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Oz Comic Con Interview: Scott Ian (Anthrax) talks zombies, air guitar

Scott Ian will be appearing at Oz Comic-Con

Kyle Milner

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In 1981 Scott Ian formed the band Anthrax, laying the foundation for what would soon become one of the iconic Big Four of thrash metal alongside Slayer, Megadeth and Metallica. Nearly four decades later, Ian’s guitar work and lyrics have made him one of the most recognisable and respected names in metal. When not on the stage, Ian has had an incredibly diverse career in media hosting VH1’s The Rock Show, making appearances in television series like Metalocalypse and The Walking Dead, writing comic books for DC (Lobo: Highway to Hell) and even his own radio talk show currently airing on SiriusXM, Never Meet Your Heroes. 

He’ll be heading down to Australia in the coming weeks for Oz Comic-Con, where fans will have the chance to meet the legend himself. Moviehole had the opportunity to speak to Scott as he wrapped up the most recent leg of his current live tour with Anthrax.

Scott: Hey, how’s it going?

Kyle: Hey, not too bad! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, I really appreciate it.

Scott: Yeah, no problem.

Kyle: You’re a super busy guy at the moment – on top of touring with Slayer and a killer line-up of bands, you’re coming to Australia for Oz Comic Con and your speaking tour. Is this a bit of down-time for you, or another part of your busy schedule?

Scott: We’re off now, we finished – I don’t know, a week ago? Two weeks ago? I can’t remember already [laughs]. It all flies by really fast. I’m at home right now, we’re on a break until we start again with Slayer on November 1st in Europe.

Kyle: You’ve played with so many bands, but you’ve also interviewed quite a few bands and artists yourself. Out of personal interest, do you find that being a musician yourself lends itself well to interviewing people?

Scott: Um, I don’t know [laughs]. It doesn’t sound like it right now because I guess I don’t really know how to answer that question. It just comes natural to me. It’s not something I think about. I don’t plan, I don’t really do much research, or anything like that. I just sit down and I have a conversation with people. And I don’t know if my ability to do that is because we have a lot of common ground with a lot of people that I’ve had on my radio show.

I don’t know, I just don’t ever want it to actually feel like I’m interviewing somebody. We just talk. I don’t even tell people that we’re recording, generally. We’ll be twenty minutes into talking to somebody, and sometimes people will ask me “well, when are we going to start?” and I’m like, “we started twenty minutes ago”. So, I think there’s a way of putting people at ease in that way. It’s just not a question and answer thing. But like I said, it’s not something I ever thought about, it’s not like I said “here’s how I’m going to do interviews”. It was never like that. It’s just the way it worked out. Probably because some of the first few guests I ever had – whether it was on my old VH1 TV show or on my radio show – it was people I knew.

So if I’m sitting down with a friend, then obviously that opens the door for it to just be a conversation. Because we’re friends and we know each other. I can just start talking, and an hour later we’ve got a really good interview. Meanwhile, I didn’t do anything! [laughs] I just had a conversation with a friend. So, I guess that’s really the only way I can do it. If I had to like, sit down and think of questions I had to ask people, there’s no way I would ever do that. I don’t think I would be good at that.

Kyle: Yeah, personally speaking I get very nervous interviewing people, especially if it’s someone I’m very familiar with. It’s like, “man, there’s a million things I want to ask you”, but I don’t want to just ask the same questions everyone else has asked. So it’s cool you get to sit down with people you’ve probably toured with, or you just know as a friend and you can just shoot the s!@#$ with. That’s really neat.

Scott: Well, it’s not everybody, I wish it was that easy. I had Nancy Wilson from Heart on my show not that long ago, and I had met her one time. We don’t know each other. And yeah, I was really nervous because I don’t know her at all, I don’t know if she’s a talker, I don’t know how she is conversationally – if she’s going to be tough to talk to. Like I said, it’s not like I spent two weeks researching her and her band. I just said “screw it”, I’m going to sit down and start talking and see where it goes, and it turned out great.

But I was definitely nervous going in, because – there’s been a few people, I didn’t really know them. I may have met a person, but it doesn’t mean I really know them personally. But I still take the same approach – basically just start talking. With Nancy I just started talking about a fire that had happened in Los Angeles, and that lead to us figuring out that we actually lived about a mile away from each other for the last eight years and had no idea. That opened the door and it kind of made everything go easy from that point.

