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ZOE SALDANA - MIDAS TOUCH

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Zoe Saldana - Midas Touch

By Frank Ariveso

 Zoe Saldana breathes a huge sigh of relief at the mention of the upcoming third Guardians of the Galaxy movie, which director James Gunn only revealed the day before. “It’s the greatest,” she squeals. “To be promoting the second, knowing there’s going to be a third, it’s an amazing validation.” Like there was ever any doubt. Guardians of the Galaxy was one of the highest grossing movies of 2014, bringing in nearly a whopping $800 million at
the box office. And the follow-up has grossed even more topping $859 million at the time of this writing. Plus, there’s the Saldana Midas touch. With Guardians, Avatar and Star Trek, she’s part of the biggest sci-fi franchises known to man. Where Zoe Saldana goes, big returns follow. But now a married mom of three young boys, the actress is beginning to question her intergalactic leanings. Promoting the Marvel blockbuster, which sees her lethal weapon character, Gamora reteam with Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill and Bradley Cooper’s Rocket to save the universe from another gargantuan threat, Zoe admits it might be time to come down to earth. And recent roles in Ben Affleck’s gangster saga, Live by Night, are testament to this change in direction. That doesn’t mean Saldana’s done with kicking butt. Open and warm, the 38-year-old chats about her initial reservations over the latest Guardians epic and explains her fears of “one hit wonders.” She also chats motherhood, balancing it all, her partnership with artist husband Marco Perego and why her attitude toward men has drastically changed. Saldana lives in LA with Perego and their twin boys, Cy and Bowie, 2, and two-month-old, Zen.

STRIPLV:  Chris Pratt talked to me about the difference in attitude on set from the first to the second movie, when everyone expected you to fail to the pressure that’s on now because of the huge success. How was it for you?

SALDANA:  I was very nervous. I was nervous because sequels can be dangerous. And we all were feeling the pressure. I think the first couple of days, we all had moments of, “Can we do this again?” “What was the secret ingredient? Do you know, does anyone? Should we just leave it there, not mess with it?” There were a lot of nerves. And we probably should have been coming back really cocky, slapping each other’s backs. When something hits so well, how can you go better? Could we go better? That was scary. This danger of throwing away what we had just for another roll of the dice. The stakes were huge. Are huge. And once we were in it, all that fear melted away. James was in charge, and his vision was present and trustworthy, and I just hopped on the ride and went with it. So it was very different from the first. Way different. Different planet, different.

STRIPLV:  Fans really loved Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2.

SALDANA:  The key word here is “more.” More stunts, more action, a lot more jokes. Which is saying something because there was a lot in there, to begin with. We knew their personalities so much more; we could grow with them, laugh with them. There’s more love, more affection. More tears. Just everything was heightened and bettered; I didn’t know this was possible because the first was such a beautiful, perfect package of originality and heart. James Gunn, never underestimate this man because he is the best of the best.

STRIPLV:  I like where you took Gamora.

SALDANA:  She’s come a long way from the first movie. Which is impressive as it takes off basically right after it ends. She was an escape artist, always had one foot out the door before, that was her primary concern at all times, that’s how she lived her life. Until she found a core and a reason to be within this unusual family and Gamora is the moral center, she’s the one who keeps them together. The matriarch. Much like, very similar to my role within this group. It’s my lot in life, to wrangle these guys, keep them disciplined. She makes out as she hates it, but really, she’s happy. She belongs, which is a first for her.

STRIPLV:  Speaking of family, things get heated with Gamora and Nebula, which fans including myself were really looking forward to seeing.

SALDANA:  Me too, I was super excited to see how Gamora and Nebula’s relationship played out because there’s a lot going on there. Sisters with a very fractious bond in that they despise each other, hate everything the other represents and they can also seriously throw down. They’re matched, and we get to dive into their history, discover the root of their demons, discover why they are the way they are. But instead of catty remarks and some hair-pulling, they try to hurt each other mercilessly and kill each other. Which isn’t that how sisters behave? (Laughs)

STRIPLV:  Did Gamora’s roles as a mom feel comparable to your own at home, now that you have three little ones?

SALDANA:  Yes, I can see that. But Gamora has big big stupid kids; I have gorgeous little infants who are far better behaved. And that’s saying something. I have two-year-old twins who like to say no, a lot.

STRIPLV:  How is life with such a young family?

SALDANA:  I haven’t slept in two years. (Laughs) I barely have one eye open right now. It’s wonderful, more than I could have wished for but it’s also fucking hard. You know, the twins, they’re completely in sync. They eat at the same time, they poop at the same time, two for the price of one. The little one is on his own schedule, it’s challenging, and I’m loving the challenge and loving the love. But it’s exhausting, and I’ve never known this kind of exhaustion.

STRIPLV:  You’ve got maybe a dozen movies in the pipeline, how do you do it all? Most people would crack up.

