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JAMIE DORNAN - FIFTY SHADES DARKER

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JAMIE DORNAN - FIFTY SHADES DARKER

By Frank Ariveso

STRIPLV:  Do you think you amped it up in Darker?

DORNAN:  I think we did amp it up in this movie.  I think we had to.  I think it’s a big part of making a sequel is that you have to develop everything and there needs to be a progression in every aspect of the picture— whether it be the actual story or the sex or the characters and their relationship— everything has to be ramped up.  So, I feel like we did that with Darker and I think that the fans will be excited by that.  You know, I think it has got more for the fans than the first film had, which I think is cool.

STRIPLV:  I’m sure when you did the first movie you didn’t expect it to be such a phenomenon.  Now that the dust has settled, are you excited to re-explore the character and define the character again? 

DORNAN:  It’s very exciting going back to something that I’ve experienced before.  Dakota’s never experienced it before because she’s never done television.  And I’ve done multiple series of television, and you get to go back, and jump back into the character and see the same crew and for the most part, it’s an exciting thing, and it’s like family, and it’s like coming home.  And so, there’s an element of that this time around, and the fact that shot Darker and Freed together, by the end, it was a long time— nearly six months with this group of people and it is like a family.  It’s great, great fun.

STRIPLV:  The film is so decadent with scenes such as the masquerade ball and Anastasia walking into every woman’s dream closet.  Do you have a favorite element of the film?

DORNAN:  I mean, we change quite a lot of stuff since the first movie regarding how it looked.  We made it slightly warmer, I think even for Christian’s apartment. Just like little touches that Nelson, our set designer, came up with, our production designer, that just makes it more human I think, which is a cool thing.  I really liked Christian’s apartment this time around.  We don’t get to see a huge amount of it in Darker, but in Freed we do. It felt like somewhere I’d want to spend time, rather than the first movie, just by adding a few little pieces here and there.

STRIPLV:  In this film, it seems as you and Anastasia have a real relationship and that you are growing in it. Can you tell us about this as well as some of the villains and the thriller aspects of the film?

DORNAN:  I mean, there’s so much more going on in this film.  It’s much more than just Anna and Christian’s relationship.  You know, that’s obviously a big part of it and seeing that relationship develop and seeing Christian making sacrifices and compromises and changing for love was just a very important thing.  And again, a very relatable thing I think.  So we see that, but there are other elements that come into Darker, you know, Jack Hyde is introduced and he provides this whole new energy and shakes things up, yet he has a massive effect on the relationship, and going forward and going to Freed we will see how that develops.  You know, when it ends on him, it gives you an idea what’s planned for the third movie.  But again, I think that’s all an advancement, and that’s all the fact that it’s a sequel and it’s darker.  And we’re trying to wrap things up, so there’s definitely more at play in Darker.

DAKOTA JOHNSON - DARKER

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Dakota Johnson claims she’ll never work with her Fifty Shades co-star Jamie Dornan again.  “If we did, it would be all about Christian and Ana back together, and you know, why do that to ourselves?”  The 27-year-old daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson is an odd contrast in person.  In a gray shirt and dark jeans— with her shaggy brown locks loose around her doe-like features, she’s apathetically enthusiastic— (if there’s such a thing.)  Seeming to care one minute about her star-making role as Anastasia Steele in the Fifty Shades juggernaut, she can be entirely indifferent the next.

Or perhaps it’s just her interview style.  Friendly, though prone to muttering, with short responses at times, the A-list star appears to still be coming to grips with her Hollywood superstardom.  And as she claims, that might never be the case.

After a sexual awakening courtesy, of Mr. Grey in the first movie, Anastasia returns in Darker as an empowered individual who lays down the law with her paramour and ends up in a fresh haze of trouble when figures from Christian’s past begin to emerge.  One of these figures is Kim Basinger, playing the role of the enigmatic Elena Lincoln, who Johnson has the great privilege of throwing a drink in her face.

Dakota also talks about feeling less pressure this time round and why she’s fallen in love with Jamie’s kids.  She also talks her family influence, words from grandmother— Tippi Hedren, and the aftermath of the Nice attacks.  Johnson is single and lives in LA.

