‘Paper Towns’ author John Green called out the media’s gender bias in an essay published at ‘Medium.’
A TV interview with Cara Delevingne went viral on Wednesday after it was unanimously described online as “cringeworthy,” “awkward,” and “disastrous.”
It ended with ananchor suggesting Delevingne go take a nap and chug a Red Bull, presumably to lift her mood. But it’s easy to see why Delevingne, the star of the new movie Paper Towns, was annoyed. The Good Day Sacramento anchors first got her name wrong, then asked her whether she’d read the book her new movie is based on.
It’s a question she’s been asked throughout the monthlong press tour for Paper Towns, according to the book’s author, John Green, who defended the 22-year-old star in an essay published at Medium on Thursday.
“Cara has read the book (multiple times), but the question is annoying—not least because her male costar, Nat Wolff, was almost always asked when he’d read the book, while Cara was almost always asked if she’d read it,” Green wrote, pinpointing the gendered assumption that Delevingne, who got her start as a fashion model, had no time or inclination to sit down and crack open a book.
Nearly every other problem in the world is more important than a press junket, no matter how repetitive, exhausting, or obnoxious. “But if people are going to pay attention to these junket interviews and criticize Cara for responding flippantly to a stupid question, I think context might be helpful,” Green wrote.
Women in Hollywood have long been targeted with asinine red carpet questions that rarely seem to get lobbed at their male costars: What are you wearing? Who did your hair and makeup? How do you manage work-life balance? The Representation Project launched the “Ask Her More” campaign at the Oscars last year with the aim of replacing superficial inquiries with ones that carry a little more substance.
You know that you’ve heard it. Topping the charts and all over the radio in recent months there was that mournful voice crooning: “It’s too late to apologize… It’s too late…”
The funny thing is, this grand rock ballad came off of the new CD by dance/hip hop impresario Timbaland (Justin Timberlake, Aaliyah). However, while Tim added his own mix, the tune is all OneRepublic.
The California-by-way-of-Colorado-based band turned out to be the first band signed to Timbaland’s new label Mosley Music Group, which is distributed by mega-label Interscope. Then Timbaland did a remix of their single “Apologize” for his own disk as a way to introduce the band before their recently released debut disk Dreaming Out Loud.
“It’s funny, because Tim and [lead singer] Ryan [Tedder] used to work together years ago,” explains band drummer Eddie Fisher. “Ryan was doing stuff with Bubba Sparxxx and other producers. Things I guess didn’t work out and Ryan was forced to go his separate way for the moment. It was all on good terms. They didn’t have any hard feelings for each other. So, that was kind of good.”
“Apologize” doesn’t sound like the kind of stuff that Timbaland – who had made his name on dance jams like “Get UR Freak On,” “Sexyback” and “Promiscuous” would pick to feature. However, the band knows that things aren’t always what they appear.
“Tim… it’s funny, he’s not into hip hop. He loves alternative rock people, you know? I don’t even care for some of the music that he likes.” Fisher laughs. “I mean, I like it, but it’s not something that I would put as a musical influence. To be honest, I can’t even think of one artist off the top of my head right now. He’s pretty eclectic. He’s pretty artistic musically. He loves hip hop but he loves alternative rock. He loves classical. He wouldn’t even be opposed to do something with Carrie Underwood.”
OneRepublic is made up of singer/pianist Tedder, guitarist Zach Filkins, keyboardist Drew Brown, bassist/cellist Brent Kutzle and drummer Fisher. The band was originally started by Tedder and Filkins, who were friends in their native Colorado Springs. When they moved to LA to pursue music they hooked up with the rest of the band.
“It was almost four years ago,” Fisher says. “The previous bass player had asked me to try out for what was at the time called Republic. I’m like, yeah, totally. He sent me some music – which was ‘Apologize’ and a couple of other songs that actually didn’t make the record. I tried out. And… here I am. They enjoyed what I had to give to them.”
Kind of a low-key memory for his entrée to a band that is on top of the charts, but this laissez-faire attitude to getting the job is not so out of character with his music background. Fisher was a local Cali guy who had almost just stumbled into music. He never learned as a small child, never grew up expecting to be a rock star. It all came later for him.
“Back in high school, my brother had a set of drums in his room. I used to always sit in there and fiddle around with it. I was like, man, this is so fun. And he’s like ‘Dude, you picked it up so fast. You should take lessons.’ I’m like, nah… I don’t want to take lessons, because I don’t know if I want to do this. So, after high school, I moved away from my father and moved in with my mother down in Orange County. I had some neighbor friends who both were drummers. They were brothers. I was, dude, let’s go play drums! I just grew into it and finally got my own drum set for like $250.00. It was a piece of junk, but man, I played the crap out of that,” Fisher laughs.
