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The 12 Best Ian McKellen Roles That Aren't Gandalf

• Sunday 20:15

Regarded as one of the finest actors of his generation, Sir Ian McKellen had been a pillar of British theatre for decades before venturing to Hollywood. After his early days in London theatre, including a stint in the 1970s with the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company, he crossed the pond in 1981 to play Antonio Salieri in a Broadway production of "Amadeus" — and took home a Tony Award. The movies beckoned, bringing McKellen to a new level of fame that crested when he was tapped to play the wise and courageous wizard Gandalf in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Meanwhile, McKellen also made headlines in 1988 when he came out as openly gay in 1988 and was then knighted by the Queen in 1991.While Gandalf is the most iconic of his many roles, by no means is it his only memorable performance in film and television. For a refresher course on his extraordinary career, read on for a rundown of the 12 best Ian McKellen roles that aren't Gandalf.Disgraced British Politician John Profumo In Scandal (1989)The 1989 film "Scandal" exhumes one of the more notorious chapters in British political history, the so-called Profumo affair. In the film, Ian McKellen plays John Profumo, Britain's secretary of state for war, whose affair with 19-year-old dancer Christine Keeler (played by Joanne Whalley), to whom he was introduced by shady osteopath Stephen Ward (John Hurt), led to his political downfall, when it was revealed that Keeler was also dating a suspected Soviet spy. For McKellen, the role had special significance since it was his first screen portrayal after coming out as gay in 1988. As he explained in a 2004 interview with Total Film, he was keen to play a heterosexual character, and John Profumo fit that bill. "That part was a gift because I had just come out, and the perceived wisdom is that once you're openly gay, that's the end of your career," McKellen recalled. "So I thought, 'I'll show them.' Coming out affected my career entirely for the better; my film career has since taken off."While McKellen also told the outlet he didn't think his performance as Profumo was one of his better ones, critics disagreed. "McKellen perfectly captures the wounded pride of a man hoisted on the twin petards of lust and hypocrisy," wrote Peter Travers of Rolling Stone. "Profumo's shame came not from betraying his wife, family and country, but from betraying his class."AIDS Activist Bill Kraus In And The Band Played On (1993)Making its debut on HBO in 1993, "And the Band Played On" boasts a sprawling cast to tell an even more sprawling story: recounting the origins of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s. Ian McKellen portrays Bill Kraus, a gay rights activist who served as a liaison between San Francisco's gay community and the district's congressman and was instrumental in promoting the importance of safe sex to prevent the virus from spreading. McKellen's character, depicted as being in a committed relationship with his partner (B.D. Wong), ultimately succumbs to the illness. McKellen captures the moment in an understated yet powerful scene in which his character is exercising in a gym when he notices a small lesion just above his ankle. Immediately recognizing what it means, he looks around furtively to see if anyone else has seen it, then silently hangs his head in grim understanding. That scene is followed by McKellen's character pondering the "cosmic joke" that someone who had so vociferously preached the importance of safe sex was now HIV positive. In an essay McKellen wrote about his experience on the film, he recalls meeting with director Roger Spottiswoode, who admitted having difficulty finding actors to play gay characters, particularly Kraus. "Although I looked nothing like Kraus, was the wrong nationality and was 15 years older than he when he died of AIDS-related illness, I offered my services," McKellen writes.Deranged Monarch King Richard III In Richard III (1995)When Ian McKellen was cast in "And the Band Played On," he was in Los Angeles attempting to raise funding for his passion project, a film version of Shakespeare's "Richard III" set in the 1930s depicting the "crookback king" as a Nazi-like fascist. Having co-written the screenplay, McKellen heads an impressive cast that includes Annette Bening, Nigel Hawthorne, Robert Downey Jr., and Maggie Smith. McKellen, who had starred in a 1990 London stage production of "Richard III," was roundly praised for what was deemed one of the best — if not the best — cinematic adaptations of a Shakespeare play.The most distinctive element of McKellen's performance in "Richard III" is the character's conceit of speaking to the camera at certain points, addressing the audience directly to draw them into his nefarious machinations. "Richard, the consummate liar, always speaks the truth to the audience, but only to them," McKellen divulged. "That is meant to be disarming for an audience because they alone are privy to what he intends to do, and they become accomplices to his schemes." Another aspect of McKellen's portrayal can be seen in the staging of the play's iconic "Now is the winter of our discontent" speech, which begins as a public declaration to a crowd but eventually changes course to become Richard's private musings. "Richard becomes more intimate, he starts talking about himself," McKellen explained in an interview with KPBS.Nazi In Hiding Kurt Dussander In Apt Pupil (1998)While Ian McKellen's Richard III is depicted as a fascist leader with Nazi-like overtones, the actor portrays an actual Nazi in 1998's "Apt Pupil," an adaptation of Stephen King's novella of the same name. Brad Renfro plays Todd Bowden, a teenager obsessed with Nazi atrocities, who discovers his elderly neighbor, Arthur Denker, is actually Kurt