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Interview: ‘Ma’ Director Tate Taylor
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Director Tate Taylor Octavia Spencer Ma movie

[Image Credit: Anna Kooris/Universal Pictures.]

In 2011, relatively new director Tate Taylor wrote and directed The Help, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett. Taylor, born in Jackson, MI, helped tell the story of the Civil Rights-era South through the eyes of African American maids working for white families. One of those maids was Minny Jackson, played by Octavia Spencer. The film received rave reviews and was nominated for four Academy Awards including Best Picture. It’s sole Oscar win went to Spencer, who took home Best Supporting Actress. Eight years later, Taylor and Spencer reunited for an unlikely movie, the Blumhouse produced Ma. Spencer stars as Sue Ann, a mysterious loner with a dark past whose home becomes a party den for teenagers until her true intentions are revealed. Spencer is wild, appearing to relish playing a psychotic stalker and she carries the film. Debuting in theaters this past Spring, the horror film grossed over $60 million worldwide on a $5 million budget. Ma arrives on Digital today, and Blu-Ray and DVD on September 3, 2019. I was lucky enough to talk to director Tate Taylor about the film, his Oscar-winning star, and his career.

Geeks of Doom: Hi, thanks for taking the time. I saw Ma and really enjoyed it, especially Octavia Spencer’s performance. What got you interested in this project and what was it like working with Octavia again?

Tate Taylor: It was kind of serendipitous how it all happened. I’ve been doing back to back studio films for awhile. And studios are corporations and corporations have shareholders and you can only push things so far. While it’s frustrating I also understand it. I was in this mindset that I wanted to shake things up a bit and do something just crazy. At about the same time, Octavia and I — we’re best friends, we talk everyday — and she had confided in me that she was really frustrated that she was being offered the exact same roles, which happens to everybody. She was really kind of bummed about it. And then Jason Blum, who’s a friend of mine, we had a meeting to see if we can find something to do together and I looked at him and I said, “What do you have that’s really f*cked up?” He says, “Really?!” He says, oddly enough they just got this script in yesterday that they optioned and haven’t even really broken it down. He lets me read it, I read it, and it needed work. It wasn’t written for a woman like Octavia. So I call her up and tell her “Octavia, I’m reading the most fun, f*cked up script, believe it or not it’s in the horror genre, but I found a way to find heart in the message.” She says, “I’m in! If I’m not the first to get killed and I’m the lead in a horror film, I’m in.” I told her to read it first and she did and I called Jason and asked, “What about Octavia?” and he yelled, “WHAT!?!?” And that’s it.

Geeks of Doom: Wow. I’m a huge horror fan. The joke with horror is usually it’s a stepping stone genre where big stars make their debuts there and then graduate out. It’s rare to see a big star, an Oscar winner like Octavia Spencer, take the lead in a horror film. I think it’s great for the genre. What are your thoughts on that?

Tate Taylor: It is. The Wall Street Journal just did a big article on that very thing worrying if this was going to be the future. We did this out of love and getting ready to get my repertoire of actors and crew together and go back to Mississippi and just have a blast. We didn’t really ever think of her as “the Oscar winner.” It was just, let’s go have a blast.

Geeks of Doom: She seems like she’s having a blast. You mentioned wanting to do something f’d up and there are certainly some messed up things happening in the film. Was there anything too dark or going too far where you needed to edit it out? I’m thinking of something that might be on a Bu-ray extra.

Tate Taylor: There’s a few deleted scenes, but nothing too crazy where you’d say, “Damn, I wish that was in there.” We did some f*cked up stuff in there. The frustrating thing of this genre for me was the expected lengths we have to go to keep the attention spans for many of the people that like this genre. A lot of the cuts were due to concerns over the amount of time.

Geeks of Doom: Speaking of genre, you have certainly made your way through a fair amount. You wrote and directed the historical drama The Help, the thriller The Girl on the Train, you’ve worked in comedies, and now horror. What’s it like bouncing between genres like that as a filmmaker?

Tate Taylor: It may be confusing for the town, but like I said it goes to the place of me of Octavia and I not considering her an Oscar winner and me a feature director doing a horror film. We truly love the joy of filmmaking. I really had to fight after The Help, honestly I just kept being given scripts of women who have cancer, over and over and over. And the irony is The Help and that subject matter, I did it because I understood it and I lived it. But my brain is closer to Ma. And The Girl of the Train was an example where I went too far in their minds. I did a biopic of James Brown after The Help, then I did a thriller, then I did a horror movie. Now I’m doing a TV series about religion in New Orleans, and I have an oxycodone movie I wrote that we’re going to do. I just like to eat at different restaurants.

Geeks of Doom: I never heard it put that way, but I like that way of thinking.

Tate Taylor: Yeah, like people are “foodies,” I’m a “Movie.” I want to try everything. And as you learn and sharpen your skills in different genres, it makes it easy to bring the hybrid together, and it makes you a better director I think. You may stumble, people may scratch their heads, but I think that’s how you get better.

