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Jessica Chastain - Up For The Challenge

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Jessica Chastain - Up For The Challenge

With flowing red locks that look straight from the rolling hills of Ireland, fans might be surprised that the ginger beauty, Jessica Chastain, is actually a California girl.

The first of her family to attend college, Chastain graduated from Juilliard, and has worked in theater, TV and film, remaining under the radar until her role of the lovable Southern girl in the 2011 film, The Help, of which she received an Oscar nod. Then as a CIA agent in 2013’s chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Quaeda terrorist leader, Osama Bin Laden, Zero Dark Thirty, she took home a Golden Globe. Sharing about the joys of working with visionary director, Guillermo del Toro on the film, Crimson Peak, Chastain also joins real-life NASA astronout, Tracy Caldwell Dyson, discussing making the film, The Martian. Keep an eye out for those ginger tresses in this month’s release of The Huntsman: Winter’s War, in which she plays the forbidden lover to Aussie hunk, Chris Hemsworth.


STRIPLV: Tell us about your director, Guillermo del Toro.
CHASTAIN: I think Guillermo is a very, very important part of our industry. He is a legend of cinema. He is a visual master and encyclopedia of knowledge when it comes to not just film history, or even American history, but even when it comes to the encyclopedia of gothic romance… I try to work with directors that I can learn something from, and I’ve worked with Guillermo and his incredible imagination twice, and I hope that I get to work with him again, and again, and again.
STRIPLV: What it’s like, as a female actress, working with Guillermo?
CHASTAIN: What I love about this film so much is that the female roles are complex and really interesting, and we’re not just serving another story of the film. I love working with women. I love movies about women. I mean, of course, the male roles are great in this, as well. But, everyone’s role is equally great. You work with Guillermo as an actor, and you know you’re gonna show up and you’re gonna have something interesting to do. And you’re not gonna be a prop to a story, you’re gonna actually participate in the telling of it.
STRIPLV: Tell us about Guillermo’s amazing ability to weave the most stunningly beautiful elements and the most frightening, and how it relates to your character.
CHASTAIN: One of the most wonderful things about Guillermo is his imagination. And I remember I saw an interview that he did on Charlie Rose, maybe about ten years ago, where he pulled out these journals, and he had all these drawings of monsters and creatures that he had created in his head. And watching movies like Pan’s Labyrinth and Devil’s Backbone, you kind of feel this compassion for the monsters and the fairytales that he has. And so that’s why I was so excited to play Lucille in Crimson Peak, because working with Guillermo, I knew that he would show this woman in a very fair and compassionate light. She of course has some bad qualities, but everything she does, she does for love. And I really respect that and feel for her because of that. She just likes her simple things. She likes to play the piano. She loves to read a book, and she loves to be around her brother. And she doesn’t want to deal with anyone else, because in her history, she’s been hurt. Society has not been kind to Lucille.
STRIPLV: And the title, Crimson Peak, where did it come from?
CHASTAIN: The house is called Crimson Peak because it’s built on a clay mine, and when it snows, or all the time, the clay leaks up from the earth. And so it goes into the walls and the snow, and leaks into the snow, giving it a look of blood. When I first walked into the set, I was completely blown away. I’d never seen anything like that before. I mean, I think they used to make movies like this… (laughter) a long time ago, where they would build the house. The set feels like a character in the movie. It really is the past and it’s the history, and it’s kind of what’s keeping the Sharpe children and the Sharpe adults now in place, stuck in time. And Edith represents the future and you know, technology and going forward. Lucille is of the house. Guillermo connected the house and her costumes. And he had Lucille’s costume (the blue velvet that I wear in the house) look as though she could emerge from the walls and then go back into them. There were these spiked acorns [on my dress] that matched this hallway that had spikes that look like a mouth with razor teeth. And then the lace leaves that I have on my costume also are in the house. So we really wanted to connect these two characters. It’s like working in another era—by creating this house by scratch, he really can tell this story that’s in his mind, unlike any other way. I mean, you can’t go find a house that looks like what Guillermo had in his mind. But the movie’s so layered. Also as an actress, everything was practical. I actually cooked scrambled eggs on the set. There were working fireplaces, running water, a three-story elevator. You kinda of just have to show up and the props and the set really does a lot of the work for you.
STRIPLV: Talk about the power of love in this film.
CHASTAIN: Well, the poster says: “Love makes monsters of us all.” Love takes a big part in this movie. Guillermo talked to me in the very beginning about it being a movie about two different kinds of love. There’s a love that Lucille has and that represents one, and a love that Edith has, that represents another one. Lucille’s the one that says: “Love makes monsters of us all.” There’s the selfless and the selfish, and I think the movie kind of shows what happens when love is all-consuming. And for Lucille, for my character, she’s a woman that desperately wants to feel love and intimacy. But because of her trauma, her scars, her history that she comes from, she associates suffering with intimacy. And love, I think, is the reason Crimson Peak works, because, in a way, a selfless love actually wins in the end.
STRIPLV: There’s so many different frightening yet romantic elements in the film…
CHASTAIN: You know, I think there’s a misconception sometimes with scary films, or horror films. Modern audiences think: ‘This is the way it’s supposed to be—it’s a lot of jump scares and we know what a horror genre is.’ This film is not a horror film—it’s a gothic romance, which if you look at those films like The Innocents, and you look at Frankenstein, and these types of stories, there’s another way of filmmaking; another way to tell a story. This film, like the movies of my youth, you know: Interview With The Vampire, and Dracula with Gary Oldman, oh… (yearning) It is a similar intone to those, where it’s a mixture of genres. It’s thrilling, it’s a drama, it’s a romance, and yes, there happens to be ghosts in it. The ghosts are really beautiful, the same way in Pan’s Labyrinth, the monsters were so beautiful and heart-wrenching and Guillermo has a story for each of them, the ghosts, and why they look a certain way, and perhaps that’s why it’s so rich, to look at them and to look into their eyes.
STRIPLV: So what can audiences expect when they sit and watch this film?
CHASTAIN: Well, I think that audiences are gonna be moved in ways that they didn’t imagine. And you can’t really say there’s another film nowadays like this. It’s a throwback to another era, like Rebecca, when they made films and they would build the sets and they would create these complex characters. So I would say, you bring your friends, you bring your people to cuddle up with when you get scared, and keep your heart open when the love shows up.

