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Get Ready To Be Entranced: Sofia Coppola’s THE BEGUILED Grips

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

There was a time when Sofia Coppola could be at an awards show and overlooked as a famous daughter; not anymore, not for years now since LOST IN TRANSLATION. But in her new film, THE BEGUILED, which is a retool of a 1971 Clint Eastwood starrer, she really comes of age as a visionary writer/director. Even in what is considered a remake of a movie based on a novel by Thomas Cullinan, it has a distinctive feel that’s all hers. The film opens Friday, June 23 in New York and Los Angeles, with wider release on June 30.KidanBGniceWith an all-star cast that includes Nicole Kidman, Colin Farrell, Kirsten Dunst, and Elle Fanning, you get a sense of why this movie won Best Director at the 2017 Cannes International Film Festival.

Picture a Southern all-girls boarding school during the battle-weary Civil War era, and a wounded enemy soldier appears. John McBurney (Colin Farrell) adds testosterone to a very delicate and well-mannered yet highly complex microcosm of women led by a formidable Headmistress named Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman).

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“This is my dream cast,” Sofia Coppola admits. “When I was writing it, I was picturing Nicole as Miss Martha. She always surprises me. Watching her, I’ve never seen anyone like that, she does so many different things at once.” She adds that the whole cast is on a par with Kidman.

You want to use a word like confection for the ethereal feel, but that description doesn’t do justice to the depth of rich multi-layered images that float on the screen like Spanish moss.

“This is very much a Sofia film,” Colin Farrell explains. “It’s very much aesthetically beautiful. She wrote every word of this. Her way feels maybe more right than some [as far as directing], there’s an immense lack of tension on the set, very playful. She’s incredibly easygoing and generous to her core it seems.”ColinDunstBG

Farrell is underscoring the fact that a remake can often feel like a re-do of someone else’s vision.

But if you look at the 1971 version, two minutes into the film, Eastwood is literally hitting on a twelve year old, with “not too young for kisses.” And even though the fabulous Geraldine Page stars as his Miss Martha, there’s a creepy feel to their interplay, down the line. So that’s essentially the breaking point for the 2017 Beguiled. It takes a left turn at the way the heightened sexual tension is framed.

“I didn’t know the movie and I watched it, and it really stayed in my mind. I watched it. It was so weird, and I thought ‘how would I do my version?’” I thought it would be interesting to do the same story but from the female characters’ point of view.”

Elle Fanning, who plays Alicia, describes her character as kind of an empowered seductress, but still innocent in a real way. “Anything Sofia does I think is incredible, it was also like, ‘yeah.’ Because it was all these girls and women — and Colin of course— they hold the power.”ColinElleBG

“The original film had been made from a guy’s point of view, so I went back to the book. Because I just liked the premise,” Coppola adds. “It’s such a crazy, extreme premise about power between men and women in such an extreme situation. The idea of looking at wartime from the point of view of the women left behind.”

“You try to make it personal. Try to relate to the characters because it’s such a different time. And yet I loved that it had elements that were familiar to me, this feminine beautiful world. A beautiful feminine world with violence and very gothic.”

“My tendency is to be on the subtle side. Colin was teasing me: ‘Oh, this is an action movie to you, there’s guns… there’s blood.’ It’s been fun to have this mix of beautiful dresses and a little gore. We had smoke machines everyday, and candlelight… a really ethereal look that is specific to this story.”

“Colin is a good sport about being our sex object in the movie, but he has to be dangerous and threatening, and romantic in the movie.” Farrell plays a mercenary soldier paid $300 off the boat from Ireland to fight as a Yankee, so he’s neither North nor South, but emblematic of the unspoken ever-present struggle for control between the sexes.

When the crushing attractions flare up between Farrell’s character and the many flavors of female in this strange closed world hunkered down  under siege of musket fire in a distance, Beguiled really poses some interesting questions about how women express their sexuality. Yet there’s a brutality to their mannered world that Farrell’s soldier-on-the-mend only begins to realize when it’s too late.

Not that every movie needs a memorable line, but when his John McBurney yells out “You Vengeful Bitches,” in a thick Irish accent, it’s an instant classic. Probably because Nicole Kidman’s Miss Martha is so poised and possibly inherently evil at the same time, in a nice way.NicBGbad17

Kirsten Dunst, who plays wronged love interest Edwina, sums up Sofia Coppola’s deft directing hand best, as “she doesn’t second guess herself. I’ve known her for so long, I’m working with my friend, you can’t really beat that.”

