Category: Movies

14 Aug

Kenny Baker, actor behind R2-D2, dies

The 3ft 8in actor, who starred in six Star Wars films as well as Time Bandits and Flash Gordon, was 81

Kenny Baker, actor behind R2-D2, dies
Kenny Baker starred in the first six Star Wars films, from 1977 to 2005. Photograph: Rory Gilder/Rex Shutterstock

The British actor who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars films has died at the age of 81 after a long illness. Kenny Baker, who was 3ft 8in tall, shot to fame in 1977 when he first played the robot character.

He went on to play the character in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the three Star Wars prequels from 1999 to 2005. He also appeared in a number of other much loved films in the 1980s, including The Elephant Man, Time Bandits and Flash Gordon.

His niece, Abigail Shield, paid tribute to her uncle. She told the Guardian: “It was expected, but it’s sad nonetheless. He had a very long and fulfilled life. He brought lots of happiness to people and we’ll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world. We’re all very proud of what he achieved in his lifetime.”

Baker and Shield’s father, Ian, grew up in Birmingham. She said: “When he was a child, he was told that he probably wouldn’t survive through puberty, being a little person in those times, they didn’t have a very good life expectancy. He did extremely well in his life. He was very ill for the last few years so we had been expecting it. He had been looked after by one of his nephews, who found him on Saturday morning.”

Baker met his wife Eileen after an appearance on the Michael Parkinson TV chat show. She wrote in and said she was a little person too and wanted to meet him. “They got married soon after,” Shield said. “Sadly she died of epilepsy about 20 years ago.”

Shield added: “He had problems with his lungs and was often in a wheelchair. He was very poorly for a long time. He was asked to go out to LA for the new Star Wars premiere, but he was told he was too ill to travel. Luckily he did manage to meet George Lucas again when he came to Manchester.”

Baker’s agent, Johnny Mans, said he had known him since the 1960s when they were both club entertainers. “He was part of a double act called the Mini-Tones, his partner being Jack Purvis, who sadly died after an accident with his car. We worked together in summer shows and charity events before I went on to become his agent, and his then wife Eileen and Kenny also became great friends with my own family, with Kenny visiting my home on numerous occasions.

“Kenny also went on as a solo artiste and then eventually moved into films. Kenny was truly a great friend, one of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet, and a fabulous and talented performer. My wife and family will miss him terribly.”

Actor Ewan McGregor, who appeared in three Star Wars movies, tweeted:

The film company that made the movies, 20th Century Fox, posted a photograph of C3PO standing next to Baker’s Star Wars character, and wrote: “Rest in peace, Kenny Baker, the heart and soul of R2D2.”

Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars film trilogy, paid tribute on Twitter, writing:

This article was amended as Kenny Baker’s age was originally incorrect.

The 3ft 8in actor, who starred in six Star Wars films as well as Time Bandits and Flash Gordon, was 81

 

The British actor who played R2-D2 in the Star Wars films has died at the age of 81 after a long illness. Kenny Baker, who was 3ft 8in tall, shot to fame in 1977 when he first played the robot character.

He went on to play the character in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, as well as the three Star Wars prequels from 1999 to 2005. He also appeared in a number of other much loved films in the 1980s, including The Elephant Man, Time Bandits and Flash Gordon.

His niece, Abigail Shield, paid tribute to her uncle. She told the Guardian: “It was expected, but it’s sad nonetheless. He had a very long and fulfilled life. He brought lots of happiness to people and we’ll be celebrating the fact that he was well loved throughout the world. We’re all very proud of what he achieved in his lifetime.”

Baker and Shield’s father, Ian, grew up in Birmingham. She said: “When he was a child, he was told that he probably wouldn’t survive through puberty, being a little person in those times, they didn’t have a very good life expectancy. He did extremely well in his life. He was very ill for the last few years so we had been expecting it. He had been looked after by one of his nephews, who found him on Saturday morning.”

Baker met his wife Eileen after an appearance on the Michael Parkinson TV chat show. She wrote in and said she was a little person too and wanted to meet him. “They got married soon after,” Shield said. “Sadly she died of epilepsy about 20 years ago.”

Shield added: “He had problems with his lungs and was often in a wheelchair. He was very poorly for a long time. He was asked to go out to LA for the new Star Wars premiere, but he was told he was too ill to travel. Luckily he did manage to meet George Lucas again when he came to Manchester.”

Baker’s agent, Johnny Mans, said he had known him since the 1960s when they were both club entertainers. “He was part of a double act called the Mini-Tones, his partner being Jack Purvis, who sadly died after an accident with his car. We worked together in summer shows and charity events before I went on to become his agent, and his then wife Eileen and Kenny also became great friends with my own family, with Kenny visiting my home on numerous occasions.

“Kenny also went on as a solo artiste and then eventually moved into films. Kenny was truly a great friend, one of the nicest guys you could ever wish to meet, and a fabulous and talented performer. My wife and family will miss him terribly.”

Actor Ewan McGregor, who appeared in three Star Wars movies, tweeted:

The film company that made the movies, 20th Century Fox, posted a photograph of C3PO standing next to Baker’s Star Wars character, and wrote: “Rest in peace, Kenny Baker, the heart and soul of R2D2.”

Mark Hamill, who played Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars film trilogy, paid tribute on Twitter, writing:

This article was amended as Kenny Baker’s age was originally incorrect.