ON THE FILM, THE MARTIAN
WITH REAL-LIFE NASA ASTRONAUT – TRACY CALDWELL DYSON
STRIPLV: Director Ridley Scott has very strong female characters in so many of his films. How does your character in his film, The Martian, fit into this tradition?
CHASTAIN: Ridley Scott is a filmmaker who has always defined gender roles in his movies. Alien was originally written for a man, and he changed the role to a woman, and it’s actually, in my opinion, it makes the film a classic and far greater than what it would have been if it was a man, because then it would have been a similar story to what we’ve seen many times. He also did Thelma and Louise. He’s a wonderful director. And he was on my bucket list of people I wanted to work with, and to get to do a space movie with him… He was writing his own space movie, so it was kind of a dream come true.
STRIPLV: Tracy, what did you learn about filmmaking from your time on set with Jessica and Ridley?
DYSON: Oh, wow! I would say that they make space look fun (laughter) in filmmaking. There are definitely fun parts to it. It’s a lot of work and things don’t happen quite as fast as they do in a movie, and so there’s a little bit of a sweat that goes on that you don’t see all the work that goes into what they do. But, as I’ve learned about filmmaking, it can be actually be harder to float in space than it is actually when you’re in space. It takes a lot of work and…creating the zero gravity and all the considerations, so that you make it look real. I think that’s actually the hardest.  
STRIPLV: And Jessica, what was the most significant thing you learned from Tracy?
CHASTAIN: I learned so much! I don’t know if I think I could think about the most significant thing. Probably, one of the most significant things was the connection, and how important it was to remind yourself of your relationships on earth, when you’re out there. I noticed she was wearing a wedding ring when we were working together. I don’t know why, I just assumed people in space didn’t wear jewelry. And my character in the film is married, so I asked her: “Do you wear your ring in space?” And she said: “Absolutely.” Things like that, that connected the human part of what it is to actually leave the planet and separate yourself from your loved ones—and how important it is to remind yourself of your reason for coming home. That was actually really moving for me to learn that part.
STRIPLV: Tracy, what do you hope audiences take away from The Martian, as far as their perception of astronauts in space? Is it accurate?
DYSON: (smiling)
CHASTAIN: There’s no diapers!
DYSON: (breaks out laughing)
CHASTAIN: Listen. (laughter throughout the room) Hold on. (trying to maintain composure) I don’t know if you’ll ever see a space movie where the characters wear diapers under their suits, (bursts out laughing again) but they’re supposed to.  
DYSON: (laughs) There’s a reality that is not depicted in filmmaking when it comes to…
CHASTAIN: (cracking up) It’s not so glamorous!
DYSON: There are some very unglamorous moments in space—and they’re thankfully not the things that we highlight. But what I hope people take home is just what Jessica said: is just the human element of this, because, if it were just robots that we were sending, then it would be hard for everybody to imagine themselves in that place. But we’re doing this so that we can, not only learn more about ourselves, but to explore. And we don’t want to do that alone. We want to do that with people. And the thing I enjoyed the most about the film was the way that they depicted the connection that the humans in space had with the humans at home—whether it was through work or family. That’s very accurate to what we do in space. We have our job, but we also have that personal connection.

Olivia Munn & Ken Jeong -Uncontrollable Laughter

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OLIVIA MUNN & KEN JEONG
Uncontrollable Laughter

Olivia Munn, the former model, is now coming into her own as an actress. The Newsroom alum is scoring choice roles left and right. Her role in Iron Man 2 earned tremendous praise from her co-star Robert Downey Jr. who, according to reports, stopped and had the entire cast and crew give Olivia a standing ovation for her improvisational abilities on set. The Hollywood roller coaster ride continued for this exotic beauty when she landed the role in Ride Along 2, then Zoolander 2, and the upcoming release of X-Men Apocalypse. The rigorous training that she underwent to play Psylocke (in X-Men) was intense, and yet stuck with her. Olivia continues to do Tae Kwan Do and has a stash of swords in her closet that she still trains with.

Ken Jeong is very well known as a comedic actor from his breakout role in Judd Apatow’s 2007 hit, Knocked Up, playing, ironically, a doctor. The funny man actually practiced medicine for quite some time, all while developing his comedy act at contests and clubs for fun. After his successful turn in the film, Ken’s wife encouraged him to pursue acting fulltime. Ken had just landed a role as an Asian mobster in The Hangover when his wife was diagnosed with an aggressive stage 3 breast cancer. His wife encouraged him not to turn down the part, so he channeled all of his pain and rage about her battle with the disease into his role as Mr. Chow. He even peppered his dialogue with a bit of Vietnamese here and there as an inside joke to his wife, Tran. Now years later, and his wife now cancer-free, Ken continues his success with many beloved performances that make crowds roar with laughter.

Olivia Munn and Ken Jeong appeared together in the recently released and highly anticipated sequel to Kevin Hart and Ice Cube’s cop comedy film, Ride Along 2. The pair sat down with STRIPLV to discuss what it was like to join the Ride Along cast, and how hard it was not to break in a scene. 

