Director Kevin Smith on heart attack, happiness, extreme weight loss- and Weinstein

The director and actor talks about his near-death experience, becoming vegan and the star-studded reboot of the movie that first constructed him famous 25 years ago

In February last year, Kevin Smith performed 90 minutes of standup for a TV special, padded back to the green room and started to worry that the joint he had smoked before the prove was too strong. He was sweaty and nauseous, which was not entirely out of the ordinary. But after he lay down on the tile floor and vomited, he was rushed to hospital, where a doctor broke the news that Smith was having a massive heart attack.

Smith stayed calm. Honestly, he tells me, as we are talking here at his Hollywood Hills home, he was still stoned. On learning that he might die, he says:” I was like:’ I’m going to make peace with this right away .’ You did way more than you ever set out to do, you got to do some cool shit, and if it’s done, it’s done .”

For 25 years, Smith, a director and actor as well as a comedian, has grappled with his own dumb luck. In 1994, his debut movie, Clerks, a raunchy comedy about the convenience store where he worked, was a hit with Sundance audiences charmed by Smith’s on-screen appearance, as a slacker known as Silent Bob, and his behind-the-scenes tales of selling cigarettes during the day and shooting the movie at night. Made for just $25,575, Clerks was funded by credit cards and favors from friends, some of whom even had components in the film: Brian O’Halloran, for instance, plays Dante Hicks and delivers the catchphrase,” I’m not even supposed to be here today !” and Smith’s middle-school chum Jason Mewes, who agreed to play Jay, the talkative half of Jay and Silent Bob( Smith ), two friendly morons with flashes of grandeur. Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax buy Clerks and, as its publicists had done with Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, turned the filthy-mouthed former altar boy, the 24 -year-old son of a New Jersey postal worker, into a star.

” I’ve been living on that one trick for a long time ,” admits Smith.” Like, come on, that movie was cute- but 25 years on the back of one black-and-white movie ?” Lighting a branded Jay& Silent Bob joint with his face on the packaging, he describes that Sundance wunderkind as if he were someone else.

” I love that guy. I don’t understand why he had the confidence. I think he was undereducated. I was never ambitious. I think that was a fluke .”

A fluke that became the cornerstone of his future, of his gorgeous three-story house decorated with memories: a table-top football game inspired by the roof hockey in Clerks, iron fireplace statues of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in Dogma, a walrus ceramic that nods to his screwball gothic Tusk, crayon sketches, movie posters and souvenirs from the live stage monologues in which Smith extemporises on everything from phone chats with Bruce Willis to his dog’s genitalia.( He has sold out Carnegie Hall .) The upstairs living room is dominated by a collage celebrating his 20 -year marriage to Jennifer Schwalbach. Squint, and you can find his first email to his future bride:” You’d be surprised how many Schwalbachs there are in the phonebook …”

” The home is a me -seum that highlightings the accomplishments of Kevin Smith ,” he jokes. When he looks around, he is reminded of everything he did that he never expected to do.” That’s why, when I almost dropped dead, I was OK with it ,” he says.” Most days I’m like:’ Oh, I probably did die on the table and this is heaven .'”

Brian
Brian O’Halloran and Jeff Anderson in Kevin Smith’s 1994 film Clerks. Photograph: Allstar/ Miramax

Back to that operating room. The doctor asked if the Smiths had a history of heart disease? No, replied Smith. Only that his father died of a massive heart attack- and that his mother, who is still alive, had stents inserted in her arteries after her heart stopped for a full minute, during which she claims to have ensure his deceased papa and grandmother.” She was probably pumped on fentanyl when she saw heaven ,” Smith chuckles,” so I don’t know if I want to invest in that.

” I was a fat kid ,” he continues. At 14, he joined Weight Watchers, but felt awkward being the only teenage boy and left after a month. As the third child of parents who were strapped for fund and day, the only health food he saw was tinned spinach.” That’s why I don’t like veggies .”

When he earned money to buy his own snacks, he devoured “low-fat” cookies not realising they were packed with sugar.” Oh, I fell for everything is ,” he says. The biggest impediment, however, was mental. Over the years, he had espoused his weight, turning fat jokes from a problem to a comedic intent.” The key early on was realising if I make fun of myself for this, then somebody else can’t. One day you think:’ I could be funny for a living .'”

He marketed himself as a character- the happy schlub in a hockey jersey- and literally became a cartoon, as Clerks ran from indie movie to comic book to sequels to animated series. Success, Smith notes, gave him an extra padding of protection.

” For years, people were just like:’ Hey, big guy !’ And I was like, I am the big guy, aren’t I ?” says Smith.” Nobody ever says: ‘ Hey, fat-ass !’”

At his heaviest, Smith, who is 5ft 9in, weighed 23 st 8lb( 150 kg ). About a decade ago he was escorted off a plane for being unable to squeeze into one seat. The story constructed headlines around the world, and internet trolls were merciless. For the first time, Smith felt naked.” Abruptly, I was like:’ They know I’m fat’- I thought I was hiding it !”

For a while, he swaggered through his insecurities, titling that year’s live show Too Fat for 40, then launching the podcast Fat Man on Batman and publishing a memoir called Tough Sh* t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good. But he also quit sugar, an experience he likens to withdrawing from heroin.

Finally, the craving for desserts stopped and 5st melted away. An hour before his heart attack, Smith had been boasting on stage about falling five lingerie sizes from 5XL to XL.

” I would have thought I was in fairly decent shape that night ,” he says.” But now it’s weird to look at me and go:’ Jesus, did I know I was that unhealthy? Or did I only not care ?'”

Since then, he has lost almost another 6st by going vegan, at the insisting of his 20 -year-old daughter, Harley Quinn. Most days, he fasts until midday, then grabs vegan nachos from his favourite fast food joint. He has stocked a two-foot-wide snack bowl with crunchy chickpeas and vegetable whiffs in case he gets the munchies.” Treats galore !” he grins.

Now his bridal ring wobbles when Smith waves his hands .. The first time he realised he was too skinny for the Big and Tall clothing store, he nearly cried. His purple sports coat sags on his shoulders, but he worries that if he has it taken in to fit his new frame, he will jinx himself and regain the weight he has lost. Part of him still can’t help crediting luck over attempt. He did, however, give away all his signature hockey jerseys.” I started seeming weird in their own homes ,” says Smith. Although, he adds:” People were like:’ You seemed weird the whole time .'”

Jason
Jason Lee, Jason Mewes and Kevin Smith in the 2001 film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Photograph: Allstar/ View Askew Productions

This year has been surreal. Smith posed for a photo shoot for Men’s Health magazine.” Somebody told me online:’ You’re like a Walmart Robert Downey Jr ,'” says Smith.” I’ll take that !” A website theft his painting to hawk diet pills.

Last month, he and Mewes were invited to put their handprints in the cement outside the legendary Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. Smith brought his father’s ashes to the ceremony. Forty years ago, on a family vacation, his papa had offhandedly told him he might be here some day. Now he was. Smith ground an urn publish into the wet pavement.

