Tom Hiddleston has defended his portrayal of country music legend Hank Williams in a new biopic, insisting he understands the "huge responsibility" to fans and has been practising his music skills every day. The Thor actor will play the tragic star in I Saw The Light, a new film which will chronicle Williams' meteoric rise to fame and his untimely death at the age of 29 in 1953.
However, the casting of a Brit in the role has sparked debate among fans, and drawn criticism from late star's grandson, Hank Williams III, who insisted an American actor should have been picked by casting bosses.
Hiddleston has now spoken out to assure fans he will do everything he can to make sure Williams' story is accurately portrayed.
He tells Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, "The film is about the man behind the myth, the power of his music, the sheer voltage of his talent and charisma, and his formidable demons... Hank's life has a tragic arc, but in simple truth, he was a genius: a star that burned twice as bright and lived half as long. It's a huge role for me and a huge responsibility. I'm going to give it everything I've got."
The actor also insists he is working hard to improve his musicianship and has been practising with Grammy Award-winning country star Rodney Crowell.
He adds, "I've already started singing and playing every day... He (Crowell) came down to visit me over the Easter weekend in Toronto where I was filming... and we jammed for a day or so. It was so exciting... It was spine-tingling just to spend a day playing some of Hank's greatest hits... with such a gifted musician. He's already expanded my vocal range and given me a few pointers about adapting my own tone to sound like Hank. Rodney has furnished me with his beautiful J45 Gibson (guitar) to practice with. And he'll be on hand throughout the shoot."
Hank Williams' grandson has reportedly criticised movie bosses for casting British actor Tom Hiddleston as the music legend in an upcoming biopic. The late star's grandson, Hank Williams III, disapproves of the decision to cast a Brit in the role, and insists an American actor would have been a better choice to play the country performer, according to TMZ.com.
Williams reportedly told the website his first choice for the coveted part would be Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey.
Hiddleston plays Williams in I Saw The Light, which will chronicle the singer's meteoric rise to fame and his untimely death at the age of 29.
In just about every one of Kevin Hart's scenes in Ride Along, there's a joke that is just aching to find its way out of the diminutive, rascally comic actor. Hart is a small-scale physical comedian — of the same ilk as Jack Black — who puts nuclear-degree energy into his facial contortions, anatomical outbursts, and the delivery of every gag in general. If only he had material that was crafted with the same energy.
Unfortunately, nothing else about Ride Along seems at all "hard at work." Not the script, which pads a lifeless story with lazy comedy, and certainly not his screen partner Ice Cube, whose only stage direction seems to be "frown, and be taller than Kevin Hart." So lifeless is Ice Cube that even his machismo-obsessed straight man bit doesn't really work. Instead of the virile and intimidating "bad cop," he comes off as a disapproving middle aged dad without much to show for his own life.
But the script pairs the wily, overzealous high school security guard and video game junkie Ben (Hart) with no-nonsense lawman James (Ice Cube) on the titular ride along, with the scrappy cop-wannabe hoping to prove to the force veteran that he's good enough to marry the latter's younger sister. In earnest, he's not. Ben never puts any respectable effort into learning the tools of the trade, insisting on employing his amateur style and controlling the radio despite his proclamations that he wants, and deserves, James' trust. And James is no saint either — he's irresponsible on crime scenes, violent with perps, and disgruntled to the point of being unable to work with anybody else on the force. These are not good police officers... of course, you'll say, this is a comedy. But where are the laughs, then?
They're not absent entirely, you just have to look for them. In a movie so focused with big, broad humor, it's the smaller comedy that actually lands best. Hart's background mutterings and fumblings, his emoticon-laden texts to girlfriend Angela (Tika Sumpter, whose only stage direction seems to be "smile, and never wear a full outfit of clothing"), and a bizarre repetition of the word "weird" from supporting player John Leguizamo. All good for unexpected chuckles, while jokes like Hart facing off with a pre-teen or being blown backwards into a brick wall after firing a large gun are all lazy, familiar, and flat.
