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CHRIS HEMSWORTH - UNAFFECTED

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CHRIS HEMSWORTH - UNAFFECTED

By Louis Jackman

It’s the elephant in the room. Publicists at movie junkets the world over are working overtime to make sure the talent aren’t quizzed about the accusations surrounding producer, Harvey Weinstein. Understandably, they don’t want their clients put into an awkward position, considering all of Hollywood has worked with him at some point or another. But when I tentatively bring it up with Chris Hemsworth, he delivers a very considered, thoughtful response though you can tell the Australian actor wants to tread lightly on the subject. Everyone does. “It’s awful, it’s awful. It’s so terrible,” he says. “My heart goes out to the women affected, and I have huge admiration for the bravery and courage. And hopefully the truth will stop anything like that happening again, that’s my hope.”
It’s a classy, poignant statement from the Melbourne superstar who’s easily surpassed Tom Hanks and Hugh Jackman as the nicest man in Hollywood. Refreshingly unaffected by the spoils of the industry, the ludicrously handsome 34-year-old remains open and frank during his promotional duties, always up for a joke, always self-deprecating. And today, publicizing his latest outing as Norse god Thor, is no different.


Throughout our chat, the star touches base on hair loss, flashing the flesh and keeping the spark in his marriage to Spanish siren, Elsa Pataky. He outs Avengers co-stars Mark Ruffalo and Chris Evans as rampant divas and brands Wonder Woman his favorite superhero. He talks kids and parenting, trying to keep a balance and even reveals his anxieties over departing the Marvel universe, whenever that may be. It’s like catching up with an old friend who just happens to be playing the newly shorn King of Asgard who finds himself in hot water when faced against the Goddess of Death Hela (played with wicked genius by Cate Blanchett). He chats about his fears working with Blanchett and why shooting in Australia meant the world to him.  

It’s not enough that Chris Hemsworth is one of Hollywood’s most handsome leading men - he also has to have the best body this side of Dwayne Johnson. This autumn, the 33-year-old Hemsworth returned to action for the fifth time as Thor, the Avengers’ Norse God, arguably the most popular characters in the billion-dollar Marvel Comic universe.


This time out, Thor has seen his blonde locks chopped off and been stripped of his mighty hammer while imprisoned on the other side of the universe. This pits him in a race against time to return to Asgard and stop the ruthless Hela (Cate Blanchett, in her Marvel debut), the Goddess of Evil, from bringing about Ragnarok – the destruction of his planet and the Asgardian civilization. Along the way, he must engage in a terrific gladiatorial combat against former Avenger’s ally, the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo).


“A lot of us thought that we needed to push things in a new direction,” Hemsworth says. “So I called up Taika and told him we have got to do something to make (the new Thor film) look different. The first idea I pitched was where we shaved the locks off. So we cut Thor’s hair and made him look more gladiatorial.”


“I was getting sick of myself playing Thor as a stoic, true blue superhero.” So when it came to shooting Thor: Ragnarok, the Australian heartthrob’s fifth time in the guise of the noble Norse God, he and director Taika Waititi set out to make Thor less predictable and more outgoing. 

“The first (Thor) film we made was hugely exciting and amazing, and we built the character from that point onwards,” Hemsworth says. “I did a few more after that, and it was all a lot of fun. I just became a little sick with myself, and what I was doing and the character became too familiar. I felt I had built these walls up, what the expectations about this character were and what he could and couldn’t do. So on this film, we just broke the mold and threw anything that was familiar out the window and tried something different. It’s quite hard to play a stoic and stern still hero, especially because that’s not so much my nature and now he’s becoming a 

little looser and closer to who I am. There is a much more unpredictable tone and quality to Thor’s world now, and it’s more fun.”

Meanwhile, Hemsworth embarked on yet another six-month-long extreme training programme with the help of his personal fitness coach, Luke Zocchi, whom Chris describes as “the world’s best trainer.”


Zocchi and the 6’3” Hemsworth have developed an awe-inspiring regimen that combines cardio, strength, and resistance exercises to help Chris achieve his superhero-like physique. According to Hemsworth, it’s all a matter of putting in the time and having the discipline to stick to it: “I try to mix things up as much as I can. I do a lot of boxing, surfing and lots of protein and weights.”


The routine that Hemsworth follows, some of which he has revealed on YouTube, amounts to a staggering high-intensity training session that begins with barbell curls, intense cycling, and powerful resistance work involving bungees. From there they move on to an intricate series of choreographed core routines designed to build massive pecs and sculpted abs.


The star lives in Byron Bay Australia with his wife Elsa Pataky and their three kids, India who is 5, and twins, Sasha and Tristan who are both 3. 

 

STRIPLV: What kind of strategy did you have to shake things up when it came to Thor’s universe?

HEMSWORTH: We wanted to give things a unique feel and go in a new direction. I think we did as much as we could with the way Thor evolved in the previous films and so we tried to improvise a lot more this time around. The tone is different, and we’ve tried to push the envelope more. So far the response we’ve (from fans who have seen the trailer) has been incredible.

STRIPLV: How do you reflect back on your time thus far as Thor and what you’re hoping to take the character in the future?
HEMSWORTH: I’ve played this character five times, and for me personally I got a bit bored with myself. We agreed that if we were going to make a third Thor, we had to experiment and take it to the next level. So we knew we had to change his world and what you’re going to see is a very different Thor.

STRIPLV: So it’s you and Mark together again, do you miss the other Avengers? 

HEMSWORTH: No. It’s retribution. Pure retribution. They all went off to do Civil War, and we weren’t invited. So we got together and have made what is probably going to be the biggest Marvel movie ever. I hope. (Laughs). I remember doing the press for Age of Ultron and just kept hearing Downey and Chris Evans and Scarlett saying, Civil War, Civil War” while Mark and I were kicking dust on the sides.

