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Nikolaj Coster-Waldau Games, Gods & Morals

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NIKOLAJ COSTER-WALDAU
Games, Gods and Morals

He’s a star on arguably the biggest show on the planet. But Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays swarthy Jaime Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones, will never let success rest easy and fears the day the phone stops calling. “I was an actor for twenty years before I landed Thrones, so I’m under no illusion that I’m safe in my current situation,” he laughs, casually handsome in a navy sweater and jeans while chatting about the monster series phenomenon. “Success in this business rests uneasily on a house of cards, so you better enjoy it while it lasts. And look back fondly when it’s over.”

The rugged 44-year-old, who lives in his native Denmark with wife, former Miss Greenland, Nukaka Motzfeldt, and their young daughters, Saffina (14) and Phillipa (11), was a jobbing actor who landed supporting fare in Black Hawk Down and Wimbledon, and leads in failed U.S. pilots, Virtuality and Fox’s cop drama, New Amsterdam, before finding overnight international fame as the fiendish Lannister.

Based on the novels of George R.R. Martin, the medieval fantasy returned this spring with Season 5 exploding with more action, bloodshed and saucy nudity than ever, as fans scratched their heads wondering, ‘Was that even possible?’

Meanwhile, the great Dane, who starred with Cameron Diaz in last year’s romantic comedy, The Other Woman, and will soon feature opposite Gerard Butler in action/adventure, Gods of Egypt, is clear when he speaks about the show’s future, giving his inside opinion on how much juice is left in the fables of Westeros.

Nikolaj talks secrets of the show’s success, his hopes for Jaime, family commitments, the support of his mother and never caring what anyone thinks. 

STRIPLV: I’d imagine the weeks running up to your Season 5 premiere of Thrones were like Christmas? Or am I wrong?
COSTER-WALDAU: Ehh, not quite Christmas. [laughs] I like to think of that time as the quiet before the storm.
STRIPLV: Sounds ominous.
COSTER-WALDAU: Because there’s such chaos when it begins, airs on TV. Good chaos. I love the premieres, which are over the top. We have the London one and I loved that, I enjoyed it immensely, especially as you get a chance to meet the whole cast for once. We’re all so spread out all the time, all over the world. You sometimes meet actors for the first time. I met one guy at a premiere last year and said: “What are you doing here?” And he said, ‘I’m on the show.’ That’s how big the cast is. But when it comes to home, I like quiet, and I like to keep the two separate. I can’t mesh the two together, that would be overwhelming to a degree.
STRIPLV: Some of the fans must be crazy to deal with.
COSTER-WALDAU: I just don’t think about it. [laughs] It’s fine. Normally when I’m at home in Denmark it’s fine, but once one person comes over in the restaurant, it’s like [motions another and another] ...and I get it, it’s fine, it’s fine, but it’s weird. Someone asked me earlier: ‘What are the fans like?’ and I say: “I don’t know, because it seems to be everyone.” If you start trying to put people in boxes, if you think you know what a person is like, and define them by the television they watch, then you are mistaken, you know what I mean? Because everybody, so many people, watch our show, or any show for that matter.
STRIPLV: There were some huge shockers in this season. Can you allude to next year’s Season 6? Will there be even bigger shocks in store?
COSTER-WALDAU: [laughs] I can’t tell you what happens. That would be boring for you and for your readers—and totally unfair.
STRIPLV: What would you like to see happen to Jamie?
COSTER-WALDAU: I’d like him to definitely have more dialogue with Tyrion [now in charge of Meereen]. Delve even deeper. I think their dynamic and relationship is fascinating. They engage in a way that’s gripping. It grips me. And I’d like to see more interaction with Brienne [who finally got her revenge], simply because I miss Gwendoline Christie. We spent so much time together, I feel she’s been wrenched from my life.
STRIPLV: I interviewed Kit Harington, and he’s just as secretive as you.
COSTER-WALDAU: We sign contracts... It’s not like I’m having fun not telling anything.
STRIPLV: He told us that this season was going to be bloodier than ever—like a horror movie—and was he ever right!
COSTER-WALDAU: There were certainly some shocks that, you know, you feel like: ‘Whoa, are they really going to go that far?’ But it’s the beauty of the series.
STRIPLV: Are we going to be saying goodbye to even more fan favorites in 2016’s Season 6? Is your own head on the chopping block, so to speak?
COSTER-WALDAU: Everyone’s is. That’s the fun of it.
STRIPLV: Who are you closest with on set?
COSTER-WALDAU: The ones I work with the most: Lena, Peter, Gwendoline. It’s this family, you really are connected to everyone is some way, but some you never meet until the premieres, which is why I’ve always loved those events. You finally get together as one cast, which is a big cast for Game of Thrones.
STRIPLV: Who do you miss from the departed cast members?
COSTER-WALDAU: Jack Gleeson, we got on very well, and it was sad to lose Michelle Fairley, Richard [Madden] and Oona [Chaplin], because we’d worked together for so long. That’s the nature of the show. You lose your friends quite easily, and it’s never pleasant to say goodbye.
STRIPLV: You’ve been on Thrones since the beginning. Could you ever have predicted this success?
COSTER-WALDAU: I kind of felt that from the beginning. Not that this was going to be successful, you can’t ever know that, but from reading the script, from all the characters involved, from the set-ups and dialogue, fundamentally, it was more than just a television show. But why it’s so successful, I don’t know why. I really don’t know why. I don’t think anyone understands why. I remember when I first got the job, friends of mine thought the concept was terrible and now they’re the ones shouting at the screen, shocked by who’s just been killed. [laughs] I can’t believe you killed them off!
STRIPLV: How much longer can we expect to enjoy this show?
COSTER-WALDAU: Probably two more seasons. I think that’s what the writers are working towards. Most shows get seven seasons. The interest might start to peter out at that point.
STRIPLV: You mention talking to your friends about roles. Is there one person in particular you run everything past?
COSTER-WALDAU: My best friend, a writer who’s not in the machinery, not invested in me, I bounce everything off him. And then I have a wonderful wife. I run most things, everything by her. I don’t run scripts with her, I don’t think she’s that interested, but we’ll talk about things because we have a family, so there are considerations, [for instance] you know, ‘this script is shooting where? On the moon?’ I love the script, but is it going to be good for the family, but if I really believe it’s OK, she supports me. She doesn’t want to stop me from doing things, because she knows I never saw acting as a viable career before I started out. So to be getting these opportunities now, you don’t want to say no sometimes.
STRIPLV: Why not?
COSTER-WALDAU: Well, not that it wasn’t a viable career for anyone, just for me, I thought I couldn’t do it.
STRIPLV: Was your family against it?
COSTER-WALDAU: My sweet mother has always supported what me and my sisters do. I mean, they were shocked I wanted to be an actor, because I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t tell anyone until I was accepted at the National Theatre School. I was very lucky with the mother I got.
STRIPLV: You’ve worked on distinctly different fare from Thrones, like last year’s The Other Woman, and we are looking forward to Gods of Egypt. Is it important for you to play characters a world away from your Thrones role of Jamie?
COSTER-WALDAU: I like to do something so, so different from the last, otherwise I’ll be typecast in medieval roles. If I wanted, I could be running around with the knights and horses for the rest of my career. But that’s how it works in the industry, all the cast have had the same offers. If you’re seen as a success in one genre, why break the wheel? But let’s be honest, some of those scripts are terrible, awful. We see them in the cinema all the time, that’s what it’s based on more than anything.
STRIPLV: What was it like working on The Other Woman for you, juggling three beautiful women like Cameron Diaz, Leslie Mann and Kate Upton?
COSTER-WALDAU: Awful [laughs] as you can imagine. I had so much fun on that film, working with Cameron and Kate and Leslie—a real fantasy. I had a lot of fun shooting that, and when I read the script, I thought: ‘This is ridiculous.’ It’s so out there, but it’s not going to change the world.
STRIPLV: Do you worry whether a script will change the world or not?
COSTER-WALDAU: I never care what people are going to think. And actors can be very consumed by that. It feeds and drains them at the same time. With Game of Thrones, on paper, on first read...

“ I thought: ‘Everybody is going to hate Jaime.’ He sounds like a terrible person in this relationship with his sister. How are people going to relate or even like that? Won’t they be completely turned off? But I thought it was such a cool way to start off a character. Morals… The whole thing about morals is interesting. Everyone has them, there’s always the gap between the morals you have and what did you do? And the morals you have and how you think—it’s never just the same. The way we want to be, the way we are. We’ll do stuff some days, really stupid things, embarrassing things, and the next day, you think: ‘I would never normally do anything like that.’ Like flipping off a guy or screaming at someone who drives dangerously in front of me—I would never do that normally. But you do it.”

STRIPLV: When was the last time you flipped someone off?
COSTER-WALDAU: Probably yesterday. [laughter]

Avengers: Age of Ultron

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MARVEL
AVENGERS - AGE OF ULTRON

The Darker Back Story

Everyone’s favorite Marvel superheroes are back to fight evil, and with the charismatic addition of James Spader as “Ultron”, the intense action sequences are another level up of immensity in the new Marvel Productions film, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Tony Stark and Bruce Banner join up to kick-start a previously dormant peacekeeping program called Ultron, but things go terribly awry, and Earth’s mightiest heroes must come together, including Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow and Hawkeye, in order to save the world from the villainous Ultron’s plans of devastation.

This sequel finds the somewhat dysfunctional team of heroes forced to react globally, making for some outstanding visuals from shooting all over the world at many different locations. Fans will enjoy Marvel’s typical quick-witted one-liners, as always to spice up the action, along a little more back story on both Black Widow and Hawkeye, as well as enjoy a couple of new additions to the team with new characters, Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, from the hit comic book series.

