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    Kevin Hart Discusses His Netflix Thriller ‘True Story’

    In a candid interview, the prolific comic and actor talks about taking a darkly dramatic turn in this Netflix thriller, and about getting support from his friend Dave Chappelle.Getting Kevin Hart’s attention occasionally requires some perseverance, but it is ultimately worth the wait.As he approached for our lunchtime interview last Thursday, Hart was in the midst of a phone call that he couldn’t get out of or wasn’t finished with. For a few minutes he walked the aisles of the MO Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in midtown Manhattan, a cellphone pressed to one ear as he strolled tantalizingly close to our table, then veered off in another direction as he continued the conversation.Then, in one seamless motion, Hart ended the call, slid into a chair across from me and switched effortlessly into face-to-face conversation mode.“Talk to me, let’s go,” he said.Hart, the 42-year-old stand-up and comic actor, keeps a relentlessly busy schedule and he seems to like it that way. You can catch him pretty much round-the-clock in lighthearted adventures like the “Jumanji” series; dramedies like “The Upside” and “Fatherhood”; animated features like “The Secret Life of Pets”; his commercials for Chase banking; any of his past stand-up specials; or his streaming talk show, “Hart to Heart.” Hours after we spoke, it was announced that the diminutive Hart will play Gary Coleman’s role in a live TV re-enactment of “Diff’rent Strokes.” And on Tuesday, his comedy album “Zero _____ Given” was nominated for a Grammy.To this expansive résumé you can now add the Netflix series “True Story,” a seven-episode thriller starring Hart as a celebrity who is racing to cover up a death he may or may not be responsible for.In “True Story,” which is scheduled for release on Wednesday, Hart plays a mega-popular comedian and actor known simply as the Kid. Following a misguided night out with his struggling older brother, Carlton (Wesley Snipes), Kid awakens in a hotel room next to the body of a dead woman — and then undertakes a series of increasingly reckless decisions in order to cover up her death and protect his career.In the series, Hart’s character and his brother, played by Wesley Snipes, get enmeshed in a murder.Adam Rose/NetflixYou might wonder if Hart can handle such a role, with its life-or-death stakes and occasionally brutal action scenes. He shares none of these concerns. As Hart explained to me between bites of French fries and sips of coffee, “True Story” was created to show that he is as capable of hard-edge drama as he is of any other genre. (Hart is also an executive producer on the series.)“When it’s all said and done with me and my career, people are going to realize that I’ve checked every box,” he said. “This is just to simply show, I got that. This is in my bag. If I get the itch to do it, I’ll create the thing to scratch it.”“True Story” arose from this ambition and from Hart’s conversations with Eric Newman, an executive producer and showrunner of the crime dramas “Narcos” and “Narcos: Mexico.”Newman, the creator of “True Story” and a writer on the series, said in a phone interview that Hart wanted to play a character who was similar to himself but who was driven to desperate measures by what he considered an existential threat.But, Newman said of the show’s protagonist: “His version of existential threat might be different than yours or mine. I might perhaps be driven to do something horrible if my children were in jeopardy. In the case of a celebrity, a famous person, if you take their career away, that is a fate worse than death.”“True Story” is largely fictionalized, but Hart’s real life has not lacked for drama. He is only two years removed from a car accident in which he sustained major back injuries, requiring surgery and rehabilitation, and which he has said left him a changed man. And it has been almost three years since he stepped down as host of the Academy Awards after some of his past jokes and comments were criticized as homophobic.While Hart has continued to reflect on the Oscars controversy, he has also received renewed public support from Dave Chappelle, his friend and fellow stand-up, who said in his recent Netflix special, “The Closer,” that Hart was treated unfairly. (“The Closer” has itself been criticized as transphobic, and dozens of Netflix employees walked out of the company’s Los Angeles office last month in protest.)Hart spoke further about his desire to make “True Story,” the facts and fiction behind the series and his understanding of the criticism that he and Chappelle have received. These are edited excerpts from that conversation.