INTERVIEW WITH ALADDIN SINGING VOICE BRAD KANE ~ TO COMMEMORATE THE RELEASE OF THE DIAMOND BLU RAY EDITION OF ALADDIN ON 10/13

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INTERVIEW WITH BRAD KANE ~ SINGING VOICE OF ALADDIN

Sitting down with a few of my fellow Movie Critics in St. Louis is always a great time, but when we are all gathered round to interview the Singing voice of Disney’s first “BAD BOY” ~ Aladdin ~ a.k.a. Brad Kane ~ things got even better.

This classic Disney film is slated for Diamond Blu Ray release tomorrow 10/13 – 23 years after it’s original release – so Brad is traveling “A WHOLE NEW WORLD” on it’s behalf, sharing how he got this life-changing role, and what it means to him so many years later:

Can you tell us the process of how you ended up becoming the singing voice of Aladdin?

Brad: It happened a long time after I first auditioned for it. I was a senior in high school when the first audition took place. The only Alan Menken movie out at this point was THE LITTLE MERMAID. And Beauty and the Beast wasn’t out yet either, so no one knew there was going to be this run of the golden age of DISNEY CLASSICS. I just thought I was auditioning for a “cool cartoon”, and it felt like just another audition. I sang PROUD OF YOUR BOY, which a lot of people know from the Broadway show, but they had cut it out of the original movie. I sang it for Alan Menken and the late great Howard Ashman. I sang it, they said thank you, and off I went. I had just graduated from High School, and went on to College. I headed off to the NYU Film School ~ I was a film geek ~ and even though it sounds a little pretentious, my heroes were Fellini, and the Cohen Brothers.Disney wasn’t really part of my conscience at this point – I put a band together at the time and we were traveling around playing music, and at this point in my life, all I was listening to was Nirvana and Pearl Jam.   I got a call from my mom back in New York, and she said, “Remember that thing you auditioned for with Disney like 10 months ago, well they want to hear what you sound like with the girl that they have chosen for Jasmine”. I was pushing back, I didn’t want to do this anymore, I wanted to be Kurt Cobain! My mom shared that she realized I was 18 and it was my first year of freedom, but she knew for sure, if I didn’t do this, I would regret it. So I headed back from Chicago to New York and went to a little studio in Manhattan to sing for Alan Menken, and Lea Salonga was there. Alan sat at a piano and asked us to sing “A WHOLE NEW WORLD”. It was the first time I had heard the song, and we sounded really good together. But Menken didn’t give me the job right then and there either. I flew back to Chicago to do my gigs, and then they finally reached out again and gave me the job. Beauty and the Beast wasn’t released yet, so I didn’t know the significance of what this singing part could become…little did I know it would go on to become something this big…

Here is what I always tell people when I tell them this story ~ So my heroes are like I said Fellini, Clint Eastwood ~ Unforgiven had just come out at the time, and the song that I sang for Aladdin was nominated for the Oscars that year too, so I got to perform at the Oscars. I am sitting in the green room in my full Aladdin costume – and I hear Federico Fellini asking me for a bear claw, then I hear “friend, isn’t it great for us to be together like this”, and it’s Eastwood sitting right there in this tiny green room. So, here I am, I did this thing that I thought was for his small movie, and I got to meet my idols because of it.

So, whenever I’m talking to 18 & 19 year olds, who are first going into the industry, and they have their own ideas about what they want to do, and how they want to go about it I tell them, Trust me, say yes to everything, because you never know where a job is going to take you…it took me to getting that close to all my idols!!

And of course after that, Beauty and the Beast came out, and it was then that I realized “oh this is something special that I did” because I just finished recording Aladdin. I finally realized that I did this thing, and was a part of this Golden Age of Disney Animation, and the rest is history…and now 20+ years later, I have a 20 month old daughter hearing my voice on Radio Disney…who says “Dada singing”…and I call my mom and thank her for this happening in my life almost every day!

So, did you think this many years later you would be here?

