‘Deadpool’ star Ryan Reynolds looks cozy in suit reveal

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Actor Ryan Reynolds reprises his role as the antihero Deadpool in 2016. (Victoria Will / Invision / AP)

In “Deadpool,” coming in 2016, actor Ryan Reynolds reprises the antihero role he played in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” (Victoria Will / Invision/Associated Press)

Actor Ryan Reynolds revealed his official “Deadpool” get-up to fans via Twitter on Friday, with a dose of the Marvel character’s trademark wisecracking attitude.

Clad head-to-toe in red and black, the star is seen laying supine on a fur and lit by a roaring hearth. “No bears were harmed in the making of this photo. Though many bears likely turned on,” Reynolds tweeted. 

The photo serves as a reminder that 20th Century Fox’s “Deadpool,” set for release on  Feb. 12, 2016, strays far from the path tread by superhero blockbusters to date.

The film is based on the Marvel character Wade Winston Wilson, known for a tendency to break the fourth wall and speak directly to comic book readers. The antihero, first portrayed by Reynolds in 2009’s “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” boasts a wicked wit, but cradles a questionable sense of morality that Reynolds hopes won’t lose viewers.

“With Deadpool, it’s a lot like going to prison for the first day,” Reynolds said in a 2010 interview with Hero Complex.

“You got to walk up and hit the biggest guy you see to establish a bit of cred. With Deadpool, early on you have to establish that moral flexibility. There’s a gamble to it — you’re going to lose a few people right at the beginning but you take the gamble and know that eventually you’re going to win them back …”

“Deadpool” is directed by Tim Miller, with Simon Kinberg and Lauren Shuler Donner producing.

— Andrea Wang | @accordingtoAW


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Patience with free-form ‘Marfa Girl’ pays off

Funny thing about “Marfa Girl,” the 2012 ensemble drama from idiosyncratic writer-director Larry Clark (“Kids,” “Bully”): For all its meanderings and indulgences — verbal and visual — this free-form snapshot of a circle of townsfolk in tiny Marfa, Texas, proves a sneakily immersive, weirdly memorable affair.

The “girl” of the title, a sexually free (OK, promiscuous) artist-in-residence (Drake Burnette), is actually not the focal point here. That would be 16-year-old Adam (Adam Mediano), a bright, randomly charismatic kid drifting through his sex, drugs and skateboarding existence in the dusty, dead-end community.

Much of the action, such as it is, spins around the low-key Adam, who interacts with his adorable girlfriend (Mercedes Maxwell), a seductress neighbor (Indigo Rael), his bohemian mom (Mary Farley), a provocative teacher (Lindsay Jones), a psychotic Border Patrol officer (Jeremy St. James) and, of course, the “Marfa girl.” Other locals — a spiritual healer, young musicians, more border guards — float in and out as well.

Clark largely lets his cameras linger while allowing his characters, many of whom are played by non-professional actors, to chatter and philosophize. If some of what passes for narrative can feel inane, there’s plenty of authentic behavior and emotion on display as well.

There’s also lots of blunt sex talk and horizontal activity, with a couple of real envelope-pushing moments.

Yes, this patience-tester could have used some judicious cuts, a quickened pace and stronger focus. But that’s not the Larry Clark way, so best to go with it or move on.

The cool end-credits song, “It’s Okay” by Dead Moon, takes us out on a high.


Marfa Girl’

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 47 minutes.

Playing: Laemmle’s NoHo7, North Hollywood. On VOD April 3.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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Julie Andrews on ‘The Sound of Music,’ film, fame and Lady Gaga

Julie Andrews will take the stage at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre on Thursday night for a 50th anniversary screening of “The Sound of Music,” where she’s appearing with Christopher Plummer, her costar in the beloved best picture-winning film at the opening night of the TCM Classic Film Festival.

The lively and humorous Andrews, 79, spoke with The Times by phone recently about the status of the movie musical genre, her blossoming friendship with Lady Gaga and the complexity of the Oscars’ best picture category.

I was just reading some of the reviews from when “The Sound of Music” first came out, and I was surprised to see they weren’t all that glowing.

I don’t honestly know what that was about. Maybe they had more to choose from in those days, more musicals. Maybe they were spoiled by a lot of choices. On Broadway, it was a lot more saccharine. I think people thought it was OK to pan it because it did have that somewhat saccharine quality, which we in the film tried to dispel and to some degree, thanks to Christopher [Plummer], we did. Maybe they thought it’s manly to put it down. Whatever they wrote, [the movie] certainly stood the test of time.

What was it like for you to watch Lady Gaga sing “The Sound of Music” tribute at the Academy Awards?

Phenomenal. I’d been a fan, but I’d never actually met her. Ten days before, she called and said, “I just want to be very sure that you’re OK with this, that I’m not offending in any way.” I said, “Are you kidding? Go for it. Enjoy it.” We met face-to-face 45 seconds before we went on stage, so my actual first contact with her was when I walked on stage and gave her a hug. I subsequently spoke to her. We chatted for about 25 minutes. She sang very, very well. I was a fan, and now I’ve made a new friend.

