‘Star Wars’: Supreme Leader Snoke Had ‘At Least One Other Apprentice’ Besides Kylo Ren, Official Magazine Reveals

http://www.indiewire.com/2017/12/star-wars-supreme-leader-snoke-kylo-ren-1201910739/

(Warning: Spoilers follow.) Anyone hoping that “The Last Jedi” would reveal more information about Supreme Leader Snoke, the powerful villain played by motion-capture master Andy Serkis, was surely disappointed that the character dies halfway through the film without so much as a hint toward his backstory. Since so much “Star Wars” lore has always been expanded upon in the Expanded Universe of books and other ancillary media, however, fans will be relieved to learn that Snoke’s story isn’t entirely over.

As pointed out by the Playlist, a new Lucasfilm magazine called “The Souvenir Guide to the Movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has an article devoted to Dear Leader that reveals a crucial bit of information: Kylo Ren wasn’t his only student. The only information is in the first sentence, but it’s enough to prove that the Rule of Two doesn’t apply to non-Sith: “Force sensitive, and highly attuned to the dark side but not a Sith, Snoke has trained Kylo Ren and at least one other apprentice.”

This being an official Lucasfilm publication, that tidbit is canon. And since it raises more questions than it answers, it’s sure to have fans speculating as to that other apprentice’s identity and what role he or she might play in the future — not that they should get their hopes up about “Episode IX” answering any of them.

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15 Movies From Female Filmmakers to See in 2018, From ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ to ‘The Nightingale’

http://www.indiewire.com/2017/12/female-filmmakers-movies-2018-1201910472/

Girl Talk is a weekly look at women in film — past, present, and future.

While 2017 was a banner year for female filmmakers — including breakouts like Patty Jenkins, who helmed the second highest-grossing film of the year, and rising stars like Stella Meghie and Amanda Lipitz — next year seems poised to exceed some very high expectations when it comes to both depth of talent and depth of choices.

From new blockbusters from some of our best filmmakers in the business to raucous comedies poised to keep up the reinvention of female-centric comedy, indies from new talents, directing pairs looking to break through, and everything in between, 2018 has a something for every film fan, directed by helmers who just so happen to be women.

Keep in mind, this list only includes films that have an announced release date for 2018, and we fully expect (and hope) that more titles will join these ranks once the festival season kicks back in to introduce audiences to a slew of new titles and talents. Here are the 15 films you can add to your calendar right now.

“The Strange Ones” (January 5)

The Strange Ones

“The Strange Ones”

Directed by Lauren Wolkstein and Christopher Radcliff, the pair’s low-simmering thriller offers plenty of proof that they’re ready to jump into the big leagues. At SXSW, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote: “Creepy, slow-burn portraits of alienation and discordant relationships have been a recurring motif in these filmmakers’ other shorts: Radcliff’s ‘Jonathan’s Chest’ involves a teenager confronting the abrupt reappearance of a brother with a mysterious past, while Wolkstein’s ‘Social Butterfly’ finds a thieving interloper wandering through a house party and pretending to know its hosts…the journey there is compelling enough to make it worth the investment, offering further confirmation of two directors keen on bucking expectations, and likely to keep it up as they continue to hone their talent. ‘The Strange Ones’ isn’t a giant step forward for the pair, but it’s just enough to prove they have the chops to take one.”

“The Party” (February 16)

Sally Potter the party

“The Party”

Adventure Pictures

Sally Potter returns to ambitious, star-laden fare with her Berlinale premiere, which boasts such heavy hitters as Kristin Scott Thomas, Patricia Clarkson, Timothy Spall, Bruno Ganz, Cherry Jones, Emily Mortimer, and Cillian Murphy in a stagey chamber piece about a very weird party. Black-and-white and clocking in at a snappy 71 minutes, the movie careens towards some wild ends and unexpected revelations, aided immeasurably by its game cast and daring director. Potter hasn’t opened a film since 2012’s “Ginger and Rosa,” and “The Party” quickly reminds it audience why she’s such a necessary, unique voice in modern cinema.

“A Wrinkle in Time” (March 9)

Storm Reid in “A Wrinkle in Time”

Oscar nominee Ava DuVernay makes the jump to big, big studio fare with her adaptation of the beloved Madeleine L’Engle novel of the same name, care of a massive budget that also offers her a major milestone — she’s become the first woman of color to direct a live-action film with a production budget over $100 million — that we can only hope retains her own creative spark. The film follows a 12-year-old girl named Meg (Storm Reid) who, as DuVernay has made plain time and time again, literally saves the universe by way of a wild adventure through space and time. The vibrant sci-fi vision has already unspooled intriguing trailers that show off a star-studded cast, including Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Peña, Zach Galifianakis, and Chris Pine, and a series of awe-inspiring images. If this is the future of blockbuster filmmaking, we’re in for a very big treat.

