By Skye Huntington

Jennifer Garner is a Hollywood A-lister with multiple film credits to her name. She shot to stardom on her successful turn as Sidney Bristow in the hugely successful television series “Alias” written by J.J. Abrams, who wrote the show with Garner in mind. After that, she caught the eyes of Spielberg who cast her in Catch Me if You Can. Then she took one of her more memorable roles in the iconic rom-com 13 Going on 30. Now this Charleston Virginia native is a household name. She’s also returned to her roots by buying her family’s farm near Locust Grove, Oklahoma. She’s cultivating the land to use for her new line of organic baby food Once Upon a Farm.

She’s returning to the action genre again in her starring role in the movie Peppermint. We got the chance to talk with this powerhouse actress about what attracted her to the role, and how she trained to become the badass she is in this project.

STRIPLV: What appealed to you about this project?

GARNER:   I was super excited the first time I read the script for Peppermint. Because it’s an original story, it’s not based on anything, and that just doesn’t happen anymore. It’s with a strong woman in the middle. I’ve felt for a long time I’ve done action before obviously, but I haven’t done it in so long. I kind of feel like it is a missed opportunity because what would you fight for more than your own family? And I’ve never gotten a chance to play a character with that visceral need to defend or protect or take care of someone in your own family.

STRIPLV: Tell us about the movie.

GARNER: Riley’s husband Christopher is a mechanic, and he is working his tail off. But he so desperately wants to give his family what they don’t have which is financial security. Because it’s right around Christmas, it’s their daughter’s birthday, he flirts with the idea of taking a job that would put him with some unsavory characters, and he would be breaking the law. He ultimately decides not to do it but by the time he’s made that decision the unsavory characters on the other end of the transaction have found out about his possibly doing something against them and then they kill him and his daughter Carly on her birthday night. So, my character Riley watches this happen in front of her. She sees the people who kill her family she loses her mind of course. She is herself injured when she comes to; she immediately wants to make sure that those people are brought to justice and are put in jail.

STRIPLV: Riley goes through a drastic transformation in this film. Can you tell us a little about it?

GARNER: She goes into hiding, she shuts down her heart and she spends the next five years becoming a machine with MMA skills, gun skill, knife skills, the ability to stitch herself back together, the ability to set her own bones, the ability to not feel pain emotionally or physically, to get out there and fight for her daughter. On the fifth anniversary of her daughter’s passing which is also her birthday, she just shows up in LA and is ready to do whatever it is that she needs to do avenging the death of her daughter and her husband.

STRIPLV: Were you looking forward to working with the director Pierre Morel?

GARNER: I was super excited when I first read it. I had a great first meeting with Pierre. I had loved his movie Taken. Because I feel like he had infused all of the action and all of the scenes with a sense of drama and realism.

STRIPLV: So what was it like to work with him?

GARNER: Pierre knows exactly what he wants he is very clear and he has a real eye for action, and for the camera. He and I are always on the same page about the realism. Which I love.

STRIPLV: What was it like returning to the genre of action again?

GARNER: I had not shot a fight since The Kingdom, and my first daughter was starting to crawl on that movie. She’s 12 now so that was 11 plus and that’s a long time to hang up your action chops and try to pull it all back together. But I knew that I could do it. I know how to train. I know the discipline you need. And I knew exactly what I needed to do in order to make it happen.

STRIPLV: Tell us what your training was like.

GARNER: I had never trained in boxing. There was a boxing trainer. I saw him every day for a different hour, and I would box with him. And on the weekends, I would do a few hours with the stunt team. They would come over and take me through the paces. That was boxing, kicking, punching, and then slowly a little choreography was incorporated. And on the side, I was also spending time with the Navy Seals at the gun range. I had worked with them before for different films. So, I had a base understanding of how to use a weapon, how to change a mag. But still, for the fluidity of it, it had been a long time. I just needed to get back out there and do a lot of work.

STRIPLV: How did you identify with your character?

GARNER: I think an empowered woman, someone who takes things in their own hands and fights for what she needs to do. In the end, she leaves quite a bit of carnage. It’s not something I would ever want to emulate, but what’s behind it the fact that she is like I don’t need any of you. I’ve got it. I’m taking care of this. I’m a mom. I’m going to do what I need to do. That was what I was really inspired by. And I feel very much the importance of us doing a good job, me doing a good job and of us selling the hell out of this movie so that people come and see it so that we can continue to stories like this.




By Skye Huntington

Just like Colette, the character she plays in her new intriguing biographical drama, Keira Knightley struggled to express herself as a youngster. Unable to read or write to a recognized standard and, although never officially diagnosed by British Dyslexia Association, the actress battled to overcome the learning difficulty her early teens, and acting was the one thing that she found salvation in.

Given no formal training as an actress, Knightley first came to the fame in 2002 movie Bend It Like Beckham, and after completing her studies in English Literature and Political History, further roles – in the likes of Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Pride and Prejudice (for which she earned Best Actress nominations at the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards in 2006) – saw her installed as one of the UK’s finest acting exports.

After a five-year period during which she worked the stage in the West End while embarking on independent film projects, Knightley returned in The Imitation Game as the cryptanalyst and numismatist Joan Clarke, with Benedict Cumberbatch co-starring as Alan Turing.

Now back in Oscar-winning form, Colette tells the story of a woman – Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette – pushed by her husband to write under his name. Upon the success of her literature, she fights to make her talents her own, challenging gender norms concerning the ability of women to as well as tackling broader gender norms.

Knightley, 33, stars opposite Dominic West in Colette. She is married to former Klaxons member James Righton in May 2013, and together they have a three-year-old daughter.

STRIPLV: What did you learn most from Colette? Playing her, studying her?

