Aly Semigran
Staff editor Aly Semigran is a New York City native who grew up in Philadelphia and spent the better part of her youth trying to figure out what the Philly Phanatic was (an anteater?), quoting 'The Simpsons,' and learning all about movies from her dad. After graduating from Temple University, where she studied journalism, she moved back to NYC and began her career as a freelance entertainment journalist. Her work has been published in Entertainment Weekly, Maxim, Philadelphia Weekly, Philadelphia City Paper,, and She is thrilled to be a part of the team and she is still quoting 'The Simpsons.' ('I'm Idaho!')
  • I Rish You Knew These 13 Stars Were Irish!
    By: Aly Semigran Mar 17, 2013
    Luck of the Irish? With stars like Saoirse Ronan, Colin Farrell, and Liam Neeson on their side, we'd sure say so. In honor of St. Patrick's Day, we here at wanted to pay tribute to some of the stars you didn't know where Irish (and some you definitely did).  Whether they're actors like Ciaran Hinds who are experts at masking their Irish accent (the guy sounds like Foghorn Leghorn in pretty much everything!) or stars you could have sworn were Brits (Stuart Townsend and Pierce Brosnan, we're looking at you), raise your glass to these Irish stars in honor of St. Patty's Day! [Photo credit: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP Photo] You Might Also Like:Topanga's Revealing Lingerie Shoot: Hello '90s! 25 Stars Before They Were Famous
  • SXSW 2013: The Best (and Worst) of the Fest
    By: Aly Semigran Mar 17, 2013
    Well, that's a wrap, y'all. From The Evil Dead to The East, the 2013 SXSW festival gave us a mix of movies as cool and eclectic as the city of Austin. While there aren't enough hours in the day to see all the movies that the fest has to offer (damn you, daylight savings!) we gladly woke up and shot out of bed faster than you can say "breakfast burrito" to catch as many as possible. Even though there were some premieres that downright disappointed (you're not incredible even a little bit, Burt Wonderstone), there were others that downright wowed us (we'll remember Short Term 12 for a long while).  RELATED: 'Short Term 12' Cast Reflects On Their Award-Winning SXSW Film While the the Grand Jury Prize and audience awards have already been given out (we weren't kidding when we said Short Term 12 was good), picked our favorites — and least favorites — of the SXSW film festival. Whether it's returning festival favorites like Before Midnight or unexpectedly great newcomers like Scenic Route, here's how saw SXSW.  RELATED: SXSW: 'Kelly + Victor' Director and Stars on the '50 Shades' Zeitgeist Best Drama: Short Term 12 (Runner up: Scenic Route)  Best Comedy: Drinking Buddies (Runner-up: Good Vibrations)  Best Horror: Evil Dead (Runner-up: You're Next)  Best Festival Favorite: Before Midnight (Runner-up: Prince Avalanche)  Hottest Ticket: Spring Breakers (Runner-up: Don Jon)  Best Post-Screening Q&A: The East, if only for Ellen Page's use of the word "vagine."  Biggest Audience Reaction: Green Day introducing Broadway Idiot. Worst Movie at SXSW: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone (Runner-up: I Give it a Year)  RELATED: Anna Camp and Ashley Williams Try to Destroy Reality TV in SXSW Short 'Sequin Raze'  [Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classic] You Might Also Like:Topanga's Revealing Lingerie Shoot: Hello '90s! Stars Who Have Lost Roles For Being Too Hot (Celebuzz)
  • Nikki Reed on SXSW's 'Snap': The First of Her Movies She Was Able to Sit Through
    By: Aly Semigran Mar 16, 2013
    Despite starring in movies with big cultural impacts, like Thirteen, Lords of Dogtown, and, of course, the Twilight saga, Nikki Reed has never been able to completely watch one of her films. That was until she went to Austin for the SXSW Film Festival.  Reed —along with her co-star Thomas Dekker, writer/co-director Victor Teran and co-director Youssef Delara — premiered their psychological drama Snap to SXSW audiences, and the actress was thankful to have them (and her husband Paul McDonald) by her side.  RELATED: SXSW: 'Kelly + Victor' Stars and Director on the 'Fifty Shades of Grey Zeitgeist'  "I've never actually been able to successfully sit through a film premiere for a movie that I'm in," Reed admitted to during an interview at SXSW. "I'm overly self-conscious and it makes me nervous and I can't really enjoy the film. I basically held hands with Thomas and my husband on both sides." Reed added, "I will say, regardless of all of those horrible insecurities, I felt really proud and really excited to be a part of this."  