Even after hooking up with OneRepublic, it took a while for Fisher’s beating on that kit to get widespread notice. In fact, the breakout single “Apologize” has been recorded for a few years now. The group had previously been signed to Columbia Records and recorded a CD which ended up never getting a release. On the aborted project were many of the songs which would end up forming the band’s current release – including the mega-smash hit single. That sound you hear coming from the Sony building is some Columbia execs kicking themselves.
“Columbia just kind of brushed us off,” Fisher acknowledges. “We had a complete album. We were done. We had eleven songs. They said – basically in a nutshell – that they weren’t going to put it out. It was going to be shelved. They decided to drop us, which – I’ve got to be honest, thinking about it now – I’m so happy they did. Interscope came and picked us up. Tim picked us up. We had some new songs in mind. Tim was 100% like, ‘Right on. Let’s try it. Let’s do it.’ So we took some songs off the old Columbia album and added four or five new ones. ‘Say’ being a new one. ‘All Fall Down.’ ‘Come Home.’ ‘Won’t Stop.’ Those are all new fresh ones.”
Timbaland did come to the rescue – however, he wasn’t alone. Actually, before Tim even considered taking the band on, they became a sensation on MySpace, where they had posted some of the songs that had been recorded. The spreading buzz not only eventually led the band back onto a new label, but also kept the guys from pulling the plug.
“It’s amazing. We give a lot of credit to our MySpace family,” Fisher says. “[After] the Columbia deal, we were thinking about packing it up. Going our separate ways and doing our own musical things. MySpace kept us together. The amount of responses, friends, emails and comments that we got was so overwhelming that we felt obliged to continue. It actually opened up our eyes to understand what our music was doing to people. What it was actually doing to us too. We love playing our music. We get chills. Recording the album and hearing it… you listen to it and we’re all going, ‘Whoa, man…’”
In the meantime, beyond his work with OneRepublic, Tedder has also made himself quite a reputation as a songwriter and producer – working with the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Paul Oakenfeld and Hilary Duff. However, Fisher says that the band doesn’t worry that he’ll move on to toil awaybehind the scenes – nor do they envy the new songs for his outside work.
“He’s got a different way of writing when it’s just himself,” Fisher says. “It’s more poppy. It’s more dance-y. He just finished working with Blake Lewis. It’s kind of like; you compare us to Blake Lewis? That’s how he writes. He writes definitely different. He’s more professional when he writes for other people.”
So how is it when Tedder writes with the band? After working by himself, is it a culture shock being a part of collaboration? Or does everyone just go their own way and put together songs on their own?
“Well, Ryan wrote ‘Apologize’ four years ago, but most of the time we all come together and write,” Fisher explains. “It is a family. We are all family – brothers. We respect each other musically. So we go, ‘Oh, that’s cool. Let’s try it.’ Or we’ll be blunt enough to say, ‘What are you thinking about?’” He laughs.
Now, years after many of the songs were written, months after “Apologize” became a smash; finally that album has been released. Dreaming Out Loud hit the music stores and download sites in late 2007 and has been an immediate smash.
“I tell you, we’ve been spending so many years,” Fisher says, “with Columbia, having a complete album, going back, changing songs and rerecording. Actually finally having an album out is such a relief. [We were] kind of at that breaking point. If can just get past this point in our musical career… that would be great for us. Then the album came out and it just keeps skyrocketing. We’re like, ‘Wow!’”
Fisher laughs. “It’s actually hard for us to keep up, to be honest. There are so many people that want to talk to us and hear us play live and countries – you know, we’re number one in Australia, Germany, the UK….”
The second single is “Stop and Stare,” and it is already picking up airplay. That tune was the band’s choice, though they tried to keep their ear to the ground to see what others wanted to hear from the band next. This has led to a bit of a conflict as to what song will be getting out there.
“We [tell the label], ‘This is the song that we want,’” Fisher says. “We also pay attention to the plays on our MySpace page. And [suddenly] ‘Say [All I Need]’ is blowing up on iTunes. It’s just ridiculous. We’re going… should we put ‘Say’ out [instead]? But we’ve already serviced ‘Stop and Stare.’ We’re excited about ‘Stop and Stare.’ [It’s] doing really well.”
Too many potential singles is a problem which most bands would love to have, though, so it is all good. Dreaming Out Loud is full of beautiful, moody, atmospheric tunes which could be gracing radios and Grey’s Anatomy episodes for months to come.