SALDANA:  I am in a very fortunate, lucky position because there are so many mothers and fathers who are doing it by themselves and succeeding and triumphing. My family are amazing, huge support system, we have great people working with us, we have all that to help us achieve our goals and dreams, which I want to be this example to my kids of never letting go of your dreams. The people who do it without support, without family, they are heroes. They are ultimate, fighting superheroes. My husband is my guiding star. He makes it happen for me. While I’m committed to these jobs, he flies out with the boys to wherever I am, flies back, flies forth, he has made it so doable and so comfortable, and I’m blessed to have him on this journey. It’s all about planning. And it’s about both of our careers because yes, right now I have certain commitments but then it’s about laying mine aside, and now it’s Marco’s turn, and I’ll travel and go, do whatever is necessary to make things smoother for him and his work. It’s about meticulous planning and understanding and having that comfort that both of us have each other’s back. That’s what you do when you’re in a partnership.

STRIPLV:  How do the twins find life on set? Do they understand what’s happening? Do they get it?

SALDANA:  They do. More than I thought they would. When Mommy’s green, that means she’s going to work. They understand Gamora is work. I say to them, I have to go to work and they go, “Mommy Gamora, Mommy go green. Mommy Hulk.” They perk up.

STRIPLV:  So they think you’re the Hulk?

SALDANA:  They love the Hulk. For some reason, they’ve connected with him. We’re doing Avengers now, and they see Mark (Ruffalo), and in their logic, they see green, and they think Gamora and Hulk are from the same family. And now when I raise my voice, it’s “Mommy going Hulk.”

STRIPLV:  Doesn’t that scare them because Hulk is scary?

SALDANA:  I thought it would. (Laughs) I thought I could use it to my advantage, but I think they find it funny more than threatening.

STRIPLV:  Being exposed to this side of blockbuster and filmmaking, it’ll be so blasé to them.

SALDANA:  I hope not. There’s still this feeling of enchantment which I’m glad it hasn’t become boring and normalized for them because I don’t want to start them on that foot. I’d hate for what they see on film sets between the make-up and costumes, for that to burst their imagination bubble and interfere with that sense of wonder.

STRIPLV:  You’re known for your actions roles, but we’re seeing you more and more in more human dramas like Live by Night, and I Kill Giants. Is that an intentional move?

SALDANA:  I want to portray more vulnerability, human vulnerability. I need to come back to earth more often; I feel like I’m always floating in space. I’ve been there for well over a decade. And loved every minute. Action, sci-fi that has been my zone and will stay that way. But it might be nice to bask in the everyday. Be in the norm. Saying that it’s hugely important to me to play these kick ass, sci-fi roles as an example for young women because there still aren’t that many parts in that genre for females who aren’t a romantic foil. That’s massively important to who I am as an actor. I need to do what I can in that respect because as a young girl watching myself; I was so hungry for that representation. I wanted to see girls kick butt and now, I get to kick butt and I want
to continue kicking butt, not only for myself but for them. I like setting that example. I’ll never stop.

STRIPLV:  Has motherhood changed how you tailor your choices?

SALDANA: My attitude has done a total 180 when it comes to the choices that I make and the change in my life, my sons, my husband, has something to do with it. I’m surrounded by the greatest men. I’ve got a houseful of men, which is the complete opposite to my upbringing, all females. I feel like I’m learning so much about men now that I never knew before being surrounded by them. And especially at this initial stage of development. My husband, his approach, and outlook on life is so beautiful and worldly and not sexist in the least, the total opposite. My boys are my light. Before that, I think my approach came from my uncomfortableness in a way, always this need to be better (than a man), to beat them and that bred this desire to be strong and aggressive, strong to me was aggressive and intense. But now that I’m raising men, all men, which I never really considered would happen, with a wonderful man, it’s made me readdress my perspective, that perhaps it doesn’t always have to be so emotionally and physically forceful. Strength comes in many forms; strength comes in quiet, strength comes in physiological resilience. I’ll always love to kick ass, that will never change, but there can be varying shades.

STRIPLV:  How is Avatar 2 going?

SALDANA:  Production started in August. Fabulous things are worth the wait, and knowing what James is capable of, it is worth the wait. James loves this story, he loves these characters but most of all, he adores the fans. He does it for them and wants to deliver the absolute utmost to them. And I’m enjoying going back to Pandora.

ED PUBLICATIONS

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The 25th Annual Gentlemen’s Club EXPO will be held from August 27–30 at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

Presented by ED Publications, the tradeshow previously known as the Gentlemen’s Club Owners EXPO, showcases companies that offer products and services to club owners and operators. The three-day event also features: a full slate of workshops and panel sessions, nightly parties, feature entertainer showcases, a national board meeting for ACE (the Association of Club Executives); and the Annual Adult Nightclub & Exotic Dancer Awards Show better known as (The ED’s Awards), which is the only national awards show for this industry.

The very first convention was held at the old Stardust Hotel and Casino in 1993, and today the EXPO remains the only national conference and awards show for the multi-billion-dollar adult nightclub industry.

Keeping one’s finger on the pulse of an industry as exciting and diverse as this one is no easy task. But somebody’s got to do it, and for a quarter of a century, nobody has done it better than the ED Publications team.

STRIPLV recently spoke with Dave Manack, the associate publisher and editor of ED Publications and the organizer of the Annual Gentlemen’s Club EXPO, about how ED got started, how the club industry has changed over the years, how the convention has evolved since its first year and what he thinks might be in store for adult night clubs in the near future.

STRIPLV: How many people work on the magazine each month?