Snap follows the story of Jim, a talented dubstep musician suffering from schizophrenia (played by Jake Hoffman), who meets and falls for a social worker named Wendy. Their relationship quickly takes a turn for the worse when the voices in Jim's head (shown as a physical manifestation named Jake, played by Dekker) get louder and louder, and Wendy and all those around Jim fear for his life and their own.  "It's a stimulating and provoking picture, ultimately we wanted to take people on a journey," Delara told Teran, who worked with Delara on 2012's Filly Brown added, "[Snap] explores the voices that we all have in our heads, not necessarily just with schizophrenics: the negative voice that everybody has, the voice of insecurity."  Just as the experience for the moviegoer is a challenging one, it certainly challenged the actors during the movie-making process as well. For Dekker,  Snap was a welcome change of pace. "I've played the victim so much more than playing the instigator, so that was new for me. [It] was such a release of energy with this rage and with this attitude. It was intense, but in a pleasurable way," the actor said, adding, "whereas I think it was a little different for Nikki." RELATED: Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing' Gets Much Love at SXSW Reed said that while she would make a film like Snap again, she struggled with the subject matter and the intense nature of the movie. "It was really kind of a disturbing process for me, and I didn't even realize that until I was done," the actress said. "It's funny how the people around you can understand. Like, my mom said, 'I'm so happy you're done with that movie,' just because everyone else is so affected by what you're going through." "Wendy is constantly questioning who she is and what she's doing, the choices she's making. Was that appropriate? Was that inappropriate? Everything about her became everything about what I was doing in my performance," Reed said. "That's who I became, I was questioning everything I was doing. It was a hard place to be in for so long." Still, despite how hard the process was, the choice was a no-brainer for Reed post-Twilight phenomenon. "Twilight was a huge part of my life...I don't feel the need to quickly let that go and kick that to the curb, but I'm always drawn to good material, and this was easily one of the best scripts I've read in my career," she said of signing on for Snap.  RELATED: Green Day Introduces Documentary 'Broadway Idiot' at SXSW Another thing that made Reed happy about the project was the role of Wendy itself. "As a girl, you don't normally find such complex characters written for women, where it's not about sexuality, and it's not about being pretty." Reed said, "That was something I really appreciated about this."  [Photo credit: John Sciulli/Getty Images] You Might Also Like:Topanga's Revealing Lingerie Shoot: Hello '90s! Stars Who Have Lost Roles For Being Too Hot (Celebuzz)
  • SXSW: Green Day Introduces 'Broadway Idiot,' Chronicling Their Trip to the Great White Way
    By: Aly Semigran Mar 15, 2013
    "Welcome to our nightmare." That's how Green Day, making an appearance at the Paramount Theater in Austin, introduced their documentary Broadway Idiot to a raucous and tremendously excited SXSW crowd on Friday afternoon. (In fact, of all the screenings I've been to this week, the movie and the introduction garnered the loudest reaction).  RELATED: Tenacious D Rocks Out At SXSW The film, making its world premiere at SXSW (as part of a double feature with Cuatro!, another doc about the band's recording of three albums), chronicles how how Billie Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt and Tré Cool's Grammy-winning 2004 record went from a post-9/11 statement album that took the punk rockers to a new level... to a Tony-winning 2010 Broadway musical that made a statement about post-9/11 America and took the punk rockers to a new place entirely. Up to, and including, Armstrong's own Broadway debut as the character St. Jimmy in the musical.  Though Armstrong — who looked healthy and vibrant after recently going through a stint in rehab following his highly publicized meltdown at iHeartRadio Mustic Festival — told the crowd "Welcome to my nightmare" before the premiere of Doug Hamilton's Broadway Idiot, the Broadway-enthusiastic crowd ate up every moment of it.  