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The Star Online: Entertainment: Movies

Documentary to tell story of world's loneliest whale

Posted: 21 May 2014 10:50 PM PDT

Subject has never been seen; identified only by its call.

52, a documentary on the whale known as the world's loneliest due to its highly unusual 52-hertz call, has found a production company and financial backing.

Joshua Zeman, the director of 52, had his work cut out for him when attempting to convince producers to get behind the project. The documentary certainly poses a challenge, as its subject is a whale that has never been seen and is identified only by its call. Even the species of the animal in question is unknown; it could be a fin whale, a blue whale, or a cross between two different species.

In Cannes, Worldview Entertainment recently came on board to finance and produce the feature, which will enter production this fall with a seven-week Pacific Ocean expedition in search of the mysterious beast.

Although the lonely whale has never been seen, the NOAA has followed its migrations since the Navy first identified its unique signal over two decades ago. At 52 hertz, the whale's call is much higher than those of any other known whale species, according to the site Futura-Sciences. As a result, the animal's calls go unanswered, making it unusually solitary.

The feature will be Worldview Entertainment's second documentary after The Square, which was nominated for an Oscar this year. The studio recently produced The Search, Michel Hazanavicius's latest film, which is currently in competition at the 67th Cannes Film Festival.

The species of the so-called "world's loneliest whale" has never been identified, although its migration patterns most resemble those of the blue whale or a fin whale. – AFP Relaxnews

The migration patterns of the unidentified 'world's loneliest whale' resembles those of blue whale pictured here. – AFP

Nicole Kidman is one drama queen

Posted: 21 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The Aussie actress gets to the very soul of adventure.

It's too easy to start with the face or what she wears, how she sits. The colour of her earrings. The essence is in the vowels, the way she holds and releases them. The voice drops a register, as if in a conspiracy, and a morning conversation drifts across art, ambition, age and riding camels in the desert.

Many roles come to mind when Nicole Kidman speaks: inconsolable mother, suicidal writer, dangerous weather girl, nuclear scientist, gangster lover, top-hatted cabaret singer and Southern femme fatale with an unorthodox remedy for jellyfish stings. They are all there, unapologetic, in tones of tenacity and risk that have defined her career. One senses she is the kind who would either win big or lose it all at the track.

"I'm going to make choices. I'm going to live and die on them. I'll take the flak. I'll take the hits. I'll take the accolades," said Kidman, who won the Academy Award for lead actress for her rendering of Virginia Woolf in The Hours.

"I'll take whatever comes with it, but ultimately I'm on an exploration. I want to excite myself."

Her latest role – as the dutiful wife of a psychologically scarred former prisoner of war – is not adorned in eccentricities; it is more steady flame than fireworks. It does not flaunt the diamonds and intrigue in her upcoming portrayals of Princess Grace Kelly and Gertrude Bell, a spy and explorer who trekked the deserts of the Middle East.

Her depiction of Patti Lomax in The Railway Man is a quiet portrait of a woman fighting for her husband's sanity. "I'm usually larger than life and this is real life," said Kidman.

"I think Baz (Luhrmann) said once, 'You're never going to be cast as the girl next door,' and I'm, like, sometimes I'd love to be cast as the girl next door. I really see Patti as the girl next door."

The film is based on the autobiography of Eric Lomax, a Scot in the British army who was tortured by the Japanese during World War II. It is a tale of atrocity, memory and how two broken men – Lomax and his tormentor – are healed decades later in an unanticipated act of forgiveness. Kidman's part is small, poignant and distinctive.

Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky, the film is one of a number in recent years, including the upcoming Unbroken, the story of American G.I. Louis Zamperini, to examine World War II and Japanese prison camps.

Kidman said many old veterans "are carrying around huge burdens" and young soldiers returning today from Iraq and Afghanistan are "deeply traumatised ... it's devastating."

Kidman is a busy actress and a prodigious researcher, sifting through the layers of characters, such as Martha Gellhorn, the war correspondent in the HBO movie Hemingway & Gellhorn, and Grace Kelly, movie star and royalty in Grace Of Monaco.

She is discriminating, and when she speaks of larger-than-life roles her Australian vowels flatten and harden with intensity. She equates Australians with Texans – independent, spirited, inured to harsh terrains and vast expanses.

"I try to be right in there, and that allows me the emotional well with an enormous amount of experience now," said Kidman, 46.