Dussander. Dussander is a one-time commandant of a Nazi concentration camp and a notorious war criminal living in the United States under an assumed name. The teenager and the elderly Nazi enter a mutually destructive "friendship" in which the teen strives to become as evil as his mentor. While the movie received mixed reviews, the consensus was that McKellen's impeccable performance was the best part of the film. "McKellen plays Dussander as a withered husk who comes to life when reminded of the butcher he once was," notes one reviewer. "He makes Dussander human, and therefore all the more monstrous."For McKellen, Dussander proved to be a challenging role. Nevertheless, he rose to the occasion. "There was a part I didn't think I could play," McKellen admitted of his "Apt Pupil" character in an interview with IGN. "It was a fiendishly difficult accent — a Germanic/Californian mix. He was 20 years older than me. I seemed to have pulled it off."Frankenstein Director James Whale In Gods And Monsters (1998)Ian McKellen won massive acclaim (and the first of his two Oscar nominations) for playing director James Whale in "Gods and Monsters." The film is a quasi-fictionalized account of the final days of Whale's life, during which he remembers pivotal moments such as serving in World War I and making his best-remembered films, "Frankenstein" and "The Bride of Frankenstein." Whale — who was openly gay during an era when it was far safer to remain in the closet — sparks a friendship with his heterosexual gardener, Clayton (Brendan Fraser), who poses nude for Whale's drawings but winds up rebuffing the elderly director's advances. McKellen was approaching his sixties when he made the low-budget indie, which earned far more acclaim than anyone had expected. While making "Gods and Monsters," McKellen felt he'd found his footing in movies after spending much of his working life in the theatre. "I don't think anybody hearing my name would have thought, 'Oh, here's an accomplished film actor.' I've made myself into that," McKellen said in an interview with Ain't It Cool News. Meanwhile, McKellen told The Gay & Lesbian Review that, of all the characters he's played, Whale most resonated with him. "I played him when I was roughly the same age as he was, so I could be sympathetic to his feelings," said McKellen. "That is perhaps the part that is closest to my interests."Mutant Supervillain Magneto In The X-Men Franchise (2000-2014)Ian McKellen reunited with "Apt Pupil" director Bryan Singer for the 2000 film "X-Men," bringing the beloved comic-book team of mutant superheroes to the big screen. Alongside fellow British thespian Patrick Stewart as the X-Men's leader, psychokinetic Prof. Charles Xavier, McKellen anchored the film as the villainous Magneto, aka Holocaust survivor Erik Lehnsherr, imbued with the power to manipulate magnetism to create powerful force fields and wield massive metal objects as weapons. McKellen returned as Magneto in several sequels, including 2003's "X-2: X-Men United," 2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand," and 2014's "X-Men: Days of Future Past" (rumor has it that McKellen will reprise the role in Marvel's highly anticipated "Avengers: Secret Wars").While McKellen is the first to admit he's no superhero aficionado. Yet, he found Magneto far more complex than the garden-variety comic book supervillain. "Superman, the Hulk, Spider-Man, even James Bond, they're all the same people — wimps who change out of clothes and become superheroes, discovering their inner light," he explains in the 2018 documentary "McKellen: Playing The Part," via ARS Technica. "That's not Magneto. He's political, a warrior, clearsighted, pained, anguished, determined. That's a part really worth playing."Shady Aristocrat Sir Leigh Teabing In The Da Vinci Code (2006)After spending the first half of the 2000s ping-ponging between Gandalf in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and Magneto in the "X-Men" films, Ian McKellen jumped into another big film franchise when he signed on for "The Da Vinci Code," the 2006 screen adaptation of Dan Brown's conspiracy bestseller. McKellen plays Sir Leigh Teabing, a British aristocrat and historian who helps Dr. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) as he tries to find the legendary Holy Grail. Teabing is ultimately exposed as a liar and murderer, the very man at the heart of the conspiracy that Langdon is trying to uncover, while also effortlessly unleashing huge chunks of exposition for the audience. McKellen's performance was met with raves from critics. A review in the Financial Times, for example, was one of many that singled out McKellen as the best thing in the movie. "Nothing else matters when he is around," the review stated. "His contribution is so witty and inventive — twirling lines like pipe-cleaner animals, surfing octaves, turning banalities into bons mots — that the former stage thespian must be recaptured for Shakespeare and the live theatre as fast as possible, if necessary by violence and abduction."King Lear In King Lear (2008)As they enter their golden years, it's a rite of passage for Britain's most acclaimed actors to play the title role in "King Lear." One of Shakespeare's most complex characters, Lear is an aging king facing his mortality while slipping into madness. His decision to divide his realm among his three daughters leads to an unspeakable tragedy. McKellen played Lear in 2007 in a production for the Royal Shakespeare Company (he returned to the role for an entirely different production over a decade later). The success of that 2007 production led to a television adaptation that aired in the U.S. as part of PBS' "Great Performances" series. The filmed version of "King Lear" garnered McKellen an Emmy nomination and much critical acclaim. For McKellen, playing Lear night after night was an education. "If you do 100 Lears in a row, the 100th one