Connect with us

Movies News

‘Belfast’ Stars Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe Drew From Personal Experiences to Play a Married Couple Caught in a Tumultuous Time

Published

on

‘Belfast’ Stars Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe Drew From Personal Experiences to Play a Married Couple Caught in a Tumultuous Time

For Caitríona Balfe and Jamie Dornan, working on Focus Features’ Belfast was unlike anything they’d done before. The actress, who plays Ma in Kenneth Branagh’s film based on his childhood, felt drawn to the story when she saw that the script was focused on ordinary people instead of the politics and ideology of Northern Ireland — which she often sees in projects that come her way. For Dornan, who plays Balfe’s husband, Pa, Belfast was set in his hometown, and he was enticed by the truthful story of a family struggling with crippling decisions, grief and unconditional love.

Plus, they got to work with a cast that included Judi Dench, Ciarán Hinds and 11-year-old newcomer Jude Hill, whom Balfe and Dornan describe as a joy to work with. The duo reveal to THR how much freedom they had in portraying Branagh’s parents onscreen, how dancing was the most challenging part of the film, and how much rehearsal Dornan had for his “Everlasting Love” rendition — one of his two musical performances last year that took the internet by storm.

How did you get involved with the project?

CAITRíONA BALFE I think I was one of the last of the main actors to come on board. When I was first approached, I was told all of the lovely names that were already attached, and that was incredibly intimidating. I was sent the script, and it’s not that often you read something and you instantly … I felt like I knew Ma. I felt like I recognized my own mother in her but also many other women that I knew from Ireland. And also the subject matter. There’s been so many films made about Northern Ireland that deal with the politics or the ideology, and of course, there’s a place for that, and they’re vastly important. There was nothing that I’d read before that sort of focused on everyday people and with such compassion and with such empathy, so I was just blown away.

JAMIE DORNAN In any given circumstance, if Kenneth Branagh wanted to make a movie with you, with Judi Dench — who was the only other actor that was attached when it came my way — I’d say yes probably without even reading the script. But this time, it was not only those people but a story about my hometown. Also, in the time of the pandemic, when there was sincere fear that I was never going to work again — I certainly didn’t know where the next job was coming from, so it was a particularly tantalizing prospect, given all those circumstances. And then to round out the cast with Ciarán and Caitríona was just incredible. The response and some of the nights that we’ve gotten to share together have been just unparalleled from what I’ve experienced so far in my career.

Advertisement

Given that it’s based on Branagh’s childhood but not an autobiography, did you have leeway to play his parents or did he give you some guidelines?

BALFE From the beginning, one of the first things he did was he sat Jamie, Judi, Ciarán and myself in a room. And he just got us all to speak about ourselves or our childhoods, our parents or grandparents. It became very apparent from this that he wanted us to draw on our own experiences. And he was obviously posing different scenarios that had a relevance to the film, but he wanted us to look at it from the lens of our own lives. And that was such a gift of freedom, to be able to make it our own and not feel like we were trying to reach for a certain note that we felt he was looking for. Ken is such an intelligent director. And as an actor as well, he’s incredibly clever about how he gets you to a place where he wants you to go. He was always just gently guiding us places rather than kind of like, “Well, no, my mother is like this” or “My mother does this.” It gave us a lot of freedom, and a lot of it just made us feel like he had confidence in what we were giving him.

You two play a young married couple who are at times quite distant during the film, physically and emotionally. How did you portray that in the scenes you share, and how did you balance those two aspects of the relationship?

BALFE So much of it was on the page. And it was really beautifully written. It felt fully fleshed out. There were a couple of things that didn’t quite make the end of the film. There’s one scene where they’re sending Buddy and [his brother] Will to church. In the original script, when we have Buddy leave the house, he looks back, and he sees them close the curtains, and you know that they’re having a little Sunday afternoon delight. That was great because you knew no matter what the stresses and strains on the marriage were, we do have quite a few scenes that show that underneath it all, they still have this very deep connection and this real love, and I think that was really important. Jamie and I have both said this before: We found it very organic. It felt very easy. Jamie’s such an open actor, and when we met, we were both just very at ease with each other. We found that no matter what the scenes were, we were always step-by-step and on the same page.

DORNAN It’s not all chance — Ken has picked who he has picked based on what he’s seen in our work and from our personalities. There weren’t any blockages ever at any point in feeling that that family was real. Everyone was giving such a truthful portrayal that was, luckily, cohesively aligned with what everyone else was doing. I can’t stand working with people when they have done a lot of in-the-mirror acting preparation, and they’ve just come up with a plan and they’re just going to do it that way that they’ve practiced a lot because they think that’s right, even though it’s not at all in tune with what your scene partner’s doing. … We did a lot of stuff in one take, so any time something changed or went off in a slightly different direction from the previous one, then the other person reacted accordingly.

