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Interview: Toni Collette talks Hereditary

” I hope that they understand that it isn’t just another horror film full of gratuitous scares”

Mandy Griffiths

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Hollywood’s hottest indie studio, A24, which in a few short years has amassed an incredible catalogue and 24 Academy Awards, has turned its sights on the horror genre with, “It Comes at Night”, “The Witch”, and now “Hereditary”. The supernatural horror film follows the Graham family as they discover the cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets of their ancestry. They find themselves trying to outrun the sinister fate they seem to have inherited.

As the film becomes available on DVD and Blu-ray, star Toni Collette talks about working with first-time screenwriter-director Ari Aster, how she stayed same filming it, and how it’s not just your standard horror fare.

Tell us about your character. 

Toni: I play a woman who is experiencing an awakening of sorts. At the beginning of the film you find her in a position of loss – her mother has just died – and you quickly realise it wasn’t the kind of idealised lovely relationship a mother-daughter shares, and this woman missed out on a lot of nurturing and a lot of what a kid really is owed when they’re growing up. The film is about her coming to understand what her family means. Where they come from. What their intentions are. What her own existence really entails. and it’s really very, very confronting and shocking.

Was there something unique you did to prepare for the role of Annie?

Toni: The one thing that I would say is somewhat unique, only in that I don’t think I’ve ever really worked in this way before. As a younger actor I used to love the grit and the more intense the better and I’m not into that at all anymore, and I think it had such strength and spoke to me in such an intense way that it was more a case of really trying to avoid what I had to do until they called ‘action’ [laughs]. Really that was the only way I survived it. Since then I’ve kind of wondered ‘geez I wonder what the experience would have been like for me if I really gave myself over to it’. But I don’t think it would have worked because it was just too much. I think this was the only way to survive it and be able to give a reality to each moment when it was required instead of existing in something really rather exhausting to do 24/7 for a long period of time.

Where did you look for inspiration for the role of Annie?

Toni: Really I didn’t have to look further than the script. It was so brilliantly written by Ari Aster. He’s a wonderful writer. Because I think he just gets what it is to be human and he gets dynamics between human beings and how complex it is to literally exist. So he created something so honest and so raw I really didn’t have to look beyond that, and if I did, I would always look up to his face and he would have  the answer should I have a question.

What do you want audiences to take away from the film?

Toni: I hope that they understand that it isn’t just another horror film full of gratuitous scares. There is such a profound beautiful story within this. And it is very sad and very moving. And it does become deeply shocking and upsetting. So it is a roller coaster but it’s an exciting new voice in cinema making a film in a very original way, and that in itself is worth seeing the movie, but the content of the movie is also really really special. And it seems to excite people more than it intimidates them.

What was the most rewarding scene to film?

Toni: Working with Ari is honestly such an incredible pleasure because he’s very clear about what he wants at any given moment. He’s lived with the story for so long in his head and knows every single shot, cutting point, nuance, everything he wants from every actor, however, he does leave room for interpretation and collaboration. There was one particular scene where it was a very long shot towards the end of the movie where my character is quite maniacal and trying to convince her husband to sacrifice her in order to save her son. Quite literally. And there’s a moment where I convince him to come down stairs and explain what’s going on and ask for his help. It was a long scene and the words that were written were not quite enough, and I was always very, very loyal to Ari and what he wrote, did a take that way and it didn’t feel right because there wasn’t enough on the page and the scene was so emotionally big. Kind of a begging scene really. A pleading scene and a declaration of true, true love. I literally took a moment and I thought ‘I just have to f#&*ing give it. I have to tell myself to get over whatever fear was in the way and just get it done. And so we did it again and it just felt so alive. And I didn’t stick to the exact dialogue, it was the only scene I ever improvised in, but it was so spacious and needed, needed that freedom to convey the reality of the moment. And the most gratifying, exciting moment of the film, I think, was when I knew they were planning other coverage, and sometimes when you get something and you know that it’s right, and when you do get it right in that way that feels very real – there’s no way you can repeat it. It becomes like you’re replicating or mimicking or trying to get it again, you can never actually get it again, and Ari said to me, ‘that’s it, we don’t need anymore shots’, and I was like ‘thank you!’ [laughs].

Now available DVD and Blu-Ray and at The Viewing Lounge

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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Interviews

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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