She burst into tears after she walked off stage.

That’s what she told me. She did say, “It’s probably the biggest thing I’ve ever done.” And so brave, in front of that audience to take that gamble. She worked very, very hard on it. I thought making that herculean effort and then handing it to me on a golden platter and walking off stage was amazingly generous. I’m the lucky lady that was asked to be in that great film. I never cease to be grateful, really.

Why do you think the “Sound of Music” style of filmmaking went out of fashion?

Expense. And things are cyclical. Big, big movies like that went out of style for a while when movies like “Easy Rider” came in, and then they began to come back again, and then things like the wonderful “Star Wars” and those sort of films were all the rage. Right now I guess we’re on, what would you call them?

Comic book movies?

Yes, those are the summer blockbusters, and they’re huge pleasures. But there were more musicals in earlier days, and I hope and pray they come back again. Myself, I love them.

How do you think Hollywood has changed since you made “The Sound of Music”?

Well, there are a lot more independent productions. Then it was all about the big studios. These days there are more personal movies being made and quiet subjects being enjoyed. Then there’s all the digital, wondrous stuff that’s being done. A great many of the musicals you saw on film then were whatever was on Broadway. I think the good news is there are a lot of good musicals on Broadway at the moment. Whether any of them will translate to film, it would be fantastic because it bodes well for musicals in general.

Do you think the public expects stars to be more accessible than they used to be, because of Twitter or TMZ, perhaps?

Truthfully, I mostly can be as private as I want. I do something like this and then I pop back into my garden…. I seem to be very busy, and I seem always to be working. When I did “The Sound of Music” and “Mary Poppins” and “The Americanization of Emily,” all three were in the can and had not yet been released. So I was driving around having a fine time learning about how to make movies and enjoying myself enormously, and then they were released and it was quite an assault in a way. But it flares and calms, and that’s probably the way it is for everybody in this marvelous business.

You and your daughter have written many children’s books together. What are you working on now?

We have another children’s picture book coming out later this year. I’m beginning to do a little [theater] directing, which I love because it’s a way of giving back. “The Great American Mousical” has been turned into the most charming musical. Another one’s being talked about as a movie: “The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles.”

There’s some discussion right now of the motion picture academy reducing the number of best picture nominees back down to five. What do you think about that?

I believe and can only guess [the expansion of the category] was done to promote movies in general. It’s 10 now, isn’t it?

It fluctuates.

Right, it was eight this year. It was certainly easier with five. Personally, from a voting point of view, I wish it would go back to five, but that’s even harder. The nomination is lovely, but who’s to say that a musical is better than a drama or a comedy? How does one choose? That’s a responsibility.


Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

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‘Insurgent’ author Veronica Roth wants young women to see a flawed, powerful Tris

At 26, author Veronica Roth already has penned a bestselling YA book trilogy and co-produced two films based on the tale, including “The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” which opened in theaters Friday. The film stars Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller and Kate Winslet, and is based on the second novel in the series.

Chicago-based Roth wrote “Divergent” when she was a 21-year-old college senior; her wild ascent has been a surreal ride. She recently discussed the big-screen adaptation, what she hopes the story means to young women and what’s next in her writing career.

Hero Complex: You saw “Insurgent” several weeks ago, but now everyone else gets to see it.

Veronica Roth: I’m looking forward to seeing it again with my mom and my stepdad and my husband there.

HC: Do you feel different about showing your work to your family as opposed to fans and strangers?

VR: Yeah, weirdly, it’s easier to show it to strangers — I think because family grows up with you, and they know all your weird stuff and your embarrassing stuff, and if any of that gets introduced into a book, they’ll call you out on it.

HC: You wrote the book at your mom’s house. Did you use your family as a sounding board during the writing process?

VR: I did write “Divergent” in my mom’s house, most of it when I was home for winter break. Obviously it took longer than that. I think the only thing I consulted my mother on was whether Tris [the heroine portrayed by Woodley] should be attacked by birds or rats. She said birds are scarier because they’re less obvious, which I think is a really astute observation.

HC: What was your take on the film? It has some pretty big departures from your novel.

VR: That’s true. I think I was really prepared for that, because looking at “Insurgent” just structurally, it’s a lot more complicated than the other books in the series, with a lot more nuanced character motivations. I didn’t want to see a movie in which they’re just explaining things to you the whole time. I was prepared for a lot of plot streamlining. But I feel like the characters are true to the characters in the book and that the setting is still very familiar, so I was really happy with it once I saw how well the changes worked. Obviously it’s not easy to watch your work changed, because you’re, like, “Wait, what did I do wrong?” But when you see that it works for the translation to a new medium, it’s really easy to accept.

HC: You’ve said that the “Divergent” world is brighter on screen than you’d imagined it in the books.

VR: The way I imagined this world is so grim, just from a visual perspective. I don’t know why everything I imagine is in shadows. I think it’s because I don’t have as detailed an eye for the “Divergent” universe as a filmmaker has to. I need to describe setting, and I’m certainly working on doing that a little more, but my style is a little more sparse. And I don’t have to fill in a shot with a million details, because I’m writing a novel. So it’s always a little brighter, but it looks more like the world. We’re not constantly cast in shadow.

