HK superstar Andy Lau plays war strategist in ‘The Great Wall’

After starring in Zhang Yimou’s dazzling, award-winning romantic adventure House of Flying Daggers in 2004, Hong Kong superstar Andy Lau now reunites with the director for Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures’ epic fantasy The Great Wall.

Lau is one of Hong Kong’s most commercially successful film actors, performing in more than 140 projects since the 1980s. Voted the No. 1 box-office star of Hong Kong for decades, he truly deserves the moniker of superstar of the Chinese cinema.

In the filml, when a mercenary warrior (Matt Damon) is imprisoned within The Great Wall, he discovers the mystery behind one of the greatest wonders of our world. As wave after wave of marauding beasts, intent on devouring the world, besiege the massive structure, his quest for fortune turns into a journey toward heroism as he joins a huge army of elite warriors to confront this unimaginable and seemingly unstoppable force.

Lau plays Strategist Wang, perhaps the smartest guy in the movie. “He’s got these incredible inventions and is the brains behind The Nameless Order,” remarks co-star Matt Damon. “He’s somebody that my character, William, cottons to, and has a great deal of respect for.”

That respect was also evident between the two actors who had never met before the five-month shoot, but who had a professional connection in their prior work. Turns out that they played the same character in two different movies—Lau as the corrupt police inspector in the 2002 Hong Kong crime thriller Infernal Affairs, and Damon as the devious undercover cop in The Departed, the 2006 English-language adaptation. It was something the actors joked about during some of their casual chats on the set during breaks in filming.

“I told Matt that he was cleverer than me because he got paid more for his movie,” the veteran of more than 150 films jests. “Matt told me that I’m cleverer than he is because he dies in that, and I lived to do two sequel movies. I enjoyed working with Matt and feel he has become a good friend. I’m looking forward to working with him again.”

Lau describes Strategist Wang as “a scientist spending his life doing the research about the enemy and trying to fight against them. During the Song Dynasty, the society was quite open, so lots of Chinese culture was well developed and many great thinkers and inventions were founded. That’s why I think they (chose) Song Dynasty as the background for this movie.”

As for the challenge of the bilingual role, Lau confesses that “it’s really hard for me to practice speaking English. I got the script a month before shooting and it took me two weeks to fully understand the story. Then it took me another two weeks to remember all the lines. Luckily, we had dialogue coaches on set, who coached me in a very good way. I also have to say thank you to Matt and Willem [Dafoe] because they gave me very good suggestions while I was performing. Willem was like a teacher of mine, trying to polish my performing to make me feel great in front of camera. Matt was also a team player, always considerate to everyone’s place on the set.”

“Andy Lau is one of the best actors in China,” Zhang hails. “He has been popular in China for 40 years. There was a lot of English dialogue for him, even more than the foreign actors. Though he speaks English well, he wanted to tell the world Chinese actors speak English well, and he practiced hard.”

Opening across the Philippines in IMAX and regular cinemas on January 25, 2017, The Great Wall is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

Ben Affleck plays gangster with conscience in ‘Live by Night’

Two-time Academy Award-winner Ben Affleck – most recently seen in the critically praised The Accountant and in early 2016 playing crime fighting icon Batman/Bruce Wayne in the global blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – now directs and stars in Warner Bros. Pictures’ new gangster film Live by Night.

Affleck plays Joe Coughlin who went overseas to fight valiantly for his country, but quickly found himself utterly disillusioned by the war. He ultimately finds himself back home in, as he tells us, a life he didn’t expect…paying the price for the American dream.
“Joe fully acknowledges that he’s chosen to be an outlaw in a town run by gangsters, with the Irish and Italian mobs at war,” offers Affleck. “What I find most intriguing about him though is that, while he breaks the law and makes his own rules, it’s his own morality that prevents him from considering himself one of them, a gangster.”
But it’s Joe’s inherent sense of decency that could be his undoing.

For the ten years following the war, Joe Coughlin managed to live like an outlaw—under his policeman father’s roof, no less—before it all caught up to him. “The things that Joe witnessed as a soldier made him decide there wasn’t any meaning to the rules we follow in life, to playing it straight,” Affleck states. “He even sees the organized hierarchical nature of the gangster life as an equal anathema to the hierarchy of the military. He wants no part of that, no part of taking orders from anybody. He’s going to make his own rules.”

And he does so with a fair amount of success, so long as he keeps it, as Affleck describes, “small-time, running around with just two other guys and doing little stick-ups, that kind of thing.”

