Anja's fun

Greetings from LA

Ciaran Hinds in Cold LazarusI just got off my plane. A direct flight here, how exhausting. I can't quite help being afraid of flying, since heights are not my cup of tea.

I passed the time by reading that new script and trying to figure out my role for the next few weeks. Playing a multi-millionaire, an evil one. Did I ever do that before or does that just sound familiar from my last engagement? I don't remember. How much does the guy resemble the devil? By the way, the flight attendants treated me very kindly. That's the advantage of first class -- always enjoyable. But why can't they for Christ's sake make a decent cup of tea up here? They have Champagne though.

I declined the usual limo service they offer to get you on set; I prefer to check in and out myself. Gives me an opportunity to see people going about their day-to-day business. My daughter sent me a copy of the old Disney version of the film. God in heaven, where did she get that from? The Internet? I'll have to find a player to have a look at it.

There was a mess when I went to pick up my luggage in baggage claim. A couple had got into a fight. No one seemed to know what it was about, but it made the entire crowd look. Fortunately everybody was so occupied with them both that no one took any notice of me. Usually a good opportunity, when you stand there in the line, waiting for your bags to come up, that someone recognizes your face and asks the usual: Haven't I seen you in that Sweeney Todd movie lately? By now I've understood that fortunately, they take me for Alan Rickman.

As for this new website, why all this fuss around me, ladies? However, it's fine work and I had a lot of fun with the quiz. I'm sure your scores were better than mine.

Good luck to you all!!



Too hot!

The Magnificent Seven! Lately there has been so much ado about my upcoming engagements that my favourite project got lost in the news. What a pity! But make no mistake: it's still on. My friend Gabriel is trying to do a remake of The Magnificent Seven with an all-Irish cast, but has not come very far with it. Or so it seems... Whenever Daniel Day-Lewis and I are in London at the same time, we try to get together. OK, mainly to chat, but to talk up our projects as well. Liam joins us sometimes, and it's a very intimate circle, fine friends gathered under one roof. Usually Rebecca goes out to see a friend or takes care of the boys during these meetings, leaving us to our thoughts in our Irish gentlemen's club. Smoking allowed! Talk of The Magnificent Seven project began when Gabriel returned from shooting The Man in the Iron Mask with Jeremy Irons, John Malkovich and Gérard Depardieu. We started off discussing Leonardo DiCaprio, but later Gabriel got us infected with the French historical stuff that he was so mad about. I had to add my two cents with my Parisian knowledge.

And so it went, each of us keeping in mind what we talked about and theoretically developed, while denying publicly any talks about working together. The classic version, directed by John Sturges (no relation to my TV son in Thursday the 12th), brought together the incredibly artistic powers of Mr. Brynner, Mr. McQueen, Mr. Vaughn, Mr. Wallach and Mr. Coburn. The TV series directed by Christopher Cain did well only about 10 years ago, so a big-screen remake would have to be a distant prospect for quite some time. We thought of involving Gerard McSorley (I told him while shooting Veronica Guerin; he just laughed) and Gerard Butler (I told him while shooting Phantom of the Opera, he thought I was nuts).

Nowadays I'd think of asking James Purefoy to sign on, since he's been doing a great job opposite me for several years. When I talked about candidates to my friend Michael Apted, he took a close look at me and burst out laughing. When I asked what he was thinking about, he just shook his head and gave me another look that I took as a warning. "Are you up for another Troy?" he wanted to know. I had no idea what that was supposed to mean. He took pity on me and said: "I had no idea when I saw Gabriel talking to Brian last Saturday, but now I see what is going on! Brian didn't want to tell me about his little chat; that makes sense now. He knew I was going to see you around and would most likely tell you about his meeting with Gabriel."

La Rochelle... that rebels' nest! My reply was a simple "I see" and off I went from the set that day. Brian Cox and Gabriel Byrne! I couldn't believe it. Some years ago, I had a meeting with Brad Pitt about playing the Greek king in Petersen's Troy, but the part went to Brian instead. I was working on Mickybo and Me in Ireland, and someone must have misinformed Wolfgang about my future engagements. The talk of the day was that Brian or someone of his entourage was behind that plot. At the time, he had just gotten divorced and remarried and, as malicious tongues might say, needed a bigger part to finance his new life with a young wife and baby son.

