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Interview: Judy Craymer, conceiver of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” now available on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray

Mandy Griffiths

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When you hear the word “ABBA” you may not think automatically of Judy Craymer, and yet, she has almost single-handedly been the driver behind ABBA’s prominance in popular culture in the last decade. Craymer is an English creator and producer of musical theatre, bringing the musical “Mamma Mia!” to life, first on the stage, seen by more than 60 million people worldwide, and then in film.

As the conceiver of the sequel, we also have Craymer to thank for “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again”. Now available on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray, we sat down with her to get some behind the scenes insight.

Did anything go wrong behind the scenes – any injuries, funny moments?

Everyone got the giggles when Julie Waters did anything. they always had a surprise from her.

Did Cher make any changes to the script or was there anything she suggested that made its way into the movie?

Cher had input on the script. They always wanted her and the role was written with her in mind. When she confirmed she had her own suggestions, Cher had an ear for her dialogue. She knew who the mother was and she had a lovely time. Loved it. She had an input in what she was wearing and suggestions from the team about her hair.

Did the actors playing the younger versions of Pierce, Stellan and Colin spend time getting to know/bonding with those stars before filming took place?

We had a dinner at an outdoor restaurant and it was like being out with the parents. Younger cast, older cast, with the younger cast belting out songs at the table.

What was the most difficult scene to film and why?

Dancing Queen was a challenge. Men with megaphones, music, ques and dancers, and marine safety with wind and rain. Quite complex timings and logistics wise. It was very bumpy on the water and people’s feet were worn from the 1970s sneakers.

The Super Trouper scene – they didn’t know what they were doing until halfway through it. They had to shoot in London and just didn’t know what it was going to be but knew they wanted costumes with sparkles to make it ahead of time. Choreography took about a day for that scene alone.

Which star got the giggles the most on set during filming?

So many! It was all great. Meeting and working with Cher and bringing everyone together. Every song was a highlight. On Judy’s birthday they all sung happy birthday to her including Cher, Meryl.  On the music side of things – being in the studio and hearing the music with a six piece orchestra is mind blowing.

How did the concept arise?

In mymind there was always going to be another film. I went to Richard Curtis and spoke to Catherine Johnson who wrote the original and asked how we could revisit it. Richard Curtis said she could go back and forth in time and then the light bulb idea came.

“Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” is now available on Digital, DVD and Blu-ray. 

Interviews

Interview with 3 From Hell and Game of Thrones‘ Richard Brake

“Arya was always my favorite character”, says the actor behind The White Walker

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After killing Batman’s parents on screen, actor Richard Brake found the phone continually ringing with offers to play sinister rogues – but as the actor tells Moviehole in this exclusive interview, being known for such great sinister turns in the likes of “Batman Begins”, “Mandy”, TV hit “Game of Thrones”, “Doom” and now “3 From Hell” has given him a career.

A wildly entertaining horror jaunt that serves as a loud serenade of the genre, “3 From Hell” reunites the Wales-born actor with genre legend Rob Zombie, his director on “Halloween II” and “31”.

 

Are Rob Zombie films as fun as they are to make as they are to watch?

Absolutely, we have a blast. It’s like a big family getting together with all kinds of madness and mayhem.

 

How do you psyche yourself up to play a role like ‘Foxy’? – particularly when it’d seem you’re anything like him!

I’m just very comfortable exploring that dark side of myself. I think all of us have both sides, but most of us are afraid to listen to the thoughts and say ‘Oh, man, I just love to kill my boss.’ But as an actor, you don’t listen to that little sense there and just go there. And it’s great fun exploring the dark side. Especially when the writing is as good as Rob’s. Makes it very easy.

 

 

Did you have a backstory for ‘Foxy’, even if it wasn’t on the page?

I have a backstory for all of my characters, and I definitely got a good story for Foxy, for what led him to be the person he is today. But I never give it away. I always keep that a secret.

 

How had Rob changed since working with him on “31”? Anything different about working on those two sets, a few years in-between?

No – both of them are very different films and different ways that I approach the character. But in terms of working with Rob, it was just as fun this time as it was the last time. I absolutely adore working with him. He’s an incredibly creative man. It’s like a force of nature. So anytime you’re on a set with him, everyone is inspired to be their very, very best. It’s incredibly exhilarating as it was for 31, HALLOWEEN 2 and this time out with 3 FROM HELL.

 

Is there anything you found particularly hard to film in “3 From Hell”?

Nope, it was an absolute blast from the moment we started to the moment we finished. Really nothing was difficult. It was just great fun. I remember sitting around, we’re shooting one of the central scenes with all sorts of chaos and brutality, and just looking at all the lovely people doing it. Jeff Daniel Phillips, and Rob and Sheri. You know they’re just such lovely people. Bill. Just thinking how great fun it is making these movies.

