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Hey Boys and Girls, such fun days around the Temple. We’ve had a lot of visitors in the past few weeks but few have been as adorable as the kids from the fabulous coming-of-age film, The Wackness. (Click here for our glowing review) Wunderkind director Jonathan Levine, Girl of the Moment Olivia Thirlby, Hip Hop monument Method Man and adorable Baby Star Josh Peck. Dig in as they tell us who they were in 1994 (- some weren’t even an itch), the secrets to choosing era-appropriate slang, the summer movie benefits of Angelina Jolie keeping her mouth shut, working with “Sir Ben” Kingsley and all the dope on The Wackness. 

Luv it,

 

Method Man

 

Mighty Ganesha:  I think it’s a sweet and ironic moment when your character Percy hands hip-hop loving Luke a bootleg tape of “Ready to Die.”

Method Man: The Biggie (Notorious B.I.G) album, right?

 

MG: Uh-huh.

MM: I think Jonathan planned that right there. That was hot, though. I liked that spot, too.

 

MG: But what did that mean to you? You’re the only other rapper Biggie invited to be on that album.

MM: Yeah, I’ve said that before, but you know, I don’t like to yank my own chain. I’m the only rapper in the game that did a song with him and Tupac when they were still alive.

 

MG: But your transition – you’re still rapping and connected with music, you’re doing the acting thing in a big way, you’re producing….

MM: I don’t like 9 to 5’s.

 

MG:  Out of everything that you’re doing, which is the most fulfilling for you creatively?

MM:  Music, of course, music. I have more creative control when I do my music, plus there’s no feeling like being in a stadium and 30,000 people singing the words to a song that you wrote. Yeah.

 

Q: What attracted you to The Wackness?

MM:  Well, I wanted to do something independent. I had spoken to my manager about it. But I wanted to do something quality, and then we got this script, I read it, I was like.  “Yeah,” I wanted to work with Jonathan. And he gave me an opportunity to shine, so I commend that brother a lot for that.

 

Q: Did you know about Jonathan Levine’s work before you got the script?

MM:  No, mm-mm, but YouTube is a mug, boy! So YouTube and All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, I saw a trailer for that. I wanted to see it, I don’t know if it ever came out or not, but it looked interesting. When I met him that was like… Three things made me do the movie; one, the first reason I told you I wanted to do something independent, two, Ben Kinglsey, and three, when I met Jonathan.

 

MG: Well, tell us about working with Ben Kingsley.

MM: That was crazy cos when I first got to the set, I was on the way to my trailer, he was coming out of his trailer  and I didn’t know if I was gonna get like, Sexy Beast or Ghandhi. He was a little bit of both, though. {Smiles} He was a good guy, man, he was a real good guy. It was real comfortable; I didn’t feel uncomfortable around him at all. He didn’t make me feel like I wasn’t supposed to be there. He’s very accommodating. He earned that title, “Sir.” Definitely.

 

Q: How do you feel about a whole generation of people who were very young or maybe not even around watching this film and learning about the music of that time and New York City at that period and perhaps seeing 1994 for the first time?

MM:  Well, I mean a lot of these young people, if they didn’t grow up seeing it, their cos 94 wasn’t really that long ago. Music was a lot better. I mean, coming up in 94 and Jonathan trying to capture it in this film, he had to include the music cos it plays such a major part in the early 90’s, especially the hip-hop music cos I think it was at, dare I say, purest form, you know? It was more or less, if you shined up here {gestures to his head} and not necessarily with jewelry, cars and things like that. It was more grounded.

 

Q: The music in the film just feels so good, it’s not really old school.

MM:  The best analogy I can give is; you’re sitting in your car, you’re driving. Radio’s not too loud, but loud enough. You hear a song that you ain’t heard in a long time - for me it’s Before I Let You Go – Frankie Beverly and Maze. So you turn it up, it’s like “Alright, okay,” and all I know is that the feeling you get, it’s hard to describe, but it’s like once that song is over you feel like you just gotta call that aunt you ain’t spoke to in years cos this song just brought you back to that time and that point. Honestly, I think the music should’ve gotten a credit in the movie. It definitely pushed the story forward.

