Category Archives: Interviews

THE CAST OF “SABAN’S POWER RANGERS” ON THE FILM

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The Power Rangers have been around on U.S. television for nearly twenty-five years in various incarnations, and though they’ve appeared in a couple of movies over that time, neither was a major studio effort. Now, with “Saban’s Power Rangers,” the team of teens who morph into costumed superheroes to fight evil invaders from space come to the big screen again. The film is essentially a reboot that takes the story back to the beginning, a feature-length origins episode in which the characters have become more textured, as the young actors—Dacre Montgomery (Red Ranger Jason), Naomi Scott (Pink Ranger Kimberly), RJ Cyler (Blue Ranger Billy), Becky G (Yellow Ranger Trini) and Black Ranger Zack (Ludi Lin)—discussed during a recent Dallas interview. “We landed on February 8 in Vancouver last year, and we were friends by February 9,” Cyler said of the quintet.

Asked about director Dean Israelite’s comment that he looked for actors who shared qualities with their characters, Montgomery said, “I think I’m very similar to Jason because you see him and…he’s kind of like this jock douchebag, like I am. But he’s multi-dimensional, I’d say. He doesn’t really want to do his sporting career, and in school I wasn’t a sports person at all. He’s struggling with his relationship with his dad, not something I experienced, but something I found interesting to touch into. And I think he’s endearing, he wants to know the people in the other social groups in his school. And in high school I didn’t really have any friends, so any social group I would have taken.”

Lin added, “For me, with Zack, we share some background. I was raised by my mother, and so was Zack. He’s an outside at times, and so am I. I’m outside a lot. I backpack a lot, I travel a lot looking for adventure, same as Zack. And the other side is that Zack is kind of insecure, because he’s missing a lot of things in his life, and I have that side in me, too. With that being said, with our characters—and all the characters—I think the movie is about the specific lives of these characters as individuals, and how once you can accept yourself as you are, you can start doing good for yourself and for others.”

Scott said of Kimberly, “She has a maturity about her, which maybe I do. I think she is self-assured, but she’s the popular girl, and when that all goes downhill, she just sort of goes ‘Stuff it, I’m done with these fake people anyway.’ I think that’s what she’s searching for, which is really cool. But there are things I’m not. I’m kind of a tomboy, a little more like Trini in that way.”

Becky G interjected, “Trini is a loner, and coming from a musical background and having established what I like to think of as a successful music career and having toured the world and getting to meet fans, I wondered what [the director Dean Israelite] saw in me. And we had a conversation, and I realized that I’m a lot like my character—I am kind of a loner. It’s very easy in this industry to feel alone, even surrounded by thousands of people. Trini is in this high school, surrounded by people every single day…but feels invisible. People think they know you but they don’t know you—that was a kind of subconscious connection to my character.”

Cyler noted, “With Billy, the thing I feel like the thing that makes us similar is the whole-heartedness, he wants everybody to be happy. That’s why I’m so energetic. Sometimes people will say, ‘RJ, you’re a little bit much for this morning,’ and I’ll say, ‘No, you’re just too little for this morning.’ It’s that part of Billy that also tags with me. Also, the part that he’s this dude that just does it. That makes him similar to me. We both seek that adventure.”

The delicate balance of meeting the expectations of fans and doing something new was admittedly an issue, the actors said, but they emphasized that their first duty was to be true to the characters, portrayed in the script as kids struggling with personal problems they have to overcome in order to learn to work together.

Scott said, “My responsibility as an actress is to do the character justice, and we were able to do a fresh take and a blank slate, so I was able to come up with the character with the director and figure out who she was, like with any other movie or any other character. Everything that was iconic about the Power Rangers is built into the script. My job is to do the character justice. That’s what I’m focused on.”

Cyler added, “Y’all aren’t the only ones who used to watch it—we did too. But I’m not responsible for certain [changes], so I’m not going to take that on my shoulders. But I do take on the responsibility, as Naomi says, to do the character justice.”