 

You play these frightening, even sinister ‘characters’ on screen… I have to ask, has it gotten to the stage where people recognize you in the street and are even a little spooked when they encounter you?

Uh, yeah. People do meet me on the street and know me for different things. Fortunately they don’t recognize me from Game of Thrones. If they started recognizing me from that, I might have to go out and get a facial. Sometimes they’re a little spooked. Usually if I see them at HorrorCon and they’ve seen all my horror films, they can come up and say hi rather sheepishly and a little afraid I’m going to do something terrible to them. I’m actually a sweet guy at heart.

 

Did one role in particular lead to all these ‘sinister guy’ roles that you’re now well-known for?

Not really – one of the biggest roles that kind of moved things forward career-wise was BATMAN BEGINS. That character kills Bruce’s parents, which of course is not a very good thing, but I think careers are built over time. People see the work you do and appreciate it, and I think that was the case. Now Rob, and eventually getting in HALLOWEEN 2, and then of course DOOM was a huge impact in terms of my work in other horror films and films in general and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to play it. That was a huge part of my life as was BATMAN BEGINS and all the roles I’ve done. It’s been a great ride. Long may it go on.

We’d be remiss not to ask, what did you think of the Game of Thrones finale? Anything you wanted more of?

I was happy with it. A lot of people – there was all sorts of things going around the internet. They wanted to re-write it or something people were saying. Anything that comes to an end is hard. People grieve when things end. And I think no matter what they did, people would have been disappointed. So um you know that’s inevitable. I thought they did a great job ending it. I particularly liked the way they killed off my character. Arya was always my favorite character, so I was glad she got to do the deed. They did a great job developing her over a course of 8 years. Yeah I’m very happy with it. It’s a fantastic show and I’m glad to be a part of it.

**Tickets for the September 16th/17th/18th nationwide release of 3 FROM HELL are available at FathomEvents.com/3FromHell**

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A Mandy Moment

World Premiere Red Carpet : Ride Like a Girl

Mandy Griffiths

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Melbourne was home to the world premiere of “Ride Like a Girl” this weekend, the directorial debut from renowned Australian actor Rachel Griffiths that follows the true story of Michelle Payne; the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup.

Teresa Palmer stars as Michelle Payne alongside Sam Neill, Sullivan Stapleton, Magda Szubanski and Stevie Payne, Michelle’s brother who plays himself in the film.

We spoke to the stars, the inspiration and the director herself about bringing this film to life.

Why this story and why now

Rachel Griffiths: It’s hard to articulate – when my brain gets on fire, you just can’t put it out. It just didn’t go away. I thought this was one of those great ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ films – like “Hidden Figures” was. It’s so important that women have the opportunity to see heroines like Michelle that are unconventional, that have a dream in a man’s world but also realising the toughness, the resilience, the tenacity that’s required over a long period of time to realise it.

An actor’s director

Rachel Griffiths: I definitely think working with the actors was my talent. I think Teresa [Palmer] and Sam [Neill] give the best performances of their careers in this film. Stevie [Payne] had never acted before. I’m so proud of all of them. I think on my first day I had eight actors who had never acted on screen before. And I had a lot of people from the racing industry doing scenes and saying lines and they all nailed it. I’m particularly proud of that.

Sophia Forrest (Cathy Payne): Rachel knew exactly how to talk to an actor on set to get the right moment out of a scene. So every day on set was like a master class in acting [laughs]. Even if you only had one line, Rachel would give it as much respect as a two-page scene. It was great.

Zara Zoe (Maree Payne): She’s such a mega star, you know, but you she just made everyone feel comfortable. Everyone could just walk on set and feel like it was a creative, collaborative atmosphere. It was really nice.

Teresa Palmer can do it all

Rachel Griffiths: Teresa Palmer is spectacular in this film. One thing the industry has said is ‘oh my God I didn’t realise she could do that’ and I said ‘well no one’s given her the opportunity’.

On whether she always had Teresa in mind for the role. “Always.”

Michelle Payne: We spent some time together. She is just the most beautiful soul you could ever meet in your life and I was so happy she said yes to playing my part. And as an actress she has just absolutely nailed it. It’s just hard to believe there’s someone so good at their job – her and Sam Neill and everyone, the whole crew, I was just blown away by the cast that they had and I’m so proud of it.

Honouring their real-life counterparts

Sophia Forrest: I think it was definitely nerve wracking because you just want to do that person justice in telling their story. But the script was written with such deep respect and sincerity I feel like it carried the film from start to finish.”

Zara Zoe: There was a bit of pressure there as there always is in playing a real-life person but everyone was so warm and welcoming, it never felt tense, it felt like an accepting and wonderful environment. And the Payne family was so wonderful and open with us all.