KNIGHTLY: Well I loved playing her. It was such a fun, amazing opportunity. You need to play this woman, know who she was – which was a real kind of maverick, a trailblazer. She lived her life the way that she wanted to live it. She lived it unapologetically, she loved who she was, and she had experiences that she wanted to happen. It was almost like she had to make a hole in the world for herself and she did, and I felt very tall when I was playing her. I felt empowered, and that’s what I want people to get when they see it. It’s a really fun film, but ultimately, she’s just cool. It’s lovely portraying that kind of person. That’s the real pleasure of acting. I think all of us, in our own lives, like to live up to an image or an idea or carry ourselves in a certain way. That’s half the fun of what we do in social situations or in being bold, strong or funny parents – there’s a lot of role-play in everyday life, and we all do it. But to play Colette felt like the most fun of them all – a person with so much empowerment and strength, and when you play a character like that you can’t help but allow some of that to rub off on yourself. She is charisma, power, strength, and courage. But, equally, she had this fascinating relationship with her first husband, who took credit for her work. There’s a great biography by Judith Thurman called “Secrets of the Flesh” which was a huge help to me; the film was also an opportunity to dive into Colette’s world and read as many of the novels as possible, which was great.

STRIPLV: What do you like about the period that this film is set in?

KNIGHTLEY: Well, it was a fascinating period, the Belle Époque and there was a sort of sexual revolution going on. In art, in writing, it was an extraordinary time period. But Colette was definitely a rule-breaker, and she lived her life the way that she wanted. The discussion within the film of gender politics, of sexual politics, of feminism, these are the things that we are absolutely still discussing right now. So, that’s why, I think, when I read it I thought: “Wow, this is extraordinary.” You can have something which is set 100 years ago, and yet, we still haven’t figured all of this stuff out. What I will say is they were very different times, but I do admire that era so much, though. In terms of actors, and Hollywood, back then we were allowed our fantasies, and they didn’t have to be sordid, and that’s the kind of place movie stars occupied. They were larger than life and mythical figures. But if you read biographies of stars like Ava Gardner or Bette Davis, they were all alcoholic messes as all actors are meant to be. Today, we want perfection, and yet we want to prove it’s impossible.

STRIPLV: Is there anything that you think you learned about the lead characters which didn’t make it into the final cut of the movie, but you want people to know about them?

KNIGHTLEY: We learned to Polka dance, and we weren’t very good at it, and it didn’t make the film! So, there you go, I did get to do some dancing, but that one got cut out. But I don’t feel like anything else got cut out, actually. I’m also not sure you need to have it as a Blu-Ray extra. But it did break the ice between Dominic and I, so that was good.

STRIPLV: What would say to someone who looked at the poster or watched the trailer and was concerned that it was just another period drama?

KNIGHTLEY: Well, it’s kind of like a Trojan horse of a movie, because you think it’s that and then it just goes right off on another tangent.

STRIPLV: It is crazy how it all aligns, as well. Because you finished filming this before the #MeToo movement really kicked off, so it just feels like such perfect timing.

KNIGHTLEY: You know, the reason that it finally could get made after Wash (Westmoreland, director, and co-screenplay writer) had been trying to make it for 15 years was because, suddenly; just in the last 10 years, we’ve been able to talk about the women’s movement, we’ve been able to talk about feminism again in a way that we hadn’t before that. So, I think that the fact that people were ready to say: “Yes, we’re interested in this topic,” was kind of an indication of where the kind of conversation was going. I mean, yes, obviously I don’t think anybody expected the #MeToo movement to happen in the way that it did and that the conversation would speed up in the way that it has. But it does feel like a very appropriate film for that, but I just think that she’s cool and as a woman, I want to see my heroes. I want to be like: “Ah, I feel inspired and empowered by you,” and I did. I felt like that learning about her, I felt like that playing her, and I hope that people will feel like that watching her.

STRIPLV: Have you ever had a role that just felt – when you look back on it, it really represents where you were at that point in your life?

KNIGHTLEY: No. (Laughs). I mean, I always wanted to be Elizabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice), but I don’t think I was Elizabeth!

STRIPLV: Do you enjoy playing in a period piece, even one like this, that is off at something of a tangent, or do you prefer contemporary?

KNIGHTLEY: I don’t think of them as two different genres. I mean I would really only look for the story or for a character, and it doesn’t really matter when something is set. I enjoy period pieces because I like doing the research that it requires more imagination. You have to imagine the world, the difference in culture and you have to create the entire world, as opposed to today where we know exactly what it is and we know how we behave, we know what we do, history as we know it. That’s kind of easy, and I enjoy the extra work that is required from a period piece. It is a very immersive experience. In fact, when I am in there, I really don’t like coming out of it as it becomes very difficult to suddenly do lots of press, or something else at the same time. So because of that, I can read things, and I know that unless I am really going to get into it, it’s just not going to work. I like fantasy as a dramatic tool because it involves leaving your ordinary way of looking at the world behind. You need to use your imagination to place yourself in the head of someone living in a previous era, and I love being able to do that. The most important thing is I want to repeat myself from one film to the next. I keep looking for roles that require different performances and present different kinds of obstacles.

STRIPLV: Do you ever get caught up with your characters to the point that they stay with you after you’ve finished a film?

KNIGHTLEY: Yes. The worst was when I was playing Anna Karenina. There were many days where I felt angry and irritable because of my feelings about her. I would take her home with me, and that was exhausting, and I often found myself in a very bad mood. On some days I probably wasn’t a very nice person to be around while I was shooting the film. It was one of those roles which I was very glad to be done with once the film was over.

STRIPLV: Do marriage and children change your thinking when it comes to work?

KNIGHTLEY: I think for a while it means you don’t have your foot all the way down on the accelerator. But I really love movies, and I really want to make really excellent movies. And I think that my work improves when I havelife experience. When I don’t go job to job to job, and I take a step back, then come back to it, then I’m the person I want to be on set, which is the positive person, and not the person who’s too tired. And I think that’s very important for me as well.

