Pearl Mackie talks fame, diversity and ‘Doctor Who’
‘I’m not allowed to give that much away, actually,’ says Pearl Mackie, grinning. ‘There are still so many things I can’t say. But it’s such a relief to be allowed to talk about it at all.’ Last year, the 29-year-old Londoner was plucked from the West End stage, where she was starring in ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’, and given free run of the Tardis in ‘Doctor Who’. We meet just a week before her debut appearance as Bill Potts – the first gay ‘Doctor Who’ companion – airs on BBC One. Mackie is fairly new to the TV business: her only other credit is daytime soap ‘Doctors’. But she’s clearly having the time of her life. She gushes about the Soho hotel room we’re in – the wallpaper is ‘incredible’, the chairs ‘amazing’, our hour together ‘really fun’. We’re running late and somewhere upstairs her lunch is getting cold, but she’s in no rush. Mackie was born and bred in Brixton, and still lives there near her mum. ‘She sometimes reads lines with me,’ she tells me. ‘I’ve wanted to be an actress for as long as I can remember, from when I could talk, really. But I never thought I’d get a role as big as this.’ How was your first day on the new job?‘The sheer scale of “Doctor Who” is immense. After we’d rehearsed all the crew came in and they just kept coming through the door. I was like, “How am I going to remember all these people’s names?” It was very nerve-wracking.’ There’s a lot you can’t talk about. Are you good at keeping secrets?‘No! I’m absolutely dr
Back in Theater: 8 Mile
Another fictionalised autobiography from an artist well versed in the uses of an alias, this is purportedly the story of Jimmy Smith, aka 'Rabbit' (Eminem), Detroit trailer trash with a no-account mom (Basinger), a sweet relationship with his baby sis, and a cordon of close friends all hoping to cut a record. Rabbit has talent to burn, but he's too insecure and immature to prove it when it counts. Set in 1995, Scott Silver's screenplay doesn't go far in plot terms - which is good, because the film thrives on the rusty dilapidation which blights Motor City. Director Hanson has always had a keen eye for environment, and this is that rarity a Hollywood movie that treats urban blight as something more than a gritty backdrop. Indeed, if you can imagine a halfway house between Ken Loach and an Elvis Presley vehicle, that could be 8 Mile. There's something of the blue collar populism of Rocky, too, in the rap 'battles' that are Rabbit's testing ground, and they're filmed with the excitement of boxing matches. A hesitant presence whose vulnerability pulls you in, Eminem emerges as a mainstream movie star and effectively lays to rest the spooks of Slim Shady: impressionable parents will love this eminently responsible film.
This dramatisation of the Boston Marathon bombings is smart, gripping and unexpectedly sensitive. A few years ago ‘Battleship’ director Peter Berg was not necessarily the filmmaker you’d trust to craft a thoughtful, character-led drama around a real-life terror attack. Recently, however, he’s regained the personal touch of his 2004 sports drama ‘Friday Night Lights’. Just months after ‘Deepwater Horizon’, he reteams with Mark Wahlberg for this muscular, street-level dramatisation of 2013’s Boston Marathon bombings. Balancing the perspectives of perpetrators, policemen and victims with tension and human interest, it’s not entirely the rah-rah flag-waving exercise that the title promise. As the narrative expands across a city first paralysed, then galvanised, by tragedy, ‘Patriots Day’ culminates in a more inclusive celebration of community. As fictionalised headstrong cop Tommy Saunders, who finds himself stationed at the marathon finish line when twinned explosions rupture the event, killing three and wounding hundreds, on the face of it Wahlberg is the hero here. But the film divides its attention generously between a host of participants in the ensuing manhunt – from unglamorous local police sergeants to the courageous Chinese immigrant (Jimmy O Yang) kidnapped by the panicked Chechen bombers. Nervily played by Alex Wolff and Themo Melikidze, they too are characterised with commendable restraint, neither demonised nor over-analysed. Still, it’s the American Muslim wife of one (Melissa Benoist) who carries the film’s most riveting and provocative scene, staunchly defending their actions in the face of her unsparing interrogator (Khandi Alexander, scorching the screen in a few minutes flat). Amid its expert on-the-run action, ‘Patriots Day’ does some of its best work while seated. BY: GUY LODGE
