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FORCE OF NATURE: Judd Nelson Talks Life, Longevity And His Latest Projects!

FORCE OF NATURE: Judd Nelson Talks Life, Longevity And His Latest Projects!

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Judd Nelson is a man who needs little introduction. A multi-faceted performer, he has entertained audiences worldwide for more than three decades. Whether it was his role as the rebellious John Bender in ‘The Breakfast Club,’ the politically-minded Alec Newbary in ’St. Elmo’s Fire,’ the laser-focused Nick Peretti in ’New Jack City’ or countless other memorable characters, he always manages to leave his mark on the material. While on this journey, his dazzling body of work has continued to impress and he has become ingrained in the fabric of pop culture. There is simply no denying his staying power and best of all, he seems to just be getting warmed up! 

As Nelson continues to challenge himself as an actor, the material he seeks out has become more complex. His latest project, ‘Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story,’ teams him with director Terry Miles for his very first Western. The hardscrabble period piece is loosely based on the real-life exploits of 19th-century American outlaw Nathaniel Reed. A gritty tale of vengeance and redemption, the film pairs Nelson with Grammy-Award winning country music superstar Trace Adkins and Kim Coates (Sons of Anarchy). The frontier thriller debuts on Digital HD, On Demand, and theatrically in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, Houston, Phoenix, Denver, Tampa-St. Petersburg and Kansas City on November 4th.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently sat down with Judd Nelson to discuss his journey as an actor, his process for breathing life into the characters he brings to the screen, his time on the set of ‘Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story’ and much more!

You have become very familiar face to moviegoers over the past several decades. Let’s go all the way back to the beginning. What intrigued you about the world of acting early on and made you pursue it professionally?

Well, I was studying philosophy in college and it seemed if you could do a role in a good play, it was almost as if you were personifying a concept. You know, in college, you end up doing plays by Shakespeare or Shaw; plays with big ideas an it seemed to be the natural extension. My first experience auditioning came in my freshman year. A guy asked me if I wanted to go with him to audition and I said, “No!”. He said, “Come on! That’s where all the girls are!” I said, “Ok, that makes sense. Ok!” So, I guess, chasing girls is how it all really began! [laughs]

Pursuing a career as an actor is a big step to take. Did you ever have any reservations about taking the plunge?

My father, who I have been close to my entire life and is probably the smartest guy I know, is an attorney. No one else and my family was in the entertainment industry, so it was kind of a shot in the dark. He said to me, “Well, if that’s what you want to do, that’s great. However, you should realize that it is a profession where merit is not necessarily rewarded and you may find that troubling.” I was like, “Yeah, whatever.” [laughs] Of course, years later, the truth of that is very sharp. I picked a very good acting school to go to and I studied with Stella Adler in New York. I thought that was doing everything to put myself in the right position so that if I were provided an opportunity, I would be able to do what was expected.

Do you have anyone in your life who served as a mentor and gave you that extra push when you needed it?

Not really but I have been really fortunate in that almost all of the older actors that I’ve worked with have imparted some knowledge of some part of the craft and that has been very helpful. I find the community of actors much less competitive and more inclusive — the idea that success is a plateau not a mountain peak. There’s room for everybody and I think that all of the people I have worked with have taught me one thing or multiple things. I’ve been very lucky in that way.

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Obviously, you have been very successful in your career. In your opinion, what are the keys to longevity in this industry?

You have to be lucky to a certain degree. You have to be in the right place at the right time. When you’re provided the opportunity, you have to be able to deliver on whatever that might be. I think you have to try not to take things too personally. I mean, you’re going to be rejected a lot more then you’re going to be accepted. When you are auditioning for a part, the odds are that you’re not going to get the role. Do you take that personally? Do you get bitter about it? Do you get angry? Or do you just roll with the punches. My mom always says, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!” in this profession, you’ve got to know that it’s not always going to be coming your way. In fact, if everything is coming your way, you’re probably in the wrong lane! I try to think of it as if I were professional boxer. If I was a boxer and I wasn’t involved in a professional fight, I would just be training in one way or another. I be working on my cardiovascular fitness or my hand speed or foot speed. I would be trying to work on things that I might help me down the road, so at least it keeps you connected with what it is that you want to do. I try to keep working and I try to keep busy on the better projects that might be available. Certainly everyone wants to work with the best actors in the world, the films with the biggest budgets in the world, or with the biggest A-list director and cast, but that’s unlikely. It’s been my experience that if you keep working, do the best you can, and try not to break anyone else’s process, that you can keep yourself moving forward.

What do you find yourself looking for inspiration these days?

I’ve been doing a good deal of writing now. I think the world is a rather scary place and the times are tough for a lot of people right now. I think that if you work on projects that have a message, that might be a little bit more than just the escapist entertainment, I think that in and of itself is inspiring. There’s a lot of work to be done in this country and every country really. We all hear the golden rule of “Treat other people the way you want to be treated.” However, it seems to be a tough thing to achieve. I like to keep that as my anchor. That’s what I aim for, that the work will be clear, expressive enough, and hopefully helpful for people who are trying to negotiate a very difficult world.

Debuting on November 4th!

Debuting on November 4th!

That’s a great segue to one of your latest projects, “Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story.” What drew you to this material?