Since he is outnumbered in this eerie thriller, Colin Farrell gets the last word. “I’m surrounded by extraordinary talent. Watching these extraordinary women do extraordinary work. There’s an amazing sense of camaraderie. It’s been a joy.”

Don’t miss what the women have in store for their wounded houseguest, it’s a very rewarding fight to the finish.

Focus Features awards-buzzworthy film THE BEGUILED rolls out in New York and Los Angeles on Friday, June 23, with wider release on June 30.

Directed by Sofia Coppola (“Lost in Translation,” “Somewhere”)
Written by Sofia Coppola, based on the novel by Thomas Cullinan and the screenplay by Albert Maltz and Grimes Grice
Starring Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke, Emma Howard.

Watch This Making-of With Director & Cast

 

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93 Minutes I Rated R

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#TheBeguiled #VengefulBitches

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Hiroyuki Sanada, Ryan Reynolds, Director Daniel Espinosa, Olga Dihovichnaya, Rebecca Ferguson, Ariyon Bakare  and Jake Gyllenhaal seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "Life" the movie at SXSW 2017 on Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Austin, TX. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

LIFE is Already Scary, Now It’s A Scarier Reynolds & Gyllenhaal Movie, Thanks

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

What is it with ‘ripped from the alt-news headlines’ movie plots lately? KONG: SKULL ISLAND has a hollow earth slash reptilian b-story, even a CIA mind control “Monarch” reference on a briefcase. Now LIFE, starring Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal, has a waterborne microbe from Mars mass-extinction horror twist.

Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "Life" the movie at SXSW 2017 on Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Austin, TX. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images)

Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of “Life” the movie at SXSW 2017 on Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Austin, TX. [Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony Pictures/AP Images]

While scary stories about hostile life on Mars is a running theme since B-movies in the 50’s, this one has some actual science to back it up.

LIFE, directed by Daniel Espinosa, touts the fact that the producers and writers consulted with “astrobiologists and space medicine experts,” one of whom is Dr. Kevin Fong. “Space is an extreme environment, like any of the extreme environments we’ve attempted to conquer in the 20th century – deserts, polar ice caps, our highest mountains,” Fong explained. “What we know about extreme environments is that you can’t go there for long and it’s not without penalty. You come back literally less than the person you were.”

“It’s hard enough to stay alive up there on a routine mission when everything goes right.  When things start to go wrong, people start to die off pretty quickly.” These cheery words underscore his experience as an astrophysicist and MD who’s worked on NASA’s Human Adaptation and Countermeasures Office at Johnson Space Center in Houston, meaning he is a medical expert on keeping folks alive and kicking in space.

No offense to the astro-geniuses, but frankly movie stars can explain a movie better.

Cast and crew of "Life" seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of "Life" the movie at SXSW 2017 on Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Austin, TX. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony/AP Images)

Cast and crew of “Life” seen at Columbia Pictures World Premiere of “Life” the movie at SXSW 2017 on Saturday, March 18, 2017, in Austin, TX. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Sony/AP Images)

In typical Jake Gyllenhaal extreme-character mode, he plays International Space Station denizen David Jordan, who’s already clocked 473 days afloat in outer space. “It was a beautifully paced, terrifying script.  It’s a fun idea. You think you know where it’s going, and then it evolves into something where you really, really don’t,” he added. “The life form is literal, but it’s also an incredible metaphor for what can happen. Curiosity is one of the most important human traits, but I think searching too far can be full of hubris. In that way, the life form is a repercussion for that kind of curiosity.”

“My grandfather was a doctor,” Gyllenhaal shared, “and Daniel and I talked about the similarities in my character to my grandfather. It’s a bit of an homage to him.”

Next some newcomers join the freaky plot, and things get terrifying as a look for proof of life on Mars backfires. Naturally the movie includes a requisite CDC, Centers for Disease Control, rep. This one comes in the form of Rebecca Ferguson, as Miranda North. “Miranda is a microbiologist sent up to protect everyone on Earth from whatever this is that we find,” Ferguson explained.

Her character puts up some “firewalls” against extra-terrestrial contamination. “The firewall is, first, the container that the specimen was in.  And then the room.  And then the station itself.  She has to do whatever she can do to protect Earth, because we don’t know what this life form is.” No, it’s not a gimmicky ‘life form,’ either.