Of course, the story of American Idiot's transition from experimental album to the Great White Way turned out to be a dream come true for Armstrong, albeit one he didn't know he had. (The show, and subsequent documentary, certainly had the blessing of all three, but this is clearly Armstrong's story to tell and his investment in the project was an emotional one.) RELATED: SXSW Review: 'Good Vibrations' is a Heartfelt Ode to Music  As Hamilton told on the red carpet before the film's premiere, "I originally thought it was gonna be this conflict of cultures, Green Day and Broadway, [but] these were artists all working together quite collaboratively. Something really interesting happened [during filming], which was Billie Joe's own engagement in the process. He says in the film that it blindsided him... he had kind of an awakening, creatively and with this community of actors that hes been waiting for his whole life."  While the film will no doubt also touch a nerve with Armstrong's supporters, this documentary is strictly for Broadway fiends alone. That's not to say the average moviegoer won't get a kick out of Broadway director Michael Mayer or that you won't marvel at the painstaking work that went into the process for actors like John Gallagher Jr. or that even the most jaded detractor won't bob their head and tap their foot once or twice. But the sleekly packaged, behind-the-scenes featurette works as just that and that alone. There's no major conflict at the heart of the surface level. But while Broadway Idiot  is an enjoyable show, it didn't have quite the same cultural impact as say, Rent. Nor does Broadway Idiot dive in much deeper with anyone but Armstrong. That said, scenes in which he talks about his late father or scenes that show his supportive wife Adrienne Armstrong beaming from the audience really do make you like the guy.  "You could see that Billie was touched," Hamilton said of the musical. "There's a moment in the film where he is first hearing his music performed back in a very different way with cellos and strings and women's voices and he's on the verge of tears ... It was an artist's journey into a foreign land."  RELATED: The Cast of 'Short Term 12' Talk About Their SXSW Grand Jury Prize-Winning Film If you're in the Broadway community, including those hardcore fans that can be found just about anywhere, including in Austin, Broadway Idiot will likely resonate with you the same way American Idiot did with Armstrong. Everyone else will wonder why they didn't just stay home and listen to the albums instead.  [Photo credit: Paul Kolnik] You Might Also Like:15 Oscar-Winning Nude ScenesTopanga's Revealing Lingerie Shoot: Hello '90s!
  • SXSW: 'Kelly + Victor' Stars and Director on the '50 Shades' Zeitgeist
    By: Aly Semigran Mar 15, 2013
    Timing, and timeliness, is everything. Especially when it comes to films. No one is more aware of that than Kieran Evans, the writer/director of Kelly + Victor, and its two leads Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Julian Morris, respectively. While their harrowing indie drama was filmed over the course of around six weeks (in what Morris described as "a hot, lovely summer in Liverpool"), it began to hit the festival circuit in late 2012 and early 2013 — including here at SXSW — right when the Fifty Shades of Grey frenzy hit a fever pitch. RELATED: Michelle Monaghan On Her SXSW Film 'Gus' and How It Turned the Tables On On-Screen Fellatio  So how does E.L. James soapy saga factor into Kelly + Victor, Evans' big screen adaptation of Niall Griffiths' gritty novel of the same name? Kelly + Victor follows the story of a young couple who meet at a Liverpool nightclub and begin an intense emotional and sexual relationship, one that includes S&M. But don't mistake Kelly and Victor for Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey: theirs is a thoughtful, more realistic, and ultimately tragic tale.  That doesn't mean Evans and his stars don't appreciate the timing though. "It's been surprising," the writer/director said. "American audiences are not usually open to this kind of topic. But I think with [Fifty Shades of Grey]...maybe it's a zeitgeist thing. With taboo sex, the lid is kind of being lifted. We seem to be in the right place at the right time."  For Campbell-Hughes, who plays the titular Kelly — a woman she described as seeing as "a puppy that keeps getting kicked... it's sweet, but it will bite back" — exploring her character's intrigue with S&M had no taboos. "I met Kieran and I knew it was going to be handled well," she said. "The rawness of it is the fact that its very honest."  "Nudity has never really bothered me that much, but I'm learning it should more," the actress added. "It's not about how much you see, its about how it's shown. The movies that we see all the time are filled with violence and nudity, but its sort of saccharine, it's glorified, its fake, its glycerin, it's horrible."  RELATED: 'Short Term 12' Cast Reflects on Their SXSW Grand Jury Prize-Winning Film While Kelly and Victor's sexual relationship, one which does not shy away from realism, is a major aspect of the film, it's the emotional one that really drives the film. (And, much like 2012's sex drama Shame, while Kelly + Victor has plenty of sex, it can often be decidedly un-sexy and hard to watch at times). That very relationship at the core of the film — which Morris (who describes his character Victor as "quite a gentle soul" who finds his outlet in Kelly, while Campbell-Hughes sees him as someone who  "gets off... on stepping into the void") likened to "obsessive love they have for each other, this frantic physicality that you get in any sort of new relationship when you're just clawing at each other" — is what drew the stars and the writer/director to the project the most. "What's interesting is the relationship between Kelly and Victor isn't about the consequences of S&M," Evans said, "It's about the consequences of what they do and what happens if two atoms collide at such a great speed. " Another aspect that played into the film, was what Morris described as a "massive character" in the film: the city of Liverpool. "This [shoot] was really unique because to get that essence of Liverpool and the characters for it to be quite engulfing, we really lived Liverpool and the characteristics of the people. That's where the intensity was, it was everywhere in Liverpool,"Campbell-Hughes said, adding that the location is much like an analogy for Kelly and Victor's love: "Liverpool is shown as such a beautiful place, but its full of cracks."  RELATED: SXSW Review: 'Good Vibrations' is a Heartfelt Ode to the Power of Music The actress also described "Kelly and Victor are wanderers in their home land" and Morris himself took to wandering the streets of Liverpool to get into character, both for Victor and the city itself, by going on a pub crawl. "It was the most informative thing to me, under the slight haze of alcohol," he said. "I met the local lads, got down the dialect, [learned] the politics, just walked around."  But, in the end, the film is not about S&M, or Liverpool, or even relationships. It is, as Evans simply said: "Ultimately the whole thing is about human needs."  [Photo credit: SXSW] You Might Also Like:Topanga's Revealing Lingerie Shoot: Hello '90s! Stars Who Have Lost Roles For Being Too Hot (Celebuzz)
  • SXSW: Paul Rudd's 'Prince Avalanche' Is A Hilarious, Touching Odd Couple Story
    By: Aly Semigran Mar 15, 2013
    Don't let the premise of Prince Avalanche — two highway road workers, camping, bonding, arguing, and quite literally watching paint dry  — scare you off. Writer/director David Gordon Green's (heading into surprising new territory here, with wonderful results) remake of Iceland's Either Way, was one of the funniest, most unexpectedly touching films to play at SXSW.  The film follows Alvin (Paul Rudd, stepping out of his comfort zone, thus turning out one of his best, most effective performances to date), a nerdy, reclusive type who finds peace in the solitude of his job, is joined by Lance (Emile Hirsch, who knew he was so goddamn funny?), his girlfriend's dopey brother who is as impatient to finish the job as he is to get into town and meet girls. He's the anti-Chris McCandless. Set in 1988, the two men work (which includes painting road lines and placing roadside markers over and over and over again) and camp deep in the heart of rural Texas, in the wake of devastating forest fires, which ravaged the area.  RELATED: SXSW Review: 'Good Vibrations' is a Lovely Ode to the Power of Music But this is no ordinary odd couple film. Among its many accomplishments, Prince Avalanche has some of those most breathtaking sequences of cinematography in any film this year. Perhaps that's what helps make it one of those rare movies where you actually feel like you're there. You smell the smells of the woods, can feel the dampness of the rain, and, yes, at times, get anxious with Lance's boredom. I felt more transported to a different time and place with Prince Avalanche than I do with most sci-fi time travelling, special effects-heavy movies.  