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Interview with Disney PIXAR CARS 3 Creative Director Jay Ward, and actor Ray Evernham

As part of our continued coverage of the upcoming release of Disney PIXAR’s CARS 3 on home video in Digital HD and 4K Ultra HD on October 24, and Blu-ray 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on November 7, we’ve been granted insider access to some of the people responsible for bringing this work to life.

JAY WARD the Creative Director of CARS 3 started with PIXAR Animation Studios in 1998 as a production assistant working in the art department on the 2001 feature film “Monsters, Inc.” Shortly thereafter in 2001 he was promoted to coordinator and began early development work on he 2006 film “Cars.” Jay already had real knowledge of the automotive world, which gave him the ability to fill various production roles, including character team manager and automotive consultant to the director and co-director. After Cars he went on to manage the art department for “Ratatouille” and “Brave.” Jay’s automotive expertise led him to become a major contributor on the Disney-Pixar feature “Cars 2,” and he was also a consultant on the creation and production of “Cars Land” at Disneyland in Anaheim, CA. He continues as a contributor to everything in the “Cars” franchise.

RAY EVERNHAM (voice of Ray Reverham) grew up in New Jersey, and remembers playing with small cars in his driveway at an early age. Unlike other boys who wanted to be firemen or astronauts, Ray always knew that he wanted to be a driver or involved with cars. He started racing and working on cars at the age of 15, and spent the next 20 years as a driver, competing with the likes of Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Dale Earnhardt Sr., Darrell Waltrip, and Bill Elliott. In 1992 he became the crew chief for Hendrick Racing team #24, Jeff Gordon. In 7 years as chief he led the team to three NASCAR Cup championships and 47 Cup victories, including two at the Daytona 500 and the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After the 1999 season, Ray retired from the crew chief position and moved on to the even greater challenge of team ownership. Leading Dodge’s return to NASCAR racing, Evernham was able to develop a car, engine and parts distribution program for Dodge’s entire NASCAR presence. With Bill Elliott driving, Evernham’s team won Dodge the 2001 Daytona 500 pole position in their first Sprint Cup series start in almost 20 years. Since 2007 when he sold his ownership of Evernham Motorsports, Ray has been active as a broadcast TV racing analyst with SPEED, ESPN, and NBCSN. He co-owns, co-produces, and hosts his own TV series with Rick Hendrick, “Americarna” on Velocity. in 2014 he joined Hendrick Motorsports as a consultant member of the executive management team. In 2015 he was nominated for the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

Question: Can you tell us about how Cars 3 got started?

Jay Ward: We knew after Cars 2 we wanted to tell another story and we also knew we wanted to get back to sort of more the roots of Cars 1, a McQueen story. We also knew what people love about Pixar films is they love that emotional journey of a character and the transformation of a character. So that was the impetus. That was the beginning and then we thought, “Okay if we’re telling the story about McQueen he’s already a hero, he’s already great at what he does. What do we tell?” So we started with a comeback story. Kind of more like a Rocky 3. He gets knocked down by the young guy and does he get back up? That would have been great movie, easy story to tell, but what we found along the way, what was more exciting was telling a story about mentorship, and telling a story about paying it forward, and telling a story about telling somebody who had limited themselves in life. That, “No you are good enough. You can do this.” So that was how it started.

Q: You guys had lot of pressure, right, to make sure that the sequel lives up to the first one and the second one? It’s almost kind of the trilogy of Cars. Kind of like a race car driver comes full circle. So how much pressure were you having to make sure that this is isn’t a dud?

JW: Well it’s hard because PIXAR Films are held to a different standard, you know. There are studios that make animated part 2,3,4,5 and people are like, “Yeah it was alright.” but we can’t get away with that. People hold– for good or for bad, they hold us to a really high standard. So there’s a lot of pressure on our movies. It has to have a great story #1. Any film can look beautiful, but not any film can tell a great story. You have to feel a sense of wanting to connect with that character. Luckily we had people who had this love of Cars and this connection with Cars. It did add a lot of pressure of telling a story that was special, and that’s why our films take so long. I mean yes, technically they’re challenging, but it really is about getting that story right. No way around it.

