With Doctor Sleep, writer/director Mike Flanagan finds himself serving three masters. First, there’s Stanley King, who penned The Shining and its literary sequel, the subject of this new film. Then there’s Stanley Kubrick, whose iconic 1908 film adaptation of The Shining has legions of fans but remains hated by King himself. And then there’s Flanagan himself, the impressive filmmaker behind The Haunting of Hill House, Gerald’s Game, Hush, and more, whose distinctive voice blends chills with honest sentimentality.
I attended an early screening of Doctor Sleep in Estes Park, Colorado, home to the famous Stanley Hotel, the place where a young Stephen King was inspired to write The Shining in the first place. And the real miracle is this: Flanagan has made a movie that is a direct sequel to Kubrick’s film, a loving tribute to King’s original vision, and, most importantly, a proper Mike Flanagan movie through and through.
Shortly before I sat down to interview Flanagan, I learned that he was staying in the famously haunted Room 428 AKA “The Cowboy Room” at the Stanley Hotel, the same room I had stayed in prior to his arrival. Figuring this would be my only chance to talk to a noteworthy horror director about our experiences in the same haunted room, I used that to break the ice.
Maybe a slightly odd question to start with, but I was told you were in Room 428?
I was in there the other night before you arrived. So we have two people who have both been in a famously haunted room. Did you see anything or hear anything or feel anything odd while you were in the infamous Cowboy Room?
I did not see the Cowboy. The biggest thing I noticed was the wind against the window and the wall that night was loud, like a fist punching the wall. Those noises were startling, but no, I didn’t see anything.
I heard movement above me, where there is no place for there to be movement.
That’s messed up! I’ve stayed in there before, though. The first time I ever stayed here, I stayed in that room.
I’m a skeptic by nature, but I believe in ghosts. Where do you fall on this?
I’m a skeptic by nature, and I do not yet believe in ghosts. But I’m wide open. Like any good skeptic, my mind is wide open to the possibility and I actively seek it out. That’s why I ask for rooms like that.
Do you think that’s part of the thrill of being a horror fan? Wanting to find that stuff?
Yeah, nothing would make me happier. Because even if I have a really scary experience, to be able to say with certainty that there is something waiting for us on the other side of this life would be so cool. I’d love to know that. For me, it doesn’t feel knowable, and I haven’t seen it. But I know other people claim to have, and who am I to argue with that?
Interestingly, Doctor Sleep also has a similar viewpoint of “life goes on,” and in the world of Doctor Sleep and lots of Stephen King stories, being a ghost isn’t necessarily a curse. It’s being there to watch and help the people you love.
Can you talk a little bit about finding the optimism in your horror? I feel like you, like Stephen King, are an optimist at heart. I feel like you believe people were persevere.
Yes, I do. I didn’t always used to be this way, either. It’s funny, I look back at some of my early work – when I watch Absentia, for example, I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s bleak.’ Oculus is bleak. That optimism has kind of grown in me as I’ve gotten older, and it’s grown in me because I had children and I want to be optimistic for them. I want the world to be OK for them. And it’s because I met my wife and as my life congealed into a really positive thing, for the first time I wanted to believe in those things. I wanted to have faith in the existence, in the universe and purpose and justice. I want to believe all of that. It’s comforting for my kids. I can’t imagine them growing up in a world that is completely indifferent and hopeless. That wrecks me. I can’t let it happen.
It’s interesting, because you also see that in Stephen King’s work. He grows more humanist as work goes on, and even the creator of The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, ended his comic book run recently and wrote an essay in the last issue saying that his original plan was to end it with humanity wiped out, but changed to the opposite ending because over the years he had kids and realized he could not bring himself to do that. Do you agree with me when I say that there’s a wisdom in growing older with horror like that?
