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Paolo Sorrentino on 'The Great Beauty'

Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty won Best Foreign Film at this year's Academy Awards. The luscious and breathtaking film set in Rome has lauded praise from critics and audiences alike, Spling checked in with Paolo to find out about his film, which is now showing at independent and commercial cinemas in South Africa.

Paolo Sorrentino on The Great Beauty InterviewDid you expect The Great Beauty would be such a success?

All the rave reviews it got were a surprise. All I tried to do, to the best of my abilities, was make the film I had in my head. Everything that happened after, the acclaim and its fallout internationally as well, really went beyond anything I could have imagined.

The cinematography of Rome is glorious... were there any locations you would have liked to shoot?

I had the chance to shoot there where I wanted, in the places I’d imagined being able to describe.

The Great Beauty presents a number of paradoxes relating to Rome, how has your film been received in Italy?

In Italy the film was controversial from its first showing at Cannes and that went on up to the Oscar.

You chose to shoot on 35mm, what’s your take on digital?

When I was filming The Great Beauty I knew it would have been my last film in 35mm. And, in fact, that’s how things have panned out.

You’ve directed Toni Servillo in a number of films, do you see yourself in him?

Toni and I have known each other for many years. Our friendship and sense of complicity, his total dedication which, though, never get in the way of his desire to have a good time and do the thing together, passionately, as if on an adventure, means Toni is my ideal interlocutor to deal with the arduous struggle that a film represents. Not to mention, naturally, his inexhaustible capacities as an actor, which are always unforeseeable and unexpected to my eyes.

Which scene in The Great Beauty is your favourite?

I'd say that one moment of the film I feel is essential is when the missionary who's going to be canonized says, “You don't talk about poverty, you live it”. For Jep that moment marks the possibility of being able to pick up the thread of his life again.

Your film’s been compared to Fellini’s La Dolce Vita, what aspect of your cinema would you like to be remembered for?

As I've said before, I consider La Dolce Vita a masterpiece while The Great Beauty is only a film. It's hard to say what will remain of your work. I always hope that my films manage to move people.

Tell us about the writing process... where do you write and what inspires you?

I write at home, in my study. The creative process usually begins with the identification of a character. I start taking lots of notes, about all sorts of things, about things I see and what happens to me as well. I gather all this together and when the material starts to become really substantial, I start creating rhymes, assonance, connections. I define my story as I go along. The next phase is writing the screenplay.

You tend to write and direct... if you had a choice, which screenwriter(s) would you like to work with in the future?

It's not easy for me to think of writing with another screenwriter. I did it with Umberto Contarello for This Must Be The Place and for The Great Beauty. I started writing with Umberto when I was very young, when he was already a successful writer for the cinema and I was just aspiring screenwriter very much learning the ropes.

Ours has been a simple and happy relationship, thanks in part to the method that we used. Basically, this method consists of a first phase of chatting, where we concentrate on general suggestions, the points of interest, the tones. We go for very long lunches during which we talk about the film and often wander off in other directions. Then I write a first draft of the screenplay, Umberto does the second and so on like that, in a long work of ping-pong that goes on right up to the last possible moment, that is, the day before shooting starts.

Was it easy to readjust after shooting This Must Be the Place?

After two wonderful years of travelling between Europe and the United States to make This Must Be the Place, I really felt the need to stop moving. I wanted to maintain my idle lifestyle with a job that allowed me to go home every evening; but in reality La grande bellezza was an exhausting film, despite being a passionate experience.

Top Ten Movies with... Hakeem Kae-Kazim

Hakeem Kae-Kazim is a truly gifted British-Nigerian actor best known for his roles as George Rutuganda in Hotel Rwanda and as Colonel Ike Dubaku in Season 7 of 24. His mother, an accountant, and his father, a civil engineer, moved to study in the UK when he was 1. Hakeem was classically trained in the UK at the highly regarded Bristol Old Vic and was invited to join the Royal Shakespeare Company shortly after graduation.