Structurally, the script is a mess. Ride Along spends far too much time on set up — we get it, Hart and his soon-to-be-brother-in-law Ice Cube don't get along — and far too much time on wrap-up — there's a gigantic, dramatic warehouse shootout that, in any other movie, would be the climax, but there's plenty more to go after that — without any cohesive middle to make the movie feel like... a movie.
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Hart, who leaps at every comic opportunity like a kangaroo (wallaby would be more appropriate), is suited just right for a buddy cop comedy, but he needs something fresh with which to work — a real character, an interesting story, actually funny jokes. Even just one of these would be fine!
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When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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This episode marks the last night of this season’s blind auditions. I, for one, am profoundly disappointed by the utter lack of blindness puns in the songs our hopefuls have chosen — no “Blinded by the Light,” no “I Can See Clearly Now,” nor nearly enough selections from the catalogs of Blind Melon, Third Eye Blind, and Stevie Wonder. Maybe our last crop of contestants won’t disappoint.
Natalie Hernandez skipped both her prom and her brother’s graduation — guess they filmed this at least three months ago — to audition for The Voice, making this the climactic scene in the teen movie that is her life. (Then again, when you’re 15, every day is the climactic scene in the teen movie that is your life.)
Her earthy, distinctive voice shines on “White Horse,” turning around Adam, Blake, and Christina.
Natalie’s Result: Team Christina
The producers offer yet another defrosted pop star in Rod Michael, whose boy band B3 won fame in Germany — on a scale of 1 to Hasselhoff, maybe a 2.5 — but no recognition back home. You know a group didn’t make it too big when it doesn’t appear until the third page of Google search results for its name. (Coincidentally, were you aware that B3 is the vitamin niacin, as well as the name of a city bus route in Brooklyn? The More You Know™.)
Rod’s adequate version of “Please Don’t Go” has the ladies in the house screaming, but overall, he’s simply not a standout.
Rod’s Result: Team Nobody
Caitlin Michelle says that she discovered she could sing at the age of five, which raises the question, “What 5-year-old doesn’t think he or she can sing?” A victim of intense anxiety attacks, she has found solace in music throughout her life. But I don’t know, man. When I hear “panic disorder,” I don’t think “career in show business.”
I like her retro microphone tattoo and winged eyeliner, a look perfectly complemented by her male friend backstage (siblings, or dating?) and his handlebar mustache. Caitlin brings a dramatic, bold flair to Florence + the Machine’s “Cosmic Love,” though it doesn't seem like an ideal song to showcase her voice.
Caitlin’s Result: Team Adam
A modern-day Mozart, Nicole Johnson wrote her first song at age seven (her mom doesn’t go into detail, but I think we can safely assume it was a full symphony).
Her family moved to Nashville from Louisiana so she could better pursue her music career — listening to Nicole’s buttery-smooth “Mr. Know-It-All,” it seems like that might not have been a huge mistake.
Nicole’s Result: Team Blake
Kameron Corvet, a middle-school French teacher, sings — surprisingly — something other than “Frère Jacques.” Self-accompanied on guitar, he offers a cover of “Crazy” (not the Gnarls Barkley “Crazy,” unfortunately) that’s good, but not good enough.
Kameron’s Result: Team Nobody
Chevonne sang back-up on Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour, which is impressive, but it’s this video that I just found on YouTube that’s led me to declare myself a Little Chevonnester (the first ever?).
Her “Brass in Pocket” — oh my god, I love this song, y’all — is a lot of fun, and not unlike Gaga in style.
Chevonne’s Result: Team Cee Lo
Seventeen-year-old Kayla Nevarez credits her father for fostering her interest in soul, R&B, and “doo-wops and stuff.” Sadly, he isn’t here to cheer her on because he’s ailing from a serious liver disease — a crisis that has placed financial and emotional stress on their family. She sends a tearful greeting to him back at the hospital, and because I am a horrible person, I find myself considering the possibility that he may have died since this episode was recorded.
The coaches go crazy for Kayla’s “American Boy,” and rightly so. I love this song (although I have to ask — it might just be that I’m a freakish giantess — but whose ideal man is 5’7”, Estelle?), and Kayla masterfully handles its fast, conversational pace.
