Actors/Actresses: Their Top 5 Favorite Films
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It's just amazing. I've been watching all of the Maysles Brothers' films and I'm really into their approach, which they called "direct cinema", and the whole school that came out of DA Pennebaker, Robert Drew and so on. I love the whole idea that life can be as dramatic as fiction. It's very different than reality television, because that's very manipulated.
The Maysles' approach is minimal interaction and being as observational as possible. Gimme Shelter has such drama, and it's so well-done. As are all of their films.
Even before I started acting, this was a very important film to me. Obviously I was really drawn to the performances and characters, but the whole film just kept bringing it back.
Gus has changed his style somewhat beginning with Gerry and all this Bela Tarr and Chantal Akerman influence, which I love too. But back then it was really about collage.
Idaho actually started as three different projects - three scripts - through Orson Welles' Chimes at Midnight, which was a distillation of Shakespeare, and this other story about street kids in Portland, and then something else about a kid finding his parents in Italy. And then this whole narcoleptic thing that was influenced by George Eliot. He's got all that just in the script, and then there's the way it's shot - he had two DPs, plus time-lapse for the cloud sequences and 8mm for the dream sequences.
All of my favourite films are approaching realism in a different way. This is Italian neorealism - obviously there's a script and a story and everything, but it's shot in the street and it has the feel of Italy, of being in the streets and, like Idaho, a deceivingly, simply constructed narrative. But there's so much emotion that's evoked from these very simple stories.
Again, a very simple approach, but there's so much power in that film. You're not quite sure what's happening from the beginning, but you're just kind of thrown into it. All you know is that these women have this mysterious meeting, and it takes you from there. The film gives you a great sense of what it was really like to live in Romania in the 1980s.
I loved this film! I really like the films of the Dardenne Brothers, like The Child and The Son, and I'm sure The Wrestler was influenced by the Dardennes, especially in the beginning when the camera is following the back of Mickey Rourke's head through the hallways. I know Darren Aronofsky a little bit, and I remember meeting with him just when The Fountain was coming out, and he told me to look at the Dardenne Brothers because they were doing some really good stuff, so I know he's a fan.
My number one favorite film was the first film I ever saw -- I was six-years-old before I ever went to the movies -- and that film is the original King Kong. It's still, I think, the best King Kong.
Then, my next favorite film is Gary Cooper's High Noon. Here we're talking about the one man against many, having to stand alone. And what sticks with me about that movie is that the woman that he loved, who was completely anti-violence, stood up with him, ultimately; and at the end, when all the townspeople had run away, he took that badge off and threw it in the dirt.
I think one of the best movies ever made was Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! It was just an extraordinarily well done film. Editing, directing, costuming -- just everything about it was perfect.
Clint Eastwood's The Outlaw Josey Wales -- one of my favorite, favorite films. I don't know what it is about The Outlaw Josey Wales that sticks... Oh, I do know what it is: it's the relationship with Chief Dan George. The narration, as it were, of Chief Dan George in that movie, you know. He's so dry, and it's humorous, but true. [As Josey Wales/Lone Watie] "You're not supposed to be able to sneak up on an Indian... But white men have been sneaking up on us for years now." [laughs] He's just great.
What's my fifth favorite movie? Now there have been quite a number of them. See now I'm sort of in no-man's land, because I'm thinking Bonnie and Clyde, I'm thinking Chinatown... I'm just wandering around now. [laughs] One of my favorite books was Black Beauty; I read it when I was eight-years-old, and I'm trying to find if there was a movie, like that, that sticks with me. Oh, I know! Moby Dick. Yes. Now that was filmmaking. John Huston. Call me... Ishmael. I read the book, and there are very few books that I have read and seen the movie and liked the movie. Gregory Peck was in two of 'em: Moby Dick and To Kill a Mockingbird. Gregory Peck was one of my favorite actors. Gregory Peck and Gary Cooper and Humphrey Bogart, those guys.
I saw it years ago, when my mom and dad made me watch it. And I was like, "This guy [Paul Newman] is just the coolest dude ever." He just had such charisma. It just really spoke to me, and it's one of those films I can watch time and time again. Paul Newman! It was like, Oh my God, look at this guy, he's so cool! It was pretty much the first time I saw Paul Newman and I've been hooked on most of his movies ever since.
It's just quality at its best. Fantastic writing, an amazing caliber of acting; just beautiful, everything about it. The details of the clothes, the sets -- just a masterpiece. Again, I can watch any of the trilogy time and time again.
Even Godfather 3??
Well...(laughs) Listen, the first two are so good.
Another favorite movie is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Again, I can watch that movie a hundred times and never get tired. I think the pairing of Redford and Newman is amazing. Paul Newman and Robert Redford are just so good.
If we want to talk about the movies that have made an impact in what I do in the action realm -- Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. I've watched that countless times. That is a standalone pioneer in action movies, and anyone that was inspired by Bruce Lee...I'm sure everyone that has ever done an action movie has just drooled over how full of talent Bruce Lee was, and how unique he was.
[On the first time he saw Enter the Dragon]: I was a kid; my brother had posters of Bruce Lee on the wall. My brother's you know, punching me and he was a lot bigger than me; I was like, what? I couldn't see the movie, I was tiny. But as soon as I was able to steal the VHS and stick it in, it was like, Gee, this guy is just...so avant-garde, he's years above, so far ahead of his own time. So that made a massive impact in my life.
Midnight in Paris, I saw this year, and I was just blown away. I think it might be my favorite movie now. I loved it. It was funny, it was inventive, imagination and dresses and all of our favorite writers. Owen Wilson was hilarious. It was just perfection.
Are you a Woody Allen fan?
Yes, yeah. But I think Midnight in Paris... I know he always gets skeptical when his movies go mainstream, but I love that one.
And then, I love I Heart Huckabees. I think that might be my favorite comedy. And I know it's weird, because every time I tell people that, they're like, "Oh, I'll have to see it." And I say, "You know, you might not like it," because it's just so weird. But I loved it. I was obsessed with it when I first saw it; I watched it four times in one week.
The Big Lebowski. I love anything by the Coen brothers, so having to choose one movie is hard, but I think The Big Lebowski.
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo, it's a taut and very telling film about the French/Algerian war of independence, concentrating on the battle of the Kasbah in the capital city of Algiers. A brilliant, prescient, and very humane film with very few "professional" actors. In black and white.
Directed by the Portugese master Manoel de Oliveira. Mr. de Oliveira made his first film, a silent one in 1929, and is probably shooting something [now]. A very idiosyncratic and unique filmmaker with a very singular sense of storytelling and pace. This is his adaptation of Flaubert's Madame Bovary. It has probably my favorite last line in cinema - along with "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown." - which is, "No one is so good as I, in pretending life is beautiful."
In black and white, made in 1940 by Sir Carol Reed, who of course also did The Third Man, Odd Man Out, Oliver!, etc. Night Train to Munich is a witty and quite gripping thriller. Intricate and romantic with very amusing performances.
I had the great honor of being at a screening of the restored print in Los Angeles some years ago. I think this is Bertolucci's masterpiece, though one could argue he made several of them. Ravishingly beautiful visuals, terrific performances, and among the most liquid and complex camerawork ever. A study of fascism, based on the book by Alberto Moravia.
Lethal Weapon 2 -- because that's the movie where I thought, 'If those guys are doing that and getting paid for it, I want in.' [laughs]
Mad Max 2, along with The Year of Living Dangerously. As far as I'm concerned that was a time of filmmaking in Australia when we were excelling. And I can watch Mad Max 2 over and over again.
And The Year of Living Dangerously, I love it because it's an Australian movie not set in Australia.
Beverly Hills Cop, 'cause I think it's Eddie Murphy at his finest. You know, we think of Norbit and things like that nowadays... but go watch Beverly Hills Cop to see the man in top form.
Well, three Coppola movies. The list changes, but I always hold the three Coppola movies. Apocalypse Now -- the sheer grandeur of it, and the originality of it.
I love Gene Hackman in The Conversation. I love that internal man who's just, you know, very closed down.
With these three [Coppola's] a great storyteller. Godfather: Part II, I just think it's a master class in acting, production design, directing, lighting, composition. I think that if you were a film student, you've got -- the way he tells the story, it's masterful storytelling. And it never ever seems to disappoint.
I love Badlands because, I think, I like the interior -- I love the story told through Sissy Spacek's character. I think the telling of it is delicate. It's just exquisite, that sense of the relationship seen through her; as if she's telling one story and we're witnessing another.
Switching from that to a small indie movie, a Lynne Ramsay movie called Ratcatcher -- I just think it's a masterful piece of filmmaking. I mean, there's Taxi Driver, there's Raging Bull... there's even -- I love King of Comedy. Then there's Kubrick; the list goes on and on. So there's many, many, many -- but off the top of my head, that would be five.
It was one of the most intense ways of getting into the adult world and I saw it when I was really young. I couldn't believe that there were stories that were so close to reality. It felt like that, it felt very real.
It's a beautiful, beautiful movie. A philosophical introspection on the nature of revolution and change and deciding to be on one side or the other. And it's about how the outside world makes you decide how to step on one side or the other. It's possibly one of the most eye-opening films i can ever recommend to anyone because it gives you a glimpse on an internal struggle.
