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DAKOTA JOHNSON - Thoughtful

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Dakota Johnson - Thoughtful

After a whirlwind year, in which she rocketed to fame with her much-hyped starring role in 50 Shades of Grey, Dakota Johnson has hardly had time to rest on her laurels. She’s anxious to prove herself in serious films, where her work can take precedence over the media frenzy that first brought her into public view. Dakota has a naturally dismissive attitude toward celebrity anyway, having lived her entire life with the extraordinary attention that comes along with being the daughter of Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson and growing up with Antonio Banderas as your stepfather. Johnson explains it as:

“ When you grow up in a family where you’re spending a lot of time on film sets, it’s natural that you feel drawn to that world. Sometimes you can get very anxious when your family is often being gossiped about in the media. But you learn to focus on things that are real, and in the end it makes you stronger. I try to live as spontaneously and openly as I can.”

Johnson’s new film, Black Mass, the gangster drama directed by Scott Cooper (Out of the Furnace), stars Johnny Depp as fabled American mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, a vicious southside Boston hoodlum who rose to become the city’s leading underworld figure. She plays Bulger’s wife Lindsey with a level of intensity and sensitivity that proves, as in the case of 50 Shades’ Anastasia, how she can be fearless in the face of domineering, and at times, sinister men. Her performance also made a huge impression on her famous co-star: “I thought she knocked it right out of the park,” Depp said. “The moment when Jimmy Bulger walks into that house, there begins this sort of definition of the man—and that’s purely Dakota. How she responds, how she talks to him, in a way that nobody talks to him. So she was integral (to the film).”

Johnson plays a very different kind of woman, however, in her other new project, A Bigger Splash, in which she plays opposite Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, and Matthias Schoenaerts. Set for release next May, Splash is a loose remake of Jacques Deray’s Swimming Pool (1969), the cult film noir that co-starred Alain Delon and Romy Schneider. Directed by Luca Guadagnino, who previously directed Swinton in I Am Love (2009), Splash gives Johnson a chance to demonstrate her abundant sexual allure as Penelope, a vampish object of desire who accompanies her manic music producer father Harry (Fiennes) on a trip to Sicily to visit his former lover, Marianne (Swinton), an aging female rock star recovering from vocal chord surgery. During the course of their stay, Penelope develops an attachment to Marianne’s hunkish boyfriend, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), as tension builds in this eerie psychological drama.

26-year-old Dakota Johnson is currently single, and looked much more comfortable doing press rounds than in the past, as she promoted both her films at the recent Venice and Toronto film festivals. For our chat, she was wearing an elegant patterned Dior dress. In conversation, she is highly thoughtful, although she can be hesitant and shy at times in expressing herself. When it comes to having lived a relatively scandal-free life, despite growing up with famous parents, Johnson observed: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro,” a motto first coined by the late Hunter S. Thompson, who was a friend of her father, Don Johnson. “I constantly try to subscribe to that philosophy. It helps keeps me sane, or insane. You just accept it, and move on.”