But it isn’t Joe’s distaste for authority, or even an ill-chosen robbery, that causes him to make his gravest error. It’s love. And it’s that singular emotion in its many forms—from passion to compassion—that will continue to be his downfall for years to come.

Live by Night was a true passion project for Affleck, who says, “As a filmmaker, this was a chance to pay homage to the classic Warner Bros. gangster movies of the 1930s through the `70s. I grew up watching them and they had an epic, sprawling feel that really took you into a different world, a different era.”

Affleck adapted the screenplay from author Dennis Lehane’s novel of the same name; the two first collaborated when Affleck made his acclaimed directorial debut with his screen adaptation of Lehane’s crime thriller Gone, Baby, Gone. Lehane served as an executive producer on Live by Night.

As a lifelong film buff, Affleck posits that the story has all the tropes that made him a fan of the gangster genre in particular: beautiful women, dangerous men, cops, the mob, shootouts, car chases…the whole fiery, combustible mix. “As soon as I read Dennis’s book I knew that there was something there for anyone who just really likes to have a great time at the movies.”

Opening across the Philippines on January 18, 2017, Live By Night is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Teresa Palmer plays Andrew Garfield’s wife in ‘Hacksaw Ridge’

Teresa Palmer is becoming one of the most globally recognized actresses, bringing her talents to the US and worldwide from Adelaide, Australia. She has starred in many major films including box office hits Lights Out and Warm Bodies.

Now she stars as the wife of a pacifist soldier in Golden Globe Best Picture nominee Hacksaw Ridge, the extraordinary true story of Desmond Doss who, in Okinawa during the bloodiest battle of WWII, saved 75 men without firing or carrying a gun.

Directed by Mel Gibson from a screenplay by Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight, Hacksaw Ridge also stars Andrew Garfield, Vince Vaughn, Hugo Weaving, Rachel Griffiths, Luke Bracey and Sam Worthington.

One of the most beautiful and transformational moments in Desmond’s life comes on the cusp of war – when he bumps into the ravishing young nurse he is determined to charm and make his wife. Dorothy Schutte did indeed marry Desmond Doss, and became a beacon in his darkest moments at war.

Mel Gibson was excited to cast Australian actress Teresa Palmer in the role. “Teresa is so beautiful on camera and she brings a real warmth to this character that it needed. You almost see her as Desmond’s angel of mercy because Teresa puts that quality out there,” says the director.

Palmer felt an immediate connection to Dorothy. She explains: “I wanted to play Dorothy because she’s such a strong woman who knows what she wants yet she also has a tenderness and complexity to her. My grandmother and my grandfather both served in World War II — my grandfather was a fireman and my grandmother sent Morse code. I can remember them telling me stories about their romance during that time, and the script felt reminiscent of those tales that I grew up listening to.”

Palmer dove into research to play the role. “I really studied how women of the time spoke and walked, their elegance,” Palmer says. “I also thought a lot about my mother, her faith, and her gentler way of seeing the world, which reminded me of Dorothy.”

But Palmer equally wanted to get a sense of that head-spinning, first-love passion that unfolds between Dorothy and Desmond on the screen. “Dorothy so fiercely loves Desmond, and from the start, her belief in him is completely unwavering. I wanted to ensure that this love felt authentic and real and connected, because it is such a foundation for how they live.”

Andrew Garfield, who plays Desmond, found instant chemistry with Palmer as the two tried to capture what they had seen of the couple’s relationship. “There’s this amazing This is Your Life episode about Desmond where you see he and Dorothy interact together on stage,” Garfield explains. “They’re these very direct, no games, joyous, emotionally available people – and that’s what Teresa and I were excited about playing. Teresa is this unconditionally loving, nurturing force.”

Says Palmer in turn of Garfield: “Andrew lived and breathed Desmond Doss, he stayed in accent the entire time and he even held himself like Desmond the whole time. That put pressure on me, because he is so giving to his craft. I didn’t want to let him down and so I wanted to bring my all too.”

Producer Bill Mechanic concludes Palmer did just that: “We wanted someone the audience can see is able to inspire Desmond’s ongoing faith while he’s at war. Teresa plays Dorothy as a woman of her times yet whose beliefs are as strong as Desmond’s.”

Opening across the Philippines on February 22, 2017, Hacksaw Ridge will be distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International.

