The Italian Job Press Conference

It’s always questionable just what the paying cinemagoer can glean from the Press conference. Designed as a neatly packaged way to bring the talent closer to the drooling press pack, it’s a short, controlled burst of Hollywood glamour that is over all too soon, or not soon enough depending on your point of view (and busy daytime schedule). What you will invariably learn is that the usual journalistic suspects lap up a free lunch, the stars always keep you waiting and that most entertainment reporters approach these sort of junkets with anything but enthusiasm.

But rest assured Future Movies is wide-eyed and indiscriminate in these situations and always willing to make time for the stars, especially when they are as radiant as Charlize Theron and as… well… um… present as Mark Wahlberg! The two lead actors of The Italian Job sat down in front of a wall of photographers and cameramen in one of Claridges’ stately conference rooms to tackle the country’s media and all its barefaced cheek. We sneaked in at the back to bring you the best bits.

Chairman: It has been reported, Charlize, that of all the member of the cast you were the best when it came to getting behind a steering wheel and driving a fast car, much to the chagrin of the gentlemen sitting beside you (gestures to Mark Wahlberg) and the other male members of the cast. True or False?

Charlize Theron: I think maybe you should ask Mark?

Chairman: No, he’ll give a really masculine answer.

CT: No, he won’t. This is what I love about Mark, he’s very honest. You’re honest right Mark?

Mark Wahlberg: Charlize had eight stunt doubles!

CT: Hahahahahahahaha!

MW: No, she was certainly the most gung-ho of all the cast members to get behind the wheel and she had some of the more challenging stunts to do, especially the sequence in the garage where we are preparing to do the first heist in Los Angeles that goes awry. She was definitely the daredevil of the group. But I am challenging her right now to a race.

CT: I heard that one of the journalists suggested to us that we race each other. But why volunteer for a race when you know you’d have to keep stopping to throw up, and I would win no matter what?

MW: I only get carsick when I am in the passenger seat, and when its 120 degrees and I just had a Subway sandwich for lunch. That’s why I got sick.

CT: That’s always the excuse isn’t it Mark?

Chairman: Can I ask you Charlize, about your prior knowledge of the original movie with Sir Michael Caine. It’s well recorded that Mark and the other American members of the cast had virtually no idea about it, but since you don’t come from the United States I thought that you might have an inkling about the first movie?

CT: Since my country is in the Commonwealth? I didn’t know about it, I wish I could say I did. When I was growing up in South Africa we were so behind in movies, so I discovered the original with the rest of the guys really.

Chairman: Mark, when was it that you saw the original?

MW: Probably about thirty minutes after I put down the script, I had to see it immediately. I have been crowned the king of remakes because have done Planet of the Apes and The Truth about Charlie, so the last thing I wanted to do was to go down that street again but the script was great; Gary wanted to pay homage to the original but to also do something very different and the opportunity of doing that sort of role and the rest of talent that cast would attract would make for a really good movie.

Question: Congratulations on your recent parenthood. How is that going to affect your selection of certain roles?

MW: Yeah, there’ll definitely be no more Boogie Nights, or anything like that. People say that you can tell your kids that it’s only a movie but when kids are going through high school it’s really tough. It’s something I will definitely have to take into consideration and maybe I’ll be able to sneak a kid’s movie in here or there.

Question: Mark, did you appreciate the challenge of playing a character that has to rely on his charm to get by. Was this something of a departure for you?

MW: I did. I have played likeable characters before but here I was never asked to smile or wink a little bit here and there and to really play it up, which was a little scary for me because I see a lot of people do that, a lot of actors survive on that and to me you have to walk that fine line of not chewing up the scenery.
It was a challenge, and it was in the back of my mind because if the audience ended up not liking our group the movie just wouldn’t work.

Question: You must have spent enough time with George Clooney to understand how to be likeable on camera?

MW: How to chew up the scenery!? Yeah. When you’re that good looking you’ll always manage to get by.

Question: How did you feel when you found out that Michael Caine was not going to be involved in the remake?

MW: Obviously I was disappointed. Donald Sutherland is someone I grew up idolising, but it would have been nice to have Michael take part, unfortunately he was committed to something else at the time.

Question: I was wondering if Donald Sutherland regaled you with stories of Venice in the old days, in light of his working on Don’t Look Now?

MW: He did. Donald is an amazing guy, he’s not one of these older actors who forces you to sit down and listen to his stories, Donald is someone who’s brain I would pick all the time. We have a very similar approach to the work: it’s not about him, it’s about the story and the scene and working with your fellow actors. Some of Donald’s stories were amazing, some of which he’d probably not want me to repeat. When we got comfortable with each other he gave me some of the dirt.

Chairman: Charlize, I would imagine you had to bond with Donald Sutherland through your character (she played Sutherland’s daughter in the movie)?

CT: I didn’t actually get to meet him. I had the phone call scene with him and I didn’t really expect to have him on the other line and they passed the phone and he was on the line. He was in Romania doing Cold Mountain (forthcoming American Civil War Epic) and he basically cleared out his entire day just to be there with me on the phone, which I thought was incredible.

MW: He insisted on being the dead body floating in the water (during his death scene) and obviously he could have got very sick in those temperatures. And he even insisted on being off camera for me while I was there. He would constantly get in the water and do his work off camera and he never wanted any doubles to replace him in any of the shots, he wanted to do everything on his own, which was pretty amazing. Because when they asked me to do something for him off-camera I was always in my trailer or on my way home!

Chairman: Charlize, you acted the telephone call, but did you expect that when you went to work that day you would be talking into a vacuum, or did you expect someone there to give you some kind of support on the other end of the line?

