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E-MAIL THE AUTHOR | ARCHIVES By Christopher Stipp

September 16, 2005

WHO? NEVER HEARD OF HIM…

There is always something unique about every interview and the real trick, the real skill, is finding that one thing which really defines the subject you talked to. As an interviewer I am constantly in a state of anomie, discontent, if you will, about what the angle really is going to be. The worst is finding out that the person you talked to doesn’t have any angle at all, that they’re just as shallow as you expect all those blessed with fame to be. Since I was a damn near an hour late for the interview I think I was worried that a) if they were any regular person at all they would have already left and b) whoever designed the 405 Freeway and the streets of Beverly Hills need to have their ankles hobbled by Kathy Bates a la Stephen King’s MISERY; in my defense, there is none I can offer. I had never before experienced the kind of sinister traffic in my life as I did in LA a few weeks ago on my way from LAX to The Beverly Hills Hotel at midday. What I found out, though, as I chewed my bottom lip to a stump, was that Julian Morris, star of CRY_WOLF, waited for me. He patiently waited for me to arrive so we could have our interview.

When I did make my way to the lusciously green patio area, Julian donning an endearing smile and completely accepting of my apologies, I couldn’t help but be taken in by his tractor beam of enthusiasm. Julian is new to audiences but he never once showed, talked or hinted about what his starring role means to him in terms of American acceptance of his acting abilities. Not that I don’t think he isn’t concerned about whether or not the movie will do well, I believe he is, but his thoughts and eagerness about his debut was more focused on the periphery: the director he worked with, his feelings about growing up in the theater, what he thought of the writing, etc… I realize it’s not much to take away from someone trying to promote a movie and the back and forth banter between the two of us is only really revealed in a two-dimensional way but Julian is a happy guy. He’s genuine about where his career is going. There are things he really believes in when it comes to this movie but, most of all, the guy waited for me when not even my wife would’ve put up with that kind of tardiness.

One other thing, though, about Julian that I had to ask myself before getting into the interview with him was: How do you prepare for an interview when there isn’t anything written about him? It was honestly like a blind date. I had but cursory information to work off of, finding out that he’s been working a long time in his native England, but I had a greater need to find out why CRY_WOLF was flying so far under the media radar. At first I honestly believed it had to do something with Jon Bon Jovi being in the picture. Besides YOUNG GUNS when he donned those tight leather chaps and that weird necklace thing the only way I’ve heard about this movie was when I caught a mention of it when I saw an interview with that Aqua Net king. Other than that, there was nothing. There really isn’t anything of note I can see, even now, on the Internet besides some well-placed ads embedded into Web Pages but Julian does a serviceable job with giving enough incentive to see the movie just based on the way he talks about the film. Never mind the fact that Doug Liman, of BOURNE and GO fame, had a persuasive hand in CRY_WOLF’s development as Julian talked about how Liman had an involvement in this movie’s daily progression but it’s really Morris’ passion about what he does, trumping the blasé way in which stars his age treat the lottery ticket on life they’ve been given, that really makes you feel that this is an actor who needs to work more often in Hollywood if for no other reason than he has talent and an attitude towards his profession which makes me wish others in this line of work had the same gravitas about the tenuous grasp every actor has over the likes and dislikes of an ever fickle audience.

When I finally sit down, lay out a few mea culpas at his feet, asking for absolution, he looks down at my right hand and sees that I’m wearing my Claddagh ring.

Are you Irish?

Yes. The funny thing is that when I got this I was in Ireland. I stayed the week after at a B&B in London, right across the street from Buckingham Palace; it was the Queen’s Jubilee. We stayed with this woman who also commented about my ring and I said that’s where I got it and then commented about whether or not she’d been to Ireland. She basically turned up her nose and said, “Oh no!” Is Ireland like Britain’s Mexico?

(Laughs) No, No way.

There’s a historial antonogism but it’s nothing like that. That’s crazy. I love Ireland. I’m desperate to go. I’ve got a lot of Irish friends at school and they wear the rings.

Let’s talk about you. When I went to do my research on you and your past I found nothing. No outlet I went to was of any help to give me some background on where you’ve come from. From England to America to the big screen how did it happen?

Well, I’ve been working in England since I was young. When I was twelve I did this thing called “The Knock, ” a great miniseries, it dealt with the drug trade and after that I began with the Royal Shakespeare Company, like as an apprentice, at the age of 13 until I left school at seventeen. It was the most incredible learning ground working with the icons, my heroes, of English acting. I never saw acting as a career, it’s something I love, but I sat with this agent once for 15 minutes and I had it all planned.

I was going to Zimbabwe and work with animals because it’s something I like to do and after university he was to give me advice. If I wanted to continue to work in acting what should I do? We talked and talked and talked and after an hour and a half he said, “I want to represent you now.” He was like a big agent in London and I was like, “Yeah, cool, man.”