There is a melancholy beauty to the lyrics as well as the supple music. For example, it seems like on the new CD, when the songs turn to relationships like “Say (All I Need),” “All We Are,” “Mercy” and “Apologize” the relationships seem to be in trouble or dying.
“There is a saying that broken hearts write the best love songs,” Fisher laughs. “Although these aren’t technically love songs, these are pretty much finding hope out of unhappiness. We want to be able to touch those people with our experiences – musically and just our general life experiences.”
So which tunes does Fisher particularly like?
“‘Mercy’ is my favorite,” Fisher admits. “Why? It’s just so epic and huge, you know? And me being the drummer, of course, it’s like my, ‘Hey, watch me…’ I like that one. I like them all though. I’m a feel kind of a drummer. So, if I can feel it, I love to play it. If it makes my head move, then I’m happy.”
Now that his band has broken out – is life in the limelight all thatOneRepublic had imagined it might be?
“It was definitely a milestone in my life,” Fisher says, enthusiastically. “I’ve worked so hard and the rest of the guys have worked so hard. [We’ve] sacrificed so much. To finally hear our song on So You Think You Can Dance, see it played live and hear it on the radio – it’s so surreal and so humbling. It’s the break that everybody dreams of. We can’t be thankful enough, to be honest.”
My Interview With 'Parks and Recreation' star Jim O'Heir (Click on this link)
by Tony Santiago
Actor Jim O'Heir can be seen on NBC’s ‘Parks and Recreation’ as Jerry Gergich (later to be called Larry, Garry and Terry Gergich). He is a damn fine actor, a Hell of a guy and in this conversation you’ll learn about his mustache capabilities, animal fighting powers and where to get a good Taco. Here is our talk:
Tony Santiago: How do you start your day, Jim?
Jim O'Heir: It depends on whether I’m working or not. If I’m working I’ve gotten a call time the night before and get up with the alarm. If not…then it’s heaven. I wake up whenever the hell I want to. I’m a night hawk so sleeping until 10 or 11 is not out of the question. lol
Tony: Do you have a favorite song or band you listen to when you feel down or are super drunk?
Jim: I’m an easy listening type of guy. When I’ve had a few to drink I love classics from REO Speedwagon (Time For Me To Fly a personal favorite). When feeling down (or happy) you will be very disappointed to know that I listen to Barry Manilow, Air Supply and Michael Buble. :)
Tony: Let it be known the difficulty of Easy Listening doesn’t stop Jim O'Heir. So here is a double whammy question for you, my friend: What is your favorite movie and what was the first concert you went to?
Jim: Lots of favorite movies. Hovering around the top of my list is The Godfather. Just a classic. I’ve seen it a hundred times. My first concert was Neil Young…when he started using the mouth thing. Very disappointed. I was hoping for his classic stuff.
Tony: Are you good at giving gifts at Christmas?
Jim: I’m very good at giving Christmas gifts but hate getting them. For most of the people I buy for I know enough to get them something they’ve been wanting or need. Not to sound like an idiot but the old saying … tis better to give than to receive … is something I very much believe.
Tony: Agreed. Which brings us to my next 2 questions. How many dates should 2 people go on before having sex? Also, when is it okay to ask for butt stuff?
Jim: As far as sex goes it’s ultimately up to the woman. I think times have changed and women are willing to admit they like it as much as men do. They don’t need to wait until their wedding night. That being said…I know most people think the 3rd date is the magic one but it really does depend on the individuals. As far as asking for butt sex? Right after you meet the person. Why wait? lol
Tony: You told me once that your favorite superhero is Superman whose hero work is often stolen by Bizarro. Who, in Hollywood, might I ask, would you say is your Bizarro?
Jim: I have no idea what the hell you’re talking about. :)
Tony: Fair enough. You win this round, Jim. Your character on Parks & Rec has gone by the names Garry, Larry, Terry and originally Jerry. Which name do you feel closest to?
Jim: It started with Jerry and it’s definitely my favorite. I’ve become attached to all of them but Jerry just sounds right.
Tony: Is there anything you cook really well? I am told my Enchiladas kick ass.
Jim: I’m a pretty bad cook…but…at the holidays I can make an excellent Sweet Potato Casserole. It’s incredibly easy..even when I screw it up it comes out tasting great.
Tony: I feel very fortunate that you are a fan of my Facebook page 'People Eating Tacos’ where I drew you eating a Taco while Superman watched jealously. My fans are gonna wanna know, what is the best Taco you’ve ever had? (I always capitalize Taco out of respect for the perfect food)
Jim: Taco is certainly a perfect food. No argument there. I’ve had too many Taco’s over my lifetime to count but can say that for the past seven seasons on Parks and Recreation they will treat us to special foods during the week. The place would always go crazy for Tito’s Taco’s. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!!!!