Kyle: So, eleven studio albums with Anthrax, you’ve played with some of the coolest acts on earth, but you’re not just a musician. You’ve done all sorts of things, especially television and radio. Is working in television and radio a passion from way back, like music, or are they something you just kind of fell into as you were doing them?

Scott: No, it wasn’t ever my idea, at all. It wasn’t something I was ever looking for. Back in 2001 I got asked to go to New York to host an episode of this VH1 thing called The Rock Show, because I guess they had decided that the guy prior to me, they didn’t want him as the host anymore. A friend of mine, who worked at VH1, put my name in, saying “I think Scott from Anthrax would be really good at this, because he can speak really well and tell stories and he has a personality”. So it was really out of curiosity. I decided to make a go for it, and say “yeah, I’ll try it”. If I don’t like it, what’s the worst that can happen? I’ll have done one, and I don’t have to do it again.

Kyle: I mean, why the hell not?

Scott: Yeah, and you know, I really ended up enjoying it. That first one I was doing, that VH1 show, it was basically just me talking a whole bunch of crap and playing videos and talking about bands and telling stories and playing music videos. It wasn’t until a few months in, then they said “we want you to start interviewing bands and having guests”. I initially balked at that, because I didn’t want to be that guy. I’m like, “no, I’m in a band, I can’t be sitting and talking with guys in a band, that’s weird to me”. It made me feel like people wouldn’t take me seriously as a musician anymore.

Kyle: Right.

Scott: I was a guy interviewing people, and I didn’t want to be that guy. But if I’m not mistaken, I think the first band that I interviewed might have been The Cult. I think it was them. And I had been friends with them since the 80s, and you know, I figured “alright”. I’ll just do it. I really like this gig, and I don’t want them to fire me, so I might as well try it. So, The Cult came in the studio that day. And that’s where it all kind of started. I had a script that the producers wrote for me, with all these questions like they would for any host. And I didn’t use the script at all. I didn’t use any of the questions, I just sat and talked to my friends in The Cult.

And it went even better than if I had used the questions they gave me, because, you know, if you’re just sitting having a conversation with someone you know, you’re probably going to get a better story out of them than if you’re saying, “so, how long did it take you to make your new album?”. You know? Who gives a shit about that? I don’t! And it went really well. My producer said after the fact, “I don’t need to write questions for you. You know what you’re doing”. And then I didn’t feel like I was selling out, either. And I really enjoyed it. I ended up doing about 48 of those.

Kyle: That’s pretty impressive!

Scott: That kind of opened the door for me to understand that it was something that was fun for me to do. I was capable of doing it. It was also enjoyable. When that ended back in ’02 or ’03, I didn’t really do anything like that for a long, long time until I got my radio show on Sirius. It just depends on my schedule. Sometimes the band is just too busy, I just don’t have any time to do anything else. Everything takes a back seat to that.

Kyle: You have, of course, managed to find the time for some work in television – a personal favourite of mine you did was the cameo in Metalocalypse. I miss that show so bad! And of course, The Walking Dead. You were on the panel for (companion talk show) The Talking Dead, right?

Scott: Yeah, I was on that. That’s not why I was on The Walking Dead, but I did do The Talking Dead once.

Kyle: I was wondering how that came about. Did they approach you and say “hey, we want to turn you into a walker”, or…?

Scott: Well, I’m friends with one of the main producers and directors on the show, Greg Nicotero. His company KNB also does all the zombie and makeup effects for the show. So we’ve been friends for a really long time, and it was through him. I always had an open invitation to go to Atlanta to be on it, but I wanted more than just to be on it. I had my web-series on The Nerdist online, and I wanted to be able to go and film it for my show. Greg was able to make that happen for me, so that was just incredible. There’s no way that it ever would’ve happened if not for the fact that I’m friends with Greg. He really kind of went above and beyond to make all of that happen for me, and it was amazing. Just a completely mind-blowing experience that I got to be part of that world.

Kyle: Yeah, I bet that would be totally surreal.

Scott: I’m in an episode getting a pole stuck through my head by Carl. [laughs]

Kyle: That was badass! Of all those episodes you did talking to different special effects artists, would that be your favourite experience out of all of them?

