Interviews

Justin Long Interview: Tall Tales

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Justin Long as Apollo the Cricket in Tall Tales by Antoon Kring

In 2019, Justin Long has the same baby face he did back in 1999's Galaxy Quest, but he's come a long way in Hollywood since those days, starring in a wide variety of movies and television shows. From Live Free or Die Hard and Idiocracy to Tusk and Drag Me to Hell, the forty-year-old actor refuses to be pinned down to any one genre or style.

Long's latest film, Tall Tales, is based on the children's books by Antoon Krings, who also wrote and co-directed the adaptation. Justin plays Apollo, a singing and dancing cricket who stumbles into the garden of Queen Marguerite (Kate Mara), just in time to be framed for her kidnapping by nefarious forces within her own inner circle. Adventure, comedy, and charming whimsy ensue. Tall Tales is available exclusively to DirecTV subscribers and debuts in theaters on January 11.

Related: 10 Best Animated Movies Ever

While promoting the film, Justin Long spoke with us about a wide variety of topics, including his extensive portfolio of voice acting work, his prospective career in podcasting, and his goal of writing and directing his own feature films. He also told us about his work with The Girls Home, a Nicaraguan charity, and his continuing quest to learn how to speak Spanish.

Justin Long in The Lookalike

We've watched you grow up on TV. Galaxy Quest was back in 1999, and you're 40 now.

I just realized I've been doing this for just about half my life.

So, what are you going to do now?

Well, it's time to move on to different pastures, I guess! No, what I really like to do is write and direct stuff with my brother. We've been making a lot of shorts, one of which had a little bit of success on the internet and has led to the potential to direct a feature. So, I think that's what I would like to do. I really love making these little movies, so that's the next thing I'm hoping to do, is to direct a feature. Hopefully, that will work out!

Do you have a specific idea, do you want your film to be an expansion of your short film?

No, it's a script we wrote already. We're hoping to do it this Spring. It's a buddy odd-couple comedy, which is a genre we both really love. I grew up watching Laurel & Hardy, Planes, Trains & Automobiles... Movies like that have always inspired me, and Neil Simon's Odd Couple.

I'm sure we'll be hearing a lot about that really soon! So, I just watched Tall Tales, and it is completely adorable and so very French.

Yes! (laughs) Yes it is!

It is both of those things in equal measure, and I love that.

Yeah, I can see that on the poster now! "It's adorable and so very French!" It really is. It's a French film, and it had been completed already. I found it really interesting how they translated some of the more... Shall we say, "French moments," for an American audience. I think that was their challenge with the movie.

You did the dubbing. It was already made and you were brought on after the fact. How do you prepare when you're doing that? Do you listen to the original version? I don't know if you speak French or not, but do you reference that performance?

I suppose I could have... But I didn't, because I don't speak fluent French, but I don't know how much it would have been of value. And also, I think they had to change a lot of the lines. I don't just mean from French to English, but I think they had to rewrite some stuff entirely. It was really a matter of starting fresh in terms of the voice and allowing the animation to guide me. I did job called Walking with Dinosaurs (2013), which was similar in that it had already been animated. So you're working within more limited confines. The other voice work I've done, you start with the voice, and then they animate to you. But this was a little more confining because you only have so much you can do within whatever that character's animation is on the screen already. It's still fun! That's the challenge, it's fun to come up with as many different things as you can do within those confines.

Tall Tales From the Magical Garden of Antoon Krings Logo

Did you get to meet writer/director Antoon Krings?

No! No, I didn't. But I wish I had, because I would tell him how much I enjoyed watching his animation, and the story unfold. I would also tell him I like his name. Antoon.

A great name for someone who works in animation: 'Toon.

Almost too great. Suspiciously great. Maybe that's not his name!

You've done a lot of voice work. I'd say you've done more voice work than the average Hollywood A-lister. And you have such a great voice for it. How did you get started in that corner of the acting world?

I love doing it. When I started out as an actor, when I was a kid, twenty years ago, my first few jobs were all voice jobs. They were for commercials. At the time, I had dropped out of college, I was 19 or 20, and a really common voice, at the time, one that I was asked to do at a lot of these auditions, was, (affected) "like, a stoner, that guy, yes you can! Extreme! He slams Mountain Dew, you know? And he snowboards!" And I'm not that type of person at all, but I was a late bloomer, and my voice was still kind of developing, it was still kind of going through puberty. So, my voice was better attuned to that type of guy. The first few jobs I got were with that sort of voice. That late-90s slacker character. Mountain Dew, Domino's. Later, I did a movie with Mike Judge (Idiocracy, 2006). I met Mike on his movie, and he started calling me in every once in a while to do an episode of King of the Hill. So I played some miscellaneous characters. He knew I did voices, because I tried some for him, unsolicited, in a very obnoxious way, one night out, after a couple of beers. I got to play around with different voices on King of the Hill. And then I did Alvin & the Chipmunks and more. It's just so fun.