13 Aug

Pinewood Studios to be taken private in £323m deal with Aermont Capital

Offer values each Pinewood share at 560p and gives film studio – home of James Bond franchise – funds for expansion plans

Pinewood Studios to be taken private in £323m deal with Aermont Capital
Sean Connery as James Bond and a gold-painted Shirley Eaton being photographed on the set of Goldfinger at Pinewood Studios. Photograph: Paul Popper/Popperfoto/Getty Images

Pinewood Studios is to be taken private in a £323m deal as the studio where James Bond is filmed seeks financial firepower for its expansion plans.

The film studio has said it needs to go private to fund ambitious plans to expand the historic complex in Buckingamshire, which opened in the 1930s and went on to shoot long-running series such as the Carry On films and James Bond franchise.

The offer from Aermont Capital, a London-based asset manager, values each Pinewood share at 560p..

Lord Grade, chairman of Pinewood, said the takeover was an attractive offer for investors that would give Pinewood “the platform required for future growth”.

Grade, a former chairman of the BBC and of grocery delivery firm Ocado, added: “The Pinewood Group has been transformed in recent years, but has been somewhat constrained in realising its ambitions due to the lack of share liquidity.”

Shareholders will also get a special dividend of 3.2p per share, making the deal for Pinewood, where the Star Wars series is also made, worth £323.3m.

Pinewood’s directors stand to make a combined £1.82m if they sell their entire holdings, including a £1m windfall for the chief executive, Ivan Dunleavy.

Aermont said on Friday that it had secured financing from Perella Weinberg, the private equity group from which it was spun off and whose real estate funds it now advises.

The price tag is a 31% premium on Pinewood’s average closing share price of 430p in the three weeks before they hired investment bank Rothschild to perform a strategic review signalling a likely sale of the business.

Aermont said 14% shareholder Aviva had joined Goodweather Investment and Warren James Holdings in undertaking to sell their shares, meaning the deal is all but certain to proceed.

Pinewood is listed on the AIM junior stock market and did not have a large enough free float – shares available to buy – to meet requirements to move to the main market, where it would have been able to raise more cash from investors.

Grade said: “Pinewood and clients will benefit from greater opportunities in the years ahead and the board intends to recommend the offer unanimously.”

Léon Bressler, managing partner of Aermont, said Pinewood was “an iconic brand at the heart of the global creative industries”.

12 Aug

Gas-lit Leeds cinema among sites to receive heritage lottery cash

Hyde Park Picture House wins £2.4m grant while William Morris’s country home in Oxfordshire is one of 11 other recipients

Gas-lit Leeds cinema among sites to receive heritage lottery cash
The auditorium at Hyde Park Picture House in Leeds. The money will be spent restoring historic features and opening up the cinema’s archives. Photograph: Tom Joy/Heritage Lottery Fund/PA

A tiny cinema that opened in Leeds within months of the outbreak of the first world war, now believed to be the only one in the world still lit by gas, has won a £2.4m heritage lottery grant to restore historic features and open up its archives.

The Hyde Park Picture House is among a dozen sites receiving major grants, including William Morris’s beautiful Oxfordshire country home, Kelmscott Manor, where the flowers and wildlife inspired many of his designs.

Now owned by the local authority, the Grade II-listed Hyde Park still has 11 working gas lamps, though the imposing lantern on the facade, which is separately listed, was converted to electricity. Its single-screen auditorium shows films every day, having seen off the competition of the giant jazz-age cinemas with their thousands of seats and luxurious facilities, the coming of television, and the more recent rise of out-of-town multiplexes.

Gas-lit Leeds cinema among sites to receive heritage lottery cash
Kelmscott Manor will receive £4.7m in lottery funding. Photograph: Heritage Lottery Fund/PA

Its records include decades of weather reports kept daily until 1958, original programmes and posters, back to the newspaper announcements of the cinema’s opening in November 1914, buried in columns of war news. The cinema made the best of having only 400 seats by boasting of being “the cosiest in Leeds”. It now has even fewer, having replaced the original hard narrow seats a few years ago with more comfortable ones for the bigger bottoms of the 21st century.

In its earliest years Hyde Park showed morale-boosting patriotic films including An Englishman’s Home, and newsreel of the war in which 6,000 local men had enlisted. The gas lights were turned down but kept on during the screenings, to combat reports of disgraceful carryings on in the back rows of darker cinemas.

Kelmscott, a Grade I-listed medieval house in an idyllic Cotswold village, now owned by the Society of Antiquaries, was Morris’s dream house, the rural retreat he described as the “loveliest haunt of ancient peace”. It is still full of pieces he, members of his family and circle of artistic friends owned or made, including curtains for his bed embroidered by his daughter May who lived there for many years after his death. Morris and his family are buried in Kelmscott village churchyard.

Gas-lit Leeds cinema among sites to receive heritage lottery cash
St Albans Cathedral has been given £3.9m to tell the story of England’s first martyr. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

The £4.7m grant is intended to restore and reopen historic rooms and buildings on the site, and increase visitor numbers. Conservation issues, space, limited parking and access through narrow country roads mean the house is currently open only two days a week in the summer.