 

Q: So the next question would be what happened to music today? You can’t listen to the radio anymore.

MM:  You know what, they wanna blame the artist and of course we gotta take some of the blame for it, but the record companies are pushing it out like fast food now, man. It’s hard for them to adjust to Generation Y. Because these kids, I don’t even think they understand what power they hold right now. Without knowing it they’re crippling the music industry by going their computers and downloading and basically doing the things we expect them to do since they are the future of this planet and all that. And we are in a digital era, you know, a voyeuristic era, too. Remember when we had to watch Rescue 911 and they had to do the dramatizations? Now, people have got actual footage, it’s crazy. But the music is definitely … phew. God…. But a lot had to do with the people behind it. Radio has to be held accountable, record company execs have to be held accountable and the artists.

 

MG: Did you have any hand in the music that was chosen?

MM:  I didn’t hear any of the music except for the scene I did– the Biggie song {The What} – that was it. But I had a feeling that there was gonna be a lot of music in this film. And when I actually heard the music was at the premiere in Sundance, and I’m telling you, just sitting there and listening I couldn’t help but do this {bounces leg}. I was like “Okay, he caught that, he caught that one.”

 

MG: What are you memories from that time period? Tell us about your 1994.

MM:  Wu-Tang was just hitting, really hitting. We went to LA to get a buzz out there. My son got shot that year, like two years old, yeah. He’s still here, though. I was working on my solo album at the time. Everything was just band new, everything was brand new. I’m like meeting stars for free. Going to the Soul Train Awards, flying first class from a airplane, getting my own suite instead of having to bunk with somebody all that damn time. Very nice.

 

MG: Does an independent movie like this inspire you to make a movie of your own?

MM:  I always wanted to do something on my own before this, man, it’s just, I don’t know, the nature - a kid from the hood – I hate to sound cliché, I even hate to say “from the hood,” but that’s where I’m from and I mean, we’re ambitious, y’know? And I always wanted to make my own movie. I have ideas floating through my head all the time and that’s why when I got the opportunity to do this comic book {“Method Man”}, I jumped at the chance cos I been reading comic books since I was a little tyke. I still read ‘em, today.

 

MG: So have you thought about making a super movie based on your comic book?

MM: Yeah, definitely.

 

MG: Sweet. C’mon!

MM:  And there’s a love story … They’re killing my comic book, they’re prostituting it. Girls are gonna come and sit in the seats, anyway. A lot of girls like boy stuff, aiight? It’s just that look how many tickets Sex and the City sold, aiight? That’s a mostly female audience. If you wanna sit the girls in the seats you don’t have to put the love story stuff in there, they have stuff the can go see. Y’know?  The Notebook – is that the name of that damn movie? The Notebook …jeez.

 

Q:  So which is your favourite superhero movie?

MM:  Right now, tops for me was definitely Sin City. A History of Violence – Ahh, some people didn’t know that was a comic book. I’ma see how Wanted does, even though they did a twist on the story cos they were supposed to be assassinating superheroes. Yeah.

 

Q: Well, that’s got the love story in it.

MM:  {Laughs} Well, Angelina keeps her mouth shut through most of the flick, so it can’t be too much love story there. No, she does it just to be taken seriously, like that character wouldn’t say much and she’s right, that character wouldn’t say much. She a dope actress though, don’t get me wrong. No, action hero! She’s a dope action hero! Yeah!

 

MG: Well, you like action, too. Would you want to be a dope action hero?

MM:  I gotta bulk up more. I like more grounded stuff, like Requiem for a Dream, stuff like that. That was hot. That movie took you on a mental.