“What They Had” (March 16)

First-time filmmaker Elizabeth Chomko has been hammering away at her debut feature for years, first taking her script for “What They Had” to the Sundance Screenwriters Lab in 2014, later picking up a Nicholl Fellowship the following year. Appropriately enough, the film will premiere at Sundance next month, bringing things full circle for the filmmaker’s passion project, before opening in March via Bleecker Street. Starring Hilary Swank and Blythe Danner, the film follows a family who are forced to deal with the heartbreaking aftermath of an Alzheimer’s-inflicted event that threatens the tenuous bonds between the entire clan. It sounds like one hell of a showcase for both actresses, with the added bonus of supporting stars that include Michael Shannon, Robert Forster, and Taissa Farmiga.

“Blockers” (April 6)

Initially titled “The Pact,” “Pitch Perfect” and “30 Rock” writer Kay Cannon will make her directorial debut with a film that sounds destined to enter the sex comedy hall of fame. Centered on a trio of parents who discover — much to their absolute horror — that their teen daughters have made a pact to lose their virginities on prom night, the comedy follows the group as they try to stop the plan from panning out, any way they can. The film stars Leslie Mann, Ike Barinholtz, John Cena, Kathryn Newton, Graham Phillips, June Diane Raphael, Hannibal Buress, and Sarayu Blue. Its first red-band trailer sells the high jinx, but also leans heavily into the bond between long-time pals (aww) along with plenty of deeply misunderstood teenspeak and Cena again proving his salt as a comedy MVP.

“The Rider” (April 13)

“The Rider”

Protagonist Pictures

You can’t fake “The Rider.” Chloe Zhao’s lyrical docudrama blends fact and fiction into an intimate portrait of American masculinity at large and a solitary cowboy trying to find his way back to the only life he’s known. Utilizing a cast of non-actors — most of whom are tasked with playing versions of themselves, in a story pulled from their lives — Zhao’s film derives its power from the truth that both drives it and inspires it, and the final result is a wholly unique slice-of-life drama. Zhao first made waves with her 2015 feature debut “Songs My Brothers Taught Me,” a festival favorite set on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota that tracked the bond between a pair of Lakota siblings. It’s also where she discovered young rodeo cowboy Brady Jandreau, who makes his debut in “The Rider” as an on-screen version of himself in the worst period of his own life.

“Zama” (April 13)

“Zama”

As IndieWire’s Eric Kohn wrote earlier this year: “Few films have done more to unite the international film community than ‘Zama.’ The minutes-long opening titles list over 20 different production companies and regional supports. The nominally Argentinian film is a joint venture between nine other countries as well, and the end credits name figures as diverse as Danny Glover, Pedro Almodóvar, and Gael Garcia Bernal among the many other who jumped on to help this project through a troubled, many year production. Finally complete, Lucrecia Martel’s film promises to be significantly more divisive. Technically an adaptation of Antonio Di Benedetto acclaimed modernist novel, “Zama” reads just as much like an open declaration of war against the line that separates form and content. The source text told the story of an 18th century magistrate driven to madness while waiting for his next post; the film forces the viewer to go mad right there with him.”

“I Feel Pretty” (June 29)

“How to Be Single” and “Valentine’s Day” scribes Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein finally take directing into their own hands with their directorial debut starring Amy Schumer as a woman who — stay with us here — gets a massive head injury and emerges with all of the (perhaps misdirected) confidence in the world. The film’s official synopsis promises that, while Schumer’s Renee looks the same to everyone else, her new sense of self actually helps propel her to big wins. The supporting cast includes Michelle Williams, Emily Ratajkowski, and Rory Scovel.

“The Spy Who Dumped Me” (July 6)

Susanna Fogel’s charming and honest “Life Partners” was a highlight of the 2014 film festival circuit, and she now appears to be bringing that same keen eye and affection for the bonds between ladies to a much bigger platform. The comedy stars Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon as best friends who get involved in an undercover mission after Kunis’ “unassuming ex-boyfriend shows up at their apartment with a team of deadly assassins on his trail.” Oops!

“Barbie” (August 8)

“Fun Mom Dinner” helmer Alethea Jones takes the reins on a movie literal decades in the making: a live-action twist on the Barbie mythos that follows an actual doll living in Barbieland (rumored to be Anne Hathaway, after Schumer dropped out due to “I Feel Pretty” scheduling conflicts) who is expelled from her home for not living up to the plastic ideal expected by her pointy-footed sisters.