STRIPLV: You grew up in a household of actors all of whom have had important careers in the film business. Do you feel that you’re starting to make your own mark?
JOHNSON: It’s a beginning. If you decide to follow in your parents’ footsteps, you naturally feel very anxious about establishing your own identity in the business. I’ve tried to find good roles, where I’m going to be judged on my acting alone and nothing else. I’m very grateful to have the support of my family and I like to believe that I’ve inherited the strength of character and many other qualities from my grandmother (Tippi Hedren – of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds) and my mother. I also feel I’ve learned a lot from my father and stepfather, who have also helped me and stood by me.
STRIPLV: Are films like Black Mass and A Bigger Splash the kinds of projects that you believe will help you evolve as an actress?
JOHNSON: Anytime you get to work with outstanding actors like Johnny Depp or Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes, talented people like that, you’re going to learn a lot and become better at what you do. I feel very fortunate also to work with directors like Scott Cooper, whom I had wanted to work with because I loved his previous films. I was also so thrilled to work with Luca Guadagnino, who saw really deeply into me and we developed such a good understanding of each other while working on A Bigger Splash.
STRIPLV: Was it interesting to be part of a big crime story in Black Mass?
JOHNSON: I was fascinated by how these people saw themselves as outlaws and enjoyed the challenge of breaking the law and defying authority. Even though they’re criminals, they are very strong characters with big personalities and their own sense of mission about what they do in life. They also have a fearless side that you can still admire, even though you might not like what they do. What made it really interesting for me is that the women in the film are very strong. They stood up to these men and they were an important part of the story. 
STRIPLV: You play a woman trying her best to deal with the life of living with a vicious mobster while raising their son. How did you approach your character?
JOHNSON: I saw her as a woman who is in a difficult situation, of wanting to give her child a healthy home life, even though she is aware that he will probably be drawn into his father’s life of organized crime. She knows what is right and wrong, and would like her son to have those kinds of values, but that’s very hard when the father, a very forceful and charismatic man, is teaching him that it’s alright to beat up people if they do something wrong to you. She would prefer it if Whitey would be gentler and play a bigger part in their lives, but that was never going to happen.
STRIPLV: Did you do any research into the character?
JOHNSON: Yeah, I did. There was a certain amount of information available, and some footage, and I was hoping that I could find something so that I could study mannerisms, or speech patterns. But all of the stuff that is available of Lindsey Cyr is pretty recent, and she’s sort of reflecting on her life. So, I didn’t get to see anything of their time together, obviously. Most of my research was just about Jimmy Bulger, and kind of then imagining what it would be like to be his wife.
STRIPLV: What was it like for you to work opposite someone like Johnny Depp?
JOHNSON: It was, I mean, extraordinary. Sadly, the things that we had to do were mostly very heartbreaking and it was a very heavy atmosphere. But I wouldn’t have wanted to do it with anybody else. It’s an absolute privilege to work with someone who doesn’t have a limit to their capabilities as an artist. And there’s no fear. He’s not afraid to go to all these different places, and that made me feel like I could do the same. When we were filming, I feel like the scenes with Lindsey and with Jimmy Bulger—they’re like in their own little world, and he’s different, and you see a different side to him. And then all of a sudden, it just completely goes away, and it just comes crashing down, which is just awful. But doing the actual scenes was just lovely.  
STRIPLV: What attracts a woman to a man like Whitey, with this terrible dark side?
JOHNSON: Men like that have a very powerful personality and women are drawn to that. They’re very strong characters and very charismatic and those qualities can be very attractive.
STRIPLV: Could you ever find yourself attracted to someone like a Whitey Bulger, or a Christian Grey, for that matter?
JOHNSON: (Laughs) No. I would rather be with someone who is pleasant and very respectful. Also someone you can have a lot of fun with in life...
STRIPLV: You have some very intense scenes in Black Mass, a very compelling one in particular with Johnny Depp. What was that experience like?
JOHNSON: It was very heavy, and it was very difficult to do those scenes, because they’re so intense, emotionally. They’re the kind of moments you want to look for as an actor, but you also worry about how you’re actually going to get through those very rough kinds of scenes. When I read the script—that was the scene that I was kind of pointing myself towards, because I knew it would be so powerful and intense. But Johnny was so great and so good to work with that it made it much easier. Those were the moments where Whitey would show a side of himself that he would never show to anyone else but her. 
STRIPLV: Sounds like you had a great experience!
JOHNSON: Absolutely. But everything—to work with him, and then have the guidance of Scott, and have Masa (Cinematographer: Masanobu Takayanagi) behind the camera, was just like the perfect combination. Nothing could go wrong.
STRIPLV: What can you tell us about your role in next year’s film, A Bigger Splash?
JOHNSON: I play a young woman who is in the process of discovering her sexuality. Penelope is very smart, but she has a bizarre connection to the world around her and she’s trying to figure out so many things about herself, as well as her sexuality. She doesn’t know who she is yet, and she has an ability to manipulate others and play with people’s emotions. Penelope is at a point in her life where she’s also playing around with different ideas of who she is and who she wants to be. She’s a child in some ways and still in the process of becoming a woman. 
STRIPLV: What was it like working with an Italian director and shooting in Sicily?
JOHNSON: It was strange in a way, because I came into the film quite late and I didn’t have as much time to try to get into the character and figure her out, as I would have liked to. But Luca and I had some amazing discussions about her. Penelope doesn’t have enough life experience yet, and she’s struggling to understand how she fits into this world of adults around her, who also have a lot of complex issues they’re dealing with. I tried to compare myself to Penelope and we had some interesting similarities.
STRIPLV: What were they?
JOHNSON: (Laughs) I’m not going to say!

Aussie Hunks

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AUSSIE HUNKS

Jabbawockeez meets Magic Mike
By Marla Santos

WARNING: Aroused senses may stimulate sensual rhythmic pumping movements, followed by the IMMEDIATE SHREDDING of clothing. 

Sculpted muscular bodies, sexy dancing and beautiful smiles are all part of the eye-candy that women (and men) are flocking to at the Aussie Hunks show. No more quiet, sedate, blushing bachelorettes…Put them in a room full of Aussie Hunks and all hell breaks loose!  

The show is so hot, as one fan said:  

“ Their accents, alone, could melt your panties off!”

“Erotic hip-hop” is a new term created for the athletic hunks from Down Under. With their great street dancing, break dancing, locking, popping and seductive show, Aussie Hunks combines trained world-class dance segments with great music, comedy, and plenty of group interaction, while obligingly showing us almost all of what’s Down Under, to the screaming crowd’s delight.  

A couple of years ago, everywhere you looked, women were reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Women have decided they’ve been missing out on some sexy thrills and are now ready to have some risqué fun. And risqué fun it is! Fantasies have always been a part of the female life. All one needs to do is look at covers of their romantic reading material, featuring a handsome male with a body that spends hours in the gym, (hmm… just like the guys from the Aussie Hunks show).

