Paco Delgado talks Les Miserables

In theaters December 25, 2012

In theaters December 25, 2012

This Christmas, the film adaptation of the Victor Hugo novel and acclaimed Broadway show, Les Miserables, will make its way to the big screen. The epic taking place during the French Revolution stars Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Russell Crowe, and Amanda Seyfried in the iconic roles of Jean Valjean, Fantine, Javert, and Cosette, respectively.

In 19th-century France, Jean Valjean (Jackman), hunted down for decades by the persistent policeman  (Crowe) after breaking parole, comes across a woman named Fantine (Hathaway), beaten down by unfortunate circumstances. He agrees to care for her young daughter, Cosette (Seyfried), and in doing so changes both of their lives forever.

The story unfolds over several decades in the 1800s, a time period filmmakers had to delve into heavy research to perfect onscreen. Paco Delgado, the costume designer, talks about the trips to Paris and going back to the Victor Hugo novel itself for inspiration.

Paco Delgado, costume designer for the film

Paco Delgado, costume designer for the film

AG: Can you explain to the readers a little bit about what you do on set?
PD: Basically, my job is to try to create a kind of laborious work about how people dressed and how the characters will get dressed to tell a story. One of the first things we do is a little research about the time period. Once we’ve done all the research, we start talking to the actors and the director and start designing and drawing on paper all the ideas. Then we start creating all the dresses and suits and all that.

AG: You mentioned to The Hollywood Reporter that you began designing costumes on theater sets. What was the first film you designed for?
PD: The first show I designed in theater was a play by an Austrian playwright named Arthur Schnitzler called “La Ronde.” That was years and years ago. I think it was ’85 or something like that. I carried on designing mainly sets, but then as I explained, I started working in production. They didn’t have enough money to pay two people to design, one person to design the sets and another person to design the costumes. Little by little, I started getting involved in doing the costume design as well. My interest at the moment was designing sets, so I found designing costumes easy to do. I suppose because of that, my costumes were sort of better than I thought they were. People started thinking of me more as a costume designer than a set designer.

AG: In this film, you’re dressing characters for several different decades in the 1800s. What kind of research did you do in order to capture these evolving styles?
PD: [Director] Tom Hooper was really interested in going back to the concept of the story, so one of the first things we did was come back to the book written by Victor Hugo and reading it very thoroughly. It’s full of references on how people dressed, what sort of environments they lived in, and all these sorts of things. Once we read the book and had a lot of impressions made just by the powerful writing of Victor Hugo, we started looking at paintings. One of the first things we did was go to Paris and go to The Louvre just to look at paintings. We took a lot from painters like De la Croix. We also obviously looked at museums of fashion. Vienna Victoria is an outlet in London, and a fashion museum in Paris. They had a lot of authentic pieces from this period. We tried to look at how they were made and what fabrics they used. That was one of the most exciting parts of my job.

Delgado's sketch of Fantine's costume

Delgado’s sketch of Fantine’s costume

AG: How long does it take to get all these costumes ready before filming?
PD: We had a preparation of five months. We worked really hard, all the time, every day of the week. When we started filming, we did it in order. We shot the beginning of the movie at the beginning of the filming and continued in progress. We carried on creating new costumes throughout the filming of the movie. It took us 14 weeks to shoot. It was like a never-ending process, really.

AG: Which character was your favorite to dress in this film, and why?
PD: It’s very hard to say, because I love all of them. I loved to dress Jean Valjean, the character played by Hugh Jackman. He goes through a huge character development, from the very beginning as a convict living in poverty to the end of the movie when he becomes a very affluent person of the social class. That was very challenging, as well as transforming the actresses as well, like Anne Hathaway. She’s a beautiful woman, and her character, Fantine, is a very nice girl who’s displaced because she becomes a single mother. She ends up being at the bottom of society as a prostitute. That was a very interesting thing to do as well. Amanda Seyfried’s character, Cosette, is a lovely girl who flowers into life and knows love. She carries on the whole romantic story in this movie. I also thought it was very interesting to make the costumes for Helena Bonham Carter and Sascha Baron Cohen who play the Thenardiers. They play these two con artists, and they were comedic characters. It was a lot of fun to work with them and make their costumes.