It's funny that you mention having such a young voice at the start of your career. One would imagine you would have grown out of it, and yet, you're on one of my favorite shows, F is for Family, playing a teenage boy!

Oh yeah, right! Well, that's different, because that character is more (breaks into Kevin Murphy's voice) "he has the attitude of being a kid, of being a teenager." He's constantly disgruntled. He's a real teenage misanthrope. "Nothing's fair! Nothing's ever fair! Everyone is a dil**" and it's so fun to do that, because I don't necessarily have to change my voice the way I would with... I've done teenage characters (affects a high-pitched nasal whine), "I've done those characters where I insert some voice cracks into it!" But Kevin has a deep voice and he's all testosterone. He's brimming with hormones. That's what's so fun about that character. There's a real freedom in just being constantly disgruntled by everything. Things happen to us in life and we're frustrated, but maybe it's just me, but that frustration has go somewhere. Some people meditate, listen to music, do drugs, however they allow that frustration to escape. The great thing about doing that show is, it's kind of therapeutic to play such a frustrated person. I get to yell at Bill Burr! There's no one more fun to yell at, because there's no one better at yelling and cursing than Bill Burr. It's like playing one on one basketball with LeBron; you're doing it with the best! You're screaming at the best! It's really fun.

Justin Long as Kevin Murphy in F is for Family

I can't wait for season four.

Me too!

You're not doing anything yet for that, right? Is it on the time table? Or is it a secret?

It's on the time table, yes. I think we're gonna start recording soon. Soon. It's definitely happening.

Excellent. I can't wait. I listened to you on my favorite podcast, Anna Faris is Unqualified, and you mentioned on Twitter that you recorded a podcast of your own, with Sam Rockwell. Is that a pilot, a one-off, what's the deal with that?

I think they wanted to see how it would turn out. I think they were happy with how it turned out, so I think it's proceeding. I think it's something I'm going to do. I just don't know when or how official, but it looks like it's going to happen. It's funny you mention Anna's thing, because that was a couple of years ago, but ever since I did that, it was so fun to do, I love that medium, and since then, I've kind of been fantasizing about doing one. I love picking people's brains and getting into it with them. I hope it happens. It looks like it's going to happen.

Justin Long at The Girls Home

You work with The Girls Home. Can you tell me a bit about it?

A lot of Americans go to San Juan del Sur, which is how I stumbled upon it, but I'm so glad I did. This was years ago. It is a home run by an order of Catholic nuns, and you can find it on the web. It's a place that houses and educates and shelters young women who are at risk, either from abuse or abject poverty. They're what's called "social orphans." Most of them, technically, do have parents and places to live, but their circumstances are very difficult, for a variety of different reasons. The goal of this place is to get these girls through the years that would be a real challenge outside of the home. The endgame is to hopefully get them to the university. This year, there are three girls who are in university. From where the home started a couple of years ago to how far they've come, it's something I'm really happy about. But they can always use money, they want to expand, especially now, with all the violence over the last six or seven months in Nicaragua, they're especially at risk. Whatever donations have come in in the last year, they've been appreciated tenfold because they've kept the girls safe and fed and out of harm's way. It's a really good thing right now. It's a really rare thing.

You do incredible work with them, it's truly inspiring.

Thanks. I love it. I've gotten to really know a lot of them down there. I just adore them. And they're always looking for volunteers. It's a really fun way, if you're interested in traveling to Nicaragua, which is a beautiful country, it's a really nice way to do that. It's all on the website.

How do you deal with the language barrier? Do you speak Spanish?

You know, it's funny, every time I go there, it gets more and more frustrating. At first, it was sort of a challenge, communicating with the kids without knowing any Spanish. So, you end up relying on very primitive communication skills, which can be fun! I love Charlie Chaplin! I love resorting to making faces and miming things. It can be really fun, but it's so limiting. After a couple of days, it becomes really frustrating. After years of going there... Every time I leave, I am so determined to learn Spanish. I have this app, Duolingo, where I do it like gangbusters for a couple of months, and then I just set it aside for whatever reason. This has been going on for years. It's my 2019 resolution, to finally learn Spanish. It's never been in there enough to retain it. It all goes away after a couple of weeks. I have to do it every day. I have to learn that Spanish!

More: 10 Best Foreign Films On Netflix You Need To See

Bumblebee Interview: Hailee Steinfeld

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Hailee Steinfeld in Bumblebee

One of the most surprising delights of 2018 was Bumblebee, a Transformers prequel spinoff that completely reimagined the franchise. While many fans have been excited by the return of G1 designs and Cybertron action sequences, the heart of the movie is the relationship between the titular B-127 and his human companion, Charlie, played by Hailee Steinfeld. The actor has been a regular screen presence since her breakout in 2010's True Grit, and last year became a tentpole star with Bee and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Screen Rant recently caught up with Steinfeld to discuss the experience of starring in a Transformers movie, how Bumblebee changed during development, where she sees Charlie going next and, in another universe entirely, the future of Spider-Gwen.