STRIPLV:  Back for the follow-up, how do you feel coming back and doing it all over again?

JOHNSON:  The pressure is gone.  Well, almost gone.  We’re comfortable, confident in ourselves, people liked what we did in the first movie when everything felt like a risk.  Everything felt kind of nerve-wracking.  How is this going to received?  How will the fans take this?  All that stuff.  So knowing that was covered and ticked off, is a big relief.

STRIPLV:  You and Jamie seem to have become really close?

JOHNSON:  It’s genuinely one of the fastest closest friendships I’ve ever made in my life, just based on the amount of time we’ve actually known and been around each other.  I love Jamie.  I trust him, and I don’t know, I really couldn’t tell you if I could have done this without him.  He’s my dream partner and supported me. I’ve supported him.  It’s a lot to ask of two people, of two actors, to take on these highly emotional, sexual situations, but I think we’ve done us proud.  He’ll be my friend for the rest of my life.  I adore him; I adore his wife and his gorgeous babies.  They’re like a perfect little family unit.  Just gorgeous.

STRIPLV:  So you spent a lot of time with his family?

JOHNSON:  That’s was probably the best part of the shoot, getting to hang out and play with them.  So cute.

STRIPLV:  Was it weird doing these love scenes with Jamie, and then hanging out with his wife?

JOHNSON:  No, she’s the coolest.

STRIPLV:  Anastasia is very different in this film.  She’s evolved and matured.  What was your take on that?

JOHNSON:  This is what I loved about Anastasia and why I wanted to do these movies.  I loved her arc from very innocent, very inexperienced, a lack of life experience.  And you see this emotional, spiritual, intellectual, sexual journey from the beginning to an empowered, strong, badass with integrity and grace.  There’s not a moment for me where I think she compromises herself.  That journey to me was fascinating.

STRIPLV:  Jamie says the sex is better in this one, do you agree?

JOHNSON:  The sex is definitely better in this one.  Undoubtedly, because they know each other, those initial bursts of passion that can be panicked, especially for her.  She knows more what she wants.  She’s more confident now and has an understanding of what’s making him tick in this head.  Their connection is stronger; their emotions are deeper.  That makes sex better, doesn’t it!

STRIPLV:  You’re once again, getting naked.  Have your inhibitions lowered?

JOHNSON:  I don’t know if I had very strong inhibitions.  I have no problem with nudity.  Never have, never will.  I think the human body is beautiful.  I grew up being told to love your body and be comfortable with yourself.

STRIPLV:  Have you always wanted to follow in your parent’s footsteps?

JOHNSON:  It was what I always dreamed of— it’s what makes me happiest.

STRIPLV:  What advice did they give you, or indeed your grandmother, about the industry?

JOHNSON:  My grandmother is an idol to me.  She gives me so much inspiration and strength from her words and how she navigated this industry.  She just tells me to trust my instincts, trust myself, be myself.

STRIPLV:  Have your parents’ seen them yet?

JOHNSON:  Seen the movies?  No, that is not happening nor will it ever happen (laughs).  And I think that’s hard for them to go through— just this huge movement around these movies that I’m a part of but not being able to watch them, I know is tough.  But I made them promise, and they respect that.

STRIPLV:  You have an amazing scene with Kim Basinger where you throw a drink in her face.  What was that like to shoot?

JOHNSON:  I hated it!  Oh god, I hated it, it felt so awful.  It felt like I was going against all laws of nature, so disrespectful.  It’s Kim Basinger for god’s sake.  I kept apologizing, but she was like, “Lets go again, go nuts!”  I had to practice on other people on set.  I wanted to on Jamie, but it would have messed him up for the scene— (laughs) so this line producer kept getting it in the face over and over.  Like I missed a few times, clean past.  That’s why I had to practice, wanted it done and over with— definitely one of the strangest moments in my career so far, and probably my life.

STRIPLV:  How has your life changed since the first movie came out?

