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HACKSAW RIDGE

0317 hacksaw ridge feature

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

STRIPLV:  Why does this story resonate with you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STRIPLV:  What makes Desmond Doss a singular hero? 

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

STRIPLV:  What should audiences look forward to?

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

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

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

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

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

TOM HIDDLESTON - THE INTERVIEW

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TOM HIDDLESTON - THE INTERVIEW

It’s not often you meet someone who earned a double-first in Classics at Cambridge. It’s even rarer when you meet a movie star with those credentials. But that’s the kind of gravitas that gives Tom Hiddleston an added edge whenever he takes on a role. Best known for his continuing role as the villainous Loki in Marvel Comics “Thor” and “Avengers” franchises, the British actor has also distinguished himself in films ranging from the recent sci-fi drama “High Rise” to last year’s horror flick “Crimson Peak” to Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris.”
Things have taken an even better turn of late for Hiddleston, winning a Golden Globe for his part in “The Night Manager,” the fabulously successful BBC/AMC TV miniseries adaptation of the 1993 John Le Carré novel. Hiddleston gave arguably the most powerful, yet seductive performance of his career as newly recruited British spy Jonathan Pine. Critics not only raved about Hiddleston, who proved more than a match for Hugh Laurie’s villainous billionaire arms trafficker, but the series was such a phenomenon that there is feverish talk of a sequel.
In the meantime, as a very different kind of character in “I SAW THE LIGHT,” a biopic about legendary American country & western singer Hank Williams. Much of the story is devoted to the hard-drinking Williams’ tumultuous love life, beginning with his first wife, Audrey, a mediocre aspiring singer played by Elizabeth Olsen.
Hiddleston does his own singing and guitar playing in the film and audiences at the Toronto International Film Festival (where the film enjoyed its world premiere) often applauded after he finished performing a song in the guise of Williams.
Despite his Apollonian good looks, Tom Hiddleston is playing his fair share of dark, bad-ass characters. Last year he earned acclaim for his performance as an Iraqi war veteran turned British undercover agent in the six-part BBC series “The Night Manager,” then he finished shooting the third “Thor” film where he returns as the menacing Loki, and now he’s about to be seen as a former Special Air Service soldier taking on a 50-foot gorilla in “KONG: SKULL ISLAND.”
Hiddleston is “excited” to be starring in the $190 million Warner Bros. blockbuster that revives the “King Kong” legend, which is expected to deliver the biggest, meanest Kong of all time. Looking casually chic in a pale blue shirt and jeans, the tall, 6’2” British actor is impeccably polite and articulate in conversation. He smiles easily - rather like his “Night Manager” alter ego Jonathan Pine - and was impressed by the scale and scope of his “King Kong” adventure.
“It’s an epic story, and I loved how Jordan was determined to shoot on real and very breathtaking locations, which give a sense of the power and beauty of nature,” Hiddleston says. “I was also drawn to my character’s heroic sensibility and how he embraces the life of the explorer and the sense of adventure that comes with his mission.”
Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, “Kong: Skull Island” also co-stars Samuel L. Jackson, Brie Larson (who won the Oscar for “Room” last year), and John Goodman. The film is also expected to set the stage for a future Godzilla vs. King Kong extravaganza currently projected for release in 2020, which gives Hiddleston another film franchise to go along with his “Avengers” and “Thor” commitments.
The 35-year-old Hiddleston is a product of Eton and Oxford and made headlines last year with his curious and brief relationship with Taylor Swift. Currently single, Hiddleston is anxious to find a good woman, recently declaring: “I like strong women. My mothers and sisters are very strong women, immensely independent, and very capable and that’s what I feel comfortable with. My mother places a huge importance on decency and kindness and always has—and the older I get, the more I realize how rare that is.”
When asked whether he intends to follow “posh” actors Benedict Cumberbatch (one of his best friends) and Eddie Redmayne (also an Eton-Cambridge man) down the marriage path, Hiddleston demurs: “It’s great for both of them. They’re both my good friends. I’m happy for them. Marriage is not something in my life yet. I am not closed to it, though.”

STRIPLV:  Tom, what can you tell us about your character in Kong: Skull Island?

HIDDLESTON:  I play Captain James Conrad who is a former SAS officer with skills in tracking and jungle survival who is part of an interesting team of soldiers and explorers.  The film is set in the 70’s where you can still believe that there are truly unexplored and uncharted regions left on earth and there’s this island in the South Pacific which can’t be mapped because it’s protected by a storm system.  So our group is hired to head up an expedition which starts out as a reconnaissance mission, but as you might imagine becomes something else. 

STRIPLV:  You’ve mentioned how spectacular the shooting locations were. Was that one of the key elements to making this kind of a mythical story all the more real?

HIDDLESTON:  We shot in the jungles and valleys of Hawaii, Vietnam, and Australia and audiences I think will appreciate how this film was not shot on a sound stage and how that majestic grandeur heightens everything about the story.  The settings are so breathtaking and vivid that it makes you appreciate how we should have more respect for everything that is so beautiful and impressive about our natural habitat.

STRIPLV:  You and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts have alluded to the importance of the man vs. nature theme to the story?

HIDDLESTON:  Yes.  King Kong is a very powerful emblem of nature and Jordan was anxious to explore the mythology of that and how man should show more humility with respect to power of nature. 

STRIPLV:  You’ve chosen to work on very diverse kinds of projects over the years ranging from your Thor films to indie projects like High Rise and also John Le Carré’s The Night Manager.  Is there any one thing that guides your acting choices?

HIDDLESTON:  I like to be involved in projects that can inspire and change people.  I believe that art can inspire people.  I remember being extremely touched by Mike Leigh’s Secrets & Lies and I was also struck by the complexity of the world after watching Fernando Meirelles’s The Constant Gardener (also based on a John Le Carré novel - ED).   I once met a surgeon who works with Doctor Without Borders who decided on his career after seeing Roland Joffé’s The Killing Fields. Art is an emotional doorway to a particular theme.  Film is a very powerful art form that can make us think about the world differently and inspire us to greater things and contribute to the world.   I truly believe that.

STRIPLV:  What does acting mean to you personally?

HIDDLESTON: Since I was little I have always enjoyed entertaining people.  There’s nothing like making people laugh.  It makes me very happy when people come up to me at the airport and tell me “the scene where Hulk crushes Loki at the end of The Avengers is the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.”  I still remember how hard people were laughing in the movie theater.

STRIPLV:  How have you dealt with the growing attention and recognition that comes with fame?

HIDDLESTON:  It’s very flattering in some ways, but it requires an adjustment.  I can’t just go for a drink anywhere I would like anymore, and sometimes you need to figure out ways to get around that won’t attract attention.  Whenever I meet people, I try my best to make the situation as comfortable and unaffected as possible.  I want to be able to have a normal conversation so that the connection you make with people is real and meaningful.  That’s very important to me.

STRIPLV:  You attended both Eton and Cambridge.  What do you feel is the greatest benefit of that kind of elite education?