Before you signed on, what history, if any, did you have with the Transformers franchise?

I'd seen a few of the movies. My older brother Griffin is a racecar driver and mechanic, and so when the first film came out, he was talking about wanting to see and I remember us seeing it together. And that was my first introduction to it.

Your brother's a mechanic? What did he make of your mechanic skills in Bumblebee?

He helped with... all of it. [laughs] I say a lot of it, but all of it. I actually had him on set with me while making this movie which, not only was one of my favorite experiences I've had, that I've been able to share with my brother. But selfishly I was able to have him there as my mechanic encyclopedia. So any time I was confused or unclear about something or wanted to make sure the exact car part we are talking about was accurate, I just wanted him to make sure everything lined up and he's somebody I trust with all of it. And he was right there to make sure everything I was doing was authentic.

That's so cool. The relationship between Bumblebee and Charlie is right at the heart of this movie, and that's a really big acting task - you're forming a bond with this big, CGI, metal creature. How did you do those scenes where you're really emotionally conversing with Bee? When you're interacting with him, how was it getting the right level of emotion while also getting the practical side done?

Well, it definitely unlike anything I've ever experienced. The hardest part was constantly questioning if it was enough or too much, without knowing. Of course, you can watch back but then it's like, what exactly are you looking at? Me talking to thin air! So, starting the process, Travis created a place that felt safe and at home. It was just, obviously, where we were, when we were there, it was very quiet. And him and I, long before we started shooting, did enough work in creating enough backstory for this character. So that always, obviously, is a tremendous help when it comes to, getting there on the day, feeling like you've done the work, then just allowing yourself to just be there and in the moment, with whatever you have - or in this case, whatever you don't have - to work with. So, yeah.

How long after shooting did you get to see Bee in the space?

Well, one that thing was incredible about Travis was that, with his background in animation he was really able to paint the picture as we went along. He was building pre-vis as we were going, depending on the scene, so that we could get an idea. For example, the scene where Charlie and Memo are in the kitchen with Bee - the aftermath of his house destruction - he mapped that all out on a computer first, just to have, like you said, the idea of what it might look like with him involved.

One of the technical things in the movie that's not CGI, is the music. The music is so important, so ingrained into the movie - the way The Smiths goes into the soundtrack and costumes and the set dressing and the story arcs is so involved. Did you have music on set to key into the emotions, and otherwise how did Travis get you up to speed with what he imagined the soundscape of the movie to be?

There was a lot of music played on set, for sure. Especially, obviously, when it is played in certain moments and spoken about in the film. It was so nice for me. Music has always been such a huge part of my life and a huge part of me as an actor. It's what keeps me grounded - when I'm on any movie... I've unintentionally created a playlist for almost every film I've done of what I listened to throughout to keep me in certain mindsets. With this film, it was built in for me. Everything - I want to say about 90% of what was in the film was originally scripted, which is always helpful. Because I've done films where you think you know what's playing in the background of what you're doing, and it ends up being something completely different. But for the most part, we had what was scripted, music-wise, so that was very helpful.

Most importantly - are you a fan of The Smiths? Were you before, are you now?

Moreso now than I was before. I think I have a real appreciation for them now, and I feel like they, in ways no one else did, capture that real teen angst and I feel that personally, and I feel that in the movie.

With the ending, one of the biggest payoff moments when you fix the car and Charlie's driving down the highway, which comes technically after the credits - it's after Travis' credit and the scene with the Autobots. Was that ever part of the movie proper, or was that always an after-credits bit with the main ending being Bee's departure?

As far as I know, yes. It was always that way where the bit where I fix the car was over the credits.

What's also cool about that ending is that, while this movie's part of a massive franchise, you have the amazing luxury of telling a single story. But, Travis has said he's imagined you in a sequel. Are you signed up for more Transformers, would you like to return in a Bumblebee sequel or a Transformers movie of some form?

I would, absolutely. If it means having any kind of experience like I did making this one, I would love to do that again. I think what's so exciting about these films is that we make them for the fans. And if they choose to like it and want to see more, then that's when we go back to work. That's the exciting part. But yeah, of course, I would absolutely love to be part of this sort of thing again.

And, as an actor, do you have anywhere you'd like to explore in Charlie, where you'd like to take her next?

I feel that we've had very few, I guess, in-depth conversations about where she could possibly go in the future, but I think for me, without having spent much time thinking about that, I do feel that she's one person at the beginning of this movie and a completely different and better human by the end. She's grown so much in such a small amount of time, she's learned so much. I mean, even then, at the end, I felt though she's got so much more to learn, so far to go, so much more to say. And I'd be very excited to see where and what that is.

One thing I've seen reports of is how the movie evolved as it was made. Did any part of Charlie's arc change, could you should any light on that?