MANACK: We’re a small company. There are only eight people in the office here at ED Publications. Regarding the people that work on the magazines, we have two in editorial (myself and my assistant editor, Eugenio Torrens), one in graphics (Sara Carter), and two in marketing/sales (Lacy Empkey and Kristofer Kay).

STRIPLV: So, what were you and publisher Don Waitt doing before you got into the publishing business?

MANACK: Don has a long history as a journalist. He was a staff reporter for The Times, a daily newspaper in Shreveport, Louisiana. He then became the publisher of Performance magazine, a national business-to-business trade magazine for the concert touring industry. Don started ED – Exotic Dancer – Publications in 1991, while he still worked for Performance. I began my career as a journalist when I was 18. While I was getting my bachelor’s degree in journalism from Southern Connecticut State University, I worked as a sports writer for the Register-Citizen, a daily newspaper in Northwest Connecticut. I also worked as a freelance music journalist and wrote for national and local music magazines across the country. I was hired at ED Publications in 1998.

STRIPLV: Just how did the idea of the magazine come about?

MANACK: Don was always on the road for work, and when he went into new cities he had no idea how to find strip clubs. Keep in mind, this was the 1980s. The proverbial light bulb went off. There is a need for a “yellow pages” for strip clubs. He started the exhaustive work of finding every adult nightclub in the U.S. as he prepared the first-ever Exotic Dancer Directory, which attempted to list every adult club in the U.S. That publication came out in 1991. Our bi-monthly business magazine – which only goes to the owners and operators of adult nightclubs and industry pros, and does not go to consumers – wasn’t established until 1996. At that time, it was quarterly; it became bi-monthly in 2000. It was called the Club Bulletin but is now called ED Magazine. We just made that name change in our May 2017 issue. Our magazine is designed to give club owners and operators the information and tips they need to operate their establishments more efficiently, more safely and more profitably.

STRIPLV: Was the magazine well received in the beginning or was there push back?

MANACK: It was just a directory of clubs at the time, so there really was no push back. But it was extremely well received, and thousands of copies were purchased 

by fans each year for the first several years of publication. That is until the internet took over when it came to customers finding their favorite strip clubs.

STRIPLV: When did the idea of the convention come about?

MANACK: The directory caught the attention of Michael J. Peter, who was then the most well-known owner/operator of adult clubs in the U.S. For those not familiar with Michael, he is the forefather of the modern gentlemen’s club; the guy who started Thee Dollhouse, Solid Gold, etc., and of course, our publisher, Don, got to know Michael in the process. Michael was having a national dance contest in Las Vegas at the now-defunct Stardust in 1993. Don told Michael he wanted to produce a small tradeshow and some panel sessions during the day, while his contest took place at night. Michael had no issue with that, so Don did exactly that. That’s how the first Gentlemen’s Club EXPO – then called the Gentlemen’s Club Owners EXPO – was born.

STRIPLV: How hard was it to put that first convention together and were people willing to participate?

MANACK: Well, adult nightclub owners are a skeptical bunch, so it took a while before they: A) heard about this national convention, and B) trusted that it was run by people who understood the industry. Once they saw that it was a professionally produced event and that it featured the key players in the industry – along with a score of attractive, nationally touring showgirls, or as we call them, “feature” entertainers – they started attending. Every year, the number grew, right up through the turn of the century.

STRIPLV: How many people came to the first convention and how many attend now? 

MANACK: Only a few hundred people came to the first convention in 1993 at the Stardust. We’ve had over 2,000 attendees consistently since the late 1990s.

STRIPLV: How has the adult nightclub industry changed over the years?

MANACK: The adult nightclub industry changed dramatically in the early to mid-1990s, as the old-school strip clubs were replaced by the high-end gentlemen’s clubs, with girls in gowns and guys in tuxedos; a movement launched mainly by Michael J. Peter. As for how it’s changed recently, some change has been for the better; some has been for the worse. In some ways, adult nightclubs are more mainstream than they’ve ever been, attracting scores of female customers. We have a publicly traded club chain in Rick’s Cabaret/RCI Hospitality. In 1999, we helped to start ACE, the Association of Club Executives, the national lobbying and organizational entity for this industry. ACE has proven to be a powerful organization for defending the adult nightclub industry against harmful legislation against it. So those are the positives. Unfortunately, there are too many bad operators in this industry that hurt the perception of the industry at large. Too many guys buy a club because they want to make it their personal playground; they don’t run it properly as a business. That hurts everyone. Of course, the legal challenges are always changing.

STRIPLV: What about the future of adult nightclubs? Are you seeing any trends that indicate changes are coming?

MANACK: I think the biggest change for the clubs right now, or rather the biggest challenge, is how are they going to market their club to millennials and centennials? The clubs have to make sure new customers are constantly coming in through the front door. They can no longer rely solely on the 40-year-old male because eventually the numbers dry up and fall off. In several cities, some adult nightclubs are targeting couples as opposed to just men, and some clubs are targeting younger patrons by mixing in dance and live music. But we’re not the only industry to face this challenge. Some very well-known restaurant chains are trying to figure out how best to market to millennials and centennials too. And they’re doing things like adjusting their menus and modernizing their dining rooms.

STRIPLV: As the adult nightclub industry has evolved over the years and continues to do so, has the convention changed as well?