“I’m your coach,” Christina informs her, seemingly unwilling to take no for an answer — too bad, because a no it is.
Kayla’s Result: Team Adam [and he’s full!]
Still only 16, Celica Westbrook was offered a place on a Bieber tour two years ago, but it didn’t pan out — we’re never told exactly why, so I can only guess that it’s because she got Justin pregnant. Also, “Celica?” It’s like her parents picked a first name out of a hat full of Toyota models, and a last name out of a hat full of prominent NBA players.
Camry Durant’s mature, effortless cover of “A Thousand Years” sets off a feeding frenzy among the three judges with spots remaining in their teams.
Celica’s Result: Team Christina [and she’s full!]
Jessica Cayne, a full-time musician from Georgia, has struggled all her life with insecurity and weight issues. She brings a bad-girl twang to “Good Girl” (honey, why you insecure when you pretty and you sing real nice?), but she goes unchosen. I have to say I’m actually bummed that no one picked her (ahem, BLAKE).
Jessica’s Result: Team Nobody
(Suddenly, Cee Lo’s cockatoo is perched on his head. I wish I could tell you what he’s saying, but I have no idea, because as I said, Cee Lo’s cockatoo is perched on his head.)
Forty-six-year-old Rudy Parris began playing music in the 1970s, but took a step back from his career to raise his daughter. Now a grandfather — though his long, jet-black hair might have you doubting that — he’s ready to give it another try.
A cover of “Every Breath You Take” reveals his full-bodied country vocals, and I’m not surprised to hear that he’s toured with Hank Williams III (whose real first name, Blake hammily points out, is Shelton).
Rudy’s Result: Team Blake [and he’s full!]
Cody Belew, the improbably (and charmingly) flamboyant son of a bull rider, believes that he must have been “an elderly black lady” in a past life. Of all the coaches, Cody prefers Cee Lo, admiring his innate sense of crazy.
His better-than-competent cover of “Hard to Handle” earns a last-second button-press from Cee Lo. Cody at first doesn’t realize that Cee Lo has chosen him, so when he finally does, he lets loose with a joyful barrage of (heavily bleeped) celebratory cursing. Cody might not win The Voice, but he’s certainly No. 1 in terms of s-grenades launched on air.
Cody’s Result: Team Cee Lo [and he’s full!]
Tonight, The Voice is back with The Best of the Blind Auditions. The battle rounds begin next Monday; I’ll be preparing myself by reading books of World War I poetry and quietly weeping. Dulce et decorum est pro patria cantare.
Find me on Twitter @mollyfitz.
[Image Credit: NBC] More: The Voice Recap: That’ll Do, Pig The Voice Recap: Ain’t That Some Shhh? The Voice Will Keep Singing for Two More Seasons, Gets New Judges
Top Story: Britney Spears Bitter About Men
Pop princess Britney Spears says she became bitter with men after her very public breakup with ex Justin Timberlake. In an interview with Newsweek magazine in its Nov. 3 issue, Spears says she swore off dating for a while after the experience. "There was a time when I was like, 'OK, I'm over men. They're mean,'" she says. "For like six months, not a single thing happened. Not like they weren't drawn to me, but there wasn't a single real attraction. I'm like, 'What's happening? I know I'm not a lesbian.'" Spears says she is still not involved with anyone and denies reports that she hooked up with 21-year-old Columbus Short, a married backup dancer. Spears also talks about her suggestive layouts for Rolling Stone, British Elle and Esquire magazines. "I did feel kind of weird after those photos," Spears says. "I was in a moment. I had, like, eight Red Bulls and said, 'OK, let's do it.' I learned my lesson and you won't see me like that for a while. I'm kinda over it myself. Not that it's dirty or tacky, but it is really revealing and I wouldn't want my kid, at 21, to be dressing like that."