ROBERT DOWNEY JR. – “IRON MAN”
STRIPLV: What were your first thoughts about your character in this second film?
DOWNEY JR.: I was kinda like: “Where can you go?” with the first Avengers of him having to become a team player, and with Iron Man 3 him transcending his dependency, on the tech that’s keeping him alive… I thought: “Okay, now what?” But there’s all this unfinished business. There’s the matter of a certain wormhole that opened over in New York, and the imminent threat that still implies. So Tony’s turned his attentions toward a bit of a post Reagan-era, Star Wars-type notion, and he likes to call it “Ultron.”
STRIPLV: What’s it like getting back together with the team?
DOWNEY JR.: I love the love/hate. I love the people. This time around I felt like I really got, honestly, a bunch closer with the cast members, and Joss and I are pals. Meanwhile, there’s always that part of it that you never forget your first time. From Iron Man 2 into Avengers and Iron Man 3, there’s always this… I think it’s like life, you’re like: “You know, why isn’t it like it was in college, now?” You know? But more than any other of the Marvel movies since Iron Man 1 for me, I feel like it’s the ending of an era and the beginning of another—obviously some of that is informed by the new blood coming through—with Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson—and I welcome it!
STRIPLV: Tell us about reuniting with acting pal, James Spader.
DOWNEY JR.: Well, there’s a lot of full circles going on, and probably the most personal one is James Spader playing Ultron. He was the first person I saw kinda “off-the-boat” when I got to L.A., and took me under his wings. He’s just a couple of years older. I think again it was a very inspired casting choice, not just because he’s on everyone’s lips and minds, again for reasons obvious with his show, but also that he’s really a bit of an American treasure, and I’ve certainly borrowed from his style more than a few times over the years.
STRIPLV: How do you feel about the franchise reaching across the world?
DOWNEY JR.: It’s a global property really, and the responsible thing to do was to branch out and do stuff. There’s also something much more authentic about when it’s not just a felt sense of somewhere, but: “Okay, they’re there.” And I’m certainly glad it happened. It seems like it’s really adding to the overall scope of the thing.

STRIPLV: Your feelings on Director – Joss Whedon?
DOWNEY JR.: He’s just really smart—and he thinks stuff through. I remember sometimes the joy of things was we were kind of creating things as we went along or within the context of the story, and we were really figuring out: “What frequency should this scene be?” and Joss tends to already be a couple of steps along in that process, which occasionally can make you feel like: “Oh, well, what am I bringing?” But there’s always other steps that can go, and so it makes it easier to get to the best version of something, because he’s practically there already most of the time.

MARK RUFFALO – “BRUCE BANNER / THE HULK”
STRIPLV: What a wonderful team of actors you have in this film.
RUFFALO: Yeah, it’s a great group of people—we have a lot of fun. There’s not a boring one in the bunch. We’ve all gone off and had families—all of us, except Chris Evans (chuckles). But I’m sure he’s somewhere. (looking around) He’s coming up the back somewhere. We’re having a good time—it’s great. It’s fantastic.
STRIPLV: Do you enjoy the hollering of so many fans?
RUFFALO: Yeah, they’re great! They’re tough to please, but when you do, there’s no one who loves you more, you know. They really do show up. They love this stuff—and it’s way better than a lot of other things they could be doing with their time.
STRIPLV: So where do the Avengers pick up as they return for this sequel?
RUFFALO: We covered a lot of ground of establishing who these guys were in the first one, so we were able to really dig down much deeper to who they are when they’re relaxed, you know—when they’re familiar with each other—that’s when people really start to sparkle. They let down their guards. They’re vulnerable…
STRIPLV: And where do we find Hulk in this film?
RUFFALO: A lot of it is just his feeling of wellbeing within the group. He’s never quite felt so at home and part of a group before, and he really buys the idea that he has like made a leap—and especially the work that is happening with him and Black Widow—this sort of taming of Hulk, and being able to use her as a partner in this. I think they’re experimenting with Hulk, and how to control him. But I think it’s mostly he’s in a great point in his life—and because of that, he feels more able to join the world.
STRIPLV: What’s it been like working with Director – Joss Whedon?
RUFFALO: With Joss, it starts with the writing. And the fact that each character sort of has their moment is a tip of the hat to him, because the story that he is telling—he knows it so well—and—at the same time he knows the characters so well, that he knows when those two things should and must intersect so that you get the perfect balance of character. You feel like you’re being satisfied about who these people are, while at the same time pushing the story forward.
STRIPLV: What should all of us fans expect out of Age of Ultron?
RUFFALO: I just think it’s gonna be a great ride. It just takes you to a lot of places, each one visually pleasing, and emotionally pleasing, but together they’re epic!

SCARLETT JOHANSSON – “NATASHA ROMANOFF / “BLACK WIDOW”
STRIPLV: So what has changed for Black Widow this time around?
JOHANSSON: It’s a very different movie this time around. We’ve been able to kinda get the introductions over—and we’ve actually assembled some kind of dysfunctional family—but a family nonetheless—and before everything goes awry, as it has to. But you know, it couldn’t be any easier—we’ve known each other for years… We’re very hard to wrangle. I just feel sorry for Joss—that’s all.
STRIPLV: You’ve added some new faces to your team…
JOHANSSON: Yes, we have Aaron and Lizzie, which is very exciting. They’re such team players already—they came in, wanted to know if we had any advice for them, and I was like: “Um, you guys don’t need any advice! You’re doing way better than us—we’re falling apart.” So yeah, a little bit of fresh blood.
STRIPLV: And how was it working with James Spader?
JOHANSSON: I was so thrilled with the casting of James Spader as Ultron. James is playing the kind of impossible role that when you read that script you go: “I’m so glad I don’t have to like try to put this together, because it’s all over the place.” He’s just so seamless with it. I think he has this sort of Shakespearean quality to him. He plays it like [King] Lear or something like that. It’s really, really effective. I really think it’s so fitting, because Ultron is everywhere and everything, and has these almost Shakespearean soliloquies at times that are very theatrical—and I think in most actor’s hands would probably be totally over the top, and impossible to juggle or make any kind sense out of. You know, you really have to own the phrasing—and because this character is psychotic—you have to kind of own the many faces of Ultron. The film is only as strong as the villain, and I think James is just a formidable one.
STRIPLV: You seem especially excited for this movie release.
JOHANSSON: I mean of course, because I don’t think I’ve ever made a movie that kids could even see before—so I have a whole new fan base, which is really exciting. And the fans are awesome! They’re so dedicated and so supportive. And knowing you have a film coming that people are rooting for, and that they want to see—is amazing!

STRIPLV: What have been some of the most difficult areas of playing Black Widow?
JOHANSSON: The most important aspect of my job—you know, as an actor that’s been carrying this character through, not only Avengers, but from Captain [America], and then also starting in Iron Man, is to keep a thorough, steady consistency with the character’s arc, I think—and have the character’s evolution be one that is cohesive. And you know, you kind of want to feel like the character is growing, as opposed to just staying the same—making decisions based on the person that we know her to be, from the films that we’ve seen her in, and the time we’ve spent with her on screen.
STRIPLV: What’s different for your character, Natasha, in this film?
JOHANSSON: I think Natasha, or the Avengers in general, had this kind of stealthy approach, and S.H.I.E.L.D. certainly had that. Now we’re being judged in a different way. Everybody is watching us. It’s just a different playing field.
STRIPLV: What’s one of the best parts, for you, in this film?
JOHANSSON: I think the really exciting part, for me anyway, you know bringing Avengers to the table this time is around is that we all get our opportunities to delve deeper into the back story of each one of these characters. Every one of the Avengers comes to the table with a lot of baggage. None of us really chose this job. It’s the kind of the job that chose us. That kind of reluctance to wear the superhero hat makes for very interesting back-stories. We have our sordid history, and we get to explore a little bit of that. And I think the audience is going to absolutely love that.

CHRIS EVANS – “STEVE ROGERS / CAPTAIN AMERICA”
STRIPLV: Where do we find the Avengers in this film?
EVANS: S.H.I.E.L.D. has fallen since the last Captain America. So now we’re all kind of relying on one another. There’s really no one to report to. So it’s kind of this loose hierarchy there. They’re kinda just leaning on one another as soldiers. There’s no one person giving commands. But we’re kind of operating as a true group now.
STRIPLV: Where do we find Captain America as this film unfolds?
EVANS: He’s trying to still figure out where he belongs. He’s always been a soldier. He’s always kind of fit in that format. He enjoys structure, and he enjoys having orders, and a plan. Without that, he does feel a bit aimless. But he is still searching for whether or not he can have a life outside of being Captain America. He’s been of service for so long, trying to figure out what he would do without his uniform and shield is a bit of a puzzle.
STRIPLV: What has it been like working with Director – Joss Whedon?
EVANS: With Joss, he’s not just our director, he’s our writer, so that level of involvement that he has with these characters and this material is incredibly beneficial. If you’re struggling with a scene or with a line, he’s not only phenomenal at coming up with things on the spot—he’s very witty. He has wonderful banter and repartee, so he can always make adjustments. But he’s a comic book fan. One of the main demographics you’re trying to please are the “fan” boys, and since he is one, it’s a very safe exchange, knowing that anything he suggests will be met with approval.
STRIPLV: What are your feelings about the back story in this film?
EVANS: I thought it was great. I mean, they’re a unit now, so it’s not growing pains anymore. It’s now just kind of internal conflict, trying to operate as a team—as opposed to how to form one.
STRIPLV: And what exactly is Cap’s role?
EVANS: I think he’s certainly giving the orders, but it’s not the type of hierarchy where he gives commands and people have to do it. This is purely in the sense of when battle breaks out and we need structure, Cap has no problems kind of organizing a team approach. In terms of how they behave when they’re not fighting a foe, there still is a loose chain of command. No one is technically in charge. But Cap does lean toward the side of structure and hierarchy, so when they’re on the battlefield, I think that’s when he feels most comfortable.

CHRIS HEMSWORTH – “THOR”
STRIPLV: So what part does Thor play in the team in this film?
HEMSWORTH: He’s a central part of the team now. He’s established, and they’re certainly a unity that they’ve all formed now and solid. Thor, I think, sees a bigger picture of the current conflict that’s going on. There’s the initial battle, which they’re involved in, but Thor sort of uses his Asgardian knowledge and starts to tap into some other worldly possibilities and threats that he thinks are coming.
STRIPLV: Have Thor’s perspectives evolved regarding humans and the planet Earth?
HEMSWORTH: I think in each film he has grown a great affection for earth and humans, you know, than the first time we saw him, when he was arrogant (smiling) and what have you. So yeah, this time around his biggest concern is the wellbeing of this world and he very much is sort of looking out further into the universe to make sure that threat doesn’t consume this world as well.
STRIPLV: What was it like working with James Spader for the first time?
HEMSWORTH: It was one of the first times on any set where I had really no idea what that character was gonna be and how that performance was gonna be played out. And the first time James did it, it just all made sense—because the writing is tricky in his pitch. But the way he does it, everything has a sort of sarcasm and irony, yet highly intelligent, and it’s a beautiful mix. I remember the first time he came on set and did this big monologue for all of us, basically. We all just sort of applauded and forgot our lines, because we were captivated in what he was doing.