Michelle Payne: This is the story of perseverance and resilience and believing in yourself. That’s anything is possible if you stick at it. Obviously, there’s going to be some tough times along the way and I think you really have to believe in yourself and follow your dreams.

When asked what was more nerve-wracking, racing in the Melbourne Cup or attending the premiere of a film about her life, Michelle did not hesitate: “Racing in the Melbourne Cup!”.

“Ride Like a Girl” gallops into Australian cinemas 26 September 2019. 

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Interview : Rowan Athale on supernatural stunner Strange But True

An adaptation of the 2004 novel by John Searles

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Rowan Athale, director of 2012’s “Wasteland”, is back behind the lens for the suspenseful supernatural thriller “Strange But True”. The film, featuring a superlative cast including Amy Ryan, Brian Cox and Greg Kinnear, is an adaptation of John Searles’ 2004 novel and concerns a woman who surprises the family of her deceased boyfriend by telling them she’s pregnant with his child. It’s a skillfully-directed, constantly-compelling and brilliantly performed piece – the likes of which don’t come along too often. Moviehole spoke to Athale about the film, which is now in select theaters and on VOD.

 

When did you discover John Searles’ novel, Rowen?

Rowan: I read the script prior to reading the book. Fred Berger, one of the film’s producers, had been developing the movie for some time with John Searles and screenwriter Eric Garcia. Fred and I were acquainted, and we’d been trying to find something to work on together for a while. Fred sent me the script to see if it was something I’d be interested in. Half way through Eric’s excellent script, I knew I would be directing this movie.

I later read John’s book. And found I loved the story all over again.

 

How far into development was the film when you were attached yourself as director – or were you on from the get-go?

Rowan: Fred had been trying to put the film together for a few years. The script was well developed before I became attached. We continued development after I came on board, but the script was in a great place when I initially read it.

 

Having spoken to quite a few filmmakers who’ve adapted novels for the screen, the general consensus is that it’s quite difficult to do – – did you find it hard to decide what stays and what goes as far as the film goes?

Rowan: The book had already been adapted – beautifully – by Eric Garcia before I came on board. But it was a laborious process. Novels and movies are different mediums, of course. And the process of adapting one to the other is challenging. But to me the process is about distillation. Finding the essence of the story, the heartbeat of the characters, and putting them on screen. It’s challenging. But when you have a novel as strong as John’s, it’s more than worth it.

 

How involved in the film was John? Did he get his say as far as all that goes, too?

Rowan: John was involved in the making of the film. He was involved at the script stage, and even during production. John was on the set often – he was there on the first day of the shoot, and a number of days during production. John is such a warm, giving person, that just his presence brought a positive energy to the set. This movie exists because John created this wonderful story, and these beautiful, broken, yet strong characters. And I strongly felt that he should be involved in the film’s production. He’s actually in the movie, by the way. John plays an author who is introduced to an audience by Amy Ryan’s character in the library where she works.

 

I imagine with such big games as Amy Ryan and Greg Kinnear onboard that there was immediate interest – in terms of financing and production partners – but were there any hurdles you faced on the film before even a roll of film had been shot?

Rowan: Strange But True isn’t a sequel or a remake and in Hollywood today, that automatically makes financing your movie a challenge. The movie is a character-led mystery thriller, rather than say, a horror, so pitching the movie required a certain amount of nuance on our part. So the biggest hurdle we faced before making this movie was understanding that we would be making it with a huge amount of passion, rather than a huge amount of money! But we had the right partners backing us in MPC, and in Bankside/Head Gear films. MPC were very respectful of the process, and great to work with. And working with Bankside/Head Gear felt like working with family – they financed and sold my first film, Wasteland, and we’ve had a great working relationship since.

 

Kinnear, one of the most versatile actors of our times, is incredible as Richard. Do you recall any specific direction you gave him before the shoot – – or for that matter, during, on how to approach this part?

Rowan: I like working closely with my actors. And I find the best form of direction is to discuss. I have an open dialogue with the actors, and encourage them in in their performances. Working with such a great cast on this movie meant collaborating with brilliant artists, which is always a joy. With Greg specifically, I encouraged him to see the character as someone who runs away from his responsibilities, who puts distance between himself and the things that cause him pain, but who, in the course of the movie, has to find the strength to run at his pain head on. Greg and I were very much on the same page in terms of the character. And Greg is wonderful to work with. His passion, his energy, is something to see. 

 

What’s coming up for you Rowen?

Rowan:   Next up I’ll be directing Little America, a sci-fi action movie which is being produced by Michael Bay and Platinum Dunes. I also wrote the script, and I’m excited to take it into production. I also co-wrote Jaume Balaguero’s Heist movie Way Down, which is currently in production, and I co-wrote Netlix’s Outside The Wire, which is scheduled for release next year.

 

 

 

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