STRIPLV: Olivia, tell us about your character, “Maya”, in your new comedy film sequel, Ride Along 2.
MUNN: Maya is a detective for the Miami Police Department, and the guys interact with her when they come to Miami. And I like to think of Maya as the female version of Cube’s character. She’s really hardcore and really great at her job, but not a really delicate flower. I’d say she’s pretty tough.
STRIPLV: Tell us about working with Ice Cube and the relationship between your two characters—James and Maya.
MUNN: What I love about this dynamic with James and Maya is that they are two people who are so alike, and there is this really great connection that they have just in the respect for each other, in that they both are looking at each other, and at first, you know, there’s the tension where, you know, these guys come into my world, into my department, and they’re making a mess immediately. And there’s an immediate respect and connection between Maya and James, and where it turns into we see in the movie and with the next. But what I love so much is they have this really great respect for each other and it’s that funny thing where you see people who are so similar, and they don’t realize that they are so similar. They actually think that they’re like enemies, but it’s because they see themselves too much in each other.
STRIPLV: Tell us a little how your character Maya relates with Kevin Hart as “Ben”. 
MUNN: When Maya first meets Ben, I think she looks at it like swatting away a gnat or a fly—like he’s just an annoyance. But as the movie goes on, she sees kinda the guy he is. I think that even though he can be very annoying, and she gets very tired of him in a lot of situations, I think she starts to feel bad for him, because he’s got such a big heart and he really wants to do such a great job and she can see how much he really wants to please James. And so you see Maya start to help James understand Ben and open up to him a little bit more.
STRIPLV: What’s some of your thoughts on Kevin as lead actor in the film?  
MUNN: You know, right now Kevin Hart can’t lose. I mean—Kevin keeps winning. And there’s a reason for it. He’s literally the funniest human being on this planet. And he’s so genuine, and he’s so nice. And the thing about comedy that people love is that it’s surprising. When something makes you truly laugh, it’s because it’s completely surprising. And Kevin is so surprising, and because he’s always taking from everything in the world, and he’s so present. And people want to watch Kevin. I mean Ride Along was one of the first movies where he was really, truly a lead, and we got to really see him shine and be so funny and get this really big role throughout an entire movie and carry a movie. The first Ride Along proved that people want to watch Kevin.
STRIPLV: What’s it like working with powerhouse team, Kevin and Ice Cube, together?
MUNN: It’s interesting, ‘cause like Kevin’s like hanging out with my brother. He’s always getting me into trouble. And Cube’s like hanging out with my dad. It’s like that dynamic of like, just Cube always saying like: “Shut up, Kevin!” And Kevin’s like: “My bad, my bad. My bad, my bad.” There was one time when I was laughing so much… I couldn’t stop laughing because of something Kevin had said to me earlier and it just kept getting into my head and every time I looked at Kevin it made me laugh, that Cube just made Kevin leave the set. Like he was definitely like being “dad.” He was like: “Okay—c’mon, guys. Let’s get it together.” And then there’s Kevin who’s just kind of like a toy that you just wound up and he’s just spinning around. And to me, I think that’s what I love about their dynamic and why people really love watching them together—because they’re such a yin and a yang.
STRIPLV: So everyone going into this movie – Tim, Will, Cube and Kevin – were all saying: “This is bigger, funnier, sexier.” And they all say that part of that plan was bringing you two on. So how did it feel to sort of jump into and be in this mix, and be part of that bigger, funnier, sexier offering?
MUNN: That’s nice—and I’m glad we didn’t know that before. That’s a lot of pressure.
JEONG: (laughter)
MUNN: Lotta pressure for that one. I think Ken felt natural, right? (looking at Jeong) …to bring the sexy to the movie. 
JEONG: (laughter)
MUNN: Right? He’s getting tired of being typecast, I know that.
JEONG: (chuckles) I was like Durian. (gesturing bowing to royalty) You know what I mean?
MUNN: You know why Bradley Cooper has been doing so well? This guy (pointing at Jeong) keeps turning down things—left and right. He’s like: “I’m done. Know my talent. Know my heart. Don’t just know my body.”
JEONG: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Very true.
MUNN: So that’s a big thing to carry. (laughter)
JEONG: And I’m very happy for Coop. You know, I really am. (laughter)
STRIPLV: (laughter) You guys! As you went through making the movie, you guys seemed to blend in and jump in right away, and I know that you, Olivia, had sort of a brother/sister relationship with Kevin, but how much fun was it to torture him with the soft tissue manipulation?
JEONG: (laughter)
MUNN: That soft tissue manipulation—we were trying to figure out, in the moment, “What do I do?” And Cube goes: “Just get in right here—there’s this thing that you can do. And I was like: “Oh…” And then I started looking online, and I was like: “Pressure points, and that’s a kidney point.” And it was actually a lot of fun. Kevin’s like a big, little brother for me. I love him!
STRIPLV: And you seemed to fit in quite nicely with that Kevin mix and trying to push Cube to the point of breaking—which we know he never does. But how was it to watch him be a part of that dynamic? Did you have any goals? Did you guys set out a plan? Like, “We’re gonna make him break!”
JEONG: I think really the goal was, for me, was to fit in and have fun. It was really a simple thing. But watching the movie and being fans of both Cube and Hart, I did have a feeling like, you know, we all could have a lot of fun together in this movie. And when Olivia and Benjamin, you know, the three of us, they go out of their way to make us feel at home. It just makes you wanna try even harder and do even better.
MUNN: My goal was actually to try not to break—because I, not even kidding, ruined about 9-out-of-10 takes from uncontrollable laughter. There was actually one night where we had this big night scene, and we had to shut down the street, and we had to get it done before the morning. And I just have to come up in my truck and get out…and there’s all these extras. And Kevin’s off-camera and he decides to mess with me—and the guy makes me laugh—so hard! And when I start laughing, I don’t stop, so I’m getting up and ruining every single take. And like the sun is starting to come up! Over the buildings, we see it. I’m like: “Oh, my gosh!” I’m freaking out. I’m in the car trying to think, like: ‘Dead kittens! C’mon!!’ and like, ‘Get it together! You can do this!’
JEONG: (laughter)
MUNN: And I get out of the car and starting laughing immediately. And finally I get out on one take, and I get it, and I’m like: “Oh, my gosh! I did it!” And I look at Cube, and he was like: “Yeah, that’s ‘cause I made Kevin leave.” Kevin had to leave the set for me to be able to finish the scene, because he would’ve made me laugh the entire time.
STRIPLV: (laughter) Now that you guys have seen it, did you enjoy it? 
MUNN: I loved it! And this guy (pointing at Jeong) is so funny! We laughed so much. It was fun to hear the audience laugh with us. You know, I know how many times I was laughing, and so it was fun to see that it was actually working.