For eight years, these limber, yet manly men performed their unique show in what was called Hunk Mania Australia. Then after becoming finalists on Australia’s Got Talent and So You Think You Can Dance Australia, they brought their sexy production overseas to America, to excite both men and women alike with their 75-minute show, Aussie Hunks. The show pushes the envelope of what’s permissible, and it’s filled with energy, charisma and up-close-and-personal sexy naughtiness. The strength, agility and overall athletic ability of some of these performers bring this show to a completely different level than most other male revues in town. You won’t find one long line of synchronized “Rockettes” dancing (you know, where the men sometimes appear like their still counting their every step). Instead, Aussie Hunks focuses on each of the performer’s unique, individual abilities.  

C’mon, where else can you drink a free shot off of a Hunk (and select the body part of your choice)? And that includes the “Croc” (that’s Aussie for “male genitalia”). It’s all part of the “Let’s have fun!” attitude that prevails.

Besides the dancing talent, Aussie Hunks is definitely an erotic show, and the guys all work hard to fulfill both women’s and men’s fantasies. Surprisingly, it is a show without gender or sexual orientation concerns, and the men in the audience can receive attention, just like the ladies. It is the Aussie’s attitude that everyone should be happy and enjoy the show, stating: “It’s 2015!”

Just before entering the showroom, you can buy “Hunk Bucks”, which they use instead of real cash. Just wave them above your head and a “magically delicious” Hunk will appear on your lap. Feel free to push the “Bucks” in any slot you find of the nearly naked body on top of yours. The guys don’t seem to take themselves too seriously, and seem to be genuinely having fun with the audience They are very approachable and are more than happy to mingle with fans after their performance. It’s obvious the lights of Vegas and their ever-so-mesmerized fans have not jaded them yet.  

Darren, (or Daz, as the guys call him), is a former professional Aussie Rules Football player and co-founder of Aussie Hunks. There is not one muscle in his body that he can’t move. The show’s choreography is created by the professional choreographer Dai, who has won Hip Hop dance contests in Bangkok, Melbourne and Sydney. He also performs as an Aussie Hunk dancer in the show. The show’s MC is a fellow Aussie named Adam, who has performed in TV shows, films, and commercials around the world. He can speak fluent Japanese and shows off an striking full-back tattoo. The rest of the Hunks sometimes fluctuate between its members, but we took out a moment to sit with Aussie Hunks Chad, Australian Hip-Hop champion, with supermodel looks and a killer smile, who has traveled the world performing and competing; Tommy (pictured left), Australia’s most elite and sought after performer for TV, radio and appearances—when you see his take on Channing Tatum’s Magic Mike routine, you’ll know why; and Lenny (a true pioneer of street dance culture). He was a dance teacher for 10 years in Melbourne, and toured with the famous Australian band, The Cat Empire for 3 years. He was also the winner of the National Masters of Hip-Hop Australia. 

Sitting with Chad, Lenny, Tommy, and Jonathan (the groups’ co-owner and manager), we got the inside scoop on being a “Hunk” and even got some up-close-and-personal likes and dislikes for all the fans out there—of both men and women, alike.

STRIPLV: How did you become involved with Aussie Hunks?
CHAD: I started right off with break dancing when I was young. I saw it on TV, and then I went and threw myself into the grass trying to break dance. My mom was like: “What are you doing?” I told her: “I think I’m break dancing,” and then she took me to a class when I was 12, and I went from there. My break dancing was always erotic performing anyway, and I liked the idea of being even more erotic, as well. I met Darren through mutual friends, and Darren was very focused on dancing, as well as just stripping. We connected very well over that, so the vision to put it all together was like heaven for me. I’d been teaching break dancing and hip-hop my whole life, so it wasn’t really money that drove me to it, but the money was fine.
LENNY: I was self-taught and started just jamming with friends and seeing people in bars and whatnot. I was working with Darren, teaching him how to dance for a while back in Melbourne, and occasionally he would get me to come to the club and do a few little spots. All of a sudden he said: “Hey, do you wanna come to Vegas?” I said: “Fuck yeah, I’ll go to Vegas!” I’ve been teaching dance to everyone—people with disabilities, deaf people, people of all shapes and sizes. I do everything. There are a lot of girls that are even better than the guys. The way that girls move opposed to how guys move is very different. Guys move very stiff a lot of the time and girls are a lot smoother. 
TOMMY: I was a lifeguard at a beach in Brighton, just outside London, and I was stripping there, as well. I was working in a pub as a bartender and the minimum wage in the U.K. sucks pretty badly. I knew I wanted to do something more, because I wanted to work and travel and enjoy myself. So when the chef at the pub jokingly said: “You should be a male stripper,” I laughed it off. But a week later, I thought it didn’t sound like a bad idea and I should try it. Then I went to the strip club, Adonis, and I saw that it wasn’t what I thought it would be. It was more like a production, like a show, like it is here. I wanted to be in it 100%! 
JONATHAN: Darren was specifically looking for talent and dancing for the Vegas show.
STRIPLV: Coming out of a bear costume to perform a Magic Mike routine was a tantalizing surprise. 
TOMMY: I never actually sat down and choreographed the whole thing. I started off just improvising, and it built into the moves I make now. I work like that. I’m not straight choreography, but I more improvise with little bits here and there. It just sort of formed itself.  
STRIPLV: Have you ever lost your footing, from all the water and soap suds routine?
TOMMY: Yes, all the time. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I’m getting good with my balance now, so I know when to steady up and slow down. It’s good though, you just laugh it off and everyone laughs. At the end of the day, if they’re laughing and having a good time, I’d rather have them laugh than be silent. At least I’m entertaining.