STRIPLV: Well who cares, you have Cate Blanchett on your team.

HEMSWORTH: I got to work opposite Cate Blanchett. The Cate Blanchett. Where do you begin?

STRIPLV: Were you scared by the prospect?

HEMSWORTH: This wasn’t, yeah there’s no way to prepare yourself, I was shaking. My heart was going. And she was coming in as a newcomer, I’ve worked with these big names before but I don’t know, when it comes to Cate, she’s revered. Maybe it’s an Australian thing. 

STRIPLV: I think it’s a world thing.

HEMSWORTH: Yeah, it’s a world thing, what am I saying?

STRIPLV: But she’s so chilled and normal.

HEMSWORTH: Seriously, she’s the most down to earth soul there is. Respectful to everyone, there to do the work, no bull. When someone is that elevated on a professional level, you can encounter less than ideal behavior. Cate couldn’t be further away from that. 

STRIPLV: There’s also a big combat fight sequence between you and Mark Ruffalo reappearing as The Hulk.

HEMSWORTH: Thor gets his ass kicked in this film - mainly by Mark Ruffalo’s character (The Hulk).

STRIPLV: You and Mark seem to get along famously. Was it like that on the set of Thor?

HEMSWORTH: Mark and I always have fun together. We also got to see The Hulk in a very different situation where he’s a champion and a hero in this new world and that sets the stage for our fight.

STRIPLV: So whose diva behavior have you encountered?

HEMSWORTH: I don’t like to say, but I think it’s worth putting out there, Mark Ruffalo’s the biggest diva there is. And Chris Evans. Those guys are the worst. Outlandish demands, the not looking them in the eye stuff. The worst. You didn’t hear it from me. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: Were you disappointed to lose the hair?

HEMSWORTH: The hair was my idea. Who says Thor can’t get a haircut? He needs to change it up like the rest of us. I was sick of the hair, I had it on five movies, so I put the foot down and said, “the hair’s going. Thor needs a makeover.” And by the grace of whoever, the studio and Taika agreed with me. And it made sense; he’s getting old, his hair would start to thin a little. A lot in this instance. That’s what happens to Norse gods. (Laughs) They’re not completely infallible.

STRIPLV: Thor goes through a lot of changes, the hair, the hammer, was all that intentional?

HEMSWORTH: I would have been really bored if we went down the same path, so you know, losing the hammer, losing the hair, it’s thrown him for a loop, shaken things up, made it compelling for everyone involved. Including me. I mean, you know, I don’t want to get myself in trouble here by saying anything sensitive but everything I had done previously as Thor, was starting to feel a little, a little familiar and had we stayed very blinkered on this path, I don’t know how much more enthusiasm I would have. It’s like anything you work on; variety keeps it interesting. And Taika has taken this machine and reenergized and tinkered away and delivered what I think is a very unique, never seen before movie in the Marvel universe. It’s good to take a chance and risk it all. Otherwise, what’s the point?

STRIPLV: He loves an improv session? 

HEMSWORTH: There was a sickeningly brilliant diet for improvisation on set. It was infectious the more it happened. But the best came from this young guy, Darcy, who was visiting the set from the Make a Wish Foundation. What became the norm between everyone during takes was shouting ideas at each other and during the coliseum piece between Hulk and me, Darcy shouts, you should say “I know him, he’s a friend from work.” Bang in there, the best line in the whole movie.
STRIPLV: That’s amazing!

HEMSWORTH: And it’s a really funny line, easily the funniest line amongst a ton of hilarious lines that makes this Thor stand out from the others. And Taika brings his really unique funny edge to it after the sort of well-spoken, Shakespearean slant we already did with the first and second movies. It gave us a lot more freedom than we had before.

STRIPLV: You’re filming Infinity War right now, but do you know when you’re done— officially done with Thor?

HEMSWORTH: I do know. My contract has an expiry date, yes, but quite honestly, after the amazing time we had on this one, and if you lot buy enough tickets, I think a fourth one could be in the works. A fifth one. You never know. 

STRIPLV: Was shooting in Australia all you too?

HEMSWORTH: I did push for Australia. Proudly, I will admit that. The last one we did, I was doing press there and kept getting, when are you going to bring Marvel here? And it made sense; we have the resources, the locations, it has it all and selfishly, it worked out perfectly, being able to be home every night. 

STRIPLV: Elsa and the kids must have been happy?

HEMSWORTH: I’m a father, I’m a husband, I want to be there with my family in our family home, not dragging them halfway around the world, it’s too disruptive on everybody. So if I can angle for that on each job, I’m gonna go for it. 

STRIPLV: How long would it take you to get home each evening?

HEMSWORTH: About 40 minutes. It was the best. Well, it was the best until I’d walk through the door in the evening and Elsa throws me the cloth and says, “dishes aren’t going to do themselves.”  (Laughs)
STRIPLV: You worked together recently with Elsa, what was that like?

HEMSWORTH: That was beautiful. She’s a terrific actress, and it was nice, even for that one week in Albuquerque to share that passion we have for acting and the job and share that together and not have the distractions of family life and kids jumping on you from every direction. That was a really special experience.

STRIPLV: Are your kids big Thor fans?

HEMSWORTH: They love him, but only when they’re watching the films. With all the effects and looks as real as one of these movies can. But when they come on set, they’re pretty unimpressed. They see it’s all fake. They hate it; they never want to come on set again. (Laughs) Although they’re happy to come to the Avengers, set when Chris Evans is there, especially my son Sasha. He says to him, he loves Captain America, “up up” and Chris is walking around with him all day. He’s the greatest free babysitter a dad can ask for. Highly recommend.  My other son, he loves Thor. He won’t let me or his mom cut his hair, which I’m quite delighted by. And my little girl, she loves Wonder Woman. Well, they all love Wonder Woman. Wonder Woman rules my household. She’s my favorite superhero. 