“The Nightingale” (August 10)

Not to be confused with the other female-directed “Nightingale” set to hit theaters in 2019 (Michelle MacLaren helms that one, a WWII drama based on the novel of the same name), this particular “Nightingale” is Jennifer Kent’s long-gestating followup to her beloved “The Babadook.” This one is also a historical drama, but with a brutal twist set in the wilds of 1825 Tasmania. Aisling Franciosi stars as a young convict woman who joins up with a young Aboriginal male to wreck total havoc and revenge on the men who murdered her family. While details remain scarce, one thing has stayed clear throughout early reports: this one is gonna hurt. 

“The Darkest Minds” (September 14)

Oscar-nominated director Jennifer Yuh Nelson dives into live-action filmmaking with this adaptation of Alexandra Bracken’s popular YA series of the same name. The film’s plotline sounds relatively standard — a dystopian world where teens develop superpowers and are herded up into camps, with one very special young girl making a stand against the status quo — but Yuh Nelson’s talented young cast is one worth getting very excited about. Led by breakout Amandla Stenberg (herself no stranger to big-time YA fare) and “Beach Rats” star Harris Dickinson, “The Darkest Minds” also includes Mandy Moore and Gwendoline Christie in major roles. Maybe the YA franchise world isn’t dead?

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?” (October 19)

“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”

“The Diary of a Teenage Girl” helmer Marielle Heller snagged a slew of potential projects after her 2015 breakout, but this long-gestasting fact-based feature is the first one to hit screens. And what a movie to remind people how talented Heller is, thanks to a wild true story and the canny casting of Melissa McCarthy in a role that demands drama. Based on Lee Israel’s autobiography of the same name — and with a Nicole Holofcener script to boot — the film unspools the crazy story of Israel (McCarthy), once a lauded celeb biographer who turned to fraud and plagiarism when her coffers dried up. And it wasn’t just stories or books she faked, but letters from famous people, which she then sold to unsuspecting buyers (and when she couldn’t fake a good letter, she’d steal and sell a real one). It’s a story screaming for a movie from someone like Heller, who knows how to blend honesty with empathy at every turn.

“Mulan” (November 2)

Disney’s live-action take on their classic princess tale will come to life thanks to long-time Mulan admirer Niki Caro and a cast of all Chinese leads. When IndieWire spoke to Caro earlier this year, she confessed to being a tremendous fan of the character. “She’s my favorite princess,” Caro said at the time. “Mulan kicks ass.” Despite the large scale of the film – it’s expected to cost north of $100 million to make – the filmmaker was enthused about the next step, drawing similarities to her first feature. “It has a lot of similarities to ‘Whale Rider,’ which is this very, very important part of my life,” she said. “I feel like I’m revisiting territory that I already kind have an in my DNA, but I get to flex the filmmaker muscle in a really big way. I think I’ve always had a really big vision.”

“Mary, Queen of Scots” (November 2)

“Mary, Queen of Scots”

The feature directorial debut of Josie Rourke, artistic director of The Donmar Warehouse, this starry royal drama follows this year’s Oscar contenders Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie in a face-off as two of history’s most compelling queens. The period drama explores the turbulent life of Ronan’s Mary Stuart, who became Queen of France at age 16 and widowed at 18. Robbie plays Mary’s biggest rival, Elizabeth I. Each young Queen is fearful and fascinated by the other, but their loyalty to their countries is threatened when Mary asserts her claim to the English throne. You already know who is going to win, but the path there should be a dazzling one.

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Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Star Trek’: What His Favorite Episodes, The New Writer, and R-Rating Tell Us About the Future Film

http://www.indiewire.com/2017/12/star-trek-quentin-tarantino-favorite-episodes-mark-l-smith-r-rating-1201910585/

Ever since the news of Quentin Tarantino boldly going where no Big Kahuna-munching hitman had ever gone before, we’ve been trying to get a grasp on how, exactly, fans might see the iconic director make his mark on the iconic franchise.

Star Trek’s” legacy might not be an obvious match for a director whose next big project will involve the bloody chaos surrounding the Charles Manson murders. But here are all the facts that have been revealed so far about the potential “Trekantino” film in the works, and how they hint at what to expect going forward.

This All Began After a Conversation Between Quentin Tarantino and J.J. Abrams

The initial report framed what happened as this: Tarantino told J.J. Abrams about an idea for a “Trek” movie he had, which led to a writers’ room forming to develop the story as an idea for Tarantino to potentially direct.

As revealed on Thursday, Mark L. Smith was the writer ultimately selected from that group to direct. Smith’s most notable screen credit is the Oscar-winning Alejandro G. Iñárritu survival drama “The Revenant,” but his background as both a writer and director is more centered in horror, including small films like “Séance” and “Vacancy.”