JOHNSON:  It’s weird that people seem to know so much about me.  That’s very confronting, and I don’t think I’ll ever get used to that. This feeling that I don’t fully belong to myself anymore, that a part of me belongs to, is exposed I guess, is very strange and accosting.  And I’ll never find that normal.  I’ll never think that’s just part of my life.  I think it’s really weird that I have fans.  Even saying, “I have fans,” it feels awkward.  My friends would laugh at me if I just casually threw out there, “Those are my fans.”  They’d be like, “Who are you?”   To have so much love 

for these movies, so much love for Christian and Anastasia, that’s amazing and touching, and I love that.  They make them happy.  It’s a cool feeling.

STRIPLV:  You were in Nice during the July terrorist attacks last year. What effect did that have on you?

JOHNSON:  It’s truly devastating, but we weren’t even in Nice when it happened. We had driven through shortly before it happened.  I can’t begin to say how it affected me when so many people were directly affected by what happened.  I can’t imagine.  I mean, it was so awful. Unimaginable.  I remember feeling like we were intruding the next day— like we shouldn’t have been there, but the French crew was inspiring.  They were like, “We need to keep going.  We need to continue living our lives.”  I just think that was so moving and powerful.

STRIPLV:  You’re done now with Fifty Shades.  No more filming.  What will you miss most about working on these movies?

JOHNSON:  Jamie.  I’ll miss his jokes.  Which most of them are funny, some not so much (laughs).  I’ll miss the people, the crew, and cast.  They’re like family now.

 

HUGH JACKMAN - LOGAN

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In 1999, Hugh Jackman’s wife advised him not to take on a very taxing comic book character role that he was offered.  That’s some advice that she now admits she’s glad he didn’t take.  The blockbuster superhero movie franchise has given Jackman a chance to play the conflicted and angry mutant Wolverine a total of nine times.  In his latest (and last time) playing this iconic comic legend, the Australian actor is showing a much more vulnerable side to his character.  He finds himself falling into a makeshift family of sorts.  His mentor and father-like figure in his life, Charles Xavier, is failing and falling into dementia.  When they encounter a young girl, who seems to be made of the same DNA as Logan (no longer the superhero Wolverine), Xavier urges him to take care of her, thrusting him into a parental role that he wasn’t prepared to take on.  The film is full of action, as fans of the Marvel series will expect, but there is this underlying humanity to all the stunts.  Logan’s character has always had a sensitive edge to it, and this movie used that edge to show his true struggle and the way he made sense of it.  Hugh Jackman hopes that his loyal fans will enjoy the story as much as he did.  The fan interaction is something this accomplished stage and screen thespian has truly embraced on his journey.

It’s 2029. Mutants are gone—or very nearly so.  An isolated, despondent Logan is drinking his days away in a hideout on a remote stretch of the Mexican border, picking up petty cash as a driver for hire.  His companions in exile are the outcast Caliban and an ailing Professor X, whose singular mind is plagued by worsening seizures. But Logan’s attempts to hide from the world and his legacy abruptly end when a mysterious woman appears with an urgent request—that Logan shepherd an extraordinary young girl to safety. Soon, the claws come out as Logan must face off against dark forces and a villain from his past on a live-or-die mission, one that will set the time-worn warrior on a path toward fulfilling his destiny.

“We wanted something that would feel very different, very fresh and ultimately something very human,” Jackman says, “Because it seems to me that the strength of X-Men and the strength of Wolverine is more his humanity than his superpower.  In exploring this character for the last time, I wanted to get to the heart of who that human was, more than what his claws can do.”

From the outset, Jackman’s always had a gift for locating Logan’s humanity beneath his gruff, deeply scarred exterior.  But with this nuanced, deeply moving performance, the actor brings the character full circle—the cigar-chomping, hard-charging loner is now a steadfastly loyal comrade-in-arms willing to sacrifice everything for what he believes.

Of course, Jackman and Logan co-writer director James Mangold had already taken the character to new, far-flung places with the character’s previous solo outing 2013’s The Wolverine. That earlier film, adapted from the landmark 1980 comic miniseries by Chris Claremont and Frank Miller and suffused with the spirit of Japanese noir, and samurai films as well, and American Westerns, saw Logan plucked from self-imposed exile, only to be drawn into violence and intrigue in Japan.  It won praise from critics for its careful parsing of Logan’s inner tumult, rather than strictly relying on over-the-top action set-pieces for thrills.