STRIPLV: What about a Thor/Wonder Woman combo? 

HEMSWORTH: If the studios can blend that together, Thor and Wonder Woman, they share the same values and the same love of metal breastplates. (Laughs) 

STRIPLV: Speaking of breastplates, you had to take yours off again for the all obligatory shirtless scene. Wasn’t that something you were hoping to avoid? 

HEMSWORTH: Yeah, that was what I was most pumped about, that there was no shirt off scene in this one, and I could have a gym holiday. For the most part. But then Taika says to me; “I think we need one.” And I’m like, “No we don’t, it’ s been done before, we said we weren’t going to repeat ourselves.” And he’s like, “Well we aren’t, but you’re taking the shirt off. Go to the gym now! This is not going to be the first Thor movie that bombs just because people are pissed they didn’t get to see your muscles!” (Laughs) I made a huge mistake the first time around with Ken Branagh. I set a precedent that’s impossible to maintain. I trained for eight months for him, really went for it. And now I have to keep that up. I want to keep my clothes on. Firmly on. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: Part of the mystique surrounding Thor is his powerful physique. We saw you get emaciated a few years ago when you played a starving seaman in Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea. How do you go from that look to bulking up again for Thor: Ragnarok?

HEMSWORTH: It’s much more fun being able to eat a lot and gaining muscle mass instead of living on 500 calories a day which I did for Heart of the Sea. When I had to lose that weight, I was subsisting on big salads and soup every day, and I was craving food all the time. It was very tough mentally more than anything else.

STRIPLV: When you’re working out for several months to getting ready for a film like Thor, does it ever get monotonous?

HEMSWORTH: You get tired of eating the same food and doing the same routines every day, so you need to be tough mentally. Those are the times when I stop and think, “Hang on; my job is essentially going to the gym, then I realize actually it’s not so bad.”

STRIPLV: Do you think about life and career after Thor?

HEMSWORTH: I do, of course, I do. I have anxieties about that. I know I’m on a trajectory that could easily veer badly off course. Those niggles are in the back of my mind undoubtedly. I’m not preparing, but I’m probably quietly bracing myself for it. 

STRIPLV: Do you think you’ll move in a completely different direction? 

HEMSWORTH: I need to take more risks, real dangerous risks, you’ve got to be smart in this industry, but you also have to feed the soul, give it the dopamine it needs. I do want to take huge risks; I want to be terrified and scared. 

STRIPLV: How do you and your wife Elsa manage with three children to look after and your busy schedule?

HEMSWORTH: Elsa doesn’t give me any special treatment when it comes to household chores. I’m expected to pitch in and watch the kids and do the dishes, and I actually enjoy that, at least the part about looking after the kids. 

STRIPLV: Does your wife still speak Spanish in the house?

HEMSWORTH: She speaks Spanish to our kids, and everyone’s fluent in Spanish in the house except for me! I’ve always been meaning to learn the language, but I’ve never managed to do it. My kids love speaking Spanish, though, and I’m happy that they will grow up able to speak both English and Spanish.

STRIPLV: Has moving back to Australia been an important step for your family?

HEMSWORTH: I think there’s something very unique and beautiful about Australia and I wanted our children to get to know that, and I’m glad that Elsa has been very supportive of that. I hope our children will grow up with the same kind of close spirit that my brothers and I grew up with. My father was surfing and played ball with us, and our mother was always there keeping us in line, too. My parents encouraged us to do what we wanted without ever trying to control us.

STRIPLV: Does Elsa ever speak to you in Spanish?

HEMSWORTH: No, she speaks to me in English, unless she loses her temper! (Laughs)

 

 

GRETA GERWIG - IRRESISTIBLE

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GRETA GERWIG - IRRESISTIBLE

Greta Gerwig is irresistibly endearing. We can’t help but fall in love with her screen alter egos in Frances HaTo Rome With Love, and last year’s sensational Maggie’s Plan. In person, she’s as delightfully quirky as her characters which are all playful variations on her own mildly anxious, good-natured self. 

Now she takes her existential ruminations to the next level in her solo directorial debut, Lady Bird, a coming-of-age dramatic comedy about a fiercely independent 17-year-old Sacramento girl, Christine (Saoirse Ronan), anxious to escape the confines of small-town life in general and her mother in particular. 

A semi-autobiographical account of her own angst-ridden adolescent experience, Gerwig’s indie film has begun attracting serious Oscar talk as it makes its way through the festival circuit first in Telluride and now in Toronto where virtually every major star, critic and Hollywood power-broker converge. Having previously co-authored Frances Ha and Mistress America with her professional and life partner Noah Baumbach, Lady Bird is a story that has long been simmering inside the 34-year-old Gerwig.

“It feels like I’ve been writing this story forever - at least the last ten years - and it’s about how home becomes most vivid and meaningful when you leave it,” Gerwig says. “It’s about mothers and daughters and how there are no perfect moms or daughters. It’s also about the kind of perspective that teenagers have that there’s a more interesting place to be somewhere else in the world and that’s where real life begins.”

Lady Bird earned standing ovations at its sold-screenings at the Toronto International Film Festival, and both Gerwig and lead actress Ronan were hailed for delivering the kind of reflective, inspiring drama that stands in marked contrast to a sea of insipid summer blockbusters. Variety and other leading film industry publications predicted that the film will be a “leading contender” for awards season nominations for best directing, writing, acting and supporting actress (Laurie Metcalf) categories.

