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Director Donovan Marsh Gives Us the Inside of HUNTER KILLER

Donovan Marshhunter killer

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres this Friday from director Donovan Marsh and Summit Entertainment is the intense military thriller HUNTER KILLER.

Gerard Butler is first-time-out submarine Captain Joe Glass and this isn’t a run of the mill outing he is about to go on. There is something happening in Russia that has sunk two submarines and Washington wants answers.

There are four parts to the film that come together as Captain Glass looks for the subs, Navy Seals put boots on the ground, the Russians are playing their own game and Washington looks at the political ramifications if one more thing pushes everyone over the brink.

That’s were good directing comes in and Donovan Marsh was given that task being part of the film industry since 1992. Marsh has put himself on the map with his award winning film SPUD which won at the South African Film and Television Awards. That was followed by the sequel SPUD 2: The Madness Continues. He is also in pre-production for the film VALHALLA and I can’t wait to see it. Writing, editing and producing, along with directing, means Marsh is someone who doesn’t shy away from good film and television making.

I had the chance to speak with Donovan Marsh about HUNTER KILLER. He speaks of keeping the film authentic while enjoying a ride aboard the USS Houston for a bit of research.

Jeri Jacquin: Hello Donovan, thanks for speaking with me today.

Donovan Marsh: Oh no worries at all.

JJ: Congratulations on the film. I’m going to jump right in and ask what was it like to direct four different stories in one film?

DM: Oh you are correct about that and its very difficult to not get distracted with different points of view. It’s a matter of taking these four points of view and finding out if there is a way to cut them while ratcheting up the action. That was a real job during the editing. It was a matter of choosing and knowing where I wanted the audience to be looking without distracting them too much. I think the editor did a fantastic job of that.

JJ: Was it difficult for you to do each of those things? I mean one minute your dealing with the Russians, then off to the politics of Washing etc.?

DM: We divided it into subsections and were very methodical about it. I was able to focus on each of them exclusively for a couple of weeks at a time. We did two weeks in the submarine and a week in “Russia” which actually was Bulgaria and it is carefully scripted. If you have a plan and know what you are doing it becomes all about where do you want the audiences attention to go and who’s point of view has the most tension at the time you are watching.

JJ: You made it look seamless.

DM: Thank you!

JJ: You have such a stellar cast in each section of the story you are telling. Gary Oldman and Common together, what an interesting choice.

DM: Yes, you couldn’t get two more different actors. Gary is an Oscar Winning actor for THE DARKEST HOUR and Common is a musician who brings a warmth, energy and naturalism to his performance. It is interesting to watch their contrast in the war room scenes. It was quite a magical thing and I am happy with the outcome.

JJ: Your Seal team, what a group of amazing guys.

DM: Oh thank you, yes, well we put the four of them through hell. Every day it was running, diving, crashing and jumping. I wanted it to feel like the real deal so we put them through a lot of training and go them really fit. They got the culture of the Special Forces and we wanted to make sure to get that right. I’ve had Special Forces guys look at the film and they’ve said ‘that’s exactly how we are with each other’ with the joking and the time to be focused and serious. I was happy to get that accurate.

JJ: The Russian part of the film, I mean its not that hard to believe it could happen.

DM: Look, what would it take to set off a war between America and Russia? What’s it going to mean to both countries? It’s not going to take much. It could be a submarine under the ice. You look at the press of late and how the Russians are posturing with MIG’s or destroyers, you are not sure what could happen next. So playing the what-if game is the delicious part of the film. I mean what if these kinds of events occurred and what would be the outcome is what makes this film.

JJ: The actors are so good.

DM: I wanted to use Russian actors, except for Michael Nyqvist of course who is Swedish, I wanted them to speak Russian. There is an authenticity to them being Russia and knowing the Russian life that I thought important enough to cast them for the film.

JJ: In the submarine, when I heard Gerard Butler was the commander I thought it was an interesting choice.

DM: I know people are use to him kicking ass on land and this is a totally different environment.

JJ: I heard that you and Gerard spent some time on the USS Houston?

DM: That’s right, we went on board from Pearl Harbor and we actually ran through all the scenes of the film. I asked the captain what actually would happen with this or with that. Show me exactly how you would react if this were to really happen. The Captain was game and the crew was game and it was amazing to see it really play out on a US submarine. It was the most expensive prop I think I will ever use again but it was great to see it play out. We wanted to make sure that we depicted it as accurately as possible.

JJ: What did Gerard think of it?

DM: It was amazing, he dressed up as the captain and the crew referred to him as Command Glass which is the name of his character for the film. They treated him like a real captain and he got to do some commanding. It was great for him to feel like he was in character in some respects for the film.

JJ: When you finally starting filming the submarine scenes, you are in pretty tight quarters and there are a lot of people in those quarters. How did you manage that?

DM: Yes, it is encapsulated definitely. I wanted the set that way, I wanted the actors to feel what it was like so there were four walls, floor and ceiling. I built the set on a hydraulic set called a gimbal and was able to tilt it 15 degrees at any given moment. The set was tilting as it would in a real submarine and it felt like you were in it. I never wanted to film the same scene in the same way twice so I took out sections of the wall, brought a crane in and always tried to find other ways of filming it for drama. That was a real challenge but I’m so glad I did it that way because it gives the true feeling of being in a submarine.

JJ: There is a scene where the sub is diving and the crew leans to keep themselves upright.

DM: Yes, that really happened when I was underway on the Houston. If you don’t lean you’ll fall out. I wanted to depict it in the film and it adds so much to that scene.

JJ: What initially drew you to the project?

DM: I get scripts and I’ve seen scripts in this genre and I find it difficult to get a good script in this genre. There have been submarine dramas and such and I wasn’t sure there would be a plot to tell. I read the script and I thought it was fantastic with the twists and turns and not knowing what was going to happen next. I was drawn to the realism of it and thought it was a really good script. I also couldn’t predict the end! There are a lot of action films were half way through you know how its going to end and this one did something different.

JJ: What do you want audiences to take away from seeing HUNTER KILLER?

DM: That’s an interesting question because I think there are many layers to the film. I think you could walk into a theatre and think it a popcorn film and just enjoy it for the thrills and spills. Also, there is a deeper geo-political commentary about war and how collaboration with the enemy is way more important than fighting the enemy. It’s another part of the reason I took the film was the collaboration between America and Russia. I feel it’s important for geo-politics. Movies talk about collaboration and ‘we are all in this together’ and I hope that comes through in the film. I hope that some people will take that away and not just see it as a thrill ride. I also hope people come away with a greater appreciation for the unsung hero’s of the US Navy submariners. We don’t know a lot about them, it’s not the most glamorous job in the world. I wanted to show what they go through and what it’s like to go to war in this encapsulated steel cylinder where you can’t see what’s happening. Instead, all you have is trusting your instrumentation. I want everyone to appreciate the men and women serving. We played this movie on a Naval Base for 1,300 people and they went bananas for it. After the film was the question and answer portion and wives would say ‘thank you for shedding light on what my husband does’ and a child got up to say ‘thank you for showing me what my mother does because I now have a bigger appreciation for what she does’. That was really moving.

 

Indeed it is, when a film comes along that gives us all an insight into what it takes to do a job then it becomes even more successful. HUNTER KILLER not only does just that but puts us all in the intensity and action in a what-if scenario. The twist and turns bring another layer of the film into focus making us think that in the midst of crisis – anything is possible.

Marsh has taken this genre of film and given it something for us all to think about. From the storytelling to the intricate set design, it all lends itself to bringing us all in on the ride.

HUNTER KILLER opens in theatres this Friday so prepare to dive!

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THE 15:17 TO PARIS Brings the Real Heroes onto the Silver Screen

 

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Speaking with Spencer Stone, Anthony Sadler and Alek Skarlatos – Heroes all!

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres from legendary director Clint Eastwood and Warner Bros. is a film about adversity, courage and being on THE 15:17 TO PARIS.

It made the news around the world when, on August 21, 2015, a terrorist attacked a train heading for Paris with 500 passengers aboard. The event could have had life shattering consequences but for three men – Airman Spencer Stone, Specialist Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler.

These three men took it upon themselves to rush in while others were rushing out. What makes these three even more outstanding is that they have been friends since childhood. That’s where the story begins, Spencer and Alek are having problems at school as teachers and administrators see them as needing medication to keep them in line.

Not about to have it are their mothers Joyce (Judy Greer) and Heidi (Jenna Fischer) who are not about to be told how to parent – especially out of a medicine bottle. It is in school that they meet Anthony and a bond is formed out of mutual acceptance. Although they each have to go their separate ways, that bond becomes stronger as they grow up.

Spencer decides he wants to join the military but soon discovers that the job he wants is not where the military sends him. Struggling with studies and keeping up, he becomes frustrated which makes things even harder. Alek is over seas when, along with Spencer and Anthony, plans are made to see the sights of Europe.

Reunited once again, Spencer, Anthony and Alek become tourists going from place to place enjoying their freedom. After visiting Italy and Amsterdam, they board the Thalys train #9364 for Paris where the lives of everyone aboard will change.