Well, I’ve never done a western before. It was like, “Ok! Wow! This will be fun!” and it was! I got to work with some really great people. Trace Adkins is really a mench. He’s really good guy and I really enjoyed working with him. If you have to be tortured by anyone, there is no one better than Kim Coates! [laughs] I enjoyed it! We did this fast and we didn’t have too many shooting days, so we had to hit it running. In a situation like that, you can’t be worried. You just have to get out there and do it. It’s kind of cool and I really liked it. To say I’m an adequate horseback rider would be an exaggeration! [laughs] I was fortunate that I didn’t have to do any galloping. I was able to do the slow stuff, the turning and the on-and-off. That was fine. The galloping is not really in my wheelhouse! [laughs]

Be in this world or any of your others, what is your process for bringing a character to life in your mind before you ever hit the set?

I try and treat every script like a treasure map that it hopefully is. The more time you spend with the script, the more understand the story; not just the pieces you were involved with, but the entire thing. I just read it and read it and read it until I can figure out where these things are hidden. I think that if the piece is primarily a tragedy, I will look for moments of levity. If a piece is primarily light, I will look for those moments that ground it in reality. What’s great is that since I was trained as a theater actor, I love rehearsal. I don’t think I could ever wear it out. The more time I can spent going over things, the better I am. It’s hard on a project like this, or most movies because you don’t get much of a rehearsal. They kind of consider a table read like a rehearsal, which it is not at all. On this film, the comradery that all the actors had was almost like an actor’s camp. That makes it much easier to take chances and risks because you know you aren’t going to be punished for it. You might be ridiculed, but so you should be! [laughs] Ultimately, it’s a really welcoming and positive environment. I enjoyed working with the director very much. I think we had 12 shooting days. In a situation like that, you can’t take time to be self-indulgent and you just have to get to it.

Judd Nelson and Trace Atkins in 'Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story'

Judd Nelson and Trace Adkins in ‘Stagecoach: The Texas Jack Story’

What do you feel director, Terry Miles, brought to the table for a project like this one?

I’ll tell ya. Like a seafaring vessel, there is only one captain and everything comes from that. If you have a Capt. Bligh, you might have a mutiny somewhere in the Pacific, but this guy was a very even, pleasant man. He had no ax to grind and he had nothing to prove. I don’t think he said a single mean thing to anyone. He was also responsible for some of the roles being switched. For example, the real killer in which Kim Coates enlists to help him get his revenge was played by a woman. Originally, the role was to be played by man. Doing something like that opens up the story wonderfully and all of a sudden it takes on some new meaning. You have so little time to shoot a lot of stuff and action stuff. We had four stagecoach robberies to shoot in one week! That’s not easy! He was always pleasant, he always knew what he wanted, had a great relationship with the cinematographer, and no time was wasted. He was just such a pleasant guy to work for. So, I think what he brought to the project was it its completion. I’m not sure how many people could have done it. If someone had a bad temper or was super bossy, I don’t think they would get this thing done in the amount of time we had. You can’t treat it like a military maneuver when you have no room for people to throw a wrench in the works. You want to keep it all going smoothly and he was wonderful at doing that.

Speaking of directors, you have worked with some greats in your time. What project or director had the biggest impact on you and the way you approach your craft?

They have all had some of fact, no doubt. Certainly, working with John Hughes on the ‘Breakfast Club’ was my first experience on a project that would get me national attention. Hughes was an incredible director work for. He was a legitimate collaborator. He didn’t just pretend that he cared what the actors had to say. He really listened to us and it reflects in his work. He is the first filmmaker to view young people without viewing them as being less. He wanted the material to sound authentic. If we have things we wanted to try, he was very welcoming. We had a real rehearsal process and shot mostly in sequence. So, I thought all movies were going to be like that really. They are not! They are really not! [laughs] He told me that it is possible to collaborate with your performers and have no one suffer as a result. I’ve also learned from people that we’re just beginning. I think the filmmaking is primarily problem-solving. The more problems you can anticipate in preproduction, the better off you are. There will always be things that will happen when you’re shooting that you can’t anticipate. Obviously, you can have weather problems, health problems, cars may not work when they’re supposed to, or any number of other things. I’ve learned from a lot of first-time directors that the more you can prepare, the better you will be at handling slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

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You mentioned early that you have been doing a lot of writing. What can we expect from you in the future in that realm?

I have a writing partner, Nancy Fulton, and we haven’t really tried to do much with our stuff yet but we have about 75 pieces that we have written. Some are shorts, some are feature lengths, some are pilots, some are episodes after the pilots, and some are short stories. I’m also working on a novel that is really the journal of a homicide detective. I really like the writing process but we haven’t turn that corner to try and raise money for things or get them made. I think pretty soon I’m going to see about directing one of the shorts to see how much I like that. I won’t act in it, just direct it. If I do like it, I may do another short and direct and act in it and see if that sits well and then take it from there, I don’t know.

Looking back on your career I’m sure you see many milestones along the way. What is the best lesson we can take from your journey as an actor?