James McAvoy amazes as man with multiple personalities in ‘Split’

Golden Globe Award-nominated actor James McAvoy won over global audiences with his critically acclaimed performances in Atonement, Wanted, X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Days of Future Past.

Now, he stars in Universal Pictures’ new suspense thriller Split, an original film that delves into the mysterious recesses of one man’s fractured, gifted mind.

McAvoy stars as Kevin who has evidenced 23 personalities—each with unique physical attributes—to his trusted psychiatrist, Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley), but there remains one still submerged who is set to materialize and dominate all the others. Compelled to abduct three teenage girls led by the willful, observant Casey (Taylor-Joy), Kevin reaches a war for survival among all of those contained within him—as well as everyone around him—as the walls between his compartments shatter apart.

Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan felt there were only a handful of actors who could play the demanding role of a man with 23 personalities in Split. It was paramount for Shyamalan that Kevin’s personalities not be viewed as caricatures but as fleshed out personas that audiences would embrace with sympathy.

Shyamalan saw McAvoy as absolutely up for the challenge. “This is the most complex character I’ve ever written. I was thinking, ‘Does he understand what I’m asking him to do in this piece?’ And he did; I’ve never worked with an actor so fearless.”

McAvoy was immediately intrigued with the story’s many twists and turns. “I read the first 10 pages and thought, ‘Wow, what is this?’ Then I read the next 10 pages and thought, ‘What is that?’” he says. “It felt like I was being continually confronted with something completely different. That’s the joy of what Night does so well. He keeps an audience on their toes trying to figure out what the film is: Are we watching a thriller, a psychological drama, horror, sci-fi or something supernatural? And this film is all of those genres.”

Shyamalan and McAvoy worked closely to ensure the actor’s performance remained incredibly singular as he transformed into each role with authenticity. “Night’s demanding and almost forensic in what he wants you to do,” McAvoy says. “He has a very specific idea of what he wants in his mind, yet he’s extremely collaborative and giving.”

Changing colors and characters—sometimes within the same shot—was particularly demanding. “You hope the audience will buy you as one character,” McAvoy explains. “Then you need them to buy you as this next persona and make that transition interesting without alienating viewers.”

Still, the role presented the seasoned stage and screen actor with an extraordinary opportunity. “To be honest, I quite enjoy playing each character, because as an actor you rarely get the chance at this type of performance,” he says. “It’s quite exciting to radically change what you’re thinking, who you are and what makes you in a moment.”

“When you think about what James had to do in this film, it’s astonishing,” raves producer Jason Blum. “Not only was he seemingly effortless as he switching between alters on certain shooting days, he switched between them during certain scenes. You’re seeing an actor at the top of his game, and we were all awe-struck by what he managed to do as an extraordinarily disciplined actor. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I hope his performance receives the critical acclaim it deserves at the hands of Night’s deft direction.”

Opening across the Philippines on January 18, 2017, Split is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

Keira Knightley personifies Love in ‘Collateral Beauty’

Two-time Oscar-nominee Keira Knightley (Pride and Prejudice, The Imitation Game) is the epitome of Love, in New Line Cinema’s heartwarming drama, Collateral Beauty.
In the film, Howard (Will Smith), a successful New York advertising executive retreats from life after suffering a great tragedy. While his concerned friends try desperately to reconnect with him, he seeks answers from the universe by writing letters to Love, Time and Death. But it’s not until his notes bring unexpected personal responses that he begins to understand how these constants interlock in a life fully lived, and how even the deepest loss can reveal moments of meaning and beauty.

Howard’s most recent letter to Love said simply, “Goodbye,” and it’s now incumbent upon Keira Knightley’s character, Amy, to make him realize that giving up on love is not an option. Quite the contrary; this is when love matters most. Says Knightley of the role, “She’s highly empathetic to Howard’s grief, empathy being a part of love, and talks to him in emotional terms that he can feel. But she wants him to understand that love isn’t just the part where everything is great; it’s also the unbelievable pain you feel when something is taken away, and that in no way diminishes it or ends it.”

“It’s such an intriguing idea, and how can you say no to being the personification of love?” she asks.

The actress was enjoying a rare bit of down time and not actively seeking a film role when Collateral Beauty came her way. “I have a very young child and had come to the end of a grueling job and didn’t really want to work at the time,” she remembers. “I gave the script to my mom, mostly so she would say ‘No, don’t do that, stay at home with the baby and chill out.’ But she read it and phoned me in tears. She said nothing had made her feel like that for a long time. I think it speaks to something that we’re all frightened of and yet there’s an incredible feeling of relief and optimism within that. What people will experience individually I don’t know, but I was very moved by it. Plus, I didn’t know where it was going, and that was exciting.”

