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CHADWICK BOSEMAN - BILLION DOLLAR MAN

0518chadwickbosemanfeature

CHADWICK BOSEMAN - BILLION DOLLAR MAN

By Mitchell Parrish

Every actor dreams of the role that will turn them into a bankable star. With the smash success of Black Panther
and its international box-office earnings of $1 billion and counting, Chadwick Boseman has not only attained A-list status, but he's gained his own personal film franchise. Now he's back in action as T'Challa/Black Panther in AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, the latest installment of the Marvel Comics superhero saga.

It's a stunning triumph for Boseman, a talented actor who previously played legendary real-life black figures such as James Brown in Get On Up, Jackie Robinson in 42 and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. He's also aware that Black Panther is not only a role model and source of pride for black people but is also a watershed moment in Hollywood history by proving that a film driven by a black superhero and largely African-American cast can attract mass audiences across the globe.

"It's an inspiration to be able to play someone on the screen in whom you can recognize yourself - even in a superhero movie," Boseman says. "It's also important and enlightening for non-black viewers who can identify with heroes who don't conform to the usual stereotypes and see black people do extraordinary things. Black people regularly watch TV series and films where the majority of characters, at least on a visual level, don't correspond to their world. This (film) not only expands our cultural horizons, but it's also a reflection of reality."

Boseman's Black Panther gets to see additional action in Infinity War as he and his fellow Avengers are thrust into what Marvel is billing as their "deadliest" battle yet. The epic tale pits Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, and Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) against the all-powerful Thanos (Josh Brolin) as they attempt to thwart his quest for the Infinity Stones that would allow him to unleash unprecedented devastation on the cosmos. The film is highlighted by both the appearance of the Guardians of the Galaxy squad and a superhero battle royale that takes place in the Black Panther's high-tech kingdom of Wakanda.

Boseman also reveals that Avengers: Infinity War was a chance for him to work even more closely with his Avengers cast mates' films: "It's always exciting to see all these actors I've admired from watching their work outside of the Marvel universe. This is fun - it's like an all-star game."

The 42-year-old Chadwick "Chad" Boseman was born in Anderson, South Carolina where he was raised by his mother, Carolyn, a nurse, and his deeply religious father, Leroy, who worked in a cotton factory.

STRIPLV: Chad, as King T’Challa, aka the Black Panther, you get to rule over the African kingdom of Wakanda. How does a king handle being part of the Avengers team?

BOSEMAN: I don’t think that Black Panther is afraid or intimidated by any of the Avengers. He’s not even trying to find a spot on their team; he’s carving out his own space within the Avengers and bringing along all his power and skills in his own way. He can exist without them if he chooses to.

STRIPLV: It must be incredibly gratifying for you to reach this kind of level as an actor and get to play a character like Black Panther that is on the verge of becoming an iconic figure?

BOSEMAN: We should have seen a character like this on the screen a long time ago. But even if it took longer than it should have to give Black Panther his chance to make his mark, it’s still a remarkable achievement. There’s no reason why the character who gets to save the world should always be a white man. We’ve evolved I hope to a point beyond that. I’ve very happy that kids are going to start wearing Black Panther outfits and feel drawn to his courage and leadership. That is important.

STRIPLV: When you were a kid, was Black Panther one of your favorite comics and superheroes?

BOSEMAN: No, I never really got into him. I was more of a Batman and Spiderman fan. I used to play in the trees behind my grandma’s house and pretend to be Spiderman. But my real hero growing up was Muhammad Ali. He still is. I worship Ali, and I like wearing t-shirts with his face on them.

STRIPLV: Do you think Hollywood was too cautious when it came to waiting so long to make a film with a black superhero?

BOSEMAN: It just took the right people, like those in charge at Marvel, to say that the time has come to do something different. It should have happened sooner, but there were always doubters in the industry who argued that you couldn’t make money with a movie that has a black hero because not enough people would be interested in seeing that. I’m sure there were a lot of people telling Marvel that the idea wouldn’t work, but in the end, it was great that they had the courage to make the film. It’s a significant moment in film history.

STRIPLV: Do you enjoy being part of a rising group of black actors who have been achieving stardom in the industry of late?

BOSEMAN: Oh, yeah. Look at TV series like “Atlanta” and “Insecure” and “Empire.” Or look at Letitia Wright and Lupita N’yongo in Black Panther or actors like John Boyega in Pacific Rim: Uprising which is coming up or A Wrinkle in Time. A lot of black actors are getting opportunities that should have happened earlier, and this is going to change a lot of perceptions in the industry. It’s an interesting time for us to be able to get out of our boxes.

STRIPLV: You’ve enjoyed tremendous success playing iconic black figures such as James Brown, Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player, and Thurgood Marshall, the first black American Supreme Court Justice. How does Black Panther fit into that scheme?

BOSEMAN: What I’m proudest of is that every one of those characters has set a precedent of some sort. Black Panther is the first black superhero in comics, and now he’s the first black superhero character in the movies. The other characters I’ve played were real-life heroes, but people can be inspired and enlightened just as much by fictional characters, and Black Panther is a leader and icon in his own right.

STRIPLV: Which of those characters has been the most difficult for you to play?

BOSEMAN: Oh, James Brown, for sure. There were so many elements to him that were unique. Everything about him was so distinct – his way of speaking, his singing, and his way of dancing, of course. A lot of things could have ended up going wrong. I remember my sister laughing and giving me a hard time when I told her I was going to be playing James Brown. She said: “What? You can’t dance at all. How do you think you’re going to pull that off?” (Laughs)

STRIPLV: When did you first decide on becoming an actor?

BOSEMAN: Actually, I never really wanted to be an actor at all. As a kid, I was interested in drawing and designing. I first got my bachelor’s degree in theatre at Howard University (in Washington, D.C.) and then I studied at the Digital Film Academy in New York. I started writing after one of my friends who played on my basketball team was shot and killed, and my response to that was to write a play about my community. That started me on the path to being a writer, and director and it was only later that I went into acting because I realized that if you want to be a director, you need to understand the work and the process of the actors you’re trying to direct.