Prince Avalanche also made me laugh harder than any other film at SXSW, propelled by Hirsch's pitch-perfect dumb guy act and Rudd's dry nonchalance. Though, they do allow the actor to pull off some of his trademark comedy moves, like his goofy dancing and an even goofier run during a deliriously silly chase sequence. RELATED: SXSW Review: 'Short Term 12' is a Small Movie with a Big Impact But the comedy is only heightened by the darker places the actors and writer/director allow the film to go. There's a scene in which Rudd encounters an older woman sifting through the ashes of her destroyed home that is simply heartbreaking. On the flip side of that, there's a hilariously cantankerous truck driver who occasionally passes by to dispense quips, booze, and surprisingly helpful life lessons. He and the old woman intersect for a pivotal scene later in the film, but I won't spoil what it is.  Alvin and Lance's job may be slow moving, but the movie is anything but. Both men hit personal crossroads, when each receive life-changing news from the women in their lives back home. Left to their own devices, they may have gone down very different paths, but Alvin and Lance help point each other in the right direction. That's really what's at the heart of this amusing, brilliant little gem of a movie: the people who come in and out of our lives, at specific times for specific reasons.  RELATED: SXSW Review: 'Scenic Route' is the Ultimate Road Trip From Hell At one point in the film Hirsch's Lance suggests to Rudd's Alvin that maybe, someday, someone will make a comic book out of their adventures. I'm just glad someone made a movie out of them, because it turned out to be one of my favorite experiences not only at SXSW, but at the movies in general in a long time. Prince Avalanche is a poignant, hilarious slice of life tale and character study that sees the forest for the trees.  [Photo credit: Dogfish Pictures]
  • SXSW: 'Good Vibrations' Is a Heartfelt Ode to the Power of Music
    By: Aly Semigran Mar 14, 2013
    The music portion of SXSW has kicked off down in Austin and there are two movies playing right now (Sound City and Good Vibrations) that are a testament to not only the power of music, but an ode to old-fashioned music making. That before computers and dubstep, there was music not only made organically, but with a social purpose. Dave Grohl's documentary Sound City chronicles the rocker's acquisition of a custom-built, analog mixing console and the jam sessions that occur after he invites fellow music legends to rock out with him at the iconic studio of the same name. RELATED: SXSW 2013: Our 5 Must-See Movies While the soundtrack to Sound City should be, well, music to anyone's ears with a bit of technical stuff to appeal primarily to hardcore musicians, the rollicking and surprisingly sweet biopic Good Vibrations hits all the right notes for movie and music fans alike. It is, quite frankly, the perfect film for SXSW.  The film, which made its debut at the festival, tells the unbelievable true story of Terri Hooley, owner of the record shop Good Vibrations and the "godfather of Belfast punk rock." Doesn't sound like its up your alley? Don't know who Terri Hooley is? I promise you, Good Vibrations will not only make you a fan of punk, but you'll want to board the next plane to Northern Ireland to check out the shop yourself.  RELATED: SXSW: 'Short Term 12' is a Small Movie with a Big Impact Game of Thrones star Richard Dormer turns in a hilarious, heartfelt performance as Hooley, a man who decides to open a record store in the middle of the Civil War that errupted in the 1960s that divided Northern Ireland, better known as The Troubles. As violence and civil unrest raged on, Hooley unexpectedly tapped into the underground punk scene and started a revolution of his own: a musical one. Hooley would be the man responsible for discovering punk bands like The Undertones and The Outcasts.  