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If you’re a sucker for beautiful greenery, Bravo’s Backyard Envy, premiering Jan. 17, might have you clamoring to land a spot on the show. The series follows James DeSantis, Garrett Magee, and Melissa Brasier — three friends who run a New York design and landscaping firm called Manscapers — as they transform clients’ backyards into outdoor havens. And though it doesn’t seem like you can apply to be on Backyard Envy, that doesn’t mean you can’t work with the team.
First, a little background. According to their Bravo bios, Brasier and DeSantis met while they were attending the Fashion Institute of Technology. Magee, on the other hand, took classes at the New York Botanical Gardens before helping to co-found Manscapers. And since they’re all friends in real life, that chemistry radiates off the screen.
The trio usually works on spaces in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Hamptons, per their website, and specialize in smaller spaces. "[A]s New Yorkers, when we’re able to utilize our given outdoor space in the smartest ways possible our happiness increases," their about page reads. However, Backyard Envy allowed them to branch out into some New York suburbs. "Just having the space to actually lay things out and actually having the ability to be able to bring in excavators and large, heavy machinery, heavy equipment — you can’t do that in a backyard in Brooklyn," DeSantis told Metro.
Currently, their services are highly sought after (hence the reality show). In fact, Brasier said on Instagram that her "pinch-me" career moment was "definitely watering plants at Meryl Streep’s penthouse. AHH!"
Unfortunately for hopeful participants, though, it doesn’t look like Bravo did any casting for Backyard Envy. According to an interview DeSantis did with the Oneida Daily Dispatch, the spaces featured on the show are those of actual Manscapers clients, and weren’t selected specifically for the series. "Bravo’s big thing with their shows is they want them to be as real as possible," DeSantis told the publication. "The most shocking thing about the production process was that everything came from us. Bravo never at one moment ever told us what we needed to do."
But while they’re not currently looking for Backyard Envy applications, that could change if the show takes off. Bravo posts casting calls on its website, and interested parties can check it periodically to see if they happen to post an application for Season 2. That said, people can still acquire the Manscapers’ services — and who knows, maybe they’ll get a chance to be featured on Bravo as a result. Those interested can contact them through their website, where they can also browse photos of their gorgeous work.
Ultimately, the fact that Backyard Envy didn’t do any casting will likely make the series even more authentic and enjoyable to watch. Because, at the end of the day, it’s satisfying just to sit at home and live vicariously through the subjects on home improvement shows. And if you live in New York, you probably don’t have a yard to worry about, anyway.
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Facing sedition charge, the 93-year-old, known as father of Taliban in Swat, released on bail as trial continues.
Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistani authorities have released on bail prominent militia commander and scholar, Sufi Muhammad, known as the father of the Taliban in the Swat Valley, on health grounds, his lawyer says.
Muhammad, 93, was imprisoned in the northwestern city of Peshawar in 2009 and charged with sedition and waging war against Pakistan, after he led demands for the imposition of a strict, conservative interpretation of Islamic law in the country’s northern Swat Valley.
He is the father-in-law of current Pakistan Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah.
On January 8, a Pakistani court ordered that he be released on bail from the Peshawar central jail on humanitarian grounds, while the cases against him would continue to be heard.
Muhammad was released on Monday after bail bonds worth 700,000 Pakistani rupees (about $6,300) were submitted by his son to authorities in Mingora, the capital of Swat district, said Fida Gul, the cleric’s lawyer.
“The court has also ordered that once in the month he will report to his local police station, as well as whenever he is planning on leaving his town,” Gul told Al Jazeera.
The former militia commander, who suffers from diabetes and kidney ailments, has also promised authorities that he will not take part in any political activities, he said.
“He has given this undertaking to the court [that he] will not involve himself in any type of activities that are against the writ of the government [or] that promote the [Taliban] movement.”
Muhammad is expected to travel to his native town of Timergara, about 170km northwest of the capital Islamabad, in the coming days.