Since then which was 2000 it’s been crazy. I went to Africa to do this one job and six months after I signed with him I got the lead in this NBC pilot called Young Arthur. It was cast in Australia, Canada, the US, obviously, and they just plucked me out from this little place in England. I went to Prague to film it, playing the lead, I played Arthur. It was this amazing, incredible experience. It was never picked up but through that I got some great representation. Great manager, great agent and then I did WHIRLYGIRL which was incredible and now CRY_WOLF.

The director for the movie is fresh on the scene too.

Yeah, the man’s got an amazing family background. His aunt is Katie Couric and his mom’s the late Virginia senator, Emily Couric, and he’s an amazingly gifted director and his partner, Beau Bauman, they wrote this incredible script together. They won a competition at the million dollar Chrysler Film Festival. It was always a studio movie, this project, CRY WOLF, and it’s a million dollar movie. The studio figured that it could put it on the shelf and that “If it’s any good we’ll release it,” put it on DVD, but as a result for what was going on they gave a lot of leeway to the creative team behind it, Jeff and Beau, and they came up with this incredible film. The studio saw it and they said, “This is so, so good,” pumped in more money and now it’s going to be on a 1,000 screens as a major release in September.

This being your first major picture in the States do you feel any pressure from people who may think that, “This better do well…”?

I don’t. Maybe the producer does. I just hope people enjoy it. I just loved doing it and I honestly think it’s a great film. It’s terrifying, clever, it doesn’t speak down to the audience. The director was a clever guy, so was the writer and the producer and that was the way they approached it. They wanted to write this for a clever audience. The ending has a triple twist and by the end you’re just feeling like…I’m just proud of it.

This seems to be happening a lot lately in movies, horror films, suspense films, are making a resurgence. LAND OF THE DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, horror movies are coming back.

I think that one of the great things about CRY_WOLF is that the director, Jeff, is a horror/sci-fi buff. It’s his thing, he loves it. And one of the things he’s done is that he’s taken this movie back to the roots of horror: the classical bad person, the horror is very real and it’s not comedic, the killer is not comedic. This not like a SCREAM movie. I think that if you look at the progression, the evolution of the horror film, you can see how Freddy from NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, Jason from FRIDAY THE 13th series, became more and more comedic. Up until the 90’s it was this deconstructionist kind of genre but this movie brings it back to the roots and it’s going to refresh audiences to see that the fear is real, it’s palpatible. It’s there, it builds and it leaves you terrified and in the end, like I say, it’s a knock out.

What did you grow up on, horror wise, when you were young?

I remember the first movie I ever saw was JAWS. I was young. I must have been seven. It was on TV, I was shit scared as I was by myself and you get off on that. It’s a fun feeling, it grabs you. I remember once, Stephen King’s IT, I was young when I saw that. It’s just a great feeling to have something play with your emotions. I’m an actor so I love emotions so I love playing with them. You came into acting early, acting on the stage at a young age…

Yeah, Yeah… Obviously everyone says “I love to do them both” but what are some of the advantages/disadvantages of being a screen actor versus a stage actor?

I don’t think there’s any disadvantage to either, as you’re working and getting paid…(laughs) Theater is great, you’re with an audience, it’s electric, you get an immediate response, the character arc is very clear because you have a beginning, middle and an end but in film it’s all about capturing moments. Like you’ll be there off-camera and everyone’s preparing lighting and then you’ll maybe do like five seconds worth of scene but you just want to get that moment. And you may do 15 takes to get that moment and I love that about film. It’s almost a perfectionist medium. It’s something you can just grab and get that moment of happiness or whatever it is but it’s a lot harder to get because it’s not like it’s A to B, a direct path, there are intervals where you’re waiting for the lighting to be set up or other things, it’s a process, but you can be a lot more subtle with film. You could sigh and the camera would get that where in the theater you couldn’t.

I like that a performance can be immortalized in film, that emotions can be immortalized in film. It’s always going to be there versus theater where it’s transient because one night will go one way and then it could be completely different, which is great, but it’s different.

With theater you’re putting out an emotion, bouncing it back off an audience, which is great but it can be dangerous because sometimes I think the biggest thing for an actor not to do in theater is that you want to perform or you want to make them laugh but you want to hear them react and you end up steering off from the truth to the character depending on what’s happening.

How do you sustain that? You say that acting in front of an audience is a constant process of being aware of what’s happening but in a movie you don’t get that.

