Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Mia Goth: ‘I’m always scared of feeling like a fake’

Mia Goth

Mia Goth: ‘I’m always scared of feeling like a fake’

She was naked in Nymphomaniac and didn’t wash for The Survivalist. The model-turned-actress explains why she wants roles that go for grit
Mia Goth


ia Goth hasn’t showered for five weeks, she announces with delight. We’re in Belfast, uncomfortably cold on a disused RAF base, where The Survivalist, Northern Irish director Stephen Fingleton’s stark, taut drama about post-societal collapse, is nearing the end of its shoot, and the crew is breaking for lunch. I wish I could tell her she stinks, but, sadly, she does not. “I do,” she insists, dragging on a fag like it’s her first in months. “My armpits, trust me. And my feet. But I’m young, so sweat dribbles off.”Young actors don’t often tell journalists of their underarm odours. Goth, though, is more free-spirited. She’s led a nomadic life, so it’s fitting that her parents called her Mia Gypsy (Mia Gypsy Mello Da Silva Goth is the lot). Born in south London, she moved with her family to Rio, and then to a farm in Canada, but returned to London for school. She started modelling during her A-Levels, and you can see why agencies love her: the barely-there eyebrows, the transfixing eyes, the ethereal, almost alien face.
Alongside Cara Delevingne and Agyness Deyn, Goth is the latest model to have sidestepped into acting. Unlike most who came before them, this lot are magnetic, naturalistic performers – from the Milla Jovovich school of model-turned-actor as opposed to, say, Heidi Klum in Blow Dry. In Goth’s two most substantial roles, The Survivalist and Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac, she has been cold, tough and manipulative, without having to say much at all. It’s much more fulfilling than posing in some nice clothes.“Modelling is very two-dimensional, you really don’t have to bare anything,” says Goth, whereas “a lot of acting is having the courage to reveal your emotions and your fears and your soul.”

She did, however, enjoy working on a Miu Miu campaign which got banned in the UK for potentially giving the impression that it “presented a child in a sexualised way”. Goth, reclining on a bed, fully clothed, was 22. “I thought it was a little silly: that anyone could ever receive that as being a photograph that undermined me as a woman,” she says. “I wasn’t really bothered. It was kind of cool to have worked with [photographer] Steven Meisel on something that was banned. I felt like a little rock star.”
Similarly, she took great pride in being part of Von Trier’s graphic sexual odyssey Nymphomaniac. She broke though as criminal protege “P”, indulging in plenty of callousness and abusive urination, often without any clothes on, along the way. “I’m drawn to roles where someone has to struggle or fight,” she says. “That’s more interesting to me. I feel that sometimes with [other] female roles, real feelings are diminished.”

Mia Goth with Olwen Foere in The Survivalist.
 Mia Goth with Olwen Foere in The Survivalist.

Goth is also less concerned with that other spurious aspect of being a model-turned-actress: celebrity. She has dated fellow actor Shia LaBeouf since they worked together on Nymphomaniac, and she lives in LA, making her prime TMZ fodder. But she turns a blind eye to paparazzi and, unlike most rising stars, has no social media presence. “If actors are drawn into all of that,” she says, “then ultimately they’re just compromising their craft and getting further away from who they are, really and truly.”

Mia Goth

And you can’t argue that Goth doesn’t take that “craft” seriously. She happily auditioned nude for von Trier and went to extremes of a different kind on The Survivalist. For the latter film, where society has disintegrated, there’s little food, and it’s everyone for themselves out in the woods, the cast went on starvation diets 10 weeks prior to the shoot. Goth plays Milja, a young woman who embarks on a relationship with a man (Martin McCann) after initially bartering her body for food. Not only did she not shower or shave, she slept outside for the duration of the shoot, which would explain her supposed stench.

Catching up with the Guide on the phone a year-and-a-half later, she explains how it felt to temporarily abandon clean living: “Everything was a lot tougher than I imagined. To do this film justice, you had to go all the way. I’m always super scared of feeling like a fake.”

 Mia Goth with Charlotte Gainsbourg in Nymphomaniac. Photograph: Christian Geisnaes

Somehow, fake feels like the furthest thing away from the roles that Goth chooses. She liked the duality of Milja’s “struggle of living in this really vicious world” and also how she was “going through the growing pains of developing into a young woman”. Milja also doesn’t need a male hero to survive, and is in full control of her actions.
“So often in films there are two ways a female can be portrayed: either innocent and virginal or the complete opposite,” she says, determinedly. “It’s biblical: the Virgin Mary, and the slut of the Earth. You never have the middle ground, and I was really keen to portray a realistic, honest approach of who I think a young woman would be in this situation – strong and independent.”

