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Madrid City in English
Tuesday 21st of November 2017
26th of September 2012 by admin 17th of October 2012
Tom Hiddleston
TimesTalks triumphs

The New York Times brought stars of stage and screen to Madrid last weekend to take part in its TimesTalks at the Teatro Fernán Gómez. InMadrid’s writers report on four of the events, including those with actor Tom Hiddleston and The Lion King director/costume designer Julie Taymor

A conversation with Tom Hiddleston

“Can we leave the gifts until later? Otherwise it’s going to be like Christmas!” says New York Times and International Herald Tribune reporter Matt Wolf, despairing as a screaming throng of (predominantly) teenage girls ignore him, flocking at the foot of the stage waving drawings, toys and even a horned mask. The subject of their adoration, and Wolf’s interviewee, is London-born RADA-schooled actor Tom Hiddleston, best known internationally for his portrayal of the Marvel comic book villain, Loki, in the Hollywood blockbusters Thor and The Avengers.

            The actor is, as Wolf notes at the end of the interview, a “witty and wise” subject; quoting Shakespeare, giving sage acting advice to a young hopeful in the audience and telling anecdotes about his decade of stage, television and silver screen successes. A sort of protégée of Kenneth Branagh, who cast him in the aforementioned Thor and has recommended him to countless producers, Hiddleston has starred in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris (playing F. Scott Fitzgerald), Steven Spielberg’s War Horse and he played warrior king Henry V in the BBC TV adaptations of Shakespeare’s Henry IV parts 1&2 and Henry V. He loves Madrid too, having finished two theatre tours here. “It’s one of my favourite cities in the world. We had such an amazing response from the audiences; such pasión!” he says to raucous cheers. “And it’s so civilized!” he continues, “we’d finish the play at 11pm and the streets would be alive with people eating on terraces and we’d go and drink cervezas in Plaza Santa Ana.”      

            Unfortunately, the actor is unable to inform his enthusiastic fans about next year’s eagerly anticipated Thor 2: The Dark World, saying with a villainous smile, “I can’t tell you anything. If I did, I’d have to kill you!” 

 

Ai Weiwei: Never sorry

(Plus conversation with writer Alison Klayman)

“If there is no free speech, then every life has been lived in vain” is the stand-out message from Ai Weiwei, Chinese artist, social media celebrity and political campaigner. Weiwei’s name may not be known to many people outside the art world, but his fame has grown significantly over the last few years, from designing the emblematic “Bird’s Nest” stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics to being arrested in China and held in an undisclosed location for nearly three months in 2011. Following his release, he is now subject to a period of surveillance in which he is banned from using social media.

            In Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, 27-year-old journalist and documentary maker Alison Klayman follows him during a two-year period of his life. What begins as a short video about his art and its influences eventually becomes a record of his struggle for justice—for the poor people who were kicked out of Beijing just before the Games, for the victims of the 2008 Sichaun Earthquake, and for those who, like him, are campaigning for freedom of speech in China.

             Klayman has become an unofficial spokeswoman on his behalf, and her inspirational film won the Special Jury Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. She tells NYT columnist David Carr that she aimed to explore his story in a “holistic” way, and adds, “I am probably the American producer most excited to have their movie bootlegged in China!” Already released in the USA, Germany, the UK and Spain, there are currently plans to try to release the documentary in Taiwan and Hong Kong.

 

A Conversation with Julie Taymor

After Julie Taymor produced her landmark musical The Lion King, she did not go on to make theatre her focus. Instead, she next tackled a feature film, Titus, a cinematic version of Shakespeare’s bloody and visually arresting early play Titus Andronicus. Characteristic of Taymor’s style, she chooses projects she believes she can do well, and from which she feels she can give the audience something “they did not know they wanted.”

            In her chat with Matt Wolf, theatre critic for the International Herald Tribune in London, their conversation ranges from her incredible experiences with The Lion King—including enlightening details about the thinking and creative process behind such inspirational designs as the forests, a drought and the facial masks—to the early influences on her artistic style. She sees theatre as an opportunity to get down to the bare minimums, and puts forward her ideas about what the stage brings to the world that cinema can never replace. “You shouldn’t patronise your audience. They will fill in the blanks,” she says. “What I enjoy about The Lion King is that an entire generation of young people’s first theatrical experience is abstract—not anything like television or film.” Taymor is an engaging speaker, and the discussion touches on every aspect of her career, with a few audience questions at the end involving the future of her work and the inherent politics of some of her productions. ■ LAURA TABOR

 

Beasts of the Southern Wild

(Plus conversation between writer/director Behn Zeitlin)

A hot-tempered father with failing heath, melting ice-caps releasing prehistoric beasts, and the destruction of the place she calls home are just some of the problems faced by six-year-old Hushpuppy in Benh Zeitlin’s spectacular first feature film, Beasts of the Southern Wild. The film, winner of the Grand Jury prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, has its Madrid premiere as part of the TimesTalks series, and there follows and interview between writer/director Zeitlin and NYT journalist David Carr.

            Zeitlin talks about the difficulties of finding a six-year-old capable of carrying the film “on her shoulders”, and the complexities of directing an actor so young. Alongside beginner Quevenzhané Wallis who plays Hushpuppy, the cast includes many more untrained actors such as Dwight Henry, a baker who worked across the road from the casting office and who was eventually cast as Hushpuppy’s tough but lovable father. One of the main themes of Beasts of the Southern Wild is the environmental damage being done to our planet, an issue brought very close to home to the cast and crew when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill happened on day one of filming. The town used as the setting for Hushpuppy’s home was badly affected by the spill, with fishing, the town’s livelihood, very nearly being banned for ten years. Apart from the environmental themes, Zeitlin describes the film as a “stand by me, hold on” type of movie, showing the importance of our connections to history, roots, and home.

 

All of the above conversations can be seen in full on www.timestalksmadrid.com

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