American treasure Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures) has already claimed her rightful place in cinema as a divine force. If only she hadn’t literally played God in Stuart Hazeldine’s manipulative faith-targeted drama The Shack which, in all its earnestness, is hazardous to one’s spirit. Adapted from William P. Young’s 2007 bestseller, this 132-minute-long piece of moral exploitation follows Mack Phillips (Avatar’s Sam Worthington, objectionably serious in an especially gruff voice), an outdoorsy, church-going Midwesterner. He’s happily married to the wholesome Nan (Radha Mitchell) with three beautiful kids. But after a tragedy claims the life of his youngest daughter, Mack falls into depression and a deep crisis of faith, until a mysterious note appears in his mailbox, inviting him to the shack linked to his child’s murder. What awaits there is an unconventional and diverse Holy Trinity—Papa (Spencer, effortlessly maternal), Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush) and Sarayu (Sumire Matsubara)—tasked with bringing Mack inner peace.
Movies features and interviews
Scarlett Johansson: ‘Trump is a megalomaniac’
Scarlett Johansson has been sharing her beliefs loudly and proudly this year. She put the boot into Ivanka Trump on ‘Saturday Night Live’ earlier this month with that spoof TV commercial for Complicit perfume. It was no different when I met Johansson back in January to talk about her new movie, the futuristic sci-fi epic ‘Ghost in the Shell’. We spoke just days before the inauguration of Donald Trump, and the conversation headed away from the movie, a remake of the 1990s Japanese manga and towards politics: she was furious and didn’t care who knew it. A week after we spoke, the actress took to the podium in Washington during the Women’s March, in defence of abortion and reproductive rights. Some actors worry about straying beyond the day job – not this one. You play a cyborg in ‘Ghost in the Shell’. Where do you even start playing a character that’s not human in any normal way?‘It felt restrictive. There’s nothing extra to her. She’s efficient. There’s no fumbling for the right thing to say. She doesn’t nervously fidget. She’s not exactly mechanical, but she’s driven, and as an actor you rely on physical nuances, vocal nuances, things that connect with an audience. You don’t want to give a performance that’s monotonous. But it has to stay true to what her experience is. It was challenging.’ Are you interested in how technology affects us more generally?‘I’m wary of it. I’m probably more wary than someone who isn’t in the public eye. I see the value of anonymity in a way tha
Emma Watson: ‘Belle is a Disney princess gone rogue’
'Beauty and the Beast' When Emma Watson went to see the first cut of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ in London she took along two important women in her life – her mum and the activist Gloria Steinem, one of her feminist heroes. The 26-year-old star needed a thumbs up from Steinem that her Disney princess passed the feminism test – and she got it. That is typical Emma Watson. No slacker, like Hermione she’s a smart hard worker who believes that everything she does matters. She’d already turned down one Disney princess – Cinderella in the 2015 live-action movie. But Belle in ‘Beauty and the Beast’ was different, a princess with feminist DNA: ‘At the centre was this heroine that I love for going against the grain, fiercely independent-minded,’ she says. ‘Belle does things her own way and I felt really connected to that. She’s a bit Disney princess gone rogue.’ It’s 10am at the beginning of a long day of interviews and Watson is brushing crumbs from her chocolate croissant off the table – friendly but focused. As a little girl, she watched the 1991 animated ‘Beauty and the Beast’ on repeat: ‘My parents told me that I put it on so many times they thought they’d go mad.’ Emma Watson in 'Beauty and the Beast' ‘Belle does things her own way’ That version was a breakthrough for Disney princesses, with Belle more interested in books than boys. For the director of the new adaptation, Bill Condon, the big question was where to go now. ‘How do we make this a twenty-first century feminist
Martin Scorsese talks about his Oscar-nominated opus 'Silence'
Shortly after the release—and controversy—of his film The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988, Martin Scorsese travelled to Japan. As he rode a train through the country, he read Shūsaku Endō’s novel Silence, which follows two priests searching for their missing mentor in Japan in 1639, when Christianity was brutally repressed. The priests are captured by the shogunate and forced to choose between renouncing their faith or watching the executions of their fellow Catholics.