Scott: Yeah, I mean I guess if I had to pick…I don’t know, there’s so many. It’s so much fun any time I get made up, it’s great. The Walking Dead one certainly would be special, because it wasn’t just me getting made up and hanging out. I got to be part of that TV show, which I’m a fan of, and it’s such a huge, big deal around the world. No-one else really got to do what I got to do, and had the access that I had, and I was able to make that part of my TV show, Bloodworks. It was really kind of mind-blowing that the whole thing happen. So yeah, I guess I would have to say that’d be the most special thing I got to do in the context of that.

Kyle: Aside from your music work, your TV work, your radio work, you’ve also been doing some writing over the years. There’s your autobiography, and a little more recently your book where you’re telling a lot of anecdotes from the road. Is that a lot of what people can expect from your live speaking tour?

Scott: Well, yeah. My live show is me telling stories from my life. It’s all part of my life. One of the questions that you get asked the most over the years is, “what’s the craziest…?”. Everybody wants to know what’s the craziest thing you’ve seen, who’s the craziest guy, or whatever. So that’s pretty much my show, answering all those questions.

Kyle: That’s cool to have to opportunity to give some definitive answers to people who are probably leaving comments on Instagram like, “please tell me!”.

Scott: Yeah, it’s easy, just come to my show!

Kyle: As someone whose favourite author of all time is Stephen King, I can’t help but ask – how does it feel to know he’s a fan of Anthrax?

Scott: When I first found that out, that he was a fan, it was obviously very exciting – to know that he liked what I did! That was definitely an exciting moment, to know that the guy that you’re such a fan of is also a fan of what you do, that was really cool.

Kyle: I understand you’re going to be judging an air guitar competition on-stage at Oz Comic Con. Is that something you’ve been asked to do before?

Scott: Nope!

Kyle: This is surprising!

Scott: Not that I remember, anyway. I mean, are there that many air guitar competitions out there? [laughs]

Kyle: I feel like it’s the kind of thing that’s at conventions, for some reason!

Scott: It’s not exactly something that’s on my radar – I can’t say that I’ve been asked to do that before, but that’s why I’m looking forward to it. It’s new to me, and just like anything else, I said yes because it seems like fun. So that’s what I’m hoping for!

Kyle: Going into it, do you think there’s going to be a particular kind of performance that you’d probably be impressed by?

Scott: I have no idea! [laughs] I have zero expectations of what going to happen. I’m going to sit there, and in the moment I’m going to figure out what I need to figure out. I really don’t know what to expect.

Kyle: So, what’s coming up for you in the next while that you’re quite excited about?

Scott: Well, the Slayer European run, and obviously coming to Australia. But after that, the Slayer European run, and then next year we’ll probably get in a room and start working on new songs as well as hopefully getting down to Australia. Because it’s one of the few places we haven’t been yet on the For All Kings tour. So I’m really hoping that’s going to happen sooner than later.

Kyle: That’ll be awesome to see, I’ll be trying to catch you guys if you do!

Scott: Yeah, they’re sending me down as a scout on this run! Hopefully the whole band will come down with me in a couple of months.

Kyle: Awesome. Thank you for taking the time to speak to me, Scott, really appreciate it!

Scott: Right on, cheers man!

Scott Ian will be appearing at Oz Comic-Con Brisbane on Saturday, September 22nd and Sunday, September 23rd; Oz Comic-Con Sydney on Saturday, September 29th and Sunday, September 30th. More information is available at http://ozcomiccon.com/

Interviews

Moviehole interviews Kirk Taylor for Revival!

Lisa chats to the actor about his latest role and acting advice

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Kirk Taylor is a man who knows where he’s going in life and he should. An actor once praised by the great Sidney Poitier, Taylor has acted alongside the likes of Charles Bronson, Robin Williams and Ben Affleck.

Taylor has also worked for Stanley Kubrick, Frances Ford Coppola and Spike Lee. Just in time for Easter, he has a faith-based film called “Revival!” coming out which is a gospel musical retelling the Book of John.

Moviehole was able to spend some time with Taylor to talk about “Revival!,” a new direction in composing music and how his faith has helped him navigate the entertainment industry.

Moviehole: How did you get into acting? 