Tony: I see you are capitalizing Taco now, too. I commend thee and welcome you to this club of two. Soon we shall recruit others and our numbers will become legion. Your costar Nick Offerman has a pretty famous mustache. On a scale of one to ten, how is your mustache if you let it grow?
Jim: I would give my mustache a 6. It doesn’t come in as thick as Nicks or cover as much area. It’s also great as fuck these days. :)
Tony: I know you recently wrapped shooting on Parks & Rec, so naturally I have to ask you, how long do you think it takes to shoot down a space ship if you have a small handheld laser gun and are standing directly below the ship?
Jim: Of course. That’s the natural follow up question to Parks wrapping. LOL I’ve done it and the answer is 1 minute 18 seconds.
Tony: Your Parks & Rec costar Chris Pratt is Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy, and you appeared on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Would you ever consider going to space and if so, what books would you bring?
Jim: I would love to go into space…especially with Chris Pratt (who I just received a text from as I’m typing this). As far as books go…probably Little House On The Prairie.
Tony: Much to my dismay, this coming season on Parks and Rec is the last of the show. Hypothetically, are you more likely to yell the phrase “Spoiler Alert” before telling an interviewer like myself how the show ends or are you more likely to yell it when you notice something in the fridge is about to go bad? Because I gotta tell you, nobody warns me at my house and it has made my life a living Hell.
Jim: Spoiler Alert has become the new catch phrase…I hear it every day in all types of context. I am more likely to tell it to an interviewer. I like watching my family drink spoiled milk. It’s never not funny. :)
Tony: Your performance on the show has been lauded by both critics and fans alike and you have worked with just about every big name out there. You have turned in consistently top notch work on one of the best comedies on television. Is the crowning achievement of your life the time I drew you eating a Taco?
Jim: I can’t believe you just asked me this question. I was just being interviewed by 60 Minutes for a piece they’re doing on Human Icon’s and I mentioned to them that being drawn while eating a Taco was akin to the Pulitzer Prize that I’m most likely going to receive next year for my work on Parks. Actually, not akin…BETTER!!!!! So yes, my crowning achievement.
Tony: I had a feeling. That said, if the entire cast of Parks and Rec got in a cage match battle royale who would be the last person standing?
Jim: Retta. She’d kick all our asses.
Tony: Finally, this question is one I used to ask everyone when I was 3. Would you rather get killed by a tiger or a shark? Well, let me rephrase that because it is kind of a 2 parter. A) Which do you think you’d stand a better chance against if my question allows you the opportunity to fight back with your bare hands? And then for the second part, B) please also answer assuming you are gonna die either way, on whether you would rather be killed by a tiger or a shark and why?
Jim: Great question. As someone who has faced both of these dilemma’s and survived I can tell you that I would much rather be eaten by a shark. It would be much quicker. I can battle a tiger longer but I think as I’m punching, kicking and shitting myself that he’ll be chomping off my extremeties. A shark will take me down with one bite…shit and all.
Tony: Now that we are best friends for life, do you have any questions for me? Or is it all about you, Jim? How dare you.
Jim: If you know anything about me…it is ALL ABOUT ME!!!! GO FUCK YOURSELF!!!!! :) Tony: That stings, Jim. Stings like a damned bee.
Catch Jim on the final season of 'Parks And Recreation’ on January 13th, 2015. Catch my weird and hopefully humorous jokes & artwork at 'BansheeMilk’ on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter. You can also see 'People Eating Tacos’ where I draw and/or paint famous folks and characters eating Tacos. Or just check out www.michaelanthonysantiago.com
FINALLY a Real R&B Artist! Check Out The Norwegian Superstar Sebastian Mikael (@sebastianmikael)!
While on tour with the Norwegian singing/songwriting duo Nico & Vinz, Sebastian Mikael is sent a resounding message about his music and the state of R&B. With less than five years in the industry the 24-year-old released his 2011 mixtape J’Adore, which put him in the eye of music executive at Epic Records, Sylvia Rhone. Soon after being signed with Epic he went independent with Slip-N-Slide…
Pulling up to the legendary Roxy in Hollywood, I found a line wrapped around the block and down the sidewalk. It was made up of Switchfoot fans that had waited more than two hours in line for their favorite band to go on. The band’s tour manager brought me inside the venue to the dressing room where I met four very nice guys. Years of recording indie records, local stardom and having their songs featured in movies like A Walk To Remember and TV series like Dawson’s Creek, Party of Five and Felicity hasn’t gone to their head.