In his new film, Jay& Silent Bob Reboot, Jay and Silent Bob are still where he left them in 2006′ s Clerk 2, loitering outside the Quick Stop, although the video rental shop next to the Quick Stop has been supplanted by a Redbox kiosk.” The world has moved on ,” says Smith. As for Jay and Silent Bob , now visibly in their 40 s, they are out-of-touch apolitical white males.” We needed to introduce them to’ this is woke culture ‘.”

Smith chose the one-year anniversary of his heart attack for his first day of filming.” It’s not macabre ,” he laughter,” It’s a’ fuck off’ to demise !” The movie procures the pair trekking, again, from New Jersey to California to fight for the cinema rights for their fictional resemblances Bluntman and Chronic, as they did in 2001′ s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

The script is a greatest hits of inside jokes. Smith settled on calling it a reboot, which one character explains, is when” they take a flick you loved as a kid and add youth and diversity to it “. That is exactly what Smith has done, recasting the movie with a pro-LGBTQ anti-Nazi and hiring Harley Quinn to play the leader of a pack of rebellious vegan girls.

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Smith at home in Los Angeles Photograph: Jessica Pons/ The Guardian

” This is the most bloated and self-indulgent movie anyone’s ever produce, and I might get away with it because of the heart attack ,” he giggles. As for his star-studded cast, which includes Damon and Affleck, plus Chris Hemsworth, Rosario Dawson, Fred Armisen, Craig Robinson, Val Kilmer, Tommy Chong and rappers Method Man and Redman, he jokes that, apart from Affleck, most of them probably depicted up out of guilt.” Affleck was like:’ I didn’t even is understood the heart attack .'” Smith pauses.” I don’t know how I feel about that .”

Smith doesn’t agree with the Joker director Todd Phillips’ insisting that awake culture has destroyed comedy.” I don’t feel that way because I always punch in ,” he says. Jokes that punch down are” only boring “. But as he is punching in, the tenderest bruise is why he has not tried harder to direct serious comic book movies when he is famous for taking comic books seriously. The other film-makers in his indie clique- Tarantino, Rodriguez and Richard Linklater- made good-looking movies when they won bigger budgets.” Whereas me, I could do cheap, and then people gave me real money and they’re like:’ It appears cheap.’

” Every once in a while, I wonder if I should have done better ?” he says.” If you simply concentrated on the thing that brought you into the conversation, directing, would you be better now ?”

The indie wave he helped to inspire has become a tsunami.” If I started my career now, you might not hear about me ,” Smith says.” I couldn’t break through this noise .” To sell tickets to Jay& Silent Bob Reboot, Smith will tour with the cinema for five months offering audiences a post-screening chat that tends to climax to an inspirational sermon about how if he made it, anyone can. His biography- not his cinemas- is becoming his legacy.

” Maybe I’ll just become one with the art where Kevin Smith is no longer an individual, he’s just a concept of these series of movies. Until people are like,’ Who is Kevin Smith ?’ because they don’t watch movies any more- but that’s what the handprints are about .”

The weed he has been smoking during the interview has definitely kicked in. Yet he assures his career with clarity.

” I don’t think I’m a film-maker ,” says Smith.” I think I’m a salesman. I could sell you Kevin Smith all day. Not a lot of people are buying any more, but enough are where I still get to do this .”

Two years ago, he got a call from the man who launched his fame: Weinstein. They hadn’t spoken for about 10 years, after falling out over the marketing for their final film together, Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Weinstein indicated they partner on a sequel to Dogma. Smith was thrilled.” Hopefully people understand, but get that bellow meant the world. I felt like:’ Oh, he recollected me .'”

A week later, the first article about Weinstein’s sexual assaults broke.” All I knew was that he was a philanderer, he cheated on his wife ,” says Smith. Of course, he realised that Weinstein didn’t care about Dogma, or him.

” He was circling his wagons ,” says Smith.” I am not a victim here. But I felt employed a little bit .” Days later, to help the real victims- the women whose dreams Weinstein crushed- Smith pledged his future residuals from the movies Weinstein created to the non-profit Women in Film.

” If you’d gone back in time and told that kid:’ This is all you’ll do, but it will be connected to a person who does all of this to all these people ,’ I definitely wouldn’t have done it ,” says Smith.” I was way too Christian .” Smith is no longer religious( Dogma, he claims, rescinded his invitation to heaven ), but he still seems guided by guilt, obligation and gratitude.” Career-wise, I always was almost like I was playing on house money ,” says Smith.” Now life-wise, this is just a bonus because it was supposed to end in that emergency room .”

To him, his own Clerks catchphrase-” I’m not even supposed to be here today”- now echoes even louder.” Let’s be honest ,” says Smith.” We’re all insanely luck to be here. I’m just insanely lucky I get to stick around a little longer .”

Jay& Silent Bob Reboot is out on 29 November

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Booksmart star Beanie Feldstein:’ Everyone said we didn’t belong in LA’

She was Lady Birds best friend and her brother Jonah Hill got a tattoo in her honor meet the sparky starring of the summer months wildest high school comedy

Beanie Feldstein is eating ice-cream in a red dress that is as bright as strawberry sauce.” This is one of the coolest things I’ve ever worn ?” she says, her inflection rising at the end, as it often does, giving even her most confident affirmations an equivocal note. The 25 -year-old star of Lady Bird, Bad Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising and the new movie Booksmart is giggly and amiable. Within seconds of me spotting that her ice-cream is vegan (” I’m allergic to dairy ?”), she is recommending vegan bakeries in hipster enclaves of the UK capital that a visit Californian might not be expected to know about.” London is like my second home ,” she trills. A glance at her Instagram feed proves that she is certainly well-acquainted with the area around the Palace theatre, where Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is playing.

” I’m such a Harry Potter nut. My friends in college would be partying, and I’d be, like:’ Uh, I’m gonna go home and read some Harry Potter .'”

I remind her that her brother Jonah Hill, 10 years her senior, came up with a decent Harry Potter gag in the film Funny People: after consider the latest instalment, he complains that the actors are now so old that it should be called Harold Potter.” Oh, I don’t remember that! I love it .” One of her favourites of his is 22 Jump Street.” He wrote a joke in it for me. When he’s doing the stroll of disgrace across campus in the morning, carrying his shoes the route a girl would carry her heels, and he says: ‘I merely wanna get into my bed and watch Friends .'” She lets out a delighted squeal.” Which is literally all I ever say .”

Booksmart.

Feldstein is every bit as funny as her friend, and could be on her way to being just as well known. No one who saw Greta Gerwig’s sharp and snappy Lady Bird could have helped feeling protective toward Feldstein as Julie, the title character’s dopey and devoted best friend. Lady Bird’s allegiances fluctuated, but Julie remained steadfast; Feldstein’s reward was to have complete strangers informed her they wanted her to be their best friend, too.” That was my dream scenario because I’m so preoccupied with all my best friends and I love being cosy with everyone .” Her terms run together in an excitable torrent with no gaps in between.

