Nora Ephron says she’s “really lucky” because she doesn’t work in one place. “So I give the illusion of a huge amount of activity,” says the director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, journalist, author, blogger and devoted cook. “I’m not only in the movie business, where, if you’re lucky, you make a movie every three or four years. I have an Off Broadway play right now — ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ — and blogs. And there is almost nothing I ever do that won’t stop dead if someone needs a recipe for something.”
Ephron confesses there were creations in Julia Child’s cookbook that couldn’t make it into her “Julie and Julia”:
“We didn’t do the famous Veal Orloff, which takes about three weeks to make and in the end exhausts the cook and fails to impress the eater. We didn’t do that for fear that somebody might think it was worth making.” — Anna Stewart
The helmer of “The Hurt Locker” has an important message for those women fighting to break into the Hollywood Director Boy’s Club.
“An increasing number of women have studio corner offices, and that’s a progressive change,” Kathryn Bigelow points out. “But if there’s a formula to becoming a director, nobody has told me about it. That’s actually the good news.”
Bigelow tends to focus on the commonalities between men and women rather than the differences. “We all have the same job,” she says. “At the end of the day, every director, male or female, has to make their days stay on schedule, get authentic performances and keep their audience in their seats.”
— Anna Stewart
Until “The Hangover” arrived in theaters, Bradley Cooper swung between two extremes as an actor.
Thanks to “Alias,” he was known as nice-guy Will Tippen. “People wouldn’t even see me for all these bad-guy roles,” he recalls. Fortunately, David Dobkin didn’t watch “Alias” and cast him in “Wedding Crashers,” which, Cooper says, was “the major break. And after that, everyone was like, ‘Isn’t he kind of an asshole?’ ”
Then Todd Phillips put him in “The Hangover.” Cooper calls it “the tightest comedic script I’d read up to that time.”
Cooper is now filming “The A-Team” in Vancouver, and deems the experience “exhilarating, a childhood dream because I get to run around and shoot guns and pretend I’m part of a Special Forces unit.”
Not that the experience has changed his life.
“Like anything else, you hit the pavement and get the job,” says Cooper. “In the world I live in, you go after projects.”
— Stephen Schaefer
Julianne Moore and Christoph Waltz
Tom Ford had little trouble landing Julianne Moore for his debut feature, “A Single Man.”
The actress and fashion designer-turned-filmmaker have been “friends for a long time,” Moore says.
“The first time we met was when he made a dress for me in 1998 for the Oscars,” she recalls. “I ended up not wearing it. But he’s so charming, he completely disarmed me.”
A friendship developed, and Moore knew Ford was planning to make a film. “I ran into him one night and said very casually, ‘What’s going on with your movie?’ He and his boyfriend were there and they lit up. ‘Funny you should ask.’ ”
It turned out that Ford had written the role of Charlotte — best friend to Colin Firth’s title character — with Moore in mind. “I’ve a history of working with first-time directors, and I find if they have a strong vision it’s not difficult at all,” the actress reveals.
The Hollywood Awards’ other supporting actor honoree, Christoph Waltz, is hardly as well-known to movie auds as Moore, even though the Vienna-born actor had been working for more than three decades before Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Basterds” made his perf one of the most talked about this year.
In 1979, at the age of 19, Waltz relocated to New York to study with Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler. Subsequently he worked mostly on stage and in television in Europe.
“It’s easy to say what sustained me,” he says: “making a living. But not everything was dire. I had a few good moments. Over 30 years without a good moment, you’d go nuts. There’s a difference between ambitious frustration and just going nuts. But I always kept the sense that there are things that were still ahead of me. Apparently I was right.”
Regarding his “Basterds” perf as a devastatingly attractive Nazi, Waltz reveals the trick:
“Evil and charm don’t contradict each other.”
— Stephen Schaefer
New Hollywood & Spotlight Awards
The movies’ newcomers have a few things to say about their attention-grabbing roles.
New Hollywood Award honoree Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe says she is not at all like the obese and pregnant teenager she plays in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” “The truth is that I’ve been awesome, and then I got this role,” she claims.
Four thesps receive Spotlight Awards.
First up is Iranian actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, who stars as Zahra, the aunt of an innocent woman put to death in the fact-based film “The Stoning of Soraya M.”
“Despite our different backgrounds, Soraya and I share a lot,” says the actress. “I feel when I talk, I am fulfilling Zahra’s wish for the whole world to know: I tell you the story, and you will tell the world.”
New Zealand actress Melanie Lynskey can boast two high-profile roles this season: Matt Damon’s Midwest housewife in “The Informant” and George Clooney’s sister in “Up in the Air.” Both required her to go American. “I love getting out of myself,” she says. “I love doing accents.”
Zachary Quinto plays Spock in the rebooted “Star Trek,” and he knew from the get-go that he didn’t want to do “what Leonard Nimoy did 40 years ago.” Yet he acknowledges the fan fervor: “You do want to deliver for them.”