STRIPLV: What did your parents think of your wanting to go into the arts?

BOSEMAN: They didn’t try to influence me one way or the other. Both me and my brother wound up going into the arts. My older brother had it tougher than me because he decided to become a professional dancer and my parents were not very thrilled about that. But they accepted his choice, and my own interest in the arts grew deeper by watching him perform on stage and getting to watch him in rehearsals. My mother just wanted us to work hard and stay out of trouble. She appreciated how much I liked to draw and saw that I was good at it and that I had a strong visual sense. And when I decided to study film and theater, she was very supportive of me.

STRIPLV: How tough was it for you when you first arrived in Los Angeles trying to make your way up the Hollywood ladder?

BOSEMAN: It’s disorienting at the beginning. You feel very isolated because there’s this incredibly glamorous world that seems to be beyond your grasp and all the doors are closed to you. It really is a city of broken dreams because only a very few of the people who come to L.A. to work in the movies ever actually get to make it in the business. That’s why I consider myself very lucky.

STRIPLV: Apart from Muhammad Ali, which other people have inspired you?

BOSEMAN: My mother set a great example for me. When I would go to her office after school, and I would get to watch her work while I was doing my homework and waiting for her to take me home. I remember how hard she worked all the responsibility she had when there would be emergencies, and everybody would start to move very fast and react to each case. I really looked up to her. I also have great respect for my father and some of my teachers who made a great impression on me and taught me so many lessons in life. I’ve also been inspired in life by people like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Spike Lee and his movies, and President Obama. And as an actor I’ve looked up to Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Meryl Streep, and my brothers Denzel Washington, Laurence Fishburne, Samuel Jackson and Jeffrey Wright.

STRIPLV: Do you ever feel inspired in turn by playing a great leader of a nation like King T’Challa?

BOSEMAN: It makes you think about your sense of responsibility, and what you contribute to the world. In his case, he’s faced with so many difficult decisions. There’s the key line in the film, “It’s hard for a good man to be king.” It’s complicated to decide whether it’s right to do bad things for the sake of preserving justice and peace, or whether anyone has the right to decide who lives or dies. Playing him, sometimes I felt like the Godfather! (Smiles)

MADAM TARA - LIFE AT THE WORLD FAMOUS MUSTANG RANCH

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MADAM TARA - LIFE AT THE WORLD FAMOUS MUSTANG RANCH

By Brittany Santos Photography Santodonato

STRIPLV: What got you into the business?

TARA: I got into the business when I was 18 years old. My best friend that I went to high school with was the type of girl that slept with everyone in high school, and we always would joke with her that she should go to The Mustang Ranch and get hired. We graduated from high school, and she did end up going to The Mustang Ranch. Meanwhile, I was working as a secretary at Dreyer’s Ice Cream, and she was bringing home a whole lot more money than I was. So that was when I was introduced to the business with Joe Conforte at The Mustang Ranch.

STRIPLV: So, what was the transition like for you going from being one of the Mustang ladies to becoming the Madam? How did it all happen?

TARA: About 15 years ago I met Lance, and I had just finished training to be a firefighter for Storey County. It was right at that time when the recession hit, so the first eight of us that were just hired on by the county were the first that got let go. So, I reached out to Lance and Susan, and told them I wanted to come back, but not as a working lady anymore. I got hired on as a bartender at the time. They had just got done letting go of one of their parlor hostesses, so I got introduced to management there, and it just took off from there. Susan trained me then on how to be a madam.

STRIPLV: In your opinion what makes a good courtesan?

TARA: That’s a good question. Somebody that is very compassionate, and cares about other people’s well-being. Somebody that isn’t going to be put off if someone is disabled and comes here.

STRIPLV: What is the goal experience that you want customers to have when they visit the ranch?

TARA: I want everyone to feel like the red carpet has been rolled out for them when they come. No matter what they spend, I want them to feel important and cared for when they visit.

STRIPLV: What has the trend been like for female customers lately?

TARA: In the last two years, our number of female customers has gone up tremendously. And I’m not sure why or what’s been happening, but we have been getting a lot of just female customers, and a lot of couples too.    

STRIPLV: How long do the girls stay on property?

TARA: Usually around two weeks. We have some that are here for a month on and a month off. Every girl has different schedules. We have a lot of girls that go to school, so of course, we have to help them with their plans as well.

STRIPLV: Tell me about a typical day of work for you.

TARA: Every day is different. You never know what you are going to walk into. There are no days that are the same here. It’s hard to say what a typical day is, this being a 24/7 business.

STRIPLV: As it is a 24-hour a day business, how do you manage a schedule like that?

TARA: Well, I keep my phone on 24/7. I make sure the ringer is on very loud at night. All of us as a team have to be available for each other.

STRIPLV: One thing that struck me after getting a chance to speak with the women here is that your team has created an atmosphere of female empowerment that I think would surprise most. How do you create this?

TARA: We help them to find the way on their own. A lot of the women come to us from bad relationships, or bad family situations and sometimes they have low self-esteem, and don’t think a lot of themselves. By the time they leave after their first stay they are completely different people. They seem secure about themselves, and you can see a huge difference in them. Huge! They know they can get through their life by themselves. They don’t need a man to push them to do anything they don’t want to do. And there is this beautiful sisterhood spirit that is here at Mustang Ranch. The women have each other’s back, whether if it’s at home or on property. They know that if there is a problem at home, or here that they can just get on the phone with Jennifer (Mustang Ranch madam) or me and we will be there to help them through it. This is what really changes them. Seeing that when they come here that we really have their back. We try really hard to help each and every one of them.

STRIPLV: Tell us about how you open up the property for major holidays throughout the year.