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Sissy Spacek / ‘I was fearless’

Sissy Spacek: ‘I was fearless’

Thu 19 Mar 2015

Sissy Spacek has been away. She disappears often. Since making it big as one of the golden girls of 1970s Hollywood, she has been a fan of the hiatus, frequently leaving the limelight to take stock, to enjoy life on her Virginia farm, and to raise her kids.
Now, in her first role since 2012, Spacek is about to star as Sally Rayburn, the matriarch in Bloodline, the new thriller series from Netflix. So what’s she been up to? “Family and animals,” she beams, sparky and exuberant as she sits on a sofa in a London hotel. “I need to fill myself up with real life. That’s kind of the well I draw from. Though this show has been a wonderful experience: I’m exploring my seventh decade with this role.”
Spacek, now 65, has been acting since 1972. Even back then, she was always careful about what parts she agreed to, finding immediate success as Holly Sargis, the teenager who runs away with a psychopath in Terrence Malick’s Badlands. By 1976, she had become an icon, thanks to Brian de Palma’s Carrie, which she followed with an appearance in 3 Women, directed by Robert Altman. After that, she didn’t make a film for three years. When she returned, to play Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter, she won an Oscar.

Decades later, she’s still a great actor, bringing grace and weight to Bloodline, in which she plays wife to Sam Shepard and mother to four combative middle-aged kids. A taut family noir co-created by Todd A Kessler, a writer and producer on The Sopranos, Bloodline is set in the forests and wetlands of Florida Keys where the Rayburns run a picturesque hotel. When their eldest son Danny returns home, old wounds are ripped open and the façade falls away from his not-so-squeaky-clean siblings, all of whom are desperate for their parents’ affection.
“I think they’ve just put things away and moved on,” Spacek says, of the past traumas that lie at the heart of Bloodline, “rather than address them and have them be alive in their lives.” It’s a scenario that has parallels with her own family background. Her older brother Robbie died from leukaemia when she was 17. “For me, the grief was almost like rocket fuel,” Spacek wrote in My Extraordinary Ordinary Life, her 2012 autobiography. Having grown up a tomboy in the small Texas town of Quitman, she left for New York to hang out with her cousin, the actor Rip Torn, became a singer and then an actor. How did her brother’s death influence her acting?

“I think it made me brave,” she says. “Once you experience something like that, you’ve experienced the ultimate tragedy. And if you can continue, nothing else frightens you. That’s what I meant about it being rocket fuel – I was fearless in a way. Maybe it gave more depth to my work because I had already experienced something profound and life-changing. It was a devastating blow but it became a real positive. I grew so much and it was definitely because of my mother. She wanted all of us to be better through what we had experienced – and not be devastated by it. Something like that can propel you or it can be a black hole that sucks all the life and air out of the room. And I think the Rayburns, and particularly Sally, don’t have the tools to understand that.”
Danny is played by Ben Mendelsohn, the Australian whose recent roles in the likes of Animal Kingdom, The Place Beyond The Pines and Starred Up have established him as something of a firecracker, an actor with a dangerous unpredictability, all of which makes him perfect for this new part. Like Spacek, Mendelsohn is no stranger to family upheaval. His parents divorced when he was six and he later went a little off the rails, finding himself expelled from boarding school at the age of 13 for, as he says cryptically, “burning stuff”. He became an actor, finding the family he lacked in the Australian film industry.

Sissy Spacek with Ben Mendelsohn as her eldest son in Bloodline.

Danny has a brother called John, a seemingly upstanding figure played by Kyle Chandler, whose reasons for taking up acting aren’t dissimilar to Mendelsohn’s. After ending a five-season spree as coach Eric Taylor in US football drama Friday Night Lights, Chandler worked his way through small but meaty roles in Argo, Zero Dark Thirty and The Wolf of Wall Street. Bloodline, he says, appealed to him from the start. He grew up in Georgia, enjoying an idyllic childhood until, at the age of 14, his 56-year-old father died of a heart attack. For a couple of years, he fell into a life of drink, drugs, car crashes and arrests, getting into acting in a bid to find new father figures.
Is he still searching? “Yeah, I think so,” Chandler says. “Now that I have kids, I look at them and think about our relationship. I see things I missed out on when I was younger and could have used help with. There was something missing when I was a kid. I didn’t have a father to guide me. I had to figure those things out for myself. I was a pretty insecure kid and became somewhat introspective. I looked at other people to see how they fitted in, I was more observant of life around me. Once I got into acting, without realising it, I had a pretty good grasp of how to take all those pieces I had in my memory and use them in acting. It’s odd, too, because my dad used to call me a faker when I was a little kid all the time. I often think about that.”
As for Spacek, she lives for family these days, priding herself on being an ordinary girl with roots in smalltown Texas. But there’s no denying her otherness, her ethereal beauty. Somehow she manages to exude an air of purity, gliding about on screen with hypnotic oddness. Spacek has never bowed to Hollywood pressures. After playing Loretta Lynn, she received a telegram from Dolly Parton, reading: “Dear Sissy, I hope you make millions of dollars from Coal Miner’s Daughter so that you can get a boob job and do the Dolly Parton story.” Needless to say, there was no boob job.