STRIPLV: Given that you grew up in a theatrical family, was acting your destiny?

KNIGHTLEY: I think so. I’ve been acting since I was six and I knew from that age that it was what I wanted to do in life. I was raised in that world - my dad was an actor, and my mum was both an actor and a writer. You can’t help but be swept away by that creative environment. I remember doing my homework backstage while my dad was rehearsing in the theater and it felt so wonderful to be there. It becomes your little world.

STRIPLV: What was the most important part of your early film education?

KNIGHTLEY: I think because I grew up going to the theater I became enthralled with the stage and with an appreciation for the arts. I also developed a great love of poetry when I was growing up, and a lot of that comes from my mum who would read to me poetry for hours and hours. I still have that sense of joy and fascination when it comes to stories which transport me out of this world. I love the fantasy of it all. I never expected fame and fortune because I knew how hard the business can be. My parents have always been my greatest inspiration, and they have always stood behind me. They have also helped guide me and help me in whatever ways they can and gave me the freedom to me make my own decisions in terms of work. I couldn’t have asked for more support than what they have given me over the years.

STRIPLV: Is there anyone life lesson that your parents gave you and which you feel has been of greatest importance to you?

KNIGHTLEY: A sense of independence. I was raised to have an independent spirit and mind and to learn to make my own way in life. My parents never tried to control me, and that gives you an enormous sense of freedom. It’s almost been intimidating to have been given that kind of personal and creative space - it took me a while before I truly felt as confident as I should have been, perhaps. But I think you learn more and ultimately have a greater sense of self-worth if you are allowed to make your mistakes and evolve with the sense that this is your life and career and you have to take responsibility for it.

STRIPLV: Would you like to also do more theater in the future?

KNIGHTLEY: I hope so. I enjoy theater and the fact you have more control over your performance and can fix things on the stage. Film is a director’s medium – what happens on-set can be very different to what actually appears, and you have to be prepared for the fact your own interpretation of a character may not be the final interpretation, even though you are the actor.

Sometimes the result is perfect; other times someone has taken a different slant, and you’re not quite sure who you are watching, even though you know all the lines. Film, when it works, is such a fucking miracle. Film is always a guessing game. You don’t have the audience there, so you’re always wondering if it’s really working.

STRIPLV: Do you feel that your own life has suffered a certain degree of mythmaking and then the process of tearing that façade down?

KNIGHTLEY: It’s the nature of the game. When you grow up in the business, you are aware of the celebrity culture and how you are going to enjoy moments where everything seems to be beautiful, and then people will try to take you down from those highs. It’s not something you can control, and so I just try to do my work and ignore what’s written about me. I have tried to live as quietly as possible but without worrying too much about where I go or what I want to do with my day. I’ve never been someone who wants to party a lot or go to clubs, and I have a life very separate from the film business - that also gives you a lot of perspectives that you can apply to your work. I think you add depth and insight to your work while you make your way through life and be as observant and curious as you can be.

STRIPLV: Is it easy being KeiraKnightleydespite the media attention?

KNIGHTLEY: I don’t have much choice, do I? (Laughs) I have a very good life, a wonderful family and I’ve been extraordinarily fortunate to be able to do interesting work and get to travel and explore so many different things about the world.




By Lincoln D. Conway

In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black and two-time Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett star in The House with a Clock in Its Walls.

The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro), who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But this new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead.

Based on the beloved children’s classic written by John Bellairs, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is directed by master frightener Eli Roth and written by Eric Kripke. The film was produced by legendary Steven Spielberg’s company Amblin Entertainment.

Black talked to STRIPLV about his enthusiasm and energy for the film, as well as starring opposite Cate Blanchett, his love of kids’ stories, food, travel, and being “Jack Black.”

STRIPLV: How was it working with Cate on this brilliant film?
BLACK: It was great fun. Cate is an incredible human being, and I am of the opinion no future film is worth making if it doesn’t have Cate Blanchett in it. There is such fantasy adventure in this movie yet, as an actor, you can only simulate so much of that yourself. When you are looking at who is going to star alongside you, you want that person to bring forward all of the horror and mystery and humor and fear that you aren’t able to provide at times, and in Cate, I really had that. We both fed off each other’s craziness, I think, to produce something special. It’s a bit embarrassing just how much in love I am with Cate, actually.
STRIPLV: What was the pressure like on this shoot?
BLACK: The shoot was fine but, you know, there is a pantheon of films that people have spoken about in relation to this because it has come from Steven Spielberg’s stable. So you’re talking ET, The Goonies, Jurassic Park, Hook, all that sort of era of film. I think we’ve come away from that a bit in recent times because animation has taken over so many of those potential stories. But now here we are returning to old-fashioned horror comedy film-making, so it’s natural to think people will look for comparisons. And hey, if we get even close to those sorts of movies, what an achievement that would be.
STRIPLV: Was it scary to film?
BLACK: Sure it was. Even with the CGI in place, there were so many other elements that were truly freaky. In terms of the audience, I think you need to go a fair way these days to freak kids out; kids these days are tough – they’re really tough. They can handle it, I promise.
STRIPLV: How should we approach watching it then?

The heart and soul is to embrace your inner weirdness. Don’t be ashamed to be embarrassed by your uniqueness, because that’s actually the source of your magic power. In this film, I am the teacher of freedom and of fantasy, and that’s a great feeling to give to kids and adults alike.

