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RUBY ROSE - TRANSFORMATION

rubyrose feature

On the set of her first film, XXX: Return of Xander Cage, Ruby Rose tortured her fellow Antipodean co-star Toni Collette. 

“I couldn’t help myself. She’s one of the biggest stars at home, and I consider her one of my icons. You want to be respectful, but I just couldn’t help myself. I kept shouting out, “You’re terrible Muriel. I’m surprised I didn’t get a slap.” 

Life’s good for the 30-year-old former MTV presenter/model/DJ who, via a stint as a duplicitous inmate in Orange Is the New Black, has reinvented herself as a rising Hollywood action star with three mega blockbusters.

She took a turn as a murderous assassin in Keanu Reeves’ revenge saga sequel, John Wick 2; a gun-toting zombie killer in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter and is now celebrating her latest release, XXX: Return of Xander Cage. But despite her overnight success, Rose is reluctant to stereotype her abilities. Warm and grounded, she stuns in a simple black sweater and white shirt combo, with her black locks, slick and parted, providing the perfect frame for those elfin features and dazzling blue eyes. 

And her appeal is all the more irresistible thanks to her utter disbelief in her surroundings. 

“I still find this all so surreal,” she tells me. Full of chat, she opens up about her involvement in XXX and her best friend relationship with co-star Vin Diesel. She also talks LGBTQ representation in the media, her struggles to make it in Hollywood and her Orange
Is the New Black
 future. She doesn’t show any signs of slowing down either.  We were lucky enough to interview her on her first press tour for XXX: Return of Xander Cage now available on DVD.  She will be gracing the silver screen again soon in the cult comedy franchise Pitch Perfect 3 later this year, and will star in the highly anticipated action horror film about a giant shark called Meg directed by John Turtletaub scheduled for release in 2018.

SANTOS: Is it weird being in the celeb seat and not the interviewer?

ROSE: It’s still very strange yeah. This is my first press tour for a movie, and I’ve been interviewed before, but it doesn’t stop me feeling like I need to be asking the questions. 

SANTOS: Well we don’t have time for that, unfortunately, so we have to focus on you instead.

ROSE: Ah.

SANTOS: Acting seems to have happened out of the blue for you. How did it come about?

ROSE: Funnily enough, acting was my first love and what I wanted to do with my life when I finished high school. I went to VCA, Victoria College of the Arts but literally within the first semester, one of my first auditions— because they encourage you to do that and get rejected so you can talk about your experience—  it’s literally a module in the syllabus, ‘Get Rejected’ (laughs). But the one I went for was MTV, and I ended up getting it. And it was literally like, shit, what do I do now? I was in shock; they were in shock. They basically said, well you’ve got a decision to make. So I obviously took the job, thinking, “Great, this will probably help me get into acting at some point down the line.” Which it didn’t. It ended up having the opposite effect. And I couldn’t get a job, an acting job in Australia to save my life. Nobody would touch me because I was too well known. Or at least, that’s what I like to tell myself. Ah, the stories we tell ourselves (laughs). So I moved to LA, to start fresh and ended up unemployed and sleeping on an air mattress with my dog for two years. With no work, no discernible income, going “what the hell was I thinking?” And then I got a life-changing call from Jenji (Kohan, creator of Orange Is the New Black) asking me if I’d like to audition for Stella. And against all the odds, I was offered the part, and literally, my life changed overnight. That’s pretty much me over a decade in a very messy, cluttered nutshell, which I know you didn’t ask for.

SANTOS: Were you literally unemployed for two years?

ROSE: More or less, yeah. I was getting offers for presenting jobs and worse, reality shows. That was the first thing I got put in front of me, which I kindly declined because all that defeated the whole purpose of moving out to the States in the first place. I wanted to pursue acting, which is always very easy when you

don’t have a manager or agent (laughs).

SANTOS: You were sensational on Orange Is the New Black, but we only saw you for like 30 seconds in season four. Are you coming back for the new season? Do you even have the time?

ROSE: Well I will always make time for those ladies. Whatever Jenji wants. She says jump; I say how high.

SANTOS: There are rumors that your character is going to come back and seek vengeance against Piper for the whole deception, throwing her in maximum security prison thing. And you’ve picked up some skills from these movies, so that could be interesting. 