Gerwig Gerwig graduated with a degree in philosophy from Barnard College in New York City where she still lives today with her long-time partner, filmmaker Noah Baumbach, who directed her in Frances
Ha 
(which they co-wrote) and Mistress America. Gerwig recently appeared in the critically-acclaimed indie drama, 20th Century Women

STRIPLV: Greta, you grew up in Sacramento which has also been home to other top actresses such as Brie Larsen and Jessica Chastain. Is there something about the city which creates pent-up artistic ambition and desire to seek fame and fortune elsewhere?

GERWIG: I’m not sure it’s something specific to Sacramento, but I think all smaller towns have this sleepy feel compared to places like New York or Los Angeles which you think of as much more connected to the world.

STRIPLV: What was the reality of moving to a big city like New York like?

GERWIG: The first few years were hard. I lived a bit everywhere - Chinatown, West Village, Greenwich Village. I first lived with six girls in a tiny loft that was like a closet without heating. In the winter it got so cold that we all slept dressed up, with hats and scarves. I still live there, and I don’t think I could live anywhere else. New York is my favorite city on earth. I love its energy and when I was getting ready to apply to university I knew had to move there which I did in 2002 after I had already fallen in love with every single Woody Allen film.

STRIPLV: You’ve acted in many films about angst-ridden women. But Lady Bird is very different and deals with many different themes about young women, their relationships with their mothers, and wanting a more interesting life.

GERWIG: I wanted the film to deal with a wide range of themes that interested me. But at its core, it’s about the relationship and love between a mother and her daughter. I also wanted to subvert the clichés that you see in most movies revolving around teenage girls where it’s all about meeting this one guy that changes their world. I didn’t want my story to be about that, and I don’t think it’s even true - usually, there are many different guys that you’re going to meet and who are going to influence you or be part of your journey at that age. I think your primary relationship will be that between you and your parents and friends in general. That’s how you relate to the world, and that kind of experience is going to shape so much of how you feel about yourself and your idea of love.

STRIPLV: Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn, The Host) delivers an extraordinary performance in the film. How did you come to cast her?

GERWIG: We met in Toronto during the 2015 film festival when I was here with Maggie’s Plan, and she was here with Brooklyn. I had always wanted to meet her because I’ve always admired her acting and there’s something about her that I find fascinating. I went to her hotel room with the script for Lady Bird knowing that I wanted her to play the part. She had already read the script before, and I thought it would be interesting if we went over the script together. So we sat on the couch and spent the next few hours reading it - she read all of Lady Bird’s lines, and I read the other parts. But by the time we were at page two I knew she was right for the role because she not only brought the kind of emotional intensity and intelligence that the character needed to have, but she also could be very funny and moving at the same time.

STRIPLV: How much of the film is autobiographical?

GERWIG: There aren’t any specific moments in the film that literally happened to me, but the story is very reflective and true to the emotions and experiences I had during that time in my life. I wanted to set the film in Sacramento where I grew up because that city was at the core of my reality and where I could build on the emotional truth of my life there. I also connected to it as the place where I began to imagine a life somewhere else and where New York became this mythical goal in the same way that the green light is in The Great Gatsby

STRIPLV: Was acting something you pointed towards from an early age?

GERWIG: First I wanted to become a nurse. I don’t know why, but I’ve always had this fascination with uniforms and caps. But then I started taking dance classes, and that set me off in the direction of wanting to act in musicals.

STRIPLV: Ever since Frances Ha people have associated you with the way you dance in several of your films (including 20th Century Women and Maggie’s Plan). What kind of dance do you like the most?

GERWIG: I love most forms of dance - classical dance, tap, jazz and modern dance especially because it has a whole aesthetic. Modern dance makes you use different muscles than other styles, and it also teaches you to fall properly in a way that prevents you from hurting yourself. It’s a beautiful metaphor for life: fall, rise, and you transform into a new person. That kind of free-form dance is very liberating and it allows you to express a lot of emotions and thoughts on a different level.

STRIPLV: You’ve long been an admirer of Woody Allen and his films. Like Allen, many people identify you with the characters you play. How close to the truth is that?

GERWIG: My characters all contain pieces of myself but they’re reassembled in different ways each time out. I try to create a space inside myself that reflects the identity of each character I play but then I spin off in another direction where there’s still some part of me there but it’s evolved into something else. It’s like I find a way of playing this variation on the truth of who I am.

STRIPLV: It must have been a thrill for you to get to work with Allen on To Rome With Love?

GERWIG: It was definitely one of my dreams coming true. It was such an honor to get to be in one of his films. I love his work and he’s been a huge influence on me. I appreciate everything about his style of humor, his neurotic intelligence, and also his love of New York.

STRIPLV: What is it about his style of filmmaking that you admire?

GERWIG: It’s his style of humor but also his way of looking at the world. I would like to be able to make films that have that same kind of sensibility and have great dialogue and explore human psychology the way he does.

STRIPLV: You and filmmaker Noah Baumbach have been partners both in real life and in your work for several years now. What is your creative process like when you work together on a film?

GERWIG: We work in our own separate rooms and then we spend several hours together where we often read aloud what we’ve just written or simply discuss some ideas about a particular scene or character. We use that time to exchange criticism and opinions, and then we separate again and we continue to write on our own. Slowly the characters begin to take shape and the story begins to emerge. Reading aloud is important to us and it helps us find the right tone and rhythm to the dialogues. Language is very important in the way it influences the way we talk and move.

STRIPLV: Apparently you always carry a notebook with you in case you find something inspiring that you can write about immediately?

GERWIG: Yes, I like to write down what I hear on the street or in cafés or restaurants. Most of my friends are aware of this and they try to make sure that I don’t have a pad and paper next to me if they’re about to tell me something very personal! (Laughs)

DWAYNE JOHNSON - ROCKSTAR

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DWAYNE JOHNSON - ROCKSTAR

By Jack Wellington

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has an indomitable spirit. He’s the epitome of the “larger-than-life” personality and a man who tries to lift everyone around him with his energy and optimism. When he greets you before being interviewed, Johnson flashes his neon smile and immediately gives you his full attention, albeit laced with the occasional off-color remark.