Yeah, I think so. I agree with that completely. I think, when you look at what horror is meant to do, it’s a safe space for us to entertain the things that scare us the most. As a kid, I used to look at it as a chance to be brave in short bursts. That making it through a scary movie or reading a scary book, when I didn’t want to look at the screen anymore or hide behind my fingers or a pillow, if I was able to push through that for five minutes, for 90 minutes, whatever it was, that was like exercise. I think even our darkest expressions of the genre are really a wonderful exercise for us to cathartically – they say when you’re really terrified of something happening, [you should try] exposure therapy. Experience it. Realize it isn’t the end of the world. See how you react to it. See how you really are on the other side of an experience like that, because there’s nothing flimsier than untested virtue. I think horror is optimistic, because it basically says that for as dark as this is, as scary as it is, it’s going to end and you’ll still be here. As the viewer, as the reader, you carry on. I think it’s incredible.
You’ve spoken before about how childhood trauma and its effects is like horror to you because you had a good childhood, so that scares you. But my real question, the pressing question, is why are you so afraid of hand trauma?
It’s become a running gag now. I have a phobia of fingernail injuries. It’s the most uncomfortable thing I can imagine. In Oculus, we had a scene where Rory [Cochrane] pulls off his thumbnail. I still haven’t been able to watch the whole thing. I can’t. It was a reshoot. It was a last minute addition to the movie. I was against it because I’m so uncomfortable with it and I can’t look at it. But with Hush, Hush was kind of, in a lot of ways, it was me feeling like I was never going to be able to make Gerald’s Game. Kind of riffing on a lot of things that are in that book. The crushing hand injury in that felt right for that story, and it was also kind of Gerald’s Game-y. But I didn’t have a vendetta against hands.
But then with Gerald’s Game, it was like, OK, now it’s starting to feel like a vendetta. And with [The] Haunting [of Hill House], Henry stuck his hand in the fan, he was like, “You’re starting to do this on purpose, aren’t you?” In Doctor Sleep, that’s why happens to her hand in the book. It gets pretty mangled. But I was like, “Here we go again!” At this point, it’s just becoming a dare, like how can I get a really gruesome hand injury in there. Because fuck hands! What do they do for anyone? Nothin’. But yeah, it’s just kind of fun.
I think the strength of gore like that is we don’t know what it’s like to have our face ripped off by a masked killer, but we’ve all stubbed our finger, we’ve all had a hangnail. We all know what that feels like.
Yeah, it’s like when you pull that hangnail just a little too far, and the tiny little tear happens? We all know how that feels. Because we use our hands for so much of our lives, an injury to those? It’s really frightening to me. It’s eyes and hands for me. Having any impediment to sight or being able to manipulate things. It scares me to death.
Yeah, and that was one of the things that was so exciting to me about this, was being able to do the ending of The Shining. To do the ending of the novel. But I don’t know if I’d put it all on Kubrick, to say that he’s got this kind of “we’re all doomed” [outlook]. I don’t know that I can speak to his worldview that definitively. What I will say, though, is that The Shining is very much about addiction, which is doom. It’s about annihilation and the destruction of a family. How addition can destroy an individual, and how that destruction can reach out and destroy others around it. I think that’s what King was writing about the most. He always had this note of redemption and sacrifice to it. He had this wish of how it would go, and Kubrick was more interested in the madness. He was more interested in the destruction, for sure.
But I think Doctor Sleep, written by the same author but with decades of sobriety under his belt, Doctor Sleep is about recovery. In the way that addiction feels like doom and annihilation, recovery is rebirth, and recovery is salvation, in a way. I think they’re two sides of the same coin, these stories. I think Kubrick gravitated very naturally toward certain notes of that story. And clearly, Stephen King, I think, desperately wanted the redemption because he needed it for himself and he needed it for his own family. When that wasn’t included in the movie, I think he took that personally, and I understand why he would. But I think that’s why he’s so passionate about it. To finally kind of be able to give him back in this story, it was an honor to be able to do that. I hope, though, that we’re also able to honor Stanley Kubrick and the masterpiece of cinema that he made. Because as many liberties as he took with it, he made a film that has profoundly formed me and has shaped the way I see cinema, and will always. That was the hope. Not to say, “this was right” or “this was wrong” or “this is the real Shining and this isn’t,” it was more to try to pull all of that together and celebrate all of it.