What would you say was the most challenging scene for you both?

Advertisement

BALFE I think when you read a script, as an actor, the first thing you focus on is the dialogue — that gives you a sense of what it is. Then, the second pass, you might start reading some of the stage directions. But I think we both glossed over the fact that there were these dance numbers. First you read, “They dance,” and you think, “Oh, they’ll just bop a little.” I think on our first day, the second AD came up and was like, “So you’re going to do this, this, and then you’re going to have a dance rehearsal with Jamie.” I was like, “We’re going to have a what?” I think it’s not in our natural wheelhouse. But in saying that, Jamie Dornan complained during all the rehearsals about how bad he was and how bad it was and then on the day was absolutely perfect. I was the one with two left feet. Those were probably the most challenging.

DORNAN We should say that there used to be more song and dance in the film, but only really “Everlasting Love” made it in there. So there was more that the world was spared.

BALFE Well, I think we can say that all the people are very excited about Jamie Dornan’s singing.

Which song required more rehearsal: “Everlasting Love” or “Edgar’s Prayer” from Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar?

DORNAN God save Ireland! (Laughs.) “Everlasting Love” was quite intricate in its movements, and it was very rehearsed. I felt like I had to get all of it right — the main focus of it being what is being said in that scene between Ma and Pa and where they are, the tumultuous time of the relationship and in their lives with these huge decisions hanging over their head, and the grief, and wanting to say, “We are in a terrible place, but Jesus, I love you, and it’s going to be OK.” That was all at the forefront of it. So there’s loads to think about.

With “Edgar’s Prayer,” you’re just, like, “How can I make this as funny and as absurd and ridiculous as possible?” There were no limitations to that. I did have some dance rehearsals for “Edgar’s Prayer.” … But then we’d get to the beach in Cancun, and I was like, “I can’t even do that because the sand is too thick.” But any suggestion I’d have — “What if I did this?” — they said, “Try it!” So it’s this free rein to just be as silly as possible, which I love.

Advertisement

It’s so good. Every time I need a little pick-me-up, I watch your dance sequence with Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo set to the Titanic song remix.

DORNAN I’d forgotten that we used that remix to that song, and someone said something about the Titanic remix, and I was like, “What?” I had to watch it again — or my kids obsessively watched it for a while. And then I said, “Oh my God, that’s what we danced to,” and we danced to that on the night, and I’d just forgotten.

My kids are always requesting that we listen to “Edgar’s Prayer” [in the car], so they blasted it really loud in our friend’s driveway. And this car we’ve been given here, for some reason, even if you turn off the radio, it still continues, and we’re trying to say hello and greet our friends. And I was singing really loudly. It’s a terrifying thing.

BALFE Somewhere, somebody’s like, “I just pulled up next to Jamie Dornan, who is singing his own song in a car on Sunset?”

What was it like shooting such an intimate film during the pandemic?

BALFE In the beginning, we were all just so terrified that we would get Judi sick. So there were really strict protocols in place. We were testing every single day. I think, at that point, Batman had started filming and we were filming. We were the only two real productions in the U.K. that were up and running. A lot of people were looking to us to see what protocols we were using and how they were working. A lot of credit has to be given to our crew, who were all in different cohorts. They had one-way systems around the sets. All of our props, dressers and everyone, they all had their time on set, and then they would have to leave and the next person would have to come on. We were also filming at the height of summer, it was a crazy heat wave, and especially our hair and makeup department, they were in full PPE with goggles and shields. It made us have to go that extra mile to connect with each other.

Advertisement

Your co-star Jude Hill is incredible, and it’s his first film role. What was it like working with him, and how did you both establish this rapport with not even just a young actor but a new-to-film young actor?

BALFE He’s just amazing. The fact that this is his first role is quite incredible. He came with this absolute openness; he has no reference point for anything else, and so he was just game for anything. He is one of the most prepared and present kids you’ll ever meet, and he, in the entire time that we were shooting — and he was pretty much on all day, every day — he never complained. There was never any hyperness or grumpiness. He’s the most well-mannered, just funny, lovely, open kid. I think one of the beautiful things was to watch his relationship with Ken. Ken was so patient with him, and the way he was able to guide him and his performance was such a good lesson to watch. I’ve seen it working with other actors who are incredible at what they do. And they allow themselves to be guided without taking it on as a critique. That’s such a thing to remember: Sometimes when you’re given a note, if you feel like it’s not what you’ve been doing, it sometimes can help you. … It was beautiful to watch that openness and freedom, and it’s such a lesson as an adult to try and retain that childlike just-rolling-with-it.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

***

SCENES FROM 5 MARRIAGES

Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem, Being the Ricardos

Advertisement

In Amazon’s backstage drama, set during a tense week of production on I Love Lucy, Kidman’s Lucille Ball and Bardem’s Desi Arnaz lob hard-edged zingers as frequently as compliments. Writer-director Aaron Sorkin’s examination of one of America’s most beloved couples, onscreen and off, is a witty look at a partnership that was both romantic and professional.