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I had the amazing opportunity to speak with Spencer, Anthony and Alek who director Clint Eastwood decided would portray themselves in the film. Let me say first off that I found these three young men to be exactly how I expected them to be. They are very welcoming, funny and with a laid back ease I so enjoyed.

Jeri Jacquin:  Hello gentlemen, it’s such a pleasure to meet you.

Spencer Stone: Oh, I think we are missing one. Alek will be back in a sec.

Anthony Sadler: If we let him back in the room.

(they immediately start laughing and I sense a plot forming)

JJ: Well, lets hit the ground running before he gets back then.

Spencer: Yes!

JJ: First of all, it’s so weird; I mean you look exactly like yourselves.

Anthony: (laughing) I know right, I get that a lot.

JJ: I saw the film and I have to ask you, is it very strange when you watch it? Because it is like you are watching yourself doing something you have already done.

Anthony: It’s weird on so many levels. It’s our story on camera with music with Clint Eastwoods name on it and it’s also weird watching how accurate it is because we lived it. It isn’t all Hollywood’ up so seeing us doing what we did two years ago is strange for us as well.

JJ: I felt like I was intruding almost while watching in a way.

Spencer: Yes, that’s exactly what it feels like putting it out there.

Anthony: We hope that people like it and it spread like wildfire. We want the audience to feel like they are there and see exactly how it happened and who it happened to. It’s not documentary and I know it gets tagged that because we are not actors but it’s not that. It’s like you are literally there.

JJ: Even more so for you.

Anthony: Exactly!

(we are rejoined by Alek Skarlatos and immediately Spencer and Anthony give him a good natured hard time with lots of brotherly joking)

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 JJ: Hello Alek, I’m Jeri.

Alek: Awwww man, you started without me?

JJ: It’s not that we don’t love you or anything but the clock is ticking.

Anthony: Yea dude, we have things to do. (again they start laughing at each other)

Spencer: Back to the question Alek (chastising as only a brother can do), you have to be okay with everyone knowing everything about your life. Not everything in detail but a majority of it out on a big stage with Clint Eastwood. It’s a scary decision but an exciting one.

Anthony: We are a week away from release and we have shot the movie, promoted it, wrote a book about it and have talked about it all over. At this point it is so weird to be in this place because millions of people are about to see it. It’s just an interesting time and pretty surreal and we are excited for everyone to see it. I just really want to know what everyone thinks of it actually. I want to know how it touches them and makes them feel.

JJ: When you were first approached, did you think the film was going to go as far back into your life as it does? Because you are dealing with a 94 minute film but going back to when you were kids.

Anthony: When Clint picked it up the book I knew there was a strong possibility and I was wondering how much of our childhood he was going to show because I didn’t know how relevant it was. We were all three discussing it amongst ourselves wondering what was relevant to the story and what’s not. It’s weird because when I read the script I wondered why some scenes where there but when I watched the finished product I thought – he’s such a genius. Every scene in there had a theme in it that set up the bigger picture.

JJ: Oh absolutely.

Anthony: No matter how trivial it looked, like going to the principal’s office because that speaks to a bond that we shared even as children. Ever scene mattered and only Clint Eastwood would have a vision like that.

JJ: Did he tell each of you why he decided to use you instead of actors?

Spencer: Not directly, the information we had was of interviews he has done talking about it.

Alek: I’m so glad he did though because the first time we watched the film with our families and having our relationships on camera – the way we talk to each other – even they could tell that’s really how we act. We weren’t being different people so the film really shows that that is who we really are and it’s very accurate.

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JJ:  Earlier you said that some people were hinting the film was like a documentary and I can see why they might say it even though they are pretty much wrong (the laughing commences again). When you are speaking to each other on the screen there aren’t ‘characters’ acting like you – it’s you three being –well, you three! Again, there is that eavesdropping feeling.

Anthony: Clint didn’t want us to act either. He didn’t want us to…

Alek: …do too much.

Anthony: Yes, do too much. We were trying to be ourselves and not overplay it. He took the weight of a motion picture out of the situation. He said be friends and forget what the script says. He said, ‘you were here and you know how it was, do that and I’ll capture it’. The trust goes both ways because we trusted him to tell the story and he trusted us to just be ourselves. His trust was huge and we didn’t want to disappoint him. We wouldn’t have trusted anyone else to be so personal with our story and when we saw the picture we just wanted to be happy with it and we are. We are thrilled that he did the film justice.

Spencer: I don’t think we would have been happy with the film if it was anyone other than Clint Eastwood.

Anthony: He gave us the confidence to try. We thought if Clint sees something, I don’t know what it was but if he sees something then we will do it.

JJ: Clint always does stories that share something of a character, but here it is the three of you so it is much wider of a story being told.

Anthony: We are all so very different as well.

JJ: Yes, you certainly are.

Anthony: The movie will show that we are three very different individuals. Typically you wouldn’t think we would be friends and not only friends but life long friends. We risk our lives for each other and that’s a huge theme of the film.

JJ: I think you literally proved that.

Spencer: I guess we did.

JJ: One scene that touched me was your troubles Spencer growing up and struggles with the military. I recognize that in you, I can’t exactly say ‘your character’ because it’s you! Did you ever in a million years think all those struggles would be called upon in a fraction of a second?

Spencer: Absolutely not, I felt like even all the way up to the train attack I was feeling very unfulfilled and kind of angry because I felt like that’s all I ever wanted. I felt like joining the military was the first time I ever truly applied myself just to have it stripped from me. It was devastating for me. Then to be put in another career that I wasn’t too excited about and to fail out of that just felt like a huge waste of time. It’s just funny how I would be pushed away from the things I wanted and guided towards the things I needed in my life. I think that wasn’t something I was able to fully comprehend until I went through this experience. Now having that perspective in my life it has much improved how I see things in a hundred different ways. It is something I can carry throughout my life in any situation and just feel calm and at ease and pretty much know that I am here for a reason, I don’t know what that is but I need to trust.paris 1JJ: Life is busy chugging along while you are busy making plans?

Spencer: Absolutely.

Anthony: That’s perfect!

JJ: So Alek, I heard people refer to you as ‘the quiet one’, is that true?

Alek: I mean…depends on the context.

Spencer: It depends on who is around.

Alek: Yea, it does depend on who is around. If it’s these guys then I’m not but other people I might be quiet.

Spencer: If there was a cute girl he would be all chatty.

Alek: Yep, that’s right.

JJ: I kind of got that feeling with the scene in Rome.

Spencer: Oh look at the pretzels!

(a joke that took these boys almost to the floor laughing)

JJ: So Alek, seeing yourself on screen did you see anything about yourself that you didn’t notice before?

Spencer: Oh, good question.

Alek: I think how ridiculous I look sometimes. If you add up between the pretzel scene and me drinking the baby soda it’s like wow, I’m kind of stupid. That’s very accurate to who I am but you don’t notice those idiosyncrasies in an objective manner until you see them on screen.

(Spencer and Anthony are cracking up at Alek’s answer so the Mom in me steps in)

JJ: Stop teasing your brother!

Spencer: (explaining the laughter) Every time we hear a good word we bank it so that we can use it next time. Now we have to look it all up.

Alek: Google it!

JJ: You guys are too much. Okay onto a serious note because we have to go there. Watching the attack scene the train begs the question for you Spencer of how do you manage to do that again? Your face is so focused.

Anthony: You put anything in slow motion and add music to it; it’s going to look good.

(They have fallen out cracking themselves up again)

JJ: Now you will go through the rest of your life putting music and slo-mo in your head to everything you do.

Alek: (still laughing) Right?

Spencer: We have to give the entire credit to Clint and his whole crew. They went into such detail and as far as having the same exact clothes we were wearing that day, the same luggage, being on the exact same train going to Paris – it’s insane. We had Mark and his wife and everyone else there.

Anthony: People think it’s traumatic for us.

JJ: I think that is how most people would see it.

Spencer: Clint knew that we didn’t have much experience and that he was going to do this in a positive way. Being back in the moment for us, Clint made it easy to get back to that moment.

Anthony: The first 24 hours after the attack we went back to the hotel while Spencer went to the hospital. All we wanted to do was to see Spencer, that’s all we wanted. Finally the next day we laughed for like twenty minutes in the car saying ‘can you believe that happened?’ This is the day after!

Alek: I mean we are drinking champagne as the Ambassador’s house talking about a terrorist attack.

Anthony: We are just a bunch of young guys living the dream. Clint Eastwood came along and put the stamp of ‘badass’ on it all for us.

Spencer: I mean if Clint Eastwood says something is badass, then its badass.

JJ: When the attack scene was made, did the adrenaline flow? You can not walk away from that and now feel something about it.

Alek: I would say that while we were shooting the scene the adrenaline absolutely did because those feelings came rushing back. It was very realistic like Spencer said but after it was over we were chilling with the gang again.

Anthony: People expect so much, it’s not that deep, it’s pretty simple. We are pretty simple guys.

Spencer: Not going through something this crazy before and I’m sure there are people who have gone through crazier things in their life before, I feel like we have been able to cope with it very well. It’s not that we aren’t affected by it; it’s just that we have been able to deal with it well.

Anthony: We’ve had the luxury of talking about it on such a large scale whether it’s the initial media frenzy or the book or the movie process. We have talked about it so much.