Four new wide releases this weekend brings the total to 11 over a three-week period. And, this will be another weekend in which grosses fall short of the same period last year, when “The Grinch” debuted to $62 million.
“Doctor Sleep,” an adaptation of Stephen King’s sequel to “The Shining,” will lead the weekend somewhere in the range of $25 million-$30 million. With a reported $45 million budget, and likely foreign interest, that’s a decent showing. However, three other releases — “Midway,” “Last Christmas,” and “Playing With Fire” — are unlikely to pass $20 million each.
Since Labor Day, we’ve seen two major hits with “Joker” and “It: Chapter Two,” both of which grossed over $200 million, and one film over $100 million with “Hustlers.” However, 2018 saw five films in the same period open to $50 million or more. This year, unless “Doctor Sleep” really stuns, there’s only one: “Joker.” That puts pressure on three sequels that open in the next few weeks with “Frozen 2,” “Jumanji: The Next Level,” and “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” along with standalone hopefuls to pick up the slack.
Stephen King is a franchise in his own right, but his currency in film was in decline until the two “It” titles revitalized his work. That gave new life to long-gestating plans to adapt his sequel to “The Shining.” This is a continuation of the story that’s aimed at viewers who aren’t wedded to Stanley Kubrick’s vision. It’s a more a mainstream horror film and Danny is now a psychic, and troubled, adult living in Florida.
Warners smartly reworked King into the studio sweet spot of mid-budget horror films like “The Conjuring;” risking comparisons with Kubrick was a fool’s mission. The end result is getting adequate reviews and benefits from heavy trailer showcasing with “It: Chapter Two” and “Joker.”
It opened last week in several European countries; results were decent but unspectacular. That said, it should be ahead of the new pack and upend “Terminator: Dark Fate” from #1 after one week.
Both “Midway” and “Last Christmas” are vying for next best, both somewhere in the vicinity of $15 million. For Roland Emmerich’s $100 million World War II naval battle film, which Lionsgate financed with Chinese investors, that would be terrible.Aimed at the Veteran’s Day holiday weekend, this will fall far short of “Dunkirk” and 2001’s “Pearl Harbor.” Reviews are trending to mildly negative.
Paul Feig’s “Last Christmas” is a London-set holiday rom-com. Reviews are middling at best, but word of mouth could keep it strong through Thanksgiving. That, plus international appeal, should make this at least a modest success.
“Playing With Fire,” another $30 million-budgeted family comedy, sees a group of firefighters led by John Cena forced to oversee a trio of children + cute dog needing short-term care. It’s a formula akin to recent Mark Wahlberg comedy hits, and initial reviews are awful. Still, this will be for the public to decide, which could propel it to a passable life after a predicted under-$10 million debut.
As we head into a nonstop series of awards contenders through Christmas, this weekend brings the limited releases of Netflix’s “Marriage Story” and Amazon’s Shia LeBeouf-starrer “Honey Boy.” Both received stellar reviews, but — like “The Irishman” — most theaters are denying patrons the chance to see the soon-to-be-streaming “Marriage Story” on screen.
LeBeouf recreated his early life in “Honey Boy,” which Amazon is releasing with conventional windows. It has a two-city platform release in top theaters, boosted by in-person Q&As at some shows. It was acquired for around $5 million, far less than other Amazon Sundance buys. That’s a cheap investment for a film they own worldwide on all platforms.
Tom Segura is one of the best comedians out there right now. The Cincinnati native released his first Netflix special, Completely Normal, back in 2014, and in the five years since, his skills as a storyteller have only sharpened. Segura’s jokes continue to grow longer and funnier, making for some of the most consistently funny Netflix comedy specials available. You can often find him at The Comedy Store in West Hollywood and, most recently, all over the country and Europe for his recent tour, “Take It Down.” If you didn’t get a chance to see him perform on his latest tour, the good news is all his new material will be available this month in a new special.
Segura can also be seen in the new horror movie, Countdown, which is produced by director Sean Anders. The two worked together on Instant Family, which gave the comedian his first prominent role in a major studio comedy to date. Segura isn’t only interested in acting in comedies, though, as he told us.
