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Jonah Hill Makes Directing Look Easy

Jonah Hill Makes Directing Look Easy
Photo: Craig McDean for WSJ. Magazine, Styling by Julie Ragolia

JONAH HILL WROTE and directed one of the best movies of the year. I’ll stop and do it for you here: Jonah Hill?

Ermenegildo Zegna coat, $6,950, Ermenegildo Zegna, 663 Fifth Avenue, New York, The Row shirt, $850, The Row, 17 East 71st Street, New York.
Ermenegildo Zegna coat, $6,950, Ermenegildo Zegna, 663 Fifth Avenue, New York, The Row shirt, $850, The Row, 17 East 71st Street, New York. Photo: Craig McDean for WSJ. Magazine, Styling by Julie Ragolia

Yes, Jonah Hill. Now, here I could spend the next 2,000 words regaling you with all the reasons that any surprise over the strength of Hill’s debut feature is unfair—rude, really—because while Hill, who is 34, may have launched to fame in 2007 as a smartass comic imp in Superbad, he quickly and nimbly repositioned himself, still in his 20s, into a brilliant character actor, working with some of the greatest directors. I could yank up the IMDb to show that Hill has collaborated with, among others, Judd Apatow (in The 40-Year-Old Virgin; Knocked Up), Bennett Miller (Moneyball), Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained), Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street) and the Coen brothers (Hail, Caesar!)—what Hill refers to as “the best film school in the world.” I could remind you that Hill has been nominated for best supporting actor Oscars twice—as Brad Pitt’s numbers-crunching protégé in Moneyball and as Leonardo DiCaprio’s drug-vacuuming consigliere in The Wolf of Wall Street.

But I know how it is. I could tell you all these things, and you’d still come back to me with a look: Jonah Hill wrote and directed one of the best movies of the year?

It’s OK. This is how narratives develop—sometimes fairly, sometimes not. And it is pretty crazy, even to Hill, all of what’s happening now. It’s midafternoon in New York City, and we are in the airy offices of A24, the boutique studio releasing Hill’s film, Mid90s. Dressed in a crisp white shirt and black pants—conservative attire for a man recently photographed bopping down the street in a Phoenix Suns basketball jersey—Hill bounces as if he’s an expectant father in the waiting room. Mid90s is fresh from its September premiere at the Toronto film festival, where it got strong reviews, so A24 is allowing Hill to go back in and add a few final flourishes, like the Next Auteur he very well may be. “Heaven,” Hill says, beaming and taking a sip from his bottled water. “I love being in this world. I could edit it for five more years.”

Sometimes you interview people in the movie business and it’s clear that, while they may like the film they’re promoting, it’s a job, and they have their stories and quotable lines dialed in and soon will be on to the next shiny object. Hill does not give off that impression. Making Mid90s seems to have filtered deeply into his bones. (And atop his skin—Hill now has a tattoo on his arm that reads STRONG BABY and features a baby lifting a barbell, a nod to one of the funnier scenes in the movie.)

All he wants to do is stuff like this, he says.

“I just want to make things from my heart,” Hill says. “That’s all I care about, making things. If there’s a great part, I’m lucky enough to get a great part. If I’m lucky enough to write another film that means something to me and direct it…. I want to make things with people I love.”

It’s the kind of earnest mission statement that might have provoked Hill’s Superbad character, Seth, to bang his head against a locker door. But after a few minutes with Hill, you realize this Hill is closer to the real one. In conversation, he is self-aware, sensitive, effusive. He gushes. He loves. If you’re expecting a snarky quip machine, you’re going to be disappointed.

CLOSE-UP “I just want to make things from my heart,” says Jonah Hill. “That’s all I care about.” Ermenegildo Zegna coat, $5,695, Ermenegildo Zegna, 663 Fifth Avenue, New York, and Hill’s own glasses worn throughout.
CLOSE-UP “I just want to make things from my heart,” says Jonah Hill. “That’s all I care about.” Ermenegildo Zegna coat, $5,695, Ermenegildo Zegna, 663 Fifth Avenue, New York, and Hill’s own glasses worn throughout. Photo: Craig McDean for WSJ. Magazine, Styling by Julie Ragolia

“Jonah has this openness,” says Hill’s good friend Emma Stone, who starred with him 11 years ago in Superbad and recently reunited with him in the surreal Netflix series Maniac. “I’ve always felt so loving and connected to him, because whenever we’d talk, it was just the most raw, sweet thing—the way he expressed himself. I love that quality in people; it’s rare. I’ve been watching him in everything he’s done, and I’ve been blown away. Jonah’s hysterically funny, but I also think he’s heartbreaking. I really do think he’s a genius.”

Hill’s new film is putatively about a small group of teen skateboarders in Los Angeles, but skateboards are just an entry point. Set before the millennium, as its title says—pre-iPhones, pre-Yeezys, pre–everyone being terrible to each other on social media—Mid90s is really an immersive look at male adolescence and all its conflicting joys and toxicities. It owes more than a small debt to Kids, director Larry Clark and screenwriter Harmony Korine’s gritty firecracker about New York teens. (It’s a knowing homage—Korine has a cameo in the film.) Mid90s is not as bleak as Kids, but it does not airbrush the skateboard scene like a Mountain Dew commercial. Hill’s movie harks back to an era when the activity was rough, DIY and marginalized, illegal in some settings and definitely not cool with every parent.