Sylvester Stallone & Tessa Thompson-CREED

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Film fans have been flocking to see Stallone’s films for almost 40 years, making Stallone one of Hollywood’s biggest-ever box office attractions. Stallone was born in 1946, to Jackie Stallone and Frank Stallone. His father was an Italian immigrant, and his mother’s heritage is half German and half French. Initially struggling in films, he got a crucial career break in the film, The Lords of Flatbush. Wanting to flex his writing skills and inspired by the 1975 Ali-Wepner fight, Stallone penned a film script about an unknown boxer given the once-in-a-lifetime chance to fight for the heavyweight title.  Released in 1976, Rocky, would go on to score ten Academy Award nominations, winning the Best Picture Award of 1976 and initiating one of the most commercially successful movie franchises in history. Stallone followed up with the sequel, Rocky II in 1979, and Rocky III in 1982. Riding a wave of amazing popularity, Stallone released Rocky IV in 1985 and Rocky V in 1990. In 2006, some sixteen years later, showing age had not exhausted the franchise, Stallone brought back the Balboa character to star in Rocky Balboa. Now ten years later, (and some 40 years since his hit screenplay debut), Stallone is playing a character reminiscent of the original “boxing trainer” role that Burgess Meredith initially played, with Michael B. Jordan playing the talented young boxer (who happens to be Apollo Creed’s son), seeking Rocky as his mentor in the hit new film, Creed. Sylvester Stallone has built an enviable and respected career, and has been a considerable influence in popular culture through several of his iconic film characters.

STRIPLV: Rocky’s your baby. I’m curious to your thoughts on the evolution of Rocky, and what it was like to play him now in Creed.
STALLONE: Well, it’s very biographical, if you know what I mean, because we’re at the same age—and when I saw Burgess Meredith for the first time, I said, “Burgess, is wonderful—but he’s definitely up there.” And here I am… and now I’m the same age as Burgess. (all smiles) What Rocky has afforded me that I think has been… and maybe never will be done again, is I’ve actually aged in the character, and it’s been the same performer throughout. I literally have brought along what has happened to me in my private life, and I think it’s shown. I’m totally different from what I was in Rocky I, than what I am now. Now he’s worldly, he’s kinda beaten up a little bit, you know, he’s figuring he’s all alone, he’s lost his love… And I think about a lot of people that when they face that, when their mate passes on: ‘What are they really going on for? What are they living for?’ And quite often, if you’re lucky, they find some sense of accomplishment in helping others. That’s why quite often they do charity work—anything that takes them out of their doldrum. Well, Rocky wants to see Adrian so badly, that he’s fine: “I’m ready to go.” And then this kid presents this alternative. And he thinks, you know: ‘Maybe this goes against what human nature’s all about.’ You are responsible, I think, as an adult, to leave as much behind that is useful for someone you love. Otherwise—what are you doing here? (chuckles) What’s the point? I mean, that’s what makes the world a better place is that you are gonna to take all the pain, all the wisdom, all the hard work and knowledge, and give it to him and say, “Look, I’m giving it to you. You may blow it—you may not pay attention, (which many people don’t), but this is my gift to you—my life.”
STRIPLV: You’ve done some great acting, but I think this is some of your best acting of your career, seriously. 
STALLONE: Thank you.  
STRIPLV: Tell us about Michael, and what it was like working with him.
STALLONE: Michael is kind of like in a situation that I was where, when you see me or you saw Michael, you didn’t think ‘boxer’ or this or that. There’s a certain kind of physicality to him, but behind the toughness, it’s a young man. It’s a fella struggling for answers. In other words, you like him, you embrace him, you trust him. And there’s so many men that have played fighters—and they’ve done it very well—but they’re missing what he has. And I can’t define it—you know what I mean? It’s what makes a star. It’s what makes you want… Like Denzel, if he had played it, you’d go: “I’m being pulled into his life. Even though he may have issues… I want to be his friend. I want to support him.” And he has that. But ninety-nine-percent of people, who are great actors…but [don’t have it]. And you don’t know until it’s there. When Carl Weathers walked on, (the man who plays his father), and I saw him in an office and he’s going: “You know, I could be a much better actor, if I had someone else to act against.” I go: “It’s me—I’m playing the part of Rocky.” (chuckling) He goes: “Oh, sorry.” But that kind of bombastic… but on film, he never came off as cruel. There was something so genuine. And I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of Carl Weathers so early on. And I think that’s one of the reasons they want Creed, like “Oh, he’s back!” …in some incarnation, “He’s back! Great!” because they love that character.
STRIPLV: Why do you think millions of fans are so attached to the Rocky films?
STALLONE: The people that have come up to me have used it [Rocky] to become inspired. I think it’s just inspiration. It wasn’t a master plan. I didn’t think along those lines when I wrote it. I was just writing what I thought worked for me. But I can see that everyone that I have witnessed going to the statue—they’re from Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, Australia. I kept saying: ‘Why are you here?’ They said: “Rocky makes us feel strong.” “Rocky makes us feel I like I can do it.” “Right before I have a football game, I watch Rocky.” So it touches that cord—that: “I’m scared, but if he can do it, I can do it.” That kind of thing: “I’m gonna take this best punch.” So I think the word is inspiration. And determination.
STRIPLV: What’s the most important thing that director Ryan Coogler brought to this?
STALLONE: He brought absolute, unwavering love and passion—commitment. It was though he was on a mission that started when he was young, to fulfill his father’s and his destiny, that he feels has really helped his father get through a physical dilemma. And he was gonna pay homage to it. So it started many, many years ago. But what he brought to it was just absolute unwavering commitment, like I’ve never seen.
STRIPLV: And it shows on the big screen. Great film, Sly!

