My Freelance Work

  • For Rob Marshall and David Magee, the time was right to bring back Mary Poppins

    L.A. Times Envelope11/23/18

    With three Oscar nominations between them, the collaboration of screenwriter David Magee (“Life of Pi,” “Finding Neverland”) and Rob Marshall (“Chicago”) could have been a clash of egos. Instead, when the pair came together (with co-screenwriter-producer John DeLuca, Marshall’s working and personal partner of 36 years) to bring “Mary Poppins Returns” to the big screen, they shared complete harmony. The Envelope joined Marshall and Magee for a chat in New York’s Beekman Hotel to talk about what made their pairing, and “Poppins,” take flight.

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  • Three cheers for the iconoclasts, rule-breakers, outsiders and runners-up of history

    L.A. Times Envelope11/23/18

    Kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers, Nobel Prize winners and Medal of Freedom recipients. When it’s time to throw a real-life story into the awards season race, you may as well go big or go home. Think 2010’s “The King’s Speech,” 2012’s “Lincoln,” 2014’s “The Theory of Everything” about Stephen Hawking and “Selma” about Martin Luther King Jr., and 2017’s Winston Churchill film “Darkest Hour.”

    Now take a look at 2018’s lineup of award season subjects. Sure, there are stories of heroes: “First Man” looks at Neil Armstrong and “On the Basis of Sex” tells us about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But there’s something else going on this season in the telling of real-life stories. Consider the elderly bank robber (Forrest Tucker, “The Old Man & the Gun”), a scandalized senator (Gary Hart, “The Front Runner”), a forger (Lee Israel, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”), a groundbreaking writer (“Colette”), a painter with mental health issues (Vincent van Gogh, “At Eternity’s Gate”) and arguably the nation’s most powerful vice president (Dick Cheney, “Vice”).

    Of course, none of the filmmakers behind these entrants collaborated to bring us this particular rogues’ gallery, but the collection as a whole does present an interesting look at where our cinematic curiosity lies this year — with iconoclasts, rule-breakers, outsiders and runners-up of history.

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  • Versatile Emily Blunt steps into the timeless shoes of Mary Poppins

    L.A. Times Envelope11/21/18

    When Emily Blunt first learned that she’d landed the title role in “Mary Poppins Returns,” she naturally told her mother. And her husband, actor-director John Krasinski. And her agent. Then she told her friends, one of whom remarked, “Whoo — you got balls of steel.”

    “Balls of steel” and “Mary Poppins” don’t usually pop up in the same sentence, but they do make a nice Venn diagram if you put Emily Blunt in the overlap. Whether cracking us up in 2006’s “The Devil Wears Prada,” showing off her tough side (and spectacular abs) in 2014’s “Edge of Tomorrow,” or elevating Krasinski’s indie sci-fi horror “A Quiet Place” to new critical heights, Blunt is an instrument of steel — with a twinkle in her eye.

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  • Female-Centric Stories ‘Widows,’ ‘The Favourite’ Blaze Trails This Oscar Season

    Variety - 11/15/18

    The old adage goes, “Behind every great man is a great woman.” But a quick look at many of this year’s awards season films suggests that saying needs an update — perhaps to: “Behind every great woman is a man getting in her way.”

    It’s not a stretch to look at such films as “Colette,” “Widows,” “The Favourite,” “A Private War,” “Leave No Trace” and “The Wife” that way. Each features a female protagonist struggling to make her mark in the world, in spite of the obstacles men throw in their way. And in the current societal zeitgeist of #MeToo, it lends added resonance and a higher profile to each one of them.

    “There’s a huge historical culture of women being silent, and in this moment, it feels like women are roaring — and consequently, work is being made that celebrates fantastic women in the past,” says Rebecca Lenkiewicz, who co-wrote “Colette” with director Wash Westmoreland and Richard Glatzer. “There’s a real hunger for these stories right now.”