 

MG: You seem like you watch a lot of different movies.

MM:  I do, I do. And I’m a sucker for like nominees of Golden Globes, I will go check those movies, just to throw my thumb down {- emphatically demonstrates his negative Ebert technique}. Serious, cos I hate all that artsy-fartsy shit, but when it’s artsy-fartsy and it’s good I {- demonstrates his positive Ebert technique) yes, sir.

 

Q:  How was your first trip to the Sundance Film Festival?

MM:  I was a small fish in a big pond. You know what? The experience could’ve been way more enjoyable, it was at first until like all the swag stuff that I was invited to. Those people that stand at those doors, you would think they were giving away their own stuff, you know? I mean, I got the picture, so why you…? Just peons need to stay where peons need to stay, let’s put it that way.

 

MG: Since The Wackness came out of Sundance much has been made of the pot angle, and your character is quite a dealer.

MM: Yeah, he supplies, he supplies, but, see, the way I see the character he doesn’t see anything wrong with it, that’s his culture. So he doesn’t think he’s doing anything illegal. “This is how we live where I’m from.” And the reason why him and Luke are so tight, is being in the business that he’s in, you can’t trust a lot of people, so when you find someone you can trust, you tend to hang on to him.

 

MG: So did you know a lot of Percy’s?

MM: I know a lot of Percy’s, a lot of Percy’s. They still out there, too. It’s a shame.

 

MG: Living in the barracks with the armed guards?

MM: Oh boy, yeah, yeah! Yes, sir. Oh, they go on tours, now.

 

MG: Whoa…

MM: Aiight? Aiiiiiight? That’s the real reason crime went down we took all the killers on tour with us. Yeah.

 

MG: One of the things I find most interesting in The Wackness is that it takes place in a period of big changes in New York City; “Giuliani Time” had started they cleaned up Times Square. Yet a lot of those changes are still gong on today, like the gentrification of Harlem and the Lower East Side and people being run out of their neighborhoods. Did you see any of the comparisons between today’s New York and how it was in 1994?

MM:  I didn’t see that part of it, because they was actually coming from Luke’s perspective, so it was just his world, y'know? And you know, in a city as big as New York to make it that contained like that was a great job, too. But the whole thing…I... y’know, we had to survive Reaganomics first. That shit just ripped the whole city apart – pardon my Swahili – but that shit just ripped the whole city apart, right there, man.  And the crack era just damaged us. Then David Dinkins, y'know?  We get Giuliani, turns it into like a police state, cops everywhere, which was good and bad because you had some dudes using excessive force, excessively. And I mean, some people have died or been beaten or things wrongfully and Mayor Giuliani always stood by the side of the police officers, and a lot of people didn’t like him for that. As far as cleaning up the city, he did Times Square, he definitely cleaned up Times Square, but the community got better because the people in the communities got fed up and cleaned their own things up. That’s what that was about.

So, you do see a ripple effect from what happened at Times Square, because now it’s spreading all the way up through Harlem, but the thing about Harlem is, that they’re raising the rents and kicking the people out. And it’s like that’s a culture in itself, because Harlem has a rich history a rich black history out there and it would be a shame to see that just disappear.

 

Q: Can you talk about working with Jonathan Levine as a director on a story that seems so autobiographical?