Other grants include £4.7m to the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, south-east London, to create new galleries telling the story of polar exploration; £14.8m for a new history centre in Plymouth bringing together collections presently scattered across the city; £3.9m to tell the story of England’s first martyr at St Albans Cathedral; and £3.6m to rescue a magnificent Victorian gothic church in London, St Mary Magdalene in Paddington, which is Grade I listed, and frequently used by film-makers for its soaring interior, and spectacular later crypt chapel designed by Sir Ninian Comper. The church needs major restoration work and is on the national register of historic buildings at risk.

 

12 Aug

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan detained at US airport again

Actor says experience ‘really, really sucks’ after being detained for a third time in seven years, this time in LA

Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan detained at US airport again
Shah Rukh Khan said in 2012: ‘Whenever I start feeling arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America.’ Photograph: Matthias Balk/EPA

The Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan has expressed annoyance about being detained by US airport immigration authorities for a third time, saying the experience “really, really sucks”.

The last time Khan, 50, was detained by immigration officials, in New York in 2012, it sparked uproar among his Indian fans who accused the US of racial profiling, and led Washington to apologise.

“I fully understand and respect security with the way the world is, but to be detained at US immigration every damn time really really sucks,” Khan tweeted after he was pulled aside at Los Angeles airport on Thursday.

“The brighter side is while waiting caught some really nice Pokémons,” he added.

As news of Khan’s detention broke on Indian television channels, the US assistant secretary of state, Nisha Biswal quickly expressed regret.

“Sorry for the hassle at the airport, @iamsrk – even American diplomats get pulled for extra screening!” Biswal tweeted.

Washington had previously denied allegations that Khan was singled out because his name denotes him as a Muslim. Someone with the same name is reportedly on a US no-fly list of 80,000.

After the 2012 incident, Khan joked in a speech to Yale University that he was accustomed to such hassles. “Yes, it always happens. Whenever I start feeling arrogant about myself, I always take a trip to America,” he told students. “The immigration guys kick the star out of stardom.”

In 2009 Khan was detained for more than two hours at Newark airport outside New York, prompting a similar Indian outcry and a US apology.

11 Aug

David Fincher set to reunite with Brad Pitt for World War Z sequel

The pair, who last collaborated on The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, are in talks to work together again on follow-up to the 2013 zombie thriller

David Fincher set to reunite with Brad Pitt for World War Z sequel
David Fincher and Brad Pitt in 2009. Photograph: Jun Sato/WireImage

David Fincher is in talks to direct Brad Pitt in a sequel to the 2013 zombie thriller World War Z.

According to Variety, Pitt is courting the Gone Girl film-maker after The Orphanage director JA Bayona left the project to take on the sequel to Jurassic World. The film would mark the pair’s fourth collaboration after previously working together on Seven, Fight Club and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Pitt, who will star in and produce World War Z 2, has reportedly met with a number of directors but talks have been advancing with Fincher, despite his weariness over sequels after the troubled production of Alien 3.

Fincher’s last film was 2014 thriller Gone Girl which became his most profitable movie to date, making $369m (£284m) worldwide. He has also recently shot the pilot for Netflix series Mindhunter, produced by Charlize Theron. It focuses on two FBI agents in the 1970s who use convicted serial killers to help them with ongoing cases.

World War Z suffered from a difficult production period, with drastic reshoots and rumours of on-set problems between Pitt and director Mark Forster. Despite delays, the film was a hit, making $540m worldwide.

Pitt will next be seen opposite Marion Cotillard in Robert Zemeckis’s second world war thriller Allied and in Animal Kingdom director David Michôd’s Netflix comedy War Machine.

10 Aug

Film-makers demand inquiry into 'targeting' of people who record police

Group of more than 30 documentarians, including eight Oscar winners, has called on the justice department to investigate ‘harassment’ of citizen journalists

People who film police violence are citizen journalists. We stand with them

Film-makers demand inquiry into 'targeting' of people who record police
The undersigned filmmakers include Citizenfour director Laura Poitras, Going Clear director Alex Gibney, Cartel Land director Matt Heineman and The House I Live In director Eugene Jarecki. Photograph: Grant Lamos IV/Getty Images

A group of more than 40 documentarians, including eight Oscar winners, has called on the justice department to investigate the “harassment” and “targeting” of citizen journalists who record episodes of police violence.

Noting that the citizens who filmed the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philando Castille, Freddie Gray and Eric Garner were all subsequently arrested, the film-makers wrote in an open letter that it is “vital we defend the rights of these individuals to use video as a means of criticizing unjust police activity.”

The undersigned filmmakers include Going Clear director Alex Gibney, Citizenfour director Laura Poitras, Cartel Land director Matt Heineman and The House I Live In director Eugene Jarecki.

“Mainstream media has paid ample attention to the images captured by these citizen journalists. Largely, it has ignored the methods in which they were recorded and distributed, and the penalties for those involved,” the letter states.

Like in other high profile police killings from the last two years, the cases of Sterling and Castile, which inspired nationwide protests throughout much of July, both gained attention largely through the release of bystander video.

After Sterling was shot by Baton Rouge police officers during a struggle, the two men who posted viral video of the incident, Chris LeDay and Abdullah Muflahi, were both subsequently detained by police. LeDay did not record the video, but was one of the first people to post it to Facebook and was arrested and shackled the day after posting the video for “fitting a description”, according to the 34-year-old Air Force veteran. He was later released after paying more than $1,200 in fines for an earlier traffic violation.