Price Is Right Announcer Dies
Veteran television announcer Rod Roddy died Monday at Century City Hospital of colon and breast cancer at age 66, The Associated Press reports. For 17 years, Roddy's voice was familiar to fans of the television game show The Price Is Right for the legendary phrase: "Come on down!" Host Bob Barker said Monday that Roddy, who taped his last show two months ago, stayed with the CBS show as long as his health permitted. "The courage he showed during those difficult times was an inspiration to us all," Barker said. "He was quite a character. He was important to the success of the show." A private funeral service will be held in Texas, with a memorial service planned sometime later in Los Angeles.
California Fires Destroy Part of Aviator Set
The Southern California wildfires, which have destroyed at least 1,134 homes, killed 15 people, forced thousands to evacuate and disrupted auto and air traffic, also partially destroyed a set for Warner Bros.' Howard Hughes biopic The Aviator in the Simi Valley area over the weekend. According to Variety, the blaze at Big Sky Ranch forced the production to switch to interior shooting in Long Beach, Calif. Mike Dilorenzo of Santa Clarita Studios said his facility is operating at full capacity with CSI and Carnivale shooting, but added that the studio was on full alert with fires hoses hooked up and ready to go.
David Bowie and Iman To Appear in Hilfiger Ads
Rock icon David Bowie and his wife, supermodel Iman, will appear in their first ad campaign together. According to Billboard.com, the couple will be the new faces for designer Tommy Hilfiger's new H Hilfiger line, to be launched in spring 2004. The collection, described as "sophisticated, sexy and refined," will be part of Hilfiger's high-end line. The ad campaign, shot this month in Amsterdam by renowned photographer Ellen Von Unwerth, will debut in American magazines in April 2004.
Rosie O'Donnell, G+J Court Date Delayed
The court battle between Rosie O'Donnell and her ex-publishing partner, Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing, was put on temporary hold on yesterday as a scheduling conflict caused the judge to delay Tuesday's start date. G+J charges that everything unraveled at the now defunct Rosie magazine when O'Donnell shut down her daytime TV show in 2002 and went from being known as "fun-loving" to becoming a self-proclaimed "uber-bitch." O'Donnell, however, claims the publisher seized control of the magazine, fired editors who were loyal to her and tried to smear her reputation. Manhattan Supreme Court officials told Reuters the breach-of-contract case over the messy demise of the entertainer's namesake magazine will likely open later this week.
Fox Pulls Plug on Luis
After only four airings, Fox has decided to pull the plug on its freshman series Luis. The show starred feature character actor Luis Guzman as a doughnut shop owner in Spanish Harlem, but it opened to poor reviews and ratings, averaging 3.6 million viewers in its four airings. According to The Hollywood Reporter, production on the series, which aired Friday at 8:30 p.m., was shut down Monday. Ten episodes of the comedy were produced overall. For the next two Fridays, Fox will air original episodes of Wanda at Large at 8 and 8:30 p.m. The network had previously scheduled movies to run on the last two Fridays of the November sweep.
ABC News: Oswald Acted Alone
ABC said Monday that an in-depth investigation of the Kennedy assassination conducted by ABC News indisputably confirms that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. The network said ABC News worked with an expert who created a computer-generated reconstruction of the shooting based on maps, blueprints, physical measurements, more than 500 photographs, films and autopsy reports. Through interviews and other documentation, ABC News also concludes that Jack Ruby, who later killed Oswald, acted simply out of his love for Kennedy, the AP reports. The two-hour special on the event is scheduled to air Nov. 20, two days before the 40th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination.
Tim Robbins To Host Cash Tribute
Actor Tim Robbins will host the Nov. 10 musical tribute to country legend Johnny Cash, who died Sept. 12 at age 71 of complications from diabetes. According to the AP, The Bull Durham star did an audio interview with Cash for promotion of the singer's 2000 album, American III: Solitary Man. Cash also wrote and performed "In Your Mind" for the soundtrack to Dead Man Walking, a 1995 film Robbins directed. Tickets for the tribute concert, which will take place at the Ryman Auditorium, were free and distributed by lottery. John Mellencamp, Dwight Yoakam, George Jones, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Hank Williams Jr., Jack Clement, Steve Earle, Larry Gatlin and Cash's daughter, Rosanne, are scheduled to perform.