is going to be more insightful than the first," McKellen said in an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour. "I learn, night by night, and King Lear is such a compelling role." He also explained why he continues to be fascinated by Shakespeare. "Why do his wonderfully complicated characters appeal to me? Because they're wonderfully and complicatedly written," he said.Third-Rate Actor Freddie Thornhill In Vicious (2013-2016)In 2013, Ian McKellen took an unexpected turn when he starred in his first-ever sitcom, "Vicious." Partnered with fellow British stage icon Derek Jacobi, the two play Freddie and Stuart, an elderly gay couple who have been together for nearly half a century. The couple passes the days by flinging scathing insults at each other. McKellen's character, Freddie, is a narcissistic actor convinced that his big break is right around the corner. He stole a tuxedo he wore in a bit part on "Downton Abbey" and revels in his status as "the 10th most popular 'Doctor Who' villain." While the material may not be Shakespeare, it's a hoot watching these two legendary actors hilariously trading jibes. Freddie, of course, is given the best insults. "I was hoping there might be an ambulance outside when I came home — and they would have already loaded you in," Freddie tells Stuart upon entering their flat. Interestingly, starring in a sitcom was a bucket list item for McKellen. "It's been an ambition of mine," he said during an appearance at the TV Critics Association press tour (as reported by Collider), equating sitcoms with theatrical farce. "The only aim of farce is to make the audience roll around with laughter in the theater. And that's what this sitcom is attempting to do, and has succeeded in doing. At any age, that's a thrill to be involved in."Elderly Sherlock Holmes In Mr. Holmes (2015)Ian McKellen reunited with "Gods and Monsters" director Bill Condon to play Sherlock Holmes in 2015's "Mr. Holmes." While many actors have played Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic sleuth, McKellen portrays Holmes as a 93-year-old recluse who's long since stopped solving mysteries. As his memory fails, he stubbornly tries to recall the details of the unsolved case that led him to retire. Critic Leonard Maltin was among the many reviewers to praise McKellen for the actor's lion-in-winter portrayal of Holmes. "McKellen is utterly compelling, both as the sly nonagenarian and his somewhat younger self, portrayed in a series of flashbacks," Maltin writes. "The camera focuses on his face and registers every nuance of this masterful performance."Given the who's who of actors to have played the character over the years (a lengthy list that includes Jonny Lee Miller, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Robert Downey, Jr.), McKellen approaches the role in a similar way to a Shakespeare play. "You don't look back at what other people have done, you can't match their achievements, but you can bring your own sense of what it's all about," he told IndieWire. "He's only actually really happy when he discovers he's got a heart and can relate to other people," McKellen says of his take on Holmes. "He's a bit of a sociopath. You wouldn't want to spend your evening with Sherlock Holmes, but by the end of the movie, perhaps you would."Actor's Assistant Norman In The Dresser (2015)First mounted onstage in 1980, Ronald Harwood's play "The Dresser" has been the basis for two films, one in 1983 and another in 2015. Ian McKellen stars in the latter, playing Norman, the titular dresser-personal assistant to a once-famous elderly actor (Anthony Hopkins), long past his prime and identified only as Sir. Starring in a ramshackle Shakespeare production during the London blitz, Sir's mental and physical states are rapidly deteriorating from the ravages of age. As Sir struggles to remember his lines, Norman does everything he can to keep the production from flying off the rails, maintaining the facade that Sir isn't succumbing to dementia. According to McKellen, he was enticed into joining the dark character study (which aired on BBC in Britain and the U.S. on Starz) for one reason: the chance to share the screen with Hopkins. "I have known Anthony slightly but we have never worked together and this was ideal because it was in a world that we both knew and have a great affection for and we had a lot of laughs," McKellen told What to Watch. "It was bliss," he says of working with Hopkins, "that is the reason I wanted to do it so much it was just to be in his presence."Con Man Roy Courtnay In The Good Liar (2019)"The Good Liar" features Ian McKellen co-starring with the formidable Helen Mirren. McKellen plays long-in-the-tooth con man Roy Courtnay, who sets his sights on Mirren's character, wealthy widow Betty McLeish. McKellen is once again directed by Bill Condon, who takes viewers along on a cutthroat game of cat and mouse that unfolds like a puzzle being solved until a wild reveal turns the tables on Courtnay when viewers discover just who these two really are. Reviews for the film were decidedly mixed; The Wrap declared the actors to be "wasted in disappointing crime drama," while IndieWire enthused, "Pleasant and preposterous in almost precisely equal measure, the film never offers anything less than two all-time British actors having the time of their lives, which makes it hard to get frustrated that it seldom offers anything more."McKellen found Mirren to be a kindred spirit, given the decades of film, television, and (of particular importance to McKellen) theatre under her belt. "Helen's played Shakespeare's Cleopatra three times, and I've played King Lear three times; we're the same sort of person," McKellen explained in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald. Read this next: The 15 Best Anthony Hopkins Roles RankedThe post The 12 Best Ian McKellen Roles That Aren't Gandalf appeared first on /Film.