We talk more about her Hollywood hiatuses. I’d read a 1979 interview with her by Cameron Crowe in Rolling Stone. At one point, Spacek’s father takes Crowe out on a boat and confides his concerns about his daughter. I read out his quote: “We’ve been worrying a bit about Sissy lately. She’s passed on so many projects, you know. Rip is an actor who has mouths to feed, like many of them. He admires Sissy for being able to hold out. But he worries for her, too. We don’t want to see her lose what she’s built up to.”
Spacek’s eyes light up as she remembers her time with Crowe, and she’s happy to explain why she’s never been afraid to disappear for years on end. “Maybe I was naïve,” she says with a smile. “I just thought it would always be the way it was. Maybe it’s because I became involved with a young artist who I later married, Jack Fisk, and we had this plan to live the art life. But also, my cousin Rip told me early on, ‘I hope you’re doing this for the right reasons. If you’re doing it because you wanna see yourself huge on the screen, that’s the wrong reason. But if you’re doing this because you are interested and you love the work, you’ll have a happy life.’ That was some of the best advice I ever got. And because of losing my brother I didn’t have fear. The world was my oyster. And also, maybe, ignorance is bliss.”

Friday, December 7, 2018

The miracle of Sissy Spacek / Why it's time to rediscover her genius

The miracle of Sissy Spacek – why it's time to rediscover her genius

She stars in The Old Man & the Gun, but all the film’s publicity has been about Robert Redford. Anyone who hasn’t encountered her earlier performances is in for a treat

Ryan Gilbey
Thu 6 Dec 2018

roubling news just in of a well-known comic in his early 30s, who approached a friend of mine at a party and squinted at his T-shirt. “What does that say?” he asked. “S-I-S-S-Y S-P-A-C-E-K?” (It was one of those Girls on Tops-style affairs, with the name of a female actor or film-maker emblazoned in capital letters.) An explanation, including the words “Carrie” and “Badlands” and possibly “acting legend”, was forthcoming, but the baffled celebrity was none the wiser. Could it be that the miracle of Sissy Spacek has eluded an entire generation?

Spacek’s pace has admittedly slowed down in the past decade. Her last Oscar nomination was 16 years ago, for her performance as a grieving mother in the revenge drama In the Bedroom. She was a regular a few years back on Bloodline, a Netflix smash full of noirish foreboding and corkscrew twists, in which she played Mum to bad boy Ben Mendelsohn. And now she is in The Old Man & the Gun, AKA the Robert Redford Retirement Movie, where she shows off her flirting abilities, her translucent and infinitely freckled skin, and even one of her own off-screen catchphrases, “Keep on keepin’ on,” all the while seeming vaguely underused.
Spacek’s characteristic pensiveness is also on display in the new film. She can be vividly in the moment – think of her as the woman fighting to find her husband in Missing, set during the 1973 Chilean coup d’état – but her default setting is contemplation. Few actors can look so fascinating staring into space. As the country and western singer Loretta Lynn in Coal Miner’s Daughter, the film that won her the best actress Oscar, she has plenty of reason to gaze into the middle distance, imagining a life that would lift her out of hardship. The British director Michael Apted, who knew the value of patience from his work on the seminal Up documentary series, kept coming back to that face. You would offer more than a penny for her thoughts.

That was 1980. But she had been brilliant right off the bat seven years earlier in Terrence Malick’s debut Badlands, an intoxicatingly lyrical real-life crime drama about a dopey killer, Kit (Martin Sheen), and his teenage girlfriend, Holly, played by Spacek at her dreamiest and most distracted. Character and actor, both Texan, became fused at a molecular level. “People who’ve worked with Terry either love him or hate him,” Spacek recalled. “I love him. We’d spend hours talking about things, and then the next day I’d look at the rewrites, and there’d be all the things I told him.” She said she could twirl batons and, sure enough, there it was in black and white the next day: “Holly twirls a baton.”