“Your biggest believer in what you do should be you,” Kevin Hart said. “Me wanting to do drama is because I know I can do it.”Ike Edeani for The New York Times“True Story” is far darker than anything we’ve seen you in before. What made you want to do this?The goal was to present a side of my talent that would never be expected. The best way to do that was to kill. How do I kill on camera? Blunt, just like that. In entertainment, the joy is doing the things that you can never do in life. Comedy has presented the opportunity to be funny in different ways. Buddy-cop movies. Action-adventure. It’s given me a world where I’ve been able to play and have fun. Well, this is the complete opposite. I’m still playing, but I get to be dark as hell.Is there a chance your audience won’t accept you in something like “True Story”?When you start doing it for the perceptions of others, you’re never going to win. Your biggest believer in what you do should be you. Me wanting to do drama is because I know I can do it. I know I’m good at it. So I’m going to do it and put this out there. I would never put that much power in someone else, to think that their opinion controls my narrative.What was it about “Narcos” that made you want to work with Eric Newman?Eric made you root for a bad guy. Although we all know how Pablo Escobar dies, you still found yourself rooting for Pablo when he’s running from the officers on a roof. You find yourself going, “Come on Pablo, get out of there.” For me, I said: “I have to be believable in this space. If I’m going to kill, how do I make people care about me in the same way?”The show’s depiction of celebrity life is informed by Hart’s own experiences.Tyler Golden/NetflixThe nonstop demands of the professional world that Kid inhabits on “True Story” seem pretty punishing. Is that how your work feels to you?When we were in the development process, I explained my world to Eric. Everybody’s giving you their energy, good or bad. Their problems. It’s: “I need you to do — ” “Can you — ?” “You know what’s going on with me, you think you can help?” When is it too much? Nobody wants to hear that you don’t want to, or that you can’t. So you find yourself getting pushed around.Do you find, as he does, that there are temptations to bad behavior around every corner?[Expletive] yes, it’s still there! It’s so easy to do dumb [expletive]. It’s available whenever you want it. Doing the right thing, living life correctly, there’s a conscious effort behind it. And it’s work. Not to say it’s work in a bad way, but you’re working constantly to make sure that you’re doing things correctly, appropriately. You need a good team around you that’s OK with saying no.How did you get Wesley Snipes to play the role of Kid’s brother, Carlton?As we really started to get into this character, we realized he was such an important piece of the puzzle. We need a real good actor that can pull Carlton off, and Wesley Snipes’s name came up. We were like, “Do you think we can get him?” I was like, “I’m going to reach out.” Wesley thought it was a comedy at first; he was a little distant. I had to explain to him that this was serious and I wasn’t joking. When he latched onto the material, he said: “OK, you’d better bring it. Because if I do it, that’s what I’m expecting.” I said, “Say no more.”[Hart excuses himself to go to the bathroom. When he returns, he is again speaking on his cellphone, this time to the filmmaker F. Gary Gray, who is directing Hart’s upcoming heist movie, “Lift.”]Is this how many balls you have to juggle to make it as an entertainer these days?My reality is insane. The amount of things that I’m able to manage and delegate and operate at the same time, it’s mind-blowing. It’s a talent within a talent. I can multitask like nobody else’s business.I assume you could dial this all back if you wanted to — just do one or two projects a year?Then what am I supposed to do with the rest of the year? [Laughs.] I’ll be twiddling my thumbs. I’ll go crazy, man.Dave Chappelle spoke in your defense at the end of his new Netflix special, “The Closer.” How did you feel about that?That’s my brother. My relationship with Dave is one that I value, respect and appreciate. In our profession, it’s a crab-in-a-barrel mentality. There’s this perception that there can only be one star or one funny guy, and we’re always pitted against each other. When you have that confidence and security to embrace another talent and stand by another talent, it says a lot about who you are. Chappelle’s operating at a different frequency, man, and I couldn’t be prouder of him.Were you concerned that his mention of you would reopen your old controversy, or put you in a position of having to defend Chappelle from the criticism he has received?In what world is a friend not going to be a friend if he wants to be a friend? With Dave, I think the media have an amazing way of making what they want a narrative to be. Within this conversation attached to Dave, nobody’s hearing what his attempt is. They’re hearing a narrative that’s been created. So the conversation is now amplified into something that has nothing to do with the beginning of what it was. That’s where it gets lost. Everybody needs to come down off the soapbox and get to a place of solution.But where is there a middle ground between Chappelle and people who have felt hurt by “The Closer”?That man don’t have a hateful bone in his body. And I don’t say that because it’s hypothetical — I say that because I know him. I know his world. I know that he embraces the LGBT+ community, because he has friends who are close to him from that community. I know that his kids understand equality, fair treatment, love. I know that his wife embeds that in their kids. I know why people embrace him. He’s a good dude.Do