Brad: At that time when you are 18 or 19, do you even think a year later? You don’t think about posterity. You can train to be a singer, and you can do the best you can to be a good singer, but there is no training to becoming a Disney Prince. It is pure luck, and I DID GET LUCKY!!!

Did you have many sessions with Williams?

Brad: No, I didn’t have a single session with Williams. If you talk to Scott, the voice of Aladdin, he will tell you he only had one session with him. They had Robin come in on his own~ they gave him boxes of stuff to improvise with ~ and they let him go. There are actually new documentaries on the new blu ray with Robin doing his thing, which is a nice addition to the film this time around. Sadly, I didn’t even get to see him at a premiere of the film, I was at the East Coast premiere, since I was also doing a Broadway show at the time, and he was on the West coast doing that premiere, so our paths never crossed.

Disney is making live remakes of the classic animated films now, are you involved in anything coming up live-action with ALADDIN?

Brad: I know they in the process of making a GENIE movie now, but I am not part of that. Primarily I am just the singing voice of the animated movie. Ironically, I just wrote a movie for the producers who just did the Beauty and the Beast live movie though. I am primarily involved in the writing and producing of things now; I don’t do much singing anymore.

A perk of doing stuff like this and promoting this new release of the film, is being able to sing with acapella groups like the ARISTOCATS, which I sang with on FOX this morning…they were thrilled, but I think I was even more thrilled…

You do a lot with Black Sails on STARZ too right?

Brad: Yes, I do that show for STARZ. I have been on it since the beginning ~ writing and producing. Our third season airs in January of 2016, and we are already working on season 4. You have to get that far ahead in order to be able to do all the special effects needed for a show of this caliber.

Has DISNEY asked you to do anything else at this point?

Brad: Not yet, but if they did, I would be there in a flash…I love Disney and what they put out. So many Hollywood movies are made for cynically and for a cash grab, you know, things like that. When you see what Disney does to make these types of movies ~ I mean they are made so lovingly and with one or two intentions in mind ~ to make people happy and to make things that people will love for generations. Like with Aladdin, putting in the message of being your best self, and all the great things that will come your way from doing that. And it’s a female empowerment story too; Jasmine won’t live the life that is set out for her by her father. They really do these things with specific intentions, with love and craft in creating the best, lasting product.

You did the sequels too right?

Brad: Yes, they were intended to be television sequels, but they broke it up to make them video sequels for everyone to view, but on a much smaller budget.

Another fun thing is that I have a buddy who is an animation nut, and now, 23 years later, he works for Disney and has created Penn Zero: Part-time hero, and he has asked me to do a parody of Aladdin for the show…Now, how cool is that!!

Have you ever thought of walking through the Parks and breaking out into song as Aladdin?

No, I have never thought about doing that, but I have thought about being on Jimmy Kimmel when he visits Grauman’s Chinese Theater, and have him stop by and I could be there dressed as Aladdin and break out into song…

Now I’m off to meet my family who is waiting for me under the arch…we just left Houston and love all there is to do here in St. Louis…We love your city!!!

Kathy Kaiser

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INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR DAVID OYELOWO discussing his new film ~ CAPTIVE

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As a classically trained stage actor, and mesmerizing talent on screen too, this gentleman from Oxford England is THE REAL DEAL. Whether you have seen him in Spielberg’s LINCOLN, or in his breathtakingly real portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King in last years academy award nominated film SELMA, this multifaceted actor has proven he can DO IT ALL!!!

In his next film and role, Oyelowo plays killer Brian Nichols in the real-life drama ~ CAPTIVE.

Visiting St. Louis to promote his new film, I and a few of my fellow critics got the opportunity to talk to David about this latest film and what drove him to take on the role of killer Brian Nichols…

HAVE YOU HAD THE OPPORTUNITY TO VISIT ST LOUIS BEFORE?

Yes, I have… a few times actually. We have very good friends who run the St. Louis Family Church…and my kids sometimes go to their summer camps…I LOVE ST. LOUIS!

WHAT DREW YOU TO THE ROLE?