TARA: Every year we have a beautiful buffet on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. We invite everybody from the community: cab drivers, business associates and a lot of our VIPs. We always have a huge turnout. Either Lance or Chris comes down and says a prayer before dinner. We celebrate all the major holidays.

STRIPLV: Tell us a little more about your role at the ranch other than just managing the girls. There must be so much more to what you do. 

TARA: Probably being a role model, and a mother figure to a lot of women who haven’t had a big parental influence in their lives. Just really being here for the ladies 100% of the time.

STRIPLV: If a woman is going to come here to work, what can she expect?

TARA: When a woman gets here, we are here to guide her 24/7. We give her a tour of the property, assign her a room, we train her on how things work at Mustang Ranch, and what our protocol is.

STRIPLV: What would you tell an outsider about what makes The World Famous Mustang Ranch so unique compared to its competitors?

TARA: The Mustang Ranch is the safest, busiest and most discrete brothel in the state of Nevada. Our ladies are the best courtesans in the industry. The Mustang Ranch is an adult resort where men, women and couples 18 years and older can come and enjoy themselves! We have handicap accessible rooms as well. The bottom line is we cater to everyone.

REESE WITHERSPOON - ONE-WOMAN POWERHOUSE

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REESE WITHERSPOON - ONE-WOMAN POWERHOUSE

By Skye Huntington

These have been some very big years in the life of Reese Witherspoon. Her “Big Little Lies” TV mini-series will begin shooting the second season as the first season turned out to be a massive popular and critical success and earned her and series co-star Nicole Kidman Emmy nominations for best actress (and an Emmy win for Kidman). It was also a personal triumph on another level for Witherspoon— she spearheaded the development of the series via her Pacific Standard production company, hired her Wild director  to direct and brought her good friend Nicole Kidman on board as both co-star and co-executive producer. Witherspoon developed the series to create better parts for women, which she hopes will spawn similar TV projects down the road. “Things need to change. I constantly see women of incredible talent playing wives and girlfriends in thankless parts, and I just had enough,” Witherspoon says. “I’ve had conversations with so many actress friends, and you can’t imagine the level of exasperation that comes with having to compete for terrible parts in terrible movies.” She adds: “For 25 years, I’ve been the only woman on set. They call it the Smurfette Syndrome: There’s 100 (male) smurf’s around and only one woman. Here, together with Nicole and Laura Dern, we nurtured each other’s performances. It’s a collective performance for all of us.”

 

At the outset, however, Witherspoon called upon Kidman to secure the Big Little Lies book rights from Moriarty, a fellow Aussie. Recalled Kidman: “I had coffee with Liane and said, ‘Let us option your book, please, and I promise you we’ll get it made.’ She said, ‘Only if you and Reese play Celeste and Madeline,’ and I said, ‘Deal.’

Witherspoon delivered arguably the best performance of her career in the role of Madeline, who is Lies’ whirling dervish/Type A meddlesome Monterey mom and social gadfly. The series earned Reese some of the best reviews of her career and could well be said to eclipse even her Oscar-winning turn in Walk
the Line
or harrowing journey in Wild.

Chatting with Reese is always an adventure. Not only does her neon smile light up the room, but she also brings boundless energy and enthusiasm to the conversation. She has also become a one-woman powerhouse since career-breaking performances in Cruel ntentions, Legall Blonde and Walk the Line, which nabbed her an Oscar. Witherspoon now carefully plots her new projects with strategic maneuvering. The same can be said for her interview demeanor, which is shrewd and considered, but always delivered with that bubbly, cutesy Southern drawl.

The 42-year-old Witherspoon lives in Los Angeles with her Hollywood agent husband, Jim Toth, and their five-year-old boy Tennessee, and her two teenage children, 18-year-daughter Ava and soon-to-be 14-year old son Deacon, from her previous marriage to actor Ryan Philippe.

STRIPLV: Reese, this would appear to be a very fertile creative time for you.

WITHERSPOON: I’m in a good place in my life and as an artist, and I have high expectations for the future. It’s very rewarding and a lot of fun but in the end, there’s a lot of hard work involved.

STRIPLV: What is the difference between where you are today and where you were nearly a decade ago and admitted going through a crisis? (following her divorce from Ryan Philippe)

WITHERSPOON:  A while back I felt that I had lost my inspiration and my direction and today my work fits with my ambitions about what I want to accomplish and the ideas I have for new projects. My husband Jim has had a lot to do with that. He’s helped encourage me to be bolder in my outlook, and now with my production company (Pacific Standard), I’m able to create opportunities not just for myself but for other women to write and direct.

STRIPLV: Now that you’ve entered your 40s, would you say that you have attained a certain calm and confidence about how you want to move forward?

WITHERSPOON:  Yes. As you grow older, so many things become clearer. Now I focus on the positives, on what I know how to do, and on enjoying my family life and being a good mother instead of wasting time on things that are not important and distract you from what you want to do.

STRIPLV: “Big Little Lies” must give you a tremendous sense of satisfaction in being able to put together such an impressive cast of women that is not often seen on TV or film.

WITHERSPOON: I’m very proud of being able to bring together so many extraordinarily gifted women like Nicole, Shailene (Woodley), Laura (Dern), and Zoë (Kravitz) to be part of this series. I was getting tired of seeing so many talented women relegated to secondary, girlfriend kinds of roles. And getting to spend time with them has made me appreciate even more how frustrating it is for women in our business to be able to find good roles.

STRIPLV: You were obviously frustrated with the lack of opportunities out there.

WITHERSPOON: I wasn’t just frustrated with myself but for a lot of other women I know who share with me their horror stories about not being able to find good roles. What made me angry was the lack of interest that our industry had in telling stories from a women’s perspective and, even worse, seeing fantastic actresses forced to play and only wives or girlfriends’ type character. It’s important to talk about women with greater complexity.

STRIPLV: Did you share a lot of similar perspectives with your character Madeline?

