Newcomer Ruby Barnhill walks tall with ‘The BFG’

The central heartbeat of Disney and Amblin Entertainment’s new fantasy adventure “The BFG” is the relationship between the Big Friendly Giant and young girl, Sophie.

Director Steven Spielberg has selected newcomer Ruby Barnhill to play Sophie, the curious and compassionate young orphan who is whisked out of her bed and taken to Giant Country.

The character of Sophie, who was named after author Roald Dahl’s first granddaughter, can’t be pushed around. “She is one of the strongest female characters I think I have ever had in one of my films,” says Spielberg. “She gives so much hope and encouragement to the BFG.”

For six months the filmmakers looked at thousands of girls varying in age and experience, but when the director saw 9-year old Barnhill, a school girl from Knutsford in Cheshire, England, her audition stopped him dead in his tracks. “There was just something about her,” Spielberg says. “She is fascinating and incredibly talented, and just perfect for this role.”

The filmmakers set up a meeting between Barnhill and Mark Rylance (who plays the titular role) where they spent an hour and a half improvising, and they knew they had found their Sophie. “They immediately hit it off and have amazing chemistry together,” executive producer Kathleen Kennedy says. “They would play table tennis and basketball between shots, and were basically inseparable.”

According to Barnhill, “I did about five auditions in London and Berlin where I pretended to be Sophie, so it was just so incredible when I heard I got the part. I could hardly breathe.”

The young actress was drawn to the relationship between her character and the big friendly giant. She explains, “The BFG has had his heart broken, and he’s actually quite sad most of the time. And obviously his brothers are horrible to him and they bully him around all the time and call him a runt. Sophie is lonely and alone in the world just like the BFG…they are actually both orphans in a sense.”

“Ruby is a very imaginative young woman and just a complete natural actress,” says Rylance. “I learned from her really, as you do from all the young people. Her ability to take very complicated technical notes from Steven and make them natural is just miraculous, just remarkable.”

And the feeling was mutual. “Working with Mark was really lovely. He’s always got a smile on his face and he’s kind to me all of the time,” Barnhill says. “And, I think we have quite a good relationship, almost like Sophie and the BFG.”

“Ruby is fantastic,” adds Kennedy, “But that’s always been one of Steven’s gifts: his ability to cast children and to recognize those qualities that audiences will find captivating.”

The director creates an atmosphere of safety, comfort and security for the child. He explains, “I don’t talk to them like I’m the principal of their school, or a strict parent, we just basically engage in conversation. We just talk, not about the work at hand, but about how they are feeling or what they are doing at that time. It makes them feel like they are someplace very familiar. And that is the best way to get truth and authenticity from a child actor.”

Opening across the Philippines on August 10, 2016, “The BFG” is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures through Columbia Pictures. Like us on Facebook, WaltDisneyStudiosPH; follow us on Twitter, @disney_phil; follow us on Instagram, @disney.ph and use the hashtag #TheBFGPH.

Get to know the baddies around ‘Suicide Squad’

You’ve met the members of “Suicide Squad” last week, now get to know the baddies around them in director David Ayer’s epic, mad adventure “Suicide Squad.”

AMANDA WALLER (Viola Davis). A hard-as-nails career U.S. intelligence officer who makes bad things happen to bad people, Amanda Waller is the secret commander of the Suicide Squad and cares only about the operation at hand—everyone is expendable when serving the greater good. She puts the inaugural Squad together in order to attempt an impossible mission, ensuring herself easy patsies to take the blame and zero personal accountability if things go wrong.

COLONEL RICK FLAG (Joel Kinnaman). Amanda Waller’s second-in-command, Colonel Rick Flag is the best Tier One Shooter the armed forces has produced, which makes him even more suspicious of a homegrown cannon like Deadshot (Will Smith). A military man through and through, Flag is in charge of keeping this disparate group in line.

THE JOKER (Jared Leto). Chaos personified, The Joker is incredibly dangerous and revels in every single moment of the chaos he creates. Batman’s greatest, most unpredictable adversary, he is also Arkham Asylum’s most infamous resident, as well as the love of Squad member Harley Quinn’s life.

KATANA (Karen Fukuhara). Dressed in Samurai-inspired, street fighter garb and ballistic facemask, Katana wields the Soultaker, a large Samurai sword that traps the souls of all its victims. A cold-blooded killer, she serves as a member of the Squad, but is also there as an associate of Colonel Rick Flag to keep the others in line.