Alek: We’ve dissected it.

JJ: You have been each other’s therapist.

Spencer: Exactly, that’s why talking about it has been so helpful and therapeutic.

Anthony: We’ve been able to share and it’s out there.

Spencer: Even now we’ve done about 200 interviews and we get to talk with other people and each other in a way that means something to us.

Anthony Alek Spencer

JJ: So being together has made all the difference.

Spencer: Absolutely it has.

Anthony: Yes.

Alek: Always together. Whenever one is uncomfortable we have the other to make it easier and joke around like we do. We have three brains. If it had been just one of us on that train we would have been all alone in it.

JJ: Nobody else would understand it.

Alek: Yes, no one would be able to understand it and couldn’t make jokes about it.

Spencer: They would look at you like you were crazy.

Alek: Exactly. Going through it with these two has been fantastic.

JJ: Here is the final question.

Alek: Ut oh!

(Spencer and Anthony laugh with Alek)

JJ: You have said that about a lot of my questions Alek.

Spencer: Getting all serious on you now Alek.

Anthony: Just when we were having so much fun.

JJ: Oh it’s not that tough of a question. Okay, here it is, what would you like the audience to talk about after they see THE 15:17 TO PARIS.

Alek: I would just like them to remember that if they ever are in a situation where they can help – then help. You really don’t have to just stop a terrorist attack to contribute positively to society. If you see a car accident and you don’t know first aid you can call 911 and find someone who does. You can always help by doing something positive. It’s rare because people seem to want to just whip out their cell phones and watch instead of doing something. Also, remembering the importance of friendship.

Spencer: It is important to show how God has played a factor in our life and this is a good way of showing that on such a big stage. Terrorist attacks and things like that we have been asked ‘what advice would you give me to stop an attack’ and I can’t really give you advice because nothing is the same. You are probably more than likely not to be on a train where a terrorist who has a gun that doesn’t go off on you. Nothing is the same but the only thing we can offer as advice without putting someone in a bad position because I’m not telling anyone to run toward a loaded gun. I would never tell anyone to run toward a man with a loaded gun so just ask yourself what you would do and have an answer. That’s all you can do. We have talked about it so many times before it actually happened so something engrained in our minds.

Anthony: I just hope it inspires people. People think there is something special about the three of us and say ‘what do you three have that’s so special’ and I think the movie shows that we are just three guys. Maybe someone will see something of us in themselves and be inspired to know they are capable of being extraordinary themselves and overcome adversity as well. It doesn’t have to be a terrorist on a train, just any obstacle and they need to know that they are on a journey and capable of being extraordinary. It’s not just us.

 

And that ladies and gentlemen is why I love what I do. These three men shared a moment of time with me and will forever be in the hearts of those they saved. I thought it extremely important to share their playfulness because it is a bond created by their friendship that endured the difficulties of childhood up to the most important moment of their lives.

Yet, it didn’t change their friendship; in fact I see how it made them even closer than can be imagined. Their belief in one another and the ability to not to take life so seriously is the lesson created in childhood and the lesson they take with them from their experience.

That is not to say what happened hasn’t had an effect on their life at all, of course it has, but as they all agree that having their friendship and the ability to lean on each other has made all the difference. We should all be so blessed to have friends like that in our lives.

Experience the journey as director Clint Eastwood brings THE 15:17 TO PARIS to theatres this Friday.

Miles Teller Stars as a Troubled Soldier Returning Home in THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

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Jeri Jacquin

This week in theaters is the film THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE based on the award winning book Thank You For Your Service written by David Finkel. Telling the story of soldiers returning home and their difficulty in readjusting to civilian life and family, this film centers on the life of one such soldier, Adam Schumann.

Schumann returns home to discover that fitting back into a life he once knew isn’t happening. Trying to do what’s best, he keeps what happened in Iraq to himself only discussing it with other soldiers in his infantry. It becomes clear that they too are having a difficult time finding their place in life.

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When one of their friends chooses a different way to handle it all, it becomes clear to his wife that Schumann needs help. They turn to the VA and learn that getting that help is frustrating and a system that is overloaded with bureaucracy. Schumann tries to come to terms with an event that happened in Iraq while also continuing to help his men also find help.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE is a startling look at the soldiers who return home to a broken system and showing how PTSD is shows itself in different ways and can not be labeled quite so easily.

Actor Miles Teller portrays Adam Schumann in THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE. This is the second week that Teller is portraying a person who serves our country. Last week he took the role of Brendan McDonough, the only survivor of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in the film ONLY THE BRAVE.

I had the opportunity to speak with Miles about his role as Adam Schumann and portraying this real life soldier on the issues of PTSD and bringing light to such an important issues for all U.S. military.

Jeri Jacquin: Thank you for talking with me today Miles, I appreciate it and I know you must be busy.

Miles Teller: I am busy but I have to say I’m enjoying it.

JJ: That’s good to hear. What drew you to THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE?

MT: I have always had a lot of respect for the military and I felt like Adam’s story was extremely powerful so I wanted to help tell it. I felt a responsibility actually.

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JJ: I spoke with Adam, what an amazing young man.

MT: Adam is an incredible person.

JJ: When you read the script, is there anything that jumped out at you the most?

MT: I think just the struggle is what I find actually incredible. We don’t have any integration programs for our soldiers who are in war one day and the next week are home making pancakes for their family as in the case of Adam. It is something that he’s not able to talk to his wife about and that’s extremely difficult.

JJ: It’s a story of the struggle to go from one extreme to the other so quickly.

MT: Yes, it is incomprehensible to us as civilians but I felt by doing this film I was able to empathize and appreciate in such a way that I am grateful for. It helps you understand the struggle these soldiers are going through. Millions of soldiers are dealing with PTSD and it’s tough.

JJ: It’s a big issues and a difficult one as well. How did you prepare to play that role?

MT: I read some books and I watched a lot of interviews and documentaries. I was able to spend some time with Adam and other veterans as well. They put us through a boot camp as well and through all of these resources I was able to come up with this portrayal.

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JJ: When you first began filming, was it hard to find your step when it comes to the scenes dealing with PTSD?

MT: Absolutely, every day on this film I was nervous about messing it up. I know how heavily this film and this performance was going to be scrutinized because I am representing our military. I was representing a staff Sgt. in the Army and I am aware of how much they sacrifice to have that job title. I was extremely nervous. Everyday on set I was telling myself ‘I hope I don’t mess this up’.

JJ: You probably had a lot of military eyes watching what you were doing.

MT: Our cast was really strong in this and the fact that we all went through a boot camp helped us with the sense of responsibility we all felt. This is a real life responsibility to the men and women we were portraying and I think everyone wanted to get it right. We had a lot of people steering us in that direction.

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JJ: Speaking of boot camp how did you like that?

MT: It was tough and a kick in the guts but I think we were all grateful for it to be honest with you. When we were doing it, it sucked and it was really uncomfortable and tough to do but once we got done it was good. It was team work oriented and if you are making a film like this it is a feeling that we are all in it together and it’s not about just one person. We got to experience that in the boot camp and we all benefited from it.

JJ: They must have put you all through the ringer.

MT: It was a very intensive boot camp for sure.

JJ: During that time did you feel like there was a sense of coming together?

MT: Absolutely, I don’t think anything bonds people like collective suffering.

JJ: The film bounces between what happens in Iraq to what happens at home. The scenes in Iraq are very intense, how was that for you to deal with?

MT: I think we were actually excited at that point because we had been trained tactically and trained to move as a unit. We learned to shoot M-4’s and wear the gear that came along with an objective and a mission. When you are a kid you play cops n’ robbers or soldiers, you know, make believe, but this is that at its highest level. Of course I’m not glorifying that because the difference is that what the soldiers did was very real and in filming the scenes we got to go home at the end of the day.

JJ: I understand what you are saying. You are all portraying an event that is very intense and you have to use that build up of the training in boot camp in order to do the scene justice.

MT: Yes, exactly. What was specific about this is that it’s not a lot of taking shots at the enemy, it was a 360 warfare. It wasn’t just about waiting to be shot at but driving around in humvees not knowing what could be on the road. They are going out multiple times a day every day and still not knowing what could be on that road.

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JJ: I was talking to Adam about the phrase ‘thank you for your service’, what does that mean for you?

MT: It’s just something that has become part of the national lexicon when meeting somebody who is in the armed services. I’m interested in it and it’s something that people say who don’t have the full understanding of the soldier’s experience. These guys don’t want to be thanked. Adam didn’t do what he did to be thanked or congratulated by civilians. He was doing his job. It’s also the end of a conversation where civilians distance themselves from soldiers. It’s thanking them without actually getting into a deep conversation with a soldier. I think that’s unfortunate. I think the divide between soldier and civilian is wider than it has ever been. I’m hoping this film shortens the divide and brings the us all together making us all part of it under the flag.

JJ: Instead of ‘thank you for your service’ we can change it to ‘how are you doing?’ to really bring out a conversation.

MT: Yes, that’s great. I guy shook Adam’s hand and said ‘welcome home’ which turned out to be the most powerful thing anyone had said to him. He said he broke down in tears after that.

