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Brian Cox Arms Up For Directorial Debut “Lady,” Raises Sword For “Ironclad”

Brian Cox Arms Up For Directorial Debut “Lady,” Raises Sword For “Ironclad”  (photo)

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In order to understand what Brian Cox went through on “Ironclad,” one must spoil a climactic plot point in the film, so if you’d prefer to remain unsullied, please dive right into the Q & A. But if not, you should place yourself in Wales in November, where as director Jonathan English recalls, “It was freezing cold, raining, windy as hell and Brian spent most of that day on his knees in the mud with a very thin cotton shirt on” as Paul Giamatti‘s King John berated him for helping lead a revolt against the throne before punishing him. (You can see an exclusive clip from the film here.)

“I was worried in the cold and the wet and having his hands chopped off and him catapulted against castle walls, what’s it going to be like?” English casually remembers now. “And Brian was amazing. He never complained once.” Although the bits about the behanding and the catapult are merely part of the movie magic involved in the gory medieval tale of a group of soldiers who rise up against the king after he’s defied his own signing of the Magna Carta, it’s a refreshing to know that the image of the unshakable Cox that has been cemented into the minds of moviegoers through his roles as diverse as the original Hannibal Lecter in “Manhunter” to the surly headmaster in “Rushmore” and yet again this summer in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” is the one he radiates offscreen as well.

BrianCoxIronclad3_06072011.jpgSoon, Cox will actually require that temperament behind the camera as he embarks on his first feature as a director, “Our Lady of Jackson Heights,” which he discussed along with finally working with his one-time student Giamatti on “Ironclad,” his desire to do more onscreen fighting, and the need for more independent British productions in an all-too-brief chat recently.

Do these kind of roles where you’re swinging a sword around hold a special appeal for you?

They’re part of my heritage, really. I used to do a lot of fencing in the theater and a lot of horse riding in the early days, so I’m used to it in a way. Ifyou’re classically trained like I am, it’s a little bit like mother’s milk to me. I enjoy it. And I don’t get the opportunity to do it all that often, so that was one of the fun things about doing it. I wanted to do a lot more fighting than they let me do because of insurance reasons because I’m not a kid anymore. But I had a great time doing it, particularly the riding. Anything to get on a horse.

What’s the challenge for you on a movie like this?

With a relatively independent movie like this, the challenge is to see if we can get it done, given the time that we’ve got to make it in. I think Jonathan did a great job. He’s a great delegator. He had a wonderful director of photography and a wonderful camera operator and a great cast. And a great fight director.

BrianCoxIronclad2_06072011.jpgYou’ve said it was a point of pride for you that this was produced in England.

Also, the fact it was done in Wales. We don’t make the movies that we should make. We’ve never really had an industry back home. And it saddens me in one way because I think the potential that is there is enormous and we’ve missed out on it a little bit to our detriment. I want to see us do more of that kind of movie. But we do need the tax breaks. We do need the studios. We do need the support of the government. We see a lot of what’s happening in Europe like films being made in Prague, Bulgaria, Serbia, films being made everywhere.

In the early days when I started, we had a lot of great people around and we could do amazing stuff with very little budgets and I’d like to see that happen again. That was what was so good about working in Wales – the problem is always the weather, but especially [for] a film like this, it was actually the best kind of weather to be working in because in fact, it’s very real. These guys did fight these battles and wear these kinds of costumes and they were soaking wet. Not only were you wielding your sword and dealing with somebody who was wearing 150 pounds of armor, the terrain was pretty primitive. So in a sense when you get those elements together, it’s quite exciting.

It also must’ve been exciting to work with Paul Giamatti, who you once taught in a Shakespeare class many years earlier.

I did. Well, Paul is astonishing. He really is astonishing. The big speech that he has, he did it in one take. He didn’t even have any rehearsal, he just came in and hit the ground running.

Did you remember him as a good student?

Oh yeah. He was always very quiet. He’s very self-effacing. His focus is the work and always has been.

Is it true you’re thinking of making your directorial debut soon with “Our Lady of Jackson Heights”?