Don’t quit. My mother always says, “Your life is an occasion, rise to it.” My father always says, “Be as smart as you are.” Hopefully, I can help to impart those nuggets of wisdom that have guided me! Whether what I am getting at is clear or not, I don’t know. Be as smart as you are, work hard, expect no handouts, and be pleasant. My mother always says, “It takes more muscles in your face to frown than it does to smile, so be lazy. Smile!”

Words to live by! Thank you so much for your time today, Judd! It’s been absolute pleasure and I wish you continued success!

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Blu-ray Review: The Highwaymen Shine In Olive Film’s ‘Stagecoach’ Release

Blu-ray Review: The Highwaymen Shine In Olive Film’s ‘Stagecoach’ Release

'Stagecoach'

‘Stagecoach’

This week, our resident movie reviewer, Jeremy Morrison, is back with a fresh review of one of Olive Films most exciting new releases, “Stagecoach,” starring Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash.

First, a quick synopsis:  Paying homage to the 1939 classic and the 1966 version of the tale, Stagecoach tells the story of a group of passengers, a cross-cultural mix that includes Doc Holliday (Willie Nelson, The Electric Horseman), the Ringo Kid (Kris Kristofferson, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with The Sea), Marshal Curly Wilcox (Johnny Cash, Five Minutes to Live) and Hatfield (Waylon Jennings, Nashville Rebel) aboard the outward bound Overland Express stagecoach.

The cast also includes John Schneider (TV’s The Dukes of Hazzard), Elizabeth Ashley (The Carpetbaggers), Anthony Franciosa (The Long, Hot Summer), Anthony Newley (Doctor Dolittle), Merritt Butrick (Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), Mary Crosby (The Legend of Zorro), June Carter Cash (The Apostle), Jessi Colter (Outlaw Trail) and David Allan Coe (Beer for My Horses).

Actors: Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Elizabeth Ashley, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, John Schneider, Anthony Newley, Anthony Franciosa

THE REVIEW: John Ford’s 1939 “Stagecoach” starring John Wayne is a cinematic treasure. This is not that movie. But, hear me out, that’s not a bad thing. 1986’s made-for-tv Ted Post effort is a heck of a movie. And thankfully you can enjoy a wonderful transfer via the fine folks at Olive Films. For the uninitiated, Ted Post spent the majority of his career directing television such as “Rawhide” and “Gunsmoke”, but is also responsible for two of Clint Eastwood’s early hits, “Hang ‘Em High” and “Magnum Force”.

Another wonderful thing about Stagecoach is the casting. Some would call it a gimmick, but that is such an ugly word. Sure you have a bunch of Country and Western artists stepping into some mighty big shoes, but they’re more than capable of the task at hand. These (Highway)men and women are born entertainers that speak the language of storytelling. Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash are powerhouses as Doc Holliday (a pleasant change from the 1939 film) and Marshall Curly Wilcox. Waylon Jennings plays Hatfield this time out and I found him exceptional in the film. The biggest boots to fill, those of John Wayne’s Ringo Kid, were placed upon the capable feet of Kris Kristofferson. Kristofferson is a bad ass, folks. Always has been, always will be.

The disc is without bonus content, and as it was a TV movie, the aspect ratio is your then standard 1.33:1 with a pretty good stereo soundtrack.

THE VERDICT: Dig those Highwaymen, they real got chops!

Jeremy Morrison – Staff Writer
Co-creator/host of the Acid Pop Cult Podcast, film reviewer, screenwriter, Jeremy has more than eight years experience in television and film production. His childhood fascination with the naked breasts featured in the “Friday the 13th” franchise prepared him for absolutely nothing in life. J-Mo lives by one motto: #wecantallbezacksnyder
Twitter: @acidpopcult
IG: @almostgothim

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BACK IN THE SADDLE: Michael Paré On His Career, Longevity and Role In ‘Traded’

BACK IN THE SADDLE: Michael Paré On His Career, Longevity and Role In ‘Traded’

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Michael Paré has been lighting up the screen for well over three decades with a plethora of eclectic roles. His latest project, ‘Traded,’ is every bit as ambitious as his earlier work. The gritty drama teams him once again with director Timothy Woodward Jr. (Weaponized, 4Got10). Michael Paré stars alongside ultra-talented, country music star Trace Adkins (The Virginian, The Lincoln Lawyer) and Country Music Hall of Famer, Golden Globe®-winner and American icon Kris Kristofferson. ‘Traded’ features an all-star supporting cast in the form of Tom Sizemore (Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down), Martin Kove (The Karate Kid trilogy), Quinton Aaron (The Blind Side) and, in her theatrical debut, Kris’ daughter, Kelly Kristofferson.

The film is set in 1880s Kansas, where sharpshooter turned rancher, Clay Travis (Paré), goes from happily married father of two to a man on a mission after the disappearance of his 17 year-old daughter, Lily. Determined to protect what little family he has left, Clay leaves his quiet ranch and heads to Wichita where, after confronting the ruthless Ty Stover (Adkins), he discovers that Lily’s been traded away into an underground sex ring in Dodge City. And it’s there, with the help of an unlikely companion — hardened old barkeep Billy (Kristofferson) — that Clay makes a stand to bring his daughter home, leaving a trail of gunsmoke and bodies in his wake.

Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Michael Paré to get a glimpse inside his legendary career, his secret to his longevity as working actor and his process for bringing his latest character from script to screen.