Jeanine (Kate Winslet), left, conducts tests on Tris (Shailene Woodley) captive in "The Divergent Series: Insurgent."

Jeanine (Kate Winslet), left, conducts tests on Tris (Shailene Woodley) captive in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.”

HC: What was it like consulting on set?

VR: I give feedback, and they are happy to hear it. They don’t always take it, but that’s the nature of any creative relationship. And if anyone has a “Divergent” universe question, I’m like the encyclopedia. They had fewer on this film than they did on “Divergent” because they were establishing the world then.

HC: Were there any depictions in set design or casting that you felt like, “This is exactly what I imagined.”

VR: It was important to me to have a diverse cast, so one of the people I loved seeing most was Daniel Dae Kim as Jack Kang. And he’s just fantastic. I remember just sitting there, listening to him and thinking, “I wish this man could record my voicemail, because he has a really soothing voice.” And he brought a kind of power to Jack, which is really fortunate, because he doesn’t have the most active role in this movie. He kind of gets trampled by all of these really powerful women, which is awesome. But I didn’t want him to be a useless leader; he just knows his limitations. And so Daniel brought a kind of power to that role because he seems like such a capable person. When he’s on screen, he sort of has this charisma.

Daniel Dae Kim as Jack Kang in "Insurgent." (Andrew Cooper / Summit)

Daniel Dae Kim as Jack Kang in “Insurgent.” (Andrew Cooper / Summit)

HC: Tris, the story’s heroine, is not always likable.

VR: I think one of the lesser-talked-about ways of dehumanizing someone is to make them perfect. So in an attempt to represent women and not disrespect them, which is a good thing, sometimes people go too far, and they’re just, like, “Women are angels! Look at this saintly and perfectly strong woman, blasting her way through this action movie.” But that’s no good either, because no one can live up to that standard. So letting her be flawed is such an important thing to me.

HC: And she learns to like herself, despite those flaws.

VR: Tris’ emotional journey is just crucial to “Insurgent.” And that was something I was really paying attention to when I was watching the movie come together. So it’s important to me in order for her to become a stronger person for her to go through the dark times on screen, not to just bounce back like a mindless action hero would but to grapple with what she’s done and what she feels like she’s done … to have her really struggle with it and go into the dark place and come out a stronger woman.

I really love that the place she comes to is one of compassion toward herself and forgiveness, especially for young women to see. Young women are pretty much taught to constantly criticize themselves and to never believe that we’re good enough, and to see a young woman, even in the midst of a really fun and entertaining action movie, go through that journey is just so powerful for me to watch. I hope it’s powerful for some of my young readers to witness as well.

Four (Theo James), left, Peter (Miles Teller) and Tris (Shailene Woodley) in "The Divergent Series: Insurgent." (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

Four (Theo James), left, Peter (Miles Teller) and Tris (Shailene Woodley) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

HC: You’re working on a new series — a space opera? What’s it like to get back to writing after “Divergent”?

VR: I am, and I’m so glad you used that terminology. It’s going to be a duology — so two books — and hopefully the first one coming out in 2017. It’s about a young man who unites with someone who’s supposed to be his enemy in order to get revenge. It feels awesome.

It took me a while to find the right story, the one that felt as exciting to me as “Divergent” felt when I first started writing it. I finally did, and I was just so relieved. I was, like, “Thank goodness I still feel this way about writing.” Because, you know, a lot can change. Everything in life pretty much changed, but this didn’t, and I’m really happy about it.

HC: How have you handled all that change? To have had so much publicity so early in your career?

VR: Occasionally I feel like I skipped a decade of being frustrated and wondering if it would ever happen. I got to go right into this new part. It’s not something I ever expected, and it was a huge change from where I was when I started, so it certainly threw me for a while. But I think now I know how to focus my mind very much on what’s important to me, which is the work of writing and getting better and my family and friends and dog. And as long as I think about those things and not about the crazy things, I feel pretty much the same about life as I used to.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+


Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior in a poster for "Insurgent." (Summit)Theo James relishes ‘Divergent’ experience

‘Insurgent’: Shailene Woodley talks Tris’ battles, inside and out

‘Insurgent’: Jai Courtney talks Eric’s journey

‘Insurgent’: Naomi Watts talks universal themes

‘Insurgent’: Mekhi Phifer on Max’s leadership

‘Insurgent’: Miles Teller on Peter’s allegiance

Shailene Woodley embraces being divergent

Kate Winslet shakes things up with a villainous turn

Winslet, Judd share thoughts on Shailene Woodley

‘Divergent’: Maggie Q talks Tori, tough heroines

‘Insurgent’: Shailene Woodley talks Tris’ battles, inside and out

The wait is over for “Divergent” fans. “Insurgent,” which opens today, sees Shailene Woodley return to the big screen as action heroine Tris Prior.