STRIPLV: And what about working with Joss Whedon?
HEMSWORTH: Anytime you have a director who has also written the script, it’s a huge benefit, because they can articulate exactly what it is that they’re intentions were when they wrote that character. And so you have the source of that information right in front of you. He’s just such a smart guy, to be able to bring this many characters together and to give them all a purpose and a focus, and then have this huge, complicated story around it with tons of action, tons of humor, and also a part. That’s the balance that a lot of these films miss, and he’s a genius when it comes to kind of melding those things together.
STRIPLV: How does this sequel differ from the first film?
HEMSWORTH: We’ve gone to far more locations than ever before, and covered more ground. So aesthetically, it’s gonna be a mashup of different locations and styles and images. But everything has just been dialed up, and even the complexity of the story has gone deeper. We’ve seen all these characters evolve in the individual films, and now to see them come together for the second time—I think is pretty exciting.

JAMES SPADER – “ULTRON”
STRIPLV: What’s it like for you, here on the red carpet tonight?
SPADER: I’m so excited, because I’m seeing the film for the first time tonight. We’ve been working for a year on it—because I had Principal of Photography—shooting all the stuff on the set, and a lot of motion capture after that, and then of course, lots of sessions doing voice work (smiling) to clean things up a bit! So I’ve seen sort of little swabs of footage, but I’m just so excited.
STRIPLV: You have very excited fans that are eagerly anticipating this film’s release.
SPADER: We saw it at the Comic Con, and no one is better than Marvel at creating anticipation and being incredibly respectful of their fans. The fans appreciate it, and those of us that work on the films really appreciate it as well. It’s all very well constructed. It’s not an “us and them” environment at all.

JEREMY RENNER – “CLINT BARTON / HAWKEYE”
STRIPLV: What really appealed to you about your character, Hawkeye?
RENNER: It was really cool to be able to explore the human side and that was my attraction to doing Hawkeye in the first place, because he’s a character that is human, and he’s flawed and his limitations—and to explore that humanity in him, the human side of him, instead of the superhero side of him, was really exciting for me.
STRIPLV: What was it like to work together again on this film?
RENNER: In this one we’re together a lot—which is great for us—terrible for Joss, because it’s tough to wrangle ten crazy actors that love each other and just want to talk. It’s like a Kindergarten class. He literally has to whistle to get our attention.
STRIPLV: How do you feel about James Spader as Ultron?
RENNER: He brings a lot of weight and character, a lot of humanity, and sort of a 14-year-old boy temper-tantrum-ish kind of thing. His “regal-ness” counterbalances that. It’s really, really great to humanize something that’s really not human.
STRIPLV: What’s it like working again with the direction of Joss?
RENNER: I think he’s the man with the answers, the plan. And I try not to rock the boat. He’s got it all figured out, and I trust that. The only thing I’ll ever raise my hand to say is if I can help make a stunt better or something else. I’m gonna help him tell the story—I’m not gonna tell him how to tell his story. All I know is if I get a smile on Joss’ face coming out of that tent where he’s watching… you know—job well done.
STRIPLV: Can you compare the first and second film?
RENNER: I think that everything that worked in the first movie is just exponentially better in this one. The relationships are, not better in a sense, they’re just deeper. There’s more to go—the bad guys…again, not better, just different. The stunts are crazy, the hero shot of the spinner—not that it’s mimicked—but it’s just different, and I think it’s better. We’re all learning and growing.

SAMUEL L. JACKSON – “NICK FURY”
STRIPLV: What’s it like joining the Avengers team on the red carpet?
JACKSON: It’s fun to be on the red carpet with them. I didn’t see them that much when we made the movie. I just kinda walked by, and said hello, and ran away. It’s all about people with superpowers…and I don’t have any. But I’m really, really pleased to still be a part of this whole thing and to be here tonight.
STRIPLV: What do you think about all the hoopla for this event?
JACKSON: It’s all about summer. It’s all about these event movies. It’s all about people being excited to see what new things are being done cinematically, stunt-wise… and when you have superheroes… Everybody’s got a favorite superhero. They kinda come out and they cheer for us and they go home and imagine themselves as these people, and it’s healthy and great for the imagination, and great for the movie business. It’s a business of big imagination.

PAUL BETTANY – “JARVIS / VISION”
STRIPLV: What was it like to join the crew as Jarvis finally?
BETTANY: Well, it was strange, because I’ve been involved with Marvel since the first Iron Man, and you know, it was just nice to get on set with a bunch people that I’d supposedly been working with for ten years, but had never met. Jarvis’ superhero power was to solve any issues there were with clarity, so I was brought in, in like the last two hours before the premiere. And everybody was really welcoming. It was just lovely to be on the set with such a bunch of creative, intelligent and funny people who are playing at the top of their game. And I don’t just mean the cast… I mean Kevin Feige, Jeremy Latcham, Joss Whedon, and an incredible crew back in England.
STRIPLV: What’s it like to be here with these adoring fans?
BETTANY: It’s totally and utterly amazing, and sometimes a little odd, (smiling) you know? I was thinking… it was about a year ago, we were at Comic Con. I’d been to Comic Con about four times, and I had never heard such noise… it’s like a hurricane.

STELLAN SKARSGÅRD – “ERIK SELVIG”
STRIPLV: What was your first reaction to the script?
SKARSGÅRD: When I read the script, I thought it was an enormous, brilliant achievement, because Joss had managed to write a story with about maybe 10 leading characters, and still keep the story together. So already there, it was fantastic. But when you read the script, you don’t see it, because there’s so much special effects and fantastic visual stuff coming, added to it. But after a while, you get used to reading the Marvel scripts. You know that a lot of magic would be added later. So what you really read for is to see the characters, how they’re working.
STRIPLV: What’s one of the best parts about working with Joss Whedon’s direction?
SKARSGÅRD: He knows what he wants. And he knows that the most important thing for a director is to know when it’s good, when it’s not good… when it’s truthful, when it’s not truthful. And also he’s extremely familiar with the universe he’s working with.

AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON – “PIETRO MAXIMOFF / “QUICKSILVER”
STRIPLV: What was it like on set with the original members of the Avengers?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: It was definitely a daunting feeling to come on set with all of the Avengers, because for the majority of the cast, it’s their third or fourth film, you know. So they’re very comfortable with the way that they want to portray their characters and with each other. But that was taken away pretty quickly. When you meet the guys, everyone’s super friendly and down-to-earth, and it’s a very friendly kind of set.
STRIPLV: Tell us a little about your character.
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: Quicksilver’s been really fun to portray as a superhero. Not only do I see his superpower being like as fast as the speed of sound, but he’s quick at everything. He’s quick-tempered, which means he’s so frustrated with everything. He’s already there. Everyone goes so slow for him. He’s fast to react in everything.
STRIPLV: What’s your relationship with your twin like?
TAYLOR-JOHNSON: They can’t do without each other, which is nice. And this is also a sort of ying and yang thing. I’m very kind of fatherly, and physical, and protective over her and she’s that sort of motherly kind of nurturing and caring, and more sort of emotional and thoughtful. So they sort of balance each other.

ELIZABETH OLSEN – “WANDA MAXIMOFF / “SCARLET WITCH”
STRIPLV: What type of research did you do on your character, Scarlet Witch?
OLSEN: I asked Marvel to compile, like a bible, of all comics that were centered around her. It’s just unbelievable the amount of material that she has to draw from.
STRIPLV: What was it like when you first joined the cast on set?
OLSEN: When I started, it was just Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Jeremy Renner, and I in Italy, and then all of a sudden everyone was added—or everyone else had been there, and I had taken a break, and they were all there. And I was really intimidated that it was gonna be like a lot of improvisational banter.
STRIPLV: Tell us a little about your character, Scarlet Witch.
OLSEN: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver, basically, they’re like vagabonds. They are gypsies in Eastern Europe and have just had to use their own resources to get on. And the way we thought of Scarlet Witch’s costume is that she would just kind of grab things on the go, or he would maybe swipe things for her. They became sort of an amalgamation of not trying to put outfits together, but using the resources they have.
STRIPLV: Does Scarlet have a strong role in this film?
OLSEN: Joss, from the first Avengers, gets to inherit characters from all the different franchises, but he got to create us. And I know he was really interested in also creating in a female character that was strong, and like, a different silhouette was important to him, than everyone being in pants. It was fun to see our characters grow, because in the first script, it felt like we knew what the journey was, and what the arcs were, but it wasn’t fully created yet. And then as Joss… I don’t know if it was through conversation or just how… this just might be his process, but we started to grow and to expand and to become increasingly more relevant, which was really cool to see.

Puppetry of the Penis

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PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS

…or as it’s called in Australia—
Australian Genital Origami:
The amazing flexibility of the human penis, testicles and scrotum

By Marla Santos

“The penis is the most beautiful part of the anatomy and there’s too much shame attached to it. This show makes a mockery of that, as it should.”—Simon Morley (brainchild of “PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS”)

So you’re all geeked about seeing some penises! Hilarious, but true. PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS is a jaw-dropping, comedic event that will make for polite (and sometimes not so perfectly polite) conversation on your ride home.

The ideal opening act, Kristeen Von Hagen, is a female comedian who is the warm-up act for the show, revving up the audience in preparation to open their minds and get ready for even more laughter to come. Her wonderfully twisted look from the female perspective helped in opening the Toronto show, as well, and aptly sets the pace for the night.

Okay, ready, set…penis! The show starts—Fitchy and Rich, the penis puppeteers, appear on stage with blue velvet spangled capes, big smiles and no pants. The audience is ready, and without further ado, off come the capes revealing the two men in their birthday suits. After a short warm-up of jumping jacks, Rich reveals the first “Dick Trick”: the “Woman.” The audience roars nervously, but by the second “Dick Trick” with comedy interspersed, people are roaring with laughter. The Jewel Box Theater makes for a wonderfully intimate showroom, so that the audience can get relatively close-up to the tricks. But did we forget to mention all the while during each limberly stretched dick trick, the penises are getting their “close-ups” on a giant video screen just behind them. “IMAX penis!” is what Simon Morley calls it. So each and every twisting trick can be seen up-close-and-personal on the giant high-quality video screen.