Ray Evernham and Jay Ward

Q: Was it harder with that emotional roller coaster that Pixar always puts you on to maintain that Pixar level, but also get everything right for Cars and NASCAR and everything?

JW: It’s the challenge of any of our films. John Lasseter’s big word is authenticity. Whatever world it is, it’s gotta’ be authentic. Like for Nemo people had to go Scuba Diving. They had to go under water. They had to see what it looks like to look up from underneath the water. It’s different right? For Wall-E they studied so much stuff about space and all– I mean just every film you go to exhaustive research. Including for this film, because Cars is a known world. People know it. We all drive Cars and we’re familiar with them. We can’t get away with just making stuff up. More than that, John’s a gear head. So that’s where I come in. John’s like, “I want all the details right.” My job is to get all those things right. So that the car guys go, “Hey they got that right. That sounds correct, that’s looking right.” Yet the person who doesn’t know anything about cars is like, “I love this movie. That character was so cute.” It’s got to work for both, yeah.

Question to Ray Evernham: Did you have input? Like was there anything that you wanted to see that you kind of said, “Can you make this happen for my character, work within the movie?”

Ray Evernham: I didn’t have that kind of input. What we did was just sit and talk a lot. We talked a lot, and the Pixar team asked a lot of questions, and I told a lot of actual stories of how things worked. It was amazing to see them take that and be able to adapt it into the characters. They would send me something and say, “But what do you think about this?” Especially with Jackson Storm. After being in NASCAR and racing so long I saw the tendencies of Cars were going right. They’re getting lower, they’re getting wider, they’re getting sharper. The aerodynamics are coming from the bottom and the tires are getting wider, and the profile’s changing. We just talked about all those things and, and they made notes, after notes, after notes and, and just kept bringing it to life.


JW: Oh he did. I mean honestly. We knew Jackson Storm was supposed to look like the future of NASCAR. The idea was to make Lightning McQueen look old, which is hard to do ‘cause he looks good. He looks cool, but he had to feel like yesterday’s news all of a sudden. Like when Jackson Storm shows up it’s like, “Whoa he’s totally– this guy’s from the future.” Right? And that’s kind of like what we’re thinking about with Jeff Gordon as a Racer who Ray was the Crew Chief for. There’s one a day a young kid shows up that’s just better than you, you know. What is that like? That was in the design. So when we show designs for Ray we said, “Ray what does a NASCAR look like 20 years from now if you can make it up?” And he’s like, “You guys are on to something good.” So he did help.

Q: How hard is it to find a balance in the Pixar movies that will draw in children, but the parents want to watch it too?

JW: John’s always said that we don’t make children’s films. We make films that work for children and adults. If you start out by saying, “We’re going to make a great children’s film,” then that’s all you’ve made. If you make a great film, a really good film, it’s going to work for all ages. If you think back before we had a film rating system, if you go back to the 40’s or 50’s every film had to work for all ages. You couldn’t put stuff in them that you could put in them now. You can watch The Wizard of Oz as an adult or as a kid and you enjoy it. That’s what I think we strive for with PIXAR. Is to tell great stories that work for all ages and you want to watch it more than once because you’re going to see something you didn’t see the first time. I have young kids, and my kids like watching movies the over and over again. So even if I’m not watching, if I’m driving them and I hearing them, I’m still laughing and still remembering things and that’s pretty special. You don’t get that with all films. There are some kids films that we watched and even my kids will watch it once and then they’re good. They liked it, they walked out, “Hey that was fun.” They’re not going to buy that on Blu-Ray or DVD. They don’t want to see it again because there were some alright some gags and it’s done, but a great story they want to see again and again.

Q: What was it like seeing some of the stories and part of your history up on the screen?