AG: What would your dream costume project be? A movie that’s already come out that you wish you had designed for or some other idea you have that you think would be fun to design the costumes for?
PD: There are so many things I would love to do. For example, I would love to make a movie about Don Quixote, because it’s a very universal and Spanish story. My dream is just to carry on working and carry on working on productions that really fulfill me where I can produce interesting costumes. I also want to continue to use costumes as a vehicle for telling stories and helping actors to become the characters they want to be. Don Quixote would be a fantastic story to design for, though. I would love that.


Erica Linz talks Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away

If you’ve never been fortunate enough to watch a Cirque du Soleil show in Las Vegas or in any limited edition runs in major cities across the country, you will finally be able to catch a glimpse of the seven different shows in “Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away.” This story told by director Andrew Adamson and filmed in 3D by James Cameron makes its way to theaters this Friday, December 21, 2012.

Erica Linz has performed for Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas for 10 years, and now she is a part of bringing the show to audiences around the world. She spoke to The Reel Story about how she got involved with Cirque du Soleil and what audiences that have never seen a show can expect from the film.

Mia (Erica Linz) searches for her love, The Aerialist (Igor Zaribov), throughout the different worlds of Cirque du Soleil

Mia (Erica Linz) searches for her love, The Aerialist (Igor Zaribov), throughout the different worlds of Cirque du Soleil

AG: Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about your character in the film.
EL: My character’s name is Mia, and she’s a quirky young lady who doesn’t really fit in where she’s from. Presumably, she’s coming from somewhere that she’s really not happy, and she’s looking for something more extraordinary in her life. That’s when she comes upon this sort of run-down circus. There she meets this guy who we know in the film as “the aerialist.” He’s played by Igor Zaribov. He and Mia have this immediate connection. He’s a very handsome Russian gentleman, by the way. She ends up going into the Big Top, and it turns out that he’s performing. They meet eyes, he’s distracted, and he falls from the trapeze. Instead of impacting, there’s kind of a shift and something magical happens. He’s swallowed up by the world, and the two of them are swept away into the crazy world of Cirque du Soleil. They spend the rest of the film seeking each other, and meeting all the characters of this wacky universe who either help or inhibit them on their way. Basically, it’s a love story set in the world of crazy physical feats and colors and madness of Cirque du Soleil.

(L) The Aerialist (Zaribov) and (R) Mia (Linz)

(L) The Aerialist (Zaribov) and (R) Mia (Linz)

AG: I’m a huge fan of Cirque du Soleil. I actually go to watch Mystere in Las Vegas this summer.
EL: Oh, that’s the first show I worked on!
AG: I loved it! So I know what Cirque du Soleil is all about, but how would you describe it for readers who have never seen a Cirque du Soleil show?
EL: Cirque du Soleil is what would happen if you dreamt about the Olympics in some really surreal dream universe. You have hardcore, high-level acrobatics of all disciplines, ranging from gymnastics to trampoline to Chinese and Russian circus backgrounds all kind of tied together with theater and avant garde costuming and craziness with live music in these extraordinarily imaginative settings. It should put you on the edge of your seat and make you wonder what else is possible in this world that seems impossible in your head.

AG: Can you explain what it is that you specialize in?
EL: I do aerial strap. That means that I fly around 40 feet in the air with, usually, a guy, and we do lots of dynamic spinning and that kind of stuff. Sometimes I will hang from his neck or his feet, and sometimes I will be holding him up in the air with one hand. We do that without a net, which is a little bit crazy (laughs). My sub-specialty, what I do within the world of Cirque du Soleil, is that I have a background in theater as well as gymnastics. I use acrobatics to try and bring a character to life and tell a story, and in this case, it happens to be a love story.

AG: How did you get involved in Cirque du Soleil and eventually this project?
EL: I was a gymnast for 11 years in Colorado, and it was great. There were so many things about it that I loved, because who doesn’t like to bounce around on trampolines doing flips? It’s also a very disciplined life. To be a good gymnast, you have to be really well-rounded and do all kinds of tricks that maybe aren’t natural for you necessarily. Outside of that, I had been involved in vocal music, and that kind of led me to theater. I found out that I really enjoyed performing more than I enjoyed competing, so when I became aware that there was this crazy thing called Cirque du Soleil, it sounded like my brand of awesome. If they were to have me, I would have been delighted to go. I flew out to Las Vegas the day after I graduated high school and ended up auditioning for Cirque du Soleil. I got cast working in Mystere and joined them just after I turned 19. I performed with Cirque for 10 years. Somewhere along the line, they decided to make “Worlds Away.” They decided not to go with a Hollywood actress but instead to try to find someone with a legitimate acrobatic background. They went through all these incredibly amazing people and somehow ended up landing on me and a few other girls who all did video auditions. At some point – I don’t know what happened behind the scenes – they said, “Let’s go with that girl, the short one with the short hair. That’ll be fun,” and I was like, “Cool, let’s do that.” So then we made a movie, and then we called you (laughs).

