Saturday, September 13, 2014

Author Michelle Moran - Madame Tussaud Q&A

The Second Empress by Michelle Moran

Optioned for a mini-series by Michael Hirst, who wrote the TUDORS for Showtime and the movie ELIZABETH will be adapting 
Author Michelle Moran's Novel Madame Tussaud

Q: What drew you to the story of Marie Tussaud?
A: My interest in Marie Tussaud began on my very first trip to London. Like thousands of tourists before me, I had decided that I wanted to visit the famous wax museum, Madame Tussauds. At the time, I knew almost nothing about the woman behind the name, but as I passed through the exhibition, I began to piece together what would ultimately prove to be a fascinating story. In the first wax tableau I came across, Marie Tussaud had modeled Queen Marie Antoinette with her husband and children. They looked young and happy, dressed in lavish court gowns and silk culottes. In another tableau, the mistress of King Louis XV lay sprawled on a couch, her blonde hair tumbling down her shoulders. Clearly, Marie Tussaud had been interested in modeling the celebrities of her day. Some she would have sculpted from memory, while many she would have met and modeled in person. Marie’s art had obviously gained her access to some of the highest circles in French society.

But in a third tableau, a different part of Marie Tussaud’s life emerged. Dressed in a black gown and dirtied apron, a young Marie could be seen holding up a lantern in the Madeleine Cemetery. The Revolution had begun, and she was searching through a pile of severed heads – all victims of Madame Guillotine. Immediately, I wanted to know what was she doing in that cemetery. Whose heads were they, and did she know those people? When I learned what Marie Tussaud went through during the French Revolution – who she’d met, where she’d gone, and what she’d seen – I knew I would someday tell her story.

Q: Why does history tend to remember the French Revolution as being successful?
A: Probably because it did exactly what its leaders intended, which was to deal a devastating blow to the aristocracy. But very soon after the overthrow of the monarchy, France’s new government became obsessed with idea of rooting out Royalists. A fever like that of the Salem Witch Trials gripped France, and neighbor began turning on neighbor, accusing each other of being royalists. And it didn’t take much to be sentenced to the guillotine. By 1793, all a person had to do was whistle the wrong tune or disrespect a liberty tree (saplings planted in the name of “liberty”) to be accused of endangering the nation. By the end of the French Revolution, more than five hundred thousand French citizens had been killed, most of them commoners.

Q: How did you go about researching Madame Tussaud?
A: I began with a trip to France, where nearly all of the novel takes place. Once there, I tried to visit the locations Madame Tussaud herself would have seen. Some—such as the Bastille—no longer exist, but there are others—Versailles being the sublime example—where a great deal of 18th century life has been preserved. After my trip, I did as much research as I could in libraries. Finally, anything I couldn’t find in books I tried to discover through email conversations with some very generous French historians.

Q: What is the most interesting fact you learned while researching Madame Tussaud?
A: That in 18th century France, most people went to street dentists when they had a toothache. These dentists would sit at a table laid out with various tools, and their unfortunate patients would have their teeth extracted right there, in the dirty street. After the extraction, the patient could sell his tooth (or teeth, if he was unlucky) to the dentist, who would then sell it to people like Marie Tussaud for her wax models. I know… creepy and disturbing!    

Q: In your research about Marie Antoinette, did you come away feeling sorry for Queen Marie Antoinette?
A: Yes. I think the queen was as much a victim of circumstance as she was her own naiveté. While it’s true that she held lavish balls in Versailles and spent a fortune on gowns, this really wasn’t anything new for the monarchy. The difference was that it was Marie Antoinette, and not the king, who was doing the spending. The resentment and jealousy which built up around the queen having access to her husband’s money earned her some powerful enemies at court. Meanwhile, the commoners were growing resentful as well. Yet the entire royal family’s expenditures were actually a small fraction of the nation’s budget, and whenever Marie Antoinette tried to economize, the courtiers who counted on her favors would raise a hue and cry. Various nobles had grown accustomed to the extra money they could earn from selling the dresses she had already worn or the accessories which had been ordered for her (often far more than she actually needed or used). These privileges were jealously guarded in Versailles, and this meant that the queen was “damned if she did, and damned if she didn’t.”

Q: Why are we still interested in Madame Tussaud 250 years after her birth?
A: I think the fascination with Madame Tussaud comes from the fact that the life she created was as intricate and mystifying as her artistry itself. Here was a woman who was asked to tutor the king’s sister, yet she managed to keep her head during the Reign of Terror when women were being imprisoned for nothing more than wearing the wrong color. She navigated two very different worlds – the court of Versailles and the streets of Paris - and against all odds, lived to tell the tale. And through it all, it was her artistry that saved her. Today, with digital cameras available to capture everything around us, you would think it would be difficult to become enthusiastic about seeing a person’s likeness reproduced in wax. But there is something compelling about waxworks, particularly those done at the various Madame Tussauds around the world. Perhaps it’s the thrill of pretending to photograph yourself next to a celebrity, or getting to pose with Henry VIII “in the flesh,” that keep customers coming back. Or maybe it’s the eerie and arresting vision of a lifeless object that so closely mimics someone’s humanity that people relate to. Whatever it is, I think Madame Tussauds will be a major draw even in another two hundred and fifty years.  