Monica Bellucci - Beauty, Brains & Bond

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MONICA BELLUCCI
Beauty, Brains & Bond

Monica Bellucci has long been regarded as one of the world’s most beautiful women.  

That assessment still holds true today, even at the age of 50, an age that still carries an irrational stigma for actresses and women, in general. But Bellucci is living proof that beauty is ageless, as she becomes the oldest Bond girl in the history of the film franchise with her role in Spectre, the new James Bond movie that marks Daniel Craig’s fourth appearance as “007” and which opens in theaters this November. Bellucci is not only proud of being a “Bond woman,” as she puts it, but also of her new life as a single mother of two following her 2012 separation from actor/husband Vincent Cassell. She believes that women should take charge of their sensuality, and that being desirable is much more a function of one’s sense of self than pure physical attractiveness.

“There is too much emphasis on the physical aspect of beauty and attraction when it comes to women,” Bellucci says. “I feel full of energy and excitement at this point in my life. I don’t think about my age as changing anything about how I should feel about myself. This is such a good time for me and I feel a great curiosity to discover new things about myself and life, in general.” 

Without doubt, Bellucci has been one of the most stunningly seductive actresses—but she is much more than just a head-turner—originally pursuing a career in law and multilingual in Italian, English, French, Spanish and Persian.

In addition to Spectre, Bellucci has also completed work on a very different film - On the Milky Road - a complex love story amid the blood and carnage of WWII by acclaimed Serbian author/director Emir Kusturica. 

Over the course of her career, Bellucci has worked on both sides of the Atlantic, appearing in major Hollywood films, including her Oscar-nominated portrayal as Malèna (Mary Magdalen) in Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ, Terry Gilliam’s The Brothers Grimm, as well as The Matrix sequels. In France, where she took up residence in the ‘90s, she has played in The Apartment (her first film in French), Irreversible, Secret Agents (all of which she co-starred with her then-husband, Vincent Cassel), and How Much Do You Love Me? (original title: Combien tu m’aimes?).

Monica Bellucci lives in Paris, together with her two daughters from Cassell: Deva, 10, and Leonie, 5. She is now divorced from Cassell after their 18-year-old relationship (and 14 years of marriage) and is currently “happily single.”

STRIPLV: Monica, does it bother you that so much fuss is attached to your having turned 50? 
BELLUCCI: I don’t really care... I’ve never approached aging as a traumatic experience. It’s beautiful to be 50 and having been able to appreciate so many different moments and gain so much more awareness of yourself and the world around you. I think we should celebrate that and draw inspiration from that. A woman can reflect so much beauty that way. 
STRIPLV: Does playing in a Bond film in some sense confirm that 50 does not mean that a woman can no longer be seen as attractive? 
BELLUCCI: I think it’s a sign that women deserve to be respected and considered beautiful at any age. Sensuality and sexiness does not just belong to women in their twenties or thirties. In the film business, there has often been this prejudice against older women, the same way that in our society older women tend to be overlooked. Women need to believe in themselves and understand that they can still project sensuality and beauty as they get older. We shouldn’t be made to feel as if we are no longer interesting or sexy at 50, as compared to when we’re 30. 
STRIPLV: You’ve lived your life as the object of intense scrutiny and admiration as one of the most beautiful women in the world. Is that a difficult burden? 

“ Beauty is a gift that is given to you. But you shouldn’t feel too proud, because you did nothing to achieve it. It’s simply something that is part of who you are, but not who you really are on the inside.”