Muflahi, the proprietor of the convenience store where Sterling was killed on 5 July, was also detained for four hours in the back of a police car while officers searched his store. Muflahi uploaded the second video that depicted Sterling’s death.

Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds, the fiance of Philando Castile, who was killed by an officer during a traffic stop just days after Sterling, was also detained by police after the fatal shooting. Reynolds broadcasted the immediate aftermath of the incident on Facebook Live from the front seat of the couple’s car as she spoke with the Minnesota police officer who fired at Castile. He was legally carrying a concealed weapon in the vehicle.

Reynolds was held overnight by police for questioning, sparking outrage on social media with activists using the hashtag #whereisLavishReynolds to call attention to her detention. “They treated me like a prisoner,” Reynolds said the following morning after being released.

The letter to the DoJ calls actions like this, “evidence of a pattern of systemic and vindictive targeting by law enforcement,” adding that the efforts “reveal an intention to suppress footage, intimidate witnesses, control narratives, obscure brutality and punish”.

The film-makers, said that citizen journalists like Reynolds and Muflahi “have made it impossible for white Americans to continue ignoring a truth our leaders have spent centuries obfuscation: black lives matter”.

In 2015, Kevin Moore who filmed the Baltimore police tacking Freddie Gray and pulling him into a police van was also arrested, and released without charges. Moore alleges that police continue to harass him, “they ride past me taunting me with their phones up”, Moore told Vice News in an interview.

Ramsey Orta, who filmed the fatal chokehold arrest of Eric Garner in Staten Island in 2014 also faced repeated interaction with police after the incident, culminating in an arrest on weapons charges. Orta is currently serving a four year sentence on a plea deal and claims police targeted him, and, like Moore, approached him with their phones out on one occasion as a taunt.

The letter calls for more people in the documentary community to join the case, declaring that while “the nature of documentary truth may be slippery”, “the one captured by LeDay, Muflahi, Reynolds, Moore, Orta and so many many more is immutable”.

The justice department did not return a request for comment on whether it would answer the filmmakers’ call for investigation.

8 Aug

Daisy Ridley takes social media break after gun violence post

The Star Wars: The Force Awakens actor deleted her Instagram account shortly after using the social platform to address gun violence in America

Daisy Ridley takes social media break after gun violence post
Daisy Ridley at the 2016 Teen Choice awards. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Daisy Ridley has left Instagram, and taken a break from social media after a backlash for sharing a post about victims of gun violence, on Monday.

A day after attending the Teen Choice awards, during which Jessica Alba paid tribute to victims of gun violence by having young relatives of shooting victims join her on stage, Ridley posted a message to her social media platforms, which read:

“As I sat in the audience yesterday, tears were streaming down my face at the tribute to those that have been lost to gun violence. I didn’t get a great picture of the incredible group that came onstage but they were so brave. It was a true moment of togetherness. We must ‪#‎stoptheviolence.”

A slew of comments followed. Many praised the actor’s words, while some criticized her for speaking out, accusing her of hypocrisy due to the violence in the Star Wars franchise.

Soon after, Ridley’s Instagram account disappeared. The message remained on Facebook, where she has more than 738,000 followers, before being deleted on Wednesday. A number of comments on her Facebook post urged her to return to Instagram where she regularly interacts with fans.

Ridley briefly reactivated her Instagram account and posted a message explaining her hiatus: “I just want to be on my phone less! Trying to be more present and all that and got a busy few months ahead so wanted less distractions … It’s all good! :)” she wrote, according to The Nerdy Bird.

Since first joining Instagram a year ago, Ridley has frequently used the social media channel to connect with her fans on a variety of issues, including self-esteem, body-shaming and her struggles with endometriosis.

Her Star Wars co-star John Boyega told his fans on Instagram that Ridley “is doing what’s best for her” and added that he “won’t be advising [his] friend to come back”.

Ridley isn’t the only celebrity to leave social media after online attacks. Leslie Jones, one of the stars of Paul Feig’s contested Ghostbusters reboot, took a break from Twitter after being bombarded with racist comments around the time of the blockbuster’s release. Twitter stepped in and permanently banned a user for his abuse aimed toward Jones. The actor has since come back to Twitter.

8 Aug

Ava DuVernay becomes first woman of color to direct a $100m film

The Selma director will reach the milestone when she directs Disney’s upcoming adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time

Ava DuVernay becomes first woman of color to direct a $100m film
Trailblazer Ava DuVernay thanks Disney for ‘breaking this glass with me’. Photograph: Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Ava DuVernay has made history as the first woman of color to direct a live-action film that boasts a budget over $100m, with Disney’s upcoming A Wrinkle in Time.

The Selma director has been attached to the project since February, after passing up the opportunity to direct Black Panther for Marvel, but the milestone wasn’t made official until Tuesday, when the adaptation of Madeleine L’Engle’s novel was included on a list of big-budget films receiving California tax incentives.

Reacting to the news on Twitter, DuVernay said she’s “not the first [woman of color] capable of doing so. Not by a long shot”.

“Thanks to @DisneyStudios for breaking this glass with me,” she added.

DuVernay is only the third woman to direct a $100m film, joining Kathryn Bigelow for 2009’s K-19: The Widowmaker, and Patty Jenkins for the upcoming Wonder Woman.