After many glowing reviews and sharing the stage with the likes of Brian Cox and Sir Ian McKellan at the National Theatre, he made a transition to television with several noteworthy leading roles, including Julius Caesar for the BBC. Kae-Kazim moved to South Africa, where he developed a big following as a celebrity actor, appearing in a number of TV shows and feature films before catching Hollywood's attention with his riveting performance in Hotel Rwanda.

After landing in Los Angeles, he was cast as a pirate lord in the box office blockbuster, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. He followed this up with roles in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Fourth Kind, Attack on Darfur and recurring parts in Lost and then Season 7 of 24, as well as the series prequel film, Redemption. More recently, he's played to critical acclaim in Man on Ground, featured in Human Target, NCIS: Los Angeles and Criminal Minds before landing the role of Mr. Scott in Michael Bay's series, Black Sails.

Hakeem's impressive list of film and TV credits extends to video game voice work for Halo, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 and Medal of Honor: Warfighter. Kae-Kazim is an international actor in high demand and while you know his face, his Top Ten Movies interview will give you a chance to discover a little bit more about the man behind the mask.

"...I would most probably choose me to play me!"

I can't watch movies without...

- As obvious as it is, I would say popcorn! Oh and my glasses!

Which famous people share your birthday?

- I believe I share my birthday with Julie Andrews, Zach Galifianakis and Jimmy Carter! (1 October)

What is the first film you remember watching?

- I think I remember watching In the Heat of the Night and Sir with Love both starring Sidney Poitier.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- Probably one I was in actually – but I won't mention which one!

Which movies have made you tearful?

- ...

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- Probably Johnny Depp.

What's your favourite movie line?

- I absolutely love the quote...

“I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die." – Blade Runner

And the other one has to be:

"They Call me Mr. Tibbs" - In the Heat of the Night

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- Well ultimately I would most probably choose me to play me! Either myself or Idris Elba... and if Idris isn't available, Chad Law!

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- If I were to produce a movie, it would be about a great African hero of some sort.

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

- Wings of Desire ...written by Wim Wenders. I found the imagery and story of angels coming to earth was very powerful.

- The Lives of Others ...written and directed by Florian Henckel von Donnersmack. I found the exploration of characters living under an oppressive system was done extremely well, as such characters often limit the actors ability to be creative.

- In the Heat of the Night ...directed by Norman Jewison. As you know one of my favourite quotes comes from this film, but ultimately it's a powerful story where an African-American was able to take his place as a man in America.

- Oldboy ...directed by Chan-Wook Park. I really enjoyed watching this film; the complex and darkness explored was fantastic, it was about revenge but done in the most thoughtful and patient way.

- Nine Iron ...I loved the long silences. This film had a visual power to it that was so strong it filled the silences spectacularly!

- The Dark Knight ...the reboot of batman franchise starring Christopher Bale. I loved the performances, especially Heath Ledger. I just loved the new take on it, it had a real darkness to it.

- Once Upon A Time ...visually, this was a real treat. The exploration between the imagery and the soundtrack and the way the two married and connected was wonderful.

- Petty Blue ...this French film is a powerful exploration of love and insanity.

- Earth, Water, Fire, Air ...it's just a beautiful film!

- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes ...directed by Matt Reeves. This is a visual CGI masterpiece and there were some fantastic performances by the actors involved too!

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

Top Ten Movies with... Anel Alexander

Anel Alexander is an award-winning South African actress and producer, whose range and series of nuanced performances aren't just turning heads, but making her a respected and highly sought-after talent.

Anel started her professional career while studying Drama at the University of Pretoria, appearing in a number of musicals including: The Witness, Jesu - An African Portrait and Blondes, before being snapped up to play Liesl in local TV drama, 7de LaanWhile Alexander has a love for theatre and musicals, she's most passionate about film, a medium that she's conquering both on-screen as an actress and behind-the-scenes with her production company.

She co-starred in Discreet, a stage-to-film adaptation, played the leading lady in the "romcom" box office sensation Semi-Soet, recently won a kykNET Silverskermfees award for her supporting role in Faan se Trein and is set to star in and produce Sink. Alexander's company, Scramble Productions, is gearing up to go into production for this hard-hitting drama about a Mozambican maid working in Johannesburg, who is forced to make a life-changing decision after her daughter drowns.