Aubrey Plaza Actually Learned How To Commit Credit Card Fraud For Emily The Criminal

• Sunday 20:00

Aubrey Plaza has always been great, but everyone seems to be catching on these days. If her dramatic roles in "Black Bear" and "Emily the Criminal" weren't enough to convince you of her dramatic abilities, she's also turning up in everything from season 2 of "The White Lotus" to Marvel's upcoming "Agatha: Coven of Chaos." Oh, and she's currently working on Francis Ford Coppola's "Megalopolis." In other words, she's come a long way from her role as the April Ludgate in "Parks and Recreation."But of all those projects, it's arguably "Emily the Criminal" that went furthest in establishing Plaza as a versatile actor capable of more than sardonic humor. Though it only made just over $2 million at the box office, it was one of the most talked about entries at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, and has since grown in popularity due to word of mouth. The tale of a young woman saddled with unreasonable student debt and turning to criminality to get ahead not only gave Plaza plenty of dramatic leeway but resonated as a dissection of the gig economy and stark portrayal of modern day economic realities. It all works so well because Plaza and her director, John Patton Ford, manage to make it all feel so very real and familiar.In keeping with that palpable sense of reality, Plaza herself went to great lengths to make her character and her actions feel believable. When Emily turns to credit card fraud in order to make extra money, that, too, had to feel real, and Plaza made sure she went in prepared.Aubrey The CriminalIn the movie, Emily initially gets involved in a "dummy shopper" scheme that involves having to pay for products with fake credit cards in order to effectively steal things like TVs and cars. Eventually, she gets deeper into the scam run by Youcef (Theo Rossi), graduating to making her own fake credit cards and running her own fraud operation under Youcef's watchful eye.Speaking with W Magazine, Aubrey Plaza explained how she did, in fact, learn how to commit credit card fraud in order to play the role convincingly: "There are YouTube tutorials that show you how to make fake credit cards, fake IDs, all kinds of fake things. The machines are easy to get — you can buy them on eBay!" Asked more about her foray into learning about credit card fraud by Deadline, Plaza admitted that what she discovered was "very useful to know" and that it was "actually really surprising to [her] how easy it is to do and to learn."Whatever kind of research and experience Plaza had, it paid off. Scenes of Emily cranking out fake credit cards are just as believable as the rest of the film. Which is probably why the actor told W Mag that she thinks she would make a good criminal: "I have a lot of that in my blood. I'm not going to go into any more detail, but I'm very street-smart. And savvy. I'd watch out for me."Emily Isn't The VillainConsidering "Emily the Criminal" was shot in just 20 days in Los Angeles, it's a good thing the actor was so prepared. The film's attention to detail and dedication to realism helped make it one of the best thrillers of 2022, and Aubrey Plaza's antihero was really central to that whole approach.Director John Patton Ford was just as impressed with his star as audiences were, and praised her "profound ability to catch you off guard at all times with all things" in an interview with /Film. It seems he, too, played a big part in making the credit card fraud specifically feel real. As he explained it: "I did a lot of research and spoke to people who shall remain nameless. So I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it at this point." The director elaborated on how the people he spent time with were, like Emily, not necessarily committing crime for "pleasure or enjoyment," stating, "They all had really specific things that they wanted to achieve. And this was just a means to an end."It's that aspect, of feeling compelled by your circumstances to turn to crime, that made "Emily the Criminal" resonate in the way that it did. Far from being a fun thriller about credit card fraud, it's a film that goes to great lengths to explore why people like Emily get to the point where this kind of lifestyle becomes appealing, thereby emphasizing the irony of its own title. Emily is the criminal, but not necessarily the villain.Read this next: The Best Movies Of 2022The post Aubrey Plaza Actually Learned How To Commit Credit Card Fraud For Emily The Criminal appeared first on /Film.

