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Manchurian Candidate, The (1962, 2004) [original and re-adaptation]

If you come in five minutes after this picture begins, you won't know what it's all about! When you've seen it all, you'll swear there's never been anything like it!

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Old Jul 8, 2006, 05:08 PM   #1
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The Manchurian Candidate: Remake Interviews

Denzel Washington

By Thomas Chau in New York City

Denzel Washington steps into a role once made famous by Old Blue Eyes as he stars in a remake of the 1962 political thriller, “The Manchurian Candidate.” Directed by Jonathan Demme, the thriller this time around takes place after the events of the Gulf War. Washington stars as Major Ben Marco, a veteran of the Gulf War. Marco relives the events of the war through nightmares and haunting visions, as he wonders just what exactly happened to him and his platoon. Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) was said to have saved Marco and his soldiers from the hands of the enemy – but did any of it really happen? Marco suspects that he and the surviving members of his platoon have been brainwashed and thus leads him to find out the truth as Raymond Shaw is nominated as the vice-president for a leading presidential candidate.

This was the second time I interviewed Washington in four months and like the first time, Washington maintained a lighthearted, jovial sense of humor during the session. Below is what Denzel had to say about this political thriller.

Q: Are you tired of people saying how great you are?

DENZEL: Am I tired of people saying I’m great? They may say that to you, but they don’t say that to me. I’m glad to hear it. No, I would not be tired of that. “Nice” “Great” Those are all good words. (Laughs) Where are we heading with this?

Q: What was it like to work with Jonathan again, because your role in “Philadelphia” wasn’t as strong as it is here?

DENZEL: I think my role’s actually smaller in this film. It might be. I didn’t do a page count. He was great. The material came to me first and I sat down with the producer, Scott Rudin, and he had a short list of directors he was interested in, and I had a shorter list… of one. And actually Jonathan’s name was the first on his list. So that took care of that. I’d looked forward to the opportunity since “Philadelphia” to work with Jonathan again.

Q: Did you see this movie as a science fiction film or a psychological thriller?

DENZEL: No, I never thought of it as science fiction. The one set we used that was real bizarre was sort of science fiction with all the tubes and things and choking, but that whole set which was supposed to be a dream — I got confused what it was, but it didn’t matter because anything goes. You could do anything in that scene. So I guess that was a bit science fiction.

Q: Would you say that the mass media nowadays serves as a disguised alternative to brainwashing?

DENZEL: Mind control and brainwashing is not big science fiction stuff. It’s your television set. It’s information. You know, people were running out and voting for [Richard] Gephardt because the papers said he was going to be the vice-residential candidate, so that’s mind control. Times Square is mind control. Nestle’s Crunch. I ate a bar because I saw the sign in Times Square!

Q: Did you go back to the original film to help with your performance?

DENZEL: I never saw it. My agent told me this was a remake of the original. I read the script. I loved the script, and knew I wanted to be in the film. That’s when I decided not to see it, because I didn’t want to be restricted. I didn’t want to come up with an idea and say, “Oh, they did that.” I wanted to be free to come up with whatever I came up with. I’m not against seeing it now.

Q: How eerie is it when a movie like this comes frightening close to reality, like “The Siege” after 9/11?

DENZEL: You know, I went down there to Ground Zero three nights after 9/11, and I decided to go in the middle of the night because I didn’t want to meet people or anything like that. I just drove down here and got out of the car and tried to get somebody to notice me, which I did, and I met a Marine. And he took me right on down to Ground Zero, and I met the night shift boss or whatever, and he took me all around. And I must have heard 30 or 40 times, “This ain’t ‘The Siege,’ eh Denzel? This ain’t ‘The Siege,’ is it?” And unfortunately, doing the research I did, a lot of what FBI guys and CIA guys were telling me was, “We’re not covering all the bases. We don’t have all the resources to keep (on top of everything). We’re catching one in three.” And I said, “How are we going to stop this?” And he said, “The public.”

Q: Meryl said that a script is the most important thing to her when selecting a project. Do you agree?