Fitchy and Rich headline the Vegas show, which recently opened inside The Jewel Box Theater inside the Erotic Heritage Museum, and they entertain the audience with more than 40 hilarious origami installations, including the “Pelican” the “Loch Ness Monster” and “The Kardashian”. The reaction on people’s faces in the audience, as they see two penises enlarged on a large screen are ridiculously funny, and even the people who are somewhat shocked, can’t contain their laughter.

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS is the brainchild of Simon Morley, an Australian mate who decided that playing with your penis could be “Art”. The oldest of four very competitive brothers, his youngest sibling showed him his first genital trick. The rivalry to compete ended up with a healthy repertoire of genital configurations now known as “Dick Tricks”. In 1996, Simon decided he wanted to document the Dick Tricks, and thought it would be perfect on a highbrow art calendar showcasing 12 of his favorite penis installations. In 1997, with a garage full of calendars titled “Puppetry of the Penis”, and mounting requests for live appearances, Simon finally decided to unleash his talent, or legendary Dick Tricks, on the world. Along with David “Friendly” Friend, also from Australia, the two became partners and performed over 20,000 penis tricks to over 1,525,000 people in 35 different countries and in five different languages.

We met up with puppeteer Fitchy, (pictured on the right) after the show. Fitchy is another Australian mate who has been performing in the show for over 12 years. He was friendly, open, and happy to answer our very pertinent questions.

STRIPLV: Do your friends and family back in Melbourne know what you do?
FITCHY: Yeah, yeah—yeah, oh yeah! They all know what I do. I’ve toured around Australia with the show, done it around Europe, the U.K., Scandinavia, as well.
STRIPLV: You’ve been in the show for quite a while. What year did you start?
FITCHY: I started the show in 2003.
STRIPLV: Tell me how that came about.
FITCHY: I knew about the show and I knew they were looking for puppeteers. I was in-between jobs at the time, and went to the audition. They seemed to like me and asked me to do a recall audition and I that’s where I met Friendly, the other originator of the show. He and the other producers thought I was okay, and shortly afterwards, I did a couple of week’s rehearsals, and have been doing the show on and off since then.
STRIPLV: Had you been doing any of these Dick Tricks before you went to the audition?
FITCHY: I’d messed around and done a couple of silly things, like stretching the scrotum, doing the “woman”, but nothing particular from the ones in the show. Yeah, I’d shuffled a few tricks before, but I’d never shown them to too many people though. I didn’t have a problem with nudity or performing on stage.
STRIPLV: What was that first time on stage like for you?
FITCHY: It was great. I’m a performer anyway, so it was fun being up there. It was in the U.K. and we had two sellout shows in one day. Unfortunately, the camera went down at the beginning of the show, the technician was running up and down the aisles and the girls were getting all excited, and I was less nervous about being naked than getting the tricks right. I wanted to perform the tricks accurately enough that they would enjoy them. I bantered with the girls to calm down, they got the camera fixed and then it was fine. It was a good show in front of 800 people, then we did a second one for another 800 people, and that was my introduction to Penis Puppetry.
STRIPLV: Your fellow puppeteer, Rich, is circumcised, but you are not. Does not being circumcised make it easier to perform some of the tricks?
FITCHY: Yes, being uncircumcised does. It allows me to do things like “The Eiffel Tower” and “The Baby Bird” when you use more foreskin—depending on how much you do and how much you have on your shaft, as well. Simon Morley is circumcised and yet he can do some of those tricks. Friendly, as well, can do them. Doing the show so often stretches things slightly, so you can do more. But yes, it’s easier for me to do those certain tricks than it is for Rich. Everyone’s equipment varies slightly, so everyone can do a couple of the tricks. It’s not necessarily down to the size, the length or whatever. 

STRIPLV: Has handling your penis every night caused you to become less sensitive?
FITCHY: No! (laughing) it hasn’t decreased sensitivity. And, if it did slightly, it helps with holding during sex, so it might benefit a woman. Everything works absolutely fine! We get that question: “Does it still work?” almost every night.
STRIPLV: Are you straight or gay and what are most of the men who come to audition?
FITCHY: I am straight. I think it’s a mixture of people [the audiences] here in Vegas. Generally most places in the world, there are more women. In Europe it’s a bit more balanced, and in the U.K. far more women, Australia has more women. Here in Vegas there’s been a nice mixture of men and women and gay and straight men. Men aren’t sure what to expect, but they’re enjoying it—when they get there and it’s not really puppets, just a naked man. Gay men get to see a lot of cocks, so it’s not as much of a surprise to them, but women haven’t seen as many and haven’t seen them stretched so much and many straight men haven’t thought to do it either. Audition-wise, more straight men audition, as far as I’m aware. I can’t speak for everywhere, but I’ve helped with auditions and it’s not a gay show for gay people, but for everyone. We don’t want just women coming to the show. We want everyone to come and see the crazy things we do with our genitals. Come and have a laugh. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, or bi, it’s for everyone. Don’t be offended—just have an open mind. We’re not sexual, just pure fun, just two guys on stage making shapes out of our genitals.
STRIPLV: Do both women and men proposition you after the show?
FITCHY: Occasionally. It doesn’t happen all that often. There’s a bit of banter, a bit of flirting, but not especially. I’ve met a few ladies after the show, but I wouldn’t say that a lot of people that come to the show flirt with us. We had some strippers in last week. We come out after the show and they can check us out and see what we look like.
STRIPLV: What advice would you give someone who is coming to audition for the show?
FITCHY: Be brave, be open and warm up and stretch. Hopefully you can practice some tricks beforehand or you’ll be taught some at the audition. Get comfortable with what you’ve got. Look online and try to do the “Hamburger”. Just have fun with it and enjoy it.
STRIPLV: Is the “Hamburger” one of the more difficult tricks?
FITCHY: It’s not that tricky. It’s just one of the better known ones. It was one of the first ones created by the Morley brothers in Simon’s family. It’s just the twisting part to the 90 degree, but it doesn’t hurt.
STRIPLV: Vegas is a great city for the show. What reactions are you getting?
FITCHY: We’re getting some great reactions. They’ve told us that their jaws are aching from laughing, or they’re going to practice with their husbands. We had a guy last night who bought the book with instructions on how to do the tricks, and he couldn’t wait to give it to the boys and letting them start to play.
STRIPLV: What’s your favorite thing to do in your free time?
FITCHY: I enjoy theater, movies, comedy in general, exercise, and trying to keep fit.
STRIPLV: What turns you on?
FITCHY: A good sense of humor, an attractive body and a smile is a wonderful thing.
STRIPLV: What turns you off?
FITCHY: Arrogant, disrespectful people.

PUPPETRY OF THE PENIS performs Wednesdays through Mondays at 8:00pm at The Jewel Box Theater inside The Erotic Heritage Museum located at 3275 Industrial Road, Las Vegas, 89109 • PuppetryOfThePenis.com

Pitch Perfect 2

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PICTURE PERFECT 2
Back to Pitch-Slap the World

The Barden Bellas are back to pitch-slap the world in Pitch Perfect 2, the Universal Pictures and Gold Circle Entertainment follow-up to 2012’s runaway global hit about a group of lovable misfits with only one thing in common: the irresistible way they sound when they’re seamlessly mixed together, mashed-up and arranged like never before.

It’s been three years since the Bellas (Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, Hailee Steinfeld, Brittany Snow) brought their signature vocals, style and attitude to become the first all-female group to win a national title. But when they get banned after a scandal that threatens to derail their last year at Barden, the three-time defending champs worry that this time they’ve lost their harmony for good.

With just one chance left at redeeming their legacy, the Bellas must fight for their right to win the World Championships of A Cappella in Copenhagen. And as they struggle to balance the pressures of musical domination with senior angst, it will take the power of sisterhood to find their voice and see what it takes to be the world’s top pitches.

Directed by Elizabeth Banks, co-star and producer of Pitch Perfect, and produced by Pitch Perfect’s Paul Brooks and Max Handelman and Banks, the comedy finds Kay Cannon back with the team, to pen the next chapter and co-produce.

ANNA KENDRICK – “BECA”
STRIPLV: Bring us up to speed on what’s gone on with the Barden Bellas.
ANNA KENDRICK: The Bellas are three-time champs. We’re doing this performance for the President, it goes badly wrong, and we have to find our way back to glory through going to the World’s and defeating the Germans.
STRIPLV: So they’ve raised the stakes for both your character and the Bellas?
ANNA KENDRICK: The stakes are higher. (smiling) Beca is trying to find her place at an internship with the hilarious and intimating Keegan-Michael Key, who was a joy to work with, like: “We wrapped and we’re sisters.” And I was like: “I still have to keep making this movie…” (whining, laughs) That was with Keegan and that was so much fun to have as the coda to my experience on this film, and (thinking out loud) right: ‘What’s the plot of the movie?’ The Bellas! You know the stakes are higher because… of that stuff that happens in the movie… ‘cause they get kicked out and they’re trying to get reinstated… through a very, very weird sort of set of by-laws, I guess. I saw the movie last night and I brought a friend, as he was like: “Why didn’t they initiate Emily into the Bellas until the end of the movie?” I was like: “You know, ‘cause they had to get reinstated, so they had to win the World’s. He was like: “Oh, I didn’t get that.”
STRIPLV: The first film was more of them finding each other, and this one?
ANNA KENDRICK: The first one felt intimate, and it was shot in a more intimate way, and the girls sort of felt like this sort of rag-tag team and this one is sort of pulled back and much glossier, much more polished. Yeah, I think there definitely are times where it doesn’t feel like the same group of girls, but hopefully there are scenes where it feels like we are still, uh, losers…that’s the goal. That’s my goal.
STRIPLV: Tell us about your German rivals: Das Sound Machine.
ANNA KENDRICK: DSM is so good! And it’s just movie magic and all, but like, oh, my God! They’re dancers! They’re dancers and they’re incredible, and it’s so much fun to watch them. Flula is so funny. Birgitte is like so funny, and so pretty—you just get lost in her eyes… It’s pretty good.
STRIPLV: And working with Hailee?
ANNA KENDRICK: Hailee is like an angel! She like, in real life, says things like: “Oh, my stars!” It’s crazy! Like, I want to put her in a bowl, and like, eat her up with sprinkles on it.
STRIPLV: What was it like working with the Green Bay Packers?
ANNA KENDRICK: That was another thing that brought me a lot of joy, was seeing the Green Bay Packers. Get low. They were just this source of joy and energy and commitment. Even in the rehearsal, they had a whole thing, they were like getting low, they were super into it, and they were like throwing a lot of winks at us while they were doing the dance. Wow, I loved it!
STRIPLV: (laughter) Why do you think this film resonates so much with people? Because the first one really resonated with such a large group of people and then this one as well, is really touching people’s hearts.
ANNA KENDRICK: Good! Yeah, the first one I think was about watching a group of women interact with each other and discover that they could be a support system for each other, and I think that that’s, you know, just a world that you want to live in. My favorite movies when I was younger were all sort of female-centric movies, and so I can understand why that would resonate. Hailee hadn’t seen Sister Act 2, and we showed it to her. And I’d just assumed that everybody had seen that movie, you know, because there’s so much in Picture Perfect and Picture Perfect 2 that’s like, really sort of eerily similar to something like that, and it’s like: “Right, but this generation needs that movie, I guess.”