The sequel, based on the second installment in Veronica Roth’s bestselling YA book trilogy, follows Tris Prior, a young woman who discovers she has an aptitude for multiple factions in her dystopian world’s rigid societal system. Tris tries to hide this unusual and dangerous trait, known as divergence, until she is forced to reveal her secret when one faction stages a coup by decimating another.

“Insurgent” finds Tris and her allies on the run after interfering with this uprising in an effort to save their communities.

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Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

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Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

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Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

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Jack Kang (Daniel Dae Kim), Four (Theo James) and Tris (Shailene Woodley) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

feature1 Insurgent: Shailene Woodley talks Tris battles, inside and out

Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Lionsgate)

Since “Divergent,” Woodley has appeared as Hazel Lancaster in “The Fault in Our Stars,” another adaptation of a YA bestseller, opposite her “Divergent” series costar Ansel Elgort.

Woodley spoke to Hero Complex by phone about the universal themes mixed in with the heftier action sequences present in “Insurgent.”

Hero Complex: How was coming back to play Tris?

Shailene Woodley: It was interesting because it was much more difficult than I sort of anticipated. What I hadn’t taken into account is that I have progressed so much since the time that I played Tris in “Divergent” [so] of course me just jumping into her mind-set would be different because as Shailene, my mind-set was different.

It was fun to explore this Tris because she was going through so much more of an internal emotional battle than in the first movie. In the last film she lost her parents, she lost her best friend, so in this movie she’s dealing with a lot of guilt while also trying to figure out how to continue to aid the community that exists around her.

Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior in a poster for "The Divergent Series: Insurgent." (Lionsgate)

Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior in a poster for “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Lionsgate)

HC: How was getting to explore the wider world in “Insurgent”?

SW: It was fun. In the first movie we didn’t really get to see what Candor looked like, we didn’t get to see what the testing grounds for Erudite looked like, and our director [Robert Schwentke] was really keen on gussying up the set design. Our set designer was really, really talented in creating a world that was foreign and yet still somehow familiar.

I really enjoyed the Factionless set because there was so much detail, [which] you can see in the film, but to be there in the flesh with this huge new world that you’d never seen before. I just thought it was a creative way to take on [the idea of] a population that didn’t have anything … how would they create a home based on what they found from the other factions?

HC: In “Insurgent” Tris meets Evelyn, and interacts with the Factionless. How do they fit into the sense of identity explored in the film?

SW: Naomi [Watts, who plays Evelyn] made a great point when we were doing a press interview [that] we always in our lives search for how to identify ourselves away from our families. And I think that that is a big part of the conforming question. How can we be an individual in a world – and I’m talking about the “Divergent” world, but it applies to this world as well – that idolizes similarities and idolizes, in a way, a lack of individuality. It’s oftentimes because, I think, we’re trying to fulfill the needs or expectations from our parents. In this movie we see Four [played by Theo James] struggle with his history with his mom, and you see Tris’ struggle and history with her mom and how much it still dominates her brain.

HC: How was jumping back into the action and the stunts for this movie?

SW: It’s always so fun to do action sequences and stunts and whatnot, [but] this one was really great because [“Divergent”] was a lot of fighting and this one [included] more on-the-ground running, wire work and stunt work.

HC: The action in “Insurgent” is at a bigger scale, like the scene that involves a spinning Abnegation house.

SW: That scene took like a month to film. There was four or five stunt doubles at once. On one day there was an acrobat doing this wire work in a corner [while] there was me doing close-ups on the spinning hydraulic machine, and then there was another stunt double running, so it was a team effort.

Jeanine (Kate Winslet), left, conducts tests on Tris (Shailene Woodley) captive in "The Divergent Series: Insurgent."

Jeanine (Kate Winslet), left, conducts tests on a captive Tris (Shailene Woodley) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.”

HC: How complicated was filming the scene where Tris fights herself?

SW: It was actually more difficult than I anticipated because there was a lot of mathematics involved because you had to match exactly. The movement that the stunt double would make I would have to re-create on the other side with me in Tris’ shoes again.

HC: “Insurgent” features a pretty large cast. How was it reuniting with people from the previous film while adding new characters?

SW: The nice thing about this movie is everybody genuinely gets along really well and everyone genuinely cares for one another and everyone is a really, authentically, great human being who’s just really interested in the art of filmmaking. It was nice to have everyone together and to be able to share what we knew from the first film and also what the new faces meant. It wasn’t just Naomi and Octavia [Spencer] who were new. We had a lot of other people who were new and some of them had never even really done a film series before, which is always exciting. It’s exciting to see this freshness in somebody’s eyes who hasn’t necessarily been around the block a lot. They bring a sense of excitement and exhilaration to the set.

HC: Do you think that most of the characters you would consider villains in this film genuinely think they’re doing what’s right for society?

SW: Absolutely. That’s one of the things that I really love [about this series]. Kate [Winslet, who plays Jeanine,] can be seen as an antagonist but in reality, from her perspective, she’s the protagonist. So it’s all about perspective and I think that’s really relatable to today’s society in the way that when you look at something that’s good or bad, right or wrong, you just recognize that it all depends on the varying place that your own story is told from.