During a recent conversation with the comedian, actor, and co-host of Your Mom’s House podcast, he told us about his hope to see in all kinds of movies and what’s different about his new material.
How’s your new material playing?
It’s been doing well. I’ve actually been touring with it for quite a while. I have a new special coming up, so this [tour] is kind of winding down.
Even though it’s winding down and you’re about to leave for Europe, are you still tweaking material or, at a certain point, is it complete?
In my experience traveling in different countries, it’s best to not overthink it, just do it, and see how it goes. I think we tend to get in our heads about it, but if it works in most places, it probably works in other places. I’ll just do it and see what happens. I feel like most of it will translate. Some of it is real specific, you know, like a reference to a story or city people might not know, and you might have to explain that reference, but other than that, it’s fine.
I can’t think of too much from your specials that wouldn’t translate. It’s mostly universal material.
I think so, I think so. I mean, especially if you’re telling stories about relationships, your kids, parents, or someone you ran into. All those kinds of usually make sense.
For Countdown, since you had worked with Sean Anders, was it just a phone call you got for the part or did you have to go through auditions?
No. I got lucky because they just called me. Initially, they offered me another part, but when I read the script, the Derek stuff just made me laugh. When I said I wanted to play that role, they said, “Are you serious? You want to play that?” I thought it’d be funny, so I was excited to play that part.
I just like the idea of you playing a part in a demon movie. What people know about your stand up, was it also just a funny idea to you?
It is. When you think about it in terms of the catalog of your film career, it excites me to be in all types of films, you know what I mean? I would want to do children movies, a thriller, or a really physical comedy. Doing all types of stuff is exciting. I feel like it would be fun to mix it up. When I was on set and I got to see the demon, I thought, “This is amazing.”
When you’re going out for auditions, is it usually comedy or are you trying out for thrillers and dramas as well?
I’m trying to think. It’s funny, when you’re on tour it’s so demanding. When things start coming in I can’t even… I don’t have time to prepare for auditions. I’m thinking about the last few auditions I did. I did one a week ago for a pretty serious thriller, and then a silly comedy one. I guess I lean a little more comedy, but yeah, it’s a mix of things.
With your experience of performing in theaters, is it not that intimidating auditioning in front of a few people or do you still get nervous for an audition?
I feel like it really depends on the day. I mean, auditions can be super intimidating, but it is like performing live in that, day-to-day, it can vary. You’re not always the same every day. You can do a show and feel a certain confidence and calmness, but then there are days where you’re all worked up about it. I think auditioning is like that. The best auditions are when you’re relaxed and dialed in. I feel like I get that sometimes, and sometimes I don’t. I don’t like auditioning, I’ll say that.
[Laughs] I feel like few people say they like it.
I’ve heard a few people say they don’t mind. I’m like, are you serious? “Yeah, no, I don’t mind. The process is fine.” I think the biggest turnoff of acting is the auditioning. It usually feels awful, man. It really feels awful. It’s weird, too, because hands down the best I’ve auditioned, you don’t hear anything. I’ll think, “I nailed that,” and then you don’t hear nothing. Then when you feel like you’ve stumbled through it you’ll hear, “Yeah, they want to see you again.” What?
It’s funny, I did a podcast a week ago with Judd Apatow, which hasn’t come out yet, but we were talking about picking talent, like selecting talent to play different parts. We’d look at Internet videos of weird people and he’d say, “Oh, I’d cast this guy, I’d cast that guy.” I was like, “Would you really cast them?” And he went, “Yeah, because there’s so much charisma.” Then I asked him, “When you’re looking for potential actors for a part, do you look more for charisma than auditioning well, knowing your lines?” He said, “100%. For comedy, if I see a spark in their personality, I’m going to cast that person.” I just thought it was interesting, you know? Sometimes I do think, “How did I not get a callback for that? I did it so well.” It just happens.
It could be them, not you, but when you leave auditions do you ever think, “Screw it, I’ll just go work on material for myself”? Do you write many scripts for yourself?