BELLUCCI: Beauty can also be a double-edged sword, because there is so much pressure to maintain the image that the public has of you from when you were younger. But I have long ago accepted that getting older is a part of life and I am not worrying about trying to maintain an illusion. One day you’re seen as the most beautiful woman in the world and the next day there’s another woman who is given that kind of attention. It’s not real. 
STRIPLV: You have a natural sense of calm and confidence. Where does that come from? 
BELLUCCI: I take after my father a lot. He wanted me to be independent and to think for myself. My parents were very permissive and wanted me to be able to lead an interesting life. You can’t really ask for any better support than that. It gave me a sense of freedom and desire to explore life. 
STRIPLV: Aside from your work in Spectre, you’ve also shot On the Milky Road with Emir Kusturica. What was that experience like? 
BELLUCCI: The film is a love story set in wartime and shot in the wilderness. The story is divided into three chapters and Emir is also the main actor. For me, it remains one of my greatest experiences ever in my acting career. Kusturica is a complete artist: director, writer, musician, producer—but most of all, he is an amazing human being. 
STRIPLV: You left Italy to work in France. Was that an important decision in your life? 
BELLUCCI: One of the things I have loved over the course of my acting career is that I am able to explore different cultures. That’s why I was interested in working in France, where they make 350 films a year, as compared to 50 films a year in Italy. So it has always been a great pleasure for me to work with American, Italian, French and with Iranian and now a Serbian director. 
STRIPLV: How difficult was it to overcome all the obsessive attention to your beauty when you were trying to make your way as a serious actress? 
BELLUCCI: It was something that I had to confront, even before I started my acting career. When I was writing my final exams in Italy, my Greek professor was my examiner and he asked me very condescendingly: “When you become an adult, what are you going to do with your life? Are you going to be an actress or a TV presenter?” It was his way of trying to humiliate me, by suggesting that I had no business studying because of my looks. From his way of thinking, an actress didn’t need to study or take her education seriously. Of course, the great irony is that I did become an actress! 
STRIPLV: Was acting always your dream? 
BELLUCCI: I had wanted to be an actress since childhood and I’m very proud that I have made a good life with the career that I chose for myself. Acting was my salvation. It rescued me from being a full-time model, which was very unfulfilling. It took me time before I could prove myself as an actress, but once I did make some good films, it was much easier for me to find good roles that appealed to me. 
STRIPLV: What would your reaction be, if your daughters wanted to become actresses? 
BELLUCCI: I would be happy, and so would their father. But one thing I would be very against is if she wanted to become a model. I don’t want my daughters to be part of that world. Anything else. 
STRIPLV: What are the challenges of being single at this point in your life? 
BELLUCCI: It’s one of the most interesting and revealing chapters in my life... It’s a situation that I’ve never really experienced before. I always went directly from one relationship to another, and then I was married for 14 years. And when my marriage ended, it wasn’t because I met someone else, it was because our marriage had run its course. But since then I have found a new sensation of vitality and energy that I have never experienced before. 
STRIPLV: Is it destabilizing or even frightening in some way when you come out of a long marriage and find yourself without a partner in life? 
BELLUCCI: Being single does not mean being alone, of course. You have the freedom to have a relationship or not. Yes, there is some fear at times, but it’s also very stimulating and exciting, too! This is a very special time for me.

Emily Browning - Triple Threat

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Emily Browning - Triple Threat

The pretty young girl, who many of us witnessed for the first time in 2004, in the film Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, held her own while starring in the dark book adaptation opposite the exuberant Jim Carrey and the inimitable Meryl Streep. But it was her role in the 2011 film, Sucker Punch, which really opened our eyes to the incredible talent of Australian actress, Emily Browning. Her mesmerizing portrayal, of a young girl institutionalized by her stepfather, wreaked bold sex appeal as she soared in the character’s alternate reality, away from the disturbing truth of living in a mental facility. Later that same year, she took a step deeper into the shadows, performing nude in her haunting role of Lucy in Sleeping Beauty. She played a young University student who gets more than she bargained for in a twisted world of hidden and unspoken desires as a sex worker. Then once again it was full frontal nudity in 2014’s Summer in February.  

The 2013 film, Plush, opened our eyes and ears to another of Browning’s talents—this time as a singer. Most audiences didn’t realize she had actually sung on a couple of the songs in the soundtrack of Sucker Punch—but it was burned in our memories when she sang live in the quaint 2014 musical, God Help the Girl. She admitted that was by far more terrifying than nudity.

Born in Melbourne, the petite 27-year-old Browning stands only 5’ 1” tall—yet her charisma is truly commanding on screen. Her bold sex appeal is exactly what the strong-willed actress has tried to fight against—continually searching for roles of substance. Yet, we look forward to that very asset once again, as she takes on the real-life role of the striking Frances Shea, when she plays opposite the outstanding talent of Tom Hardy in this month’s release of Legend. The film relates the story of 
Reggie and Ron Kray, London’s notorious criminal twin brothers. Browning’s beauty may help to lighten up the dark backdrop of the organized crime of these harshly twisted twins. Browning has definitely found another role of substance in Brian Helgeland’s Legend, and as she sat with us, she explained that she is patient while waiting to find her next great adventure in acting.