For Paul Schneider, playing poet John Keats’ friend Chares Brown in “Bright Star” has turned into a “real pickle,” as he calls it. “If a couple of people around me say that your life’s going to change,” he wonders, “is it going to change in ways I despise?”
— Stephen Schaefer
Robert DeNiro and Hilary Swank
The often taciturn Robert De Niro recently recalled his first encounter with the Dramatic Workshop at the New School:
“The school had a lot of actors under the GI Bill — Rod Steiger, Harry Belafonte, the generation ahead of me. I went in there, and the director said to me, ‘Vy do you vant to be an acteh?’ I didn’t know how to answer, so I didn’t say anything. And he said, ‘To express yourself!’ And I said, ‘Yeah, yeah, that’s it. That’s right.'”
De Niro now stars in the upcoming “Everybody’s Fine,” which gives him yet another opportunity to express himself … or not.
Hilary Swank is also being honored as a lead actor by the Hollywood Awards. Regarding her “Amelia” assignment, she notes she had been approached previously to play the 1930s aviatrix Amelia Earhart, and said no.
“I read (in) that script a different Amelia,” Swank explains. “I felt it didn’t encapsulate her entire spirit. In this script, the essence was there. It’s a complicated life to bring to the screen. It’s hard to tell in two hours. It has to be on the page. You can’t make it up while you’re filming.”
Swank says that Earhart would “still be ahead of her time” even in 2009 “because she made no apologies for living the life she wanted, and that’s rare even now,” says the actress. “A lot of people, including myself, we’re having our life, and all of a sudden, hang on! We’re living our lives for our parents or our children.”
A New Yorker article recently called Earhart a narcissist. Swank doesn’t see that as a bad thing: “Living your life the way you want can be seen as narcissist. But she was constantly sticking up for other people. … She was fighting to get women the right to vote. What makes life interesting is when we’re different.”
— Anna Stewart and Stephen Schaefer
Carey Mulligan and Jeremy Renner
For Carey Mulligan, there was no “this is my big break” moment with “An Education,” in which her Oxford-bound 16-year-old character is derailed by an affair with Peter Sarsgaard’s older man.
The hubbub began at Sundance last January where Mulligan’s perf signaled comparisons to Audrey Hepburn and Jean Simmons. “I didn’t really see it as a big film. I didn’t have any expectations before Sundance,” says Mulligan. “I didn’t see it as a lead either, I saw it as an ensemble film. It was more of an audition piece for other things.”
Regarding that first screening before an audience, Mulligan doesn’t remember much about it since she was hiding “under my agent’s armpits for the whole time. I was paralyzed by fear.”
Now that “An Education” is finding its way into the world, Mulligan, 24, is hopeful she can continue to alternate film and stage work. She recently did “The Seagull” in London and New York, and is now filming the Oliver Stone sequel “Wall Street 2,” in which she plays an American adult. It was a challenge.
“I play children so much, teenagers,” says the Brit. “And I get to do an Upper East Side accent. I picked up the accent from ‘Friends.’ Really.”
Jeremy Renner, the Hollywood Awards’ other breakthrough actor, had it tough on his big 2009 assignment. Excessive heat. Bomb-protection suits. Shooting in a war zone.
“Everything about ‘The Hurt Locker’ was challenging stuff,” says Renner, who plays a member of a military bomb squad in the film. “We’re staying in this beautiful hotel in a beautiful country (Jordan) where the people are so lovely and giving, and our hotel is surrounded by machine guns and barriers,” the actor recalls. “I asked, ‘Why do we have to have this around our hotel? I feel safe.’ But I’m just a California kid — some jerk-ass actor just trying to make a movie.”
— Stephen Schaefer and Anna Stewart
It took me eight years to get the film rights to ‘Push,'” Lee Daniels says of the 1996 first novel, by Sapphire, of a 16-year-old Harlem girl who is raped by her father and abused by her mother.
“Sapphire didn’t want the book turned into a film because she’s truly a scholar and a teacher, and she is unimpressed with Hollywood,” Daniels explains. “She thought that if the film was bad, it would diminish the book.” Daniels told her, “Your book is priceless. Trust me. Even if I make the worst movie ever, you’ve made a masterpiece.” — Anna Stewart
From “Public Enemies” to “Nine” to “Alice in Wonderland,” Colleen Atwood’s looking glass reflects a closet stuffed with drop-dead creations. She especially enjoyed the challenge of working in stereoscopic 3D for Tim Burton’s “Alice.”