She has recently been a regular, alongside British comics such as Kayvan Novak, Matt Berry and Natasia Demetriou, in the Tv spin-off of the vampire comedy What We Do in the Shadows. And later this year she will be seen with Paddy Considine and Emma Thompson in the film version of Caitlin Moran’s autobiographical novel How to Build a Girl. First, though, comes Booksmart, a high-school comedy that is as finely detailed as Lady Bird- and also marks the directorial debut of another performer, Olivia Wilde- but with a more rambunctious energy, combustible where Lady Bird was clipped.” Olivia pitched the film as Training Day for high school ,” she says.” The stakes are so high it feels like war .” Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever play Molly and Amy, a pair of work-hard, play-soft educators’ pets who discover too late that they could have had it all- the hedonism as well as the -Agrades. On the eve of leaving high school, they trench their plans to watch the latest Ken Burns documentary in favour of going berserk at last and experiencing, as Molly puts it,” a seminal fun anecdote “. Hilarity and vomiting ensues.

Saoirse
Saoirse Ronan with Feldstein in Lady Bird. Photograph: Allstar/ A24

I wonder how Julie from Lady Bird would have got on with Molly from Booksmart.” Julie is such a sweet, kind, devoting spirit. Molly would eat her alive. She would just be, like, flick !- and then flick her across the room, even though they somehow have the same face. It was such a different character for me to play because she is so unrelenting in a way I find quite inspirational, while also being sort of prickly. And she is very guarded, which I am not. Maybe I should be. I’m such an open book .”

It’s hard not to adore Molly when she carefully inserts missing apostrophes into the graffiti in the toilet stalls. Would Feldstein have been writing graffiti or correcting it?” Correcting, for sure. I’m such a rule-follower. Although I do feel I’m not totally a Molly. I’m more like George .” He is the fastidious and dapper drama fanatic, played by Noah Galvin, who throws his own murder mystery parties. At the age of three, Feldstein- bear Elizabeth, but nicknamed Beanie by a nanny- had a Funny Girl birthday bash; the theme of her batmitzvah was vintage New York. Although she grew up on the west coast, in LA’s affluent Cheviot Hills neighbourhood( former residents: Lucille Ball, Buster Keaton, Agnes Moorhead ), her mothers are New Yorkers, who swept her off to Broadway presents whenever they were back east. Her father has been a tour accountant for Guns N’ Roses and business administrator for Madonna, while her mother is a costume designer.” We stuck out like sore thumbs in LA. My mom has this thick Long Island accent. Do you know the Yiddish word ‘geshrai ‘? It entails’ to exclaim aloud ‘. She’s always geshrai-ing. Everyone was, like:’ You guys don’t belong .'” I must appear alarmed because she rushes to clarify:” I mean, we weren’t tanned, and we didn’t go to the beach .”

Kaitlyn
Kaitlyn Dever with Feldstein in Booksmart. Photograph: Francois Duhamel/ Annapurna Pictures

Her eldest brother, Jordan, was also in the entertainment industry: he managed Maroon 5, but died in 2017 at the age of 40 from a pulmonary thromboembolism. Feldstein wrote a touching piece a year later about coping with his death- considering the world now through” grief glasses “. And she turned to the thinkpiece format again in Please Stop Complimenting Me on My Body, in which she conveyed inconvenience with the approving reactions she received after unknowingly losing weight during an exhausting year-long Broadway run in Hello, Dolly! alongside Bette Midler. Throughout her childhood, she was told she was too big; only in college did she learn to love her body.” After years of pain ,” she wrote,” I had finally saw such a beautiful peace, one that most people , no matter what size they are, don’t have. And all of those’ compliments’ take that away from me. After years of ultimately not feeling judged by myself or others, all of a sudden I felt so considered .”

It is her middle brother, she says, who has taught her to have confidence in her own opinions.” The biggest thing I’ve learned from Jonah is to value my own voice. I’m such an opinionated person in my private life, and he fosters me to be opinionated in my work life, too .” Story of sibling rivalry and discord are conspicuous by their absence. To celebrate his sister’s appearance in Hello, Dolly !, Hill even had the message” Hello, Beanie !” tattooed on his forearm.” He told me he was going to do it and I just said:’ Ha-ha .’ Then he came in with it and- oh my God, it takes up most of his arm !” Will she reciprocate?” I wholly would have done, except I’m allergic to everything. But I have a sticker of him on my luggage. Does that counting? Me at luggage claim:’ Um, that’s my bag with my brother’s face on it, can I simply, um- excuse me- pardon me .'”

While he was directing his first movie, Mid9 0s, she was in the UK’s Midlands shooting How to Build a Girl. She had the advantage of never having find or heard Moran when she read the script, leaving her liberated from doing any sort of impersonation of her as Johanna, a misfit on her way to becoming a music journalist.” That was such a benefit. And Johanna is only a fictionalised version of Caitlin. The story is true-ish, that’s what we’re saying .” Nor was she familiar with Wolverhampton.” None of my London friends even knew where it was. But now I’ve got such love for the people there. They were so welcoming. I worked for three weeks in Shop in the Square, this feminist utopia in the middle of Wolverhampton. Six hours a day, I was ringing things up, serving clients, working on my accent. And I pulled a pint at the local saloon! I felt like the mayor of Wolverhampton .” Now she is pining for British colloquialisms.” I love that word ‘knackered ‘. I really miss it. If it’s hear among future generations of Americans, you’ll know it’s because of me .”

Booksmart is released in the UK on Monday. How to Build a Girl opens later this year

Read more: www.theguardian.com

A superstar is reborn: what we can learn from actor turned director debuts

As Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill step behind the camera for A Star is Born and Mid9 0s, how do their cinemas is beneficial for their -Alist status?

A critic will often watch a director’s first film with one eye on what is and one on what might be. For novice feature film-makers, a debut doubles as a diagnostic, an opportunity to show potential as much as present ability. Because first-timers often have to work within constricting parameters- a finite budget, a caliber of performers commensurate with that budget, limited access to the resources of a studio- spectators will give a little leeway in the understanding that they’re watching the movie the director was able to attain until he or she gets the green light to induce the movie they truly wantto.

Such is not the case with a pair of new releases from untested talents in theaters this month. Bradley Cooper and Jonah Hill have both stimulated new forays into feature directing with the latest remake of A Star Is Born and the coming-of-age drama Mid9 0s, respectively, and their celebrity affords them luxuries unavailable to most film-makers starting out. While shooting, Cooper leveraged his profile and connections to sneak onstage at the Coachella and Glastonbury music festivals, infiltrate the Grammys, and poke around Saturday Night Live’s studio with” guest host” Alec Baldwin. Hill licensed a treasure trove of music that can’t have come cheap, from Herbie Hancock’s funk standard Watermelon Man to the Pixies’ alt-classic Wave of Mutilation to the Smiths cut pre-approved by his pal Morrissey. In either occurrence, the production was the realization of a dream long held by its creator, a true passion project straight out of the gate.

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A still from Mid9 0s. Photo: A24

It’s a curious phenomenon, when resources and permissions usually reserved for seasoned pros are afforded to artists at the novice level.( Both Hill and Cooper give the Steadicam a workout, but don’t quite know where to take it .) The resultant odd pairing of highly professional polish with developing ability is just one of the qualities of the novice actor-director, a specific breed of cineaste with a consistent set of virtues of imperfections. A handful of recent attempts have brought the type into sharper relief, and started to chip away at- though by no means entirely overwriting- the image of the preening thespian who utters those dreaded terms:” But what I truly want to do is direct .”

