The story for ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ begins as Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) – a competition that could change Panem forever.
‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ sees Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth reprising their roles of Katniss, Peeta and Gale, with Lenny Kravitz, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, Willow Shields, Toby Jones and Woody Harrelson also returning to their respective roles. The likes of Philip Seymour Hoffman, Jeffrey Wright, Jena Malone, Lynn Cohen, Stephanie Leigh Schlund, Maria Howell, E. Roger Mitchell, Alan Ritchson, Bruno Gunn, Meta Golding, Sam Claflin and Amanda Plummer join the “Hunger Games” film series for this sequel. Lionsgate will release ’The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ on November 21st in the UK and November 22nd in the US. Francis Lawrence directs.
The dark and confusing times we see in ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ evolve Katniss to a new level of strength and maturity. The stakes are very different in this story….?
Jennifer Lawrence: Yeah, the stakes are different for her this time. In the first movie she was a hesitant hero who really just wanted to save her family, but now she has a bigger weight on her shoulders. She feels a responsibility to all of these people who are depending on her and yet, she is struggling with that, because it isn’t at all what she signed up for. This part of the story is bigger on a lot of levels because the Capitol has gone to some extreme measures, their policies are more brutal and then the Games are now a lot more deadly. The first games was all about entertainment and television, now there’s a lot going on behind-the-scenes. It’s an incredible story of a girl that doesn’t want to be a hero but she’s kind of forced to be, and she kind of turns into a futuristic Joan of Arc. It’s a very interesting struggle. I think it’s a wonderful message to show just how powerful one voice can be. It’s very easy as a society for us to just follow the feet in front of us and history does kind of repeat itself, and I think that it’s an important message for our younger generation to see how important they are into shaping our society and our future.
‘Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom’ is based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography of the same name, which chronicles his early life, coming of age, education, struggle against apartheid, and 27 years in prison before becoming President and working to rebuild the country’s once segregated society. Spanning over seventy years, the film is the thrilling story of an ordinary man who rose to the challenge of his times and triumphed – an intimate portrait of the making of a modern icon. ’Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom’ is directed by BAFTA-winner Justin Chadwick (The First Grader, The Other Boleyn Girl) and stars Golden-Globe winner Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela and Naomie Harris as Winnie Mandela. Double Academy Award-nominee William Nicholson (Gladiator, Les Miserables) penned the screenplay. ‘Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom’ arrives in cinemas on November 29th in the US and January 3rd in the UK. The likes of Tony Kgoroge, Riaad Moosa, Zolani Mkiva, Jamie Bartlett, Lindiwe Matshikiza, Deon Lotz and Terry Pheto co-star.
I can imagine playing Winnie Mandela was a rare opportunity, getting to interpret such a multi-dimensional person who travels an exceptional journey….?
Naomie Harris: Definitely. To be honest, I never really thought about the size of shoes that I was having to fill. I had already said yes and I was in South Africa, and then I was doing my research and finding out about this amazing woman, this very complicated and powerful woman who’s lead almost seven lives! It was only then that I started to really get intimidated. But there was a huge sense of pressure, especially as a British person playing such an iconic South African person… in South Africa!
It would be hard enough being South African and playing Winnie, but being British just makes it worse (laughs). But the great thing about it is that everybody in South Africa was so supportive…. in the beginning they were understandably asking, “Why can’t we have South African actors playing Winnie and Nelson?” But once we started filming everyone got behind us and were super supportive. People would always come up and make notes about the accent, and I loved that because it was always in a supportive way. They were passionate about it being done right, and so was I.
Throughout the years, there have been marriages, children and divorces among a close-knit group of college friends – not to mention all the love and heartbreak that accompany a life well lived – but the group has not been able to manage a proper get-together since Lance and Mia’s wedding 15 years ago. But that’s all about to be remedied. When the friends finally reunite over the Christmas holidays, they will discover just how easy it is for long-forgotten rivalries and passionate romances to be reignited.
Taye Diggs, Nia Long, Morris Chestnut, Harold Perrineau, Terrence Howard, Sanaa Lathan, Monica Calhoun, Melissa De Sousa and Regina Hall reprise their much loved roles in ‘The Best Man Holiday,’ with Malcolm D. Lee returning to write and direct this sequel to his directorial debut. ‘The Best Man Holiday’ opens in the US on November 15th and in the UK on November 29th.
After 15 years you’re all back together for this film. How was that experience, especially given that I know you guys have kept in touch since the first film?
Nia Long: We had a great time. This is like a reunion, being together all in one place.
Taye Diggs: The whole process, even promoting it.
Nia Long: Yeah. And we all really do have an already established friendship; we’re not just saying that for the sake of the film. We all have grown up together in this business. For example, when somebody gets a job we’re like, “Awesome! Did you see such and such on that? Did you see that person on that?” I think that the original was Regina Hall’s first film and now she’s been in so many films and has many films coming up. She got a stripper start and look at her now (laughs).
