Los Angeles, Aug 10 (AP/UNB) — Casey Affleck had been working on a script about a parent and child for years. He'd written scenes about a bedtime story and an argument about taking a trip into town and things seemed to be going well. As the father of two boys, Affleck had defaulted to writing the child as a son. But then, deep into the process, his boys came back with a request: They didn't want it to be about them.
"They were pretty adamant that they did not want it to be a father-son story," Affleck said. "I had already put in a lot of work and I was like, don't do it ... "
But, despite the heartburn of having to rework the story again, he caved and made the child a girl, and it ultimately helped the story. He'd been looking for stakes in this parenting saga and now a genre construct was possible. What if a disease had wiped out all of the women, except this man's daughter?
"This was about someone who was very nervous about protecting their kid. I wanted to make the stakes of that as big as possible so it wasn't just like, I'm protecting them from having a bad fourth grade experience," Affleck said. "It's like I'm protecting them from an entire world who wants to kidnap them."
The result is the slow-burn dramatic thriller "Light of My Life" now playing in theaters and available on demand. Affleck directed, wrote and stars in the film, which premiered earlier this year at the Berlin Film Festival. It knowingly echoes modern classics like "Children of Men."
He and casting director Avy Kaufman went on an epic search to find the right girl to play his daughter, Rag, and discovered a little-known Canadian actress named Anna Pniowsky who fit the bill perfectly.
"I was still a little girl. I think I was 11 when I sent my tape in," Pniowsky, now 13, said. "I wasn't expecting anything to happen. I didn't get a lot of roles back then."
Since then, her profile has risen with roles in the Hulu show "Pen15" as one of the popular girls and "The Hot Zone." And she fell easily into her role as a pre-teen who still acts out and defies her fathers' rules even in this bleak and dangerous reality. Critics have hailed her performance, much of which is spent in "disguise" as a young boy, as a breakout.
"She didn't need a whole lot," Affleck said. "She was just good at doing this naturally. Sometimes I felt like if I interfered too much in the scene or the natural progression of the scene that I was just getting in the way."
Together, Affleck and Pniowsky have a light-hearted rapport where you can see the seeds of why their father-daughter dynamic works. They can't even agree on whether or not Affleck gave her anything to prepare beforehand.
Affleck: "She says I did, but I don't remember and I don't think she read it anyway."
Pniowsky: "He made me read three books. I only remember one of them. It was 'Little House on the Prairie'... They were all kind of older books."
Affleck: "Obviously they really sunk in."
"Light of My Life" is Affleck's first time behind the camera since the 2010 film "I'm Still Here" that led to civil lawsuits for breach of contract from two women, a cinematographer and a producer, who worked on the film. One also sued for sexual harassment, and both described an uncomfortable atmosphere on the set of the unconventional mockumentary. Both were settled out of court, and Affleck apologized last year in an interview with The Associated Press for allowing and contributing to "an unprofessional environment."
Behind the scenes Affleck has been quietly doing his part to try to chip away at inequality in his industry. In "Light of My Life," he worked with a number of women on the crew, including "Memento" editor Dody Dorn and assistant director Liz Tan, who has worked on epics like "The Lord of the Rings." His next two films also have female directors: "The Friend," a terminal illness drama from Gabriela Cowperthwaite, which is premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival and his own production company's period frontier film "The World to Come," directed by Mona Fastvold and co-written by "The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford" scribe Ron Hansen.
"I'm certainly happy to do that and create a little more equality and get different voices telling stories and different perspectives than the same old stuff that we've had forever," Affleck said. "That seems like definitely a worthy cause and one I'm all for. But also these people are just great storytellers and they're both super talented. They deserve to be there."
Affleck would also like to continue directing. He loves "big fantasy movies" like "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" but thinks he's a ways off from figuring out how to make them work.
As for whether he's working on anything at the moment?
"Not really," Affleck said. "(But) someone told me if you're writing something, never ever admit it."
New York, Aug 10 (AP/UNB) — Shia LaBeouf is trying to show how different he is from his co-star in "The Peanut Butter Falcon," Zack Gottsagen.
"Hey, Zack," says LaBeouf. "Are you a good opera singer?"
"Yes!" replies Gottsagen with a smile.
"Hey, Zack. Are you good scuba diver?"
"Yes!" responds Gottsagen, just as quickly, just as brightly.
LaBeouf shakes his head in awe. Like the 33-year-old LaBeouf, Gottsagen, is an actor. He's one year LaBeouf's senior and he has Down syndrome. Truth be told, he can't sing a lick of opera and isn't much for scuba diving. But that's never stopped Gottsagen.