The public presumes a certain measure of vanity when an actor get behind the camera, a faith proven incorrect as frequently as it’s proven right. In some instances, the whiff of ego isn’t quite so faint; Ewan McGregor must have been feeling pretty good when he offered to not only dip his toe into film-making with an adaptation of heavy literary hitter Philip Roth, but to assay a neurotic Jewish businessman as a born-and-bred Scotsman. After years of salty-mouthed comedy, Hill is on a crusade to be taken seriously, donning the artiste ‘ s de facto uniform of blocky glasses and all-black ensemble. Many critics scoffed at Cooper’s decision to cast himself as a rock superstar who romances a girl played by world’s second-biggest pop starring because the biggest pop starring was busy.

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Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga in A Star is Born. Photograph: Lilo/ Sipa/ Rex/ Shutterstock

On the flip side, performers aren’t afraid to put their own skin in video games. They tend to counteract charges of narcissism by splaying their innermost vulnerabilities onscreen for public perusal, whether that’s Cooper reckoning with his own demonsin a scene of no-punches-pulled humiliation or Hill groups together an extra-textual zine to foster his wounded inner child. Jordan Peele’s feature debut Get Out( which sidestepped many pitfalls of the actor-directed project, due perhaps to Peele’s time spent honing his craft on the situated of his television present with Keegan-Michael Key) inflated the social hazards of interracial relationshipsto B-movie mayhem.

It’s not for nothing that the long take, a medium-to-close shot holding on a performer’s face and letting them do their stuff, is the favored implement in any multi-hyphenate’s toolbox. From Hill and Cooper to the more accomplished ranks of Paul Dano( who shows tremendous promise with this year’s Wildlife) and Angelina Jolie, performers place a lot of trust in performers, sometimes to a fault. Not everyone has the chops to hold their own while delivering a monologue without anyone or any edits to hide behind, but the actor-director’s code states that everyone at least deserves a chance to try. Cooper and Hill care about their characters more than any audience could possibly is expected to be, and the open-hearted empathy can be a wonder all its own.

What these cinemas sometimes lack in technological proficiency, they attempt to make up in passion, research results being occasionally amateurish work with a titanic emotional scale and the industry firepower to back it up. Like performers themselves, they want nothing more than to be loved.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

My period with Carrie Fisher, a hurricane of energy, charisma and foul language

From opening up about her bipolar disorder and desire for a boyfriend to lavishing love on her mother, Debbie Reynolds, Carrie was always honest, funny and open. No wonder emails are still arriving for her, two days after her death

About a year ago I approached Carrie Fisher to write a column for the Guardian. With other -Alisters, its all too common to be rebuffed by several layers of management, publicists and protective naysayers. But somehow all too easily I observed myself with an invited to her house in Beverly Hills.

And what a house it is. Huge neon arrows and signs hang from trees in the driveway. It wasnt Christmas, but a fully lighted tree was the centrepiece of her living room( it was there year-round ). A giant moose head with a fez hung above the hearth; snow globes illustrating macabre slaying scenes decorated the shelves and, outside in the garden, next to a life-size Leia stepping out of a British telephone box, was the back end of a lion attached to the wall, its raised tail revealing giant cat balls.

Carrie was delayed, having spent the morning looking after her mum, Debbie Reynolds, whose house is on the same grounds: a big Debbie made of light-bulbs pointed the best way to her property in their shared driveway. Reynolds had suffered two strokes; she and her daughter find each other nearly every day. When Carrie ultimately appeared, she told me that Debbie, on hearing they had a visitor, had assumed I was there to speak to her, as Hollywood royalty, and declared: I cant see anyone. Her daughter had kept up the fiction.

I had been expecting maybe an hour of her time, but somehow we aimed up spending the entire day together: I was pressed to drink bottles of wine she had picked for their rude or amusing names( she didnt beverage saying she couldnt trust her addictive personality ). We shopped, ate homemade banana pudding out of the dish and plotted how we were going to get her a boyfriend( her passion for companionship and sex were to become a running theme ).

We began chatting in her bedroom, the walls and ceilings decorated by projections of fluttering butterflies. Gary her French bulldog, whose tongue steadfastly refuses to stay in his mouth lay snoring next to a Gary-themed gift director JJ Abrams had presented to Carrie at the wrap party for Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The film had just been released, and Carrie had quickly become everyones favourite part of the promotional tour. She shot down anyone who requested information about her weight loss for the role and had only asked, via Twitter, for everyone to stop debating whether or not she had aged well as it hurt all three of my feelings.

Like everything Carrie said or did, that tweet uncovered a truth she told me she hated the style she looked in that cinema and suddenly, unexpectedly, she was in tears.

Minutes afterward she was in high spirits, plotting to tweet an old photo she had unearthed from the first situated of Star Wars in which she was cupping C-3POs balls. This is going to get me in trouble with the people at Disney, she said, while I held the pic steady and she snapped, but I dont care.

She revealed that the resurrection of the franchise had been a huge financial boost she had agreed to the teeniest-tiniest percentage of percentage points of percentage points of the backend earnings and knew she never had to worry about fund again.

And she was beyond generous. She thrust presents on her staff and insisted we ran shopping to discovery gifts for her mum, daughter and others.( When we eventually got around to talking about the column she asked to be paid in fun presents rather than money an idea her agent sadly nixed when it was up and running .)

I was gone so long that my husband texted to see if I was OK, in response to which she sent a video of herself riffing about how she was going to do bad things to me and make me vote for Donald Trump in the upcoming election.

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Carrie Fisher in her kitchen. Photo: Merope Mills for the Guardian

In every store we went into she was a hurricane of energy and charisma and foul language and she was instantly loved. She swore loudly at the shop assistants that didnt have the particular sun she sought in stock and giggled hysterically at a bed we ensure that was priced at over $100,000 then built me pose comic-seductively across it while she took photos. The staff all took it in their stride.

The column cast Carrie as an agony aunt and was a huge hit, but get it out of her was like pulling teeth. She was in such high demand filming Star Wars, the hit TV comedy series Catastrophe and writing a volume I often didnt hear from her for weeks on end. Then abruptly, out of the blue, my phone would buzz multiple times.

Im a giant asshole. Its official.

Ill try to make it up to u.

If it takes all our sad, exciting lives.

Its Carrie F gunning for contact.

Will wait breathlessly and nude.

I read every problem she was emailed for the column, and a running theme was what an inspiration she was to so many people living with mental illness: the inbox piled up with the young, the old, the depressed and bipolar, all thanking her for how open she was about her own ailment.

Recently, Carrie was interviewed by my colleague Simon Hattenstone and talked about how she hoped to find a boyfriend, relaying to Simon, as she did to me, how she wanted a British professor who will be able to put up with me, so you can put the word out. Good sense of humour, intelligent , not hideously unattractive, and sort of confident without being arrogant.

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Tom Hiddleston, Carrie Fisher and Guardian editors at the 2016 White House Correspondents dinner. Photo: Twitter

Shortly afterwards, a Guardian reader wrote to offer himself as a potential suitor and I forwarded his message to her. She called me back to say she would fulfill him. She was impressed he had set himself forward, because Im not the kind of person you read an interview with and think: I want to date her.

