Personalities / Insights

B. Smith Shines in Love, Loss and What I Wore

The lifestyle industry powerhouse reconnects with her first love: acting.

May 18, 2011


FROM LEFT: Anne Meara, Minka Kelly, Conchata Ferrell, AnnaLynne McCord and B. Smith

Restaurateur and lifestyle guru B. Smith recently made her Off Broadway debut in Love, Loss and What I Wore (through May 29). Based on Ilene Beckerman’s bestselling book of the same name, the show portrays an intimate collection of stories and recollections by Nora and Delia Ephron. Both satirical and highly relatable, the subject matter is triggered by clothing and accessories which recall memories and anecdotes that women of all ages will be moved by. 

How did this project come to you?
B. SMITH: After meeting the producer and discussing how acting was one of my first loves, one thing led to another and she asked me if I was interested in joining the show.

Your monologue about undergoing breast cancer treatment was heart wrenching. How does you playing that role make you feel?
BS: As an actress you always want roles that are poignant. I lived the role mentally, which helped me to play the role physically.

What do you love about the play?
BS: The stories and the actual presentation of poignant, sad, happy, emotional female experiences; they make me proud to be a woman.

This is such an intimate, yet fast-paced production and each actor plays so many different characters. Was it difficult to connect to each part?
BS: Not at all. The play is written so well and the characters are so colorful and rich that I easily relate to many of the stories with myself, or my many friends who have had similar experiences. 

What outfit or accessory recalls the most powerful memories for you?
BS: What I wore to marry Dan Gasby, my soul mate and business partner: a beautiful, formal satin evening gown with a white fur stole. I felt like a queen—a young one at that!

—Lyndsay McGregor

 

Lady Gaga’s Leading Man

An inside look at Lady Gaga’s creative process via musical director Fernando Garibay.

May 16, 2011


Fernando Garibay in the studio with Lady Gaga

In the middle of our cross-continental phone call (I in New York, he in Los Angeles), just as I’m commenting that Lady Gaga never seems to stop working, Fernando Garibay, Gaga’s musical director, goes silent. Fearing the call had been dropped, I repeat “hello” a couple of times before he returns, apologizing: “Sorry! That was Gaga’s camp calling me on the other line.” He goes on to explain that the pop star is still making tweaks to her upcoming album Born This Way, out May 23.

Fernando Garibay

“She’s constantly working on making the songs better, down to the very last moment,” says Garibay. “Just this morning she had another change for a vocal. She’ll record the vocal off her GarageBand [Apple app] in her hotel room and then we implement it in a couple of hours. She never stops.”

All of her hard work isn’t for naught. Her latest single, “The Edge of Glory,” which was produced by Garibay, shot to number one on iTunes in 22 countries. Garibay calls the song—inspired by the moment her grandfather passed away—the “epitome” of the album. (The track begins with a heartbeat and ends with a flatline.) Garibay insists that every song on the album, which was largely written and produced in a studio-equipped tour bus, is the direct result of something that happened in Gaga’s life or on the Monster Ball tour.

“Picture this,” he begins. “Gaga’s walking off stage—she’s pumped full of adrenaline—she comes in, and we start. I play her these chords, and immediately she’s like, ‘Put up the mic!’ And off the cuff, from her head, she recites this whole song.”

Because the process of making Born This Way was so defined by the constraints of life on the road, Garibay and the other producers, RedOne and DJ White Shadow, developed a system for the flow of ideas and division of labor. “[The producers] had these secret USB flash drives that we’d carry around with us,” he says. “As soon as [Gaga] had an idea, she would assign it and I would direct how it was implemented.”

In addition to producing, Garibay plays guitar, keyboard, drums and bass and has worked with artists like Britney Spears, U2 and Enrique Iglesias. Still, he insists that working with Gaga is not like working with other contemporary artists. “I have full freedom to explore,” he explains. “My job primarily is to facilitate her vision, whatever that involves, whether [it’s] getting behind a keyboard and playing parts, cutting a vocal or making the track. If I were her, what would I do? I keep asking myself that question when we’re making our records. If I were her on stage, what would I want to hear? If I can’t get those answers from her I just go with my gut, but she’s leading the ship.”