LIEUTENANT “GQ” EDWARDS (Scott Eastwood). The leader of the Navy SEAL team assigned to the Squad’s mission, Lieutenant “GQ” Edwards – along with fellow SEALs Anvil, Gomez and Kowalski – wears his confidence as easily as his personal armory of weapons.

“Suicide Squad” follows the events of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” and takes place in a post-Superman world where the government tries to determine how to respond in the event that an alien with more villainous intentions visits Earth. Ruthless intelligence officer Amanda Waller (Viola Davis) offers to recruit society’s worst criminals, those possessing lethal skills and superhuman powers. Her first target: the possessed archaeologist June Moone/Enchantress (Cara Delevingne).

When Midway City is threatened by a powerful mystical enemy, Waller’s plan gets the go-ahead. She cuts deals with the whole squad of prisoners: Deadshot (Will Smith) gets his Second Amendment rights reinstated, Harley (Margot Robbie) is set free from her cage, Diablo (Jay Hernandez) steps out of his fireproof prison, Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and Slipknot (Adam Beach) each get to wield their signature weapons once more, and Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye Agbaje) emerges from the swamp. The only condition is this: Obey orders or die. This is strictly enforced by squad leader Rick Flag (Joel Kinnaman), the samurai Katana (Karen Fukuhara), and of course the explosive devices – developed by Wayne Enterprises – inserted into their necks. However, the arrival of the tatted-up Gotham City mega-criminal, the Joker (Jared Leto), might doom the mission thanks to his plan to reunite with his true love, Harley.

Opening across the Philippines in 3D, and in 2D, and in select IMAX 3D theaters on August 4, 2016, “Suicide Squad” is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Creating the lethal shark in ‘The Shallows’

Columbia Pictures’ suspenseful tale “The Shallows” presents the breathtaking story of Nancy (Blake Lively), a surfer who finds herself in the feeding ground of a great white shark.

In creating the shark, director Jaume Collet-Serra wanted to create a worthy adversary that would keep audiences on the edge of their seats. “I wanted the shark to be a presence for half the movie,” Collet-Serra says. “I wanted to reveal it slowly, then have it be a force of nature. My reasoning was that if Nancy doesn’t get a good look at the shark, then the audience shouldn’t get a good look at it, either.”

For all of the obvious reasons, the film’s great white shark would be created digitally. Great whites are a threatened species, and they generally do not survive well in captivity. And that doesn’t even get into the danger of filming a movie near an unpredictable, wild animal.

Collet-Serra teamed with the art department for the design of the shark. “I came to the conclusion that the shark had to be a female,” says the director. “Females are slightly bigger, and most have great scars from mating. Visually, they’re scarier, as they are more protective.

Scott E. Anderson served as the film’s visual effects supervisor. “Both Jaume and Diana Ibanez, our film’s visual effects producer, did a lot of research,” he says. “Through Jaume’s notes and our conversation, Diana and he put together research packages – moments of sharks that Jaume liked, general actions and behaviors of sharks. That really was our basis of library – little moments that Jaume liked.”

In animating the shark, Anderson’s greatest challenge was to create a believable character. “The shark is very consistent in its character,” he says. “Nancy wanders into its area accidentally, and interrupts the shark’s world. And after the shark has wounded her, the shark just thinks of Nancy as food. It’s nothing personal – the shark is just being a shark. Towards the end, when Nancy is fighting for her own survival, the shark fights back. Both of them are just doing what they need to do.”

The sheer size of the shark made a great difference to the animators. “I kept telling the animators to think of the shark as a big diesel truck with lots of power and torque, versus a high-revving, German-engineered car,” Anderson continues. “It’s big and sleek, with a graceful, powerful way of swimming. We use that mass when she’s attacking the buoy or hitting anything else – she’s got a huge, heavy size to her.”

These two intertwined attributes – the shark’s character, much of which comes from its size – gave Anderson the tools that would deliver the thrills that Collet-Serra envisioned. “Jaume had a real sense of what he wanted for the film’s thriller and scare factor – sometimes, it’s sneaking up where you don’t expect it, and other times it’s big, heavy shark coming for you. He was very much playing with that, so getting that real-but-scary balance was very important.”

Opening across the Philippines on August 10, 2016, “The Shallows” is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #FearTheShallows