Yeah, sure. A lot of Charlie's arc was definitely figured out before we started filming. There were a lot of changes made in the beginning, as there are naturally, but I do I feel that discoveries were constantly being made while making this movie, about this character, about her capabilities, about her knowledge of certain things. And something that was so great about Travis and really the rest of the cast, I felt we all had this foundation that we built together, and when we'd show up every day, the possibilities were endless, and we could run free. Travis allowed for that, the producers and other filmmakers allowed for that. So a lot of room for discovery was made throughout.

What would you say is the biggest thing that you brought to Charlie that wasn't in that original script?

Oh boy. Thinking back now. I think... this is one of those things where you study for a test and you ace it the next day, and then the day after you forget all the answers... Walking down memory name, it hasn't even been that long but I need to refresh my memory. Working, I think for this, I have to say Christina Hodson wrote an amazing story of a young girl that felt very real and very honest. Kelly Fremon Craig also contributed to the script, who I worked with on Edge of Seventeen. I do feel that everything that I brought to this character was, obviously made on my own in discovery during, but all stemmed from what was on the page in the beginning. It was really was pretty perfect.

The movie has tremendous reviews across the board, it's been a shame to see it's box office legs a little slower. It opened quite slowly compared to the other Transformers films. Do you have any feelings on that, could it have been released at a different time?

Looking at the history of Transformers box office numbers, they were released at different times of the year. They may have obviously been publicized differently. I think that with this film it was a little harder getting people to realize is this a film that Transformers fans can find everything they know and love in the Transformers franchise, it's very very character driven and has a lot of heart and a lot of soul. And I think that that's what people are learning after they see it. And so, here I am, spreading the word. This is a film with a lot of heart and soul. If that's what you're looking for, you can find that as well as what you know and love from Transformers films.

Into The Spider-Verse Gwen Stacy

We've talked about big movies coming out at this time, you're also in Into the Spider-Verse. Having these two, big movies out so close to each other - what was the experience of that like?

That sort of thing, for both films. Into the Spider-Verse, the making of took place over the last couple of years. I was working on Bumblebee at the same time, going back and forth with sessions for Into the Spider-Verse. It's one of those things where you hear they're coming out with each other, you have no idea of what the end result of either one is - you're at that point where you haven't seen them. To me, it's like, "this is going to be the best holiday season ever. I've got two films coming out, it's going to be wonderful, I'm so excited for people to see them. These are two stories that mean a lot to me." It really was all very exciting, and of course having them out so close together now, it's equally as exciting. It really is an honor just to have two films that are doing so well, and that means so much to me.

Gwen will get her own spinoff/sequel with the Spider-Woman Spider-Verse movie. When did you find out about that?

Honestly, when we all did. That will be absolutely incredible to explore the capabilities of this young superhero.

Next: Bumblebee Is A Remake Of The Original Transformers (But Much Better)

Bumblebee Interview: Hailee Steinfeld

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Hailee Steinfeld in Bumblebee

One of the most surprising delights of 2018 was Bumblebee, a Transformers prequel spinoff that completely reimagined the franchise. While many fans have been excited by the return of G1 designs and Cybertron action sequences, the heart of the movie is the relationship between the titular B-127 and his human companion, Charlie, played by Hailee Steinfeld. The actor has been a regular screen presence since her breakout in 2010's True Grit, and last year became a tentpole star with Bee and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Screen Rant recently caught up with Steinfeld to discuss the experience of starring in a Transformers movie, how Bumblebee changed during development, where she sees Charlie going next and, in another universe entirely, the future of Spider-Gwen.

Before you signed on, what history, if any, did you have with the Transformers franchise?

I'd seen a few of the movies. My older brother Griffin is a racecar driver and mechanic, and so when the first film came out, he was talking about wanting to see and I remember us seeing it together. And that was my first introduction to it.

Your brother's a mechanic? What did he make of your mechanic skills in Bumblebee?

He helped with... all of it. [laughs] I say a lot of it, but all of it. I actually had him on set with me while making this movie which, not only was one of my favorite experiences I've had, that I've been able to share with my brother. But selfishly I was able to have him there as my mechanic encyclopedia. So any time I was confused or unclear about something or wanted to make sure the exact car part we are talking about was accurate, I just wanted him to make sure everything lined up and he's somebody I trust with all of it. And he was right there to make sure everything I was doing was authentic.

That's so cool. The relationship between Bumblebee and Charlie is right at the heart of this movie, and that's a really big acting task - you're forming a bond with this big, CGI, metal creature. How did you do those scenes where you're really emotionally conversing with Bee? When you're interacting with him, how was it getting the right level of emotion while also getting the practical side done?