Totally. I think like that all the time. I just wrote, directed, and acted in this sketch we’re going to release on my podcast youtube channel. I do it for that reason, like, I just gotta make stuff, man. The other thing is, too, they’ll let you know if they’re moving on [with someone else]. Most of the time you’re like, “What did they say?” And you hear, “I don’t know, man. They said you were great, but…” It’s a very unfulfilling and unsatisfying feeling. It’s not my primary career, but if I want to act in something, I’ll just go make something and shoot it.
Plus, being a stand-up, you could easily walk away from auditioning one day.
Oh yeah, I would say I primarily do that [Laughs]. I shot four movies in the last year, and they were all from phone calls. People called me, like, “Hey man, you want to be in this movie?” “Sure.” I did audition for Sean for Instant Family because he requested I audition, but even he said, “Yeah, it wasn’t a very good audition, so…” [Laughs]
[Laughs] One of my favorite characters of the last few years is DJ Dad Mouth.
Do you have more characters like that in mind you could do as a movie or show one day?
Yeah, there are different ones. There’s one that I can’t tell you about that’s coming out, which I shot. You are going to shit your pants. I’m telling you, dude, you should hit me up after. It’ll be on my personal youtube channel, Twitter, and Instagram. I shot it in a 14-hour day with an unbelievable level of production. I think you’ll go, “Oh my God.”
I look forward to it. You have such a strong voice as a comedian. I was wondering, do comedians have that a-ha moment of, “I’ve found my voice,” or is it just a natural progression?
I think it’s a progression thing. In a way, you knew it was there all along, but it wasn’t developed. It’s like, “Oh yeah, that’s who I am.” You just didn’t realize it, you know? It’s when you realize how you present it to people. It’s finally developed when people anticipate it, like, yeah, they know who I am. They know you’re going to have an opinion, and they might not know the words, but they know how you’re going to feel about this, and that’s when you feel like a developed comic, I think.
With the recent tour and the new special, what were some new things you wanted to try as a performer?
You’re always trying to improve. I’m always trying to be a better comic. I feel like the one thing I tried, and I’ve heard some people acknowledge it, is being a little more physical and a little more animated. You know, a part of it was deliberate. Another part of it is being uncomfortable being animated. When I say physical, don’t picture Jim Carrey, you know what I mean?
[Laughs] That’d be cool to see, though.
[Laughs] Yeah. For me, I’m feeling a little more versatile.
That’s interesting because to me, you’re such a less is more comic.
Yeah, yeah. I think that’s always my wheelhouse, but it’s moments where you’re more animated with the expressions. For me, movements are three steps this way, three steps that way. It’s not pacing the stage. Those little things, for me, usually involve just standing still.
There is so much more we’re going to learn about New Zealand-born actress Thomasin McKenzie in the coming years. With each new role, we see her abilities tested and our expectations exceeded. After a small role in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies when she was barely even a teenager, she continued working in shorts and local television series, until her breakthrough role in 2018 in Debra Granik’s much acclaimed Leave No Trace, opposite Ben Foster.
Not surprisingly, the offers and work came in rapidly, and in 2019, she can be seen in the just released Netflix feature The King, directed by David Michôd and co-starring Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson, in which she plays Henry V’s sister Philippa. At the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year, she also starred in the Australian biographical crime drama True History of the Kelly Gang, which presumably will open stateside in 2020. And in September 2020, she’ll be seen in director Edgar Wright’s latest work, Last Night in Soho.
But it’s her current remarkable take as the Jewish teenager Elsa in writer/director Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit that is garnering her significant notices in this World War II satire that follows a lonely German boy named Jojo Roman Griffin Davis whose world view is turned upside-down when he discovers his mother Scarlett Johansson is hiding a young Jewish girl in their attic.
/Film spoke with McKenzie in Chicago during the recent Chicago International Film Festival, and she discussed the responsibility of playing the only Jewish character in a film set during World War II in Germany, the benefits of shooting chronologically, and why she thinks it’s important this story be told today. Jojo Rabbit is in limited release, opening wider in the coming weeks.