JJ: This is such an intense film in the sense that it’s about both physical and emotional pain of reaching out for help, when viewers leave the theatre, what do you hope they take with them Miles?

MT: I hope that the film creates some empathy and I hope it creates a discussion. I think in our country these soldiers are the biggest group that need help. These soldiers are suffering and it’s so much more than PTSD. It’s not like previous soldiers who came home and just didn’t talk about it. I hope this film can be informative, enlightening and humanizes what our soldiers are dealing with. I hope there are a whole range of emotions that bring about discussion of what they are going through. We need to close that gap between civilian and veteran most definitely.

JJ: I want you to know I appreciate you taking the time to talk to me Miles. This is a tough subject to bring to film and thank you for taking on the role.

MT: Thank you Jeri, these are the kind of stories I want to tell and I’m glad that it’s getting to see the light of day.

 

Miles Teller has taken the role of Adam Schumann and given is every range of emotion possible. Some are subtle and most are heart breaking and it is for the viewer to come away realizing that our military need us just as much as we need them.

Embracing this story is just the beginning as more films about our military and their struggles come to the forefront. THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE is one such telling of a young man who wanted to stay strong for his platoon and the men he felt responsible for while also finding the life he left behind.

Coming to theatres is THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE and DreamWorks along with Universal Pictures and AMC are making tickets available for service members. For more information on how the tickets will be made available, please visit www.ThankYouForYourService.com.

 

MEGAN LEAVEY: Speaking with Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite

Megan

 

Jeri Jacquin

In theatres this Friday is a film about a young woman who joins the Marines looking for something to give her life purpose. Not a very social person, Megan Leavey finds a spark when she meets a dog named Rex – an equally tough nut to crack.

Through patience and training with the canine unit, Megan and Rex are sent into combat to sniff out explosives buried in the Iraqi dirt roads. This is their story of a bond that even combat can not break.

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Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has previous brought some of the most amazing documentaries to the attention of audiences making an impact with her work. In television she has produced for the History Channel Shootout: Fallujah, Shootout: Battle Cry Ramadi and Hunt for Bin Laden. In films she directed CITY LAX: An Urban Lacrosse Story and a little film about a big whale in the still talked about piece BLACKFISH.

Her currently film MEGAN LEAVEY has already won the Truly Moving Picture Award from Heartland Film and I suspect there will be more accolades to come. I spoke with the films director Gabriela Cowperthwaite about the many issues tackled in the film from the emotions and being a woman in war to the struggles of our military returning with PTSD.

Jeri Jacquin: Good morning Gabriela, thank you for speaking with me this morning about the film.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite: Absolutely, thank you too.

JJ: What drew you to this project?

GC: I think it was an opportunity to really understand the war from a female Marine’s access point. That was an incredible opportunity for me as I have worked on documentaries on the Iraq and Afghanistan war and never really remember an interview with a woman. I never really got to know their thinking in these situations so for me that was a tremendous opportunity. Addition to that I never knew about the canine unit, I knew nothing about it working on those other documentaries. So suddenly I’m coming into this war on two different perspectives that I don’t think we have heard a lot from before. What a great entry point into the context of war that can maybe access more people teaching them about loyalty, friendship and sacrifice.

JJ: What was your impression when you first read the script?

GC: I thought I can do this. I think honestly because it is a true story and I’m a true story buff coming from making documentaries. It was a female protagonist and a cool one. For me it was important for me to depict a woman that I feel like I know and that represents my friends and family members. Someone who is making a brave decision and has some witty comebacks and isn’t just a wall flower that smiles on cue. I just wanted to see myself and my friends in this kind of film and this seemed like the opportunity.

JJ: The film addresses PTSD which is an important issue for the military, was that an interest for you as well?

GC: I am very interested in PTSD and for me that was one of the most important things that I could address in the film. It is very special to me because I think trying to understand what it is like for our military to come home is something we don’t have very much experience with in the civilian world. I don’t think we can truly know what they went through and I think it’s hard to understand what they need. I think we are getting to be better listeners in that way along with the help of PTSD groups. For me to pull back the curtain on what that is like to come back physically and mentally in tact but a little bit broken is very important. Megan shows that she needs her partner back with her to help her with PTSD. For some of our military it is not that specific.

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JJ: You are dealing with so many different issues here. You are dealing with a war, Megan’s character who has obviously issues of her own, dealing with the dog unit and PTSD, that had to be a challenge to focus all of those into the film to make each issue heard?

CG: I appreciate that, it was definitely a challenge and the even bigger challenge are all the things you leave out. There are so many important story threads, what about the political commentary about the war one could make or about a ton of things regarding women Marines and dealing with their situations. There are so many levels and layers so you have to have story discipline within this and to focus on this world from Megan’s perspective. You have to hone in on that relationship and how that bond gets built because that is really what the story is – loyalty and friendship.

JJ: Speaking of the relationship, everyone watching the film fell in love with Rex. How was that for you especially in this context of loud and intense?

CG: He was such an amazing animal and so sharply focused and he was treat driven. He loved doing things and a beautiful animal. I knew he was going to knock it out of the park with his performance. I mean you look at that face and look at those eyes that stare right at you and you feel the impact on an emotional level. He was going to give us the take. This is where my documentary training came in handy because it was get on your feet and get ready to film what ever Rex does because it’s going to be magic. We were not going to put these dogs through a lot of takes and not do anything that would tax them. So to get our side of things in gear was important because it was only going to happen once.

JJ: I always think the best performances are with actors that can speak volumes with their face – Rex can totally speak with his face. He was charming and cute and very, very intense when he wanted to be.

CG: Exactly! He was amazing that way.

JJ: The challenge of working around the scenes with explosives, that had to be difficult. That scene of the firefight is particularly intense.

CG: It’s so weird to say this but it was the least challenging of all things. Having worked on the documentaries in the past I kind of knew what firefights looked like. I wanted this all to feel real and not go flashy Hollywood. It had to be gritty and look, I was not a Marine and I have never been in country so I relied on what I have seen in my own work. Making it easier for me were the pros I had there helping me which is something you don’t get in documentaries. There were heads of departments who knew how to create the base, the arms guy who knows what he is doing and they all give you what you want.

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JJ: Did you have a lot of military specialists helping?

CG: Yes, we had Megan who was in the boot camp scene as a drill sergeant but from beginning to end of production we had two Marine consultants the entire time. Specifically we had two female Marine consultants during the boot camp training and we had two canine unit Marine consultants with the canine unit.

JJ: Having Megan there must have really been an awesome experience for you as well.

CG: She rips into Kate in this one drill sergeant scene and it’s so awesome <she laughs>. Its Megan doing what happened to her except it’s directed at Kate. Megan is so formidable and her presence is very grounding. She keeps it real and gave us amazing notes for boot camp and because there are things that the male military consultants wouldn’t know. Megan brought a whole other level of consulting with authenticity.

JJ: Megan leaves home because she is along and goes into something she think will help but is still alone. When she is in the barracks I am waiting for her to get Rex because you start to feel that connect for her. Throughout the movie you let us go slowly into each step of Megan’s journey along with all the emotions. I appreciate you letting us go with her instead of grabbing us by the nose forcing us to go. Your cast is stellar – where do you start?

CG: Edie Falco is a cast member where I thought ‘did someone give me a Bugatti or a Ferrari or something?’ I thought someone just gave me this amazing gift and her portrayal of her relationship with Megan was more than I could have asked for. She brings it times ten and is such a consummate pro. The key to directing Edie is to just get out of her way and let her do it. Bradley Whitford is so lovely; he is such an amazing person and the roles he has played in the past, man, like being the smartest guy in the room or fast talking witty comebacks. This role for him was so different because he is a dad that doesn’t know what to do. Watching Bradley channel this whole other person is beautiful.

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JJ: Until he gets to the point of telling Megan to fight.

CG: Yes, telling her that she is being a shell and to fight for what she wants was so beautiful. Common as Gunny Martin…wow.

JJ: All you can say is – I’m done!

CG: Right? I am so grateful for his performance and he is such a surprising actor. I mean he is larger than life and he’s won an Oscar so here he comes in with his crazy humility. He knows he’s depicting a Gunny Sergeant who has sacrificed and served and he does it to the best of his ability with humor. His role is so unexpected and I told him to go with that. Of course he screams and such but he cracks wit.

JJ: And there is the moment of humanity that one wouldn’t expect from a Gunny.

CG: Yes, he respects that Megan has bonded with her dog. I loved watching him in this.

JJ: And Kate?

CG: Oh please! I think my single favorite thing about watching this film is watching Kate just because I think she does things in this that I’ve never seen her do before. Understanding how far she has to emotionally travel in these 90 minutes of the film, I think she is masterful. She does so much to bring humanity to this story and you can’t take your eyes off of her.

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JJ: Finally, when people, especially military, leave the theatre what do you want them to take away after seeing Megan Leavey?