This year marks a blockbuster trifecta for Johnson, currently ranked by Forbes as the world's highest-paid actor with earnings of $64.5 million last year. Having helped drive Fast & Furious 8 to over a billion dollars at the box office this spring, The Rock may have stumbled somewhat when Baywatch failed to live up to expectations.

But not to be outdone, Johnson has yet another blockbuster film on the way - Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle - the big-budget Sony Pictures' remake of the 1995 Robin Williams film.

"I once met Robin Williams on stage, and I remember completely fanboying it with him," Johnson said. "I just said, 'I'm such your biggest fan.' I was so thrilled to meet him...We wanted to make a movie that was not only phenomenal and paid homage, but something that had evolved."

Jumanji stars Johnson alongside his Central Intelligence co-star Kevin Hart, comic mastermind Jack Black, and Karen Gillan (Guardians of the Galaxy 2) in what promises to be the biggest film of the holiday season when it opens in December.

Billed as an adventure fantasy film, the story centers on the extraordinary world that four school kids discover using an old video game console that transports them into the game's jungle setting. Not only do they find themselves transformed into the adult aviators they have chosen, they quickly learn that to play Jumanji means to survive all the perils of the "game."

The 45-year-old Johnson lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend of 12 years, Lauren Hashian, together with their two-year-old baby girl, Jasmine. Johnson also has a 15-year-old daughter Simone from his marriage to his ex-wife and childhood sweetheart Dany Garcia who continues to manage his career.

The former pro football player, bodybuilder, and wrestling star currently has seven new film projects in the pipeline including a second San Andreas earthquake movie and planned superhero franchises, Doc Savage and Shazam!.

STRIPLV: Dwayne, you seem to love working in Hawaii as much as you can. You shot Central Intelligence there, and then you did Jumanji?

JOHNSON: I love Hawaii. It’s the place where I grew up, and I have a very strong connection to the culture and the people. Hawaii is so beautiful and one of my favorite places on earth. And I love reconnecting to the spirit I feel when I’m there. Any chance I get to go back to Hawaii I’ll grab it.

STRIPLV: You love making these big adventure and action films. How do you feel about Jumanji?

JOHNSON: We’ve made a good film, and I think people are going to like it. I was glad to be able to come on board and work with Sony to get this picture made. I loved working with Kevin Hart and Jack Black who are so great in the movie although Kevin wasn’t that crazy about dealing with all the massive spiders and other insects you find there. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: Very few actors in the history of Hollywood have ever had the kind of year you’re having with three big films in release. How does it feel?

JOHNSON: I want to bring a lot of joy and entertainment to people who are paying their money and expect their money’s worth. I work very hard on my movies, and as a producer, I also try to involve myself in the entire process and make sure that people who see my movies are going to leave the theatre feeling happy and entertained. That’s what it’s all about for me.

STRIPLV: You’re known for having a very exuberant and positive personality. Do you also like to be able to use your energy to inspire others and is it hard sometimes to maintain that attitude?

JOHNSON: We all have bad days. When I get around people, and when I come to work, I try to put my best foot forward. There are a lot of people who depend on me. If we are producing the film, it starts with the company, but then it starts with me. Inevitably, I am galvanizing a lot of people and bringing them together. That in itself will give enough motivation to put your best foot forward. Try to work with a smile. And also I think it’s in my personality.

STRIPLV: What do you do on the days where you don’t feel good or happy and find it hard to be as optimistic as you would like to be?

JOHNSON: If I’m having a bad day, I need to go off to a quiet space and shut out the noise. Because in life, what we do, there’s always a lot of noise, in Hollywood and entertainment there’s a lot of chatter, and there is always a lot of noise, and a lot of news that’s cycling, and it’s just nonstop. So sometimes I need to get away from that and find a quiet space, whether it’s my bedroom or it’s my truck or my trailer, and I will just reset myself and be calm, and I will do a little meditating, or I will try to figure out exactly what the problem is and what is bugging me.

STRIPLV: And what do you do to fix a problem or correct a situation that’s annoying you or affecting how you work on a film?

JOHNSON: l do my best to try and take care of it. Usually, those kind of things are triggered by something that might have happened or something that someone might have said. I deal with that by finding out what’s behind that and then try to get things back where they should be and get rid of all the bullshit. I don’t like there to be any conflict or negativity around me and especially not on a set. A lot of times I’ll drive people crazy by telling them we’re about to get evicted and we need to get to work. (Johnson’s family was once evicted from their home in Hawaii.) You’ve got to motivate people and get everyone working together and share the same sense of purpose.

STRIPLV: You’ve faced many challenges and obstacles in your life. How have you been able to overcome those times?

JOHNSON: You've got to find a purpose in life. Whatever it is, go out and work your butt off and don't ever stop. In my case, sports and later on bodybuilding were the things that helped me set goals for myself and build my self-esteem. Sports made me feel that I had something to point towards in life. I was a pretty good football player, and I was good enough to earn a scholarship to go to the University of Miami where we won the national collegiate football championship in 1991.

STRIPLV: People still like to call you The Rock, which was your pro wrestling nickname. Was wrestling one of the most important steps in your life?

JOHNSON: I wouldn’t have had a career in Hollywood if it hadn’t been for wrestling. I made a name for myself and built up an identity with the public that followed me when I started working on movies. Wrestling was also a huge boost to my self-confidence, and when you’re standing in the ring in front of thousands and thousands of screaming fans, and you’re performing in front of them it’s an incredible feeling. You never forget that feeling.

STRIPLV: What made you choose wrestling after football?

