Every once in a while, you have to thank the universe for the gifts it gives you. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to work on a new untitled project by director, Joshua Marston (Maria Full of Grace.) However, technically, I wasn’t in front of the camera. I was able to be a stand-in for none other than Kathy Bates. I’m not sure how in the world I got the call at 6:00 in the morning,  let alone how I got called in to be her stand-in. Yet, I was excited to be back in an environment I love and learn from every time I work on a film. I will be eternally grateful for the lessons I’ve learned and the observations I made during my three day work week. Honestly, it was like one big master class. I got to watch Kathy Bates, Danny Glover, Michael Shannon & Rachel Weisz work, rehearse, and just be. well, normal human beings. More importantly, I got to be a part of something that will no doubt yield wonderful performances from its cast members. I also learned more about the ins and outs of the process in three days, than I have in a long time. I was there to do a job and contribute to what they needed at the time. That pretty much sums it up about the film industry in general, you do your job for the time allotted and move on. I’m glad that i got the opportunity to work with and learn from four of the most talented actors in the business.

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Akie Kotabe (@AkieKotabe)

What happens when you’re majoring in computer science at the University of Texas in Austin and decide to change to theater after successfully auditioning for a student film, subsequently finding your passion in life? If you’re Akie Kotabe, it pays off. With roles spanning across film, television, and theater, Kotabe is currently co-starring with Oscar-nominee Salma Hayek (Frida) in the action/thriller Everly, coming to theaters Friday, February 27th. So, what’s it like to act alongside Salma Hayek? Well, apparently it’s pretty incredible. Playing a character known simply as Dead Man, many of the characters in the film, directed by Joe Lynch (Wrong Turn 2: Dead End) are referred to using descriptive monikers. Kotabe has a supporting role as a man who has become the target, along with Hayek’s Everly, of assassins and is left for dead. Trapped in an apartment, the characters are faced with dealing with their existence and survival, “Think Die Hard in a single room” Akie told me.

Based in both London and Los Angeles, Akie fell in love with acting in college when he auditioned for a student film on a whim and got the part. He says that he didn’t know anything about acting before that, but has since studied both at university and with various well-known acting teachers in the industry. This non-traditional trajectory into acting has proven successful for the Michigan-born, Texas-bred actor. He’s had guest spots on Mad Men, CSI: Miami, and Without a Trace. Kotabe also puts his bilingual abilities to the test where his roles may require him to have a command of the Japanese language and accent

However, he proves his versatility with quite an impressive filmography. Securing his first AFTRA gig (when SAG & AFTRA were separate unions) while still in Austin for the Jamie Kennedy Experiment, he says he’s had some interesting experiences. He got the aforementioned AFTRA show even after he accidentally bashed his face into a wall during the audition. Woops. We’ve all had weird auditions as actors, sometimes it’s the odd ones that pay off the most.

The passion that Kotabe has for acting is apparent when talking to him. As a fellow actor, we talked about our love for the craft, and the fact that being able to entertain people is one of the best things to be doing in life. Having gotten the acting bug in college, lived and worked in Japan, Los Angeles, and his current city of London, Akie says he’s enjoyed something different from every place he’s lived. He’s also learned from those places as well. From doing theater in Japan (both in English and Japanese) to film and television in Los Angeles and London, he tries to gain as much knowledge and wisdom as possible from the people he is surrounded by in the business. “You can learn a lot through the work” he stated, “It’s what gets me up in the morning.”

What was his favorite part of filming Everly? Well, everything. For Kotabe it was being part of a team and contributing to the bigger picture that was most exciting to him while filming in Belgrade, Serbia. I think we can agree that the best part of being an actor is the ability to be storytellers. I am fortunate enough to have the chance to tell Akie Kotabe’s.

Don’t forget to catch Everly in theaters Friday, February 27th.

Thank You Akie for being such a friendly and open fellow performer. It was such a pleasure to learn your story.

