Tag Archives: Melissa Leo

Phillip Rhys: Grounding of Flights on 9/11 Inspired ‘The Space Between’

Phillip Rhys

Phillip Rhys reports that when he first read the script for “The Space Between” — which is being shown in a special Sept. 11 presentation on USA cable — he had no idea what the movie was about.  “The opening scene has Melissa Leo working in the airport, boarding the plane, then you hear the sound of Islamic prayers, and you see a man and boy praying.  You think, ‘Oh, I know what is going to happen — when in fact, that doesn’t happen at all.”

 “The script was fabulously written by Travis Fine.  He was a successful actor — he was in ‘Girl, Interrrupted,’ ‘The Thin Red Line,’ a host of movies.  Then he left the business and became a commercial airline pilot.  He wasn’t flying the day of 9/11, but he was speaking to his captain about what that day was like, and he said, ‘My God, Travis.  When you’re told that any aircraft flying will be shot down, you can’t believe it.’  Immediately from that, he had a line in his head: ‘Are we in L.A. yet?’  And from that, he wrote the movie.”

Rhys plays the father of the boy who winds up in the care of Leo’s flight attendant character, as they’re stranded in a strange city due to the grounding of all flights.  For the British-born actor, 2011 will go down as a watershed year, professionally, as he also has a role in Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn” due for Christmas time release — and is in “Wilde Salome,” a film written and directed by, and starring Al Pacino. 

 “He kind of did something like this with ‘Looking for Richard,’ an examination of the piece,” reports Rhys of Pacino’s experimental documentary, in which Jessica Chastain plays the title character.  “He did ‘Salome’ a number of years ago and recorded the peformances.  Then we were out in the Mojave desert and staged the scenes.  Salome danced, John the Baptist’s head was chopped off.  You know the play was banned in its day.  Oscar Wilde had to write it in French, the Brits were so against all of the stuff in it.  Even for today’s audiecne, it challenges people’s preconceived ideas about sexuality and desires.  It makes for great drama.”

Bale Locked Out, Portman’s Baby Dance: Highlights From the Winner’s Circle at the 83rd Academy Awards

Natalie Portman, Colin Firth

Colin Firth is looking forward to doing a lot of cooking, as he’s found it’s “a very good way to decompress.”  Natalie Portman is looking forward to staying “in bed, not having to do my makeup or hair, keeping my sweats on and relaxing.”   The “King’s Speech” Best Actor and “Black Swan” Best Actress Academy Awards winners seemed to be, among other things, downright relieved to be at the end of the awards season marathon.

But if going through all the interviews, parties and other awards shows and events while pregnant might have been extra taxing for Portman, she told press backstage that she found advantages in the experience as well.  “It’s been sort of a protection against, you know, all the hoopla.  It keeps you centered on where your meaning is in the midst of a lot of new shiny stuff which is superficial.”

Portman pointed out that, contrary to reports, she doesn’t know the gender of her baby yet.  Asked what the baby was doing when her name was announced, Portman admitted she didn’t remember anything about those first moments when she went to collect her Oscar.  However, “the baby definitely was kicking a lot during the song portion of the show — a little dancer.”

An astute reporter asked the Israeli-American Portman — the face of Miss Dior Cheri – about her response to Dior designer John Galliano’s recent arrest, complete with charges of his using anti-Semitic slurs.  She looked momentarily taken aback, and then simply passed on the question.

Another reporter asked her what were the chances of her naming her baby Oscar.  She replied, “I think that’s probably, definitely out of the question.”

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The erudite Firth said he had not seen the new PG-13 cut of “The King’s Speech,” but added, “I don’t support it.  I think the film has its integrity where it stands.”  In a move that strikes many as ridiculous, the MPAA rated the movie just named Best Picture of 2010 with an R – only because of a scene in which Geoffrey Rush’s speech therapist character endeavors to get his client’s mind off his stuttering by getting him to use unaccustomed swear words, including the F-word.  “I’m not someone who is casual about that kind of language.  I take my children to football games…and I hate hearing that language around them, but I’m not going to deny them the experience of a live game,” said Firth.  “I don’t take this stuff lightly.  But the context in which it’s used in this film could not be more edifying. It’s not vicious…I haven’t met the person yet who was offended by it.”

Firth also gave a behind-the-scenes insight as to how Oscar-winning director Tom Hooper set the scene for Firth’s Academy Award-winning performance.  “The way of working was conducive to the kind of tension and anxiety that I needed. The very first thing that Tom shot of me was single shot of me.  It was quite a baptism by fire.”  Firth noted that normally on a movie, a director will start with simple shots, such as characters getting out of cars, while the cast and crew are settling in, then work up to “the critical stuff, the stuff on your face.”  Tom started him off with a 10-minute scene with the camera trained right on his face.  “There was nothing to do but commit.”