The Revenant

“The Revenant”

An Eclectic Group of Writers Were in That Initial Writers’ Room

This included Smith, Lindsey Beer, Drew Pearce and Megan Amram. It’s an interesting crew — Beer is a screenwriter whose upcoming projects include “Barbie” and a new take on “Dungeons & Dragons,” while Pearce’s genre bonafides include writing credits on “Iron Man 3” and “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation.”

Meanwhile, Amram might be most familiar to television fans as a key writer for series including “Parks and Recreation” and “The Good Place.” Lest you think this means she lacks edge, when IndieWire interviewed Amram in connection with “Dance Dance Resolution” (the standout third episode of “The Good Place” Season 2), she talked at length about how she and the other writers discussed how to torture their characters:

“I cannot tell you how much of our time was spent just trying to think of torture devices, which is a very fun game to play. But also, I feel like we keep coming back to penis things. It’s always like penis cores, penis peelers, penis flatteners, and they’re all funny, if I do say so myself. Butthole spiders, too, is in sort of the same world. Bees with teeth is a good example of something that’s very scary and doesn’t necessarily have to do with your penis, though I imagine they will go after your penis.”

When It Comes To “Trek,” Tarantino Seems Most Interested in Time Travel and Alternate Universes

No official comment as to what Tarantino’s story idea might be about. But as has been widely spread, in 2015 Tarantino discussed his favorite “Trek” episodes and films on the Nerdist podcast. Tarantino specifically cited the reality-shifting nature of two episodes as ones that excited him: “The Original Series'” “City on the Edge of Forever” and “The Next Generation’s” “Yesterday’s Enterprise,” two relatively dark time travel installments in which altering the events of the past end up changing the present for worse.

Tarantino also praised the 2009 J.J. Abrams “Star Trek” film for creating its own alternate reality that technically separates “the Kelvin timeline” from what we think of as the “prime” universe of every non-Abrams “Trek” property. Tarantino’s Nerdist interview comes two years before this project ever came to fruition, but it’s not hard to sense that he might feel intrigued by the idea that a “Trek” film could technically be a part of the 50-year-plus franchise, but not feel beholden to that 50-year-plus history.

Quentin Tarantino

That R Rating May or May Not Be a Big Deal

The news that Tarantino’s “Trek” will be R-rated definitely made headlines when it came out. But to play devil’s advocate, this isn’t necessarily about Tarantino trying to conform to the concept of “Trek” as we understand it, but rather Tarantino showing us what his take on “Trek” might be. And one key aspect of Tarantino’s personal style has always been a love of unencumbered language, so it makes sense for him to lock an R rating down before too many F-bombs make it into the script.

It’s worth noting that Tarantino won’t be dropping the first F-bombs in “Trek” history, thanks to the 2017 “Star Trek: Discovery” episode “Choose Your Pain,” in which Cadet Tilly (Mary Wiseman) and Lt. Stamets (Anthony Rapp) both use the expletive during a moment of exhilarating scientific discovery. Because neither use happened in a sexual context, if evaluated by the MPAA “Discovery” would probably squeak through with a PG-13 rating — similar to the 2015 film “The Martian,” which used the word “fuck” several times, but with great care.

While it’s a lot to ask Tarantino to hold back on the swears, the fact that Smith, with his horror background, was selected to write the script actually makes it feel far more likely that the R rating would have more to do with violence than profanity.

That’s Fine, Because “Star Trek” Is Capable of Absorbing Many Genres

On a weekly basis, nearly every “Trek” series has shown the capacity to shift in tone and approach, from the very beginning. “The Original Series” featured both soul-crushing tragedies like “The City on the Edge of Forever” as well as comic romps like “The Trouble With Tribbles.” Even the newest iteration, “Discovery,” proved to be somewhat more episodic than initially suggested — “Context Is For Kings” delved into horror tropes, while “Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum” felt more in line with a traditional “Trek” away mission.

Meanwhile, the “Trek” films that have been made so far have also varied wildly in approach, from the Shakespeare-esque drama of “The Wrath of Khan” to the dark and spooky “First Contact” and the action-oriented romp that was “Beyond.” Not every tone change was successful, but the failures of films like “The Final Frontier” or “Insurrection” were due to execution, not to tone. “The Voyage Home” and “The Undiscovered Country” couldn’t be more different, but they’re two of the best “Trek” films ever made.