Carrie asked me to visit her in London before she flew back to LA just before Christmas; I couldnt. It was on that flight that she had a heart attack.

We spoke two weeks before her death and she was in high spirits funny, honest, open, without artifice. She talked at length about how much she liked her daughters new boyfriend and how proud she was of her. Carrie had just bought a house in London and wanted to spend more time in the UK but knew that she couldnt leave her mum alone in LA. When she joined the Guardian as a guest for Barack Obamas final White House Correspondents dinner the last thing she did before leaving the taxi was call Reynolds. Mommy, I love you, she said.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Sex, suicide, torture: are arthouse movies genuinely so sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard

Despite their image, many of todays highbrow movies are merely the cinematic equivalent of exploding fireworks

North Korea is not a regime whose selections one is generally eager to endorse. Yet my compassions were with that country at the start of the year, when its New Years Eve firework showing was universally pooh-poohed. Whats with all the flash, cackled other nations. You call that a spectacle, scoffed Sydney, merrily illuminating the fuse on 4m-worth of sparklers.

Fireworks can, obviously, be spectacular. Their culture origins in seventh-century China, where they were intended to scare off evil spirits, are to be respected. And yet an understated showing Pyongyang ran for sporadic bangs with synth soundtrack is not something to dismiss. Rather, one goggles at the hubris elsewhere, where millions in public funds are sent up in smoke; this at a time of spiralling homelessness, massive spending cuts and instructions that we all mug up on first aid lest we fall victim to rather more malevolent blasts.

Everyone already knows that fireworks are fantastically dangerous( this 31 December there was a fatality in Hawaii, there were mass casualties in Malaysia, and rocket assaults in Hamburg and Malm ); that they are enormously polluting( in Munich, revellers bathed in an atmosphere that had 26 times more sooty particulates than the EUs recommended safe limit ); and that they frighten animals, children, the frail and indeed anyone who isnt lucky enough to be able to sit unblinking through an endless loading of explosions.

But fireworks are also, Id argue shock value aside quite boring. At least if they dont carry special spiritual import for you, or if youre over the age of two, or after the first 10 seconds or so. Rather, they seem to be a throwback to a time when suns in the sky were a significant distraction. When a night of bonfire tales was the nearest you could get to bingeing on a box defined. Before amusement had, for better or worse, evolved. Thats why Ive never been especially desperate to find a display through to its climax. Theres merely so many oohs you can manage before “youre starting” thinking about your shopping.

We live in an age uncertain about its level of primitivism. Liberals bemoan a resurfacing of basic intolerance. The world is going backwards, they fret. Kneejerk anxieties have quashed reasoned debate. Yet liberals are people too and, as such, just as susceptible to the primal pulls. They too embrace fireworks one thing going for them is their egalitarianism.

And when it comes to more contemporary forms of amusement, they too are animals at heart. The likes of The Girl on the Train and the fictions of Katie Price are belittled as litter, but in fact this seasons most acclaimed arthouse movies also rely on some fairly tabloid drives.

JACKIE
Natalie Portman in Jackie, a movie whose chief sell has a lot to do with watching someone wash famous brains off their frock. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Take Jackie, Pablo Larrans biopic of the first lady in the aftermath of JFKs assassination. It is a brilliant, moving examination of sorrow and national fairytales, with a central performance by Natalie Portman that will win her the Oscar. It is another movie whose chief sell has a lot to do with watching someone wash famous brains off their frock.

Likewise, Sundance sensation Christine offers an intriguing look at the machinations of a regional news outfit in 1974, with an intense central turn by Rebecca Hall as a woman combating mental illness. Its hooking, though similarly that of a documentary released on the same subject last year is that its about a real-life newsreader who committed suicide live their lives air.

Much of the publicity, as well as buzz, around Silence, Martin Scorseses latest movie, boils down to the extreme weight loss of its superstars and actually yucky forms of torture suffered by their characters. Even Moonlight, Barry Jenkins drama about a bullied gay man at three stages of his life which has been universally championed by right-thinking cineastes cant fully duck accusations of titillation. It is beautifully played and shot, highly sensitive, politically and emotionally incisive; but its success does also come down to the audiences investment in the sexual activity, or absence thereof, enjoyed by its protagonist.

Brutality is as key an ingredient of high culture as low. More, even. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story might have been the biggest movie of last year, but not a drop-off of actual blood is insured, much less a snog. Being preoccupied by sexuality or demise does not make art any lesser , nor the person or persons watching it any baser. What does degrade though are those claiming sophistication while still lapping up big bangs and soaps about the sex hangups of a really ripped fella with a rackety mum.

North Korea did not wholly opt out of devoting the crowd some kneejerk thrills, of course. It only pandered this desire in a much more modest style and, in doing so, exposed the ravening appetite across the rest of the world, as well as some strange double standards about what constitutes entertainment or worthwhile utilize of the public purse.

So, hooray for those low-key explosions a few nights back. Unless of course North Korea is just saving its big gun for later in the year.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Bridget Jones’s Baby review: Zellweger delivers in fun romp heavy with expectation

Broad gags, option turns and some terrific slapstick involving a hospital revolving door elevate a maybe opportunistic outing into a solid and satisfying comeback

Sell-by dates dont mean anything … do they? Bridget Jones is talking about the eco-friendly biodegradable condoms she bought ages ago, and with which she has abruptly aimed an aeon-long sexuality famine by employing twice, on getting suddenly luck with two chaps within a few days: dishy online dating expert( Patrick Dempsey) and her old smoulderer, the unexpectedly single Mark Darcy( Colin Firth ). Now 40 -something Bridget has ascended the duff and there is a Mamma-Mia! -style mystery about the daddies identity. The director is Sharon Maguire, and the writers are Emma Thompson, Dan Mazer and Helen Fielding, author of the original newspaper column and bestselling book.

As for Bridgets own sell-by date, well, she now joins the conga-line of figures from the late 90 s and early noughties making their sheepish comeback: David Brent, AbFab, Cold Feet. But Rene Zellwegers own return after 12 years in the dithery role she created and after a six-year absence from the screen has been overshadowed by a massive media overreaction to cosmetic run which she has evidently had done.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Sex, suicide, torment: are arthouse cinemas genuinely so sophisticated? | Catherine Shoard

Despite their image, many of todays highbrow movies are simply the cinematic equivalent of exploding fireworks

North Korea is not a regime whose options one is generally eager to endorse. Yet my sympathies were with that country at the start of the year, when its New Years Eve firework showing was universally pooh-poohed. Whats with all the flickering, cackled other nations. You call that a sight, scoffed Sydney, merrily lighting the fuse on 4m-worth of sparklers.

Fireworks can, plainly, be spectacular. Their culture origins in seventh-century China, where they were intended to scare off evil spirits, are to be respected. And yet an understated display Pyongyang ran for sporadic bangs with synth soundtrack is not something to dismiss. Rather, one goggles at the hubris elsewhere, where millions in public funds are sent up in smoke; this at a time of spiralling homelessness, massive spending cuts and instructions that we all mug up on first assistance lest we fall victim to rather more malevolent blasts.