HIDDLESTON:  Being at Cambridge taught me intellectual discipline.  My teachers expected a high level of rigor when it came to arguing a point or writing a paper.  I was taught to structure my thinking so that whenever I made a statement, I needed to be able to back it up and not make unfounded assertions or arguments.  I was taught to think for myself and not simply follow whatever passes for accepted wisdom which you absorb over time.  In that sense, I’ve learned the value of thinking critically about the world.

STRIPLV:  Like many actors, it took you time before you started getting major roles.  What did it feel like when you reached that point?

HIDDLESTON:  I’m glad that it took me until I was 30 or so before I started gaining more recognition.  I think being a little older helps you understand yourself better and makes it easier for you to adjust to whatever success ultimately comes your way.  I’m not someone who cares very much about the attention.  I love acting, and I take my work seriously, but I find everything else that comes with it very ephemeral and superficial.

STRIPLV:  So fame is fleeting?

HIDDLESTON:  Exactly.  One of the things I found interesting about playing Hanks Williams is that he was driven to be the biggest singer in the business and when he finally got there he found out that there was nothing there.  Being a star didn’t solve any of his problems and didn’t make him feel any better about who he was or his personal life.  There’s a good lesson there.

STRIPLV:  Tom, it’s undoubtedly an exceptional event when a Cambridge-educated British actor finds himself playing an American country & western singer.

HIDDLESTON:  I’ve always enjoyed entering unknown territory.  There was an extraordinary arc to his life that drew me to this story, and it was exciting to take this journey.  I liken the experience to that of a foreign correspondent going somewhere new and trying to get one’s bearings.

STRIPLV:  How hard was it to be able to match Williams’ singing style?

HIDDLESTON:  It was difficult, but I was excited by the prospect of reaching a point where I could do justice to his singing and performing.  I had played the guitar as a student, and I knew six or seven of his standards like “Hey, Good Looking” and “Moving on Over” and when you sing his songs, you feel such an immense joy.  Williams took huge pleasure in the connection between himself and the audience and I immediately connected to his joy of performing.

STRIPLV:  Were you worried about upholding the legacy of a country icon like Hank Williams who is so revered in the American South?

HIDDLESTON:  I saw it as my responsibility to be as authentic as possible.  I was well aware of how revered he is and the fact that I was neither American nor from the South made me even more determined to honor Hank Williams and be as faithful to his legacy as possible.

STRIPLV:  What was it about Hank Williams the man and the music that made him so unique and beloved?

HIDDLESTON:  There was such a profound sincerity and honesty in his music that touched people.  When he sings “I’m so lonesome I could cry” or “Why I can’t free your doubtful mind and melt your cold, cold, heart,” there’s an honesty to those lyrics that I needed to absorb and convey.  So it was important for me not just to learn to do the songs properly but also to connect to that authenticity that audiences’ felt when they listen to Hank Williams.  He sang from his heart, and this movie explores the connection between his pain and personal struggles to his music.

STRIPLV: The Night Manager TV miniseries was another major event in your career, especially now winning a Golden Globe for your performance, congratulations!  Were you familiar with John Le Carré’s work before you signed on to the project?

HIDDLESTON:  I’m a huge fan of John Le Carré.   I haven’t read all of his novels, but I’ve always understood him and had a deep appreciation for his work.  My father introduced me to his work, and I remember in my late teens picking up the book Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy in his library.  Apart from being one of the great espionage novelists, he’s also one of the greatest analysts of the British psyche.   His novels are really about what it means to be British and living in our society.

STRIPLV: Jonathan Pine is a chameleonic figure in The Night Manager. How did you approach playing him?

HIDDLESTON:  The hardest thing about playing Jonathan Pine is that he’s such a brilliant actor and immaculate liar.  He’s able to lie very effectively so that people believe him. He has multiple identities and five different names and is so believable in each of his various selves.  What made my work so much more interesting was trying to find bits where the truth of Pine is revealed to the audience even when he’s presenting particular faces to Roper and various other characters in the film.

STRIPLV:  Your career has taken off in recent years with your playing Loki in the Avengers films and now playing the lead in several new movies.  How does it feel?

HIDDLESTON:  I am so grateful for everything that has happened to me.  I never really expected to be in this position and to be able to reach large audiences with my work and have fans who are chanting “Loki, Loki.”  I’m surprised and delighted at the same time.

STRIPLV:  How do you deal with the increasing scrutiny that your life and work are receiving now as compared to four or five years ago when you were still a relatively unknown actor?

HIDDLESTON:  I’m still in the process to adapting to this new context, but I haven’t tried to change how I behave.  I try to be myself at all times and not try to create a false public image.

When I give interviews, I try to be as honest and direct as possible.  I don’t see the point in trying to pretend to be someone else.  But I try to speak my mind openly, and I hope that people come away with a real sense of who I am as opposed to the characters I play even though of course you still need to keep some things about your life private.

STRIPLV:  Do you enjoy going from playing extreme characters like Dr. Laing in High-Rise or Loki in The Avengers films and then playing a real-life character like Hank Williams?

HIDDLESTON:  That’s the beauty of being an actor.  I believe that we start out in life being born clean slates and then in the course of things we all have the innate capacity to turn into many different types of individuals.  We can be good or bad, nasty or noble.

STRIPLV:  Is it the process of transformation that makes acting so compelling?

HIDDLESTON:  Being an actor involves approaching your character from the perspective of both an anthropologist and psychologist.  You’re constantly digging around to discover what motivates them.  Acting involves throwing yourself into many different types of people, and there’s a cathartic effect in that.  What is remarkable about this kind of profession is that over the course of a career you 

can play both Romeo and Iago.  You can go from playing Shakespeare’s greatest lover to playing his greatest sociopath.  And often villains are the most interesting characters to explore because you find they have the most complex and twisted personalities.

STRIPLV:   Most actors confess to being obsessive observers of the human condition.  Would you fall into that camp?

HIDDLESTON:  I have a great fascination for human psychology and the contradiction between the self we project to work and our underlying inner identity.  I like exploring human vulnerability and what makes people tick behind the facade!

STRIPLV:  You must have a great sense of accomplishment with all these great projects coming your way of late?

HIDDLESTON:  It’s such a privilege.  But I never quite feel that I’m there yet.  Maybe that’s the predicament of being creative - you always feel that the center is somewhere else.  I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied.   I’m always chasing; I’m always thinking how can I do better, how can I expand, how can I communicate something more deeply or profoundly.

HIDDLESTON LOVES

SINGING

“I enjoy singing and playing the guitar.  I still have my Gibson J-45.  Sometimes I even travel with it.  It’s addictive.”

FAWLTY TOWERS

“One of my favorite TV shows of all time is Fawlty Towers.   John Cleese is so brilliant.”

SHAKESPEARE

“Doing Shakespeare which is where it started for me.  Shakespeare led me to superheroes.”