You are a familiar face to fans of television and film. I want to jump back to the start of your career. What attracted you to the world of acting?

Michael Pare

Michael Pare

Ya know, in a way, I was kind of selected. My first agent was a girl named Yvette Bikoff and she was a talent agent for Jolie Models in New York. Her and I hung out in the same bar on Columbus Avenue, around 1978 and 1979. She started chatting me up and telling me that I should try acting. I was working as a chef and had gone to The Culinary Institute of America, so I had a great career laid out before me. When she said she would pay for my classes during the day and it wouldn’t interfere with my straight job, I thought I would give it a try! My first class was at Carnegie Hall with a guy named Robert Modica, he taught the Meisner Method. After my first class, I thought to myself, “Wow! I can do this! It is not just for a few special people.” I studied for about a year-and-a-half and then I auditioned for George Selznick, who was casting for ABC’s talent development program at the time and I got it! I got the gig! She took Ann Jillian, Ted McGinley and myself. We all came to Los Angeles and I did “The Greatest American Hero.” Ted went onto, I think, “Happy Days,” and Ann got a sitcom. I think everybody who grew up when I did, baby bombers, saw movie stars as our royalty. They were our cool people and our role models. Those were the guys!

You made an amazing career for yourself. Is there a secret to your longevity?

I think I am pretty crafty. I am a pretty good actor and I have never stopped studying. I still go to class! I think the ability to surrender to the role and the director makes me very easy to work with. I commit to the part and I love my job! I love acting and being in the movies and on television. I don’t know what to say, I guess I must be pretty good at it.

A lot of people would agree! We came together today to talk about your latest project, “Traded.” It’s a great film and you are great in it. How did this come to you and what attracted you to the role?

'Traded'

‘Traded’

I have made a couple of movies with Timothy Woodward Jr. and from the moment we first worked together he said, “I’m going to find something special for us to do.” He had done four or five action movies and became kind of respectable to the distributor, Cinedigm. They decided to wonder what kind of movies Tim wanted to make and he said he wanted to make a western. When they agreed to do that, he went through the normal list of approved actors. Then he came to me and said, “Mike, I am really going to push for you to get this.” I think every actor wants to do a western. I would love to do another one! It is a classic American genre and it seems like Americana is selling around the world all of a sudden. The American culture is selling and there are a bunch of westerns being made. I jumped at the chance to do it! When Tim sent me the script, I was ready to play any role in it. He said, “I want you to play Clay Travis.” I said yes immediately and just threw myself into it. It is a classic story, especially for the western. He got a great production company and they brought in all the horses and wagons. We were able to go to the best western towns in California. Everyone who came on the set was like, “Wow! We are making a western!” Tim got hooked up with this great DP, a cinematographer named Pablo Diaz. Tim and I had this idea that if you are going to do a western, the cinematography is really important, so having Pablo along was key. That is how it came together.

It has to be a bit of a mind-scramble to step back into the past with a film like this. What is it like to go back to a simple time as you are surrounded by horses and wagons in a small western town?

Ya know, I have ridden horses in about three different movies and in this one I got a warm up to be doing all the stuff on the horse. It took about a week. We had a great wrangler who teaches polo, so he had a lot of insight that I had never heard before about how to handle a horse and control them. That was a big thing. Tim and I came up with this thought that keeps you in that time frame. Cowboys don’t live by the clock, they live by the calendar. It slows everything down and there is no rush. They aren’t thinking about an hour-and-a-half from now. They have sunrise, noon, sundown and then they do it all again. It keeps you in place. Plus, you don’t have your cellphones on set and you have to revert to a time where you didn’t have so many choices and life was much simpler. It is a wonderful time to fall into. It was much easier to be human being. This globalization thing — Wow! Competing with 7 billion people is a lot harder than living out on the plains and maybe being with 100 people who lived within a day’s ride. That is pretty heavy when you think about it!

Michael-Pare-2016-2

What was the biggest challenge you faced with the role and what did you bring to it that wasn’t on the written page?

Well, there is the purity of the character. It is something that is not really on the page. Before the story starts, Clay was a gunfighter for hire. When the railroad was going through, in order to clear the way, they hired a bunch of gunfighters to go in and take care of anybody who was a problem and didn’t want the railroad to go through. This is historically correct. I kind of played him like a Vietnam veteran — a guy who comes home and is not sure if what he was doing was the right thing anymore. Living out there on my ranch with my wife and adopted daughter and my son, I’m OK with myself, although the rest of the world may not be. That inner conflict is going on and I know I’m OK but the rest of the world might call me a fuckin’ gunfighter and a killer but what I was doing was right.

Looking back on your career, how have you evolved as an actor?

Ya know, in the beginning, you are not quite sure if the craft is working for you, if you really know what you are doing. It has been a long time, so if I pick up a script and like the role, I know exactly what to do with it. When I was young, I was looking for a lot more direction and confirmation that my choices were right. Now, I am pretty sure that most of my choices are right. For example, working with Tim, I came in with it about 90% complete and he put the finishing touches on certain things, whereas earlier on in my career, I was really hoping the director would say after every take, “Oh, that was good!” Or, “No, we have to do this … ” Now, I am looking for that fine polish and not for general directions!