ROSE: I could take her out with one shot five miles away, she better watch out (laughs). I mean, I don’t know, it seems like the next logical step for someone wronged in prison, but I think Stella has too much love in her heart and she doesn’t strike me as the vengeful type. I could be wrong.

SANTOS: So you are coming back?

ROSE: (shrugs shoulders). I just want to know what happens next. Even while I was shooting my first season, Jenji would drip feed us the scripts. I was like an addict, always wanting more! 

SANTOS: You seemed, well you all seemed like, you were having a ball on this movie XXX: Return of Xander Cage.

ROSE: I feel like it’s become a bit of a love-fest, this press tour, because we’re all gushing about each other, declaring our love for one another. It’s so mushy and relentless, but it’s the absolute truth. We had so much fun together during filming, I mean, going to Toronto and the Dominican Republic, doing these incredible stunts with people who were like my instant best friends. It genuinely felt I’d known them all my life. Because I will know them all my life. I’m so very confident in that statement. They’re the family I didn’t know I needed.  

SANTOS: You seem to strike a particularly strong bond with Vin, who by the way, has nothing but awful things to say about you.

ROSE: He’s the worst. 

SANTOS: The worst (laughing)!

ROSE: Vin is like my big brother. He’s my best friend, he’s my fake boyfriend. I love that man so much I can’t even tell you. And the irony is that I idolized him watching the first XXX, the first Fast
and
Furious
. He was smooth and charismatic and did these mind-blowing stunts, and he had this amazing smile— he was just the coolest guy to me. The voice, that laugh. I had his poster on my wall, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be him and everything that he was or have him as my best friend (laughs). I knew I would have him in my life in some way. And here we are, best friends. And he was instrumental in getting me cast as Adele. He pushed for me and fought for me, and that meant a lot. Oh, and he got me seven birthday cakes for my birthday!

SANTOS: OK, that’s probably a few too many.

ROSE: I know right? And they were these unreal creations; one was in the shape of decks, which fooled me it was so good, I actually thought they were decks. And he got me another in the form of a rose, which was too beautiful to eat.

SANTOS: But you did right?

ROSE: Oh yeah, of course, it was delicious!

SANTOS: You do a lot of stunts in this movie, which look so natural for you.

ROSE: A little too natural. My agent was like, “why do you keep agreeing to these insane acts of lunacy?” And I’m like, “They’re not asking me, I’m begging them to do it,” which I keep to myself (laughing).

SANTOS: You also look mighty relaxed with a rifle.

ROSE: This is such a weird territory for me to be tackling because I am completely gun shy. I am the ultimate pacifist. I’m about love, not war, and I only touched a gun for the first time when I started doing films and then all of the sudden, I’m doing six weeks of sniper training and hauling around these massive insane weapons. But it’s such a powerful tool to pull you into character, and I almost had to have that because these are people who couldn’t be further from me.

SANTOS: You’ve been ruling the theaters over the past few months with John Wick 2, and now people are calling you the new action queen. Is that exciting or is it suddenly feeling like it’s boxing you in?

ROSE: If people are calling me that, I am beyond humbled and also at pains to convey, that I should be so lucky. You know, I idolized Vin, wanted to do what he got to do with these set pieces and action sequences and now I’m getting to do all that, or at least get a taste of what that’s like. It’s been my dream, and I’m 

going to take these opportunities with both hands. And while they may be in the action genre, there’s huge variations and sub-genres. XXX has a very extreme sports element to it, while John Wick is very underworld, assassin-centric, very dark and stylized and when you get the chance to work with Keanu Reeves, hell yes! Then Resident Evil, I grew up on these movies, and I’m so drawn to that dystopian, apocalyptic environment. And this was the last one, so who would say no to that? Mila Jovovich, she is the queen of action. But, and there’s a but, I am also conscious of the fact that I don’t want to be pigeonholed, especially this early on because I’m only a newbie really and that wouldn’t make sense. After doing Orange, I want to do more drama, but then I also want to do a comedy.  I want to experience as many genres as I can because I want to show that there’s more to me than guns and tattoos and stunts. Don’t get me wrong; I am incredibly fortunate to be getting these chances. Chances I would have killed for when I was lying on my deflated Target blow-up mattress, dreaming of any job. And I hold on to that mentality to a certain extent, that I can’t say no to a job or an offer. I just think that’s so ungrateful to those who would give them left arm for a chance like that. I just have to be considerate in what I do next. 