I was more drawn to the story, than the role itself. As you know, Brian Nichols murdered four people that morning, and ended up taking Ashley Smith hostage, and that on paper is not a role I gravitate towards in a hurry. But the story in its totality…when you think about the fact that Ashley Smith was a meth addict, who had lost custody of her daughter – these were two broken people who were held up together in her apartment for 7 hours. Whenever you look at this story, there was this blank spot of what happened over this span of time. You only had Ashley’s side of the story, you didn’t hear much from Brian Nichols ~ he was facing trail now for murder, and is presently serving multiple life sentences. So, how miraculous is a situation where, someone who had killed four people in the morning, then turns around and not only lets this woman go, but gives himself up, and then in a weird twist of fate, she attributes part of her salvation to him, is something that generates intrigue in me. So I was very interested in what happened in those seven hours, that’s what drew me to this piece. More than what Brian Nichols did, it was how that, + Her, + 7 hours = what went on to happen beyond this event…

WERE YOU ABLE TO MEET BRIAN NICHOLS?

I wasn’t, NO. The nature of his sentence means you can’t have access, But I did get to meet his mother, which was very intense as you can imagine. The thing that was extraordinary about meeting her, even 10 years on, is that she still can’t quite believe that this is her life, and that this was her son that did this. It is still reverberating for that family, if you can imagine.

 

DID YOU HAVE MUCH FOOTAGE TO STUDY OF HIM?

Yes, of the trail mainly. Not before hand. My primary source for getting under the skin of Brian was Ashley, really. She remembers this event as if it happened yesterday, and she was on the set with us through quite a lot of the shoot.

DID ASHLEY SMITH HAVE MUCH INFLUENCE BEING ON THE SET?

She had influence in so far as ~ not from a creative point of view, but more from a factual point of view. I was very keen, because I couldn’t speak to Brian, and because I was limited in being able to talk to people who knew Brian, I just wanted to make sure that what we were doing felt true, felt like it was authentic to the experience. It is one of those stories where is no need to embellish anything, All of It literally it played out like a movie. When you think about the fact that Brian Nichols kills those people in Atlanta GA, and then it was a 45 minute drive to Duluth GA, and it was an apartment complex, and then he finds his way into her specific apartment. You couldn’t write that, is the truth of the matter. So for us it was about sticking true to the story, and that was primarily her function for us while we were shooting the film.

 GOING FROM PLAYING DR, MARTIN LUTHER KING, AND THEN SEEING YOU IN THIS ROLE, IT MADE ME SAY~WHO IS DR. KING? IT’S APPARENT THAT YOU A NOT GOING TO BE TYPECAST FROM THE ROLES YOU ARE SELECTING…

That’s the reason to do it. There is a very real risk in playing someone like Dr. King to be typecast. Thankfully people loved that film and have been very nice about my performance in it, but an unwanted byproduct of it would be to be purely associated with that for the rest of my career, and to not have audiences be prepared to go on a different journey with me. SO, in many ways playing Brian Nichols who is antithetical to Dr. King, even a film I did called Nightingale for HBO, is similarly a very, very different kind character. That is not purely why I did those films, but it is definitely something I aspire in doing…

DID YOU HAVE ANY SECONDS THOUGHTS ABOUT PLAYING BRIAN?

Yes, I did. Because I know what it costs me to play these roles. You can’t phone that in. My job as an actor is to fully inhabit the character. And, when I say “that costs”, with a character like Brian Nichols, unlike Dr. King, Dr. King is someone who I hugely admire, and what an honor to get to play him. I so valued getting to go on that journey. Brian Nichols and what he did, and who he is, didn’t have the same draw, for obvious reasons. But, my job was the same. Your job as an actor is to not judge your character. You have to be able to understand why they do, what they do, when they are doing it, so that you function as a three dimensional human being that people can believe.

DO YOU THINK THAT YOUR ROLE AS AN ACTOR IS TO GARNER SYMPATHY WITH A ROLE LIKE THIS?