Nabhaan Rizwan Gave Station Eleven's Creator One Of His Proudest Moments In The Series

• Sunday 19:00

A deadly virus that wipes out most of the population; a scarcely inhabited post-apocalyptic world; a man traveling with a young girl he's just met (and accidentally adopted). I'm talking, of course, about the sensational HBO series — not the one that's currently taking Sunday nights by storm — but the one that dropped on HBO Max last year. "Station Eleven" is a miniseries following a small group of survivors, whose lives are connected in unexpected ways. We see their stories told through time, from the crumbling days of society to the new worlds they create in its wake. At the center of it are two people: Kirsten (a role shared by Matilda Lawler and Mackenzie Davis) and Jeevan (Himesh Patel), two strangers who find each other before everything falls apart. Unable to abandon the little girl he meets just when the world is ending, Jeevan sticks by Kirsten and heads to his brother's apartment to hole up and wait the disaster out. While the show initially skirts by their first 80 days in that apartment, the seventh episode reveals all.Knocked out by a poison dart, an older Kirsten takes us on a journey into her subconscious where we finally find out about their early apocalypse days. It's a standout episode in one of last year's best TV series, so it's no wonder that it also contains one of showrunner Patrick Somerville's happiest memories from production."When you're making a show, they become memories of working with your friends, rather than the experience of the show," Somerville explained in an interview with ScreenRant. "So I think there's something really special about episode seven."Goodbye My Damaged HomeMaking a show like "Station Eleven" sounds inherently emotional: the entire series is dedicated to big ideas about art and humanity. And then there's the pandemic of it all. That communal element was emphasized by the unexpected circumstances of filming: though the crew first got to work in January 2020, production was paused thanks to COVID-19, which kept things at a standstill for over a year. Byt the time the series got back on track, it was February 2021. Somerville notes in the interview that going through all of that brought the crew closer together and made moments like filming episode seven feel extra special. The moment that stood out above them all? "Nabhaan [Rizwan]'s rap of 'Excursions,'" Somerville said. "Which he did on the day, immaculately. It was just moving."Frank's rap in "Goodbye My Damaged Home" is an emotional wallop. Those first 80 days see the world crumbling on the outside, while Kirsten, Jeevan and his brother Frank (Rizwan) await any possible reason to maintain hope. More than a few scenes see them waiting by the radio for good news that never comes; instead, they learn of all the failing institutions — healthcare, media, the American government, etc. On the only Christmas they ever share together, Kirsten lightens the mood (after a particularly bleak newscast) by singing The First Noel. And something about listening to that eight-year-old sing them a Christmas carol does inspire some much-needed hope. But the world still doesn't stop crumbling.The internet goes and the electricity with it. Winter complicates things: their food supply runs low and the apartment is unbearably cold. They walk around in coats with no heat and an open question of what to do next. Hopelessness sets back in. And then comes Frank, who claims he has a genius plan to keep them all hot.Frank (Briefly) Saves The DayDid Frank hear something on the radio, or find a way to turn the heat back on? Nope. Frank spent hours chopping up an audio transcript to recreate the beat and bass line of A Tribe Called Quest's "Excursions," which he then proceeds to rap for Kirsten and Jeevan. It might sound silly, but Frank's performance gets all three of them — even the reluctant, eye-rolling Jeevan — dancing around the room. Just as he promised, the cold is forgotten for at least those few moments of pure, unbridled joy.Reflecting on the experience of filming the scene, Somerville said:"It was early in our shoot, and we were a long ways from home and everyone was sort of beaten down by the pandemic already. Whatever Frank does for those two in the apartment, Nabhaan did for us standing on set, if that makes sense. So that's just one memory of hundreds that I'll take with me for the rest of my life."Along with lifting the spirits of everyone in attendance (fictional and real), Frank's rap is perfectly emblematic of the show's mantra, "Survival is insufficient." Sure, the relief is only temporary (it's even punctuated by a smash cut to Frank and Kirsten on the couch, freezing their asses off a la the brutal Chicago winter) but for a few moments, they all have something worth smiling over. That dance party is about what lies beyond survival: living. Even when they're on the verge of starvation (assuming hypothermia doesn't get to them first), having that moment of joy is critical. So it's no wonder that moment stays lodged in Kirsten's brain, and lives on as one of the show's most touching moments.Read this next: The Best TV Episodes Of 2022, RankedThe post Nabhaan Rizwan Gave Station Eleven's Creator One Of His Proudest Moments In The Series appeared first on /Film.