AG: So what was the biggest difference between performing in a live Cirque du Soleil show and filming this movie?
EL: Something that was a really huge change for me that I struggled with for quite a bit at the beginning, was changing the performance style from that of stage. When you’re performing in a theater, sometimes the last row can be like 100 feet away, which means that if you want to indicate to the audience that your character has heard something, you have to almost mime or really exaggerate the movements so that they know what’s going on. Suddenly, you’re in front of James Cameron’s 3D cameras, telling Andrew Adamson’s narrative story, and they can blow up your face to be 20 feet tall on the big screen. Everything needs to be made much more subtle, diminished, and honest. It took a while for that to feel comfortable. Especially when you’re filming with these Cirque du Soleil characters that are still playing that Cirque du Soleil style that’s so much larger than life and so extraordinary. I had to keep her reigned in.

cds-worlds-away03  copyAG: What was your favorite scene to film?
EL: I like a lot of different parts of it. Obviously, I love flying, so I had a good time doing the aerial strap number at the end. Also, besides that, I really liked doing this one act called “Mr. Kite” from the Cirque du Soleil Love show. It’s this crazy, dark, weird carnival scene where there are these crazy characters like wacky Siamese twins. It’s a spooky, dark number, but it has some of the most outlandish characters that require the greatest commitment from the performers that are bringing them to life. I was kind of amazed, because we had to do this thing over and over. It was a highly complicated scene, and every time, they brought life to the characters with this commitment that’s pretty awe-inspiring. It was a little bit hard not to match when you’re up so close to them.

AG: Is there anything you do in this film that you’ve never done on the stage?
EL: The whole pace of film and stuff that you have to do for camera is completely different. Outside of that, for example, we would go to Love, and for that scene that I was talking about, I think I had something like 32 points I had to hit. So it would be like, “Stand here, but these four things are going to drop down on either side of you. So don’t lean over or they’ll hit you in the head. Then you need to take eight steps back, but don’t step 10 feet back or you’ll fall off the edge of the cliff. Make sure you cross over this, but go quickly or else you’re going to get run over by these 300-pound things.” Learning it really quickly, but then applying the style of performance that you need for film, was this crazy dynamic. Every single day was something brand new, and every day I was waking up wondering what I was going to be doing that day.

AG: Do you have any last words for the readers about you or the film, anything I haven’t touched on that you want them to know?
EL: One of the things I’m most excited about for Cirque du Soleil: Worlds Away is that not everyone has the opportunity to travel to Las Vegas. Even the people that do don’t necessarily have a chance to actually go see all seven of these shows. Cirque du Soleil is a really cool way to get to experience some of the magic of Cirque du Soleil with it being accessible and realistic for everyone across the world. Outside of that, even for seasoned Cirque du Soleil fans that have gotten to see all these productions, there are moments where we’re shooting onstage, and Andrew Adamson is directing while James Cameron is up 70 feet in the air shooting down on a harness. They can show things from different angles and slow things down to where you get to see things in the film that you would never get to see onstage. I’m really excited to be a part of bringing that magic to the world that’s larger than Las Vegas.

Sam Jones talks TED

On BluRay and DVD today, December 11, 2012

On BluRay and DVD today, December 11, 2012

Most children of the 80s know exactly who Sam Jones is, but for those of you who don’t, he was the incomparable “Savior of the Universe,” Flash Gordon himself. He’s been laying low for some time now, but when he decided to come back into the public eye, he did it with a bang. Seth McFarlane‘s childhood hero plays a parody of himself in McFarlane’s first feature film endeavor, TED, on BluRay and DVD today.

