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Dogs and babies among Helen Mirren's acting inspirations

Helen Mirren's acting inspirations involve fur and diapers.

The Oscar-winning actress says she hopes to capture the magic of dogs and babies in her performances because "you cannot take your eyes off them ... they are fantastic."

Mirren, 71, spoke earlier this week at a Manhattan lunch celebrating her AARP cover for December/January. The actress, who is starring as Death in this month's "Collateral Beauty," tried to offer an explanation as to how she's maintained her longevity in Hollywood. She credited her work in theater and the fact that she never had any interest in being a movie star.

But Mirren said she was able to "let go" and not focus on trying to be what she may have once been — a problem she sees for other actors her age.

"They're clinging on to what they were, and they aren't that anymore," she said.

And while Mirren is celebrated for her looks as well as her acting, she dismissed the notion of being a sex symbol: "I would argue ... I'm so not that."

"It's just something that gets hung on your backpack, and you can never get it off," she said.

Italian director clarifies 'Last Tango' butter rape scene

Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci is clarifying details about the infamous butter rape scene in the "Last Tango in Paris."

Bertolucci says the only novelty sprung on actress Maria Schneider was the butter — not the simulated rape, which he said was written into the script.

"Some people thought, and think, that Maria wasn't informed about the rape," said a Bertolucci statement carried by the ANSA news agency Monday.

"False! Maria knew everything because she had read it in the script, where it was described," he said. "The only novelty was the idea of the butter."

The controversial film made headlines in recent days after a 2013 interview surfaced in which Bertolucci said neither he nor Marlon Brando had told Schneider of their plans to use the stick of butter during the scene.

He said he and Brando came up with the idea on the morning of the shoot and decided not to tell Schneider because he wanted her to react "as a girl, not as an actress." Bertolucci wanted her, he said, to feel "the rage and the humiliation."

Schneider, who died in 2011, spoke often about the scene between her, then aged 19, and Marlon Brando, then 48, even saying in a 2007 Daily Mail interview that she "felt a little raped" by her co-star and director.

In the statement, Bertolucci said the controversy was "ridiculous." He criticized commentators for being so "naive" as to think that what they see on screen actually happens.

"Those who don't know that in film, sex is (almost) always simulated, probably also think that every time John Wayne fires, someone actually dies."


This story has been corrected to show that comments were made Monday, not Wednesday.

The top 10 movies on the iTunes Store

iTunes Movies US Charts:

1.Pete's Dragon (2016)

2.War Dogs (2016)

3.The BFG

4.The Secret Life of Pets

5.The Meddler

6.Hell or High Water

7.Bridget Jones's Baby

8.Bad Moms

9.Finding Dory

10.Don't Breathe

11.Jason Bourne

12.Elf (2003)

13.Suicide Squad (2016)

14.Mechanic Resurrection

15.Sausage Party

16.Ben-Hur (2016)

17.National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

18.Star Trek Beyond

19.Kubo and the Two Strings

20.The Outsiders

iTunes Movies US Charts - Independent:

1.The Take (2016)

2.Kill Command

3.The Infiltrator

4.Captain Fantastic

5.For the Love of Spock

6.Hunt for the Wilderpeople

7.Don't Think Twice

8.Eye In the Sky


10.The Eyes of My Mother

11.Bodyguards: Secret Lives From the Watchtower

12.The Man Who Knew Infinity

13.Super Troopers

14.The Lobster


16.It Had to Be You


18.Blood Father

19.Food Choices

20.Our Kind of Traitor


(copyright) 2016 Apple Inc.

Hacker gets 5 years in prison for stealing scripts, videos

A Bahamian man who boasted after his arrest for hacking into celebrities' email accounts that he will someday write a book to "shake up Hollywood" had the book thrown at him Tuesday by a federal judge who said five years in prison was the only way to keep him from harming victims.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer cited 24-year-old Alonzo Knowles' jailhouse conversations in doubling the sentence the young hacker might have received if the judge believed he showed genuine remorse and was no threat to society.

"So far, the criminal justice system has totally failed to get your attention," Engelmayer told Knowles as he announced the sentence for stealing scripts and personal information from celebrities.