Each time Jojo comes back to Elsa during the course of the film, our knowledge about her history, her personality, and how she ended up in the house grows. For a large part of the movie, you were shooting in a single location, were you able to shoot chronologically to make it more natural to show that growth? I know that’s not how films are usually made.
We actually did shoot Leave No Trace chronologically, and for this film, I think we did film those scenes more or less in order. We weren’t filming the end at the beginning.
As an actor, that’s got to be useful—almost like doing a play and the progression makes more sense.
Definitely. With filming Leave No Trace, it almost felt like we weren’t filming anything. I knew we were working, but it felt like we were just doing it and living it. I was inhabiting this person’s life for the period of the shoot. It wasn’t like a meta performance or anything. I did a film this year [Last Night in Soho] where we very much did not shoot in chronological order, and it does take a lot of planning. I ended up having to write up a timeline for all the scenes and refer back to it and go. “We’re here now, and I filmed that moment already. But I haven’t filmed that yet, so I don’t know that has happened.” It was a bit of a mind game.
When we were filming Jojo Rabbit, I was still figuring out who Elsa was. At the beginning, in the very first scene we shot was the very first scene you see Elsa in. And when I started that day, I had one idea of Elsa, but I ended it with a completely different idea of who she was. It definitely helps to film in chronological order because as the shoot goes on, you learn more things about your character and grow with them. Like with Leave No Trace, it was weird watching it back because I was watching myself getting older. My hair was growing, my features were getting darker somehow. I could see these changes happening as the story developed.
When you first read Taika’s screenplay, what do you remember about Elsa and her story that hooked you?
I think it was her strength. This story has been told a lot of times in a lot of different ways, and there have been a lot of similar variations of Elsa, who’s something of an Anne Frank character. What I liked about Elsa in Jojo Rabbit is that you really see her strength, and you get to understand that she isn’t just a victim, but she is a victim, of course, but that’s not what define her—she’s so many other things, which isn’t something you always get to see in this kind of character in a World War II film.
Her being the only Jewish character in the film, were you more aware of the representative nature of her, that she was representing this event and an entire people? Tell me about the weight of responsibility that puts on you and what you did to make sure you understood that in the performance.
Yes, totally. That’s something I thought about even before I had the role. I was thinking that this was a big responsibility, and you’re representing a lot of people, and it’s not something you can take lightly. This community of people has been through so much—their history is not a joke, so that was definitely something that was on my mind for the entire shoot, even now. In preparation, that was my main priority, to make sure I know the facts and had some understanding of their history of what they went through. I could never fully understand it; no one who didn’t go through what they went through could. But I wanted to know as much as I could, so I did a lot of research.
I always approach new roles with research—that’s one of my favorite parts of the process, the research. But with one, it was to a whole new level. From the get go and throughout the entire shoot, I was researching and reading books like The Diary of Anne Frank and about four other books about young Jewish girls living through the Holocaust. I used our modern-day tool, the internet, and I watched Schindler’s List. When I was in New Zealand, I went to museums. Interestingly, New Zealand was the first country to declare war on Germany in World War II because of the time difference—so for a few hours, it was New Zealand vs. Germany.
And once I arrived in Prague, I spent a lot of time going to different cemeteries, including the Jewish cemetery with my manager, who is Jewish herself. I went to the Old-New Synagogue and the Spanish Synagogue, also to the Jewish Quarter, which has been really well preserved. I worked with a historian who told me the Nazis had a plan to use the Jewish Quarter in Prague as a museum for an extinct race, which is makes you sick to think about.
I was going to ask about Prague, because it does still have an old-European feel to it. Did that make shooting there make you feel like you were going back in time?
Yeah, you really do. I didn’t get to spend a lot of time on location in the different sites where they filmed, but Roman does talk during the Q&As about when he was filming those scenes in the town, he really did feel like he was there in 1944.
I read somewhere that Taiki wanted you to watch Mean Girls and Heathers before shooting this, because he thought Elsa might have been something of a bully in school. What did that add to the character for you?