BLACK: The heart and soul is to embrace your inner weirdness. Don’t be ashamed to be embarrassed by your uniqueness, because that’s actually the source of your magic power. In this film, I am the teacher of freedom and of fantasy, and that’s a great feeling to give to kids and adults alike.
STRIPLV: Are you a good teacher in real life?
BLACK: Ha. Well, I’ve been trying to teach my boys how to play instruments. I’ve discovered I’m not a very good teacher actually. It takes a certain temperament and patience that I don’t know if I’m gifted with. It’s kind of like in the film; I’m still learning that lesson myself.
STRIPLV: Speaking of kids, you really bonded with a little boy in Uganda for Comic Relief a few years back. Have you been in touch with him since?
BLACK: I haven’t talked to Felix, but I’ve been in contact with the people from the organization because I want to send him to a boarding school. That is the plan, and I’m financing that, but that said that he needs more time at the shelter to acclimate before he goes to a more intense schooling programme. I definitely feel like I have unfinished business there. I’d like to go back.
STRIPLV: Do kids always want to be with you? Does the Jack Black magic translate wherever you are?
BLACK: I don’t think of my thing as a magic thing. I’m just sort of a clown so kids like when I make crazy faces; it’s the international language of clowning comedy. That’s why in Uganda I got so emotional - these kids that were in horrible situations; really in danger. And when you see these kids with these incredible senses of humor and just amazing little people, it breaks your heart when you realize that at the end of the day you’re going to go home and they’re still going to be in this horrible situation. It was tough.
STRIPLV: Has fatherhood changed your perspective?
BLACK: I think, naturally, you tend to steer towards movies that have more relevance for your kids. It’s like you have an extra reason now, a new audience. Luckily for me, most of my movies were for kids anyway, or big kids, perhaps, so the back catalog is holding out!
STRIPLV: When you’re allowed time off from work, where do you like to travel on vacation?
BLACK: I don’t travel for fun really. I like to stay at home. There’s lots of travel. I like traveling for business, that’s the way I like to travel. Because if I travel for vacation, I always get a little anxious. I feel like I am wasting time and my life is running out and I have got to get back home to work. It’s strange. Relaxing on vacation is a skill, and I don’t know how to do it.  
STRIPLV: Do you like to stay busy?
BLACK: Yes and no. Working with my band, we have this festival that we put on every year with music and comedy, and then I had a great experience doing TV. But doing all these movies and raising the boys, I’m going a little bit crazy, to be honest with you. It’s a bit too much.  
STRIPLV: What do you personally geek over? Is it music?
BLACK: Yeah, it is music. I mean if I see, when my band Tenacious D play some of these festivals, I will go around and watch my favorite acts, and I will geek out hard and if someone that I have never seen and if I get a chance to see them perform live, that is always amazing to me.
STRIPLV: Touring is tough and dirty. Do you take baths?

Who has got time for baths anymore? You know what I like though are those bath bombs. When I do take a bath, if I am ever sore, my muscles are sore after a hard night’s rocking, then I will maybe take a bath, and I will throw one of those balls in there, those bath bombs and let it sizzle in there, but no, I don’t take baths that much.

BLACK: No. Who has got time for baths anymore? You know what I like though are those bath bombs. When I do take a bath, if I am ever sore, my muscles are sore after a hard night’s rocking, then I will maybe take a bath, and I will throw one of those balls in there, those bath bombs and let it sizzle in there, but no, I don’t take baths that much.
STRIPLV: Can you tell me your favorite meal?
BLACK: My favorite meal is a cheeseburger. It’s the perfect sandwich; it’s the only real American contribution to world cuisine. And the best is Apple Pan. But there’s also one in the valley that no one knows about, well that’s not true, Bill’s Burgers. On Oxnard. Sushi is my second favorite. SugarFish. Ever been to SugarFish? It’s a chain, they got one La Brea, they got one on Ventura, and they got on in downtown LA and Beverly Hills. Oh my God and they all are exactly the same and the recipe of the rice, it’s got a sweet vinegar, so good. Oh! SugarFish, that’s the way to my heart.
STRIPLV: Who is your favorite actor?
BLACK: My favorite actor is probably Daniel Day-Lewis, even though I think I only like him when he plays old Americans, like Abraham Lincoln, or that guy from There Will Be Blood. And it’s about the same time period, so what’s going on? Or, that other Scorsese movie, what was that? Old American guy! He’s so good.




By Frank Ariveso

For a man who has been through so much, Tom Hardy still knows his mind when it comes to the challenges of movie-making. Legend, he says was “the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced as an actor – it’s normally hard to play one character, but having to play two characters in the same film and build the relationship between them is about as hard as anything you could imagine.” As for Dunkirk, the 41-year-old admitted he was torn in half by the reality of what our forefathers achieved, with the film and its people “staying with me for life.”

In 2015, Hardy proved his studio mettle in Mad Max: Fury Road, and has otherwise distinguished himself in a series of indie films, including Locke, The Drop, Bronson and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He is also known for his work as the villainous Bane in The Dark Knight Returns.

Now, in new film Venom, Hardy acquires the powers of a symbiote and is required to release his alter-ego Venom to save his life, in an all-action horror-strewn movie that combines sci-fi terror with superhero ethics and CGI.

It’s an interesting diversion for Hardy who has again moved away from script-led roles, in what feels like a nicely timed build-up to next year’s Mad
sequel, The Wasteland.

Hardy is definitely back on the rise, following his well-publicized early career demons, the like of which would give even Venom a run for his money. After checking into rehab, Hardy has been clean and sober for well over a decade and said he “intends to stay that way.” He lives in London together with his actress wife Charlotte Riley, whom he first met on the set of Wuthering Heights in 2009. The couple has a two-year-old, and in July 2018 they announced that Riley is pregnant again. Hardy is also proud father to a 10-year-old son, Louis, from his former girlfriend, Rachael Speed.

STRIPLV: How did you approach your character, Eddie Brock?