The Risk Of Failure Drove Quentin Tarantino To Create Kill Bill

• Sunday 18:21

When a filmmaker writes and directs their own script, they run the risk of comparing their strengths and weaknesses. Take Zack Snyder — few would say he can wield a pen as well as he can a camera. On the flip side, there's Joss Whedon; his writing has shaped pop culture, for better or worse, but his visual craftsmanship never grew beyond 1990s network TV.Quentin Tarantino is aware of this dichotomy and it has motivated him to push himself as an artist. In the wake of his breakout run in the 1990s, "Reservoir Dogs," "Pulp Fiction," and "Jackie Brown," Tarantino was especially praised for his dialogue. With conversations littered with pop culture ephemera, Tarantino's characters don't sound much like real people, but they certainly argue like them. Unlike many other writers famous for stylized dialogue (see the aforementioned Whedon), he gives all of his characters distinct voices too.But Tarantino felt limited by this praise: "It was like, 'Am I the director that I want to be?" Or do you just do what you've done before because that was just fine? 'You write really good dialogue. Stick with that, buddy. But stay out of [great, cinematic directors'] park, because ultimately you can't cut it." That's why he decided to make "Kill Bill," to see if he could cut it as a great filmmaker, not just a great writer.'I've Always Adored Action Filmmakers'Speaking to Rolling Stone in 2003, Tarantino called "Kill Bill," "[His] first action movie." Here's where we make an important distinction between violence and action; Tarantino's films always had the former, but not the latter. When guns are fired in "Reservoir Dogs" and "Pulp Fiction," it always happens in short bursts. The violence and bloodshed aren't meant to look especially cool, at least compared to the sword fights in "Kill Bill." The closest thing to action in the former two movies is the chase scene in "Reservoir Dogs" when Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) flees the police. "Jackie Brown," on the other hand, has no action and little violence, which helps explain why Tarantino swung hard in the opposite direction for his next film.Tarantino explained why he went to action to buff up his filmmaking bona fides. As he put it:"I've always adored action filmmakers. And those are actually what I consider the real cinematic directors. And so if I'm going to throw my hat in that ring, I want to be one of the best that ever lived. I don't want to do an OK job. I want to rock everybody's f***ing world."Tarantino is also a known aficionado of Southeast Asian cinema. When listing his favorite movies from 1992 to 2009, he included Japanese action films such as "Battle Royale" and "The Blade." He recruited Sonny Chiba, a Japanese martial artist and genre star, to cameo in "Kill Bill." The finale of "Kill Bill Volume 1," where the Bride (Uma Thurman) and O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) duel in the snow, resembles "Lady Snowblood." With these influences, it makes sense that when Tarantino set out to make an action movie, he wound up making a samurai movie.The Ceiling Of Your TalentWhen trying something new, you always risk failing. When doing so publicly, the potential fallout is magnified threefold. Quentin Tarantino directed "Kill Bill" not in spite of that risk, but because of it. He explained to Rolling Stone: "I have an expression that I call "hitting your head on the ceiling of your talent. I wanted to find out where that ceiling was for me. I actually wanted to risk failing.""Kill Bill" was split into two movies; knowing why Tarantino made the movie helps explain his structural decisions. The action is front-loaded in "Volume 1," from the opening where the Bride kills Vernita Green/Copperhead (Vivica A. Fox) to the bloody spectacular finale, where the Bride invades the House of Blue Leaves with the intention to kill O-Ren, slaughtering her entire Yakuza organization along the way. "Volume 2," on the other hand, is closer to Tarantino's usual oeuvre, relying more on dialogue-driven suspense. In any case, Tarantino's risk paid off; "Kill Bill" was a financial and critical success.After "Kill Bill," I'd argue that Tarantino has made only one other pure action movie: "Django Unchained," a Spaghetti Western set in the antebellum south. Tarantino is known for unconventional story structure, so seeing him tell a straightforward hero's journey like "Django" practically becomes subversive. Though ultimately heavier on the talking than the shooting, "Inglourious Basterds" comes close to an action movie as well.Even if he didn't totally reinvent himself, Tarantino definitely took the lessons about how to make violence look cool from "Kill Bill."Read this next: 13 Tarantino Projects We Never Saw But Wish We Could'veThe post The Risk Of Failure Drove Quentin Tarantino To Create Kill Bill appeared first on /Film.