While the charming, likable Hooley is no saint (he puts the music and his bands before his own wife and family), but is  someone that sees no religion, no dollar signs, no hate. He genuinely loves punk music, hearing the power it possesses, and merely wants to share it with everyone else who feels the same. RELATED: SXSW Review: 'Scenic Route' is the Ultimate Road Trip From Hell Good Vibrations is not only an important lesson in world history and the devastating effects of The Troubles, but an important lesson in music. What it means to us as a people, how it can be an outlet; how it brings us together in the worst of times, and how music that matters can still be made. His story is one of perseverance when your back is up against the wall, and a reminder to work hard for something you truly believe in and just plain love. Who knew a movie about Belfast punk rock could be so damn inspirational?  The entire cast does great work, but its Dormer's nuanced performance that makes Good Vibrations one of the must-see films of SXSW and beyond. It's hard to decide what's more surprising about Good Vibrations: Hooley's amazing story itself, or that you'll be crying tears of joy by the time the credits (rock and) roll.  [Photo credit: SXSW] You Might Also Like:Topanga's Revealing Lingerie Shoot: Hello '90s! Stars Who Have Lost Roles For Being Too Hot (Celebuzz)
  • SXSW: Jack Black Debuts Upcoming Web Series 'Ghost Ghirls,' Rocks Out With Tenacious D
    By: Aly Semigran Mar 14, 2013
    Tenacious D are but men (rock!) but that doesn't mean they don't sure as hell appreciate women who rock, too. (Hey, these are the guys who brought the world "F Her Gently," after all). Before hilarious, hard-rocking duo Jack Black and Kyle Gass hit the stage at as Tenacious D at the Yahoo! and Shine America-hosted event at Brazos Hall in downtown Austin, a special screening of the upcoming web series Ghost Ghirls from fellow hilarious duo Amanda Lund and Maria Blasucci was screened at SXSW.  RELATED: SXSW 2013 Film Awards: 'Short Term 12' Nabs Grand Jury Prize The irreverent online comedy, about a pair of delightfully inept ghost hunters (played by comedy partners and real-life pals Lund and Blasucci who got their start, fittingly enough, on the web putting out sketches) is co-produced by Black's production company Electric Dynamite and the actor/musician/comedian makes an inspired cameo as a 1970s rocker in one of the Ghost Ghirls eps. In fact, Black is just one of the famous faces to pop up in the series, which had a resoundingly positive reaction from the crowd. (Usually "opening acts" can make audiences antsy, but in this case they were too busy laughing at the inane humor in the sneak preview of the web series to notice.) Black's partner-in-crime Glass pops up, as do the likes of Dave Grohl, Molly Shannon, and Val Kilmer. Yes, that Val Kilmer.  RELATED: Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston Riff on 'Drinking Buddies' at SXSW It makes sense that Black has his hand in something like Ghost Ghirls, which is directed by Drunk History's Jeremy Konner. It is as irreverent as it is downright silly (in one episode, the girls track a ghost that turns out to be nothing more than faulty electrical wiring) and is quick-witted without taking itself too seriously. And much like Tenacious D, Lund and Blasucci balance each other out nicely with their own quirks and delivery. (Blasucci is more of the dry one, while Lund goes for bigger comedy).  During a Q&A session after the screening with Black, as well as Konner, Lund and Blasucci, the star told the crowd that he was glad to be part of Ghost Ghirls as "there's not a lot of female-driven projects out there." In true Jack Black fashion, he then turned to Lund and Blasucci to say, "Kudos to you-dos!" Of course, Black's praise of Lund and Blasucci was hardly the only thing to rock: Tenacious D put on a sweaty, loud, hour-long set that couldn't even jade the most jaded industry types. Come on, how can you not sing/laugh/dance along to so-wrong-they're-right songs like "Low Hanging Fruit," "Senorita," "Roadie," and, of course "F Her Gently"? While Black admitted he was exhausted from touring, you wouldn't be able to tell: the road-tested act put on a fun, unpretentious show for SXSW.  RELATED: 'The Incredible Burt Wonderstone' Should Have Disappeared From SXSW Ghost Ghirls will debut on Yahoo! this summer. Tenacious D will be touring internationally through the spring and summer.  [Photo credit:!] You Might Also Like:Topanga's Revealing Lingerie Shoot: Hello '90s! Stars Who Have Lost Roles For Being Too Hot (Celebuzz)
  • 'Short Term 12' Cast Reflects on their SXSW Grand Jury Prize-Winning Film
    By: Aly Semigran Mar 13, 2013