HC: Does “Insurgent” end in a more hopeful place?

SW: I think it definitely ends in a more hopeful place. I think it ends in a place of, they have a future and now they know where the future is going. Regardless of what’s outside the wall, there’s a gap that was bridged. [It’s] really exciting, you know, when you finally have an answer. Regardless of what that answer turns out to be there’s something ahead of you to look forward to.

HC: What about you, what are you looking forward to?

SW: In life? I’m really looking forward to a warm beach somewhere. I don’t know where it is or when I’m going to be there, but that’s something I cannot wait to explore.

– Tracy Brown | @tracycbrown | @LATHeroComplex


Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior in a poster for "Insurgent." (Summit)Actor Theo James relishes this ‘Divergent’ experience

‘Insurgent’: Jai Courtney talks Eric’s journey, ‘Terminator’

‘Insurgent’: Naomi Watts on Evelyn and the universal themes in ‘Divergent’

‘Insurgent’: Mekhi Phifer on Max’s leadership in ‘Divergent’ sequel

‘Insurgent’: Miles Teller on Peter’s allegiance, ‘Fantastic Four’

Shailene Woodley embraces being divergent

Kate Winslet shakes things up with a villainous turn

Winslet, Judd share thoughts on Shailene Woodley

‘Divergent’: Shailene Woodley in warrior mode

‘Divergent’: Maggie Q talks Tori, tough heroines


‘Insurgent’: Jai Courtney talks Eric’s journey, ‘Terminator’

The release of “The Divergent Series: Insurgent,” which opens Friday, will reunite fans not only with the film’s heroes Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), but also with their foes, including Four’s rival and vicious Dauntless leader Eric, played by Jai Courtney.

“Insurgent” is based on the second book in the series of Veronica Roth’s popular dystopian YA novels. It follows Tris Prior, a girl whose aptitude for multiple factions, called divergence, means she is considered a threat to the rigid society of a future Chicago that values the balance created by dividing its citizens into five factions based on dominant personality traits.

Jai Courtney plays Dauntless leader Eric in "The Divergent Series: Insurgent." (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

Jai Courtney plays Dauntless leader Eric in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

Tris and her allies are on the run after the events in “Divergent,” in which she intervenes in an uprising organized by the leaders of two of the factions. Tasked with finding these refugees are leaders Max (Mekhi Phifer) and Eric.

Courtney’s ever-expanding action resume includes films such as “A Good Day to Die Hard” and “Jack Reacher,” as well as this year’s “Terminator: Genisys” and 2016’s “Suicide Squad.” He also had a role in 2014’s biopic “Unbroken,” directed by Angelina Jolie.

Courtney spoke with Hero Complex by phone to discuss “Insurgent” (note: some spoilers), Eric’s motivation for his villainy as well as his upcoming roles in “Terminator” and “Suicide Squad.”

Hero Complex: How was revisiting Eric for round 2?

Jai Courtney: It was great. It was a little funny for me. I came into the process kind of late because I was filming “Terminator[: Genisys]” at the time. We had to do them simultaneously, which was interesting to say the least, but I had a ball. It was wonderful this time to be able to kind of build upon what we established in the first film.

When I arrived at the set everyone had been underway for a couple of weeks [and] I almost felt like a new character. I hadn’t had that pre-production time to get comfortable again and be in the table read [to] rehash what we’ve done and rediscover those things. I had to show up the day I filmed it the first time, and that was actually a little daunting, but maybe there’s a little muscle memory in that sense [because] I think all of us that were reprising roles found extreme comfort in the ability to really play a little more the second time around.

[Director] Robert Schwentke was wonderful in advocating that, and he was great with allowing us to take what we established in “Divergent” as a foundation for our characters but also keep them a little more pliant. I think that’s probably most evident with characters like myself or Peter [and] Max. These guys who were somewhat functional the first time around had a little more of a voice this time, and I think the material has been written for what works for those characters and the actors playing them, so it’s really a privilege. It’s kind of a shame I won’t get to do it again.

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Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

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Jeanine (Kate Winslet) and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

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Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

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Jack Kang (Daniel Dae Kim), Four (Theo James) and Tris (Shailene Woodley) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Andrew Cooper / Lionsgate)

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Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) in “The Divergent Series: Insurgent.” (Lionsgate)

HC: Eric does seem to have a bit more freedom to embrace the violence and his role as a villain in “Insurgent.”

JC: It’s almost like his time to shine. He’s clearly loyal to this corrupt administration, and I have my own beliefs about why that is. I think a lot of it is rooted in his determined desire to elevate himself personally in the status of that society. But all that bitterness and insecurity that comes from being this nemesis of Four – as someone who’s always been challenged by this smarter, harder, class rival – is still there and only fuels his determination to catch them and bring them in.

I think he doesn’t really care. It is a selfish trip for him in a way. He’s almost been sent out like one of Jeanine’s dogs to find the Divergents, but if he killed them instead of capture then it really wouldn’t matter [to him]. I think he’d find immense satisfaction in it.

HC: Can we talk about Eric’s death? How was it on set that day and were you satisfied with how it played out?