A Wrinkle in Time was mentioned at the Democratic national convention by Chelsea Clinton, who shared that the book had captured her imagination as a child. The novel centers on the bespectacled Meg Murry and her courageous quest to save her scientist father. DuVernay has teased her adaptation as a film “about a time-traveling black girl traveling through the universe”.

DuVernay is meanwhile enjoying a very good year: her first documentary, The 13th, about racial inequality in America, has been selected as the first non-fiction film to open the New York film festival in September; while her new TV series for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN channel, Queen Sugar, has already been renewed for a second season before the first season’s launch in the fall.

6 Aug

Bridget Jones's Baby on the way into print, Helen Fielding says

To accompany forthcoming film of the same name, the book will recount the bestselling heroine’s ‘somewhat bumpy journey into motherhood’

Bridget Jones's Baby on the way into print, Helen Fielding says
Bridget’s back again… actor Renee Zellweger in character from the film adaptation of Bridget Jones. Photograph: c.Universal/Everett / Rex Featur

Bridget Jones is back: author Helen Fielding has reunited with her bumbling, much-loved creation yet again, with the latest instalment in her misadventures set to come out in October.

Bridget Jones’s Baby: The Diaries, to be published on 11 October with Jonathan Cape, will focus on Bridget’s “somewhat bumpy journey into motherhood”. It will follow the release of the forthcoming film of the same name on 16 September, which was previously believed to not have a corresponding book.

“At heart, Bridget Jones is about the gap between how we all feel we’re expected to be and how we actually are; and – as Bridget discovers with her somewhat bumpy pregnancy – how we expect life to turn out and how it actually does,” Fielding said. “I’m excited to see Bridget’s world on the big screen again, and delighted to be published by Jonathan Cape.”

The previous instalment in the franchise, Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy, which came out in 2013, was set well into the future of Fielding’s hapless heroine, at a time when her children are grown up and her husband Mark Darcy is dead.

However, it appears that Bridget Jones’s Baby will be set before that, during her first pregnancy: “As she careers towards baby-deadline, tortured by Smug Mothers miming her ticking biological clock, a series of classic Bridget Jones moments finally leads her into pregnancy – but just not quite as intended. It’s a pregnancy full of cheesy potatoes, outlandish advice… chaos at scans and childbirth classes, high jinks and romance, joy and despair – but all of it dominated by the terribly awkward question: ‘Who’s the Father?’”

Fielding’s debut novel, Bridget Jones’s Diary, drew upon Fielding’s anonymous column that she began writing for UK newspaper the Independent in 1995. It was a global phenomenon when it was first published in 1996, and together with the 1999 sequel, Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason, sold more than 15m copies worldwide.

6 Aug

Zhang Yimou defends controversial casting of Matt Damon in The Great Wall

Director rejects accusations of whitewashing, claiming the fantasy adventure is ‘deeply rooted in Chinese culture’

Zhang Yimou defends controversial casting of Matt Damon in The Great Wall
‘Matt Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor’ … director Zhang Yimou on the controversy over his new film The Great Wall. Photograph: Andy Wong/AP

Director Zhang Yimou has stood by his decision to cast Matt Damon as the lead role in his new film The Great Wall, after some critics claimed it amounted to a “whitewashing”.

The film-maker, whose credits include Hero and House of Flying Daggers, has responded to the negative reception of the film’s trailer last week. “In many ways The Great Wall is the opposite of what is being suggested,” he said in a statement to Entertainment Weekly. “For the first time, a film deeply rooted in Chinese culture, with one of the largest Chinese casts ever assembled, is being made at tentpole scale for a world audience. I believe that is a trend that should be embraced by our industry.”

The big-budget period epic features Damon as a soldier in ancient China battling evil creatures. Constance Wu, star of sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, tweeted that the film perpetuates the “racist myth that [only a] white man can save the world”.

Yimou is keen to address the misconception that the film rewrites history and positions Damon as a saviour of the Chinese people. “Our film is not about the construction of the Great Wall,” he said. “Matt Damon is not playing a role that was originally conceived for a Chinese actor. The arrival of his character in our story is an important plot point. There are five major heroes in our story and he is one of them – the other four are all Chinese.”

He claims that he would never “cast a film in a way that was untrue” to his artistic vision.

The Great Wall is an American-Chinese co-production with an estimated budget of about $140m (£106m) and will be released in December in China before a national release in 2017.

5 Aug

Mr Robot's Rami Malek to star in Papillon remake

Actor will reprise Dustin Hoffman role in Devil’s Island prison-escape drama, opposite Charlie Hunnam

Mr Robot's Rami Malek to star in Papillon remake
Dustin Hoffman in the 1973 hit Papillon. Photograph: Moviestore collection/Alamy

Mr Robot star Rami Malek is hacking into a remake of the 1973 Steve McQueen thriller Papillon, according to Deadline.

Mr Robot's Rami Malek to star in Papillon remake
Rami Malek. Photograph: Jerod Harris/Getty Images

Malek, currently starring in the second season of the Amazon Prime series about a renegade computer whizz, will play the role originated by Dustin Hoffman. Hoffman’s character, Louis Dega, is a veteran criminal who teams up with Henri Charrière (McQueen) to escape the infamous Devil’s Island jail in French Guiana. Charrière will be played by Charlie Hunnam in the remake.