At its center, Mid90s tells the story of Stevie (played by Sunny Suljic), an undersize kid with a single mom (Katherine Waterston) and a menacing older brother (Lucas Hedges) who finds comfort in a crew of skaters at a local shop. Stevie is intoxicated by the rebellion of the scene. Sometimes, he’s just intoxicated. The kids drink, smoke, say horrible things about women and make brainless mistakes. Mid90s is often laugh-out-loud and, at other times, harrowing and hard to watch, but it nails the seductive tedium of boys hanging out. It’s a crisp postcard at 82 minutes.

The film roiled around inside Hill for years. He’s friends with the director Spike Jonze, and for a time, he tinkered with a script and talked with Jonze about the project, reshaping the idea (originally the skateboarders’ story was told in flashback). Directing appealed to Hill, but he hadn’t quite summoned the nerve until he went to see then-29-year-old director Damien Chazelle’s Whiplash with Jonze and Bennett Miller, who directed him in Moneyball. As Chazelle’s name flashed on the screen, Hill says, “Bennett turned to me and said, ‘That guy’s younger than you…you better get to it.’ ”

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT “Jonah just came at me as a friend,” says Sunny Suljic, bottom right with the cast of Hill’s Mid90s. “He made it comfortable for me and the cast to just, like, go all out.”
THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT “Jonah just came at me as a friend,” says Sunny Suljic, bottom right with the cast of Hill’s Mid90s. “He made it comfortable for me and the cast to just, like, go all out.” Photo: Craig McDean for WSJ. Magazine, Styling by Julie Ragolia

Hill smiles. “That’s what really kicked my ass into gear. I have to thank Damien Chazelle if I ever meet him.”

Hill is an L.A. kid who grew up in an L.A. family not deeply into show business but close enough. An oft-repeated detail of his bio is that his father, Richard Feldstein, served as an accountant for rock clients including Guns N’ Roses. This is not as exotic as it sounds, Hill warns. “My dad said, ‘[In L.A.,] even if you’re a dentist, you’re the dentist for so-and-so.’ ” Hill’s mother, Sharon Lyn Chalkin, worked for a period as a costume designer and in other jobs on set. His kid sister, Beanie Feldstein, is an actress who played Saoirse Ronan’s best friend in Lady Bird. (“It’s a good thing I can direct, because once the world discovers her, there’s really no use for me,” Hill says of Beanie.) Hill’s older brother, Jordan Feldstein, was the manager of Maroon 5, helping propel the L.A. act to global stardom. Jordan died suddenly last year of a heart attack at age 40: “I love him, and I miss him very much. And that’s really all I’m gonna say about that,” Hill says of his brother. It’s a quote he’s given before, in an interview with New York magazine, and the only topic Hill declines to elaborate on.

Like his Mid90s protagonist, Stevie, Hill was drawn to skateboarding in his childhood—he describes himself as enthusiastic but “not very good.”

“Still, it came into my life at a time where I really needed it,” he says. “It was a group of outsiders who found one another.”

Mid90s ripples with hyperprecise period details and cameos that will please the hard-to-impress skate crowd. Its soundtrack is an utter banger—I haven’t stopped listening to the Pharcyde since I saw it. (Oscar-winning musicians Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross contributed to the score.) But what really pops is its cast. Hill turned to real skaters, with limited or no acting backgrounds, and coaxed moving performances from all of them (there are a handful of true pros, like Hedges, who got an Oscar nomination for Manchester by the Sea). He hunted for talent in skate parks—it’s where he found Suljic, who, hilariously, had to skate worse than he’s capable of to play the newbie Stevie.

Given all the youth and lack of experience, camaraderie was important, Hill says. He had flashbacks to Superbad, when he himself was barely underway as an actor. “Now I am the old guy at the table,” he says, laughing. “Like the dad. Everyone’s sitting around at lunch roasting each other, it’s so fun.”

One day, Hill noticed one of the skater/actors, Olan Prenatt, looking pensively at something below the table. “I look down, and he has his rumpled-up script under the table, and he’s working his ass off,” Hill says. “I went outside and cried. I was emotional. He worked so hard.”

CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN “I do love fashion, and I do care about style,” Hill says. “It’s been amazing to have your style recognized. It’s so personal.” Ermenegildo Zegna coat, $6,950, Ermenegildo Zegna, 663 Fifth Avenue, New York, The Row sweater, $1,095, The Row, 17 East 71st Street, New York, Ami pants, $405, mrporter​.com
CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN “I do love fashion, and I do care about style,” Hill says. “It’s been amazing to have your style recognized. It’s so personal.” Ermenegildo Zegna coat, $6,950, Ermenegildo Zegna, 663 Fifth Avenue, New York, The Row sweater, $1,095, The Row, 17 East 71st Street, New York, Ami pants, $405, mrporter​.com Photo: Craig McDean for WSJ. Magazine, Styling by Julie Ragolia

“Jonah’s an amazing actor, and he explains it from an actor perspective,” says Suljic, who had one significant credit (Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer) before taking on an intense part in which he’s on-screen for virtually the entire film. “He also just came at me as a friend. He made it comfortable for me and the cast to just, like, go all out.”