It's like a surge of intimacy of human beings, you know? It is spectacular. It is well done, a lot of actors, and I like very much Coppola as a director. I like the performance of the main role, the guy...he had a heart attack. I don't remember his name. Martin Sheen. I almost said Martin Short. [laughs] I like also the performance of Marlon Brando. I like it very much, that movie.
It was a shock, a real shock. The acting was so sincere, so honest. Brilliant performances from everybody, from Robert DeNiro and Jodie Foster. There are always good moments in the movie business, but that was a very intense moment in the American cinema. It was amazing to see those movies.
A movie I like very much by Roberto Benigni. It's a way of talking about a very serious matter through a comic form. A touching form. That was a new way of speaking of a moment in the history of humanity. Very painful. [Having worked with him on The Tiger and the Snow], Benigni is somebody who [writes] the script and he is somebody who [interprets] the script, but he will let you very free. He is not a dictator. Basically, he is a poet. Somebody who sees the world through his own eyes in a poetic way.
Italian, a black-and-white movie. If you go to the internet, you can find it. Dino Risi movie, with Vittorio Gassman acting in it. And a French actor named Jean-Louis Trintignant. It is about somebody who is pretentious, who's always speaking [loudly], always speaking about himself. And somebody in front who is shy. The story is about changing personality, and the moral of the story is, "If you want to change your personality, change with your own rhythm. Don't try to imitate people." [This was] reality because so many people try to imitate things that they have seen without any reasons inside themselves. They just want to imitate because they have seen that on screen or in a book. Instead of following their own rhythm, their own needs. I still remember that... long time ago. 30 years ago.
Cocteau, black-and-white, with Jean Marais. That was [a] way of telling stories...very, very [strangely]. I was very shocked because everything [becomes] possible [when] you can present your story in a poetic way. And the voice of the actor... When you are young, you understand [here] that even if you are not handsome, you can find love, because the girl loved the beast. [chuckles] It came maybe from my fears when I was young, not to find a girl, not to seduce. You know what I mean?
That is such a beautiful picture. I like the acting, I like the premise, I like the genuine honesty about the whole thing. It was one of those joyous things; even when [Roberto Benigni] was riding a bicycle, he was enjoying it, you know? 'This is life, this is exceptional, this is something good!' It's just so beautiful. And it's from the head and from the heart, and that's what counts. And to me, Life is Beautiful is a beautiful film.
There's another one called Citizen Kane. Here's a man [Orson Welles] who didn't look back and read about [William] Randolph Hearst and say, 'sorry, I won't make it until [Hearst dies]. He said, 'To hell with it. I'm gonna make it anyway. If you see yourself in it, fine, that's too bad.' And he made it! And it was true! And the way he made it, and the way he works.... Ahhh. I had the opportunity to meet him one time, and I said, 'Mr. Welles?' And he said (mimicking Welles' baritone voice), 'Orson's the name, and if you don't win the g-d---ed Academy Award for Marty, I'm gonna quit it altogether.' He was that kind of a fellow. He was a good man.
The Good Earth, with Paul Muni and Luise Rainer. What a piece of work. That to me is one you can watch all day long and not get tired of it. It's wonderful.
There's one called Il Re di Poggioreale, The King of Poggioreale. It was called [Black City] in this country. The King of Poggioreale was one of [producer] Dino De Laurentiis' first pictures, and it was directed by Duilio Coletti. It was the story about a boot-maker in Poggioreale, outside of Naples. This cobbler, who was a complete nothing, a nobody, went on to become the big black marketer in Italy in World War II. And this actually happened. When people in Naples were starving to death, he managed to find food -- steal it from the Germans, steal it from the Americans, steal it from anybody -- to feed the people of Naples. And then, because of his knowledge of things, they sent him to the Vatican to bring back the jewels of St. Gennaro, who is the patron saint of Naples. And he went through the German lines, and came back with the jewels. Nobody ever expected him to come back. They said, 'This man, he's taken everything and run away with it.' But he came back. And [the movie] actually showed what the people of Naples actually do today. One of the things about St. Gennaro is that they have his blood in what almost looks like a rolling pin. They roll it back and forth, and they move it back and forth, and it's all dried blood. If there's a good time coming for Naples, that blood will actually turn and become blood. In this picture, we took pictures of it -- unbeknownst to anyone else -- and you can actually see the blood flowing. It was a wonderful picture, and I played the lead. And I tell ya, I never enjoyed doing anything so much since Marty.
I played Marty because I was Marty. I was the kind of guy that was a wall flower. I didn't know how to dance. To get a girl -- my goodness, that was beyond comprehension for me, because I could see myself being turned down and I wasn't the kind of person that liked to be turned down, you know? Why bother to ask if you're going to be turned down? So I never asked. That was it. But time went along and I went into the service, and I grew up. When I saw that script, I said, 'My God, that's me.' I was very happy to do it, because it gave me the opportunity to play something that I could easily play, and I knew that I had in my heart exactly what happened.
The Deer Hunter. I think the subject matter was very interesting. The way Michael Cimino works, he just got so much out of his actors, especially De Niro, Walken, and John Cazale, even secondary characters like the French guy in the movie. I've probably seen the movie 30 times, and you're just on the edge of your seat the whole time, you don't know what's going to happen next. I think the interesting relationship that Walken and De Niro had with Meryl Streep is very complex. Really great movies are made out of special moments, and there were just so many moments in the movie, like when Chris Walken broke down when they were asking him his family's name while he's sitting in the window. I always remember that. The way that Bobby De Niro went back to rescue his friend. I think the movie had a lot of layers and a lot of integrity, and I think the love these men had for one another was so real you could identify with it. It was like going back to get your brother, you know?
I love the first Godfather movie, part one. And two. Another great director, Coppola. And then of course, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro. I had heard the stories about how they wanted a whole other cast, and Francis was under the gun and he rose to the occasion. He got great performances out of Pacino, and De Niro was unbelievable. All the secondary guys from Joe Spinell to Michael Gazzo. The casting was impeccable. He got a lot of great performances from people who were just getting into the business themselves.
Duvall, everybody had so many layers. The performance he got out of Lee Strasberg, who never really did much acting in front of the camera. When I was in the Actor's Studio, the only actor that Lee actually spoke to was Al, so [Coppola] used the relationship that the two had and that was quite interesting.
There was a movie Kirk Douglas did that I loved a lot, Lonely Are the Brave. You'll have to look that one up. I actually met him about 14 years ago, and he actually said that was his favorite movie.
Just like you have said that The Wrestler is your favorite movie of your own.
Hands down. It's kind of nice being able to say that after so many years of my answer being: "I haven't made it yet." [Darren] surrounded me with a great stunt coordinator, and he took the time [for me] to put all the muscle on and to learn how to wrestle, and the scenes that he allowed me to rewrite.
Which scenes did you rewrite?
The scenes with Evan Rachel Wood and the speech at the end. Working with Evan, she's only 21 and she's just so f***ing professional. She's so good and each take she got better and better. She's probably the best actress I've ever worked with.
She's tremendous for her age.
She's tremendous for even beyond her age.
I really liked On the Waterfront, I have to put that up there. Those great scenes with Marlon Brando and Rod Steiger. Really great scenes with Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint.
There's an old movie that Rita Hayworth was in that I really loved because I thought she was just smokin' in it. [Gilda.] She just reminds me of all the girls that I want to be with. It was a movie where she was driving all the men crazy. I was going crazy, too. [My] favorite female actresses: Rita Hayworth, Ingrid Bergman. And Evan Rachel Wood.
I like The King of Comedy by Scorsese. I like that one. It makes me laugh a lot. I think it's very funny. I mean, I like the combination, the trio of Robert De Niro, Jerry Lewis and Sandra Bernhard; that's just one of my favorite trios in a movie. The three of them had a pretty amazing chemistry, I thought. I've heard that Scorsese was reluctant to make it, that it was on the shelf for a while; I guess that makes me appreciate it even more.
And you're working with him pretty soon, too -- or you have.
I worked with him on the pilot for Boardwalk Empire; that was last summer. September 19 that?s premiering. It's very lavish and lush and beautiful to look at: the costumes, the cars, the sets, the props; a remarkable ornate universe. It's a really exciting cast, I think. Everyone in it was someone I was excited to work with
Well I guess this is cheating because it?s 10 movies, but I like [Krzysztof Kieślowski's] Decalogue a lot. That's one director I was sad when he passed away, because I would have loved to have worked with him -- although he never really worked with American actors. I love all of his films but Decalogue is very satisfying. When I watched it for the first time I saw them all in two days, as this little cinema in London. I watched five the first day and the second five the next day.
I remember being pretty astonished by I Stand Alone, the Gaspar Noé picture. I remember when I saw that one I was pretty astonished -- I'd never seen anything that grim before. But also very honest -- not gratuitous or trying to get a shock -- just very simple and quite and powerful and disturbing.
I like Alphaville a lot, by Godard. Lemmy Caution -- I love that guy. That actor [Eddie Constantine], I could watch him all the time. That's probably one of my favorite performances in a movie.
