*In the riveting drama “Zero Dark Thirty,” the steps that led to the death of Osama bin Laden are explored. The woman helming the story is director Katheryn Bigelow who won an Oscar for “The Hurt Locker” that starred Anthony Mackie and Jeremy Renner and directed “Strange Days” with Angela Basset. Jessica Chastain is the woman behind the takedown of one of the most despicable terrorists of all times.
Chastain has amassed quite a track record since her role in “The Help,” including the notably arresting film “Take Shelter.” Kyle Chandler (“Argo,” “Super 8”) made a mark in TV with “Friday Night Lights” and “Early Edition,” which many may not remember. Chandler was a hero (Gary Hobson) in the 1996-2000 TV show that starred Shanesia Davis-Williams as Marissa Clark. In the episode that he thought he would die, Hobson left his business to Clark, his black partner. In ”Yelling to the Sky,” another dark film also now showing, Jason Clarke (Gordon O’Hara) is married to Yolanda Ross (Lorene O’Hara) and their daughter is Zoe Kravitz (Sweetness O’Hara).
The Film Strip asked the “Zero Dark Thirty” cast mates this week at the Ritz Carlton in New York if they were on top of the stories as they unfolded in the press and if at that time they ever imagined they would be a part of the story telling? “I followed it all,” Clarke began. “I was in Pakistan when it all started up in the mountain and then went back into china and read about it. It kind of consumed everyone. So when word came and they weree knocking at my door, I was over the moon, you know. These things come along once in a lifetime. I’m very grateful.”
Chastain continued to marvel at the extraordinary opportunity she was afforded to play such a powerful role. “I never, ever imagined I’d be involved in telling the story during those events,” she said. “I was in New York during 9/11 and when I found out Osama was killed. When I was reading the script, it was like every page that I turned was a shock to me, especially Maya and the role she took in it. Then I got upset that it was such a shock to me. Why would I assume a woman wouldn’t be involved in this kind of research? The wonderful thing about working on this film is that historically men define women lead characters, whether it’s a love interest or they’re a victim of a man. Maya’s not like that. She stands on her own. She’s capable and intelligent. She represents this generation of a woman. That was really exciting for me to discover in the script history.”
“I think I had lost touch until I saw the movie,” Chandler told me. “I had lost touch with what had happened in the last 10 years and it really surprised me watching the movie because it’s two hours and 40 minutes but it goes by so fast. There were little parts in the script, little tiny lines, little pictures that showed me, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that political change right there. Over there is that moral dilemma that was brought up and it’s still going on. Everything throughout the movie was just morally and emotionally earned. The facts, I’m sure, helped. It was just so seamless and I’m just really proud to be part of this. I have a lot of military friends and when I found out I was doing this I was like, ‘Guys guess what I’m gonna do’? And they laughed like you did. It’s just been a great ride and I think this is one of those movies that 10 years from now we will be able to look at it again and go, ‘Yep, that was my time. That was our time.’”
Jessica, what moment in this film stands out most in your mind?
JC: My favorite moment is the last scene of the film. It’s so much fun to do the big scenes when you’re yelling and you’re cussing. So, it’s really fun to play the scene where I’m chewing out Kyle in the hallway. That’s great. But for me, in the film, my favorite moment is the very end of the film because it says more than just what this woman did. It’s not a propaganda movie, go America. It’s through the eyes of this woman who became a servant to her work and she lost herself along the way and she realizes that it’s bigger than that. It’s like what Kathryn said. Where does she go? But then also where do we go as a country? Where do we go as a society? What do we do now? I find that to end the film on that question is far more interesting than providing an answer.
Katheryn, can you give some insight into the research you did for this film?
KB: Well originally, we were working on another project about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden, but it was about the failed hunt in 2001. While Mark (Boal) was working on the screenplay, actually quite far long in the screenplay, May 1st, 2011 happened, and we realized after some soul searching that it was going to be a little bit difficult to make a movie about the failed hunt for Osama Bin Laden when the whole world knew that he had been killed. So after much debate, we pivoted and Mark being an investigative journalist, set on his way to report this, the current story as of 2011 as history revealed itself and created a change for us.
David Oyelowo takes on ‘Jack Reacher’
Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher has more to contend with than a mass murder in the smart, gripping crime drama “Jack Reacher.” He has the strong willed detective Emerson to deal with. David Oyelowo (Emerson), Rosamund Pike (Helen Rodin), Christopher McQuarrie (Director), and Lee Child (Author) were at a mid-town hotel this week to discuss their latest venture and The Film Strip asked inquired about the ethnicity of Emerson.