While she's at the forefront of the South African film industry, Anel makes a point of finding a balance between work and play. We caught up with the talented actress and producer to get her Top Ten Movies interview...

"In my next life I will be a Broadway musical theatre star."

I can't watch movies without...

- At home I can't watch movies without my hunky husband, actor James Alexander, my 2 doggies Jozi and Oscar... yes, we called our dog Oscar so that we could tell our friends we have an Oscar, and a fluffy blanket. But when I go to the cinema it's all about the popcorn!

Which famous people share your birthday?

- After Googling famous birthdays on 26 November, the only name I recognized was Tina Turner. So apparently not many famous people were born on the 26th of November, or I'm just not smart or cool enough to recognize their names. Oh, and Charles M. Schultz, the guy that created Peanuts. That’s worth a mention.

What is the first film you remember watching?

- The first film I remember watching was Bambi. Actually, I don’t really remember watching the film but I do remember being profoundly profoundly upset about the fact that Bambi's mother died.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- It is a local movie and since I hope to have a long and prosperous career as an actress and a producer in the SA film industry, I would rather not mention any names...

Which movies have made you tearful?

- The first movie I remember crying in was Steel Magnolias. But after that, my top tearjerker is definitely Hachiko. If you are a dog person, you will get it. That movie broke me for days. I remember being at the gym the next day and just starting to bawl. I don't even cry in front of people I know! Had to SMS a fellow dog lover to get some sympathy. To this day when I see it on DSTV, I immediately have to change the channel!

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- Definitely James Alexander. He has acted with Claire Danes, Benedict Cumberbatch, Charles Dance, Andrew Lincoln to name a few. So by association I would like to believe that I've "met" all those movie stars.

What's your favourite movie line?

- "Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you gonna get." – Forrest Gump

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- I shot a chip commercial in Germany a few years ago and the whole week the Austrian make-up artist and the Italian wardrobe guy would tell me how much I looked like "Carly Saron". So they kept calling me "Carly Saron" all the time. Later in the week I figured out that they were actually saying "Charlize Theron", so I guess I would get old Charlize to play me.

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- It would be about a prostitute and a conservative young man talking about love, life and faith and honesty and... wait, I've made that one. Uhm, it would be a fun "romcom" about a girl hiring a fake fiancé to save her job... also been there done that. Can't say too much about our third that's going into pre-production soon, but the dream film I want to produce one day: An Afrikaans magic realism film. Think Amelie but shot in the Karoo or some arb town like Koffiefontein with people speaking the 'taal'.

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

Movies are my happy place and I love too many movies to choose just 10, so I've tried to categorize them to make choosing a bit easier.

- Life is Beautiful (Foreign Film) ...I do what I do because I believe in the power of the medium of media, whether that be movies, theatre, magazines, radio or whatever. I believe in the power that media has to reach people, to challenge audiences and to spread and change ideologies. I have always had a desire to use that power for good, and that is exactly what a film like Life is Beautiful did. The message is profound, the acting and execution exquisite and no person with a heart that has seen that movie was left untouched.

- Amelie (Magic Realism) ...I love the genre, the quirkiness and the language. I think it was the first time I was fully exposed to magical realism and I was hooked from the first frame. I knew that one day I wanted to make something like THAT!

- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Genre-defying) ...I remember watching this film and being so inspired by the possibilities that the medium of film opened up. The magic of making movies lies in the "what if" and this film used that device in such a poignant way.

- Sound of Music (Classic Film) ...is probably the film I have seen the most in my life. I want to say hundreds of times, but my husband always says I exaggerate, so let's just say as kids we watched it until the tape was stretched. I absolutely love musicals! In my next life I will be a Broadway musical theatre star. Sound of Music is the perfect, classical musical and therefore the perfect classic film.

