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The Many Lives of Artin John | FilmInk

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The Many Lives of Artin John | FilmInk

When and how did the acting bug bite?

I was always pretending to be other people as a kid and lived a lot in my imagination. When I was 15, for drama class at school, I performed Colonel Nathan R Jessup’s A Few Good Men “You can’t handle the Truth” speech. I killed it, it’s probably my best performance to date. I peaked. They had me do it over and over again at multiple school assemblies and showcases. I remember a “cheerleader type” coming up to me at school and saying, “wow I have so much respect for you now”. In that moment, in my 15-year-old’s imagination, I was Jessup, giving the Tom Cruise character a good scolding. The school assembly halls echoing with “You fucked with the wrong marine”, week after week. Here’s this funny looking skinny ethnic kid, channelling Jack Nicholson, it was bizarre, but kind of powerful, I had no inhibitions. People really took to it. I think it was only in late high school, when I kinda decided that I would do the acting thing as a career. I was also contemplating aviation, and law at the time. I used to spend a lot of time at the observation deck at Sydney airport watching planes and dreaming.

Did you train as an actor?

Not really. I did a semester at university, barely, and at the time hated it. I skipped most of my classes to hang out at the Supreme Court and sat in on murder trials. This one guy had chopped up his girlfriend. I knew he had done it, but I was annoyed that the jury had come back with a guilty verdict, I really didn’t feel the prosecution had proven their case. My 17/18-year-old self didn’t get acting school. My theory was “well, I can sit here pretending to be a foetus all day and roll around on the floor making funny noises, or I can get on a real live set, and start learning on the job”. That was my attitude at the time. And months later I did just that, scoring my first proper gig on a short-lived medical drama opposite Mamie Gummer [Emily Owens MD] – fan-boying in my teenage brain at the time that she is Meryl Streep’s daughter – directed by Bharat Nalluri [The Man Who Invented Christmas and various TV, including upcoming Shantaram] who I’d love to do something with again. I was 19, playing an American doctor on US TV, it was very cool.

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In hindsight, as I’m a bit older and have calmed down a bit, I can see the value potentially of what a university program could bring for aspiring actors; that is the ability to do nothing else but train at your craft for 3 or 4 years, with ideally not too many distractions from the outside world. Though I decided to throw myself in the deep end immediately, for better or for worse.

Who do you play in Love in Bloom? How was that experience?

I play Dr. Peter Mikhail, a busy and ambitious Chicago surgeon. He’s Amelia’s (Susie Abromeit) boyfriend, and she sure hopes that Peter proposes! It was a great time, I really enjoyed it; everything went smoothly. The feedback was positive from our director, crew, and Susie. I had just come off Thirteen Lives, the Ron Howard picture, so I was in an interesting head space. It was nice stepping onto an intimate set. I had just spent some time around Viggo Mortensen, who was very calm and grounded, so I think that tone rubbed off on me, and I carried it onto Love in Bloom. I unintentionally emulate people’s behaviour a lot, I don’t know if I’m always so chill, but that was certainly the vibe I gave off on Love in Bloom, that I probably pick pocketed from Viggo.

Rogue Rubin, our director was very complimentary of my work. I don’t think I’ve ever had a director flatter me so much – can’t complain there. We didn’t do many takes. In and out. I did a bit of improv, which was welcomed, and had fun doing my smarmy American doctor shtick, something I’ve had in the back pocket for years, and was able to finally pull it out for a movie.

Susie and I ran dialogue in between takes and there was nothing much to it really. We just did our jobs. It was basically only my second job ever in Australia, and I was playing another Yank!

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Tell us about your journey as an actor. AND, are you Australian, or Canadian, as your filmography is here, there and everywhere?

I was definitely born and raised in Australia (Bondi Road in Sydney specifically). Ironically, I’ve only ever played an Australian once! It was on a North American project, and I was getting notes on my Australian accent! I’m not sure that they were aware that I was actually Australian off the bat. I mean, I don’t really look like a stereotypical Australian I suppose, or what the international community might expect one to look like.

One of the things I’m most proud of is my US accent, as well as accent work in general. For years, I was going into casting offices with my American accent. It really shocked a few casting people, and even directors on set – after I had gotten a part – when they found out I was not American/Canadian. I think at one point I pulled out my Aussie license in a casting session because they wouldn’t believe I was Australian, they were tripping out, after having come in for years being American.