Helena Bonham Carter plays the Red Queen. “And her dress has all those hearts that are actually made of foil with cardboard. They’re stuck on so they stick out,” says Atwood. “Originally, I was going to put them on springs, but it got too messy. ”
Atwood and Johnny Depp collaborated on the actor’s Mad Hatter character. “He’s a great designer of his own characters,” says the designer. “I’d give him something, and he’d spin off on it. I cut the hat out of the most amazing piece of embroidered leather that I found in Italy. It’s a new take on the hat. It doesn’t have to be the usual stuff.”
— Anna Stewart
I love still photography,” says Roger Deakins. “I have bursts of going out and taking stills, and then I give it a rest. The work of some of the great photographers — Henri Cartier-Bresson, Sebastiao Salgado, James Nachtwey — has influenced me as much as painters or as much as previous filmmakers.”
The cinematographer of “Doubt,” “No Country for Old Men” and “A Serious Man” doesn’t believe in creating images for the sake of creating images. “I don’t like superfluous imagery,” Deakins says. “It’s so easy to overbalance a film. A quiet story might be completely destroyed with overblown imagery. It’s the role of the cinematographer to fit with the story.”
— Anna Stewart
I have two passions: music and cinema,” Alexandre Desplat notes. “As a young man growing up in Paris, a classical flutist, I would go to the cinematheque and watch movies again and again. I would watch them two and three times so that I could analyze them. It struck me slowly that music and film were very rich together.”
On Desplat’s recent assignment “The Twilight Saga: New Moon,” Chris Weitz wanted “this Maurice Jarre kind of score — this big, lush, melodic score,” Desplat recalls. “So we just went for it. We recorded with the London Symphonic Orchestra. The music is very wide and moving. It’s a full orchestra — 80 pieces — and a big classical score. And there are a lot of things played by the flute, electric guitar, piano and electric cello. I think Maurice Jarre as a reference says it all.”
— Anna Stewart
Pete Docter, director and writer of “Up,” taught himself cartooning when he was 10 years old by copying “Peanuts.”
“But what really got me hooked was when I figured out that I could make things move by doing little drawings in the corners of books and flipping through,” he says.
It wasn’t long before Docter would move on to experiment with animation on his father’s Super 8 camera.
“I looked at the film and, even though it was all these tiny images, each image was just a little different from the last. It was just like my flip books. I thought, well, if I could somehow get the flip-book images onto that film, then I could project it on the wall and it would be like a real movie. By trial and error, I learned how to do stuff.”
— Anna Stewart
The thing that got Scott Farrar of “Transformers” fame excited about the movies was Nathan Juran’s classic “The 7th Voyage of Sinbad” from 1958.
“I saw it at the local theater. Ray Harryhausen showed that you could show visual effects, and he didn’t cut away all the time. He had shots that would hold up, and that was tremendously inspiring,” he says.
According to Farrar, the world of visual effects entails everything. “You work with actors. You work with sets. You work with environments. People say, ‘Well, you’re creating things in a computer.’ I look at it from the standpoint of, it’s all image-gathering. I don’t care where it’s coming from. Whether you photograph it with a camera or you piece things together from still photos, it’s all a creation. The creation can be from any source.”
— Anna Stewart
Scott Neustadter & Michael Weber
We were fed up with the way that Hollywood was making rom-coms,” says “500 Days of Summer” co-screenwriter Scott Neustadter. “They would take two actors and come up with a premise that had nothing to do with real people behaving like real people. They would have an obstacle. They’d get over it, and everybody lived happily ever after. And they’d call it a romantic comedy.”
“500 Days of Summer” is different.
“It’s a coming-of-age story pretending to be a rom-com. It’s a bit of an indie movie influenced by real people and events,” Neustadter says.
His collaborator, Michael Weber, goes on to criticize such films as “The Proposal” and “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” saying they make the audience feel safe. “If I’m not relating to what’s happening on the screen, it’s not touching anything that’s going on in my own personal experience,” he stresses.
— Anna Stewart
When I was a kid, I used to love jigsaw puzzles. Cutting a movie together is pretty much the same thing,” editor Dana Glauberman says. “You have a ton of different pieces which will be the different angles, setups and takes. And you just try and piece them together to tell a story.”
Glauberman cautions that in the cutting room, editors can get so close to a scene that they can get used to certain things being timed out in a certain way. “It’s good to screen in front of an audience,” says the editor of “Up in the Air.” “If we think something plays funny in the cutting room and it doesn’t play funny in front of an audience, we know that we need to adjust the timing.”
— Anna Stewart
Wall Street” was the only film that made Ryan Kavanaugh cry. “I cried because he had to give the money back,” jokes the megadeal-wielding producer whom Portfolio magazine once called L.A.’s answer to Gordon Gekko.
“We’re in the business for bottom-line profit,” Kavanaugh explains. “We’re very supportive of the concept of film and building artists up, but at the end of the day, our decisions are based on bottom-line profitability. If we can bring some art to the world, then that’s a great secondary benefit but it certainly is not our primary focus.”
— Anna Stewart