Everyone already knows that fireworks are fantastically dangerous( this 31 December there was a fatality in Hawaii, there were mass casualties in Malaysia, and rocket assaults in Hamburg and Malm ); that they are enormously polluting( in Munich, revellers bathed in an atmosphere that had 26 times more sooty particulates than the EUs recommended safe limit ); and that they frighten animals, children, the frail and indeed anyone who isnt lucky enough to be able to sit unblinking through an endless loading of explosions.

But fireworks are also, Id argue shock value aside quite boring. At least if they dont carry special spiritual import for you, or if youre over the age of two, or after the first 10 seconds or so. Rather, they seem to be a throwback to a time when illuminations in the sky were a significant distraction. When a night of bonfire narratives was the nearest you could get at bingeing on a box defined. Before entertainment had, for better or worse, evolved. Thats why Ive never been especially desperate to watch a display through to its climax. Theres merely so many oohs you can manage before “youre starting” thinking about your shopping.

We live in an age uncertain about its level of primitivism. Liberals bemoan a resurfacing of basic bigotry. The world is going backwards, they fret. Kneejerk dreads have quashed reasoned debate. Yet liberals are people too and, as such, just as susceptible to the primal pulls. They too espouse fireworks one thing going for them is their egalitarianism.

And when it comes to more contemporary forms of amusement, they too are animals at heart. The likes of The Girl on the Train and the novels of Katie Price are belittled as litter, but in fact this seasons most acclaimed arthouse cinemas also rely on some fairly tabloid drives.

JACKIE
Natalie Portman in Jackie, a movie whose chief sell has a lot to do with watching someone wash famous brains off their frock. Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

Take Jackie, Pablo Larrans biopic of the first lady in the aftermath of JFKs assassination. It is a brilliant, moving examination of heartbreak and national fairytales, with a central performance by Natalie Portman that will win her the Oscar. It is also a movie whose chief sell has a lot to do with watching someone wash famous brains off their frock.

Likewise, Sundance sensation Christine offers an intriguing look at the machinations of a regional news outfit in 1974, with an intense central turn by Rebecca Hall as a woman combating mental illness. Its hook, though similarly that of a documentary released on the same subject last year is that its about a real-life newsreader who committed suicide live their lives air.

Much of the publicity, as well as buzz, around Silence, Martin Scorseses latest movie, boils down to the extreme weight loss of its superstars and genuinely yucky forms of torture suffered by their characters. Even Moonlight, Barry Jenkins drama about a bullied gay man at three stages of their own lives which has been universally championed by right-thinking cineastes cant fully duck accusations of titillation. It is beautifully played and shot, highly sensitive, politically and emotionally incisive; but its success does also come down to the audiences investment in the sex activity, or absence thereof, enjoyed by its protagonist.

Brutality is as key an ingredient of high culture as low. More, even. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story might have been the biggest movie of last year, but not a fell of actual blood is ensure, much less a snog. Being preoccupied by sex or demise does not make art any lesser , nor the person watching it any baser. What does degrade though are those claiming sophistication while still lapping up big bangs and soaps about the sex hangups of a really rent fella with a rackety mum.

North Korea did not wholly opt out of giving the crowd some kneejerk thrills, of course. It merely indulged this desire in a much more modest route and, in doing so, uncovered the ravening appetite across the rest of the world, as well as some strange doubled standards about what constitutes amusement or worthwhile utilize of the public purse.

So, hooray for those working low-key detonations a few nights back. Unless of course North Korea is just saving its big gun for afterwards in the year.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Violating news: why does Hollywood gloss over the world of magazine journalism?

While Steven Spielbergs drama again venerates the men who report the news, cinema still portrays magazine offices as the realm of shallow, shameful women

As a magazine journalist, it’s hard to escape the feeling that people consider feature-writing a lesser art than hard news. You only need to look at the comments section below any lifestyle article( be it on travelling, manner, beauty or family) for confirmation (” How is this news ?”) And it seems that film-makers tend to feel the same. Steven Spielberg’s The Post is the latest in a long line of heavyweight movies that pay homage to the noble art of news reporting.

The BFI compiled a list of 10 great movies about journalism that encompasses news novelists, Tv anchors and even a crash-site photographer- but no magazines, unless you count La Dolce Vita’s celebrity gossip. In general, films about publication journalists tend to be relegated to the chick-flick spike pile.

Take The Devil Wears Prada. A woman accidentally falls into a job at Vogue( I entail, we’ve all been there, right ?) despite a clear disdain for style and anyone who cares about it. She’s scornful, sloppy and merely, well, Anne Hathaway-ey. Eventually the title perverts her, and she replaces her boyfriend and friends with Dolce& Gabbana chain-belts and a 10 lb weight loss.

Then there’s Kate Hudson in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. The plot hinges on her undertaking as a publication novelist- she longs, poor dear, to write about politics and war. It’s like whining because you want the pet shop where you work to be a hedge fund. Instead of handing in her notification and finding employment on a news team, she strikes an unlikely bargain: if she writes one more agonising article about dating( not hiding her contempt from her editor) she’ll ultimately be allowed to write about what matters.

While news writers in cinemas aren’t always likable, at the least there’s a spectrum, running from screwball joker to heroic examiner to peddler of false headlines. Magazines tend to simply has become a emblem of everything that was shallow and shameful. And it’s hard not to feel there’s a gender bias, with women in vapid publication roles and men taking the positions of power in papers.

In reality, there’s far more crossover: celebrity rumor is often reported as news, while it was a publication- the New Yorker- that played a major role in outing Harvey Weinstein. There are other films that nod to the wider world of feature journalism- Almost Famous, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas- but it’s rare to see person working in a magazine office. When you consider how the industry is struggling, with big brands closing and sales figures on the wane, you’d think it would be rife with stories.

There have been interesting documentaries about publication journalism, most notably The September Issue. Filmed at American Vogue it contained all the usual tropes seen in chick flicks( bitchy editor, ridiculous scrutiny of models) but was also able to turn up a gem, in matters of Grace Coddington, the charmingly dishevelled creative director who was shown standing up to editor Anna Wintour and designing some truly beautiful photoshoots.

The truth is that publication journalism is not a career you fall into. If you don’t want to do it, Meryl Streep won’t insist you accompany her to Paris fashion week. There’s no job security, little fund, even less glamour and most of what you do will be rend apart by the “not-news” people( despite them having chosen to read it ). To imply that everyone in the industry got there by accident and/ or is desperate to leave as soon as possible to become a war reporter is insulting as well as unimaginative.

Of course, it’s not cinema’s chore to induce publication writing seem a nuanced career. Films aren’t designed to be an accurate reflection of life- that’s the job of journalism- but it “wouldve been” refreshing to ensure a drama in which publications mean more than a token job for women. You could guarantee a good write-up.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Extreme weight loss and tooth extraction: when method acting goes too far

Which star didnt bathe for four months? Who became a cabbie? Our guide to performers who take their art to new levels

Marlon Brando may be the most famous Hollywood exponent of method acting, even if the double Oscar-winning star of On the Waterfront and The Godfather always refused to accept the tag. But even Brandos efforts to prepare for a part which once involved him living alongside wounded soldiers in a veterans hospital for a full month to play an injured second world war lieutenant in his 1950 movie debut, The Men pale into comparison with those of some of his spiritual successors.