Well, it definitely unlike anything I've ever experienced. The hardest part was constantly questioning if it was enough or too much, without knowing. Of course, you can watch back but then it's like, what exactly are you looking at? Me talking to thin air! So, starting the process, Travis created a place that felt safe and at home. It was just, obviously, where we were, when we were there, it was very quiet. And him and I, long before we started shooting, did enough work in creating enough backstory for this character. So that always, obviously, is a tremendous help when it comes to, getting there on the day, feeling like you've done the work, then just allowing yourself to just be there and in the moment, with whatever you have - or in this case, whatever you don't have - to work with. So, yeah.

How long after shooting did you get to see Bee in the space?

Well, one that thing was incredible about Travis was that, with his background in animation he was really able to paint the picture as we went along. He was building pre-vis as we were going, depending on the scene, so that we could get an idea. For example, the scene where Charlie and Memo are in the kitchen with Bee - the aftermath of his house destruction - he mapped that all out on a computer first, just to have, like you said, the idea of what it might look like with him involved.

One of the technical things in the movie that's not CGI, is the music. The music is so important, so ingrained into the movie - the way The Smiths goes into the soundtrack and costumes and the set dressing and the story arcs is so involved. Did you have music on set to key into the emotions, and otherwise how did Travis get you up to speed with what he imagined the soundscape of the movie to be?

There was a lot of music played on set, for sure. Especially, obviously, when it is played in certain moments and spoken about in the film. It was so nice for me. Music has always been such a huge part of my life and a huge part of me as an actor. It's what keeps me grounded - when I'm on any movie... I've unintentionally created a playlist for almost every film I've done of what I listened to throughout to keep me in certain mindsets. With this film, it was built in for me. Everything - I want to say about 90% of what was in the film was originally scripted, which is always helpful. Because I've done films where you think you know what's playing in the background of what you're doing, and it ends up being something completely different. But for the most part, we had what was scripted, music-wise, so that was very helpful.

Most importantly - are you a fan of The Smiths? Were you before, are you now?

Moreso now than I was before. I think I have a real appreciation for them now, and I feel like they, in ways no one else did, capture that real teen angst and I feel that personally, and I feel that in the movie.

With the ending, one of the biggest payoff moments when you fix the car and Charlie's driving down the highway, which comes technically after the credits - it's after Travis' credit and the scene with the Autobots. Was that ever part of the movie proper, or was that always an after-credits bit with the main ending being Bee's departure?

As far as I know, yes. It was always that way where the bit where I fix the car was over the credits.

What's also cool about that ending is that, while this movie's part of a massive franchise, you have the amazing luxury of telling a single story. But, Travis has said he's imagined you in a sequel. Are you signed up for more Transformers, would you like to return in a Bumblebee sequel or a Transformers movie of some form?

I would, absolutely. If it means having any kind of experience like I did making this one, I would love to do that again. I think what's so exciting about these films is that we make them for the fans. And if they choose to like it and want to see more, then that's when we go back to work. That's the exciting part. But yeah, of course, I would absolutely love to be part of this sort of thing again.

And, as an actor, do you have anywhere you'd like to explore in Charlie, where you'd like to take her next?

I feel that we've had very few, I guess, in-depth conversations about where she could possibly go in the future, but I think for me, without having spent much time thinking about that, I do feel that she's one person at the beginning of this movie and a completely different and better human by the end. She's grown so much in such a small amount of time, she's learned so much. I mean, even then, at the end, I felt though she's got so much more to learn, so far to go, so much more to say. And I'd be very excited to see where and what that is.

One thing I've seen reports of is how the movie evolved as it was made. Did any part of Charlie's arc change, could you should any light on that?

Yeah, sure. A lot of Charlie's arc was definitely figured out before we started filming. There were a lot of changes made in the beginning, as there are naturally, but I do I feel that discoveries were constantly being made while making this movie, about this character, about her capabilities, about her knowledge of certain things. And something that was so great about Travis and really the rest of the cast, I felt we all had this foundation that we built together, and when we'd show up every day, the possibilities were endless, and we could run free. Travis allowed for that, the producers and other filmmakers allowed for that. So a lot of room for discovery was made throughout.

What would you say is the biggest thing that you brought to Charlie that wasn't in that original script?

Oh boy. Thinking back now. I think... this is one of those things where you study for a test and you ace it the next day, and then the day after you forget all the answers... Walking down memory name, it hasn't even been that long but I need to refresh my memory. Working, I think for this, I have to say Christina Hodson wrote an amazing story of a young girl that felt very real and very honest. Kelly Fremon Craig also contributed to the script, who I worked with on Edge of Seventeen. I do feel that everything that I brought to this character was, obviously made on my own in discovery during, but all stemmed from what was on the page in the beginning. It was really was pretty perfect.

The movie has tremendous reviews across the board, it's been a shame to see it's box office legs a little slower. It opened quite slowly compared to the other Transformers films. Do you have any feelings on that, could it have been released at a different time?