RE: It’s been a fire hose of emotions in some ways because it’s at the end of my career, and having a young child you know I got kind of a blended family right? There’s 24 years difference between my children, and my son is on the autism spectrum at 26 years old. I have a 2 year old and it just seems to be lucky enough to have been involved. This project has brought them closer together, and I understand that a little bit more. Sometimes when I watch the movies with them I learn as much myself about my career. So in some ways when I look at Lightning, you know that’s Jeff Gordon. I’ve watched him through his career. But then through this movie you know some of the lessons that Lightning had to learn about the emotion, and the relationships, and that people were more important than winning the races and the trophies. Because when that’s gone you just had stuff, without the relationship with people it didn’t mean anything. So I actually found out more about my life and my career and, and I think that, that working on this movie has helped me appreciate my adoption into the Hall Of Fame more than had I not.

JW: When we started research and we went to a NASCAR race you realize how visceral it is. You see that these cars are so loud and so powerful and so impactful that you can’t help but sort of be moved by it, even if you’re not a racing fan. I also think the other thing people sort of assume is “Oh NASCAR, a bunch of good ‘ol boys going around in a circle.” It is so difficult, and it is so technical, and it is so strategic. Everything about it is strategy that you realize it’s multi-layer. Again, you can’t judge a book by its cover. And that’s what CARS 3 tells and that’s what I think the world of NASCAR is too. Don’t judge a book by its cover.


CARS 3 in HD and 4K Ultra HD on October 24
Blu-ray 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray on November 7th

Now you can bring Zootopia home

unnamedWalt Disney Animation Studios’ comedy-adventure “Zootopia” has broken records worldwide, earning nearly $1 billion at the global box office and becoming one of the highest grossing originalmovies of all time. Critics and audiences of all ages have fallen in love with the wonderfully innovative mammal metropolis of “Zootopia” and the comedic chemistry of rookie rabbit officer Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) and scam-artist fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman). In fact, critics have hailed “Zootopia” as one of the best films of 2016 and Richard Roeper from Chicago Sun-Times calls it “One of the best animated films ever.”unnamed

When the runaway hit arrives home on Digital HD, Blu-ray, Disney Movies Anywhere, DVD and On-Demand platforms on  June 7, 2016, viewers will not only be able to enjoy the vibrant world of Zootopia and reunite with their favorite characters, but also discover more about the evolution of this extraordinary tale through in-depth bonus offerings.

Bonus features include candid conversations with filmmakers and artists behind Zootopia, an alternate opening, never-before-seen characters and deleted scenes, and a sneak peek at some of the hidden Easter Eggs that make reference to Disney Animation’s most beloved films and characters.

Directed by Byron Howard (“Tangled,” “Bolt”) and Rich Moore (“Wreck-It Ralph,” “The Simpsons”) and produced by Clark Spencer (“Wreck-It-Ralph,” “Lilo & Stitch”), the progressive mammal metropolis of Zootopia is a melting pot where animals from every habitat live side by side and “anyone can be anything.” But when new rabbit police officer Judy Hopps (voice ofGinnifer Goodwin) arrives in town she discovers that being the first bunny on a police force of tough, hulking animals isn’t so easy. Determined to prove herself, she jumps at the opportunity to crack an unsolved, challenging case even if it means working with a fast-talking, scam-artist fox, Nick Wilde (voice of Jason Bateman), to solve the mystery. But the case leads these two unlikely partners to an uneasy conclusion that Zootopia’s “evolved” society is being pulled apart by unseen forces determined to use fear to take control of the city by turning predators and prey against each other.
Others who helped bring the world of Zootopia to life, include a remarkable roster of voice talent including Idris Elba (BBC’s “Luther,” Golden Globe®-nominated for Netflix’s “Beasts of No Nation”) as Judy’s no-nonsense cape buffalo boss Chief Bogo, Jenny Slate (“Obvious Child,” “Marcel the Shell”) as Assistant Mayor Bellwether, Nate Torrence (HBO’s “Hello Ladies,” Fox’s “Weird Loners”) as charming cheetah Clawhauser, Bonnie Hunt (“Return to Me,” “Jerry Maguire”) and Don Lake (“Dumb and Dumber To,” “The Bonnie Hunt Show”) as Judy’s anxious, but supportive parents, Tommy Chong (“Up in Smoke,” “That ’70s Show”) as Yax the Yak, J.K. Simmons (“Juno,” Oscar® winner for “Whiplash”) as Mayor Lionheart, Octavia Spencer(“Insurgent,” Oscar® winner for “The Help”) as the distraught Mrs. Otterton, Alan Tudyk(“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” “Trumbo”) as Duke Weaselton, Shakira as the socially minded international pop star Gazelle, Raymond Persi (“Wreck-It Ralph,” WDAS story artist) as Flash the sloth, Maurice LaMarche (“Pinky and the Brain,” two-time Emmy® winner “Futurama”) as Mr. Big, Tiny Lister (“Friday,” “The Fifth Element”) as Finnick, John DiMaggio (Fox’s “Futurama,” Cartoon Network’s “Adventure Time”) as Jerry Jumbeaux Jr., Katie Lowes (ABC’s “Scandal,” “Big Hero 6”) as Dr. Badger, and Jesse Corti (“Frozen,” “Beauty and the Beast”) as Mr. Manchas.