JOHNSON: Wrestling is a family tradition. My grandfather Peter Maivia (a legendary Samoan wrestler) and my father Rocky were professional wrestlers. Grandpa was also an actor. He played a James Bond villain in You Only Live Twice.

STRIPLV: You’re one of the biggest box-office stars of all time. Do you still feel as driven as ever?

JOHNSON: No question, man. You need to stay hungry and ambitious. I’m as hungry today for success and accomplishing great things as I’ve ever been. Maybe more so because I’ve already had a lot of success and you want to keep that momentum and go beyond what you’ve already accomplished. You keep raising the bar. It’s just like exercising. There will be a lot of days where you don’t feel like going to the gym, lifting weights, or doing cardio or go jogging, but that’s exactly what you need to do. You need to have that discipline. The more effort you put into that, the more energy you’re going to have the rest of the day.

ELIZABETH OLSEN - NEUROSIS

1117elizabetholsenfeature

ELIZABETH OLSEN - NEUROSIS

By Skye Huntington

Even at the tender age of 28, Elizabeth Olsen believes her neurosis is only getting worse as she gets older. "I'm getting a lot more fear based as I age," she tells me. "I worry about that stuff. I'm becoming increasingly fearful." While referring to her physical safety, it seems at odds with the fearless performer. From her unforgettable breakthrough as a cult escapee in Martha Marcy May Marlene to her fan-favorite turn as the Scarlett Witch in the Avengers, Olsen strikes me as an actor who's willing to do it all and risk it all. It's hard to know if a comment like this is meant to deflect from who she really is.

And perhaps the star is eager to maintain the mystery. In conversation, Olsen is polished and precise. Offering considered responses; her reserve comes from a lifetime of experience watching her mogul twin sisters, Mary-Kate and Ashley navigate the choppy waters of superstardom. Said siblings are off-topic today – a standard request when speaking with the actress - who by now, has probably overshadowed their notoriety anyway. Instead, she's speaking about her latest role in Taylor Sheridan's frozen noir, Wind River.

Showcasing her ever-burgeoning skill as a gifted, chameleonic performer, Elizabeth is Jane Banner, a rookie FBI agent assigned to a perplexing murder case on a snow-capped Native Indian reservation. Ill-equipped and unprepared, she drafts the help of tracker, Cory Lambert [Jeremy Renner] in order to trap the killer. But as she digs deeper and inches closer to the truth, an even greater horror begins to emerge.

Signaling the beginning of a new mature phase in her career, Olsen is typically peppy as she waxes lyrical the attractions to the role and why she's always enticed to play damaged characters. The star also chats about nearly meeting her end in the frozen conditions, why famous friendships are near impossible to keep and why she had an epiphany when it came to social media. Olsen lives in LA.

STRIPLV: Third time together with Jeremy, you guys are becoming a double act?

OLSEN: I was actually quite skeptical of Jeremy doing it because the guy is picky. Very very picky. He, in reality, wants to retire, he does, so I wasn’t too hopeful. So when he did agree, it was pretty surprising and very unexpected. But obviously, I was so happy. And I was signed on to work on this movie nearly a year before he came on board, so there was a lot of tentative concern whether they would find Cory.

STRIPLV: Did you badger him into it?

OLSEN: Well he’s my neighbor, so I was relentless.

STRIPLV: But were you like, “This is a good script, from the guy (Taylor Sheridan) who wrote Sicario, you should do this?”

OLSEN: He doesn’t take career advice from me, strangely enough.

STRIPLV: Is that how you Hollywood pals operate, just messaging each other, sending scripts?

OLSEN: It’s not how I do things. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: Do you have a lot of famous pals?

OLSEN: No, I don’t actually. Jeremy is kind of, it for me, especially because we’ve spent so much time together on this and Avengers. Most of my friends are the same friends I’ve had forever.

STRIPLV: So you’re not part of any of these Hollywood “squads”?

OLSEN: I don’t know how these famous relationships develop because the nature of the business is so peripatetic, always in transit from one place to the other, basic connection, the physical connection seems very difficult to me. I don’t get it. Everybody has weird schedules. Maybe it’s me. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: So Wind River, it looked pretty challenging with the elements. How did you find it?

OLSEN: Well I don’t love being cold.

STRIPLV: Shooting must have been difficult?

OLSEN: Practically, not easy. But it kept us very in the moment, it kept us present and always aware. There were a lot of extra logistical problems for the crew with transporting equipment, setting up, everything was harder in that regard. You had to be very efficient in all ways. Climbing to the top of mountains with heavy hardware on snowcats and snowmobiles, it made it difficult. But it also made it a very efficient, fast-paced, collaborative atmosphere, we had to work fast, and it bred this process of ease. I really loved it; I loved the environment, we were shooting right outside Park City in Utah, where they have the Sundance Festival, and I’ve only been there during the festival, and you almost forget there’s this unique scape outside your hotel room. Sometimes there are a hundred different parties distracting you. I really bonded with the environment; I’m a cold convert.

STRIPLV: There must have been moments of hell?

OLSEN: Oh yeah, there were plenty of times when my jaw was locking up, and I had to massage my face to get it working again. It’s a strange sensation; it’s like you’re drunk and you’re trying to talk and it’s coming out all sideways. We weren’t in Siberia; we weren’t in the Arctic tundra. It was extremely cold but not so bad that you’d contract hypothermia in minutes. It’s just the amount of time we spent out there at any one given stage. And we had the proper everything, proper clothing, proper footwear, so much support but you’d still feel your limbs going numb. You’re on a film set where there are health and safety and stunt coordinators monitoring your every move. There’s nothing life-threatening about it. I wasn’t out there by myself. When I do that, which will never be, then we can take all about the life-threatening dangers. (Laughs) The most were probably the snowmobiles.

