Sunday, 9 September 2012

John Hannah: 'The Words' review, 'Damages' interview, Big Issue interview

  • The Words (review)
Although The Words might be witlessly titled and executed, you can pass the time coming up with fancy phrases to describe its basic concept: The stories nesting inside stories suggest matryoshka dolls; its meta-narratives a mise en abyme.

The movie opens with Clay Hammond (Dennis Quaid) giving a reading to a packed auditorium of his latest novel, The Words-- a tale of struggling writer Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), who becomes a literary sensation after submitting as his own work a yellowed manuscript he finds in an attaché case while honeymooning in Paris. The original author of that text, played by Jeremy Irons (and listed in the credits only as "the Old Man"), tracks Rory down and sets in motion another chunk of heavily voiceovered flashback, as Irons, sounding more than once like Scatman Crothers, recounts his days as a stripling in postwar France.

In their helming debut, writers-directors Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal repurpose the infamous 1922 incident of Hadley Hemingway accidentally leaving husband Ernest's writings on a train at the Gare de Lyon. Also stuck in Papa's time are women's roles: Zoe Saldana, playing Rory’s wife, Dora, does little more than simper and receive hugs at the kitchen sink. But hoariest of all are the exhortations to make distinctions between "fiction" and "life."
by Melissa Anderson for Houston Press (includes trailer)

  • John Hannah Talks Damages: Exclusive Interview Part 2
Here are a few interesting things you didn’t know about John Hannah: he’s a big fan of Phineas and Ferb; loves working with American actors; and prefers Brooklyn to Manhattan. Want to know more? Read on.

If you missed our first interview with John, you can read it here.

JOSH PAYNE: How did playing Batiatus on Spartacus prepare you for this?

JOHN HANNAH: Funnily enough, in a sense the Spartacus scripts worked in a similar way. A lot of the actors asked, “Where’s my character going and what’s he doing?” And they were always on the phone with the writers. When I went in I was only expecting to be in two or three scenes per episode, so I didn’t have any huge expectations about a big part. But as it developed I realized what I liked about not knowing what was happening next was that in life you have plans about what’s going to happen next, but it doesn’t always work out. Sometimes things that happen surprise you. And I decided to take a step back from it and let the next episode take care of itself. That character was always scheming. And as soon as a plan died, he was always onto the next thing, like, “Right, okay, this is what we’ll do now.” And I love that kind of energy of having it be spontaneous rather than having it all planned. I like just taking it as it comes and being surprised by it. So that sort of prepared me for this. And I get to keep all my clothes on in this, which is nice—for the audience and for me [laughs].

JP: Part of the reason the characters aren’t as fleshed out in advance is that the Damages writers want to get a feel for the actors first and write to their strength. Was that helpful?

JH: Absolutely. It’s like with [film directors] Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. The way Ken Loach sets up a scene—he’ll work with the actors individually and tell them what their goal is in the scene and then shoots with long lenses. You’re never really aware the cameras are around. It’s very observational. And the actor comes into the scene with their goal and they encounter all these other actors they not have known were coming. Although it’s quite improvised, it’s also managed. So I had a reference for being out in the kind of back-story desert [laughs]. And I’ve really liked it.
JP: What were you looking forward to in Season 5?

JH: I love working with American actors. I find them very easy, very free, relaxed and confident. I think that’s always quite nice. Being British—not that I had an upbringing in theater or anything like that—I was attracted to this business because of films, American films, mostly. I’ve always really liked what American actors do. You know, it’s kind of a kick for me to be involved in something that I’m a fan of.

JP: What shows have you been watching recently?

JH: The last couple years I’ve been watching a lot of children’s television with my kids. I’m a big fan of Phineas and Ferb. For myself, it’s been interesting. I’ve been watching the younger shows on British TV. Misfits and The Inbetweeners—things like that, which are fairly puerile and juvenile but it sort of makes you laugh at the end of an exhausting day.

JP: How was working in New York? Did you get to spend much time here?

JH: Yes. It’s been a brilliant new discovery for me, working down here in Brooklyn and staying down here in Brooklyn as well. I find Manhattan can sometimes be a little intimidating. It’s lovely to come when you’re with your wife and you’re in for the weekend. Then it’s great. But when you’re working and just staying at some hotel in midtown and you go out to get something to eat it can just be a little intimidating. But I’ve loved being in Brooklyn. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

JP: Are you based in the States now?

JH: No, I live in London.

Source: Direct TV 

  • Big Issue interview: John Hannah
John Hannah on being a teenage melancholic, playing a gay man in Four Weddings and a Funeral, and doing 'the most amazing thing in the world'

I wasn’t very academic, so at 16 I was looking forward to leaving school and starting my electrician apprenticeship. Apart from that my life was all about football and girls. Your parents tell you these are the best days of your life and you don’t believe them. But I wish I’d taken them in, enjoyed them more. Those endless summers, out on your Chopper for hours on end. I was quite cocky about life. I didn’t know what it would be like going to work.

The truth is I applied to drama school because I didn’t have the qualifications or skills to do much else and I thought it might buy me time to think about the future. But by the time I applied, when I was about 20, I’d become quite serious and melancholy and I found acting suited me. It didn’t scare me. Being on stage pretending to be someone else felt more like wearing a mask than being vulnerable and judged as myself.

Even at drama school I was a miserable sod. People were always telling me to cheer up. If I could talk to the younger me, I’d tell him to try really hard to step back and just enjoy where he’s at. But being that kind of melancholy Scot, it’s not something I do enough of. It’s like the William Henry Davies poem – we have no time to stand and stare. You stress about not screwing up each job you get, then worry about where the next one’s coming from.

I’d been working for about 10 years when I auditioned for Four Weddings and a Funeral. It didn’t particularly feel like a big deal, not until it came out. Then it became clear it was going to be a breakthrough role for me. I’m quite proud of it. There was nothing clichéd about the gay relationship in that film [Hannah played the boyfriend of the character played by Simon Callow], and Simon was just the loveliest, loveliest man. As John Lennon said, any love in this world is a good thing. So we just played it as this couple who were in love.

Even now, if people describe me as a Hollywood film star, I don’t believe it. It’s funny how your expectations change as you go along. I don’t look back at my career with a self-satisfied glow. The teenage me dreamt of being a footballer. And a couple of boys I knew a bit – Ally McCoist and Maurice Johnston – went on to do rather well in football. That kind of success would be a lot more accepted from our background than what I did. I snapped my knee about 18 years ago and though I knew by then I wouldn’t be a professional, it was really sad to be told that was it, I couldn’t play the beautiful game any more.

Not everything you do will be as satisfying as you hope. When I was 20 I made a hugely monumental decision which impacted on my life in a very positive way. But sometimes you look at your life and think, this has become my job, the thing I do every day. I wonder if there are any big life-changing decisions still to come along, or will I just bob along for ever now? I try not to have any specific ambitions because I’m scared about how it might feel if I achieved that ambition – what would I do then?

I still remember very clearly the moment my wife told me she was pregnant with twins. That was the biggest thing, the closest I’ve come to just standing there and going, oh my God, we are doing the most amazing thing in the world. And, of course, I was there when they were born. It was a bit like getting a great job: euphoria at first then, oh shit, I’ve actually got to do this now.

In 1978, the year John turned 16... Pope John Paul I dies after 33 days of papacy and is succeeded by John Paul II... Argentina win the World Cup, held in Argentina... Garfield comic strip first published... Annie Hall wins Oscar for Best Picture...

Source: The Big Issue

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