As far as his own musical influences, Garibay notes Duran Duran, Soft Cell and growing up in East L.A., where he lived on the same street as Dr. Dre and Will.i.am. Combined with Gaga’s experiences coming up in New York, the aural composition of the album is eclectic but the message is unified. Garibay describes the album as “made with love and made for fans.”

“The statement of Born This Way is really important. You were born who you are. Why should you not be accepted or allowed to worship anything you want because of how you were born?” he says. “Everything Gaga expresses is genuine and real, and the same with the people who work around her. We’re all the same.”

—Meghan Blalock

 

Cost of a Breakout

First-time director Sean Kirkpatrick captures the mean streets of North Philly and scores major distribution.

May 10, 2011


FROM LEFT: Will Blagrove, Franklin Ojeda Smith and Sean Kirkpatrick between takes of Cost of a Soul

Inner-city slums are often compared to war zones, a comparison that might seem extreme until you consider this: US soldiers in Afghanistan are in constant mortal danger, but at least their families don’t become collateral damage.

First-time writer and director Sean Kirkpatrick brings this conundrum to vivid, harrowing life in his breakout film, Cost of a Soul, which traces two veterans who come home from the Iraq war, only to find themselves trapped in the same slums they joined the military to escape. The movie won AMC’s Big Break Contest and opens this week at select AMC theaters. This distribution would be a major achievement for any first-time director; it’s even more impressive in light of Kirkpatrick’s meager $100,000 budget. “I’ve looked into the stats, and it’s the largest theatrical opening for a film of our budget, ever,” Kirkpatrick says.

With his blue eyes and glowing skin, Kirkpatrick could be described as fresh-faced—until he talks about North Philadelphia, where the movie was filmed and which he knows first-hand from his former job installing surveillance cameras. “It was mandatory that I get a license to carry a weapon in those neighborhoods,” he says. “If you’re putting a surveillance camera near a drug dealer’s place of business, they’re not too happy with you.”

His street smarts paid off when he was filming Cost of a Soul on location in one of the murder capitals of the country. “We didn’t have money for police escorts, so we built community relations. We had a group of people who were well respected in the community who supported us and essentially protected us.” Kirkpatrick is justifiably proud that he earned the trust of locals. “Once people heard what the story was about and saw the integrity of the production, they embraced us.”

The film itself is as impressive as the story behind it. The high-contrast, sepia-toned cinematography and the moody jazz score create a jittery, tragic atmosphere, and the main characters are portrayed with honesty and grace by Chris Kerson and Will Blagrove. Most of all, Cost of a Soul establishes Kirkpatrick as a rising talent to watch. 

Cost of a Soul opens May 20 at AMC’s Empire 25 and Magic Johnson Harlem 9 theaters.

—JENNIFER DEMERITT

 

Tribeca Film Festival: Love Conquers All

Love Hate Love brings Sean Penn to the party.

May 03, 2011


Sean Penn

As the Tribeca Film Festival wound down over the weekend, the stars and film icons alike took a moment to reflect on the love that poured down from the downtown events. Especially at the Love Hate Love documentary premiere, which saw Sean Penn turn up to support the project he produced. The film looks at the thousands of lives that were shattered by three separate acts of terrorism: 9/11, the public bus bombings in London and the Sari Club bombing in Bali. The movie chronicles the tumultuous roads three families faced after being ravaged by these catastrophic events and began to put their lives back in order. Most of the all, the film wants to make sure love triumphs over hatred.