Ted (McFarlane) is a teddy bear who is brought to life after 8-year-old John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) makes a wish on a shooting star that his stuffed animal could come to life and be friends with him forever. Twenty-seven years later, try as John might to become an adult for his girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis), he is stuck in adolescence with his obscene, foul-mouthed, pot-smoking teddy bear.

Jones appears in the R-rated comedy as an “extreme version” of himself, playing against the character most know him as. John and Ted are huge fans of Flash Gordon, and when Ted becomes friends with Sam Jones, John is in for one of the wildest nights of his life with his talking teddy bear and the real-life Flash Gordon. Jones spoke to The Reel Story about McFarlane’s work, his affinity for comedy, and what it was like working with a CGI teddy bear.

Sam Jones as Flash Gordon in 1980

Sam Jones as Flash Gordon in 1980

AG: Can you explain to me how you got involved in this project?
SJ: Seth called me personally. He called me out of the blue to let me know that he was a big fan of Flash Gordon and saw Flash Gordon at a very young age. He said that I inspired him to be this creative guy, to pursue the entertainment industry. I thought that was really cool, and the next question was he wanted to know if I was interested in being a part of this film. I said, “Absolutely. Let’s take a look at the script, let’s have a meeting, and let’s take it from there.” That’s exactly what happened.

AG: Were you a fan of Seth McFarlane’s work before you took the part in this film?
SJ: I respected his work. The fact that it’s a franchise – the three shows that he does – I’ve got a lot of respect for him for doing that. I like the guy a lot. This is going back to October 2010.

Present-day Sam Jones at the premiere of TED

Present-day Sam Jones at the premiere of TED

AG: What was your greatest motivation to take part in the film? What made you really want to do this?
SJ: I had been out of it for a while, and I always knew that I would be working in the business in my later years. I just always knew that. It was a great opportunity, and I wasn’t about to pass this up. I thought it was a bit challenging to sort of play myself, but not really myself. Parts and pieces of me – not all of these – were a bit of a challenge to portray without confusing everybody. I thought, “Let’s do it,” you know?

AG: Everybody knows Flash Gordon, so what was it like to kind of switch gears and play this parody of yourself, going against these preconceptions people have of you because of Flash Gordon?
SJ: I’ve done comedy before. I enjoy comedy. A lot of people don’t know I’ve done features and TV shows and guest spots, lots of different characters other than a super hero, and I just enjoy it. I really enjoy doing comedy. Look at my character, Flash Gordon. He does some things that are very funny (laughs).

AG: What was your favorite scene to film in this movie?
SJ: I enjoyed the scenes with [Mark] Wahlberg, and of course the Japanese guy who was having a flashback. It was just a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. We got a little bit carried away when he stuck the butcher knife through the little hole, and I end up biting his arm. I said, “I’m just going to do what feels natural.” When he stuck the knife through the hole, I said, “I’m probably going to bite down on your hand, and when I do, you need to drop the knife.” So he says okay, and I guess he got a little bit excited. When I bit down, he didn’t drop the knife, so I just kept digging my teeth deeper into his hand (laughs). He had a few teeth marks on his hand there for a while.

AG: What was it like filming scenes with Ted, the teddy bear?
SJ: It was a bit challenging, but I’m used to that stuff. I’m used to doing a scene with an actor who’s either not there, or he or she is there but you’re not getting much from them (laughs). So with the computer generated effects and all that, I had Seth’s voice in my ear. He gave me a little “earwig” for inside my ear so I could listen to him. He was obviously directing, but he was also playing Ted. So I’m looking at a little [c-stand] with a little piece of tape on it, and that’s the teddy bear. His voice came into my ear, so that’s how I did it.

Ted (McFarlane) and John (Wahlberg) toasting to a night with their childhood hero

Ted (McFarlane) and John (Wahlberg) toasting to a night with their childhood hero

AG: Speaking of teddy bear, did you have a favorite toy or stuffed animal growing up? If you did, what would you have done if it came to life like Ted?
SJ: I had a big imagination as a kid. My parents would put us out in the backyard, and we would go out in the woods a lot of times. We would just make our own toys, pick up a couple twigs and make swords out of them. We’d use a lot of rocks and target practice on a tree. A lot of that. I grew up in Tennessee and places like that. I didn’t really have a favorite toy, though. What I really did like were those toy soldiers, those little army guys. I didn’t have a whole lot of those, but when I got them, I played with them a lot as a kid.