MANACK: Well, it’s gotten bigger, of course. And we’ve gotten more corporate involvement over the years with sponsors like Anheuser-Busch, Diageo, Red Bull, Belvedere Vodka, major champagne companies, etc. We also introduced the industry’s only national awards show, the Annual Adult Nightclub & Exotic Dancer Awards Show (the ED’s), back in 1998. So this year marks 20 years of the industry’s only national awards show honoring clubs, touring feature entertainers and club staff. We try to change the show to adapt to the needs of the industry. A few years ago, we changed the name of the convention from the Gentlemen’s Club Owners EXPO to the Gentlemen’s Club EXPO, because we were attracting more than just owners. Now, we get a good amount of general managers, DJs, floor hosts, entertainers, even house moms, who come to the EXPO. It’s the industry’s convention; it’s not just for club owners.

STRIPLV: What’s the outlook for future conventions?

MANACK: The convention will continue to adapt to the needs of the industry. I see more and more club staff coming to the EXPO; I also see more clubs coming from places like Australia, England, etc. We already have that happening now; I just see more of it happening.

Expo
2017
Agenda

Sunday,
August
27

11 a.m. to 5 p.m.: EXPO Hospitality Lounge at Goose Island Pub

1 p.m. to 6 p.m.: EXPO Registration Desk Open

Noon to 8 p.m.: Exhibitor Setup

4 p.m. to 6 p.m.: ACE National Board Meeting

9 p.m. to Midnight: Pre-show Parties

Monday,
August
28

9 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Registration Desk Open

7 a.m. to Noon: Exhibitor Setup

11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Panel on smart Phones — The Future of Five-Inch Marketing

1 p.m. to 2 p.m.: Panel on Developing your Exit Strategy — NOW!

1 p.m. to 2 p.m.: Breakout Seminar — The Future of Your DJ Software

2 p.m. to 6 p.m.: Tradeshow Open

9 p.m. to Midnight: Opening Night Party, Early ED Awards at Hard Rock’s Vanity Nightclub

Tuesday,
August
29

9 a.m. to 6 p.m.: Registration Desk Open

10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.: Continental Breakfast

11 a.m. to Noon: Panel on Crisis Control — Remedies NOW for Future Events

Noon to 1 p.m.: Keynote Address by Professional Speaker Dan Lier Club: Owners are from Mars, Staffers are from Venus

1 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Tradeshow Open

8 p.m. to 9 p.m.: The ED Awards Reception at The Joint at the Hard Rock

9 p.m. to 11 p.m.: The ED Awards Show at The Joint at the Hard Rock

11 p.m. to 2 a.m.: Awards Show After-Party

Wednesday,
August
30

10 a.m. to 2 p.m.: Registration Desk Open

10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.: Continental Breakfast

11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.: Panel on Government Relationships You Need for Your Club’s Future

1 p.m. to 2 p.m.: Legal Panel on: The What, Why & How of Converting Dancers to Employees

1 p.m. to 2 p.m.: Breakout Seminar on How to Get The Most Out of Your Audio, Video and Stage Lighting

2 p.m. to 5 p.m.: Pool Party & Bikini Contest at the Hard Rock’s Breathe Pool

9 p.m. to Midnight: Closing Night Party & International Features Smackdown Showcase

ELLE FANNING - COMING OF AGE

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ELLE FANNING - COMING OF AGE

By Frank Ariveso

Seven years after Somewhere helped turned Elle Fanning into a rising Hollywood star, the lithe blonde actress has re-teamed with director Sofia Coppola on The Beguiled.  Selected for the competition section at the Cannes Film Festival, the film is another leap forward in Fanning’s transition to adult roles.  She’s also excited about working again with Coppola and being part of an all-star cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell and Kirsten Dunst.

“Sofia and I have been friends since I was 11 and I worked on Somewhere,” Fanning says.  “It’s really exciting to work with her again because we’ve been looking for another project and finally it happened.”

Somewhere is a remake of the original 1971 Clint Eastwood Civil War drama about a wounded soldier (played by Farrell, taking over the Eastwood role) from the North forced to hide out in a girls’ school in the South; the Coppola version promises to be a highly combustible drama. Fanning has hinted that there will be plenty of bodice-ripping scenes. “There’s lots of sex in this movie,” says Fanning.

Though she may only have just turned 19, Fanning carries herself with the poise and assurance of a veteran performer, which makes sense as she has spent much of her young life on film sets, following in the footsteps of her older sister, Dakota. As articulate as she is beautiful, Elle speaks in a lively but serious manner, and it’s a bold understatement to say that she’s wise beyond her years.

Fanning made a breakthrough of sorts in last year’s macabre Nicolas Winding Refn horror flick, The Neon Demon (which also made headlines at last year’s Cannes festival).   Her stunning performance proved that she was ready to take on highly complex and demanding roles, and her subsequent appearances in this year’s Live by Night and Certain Women confirmed as much. 

Having already forged an impressive career that includes Babel, (2006), Benjamin Button (2008), Ginger and Rosa (2012) and Maleficent (2014), the tall (5’9”) and ethereally beautiful Fanning is only beginning to test her seemingly limitless potential as the next big thing in the film world.  Later this year she will be seen in the indie drama, Sydney Hall.