No Merchandising. Editorial Use Only. No Book Cover Usage. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Paramount/Kobal/REX/Shutterstock (5884282s) Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner Star Trek Vi - The Undiscovered Country - 1991 Director: Nicholas Meyer Paramount USA Scene Still Scifi Star Trek VI - TerreiInconnue

This is because, ultimately, there’s no such thing as one kind of “Star Trek.” Great stories of all sorts have been told within the context of the future as initially created by Gene Roddenberry, with one key element at their core: The crews of these ships are inherently good people, blasting through the cosmos because for them, the unknown is full of wonders.

And here’s the thing: Terrible actions and terrible people are certainly a part of Tarantino’s films, but he’s also capable of creating characters who aren’t inherently pessimistic. Consider Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) in “Pulp Fiction,” who at the end of his storyline chooses to leave behind his life of killing for the unknown. “I’m tryin’, Ringo. I’m tryin’ real hard to be the shepherd,” he says.

Vengeance and destruction might drip off the screens, but Tarantino also isn’t afraid of a happy ending, especially one that features justice for the underdogs. And that last bit is very “Trek,” indeed.


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‘The Last Jedi’ Director Rian Johnson Interview: How He Made a Great Movie By Taking Huge Risks

http://www.indiewire.com/2017/12/star-wars-the-last-jedi-rian-johnson-1201909461/

With its dense, careening, seemingly unstructured 2-hour, 32-minute running time, “The Last Jedi — Episode VIII” is well worth a second viewing. From Han Solo’s cockpit dangling dice to Chewbacca preparing a roasted Porg for his supper, every detail pays off. We asked writer-director Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman (his producing partner since “Brick” in 2005) how they combined spectacle with scale and scope with intimate human dynamics, a raft of new characters and creatures, and the inevitable battle between light and dark.

And whatever is really going on with Internet trolls complaining about “The Last Jedi,” Johnson’s follow-up to J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens”  is a bonafide critical success and certainly plays like a blockbuster with theater audiences. The space epic scored $574 million worldwide to date, and will only keep racking up the numbers over the holidays.

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Disney

Echoing the male backlash against Paul Feig’s all-female “Ghostbusters,” Johnson’s”The Last Jedi” faces internet wailing for not only carefully balancing the dark and light sides of The Force, but also the story’s gender dynamics. Every male engages with a female counterpart: Solo scion Kylo vs. scrapper Rey, siblings Luke vs. Leia, survivor Finn vs. believer Rose, macho Poe vs. femme authority Holdo. (Although, once again, lanky “Game of Thrones” star Gwendoline Christie is sadly wasted.) While Johnson doesn’t want to parse it all out, “I was gender conscious while writing,” he admitted.

Altering the canon

Lucasfilm laid down the mandate that the “Star Wars’ universe needed to reflect real-world diversity, but what’s extraordinary about Johnson’s accomplishment is he dreamed up so much new stuff to extend an already crowded, immersive world — one in which vested fans carry strong views. How else to keep a 40-year-old franchise fresh?

Johnson wrote the first draft in 15 months. While he labored over many more iterations, he says 90 percent of his ideas made it into the final movie. He started with the main characters from “The Force Awakens,” and asked: “Where do they go next?”

Spoilers follow. 

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Disney

Johnson took risks by toying with audience expectations of the movie’s romantic entanglements. For one thing, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega) are separated for most of the movie, as are Kylo (Adam Driver) and Rey — he’s tangling with Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), while she’s training on remote island Ahch-To with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

“I realized that Finn and Rey were separated from the start,” Johnson said. “They’re logistically in different parts of the galaxy. Everyone was really nervous because their chemistry drove that first film. Finn is doing his own thing on his two feet. Rey has to deal with Luke and Kylo.” So he created a new buddy, Rose, to be by Finn’s side. Johnson debated whether to keep Finn’s kissing Rose. “It was something that felt right to me that I stuck to, to make my heart lift.”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

When that moment played to cheers at the “Last Jedi” LA premiere, it made Johnson “so happy,” he said. “It was the first time to see it with a crowd, literally, so I was nervous and tensed up. Truth is, I had no doubt about Kelly from the spark she had on screen the very first moment the editor started putting scenes together. To hear an audience get on board with her it felt so good.”

The major departure from the “Star Wars” canon was the whole notion of the Force connections between Kylo and Rey. It all started because Johnson wanted to get the two characters to talk without a physical confrontation. “I struggled with how to do that for a while,” he said, “especially as Rey hates Kylo so much. If you are going to put them in the same room they will start fighting! So it was searching for a way to force them to speak to each other. I didn’t want it be a big swirling effects sequence, but something as intimate as sitting face to face across from someone, which was the most difficult thing for Rey to have to do. That’s where the concept of these very simple Force connections came from.”