AG: Do you have any last words for the readers here in Houston about yourself or about the film on DVD?
SJ: I believe they’re going to laugh, because obviously, the numbers don’t lie. I mean, it’s the number one R-rated movie of all time. At the box office, it’s made well over half a billion dollars. I know maybe six or seven weeks ago, it surpassed 500 million, so it could be close to 600 million right now. A lot of people have enjoyed it. You can’t take the family, but as a family man myself, there is some offensive language. You just have to be careful with the younger kids. For instance, I think teenagers who have their head together and can look at this as a fun time, it’s a movie. Just go out, take the family, and have a good time. Actually, you don’t even have to go out, because it’s now on BluRay and DVD! All of my kids have seen it, except for my 11-year-old. Pop some popcorn at home and watch it.

STAR WARS: Spin-Offs?

Ever since Disney bought LucasFilms and it was announced they’d be making an Episode VII, the Star Wars purist in me has been ready to burst at the seams. Call me a traditionalist, but I really don’t like the sound of a Star Wars created by Disney. It’s not supposed to be tame, and there is not supposed to be anymore Jar Jar Binks. Don’t get me wrong, I loved him when Episode I first hit theaters, but I was also 11 years old. Explains a lot.

Anyway, all my movie news websites are now reporting that Lawrence Kasdan (Episode VI: Return of the Jedi) and Simon Kinberg (Sherlock Holmes) are writing spin-offs rather than sequels. It was said that they would be in charge of Episodes VIII and IX, but now they may be spin-offs? I’ve got a little bit of faith, because Kasdan did write Episodes V and VI, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

I was already distraught about Disney wringing out as much money as they could from the Star Wars rag by tiring out a classic series, but now that there may be spin-offs, I’m not too sure how to feel. The Hollywood Reporter posted, and I quote, “Their scripts could turn into official ‘Episodes’ in the main Skywalker storyline, or they could form the basis for spinoffs focusing on side characters.”

It sounds like a Marvel move, aka The Avengers, and while that works for Marvel, I’m not too sure about Star Wars. I was sad when Episode III came out because I thought it was the last of Star Wars that I would ever see, but it ended on a good note. It ended complete and with dignity. Naturally I am opposed to change — just a personal thing — but I think it’s safe to say that Star Wars can easily be butchered for some big bucks.

It seems like confirmation that any future Star Wars films are going to be about the Skywalker clan, and that, you could say, was a given, but I guess I’m curious as to what else they could possibly extract from the original films. Here’s to seeing what’s next?

Alden Ehrenreich and Zoey Deutch talk Beautiful Creatures

In theaters February 13, 2013

In February of next year, the film adaptation of Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl’s best-selling novel, Beautiful Creatures, will hit theaters just in time for Valentine’s Day. It seems as though Hollywood just can’t get enough of young adult fantasy novel adaptations, i.e. Warm Bodies, City of Bones,  etc, so I suppose I’m excited to see what this one is all about.

In this fantasy film, Ethan Wate is a high-schooler in a small, conservative town called Gatlin in South Carolina, and he finds himself drawn to Lena, the mysterious new girl in town. When he finds out she’s a “caster” and that her family is involved in witchcraft and the supernatural, he and Lena must fight the dark side of her family and the intolerance of their small-town community.

Alden Ehrenreich plays Ethan, and Zoey Deutch plays his scorned ex-girlfriend, Emily. The two stars of the film spoke to The Reel Story about the novel and why they feel it is nothing like the fantastical films out in theaters lately.

Alden Ehrenreich: Ethan Wate in the film

AG: Can you tell the readers a little bit about your characters and whether there were any personal connections to these characters?
AE: I play Ethan Wate, and I’m this young guy in a small town whose mom died recently. I just can’t stand being in this town. I want to break out and live this life of adventure. Lena comes to town – she’s the new girl – and she kind of represents the sophistication and freedom I want to have in my own life. I pursue her and go after her, and then it turns out she’s a caster. We have to battle against the supernatural powers of her family and the prejudices of the town to stay together.
ZD: I play Emily Asher. My role in the story is really to show one of the aspects of why Ethan really despises his life so much and the people he’s surrounded by. I kind of represent the closed-minded, entitled, and selfish ideals of this small town. You see that when he breaks up with her, and she actually can’t fathom that it’s happening. It’s like she doesn’t even process it. She’s in denial. She’s so entitled, so she thinks, “Why would he want to break up with me?” It came from a deeper place, in my perspective, of being hurt and not understanding why she doesn’t have what he wants, liking him and him not liking her back and not having the right tools to deal with a broken heart. That’s where I could relate to her, because it’s painful when you get broken up with. You can’t really prepare for it, so I guess I could understand where she was coming from in that sense.
AE: I kind of really related to my character’s restlessness and ambitious sort of wanting more out of life than what had been given to him, wanting a more exciting life than what was laid out in front of him, and fighting for that life.

