*Kevin James is the animals’ caretaker Griffin Keyes in “Zookeeper” and is very much loved by the animals at the Franklin Park Zoo. When he decides to quit, in a panic the animals decide to break their time-honored code of silence and reveal their biggest secret: they can talk! Thus begins a very tight relationship between Keyes and his charges. Watching the relationships unfold on the screen, The Film Strip asked James and his co-star Rosario Dawson what does the “Zookeeper” teach us about love.
“I think it’s really about, and I can’t speak for everybody else, but I’ve tried in the past being someone I’m not in some way to impress somebody and try to be who I think they want me to be, and ultimately it ends up being a mistake,” James explained. “And I think when you find out who you really are and when you find someone who loves you for that, that’s when it kind of works the best for me. So I think it’s kind of about being yourself.”
“I just think it’s so beautiful that the different animals that we were working with we would talk about what their different behaviors were like, and like eagles would mate for life and always come back to the same nest,” Dawson continued. “You’d learn all these different things and so all the different animals would give you different advice based off of the type of personalities that they were and the types of animals that they were. And I think there was a really interesting discovery of just going we’re just animals like them, because a lot of the advice that they would give us kind of is in keeping with what we would do.
“But then on top of that it’s kind of just recognizing the animal that you are and going okay, I don’t need to try to be an eagle or try to be any of these different things. Let me just be the person that I am, and I am going to be someone who’s going to stink like a zoo all day, I love working with animals, it’s a pretty thankless job and I smell like animal all day long, so I’m going to be with this woman who also represents that and not have to change that about myself because it’s actually what I love. And go and follow your heart. But I think that’s what sort of that message is, but it’s beautiful, you have to discover that, and it’s fun to discover that with all these crazy little weird animals.”
Sometimes working with human beings can be a bit more taxing, which is the premise for “Horrible Bosses,” that stars Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day. The four, along with director Seth Gordon, writers John Francis Daley, Jonathan Goldstein, Michael Markowitz and producer Jay Stern made their way to the Mandarin Hotel in New York City to promote their film. Quoted as saying he was surprised so may people hated their bosses, Bateman was asked to confirm this.
“I was surprised,” he admitted although he claimed he never had a bad one. Weighing in on the subject, Aniston remarked, “I’ve had one that was inconsistent and a little complicated,” while Sudekis stated, “I had really horrible bosses. Truly.”
Sure to put a dent in her “America’s Sweetheart” image, Aniston said she had “no hesitation” getting down and dirty “Horrible Bosses” and it was a “complement” to be thought of for the part.
“That’s what I think is so fun about it is being a female that is usual the male character. I sort of thought of her as just kind of a guy and that’s sort of made it that much more fun.”
What I thought more interesting than playing a sex predator in “Horrible Bosses” was the fact that Aniston was once a bike messenger in New York City.
“That was the toughest job I ever had. My worst day was probably driving into a door that opened. I was just very uncoordinated, extraordinarily klutzy, and just should have never been allowed on a bicycle.”
Jamie Foxx was not at the press conference but Markowitz was told how his character MF Jones came into being.
“There are several horrible bosses I’ve had, and elements of them made their way into Harken (Kevin Spacey) and into Pellit (Colin Farrell), so I’m sad to say I lived through that. And in terms of Motherf*cker Jones, the original was Cocksucker Jones. I believe it’s still Cocksucker on airlines. But I wanted to put a guy who would be the worst nightmare that these suburban guys would have to talk to.” “And I wanted to find a great comedian to play that role with all the intensity that he could muster,” Gordon adds, “and I feel like it’s forgotten somehow that Jamie started in comedy. He’s just hilarious. And yeah he got an Oscar for a dramatic role and he’s known for playing a different side of things, but I thought he brought such intensity and awesomeness to that role. I think it’s one of the really strong parts of the film and he tells his backstory. Just so marvelous. I was glad he could be a part of it.”
When the three men decide upon a method to deal with their “Horrible Bosses,” the one film that kept flashing across my mind was “Strangers on a Train” and Markowitz acknowledged the allusion.