It’s a lovely cause and project for Penn to lend his name and star power. When asked by a reporter about using his celebrity for such good, the occasionally standoffish actor cut her off, saying, “No, you use my celebrity. I just keep doing what I do.” This prompted questions about how Penn balances his humanitarian work with the media's emphasis on his personal life, like his purported relationship with Scarlett Johansson, which Penn countered by saying, “I make a point of telling myself everyday, ‘Don’t like people,’ because then you’ll be burdened by them because they pretend to do things that are beneficial…”

Penn tempered his skepticism by explaining to us how he chooses causes and people he believes in. “Generally I select issues by accident,” he explained. “It’s just whatever grabs you at the time—when you have time—and an idea of how to give back to it, despite whatever contributions are going on already. For me, there’s no true science to it.” So if you want Sean Penn to show up at your charity event, you better hope he’s in a good mood when the request comes through.

Toasting TFF
The focus of support switched from those devastated by terrorism to the film festival itself during the Vanity Fair party at the State Supreme Courthouse when boldfacers applauded the festival for having the reach and ability to get out films like Love Hate Love and the powerful messages they contain. (Not to mention rebuilding an entire neighborhood.)

Denis Leary explained to us, “Tribeca Film Festival started with the idea of keeping things going downtown in New York in troubled times, so it’s related to 9/11 and always will be,” he said. “Now it’s a completely different atmosphere from when it started. On opening night this year at the Elton John event, there were five thousand people outdoors, across the street from Ground Zero. While they were doing the concert there were people jogging by, there were boats in the harbor and other stuff that wasn’t happening after 9/11, and that’s the most amazing part of this festival. It’ll always be connected to that rejuvenation in New York. My favorite TFF was the first one, because it was the first thing that really happened down here after 9/11. And I have to mention the other night with Elton John because my wife is a big fan, and it was huge for her. She loved it—she had tears in her eyes after the movie [The Union] so that was great."

Iconic photographer Fran Lebowitz had a slightly different take on why she loves the festival, now in its tenth year. “The great thing is you can take a cab to and from every event. You can’t do that at other festivals.” Since she was headed into the bash, and given that Vanity Fair has thrown some epic events over the years, we asked if she could tell us one of her favorite VF party memories. “I cannot. I wish I could,” she said before slyly adding, “‘favorite’ means I have to keep the experiences close to me.” Fair enough.

—sean evans, with reporting by Michele Ross
photograph courtesy of getty images

 

Rockin' Out at TFF

The Tribeca Film Fest draws to a close with two intriguing films.

May 03, 2011


Abigail Breslin and Alessandro Nivola

Imagine waking up one day at age 13 and discovering the father you never knew is actually a famous rock star. Then imagine that you’re thrust, by less-than-stellar circumstances, into living with your new dad on his tour bus as he treks across the country staging his musical comeback, all the while trying to get to know each other. That’s the plot of Janie Jones, from director and writer David M. Rosenthal, and his film, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival over the weekend. The premise had people musing about which rock royalty they’d want to be related to.
 
Rosenthal himself picked Joe Strummer from The Clash. “Joe’d teach me how to rock on guitar and we would shred viciously,” he said with a smile. Abigail Breslin, who plays the lead role of Janie Jones, told us, “My mom loves the Rolling Stones, so I’d pick Mick Jagger. We could jam with our guitars.”
 
And Alessandro Nivola, who plays Jones’ musically gifted father, shared he’d go a little country. “Willie Nelson. I met Willie once and he was like the coolest guy I’ve ever met. We hung out at a party and he told me some pretty great stories which I won’t repeat, for my own reputation and his,” Nivola said with a laugh. “But I think we’d have a pretty good time together.”
 
There are several musical numbers in the film, all of which were recorded by Breslin and Nivola within a 24-hour period. “We were in a small little recording studio like a garage, which was a pain at the time,” Breslin explained. “It’s a joy now because you remember it fondly, like ‘Oh, I remember those days.’”