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Melissa Leo

Speaking of the F-word, Melissa Leo said she had no idea that it was escaping her lips when she accepted her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for “The Fighter.”  “Those words, I apologize to anyone that they offend,” she said in the press room, with seeming sincerity.  “There’s a great deal of the English language that is in my vernacular…It was a very inappropriate place to use that particular word in particular.”

Asked about the excruciating wait for the Best Supporting Actress winner to be announced by the meandering 94-year-old Kirk Douglas, Leo made it clear she didn’t mind a bit.  “You know, he’s an old actor, and he knows.  Actually, he was doing us all a huge favor.  The longer he strung it out, the calmer we got to be.  I got to take more than one glance at Amy,” she said, referring to fellow nominee Adams.  “He strung it out in a rather delightful way for me.”  The announcement raised her heart rate, but Douglas’ bit “allowed my heart to settle down a little bit.”

The 50-year-old actress, who told us that her career had never been better since she matured out of her ingénue years, also commented on her dress.  She chose white, she said, referring to her real-life character, Alice Ward, the mother and manager of boxers Micky and Dicky Ward.  “I would like to think that Alice would have liked it.  I noticed a lot of footage of Alice in white.  It showed up on camera in the era of black and white TV.”  She added, “I could not have played her without having met her.”

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Christian Bale

Speaking of Dicky Ward, Christian Bale – who won Best Supporting Actor honors for playing the fighter – missed out on Melissa Leo’s award thanks to being out of the Kodak Theater with his real-life counterpart.  “I find myself likewise out in the bar with Dickiy and my wife thinking that it was like the other awards where you just walk on in and go out and unfortunately missed Melissa’s acceptance speech because they wouldn’t let me in.  I was literally banging on the door with Dicky going ‘Let us in!’  And they wouldn’t let us in.  That was my mistake.  I’ll know better if I ever return to the Academy Awards.”

So, he also missed Leo’s F-bomb.  “I missed the F-bomb, but you know, I’ve laid down many of them myself before.  So I think I know what it’s all about.”

The normally press averse Bale was met with questions alluding to his very good-naturedness.  “It’s just a genuine thing, you know?  I’m so flattered when anyone comes up to me and says they were so touched by the performance, I really adore that.”  But as far as going through the rigors of awards season campaigning, he reminded the press that he’s been in China, making filmmaker Zhang Yimou’s WWII move set amid the Japanese rampage in the Chinese city of Nanjing — and “I’ve not been a part of any of the campaigning that’s been going on.”

He praised his fellow nominees and mentioned there are a lot of other actors who’ve done great work this past year – and noted it’s nothing like the motorcycle racing he was watching this morning, where there’s a clear winner crossing the finish line.

He said he’s going to let his daughter decide where to put the Oscar.

Asked about the next “Batman,” Bale noted that, “I’m in the middle of filming a movie in China , but after that, it’s going to be straight on to ‘Batman,’ so yes, absolutely.  Much more ‘Batman.’”

He also fended off a question about Charlie Sheen by, again, saying he’d been in China and doesn’t know what’s been going on, earning a few guffaws from the press corps.

Bale said that he’d already decided he liked the character before it hit him, “’Oh, he’s a welterweight, isn’t he?’  He’s a crackhead.’  How many fat crackheads do you see?”  And therefore, the actor would need to put himself through a grueling weight loss process to play the role.  Talking about raw ability and passion, Bale recalled Jimi Hendrix, who played guitar with “his fingers just bleeding, blood dripping off the strings and I thought, ‘That’s it. That inspires me to no end.’  So whatever it takes, I feel like I’ll do for a movie.  But the thing is, a lot of people see it as a gimmick, and it’s not a gimmick.”

Would he do it again?  “I’m getting a little bit older now, and I’m starting to recognize that if I do too much, there may be no coming back from it.  I don’t have quite that same mentality which I did only a few years back, where I felt I was invincible and it didn’t matter what I did, I was coming through.  You know, I have a child now.  I just want to be smart about any other body alterations I make in the future.  There is only so much a body can take…Who knows?  Maybe that will be the last of it.”  But he admitted he’s been saying that for several roles.

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Best Adapted Screenplay winner Aaron Sorkin – “The Social Network” – told the press, “Like a lot of people, I grew up worshipping the movie ‘The Graduate’ and like a lot of people I wondered how it must have felt for Buck Henry to see Dustin Hoffman bringing Benjamin Braddock to life for the first time.  Now I don’t have to wonder” – because he experienced the same feeling watching Jesse Eisenberg bringing to life his version of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Asked about the partially Facebook-enabled revolution in Egypt, Sorkin admitted he’s “been cranky” about social networking until recently.  “Along the way somewhere, I turned into my grandfather…But when I see social networking tools mobilizing people for great causes like that, I really want to thank the Mark Zuckerbergs out there for doing it.”