Mangold says that following their experience on The Wolverine, the duo hadn’t necessarily planned to partner on another project centering on Logan.  Hugh and I were both on the bubble about doing another one of these, says the director, who first worked with Jackman on 2001’s Kate & Leopold.  If we were going to do it, I wanted to take it somewhere that interested me, someplace intimate and primal— a character— based story where we explore the fears and weaknesses of these larger than life heroes, a film that makes them more human

Even before embarking on the project, Jackman and Mangold understood that the story needed to exist apart from the dense and heady mythology of the larger X-Men franchise.  We both wanted a movie that was a standalone movie,” Jackman says.  “This is far more realistic than we’ve done before in the X-Men franchise, maybe any of the other comic book movies. It’s far more human.  

Specifically, Mangold, who wrote the Logan script with The Wolverine co-scripter Scott Frank and Michael Green, set out to create a character-driven piece that would focus on Logan, Xavier, and Laura as they made their way across a barren landscape.  I had this kind of strange vision in my head that I wanted to make a road movie with these characters, in a way almost trapping myself as a filmmaker, Mangold says. Putting them in a car and trapping them on the highway would tie my hands.  We couldn’t do something about worlds colliding or an alien invasion—the movie would essentially force itself to operate on a more intimate level.

Also important to Mangold, who has long viewed Logan as a spiritual descendant of great western heroes like Clint Eastwood’s Outlaw Josey Wales or Alan Ladd’s Shane, was robbing Wolverine of his invincibility to make the character more vulnerable, more exposed. The idea with this film was to find him in a state where his ability to heal is extremely diminished, Mangold says.  His strength is diminished.  His health and his mental state are dark.

When the film opens, Logan is in a vulnerable and broken state, the curse of his immortality wearing heavy on him as he cares for a weakened Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) in a derelict smelting plant at the edge of an abandoned oil field.  They’re joined there by a third mutant, Caliban, sheltering in obscurity at a time 

when the world believes mutants have passed into history. 

But Logan’s days of drinking in relative solitude are interrupted when he finds himself the reluctant guardian of a young girl, Laura (newcomer Dafne Keen) who has powers remarkably like his own: from her hands as well as her feet spring the same adamantium claws as Wolverine’s.  Not that he’s exactly eager to accept this newfound responsibility—he’s far too weary to play the hero once more.

“He doesn’t want to help.  At all,” Jackman says.  “He doesn’t want anything to do with it.  He’s long past the stage in his life where he reacts to people’s pleas and cries for help.  Basically, he has come to the conclusion that generally when he helps, things end up worse off. The people he loves end up getting hurt, that if he gets too close, or tries too hard, it ends in pain and loss and destruction.”

Tasked with protecting her from the murderous cybernetic criminal Donald Pierce (Boyd Holbrook), Logan and Professor X set out to cross hostile territory to ferry Laura to a place called Eden, where young mutants are said to enjoy safe haven.  But Pierce and his fearsome army of cyborg Reavers are determined to return the girl to the custody of Dr. Zander Rice (Richard E. Grant), the sinister geneticist behind Alkali who triggered her mutations through a series of inhumane experiments in the hopes of creating a child super-soldier.

“He’s a sociopath who has no emotional understanding or feeling for the mutants that he creates,” Grant says.  “He sees human beings as something to be cloned.  He’s very scientific and intellectual about everything.  He has no real emotional involvement whatsoever.”

With Wolverine’s tremendous physical abilities compromised by age and the passage of time, their relentless pursuit of the travelers takes a great and bloody toll. 