"I don't have to struggle to find things, which is a great place to be as an actress. It's just I then have to be careful what I choose, where I choose to place it and whose hands I put it in. At this stage, I don't want to waste my time because it's so precious. I want to work with people who want to delve deeply. I'm not interested in lightweight stuff."

Kidman sat recently in a small ballroom in a Beverly Hills hotel. She was happy to promote her film but professed a sharp distaste for marketing research: "C'mon," she said, "how are you going to break new ground or find new things if you're being ruled ... by opinions and surveys."

Studios, directors and producers who back her are promised: "I'll always be on time and I won't waste your money."

Such sentiment sent her to Morocco and along the Algeria border, where she recently camped and rode camels while filming Queen Of The Desert, Werner Herzog's biopic about Gertrude Bell, a British archaeologist and explorer instrumental in mapping modern-day Jordan and Iraq.

"It was thrilling to play a woman in 1915 heading off into the desert. She did what Lawrence of Arabia did, in a different way," said Kidman, who is expected to have at least four films out this year.

"To be in her skin has given me incredible desire and boldness right now ... and nobody knows about her, which infuriates me."

She leaned back. It appeared she needed another adventurous role – quickly – before the mystique of Gertrude Bell faded.

"Keep finding the stories and telling them," said Kidman, who lives in Nashville with her two daughters and husband Keith Urban. "I still don't think the great War And Peace (movie) has been made."

Footsteps echoed down a hall past a scent of cut flowers.

She spoke of Woolf's genius and the psychological interiors of her novels. They were insistent to find something new. Kidman said, "I love in the most dangerous way I can" and that life, as we go on, gets tougher; parents age, friends are lost, unforeseen accumulations reveal frailties. "All those things swirling around you." Hemingway – Gellhorn was his third wife – once said people grew stronger at the broken places.

"We discover our strengths then," she said. "When those things hit you, and they can hit you hard in whatever form they come, that's when you discover your fortitude. ... I'm the most openly emotional in my family. My mum calls me the changeling."

Her parents are academics –her father a biochemist, her mother a nursing teacher – and Kidman said they tease her that "the fairies left you in the yard and we don't quite know where you came from".

She was asked what was the grist of her creativity. She answered with a story about traveling with Urban through the Australian outback.

"We were driving in the car and (lying) on the side of the road was a kangaroo," she said.

"I said, 'Oh, my gosh we have to stop.' I wanted to look. And he's like, 'No, no we'll just keep driving.' I said, 'But it's so upsetting.' And he said, 'Just don't look.' I said, 'That is so interesting, there's a metaphor for our relationship, 'cause you're, like, just keep going ... and I've go to look at it.' I've got to look it right in the eye. I've got to see it. I've got to feel and understand it." – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Showbiz shakedown

Posted: 21 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

The man behind the lawsuits against X-Men director Bryan Singer and others in Hollywood.

Michael Egan came to Hollywood at 14 or 15, a Nebraska kid who had done some professional modelling and was hoping to make it as an actor.

A friend at school invited him to a mansion in the Encino neighbourhood where, according to a lawsuit filed by Egan, he and other teenage boys were plied with drugs and alcohol – and then coerced into having sex with older men.

Egan's lawsuit, filed in 2000 when he was 17, alleged that three men sexually abused him at the Encino estate starting when he was 15 years old. He and two co-plaintiffs won a judgment against them for US$4.5mil (RM14.5mil) .

Now Egan is suing again over sexual abuse he claims occurred at that same time, at that same Encino compound, but against a different group of men.

The men named in the four new suits – X-Men director Bryan Singer and Hollywood executives Garth Ancier, David Neuman and Gary Goddard – all deny Egan's allegations. The defendants' attorneys argue that Egan lacks credibility because he did not name their clients in the previous lawsuit.

Legal experts say that Egan's delay in bringing suit could be a key issue in a case that has made headlines and forced Singer to pull out of the marketing push for his latest film, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, which opens in cinemas today.

"He (Egan) apparently knew about this event way back when – and was with it enough to sue people – so the current defendants are going to ask, 'Well, gee, why didn't you sue us earlier?'" said Loyola Law School professor Dan Schechter.

Schechter said that the defendants could also argue that because Egan waited so long to sue, evidence that would have exonerated them has been lost, depriving them of the ability to mount a proper defense.

Egan said he was traumatised for years, and that only after he began therapy last year did he decide to sue.

"I'd never healed from any of this," he said in an interview.