Now, as they release their first major label disk, The Beautiful Letdown, the band has a lot they want to say. The group is made up of singer/songwriter Jon Foreman, his younger brother (and co-writer) Tim Foreman on bass, drummer Chad Butler and multi-instrumentalist Jerome Fontamillas. After weeks on the road, the guys are looking forward to being home in Cardiff, a beach community outside San Diego, if only for a little while. They’ll be surfing soon. But tonight, they are rocking the Roxy.
The guys formed Switchfoot right out of high school, naming it after a term used in the surfing community. “Being Switchfoot is all about putting a different foot forward,” Jon Foreman explains. The band grew up together, surfing everyday and competing on weekends. Beyond a love of hanging ten, they also had a deep passion for music. Their musical roots are diverse: Tim Foreman aspires to be Paul McCartney, while Butler leans more towards Stevie Wonder.
While their songs come from a rich place musically, they also lyrically reflect Jon Foreman’s desire to have a philosophical dialogue with his listeners. He feels music should help the listener ask themselves questions – and to seek answers. These songs are his way of exploring the world… and at times challenging the way things are. While trying to be honest within his songs and in his life, he wrestles with the tension of how the world is and how it should be. He wants listeners to grapple with intense issues, because, as he says, “freedom and truth and love are worth fighting for. Moreover, life is worth fighting for.”
Switchfootis currently touring and playing tracks from their new album, The Beautiful Letdown. A new song, “This Is Your Life” was a big hit that night with the audience. The group went on to play other songs such as “Meant To Live,” which has a strong guitar feel and a pounding drum giving the song backbone. At the end of the song Foreman took the microphone and sang soulfully with only his acoustic guitar as accompaniment. They also played some of their older songs such as “Learning To Breathe” and “OnlyHope.”
The show allowed Foreman to show off what a truly remarkable voice he has, and you could enjoy his perfect pitch, particularly when he played unplugged. Jon Foreman is complicated, but he sort of reminds me of a more grounded Kurt Cobain. Switchfoot succeeded at getting the crowd got caught up in their music, but they also got me thinking, which is important with times the way they are today. And I couldn’t stop humming their tunes, either.
How long have you guys have been playing together?
Jon Foreman: “For seven years.”
How do you keep the show interesting for the band?
Jon Foreman: “Well, every night is an experience. I try to break as many strings as I can…. just kidding. Well, to keep it interesting I usually change the set list…”
What about for the audience?
Jon Foreman: “A Switchfootshow usually has a lot of energy coming from the crowd and coming back [from us.] To keep that going it has to be spontaneous. So every night it is its own animal.”
What is the band’s overall message to the people that you are playing for?
Jon Foreman: “The biggest thing is we kind of have a Socratic approach to the interaction that we have with our fans where we ask more questions…”
What do you mean by that?
Jon Foreman: “Socratic dialogue is where the listener is actually the one who is being forced to think and ask themselves the question. A lot of our songs are that way.”
So you let the audience ask themselves the question?
Jon Foreman: “If you’re asking the question about something, you’re going to find the answer much more compelling…”
Why do you think people would buy a Switchfoot album?
Chad Butler: “Because Jerome rocks.”
Tim Foreman: “Because he looks so good.”
Jerome Fontamillas: “I think the music is great. We have obviously put our heart and souls in the album. We are very proud of the production that we did. The message is what Jon was trying to convey earlier. It’s a very strong album.”
Jon Foreman: “I write a lot of the songs, so for me these songs are coming through the heart. These are our passion.”
On The Beautiful Letdown, most of your songs seem to have a very positive message. What do you feel is your overall message?
Jon Foreman: “The idea of life of being short and wanting to make a full circle. There is a meaning behind our interaction today. There is a meaning behind tonight and I want to make sure that we don’t leave LA having missed our opportunity. [We want] to convey that meaning and pursue what stands behind that meaning, if you know what I mean. I think that's the reason why these songs are relevant today, especially with the political implications [of] what is going on over there in the Middle East. I feel like there are songs like ’Meant To Live’ or ’This Is Your Life’ are talking about the fact that we are we were created to live for more than [just] the two dimensional TV screen, a new car or whatever… [Music] that has impacted me the most are the songs that have touched me on a spiritual level... like Bob Dylan or Bob Marley. That is what these songs are intended to do for other people.
Recently there were lots and lots of nude photos leaks on the Internet of celebrities and one of those was from the private albums of Kaley Cuoco.