CG: Thank you for your service is always there. I think we say that but I’m not sure we always know exactly what we mean when we do. I hope this film gives you an idea of what is meant when we say it as we watch all these service people doing their job. This movie specifically shows you the canine unit and their handlers and how these people are in the front of the front lines. They are clearing the way for the soldiers that are behind them and Iraqi civilians. There is this thing, this beautifully humane thing that these units are doing and these dogs are doing that just deserve our understanding and gratitude. Also, dealing with PTSD when they come home and how we can maybe look at it different and pay attention and be better listeners in that context. I think that would be a great thing.

JJ: I get that, thank you Gabriela and for making an amazing film about a difficult subject.

 

This Friday in theatres is your chance to experience a story that can teach us all about friendship, loyalty and what it means to say ‘thank you for your service’ with MEGAN LEAVEY.

THE BYE BYE MAN Creeps onto Bluray: Talking with Director Stacy Title

Director Stacy

 

Jeri Jacquin

 

Coming to Bluray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and director Stacy Title is a thriller that will keep you from putting your toes outside the covers with THE BYE BYE MAN.

Three college students find an old house off of campus and move in not knowing they have a tenant of another kind. An entity called The Bye Bye Man is just waiting to come out and the students, without knowing, open the supernatural door for him.

I am a fan of well done horror films and director Stacy Title has given us just that. With creepiness oozing from every frame, I was thrilled at the opportunity to speak with her about where the idea came from and her vision for bringing the frights to all of us.

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Jeri Jacquin: Hi Stacy, I’m so excited to talk with you today and thank you for talking the time to talk about THE BYE BYE MAN that’s on Bluray this week. I’m excited to talk to you for several reasons but the main one is that it is rare to find a female director in the horror genre.

Stacy Title: Yes, you are right, it is a rare thing.

JJ: How did you become involved in the film and I know your husband Jonathan Penner worked on the screenplay as well.

ST: I tell you that it was luck and friendship as Trevor Macy is a dear friend of mine and fan always had wanted to do something together. The script for THE BYE BYE MAN came and it really wasn’t in the shape that I wanted it to be in but there was something in it that intrigued me. My husband Jonathan and I started breaking it down and split the roles very clearly. He did most of the writing and I wanted the definition of me as the director fully realized. I’ve had people ask me if I’ve co-directed with my husband and tell them I’ve never done it before. We got the script the way we wanted and my friend Jeffrey Soros from LAMF partnering with Simon Horsman and they financed the movie. It’s really a lucky thing of having a fan and a good friend putting those pieces together. Without all of these things coming together I would never have gotten a shot at this.

JJ: What was it about the story initially that intrigued you?

ST: I loved that the Bye Bye Man can hurt you without touching you; that he can turn you on yourself by playing on your weaknesses. I thought that was really unique and original. Further, I am really interested in the idea of fear and paranoia today is a large part of our lives and that intrigued me too. You can hurt yourself by being to afraid, by being too paranoid about life. There are going to be links to the mythology that will be made available to people as well. It will explain the DNA of the movie a little more about the coins and the trains. I think people will understand even more fully what I intended.

JJ: I understand that it was based on the piece The Bridge to Body Island; did you dig further into that?

ST: That story is incredible and that’s in a book called The Presidents Vampire I believe and it has a lot of really interesting stuff. I can’t verify there were three grad students that this happened to but there was a great amount of material that was useful. One of the things is how the Bye Bye Man was murdered, that he was left on a train, his eyes burned out with coins and all the things they did to him. The book had some wonderful detail and we turned that into a movie because it wasn’t a natural movie with the work.

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JJ: Is this a genre you enjoy?

ST: I love it I have to say. I’m a real horror geek. I love science fiction and fantasy as well, oh I just love all movies and genres but I do genuinely love horror. I love that feeling of being afraid and I find that interesting. I also enjoy scaring people too.

JJ: Do you think it is that rush we get knowing we will walk out of the theatre in one piece after watching a horror film?

ST: It’s so true! It’s a wish fulfillment like can I be on the edge of a cliff, fall and survive it. It’s very satisfying and makes you appreciate the world you live in. The expressions ‘enjoy each day as if it’s your last’ but a horror movie can make you believe that more.

JJ: There is nothing like that roller coaster of emotions and walking out of the film with a nervous laugh saying ‘ha! I survived!’ but inside your heart is still pounding a bit.

ST: In my bedroom in the middle of the night there was something hanging on my door and it looked like the Bye Bye Man! You see shapes and dark things that test all of those scary feelings. I also think what is fun is the community of going to see the film in a theatre.

JJ: I was so thrilled to learn that Doug Jones was playing the character of the Bye Bye Man. He does such amazing work.

ST: Yes, he is amazing and I was so thrilled that he was on our project. Have you ever met him?

JJ: Yes, I spoke to him as well for another project he did.

ST: He is the sweetest most genuine person you have ever met, such a delightful, lovely and a thoughtful person. It is so interesting that he can convert that. He completely channels the darkness for this character and how he can use his body with the smallest movement. He gets so much out of so little. He is funny, scary and brilliantly dramatic actor and I am very lucky to have gotten him.

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JJ: He is just amazing.

ST: I love him.

JJ: You have a wonderful cast that comes together strong for the film. When it all came together did you think ‘yep, this is it!’?

ST: Totally, I’ve have a lot of luck in my life with casting and I’ve had great experiences with actors. I don’t know if it’s because my husband is an actor who has done television and film as well as Survivor. When I did my Oscar nominate short I had Jason Alexander and Edward Asner, with THE LAST SUPPER I had Bill Paxton and Cameron Diaz so I am very ambitious to get the best person for each part. So for THE BYE BYE MAN I was completely happy and agree with you about the cast.

JJ: When it came to doing the effects for the film, how was that for you knowing that you see one thing in your head and have to create that on the screen?

ST: I think we were overly ambitious with the amount of financing we had. There are some shots that didn’t work or didn’t look good. If anything it made me realize is that I need to hold out to expand the budget in the effects area to get those things absolutely perfect. I’m very happy with a lot of what we did. There are things that are beautiful and I wouldn’t change them.

JJ: I’m glad to hear you understood what to use and what to leave out. It seems a lot of the horror films just throw everything but the kitchen sink at a film and it sort of ruins it for me. It’s a way of saying that we have to watch and accept it. I don’t think audiences are buying that anymore.

ST: I agree so much. I think there is a judiciousness that you have to have when things aren’t really perfect and accept that it has to be cut. I believe you are right that things are just shoved into films and people are expected to just let it fly and it doesn’t.

JJ: I have found in the last couple of years is that the blood and gore just don’t tell a story for me which is why I stopped watching my favorite genre for a while. You have gone back to scary and tension. You can have a little gore but give me suspense, creaks, rustling bushes!

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ST: Really the feeling of something awful is about to happen and I so think that is important. The jumps are great to release a little of the tension but it’s the tension, the dread and that identifying with the characters, I think that works much better and is more important.

JJ: It’s like when Willy Wonka is watching something bad happen to one of the kids and he says, “The suspense is terrible! I hope it will last!”

ST: You are hilarious <laughing> what a great metaphor.

JJ: I love the tension! <laughing> I don’t need a lot of the other stuff, just give me the feeling of body aches when I leave the theatre because I’m exhausted from the tension.

ST: When we were early humans and living day-to-day and moment-to-moment we had to listen as if our lives depended on it in the forest because something could get us. That’s that tension you are talking about, I love it.

JJ: Yes, that primal fear that knows that at a drop of the hat something could happen and we’d have no control over it. You give us that safety of not having control, it’s hard to describe.

ST: Absolutely, taking you on that ride and to the edge. We knew the last hallucination of the film was extremely important. You had to think what was happening to Sasha was happening and the dread with the running down the hall. If I hadn’t set everything up at the beginning no one would want to take that ride.

JJ: Exactly, okay, I love you

<At this point we are both laughing>

ST: I love you too! You get it; you really understand how to put that together because it’s not easy to do. I like that you understand why you like it – you’re like a shrink!

JJ: Actually I have four adult children and we all love horror films. We love that feeling of terror but feeling safe. I’m not going to lie though; my feet do not dangle over the bed at night.

ST: When you are alone at night and you sort of see something rustling around, I admit to having a little bit of fright outside the movies. I do like the movie thing because you are right, I’m safer sometimes more than real life.

JJ: I think it helps us with those little creepy moments like going from our car to the front door which is a ten-second walk but we hear things and see shadows and fumble with our keys to get in the door.

ST: That funny sound when you slam the door and then there is a funny sound coming from upstairs and now that creepy is in the house. I live in an old house that makes noise which doesn’t help.

JJ: I have a cat who thinks it’s funny to scare the daylights out of me.

ST: Does he jump out?

JJ: I have a staircase with space between the stairs and he just rubs on my ankle as I walk up. It is the creepiest feeling in the world!

ST: Oh my gawd, that is so funny!

JJ: When people see the film on Bluray which is amazing, what do you want them to take away with them?

ST: I want them to see that fear and paranoia bring you down and that it can take over your life. You have to make a choice not to let that happen. I think the concept behind THE BYE BYE MAN is that you really get lost in your fear and by living in that fear it can hurt you – especially today.

JJ: You are so right Stacy; I had an amazing time talking to you about THE BYE BYE MAN.