I went on to act in Munich, but would have loved to be in the historic piece. And not only to please my daughter by being in a movie with Brad Pitt to make up for that missed chance with Johnny Depp. But to have Gabriel asking Brian to take the Eli Wallach part was mean. OK, it wasn't the part I would be playing, but it did stir up memories.

During our next meeting in London, I got straight to the point and asked about Brian, and Gabriel looked sheepish. A simple "Sorry, I had no idea that that gossip was hitting so close to home" ended talk of The Magnificent Seven project. Daniel wanted to save the day and proposed another idea. What could it be? A piece with just the three of us (or maybe four, counting Liam). Some historical stuff that inspires our enthusiasm and spirit to work together. Daniel as Aramis, Gabriel again as d'Artagnan. All eyes were set on Daniel, but he'd stopped his listing. Liam and I exchanged glances. Us as Porthos and Athos? "No," his reply came promptly. "You, Liam, as Buckingham and Ciarán as Richelieu." To make a long story short, he made up for his ridiculous suggestion by playing opposite me in There Will Be Blood.

We're still waiting for a remake and are continuing our secret discussions about an Irish western, sometimes interrupted for an argument about whether we'd better be in a Three Musketeer or Four Musketeer version. Fun and games indeed!



Theatre

Nice love nest, isn't it?I am sitting on the front porch of a log cabin reading my mail that has arrived over the last few days, trying to keep this chair from rocking. I haven't had time yet to have a look into all the letters that are now piling up in front of me. Some colleagues and crew are nearby, gathering technical equipment to take to today's location. I have the day off and just give them a nod before turning my attention back to the envelopes and faxes.

Another fax from Simon catches my attention first. I won't be part of the Chicago Seafarer cast, so he is very busy proposing all sorts of other things to keep me busy as well. Maybe because of that Cinderella's horse's ass discussion that was recently taken up by the press he was looking around for theatrical work and wanted me to know that we could be doing stage business with Mr. Shakespeare for a change. "When shall we three meet again? / In thunder, lightning, or in rain?" were his first words for me. That quote from good old Bill gets a smile out of me and asks: OK, do you want to read on and get caught up in Macbeth or should you skip it immediately? I read on...

I was so young in those times...I remember long ago working in Glasgow with Giles at the Citizens Theatre. I played one of the murderers, and everyone seems to remember the production back then with a Macbeth costumed in Nazi regalia and many accusations of nudity and general licentious behaviour.

Me as Thane of Cawdor?

Come, you spirits / That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, / And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full / Of direst cruelty. Actually Maria Callas would be a fine Queen for me, but unfortunately she's no longer with us. And of course that would be an opera version of a play about superstition, mythology and fiction that is almost exactly 400 years old now. I listened to a CD version of Macbeth with her that I took with me on my short trip for the Pirates thing. What a coincidence!

Me doing another murder? I don't remember the number of, what did the Fair Game host ask me in that NPR interview, how many times I died in my movies? So what's all the fuss over killing again?

Another line came up: Will all great Neptune's ocean wash this blood / Clean from my hand? with the remarkable reply: A little water clears us of this deed. What a cold-blooded partner.

Mortimer... without Blake. I like the witches, especially because there are three of them in the play. But that has nothing to do with my current project, believe me. None of woman born / Shall harm Macbeth. Macbeth shall never vanquished be until / Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill / Shall come against him. I've seen the NY production of the play with Patrick Stewart, another old buddy from Excalibur, a film that must have been shot at least as long ago as William wrote his famous Scottish play.

Does it occur to you during the banquet scene in Macbeth, that Shakespeare's recurring theme of ghosts returning exactly in time for dinner might be a bit overdone? Or does that just remind you of To be or not to be stuff?

I have lived long enough. My way of life / Is fall'n into the sere, the yellow leaf. To be able to judge when a life is better off ended is really good stuff to perform on stage. Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player / That struts and frets his hour upon the stage, / And then is heard no more. But to have a sleepwalking queen turn mad. And to be killed by someone called Macduff, Thane of Fife. Bring it on, Macduff, I'm ready? From his mother's womb / Untimely ripped.

