By Sheryl Aronson
All you movie fans…on November 10th at a gathering of Writer’s Guild of America West, I had the opportunity to interview some of top screenwriters, who have movies that have either hit the theaters recently, or will be coming out in 2017. The films capture a wide spectrum of genres and subjects…I want to see all of them!
The Foreigner is an upcoming British-Chinese action thriller film directed by Martin Campbell, based on the 1992 novel The Chinaman written by Stephen Leather. It stars Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan and Katie Leung.
The Hollywood 360: When can we expect to see The Foreigner in the theaters?
David Marconi: The movie is supposed to come out in March. We are waiting for Jackie Chan to approve the dates.
The Hollywood 360: What is the movie about?
David Marconi: It is an absolute serious political thriller movie in the lines of Taken meets Clear and Present Danger. We shot it all in London. It’s an IRA thriller that takes place in present day. Pierce plays someone similar to someone like Jerry Adams and Jackie Chan plays a grieving father who loses his daughter in a bombing.
The Hollywood 360: That’s very interesting casting for Jackie Chan..
David Marconi: Very interesting. He does a very powerful performance.
The Hollywood 360: Talk about some of the themes in the movie that you were writing about that are applicable in today’s political climate.
David Marconi: The themes are about the loss of life due to circumstances beyond your control. In this particular case, he’s a father that starts to pull the strings. He asks, ‘Will you catch these people?’ The police say, ‘Absolutely’…will they be prosecuted? Absolutely to the fullest extent of the law…when nothing happens…the father wants to know who are these bombers? What are their names? He goes up the step ladder of politics, the IRA and all the issues involved. It turns out it wasn’t even the IRA but a splinter group.
The story is about how the loss of life and innocence can be impacted seriously and how people are helpless. However, he finds a way to do something about it.
The Hollywood 360: What kind of role does Pierce Brosnan play?
DM: Pierce Bosnan plays a character like Jerry Adams and McGuiness. If you take these two men and combine them together and look at the IRA… How these people came out of the IRA…eventually embraced politics and pursued a path of peace. And here, there is an insider group with the IRA that wants to destabilize the peace for their own agenda.
It’s a twisting, turning, like Games of Thrones story where you don’t know whose doing what and it’s a matrix of plots and subplots.
A Dog’s Purpose is an upcoming American comedy-drama film directed by Lasse Hallström. It is based on the 2010 novel of the same name by W. Bruce Cameron. The film stars Britt Robertson, Dennis Quaid, Josh Gad, Peggy Lipton and Juliet Rylance. The film is scheduled to be released on January 27, 2017, by Universal Pictures
The Hollywood 360: Tell us the background of why you wrote this story?
Bruce Cameron: The reason I wrote the book was because my girlfriend at that time had just lost her dog. It was the first dog in her life and she was completely unprepared on how much this kind of loss balls you over, and lays you flat with the grief. So I was seeking a way to make her feel better. We took a long car ride up the coast and I just started to tell her a story. I told her a story about a dog who reincarnates and remembers its lives and then eventually comes to conclude that it has a purpose in life. Then once it concludes that purpose, it has ended the cycle of reincarnation. She loved the story so much, she married me.
But it also helped her get to the point where we could get another dog…she was like, never again. I’m never going through that again. When I wrote A Dog’s Purpose it was on the best seller’s list for 52 weeks.
The Hollywood 360: How is the story told?
Bruce Cameron: It is written from the point of view of the dog, but it is a real dog. It doesn’t talk to other dogs; it doesn’t understand what other people say…and that really translates into the movie really well. Josh Gadd is the voice of the dog. Britt Robinson plays Peggy Lipton’s character as a young girl. The way they did it…the two actors look so alike. You totally buy that the Peggy Lipton character is the older version of Britt Robinson.
The Hollywood 360: Are you a very spiritual person?
Bruce Cameron: I am open to the concept of reincarnation, but I don’t practice a major religion where that is a belief. So many people have said to me that my dog is the reincarnation of of the one I had in the sixth grade.
The Hollywood 360: The premise sounds so funny.
Bruce Cameron: It’s definitely funny because dogs are funny. They’re so optimistic. My dog will go into the bathroom wagging its tail, then realize, ‘Oh I am here for a bath.’ This can happen 700 times, but they are so happy.