Well, the first thing to say is that I didn’t think that Brian didn’t need to kill anyone that day. And shouldn’t have killed anyone that day, and one of the tough things for me was to makes sure that this didn’t, in any way feel like an exoneration of what he did on that day. But, the fact remains that beyond those 7 hours, Ashley Smith attributes HIM with part of why she gained her life back. And when he held a gun to her head and said take the meth, and she said NO – a drug that she had been a slave too for so long…the way she describes it is that she felt GOD took over Brian Nichols~ and said DO YOU WANT TO LIVE OR DO YOU WANT TO DIE ~ you have a choice~ turn way from this thing, or take hold of life. And so regardless of where you are coming from from a Faith point of view, something happened, something miraculous happened. Something that on paper shouldn’t have. And that can only happen when, I believe, that a degree of humanity is shared between these two people. So yes, the idea at the beginning of the movie is for him to be cold blooded…and one of the things I really struggled with is, you have a guy, and this is what he did on the day… he had no shirt on, very muscly guy, two guns running around Atlanta, the kind of guy who we normally deem an action hero in the movies, so one of the toughest things was how do we not make him seem like Jason Statham, or Bourne or Bond, so you have that to one side. But at the end of the day, even though, especially if he had done what he did to any family member of mine…I wouldn’t want to see him as a human being, but the fact remains that he was. And so yes, my job is to portray him with a degree of humanity, that means you can take a look at these two people…because in many ways, Ashley Smith was a drug addict, who had lost custody of her daughter, whose husband has died in a drug related incident, similarly someone who you could discard to the trash heap, and you can say “what are you doing? Wake up! You’ve lost custody of your daughter”…but seeing these two broken people together, and them making choices that took them away from the deadly path that they were both on, can only be born out of humanity…

WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH KATE MARA – WHAT DID SHE BRING TO THE ROLE?

I am very proud of Kate in this film. She is one of my best friends. I have known her for a long time. I actually directed her in a short film called BIG GUY about 4 years before we did this film together, and I agree, she is a talent that has been untapped until recently. And what she brought to the film is that she has this incredible kind of vulnerability, but strength as well. And you don’t find that everywhere you go. She is attractive, but there is so much more to her than that. The humanity that has to be seen in her, in order to fool someone like Brian Nichols, is something she just has in spades. Also, her being a very good friend of mine helped, because I have to do some really mean things to her. I have found that whenever that is the case between actors, the greater the level of trust the further you can go. Because you know deep down you’re not going to get hurt. That person isn’t going to take advantage of being in a scene and ruffing you up. So, that helped us to really dig deep, when they are awful to each another, and also when there is a coming together, when they really start to talk as human being, rather than predator and prey…

WERE YOU FAMILIAR WITH THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE BEFORE YOU GOT INVOLVED IN THIS PROJECT?

Yes, I had read it before I knew about the incident. It had been a very meaningful book for me personally as a Christian myself, the thing that I got from it was that God’s purpose for my life is way bigger than my purpose for my own life, and that kind of an extraordinary thing, especially for an ambitious guy who has quite big dreams. And I think that is what happened here, particularly for Ashley Smith. She had actually said to me that she had watched the news that day, and saw that this killer is on the loose around Atlanta, and at 2 a.m. this man is in her apartment. And when he broke in, she thought this was God’s way of saying you deserve death. You have messed up so much, that it’s done…

ASHLEY ESCAPES DEATH at the HANDS OF BRIAN, BECAUSE HER LIFE HAS PURPOSE, SO SHE MAKES IT THROUGH THIS ENCOUNTER. BRIAN ESCAPES DEATH TOO, AS HE WASN’T GIVEN THE DEATH PENALTY, SO WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS HIS PURPOSE?

I am a believer in life beyond this life. And I think that his purpose is to embrace that. It is to embrace the fact that his has run out of credit, so to speak, here on this earth, but beyond this life there is hope for him. I believe that God is a redemptive God. A God of forgiveness.

Ashley was stopped in her journey, just before it was the point of no return. There was a purpose for her life, in that, look, here we are talking about a movie about her life. THAT IS PURPOSE that came out of that very dark situation. She regained custody of her daughter. She remarried. She has another two kids.