Badlands was an interminable shoot, with the whimsical Malick prone to abandon the day’s schedule whenever he became distracted by this sunset or that river, taking off to film over there instead. Crew members quit. (The movie has three credited cinematographers.) But Spacek and the production designer Jack Fisk stuck it out. “I had a vested interest,” said Fisk. “I’d fallen in love with Sissy, so that also kept me going.” (The couple are still married.) Although her acting career was fully underway, she could be found helping out on Fisk’s jobs: she held the clapperboard on David Lynch’s Eraserhead and decorated sets on Brian De Palma’s gaudy horror-comedy Phantom of the Paradise.
De Palma used her on Carrie for more than just her knack with an undercoat. For her luminous performance as the pale, terrified schoolgirl waking up to her terrifying powers, Spacek got the first of her six best actress Oscar nominations. The contorted poses she strikes during her telekinetic episodes – like a mix of kabuki and voguing – came from studying the dramatic biblical drawings that formed part of her husband’s research for his production design on the film.
Carrie marked the start of her celebrity but also an end of sorts. She could pass for a teenager until she was almost 30 – she was 27 when she played Carrie – but during the 1980s she graduated to adult roles, including a run of rural dramas such as The River, Places in the Heart and the unsettling Raggedy Man. Even her smallest parts are comprised of fine, tender brushstrokes: one of her best is as the shy, stammering Rose in David Lynch’s The Straight Story. She doesn’t have more than 10 minutes of screentime, but her compassion and chiming sadness resonate throughout the picture.

Spacek can also be blissfully dotty. She provides the voice of Anne Uumellmahaye, the brain with which Steve Martin becomes smitten in The Man With Two Brains (he takes her out on a rowboat and slaps a pair of wax lips on her jar). And she matches Christopher Walken quirk-for-quirk in Blast from the Past, where they play a couple who have been holed up in a fallout shelter for 35 years.
As extraordinary as Badlands, Carrie and Coal Miner’s Daughter remain, I would point the oblivious and the unbelieving in the direction of the most spaced-out Spacek movie: Robert Altman’s eerie 3 Women. The film’s first half, with Spacek as the timid, impressionable Pinky being bossed around and jollied along by her garrulous roommate (Shelley Duvall), is the closest thing US cinema has produced to a Mike Leigh-style comedy of social awkwardness. In the second half, identities become blurred and exchanged, and those of us previously reassured by Spacek’s sweetness start to lose our bearings as the characters lose their marbles. For all the havoc Carrie wreaks, she is always sympathetic; she only kills when cornered. But 3 Women, released only a year later in 1977, hinted at parts of Spacek that might be unknowable, even duplicitous. That face could never again seem purely placid.
The Old Man & the Gun is on general release

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Screenwriter Dennis Lehane Travels Down the ‘Silk Road’

Dennis Lehane 
Travels Down
the ‘Silk Road’

Michael Ladiona
OCTOBER 16TH, 2013 - 4:19 PM

The controversial online marketplace Silk Road has been the topic of a lot of news lately. The website is responsible for $1 billion in illegal drugs and services transactions, offering a marketplace for drug sales, tutorials on how to hack ATMs, forged drivers licenses, passports, Social Security cards, and at one point it was a place to buy and sell firearms. A few weeks ago FBI agents from New York and San Francisco arrested Ross William Ulbricht who claims to be the head of the digital black market. Today, in a Deadline exclusive, it was reported that 20th Century Fox and Chernin Entertainment has hired Dennis Lehane to pen the adaptation of an article about Silk Road from Epic Website.
In 2014, Fox Searchlight and Chernin Entertainment is bringing Dennis Lehane’s debut feature as a screenwriter to the big-screen with the film Animal Rescue. However, Lehane’s written word isn’t a stranger to the cinemas, as adaptations of his novels have gone on to become huge commercial and critical successes. The word was introduced to the directing-side of Ben Affleck through an adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s Gone Baby Gone. Affleck also directed the adaptation of Lehane’s Live By Night. Clint Eastwood and Martin Scorsese have also brought Lehane to the big screen with Mystic River and Shutter Island, respectively, and the novelist has  penned episodes for two acclaimed HBO Original Series, The Wire and Boardwalk Empire.

