting it. I don't want people to do it, but if they do it there's nothing I can do.

Q: So who do you think is going to see Kick-Ass? You've got the kids' faces everywhere, but it's an R-rated movie.

CM-P: I'm hoping we get the teenagers. Teenage boys are going to love it. My dad loves it; comic book fans are going to love it. We just did a screening in London, an all-girls screening, and they loved it.

Q: How old were they?

CM-P: Different ages; 20 to like 40 or 50. Aaron's a very cute guy, so I'm hoping girls will want to go see him [as well].

Q: Did you actually get to drive the Mistmobile?

CM-P: Yeah. That sucked because it was a stick shift, and I'd never driven a stick shift. So I had to learn on that car and it was like a $200,000 car. And if I wrecked it I'd have to pay for it. I'm getting all nervous and clammy right now just thinking about it.

Q: They didn't have insurance on it?

CM-P:They did. But Matthew [Vaughn] threatened me anyway.

Q: You didn't get to borrow it and take it out on a date?

CM-P: I didn't want to. I didn't want to touch that thing; I didn't want that on my hands.

Q: Were there a lot of pranks played on the set while you were making this movie?

CM-P: There were more pranks on Role Models. There weren't any pranks on the set.

Q: What was the vibe?

CM-P: Very relaxed, very fun. The thing is with Matthew, he has the same crew that he worked with from Stardust and Layer Cake. He always works with the same people, so you come in there and it's already a family. And they just accepted me right away and Chloe and Aaron; it was amazing.

Q: What about working with such a fierce character actor as Mark Strong?

CM-P: He's amazing; he always plays the villain in the movie, but you come in and he's just the sweetest, most down-to-earth guy. He's always got his family on set -- his two little kids and his wife. But actually, not on the violent days; he wouldn't have them be there. He didn't want them to see him beat the shit out of a girl. A very amazing, talented actor. I was excited to work with him.

Q: Did you take any notes from him?

CM-P: You just kind of watch. He's a different actor than I am. It's hard to take what he's doing because he's got his own thing and I've got my own thing. But we improved a little bit off each other, and you just kind of watch his facial expressions and learn from that.

Q: Were you free to improvise?

CM-P: A little bit. It's not like in Superbad and Role Models [where we] improv'd every scene pretty much. This movie was very straight to the script because action movies, you've got to keep them going. You can't improv an action scene; that won't work. But there were scenes when Aaron and I were driving in the Mistmobile and they let us do a little improv in there.

Q: Did you have a favorite gun? Would you want to take one home?

CM-P: I like the Barretta 50-caliber or whatever it's called. It's like a sniper gun. If I could have one of those I would be unstoppable.

Q: Not the bazooka?

CM-P: No, that would blow me away. That would push me back like 15 feet.

Q: I heard your dancing in that one scene was improvised.

CM-P: It was, yeah. There was no choreography; if there was choreography I would have been embarrassed. Matthew just put on 15 minutes of music. Gnarls Barkley... I was actually dating a girl out there that was in a band and he would kind of fuck with me and throw her band on while we were trying to dance, so that was fun. And then a bunch of other music and we just kind of grooved and danced.

Q: So we heard you're going to be a motherfucker?

CM-P: It's way too far in the future to know. I know that Mark is writing Kick-Ass 2 in a couple of weeks and he wants to change Red Mist's name to The Motherfucker, which I think is hilarious.

If they make the movie that will be very uncomfortable because people will be like, "Aren't you that Motherfucker?" I'll be like, "Those are fighting words, man. Don't be doing that." So we'll see what happens.

Q: I heard that the premise for the name change is just so that people can stop calling you McLovin.

CM-P: That's Mark, man; he's a genius like that.

Q: Will you be glad to not be called McLovin?

CM-P: Oh, it doesn't matter to me. For the rest of my life people are going to remember me [for that]... Hopefully they remember me for that character because that was my first movie ever, it put me on the map.

I got to do Kick-Ass and Role Models and all these movies I've worked on, so I'm always forever grateful for that.

Q: What else do you have coming out to balance out your career?

CM-P: I just had an animated movie that was released that did very well -- How to Train Your Dragon — and then I’ve got another voiceover for Marmaduke coming out. After that I have a few scripts that hopefully I'm going to be attached to. We’ll see when I get back to Los Angeles.

Q: What are you doing in Marmaduke?

CM-P: The voice of a little puppy. I love doing voiceover; I've done two of those now. And I love feature films, so whatever. If it's a good project I'm in for it.

Q: What about stage work?

CM-P: I’ve done theater since I was seven or eight, I believe, and I love that. I love the feeling of being in front of a live audience and doing that, so I would always be willing to do that.

Q: Have you ever wanted to do stand-up?