Yes. Well, I’d been trying to direct for a long time and this is written by an old friend of mine, Mickey Abbate. It’s a slight reworking of “Oliver Twist,” except it’s set in New York and it’s about these kids dealing this drug called “Numb” — instead of pickpockets, they’re runners of this drug and it’s about the kind of subculture.

Does it feel like the right time to get behind the camera?

I’ve tried to make a film for many years and it didn’t happen. I’ve always wanted to make a film. Charles Laughton, who’s a great hero of mine only ever made one film and it happens to be one of the great films ever, which is “The Night of the Hunter.” It’s full of his kind of imagination and creation and how you do things and just in the way he used the studio, I just thought it was a fantastical way of using the studio.

I’ve directed a couple of times in the theater, but I wouldn’t make a habit of it because it’s too consuming. I admire these young directors who kind of work for 10, 12 years on a movie. I worked with Rupert Wyatt and it took ages for him to get a movie made [with “The Escapist”] and then we finally got his movie made. I worked on that for three years [both as an actor and producer]. Again, [“Our Lady of Jackson Heights”] is a dark subject. It has Dickensian tones to it, but I think it’s a really, really interesting film, so hopefully we’re going to try to get it made this winter.

“Ironclad” is now available on VOD and will open in theaters on July 8th.

Will you want to see Brian Cox make his directorial debut? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

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Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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Reality? Check.

Baroness For Life

Baroness von Sketch Show is available for immediate consumption.

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Baroness von Sketch Show is snowballing as people have taken note of its subtle and not-so-subtle skewering of everyday life. The New York Times, W Magazine, and Vogue have heaped on the praise, but IFC had a few more probing questions…

IFC: To varying degrees, your sketches are simply scripted examples of things that actually happen. What makes real life so messed up?

Aurora: Hubris, Ego and Selfish Desires and lack of empathy.

Carolyn: That we’re trapped together in the 3rd Dimension.

Jenn: 1. Other people 2. Other people’s problems 3. Probably something I did.

IFC: A lot of people I know have watched this show and realized, “Dear god, that’s me.” or “Dear god, that’s true.” Why do people have their blinders on?

Aurora: Because most people when you’re in the middle of a situation, you don’t have the perspective to step back and see yourself because you’re caught up in the moment. That’s the job of comedians is to step back and have a self-awareness about these things, not only saying “You’re doing this,” but also, “You’re not the only one doing this.” It’s a delicate balance of making people feel uncomfortable and comforting them at the same time.

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IFC: Unlike a lot of popular sketch comedy, your sketches often focus more on group dynamics vs iconic individual characters. Why do you think that is and why is it important?

Meredith: We consider the show to be more based around human dynamics, not so much characters. If anything we’re more attracted to the energy created by people interacting.

Jenn: So much of life is spent trying to work it out with other people, whether it’s at work, at home, trying to commute to work, or even on Facebook it’s pretty hard to escape the group.

IFC: Are there any comedians out there that you feel are just nailing it?

Aurora: I love Key and Peele. I know that their show is done and I’m in denial about it, but they are amazing because there were many times that I would imagine that Keegan Michael Key was in the scene while writing. If I could picture him saying it, I knew it would work. I also kind of have a crush on Jordan Peele and his performance in Big Mouth. Maya Rudolph also just makes everything amazing. Her puberty demon on Big Mouth is flawless. She did an ad for 7th generation tampons that my son, my husband and myself were singing around the house for weeks. If I could even get anything close to her career, I would be happy. I’m also back in love with Rick and Morty. I don’t know if I have a crush on Justin Roiland, I just really love Rick (maybe even more than Morty). I don’t have a crush on Jerry, the dad, but I have a crush on Chris Parnell because he’s so good at being Jerry.

Jenn: I LOVE ISSA RAE!

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IFC: If you could go back in time and cast yourselves in any sitcom, which would it be and how would it change?

Carolyn: I’d go back in time and cast us in The Partridge Family.  We’d make an excellent family band. We’d have a laugh, break into song and wear ruffled blouses with velvet jackets.  And of course travel to all our gigs on a Mondrian bus. I feel really confident about this choice.

Meredith: Electric Mayhem from The Muppet Show. It wouldn’t change, they were simply perfect, except… maybe a few more vaginas in the band.

Binge the entire first and second seasons of Baroness von Sketch Show now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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