WITHERSPOON: There are a lot of similarities. Madeline was for me a kind of cross-section of what so many women are facing in their 40s. She’s divorced and

remarried. She’s a mother seeing her eldest child start asserting her independence and dealing with issues all mothers face as their relationship when their partner changes or breaks down after many years or when their children start asserting themselves more when they get to be teenagers. It’s not the story of my life, but it’s not that far off from what I’ve been through and some of the experiences I’ve had and the questions I’ve had to deal with.

STRIPLV: You’re the mother of three children. Now that your production company is more active than ever, does it make it harder to manage things?

WITHERSPOON: The teenagers are much more demanding. You’re constantly having to guide them through all those big first moments in their lives: the first love of their life, getting their first car, and then thinking about college. The relationship is much more complicated as compared to when they’re young, and your main concerns are very practical, making their meals, driving them to school, getting them to bed on time. And they usually listen to you.

STRIPLV: And teenagers don’t?

WITHERSPOON:  When your kids get to be teenagers, they very rarely agree with anything you tell them. And when it comes to an 18-year-old girl, you begin to realize that you don’t know anything about her anymore. I find myself calling my mom and asking her for advice. I tell her “Am I ruining their lives?” (Laughs)

STRIPLV: You grew up in Tennessee, part of the American south and its distinctive culture. Raising your children in L.A., do you still try to give them a sense of your southern upbringing and roots?

WITHERSPOON:  Southern women have a strong sense of humor, they laugh at themselves, and they don’t scream if they see a cockroach. The first thing I taught my eldest children was riding horses, getting to spend time with animals and playing outdoors. Also, when they were little, I didn’t allow them to watch TV. I didn’t want them sitting in front of the TV set all day, and I tried to get them to play and do as many creative kinds of activities as possible.

STRIPLV: Do you have any particular philosophy concerning your role as a mother?

WITHERSPOON: I try to encourage them to be active and do sports.  I also want to give them enough freedom so that they can develop their own individuality and not feel like their mother is trying to control their lives, not that they listen to you anyway! (Laughs) My parents were very thoughtful and inspiring to me, and I grew up with an independent spirit. I want my children to be able to discover their own interests and pursue their own ambitions.

STRIPLV: You seem to still have plenty ambition when it comes to your work these days.

WITHERSPOON: I do!  I’ve seen how much you can do when you work hard and don’t wait for the phone to ring. I went through that, and then I decided to stop being complacent and start creating my own projects and working with people whom I admire and who have a vision similar to my own.

STRIPLV: You’re still very youthful-looking. Does aging bother you?

WITHERSPOON: No. I don’t mind it at all. It’s amazing. When I first saw “Big Little Lies” in the rehearsal room, I immediately noticed the wrinkles on my face and I said, “I like them, I won them one by one.” I worked hard to have these wrinkles!

STRIPLV: You won an Oscar singing in Walk the Line, so how was the challenge in Sing or was it no challenge at all?

WITHERSPOON: Sing was way-way harder. (Laughs) It was in another league. Country was second nature to me; it came naturally because I’d always dreamed of being a country singer. I grew up in Nashville. But pop songs, tougher than you’d expect. Especially the songs they picked for me. I think it’s because we hear them so much that they seem easier but technically, they can be very challenging. I already knew Firework was difficult; I think anyone who’s not Katy Perry has attempted to sing it, knows it’s an uphill challenge. You’ve got the notes that are off the register. Plus, I think my kids are a little sick of it now because as I was constantly going around the house singing it. “Mom, give it a rest,” is what I used to hear. A lot! And “Shake It Off,” wow, Taylor makes it look easy. And I actually met her while I was recording and was like, “It’s a really difficult song,” and she’s like, “Welcome to my world.” You think it’s like this fun poppy anthem but the speed and the pacing, and the tone, it’s technically really difficult. So I have a seriously new-found respect for Taylor.

STRIPLV: Are you a singer at home by yourself?

WITHERSPOON: Definitely. In the shower, in the car. And it’s always where I do my best work. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: What’s your go-to song?

WITHERSPOON: “Chandelier” by Sia. That is not easy either, which is why it’s wise I sing it by myself. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: But you won an Oscar for your singing, aren’t you being a little hard on yourself?

WITHERSPOON: Not if you heard my “Chandelier.” No, I’m not a singer, I can sing OK. I can hold a tune, sometimes. But I won’t be releasing an album any time ever. Nothing will tell you that more than being around Jennifer Hudson and Tori Kelly. And Scarlett Johansson, she’s an amazing singer too. All of them would literally be in and out of the studio in 20 minutes and then when it came to my turn, I’d do my song, I’d sing “Firework” and think, “nailed it.” And then they’d say to me, “can you come back tomorrow to do that again?” Then they’d say it the next day and the next day. It would stretch to, “actually, are you free all next week. Yeah, that’d be great. We need to do a lot of work.”

STRIPLV: This is one for your kids. Has it earned brownie points?

WITHERSPOON: Plenty points. It’s the first time my youngest has seen one of my movies, and it’s glorious to watch him try and get his mind around what’s happening. Every morning he’d ask me to explain, “so your voice is coming from a pig? It’s you, but you’re a pig!” When we went to see it for the first time because they’ve all seen it like 10 times since I was fascinated by his face, it was so cute. I was staring at him in the theater, mesmerized by his expressions. 

STRIPLV: Why were you drawn to the very cool Rosita?

WITHERSPOON: This is about following your dreams, no matter what. No matter your age, no matter if you’ve got kids, no matter if your parent wants you to stay part of the family business, no matter what you’ve got going on, you can still go for it. And you should go for it. I play a mom who I think a lot of moms can relate to. She has 25 kids, (Laughs) which is a pretty average number, right? And she’s allowed her dreams to slip by the wayside because that’s what happens. She has so many children that there isn’t time for anything else. But she hears about his competition coming to town, and she wants her chance to sing, and prove to herself that she can do it. This is her big shot! I think everybody has secret dreams and wants. That never goes away. And I think moms disappear sometimes when they’re looking after the kids, they become swallowed by this routine and who they are as people, as individuals, they’re kind of eclipsed, and their dreams and own lives take second place.