‘Father of Swat Taliban’
Pakistan has long faced international criticism for not doing enough against armed groups fighting in neighbouring Afghanistan and against Indian security forces in the disputed region of Kashmir.
In November, a Pakistani court ordered the release of Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who carries a $10 million US bounty on his head, saying the government had not presented sufficient evidence to maintain his detention under anti-terrorism laws.
Earlier this month, the United States suspended about $1.1bn in security assistance to Pakistan, saying the country needed to take action against Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network commanders it believes enjoy safe haven in the country.
Sufi Muhammad’s fight, however, has been focused on the Pakistani state and security forces for the past 16 years.
The head of the Tehreek-e-Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), Muhammad had long fought for the imposition of his strict interpretation of Islamic law in his native Swat and Dir districts.
He rose to prominence in 1994, when he led a mass public sit-in in the valley, opposing government plans to impose Pakistan’s judicial structures on the district.
A veteran of the US-backed Afghan war against Soviet forces, Muhammad led a brigade of thousands to fight US-led coalition forces in neighbouring Afghanistan in 2001. He was arrested on his return to Pakistan in 2002.
In 2008, he was released as part of a deal between the government and militias in the Swat Valley which saw Islamic law imposed by a faction of the Taliban, led by commander Mullah Fazlullah, in the valley.
A year later, as the peace agreement fell apart, Muhammad once again found himself in the government’s crosshairs, with a full-scale military operation launched to retake Swat from the Taliban.
He was re-arrested from the northwestern city of Peshawar in July that year, and charged with waging war against Pakistan.
The cases, his lawyer says, will continue to be heard in court.
“He was released only on the basis of his sickness and his old age, but the trials are ongoing,” said Gul. “He has not been acquitted.”
Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s Web Correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.
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Atlanta: Authorities in Georgia have arrested a man they say was planning to attack the White House.
An FBI agent's affidavit says 21-year-old Hasher Jallal Taheb of Cumming, Georgia, was arrested in a sting Wednesday after he traded his car for weapons. He's charged with attempting to damage or destroy a building owned by the US using fire or an explosive.
US Attorney Byung J. "BJay" Pak says Taheb planned to use an improvised explosive device and anti-tank rocket. The affidavit says Taheb planned to die in the attack.
The affidavit says local law enforcement contacted the FBI in March after getting a tip from a member of the community. The tipster said Taheb had become radicalized, changed his name and planned to travel abroad.
It wasn't immediately clear whether Taheb had an attorney who could comment.
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Host Taye Diggs hit the stage at the Critics’ Choice Awards with one epic musical performance. He remixed Cardi B’s hit to commend the diversity in movies like ‘Black Panther’ and more!
You didn’t think Taye Diggs was going to host the Critics’ Choice Awards and not sing? The All American star took the stage to start the night and soon began singing a new version of Cardi B’s “I Like It!” His “heartfelt musical tribute” was to give a shoutout to diverse 2018 films like Black Panther, BlacKkKlansman, The Hate U Give, Crazy Rich Asians, Roma, and more. He called 2018 a “great year for inclusivity.” He continued, “All underrepresented people of all genders and orientations played prominent roles both in front and behind the camera.” Taye noted that “black filmmakers earned a record $1.5 billon at the domestic box office in 2018.”
Taye broke out into song and was accompanied by gorgeous back-up dancers. Taye sang about Viola Davis in Widows, Black Panther, Spider-Man: Into The Spider Verse, Barry Jenkins, Crazy Rich Asians, and more. “I love you Regina King,” he crooned. Taye’s voice sounded super smooth. He is a talented stage actor, after all! He also showed off his sexy dance moves with the dancers. Get it, Taye!
The actor didn’t hesitate to host the awards ceremony this year when he was approached. “I am from a musical theater background and it was an opportunity that did make sense,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “It is a natural fit — it’s humor, dancing, singing. It’s something I had been looking to do for a while now, so its nice that it’s working out the way it is.”