Vikings' Creator Thought The Series Wouldn't Make It Past One Season

• Sunday 18:00

In this crazy age of prestige, period-set TV, it can be difficult to remember all the genuine gems that came before. One of those aforementioned winners came in the form of "Vikings," a History Channel series that charted the rise of the legendary Ragnar Lothbrok (Travis Fimmel) and his dynastic family line. The series had its ups and downs, to be sure, but it became a bona fide phenomenon with a loyal, vocal fanbase in a short amount of time. With six seasons and even a sequel series under its belt, it'd be easy to assume that "Vikings" was a guaranteed hit from the very beginning. But back when creator and showrunner Michael Hirst first pitched the show in the 2010s, the success of "Vikings" was far from a sure thing.Hirst spoke to Collider all about "Vikings" in 2021, where he admitted that, though he had a sort of tentative plan for the overarching story, he tried to manage his expectations. "Most shows are canceled after the first season," Hirst explained. "I was just pragmatic about it. I was thrilled that MGM and then History had picked it up for starters ... [but] I was pretty superstitious about how far I could go."'I Had A Sort Of Big Menu In My Own Mind'Despite his pragmatic approach, Hirst was still keen to do his own thing — and tell his own story — for as long as possible. "I had a sort of big menu in my own mind about what I want to do. A lot of that was to do with overturning a lot of cliches about Viking life and about the Vikings generally." It helped that the series seemed to attract a bigger audience with each season, so Hirst's strategy was obviously working. However, the big test came in the fourth season, when Hirst made a controversial choice with one of his main characters:"Although I said from the beginning that this was going to be the saga of Ragnar and his son, when I finally announced to everyone that this was the season I was going to kill Ragnar I got a lot of warning, certainly from the Americans, that was a dangerous thing to do. And that most shows, who lose their lead character, don't continue successfully."Season 4 of "Vikings" is an uncontested low point in the series. Ragnar's death was a shocking blow to fans — even after his slow descent in the seasons prior — and it definitely could have killed the series in turn. Fortunately, "Vikings" managed to survive on the strength of the remaining ensemble, finishing strong with two more seasons and inspiring an equally successful spin-off. "There've been a lot of big moments along the way," Hirst admitted, "but I could never in my wildest dreams have anticipated that we would get to six seasons and 89 episodes."Read this next: The Moments That Defined TV In 2022The post Vikings' Creator Thought The Series Wouldn't Make It Past One Season appeared first on /Film.

SNL Quizzes Pedro Pascal On The Big Hollywood Movies And Shows That No One Has Actually Seen

• Sunday 17:39

Do you ever feel lost and overwhelmed in this modern era of streaming TV? Well apparently so do the writers at "Saturday Night Live," who've turned that feeling into one of the best sketches of the night. "The Big Hollywood Quiz" features Bowen Yang as host Jack Delmar, who asks his contestants Robert (Pedro Pascal), Jacqueline (Ego Nwodim), and Mary (Chloe Fineman) questions about popular movies, shows, and stars. When he asks them trivia questions from the '80s, back when there were only a handful of channels available and every show released new episodes on a weekly basis, all the contestants are able to easily answer. But when he asks them a question about modern TV? They don't stand a chance.Jack asks, "This breakout hit is the current number one show on Netflix. 'Ginny &...'" The contestants are stumped, and there's a good chance that most viewers were stumped too. Despite the fact that "Ginny & Georgia" is a massive hit with undeniably impressive viewership numbers, it's not the sort of show that's provoked a lot of online buzz or has gotten any particular boost of media attention. It's not that nobody's seen this show; it's that the people who have don't seem to have any kind of online presence whatsoever.And of course even if they did, there are simply so many TV shows coming out on any given week, many of them having entire seasons dropped all at once, so even a popular show like "Ginny & Georgia" is easy to miss. As most regular book readers have already long since learned to do, fans of TV and film just have to accept at this point that they will never, ever be able to catch up with every new show that comes out.Saturday Night Live Takes Aim At Peak TV"The Big Hollywood Quiz" is not the only jab "SNL" made last night at the expense of the modern TV landscape. "HBO Mario Kart" also took aim at the clichés in gritty prestige television by envisioning an HBO adaptation of the beloved Nintendo racing games. With the help of some surprisingly expensive-looking CGI, "SNL" may have just outdone the Sesame Street/Joker parody they did back in fall 2019, which satirized the trend of gritty takes on once family-friendly characters by picking the most absurd kids' show to base a dark reboot around. If you liked these sketches, you'll probably also enjoy the game show sketch "Can I Play That?" which pokes fun at popular Twitter takes on what sort of characters an actor is and isn't allowed to play. There's also "Funny New Comedy," which parodies the growing trend of half-hour shows that are technically categorized as comedies, but are they comedies? Are they really? Say what you will about the consistency of "SNL" over the years, but when it comes to making fun of TV trends in particular, their observational humor is almost always on point. "Saturday Night Live" airs Saturdays at 11:30pm ET on NBC, and is also available on Peacock.Read this next: The Moments That Defined TV In 2022The post SNL Quizzes Pedro Pascal On The Big Hollywood Movies and Shows That No One Has Actually Seen appeared first on /Film.