MM:  Look, when I came in all I had to do was - he was like, “This is the weed, this is the box. When Luke comes in, turn it on.” And when Luke came in, I turned it on. But watching the movie in hindsight, it kinda makes me think that maybe he is referencing his own life, especially with the music, because he’s drawing off… I mean, just by the way I felt hearing the music and how it pushed the story along, I was like ‘This dude is drawing from personal experience.’ I think we all should do that, anyway. I think most directors, if they listen more and actually took in real life experience instead of just going … You know, like Hollywood has this way of doing stuff – I’ll simplify for you; even with like fight scenes, when they make movies overseas and they do the fight scenes, as far as martial arts and stuff like that, they pull the camera back so it looks like ballet, it looks like a dance, you can see every move. Over here, the camera’s too close, they show you a fist to the face, maybe a little kid {- makes scared little kid face} and that’s because most of the stars that are starring in the movies can’t fight. And I was told by a studio exec that they want people to feel like they’re in the fight. They been doing this for years and I’m sick of it, I’m so sick of it. That’s why I like a movie like 300, that’ll pull the camera back and actually show that, “Yeah, we paid these dudes some money to learn how to fight, first of all. To look good on camera, second of all and to look actually real while doing it, that movie was incredible.

 

MG: I feel like everything is pointing for you to make your own film. You have very strong opinions on cinematography.

MM:  Well, if I do I would like to do a film like that Bugsy Malone movie with Scott Baio and all the kids and stuff?

 

MG: A musical?

MM:  Not even the musical aspect, but like… They dealt with gangster type stuff in a playful manner. Instead of shooting bullets, they shot custard- poom-poom-poom-poom – stuff like that.

 

Q: Would you make something based on your own experiences like Jonathan did?

MM:  Um-hmm, my own childhood experiences, yes, definitely. {Grins}

 

MG: Why is that smile there?

MM:  Cos I’m just thinking, for some people they would sit there and be like “Ooohhhhh,” when I tell them, but to me it’s funny. {Laughs} When you grow up and you’re broke or whatever, but everybody else that you live around is broke, too, you don’t notice that you’re broke, you know what I mean? It’s not that big of a deal.

 

MG: Well I’m happy that you’re making movies, but every time you do, I get nervous.

MM: Why?

 

MG: Where’s the music?

MM:  I know, I know… And you what? I’ve always worked hard on my music, but in the past three years, getting beat up by the media, radio and these people it’s like I’ve been turned off, because I could see if I was beat up, y’know, badgered by these people, but in the same note, these people that they’re praising that’s coming out had way better music and they’re better than me, I wouldn’t have a problem. But when you saying something like “Okay, Meth ain’t nice, but MC So-and-So is killing ‘em right now and he got a song called..." I don’t know, Sugar D-, I don’t know – whatever titles they come up with nowadays. It’s the new dance called Now and Laters. Who knows, man, that’s when I got a problem with it, that’s when I got a big, big problem with it.

 

MG: But what’s coming up in the future for you?

MM: More music. Me and Redman working on an album right now and we’ll try to get it out in September, Def Jam records.

 

MG: Well, now that you mention Redman, I’m going to be completely hypocritical and ask if we’ll see the two of you on film or TV again, soon?

MM: Um-hmm…. We are waiting on Dustin (Abraham) to finish writing How High, Part 2. The direction he went in we wasn’t feeling. He was way out in space with it somewhere. And we told him we wanted something more grounded, more ghetto, cos yes, we wanna piss off bourgie black people. We do, man. I hate that bridge that we built to separate ourselves, man, it’s crazy.

 

MG: What bridge?

MM: Well, the bourgies is here and the ghettos is here. I mean, a few of us reach back, but not a lot of us. Everybody got that aunt that think she better than everybody else or come across like everybody else and she just might be, but we don’t wanna know.

 

Q: What are the movies you’re looking forward to coming up this year?

MM:  I’ll say The Wackness to be politically correct. Well, I’m really looking for that Wanted, I wanna see what that’s about. Anything that comes out that’s a comic book movie, I look forward to.

 

Q: Are you looking forward to The Dark Knight?

MM: Yeah, yeah, I’m going there to throw my thumb down at it! But if it’s good… I always walk in with my thumb down, when I go like this (raises thumb) that means it earned it.

 

Q: What do you think of Common being in Wanted and Will Smith starring in Hancock?