 

It was amazing having such a fantastic conversation with Stacy and I am still thrilled to have been able to chat about horror films and what makes us love it so. THE BYE BYE MAN is a fright fest that now on Bluray gives us a reason to turn off the lights, cuddle up on the sofa with your favorite hero/heroine and enjoy the ride.

Coming to Bluray from the stellar director Stacy Title and Universal Pictures Home Entertainment is dark and focused THE BYE BYE MAN.

In the end – the evil behind the most unspeakable acts has a name!

Saban’s POWER RANGERS Sets to Re-ignite Franchise on the Big Screen: Talking with the Power Rangers

 

Power Rangers

Jeri Jacquin

Coming to the big screen this March from director Dean Israelite, Saban Entertainment and Lionsgate are the iconic heroes known as the POWER RANGERS.

A group of high school students discover an alien ship and what they find inside is about to change their lives. Superpowers are bestowed and another generation will get to know the name Power Rangers who now must stop an old enemy and save the world.

The Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are iconic characters came to American televisions in 1993 from the Super Sentai Japanese material. Since then the heroes have morphed to other series such as Might Morphin Alien Rangers, Power Rangers Zero, Power Rangers Turbo, Power Rangers in Space, Power Rangers Lost Galaxy and so many, many more.

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 In 1995, the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS: The Movie hit movie houses and TURBO: A Power Rangers Movie followed in 1997. Now Saban’s POWER RANGERS is ready to break out in theatres in an epic way to reignite the adventure imagination in families everywhere.

I had the opportunity to speak with the Red Ranger Jason Scott played by Dacre Montgomery, the Black Ranger Zack Taylor played by Ludi Lin and the Pink Ranger Kimberly Scott played by Naomi Scott.

Jeri Jacquin: Wow, I get to talk to three Rangers. I’m pretty excited about that. How are you all doing?

Montgomery, Lin & Scott: We are doing great! <in unison which made us all laugh>

JJ: I have to let you know that my grown kids who said that if I didn’t come today that I couldn’t show my face ever again.

Naomi Scott: <laughing> Oh my gosh no!

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JJ: They were raised on Power Rangers and even took time when they were younger to explain it all to me. So knowing you are coming into this generational and iconic series, how is that for each of you?

Ludi Lin: We are asked this a lot and each time we answer it brings us a new perspective on it all. Certainly in the beginning there are a lot of fans emailing us about their excitement and sharing their stories. They are also in their 30’s and sharing their memories of watching the Power Rangers when they were a kid. Also there certainly is a responsibility that we take seriously because I grew up watching the Power Rangers as well. If you watch the movie and see the script we saw from the beginning, there is so much about the story that I’m excited about and the reason being is that this is the story that wasn’t told in the original series. It delves deeply back into the background of these characters. It’s the origins story of how these kids become heroes so you have a chance to get attached to the characters.

Dacre Montgomery: It’s a chance to see the development without the masks on and the spectacle that comes much later.

LL: So it’s less episodic Power Rangers but more the whole complete arc of the entire story of how they become super heroes.

Naomi Scott: I didn’t grow up watching the series per se but I so remember playing Power Rangers with my brothers and wanting to be a Power Ranger. I think that shows that even if you didn’t watch the shows you wanted to be a Ranger. Red was my favorite color so I had to be the Red Ranger. The fact that there were two girls was always cool to me because it showed how girls also wanted to be Ranger heroes too. For me, it has been exciting and we all focused on who is Kimberly Hart. I think we are able to have a blank canvas because this is an origins story so aside from the iconic character from the original series, we have a chance to find out who Kimberly Hart is. I was excited about that because I could bring in who I thought she is.

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JJ: It’s interesting that back in the original series, having a female superhero character wasn’t a common thing really.

NS: No, it really wasn’t.

JJ: The girls were always the sidekick or a little in the background instead of front and center they way they were and are in the Power Rangers.

NS: Absolutely. I think it is important and maybe that’s why it has such a broad appeal. You have the diversity that is also cultural in the mix that makes an impact.

JJ: Once you become the heroes, the diversity isn’t the focus because once you put the masks on it’s about what you bring to the table as a group.

DM: Jeri, I’m stealing that from you.

NS: Yes, we are stealing that from you.

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LL: Let me just make a note here.

<we all break out laughing which continues to make this interview the best time I could have with iconic characters sitting right in front of me>

JJ: Dacre, the Red Ranger has had such a big responsibility in the past, how was carrying on that tradition for you?

DM: I went to drama school and think of everything as an ensemble. My parents worked behind the camera in the film industry and I was taught growing up to appreciate every piece of the puzzle to bring it all together. The watch-face doesn’t exist without all the cogs behind it so for me I just consider myself one of the five watch-faces if you will. There was definitely the deal with me rallying the troops and I felt so supported all the time off screen by my cast mates. When the camera rolled with that support it was easy to play into that camaraderie and going into battle together. It’s a huge responsibility, don’t get me wrong, I mean your own kids were huge fans and now there are young kids who are big fans so this means a lot to a lot of people.

JJ: My kids will be watching but you don’t need anymore pressure right?

NS: It’s weird, I don’t feel that pressure only because my responsibility is to the character of Kimberly. It’s different to what’s gone before and even if I was doing a different movie as an actor that’s how I feel about it.

LL: I hope everyone will enjoy it for different reasons. So you have the old school fans that are older and now the new kids like your grandkids. Do your grandkids know about the Power Rangers?

JJ: This is Naynay (nickname for Grandma) you’re talking to here, of course they do. I mean there’s a whole DVD library of the series that gets borrowed and borrowed. One of these times I probably won’t see them ever again. So you are getting three generations who are in-the-know about the Power Rangers.

NS: Man, that’s just absolutely incredible, seriously that’s just amazing.

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JJ: The technology they use in the film, how was that for you as actors to play into your characters?

LL: There is so much technology, the physical sets were also technology. The first time we stepped on the set it dawned on us that we were part of this huge super hero massive budget movie. Before that we were just running around in dirty clothes getting blown up. When the Power Rangers suits came in we saw the technology and were stunned by how much detail went into them.

DM: They look exactly like the movie poster in real life.

LL: The other piece of technology is that after we put the suits on the special effects team puts on the computer effects. That’s why it was so shocking for me to screen the movie. I finally saw the final product that is so seamless and entertaining.

DM: Here is a piece that hasn’t been shared with anyone.

NS: Jeri, you are getting an exclusive right here <laughing>

JJ: Really? Okay, I’m ready – hit me with it.

DM: They built a tank for us in the water scenes and the filtration system in the tank was transported from the Olympics. It is the very same filtration system and we had a large body of water that was heated. It was 40,000 gallons of water or some ridiculous amount like that and they heated the whole pool. They transported the system to us to use in the tank for the film. I thought that was amazing to have happen.

LL: You got the exclusive Jeri. I didn’t even know that.

JJ: Don’t share that with anyone else from this moment on okay? <laughing> Final question, for all the fans eagerly anticipating the film, when they walk out of the theatre what do you hope they take away from the film?

NS: I definitely want them to feel like a kid whether they are or not. If only to have a couple of hours to just be entertained  and indulge themselves. Isn’t that what movies are suppose to be? Shouldn’t there be escapism just for a little while? I love to go and see films because it’s nice to get away from everything that’s going on in the world.

DM: I second that.

LL: I think I just want them to imagine, just imagine.

DM: It’s escapism absolutely. That’s why I go to the movies.

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You heard it here first folks! The Power Rangers want you to gather up everyone that is a fan and even a few that don’t know they are a fan and escape into a world of fun. The action packed film will bring it and I’m thrilled that the Rangers took a moment out of their busy schedules to share their own excitement about the upcoming Saban’s POWER RANGERS.

Saban’s POWER RANGERS will be in theatres March 24th!

VICE PRINCIPLES Comes to Bluray from HBO: Speaking with star Kimberly Hebert Gregory

 

kim-4

Jeri Jacquin

 

HBO brings class into session with the soon to be released Bluray, DVD and Digital Download pack of comedy that will test your take on laughter with VICE PRINCIPLES: The Complete First Season.

As two teachers plot and plan for control of the principle job at North Jackson High School, Neil Gamby (Danny McBride) and Lee Russell (Walton Coggins) are in for a big surprise.

Deciding to hire someone not from the school, the two teachers are introduced to Dr. Belinda Brown played by Kimberly Hebert Gregory. Coming into the school with high expectations, she had no idea that what was about to happen to her.

From dealing with two adults acting like teenagers, an ex-husband who hasn’t grown up either and sons who test her every move – Dr. Brown is pushed to a breaking point that is nothing short of mind boggling.

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I had the grand opportunity to speak with Kimberly about her role as the principal of North Jackson High School and shares with us an in-depth look at her character.

Jeri Jacquin: Thanks for talking with me today Kimberly, how are you?

KHG: I’m doing great Jeri, thank you.

JJ: I have to tell you that I just fell for the series VICE PRINCIPLES and your character. Please tell me how you got involved with the project?

KHG: It really was an audition where they made a decision about the character early on in the pilot and I was doing another pilot at the time. Somehow it worked out that I got to go in and auditioned with Danny McBride sitting there. I was trying not to freak out; I mean it was a test with the leads! I did walk out feeling ‘wow, this is a great moment, pat on the back Kimberly!’ I made people who I truly respect in comedy laugh and thought it was a good day. They called back fortunately.