The Hollywood 360: What is your background?
Bruce Cameron: I came to Hollywood because I wrote a book called 8 Simple Rules for My Dating Teenage Daughter which became a television show starring John Ritter. I’ve done some Indie stuff. This is my first studio movie.
The Hollywood 360: What does the dog learn?
Bruce Cameron: With every successive life, the dog picks up skills that end in lessons which will lead him to its final life. It’s first life is so meaningless as a stray and Ferrell dog, then it becomes a pet, then a service dog…
Cathryn Michon: But the whole time the dog feels…I have a purpose and it has to do with people. Somehow I help these people. It is a very spiritual movie. We believe this world is not everything, there is something beyond this. Once two souls are linked by love, that never goes away. That is eternal.
The Hollywood 360: You and Bruce are married and wrote this movie together. How did you meet?
Cathyrn Michon: We met on book tours as authors. We each had our own writing before we wrote together, and we each have our separate projects. Working on the movie together was a lot of fun.
The Hollywood 360: So tell us about the main character…the dog.
Cathyrn Michon: All I can say is Josh Gadd has the soul of a dog and I mean that as a compliment.
Almost Christmas is a 2016 American Christmas comedy-drama film written and directed by David E. Talbert and starring Kimberly Elise, Mo’Nique, Nicole Ari Parker, Gabrielle Union, Keri Hilson, Jessie Usher, Danny Glover, Omar Epps, John Michael Higgins and Romany Malco. The film follows a dysfunctional family that comes together for the holidays for the first time since their mother’s death.
The Hollywood 360: You directed and wrote this movie. It’s all about family. Who did you base the characters on? (He looks at his wife, Lyn Talbert, and laughs.)
David Talbert: The movie is a riot. My family is full of preachers and pastors…her family is a little more colorful. Actually there are gangsters in her family. (Lyn laughs)
Lyn Talbert: I’m originally from Las Vegas.
The Hollywood 360: How do write for such a large cast of people?
David Talbert: I’ve been a playwright for 25 years, so plays are all character driven which makes it easy for me to write in many different voices. As a director I then learned how to make it cinematic.
The Hollywood 360: There are about 10 characters and it looks like a screwball comedy.
David Talbert: It is. But you feel like you know each and every one of them. That’s what makes it special.
The Hollywood 360: Who was the most fun person to direct?
Mo’N-ique and JB Smoove. They were really riots in this movie. Working with them was amazing. My wife helped me cast the movie. They had us in stitches the whole time.
The Hollywood 360: You have your veteran actors too, like the great Danny Glover.
Lyn Talbert: You have Danny Glover as the patriarch in the film. He is brilliant and grounds the story. You get to see him really shine again. He’s charming, he’s wonderful. You would want him to be your Dad after seeing this. It is a great family film with everything that is going on in this world.
The Hollywood 360: What inspired you to write this holiday movie?
David Talbert: I love holiday classics and am big fan of Christmas Story. Probably some of my favorites are National Lampoon Christmas Vacation and Home for the Holidays and Family Stone. I felt it was long overdue for an ensemble film with an African American cast.
The Hollywood 360: What are some of the themes?
Lyn Talbert: Food, family romance. David is a playwright and so many of his plays centered around female characters …. this is a perfect mix from everything he has done from his novels to plays to other films. These are the themes that have inspired him. Love, relationships, not only between men and women but sons and fathers, mothers and sons. He totally mixed all those things he loved in the film and mixed the antidotes to make funny, inspiring, dramatic.
The movie is so wonderful because you get to feel something and you get to laugh.
Patriots Day is a 2016 American biopic drama film directed by Peter Berg, It is based on the book Boston Strong by Casey Sherman and Dave Wedge. Starring Mark Wahlberg, J. K. Simmons, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon and Michelle Monaghan, the film is about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the subsequent terrorist manhunt led by Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis.
The Hollywood 360: This story is so tragic. Patriots Day is about the Boston Marathon bombing.