Outrageous Orgy
If you think planning a regular party is stressful enough, try throwing an orgy. Jason Sudeikis plays Eric, a thirtysomething trying to squeeze in a final debauched, sexual bash at his dad’s Hamptons pad before the house is sold in Good Old Fashioned Orgy, which premiered over the weekend at Tribeca.

 
Jason Sudeikis  

Co-star Lindsey Sloane said working on this film transformed her into a “sexual deviant. I’ve realized how much orgies bring people together,” she said. When we asked her if she’s ever been invited to partake in such a bacchanal endeavor, she answered, “No! And I’m super insulted about that. This is my shout-out to the world: I’m available, and I’m in!”
 
Co-directors Peter Hyuck and Alex Gregory told us they’d play ancillary roles were life ever to imitate their art. “If you invited me to your orgy, I would cater it,” Gregory told us. “And I’d leave early. I would show up in a tuxedo and stand in the corner and keep out of the way.”
 
“I would make a really nice playlist, and I would wait up and make sure that people got safe rides home,” Hyuck offered politely. Who’d be on that playlist? “I think mostly Ricky Martin. He gets a party going. Right?”
 
But co-star and Saturday Night Live alum Will Forte would throw the best sexually charged bash: “You have to go for a Twister situation, with an oiled-down Twister board. Naked people and Twister and oil. I think it’s got to be that. Or oiled-down Monopoly.”

—sean evans
photograph courtesy of getty images

 

The Tribeca Film Festival Continues

A documentary shows the healing power of movies; plus, David Duchovny and the electric-car revolution.

April 25, 2011


Producer Bryn Mooser, Olivia Wilde and director David Darg of Sun City Picture House

Part of the fame game means lending your boldface name to some serious causes that can help make the world a better place—like helping to bring a smile to the faces of Haitians via their first movie theater. Olivia Wilde helped produce a short documentary called Sun City Picture House, which chronicles the five-day building process and the opening of the theatre.
 
At the Tribeca Film Festival premiere Friday, the beautiful actress explained her roll. “I went to Haiti as a kid with my parents,” she said. “It stuck with me and I really loved it.” She started going back in 2008 with a local organization there that provides healthcare and education, and as a result of that work, ended up sponsoring a school of her own. After the devastating earthquake last year, Wilde figured she had to step it up a notch. “We got to know what was needed in the community and that was some joy,” she said. “There’s so much death and sadness down there, so they need some distractions, like building this movie theater.”
 
Despite being a movie star building a movie theater in an underdeveloped nation, Wilde didn’t have to worry about being mobbed by fans. “It’s happened very rarely, and not in areas where we’re working,” she said. “These are very remote locations where people aren’t sitting at home watching House on TV.”
 
As for her return to Fox’s medical drama last week, Wilde flashed a wide smile. “It’s fantastic to be back on the air,” she said. “It’s been so sweet. People have come up to me and just said, ‘I missed you. I’m really happy that you’re back.’ These are strangers so it takes me a minute to realize what they’re talking about. I eventually say thank you, though.”
 
Duchovny Drove an Electric Car
David Duchovny was the surprise guest moderator of a Tribeca Talks Panel for Revenge of the Electric Car on Saturday afternoon. “I’ve thought about this cause for a long time,” the actor told us. “I lived in LA for a long time, breathing the air pollution there. I was lucky enough to be able to buy one of the Toyota Rav4s, which was all electric. I literally owned one of only two in Los Angeles, and it was a great commuter car and I loved it. And I really felt like this was the way of the future.”


David Duchovny

But when Duchovny relocated to New York, there was no place to build a charging station in his home, and he was forced to part with the ride. “I sold it to the other guy who owned one, so now he’s cornered the market on the electric Rav4s,” he said with a chuckle.
 