Tessa Thompson was born in Los Angeles, Calif., on October 3, 1983, and was exposed to acting and stage performance as a descendant of a family of performers. Her father is a singer and songwriter and her grandfather was an actor and musician.  She is best known for her debut role as Jackie Cook in the drama series, Veronica Mars. In 2006, she landed her first movie role as Scarlet in the thriller, When a Stranger Calls. This enabled her to work with Camilla Belle, Katie Cassidy, and Tommy Flanagan. She also appeared on the hit ABC medical drama, “Grey’s Anatomy”, and more recently starred in the film, Selma, and now, Creed.

STRIPLV: What did you know about boxing, before you got involved in this movie?
THOMPSON: Really—nothing at all. In fact, I didn’t really have much respect for the sport—mosting because… Well, I shouldn’t say I didn’t have respect. I just didn’t understand it. And it can be very bloody and brute, and so it was something that sort of intimidated me. But getting to know the real-life boxers that work in the film, like Tony Bellew and Andre Ward, and Gabe Rosado—and getting behind their narratives, I mean, so many boxers are family men. And there’s something about the sport—the camaraderie of it—that became really beautiful to me. And once I understood the sport, I was just obsessed with taking in as much boxing as I could. I went to a bunch of boxing matches here in Philadelphia. And now I’m really a big fan. So by the time I got to the scenes where I’m ringside, I had an incredible affinity for the sport.
STRIPLV: What’s it like to join this incredible Rocky franchise with the film, Creed?
THOMPSON: Yeah, I mean, it’s such an iconic American story. It’s arguably I think, Rocky I, the best storytelling about the tale of the underdog…about love, about perseverance, about self-determination… So joining something like that is incredible. And to work with Ryan Coogler… To me, it’s two things: You get to join this iconic franchise in a way, or a reimagining of it, and then to work with a really exciting, new voice of his generation, and the next Ryan Coogler movie. So I was sort of sold from the beginning.
STRIPLV: And of course, Sylvester Stallone. I mean, to meet him, to work with him, to be in this amazing film. That must have been quite an experience.
THOMPSON: It was. And you know, he’s such a cinephile—so he knows so much about film history. And of course, he’s such a huge part of it. And he is so different than with Rocky, that he’s created. It’s this character that you just sort of assume is going to walk into the room. And instead, in walks Sylvester Stallone. And then to get to see him put on this Rocky, this character that he just loves playing—it’s just exquisite. And then also to see the bravery that he had with taking Rocky into a new space, in a vulnerable space, that we haven’t seen him in yet… So I’m so excited for Rocky fans that have followed the trajectory of his story. And I’m excited for a new generation that aren’t familiar with Rocky. I think that after seeing Creed, hopefully they’ll be inclined to go back and sort of, you know, see his story unfold.
STRIPLV: Yeah, it’s great, because you don’t have to have seen the earlier movies—although it does help, of course.
THOMPSON: Not at all. Yeah, I mean there’s sort of jokes that you’ll have an extra sort of giggle at, if you are familiar with the Rocky movies. We pay homage to it in some moments. But I think it really is a new story that you don’t have to be familiar with Rocky at all to enjoy.
STRIPLV: Exactly. Also you’re very convincing as “Bianca”. The music aspect of it, the singing—talk about that little bit. Is that sort of a new thing for you?
THOMPSON: Sort of. I mean, yeah, I’m sort of a hobbyist. I came from a musical family. I sang in a band for a couple of years just for fun. But writing music was certainly something that was new to me. But I was lucky because we have an incredible composer who’s also a… you know, he produces records, in general. His name is Ludwig Göransson. So he worked closely with me and it was a unique challenge. Ryan Coogler is someone who really loves authenticity, so for him, whoever was going to play Biana was gonna to write the music—and I’m just so glad that it got to be me.
STRIPLV: You did a great job with it. 
THOMPSON: Thank you so much.
STRIPLV: Michael B. Jordan…
THOMPSON: (smiling with giggles)
STRIPLV: There’s so much to talk about here. First of all, the two of you as actor and actress, but also the relationship between Adonis and Bianca—very complicated, very interesting.
THOMPSON: We were excited to tell a story about what Millennial love looks like—that you have these two people that really feel for each other, but also are, you know, really after dreams that at various moments seem impossible to them and what that looks like. How do you navigate love, and friendship and family, and also trying to pursue something? And so we thought that that was something that young people could really relate to. And I think so often you get to see sort of the girlfriend, sports wife character, someone who just exists just to hold the male character up. And I think in this movie you get to see, hopefully, if we did our job right, the portrayal of a young woman who has her own life, her own dreams. And I’m hoping that that’s something that women can really get behind and relate to, and it will be an anchor for them, in what is otherwise you think might be just a very testosterone-driven movie. (laughter) I infected some estrogen and I just love the Adrien in the original Rocky movie, so it was fun to get to play sort of an “Adrien 2015” and what that looks like.
STRIPLV: You added estrogen in a terrific way in this film, let me tell you—absolutely. Philadelphia (you said this yesterday), is sort of a character in this film, and from your standpoint what was that like?
THOMPSON: It really is. I mean it was incredible, because I got to spend two months in Philly just getting to know the city. I had not stepped foot here before I made the film, and it’s an incredible city with just really, kind people. And it sort of feels like the backbone behind America in a lot of ways. And I think for us, Creed was an opportunity to show another side of Philly that you haven’t maybe seen in the previous Rocky movies. And then the enthusiasm from people here in Philadelphia, just little things… I mean, there’s a sequence in the film, (I don’t want to give it away), when Philadelphians saw that sequence, they were so excited because they felt like we were really portraying their city in such an honest way. So I think people that aren’t familiar with Philly will get to see a side of it that they’ll be really interested in.