Now, the 28-year-old have come forward commenting the breach of privacy disturbing.
The Big Bang Theory actress said she has registered with Google…
During a snappy roundtable with a few journalists, actors Viggo Mortensen and Jason Isaacs double-teamed to express their thoughts about their disturbing new film, Good, based on the acclaimed British play by CP Taylor. Set during the Nazi era — like several other movies this season — this feature describes a relatively banal man’s acceptance into pre-war Nazi society of the 1930s. As he rises in status, we see how the seductive power of fascism can compromise someone slowly until they are in so deep it’s too late to repudiate it.
German literature professor John Halder has written a novel advocating compassionate euthanasia. When the book is unexpectedly read by Hitler and his key advisers, Halder is enlisted to make an argument for managed euthanasia which is ultimately used as a rationale for the Final Solution. The meek professor suddenly has a new career as an honorary S.S. officer.
With Halder’s change in fortune, his seemingly inconsequential life is imbued with an allure and power he hadn’t experienced before, leading him to leave his wife for a beautiful, status-hungry grad student (Jodie Whittaker) and ultimately betray his Jewish friend, the charismatic Jewish psychiatrist Maurice (Jason Isaacs), who ends up in a concentration camp.
There’s no better actor than Mortensen to express this transformation from an apolitical professor living within his world of words to someone who enjoys the prestige and power of the Nazis initially, only to be appalled at the consequences of his tacit support of their methods. Ever since he made his mark with A Walk On The Moon, Mortensen has wrestled with some complicated characters in two David Cronenberg films (A History of Violence and Eastern Promises), Appaloosa and played the heroic and enduring Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
As a foil to Mortensen’s character, Veteran British actor Isaacs (he’s in the Harry Potter series) provided his character Maurice with the trajectory of a man once on top of his world declining precipitously as he is destroyed by the pernicious system around him. Both bonded through Vicente Amorim’s sympathetic direction (who popped in at the end of the interview and is picture here with Viggo and Jason).
This movie has two distinct character arcs that intersect. The challenge, to get those things in sync — as if they’re happening simultaneously — is tough; can you explain the dynamic of getting those rhythms right?
Viggo Mortensen: It’s true. We do cross and take on different roles as Halder builds up this new persona for himself. He was always the one who was like “Let’s go have a beer,” then all of a sudden the roles change. They don’t exactly swap, but they’re different.
Jason Isaacs: The power dynamic shifts enormously. For me that was one of the great and interesting things about this story — that it wasn’t about governments or armies or Nazi generals. It was about two ordinary guys who are best friends, and a friendship that I recognize: someone who’s much larger than life, someone with a great big hunger — a womanizer, a drinker, just kind of an eater of life — who has this friend with a rather dull marriage who basks in his shadow.
Then these outside circumstances so change their lives that in many ways the power dynamic is reversed. Playing Maurice as he gradually deflates was, I thought, very interesting and a very human journey, to see someone stripped of all their dignity like that.
Conversely, Viggo, you play this character whose ego is built up, and then given responsibilities that he doesn’t want to shoulder as a result. But then you do shoulder them and you feel regret. There’s this back-and-forth process that you have to get right.
Viggo Mortensen: Well, some people have said to me, “This is a very passive role compared to others you’ve played recently.” My answer is: it’s active in a different way. He’s passive to a point, but then he starts building up this persona and buying into it. He’s in a lot of denial. Then he’s actively accepting and even pursuing this new sexual life, being part of some sort of subsection of the elite of the country he lives, and he’s liking a lot of it.
Whether he’s being completely honest with himself a lot of the time or not, he’s accepting it and saying, “Yes, I like it, I’m doing it. And in fact, I think I won’t go see Maurice tonight for a beer because I don’t want to deal with him looking at me and having to think about it."
Jason Isaacs: You think he believes that argument that you made to me, that if more good decent people like us joined the [Nazi] party we can dissolve the lunatic fringe?
Viggo Mortensen: I think he’s told himself that. He believes it, but he’s forcing himself to believe that. If we were to stop and think everything we’re doing wrong, then these personalities we construct — and we all do it to varying degrees — are dependent on who we meet, what the circumstances are, and what the climate is. We present ourselves in slightly different ways [according to the circumstances].
My character has really gone to great lengths to create this [persona] who no longer stutters, who looks people in the eye, who is a person of importance now. He knows he doesn’t belong there, what the fuck is he doing there? Excuse my language…
He knows if he were to go and have a drink with Maurice now — like the scene when they sit on the bench and are talking — it [would be] difficult.