Now playing across the Philippines, Collateral Beauty is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment company.

Sienna Miller plays mobster mistress in gangster film ‘Live by Night’

Most recently seen in Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, Sienna Miller plays the tempestous mobster mistress Emma Gould, in Warner Bros. Pictures’ new gangster film Live by Night.

Starring and directed by Ben Affleck, Live by Night tells the story of Joe Coughlin (Affleck), a WWI vet who’s a self-proclaimed anti-establishment outlaw, despite being the son of the Boston Police Deputy Superintendent. Joe’s not all bad, though; in fact, he’s not really bad enough for the life he’s chosen. Unlike the gangsters he refuses to work for, he has a sense of justice and an open heart, and both work against him, leaving him vulnerable time and again—in business and in love.

When we first meet Joe, Affleck offers, “He’s already in a bit of hot water. He’s involved in a secret affair with Emma Gould, the girlfriend of Irish mobster Albert White.” Like Joe, Emma flaunts her independence, precarious as it may be. “She’s controlled by Albert, so she’s thrilled by her relationship with Joe, the danger of it is exciting,” he adds.

Sienna Miller says she shares Affleck’s enthusiasm for the genre. “I’m obsessed with the Prohibition era, so to be in this film is a dream realized, but more important to me was the fact that Ben had written the script and would star and direct in it. Having seen his previous work, I would have dropped anything to be a part of this and to play such an exquisite role.

“Emma’s the quintessential gangster’s moll,” Miller continues, “serving drinks in a speakeasy where illegal poker games go on, being squired about on the arm of her married boss and sleeping with the enemy behind his back. She has a steely center that serves her in navigating a world that is dark and murderous and misogynistic, and that leads her to embark on a romance with Joe that is beautiful and transient and ultimately tragic. It’s very clear from the outset that she’s a strong, no-nonsense Irish lass doing what she must to survive.”

Miller crafted a lovely County Cork-inspired lilt to play the feisty flapper from Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood, who serves as a catalyst for Joe’s resentful side to emerge. “Sienna was just perfect for the part, it’s like she was born to it,” Affleck relates. “She got me speaking with an Irish accent all the time, she was just so good, so nuanced. Everything she did in the movie was purposeful and delicate, textured.”

Opening across the Philippines on January 18, 2017, Live by Night is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Oscar winner Octavia Spencer faces prejudice in ‘Hidden Figures’

Octavia Spencer whose powerful performance in “The Help” won her a Best Supporting Actress in the Oscars stars in another riveting role in the inspiring story of women of courage in “Hidden Figures.”

Spencer plays one of the three brilliant mathematicians working in NASA at a time when prejudice and discrimination in the early 1960s ran high. Based on the stories of real life women, Spencer’s role, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) and Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson) made remarkable accomplishments against all odds and breaking barriers when they helped America win the space race that paved the way for future generations.

“Hidden Figures” is an exciting film about courage, resilience and empowerment, focusing on a trio of gifted women whose excellent work in the fields of mathematics and aerospace engineering was of crucial importance in turning around the space race. It is also an emotional story about the friendship that developed between the three women and the challenges they faced in their families and communities, who were forging ahead in their extraordinary careers, while dealing with segregation.

Known as ‘colored computers’, they crossed racial and gender boundaries at NASA (America’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration), where they proved to be indispensable—the best at their jobs. The black mathematicians had to eat separately from their white counterparts and use ‘colored’ restrooms. Yet as the movie relates, everyone set aside prejudice and differences, joining forces to do groundbreaking work.

Katherine Johnson’s mathematical calculations were key to the success of John Glenn’s historic ‘Friendship 7’ mission, which made him the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962. Mary Jackson (musician Janelle Monáe in her first major film role) was a dynamic and brilliant young woman who found herself in an untenable position. She became the first woman of any color to be an engineer at NASA. Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer, was in charge of the black computers. At the time, the first electronic IBM computer had been introduced at NASA. Vaughan was one of the few who understood its significance.

“Octavia is one of the best actresses in the world,” says director Ted Melfi, who made last year’s acclaimed film, “St. Vincent.” So for her to play the rock of the movie was great. She guides the computing group. She’s the maternal figure for her friends. She’s the one with all the wisdom and Octavia was the perfect choice for me.”

