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Melbourne based actor Eric Bana has played his share of heroes and villains. Initially thanks to his rugged good looks and naturally buff physique he’s been cast as a heroic good guy in The Hulk or Munich even as a romantic lead Henry in the scifi thriller The Time Traveler’s Wife.
But his sort of cool and detached demeanor led him to more morally ambiguous even dastardly parts such as the assassin father Erik Heller in Hannah and the renegade Romulan Nero in JJ Abrams’s rebooted Star Trek.
Now the 45 year-old actor is playing a character that lands right in the middle -- a morally ambiguous yet familiar place for most of us -- in the British legal thriller Closed Circuit. Barrister Martin Rose wants to be a properly steadfast defense lawyer and hero yet find himself trapped between the ideal and the politically expedient.
Read more: Australian Actor Eric Bana...
Ashton Kutcher was still channeling Steve Jobs at the Teen Choice Awards last Sunday where he received the Ultimate Choice award. In his acceptance speech the “Jobs” star extolled values he credited to the Apple co-founder. (Josh Gads, who plays a sympathetic and sensitive Steve Wozniak in the biopic, presented Kutcher with the award.)
Kutcher gave teenagers three tips. First he spoke about the value of hard work. He said he was never too good for any of his jobs, including his first, hanging shingles with his dad. His second bit of advice – which naturally got the most applause - was about being sexy. “The sexiest thing in the entire world is being really smart,” Kutcher said. I’m not sure the screaming audience members listened to the rest of the sentence, where Kutcher said, “Be smart. Be thoughtful. Be generous. Everything else is crap.”
Finally, Kutcher said, “Steve Jobs said that when you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is … everything around us we call life was made up by people who were no smarter than you. And you can build your own things. Build a life.”
At the press conference for “Jobs” recently in Manhattan, Kutcher, along with director Joshua Michael Stern, talked about the challenge of portraying the Apple co-founder realistically and honestly onscreen. (Aaron Sorkin, who optioned rights to the Jobs’ story inspired by the Walter Isaacson biography, is working on his own movie version.)
The box office for “Jobs” has been lackluster so far – a little over $9 million on a $12 million budget – which doesn’t diminish how hard Kutcher worked to personify and recreate the digital age hero. He ate like Jobs, which landed him in the emergency room. He walked like Jobs. Most importantly, he tried to channel his creative process.
Below are edited highlights from the press conference:
Q: Was there anything you were surprised to learn about Jobs?
Stern: I was surprised about that the man who gives all these keynote speeches we've all associated with being such a beautiful eloquent speaker, that when I interviewed people who were on the very first early Mac team, they talked about how difficult it was for him to explain things… Because he tried to tell them things that hadn't existed yet and that's there was no point of reference so he had an image and a picture, but he was trying to find the words to articulate something that wasn't there ... I was fascinated that the young Steve struggled with explaining.
Kutcher: The thing that I probably least expected to find was his perspective on education. I found this speech that he gave when he was about 25 or something and he was speaking to a bunch of high school kids that were about to graduate, and he encouraged them - apparently there'd been a couple of other speakers right before him, and all these kids were preparing to go to these great schools - and Steve got up in front of them and said, you know, a lot of the really successful people that I know in the world, they didn't go to school, and they didn't get a degree. They had a broad set of life experiences that enabled them to bring something valuable that people with a standardized education couldn't bring and to encourage these kids to maybe go to Paris and try to write poetry for a while or fall in love with two people at one time or try LSD like Walt Disney did when he came up with the idea for "Fantasia," and that maybe this standard education wasn't the greatest means to creative solutions but rather a diverse set of experiences in life could be the greatest education that you could have. And I found it to be very surprising that that would be his opinion, and I think it was an opinion that he carried and reiterated throughout his life, and I think it's a valuable one.
Q: Jobs comes across as a visionary but not much fun to work with. Did you ever meet him?
Kutcher: I never met him. I have a lot of colleagues and close friends who did. I have a lot of friends that considered themselves friends with him and admired him. I too admired the work that he did.
One of the first things you learn as an actor is to never judge your character. We as human beings are flawed and most of the time the decisions and choices that we make at the point in time when we're making that decision we feel like we're making the right decision or the right choice and we feel like we're behaving in the right way, in a justified way, and so there were some things that Steve Jobs' approach seemed very blunt and unkind, however, it was that same blunt discernment that allowed him to create the amazing products he created. It was that same demand for perfection and demand for people to elevate their game to the best of their ability that allowed these teams to actually create these products that we all take for granted.
Q: What are some of the ideas you want people to leave this movie with?