It’s often said that a film is often only as great as its villain, and Jackman was quick to praise Holbrook’s turn as the unhinged Pierce.  Boyd is a phenomenally talented actor, a really gifted artist, he says.  When I read the script, I told him that I thought Pierce was one of the hardest parts to pull off.  The greatest villains seem to be having more fun than anyone else in the movie, and he embodied that, and he did it brilliantly because he could turn on a dime and be very menacing as well as funny

But the actor had especially kind words for his young co-star, Dafne Keen, who makes her feature film debut with Logan with a virtuosic performance.  She’s a phenomenal actress, and it’s an honor to share the film with her, Jackman says.  Laura, genetically, has Wolverine’s DNA, so there are elements of him in her personality and her physicality, and that’s not easy to pull off.  I found it hard to pull off when I was 30, let alone an 11-year-old-girl, and she’s not like that at all. She’s very bubbly, vivacious and energetic.  Playing this constantly pissed off, rage-filled mutant who will take your head off if you look at her sideways is nothing like who she is, and she nailed it

Because of their shared traits, Logan is in a unique position to help Laura come to terms with her feelings and channel that overwhelming rage.  Logan had a goodness to him, and if he just didn’t have that, he would have been the perfect killing machine because he goes absolutely berserk,  Jackman says.  He can take anyone out, but he had a heart.  He had a conscience.  He had a mind and didn’t just blindly follow whatever order he was given.  

“It’s a movie about family,” says Mangold.  “It’s a movie about loyalty and love and specifically a character, Logan, who has been stubbornly avoiding intimacy throughout his long life, finally letting it in.”

“There was a moment that I came to terms with the fact that this was my last one,” Jackman says.  “I love this character, and he’s been amazing to me.  I’d be lying if I said that I would have been okay if I didn’t feel everything was left on the table.  And I mean everything. Every day, every scene was a kind of battle to get the best out of that character, to get the best out of me.  There was an element of life and death about it—I know that sounds dramatic, but that’s how it felt.” 

Logan was filmed primarily on location in the brutal summer heat of 2016 in New Orleans and New Mexico.  Veteran production designer François Audouy, who also led the design team on The Wolverine, was tasked with creating compelling, textured environments and capturing the ultimate road movie feel. 

We really wanted to create the sense that we were going on a long journey in the movie, Audouy explains.  From the beginning, Jim wanted to incorporate a lot of different looks into the film—from the dry desert in El Paso and Mexico through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma into Kansas and up through the Badlands of South Dakota. The real challenge was to try and figure out how to create this variety in two states with only a handful of locations

Audouy and his team utilized four of the Big Easy Stages on the NASA Michoud 

Assembly Facility Lot to construct massive sets including the smelting plant hideout and an Oklahoma City casino hotel. In some cases, input from the actors helped shape a particular set—case in point, some of Stephen Merchant’s ideas about Caliban’s domestic life were incorporated into the smelting plant design.

Caliban does most of the cooking and is the only domestic member of the trio living in the smelting plant, so Stephen requested that we add some pops of color to the dark, drab and deteriorating set, says Audouy.  We had a connection to someone living near Juarez, so they went into the city and bought some ceramic pots and various pieces with colorful Mexican designs on them to add to the kitchen

Says cinematographer John Mathieson: The sets François built on stage actually felt real and gritty and dirty.  The smelting plant is meant to be old, wasted and 

deserted, and since we’d be working inside it all day, we would go home at night and actually feel filthy and grubby.  That’s how real the sets felt.  His designs are not symmetrical or pretty.

Of course, when making a road trip movie, the vehicles are crucial, as is the case with the limo that Logan drives, which was modeled after the Chrysler 300.  The car is Logan’s sole source of income, his means to reach and take care of Charles as well as a key to the mutants’ escape.  It became a character in itself, explains Audouy

Adds Logan car technician Nick Pugh: It was complicated to design a vehicle that was set in the future but only about ten years old. There are three limos, two finished ones and then one stunt car which has the same look, but it’s a Baja racer 

car with 16-inch suspension travel since it has to be able to do jumps, go through ditches and tear across the desert at about 50 miles per hour. 

In addition to stunt driving, the film is packed with brutal, visceral fight scenes, which presented some unique opportunities for Keen as Laura, who trained near her home in Spain before arriving to the U.S. for filming.  When she got here, we had about one month with her, says stunt coordinator Garrett Warren.  We had claws that she would hold in her hands so she could see what that was like.  I would have her use paper, claw the paper and slice it into pieces.  That way she really knew what it was like to use the claws instead of just wielding them in the air

Keen’s background in gymnastics and aerial arts helped her master the fight choreography, and Jackman was wowed by his young co-star.  Dafne did most of her fighting in the film, he says.  She worked hard.  When I say work, she loved it. She didn’t want to leave stunt training.  I looked over one day, and she had my claws on, and she was beaming.

