Morgan Freeman: Anger over the killing of a black teenager is justified – Interview

with Morgan Freeman

with Morgan Freeman

Earlier this week, I flew to Clearwater, Florida to interview Morgan Freeman about his reprised role in the Dolphin Tale 2, the second part of the story of Dolphin Winter, who had a mechanical tail fitted to her body after she lost her own in a entanglement in a fishing net. In this sequel, Winter sinks into depression when her surrogate mother dies, and just when she is about to be moved out of the marine center, a new companion, a 3-month-old dolphin, Hope, is brought in.

But our conversation was dominated by the developing events at Ferguson, Missouri, where angry demonstrations, looting and violence have been raging since the shooting of an unarmed 18-year-old black youth, Michael Brown, by a white police officer on Aug 9th. The national guard was called to the city to rein in the seemingly uncontrollable unrest.

“The anger of people because the police shoots a kid is justified. Of course it’s justified,” exclaims Freeman.

The statistics of police officers shooting African Americans reveals a disturbing picture. Last month alone, 5 young black Americans lost their lives to police bullets. Evidently, having a black president in the White House hasn’t changed police attitude towards his community. According to Freeman, it has actually proven that the country has evolved into a new form of racism. “It was dormant,” he says with wide eyes. “Now a lot of stuff has come up from under the rocks.”

Although an avid supporter of President Obama, The Oscar-winning actor never campaigned for him or got engaged in politics, insisting that he is an actor not  a politician, but he could hardly conceal the simmering anger behind his convivial veneer over what he calls “attempts to derail Obama’s presidency.”

“I am incensed over what’s happening to him,” he exclaims. “At the beginning of Obama’s career as president they said that they will do whatever is necessary to see to it that he only serves one term. What is that about? Hmmm? So we don’t have to dwell on it. There it is. We all do what Obama does; make the best of it. He is the president, there’s no way around it.”

Born in Memphis, Tennessee on June 1, 1937, Freeman lived through challenging times for African Americans, blaming racism for the lengthy time it took him to make his breakthrough in Hollywood, which was his Oscar-nominated supporting role in 1989’s Driving Miss Daisy.

“I don’t know if you remember, there were quite a few disaster movies. The World After The Apocalypse, and one of the things that struck me was that only white people ever survived those things, so it was a little upsetting,” he laughs.

But unlike America’s urban streets, where blacks feel mistreated by the police, Hollywood, he says, experienced a complete flip. “As long as it makes money, Hollywood doesn’t care, Yeah!” he quips.

Indeed, the success of his movies and the vast number of accolades, including 5 Oscar nominations, has rendered his skin colour irrelevant. He has often played characters that were usually reserved for white actors, such as the president of the United States in Deep Impact or the scientist in the Dark Knight Trilogy. “I am an actor; I am not a professional black man,” he laughs.

As well as the upcoming Dolphin Tale 2, in which he reprised the role of the Dr. Cameron MacCarthy who developed a prosthetic tail that enables Winter to swim, Freeman can also be seen in Luc Besson’s thriller Lucy, in which he plays yet another scientist who helps Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) in her supernatural predicament.

Follow me on twitter @husamasi  /  Facebook

Advertisements

Jane Campion to lead Cannes Film Festival jury

New Zealander filmmaker Jane Campion is to lead the 2014 Cannes Film Festival competition jury, which will be tasked in handing out the prestigious Palm D’or and other top prizes to the approximately 20 competing films.

Campion was thrilled to receive this honour, she said in a statement posted on the festival’s website. “It is this world wide inclusiveness and passion for film at the heart of the festival which makes the importance of the Cannes Film Festival indisputable.”  she added. “It is a mythical and exciting festival where amazing things can happen, actors are discovered, films are financed careers are made, I know this because that is what happened to me!”

In 1993, Campion made history in Cannes when she became the first and only female director to win the Palm for “The Piano,” which went on to garner her an Oscar for Best Screenplay. The film, which tells the story of a mute mail-order bride who arrives to New Zealand with a large Piano, also netted Academy awards for actresses Holly Hunter and Anna Paquin.