No, there’s no precedent for this in previous “Star Wars” movies. Johnson took the idea to the 11-member Story Group at Lucasfilm that Kennedy created in 2012 to oversee the “Star Wars” canon and asked them: “What about this? Can we do it?” Their response: “That’s new and exciting, let’s try it!”

The idea to have Leia fly came from “The Return of the Jedi,” when Luke tells Leia she has powers, too: “You will come to use them as I have,” he says. When Johnson brought it up to Lucasfilm CEO Kathleen Kennedy, she was “intrigued,” he said. “It was a moment of survival instinct for her. She doesn’t want to give up. To finally see that potential planted in her mind finally realized is powerful to see.”

And so he dove in.

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Disney

New faces and places

Johnson created two new planets as well as several cool creatures like the icy Star Base Crait’s sparkling crystal fox, the Vulptex. Finn (John Boyega) and the woman he eventually falls for, resistance fighter Rose (discovery Kelly Marie Tran), explore the Casino planet Canto Bight. “The purpose of the sequence is that Finn’s journey is going to be a pivot point for Finn seeing an extra layer of moral complexity to the whole fight by seeing it through Rose’s eyes,” said Johnson. “The key is the Favier-horse creatures. They are the thing worth saving.”

Fathier in THE LAST JEDI.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Jonathan Olley /Lucasfilm Ltd.

Written into the script, Johnson described new creatures who were “beautiful and sympathetic, who feel wise so you can emotionally connect with them, who look like space alien horses.” He then threw his contribution to the design team; it took star ILM designer Aaron McBride a while to crack.

Following in the mold of the original “Star Wars” creature designer Ralph McQuarrie, they tried to draw from the natural world and take familiar animals “and put them together and combine them in ways that made them alien and yet make them feel like something unto themselves,” said Johnson. “It’s a tricky balance: if it goes wrong you get a koala head on top of the wrong body. It was like cupping our hands around a flame. They showed me one with last-minute tweaks that suddenly worked: It came to life, a new creature distinct, wise and beautiful. ‘Freeze that in amber!’ It’s a magical process, doing the work of millions of years evolution in a few months.”

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi"

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Disney

Directing a movie of scale

Clearly, with “The Last Jedi” Johnson and Bergman took on a much bigger scale—the estimated $200 million budget was exponentially larger than Johnson’s last movie, the 2012 $30-million sci-fi adventure “Looper,” which made $170 million worldwide and showed Kennedy what Johnson could do.

So she let him and Bergman take the reins. On “The Last Jedi,” Bergman said, “nothing gets shot that Rian doesn’t direct. We had lot of time to prepare and prep. That’s why the process was so smooth, with no issues and no dramas production-wise.”

Kennedy seems so grateful for the harmonious experience of working with Johnson and Bergman  partly because other “Star Wars” installments have not gone so well–several directors, including the “Solo: A Star Wars Story” team Phil Lord and Chris Miller, have come and gone (they were replaced by veteran team player Ron Howard). And Johnson directed the whole thing himself, with no second units. “His hands were on everything, he was involved in everything,” said Bergman. “Every unit, splinter units, nothing gets shot that Rian doesn’t direct.”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Of course, the steepest learning curve was figuring how to mount the big effects battles. First they had to master the pre-visualization process of creating crude digital versions of each sequence. “It’s like an Xbox game,” said Johnson. “You see how it plays. It felt like it was a huge challenge, different from starting with storyboards like I always do, but it was just chicken-scratch storyboards that told the story shot by shot. We sat down and talked through pre-vis on every single shot, adjusted how it played straight through, put together the footage we shot with the actors. And if it doesn’t work, we panic and then shape a sequence so it works!”

Among a raft of film references in “The Last Jedi,” Johnson pays homage to Orson Welles’ “The Lady from Shanghai” with the stunning multiple mirror sequence, which turned out to also be one of the most difficult to execute. “It was a very early image I had before I started writing the script,” he said. “I walked on the beach with J.J. Abrams’ production designer Rick Carter, the secret Yoda of these new movies. He’s a very spiritual person. In fact, the first conversations I had with him were not about set pieces or ships. We talked about family and spirituality and what this stuff means to us: Rey searching for identity. I had this image of never-ending arrays of Reys. It’s about the possibilities of self, and playing cinematically, following down the line, with which one is the real her.”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

After he found a place for the sequence in the story, Johnson faced serious technical challenges. “It involved the capture of Daisy from multiple angles at once,” he said, “not shooting one and then repeating back. Each one is from a different perspective on each Rey. It was a complicated process executed by smarter people than I at ILM and One of Us, who did work on ‘Under the Skin.'”