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  • Ben Foster embraces empathy and focus in his films; just don’t call him ‘intense’

    L.A. Times Envelope - 11/15/18

    A chat with Ben Foster is not a quick, breezy BS session: From the moment he arrives in the French restaurant Lucien, he’s laser-focused, asking his own questions, then offering considered, thoughtful answers. Foster started out on the Disney TV series “Flash Forward” as a teen and today plays complicated men that bend without breaking under stress in movies like “Hell or High Water” and, most recently, “Leave No Trace,” written and directed by Debra Granik. He spoke with The Envelope about being described as intense, new fatherhood (with his wife, actress Laura Prepon) and finding peace among trees.

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  • Elton John stars in new tear-jerking holiday ad about his one lifelong love

    Today.com - 11/15/18

    Elton John is not the first name that may come to mind when you think about heartwarming Christmas ads.

    But thanks to a new holiday advertisement from the U.K. for department store John Lewis & Partners, that’s all changed.

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  • See Courteney Cox, George Clooney and other stars in early TV guest roles

    Today.com - 11/15/18

    Very few actors break big in their first starring role — but their years of slogging through small TV parts can be a huge boon for fans, who get to enjoy watching them before they were stars!

    COZI TV understands this mentality perfectly, and this Thanksgiving is giving us a few dozen reasons to be thankful — with a four-day back-to-back marathon of classic TV episodes showing some of our favorite actors in their earliest roles.

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  • With little to say and only subtle moments, Glenn Close finds her power in ‘The Wife’

    L.A. Times Envelope - 11/07/18

    Early in “The Wife,” Glenn Close’s character, Joan Castleman, joins a phone conversation between her husband, Joe (Jonathan Pryce), and the selection committee for the Nobel Prize in literature. Joe has just learned he’ll receive the award, but it’s Joan’s face the camera lingers on.

    In that moment, “Glenn does something so magnificent,” says screenwriter Jane Anderson. “There are 500 pieces of subtext going on there. Every time I come to that spot in the film I get chills watching Glenn’s work — and what she plugs into.”

    If any actor can tease out anything close to “500 pieces of subtext” from a scene, it’s Close. The 71-year-old actress has terrified us in “Fatal Attraction,” charmed us in “The Big Chill,” and revealed the heart of a monster in “Dangerous Liaisons.” But in “The Wife,” she does things she’s never attempted before — pulling them off so subtly they don’t fully resonate until much later.

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    Bonus: Glenn and her little dog at the theater!

  • Reginald VelJohnson reveals how ‘Die Hard’ helped him get cast in ‘Family Matters’

    Today.com - 11/06/18

    “Die Hard” is, let’s face it, a perfect movie: You get an unbreakable Bruce Willis as everyman cop John McClane; vile European baddies fronted by future Snape Alan Rickman; a brilliant use of a fireman’s hose as bungee cord; and a rousing rendition of “Let It Snow!”

    But that’s not all the 1988 blockbuster, which has (at last count) brought us three sequels, has to offer. It also introduced much of the world to the jovial Reginald VelJohnson as Sgt. Al Powell, the one person outside the Nakatomi Plaza who believes McClane when he calls for help.

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  • Directly or indirectly, political films offer history lessons that punch at the status quo

    L.A. Times Envelope - 11/06/18

    In theory, movies are an escape – one of the few ways to get away from the relentless news headlines and social media quibbling over partisan politics that drive us to distraction.

    But that’s not going to be true this awards season. Films like “The Front Runner,” “Vice,” “On the Basis of Sex,” “Widows,” “The Favourite” and “Mary Queen of Scots” refuse to shy from the political or the personal – and that’s actually a good thing. Whether unearthing recent history like Gary Hart’s lost presidential bid; Dick Cheney’s unusual rule as vice president; the early years of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; or machine-style Chicago politics; or honing in on the court intrigue of queens Anne, Mary and Elizabeth, each of those films, respectively, tells a story that’s as relevant, if not more so, than what’s currently on CNN or Twitter.

    “Politicians are the new gangsters,” says “Widows” director/co-screenwriter Steve McQueen. “I wanted to bring those things to the surface.”

    “The dynamics of the 16th century in many ways are not so different from the dynamics we see now,” adds Beau Willimon, “Mary Queen of Scots” screenwriter. “They had the Protestants and the Catholics, we have Republicans and Democrats at each other’s throats. There are things that are shockingly familiar about what Mary and Elizabeth were experiencing — including mansplaining.”

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