Most recently, Campion and Hunter reunited on a television series “Top of The Lake,” which played in Sundance and screened on BBC 2. The show has received critical praise and a nomination at this year’s Golden Globes.

Campion succeeds Steven Spielberg, who presided over last year’s jury that handed the Palm D’Or to the highly controversial french drama “Blue Is the Warmest Colour,” which has become one of the most talked about movie of the year due to its explicit lesbian sex scenes and the infighting between the director and his cast.

The festival, considered the most prestigious in the world, is scheduled to be held May 14-24.

James Gandolfini has passed away

james Gandolfini

Actor James Gandolfini has died at the age of 51, according to HBO. The Sopranos star was on a vacation in Italy at the time.

Gandolfini shot to fame playing a hitman in 1993 hit True Romance, and quickly became a Hollywood legend when he portrayed Tony Soprano in 1999, for which he won 3 Emmy awards.

Recently, he appeared in political thriller Zero Dark Thirty and magic movie “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone.”

The madness of The Dictator of Wadiya

Since his emergence on Channel 4 in 2000, Sacha Baron Cohen has entertained and shocked theThe dictator world with his unpredictable antics, as he impersonated three distinct personalities: youth show host and wannabe rapper ?Ali G;? sexist, racist and homophobic Kazakhstan TV personality ?Borat;? and flamboyantly gay Austrian fashion reporter ?Bruno.? His creations shared a similar modus operandi of cornering unsuspecting interview subjects and pushing boundaries of their psychological comfort.

Now too famous to delude the public with his reality-show ambushes, he is assuming the fictional character of Admiral General Aladeen, the despotic tyrant of a fictional aastern African nation of Wadiya, in his new movie The Dictator.

In The Dictator, Aladeen, who is loosely based on the late Libyan dictator Gaddafi,  comes to New York to address the United Nations, but he gets betrayed by his uncle, Tamir (Ben Kingsley) and eventually winds up working in an organic health-food store and falling for a left-wing lesbian (Anna Faris).

Invariably, the British satirist?s embodiment of his characters continues off-screen, unflinchingly maintaining their boorish and politically incorrect points of view on talk shows, press conferences and awards shows. But with no man on the street to fool, this time he turns the promotion of The Dictator into a performance art.

He comes to meet the world?s media at New York?s Waldorf-Astoria hotel fully in character, dressed in a uniform of extravagant gold epaulettes and numerous battle ribbons and wearing a lush beard and sunglasses. Hired supporters and opponents demonstrates outside the hotel. His supporters shouted ?Give persecution a chance!? while his opponents cursed him.

Even the press room has been transformed to fit the occasion, posters of Aladeen and the colourful flags of Wadeiya covered the walls and a rug adorned with the shapes of people having sex in various positions laid on the floor. And before he enters the room, he demands that we rise to show respect for his leadership.

Flanked by scantly clad in khaki and submachine gun-equipped ?virgins, whose virginity is checked every night by the head of his penis,? Aladeen ambles into the room smiling imperiously, before he brandishes a golden pistol in the air and shouts ?Death to the West, Death to America!?

Taking the stage, he insists on being addressed Supreme Leader. ?You don?t ask any difficult questions, you write good reviews, your families will be safe,? he warns in a crude middle-eastern accent.

Soon the interview spins off into absurdity as he throws jibes at world leaders and their countries, applauding Germany for being the home of the great dictators and pillorying its leader, Angela Merkel, for its ?disgusting? look. ?Maybe Merkel should save up and have a sex change and become a woman,? he laughs.

The Australian Prime Minister doesn?t fare any better in his eyes. ?She makes Angela Merkel look like Heidi Klum,? he laughs.

He also claims that 30,000 Filipinos live in Wadiya. ?They come, they look after the children, clean the shit. I love them; they are natural slaves.?