Adam Driver and Lady Gaga, House of Gucci

The tumultuous marriage between Mauricio Gucci (Driver) and Patrizia Reggiani (Gaga) is the center of this stylish and campy crime drama from director Ridley Scott that follows the pair’s love affair and eventual breakup, which resulted in Reggiani ordering Gucci’s murder.

Will Smith and Aunjanue Ellis, King Richard

Warner Bros.’ drama, which tracks the early years of Venus and Serena Williams’ athletic training as planned by their father, Richard (Smith), is as much about the Williams family as it is the sisters’ tennis careers. Smith and his co-star Ellis, who plays Williams’ wife, Oracene Price, are perfectly matched as the couple who balanced parenting and training duties. The film highlights Price’s influence on her daughters’ talents despite often being overshadowed in the press by her outspoken husband.

Advertisement
King Richard
Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Jesse Plemons and Kirsten Dunst, The Power of the Dog

The real-life couple unite onscreen for Jane Campion’s Western drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Phil Burbank, a mean-spirited rancher in 1925 Wyoming and brother to Plemons’ George. Dunst plays Rose, George’s new wife and the target of Phil’s contempt, and whose fragility goes deeper than her husband is aware.

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, The Tragedy of Macbeth

The characters at the dark heart of Shakespeare’s supernatural tragedy are two of the most compelling in the history of drama. Separately, Lord and Lady Macbeth are ambitous nobles who seek power; together, they are a dangerous duo who lie, cheat and murder their way to the top. — Tyler Coates

Lazy loaded image

House of Gucci (left) and Being the Ricardos
Courtesy of Fabio Lovino/MGM and Universal; GLEN WILSON © AMAZON
Advertisement

This story first appeared in the Jan. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

Movies News

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Published

on

By

Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

Hitting the three-quarter-century mark usually means a retirement home, a nursing facility, or if you’re lucky to be blessed with relatively good health and savings to match, living in a gated community in Arizona or Florida.

For Sylvester Stallone, however, it means something else entirely: starring in the first superhero-centered film of his decades-long career in the much-delayed Samaritan. Unfortunately for Stallone and the audience on the other side of the screen, the derivative, turgid, forgettable results won’t get mentioned in a career retrospective, let alone among the ever-expanding list of must-see entries in a genre already well past its peak.

For Stallone, however, it’s better late than never when it involves the superhero genre. Maybe in getting a taste of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) with his walk-on role in the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel several years ago, Stallone thought anything Marvel can do, I can do even better (or just as good in the nebulous definition of the word).

Advertisement

The property Stallone and his team found for him, Samaritan, a little-known graphic novel released by a small, almost negligible, publisher, certainly takes advantage of Stallone’s brute-force physicality and his often underrated talent for near-monosyllabic brooding (e.g., the Rambo series), but too often gives him to little do or say as the lone super-powered survivor, the so-called “Samaritan” of the title, of a lifelong rivalry with his brother, “Nemesis.” Two brothers entered a fire-ravaged building and while both were presumed dead, one brother did survive (Stallone’s Joe Smith, a garbageman by day, an appliance repairman by night).

In the Granite City of screenwriter Bragi F. Schut (Escape Room, Season of the Witch), the United States, and presumably the rest of the world, teeters on economic and political collapse, with a recession spiraling into a depression, steady gigs difficult, if not impossible, to obtain, and the city’s neighborhoods rocked by crime and violence. No one’s safe, not even 13-year-old Sam (Javon Walker), Joe’s neighbor.

When he’s not dodging bullies connected to a gang, he’s falling under the undue influence of Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), a low-rent gang leader with an outsized ego and the conviction that he and only he can take on Nemesis’s mantle and along with that mantle, a hammer “forged in hate,” to orchestrate a Bane-like plan to plunge the city into chaos and become a wealthy power-broker in the process.

Schut’s woefully underwritten script takes a clumsy, haphazard approach to world-building, relying on a two-minute animated sequence to open Samaritan while a naive, worshipful Sam narrates Samaritan and Nemesis’s supposedly tragic, Cain and Abel-inspired backstory. Schut and director Julius Avery (Overlord) clumsily attempt to contrast Sam’s childish belief in messiah-like, superheroic saviors stepping in to save humanity from itself and its own worst excesses, but following that path leads to authoritarianism and fascism (ideas better, more thoroughly explored in Watchmen and The Boys).