It's a documentary, but I remember liking Crumb a whole lot. When Crumb came out I would go and see it like three times a week; I would be bringing different people to see it. I'd seen a couple of documentaries before, from Errol Morris or whatever, but that, I mean that one took it to a whole other level as far as I was concerned. I just thought it was the most interesting family I'd ever seen in a movie, really.
Straight up Bob Fosse goodness. Roy Scheider is amazing in this movie. (It's my favorite performance of his though I have many a good friend who would argue it's in Jaws, but check it out and I think you'll agree with me.
I am a huge Almodovar fan, so it's hard to pick only one of his films, but today I shall choose this. Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril are fantastic. It's funny, sexy, and deeply human.
I think it's a totally underrated Scorsese movie. Massive in scope, stunning to look at and amazing performances all around. Plus, the coolest wardrobe ever.
I just can't see this movie enough times. Genius, Gilliam. He creates such an impressive alternate world. And one of my favorite performances by Brad Pitt.
I'm a huge Mike Leigh fan and would love to work with him. His approach to filming sounds fascinating and exciting. I understand that he doesn't give his actors a script but instead hands them scenes and encourages improvisation. I'm not sure if this is indeed his process, but the result is nothing short of beautiful intimate moments. And this film is full of them! At times it feels so intimate it's almost voyeuristic. To me, that's what makes a performance really exciting...when you're almost embarrassed to be peeking into peoples' lives. And that happens a lot in this perfect emotional drama.
I had the pleasure of working with the director of this film, Werner Herzog, recently. He is one of my all-time favorite filmmakers. In Fitzcarraldo, he manages to bring an opera house into a Peruvian jungle. What an amazing concept!
Duvall, Dunaway, Finch, Holden and Ned Beatty...are you kidding?
This film is as true today as it was when they made it over 30 years ago. It's just amazing how little things haven't changed since then.
Faye Dunaway kills it in this film. Her body language is so precise and her character's ambition is simply frightening. Ned Beatty's monologue alone makes this one worth watching.
I would die to work with the Coen Brothers. I love their sense of humor. This film is hysterical on so many levels, but I guess it's the diverse group of characters that really gets to me. Jeff Bridges is perfection as "the dude" and Julianne Moore kills it as Maude, but my favorite may be John Turturro as "Jesus." To me, this is a perfect comedy. Oh yeah and the soundtrack is SICK!!!
What a scope of a film for Martin Scorsese. To really dig into the humanity of that character, Jake La Motta. And what a portrayal by Robert De Niro! What an amazing talent. How he was able to really touch into this organic moment...it was just unbelievable.
Just the scope of the film. The journey the film takes, the journey the character takes. Doing that film today you couldn't get your head around it -- it was such a massive undertaking. It leaves so much room for imagination, to escape. I escaped with that film.
I think it was a beautiful, well-told story. If you're learning to know how to direct a film, it's a great subject film to study.
Obviously it has to do with the story and how complicated it was. [Bryan Singer] was an impressive young man, to be able to draw that.
I thought its arc of character was beautifully captured. [Martin Scorsese] has got so many dramatic views -- men fed up with life, the situation, the system. These days people are more experienced [as filmmakers] but we've just been poorly making movies lately. We used to tell beautiful, humane stories. We used to care about characters instead of just blowing some f***ing building down.
A relatively new film that went straight into my top five, I adore Punch Drunk Love, and I can almost recite it to you. It was on TV on a loop for a while, and it's like The Godfather, you hit that film on TV and you stay there. There aren't many, but you just stay there, thinking, 'I could keep flipping, but there's not actually going to be anything better than this,' and it doesn't matter that you've seen it sixteen times - you just dig it because it's such high quality.
I think Adam Sandler and Emily Watson are completely marvellous in it, and I didn't know anything about Adam Sandler, I've never seen any of his other films, so I've only seen him in this. I love Paul Thomas Anderson, and I think it's my favourite of his films. Possibly a controversial thing to say, as his other films are, perhaps, hipper, but I love the fact that it's this fucked up love story. I love it stylistically, the jokes, the visual attitude of it and those funky links that he does. I love the apparent arbitrariness of the plot, which hinges on upon the fact that you get free air-miles with a particular brand of chocolate pudding, and I love the way it dovetails at the end.
Everyone in it is magnificent, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, who's in The Boat that Rocked and who is beautiful in Punch Drunk Love. Adam Sandler gives one of the greatest light entertainment performances I've ever seen. It's a submerged light entertainment, it's so integrated, so authentic in terms of naturalism, that you surprise yourself by laughing, because it's so deadpan, so undercover in terms of comedy, and that's my favourite thing of all time, the highest level. For the first twenty minutes you think you're in art movie hell, but you're not, so don't panic.
It's a movie where I have to stay there, just to get to the bit where Gene Hackman creeps up behind the bigot in the barbers and takes the cut-throat from the barber's hand and continues the shave. The story is such a big and important story.
I was asked recently, along with dozens of other people, to pick one film, by the BFI, to mark the 75th birthday of the British Film Institute. Which film would you leave for succeeding generations? There are many great art films but I chose Mississippi Burning because I figured that I would try to be responsible. I thought I could either be hip or responsible, and actually stick to the brief, and by succeeding generations, I assumed they meant the youth, young people, and I thought: "What's the biggest issue in the world?" Apart from the way that drugs fuck everybody up, racism is the biggest thing. The newspaper is basically the story of what racism does, whether it's religious prejudices, or tribal prejudices, or colour prejudice or whatever the fuck it is, but I think it's the single most destructive element in our world and Mississippi Burning is a beautiful story of great courage. It shows individual and collective courage in that area, about people who took it on in a landmark situation and started to make great change possible.
It's got one of the great cinema performances of all time, not that I'm given to superlatives, despite it being the second time I've said that, which is Gene Hackman. I could watch Gene Hackman all day long; he's one of the people I most admire.
It's predictable, but Performance, the Donald Cammell movie, contains one of the great cinema performances from James Fox. Mick Jagger is in there too giving a very good performance, and I know that by heart too. The soundtrack is epic, it's beautiful, including a great Mick Jagger song called "Turner's Song: Memo from T" which is a great, great song with some beautiful lyrics. It's just a film that I have a soft spot for.
I always remember watching Mean Streets, which was the first time I ever heard a Stones song in a movie. It was on the jukebox in the club, Jumpin' Jack Flash was the song, and it was shocking that the Rolling Stones would allow one of their songs to be in a movie. But Scorsese has always had them in there; he's a man of taste. They have a long relationship, because the Stones don't use to let just anybody use their songs, you'd never get a Rolling Stones song in your movie.
Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy make me laugh out loud. Eddie Murphy makes me laugh generally speaking, Steve Martin makes me laugh, I love him with all my heart, and the combination was just beautiful. At the end when Eddie Murphy begins to believe the things that have been weirdly happening to him are in fact true, and that he might save the universe, it always makes me laugh out loud. I love the fact that he comes in and says to Steve Martin at one point "Guess who I had intercourse with last night?" which always makes me smile.
With Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn, I have to stay there. I don't know how people can act that quick. I'm a big fan of quick acting, and i'm going to try to build it into my career from now on - I've been thinking about it for a while now. I think in the old days, everybody used to act really quickly because Hollywood was built by theatre people. And I don't believe that cinema is a non-verbal medium, I believe people should have t-shirts made with, "Cinema is a not a non-verbal medium," because I don't know how that entered the language - it's from people who can't write presumably. I don't believe that, in some way, having a theatrical background should exclude you from the movies, which was a fashionable thing in the 1970s. It's ludicrous given that Hollywood is built by mostly European theatre people.
You can't speak any quicker than Cary Grant speaks in most of his movies - it's really cool - and everybody gets everything, nothing misses. I love to watch those two together, because they're dry, they're witty, they're fuuny and it's romantic.
Today, I'll say City of God though that could change tomorrow. It is so special in its storytelling, a perfectly executed, beautifully shot, wasting nothing, brilliant acting, etc. What's not to like?
It makes me pee with laughter. Peter Falk and Alan Arkin are a perfect combination and play off each other so well in this ridiculous movie. I watch it at least once a year.
Another film that I saw at an impressionable time in my life that served for me as a beautiful testament to the power of love in the face of absolute injustice and oppression.
Another perfect film showcasing the brilliance of the one and only, never to be seen again talents of Peter Sellers. What a beast. Kubrick actually wanted him to play another character. I can only imagine what he would have done with that. I'm sure he would have crushed it.
Let's start with Rudy. It's a football film. It's about a kid who wants to go to Notre Dame, and he overcomes all obstacles to make that happen. You know, he wants to go to Notre Dame, he wants to play on the Notre Dame football team, but he hasn't got the beef. He overcomes all obstacles and endures, achieves his dream.
It's just really well crafted. I do like films that make you feel something for the characters, and that's unquestionably one. Sean Astin does an amazing job playing Rudy, and there's some other great actors in it, too. So I have appreciated that film and watched it on a number of occasions.
There is a film called Jeremiah Johnson that was directed by Sydney Pollack with Robert Redford. It's about 1830s mountain men, and I've always been fascinated by those guys who, in the 1830s, when the West was still totally wild ? there were no homesteaders, no settlers ? guys who would go out there and live in the mountains amidst the Indians and carve out a living, catching beaver and muskrat and whatever else they were catching, skinning them and bringing the hides back, so they could be turned into hats for fashionable people in London. There's some really great music in it. I loved the nature and the Rocky Mountains; I think it actually was shot in the early days of the Sundance institute out in the Salt Lake area, although the story has it happening in the Rocky Mountains, probably a little east of there. Montana, Wyoming, that area. So, love that film.