He also make another preposterous claim about building pipeline from Hungary to Wadiya so all the prostitutes can come in easier. ?Who should I negotiate with? Do you know a Hungarian pimp?? he asks.

In the movie, Aladeen proudly shows walls plastered by thousands of nude photos of himself and his sexual conquests: many of them are celebrities such as Megan Fox, whom we witness having sex with him. ?She became pregnant a few months ago and she is blaming it on me, but it?s impossible. This would be the world?s first ever anal conception,? he laughs.

Other than indulging himself in carnal pleasures, Aladeen says that he is also a big fan of Wadiyan movies, particularly the ones he stars in, such as The Girl of the Aladeen Tattoo, The Beheading of Private Ryan, You?ve Got Mail Bomb, and a film inspired by Dominic Strauss Khan, Planet of The Rapes.

?I love American movies too,? he stresses. ?I love science-fiction particularly Schindler?s List. I love it. It?s so fantastical, me and my friend Ahmadinajad saw it and laughed and then drank champagne at the end.?

But what is chiefly troubling his mind these days is the recent demise of many of his fellow dictators, who have inspired and comforted him. ?The great Saddam and my good friend Gaddafi,? he laments. ? And of course Cheney and Kim Jung. He did so much to spread compassion, wisdom and Herpes throughout the world.?

Like other dictators, he believes that he is loved by his people. ?The best thing about being a dictator is that you are loved by all the people but it is sadly becoming more difficult to be a dictator now. In the good old days, you just had to murder your father but now you have to do sneaky things to get power like rigging elections and imprisoning most of your citizens.?

?Now they are victimising dictators like we are so bad. I mean, take Assad, for example, he does a tiny bit of genocide and suddenly everybody is up in arms.?

But he finds consolation in the United Nations? reluctance to pass a resolution against the Syrian dictator. ?United Nations has been the best supporter of dictators,? he exclaims. ?It takes a lot of balls to do that and let my good friend Assad carry on his great work. I really appreciate that.?

And he dismisses the Arab Spring as a passing fad, like the Atkins Diet or human rights. ?The Arab Spring will never come to Wadiya because I have removed spring from the calendar, so I am not worried about that but I do miss my good friends.?

Then he offers  ?a simple solution? to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ?Destroy Israel!?

Having been born in an Orthodox Jewish family and to an Israeli mother and having spent time in Israel deepening his Jewish roots, Baron Cohen?s characters, including Aladeen, often speak Hebrew when they express themselves in their foreign languages, which seems incongruant with Aladeen?s anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli statements.

?Why do you speak Hebrew, Supreme Leader?? I asked.

Obviously, the entire interview is tightly scripted and evident from his reaction he is not prepared for this question. He pauses momentarily and then cries loudly:

?How dare you? Who are you? And where are you from??
?I am Wadiyan from Wadiya,? I replied.

?You are a Jew!? lifting his pistol and pointing it at my nether region. ?Drop them!?

He motions to one of his stiff virgins, who edges over and stands by me, utterly confounded, as I grab her 

photo_2_400

shoulder and begin unbuckling my trousers. Surprised by my action, Aladeen, his gun still levelled at my crotch, strides towards me as he waves his virgin away and peers inside my underwear.

?He?s got such a big hummus,? he cries as he lifts his head and addresses the amused crowd.

?It?s like looking in my mirror,? he adds.

Retaking the stage, he denounces me as a Mossad agent. ?I look on Wikipedia and see that Israel is still in the present tense. It makes me very upset,? he laughs.

Before Aladeen departs, he does to me what he does to dissidents in his country: executing me. Luckily, his golden pistol is as fake as his beard, so I survived.

Adamant to remain in character, Baron Cohen evades questions about himself or his craft, saying about himself ?I don?t watch any of these Zionist comedians.?

Luckily, Sir Ben Kingsley, who plays Aladeen?s uncle in the movie, is more than willing to help in decoding the enigmatic performer and shed light on his working methods.

