I’m awesome. I wrote a book. It’s got little to do with movies. Download and read “Thank You, Goodnight” right HERE for free.
Now, before I begin today’s interview this week’s DVD Giveaway is being brought to you by SWING VOTE on DVD. I have five (5) copies of this film to give out and if you’re interested in being considered for one just send me a note to Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com and just put SWING VOTE in the subject line. Good luck and for those who would like to know about this film here is the synopsis:
Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner) is just your below-average Joe. He works in an egg factory, likes to knock back a few too many beers, and is a single parent to 12-year-old Molly (Madeline Carroll), a bright spitfire who does her best to keep her dad on the straight and narrow. Patriotic Molly insists that apathetic Bud do his civic duty and vote in the upcoming presidential election, a tight race between Republican incumbent Andrew Boone (Kelsey Grammer) and Democratic candidate Donald Greenleaf (Dennis Hopper). Soon the media and both candidates descend upon Bud’s hometown of Texico, New Mexico, when it’s determined that his vote wasn’t counted and will decide the outcome of the entire presidential election. Now that Bud is a ’somebody’ - there’s even a ‘Bud Cam’ capturing his every move - will he be swayed by visits to Air Force One and the ‘Bud Ball’ held in his honor, or will he be the voice of the American people and vote for the better candidate?
Writer/director Joshua Michael Stern (NEVERWAS) tackles American politics in his second feature film. The lengths the candidates go to in order to win Bud’s vote are high points of the film, as they find themselves supporting initiatives that are completely opposed to their platforms at the urging of their campaign managers, played by Stanley Tucci and Nathan Lane. Grammer is well cast as Boone, and it’s a hoot to see counterculture icon Hopper in this light. Costner makes Bud likable despite the loser stereotype he personifies. But this film belongs to Carroll, a lovely young actress who can steal a scene with one look. If nothing else, SWING VOTE is a reminder that even though politics may be a game, every single vote really does count.
It’s the best way to describe TWO LOVERS, a film that takes the archetype of a man torn between two women, one sultry while the other is, well, not, and turns it enough to make this movie one you have to seek out and watch. James Gray has crafted world where place and time actually matter, the environment seeps into every scene, and it enhances this timeless story of restlessness and the quest for finding the love you can call your own.
Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow and, today’s guest, Vinessa Shaw, the film is gingerly making its way through the art house circuit. You may have seen Vinessa in countless television or film productions, most recently her turns in 2006’s THE HILLS HAVE EYES and 2007’s 3:10 TO YUMA, and it is the latter film that most would probably recognize her from, albiet not in the most opportune way. Vinessa indirectly got caught up in a sort of Perv-Gate case between Internet blogger Jeff Wells and YUMA’s director, James Mangold. The particulars are there for you to see but it tickled me to see that almost a year later, when this film screened last year in May, his mention of the film added this footnote at the bottom of his comments: “Sidenote: anyone who chimes in about Shaw in a certain context — you know what I mean — will be banned for life from this website. Fair warning.” His reprint of this column, centering around the film’s debut a few weeks ago, noticeably had the above comment deleted.
Regardless, Vinessa is spectacular in every regard in this film. It’s harder, I would posit, to be demure and muted in a film when you’re having to go up against two other characters like Phoenix and Paltrow who made it their business to be known on the screen. Seek this one out. It’s one of the best films to come out this Winter.
VINESSA SHAW: Hi, Chris…
CHRISTOPHER STIPP: Hello…
SHAW: How are you?
CS: How are you doing and how’s your press day going?
SHAW: Good. Very good. Thanks for asking.
CS: Is this part of the job that you like or could do without?
SHAW: I actually like it. There’s such a long time from the end of shooting to the release that talking about it refreshes you and reminds you why you liked doing what you did in the film.
CS: One of the things I wanted to ask you because I know our time is not that great but I would like to jump right into the character that you play. Opposite of Gwyneth Paltrow – the two of you are set up as diametric opposites. You are the safe and sane bet and Gwyneth plays the sort of firecracker. What initially drew you to a story that we’ve seen so many times before?
SHAW: Well, I really appreciated the honesty with which James wrote the piece because I felt like everything I read now is tongue-in-cheek and filed with irony and I just felt that everybody was straightforward and honest. Even if they had a lot of skeletons in their closet they were honest and felt like the characters leapt off the page for me. And I really particularly liked how Sandra and Leonard related to each other. I really liked Sandra’s amazing self-confidence she had yet still maintained a sense of awkwardness about her in speaking with Leonard and I really just appreciated the real true relationships the people had in this movie. It was very honest even if it’s complicated.
CS: And definitely compared to something like The Hills Have Eyes where you had a large production…this seems a little bit quieter.
SHAW: It’s very quiet. When I read it I thought it felt like a Mike Nichols film or something from the 70’s which I later found out that James is a huge fan of 70’s film and intimacy that those films had. It was a pleasure and such a refreshing thing to read.
CS: James’s aim – and when you see the final piece – it does feel like a movie we haven’t seen in a long, long time. He’s not being ironic, like you said, he’s being honest and trying to capture this moment in time. How did you come to feel what James’s vision was for this movie?