The Firm, which was a film that I got a chance to be in, and got a chance to work with Sydney [Pollack] and really rub shoulders with Gene Hackman for the first time. Well, actually, I had been with Gene in Mississippi Burning. But I got to work with Gene Hackman and Tom Cruise and Holly Hunter and Gary Busey and Wilford Brimley. But Sydney Pollack had a great career as a director and I always admired his approach to things. Jeanne Tripplehorn was in The Firm also, did a great job as Tom's wife. I love the music in The Firm. Dave Grusin wrote the music. I thought the film was very well put together, and when you take a novel, sometimes the film doesn't match up, and I thought The Firm did match up.
How about a comedy? The Devil Wears Prada. I love that film. I love Meryl Streep, along with the rest of the world. She's the bad guy in this film, so to watch Meryl play a bad guy with all of the layering and the subtlety, still you love her in the end. It's just wonderful. I love the couple of speeches in there ? Stanley Tucci has a couple of speeches in there, one of which is to Anne Hathaway. Anne comes in to him and tells him, couldn't she be given credit for trying? And he goes off on her about the value of trying and whether, in fact, she does deserve credit for trying. Great, great speech. Then the other speech I love is the one about the blue sweater, where Anne Hathaway thinks she's underplaying her fashion sense by wearing sort of nondescript, underplayed, like she?s not going to be one of these fashionistas, and Meryl Streep goes off on her about how many hours were put in by designers crafting the kind of underplayed, nondescript look that often people are... they try to represent themselves by looking like they don't care about how they look, and they just kind of throw something together. She goes off about this blue sweater that Anne Hathaway's wearing, and I just thought that was brilliant, and in the mouth of Meryl Streep, it was even more on the mark.
Let's do horror. I would say The Descent, which was a film that was, I don't know, maybe a few years old now. What I like about the first 45 minutes of the film is they develop the characters and the relationships between these women who are going to descend into this cave in the latter part of the film, and that's where the horror and the mayhem starts to happen. But they give the time to draw you into the lives of these women, and so as a result, you care about them by the end of the film. I thought that was an accomplishment for a horror film. It also has one of the scariest scenes I've seen in a long time. They have these monsters down in the cave that are done with special effects ? green screen or however the hell they do it, CGI ? but there's a scene where one of the girls, who now you care about, crawls through a tunnel and gets trapped in this space that's too small, and she can't move forward and she can't move back. Talk about simple, but horrifying if you're claustrophobic in any way. Really, really well shot and really well played.
The film that sort of made me want to be an actor was Cool Hand Luke. I watched it one Sunday when I skipped church, and I was home sick, and it was on TBS, and I was about 12 or 13 years old. I had never seen a man cry like that. I was so fascinated by this masculine tough guy getting emotional, and that sort of started my interest in acting. Figuring out how one gets to that place, and why. And both he and Steve McQueen were the two people I first connected to or looked up to as actors.
The Sand Pebbles with McQueen is one of those films that shows more of his sensitivity. People tend to think of him as just the badass, and I love the fact that that film lets you see another side of him. And I also think it's beautifully shot. So that's another one on my list.
The remaining three are films that I just feel are nearly perfect. The Graduate, from top to bottom, visually, sonically, performance-wise, the energy, and the time when it came out, and what it represented - that whole Holden Caufield sort of aspect to it. I think the music, obviously; there are very few films where the music has been so married to the actual film itself, and I love that about The Graduate. It seems like that's the way it always should have been. It's just amazing to me how perfectly it complements the film.
I have to go with a Coen brothers movie, because they are my inspiration as producers, filmmakers -- I want to direct soon. Again, I think that Fargo is a nearly perfect film. Visually, comedically; it manages to be tense, and it's smart. I love the fact that it's based on somewhat of a true story -- I think that's kind of where my interests lie, the idea of doing a true crime story that's darkly comedic; that's something that really appeals to me. I could name several of their films, but Fargo is the one that just... I always think about that shot in the parking lot in the snow, when he's just trying to scrape the window off and he just loses his mind. [laughs]
And then one of the most inspirational films for an actor would, in my opinion, have to be Raging Bull. Just to see what De Niro went through physically, the span of time he takes that character through, the insecurity and the bravado and the anger. I think it's still a performance that's relatively unmatched in film history.
All About Eve. Bette Davis is just extraordinary in that film. I can't really give more insight; it's just an incredible movie and, I think, incredibly evolved for its time. I think with any good performance, it's inspirational in some way. I just think it's an amazing movie. You know, it's hard for movies to last, and there's something really timeless about that story and the performances. There's something really modern about -- and really antiquated as well -- but it's just, I think, a really powerful film and performance.
I think it's just touching and heartfelt and really poignant. I just remember when I first watched it, it stayed with me and it's kind of never left. These are all quite artsy, aren't they?
Eisenstein's October. Because it was obviously groundbreaking, and, you know, it's not something I would sit down on a Sunday afternoon and watch, but as a piece of filmmaking in its time, it's revolutionary.
Ong Bak 1 is a very important and personal movie for me. It combined many types of martial arts and it's the movie that introduced the world to Tony Jaa and Muay Thai. I'm extremely proud of this movie.
I loved Heath Ledger's portrayal of the Joker. His performance was thrilling and the plot was remarkable. The editing is also amazing. I believe quality editing is an important tool in properly displaying such a heroic tale.
Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris are the main characters and you can find perfect kung fu fighting in this movie. They are my two favorite kung fu actors.
Jackie Chan is legendary in this film. I used to watch it all the time when I was a young boy. It served as my inspiration to learn how to fight (under the guidance of Master Panna Rittikrai).
Why? Well, I think it's an act of freedom, the whole entire movie, practically. They didn't have a script. In 1962, which is the year when the movie was shot, I thought it was unbelievable that somebody would just go into an experiment like that. It's still a very experimental movie, very emotional in a way. I like what he says about the human spirit and creation; in a way, crisis of a man confronting life, his past, his present and his future in a very formal way. I mean formal in terms of format, how the movie was told, not only in the content of the movie, which is amazing. Also in the way that he decided to just do it absolutely free, inventing new rules for telling a story and not going in a traditional way. I thought it was the masterpiece of Federico Fellini that most attracted me; I feel very proud that I know [what it's like for] a guy like Federico Fellini, who got the balls to just jump into such believable, reflections of mirrors, you know, inside the movie.
I love the scope of the movie; there is something in David Lean that I like very much. He's always of the macro worlds and the micro worlds; he didn't only do it in Lawrence of Arabia, but repeated it in Dr. Zhivago and other movies. [In Lawrence of Arabia] he made a movie with enormous scope and events that were known in the world -- the Turkish-British War, and at the time, the taking of Akaba -- things that were very spectacular and very epic, but in reality he's talking to us about the homosexuality of one of the characters and something really minimalistic and very precise. He gets into the soul of a man through this spectacular movie and this union of these two worlds. He did it again in Dr. Zhivago as I said before, because in a way he put together the entire Russian revolution, which is also very big, while in reality telling a love story. So this kind of union, joining, he does between the macro world and the micro world is something that I was always interested in, and he was a master of doing the type of job. It's one of those movies that always remain in your mind. Also, he gave himself permission to do it in a way that probably no studio would buy in our day; just to see a man coming from five miles into the camera for two minutes and a half -- no executive producer would allow that to happen! He gave himself permission to do that, and I had the luck of seeing a remastered version of Lawrence of Arabia in a theater in Spain 10 years ago, and it was magnificent because it gave you the possibility of thinking, which is unusual.
We also have the performance of first time movie actor Peter O'Toole. That was the first movie that he did, which I didn't know until I worked with Omar Sharif in a movie that I did years ago called 13th Warrior, and he told me that. At the time, he was a very prominent theater actor in London, but that was the first movie that he did. I will never forget those blue eyes on the big screen. Amazing!
The Exterminating Angel is a surrealistic movie. It's about a bunch of people from high society in Mexico who, after one night at the opera, decide to have drinks in the house of one of them, and they cannot get out. And they spend about three months there, and you don't know why they cannot get out, but they cannot. [Laughs] It's a very, very beautiful and interesting story -- also risky, and very misunderstood at the time that the movie opened. But you know, that's what happened sometimes; after the second World War, naturalism and realism won the battle, so it was imposed that cinema had to be realistic always. But there was a time that it was not like that; Russians were doing expressionist movies, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari for example in Germany, and all these German directors, they were doing another type of approach to movies in formal terms. And in Spain, too, we had Luis Bunuel who was doing this type of surreal movies that were very interesting. Now they can be revised in sort of a different way, with time passed. But Luis Bunuel is definitely one of my favorite directors of all time.
Well, you'd have to start with The Godfather. You'd almost have to put Part I and II together, because they were so close together, and they're so innately tied into one another. Not to exclude Part III as a bad movie, but... I don't see it that way, but I can't vote for Godfather III because I'm in it. So I have to group those two together. I think those are joined at the hip, in a way.