 

The Force Will Be With You Everywhere With “Star Wars: The Digital Movie Collection”

As anticipation builds for the December release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the first new film in the Star Wars Saga in a decade, The Walt Disney Studios, Lucasfilm Ltd., and 20th Century Fox today announced the upcoming release of The Star Wars Digital Movie Collection. For the first time ever, all six epic films in the Saga, from The Phantom Menace to Return of the Jedi, will be available on Digital HD throughout the galaxy ­ or at least here on Earth ­ globally beginning Friday, April 10.

“Since the debut of the first film nearly 40 years ago, Star Wars has become a worldwide phenomenon with legions of fans from every generation,” said Alan Bergman, President, The Walt Disney Studios. It’s only fitting that audiences enjoy this legendary Saga and its many fascinating behind-the-scenes stories on a wide variety of platforms, and we’re very excited to finally bring all six films to Digital HD for the first time.

“We’re thrilled that fans will be able to enjoy the Star Wars Saga on their digital devices wherever they go,” commented Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy. “These films broke new ground in technology, design, sound, and visual effects, and we’ve created some very special bonus material which delves into the Saga’s rich history, including new and never-before-released conversations between legendary Star Wars artists ­ the masters who helped
George bring his iconic universe to life.”

With Star Wars: Episodes I-VI available for purchase as a complete digital movie collection and individually, viewers will have the Rebel forces at their beck and call across their favorite devices anywhere ­ sunbathing at the beach, relaxing in their living room with friends, or waiting to board a flight to Endor (or elsewhere).

Enhancing the movie collection are a host of never-before-seen special features including Star Wars: Discoveries from Inside and insightful Conversations between key contributors from across this celebrated film franchise, plus a curated collection of classic Star Wars extras from each film. These are the droids you’re looking for.

The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown is a Treat for the Whole Family!

Box Art 3DLooking for something to “Yabba-Dabba-Doo” together with your kids? Check out The Flintstones and WWE’s all-new animated film, The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown, co-produced by WWE® Studios and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment. Timed to debut leading into WrestleMania 31, this all-new original movie is available on DVD, Blu-ray Combo, and Digital HD for the first time tomorrow– March 10, 2015! Rated the #2 greatest cartoon of all time by TV Guide, the Flintstones’ return to the center ring will be sure to deliver high-octane action for fans of all ages, bringing parents who grew up with The Flintstones and kids who love WWE together like never before! The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown will be available on Blu-ray Combo, DVD and Digital HD.

Perfect for kids who have older siblings that love WWE, this all-new, original movie brings some of WWE’s toughest, wildest superstars to Bedrock for an awesome crossover with some of the most iconic and popular cartoon characters of all time– The Flintstones! When Fred loses his family’s vacation money, he hatches one of his hair-brained plans to get it back. It’s a sports entertainment spectacle that involves throwing his best bud, Barney into the wrestling ring with the likes of John Cenastone (John Cena), Marble Henry (Mark Henry) and even The Undertaker, with Fred himself as event promoter! The crowds roar, the “clams” are pouring in from ticket sales and even Mr. McMagma (Vince McMahon) is taking notice of all the hoopla. Can Fred keep serving up bigger and badder matches or is he in for the rocky ride of his life? Including all-star appearances from The Boulder Twins (Brie and Nikki Bella) and Daniel Bry-Rock (Daniel Bryan), it’s time to get the whole family together for a collection of hard-hitting, side-splitting laughs from the most epic event in all of prehistory!