Surprisingly, Baron Cohen is not as stringent about remaining in character on set as he does off-set. ?He did go into character but for a very limited amount of time before the scene,? Sir Ben says.

Although Baron Cohen didn?t direct, he was able to articulate certain alternatives to shoot, hence he had to get out of character and assume the write-producer role.

The Oscar-winning actor is awed by Baron Cohen?s ability to shut himself off and inhabit the hideous character of Aladeen. ?Sacha?s playing a man who cares nothing for his country, nothing for his people, has not a clue of the real world outside the walls of his palace, and riddled with prejudices and fears and phobias. Sacha?s the opposite. He?s a complete man of the world. You ask him any question about any historical event happening right now, he will have an articulate answer or response.?

During the shoot, Baron Cohen would be working with the writers and the director, refining scenes and honing dialogue. And when the rest of the cast leaves for the day, he would continue to work with the writers or with the makeup artist, trying different beards or wigs.


sam_400_01

?Some nights he must have slept 2, 3, 4 hours. His energy was always extraordinary the following day and it?s a non-neurotic energy which makes it very good to be around,? Sir Ben marvels.

Even before meeting Baron Cohen on the set of Hugo, in which both starred, Sir Ben was a huge fan of his work. ?I loved Ali G on TV. The courage, the bravery, the sharp edged satire of his wit and so connected to the real world.?

?The extraordinary thing is that even whilst filming Hugo, which was about a year before we filmed the Dictator, long before the Arab Spring, he was creating this character and this story about two years before even the first rumbling in Tunisia and Egypt and Libya,? he adds.

Only when the relationship between the two solidified did Baron Cohen ask Sir Ben to play his uncle Tamir in the film. ?It?s very thrilling for me and he?s a great guy to work with so no worries, no doubts, just very good time.?

?He is urgently needed by our society,? the veteran actor says. ?He?s very humane and caring and that?s why he is so funny because his comedy is rooted in things that he cares about rather than things that he thinks are funny so it?s not just a series of gags in a vaccum. He is our Charlie Chaplin and we should treasure him and be grateful for him.?

Sir Ben also describes his Cambridge-educated peer as a wonderful dad and a great husband, having met his wife, actress Isla Fisher, and his two daughters.

Toront -3: Colin Firth, Javier Bardem…

9 am: An interview with Andrew Garfield
Andrew has recently starred in the British film, Never Let Me Go, alongside Carry Mulligan and Kira Knightly. This young, solemn and articulate actor rose from relative obscurity to the Hollywood forefront after he was picked up to play Peter Parker in Spider-Man. He humbly attributed his success to mere luck, for he believes that his colleagues, who are still struggling to break in the industry, are better actors than he is.

10 am: An interview with James Franco
James Franco (Spider-Man, Milk) is the star of Danny Boyle?s ?127 hours,? in which he played real life character, Aron Ralston. Somehow he was struggling in expressing himself and articulating his thoughts, a problem that many American actors suffer from. Anyway, He said that he and Boyle?s took a creative liberty to color Aron?s character with their own experiences in making the movie.

11 am: An interview with Colin Firth
Colin is an eloquent and a profoundly intelligent actor. It was a delight meeting with and listening to him. Unlike many of his peers, his interests transcend the characters he portrays, partly thanks to the rich life he leads. I was surprised to hear that the man, whose roles have defined the classic Englishman, felt rootless, instead of being just an Englishman. The 50-year-old actor said that he enjoyed his older age because it had enabled him to play characters with a past and hence more depth, rather than characters battling with the anxiety of young age. His new film, The King?s Speech, is making headlines in this year’s festival, prompting some to describe it as the new Slumdog Millionaire.

12 am: An Interview with Geoffrey Rush
This sixty-year-old, Austrian actor talks with vigour and excitement about his role as the Australian speech therapist in ?The King?s Speech.” He also offered some insight into his his acting career and his relationship with other Australian actors, notably Mel Gibson.