Yeah, it’s good. In acting you’re always feeding off your other actors because I think it’s a bad idea to ever feed off the audience. To do that you’re not being truthful to the part, you’re only being true to an audience’s expectations. In film how you stay true to the lines is that you’ve got the director and his vision and so every day I’d go to his trailer and say this is the scene we’re doing, this is what it is. Obviously, you’ve also got your script and you’ve had time to think about the progression of your character and how you want them to grow. You’ve got an idea of where they’ve come from and what you’d like to do with them.

You stay true to the material, I guess.

Jon Bon Jovi is in this.

(Laughs) Yeah, he is.

Did you have to refer to him as Mr. Jovi?

We called him the Jove. It was crazy because he’s an icon, man.

The thing was that I was so excited to work with him and his teeth.

(I laugh)

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen pictures but he’s got these incredibly shiny, blistering, white teeth, It’s like burning magnesium. And on the first day I met him I got a tap on my shoulder and turned around and I swear to you it was like a blinding white light. I was listening to my iPod and I had on some classical music and I thought I was looking into the face of God or Jesus or Moses. (Laughs)

And when my vision cleared it was Jon Bon Jovi.

And he was good to work with? I know he’s tradionally known as a rocker and he has made some inroads into the filmic community…

He’s so down to earth. We had this drama coach on set at all time and he had his own coach. He took this very seriously and he’s good at it. He’s really good in this movie. So, he didn’t bring any scarf covered microphone stands or wear strategically ripped jeans on the set or bring out a guitar and just start singing?

No, but that’s funny because we were filming on campus and some people were like, “It’s Jon Bon Jovi” as we were trying to keep it under wraps and one afternoon he’s like, “Do you want to go out to lunch?” I was like, “Yeah, it’s Jon Bon Jovi…” and I was expecting a restaurant but it was even better than that. We went to the school canteen. And as soon as we entered it was crazy. It was amazing to see the kind of response he gets. Julian, thank you very much for your time.

No problem, thank you.

CRY_WOLF opens today.


DOOM (2005) Director: Andrzej Bartkowiak
Cast: Karl Urban, The Rock
Release: October 21, 2005
Synopsis: Something has gone wrong at a remote scientific research station on Mars. All research has ceased. Communication has failed. And the messages that do get through are less than comforting. It’s a level 5 quarantine and the only souls allowed in or out are the Rapid Response Tactical Squad - hardened Space Marines armed to the teeth with enough firepower to neutralize the enemy… or so they think.
View Trailer:
* Large (QuickTime)

Prognosis: Could Go Either Way On This One. Is The Rock really the next SchwarzeIhategaypeoplenegger?

I would posit that Dwayne Wayne actually has a little bit more to offer the people. His performances in THE MUMMY RETURNS and THE SCORPION KING not withstanding are the things that made me a Jean-Claude Van Damme fan in the late 80’s: You know what you’re getting when you see him but he’s offering a little more talent to the project.

This trailer, though, leaves me wanting and I am not sure what it is. I am uplifted, though, by the effort put into making this trailer. You’ve got a great dissolve of the Universal logo, I’ve always been a fan of this kind of creativity, which situates us on Mars. Throaty Voiceover Guy actually helps to ratchet the tension as we’re told that scientists have just mapped the other 10% of the human genome. The pictures and graphics are quicker than anything, perfect for the audience you’re trying to grab by the nuts, but when you see some dude flailing around on an operating table, I haven’t a friggin’ idea of what that had to do with finding the other 10% of the genome, you know some dirty crap is going down.

Now, I have the game at home. I see it right here on my desk: Doom 3. Is all of the craziness which ends up ensuing the result of genetic tampering? I’m not much for details but it’s a little murky in this trailer how one has to do with the other. Ultimately it doesn’t make much difference, you never want to over think these kinds of plots, but it’s still cool to see people being attacked by mutants. That kind of stuff never gets old. Never.

Next we get The Rock listening to his marching orders via desktop computer and he’s not wearing a shirt. Now, I don’t want to get into the whole embedded subtext of what a shirtless Rock means to a population of young men who are the demographic target but all I’m saying is that he’s shirtless and this is the first time we’re seeing him.

One other thing, and I have to make a comment because it came up twice, is that there are some noticeable elements from other films in here. Someone swiped the sound the Predator makes as it is stalking its prey, this happens right before the bare-chested Rock scene and then, when The Rock is getting ready to kill the thing, and his team are all getting their weapons loaded and looking very Action Movie-ish the guns are straight from ALIENS. They are the same damn guns with the accompanying LED readout of how many shots are left in the gun. I’m not sure if this is homage or hack-age.

Now, once you move past Rock’s bombast speech about how they’re going in hot and that they’re going to have to kill anything that moves, all the while Rock looks very sweaty and serious, I am floored by the creative use of the first person angle this movie is going for. Just like in the game you’re looking straight down the end of a weapon, it bobbing up and down, when a mutant appears. Cut-away. Wicked cool. I am sure this nets quite a response from the nerd contingent.

