DID YOU READ

Interview: Alan Rickman on “Nobel Son”

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12042008_nobelson1.jpgBy Aaron Hillis

Why hasn’t an esteemed actor like Alan Rickman ever been nominated for an Academy Award? (He’s got an indirect theory on that — more on that later.) Whether your earliest memory of his screen work was his yippie-ki-yay mother of falls from a skyscraper in 1988’s “Die Hard,” as the Sheriff of Nottingham in 1991’s “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves,” or even as Professor Severus Snape in the “Harry Potter” adaptations, Rickman always brings the same British grace, charm and theatrically trained precision as if he were still in “Sense and Sensibility.”

His latest is “Nobel Son,” the second film this year he’s co-starred in with Bill Pullman and Eliza Dushku for director Randall Miller and co-writer/co-producer Jody Savin; the first being “Bottle Shock.” Rickman plays Eli Michaelson, a womanizing professor whose egomania reaches planetary proportions after he scores the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which sets off a kaleidoscopic thriller of hyperkinetic plot twists involving his dysfunctional family, a kidnapping and a life-long revenge scheme. Think early Danny Boyle or Guy Ritchie, and you’ll be prepared for the breakneck speed and droll, nasty fun of “Nobel Son.” Following the Gen Art Cinema Circle’s New York premiere of “Nobel Son,” just as the after-party was filling up, I sat with Rickman over tequila drinks to shoot the breeze about smart people and accolades that really mean something.

Not that you’re anything like Eli Michaelson, whose Nobel Prize means more to him than his own family, but what’s the most meaningful award you’ve ever received for your work?

Parts win prizes, not actors. You always know a part that’s got “prize winner” written all over it, and it’s almost like anybody could say those lines and somebody will hand them a piece of metal. If you get the part, you may be halfway to the prize, because that’s just the way the thing works.

What about words of praise?

12042008_nobelson2.jpgThe most affecting thing anybody ever said was when I was coming out of a theater stage door, and there was a young girl standing by the garbage bins, probably about 17 years old, and shivering from head to foot. I had just been on stage, involved in this very strange Japanese play that had been translated into English, which involved me dancing a tango down a flight of steps while peacock feathers were projected onto the back wall of the theater — a very beautiful thing. So I came out, and there’s this girl, shaking from head to foot. I went over and said, “Are you okay?” I thought she was ill or about to have an attack or something. She said, “Yeah, I’m fine. It’s just that I’ve never been to the theater before and I didn’t know it was like that.” I’ll never forget that. Any night that you’re involved in a piece of theater and think, “Eh, it’s not so good tonight,” you know there’s going to be one person out there who has never been before.

Beyond the live audience, what do you enjoy about the theater experience compared to film?

It’s just a different use of whatever is the animal inside an actor. In theater, you’ve got to be aware of your whole body because it involves stamina. It involves two-and-a-half hours and a sustained release of energy, maybe for six months. It’s repetition that should sound every night like the first time you’ve said it. Also, you’re more in control. [With] film, you’re surrounded by noise, and experts all around you. You see some close-up that seems unbelievably intimate, but there are people with clipboards, holding microphones and cameras, A.D.s and the whole crew. There’s maybe a hundred people standing there, staring at this seemingly intimate thing, so you have to create a kind of bubble of concentration — and a real daring to be truthful, knowing that that’s going to be there forever. On stage, you can be shit in scene one, and you go: “Oh well, the next scene’s coming up. We’ll just pick that one up and carry on.”

You always bring such sophistication to your roles, even in an over-the-top entertainment like “Nobel Son.” I’m not an actor, so perhaps this is obvious, but how much fun do you actually get to have in the moment while the camera is rolling?

12042008_nobelson3.jpgWell, it’s still work and you’re still very focused. It’s a playground that Jody and Randy set up, but a very disciplined one. It’s got to be specific — fortunately, their writing allows you to be. So I’m having fun because it’s broader. As I said down there [at the Gen Art post-screening Q&A], I’m basically playing an adult, but he’s a seven-year-old, if that. Any time you get to be reminded of that, the actor must hang on to the child inside them, that opportunity is kind of heaven-sent.