    Destin Cretton is not in the room, but his presence is most certainly palpable. Just a day before his film Short Term 12 — a heartfelt, effective drama about teens in a foster care system and the lives of the counselors who look after them — won the Grand Jury Prize at the SXSW film festival, sat down with a few cast members of the young, wildly talented ensemble.  When asked what got them most interested in the project and who made them feel most at ease working on something that deals with such weighty topics as abuse, depression, and suicide, the answers from Brie Larson, John Gallagher Jr., Kaitlyn Dever, Keith Stanfield, and Rami Malek were unanimous: their leader Destin Cretton. His cast described him as "thoughtful," "casual," "calm," "intuitive," "great," "genuine," and "honest," among other things. RELATED: SXSW 2013 Film Awards: 'Short Term 12' Nabs Grand Jury Prize Cretton channeled his own personal experiences from working at a facility like the one depicted in Short Term 12 into a short film with the same name in 2008, and decided to turn the project into a full-length feature. He put his cast together (2013's Short Term 12 reunited the writer/director with the elusive Stanfield, who appeared in the short film) and with a small budget — but a lot of heart — the cast and crew got to work.  As it turned out, the only thing the cast members loved more about the project than Cretton was each other. The tight-knit group's enthusiasm for the film was only matched by their enthusiasm for each other and their performances. When Dever, who plays a troubled teen named Jayden, modestly talked about the audition process, Larson — who turns in a career-making performance as Grace, a counselor with a dark past of her own — is quick to point out, "You made [Destin] cry, don't forget about that part." When talking about the scenes that hit her hard, Dever doesn't point to her own tearjerker, but Stanfield's lost soul Marcus, who turns his pain into an honest, heartbreaking rap.  Cretton certainly didn't hurt the process by having his cast engage in bonding experiences, either. Gallagher, who plays the sweet, sensitive counselor (and Grace's struggling love interest) Mason recalls, "Brie and I went to dinner when we first met and Destin gave us an envelope that we kept on the table. Every couple of minutes we would take out a piece of paper that was in there that had a conversation starter about [us]." Larson quickly interjects with a laugh, "It's so weird to think about that now! That we went to a nice dinner and had an envelope of questions about what our [character's] first date was."  One major bonding experience for the cast is something you'll actually see on screen: the tongue-twister of a team-building game called "Big Booty." "I had to teach the kids how to play Big Booty," Gallagher reveals. "Destin would be like, 'Hey, you're not in the next scene. Can you take these kids to the other building and practice Big Booty because we have to shoot that tomorrow. So I'd be like, 'Hey everyone, we're gonna learn the game; and then I would mess it up and they would be amazing at it." In true supportive fashion, Larson quickly notes, "We were all pretty bad at Big Booty!" But fun games and first dates weren't the only ways the cast dove into their work. Dealing with such heavy material took research — and going to dark places. "Destin had me shadow at a place, and that's where I learned a lot. That's really where I found Grace's voice," Larson says. "You learn very quickly in these foster care places, [the kids] are acting tough, but they have very specific triggers and they're traumatized." RELATED: SXSW: 'Short Term 12' is a Small Movie with a Big Impact Larson continues: "Talking about serious trauma stories [with these kids], you just can't even fathom that anybody would ever do this to any other human being. I'm the type of person, when I first meet someone I wanna hug them, and you can't do that [there]...Certain [kids] don't want to speak to you, won't want to talk about certain things. I got to sit down with them and learn what Grace would know for her job."  As Larson and others got more hands-on experience for the task at hand (Dever recalled that they had to properly learn how to do restraints on set), others like Stanfield, whose character is withdrawn and depressed, retreated. "I kind of isolated myself," the elusive actor admits. "I wanted to kind of soak in everything. I feel as though if you talk you're not listening, so I just sit back and ingest. This is all very new to me, so I wanted to take in the experience. At the same time I thought it would be good for my character if I maintained not being really socially intimate with anybody and put myself in the zone. My whole being was immersed in being melancholy. It's cool to dive in there and go to those places."  