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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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SO EXCITED!!!

Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”

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IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?


Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!


Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.


Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 

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IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.