Taye is currently starring on The CW’s new football drama All American as Coach Billy Baker. The series returns after a brief winter hiatus on Jan. 16.
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The 24th Annual Critics’ Choice Awards, honoring the year’s biggest achievements on screens both big and small, are currently underway on The CW.
HBO and Netflix entered the evening with the highest number of nominations (20 total), followed by FX (16) and Amazon (12). Among all series (including limited), The Americans, Escape at Dannemora and The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story led with five nods a piece.
Scroll down for the complete list of TV nominees and winners, which will be updated throughout the night, then drop a comment with your reaction(s).
BEST DRAMA SERIES (2018 winner: The Handmaid’s Tale)
The Americans (FX)
Better Call Saul (AMC)
The Good Fight (CBS All Access)
Killing Eve (BBC America)
My Brilliant Friend (HBO)
BEST ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES (2018 winner: Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us)
Freddie Highmore, The Good Doctor (ABC)
Diego Luna, Narcos: Mexico (Netflix)
Richard Madden, Bodyguard (Netflix)
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul (AMC)
Billy Porter, Pose (FX)
Matthew Rhys, The Americans (FX)
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us (NBC)
BEST ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES (2018 winner: Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale)
Jodie Comer, Killing Eve (BBC America)
Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Deuce (HBO)
Elisabeth Moss, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve (BBC America)
Elizabeth Olsen, Sorry For Your Loss (Facebook Watch)
Julia Roberts, Homecoming (Amazon)
Keri Russell, The Americans (FX)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A DRAMA SERIES (2018 winner: David Harbour, Stranger Things)
Richard Cabral, Mayans M.C. (FX)
Asia Kate Dillon, Billions (Showtime)
Noah Emmerich, The Americans (FX) — WINNER
Justin Hartley, This Is Us (NBC)
Matthew Macfadyen, Succession (HBO)
Richard Schiff, The Good Doctor (ABC)
Shea Whigham, Homecoming (Amazon)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A DRAMA SERIES (2018 winner: Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale)
Dina Shihabi, Jack Ryan (Amazon)
Julia Garner, Ozark (Netflix)
Thandie Newton, Westworld (HBO) — WINNER
Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul (AMC)
Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale (Hulu)
Holly Taylor, The Americans (FX)
BEST COMEDY SERIES (2018 winner: The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
The Good Place (NBC)
The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
The Middle (ABC)
One Day at a Time (Netflix)
Schitt’s Creek (Pop)
BEST ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES (2018 winner: Ted Danson, The Good Place)
Hank Azaria, Brockmire (IFC)
Ted Danson, The Good Place (NBC)
Michael Douglas, The Kominsky Method (Netflix)
Donald Glover, Atlanta (FX)
Bill Hader, Barry (HBO) — WINNER
Jim Parsons, The Big Bang Theory (CBS)
Andy Samberg, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
BEST ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES (2018 winner: Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel)
Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (The CW)
Rachel Brosnahan, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) — WINNER
Allison Janney, Mom (CBS)
Justina Machado, One Day at a Time (Netflix)
Debra Messing, Will & Grace (NBC)
Issa Rae, Insecure (HBO)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A COMEDY SERIES (2018 winner: Walton Goggins, Vice Principals)
William Jackson Harper, The Good Place (NBC)
Sean Hayes, Will & Grace (NBC)
Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta (FX)
Nico Santos, Superstore (NBC)
Tony Shalhoub, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon)
Henry Winkler, Barry (HBO) — WINNER
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A COMEDY SERIES (2018 winner: Mayim Bialik, The Big Bang Theory)
Alex Borstein, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (Amazon) — WINNER
Betty Gilpin, GLOW (Netflix)
Laurie Metcalf, The Conners (ABC)
Rita Moreno, One Day at a Time (Netflix)
Zoe Perry, Young Sheldon (CBS)
Annie Potts, Young Sheldon (CBS)
Miriam Shor, Younger (TV Land)
BEST LIMITED SERIES (2018 winner: Big Little Lies)
A Very English Scandal (Amazon)
American Vandal (Netflix)
The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX)
Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)
Genius: Picasso (National Geographic)
Sharp Objects (HBO)
BEST MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION (2018 winner: The Wizard of Lies)
Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (NBC) — WINNER
King Lear (Amazon)
My Dinner with Hervé (HBO)
Notes from the Field (HBO)
The Tale (HBO)
BEST ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION (2018 winner: Ewan McGregor, Fargo)
Antonio Banderas, Genius: Picasso (National Geographic)
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX) — WINNER
Paul Dano, Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)
Benicio Del Toro, Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)
Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal (Amazon)
John Legend, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (NBC)
BEST ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION (2018 winner: Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies)
Amy Adams, Sharp Objects (HBO) — WINNER (tie)
Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora (Showtime) — WINNER (tie)
Connie Britton, Dirty John (Bravo)
Carrie Coon, The Sinner (USA Network)
Laura Dern, The Tale (HBO)
Anna Deavere Smith, Notes From the Field (HBO)
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION (2018 winner: Alexander Skarsgård, Big Little Lies)
Brandon Victor Dixon, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (NBC)
Eric Lange, Escape at Dannemora (Showtime)
Alex Rich, Genius: Picasso (National Geographic)
Peter Sarsgaard, The Looming Tower (Hulu)
Finn Wittrock, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX)
Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal (Amazon) — WINNER
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES OR MOVIE MADE FOR TELEVISION (2018 winner: Laura Dern, Big Little Lies)
Ellen Burstyn, The Tale (HBO)
Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects (HBO) — WINNER
Penelope Cruz, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX)
Julia Garner, Dirty John (Bravo)
Judith Light, The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (FX)
Elizabeth Perkins, Sharp Objects (HBO)
BEST ANIMATED SERIES (2018 winner: Rick & Morty)
Adventure Time (Cartoon Network)
Bob’s Burgers (Fox)
BoJack Horseman (Netflix) — WINNER
The Simpsons (Fox)
South Park (Comedy Central)
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A visionary director who had written or co-written each of his films since starting out in 1995, Yorgos Lanthimos changed tack with his latest effort, The Favourite, collaborating with screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara, for his first period piece. While the auteur is famously uncompromising in his work, both writers spoke to Deadline recently, revealing just how inclusive and collaborative Lanthimos is. Working at the director’s side over the course of many years—and even taking in his rehearsal process on the Fox Searchlight tragicomedy—each received an executive producer credit on the film, a testament in itself to how involving and rich Lanthimos’ process is.
Examining a period in Britain seldom mined in the past through cinema, The Favourite hits a unique middle ground between history and fiction, with its writers standing in for these opposite ends of the spectrum. Set in the court of Queen Anne, in the early 18th century, the film follows this frail figure and the historical turning point she straddles, as Lady Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, and her inveigling cousin war over the sovereign’s affections.
When Davis set out some 20 years ago to write an original script, then titled Balance of Power, she approached it as a “keen historian,” with an interest in the “absolutely vital shift” in Britain “from a despotic monarchy to a constitutional monarch,” and the Rage of Party that resulted. “I was very interested in discovering a piece of history where women were in power, and weren’t particularly nice, sympathetic characters. They were complex and had very deep, intimate, and complex emotions towards one another, and I think that’s a lovely thing to explore and see on screen,” Davis says, “to see women running the show.” Many years later, when Lanthimos became attached to the picture, he brought McNamara with him, who could walk a complex tonal line, and reconfigure the project to feel both classical and contemporary, employing historical basis so far as it could aid the director’s storytelling, and discarding the rest.