The celebrities were not identified, though Engelmayer noted 20th Century Fox had submitted a letter describing the danger Knowles posed.

The judge cited the book Knowles claimed he would someday write, reading a jailhouse communication in which Knowles said: "When I get out, I'm going to shake up Hollywood." Engelmayer also read from a letter submitted by a celebrity who said significant punishment for Knowles was the only way for victims to feel relief.

Knowles pleaded guilty in May to copyright infringement and identity theft charges, months after his December 2015 arrest after he flew from the Bahamas to New York City to sell 15 scripts and personal information on several celebrities for $80,000 to a law enforcement agent posing as an interested buyer. Knowles recently turned over the computer containing the information on celebrities and it was destroyed.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kristy Greenberg requested a stiff sentence, saying prosecutors learned when they studied Knowles' prison communications that he still planned to exploit what he learned from "trolling the online accounts of hundreds of celebrities."

"His motivation was greed," she said, adding that he was "focused on becoming rich and famous."

Greenberg said Knowles was boasting that he can embarrass the celebrities when he publishes a book containing information that can "jeopardize their careers, their security and their personal relationships."

She said his capture of sexually explicit photographs and videos from some accounts "has caused a great deal of distress" to some celebrities in the entertainment, sports and media industries.

The prosecutor urged a sentence that would change his attitude after recorded communications in prison revealed he had identified at least one celebrity whose account he had hacked to fellow inmates and had tried to impress women with his boasts, including that he had embarrassing information on some celebrities.

"There's a real audacity to his attitude here. He has not learned his lesson," she said.

Before the sentence was announced, Knowles apologized to his victims and the judge, among others.

"What I did was wrong," the Freeport, Bahamas, resident said. "I could have ruined people's lives."

Review: A poet on the run in startlingly great 'Neruda'

The stories of both Jackie Kennedy and Pablo Neruda are already compelling on their own, but Larrain manages to go beyond the specifics and get to their essence through powerfully and uniquely cinematic storytelling. Larrain is not interested in dramatizing a Wikipedia page, but getting to the truth in spite of the facts. In this way, even though he explains relatively little, he reveals quite a lot.

New York Times Book Review critic Selden Rodman said of Pablo Neruda that "no writer of world renown is perhaps so little known to North Americans." I certainly didn't know anything about the Chilean poet, and that fact is likely inextricably linked with my assessment and enjoyment of the film, but not to its artistic merits, of which there are many.

Neruda was and is that rarest of creatures — a popular poet of the people.

"This man would pull a piece of paper out of his pocket and 10,000 workers would go silent to hear him recite poetry," says one character in the film.

His communist affiliation made him an enemy of the state in post-WWII Chile, however, forcing him into exile in 1948.

We're introduced to Neruda (played by Chilean actor Luis Gnecco, who gives a tremendous dramatic performance) living life as a communist senator, a poet and an all-around bon vivant with his aristocratic wife, Delia (Mercedes Moran). He's pompous and charming and hedonistic and empathetic all at once — but glaringly disconnected from the people he writes about and for.

When a warrant is issued for his arrest, Pablo and Delia go on the run away from their fancy digs and parties and friends and attempt survival in more modest settings, always fearful of who might be around the corner ready to report them to the authorities. Pablo sneaks out on occasion to mingle with the local prostitutes when he's not writing.

On their tail is a police officer, Inspector Oscar Peluchonneau (Gael Garcia Bernal), a character who was invented for the story to make it more of a fable. While "Neruda" starts out a little slow, it kicks into gear with Oscar's arrival. He's a noir-style detective on the hunt for the exile with mechanical resolve, but within these genre confines the story manages also to be immensely playful and insightful, too — about politics, authorship and art — as it toys with form, tone and story.

There is a great meta conversation between Oscar and Delia at one point in which Delia tells Oscar that he is merely a secondary character who is given context and life only by the man he's pursuing. The artificiality of the self-conscious exchange is exaggerated by their shifting setting (one moment they're inside sitting at a table, the next they're outside standing face to face). Larrain also gives Oscar's pursuit of Neruda an intentionally fake quality by using rear end projection during shots of him driving. It is silly and looks silly, but somehow it works, drawing you further into a trance-like state rather that shaking you out of the movie magic with a cheesy, antiquated technology.