Everything about this way of presenting the film just crackles with entertainment value. You’ve got a filmmaker who is trying to show that he “gets it” while everyone else just plays along with how the story is supposed to go. I am very impressed by the way the action sequences are laid down under the poseur metal music in the background. The dialogue, as well, is really bad but there is some real reverence for what seems to be a great action movie.

Two thumbs up, as well, for the chainsaw ending. Nice.


PROOF (2005) Director: John Madden
Cast: Gwyneth Paltrow, Anthony Hopkins, Hope Davis, Jake Gyllenhaal
Release: September 16, 2005
Synopsis: Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Auburn, PROOF follows a devoted daughter (Paltrow) who comes to terms with the death of her father (Hopkins) a brilliant mathematician whose genius was crippled by mental insanity — and is forced to face her own long-harbored fears and emotions. She adjusts to his death with the help of one of her father’s former mathematical students (Gyllenhaal) who searches through her father’s notebooks in the hope of discovering a bit of his old brilliance. While coming to terms with the possibility that his genius, which she has inherited, may come at a painful price, her estranged sister (Davis) arrives to help settle their father’s affairs. PROOF is a haunting tale of the fragility of life and love that explores life’s complex equations.
View Trailer:
* Medium (QuickTime)

Prognosis: Negative. I’m honestly hopeful that there will come a movie where Gwyneth Paltrow will shine again like she did in THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS. I thought she was actually good in that movie but I can’t think of anything else in recent memory where she’s reached another plateau, craft-wise, of that kind.

I know she loves to invoke that Madonna, I-wanna-be-a-British-courtesan, affectation in her acting whenever possible but this seems like it is a softball waiting to be punched right out of the park for the viewing public but instead we get more of what I foresee as Gwyneth’s continued slide into the Meg Ryan Syndrome, uncontrollable crying at a mea/median rate greater than any of her peers.

Anthony Hopkins starts things off with talking about crazy people. I like that he’s playing one of those men who are losing their minds but Gwyneth being the sole caretaker immediately strikes fear into me as I see her role being akin to that of Meg Ryan in HANGING UP. At this point I’m already worried.

We get the line pimped to us that this movie is coming to us from the Academy Award (All Rights Reserved, Copyrighted, Copy-Protected, Licensed, Bonded and Insured) director of SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE as a delicate, twinkling musical sonata wafts us into the crux of our picture: she’s had to live alone, I don’t see a mother anywhere, with a brilliant mathematician who has some issues when it comes to parenting. Already the lights and whistles are going off, and as well as they should, and when ol’ Gwyn finds pops outside in the snow we know he’s damn near lost his mind.

“I’m prepared to look at every page…”

Jake Gyllenhaal comes in as the, er, uh, I dunno what he is but this boy somehow insinuates himself into Gwyn’s life and home. He knows that her crazy dad wrote in a 100+ notebooks and wants to go through her pops’ life work. She already has a distressed look about her and I don’t know if she’s going to hold up through this trailer without crying. Frankly, I’m concerned. Jake is doing his best as the fanatical fan of her dad and tries to do everything in his power to release the power of her dad’s legacy unto the world.

Gwyn says no to any examination into her dad’s life but, like all good things Hollywood, we know her dike can’t hold back the loving advances of Jake’s smooth groove. I know this because no more, literally, than a few seconds after her protestations Jake is tearing through the halls of some college as his voiceover says something about him discovering a sumthin’ or another that the world needs to know about. It’s all very impassionate.

Gwyn, of course, gets all bothered by the idea that her dad wrote something so important, so much so that she skirts the line of a tearful breakdown, but Jake doesn’t want to hear any of her bull crap. Jake knows what’s up because he is the only one not getting hysterical over everything.

Some woman comes over to this crazy filled house where Gwyn lives and asks if she’d like some people to come over. Now, I don’t know if it’s a mother or a sister but I can see it, I can God honest see it, she’s been bawling. I don’t have any proof but she’s all paranoid that people will associate crazy person with her, as if dementia is a disease you can catch like herpes, not that I would know the exact vehicles or avenues of transmission of that STD per se, but she’s obviously conflicted.

This mystery woman keeps at Gwyn, stating that Gwyn has the same instabilities and tendencies like her father, thus really throwing her over the emotional deep end. She tosses shit around, dramatically, in true actress fashion, throwing a stack of SEVEN style notebooks off a desk and that’s when it happens: she’s bawling. She breaks down, in the open, to Jake who, if he’s really my boy, will capitalize on her vulnerability and seduce that.

It does look like he’s not going to let me down as he’s all about the craziness himself, really getting into this whole notebook thing, but not so much where he can’t expend a little of that energy getting Gwyn to the bedroom. I’d high-five that man if I could.

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