CM-P: I've never done stand-up. I’ve never written anything, and you have to write your own jokes, obviously, so if I do stand-up it will be a ways away.

Q: You could just improv it.

CM-P: That’s hard, man, very hard. I’ll do improve with other people, but stand-up comedy is just too stressful.

Q: Are you more likely to go into something like stand-up or to push into drama faster?

CM-P: Probably drama. To be honest, I probably won't do stand-up. And I'm always up for doing improv because I used to do improv with three of my good friends back in high school, and that’s always a lot of fun. But I want to try some drama.

Q: You're in that series of shorts, Untitled Comedy?

CM-P: Yes. [Put together by] the Farrelly brothers, that’s right.

Q: Do you know when that’s going to come out?

CM-P:There's no due date yet. I think they're still filming a couple, if I remember correctly. But my short is with Chloe, actually, so we got to work again on that.

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about what that’s about?

CM-P: Liz Banks directed [my segment], so it was very exciting to get to work with her again as well [after working together in Role Models] and with Patrick Warburton, Matt Walsh, Jimmy Bennett, and Chloe. It's about Chloe is dating my younger brother, and I'm like the douche-bag 20-year-old brother who's an asshole. Chloe gets her period for the first time, and she’s around three dudes who have no idea what to do [about it].

Q: Does Patrick Warburton play your father?

CM-P: He's my father and he's fucking good in it, man. It's amazing.

Q: Are you going to write and direct in the future?

CM-P:I have no idea. Two of my best friends are really good screenwriters, so when I get back I think I'm going to try to write with them. But that's very hard ahead in the future.

For more by Brad Balfour:


MIGHTY MOVIE PODCAST Interviews: The Square and The Sun Behind the Clouds

So what have we been doing for the past couple of weeks? Pulling our hair out, what's left of it. Making repeated calls to Verizon. Hosting a visit from their friendly and professional service person (really, no sarcasm there, the guy was good). The Sun Behind the Clouds

Being granted the privilege of shelling out for a replacement modem and still not having all of our problems resolved. But we're at least back more or less to where we were before our internet went south on us, so we're going to catch up on the outage by covering two films -- both very good -- this ep.

First up is an interview with Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, the married directors of The Sun Behind the Clouds, a documentary about Tibet's struggle for independence. A few years back, there were a handful of docs released on this topic. Most seemed to want to garner audience sympathy through scenic views of Buddhist temples and extended footage of prayer services -- not really the most compelling argument for this viewer.

Sarin and Sonam take a less romantic approach, focusing on the protests that rose up both within and without the country in 2008, while simultaneously following the Dalai Lama on his mission to gain international support for his controversial "Middle Way Approach," wherein the struggle for independence would be ceded in return for more autonomy and religious freedom. That the filmmakers chose to present real world politics -- including divisions within the movement itself -- rather than trying to seduce people with pretty images goes a long way tThe Squareowards making this film a valuable and comprehensive evaluation of one country's ongoing fight for liberty.

And while we're talking about seduction, we follow up with a conversation with Nash Edgerton, the Australian stuntman-turned-director whose debut feature is the wicked noir thriller, The Square. I'd seen this film at a screening almost a year ago, and ever since have been champing at the bit for its long-delayed release.

The film definitely traces its roots to the likes of Blood Simple and Red Rock West, but with a sense of brutal irony and a gratifyingly twisty interlacing of schemes and deceptions that makes it stand out on its own (and pretty much distinguish itself as uniquely Australian). It's a good, dark ride; however long it took to finally hit the screens, it's well worth the wait.

Pretty nice way to get back into production, methinks. Click the player to hear the show.



Famed Photog Harry Benson on the ScotlandWeek Beat

When a body meets a body comin' through the rye, you can be sure Harry Benson has been there and photographed that. The Glasgow-born photojournalist, who famously came to the U.S. with The Beatles in 1964, in the very same Pan Am jetliner that touched down amid throngs of young fans at the newly christened John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City, has photographed every sitting and former president from Eisenhower on.

That's a Benson portrait of Ron and Nancy Reagan dancing on the cover of Vanity Fair — and as photographer for Life magazine and others snapped newsworthy events from Elizabeth Taylor's cancer recovery to Hurricane Katrina. Among his many honors and awards, he was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.), the U.K.'s highest civilian honor, in 2009.

So this favorite son of Scotland was a natural to be onboard for ScotlandWeek -- the recent cultural celebration in cities across the U.S. and Canada. Among the events held across the continent, showcasing Scotland as a tourist and business destination, was the Harry Benson Retrospective Exhibition in Manhattan's gallery-filled Soho district (102 Greene St. 3/27 - 4/10, 2010).