“I think the key word here is imagination,” Becky G interjected. “This is an original story; although the character names may sound familiar, you are meeting our characters for the first time in 2017, dealing with real teenage issues that are very current and relevant. And that’s why it’s such a diverse cast—not just the colors of our skins, to start off with, but also the fact that we’re both boys and girls, female and male superheroes working together, literally saying that we are not one without the other. And on top of that, there are the different social groups that we come from.

“Growing up watching ‘Power Rangers,’ I was attracted to the colors, the power, the action—it wasn’t necessarily something about a specific character that made me think, ‘They’re going through exactly what I’m going through.’ This time around, it’s much more layered to who we are. Even the OGs—the original Power Rangers fans—we want to give them something new as well.”

Lin agreed. “I don’t think there’s any burden,” he said. “We’ve gotten a lot of support from fans. And there’s no point in re-imaging something the same way. If you’re going to re-imagine something, you have to do it differently. There’s a certain risk in that, but there’s a certain excitement to that if we’ve pulled it off. And with this movie the point for us was to deepen the characters and get people to become attached to these characters and view them as realistic characters that they can relate to.”

Asked about the pressure to look good in the tight-figure Ranger outfits, Becky G admitted, “Putting on the suit, to be honest, was not the most comfortable.” But she added: “It was important to me to be a real person on camera. We’re teenagers in high school.”

Scott added, “We trained really hard. We worked our butts off, like three times a day. As Naomi, yeah, I want to look good on camera, I want to be at my best, but it’s the stamina to get through the shoot. We’re girls in high school—we’re not Victoria’s Secret models.”

Lin said, “There’s the physical side of it and the sentimental side of it. The physical side was definitely uncomfortable, definitely restrictive—there are like five layers on you at some points. But there’s the mental aspect, the symbolic aspect, where you put on the mask and you feel like, ‘Oh, wow, I’m a superhero,’ and you feel the symbol, the image that they represent. And you know why superheroes are anonymous, because anyone could be behind those masks. Hopefully kids will watch this movie and see the imperfections in these characters, how realistic these characters are, and feel that if they get together and be themselves and find friends, they can go out and be heroes themselves.”

ASA BUTTERFIELD ON “THE SPACE BETWEEN US”

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At the ripe old age of nineteen, British actor Asa Butterfield has assembled a remarkably full filmography, but as he explained during a recent Dallas visit to promote his latest, the STX Entertainment release “The Space Between Us,” his career occurred more by accident than design.

“My very first acting job was on a TV movie called ‘After Thomas,’” Butterfield recalled. “I was seven or eight years old, and I was just in a couple of scenes, and I only had one line, which was ‘No.’ I was playing someone on the autistic spectrum, and so much of the film, for the few days I was in it, was shot with kids who had behavioral disorders or learning difficulties. Then I did ‘Son of Rambow,’ which again was a very small part, a couple days’ filming—I had about four or five lines, an improvement on the first. And then I did ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,’ which took off.” His starring role, as the son of the Nazi officer overseeing a concentration camp who developed a secret friendship with a young prisoner—would lead to major parts in such pictures as Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo,” “Ender’s Game,” “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children” (directed by Tim Burton) and now Peter Chelsom sci-fi themed teen romance.

“But even when I did that,” Butterfield said of “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” “I didn’t want to be an actor. I never wanted to be an actor growing up. It just kind of came to me, rather than me finding it. It wasn’t until I was doing ‘Hugo,’ I think, that I started to think about taking it further and pursuing it. Before then it was just something I did for fun, that I didn’t take that seriously. I wasn’t really sure why it was happening. People kept giving me work, and I got time off from school.

“I wanted to dig up dinosaurs for a long time—to be an archaeologist. To discover new dinosaurs and name them after myself—that was my dream. I definitely didn’t want to be an actor.”

Nonetheless he’s embraced the career in which he found himself almost by serendipity, recalling the range of youngsters he’s had the chance to play, from the naïve German youth of “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” through the boy being trained to save the universe in “Ender’s Game” to his new role as Gardner Elliot, a teen who’s grown up on Mars and comes to earth determined to explore the planet—and find his father—despite the fact that the gravity differential threatens his life. Fortunately, he has a friend—a girl, of course—who joins him on his quest.