In the wake of Australian actor Jai Courtneys revelation that he swallowed magic mushrooms and stubbed cigarettes out on his arms to play the unhinged antihero Boomerang in the forthcoming comic-book epic Suicide Squad, here are some of the most inventive and extreme examples of Hollywood -Alisters taking their art a little too seriously.

Leonardo DiCaprios bison liver-crunching in The Revenant

The
In living hell DiCaprio in The Revenant.

Alejandro Gonzlez Irritus visually spectacular frontiersman epic was shooting in brutal living conditions in remote, frozen corners of Argentina, the US and Canada. But at least the movies crew, who complained of being subjected to a living hell of long hours, extensive postpones and temperatures dropping to -2 5C( -1 3F ), had DiCaprio along for the ride. Perhaps with one eye on awardings season glory, the Titanic star, who is vegetarian, chowed down on raw bison liver, climbed inside a horses carcass and waded through a frozen river. He did not, however, fight it out with a real bear: the movies central animal attack was Irritus only concession to CGI, and was shooting with a rather foolish-looking bloke in a mo-cap bear suit.

Effort : 6/10

Was it worth it ? Indubitably. DiCaprio won his first best performer Oscar, while Irritu took home best director and Emmanuel Lubezki won best cinematography for his searing camera run.

Shia LaBeoufs tooth-pulling antics on Fury

Fury
Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf in Fury. Photo: Giles Keyte/ AP

To prepare for his role as a Bible-toting tank gunner in David Ayers claustrophobic second world war drama, the one-time teen idol attained himself enormously popular with fellow casting members by refusing to wash for four months, resulting in his banishment to a bed and breakfast in a remote village far from the productions regular hotel. And just in case anyone imagined the Transformers star might not be fully immersed in the horrors of life on the battlefront, LaBeouf also pulled out a tooth and cut his face.

Effort : 9/10

Was it worth it? Fury was well received and LaBeouf is no longer best known for his role in Michael Bays moronic sci-fi saga. But Shia didnt receive any awards-season glory.

Adrien Brodys hungry vacation for The Pianist

The
Fast fingers Brody in The Pianist. Photograph: Rex Features

Brody lost 13.6 kg( 2st 2lb) to play real-life concert pianist and Holocaust survivor Wadysaw Szpilman in Roman Polanskis harrowing war drama. He also practised piano four hours a day until he was able to play passages by Chopin all this after ceasing his US apartment and selling his car to get to the German shoot. There is an emptiness that comes with really starving that I hadnt experienced, Brody told the BBC. I couldnt have acted that without knowing it. Ive experienced loss, Ive experienced sadness in my life, but I didnt know the desperation that comes with hunger.

Effort : 7/10

Was it worth it? Utterly. Brody became the youngest person to win an Oscar for best performer and Polanski was the amaze winner of the best director gong.

More tooth pulling from Nicolas Cage in Birdy

Cages early attempt insured the actor engage in a place of amateur dentistry to play a Vietnam war veteran with horrible facial injuries. They were baby teeth, the future Oscar winner told the Telegraphs Anne Billson in 1985. So I took advantage of it and had them out. I thought it would add an interesting dimension to the role. Cage also took to wearing a bandage around his head during filming, which when removed devoted him a sinister, sickly appearance due to the resulting acne and ingrowing hairs. The reactions on the street were brutal, Cage disclosed. Men and women chuckling, kids staring.

Effort : 8/ 10

Was it worth it ? Alan Parkers tale of blue-collar Philadelphian veterinarians won the grand jury prize at Cannes, and if nothing else, helped established Cages reputation for risk-taking and theatricality.

Hilary Swank lives as a trans man for Boys Dont Cry

Boys
Boys Dont Cry. Photograph: Reuters

Swank, who had been completely unknown in Hollywood, lost weight to accentuate her bone structure and lived as a man for a month to play murdered transgender human Brandon Teena. Her transformation was so persuading that neighbours at the actors home thought her brother was visiting. At the behest of director Kimberly Peirce, Swank also wore socks in her underwear and bound her breasts, as Teena had done.

Effort grade: 8/ 10

Was it worth it? Swank was propelled to overnight notoriety, winning the first of two best actress Oscars.

And tonight, Matthew, Val Kilmer is Jim Morrison in the Doors

The
Kilmer gets in the groove The Door. Photograph: Moviestore Collection/ Alamy

To get in the groove for the role of the Rider on the Storm crooner, Kilmer learned 50 anthems from the bands back catalogue and interrogated former Doors producer Paul Rothschild for months, learning specific intonations to help him perfectly channel the spirit of the 60 s rocker. Val knows Jim Morrison better than Jim ever knew himself, Rothschild told the Washington Post in 1991. To the extent that the Doors had difficulty telling whether it was Val singing or Jim singing. Early on, Id bring them into a recording studio and I haphazardly switched Val and Jim and they guessed wrong 80% of the time.

Effort : 6/10

Was it worth it ? Kilmer won kudo for his performance, but critics guessed Oliver Stones direction was self-important and the Doorway themselves said they failed to recognise their former bandmate.

Robert De Niro driving a real taxi for Taxi Driver

Taxi
Taxi Driver. Photo: Granamour Weems Collection/ Ala/ Alamy

To prepare for his role as paranoiac ex-marine Travis Bickle in Martin Scorseses 1976 classic, De Niro lost more than two stone and drove a real New York taxi during breaches from shooting Bernardo Bertoluccis 1900 in Rome. Upon being recognised by a passenger, he is said to have replied: Well, thats acting. One year the Oscar, the next youre driving a taxi!

Effort : 6/10

Was it worth it ? Taxi Driver won the Palme dOr at Cannes in 1976 and picked up four Oscar nominations, including best performer for its starring, who appeared in almost every scene. Scorseses fractured, dreamlike neo-noir is now considered one of the film-makers best movies.

Daniel Day-Lewis total-immersion perform in My Left Foot

My
Holds nothing back Day-Lewis in My Left Foot Photograph: ITV/ Rex Features

Day-Lewis is famous for overdoing it a bit, and once lived for days in the wilds of Alabama to prepare for his role as a frontiersman living as a Native American warrior in Last of the Mohicans. While shooting Jim Sheridans biography of the paralysed Irish poet Christy Brown, who was born with spastic paralysis, the English actor refused to come out of character even while the cameras were not rolling. In practise, this meant Day-Lewis spent the entire shoot in a wheelchair, occasionally having to be carried to different parts of the define, and even had to be spoon-fed at mealtimes.

Effort: 8/ 10

Was it worth it ? Day-Lewis won the Oscar, but without doubt truly riled the kitchen staff.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

Guillermo del Toro: ‘I love monsters the style people worship holy images’

The film-makers fantastical world is not just expressed in his run but in his home and now, thanks to a new exhibition in Los Angeles, anyone can visit

When film-maker Guillermo del Toro was directing his 2006 fantasy, Pans Labyrinth, he told his art department to conjure a make-believe world more real than the actual world. He was talking about the alternative realm into which his protagonist disappears in order to avoid the harsh realities of fascist Spain, but he could have been talking about his own Bleak House, a Westlake Village residence crammed full of mementoes, toys, illustrations, models, literature and art, all centered on the macabre. While it may seem like the indulgence of a rich Hollywood egomaniac, instead it is the brain trust of the most prolific and distinctive horror and sci-fi/ fantasy film-maker working in movies today.