Kirk Taylor: A cousin of mine blackmailed me into acting. We were in Connecticut and her name is Monica Davis — I asked Monica for a ride home from a play. I kept hearing the drama teacher yell “Boring!” in our class and I was scared of her. Monica said if I auditioned for the school play, she’d give me a ride. And it was raining and sleeting! But I got the lead in “Cabaret,” the Joel Gray part, and Monica got the chorus. The next time I did “Pajama Game” and ”Li’l Abner,” and that was my start in musical theater and acting.

Then the teacher said I should go to New York when they still had Lee Strasberg and Stella Adler teaching, so I got away from musicals.  I didn’t tell them (Strasberg and Adler) I could sing then. They said they needed an actor who could sing and I surprised them that I could sing. In NYC I started working in Broadway productions and I’ve done film, teaching and TV ever since.

Moviehole: What was your chance encounter with Sidney Poitier?

KT: I didn’t realize until later that God had plans had me. I did the film “MacArthur Park,” it was directed by a guy named Billy Wirth and it had Syndea William, Sidney Poitier’s daughter. I played a cop in that one. We got to Sundance and the film comes up and I believed myself in the film, I believed the role that I was a cop. But when the credits rolled I wasn’t in the credits.  I was pretty crushed, they apologized and they gave me an extra $150. I brought friends to another screening but again the credits rolled and I wasn’t in it.

Then Sidney Poitier came and walked right over to me and said, “Do you play the cop? I wasn’t sure if you were acting or a real cop.” I told Poitier about the missing credits and he said, “Where you are going in your career, it will not matter about the credits.” I called it a God Nod instead of a God Wink. That was a startling moment.  I was also left out of the credits in “The Cotton Club,” and I walked out discouraged. Two girls walked up to me after and asked if I played the waiter, it was a journey. Those kinds of things, sometimes the gas tank is low and working in this industry, and you need a jump start.

Moviehole: How did you get involved with “Revival!”?

It’s been a real labor of love, we started choosing reshoots two or three years after principal photography/ I came back to do ADR seven or eight hours, clearing up the vocal acting. It was rough, but it’s one of those projects where your whole life prepared you to do it. Actors will tell you a role comes at a certain point in their life.

My wife, Richelle Taylor, was a script supervisor so she had pitched me to Harry Lennix (producer and stars as Pilate) and I had an interview. A week later I had the role of Simon Peter. It’s a big arc, he’s a great pillar of the church, he was a daredevil and made big mistakes. I have had successes and had failures as well. They called him Cephas. I had a cousin who was a staunch atheist come see the film who was weeping after.  I was able to understand; my most beautiful scene was the denial of Christ and Harry added a scene where my brother calls me Cephas and I deny him as well when I was warming my hands at the fire.

They shot my hardest scene first.  Harry said, “Your work in this scene brings me to tears.”  I felt that this was the guy, I believed his suffering and passion. Peter goes through pendulum scenes for sure. I got to play Simon Peter and walk on water. I call our production, “Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell meet 2001 Space Odyssey.” It’s a hybrid film, it started as a play written by Harry Lennix and they thought they’d film it. It expanded. It starts on stage and turns into a film with an actor coming to the theater and then goes to the first century, played by Grammy winner Mali Music. Mali was called “the future” by Stevie Wonder.

Moviehole: Will this film be different than other films like “Son of Jesus”?

KT: It goes into the future in 2015 in L.A., this message about God’s love; there are all kinds of colored people in there. And for every season this message the word will not pass away until everything is fulfilled.

Moviehole: What was it like working with Chaka Khan?

KT: I worked with her in a film called, ”Signed, Sealed and Delivered” and I got to sing songs with her in ‘Revival!’, she plays Queen Herodias. She had a beautiful scene trying to persuade her husband to kill John the Baptist. Michelle Williams also sings in it.

Moviehole: What is your acting method, as you are an acting teacher too?

KT: I studied with Strasberg and Stella Adler and I teach a combination of things.

Moviehole: What is your advice for acting newbies?

KT: I would say examine your heart and see if this what you want to do and need to do. Many of my students are working but it’s not easy. The majority of people went into other parts of business, such as producers and casting directors. Ask is this what you want me to do? Ask God. I asked my wife to pray for me if this is what I should do. The phone rang and it was my agent about contacting me for a major motion picture and within a week I’m standing with Robin Williams and Mila Kunis. God gave me a major headshake. Everyone who asks receives.