There, alongside Scotland's Minster for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, and his devoted wife, Gigi, the 81-year-old imaging legend took time out from this latest in a long string of solo shows to talk about his life and art — and, of course, about being Scottish.

Q. What makes this show different from all the many, many exhibitions you've done?

Harry Benson:
It's to do something for Scotland here, you know. I owe an awful lot to Scotland. They also owe me a lot of money. No, I'm joking you. The Irish and the Puerto Ricans, everybody has their day, but Scotland always kept a low profile and we have more to offer than a bunch of Irish drunks. Only a joke.

Q. Your upcoming book is called New Yorkers, set here in your adopted city. Can you talk about it?

HB: I'll be putting some Scottish people in it; people with Scottish ancestry. We're wonderful people; most of the British Army were the Scottish regiments.

Fiona Hyslop: The Scots travel the world and have traveled the world for many years, and indeed obviously helped form the early Americas. The bonds that tie Scotland and America are long and strong and Harry's one of our greatest creative talents. I suspect, Harry, you're one of our most famous Scots-Americans.

HB: That certainly wasn't where I started out in life, believe me. I just wanted to stay on the payroll at the end of the week.

Q: Since we're celebrating both Scotland and New York, what are your favorite places in New York and Scotland.

HB: My favorite place here would probably be [the Upper East Side restaurant and literary hub] Elaine's [1703 2nd Av., NY; 212-534-8103].

Q. And in Scotland?

HB: I like Rogano [11 Exchange Place, Glasgow, Glasgow City G1 3, UK; 0141 248 4055]. It's a real restaurant; it's not just a bunch of kids running it.

FH: Regano always had style and Regano has always been there.

HB: Yes, that's right. When I grew up, it was a place [where if you could eat there] that you knew that you made it.

Q: How long ago did you make a home here?

HB: I came to America with The Beatles in 1964. I came on the same plane. My job was working on [the London newspaper row known as] Fleet Street at the time, and I never went back [to the U.K.] except to show off my mother. But I would go back an awful lot, like three or four times a year. If I was in Europe I always turned right and went up and saw my friends and pals in Glasgow, played golf at Troon, went through to Edinburgh.

Q: Photographers all know the famous Eddie Adams story about the day the Beatles came, and  he was standing with the other photographers on the tarmac saying the best angle, which he wished he could have gotten, would be behind the Beatles coming out the plane – and there you were, exactly there! How did you actually get on the plane?

HB: I was covering them for the London Daily Express.

Q: Were there any other photographers on the plane with you?

HB: No.

Q: How did you manage to be the only one?

HB: [Being] very clever, very smart. I wormed my way into [the inner circle of] The Beatles; I got very close to them.

Q. Did you know [Beatles manager and impresario] Brian Epstein?

HB: Oh, yes. Epstein was a very nice man, meaning he never put any obstacles in your way and he was open and let anybody that was legitimate get to them. Which is one of the reasons for their success, that anybody could get to them.

Q: What was the moment when you knew you were going to get on the plane?

HB: I knew about a week before I was all right.

Q: Was it just asking and they said okay? Was it as simple as that?

HB: You know who else was on the plane? [Legendary record producer] Phil Spector.

Q: That must have been fun.

HB: See, when you're working, it's not funny. It's dead serious, because you're working on deadlines. It's just to stay as close as you can to any subject.

Q: Sean Connery's another favorite son and has done a lot to support Scotland and you no doubt have photographed Sean over the years and gotten to know him.

HB: I know him, but I don't know him. I don't get that close to celebrities at all. Once I'm finished with them I'm finished. And the reason for that is I don't want someone like Sean Connery saying to me over dinner, "Oh, Harry, that picture of me in the bubble bath, please don't use it." [If that were to happen,] now I've got a problem with a good friend. Once I'm finished, I'm out of Dodge.

Q: The transition to digital photography happened late in your career. How did you adapt to it?

HB: I had to. And it's wonderful. When I go to colleges and I give talks they ask me about it, but you know, all I can say about it is it's magic. How can you explain it? What it's done is made everybody able to take a photograph, and a good photograph. Before you would send pictures and they'd all come back crappy.

Q: Do you use Photoshop, Lightbox?

HB: I don't manipulate, I don't change anything, because that's what's wrong with photography right now in the magazines — you don't know if the picture's a fake or not, and unfortunately, the majority are.

Q: Do you have a favorite picture that's up here?

HB: Of course, it's The Beatles' pillow fight, because that picture [and the prominence it gave him] meant I was coming to America.

FH: That's one thing with Scots, is that they've gone to different places, gone to different countries, and made things happen. That's what the Scots do.

HB: The Scots make things happen, the Scottish people do; that's a fact. They're hardworking and they make things happen.

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