The article that is going to serve as the basis for Silk Road is going to be written by Joshua Davis for his company Epic, which has a first-look deal with Fox to produce films adapted from articles the company publishes. Josh Bearman, Davis’s partner at Epic, wrote the article that went on to become Ben Affleck’s Argo. While producers haven’t released an official synopsis, the story will most-likely center around the Dread Pirate Roberts – that’s right, from The Princess Bride.

The Dread Pirate Roberts was the name that Ross William Ulbricht hid behind when managing the operations of Silk Road. According to an interview with Forbes, Ulbricht was handed the name from the original creator of the Silk Road online marketplace, much like the Dread Pirate Roberts was a name inherited by Cary Elwes character Westley  in The Princess Bride from the pirate captain who had kidnapped Westley, only to end up grooming him to succeed him as captain.
Ross William Ulbricht
Ross William Ulbricht, mastermind behind the online black marketplace Silk Road
The end of Ross William Ulbricht as the Dread Pirate Roberts was fraught with much drama. At first Ulbricht was beloved, Forbes recalled members on the site referring to the Dread Pirate Roberts as “our own Che Guevara” and a “name [that] will live [on] among the greatest men and women in history as a soldier of justice and freedom.” Eventually attacks from competitors, undercover agents, and a thieving former employer would soon threaten the legacy of the Dread Pirate Roberts, forcing Ulbricht’s to resort to famously contracting a hitman through the Silk Road.

With Dennis Lehane and Joshua Davis’ combined tracked record, the Silk Roadmotion picture has the potential to be both a dark character-drama, and gritty crime-tale that will attract Oscar-worthy talent both in front of and behind the camera. 



Friday, November 30, 2018

The 100 best novels / No 34 / Kim by Rudyard Kipling (1901)

The 100 best novels: No 34 – Kim by Rudyard Kipling (1901)

In Kipling's classic boy's own spy story, an orphan in British India must make a choice between east and west 

Robert McCrum
Monday 12 May 2014

Kim, Kipling's extraordinarily topical masterpiece, has one of the most brilliant openings in this series: "He sat, in defiance of municipal orders, astride the gun Zam-Zammah on her brick platform opposite the old Ajaib-Ghar – the Wonder Horse, as the natives call the Lahore museum. Who hold Zam-Zammah, that 'fire-breathing dragon', hold the Punjab, for the great green-bronze piece is always first of the conqueror's loot."
"He" is Kimball O'Hara ("Kim"), an imperial orphan scavenging a hand-to-mouth existence in the India of the British Raj at the end of the 19th century. The "Great Game" (Anglo-Russian rivalry in central Asia, including the territory now known as AfPak), is afoot, with memories of the second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-81) still vivid. Some passages of the novel, indeed, could almost have been written last year. Kipling's Kim is so untamed and sunburned that very few see him as white, or even know that his father was a sergeant in the Mavericks and that his mother was a poor Irish girl carried off by cholera. So Kim represents the meeting of east and west, one of Kipling's obsessions, whose ethnic duality will be exploited in the covert war between Britain and Russia that provides the backdrop to this novel.
Kim, therefore, engages the reader at three contrasting levels. It fictionalises Kipling's own Indian childhood (his father, John Lockwood Kipling, was actually the curator of the Lahore museum, already described). Second, it tells an adventure story of the kind that became especially popular in the heyday of the British Empire (see also the popular works of GA Henty, not selected for this series). Finally, and most importantly, it unfolds a boy's own story in which, through the trials of the Great Game, Kim will be given greater insight into his divided east-west inheritance. The key to this strand of the novel, which shadows a thrillerish spy story, is Kim's friendship with an ancient Tibetan lama who is on a quest to find the sacred and fabled "River of the Arrow". Kim becomes his guru's "chela" or disciple, and joins him on his journey while at the same time pursuing a public-school education sponsored by the lama. In the end, Kim must make his choice. "I am not a Sahib," he tells his guru, "I am thy chela." He might play "King of the Castle" on a great British cannon, but he knows where his loyalties lie.

A Note on the Text

Coming at the very end of Queen Victoria's reign, Kim marks the last gasp of a publishing tradition that was on the point of extinction. It appeared first in serial form in McClure's Magazine from December 1900 to October 1901, and also – because Kipling was so hugely popular and famous – in Cassell's Magazine from January to November 1901. Then it was published in single volume form by Macmillan & Co, with illustrations by HR Millar. Kim regularly appears on lists of classic fiction: in 1998, appearing as No 78 in the Modern Library list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century; in 2003 it featured in the BBC's Big Read poll.

Three more from Rudyard Kipling


007 Emma by Jane Austen (1816)
014 Fair by William Thackeray (1848)