Looking at the history of Transformers box office numbers, they were released at different times of the year. They may have obviously been publicized differently. I think that with this film it was a little harder getting people to realize is this a film that Transformers fans can find everything they know and love in the Transformers franchise, it's very very character driven and has a lot of heart and a lot of soul. And I think that that's what people are learning after they see it. And so, here I am, spreading the word. This is a film with a lot of heart and soul. If that's what you're looking for, you can find that as well as what you know and love from Transformers films.

Into The Spider-Verse Gwen Stacy

We've talked about big movies coming out at this time, you're also in Into the Spider-Verse. Having these two, big movies out so close to each other - what was the experience of that like?

That sort of thing, for both films. Into the Spider-Verse, the making of took place over the last couple of years. I was working on Bumblebee at the same time, going back and forth with sessions for Into the Spider-Verse. It's one of those things where you hear they're coming out with each other, you have no idea of what the end result of either one is - you're at that point where you haven't seen them. To me, it's like, "this is going to be the best holiday season ever. I've got two films coming out, it's going to be wonderful, I'm so excited for people to see them. These are two stories that mean a lot to me." It really was all very exciting, and of course having them out so close together now, it's equally as exciting. It really is an honor just to have two films that are doing so well, and that means so much to me.

Gwen will get her own spinoff/sequel with the Spider-Woman Spider-Verse movie. When did you find out about that?

Honestly, when we all did. That will be absolutely incredible to explore the capabilities of this young superhero.

Next: Bumblebee Is A Remake Of The Original Transformers (But Much Better)

Keanu Reeves & Alice Eve Interview: Replicas

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Keanu Reeves is an actor recognized around the world, probably best known for his role of Neo in The Matrix trilogy.  He has starred in a wide range of films including, Point Break, A Walk in the Clouds, and John Wick. His most recent movie is Replicas, where he plays William Foster, a scientist who attempts to bring back his family after they die in a car accident.

Alice Eve has starred in dozens of films including Men in Black 3, Star Trek Into Darkness, and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb. And she has also appeared on television shows such as Entourage, Black Mirror, and Iron Fist. In Replicas, she plays Mona Foster, the wife of Reeves' character.

Screen Rant: Congratulations on the film.

Keanu Reeves: Thank you.

Screen Rant: Keanu, you’ve been doing a lot more producing a lately. So, what was it about this that inspired you? But also, Alice, when you open the script up and you see the script for Replicas, what was it that jumped out at you to want to jump onboard?

Alice Eve: You first.

Keanu Reeves: Okay. Yeah, this one, on Replicas I was a creative producer. So, just a part of developing the story, developing the script, working with Chad St. John, the writer. And being a part of the story and the script and the characters.  So, I didn't have any really physical production aspect on this. And the pleasure of that is just trying to bring your story to life and having wonderful artists like Alice Eve tell the story.

Screen Rant: You were wonderful Alice.

Alice Eve: Thanks guys. This is really my moment [CHUCKLES].  I liked it because, obviously I'm into this kind of future-- I did a Black Mirror, I did Star Trek. It's already my wheelhouse of interest. But this one felt like, just a sort of little bit fast forward into a little closer future.  It’s not 200 years. Maybe it's five years. And these questions will be being asked of ourselves. Maybe all of us, maybe some of us. And that felt, it answered a lot of my questions to see people being replicated if that isn't a spoiler. Sorry. That's cool to me. Because that's something that I'm like, “How would you do that? How would we do that?”

Screen Rant: Sure. Because in the past, in other horror genres in Pet Cemetery, Flatliners, and Frankenstein even, you get this rebirth. So, how do you approach playing a character that's being rebirthed in a sense? And also, what are some of the subtleties that you made, acting wise, from being replicated to being the original?

Alice Eve: I think that what I decided-- Because we had conversations about this, how robotic she was. I think what I decided, for me, was that there was another voice in her head. One that we sometimes have in our own lives that we don't necessarily trust. It's maybe an instinct, maybe it's the heart, who knows? But saying this isn't right or you should go left or don't think like that. And that she had that voice running alongside everything she did. And so, everything felt like a slightly disconnected experience.

Screen Rant: And you guys shot this in beautiful Puerto Rico before the hurricane. And I'm hoping that people go back for tourism out there when they see that shot here. But what was it about that city, or about Puerto Rico in general, that added to the story for you guys?

Alice Eve: The heat

Keanu Reeves: The heat?

Alice Eve: It was intense.

Keanu Reeves: It was intense. Yeah, the heat, the flora—

Alice Eve: The flora.

Keanu Reeves: The ocean.

Alice Eve: Yeah.

Keanu Reeves: And the vibe.

Alice Eve: And the people.

Keanu Reeves: And the people. Yeah.

Screen Rant: That's awesome. Science is catching up to science fiction very rapidly. And especially with something like this. Because I think that science fiction can do its best to inform people about some of the things that are going on and cautionary tales. So, what are you hoping people walk away when they see Replicas? Because this is quite a debate that's going to be happening very soon, like you'd said.

Alice Eve: Well, I guess we want them to think that they’re pro-replication. This is actually a film that is a propaganda movie too—

Keanu Reeves: I don’t know about that.