LOKI

“Loki changed my life.  I was predominantly an actor in the British theater.  I’d worked with Kenneth Brannagh in television and the West End, then he cast me as Loki, and within a year I was a part of this phenomenon...I am continuously amazed at how much people like Loki but...there is this old phrase that ‘the devil plays all the best tunes.’  There is a kind of freedom to being bad, an embracing of one’s most rebellious instincts.”

HONESTY

“Honesty is a gift.   Be honest about who you are and how you feel because it encourages intimacy, and intimacy is really where it’s at.  Be ready in life to nurture your confidence and make it real - don’t pretend to be someone you’re not.”

HIDDLESTON HATES

TWITTER

“We’re all vulnerable to criticism and people are perfectly entitled to exercise their right to criticise anything.  Personally, I’m so aware things are more complicated than they seem – before I judge, I think, ‘Do I know the whole picture?’”  You have to be very careful not to be drawn into the riptide of the most destructive and cynical aspects of it.”  “I’m not pretending I don’t have bad days, but making those feelings public?  Feelings are transient, but if you make them public, (if you) post them, it’s forever.  You can’t eradicate the record of what happened yesterday.  There’s more than enough negativity in the world and I don’t feel like I need to contribute to that.  I should add that I believe in accountability.  If you’ve got something to say, then you should say that in person to somebody, as opposed to hiding behind anonymity, just throwing it over the wall like a paper airplane.”

DANCING

“God, it’s so embarrassing.  I was on a Korean chat show doing a Q&A, there were 7,000 people there, and I was taking questions from the audience.  Somebody asked: ‘Of what body part are you most proud?’  “That’s just a wrong question, of which there are only wrong answers.  So I said: ‘My feet’ and they said:  ‘Why?’ and I said: ‘Without my feet, I couldn’t run and I couldn’t dance.’  And they said: ‘Well, now we have to see you dance.’  So I danced... and I created a monster!”

CLASS DISTINCTIONS IN BRITISH ACTING

“Wherever you are from you should be able to follow your passion.  Wherever you went to school, if you have something authentic to contribute, you should be allowed to.  There is an acknowledged problem of access and inequality of opportunity – I don’t know how to remedy that.  But yeah, I’m on everyone’s side; I’m on the side of the actors.  I’m not there to divide the world into pieces.”

FEAR

“I was very fearful and lacking in confidence when I first when to boarding school.  Fear is very inhibiting and robs you of your willingness to explore life.  It took me some time, but once I overcame my fears, it opened up the world to me.”

RICK AND RONI MOONEN - A VALENTINE'S TALE

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RICK AND RONI MOONEN - A VALENTINE'S TALE

In Las Vegas, there is not a shortage of celebrity chef’s and their restaurants.  You’ve got Gordon, Giada, Bobby, and many other notable stars with billboards lining up and down the Strip.  Rick Moonen and his two restaurants RM Seafood, and RX Boiler Room at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino have a celebrity chef attached to them, and not only is he a distinguished and highly awarded chef the guy lives here.  Loves to live here with his beautiful wife Roni, and truly gives back to our city as much as he possibly can.  Yes, Oprah called him out on her show, and yes he’s been on big foodie shows like “Top Chef,” but at his core, Rick Moonen and his wife Roni are committed to seafood sustainability, community outreach, and creating amazing flavors for diners around the world to enjoy at their establishments.  We were lucky enough to sit down with this amazing couple.  Ask a few questions, and hear about their amazing love story.

RONI:  What’s is this for? 

STRIPLV:  This is for our magazine STRIPLV.  It’s an adult art and lifestyle magazine and there is a little nudity in it.

RICK:  A little what?

STRIPLV: Nudity

RICK:  We don’t care about nudity.  I’m a big fan.  

STRIPLV:  I also call myself the Vegas Food Nerd because that’s my favorite thing about living here is the food.

RICK:  Well you don’t want to know what my wife’s nickname is, though.  (Roni laughs) We like to cook a lot in the kitchen.  There are two different styles of cooking in a kitchen.  I approach it as a professional because that’s what I’ve been doing my whole life, whereas Roni has got a great palate, and is enthusiastic about cooking, she’s cooked for years from her previous marriage, and she’s a whirlwind, a tornado.  I am completely different, sitting there thinking about how I am going to do this organized and everything.  She is already over there, done the chopping, (he motions wildly with his hands) and leaving knives and stuff all over.  Ah, I’m losing my mind, and she gets it done very quickly, and does it very well, but the place is a disaster.  I had to train myself to be capable of realizing that the end result was what was important.  If someone was working like that in my professional kitchen, then maybe I’d have something to say about it.  (laughter) I would kick their ass they wouldn’t last too long in that part of my world.  But this is the joining of two people in a partnership for life.

RONI:  And we are both artists.  I’m an artist

RICK:  But anyway we are getting to the point of your nickname sweetie pie.

RONI:  And it’s not sweetie pie.

RICK:  KW.  We figured it would be a lot of fun if I were the kitchen Nazi as she calls me, and I call her my dirty kitchen whore.

STRIPLV:  That’s so sweet

RICK:  Isn’t that nice.  

RONI:  And he uses a German accent.

RICK:  I go, where is my dirty kitchen whore.  Where’s my whore?  (Both laughing together)

RONI:  I just do it to irritate you now.

RICK:  It works.  It works like a charm.  We’ve come a long way in six years you and me. 

RONI:  Yes we have.

STRIPLV:  Will you tell us the story of how you met?

RICK:  It’s a very good story, and it is very romantic.  Neither of us was looking for a relationship when we met.  We were shooting a pilot for a television show.  It was being put together by Mara Papatheodorou who used to be the international correspondent for Bon Appetite Magazine.  She had developed a lot of relationships with different Chefs over the years and wanted to create a different kind of TV Show.  She had seen all the different cooking competition shows etcetera wherein the end someone always ends up looking like a fool.  They cut their finger or what not and go running off.  She wanted to do something that would illuminate the chef she wanted to take a chef that was known for a particular type of cuisine and bring them somewhere in the world that was completely unrelated.  So, she chose me to be the chef for the pilot.  They would take that chef to a remote part of the world.  Introduce them to the culture, the palate of flavors, and the marketplace.  Then the chef would go shopping then go onto a luxury ship and go into the galleys and cook a four course, five-star meal for the captain of the ship and 11 of his guests.  So, I went to Oaxaca, Mexico.  I didn’t even know I was going there until a day or two before we went.  So, I didn’t have a chance to do any research on it or anything.  Roni was on the crew.