She is now a spokesperson for CELEBRATE RECOVERY, and has helped thousands of people who suffer with the same addiction she had. It is more difficult to find purpose in Brian’s life, but at the end of the day, he stopped. She somehow stopped him in his tracks. And here we are, talking about this white woman, who understandably should have been terrified of this big black man who broke into her apartment, and what she did was say “please don’t kill me”…she made pancakes, she read a book to him… I was there when Brian’s mother thanked Ashley for making her son pancakes…kind of an extraordinary thing for a mother to say, but only a mother would say that, and so I think that there is purpose in all of that really…

Kathy Kaiser

INTERVIEW WITH PAWN SACRIFICE PRODUCER GAIL KATZ and GRANDMASTER MAXIM DUIGY

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PAWN SACRIFICE INTERVIEW – With GAIL KATZ (Producer) & Grandmaster Maxim Diugy

 The new film based on the Real-life story of American chess champion Bobby Fischer and his legendary match-up against Russian Boris Spassky ~ PAWN SACRIFICE hits theaters this Friday 9/18.

Producer Gail Katz and Grandmaster Maxim Diugy were in St. Louis last week promoting the film, and I and my fellow Movie Critics around St. Louis had the opportunity to chat with them about the making of this film…

“In 1972, Bobby Fischer faced the Soviet Union in the greatest chess match ever played. On the board he fought the Cold War. In his mind he fought his madness.”

 

A Significant part of this film, and part of Bobby Fischer’s story, is of his anti-Semitism, and his conspiracy theories. Luckily you didn’t avoid showing this in the film…so how did you decide to keep this part of his life in the film for everyone to see?

GAIL – This movie was about something that I lived thru and I knew that I wanted to make it for many years now. When I started this movie in 2004, Bobby was leaving for Japan, and he was still sharing his anti-Semitism and distorted theories with the world. There was concern about doing a movie about him, and how do you convey this. Our feeling was this is a story about a remarkable human being. He certainly has certain mental problems and issues and we needed to convey this part of his story as accurately as possible.

I consulted with several psychiatrists and experts on what he might have had, in terms of his mental illness, as far as to make sure that it progressed in as clear a way as we could have made it. It is definitely something we had to address. Its just very much a part of him, As much as his early part of him is about the rise of seeing his genius~ and his taking over of the chess world~ He was Jewish, his mother was Jewish, and we wanted to convey the realism of his remarkable life, and all that that involved, but to truly understand Bobby, and what he was about, we had to include this part of his life in the film.

MAXIM ~ I actually think that his anti-Semitism was directed towards the conspiracy theory rather than anything else. There was a time in his life when he stayed for a full year with a Jewish family, the Poulter sister’s, in Budapest, and when I asked them about how they were dealing with this fact, Susan, the older sister, said that “they didn’t bring it up.” When he left their home after a year, I asked why he left…and she said, “Well, we brought it up…”

GAIL ~ He was the best kind of anti-Semitic, the kind that says, “Some of my best friends are Jewish….” I also think that a lot of this is also tied up with his mother. It’s hinted at only in the movie. And again I don’t know…as far as I know he never saw a Psychiatrist, or that he was ever officially diagnosed. So, we had to go with the research that we had…

 SPEAKING OF HIS CONSPIRACY THEORIES ~ FISCHER SAYS IN THE FILM THAT THE RUSSIANS WERE CHEATING…he even rights a famous article in SPORTS ILLUSTRATED ARTICLE ABOUT IT IN 1972, is this true, or is it ALL IN HIS HEAD?

MAXIM ~ Of course there is truth to that, because in any competition, if you have a situation where you don’t know, but its possible they are colluding, then you are at a disadvantage by definition, even if you don’t know if they are. If there are 6 Russians and only one American Playing, if they keep winning, you wonder if they are winning, or are they cheating.

GAIL ~ They were able to do that because it was a round-robin format. And then they changed the rules after ~ because of his article and his campaign to change it. He succeeded in getting it changed to a pyramid format, so that that couldn’t happen again.

