Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Pauline Chan about television and movies to watch this weekend including “Industry,” a look at the world of high finance on Crave, the World War II drama “The Liberators” on Netflix and Disney+’s “LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Stephanie Smythe have a look at david Fincher’s Hollywood biopic “Mank,” now in theatres, the Disney+ Christmas movie “The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special,” “Sound of Metal,” the new film from “Rogue One’s” Riz Ahmed and the family drama “Rustic Oracle,” now on VOD.
When I recently spoke with Anthony Daniels, the “Star Wars” legend who has played C-3PO for almost fifty years, I let two bad words escape my mouth. “You said the two horror words in the English language: ‘holiday special,’” he said with a laugh. “It remains one of the most shocking, undignified pieces of non-entertainment. Something so abusive of the basic premise of ‘Star Wars.’”
To be clear, he was talking about “The Star Wars Holiday Special,” not the new “The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special,” a new animated movie now playing on Disney+, but his reaction speaks to the legend of the 1978 Christmas show. It’s been called “the worst two hours of television ever.” It’s so cringy Nathan Rabin wrote, “I’m not convinced the special wasn’t ultimately written and directed by a sentient bag of cocaine.”
Against that intergalactically awful backdrop comes a new special that shares nothing with the original save for the “Star Wars” DNA and the celebration of Life Day.
Chronologically placed after the events of “Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker,” as the film begins ‘twas the night before Life Day, in a galaxy far, far away. Jedi Rey and roly-poly robot BB-8 are on a journey to Kashyyyk, the tropical, forested Wookiee home world in a quest for a deeper understanding of the Force.
Back at the Millennium Falcon preparations are underway for the Wookiee festival of Life Day celebrations as Rey is diverted, thrown off course by a key that unlocks the galaxy’s past. Travelling across space and time, she goes on an intergalactic adventure that puts her in contact with many of “Star Wars’” most beloved and villainous characters.
Question is, will she make it home to celebrate the most important day on the Wookiee calendar with her pals?
If you are going to riff off one of the silliest shows of all time, you should be at least sorta silly. The bland humour of “The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special” doesn’t compare in any way to the inventive, anarchic spirit or the frenetic storytelling of the big-screen LEGO movies. Those movies break the rules, whereas “The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special” feels tame, afraid to take chances in the melding of two beloved franchises. It often seems like an excuse to take threadbare holiday themes of the importance of family and finding the true spirit of the season and moulding them around familiar characters.
The good news is “The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special” is a step up from “The Star Wars Holiday Special.” But, then again, almost everything is. See the above comment from Anthony Daniels. Other than some silly Dark Side moments, it feels like a franchise unwilling to really let go and have some fun. It needs a touch more “What Can You Get A Wookie For Christmas (When He Already Owns A Comb?)” and touch less of playing it safe.
On an encore presentation of “Pop Life” on June 13, 2020 we welcome the droid you’ve been looking for, Anthony Daniels. As C-3PO he is the only actor to have appeared in all of the episodic films in the series, as well as many of its spin-offs, including television shows, video games and radio serials. On this twelfth episode of season five of “Pop Life,” he talks about his first stage appearances, the uncomfortable nature of the gold suit that made him famous and how he once felt like a “secret outcast” from the rest of the cast. Then the “Pop Life” panel, Marvel, DC, Lucasfilm and Hasbro artist Ken Lashley, CTV NewsChannel anchor and “Star Wars” super-fan Todd Van Der Heyden and Roger Christian, the Academy Award winning Set Decorator and Production Designer for “Star Wars”–he created the lightsaber and R2D2 and decided to put dice in the film as a nod to Han Solo gambling–discuss why “Star Wars” is still important forty two years after its initial release.
Film critic and pop culture historian Richard Crouse shares a toast with celebrity guests and entertainment pundits every week on CTV News Channel’s exciting talk show POP LIFE.