That is awesome! I know our time is short, so I want to thank you for your time today, Michael. It is a pleasure and keep up the amazing work!

Thank you, Jason! Thank you very much!

‘Traded’ debuts theatrically on June 10th in select theaters in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas. The film will be available Day-and-Date On Demand & Digital HD the same day!

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Noah Emmerich Discusses His Career, Philanthropy And Role In ‘Jane Got A Gun’

Noah Emmerich Discusses His Career, Philanthropy And Role In ‘Jane Got A Gun’

Noah Emmerich

Noah Emmerich has become a familiar face over the past two decades, starring alongside some of Hollywood’s biggest names. With each new project, he cultivates an incredible body of work while also honing his craft. His continuing success led him to his current role as the antagonist on one of the most critically acclaimed TV dramas of the decade, FX’s “The Americans.” His latest project for the big screen, “Jane Got A Gun,” pairs him with Academy Award© winner Natalie Portman (“Black Swan,” “Star Wars Episodes I-III,” “The Professional”), Joel Edgerton (“Black Mass,” “The Gift,” “The Great Gatsby”), Ewan McGregor (“August: Osage County,” “The Island”), Rodrigo Santoro (“Focus,” “300: Rise of an Empire”) and Boyd Holbrook (“Gone Girl,” “Run All Night”).

The film centers around Jane Hammond (Natalie Portman), who built a life on the rugged western plains with her husband Bill “Ham” Hammond (Noah Emmerich) and young daughter. When Ham stumbles home riddled with bullets after a run-in with the relentless John Bishop (Ewan McGregor) and his gang, she knows they will not stop until her family is dead. In desperation, Jane seeks help from Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), a man from her past. Haunted by old memories, Jane’s past meets the present in a heart-stopping battle for survival.

Jason Price recently caught up with Noah Emmerich to discuss his journey as an actor, his latest project, “Jane Got A Gun,” and where the future might take him.

You are such a familiar face to audiences on television and in film. What intrigued you about acting early and ultimately made you pursue it as a career?

Noah Emmerich

Noah Emmerich

That is a good question. You know, it wasn’t something I was pursuing since childhood. A lot of actors get the bug early on and know that is what they want to do but I was not headed in that direction at all. I was studying history as an undergraduate and I thought I was headed to law school. On a lark, I got a role in the commencement show of my college and did a role in “Anything Goes.” I was a singer. I had been involved in the arts but more as a musician than an actor. My friend was directing the play and he needed a bass voice because there weren’t that many basses. I said, “That is crazy! I am not an actor.” He said, “Why don’t you just try it.” I did and I had the greatest time. It was such a thrilling time and it felt like I had tapped into something I had, perhaps, wanted to do for awhile but hadn’t realized it or let myself acknowledge it. It was really sort of a revolution from my perspective on what the future held. I thought, “I definitely want to do more of this. I don’t know when that is possible in law school. Maybe I will put things on hold for awhile and just try this out.” I didn’t know it was going to lead to a career, a year or six months but I knew I definitely wanted to do more of it. It snowballed and continued on in that manner. I just kept doing it and kept wanting to do more of it. At some point I realized I really wanted to do it professionally. After having done a bunch of region theater, Summer Stock and small productions around the country, I kind of resolved and accepted that this is what I wanted to do on some level. I don’t know how long I want to do it for but so far I still want to do it!

It seems to be working out pretty well so far!

Yeah, I feel really, really lucky!

Was there anyone behind the scenes giving you the push you needed? Perhaps a mentor who had a big influence on you?

There have been many along the way. I feel like on almost every job I do, on some level, I find inspiration and example. One of my earliest was when I took a two-year Meisner acting technique class with a man named Ron Stetson. He teaches in New York City at the Neighborhood Playhouse. He really opened up the world of the craft and technique of acting to me. I still hold him in my heart as I travel through the business, thinking about the process and the craft. He was my first and maybe most powerful mentor from the craft point of view. Along the way, you meet directors, actors, writers and producers and they all have great stories and experiences to share. I have been really fortunate in working with many great people. Another one, one of the most inspirational directors I have worked with, was Peter Weir, who directed “The Truman Show.” He is unequivocally one of the great directors of our time, in addition to being an incredible man. He was quite inspirational to me, both as an actor and as an aspiring director.

We are together today to talk about one of your latest projects. How did you get involved with “Jane Got A Gun” and what attracted you to the role?

'Jane Got A Gun'

‘Jane Got A Gun’

I got involved because my close friend and colleague, Gavin O’Connor, came on as a director at the last minute to take the reigns of the film from someone else. He called me and said, “Hey, I am just jumping into this project in Santa Fe. It would be great if you could come down here and be a part of it.” That alone was enough to interest me, in a way. This is the fifth film I have made with him. As I mentioned, he is one of my closest friends, so working with him is always a great experience. I was just wrapping up the first season of “The Americans” when this call came in. I thought I was depleted, tired and needed a break but Gavin called and there it was. He needed me to get to Santa Fe within a matter of days. I read the script and thought it was really great. I thought, “I have never done a western and it is something I have been wanting to do. What a great cast!” I get to reunite with Natalie [Portman], who I worked with at the very beginning of my career in the movie “Beautiful Girls.” Everything about the project seemed irresistibly alluring, so I jumped on a plane and got to Santa Fe to start learning how to ride horses!