THE LYBARGER TWINS JILLIAN AND JOCELYN

THE LARBARGER TWINS - JILLIAN AND JOCELYN

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Jillian and Jocelyn Lybarger are twins who are making a name for themselves in the world of combat sports, the women’s MMA.

The newly formed Invicta Fighting Championships (Invicta FC) is to female fighters what the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is for male fighters. Founded in 2012 by Shannon Knapp and Janet Martin, Invicta FC provides female athletes a platform for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights and for developing future superstars of the sport. MMA is a full contact sport that includes everything from boxing, wrestling, and jiu-jitsu to kick boxing.
Both Lybarger twins have signed a three-fight deal with Invicta FC, and have gone from successful amateur careers to professional fights in the last few months. Jillian and Jocelyn Lybarger have been referred to as an unstoppable powerhouse. You will hear their names not only because they are motivated, work hard, and their goal is to win in the cage, but because the twins are also involved in a different fight. They are ambassadors for “It Ain’t Chemo”, an organization that provides cancer patients with comfort, care, advice and emotional support. “It Ain’t Chemo” was founded by Kevin Hoyt, a cancer survivor and Las Vegas resident. Jillian explained why they got involved: “In 2009, my whole family was being taken over by cancer. My grandmother passed away from breast cancer, my grandfather also passed away from cancer, my mom was diagnosed with cancer, and my mom’s best friend got liver cancer, so it was taking our family one at a time. Fighting opened the door to many opportunities and I wanted to show people that I’m not just a fighter trying to get rich and have the limelight. I wanted to do something to help other people.” Managing the Lybarger twins is Chris Irwin who we all know well from The Gun Store. STRIPLV sat with Jillian and Jocelyn and got some answers to our questions about why they love the sport.

STRIPLV: How did you get into the crazy world of MMA?
JILLIAN: It was about 4½ years ago in Phoenix, Arizona. I was driving down the street and I saw these guys doing this crazy workout. It wasn’t your typical workout. It was sledgehammers, big tires, big ropes, and it caught my eye. I pulled over and asked them what he was training for and he said a big fight. I knew about the UFC, but not about all these other smaller promoters and shows around the world. They said: “Come back tomorrow and workout with us.” So I said okay and went back the next day. Part of the warm-up was rope jumping for 5 minutes, like a boxer. I couldn’t even do it. I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I played basketball in college, graduated police academy, and I needed to be able to jump rope for 5 minutes. So that kept driving me to keep going back, day in and day out. Six months later the owner of the gym asked me if I wanted to take an amateur fight with a girl who was also doing her amateur debut fight in Tucson. I knocked the girl out in 32 seconds, and after that, I was hooked. It was the day before my birthday and my whole family was there except Jocelyn. My second fight was in Denver, Colorado, and after Jocelyn saw it, she said she had to do it, too.
JOCELYN: She lost that fight by a split decision, but I thought she won. It was funny, because after the fight, I was walking around and everyone was going: “Good fight, good fight.” I knew I had to do it, too. I was living in California and that Monday morning I started training and I’ve been doing it everyday since.STRIPLV: Were you always into sports, also?
JOCELYN: We were both raised to be very athletic, so we picked up the MMA very quickly. We still have a lot to learn and a long path to go down.
STRIPLV: So you are both professionals now?
JILLIAN: I just did my last amateur fight two weeks ago. I knocked the girl out in a minute forty-two of round one. I’ll be doing my pro debut in February. Jocelyn did her pro debut in July, and won by decision.
JOCELYN: It’s funny, she started first, but I went pro first.
STRIPLV: Tell me about growing up and your childhood?
JOCELYN: We grew up playing sports. The first organized sport our dad put us in was roller hockey. I remember him taking us to Wal-Mart and buying us all this shit. He didn’t buy us helmets like the boys had. He bought us bike helmets and then screwed this caging onto the helmet. We were in the parking lot of Wal-Mart, watching our dad screw the things together. (laughter) Then he said: “Now go out there, and there’s this puck and wherever it is, skate to it and then hit it.” (laughter) We were really close to our mom and dad, and we have an older sister. We went to church and were very active in our community.
JILLIAN: We played every sport – water polo, basketball, softball, swimming – and Jocelyn and I played basketball together on the team at San Diego College. College wasn’t really my thing. My dream was to be a cop, and you don’t need a degree to be a cop. We motivate each other, feed off each other to get things done. We’re best friends, best training partners and worst enemies at the same time. We’re in the same weight class.
STRIPLV: What happens if you have to fight each other?
JILLIAN: We get that all the time. Hopefully we’ll both just keep winning, and cross that bridge when it happens.
JOCELYN: Being a professional athlete, the answer would be yes.
STRIPLV: Is there any talk about changing weight class?
JOCELYN: I’ve fought in the 135-weight class and have fought in the 125 and 115.
JILLIAN: I feel so much stronger at 115. I’m taller and stronger than the other girls.
STRIPLV: What’s your walking around weight?
JILLIAN: 142, 143.
STRIPLV: Tell us the process of how you get down to your fighting weight.
JILLIAN: The last fight I was at 125 and did a six-week camp for that one. Your body is naturally going to lose weight because of how much we train, and our eating changes for six weeks. There’s no processed food, a proper amount of carbs, a lot of juicing, chicken and greens. You have to start drinking close to 2 gallons of water a day, and you’re constantly using the restroom and you’re getting all the bad toxins out of your body. On the day of weigh-in, I did two 5-minute sauna sessions and dropped 6 pounds of water weight.
JOCELYN: Ten days out before a weigh-in, I’ll cut out sodium. Everybody is different and you have to figure in that “time of the month” for us. You just have to figure out what works best for you. The last time I was down to 115, I didn’t feel well. I feel stronger at 125. I do CrossFit training, another level of training that helps you to use muscles that you haven’t used before. Jillian will start that, too. CrossFit is a training program that builds strength through extremely varied and challenging workouts. It is used for many police academies and military special operations units, as well as champion MMA fighters. CrossFit works to make you proficient in ten skills: cardiovascular/respiratory endurance, stamina, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility, balance, coordination, and accuracy.