For Spencer, who will also be seen in the upcoming “Gifted” with Chris Evans, “Hidden Figures” offered an interesting role she couldn’t resist. “It was amazing that so many women who were integral to the space race were somehow omitted from history. I’m not just talking about African American women; I’m talking about all the women involved; there were black and white female computers at NASA. It is so interesting when you start thinking about who the ‘computers’ were; they were human beings who actually sat down and did all these crucial mathematical calculations. I love the fact that their journey is now a Hollywood story. The women who were involved in the space program would change history in a way that nobody could ever imagine, and it is amazing that nobody knew about them until now. It is really exciting. I wanted to be a part of a story that celebrates those contributions and that empowers women, so I’m very happy to be involved.”

Also starrring Kevin Costner, Kirsten Dunst and Jim Parsons. With a score from multiple Grammy winning musician Pharrell Williams, the film is compelling and highly entertaining.

Opening February 22, 2017 in Philippine cinemas, “Hidden Figures” is from 20th Century Fox and to be distributed by Warner Bros.

Reese Witherspoon plays mother to 25 piglets in ‘Sing’

Rosita is a selfless homemaker and mother of 25 piglets who wants to remember what it feels like to be something other than a mother and wife. Oscar Best Actress winner Reese Witherspoon is Rosita’s talking and singing voice in Universal Pictures and Illumination’s musical comedy Sing.

Witherspoon proved to be the production’s ideal Rosita. Once a very promising singer, Rosita longs to recapture the feeling of being celebrated for her talents and to challenge herself in front of a live audience. Witherspoon first shocked the world with her singing talents in Walk the Line, in which she portrayed legendary artist June Carter. Praises Illumination founder Chris Meledandri: “Not only is Reese a brilliant actress and humanitarian, she has an inner fortitude that simply gives flight to Rosita. You root for Rosita at every step of the way because of the steely determination and maternal compassion that Reese gives this surprisingly complex character. She’s simply riveting in the role.”

In the singing competition, Rosita will be partnered with a Scandinavian pig named Gunter who instantly sees her inner diva and makes it his mission to unleash her incredible gifts. Their final performance will leave her family slack-jawed and appreciating her for the amazing talent that she is.

Sing stars Academy Award® winners Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon, alongside Seth McFarlane, Scarlett Johansson, John C. Reilly, Taron Egerton and Grammy Award-nominated Tori Kelly.

Set in a world like ours but entirely inhabited by animals, Sing stars Buster Moon (McConaughey), a dapper koala who presides over a once-grand theater that has fallen on hard times. Buster is an eternal—some might even say delusional—optimist who loves his theater above all and will do anything to preserve it. Now faced with the crumbling of his life’s ambition, he has one final chance to restore his fading jewel to its former glory by producing the world’s greatest singing competition.

Five lead contestants emerge: Mike (MacFarlane), a mouse who croons as smoothly as he cons; Meena (Kelly), a timid teenage elephant with an enormous case of stage fright; Rosita (Witherspoon), an overtaxed mother run ragged tending a litter of 25 piglets; Johnny (Egerton), a young gangster gorilla looking to break free of his family’s felonies; and Ash (Johansson), a punk-rock porcupine struggling to shed her arrogant boyfriend and go solo.

Each arrives under Buster’s marquee believing that this is their shot to change the course of their life. And as Buster coaches each of his contestants closer and closer to the grand finale, he starts to learn that maybe the theater isn’t the only thing that is in need of saving.

Opening across the Philippines on January 4, 2017, Sing is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures. #SingMovie

Michael Fassbender stars in game-to-movie adaptation of ‘Assassin’s Creed’

The action-packed and breathtaking game-to-movie adaptation “Assassin’s Creed” starring Michael Fassbender follows dual characters Callum Lynch and Aguilar de Nehra in the modern day and 15th Century Spain respectively. In the 15th Century, Aguilar is joined by Maria, a more experienced Assassin than him, who is his most trusted ally. In the modern day, Cal finds himself at the Abstergo facility with a rag-tag bunch of fellow inmates who are all suffering from the effects of prolonged exposure to the Animus, and have their own ancestral Assassin legacies.

From the onset, director Justin Kurzel was adamant about filming as much of “Assassin’s Creed” as possible without relying on green screens and computer-generated imagery.