RONI:  Ok, I will tell you the romance of the story instead of the bones of the show, because the show didn’t work.  I lived in Florida at the time, and I’d lived there for 24 years.  I’d been married for 22 years, and had been a freelance makeup artist, photo stylist, producer, everything so I got hired for this crew for the pilot.  I was excited, thought maybe I was going to get a TV show, and this would be really cool.  They told me there was going to be this Chef Rick Moonen.  I didn’t watch any reality TV, cooking shows, nothing.  I cooked I’ve always cooked I was just never into that stuff, Julia Child maybe.  It was funny, we had a stop in Mexico City, and I swore I walked by him at the airport, but he was sitting at the wrong gate.  I went on to my gate and went on to Oaxaca, and of course, my luggage was lost.  So this adds a different element to the story because I’m going to be there for ten days and we are going to be five days on this luxury cruise ship where you can’t wear jeans on it.  So, I had specific things packed plus I had makeup, props, and accessories for the host of the show which is Mara.  So I land with no luggage, and luckily I had a backpack with a change of clothes and essential needed things.  And they tell me Rick is not here he missed his flight.

RICK:  Not romantic at all.

RONI:  So this is the crew get together before the shoot.  We are drinking and eating great food together it’s great.  So finally Rick lands at 11 pm.  Since I’ve worked with a lot of talent I’m like we need to order him some food; we need to pick through his clothes.  Now, I’m drunk, and he is well aware, and he’s annoyed.  So we pick out his clothes.  And I’m like ok, he’s fine.  So the next morning we meet and I say do you need breakfast, do you need coffee, what do you need?  Because no one was taking care of him and that’s what I do.  And I think you were excited about that?

RICK:  Listen there was one female on the entire crew, and that was Roni, a very pretty girl, she was basically meat on a stick.  All of these dudes were away from their houses, their girlfriends whatever, and they all saw this and figured it was going to be the best.  Now I saw this, and in my mind, I’m like I have to stay focused, I’m the one being challenged, I’m the one on camera.  Meanwhile, I land, everyone is drunk on Mescal, and I’m like, I’ll have a Mescal, and then I get whisked up to my room by you (Roni).  To go through my luggage to pick out my outfit for a shoot I have to do a few hours later.  To be introduced to the Aztec culture, which is beautiful, and you were assigned to me.

RONI:  I wasn’t assigned to you yet.  I was assigned to Mara.  You were just kind of a side thing.

RICK:  They didn’t realize how much babysitting I was going to need, so they assigned her to me, which I was quite happy about.  I was like ok.   

RONI:  We were in Mexico doing the shoot.  I don’t think there was any connection at the get-go, but it was ok.  So, our first alone meal or interaction was he was making chocolate in this place, and I needed to take a break, and I smoke no one else does, and he was getting ready to take a break and say hey you’re a chef I know you smoke.  Do you want to grab a smoke with me?  And he was like what? And I said seriously you work in a kitchen; I know you smoke.  And he was like oh yeah.   

RICK:  I took my wrinkled-up pack of Marlboro Lights.  (laughing)

RONI:  So, I take him across the street to this little stoop and its cobblestones, and donkeys, or burros and all this stuff going by.  And I know that at some point they are going to bring him surprises for this show.  I knew we were going to be eating grasshoppers at some point,  and he did not know this.                                                                                                                                            At one point the producer comes up to us and says hey do you guys want a snack?  And I’m like ok yeah, and he says ok yeah.  So, they bring us grasshopper tacos.   

RICK:  This is a beautiful community, it’s a series of families that live together they all work, they loom, they make rugs it is Teotitlán del Valle, Mexico it is very remote a beautiful little town.  So, we are sitting on the stoop, and there is a burro with sticks attached to it, carrying things, almost like there is a guy on the corner saying cue the burro.     It was so perfect it was out of control.  So, the producer comes over asks us if we are hungry, and I say sure we are hungry.  She comes out with these tiny little bread and butter plates with a tortilla on them with some red sauce, cubes of queso fresco, and all these little critters on it.  I’m sitting there with this in hand talking to it saying you’ve got me confused with Andrew Zimmerman or something.  I say I’m not putting this stuff in my mouth.  Meanwhile, Roni is sitting right to my left she had already rolled it up and taken a nice healthy bite of it, and she’s crunching in her mouth in my ear through her crunching I hear (pauses) may I quote? 

RONI:  Yes please quote.

RICK:  You’re a chef, stop being a pussy, and eat it. (laughter) I fell instantaneously in love with her.  I thought that was the coolest thing ever, and I, of course, rolled it up and ate it, and that was our first real meal together.  We became best friends after that.  Mescal buddies and that’s pretty much…

RONI:  Yeah, he called me after a dinner one of the other nights and said hey do you want to have some mescal?  And that was pretty much it.

STRIPLV:  So the original thought of stay away didn’t work out so well.    

RONI:  No it didn’t.  And my luggage never came. 

STRIPLV:  Not the entire trip?

RONI:  They did find it just before we got on the ship.  So, I had to go to a Mexican thrift store while they were in the market one day because I had no clothes.  All 

I had was a pair of boots and a pair of army pants and a t-shirt that was it.  You know how they have those Mexican street vendors?  I was wearing those clothes.  I had no money, and I had to borrow pesos to buy these weird flowery Mexican dresses.  I went to a hotel gift shop and spent way too much money.    

RICK:  She bought stuff at a thrift store and made it look hot.  I don’t know how she did it. (laughter) But she did it.  She pulled that shit right off it was awesome.  The more we drink, the funnier it gets (filling their champagne glasses) so, let’s keep it up.

RONI:  So, the first feeling that I knew something was between us is when we had to get on this little airplane.  It was a puddle jumper only ten people could fit on it.  The Cameraman on the shoot was like totally in love with me and trying to get into my pants the entire time.  He had done this to me before.  I had even brought stuff to beat him off me.  You know like get away from me it’s never going to happen.  I want to work with you but just forget it, not happening

RICK:  Yeah it was pretty obvious.

RONI:  So we get on this plane, and this same photographer on the shoot was like “Roni! Come sit with me.” And I was like ugh no if this plane goes down that is not who I want to be sitting next to, and Rick had a seat open next to him, and he says “Yes.”

RICK:  This was all planned because at this point I was interested.  After the grasshopper story, I was very interested.  We were taking this plane over the mountains to the coast.  Which was breathtaking.  I had calculated this.  I made sure I was walking behind her so I could be like “Oh look at that we are sitting next to each other”

RONI:  How ‘bout that?

RICK:  Totally calculated don’t kid yourself here.  

RONI:  And I had no idea.  We get ready to take off, and our arms are next to each other.  

I know I’m married I have no interest in this man.   But oh, my gosh I have this electricity in my arm that I am feeling from him.  I’ve never felt this way.  I’m just sitting there, and I don’t even know how I feel about this.  And I don’t know if he feels the same way.  And I’m certainly not going to say anything.  But now to this day whenever we take off or land on an airplane we always sit next to each other, and we always hold hands, and we always remember that first time.  And we travel a lot.

RICK:  It was like an unspoken connection.

RONI:  And that is really a ritual that we do every single time.  It’s like a crazy magnetic thing like we can feel the heat off of each other, like a hot blow dryer.