The 1973 film was based on the memoirs of Charrière, who was nicknamed “Papillon” (French for “butterfly”) because of the tattoo on his chest. Convicted of the murder of a pimp in 1931 (a crime he denied committing), he was sent to Devil’s Island, and escaped in 1941 by using a bag of coconuts as a raft.

Charrière’s book, also called Papillon, was a bestseller in 1970. It was said by the author to be “75% true”, although it is thought today that many of the stories in the book were supplied by other inmates, rather than Charrière himself.

The 1973 film was at $12m an expensive prospect that doubled its money at the box office. Directed by Franklin J Schaffner, it was co-scripted by the once-blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.

5 Aug

Bradley Cooper was surprised by uproar over Democratic convention appearance

Four-time Oscar nominee tells The Late Late Show he ‘was not expecting’ backlash from conservatives for attending the night Barack Obama spoke

Bradley Cooper was surprised by uproar over Democratic convention appearance
Bradley Cooper in American Sniper: perplexed at the anger he attended the DNC. Photograph: Uncredited/AP

Bradley Cooper caused an online uproar among some Republicans during the Democratic national convention after being spotted by TV cameras listening to speeches last Wednesday evening, when Barack Obama spoke. The apparent reason: he played the highly decorated Navy Seal Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, a major (and rare) Hollywood hit among conservatives.

The four-time Oscar nominee (he was nominated for American Sniper) claimed on The Late Late Show on Tuesday night that he had simply attended to hear Obama’s address.

“To be there, it was probably one of the last times we’ll hear him speak,” Cooper said of Obama. “I think he was an incredible president. I was really excited.”

The actor didn’t tell host James Corden who he’d be voting for in November, but Cooper did notably donate funds to Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2008. He has also been an outspoken advocate of Obamacare as well as the president’s gun control initiatives, and played a key role in arranging Obama’s 2014 appearance on Zach Galifianakis’s deadpan web series Between Two Ferns.

As for the barrage of incensed tweets from Republican fans of the actor, Cooper said: “I was not expecting that.”

“Republicans were up in arms that I was there watching the president speak,” he added.

Corden’s other guest, Todd Phillips, who directed Cooper in The Hangover trilogy and the upcoming comedy War Dogs, likened the backlash to a “mob being mad at [Robert] De Niro for being in The Intern”.

4 Aug

Clint Eastwood defends Trump's 'racist' remarks: 'Just get over it'

The Hollywood tough guy has derided ‘a pussy generation’ obsessed with political correctness in an expletive-riddled Esquire interview

Clint Eastwood defends Trump's 'racist' remarks: 'Just get over it'
Clint Eastwood: ‘When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist.’ Photograph: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Another Republican luminary has gone public with strong feelings about Donald Trump. Really, really strong feelings. He didn’t pussyfoot like Paul Ryan. He wasn’t a convention no-show, like John Kasich.

Hollywood tough guy Clint Eastwood emptied both barrels in an interview with Esquire magazine, aiming squarely … at those who have taken the presidential candidate to task for racism and other, well, rough edges.

“He’s said a lot of dumb things,” the actor and director said of the man who has pilloried Mexicans, Muslims, immigrants, women, and the list goes on and on. “So have all of them. Both sides. But everybody – the press and everybody’s going, ‘Oh, well, that’s racist’, and they’re making a big hoodoo out of it”.

Eastwood’s advice to America: “Just fucking get over it. It’s a sad time in history”.

This country, he said, is plagued by what he derided as “a pussy generation”, and he wasn’t talking about all those cute videos your mom posts on FaceBook.

Trump, the actor fumed, is “onto something, because secretly everybody’s getting tired of political correctness, kissing up. That’s the kiss-ass generation we’re in right now. We’re really in a pussy generation. Everybody’s walking on eggshells.

“We see people accusing people of being racist and all kinds of stuff”, Eastwood continued. “When I grew up, those things weren’t called racist”.

He knows a thing or two about racial slurs, as anyone who has watched the movie Gran Torino can attest. In it, he plays Walt Kowalski, a retired auto worker and Korean War veteran who hates the Asian, Latino and black families that move into his changing neighborhood.

Before he gets a change of heart and becomes heartwarmingly friendly with an Asian teen who was pushed by gang members to steal his eponymous car, Eastwood/Kowalski lets loose with pretty much any slur you can think of – “chinks”, “zipperheads”, “jabbering gooks”.

In a bar scene when he’s surrounded by his old, white guy friends, he lets loose with a joke that sets them all off laughing: “I’ve got one”, he starts, waving his half-full pint glass. “A Mexican, a Jew and a colored guy go into a bar. The bartender looks up and says, ‘get the fuck out of here’.”

Ba dum bum.

“And then when I did Gran Torino”, Eastwood told Esquire, “even my associate said, ‘This is a really good script, but it’s politically incorrect’. And I said, ‘Good. Let me read it tonight’. The next morning, I came in and I threw it on his desk and I said, ‘We’re starting this immediately’.”

Clint Eastwood defends Trump's 'racist' remarks: 'Just get over it'
Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino. Photograph: Photo by Anthony Michael Rivetti/Malposa Productions

On Trump’s deriding Indiana-born US district judge Gonzalo Curiel for being unfair because of his Mexican heritage, Eastwood was dismissive. “Yeah,” he said, “It’s a dumb thing.”