MAXIM ~ Fischer was the first chess professional. Chess players are extremely indebted to him, because he created professional chess. Before him there was no professional chess. He not only created it, he demanded it, and he changed rules. People are still using his rules. He was always thinking about the game… so he is a very interesting character…

DID YOU EVER GET TO MEET BOBBY FISCHER?

MAXIM ~ I had the opportunity twice to meet him – once when I was fighting for the world championship, and I qualified to play for the U.S., a mutual friend of ours told him, and he stepped forward to help us prepare. But, I made the mistake of telling him that I have a budget, because he wanted like $5,000 dollars, and then I disclosed that it was from the American Chess Foundation to prepare us…But, he came back and said “what?? It’s run by Jews!!” SO he sad NO.”

In 1991, I was President of the US Chess Federation, and the same friend came forward and said that he is wanting to play a young, up and coming player, and I asked what does he need…a computer and data base games. He returned the next year to play Boris Spas sky.

Spassky is still around…. Once Spas sky visited Fischer’s grave with me, and he said that he wants to be buried next to him…

GAIL ~ Wow, I didn’t know that!!!

WHY DO SO MANY CHESS PLAYERS COME FROM RUSSIA?

MAXIM ~ It was financed, because it was a way considered a way to prove that communism is a good ideology, because we are smarter, because we know chess. But now, we see to players from all over the world. No domineering culture from Russia now. England, China, Norway and here in the states are still powers too…

GAIL ~ Sometimes it does take those great personalities and winning, and you have great players and teachers coming through…

MAXIM ~ Fischer was an individual that made chess to be played differently…

HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU STARTED PLAYING CHESS??

I started playing when I was 6, and in fact I learned chess when I was 7 in Russian Estonia…and people would comment “This is our new Bobby Fischer…not Boris Spas sky…being Bobby was something to aspire too….

WHY WERE YOU DRAWN TO PLAYING CHESS?

MAXIM ~ My grandparents played it; I learned it and I just loved it.

 

HOW INVOLVED WERE YOU IN THE CASTING PROCESS OF CHOOSING TOBY MAGUIRE?

GAIL ~ I went to Toby back in 2004. I had made a list of actors that it could be, that’s what Producers do, and obviously Toby was on that list. I can’t remember everyone on that list over 10 years ago. But, I do remember that Toby was almost the same age that Bobby was at the time he made his rise to fame…then we pitched the story to Sony Pictures and they bought it. It’s been a 9-year process to make this movie happen.

For Boris Spassky – Liev Schreiber was always my first choice.

 And, even though stature wise, Toby wasn’t as tall as Bobby, he did have the same long fingers, and this played well for filming him playing chess. Then Ed Swick came aboard and so on. It was a normal casting process.

HOW DO YOU MAKE THIS FILM ACCESSIBLE TO PEOPLE WHO DON’T KNOW CHESS?

 GAIL ~ It’s really not a movie about CHESS. It’s a movie about a human being that has amazing brilliance, but amazing odds against him mentally. And its really about his journey and his struggle ~ it’s a cold war thriller ~ that happens to be set in the world of chess.

 

WHERE WAS THIS FILM SHOT?

GAIL ~ Most of the film was shot in Montreal, except for a day and a half in Iceland and two days in LA on Santa Monica Beach. Richard Beribey was with us as the Chess advisor for the entire film. He was there to set up the board for every move and every shot. He could answer every question that we had – from soup to nuts he was with us, so we could make it as accurate as possible.

WERE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT CHESS BEING CINEMATIC? Or did you leave that in the hands of the Director?

Not at all, I’ve seen movies that are cinematic about a guy blinking an eyelash.. We had a brilliant cinematographer, and Ed Zwick is a director that makes movies bigger than you can imagine. We were only constrained by our budget.

 

HOW DID THIS FILM IMPRESS YOU MAXIM?

MAXIM ~ It is very true to life. In my chess career, my first coach was Bobby Fisher’s coach. I knew that there was this heartfelt love for Bobby. Our coach revered him, and I could see this at only 12 years old. This is totally conveyed in this film.

WAS IT FICTIONALIZED AT ALL?