Mid90s moves fluidly and it crackles with life—to the point it seems improvised, but it’s almost all in Hill’s script. It’s a paradoxical feat, a director and crew working their guts out to make a film feel like it was done on the fly. “There’s lot of work in naturalism if it’s not naturalism,” Hill explains.

There’s a scene midway through the movie that speaks to this achievement. Stevie and the crew have come to a local skate hangout teeming with life—skaters doing tricks, homeless people clustered on the outskirts. There’s a moving interaction between Stevie’s crew and a homeless man (played by the rapper Del the Funky Homosapien), but what’s most striking about the scene is all the concurrent action—there are a thousand things happening at once, all around, and the scene envelops you, as if you’ve parachuted into a real-life skate world. Hill says the moment was at least partly inspired by his time around Scorsese in The Wolf of Wall Street, and how the 75-year-old director and his cinematographer, Rodrigo Prieto, labored to create elaborate, artful scenes.

“You do so much work to build this thing, that by the time the actors get there, they don’t even know a movie’s happening,” Hill says. On Wolf, “I would walk in with Leo [DiCaprio] and we’d shoot. But Rodrigo and Marty, they’d done the work.”

That’s also Hill’s style, says Mid90s producer Eli Bush. “Jonah has a crazy work ethic,” Bush says. “He puts in the work, he puts in the time. He spent a lot of time in a kind of film school and has a huge amount of respect for the craft and [its] heroes. He really put in the effort.”

Could Hill be planning to walk away from acting to focus on directorial work? Acting remains part of his agenda, Hill says—he just needs a good reason to do it. For Netflix’s Maniac, a darkly comic series in which Hill and Emma Stone play troubled souls seeking inner peace in a radical pharmaceutical trial, his reason was simple: He wanted to work with his friend Emma again.

“Honestly, I wanted to hang out with her,” Hill says. “We’re both so busy, we never get to hang out. I was like, ‘OK, cool, I get to work with Emma? Amazing.’ ”

The pair had not worked together since Superbad—Stone’s first movie—and one of the many odd pleasures of Maniac is seeing how far Superbad’s Seth and Jules have come in the decade since home economics class. Hill and Stone now have four Oscar nominations between them, with Stone winning best actress last year for La La Land, which, of course, was directed by Chazelle, who inspired Hill to direct Mid90s and—it’s all perfect.

“She’s unbelievable,” Hill says. “To see how she’s flourished as an actor?” He shakes his head.

The Row coat, $4,850, and shirt, $850, The Row, 17 East 71st Street, New York. Grooming, Kumi Craig; prop styling, Piers Hanmer.
The Row coat, $4,850, and shirt, $850, The Row, 17 East 71st Street, New York. Grooming, Kumi Craig; prop styling, Piers Hanmer. Photo: Craig McDean for WSJ. Magazine, Styling by Julie Ragolia

Before we go, I would be remiss if I didn’t address Hill’s side life as a style maven. In the Instagram era, he has become something of an exemplar of unselfconscious cool, mixing hypercurrent streetwear with sui generis personal touches. A Jonah Hill outfit is ready for anything, anytime. For the past couple of years, fans have gathered in Brooklyn to celebrate Jonah Hill Day, which Hill himself attended this summer (and showed up an hour early for, awkwardly). The internet is full of photos and tributes to Hill fashion: a flowing brown overcoat, tie-dyes, soccer shirts, a brief interlude with pink hair. The attention appears to delight him. “It’s really flattering, because I do love fashion, and I do care about style,” Hill says. “And it’s been amazing to have your style recognized. It’s so personal, you know.”

Sometimes, he will purposely have fun with it—as in the case of that Phoenix Suns jersey, which he ridiculously tucked into his pants before going outside for a walk. Photos of a smiling Hill in the curious get-up immediately went viral.

“I was trying to make my sister laugh,” he says now. “I looked in the mirror and I was like, ‘This is sick. I’m wearing dress shoes, dress pants and a basketball jersey.’ I knew [paparazzi] were going to photograph me, because they’re always just outside of my house. So I had fun with it. It was me playing with everyone. That’s me commenting on the joke.”

It’s such a strange planet now. A famous man can walk outside in a funny shirt, and a few hours later, it’s a global sensation, shared like photos of a moon landing.

“More people will see that than [Mid90s]!” Hill exclaims. “That’s where we’re at in the world. But it’s just where we’re at, you know?” • 

Write to Jason Gay at Jason.Gay@wsj.com

Mickey Mouse’s First Theme Park Ride May Be Coming To Disneyland

Mickey Mouse celebrates his 90th birthday in 2018 and while the mouse is one of the most iconic fictional characters in history, recognized the world over, he’s never had his own attraction at Disneyland. However, it sounds like that’s about to change, as a recent report claims that Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, an attraction currently under construction at Walt Disney World, will also be built at Disneyland.