STRIPLV: Why, what happened?

OLSEN: That’s something I had trouble getting ok with. You’re on these vehicular machines, careering across the snow and ice at 70 miles an hour, and you’re not even sitting, you’re squatting, you’re hovering to sort of keep the balance. There’s no seatbelt. It’s not the safest position to be in. And I like safe; I get nervous about anything high adrenalin. And to make me more comfortable, I went on the back of Jeremy’s snowmobile, and it was a baptism of fear. We’re on the top of a mountain, in a blizzard and just hurtling through it. I’m like, “Jeremy, can you even see the bottom?” And he’s like, “Nope.” Your life is flashing before you, but you gotta just go with it. Fortunately, I have a lot of trust in Jeremy; it’s inbuilt after many years working together.

STRIPLV: You’re shooting together on Infinity War now too, easier shoot or harder?

OLSEN: Very very different.

STRIPLV: Is the script is naturally under lock and key?

OLSEN: We don’t have scripts, that what I can tell you. (Laughs) We literally have been given our own scenes, our own lines with a vague idea of what’s happening around us. But yep, that’s all we’ve got. Well, I say we, it could be just me and you know, they don’t trust me with the entire script.

STRIPLV: You started acting at a young age, would you consider yourself a former child actor?

OLSEN: It wasn’t like that. I only ever did two second moments in my sister’s movies and that was only because myself and my brother would be on set with them, and they’d say, “Hey Lizzie, you want to be in this scene? We do need to put gum in your hair.” That would be the extent of it. And from that, came my apparent childhood acting career. The only thing I ever professionally did as a kid, was a commercial about internet safety when the internet first became a thing and that was it until after college.

STRIPLV: Were you a natural performer?

OLSEN: I was always performing, always putting on little musicals, always singing and dancing. I went to camp, musical theatre camp, and made short movies with my friends. But I didn’t want to be an actress, especially because I grew up in LA, very cliché. Plus, I liked academia, I liked chemistry and the periodic table, I liked learning and acting to me, didn’t follow that path of learning.

STRIPLV: You’ve played a lot of badass women, is that what you look for?

OLSEN: I’m not looking for roles that are just badass women. That term is thrown around way too much. I look for the emotionally powerful individuals struggling with adversity, with internal conflicts, who have to prove themselves. Who are damaged. I like damaged characters, I think I seek out damaged characters the most, or at least, that’s what I’m sent the most.

STRIPLV: Taylor Sheridan having written Sicario with Emily Blunt, was that part of what pulled you to doing Wind River?

OLSEN: I thought Sicario was inspiring. And I think Taylor creates these amazing characters, not just for women, who have extremely intuitive capability and strength. And takes these deeply personal stories and then places them in inhospitable, adversarial environments.

STRIPLV: Ingrid Goes West is a very different role for you, I’m curious, when we’ve spoken before, you mentioned your dislike for social media, and now you’re on Instagram. Was this just for the movie?

OLSEN: It’s a big step for me.

STRIPLV: Was this about research and you forgot to deactivate?

OLSEN: When we shot that movie, I set up a fake Instagram account for the character, Taylor Sloane. Before, I found the whole thing, the influencers, the followers, the hashtags, everything I found really strange. You know, I also don’t know how these photos always look so beautiful, with the most beautiful light, beautiful angles. I don’t know what camera they’re using or what app but it’s something I don’t have access to. My photos do not look like that at all. My attempts at selfies are always tragic. (Laughs) I end up taking a photo of my ear. But what I considered negative was actually people who had started fashion lines or a couple with really great taste. So much creativity is coming from a unique line of communication. What I do, what I enjoy about it is all purely work related, what I’m sharing is related to my work, to my movies and it’s like another extension of doing press, it’s press, and I appreciate it now. It’s all about me basically telling whoever is listening, “Go see my movie. Do it!” I like being able to control the message I put out there, which is the first time I’ve ever had that.

STRIPLV: So who do you follow?

OLSEN: Just my friends.

STRIPLV: You still don’t seem totally sold on social media.

OLSEN: I’m finding the balance difficult. I’m trying to find the right humor to making fun of myself. I like that side to it. But approaching it with all sincerity, you know, the idea of taking a selfie in the morning and hashtagging, “Mondaymotivation,” I don’t need to do that. It doesn’t feel natural to me. For those who it feels natural for and enjoy doing it, totally respect and celebrate that. Jokes on Instagram, making fun of myself, that’s as far as it will ever go.

STRIPLV: So what was your main gripe with social media before?

OLSEN: Because I didn’t quite understand it. I thought it was a very vain, narcissistic. I think taking pictures of yourself all day, that’s bizarre behavior. I thought all social media was a horrible blight on the world. But I also think I overthought it intensely and clung onto what was wrong with it. Because that’s me, I’m a total over thinker. I think way too much.

NAOMI WATTS - THE INTERVIEW

1017naomiwattsfeature

NAOMI WATTS - THE INTERVIEW

By Skye Huntington

Born in Shoreham, Kent, England this prolific actress has had a long road to get to the level of success she now enjoys. Her parents divorced when she was just four years old, and at the age of seven, she lost her dad to a heroin overdose. Her father, Peter Watts was a former road manager and sound man for Pink Floyd. When the band learned of his death, they put together a lump sum for Naomi’s family to get by after his passing. She lived in England until the age of 14 when she moved to Australia. After arriving she convinced her mother to let her take acting classes. On one audition for a bikini commercial, she met her future best friend, Nicole Kidman, and they shared a ride home after it. Numerous Australian TV appearances and movies followed. Nicole headed to Hollywood first, and many of her business contacts that Naomi got to meet encouraged her to do the same so she took a chance and came stateside.