There are certain things. Examine your heart in prayer and then learn your craft. It’s like learning to walk a tight rope. Take classes, do plays, study actors you like, study their body of work, do singing classes and train. Search your heart and pray about it. Get your tools ready. I have one friend who is a writer who was trying to be an actor. The next day she got a writing job and she’s a writer. In order to be ready, you need to be ready emotionally too.  It’s easy to get crushed in this industry, it can be a rough road; use it as a time to build yourself up. Ask if there are course adjustments or something you need to do.

Moviehole: What are your upcoming projects?

KT: I’ve been working on compositions, I did a film called “One Special Moment” and had a song adapted into the film. I have 75 songs and started a publishing company.  I went to visit a pastor named David Wilkerson and I was in David’s office to talk to him about some things — I mentioned acting and teaching acting, and he asked me about composing and asked if he could pray for me about writing music. I went home and I didn’t feel anything and then the next morning I wrote music and lyrics for a gospel tune. The next day I wrote something else. I’m still teaching, I coach privately and now since my uncle once wrote a tune for Nat King Cole, I’m thinking about getting that song and my songs into an album.

*”Revival!”premiered and opened in 10 cities in December, and at Easter it is back in theaters in some major markets.

For more details:
www.revivalthemovie.com
www.kirktaylorofficial.com

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Interviews

Interview : Richard Dreyfuss – on Jaws, Oscars & ‘Sequel Syndrome’

Moviehole’s Mike Smith talks to the legendary actor

Mike Smith

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With my 15th birthday approaching, my father asked me what I wanted to do. Having been intrigued by the television commercials for a new film, “Dog Day Afternoon,” I told him I wanted to see that movie. On Sunday, September 21, 1975, my father dropped me off at the University Square Mall Cinema in Tampa to see the movie. Sadly, I didn’t know it was rated “R” and was told I couldn’t buy a ticket. As I began to dejectedly walk away, the girl in the ticket booth called out to me “have you seen JAWS yet?” I hadn’t. 124 minutes later, my life was changed.

I include this because of what I did after the film. Like a normal kid, I wrote fan letters to the three stars. I soon received a letter from Richard Dreyfuss’ cousin, Arlene, who informed me that she ran Richard’s fan club. If I wanted to join, it would cost me $5.00 (a week’s allowance at that time). I immediately sent her the money, along with a note saying “if you ever need any help.” Within a few months, I was helping her with the club – basically I handled the fans east of the Mississippi river. It was a great time for a teenager. I’d scour the newspapers for articles about Richard and each month would send out a packet to the fans, which usually consisted of Xeroxed newspaper clippings and the occasional photograph. Not sure how many members were in the club, but when it disbanded in November 1978, shortly after the release of “The Big Fix,” I was dealing with almost 1,000 fans.

I’ve been very fortunate to have met Mr. Dreyfuss twice in my life. Once, in Baltimore, when he was on the set of the film “Tin Men,” and in July 2017 when we were both guests at a Hollywood Celebrity Show. At that show I was able to stand near his table and listen to him tell the most amazing stories. I mention this because Mr. Dreyfuss is currently traveling around the country, offering fans the opportunity to take in AN EVENING WITH RICHARD DREYFUSS. He will be in Kansas City this week (April 4th) and I have been honored to have been chosen the moderator of the event. Call it practice, but I had the opportunity to speak with Mr. Dreyfuss and ask him some questions, a few of which may be included when we’re together Thursday night.

Mike Smith: What led you to pursue a career in acting?

Richard Dreyfuss: Wow! I don’t know….what leads someone to follow what they love? I don’t think I really had a choice.

MS: Was there a film or performer that inspired you? I acted a lot through my 20s but couldn’t make a living at it, but the inspiration came from wanting to do what YOU did. I know you’re a fan of actors like Charles Laughton, Irene Dunne and Spencer Tracy, among others. Were they the catalyst?

RD: They were, of course. I have no memory of NOT wanting to be an actor. I think the first time I got on record was when I was nine years old. We had just moved to California from New York, and I said to my mother, “I want to be an actor.” And she said, “Don’t just talk about it.” So I went down to the local Jewish Community Center and auditioned for a play. And I really never stopped. I realistically never had more than ten days when I wasn’t acting in a play, or a scene or a class or a job until I was 27.