Follow Akie: @AkieKotabe & Everly movie: @everlymovie

For more information on Akie, you can also visit his website: Akie Kotabe

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A year ago, I started a blog. I didn’t know where it would take me at the time, but I started it for fun. It so turned into something that I am very proud of.  Granted, I’m still at my day job, but I’ve been writing and acting over the course of this year, and it has really helped me center myself.  Despite the fact that some really crappy things happened last year that I am still dealing with, this was one of the good things. I’ve been able to merge my acting life with my writing one and do something unique that reflects who I am. I’m a movie geek, a writer, an actor, and a dreamer. I am so grateful to have subscribers and people reading this, I can’t even tell you how much it means. I am so grateful for all the positive responses and thought provoking conversations I’ve had this past year. Here’s to many more to come! 

Thanks for everything,

Stephanie

Some of the best of RantsReviews&Reels:

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Emilio Estevez Directed “The Way”
Three People at Casting Call
Auditions: The Uncommon Job Interview and Why They Are So Stressful
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Reduce Reuse Recycle: The Law & Order Guest Spot
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#BostonStrong: Why This New York Transplant Will Always Be a Boston Gal
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Early For Everything: What Acting Means to Me. Being an Actor with a Disability

 

 

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Putting My Professional Goals Out Into the Universe

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Dear Shakespeare,

I’m sorry you are not alive today to see all of the adaptations, and blatant stealing of your works. If I could have a lunch date with anyone dead or alive, you’re definitely on the list. I mean, seriously, I have so many questions. Like how the heck did you come up with the word “Rant?” Thanks for that. It’s also in the name of my blog. I’d probably also geek out like the English major I am. It’s obvious that Kevin Spacey’s love of your works probably helped make his decision to do the Netflix hit House of Cards a heck of a lot easier. Yes, they draw from Richard III and Macbeth, that’s obvious. Politics. If you were alive today, I imagine you’d be a blogger, a playwright, and a screenwriter. Man, you would probably love film making and movies, but I’d suspect you’d become annoyed by all the detailed stage directions. We know you weren’t too descriptive on that front. Seriously, you should see Kevin Spacey deliver a kick-ass monologue you should probably take all the credit for 22 minutes into episode 13. Yes, it’s his Macbeth/Richard III moment. And yes, he and Robin Wright probably play the modern day equivalent of Macbeth and his Lady, but we need to give credit where it’s due. Without you Willy Shakes, there’d be no Nicholas Sparks novels that are made into cheesy movies with the same poster concept for each one. There would be no Breaking Bad, because we all know tragedy and wickedness start in the most unlikely places. I mean, you helped make storytelling what it is today.You helped make the modern day villain complex, and made us want lovers to end up together. As an audience, we should be reading all of your plays, sonnets and such. All day. All the time. We can learn so much more about ourselves from your writing.  You’d probably be frustrated with all the reality shows though. Those are really bad.

I’ll rant as well as thou.–Hamlet (Act 5, Scene 1, Line 284)

Fun Fact: That’s just one line of the  1,569 that Hamlet has to say.

Today the world lost the original child star. A legend. Shirley Temple Black passed away at the age of 85. Her films have become a part of American history and she will forever be heralded as one of the greatest film stars. Here are my top five picks of her films to watch. You can find most of them on Netflix or YouTube.

5. Little Miss Marker (1934): During the Golden Age of Hollywood when the studio system was still in place, and essentially stars were under contracts to specific studios, Shirley Temple appeared in this 1934 film on loan-out to Paramount.

4. Now and Forever ( 1934): At this point, Shirley Temple had become such a star that Gary Cooper actually asked for her autograph when they worked together on this film.

3. Curly Top (1935): Everyone wanted animal crackers in their soup after her 1935 hit from 20th Century Fox:

2. The Little Colonel (1935):  This movie was revolutionary and helped bring two dancing greats together. Here she is in the iconic staircase dance with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson:

1. Bright Eyes (1934): Her signature song, “The Good Ship Lollipop” from one of her best films.

Rest in Peace, Shirley Temple. You were one of the greatest; The ultimate, iconic, legendary child star. Hope you’re on the Good Ship Lollipop in Heaven. Your work will always stand the test of time.