RICK:  It’s called menopause honey

RONI:  Well now it is, but then it wasn’t.  But thanks so much for sharing. (laughter)

 

The chef and his wife and partner then share a plate of oysters.  Rick squeezes the lemon over the bi-valves.  He explains that while the restaurant does serve them with a mignonette sauce, he and Roni prefer to taste the freshness of the oyster, and the ocean and eats them with no sauce when they enjoy them.  

RICK:  This is how we live every day.  During Valentines for sure.  Oysters are a well-known aphrodisiac.

RONI: We might have to get a room after this.

RICK:  Who needs a room I’ve got a restaurant.

RONI:  That’s true we don’t open until 5.

STRIPLV:  You’ve said that eating oysters actually improves the ocean quality.  Why is that?

RICK:  The beautiful thing about oysters is the more oysters that are cultivated in the ocean the cleaner the ocean becomes.  They are like mini filters.  One of these oysters sucks in and filters 50 pounds of water.  That’s just one.  Millions of them around revitalizes the health of the ocean.  At least in the area where they grow.  So, the more oysters you eat, the healthier the ocean, the better for us, eat oysters.  

STRIPLV:  So after Mexico what happened?

RONI:  Of course we had to carry out this secret infatuation with each other on the boat because eventually, we end up on a cruise ship.  Now we knew kind of what our intentions were, but what were we gonna do with it?  I was going to go home in five days.  He was going to go home to Las Vegas, and that’s never going to happen so fine I figured this is going to be it.  We started wrapping the shoot.

RICK:  And you (he motions to Roni) got off in Mexico, and I stayed on to get off in San Diego.  There is a reason for that.

RONI:  It was the last day, and he was getting pretty quiet.  Not saying anything to me, and I’m thinking, what is this high school, you mean you aren’t even going to say goodbye to me?  So, I took you aside and took you away from everyone and said.  Hey, don’t act this way we’ve got to say goodbye to each other.  

RICK:  Everyone is gathering to disembark off this ship.

RONI:  Then he’s like I’ll go on shore with you and take you to your car.  So, we get off the boat, and we go.  This is like the first time we got to be alone with each other.  We could actually hold each other’s hands.  We don’t have to worry about anyone seeing us, judging us, there are no microphones we had many microphone situations where I had to blackmail the soundman.  So, we get off the boat, and there is this little bar, it’s 10 in the morning, and I didn’t have to be on my plane until 1 and Rick’s like “do you want to get a shot of tequila before you go?”, and I said “yeah sure.”

RICK:  I didn’t have to even say the whole word tequila I said “Te” and she said “Yes.” (laughing) 

RONI:  So we are sitting at this bar in Cabo San Lucas, and we proceed to drink for like 2 hours.  I asked him to dance with me to this Mexican music in the square, there is no one else there, and he does.  It’s just so romantic and so sweet.  It’s like there is a movie camera on us.  And so finally I get a car, and I have to race to the airport.  I’m hammered.  We did some damage we were drinking something called Windex, it wasn’t Windex, but it was blue.   So, I get to the airport, and I start to get on the plane, and it hits me.  I was very sad.  I thought I am never going to see him again.  I’m just crying and sobbing on the airplane.  But I am resolved with it, and ok that I won’t see him again, and ready to get on with my life.  And Rick went back on the boat and stayed on the boat for a few more days.   

RICK:  I did and when we pulled away and continued to go to San Diego.  I had my own epiphany.  I was alone the entire crew, and everyone I had gotten to know was gone.  That night I went to the back of the boat after dinner.  I’d had dinner with the captain who I had gotten to know.  I went back to have a cigarette, and 

I lit up a cigarette, and I looked out and I just started to cry uncontrollably.  I had an epiphany of life.  I knew what I had to do.  There was no question about wow what should I do next.  I knew exactly what I had to do.  

I was separated from my wife, but still legally married.  I knew I didn’t want to die like my father, unhappy.  All these things were going on in my mind.  So, when I got back, I reached out to Roni.  

RONI:  We were going to do another shoot.  When I went home, I had to tell my husband.  I was like look I know this is not good, but I can’t lie to you about it.  I met someone.  We are grown-ups, it’s been 22 years, we need to move on.  We’ve worked on this thing long enough.  He, of course, was like you’ve got to call this guy and never work on his film crew.  He thought I was having an affair with the damn photographer.  I was like no, oh god it was someone else.  That guy is a creep.

RICK:  It was a different creep.  (laughing)

RONI:  So I moved out.  This was January.  We didn’t see each other for six weeks.  We texted a little, about maybe doing some other shows.  But we didn’t talk. 

RICK:  No you gave me the ultimatum.  She emailed me and said don’t ever talk to me, don’t ever contact me again, I’m married, we can’t ever work together ever again.  I could tell someone was over her shoulder making her send these. 

RONI:  So I left, but then I found out you were married which I didn’t know.  So, I was like ok really don’t ever call me again. (laughing) Until you have divorce papers and then I will talk to you. 

RICK:  Why let the truth get in the way of a good story? (smiling)

RONI:  Within ten days he sends me them, and I was like oh ok this guy is serious.  I can trust this; I’m fine.  So, we made our date for me to come out to Las Vegas.  It was for the weekend.  He had the Vegas experience planned for me. 

RICK:  I had the whole staff working on it for me.  I had a checklist; it was called the Moonen checklist.  Get a limousine, make a reservation.

RONI:  We had an itinerary.

RICK:  There wasn’t a minute that I didn’t plan out.  The first night when Roni landed, of course, I was at the airport.  It seemed like forever until she got there.  We were texting, and then there she was, and we embraced it was excellent.  We came straight to the restaurant for dinner which I, of course, had everything planned.  Champagne, oysters, caviar, nothing left out.  It was all fine dining, white linen, crystal… 

RONI:  It was really beautiful.

RICK:  It was the entire experience.  When it was over, we just were looking at each other, and had the whole dining room to ourselves, staring into each other’s eyes, we were so so in love.  The following day I took her in a limo to the MGM Grand which is two blocks away.  And I took her to Joel Robuchon’s at The Mansion.  It was fantastic.  This was the most formal, stuffiest, exclusive dining experiences in Las Vegas.  We had champagne in the Champagne Lounge waiting for our table, and then they sat us across from each other, and Roni was like this isn’t gonna work, so she gets up and sits next to me.

RONI:  Yeah and everyone in the room just turned and was like what did she just do? (laughing)

RICK:  The best part was the captain in the room loved it because he knew.  Yeah, 

they are going to get away with it because that’s chef Rick Moonen.

RONI:  They were so good to us there.  

RICK:  They treated us like such royalty.  And that was Roni’s expectation from then on. (Roni laughs at this)

RICK:  We went to the topless beach at Moorea Beach Club.

RONI:  We got a couple’s massage.  We went hiking in Red Rock.  It was like beyond.  It was the ultimate.  We stayed in a suite.  I flew home on Valentine’s day.  It was still Valentine’s date, though.  And that was the other thing; I came from the coast of Florida.  I didn’t want to live in Las Vegas.  I mean I hate Disney World.  Vegas is the adult Disney World.  I could never live there.  It took me about two years, but now I love it here. 