JJ: When you read the script did your jaw drop as much as mine did watching the series?

KHG: It did but for several different reasons. I’m actually reading everyone’s part even though I’m Dr. Brown and reading it for the development of my character. I had to think about what was this world like that Belinda was going to be in. Just reading that this was taking place in a school and this was adults behaving this way in a school, I was blown away at how absurd it all seemed. The adults had really become the children.

JJ: It’s almost too as if they had their own adult “high school’ cliques with the rift between Gamby and Russell.

KHG: Absolutely and I think that may have been part of their desire to write something that mirrors our adults lives whether we can see it or not. We have created and do create these cliques with people who are cool and people who are not, people who deserve our wrath <we are both laughing at this point> and people who do not.

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JJ: Your character is also the odd one out of the clique circle because everyone else knows what’s going in at the school except Dr. Brown.

KHG: I think that’s the sinister nature of it all between these three characters. You have two people who are actively working to take someone out to get a job! That’s the nature of the comedy and the story. I believe that if Belinda even suspected what they were doing, both would have been gone day one. Its worse that Gamby and Russell are both actively and jointly trying to get rid of her. The beautiful flaw in her character is that she is so overwhelmed and consumed with her personal life that even when there are clues that should pull her in get past her because she needs the job for her own sanity. Then she tries to play Gandhi in many situations.

JJ: She has such a trusting nature in ways because lets be honest, you don’t expect this behavior from staff. You go in with a great nature that takes such a dark turn.

KHG: She goes in ready to clean house within the first few episodes. You discover that these guys are horrible human beings and somehow perform their jobs leaving her to think they are good people. She has no idea of the personal crisis coming her way when they do what they do to her house. They have put things together in such a way that it’s hard for her to know who is doing what. I don’t know that Belinda is well meaning all the time, in fact that’s why I think I love this character. She had to meet them where they were at some point.

JJ: I have to ask how much fun or not fun filming the last dark scene; I think you know which one I’m talking about.

KHG: I have to be completely honest and say it was my least comfortable, least favorable and least enjoyment. That moment I can not watch. I remember how I felt as Kimberly and I didn’t want the world to see me doing that. It took a lot out of me. I remember a day or two before shooting that scene Danny and I were talking and we were waiting to do a scene and he said, ‘how is it going?’ I mean he is such an amazing guy and such care taken for me as an actor and a person who is new to their world. So when he asked how it was going I said, ‘could you just take back that scene?’ He said, ‘no we can’t cut that!’

JJ: If it helps, what it did for me as a viewer is that you finally see this deep vulnerability. I mean when you are a principal you have to be the strong one, you have to show you can lead and solve problems. In that moment there is a scared vulnerability that is totally relatable as I thought man, I’ve been there before.

KHG: I knew that too when I read it. I read that scene and thought yep, that’s the one. When we had our meeting and they asked if I had any questions I said ‘yep, I have a question’. I wanted to know how the scene was going to be done and it tested my personal insecurities. It was around then that I started to grow right along with Belinda; I mean she had to have that ending. It had to be that, it had to bad. I think part of me not wanting to do it was because I was so protective of my character. I wanted her to be in the world in such a way that we could all look at her and say ‘yes, I know how that feels’. I felt like that for her to give up on so much that was going on in her life, drinking again.

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JJ: I’m surprised your character didn’t start drinking way before that!

KHG: Her whole experience was a difficult one to deal with that’s for sure.

JJ: I know it’s hard to talk about a series or give anything away for those who haven’t seen the series yet, but what would you want viewers to know about your character that maybe only you know about her?

KHG: She is such a scared woman. I think that’s the biggest thing. She is afraid about everything that is going on in her life, her job and inside she’s afraid. That can manifest in so many different ways so for Belinda I think as a woman who works in a male driven position, you are your most vulnerable during all of those insecurities. I think that was the secret to her for me. I knew her and I know we all know her. No matter who you are we all know that place when a part of us says ‘what are we doing?’

JJ: Exactly. Thank you so much for talking to me today. You are an amazing woman to have taken on this role and do it to the point of giving your character so many facets that we can all relate to. I appreciate you so much.

KHG: I really appreciate that Jeri; I hope that I answered your questions.

JJ: You did, and it makes it more fun when we can laugh about some of it.

KHG: Absolutely!

 

VICE PRINCIPLES: The First Season is a show you don’t see coming which makes it all the more worth a marathon watch. The series on Bluray, DVD and Digital Download pack this week from HBO Home Entertainment so might I suggest on this blustery weekend indoors that laughing be back in session.

 

In the end – we all need someone to look up to!

TROLLS is a Treasure to be Shared on Bluray and DVD: Speaking with the Dynamic Directing Duo!

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Jeri Jacquin

Currently on Digital HD and coming to Bluray/DVD on February 7th is DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment release of TROLLS.

Cuteness, dancing and song are the absolute highlights of this animated film. It tells the story of Troll Village and the very colorful inhabitants. Surrounding them are the Bergen, very grouchy creatures who believe that they can only be happy one day a year during the Trollstice!

Knowing it’s time to leave, the entire village escapes led by King Peppy (Jeffrey Tambor) who makes sure his beloved daughter Poppy (Anna Kendrick) is safe. Twenty years later the Trolls want to celebrate their Bergen-less life. There is one troll who isn’t happy about this. Branch (Justin Timberlake) tries to tell everyone that the party will bring their worst fears.

When it happens and the evil Chef (Christine Baranski) captures Poppy’s friends, she makes it her mission to find and rescue them – all well documented in her scrapbook. Talking Branch into going on the journey, the two go back to the Bergen’s town now being led by young King Gristle (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

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Poppy meets Bridget (Zooey Deschanel), a scullery maid in the castle and both discover that happiness is found within as everything the Trolls and Bergen’s have experienced is about to change!

I had the amazing opportunity to speak with directors Walt Dohrn and Mike Mitchell who have brought this wonderful animated story to us. Both directors have a history in animation as Dohrn has been part of the SpongeBob SquarePants series as well as Dexter’s Laboratory when not lending his voice in SHREK THE THIRD and PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR. He is also the voice of one of my favorite characters in TROLLS – Cloud Guy!

Mitchell had directed animation before with SHREK FOREVER AFTER and THE SPONGEBOB MOVIE: Sponge Out of Water. He also lent his voice in the films SHREK FOREVER AFTER, MEGAMIND, PUSS IN BOOTS and KUNG FU PANDA 3.

A animated combination of both of these gentlemen brings them perfectly together for TROLLS. I had the awesome opportunity to speak with Walt and Mike about the film, the impact on audiences, the ridiculously fantastic animation and a cast that is flawless.

Hi guys, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today. If my 18-month-old granddaughter could actually use bigger words together she might be the one wanting to talk with you.

Walt: We don’t use big words too much so we’d be fine with her on the line.

Mike: Yes, put her on the phone!

She would rather sing in her own way and dance than talk I think.

Walt: That is a very good way to be.

She has seen the film more times than I can count.

Mike: It really is a positive film for kids isn’t it? It is a feel good in these troubled times happy film.

Walt: We see the movie as one big party and encourage people to dance.

Mike: It was really amazing to see people in the theatres get up and dance. This movie does make you get up and dance.

Obviously you both have a love of animation in film with your history, but what made you want to get involved with TROLLS?

Walt: We adore music and we always wanted to get back to a film that tells a story using music in the way that we got to with TROLLS. That was one of the things is the excitement of telling a story through music more so than we have in the past and in a non-traditional way. The other thing that made us both excited about the project is that there were no established characters and we had a blank slate. It is the idea of these little stubby ugly-cute creatures with this big shock of hair.

Most people see trolls as these characters with orange or green hair with weird faces and kind of scary actually. TROLLS has taken the scary right out of them and made them adorable.

Walt: That was definitely what we were going for, making them contemporary. We made them cute and fun.

Mike: We updated them but kept the retro feel I think.

The one thing that took my breath away immediately was the crispness down to the fuzz on their vests.

Mike: That’s a real testament to the film. Walt and I know these CGI films have become so realistic. We wanted to take the technology and go in a different direction. We wanted to make a tree that seemed realistic but cover it in felt in such a way and make the ground carpet while make the leaves look like they were stitched by hand. Even this warm hand made fuzzy quality is a real testament to our Production Designer Kendal Cronkhite-Shaindlin took and went even further. Even the fire is made out of hair if you look very closely. Instead of skin, these trolls look like gummy bears that have been flocked in felt. It gives this a look like…I don’t know Walter, what would you call it?

Walt: A handcrafted feel and it gives the audience a more personal connection to the characters. They are more intimate and they look like items that you could easily hold in your hands.

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The whole Troll section in the store is paradise if you haven’t been to one lately. You are right, they are colorful and there is this pull to just want to hold them!

Walt: I think all those colors just ignite a part of the brain that makes you feel good. Looking at all those colors its like with my own young daughter who plays with the TROLL toys, just vivid. Getting all those colors was important to us.

Mike: It’s like a big rainbow dream.

Walt: That’s what is so amazing to have TROLLS with the technology of video streaming and Bluray is that the older audience will take a risk now and see the film. They will realize it is for them as well.