I believe Francis Ford Coppola said something to the effect of the third Godfather film serving as an epilogue to the first two.
Right, exactly. It functions in a different way. Although, I must say that, every day of my life, I get people screaming at me in the streets, saying, "Hey, when's Godfather IV?" I think they look at it as an ongoing serial, and they want to know more about what's going on. So, I'm sure there's still a franchise there if Francis wanted to approach it or Paramount wanted to approach it. I'm not sure how the dynamics of that would work these days, but I know the interest is there, only because I'm field testing it every day. Well, in the sense that I'm sort of like the barometer because people in the street go, "Hey man, when's it going to happen?"
It certainly sounds like you're up for it, if it happens, but regardless of that, does it ever get to a point where you tire of hearing it everywhere you go?
No, no, not at all. I'm honored to have been associated with those films, are you kidding? I mean, Godfather Part I was a movie that, certainly my generation of actors, if not every generation after it, was deeply inspired by. To be part of that was an extraordinary blessing. I don't get tired of it. If someone says, "When's Godfather IV?" I say, "I'm waiting along with you." If they want to do it, that would be an extraordinary thing. Working with Francis is like working with Aristotle. He's an extraordinary creative mind; I found that to be very stimulating.
Then I would have to go with Hal Ashby's Being There. I was struck by the tone of the film and the extraordinary performances in it, starting obviously with Peter Sellers. It was one of the most sublime movies I had ever seen.
Then I would have to -- and it's hard to pick just one of his -- but I would go with Sidney Lumet's Serpico. Again, a performance-driven film, but there's a sort of a reality to Sidney Lumet's movies. I had the great pleasure of working with him, and there's a reality, a sort of documentary quality to his films, you know? And it's hard to pick from the lot of his films, whether it be Network or Dog Day Afternoon or Serpico. But there's something about Serpico that has an emotional depth to it that was very touching. And also, it's easy to identify with someone who's trying to fight against the system and rise above it and do well, and the price that he pays for doing that. And Al Pacino's performance in that movie is quite extraordinary.
Knowing that you were a fan of his, what was it like to meet him and work with him in Godfather III?
He was extremely generous, you know, very easygoing. He's all about the work, and about the enjoyment of the work. We got to become very close allies in the movie. He treated me like his nephew and I treated him like my uncle. It was a very warm experience. He wasn't taking me under his wing from an acting standpoint; he would never sort of presume or condescend to you in that way. It was an embrace from the point of view of, "We're in this thing together, and this is a family, which is sort of a metaphor for the film. Just come on board. There's nothing you need to prove; there's nothing you need to do to sit alongside us in this theatrical experience." So in that sense... I'm not talking about it in the sense that he was "showing me the ropes" or anything like that, you know what I mean? He wouldn't presume to even feel like he needs to do that. It was more like, from a familiar point of view. You know, you're a fellow actor, and coming from the stage, he knows that the stage is the great equalizer. [laughs] Everyone steps on it with equal energy, so everybody's taking care of each other. It was a joy to work with him. And, you know, we remain good friends to this day. I mean, he's still my "Uncle Michael."
Okay, I'm going to do a hybrid again. Jacques Tati's Mon Oncle and Playtime; I'm going to put those two together. One's sort of spun off the other, in a way, but you could put either, because it's really about Tati himself, and the conceptual art of his films. The film that has almost no dialogue, just gibberish and music and human behavior, and staging. Competition is staging, which I found fascinating. They seduce you into paying attention to the simplest of details.
I would go back to Buster Keaton's The General. The accomplishment of that movie in those days, you know... First of all, Buster Keaton as an actor -- and as a comedian -- but as an actor really, was... again, I think the word "sublime" comes across, because of that sort of deadpan quality that he had. When he was still, you felt as though his feet had roots, and they were sort of embedded and grounded into the ground. And, you know, a hurricane could come and it would never push him over. So that sense of stillness that he had, that had this kind of emotional weight inside of it, created juxtaposition to the stuff that he would do. Even if he was moving around, there was always a sense of a "man against the world" kind of thing that was always very compelling. But that movie, what he did with that movie, with that train, and the kind of stunts he was doing on his own, and just running around... I mean, just the accomplishment of that movie from a technical standpoint in those days was quite something. So that's my list as of today.
You couldn't get away with making that movie today. It's wild. It's a wild film, and it's the great American dream gone wrong. It's Citizen Kane on its ass. It's a man who comes from nothing and builds a world and loses an empire and finds love. I mean, it's a huge movie; and absolutely insane. I watch that several times a year -- it's a go-to on the road.
I would be embarrassed to begin to talk about Dr. Strangelove, because there has been so much written about it. It's so bleak. And Peter Sellers is perfect. He's just perfect. Terry Southern and Stanley Kubrick built this doomsday political satire, in the fists of the Cold War, and made the end of the world hysterical. We're bumbling idiots, all of us. We're all walking through dark rooms of our life, bumping into furniture, and it's shocking. I think we all enjoy watching people who are in authority positions act like bumbling idiots; it satisfies part of our ego, I'm sure, on some level. Sellers' commitment to those characters... the scene that stands out is when he's trying to get change to make the phone call to stop the bomb, and that security guard won't let him break government property to get the change. The frustration of that is as painful as it is hysterical.
Male camaraderie, male love, is a difficult subject to show on film. What does it mean to have one of your best friends pass away? When that unit dies, how do you deal with it? I'm not a married man but I'm sure that when I?m married and have kids I'll see Husbands in a new light. It's regular guys trying to make sense of this life, having a good time while they're doing it; running from their own lives and trying to distract themselves with hookers and gambling and drinking, and they all have families to go back to. They just don't wanna leave the party. It's male camaraderie at its most loving and brutal: these guys are terrible to each other, but they'd do anything for each other, and that kind of friendship, those values, mean a lot to me. The way they shot the film, the way they lost funding -- there're these wild stories of how to make a movie that you care about. They lost financing. As the story goes, they put the last bit of money -- and they're half way through the film, they've been shooting for six months -- they put all the money to throw a party. They got dancers and girls and piano players and I think there was like an elephant, and they invited all these studio heads to come to this party sequence that they were filming -- and when they studio saw the scene they said, "This movie's huge, it's wild, we'll cover the rest of the film." They got the rest of the financing. The scene's not in the movie -- it was never planned to be. So that spirit still excites me. The camaraderie feels familiar.
I think I've seen it five times in the past two months. I can't stop watching that picture. The way they edited that -- the dramatic scenes have as much musicality as the dance numbers, but it's completely naturalistic. A man facing his own death; he's creating his own end. He's riffing on Lenny Bruce, riffing on his own material, his need to connect, his love of women, and his own mortality and relationship to family. It's a staggering film. It's Bob Fosse's "See ya, and goodnight."
I like Woody Allen. Crime and Misdemeanors I liked a lot. I think it's just wonderful. I also enjoy many of those -- I like Hannah and Her Sisters, and Husbands and Wives; I like Broadway Danny Rose. This morning I was watching Love and Death, with Diane Keaton which I like a lot. But Crimes and Misdemeanors is maybe the best one of those.
Let's see... I like David Lynch. I enjoyed Mulholland Drive. I loved it. I just think he's spectacular -- I'd love to work with him.
Polanski. Rosemary's Baby I keep coming back to, and I like Chinatown a lot. Those aren?t radical choices but I enjoy them. The truth is that I enjoy them a lot, and everybody knows they're wonderful.
For funny movies, Scorsese -- you know, I have an affection for The King of Comedy. It's just fun to watch. I like Rupert Pupkin... it's hilarious. I like that it's dark, and how this guy gets to be famous. But I like De Niro's performance; I like Jerry Lewis; I like Sandra Bernhard. I like the Ray Charles song that comes on at the beginning. It's terrific.
Probably my favorite is Cool Hand Luke. That's kind of been my favorite for a while. I just love that movie.
And then, probably Harold and Maude. I just think it's this beautiful, complex love story between this kid and a much older lady. Just the performances, the direction... I don't know, definitely one of the great movies. It's wonderful, funny, emotional.
Then The Graduate. It's just one of the greatest comedies of all time. The way Dustin Hoffman is... You know, I guess that was his first big break and he just blew me away when I first saw that. Extraordinary performance, and you know, Mike Nichols. Just amazing, the way it's shot; it's just absolutely beautiful. And also, an incredible, quirky kind of love story.
And I'd put One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest on the list. I think it's one of the great performances of Jack Nicholson. And also, kind of being up against the system, and trying to fight the system, the power structures that exist around him, and his fight for integrity and to bring some positivity to the other... I guess you'd call them inmates, in a sense, in the loony bin. I mean, to me, it's just some of the best acting and some of the most inspiring -- you know, with Milos Forman at the helm -- one of the most inspiring stories.
Great performances from a great ensemble of actors. Jonathan Demme did such a great job of making that look so real, creating an atmosphere that felt very immediate. It's a funny film, but it's scary as hell in parts. And it's a completely unpredictable movie, I think. There's no expectation, as you go into that film, what to expect or where it's going.