- August: Osage County (Adaptation) ...I have not been so completely absorbed by a film in a long time as I was with this. The script, the casting, the performances, every element of this film was carefully crafted. The ensemble was so powerful it left me dazed for days afterwards. It reminded me of why I became an actress. And then of course the fact that it was mainly a female ensemble makes it extra cool in my books. I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about Hollywood (and South Africa) being male dominated: male writers that write for male actors living in a male world... My mom’s a psychologist. I’m ok now.

- Chicago (Musical) ...notice the musical theme coming through? I literally belt out every single song when watching this. I want to be Velma or Roxy or even the girl third from the left so badly! The production design and costumes and just the way the musical was adapted for screen was brilliant. I've seen the musical on Broadway and in South Africa, and the film version does the stage show absolute justice and more.

- 21 Grams (Drama-Thriller) ...James and I went to visit a friend in LA that was studying at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. It was Oscar season and the students got to attend lectures by the 5 directors nominated for Best Directing. We were fortunate enough to hear Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu speak about 21 Grams in person. By the time we eventually got to see the film, I was just blown away.

- Semi-Soet & Discreet (Local) ...these are my babies and any mother would be wrong if she didn't list them as her 'favourites'. Discreet was made at a time when nobody was really making films independently and it was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do... until we made Semi-Soet! But I’m incredibly proud of what both films achieved in the local film industry, raising the bar and moving boundaries for young, new film-makers to come.

- The Incredibles, Despicable Me, Finding Nemo (Animation) ...I'm a sucker for animation, the humor and life lessons that get portrayed to young and old through this timeless medium... just gets me every time.

- The Shawshank Redemption (Drama) ...enough said.

- La Vie En Rose ...and because I'm a girl I insist on having a freebie! Marion Cotillard's performance in this film has to be one of the most worthy Oscar-winning Best Actress awards ever!

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

Top Ten Movies with... Larry Soffer

Larry Soffer Magician

Larry Soffer is a breathtakingly brilliant Cape Town-born mentalist, who pursued his childhood dream of becoming a magician when he enrolled at the College of Magic at the age of 13. He was inspired by the charisma and showmanship of David Copperfield, graduating with top honours, earning a Silver Medallion after four years of studying the art of magic.

The young magician continued to work hard, performing at corporate and private events, sharpening his skills and picking up a number of national and international accolades in the process. Vegas magicians, Siegfried and Roy, were so impressed with Soffer that they awarded him The SARMOTI (Siegfried and Roy Masters of the Impossible), a bursary for his final year at the College of Magic in Cape Town.

Larry focussed his energy on mentalism or magic of the mind, which includes mind-reading, metal bending and telekinesis. This enabled him to bend spoons and forks, fix broken watches and even make light bulbs burst across television and radio. He's traveled far and wide, entertaining notable celebrities such as: Beyoncé and Jay-Z, the Prince of Saudi Arabia, Prince Harry, Michael Johnson, Andie MacDowell, Ruby Wax, Mike and the Mechanics and Vinnie Jones.

In 2006, he performed at, and was inducted into the World Famous Magic Castle in Hollywood, a club with some of the most prestigious magicians of the world as its members, making him the only South African member to join this elite group. Other career highlights include: making the Voortrekker Monument disappear, working with the magical advisor and creator of Copperfield's best illusions and taking Uri Geller's achievements a step further by making light bulbs burst and TVs switch on via radio and telephone lines.

Having personally witnessed his magic up close and personal, with the bent coin and twisted spoon to prove it, Spling can attest to Soffer's spectacular mentalism as awe-inspiring and gob-smacking. As they say, seeing is believing, but in his own words... Larry wants people to believe to see. Cinema and magic have many parallels when it comes to illusion, which is why we thought it was essential we bring you Larry's Top Ten Movies.

You can catch him at Cafe Roux on 27 August, 2014 and at Sea Point Primary on 30 August. Visit larrysoffer.com for more information and be sure to watch Larry in action in the video below.

"I even remember singing to the moon as a little boy..."

I can't watch movies without...

- ...popcorn, and I don't mean the microwave kind, the kind you make with kernels. I am kind of an expert by now.

Which famous people share your birthday?

- I have to be honest, I had to Google that, but I was quite disappointed to find out that there weren't more well known celebrities that share their birthday with me. The best one was Katy Perry. Oh, and Pablo Picasso.