For what I heard about Gavin, he is known as an actor’s director. What does he bring to the table in that capacity?

Gavin is incredibly committed, passionate and authentic. He is really interested in finding the truth of the character, the truth of the context, the truth of the scene and the deeper, most underlying meanings of what we are doing. He is really in search of the more profound, deep meanings of the art, script and scenes. As a storyteller, I feel like it is visceral and you can feel that in his films. There is an authenticity and a passion that is rare and much appreciated. It is always a great process with Gavin and he is very open, available, communicative and collaborative. It just makes the whole thing a truly wonderful experience.

Natalie Portman and Noah Emmerich in 'Jane Got A Gun'

Natalie Portman and Noah Emmerich in ‘Jane Got A Gun’

What did you bring to this character that wasn’t on the written page?

Everything, I guess! [laughs] In some ways, on this particular character, nothing was on the written page. It was a very underwritten character, as he is mostly lying there in bed and dying for most of the movie. That was the great challenge of this role, to see if there were beats, feelings and emotions happening that we could communicate without much movement because the character is paralyzed and can’t really move. All he has is his face and his eyes, along with the camera work to show different layers and levels of feeling, emotion and reality. That was the exciting challenge of this role, the question of how much can you do within that constricted and limited context. I can’t speak for how it impacted the audience but hopefully we managed to have more colors there in the goings on than was apparent on the page.

Be it this role or any other, is there a process you undergo when taking on a new character?

Yeah, it is an ambiguous process and it is kind of hard to quantify or clarify but it is a journey into understanding a human being, what makes him tick, what matters, what is going on and what his life is. That is the great mystery and magical journey that actors take into their characters.

noah-emmerich-2-2016

I know this film was a difficult production for everyone involved. What was it about this project that made everyone band together to keep it on the rails?

I think Gavin, as our leader, is certainly primary. Adversity breeds intimacy in a way. When we were there, there were a lot of hurdles and a lot of things went wrong but everyone was passionate and committed to getting the film completed and having it come out as strong as possible. It was a beautiful place to shoot a movie and an incredible cast and crew. Everyone involved was putting everything they had into it. It was a very bonding, invigorating and challenging journey, that I think we are all grateful that we took.

I am sure you learn something on each project you work on. What did you walk away with after shooting this film?

Yeah! Never spend too much time at the backend of a horse! [laughs]

Words to live by, I’m sure! [laughs] Looking back at your career, how have you most evolved as an actor?

Gosh, I don’t know. Hopefully, I have just gotten better but I will leave that to you to judge! [laughs] Hopefully, I have gotten better at my work and deeper, richer and more able to convey the full humanity of the character.

Noah Emmerich

Noah Emmerich

You played an amazing range of diverse characters on stage, in film and on television. Is there something you are still anxious to tackle?

It’s funny, I was just talking about this. I hope to do more comedies. I really love doing comedies and I have very rare chances to be a participant in those, so I hope to be able to expand that genre in my own work. I love making and watching comedies. I think they are something that is evermore needed in the world today, so hopefully I can be more involved with making people laugh.

You can serve as a great inspiration to many young actors. What is the best lesson we can take away from your journey?

I would say the most important ingredient for an actor in this world is perseverance. Believe in your work, continue to hone and craft your work and just keep working. Don’t get too distracted by the career of it all. The career will sort itself out and the jobs will come or they won’t. All you can do is work inside your own craft, your own commitments and believe in what you are doing as a storyteller. Let the knocks slide off and let the rejections wash over you. Let the adversity not deter you from your own passion and commitment to being part of the storytelling world that we are all about.

One last question for you today, Noah. I always like to offer an opportunity to help shine a light on any causes you may lend your support to?

That is very nice. Right now, I am working with a group called Dream Yard (www.dreamyard.com). It is an arts education program in New York City. They recently got their own charter school up in The Bronx. It is all about arts education and early childhood and late childhood development. I think that is something we need to not lose sight of in this country — the value and impact that arts education can have on our youth. I am very, very involved with helping to make sure that stays an integral part of our educational and cultural value system.

Thank you so much for your time today, Noah. Keep up the great work! You are truly a pleasure to watch on screen!

Thanks so much, Jason!

‘Jane Got A Gun’ is available on Digital HD April 5th, 2016 and hit Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand April 26th, 2016.

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THE HATEFUL EIGHT: Quentin Tarantino and Cast Discuss 70mm Roadshow Release

THE HATEFUL EIGHT: Quentin Tarantino and Cast Discuss 70mm Roadshow Release

A brand new featurette for Quentin Tarantino’s highly anticipated film, THE HATEFUL EIGHT, has been released. The flick will have a 70 mm roadshow release in select theaters starting on Christmas Day. Not sure what a roadshow is? Watch this featurette to hear all about it, straight from Quentin Tarantino and the cast members!

The film centered around post-Civil War Wyoming, where eight travelers try to find shelter during a blizzard but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, they come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT hits theaters on December 25, 2015 in special 70mm release, and on January 8, 2016 nationwide!

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THE HATEFUL EIGHT: New Theatrical Poster Released For Quentin Tarantino’s Highly-Anticipated Flick!