MM:  I was a little leery of Common at first, but he got his legs up underneath him now, cos I seen him in Street Kings – Oh! I was a little shaky dog with him in Smokin’ Aces, plus, you know I wish I was in it. You know American Gangster, they didn’t really give him a vehicle, I think he was too awestruck with Denzel. It was like watching Jordan play while you’re on the court supposed to be playing the position. But in Street Kings, you know I seen the commercial and he was like, “We straight nightmares,” and I was like, “I DON’T BELIEVE YOU!” But when I see the movie, and they gave him that meaty part right there, when they’re all sitting in the room and I was like, {whispers} “I believe this dude right now, he’s scared the hell out of me.” By the time when he got to the part, {sotto voce} “We’re straight nightmares,” I said somebody been TEACHIN’ this boy! Oh my GOD! And it worked it was so hot, I didn’t wanna see him die.

 

MG: What do you think people are going to take away from The Wackness?

MM:  I think they’re gonna wanna get the soundtrack, for one.  And for young people they’re going to look at the 90’s in a whole different light, like ‘Damn I missed a lot of stuff.’

 

MG:  So I take it The Wackness gets the thumbs up?

MM: Yeah. {grins}

 

 

Olivia Thirlby

 

Mighty Ganesha: What appealed to you about The Wackness, a film that takes place in time in New York that you might barely remember?

Olivia Thirlby: It started with the fact that it was exceedingly well-written. I mean, Jon is a fantastic writer, he’s not just a fantastic director, he wrote that. And the script was really incredible and every time you read a good script, it’s titillating. You know, as an actor if you read something and if you read a role that you respond to just in your head, it’s the most exciting feeling on the planet to say, ‘This! I could really play this role!” And I knew as soon as I read Stephanie that I was just perfect for her. Maybe it’s a New York thing; I think that probably even younger audiences, kids that weren’t born in 1994 will be able to relate to this because, you know, I think that that time period is when hip-hop music first started seeping into more mainstream culture and certainly when it started influencing white youth and that hasn’t ended. That’s just progressed, and now that’s kind of the music, I feel, of my generation as well. And I was 10 years behind the curve; I graduated in ’05, so it’s totally 10 years later. But the slang that’s in the movie, a lot of that wasn’t even in the script, a lot of that was just Josh and I being ourselves brought to these roles and it’s time-period correct. I think a lot of it has to do with New York City and I think that there’s a very specific kind of dialog, kind of vernacular that develops in this town and clearly hasn’t changed that much.

 

MG: Josh has said he wrote Stephanie as kind of an F.U. to all the girls who’d ever dumped him in high school, but he saw something in your interpretation of her that made him change the character? What was it that he saw? What did you see in Stephanie that made her not an F.U. character?

OT:  Well, I think for one, Jon is really underestimating himself. He’s a really humble guy. But the character that he wrote was this kind of multifaceted, really dynamic, really interesting girl, even though maybe he didn’t fully intend her to be that way. But to me, girls are really complicated, you know, so they’re more than just one kind of thing. And I think I wanted to make Stephanie forgivable, and to me she is, I completely understand. She doesn’t handle the situation as maturely as she possible could have. That being said, her and Luke are coming from totally different places, she’s a girl who’s really used to causal sexual encounters, it’s not a new thing for her, its part of her life. She’s not judgmental of the fact that it’s new for him and in fact she’s really welcoming and says, “Don’t worry about it. I’ll take under my wing and teach you.”  And he’s so caught up in her that he’s not able to just relax and have fun, and to me that’s what the whole “wackness”/ ”dopeness” speech is about, which, of course, kinda takes on a higher significance cos that’s where the movie gets its title. But what happens in that scene is that they’re having a really great time together and all of a sudden Luke starts going, “What are we?” “What’s going to happen at the end of the summer?” “What is this situation? Bla-bla-bla…” And she’s just trying to say, “Man you need to relax, there’s no reason to define this.” And “Let’s just enjoy each other’s company and let what happen what will happen.” She says, “You have a really kind of negative way of looking at this. We’ve only been hanging out for what? Two or three week and you’re already like, ‘What is this’.” And he doesn’t get it; he doesn’t really pick up on that. And it’s his own fault.