Eric Johnson: The story centers around the bombing of the Boston Marathon. It will be the closing film at AFI this year. Paul Tamasy and I started working on the script shortly after the event. We were contacted by these two investigative journalists. They were writing a book. One of them had previously written a book called, “The Finest Hours.” When he started this he had called us because we had already done two Boston films: The Fighter, and The Finest Hours. We were asked if we were interested in writing the movie for Patriots Day. It was so soon after the event so we were not interested in the beginning. But they kept calling us. Then they started sending us pages. Because the themes Paul and I like to write about…the triumph of the human spirit …and the story was not exploiting the event at all… and not just about the survivors, but the entire city of Boston, we decided to get involved.
Patriots Day really centers around the manhunt to find these two bombers. The FBI and local police came together and pooled their resources…first to identify the bombers, then to capture them. It is a chase movie.
The Hollywood 360: Who are the actors involved?
Eric Johnson: Some of the actors are Marc Wahlberg, John Goodman, Kevin Bacon, J.K. Simmons. When we first worked on it in 2013, right after it happened, we found out there were 9 other projects in development. We then decided pursue television because it was a faster way to production. We sold it as a mini-series. It was going to be aired on the History channel and A&E. We wrote it for a 4 hours’ mini-series. Then the tv stations decided they couldn’t afford it so they cut it down to three hours. And finally they decided to pull the plug.
So we said we are now going to write it as a two- hour feature … Peter Berg was working on another version and he decided he rather be working on ours.
The Hollywood 360: This incident had all the elements of a great dramatic, suspense story.
Eric Johnson: It is about the resilience of the human spirit. That is always a theme that attracts Paul and I. As we researched it and talked to people who were directly involved, we realized that Boston is a special place. You are not going to knock the people of Boston down. All these different groups came together to capture the bombers. The main character that Marc Wahlberg plays is based on Danny Keeler. He is a Boston Detective that was on the finish line when bombs went off. When we went to Boston, it is such a small town, everywhere we went, we kept running into him.
The Hollywood 360: When is the movie coming out?
Eric Johnson: Limited release on Dec 21st in LA, NYC, and Boston.
Hidden Figures is an upcoming 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi from a screenplay co-written with Allison Schroeder, based on the nonfiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly. The film stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, the African American physicist, space scientist, and mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon. The film also features Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe, Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst, and Jim Parsons.
The Hollywood 360: Tell us the background of this movie.
Allison Schroeder: Margot Shetterly, the author of the book, and I worked on the proposal. I grew up in NASA and interned in NASA…my grandmother was a software engineer and my grandfather worked on Mercury. Katherine Johnson, who is the lead character, wanted the movie to be an ensemble piece, not just about her. When Ted came on board the project moved along lightning fast.
The Hollywood 360: This story was really never known until now.
Allison Schroeder: Their story is so overlooked. Their story was never told. Margot Shetterly felt it was time for their story to be told. Obama gave Katherine Johnson the medal of freedom last year.
Octavia Spencer said she didn’t realize the actual story was real at first, it had to be fiction.
Ted Melfie: Here’s why – The women were mathematicians, living in the south. and were working in very critical positions in the segregated NASA.
Allison Schroeder: The women had been interviewed in 1980’s, but nobody noticed,
Ted Melfie: The obvious reasons are racism and sexism, but we also don’t celebrate mathematicians.
The Hollywood 360: What was your focus for the film?
Ted Melfie: It is a Love Letter to feminism and friendship. The three women lift each other up and propel themselves forward in their careers. Each of their stories are so clear. Katherine Johnson was the mathematician. Mary was the first female flight engineer in the country. Dorothy Vaughn saw the future in computers and programming and taught her girls how to program.
The Hollywood 360: When does the movie come out?
Ted Melfie: It comes out Christmas Day.
The Hollywood 360: Is there anything else you would like to say about your movie?
Ted Melfie: This is pro female… an empowerment movie. It is about what we do and tell women about themselves. My mom was single mom and Katherine Johnson’s story touched me.
We were very ambitious about showing how we pulled off the space race. We have stock footage of NASA, an amazing cast. Watching everyone working together was magic.
This is a movie that we need for our women to keep going. We all need a happy ending.
Yes…I love happy ending movies. On December 12th, I will be going to a screening of Hidden Figures and also doing an in-depth interview with Ted Melfie.
This movie looks to be nominated for awards this coming season.
Happy Holidays everyone and treat yourselves to some great films for the Holidays!
Photo Credit: Sheryl Aronson / The Hollywood 360