The other actors and filmmakers were like family to me, Keen says. I felt safe.  I was always more focused on my character and what her longing for a normal family life which is what she is so desperately fighting for.

While Laura may be a killer, she’s still a little girl, a fact that is most evident in her wardrobe.  For Laura, she starts out with a very simple and monotone look, explains Emmy®-winning costumer designer, Daniel Orlandi.  She looks like 

a prisoner who’s escaped. Then when she gets to pick out her clothes we see this ruthless killer who loves violence pick out a unicorn T-shirt along with pink accessories.  It really adds a sweet irony to her character.

For the other major characters, Orlandi took his inspirational cues from classic Westerns and film noirs. Jim said from the beginning he did not want any of our characters to look like they were in superhero costumes or anything too pronounced.  Logan is seen half-heartedly wearing a cheap black suit jacket with an old black pair of Levis only because that’s his driver uniform.  But once Logan is on the run he picks an outfit that is a suede western style jacket and a cowboy shirt—all dark and simple.  He’s on the run and doesn’t want to stand out, Orlandi says

HUGH JACKMAN

3 QUESTIONS

STRIPLV:  Will you tell us about Logan, if there’s a different side of him we get to see?

JACKMAN:  Oh, yeah, I think the whole film feels different in tone, character, and any of the others and that was sort of our goal.  I didn’t want it to feel like a final chapter of a saga, but a whole, fresh, and new thing; stake some new ground.  Logan in this film is more human, hence the title.  He’s sick; he’s healing.  His powers are dwindling; he’s vulnerable.  He’s also looking after an aging father figure in Charles Xavier and hiding him out.  He’s under stress, he doesn’t have money.  He’s a limo driver, trying to earn enough bucks to get by, to buy the meds Charles needs.  It’s very mundane, very normal kind of stuff going on, but clearly, he’s checked out, he’s at the bottom.  And so what James Mangle and Scott Frank did was kind of create a world of someone who’s biggest fear is love and intimacy, because it only brings pain.  Then surrounding him with a family, forced upon him.

STRIPLV:  Tell us about those relationships.

JACKMAN:  So Charles has got dementia and Charles, who’s been a father figure, mentor, probably understands him and knows him best, because he’s a closed book, Logan.  He quips, and he’s tough and all that.  Charles knows where he comes from; his background, and knows the demons he’s fighting.  So he knows him, but in this one, the tables are turned a bit, he has dementia, so he’s confused, and he’s vulnerable, and he’s angry.  He’s many, many different things: child-like, abusive, and Logan is sort of in a caretaker role, taking care of him day in and day out, and also keeping him hidden from authorities.  So it’s a great dynamic, very fun to play with my great friend and one of the greatest actors, I’ve ever met.  The young girl who is created from DNA and it becomes clear that that DNA may very much resemble my own, which was stolen, so it’s not like he chose to have a daughter or anything like that.  He’s confronted with genetics very similar to his own and a task to rescue, save, and protect her.  He doesn’t want that task, and he pushes it away for as long as he can.  But that relationship between those two characters, sort of father and daughter, is I think very strong and this young girl, Dafne, who plays her part, is absolutely astonishing. 

STRIPLV:  Do you have any hopes concerning what fans will take away from the film after seeing it? 

JACKMAN:  My goal from this, because I talk to fans every day of my life, every second day at least, for the last 17 years, is that every one of them, because I know they know, and they say it to me all the time, after they see the movie, they say to me, “That is the Wolverine movie we’ve been waiting to see.”  So that’s my hope, that’s my dream, and that was the guiding star really to making this movie.