SHAW: I didn’t know quite the scope of how he would be filming the film until I got on set. I really started to see how simply he wanted to portray the characters and how each person’s life was true to life. Michelle and her glitzy boyfriend, her world seemed very real to me. I don’t know. I felt the way that I encountered or understood the scope of what James was doing was really how I felt when I was in Leonard’s bedroom or the kind of clothes that I wore. So, James didn’t take me through it but he knew that he wanted me to be simple and not fussy in terms of her clothing and the way that she is – Sandra is so I think you see that how Sandra is herself. I wasn’t privy to any of the lighting or the scope of the scene but I could feel it when I was on the set in Brighton Beach – tiny little rooms and small corridors – it was very intimate and lent for intimacy in the scene.
CS: Your character has been described as dowdy, frumpy, all these sort of terms – not flattering but obviously part of the role - and Gwyneth is supposed to jump off the page with her exuberance and what have you. It got me thinking. Why isn’t dependable attractive in movies? I mean, I think I understand it. I’m no slouch and I can appreciate why chaste doesn’t sell well but I would figure that your character would be the one to appreciate – the crazy ladies in films always end up boiling bunnies and rabbits in your stew like Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction. Why isn’t safe attractive?
SHAW: I think, of course, that we want to go and see a movie and go into an adventuresome world where we can escape from our own trappings, but I think we have to see, and it’s comforting to see, that Leonard goes on a crazy journey but does return back home.
The Wizard of Oz in a way, a physical way, going to another land and coming back but I think Leonard is dealing with the traumas he’s had of losing his fiancé and he’s kind of exploring the different sides of his character and some of it’s dark and not pretty and he has to deal with the ramifications of having that dark side to him. And he goes there in order to come back to where he was in the beginning and realizes where he’s been almost like a dream. I think in the end most people would find it comforting that he does come back and hopefully they survive their relationship because most people could consider I wonder what will happen to Leonard but I really wonder what will happen to Sandra. Will she be able to withstand all his ups and downs and his antics?
CS: Exactly. It’s always the after story. It’s never a happily ever after and I think it gets to the heart of the movie that James is trying to make a truthful movie. I would love to know what you saw with why James seems to love working with Joaquin. It’s a no-brainer why someone would not want to work with him but they’ve worked together so often – how does that relationship translate on set?
SHAW: They are almost familial. It’s almost like they are family. I feel that Joaquin really trusts James as a director and he has a small close group of friends and I know he considers James as one of them. James is someone he can really trust so I think he can play any character with James as the director and he would know that whatever comes up on screen, he would feel comfortable with. I have head that Joaquin doesn’t see any of his movies.
SHAW: Yes. He doesn’t watch any of his own films so I think that that plays a lot into whom he works with is that it’s if he feels comfortable on set with the person not really what happens on screen after the fact.
CS: How about you? Do you ever watch, re-watch, what you’ve been in for premiers or what have you?
SHAW: Yes. I don’t mind it at all. I enjoy it. The way I grew up, my mother would, because I was so rebellious as a kid with my mother – I started acting on the job. I didn’t go to any classes so my mother, I apologize to her now, but she had to be with me questioning her why would I do it that way, why take that stance on the character and she was fine, I will just record you and you can direct and judge yourself. So then she would record me for auditions before I would go in so I can make adjustments. So I’m very comfortable seeing myself play characters and having a more objective view of myself.
CS: Looking over your resume about where you’ve been for the last 15 years, you have been through a litany of television and film. How has life of an actor been as you look at how far you’ve come in the time you spent doing this?
SHAW: It’s so interesting because I think it’s all your perspective. Right now I feel like I’m just beginning. Maybe that is perhaps what makes an actor survive in this business – your constant curiosity and your tendency to feeling like that you have never arrived. I’m always feeling like I’m searching to play a more difficult character that would challenge me even more. So, looking back I feel like I’m just beginning. I feel like the training or roots have sunk in deep but I have yet to blossom into who I really am as an actor. I think I have yet to discover what that truly is.
CS: And I think I would absolutely second that. It’s funny how I heard about you, or discovered you, a couple years ago when you were in 3:10 to Yuma and internet blogger Jeff Wells petitioned James Mangold for topless photos of you. It’s an awful origin story and and I don’t know if you’ve heard about that brouhaha…
SHAW: I’ve heard that story in retrospect, yes.
CS: It’s a little awkward but it indirectly made me want to know who you were. So I had to find out I watched 3:10 to Yuma was taken aback. I had to find out what else you’ve been in and I found you’ve been at this now for years. And it’s funny, I’d love to get your take as to why, but there seems to be some actress who come right out of the gate with something that’s just huge and you look on their IMDB page it just two films and they are already in the latest Jerry Bruckheimer production. How has it been mentally to say, “You know what, I haven’t hit my plateau yet, I keep going, reaching…”
SHAW: I really enjoy it because I just cringe when people would say “the IT girl”. Any of those things, I never wanted to be a flash in the pan. I really wanted to have a career that had longevity so I did my very, very best to make that happen. It’s so easy to type cast anyone in this business. How you look or how you act and I just refused to be typecast and people wanted to make me the girl next door, then, “No, she’s the hot sexy girl, oh no, she’s the wacky comedic lady, no, she’s…” I just want to be an actor and be able to explore any kind of role I want to.
So, I made a huge effort to continue to be an actor and a director’s actor. So, I worked with people who would put me in that realm. I was very specific and it has taken a lot of crafting and time to do it that way because my full vision is to have a long career. It kind of freaked me out because I saw a lot of my peers go really fast and quick to the top. I would feel I wouldn’t have anything behind me to support the reason for me to be there. I am somebody who feels I need to work hard for what success I achieve.
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