GAIL ~ Well, your not in the rooms to hear every conversation. But the big things that happened, like x-raying the chairs, all of those things were true. We tried to make it as accurate as possible. I mean we were making a movie, not a documentary…so there are times when you have to take some license, like combining scenes or characters…very little. At the beginning of the movie it says that this is based on a TRUE STORY, and there are lawyers and insurance companies that vet that, and allow you to say that, if it isn’t, you have to say IT’s INSPIRED BY EVENTS… so this was based on a true story, basically I wanted it to say ALL OF THIS SHIT REALLY HAPPENED!!!!

Kathy Kaiser 

INTERVIEW with ACTOR JOSH WIGGINS and DIRECTOR BOAZ YAKIN from MAX

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MAx movie posterINTERVIEW with ACTOR JOSH WIGGINS and DIRECTOR BOAZ YAKIN from their new film: MAX

Look what the rains washed in?? Just kidding of course, but Actor Josh Wiggins and Director Boaz Yakin visited St. Louis during their promotional tour for their new film – MAX – at a time when it seemed like we were in our very first MONSOON SEASON in the Midwest! Lucky for them, myself and the other film critics who got to chat with them – Blueberry Hill was the perfect place to keep dry and to have the opportunity to find out what it took to bring MAX to the BIG SCREEN:

Q: So we don’t get to meet MAX?

A:     YAKIN: The dog just happens to be on his a publicity tour of his own and he is meeting us in Washington tomorrow.

Q: Since this is one of your early films…would you mind sharing with us the casting process that took place for Josh’s part in the film?

 A:       WIGGINS: When I got the script sent to me and one of the things that stood out for me was the fact that it was a family film that everyone could enjoy, yet it had more mature undertones and complex characters that would allowed me to flex my acting muscles. And being a part of a film focused on bomb dogs ~ you don’t see that too often in the media ~ and military elements of this film too. After my first reading, they took me out the farm where they were training the dogs and stuff, so I hoped that was a good sign.

YAKIN: We saw Josh in Hellion, and he was really good~ very natural and empathic but not fishing for sympathy to reach the audience. His audition was actually a formality. We made him do a few easy readings and that was that. We were actually hoping that he would want to do it!

Q: Why did you decide to shoot the film in NORTH CAROLINA?

A:     YAKIN: Tax incentives of course, and it matched the area of Texas we wanted to portray in the film – the natural part of it – we didn’t want to shoot the dry arid version of Texas, we needed a place with lush green areas to film in, and North Carolina was the perfect place.

Q: What were some of the challenges working with animals?

A:     WIGGINS: From an acting standpoint, the trainer has to work behind the scenes, so you learn to adjust to him in the background working with the animals. But on the flip side of that, you really have to focus on what your doing, and not be distracted by what is going on behind the scenes. Having to do this throughout this movie really helped me to focus on my work, and ignore what was happening around me ~ you know, block it out – so in the long run, working on this film has taught me more on how to focus in my craft, than ever before.

Q: Did you bond with the dog over the many months of filming?

A:     WIGGINS: Yes, it is just like how we bond with one another. You grow fond of them, and that happened for me with the dogs I was working with too. I have three dogs of my own, so I wasn’t timid at all with dealing with the animals in the film, which probably made for an easier time for both of us.

 Q: Besides bonding with the dogs, did you make friends on the set?

A:     WIGGINS: We all became friends and bonded during the movie, and I think that it is conveyed really well on screen too.

Q: How close did you work with the MARINES On this film?

A:     YAKIN: My co writer on the film and my old friend Sheldon, just happens to be a Vietnam Vet and Marine. So we went to Camp Pendleton and did research there. And we actually had real military personnel in the Afghanistan scenes, besides our lead actors, so we worked really close with them through the whole process.

Q: How did you decide to choose Trevor Rabin for the score of this film?

A:     YAKIN: It was a natural choice – Trevor and I worked together on REMEMBER THE TITANS and I love him and his work – his scores are very emotional ~ and he loves dogs too ~ and even though he is asked to create BIG SCORES most often, I personally think that Trevor’s emotional scores are his best work – so he was the perfect choice, as the score means so much for this film.