Geeks of Doom: You mentioned your relationship with Octavia Spencer, but researching your filmography you work with the same cast members very often. You obviously have good working relationships. What is it like being able to go back to that well of talent?

Tate Taylor: Well, I am in NO WAY, and I want to capitalize that, comparing myself to Robert Altman, but I did see a documentary about his life. I found his approach to work and making films is much like mine. It’s about family, it’s about food, it’s about trust, it’s about collaboration. That’s what I love to do. When you find people, cast, and crew that like to play that way, you keep them around. They want to be around you. When I make a movie most people say it doesn’t feel like a job, it feels like camp. And I always laughingly say, “Let’s go to Movie Camp.”

On Ma, most of the actors lived with me in my house. I just think when you build a family the trust increases. They trust you and vice versa and you’re willing to take chances. It’s not like that when you hop in a van and go home to sit by yourself waiting to be picked up again.

Geeks of Doom: You’ve touched on a few of your upcoming projects. Can you go into any details about any of them?

Tate Taylor: I’m actually going to New Orleans tomorrow. I created a show called Filthy Rich that got picked up by FOX and I’ll be doing that till March. I’ll be directing five of the episodes, starring Kim Cattrall. It’s a comedic look at faith, people of no faith, sex, hypocrisy, you know all the juicy stuff. The right, the left, evangelicals, hard line conservatives; it’s just one huge photo of where we are right now in the country. And I’m really excited about it.

Geeks of Doom: Thank you very much, we look forward to Ma coming to Blu-Ray soon, and as a history teacher by day, thank you for The Help, I show it in my U.S. History classes.

Tate Taylor: That’s really cool, I appreciate you saying that.

Tate Taylor was a funny and down to earth interview. He is a total southern gentleman. Aside from Filthy Rich, Taylor has four other projects lined up according to IMDb. Ma, starring Octavia Spencer, Luke Evans, and Juliette Lewis, is available now on Digital and on Blu-Ray/DVD on September 3, 2019.

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‘The Lion King’ Cast Share Their Experiences Making The Photorealistic Reimagining
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THE LION KING

Disney’s The Lion King (2019) may be a near reflection of the animated original, but director Jon Favreau’s use of groundbreaking and innovative Photo Real technology allows audiences to experience a familiar story in a whole new way. But not only did Favreau use these sets of tools for the reimagining, but he also brought in a cast that would help carry the film. Comprised of mostly black actors, this new take on The Lion King is a celebration of African culture and an opportunity for young black children to feel that they matter.

Geeks Of Doom joined their fellow journalists at the global press conference of The Lion King where Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Billy Eichner, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Keegan-Michael Key, Florence Kasumba, Eric Andre, John Kani, JD McCrary, and Shahadi Wright Joseph shared their own experience making the film, being able to improv and riff, the legacy of the animated original, identity, and so much more. Check out what they had to say here below.

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‘The Lion King’ Interview: Director Jon Favreau Talks Reimagining A Beloved Animated Classic With New Technologies
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The Lion King

Disney’s The Lion King (2019) isn’t quite the live-action adaptation of the animated classics we’ve come to know. Instead, it is a reimagined version that takes the lessons learned from The Jungle Book and uses new tools and technologies to tell a beloved story in an all-new way. Director Jon Favreau takes the helm of what is essentially an old story told from a different technological lens. Using photorealistic technologies, animals in the film come to life. So much so this new Lion King looks like a DisneyNature title.

We sat down with our fellow journalists at the global press conference for The Lion King, where Favreau talked about his three-year journey making the film, how he wanted to pay homage to the animated original, and more. Check out what he had to say below.

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‘Toy Story 4’ Interview: How Ally Maki’s Giggle McDimples Brings Joy To Pixar’s Sequel Through Laughter and Inspiration
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Toy Story 4

Pixar’s Toy Story 4 may bring back some of the most beloved characters that we’ve cherished since 1995, but the latest installment adds a few new unforgettable characters that come in all shapes and sizes. One of them is the tiniest toy of the entire Toy Story family: Giggle McDimples is the pocket figure who happens to be an officer of Miniopolis’ Pet Patrol. But whenever she isn’t out on patrol, she can be seen perched on Bo Peep’s shoulder. And just as her surname suggests, she is full of infectious giggles and has an energy that simply cannot be contained.

Voiced by Ally Maki, Giggles will help Woody and Bo rescue Forky, who is being held captive by Gabby Gabby. But Giggles isn’t just some simple side supporting character. She has a fairly substantial role in the film. And a lot of that will show in her assertiveness and fearlessness, and also that contagious laughter that she has.

Geeks of Doom joined fellow journalists for a roundtable interview with Maki at Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, CA. There, she talked about what it was like to voice the pocket-sized toy, why she created Asian American Girls Club, and what she hopes Toy Story 4 can accomplish. Check out our roundtable chat with her here below.