HARDY: I think the important thing for me, at the start, was really to understand where the character was coming from and not obsess over what we knew he was going to morph into. And by that I mean he doesn’t go out to be a superhero; instead, this is something that happens to him, and you see how he deals with that. He has to find a balance with someone living rent-free within his body.

STRIPLV: How was the challenge of representing two different characters in the movie?

HARDY: Well obviously it’s something I’ve done before, with Legend, and I must say that this time around it was a challenge I was looking forward to, probably more than last time because at least on this occasion the characters were so different. Playing Reggie Kray and Ronnie Kray became really confusing in terms of separating the two, but this time it’s Jekyll and Hyde— two very different people within the same body.

STRIPLV: Regarding the technical elements, was it easy to film?

HARDY: I’ve said before it’s much like a kind of Tetris puzzle— very geeky stuff, but I enjoyed it. As long as I’ve got the guideline in my ear, then I’m okay. It looks weird from the outside if you don’t hear what I’m hearing. It just looks like a man talking to himself, which is kind of Eddie Brock’s problem really for a lot of the transference of the symbiote. In a way that’s what makes it quite funny really. We see this poor guy talking to himself, and that’s what the crew saw for four or five months, this poor guy struggling with himself.

STRIPLV: Did you feel you had this character in you?

HARDY: Oh yes, undoubtedly. I knew I had Venom and could do it justice. I’ve never doubted that. It is another step up the ladder but it’s such a deep, intricate character, and although he’s helped along by special effects, that will only ever get you so far. I knew I could take care of the rest. Having the responsibility for such a brilliant Marvel character is a nice responsibility, and I’ve thrived off that. The people who love this genre are so passionate, so knowledgeable and so supportive, and it was really easy to take that and push the whole thing forward with the support of those folks. That has been a great feeling.

STRIPLV: You are noted for playing dark and dangerous characters. Is that your preference?

HARDY: (Laughs) I have a weakness for the darker side of things. I’m very suspicious of people who present themselves as noble and virtuous. I hate that kind of sanctimonious posturing, and those kinds of people are often putting on a mask to hide. I also believe that the protagonist needs to be a more paradoxical figure filled with contradictions and ambiguities even though his underlying strength is his nobility. That’s what makes great characters.

STRIPLV: So you’re not worried about your developing reputation for violent and tough-guy roles?

HARDY: I’m the furthest thing from being a violent or tough guy. I don’t think I look menacing at all, but I’m an actor, and obviously, directors have seen something in me that translates well to these kinds of roles. I have an inner intensity, and I learned how to take care of myself when I was younger, and that got me into a lot of trouble. I went to public school, and although it wasn’t anything like Prince Harry’s school, it was fairly posh although I’m not. I enjoy and appreciate the recognition for my work, but I can’t fathom being famous. I don’t ever want to see myself as being different or more privileged than anyone else. It’s fun and cool to have this attention, but we’re all human beings, and I can’t imagine leading a vastly different or glamorous life. It doesn’t mean anything, really. It’s just an image projected onto you, and you’re fucked if you let it get inside your head.

STRIPLV: Do you ever get lost in character?

HARDY: Never. It’s all articulated and carefully worked out, so all you need is an inspiration and some alchemy. Nothing is left to chance, for me, I just focus. You may have lost someone very dear to you, or you may have the worst hangover in the world, but when you get on the set, you have to concentrate on just one thing, and that’s your work. Remember, you don’t have to be in trauma to act a 

trauma. It’s called “acting.” Making movies is all an illusion, isn’t it? Something that is created on the day— you build up an emotion and switch it on when it’s needed— white-hot anger, whatever is required. What’s the hardest battle in my own life? My ego, and keeping it in check. Now that’s a real performance! At least now it’s not influenced by alcohol— that’s in the past. Nick (Nolte) went through his own problems with drinking not so long ago, and we did talk a bit about our experiences— but not that much. If we’d wanted to really discuss things, we would both have attended an AA meeting together. But yes, we felt comfortable reflecting about our past, and that was all part of the preparation. I have absolutely no time whatsoever for people who are not prepared on a film set, or in the theatre, who just seem to think that they can turn up and get on with it. Preparation is everything, and it is only when you have everything ready that you can turn the “on” switch, not before.

STRIPLV: The admiration for your recent work has been coming from all sides, particularly your father.

HARDY: Well, I like being able to impress him. I also have so much respect for him, and I’m grateful that we’ve been able to grow closer together again and in a completely different way from when I was growing up. We can have conversations that are more like two men talking to each other and also like father and son.

STRIPLV: Do you credit your father for your love of historical dramas? After all, he co-wrote “Taboo.”

HARDY: Yes. He helped me try to break with the way a lot of historical dramas tend to be done in Britain. They’re usually too ideologically correct, ceremonious and false. I wanted to break with that and do something more visceral. What we wanted to do was tell a story that felt more authentic and departed from that classic kind of storytelling without losing that sense of history and those elements that formed our society and culture.

STRIPLV: It must be comforting to have sorted out things between the two of you having had a turbulent relationship with your father as a teenager and as a young man?

HARDY: That’s water under the bridge. I’m past 40, I have two kids and my relationship with Chips has changed radically. As an only son, I had this deep need to rebel against daddy. While I was growing up, my father worked very hard and usually came home late, and I didn’t see him very much. Then I was sent to boarding school and, for a long time, I was looking for a father figure. But my mistake was that I chose the wrong people to hang around with who I thought were giving me a sense of security. My father and I only started to talk again and become close during the last 14 years or so. I needed to learn a lot about life and to have my own children changed me forever. Now Chips and I are able to sit down and talk about everything, and when we work together it’s not like father, and son, it’s more like the spirit of two artists collaborating.

STRIPLV: How has having children changed the way you see or appreciate your father?

HARDY: It’s made me see my time growing up and that part of my life with my dad in a completely different way. It’s opened up my eyes, and things have become much clearer.