In addition to "Insurgent," Jai Courtney will play Kyle Reese in "Terminator: Genisys" which will be released later this year. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

In addition to “Insurgent,” Jai Courtney can be seen later this year as Kyle Reese in “Terminator: Genisys.” (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

JC: It was fine. It was fun. We talked a lot about that moment and how to do it properly, what was the right message to send, [and if] we [should] stay totally true to what was written in the book, which is slightly different. [In the book] Eric is brought before a court and [his fate] is decided [there]. We juggled with what [this scene] said about Four and his decision to do that in the moment.

I actually think it’s a great turn for [Four] because we’ve seen it before with him where he may have a plan in place but he doesn’t necessarily act in the moment and do what’s perhaps the most cavalier or kind of heroic [because] he’s a little smarter than that. I think this is the perfect moment for him to just say, “… it” and give Eric what he deserves. I wanted him to go down as brutally as he deserved to. My attachment to a character doesn’t hinder my desire to see good action or good drama on screen. I knew he deserved it. There was no debate for me in that sense. I think it played out well.

HC: How was it jumping directly from “Terminator” to “Insurgent”?

JC: They’re vastly different characters and it was a bit wacky doing that. I think what made it easy was the fact that Eric had been established before and I could go in knowing the world a little bit. Knowing who I was going to work with and having some comfort in the sense [of] that character being familiar. I think it would’ve been really intimidating if that was a completely different project that I’d never touched before so that was the only saving grace really. I probably would’ve avoided that at all cost [and] I’m not sure I would opt to take on such a schedule clash if I was presented with that again.

HC: How is it taking on these characters that come with expectations because audiences have preconceived images of them?

JC: To be honest … I don’t pay any attention, really, to how the role has been played before. I might watch [previous works] for a point of reference as far as the world or the style [and] genre of filmmaking, but I [have been] asked if I studied Michael Biehn’s performance [as Kyle Reese] in the first “Terminator” and I’d be crazy to go and do that. It’s not going to translate, and I wasn’t hired for the job to emulate someone else’s performance. It’s a standalone film and the character’s changed. The writing’s changed.

It’s not to say we abandoned all the setup. He’s still a soldier in John Connor’s army fighting the resistance, and he still has the task of saving Sarah Connor, but that’s virtually all that links the two. I just can’t see it being interesting as a performer nor it being interesting for the audience if I was trying to go in there and just steal things from someone who’d played that role already. I think there’s archetypal similarities you’ll get with doing a role like that, and you can pluck influence from other actors or other performances, but it certainly wasn’t a concern of mine to try and hit specific things.

If you’re talking about a biographical figure it’s different. We know certain things about certain people in history that define them. But I think there was enough in the writing and enough in the character brief that provided the actors in “Terminator” to kind of go with that, but then completely make it their own.

HC: What about Eric drew you to the role?

JC: I think it was just the opportunity to do something fun. I hadn’t gone back to sort of a real villainous thing since “Jack Reacher,” I think, at the time. I wanted to work with Neil [Burger] originally and we talked about this character. To be honest, on the page, it didn’t excite me that much. There was a discussion that was had there about where we could go with the character and that’s not about changing his journey. You’re adapting a novel [and] there are certain things you can’t invent that aren’t there, but I was concerned about [Eric] coming across [as] one-dimensional. I didn’t want to play this wash of a sinister bad guy. That stuff’s only interesting if you get to the root of where that lies. I was more interested in playing the subtleties of his envy of Four and the insecurity that had manifested there, and how that kind of breeds this guy who’ll stop at nothing in order to get one over the other.

Plus I think I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t attracted to the fact that [“Divergent”] was a film adaptation of a really successful novel series. That’s interesting to me, [and] it’s curious to note how those things do blow up and what brings audiences in. It’s not to say you choose films based on the chance of their popularity, but I don’t think we ever choose films based on the fact that we hope they won’t be popular, so some of that played in of course.

HC: Is there any particular faction you enjoyed visiting in “Insurgent”?

JC: Yeah, I had a lot of fun out at the Amity farm. That was partially [because] it’s a small scene, but it was great working with Octavia Spencer. What they built out there was really fascinating [and the set was] in this really kind of strange little pocket of America, on this farm called Serenbe, which was so crazily close to the world of Amity.

Then [there was] the chase sequence through the woods and stuff. That was a really cool action sequence to film and I had a lot of fun doing it. It was cool to see them step it up in that sense and utilize their resources to expand those set pieces and really go for it.

HC: What’s next for you?

I’m off to do “Suicide Squad,” so I’m jumping into the comic book world which will be a lot of fun. And I’m playing an Aussie, which will be a little different and refreshing for me. My slate’s kind of full enough not to worry for a second. I’m just looking forward to “Terminator” coming out this year and very excited about “Insurgent.”