JILLIAN: I just moved here 4 months ago and train at Robert Drysdale’s Gym and I’m looking for a new strengthening coach. James McSweeney is my stand-up coach.
STRIPLV: How long is your contract with Invicta?
JILLIAN: Invicta is basically the stage for females. Janet Martin came up with Invicta, which is IFC, and that’s big stage, big paychecks, big audience, all female card. The men have UFC, which means all male, big stage, PPV and big paychecks. We were fortunate enough to sign a 3-fight, 18-month deal with them. They’re looking into putting us both on the April card, which is huge. It’s the first time in history that twins have been on the same card as professionals. So, we’re riding the twin thing right now. We’ve both quit our corporate jobs. When I quit the sheriff’s office, I worked for AT&T, and Jocelyn was at Verizon. I was making twice the money at AT&T than as a cop. Right now we’re chasing our dream. I’m giving myself four years to just go all out and see what happens. We have tons of offers right now, so we’ll see.

Read more: THE LYBARGER TWINS JILLIAN AND JOCELYN

Amy Poehler - Mischief

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Amy Poehler - Mischief

When Amy Poehler strides into a room for yet another interview, you immediately sense a bit of mischief to her wry smile and ebullient manner.  

It’s the same kind of cheeky bravado that propelled her to fame while serving on the popular American late-night comedy show, Saturday Night Live. That’s also where she became fast friends and frequent sketch partners with fellow comedian, Tina Fey. Their raucous chemistry earned them three consecutive hosting gigs on the Golden Globes awards, where they skewered fellow showbiz personalities with delicious delight.

In the film, Sisters, Poehler and Fey team up again, as siblings with wildly divergent personalities—and in the process, offer proof positive why they are America’s funniest women. The film marks their first movie together in seven years, since co-starring in 2008’s Baby Mama together.

“Tina and I have been friends for 20 years and she feels like a sister to me, a chosen sister,” Poehler says. “Neither of us have sisters in real life, so this film gave us the chance to create the kind of sisterly relationship that we never experienced.”

Directed by Jason Moore (Pitch Perfect), the R-rated comedy sees Poehler play the serious, sensible, and recently divorced Maura, while Fey takes on the role of eternal bad girl, Kate. After getting together for a sisterly reunion, they are left mildly shaken by their parents’ plan to sell their childhood home. When mom and dad assign them the chore of bringing their former shared childhood bedroom into more marketable shape, Kate and Maura take the opportunity to throw a wild party that produces plenty of chaos and hilarity. Sisters also boasts a formidable cast that includes John Leguizamo, James Brolin, and John Cena, as well as SNL alums, Maya Rudolph and Kate McKinnon. Previously, Amy Poehler has built her reputation in a variety of movies, including Blades of Glory and Anchorman 2, alongside former SNL alum, Will Ferrell, as well as in the cult TV series, Parks and Recreation. The 44-year-old Poehler had been in a relationship with comedian Nick Kroll for about two years, during which she appeared on his TV series, Kroll Show, but the two have since split. She was previously married for ten years to actor/comedian Will Arnett, with whom she has two boys, Archie, 6, and Abel, 4. This past summer, Poehler voiced the character, Joy, in the wildly successful Pixar animated film, Inside Out. These days, she’s donning auburn locks and a bit longer style than in her previous blonde incarnations. For our chat, she was wearing a print Stella McCartney dress.