STRIPLV: Were the Krays kind of on your radar, or did you know a lot about them?
BROWN: No, I didn’t really know very much about them at all. I had heard of them kind of vaguely, but they’re obviously a huge deal in the U.K. and everyone kind of knows about them there, but in Australia, where I grew up, the myth wasn’t quite as prevalent.
STRIPLV: Did you start to do a lot of research on them, when you found out you were going to be playing Frances?
BROWN: Yeah, I did, but I was also kind of careful about it, because I think there were so many stories out there about them—and I’m sure some of them are true, and I’m sure some of them are absolute rubbish—and I didn’t want to sort of get bogged down with all of that different kind of conflicting information. So it was more about talking to Brian about it really, and he picked the parts of the story that he wanted to use, and I trusted him enough to go along with his version of the story.
STRIPLV: What do you think it was that made her so attracted to the bad boy—knowing that he was a bad boy?
BROWN: Yeah, I think… You know, she says at the beginning of the film, when she’s on her first date with Reggie, she says: “I’ll do anything to get out of the East End. I don’t just want to push a pram (stroller)—and be haggling with the butcher.” She doesn’t want to be a housewife essentially, and I think when she first meets him, she sees something sort of glamorous and exciting about him, and she feels like maybe he’ll be her escape from that world. And then obviously, I think she kind of turns a blind eye to the darker side of his personality at first, and then obviously she can’t ignore it forever, at that’s what tears them apart in the end.
STRIPLV: Very tragic, for sure. Let’s just talk about Tom Hardy. My goodness—I mean, how did this man pull this off?
BROWN: I have no idea. 
STRIPLV: (laughter)
BROWN: I think he did an excellent job, but I just don’t think I could even begin to do something like what he did in this film. It was really impressive.
STRIPLV: Well let’s talk about, first off—you acting opposite Tom as Reggie. Tell me a little bit about that.
BROWN: That clicked into place a lot quicker for me. I knew what the formula was with our relationship a bit more. That was easy and kind of natural for me, and it made sense to me. I kind of knew exactly how to approach that relationship. Frances’ relationship with Ron was a different story completely. I actually think that they’re more… I mean, they’re very, very different personalities, but they actually have a little more in common than Frances does with Reggie, because they’re both operating on another kind of level of consciousness. They’re both like a little bit spacey, and a little bit out there. And acting opposite Tom as Ron was a little more difficult to figure out. You know, I kind of had to be on my toes a little bit more. He would adlib a lot, and it was fun actually. It was probably even more fun acting with him as Ron, just because I never knew what was going to happen.
STRIPLV: See, that’s really interesting that you say that, because as I’m watching the film, my first question to Tom Hardy is going to be: “Who is more fun or more challenging, Ron or Reggie?” And as an audience, you’re watching and you think: ‘I think Reggie is probably so easy.’ But I think that Ron was probably very difficult for him. To me, it’s like working with two different actors completely. Tell me about that process for you—‘cause I’m sure you’ve never done that before. Have you ever worked with an actor who’s playing two roles…? 
BROWN: No, I haven’t, and I think you completely hit the nail on the head. A few people have asked me if it was really challenging for me, and if it was confusing. But honestly, he did such a good job of clearly defining each of these characters that, you know, we shot in a weird way. Obviously we would shoot with him as Reggie, and then shoot with him as Ron, so technically it was a bit strange. But other than that, it was like working with two different actors, so it wasn’t too complicated for me.
STRIPLV: Tell me a little bit about, even you standing by as an actor, watching that fight scene. What was that like?
BROWN: That was very intense—I mean it was Tom fighting with Jacob, who’s his stunt double, but who also would play whatever role Tom wasn’t playing at the time. And Jacob was so much a part of the film, that watching the film for the first time, it was actually like: “Oh, where’s Jacob? Why isn’t he in it?” You know, which was kind of bizarre, because he was such an important part on set. So really it was just them fighting. And Tom was Reggie first, and then he switched into Ron, and Jacob would play whoever he wasn’t playing. But really, it was a brutal fight, like they were really going for it.
STRIPLV: You obviously get a tons of scripts—you’ve done so much great stuff—but when you got this one, what was it about it that you thought: ‘Wow, I’ve just gotta do this!’? 
BROWN: It’s really difficult for me to sort of express verbally—because it’s so much about gut instinct. I just thought it was an incredibly cool script and a really interesting script, but I think that Frances was a really beautifully written character. And it was just that gut feeling of: ‘I want to bring this person to life. I don’t know what it is—but I just want to be a part of this.’ And obviously, Tom was attached at that point, and that was a big draw for me, because I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time.
STRIPLV: Yes! Every movie he does he just continues to step it up with each role. I don’t know how he’s going to top this! What are some films of his that are your favorites, and why do you think he’s such a great actor?
BROWN: Well, I stupidly, actually watched Locke the night before we started shooting. I went to see it at the cinema with a friend, and I was like: “Oh, no! I don’t know how I’m going to be able to sort of keep up with this person,” because he’s just so engaging. Bronson, as well, is one of my favorite films. I don’t know what makes him so good—I think part of it is just—you know, a lot of it is just his God-given talent—but I think that part of it is the fact that he really, really cares about what he’s doing. And he never phones it in. And just wants the work to be really good. It’s so nice being around that energy when you’re making a film, because it makes you up your game.
STRIPLV: Is that a daunting experience, or even more pressure when you play somebody who really lived?
BROWN: Yeah, I think it is, definitely. I think maybe there was slightly less pressure on me, just because Frances is an even more mysterious figure than the Krays. You know, there’s a lot less information out there about her. So I didn’t have this strong idea of her in my head. I was able to kind of find bits and pieces and figure it out with Brian and then kind of create my own version of her. Brian said that this is his fairytale version of the story, and we can’t really know what actually transpired and what was true. And I don’t know what she was like in real life, but I do hope that I was able to do her justice and sort of capture her spirit to some degree.
STRIPLV: Oh, you did! I mean, my heart went out to you. And I have to say—you got to wear some really great costumes. Tell us a little about the clothing. You know, not a lot of girls can pull that off. You were just like in that mode!
BROWN: Thank you. Yeah, the sixties is one of my favorite eras and that was kind of a dream for me. That was really lovely. Also, Caroline, our costume designer, was incredible. She had such an amazing eye. She had really great tailors, so everything was just perfectly fitted. It was great. That was a really enjoyable, sort of light, fun part of making the film. It was a nice balance to sort of the dark subject matter of the story.
STRIPLV: When you’re on set like that, and you’ve got such an intense actor playing against you, is there time for levity off the set?
BROWN: Yeah, absolutely. I was really glad to find out that Tom’s not a method actor. I mean he was sort of joking around as Ron in between takes, but it’s very different when someone’s entirely in character all the time. That’s not me at all. I can’t. I think I’d lose my mind if I tried to stay in character. So it’s nice to be able to have jokes in between takes. And it was a really easy cast and crew, and it was really fun to make the film. Even when we were working on these really dark scenes, we had a really good time.
STRIPLV: So why was Brian the right guy to direct this film?
BROWN: I mean, he’s just an angel, for starters. But I think he wrote such an incredible script, and I always feel more comfortable being directed by someone who’s written the script that I love, because I know that it’s his vision on the page that attracted me to the story. So to know that it’s not going to change too much from that is very comforting. You know, I trusted him with the story because he wrote the story.
STRIPLV: So what’s next?
BROWN: I’m not sure yet. I’m kind of trying to be patient, I guess. I loved making this film so much, and I want to make sure that the next thing I do is something that I care about this much.