 

 

KATHERINE WATERSTON - 3 QUESTIONS

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KATHERINE WATERSTON 3 QUESTIONS

Katherine Waterston is a British-born actress that recently received a lot of attention for her role in the JK Rowling film “Fantastic Beasts.”  This May she will have the chance to capture the attention of die-hard sci-fi fans by diving into the Alien movie franchise with Ridley Scott’s latest “Alien Covenant.”  She and her crew from the colony ship The Covenant discover a remote planet that they mistakenly think is an unfound paradise.  There they encounter David the artificial intelligence that remains from the failed Prometheus expedition, and things take a terrifying and surprising turn.  Taking on the role of a strong Ripley-esque (Sigourney Weaver’s role from the original movies) character, Katherine’s character Daniel has to fight to survive in this return to The Alien series of films.  It’s a franchise that has been derailed a few times—most notably when we had to stomach our way through “Alien Vs. Predator.”  The return of the original and much-respected director Ridley Scott is giving fans of the series a lot to look forward to when Alien Covenant hits theaters this May.  STRIPLV got a chance to sit down with Katherine to ask her about the experience of creating this film with its legendary director.

STRIPLV:  What was it like working with Ridley Scott?

WATERSTON:  Amazing. I knew going into it that he was a brilliant man, a brilliant artist, and director because I had seen so many of his films but I didn’t know anything about him as a man, and obviously I didn’t know what is was like to work with him.  He’s an actor’s director in the sense that generally he loves actors and gets really excited about what they bring to the process.  And for someone who’s so strict with himself and very rigorous about creating the perfect frame— the most accurate, perfect set to match his vision—he’s very flexible and open to what actors bring.  And usually, people who have that kind of exacting vision are rigid and not that easy to collaborate with.  So it’s this incredible combination of a very strong sense of cinematic storytelling and this really open-minded, roll-up -your-sleeves figure when working with actors.  So, it’s kind of the best. 

STRIPLV:  What is unique about an Alien film?

WATERSTON:  It’s Ridley’s vision.  He creates complete worlds, and no detail is ignored.  I think that and his focus on character; it’s that combination that makes the film so scary because you really believe the environment you’re in, and you really believe these are real people in a very unpleasant and dangerous situation.  And I think if the world didn’t feel complete and invested in the characters, then when the aliens come along to threaten them, it wouldn’t be so terrifying.  I think he just sets the stage so well; you feel so invested so that when things start to go wrong.

STRIPLV:  What is the best part about playing Daniels?

WATERSTON:  The best part… I don’t know I loved her journey.  I think we all wonder, anyone who hasn’t tested themselves in a really dangerous situation, wonders what kind of person they are.  Will they be clear in crisis or foggy?  Will they be able to take action, or will they stumble?  In this film, she discovers she is sort: she can remain clear and calm in those situations, not always calm but she’s a survivor, a trueborn survivor.  I mean not to give anything away about how it ends, but I loved her journey.

HACKSAW RIDGE

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Hacksaw Ridge is a riveting drama about the true story of private Desmond Doss whose courage and bravery saved almost 100 men in World War II without ever carrying a weapon into battle.  Doss who never lived to see this depiction of his courageous actions on film was a real living example of what heroism can truly be.  His family even asked him repeatedly “What were you even thinking?  Running back into active fire again and again while asking “Please God help me save one more.”  His son has said in many interviews that the family never truly got an answer to that.  It was a simple thing: Doss was just a man who stuck to his convictions and in turn became a relatively unknown hero in our history.  Now the whole world is learning Doss’s story in this movie directed by Mel Gibson and starring Andrew Garfield as Desmond Doss.  

STRIPLV:  Why does this story resonate with you?

GARFIELD:  When I read the script, I was in pieces; I was just.  There was an innocence to him.  There was a purity to him; a model of masculinity that you don’t get to see in mainstream entertainment right now.  He was an incredibly strong man, but his strength didn’t come from his ability to kill his fellow man; his strength came from his ability to stay true to himself and heal, and love, his fellow man.  This isn’t an example you often get to see as a man.  I think I thought that’s why women actually responded so positively about the film because of that - because he’s bringing a nurturing, loving energy to a horrific set of circumstances: the battlefield.

GIBSON:  It resonated very deeply with me, in my heart.  He really existed.  We’re not making any of this up.  It is astounding to me that someone could conduct himself in this way, in these hellish circumstances.  You’ve got someone with faith and conviction, and his innocence and simplicity going into hell itself where the object is to kill one and other.  Men are reduced to the level of animals and here’s this man sort of honing his aspects and going into the same hell, and saving lives in the midst of all this death.  It’s like a little flower in the wilderness.  It’s kind of a beautiful thing, and it’s not really a war film.  It’s kind of like a love story.  Greater love hath no man than he lay down his life for his brothers.  And Desmond did that again and again at noisome almost.  He did that so much that you couldn’t even portray it on film, because you’d start to think, “Is this real?”