In the hit series Califorinication, his character, Hank Moody, drives a Porsche, so what would Hank have to say about the electric car? “He’d think it’s all bullshit,” deadpanned Duchovny. And since Hank’s the kind of guy women love or loathe, given his sometimes-lothario actions, it begs the question as to what the typical female fan reaction is when Duchovny is approached on the street. “I don’t get a lot of loathing, I can assure you of that,” he said with a smirk. “And not that many women are approaching. It’s actually a lot of young men, unfortunately. They tell me they think Hank’s a hero and I say I’m not sure.” 

—sean evans
photograph courtesy of getty images

 

Tribeca Film Watch

Two films with star billing—The Good Doctor and Angels Crest—debut at the festival.

April 25, 2011


Paul Rudd and Orlando Bloom at the after party for The Good Doctor

Friday night saw the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of The Good Doctor, which stars Orlando Bloom as a doctor who can’t seem to catch a break in gaining his co-workers’ respect and attention. We asked the Brit—who was accompanied by his stunning wife Miranda Kerr—to tell us the craziest thing he ever did to get noticed.

“When I was in high school, we have this thing called Red Nose Day,” Bloom explained. “It’s a British thing where you raise money for kids’ charities. Four of my best friends and I got dressed up in diapers, we put white towels around us and put a red nose right here,” he said smiling and pointing to his crotch. “And then we went to chapel…in our diapers.” (As if Mr. Bloom needs any more ladies staring at his pants.)

Co-star Rob Morrow confessed that “in first or second grade, my friend and I told our teacher that we were supposed to go classroom to classroom to entertain everyone—me on drums and my friend on guitar. Somehow we convinced her and we went in front of three or four classes and lamely played something until they caught onto us. I don’t know what we were spewing, but they bought it,” he said with a laugh.

Snow Angels
Angels Crest also premiered Friday night. Filming a movie set during a frigid winter in a snowy town nestled in the Rocky Mountains can be a bit of a challenge, especially when you’re trying to stay warm between takes. Luckily the cast and crew were resourceful.


Kate Walsh, Jeremy Piven and Mira Sorvino at the after party for Angels Crest

Thomas Dekker, who plays the lead role of a young father who’s lost his child, revealed to us, “One of the prop masters allowed us to smoke in his van, so I would just sit in there after almost every take. I would have frozen icicles in my eyelashes from tears and my nose was running, which would then freeze on my face. So I’d sit and smoke with heaters near my eyes until my eyelashes thawed out.”

Mira Sorvino, who has a supporting role in the film, also learned how to stay warm. “My costume designer made this great tank top shirt that had pockets sewn all over it and we put hot packs in each of them,” she said. “My core was always warm no matter what.”

Jeremy Piven plays a prosecutor charged with holding someone accountable for the missing child, but confessed he’d never want a real turn in the courtroom. “I think that I would fail in comparison to any district attorney,” he said. “Those guys have dedicated their lives to uncovering the truth. It’s so specific and honorable what they do.” Though if he tapped into the mindset of his Entourage character Ari Gold, he might scare people into confessing.

—sean evens, with additional reporting by michele ross
photographs courtesy of getty images

 

A Hemingway Takes the Stage

Rose Hemingway aims high.

April 25, 2011

When Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe debuted on Broadway in Equus, his most notorious costar went from gamine Emma Watson to his own, ahem, manhood. So it takes a strong woman to share the stage in his (clothed) follow-up, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, a revival of the Pulitzer-winning musical, which opened March 27 at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.

Leave it to Rose Hemingway, a big-eyed brunette who laughs almost every sentence, to snag the coveted role of Rosemary Pilkington, a secretary with an entrepreneur’s drive to wed. Hemingway’s no stranger to fighting for what she wants, having grown up with eight siblings. Surprisingly, she hadn’t seen any Harry Potter movies when she first read for the part. “When I got the role, I thought maybe I should do a little Radcliffe research,” she says. Turns out, “we have really strong energy together.”

