Actor Jeffrey Wright hadn’t read The Hunger Games until director Francis Lawrence offered him the role of Beetee. When he did, he was amazed by what Suzanne Collins was able to pull off.

Wright was most impressed by Collins’ ability to write to audiences with different political views simultaneously. “It’s welcoming of the entire political spectrum,” he said during a one-on-one interview with Hypable. “Some people look at these stories and take a 1% versus the 99% perspective, which can be read something as a left-leaning perspective. I think others look at this and they view it from a more right-leaning perspective as a condemnation of government. Others may look at is as a validation of a need for strong allegiance to the second amendment. So it’s nondiscriminatory, it’s nonpartisan. The core, essential values that Katniss responds to are these universal, mythic ideas around family.”

The actor is best known for his roles in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and the James Bond series. Despite having his hand in two of pop culture’s biggest dramatic entities, he was shocked and had a “woah!” moment when his agent told him Hunger Games is “bigger than Bond.”

In the book and film series, the character of Beetee is a District 3 tribute who is reaped for the 75th annual Hunger Games. He is a very intelligent victor who’s great with electronics, and his abilities are used to break down the Quarter Quell arena.

Wright’s casting as Beetee stemmed from a missed opportunity to work with Lawrence previously. “I was asked [to play Beetee] because Francis had wanted to work with me before on a movie and we didn’t get the opportunity to do that,” he said. “He called and asked if I’d consider it. I read the script and saw the first movie. It didn’t take long for me to accept that invitation.”

The popularity of The Hunger Games was an attractive part to taking the offer (which he didn’t have to audition for) because, as he learned later, the series is deserving of its warm reception. “There’s an intelligence that runs through and a relevance that runs through it that’s extremely attractive, and that it’s grounded in interesting literature for young minds. So many kids are being further encouraged to read, and we need more of that.”

The fandom

jeffrey-wright-catching-fire-philadelphiaTo promote Catching Fire, Wright headed out on a “Victory Tour” across several cities in the United States. It was at those events that he really dipped his feet into the passionate fandom and learned why readers love the trilogy as much as they do.

The actor – who chooses his words very carefully when being interviewed – describes the experience as “enlightening.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to talk to some of the more ardent, more proactive fans who’ve set up websites and blogs and tweet about the stories,” he told us. “I’ve had the opportunity to ask them why they’re so passionate about this stuff, and there hasn’t been one consistent answer. But the consistent aspect is that it’s very personal. And not lightly considered. It’s not simply because it’s a passing fad or because there’s this massive media attention on the stories. Or that Jennifer, Josh, and Liam are cute. It’s because they can place themselves within a journey that one of these characters is on. They somehow identity and sympathize with. And some people bring their politics to it.”

Gary Ross’ departure

We asked Wright about the departure of The Hunger Games director Gary Ross who was all but set to direct Catching Fire until he left the franchise because he thought he needed more time to shoot. We were curious if he noticed a quicker production pace to accommodate the tight schedule Ross was afraid of.

“There was never a sense that we were being rushed – at all. The sense was we were taking our time, taking as much time as needed to craft as fine a movie as we were able. I think a lot of the calmness – aside from Jennifer and Josh’s hi-jinx which keeps everything buoyant and fun – but that sense of calm was a direct result of Francis’ attitude toward the work.”

Francis Lawrence, Francis Lawrence, Francis Lawrence

Pivoting from the question about Ross, Wright asked himself how he would applaud Catching Fire in six words and repeated the director’s name to us three times. He credits the helmer’s vision for its forthcoming success because of how large of a project this is to envision while in production.

“I know what I’m doing. I know what I’m being asked to do and what my responsibilities are. But it was only upon seeing the movie that I understood the scale and the specificity of his vision and realized his vision. And really wrangle all these top flight filmmakers from actors to cinematography to designers to crew – wrangle them all together and have them work together on their very best material that is among the very best for films like this, and do it with a sense of ease and a sense of clarity is not an easy task. It is not to be underestimated. He really is extraordinary.”