STRIPLV:  What do you like about living in Las Vegas?

RICK:  The diversity of it all.  We live about 25 minutes northwest of the Strip.  It’s all horse ranches and gorgeous desert landscape with large properties.  I can ride my bike, and we can go hiking.  

RONI:  Right out our back door. 

STRIPLV:  So you are close to Floyd Lamb Park?

RICK:  Yes the park is right in our backyard.

RONI:  And we live next to all these properties that own horses.  We can go horseback riding pretty much whenever we want. 

RICK:  And when you want some excitement you can dress up come on down to the strip and have a good time.  It’s the entertainment capital of the world here, yet we have tranquility and peacefulness.  We can entertain, which we are known to do.  Roni has her own way of creating her micro-circle of friends.  People meet Roni, and within 20 minutes they are telling her their deepest darkest secrets.  I swear to you, and I don’t know why.  She’ll meet someone, and they come back to me and say hey you know what, and I’m like, who would tell you that?  We love life.  You know when you go into a room, and there is someone over there laughing and having a great time?   You can’t help but look over and kind of wonder to yourself what’s going on with that energy?  We bounce off of each other with that energy.  Life has been a rollercoaster for us with interesting challenges and a lot of great friends and fun.  Second marriages are tough, and whether you were happy in your first marriage or not, it was your comfort zone.  So, we’ve made a big effort to keep having romantic moments in our marriage, because that is the most important thing.

STRIPLV:  We saw you and The Bon Appétit Magazine Uncork’d event, and what struck us was how calm and happy you seemed at the event.  It got somewhat crazy in there at one point.  How do handle events like that so well?

RICK:  Because it’s what we love to do.

RONI:  I think that’s when we are at our best.  It’s like entertaining.  We both love to entertain and take care of everyone.

RICK:  It becomes an adrenaline rush.  It’s a non-stop conversation over the span of two hours.  Meeting people, handing them cards, and doing stuff.  Can I get a picture?  I mean whatever they want.  You just get this rush of energy.

RONI:  And the staff just thinks we are insane.  (laughing) They are like ok the crazies are here.

RICK:  What sets us apart as a company, is the culture to it.  We have 125 employees.  They realize that it’s not just food and beverage service, there is a sustainability message behind it.  There is a giveback and a community element.  Very few restaurants in Las Vegas can make that claim.  There is a purpose behind RM Seafood and RX Boiler Room.  Upstairs RX Boiler room is about the crafting of the cocktail and its never-ending flavor combinations.  RM Seafood is all about sustainability.  It’s about maintaining the health of the Ocean for future generations of the seafood species and fisheries that we love so much, and maintaining the diversity without getting too weird, because people are kind of squeamish about fish and trying new things.  That’s when things click, but when they don’t.

RONI:  When events like this don’t go well, that’s when the wheels fall off the bus.

STRIPLV:  Has that ever happened to you?

RICK:  Yes, it happened here in Las Vegas.  It actually was at a Bon Appétit Uncork’d event here at Mandalay Bay.  Years ago, outside by the pool, we were totally unprepared.  I had made the wrong assumption that my team was ready, and my staff had it together, and they did not.  It was very embarrassing; it was a rough night.

RONI:  It was bad.

RICK:  Yeah it was.  People lost jobs.  No names but yes I’ve had those experiences.  I mean everyone else was serving food, and our station was not even set up.  I have a deep relationship with Bon Appétit Magazine in New York City from when I was at Oceana.  At the time when I was there 1994-2002, a lot of the publishing industry, advertising industry, everything from books to magazines, Mad Men, those guys would come into my restaurant, and pound, sip or drink a lot, let’s just put it that way.

STRIPLV:  Any plans for the restaurant in the next year or so?

RICK:  Possible expansion.  There are some opportunities on the table that it’s way too early to jinx them, but yes possible expansion.  I just turned 60, and I’m looking to put about five more years in and then possibly teach and live by the beach part of the year.

STRIPLV:  Tell us the shrimp cocktail story.

RICK:  We were going out to see Frankie Moreno.  He’s a friend of ours.  He’s a local performer and was performing at Planet Hollywood.

RONI:  I was dressed provocatively.  Very low-cut, very short, and very high heels.  The whole big hair extensions.  Like a prostitute.

RICK:  A hooker, so we are going to Frankie’s show 

RONI:  And everyone was dressing that way.

RICK:  He’s got you sitting at the front table, and you have to look a certain way and I’m laughing because we are having dinner before the show at The Strip House, and they gave us a beautiful booth right in the corner with a great view and everything.  You can’t get a better table.  We are sitting there waiting for the waiter to come.

RONI:  And I said I wanted to order something light because I have a small dress on and I don’t want to feel like a big fat cow.  I said I think I’m going to order something light like a shrimp cocktail.  And he goes “You can’t order a shrimp cocktail!”  And I am like why?

RICK:  That’s what prostitutes order.  You take an escort out to dinner, and they want shrimp cocktail, and the surf and turf.  And she was like “Nah I don’t believe you.”

RONI:  So I asked the waiter when he comes over and I said “Is it true only prostitutes order shrimp cocktail?  And he said, “Oh yeah.” 

RICK:  It was great he didn’t miss a beat in saying oh yeah.

RONI:  I was like ok I guess you would know.  So, I’m not allowed to order shrimp cocktail when I go out. (laughing)

 

Rick recently launched his line of knives called Blades by Rick Moonen.  We asked him to share a little bit about this new product launch.  A friend of his asked him about the knives he carried in his chef roll and asked him what each one was for and how he used them.  That sparked the idea to create this line.

RICK:  We said what if we could take the expense out of it, and create a line of knives that you could share with foodies and people.  So, they can have an entire 12 piece set just like professionals use at a price they can afford.  You have a diamond coated sharpener to help keep them sharp.  You got a flexible fish spatula; you got a slicer, a full French knife, smaller size French knife, a utility knife that I do the boning with, and an offset serrated knife that everyone is raving about.  They are all super sharp and can tear into an acorn squash, spaghetti squash, any of those harder shell vegetables.  An artichoke whoosh 

sliced in half no problem.  I am starting to sound like an infomercial I know, but

it’s true.

STRIPLV:  Where can people find them?

RICK:  They can get them at www.bladesbymoonen.com

STRIPLV:  If someone was coming into your restaurant with a date that they were trying to seduce.  What would you recommend they order?

RICK:  Exactly what we have in front of us.  Start off with oysters.  Impress them with something delicious get some champagne.  Get an assortment of oysters, have some caviar.

RONI:  Be decadent, right?

RICK:  Yes, be decadent, and it doesn’t have to be the kind of meal that you are so full that you don’t feel romantic anymore.  Keep it light.  Seafood is all good, to give you the energy that you need to be romantic.

STRIPLV:  Do you have a favorite item on the menu right now either of you?