Too many hints of Caesarean memories and getting killed by having my head chopped off. Simon, you must be off your rocker! No thanks. My reply to him on the fax was something like: If you have Quentin Tarantino doing a remake of Orson Welles', Roman Polanski's and Akira Kurosawa's versions of Macbeth with Uma Thurman singing, I'm in. If not, please try harder. Good luck!



Muppets Treasure Island

On the set with my cell phoneSome might wonder why there are no headlines about me in the Race to Witch Mountain shoots. Ok, the tabloids are interested in any stories involving The Rock and Ms. Gugino-and apparently there are already a few circulating. I haven't been involved in the daily press business with the Disney PR flacks since I was away for a short trip. I'm not needed for scenes every day, so probably no one would have noticed. Why am I telling you this story in advance? A simple matter, and it will be in the headlines soon enough anyway.

I arrived for my short stay in the Dominican Republic after spending hours in an uncomfortable plane again. I took them up on their offer to drive me to the old set, the one Gore Verbinski used for the first two movies. Thankfully that car was air-conditioned...

I'm on this one!The sets for Dead Man's Chest and At World's End have been mostly broken down, but some of the stuff could be reused for a possible new take on the Elizabeth Swan and Will Turner story. I didn't want to miss my chance now, since that Lara Croft piece I did for Jan de Bont prevented me from joining the Pirates cast the first time around. My daughter wouldn't speak to me for weeks.

So I'm not sure exactly what the basic line on the new story will be. I got a call from a Disney casting director (who has been in charge of my old casting tapes since Sum of All Fears, if I remember correctly) asking me to come over during a Witch Mountain break. Rumour has it that Mr. Depp isn't interested in another encore of his rasta pirate, and studios always look for opportunities to keep their cash cow alive. They came up with a short storyline first to reunite the lost lovers. The ten years are not yet over and Will Turner longs to be in Ms. Swan's arms again, but the spell has to be broken somehow and there is still some other unsettled business. Seems that the curse was passed on to the child, Will's son, whom he was about to meet after the time he had to spend on the ghost ship. The kid suffered from some sort of spiritual mark and Ms. Swan... I dropped out at that part and found myself made-up in a way you usually only find in a nightmare, with bad curly dark hair, stripped to the waist and tattooed all over the chest, a bandage to cover bruises and stuffed into a frighteningly tiny part of a pirate's ship. For a second, I wasn't sure whether my dislike of heights had found a match in claustrophobia. Fortunately my lines were quickly shot so I could get out of my prison. A quick handshake brought a happy ending to the scenario, and I headed back to my plane.

Not that bad as a pirate, uh?A driver took me back to the airport after dining at a restaurant on the beach. I had to wait about an hour at the airport due to a bad weather forecast that turned out to be a false alarm. After boarding the plane back to L.A., I wanted to read the magazine I had bought and found an envelope that I first thought to be one of those annoying adverts. No, not an offer for perfume but some very clear and colourful photos of the takes I just had done a couple of hours before. Along with the photos was a letter demanding certain things or the photos and information would go to a certain tabloid magazine. I admired several snapshots where I looked like Benn Gunn and a treasure hunter, then decided to catch forty winks. Back in L.A., I handed the matter over to my Disney contact-let them take care of it! Being part of the Disney family for Witch Mountain, I reckon they should handle Pirates of the Caribbean stuff too. The lady smiled perceptively and took the envelope with one missing photo I wanted to keep for fun. I am curious to see which newspaper will get the scoop on the story. Maybe some will publish only the photos and announce the upcoming Muppets feature as a remake of Treasure Island, with me in it-who knows! Until then, I'll just concentrate on being another villain here.



Consumating the Moment

I have been off a set from time to time. On one occasion, my spirit of adventure was rewarded with an unexpectedly perfect moment. I had followed one of the typical recommendations of a friend "who has been there before during a shoot" and discovered a great place "where you can discover some local culture." What tempting advice! Sometimes if you accept the challenge, it either rains cats and dogs, the place is closed unexpectedly or you most certainly will not find yourself in the same brilliant situation as made out in the initial splashy story, but surrounded by Japanese tourists with more technical gadgets than local books on ancient culture.