[Eli] is blissfully unaware of anybody else’s judgment of him. It’s like he’s grabbing all the sweets in the shop and ramming them in his face. But you’ve still got to be selective about it. You’ve got to think about what kind of lack of self-knowledge leads him there. [laughs]

“Bottle Shock” may have been released first, but “Nobel Son” was shot first. What led you to work on back-to-back films with Miller and Savin?

I had such a good time with them, and I feel free inside their circus. The things that they write about require you to be a bit of a unicyclist. Sometimes that’s enjoyable. Other times, I’d rather be on a cycle with two wheels, handlebars and a speed gauge, but this one, you’re freewheeling.

You’ve been making movies for 20 years, and performed on TV and stage for even longer. What keeps the fire in your belly?

It’s what I’m built to do. [laughs] Until one finds something else, that’s what I do. The other thing I do is direct, which is a whole different use of myself. It’s not just work, it’s your life. And it’s a human need to be told stories. The more we’re governed by idiots and have no control over our destinies, the more we need to tell stories to each other about who we are, why we are, where we come from, and what might be possible. Or, what’s impossible? What’s a fantasy? That still excites me, and I’m very much of the opinion that actors can’t oversell it because we’re subject to the writing. Actors are agents of change. A film, a piece of theater, a piece of music, or a book can make a difference. It can change the world.

12042008_nobelson4.jpgWhen you talk about directing, I presume you mean theater. But do you have a desire to direct a second film besides 1997’s “The Winter Guest”?

Yeah, and it’s in the cards. I’m attached — the technical term — to direct two movies. One of them is called “The House in Paris,” from a beautiful book by Elizabeth Bowen, [set in] 1930s England and France. The other one is “A Little Chaos,” a totally original script by Allison Deegan about the building of one of the fountains at Versailles by a woman landscape gardener. They both have producers, they have both have interest from… what are they even called? You know, production [and] distribution offices in London. The scripts are at the early stages of being shown to actors. [H]opefully people like the scripts and start throwing money at it. We can do it for not too much. Even Versailles.

Is it strange that to a younger generation, you may always be known first and foremost as Severus Snape from the “Harry Potter” movies?

That’s okay, they’re very young. The point about that is, you watch the expression on a child’s face who is locked into one of those books and you know the power of the imagination. Jo Rowling’s got an absolute direct route to that. That’s a force that you can’t ignore, you know? That’s changed a lot of kids’ lives.

Are there other creative mediums you’d like to delve into?

I edit, but I don’t write. And I have no ability to write music, but I enjoyed singing in “Sweeney Todd.” So, come on, Stephen Sondheim, write another one. [laughs]

And in honor of Nobel Prize recipients, such as the one who attended Gen Art’s premiere of “Nobel Son,” who is the smartest person you’ve ever met?

Probably the woman I live with. [laughs] The fact that she’s still living with me may just prove that.

[Photos: “Nobel Son,” Freestyle Releasing, 2008]

“Nobel Son” opens in limited release on December 5th.

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Democracy Works

Tune In This Sunday For a Comedy Bang! Bang! Marathon…Chosen By You!

Catch a marathon of fan favorite CB!B! episodes Sunday, June 26th starting at 8A on IFC.

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Voting has been getting a bad rap lately. Many call it flawed, skewed, or — get this — “rigged.” But we here at IFC value the integrity of One Person, One Vote and wish to offer an example of democracy in action. Recently, you voted via Twitter for your favorite Comedy Bang! Bang! episodes, and we listened.

This Sunday, in honor of CB!B!‘s 100th episode on July 1st, we’re giving you a marathon of classic episodes that YOU demanded.

Starting at 8A EST on IFC, catch these fan-selected favorites:

“Fred Armisen Wears Black Jeans and Glasses”

“Ellie Kemper Wears a Purple Ruffled Sleeveless Top & Lavender Flats”

“Joel McHale Wears a Navy Zip-up and High Tops”

“Weird Al Yankovic Wears a Different Hawaiian Shirt”

Ain’t democracy great???

Tune in to back-to-back Comedy Bang! Bang! episodes Fridays starting at 11P. 

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Joe Jonas Concert Movie

Pop Life

The Craziest Moments From 3-D Concert Movies

Joe Jonas brings the funk to Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P.