RICK:  For RM Seafood I like the grilled octopus.  I think it is super delicious, tender, and charred on the outside.  Or the whole fish which maintains a lot of that natural flavor of the fish, and the texture, and integrity with the char of the grill.  We change the garnishes and the sauces that go with it, but I always have a side of Moonen mash, which is mashed potatoes with fine diced red onion, cracked black pepper, scallions, and capers.  We do a steak tartar on Valentines Day that just blows your mind.  With truffles, yeah, that says I love you right there.

RONI:  Are you going to do anything with uni butter for Valentine’s Day?

RICK:  Uni butter, sea urchin, I do a compound butter.  The uni and the butter are whipped together, and I finish the sauce together with some freshly shucked clams with linguini and some caviar on top.

RONI:  It is so good.  It has to be on the Valentine’s Day menu, that would make me eat pasta.  It is just so good.  And what did you put the truffle oil in that was so good?

RICK:  It was a whipped cauliflower.  Truffles are almost like a pheromone.  Truffles are a turn on.  They just are.  That’s why they use animals to seek them out.  They are buried beneath the earth and what attracts the animal to them is that it smells like the opposite sex in heat.  That is what truffles put off.  I’m just telling you what I know.  (laughs)

STRIPLV:  Outside of your restaurant where do you like to eat in Las Vegas?   

RICK:  James Beard was asked years ago what was his favorite restaurant and he said: “The place that knows me the best.”  Being able to walk into a restaurant and to be welcomed, really welcomed, not just phony baloney welcomed, it just feels great.  So, we have quite a roster of restaurants we like to visit and support them.   It’s hard for us not to have a good dining experience in Las Vegas because this is a very transient town, and I’ve been here a while, so odds are there are people on the staff that used to work for me.

EMMA STONE - LA LA LAND

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EMMA STONE - LA LA LAND

By Frank Avriveso

Emma Stone has firmly planted herself among the Hollywood elite with numerous roles and accolades to her name.  Nominations and blockbuster titles aside she seems to have a down to earth and relatable quality to her that makes audiences want to see more of this petite actress who hails from Arizona.  Stone’s latest turn in cinema is with acclaimed writer and director Damien Chazelle whose film Whiplash made waves in the entertainment industry.  Damien’s latest effort 

La La Land reunites Emma with co-star Ryan Gosling in a modern take on musical films.  The movie takes a journey through modern-day Los Angeles in a very retro kind of a way.  It pays homage to the days of Hollywood past creating a nostalgia that makes you look for Debbie Reynolds in the background, while at the same time reminding you of the gritty reality of modern-day times.  We sat down with Emma and asked her about the journey creating this critically acclaimed feature.  

STRIPLV:  Did the final cut of La La Land live up to your expectations? 

STONE:  I think it exceeded them.  I think Damian has done something remarkable.  He knew exactly what he was doing.  It was incredible to see.

STRIPLV:  Can you remember when you first heard about it or read the script?  What did you think about it then?

STONE:    I first met Damian, we had lunch and talked about the movie.  He gave me the script, and it was so beautiful, I wept at the end, and the way he wrote the ending was so poetic.  I wish people could read the script, alongside watching the movie!  Damian walked me through all the visuals and played music for me.  We talked about it for a long time.  It was a testament to Damian.  He had his vision locked in..

STRIPLV:  How did you prepare? 

STONE:  A lot of dance training, a lot of singing one on one with the music supervisor.  He has a studio in his house, and we pre-recording the songs there, but most of the songs were sung live during filming.  I watched Singing in the Rain a month before rehearsals began, and it was so inspirational to watch that film.  I’ve realized that most of those dance numbers were shot in one take and realized how hard they were working.

STRIPLV:  So I guess you would get together with Ryan and work on the dance numbers?

STONE:  Almost daily, with the choreographer Mandy Moore.  I think it was about two and half months of rehearsal.  We had these stations on this big production office spot.  There was the dance room with Christmas lights strung up.  There was the singing room, and there was Ryan’s piano room where he took his piano lessons.   It was all kind of in one space.

STRIPLV:  Do you enjoy making films like this when it requires this kind of physical preparation? 

STONE:  I realized that I enjoyed it very much.  When you have months to work

on something and rehearse, it’s like theater.  You get to bond with everyone you’re working with; you feel like it’s a team effort, and that really makes it a more joyous experience.  It makes it scarier since we put six months of our lives giving it our all and who knows what’s going to happen in the end.

STRIPLV:  Is Mia (your character) more relatable to you because she’s a struggling actress?

STONE:  Definitely, I obviously could relate to moving to L.A., auditioning, being rejected, and putting yourself out there and not having it work out.  I could relate to her in a lot of ways, and I also admired her in the sense that, I mean, I’ve never written something for myself and put on a play; put myself out there in that way.  I think it’s so great that she’s also a writer creating this for herself.

STRIPLV:  Did the preparation with Ryan before shooting help with your chemistry together?  Was that the case and what kind of collaborator is he?

STONE:  Ryan’s a wonderful collaborator.  One of the greatest things about making this movie was being able to work with Ryan again.  He makes it very easy; it’s always light; it’s always fun, and he’s so smart, he has such great ideas for the characters and for the story that it makes the whole process better.  Learning to dance together and all of that was fun, we have known each other for so long, it was so hard not to laugh through a lot of it.   It was a great bonding experience for all of us.  It just felt like a big team.

IS FINDING TRUE LOVE ALL IN YOUR HEAD?

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Is Finding True Love All In Your Head/

An Interview with Dawn Maslar

By Howard Brody

Dawn Maslar, M.S., is an award-winning author based in South Florida who has worked as a biology professor at Broward College, Nova Southeastern University, and Kaplan University.  She is the go-to authority on the science of love.

Voted one of the Top 20 Most Followed Dating Experts on Twitter and Best 28 Dating, Marriage and Relationship Blogs to follow in the United Kingdom, Maslar is also a contributing author at scienceofrelationships.com, comprised of writers who are leading experts in the field of scientific relationship research.

Maslar, whose first book “From Heartbreak to Heart’s Desire: Developing a Healthy GPS (Guy Picking System)” was 

published in 2010, is a TEDx speaker on “How Your Brain Falls in Love.” She also worked with the TED Education division to create their Science of Attraction video. 

For those who are unfamiliar with TED, it should be noted that it is a nonprofit organization devoted to spreading ideas in communities around the world, usually in the form of short, powerful speeches. TEDx events are independently run.

Maslar’s work has been featured on South Florida Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune and National Public Radio.  Her online videos have had more than 2 million views.

In addition to her writing, Maslar has created The Great Love Experiment; a fun show she does at colleges, comedy clubs and singles events, where audience members learn about the science of love by participating on stage in research reenactments.

Striplv recently sat down with The Love Biologist to get the skinny on attraction, lust and finding true love.

STRIPLV:  What prompted you to write a book like this?  Did you write it because of a personal experience? 

