Penelope Cruz plays sexy fashion police agent in ‘Zoolander 2’

Penélope Cruz has proven herself to be one of the most versatile actresses by playing a variety of compelling characters, and becoming the first actress from Spain to be nominated and win for an Oscar.

Her versatility comes to the fore anew as she tries slapstick comedy with Paramount Pictures’ hilarious sequel, “Zoolander 2” in which she stars with Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, Will Ferrell and Kristen Wiig.

In the film, not long after their fashion comeback in Rome, Derek Zoolander (Stiller) and Hansel (Wilson) are approached by Valentina Valencia (Cruz), a beautiful Special Agent with Interpol’s Global Fashion Division who recruits them to help solve an investigation surrounding an alarming list of murdered pop stars. All the murders have one glaring characteristic in common that could crack the case— a selfie at the time of their death with that look… Zoolander’s signature look BLUE STEEL. Believing there is only one person capable of interpreting that look, Valentina and her partner look to Derek to help infiltrate the world of high fashion and crack the case.

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“Valentina is incredibly beautiful, a sexy Latin fashion police agent, who oozes sexuality but is all business. She just wants to figure out who’s killing these pop stars,” explains Stiller who also co-wrote and directed the film.

Throughout the writing process, Stiller had only one actress in mind for the role of the intelligent and super-sexy investigator, the incomparable Penélope Cruz. “From the beginning it was always Penélope. While we were writing, I loved imagining her saying the lines with her accent. She was one of the first people I called and she said yes very quickly. I was so happy because I couldn’t imagine anyone else doing it.”

“I got a call from Ben and when he mentioned Zoolander I asked him if he was serious because I loved the first movie so much,” recalls Cruz. “I was really excited that he wanted to make me part of this.”

Left to right: Owen Wilson plays Hansel, Ben Stiller plays Derek Zoolander and Penelope Cruz plays Valentina Valencia in Zoolander 2 from Paramount Pictures.
Left to right: Owen Wilson plays Hansel, Ben Stiller plays Derek Zoolander and Penelope Cruz plays Valentina Valencia in Zoolander 2 from Paramount Pictures.

Cruz was drawn to the surprising complexity of Valentina. “I like this character because she has many colors and many faces. She’s the smart and efficient one but there is also something a little bit off in her. From the beginning I had to find where exactly that note is off and how she has to be a weirdo in a parallel way to Derek,” recalls Cruz.

Despite the absurdity of some of the scenarios and circumstances, Penélope approached the character with extreme focus and heft, which complemented Derek’s light-hearted and dim-witted nature. “Penélope took it very seriously and really cared about Valentina’s backstory and where she was coming from. She consistently asked herself what would Valentina be thinking in this scene and how does she relate to Derek? I loved that, because in a movie with an absurd tone, the more the actor takes it seriously, the more the audience can invest in the reality of the movie,” comments Stiller.

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For Penélope Cruz’s Valentina, the comedy of her character was found in the unintentional inherent sexiness of the serious Interpol agent. Whether it’s a corset worn underneath her clothes in case she happens to have to power-swim off a remote island, or a skin-tight fire-engine red moto suit that perfectly matches her red motorcycle, Valentina is always dressed for whatever the investigation calls for and looks good while doing it.

The different outfits give Valentina the classic spy look with a sexy edge, taking advantage of Penélope’s natural beauty and ability to wear clothes extremely well. “With Penélope’s character we wanted to play up the whole ‘60’s Italian Sophia Loren and Bridgette Bardot iconic images of sexy and beautiful Italian women, while playing up the comedy of a character who doesn’t know she’s so sexy. It was really fun to find the balance between Valentina being quite serious and quite seriously fantastic, and Penélope is so stunning and wears clothes so well,” says costume designer Leesa Evans.

“These characters take themselves too seriously which is important for the rhythm and comedy of this film because everything is outrageous. But what Leesa has created is so unique and special. Some of the looks are so over the top they almost hurt your eyes, there is so much beauty in every piece she’s created,” concludes Cruz.