The attraction is already scheduled to open next year at Disney’s Hollywood Studio in the space previously housing the Great Movie Ride, but a report coming from WDW News Today claims that the upcoming D23 Destination D event in Florida, taking place November 18, will include the announcement that the same attraction will be built inside Mickey’s Toontown at Disneyland. This is expected to be the next addition to the park following the opening of Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge, currently slated for the summer of 2019.

The good news, for fans of the existing Toontown, is that the new attraction won’t be taking over any existing space. Both Roger Rabbit’s Car Toon Spin and Gadget’s Go Coaster will continue. The ride building for Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will apparently be built behind the current end of Toontown, in a place where a couple behind the scenes buildings currently reside. The only existing Toontown location expected to close will be the Gag Shop, which will be the new entry point for the queue of the new attraction.

One aspect of the park that may suffer due to the construction, however, is fireworks. One of the buildings that will apparently be lost is the main pyrotechnic launch point. WDWNT reports that that is part of a larger plan to change the park’s evening fireworks show starting next year, with the evening spectacular being limited to projection only shows during the week with fireworks only being planned on the weekends. One positive side of this change is that Mickey’s Toontown regularly closes down early on nights where fireworks happen because of the proximity to that building, so that may no longer be required once the building is gone.

Assuming that the Disneyland attraction will be identical to the Walt Disney World version, the ride will see guests enter a theater where they begin to watching a Mickey and Minnie cartoon where the pair, along with Pluto, go for a picnic in the park. Eventually, guests will actually walk through the screen and enter the cartoon, where they will enter a train ride vehicle.

The vehicles, which will be using a trackless ride technology, follow the classic Disney characters through a variety of cartoon scenarios including dealing with stampeding animals, a cyclone, a waterfall, and more. Each room of the ride will be accompanied by animatronic figures as well as what’s being called 2.5D effects (something like 3D, but without glasses).

The only significant difference between the two versions of the attraction is likely the ride building itself. At Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway will be housed inside the replica of the Chinese Theater. Such a structure would be out of place inside Mickey’s Toontown, so something else will almost certainly be done.

If true, and it appears that it is, this is great news on a couple of fronts. First off, seeing Mickey and Minnie Mouse get an attraction of their very own at Walt Disney’s original theme park is a long overdue honor. It’s remarkable that this hadn’t happened previously, but in the end, it’s just nice to know that it’s happening at all.

Secondly, it’s a great addition to Mickey’s Toontown, an area that has never been able to realize its original promise.

Originally, Toontown was designed as a land that was going to be dedicated to the world and characters of the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit. However, as the Roger Rabbit character was co-owned by Disney and Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, the two sides had to agree on what attractions would be designed and how the characters would be used. Ultimately, the two companies had trouble finding common ground, and Disney had financial difficulties stemming from the problematic opening of EuroDisney (now Disneyland Paris), and so only one Roger Rabbit themed attraction was created, a simple dark ride that took guests through the events of the film. A Roger Rabbit walk around character was also created but he has not been seen in the park in years.

Beyond the two simple existing attractions, Mickey’s Toontown contains the “homes” of Disney characters like Mickey and Minnie and Donald and Goofy. The characters can frequently be found there for photo ops and while the houses are fun to walk through, the land feels small overall and clearly hasn’t been given much attention recently. This one attraction will go a long way to improving that. If this will be the first of a collection of upgrades to the area, that would be even better, though obviously, that’s far from clear.

Of course, one downside of another brand new attraction at that end of the park will be the crowds. Mickey’s Toontown is right next door to where Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is being constructed and that means large crowds heading to the same general area of the park. Recently, it’s been reported that a lot of benches and planters inside Disneyland have been removed as a way to deal with the overwhelming crowds, both those that already exist and those that are expected once Galaxy’s Edge is open to the public.

While the reports seem to indicate this is a sure thing, we’ll have to wait for the announcement in a couple of weeks to confirm. There certainly may be additional announcements along with this one that we’ll get on the 18th. We’ll need to wait and see what happens. Exactly when construction will begin on the new attraction or when it is expected to open is not clear, and while it’s unlikely Disney will confirm the latter date this far out, we may find out when construction will begin.

The Disney’s Hollywood Studios version of the attraction is slated to open sometime in 2019.

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Joe Jonas Dressed As His Fiancee’s Game Of Thrones Character For Halloween

It’s that spooky time of year again, and celebrities aren’t holding back from donning their best creative costumes. Joe Jonas attended a Halloween party with his fiancee over the weekend, and he went ahead and dressed up as her most famous character. Sophie Turner plays Sansa Stark on HBO’s Game of Thrones, and Joe Jonas going full Sansa in honor of his fiancee is something few of us probably ever expected to see. Take a look!