ELIZABETH BANKS – “GAIL” / DIRECTOR
STRIPLV: Tell us about making your decision to direct and what it was like.
ELIZABETH BANKS: The studio came to me very early in the process and said: “We think that a young female director should take the reigns.” I said: “Oh, I’m so glad you think she’s young.” (laughing) It really was a culmination of work I’d been doing. I’d been wanting to direct a feature for a little while now, and had been directing smaller things here and there when I could, because as you know, I’m also an actor and I don’t always have the time and schedule to direct a feature. I knew I was going to be making the time to do this film as a producer, no matter what, so it just seemed the natural progression to take on the directing duties, as well. And really, I think, as with all things in Hollywood, the stars just sort of aligned for this one. When it looked like Jason’s other movie was gonna come together, and we made a list of who else could direct the movie, everyone just said: “The list is stupid. You should just do it.”
STRIPLV: How did you find it, this movie, as the director?
ELIZABETH BANKS: I loved it! I mean, I think I look back on it probably more fondly than I felt everyday working on it, but now that I’m on the other side of it, I’m really excited that I took it on. I really did enjoy it. I loved working with the crew especially, just collaborating with them on a daily basis… You know I’ve obviously worked with actors my whole career, and I love actors, and I’m so in love with all the actors in this film. But it was the crew all working toward the vision that really impressed me the most. I had so much fun with everyone.
STRIPLV: What did you especially enjoy about doing a sequel?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Sequels just allow us to spend a little more time with characters that people love and allow us to tell more of their story. It’s really fun to go back and think about where these women would be at three years later. And I think the notion of graduation… the first movie was about them coming together and being freshmen and forming these bonds. Now this film is about them breaking apart, going their separate ways again, leaving the nest and the anxiety that goes along with that, and the legacy you leave with your friends and the people that you leave behind.
STRIPLV: How are the stakes even higher this time for the Bellas?
ELIZABETH BANKS: In the first film, the Barden Bellas are sort of big fish in a small pond. The whole setting on the college campus, it’s the boys against the girls, and it feels young and bright and fresh, and everything that it’s supposed to feel. But I really wanted the second movie, because the women are now graduating, older, looking at life after the Bellas, looking at the big world, I wanted the movie to be the big world. So I wanted the pond to be an ocean, and I wanted them to be guppies again, with sharks swimming around them. And that was really my main goal. I wanted to feel like everything was bigger, that they were meeting a lot of adults. All the new cameos in this film are bonafide grownups. You know, the “riff-off” from the first film, which was in the pool at night with the other collegiate groups—very sweet and cool. This one is like a fight club, you know, an underground, dark, much scarier event with real grownups as their competitors. So I wanted to be constantly on theme that these women are graduating from Barden Bellas to Bellas for Life, and that we were telling a story in that transitional time, when you go from being a big fish, a senior on your college campus, to having to start over again.
STRIPLV: You gotta grow up!
ELIZABETH BANKS: (laughing) You gotta grow up! Everybody’s gotta start over all the time—constantly starting over.
STRIPLV: So where are the Bellas at the start of the sequel?
ELIZABETH BANKS: The Barden Bellas are three-time national champions who have been invited to perform for the President of the United States at his birthday celebration at the Kennedy Center. It’s a performance that goes wrong and immediately makes our Bellas underdogs again in the world of a cappella, or as Chloe says: “Laughing-stock-a-pellas.” They are now kicked out of collegiate competition, but they realize that they can still compete at the professional level. They register and go to the World A Cappella Championships in Denmark at the end of this film to face their new arch nemeses, Das Sound Machine, who have come to America to take over the Bellas victory tour, which they are no longer allowed to partake in for fear that their performances will continue to go wrong. Then the journey goes from there, and it’s about sort of winning back their dignity, their pride and their place in the a cappella pantheon.
STRIPLV: What are your favorite performances or songs in this and why?
ELIZABETH BANKS: I mean, I handpicked everything, so… they’re all my favorite. I really couldn’t pick. I had a lot of fun shooting DSM. It’s kinda not fair, because we cast a lot of that group with professional dancers. They’re completely amazing as a unit. I think the choreography that they do is incredible. But it wasn’t quite fair. We had to make the Barden Bellas the underdogs, and the best way to do that was to create a group that was even better.
STRIPLV: What was important to you when picking the music and the mashups?
ELIZABETH BANKS: I just didn’t want to tarnish the legacy of the first film—that was my biggest concern with the entire movie, but especially with the music. I think Jason Moore did such an incredible job putting the music together on the first film, I wanted there to be really specific sound differences between The Bellas and DSM—they’re rivals. So I was picking music for Das Sound Machine that had a rock edge in it and some electronica in it, bringing in the European flavor. There are eighteen members of that group, so we had a lot of fun just playing with the arrangements and what you can do vocally with eighteen voices. It’s really incredible and it sounds absolutely amazing and they do mash-ups. Much more sophisticated, layered music than the first film, but the sensibility of it has not changed. I feel like some people don’t realize that this ”Tsunami” song is mashed into the original song, but there is so much going on musicially in that song. It’s a huge accomplishment to put that stuff together, and to arrange it a capella, and to make all those sounds with your mouth. It’s incredible. Every sound is made by a human being. Most people don’t believe us, but it’s true.
STRIPLV: Tell us about all your new people.
ELIZABETH BANKS: In the script, Flula’s role was actually written for a woman. And it was sort of like a doppleganger of a German Fat Amy. And I felt like Fat Amy didn’t need any competition in the movie, and I also felt like one of the ways that she works really well is with like interesting sexual tension, (laughter) and I wanted to give her a boy to play off of, and frankly, Flula just came in, and he’s so interesting and original and I feel like our movie is so original and unique, that I just wanted to populate it with really unique performers. David Cross is one of them, Reggie Watts, you know, Fitz, who’s an incredible beat boxer—just trying to populate the world with as many of those super unique individuals as possible. It just gives so much texture to a movie, and Flula brought that in spades. He just walked into the room. He was completely not right for what was written on the page, so we just threw out the page and said: “Let’s just write for Flula.”
STRIPLV: And you’ve got Hailee, and like you said, all these amazing cameos…
ELIZABETH BANKS: Yeah. Hailee… that was a long time in the making, because we probably saw 100 girls. She was making a movie while we were casting, so she was sort of unavailable to even think about being in this film. And then finally as she was wrapping up that movie, she sorta raised her hand and said: “I might like to do that.” And I was like: “Yay, I love that girl! Let’s see!” And then, you know she’s such an incredible singer! She’s just got so much charm. She brought that exact feeling of like the “little sister” that I wanted. She’s meant to be sort of the next generation—the little sister. And you really feel that dynamic. She’s seventeen, you know—it was really amazing. 

STRIPLV: So glad you brought Anna Camp back!
ELIZABETH BANKS: We always knew we wanted to bring Anna Camp back, but also to give the Bellas an excuse to sleep out in the woods and be really physical. (chuckles) I felt like a lot of the humor in the first film was great, so many jokes, but I really wanted to expand the world into more physical humor this time around. And the camp let us do that in spades. We happened to shoot it first up and it really is about team building and it really is about overcoming your fears. So many of these girls did not want to…they’re afraid of heights, or they didn’t want to do this, or they didn’t want to get wet, or they can’t swim…and we got everybody up high, in water, over things… It was just incredible, like everybody’s commitment to it. So, they all got to play and work together as a team and it really was fun. The whole crew had a good time, and it was an awesome way to kick off the movie and the footage is incredible.
STRIPLV: Tell us about working with Rebel Wilson.
ELIZABETH BANKS: We knew when Rebel very first walked in the door on the first film that she was Fat Amy. There was no other Fat Amy. She owned it from minute one, and really saw the opportunity to play this charismatic, confident woman that never thinks about her size at all. I just love that about her, and everyone loves that about her. It’s very true to her. She really is someone who is proving every day that your body type doesn’t determine your fate in life. She’s really gonna inspire a lot of people with the physicality of what she does in this film too, with the dancing and singing. Giving her a love story was really important to me. I really felt like she deserved it and they have great chemistry and it’s really fun.
STRIPLV: Why do you like this film so much?
ELIZABETH BANKS: I love first all of that it’s a story about amazing, interesting women who are really funny. It’s an underdog story, which I always find compelling, and most importantly, it’s very joyful. I think this film resonates with people because of the sense of teamwork and camaraderie that comes with bringing a bunch of people together, in this case a bunch of misfits, and accomplishing a goal. I think if you’ve ever been on a team, you understand that dynamic. And then it’s just wickedly funny. It’s very surprising, the humor in it, and very joyful. There is nothing mean-spirited in this movie. There’s just a true sense of people doing something they love.
STRIPLV: Most outrageous line you enjoyed seeing someone say?
ELIZABETH BANKS: Well, Gail and John definitely said the most outrageous things, and most of them are on the cutting room floor. But they’ll be on the DVD Extras! (pointing and smiling) We put together a whole line-a-rama for the DVD Extras. All I can say is that they involve large body parts…male anatomy…a bit of that. (laughter)