Margaret Cho - Sexy PsyCHO

1015margaretchomosaic

Margaret Cho
Sexy PsyCHO

By Brittany Santos
Photography by Austin Young

Margaret Cho has been making people laugh for many years with her gutsy brand of comedy. I’ve been a fan of hers for quite sometime and we got the opportunity to talk with this powerhouse performer and three-time Emmy and Grammy nominee about her PsyCHO tour and her return to E!’s “Fashion Police”.

STRIPLV: I recently read an article that said, “When Margaret Cho first launched with her “All-American Girl” sitcom, the world wasn’t ready for her.” Do you think that is true?
CHO: Yeah, yeah I think so. But now things are much better. I definitely think I paved the way for a lot of Asian actors, comedians, writers, and personalities. So now it’s exciting. Now there are two Asian American family shows on the air like, “Fresh Off the Boat”, and now “Dr. Ken” coming to ABC this fall and I’m actually a part of it. So that’s great.
STRIPLV: You play his sister on the show, right?
CHO: Correct.
STRIPLV: What was he like? Had you worked with him before?
CHO: I have worked with him before, but not for at least 20 years. He was doing medical school or just about to start medical school. He was pursuing comedy then. He was just so in love with comedy and really wanted to just express that side of himself, even though he was going to be a doctor. And so he was very active in bringing comedy to his school. So he brought me to his school so many years ago. It’s great and I’ve worked with him since then. He’s just a great guy, so talented and so funny, and I’m very proud of him.
STRIPLV: What was it like for you to be a part of the PBS documentary, “The Women’s List”?
CHO: I know, it is really cool. I just kind of tapped into it. It was a very easy, very quiet shoot. I didn’t get to meet the other women that were in it. But it was a very cool thing to do.
STRIPLV: One of the things I love about you is that you don’t seem to care what people think about you. Can you pinpoint where you finally found that confidence to say: “I truly don’t care what the fuck you think about me, basically…”
CHO: Well, because no one ever noticed anyway. You just can’t think about that kind of stuff. And also, when I started this was before the Internet. So you never really knew anyway what people were saying or thinking. This is a relatively new development in show business. You never really got the sense of what people were thinking or saying. Now it’s a different world. So I just got used to not paying attention to it when I was younger, just cause when I was really young, most of it centered on my looks—like, people always thought that I was too fat or too ugly. Most of my television interviews in the beginning were always very derogatory. For whatever reason, I think it may have been racial, it may have been racism or sexism, or whatever. That’s kind of inherent in comedy. So I just learned not to pay attention to any of that stuff and to not let it bother me, and certainly it’s good to now have that attitude, because it’s so hostile out there online right now when you are a woman and you don’t fit that sort of male gaze that the Internet has. It’s a pretty narrow view of what beauty is or who should have the right to speak. It’s really disgusting. 
STRIPLV: In the age of social media, it is so easy to get cyber-bullied, and it’s tough on kids. Do you ever talk with kids and teach them to rise above it?
CHO: Yeah, you try to. But then, at the same time, it is very hard to prepare anyone for what they are going to face. And also, I think kids today have a way thicker skin than people who grew up in my generation. Kids today have grown up with the Internet their whole lives. They know how abusive it is. They know how stupid it all is. 
STRIPLV: Tell me about your #BeLikeRobin campaign that you started after the death of your friend, Robin Williams.
CHO: It continues on. It is something I allow anyone to do. It’s not an official charity or anything; it’s just something anyone can do. It’s helping homeless in your community. And it is very much in the spirit of Robin. He was very dedicated to helping homeless people throughout his career and his life, with different charities and events that he was on—and also speaking to congress about improving the life quality for people that are living on the street. Whatever form that takes and however you reach out to people in your community, I think it’s positive. 
STRIPLV: I heard you are hosting “Fashion Police” for the VMA’s, is that true?
CHO: Yes, on Monday night for the VMA’s. So that’s really exciting. I love Melissa, and I loved Joan. I think actually that was the last time I saw Joan, was when I did “Fashion Police” last time. It will be beautiful to come back. 
STRIPLV: How are you going to host with all the controversy that was swirling around the show?
CHO: I have a different view of fashion. I have a different take on everything. I definitely prefer art over elegance. I love when people take risks. I always strive to be the worst dressed at any event. So I’m going to be cheering on the underdog. 
STRIPLV: So basically, you would love the Bjork “swan dress” that everyone still talks about?
CHO: I want that dress!! 
STRIPLV: So who inspires you musically?
CHO: I am really inspired by a lot of different people. I am making a record right now with Roger Rocha from 4 Non Blondes, who I met through Linda Perry, when I was working with her for some benefits for the gay and lesbian center in L.A. It’s an album that is very exciting for me. I’m inspired by all kinds of music all over the place. 