As the old adage goes, a film is written three times, finding its final shape in the edit. So naturally, fundamental aspects of The Favourite came about in the cutting room—most prominently, its structuring into titled chapters. And while the film took its time to gestate, going through a number of iterations, for both writers, the final product was worth the wait. “It’s an immense relief that it took this journey and has reached this point, and it’s a source of great satisfaction that it happened as it happened,” Davis reflects. “It took this long, but so what?”
“I remember seeing it and thinking it was amazing,” McNamara adds, “but also what I thought it would be, from how we talked about it, and how I’d understood he was going to approach it, and from watching him with the actors on set.” Recognized by BAFTA, the Golden Globes, the British Independent Film Awards, the Critics’ Choice Awards, and the Gotham Awards with nominations for Best Original Screenplay, The Favourite may be the film to beat in that category, come Oscar night on February 24th.
Deborah, your connection to this film goes back about 20 years. How did you originally discover the piece of history that would become The Favourite?
Deborah Davis: I read an article in a local London newspaper, and the writer said something along the lines of, “Everyone knows Queen Anne was having an affair with Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough.” I studied history at university, and knew all about my kings and queens of England, but I didn’t know anything about this event, or anything about Queen Anne. So, I started researching, and stumbled on an extraordinary story of women in power, running the country from [their] royal bedchamber, and a female triangle that was pretty toxic.
At the point when you stumbled on this story, you’d never written a screenplay before.
Davis: That is absolutely correct. I just had it in my mind that this must be a film, so I sent myself to evening class at our local college. We had a wonderful teacher, actually, and the first thing he taught us was, “Drama is conflict.” So, I thought to myself, I’ve got the right story for this film. I showed the first draft to Ceci Dempsey, the producer of this movie, in 1998, and at that stage, she was not ready to take it on. But I was accepted to go to the University of East Anglia to do an MA in scriptwriting, pretty much on the basis of that first draft. So, I went there, and spent two years learning the craft of scriptwriting. I came back to her in about 2002, 2003, and said, “I’ve carried on working on this script, and I’m interested to know whether you’d like to become involved.” And at that stage, she did. It went into formal development with, I believe, the [UK] Film Council, and it stayed in development right the way through. My script was optioned from then on until it got made.
It’s not uncommon to hear of films taking a decade or more to get made. But why do you think it took 20 or so years in this case?
Davis: Really, you’d need to speak to Ceci about this, because she was the one who had to go out and sell it, but my understanding is that the subject matter was very difficult for her to sell, because potential financiers were not that keen on three women leads. Of course, this was not just a three-woman story; it was a very complex female triangle about love, rivalry, loyalty, revenge, and it didn’t really hit the zeitgeist at that point.
Even in its inventions, The Favourite presents fascinating historical detail pertaining to life in Queen Anne’s era. In your research, what were the resources that really opened a window into this world?
Davis: Sarah and Anne wrote to each other throughout their lives, and a lot of their letters survive; a lot of them were love letters, actually. They had a relationship of absolute trust, which went back to when Sarah first went to court at the age of 13 as a maid of honor to Princess Anne’s stepmother. They just grew up together. Sarah was five years older, and she was Anne’s protector, so the letters are very moving, and Anne said things like, “I’d prefer to live in a cottage with you than reign Empress of the World.” And Sarah really looked after Anne through some very difficult times, in the run up to her appointment as Queen. Then, looking at the breakdown of their relationship, which was very moving, Sarah wrote many versions of that. She couldn’t stop writing about it, and how Abigail became the absolute favorite. There is a memoir that she published many years after Anne died, and only a few years before Sarah died, which is absolute dynamite, and pretty much tells you what was going on, how this female triangle had shifted against her, and she had been outmaneuvered by her young cousin, who she had introduced to the court as a favor.
If we turn to Abigail, we have letters from Abigail to Harley, the Tory leader who became the equivalent of Prime Minister after Abigail replaced Sarah. She used to write to him in code; she called Queen Anne her aunt, and she called Sarah “Lady Pye.” They were just plotting, these two. Jonathan Swift, who wrote Gulliver’s Travels, was a very strong Tory, and was very friendly with Harley and Abigail. In his diaries, he says he discovered Abigail deep in conversation with Harley when he went to visit her, so there is no doubt from the primary sources that Abigail was plotting to replace Sarah, and this wasn’t just a question of replacing her in the bedchamber, but also of influencing the balance of power in Parliament.