SANTOS: Do you find you’re just getting the bad ass tattooed action roles offered your way? 

ROSE: Yeah, for the most part. I think it’s like when you’ve done something that’s been received well. After I did Orange, I got offered three different Stella’s, and I’ve got a lot more to give as an actor than repeat what I’ve done before over and over. That’s not me; I don’t like to repeat the same day if I can help it.

SANTOS: You’re a role model for so many, as an actor in Hollywood from the LGBTQ community. How do you think of the current representation in the mainstream media?

ROSE: It’s very gratifying and mind-blowing that I get to be part of what I see right now, a movement in society, bolstered and motivated by the media and popular culture. There’s a constant conversation about gay, lesbian, trans, gender fluidity and so much of that has come from shows like Orange and Transparent and what Laverne (Cox) and Caitlyn Jenner have achieved. And to be part of that or to contribute in any small way, to this wave is so very special. We’re watching more and more characters, realistic characters, most importantly, from the community portrayed on screen in mainstream media and for young kids out there watching, that is extraordinary and has an incredibly positive impact.

CHARLIE HUNNAM - KING ARTHUR

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Charlie Hunnam has shared the screen with Idris Elba, Clive Owen, and Nicole Kidman. But none compare to his latest sparring buddy in latest flick, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Mr. David Beckham. “I’d be quite friendly with him now. He’s not on speed dial, but I’d have a drink with him. He’s a great guy.”

There’s a gracious flippancy to Charlie Hunnam’s humble bragging— if you could ever call it that. He crumples and blushes at the mention of any flattery; it’s just not his style, which makes him stand out from the rest of the Hollywood ilk. 

Typically handsome in a white shirt and jeans, his blond hair cropped and tufty, his matching beard bushy and gnarled, he’s in relaxed, composed humor while chatting about his latest venture, and arguably his highest profile role to date as King Arthur. But rather than the traditional Camelot culture of valor, Hunnam is playing Guy Ritchie’s Arthur, a cheeky everyman, raised in the slums, unaware of his royal lineage until he drags the fabled sword from the stone, which poses a problem for Jude Law’s dastardly king. 

In polished, chatty manner, the 36-year-old talks banter with Guy Ritchie and bulking up for the part of King Arthur Which he claims is the last time. He also discusses his future with Sons of Anarchy, trusting in the stars and what he learned from Fifty Shades.

STRIPLV:  I Imagine -[Arthur] was quite a contested role in Hollywood, how did you land it?

HUNNAM: Fuck knows. Fuck knows because he didn’t want to see me. He wanted nothing to do with me. So, no idea but I’m very glad I did. Think it was just in the stars. It all clicked into place, so it felt like, yeah it’s aligning nicely, maybe this will go my way. I was shooting Sons [of Anarchy] when I heard Guy was looking for actors. He was doing his search in London. And I thought, "I’m out of contention there, all tied up." And then I got a week off from production, and I flew to London but yea, Guy was not interested. So, I was going to make him interested. I’m a likable guy. Got to his house, sat down with the man, he’s a great man, just talked and talked and after 90 minutes, I realized we had been talking exclusively about the California medical marijuana initiative. I thought, go with it, he’s still talking with me. And we went on for another hour or so. And when I left, I thought, Shit, we never said a thing about Arthur. But it worked, he called me the next day, I read for him and c’est la vie. 

STRIPLV:  And what is Guy like to work with?

HUNNAM: This was honestly one of the best experiences, just for pure fun and adventure and really letting go, that I’ve ever had on a film set. Ever. You know, Guy would say to me, "Before we do this, the one thing I want from you, I want you to show up every day and have fun because if we’re having fun. The tone is where we want it to be and the audience will have fun." Like they always do in a Guy Ritchie film.

STRIPLV:  So Excalibur had a big influence on you as a kid?