“I’ve had my fair share of characters,” Butterfield allowed.

Butterfield’s work has brought him into collaboration with some pretty impressive figures—not only Scorsese and Burton but co-stars like David Thewlis, Harrison Ford, Viola Davis and Ben Kingsley. “I take that pretty in my stride now, thankfully,” he said. “You can’t really get into the place as an actor that you need to be—relaxed—if you are nervous; they’ll see that on camera, and then everyone has to wait for you to get it together. I have a pretty good time just getting on with it and enjoying it. I’m lucky.”

Butterfield also feels fortunate in having been able to juggle larger, studio-type films with smaller, independent ones like “X+Y” (retitled “A Brilliant Young Mind” in the U.S.), in which he played an autistic mathematics genius chosen to attend a competition in China. “So far I’ve managed to have a really nice combination of both,” he explained. “I’ve not really done the whole Hollywood thing—I don’t see myself ever living in L.A. or having that kind of lifestyle. I live in London; it’s home. I just moved out, and have a sort of free, ordinary life back home, which is nice—just to step back from all the chaos, the whole machine of the giant film industry, which is really tough and unforgiving and cruel. So not to be in it every day of my life and not to have my life revolve around it is nice.

“Independent films are, from an acting perspective, [more challenging]. It’s not always the case—a film like ‘Hugo’ is a great actor’s film, but it also had so much going on that often the focus is elsewhere, the background or lighting, which is just as important. But indie films are pretty much just about the camera and the actor and the scene that’s going on, focusing on it and just playing around with it. You have a lot more room to try things, not necessarily because you have more time, but just because that’s where the focus is. It’s more about the characters, and the main thing you have to worry about is how you’re doing.”

“’The Space Between Us’ was a much larger budget than ‘X+Y,’ though still pretty limited given the scale of the movie. But there are moments when it did feel a bit like an independent film, when it felt like it was just about you and the director and the camera and you could send everything else away.” And he felt a certain degree of camaraderie with Gardner: “I think we both have curiosity about the outside world.”

The role required Butterfield to do an American accent—which, he suggested, is easier for British actors than it is for Americans to do a British one because they hear American English all the time—and once again, as in “Ender’s Game,” to be hoisted on cables for scenes of weightlessness. “I was a bit rusty. And I’ve grown a bit—it’s harder when you’re taller, just to keep control and not kick people in the head while you’re spinning around,” he said with a smile. As to how the effects people remove the cables from the shot in processing, he added, “I don’t know how they do it, but that’s not my job.”

Asked what he might do if he weren’t an actor, Butterfield replied, “Maybe music. I do love music, and I wish I had more time really to do that. Actually I do have the time. I’m just lazy. But if I weren’t an actor, I’d do that.”

But returning to the earlier discussion of his disinclination to become an actor as a boy, Butterfield now looked back on his career with enthusiasm. “I love acting,” he said. “You get to experience and to be a part of so many very different things, and learn new things. I’ve heard to play bass guitar, and how to skateboard; I’ve learned some Chinese. To get the opportunity to do all these things, and travel and meet people, it’s an amazing job, and a hundred percent I’d do it again.

“You work on a film, and then you might have five months off, and in those five months you can do whatever you want, learn whatever you want You can do so many other things. It’s almost like a part-time job.”

What might Butterfield want to do on his off tine? “I really want to go out and film wildlife docs,” he said. “I love the natural world, and I like photography and filmmaking. I really want to go out with a camera and film some wildlife. That would be inspiring.”

And what did he learn making “The Space Between Us”? “Well, I learned Albuquerque”—where the film was shot—“is not all that exciting,” he said with a smile. “There are some cool landscapes, but it’s all rather dull, especially if you’re not twenty-one.

“But what I really got from the film was a renewed appreciation of our planet. I’ve always been very conscious of our environment, and I hope this film helps other people to appreciate what we have and not to take it for granted, and to look at the world with fresh eyes.”