When you start raising your own kids, you learn very quickly how fucking hard it is. (Laughs) There are no guidebooks that are going to tell you how to be the perfect parent, and it can be really tough. But it’s also the most awesome and rewarding experience of your life.

STRIPLV: You’ve described your family as your sanctuary. Is it a relief for you to be able to escape playing villains and get away from the dark side?

HARDY: I’m not dark at all in my own life. I love my family, my home life, and I love my dogs. If I’m working on a film, I live in that world that I’m creating through my character, and that’s where I need to be. But once it’s over, it’s like the stroke of midnight, and the carriage turns into a pumpkin and I get to go back to my real world, which is my family.

STRIPLV: How do you assess your decision to “choose life”?

HARDY: I felt like I was going to struggle in life if I didn’t know how to look after myself, so I found out how to look after myself. I ended up in a lot of trouble. I made a lot of mistakes in my life. I’m very lucky to be alive.

STRIPLV: Do you ever “open up”?

HARDY: Often, when I do it properly. But only for my friends and family. No one else.

STRIPLV: Do you feel any sense of redemption in having overcome some dark passages in your life and now having the light shine on you?

HARDY: You’re making this appear very apocalyptic and Shakespearean. I suppose there is something to that. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, and I often think to myself that I’m very lucky to be alive. My parents suffered a lot with me, and it was hard for them to see me get into trouble and seem lost in life. But they stuck with me the way families do. I take my responsibility as a father very seriously. I love being a dad, and having Louis in my life changed my perspective on a lot of things. You stop thinking selfishly, and you dedicate yourself to the happiness and well-being of your child. Because of work, I can’t see him as often 

as I would like, but I’m trying to earn the kind of money now that will give him security. I do worry about being separated from him though, and I want to be able to spend more time with him in the future when my schedule isn’t so crazy. Even if my career would suddenly fall apart, I could be very happy just being a dad and living a much simpler life.

STRIPLV: Do you consider yourself a survivor?

HARDY: I’m lucky to be alive. I’m constantly fighting the 400-pound orangutan that is running amok in my brain and trying to kill me. It’s the self-sabotage side of me that I have to keep fighting. It’s part of my addictive personality and something I will probably always have to be on guard against. But it feeds my work, and I confine it to that space instead of letting it ruin my life. Having to deal with that makes you stronger— it makes you want to be better.

STRIPLV: Have you heard the Brando comparisons?

HARDY: I can’t even entertain the idea. Marlon Brando is a legend. I haven’t even seen his best films except for Apocalypse Now and a few others. I grew up admiring actors like Robert De Niro and Gary Oldman. They’re more my inspiration for what I do.

STRIPLV: You’ve done them all, so how do you compare developing, producing, and acting?

HARDY: I usually don’t relax when I’m working, but every film is different. What was easier about doing “Taboo,” for instance, is that shooting in London meant I was able to go home every night and spend time with my family. My youngest was born three weeks before we started shooting “Taboo,” and the conditions worked out. Other times you might have an easier movie but really challenging surroundings. You never know what you’re going to get.

STRIPLV: Finally, what’s this Mad Max canine connection I’ve heard about?

HARDY: (Laughs) When I was 17, I was given a dog named Mad Max, although I wasn’t that fond of the name because the dog (a bull terrier/Labrador mix) was so friendly. Then, 17 years later my dog died, and I got the call that I’m going to playing Mad Max. That was kind of eerie.

I love dogs. I’ve loved dogs since I was a kid. I loved this one pit bull puppy in particular, and I just had him around me all the time. They’re a very maligned breed. What really touches me about dogs is how loyal they are. How they will stay at your side all day long just because they have this affection and attachment to you.




By Skye Huntington

Bradley Cooper may currently be one of Hollywood’s biggest draws, but there remains a pleasant, grounded quality afforded to one who didn’t get his big break until well into his mid-30s with The Hangover. Since then, he’s gone onto to star in a slew of box office blockbusters, from The A-Team, Limitless and Guardians of the Galaxy and to picking up three consecutive Oscar nominations for his efforts in Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and American Sniper.

Naturally, his love life is a prime target for the press, and after an ill-fated brief marriage to actress Jennifer Esposito, Bradley has dated Renee Zellweger, Zoe Saldana, Suki Waterhouse and is currently romancing model Irina Shayk. But while frantically hounded by the paparazzi, the level-headed actor seems to take it all in stride.

In this interview he talks about the brilliant A Star is Born, the upcoming remake he stars in alongside Lady Gaga that is already set to challenge box office records globally.

Bradley also opens up to talk extensively about his passion for food, his work ethic and the vagaries of fame.

STRIPLV: After directing, writing, producing and starring in this film and you’ve also just done a movie with Clint Eastwood, where do you want your career to go next?

COOPER: Well, the first is time. I am 43 years old and time. I don’t know how you feel about it, but that’s the biggest currency, and I just want to make sure that I utilize that time to the best degree possible. So, this movie was all said and done probably four years of my life and every minute and second was worth it. I just hope to be able to be a part of projects that I love as much as I loved this one and if I can continue to do that and people like Warner Brothers are willing to allow me to tell stories, then that’s what I’ll do.

STRIPLV: In the movie, there is a touching scene when Ally, played by your co-star Lady Gaga, for the first time plays her own music to the public. What was this scene like for you? I heard it was extraordinary.

COOPER: It was special indeed, but I wish the audience could have been there to actually watch it happen because while we were filming this movie, we had the opportunity of watching and being a part of watching Lady Gaga sing every day. Literally, the whole crew would sit back, and we were all kind of forgetting that we were doing a job. Every time she sang, we were just sort of sitting there watching it and feeling very grateful that we were there at this moment to watch this incredible artist do her thing and that really never got old. It was insane. All of a sudden, she starts and, you know, the temperature in the room changes.