While Sam continues to think otherwise, Stallone’s superhero, 25 years past his last, fatal encounter with his presumably deceased brother, obviously believes superheroes are the problem and not the solution (a somewhat reasonable position), but as Samaritan tracks Joe and Sam’s friendship, Sam giving Joe the son he never had, Joe giving Sam the father he lost to street violence well before the film’s opening scene, it gets closer and closer to embracing, if not outright endorsing Sam’s power fantasies, right through a literally and figuratively explosive ending. Might, as always, wins regardless of how righteous or justified the underlying action.

It’s what superhero audiences want, apparently, and what Samaritan uncritically delivers via a woefully under-rendered finale involving not just unconvincing CGI fire effects, but a videogame cut-scene quality Stallone in a late-film flashback sequence that’s meant to be subversively revelatory, but will instead lead to unintentional laughter for anyone who’s managed to sit the entirety of Samaritan’s one-hour and 40-minute running time.

Advertisement

Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

Cast
  • Sylvester Stallone
  • Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton
  • Pilou Asbæk

Advertisement
Continue Reading

Movies News

Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

Published

on

By

According to a new report, Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct the upcoming MCU project, Fantastic Four. Marvel Studios has been very hush-hush regarding Fantastic Four to the point where no official announcements have been made other than the film’s release date. No casting news or literally anything other than rumors has been released regarding the project. We know that Fantastic Four is slated for release on November 8th, 2024, and will be a part of Marvel’s Phase 6. There are also rumors that the cast of the new Fantastic Four will be announced at the D23 Expo on September 9th.

Fantastic Four is still over two years from release, and we assume we will hear more news about the project in the coming months. However, the idea of the Fantastic Four has already been introduced into the MCU. John Krasinski played Reed Richards aka Mr. Fantastic in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. The cameo was a huge deal for fans who have been waiting a long time for the Fantastic Four to enter the MCU. When Disney acquired Twenty Century Fox in 2019 we assumed that the Fox Marvel characters would eventually make their way into the MCU. It’s been 3 years and we already have had an X-Men and Fantastic Four cameo – even if they were from another universe.

Deadline is reporting that Wandavision’s Matt Shakman is in talks to direct Fantastic Four. Shakman served as the director for Wandavision and has had an extensive career. He directed two episodes of Game of Thrones and an episode of The Boys, and he had a long stint on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. There is nothing official yet, but Deadline’s sources say that Shakman is currently in talks for the job and things are headed in the right direction.

Advertisement

To be honest, I was a bit more excited when Jon Watts was set to direct. I’m sure Shakman is a good director, but Watts proved he could handle a tentpole superhero film with Spider-Man: Homecoming. Wandavision was good, but Watts’ style would have been perfect for Fantastic Four. The film is probably one of the most anticipated films in Marvel’s upcoming slate films and they need to find the best person they can to direct. Is that Matt Shakman? It could be, but whoever takes the job must realize that Marvel has a lot riding on this movie. The other Fantastic Four films were awful and fans deserve better. Hopefully, Marvel knocks it out of the park as they usually do. You can see for yourself when Fantastic Four hits theaters on November 8th, 2024.

Film Synopsis: One of Marvel’s most iconic families makes it to the big screen: the Fantastic Four.

Source: Deadline

Continue Reading

Movies News

Dan Aykroyd, Chevy Chase Star in ‘Zombie Town’ Mystery Teen Romancer (Exclusive)

Published

on

By

Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase have entered Zombie Town, a mystery teen romancer based on author R.L. Stine’s book of the same name.

The indie, now shooting in Ontario, also stars Henry Czerny and co-teen leads Marlon Kazadi and Madi Monroe. The ensemble cast includes Scott Thompson and Bruce McCulloch of the Canadian comedy show Kids in the Hall.

Canadian animator Peter Lepeniotis will direct Zombie Town. Stine’s kid’s book sees a quiet town upended when 12-year-old Mike and his friend, Karen, see a horror movie called Zombie Town and unexpectedly see the title characters leap off the screen and chase them through the theater.

Zombie Town will premiere in U.S. theaters before streaming on Hulu and then ABC Australia in 2023.

“We are delighted to bring the pages of R.L. Stine’s Zombie Town to the screen and equally thrilled to be working with such an exceptional cast and crew on this production. A three-time Nickelodeon Kids Choice Award winner with book sales of over $500 million, R.L. Stine has a phenomenal track record of crafting stories that engage and entertain audiences,” John Gillespie, Trimuse Entertainment founder and executive producer, said in a statement.

Advertisement

Executive producers are Trimuse Entertainment, Toonz Media Group, Lookout Entertainment, Viva Pictures and Sons of Anarchy actor Kim Coates.  

Paco Alvarez and Mark Holdom of Trimuse negotiated the deal to acquire the rights to Stine’s Zombie Town book.

Continue Reading

Trending