STRIPLV: Could you relate to her and that?

WITHERSPOON: I think I can relate to her as most moms can. Moms aren’t just mom’s, they are actual people themselves, which I think can come as a shock to kids and it’s important to see them as individuals who don’t just cook dinner and clean your clothes and drive you to school. And that’s a nice message for kids in this movie, to appreciate their moms. There are so many great messages about family togetherness, but I think this was my favorite. I like mom’s being championed. They don’t get enough credit. And another great one is, it becomes for all the singers, not just Rosita. It’s not about the money, it’s about the performance and love of it, and I love that message too. And then there’s believing in yourself. God, there are so many.

STRIPLV: Reese, is “Big Little Lies” your way of making a statement to Hollywood?

WITHERSPOON: We need to create more series and movies that treat women in a realistic way and enable female audiences, in particular, to be able to see themselves and identify with modern, complex female characters. It’s a unique pleasure to be able to come to other women with (this series). These are the kinds of (projects) that shift consciousness. I want to be able to express myself, create shows like this to show how important women are in our world.

STRIPLV: Did you feel a personal connection to the stories of these three women and mothers?

WITHERSPOON: What was great about reading the novel for the first time is that I saw myself in different stages of motherhood all through my life. I was a mom at 22; I’ve been divorced, I’ve been re-married. They showed every spectrum and color of a woman’s life. I thought it was incredible to have so many parts for women in one piece of material. I feel like it was such a unique opportunity to have women at every age, every color, talking about motherhood. That is the common denominator. Motherhood is the great equalizer. Parenthood is a great equalizer.

STRIPLV: How did you see your character Madeline in “Big Little Lies?”

WITHERSPOON: Madeline’s struggling with a lot of things, and she’s very open about her struggles. She’s just an open book. She’s constantly searching for happiness and as the series goes on you’ll find out she’s wrestling with some real ethical dilemmas and things that she wishes she hadn’t done. I fixated on this idea that there’s always someone within a group of women who are “perfect.” She seems to have everything organized and together, and then you realize, “Oh! She’s actually the most cracked of everyone.” I’m always wary of that person who is afraid to show vulnerability. Madeline only shows it to her friends, and then later you see how truly conflicted she is.

STRIPLV: What does the series say about the state of marriage and relationships between men and women?

WITHERSPOON: It was important to not just explore the perspective that women have on their lives but also show these women connect to the men in their lives. I 

was fascinated by the family dynamics at work and particularly about the journey that my character and James’s (Tupper) go on and how divorces can be very messy and complicated.

STRIPLV: Did you see this series as addressing the need for more projects that give women a more central place?

WITHERSPOON: We should be telling a lot more stories about women like this, and that’s why I love writers like Lena Dunham and what she’s done on “Girls.” She’s done a lot to change our way of thinking about women’s attitudes towards sex and being very open and realistic about female sexuality.

STRIPLV: A few years ago you starred in Wild, which you and your production company Pacific Standard also produced. Was that also an important statement regarding its openness about female sexuality?

WITHERSPOON: A lot of women grow up with the impression that casual sex is something to be ashamed about, or that you can’t be as free about sex as men are allowed to be. Society still attaches a lot of stigma when it comes to women who are very free about sex or having many relationships. Wild made a point that there’s nothing necessarily wrong with having sex with a lot of different guys. There’s something liberating about being able to say that and women shouldn’t feel ashamed or be made to feel ashamed about having an active sex life. Women should learn to own their sexuality as well as their aspirations in life.

STRIPLV: You have often expressed your pride and admiration for how your mother inspired you to achieve great things in your life. Could you talk about her influence on you?

WITHERSPOON: My mom was my inspiration because she was very hard-working and disciplined and I get my work ethic from her. My mother worked very hard at her job (as a surgical and later teaching nurse), and she also earned a doctorate in pediatric nursing while raising my sister and me. She’s a very dynamic and strong-willed woman who was always very present for us and her dedication as a working mother is something I’ve always respected and wanted to emulate in my own life.

STRIPLV: Do you also try to be a role model for your children and your daughter Ava in particular?

WITHERSPOON: I hope my children are feel encouraged to work hard in life because I’ve tried to accomplish a lot in my career which hasn’t always been easy for me. I also think it’s important as a woman to show what you can accomplish. I had to work very hard to get people in the business to take me seriously and even after I had had some success I still couldn’t find the serious roles I was looking for. But following the example of my own mother, I kept pursuing things with a lot of passion and determination, and I would like my kids to feel the same way about their mother.

GARY OLDMAN - BODY OF WORK

0418garyoldmanfeature

GARY OLDMAN - BODY OF WORK

On March 4, Gary Oldman brought home the Oscar for Best Actor. And the star doesn't mince his feelings on the accolade. "I am fucking delighted," he cries. “No complaints from me."

It seems criminal this may only be a first Academy Award win for the 60-year-old actor. Gary Oldman made his mark playing extreme and often deranged characters and was, for many years, one of Hollywood's most celebrated villains. There was no-one better at giving depth to drooling psychos (The Fifth Element, True Romance) twisted cops (Leon: The Professional, Romeo is Bleeding) or manic artists (Sid and Nancy, Prick Up Your Years). But in the 1990s, the man whose very persona reflected the tough south London areas where he was raised, decided the time was right for a change, both professionally and personally. He gave up drinking, redefined himself as a skilled character actor, and found a measure of inner calm that had long eluded him.

And now, two decades on, it remains. Except now, there is a renaissance in the air, and at the dining tables of Oscar judges. Rightly so, no one could ever have imagined that Oldman would one day deliver his greatest performance as Winston Churchill, one the most important figures in British history. Sid Vicious as Winnie? Unthinkable. But in Darkest Hour, director Joe Wright’s account of Churchill’s leadership, a riveting account of Churchill’s momentous defense against German forces in WWII, Gary is brilliant in his unrecognizable performance that has critics calling it the greatest depiction of the greatest of British leaders.