– Tracy Brown | @tracycbrown | @LATHeroComplex


Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior in a poster for "Insurgent." (Summit)

Actor Theo James relishes this ‘Divergent’ experience

‘Insurgent’: Naomi Watts on Evelyn and the universal themes in ‘Divergent’

‘Insurgent’: Mekhi Phifer on Max’s leadership in ‘Divergent’ sequel

‘Insurgent’: Miles Teller on Peter’s allegiance, ‘Fantastic Four’

Shailene Woodley embraces being divergent

Kate Winslet shakes things up with a villainous turn

Winslet, Judd share thoughts on Shailene Woodley

‘Divergent’: Shailene Woodley in warrior mode

‘Divergent’: Maggie Q talks Tori, tough heroines

Ansel Elgort talks ‘Divergent,’ ‘Fault in Our Stars’

‘Divergent’ director: Tris’ tale is a hero myth

‘Divergent’: Ashley Judd talks Natalie Prior

‘Divergent’: Jai Courtney, Miles Teller on being bad

Is ‘The Jinx’ a threat to traditional feature documentaries?

Of the many angles to Andrew Jarecki’s “The Jinx” that have been remarked upon over the past few days, one that’s slipped by relatively unnoticed is the format–specifically, the serialized one.

This is at heart a documentary, that most venerable of feature types. And Jarecki is, of course, a noted doc feature filmmaker, having made the hit “Capturing the Friedmans” a little more than a decade ago. 

In fact, Jarecki initially thought “Jinx” would be a feature doc too, until he decided to go in a serial direction. As he explained to my colleague Meredith Blake:

“We started, we had this 4 1/2-hour thing and it was clear that it wasn’t finished. At a certain point during the day we’re all talking about how we just watched ‘Homeland’ or we just saw ‘House of Cards’ or we just watched the original ‘House of Cards’ or ‘The Wire’ and everybody in the edit room is obsessed with these serialized stories,” he said. “We’re living in a binge watching universe where people are watching 10 episodes at a time of things. Why don’t we accept where we are in the universe. Let’s abandon the idea that this has to be a feature length film.”

And so it has found life as a six-hour television series–on HBO’s vaunted Sunday night schedule no less, in the same slot that had us watching the scripted crime drama of “True Detective” a year ago. What might in another era have well been a traditional doc is now coming in a newer and modern form. 

Serial has become the buzzword for documentaries. Nonfiction filmmakers now increasingly believe that the feature (and the theatrical release window it was tailored for) is a thing of the past. We live in an age of binge watching and episodic content, so why shouldn’t doc films follow the trend?

The rise of docs on television and digital platforms, and our commensurate need to gobble up large slabs of content, means that docs now increasingly can and will live as longform pieces. As Thom Powers, doc overseer for Toronto and a host of other film festivals, said in an interview for a story about the true crime doc in today’s Times: “Every meeting I have these days, it’s not very long before someone brings up the idea serial.” He said he’s considering programming serialized content at his fests. (“Jinx,” in fact, premiered at Sundance.)

Serialized docs actually pose a challenge at a festival, because programmers don’t have five- or six-hour slots to spare, and distributors don’t want them to give away the whole shebang in any event. Still, they’ve taken note of the trend and are seeking ways to make room for it.

The hunger for serial solves a problem doc filmmakers have long faced. Backers can be stingy, reluctant to support movies of greater length (they are, after all, more expensive), forcing filmmakers to cut out essential material.

Plus for many viewiers it’s a refreshing change to see serialized content gain traction in an attention span-starved world. Pieces like “The Jinx” (and precursors like “The Staircase”) would be a lot less interesting if they were jammed down to fit into a feature compartment. Stories like that need room to breathe, time to wend this way and that, with perhaps even a little cliffhanger or two thrown in.

But serial isn’t a magic bullet. In fact, it can sometimes just be a regular bullet. True crime of the twisty-turny sort—“The Jinx,” “Serial”—works in this format. Policy docs don’t. Did you want six hours of “Blackfish?” How about ”Food, Inc.”?  And personality-driven tales don’t lend themselves to this much either. “20 Feet from Stardom” was really fun over about 100 minutes, but I don’t know if I need to see new chapters over a month and a half. Four more hours of Snowden in the hotel room wouldn’t have made “Citizenfour” any better either. It probably would have made it worse.

Jarecki’s abandonment of the feature form of course isn’t entirely the act of self-sacrifice he describes—most directors want more hours to tell their stories, whether or not those stories merit that time. The fact that doc filmmakers now can do more is welcome, but that doesn’t mean they always need to do more. Sometimes there’s value in telling a story neatly, compactly, with excess weight shed.  

It’s likely there will be a mix of feature and serialized docs in the years ahead. There’s room for both. Let’s just hope the right subjects are matched with the right format. Too much expansion of a short story can be just as painful as too much compression of a long one.

Twitter: @ZeitchikLAT

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

Andrew Jarecki’s ‘The Jinx’ marks documentaries’ big shift in real time

With its shocking killings, stylized reenactments and real-world consequences, “The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst” comes in a long line of true-crime documentaries that began more than a quarter-century ago with Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line.”

But director Andrew Jarecki’s HBO docu-series about murder suspect Durst has entered an environment much changed from that of Morris’ landmark 1988 work about the shooting of a Texas police officer.