Richard Dreyfuss

MS: You made your film debut in two very different films in 1967 – “The Graduate” and “The Valley of the Dolls.” What do you think is the biggest difference between filmmaking then and today?

RD: There are so many. The general level of quality for an actor has plummeted. When I was younger I never hesitated telling young actors to “go for it”…to pursue it. And now I don’t say that, because the real rewards are so rare…so few and far between The quality of scrips, from an acting viewpoint, suck. The sequel syndrome that we’re in, which we can’t seem to get out of, has really lessoned the level of quality of writing. Of story. And it seems more arbitrarily decided upon as an element of chicanery and thievery, even for a business that’s famous for it, it goes on. Film acting is not something I really recommend. If you want to be an actor in America you can live a very great and satisfied life if you never think about being a star. You can have a great life in Kansas City. Or St. Louis. Or a million other places. But if you want to go for that kind of brass ring, which I would question – if you do want to go for it, go to therapy first – you’ve got to go to L.A. or New York. And those towns are pretty sick.

MS: You famously almost turned down your role in “Jaws.” Are there any roles you turned down and then later regretted your decision?

RD: Oh yeah. I was once watching a movie and I kept thinking, gosh, this seems so familiar.” I thought “oh, shit,” and then I remembered why. And I didn’t ALMOST turn down “Jaws,” I did turn it down. I turned it down twice. And then I changed my mind and begged for the part. (NOTE: The story goes like this. After turning down “Jaws” – twice – Mr. Dreyfuss saw his upcoming film “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” and thought his performance was so terrible that he’d never work again. He then called director Steven Spielberg and accepted the role. Of course, when “The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz” was released, Mr. Dreyfuss received rave reviews for his performance, even being named Runner Up as the Best Actor of 1974 (tied with Gene Hackman for “The Conversation”) by the New York Film Critics Circle.)

Richard Dreyfuss in “Jaws”

I will never tell you the ones I turned down that became hits. Thank God there aren’t that many of them!

MS: What fuels the passion for your work?
RD: If you asked me a question about my process – how do you do this…what’s your method? – I would completely be unable to answer that. And I’ve always known I’d never be able to answer those kind of questions. But I know that, in a business where if you’re a successful actor you want to direct, I’ve never wanted to direct. So I didn’t. I wanted to act! I had made a decision when I was very young, which probably wasn’t the most strategist thing to do in the world, but it was the way I chose to live. Which is to day, if I do a drama, then I’ll do a comedy. Then I’ll do a drama. Then I’ll do a comedy. That’s basically what I tried to do. And the mistake in that is that I don’t think I ever did something enough times to establish a kind of signature recognition of what I do. I did both. I did lots. And I thought that was the best way for me to pursue my life. And that’s what I did for sixty years.

The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz

MS: Where do you keep your Oscar? (NOTE: Mr. Dreyfuss received the Academy Award for Best Actor for his role as Elliot Garfield in “The Goodbye Girl.” At age 30, he was, at the time, the youngest actor to win that award).

RD: For the most part, in the refrigerator. (laughs). I always want people to know about it, but I don’t want to brag. But I figure that sooner or later they’re going to open the refrigerator.

And I’m also very aware that the list of actors who were ever nominated or won an Oscar is as great a list as the ones who never were. It’s a wonderful evening, but it’s rarely more than that. It’s a great evening. You’re aware of the film work because the audience for film is in the millions. But I make no distinction between film and theater. And, of course, the audience for the theater work I’ve done will be 1/100th of that of the film audience. But to me, it was always – if not equal than more important –so that is something that I travel with. I have a little bucket list of things that I check off every once in a while. “OK, you did a Broadway show…check.” From the time I was nine, into my teenage years, I was always in acting classes. At acting schools. I was always with actors. And they would always talk about a “National” theater. And I would say, “There’s never going to be a National theater in this country. However, there could be fifty “State” theaters. And, as someone who lives in Kansas City, I would say to you that, something that people should not ignore, is the fact that we are from so many different places…so many different cultures…that we come together as Americans only when we’re HERE, and we learn to be Americans. And each of us, whether you live in Seattle or Mississippi, you have different strains of a culture. And I have always wanted each state to have its own theater. And, in a state like California, which is huge, you could have two, anchored North and South. And, instead of trying to get everyone to agree on A National Theater, we could have one in every state. It’s silly to think we can’t afford a State theater, to be able to see how Missourians and Floridians and North Dakotans approach theater. I think that would be a great endeavor and a great thing to do. Only because we teach so few things that we share. We’ve actually given up on the notion of teaching things that are of shared values. And that’s causing this terrible breach in the country. And we should try to find things that we can share. And one of them could just be the artistic endeavor of a State theater.