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Photo Credit: Walt Disney/Everett Collection

Before they went off in their own directions, The Jonas Brothers were beloved by tweens everywhere. Which may explain why they appear in not just one, but two, of the biggest pop concert 3-D movies ever made. If you’re unfamiliar with this burgeoning subgenre, below is everything you need to know about seven of the biggest 3-D “popumentaries” out there. And be sure to catch the all grown up Joe Jonas when he appears on Comedy Bang! Bang! tonight at 11P on IFC. We can’t guarantee he’ll be 3-D, though you never know what will happen when Scott and “Weird Al” are involved.

1. Glee: The 3D Concert Movie

What Is It? A jukebox medley sing-along based on the long-running TV series/cover song hit making machine.
Big 3-D Moment: The closing credits in which a succession of fluorescent-hued cartoon Slurpies splash across the screen. Because, remember season one when everyone threw Slurpies at Lea Michele’s character? Yeah, that was a long time ago…
Concert Highlights: Although Tumblr no doubt freaked out over the Chris Colfer/Lea Michele recreation of a famous Judy Garland/Barbra Streisand duet, Gwyneth Paltrow’s sex kitten rendition of “Forget You” is by far the best part of the movie. (Didn’t she play a teacher on the show? Honestly, we’ve forgotten 90% of it. )
Celeb Sighting: Barbra Streisand’s mannerisms and vocal affectations are well-represented. But alas, no Babs herself. Sigh.
WTF Moment: Heather Morris’ stripper-style routine to Britney Spears’ “I’m a Slave for You” suggests a PG-13 rating at least. But nope, this movie’s PG.


2. Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds

What Is It? An accelerated musical puberty in which Miley sheds her flirty, virginal Disney persona then begins to vamp like a grown-up. Who knew how far she’d take THAT?!
Big 3-D Moments: A guitar pick gets flicked out at the camera (Hannah section); a drumstick gets tossed up at the camera (Miley section).
Concert Highlights: Disney pop is best consumed in small doses, which explains why the Jonas Brothers’ three-song set is the highlight here. That said, Miley’s sultry vocals for “See You Again” hint at the VMA twerking and Robin Thicke-humping to come.
Celeb Sightings: Inevitable but welcome: Miley teaches her “Achy Breaky” dad Billy Ray how to play “I Miss You,” a song about her grandfather.
WTF Moment: Continuity issues show Miley wearing a jean vest, then the vest is gone, then it’s back again. Wardrobe, I think we have a problem.


3. Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience

What Is It? Disney’s greatest band of brothers (after Huey, Dewey, and Louie) perform at Madison Square Garden, Bryant Park and Central Park while young girls’ scream at ear-piercing levels.
Big 3-D Moment: CGI pigeons fly towards the camera during the music video for “Love Is on Its Way.” As far as 3-D effects go, it’s a stretch.
Concert Highlight: With a sexy strut and his sports jacket with T-shirt ensemble, Joe Jonas channels his inner Rick Springfield for “BB Good.” Here comes trouble!
Celeb Sightings: Demi Lovato shows up to sing “This Is Me,” then Taylor Swift one-ups her by singing “Should’ve Said No.” We’re surprised this moment didn’t start a boring feud between the two pop starlets.
WTF Moment: The clearly staged scene where the producers hired girls to chase the boys in the streets of Manhattan, as if that couldn’t have just happened on its own literally anywhere they go.


4. Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

What Is It? Flashbacks of Bieber’s early days as a musical prodigy turned Internet sensation lead to the pop icon’s first MSG concert. Also, lots of praying before shows.
Big 3-D Moment: There’s a very cute interruption during which Bieber and producer Ryan Good point at the camera and insist that people not text during the movie. Remember when The Biebs was adorable?
Concert Highlight: All the duets, whether they involve Boyz II Men or Ludacris, bring a bit of a thrill, but the one between Bieber and his mentor Usher (“Somebody to Love”) surely had tween girls feeling a flood of sparkles just like those that announce Usher’s arrival.
Celeb Sightings: Boyz II Men, Miley Cyrus, Ludacris, Jaden Smith, Usher, Drake, Chelsea Handler, and Snoop Dogg all rode the Biebs-wave.
WTF Moment: Justin repeatedly slaps adults in the face and they all go with it, proving that, even at 16, he was kind of a jerk.