Was reading these letters instrumental in establishing your characters’ voices on the page?
Davis: Absolutely. Sarah is one of these characters who was very forthright. That was really her problem, in that whatever she thought, she said, and when it came to handling this situation of the Queen’s affections being taken by someone else, she was not strategic, ruled by her emotions. Abigail was totally strategic and had a game plan; she outmaneuvered Sarah because she was playing a game, [whereas] Sarah was just expressing how she really felt.
If The Favourite was ever going to be a more straightforward historical drama, that certainly wouldn’t be the case from the moment Yorgos Lanthimos signed on. With your interest and attention to historical fact, were you ever concerned with the idea of taking creative liberties with the story?
Davis: Not at all. I’d written a stage play, a comic romp about the poet Alexander Pope in the reign of George II, which is a complete sendup of all the classic tropes of playwriting. So, this was absolutely, exactly what I wanted for this film. Yorgos is an extraordinary director [who] had a unique take on this material, more interested in playing with anachronism than in being faithful to history. He was looking at and playing with the form, and that’s what his genius is.
Tony, how did you come to work on the film? What about the opportunity, and this story, was compelling to you?
Tony McNamara: Yorgos had Deborah’s script, and basically was looking for a writer to come in and re-engineer it, to make it a very complex story, but make it feel fresh and contemporary at the same time. He’d read stuff that made him think I could do that, and I watched Dogtooth and Alps, and really loved them, and felt like our sensibilities were very similar. So, we just talked about it for a while, and then started working on it. I was in Australia and he was in London, so we’d work by Skype, and meet in various places over the five or six years it took us to do it.
Can you flesh out a sense of your early meetings with Lanthimos, and what the focus of your conversations was?
McNamara: We talked about what we wanted to do with the characters, making them very complicated and very human, and letting them behave badly, as well. As long as we understood them, we felt like we could do anything with them. We had a big, long conversation about tone, and that was a sort of comic tone that had a contemporary hybridization of language. We knew the end was tragic, but the first two thirds were comedy, so we worked a lot on how that structure would work, and how we would make that work.
We also talked about the history. Deborah’s a historian, so it was a very historical document, the original material, but we were just taking bits of story. We felt like there was a fundamental truth to [Queen Anne and Sarah’s] relationship, and that was what we wanted to tell. But we weren’t really interested in the historical detail of it, if that got in the way of a great film—and particularly, if it got in the way of great characters. We wanted to tell this story about these three women, a personal story that affected a country politically in a massive way, but beyond that, we didn’t really stick to the history slavishly on any level. You know, [Lanthimos] would say, “If people are coming to this movie for a history lesson, they’re coming to the wrong movie.” We used historical details if it suited us, and we felt like it told the story and helped the tone. For example, the way Nicholas Hoult’s character and the people on his side of politics dressed was real; they did dress like that, and we liked the idea of that. But Yorgos, of course, in his way, took it further than the truth.
Was the outright debauchery we see in Queen Anne’s court taken specifically from historical record?
McNamara: That wasn’t really historically lifted. That was more a feeling we wanted about the courts. We didn’t want the film to feel polite, so I would write things where the court was a little debauched, and a little erratic, and had its own thing going on. Because that’s one of the things about period films that I personally don’t really like, how polite they are, and how orderly the world is. I wanted the world to be a little more chaotic, so that you could surprise the audience, and people could do extreme things because that was the world they lived in.
How did you strike a balance with the film’s dialogue, to arrive at an appropriate hybrid, reflecting both a contemporary and historical feel?