What is the first film you remember watching?

- I think it was E.T., I'm not sure if that was the first movie I ever watched but it was definitely the first one that made an impression on me. The reason being that I thought it was so realistic and above that, a really touching story. I have always been fascinated by the possibility of life beyond this planet. I even remember singing to the moon as a little boy.

What's the worst movie you've ever seen?

- I think we all will remember this one. This movie freaked us all out as children; so much so that I had to shower with my legs spread far apart so that he couldn’t come through the drain and get me. I think you know which one I am talking about. Yes, IT, another good old '80s favourite.

What movies have made you tearful?

- Where do I start?! I tear up so quickly it's embarrassing. Just call me a softy but anything with an inspirational message and an emotional story line gets me balling my eyes out. If I had to name a few I would have to go with, Cinderella Man, Real Steel, We Bought a Zoo and Avatar.

Who is the most famous movie star you've ever met?

- Does Beyonce count? I performed for her and JZ at their private party when they visited Cape Town. I have also performed for Luke Perry from Beverly Hills 90210, Bryan Brian from the movie Cocktail, as well as Vinnie Jones from Gone in 60 Seconds.

What's your favourite movie line?

- "All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. Just literally 20 seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it." ~ We Bought a Zoo

Who would you choose to play you in your biopic?

- Tom Cruise! Definitely! I just think he's such a great actor and people say that I look like him. Don't you agree?

If you could produce a movie, what would it be about?

- That one is way too easy. It will be about magic.

Larry Soffer - Top Ten Movies

Finally, your top ten movies of all-time...

- Man of Steel ...I love Superman’s strength and his courage to do what is right even when he is betrayed by the people he helps. He has the strength to see past their shortcomings and still care for them.

- Transformers ...these massive beings in steel bodies have the heart of a human and so much care. They are colossal and powerful and even then they welcome and need the help of a little guy with lots of heart, who lacks fear in time of pressure.

- The Matrix ...I love the idea of this world being able to be decoded and the secrets being revealed if we could really see what is in front of us. This movie has great messages about how the answers to life are not in what we see but what is inside of us.

- The Avengers ...the movie is about hope, courage and being in the spirit of play whilst fighting the most intense battles. As superheroes they don't take life seriously even when the going gets tough.

- Avatar ...money and greed are seen to be the driving factors of destruction in our world and on the planet these people traveled to. Yet, one man can make a change for the better and save the goodness that exists within all of us and on this planet. In our history it has been single men and woman with great ideals and purpose to make a better world that have made the greatest changes, and this movie reminds us how we too can change the world if we are willing to find the courage within.

- A Knight's Tale ...I love this movie because it's a love story with action where a young boy named William, played by Heath Ledger, believes that the impossible is possible and that he can "Change his stars". He becomes a knight against opposition of the law, he rises to heights that no commoner ever managed and changes his stars.

- Hook ...the great thing about this movie is that Peter Panning has become a person who is a product of the world we live in. He has lost touch with the boy inside (Peter Pan) and has become cynical. He's forced to look at himself due to the threat of losing his family, he finally finds that boy inside and starts to believe in magic again giving him the freedom to be in control of life.

- Liar Liar ...this is a great comedy filled with laughter. It made me laugh over and over again and I love the strong message that comes through about how it's important to keep your word once given.

- Gladiator ...I love Gladiator because it's a movie about inner strength, courage and persistence. No matter what comes our way we have the strength to fight back and change our circumstances. In the movie he also had a purpose... righting the wrong done to him and his family... and that purpose drove him to be able to be triumphant!

- Bruce Almighty ...everyone would like more power and ability to control one's life and this movie gives the message that all the power you need exists within you right now, you just have to be willing to "be the change" you want to see in the world.

Top Ten Movies with... is a people series on SPL!NG, featuring a host of celebrities ranging from up-and-coming to established personalities from all industries including, but not limited to: Internet, Radio, TV, Film, Music, Art and Entrepreneurs. It's a chance to discover who they are, find out where they're at and to get a fun inside look at their taste in movies.

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