For obvious reasons. It's just painted on a giant canvas - it's larger than life. There's a reason it's a classic, and I don't know what else to say about it that hasn't already been said. It's just one of the greats. There's not a character in it that I don't like, and there's not a performance in it that's flawed. It's incredible.
I had a chance to work with Jack Nicholson, which was a real thrill. You can scoop out a lot of performances from Jack, and consider them as possible films you could add to this list, but that was a great performance. Roman Polanski's direction is incredible too. It's a movie where, the first time you see it, it's kind of shocking because you don't know where it's going and how big the story actually is that's being told.
I like the classics! I like a pretty eclectic mix actually. But if you want a great old movie, this is it. It's in colour but it always feels like a black and white movie to me. It feels like a film with great history in it, and it's got great style.
It's one of the great endings to a movie ever. I worked briefly on a television show with Mel Stuart, the director, and heard all sorts of fantastic stories about that remarkable film. And of course I knew all the songs - I still do. I have a 5-year-old, but I haven't shown it to her yet. It's kind of scary - that guy who shows up with the little shopping carriage and makes that little speech about how nobody who goes in ever comes out. And the Oompa Loompas. And that boat ride - woo, acid trip!
It has a strange beauty about it. It has a deceptively simple story. It has all the classic trademarks of someone who introduces you to a special, magical world, and yet you are able to then see your own world completely differently. There's always something slightly uncanny about what Powell and Pressburger did -- if you think about The Red Shoes or The Tales of Hoffman, and things later like Peeping Tom, films like that. They're just extraordinary.
It's a film I've watched so many times, and every time I watch it I find something new in it. Again, it's got kind of a strange beauty about it: it's disturbing and kind of magical, and mythical and mysterious, and just shot amazingly. And there's kind of a madness in it, which I really like as well. The original version, because that's the one I know the best.
It's a film like the other two, in a way, which has grown as I've grown; it's changed with me. You think of films as being finished, completed things that never change, but actually they do change -- because we change. And so a film like Close Encounters, when I first watched it -- when I was much younger -- it scared me to death, and now it's a film that I find intensely moving. It's an almost spiritual film. Spielberg is just, I think, a genius in being able to tell a very simple story and get to something so complex and profound. I think he does in E.T. as well, to a certain extent, but this one I find one of the most moving films I've ever seen.
For some reason I always find time travel intensely moving and it speaks to me in some weird way. Of all of Terry's films I find that one the most moving. I love it. It's a great story.
Okay, I will pick a film with Bowie in it. [laughs] I'm going to say The Last Temptation of Christ, where he plays Pilate. All the Romans are English, and all the Jews are American. [laughs] I think it's just a perfect piece of filmmaking. It's brave and it's imaginative and it's about the most kind of profound things, and yet it's very human. And the music -- Peter Gabriel's soundtrack is incredible. Again, every time I watch it... it's the same with a lot of Scorsese's films -- as soon as you turn the channel and come across one, no matter how many times you've seen it, you sort of can't stop watching it, because he's a master story teller. That's my five for today.
The harmony of music with the simplistic style of telling that story, as a framework for it, and then the acting... It's like bringing Broadway -- true Broadway -- to the desert. Picking up a little naturalism from the desert. I believed Carl Anderson; believed every word of him, every frown, every inflection of his eyebrow. I love musicals. Always have. I think you have to tell a full story; it's like asking someone, "Do you like black and white films?" or "Do you love 3D?" Music creates that third dimension.
That pick is impressive, especially since not a lot of men would admit to liking musicals.
Well they're not real men, then.
It was that basic human story, it was watching the fluid way in which Marlon [Brando] directed the wind around him. We were all moved and swayed by him, and it was the first time that I took notice of truth in acting. There was no acting; everyone else acted around him, but he was there.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: "A posh life!" [From the song "Posh!"] "Lullabye Bay." [From the song "Hushabye Mountain"] Those songs that Dick Van Dyke (as Caractacus Potts) and his father (Lionel Jeffries, as Grandpa Potts) sang blew me away! I saw it as a child, and I watch it as an adult. I love that movie.
Mary Poppins is still one of my very, very, very favorites. There are so many wonderful jewels of knowledge that they put in that film. It's like that book, "Oh, The Places You'll Go!" by Dr. Seuss. There are some wonderful hints to achieving success in life, and the greatest success is to be happy. That's what those movies seem to tell me.
Hustle & Flow showed me what could have happened to me. I hadn't recognized that until I'd seen the movie completed; you never know what painting you're making until the final stroke. And even then, it's not finished until you put it into the frame. I didn't understand the full impact of those individual strokes that we were making on a day to day basis until I saw [the film] -- where A could have led me. I saw where A would end up at. And taking on B, C, and D... For a film to affect me that way, for a character to affect me that way, to where I feel worry and think about who Djay is... I still wonder about Shug and her baby. I still wonder about Key.
Hustle & Flow also had music in it, which told some of that struggle. Remember, music used to be written for films, conveyed by the actors themselves. They knew when that music was played and they responded to it. Now, [merging a film to its music] is something that's done as a separate act, and it's more manipulative and not honest. Music in Hustle & Flow gave us another plane in which to relate everything to, and to play from. It widened the playing field; it brightened the road down the way, because you could move to that music, and be in step with the audience instead of the audience being manipulated into step with you.
Taking that amount of pride in Hustle & Flow's musical elements, how did you feel when Three 6 Mafia won the Oscar for Best Song?
I felt absolutely elated, for the fact that the Academy was able to see past the genre lines and the lines of demarcation between individual people and could see the artists themselves, the work and the artistry. They didn't care whose name was at the bottom of the painting, or who was the initial audience of it, they just saw a painting worth their appreciation. I was so honored to be a part of that.
My five favorite films change all the time. Well, no -- the top three never change, but the last two are kind of up for grabs constantly. 12 Angry Men is, I think, a feat of writing. It's brilliant. The fact that it all takes place in one room -- I think there's maybe two minutes, three minutes of screen time that is not in the one room in that film -- and yet it is one of the most compelling things I've ever seen. I mean, you can't look away. You're gripped by the dynamics between the people, by what's gonna happen, and by the fact that it's a whodunit, based in one room, which is brilliant.
I think A Matter of Life and Death is one of the great works of imagination in cinema. It's a brilliant story. David Niven could not be more charming in it if he tried. He starts off, you know, as a World War II pilot about to crash his plane whilst quoting Andrew Marvell down the phone to the mayday operator, who he then falls in love with. There is one shot in it, actually, of the heavenly court before it goes into session, which we absolutely -- and I haven't actually spoken to Mike Newell about this -- but we lifted almost identically for the start of the Triwizard tournament in Potter, in the fourth film. There is one shot -- because I think I watched Matter of Life and Death shortly after we finished that film -- which I watched and went, "Oh my god, we've just stolen that!"
Well if you're gonna steal, steal from the Archers.
Absolutely; if you're gonna steal, you can't do much better than those guys. So that would be one of my favorite films. Possibly -- possibly -- even more than 12 Angry Men.
Dr. Strangelove showed me, I suppose taught me, a lot about comedy. The stuff that's funniest is the stuff that scares us most -- because all good comedy comes out of fear of death, fear of humiliation, fear of public awkwardness, fear of, you know, all those kinds of things. To have truly, really dark comedy where at the end of the film everyone in the world dies, that was very funny to me. I went to the Kubrick exhibition and there was this whole section on how originally the film had ended with a gigantic pie fight, and it was cut; but in a way I get what that might have been going for -- the fact that it is all so ridiculous.
Little Miss Sunshine: I find it to be the sweetest, funniest... it's a modern classic, I think. And I think Steve Carell is brilliant in it; heartbreaking. Also the fact that it came out of nowhere -- that I went to the cinema knowing nothing about it.
The fifth, because it is the film of my childhood, and I still think the skeleton sequence is one of the scariest effects sequences ever, is Jason and the Argonauts. That is the film that, within the first six months of a relationship of any girl that I'm with, I have to make her watch that film -- and if she doesn't react the way I'd like, then that's kind of a deal-breaker. If you don't like Harryhausen's stop-motion then you are not going to be in my life. [Laughs]
Has it ever come to that?
No, fortunately not. Fortunately I think that they all picked up that the stakes were quite high -- so at least they pretended to like it.
Really, what kind of awful person wouldn't like it?
You really have to kind of just have a heart of stone to not be able to get into that film, 'cause it's just brilliant. You know the other film I like? The Vikings, that Tony Curtis-Kirk Douglas one. It's really good, just because it's... well, it's Vikings; but I think Ernest Borgnine plays, like, Ragnar, the king of the Vikings, and it's a hysterical film -- 'cause made in the '50s, and there are these shots where they're panning down the rows of Vikings and they've all got horned helmets and scraggly hair, and then you get to Tony Curtis and Kirk Douglas who're just perfectly coiffed, beautiful men still. [Laughs]
First we have Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That would be because of "Khaaaaaaaaaan!" "Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!" That's number five.
Then I would have to go probably with T2. It was another great sequel to a great movie. I loved the humanity of Arnold Schwarzenegger. I loved the humanity in the cyborg, in the Terminator. I loved the fact that he was not human and he had more humanity than most humans do. And he was just cool.