In case you were ever dying to see Joe Jonas dressed like his fiancee dressed like a fictional character, Halloween season 2018 is the time for you! He has more scruff than I’ve ever seen on Sansa, and the dress isn’t quite as regal as we’ve seen on Sansa since she took her place as the Lady of Winterfell, but he definitely gets points for the costume. In fact, I’d name him as the best-dressed in the two pictures, despite the killer Catwoman and the Harry Potter lookalike.

These two pictures do prove that Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner didn’t decide to go for a couples’ costume, like Ariel Winter did as Pam Anderson and her own Kid Rock. Turner is present, but she is dressed as an elephant. As far as I recall, Sansa hasn’t spent time with any elephants during the run of Game of Thrones so far, and I doubt her costume is a spoiler that Thrones is packing any pachyderms into the final season.

All of this said, I’d be lying if I said his costume didn’t also make me think of Fiona from Shrek and even a little bit of Merida from Brave, and Sansa might not have been my first pick if Joe Jonas was not engaged to Sophie Turner. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, however. That costume is versatile enough that he can dress up as even more redhead characters in long flowing dresses!

Something tells me Joe Jonas didn’t land the job as Sophie Turner’s double on the Game of Thrones set, and he certainly won’t now that filming has completed. Like other Game of Thrones actors, Turner changed her physical appearance from her look on the show. Turner went so blonde that she could pass for a Targaryen and even got a new Game of Thrones tattoo.

If Joe Jonas could have passed for any living Game of Thrones character without donning the wig and dress, it probably would have been Jon Snow. The dark hair and stubble rule out plenty of characters. Of course, it might have felt strange to have Joe Jonas dressed as Jon Snow by the side of his fiancee, who plays Jon Snow’s sister/secret cousin.

Who knows? If Joe Jonas (who shared the pics on Twitter) loved his Sansa costume enough, maybe he could try to land a role on the spinoff, which just announced its first star. Will this happen? Almost certainly not. But it’s fun to speculate, even if this wasn’t quite as wild as the family who went full Infinity War to celebrate Halloween.

How The Twilight Sets Changed From Movie To Movie, According To Kellan Lutz

When Twilight hit theaters now almost ten years ago, it was the beginning of a massive franchise. Friendships were melded over the shared love of the story and divisions were created between Team Edward versus Team Jacob. It was a pop culture phenomenon that propelled its young stars into celebrity status, as they were slapped on teen magazine covers and on their fans’ bedroom posters. In my interview with Twilight‘s Kellan Lutz, he reminisced about how things changed on set as its actors became household names. In his words to CinemaBlend:

It looks like filming Twilight was the calm before the storm. Before the vampire love story came to theaters in 2008, names such as Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson were blips on the radar. After their iconic roles graced the screen, adoring fans followed them wherever they went, even often to their filming locations. This popularity seemed to have a bit of an anti-social effect on the cast, who no longer hung out and had as much fun in between takes, per Kellan Lutz’s comments.

The now 33-year-old actor said he enjoyed the experience of the first film the most because of director Catherine Hardwicke‘s vision of the movie and characters. Twilight had a much lower budget than the rest of the series’ films and was combatting uncertainty from the studio of its success. An early script of the first film even had CIA agents on jet skis and Bella as a track star at her high school, according to Hardwicke. As any fan of the books can tell you, that would have been quite an imaginative adaptation of it.

For the cast of the Twilight franchise, those movies have kicked off and defined their careers even today. Kellan Lutz describes much of the fanbase as his friends today, some of whom he gets coffee with or receives birthday and Christmas cards from. It famously propelled the careers of Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart into the spotlight, who are each currently working steadily in the indie space and have continually received acclaim for their work over the years.

Ten years later, Lutz says the cast have families and jobs around the world, so it’s tough to get them all together for a reunion. They’ll always have the fun and innocent moments in between shooting that iconic baseball scene and in the high school cafeteria. The first Twilight movie is now available on 4K.

Star-Lord Almost Looked Very Different In Guardians Of The Galaxy

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been going strong for a decade, and is showing no signs of slowing down. While these interconnected blockbusters have become commonplace, there are certain movies that manage to stand out among the rest. Chief among them is the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, which has a tone unique to any of its peers within the genre.

While the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is truly an ensemble project, the cast (and the team itself) is led by Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill/ Star-Lord. The character is equal parts comedy and substance, but his costume could have looked a lot different than Pratt’s signature look in the franchise. Just take a look below.

Woah. This image practically looks like it’s from another movie altogether, as its much more theatrical and flashy than the red uniform Star-Lord is wont to wear throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But did the studio make the right call?

This image comes to us from artist Charlie Wen, who was the head of the art department in a handful of MCU blockbusters– especially during the cinematic universe’s first two phases. His work on James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy was followed by contributions to both Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man, although his vision has been noticeably absent during the massively successful Phase Three.

Charlie Wen’s rendering for Star-Lord matches the concept art that first announced James Gunn’s blockbuster. The image debuted at Comic-Con before the Guardians became household names, with the team ultimately looking way different in the final movie. Star-Lord’s above appearance has a much more medieval inspiration, and a closer resemblance to the character’s comic book costume.