“There was a deliberate nod to “Strangers on a Train” of course. You can’t kill someone without thinking about ‘Strangers on a Train’ because you have to kill a stranger otherwise you won’t get away with it. And I’ll give you another murder tip. You’ll never clean up the murder scene enough so that they won’t find evidence, so what you have to do is get airport ashtrays and dirty up the scene. I may have murdered several people, but I don’t want to answer questions about that today.”
Murder of another kind takes place in the psychological thriller, “The Ledge,” grounded in religious fundamentalism with Patrick Wilson (Joe), Liv Tyler (Shana), Charlie Hunnam (Gavin) and Terrence Howard Hollis), who was not available for interviews. Wilson, who director Matthew Chapman refers to as a “genius,” is indeed one of Hollywood’s finest. Before “Hard Candy,” “Little Children,” “Watchmen,” “The A-Team” or “Lakeview Terrance” where Wilson draws the wrath of Samuel L. Jackson because he is married to Kerry Washington, The Film Strip interviewed him for the incredible musical, “Phantom of the Opera.” That 2004 film not only showcased the musical talents of Wilson, but others including Gerard Butler.
Wilson says he chose “The Ledge” because of its religious elements.
“You usually see a faith based, or spiritual [themed] movie but rarely a faith based thriller. You don’t usually see those put together,” he explains. “So I thought that’s one of the things that really interested me…and everybody has his/her particular religious point of view. I am fascinated with religion or things that people believe in and question.”
A bible-based upbringing did help Wilson in his role.
“I would go to the bible to find things that supported the script and my character. That only made it richer, you know. I loved this whole thing about being unclean. It’s so much of it in the Old Testament.”
Ironically, the name of Wilson’s character in the HBO movie “Angels in America,” that dealt with the Aids crisis in the mid-eighties, is Joe.
“I know, people have said well his name is Joe and I guess he combs his hair to the side and the fact that they both have a secret, but other than that, it’s completely the polar opposites.”
Next up for Wilson is “The Book of Matthew,” which is in pre-production.
“Again, movies that have a religious undertone I do gravitate towards I think. I like a lot of faith, I like questioning it. I like the fact that it raises a lot of questions and don’t give a whole lot of answers.”
Liv Tyler met with Chapman about four years ago and agreed to do Shana.
“I just had never really read [the script] anything quite like it before. I was very intrigued by the characters and their flaws and all the things that they were sort of going through. As a younger woman, I might not have understood them in the way that I kind of now. I think the thing that resonated so much with me after having made this film was that this idea that in life we are so quick to judge others, like on the basis of what someone is wearing, or what he believes in, and that’s weird, you know.
“You have all these thoughts about people, but yet you really have no idea what someone has been through and who they are. Life is long and complicated and a lot of things happen and particularly with religion and politics, our beliefs, some people have very strong beliefs, and you might not always understand them, but I recognized in my character and in myself just whatever went on in that month in Louisiana that we are all just trying to cope in life and find a way through good and bad situations. It changed how I am. I’m not as quick to judge people in the same kind of way.”
That includes her parents. Having seen her dad Stephen Tyler as a judge on “American Idol” and having read both her parents books, she was able to see another side of them. Although the books did not always leave a peaches and cream taste in her mouth, she did say, “But most people don’t get the opportunity to read a book about their parents.”
In what could be considered blind casting, director Matthew Chapman did not agree when it came to casting Terrence Howard.
“I wouldn’t have minded it being a white person but much preferred it being a black person. I thought it was more interesting. I think because of the religious roots of black people in America, because of certain issues of being a black man in America and what that means and pride, all of these kinds of slightly different things made it more interesting and I was so lucky to get Terrence, who is such a great natural actor.”
Chapman, whose great, great grandfather is Charles Darwin, is an atheist and he believes Christianity is an abomination. Playing the devil’s advocate, he was taken to task for monolithic views about religion. I quoted the New York Times Sunday Magazine piece, “My Ex-Gay Friend,” that made mention of the fact that some have become victims of “this insane society we live in, where we grow up with all these conflicting messages and pressures around sexuality and religion, and where we divide into these camps where we’re always right and the other side is always wrong…” Chapman then says to me, “You guys still can’t be in the catholic church. For some reason men are allowed but women aren’t. To me, that’s a disgrace.”