Alexander Payne’s (The Descendants, Sideways) ‘Nebraska’ centers on an aging alcoholic father (Bruce Dern) who decides to take a road trip from Montana to Nebraska to collect what he believes to be a million dollar Publisher’s Clearing House prize. His estranged son (Will Forte) reluctantly agrees to accompany his father in order to keep him out of trouble. Paramount Pictures is priming the film for an awards-season run with a rollout starting November 15th in the US. Opening on December 6th in the UK, Stacy Keach, Bob Odenkirk and Devin Ratray co-star.
Alexander Payne seems fascinated by human behavior. How was the experience of working with him, in helping you bring to life this character?
Will Forte: Working with Alexander Payne was an amazing experience for me. From a technical point of view, everything he does is magnificent. But he also taught me that it’s about more than that. It’s about building an inclusive, family atmosphere and about treating people in a way that gives them a wonderful, exciting environment to work in. The way he works, you can’t imagine why anyone does it any other way. He’s very nurturing; his whole team is. He really helped me to get out of my head playing David. And it was a beautiful script, I just felt such a strong connection to this character – but I didn’t think when I first read it that I had any chance to play it (laughs). I was happily mistaken.
Falling pregnant as a teenager in Ireland in 1952, Philomena (Judi Dench) was sent to the convent of Roscrea to be looked after as a “fallen woman”. When her baby was only a toddler, he was taken away by the nuns for adoption in America. Philomena spent the next fifty years searching for him but with no success. Then she met Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), a world-weary political journalist who happened to be intrigued by her story. Together they set off to America on a journey that would not only reveal the extraordinary story of Philomena’s son, but also create an unexpectedly close bond between Philomena and Martin. The film is a compelling narrative of human love and loss that ultimately celebrates life, showing that there is laughter even in the darkest places. Sixsmith’s book “The Lost Child Of Philomena Lee” was published in 2009. It acted as a catalyst for thousands of adopted Irish children and their ‘shamed’ mothers to come forward to tell their stories. Many are still searching for their lost families. Out now in the UK, Stephen Frears’ ’Philomena’ opens in New York and Los Angeles on Christmas Day and then wide in the US on January 10th.
How did collaborating with Jeff Pope on the screenplay serve the adaptation of the book and Philomena’s story, in terms of striking a balance between comedy and drama?
Steve Coogan: Christine Langan at the BBC, I have to thank her for introducing me to Jeff. Initially, I didn’t want to write it. I thought, “This is an interesting story and I want to pursue it.” And I told Christine what my take on the story would be together with my producer, Gabrielle Tana, who is the person who kicked me in the pants to get this all going, And when I told Christine the story she said I should write it. But I said, “I’m used to writing comedy rather than drama….” But she said I just needed someone good to write it with and she introduced me to Jeff and now we’re bestest, bestest friends (laughs). And it was a real revelation because I learnt from him and we collaborated in the true sense that we both brought different things to it. Jeff would often talk about the structure and the rhythm of the whole piece and I was more about some myopic detail on character and dialogue. So, we both had distinct roles and it was a real pleasure. Writing is as much fun as acting, I think, because you’re there at the genesis of things and it’s pretty exciting.
In the near future, a hostile alien race (called the Formics) have attacked Earth. If not for the legendary heroics of International Fleet Commander, Mazer Rackham (Ben Kingsley), all would have been lost. In preparation for the next attack, the highly esteemed Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and the International Military are training only the best young children to find the future Mazer. Ender Wiggin (Asa Butterfield), a shy, but strategically brilliant boy is pulled out of his school to join the elite.
Arriving at Battle School, Ender quickly and easily masters increasingly difficult war games, distiguising himself and winning respect amongst his peers. Ender is soon ordained by Graff as the military’s next great hope, resulting in his promotion to Command School. Once there, he’s trained by Mazer Rackham, himself, to lead his fellow soldiers into an epic battle that will determine the future of Earth and save the human race. Also starring Abigail Breslin, Viola Davis, Hailee Steinfeld, Nonso Anozie, Aramis Knight, Han Soto and Moises Arias, Gavin Hood’s ’Ender’s Game’ is out now in the UK and is set for a November 1st release in the US.
Can you recall your initial response when you were approached for this project….?
Hailee Steinfeld: I read the script a little over 2 years now, and I remember thinking just how fun it was going to be to work with Gavin Hood and Sir Ben Kingsley and Harrison Ford and Asa and Viola Davis… everyone that was involved at that point I was such a huge fan of and I was so excited about the project as a whole. There was so much around the project that really made me want to get involved. After I read the script, I was picturing how it would be shot and how it would look. It seemed like an adventure I wanted to have. Petra Arkanian is a very independent, strong character, which I love. She’s the only girl in Salamander, which is the top army at Battle School.