CHRISTOPHER MCQUARRIE: I actually had a completely different idea for Emerson closer to who he was in the book and I actually had an actor in mind. And essentially the movie was cast when Mindy Marin (Casting Director) said you’ve got to meet with David Oyelowo. And I had seen some of his work and respected it immensely and thought well I don’t wanna meet with him because I don’t have a part for David. I don’t really see where he fits into this. And I went and I met with David and I immediately walked out of there thinking I’ve gotta find a part for David in the movie and I had not cast Emerson yet. But there was something of a moral debate about the casting of David in that role. We had before meeting David been compiling lists for actors. There was sort of a universal unspoken mandate that we weren’t going to cast anyone of color in that role. The list just was very Caucasian no matter how you sliced it. And the reason why was we didn’t want to suddenly have the only person of color in the movie turn out to be that person. Now we suddenly found ourselves in a place of reverse racism where we’re saying we’re specifically not going to hire this guy because he is a person of color even though he’s perfectly suited for this role. However, it was Tom Cruise who said, ‘He’s really good. Just put him in the role. What are you doing?’ And that’s what we did and that’s how David ended up in the movie. We had fun working together because David is extremely good-natured and I’m not. So I loved coming to work every day and sort of taking advantage of the fact that David is such a completely good soul.
DAVID OYELOWO: Gullible is the word he’s not using.
CM: Not really, yes.
DO: But also what Chris is leaving out is the way he told me I got the role. He said, ‘Oh, I’ve just shown your tape to Tom Cruise and Tom said can we get this guy?’
What was your character’s relationship with Reacher?
DO: Well, one of my first interactions outside of the script with Jack Reacher, the film, was meeting Chris at a hotel in Los Angeles. And one of the things that we talked about was exactly that. He needed the person who played Emerson to be a genuine counterpoint to Jack Reacher. Someone who there is a world within which this could go on to be Lethal Weapon. This could go on to be these two teaming up and going after the bad guys. But in Chris’ parlance, the movie gets in the way. One of the things that was a lot of fun to play was this antagonistic relationship. One of the things I have an allergic reaction to playing, especially as a Black actor is the mandatory kind of best friend cop detective type. And you will never see me in that movie. What I loved about this is that he was a genuine counterpoint. He’s on his own track and that was a lot of fun to play.
ROSAMOND PIKE: I don’t know. Reacher’s the guy who rocks into town and he does things differently from everybody else. He doesn’t behave properly. And so Helen is left so of startled at every turn by his mode of operation. And what interested me about her is that she’s a good, accomplished and competent lawyer, but she hasn’t got the brilliance of Reacher and that drives her mad. It’s like she’s a girl who’s good at math and then she meets a mathematician and they’re two very different creatures.
We thought it was much more interesting to see a lawyer out of her depth than a lawyer in control of the show. And it was, it was fun. And you see a different side of the law because Reacher pushes her to do something that no defense attorney would ever do and her whole belief system is really rocked.
And you talk about the potential romance. I mean, Chris is such a good writer that he manages to give you all the sort of satisfaction of a love affair without them ever having touched. We go through sort of almost every beat, the attraction, the frustration, even the break up scene. I think Tom and I had a very easy chemistry. It wasn’t anything we had to work on. I started to think maybe a sex scene is what people put in when there isn’t any chemistry.
Actually, I once saw a script and I won’t say whose, but it read, Character X and Character Y f–k like you’re in an R-rated movie. That was the actual scene.
Sixties music did ‘Not Fade Away’
Shortly after the “Jack Reacher” crew left, the cast and filmmakers of “Not Fade Away” entered the room. While the music in David Chase’s coming of age movie speaks for itself, there are statements made that are aimed at the social, political and racial conflicts of the time. It was the 60s and the British invasion caught the attention of the youth. Also, noteworthy was the realization that it took a group like the Beatles to open the eyes of many American of the great black musical treasure trove that enriched the music scene here in America and abroad.
Executive Producer and Music Supervisor Steven Van Zandt says, “I begged David to please hire musicians that could act. But the one thing you can’t really cast is work ethic, you know. And this is when the instinct really comes in. Forget about experience. This now becomes pure instinct and I think David has that instinct because these guys (John Magaro, John Huston) had to learn in three months how to play guitars and drums. And they both are actually singing.”
“I was trying to capture what a strange time it was,” Chase admits, “especially towards the end of that era. It seems like something major was happening every day.”
Syndicated columnist Marie Moore reports on film and TV from her New York City base. Contact her at [email protected]