Eastwood has not endorsed his rhetorical soulmate, he said, but given a choice between the billionaire real estate mogul and the former US secretary of state, he’ll vote for Trump in a heartbeat. After all, Hillary Clinton said she’d carry on Obama’s legacy, which is anathema to a man who was once the mayor of an upscale seaside town in California.

Besides, he said, Clinton’s is “a tough voice to listen to for four years”.

The worst thing about politics today, says the man who describes himself as part of the “anti-pussy generation. Not to be confused with pussy” – is that politicians basically put him to sleep.

“They’re boring everybody,” he said. “Chesty Puller, a great Marine general, once said, ‘You can run me, and you can starve me, and you can beat me, and you can kill me, but don’t bore me.’ And that’s exactly what’s happening now: Everybody is boring everybody. It’s boring to listen to all this shit. It’s boring to listen to these candidates.”

If he were writing a stump speech today, Eastwood said, it would be, “Knock it off. Knock everything off.”

If only.

3 Aug

Guillermo del Toro: 'I love monsters the way people worship holy images'

The film-maker’s fantastical world is not only expressed in his work but in his home – and now, thanks to a new exhibition in Los Angeles, anyone can visit

Guillermo del Toro: 'I love monsters the way people worship holy images'
Of monsters and men: an installation view of Del Toro’s show. Photograph: Joshua White/JWPictures.com

When film-maker Guillermo del Toro was directing his 2006 fantasy, Pan’s Labyrinth, he told his art department to conjure a make-believe world more real than the actual world. He was talking about the alternative realm into which his protagonist disappears in order to avoid the harsh realities of fascist Spain, but he could have been talking about his own Bleak House, a Westlake Village residence crammed full of mementoes, toys, illustrations, models, literature and art, all centered on the macabre. While it may seem like the indulgence of a rich Hollywood egomaniac, instead it is the brain trust of the most prolific and distinctive horror and sci-fi/fantasy film-maker working in movies today.

“It’s everything,” Del Toro struggles to find the words to describe Bleak House, (actually two houses side by side). “It’s the single thing that I have done that expresses me most completely, more than any of my movies.” The house could never withstand regular public visits but an ample sampling of the collection – including models, sculpture, first-edition literary classics, art work, illustrations and props – have been removed to Lacma for Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters through 27 November, then will travel to Minneapolis and Toronto.

Highlights include two figures from Pan’s Labyrinth, winner of best makeup, art direction and cinematography Oscars. In the movie, young Ofelia is guided through a fantasy realm by a woodland spirit called the Faun who at first appears menacing but later proves friendly. Seen out of context under dim incandescent light at Lacma, the Faun’s artistry is enhanced rather than diminished, its etched, circular patterns and otherworldly countenance still as beguiling and repellent as on screen.

Guillermo del Toro: 'I love monsters the way people worship holy images'
Keubler and Hill’s sculpture of Boris Karloff being made up as Frankenstein. Photograph: Joshua White/JWPictures.com

His counterpart, the Pale Man, a demon with his eyes in the palms of his hands, is as terrifying in real life as he is in the movie. Only here you can casually study his ashen complexion and loose, sagging flesh (inspired by Del Toro’s own struggles with weight loss), without fear of reprisal.

The sculpture gallery’s most prominent works are by Thomas Kuebler and Mike Hill, whose life-size reproduction of Boris Karloff, shirtless, reclining in a barber chair while makeup man Jack Pierce puts the finishing touches on his Frankenstein makeup, is modeled from a behind-the-scenes photo. Del Toro considers the 1931 Karloff version of the monster, a predominant fixture within the collection, to be a seminal figure in the horror genre.

Kuebler’s sculptures include three life-sized characters from Tod Browning’s classic, Freaks as well as a life-sized Edgar Alan Poe seated at a desk, and novelist HP Lovecraft, whose At the Mountains of Madness Del Toro has long tried to bring to the big screen.

Guillermo del Toro: 'I love monsters the way people worship holy images'
Horror heaven … the show contains a variety of lifesize models Photograph: Joshua White/JWPictures.com

A glance at the manically crowded pages of the artist’s notebooks offers early attempts at various creatures that evolved dramatically over time. The final product usually incorporates outlandish physical attributes based on design motifs as well as the creature’s nature, origin, survival needs and behavior. For instance the Angel of Death costume from Hellboy II features a blind face covered by a bony crescent-shaped plate above a lipless set of teeth. To solve the problem of how the Angel might see, del Toro turned to a peacock’s tail for inspiration, placing a series of eyes, each actively watching and blinking, among the black feathers of the creature’s wings.

While some movie fans will find themselves in horror heaven, others might wonder what these toys and models are doing in an art museum. In 2011, MoMA caused controversy – while inspiring huge ticket sales – with an exhibition dedicated to film-maker Tim Burton. In fact Britt Salvesen, the curator of At Home With Monsters, was co-coordinating curator on that show.

She says that Del Toro’s collection taps into a long tradition – the cabinet of curiosities. “There is a mode of collecting that has this tradition even before museums as institutions existed,” she says. “And Guillermo del Toro is really an heir to that type of collecting. The cabinet of curiosities is a way of creating a world in miniature and uniting various objects often endowed with some kind of power, value or beauty and aggregating them together in often seemingly random arrangements that made sense maybe only to the collector.”