you agree with the argument — as some of Chappelle’s defenders have made, and as often comes up when a comedian is criticized for insensitivity — that anything said in the context of a joke is permissible?You can’t say that. “It’s just a joke,” right? I understand why people would want that to be the case. But it’s not the case. If there is a joke, there’s an attempt to be funny. You can find a joke tasteful or distasteful. If you’re a supporter of a performer, then you’re probably OK with whatever’s happening. And if you’re not a fan, you’re infuriated and you’re outraged. Rightfully so — you have every right to be. You also have a right to not support it. But the energy that’s put into wanting to change or end someone, it’s getting out of hand.Has this experience given you a new perspective on when you were criticized for your remarks?I can only relate because of what I went through. The difference in what I went through: I learned a lesson in ego. My ego blinded to me where I couldn’t see what the real thing was about. My ego had me thinking: You want me to apologize? I already did. This is 10 years ago. Why are you asking like this is me, now, when I said these things?But it wasn’t about the people that may or may not have known that I apologized. It was about the people who wanted to know that I don’t support violence in any type of way. Because I missed it, that doesn’t make me a person who hates — that makes me oblivious to a moment because I was wrapped up in my own [expletive]. I was human. You can’t lose that. And that’s what happening today: We’re losing that in the attempt to say, “I’m right and you’re wrong and that’s it.” I don’t understand how we ever evolve.Does it feel strange that comedians should be the focus of this much attention — that their words should carry this much weight?You can’t ignore the attention that comes with the stage that we’re on. The one thing you have to be conscious of now is that words have impact. You have a choice to make, as a person who has a platform, when you speak. If you want to say things, that’s your right. With those things you choose to speak on, there can come backlash. If you’re OK with the plus and the minus of it, then that’s your choice.I’m much more aware today than I was yesterday, and I’m conscious of the things that I say. I’m making sure that I’m on the side of understanding. That doesn’t take away my ability to be myself. It just means that in being myself, let’s just make sure we’re respectful in our approach. More

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    Kevin Spacey Ordered to Pay $31 Million to ‘House of Cards’ Studio

    An arbitrator ruled last year that Kevin Spacey and his production companies owe MRC, the studio behind the Netflix series “House of Cards,” nearly $31 million for breach of contract following numerous sexual harassment allegations against the actor.The secret arbitrator’s ruling, which was issued 13 months ago, was made public on Monday when lawyers for MRC petitioned a California court to confirm the award.Mr. Spacey was once the centerpiece of the hit Netflix series, which ran for six seasons between 2013 and 2018. Mr. Spacey played the main character, the conniving politician Frank Underwood, and served as an executive producer of the series.While the sixth and final season was being filmed in 2017, the actor Anthony Rapp accused Mr. Spacey of making a sexual advance toward him in 1986, when Mr. Rapp was 14. MRC and Netflix suspended production on the series while they investigated.Mr. Rapp’s public accusation came just weeks after The New York Times and The New Yorker published articles about the producer Harvey Weinstein and as the #MeToo movement was gaining steam.By December 2017, after further allegations were made against Mr. Spacey, including by crew members of “House of Cards,” MRC and Netflix fired the actor from the show.In the arbitration, MRC argued that Mr. Spacey’s behavior caused the studio to lose millions of dollars because it had already spent time and money in developing, writing and shooting the final season. It also said it brought in less revenue because the season had to be shortened to eight episodes from the 13 because Mr. Spacey’s character was written out.The arbitrator apparently agreed, issuing a reward of nearly $31 million, including compensatory damages and lawyers’ fees.A lawyer for Mr. Spacey declined to comment.In a statement, MRC said, “The safety of our employees, sets and work environments is of paramount importance to MRC and why we set out to push for accountability.” More

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    ‘The Princess Switch 3’ Review: Meow, It’s Fiona’s Turn