After Lunch

1 pm: An interview with Javier Bardem
This Spanish Oscar-winner is endowed with the voice and the look that justify his status as the hottest actor in the Spanish-speaking world. He was reticent about his private life and eschewed any questions about his newly-wedded wife, Penelope Cruz. But he talked at length about his new movie, Biutiful, and the way it has changed his life.

2 pm: An interview with Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
This Mexican director, who brought us thrillers such as ?Amores Perros? and ?Babel?, is back with ?Biutiful,? a film about the hardship of immigration in Spain. He revealed that the ideas of his movies were sparked by his own life experiences. Shockingly, in spite of living of the US for 9 years, he still goes to Tijuana every 6 month in order to renew his US Visa. Furthermore, he is subjected to hours of interrogation by the US immigration every time he re enters the US.

Toronto -2 Ben Affleck, Ed Norton and 127 hours

8 am. Following a breakfast at Four Seasons hotel, the stars of the new Ben Affleck’s film “The Town,” marched one by one to talk about it. There was Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner Rebecca Hall, Blake lively and finally Ben Affleck himself.

All the actors talked about their characters in the film, acting career and their passion for acting, except Ben Affleck, who seems to be completely absorbed by his role as a director. Acting didn’t feature in his interview, instead he concentrated on his passion for directing and his dreams to direct more visually interesting films.

12 am. Lunch was served across the road at the Hayat Hotel, where we also had the pleasure to talk to the stunning Milla Jovovich and the enigmatic Edward Norton about their new film “Stone.”

I was surprised by the depth of Milla’s personality, though she admitted that she was affected by her role in the film, which has ignited deep thoughts in her mind about herself and the world around her. She also revealed some fascinating details about working with Robert Deniro and the role of sexual seduction in the film business.

Edward Norton looks and sounds like the characters he plays: enigmatic, thoughtful, calm and even spiritual. Oddly, he doesn’t see himself that way and claims that he is an empty guy, though he was flattered by the suggestion. I was truly impressed by his modesty.

Watch out for the interviews soon!

5 pm: I watched Danny’s Boyle’s new movie “127 hours”. It’s the real story of a climber who had to chop off his own arm after it was trapped between the canyon’s wall and a rock that fell on top of him as he descended the canyon. Boyle did a brilliant job capturing the desperation of the climber and made us viscerally sense his pain. It’s not for the faint hearted though. Some audience had the leave the theatre in order to eschew seeing some of the bloody scenes.

8 pm: I attended a dinner at The Windsor Arms Hotel, hosted by Harvey Weinstein, celebrating “The King’s Speech.” The director, the producers and the stars, including Colin Firth and Geaffrey Rush were in attendance, busily promoting the film.

Toronto 1 –

I rushed to Marriott Yorkville hotel, where I checked in and dropped my packages. In my room, I found a gift bag from Warners, welcoming me in Toronto. It was nice, but I didn’t’t have time to open it, for I had a screening to catch.

I arrived at the screening 30 minutes late, nonetheless, I managed to get a taste of the film. It’s an intense psychological thriller about a correctional officer (Robert Deniro) seduced by the wife (Milla Jovavovich) of a convicted arsonist (Edward Norton) who is up for parole.

It’s a dark film, packed with violence, sex and troubled souls. The performances were impressive, so I was looking forward to discussing it with Edward Norton and Milla Jovavovich tomorrow.

After the screening, I headed back to Marriott, where I was warmly welcomed by my fellow HFPA members, whom I haven’t seen for three months.

At 7 pm, we were loaded into a bus and driven to the watch “Let me in,” a remake of a vampire Swedish film. I am not a big fan of Vampire movies, and this film hasn’t changed that.

“Let me in,” is supposedly a love story between a 10-year-old, lonely boy with a 12-year-old vampire girl. Unfortunately, they’re so much gratuitous blood and gore in the film that it looses any heart-warming romance. Nonetheless, the kids’ performances, the photography and direction are quite impressive.

Thereafter, we were bussed to a glitzy restaurant, where we had a delicious 4-course dinner.