The problem was the people who inspired her to leap suddenly didn’t seem to recognize her, and she struggled for a while. That was until 1999 when David Lynch cast her from an 8x10 and an interview for his newest TV series he was pitching called Mulholland
Drive
. They shot the pilot in February that year, keeping it open-ended for a series run. Unfortunately, the pilot was rejected. Lynch then decided to film an ending in October of 2000 turning it into a full-length motion picture. It was picked up for distribution and became a huge critical success. Mulholland Drive thrust Naomi into the spotlight, and she followed that up with a few other films. In 2002, she starred in one of the biggest hits of the year, The Ring, playing a journalist investigating the death of her nieces. The Gore Verbinski horror classic cemented her as a heavyweight in the entertainment industry.

Fifteen years later and her career doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. Recently she starred in the memoir brought to life, Glass Castle, and the suspenseful Book of Henry. Naomi also stars in the new TwinPeaks in her long-awaited reunion with Lynch as well as Netflix’s Gypsy, which is about a voyeuristic therapist that Netflix ultimately pulled the plug on. We got a chance to sit down with this bright and candid actress, asking her about both projects, and what makes her choose a script.

STRIPLV: What drew you to The Glass Castle?

WATTS: I was familiar with it, but I hadn’t read it. I was one of the few who hadn’t. I quickly ran out and read it, and obviously, I read the script and thought it was an incredibly moving story, one that was very accessible for audiences. We all have a family, and we all come from a family and been affected by powerful events that took place while mixing it with these extraordinary characters. I was incredibly moved by it. When I read the book and heard Jeannette talk about the writing of the book and the experiences in great detail, it was fantastic. We sort of had this back and forth dialogue about all the different things that took place. Things that didn’t make it to the script that would help with my playing of Rose Mary. You end up just having this dialogue because you come close to these people. You talk about your own experiences and how they make sense to you in the ones that you are about to play. Also connecting with Rose Mary and really falling in love with her spirit and how she managed to prevail with this incredibly optimistic spirit, which really kept them from falling apart many times.

STRIPLV: Tell me about Rose Mary Walls story.

WATTS: There is an extra challenge of bringing it from the pages to real life. You want to honor their story in the most empathetic way and truthful way. I think the Rose Mary character has been misunderstood. I talked about that with Jeannette. Even some of the interviews available out there on the Internet spoke to that. They didn’t like that she was this kind of mother. I wanted to make sure that I could play that with the right amount of empathy and that meant really understanding who Rose Mary was, and getting into her mindset.

STRIPLV: How was it working with the director Destin Daniel Cretton?

WATTS: Destin creates the most beautiful, fantastic and fun environment. He gives everybody their special moment no matter big or small it is. He lets them roll with it. He’s so up for the fun and games. I mean some of the times it felt like we were all just in a big acting class together, and we would just get to experiment. He lets you just go, even if it’s wildly over the top or something incredibly subtle, he’s there’s for it. I loved working with Destin.  He brings so much to the table. What happened during the film production was that we all ended up talking about our own families. The fun, the pain, and it became sort of a cathartic experience for all of us.

STRIPLV: Rose Mary’s character has a lot of dynamics to it. Tell us more about playing the part.

WATTS: That makes her so human and fun to play. You don’t want to just play something on one note. In the opening moments of the film, you see her daughter ask her to make her lunch, and she responds “You go make it, and make some for me when you’re at it.” And that’s not what you’re used to when you’re watching a mother. And you can be quick to judge, but I wanted to show that there were things about Rose Mary that were, yes different, but she gave other things that were incredibly powerful as well, and that meant a sense of self-worth and believe in yourself and don’t change who you are and don’t hide, just be you. There was never any lack of love no matter how many difficulties they went through. She had a playful and positive spirit at all times.

STRIPLV: How was it working with Woody Harrelson and Brie Larson?

WATTS: Woody is fantastic. He’s brought his experience from his family and experienced pain and ups and downs as well. We all had a way to relate to this family. We’re all creative people, and there was a lot of creativity, and that was a driving force in Rose Mary’s nature and the same with Rex. And Brie she’s just so powerful to watch. The first day she had just gotten her Oscar, and she was just so present. She didn’t have any lines that day, but just what went on behind her eyes was incredibly powerful and magnetic and so raw. She’s a really wonderful actress.

STRIPLV: What do you hope viewers will take away from the film?

WATTS: I think there are lots of different themes going on, but I think forgiveness. And the survival aspect that we can through these difficult times and own who we are, however different.

STRIPLV: Let’s talk about The Book of Henry.

WATTS: I played Susan, the mother of two boys, one of which is a genius, who is taking care of a lot of the responsibilities. Which you never want as a parent. They are two very special boys. There are some great suspenseful moments, great thrilling moments, great laughs and a lot of emotion and it’s a very cathartic experience. I loved this character when I read the script, but I also like how it changed tones. You can’t place it, and you can’t put it in a box. In many ways, it’s a fun movie, and then it gets very sad. There are some lovely relationships between the boys, and then my character becomes kind of a bad ass! (Laughing) Colin Trevorrow, the director, is highly accomplished and he handled the character and human emotion aspects of the film as well as scope and excitement brilliantly. We got to do some fun stunts as well as some complicated dramatic scenes as well.

STRIPLV: I thought Maddie Ziegler was just spectacular in the film.

WATTS: She was just fantastic. And I was told she had never acted in a film before, which was kind of mind-blowing. She is just so expressive through her physicality and her dance. It was wonderful to see her do another form of storytelling. She’s a complete natural. She’s fully connected, and it’s not surprising really when you see her move on the stage as a dancer. It makes perfect sense that she can do just the same as an actor in the acting world.

STRIPLV: What is your process in deciding which roles to take on?

WATTS: It’s just whatever speaks to me. You read a script. Does it come off the page? Does it land in your gut?

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