As one of the video gaming industry’s most popular and beloved franchises, “Assassin’s Creed” is famous for its heart-pounding action sequences. The series was among the first to prominently feature Parkour as a major gameplay element, with Assassins breathlessly vaulting over the rooftops of cities including Jerusalem, Florence, Paris and London.

“We’re shooting a lot with real people, in real locations, on top of real churches with real light,” Kurzel said. “We’re building a lot of the sets to make something that is real and cinematic.”

“There’s very little green screen in this, which is highly unusual in these films,” adds Fassbender. “We have stunt guys jumping across buildings in [Maltese capital] Valletta. We’ve got (stunt man Damian Walters) doing a 120-foot leap of faith, without any rope, into a bag, so it’s pretty incredible to see.”

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For his big-screen adaptation, Kurzel sought to amplify that dizzying style with thundering carriage chases, elaborate sword fights, and close hand-to-hand combat. The director also realized the film had to prominently feature the Leap of Faith, a signature Assassin’s Creed move in which Assassins leap from the edge of buildings and plummet gracefully to the ground below, landing on their backs in water or bales of hay. “What happens if you do a real Leap of Faith?” Kurzel asked. “What would happen if you actually saw Assassins jump from building to building? The great thing about cinema is that you can bring that human element into it, where the audience responds and reacts to the idea that they are watching real human beings actually put the effort and danger in doing those things.”

Kurzel and his team tapped some of the top Parkour talents to determine how to stage the action of Assassin’s Creed without relying on extensive CG trickery. The production then travelled to some of the most visually stunning corners of the globe in the hopes of capturing one-of-a-kind sequences that would offer viewers an immersive—and realistic—experience.

“I never wanted the film to feel like superheroes,” Kurzel says. “I wanted you to look at it and think, Wow, there are human beings doing that and they are doing it like Olympians, as opposed to filming on a parking lot with green screen. You can feel that artifice. That is probably why we went toward a more old-school approach, to make the whole film feel more human and more intimate.”

“Assassin’s Creed” opens January 4, 2017 in cinemas nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.

Zoe Saldana captures the heart of Ben Affleck in ‘Live by Night’

Known to global audiences as Gamora and Uhura in the Guardians of the Galaxy and Star Trek franchises, respectively, Zoe Saldana now portrays the exotic Graciela in Warner Bros. Pictures’ new gangster film Live by Night.

Directed by Ben Affleck, Live by Night tells the story of Joe Coughlin (Affleck), a WWI vet who’s a self-proclaimed anti-establishment outlaw, despite being the son of the Boston Police Deputy Superintendent. Joe’s not all bad, though; in fact, he’s not really bad enough for the life he’s chosen. Unlike the gangsters he refuses to work for, he has a sense of justice and an open heart, and both work against him, leaving him vulnerable time and again—in business and in love.

Joe signs on with the Italian mob and is dispatched to Tampa, Florida where he almost immediately encounters Graciela. He is instantly intrigued, even more so when he learns that she and her brother control something integral to the success of the rum business: molasses.

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Saldana’s Graciela is a Cuban living in Ybor, a multi-ethnic, multi-racial community of hardworking immigrants, known for the production of cigars. “Joe’s been working with barbaric, violent criminals his whole life, so there’s an integrity to the people, Graciela’s people, that Joe finds appealing,” she suggests. “And Graciela is unlike other women he’s known. She’s educated, she’s traveled and studied music and art. She’s very cultured and also very smart when it comes to her family’s business.”

Perhaps what sets Graciela apart from the women in Joe’s past is what she really wants out of life. “I don’t think Graciela woke up in Cuba and said to herself, ‘I want to date gangsters, I want to live on the dark side,’” Saldana adds. “I think she wants a full life with a good man, a home, children. The more time she spends with Joe, the more she realizes that she could have all that with this man. She sees who he really is, who he could be, if he could wash away all the bad that he does at night by doing good during the day. She sees his redemption.”

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Affleck states, “Zoe was amazing. She was able to convey all the strength and confidence and elusiveness of the character that draw Joe in, but it’s Graciela’s expectations of him that give him something to strive for, which Zoe played so quietly yet powerfully.”

Producer Jennifer Todd concurs, “We were lucky to get Zoe because she has all these beautiful qualities, a lightness and grace, that suit Graciela so well, and she already speaks Spanish, but she applied an exquisite Cuban accent to her dialogue.”

Opening across the Philippines on January 18, 2017, Live By Night is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.