The nauseating Cornucopia

For Wright, one of the only action sequences he had to take part in was the scene where Beetee and other tributes are hanging onto the Cornucopia for dear life as it spins. “They had this whole rig. They had this carnival type rig that we were on. They cranked up the engine, and we just had to hold on for dear life. And at the end of the day, try to avoid the vomit bags. It was pretty crazy,” he told us with a laugh.

The actor didn’t have to take part in many stunts because the character is used more for his book smarts. “Beetee is more thinker than fighter. More lover than fighter. The other actors were more engaged in the physical aspects of it whereas I was allowed to be a bit more cerebral and relied upon for my capacity to think.”

Although they’re on hiatus right now to promote Catching Fire, Wright and the cast of Mockingjay started filming the two-part finale in October and will resume next month.

Catching Fire is in theaters this Friday.

Major changes coming to ‘Sense8’ season 2

And I'm excited about what happens next.

11:00 am EDT, May 30, 2016

Sense8 is currently in production for their second season, and they’ve gotten pretty far. Here are some important things you need to know about what’s to come for your favorite cluster!

Ever since Sense8 debuted on Netflix a year ago I’ve been obsessed. Not only because it was such a fantastic premise of connecting 8 people, but because it was so immensely diverse and represented so many people from all over the world. Now that we’ve got a season 2, it’s about time to start learning what it’ll be about.

There’s some major things about Sense8 season 2 that are going to be dramatically different, and we’ve gotten an update on what our favorite characters will be up to this season thanks to BuzzFeed.

There’s only 1 Wachowski left

One of the biggest draws of Sense8 was the fact that it was a Wachowski sister production. These sisters have brought us The Matrix and Cloud Atlas so we knew when we heard that last name that this was going to be an epic series.

This year, only Lana Wachowski is staying on to direct the show. Lilly Wachowski is taking the much-deserved time off after having just come out as transgender in March, and is using the time to focus on herself. Should the show return to Netflix for a third season then she’ll probably return.

The return of only one sister isn’t something that should affect the show too much, and I’m sure if it does then any changes will be welcome and give the show a fresh vibe — not that it needs it.

Sense8 Nomi Amanita

Capheus has been re-cast

For those who enjoyed Capheus’ story in Kenya the most prepare yourselves for a major change. Due to disagreements between Lana and Aml Ameen, who portrays Capheus in season 1, Ameen left the show before production began.

Capheus’ story isn’t one you can just replace and end so suddenly, so instead of writing him out Wachowski opted instead to re-cast him. Toby Onwumere will now play the part.

For those of you concerned with any disagreement between Ameen and Wachowski being over her being transgender, Jamie Clayton, who plays Nomi, was adamant about stopping that rumor.

The good news is that Onwumere has been completely welcomed by the cast and he felt immediately connected to them upon meeting them at dinner for the first time. This makes me more confident that his chemistry with the actors will show on screen, which is one of the reasons I love Sense8 so much – the chemistry has been fantastic in every episode with all 8 actors.

But these changes can be amazing!

Even though they’re major changes from how the show operated last year, I feel like the new single director and the new actor is going to bring a welcome fresh take for the new season.

Every show can use something new in each season they come back just to keep it interesting and unique every year. I feel like, thanks to these changes made to the cast and crew, the story isn’t going to have to change too drastically just for the sake of change. Obviously it’s going to probably take to places we don’t expect, but that will be because the story is naturally progressing, instead of them trying to change actors and plots already set.

Are you excited for season 2 of ‘Sense8’

Hollywood reacts to ‘Begin Again’ director’s candid criticism of Keira Knightley’s acting skills

Should the trust between actors and directors ever be broken?

10:33 am EDT, May 30, 2016

After Begin Again director John Carney’s candid comments about Keira Knightley’s acting went viral, Hollywood has taken to Twitter to defend the British actress.

In case you’ve somehow not heard the story, here’s the sitch:

Over the weekend, The Independent released an interview with Irish director John Carney, in which he had some harsh words for former colleague Keira Knightley.