Dever agrees that going to those darker places, while difficult, was one of the more rewarding experiences for her. "When I first read the script, I loved it and I really related to the character. I felt like I could do so much with it and it was so deep and dark." Larson adds, "I lived this through Grace's eyes, which is a very lonely experience."   In the end, all the blood, sweat, and tears paid off, not only with a film that critics and moviegoers have taken note of and sung its praises, but one the cast is proud to be a part of. Malek, who plays Nate, a newbie counselor to the facility, told about what it felt like to watch the film's world premiere at SXSW with his castmates, director, and an audience.  RELATED: Anna Kendrick, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston Riff on 'Drinking Buddies' at SXSW "It was palpable, the emotion," Malek says. "Something was happening with the energy in that audience. There were definitely moments — I don't know if I was having a particularly sensitive day — but it was really hitting me, watching that film. It made me count my blessings... I felt fortunate."  But Gallagher, perhaps, sums it up best for his castmates:  "I loved making it; I loved who wrote and directed it. I loved the script. I loved the actors in it. I loved watching it. When I watched it [at SXSW], I was like, 'It's all about love'." [Photo credit: SXSW] Follow Aly on Twitter @AlySemigran You Might Also Like:Topanga's Revealing Lingerie Shoot: Hello '90s! Stars Who Have Lost Roles For Being Too Hot (Celebuzz)
  • SXSW: A Much Loved Review For Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing'
    By: Aly Semigran Mar 13, 2013
    Swoon. It's the word and overall feeling that will be most associated with Joss Whedon's sexy and cleverly updated take on William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Fans of the Bard will swoon that Whedon has miraculously given the tale new life while staying faithful to the classic text. The Whedonverse followers will swoon at the terrific performances from familiar faces, particularly Amy Ackers' lovely, quick-witted as Beatrice and Alexis Denisof's hilariously smug Benedick. (That said, the Whedonverse ruling king Nathan Fillion may earn the biggest laughs as comic relief police chief Dogberry).  RELATED: Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing' Trailer Critics will swoon, newcomers who feared they might not understand Shakespeare will swoon, and filmmakers will swoon at the proof that — even in this day and age — you can quite literally make a movie in your backyard, over the course of a few days with your closest friends, and turn out something truly special. Perhaps that's why Much Ado About Nothing has played so well on the festival circuit, including SXSW where it premiered over the weekend and has been showing through the week in Austin. When audiences are filled with filmmakers and film enthusiasts, it's hard not to get caught up in something as magical as this movie. (One fan in the audience of the screening I attended could simply muster "Wow!" when the end credits began to roll).  RELATED: SXSW 2013 Film Awards Announced: 'Short Term 12' Wins Grand Jury Prize But the real beauty that lies in Whedon's vision of Much Ado About Nothing isn't just the way it's shot (a sleek black and white), but that it makes something old feel so new. The core of the characters and the story of matchmaker Don Pedro (Reed Diamond) bringing together, against quite a few odds, the stubborn Beatrice and Benedick and the naive Claudio (Fran Kranz) and Hero (Jillan Morgese) sounds so familiar, but looks and feels entirely refreshingly different.  RELATED: SXSW Review: 'You're Next' is a Horror Lover's Dream Come True Sometimes it can be jarring to see an iPhone on a table, or a car driving by on the street as top-notch actors like Clark Gregg (brilliant, as head of the household Leonato) recite Shakespeare, but unlike Baz Luhrmann's rapid-fire MTV take on the Bard in 1996 with Romeo + Juliet, the dialogue settles in and eventually feels natural in the modern settings. Of course, it's no surprise, really, that this text works so well with Joss Whedon: after all, it's smart, damn funny, and an all-around lovely experience.  [Photo credit: Bellwether Pictures]