STRIPLV: Elle, with The Beguiled, it seems like you’re determined to take on adult roles, especially after your recent work in The Neon Demon and Live by Night.  Is that your plan now?

FANNING:  It’s a gradual transition. It’s something I’ve been thinking about ever since I stopped being able to play very young characters.  But I think it’s going well because I’m always looking for the roles that represent the biggest challenges, and playing characters that are not only different from each other but also very different from me. That’s the essence of being an actor, and that’s why I love this job so much.  I don’t even consider it a job, and I want to continue doing it all my life.

STRIPLV: What was it like working with Sofia Coppola again?

FANNING:  She’s very calm and quiet, but there’s this underlying sense that she knows what she wants when you’re working with her. Sofia explains things carefully although she doesn’t want to tell you too much about what she expects from you. She just has to give you this serious look, and you know to better get the shot right!

STRIPLV: What’s the atmosphere on her sets like?

FANNING: Sofia likes to keep things very relaxed. There’s no loud voices or a lot of stress getting ready for the next shot. I still remember when I first worked with her on Somewhere, talking to her on the set about the next scene was like chatting on a living room sofa with a friend. All the directors I’ve worked with have left me free to express myself, but with Sofia, the atmosphere is more relaxed.

STRIPLV: Last year was a pretty interesting time for you when you appeared in The Neon Demon and had a chance to go to Cannes for the first time. What was that experience like?

FANNING: Cannes was a very special moment for me. I had just celebrated my 18th birthday, and the night of the presentation of the film in Cannes I should have been back home in the U.S. going to my prom. So I wound up inviting my best friend who was going to be my prom date to come with me to Cannes, and it was probably the best prom night imaginable!

STRIPLV:  What about the very intense and mixed response from audiences to the film itself?

FANNING:  Before the screening, Nicolas (director Refn) and I knew that there would be a lot of diverse and intense reactions to the film. But it was kind of terrifying and exciting to be there in the theater while some people were booing and others were applauding and cheering. It was the perfect reaction, and Nic wants to make films that are going to provoke. That’s the function of art. Then what made things surreal was the AmFar party, which was very glitter and glam like a 70s disco, a bit like The Neon Demon. I met some young people there, and most of them told me that they had enjoyed the film. It was one of the best nights of my life.

STRIPLV: How does it feel to be out of high school and entering this new chapter in your life?

FANNING: I’m feeling really happy although there are times when I feel like I’m in a kind of limbo. I’ve spoken to a lot of my friends, some of whom are now studying in university while others have decided to take a break, and most of us have this odd feeling to be out of high school and not being part of that world anymore. I had the advantage though of knowing that I had a career waiting for me when I finished high school, so that’s made it a lot easier for me.

STRIPLV:   Now that you’re older, is it easier for you to connect with some of the experiences that your sister Dakota has had? Has that brought you closer together?

FANNING: Yes, it has. A few years ago the age difference between us made it harder for us to understand each other and we often argued about things. But lately we’ve started to become much closer, and I’ve even been able to hang out with her and her girlfriends and go to parties together. That’s something we were never able to do before. I’m so happy about that.

STRIPLV:  Your mother and father were both professional athletes earlier in their lives. Did they instill in you a sense of competition or drive to succeed?

FANNING:  Yes. I’ve always wanted to win and be successful. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being competitive. It makes you want to keep exceeding your own limits. I come from a family of athletes. Competition is in our blood.  My mother was a tennis pro, my dad played baseball, my maternal grandfather was a pro quarterback (Rick Arrington, who played with the Philadelphia Eagles from 1970-72), and my aunt is a sports reporter. And when my sister started working a lot in television and film, that was also an inspiration and example for me. There’s a big part of me that feels like I have a legacy to uphold.

STRIPLV:  Even though you’re only 18, do you ever wonder about having children some day?

FANNING: Sure. My parents have been together since they were very young. You almost never hear about that these days. I would love to have their luck in love. But for the moment I’m concentrating on my career. Love can wait.

EMILIA CLARKE - ICE AND FIRE

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EMILIA CLARKE - ICE AND FIRE

By Jack Wellington

With her celestial beauty, sensual aura, and capacity for mass destruction, Emilia Clarke aka Daenerys Targaryen has gained a worldwide following as one of the principal players on Game of Thrones. Oh, there may be those whose hearts quiver at the sight of Kit Harington as Jon Snow or suffer from Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister, but nothing can compare to Clarke’s almost divine presence as “mother of dragons” and possible savior of the oppressed. Now entering season seven, the HBO series is set for worldwide release on July 16 and will be divided into seven episodes, as opposed to the usual set of 10. This year’s Game of Thrones promises to double-down on the level of mayhem and internecine warfare that is the hallmark of its apocalyptic universe and will see the three remaining major players in Westeros crossing paths: Cersei Lannister in King’s Landing, Jon Snow reigning over Winterfell, and Daenerys Targaryen in Dragonstone.

Though plot specifics are being guarded more closely than anything in Julian Assange’s imagination, Clarke is willing to wager that audiences will be satisfied with the level of blood, lust, and treachery.

“Last season’s battle was ridiculous,” Clarke says. “But this season is off the chain. There’s another battle, but they topped it again.” She added via Instagram:  “I believe this season is gonna be a mind blower.”