I made my way to North America about a decade ago, taking off from Australia a couple of months before my 19th birthday, to pursue acting. Something I’ve mostly been private about till recently, is that I did something quite odd; I took my little Greek yiayia (grandmother) with me overseas when I left Australia. Yiayia, who was about 80 at the time, had raised me and when it was time to go take on the world, I had no place to leave her. So, I took her with me.

We were inseparable, thick as thieves. I could barely take care of myself, let alone an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s – though it was undiagnosed initially at the time. With little to no resources it was tricky, we were on our own in another country. I remember going to meet my first agent on a cold winter’s day and bringing yiayia along as she hobbled with me across town holding my hand. It was auditions, meal prep for yiayia, side jobs… as she deteriorated it was bathing her, going to set then returning home having to explain to our neighbour – the owner of the Sushi joint downstairs – why there was garbage all over his restaurant’s patio; yiayia kept thinking our window was a trash-shoot… it got us evicted in the end.

I recall being driven home from the set of The X-Files and finding an eviction note on our door. I might have blocked scenes with Mulder and Scully that day, but yiayia and I were about to be homeless. Yiayia lived with me illegally in North America for years as I balanced looking after her with trying to launch a career and transitioning from boyhood to manhood. Her condition worsened, and I became her full-time carer. It was nuts, and hilarious given how ridiculous the whole situation was. My close friends eventually had an intervention urging me to return yiayia back to Australia, where she could get the 24/7 support she needed at a care facility.

It was heartbreaking parting ways after spending each day of my life with her. I fly back to Australia to visit as often as I can – hence I’m here on the Gold Coast again. I suppose looking back now, it’s something I’m proud of. When I was in the middle of it, I was ashamed of what was going on. I owe a great deal to my grandmother. Last year on Thirteen Lives, transport was literally picking me up from her nursing home to bring me to and from “Tham Luang” aka Nerang. It was pretty funny.

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Can you tell us more about the experience of nabbing the role on SWAT?

I had only just got my US Green Card, so it was my very first US request after permanent residency – I was on a 01 previously. I was headed from LA to Gold Coast to spend time with The Yiayianator. But first, I was ducking into Melbourne to share a birthday with my buddy Christiaan Westerveld, who is also my producing partner and a brilliant actor and writer.

In transit in New Zealand, I was failing to nap at the airport, so checked my email. Classic. Tape. Of course. I was so looking forward to just relaxing for a couple of days and celebrating our birthdays before heading to Goldie. I look at the thing, consider turning it down, but then I kinda had a feeling I could very well nab it. Right age range, look, and British accent. I knew it was plausible. The British accent part immediately ruled out Americans, and then I’d be left with ethnic actors in LA who were British. And we all know, when it’s Aussies vs Brits, there’s really no question at who can play a fiery Englishman better – said with love tongue in cheek.

I messaged Christiaan from 35,000 ft and said, “I know it’s our birthdays, but can we just knock out this tape before we proceed with Cigars”. His response was something like “fuck you, we aren’t doing a tape on our birthdays”.  He had a point. But by the time I landed in Melbourne the poor bloke had resigned to help me. We agreed on only doing 4 takes max, it was going to be what it was going to be.

4 days later I was on the Gold Coast hanging with yiayia at her care home, and my manager calls and says, “get on a plane now”. So, I went straight from the nursing home to Brisbane and booked my flight on the way to the airport. A few days later, the LAPD had closed off streets to us as we played cops and robbers on the Queen Mary out in Long Beach. It was fun. Shot the episode and raced straight back to the Gold Coast again to resume yiayia time.

What’s your cultural background and how do you deal/dealt with casting stereotypes?

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My background is Egyptian/Armenian on my mother’s side. My mother was born and raised in Cairo, as were her parents. Their heritage is Armenian. My father’s side is Greek. I was blessed to be surrounded by multiple languages growing up, which probably helped with my accent and language abilities.

In the grand scheme of things, I don’t think I have had too many issues with regards to stereotypes. My team realised early on that I had a very extensive range; sort of chameleon abilities they would say, I suppose, so fortunately I’ve played and have been considered for absolutely everything. Americans, Arabs, Greeks, good guys, super-villains, mobsters, doctors, British rockstars, apes, demons, lawyers, journalists, you name it. I’ve played a 19-year-old Persian student and a 30-year-old Chicago beat cop on TV in the space of a year.