La La Land’s writer-director Damien Chazelle on the year’s most euphoric movie
Like some gorgeously colored bird, La La Land—a full-on singing and dancing extravaganza—has swooped into the Academy Awards race, charming critics and audiences alike. It’s the long-cherished dream project of writer-director Damien Chazelle, 31, who, from as early as his Harvard days, began developing the romantic tale of a jazzbo pianist (Ryan Gosling) and a beaten-down actor (Emma Stone). With music by Justin Hurwitz and lyrics from the inspired team behind Broadway’s latest sensation, Dear Evan Hansen, La La Land is a love letter to musicals old and new. We spoke to Chazelle at the Lower East Side’s Metrograph; the next week, his film would win the top prize from the New York Film Critics Circle. Aren’t musicals crazy? I love that about them.Exactly. There’s a certain confidence in musicals—an audacity or defiance or whatever you want to call it—that I think is really wonderful. It’s unfortunate that, since the ’60s, we as moviegoers have gotten more and more literal-minded, needing films to be a one-to-one reflection of the world we live in, as opposed to a reflection of what the world might feel like. And yet you’re infusing that liberation with tons of realism—especially the idea of artists making tough choices to pursue their dreams. You did that in Whiplash, too. Why is that a pet subject of yours?I think it was that old maxim of “Write what you know.” Whiplash started from suddenly thinking in my head, Maybe that time when I was a teenager drumming and had a re
Has a cultural phenomenon ever inspired such devotion, such passion, such—for want of a better term—extreme nerdiness than the Star Wars saga? From the films to the figures, the tie-in novels to the TIE-fighter coffee mugs, the blogs to the chat rooms to the international fan conventions, it’s the closest thing cinema has to a unifying faith. Exactly why this should be is unclear, even to those of us who worship at the shrine of Skywalker—but we reckon a lot of it has to do with the characters of Star Wars. They can be intensely heroic or irretrievably evil. They can be alluringly human or repulsively alien. Remote and robotic or cuddly and cute. But the characters in Star Wars are endlessly fascinating. A note to the nerds: with one notable exception, these characters are all drawn from the official six-film canon, rather than the novels and console games of the “expanded universe.”
Becoming a Hong sang-soo fan
Already one of the most fêted Korean filmmakers of the modern era, Hong Sang-soo last month picked up his biggest prize to date, the Golden Leopard from the Locarno International Film Festival. With dialogue-based films that can repeat the same situation and echo the same themes over and over again, his work is a far cry from the stylistic offerings of Bong Joon-ho or Park Chan-wook. So what is it that people find in his work? It’s a hard question to answer, as viewers’ reactions to his work come from a personal place, but when delving into his catalogue, here are a few things to keep in mind. Being a Hong Sang-soo fan, like I am, requires a lot of patience. Though he has now made 17 films (with an 18th already underway), Hong isn't the kind of filmmaker you can binge on, so going through his filmography takes time. The reason is not because they’re dense or because they bear so many similarities to each other, but rather because each of his films is an experience—a measured rumination on our desires and egos. It takes time to unpack them and, if you let them in, they stay with you, simmering over time. Watching his work also requires that you pay careful attention to details. Despite the seemingly casual and sometimes stuttering nature of the endless conversations that link each chapter of his oeuvre that make his work appear to have an attitude of indifference permeating it, the reality is, nothing is ever left to chance. Hong has a reputation for fiddling with scen