But again, "Neruda" is more interested in the ineffable experience than reality, or making you forget you're watching a movie. Not many directors get a one-two punch like "Jackie" and "Neruda" in the same season, but it just makes it all the more clear that Larrain is one of the world's most exciting and imaginative filmmakers, whatever the subject may be.

"Neruda," a The Orchard release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for "sexuality/nudity and some language." Running time: 107 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.


MPAA Definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.


Follow AP Film Writer Lindsey Bahr on Twitter:

Margaret Whitton, star of 'Major League,' dies at 67

Margaret Whitton, who starred as a former showgirl who became owner of the Cleveland Indians in the 1989 comedy "Major League," has died. She was 67.

Whitton's producing partner, Steven Tabakin, says she died Sunday in Palm Beach, Florida, after a battle with cancer.

Whitton was a regular on the New York stage as both an actor and director. In addition to playing the sultry Rachel Phelps in "Major League" and its 1994 sequel, she also starred in several television series.

Whitton had a passion for sports that extended off-screen. She was a die-hard New York Yankees fan and played softball in the Broadway Show League.

After taking up golf, she told The Associated Press in 1991 that the game was a lot like acting in that "the only thing that stands between you and success is yourself."

Disney reveals Death Star at Epcot

A Disney parks icon had a new look Monday night.

Epcot at Walt Disney World in Florida held a special event Monday night to celebrate Star Wars at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and the upcoming release of the film "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."

During the event, Epcot’s iconic Spaceship Earth was magically transformed into the Death Star, the devastating battle station seen in the original "Star Wars" movie. 

>> Read more trending stories  

The Death Star overlay was done through digital projections, complete with laser beams shooting into the night sky.

<iframe id="viddler-e26cccdb" src="//;offset=0&amp;autoplay=0&amp;player=full&amp;secret=91001373&amp;disablebranding=0" width="390" height="250" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" allowfullscreen></iframe>

The event was attended by Mads Mikkelsen who plays Galen Erso in the latest Star Wars installment. "Rogue One" hits theaters Dec. 16, with early screenings on Dec. 15. 

Watch the entire event below:

AP Interview: Matt Damon defends being cast for 'Great Wall'

Matt Damon criticized "outrageous" stories in the era of fake news as he responded Tuesday to accusations that his role in the new China-Hollywood co-production "The Great Wall" should have gone to an Asian actor.

Some critics have said Damon's casting as the lead character amounted to "whitewashing," in which Caucasians are chosen for roles that actors of other ethnicities should play.

In an interview with The Associated Press, the American actor said he thinks of the term "whitewashing" as applying to Caucasian actors putting on makeup to appear to be of another race, as was common in the early days of film and television, when racism was overt.

"That whole idea of whitewashing, I take that very seriously," Damon said, using the example of the Irish-American actor Chuck Connors, who played the lead character in the 1962 film "Geronimo," about the famed Apache chief.

Damon, 46, plays an English mercenary in the upcoming $150 million adventure fantasy about a Chinese army battling monsters, helmed by acclaimed Chinese director Zhang Yimou.

The movie's trailer sparked criticism in the U.S. that a white man had been chosen to play the lead in a film set in China meant to showcase Chinese culture. The furor came amid other accusations of a lack of diversity and opportunities for Asian actors in Hollywood.

Damon questioned whether the critical stories on online news sites based on "a 30-second teaser trailer" would have existed before the era of fake news and headlines designed to make people click on them.

"It suddenly becomes a story because people click on it, versus the traditional ways that a story would get vetted before it would get to that point," said the star of the "Bourne" franchise.

People fall for outrageous headlines, but "eventually you stop clicking on some of those more outrageous things because you just realize there is nothing to the story when you get to it," Damon said.

"The Great Wall" is the first movie made by Legendary East, the Chinese venture of Legendary Entertainment, a Hollywood studio now owned by Chinese real estate and theater chain developer Wanda Group. Other companies behind the movie include the state-owned China Film Group Corp.; Le Vision Pictures, a private film company affiliated with Chinese tech firm LeEco; and Hollywood's Universal Pictures.

Damon and Zhang told the AP that because of the demands of the story, Damon's role — a mercenary who comes to China to steal gunpowder — was always intended to be European.