Oldman’s outlook on life may have changed over the years, but his philosophy is the same: to acquaint audiences with new ideas and different perceptions. In this case, it was usually grumpy, cigar-chomping caricature of Churchill that was to be reimagined.

Looking very distinguished and chic in a dark suit and black-rimmed glasses, his hair and goatee flecked with gray, Oldman is in high spirits. Turning 60 this past March, the former renegade actor and bad boy of British cinema has scored the greatest triumph of his lauded career. He was touted to win the Oscar as far back as September when Darkest Hour first premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and ever since it seems as if he’s been on a well-earned victory tour in support of the film.

Today he’s full of humility, while his accent and appearance offer a curious blend of a comfortable, luxurious life that was constructed on the gritty, ruthless, unforgiving concrete of 1960s south-east London.

Ironically, Oldman almost balked at the prospect of playing Churchill, a man who will forever be inscribed in the popular imagination as a fabled orator, statesman, and politician. Deliberating over the role – and not just because of the grueling four-hour makeup and costume process that was undertaken for 48 consecutive days— Oldman had to reach into reserves of courage not plumbed for several decades.

Certainly, Oldman ranks at the top of his profession in terms of his chameleonic capacity to utterly transform and otherwise immerse himself into a wide range of screen selves. Once he decided to distance himself from his rogue’s gallery of renegades and evildoers (perhaps most notably his sniveling Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK), the working-class actor has succeeded in rebranding himself over the course of the last two decades by playing good guys.

Younger audiences are far more aware of Oldman as Commissioner Gordon in the Dark Knight trilogy, the fugitive Sirius Black in the Harry Potter films, and, most recently, as master spy George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Last August he married his fifth wife, Gisele Schmidt, an art curator, and at this point in his life, he appears to be eager to fully exploit this renaissance period in which he finds himself. Sitting opposite Gary there is a brutal honesty in his eyes. You can sense an inner calm as well as a burning desire for artistic accomplishment. And yet, through all that, small fragments of insecurities remain.

In 2018, he intends to direct his second film. It’s been over two decades since his debut project the turbulent 1997 family drama Nil by Mouth, a semi-autobiographical account of Oldman’s working-class upbringing and life with a brutal, alcoholic father.

Born in New Cross, his father Leonard was a former sailor who worked as a welder. His mother Kathleen, who ran a boarding house for youngsters coming through the ranks at Millwall Football Club, supported the aspiring actor and sister Laila Morse – best known for her portrayal of Mo Harris in “EastEnders” – until he got his first job, in a sports shop, at the age of 16.

“London changes so quickly, and it was a very different place for me growing up there,” he says. “In a way, it’s lost a lot of that raw edge that it had, particularly around where I grew up. I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing, but the transformation has been incredible, and we will never go back to that version of the city,” Oldman says.

For Oldman, Hatcham Park Road in SE14 remains, as does the Five Bells pub where his father used to drink. Whether Leonard’s departure from the family set-up, back when Oldman was seven, influenced the future actor’s attitude towards characters and hierarchy is unclear, though he admits to being more comfortable easing into traditional leading man roles. His current profile is that of an elder statesman as opposed to his former status as a renegade actor who inspired many in his wake, Tom Hardy, Ryan Gosling, and Michael Fassbender included.

When asked to comment on the legacy he has left for a rising generation of actors, Oldman has been characteristically modest about his influential standing as a latter-day Brando or Dean.

“I don’t really look at old work,” Oldman said. “Occasionally there’s a role you played, you didn’t really give it much of a second thought, and then someone says it meant something to them. I saw you in that, and that’s when I wanted to become an actor! I’m always flattered and mystified,” Oldman says.

“With the roles that are more emotionally physical, they might be great characters and great scenes to play, but I would always have a cloud over my day. You get to the set; you do makeup, then you’re in the trailer waiting for that knock on the door: They’re ready for you on set, and you get there and hope that the reserves are full - whether you need rage or tears or whatever it is,” Oldman says.

STRIPLV: Becoming Winston Churchill, how would you describe that journey?

OLDMAN: A joy, and a torture. Equal measure [laughs]. I mean, no, the process was an arduous journey to get into him, finding all those moving pieces and putting him together but when you did, what a joy. What a pure joy! But it’s a joy to me with every role I’ve played; I like to call them my strange friends [laughs]. There’s a climatic resonance after long preparation and a fraught, challenging odyssey you suddenly find yourself standing in front of the mirror, seeing the character looking back at you. And to see Winston looking at me, not just within the magic of cosmetic trickery or posturing, to locate the spirit and breathe life into that and see it with your two eyes is really extraordinary.

STRIPLV: Did you go full method?

OLDMAN: I don’t go fully to the other side, but I feel like it was Winston Churchill channeling me. Ben Mendelsohn said it’s like there’s this membrane of Winston there all the time. And my wife said to me, which I loved, “I go to sleep with Winston Churchill, and I wake up with Gary.”

STRIPLV: When was the moment where you felt like you truly got him?

OLDMAN: Somewhere along the way, I can’t quite pinpoint when during the year of preparing myself, but I found Winston. I found his cherubic musicality, somewhere through the research, the transformation, I saw beyond the curmudgeon shuffling round in his slippers, pulling on his pipe, born in a bad mood. I watched footage of him for a year, longer, and I found the childlike light within. I found the sparkle and the twinkle in the eye.  The 60-year old man who skipped around like a 20-year-old, a man more than half his age. Skipping around. It’s far from known. Once I found that energy, it never felt like I was trying. A lot of the shooting of the film, I honestly can’t remember, because it became so unconsciously natural to me and freeing. It’s when I could feel him close by, in my blood and DNA.

STRIPLV: To turn into Winston, how long would that take each day?