As “The Jinx” played out in homes over the past six weeks, reactions rattled through social media immediately after episodes aired. And the finale on Sunday came the same weekend that Durst was arrested in New Orleans in connection with the death of Susan Berman, offering an unusual — and unusually fast — convergence of filmed entertainment and real life.

“It’s a very different world now,” Morris said by phone Tuesday. “When I made ‘The Thin Blue Line,’ we didn’t even know if we would get distribution. And then even when it came out, we played in theaters for months.”

Legal ramifications unfolded at a slower rate too. Morris’ subject, death row inmate Randall Adams, wasn’t exonerated until about a year after the film’s release.

“There were people signing petitions in front of movie theaters,” said Morris, who said he has not yet watched “The Jinx.” “It was very prolonged.”

Today, quick reactions on social media can create a national conversation. They help documentary filmmaking enter the culture faster than ever, and in turn are spurring directors to explore stories with a new urgency. “Documentary is making a comeback with digital media. … It’s a new game,” said Duquesne University communications professor Garnet Butchart.

Documentaries have come a long way from the observational movies of the likes of Frederick Wiseman in the 1960s, who documented processes in public institutions with movies such as “High School” and “Post Office,” or with the cinema verite of filmmakers such as Albert and David Maysles.

The form has flowered and mutated in numerous ways. A spate of first-person documentaries would take root in the latter part of the 20th century, as  Michael Moore, who  came on the scene in 1989 with anti-General Motors story”Roger & Me,” would go on to make gun-control doc “Bowling for Columbine” and Iraq-war tale “Fahrenheit 9/11″ in the early 2000′s. Morgan Spurlock made a name for himself with at that time with his McDonald’s-centric participatory doc “Super Size Me.”

Meanwhile, filmmakers such as Steve James focused particularly on personalities; James made last year’s Roger Ebert biography “Life Itself” and helped kick off the unknown-hero genre with 1994 basketball tale “Hoop Dreams.” And issue-driven films have found a foothold; recent examples include Robert Kenner’s  “Food, Inc.,” Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s animal-rights tale “Blackfish” and this year’s Oscar winner “Citizenfour.”

True crime, however, has remained a favorite throughout.

Morris broke new ground with “Thin Blue Line,” which through careful investigation and reenactments (and a notable Philip Glass score), showed that Adams was wrongly jailed and that the prosecution’s witness, David Ray Harris, had committed the crime.

The movie “had a tremendous, unsettling effect on documentary in its moment,” said Jonathan Kahana, an associate professor of film and digital studies at UC Santa Cruz. “It brought speculation, doubt, confusion, mystery and suspense” into the modern form and has become “a model that everyone has been trying to emulate or imitate since.”

Eight years later, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky made “Paradise Lost,” the first of what would turn out to be three movies from Berlinger about the young Arkansas men accused of brutal slayings who became known as the West Memphis Three. The movies carefully unraveled the prosecution’s case and helped turn attention to the trio’s plight. In 2011, they were released from prison.

And in 2004 the French filmmaker Jean-Xavier de Lestrade made the docu-series “The Staircase,” examining the twists and turns in the case of novelist Michael Peterson, who was accused of murdering his wife.

Other movies of late have also focused on crimes, including Nick Broomfield’s recent “Tales of the Grim Sleeper,” about the Southland serial killer Lonnie Franklin.

The appeal of the true-crime genre is not hard to understand: It combines a life more heightened than our own with the added hook of a mystery.

“There’s something very escapist about ‘The Jinx’ and about true-crime movies in general,” said documentary expert Thom Powers, who programs nonfiction films at a half-dozen festivals, including the Toronto International Film Festival. “Movies about crimes where a lot of people are affected, like Charles Ferguson’s financial meltdown movie ‘Inside Job,’ don’t seem to stir as much excitement.”

But Powers believes that our motivations aren’t entirely salacious.

“The escapism in true crime is intertwined with a craving for justice,” he said. “Most of us see injustice in the workplace or our everyday lives that nobody does anything about, and movies like this bring us a sense of satisfaction.”

There may be an even more uncomfortable connection with the films, according to “The Jinx” director Jarecki.

“We’re all very narcissistic. We want to watch ourselves and imagine ourselves in situations where we’d handle them differently,” the director said in a recent interview with The Times. “I can climb in with Bob, and I can be part of his explanation and allow him the freedom to really tell his story … you find you have more in common with him than you think.”

Interest in true crime is cresting in tandem with the popularity of serialized content, whose distinct chapters lend themselves neatly to the genre. Jarecki initially intended “The Jinx” as a feature-length documentary before making the deal for a multipart tale with HBO. The marriage of true crime and episodic content also spurred the phenomenon of “Serial,” public-radio reporter Sarah Koenig’s breakout podcast about the 1999 killing of a Baltimore high school student.

Powers says he is considering including more serial content at upcoming fests, including Toronto. Morris, meanwhile, is set to begin shooting a six-part docuseries for Netflix; he said more details would soon be forthcoming.

Although true crime stories have been good for viewership, its emergence has also come with pitfalls.