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The movie is a fun and exciting mashup of the classic Flintstones characters we all know and love with some of WWE’s biggest names– it’s a joy for kids and parents alike to see these worlds collide. The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown has become an instant classic in our house (Marc LOVED the movie and we can’t stop watching it!) and I’m sure it will in yours too, especially if you’re big fans of The Flinstones or WWE!

“The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown” will be available for streaming and download to watch anywhere in high definition and standard definition on their favorite devices from select digital retailers including Amazon, CinemaNow, Flixster, iTunes, PlayStation, Target Ticket, Vudu, Xbox and others. Starting March 10, “The Flintstones & WWE: Stone Age Smackdown” will also be available digitally on Video On Demand services from cable and satellite providers, and on select gaming consoles.

Annie: Interview With Quvenzhane Wallis, Jamie Foxx, and Will Gluck!

interview-with-jamie-foxx-quvenzhane-wallis-will-gluck-1024x660Recently I had the privilege of sitting down with the cast of Annie to talk about the process of making the movie, and it was a blast! After our interview with Cameron Diaz and Bobby Cannavale, who play Miss Hannigan and Guy in Annie, respectively, we got to speak with Quvenzhane Wallis (Annie herself), Jamie Foxx (Will Stacks), and the film’s director Will Gluck!

The interview started off with a discussion of Will’s feelings on re-making a “classic.” He explained that “we wanted to keep what connected with us in the original Annie— the musical and the movie– the story of optimism, hope, never giving up, finding your place in life, and family. That’s the feeling we wanted to take and connect with the bones of the great music, and we wanted to make it our own. So as long as we kept those touchstones, we felt that we could go off a little bit and make it what we wanted to do. We felt we did that. We felt that the spirit of Annie comes out.”

Jamie added that “If you look at re-makes today, everybody’s doing it… It’s great to grab a wonderful brand like this and then have a wonderful actress– Quvenzhane is nominated at such an early age, and now she steps into this iconic role– I just thought it was the right time… it seemed really fresh. It’s been a wonderful experience.”

Continuing with Foxx, who is an incredible singer outside of Annie with a great album of his own, we discussed how he brought his previous experience to the role. He mentioned that “the songs are so great… anytime there’s music and you have a person [like Quvenzhane] who can bring the emotional energy and then here comes this iconic music we’ve listened to for years, it was a fun time.” Will Gluck added that “it was a really fun set– there’s nothing negative because this message is so positive.”

While the set may have been lots of fun, there is also a tremendous emotional impact to taking on an iconic story like Annie, and particularly a role like Annie herself. Noting this, Foxx turned to Quvenzhane Wallis and asked her “Are you ready for this big ride? For the rest of your life, people are going to [say] ‘That shaped my childhood’ or even grown people: ‘I took my child to see the new Annie.‘ How does that make you feel?” Wallis was all smiles. “It’s really exciting. It makes me feel very happy to know that I’m in the newest version that maybe even, like, three-year-olds will know and then when they get older… this is your original Annie.”

Whether this is your original Annie or you’ve been following the story through its various iterations since 1977, you’ll love the new take on the classic musical. Read our review, check out our interview with Cameron Diaz and Bobby Cannavale, and be sure to go see Annie the next time you head out to the movies!

Annie: Interview With Bobby Cannavale and Cameron Diaz!

interview-with-cameron-diaz-bobby-cannavale-1024x682Recently I had the privilege of sitting down with the cast of Annie to talk about the process of making the movie, and it was a blast! First off, we got to speak with Cameron Diaz and Bobby Cannavale, who play Miss Hannigan and Guy in Annie, respectively.

We kicked the interview off with a pretty simple question: what was Cameron and Bobby’s favorite part of filming? Without a moment’s hesitation, they both answered “Easy Street!” The number, of course, is a classic part of Annie that lays out their characters’ scheme to exploit the reward for finding Annie’s birth parents by setting up a pair of actors to pose as her mom and dad and collect the money offered by Will Stacks. Bobby in particular seemed to have a lot of fun with the scene, revealing that though dancing “doesn’t come naturally” to him, he “did the part to do that number.”