"No matter what you ask him, he's good at it. He was raised a special, magical kid since he was young. There's no self-doubt in him," says LaBeouf. "You ask me if I'm a good actor and I'll tell you I'm s---."
Six years ago, Gottsagen met Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz at an acting workshop for disabled people at a camp in Santa Monica, California, organized by Zeno Mountain Farm. They immediately noticed Gottsagen who, while playing the bad guy in a Western, would with an air of danger take off his glasses and put down his drink before saying his line.
Gottsagen, who works as an usher at his local movie theater in Florida, told them he wanted to be a movie star.
"We had to have a really frank conversation about how there aren't many opportunities for people with Down syndrome to act in movies that go into theaters. He kind of got really emotional and he just said, 'Well, let's do it together then!'" recalls Schwartz. "It was his idea. It was a great idea."
Schwartz and Nilson had only toiled on the peripheries of Hollywood, working on commercials and short films. Nilson, once a hand model, doubled for Brad Pitt. But, inspired by Gottsagen's determination, they checked out some books from the library about how to write a screenplay.
They put together a script about a wrestling-obsessed young man with Down syndrome who breaks out of his assisted living home and embarks on a "Huck Finn"-like adventure across the North Carolina outer banks and joining up with a destitute crab fisherman running from his debtors (LaBeouf).
It took extreme effort to make it a reality. Nilson and Schwartz went broke and became homeless in the process. For a spell, Nilson lived in a tent without much food. "For better or worse, we went a little bit crazy getting that promise we made to Zack to happen," says Nilson.
But with Gottsagen starring, the filmmakers scraped together some money and began attracting an enviable cast drawn to the project's good heartedness. The film co-stars Dakota Johnson, John Hawkes, Bruce Dern and Thomas Haden Church. After it premiered at SXSW earlier this year, "The Peanut Butter Falcon," which opened in theaters Friday, won the audience award. Reviews have been excellent. Gottsagen's dream has come true.
"I hope some people could have the opportunity to go for their dreams," Gottsagen said in an interview alongside LaBeouf shortly after taping appearances on the "Today" show and "Good Morning America." ''Follow your heart and maybe someday you can be a movie star."
What's striking about Gottsagen is how he's taken his good fortune in such stride. Having long loved movies (he counts "Grease" as his favorite) and studied acting since has a kid, Gottsagen is remarkably comfortable in the spotlight. He has even taught acting to others with Down syndrome. He worked for his big break. He earned it.
Instead, it's those around Gottsagen whose lives have changed, particularly LaBeouf's. The intense actor and sometimes meta-artist who has been known to battle self-destructive tendencies didn't know what exactly he was getting into when he, a month before shooting, got off an airplane in Georgia and hopped into the back of a pick-up. Nilson and Schwartz sat in the front, Gottsagen and LaBeouf in the back, holding each other as the truck swerved.
They quickly became close, spending their evenings watching wrestling and their days on 12-hour shoots across the Georgia countryside, swimming in rivers, dancing on railroad tracks and having watermelon fights. Like their characters, there was nothing "cheeseball," just honesty and tenderness and equality between them.
"I was quite unintelligible to myself before I met him. He had more self-awareness coming into this picture than I do, which is saying a lot," says LaBeouf. "Walking out, I've adopted a lot of his self-love and his confidence. It's leading to self-love, which is leading to an ability to receive love, which is what was lacking in my life. And I would run to alcohol. I just hated myself. Just a big self-hater."
In the middle of production in 2017, LaBeouf was arrested for public drunkenness . A video captured him making sexist and racist remarks to police officers. LaBeouf has since gotten sober, and he credits Gottsagen with his turnaround.
"He knows about my pain intimately. We'd be sitting there watching wrestling every night. He'd be eating ice cream. I'd be drinking gin. I'd tell him, 'You gotta stop eating all that ice cream.' He'd say, 'You gotta stop drinking that gin,'" says LaBeouf. "This man's a year older than me. He's been acting longer than me and he's healthier than I am. He has more friends than I have, has longer lasting loving relationships."
At that, LaBeouf begins to tear up. Gottsagen leans his head against his co-star and wraps his arm around him. They tell each "I love you."
"I was doing things for Shia because I just don't like to see old Shia act like this. I wanted to see the new Shia that I know," says Gottsagen. "I have respect for other stars in films and I want Shia to be nice with them, except for those stars who don't care about Shia. That would be their loss. I don't care about what they do, but I care about Shia a lot more. Shia can do anything."
Gottsagen turns to LaBeouf and says, "I do mean it."