James Cameron's Unmade Spider-Man Movie Cost The Animated Series Sandman & Electro

• Sunday 17:00

James Cameron really is the king of the box office. With "Avatar: The Way of Water" set to overtake Cameron's own "Titanic" as the third biggest movie of all time, the unstoppable director can claim to have made three of the five most financially successful films of all time. And even though there's simply no way things could have gone better for the veteran filmmaker, I can't help but wish he'd actually made his Spider-Man movie.Yes, before Sam Raimi introduced us all to Tobey Maguire's Spidey in 2002 and set the standard for Spider-Man films going forward, James Cameron almost made his own web-slinging blockbuster. The director went as far as producing a "scriptment" (script and treatment combined) which has since found its way online. Unfortunately, the whole thing fell apart in 1995 when Carolco, the independent studio behind Cameron's mega-hit "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," and rights-holders to a Spider-Man movie, went bust.Just imagine what the king of the box office could have done with a Spider-Man movie. It was set to be an R-rated adventure that would have all the hallmarks of a James Cameron action spectacular. Unfortunately, as well as never coming to fruition, it seems the project caused some unintended issues elsewhere while it was in development. Specifically, the excellent "Spider-Man: The Animated Series" was unable to use certain characters due to Carolco holding the rights and Cameron's big plans to use two of Spider-Man's biggest villains in his ill-fated project.Sandman And Electro Were Off Limits"Spider-Man: The Animated Series" was almost as seminal a moment in Spidey's cultural evolution as a Cameron movie would have been. Before the character had hit the big screen and gained the widespread recognition he enjoys today, Fox Kids stepped up and gave '90s kids a Spider-Man fix that didn't require them to track down the comics — which in my small English town was a formidable task.Debuting in 1994, the cartoon series was a refreshingly mature take on Spider-Man that took some of the best storylines from the comics and adapted them for a younger audience without robbing them of their thematic weight. It would run until 1998, and cover all aspects of Spider-Man's universe, condensing decades of storylines into five seasons and even introducing the multiverse in its final season.But while the show was impressively comprehensive in its scope, it was hampered in some significant ways. Not only did toy sales dictate much of season 1's stories, but the writers would also have to be careful to not upset TV censors, who had strict rules in place to keep kids' programming wholesome. On top of all that, old Jimmy C would make his influence known by forcing producer, head writer, and showrunner to steer clear of certain characters — specifically infamous Spidey villains Electro and Sandman, who Cameron was planning to use as his main antagonists.Semper was asked about that specific hurdle by the Marvel Animation Age (via DCAnimated), saying, "I never gave Sandman any thought because I just accepted that I wasn't able to use him and that was that." Eventually, once Cameron's film fell through, Semper and his team would introduce Electro to the series. But Sandman remains the only major Spider-Man villain to remain absent from the entire 65 episodes.Hydro-Man Was Basically SandmanDespite not being able to use Sandman, Semper came up with a clever workaround. Hydro-Man was introduced as an alternative in the third episode of the second season, aptly titled "Hydro-Man." Morris "Morrie" Bench first appeared in "The Amazing Spider-Man" #212 back in 1981 but provided an ample replacement for Sandman when it came to Semper's series. As the showrunner explained:"There really isn't much difference between Sandman and Hydro-Man when you get right down to it. So look at the way I used Hydro-Man and you'll get a good idea of what I probably would have done with Sandman."Ultimately, Semper felt the villains were, "mostly interchangeable," and that, "the real fun of Spider-Man is the soap opera that goes on in Peter Parker's real life." Much of that might have been down to him being forced to introduce almost every villain throughout season one, which required each episode to be a standalone story rather than the longer narrative arc Semper had planned. By the time season 2 rolled around, however, he was free to indulge his longer storylines and focused much more on Peter Parker's personal developments rather than introducing yet more villains. In that sense, whether Cameron made his film or not, it doesn't seem like it was too big a deal to have to write around Sandman and Electro for the team behind "Spider-Man: The Animated Series." The quality never dipped throughout the show's five-year run, which is why it's great to be able to access the whole thing on Disney+ along with the equally awesome '90s "X-Men" cartoon.Read this next: Every Pre-MCU Marvel Movie RankedThe post James Cameron's Unmade Spider-Man Movie Cost The Animated Series Sandman & Electro appeared first on /Film.

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