Stern: Everybody has a dream. Everybody has an idea… this is the time and the period where more than ever I think people need to reach in and self motivate and create companies… It's going to be the new norm in the next 50-60 years and so for me I think there's never a better time or has been a better time for a story about a man who created the world's biggest company in a garage 30 years ago… which where is where we all start. ... Blue-collar parents, he worked in a garage … and that's a lot of what Ashton's is doing with his other world, an entrepreneurial world where people are trying to do that.
AK: I wanted to make this film to inspire young people to create the world that they live in. And I think that was an ethos of Steve Jobs. Kids are graduating college and there's no work force and there are no jobs that they feel are equivalent to their level of education, and I'm personally kind of tired of people looking at the world and saying, 'the world is not providing for me.' Maybe you need to provide for the world and maybe it just takes that little bit of confidence to say, you know this guy who came from very meager beginnings and didn't have a college education was able to build the most powerful company in the world, and I think that that is inspiring and necessary right now and I think that people can learn a lot from that.
And I also think that another ethos of Steve Jobs that I think, even people that are running companies today could learn a lot from, you know Steve even when Apple became this gigantic, incredible company that was driving massive value to shareholders, he was never beholden to the shareholders; he was beholden to the consumers. And he was beholden to the innovation in an effort to make their lives better and by proxy he made the shareholders a lot of money, but he was never going, we need to make this company more profitable.’ He was saying ‘we need to make something that's even more brilliant and more beautiful and more wonderful for people's lives… Steve made life beautiful. He didn't just create a business and a product that was a utility that worked. He made something artistic. And he made something beautiful and he appreciated art and creativity, and I watch schools today and education programs dumping art programs for these business programs, an I remember that the most powerful company in the world was run by an artist and that was Steve Jobs.
Q: On a lighter note, how did you manage to embody Jobs’ walk? Did you walk around without shoes for a while?
AK: I wanted to honor this guy and because I knew people that knew him I had pretty good insight into who and how he was and because he's so well documented I kind of couldn't afford to not resemble him. I started by learning everything I could about him by reading books and watching videos and listening to people tell tales and stories, and the script that was an extraordinary resource. And then I started consuming the things that he consumed. I started studying the entrepreneurs that he admired and listening to the music he listened to and eating the food he ate and walking the way he walked.
I went for hikes with his employees. He'd go for a walk when he wanted to have meeting with someone and so I just started doing that, started walking without shoes on, wearing Birkenstocks and going to one-hour walks every day, trying to walk like he walked. First it was five minutes, then it was 10 minutes. You know you practice something you get better at it.
Listen doing that kind of thing and making those kinds of changes to your body is a shock. You know when you're not used to eating a certain way and you all of a sudden change your diet it changes your body and your body reacts to that. At first it rejects it. Your body rejects walking the way Steve Jobs walked because you're physiologically built to walk the way you walk and every human being on this planet has a unique gait that we could actually measure and quantify and use it as a security code if you wanted to. And your body actually has to rebuild to walk that way and it was uncomfortable but I think it served a purpose.
Stern: But I have to say that it's funny because Ashton, way after the fact, realized I took my first meeting with Ashton, I already felt that he was channeling Steve. He had done so much research, his mannerisms, he was already playing with physicality … and on our second or third meeting, he’d say, “Let’s take a walk.” And we did, and I was wearing dress shoes I think at the time. And I had no onset that's what Steve used to do ... We'd take these long walks and we'd talk about the character.
It wasn't too much later that I realized that he was just living the character. He lost 15 to18 pounds for the beginning of this film and if you see, where Steve is at the beginning of the film, how emaciated he is, and then Ashton sort of gained weight because we were able to shoot chronologically. It was a tremendous amount of commitment. And he went on a fruitarian diet. He ended up having to go to the emergency room right before we started shooting just because you know to sort of immerse yourself in Steve Jobs is a intense thing and to live in that skin so I would call him every once in a while and just say are you sure you're okay, you know, in there (laughter) and that's kind of what the process what but it took a lot of commitment.
Q: How did you end up in the emergency room?
AK: I went on this fruitarian diet and I read a book by this guy Arnold Ehret, which was a book that Steve read called "The Mucusless Diet Healing System" and it was kind of his dietary bible, if you will, and it talked about the value of grape sugar and that that was the only pure sugar that you could have in your body and I think that the guy that wrote that book was pretty misinformed. My insulin levels got pretty messed up and my pancreas kind of went into some crazy, I don't know, the levels were really off and it was really painful. I didn't know what was wrong. And we figured out that my insulin levels were really off. (Ehret, born in 1866, died at age 56 after he fell, possibly as a result of hunger, and cracked his head.)
Q: You mentioned Walt Disney, who else would you like to portray on screen and why?