STRIPLV: Coming from a music label background, I had to learn to like music that wasn’t really my thing, like hardcore rock, but you do learn to see the beauty in it, even if it isn’t your thing.
CHO: Oh yeah, I mean I love different things, like Norwegian black metal—it’s like a scrubbing of my ear. It’s a loud cleansing kind of thing. I never thought I’d like metal. And now I really do love it. 
STRIPLV: What’s your take on the EDM movement?
CHO: I actually like some of it. I just put out a music video on this song with John Roberts called “How Close is Glenn Close”. So, it’s really being chased by Glenn Close memes. It is just so ridiculous, but it’s just kind of word play and then beats. I also just did a series of videos with Peaches. I love her approach to music. It’s just very cool and very different. There are just so many forms of it and there’s stuff that is pretty inventive and exciting. I don’t know much about Skrillex, but I do like Diplo. So I think I’m a little bit well-versed on it, I think. [laughter]
STRIPLV: So how is your new PsyCHO tour going to be different from past tours?
CHO: I think I just want to make it very immediate. I want to make it very much about the situations of the moment that we are dealing with: gun violence, police brutality, and this insanity that there is so much violence against women that we have to have 50 women to come out against Bill Cosby to be believed. It is insane; it’s about navigating our way through this culture. That’s why I want it to be very immediate and very different and very much concerned with: “How are we going to live in this world and continue living in this world?”
STRIPLV: When the Bill Cosby stories first broke, were you shocked, or had you heard rumors about him?
CHO: I had heard stuff, but I wasn’t sure. I mean, I wasn’t sure. I think that he had his legacy in comedy and it was complicated, because he had such anger towards younger, especially comedians of color, that had grown up with him. He had such disdain for them—really derogatory and really demeaning towards people that I love, like Wanda Sykes. He just hated comedians of my generation. There wasn’t really the understanding of why—all of these people who grew up with him. Also, I was close with the Richard Pryor family, who always had issues with him. In a sense, you could either be friends with the Pryor’s or the Cosby’s, and I wanted to be with the Pryor’s. Bill Cosby was never a mentor, except when it came to television, which was sort of outside my understanding of myself, because when I was doing “All-American Girl”, he brought African-Americans to television, like never before. That was something to aspire to. Certainly, as a comedian, his style was never as appealing to me or as dynamic. 
STRIPLV: What haven’t you done that you want to do? It seems like you have such an incredible body of work. What is next?
CHO: Well thanks, I am working on trying to do producing, after I finish this tour. Hoping to get behind the lens after I finish this tour.
STRIPLV: So do you get along with the members of “Fashion Police”—that you will know how this appearance will go? 
CHO: I only know Giuliana a very little bit, but I haven’t met anyone else. But I am very good with Joan’s head writer, Tony. We have been friends for over 30 years. I feel like I will be with family.
STRIPLV: So I know that you only have a short time in Las Vegas, but what will you do here when you visit?
CHO: Oh, I don’t know, I guess just eat. That’s major; the food there is just so spectacular. Eating anywhere is great. I always like going to the employee cafeteria wherever I work. I think food is a drug for me. I eat, like constantly. I always think about food. I always want to just eat. It’s not even about being hungry. I just want to see what the food is. What can be done with it? A huge employee cafeteria at one of those big casinos is like my dream, because you have every kind of food happening. I love it. My favorite thing is to go to restaurants and stay through lunch service to the staff meal, because that’s where the best cooking is. That’s like my fantasy of what I like to do. It’s just really fun. Las Vegas has just become such a Mecca for food, and it’s pretty exciting, because it wasn’t like that before. Now it’s like a wonderland for it. Everything gets flown in fresh from all over the world. The best chefs are there working in the different places; it’s just a dream.

After I had the pleasure of speaking with Margaret about her upcoming tour, she appeared on “Fashion Police” and completely gave life to the show that was indeed in a swirl of controversy. She actually had the nerve to say about Miley Cyrus and her dreadlock look she wore during hosting duties at the award show: “I feel that, that hair probably smells like pot and patchouli,” as Giuliana Rancic looked on. Rather than back away from last year’s controversy when Giuliana made those remarks, Margaret was smart, and of course funny enough to confront the elephant in the room and bring the show back with the exact same comments that caused the controversy to begin with. Bravo, Margaret! And I hope the tour is a smashing success.

To get more information on how to buy tickets and to attend her PsyCHO tour, visit: margaretcho.com.

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