    A golden star on loan from the Vatican to crown the holiday tree in tiny Montenaro has been stolen. What’s a royal family to do?One of the most satisfying moments of “The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star” is seeing the scheming villain Fiona, in sequined beanie and stiletto sandals, swabbing the floors of the local convent and orphanage, working off the hefty community service sentence she earned last year in the previous edition of this seasonal Netflix movie series directed by Mike Rohl.The only scene to top it is when Fiona (Vanessa Hudgens) tries to walk a dog, and ends up being hauled along a snow-dusted sidewalk like a sled by the very Great Dane at the end of the leash. But it turns out that even this batty outsider has something to contribute when her cousin Queen Margaret (also Vanessa Hudgens) needs her help — and can commute her community service.Margaret and Fiona’s look-alike cousin from America, Stacy (also played by you-know-who), is on hand with Prince Edward (Sam Palladio), her handsome but clueless husband, for the much-anticipated Christmas pageant. One thing is certain: The celebration will be dripping with enough lights to run up a staggering electric bill. What they don’t suspect is that an intrigue of Continental proportions is going to shake up the impeccable snow globe that is Montenaro.That intrigue would involve the Star of Peace, a precious decorative relic from the Vatican (who knew there was a lending library there?), which has barely arrived when it mysteriously disappears. What the royal retinue needs is an expert on the criminal mind: in a word, Fiona.When the flamboyant answer to their prayers sashays into the room, she locks eyes with Stacy’s husband and greets him with a purring “Hello, royal six-pack.” That’s how she talks. And she meows, and says “Zzzzzzzttttt!”Anyone who has seen one of these movies can just take over for the characters and guess their lines as easily as the three cousins can swap clothes and accents to impersonate one another.Interchangeable though the cousins may be, Fiona grabs the spotlight this year. Through her connections she produces an ex, Peter Maxwell (Remy Hii), a former Interpol officer with the sophisticated suite of crook-catching tools needed to retrieve the Star. But, paving the way for more sequels that are less superficial, she is drawn as the one character who actually grows, who steps out of her one-dimensional bad-girl type to reveal her vulnerability. Sharing some long-buried memories, she helps us understand why she is cold and distant when she puts down her peppermint martini and feather boa.The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the StarRated PG. Running time: 1 hour 46 minutes. Watch on Netflix. More

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    Yoko Kanno composed the eclectic score for 'Cowboy Bebop'

    Yoko Kanno has become one of Japan’s foremost composers since she created the eclectic score for the anime series “Cowboy Bebop.” She returned for Netflix’s live-action version.The anime series “Cowboy Bebop” debuted in Japan in 1998, combining futuristic space travel with Spaghetti Western grit and the slickness of film noir. In 2001, Cartoon Network aired an English dubbed version, introducing American audiences to the suave yet troubled bounty hunter Spike Spiegel and the ragtag crew of the spaceship Bebop.The animated import also acquainted U.S. viewers with the composer Yoko Kanno, whose swinging earworm of a theme song became among the most recognizable in anime. Her eclectic compositions — with their percolating jazz and doleful sax solos and languorous blues harmonica riffs — were an essential part of the cult hit, helping its director, Shinichiro Watanabe, set the mood for every botched payday, steely-eyed showdown, lovelorn flashback and fast-paced space chase. The show has since become internationally known as a top-tier anime, thanks in large part to her bold and brassy sound.In Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop,” John Cho (bottom, with Alex Hassell) embodies the bounty hunter Spike.NetflixSo when the production teams at Tomorrow Studios and Midnight Radio decided in 2019 to create a live-action adaptation, the showrunner André Nemec believed it was “critical” to convince Kanno to return as composer, he said.“The fans of ‘Bebop’ know how important the sonic identity of the show is,” he said. “It’s a beloved anime, so there was a real effort to get that right.”The live-action series premiers Friday on Netflix, with Kanno once again overseeing the score. In the span of four months, she rerecorded key original tracks and crafted new pieces for the 10 hourlong episodes, which include Rat Pack-era jazz, Latin horns and even ’90s alt-rock. A soundtrack for the new series debuts on streaming platforms that same day.“She immediately started spinning her magic,” Nemec said of her return. “She really understands storytelling and she lived in those characters.”The original Spike, as seen in “Cowboy Bebop: The Movie.”Bandai Visual Co. Ltd.But it’s not as if Kanno was waiting idly by the phone. In the 20 years since the original show’s maiden voyage, she has become one of Japan’s foremost composers, creating the soundtrack for Watanabe’s acclaimed series “Kids on the Slope,” as well as music for other anime, video games and films, and album tracks for J-Pop stars. In 2019, she composed the piece “Ray of Water,” which was performed at the enthronement ceremony of Naruhito, the emperor of Japan. (She also conducted the orchestra’s performance.)Still, the decision to return to orbit with the Bebop gang was easy, she explained: “I’m a die-hard fan of the show.”On a video call from Tokyo, with the assistance of her translator, Kanehira Mitani, Kanno talked about reuniting with her band, Seatbelts, to rerecord tracks from the original series, and about engaging all five senses in order to create an interstellar soundscape. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.What was your reaction when you were approached to score the new series?The first response was surprise. Since the original anime series was from 20 years ago, that they would be making this live-action version now — I was surprised at the courage they had.How would you compare working on the new show to your experience back then?In the anime version, I didn’t really get any direction from Mr. Watanabe. So what I did was just create all these pieces of music, and then the director and creative team would piece it together and put it into the anime. I’d heard that was the kind of approach that Ennio Morricone used back when he was working on western movies. But in the live-action, we actually had to look at the material and spot where to put the music in.How did that work in practice?I received the script three years ago. Then the first time I actually saw the visuals that were shot was around April this year. During the time in between, I would kind of imagine what the music would be like and gestate those ideas. Once I saw the actual footage, those ideas went away and I started all over again.What changed once you saw the footage?In the anime, the main image that you have is Spike Spiegel, who’s lost all his emotions due to his traumatic past. He’s going through the arc of putting himself back together as he goes on all these dangerous adventures. That was the image I had in the beginning, but when I actually saw John Cho in the footage, I saw more subtle tones in his acting. It was more like he has this weakness that he holds and is trying to reconcile. So that made me change the approach to the music as well.Kanno crafted new pieces for Netflix’s adaptation and also rerecorded tracks from the anime series with her old band, Seatbelts. “We got a more ‘mature’ version of the original music,” she said.Tracy Nguyen for The New York TimesYou worked in genres like ska and dub that weren’t featured in the original. What prompted you to add those sounds?In the anime, there’s not really much killing. So in the live-action, where there is more, I had extensive discussions with André about how to musically represent that. When those scenes did happen, I was very aware of trying to alleviate it, to make sure the killing doesn’t seem too graphic or to make it seem ironic or comedic.And you revisited some of the original songs, too. What was it like to team up with Seatbelts to rerecord those?We got a more “mature” version of the original music. It’s kind of a miracle to have the same artists who played 20 years ago still in their A-game and in great shape, performing again. It’s a very rare thing.Were the “Bebop” sounds familiar to you once you got started, or did you have to get reacquainted with them?Since the recording started in April, it was a really tight time frame. We’d have to finish the score for one episode in two weeks. It was a really hard sprint, so I didn’t have the luxury to take time and go back to think about what the [original] music was. That sort of intense, time-sensitive environment was similar to when I was doing the anime. I would run through it, not thinking too much, just kind of “in the zone.” Not too much good stuff comes out if you’re overthinking things. Spike has that personality, as well: “Don’t think, feel.”Did Covid precautions impact your recording sessions?What would’ve happened is I would fly to L.A. to attend all the recording sessions. But since the pandemic happened, I had to rethink my approach. I did try a couple of remote recording sessions, but inevitably, the time lag, even if it’s just a split second, would just be unbearable. If I’m playing something and I don’t get live feedback, my motivation drops really sharply.So I ended up doing recording sessions in Japan, where I could attend and actually see the whole thing. What turned out to be a benefit to the show was that musicians who would otherwise be too busy to attend the scoring sessions were able to because all their other gigs were gone due to the pandemic.Was your creative process affected by the pandemic, as well?Yes. In coming up with music, I usually get inspiration from smells, or tastes, or feelings, and not necessarily from audiovisual stimuli. If I wanted to express “the sea,” I would go to the sea, dive in and feel the waves and the overall atmosphere. The whole digital environment made that a challenge this time.So you weren’t able to go out and engage your senses the way you normally would when you’re composing?Exactly. Over the course of four and a half months of music production, Zoom meetings and exchanging demo pieces, I stayed almost entirely in a basement studio. Little by little, I would start feeling frustrated and unfulfilled, and then I knew that must be how the main characters are feeling. Feeling disconnected from Earth.So when composing for [the show’s] different locations, I would dive into my memory — from my experience being in the graffiti-filled dangerous areas in New York, or the atmosphere in Tijuana, Texas and Arizona, with the sandy feel, the smell of machine oil and the taste of food made