REBEL WILSON – “FAT AMY”
STRIPLV: Where do the Barden Bellas pick back up in this film?
REBEL WILSON: It’s three years later. We’ve won the ICCA’s like three times, like (hand-gesturing) “three-peat.” We’re pretty much legends in the a cappella world…we’re unbeatable. Then we get to perform for the President, Mr. Obama, and we basically fall from grace. We really embarrass ourselves. I have nothing to do with it. It’s the other girls that are embarrassing. We really become the underdogs once more, going into this world championship competition, where we meet these new rivals, the German team called DSM, Das Sound Machine, and they are amazing. And we thought we were good, but then we met them and we thought: “Oh gosh, this is going to be a challenge.” So you follow our adventures leading up to the world championships. And do we win? You’ll have to see.
STRIPLV: What’s the skinny on you and Bumper this time around?
REBEL WILSON: This time around, I think they thought people really want to see that Bumper and Fat Amy relationship. So weirdly, I have the love story in this movie, and it’s very lovely, and erotic, and sexy. There’s a lot of gross... some people might say our affair is, but I think people will find it very funny, the culmination of what happens with Fat Amy and Bumper in this movie.
STRIPLV: You two make such a great pair!
REBEL WILSON: The cool thing about being paired with Adam DeVine is that we both kinda come from a similar background in comedy, so we both had experience doing stand-up and doing sketch and doing improv. So it’s really cool to do two-handed scenes with Adam, because we can both just go-go-go-go-go. And some takes, like the scenes you’ll see under the gazebo, I think we did 20 minute takes, every time, and we’d just keep going at it. We would just go and go until Elizabeth finally yells “cut.” And, sometimes she doesn’t. She just let’s us go. It’s cool, because we love improvising stuff together. So hopefully all the good bits make it into the movie.
STRIPLV: What was it like working with Emily, played by Hailee Steinfeld?
REBEL WILSON: Emily is the newest Bella to join the group. She’s such a sweetheart. I love her character. She’s so sweet. She’s an amazing singer as well, as a character and in real life. I think Hailee is just a great addition to the group, because she’s younger than us. We can be slack to her and pay out on her, and it’s hilarious. What’s she going to do? We’re older, we’re seniors and she’s… a freshman, yeah, like we were in the first movie, and Aubrey would pay out on us. But now we have someone younger to make fun of. She’s so sweet and I love that we have her in our cast.
STRIPLV: What reaction do you expect the audiences to have of the sequel?
REBEL WILSON: I think audiences are going to love Pitch Perfect 2, because it’s a lot bigger than the first one. In the first movie we’re just doing ICCA championships on a more local level, but in this one, because it’s the World Championships, just the stakes are so much higher. So the musical performances are just huger…is that even a word?… It’s not proper English, but who cares, I’m from Australia. They’re just bigger and better, I think, the musical routines. I think there’s so much comedy, and intertwined with really good performances and really great heartfelt moments.

BRITTANY SNOW – “CHLOE”
STRIPLV: Where do we find your character, Chloe, as the film picks back up?
BRITTANY SNOW: I play Chloe, and Chloe is a member of the Barden Bellas, but she is what they call a “super senior” in the sequel, because she is so passionate about singing and about being a Bella, that she has intentionally failed college three times so she can stay in the Bellas, which I find hilarious, because I was always wondering how I was going to be in the second one, and I was worried if I was. Then when they told me she was going to be intentionally failing because she’s so desperate to be part of the group and get to sing, I found that endearing and very hilarious.
STRIPLV: Tell us about your new additions: Hailee and Chrissie.
BRITTANY SNOW: We are so, so blessed that these girls are actually the real deal. I mean they’re the coolest girls. I’m pretty sure that Hailee and Chrissie will be friends of mine forever. Chrissie Fit plays Flo and Hailee Steinfeld plays Emily, and it’s always hard going into a group of girls who’ve been together for a long time since the first movie. And they fit right in. I’m pretty sure that Hailee is the smartest person in the world. She’s seventeen, but she is so self-aware and genuine, and just really has it all figured out. And Chrissie is, I think, an extension of me and my personality and we get along so well. They just fit right in to the dynamic of us girls, and they’re so extremely talented.
STRIPLV: What was it like working with the Green Bay Packers?
BRITTANY SNOW: The funny thing about the Green Bay Packers is, I didn’t know this, but they are huge fans of the movie to the point where it’s a little weird, but we love them. Now we’re friends with them, which is one of my coolest things. They love Pitch Perfect and can quote the whole thing. They can sing the entire songs backwards and forwards. So, they were all for it. They went all out for the singing and dancing. They really sing and they’re really dancing. Clay Mathews is really acting and well, so it was cool. It was really cool to see.
STRIPLV: What can fans look forward to when going to see the sequel?
BRITTANY SNOW: They have the same characters to look forward to that you know and love, but everything is pushed a little bit more. I think that everybody kind of just goes for it in this one. The first one was really funny, but this one’s even just a little wrong, I guess, in a couple ways. My character has completely lost her mind so you can look forward to that and she’s a complete nut case. I think also it’s just the same characters that you’ve attached yourself to, but a lot bigger and crazier.

INTERVIEW MASH-UP
REBEL WILSON AND ADAM DEVINE
STRIPLV: So what’s new in this film?
REBEL WILSON: We get to perform for the President, and unfortunately, there’s what I call a “wardrobe malfunction.” Let’s just say it’s just a “flashy” opening to the movie. I’m wearing a unitard and it consciously uncouples. It can’t hold my girl power.
ADAM DEVINE: (laughter) Her girl power exploded through. And Bumper’s baaaack! He’s been fired from being John Mayer’s backup singer. He may have accidently gotten into his [Mayer’s] closet and stolen a leather jacket because he wants to be just like John. He’s now working security at the campus.
STRIPLV: You two have real chemistry. Tell us some spicy updates in your relationship.
REBEL WILSON: We’ve both done standup, improv, sketch, nude scenes…
ADAM DEVINE: A ton of nude work…
REBEL WILSON: Just a similar background and professional experience…
ADAM DEVINE: Nude work mostly!
STRIPLV: Tell me about what it’s like working with Elizabeth Banks directing?
ADAM DEVINE: She’s great! She was so cool about our scenes. She let us do whatever and have fun with it. We’d do it a couple of times with what was written and then she’d tell us to get weird with it. And, we did.
REBEL WILSON: Some outtakes went for 20 to 30 minutes in that gazebo scene.
ADAM DEVINE: Yeah, we were hard acting there.
REBEL WILSON: (laughing) I think only a small percentage of nudity will make it into the film, but I hope on the DVD more (hand-gesturing “having sex”) …of our improvising. (busting out laughing)

Doug Leferovich - Wizard of Ahh's

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DOUG LEFEROVICH
Wizard of Ahh's

Interview and Photography by Santodonato

Styling- Jeffrey DeBarathy and Georgia Richardson

Dorothy Model- Lisa Marie Smith

Prop Master- Mark Bennick

Shot on location at:
Tim Clothier's Illusion Projects, Inc.

Over the past five years, Douglas Leferovich has made quite a name for himself with producers and shows here in Las Vegas. 

Leferovich has been a consultant and go-to-guy for a vast variety of live shows here on the Las Vegas Strip. Some of the recent shows include The Jacksons, Boyz II Men, Meat Loaf, Human Nature, Name That Tune, Wayne Newton, Recycled Percussion, Greg London, Sapphire Comedy Hour, Divas Las Vegas, Steve Wyrick, and of course Murray Sawchuck, in which Leferovich also plays the hilarious and sleight-of-hand sidekick, “Lefty.” I had a chance to sit down with my friend over lunch and chat about his background, his thoughts on entertainment and Las Vegas, and what the future holds for this talented wizard behind-the-scenes, and who many call the “Wizard of Ahh’s,” if you will.