MS: That makes a lot of sense.

RD: And they’ll never do it (laughs).

MS: Quick follow-up to the Oscar question, one of your fellow nominees that year was Richard Burton. When Sylvester Stallone read the name of the winner, and you heard “Richard” did you think Burton had one?

RD: My competition was Burton, Marcello Mastroianni, John Travolta and Woody Allen. There was no easy answer. But I just knew I was going to win it. (laughs) That’s all I cared about.

MS: Me too, that night. I always wonder how people sometimes vote. You were also nominated for “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” but I thought you were most deserving four years earlier for “Once Around.”

RD: It’s probably the easiest vote to define. There are two ways people vote in the Academy. One is, you vote for your friend. Or, you vote for who you think is best. In that order. It’s simple. You may not be able to predict it, but that’s the way people vote. And it’s the reason why people do vote. It’s not a mystery. The only thing wrong with the Oscars now is that there are too many other awards, and it’s cheapened the whole thing.

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Interviews

Aquaman screenwriter talks Justice League cameos, Julie Andrews & more!

Lisa Carroll talks to the co-writer of the blockbuster

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Most people who want to get into entertainment have to leave their small town; writer David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick’s career literally got started in his.

“Shawshank Redemption” happened to be filming at the local prison in Ohio and Johnson-McGoldrick was able to work with the production, becoming an assistant to producer/director/writer Frank Darabont. However, it was patience and resilience that got him the rest of the way and now he’s part of one of the biggest blockbusters to come along this year.

Johnson-McGoldrick sat down with Moviehole to talk about the intricacies of co-writing “Aquaman,” Topo the bongo-playing octopus and Julie Andrews’ great role (not Mary Poppins!).

 

Moviehole: How did you get started in writing?

David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick:  I got started at a very early age. I was interested in putting on shows and I liked entertaining people from childhood. In my teenage years, I thought I would be an author and it was more because growing up in Ohio, it never occurred to me that you could work in movies. Back then to me, movies in the theater came out of a little box. At 16, I realized it was a job to make movies, and I decided not to write books so I went to film school. I wanted to direct and did a film and the script was good but the movie was terrible…that’s how I got started.

David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick

 

Moviehole: Your mentor was Frank Darabont. What are the most important things you learned from him?

DLJM: It was a great mentor ship. At the time I was frustrated, because it was five years between “Shawshank” and “Green Mile” and I was like, when are we going to make it? He was writing and I got to see firsthand the emotional rollercoaster of it, the ups and downs — it’s a lot when you’re in your office by yourself all day long, you’re part of a process with no complete control over things. It helped prepare me emotionally for the excitement and disappointment of that job. He knew it was what I wanted to do and he was reading everything I wrote and giving me critiques. I remember reading “Saving Private Ryan,” (Darabont worked on the film) and reading his writing; I think stylistically in my approach in writing I’m very influenced by his writing. We are still in touch and there is stuff we want to work on someday.

 

Moviehole: What is your writing style?

DLJM: I have only worked with a partner once on “Wrath of the Titans.” I work on my own, and on this film we (Will Beall, co-writer) didn’t work at the same time — he did a draft and I did a draft, they went back and forth between us and he was the one who started that process on “Aquaman.” I actually met him for the first time at a WGA event. Meeting him went well. It’s the nature of the beast, you’re hired and fired and rehired. I have found mostly that writers understand that when you meet up. I don’t have hard feelings about being rewritten, especially on a movie this size. I used to have to be alone with total silence, I’ve since learned to do it in different circumstances and while working consistently, I am not precious about it.