Q: If Madame Tussaud were alive today, would she be happy to see that her wax museums have expanded not only throughout Europe, but now the world?
A: I think Marie Tussaud would be ecstatic. Having grown up on the Boulevard du Temple surrounded by actresses and showmen, Marie was taught from a very young age that publicity was the difference between staying in business and having to sell your teeth in order to buy bread. Today, the Madame Tussauds wax museums do a wonderful job of finding new subjects to model, and the public unveilings of their new wax figures would have absolutely delighted Marie. A part of me wants to say, “If only Marie could see her museum now,” but something tells me she wouldn’t be surprised at all by how popular her exhibition has become. 

Looking forward to Michelle Moran's Rebel Queen 
due to be released on March 3, 2015.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Blue Apron - What's for Dinner?

I love Blue Apron!
  • Complete meals with 500-700 calories per serving
  • 35 minutes to prepare on average
  • Pre-portioned ingredients to save time and reduce waste
  • Easy to follow beautifully printed recipe cards
I have tried recipes I never would have otherwise. Everything arrives pre-portioned in cold packs and very fresh. And you can use the recipes they give you to make again or modify to suit your meal.

Change up your profile to suit you: Ominvore, Vegetarian or Pescetarian. I actually change mine up from week-to-week to suit not only what I want, but for others or dishes to bring to gatherings.

I find that many times, their recipes feed more than 2 and up to four. I might make half the recipe and freeze chicken, fish or beef for my own recipe later on. 

Go check out their website. I think what Blue Apron does is very unique. You can also find them on Facebook. 
Blue Apron on Facebook

Friday, September 5, 2014

Ghostline - Interview with Actor Zack Gold

An interview with lead actor Zack Gold, from the movie Ghostline by Dean Whitney:

How old were you when you started acting? And where and how did you start?
Zack: I was young, doing community theater outside of San Francisco. My mom was a wonderful actress and was playing the witch in Snow White and I got cast in a small ensemble role. 

How is your role in Ghostline different from others that you have previously played?
Zack: I think Tyler is closer to my real-me than most characters I play. He's an actor (haha), he's making sacrifices for being an artist, he's a young man settling down in a home with woman he loves. All of which are easy things to connect to in my immediate life :) 

What is your process for acting? Are you a method actor like Daniel Day-Lewis and Meryl Streep, assume a role from the moment you step onto the set the first time, and never leave the role until the film wraps? Or do you prepare or research your roles or characters?
Zack: I'm pretty free with my work. Depending on the role and situations I take different approaches. Generally, I am pretty happy to step into my character during camera rehearsal and stay focused throughout the takes of the scene, but once we have shot a scene out, I allow myself to fall back into regular Zack. I have the most fun on shoots when I can allow myself to do that. I think that Method is great for some people, but it's almost become deemed as "better" or "more professional" in a lot of circles and I totally disagree. I think as long as an actor can connect to the emotions and intentions driving their character in the scene...who cares how they get there?!

Who are your favorite actors, who inspires you, and why?
Zack: Look, acting is such a difficult profession to succeed in that I'm inspired by almost anyone working consistently. I love Ethan Hawke for his honesty. If you watch any of the Linklater films he's in...the dude can just tell a story with the movement of his eye. On the other hand, I'm really into comedy and appreciate any actor who can do great character work or has spot on comedic timing like Paul Rudd or Owen Wilson. I'd even go as far as saying Katy Perry is a great character actress and that I appreciate Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart for their timing ability. 

What would be your dream role or what would you like to accomplish as an actor?
Zack: My dream is wake up at like 85 years old and realize that I've made a career as a professional actor in film and TV (or whatever tv becomes...) and marvel at all the talented people I have worked with. I'm a huge football fan too, so maybe getting the opportunity to play someone like Joe Namath in a drama bio-pic would be pretty awesome.  

Any advice for aspiring actors?
Zack: Follow new trends. If you buy any book on how to make it in LA or NY that's published before 2008 you are probably doing yourself a disservice. So much is changing in the digital world that actors have more opportunities now than ever to showcase their work. They just have to be smart, creative and driven to find the right paths. 

A fun fact about you that you’d be willing to share?
Zack: I was recently named Godfather to my best friends baby son, Elliott! Looking forward to teaching him about good film as he grows up! Oh... and I'm getting married in November.. it's a good year!

Thank you Zack! Looking forward to the release of Ghostline! See the entire cast and crew here on IMDb!