Not an intended homage to Guillermo del Toro’s bloody white snow in “Crimson Peak” was the stunning Star Base Crait battle sequence when the white salt flats turn red. “I wrote it before I saw ‘Crimson Peak,'” said Johnson. “I saw it and called Guillermo. We were already in prep: ‘Shit, man, I saw your movie, I loved it, I have this thing that’s red and white in the new ‘Stars Wars,’ it’s not intentional.’ Pause. ‘Well, you’re fucked, man, I copyrighted the color red, so I’m going to sue Disney’s ass.’ He was really sweet. I prefer to think I was ripping off the woodchopper scene in ‘Fargo.'”

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

As Johnson got toward the end of Episode VIII, knowing that he had to hand it off to the next filmmaker, he realized what he was going to miss. “I had such a good time with Kathy,” he said. “We kept saying it felt like the last week of senior year as we were cleaning our lockers. I was getting sad, wondering how we could keep working together.”

So he proposed to Kennedy that he go with a new trilogy: “three movies, one story, create new people, new story over the canvas of a trilogy. She was very excited. That was the idea. It wasn’t a story pitch.”

That means that Johnson is just starting to come up with what it is. “I want to tap into what makes it ‘Star Wars,’ which is an exciting, intriguing question,” he said. “I’m just starting to dive into it now.”

Won’t this limit his output of original films? “We still have to future out the schedule,” he said. “I have other ideas. It’s important to keep figuring out ways to do those. I’m not just doing ‘Star Wars’ solid over the next decade. Intellectually, I can see how someone might see that I’m stuck in a box, but I don’t feel that at all. I’m incredibly turned on and dedicated to the idea of doing this and the notion of telling a story on this canvas in this world is everything I wanted to make movies for. It feels like big blue skies are open in front of me and I can start flying.”

Now J.J. Abrams has the task of following — and trying to top — this fresh blast of energy in the “Star Wars” universe with the ninth installment. It’s a tall order.


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‘Phantom Thread’: How Paul Thomas Anderson’s Costume Designer Channeled Reynolds Woodcock

http://www.indiewire.com/2017/12/phantom-thread-paul-thomas-anderson-costume-designer-mark-bridges-1201910464/

For costume designer Mark Bridges, it’s always an adventure working with Paul Thomas Anderson. But “Phantom Thread,” their eighth collaboration, represented a meta challenge: It was a movie about his craft.

Bridges is the first to admit that there’s a big difference between fashion and costume design. “I’m there to facilitate an actor’s performance and fulfill the vision of a director,” Bridges said.

And in the case of “Phantom Thread,” about the world of London haute couture in the 1950s, it’s a movie about the fashion designer as auteur. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis as the eccentric and obsessive Reynolds Woodcock, whose world is turned upside down when he falls for Eastern European waitress Alma (Vicky Krieps). But imagine if “Rebecca’s” Joan Fontaine struck back at Laurence Olivier with sly subversion, exorcising his demons while bringing them closer together. That’s what Anderson did with his twisted and witty love story.

Resurrecting London Couture of the 1950s

For Bridges, it was an opportunity to explore celebrity designers Cristobal Balenciaga and Christian Dior along with London staples Hardy Amies, John Cavanagh, Charles Creed, Norman Hartnell, and Digby Morton. The trick was finding the right fit for the fictional Woodcock. “What were the requirements? What were all those British guys doing? And how did Reynolds fit into that?,” said Bridges, who won an Oscar for “The Artist.”

Bridges did intense research at the Victoria and Albert Museum (he discovering that ’50s London was all about wool), watched movies like “Maytime in Mayfair,” a 1949 British musical comedy about Mayfair’s haute couture ladies’ fashions, and went clothes shopping with Day-Lewis.

"Phantom Thread"

“Phantom Thread”

“He’s very involved and knows that world so well,” Bridges said. “He grew up in a level of London [Kensington] where gentlemen were concerned about their clothes, shopped well, and always looked good because they were well made. And this is the kind of man that Reynolds was. It was really fun for me to work with him on that because I was exposed to Savile Row tailoring at Anderson & Sheppard for the first time. Or some of the finest shoe making at [G.J.] Cleverley at the Royal Arcade, where he had his shoes made.”

In the end, director, star, and costume designer made Woodcock an iconoclastic, artistically minded London designer. “Paul was interested in Daniel as Reynolds having a sense of authorship,” said Bridges. “We all sat down one day and decided it was rich fabrics, a heavy dose of lace, rich colors, and British woolens. Those were the parameters.”

Naturally, the actor had a hand in dressing his character. He chose lots of lavender (including an eye-catching bow tie) and some offbeat choices such as a windowpane-check jacket and blue herringbone wool coat. This took Anderson & Sheppard enjoyably out of its comfort zone with raglan sleeves and big patch pockets.

