Unsuspecting couple tackles unlikely marital woes in ‘Our Kind of Traitor’

Ewan McGregor and Naomi Harris star as a married couple thrown in the obscure world of espionage and dirty politics in “Our Kind of Traitor.” Based on the acclaimed tome by John le Carré’ of the same title, the movie finds ordinary English couple Perry (McGregor) and Gail (Harris) on holiday in Marrakech, Morocco who meet the flamboyant and charismatic Russian, Dima (Stellan Skarsgård). He befriends them over games of tennis and lavish parties at his villa before revealing he is the top money launderer for the Russian mafia and wants to defect with his family to Britain.

When Dima asks for their help to deliver classified information to the British Secret Services, the couple is propelled on a perilous journey through Paris and Bern, a safe house in the French Alps, to the murky corners of the City of London and an alliance with the British Government via a ruthless and determined MI6 agent played by Damian Lewis.

The relationship between the attractive, comfortably-off Perry, a university lecturer in poetics, and Gail, a very successful barrister, starts in a very broken place. That was an interesting dynamic for the two actors to play. Everyman superstar Ewan McGregor was the first of the film’s high-powered cast to join the project. “Ewan was on early and first as Perry,” says producer Gail Egan. “He was involved from quite an early stage of development and stayed with us through many drafts. He was perfect.”

Director Susanna White praises McGregor’s ability to engage with audiences.  “He liked the idea of scrutinizing what it felt like to be slightly emasculated by a wife who’s more powerful than you are. In theory if you ask Perry whether he thought it would be good to have high achieving women, he would say ‘of course, women deserve that.’ But when he is faced with his own situation he starts to feel threatened by Gail and challenged by it. Part of the challenge was keeping audience appeal while seeing his weakness at the beginning of the film and his journey to  rediscovering himself, who he is and redefining his relationship of with Gail.”

Co-star Naomie Harris describes McGregor as the ideal co-star. “He’s such a phenomenal actor and just a great guy,” she enthuses. “From the very first moment I met him he was incredibly down to earth. He has a really great sense of humour and is very hard working.”

“Naomi is a phenomenal actress. The relationship is very interesting and layered and detailed, it’s not a sort of ‘movie’ relationship and they both have their part to play in this story and how the story unfolds. Their relationship is damaged at the beginning as Perry has cheated on her. She’s terribly upset and hurt and he’s trying very hard to fix that and to move forward and be happy again. That’s all really interesting stuff to play as it’s not the usual movie marriage.  Interestingly, the two arcs of those storylines go hand in hand. Through it all Perry and Gail find each other again and remember what it is they love about each other. By the time the film ends they are in a much better place,”

McGregor relates of his co-star and on the film’s theme.

“There are bumps in whatever relationship, no matter how good. It is nice to see a mature relationship which is going through a very serious hiccup and is managing to find a way through,” Harris concludes.

“Our Kind of Traitor” opened June 8, 2016 in cinemas nationwide from OctoArts Films International.

Sam Claflin plays quadriplegic in romantic drama ‘Me Before You’

Last year saw him star as Finnick Odair for the last time in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2.” Now, British heartthrob Sam Claflin stars as Will Traynor, the complicated, wheelchair-bound patient of Emilia Clarke’s Louisa, in New Line Cinema’s deeply moving romance, “Me Before You.”

Claflin shares what attracted him to the project: “The writing itself was so beautifully done, and the subject matter surrounding this very challenging character was handled so well, it really got me thinking. That was a big draw for me.”

At one time, Will’s world was all-encompassing; he lived a “no limits” lifestyle. Now, two years on, we find him utterly confined. Betrayed by his own body due to a spinal cord injury, he resides—even he would not say he lives by any definition of the word—at his parents’ countryside home. Lou, on the other hand, has rarely stepped outside this little town, and even stepping into the grand Traynor estate—the “castle,” as it’s called by the locals—is foreign to her. Yet they meet, whether by chance or by fate.

Though Will has all but given up, Lou becomes determined to show him that life is worth living. But the former “master of the universe,” as author and screenwriter Jojo Moyes describes him, will be a tough nut to crack, even for the ever optimistic Lou. The writer explains, “They get off to a rocky start. Will was the kind of guy who liked to throw himself out of airplanes and climb mountains, determined to suck the marrow out of life. But thanks to one really random accident, he now has to be cared for by other people, and he’s decided he just doesn’t want to carry on like this, given what he’s lost.”

Claflin confesses that the physical challenges Will faces were a large part of what made him want to play the character. “I initially had very little understanding of the world Will lives in or the story we’d be telling,” he says. “But this particular character’s journey delves deep into that experience. It opened my eyes.”

To portray Will, the actor would only be permitted movement from the neck up and in one finger and thumb—the result of two years of intense physical therapy. “He’s had the best care, the best medical advice and the best help possible,” he continues. “He doesn’t want help anymore. He’s made up his mind.”

Until, perhaps, he gets to know Lou.

“She’s the first person who speaks her mind to him,” Claflin says. “She’s willing to be his sparring partner, and I think he appreciates her honesty and admires it. She changes him. She sort of opens his eyes and allows him to see the world in a new way, and he, equally, opens her eyes to the world and to what life has to offer outside the little village she lives in. He wants her to spread her wings and fly far.”

Director Thea Sharrock admired Claflin’s ability to play the many facets of the character. “Will can be an ass, he can be unkind—no two ways about it,” she laughs. “I wanted somebody who had innate warmth, charisma and incredible kindness within him in order for Will’s transformation to feel genuine, and Sam accomplished that with ease.”

Part of Claflin’s transformation to Will included losing weight—a total, he says, of “over three stone” (more than 40 lbs)—because the character’s immobility over two years would have naturally induced muscle loss. But though Will is unable to move his body, his mind is as sharp as ever.

“I had to really become in tune with Will’s brainpower because that is still functioning as well as ever; he’s very bright, very clever. Underneath that, he’s also a sensitive soul—though it might not seem that way at first,” Claflin adds.

As with any film romance, one of the most critical elements was the chemistry between the romantic leads. “Once we had whittled our candidates down in the casting process, we brought the finalists in to read together,” the director says. “That was the decider. As soon as Sam and Emilia met, the casting director and I looked at each other and knew we’d found the right pair.”

“Emilia and I have nearly worked together a few times, but it never worked out for some reason, scheduling, whatever,” Claflin says. “This seemed to be the perfect timing and the perfect project, and she’s quite literally the perfect co-star.”

“Sam is an absolute dreamboat,” Clarke concludes. “It was brilliant playing opposite him. He’s the easiest person to work with, he gives so much, and it was just wonderful.”

The film’s Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is now available to download/stream via digital stores. Get the CD for only Php 459.00 at Astroplus/Astrovision stores starting June 10.

Set for release across the Philippines on June 15, 2016, “Me Before You” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment company.

‘Ghostbusters’ team strikes a pose for new poster

The four female leads plus lone male Chris Hemsworth pose tall in the new poster for Columbia Pictures’ adventure comedy “Ghostbusters” in Philippine cinemas on July 15.

“Ghostbusters” makes its long-awaited return, rebooted with a cast of hilarious new characters. Thirty years after the beloved original franchise took the world by storm, director Paul Feig brings his fresh take to the supernatural comedy, joined by some of the funniest actors working today – Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth. This summer, they’re here to save the world!

ghostbusters laser

The film is produced by Ivan Reitman and Amy Pascal, and written by Katie Dippold & Paul Feig, based on the 1984 film “Ghostbusters,” written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis and directed by Ivan Reitman.

Opening on July 15, 2016, “Ghostbusters” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.