Interview: Chris Cornell on Casino Royale

With the sad news of his death yesterday aged 52, I was reminded of an interview I did in 2006 with the late Soundgarden and Audioslave singer Chris Cornell.

He was chosen to perform singing duties on that year’s Bond film, Casino Royale, which also saw a new actor cast as the iconic spy.

You could not wish to meet a nicer and more urbane rock star and my initial scepticism about a former grunge singer performing duties on a Bond film were immediately wiped away.

The subsequent doubts about the 007 reboot (a lot was riding on it) were wiped away as Daniel Craig triumphed as the British secret agent and the film garnered rave reviews and a massive worldwide gross of $599m.

Listen to the interview here:

> Find out more about Casino Royale (2006)
> BBC News on Chris Cornell’s death, aged 52

Citizen Trump

After recently discovering a video of Donald Trump discussing Citizen Kane (1941), it reminded me of an encounter I had once with his ex-wife in the South of France.

Just in case you haven’t seen the video with the property mogul and current Republican frontrunner, it was filmed by Errol Morris as part of a wider project that unfortunately never got made.

The prescience and irony is something to behold, especially if you know Citizen Kane well.

It also reminded of a strange incident during the 2007 Cannes film festival, when a friendly PR girl rang me and asked if I wanted to interview someone in a villa amongst the hills above the famous French town.

Not being too busy that night, I agreed, thinking ‘why not?’ and was intrigued as to who this person might be. A director? Producer? Actor?

As the taxi stopped outside the villa, you could almost feel the wealth and decadence in the air: palm trees peeking over walls, lights shooting into the sky and the noisy gaggle of Eurotrash inside.

My PR contact was waiting at the gates with two burly security guards hovering around her. I asked who my interviewee was, and she told me: “Ivana Trump. Donald’s ex-wife”.

Ah…, yes. I vaguely remembered her. She and her (then) husband Donald were quite the celebrity couple throughout the 1980s, widely covered in gossip columns and magazines (including this interesting piece in Spy magazine).

Donald was even referenced cryptically in Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990) and Ivana (post-divorce) even made an appearance in The First Wives Club (1996), with the memorable line: “Remember girls: don’t get mad, get everything.”

After being ushered inside the garden party, I was directed to a path where fellow journalists were gathered and minders made sure they never went near the real action of the party which was covered by a big tent. But I was still scrambling for questions to ask her as just 30 mins earlier I had been in a hotel bar drinking quite heavily.

Then, after a few minutes, she emerged with a handler whose role was unclear, and my short ‘interview’ began (after a female showbiz hack asked who would play her in a movie.

(I come in around the 1 minute mark!):

Nothing revelatory for sure and truth be told, at the time I was not aware that Ivana was a regular showbiz fixture at Cannes (sometimes charitable, often for lines of retail items) and afterwards it remained in my audio archives. After all it was only 1 question and unrelated to film!

However, after seeing her ex-husband Donald wax lyrical on YouTube about Orson Welles’ astonishing film debut, it took me back to Cannes 2007 and how the themes of Citizen Kane endure: money, fame, power and then what?

Like Kane, Donald has amassed a fortune, gone through divorce and is currently running for political office. What lies ahead for this loud, ambitious man who is dominating the Republican primaries?

Will it be The White House or a wrecked childhood nursery?

> Wikipedia on Ivana Trump, Donald Trump and Citizen Kane
> Roger Ebert’s review of Citizen Kane in 1998

Caroll Spinney on I Am Big Bird

Caroll Spinney has been the voice of the iconic Sesame Street characters Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for over 45 years and we recently spoke to him about his life and career.

Have a listen here:

You can also download this interview as a podcast on iTunes.

The Kickstarter funded documentary I Am Bird is available now on DVD or iTunes

> Official site, trailer and Facebook page for I Am Big Bird
> Find out more about Big Bird and Sesame Street at Wikipedia
> Buy I Am Big Bird from Amazon UK or I Am Big Bird on iTunes UK

Interview: Alex Gibney on We Steal Secrets

Julian Assange in We Steal Secrets

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks is the new documentary from director Alex Gibney (Taxi to the Darkside, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God) and explores the organization started in 2006 by Julian Assange.

It then charts the various people involved in the leaking of secret information, including hackers, journalists and activists who during 2009-2010, leaked information about the the Icelandic financial collapseSwiss banks evading tax and toxic-waste dumping.

It then focuses on the case of Bradley Manning, the army private who leaked an enormous amount of classified information about the Afghan and Iraq wars, as well as over 250,000 diplomatic cables.

Since the film premiered at Sundance in January, Manning has pleaded guilty and could face the death penalty, some Wikileaks supporters have taken issue with the film and Assange remains holed up in diplomatic limbo at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Added to this, another leak of seismic proportions rocked the US government in early June when a new whistle-blower named Edward Snowden released details of PRISM, a top-secret global spying program of unprecedented scope and size.

At the time of writing, Snowden is in diplomatic limbo at Moscow airport, but although some of the events and issues raised in the film are ongoing, there was much to chew on when I spoke with Gibney at the end of June.

Have a listen to the interview here:

You can also download the podcast via iTunes or get the MP3 directly.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks opens in the UK on Friday 12th July

> Alex Gibney on Twitter and the IMDb
> Get local showtimes via Google Movies
> Find out more about Wikileaks and Edward Snowden at Wikipedia

Interview: Kleber Mendonca Filho on Neighbouring Sounds

A scene from Neighbouring Sounds

Neighbouring Sounds is the first full length feature from Brazilian director Kleber Mendonca Filho and explores life in a middle-class neighbourhood in Recife, Brazil.

With its fine acting, steady pace and distinctive visual style, it is one of the most impressive films to emerge from South America in years.

I spoke with him recently about the film and you can listen to that here:

You can also download the podcast via iTunes or get the MP3 directly.

Neighbouring Sounds is out on DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 24th June

> Kleber Mendonca Filho at the IMDb
> Pre-order the DVD at Amazon UK