I had to take a rental car to get there and must admit the GPS almost drove me crazy. It took some time to manage to type the address into the tiny display with an even tinier pen. Almost at my destination, the system first politely tried to prompt me to take a one-way street the wrong way. Don't they have some real-life people check on the maps they use for the VDOs? Another attempt on my life was a request to turn left over a bridge that must have been there ages ago but not anymore, in mobile times. I had to hit the brakes to avoid sliding into a wild mountain river with no proper barrier to prevent that in more versatile moments.

Landscape

When I finally arrived, I parked my car outside a very white and chivalric-looking castle and glanced through the current signs of the display of it. How nice! Painting lessons for beginners, some colloquy on watercolouring and in the evening a French movie shown on the big outdoor screen they would hang up in the courtyard.

Some middle-aged lady noticed my uncertain scratching of the head and inquired some in her language. She switched over to pretty good English, told me her name was Barbara, and said that the castle's petite café-restaurant serves good food. But nope, she said, there is no conducted tour since the place is used for cultural purposes only and they rent the large rooms for workshops and musical events. I looked at her hesitantly which must have given her a bad impression of my pitiful expectations.

Big houseShe said she'd show me around, but only, as she said (smiling), because there are no other tourists around and her part-time colleague could keep an eye on the shop. Barbara told me some very nice stories about the castle. They do have some interesting events there: one as castle's dialogue days, exhibitions of artists from all over the world. I followed her up some spiral stairs that I barely managed with my vertigo because my attention was captured by the stair walls. They were covered by black and white comic strips in English! The thing was that it was rather bad Austrian humour translated into somewhat incomprehensible jokes. Barbara rattled her bunch of keys and produced an old looking one that opened one of the wooden doors.

We were entering a huge knight's hall, and I stood there, fascinated. The hall was covered with more than 130 wooden, hand-painted coats of arms on an arched ceiling. The ceiling was not high at all which gave the knight's hall a rather cosy and homely impression, and a good wooden-like warm smell. She told me that this hall was only for men during that time, and so they built lodgings for the ladies right below this hall on the first level of the castle. We took a secret passage down there to see an equally beautiful bower. It's not really open for public visits, Barbara continued, only for dancing workshops and musical events. I nodded and kept a big grin on my face the whole time.

The empty chair policy I suppose she liked me because she asked whether I would care for a swim in the swamp lake underneath the castle. She could phone up a friend for keys to open "the old public swimming baths" for me. Before I could reply, she told me to look out the medieval windows and pointed to a lovely wooden something only a blink away. Look, she said, there are no pupils from the youth hostel around today. You would have the entire institution for yourself! What a prospect!

All I had to do was pick up the keys from the hotel reception desk to open the public swimming baths. The swamp was close in with impenetrable water plants and reeds, and the wooden 19th century baths were the only access to the water. What a treat! The water was warm enough for a swim, although very dark with lots of fish. A small island in the middle of the swamp lake was a bird sanctuary. The entire small village with the castle and a few hotels (that was all there was!) is situated in a picturesque basin of such an accomplished arrangement that I felt like I had won the lottery. Natural acoustics came to my ear as far music. No traffic sound to hear. I plunged into the water with its velvet sensation and warm smell.

After a seemingly endless time, I climbed onto the wooden diving platform and dried myself in the sun, and then heard someone playing the trumpet from a hotel. No, that was not a dream! Felt perfect and infinite.

And that was just an ordinary August day in Austria! I bet you have no idea what it took to get me back to work! And nope, I won't tell you where it was - you can find out yourself!



Persuasion

Have you ever done something in your life that you thought had ended a very long time ago? So you thought until it comes up again later...