THE HATEFUL EIGHT: New Theatrical Poster Released For Quentin Tarantino’s Highly-Anticipated Flick!

The Weinstein Company has just released a new theatrical poster for their highly anticipated film, THE HATEFUL EIGHT, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino!

In post-Civil War Wyoming, eight travelers try to find shelter during a blizzard but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, they come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all.

The film stars Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Demian Bichir, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Channing Tatum and more.

THE HATEFUL EIGHT hits theaters on December 25, 2015 in special 70mm release, and on January 8, 2016 nationwide!

hateful-8-2015-altposter

Synopsis: In THE HATEFUL EIGHT, set six or eight or twelve years after the Civil War, a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff. Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Demian Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travelers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all…

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THE HATEFUL EIGHT: New Trailer Debuts For Quentin Tarantino’s Upcoming Flick!

THE HATEFUL EIGHT: New Trailer Debuts For Quentin Tarantino’s Upcoming Flick!

The Weinstein Company has just released a BRAND NEW TRAILER for their highly anticipated film, THE HATEFUL EIGHT, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino!

In post-Civil War Wyoming, eight travelers try to find shelter during a blizzard but get involved in a plot of betrayal and deception. Will they survive? Starring Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Walton Goggins, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Bruce Dern, Demian Bichir, Channing Tatum and more, find out on December 25, 2015 in special 70mm release, and on January 8, 2016 nationwide!

Synopsis: In THE HATEFUL EIGHT, set six or eight or twelve years after the Civil War, a stagecoach hurtles through the wintry Wyoming landscape. The passengers, bounty hunter John Ruth (Kurt Russell) and his fugitive Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh), race towards the town of Red Rock where Ruth, known in these parts as “The Hangman,” will bring Domergue to justice. Along the road, they encounter two strangers: Major Marquis Warren (Samuel L. Jackson), a black former union soldier turned infamous bounty hunter, and Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins), a southern renegade who claims to be the town’s new Sheriff. Losing their lead on the blizzard, Ruth, Domergue, Warren and Mannix seek refuge at Minnie’s Haberdashery, a stagecoach stopover on a mountain pass. When they arrive at Minnie’s, they are greeted not by the proprietor but by four unfamiliar faces. Bob (Demian Bichir), who’s taking care of Minnie’s while she’s visiting her mother, is holed up with Oswaldo Mobray (Tim Roth), the hangman of Red Rock, cow-puncher Joe Gage (Michael Madsen), and Confederate General Sanford Smithers (Bruce Dern). As the storm overtakes the mountainside stopover, our eight travelers come to learn they may not make it to Red Rock after all…

the-hateful-8-poster-2015-1

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Luke Perry and Jason Priestley Re-team For ‘Goodnight For Justice’

Luke Perry and Jason Priestley Re-team For ‘Goodnight For Justice’

As fans of pop culture already know, Luke Perry and Jason Priestley worked together on the legendary 90’s TV show “Beverly Hills, 90210.” Now, they have re-teamed in GOODNIGHT FOR JUSTICE, an acclaimed Western which premiered on the Hallmark Channel in January 2011, they reunite for the very first time with Priestley behind the camera and Perry in the lead role. Now fans can check out the dynamic duo’s reunion as Goodnight For Justice hits DVD April 12th!

The film stars Luke Perry (“Beverly Hills, 90210”, Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Lara Gilchrist (“Battlestar Galactica”, The Seamstress), Melanie Papalia (Postal, American Pie Presents: The Book of Love), Michael Teigen (TRON: Legacy, Nightwatching) and director/actor Jason Priestley (Tombstone, “Beverly Hills 90210”) Fans can purchase the DVD at this location >

Synopsis: John Goodnight (Perry) has a crystal clear memory of the day that his family fell victim to ruthless outlaws. He and the wife of Circuit Judge Aldous Shaw were the only survivors of the attack; she would become his foster mother.  Goodnight cannot forget the corrupt man who destroyed his family and he lives for a second chance encounter with the outlaw.  Years later, after he’s named a circuit judge of the Western Territories, Goodnight must choose between justice and revenge when the same outlaws return to terrorize his lands.

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The Coen Brothers’ ‘True Grit’ Teaser Trailer Unleashed!

The Coen Brothers’ ‘True Grit’ Teaser Trailer Unleashed!

Paramount Pictures has released the teaser trailer for the Coen Brothers’ highly anticipated new film, True Grit.  The film stars Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld.  Click over to Apple to see the trailer in HD or check out the low-def version below. True Grit is slated to open on December 25th.

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Pick of The Week: ‘Red Dead Redemption’ From Rockstar Games

Pick of The Week: ‘Red Dead Redemption’ From Rockstar Games

The western genre has never established itself in video games. The last good western game I can remember is “The Lone Ranger” on the NES. Well, it took 20 years or so, but we?ve finally got another great one, Rockstar?s “Red Dead Redemption” (“RDR”). RDR is brought to you by Rockstar Games, most famous for its outstanding “Grand Theft Auto” (“GTA”) series. Rockstar Games is also behind such outstanding titles as “Manhunt” (PS2) and “The Warriors” (PS2/XBox). RDR could easily have been titled “Grand Theft Horse,” since Rockstar lifted its GTA 4 formula from the present day and placed it in the Wild West during the turn of the 21st Century.