HUNNAM: Yes, though I was way too young to be watching it. I think I was like five, or six; I used to see it all as a kid. I watched an enormous amount that was highly inappropriate. Which I think is cool because kids are so infantilized these days, wrapped up in cotton wool. I just got, I loved the legend, loved the odyssey 

nature of that journey. As a kid, I was into the sword fighting and horse riding. That just captured my mind. That’s what encouraged me to be an actor. I thought how wonderful it would be to be able to do those things, live out fantasies, and do those things that would appeal to a child. Ironically, I am an actor and the things that appealed to me as a child are the things I least like about my job now. But it was an entry into this concept of living a life in film. 

STRIPLV:  What doesn’t appeal to you now that appealed to you as a child?

HUNNAM: The sword fighting and that— it all requires immense preparation which is very labor intensive. It’s not as fun as it looks like a kid. It’s a lot more mental than it is physical as well. For the final scene, it’s maybe a seven-minute scene, but you need to learn 700, 800 beats and know how that goes in succession, in the dance. And then you’re swinging around this sharp piece of metal that could hurt someone pretty bad. Which didn’t happen (laughs). But yeah, I found myself quite obsessed with running those sequences over and over. Now, what appeals to me the exploration of the human condition. For instance, Arthur is very big glossy, commercial film. But at the heart of it, Guy and I were really trying to explore some interesting things that were really appealing to us about the human condition. What it requires to overcome fears and trust. Our sense of hope, or our perception of personal identity and overcoming conflicts, and the conflicts are only getting worse through a perception of self, through the prism of our fears. What is a challenge and a conflict to one person, isn’t always to another because of the prism of your experience and how that experience manifests an emotional response in you.

At the heart, that’s what the story of Arthur is. Overcoming those personal hurdles, in order to rise to the challenge of conquering the insurmountable odds of becoming the King of England and fighting in this incarnation, in a literal sense, the demon at the castle walls. 

STRIPLV:  Critics are calling this the first modern King Arthur because there have been many others versions. did you watch any to prepare?

HUNNAM: Not at all, I’ve only really seen the John Boorman version. I haven’t seen any other incarnations. I’ve read Once a Future King. I think just in the sensibility of Guy as a filmmaker, it’s the most contemporary, gritty version that’s been committed to on film so far; I’d put money down that that’s accurate. You know I think reinventing something for a modern audience in this environment of filmmaking required someone like Guy to make it feel fresh and new and have something to say that hadn’t already been said. It’s no accident that the studio picked Guy as the man to realize this vision. This is one of the oldest stories; people have been telling it for 1,500 years at this point, so for him to take it and create this fresh, brittle outlook in his very signature way, very punchy, gritty, cheeky, just excited me from the first time I heard he was doing it. Guy compartmentalizes the filmmaking process and applies himself to things he’s excited about and lets other things be what they’re going to be until they’re not exciting to him or interesting to him and then he steps in. Specific to the fighting, surprisingly, he had no opinion about that. I think that he’d obviously had conversations with the stunt teams and the choreographers, and they had defined their aspirations for what these would be, but I had very few conversations with him about that. As is the case with productions of this size, we shot a lot of that stuff on the second unit. That sword fight at the end of the movie, Guy wasn’t even on set, during that. He would watch the rushes and stuff, which was a pain in the arse, because he would inevitably have an opinion and we’d have to reshoot it all. But that’s how it goes in these big films.

STRIPLV:  David Beckham did an incredible job too! What was he like to work with?

HUNNAM: Oh my god, It became so clear to me within 

the first hour or working with him, that he’s one of the, you know, I see, that’s why you’re one of the biggest, most celebrated football players. There was a work ethic and determination; he wasn’t just there to have a laugh. He was determined; he was serious about doing a good job. He’d been working with an acting coach and been taking it so seriously. It speaks volumes to his work ethic. I got a taste of what his whole career has been about, relentless practice and hard work and that’s how he got to the place where he is.

STRIPlV:  Did you find yourself awestruck around him?

HUNNAM: For me, he didn’t have the epic aura about him because I’m not, and have never been a football man. I’d never, yeah even now, I’ve never seen him play football, obviously, I’m acutely aware of who he was, everyone knows who he is, and he has that star power about him, you can’t deny it. I wasn’t dumbstruck the way others were on set. You know the film crew, in particular; they’re these butch manly men, the sparks, the gaffers, the electricians all those boys, these hairy, bulky men all turned into 15 year old girls at a Justin Bieber concert because Beckham was on set. I was like, pull yourselves together. 