Instead of an armored costume with touches of blue, Peter Quill ultimately had a much more pedestrian appearance when he made his MCU debut in Guardians of the Galaxy. Chris Pratt rocked a simple leather red Ravager jacket, and an otherwise civilian costume. And when the Guardians eventually got it together and became their own team, Gamora, Drax, and Rocket all got to rock their own matching red uniform.

Ultimately, Star-Lord is the only member of the Guardians of the Galaxy that has a custom superhero outfit. The crew didn’t wear matching outfits when they returned for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or Avengers: Infinity War. Instead, their individual personalities and abilities are reflected with their gear. Besides, the Guardians don’t really need big crazy costumes. They look crazy enough just the way they are.

The Guardians of the Galaxy (or what’s left of them) will return to the Marvel Cinematic Universe when Avengers 4 arrives in theaters on May 3rd. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release list to plan your trips to the movies in the New Year.

London Fields Author Not Surprised Amber Heard’s Movie Flopped

Author Martin Amis first published London Fields in 1989, and after a 15-plus year journey, a cinematic adaptation of the novel finally opened in theaters last weekend. Yet judging by the box office receipts, that wait may not have been worth it, as the film starring Amber Heard performed historically bad. Martin Amis is not surprised that London Fields flopped, although he can’t point out specifically why it did, as he explained:

Martin Amis seems to have had no illusions about London Fields being some massive box office hit. He knows his novel and he contributed to the screenplay, so Amis knew what this film would be and probably had some inkling it didn’t have mass-market appeal. Since London Fields flopping didn’t come as a surprise, perhaps that tempers any sort of disappointment for the author.

The novel is known as being ‘unfilmable,’ and while Martin Amis rejected that distinction, he also found Matthew Cullen’s film to be extremely faithful. It sounds like that faithfulness and the unfilmable quality of the source material came through onscreen, as Martin Amis acknowledged to The Guardian that the film itself may have been a bit confusing.

That lack of clarity in the film could certainly have contributed to London Fields‘ negative reviews, and that opens up the question of whether or not the film was faithful to a fault. In his interview with The Guardian, Martin Amis seemed to have liked the film, but adaptation is a tricky balance and faithfulness doesn’t always make for a good film. Stephen King hates The Shining, but it’s a great movie.

Still, the fact that the film is confusing is only something that audiences would have found out after seeing it. Sure the 0% on Rotten Tomatoes probably didn’t encourage audiences to see it, but that doesn’t really account for the film’s performance entirely.

Although Martin Amis never thought London Fields would be popular, ‘not popular’ doesn’t really capture the scope of the film’s fiscal failures. London Fields opened on October 26 and earned a dreadful $160,000 opening weekend from 613 theaters. That earned it the ignominious distinction as the worst per screen opening of all time.

A failure on that level probably goes beyond the movie being confusing. Another movie in theaters, Bad Times at the El Royale features a potentially confusing non-linear narrative and the marketing campaign doesn’t really tell you what it’s about, and it fared far better at the box office.

As is often the case in these situations, it’s difficult to pinpoint one specific thing that did London Fields in. Anecdotally, the marketing seemed near nonexistent and what was out there didn’t do London Fields any favors or let audiences know what this movie actually is. The reviews were poor and the Johnny Depp factor couldn’t have helped, but like I said, it’s probably more complicated than any one or three things.

At least Martin Amis got to see his novel realized onscreen, even if it performed poorly. Who knows, perhaps London Fields will draw people in with a morbid curiosity to see why it flopped so hard.

London Fields is in theaters now. For other films coming out this year and certainly hoping to put up better numbers than that film, check out our release schedule.

Netflix’s New Series Is Running At 100% On Rotten Tomatoes

Netflix recently imported the massively popular series Bodyguard. The thriller was a breakout hit when it aired on BBC earlier this year. Along with thrilling audiences, the series is having a similar effect on critics. Netflix’s hot new import is currently running at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

To date, the review aggregator has checked 45 critical reviews of Bodyguard‘s first season. In a staggering feat, all of them have given the series the much-wanted “fresh” ranking, according to Rotten Tomatoes. Thus, giving the series a “certified fresh” rating. Bodyguard has earned an average rating of 8.53 out of 10. Its audience score is comparably high with 87% liking it.

The critical consensus has praised Bodyguard for its maintained suspense and addictive nature. That last part definitely makes you grateful you do not have to wait a week to watch the next episode.

Bodyguard‘s success marks one of the rare times high ratings have converged with high critical marks. The six-part series was a phenomenon when it originally aired in the U.K. For its star, that is not an entirely unfamiliar feeling. He was on Game of Thrones. Richard Madden, who starred as the ill-fated Robb Stark on the HBO hit, takes the lead in Bodyguard.

The series follows Richard Madden’s Sergeant David Budd, a British-Army war veteran, who served in Afghanistan. He now works as a bodyguard for Protection Command. As part of this role, he is assigned to protect British Home Secretary, Julie Montague. Actress Keeley Hawes plays her and the dynamic between the two leads is cause for lots of character-driven intrigue.