5. Katy Perry: Part of Me

What Is It? Concert biopic including interviews with family and friends and documentation of the disintegration of her relationship with Russell Brand. (Remember “Kussell”? Did they even merit a portmanteau?)
Big 3-D Moment: The foam-shooting hose aimed at the audience tops off all the 3-D effects and shows clearly who is in control here: Katy, all the way.
Concert Highlight: While you wouldn’t wish it on anyone, the break-up with Russell Brand does add a nice bit of drama to this candy-colored popumentary, and makes Katy’s “verge of a nervous breakdown” performance in Sao Paolo unforgettable.
Celeb Sightings: Break-up queen Adele, Britney Spears, Carly Rae Jepsen, Jessie J, Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Whoopi Goldberg for some reason…
WTF Moment: Those pinwheels on her breasts.


6. Kylie Minogue – Aphrodite: Les Folies Tour

What Is It? An extravagant, high-camp parade of Dolce & Gabbana showgirl costumes (sometimes worn by men) in support of Kylie’s Aphrodite album.
Big 3-D Moments: The “swimming” acrobats mid-air prior to Kylie’s entrance and the spinning aerialist above the jets of water (created by Disneyland technicians) during her finale performance of “Only Lovers.”
Concert Highlight: Kylie singing “Aphrodite” (because you can’t beat her arrival on a golden half-shell) while surrounded by male dancers in peekaboo togas.
Celeb Sighting: Does a winged man representing Icarus and hanging from the ceiling count?
WTF Moment: Your jaw may drop every time Kylie must be escorted down some stairs (even if it’s just three) because her heels are so preposterously high.


7. One Direction: This Is Us

What Is It? Morgan Spurlock’s (yes, the Super Size Me guy) earnest travelogue/92-minute advertisement follows The X Factor‘s Fab Five from London to Tokyo and beyond.
Concert Highlight: Each time you hear “What Makes You Beautiful,” you realize why young girls fill stadiums and devote their lives to this band of slick pretty boys.
Big 3-D Moments: Video game spaceships flying over the audience as well as the bubblegum pink balls which delirious fans keep afloat in Mexico City.
Celeb Sightings: Fans include Martin Scorsese, Chris Rock, and soccer great Cristiano Ronaldo.
WTF Moment: When the fivesome get mobbed in a Nike store in Amsterdam, you realize that their fans may be cannibals and the band is in mortal danger.

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Maya Makes Sense

Maya Rudolph To Star in Talking Heads-Inspired Episode of Documentary Now!

The SNL alum will join Fred and Bill for season two's music-centric "Test Pattern" episode.

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With the recent tease of “Globesmen,” a spot-on homage to the 1968 documentary Salesman, we know we’re in for a treat when the second season of IFC’s critically-acclaimed series Documentary Now! returns this fall. Today, IFC released news of another upcoming episode and even more comedic talent joining the mix.

Actress and comedian Maya Rudolph (Saturday Night Live, Maya & Marty, and IFC’s own The Spoils Before Dying) will co-star in a music-centric episode of Documentary Now!. In “Test Pattern,” Rudolph joins series’ regulars Fred Armisen and Bill Hader on the stage as they perform one of the greatest concerts that never really happened.

Inspired by the groundbreaking 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary Stop Making Sense, “Test Pattern” features an eponymous hit band (Armisen, Hader and Rudolph) performing a riveting, high-energy final concert to an eager audience of fans. The innovative episode includes a musically-diverse set list of songs written by Armisen himself. (Just like last season’s hummable tunes from the Blue Jean Committee.) Outside of the concert, the episode will delve deep into the musicians’ interwoven backstories and reveal the inspirations behind their ’80s classics such as “Free David Ness” and “Indeng Indeng.”

“Test Pattern” joins the four previously announced titles “The Bunker,” “Globesmen,” “Juan Likes Rice and Chicken,” and the two-part Hollywood-themed doc “Mr. Runner Up,” all premiering on IFC this fall.

While you wait for the fictional concert of a lifetime, catch up on the entire first season of Documentary Now! with a marathon this Sunday starting at 10A. Season 2 premieres with seven new episodes this fall on IFC.

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