STRIPLV: How scary was it for you when Lady Gaga suggested that you sing live in the film?

COOPER: You know, this is the thing about people needing people. She made me feel so comfortable from the first day we met. In fact, we sang together that very first 15 to 20 minutes we knew each other, and I’d be lying if I said that I was nervous because she made me feel so comfortable, she really did. She’s very present and warm, and when you see an artist of that caliber treat you like a peer, it’s very emboldening. So, the true answer is I didn’t feel scared because I felt like I was protected all of the time.

STRIPLV: When you got to sing at Coachella, is it the cathartic thrill that just doesn’t compare to anything else?

COOPER: Talk about Gaga as an actress, to have a world superstar musician who just did the half-time show at the Superbowl, to have her act— because that is major acting— she’s stepping on a stage for the first time, blew me away as a director and as a fellow actor watching her because I fully believed that she had never stepped on a stage of that scope and we didn’t do that one time. We shot that over two or three days and every single time it felt fresh and new and I felt like I was dragging this person very reluctantly, who by the way fell on the floor most of the takes because she wouldn’t let go of my hand. That was an incredible experience as an actor to the meta of it, for me as a human being, watching this person who I also know who she is, acting in such a way that I fully believe that she’s never stepped on that stage. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that, I’ll tell you that from an acting point of view.

STRIPLV: How does fame condition your daily life?

COOPER: The thing that I love about Jackson Maine’s character is that he really doesn’t think about fame at all. The opening scene of the movie is actually at a sold-out venue, and you get the sense that there’s nothing dwindling on the outside. It’s maybe on the inside when you see him go into that car and where you may be expecting somebody to be filled with elation after just coming off this very bombastic opening. He seems quite melancholic and takes a swig from a bottle of gin that’s in the, and that was one of the things that I wanted to portray with this character— that he is operating from a completely different viewpoint, so that’s not something that he’s dealing with. He could have gone on and sold venues, and he didn’t have any financial problems, and if he’d got his own mind straight and worked on himself, he could have continued to perform and be very successful. Me personally, the thing about fame that I find fascinating is the sonic element of it and that’s what we have in the movie. There’s tons of noise and then all of a sudden, you’re alone. I didn’t want to have any sort of paparazzi in the movie, but more to capture what it feels like from an experiential point. And that’s why the movie has that rhythm.

STRIPLV: What new things did you learn on this project?

COOPER: The best thing that you can do in terms of storytelling or whatever piece of art that you’re trying to create is to do something that challenges you to such a degree that you learn something at every turn. I have to say that I would be here for two hours talking to you about all of the things that I have learned in this experience. That all came across because somebody believed in me and she believed in me, and I think that that is the key. Even getting this movie made, our executive producer Sue Kroll believed in this movie when maybe not everyone else did, and she is absolutely the reason that this movie was able to be made, single-handedly. It’s all about people believing in you, and I think that if I could go on and have another experience where I’m working with somebody who I feel believes in me that much, I think that’s why you have an opportunity to learn and grow because you’re willing to face your fear. Learning usually comes with facing fear, and I certainly faced it singing and directing and writing a movie, for sure.

STRIPLV: How about some of your stylistic choices behind the camera in terms of the way to design the film?

COOPER: Sure. I mean, there’s a lot to talk about, but I will just make it simple. The main thing was probably six years ago when I was at a Metallica concert, and I had met Lars Ullrich the night before, and I told him that I was a huge fan and he said: “Come to our concert.” I had always been in the crowd before that, and so we were with him and his father, and we were behind the drum kit and I saw the scope of it and I think that was the first time that I thought, wow, this composition is incredible, and it’s not what many people feel. And, you know, the term “That guy’s a rock star” is assigned to people when they’re not even in music. So, that’s the ultimate high, what is it like to be on a stage performing music. So, that’s where the idea compositionally was born of, always being subjective. In the movie, you’re always on the stage, and the dilemma was, can we get scope by maintaining the camera and the point of view on the stage. That was one of the major things I wanted to do. I mean, light, the colors red and blue have their own story point throughout the film, the certain way that characters are cut off, sonically I mean, there’s a lot of stuff. One of my favorite things in the movie compositionally is that she’s a star before she even knows it. So, the movie treats her like a star in the bathroom at the bottom of this hotel because she walks up and the frame is set as if she’s on stage, but she doesn’t even know it yet. I just fell in love with her face and eyes— and that wasn’t anything other than I just wanted to be as close as possible in shooting it, quite frankly. (Laughs) But what the story points to that is that Jackson is constantly avoiding the camera, and because she’s such a pure artist and a pure soul, to just be able to be right there in front of it.

STRIPLV: Did you watch the Cukor version of A Star is Born from 1954? If so, is your version any sort of homage to that film?

COOPER: Yeah, that George Cukor film is incredible. James Mason and Judy Garland. That movie slays me. And actually, Ally walking up the ramp singing that prelude to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” was our way of, you know, paying respect to that film, and then having the title come across that was an attempt to sort of bow down to that film. We also shoot in the Shrine. That the last scene is in the Shrine Auditorium, which is where Judy Garland’s 20-minute musical sort of interval occurs in that film, so that was a very special place to be able to shoot.

STRIPLV: Could you tell us about your scenes in the film with Sam Elliott? Because they are incredible.

COOPER: Yeah, if he said no [to being in the film] then I would have had a major problem because I wrote that for him, the whole story, around the fact that he would do it. I had always been a fan of Sam Elliott, huge; I wanted to be Sam Elliott, and he was kind enough to come over for dinner. I told him the sort of crazy idea that my character is his younger brother and we have different mothers, and that I stole his voice and that he would be a resentful person, and that’s how he dealt with the traumatic occurrence with their family. I really wanted to watch a character with that power play someone who has allowed bitterness and resentment to rule him for his life. I thought that would be a very interesting challenge for Sam and one that he could crush. That said, every time that he was on set and every time that he opened his mouth, it was a bit akin to watching Stephanie [Gaga] sing and act, it really was. I mean, that scene in the end when they’re on the couch— we shot that on the last day, and that was quite something. Every time that I got to work with him was a real privilege, and I thought, thank God that I am here right now.