DENZEL: If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the page is an old saying. You know, I think script is first. It ought to be, or at the very least, a great idea is first.

Q: So it has nothing to do with who you work with?

DENZEL: You shouldn’t think that way. If it’s…I was about to say a movie by name! There were two great actors in it, but it didn’t help that they were both in it. That’s actually a couple of movies I’ve been in. (Laughs) But no, it’s got to be script first.

Q: Do you see yourself as a role model and if so, does that influence what kind of movies you do?

DENZEL: I don’t think so. I think people go to see the movies because the movies are good. They see you and then they give you a label. I don’t care what kind of role model somebody says I am. If I’m no good in the movie, people ain’t going.

Q: If you’re good enough in one film though, doesn’t it mean that people will go to see the next Denzel Washington movie?

DENZEL: But that doesn’t have anything to do with being a role model. I don’t care what people think. I choose my roles on what I want to do. You can’t do that. I’m serious about that. I don’t work from the outside in. Don’t get my roles mixed up with me. People don’t know me. They know the roles I play, and it’s two different things.
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Old Jul 8, 2006, 05:11 PM   #2
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Location: Planet Earth
Re: The Manchurian Candidate: Remake Interviews

Meryl Streep

By Thomas Chau in New York City

Back in November, I took a good friend of mine to the “Stuck on You” post-premiere party in New York. As soon as we found out that Meryl Streep was on the floor mingling with partygoers and fans, she made it a point that evening to try to find Meryl and say hello. It didn’t matter that Greg Kinnear was there, or Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, or even Taylor Hanson of the Hanson Brothers; Meryl was the primary focus of the night.

You see, one could recite the fact that Meryl Streep has been nominated 13 times for an Academy Award (and twice won the honor) and still not be able to convey fully how grand she is as a legend of the silver screen. From “Kramer vs. Kramer,” to “Sophie’s Choice,” to “Adaptation,” Meryl has aligned herself with some of the greatest works of film ever. But in addition to being a true master of her art, Meryl is quite exquisite and charming in person, as I found out at a recent press interview.

Meryl was in town to promote “The Manchurian Candidate,” which opens in theaters everywhere this weekend. The film, a remake of the 1962 thriller, stars Denzel Washington as Major Ben Marco, a veteran of the Gulf War. Marco relives the events of the war through nightmares and haunting visions, as he wonders just what exactly happened to him and his platoon. Sergeant Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber) was said to have saved Marco and his soldiers from the hands of the enemy – but did any of it really happen? Marco races to find out the truth as Raymond Shaw is nominated as the vice-president for a leading presidential candidate. Streep plays Senator Eleanor Shaw, Raymond’s domineering, over-zealous mother who will stop at nothing to get what she wants for herself, her son, and her political party.

Q: So why do a “Manchurian Candidate” remake? What attracted you to it?

MERYL: Oh my God, everything. Every element in it: Great director, fantastic cast, and a script that just read like gangbusters. I mean, it hasn’t really changed from the one that I read a year ago, or two years ago, or whenever it was. Things have gotten sort of rearranged a little bit to help the narrative, and things have been shortened, but it’s pretty much as I read it, which just blew me away. The introduction of this character is irresistible; how she comes in and kind of burns it up. I just loved it.

Q: What is your feeling about this woman? You play her more evil than Angela Lansbury did in the original and so did you see her as thoroughly evil?

MERYL: Not at all thoroughly evil. The first movie is pretty different from our movie, I think, to bottom. There’s paranoia in both films and there’s incest in both of them but there isn’t a lot of similarities, I don’t think. But I didn’t see her as evil. I think if you put a suit on her and gave her a penis, you’d accept her behavior in that first scene in fact as sort of admirable - how she comes in. It would be fantastic, but that kind of take-charge, aggressive, ambitious — all these things are admirable qualities in a man, but they’re very unattractive in a woman. So I don’t know. I’m a big opinionated woman and most of my friends are and I like people who are straightforward and show you who you are.