STRIPLV:  To what degree was the responsibility of portraying a historical figure, such as Desmond Doss? 

GIBSON:  Well, oh yeah, I think Andrew, Bill Mechanic, and myself, everybody, we 

all felt this tremendous responsibility to pay tribute and honor this guy’s memory.

GARFIELD: I think it even continues now as we talk about it.  I feel, getting to know everyone we’re talking to and whoever we’re talking to now, whoever’s watching this, there’s an opportunity to witness a story about a man who walked among us, who offers us our own potential. There’s something inspiring about what he did, and it wasn’t through some grandiose striving.  It was only him being true to who he was in the simplest of ways.  I think that is what a true hero is.

STRIPLV:  How was it preparing to shoot the epic battle scenes?
GIBSON:  Well this was tricky.  I’d never actually 

the guns and explosions kind of thing before so I was kind of like, “Ugh, how do I do it?  What do I want to see?”  The battles were kind of there in the script but specifically not.  What shape did they have?  Who’s who and who’s doing what, and how does it happen?  That was something that you had to visualize and I used war footage, I read materials, I watched the Desmond stuff, talked to veterans, and indeed read history books, to give me the idea of what it must have been like out there and I tried to emulate that.  It had its logistical difficulties and there’s a lot to come together to get in that arch; in that super 35 lens and lucky for me I had an excellent cast and crew - extras and everybody, even the lunch guys.

STRIPLV:  How was it bringing Desmond’s faith to life?

GIBSON:  Just the simple truth of who that man was.  I mean, he was all about love and God is love, and also was willing to lay down his life for his fellows.  There’s no greater aspect of spirituality.  I mean, love, that’s intense.  That’s beyond the human realm, that’s beyond instinct even.  It’s holy, higher, another realm.  So, how can you deny that?  You can’t be cynical about it.  My god, the guy was a hero and could any of you do it?  You try that. It’s a tall order.

STRIPLV:  What makes Desmond Doss a singular hero? 

GARFIELD:  Yeah, I think because he was given a set of options and he didn’t like them but he knew he needed to serve and so he kind of created his own title: consciences cooperator.  I think he’s singular in that way, and he’s singular in the way that he didn’t set out to be a hero. He just wanted to serve and be one of the many serving, and sown into the fabric of that.  And I think what sets him apart is this, almost compulsion to sacrifice himself for others.  It didn’t feel like a conscious choice at all.  It felt like an instinctive pull; like a calling.  And I think that’s why so many people come away from learning about his story and seeing the film overwhelmed and blown away because of course you can’t help but imagine, “What would I do in that situation?”  And I think my first instinct is to run the hell away.  The fact that he stayed up top there on that ridge, paused, and prayed, and asked God, asked himself, “What do you want of me?”  That act alone is something to behold and to give honor.

STRIPLV:  What should audiences look forward to?

GARFIELD:  I think it’s got everything, I really do.  I think its got something for everybody.  Mel tells a story for everyone.  He’s not exclusive in how he tells 

a story.  It’s incredibly visceral and emotional.  He deals with themes that are universal and it’s undeniable - the emotional impact of Desmond’s life and what he did, and how started and where he ended.  I ultimately think that people will leave the theater feeling they could be more fully themselves in their lives and the better version of themselves, whatever that means.  It’s a really inspiring story as far as I’m concerned.

GIBSON:  Desmond is awe inspiring.  I mean, wow.  I’m in awe of someone who could do what he did and certainly inspired.  And his actions have inspired others to follow in his footsteps and do almost the same kind of stuff.  There were no guys doing that; no weapons in battle and just 

knew of him and went in, and did the same kinds of things.  

That’s just mind-blowing, our shared experience, the best of us. He is like one of the best of us.  That we can actually look at that example and maybe pinch a modicum of that to be applied to ourselves, is a great thing; awe inspiring.

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