That definitely did change my view of Elsa. When I first met Taiki, I went into that meeting with all of this research I had done and I had this certain kind of confidence because I wanted him to know that I’d done the work. So I told him all of this, and he went “Oh, yeah. Cool. Go watch Mean Girls and Heathers.” [laughs] And I’m so happy he did that because it really did change my perception of Elsa. Had he not told me to watch those things, I would have played her as where we would have seen less of her strength, and she would have been different. But watching those films made me realize that she lived a whole life before the war, and she’s got so many layers, so many experiences, and she wasn’t always looked at as being a monster. So that’s something that I needed to think about in this performance.
Anytime a filmmakers makes a movie set in a specific period, you wonder why is now the time to tell this story. Why do you think this story is important to tell today?
Everyone knows there’s a lot of anger going on in the world at the moment, and people with hateful ideas being encouraged to express those beliefs on a bigger scale—or maybe similar scale. Those thoughts have always been around, kept underground, maybe not so noticed. But now they are coming out into the open, and hateful people have a certain level of confidence these days. I think it’s important to those people and every kind of people, of all ages, to see this film and be reminded to think of our past, and be reminded what led to World War II, what were the causes of the Holocaust. There are some similarities between what caused World War II and how we got to that place of anger, and how things seem to be escalating today.
I know there has been a lot of talk about the use of human here and whether it’s appropriate to have laughter around the subject at all. But I think it deepens the emotions. I’ll admit, I was not prepared for how deeply emotional I felt throughout the film. Watching Taiki work, could you spot him adjusting the humor at different places?
Yeah, and I think a lot of that process was in the edit as well. They tested Jojo Rabbit 15 different times on different audiences, and from that, they knew at what points in the film humor might have been too much or too little, and they were able to adjust based on those test screenings. That’s definitely something Taiki worked on a lot. Like you said, you definitely go into this film without expecting to be so emotionally moved, and Taiki says that’s because you’re going into a comedy and not with your arms crossed expecting to be told to listen. You’re open and receptive to the emotions. When you’re watching it, you’re really on a rollercoaster. I remember at the premiere in Toronto, where I watched it for the first time with a big crowd, we felt like everyone was going through this together and all feeling exactly the same thing at the same time. I don’t think it would have been at that scale if it has been a straight drama; I think that the comedy has opened people up to this film.
I want to ask you about a specific scene, the one with Stephen Merchant, where he’s looking through that book that Jojo has put together with all of the hurtful Jewish myths. That’s a defining scene for your character because she has to fake ownership of something so hateful to her people in order to stay hidden. Tell me about the importance of that scene to you.
For that scene, we see Elsa walk into a room full of Nazis and people who have called her family and friends disgusting thing like vermin and a monster and told so many lies about her and her people. And we see her walk into that room and say “What you say about me is not true. Here I am. I’m still standing, and you have no idea that I’m a Jewish person, but you’ve created this whole image of me.” There’s so much strength in Elsa in that scene, which is incredibly moving to see. When she has to say “Heil Hitler” as well, it’s rough. And in the second half of that scene, we really see her unsure and off balance for the first time, because before that she held so much power and confidence over Roman, and in that scene, she’s got no idea what to do because she’s doesn’t know if she’s going to get caught.
'Last Christmas' and 'Midway' also open nationwide over the crowded weekend, while 'Honey Boy' launches in select cinemas.
Unless there's an upset, Warner Bros.' R-rated horror pic Doctor Sleep — a sequel to Stephen King's The Shining — should win the weekend box office race with a debut of $25 million or more.
The adaptation of King's 2013 novel of the same name is set decades after the events of The Shining, and follows a grown up Danny Ewan McGregor as he grapples with his psychic abilities and the trauma of the past.
Doctor Sleep, also starring Rebecca Ferguson and newcomer Kyliegh, is directed by Mike Flanagan and opens 39 years after The Shining hit theaters.
The R-rated horror-thriller is hardly the only fresh offering as a cluster of titles open over Veteran's Day weekend and in advance of the crowded Thanksgiving corridor. One is even holiday-themed — Paul Feig's romantic comedy Last Christmas.