The pair worked together on the 2013 musical rom-com Begin Again, where Knightley starred opposite Mark Ruffalo as a promising young folk singer recovering from a broken heart.

Carney evidently wasn’t satisfied with Knightley’s performance, claiming she “always has an entourage that follow her everywhere so it’s very hard to get any real work done.”

Related: Exclusive: Keira Knightley, Joe Wright talk Anna Karenina and the choice to set it in the world of theater

Going on to praise both Ruffalo and Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s performances, Carney said, “I think that that’s what you need as an actor; you need to not be afraid to find out who you really are when the camera’s rolling. Keira’s thing is to hide who you are and I don’t think you can be an actor and do that.”

“I like to work with curious, proper film actors as opposed to movie stars,” he continued. “I don’t want to rubbish Keira, but you know it’s hard being a film actor and it requires a certain level of honesty and self-analysis that I don’t think she’s ready for yet and I certainly don’t think she was ready for on that film.”

Carney concluded, “I learned that I’ll never make a film with supermodels again.”

Now, Carney clearly had a frustrating experience working with Knightley on this film, and his distinction between ‘proper film actors’ and ‘movie stars’ may be legitimate in theory. Begin Again certainly wasn’t the great critical hit that Carney’s Once had been, and at the time of the movie’s release, Keira Knightley herself admitted that she struggled with the material, not being a singer-songwriter herself and having no great appreciation for music.

“It’s terrible. I know nothing about music whatsoever,” she told The Guardian. “I was always more into reading and drama. I was such a geek. … There’s often a huge link between music and memory. And I’ve got such a bad memory.”

But the issue Hollywood professionals have with Carney’s comments seem to have less to do with Knightley’s specific performance, and more about the fact that Carney made these comments at all.

Ava DuVernay certainly makes a great point about why Carney should have stayed silent:

Both industry professionals and notable journalists have joined DuVernay in speaking out against Carney. Here are some of their reactions:

All the same, there are some that find Carney’s candidness refreshing.

What do you think? Should John Carney have held back his criticism of Keira Knightley out of professional courtesy? Or was he right to share his negative experience?

John Carney rose to international fame with Once in 2007, and this year he’s coming out with a musical drama titled Sing Street.

Spectre director Sam Mendes is officially not returning for more James Bond movies.

While we wait for (almost certain) confirmation that Daniel Craig won’t reprise his role as 007 in the next James Bond film, we can at least contend with the knowledge that Sam Mendes will not direct Bond 25.

The two-time James Bond director came on board the franchise for the wildly successful Skyfall, but his follow-up Spectre was not considered as great of a success.

Even before Spectre‘s release, Mendes was talking about quitting the all-consuming franchise, saying at the time, “I don’t think I could go down that road again. You do have to put everything else on hold.” But it was only during a Welsh literature festival that he finally confirmed his departure.

Related: Quantico’s Priyanka Chopra doesn’t want to be a Bond Girl, she wants to be Bond

“It was an incredible adventure. I loved every second of it, but I think it’s time for somebody else [to direct],” said Mendes, as quoted via The Sydney Morning Herald. “I’m a storyteller. And at the end of the day, I want to make stories with new characters.”

Bond 25 is likely to be completely new chapter of the franchise, with Daniel Craig set to follow Mendes’ lead and officially announce his departure soon. Everyone’s been expecting him to bow out ever since his controversial promotional campaign for Spectre, and it’s even more likely now that his two-time collaborator has called it quits.

On the speculation about who might replace Craig, Mendes says, “I can guarantee that whatever happens next it will not be what you expect.”

“[Bond producer] Barbara Broccoli chooses who is going to be the next Bond, end of story. And without that there would have been no Daniel Craig because public support for Daniel was zero. It was her saying: ‘That man over there, he’s going to change the whole tenor, I’m going to cast him.’ That turned the whole thing on its head,” says Mendes.

Rumor has it that Tom Hiddleston is in talks to be the next James Bond, but until we learn more, we can speculate away as we wish! It’s also time to start making those Bond 25 director wishlists. Anyone know if Ava DuVernay is available?