"I know you do," LaBeouf replies. "You mean everything that you say."
Gottsagen is by any measure exceptional. Census figures have shown 19% of the U.S. population has a disability, but representation has lagged in movies. According to a study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative , just 2.5% of characters in the 100 most popular movies of 2017 where depicted with a disability. And those roles are usually played by actors without one.
"The only way to get past that stigma is to actually give him an opportunity to unveil his humanity on you," says LaBeouf of Gottsagen. "I think that's what the movie does. Our trade secret is heart. You're watching two people connect and it enlarges your humanity. It introduces you to this brave man, this beautiful man."
Dakota Johnson also grew especially close with Gottsagen, tending to his battered feet, scheduling rehearsal time and organizing trips, like one they took to a water park. Gottsagen was a leader on set, too. After each day of shooting, he'd take the directors' bullhorn and say a few encouraging words to the cast and crew.
Those relationships have continued. LaBeouf says he called Gottsagen from rehab. They're still in regular contact.
"This is the least judgmental friend that I have, the most supportive, the most consistent. It didn't stop," says LaBeouf. "If you asked me if I was an opera singer now, I'd think about it."
Dhaka, Aug 9 (UNB) - Prime Minister Narendra Modi will soon be seen in Bear Grylls’ show Man vs Wild where they will spend some time in Jim Corbett National Park. In a new clip released by the makers, we see Grylls talking to PM Modi about the dangers of spending time in a wildlife area and how he has to keep ‘the most important man in India’ safe, reports The Indian Express.
Talking about the wildlife area, PM Modi shares, “We should not take this place as a danger zone. When we go against nature then everything becomes dangerous. Human beings too become dangerous. On the other hand, if we co-operate with nature, then she also co-operates with us.”
Bear Grylls and Narendra Modi then discuss the latter’s time in the Himalayas. They also talk about wildlife conservation as Grylls creates a makeshift weapon and hands it over to the PM. But PM Modi politely says, “My upbringing does not allow me to take a life. However, I will hold on it (the spear) since you insist.”
In the clip, PM Modi also brings up Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan. Modi says, “Someone from outside cannot clean my India, the people of India make India clean. Personal hygiene is in the culture of the Indian people. We need to develop the habit of social hygiene. Mahatma Gandhi has done a lot of work on it and recently we are getting good success in this. I believe India will succeed in this very soon.”
Man Vs Wild With Bear Grylls and Prime Minister Modi will premiere on August 12 at 9 pm.
The episode will be broadcast on 12 Discovery channels simultaneously including Discovery Channel, Discovery HD World, Animal Planet, Animal Planet HD World, TLC, TLC HD World, JEET Prime, JEET Prime HD, Discovery Science, Discovery Turbo, Discovery Kids and DTamil. It will be available in 8 languages including English, Bengali, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Marathi.
Dhaka, Aug 9 (UNB) - Billy Ray Cyrus has a “feeling” that Hannah Montana could make a comeback, reports The Indian Express.
The singer starred alongside his real-life daughter Miley Cyrus, who played the title version of herself named Miley Stewart, in the hit Disney series as Robbie Ray Stewart.
“I have a feeling it might. It could. Everything is possible. Certainly worth thinking about. It sounds fun to me. I’ve always wanted like a prequel.
“When you look at the realism of ‘Hannah Montana’ and where she started as that 12-year-old, 13-year-old girl… well there was a whole life for ‘Hannah Montana’ that happened before that,” Billy told ET Canada.
Miley recently said she is not keen to reprise her role as Hannah.
The show ran for four seasons from 2006 to 2011, which also branched into albums, tours, and a film titled Hannah Montana: The Movie (2009).
Dhaka, Aug 9 (UNB) - Pakistan on Thursday banned the screening of Indian films in the country’s theaters, amid tensions between the two sides after India revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, reports The Indian Express.
“No Indian film will be screened in any Pakistani theater. Drama, films and Indian content of this kind will be completely banned in Pakistan,” Firdous Ashiq Awan, special advisor to Prime Minister Imran Khan for Information and Broadcasting, tweeted.
Indian government on Monday revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Pakistan expelled the Indian High Commissioner as part of its decision to downgrade the diplomatic ties with India over what it called New Delhi’s “unilateral and illegal” move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Films and cultural relations are the first to get affected when there is tension between the two countries and it is not for the first time that Pakistan has banned Indian films.
It had taken a similar decision after Balakot air strikes by India in February this year. The Hindi film industry had announced a similar move in the wake of February 14 Pulwama terror attack on a CRPF convoy.