I don’t really know. It doesn’t come out perfectly. Sometimes, there would be scenes or bits of language that were too contemporary, and we would go through the script quite often to try and work out how far we could go. It was more a few words in a sentence of dialogue [that were] contemporary, so it’s meshed in, but it’s not everything.
Was it challenging to balance a narrative centered on three protagonists, tangled in power dynamics that are ever shifting?
McNamara: I thought it would be hard, but it was actually kind of liberating to have three, because it just gave you more options and places to go. Often, an action in a script has a reaction, but just one antagonist and protagonist. But because it’s three protagonists, there was always this cascading effect, and there were more twists. It was fun to have options, [though] there was work to do, making sure that the three were in balance, throughout.
Were there aspects of your creative experience on The Favourite that were particularly satisfying for you, in the end?
I think it was satisfying because I got to work with a great artist, so you sort of find things in yourself that are great. It was also satisfying because we had a great time. We ate in every restaurant in London, and ate across Italy, and we enjoy our process. I’m writing a new film for him at the moment and that’s the process, a lot of lunch and talking. It’s very creative, and very organic; we try things that don’t work, and no one worries about it. We just keep trying things. I feel like I found a really lovely way of working, and someone I really think is great, and a friend. Just a good place to be.
You’ve written and directed two films yourself, Ashby and The Rage in Placid Lake. Do you see yourself going back to directing again?
Absolutely not! [Laughs] No. I think now, I’ve seen a great director in action, and I’m happy to try and be a really good writer. Leave it to great directors to direct.
Can you share any details with regard to the next film you’re writing for Lanthimos?
We’re a couple of drafts in. He hasn’t really talked about what it is, but it’s fun. It’s cool.
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John Legend’s birthday bash was legendary.
Chrissy Teigen, 33, threw the “All of Me” crooner an epic James Bond-themed party Saturday in honor of his 40th birthday on Dec. 28. The “Casino Royale”-inspired fete was dubbed “040,” echoing the famous 007 catchphrase.
The extravaganza was complete with opulent chandeliers, blackjack tables and drinks – shaken, not stirred, of course. Celebrity friends, including Kim Kardashian West, Kanye West and Kourtney Kardashian, were in attendance and dressed to kill; Kim shared images from the bash in an Instagram story.
Related: Chrissy Teigen hits back at trolls over Miles pic: ‘We didn’t just go straight to helmet’
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Joan Baez has always been more than a singer. The Grammy-nominated folk legend, who turned 78 earlier this month, is also a social activist, and as she gets ready to retire from music, that’s how she prefers to be known. When she first started making songs 60 years ago, though, her pacifist message wasn’t all that well-received. Baez distinctively remembers being told to shut up and sing in those early days, which is why she’s pleasantly surprised by the ever growing list of artists like Taylor Swift willing to speak out politically, and the profound effect that’s had on fans.
"I don’t know where I was on tour, but this guy said, ‘Well, the reason I voted was that I saw Taylor say something,’" Baez tells me over the phone a few days before the new year, referencing Swift’s Instagram post urging fans to vote in the 2018 midterms. "I said, ‘I’m going to write this in my diary because that has a lot of meaning!’"
Yet as excited as this interaction made her, Baez is concerned that for some artists, these political statements are just words and no action. In her opinion, when it comes to activism, you need to follow through.
"To really make social change you’re gonna have to take a risk and it isn’t going to be enough to say something, to make a statement, or to put some words in a song," the musician explains. "You’re gonna have to, at some point, put your body where your mouth is."
Baez has never been afraid to do just that. Her parents took her to her first protest when she was 15, and from that moment on, she longed to get out on the front lines marching for civil rights, climate change, and an end to the Vietnam War. During that period, her music, both her originals and her covers of songs by Pete Seeger, The Band, and Bob Dylan, acted as a sweet soundtrack to America’s most turbulent times.