Opening across the Philippines on February 24, 2016, “Zoolander 2” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

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Natalie Portman relates feminism, men of ‘Jane Got a Gun’

Natalie Portman is an inspiration to women everywhere. As a highly in demand actress, she has given life to many important women’s stories that span from the lives of a young, struggling orphan in New York City to a woman struggling to fight an authoritarian, post-apocalyptic Britain. Portman is an undoubtedly intelligent, activist fixture in Hollywood, and some of her films are extensions of this mission. She has her own particular vision about what feminism looks like in Hollywood.

In Jane Got A Gun, Natalie Portman plays a frontierswoman named Jane Hammond, whose husband ends up in the crosshairs of a band of dangerous outlaws led by Colin McCann (Ewan McGregor). Jane’s only hope of saving him is her ex-lover Dan Frost (Joel Edgerton), who had returned to find her a married mother.

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“I loved the idea of a love story in the wild west because love seems like that kind of lawless atmosphere,” said Portman. “This story of this woman having to sort of face her deepest fears in this really challenging environment was very parallel to sort of the experience of making films.”

The epic love story told amidst the sprawling expanse of the American west, Portman was quick to see the story’s potential and optioned the project as her first producing venture.

“The West was uncharted territory so there were many more opportunities for women to befree,” she notes. “Women could hold jobs and ranch and go to school and vote for the firsttime. Those rights happened for women first in the West.” Female empowerment was an essential aspect for survival. For Portman, the harshness of the environment also meant that characters – both men and women had to identify themselves as one thing or another. They had to have strong self-definition to survive.

With Portman set to play Jane, the filmmakers started the search to fill the male roles.  After an extensive casting process, Joel Edgerton signed on to play former soldier and gunslinger Dan Frost, Noah Emmerich won the part of Jane’s husband, Ham, Rodrigo Santoro was cast as Fitchum, a member of Bishop’s gang, with Ewan McGregor playing John Bishop. 

As the first actor attached to the film, Portman had ample time to explore Jane’s characterization. “I really loved seeing this woman come up against so much and really findher own strength,” recalls Portman. She found producing Jane Got A Gun an invaluable experience to bring to her role.  “Jane’s process was also my process,” says Portman. “It wasa relevant parallel experience of learning how to stand my ground, face difficult times and not crumble.”

Edgerton sees Portman as being a great choice, physically and mentally, for the character.“Jane’s got to be a really tough woman.  There’s a softness to Natalie, but you can also see aswitch of real strength in her. Her vulnerability and steeliness are hand-in-hand. That strength is going to come from inside and it’s more interesting when it’s in someone of Natalie’s frame.” 

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Portman sees the same qualities in Edgerton. “Joel’s ability to be both strong and vulnerableare the exact qualities he needed to bring to the role of Dan,” says Portman.  “Dan makes thedifficult choice and puts his life on the line to save Jane and her family.  His decision is guided by his love for Jane.”

Joel Edgerton sees Dan as a former soldier and gunslinger who gets a second chance.“Dan’s become an alcoholic because he’s lost Jane. It’s a love story about two people finding each other again and understanding their pasts. They discover the truth under very difficultcircumstances and get back to the place they were before, under very difficult circumstances.”

The third point of the love triangle, Bill “Ham” Hammond, becomes Jane’s husband after rescuing her from John’s gang. “Ham’s got a deep moral center and is a good man, who fell inwith a group of outlaws,” explains Emmerich. His relationship with Jane brings happiness and purpose but also places them both in peril. “Jane marries Ham as a way out of a terrible situation,” says Portman. “What started as a need for a protector changes when she grows to love him?”

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Emmerich adds. “There’s this great love triangle between Jane, my character Ham and Joel Edgerton’s character, Dan. I’ve never seen it in a Western.  So the film has the male essence that we associate with the Western, but it’s interesting to have a female voice in the middle of all that.”