Guillermo del Toro: 'I love monsters the way people worship holy images'
The show is organised by themes including magic and occultism. Photograph: Joshua White/JWPictures.com

Salvesen organized the show by theme with one room dedicated to death and the afterlife, and others on the subjects of magic, horror, occultism and monsters, with the show ending, the way Hollywood movies often do, on themes of innocence and redemption. “It’s not a collection in the sense a church is not a collection of images or icons,” del Toro explains. “To me, it has a spiritual calling. I love monsters the way people worship holy images. To me, they really connect in a very fundamental way to my identity.”

It’s a character trait he didn’t pass on to his daughter who, when she was younger, wouldn’t set foot in Bleak House. Then again, neither would the guy from the telephone company. Del Toro is a skeptic when it comes to ghosts but recalled feeling an otherworldly presence that may have come with a dining room set he purchased a while back. Alone in the house, he would hear footsteps until his mother, whom he describes as “a bit of a witch”, visited and did a cleansing. After that, no more footsteps.

The house is silent most of the time, as Del Toro is its only occupant. If he is working on a screenplay, he will go through his copious library and pull out books for research, as well as illustrations and models that might help him conjure the look of his intended movie. Then he takes a seat at a well-lit table and gets to work.

Guillermo del Toro: 'I love monsters the way people worship holy images'
Del Toro: ‘Monsters are the patron saints of imperfection.’ Photograph: Joshua White/JWPictures.com

With research complete, he’ll begin to write in his usual place, the rain room, a space with a fake window outside of which there is a rainstorm on a 24-hour loop (duplicated for the Lacma show). “I drop on a huge sofa and I go into a delicious trance and write for a few hours. And if I want to watch a movie, I have two home theaters where I can watch a movie and relax. To me, movies are books. They are texts to be consulted.”

The son of a car salesman who won the national lottery, Del Toro was raised in a strict Catholic home. Even as a child he was obsessed with monsters and horror, collecting figurines and dressing up. One of Bleak House’s earliest pieces is a stuffed werewolf from when he was seven years old.

“A lot of Mexican Catholic dogma, the way it’s taught, it’s about existing in a state of grace, which I found impossible to reconcile with the much darker view of the world and myself, even as a child,” says the film-maker who has dedicated his career to dreaming up new creatures. “I couldn’t make sense of impulses like rage or envy and, when I was older, more complex ones, you know. I felt there was a deep cleansing allowing for imperfection through the figure of a monster. Monsters are the patron saints of imperfection.”

Guillermo del Toro: 'I love monsters the way people worship holy images'
Del Toro with the catalogue for his show. Photograph: Albert L Ortega/Getty Images

And if imperfection is everywhere, then more monsters are needed. To fill the gap, del Toro will be bringing back the Kaiju – giant, city-destroying monsters – in the sequel to Pacific Rim, which he will produce but not direct, starring John Boyega and Scott Eastwood. An amphibious man forms a bond with a mortal woman in The Shape of Water, his cold war relationship story currently filming in Toronto. And on the small screen his Trollhunters, based on his children’s book, airs on Netflix beginning in December, and his vampire series, The Strain, moves into what’s likely to be its final season. That covers TV, movies and publishing, and as for theatre, the Faun and the Pale Man will return in Pan’s Labyrinth the musical, which is aiming for European previews before moving to Broadway next year. To say Del Toro is prolific is an understatement, and it all begins with Bleak House.

“I walk into the house and I feel I’m home,” says the director. “I feel very blessed and immensely grateful about the fact that I’m 51 and I’m able to live there, because it’s the place I dreamt of living in since I was a seven-year-old child.”

2 Aug

Jimmy Fallon to host the 74th Golden Globes

The late-night talkshow host is taking over from Ricky Gervais, who hosted four times

Jimmy Fallon to host the 74th Golden Globes
Meet your new Golden Globes host: Jimmy Fallon. Photograph: NBC/Getty Images

Jimmy Fallon, host of NBC’s The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, is to host the 2017 Golden Globes ceremony on 8 January 2017.

This marks the comedian’s first time hosting the show. He previously hosted the 2010 Primetime Emmy awards, earning positive reviews from critics.

The NBC Entertainment chairman, Robert Greenblatt, announced the news at the Television Critics Association’s press tour in Beverly Hills on Tuesday, saying that Fallon was “the best possible host to make the evening really memorable … I know he will bring his unique energy and wit to the show.”

Fallon also shared the news on Twitter, taking a swipe at Donald Trump:

The comedian will be taking over from Ricky Gervais, who hosted the show this year for a fourth time. The acerbic comedian’s fourth stint was his most watched, though reviews were mixed. The New York Times praised his “satirically pointed” jokes, but wondered if the host didn’t risk becoming a “Ricky Gervais tribute band dutifully smashing his guitar on cue”. Time was less impressed: “He was telling viewers at home they were stupid even to be watching,” while Deadline too got bored of his snarky schtick. “A screechy old saw to play, and the audience was having none of it,” the site said.

Fallon, who is friendly and affable with the celebrity guests on his late-night show, is a safer choice for the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hosts the annual event and picks the awards, which celebrate the film and TV of the previous year.

The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon is currently the most-watched late-night talkshow. Before becoming its host, Fallon spent six seasons on Saturday Night Live, and then hosted Late Night for five years.

The 74th Golden Globes will air on NBC live on Sunday 8 January, from 8-11pm ET (5-8 PT).