So does Hemingway fear the wrath of Harry Potter fans once they see their beloved boy-wizard in her arms? “It’s crossed my mind,” she says. “I think they they’ll be welcoming. I hope…”

A New Yorker since 2005, Hemingway migrated here with a fierce acting bug. Unfortunately, her first Gotham experience included bugs of another variety: bedbugs. “It was a rough first year,” she laughs. Now living with her husband in Washington Heights, Hemingway’s biggest challenge, aside from eight weekly shows, is avoiding Shake Shack: “There’s one around the corner from the theater. I have to curb my cheese fries intake.”

By Marissa Moss
PHOTOGRAPH BY ALISA CONNAN/CAMERA PRESS

 

The Family Borgia

Lotte Verbeek gives us an inside look at Showtime’s new historical drama.

April 19, 2011


Lotte Verbeek and Jeremy Irons in a scene from The Borgias

Set in 15th century Italy, The Borgias follows Rodrigo Borgia’s (Jeremy Irons) corrupt rise and reign as Pope Alexander VI. Created by Neil Jordan, the series offers nothing short of scandal, murder and intrigue. Indulging the Pope’s carnal needs is Guilia Farnese (Lotte Verbeek), the cunning young wife of a baron who bends the Pope’s ear as it suits her. 

What drew you to the role of Giulia Farnese?
LOTTE VERBEEK: Guilia has a mysterious presence. [Historically] we know some things about her, but not as much as Lucrezia Borgia. That gives a lot of artistic freedom to Neil Jordan, as well as to me, in terms of playing this part. She’s very modern and I think that’s very interesting in this historical context.

How do you think Giulia’s role will develop in the context of “the family”? 
LB: I’m not going to tell! [But] I spent 6 months [filming] in Budapest, so you can tell that she’s going to stick around. Obviously there is something between her and the Pope and she also bonds with the daughter of the Pope [Lucrezia].

But Lucrezia is the polar opposite of Giulia.
LB: Lucrezia represents this sort of naive, young female beauty, like a flower. And then Giulia is sort of this mysterious entity that you can’t really pinpoint, but you know she’s got a lot of wisdom and she knows a lot about female power. She doesn’t always say what she thinks, but she does very well by using the power of her beauty.

How is it working with Jeremy Irons?
LB: I must say to be working with any actor that is so experienced when you are still in your debut is quite something. There are so many great actors in this series; it’s such a treat.

How do you feel about the costumes?
LB: They help you get into character and it gives more gravity. Even though men are walking around in either dresses or leggings they are so much more masculine and the women are so much more feminine because of the beautiful dresses.

We hear you speak five languages?
LB: Yes, I speak Dutch, German, French, English and Italian. It’s a bit lunatic because whenever I go somewhere, I pick up accents. I just adapt like a chameleon.

by josephine cusumano

 

Friday Night Lights' Jurnee Smollett

Jurnee Smollett is no stranger to Hollywood.

April 11, 2011

Actress Jurnee Smollett knows what she wants: to star in a musical; to work with Meryl Streep; and one day, to direct. It’s an ambitious list to be sure, but why shouldn’t it be? Smollett’s been working in Hollywood since she was 10 months old.

“My mom was my first acting coach,” says the Friday Night Lights star. “We’d be driving in the car and she’d tell us, ‘Whoever can cry on cue first gets a quarter.’ We made it a game.”

Since then the New York-born Smollett has received acting guidance from a few others, namely her costar and director from The Great Debaters, Denzel Washington. “Denzel always used to ask why. Why is your character doing that? Why is she saying that? Why is she going there?” Smollett says. “He’d say, ‘Know where you’re coming from, so you’ll know where you’re going.’”

As Friday Night Lights gears up for its fifth and final season on NBC, Smollett is already enjoying a new gig on The Defenders, opposite Jim Belushi and Jerry O’Connell, airing Wednesday nights on CBS. “It’s funny but also dramatic and technical and light-hearted,” she says. “It’s something I hadn’t done before, and that’s what I’m looking for.”

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By Cristina Kinon
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