The Bishop gang’s attack on Ham becomes the turning point in Jane’s life. “In order to save her family, Jane has to stop running and start fighting,” explains Portman. “She decides to take control, and by doing so, discovers aspects of herself she had always sought in the men in her life.”

“This is not necessarily a story that ends well, but ultimately for Jane there is a real development and something inspirational for her,” explains Edgerton. “What she’s gone through has damaged her, but also gave her something to live for, and the realization that she doesn’t really need the support of other people to move forward.”

“The Western aspect of this movie is a metaphor for love, and the ways we hurt each other and we can’t take it back,” explains Portman.  “Once you do something, you can damage a relationship irreparably. The devastating thing about Dan and Jane is that it’s just too late for them.”

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Jane’s nemesis, John Bishop, is played by Ewan McGregor. He describes Bishop as“Someone you wouldn’t want to cross. He is able to employ charm to get what he wants in a manipulative sort of fashion, but I certainly don’t think of him as being a charming character in the true sense of the word.” McGregor had no reservations about portraying the villain of the story. “Who doesn’t want to be in a Western? And who doesn’t want to play the villain in a Western? You can’t approach a part playing a bad guy or a good guy. You have to play a human being.  So I didn’t approach it any differently than I would any other part.” 

Portman comments. “Ewan is such a phenomenal actor, and I don’t think we’ve ever really gotten to see him play a villain before. He’s so charming that you can see how he could really charm you into destroying your own life, the way he does with Jane.” “Ewan’s amazing and the best choice to play John. He has the charisma, the energy and the excitement to bring to the role.”

Portman offers, “It’s always wonderful when people make art in unfamiliar surroundings. Tolstoy’s theory is about how art is about making things strange, and with an Australian and a Brazilian on board its already strange and so it’s immediately art. That’s why Sergio Leone made such great Westerns – – to have that completely different, non-American vision of the West.”

“Jane Got A Gun” opens February 10, 2016 in cinemas nationwide released and distributed by Captive Cinema.

‘Love is Blind’ offers fun, romance for Valentine’s season

Regal Entertainment, Inc.’s “Love is Blind,” tagged as this year’s riotous love story couldn’t be shown at a more opportune time, February 10, four days short of love day, Valentine’s Day

The film’s trailer alone is an instant favorite among netizens what with hunk actor Derek Ramsay falling for the charm of petite and plain looking Kiray Celis.

“Love is Blind” takes off from Kiray’s desire to lure Derek into falling in love with her by using a love potion that transforms her into svelte and hot chick Solenn Heussaff.

The rom-com project is ex-sweethearts Derek and Solenn’s first together. It was made possible by the mother and daughter tandem of Regal’s Lily and Roselle Monteverde.

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Derek and Solenn met the challenge with much enthusiasm and sooner than they expected, the old flame of friendship was rekindled while they were on the set. As for Kiray, she feels lucky to have paid lip service with Derek on the big screen.

One of the film’s highlights, in fact, is that scene where she and Derek are frolicking on the beach. Their kissing scenes are scene stealers as well but director Jason Paul Laxamana made sure they were done in a comic way.

Aside Derek, Kiray’s lips were “devirginized” in kissing scenes with Kean Cipriano, which she describes were “passive” compared to Derek’s “torrid.”

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Other than romance, comedy and laugh trip, the film inspires everyone to never lose hope in love and to believe that no matter how blind, all is still fair in life and love.

Roll with laughter, fall hopelessly in love with the team of Derek, Solenn, Kean and Kiray in 2016’s most hilarious and riotous love story, “Love is Blind,” from the direction of Jason Paul Laxamana, who gave us much acclaimed films like “Magkakabaung” and more.

“Love is Blind” opens February 10, 2016 from Regal Entertainment, Inc. Rated G by the MTRCB.

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