From Universal and inspired by the George Michael song of the same name, Last Christmas stars Emilia Clarke as troubled artist whose fortunes start to change when a young man, played by Henry Golding, begins appearing in her life. Emma Thompson and Michelle Yeoh also star. Golding and Yeoh also starred in the blockbuster rom com Crazy Rich Asians.
Tracking shows Last Christmas opening in the mid-teens, but the pic could overperform.
The same applies to Roland Emmerich's big-budget World War II epic Midway, which is presently tracking to launch in the low- to mid-teens. The $100 million indie stars Patrick Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Ed Skrein and Nick Jones. Lionsgate timed the release of the film to Veteran's Day.
The fourth new release of the weekend is Paramount and Walden Media's PG family friendly Playing With Fire, starring John Cena, Keegan-Michael Key, John Leguizamo and Tyler Mane as a group of firefighters who face their most challenging job yet — babysitting. Brianna Hildebrand also stars in the Andy Fickman-directed film, which is tracking to debut to $7 million to $10 million.
At the specialty box office, Amazon Studios opens the critically acclaimed Honey Boy in select theaters. The awards contender, written by and starring Shia LeBeouf, is directed by Alma Har'el.
Last weekend saw Terminator: Dark Fate claim the top spot at the U.S. box office, but its reign as champ will be short-lived, much to the dismay of Paramount Pictures and everyone else involved. This weekend sees four newcomers enter the fold in the form of Warner Bros.' Doctor Sleep, Universal's Last Christmas, Lionsgate's Midway and Paramount's Playing With Fire. Safe to say, it's going to make for a crowded weekend.
Doctor Sleep, directed by Mike Flanagan Gerald's Game, The Haunting of Hill House serves as a sequel to The Shining, both Stanley Kubrick's movie and Stephen King's novel. It's an ambitious undertaking, but one that looks to pay off as the horror flick, which stars Ewan McGregor and Rebecca Ferguson, is expected to bring in between $25 and $30 million on opening weekend. That box office number could be bolstered as reviews for this one have been quite good so far. It currently boasts a 74 percent critical approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, to go with a stellar 95 percent audience score. The new golden age of King lives on.
Next up, Paramount looks to get a jump on the holiday season with Last Christmas, the latest from director Paul Feig Bridesmaids. The holiday romcom is toplined by a couple of hot stars in Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding, with Emma Thompson also included in the ensemble. Despite middling reviews thus far, the Christmas flick is looking at a debut between $15 and $19 million. Considering this one could have long legs up through the end of the year, this could be another winner for Paramount in 2019.
Related: Doctor Sleep Runtime Promises Another Stephen King Epic
Midway, a large-scale World War II epic from Roland Emmerich Independence Day faces an uncertain long-term fate. Estimates have it taking in around $15 million, which isn't great considering the $100 million production budget, which Emmerich raised outside the studio system, essentially making it one of the most expensive independent movies ever made. If overseas audiences turn up, this could work out, but things aren't looking great. The cast includes Ed Skrein, Patrick Wilson and Woody Harrellson.
Rounding out the top five will be Terminator: Dark Fate, which is going to stumble with between $13 and $14 million, further cementing it as one of the biggest bombs of the year. Playing with Fire, a family-friendly comedy starring John Cena, will get off to a middling start with between $7 and $10 million. Elsewhere, Netflix's The Irishman expands to several key markets across the country and Fox Searchlight's Jojo Rabbit, a likely Oscar hopeful from director Taika Waititi, also will expand to more than 250 screens. Be sure to check out our full list of weekend box office predictions below and check back with us on Sunday for the weekend estimates. Numbers used in this report were provided by Box Office Mojo.
1 Doctor Sleep2 Last Christmas3 Midway4Terminator: Dark Fate5Playing with Fire6Joker7Maleficent: Mistress of Evil8Harriet9The Addams Family10Zombieland Double Tap
, , ] HomeBox OfficeDoctor Sleep, Last Christmas & Midway Enter 3-Way Battle for the Box Office