OLDMAN: Three hours and 15 minutes, give or take. And then to get into costume, you were looking at four hours in total. And this was 48 consecutive days! Forty-eight consecutive days, getting up at 1:30 a.m. to be ready for the rest of the cast and crew by 6 a.m. Whom I’ll add, never saw me as Gary throughout the entire shoot, just as Winston.

STRIPLV: How was that?

OLDMAN: Well when we were done by the end of the day, these were 10, 12 hour days, they’d all be done and go home. And I have to stay for an hour behind getting it all taken off. So realistically, it was probably an 18 hour day altogether for two months, and I got a little worried whether I could keep this going because it required a lot of stamina.

STRIPLV: What were you wearing to create Winston’s bulk and did you try to put the weight on first?

OLDMAN: It was basically a fat suit. (Laughs) There’s not really any other way of describing it, other than a fat suit. And I’ll tell you why I wore a fat suit and didn’t go all De Niro Raging Bull; I’m 60 years old. I’m too old, and not able to pile on 70 pounds or whatever it would take to present Churchill as he was, with the neck and the jowls, it’s not good for your health. Out it whatever way you want, it’s for the realistic intention of the performance. I’m not putting my health at risk. (Laughs) You’re at the age where your liver, your kidneys are vulnerable; they can’t undergo severe stress like that. But Kazuhiro Tsuji was my savior.  We’d known each other for 20 odd years when I was supposed to do Planet of the Apes for Tim Burton, but that didn’t happen. But I worked with Kazu on that; I had an ape head made up, I was going to be an ape and his work with me, with Men in Black, with The Nutty Professor; he was the only one who could help me do this. The problem was, he was retired. So it took a lot of flattery and compliments and more flattery and a lot of begging and pleading— lots of pleading— and he eventually came round.

STRIPLV: Did you feel like this job and all the makeup et cetera was more than you could chew?

OLDMAN: I will tell you honestly, I loved it. I loved every minute. I was gripped by the process, seeing Winston born on my form, it was breath-taking. An hour into the process, I could see glimpses of him staring at me. And I’m going to say, and it may make no sense to an outside observer, but with the fat suit, with the padding, the make-up, the prosthetics, I’ve never felt freer in a character. Isn’t that weird? I find immersing yourself in that guise, very liberating.

STRIPLV: Why?

OLDMAN: It’s like listening to yourself on a tape recorder; no one likes to hear that. I don’t like to see myself, I’m very used to that, and it pleases me no end to not recognize that form, to not know who I’m looking at. To not know that’s me. It’s a hard one to explain, but I gave my best attempt. Probably all part of why I got into acting in the first place, that love in the theater of transforming into another person. It’s marvelous. I’ve always enjoyed being another character instead of being myself.

STRIPLV: Why’s that?

OLDMAN: I’ve always had an issue with how my appearance, how I look, my presence. A lot of actors feel the same; it’s why many of us do what we do.

STRIPLV: Is there a reason why?

OLDMAN: Nothing in particular, perhaps it’s a remnant of playground teasing. Just an uncomfortableness.

STRIPLV: Did you ever think, why did I accept this job?

OLDMAN: I think that was the big fat pink elephant in the room. How was I going to pull this off? Aside from the mountain of portraying one of the most important figures in British history, arguably the greatest mythologized, who’s ever lived, how was I going to achieve this? I wanted to say no. I mulled over it, a lot of pensive soul searching. Once that seed was planted, I had to say yes. This was once in a lifetime; I would never get a chance like this again. I listened to some of his speeches, over and over, learning the gravitas of his timbre. And then I recorded myself on my iPhone giving it a try. There was something there. Something worked. And it was really my wife Gisele who said to me, this was the clincher. “Are you really going to give up this opportunity to say those words? You’ll always regret it.”

STRIPLV: It’s difficult to imagine Gary Oldman scared.

OLDMAN: Lately, I think fear has become the central core of my own process in accepting any work and perennial concern that I won’t be able to do it. What can I say? I’m an actor who’s overwhelmingly insecure. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: Why is that?

OLDMAN: On the whole, I’m incredibly blessed, very fortuitously in my line of work and I will never say other. But with the ups, big ups like this movie, this moment, there has been work that I had to do for just the check because I was raising my boys by myself, I was a single dad. I had to be there for them. I couldn’t be leaving for months at a time to shoot in Romania or South Africa, so I had to say no. I was a dad who needed to be a present dad. So that’s what I did, I took jobs that meant I could be at home for the school run, to be there to pay the mortgage. Maybe not my finest moments but I had responsibility over anything else.

STRIPLV: So, do you have regrets over certain movie roles?

OLDMAN: Absolutely no regrets. Never. What’s the point in regrets? It’s a waste of time.

 

TOM HANKS - THE POST

0318tomhanksfeature

TOM HANKS - THE POST

By Jack Wellington

With the current toxic political climate in America, The Post couldn’t be more relevant. A sharp, fast-paced retelling of the Pentagon Papers and the dilemma faced by those at the Washington Post, including editor Ben Bradlee and publisher, Kay Graham, it’s a simple reiteration of the Trump administration’s constant assault on the press – or as the president keenly likes to refer to it “fake news.”

Star Tom Hanks, who plays Bradlee in the film, agrees with the stark relevance.

“It’s as simple as making a movie based in 1971; we may as well be making a movie about what’s happening right now. All this time goes on, and nothing really changes.”

As Bradlee, Hanks delivers another tour de

force performance as a newsman pushed to the edge. As a movie star and two-time Oscar-winner, he’s a tried and trusted brand. One of the biggest box office draws in history, his image and views are all part of a carefully constructed business, one he’s not necessarily willing to tarnish by outwardly bashing the Trump administration.

But an ever-savvy media presence, the 61-year-old knows how to land a silent punch.

And in an interesting chat, the star delivers his withering take on the current presidency without getting his hands dirty-like only a true pro knows how.

Friendly and warm, Hanks discusses the freedom of the press, the cornerstone of democracy and why the truth is a powerful entity.