Then I would go with the first Star Wars, which is actually the fourth episode, because I remember standing in line; I was one of those bazillion kids that were standing in line opening day. My poor mother and father had to do that with me. I remember my mom left, and came back a day later. So my dad stood there with me. I think that is one of the most incredible memories for me. It was an awesome film; I'll never take anything away from the film, but the fact that I had a father who was willing to stand in line with me all that while...let's see, I was born in '68, so I was 8 or 9. Eight or 9 and my dad stood in line for me. Yeah, I was there for like a day and a half!
And then I would put The Matrix. The first Matrix. Are there any others? [Because of] Neo. And it was just so cool. Everything in that movie made you see how we're all interconnected; I think that the internet is like a man-made version of, the closest we can come to conceptualizing God. It shows how we're all connected, and this Matrix is really that more defined. The Wachowskis were just a couple filmmakers who did an incredible job.
And my all-time favorite number one science fiction movie would be...Starship Troopers! Because I'm vain! And full of myself! No, actually I'm excluding me from this, but I would put that on the list. But I can't do myself, because it just isn't right. I would say Aliens. Because, as Jim Cameron himself said, "Why are they making Starship Troopers? I already did!" He was wrong, by the way!
Since Scream's a scary movie, I'll tell you a scary-ish movie favorite, which is Beetlejuice, because I love the costumes. I'm obsessed with Geena Davis and Winona Ryder, which brings me to my next favorite...
Girl, Interrupted. I love the book that it's based on; it's one of my favorites. It's really short, and I just think that it's a beautiful story. I love everyone in it. I loved Brittany Murphy, I loved Angelina Jolie, Winona Ryder. So that's one of my favorites.
It's cheesy because my aunt's in it, but My Best Friend's Wedding is one of my favorite comedies. I just think it's so funny. I could watch it five million times.
My guilty pleasure would be Clueless. It was just such a "my generation" type of movie, so I loved that.
I have never gotten this film out of my head. The disturbing humor and strong characters make it one of the favorites that I regularly watch.
Watching Eraserhead is like living in a nightmare: quite uncomfortable, and a distressing experience -- which is why I love it.
I really like [director] Shane Meadows, and any film with a revenge storyline. I love the soundtrack, and it has a great cast and a really unexpected twist at the end.
I think they're all fairly artful pieces of work, but I think my all-time favorite is Charlie Chaplin's City Lights, which was one of the... well, it's like now, somebody still making a film in 2D, three years later: he still made it as a silent film [after the advent of sound], with inter-titling, and it had a recorded score. It's one of those films that I've shown to many, various groups of people socially. I remember going to a DVD night in Silverlake, with a lot of very groovy LA people, and we all had to bring a film. And they were bringing along, you know, Sin City and stuff, and I did a pitch on that film, without saying it was a Charlie Chaplin film -- saying it's about an alcoholic and this young, impoverished guy, and they're best friends when the guy is drunk and then when he sobers up he doesn't know who he is; and the young guy is wanting to help this girl who sells flowers on the street, and she's blind. And they were all going, "Oh my God, this sounds amazing," and then I said it's in black and white and it's silent and it's a Charlie Chaplin film -- and they all watched it and were just entranced; and this is sort of like the Tarantino crowd. I've always loved that film.
The next one I would say would be Amarcord by Fellini. In fact everything by Fellini, but Amarcord, particularly, I just happened to see it -- I think most of the films I'm going to mention I probably saw in my early 20s, either in Queensland or when I first went to Europe, and they were the films that just stuck with me and I felt when I saw them they kind of blew me away.
Zelig, by Woody Allen, just because I think it's one of the most ingenious pieces of faux filmmaking and yet it's hilarious and it has a sort of brilliant sense of history and a touch of absurdity and madness to it.
I'd probably have to throw in the Sergei Bondarchuk War and Peace from the '60s. I remember seeing that with my step-dad when I was about 15. The scale of it and the kind of dramatic style of old, expressionistic use of the camera, that led me then to look at things like Ivan the Terrible. I just thought they were amazing. No one's quite touched it since. When you look at it, the only thing that's dated is probably the font they used for the titles -- it sort of says it's a bit '60s, but the rest of it you just go, "Wow, this guy played Pierre as well as directing it." And there's not one CGI soldier, you know: they've literally got 50,000 troops in the back of shot.
As far as the horror genre, I think The Exorcist is the scariest movie of all time. It's like head and shoulders above... there's nothing more terrifying, or deeply sinister than that. When I saw The Exorcist, at that time when I was a kid, I may have slept with the light on. I can't remember the exact time [I saw it], but I remember being literally knocked back. You have the pure theological question about, you know, "What is the role of evil and what is the nature of evil and what is its function?" And I think in The Exorcist the point is, the reason it's here is to try and make us give up hope, and find the courage to not give up hope. Evil wants to so demoralize you that you abandon all hope; it's only human beings' capacity to love and to fight back. But that's the role of evil: To challenge, and to make you choose. And growing up as a Catholic, too, I was immersed in the theology and doctrine of the church, so that movie was a serious, serious f-cking movie.
Do you go back to it ever?
Yeah -- I mean, not all the time. But it's an intense thing. Did you ever see the recut version of it?
That was the one I saw for the first time.
I didn't like the recut version. I didn't like it as much. I thought there were a couple of scenes that he added in that were improvements, but I think the original is pretty damn perfect.
Well The Shining I thought a lot about, because we did Stephen King's 1408, which was another movie set in a hotel room, and the madness of that. But I think just seeing it in theaters, you know -- I think it's when you saw it. My mom was from Boston, so we used to go to Nantucket, and it was the summer and I remember I snuck away in the afternoon to go see it, at around 4 or 6 o'clock or something, and when I came back out it was dark and I had to walk down this dark street alone. And I remember being really, I mean really scared coming out of that theater; like, I did not want to leave the street lights to walk home. The other experience I remember was I saw Apocalypse Now in the theaters and I remember coming out of that and I almost couldn't speak. Stunned.
There's two Romeros. Night of the Living Dead and the 1978 Dawn of the Dead. I think they're... well, it's obviously about racism, and class issues, and consumerism and capitalism, you know, thematically and satirically.
I just think the premise of holding up in a mall... being that prescient about the kind of gated communities, and consumerism, and mixing that with zombies in 1978 is just beyond genius. If you look at, like, John Waters doing Female Trouble in 1974, saying things about crime and beauty and the rise of paparazzi, you know, this kind of crazy Kardashian, TMZ, beauty industry -- I mean, as psychotic as that film is, it's so ahead of the curve. It's so amazingly looking into the future. So I think those kinds of themes I responded to. And Goblin did the original soundtrack.
Let me start with the last one I saw that I was really taken by, which was Gasland by Josh Fox. It's an investigation into the pollution of the drinking water all over the States. It's a guy with a camera, somewhere in the middle of America: he got a letter from an oil company saying "We want to buy your land for a hundred grand, are you game?" and he started to investigate what they wanted; and just from one thing to the next he started finding out all these things about the pollution of the water. I just admire this guy and this documentary, and I've always been a major fan of good documentaries. It couldn't have been done with a sh***ier camera, and I love that about the sh***y cameras.
Then there's another documentary that I saw last time at Sundance, which is called Position Among the Stars. This is a Dutch-Indonesian director who has made a portrait of one family over the course of 12 years in Indonesia. His name is Leonard Retel Helmrich. I talked to him for a few hours on the last day, before he won the award in Sundance, about what he was doing and how he was doing it, because the way in which he conducts his camera is completely different. He said, "I wanted to make a very simple portrait about a very poor family in Indonesia and see if I could find a link to the bigger picture, so to speak, and the alignment of the stars above their head." And he succeeded. It's an awesome documentary. It's just a portrait of a small family, with a universal theme coming out of it at the end.
I'll go back to the one that hit me hard a long time ago, Hiroshima mon amour by Alain Resnais. I think the first cuts are so deep, you know, when your hard disc is still pretty empty, and these first films hit you so hard where you go, "Oh my god, I didn't know this existed, it's so beautiful." Hiroshima mon amour was a film by a filmmaker where I didn't know this language was even possible on film -- I was looking at wax museum films and Westerns and war movies and horror movies and everything, but not this one; it really woke up my eyes for something else. It was so poetic and so cool, and just really enjoyable.
Wings of Desire, by Wim Wenders. The guy who wrote the screenplay, Peter Handke, is a playwright in Germany, and I was very much a part of reading the avant garde writers, be it plays or novels. I loved his writing, it was so strong and so sharp, and when the film came out, I just loved it. Everything about it was marvelous. Bruno Ganz was so brilliant. He's brilliant most of the time. On our side of the ocean, let's say, he was one of our stars, like Redford and Paul Newman and Brando were on that side. I had a few European actors where I went, "They're so fantastic."
Okay, last one -- Apocalypse Now. That movie was so stunning and so ahead of its time. I don't know, it's probably a story like Blade Runner, because there are so many things that happened on it. And I didn't even see the longer version. I think there's a version that's like three or four hours long. It's such a mixed feeling of painful darkness -- it's not surprising with Heart of Darkness, to quote that -- and of course Brando, he was always my big love/hate hero in acting; his speech, "The horror, the horror," it's just killer, you know?
