An amazing ensemble cast has come together for gangster drama The Birthday Cake, the directorial debut of Jimmy Giannopoulos. The contained ‘day in the life’ plot centres around Gio (Shiloh Fernandez), the youngest footsoldier of an Italian American organised crime family who, as a tradition, continue to celebrate the birthday of their late patriarch. To mark the tenth anniversary of his passing, an extra special gathering is arranged, and Gio’s mother Sofia (Lorraine Bracco) assigns him the task of delivering the cake. He arrives to a warm reception from Angelo (Val Kilmer), Joey (John Magaro), Vito (Vincent Pastore), Ricardo (William Fichtner), and more. However, when it transpires that Leo (Emory Cohen) is missing, a chain of events is set in motion that reveal a dark secret from his past.Continue reading “Film review: The Birthday Cake”
When the novels of Stephen King are made for the big screen, the reactions are often mixed, even from the author himself. It’s been well publicised that he didn’t like Stanley Kubrick’s terrifying take on horror classic The Shining, so the pressure was always going to be high on whoever would adapt the long-awaited sequel.Continue reading “DVD review: Doctor Sleep”
Sequels to much loved movies often come with a degree of pressure, but none more so than T2 Trainspotting which picks up the stories of the iconic heroin addicts two decades after the cult classic original. Both the anticipation and trepidation around the release have been rife as Danny Boyle returns to the director’s chair for the project, which is loosely adapted from Irvine Welsh’s novel Porno. The plot sees Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) return to Edinburgh after betraying his friends all those years ago. Reuniting with Danny ‘Spud’ Murphy (Ewen Bremner) and Simon ‘Sick Boy’ Williamson (Jonny Lee Miller), he tries to move forward with his life. Meanwhile sociopathic Francis Begbie (Robert Carlyle) is out of prison and when he hears that Mark is back, he is bloodthirsty for revenge.
It’s not uncommon in cinema for actors to delve into directing, and the latest name to move behind the camera is Ewan McGregor. Adapting Philip Roth’s Pulitzer prize-winning novel of the same name, American Pastoral focuses on a political divide in late 1960s New Jersey that tears a family apart. McGregor also takes the film’s leading role, playing Seymour “Swede” Levov, a respected and successful glover that lives with his former beauty queen wife Dawn (Jennifer Connelly) and their troubled daughter Merry (Dakota Fanning). With the Vietnam War raging on, Merry’s radical views cause tensions to run high in their upper middle class household. A damaging explosion in their local town sends shockwaves through the community, and Merry mysteriously disappears.
Ewan McGregor’s movie career really kicked off in Edinburgh in the nineties, as it provided the setting for his work with director Danny Boyle on both Shallow Grave and Trainspotting. Since then, he has gone onto appear in Star Wars, Moulin Rouge!, Big Fish and many more, cementing his place as one of our finest exports. He returns to the capital to present family drama American Pastoral, adapted from Philip Roth’s award-winning novel of the same name. Directing for the first time as well as playing the leading role of Seymour ‘Swede’ Levov, he took to the red carpet at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse, and I was fortunate enough to attend.
Amidst the premiere buzz, he spoke passionately about the project to which he has been attached to for a number of years as an actor, but described directing as ‘a different ball game’ and an ‘incredible opportunity’. Because of the big budget and star-studded cast, he mentions that it feels like somebody’s second feature and excitedly states that he’d love to go back a step to make his ‘first’ film, possibly a small indie romance that would unfold in contemporary Scotland. As he gets moved along the packed media line by his entourage, I receive a signal that there is time for two questions only. I greet him and we shake hands, and I ask the following…
Being both director and leading actor in American Pastoral, how did your acting process change without having someone else there to offer direction and guidance?
“I think I really had to trust my instincts as I always do as an actor. In terms of doing takes on myself, I would just trust the feeling that I usually have when I’ve got it. You know, when you’re doing a series of takes I suppose you’re aiming for something or a certain feeling, and when I felt like I had that I would move on. When it starts to feel real, that is when its at its best.”
Which director that you’ve worked with has had the biggest influence on you as a filmmaker?
“It’s difficult to say! I think all of them do. There are lots of directors I’ve worked with that teach you what not to do, and then there’s those that teach you what to do! The truth is that I could mention three names of directors that I’ve loved working with, and they all work in entirely different ways. There’s no correct way to do it. It’s very much about who they are and their characters. I directed just the way I like to be directed, I suppose. I do believe that filmmaking is a collaboration, and I loved collaborating with the actors and the crew on American Pastoral.”
American Pastoral opens nationwide on Friday 11th November.
See the trailer:
Photograph by Filmhouse