Gotcha!I remember this story began on Monday the 4th of February. I was on my way to Brooklyn to attend the special screening for Persuasion. I'd refused (as usual) the limo service that the Jane Austen society offered and took the subway to Brooklyn. Just before I went into the auditorium, I stopped by the crowded student cafeteria for a coffee (a Starbucks in the student cafeteria--who knew??). My first thought was that all those people were about to see Persuasion too, but luckily none took notice of me and I went in to order a coffee. For a split second, I noticed a woman staring at me. I had no chance to react to her recognising me because just then my cell phone rang and I took the call. Standing there in the middle of the coffee shop crowd, my phone between ear and shoulder, looking for change to pay for my coffee, and having a short interaction with the cashier, I managed to get to my appointment on time. Watching the movie that Roger directed more than 10 years ago brought up many memories. I shared a few with students, teachers, and fans and had a really great time. A few extra laughs on the question of make-up in Persuasion. I felt quite comfortable in the situation, sitting on that plain chair between the Jane Austen scholar and the film professor with the big screen behind our backs. Some insistent questions on the style of the cinematography produced a little annoyance, but in the end, the prevailing mood was lifted by the discussion over that kiss. What a fuss over just a small scene, but with such consequence! And the circus in the background. I thought that was it and went back to my theatrical real life.

Only to find some papers in my files including a fax from Simon. Nick Dear had written a draft of a sequel for Persuasion. That poor guy must have seen too many reviews of Indiana Jones 4! So years later, the Wentworths never arrive on a journey to Australia. The ship encounters pirates, and Anne gets kidnapped. An entire film filled with a journey where Anne can prove her practical sense in the wilderness, and me, I would fight my way across the whole continent to find her. And of course it would end with a kiss again, this time with a Gone With the Wind-like sunset and Australian mountains in the background. How could I potentially market that project in my Parisian home? I begin to sweat again and find myself dozing in the back of the production car that is supposed to take me to today's location for shooting. Quite a bloody maddening dream!



Life's not that bad

This is one of the first days on set. Since now all the crew and cast members have arrived, there is one of those welcome parties that are professional in a very American way. In Europe, you stay up very late and have drinks and canapés.

Ciaran for everHere you have the crowd gathered, appetizers and the party finished by 10 to make sure you're up and in fine form for the early morning shootings. I'm not a big partygoer, but I do like meeting new people. Andy said a few words. He's directed a movie before, but mainly did TV and producing things. And he's worked with The Rock before. I'm not quite sure whether this is good or bad. It works just fine for Martin Scorsese teaming up with my friend Daniel. Some directors never work with the same crew members again, others use the same team throughout their careers. I vaguely remember reading headlines of others exploiting Lucy Liu and Bill Murray's quarrels in Charlie's Angels. Nevertheless Dwayne did this Game Plan thing with Andy before. Well, I'll see what happens, they appeared well teamed up so far.

I overheard a conversation between two guys from technical equipment while having a beer. Their use of words like streaming server and portable render machines made me leave the table very fast. That kind of incident sometimes makes me switch over into a conversation I have in public where, only for a moment, I imagine me and another me talking over the advantages and disadvantages of acting as the front or the back end of Cinderella's horse again. It simply makes no sense, so why bother.

Just to encounter a new trap: some colleagues gossiping about Carla Gugino. I've never worked with her before, but just by standing there and being unable to close my ears, I'm now an expert on her qualities. She must have been a very hot babe in Judas Kiss. That was actually the magic word that caught my attention, since it was one of Alan Rickman's movies. It ended up in a good laugh when someone asked me whether I noticed her "George Clooney plunging 3-D neckline," and my answer was that I liked her evening outfit (high-necked black jumpsuit), being completely unaware of the direction. The guys stared at me first and then shed light on the fact that one of her former roles was in a 3-D movie I'd never heard of. OK, I'm not a regular moviegoer either. But to be in Malaysia for example and get to catch up with local crowds some 100 miles away over the latest popcorn movie attractions is too much for me while shooting. Anyway, I learned that the Spy Kids movie of Carla had a cameo of good old George and she was on fine display. To save face, I mentioned that Antonio Banderas was a nice guy I had met I don't know where and when, and then I got lost.

Anna Sophia and Alexander, the two kids, spent the evening near the cold cuts. There I treated myself to more than just good Roman memories of profiteroles. A very good combination with a glass of Bordeaux to have the meet'n great event wind down.