Mike: When they see it for the first time many people are surprised and tell me it is not what they expected. It has this weird irreverent comedy that is for grownups as well as for kids.

The cast, you don’t have just a few names, you have a huge cast! It’s an amazing, were you even surprised at how many wanted to come on board with TROLLS?

Mike: Yes, it was amazing and it started with the triple threat. Every single actor starting with Anna Kendrick and then Justin Timberlake and all are tremendous actors and every single one of them has a sense of humor. They are all naturally funny, funny people!

Walt: And lastly – they can all sing! That was very important.

Mike: Zooey Deschanel can sing, she has an amazing voice. Christine Baranski is very funny and she can also sing.

Walt: You know we asked them to come in to pitch the story and talk about the characters and play them some of the music. They all fell in love with it. Justin immediately connected with the story and loved it.

Mike: Everyone, right away, came on board because of the characters and the music.

When you hear Anna and Justin speak mixed with the facial expression of their characters, you kind of forget its Anna and Justin because of how adorable the Trolls are and their personality.

Walt: That goes to the design and animation team because they are amazing at what they do. I have never worked with the level of talent and crew as I have with TROLLS.

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Taking a story like this from your brain to animation to screen and to Bluray, what is that like for each of you?

Mike: For me it was a gift because there was no story initially, just an idea. It was a creature with a shock of hair and small body. We were able to create a whole world which we did and tap into everything I love like The Muppets and Dr. Seuss. We have friends that work on the strange show called Adventure Time and the challenge was to bring some of that strange comedy into a big cgi film and craft a story with everything we wanted. It was really fun.

Walt: The day to day process working with these incredible artists was so enjoyable. I think now that it’s going to Bluray and digital streaming, it is another level of excitement to actually get more people to see the movie and hear their reactions. I get people sending me photos on Facebook with their kids looking like one of the TROLLS characters and even their pets!

Mike: I get pictures of dogs wearing TROLL wigs!

Walt: I mean my cat wears one.

I want to thank you both personally from the bottom of my heart for creating something that my granddaughter will be watching for years to come and I can’t wait to see what you both do next to top that.

Walt: Thank you Jeri, it was so nice talking to you.

Mike: Thanks Jeri, that means a lot.

Coming to Bluray and DVD on February 7th and currently on Digital HD is the happiest bunch of TROLLS that will totally make your day. Get ready to sing, dance and take up scrapbooking with DreamWorks and 20th Century Fox Home Entertainments release of TROLLS!

HIDDEN FIGURES Tells the True Story of the Women of NASA: Speaking with Director Ted Melfi

 

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Jeri Jacquin

Coming to theatres later this year from Fox 2000 Pictures from director Ted Melfi is a film from the book by writer Margot Lee Shetterly telling the true story of the exceptional women of NASA who were HIDDEN FIGURES.

It is the 1960’s and the United States is racing Russia in an attempt to put a man into space. Looking at every possible way to make that happen, three women are about to shake things up. Taraji P. Henson is Katherine Johnson, Octavia Spencer is Dorothy Vaughn and Janelle Monae is Mary Jackson and these women take the task of putting astronaut John Glen into orbit.

With minds that are akin to human computers with their skills in mathematics and engineering, this isn’t the only thing they will accomplish. Crossing gender, race and professional lines, these three women left their mark in history and now we will all know them too!

At the San Diego International Film Festival, Melfi brought the story to a panel discussion with first look footage. It was an opportunity for the audience to hear the director speak about the story and how the film came into being.

Melfi was also responsible for the screenplay along with Allison Schroeder. This isn’t the first time he has taken on that dual role as he also wrote and directed Bill Murray and Melissa McCarthy in the 2014 brilliant ST. VINCENT. I had the pleasure of speaking with director Ted Melfi about HIDDEN FIGURES and what it took to bring that piece of history to the silver screen.

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JJ: Good morning Ted, thank you so much for speaking with me today about your film.

TM: You are so welcome Jeri.

JJ: I had never heard this story before, what inspired you to become involved?

TM: When I first read the proposal by producer Donna Gigliotti and had the same reaction as everyone else of ‘How is this possible? There is no way this is a true story.’ I started to dig into it and understand that it was a true story of how NASA had a team of women putting our guys up into space I was floored. I mean I have two daughters and they are still being told in this day and age ‘don’t worry about learning the math’. I find that shocking especially since we are trying to lift them up and show them that they can do anything a man can. This story inspired me and there way no way I could say no too making this film.

JJ: Especially since it is part of history, a lot of girls were told even when I was younger that math wasn’t important to learn.

TM: It is a shame that we minimized women in Science, Math and Engineering and the truth is they are as good if not more so having the mind for it.

JJ: I think maybe a little more patience too.

TM: Yes!

JJ: When choosing the cast, what drew you to these three women in particular?

TM: I have been in love with Taraji P. Henson’s work ever since the film BENJAMIN BUTTON and in that film she blew me away. My wife and I saw it together and said ‘who is that actress?’ that was playing Brad Pitt’s mother in the film. I was blown away by her passion, strength and raw power and honestly. Then you watch her in the role of Cookie in the television series Empire and that woman from BEJAMIN BUTTON was now Cookie in Empire. I knew that she had this incredible range in her and I knew she would be the perfect off-beat choice of Katherine Johnson. I wanted to go for it and she was so inspired by the challenge and took it on. She is absolutely amazing and inspiring in this role.

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JJ: And Octavia Spencer?

TM: Octavia, I mean there is nothing that I can say enough about her as Dorothy Vaughn.

JJ: I was actually thinking the same thing. I mean what more can you say about her?

TM: I know, Octavia could play absolutely anything you could throw at her and it would be fantastic. She is one of the greatest actresses of our time in my mind. That one was a no brainer. Janelle Monae playing Mary Jackson and we wanted someone different, unique and exciting for this character. Janelle is exciting and passionate and wild and inspired and takes dramatic turns. She always makes wild choices with her work and it shows in this performance as well.

JJ: It’s the beautiful trio to be sure.

TM: Yes, Taraji brings the quiet introverted brain of the group. Octavia is the foreman and the maternal leader of the group and Mary is the wild child who always has to be reminded that it’s 1961.

JJ: You have Kevin Costner in the mix who seems to be the buffer.

TM: Kevin Costner is one of the most unique men I’ve ever met in my life. He brings that integrity and worth ethic into every thing he does. His character, Al Harrison, represents the glue that kind of holds the teetering space program together. He balances the science and the math along with the business and imaginative people. Back in 1961 in the Jim Crow south is dealing with racial tensions in the workplace. It’s not that he is unaware of what is happening as much as he doesn’t care. He is about the mission. In his mind the mission and the math of what they are trying to do trumps race and sex of a person.

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JJ: I hope that people get that there are so many issues in this film, not just one specific issue. How was that for you as a director covering it all?

TM: It was exciting to be honest with you. To me the 1960s was an explosive time in history. The space race was happening, the Cold War was happening, Civil Rights issue were happening, the Kennedy assassination was happening, Martin Luther King assassination was happening…

JJ: See, that’s what I mean, so many, many issues!

TM: They are all running parallel to each other as well. The Freedom Riders bus protested to Washington D.C. the day before Alan Shepard launched his first mission into space. That should tell you the parallels between these two races and how they basically started to achieve success together in tandem is mind boggling. To pack all of this in one movie was an enjoyable task and to be able to get to say something about who we were and who we are and what we can become as a country when we work together.

JJ: Did you find that you had to do a lot of your own research to allow yourself to get deeper into the film?

TM: Oh yes, I did endless research. I researched every detail of the movie. I dug into a mass amount of books and documentaries about all of this. The Discovery Channel had a series When We Left Earth: The NASA Missions (2008) and I dug as deeply into Civil Rights as I did NASA. I re-watched the PBS series Eyes on the Prize [A documentary that documents the Civil Rights Movement from 1952 to 1965] about how it all occurred. I did tons of photo research as well. In regards to the math I learned everything from the ground up from like trajectory calculations etc. I kind of became a dangerous expert of it all.

JJ: When you are talking about the mathematical side of it, how did Taraji handle it? I mean she’s writing equations on the board so fast!

TM: Taraji being the mathematician consulted with the same person I did from Rudy Home who received his PhD. out of Morehouse College. He trained Taraji and she memorized the math having so much time with him. Taraji might actually be a genius on her own. What she can do I have not seen that often, memorize something and understand it in a very short period of time. She did it effectively and efficiently in one take.

JJ: I realize there is so much in this film to experience but as the director what would you want viewers to take with them after watching the film?

TM: See the film to be reminded of how great American has always been and how when we work together, regardless of race, sex or creed, there is nothing that this country can not achieve together.

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JJ: It’s so very well said and very true, thank you Ted!

This director has a straight vision for this film and with an absolutely stellar cast that also includes Kirsten Dunst, Jim Parsons, Mahershala Ali, Aldis Hodge, Glen Powell, Kimberly Quinn and Olek Krupa, HIDDEN FIGURES is a part of history that will be amazing to watch.

HIDDEN FIGURES – meet the women you don’t know behind the mission you do!

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