of artificial ingredients.What other sensory ties to “Cowboy Bebop” characters and settings inspired you?It’s the food they’re having to fill their empty stomachs, as well as the cheap drinks. The ephemeral sense of not thinking much about the future. The sense of them treating their vehicles roughly, like when I used to drive a really old, ramshackle truck. Artificial light striking into the darkness of space, like arriving in Las Vegas from L.A. at night.In terms of how the world was built in the live-action version, it has a very steampunk usage of old materials, and you have a sense of grittiness. I was very conscious of the sense of rust that was present throughout the whole show. So I would use that secondhand kind of feel for the music, as well. I would do a recording in one take and then add these rusty, almost dirty sound effects.How did you feel when you saw the finished product?I was excited and super full of pride. I imagine a lot of fans are worried about how the creative team is going to handle this world that they’ve adored so much. To them, I’d say it’s the same thing, but different! And, really, it’s just fun to watch. I hope the show goes on and on. I want to see Faye [a bounty hunter in the show] grow up and become an old woman, still shooting her gun and being cocky, with her children running around. Yeah, I want to see that! More

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    Jeanna de Waal Has Already Forgotten About That ‘Diana’ Film

    The British actor Jeanna de Waal is obviously not the first person to play the part of Diana, Princess of Wales, or even the first person to do it this year. “When we started, it was a lot less populated, the pool of people who played her,” said de Waal, who stars as the title character in “Diana, the Musical,” which opens on Wednesday after a long pandemic delay.She is not disconcerted by the Diana-Industrial Complex. “I watch them all, and I can see what they’re doing,” she continued, speaking of the other Dianas in circulation — currently, Emma Corrin in “The Crown” and Kristen Stewart in “Spencer” (there’s also Diana herself, who appears in the CNN documentary series “Diana”). “What I mean is, we all got the same homework, and we all have the same sources, but we all do it differently,” de Waal said. “There are two million ways you could tell her story.”“Diana, the Musical” tells it in song. The tale of Diana’s ill-fated marriage to Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, the production is a frothy, peppy, archly exuberant trip through the familiar byways of this tragic royal relationship, from the couple’s blundering courtship to the recrimination-filled conclusion of their marriage. (There’s a sad coda at the end, foreshadowing Diana’s doomed future.)Roe Hartrampf, center left, as Prince Charles and Jeanna de Waal as Diana in the musical, which is in previews at the Longacre Theater.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesIt’s been a long road to Broadway, and de Waal has been there for all of it, since the production’s first workshop, at Vassar College, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., back in 2017. The musical opened at La Jolla Playhouse in 2019, moved to Broadway the following year, and shut down after nine previews in March 2020. The set was locked up at the Longacre Theater; the cast and crew scattered.In person, de Waal, 33, doesn’t immediately evoke Diana. For one thing, she dyed her dirty-blond hair dark during lockdown, and has kept it that way since. (She wears a series of increasingly dramatic Diana wigs for the show.) She is also forthright and un-self-conscious in a way that Diana, who always seemed brittle beneath the glitter, never was.De Waal is onstage for almost the whole musical, portraying a sheltered, unworldly young woman whose hidden gifts — charisma, sex appeal, a knack for publicity, an extraordinary common touch — turn her into a global celebrity and a stealth influencer. “Sometimes, though, it’s best,” she sings, “to be underestimated.”“What we have now is a much more juicy and titillating story of what this marriage was,” de Waal said.Josefina Santos for The New York TimesIn taking on the part, de Waal has had to contend not just with all the other dramatic Dianas, but also with legions of opinionated Diana fans who bring their own preconceptions to new depictions of her. Then there is the problem of lowered expectations. In October, a version of the musical, filmed in an empty theater late last year, was released on Netflix. The response, to put it mildly, was very bad.The New York Post called it “the flop of the year.” The Guardian gave it one star and said it was “a Rocky Horror Picture Show of cluelessness and misjudged Judy Garlandification.”On Twitter, mesmerized viewers seemed to be hate-watching the show as they would a terrible camp classic. “I’m so sorry but the Diana musical might be the best worst musical ever written,” one viewer tweeted.The good-natured de Waal responds to questions about this awkward situation with what appears to be constitutional equanimity. (“She’s so centered,” is how the musical’s director, Christopher Ashley, put it.) Even as the mean tweets came in, her direct messages were filled with enthusiastic responses from people who loved the musical, she said. In addition, the broadcast got people talking, she said, and put the production on lists of shows to watch on Broadway.