If Bobby’s hangup was dancing, Cameron’s was her fear of singing in front of people. However, just as she conquered her fear of heights by jumping out of an airplane and scaling the face of a thousand-foot tall mountain (“not at the same time,” the actress added, chuckling), she similarly faced her vocal worries by “just charging toward it” and having confidence in the professionals handling her. Ultimately, Cameron had a great attitude about her anxieties in the role, sharing her idea that “if you run from fear, it jumps on your back and takes you down. If you run towards it and you jump on it, then you can take it down.”

Bobby and Cameron had quite a bit of advice to offer in regard to what Annie taught them about life. Cannavale mentioned confidence as a major trait that the film’s rehearsals instilled in him. He explained that the months of training for “Easy Street” in particular prepared him to walk confidently onto the set on the day of the shoot and charge head-on into the number that otherwise would’ve been difficult for him– and he was even comfortable and prepared to add in extra moves that day, like a dip at the end of the piece, that hadn’t been taught to him before!

Diaz also added that her character Miss Hannigan, contrary to the invalidated spinster that the character is typically portrayed as, is more a comment on modern society’s obsession with fame, social media and the like. “She never felt that so she doesn’t feel validated and loved,” and she takes this lack of self-love out on the girls. Cameron spins this into a great lesson for all of us:  “I hope that people realize that they don’t need fame, they don’t need to be seen by others; they just need to love themselves for who they are, not what they aren’t.”

As far as lessons from Annie go, Bobby also imparted some wisdom about the character of Annie herself: “I always liked the idea, just as a general theme of the story, that anything is possible as long as you’re in the moment– and this little girl is so present and in the moment. She teaches other people who come into her life how to do that, and how we can really take advantage of the opportunities that are in front of us as long as we’re in the moment– that’s the only way we can see them.”

There’s plenty to learn from Annie, and lots of fun in the movie to share with your family– it’s a perfect choice for this holiday season. Read our review, stay tuned for our interview with Jamie Foxx, Quvenzhane Wallis, and Will Gluck, and be sure to go see Annie the next time you head out to the movies!

Annie: The Classic Comes to Life in A Whole New Way!

annie-2014The holiday hit of 2014 is here! Annie has been an American cultural icon since the musical’s first production in 1977 (and even longer before that, with the comic strip that serves as its inspiration beginning its run in 1924!) With classic songs like “Tomorrow,” “Hard Knock Life,” “Easy Street,” and “NYC,” Annie has undoubtedly left its mark on the Broadway scene, and it’s no stranger to the silver screen either– the musical has been adapted to film several times before, but never like this!

Annie, which hit theaters on December 19, takes the classic musical and brings it up to date with new songs, new characters, and a completely modern setting. Starring Quvenzhané Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild) as Annie, Jamie Foxx (Dreamgirls, Ray) as William “Will” Stacks, Rose Byrne (BridesmaidsNeighbors) as his assistant Grace Farrell, Bobby Cannavale (Romance & CigarettesPaul Blart: Mall Cop) as Guy, his political advisor, and Cameron Diaz (ShrekThere’s Something About Mary) as the wicked Miss Hannigan, this movie’s got a star-studded cast that’s simply packed with talent!

If you and your family are heading to the movies anytime soon, Annie is definitely a great choice to see together. It’s got toe-tapping tunes, a great message, and most of all, heart. You can really tell that this movie was made with love by all involved– the cast’s fantastic chemistry is incredibly apparent, and helps Annie to go the extra mile and become a truly special moviegoing experience. You won’t want to miss this heartwarming tale of love, hope, and musical joy.

Check out Annie with your family this holiday season, in theaters now!

And be sure to stay tuned to see our exclusive interviews with the director and cast of Annie!