He also chats with us about working with Meryl Streep for the first time, the role of women in Hollywood and why he has finally turned his back on technology.

Hanks lives in LA with wife Rita Wilson. They share two children, Chet, 28 and Truman, 22. He also has two older kids, Colin, 41, and Elizabeth, 35, from his first marriage to Samantha Lewes.

STRIPLV: So you met Ben Bradlee. What was he really like?

HANKS: I met Ben and (wife) Sally for drinks, for cocktails and dinner with Nora Ephron and he’s exactly as you see him up there. Succinct, precise. Scintillating. There was no such thing as a casual conversation with him. It was exactly like his work, like his memoirs. He was genuinely sincerely interested in everything. And he was the quintessential, quote unquote newsman who loved the job and loved and lived for the business, and for the truth. His job was to find the truth, to put it out there and let people decide. Simple and clear. I remember meeting him; he said to me, “Tom, I always said, you gotta make sure what you put on the front page is the truth. Because if it isn’t, you’re going to be tasting it for a long time. And it doesn’t taste nice.” That had a powerful resonation. His passion for the truth, to go deep and discover the truth hidden deep underground in these secret vaults, putting it out there and on the record. The truth is what makes us great, the access to the truth, which is at the cornerstone of our democracy. The Nixon administration tried to alter the first amendment, the first point put down on paper by the founding fathers, and that’s monkeying around with our constitution.

STRIPLV: The liberal drive-by media is riddled with fake news. What’s your take on it?

HANKS: What the current administration is doing is maybe subtler than what happened to The Washington Post back then, because if they were to attempt to shut down, if they were to attempt to silence an organization today, it would be total consternation. What the current administration is doing is far more insidious in its assault. It’s putting the idea out there, that these are not the truths, and diluting the waters. It’s muddying the waters by delegitimizing the truth, and this is why when telling the truth in this form, there cannot be a sliver of question, a sliver of doubt. It has to be concrete and entirely encased. Because if not, it gives those opportunity to cease upon that and run with it. So journalism has to get it right. Because if you get it right, you can’t argue with, you can have a different opinion, but you can’t argue with it. The difference now is lies, and marketing and falsehoods exist side-by-side with the truth, promoting the adage, you can’t believe everything you read. And that is true beyond doubt. But there are also many things you must believe; you have to believe. There’s a lot of lies out there, that’s nothing new, there’s always been fake news, but the truth stands tall. And standing in the way of that truth being published and disseminated to a wider audience, which is a violation of democracy, that’s the center of this story.

STRIPLV: The timeliness of this movie is uncanny, the battle between government and press.

HANKS: It’s always going to be topical, isn’t it? With every administration, there is always a gauntlet laid down between Congress and the media; that will never change. It’s a constant tug of war. Obama experienced it, so did Bush, so did Clinton, now the current. (Laughs) There’s this push and pull between church and state. And yes, right now the press is under siege. We’re in the middle of a period in history where reason is being pummelled in a colossal assault never witnessed before. But the truth in its purest form is a powerful entity. This movie is timely not only in politicians lying and concealing the truth in order to curry favor, but also the position of women fighting for their position in the workforce. Issues that could not be more in the forefront of our public and individual consciousness.

STRIPLV: Did it allow you to reflect on the earlier stage of your career, when the fight for women’s rights in the workplace was beginning to intensify and how that reflects on today’s battle? And how can things finally change in Hollywood?

HANKS: I’m coming at it from a different angle, where there’s my own perspective on it because I have had many brilliant, direct, no bullshit bosses in Penny Marshall, Amy Pascal, Nora Ephron, Stacey Snider. I’ve had the good fortune of working for these women who have given me my break in my career, who have steered my trajectory. But simply put, there needs to be more women in these positions of power based on their meritocracy. When that happens, it will shift and displace the current imbalance and disorder plaguing industries. Parity at the top will change that. There’s a lot to be said, a lot of hope and optimism pinned on the millennial generation. From my personal experience in my own home, they are the generation who have grown up with an intentioned adherence and awareness of equality and moving forward; I see how their attitude will shape the state of the world and society for the better. I believe their generation interprets events, the events of today very differently from older people.

STRIPLV: Speaking of women in power, Meryl Streep, how the hell is this the first time you are both working together?

HANKS: It’s because I can’t sing or dance. If I could, we would have done Mamma Mia. I auditioned but was coldly turned away.

STRIPLV: Were you really?

HANKS: No. (Laughs) But you clarified that. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: I read you said she was “high maintenance.”

HANKS: I stand by that! What a nightmare. (Laughs) I’m not going to say diva but, draw your own conclusion. What I learned from working with the greatest talent ever committed to celluloid is she does it just like everyone else. She carries trepidation, nervousness about how it’s all going to work. She actually chastised me for not forewarning her that Steven doesn’t do rehearsals. And inherently chasing an undiscovered timbre within the script, sitting down with her to do that, I learned Ms. Streep does it like everybody else does and unlike anybody else can. What am I saying, she is the greatest actor, her work stands for itself. Nobody can touch her. The intimidation factor is real. I half thought I thought trumpets would announce her arrival every day. Little let down if I’m honest. (Laughs)

STRIPLV: Has this film made you see the media in a different light or how you absorb your news?

HANKS: It didn’t but then I recently altered how I receive my news by turning away from digital and relying solely on print. I need tangible, physical copy in my hands because only then can I hone my attention on something pinpoint.

STRIPLV: Why, when it’s the “way of the future” and all that?

HANKS: Well I had every app, every news update bombarding my phone, my computer, and they are constant. And because of the volume coming at me, I never read more than headlines, more than a quick scan. And therefore, missing the point, missing so much. So The New York Times, cover to cover, every morning. It used to be my morning ritual, technology interfered, and now, I have thankfully gone back. It works for me. I would prefer to be more informed about particular news events, fully informed, rather than knowing about everything but having a shallow understanding.

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