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‘King Of The Monsters’ Interview: ‘Godzilla’ Cast Reflects On The Legacy Of The Kaiju
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Godzilla: King Of The Monsters

Godzilla: King of the Monsters could have easily been just another summer blockbuster tentpole film with giant monsters destroying cities. But in reality, there is a lot more nuance to it that. It’s got some grounded depth to it thanks in no small part to the human cast who play a critical role in the highly anticipated sequel.

Geeks of Doom had a chance to join their fellow journalists at the press conference for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, where Millie Bobby Brown, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch, Kyle Chandler, Bradley Whitford, and Ken Watanabe talked about what it was like to be a part of a film whose title character has such a longstanding legacy, shooting with something that wasn’t there, and more. Check out what they had to say below.

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‘Godzilla: King Of The Monsters’: Michael Dougherty Talks Inspirations, Boston’s Fenway Park, and Representation
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Godzilla: King Of The Monsters

2014’s Godzilla brought back the Kaiju craze for a more modern audience. It reintroduced what made the towering reptile so iconic by blending in themes of the old with the new. But with director Gareth Edwards stepping aside, it was up to Krampus and Trick r’ Treat director Michael Dougherty to take over and continue the story of this new monsters universe. And he does that by making Godzilla: King of the Monsters one giant-sized monster brawl. The highly anticipated sequel brings a battery of god-sized monsters including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, a giant moth-like Kaiju; Rodan, a Pteranodon-like Kaiju; and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah into one massive brawl leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.

We had a chance to sit down at a press conference with our fellow journalists to talk about the development and production of Godzilla: King of the Monsters with Dougherty. During that time, he spoke about the inspirations behind the film, what it was like to destroy Boston’s Fenway Park, and what representation means to him. Check out what he had to say below.

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‘Aladdin’: Director Guy Ritchie On The Positive Vibes Felt During Production Of Disney’s New Live-Action Reimagining
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Aladdin director Guy Ritchie

Guy Ritchie‘s filmography is splattered with heavy amounts of witty dialogue and gritty action sequences. While it may not necessarily lend itself well to a Disney family-friendly film, his filmmaking style works in Aladdin. Based on the 1992 animated film of the same name, the upcoming live-action version is part of a successful trend that has Disney going through their vault to see which one of the animated classics they could reimagine into a live-action film next.

There’s action, suspense, and a bit of romance. But there is also humor, singing, and dancing. All of these are key aspects the animated original had. So to say that director Ritchie and the cast had a huge responsibility to do the film justice would be a vast understatement. And yet, they pulled it off.

Geeks Of Doom attended the Aladdin global press conference with their fellow journalists to talk to Ritchie about the production, how he stayed true to the spirit of the animated original, his style of filmmaking, the positive vibes that helped set up the camaraderie and set the tone, and more. Check out what he had to say here below.

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How ‘Aladdin’ Stars Mena Massoud and Naomi Scott Bring An Entirely Whole New World To Life
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Aladdin

Based on the 1992 animated classic of the same name, Aladdin was one of Disney’s first animated features to have characters of color. Representation is important in this day and age because it allows people of color and the marginalized to see themselves in the characters seen on screen. So it was significantly important to reflect that in the casting of the live-action adaptation of Aladdin. Though there were reports of some casting issues, director Guy Ritchie and the rest of the Disney team were dedicated to finding the right actors for the film. And they found them in Mena Massoud, who plays the title character, and Naomi Scott, who plays Princess Jasmine.

Geeks of Doom and a group of journalists were invited to attend the global press conference in Los Angeles, CA, where Massoud and Scott talked about what it was like to be a part of the production, working with Ritchie, and how they all infused some of their own personalities and quirks into the characters while also respecting the animated original. Check out what they had to say below.

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‘Aladdin’ Press Conference: Will Smith Talks Believing In Disney Magic
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Will Smith As Genie In Aladdin

Disney’s live-action take on Aladdin will see Will Smith bring the high-spirited and energetic Genie to life. With his own brand of charisma and a bit of hip-hop flair, this Genie is not like the Robin Williams take in the animated original, but the performance still pays homage to the late comedian. In fact, the actor says the remake is the highlight of his career. And you can see how much fun he is having in that performance.

Geeks of Doom and a group of journalists were invited to sit down at the Aladdin global press conference where Smith spoke about believing in that Disney magic, how he made some of those memorable songs his own, finding a career resurgence, and what representation means to him. Check out what he had to see below.

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Interview: Jeremy Holm Of ‘The Ranger’
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Jeremy Holm interview

This week on May 9th, Jenn Wexler’s indie punk horror film The Ranger premieres on AMC’s horror streaming service Shudder. The film debuted last summer and ran through the festival circuit. Wexler, who cut her teeth producing at Glass Eye Pix, co-wrote the script with Giaco Furino and the film feels like Wolf Creek by way of Return of the Living Dead. A film called The Ranger is only as strong as its titular villain and that role went to veteran actor Jeremy Holm (House of Cards, Mr. Robot). I got a chance to speak with him as the film prepares to make its streaming debut.

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