Featuring in-depth discussion and debate on pop culture and modern life, POP LIFE features sit-down interviews with celebrities from across the entertainment world, including rock legends Sting and Meat Loaf, musicians Josh Groban and Sarah Brightman, comedian Ken Jeong, writer Fran Lebowitz, superstar jazz musician Diana Krall, stand-up comedian and CNN host W. Kamau Bell, actors Danny DeVito and Jay Baruchel, celebrity chefs Bobby Flay and Nigella Lawson, and many more.
As the calendar moves ahead to 2016 I’m taking a moment to think back to the great people I met, wrote about or chatted with on television in 2015. I shared Tim Bits with Liev Schreiber—he liked the chocolate, I preferred the glazed—inhaled Johnny Depp’s vape fumes, had a “Sock Battle Supreme” with Anthony Daniels—Mr. C-3PO—and was embarrassed to order a Chai Tea Latte while standing next to Chris Cooper at a coffee bar. On stages, in hotel rooms, on phones and even in the back of taxis, they spoke and I listened. Here’s some of the best stuff I heard this year:
GEORGE MILLER: “I don’t think I’d be the filmmaker I am unless I had that medical education, in two very direct ways. Both of them have a lot of problem-solving in there. But the most important way is that as a doctor you are looking at people in extremis from many points of view. You look inside of people. You see people during birth and death and so on. Through microscopes — a lens. So you’re looking from many, many points of view. That’s exactly what you do in cin ema. Huge wide shots with massive crowds or you’re looking right down inside someone’s brain, someone’s head.”
AMY SCHUMER: “I never thought about being famous. That was never part of my thing, but once it was on the horizon as a possibility, it seemed like a real bummer. I could see there’s no upside. The upside is I sometimes get free appetizers and I can get a reservation at a restaurant. I only go to one place in New York, it’s a tea place, the Tea Cup, and they don’t take reservations but I can make a reservation there. I swear I don’t see another upside. It sucks.”
PHYLLIS SMITH: “I worked for JC Penny in the warehouse tagging the merchandise,” she remembers. “I used to stand there and tag thousands of fishing lures or bowling balls or roller shades, which were heavy as heck to lift around. The people were great to work with but the merchandise was a little challenging.
“I used to stand there, thinking about life, wondering what it is we all have in common because we’re not all given the same opportunity. Some people’s health is impaired when they’re born while others are charmed with intelligence or looks. I thought, ‘There has to be something that we all have. A commonality.’ I figured out that it’s the ability to love. We all, in some form or another, want to love and be loved. That was my big revelation. My lightbulb moment. Also, if you’re standing on a concrete floor, make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes or you’ll pay for it later.”
CAROLL SPINNEY: Caroll is President Obama’s ninth cousin, but Big Bird isn’t political in the least. “Big Bird, I’m told by the owners of him, does not have political opinions. I thought of an idea that would get around that problem if someone (ever asked about it). ‘I don’t know who that is,’ he says in Big’s voice. ‘I thought we had a king.’ In most fairy tales, lands are run by kings or queens.”
DEBORAH ANN WOLL: A quick Internet search turns up many adjectives used to describe Daredevil star Deborah Ann Woll; gorgeous, talented and cute to name just a few.
The redheaded actress uses other terms to describe herself.
“There’s nerd, geek, all those words,” she says. “I am settling closer and closer to dork. I am a very proud dork.”
The former True Blood star — she played fierce teenage vampire Jessica Hamby for seven seasons on the hit show — embraces her inner dork — “I’m Dungeons and Dragons player, a Mystery Science Theatre buff. I like board games.”
She says the role playing games have benefits beyond entertainment value.
“Something like Dungeons and Dragons or a board game is a way for me to be social but it takes some of the responsibility off of me myself. If I don’t feel impressive as myself, I can feel impressive as Mistress Pyrona, the Genosi Sword Maiden. Like my acting, it gives me a little bit of support.”
JAKE GYLLENHAAL: “I think the people I admire as artists are the people who really listen to themselves even if it is to the detriment of what people might consider success. I’d rather be myself and do what I love than listen to someone else and follow that role and be unhappy.”
CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER: My favourite line from any interview? Christopher Plummer talking about the dog in “Remember”: “We had two dogs on set. One to do the stunts and the other just making money.”
BRYAN CRANSTON: “I don’t want to portray this idea that I’m just about the art. I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich and rich is better.” Also: Bryan Cranston told me he likes to go up to people wearing the Heisenberg t-shirts they wore on the show Breaking Bad and talk like Walter White… “Nice t-shirt,” and I whisper if to them and their eyes go wide and I put my finger to my lips, like ‘Don’t tell anyone… if you tell people, they won’t believe you.’
SAOIRSE RONAN: Saoirse is an Irish or Scottish name meaning freedom roughly pronounced SEER-shə. “I get very confused about my name all the time,” she said in a recent sit-down. “Sometimes I look at it when I’m writing it down for people and I go, ‘This is actually a ridiculous spelling of a name.’”
ADAM MCKAY: “We wanted to be the first Wall Street movie that took you behind the curtain, that really said, All these confusing terms you hear, all the ways the banks make you feel stupid or bored … it’s actually not that hard. If the guy who did Step Brothers can understand it you can too.”
RYAN COOGLAR: “Whenever I had a big test at school or a football game (my father would) say, ‘Take 10 minutes and watch this scene from Rocky. That’ll get you fired up. That’ll give you the juice to score five touchdowns. Or get an A on that test.’ I’d look over and think, ‘Are we watching this for me or for you?’”
ANTHONY DANIELS: Having one of the most recognizable voices in movie history can lead to some surreal moments. Just ask Anthony Daniels. He’s played C-3PO in all seven Star Wars films, including this weekend’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and once rented a car with a very familiar voice on the GPS.
“I felt uncomfortable with me —very clearly — giving me instruction for something I didn’t know. I found it quite bizarre. I was driving thinking, ‘This is unnatural.’”
TIFF: The Toronto International Film Festival is only ten days but it looms large on my schedule every year. This year, in addition to watching dozens of movies and doing interviews for Metro, “Canada AM,” “NewsTalk 1010” and others, I hosted a bunch of press conferences, including, “The Martian” – with Ridley Scott, Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Demolition with Jake Gyllenhaal (#JakeQuake), Our Brand is Crisis with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock and Black Mass with Johnny Depp. They were some of the highlights of the fest for me… and unfortunately provided one of the low points. Read on… and once again Sean Bean, I’m REALLY sorry.
METRO: An insider’s look at TIFF: Behind the scenes with Richard Crouse
Ever wondered what it’s like to rub shoulders with celebs?
The backstage room at the TIFF Bell Lightbox’s press conference area is a beehive of activity.
“Is George here yet?”
“Is that Johnny vaping in the corner?”
It’s a place where no last names are necessary and the star wattage is blinding. Actors, directors, publicists and gofers mingle while air kisses, handshakes and Hollywood hugs are exchanged.
This year the Toronto International Film Festival is mounting 11 press conferences featuring everyone from Matt Damon and Sandra Bullock to George Clooney and Keith Richards.
I’m hosting four of them — Demolition, The Martian, Our Brand is Crisis and Black Mass — with, as MGM used to brag, “More stars than are in the heavens.”
Despite the buzzy nature of the events, backstage is a casually chaotic place where actors get caught up with one another before taking the stage.
Matt Damon made the rounds, glad-handing with his The Martian cast mates, many of whom he hadn’t met because he spent 90 per cent of his of screen time alone, stranded on Mars.
The business of the press conferences happens on stage. Moderating these things provides a fascinating glimpse into both sides of the publicity machine.
Ideally the press conferences are a reciprocal event: Reporters ask questions to actors and filmmakers they might not otherwise have access to, and in return the stars get publicity for their films. It’s a pretty simple but often unpredictable transaction.
Gone are the days of the legendary “journalist” who asked all her questions in rhyme, but for every sensible inquiry about the movie, there is inevitably another off-the-wall query that leaves panel lists either annoyed or scratching their heads.