The first two, I'm gonna go with Elia Kazan, 'cause they're really the reason why I became an actor in movies. East of Eden, with James Dean, and A Streetcar Named Desire, with Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando. The performance by James Dean -- the scene specifically where he tries to give his father, played by Raymond Massey, the money from selling the beans on his birthday, and he's rejected -- it broke my heart; it was not like anything I'd experienced before, in terms of art, and I'd seen a lot of movies at that point. I was 15, and I'd seen Bergman's Seventh Seal and Fellini's Juliet of the Spirits and Welles' Citizen Kane -- great films, but when I saw Dean in that, it really put the hook in me because I felt like him and I knew then the power of film acting, and I knew then what I wanted to be, what I wanted to do to try to move people with motion pictures. So that's why I have to put that on the list.
Yes, I admired Marlon Brando and I know that he influenced James Dean and he really kind of changed the world of film acting with his naturalistic style, but it was because of Vivien Leigh's performance as Blanche DuBois that I would put that as one of my favorite movies; because of her dialog, the Tennessee Williams dialog, the music, Kazan's direction, and Vivien Leigh's delivery of lines like -- I'm paraphrasing -- but when she says, "the human heart, how can that be straight?", you know. It was such a powerfully vulnerable, tragic performance that I have to put that on the top five, because that movie held that performance.
Then I'm gonna go into Kubrick. 2001, because it is so enigmatic, it is so poetic, and it remains a mystery to me, even today where I can view it annually, three times a year, and still find something new in it. I'm still mystified by it. It achieved this status of being eternal in a way that didn't rely heavily on performance; it was the special effects, the music. The fact that it was a success, that it was a commercial success, and it challenged every critic -- many critics didn't get it -- so it was really ahead of its time. Nothing's been ever quite like it again.
Because of Malcolm McDowell I'm gonna go into A Clockwork Orange, because that was the other great teenage performance, along with James Dean in East of Eden. Stanley Kubrick's treatment of the subject of violence and the mystery of nature and to go against out natures and what is or isn't necessary, and what is the true evil, and all of these questions that came out of the absurdist and evocative film that is Clockwork Orange, again, is everlasting. And also his lighting: even today when you look at some of the stills from the movie, when they're in the Milk Bar, it looks like virtual reality and I don't know how he did it -- he was really a master of light.
Finally I'm gonna say The Wizard of Oz, because that movie, again, is not like any other film -- it's a completely original experience and it has stood up against the test of time. Children are still enchanted by it, adults are still enchanted by it, and nobody has ever been able to capture that feeling since; and it's a musical. Plus, that first introduction to color film, that doorway sequence and going in to Munchkin land -- it's just mind-blowingly beautiful. And her performance, her voice, Judy Garland -- you know, they don't make 'em like that anymore. So, I would say those would be the top five.
One movie that has always resonated with me is The Terminator. [laughs] I just loved it. Maybe it's the fact that I was five when I saw this movie, so I was very overwhelmed by it. I felt the passion between these two individuals. I saw the strength of a woman. From the music, the robots, the technology... that movie was big because I saw it through the eyes of a five-year-old. I'm not gonna judge Terminator now that I'm 32, because obviously I'm gonna have a different take. I've evolved, I've seen different things, and life and technology and the way we see films has evolved, so it wouldn't be fair to what Terminator represented when I was five. But that essence will never die. Terminator was very impacting for me. It really helped me a lot, to understand the kind of actor I wanted to be, and also the kind of movies and genres that I gravitate towards and absolutely love. That movie, seeing it at that age, was amazing.
When you were filming with James, did you think, "Now I'm here channeling that essence of the Cameron female action hero?"
Oh my god, yes. Every day, and you're so embarrassed to say it, you know, because obviously it's going to make him uncomfortable. Maybe Kismet does exist: when you want something, when you're very specific about someone you like, for some reason you set out to look for it; but at the same time, if it's meant to be with you, it'll come and look for you. That's why I think that Avatar, working with Jim and calling him a friend, is something that I hold very dear and I don't take lightly, because it's something that was so important. Little did I know that when I was five I was gonna see a movie that would make me the kind of tough woman that I wanted to be, and make the films that I want to see. And then, 25 years later, to be working with James Cameron -- it's like, "What the f**k?", you know?
I loved it. I thought it was such a sensual movie. I've always been a very curious person when it comes to sensuality and sexuality. I was raised by a mother that always taught my sisters and I that the body is not what's tainted, it's the mind. Therefore there was a lot flexibility; she gave us a lot of responsibility. She trusted us with things that kids aren't supposed to be watching. My mom has a version of what censorship is, and it's quite different to what censorship means to a lot of societies and cultures. I was very grateful for that because it taught me so much passion, and it taught me to feel okay with the human body and wanting passion and love. And The Hunger was an amazing love story. I loved the performances by Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon and David Bowie.
The third one I would have to say is The Goonies. [giggles] What isn't there about it to love? Trying to find a treasure to save your parents when you're seeing them struggle -- which f**king kid wouldn't understand that or wanna do that, you know? [On who she identified with:] I think it was Sean Astin's character, the little dreamer. That monologue when they're all on the well and getting ready to go up and he's like, "Chester Copperpot!" My sisters and I get together and we drink wine and we watch The Goonies and we quote it... "The next time we see sky, it'll be in another town!" I love The Goonies.
I think that -- and it's also related to the fifth one -- growing up as a dancer I primarily learned to channel emotions through other parts of my body besides my voice, therefore when I watch silent movies I'm touched on such a deep level. To me, it was a form of acting that I gravitate towards. It's so beautiful because it incorporates the body in such a way; your vocal chords have a great intonation but in reality it's so much more, it's about using the body, using the soul and all these things. So I love it. It's such a technical movie that I learned so much from. But that's just my approach as an actor. The storytelling was also very beautiful: the story about this box that they come to realize what's laying in it is hope -- that was a very beautiful message.
For Charlie Chaplin to have the kid be this thing that kind of gives him purpose and some kind of integrity, I think that was great. It's a very emotional and melodramatic subject and only someone like Charlie Chaplin was able to make it whimsical and funny, but also so heartfelt and sincere. So I've always loved The Kid. Absolute genius. I feel like he wouldn't have gotten there if not for his vaudeville years. Every now and then I like to read up on his life as a teenager before he got to Hollywood, and the fact that he came from nothing. He came into an empire with talent. He had nothing and he had nothing to lose, therefore he gave it all. I was watching Benny and Joon last week and what Johnny Depp was doing reminded me of the essence of Chaplin: he was so light but you understood that deep down in inside of him there was this really profound and emotional man. I feel like Charlie did that with a lot of his characters.
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1. James Franco
2. Morgan Freeman
3. Jason Statham
4. Jennifer Lawrence
5. John Malkovich
6. Sam Worthington
7. Gary Oldman
8. Michael Caine
9. Gael García Bernal
10. Jean Reno
11. Edward Norton
12. Ernest Borgnine
13. Mickey Rourke
14. Amanda Seyfried
15. Michael Shannon
16. Carla Gugino
17. Eva Mendes
18. Djimon Hounsou
19. Bill Nighy
20. Don Cheadle
21. Tobin Bell
22. Matthew Broderick
23. Ryan Phillippe
24. Sienna Miller
25. Eli Roth
26. Tony Jaa
27. Antonio Banderas
28. Jackie Earle Haley
29. Andy Garcia
30. Tilda Swinton
31. Kevin Kline
32. Ben Foster
33. Jeff Goldblum
34. Woody Harrelson
35. Queen Latifah
36. Brooke Shields
37. Greg Kinnear
38. Brendan Fraser
39. Michael Sheen
40. Terrence Howard
41. Daniel Radcliffe
42. Casper Van Dien
43. Alexis Bledel
44. Emma Roberts
45. Rupert Grint
46. Geoffrey Rush
47. John Cusack
48. Rutger Hauer
49. Nicolas Cage
50. Zoe Saldana
51. Emile Hirsch
52. Emily Blunt
53. James McAvoy
54. William Fichtner
55. Ray Stevenson
56. Hayden Panettiere
57. Bradley Cooper
58. Amy Adams
59. Jonah Hill
60. Juno Temple
61. Kristen Bell
62. Paul Bettany
63. Michelle Monaghan
64. Freida Pinto
65. Elizabeth Olsen
66. Elizabeth Banks
67. Rose McGowan
68. Josh Hutcherson
69. Ewan McGregor
70. Nick Frost
71. Megan Fox
72. Rosario Dawson
73. Aaron Eckhart
74. Elton John
75. Jason Momoa
76. Timothy Olyphant
77. Russell Brand
78. Seth Rogen
79. Adam Goldberg
80. Danny Trejo
81. Ice Cube
82. Abigail Breslin
83. Katherine Heigl
84. Dane Cook
85. Paris Hilton
86. Ali Larter
87. Gina Carano
88. Robert Pattinson
89. Sasha Grey
90. Jane Lynch
91. Justin Long
92. John Krasinski
93. Alan Tudyk
94. Taylor Lautner
95. Hugo Weaving
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97. Anna Kendrick
98. Jon Cryer
99. Ray Winstone
100. Noomi Rapace
101. Dennis Quaid
102. Sarah Polley
103. Elijah Wood
104. Billy Bob Thornton
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