For some, Baez will be forever linked to Dylan, who she introduced to a wider audience by bringing him onstage with her when they were dating in the 60s. But despite their problems over the years, she says she doesn’t mind that connection at all. "We were both a force to be reckoned with," she says now. "If people want to ask me about him until now until I drop dead, it’s still an honor that I got to be there and I got to know him and learn those songs."
It’s her own music, however, that has made her a legend. Baez’s 1975 song "Diamonds and Rust," about her breakup with Dylan – who she never names on the track, referring to him only as "the unwashed phenomenon/the original vagabond" – is widely considered one of her best, and her gentle renditions of protest songs like "We Shall Overcome" and "Oh Freedom," both of which she sang at the 1963 March on Washington, are as powerful as ever.
With her most recent album, last year’s Whistle Down The Wind — her final one, she says — Baez is still singing songs of resistance, paying tribute to former President Barack Obama ("The President Sang Amazing Grace") and railing against U.S. foreign policy on closer "I Wish the Wars Were All Over." Her 2017 ode to Donald Trump, "Nasty Man," is also a bop, FYI.
Clearly, she’s still got it, since her first new album in a decade earned her a ninth Grammy nomination. If she wins Best Folk Album for Whistle Down The Wind, it will be her first win ever. (Baez received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammys in 2007.) But the musician isn’t all that interested in talking about awards. "[It’s] certainly not something I’ve given much thought to over the years," she says, chuckling. "Winning would be kind of a pleasant surprise."
It would also be a nice button on a long and illustrious career. One that’s ending by choice; Baez would rather focus on her painting, though it doesn’t hurt that it’s getting harder for her to keep her voice in shape. "Many years ago, I asked [my vocal coach], ‘When will I know it’s time to quit?" she recalls. "He said, ‘Your voice will tell you.’"
Baez’s voice has spoken. "I love my voice on the album, I love what it does in concert," she explains, but to get it there she has to keep up with her vocal exercises, "which are boring." Besides, she’d rather listen to the voices of the young female artists of today, which are "really stunning," she says, "Ariana Grande? You can’t compare to those voices."
Baez turns to her 15-year-old granddaughter Jasmine for music recommendations, bonding with the teen over Grande, Adele, and Swift, who is a Baez fan. When she took Jasmine to see Swift’s 1989 tour four years ago, she ultimately ended up on stage with the pop star and Julia Roberts, and Swift told her how much her music meant to her. "I don’t think she was lying," Baez says of Swift, who, according to her is "one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met." "But I was surprised — as was my granddaughter."
For Baez, music has always been a fulfilling way to encourage people to take a stance on something they believe in. "To be able to do what I did and go where I went because of the voice," she says. "That was the real gift." Her talent also helped her live a fascinating life, and it’s one she plans on bringing to the big screen in an upcoming documentary that she’d like to take to Sundance.
"This is not a puff film," Baez says about the doc, which will cover "early childhood stuff that I’ve never talked about on through. So it’s kind of scary, you know? Sometimes I end up crying right in front of the camera… [but] you just go on and get it out."
Perhaps, it should surprise no one that Baez is taking her own advice and putting her body where her mouth is.
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The Washington Capitals had a surprise for a local youth hockey team that stood up after an African-American teammate was subjected to racial taunts.
Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly and defenseman John Carlson told the Metro Maple Leafs, based in nearly Odenton, Md., via video that they would be getting tickets to Monday's home game against the St. Louis Blues at Capital One Arena.
Divyne Apollon II, 13, was the player who heard the taunts at a tournament in late December. According to The Washington Post, he heard monkey sounds and chants that he should play basketball. When he was suspended for getting into a fight, his teammates wore a sticker decrying racism — featuring the word racism surrounded by a circle with a hockey stick crossing through it — at the next game.
The story caught the attention of Smith-Pelley, who had heard basketball chants last season while he sat in the penalty box during a game at the Chicago Blackhawks.
His video with Carlson was played for the Metro Maple Leafs, earning excited cheers from the team. Sixty tickets are being made available, and team members will get to meet with Capitals players afterward.
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