Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio and Armie Hammer talk about making ‘J Edgar’

For nearly five decades, J. Edgar Hoover was the face of law enforcement in the U.S., but to most Americans, the longtime Federal Bureau of Investigations director remains an enigma."J. Edgar," directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover, chronicles the FBI founder's controversial tenure as a hunter of gangsters and a collector of secrets and explores his mystery-shrouded private life, defined by a devoted relationship to his colleague Clyde Tolson (Armie Hammer).

Last week at Warner Bros. studio — on the stage where they shot much of the film — Eastwood, DiCaprio and Hammer spoke with The Times about Hoover's public legacy, his secrets and the future of adult dramas in contemporary Hollywood. The following is an edited excerpt of their conversation. "J. Edgar," which was written by Dustin Lance Black and also stars Naomi Watts as Hoover's trusted secretary, Helen Gandy, and Judi Dench as his imperious mother, opens Nov. 9.


Set Design brings alive 1930s train station in Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’

Surely, any author's dream is to be able to walk into the world they've created in their book. Plenty of writers have been afforded virtually that experience as their books have been adapted to film, but perhaps no one has realized this dream so intensely as Brian Selznick when he visited the set for the Nov. 23 release "Hugo," based on his 2007 book "The Invention of Hugo Cabret."

The film — director Martin Scorsese's first geared toward a young audience — was shot on a full-scale train station set built from scratch, directly inspired by Selznick's illustrations.


Micro-budget film is back with Joss Whedon’s Much Ado About Nothing

The history of micro-budget mainstream movies is a chequered one: for every Blair Witch Project there's a Birdemic: Shock and Terror, the famously inept 2010 homage to Hitchcock's The Birds which cost just $10,000 to make and featured horror scenes in which iffy CGI avians appeared to have been glued randomly onto the screen. The key to making a good film without spending much money seems to be in the scale: the first Paranormal Activity ($15,000) worked so brilliantly precisely because the major action utilised just a single camera setup, while Kevin Smith's Clerks ($27,000) was so tightly-focused on two adjacent New Jersey stores that one wondered where the money actually went.

Joss Whedon's forthcoming adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing looks, at first glance, like a pretty grand project. It's rare that the Bard's works find their way onto the big screen without millions being lavished on expensive location shoots, period costumes and A-list actors. Kenneth Branagh's 1993 take on the play was pretty cheap at just £8m – you can tell because there was clearly no money left over for to pay Keanu Reeves's accent coach. Michael Radford's The Merchant of Venice cost a respectable $30m in 2004.

Whedon hasn't revealed quite how much he spent on his latest film, but given it was shot in just 12 days on location at his Santa Monica home during a break from filming The Avengers, with a cast of Whedon regulars and in black and white, one suspects there will be few tears at the film-maker's local branch of Bank of America. A press release put out through Whedon's website speaks of "hilariously miniature paycheques" and a "DIY ethos". It all sounds delightfully distant from the usual Hollywood cash carousel.


16 zombie actors injured on new ‘Resident Evil’ movie set

Sixteen actors dressed as zombies were injured Tuesday when they fell from a platform during filming of a new movie in the "Resident Evil" series, officials said, and rescue workers at first were startled at the seemingly catastrophic scene.

"I could see the look on the first paramedic, saying 'Oh my God,'" Toronto emergency medical services Commander David Ralph said with a laugh.

Officials said none of the injuries were considered life-threatening, but that was far from apparent when rescue workers first arrived at what appeared to be a horrific scene. The victims' gory zombie costumes made it difficult for crews to assess the severity of the actors' injuries, said Peter Macintyre, Toronto emergency medical services spokesman.


Sony Unveils a DSLR Video Camera for Speed Demons

It seems like camera makers are bragging less about how many megapixels are on their sensors – which  is nearly useless as a measure of quality anyway — but are taking up a new selling point: speed.

And to get that speed in autofocus, the camera companies are advancing new technologies.  About a week ago Nikon announced it was producing the new 1 series of cameras, claiming to have the world’s fastest autofocus. It’s a claimSony disputed at its unveiling of the SLT A77 at Unique Photo in Fairfield, N.J., last Thursday, along with the mirrorless NEX-7 camera.

The Sony A77 is its new “enthusiast” camera, which is to say, at $2,000 with a 16-millimeter to 50-millimeter lens, it’s a bit expensive for the casual user.


Santa Fe welcomes world’s newest movie studio

This historic high mountain state capital and artistic enclave, long a favorite vacation and second home destination for celebrities, is expanding its star power this month with the opening of the world's newest movie studio.

But the development on 65 picturesque acres southeast of town is more than a warehouse with a few sound stages. It's also a sophisticated and uniquely Santa Fe-style operation that both its backers and competitors hope will help the state regain its stature as a leading alternative to Hollywood and New York for film makers.

Developed to resemble the pueblos of New Mexico's Chaco Canyon, Santa Fe Studios looks from the outside more like a luxury hotel than a traditional warehouse-style movie studio. Its amenities -- beyond its 360-degree mountain views and two 60-foot sound stages -- include plush offices and dressing rooms complete with terraces, access to electric cars and a special ultra-high-speed Internet network used by researchers at the nearby Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.


Cheap shots: Microbudget film-makers

Hollywood has always operated on the principle that more is more: each time the most expensive film ever made arrives in cinemas, budgetary extravagance becomes a major selling point. But 20 years ago, the US independent sector stumbled upon its own marketing equivalent: the microbudget. Suddenly it became apparent that a film's financial shortcomings could be exploited to its advantage.

In 1991, two films changed the landscape of indie cinema and the way in which it was sold. Richard Linklater's Slacker, which drops in on around 100 misfits and eccentrics during 24 hours in Austin, Texas, and Matty Rich's Straight Out of Brooklyn, a tale of young no-hopers in New York's housing projects, marked the start of a phenomenon – frugality as a marketing hook.



What Did Christian Bale and Terrence Malick Shoot in Austin This Weekend?

Not long ago, we heard that Terrence Malick has a new film brewing with Christian Bale. Almost nothing else was known about the project — no real story, no timeline, no other cast details. Over the weekend, we got what seems to be the best possible confirmation of this project as Malick and Bale were spotted all over the Austin City Limits music fest. A camera crew was following the two and actress Haley Bennett,recently said to be the frontrunner for the female lead. Malick was also photographed with camera in hand.


‘Drive’ Director Nicolas Winding Refn Talks Film Violence, Ryan Gosling, & ‘Logan’s Run’

With movies like Bronson and Valhalla Rising, Nicolas Winding Refn has proven himself to be one of the leading auteurs working in film today. In his latest film Drive, the Danish-born director continues to explore themes of masculinity and the nature of violence, pushing the limits of genre filmmaking and perhaps, finally launching him into mainstream recognition.

During a press tour in support of Drive (a first for the director),  I had the opportunity to talk with Refn about his unique style, his close working relationship with actor Ryan Gosling, and his future projects, including the remake of Logan’s Run.


Using animals in films leads to a jungle of issues

At the premiere of "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" last month, a clutch of impassioned animal activists gathered on Hollywood Boulevard. But they weren't there to throw red paint on fur-coat-wearing celebrities. Instead, one demonstrator — dressed in a full-body monkey suit — had arrived with a sign complimenting the filmmakers: "Thanks for not using real apes!"

The creative team behind "Apes" used motion-capture technology to create digitalized primates, spending tens of millions of dollars on technology that records an actor's performance and later layers it with computer graphics to create a final image — in this case, one of a realistic-looking ape.


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