Into The Woods celebrity interviews

ITW_1-Sht_v18_LgRecently I was invited to the Disney’s Into the Woods movie junket. The Junket was host to two panels – the first had James Corden (“The Baker”), Emily Blunt (“The Baker’s Wife”), Anna Kendrick (“Cinderella”), Chris Pine (“Cinderella’s Prince”), Director Rob Marshall, and Screenwriter James Lapine. The second panel featured Meryl Streep (“The Witch”), Christine Baranski (“Cinderella’s Stepmother”), Tracey Ullman (“Jack’s Mother”), Producer Marc Platt, and Producer John Deluca.

Anna Kendrick (star of Pitch Perfect) is certainly not playing your stereotypical Cinderella. She spoke about “how Director Rob Marshall was very interested in having a modern sensibility for these characters.”  She compared  her character to the notion that women don’t listen to their gut and “have to look at everything from every angle.”  Noting that Cinderella  allows herself to get into a better situation with the Prince but then realizes it’s completely fake and “the Prince is so vacuous.” SAMSUNG CSC

Cinderella’s Prince played the Chris Pine (star of Star Trek),  the Prince says during a key  scene “I was raised to be charming, not sincere” of which Pine spoke about that one line informed his character.  The Prince is given the opportunity to reflect on his effect on Cinderella but only for a moment and then chooses to get back on his horse and ride off.

James Lapine spoke about weaving a new fairy tale into the existing ones: “I sort of hit on this idea of combining writing one original fairytale, The Baker and the Wife, and then weaving them together with existing fairytales, and so that’s how it all kind of went from there.”

SAMSUNG CSCJames Corden, who played the Baker, shared that Meryl Streep took the lead at making him and the others feel comfortable.He said her attitude was, if an individual does well, the film does well. She seems like an an amazing person, not just an amazing actress. As the biggest “name” in the movie, it is nice to know that she wants to be a worker among workers, and not a diva: “she’s the reason actually, it’s the truth, she’s the thing that puts you at ease, because she leads from the front and she knows how you feel when she walks in the room, and she does everything she can to put you at ease and make you feel like we are all a company of actors who will get the best out of this experience if we support each other. And I think it shines through in the film that this is a company of people where no one is trying to steal the limelight or the movie from anyone else. It’s a group of actors, friends really, all going, “No, no, go and be brilliant. Go and be amazing.” And that really comes from Rob and it trickles down through Meryl right to the bottom, and just below that, you’ll find me.”

SAMSUNG CSCEmily Blunt was concerned about the singing, but Rob Marshall reassured her that he wanted actors who could sing, for the movie, not singers who could act.  The experience of singing (after a few lessons to bolster her confidence) was “exhilarating and impassioned” and “joyful.”  Singing with the cast and a 65-piece orchestra for Steven Sondheim was a day she “will never, ever forget. Ever.”

Meryl Streep probably is the actress every actor and actress wants to be and when she decides she is going to sing well imagine the pressure. She was the first to come on board after years of turning down similar roles to take on the role of  “The Witch” who longs for beauty and companionship.  The one thing I was surprised by this  New Jersey native at the press conference was her self-deprecating humor. I loved that she joked about rapping in the movie, “I haven’t really done my real rap scene yet”, wondering if Stephen Sondheim was aware it was even rap when he wrote that scene.SAMSUNG CSC

Christine Baranski spoke about how she had tried to convey a contemporary attitude, which would resonate with today’s viewers.  She, Lucy Punch and Tammy Blanchard presented Cinderella’s stepfamily as social-climbing narcissists, obsessed with fashion and fame (personal fame, not necessarily the fame of others).  Baranski not naming any names but pointed to reality shows that came to mind.

Tracey Ullman was asked about her pop singer status and responded graciously, calling herself a one-hit wonder, then singing a bit of “They Don’t Know About Us.”  Streep and Baranski were quick to mention other Broadway musicals she’s appeared in, clarifying for those who didn’t know, that Ullman is a talented singer and actor with a long history in music and theater.

Christine Baranski, Meryl Streep and Tracey Ullman are long-time friends and have a sisterly affection for each other. The easiness and banter amongst them during the interview was what made it amazing and I’m happy to share two clips with you below.   They were obviously having a good time joking with each other.

Watch the trailer:

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INTO THE WOODS is rated PG and opens in theaters everywhere on December 25th!