In the meantime, the 30-year-old Clarke has undergone a personal evolution that may not be as wildly tempestuous as that of her Game of Thrones alter ego, but which is just as profound in its own way. The wildly
popular global TV series was her first test of fire as an actress, and she’s since gone on to build her repertoire with major roles in Terminator: Genisys and last year’s tear-jerker, Me Before You.

This summer, audiences will also get a chance to see Clarke in the dramatic thriller, Voice From the Stone, set in Tuscany, and next year she’ll be starring in the new Star Wars prequel film alongside Alden
Ehrenreich as the young Han Solo, taking over for Harrison Ford. She was also recently named the new face of Dolce & Gabbana’s The One fragrance.

STRIPLV: You’ve said in previous years that your time on Game of Thrones had paralleled a deep personal evolution. Can you elaborate on that?

CLARKE: Success forces you to change. After playing Daenerys for the first couple of seasons and making a name for myself in show business, I was still plagued by self-doubt and anxiety. Coming to terms with yourself and knowing what you want - that’s not easy for anyone, and especially not if you happen to be very sensitive. But it was during those difficult times and low moments that I started to figure out my life and evolve into the woman I am today. And I want to keep learning and never stop working on myself so that I can be more open and engaged in whatever I do.

STRIPLV: Season seven promises to be a spectacular one for Daenerys and all the major players in Game of Thrones. Why do you think that your character has proven to be such an intense source of fascination for audiences?

CLARKE: Daenerys is a strong and powerful woman. She’s a leader and fighter and survivor. One of the most compelling aspects of her is that she combines the strength of a man with the sensitivity of a woman. She also sets herself apart from the other main characters because her ultimate goal is pure and noble. She wants to rule over a world where all people are equal.

STRIPLV: Do you see her as a role model?

CLARKE: She’s a great example for young women. Daenerys possesses a level of self-confidence that is empowering to young women. Her journey throughout the series is that of a girl with low self-esteem who transforms herself into a powerful and resilient young woman. I think she’s a brilliant role model and I’ve personally gained a lot of confidence and determination simply from playing that kind of character and learning from her experience.

STRIPLV: What has been one of the unforeseen benefits of playing a character like Daenerys and getting your big break with a series like Game of Thrones?

CLARKE: It was just bonkers that I got known for a role that, on a day-to-day basis, was so far removed from myself. (Clarke holds her arms out as far as she can to demonstrate the distance that Daenerys feels away from her).

STRIPLV: Is it at times staggering for you to realize that you’re part of arguably the greatest series in the history of television?

CLARKE: It’s scary to even think about it! (Laughs) I’ve been very lucky and I certainly never imagined while working at this terrible call-center that one day I would be getting a part in a massive series like Game of Thrones. I would have been thrilled just with a small role, and I never expected that I would become one of the major characters. This has meant so much to me, and I’m immensely grateful.

STRIPLV: Are people still surprised when they see you in person and you don’t have the blonde hair?

CLARKE: (Laughs) They’re more surprised that I’m smaller than they expect (She’s 5’2”). I would love to try going blonde in real life, and every once in a while I promise myself that I’m going to do it, but then I chicken out. I still have terrible memories of dyeing
my hair as a teenager, and the results were disastrous. I think I’m destined to remain a brunette. I love putting on the blonde wig, though. It changes my look completely, and it helps me get into the character and throw myself completely into Dany’s world.

STRIPLV: Do you ever tease your friends by speaking in Dothraki?

CLARKE: No, because it’s very difficult to remember and just as hard to pronounce. In season one, I had a lot of trouble memorizing my Dothraki lines and I would put all these Post-it notes all over my apartment with different expressions and lines written on them. Valyrian is much easier because it has a more melodic quality to it. When you’re speaking Dothraki, it’s more like you’re choking on your words. During season six, I was starting to get back into it, but it’s something you forget almost as soon as you leave the set. One time though I played a joke on one of the actors right in front of him doing my lines and I just spoke in some Dothraki gibberish and he had to keep a straight face!

STRIPLV: You seem to be a very upbeat person. Is that your natural way of being?

CLARKE: I’ve had a lot of good fortune in my life, and I feel so happy and excited to have been able to spend so much time working on such an incredible series. The first day I arrive on the set for the start of a new season is such an exciting moment for me, and it’s like the beginning of another great adventure. I’ve made so many wonderful friendships with the cast, and I’m so proud of the work we’ve done and the thousands of people who have worked very hard on this show over the years.

STRIPLV: Did you always have the feeling that you would be successful?

CLARKE: I believed that if I worked hard, good things would happen. I’ve been blessed with a strong work ethic that I get from mother especially. She started out as a secretary, and now she’s the vice president of marketing for a global consulting firm. My mother worked very hard to get to where she is, and I’ve always had that same kind of drive and determination. But I also know that a lot of luck is required to get a role in a play or film no matter how much talent you have. My parents were worried at first when I told them around 17 or 18 that I wanted to pursue acting as my profession because they knew that the odds are stacked against you. But once they knew how determined I was, they were very supportive.

STRIPLV: When did you first know that wanted to be an actress?

CLARKE: I was just three years old. My father worked as a sound engineer at the theater and often took me to the performances. What triggered things for me was when I saw the musical “Show Boat,” and from that moment on I knew I wanted to become an actress. As long as I can remember, I’ve always been watching plays, films, or reading stories.  And performing is something that feels very natural and creatively satisfying to me.