STRIPLV:  You got physically ripped for this movie. You’ve always been in great shape, but how did you get so big and bulked up for this role?

HUNNAM: I was just trying to keep up with all these burly, beefy guys around me. They were literally everywhere; I couldn’t let the side down, I was fucking Arthur. So I turned it up, got up to about 180 and that is not easy to carry around. 

STRIPLV: You look like you‘re doing ok with it?

HUNNAM: I’m way smaller now, and I’m happy for it to go that way. I’m a naturally very slim, skinny guy; I’m nothing like a lot of the characters, particularly ones of recent that I’ve played, Physically, I’m so far removed. The next role I did after Arthur for Lost City of Z, I dropped down maybe 40 pounds. That’s getting closer to who I really am. And I like that; I feel comfortable at that level. Not this freakish, abbed up, gym dude. 

STRIPLV:  It’s been three, four years since Fifty Shades, how do you look back at that time and what do you think you’ve learned?

HUNNAM: What have I learned from it? Ooh, I don’t know, if I learned anything. Maybe I’m not that enlightened a person. So when I think back on all that, I don’t know what to think. You know, decisions are very very difficult to make for everybody. I know I really struggle with indecisiveness. We have this abundance of choice in modern society, and I think that it has a tendency to create a lot of misery. The paradox of choice, you think on the surface, an abundance of choice is an incredibly positive thing, but actually, it creates a lot of discontent. If you do this, what if you don’t do that, you make one decision, but you have all these other things hanging out from there. I am in a position, by far and away, the best position I’ve ever been in my career regarding the opportunities that are being given to me. But I feel more neurotic now than I ever have, because of all these fucking decisions I have to make all the time. There are now stakes to what decisions I make. Fuck that; they’re shouldn’t be. I can’t handle that in my life. It’s only our perception I guess, I hope. Sometimes you think, fuck, I should have done that. I am very labored in my decision-making process,  but once the decision is made I force myself never to look back.

STRIPLV:  Have you seen either of the (Fifty Shades of Grey) the movies?

HUNNAM: Haven’t seen them. 

STRIPLV:  Did you do that intentionally?

HUNNAM: Yeah, so I wouldn’t have to have an opinion when people ask me in situations like this. Yeah, I stay away.

STRIPLV:  Do you have any regrets at all? 

HUNNAM: I have no regrets, really I don’t. I try not to. You know, this will sound so high flatulent and wanky, But I really try to force myself to live in the present and not project happiness and perceived happiness on the past or future events. Certainly, I don’t look backward in any of my current happiness as a result of current decisions made. I always think ultimately, I genuinely feel everything happens for a reason and I put a lot of stock on that. I do. You know, I got to know Dakota kind of a little bit and grew to like her enormously, and I got to know Sam the director, very well, made good friends with her. I am just really just delighted that it’s been so successful for them, and so very helpful both to their careers. But I didn’t feel any sort of sting or anything.

STRIPLV:  Sons of Anarchy. Will you be making an appearance in any future projects?

HUNNAM: Probably not, being deceased and all (laughs). I know it’s TV land, but it’s not JR Ewing here, death means death. 

STRIPLV:  But there’s the prequel show is there now!

HUNNAM: There is (laughs)? 

STRIPLV:  So you could show up in that?

HUNNAM: Again, I don’t know because it’s based more around the Mayans than the Sons, and they’re planning to place it in the fifties and sixties so yeah, I don’t know how I’d fit in there. I’m pretty sure I’m done. Moving onto new pastures. This is looking at the origin of motorcycle culture, the genesis of outlaws, it’s going to be pretty cool.

 

JAMIE DORNAN - FIFTY SHADES DARKER

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JAMIE DORNAN - FIFTY SHADES DARKER

By Frank Ariveso

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DAKOTA JOHNSON - DARKER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOHNSON:  No, she’s the coolest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STRIPLV:  Have your parents’ seen them yet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

HUGH JACKMAN - LOGAN

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

when the world believes mutants have passed into history. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HUGH JACKMAN

3 QUESTIONS

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

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

STRIPLV:  Tell us about those relationships.

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

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

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

 

 

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