I have to work on a plane or in a coffee shop and so I make a mix of soundtracks as music is a big part of it for me, I love soundtracks.  I can’t work with others talking. The music depends on what I’m working on. The only thing I have to avoid is a soundtrack if it’s too iconic, so I get soundtracks of movies I haven’t seen.  My favorite all-time soundtracks are “Star Wars” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” but it’s too much of a visual image with those movies, I need to picture something original.

 

Moviehole: What was the biggest challenge about working on “Aquaman”?

DLJM: It was a lot of fun to be honest, you’re writing “Aquaman!” It was a little like getting to go play and I felt like the challenges that were faced were harder for Zach Snyder for “Justice League” — because he was the one who had to figure out who Aquaman was. It’s a maligned character and people are more familiar with the robot chicken character of Aquaman — a guy with a blond pompadour riding a fish is the conception. Zach cast Jason (Momoa) which completely shattered people’s perceptions and we were able to steer Jason back to the classic Aquaman. I don’t think you could’ve shown him in a suit right out of the gate. He had to show Aquaman was cool.

 

Moviehole: There’s a lot of psychology to writing then?

DLJM: Sometimes you have to break people’s expectations, like with Daniel Craig with “Casino Royale” breaking someone’s head with a toilet seat; two movies later on, he’s in a tux and he’s fighting komodo dragons.

 

Moviehole: What was your biggest surprise learning about the character Aquaman?

DLJM: When I first got this job, I went back to the comic issue one of Aquaman and was pouring through the issues, knowing we are doing a different take on the character. The biggest surprise I had reading it was that everyone had in their head an antiquated idea of who Aquaman was because of the cartoon show – the one with Aqualad  where he had an Aquacave, and he got married and had an Aqua baby and it was an innocent comic at the beginning.

Then it took a dark and sophisticated turn long before ”Watchmen” came about, it became about what comics could be. You had Black Manta kill Aquababy! It took a dark turn and it was that abrupt; Aquababy didn’t even have a name. The stories changed from Superman under water to a broader scope where he had to deal with politics and palace intrigue and he was a king. You went from the bongo-playing octopus Topo to a baby getting murdered. James Wan (director) was all into the octopus getting into the movie so Topo made it in the movie. He was all into the old school hat tip to Topo.

 

Moviehole: What about the special effects on “Aquaman”? 

DLJM: James early on was making a comparison about “Star Wars” under water, and I think it will surprise people — it takes us out of the typical superhero story. It’s not about a nuclear bomb, it takes place on a grand scale in a world we’ve never seen. It’s what makes that character different from other superheroes. We have a whole underwater civilization to explore and it feels like the opening of a giant world.

 

Moviehole: Not to do any spoilers, but how did Julie Andrews get involved?

DLJM: That was a surprise! Especially as “Mary Poppins” is coming out? That came early on from a very early incarnation as James always had this character that was going to be in it and communicate telepathically. At some point in the process, he said this type of creature always had a male voice so he thought why can’t it have a female voice? And it needed to have a lot of menace and gravitas. When he said it, I wasn’t thinking about the Mary Poppins thing of it.

 

Moviehole: Any Justice League stuff going on here?

DLJM: There are no Justice League cameos in this film. We discussed doing that and it was a fun thing to get to write, but it was the decision to have Aquaman stand on his own two feet that was the right way to go.

 

Moviehole: Any advice to newbies getting into the business?

DLJM: The hardest thing to do is getting your foot in the door. The thing I found was that I got very lucky in that I graduated from film school and just a few months after that “Shawshank” came to shoot in my hometown and I got hooked up in production. I gave Frank a script and he liked it and read it and that’s how I got my foot in the door. You have to be prepared for that luck when it happens. I had a script to give to Frank, plus I was working on a script after working 12 hours a day. There was stuff outside of my control, but I was also busting my ass to take advantage of that luck.

Sometimes it seems pointless, but if you have a pile of scripts to hand to someone, as long as you’re working you’re ready to pounce when luck turns that way. I always found pitching to be really difficult, it was hard to go out there and sell myself and I had to force myself to go and drive to meetings. Every nerve in my body wanted to turn around and go back. But eventually I can do it and be good at pitching. I had to learn though countless pitches and it seemed pointless but it was actually not.

 

Moviehole: Any upcoming projects?

DLJM: Next year I’ll be working on “The Conjuring 3,” the script is written so we will hopefully shoot it next year.

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