SANTODONATO: So where in New York were you born?
LEFEROVICH: Just outside the city, about 30 minutes, in Bronxville, New York.
SANTODONATO: You spent your whole life there?
LEFEROVICH: Yeah, until I was 18 – then I went to college at University of Pennsylvania Business School in Philadelphia, which was interesting because, as I got older, I spent time going into New York City… But even though University of Pennsylvania is an Ivy League school and it is a very good school—it is a very, very rough neighborhood. It’s an interesting juxtaposition of these kids that are very well-off that are going to this school, and yet there’s a lot of poverty in Philadelphia. And you’re in West Philly – different than Yale University, which is a gated university, where you get a universal key, and then when you go into certain areas, you have to have a key to get in. I mean it’s a little bit of a false sense of a security, because obviously you could just follow someone in. But yeah, the third day I was there, freshman year, someone got held up at gunpoint. And I got held up at gunpoint!
SANTODONATO: How fucked up is that?! How old were you when you got held up?
LEFEROVICH: 20 – senior year. Went to an ATM with a buddy, was gonna go to a bar, and put the card in the ATM, came out, went around the corner – gun in the back. Someone was like: “Give me your money!” They took the wallet. “Keep walking, don’t turn around.” We walked right to a police station, and they were like: “What kind of gun was it?” I’m like, “The kind of gun it was—was in my back—that’s what kind of gun it was!” I didn’t have the time to turn around and go, “What kind of gun is that?” Now what’s ironic is—because I grew up in the city—and my dad told me this trick a long time ago: When I would go into the city, I would bring a dummy wallet. So I would have expired credit cards, and I would have cash in it—but I wouldn’t have anything in it—so that way, God forbid, if it got stolen or whatever… 
SANTODONATO: Was your dad into magic too — or in entertainment?
LEFEROVICH: No, ironically, my dad was a lawyer, which is similar to magic—lying and deceit. (laughter) My dad was, actually for 23 years, General Counsel for the New York State’s Bankers Association. So that means, when the top five banks in New York had a legal question, they would call my dad. So my dad had a very important job—a lot of time working—a lot of time on the phone. He’d go to Albany for different conventions. When my mom had my brother and I, my mom stopped working to raise my brother and I. When my mom was younger she was very athletic and she actually for a little bit of time played tennis professionally. She and her sister played tennis, and a lot of times that’s how they met boys. They would go and play tennis—and they’d be playing singles, and there would be boys playing next to them—and they’d say: “Hey, do you want to play mixed doubles?” And that was a way to meet them. So growing up, I’ve played tennis all my life. My mother never wanted me to play competitive—she always wanted me to play for fun. So when I play tennis, you can hit a good shot, and I’ll go: “Good shot!” It’s not a competitive thing for me. But growing up, my mom did schoolwork with us, sports… And at a very young age, my mom said to my dad: “You need to find something—that’s something you do with the boys—that’s your thing—that the boys look forward to—that they can say: “Oh, I’m doing this with my dad.” So when my dad was younger, he was at a YMCA camp, and his counselor did like some fun magic tricks. There was a well-known magic store in New York City that was a couple of blocks away from where my dad worked. So he got some tricks, came home, and it became something that we started doing as a family. So my grandmother would come over, and it would be her birthday—and we’d put on a little show. It would be Christmas—and we’d put on a little show. Never started off as a career, more as something that we did as a family. For me, I was always naturally good at it. It just came very easy to me—performing. I feel like I’m a very visual person—I’m very good at puzzles. So I always looked at magic as a puzzle—how to figure it out. When I started getting older, my dad would buy a trick. He’d learn it, and then when he showed it to me, I’d say: “Don’t tell me how to do it—I want to try to figure it out on my own.” So as we got older, we started doing shows. So the neighbor said, “Our son’s having a birthday. Maybe they can come over and do a show. I’ll pay you $35.” So it really wasn’t something that we did to make money. Of course, ironically, my brother and I split the money, and my dad lost money, because he bought all the tricks. But it became something really fun that we did. Growing up, when my other friends got regular jobs—a paper route, bagging groceries at a grocery store—my brother and I did shows. So yeah, it was very cool.
SANTODONATO: How old were you when you did your first show?
LEFEROVICH: I was four. It was for my pre-kindergarten class. My dad did most of the tricks. My brother, who is two years older, did a couple, and I did one trick. I had on a green turtleneck, corduroy pants and a black plastic derby, and I had a yellow and green silk that were tied together—and I passed it through my hand three times, and it turned into a red and blue silk. And then I bowed. No one clapped, and I ran over and started crying to my mom. So that was my first experience. “Welcome to showbiz!” My dad would never be like: “Great job!” He would always say: “It was good—but you know what? You can work on this.” He said to me once when I was young: “I want to treat you almost like a rubber band, where I always want you to stretch. I always want you to try to get better. I never want to say: ‘You did great. It was perfect,’ because I never want you to stop growing.” My mom, obviously, complete opposite—biggest fan—nothing I could do wrong. And it’s nice to have that balance, because as an entertainer, I feel like you are somewhat fragile. You’re putting yourself out there. I feel like over time I’ve learned to become somewhat desensitized to the criticism. I feel like, if I put my best performance out there, some people are gonna like it; some people aren’t. I feel like, if you’re a critic and you love everything, then what are you doing as a job? When I look at Mike Weatherford—and he’s hard on someone in a review, I go: “Well, he’s gotta be, because you can’t be nice to everybody.”
SANTODONATO: How did you get into consulting and production, and did it mainly start here in Vegas?
LEFEROVICH: My major in college was communications, marketing and advertising. And I feel like I always had a knack. When I’d watch a TV commercial, I’d say: “You know what would make this commercial better?” or: “You know, that jingle could have been better.” In the marketing classes, I felt like what made me excel was my creativity. Obviously, having a performance background helped a lot. As we got into higher levels of marketing and advertising classes, a big part of your grade was dependent on a presentation. One thing was you had to open up a business on campus. At Penn, the alcohol laws last call was 1:30am. So my group opened up a place called “Shakes”. In the window storefront, we were gonna have like 50 different flavors of ice cream and we were gonna be open all day, plus open from 1:00 in the morning to 5:00 in the morning. So when you’re out partying ‘til whenever, you could come by and get a shake. So the hook to get people in was shakes—but then you had fried food and whatever. Because of my magic background, speaking in front of people was never really a problem—so when we had to break up into groups—people always wanted me in their group. I’d help with their concept, but they’d say: “You don’t have to do any of the number crunching, as long as you present.”
SANTODONATO: What’s the biggest budget show you’ve worked on recently?
LEFEROVICH: Meatloaf and The Jacksons.
SANTODONATO: How were The Jacksons to work with?

LEFEROVICH: It’s so crazy growing up being such a fan of Michael Jackson and The Jacksons. It got to the point, when I was working on the show, I was talking to them 3-4 times a week. Marlon was very hands-on. And it’s funny now looking back…
SANTODONATO: And was Meatloaf was fun to work with?
LEFEROVICH: Yes, very, very clear vision. I suppose that some people are a little more open to suggestions. He had a very clear idea of what he wanted, which you just have to be able to adapt your style to what the client is. Someone said to me once: “You’re like the Wizard of Oz—like, people don’t realize all that goes on.
SANTODONATO: Normal Joe public doesn’t even think on that level. 
LEFEROVICH: It’s the same for you. Most people go: “You take some pictures, you write an article. How hard can it be to put a magazine together? People have no concept… you have to have content every month… How does it layout? Do I have to make this article longer to fit a page to fill this in? Or even photography… How many times do I look at a great picture and go: “Would it have been as great if it was in black and white?” The way you crop a picture…
SANTODONATO: It’s production… like what you said—how do you get in and out of it?
LEFEROVICH: Or as you know, how many times is it the last four pictures that are the pictures you use? I’ve always been about the quantity, where when I work on a project, I’ll give you a hundred ideas. Hopefully, you think one or two are gems, you think five to ten are really good, and the rest you go, “Nope, I don’t need them.” When you do a photo shoot—you might take a hundred photos… to get that one, great one. People don’t realize…
SANTODONATO: Sometimes a thousand. 
LEFEROVICH: Yes!
SANTODONATO: Just going through the goddamn photos… It’s a couple days work just to pick the pictures, before you even start working on them. When you’re putting together a show like the Murray SawChuck show—how often, and how much do you rehearse to get your chops so that show’s flowing so well?
LEFEROVICH: It helps that we are best friends.
SANTODONATO: When did you first start working together?
LEFEROVICH: I think 15 or 16 years ago.
SANTODONATO: Did you meet in New York?
LEFEROVICH: My old business partner and I were living in New Jersey working on our big show in Atlantic City. We performed at the Tropicana, different resorts and casinos, and did our big show at The Sands. Murray came in town for a magic convention. He was the opening act at the convention, and my old business partner and I were the closing act. What a lot of people don’t realize is, when you’re not at David Copperfield’s level, making the money he does—even though he’s very hands-on—it’s amazing how you have to be good at a lot of different things. You have to wear a lot of different hats. You’re making your own phone calls. You’re your own publicist. You’re your own lighting designer, in the sense that you’re telling the lighting person what you want the lighting to be. It’s amazing how many magicians can sew, because you’re at a gig—a pocket rips, a button pops off—how do you fix it? Amazing how many magicians are very good with their hands as builders—soldering things—because you get somewhere, something breaks—you have to be able to fix it. So I feel like we bonded, because on the show we were the two most professional acts, but I felt like we were sort of going in the same direction, the same path, in terms of trying to get to the next level. And he had a very good work ethic, like we did. So for many years, we would pass gigs back and forth. You know, you get a call for a gig and then you get a call for a gig the same week—couldn’t do it. “Oh, let me recommend somebody.” That way you get to keep it in the family. After our show in Atlantic City I moved out to Vegas, and then two weeks later he came out to Vegas, and he had a show at the Frontier. They gave him a suite for two weeks. I had an apartment. I had a girlfriend at the time on the East Coast. He was married at the time.
SANTODONATO: Did you just move out here on a whim? Did you have a gig that brought you out here?
LEFEROVICH: We were like, “Oh my God, Vegas is where we need to go to book our show.” When we were in Atlantic City, it was at the end of an era where they paid for shows. We came out here, we pitched, we had a handshake deal to be the afternoon show at New York New York, when “Lord of the Dance” was the night show. Then at the eleventh hour, Cirque came in and said, “We’ll spend whatever, 30-40 million dollars. We’ll redo your theater and bring in a topless sexy Cirque show. 
SANTODONATO: On Meatloaf and The Jacksons, what did you create for 
those two shows—was it magic-based?
LEFEROVICH: The Jacksons was magic-based. When I watched footage of them on tour, when they started the show, they just walked out onstage. I said, “There’s gotta be a better way to get you onstage, so there’s not that awkward moment where you guys just walk out.” So we created an effect where there was an oversized frame with a bunch of black and white images in the frame of The Jacksons through the years. So the frame lowered in, then there was a frame inside of the frame and the inner frame spun, and then four jackets lowered in above the frame, and they lowered in behind the frame, and they were attached to a sign that said, “The Jacksons”. Then, behind the frame, it got backlit and then you saw them, and when the frame flew out, they were wearing the jackets. It was a cool way for them to get on stage. With Meatloaf, he had an idea where he was playing this character from one of his movies that was a silly, happy-go-lucky guy and he was explaining the concept of the show: “This is gonna be me telling stories about my life. This isn’t gonna be one of those Cirque du Soleil shows… you’re not gonna see someone come out and eat fire.” And he’s downstage at the edge, talking to the audience, and someone comes out, eats fire, and runs across the stage, and people laughed, and he goes: “Oh, you think that’s funny? Well, if I was gonna have a variety act, I’d have someone come out and juggle meat cleavers.” Someone comes out, juggles meat cleavers. So then he had clowns, and this and that. Well, I helped cast all those acts, because it’s cheaper to get people in town. But how do you go: “I need a fire eater, I need a silk person, I need this and that”? Now, we did an audition, but there was a lot of people there that I called because I knew them. Being in entertainment you say, “Hey, I know somebody’s who a clown—do you know anyone else who’s got Ringling Bros. experience?” So it helps.
SANTODONATO: So, you conceptualized how the Jacksons were going to get on stage. How hands-on are you in developing how it’s going to work? Do you guys build some of your tricks, as well? 
LEFEROVICH: Some of the smaller stuff, yes. The bigger stuff that’s costing $15-$20-$30-grand: I have one illusion builder, who is a very good fabricator. His primary business is building magic illusions, but he built all the props for Name That Tune. I’d sit down, and for example, like that dry erase board, in my head I’d go, here’s what I see: “I see us starting at a 45, I see it lowering, and I see a frame within a frame that I can pivot in place.” And then, part of what his specialty is, is figuring out: “How does it go from this position? How does the pin pull?” I don’t figure out the technical stuff. I work with him on design. All his stuff now is on CAD. And what’s amazing, is because of Auto CAD and technology, when he builds a prop, it is unbelievable how it looks like exactly like the Auto CAD. It’s not like you’re sketching on a napkin and go: “Oh… I didn’t think it was gonna be like that. I didn’t realize it was gonna be so big.” 
SANTODONATO: Right—you’re not pulling a Spinal Tap moment.
LEFEROVICH: (laughter) Right! And he’ll put a representation of a person 5 foot 10, and you’ll get a perspective on how big something is.
SANTODONATO: And how do you work with Murray?
LEFEROVICH: Murray’s very good at saying, “I’ve got an idea 75-80% of the way. To get it to 100%, we’ve got to do it in front of an audience. I’ve got to put it in the show.” Murray’s mentality, which is very interesting, is, he goes: “Sometimes I have to put in a joke or a trick, and I have to bomb it, or it not go well, for me to figure out what the timing is with the audience.” Because without the audience’s reaction, how do you know if it works? Sometimes you come up with an idea, and you think:

“Oh, my God, this is gonna be amazing.” And people go: “Yeah, it’s okay…” So sometimes you have to be able to leave away your personal feelings, to go: “What does the audience want?” But I feel like where we’re lucky is he’s created a brand and a character onstage, and he’s helped me develop my brand and character of “LEFEROVICH”. So what makes it easy for us is when we come up with an idea and we put something new into the show, it’s easy to know what we’re supposed to do, because we know what our characters are. If something ever goes wrong, I know… If he drops something onstage by accident, I know he’s gonna look at me and go: “Uh… You gonna pick that up?” And I’m gonna go, “Oh, my God! I gotta go pick that up for you!” Because we know each other’s characters and how they would react, it makes it so much easier. But even to this day, when I do the card manipulation in the show, I still practice about 45 minutes before the show—breaking the cards in every day. It’s very much like a dancer, where they stretch and warm-up before a show… I warm-up my hands, I break the cards in. I give the cards what I call “memory”—where, when I do the routine over and over again, and I’m bending the cards a certain way, I’m bending the cards the way I need them to bend. 
SANTODONATO: So you use new cards every day?
LEFEROVICH: Yes. And it’s interesting now, being at Planet Hollywood, the cards are actually a little bit thinner than the Tropicana (smiling) and it’s amazing how I can only do part of the routine less, because the cards are thinner—because my fingers got stronger with a thicker card at the Trop. So now, when I use the Planet Hollywood cards, there’s certain parts I can’t do as much. And it’s weird… I mean, every day I’m playing with playing cards, so you can tell. Even if it’s a slight difference, it’s amazing how you can tell.
SANTODONATO: Do you use the casino’s cards because they don’t want you to use a generic deck of cards?
LEFEROVICH: I always did it because we always got the cards for free. And after every show, at least 30 people asked us to sign the card. So it’s great branding for the hotel. I remember doing a show once, which was a private event. It was a couple of hundred people, carpet… and they said: “Oh well, you know… after the show, are you gonna go out and pick up the cards?” I go: “I guarantee you, at the end of the show, there will not be one playing card,” because it’s a cool souvenir. People don’t realize it’s one of the few things where the magic is actually me, not the cards. So I can go to Walgreen’s or anywhere and buy a deck of cards and do the same routine. So I think part of the novelty is people want to touch the card, because they think maybe the cards are the magic. They don’t realize it’s me spending hours and years practicing. 
SANTODONATO: So what’s the hardest thing? Sleight-of-hand?
LEFEROVICH: I feel like it is, because it’s somewhat raw and stripped down. Like Murray does a thing now in the show where he escapes from Houdini handcuffs, and he says: “A lot of times you see a magician put his hands in a box, or he gets covered with a cloth. You think he like pops the handcuffs open with a button.” And he goes: “Today, I’m gonna show you, how I’m gonna escape. I’m gonna borrow a bobby pin from Chloe, and you’re gonna watch me pick the lock. The music starts and he actually sits there and he picks the lock, and he pops it open. And to me, I almost find that people think that’s more amazing—because they’re seeing it firsthand. You know, it’s like when I take a coin and I put it in your hand, and you close your hand and then you open it up and it’s gone. It’s more real because it’s in your hand. It’s intimate. Sometimes people go: “Oh, well… if I was on stage… with all that smoke and the lights and all… I could point… You’re not even really doing anything.” One of the reasons why people really enjoy the show is because we’re in a 300-seat intimate theater and they’re close. The stuff we’re doing is more amazing because you’re so close. So many times you see a magic show, and you’re far away, and you go: “Ah, if I was up close, I could figure out how it was done.” But because we’re doing stuff so close to the audience, I feel like there’s more of a “Wow” factor. There was a week at the Orleans where there was this talented singer, John Stephan, who was doing this Roy Orbison tribute. So I’m helping with the staging. I’m helping him because he’s from out of the country, asking him, “What do you need?” And he says to me, “I really want to have this one thing… and I don’t know if you can do it or not… but I want this one part of this song, where I end the song and rose petals fall. Is that something you can do?” I said, “Give me an hour.” He said, “What?!” I go: “Give me an hour.” In an hour, I go: “So, we can get rose petals, fire retardant paper, pink, white, red.” I said, “It can be done manually, at fan. I got three places in town.” He’s like: “It’s almost like you’re a drug dealer! Like I just ask you what I want.” I go: “If you have the money, I can probably get you anything you want.” And it’s amazing how over time I’ve established relationships with a lot of vendors in town. I can get you pretty close to your vision. But he couldn’t believe it. But the first time the rose petals blew out over the audience… You know, you forget. Why would he think: ‘Oh, it’s paper…it’s got to be fire retardant.’? But it has to be. People don’t realize, when they go to see Blue Man, when that paper goes over the audience, all that paper is fire retardant, because God forbid, that paper were to catch on fire, the whole theater would go up. 
SANTODONATO: Is it difficult to have a relationship while being in entertainment?
LEFEROVICH: Yeah, it’s tough. I’ve dated people in the business who definitely understand certain aspects of it. And then I’ve dated people not in the business who understand other aspects of it, but they don’t get things, where sometimes you have access to a theater at weird hours… And it’s not that I don’t want to spend time with you, or I don’t want to go to dinner with your friends—this is when we have the time. I remember working on Boyz II Men. When I was lighting the show, there were times when they would do the show, and they’d have a comedian after, and we would go in at 1:00 in the morning, and light till 4 or 5:00am, and then get up and be back by 8:00 in the morning and keep lighting—just because that’s when the theater was available. During the day they use it for convention space and presentations, and then they have shows… You gotta get in there when you can. It’s easier now, because I’m not traveling so much. There was a time when I was traveling a lot, doing shows all over the world. And it’s tough when you have a job, for anyone—it doesn’t matter what your profession—if you’re traveling a lot, it’s hard to start a relationship. When you don’t see the person on a regular basis, it’s hard. And it’s a tough town… (smiling)
SANTODONATO: There are a lot of characters here, that’s for sure. 
LEFEROVICH: (chuckles) Oh, yeah.
SANTODONATO: So comedy wasn’t always a part of your work?
LEFEROVICH: No. It’s not something that I always did. So when somebody says, “Oh, I thought the magic was great,” it’s still nice to hear, but it’s something I’ve worked on my whole life. So to go out on stage and do comedy bits with Murray, where I don’t have anything in my pockets, with no trick… I’m going out and doing a funny dance, or making a funny expression, or how I act, especially because I don’t speak on stage—I spend time reading the autobiography of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, watching old films like The Keystone Cops. You watch how, to me, all that comedy is timeless and still funny today. And because Vegas is an international market, it works with any language. When I do my comedy, you don’t have to speak English to understand what’s going on. And what’s interesting is, because of my facial expressions, the way we interact and the music—there are times where we speak to people after the show and they don’t even realize I’m not speaking. Because you see us interacting, and you know what I’m thinking or how I feel because of my expression, even though I’m not saying something. Sometimes I feel like people pay more attention because I’m not speaking—because if you’re watching someone and they’re talking, if you drop something and you pick it up, they’re just talking, you can just keep hearing what they’re saying—as opposed to me—if you look away, you’re missing what’s going on. It really focuses people to watch what I’m doing.
SANTODONATO: How’s the move working out at Planet Hollywood?
LEFEROVICH: It’s been great. Caesars Entertainment has been wonderful. There’s a lot of ticket brokers that have come on-board that I feel like, because we’re with Caesars Entertainment, I don’t know what the future holds, but I feel like if we ever decide to move from Planet Hollywood, it’s now easier to move to another Caesars property, because now we’re in the family. It’s been good for us in the sense of, because we were at the Trop for two-and-a-half years, we can go to ticket brokers, we can go Vegas.com or Tix4Tonite, and people go: “Hey, Murray. Hey, LEFEROVICH—how you doin? Oh yeah, you’re at Planet Hollywood now.” You don’t have to re-pitch them and re-train them to think: ‘Okay, what’s the show?’ 
SANTODONATO: Yeah, you had a good run at the Trop.
LEFEROVICH: Murray’s really great about getting on television. The slogan for the show is: “You’ve seen him on TV, now see him Live!” It’s amazing when he says: “How many people have seen me on Pawn Stars, Wizard Wars, or America’s Got Talent?” Most of the audience claps. I feel like that’s the one way he’s tried to separate himself from other people, in the sense of you’ve seen him on TV. You know he does good magic and it’s a funny, entertaining show—but people want to see the guy they know. It’s like Penn and Teller—I think they’re genius at marketing—very smart guys. But they’re choosing projects that are on television to keep them in the public eye—when Penn does Dancing With The Stars; when he did Celebrity Apprentice. They write for computer magazines. When Penn’s on CNN talking about whatever topic, it’s a way for people to go: “Oh, it’s those guys.” I tell people, even though they’re magicians, I don’t think of them as magicians—I consider them celebrities. I don’t think someone comes to town and goes: “I want to see a magic show—am I gonna see this magician, this magician, or Penn and Teller?” I think people come to town and they go: “Let’s go see Penn and Teller.” It’s not a toss-up between Penn and Teller and another magician. So in that respect they’re very smart guys.
SANTODONATO: So what is the end game for you?
LEFEROVICH: I guess most people in their job have an end goal, or something specific they want to achieve. They are so worried to get to that end goal that they often skip over some amazing things that happen on the way. For me, I am achieving goals all the time. One month I am sharing the stage with Larry King for his Cardiac Foundation charity in Washington, DC, the next month I am magic consultant for The Jacksons, then the next month I am sharing the stage with Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp, and then the next month I am a creative consultant for the release of the 2010 Ford Mustang, where they shut down the Las Vegas Strip—not to mention, performing magic in a show on the Las Vegas Strip for the last 3 years. So I’m not so worried about the end goal, as I am having so much fun on the journey to get to whatever that end goal is.

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