Producer Julie Lynn nailed it best on that front. “We didn’t want the life form to be a person in a suit or a puppet. We wanted it to be something that could evolve from a cellular piece, a tiny cell. It’s not that it comes out with an intent to do harm; it is its own creature, and it is affected by what happens to it.”

Paris, France - Monday March 13, 2017: Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson at the Columbia Pictures "LIFE" Photo Call at The Planetarium of Le Grand Palais

Paris, France – Monday March 13, 2017: Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson at the Columbia Pictures “LIFE” Photo Call at The Planetarium of Le Grand Palais

Rebecca Ferguson spins it as a relationship game with the pathogen. “We all have our own relationship to this creature. Some of us love it, we nurture it.  Some of us want to kill it off in the beginning.  And that creates an incredible tension in the group,” she said.

Ryan Reynolds rounds it out with, “this script had such a degree of reality and a feeling of constant tension,” that he reteamed with his DEADPOOL writing pals Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, to ratchet up the stakes. Coincidentally, Reynolds also went back to the well with his SAFE HOUSE director Daniel Espinosa.

Having worked well with Reynolds, Espinosa is also super excited about LIFE. “I think the reason so many great directors have walked into science fiction is to work with the unknown — the fear or fascination with the unknown,” he said.  “We live in a world that is quite mundane, but in space, you enter an adventure – you don’t know how it looks, how it feels, what it can do to you, where it is. It doesn’t make a sound. That’s terrifying.”

Whatever the hell LIFE’s monster is in this case, the SAFE HOUSE director made it even scarier when he added that “this script felt more like a realistic science fiction. Maybe science reality.” Picture waking up ’50,000-year-old microbes’ inside crystalline hibernation on Mars, that is. Or, in movie critic shorthand, the DNA from amber plot device from Jurassic Park, but with super-freaky outer space Martian microbial goo meets Alien. Sorry for the gross oversimplification but this helps put your fears to rest, folks, because it’s only a movie. We hope. Alternative news purveyors might spin it as a doomsday scenario for planet Earth, lol. LIFE, go see it before it happens. It opens Mar. 24, brought to you by Skydance and SONY (Columbia).  Interestingly, Megan Ellison’s brother David Ellison is listed as a producer. The film has bowed in Berlin, Moscow, Paris, and at SXSW in Austin, Texas last week. [Most of the photos included are from SXSW premiere.] See their official website for showtimes and venues. Hahtag #LIFEMOVIE

Directed by:  

Daniel Espinosa

Written by:

Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick

Produced by:

David Ellison

Dana Goldberg

Bonnie Curtis

Julie Lynn

Executive Producers: 

Don Granger

Vicki Dee Rock

Cast:

Jake Gyllenhaal

Rebecca Ferguson

Ryan Reynolds

Hiroyuki Sanada

Ariyon Bakare

Olga Dihovichnaya

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Alex Gibney Has ZERO DAYS, a Stuxnet Doc, on Deck for July 8

SCREENMANCER CYBER/FILM ALERT: Here’s what we know so far — Magnolia Pictures, Participant Media and Showtime will release ZERO DAYS in Theaters, on Demand, on Amazon Video, and on iTunes July 8, 2016. ZERO DAYS is directed by Alex Gibney, the fanatically precise director who helmed STEVE JOBS: MAN IN THE MACHINE and won an Academy Award for 2008’s TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE.

Here’s a Screenmancer First Look

Directed and Written by Alex Gibney

Starring: Colonel Gary D. Brown, Eric Chien, Richard A. Clarke, General Michael Hayden, Olli Heinonen, Chris Inglis, Vitaly Kamluk, Eugene Kaspersky

Official description below…

Alex Gibney’s ZERO DAYS is a documentary thriller about the world of cyberwar. For the first time, the film tells the complete story of Stuxnet, a piece of self-replicating computer malware (known as a “worm” for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own) that the U.S. and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately spread beyond its intended target. ZERO DAYS is the most comprehensive accounting to date of how a clandestine mission hatched by two allies with clashing agendas opened forever the Pandora’s Box of cyberwarfare. Beyond the technical aspects of the story, ZERO DAYS reveals a web of intrigue involving the CIA, the US Military’s new cyber command, Israel’s Mossad and Operations that include both espionage and covert assassinations but also a new generation of cyberweapons whose destructive power is matched only by Nuclear War.

For more info: click here.

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