The House of Woodcock

Bridges and his team created 50 garments for the House of Woodcock, run by Reynolds and his domineering sister Cyril (Lesley Manville). “There were normal clothes as well as statement pieces,” Bridges said. ” It was fun deciding the millinery and the tricks of his trade. He didn’t have a pure line of clothes. It was more inspirational. He made garments for special clients and then modified them for his fashion show.”

When Reynolds first meets Alma in the country restaurant, she wears a plum dress. “I think we wanted to do something that felt unusually modern and its very clean shape plays up her bone structure,” said Bridges. “It reveals that she inspired him.”

"Phantom Thread"

“Phantom Thread”

Photo : Laurie Sparham / Focus Features

The first dress Reynolds makes for Alma is striking in lavender. “We had gone to the Victorian Albert for some research and there was this Balenciaga gown we looked at that had this incredible embroidery on it, all hand done, and the sequins were trapped underneath the stitching for a really subtle glitter,” Bridges said.

“And we had our embroiderer recreate that by hand on the bodice of that dress, too. We were shooting in winter and I knew she needed some kind of a jacket and we devised a shaped jacket with as few seams as possible so it comes out very sculptural. And then I had opera gloves to match the brown accent lining. That’s a real couture touch, too.”

A more formal lavender silk dress for Alma held greater significance for Reynolds because it grew out of an antique piece of lace. Although Anderson had written in the script that the heirloom was satin, Bridges convinced him that lace was more precious. “That really was 17th-century Flemish lace that we found a piece of,” he added. “Everybody held their breath when they knew we had to cut into it.”

“Phantom Thread”

This evolved into the lavender and maroon dress and cape that Reynolds made for Countess Henrietta Harding (Gina McKee). “As we sat down, Paul would doodle a little sketch of Henrietta’s dress and he chose the colors and put the two fabrics together,” Bridges said. “It was up to me and my head cutter to figure out how the little stick drawing becomes a workable, opulent, society garment.”

It was all part of making Reynolds a cut above the other mid-century London fashion designers. He wasn’t chic, but he had a style all his own.

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James Franco Says He Approached Directing ‘The Disaster Artist’ as a Love Story: Awards Season Spotlight Profile

http://www.indiewire.com/2017/12/james-franco-disaster-artist-tommy-wiseau-spotlight-1201910517/

“I love Hollywood stories, and this is unlike any Hollywood story ever,” said James Franco, speaking to IndieWire about “The Disaster Artist.” “This guy is so bizarre, this story is so bizarre, and at the same time it is like every Hollywood story — and it’s every dreamer’s story.” Franco directs and stars in the oddball show business tale, which chronicles the making of Tommy Wiseau’s cult classic “The Room.” Franco revealed that he hadn’t seen “The Room” until reading “The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made,” which gave him the inspiration to make “The Disaster Artist.”

“[‘The Room’] was sort of on the periphery of my consciousness, I’d seen the billboard…but it just didn’t register. It was so weird, it just didn’t make sense to me. I thought it was a cult, I didn’t know what it was,” said Franco. “I finally read the book…and I had that moment where it was like — ‘I need to direct this story, I need to play this guy, and I know that my brother [Dave Franco] will be great for Greg, because I just know that we have that dynamic.'”

“The Disaster Artist” works because of Franco’s respect and admiration for Wiseau and what he was trying to accomplish. As such, he approach the story with a kind of reverence, not as a flat-out comedy. “We always knew we didn’t want this to be an out and out comedy in the vein of ‘Pineapple Express,’ that we would treat this almost like a love story. We certainly wouldn’t do it like a spoof, it would be so easy to poke fun at him,” he said.

Franco is delightfully unhinged and earnest as Wiseau, delivering one of the best performances of his career, and one that could potentially earn him an Oscar nomination. (He has already been nominated for a Golden Globe Award, SAG Award, and won the Gotham Award for Best Actor). As a director, “The Disaster Artist” represents a giant leap forward for Franco, whose previously films didn’t attract awards attention.

According to Franco, there were only two actors Wiseau wanted to play him: Franco or Johnny Depp. “I think largely because I had played James Dean and he sees himself as James Dean,” said Franco. “Tommy Wiseau looked at Brando and James Dean, but he’s obviously from Eastern Europe somewhere, so by trying to be James Dean and failing at that so spectacularly, he created something else that was in its own weird bizarre way just as beautiful — and people responded.”

This year’s Awards Spotlight series is produced with help from our partners at Xfinity, and filmed at the Variety Content Studio.


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