Jason Isaacs: It’s like when I was saw Bono and [Bob] Geldof talking about working with [George] Bush in Africa. They said, "You know, he is in power and he does have the money and I can make him do good."
Viggo Mortensen: I can see the argument. I think that’s the strength of the movie. You can look at this person and see he’s intelligent and thoughtful. When [the Nazi professor says to Halder] "We don’t teach Proust,” he’s sarcastic about it.
For the record, [my character is] saying “I don’t like it.” But he goes along with it. He wants to keep his job, so he goes along with it: “Yeah, fine.” I think people identify and understand the idea of if you’re in the system; you can make changes to it. But if you’re out of it, it’s easy to sit on the sidelines.
Each person knows themselves. How far have I gone? Have I arrived at the point where I know I’m really doing the wrong thing? You really know that yourself, if you force yourself or are forced to examine it. To some degree, that’s what this story is about.
Jason Isaacs: For me, it wasn’t about whether he was doing the wrong thing. It was, “How would you do the right thing?” In the last eight years, we’ve been saying we don’t agree with torture. But have we done anything about it? Are you ultimately powerless, [so] you get on with your life and the people who love you, and your work? I personally found it very hard to point the finger [at anyone in this movie].
Viggo Mortensen: The fact that there are no easy answers doesn’t mean you don’t do something, even if it’s going to fail.
Jason Isaacs: That’s the message you get at the end of the story. There was a line: it’s the easiest thing to do, to say there is no line. You’re powerless and there’s nothing you can do, other than vote once every four years. But there must be some action you can take, no matter how hard and complicated it is to find.
We know from the outside the real apocalyptic legacy of the Nazis, but they’re on the inside, so they don’t know it.
Viggo Mortensen: Well, that’s the strength of this movie. It doesn’t work from hindsight, like almost all movies on the subject, good and bad, and books about the period. There’s this scene when the character Anne says [the swastika] makes people happy, so it can’t be bad.
You see these kids running along with swastikas made out of flowers. In fact, there was this kid during the break on the first day of shooting, this little Hungarian kid about five years old, playing with the little swastika flag. [He was] sticking it in the sand castle, really having fun with it. There’s a still they took of that; it’s really quite disturbing, but he’s having a fun time. What people forget is that in the 1930s that was simply the flag of Germany. It didn’t have all these Holocaust connections [it has today].
When the Olympic [athletes] competed in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, they competed under that flag. It was simply the flag of the party, and the swastika was a symbol that had come from other places – India, the Navajo. It was a universal symbol meaning different things in different places. If you raise your hand in a certain way in Austria, you’ll go to jail, but that’s now. This movie [tells it] as if you’re there.
Jason Isaacs: I didn’t think it was about the apocalyptic circumstances that came about. In 1933 this was an amazing country. [It was] coming into full bloom, kids had clubs to go to. But a small part of the community were having their civil rights eroded, but not in such a way that it took away from all the other wonderful things going on — unless you were Jewish. In which case, it wasn’t so great. But you weren’t hard up [initially]. The Jews were benefiting from many other things happening magnificently in the country [at the time]. Because I’ve done interviews where I’ve been asked, “Is the message of the film that, if we don’t watch out, all this could happen again?"
It’s not about where we got to in 1943. 1933 was bad enough if you were Maurice. 1937 wasn’t such a great year for him. Frankly there are people around the planet today who, as a consequence of me buying these clothes made in China, don’t have a very good day at work. There are homeless people I’ve stepped over to get into the hotel today. It’s about this ethical minefield we experience every day. It’s not about whether it would or wouldn’t come to a genocidal apocalypse again. It’s about how do you live your life in the very challenging times.
It’s easy enough to condemn the distant past. But the Iraq war movies have all been box office failures because that’s what is all around you. It’s a different thing.
Jason Isaacs: I think when Arthur Miller wanted to talk about McCarthyism — this cancer that was eating American society — he wrote a play about the Salem witch trials called The Crucible. I think, in these very challenging and terrifying times we live in, which are full of fear and rationalization, there are a million decisions that I make every day that I’m not sure about. I have small children. I have no idea how they will or won’t judge me for the things I do.
Viggo Mortensen: Sometimes, a good way that I looked at this story metaphorically, was the notion that when you have a pot of water, if it’s boiling water and you throw a frog in, it will jump out. But if you bring it up slowly, the frog will just get warmer and warmer [until it’s too late] and then he cooks.
Jason Isaacs: Wow, that’s really cruel, have you done that?
Viggo Mortensen: No. But that’s a metaphor for the German people. Why didn’t they do something? Why didn’t you leave if you were Jewish? They didn’t realize what was going on, how warm it was getting. It wasn’t boiling at once, it took a while.