 

Q: What’s interesting in The Wackness is that Stephanie is the more experienced one sexually and the one who controls the relationship with Luke. In most films it’s the other was around.

OT: I think that’s just how they portray them in films, though. Honestly, I think it was really accurate. Cos you know, girls and women of that age are vastly more intelligent to women of the same age. You could say any age, but no, I speak truth. In my experience, girls are often having the first sexual experiences because they’re ready a lot younger. And it’s a double-edged sword because in today’s society there’s a lot of pressure and I think girls are made to feel like they ought to be ready for that before they necessarily are. But at the same time there are a lot of women who are very mature in their teen years and are ready to have those kind of experiences and the guys are often behind the curve, I think.

 

MG: Can you tell us about working with Sir Ben Kingsley? 

OT: Yeah, you know it’s the kind of thing that young actors sort of dream of and dread at the same time, because they’re such a role model. Somebody whose work you so admire and you aspire to be like them and achieve what they’ve achieved and at the same time it’s so intimidating to not know what you’re doing and have to act with someone who really, really knows what they’re doing. But he is the most regal and wonderful fellow. He is so sort of gentle and kind of in the way that Stephanie is nonjudgmental of Luke and says “Don’t worry, I’ll show you,” Sir Ben is the same way when it comes to acting, he’s really generous and really kind and he carries around no pretence of his accomplishments and his talent. He’s genuinely excited to do every role that he does and I think it speaks volumes about the kind of person that he is that somebody of his status would make a tiny independent film with a second-time director and really young actors as his co-stars and he does it so graciously, and he comes out to support us every time. He came out to the after party of the premiere last night and he came from Boston where he left Martin Scorsese’s set early to come celebrate with us. And that’s just the kind of person he is, so supportive.

 

MG: Did you ever ask him questions about acting or the way to approach a scene?

OT:  I didn’t want to burden him with having to feel like he had to look after me at all. At the same time, every now and again he would give a tidbit or a piece of encouragement and he would say, “You know that moment? Well, I think we should try to emphasise this….” And I’d be like “Yes, yes! Tell me more, tell me more!” And I would always ask him, “Do you have any suggestions for me, because I would love to hear your input.” And most of the time he would be very encouraging and say, “No, darling, do what you’re doing, it’s excellent.”

 

MG: You’ve been blessed with a lot of work recently.

OT: Yeah, I’ll say, its dumb luck.

 

MG: And you’re the new focus for a lot of attention.

OT: Why do people keep saying that? I dunno, I’m trying not to let it mean anything to me.

 

MG: But how do you keep your life private, how do you keep yourself out of the eye of the paparazzi?

OT: Paparazzi …don’t… {Shakes head}

 

MG: Really?

OT: No, it’s so easy to fly below the radar. You just don’t do outrageous things. I see paparazzi all the time and I’m like, “You have no idea who I am, thank God!” I mean yeah, I don’t live an ostentatious lifestyle. I’m really lame, I don’t even go out. I like hanging out at home. So I just do that and nobody cares. I mean I don’t know why people would care? I’m really not that interesting, I love being recognised for the work I do. I love doing this kind of thing and supporting a film that I’m proud of, but I almost find it a little sad when other people care so much about who someone’s like, dating.

 

Q: I guess you don’t read Us Weekly?

OT: I don’t read Us Weekly, but I admit I do look at the covers when I’m in the drugstore.  You know, I’m checking out at the register, I’m kinda like, “Brad and Angie, huh?” {Laughs}

 

~ Mighty Ganesha

June 26th 2008

 

The chat continues: Click here to go on to part 2 of our talk with the adorable Josh Peck and baby auteur Jonathan Levine

 

 

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