AG: Were either of you fans of the book beforehand, or did you read it after you got the script? What kind of preparation did you do for the film?
AE: I didn’t know about the book, but I started reading it once I got the part. I got the part a week before we started shooting, so I was really kind of cramming to get the accent down. It’s a very specific dialect in the film. I also had to figure out my character and how he felt about the other characters, and just really kind of saying, “What is this story about and how can my characterization of this person best tell that story?”
ZD: The audition process was kind of bizarre. It was very secretive. I didn’t get the script, and I didn’t get the scenes I had to audition with. I had to go in about 15 minutes before my audition and had to cold-read the scenes, which means you just read them as you see them. I got a call a couple of months later that Richard [LaGravenese] had seen my tape and that I was cast in the movie. At that point, of course, I read the script, and then I started doing research. I read the book, and I started breaking the character down, trying to understand her. In that sense, I wanted to understand her kind of religiously extreme ways, so I went to the specific house of worship that was written that she went to. I studied the accent, and I watched a lot of YouTube videos of people with South Carolinan accents.
AE: Logan Smith from Randall, South Carolina. That’s what I watched. He put his accent on YouTube, and I just watched him all the time.
ZD: I also wanted to change my look. It’s the first movie I’ve done, and it’s an amazing part, but she’s very mean. I didn’t want that to be people’s first impression of who I am, so I wanted to change my hair, I wanted to change my look, and I wanted to get fake nails, really look like this character and stay true to what was written in the book.

(L-R) Viola Davis, Alice Englert, Alden Ehrenreich

AG: This story revolves around witchcraft and the supernatural, something Hollywood has been kind of obsessed with as of late, so what makes this movie or this story different from what we’re seeing out there right now?
AE: I think it’s typical, because I totally understand that people want to compare it to those, because yes, it is a trilogy, it is a movie based on a book series, and yes, it has supernatural elements. I guess I just have to keep reiterating that it doesn’t really share any of the same qualities as those out right now. It’s not a love triangle. From a guy’s perspective, yes it does appeal to same audience as those kinds of franchises, but it also appeals to adults. There’s Viola Davis, Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons. There’s also stuff for a younger audience. For guys, there are crazy explosions and fun things like that. There’s also romance for girls, and a sense of humor, too. Universally, I think there’s something for everybody.

AG: What do you think it is about the story that is so relatable that it created such a following that it was made into a movie?
AE: I think it’s because it’s a story that everyone can relate to, a certain kind of restlessness, of wanting to find that person who makes you feel comfortable in your own skin, and of wanting to better the scenario or circumstances you were put into, wanting to find something more out of life. Also, I think the reason it appeals to young people is that there is this constant interplay of this world outside that they don’t understand and how that world is affecting them but they don’t quite understand it yet. I think that, in a way, is metaphoric for young people entering into the real adult world and don’t fully understand that that world is affecting them before they can wrap their minds around it. The story is these two people trying to figure out what this world is so they can make it in that world. First, they have to understand what the rules of that world are.

Zoey Deutch: Emily Asher in the film

AG: What was your greatest motivation for taking part in this film?
AE: When I read the script, I knew within the first three pages that I wanted to do the movie. The character that I get to play was so beautifully written, and it was such a real person. That’s what I really love about this movie, that it’s got all these fantastical elements and all this crazy stuff going on, but all those things are rooted in real people, their emotions, and what they actually feel. Real people are flawed and imperfect. It’s not about an idealized love story. Two people in a relationship fight with each other and get scared and worried about things and get angry with each other and frustrated, so to me, that’s what was so beautiful about it. Also, when I met Richard, he said, “I want to do this movie with wit and with humor and that can laugh at itself.” I think that, especially in a genre movie like this, the thing that I think you miss out on a lot of times in a genre movie, is that they take the story that they’re telling too seriously, especially fantastical stories. So a little bit of this movie is able to laugh at itself and have humor and irony in it.