Its everything, Del Toro fights to find the words to describe Bleak House,( actually two homes side by side ). Its the single thing that I have done that conveys me most completely, more than any of my movies. The house could never withstand regular public visits but an ample sampling of the collect including models, sculpture, first-edition literary classics, art work, illustrations and props have been removed to Lacma for Guillermo del Toro: At Home With Monsters through 27 November, then will travel to Minneapolis and Toronto.

Highlights include two figures from Pan Labyrinth, winner of best makeup, art direction and cinematography Oscars. In the movie, young Ofelia is guided through a fantasy realm by a woodland spirit called the Faun who at first appears menacing but subsequently proves friendly. Seen out of context under dim incandescent illumination at Lacma, the Fauns artistry is enhanced rather than lessened, its etched, circular patterns and otherworldly countenance still as beguiling and repellent as on screen.

Mike Mike Hills sculpture of Boris Karloff being made up as Frankenstein. Photograph: Joshua White/ JWPictures.com

His counterpart, the Pale Man, a demon with his eyes in the palm of his hands, is as terrifying in real life as he is in the movie. Only here you can casually analyse his ashen complexion and loose, sagging flesh( inspired by Del Toros own fights with weight loss ), without anxiety of reprisal.

The sculpture gallerys most prominent runs are by Thomas Kuebler and Mike Hill, whose life-size reproduction of Boris Karloff, shirtless, reclining in a barber chair while makeup human Jack Pierce puts the finishing touches on his Frankenstein makeup, is modeled from a behind-the-scenes photo. Del Toro considers the 1931 Karloff version of the monster, a predominant fixture within the collecting, to be a seminal figure in the horror genre.

Kueblers sculptures include three life-sized characters from Tod Brownings classic, Freaks as well as a life-sized Edgar Alan Poe seated at a desk, and novelist HP Lovecraft, whose At the Mountains of Madness Del Toro has long tried to bring to the big screen.

Horror Horror heaven the present contains a variety of lifesize models Photograph: Joshua White/ JWPictures.com

A glance at the manically crowded pages of the artists notebooks offers early attempts at various beasts that evolved dramatically over day. The final product usually incorporates outlandish physical attributes based on design motifs as well as the beings nature, origin, survival needs and behaviour. For instance the Angel of Death costume from Hellboy II features a blind face covered by a bony crescent-shaped plate above a lipless set of teeth. To solve the problem of how the Angel might find, del Toro turned to a peacocks tail for inspiration, placing a series of eyes, each actively watching and blinking, among the black featherings of the animals wings.

While some movie fans will find themselves in horror heaven, others might wonder what these playthings and models are doing in an art museum. In 2009, MoMA caused controversy while inspiring huge ticket marketings with an exhibit dedicated to film-maker Tim Burton. In fact Britt Salvesen, the curator of At Home With Monsters, was co-coordinating curator on the display when it came to Lacma two years later.

She says that Del Toros collection taps into a long tradition the cabinet of curiosities. There is a mode of collecting that has this tradition even before museums as institutions existed, she says. And Guillermo del Toro is actually an heir to that type of collecting. The cabinet of curiosities is a way of creating a world in miniature and unifying various objects often endowed with some kind of power, value or beauty and aggregating them together in often apparently random arrangings that built sense maybe only to the collector.

A A sculpture of Ray Harryhausen playing with his stop motion skeletons. Photo: Joshua White/ JWPictures.com

Salvesen coordinated the indicate by theme with one room dedicated to demise and the afterlife, and others on the subjects of magic, horror, occultism and ogres, with the display ending, the style Hollywood movies often do, on themes of innocence and redemption. Its not a collection in the sense a church is not a collection of images or icons, del Toro explains. To me, it has a spiritual calling. I love monsters the style people adore holy images. To me, they genuinely connect in a very fundamental way to my identity.

Its a character trait he didnt pass on to his daughter who, when she was younger, wouldnt set foot in Bleak House. Then again, neither would the guy from the telephone company. Del Toro is a skeptic when it comes to ghosts but recalled feeling an otherworldly presence that may have come with a dining room situated he purchased a while back. Alone in the house, he would hear footsteps until his mother, whom he describes as a bit of a witch, visited and did a cleansing. After that , no more footsteps.

The house is silent most of the time, as Del Toro is its merely occupant. If he is working on a screenplay, he will go through his copious library and pull out books for research, as well as illustrations and models that might help him conjure the seem of his intended movie. Then he takes a seat at a well-lit table and gets to work.

Hills Hills sculpture of Frankenstein and his bride. Photograph: Joshua White/ JWPictures.com

With research complete, hell begin to write in his usual place, the rain room, a space with a fake window outside of which there is a rainstorm on a 24 -hour loop( duplicated for the Lacma indicate ). I fell on a huge sofa and I go into a delicious trance and write for a few hours. And if I want to watch a movie, I have two home theaters where I can watch a movie and relax. To me, movies are books. They are texts to be consulted.

The son of a car salesman who won the national gamble, Del Toro was raised in a strict Catholic home. Even as small children he was preoccupied with monsters and horror, collecting figurines and dressing up. One of Bleak Houses earliest pieces is a stuffed werewolf from when he was seven years old.

A lot of Mexican Catholic dogma, the style its teach, its about existing in a state of grace, which I find impossible to reconcile with the much darker view of the world and myself, even as small children, says the film-maker who has dedicated his career to dreaming up new creatures. I couldnt make sense of impulses like fury or resentment and, when I was older, more complex ones, you know. I felt there was a deep cleansing may be required for imperfection through the figure of a monster. Monsters are the patron saint of imperfection.

Del Del Toro with the catalogue for his indicate. Photo: Albert L Ortega/ Getty Images

And if flaw is everywhere, then more ogres are required. To fill the gap, del Toro will be bringing back the Kaiju giant, city-destroying ogres in the sequel to Pacific Rim, which he will produce but not direct, starring John Boyega and Scott Eastwood. An amphibious man forms a bond with a mortal female in The Shape of Water, his cold war relationship tale currently filming in Toronto. And on the small screen his Trollhunters, based on his childrens volume, airs on Netflix beginning in December, and his vampire series, The Strain, moves into whats likely to be its final season. That covers Tv, movies and publishing, and as for theatre, the Faun and the Pale Man will return in Pans Labyrinth the musical, which is aiming for European previews before moving to Broadway next year. To say Del Toro is prolific is an understatement, and it all begins with Bleak House.

I walk into the house and I feel Im home, says the director. I feel very blessed and vastly grateful about the fact that Im 51 and Im able to live there, because its the place I dreamt of living in since I was a seven-year-old child.

This article was amended on 3 August 2016: the Tim Burton present opened at MoMA in 2009 , not 2011; Britt Salvesen worked on the Lacma verson.