STRIPLV: Amy, it must be very special to be able to work together again with your longtime friend and colleague, Tina Fey, on a project like Sisters…
POEHLER: It was a lot of fun getting to spend several months with Tina. We don’t have that much chance to see each other when we’re not working, so we love being able to catch up when we do a project together. We’ve always gotten along very well personally, and we have a wonderful shorthand working together. It’s such an advantage for us to know how to play off one another, and playing sisters gave us a chance to create a different kind of rapport from what we’ve done in the past.
STRIPLV: Even though you’ve worked on the Golden Globes shows recently, it took seven years for you to make another movie together after Baby Mama. Why the wait?
POEHLER: We’ve been doing our own individual projects and we were waiting for the right project to come along—and this was it. But we have this secret witches’ pact, where we have to work on a film together at least once every seven years, or one of us ages dramatically. (Laughs) What’s special about our collaborations is that we try to only do something that we really like and we don’t want to disappoint audiences, just like we don’t want to disappoint ourselves. We have such a good time when we get together that we only want to do something that excites us and we know we’re going to love working on.
STRIPLV: How would you describe the “sister” characters?
POEHLER: We’re playing two women who have kind of lost their way in the world. They had very different ideas of how their lives would turn out and neither is where they want to be in life. Both of us wish we had found the kind of togetherness and happiness our parents in the film have enjoyed. What was kind of ironic for me is that James Brolin and Dianne Wiest, who do such amazing work in the film, often reminded me of my own parents.
STRIPLV: Does it feel like you’re a female comedy team when you work together?
POEHLER: It’s very easy for us to know when certain things are working and other scenes or jokes are falling flat. We can read each other’s expressions instantly and that helps if we’re improvising, because sometimes you discover something completely new that is much funnier than what was scripted. Often we crack each other up and also we love being able to make the crew laugh. It just makes for a really happy atmosphere on the set. I love that about my work.
STRIPLV: How did you and Tina Fey first meet?
POEHLER: The first time I got to know her and her work, I thought she was an incredibly bright and sharp woman. We met in Chicago (at The ImprovOlympic workshop) and I heard that she once wrote a play about Catherine the Great fucking a horse. Anyone who has the kind of inventive and inspired comic sensibility to be able to do that kind of work must be pretty talented. That’s why I wanted to get to know her and start working with her while we were taking (improv) classes together. But an interesting thing about the beginning of our friendship and professional collaboration was that the improv scenes we would do together were basically dramatic and not funny at all. Neither of us ever imagined that we would make a good comedy team in some way or work together doing comedy sketches on SNL. It’s just wonderful that it all worked out that way.
STRIPLV: You both gained tremendous acclaim and attention for hosting the Golden Globes together. What was that experience like?
POEHLER: It’s been so much fun. Because we know each other so well from SNL, we can tell where our jokes are going to take us. Some things we’ll ad-lib, but usually we try to work about our lines together in advance, and the only tough thing about that is that we tend to want the same jokes. So we have to agree beforehand to divide the funniest lines between us. But Tina is so brilliant that I just love every moment working with her and also just hanging out together as friends.
STRIPLV: Why have you two decided not to do the Golden Globes again, after hosting the awards show for the past three years?
POEHLER: Sometimes you need to know to quit while you’re ahead or at least before things get much worse! (Smiles) We’ve accomplished pretty much what we wanted to do with the show and now it’s time for someone else to take up the challenge. But we’re very proud that we were the first women to co-host an awards show like that, and that’s a good sign that women should keep getting these kinds of opportunities.
STRIPLV: Have you always known that you have a natural talent for comedy?
POEHLER: When I began doing theater in high school, I saw that I could get laughs from people, but I didn’t really connect that to going on and becoming a comedian. I was interested in acting and while I was at Boston College, where I was part of an improv group, which had a long history and has been known as one of the best college improvisation groups in the U.S.—that’s where I started working on the kinds of skills that you need for comedy. It’s about being creative and learning to use your gift for being able to let loose and be very unselfconscious. It took me time though, before I was really able to get comfortable doing that.
STRIPLV: Why was that?
POEHLER: I had to come to terms with how I saw myself. I had to understand that I wasn’t pretty or beautiful like most actresses and that I shouldn’t care about whether other people found me attractive or not. It seems a strange thing, but once I was able to get past that kind of self-image problem, I was able to open up in my comedy work and just go all out, take chances, and have fun with the performance aspect of that.
STRIPLV: You’ve received great reviews for your voice work as Joy on Inside Out…
POEHLER: It’s been a lot of fun creating this character using your voice, as well as working in terms of the designs and drawings they show you in many cases where you have an idea of how to come up with a very distinctive voice. I also love being able to do something that kids and families can enjoy, because I have two children of my own and I want them to grow up watching all the fabulous animated movies and cartoons that I loved to watch as a kid.
STRIPLV: You’ve admitted to being a feminist. What does that mean to you?
POEHLER: Women need to take charge of their lives and be as dynamic and active as they can be. I know that some people feel that there’s a negative connotation to the notion of feminism, like it has some hidden ugly undercurrent. But it’s ridiculous. My mother was a feminist, and she was very politically-minded and always anxious to defend women’s rights and advance a lot of social issues for women. I just want to help other women achieve as much as they can in society, without restraints being imposed on us. It’s the most natural and normal thing to want to defend your rights to equal opportunities, equal pay for equal work, and everything that comes with that.
STRIPLV: Have you noticed whether your two sons have inherited some of your comic flair?
POEHLER: It’s still kind of early to say, although they sometimes get into mischief. But I would rather see them pursue careers outside of show business (where you need a lot of luck and patience and a lot of talented people never make it). I hope they become responsible citizens and maybe get involved in something that helps build a better and more just society.
STRIPLV: How is your life going these days?
POEHLER: I feel very blessed. I have the chance to do so much interesting work these days, in addition to enjoying my life as a mother and making my kids’ world as happy and joyous as possible. I think of this time in my life as one where I can just move forward and enjoy everything that’s coming my way.
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