Q: But she wants to take over the country…

MERYL: Yeah, and it wasn’t her time. It wasn’t time to be a woman president. So she lives through her kid and pushes that kid

Q: Did you study Hilary Clinton to prepare for this role? We see some similarities…

MERYL: I don’t see anything of Hillary Clinton except maybe bangs or something. Her style is shared with quite a few people, but everyone mentions Hillary. I think because there’s a special venom reserved for people.

Q: What about Karen Hughes (former aide to President Bush)?



(EDITOR’S NOTE: Meryl screamed that so loud that it literally startled me. I was not the one who drew the Karen Hughes connection, but ironically, a reporter from another country.)

It’s Hilary that people go after. It’s so interesting. The politics of this character couldn’t be further than from her, but it’s Hilary people go after. It’s really interesting.

Q: You don’t think there’s any of Hilary in you? The hairstyle, the voice, the mannerisms…

MERYL: I think we read in what we want.

Q: It was reported that the film was recut and edited in order to make you look less like Hilary. Is that true?

MERYL: You should go and search out that story, because I did yesterday. I was in an interview with Katie Couric and she mentioned it. It’s easy to find. Go onto Google and you can find who this is. You would not want to be associated with this person. It’s a crazy person who has a website in Los Angeles and every reporter mentioned it. Go there. I think it’s a website called ‘Death to Liberals.’ Now this is your source. This is somebody who has an agenda to attack Hillary Clinton.

Q: What were your conversations like with [director] Jonathan Demme about this character?

MERYL: We both shared an admiration for this kind of person, this kind of person who’s kind of bursting with intelligence, ambition, a clear idea of how to move the country forward, but she’s thwarted. I’m thinking from inside the character’s head. I thought she was sort of delicious on many levels. She was funny and engaging. She went over the line with her son, and that’s the problem.

Q: What ultimately drives Senator Shaw? Is it her ideology?

MERYL: I think she thinks she’s patriotic, deeply patriotic. She is someone who is a believer. It goes to the core of her being and she is sure. There’s no neurosis about her. And that made her an interesting character for me because I play people who are sort of torn by contradictory emotions, and Ellie really isn’t. She’s a fundamentalist ideologue in the way that people maybe are forced to be in politics, because otherwise you’re perceived as weak.

Q: Is “Lemony Snicket” a movie you do yourself or for your kids?

MERYL: That I did for me because I wanted to act with Jim Carrey!

Q: How was working with Jim Carrey?

MERYL: He was wonderful. He’s so funny, deeply, deeply funny and generous and interesting. He’s an interesting person, so I had a really good time.

Q: Is it the biggest set you’ve ever worked on?

MERYL: It was a big, big shoot, all inside, elaborate sets, the most amazing sets I’ve ever seen. And I’m not just saying that. They took the place where they land the shuttle in Downey, California and had huge hangers and inside them they built a forced perspective set. You know what that is — it was a railroad track and it was a 360 set. No matter where you looked, it looked like it stretched out for a hundred miles in every direction. And it was so beautifully done, you really could not tell until a stagehand stood up at the wall and saw that pine trees were coming up to his knee. Really beautiful sets and I think will be really exciting cause it’s so imaginatively rendered.

Q: At this point of your career, is director, script, or other actors the most important issue for you?

MERYL: Script. Why? Because you’re dead without the script. To me, I have to know that I can connect with something and that I’ve got a strong confidence at least in what this director is sending out — and his idea. Because that’s his emissary — the script is telling you a lot. You can sit in a meeting and have somebody say I’ve got a great movie and — I just — that’s where I come from.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you considered yourself a very opinionated person. What are the issues most important to you?

MERYL: Preserving the bill of rights and our hard-won freedom. Getting money out of the process. All the networks should cede a certain amount of time, gratis, and not just the networks, all the cable systems, everybody, and the country should be taken over for several weeks before an election, free, and everybody watch and hear the candidates, and get all the money out and get rid of these lobbyists. That’s MY point of view. That’s what I think is ruining everything — that whoever has the most money gets the most say. That’s not right.
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