Between the critics and the audience buzz, it remains to be seen how well the show is doing on Netflix. Suffice it to say there is reason to believe it is doing well. Bodyguard debuted on the streamer on October 24, giving prospective viewers more than enough time to have binge-watched it by the beginning of the next week.

As for its critical accomplishment, Bodyguard is one of five series to have currently captured the certified fresh rating. HBO’s The Deuce, NBC’s The Good Place, and Netflix’s adult cartoon series BoJack Horseman and Big Mouth are the others. Interestingly, three out of the five series stream on Netflix. The Good Place‘s previous seasons also stream there. It is safe to say that the streaming giant has a lot of what the critics want.

Bodyguard offers a television destination for Game of Thrones fans to be especially enthused to see. As one of the show’s most talented actors, it was bittersweet to have him cast as Robb Stark. On the one hand, Madden was the best actor to play the role. On the other, it meant his time on the show was short-lived.

Find out if he makes it out of Bodyguard alive! Season 1 is currently available to stream on Netflix. The thriller is one of many TV shows making their debuts this fall on the streaming giant.

Tyler Perry, Escaping It All (Including Madea)

‘It’s just time,’ Tyler Perry says of his plans to end his popular Madea movie franchise. ‘There are other things I want to do and I’ve leaned on it a little bit too long.’ His next film, ‘Nobody’s Fool,’ opens this week.
‘It’s just time,’ Tyler Perry says of his plans to end his popular Madea movie franchise. ‘There are other things I want to do and I’ve leaned on it a little bit too long.’ His next film, ‘Nobody’s Fool,’ opens this week. Photo: PARAMOUNT PICTURES

Next year, the filmmaker Tyler Perry will turn 50, end his “Madea” movie franchise and start thinking hard about his legacy. But over the next few days, he has the more pressing matter of releasing “Nobody’s Fool.”

The movie out on Friday stars Emmy winner Tiffany Haddish as Tanya, a woman who, after being released from prison, moves in with her sister (Tika Sumpter), a successful businesswoman with a disastrous love life. The film, Mr. Perry’s 20th, is his first R-rated comedy.

At a moment when television critics are praising so-called anti-comedies—shows like FX’s “Atlanta” and HBO’s “Barry,” both 2018 Emmy nominees for best comedy series that earned praise for their smarts but often went for nuance over belly laughs—“Nobody’s Fool” is different. It might be closer to an anti-anti-comedy.

When it comes to some of those critically praised TV shows, “to be completely truthful with you, a lot of times I’m watching it and I don’t get it,” Mr. Perry said. “Just give me the simple back-in-the-day comedy, tell me what I’m supposed to be laughing at. Don’t make me think about it.”

Tyler Perry’s new movie ‘Nobody’s Fool’ stars, from left, Tika Sumpter, Whoopi Goldberg and Tiffany Haddish.
Tyler Perry’s new movie ‘Nobody’s Fool’ stars, from left, Tika Sumpter, Whoopi Goldberg and Tiffany Haddish. Photo: PARAMOUNT PICTURES

For his first film with Paramount Pictures, Mr. Perry wove the MTV series “Catfish” into the “Nobody’s Fool” plot, eager to include a brand under Paramount’s parent company Viacom . “Catfish” finds people who lie about their identities to online love interests who have never met them.

In December, Mr. Perry appears as Colin Powell in the Dick Cheney biopic “Vice.” Mr. Perry, who studied clips of the former secretary of state to nail down the voice, said he called Mr. Powell about playing the role and asked for his blessing, which was granted.

This spring, he plans to release “Tyler Perry’s A Madea Family Funeral,” in which he reprises his performance as the wisecracking matriarch. The first nine live-action Madea movies—he has written and starred in all of them and directed all but one—have grossed more than $548 million in the U.S., according to Box Office Mojo.

Mr. Perry spoke about turning down a 2018 Super Bowl ad, avoiding political comedy and writing for an actress he considers the young Madea. Here, edited excerpts:

Are you ever tempted to go in the direction of more serious comedies?

Absolutely not. I know my lanes, I’ve got a few and I know them very well.

What about making your comedy more political?

It’s not my thing. When I go to a movie or when I’m watching a television show I’m looking to escape it all. I don’t want to be reminded of it in the things that I do.

How do you feel about entertainers ruling out Super Bowl appearances to show solidarity with quarterback and activist Colin Kaepernick?

I just turned down a promo for the NFL. I did one the year before and they asked me to do it again and I turned it down in support of Colin Kaepernick and in disappointment for the way the NFL is handling it. The kid just wants to play football and he should be allowed to do so.

Who Is He?

  • Name: Tyler Perry
  • What He Does: Filmmaker
  • How He Got There: “I worked odd jobs, saving money and putting everything I had toward my plays. For seven years, I would put on a play every year. At my first show, I thought 1,200 people would show up and only 30 did.”
  • His Big Break: When he sold out the Fox Theatre in Atlanta with his 1998 show “I Know I’ve Been Changed.”
  • His Obsession: Rumble, a boxing-inspired workout.