Damon said he thought the criticism over his casting would subside "once people see that it's a monster movie and it's a historical fantasy and I didn't take a role away from a Chinese actor ... it wasn't altered because of me in any way."

The film is the first Sino-Hollywood co-production and first English-language film for Zhang, the director of the romantic Kung Fu drama "House of Flying Daggers" and the opulent opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It also stars Pedro Pascal of "Game of Thrones" as Damon's sword-wielding partner in crime, Willem Dafoe and Hong Kong's Andy Lau. Jing Tian plays the female lead warrior. Eddie Peng of the boxing drama "Unbeatable" and Lu Han, a former boy band sensation, also appear.

In the movie, China's Great Wall has been built to keep out menacing, otherworldly creatures. The use of monsters and a hero saving the world are very much Hollywood techniques.

Zhang told the AP that the script took Hollywood seven years to develop. "Although it was developed for commercial purposes, I felt there was room for me to play and put many elements of Chinese culture into it," he said.

Most Chinese co-productions with the West have been box-office flops, but producers hope "The Great Wall" can show that big-budget Sino-Hollywood co-productions can work.

Hollywood is eager to work with Chinese actors and producers to appeal to the Chinese cinema-going market, which is expected to outgrow the current No. 1 market, North America, within the next two or three years. The Chinese government has long sought to project cultural influence abroad and hopes that "The Great Wall" will be an international blockbuster.

"This kind of cooperation is not an end, but a start," Zhang said. "It is just like relations between countries; cooperation is always a good thing and confrontation is not."

The film debuts in Chinese cinemas on Dec. 16 followed by other countries, including the United States in February.

Box Office Top 20: 'Moana,' 'Fantastic Beasts' rule again

"Moana" and "Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them" continued to dominate the box office over the sleepy post-Thanksgiving weekend. In its second week in theaters, Disney's "Moana" scored the No. 1 spot again, bringing in $28.3 million and bumping its North American grosses to $119.8 million. In second place, Warner Bros.' Harry Potter spinoff "Fantastic Beasts" earned $18.1 million. In just three weeks in theaters, the film has earned $183.1 million.

The sci-fi pic "Arrival," meanwhile, continues to perform well after four weeks in theaters, adding $7.3 million to its total for a third-place finish.

"Allied" and "Doctor Strange" rounded out the top five with $7 million and $6.7 million, respectively, while new opener "Incarnate" debuted in ninth with a lower-than-expected $2.5 million.

The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release, as compiled Monday by comScore:

1. "Moana," Disney, $28,270,989, 3,875 locations, $7,296 average, $119,786,319, 2 weeks.

2. "Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them," Warner Bros., $18,118,111, 3,988 locations, $4,543 average, $183,080,514, 3 weeks.

3. "Arrival," Paramount, $7,267,029, 2,915 locations, $2,493 average, $73,045,543, 4 weeks.

4. "Allied," Paramount, $7,026,066, 3,160 locations, $2,223 average, $28,903,498, 2 weeks.

5. "Doctor Strange," Disney, $6,684,552, 2,935 locations, $2,278 average, $215,507,729, 5 weeks.

6. "Trolls," 20th Century Fox, $4,688,393, 3,156 locations, $1,486 average, $141,459,838, 5 weeks.

7. "Hacksaw Ridge," Lionsgate, $3,341,027, 2,494 locations, $1,340 average, $57,205,983, 5 weeks.

8. "Bad Santa 2," Broad Green Pictures, $3,286,338, 2,945 locations, $1,116 average, $14,287,381, 2 weeks.

9. "Incarnate," High Top Releasing, $2,534,884, 1,737 locations, $1,459 average, $2,534,884, 1 week.

10. "Almost Christmas," Universal, $2,532,050, 1,556 locations, $1,627 average, $38,179,200, 4 weeks.

11. "Manchester By The Sea," Roadside Attractions, $2,276,330, 156 locations, $14,592 average, $4,336,273, 3 weeks.

12. "The Edge Of Seventeen," STX Entertainment, $1,608,183, 1,608 locations, $1,000 average, $12,716,673, 3 weeks.