Improvisation has always been an essential tool for an actor whether you are in a comedy or a drama. Known for films that only have an outline instead of a set script, Christopher Guest has helped revolutionize the movie-going experience with the “mockumentary” film. Movies like Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and Waiting for Guffman, all use a core group of actors known for their improvisational skills. Actors like Bob Balaban, Michael McKean,  Harry Shearer, Eugene Levy, Parker Posey, Jane Lynch, Jennifer Coolidge, Fred Willard,  and even Christopher Guest himself, all have  made regular appearances in these films. Their improvisations skills have been put to use in both comedic and dramatic films. One of the most interesting films of Christopher Guest’s is For Your Consideration. Ironically, there was Oscar buzz for Catherine O’Hara’s performance in which she plays an actress vying for an statue of her own. Honestly, I think this movie SHOULD have gotten an Oscar for O’Hara and the movie itself. Catherine O’Hara’s abilities as an actor of both dramatic and comedic caliber are so high that even the apparent face-lift that her character, Marilyn Hack, has, was not done with use of makeup or special effects. As an actor, she had the ability to use her physicality and enhance the performance in an honest way.  Take a look at the clip:

Put this DVD in your queue and watch the pure genius of the cast as they improvise their way through one of the funniest films to parody the film industry. There is more truth to this comedy about drama than in actual documentaries about the industry. I would love to be in a movie like the ones that Christopher Guest produces and directs. I think they are intelligent, funny and pure entertainment. I love seeing skilled actors at work.

Certain movies can make turn any frown upside down. In light of Reese Witherspoon’s recent DUI arrest, maybe she should watch Pleasantville or Legally Blonde to help her get through her legal woes. Here’s a list of movies that always put a smile on my face and are worth checking out to help kick off your weekend with a smile of your own.

  1. Babe (1995) Poster Babe (1995): Pigs, especially talking pigs, are adorable. Plus, it has one of the best lines in movie history, ” That’ll do, pig. That’ll do.”
  2. Amélie (2001) PosterAmélie (2001): It’s French, it’s fabulous, and it ALWAYS puts a smile on my face. Visually stunning too.
  3. Clue (1985) PosterClue (1985): I could watch this movie all day. In fact, I have watched this movie all day on several occasions just to watch the three endings the way they were meant to be seen. It’s also one of the funniest movie ensembles ever with Michael McKean, Christopher Lloyd, and the late Madeline Kahn at its helm. Kahn also delivers one of the best improvised monologues I’ve ever seen.
  4. Pretty Woman (1990) PosterPretty Woman (1990): Who wouldn’t want to have an endless supply of pizza while they go on a shopping spree? And bag Richard Gere (from his glory days) in the process? I also wanted to give those salesgirls a piece of my mind.
  5. Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997) PosterRomy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997): Success is the best form of revenge. Too bad they had to make most of it up. But it’s hysterical in the process. Plus, I really want to know WHO actually invented Post-Its. And, there’s the kick-ass dance number with Alan Cumming, Lisa Kudrow and Mira Sorvino.
  6. Noises Off... (1992) PosterNoises Off… (1992): Christopher Reeve, John Ritter, Carol Burnett & Michael Caine in ONE movie. And it has constantly made me laugh every time I watch it. If you’re involved in theater, or have seen the play, it’s definitely worth checking out.
  7. The Philadelphia Story (1940) PosterThe Philadelphia Story  (1940): It’s one of the best movies ever, with three of the biggest stars ever.. It’s classic. And Katharine Hepburn has a scene where she gets drunk. It’s hysterical.
  8. Barefoot in the Park (1967) PosterBarefoot in the Park (1967): Neil Simon’s classic play adapted for the screen in one of the funniest movies about becoming a newlywed.
  9. Nine Months (1995) PosterNine Months (1995): Joan Cusack, Julianne Moore, Tom Arnold, Hugh Grant and a hysterical performance by Robin Williams. The miracle of life gets funny, especially when Julianne Moore’s character goes into labor.
  10. The First Wives Club (1996) PosterThe First Wives Club (1996): Jennifer Lawrence got her “I beat Meryl” line FROM this movie. And it’s hysterical. Divorced women seeking revenge is ACTUALLY FUNNY in this case.