RDR?s story is reminiscent of Clint Eastwood?s epic “Unforgiven.” John Marston is a retired outlaw, trying to start a new life as a rancher with his wife, Abigail, and their son, Jack. Like Eastwood?s William Munny, Marston?s past comes back to haunt him. The U.S. government has strongarmed Marston into hunting down his former partners in by holding his family hostage. In the beginning of the game, Marston finds his quarry holed up in Fort Mercer but they quickly gun him down, leaving him for dead.

From there, RDR delves into the tried-and-true GTA formula. Once he recuperates, Marston must embark on a series of “fetch quests” for several characters, indicated by icons on the map, to advance the story. There are your typical colorful Rockstar characters, from the snake oil huckster to the grave robber to the corrupt Mexican general.

Red Dead Redemption

Aside from the story missions, there are side missions and distractions to enjoy. Play a game of Texas Hold? Em, liar?s dice, blackjack or horseshoes, pick up a wanted poster to bring an outlaw to justice (dead or alive, though alive nets you a larger bounty), or watch a movie warning about the dangers of suffrage. As with GTA, there?s a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor. Side missions appear as a purple “?” on your map and are worth checking out. Some are quite short and are an easy way to earn money to buy weapons, ammo, horses and provisions; some provide interesting subplots, such as the mysterious “I Know You.” Marston can also hunt and skin animals and sell the spoils of the hunt for money. There?s a wide range of game, from rabbits and snakes to boars and bears.

The most obvious distinction from GTA is the fact that in the early 20th century, people didn?t drive around in cars with radios. There?s no VROCK, just you and your trusty steed. The controls are quite similar, however. This means the clunky shooting-whiledriving, er, riding mechanic returns. It?s not so bad in RDR, however, especially since Marston can auto-lock onto targets and most enemies go down with a couple of shots or a well-placed head shot.

Marston also has “Red Eye.” Pressing down on the right analog stick (PS3 version) triggers “Red Eye Mode,” in which everything moves in slow motion and Marston can mark and shoot his targets while the meter drains. While this feature is a neat concept, there usually isn?t much need for it because you can simply keep auto-aiming at enemies. I would be shocked if I used it more than 10 or 15 times the entire game. It is helpful when you?re facing off against groups of five or more enemies, however.

The game tends to bog down a bit in the second act, where Marston goes to Mexico and gets caught up in a revolution between rebels and the Mexican government. It starts out promising enough, with Marston learning new tricks from a retired gunslinger (which should have been a larger part of the story). After a couple of missions, it?s clear that much of the second act should have been omitted from the game because it has little to do with Marston?s quest. When Marston gets back to the U.S., I forgot why he went to Mexico in the first place and what was going on in the U.S. when I left. From there, things pick up and the game builds to a great climax pitting Marston against his former mates. Just when you think it?s all over, though, Rockstar has more surprises. I won?t give it away, but remember – when you think the game seems over and you find yourself asking, “Was that it? Is that how it ends?” head on down to Blackwater.

The gameplay is good but doesn?t offer anything that GTA vets will find novel. Horses control very much like cars in GTA games. There are a lot of horses to be had, though they don?t vary in quality other than being slow, normal and fast. Once you get the fast horse fairly early on, you won?t use any other horses for the remainder of the game. Using the left bumper (PS3 version) will bring up your weapon wheel, which gives you instant access to your entire arsenal. It?s nice to switch weapons on the fly, though it can be a little distracting in the middle of a gunfight since opening the wheel doesn?t stop gameplay. Speaking of weapons, Marston can acquire a number of weapons, from revolvers and shotguns to automatic pistols and sniper rifles. Many of the weapons don?t come in handy, though. Again, the auto-aim feature and the fact that most enemies go down with one or two shots negate the need to have an expensive, powerful gun.

The graphics are impressive. The character models are par for the course but it?s the scenery that?s the star. The environment is awesome. There are snow-covered mountains, a gigantic river, great plains, frontier towns, Mexican villages, ranches, everything you would expect to find in the Wild West. Everything looks great and the developers obviously paid a lot of attention to detail. It?s hard not to lose yourself in the environment while riding from mission to mission. The only downside is that you frequently find yourself traveling the same trails. It would have been nice to have missions that take you all over the map.

The music is decent but forgettable. I enjoyed the occasional country interludes, though they were few and far between. I especially enjoyed the song that plays through the closing credits and found myself wishing there had been more classic country/western music in the game, even if it would be out of place.The voice acting is top-notch, despite the lack of Hollywood talent. I didn?t recognize any of the voice actors, but they all did a great job.

In sum, RDR is a great game but it suffers a bit from being so similar to GTA that it doesn?t feel fresh and original. I still can?t decide if it was sheer genius or pure laziness on Rockstar?s part but given their track record of outstanding titles, I?ll lean to the former. I also have to knock RDR down a bit for the Mexican missions. Nonetheless, I recommend giving RDR a try but maybe waiting until you can get a used copy for $30 to$40. RDR is a good start for a series but Rockstar needs to distinguish future entries from GTA. — Pedro Moreno

Score: 4 Little Goombas out of 5

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