Do people working in comedy need to be more careful about offending people in today’s charged climate?

Listen, I’m a black man in America who owns a studio. I’ve always had to be careful what I say. I’ve had to be careful of what I say and how I say it, not to offend, because there are a lot of people in power who have issues with me being in the position that I’m in.

How much work has your Atlanta studio generated?

I just moved it to the Fort McPherson army base and last month alone 25,000 cars came through the gates to work. When people are coming to work with me on my shows, a large majority of them are African-American people, black and brown people who have not had an opportunity in this business ever. When I was 30 it was, “How much can I make?” or “What can I do next?” or “What can I make No. 1?” Now, at this age, with an almost 4-year-old child, it’s about legacy and what I’m leaving and who I’m opening doors for.

You shot “Nobody’s Fool” in 10 days. How long were those days?

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They’re only 12-hour days. When movies are made there are probably 20 or 30 people who are in the decision-making process of everything that happens. For me, I am that person. I write the script, I direct it, I’ve got three cameras going, I have an incredible crew. We have the shorthand, so it all comes together. If the actors can handle 15 pages a day in dialogue, I’m going.

Did you write the movie for Tiffany Haddish?

I specifically wrote the character for Tiffany Haddish. I feel like if Madea was 30 years old—this is why it’s so easy for me to write for her—all I had to do is just write a young Madea and give those words to her and she took them and ran with them.

Why end the Madea franchise?

I’m going into 50 with a whole new plan. It’s just time. I’ve had a great run. There are other things I want to do and I’ve leaned on it a little bit too long.

Does Madea die in the final film?

She doesn’t die. But she has threatened to kill me.

Write to Ellen Gamerman at ellen.gamerman@wsj.com

More in Film

9 Moments In Monsta X’s ‘Shoot Out’ Video I Can’t Stop Thinking About

The seven members of K-pop group Monsta X don’t simply ask for your attention; they demand it. Their latest single, “Shoot Out,” is no exception. It’s loud and aggressive — reminiscent of the septet’s earlier work on songs like “Trespass” — with a thundering beat, slick pop-rock chorus, and sensual visual. And it’s been stuck in my head since it dropped last week.

“Walker walker walker growling” is extremely catchy, OK?

“Shoot Out” is the bombastic lead single off the group’s sophomore album, Take.1 Are You There?, and its striking visual hints at themes of darkness and light. The sumptuous music video also highlights what makes Monsta X one of the more compelling acts in K-pop at the moment: their duality. They’re equal parts dangerous and playful with an in-your-face energy that refuses to be ignored.

They serve angst with chokers, harnesses, faux eyebrow rings, and smoldering stares, while wearing unbuttoned coveralls (sans undershirts, hallelujah) and magically shaking their exposed pecs in a way that I didn’t think was humanly possible.

Starship Entertainment

Seriously. What sorcery is this, Shownu?

Starship Entertainment

The group is composed of charismatic rappers Jooheon and I.M and vocalists Shownu, Wonho, Minhyuk, Hyungwon, and Kihyun (who completely owns the hook on “Shoot Out”). And here they are on the way to my funeral after completely wrecking me with Wonho’s lip ring chain and that gyrating hip choreography:

Starship Entertainment

From left to right: Jooheon, Hyungwon, Shownu, Minhyuk, Kihyun, Wonho, and I.M

And because I love to suffer, here are just a few of the moments I can’t stop thinking about from the “Shoot Out” music video:

Jenna Dewan Is Reportedly Dating Broadway Actor Steve Kazee

A few weeks ago, news broke that Jenna Dewan was casually dating someone, and now we reportedly know who that someone is: Broadway actor Steve Kazee. A source tells People magazine that Dewan and Kazee have been “dating for a couple [of] months” and that she’s “really happy.”

Kazee is perhaps best known for his role on the hit Broadway musical Once, for which he won a Tony Award in 2012. He’s also appeared on TV shows like Nashville and Shameless, and sang “A Thousand Years” for the The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn — Part 2 soundtrack. Dewan is a dancer herself, so it’s very possible a reason these two connected was their mutual love for music.

A friend of Dewan’s posted a photo of both her, Kazee, and a group of their friends hanging out at a Los Angeles Haunted Hayride exhibition. In the pic, it appears Kazee has his arm wrapped around Dewan’s waist:

This news is coming on the heels of Dewan officially filing for divorce from Channing Tatum, who’s reportedly dating pop singer Jessie J. That (maybe) union set the Internet ablaze just a few weeks ago.

“We have lovingly chosen to separate as a couple,” Dewan and Tatum said in a joint statement several months ago announcing their split. “We fell deeply in love so many years ago and have had a magical journey together. Absolutely nothing has changed about how much we love one another, but love is a beautiful adventure that is taking us on different paths for now. There are no secrets nor salacious events at the root of our decision — just two best-friends realizing it’s time to take some space and help each other live the most joyous, fulfilled lives as possible.”

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