You’ve played a number of guestie roles, but coming up it looks like you’re expanding your repertoire for the screen. Can you discuss those projects, including ones that you are producing? Are you intending to make them in Australia or otherwise? With the producing projects, is that you trying to find projects for you as an actor as well?

I’d love to make something work in Australia. I’m not super fussed about starring in what I produce. A cheeky cameo would do, and if something comes up that I’m right for and makes sense, why not. I see the projects more as something I’d like to watch as an audience member, rather than an actor to be in. I’m producing an ambitious sci-fi adaptation of a well-known European Graphic Novel from iconic Heavy Metal Magazine which my team and I optioned. Marco Checa Garcia – VFX lead on Lord of the Rings series, Top Gun: Maverick and Game of Thrones – is to direct it. Marco brought the project to me after I produced his short 2BR02B: To Be or Naught To Be, based on the Vonnegut short story.

On a side note, that little movie is something I’m still so proud of. Derek Pedersson, my Canadian producing partner, and I shot it when we were 21. It stars Melissa Roxburgh and was sound designed by the great Martin Cantwell (Casino Royale). We had Paul Giamatti in it at one stage but lost him due to scheduling conflicts.

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I’m excited about this project. Marco has a unique vision of quirky sci fi (pop sci-fi with extreme dystopian characters) meets serious/prestige sci fi. We’ve been eyeing various co-pro models as the script has two major timelines that converge at the end, basically our plan would be to shoot both timelines separately, splitting the costs and utilising the incentives on both sides. It’s about a young woman living in an underground wasteland, struggling to keep her lover from being overcome by a deadly disease that threatens to turn him into a monster. Christiaan Westerveld my producing partner penned the adaptation of the graphic novel, it really is a superb screenplay which I believe in.

Christiaan and I are also developing a half hour workplace comedy series with the working title “Zaf’s” about two charismatic Greek brothers, who take a young aspiring comic book artist under their wings. Drawing heavily on my Greko-Egyptian heritage, the show is one that will reveal characters’ motivations and backstories gradually, through a more grounded approach to the humour and seasonal approach to pacing. The characters we hope to focus on hail from all different backgrounds, they’re juggling multiple jobs, studying to be nurses, raising kids. Relatable people our viewers can tune into for a laugh after a hard day’s work or binge watch on a rainy day.

And soon I’ll begin prep on a little indie I’m producing in LA for my pals Harrison Houde and Dakota Dolby who stars in Billy the Kid. It’s basically a plug and play shoot, so that will be good fun.

When I’m here on the Gold Coast, I do spend a great deal of time with my grandmother. I wheel her about all day by Broadwater. It’s really amazing the types of reactions we get from folks. This picture of a young bloke looking out for his 90-year-old grandmother, I tell you, it’s unprecedented the way it affects people. It has surprised me. Virtually everyone smiles at us, even angry scary looking people soften up, street people, people having a bad day, you name it. Lots of folks come over and talk to me, some people get emotional. This makes me think – there could be a story here to tell cinematically. I’ve never considered this until recently, there really could be something here. This is a part I would do most likely.

with Rick Stanton, played by Viggo Mortensen in Thirteen Lives

And yeah, in terms of screen work, I’m in the upcoming Thirteen Lives directed by Ron Howard, from the writer of Gladiator, William Nicholson. I have a small supporting role, though I was there for a number of days filming, and even took some risks initiating improv with Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen and Joel Edgerton which was quite cool. To my surprise, those blokes retuned volley and played back. Uncle Ron had me do a little monologue in Arabic and other scenes in accented English. Farrell was especially encouraging. I remember right after we shot the first take of the first scene I was a part of, he turned to me right after we cut, emphatically repeating back to me the words I had just come up with in the take. Then he said to me “I like that, I really like that” with regards to what I had just improvised. It’s a very minuscule moment in the life of the actual movie, but it made my day. I have some really funny stories from that set, maybe I’ll save them for my autobiography someday.

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Review: SAMARITAN, A Sly Stallone Superhero Stumble

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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).

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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.

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Samaritan is now streaming worldwide on Prime Video.

Samaritan

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

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Matt Shakman Is In Talks To Direct ‘Fantastic Four’

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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.

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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

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

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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.

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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.

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