AG: All right, well if you all have any last words for the readers about the film, go right on ahead!
AE: I just think it’s a really moving, exhilarating film that takes you into another world and can teach you a little bit about your own.
ZD: I don’t really have anything else to say besides that. That was put beautifully!

Peter Ramsey talks Rise of the Guardians

This holiday season, Dreamworks is releasing a movie I will now be watching every Christmas. Rise of the Guardians follows Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Sandman, and Jack Frost as they battle against the Boogeyman, known as Pitch, who wants to rid the world of these Guardians and spread fear in children across the globe.

In this film, Santa Claus is known as North, a Russian Cossack with tattoos voiced by Alec Baldwin. Isla Fisher voices the half-human, half-hummingbird Tooth Fairy, Hugh Jackman voices the very Australian Easter Bunny, Chris Pine voices Jack Frost, and Jude Law voices Pitch. These voices and the re-imagination of beloved childhood heroes make this film one you can enjoy watching with your kids, nieces or nephews, or kids you babysit.

Dreamworks has brought us some pretty fun animated features like Shrek, Madagascar, and Despicable Me, and Rise of the Guardians is a great addition to their résumé. Peter Ramsey makes his directorial debut with this film after working as a storyboard artist for several other films including Godzilla, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Shark Tale. He spoke with me about his journey from storyboard artist to director as well as what it was like finding the right voices for this new take on classic characters.

AG: Congratulations on your directorial debut! What has the transition from storyboard artist to director been like?
PR: Oh, thank you. I got to work with a lot of great directors on a lot of great movies, but I always had ambitions to be a director myself. For me, being a story board artist was kind of my film school. So for me, it was always leading up to the moment when I would be able to actually work on a project like this as a director. It was one of those dreams that comes true.

AG: I understand how a live-action film director works, but can you explain to me how you go about directing an animated film like this?
PR: Sure. I usually tell people that it’s very similar to what a live-action director does, but because we build everything in an animated film from the ground up – the backgrounds, the characters, everything – including the performances, the job gets split up into a few different parts. When you’re directing a character animation, first you have to direct the actors who are doing the voice performances. You have to direct them like they were any other actor. It’s just that they’re not on a set, and they don’t have other actors to work with. You have to paint a little more of the picture for them, because it’s just you and them in a recording booth. After you’ve directed the actors’ voices, then you have to direct the animators that are actually going to move the characters and give them expressions, rhythm, and all those sorts of things. I have to work with them as well to get the physical part of the performance done. So it’s the same thing live-action directors do, just split up into different parts.

Director Peter Ramsey

AG: Going back to those character voices, I thought each one of these voices was perfect for the characters.
PR: Oh, thanks so much.
AG: Yeah, it was great. How did you go about picking these voices, and what was it like working with them?
PR: You know, we had spent a lot of time trying to get the personalities of the characters down, and as we were doing that, we started thinking, “What kind of actors kind of match these personas? Who would I believe as each one of these characters?” What we would end up doing is we would make lists, pick our absolute favorites, and we would take pieces of dialogue that they had done in other movies and play them against images of the characters. Sometimes we had animation tests, and we would play some Alec Baldwin dialogue or some Isla Fischer dialogue along with the image to see how they felt. When they felt really right, we knew we were on to something. Luckily, our first choices were pretty much the people we ended up with in the movie, so that was great.

AG: These characters are just so re-imagined. Like, I never would have dreamed the Tooth Fairy was part Hummingbird, that the Easter Bunny was so manly, or that Santa was Russian, and in most Christmas films I’ve seen, Jack Frost is the bad guy. So which of these characters was your favorite to re-create?
PR: Oh, wow. It’s funny, because people always ask me who my favorite is. I think they all just have such great things about them, and I’m proud of the fact that they all have really good moments in the movie. I think Jack’s story, with the emotion of it, we really wanted a character that was going to take the audience through the story and give them somebody to root for and have an emotional connection to. I think his story about not being seen and being isolated and having to be believed in is kind of something everybody can relate to. Any time you get some territory like that to explore in a story, you’re really lucky. So we felt that we had a good character for our Jack Frost to be like, “Hey, wait a minute. You’ve seen him in other places, but this is the real guy, and he’s got a real story.”