13. "Loving," Focus Features, $968,746, 446 locations, $2,172 average, $5,563,912, 5 weeks.

14. "Moonlight," A24, $845,817, 574 locations, $1,474 average, $9,826,173, 7 weeks.

15. "The Accountant," Warner Bros., $748,652, 608 locations, $1,231 average, $84,244,122, 8 weeks.

16. "Nocturnal Animals," Focus Features, $700,187, 127 locations, $5,513 average, $2,719,475, 3 weeks.

17. "Rules Don't Apply," 20th Century Fox, $543,058, 2,386 locations, $228 average, $3,310,713, 2 weeks.

18. "Believe," Freestyle Releasing, $477,387, 639 locations, $747 average, $477,387, 1 week.

19. "Bleed For This," Open Road, $295,675, 649 locations, $456 average, $4,847,865, 3 weeks.

20. "Jackie," Fox Searchlight, $278,715, 5 locations, $55,743 average, $278,715, 1 week.


Universal and Focus are owned by NBC Universal, a unit of Comcast Corp.; Sony, Columbia, Sony Screen Gems and Sony Pictures Classics are units of Sony Corp.; Paramount is owned by Viacom Inc.; Disney, Pixar and Marvel are owned by The Walt Disney Co.; Miramax is owned by Filmyard Holdings LLC; 20th Century Fox and Fox Searchlight are owned by 21st Century Fox; Warner Bros. and New Line are units of Time Warner Inc.; MGM is owned by a group of former creditors including Highland Capital, Anchorage Advisors and Carl Icahn; Lionsgate is owned by Lions Gate Entertainment Corp.; IFC is owned by AMC Networks Inc.; Rogue is owned by Relativity Media LLC.

Jessica Williams, Cate Blanchett star in Sundance premieres

Former "Daily Show" correspondent Jessica Williams flexes her dramatic chops, Cate Blanchett pays homage to great 20th century artists and "Silicon Valley" star Kumail Nanjiani tells a very personal story in some of the films premiering at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

Festival programmers announced their selections for the documentary and narrative premiere sections Monday, which has launched films like "Boyhood," ''Manchester by the Sea" and "O.J.: Made in America."

As with many years, the Sundance premiere slate can be a place for well-known comedians to take a stab at more dramatic and serious roles.

In what's expected to be one of the breakout films and performances of the festival, comedian Jessica Williams stars in Jim Strouse's "The Incredible Jessica James," about a New York playwright recovering from a breakup and finding solace in a recent divorcee.

Nanjiani is another who might surprise audiences in "The Big Sick," which he co-wrote with his wife Emily V. Gordon and is based on their own courtship. He stars alongside Zoe Kazan in the Michael Showalter-directed pic.

The Festival also has films featuring veteran stars in different kinds of roles. Shirley MacLaine stars in "The Last Word," about a retired businesswoman who strikes up an unlikely friendship with a journalist (Amanda Seyfried) after writing her own obituary. Festival founder Robert Redford, too, is in Charlie McDowell's "The Discovery," about a world where the afterlife has been proven. Jason Segel and Rooney Mara also star.

Cate Blanchett re-enacts artistic statements of Dadaists, Lars von Trier and everyone in between in "Manifesto"; Michelle Pfeiffer and Kiefer Sutherland co-star in the drama "Where is Kyra"; and "Avengers" Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen re-team in the FBI crime thriller "Wind River," the directorial debut of "Hell or High Water" writer Taylor Sheridan.

"Bessie" director Dee Rees is also poised to be a standout with "Mudbound," a racial drama set in the post-WWII South and starring Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Jason Mitchell and Mary J. Blige.

"It's quite topical to this time even though it's a period piece," said Festival Director John Cooper.

Among the documentaries premiering are a look at the Oklahoma City bombing from Barak Goodman; Stanley Nelson's examination of black colleges and universities, "Tell Them We Are Rising"; and Barbara Kopple's account of a champion diver who announces he is transgender, "This Is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous."

"The beauty of independent film is it's not a copycat world, unlike some of the Hollywood stuff where they follow trends," said Programming Director Trevor Groth. "Independent film has always been about originality and choice and something different."

The 2017 Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan. 19 through Jan. 29.


This story corrects movie title to "The Big Sick."



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