STRIPLV: Apart from Daenerys, what is another favorite role of yours?

CLARKE: I loved playing Louisa in Me Before You. I got to be myself and do all the things I love in London, which is my hometown. Every single part of that movie was a tick, tick, tick on all boxes. Plus, the movie had fewer dragons, fewer swords, fewer beards in
general, fewer deaths and fewer people are trying to kill me!

STRIPLV: Over the course of your Game of Thrones days, is it becoming more and more difficult to walk around London unrecognized?

CLARKE: It’s not as easy as it used to be, but I can still move pretty freely in public, which is very important to me. I have it so much easier than Peter Dinklage who is immediately recognized as Tyrion Lannister even if he is wearing a swimsuit and walking along
the beach. Or Kit Harington as Jon Snow. I remember well how one time I was walking with Kit on 5th Avenue in New York and a whole horde of Game of Thrones fans descended upon us.

STRIPLV: What are your goals once Game of Thrones comes to an end?

CLARKE: I want to continue working in theater because that helps me improve and I love performing in front of an audience. I would also like to do a musical at some point because I enjoy singing. We’ll see. I’m probably going to make my fair share of good and bad choices, but fate and luck are all part of the game. I’m going to simply trust  my instincts, and see where that takes me.

•LOVES SEXY UNDERWEAR “There’s something genuinely really empowering about (sexy underwear). If you’re feeling like you’re having an off day, or you’ve got to attend a really important meeting, put on the sexiest underwear you have underneath your clothes, and it makes you feel real like,  ‘Oh, I’ve got a secret that you don’t know!’ It kinda gives you this little sexy confidence that I think is fun.”

•DESIGNER OUTFITS “I love all things girly and dressing up (for the red carpet). I will often fall in love with a dress on the catwalk. I love Chanel, Prada and Alberta Ferretti especially.”

•ROM-COMS When Harry Met Sally is the ultimate for me, the absolute ultimate. I know it all off by heart!  Anything, because of the age that I am with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in it. Sleepless In Seattle, You’ve Got Mail, I love all of those. Four Weddings and a Funeral, Yes, big time, Notting Hill. They’re all shameless, proper, stay at home on a Sunday with a box of Kleenex.”

•TUSCANY “I fell in love with Tuscany while I was shooting Voice from the Stone. It’s a psychological thriller in the style of Alfred Hitchcock. It was a great experience. We shot in a castle of the 17th century between Siena and Viterbo. The people in the countryside had never seen a movie set before, and it was great to interact with the locals.”

•ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER “Arnold jokes a lot and puts you immediately at ease. He’s an amazing person. I must admit that he treated me with great respect and was very protective while we were shooting Terminator: Genisys together. He also gave me great advice. He said, ‘Always be grateful and gentle with the people who recognize you.’ We’ve become good friends.”

•HATES GOOGLING HERSELF “I have a rule. I just don’t Google myself. I’m on social media, but I don’t look at the stuff that other people tag me in because it just messes me up. Like, ‘Oh, I’m hideous and fat,’ but then if I don’t read it, you save yourself from finding any haters out there. If you hate me, I don’t need to know.”

•QUESTIONS ABOUT NUDITY “It’s tiresome to deal with journalists at press junkets who keep asking questions about the nudity I’ve done on Game of Thrones, specifically because they want to get headline-grabbing responses coming from a young woman.”

•EATING HEART “I think it was very helpful of HBO to give me something truly disgusting to eat, so there wasn’t much acting required.  They made the heart out of this kind of solidified jam, but it tasted more like black and raw pasta. I think I ate roughly 28 hearts in total throughout the days we filmed that scene. Fortunately, they gave me a spit bucket because I was vomiting in it quite often.” (Laughs)

•BEING CLUMSY “It’s funny that I’m known for playing all these strong roles. I’m quite clumsy, I say the wrong thing all the time and am awkward at the best of times. My friends and family have seen this other person every single day.”

•AUDITIONS “Actors cannot invest too much in auditions. It’s too heartbreaking if you don’t get it. I was petrified auditioning for Game of Thrones, but for some odd reason they decided to give this unknown girl a shot!”

TOM HARDY - DARK SIDE

0717tomhardyfeature

TOM HARDY - DARK SIDE

By Kyle Levy

Tom Hardy has always given the impression of being a little dangerous. He admits to drinking so much in his early twenties that he has few memories of that time in his life. But he’s long since atoned for his hell-bent past and in recent years has emerged as one of Hollywood’s top stars with performances in The Revenant (for which he earned an Oscar nomination), Mad Max: Fury Road, and his new BBC TV series, Taboo, on which he did double duty as producer and star, and which has just been renewed for a second season.

Next up, however, is Dunkirk, Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated WWII drama in which he stars as a spitfire pilot. It’s the third time Hardy has collaborated with Nolan, having starred in Inception and The Dark Knight Rises and he believes that Nolan has crafted a masterpiece.

“Chris has made a classic film; it has the epic quality,” Hardy says. “It was a huge production to be part of, and you feel the responsibility of telling a story that left its mark on everyone. You grow up hearing so much about it. Dunkirk was a big turning point in the war.”