Alice Eve: [CHUCKLES] No, it’s not that--

Keanu Reeves: Yeah, it deals with cloning, which then turns into immortality with the aspect of consciousness transference. And then it deals with the digitization of consciousness. So, it's working with the body and hardware, which I guess is current. And it's bringing in the cautionary tale is part of the nefarious part of where can this technology-- How this technology can be used. But then it also has a representation of the humanistic positive side of how it can be used. And it's like, “What would you do with it? What will we as our culture, society, deal with the technologies that are coming in?” And, yeah, we're being confronted all the time now. I really feel like we're in a period now where reality is actually ahead of the storytellers.

Screen Rant: I agree. And that's one thing, it's a morality thing for me too. There’s a certain benefits to it.  But then you're playing with something that you quite don't understand, that could change everything.

Keanu Reeves: Right. But then when your loved one, who's your partner, disappears, then you're like,  “Maybe I will do that cloning thing.”

Screen Rant: It is fascinating at the very least, of an idea. Thank you guys so much for your time.

Keanu Reeves: Thank you.

Alice Eve: That’s so interesting. That’s such an interesting point that reality is ahead of the storytellers. I didn't even think of it.

Screen Rant: You guys are amazing. Thank you so much.

More: Watch the Replicas Trailer

Night School: Malcolm D. Lee Interview

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Malcolm D Lee On Set

Director Malcolm D. Lee is best known for the romantic ensemble drama, The Best Man, and its 14-years-later sequel, The Best Man Holiday, which became a surprise box office smash in 2013. Likewise, his 2017 film, Girls Trip, was an even bigger hit, grossing over $140 million, more than seven times its budget of $19 million.

Lee's latest film, the Kevin Hart/Tiffany Haddish vehicle, Night School, successfully grossed over $100 million at the global box office. The film's performance further cemented Hart's status as an A-list star and saw Haddish continue on her own path towards the global domination.

Related: Every Movie Releasing in 2019

While promoting the Blu-ray release of Night School (out now!), Lee spoke with us about the film, and how he's spent twenty years earning critical acclaim and financial success from films with predominantly black casts, dispelling the notion that such movies aren't strong performers at the box office. Malcolm D. Lee is on a quest to break down the arbitrary barriers which perpetuate the myth that these movies can't be mainstream hits. Given his track record (to say nothing of films like Black Panther and perennial favorites like Friday and Barbershop, the third entry of which was helmed by Lee himself), it's hard to argue with his results.

Night School is your first time working with Kevin Hart. Were you a fan of his leading up to this? How did you get attached to the film?

I'd been wanting to work with Kevin for a little while now. His stand-up is brilliant, and everything I heard about him was that he was a really good collaborator, and good to work with. (Producer) Will Packer and I had just done Girls Trip, and they were looking for a director to come on board Night School. It was Kevin's first foray into producing, and the story, at first, I didn't love it. I said, "If I'm going to take this on, I'm going to need a writer who can come and brush this up a little bit." I didn't love where it was, but I thought it could be something. I called up my buddy, John Hamburg, who did the Meet the Parents movies, Along Came Polly, and I Love You, Man. We went to NYU together, and had been wanting to work together, and it was fantastic to work with him and bring Kevin's vision to life. So, it was a hard process, because whenever you're rewriting for a production, it's really tough. We made sure we had a bunch of funny people around Kevin; Kevin is funny by himself, and is always a funny guy onscreen, but I wanted to put people around him that could push him and add different kinds of humor in there. We got Romany Malco, Rob Riggle, Tiffany Haddish, Ben Schwartz, Taren Killam, people like that around him. Still, Kevin is in every scene, and when some scenes don't work, Kevin is brilliant, so he'll save the scene, button it for you. He'll take a scene that is kinda funny and make it really funny. It was great to work with Kevin. He's really funny, really collaborative, a really nice guy, and a very hard worker.

This movie has a large supporting cast, and you often work with large ensemble casts; it's almost one of the staples of your work. I especially adore Romany Malco in this movie. He's hilarious.

He's really funny. I'd wanted to work with him for a while, too! I like working with large casts. I love characters. I love interacting the characters with one another, forcing them into situations and then figuring out what character will make something happen. It's tough to shoot, it's tough on the actors to have to run through all the scenes multiple times, and I shoot a lot of coverage, because it's a comedy and I want to make sure I can have a pace and a rhythm to the edit. But I've always loved ensembles, and I've always loved working with actors. But it can get exhausting.

Cast of Night School

Your movies can be described as comedies, but I think that's reductive. Audiences wept during The Best Man Holiday. Roll Bounce, I think, is this underrated, beautiful coming-of-age movie. Soul Men is all about breaking down macho barriers and getting at the heart of these people. And, sorry to gush, but Undercover Brother, that movie taught so many Millennials that black culture is American culture.