MASLAR:  I was a biology professor attracted to the wrong men.  I was chasing after a bad boy biker in a band.  After I had my heart broken a few times, I realized I needed to change.  That’s where my first book came from.  After I wrote the first book, I started doing talks and workshops.  In those, the same questions kept coming up.  How does love work?  How long should you wait to have sex?  Can love last?  Since I had access to all the research on the subject, I started looking.  I spent five years piecing together the research in a comprehensive way.  That’s what this book does.

STRIPLV:  In your new book, you state that there are four phases of love.  Can you explain that?

MASLAR:  The four phases are based on the neurological changes that occur.  The first phase is attraction, which doesn’t have much to do with love.  The second phase is the dating phase, where you build the neurotransmitters up to falling in love.  The third phase is falling in love, and the fourth is true love.

STRIPLV:  Is there really such as thing as “true love”?

MASLAR:  Well “true love” is kind of like a misnomer – like when people say true love is two people that are meant to be.  And what I mean by “true love” is that you actually get your brain back, so you’re making a decision to be in a loving relationship.  When you fall in love it’s like a “brain fog”... so on the fourth stage that’s where it’s really true love, where you’ve got all your faculties in, and you’re making a decision if you’re in this or not.

STRIPLV:  So, now you’re thinking straight and saying to yourself, “Okay!  This is something I really want to be in”?

MASLAR:  Correct! 

STRIPLV:  You mentioned that attraction is more subconscious.  Can you explain that? 

MASLAR:  Attraction is based on your senses.  Your eyes, ears, nose, taste buds and skin all make a judgment as to if you are attracted or not. 

STRIPLV:  How does your nose judge attraction?

MASLAR:  Women sense for a protein molecule called Major Histocompatibility Complex.  It’s part of your immune system.  We are most attracted to people of an opposite immune system.  Women are also attracted to a metabolite of testosterone.  The greater his level, the greater the attraction tends to be.  A man, on the other hand, is attracted to women that are producing copulins.  This is a pheromone women produce when they ovulate.
STRIPLV:  If this is the case, how does this apply to gay men and women?  Are gay men attracted to testosterone while gay women are attracted to copulins?  Or do the rules not apply here?
MASLAR:  From what I understand gay men are attracted to testosterone, but I’m not exactly sure about the copulins in gay women.  I don’t know if anybody has researched that. 

STRIPLV:  So there is a difference between what men find attractive and what women find attractive?

MASLAR:  Men have 25% more neurons in his visual cortex, so he tends to place more emphasis on looks.  When are also initially attracted to looks, but other factors quickly come into play.

STRIPLV:  Such as?
MASLAR:  Well, attraction is just the first part.  It tells your body to pay attention.  And then you start evaluating the person; that’s the dating phase.  As you’re getting to learn to trust them, finding out about them, seeing if you have similarities, those types of things are coming into play.  A person’s answer to those can either be to continue with the attraction and possibly fall in love or stop it.  So if you find something during that phase that you don’t trust about the guy, it can be over really quick.
STRIPLV:  Does that also refer to men with regards to women?
MASLAR:  Yes, absolutely.
STRIPLV:  So it’s not gender-specific?
MASLAR:  A woman builds up oxytocin, that’s the trust hormone, but a man is actually looking for … well, there’s an underlying fear that is in every species of males, and that is the fear of cuckoldry, which is the cheating spouse and it’s often a subconscious fear.  We know it exists in other species because they have this thing called mate guarding, which is a way of protecting against the unfaithful partner.  We see it with humans too.  Back in the day, they had things like chastity belts, high walls to keep the women in, and some even believe that marriage might be a form of mate guarding.
STRIPLV:  You call falling in love ‘temporary insanity.’ Why?
MASLAR:  Because when you fall in love, your neurotransmitters go haywire.  Your hormone of happiness, serotonin drops.  Your stress hormone cortisol skyrockets. And parts of your brain deactivate.

STRIPLV:  Do you believe that some women fall in love because society has programmed them that they would be unfulfilled if they are not in love with someone?

MASLAR:  Love is one of our strongest biological desires, so I doubt societal pressures have much effect.

STRIPLV: Have you ever found that people will force themselves to be in love?

MASLAR:  At the last phase of true love, love becomes a conscious decision.  So, yes, you can decide to practice love.
STRIPLV: Do you think there is any truth to the notion that women fall in love while men fall in lust?  Do women fall in ‘lust’ too?

MASLAR: Both men and women can fall into lust.  I call that love at first sight.  The problem is once it becomes sexual, women can fall in love for real.  Men, on the other hand, don’t tend to fall in love with sex.
STRIPLV:  Why do you think divorces happen?

MASLAR: Divorces can happen when your brain comes back, and critical judgment returns, or, when two people grow apart.
STRIPLV:  Why does the experience of ‘falling in love’ end?

MASLAR: Yes, but there is a longer lasting feeling of true love.  It’s not as crazy.

STRIPLV:  Is this the same thing as ‘falling out of love’?

MASLAR: It could be.  It depends on how you respond to the change.

STRIPLV: Is it possible to love two people equally?

MASLAR: I don’t think so.  The research shows that a man’s testosterone drops when he commits to one woman.
STRIPLV: So how do you explain men and women who are married but have extramarital affairs for multiple years or even multiple families?  Is that just an anomaly?
MASLAR: The thing about it is that often the affair is not really love.  What we see, when a man commits to a woman, one woman, his testosterone drops.  And you asked me before about gays and lesbians, well, the same thing happens with lesbians.  When she commits to a woman her testosterone drops.  The weird part is when a man commits to a man it has no effect on his testosterone.  I don’t know what the biological significance is, but that’s what we see.  But it only happens with one woman and when it does his testosterone level blocks the effects of oxytocin, which is the bonding hormone.  So when it drops, he’s more likely to bond.

STRIPLV: In your experience, do people confuse love and sex?

MASLAR: That initial attraction is lust.  But, we call it love at first sight.

STRIPLV: Twice now you’ve referred to lust as “love at first sight.”  Why do you say they are the same?

MASLAR: It’s not necessarily the same.  Lust is lust, and it doesn’t necessarily lead to love at first sight.  The problem is when you confuse love at first sight with lust.  A lot of people think if I walk into a room and I see a guy or a girl, and my heart starts beating fast, and my pupils dilate, and I feel dizzy, it’s got to be love and they jump into this magical relationship, and unfortunately, it’s just love at first sight – it’s norepinephrine – a fight or flight response, which is meant to be temporary.  For them to continue to feel those emotions they have to create drama.  The classic example is Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee.  They met and married within 96 hours.  They had a truly rocky relationship, and it ended a few years later with Tommy Lee spending four months in jail for domestic violence.
STRIPLV:  Why do you believe long-term love is based on what you learned when you fell in love?

MASLAR: When you fall in love, parts of your brain deactivate.  Critical judgment and anxiety decrease.  We look at the best in the other person.  We stay in love if we continue to practice that.

STRIPLV:  Do you follow the rules of your research.  In other words, do you practice what you preach?

MASLAR: Of course! I practice being loving every day.

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