Did you know each other before shooting?
Viggo Mortensen: No. I knew Jason’s work, and I flew out to Providence where Jason was filming [Brotherhood] to meet him, as I knew we wouldn’t have time before filming started.
Jason Isaacs: It was a generous gesture of Viggo to do that. I don’t want to get too soppy, but it made me feel incredibly warm towards him. When I arrived in Hungary, having had to shed a character on the plane, Viggo had already been around Europe on his own research trip and gathered some artifacts he thought might be useful for the character of Maurice.
Viggo made it very, very easy for me to like him. He made it very easy to be his friend on screen and off screen. We have a relationship and these things count. You’re relaxed in each other’s company; you tell each other when you’re being an idiot. That usually takes months and months on a film set, and we had about 20 minutes [to do so].
Viggo Mortensen: Also. there’s a simple idea of, "Do you like to rehearse and talk about stuff?” Of course, we both do [so that was] great.
This film seems to welcome a degree of improvisation.
Jason Isaacs: We improvised a bit. You look someone in the eye and try and figure out how a human would behave in 1935.
Did you need to do research, and what kind did you do? Obviously you’ve read these books, but were there films you watched as well, like the Nazi propaganda films that Goebbels commissioned?
Viggo Mortensen: This is different in that it doesn’t have a big moment at the end. You’re not let off the hook as an audience, with a catharsis. You can’t say, “Oh, what a horrible villainous person who deserved to die,” or “How great, he went down in a hail of bullets but he did save four-and-a-half people. This film is different. It’s not over when it’s over, which is the mark of a good story. [In István Szabó’s film]Mephisto, which was also shot in Budapest, is a character who bears some resemblance, but he’s ambitious from the get-go and he’s monstrous.
The thing about Halder is that he’s quite normal. The strength of the film is this normalcy. It’s quite mundane — even in the camp — it’s just another day in the camp. The sun happens to be shining; there’s a couple of dead guys, there’s a guy who looks like he’s going to die pretty soon, and there’s someone’s going to get some crappy soup; some are lined up and are going to get gassed. It sounds terrible, but it’s actually just another day.
One of the things I did, apart from going to Germany and listening to music and all that, was that I drove around in Poland where camps had been. Some places were hard to find. It was a hot day, I was by myself. I finally sat down, and I’m thinking about all these sign posts I’ve seen. I gradually realized I am here and the sun is shining and the birds are singing and it was a beautiful spring day — and you know they saw those days, too. Whether they were dying or ill, or guards, or maintenance men cleaning the officer’s porch, or preparing the soup, there were nice days.
There weren’t always what we see in these movies — grim, black and white, dramatic events every second. You walk down the camp and it’s disturbingly quiet and normal. It’s become acceptable. For the Jews in the camp, yesterday, today, tomorrow, this is what I’m dealing with now — it’s not dramatic in a sense. And that’s what’s disturbing.
Even when we were shooting that scene at the end, the strangest thing was the quiet. We hear this music playing as I approach with the camera following me, and it [gets] louder and louder, but there wasn’t much else. So people say, "It doesn’t seem like concentration camp.” No, it doesn’t seem like a concentration camp in movies. But it’s a place, and there are people there, and it’s just another day. Unfortunately.
I’m not saying I wasn’t disturbed by it. It was even more disturbing. I brought things and covered them in dirt and placed them around… But it was more disturbing than fires and rain and screaming.
Jason Isaacs: The first day I had off, I went to the Museum of Terror, which was a state police museum. In the very first room there was a panel that deal with the fact that half a million Jews were killed in the first month there. I did an open-top bus tour, and the guide was saying that 90% of the population is Catholic and about 2% other, mainly Jewish. I asked, what was that percentage before the war? And she said, “I don’t know, I think maybe the same.” Everywhere I went, I wondered who lived there. I wondered who was dragged out screaming.
Viggo, your next film is based on Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, and it deals with some equally difficult situations in the near-future.
Viggo Mortensen: And there are lots of great Germans in it! It’s no surprise that that book is [McCarthy’s] best-selling book, because it’s very direct, and very universal. Everybody is the child of someone. Many people have children; everybody has some idea of the parent-child relationship. Any parent who’s halfway interested in their child has that concern: “Well, if I’m not here for a week, or a day, or forever, will my kid be all right? Who’s going to watch, who’s going to feed them?” Children will also worry. That’s taken to an extreme… Any parent’s worry is taken to an extreme — like, if I’m gone, this kid has nothing and probably will be killed and eaten [laughs]!