CT: Well you usually have the script supervisor, but I have been very fortunate in the past because I have always worked with actors who have been willing to be there, but in this case it was a little different because Donald wasn’t on the movie every day. I knew he was busy making another film and so I didn’t expect him to do what he did. I think very few actors would do that, and I was very impressed by that. I finally got to meet him in Venice and I just remember him coming up to me and wrapping his arms around me and hugging me like a daughter and I was thinking: It doesn’t get any better than this!

MW: He told me he wanted to play her love interest, not her father!

Chairman: Now that we can believe!

Question: It says here in the production notes, quoting Seth Green, that it was great ensemble piece and that you had a wild time making it. I was just wondering how wild, and did Gary Gray (the director) have a problem keeping all of you in order?

MW: I think a wild night for Seth is backgammon and a large, tall glass of milk. He’s not a wild one. No, we all spent a lot of time together and hang out in between set-ups and stuff, and we really enjoyed each other’s company.

CT: I played a lot of backgammon with that man. I won a lot of money!

Question: Do you find that you slip into the same sort of relationships that your characters have very easily, or were there contrasts sometimes? Mark, were you the natural leader of the group?

MW: No, I was never the leader. My character was the job planner but everybody was the ideal guy for his/her particular role on screen and within the crew. If I ever felt that I had to pull something together I would, but generally everybody had their jobs to do and they were all of equal importance.

CT: except for when you ordered us around?

MW: Well I would, you know. Especially if my name was on top of the call sheet, I would try and pull a couple of power blows… but nothing major.

Question: You said that you both watched the original film, what did you make of it?

MW: I loved it. The first thing I did was sent it to my dad because he and I thought that we had already seen every cool heist movie and caper film ever made, so it was great for me to turn him on to that. I think what was done with the script on our movie was great because real die-hard fans of the original would respond in a positive way and would really appreciate that we took what we loved about the original but came up with our own story.

CT:I loved it. I absolutely loved it. I can’t remember ever seeing an ending like that; to me it was one of the great classic film endings. As Mark just said when we read the script we realised that there was a nice balance between not even trying to touch the brilliant lines in the original and paying more attention to the things that might not have worked so well and ironing that out. I liked the fact that we didn’t try and outdo the ending. That’s why I love the term homage, because we all realised why that movie was so loved, and so respected and we just wanted to pay tribute to that.

Question: It is of course a classic British film, so have you found the reaction when you come over here to be much different?

CT: Sure. Definitely.

MW: Yeah, die-hard fans are certainly sceptical, but I have worked with a number of British actors who’s opinions I respect and I feel that having shown them the film and gaining their approval I have satisfied the toughest critics.
And of course, now that our film has been such a success in America people have become aware that there was an original, and it’s now taking on a life of its own there, which is great.

Question: Mark, I was wondering if you received any advice from Michael Caine about the role?

MW: I didn’t. I never spoke to him. I would love to know if he saw the movie and if he liked it. Seth Green was working on a movie with him and he was well aware that we were remaking the movie and that I was starring in it and Seth said that he very much approved but I don’t know if he’s seen it yet or not.

Question: Mark, you mentioned that you are heavily associated with remakes. Were you surprised at the reaction to Planet of the Apes and if you were to go back to the movie what would you change about it?

MW: well, I’d probably put human beings in it instead of gorillas just because I’m not a huge fan of science fiction and anything that isn’t reality-based I really have a hard time committing to 110%, but it was a dream of mine to work with Tim Burton. I would do it again, I would do anything Tim Burton asked me to do. In terms of how it was received I guess it was mixed, some people like it, some didn’t. It made 2000 million dollars in the States and they said that they wanted to do another one and I said that I would do it if Tim was involved and Tim said he would rather jump out of a window, so I guess I would rather follow Tim out of the window. But you never know, we’ll see what happens.

Question: Charlize, There was a lot of testosterone on the set with all the driving etc, how did you deal with that?

MW: She’s got the most, I’m telling you. Everything she’s bragging about was true, me throwing up in the car and her being a better driver.

CT: I wasn’t bragging I was just stating a fact. I think the great thing was from day one we were all thrown into a room and everybody had a strong personality and, thank god, everybody had a great sense of humour. At first Gary tried to keep the guys away from me but I began to feel very left out, especially after they all performed a heist and stole some things from the Paramount studio lot. After that I said: you know what the next time there’s a heist going down I better be involved otherwise I’ll be doing the busting, and from then on it was fine.

Chairman: Does that suggest that as a young girl you were something of a tomboy?

CT: I was very 50-50. I grew up on the farm and I raced a lot of go-karts and dirt bikes. But at the same time I discovered ballet when I was four years old so there was the princess in there as well. So it was never just one thing.

Question: It strikes me as the sort of film that has franchise potential. Have you thought about doing a sequel?

MW: It’s been talked about, and I think we’d all be interested if the material was as good as this one. We all had a blast and we all love and respect each other and we’d certainly like to work together again. It’s just a case of coming up with a great story-

CT: And great locations.

MW: Yes, Brazil?

CT: The Bahamas job?

CT: Basically anywhere nice.

Question: Charlize, would you ever consider going back to South Africa to make a film?

CT: I’d love to. I don’t just want to go to do a movie there just for the sake of it. It’s hard because a lot of movies being made about South Africa right now are so stuck in our politics and what the country’s gone through in the last 15 years. I am very keen on the idea of doing something that can speak for the people there now. If the right thing came my way, or if I could develop it myself I would love to go ahead.

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