Now 31, Egan is unemployed and remains in therapy, according to his attorney, Jeff Herman. A resident of Las Vegas, Egan sought for years to make it in Hollywood as an actor. He also partnered with an older brother in a company that staged haunted house attractions, but the two had a falling out about a decade ago, court records show.

According to Egan's recent civil suits, he began modelling in the Midwest when he was in elementary school, later moving to New York. He relocated to the Los Angeles area with his family in the mid-1990s "at the suggestion of his talent manager to further his acting career, and continued to model."

Egan attended a small private school in the San Fernando Valley, the suits say, where one of his classmates introduced him to an older brother, Chad Shackley, who lived in the Encino mansion that would play a central role in Egan's allegations.

Shackley shared the home with Marc Collins-Rector, co-founder of a company called Digital Entertainment Network. A third DEN co-founder was Brock Pierce, who joined the company at age 17 following an early career as a child actor, including starring roles in the first two Mighty Ducks films.

DEN was an early attempt to create and stream programming over the Internet, and it attracted outside investments from companies and individuals, including Singer, Neuman, Ancier and Goddard, according to Egan's complaints.

His suits allege that the Encino estate shared by Collins-Rector and Shackley became notorious for parties that "featured sexual contact between adult males and the many teenage boys who were present."

Egan claims he was put on the DEN payroll for about US$2,100 (RM6,747) a week "in an attempt to manipulate his compliance with the sexual demands of those adults" who frequented the estate.

Open secret

The allegations have triggered debates at industry lunch spots and studio back lots throughout Hollywood. To some, the party scene described by Egan has long been an open secret.

"The party culture does exist," said Anne Henry of BizParentz Foundation, a support group for parents whose children work in the entertainment industry, who was not referring specifically to Egan's allegations. "It is a party culture of older teenage boys."

Others are sceptical of the lawsuits. Producer Gavin Polone, whose credits include HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm, said the lawsuits are "a shakedown from people who want money and publicity."

"To me this is a persecution of rich gay people, that's how I see it," Polone said.

Egan's first civil suit was filed in July 2000 in Los Angeles Superior Court. The defendants, Collins-Rector, Shackley and Pierce, did not respond to the allegations. In February 2001, a judge awarded US$4.5mil (RM14.5mil) in damages to Egan and his two co-plaintiffs.

By then, the three defendants were no longer in California, and Collins-Rector faced a criminal sex abuse case.

He had been indicted in 2000 by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Trenton, New Jersey, on five counts of transporting a minor across state lines for illegal sexual activity.

The case involved a 13-year-old New Jersey boy Collins-Rector had allegedly met over an Internet bulletin board and had flown to Michigan and California for sexual encounters.

In 2002, Collins-Rector, Shackley and Pierce were arrested by local authorities in the Spanish beach city of Marbella, and Collins-Rector was extradited to the US.

Two years later, he was charged by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles with allegedly transporting four boys to California and Arizona for sex, and in June 2004 he resolved both criminal matters in New Jersey federal court by pleading guilty to charges of transporting five boys across state lines to engage in illegal sex.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey said that Collins-Rector was sentenced to time served plus three years of supervised release.

Florida's sexual offender registry listed the Dominican Republic as his place of residence as of 2008.

Pierce and Shackley did not face criminal charges in the US and were released from a Spanish jail in 2002. Pierce has since returned to the US and is chairman of Playsino, a Santa Monica, California, company that makes casino-style video games for platforms including Facebook.

Pierce reached a confidential settlement with Egan, according to attorney Daniel Cheren, who represented Egan in the 2000 suit. Pierce declined to comment through a spokeswoman.

Shackley and Collins-Rector never paid the judgments against them, Cheren said. Neither could be reached for comment.

After DEN's collapse, Egan moved to Las Vegas and launched a haunted house company in 2002 with his brother Jason, according to a 2006 lawsuit filed by Michael in Nevada district court.

The brothers created a successful Fright Dome attraction at the Circus Circus hotel and casino, but Michael Egan alleged in a 2006 lawsuit that his brother took over his interest in the company and declined to share profits.

One of Michael Egan's attorneys in the matter, Scott Cantor, said that his client initially came off as a "very intelligent, gregarious individual," but "became suspicious" of his counsel, accusing the legal team of not looking out for his interests.

The case was dismissed in 2008. Jason Egan did not respond to requests for comment. – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Related stories:

Impressive cast, time travel in X-Men: Days of Future Past

Peter Dinklage is inerested in characters with shades of grey

Fan Bingbing excited to be in X-Men

Hugh Jackman enjoys playing Wolverine more than ever


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