At the Our Brand is Crisis conference someone asked Bullock about her character’s grown-out roots. The Oscar winner replied as best she could and when she finished, Clooney chimed in, “Aren’t you glad you asked that question?”
Later she shut down a silly query regarding how she keeps her bum as toned as it is in the film. “It’s so sad that you just want to talk about the butt,” she said, before tersely adding that leg lifts are the secret to posterior pertness.
Not that the attendees are the only ones to pull a gaffe or two. During the Demolition conference, I asked Chris Cooper a long, rambling question about his character. He seemed genuinely perplexed, and you know what? I was, too. Sometimes you can overthink these things.
Later at The Martian presser, there were 13 people on the stage, everyone from Michael Pena to Damon, Scott, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jessica Chastain, and in the shuffle I made the horrifying mistake of forgetting to ask the great Sean Bean a question and didn’t realize it until we were out of time.
Who doesn’t acknowledge Lord Eddard Stark?
Me, idiotically. Next year I promise to go to him first and frequently.
Having one of the most recognizable voices in movie history can lead to some surreal moments. Just ask Anthony Daniels. He’s played C-3PO in all seven Star Wars films, including this weekend’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens and once rented a car with a very familiar voice on the GPS.
“I felt uncomfortable with me —very clearly — giving me instruction for something I didn’t know. I found it quite bizarre. I was driving thinking, ‘This is unnatural.’”
Other times the voice, which in real life is less mannered than his on-screen counterpart, brings him unexpected recognition.
For some of his fans, seeing isn’t believing — hearing is.
“One of the most charming things that happens to me is when an adult will bring a child to me and say, ‘He doesn’t believe you’re C-3PO.’
“And why would he? I’m some old guy with white hair. Then I do the voice. You see the sound go in one ear and then there is an absolutely realistic time delay whilst the synapses process this. Nothing happens for a second-and-a-half, then suddenly there’s a smile and excitement. I love that delay while they process it. You couldn’t buy that. I’ve been given that and it gives me utter joy because it is without guile. It is just an honest recognition of something I did.”
A week before Daniels trekked to Tunisia in 1976 to begin shooting the sci-fi space opera, he was a stage actor performing in Tom Stoppard’s absurdist play Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
“It’s about two nobodies,” he says. “Rosencrantz is a bit gung ho, (he) doesn’t think. Doesn’t work things out really; just goes for the main thing. His friend Guildenstern is much more reserved, much more intellectual. He thinks about things. Worries about things.
“There I am a week later playing C-3PO in the desert with R2D2. I would say it was three or four years later that something in my brain went, ‘Wait a minute, R2 and 3PO are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.’ There is a nice synergy there, or connection I think. 3PO is the clever one and R2 is the gung ho one. They’re odd couple buddies. It is a great dynamic to act off.”
Today C-3PO and R2D2 are seen as a classic combo, but during filming, Daniels had his doubts it would work.
“The problem for me was R2D2 never made any sounds so I was playing off myself. Not to aggrandize myself, but it was quite a challenge. It was a bit like a terrible Whose Line Is It Anyway? where you pretend a chair is your best friend.
“When I saw the final movie and there were R2’s beeps and responses, to me it was total magic because that was the first time I ever saw it. They had woven a conversation after the fact.”
Playing the golden droid has been a lifelong career for Daniels. The 69-year-old actor was just 30 years old when he first donned C-3PO’s suit and has since appeared in person or voice in dozens of movies, television shows, commercials, PSAs and live events as the character. He’s even in the legendary The Star Wars Holiday Special and says he’s been “very lucky to be given the chance” to play C-3PO but calls that his “business life.”
“I don’t go around saying, ‘Do you know who I am?’
When I suggest he could at least use his fame and the C-3PO voice to get great tables in restaurants he says, “No, no, no. Then they’d say there’s no table tonight or tomorrow. I don’t think people would be too terribly impressed to have me in the restaurant. Were I to enter in a gold suit then I could have the entire room to myself!”