AK: I haven’t really thought about it. This character was a great opportunity for me. It was kind of a perfect convergence of my personal interests and my craft and also a really complicated person to play. He was an anti-hero. He’s a flawed hero and it’s fun to play flawed heroes because they feel more real and they’re relatable and it makes you feel better about your flaws.
The recently released dramedy Stuck in Love focuses on the complicated relationships between a famous successful novelist Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear), his ex-wife Erica (Jennifer Connelly) -- who left him for a younger man -- and their two children, collegiate daughter (Lily Collins) and 16 year-old son Rusty (Nat Wolff), a hopeless romantic.
The supporting cast includes Logan Lerman as Lou, a classmate of Samantha's and her love interest and Liana Liberato plays Kate, Rusty's first love with a troubled life.
Stephen King as himself and Kristen Bell as Tricia offer delicious cameos.
The 18 year old Nat Wolff and Liana Liberato step into the interview room just as an exclusive one-on-one ends with director Josh Boone, an impressive young filmmaker who has also written the feature.
Though this is his first feature, Boone has assembled this impressive cast including Wolff and Liberato who themselves have already lined up an impressive set of credits.
The one on one with this precocious film couple starts right in following up on a comment from the conversation with Boone.
Q: We were talking about the various records we like...
Nat Wolff: That was one of the reasons I got cast in this movie because Josh and I connected on favorite movies and books and music.
Q: What were some of them?
Liana Liberato: Josh actually asked me to read a book and said it would change my life. It’s called The Secret History. I’m in the middle of that, it’s difficult but I’m enjoying it so hard.
NW: The main thing that Josh and I bonded up on was a real appreciation of movies from the 70s. We love Jack Nicholson and Dustin Hoffman movies; Five Easy Pieces and Kramer Vs. Kramer and all these movies that were really more character based which we both want to bring back. Midnight Cowboy, there’s a lot of movies that are so lasting but are really of the time and I get a sense of that era.
Q: This movie has a touch of that.
NW: I think that instead of trying to be clever or trying to be hip, it just goes for honesty and real characters.
Q: How did you developed your characters. How was that family forged into a cinematic reality?
LL: Well Nat and I knew each other before this film and wanted to work with each other for a while.
NW: She sent me a script, and I also knew Lilly since I was 11 and always had a brother sister type relationship and I told her that she needed to read this script and that she’d be perfect for it.
She was the first person I thought of so I want to take credit. She fell in love with it like we did. For my character, it was so well written. I didn’t realize that he was based on Josh when he was younger but it makes sense because it’s so honest.
I come from a family of musicians and actors and that creates a household of people who like to talk about the same thing and it ends up with a lot of conflict that comes out of that. In this movie, it’s about people who are really obsessed with the same thing which makes it easy to relate to but also difficult in some ways.
LL: In the previous drafts, we did have a scene with Rusty and Kate having dinner at her parents and it seems that someone could draw from the fact of how troubled she is that her parents are really distant and disconnected from her life.
My parents are definitely not like that. I kind of had to go around and do some research on people who have the same issues that she does because I have never really been exposed to that.
Q: What did your parents think about you pursuing the acting world?
LL: They’re supportive. I’ve been doing it for eight years and they haven’t complained yet so hopefully they’re ok with it.
Q: What did you think of the music choices for the film?
NW: For me, one of the most exciting parts of the whole process was seeing my songs on the soundtrack and my songs in the movie. Seeing that between Elliot Smith and the idea that that is on the same cd is amazing.
Q: What do your parents do?
NW: My dad is a jazz musician and my mom is an actress.
LL: When we walked into our hotel rooms when we first got in, Josh had made us all mixed cds for each of our characters. Music was very present.
Q: You’ll have to play a jazz musician sometime.
NW: I would love to. That’d be great. So much fun.
Q: Having your mother actually be an actress, did you have expectations of what it would be like working in films?
NW: I started off working with her when I was younger and it was her idea, the show. I think as I got older, I sort of pushed away and don’t work with her anymore but she will always read the scripts that I’m gonna do and she always has great ideas. It’s always been to my benefit not to just be an insolent teenager and push her away. As much as I sometimes want to, because she is my mom, she has so many good ideas and things to say.
Q: Do you ask her about what you should be in?
NW: Not really at this point. I think I’ve developed my own taste that is separate from my parents but I really do value their opinion. Think my own taste has developed from watching what they’ve gravitated towards because they’re both really true artists.
Q: You did the David Schwimmer directed Trust and had as hard hitting role (as a sexual abuse victim) as is this one. They’re both victims but in very different ways. Where do you find within yourself the insight for playing these kinds of roles?
LL: I feel like a lot of research because I have never been a drug addict or been taken advantage of by an older man. When I first tried out for Trust, David took me to a foundation that he’s a part of called the Rape Foundation and I was able to listen to young girls talk about their experiences and that was incredible helpful.