STRIPLV: Did you know that both you and Lady Gaga have Italian roots and heritage and, if so, did this help you connect?

COOPER: I didn’t even know that beforehand that she was Italian, no. I’m half Italian, and actually, the character’s name is Ally Campaña which my mother’s maiden name was Campaña, and then when they went to Ellis Island, they changed it to Campano. But when we first met, you know, after 10 minutes that we were eating homemade food that she’d cooked in the kitchen. I love to eat, and yeah, that was actually a huge bond, the fact that we brought from the East coast Italian-American families. So we had a real sort of synchronicity on that level just from our upbringing.

STRIPLV: So it’s well-known that you’re a big foodie.

COOPER: I love food. Eating it, I love all kinds of food. I love pizza. I love pizza too much. I could eat it all day every day. Growing up in an Italian household, my grandmother was an amazing cook, and the food was highly significant in my family. I love to cook for myself. I’m always cooking for friends.

STRIPLV: Do you have a specialty?

COOPER: No, not really. I’ve learned a lot, but it’s having the confidence to repeat it in my own kitchen.

STRIPLV: You grew up in a family where you really experienced the joy of cooking, didn’t you?

COOPER: At our house, the kitchen was the center of activity. I spent a lot of time watching my Italian mother and grandmother prepare these incredible dishes. I grew up in a world where everything was based on food and our conversations 

revolved around what we are going to eat, what we have just eaten, and what we are going to put in the freezer to eat tomorrow.

STRIPLV: What were some of your favorite dishes that your mother and grandmother prepared?

COOPER: My mother made this incredible roast beef, and my grandmother would prepare the most stunning cheesecake and the most unforgettable and delicious ravioli. Those were the kinds of dishes that inspired my love of cooking and also wanting to know how to prepare food myself. Cooking has always been a big part of my life, and it still is. What I’ve learned most over the years is the level of perfection and execution that is involved in the preparation of food at the top level. I’ve also learned that you should always have a spoon handy and never stop tasting.

STRIPLV: As a teenager, you worked in restaurants?

COOPER: I was 15 when I started cleaning tables at a Greek restaurant in Philadelphia and then at 18 just before I started at college I was working as a prep cook at an Italian seafood restaurant in Somers Point, New Jersey. Being the low man on the kitchen crew, a lot of yelling and screaming was directed at me. (Laughs) That was where you learn to deal with the stress and pressure that comes from working very hard in very hot conditions.

STRIPLV: What does cooking mean to you, ultimately?

COOPER: I love to cook! I like to cook every day, and I get so much pleasure from it. I grew up with a great appreciation of cooking. There’s so much joy for me that comes with looking at the ingredients, preparing a dish, and then plating the food. It’s something extraordinarily beautiful for me.

STRIPLV: Not good for keeping in shape though.

COOPER: No a love of food doesn’t really do you any favors on screen. It was funny when we were doing Burnt— while filming that I was in the process of losing weight to do the Elephant Man. I was trying to lose something like forty pounds. So I’m turning up every day to do a cooking movie, where Marcus Wareing, one of the world’s best chefs, was cooking for us. It’s funny actually if you watch the film, you’ll see in certain scenes my face was a couple of inches wider because we shot out of sequence. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: You are renowned for almost having your next project lined up, and the one after that. On top of stints in the West End, why do you pack in so much? Is it a fear that it could all end tomorrow?

COOPER: It’s because I know what it’s like not to work. It’s a struggling industry, and you never know what’s around the corner. I think that’s true of any job, so it’s a badge of honor being called a busy actor. I know so many who still struggle, and I know what it’s like. It took me years to get to where I am today, and I am so unbelievably grateful for the opportunities coming my way. It just wouldn’t feel right turning any of them down, so the good ones, I want to do them all and keep working with great actors and directors. I’ve always been very ambitious, and I’m aware that in this business you need to make the most of your time because success doesn’t last forever. I want to work as hard as possible and have as much fun as I can doing something I love very much. I always dreamed of having these kinds of opportunities, and I want to achieve as much as I can for as long as I can keep working at this level.

STRIPLV: Were you always a big dreamer?

COOPER: I’ve always been someone who’s had big dreams, always. But there’s never been any intentional planning towards movie stardom. For me, it’s just stay healthy, basically, and I know this won’t last so enjoy every day so enjoy each and every day. It would be ungrateful not to.

STRIPLV: Do you ever lose your temper?

COOPER: No. I don’t get angry very easily, and I don’t like to yell. But I do get upset when people show a lack of respect to others. That drives me crazy, and I will always react to that. I also hate it when people waste time or don’t take things as seriously as they need to, because I believe in working hard and making the most out of life.

STRIPLV: What ultimately gives you the most satisfaction in life?

COOPER: It’s doing a good day’s work and feeling that I’ve given it my all. It’s also working with talented and interesting people and being able to create something meaningful together.

STRIPLV: You mentioned working with same actors again and again, and Robert De Niro is one who’ve you’ve worked with repeatedly. Does that feel surreal to you?

COOPER: Completely surreal. I see him as a man now, that myth is utterly broken. He is my friend, which is, in itself, a very surreal occurrence. I remember he came to my grad school and I asked him a question, and it was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life. It was like a beam of light shot through my stomach when he looked at me, and I used that as fuel for years when I would put myself on the line for something. When I would get rejected and was getting turned down over and over,  I’d think to the reception I got from Robert De Niro that day, and it would keep me going.

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