Mia Farrow as Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” (1974)
Mira Sorvino as Daisy Buchanan in “The Great Gatsby” (2000)

This article was inspired by the fact that the movie posters for each of these films has the same font type. That, and the fact that my boyfriend was wearing a shirt bearing the cover art of the famed book, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald today. The iconic American novel has been adapted for the screen six times, including the soon-to-be Baz Luhrmann interpretation, set to be released this May. The first adaptation was a silent film in 1926, followed by the 1949 version starring Shelley Winters, and the most famous version, the 1974 film starring Robert Redford, Sam Waterston, Karen Black and Mia Farrow, with a screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola . The 1974 version won numerous awards, including: 2 Oscars, 3 BAFTAs, and a Golden Globe. Then, there is the 2000 television film version which aired on A&E, starring Mira Sorvino, Paul Rudd and Toby Stevens (Maggie Smith’s son) which, sadly, won no accolades. The reason was probably because, along with the script, the performances seemed like carbon copies of the ones that came before it.

Not only that, but the vocal characteristics for each are nearly identical. However, that may be due to the source material that F. Scott Fitzgerald provides. Source material, for us actors, is very important because it can tell us details about the characters that would otherwise be made up. Fitzgerald describes Daisy’s voice as, “breathless” and that her voice is “full of money.” This tells the actor how to perform the role to such an extent that some performances might seem similar, if not identical. Fitzgerald was extremely specific with how he wanted his characters to be perceived by readers. I am eager to see how Carey Mulligan interprets this famous role in Baz Luhrmann’s version.

I was unable to embed the video from the 2000 version, but you can click on the link and watch it here. For easier viewing, you might want to fast forward the video and start it at 3:27 or so, just get to the part with Daisy.

I was, however, able to include a  scene from the 1974 version:

In each clip, you can see that the vocal qualities of Daisy are nearly identical. Below is the trailer for the  updated film version starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Gatsby, Toby McGuire as Nick, and Carey Mulligan as Daisy. You’ll also notice in her exclamation of  the line, “Gatsby? What Gatsby?” is equally as similar as the previous two.

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s specificity with his character descriptions  led actors Mira Sorvino, Mia Farrow (and now, Carey Mulligan,) to interpret Daisy in similar ways. Not all acting is about creating. Sometimes, we just have to be the vessels for the director’s vision and the interpreters of an author’s description. In the end, they may turn out similar. That’s alright. It’s hard to interpret F. Scott Fitzgerald anyways, never mind adding a screenplay to the mix.

Viola Davis in “Doubt” (2008.)

To help those who want to win Trivial Pursuit, here’s some trivia about movies and actors you might find interesting.

  • 10 years before the teen phenomenon Twilight (2008), Reese Witherspoon, Susan Sarandon, & Paul Newman starred in a murder mystery with the same name, Twilight (1998.)
  • [on losing the role of Frankie, which had been written for her by playwright Terrence McNally (which she originated onstage,) to Michelle Pfeiffer in the movie version of Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune] “I thought it was wonderful to see a love story about people over forty, ordinary people who were trying to connect. We haven’t seen it before, and I don’t think we will see it with this movie Frankie and Johnny (1991).” It is actually known that Bates has lost several film roles adapted from plays in which she has originated roles (‘night, Mother also being lost to Sissy Spacek on film.)
  • In 1999, Judi Dench won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love having only appeared on screen for 8 minutes (4 scenes.) For her 2008 performance in Doubt, Viola Davis was nominated for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for appearing in two scenes. The second scene lasts 10 seconds and she does not speak.
  • Actor Hector Elizondo appears in nearly all of director Gary Marshall’s films, ” Appears in so many Garry Marshall films that his credit in the beginning of Exit to Eden (1994) was ‘As Usual… Hector Elizondo.'”
  • Before appearing in the 2012 film version of musical, Les Miserables, actor Eddie Redmayne won a Tony Award in 2010 for his role in Red…he won Best Featured Actor in a Play.
  • Actress Tracie Thoms, auditioned for the stage musical Rent 8 times without winning a role. She went on to star in the 2005 film version of the musical as Joanne. She went on to appear onstage in the same role in the final months of the show on Broadway.
  • Actress Julianne Moore didn’t make a movie until she was 29.
  • In the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio’s character Calvin Candie smashes the palm of his hand on the dinner table, the actor broke a glass under his hand and really began to bleed. DiCaprio ignored it, stayed in character, and continued with the scene. This take was the one used in the film.