Q: Did you go to a rehab center for this one?
LL: Yeah, I did. I talked with a girl who was a recovering addict who went through a very similar situation that Kate did when she was 17 so I was able to pick her brain about the type of things that she has to deal with in her everyday life.
Q: Did you ask yourself why you would have that boyfriend in the first place?
LL: Well, she’s troubled.
NW: Girls always fall for those jerky guys in the beginning and then they know better.
LL: In my head, he introduces me to drugs.
Q: How was it working with Stephen King and did you talk to him?
NW: I had never met or talked to him before. I got Greg to call and do a Stephen King voice and talk to me. Because of Josh, and I really love a lot of film adaptations of his books like Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption and I read The Body, but I wasn’t an obsessive fan like Josh was. Through getting to know Josh, I became a bigger Stephen King fan. For me, in that scene, I related it to Paul McCartney calling me on the phone and asking me about talking about my phones. That would be the feeling.
Q: How do you divide your mind between acting and music and do you try and do projects where you can merge the two?
NW: Yeah, hopefully I can. It’s really a wonderful thing when those two worlds come together. When I’m doing them separately, I think I’m equally passionate about both but I’ve been really lucky because I haven’t had to pick one or the other.
Q: Do you think you’ll do an album that’s inspired by a film idea or a film that’s inspired by an album?
NW: That would be really interesting. I know music plays a very important part for me on set. I’m always listening to music and it’s nice to have a playlist given to you by the director because you can listen to that. I know as a performer, sometimes I can feel a little uncomfortable and I find myself building an onstage character and I don’t think I could do that without being an actor.
Q: Did you see High Fidelity?
NW: I love that. I read the book too.
Q: You and Greg Kinnear have great chemistry with each other in the movie. What was it like working with him?
NW: Great. I was a huge fan of his before I did the movie. He was one of my idols and I’m even a bigger fan now. He’s a wonderful actor but he’s really calm onset. He always seems like he’s not working that hard but in reality he is.
It took me a while to realize that he’s just laughing with the crew but is in reality making himself comfortable enough to do his thing.
LL: He apparently would call Josh at all hours of the night with random thoughts and ideas. He thought of very tiny thing to. Like the scene where Rusty takes Kate back to his house, he was just supposed to walk in and have a quick conversation with us and then leave and he did the smallest thing but it was so brilliant because it made him more human, he got a bowl of cereal and it makes the whole scene.
Q: What about how was working with Jennifer Connelly who plays your mother in the film?
NW: What’s great about her is she’s not going to be working on a movie unless she really cares. She cared so much about this project that it spread to everyone.
The only actress that I’ve worked with who is as easy to work with as Jennifer is probably Liana. It’s weird that they’re not playing mother or daughter because they are really similar in a way. Acting with both of them is like breathing air. It’s just so easy. They give so much.
Q: Have you made any lists of songs and records that you’ve been listening to lately?
NW: Of course. Top bands would be The Beatles, The Clash, The Stones, The Replacements. I’m just thinking bands because can’t get into songs. Probably Simon and Garfunkel too.
LL: He’s so much more present in music than I am.
Q: What about movies then?
LL: Don’t ask me that either. I don’t know.
Q: Try one off the top of your head.
NW: I gave her a list of movies to watch myself.
LL: I’m going to say this and you’re going to think it’s really cliche because apparently every single girl says this but one of my favorite movies is Girl Interrupted. That’s one of my favorites.
A really recent movie that I have a strange obsession with is 127 Hours. I just love that movie.
NW: We saw Blue Valentine together and that movie is unbelievable.
Q: What are you doing next?
NW: I did a movie called Behaving Badly with Selena Gomez which was a wild scene, we called it Ferris Bueller on crack. I also did this movie called Palo Alto with James Franco. I play what is the devilish version of James when he was a kid. There’s the angel version done by someone else and I’m the evil version. I played a really awful guy and it was fun.
LL: A week ago, I left Colorado having just finished a film called Dear Eleanor with Jessica Alba, Luke Wilson and Josh Lucas.
Music by Matt Sax, lyrics by Matt Sax and Eric Rosen Book and direction by Matt Rosen Performances through June 30, 2013
While performing his one-man show Clay at the Duke on 42nd Street in 2008, Matt Sax probably had little idea that his next musical creation, Venice, would draw from Shakespeare, Rent, hip-hop and the modern security state. Venice’s journey from commission to an extended run at the Public Theater (which ends June 30) has been long but rewarding for Sax and his director-co-creator Matt Rosen. Sax recently spoke by phone on a rare day off to discuss the show.
Read more: Theater Interview: “Venice”...
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