The film also co-stars pop star Harry Styles who will doubtless add to the hype preceding its summer release date. Hardy didn’t have any scenes with the “Sign of the Times” heartthrob but speaks highly of the former One Direction front man. “I met him once, really briefly. It was lovely, big hug. He’s very polite and just a sweet guy.”

Hardy, 39, lives in London with his actress wife Charlotte Riley and their 18-month-old son. They began seeing each other after working together on Wuthering Heights in 2009. He also has a son, Louis, 8, from his previous relationship to Rachel Speed.

On working with his father Chips Hardy on Taboo, it all came down to Hardy’s desire to have a greater say in the creative process: “I did Taboo because I had that drive to be a bit more than just an actor. Not just because I want more meat in a hamburger or I to want to be heard; it’s that I really care about problem-solving. I can do the acting relatively easily at this point, so my energy is kind of, ‘Oh, how can we make it better? I want to help the team.’ But the team just wants you to ‘shut up because the team needs to think.’ (Laughs) It’s like, ‘But I’m on the team! I want to help you think.’ ‘Just fucking shut up, OK.’ So now I have that place where I can go.”

STRIPLV: Tom, Dunkirk marks your third collaboration worked with Christopher Nolan. What do you most appreciate about him as a director?
HARDY: Chris has complete command of the operation, and you feel very secure working with him. It’s great working with a man who’s got everything under control. He’s also open to ideas, which is a sign of a confident director, and I know I’ve been irritated some directors because I’m always trying to make things better and I feel I can contribute something more. But with Chris, I wouldn’t even think of arguing with him. He’s the kingpin.
STRIPLV: How do you compare developing, producing, and acting in Taboo where you were responsible for basically everything to being an actor on a mammoth undertaking like Dunkirk. Were you able to relax more?
HARDY: I usually don’t relax when I’m working. (Laughs) What was easier about doing Taboo is that shooting in London meant I was able to go home every night and spend time with my family. My youngest was born three weeks before we started shooting Taboo.
STRIPLV: Did it give you a special feeling to able to work with your father Chips who co-wrote Taboo?
HARDY: Yeah, I wanted to work with my dad. Chips has a lot of great ideas, and I saw him as my partner in crime on this. It was also a chance for me to tell a story the way I wanted to and work in TV where you have much more time to develop the characters and unfold the story. I liked the idea of returning to my roots and going back and working with the BBC the way I started out when I did Oliver Twist, and I wasn’t sure if I could make a living as an actor.
STRIPLV: How did your father help you regarding specific things you wanted to bring to Taboo?
HARDY: He helped me try to break with the way a lot of historical dramas tend to be done in Britain. They’re usually too ideologically correct, ceremonious and false. I wanted to break with that and do something more visceral. What we wanted to do was tell a story that felt more authentic and departed from that classic kind of storytelling without losing that sense of history and those elements that formed our society and culture.
STRIPLV: You had a turbulent relationship with your father as a teenager and as a young man. It must be comforting to have sorted out things between you two?
HARDY: That’s water under the bridge. I’m nearly 40, I have two kids, and my relationship with Chips has changed radically. As an only son, I had this deep need to rebel against daddy. While I was growing up, my father worked very hard and usually came home late, and I didn’t see him very much. Then I was sent to boarding school, and for a long time, I was looking for a father figure. But my mistake was that I chose the wrong people to hang around with who I thought were giving me a sense of security. My father and I only started to talk again and become close during the last 14 years or so. I needed to learn a lot about life and having my own children changed me forever. Now Chips and I are able to sit down and talk about everything, and when we work together it’s not like father, and so, it’s more like the spirit of two artists collaborating.
STRIPLV: Has it been a source of pride for you to have accomplished so much as an actor that your father can appreciate what you’ve made of your life?
HARDY: I like being able to impress him. I also have so much respect for him, and I’m grateful that we’ve been able to grow closer together again and in a completely different way from when I was growing up. We can have conversations that are more like two men talking to each other and also like father and son.
STRIPLV: How has having children changed the way you see or appreciate your father?
HARDY: It’s made me see my time growing up and that part of my life with my dad in a completely different way. It’s opened up my eyes, and things have become much clearer. When you start raising your own kids, you learn very quickly how fucking hard it is! (Laughs) There are no guidebooks that are going to tell you how to be the perfect parent, and it can be really tough. But it’s also the most awesome and rewarding experience of your life.
STRIPLV: You are noted for playing dark and dangerous characters. Is that your preference?
HARDY: (Laughs) I have a weakness for the darker side of things. I’m very suspicious of people who present themselves as noble and virtuous. I hate that kind of sanctimonious posturing and those kind of people are often putting on a mask to hide. I also believe that the protagonist needs to be a more paradoxical figure filled with contradictions and ambiguities even though his underlying strength is his nobility. That’s what makes truly great characters.
STRIPLV: You’ve described your family as your sanctuary. Is it a relief for you to be able to escape playing villains and get away from the dark side?
HARDY: I’m not dark at all in my own life. I love my family, my home life, and I love my dogs. If I’m working on a film, I live in that world that I’m creating through my character, and that’s where I need to be. But once it’s over, it’s like the stroke of midnight, and the carriage turns into a pumpkin, and I get to go back to my real world which is my family.

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