AG: These characters are also a little darker and edgier, so how did you get to that point, where you keep the kids interested without scaring them too much?
PR: Right. I don’t know that the characters themselves are any darker or edgier. I think what we did was say, “They have a real mission in the world, and their mission is to fight against fear.” The fear and the darkness that we show is a real thing in kids’ lives. Kids do get afraid. I think they connect with it a little more, or hopefully they will, because we’re not pretending that stuff doesn’t exist. They know every day that there are things they are scared of, and I think for them to know that there’s somebody out there looking out for them and on their side, and it’s not just anyone – it’s Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy – who are helping them is pretty cool.

The Sandman fighting Pitch’s nightmares

AG: Another aspect of the film that I loved were these Guardians’ headquarters. How were these places chosen and designed? They’re so accessible. Not like when I was young. I thought… I don’t even know what I thought, I just knew they weren’t here on Earth.
PR: That was a big thing we wanted to do, was say, “All these guys, they are right here in the world with us, and they do all their work. We just don’t see them, because we’re asleep.” They do everything at night, and they actually live right here on Earth. If you somehow are lucky enough, you can stumble upon where they live. So it was all part of this idea that if we’re saying they are really real, let’s make it as real as we can and say they’re here. That was one of the really fun things about the movie, the design of the North Pole and the Tooth Fairy’s world that we put a lot of work into, and even Pitch’s lair under the ground. We really worked hard to say, “What can we say with each one of these locations about these characters? How can we make it so that, the Tooth Fairy’s palace, only she would live there?” North would never build a place like that for himself, but for the Tooth Fairy flying around with all of her little mini-fairies, that works perfectly for her.  That was kind of the other element of it.

AG: I understand these books are a series, and only five out of 13 have been released, I believe.
PR: I think that’s right.
AG: So are there any plans for a sequel?
PR: (laughs) Well, we’re going to have to see how much people like it! That’s the only reason sequels ever get made, for whether or not people want more. After the movie comes out, if people want more, hopefully we’ll be able to give it to them.

AG: What is your favorite Christmas film, memory, or tradition?
PR: Oh, wow. Let’s see. My favorite Christmas film is probably… Oh, man, that’s a hard one. I really loved, when I was growing up, Miracle on 34th Street, which is also Santa Claus in a really real world. I always loved that movie, and It’s a Wonderful Life. I still love that movie today. I like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I’ll always love that one. Oh, and I have to mention Charlie Brown Christmas. It’s not a movie, but it’s not Christmas without A Charlie Brown Christmas.

AG: Do you have any last words for the readers here in Houston about yourself or about the film? Anything I haven’t touched on?
PR: Just that I’m really proud of [this film.] I had a wonderful time making it. It was my first movie as a director, and I couldn’t have asked for more of a dream experience with the people I’ve gotten to work with. The really amazing thing, to me, about it is that everyone who worked on the movie – and there were hundreds of people – everyone felt like they were working on something special and gave it their all. It really does come straight from the heart. If your readers should know anything, they should know that we really made this movie for them to love and enjoy, and it just comes straight from the heart.

AG: Well, thank you so much for your time, and congratulations on your directorial debut. I loved it; it’s a great film.
PR: Thanks so much. It means a lot to hear that. I really appreciate it.



Iron Man 3: First Official Trailer and Images

In theaters May 3, 2013

Iron Man/Tony Stark fans, rejoice! The third installment in the series about everybody’s favorite arrogant billionaire by day/superhero by night is set to release on May 3rd of next year. The first official trailer and four images from the film have been released, and you can find it all at the bottom of the page. What is Iron Man up to now after The Avengers? It looks like it might be going a darker, more serious route, which is interesting. After watching the trailer, what do you think?

Marvel’s “Iron Man 3” pits brash-but-brilliant industrialist Tony Stark/Iron Man against an enemy whose reach knows no bounds. When Stark finds his personal world destroyed at his enemy’s hands, he embarks on a harrowing quest to find those responsible. This journey, at every turn, will test his mettle. With his back against the wall, Stark is left to survive by his own devices, relying on his ingenuity and instincts to protect those closest to him. As he fights his way back, Stark discovers the answer to the question that has secretly haunted him: does the man make the suit or does the suit make the man?”