Q: How were you able to pull off the FUNERAL SCENE?

A:     YAKIN: It was a combination of the context of the story and the lead actors selling their acting for this scene. That, and us having Mark Forbes from BIRDS AND ANIMALS – he is fantastic. They study the script and ask you specifically what you want in a particular scene, so that by the time you actually shoot it, you know exactly how it is going to work, which is how this scene came to fruition.

WIGGINS: And if it was an emotional scene, they kept the animals away from the actors. So they knew exactly when and when not to approach the us, which made shooting it easier for everyone.

Q: Of your parents in the film – played by Lauren Graham and Thomas Hayden Church – were you more excited about working with one of them as opposed to the other?

A:      WIGGINS: Well there was more of an emotional storyline with Thomas, but I bonded and enjoyed acting with Lauren too. Since I am relatively new to this process, having both Veteran actors to work with for months while filming was really helpful for me in this process.

Q: How many dogs did you actually use in the film?

YAKIN: For MAX just one real HERO dog, but there were 4 dogs in the film for particular parts for MAX, and we had Rottweiler’s in the film too, but they handled so that the fight scenes are actually them playing – even though it comes across as actual fighting between the dogs with a few special effects.

Q: You are riding throughout the film in deep forested areas…did you know how to ride like that before filming, and was it as treacherous as it looks?

A:     WIGGINS: Of course, I had ridden a bike before, but never as extreme as was required for this film. I learned a lot shooting like we did for those scenes, and that is why I love taking on different roles – always learning something new!

Q: Where did you find the young actress in the film?

A:     YAKIN: She came into an audition in LA. That was a very challenging part to cast. Once we had Josh in place, we needed to secure Mia and then John, to play opposite him, and we needed strong young actors to play opposite of Josh’s strong role. We had to make sure that everyone can step up and go toe-to-toe with Josh, and they both nailed it!

WIGGINS: Both Mia and John were great to play up against, and you really can’t tell at all that this is their first film, they are so good.

Q: As a family film, MAX definitely sticks with the kids. Brad shared that his daughter and nephew haven’t stop talking about it since they saw it last week? What are your thoughts on how it will impact the younger viewers?

A:     YAKIN: That is so gratifying to hear. For me, if I am going to make a family film, which is about war, and loss and responsibility, I hope the viewers both young and old take something away from it. I mean, a genuine family movie is one that asks kids to respond, and maybe step up their game a little. If you can make a movie that teaches them respect and that doesn’t just affect the parents while viewing, but the children too, that is what you dream for. I think kids have a way of taking things in, like this movie, and understanding exactly what we want them to learn through this process. Kid’s are almost always ready to step up and learn from an experience ~ if your willing to teach them things about life that they haven’t experienced before~ they will definitely grow through this process…

Q: Josh, now that you have done MAX, what is your dream role?

A:     WIGGINS: I think have about a hundred different dream roles ~ I definitely have directors I would love to work with – Tarantino stuff, and J. J. Abrahams, people that when you watch a film, you know it’s there’s, When you see a Tarantino film, you know it’s his. I love when a Director puts his stamp on a film, even though those type films aren’t usually my age demographic. I love directors that put their stamp on something. I don’t really have a particular genre, there are so many roles and genres I would like to act in…I mean you can make a film about a potato on a farm, if it’s executed right, written well, directed well, it can be a good movie…anything that is executed right, I love being a part of.

Q: What were the differences between directing this film as apposed to your previous films?

A:     YAKIN: Anything that you think you expect going in, turns out to be different than what you thought. Sometimes you think a scene is going to be easy, and it turns out to take the most effort. And vice versa. Every movie has its own challenges. With this film, making a move with a protagonist – which is the dog –you don’t know how it’s going to play out with him and Josh as the main characters. I mean, like you hope that the ear twitch from CARLOS, a.k.a Max, plays out that he heard something, but in reality, you don’t really know till you see footage from the film…that was the most difficult part of making this film, and the most enjoyable