He also thanked Mark Zuckerberg for being “an awfully good sport about this.  There’s not anyone out there who would want a movie done about things they did when they were 19 years old.”  Or, if you did, you’d want the movie to show only their own point of view, certainly not the point of view of people suing you for hundreds of millions of dollars.”

Juggling Jobs, ‘Treme’ Actress Melissa Leo Says She’s a ‘Mythbuster’

Melissa Leo

“I’m a mythbuster,” declares Melissa Leo, the highly-regarded former “Homicide: Life on the Street” actress who won an Oscar nomination for her work in “Frozen River.” 

            “I will be 50 in September, I live in the United States of America, and things have never been better for me.”  Far from finding jobs drying up as has so often happened to actresses of a certain age in the past, Leo says, “I’m getting more and more varied and better work.” 

            Leo will be soon be doing double duty, shuttling back and forth between shooting of the Kate Winslet remake of “Mildred Pierce” in the Tri-State area, and New Orleans, where she is filming HBO’s April 11-debuting series “Treme” (trem-ay).   The latter is a moody piece from her former “Homicide” producers, David Simon and Eric Overmyer (“The Wire”), following an assortment of Big Easy residents dealing with life in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. 

            “It will be a little crossover work for me, like switching the channel from the 1930s in Brooklyn to contemporary New Orleans,” reports Leo, who’s living in New Orleans for “Treme” production.        

She’s glad to be among the actresses over 40 who’ve found quality work on cable – along with the likes of Glenn Close, Holly Hunter and Kyra Sedgwick.   She and her acting peers, she notes, “know how much better we are with our experience and knowledge”

NO SPILL:  Laura Harring has been turning heads as Ed Westwick’s mysterious birth mother on “Gossip Girl,” but as for whether her character will be sticking around, Laura won’t comment.  “I think it’s part of the mystery,” she says.  The actress tells us she’s no stranger to keeping mum.  “I was told when we were promoting ‘Mulholland Drive’ 10 years ago that mystery is a part of keeping people going to the movies.  When David Lynch gave Naomi Watts and I the last part of that movie, he made us promise that we would never say what the movie meant, but we could say our own interpretation.  I even remember at the Cannes Film Festival, I bumped into him and he said, ‘Remember, Laura, keep the mystery during these interviews,’” she recalls.  “I’m very fortunate in ‘Gossip Girl’ that they kept that same kind of mystery for me.  All the way to the end you don’t know what’s going on.” 

 The actress says the experience of being on set was certainly a very positive one.  “The people that I worked with, I couldn’t believe how down to earth they were.  Paparazzi were around all the time so that’s got to affect you when you’re that young, but I was very impressed with how they kept their humor about them,” says Harring.  “Ed Westwick and Leighton [Meester] especially made me feel like I was a part of the club.  I like the mystery that Ed brings to his character.  It’s very James Dean-esque.   I see why people are such big fans.  I know for myself, it was amazing the response I got from people when they found out I was on the show.” 

            THE BIG SCREEN SCENE:  Playing the mother of a boy who’s fighting cancer in “Letters to God,” opening Friday (4/9), “was more than tough,” admits Robyn Lively.  The actress, familiar from such movies and TV shows as “Teen Witch” and “Saving Grace” – as well as being the half sister of “Gossip Girl’s” Blake Lively – tells us “It was harder tRobyn LIvelyhan I thought it would be.  I tapped into real emotion.  Of course, for me, the cameras cut and life goes on.  I can imagine what this would be like for a parent.  This movie gave me such a feeling of gratitude for my life and for the health of my children.”“Letters to God,” has its eight-year-old protagonist (Tanner Maguire) writing prayers to God and mailing them.  They wind up being read by a mailman (Jeffrey S.S. Johnson) fighting his own demons – divorce, alcoholism.  The story lies in how they affect him, the boy’s family, and the community surrounding them.  Producer-director David Nixon (“Fireproof”) and the rest of the “Letters” filmmakers are hoping it will be embraced as an inspirational movie about how faith can get people through tough times. 

Robyn Lively

            However, as Lively acknowledges, selling “Letters to God” will be “tricky because it’s such an emotional film.  There are a lot of families going through these types of situations.  But it’s really special,” she says.

NOTE WORTHY: “Cougar Town’s” hottie hunk Josh Hopkins knows how to turn heads on television but he’s also known for strumming the heartstrings of the ladies thanks to his singer/songwriter skills.  However, he tells us he has no intention of switching his day job.  “It’s nothing I think I’m going to pursue as a profession.  On a fluke one year I ended up playing the Lollapalooza music festival and as someone who’s very much a novice, I felt like after that I’ve already hit the mountaintop,” says Hopkins, who performed his popular song “Feigning Interest” with James Marsden.  “People asked me if I caught the bug.  I said, ‘Nope!  I was terrified the whole time.’”

With reports by Emily-Fortune Feimster