The other day, one of my friends texted me, "The Best Man is on HBO Comedy." I was like, I don't know why they label that movie as a comedy! I never directed that movie as a comedy, I never thought of it as a comedy. The Best Man Holiday, I never thought of as a comedy, either. I think, for me, I'm always going to try to find a level of humanity at the heart of my movies, and emotion that will resonate with audiences. If you care about the characters, you'll be that much more invested, and if it's a comedy, you're going to laugh even harder, because you feel like you know them. That's always been my goal. I've been influenced by filmmakers like John Hughes, Ron Howard, and Woody Allen, people who make a lot of coming-of-age and, just "life" movies. I get a lot of my influences from them, as well as from Spike (Lee, Malcolm's cousin), and some of the other great filmmakers like Spielberg. There's too much to just put into one category. But movies like Night School, Undercover Brother, Roscoe Jenkins, and Girls Trip, I would put in the comedy genre. I wouldn't call them anything else, but they do have a level of... I would say sophistication, or at least trying to be more than just a comedy of sight gags and one-liners.

This sophistication, social awareness, that character... When you're picking a project, do you choose the ones which have that, or do you go, "I can bring that to this project?"

It's a combination. I think, most of the time, it's there, or the potential is there. With Night School, it wasn't there on the page, but I thought, okay, we can bring it to it. Learning disabilities are real. A lot of people suffer through them. Some people suffer through them silently. It's not always apparent in them. I have a son, for instance, who has learning disabilities, but by looking at him, you wouldn't necessarily know; start a conversation with him, and it's different. There's something about that I wanted to portray in Night School. For Girls Trip, we developed that from the ground up, so there was always this idea that we needed to have some heart. For all my movies, I like to have intelligence, heart, humor, and emotion. That's what I tend to gravitate towards.

Girls Trip

You've long dispelled the notion that you make, quote-unquote, "black movies," that the characters and situations been to be defined by their blackness before anything else. Like, nobody looks at 99% of Hollywood's output and says, "That's a white movie." Can you say why it's so important for movies with mostly black casts to get wide distribution and reasonable Hollywood budgets?

Our stories are just as important as anyone else's in the world. I mean, Black Panther proved that! It was dressed up in a Marvel movie, but you couldn't get more culturally specific than Black Panther. At the same time, it had universal themes and all the trappings and morays that Marvel movies have. And I love Marvel movies! I think they're fantastic. I think it's slowly starting to push along in a more positive and inclusive way. And it's not just because they think it's the right thing to do, but it's because it makes money! For me, from the beginning of my career, it's always been my goal to make the so-called "African-American movie" mainstream. Our stories are as universal as anyone else's. Anyone should be able to relate. A romantic comedy is a romantic comedy. An action comedy is an action comedy. It's not a black action comedy, or geared towards a black audience. Eddie Murphy was for everybody, right?

Exactly!

There's no reason that The Best Man couldn't be for anybody, or Barbershop couldn't be for everybody. It has cultural specificity, but it has something about it that is universal. Same with Girls Trip. Obviously, that worked. It did not get the kind of accolades it should have from the awards people. Not that we were expecting Best Picture or anything like that, but, I'm sorry; we were the #1 comedy in the world, and the Golden Globes doesn't recognize us? Not cool!

Absolutely. Speaking of Girls Trip, that's the only movie I can think of off the top of my head where the four top-billed actors are black women.

Yup! It's very rare! Probably the last time it happened was Waiting to Exhale. I mean, I'm sure there are others, but to be centered on four women, it's very rare, especially for a studio picture.

I love Regina Hall, so much. She's one of my favorite actors, period, and she's amazing in Girls Trip.

She's my girl! She's fantastic. She's very underrated. But people are beginning to understand how special she is. I've known it for quite some time.

There's hype surrounding The Best Man Wedding, if that's still what it's called. You definitely took your time between the first two movies (part one: 1999. Part two: 2013) From my understanding, the movie's in kind of a holding pattern until everybody's schedule lines up, is that right?

That's pretty much what's happening. That's what's been the problem. Trying to get everybody. It's a large cast, and they're all working, you know?

Yeah, you made them too famous!

Hey, listen, if that's the worst thing that can be said about what The Best Man Holiday did, then I'm happy with that! I'm satisfied with that!

So, is part three written?

It's written. It was written so close after the last one, so we'll have to make some adjustments, but it's kind of ready to go.

I heard that your deal with Night School included a "first look" with Universal. Can you share anything you might be working on from that, or is it still too early?

That was almost a year ago that we've been in our deal with Universal, and we've put a number of things into development. There's Real Talk, a hip-hop ensemble comedy; How to Fall in Love with Anyone is an ensemble romantic comedy; there's a Double Dutch project that's in the vein of Bring it On. There's a Terry McMillan adaptation I'm working on called I Almost Forgot About You for Viola Davis. That's all on the docket so far, and there's plenty of other things happening as well.

More: Night School Review

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