“Look, we didn’t film this for Netflix because we thought it was bad,” she said. “We thought it was fantastic.”Ashley said in an interview that the production had made numerous changes since filming the Netflix special. The theater’s emptiness — the lack of laughter, of applause, of an audience’s ineffable energy — drained the production of its high-octane metabolism, he said. “Having an audience changes what it feels like.” From left, de Waal, Hartrampf and Erin Davie (as Camilla Parker Bowles) in what de Waal calls, “the story of a woman’s revenge.” Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesEarly Broadway audiences appear not to have heard, or not to care, about the unfortunate publicity. At a preview the other night, the theater was filled with Diana-philes eager to bask once more in a story they know so well. They wore “Diana” face masks; they applauded the cunningly staged, lightning-quick royal costume changes; they queued to buy mugs, hoodies and other merchandise. There was applause for iconic outfits; gasps at the appearance of the princess’s love rival, Camilla Parker Bowles; and a standing ovation at the end. In the line for the bathroom, women debated the relative evilness of Charles and Camilla.The producers always promised that the show would make it to Broadway after the pandemic. But they had no idea what that would entail. “I remember the phrase ‘flattening the curve,’” Ashley said, referring to the city’s coronavirus lockdown. “We thought it would be for a few weeks. The possibility that it would be 600 days before we were back in production on Broadway — that was something we didn’t plan for.”As the days without pay stretched on, the cast and crew had to find other sources of income. For de Waal, that came from running Broadway Weekends at Home, a remote version of the musical theater camp that she founded with her sister, Dani, a former actor who works for Google. Hundreds of people signed up during the pandemic, paying a subscription fee to be taught by Broadway and West End performers.Born in Germany and raised in England, De Waal was always obsessed with musical theater. “I became a fanatic,” she said. “For birthdays and Christmases, I would ask for CDs of original cast recordings.” After earning a degree at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts, she got a job in the ensemble of, and as an understudy in, “We Will Rock You” on the West End. “It was a baptism of fire,” she said. “I had never done any mic technique work. You know that old thing where singers just sang really loud? You don’t need to do that with a mic. I bought a microphone, and I practiced at home.”In the late aughts, she moved to New York. “I had no agent, no job, and I started doing Times Square open calls,” she said. “I knew no one, and I felt very grown-up and free.” But soon the work was rolling in: parts in “American Idiot,” “Carrie,” the “Wicked” national tour, “Finding Neverland,” “Waitress” and “Kinky Boots,” to name a few.She had a steady string of gigs until her late 20s, when the parts began to dry up. She worked as a caterer and kept going to auditions. She was one of the first people to read for the part of Diana in the workshop; she was hired virtually on the spot.De Waal was one of the first people to read for the part of Diana, and she was hired virtually on the spot.Josefina Santos for The New York Times“Jeanna has been an extraordinary partner in the process,” Ashley said. “She’s really used these couple of years to deepen her feelings about Diana, to make individual moments more and more specific in terms of the emotion of the scene. Even how she holds herself and her mannerisms have gotten more layered.”Back in New York, mid-pandemic, the long, strange delay gave the production the incidental gift of time.“New musicals can make use of the wealth of response you get from that preview period,” Ashley said. “How are the audiences responding? Where do they get quiet? Where do they get restless?” Two new songs were added; changes were made to dozens of pages of the script and lyrics.The story also shifted. Originally it focused on Diana’s disillusionment at the shattering of her happily-ever-after childhood dream. Now it is a sharper, spicier tale about a love triangle that sabotages a marriage. As Diana once said, referring to Camilla: “There were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.”“What we have now is a much more juicy and titillating story of what this marriage was, with Charles and Camilla orchestrating the whole thing and continuing to see each other,” de Waal said. “It’s also the story of a woman’s revenge.”De Waal was just a child when her father came into her room one morning in late August 1997 and told her that Diana had been in a serious (and ultimately fatal) car accident. But in studying her for the part, de Waal has come to love and admire the princess — the way she tried to make something of her life, the way she made a difference.“Every single aspect of this show has come from a place of wanting to celebrate this person,” de Waal said. “She did a hell of a lot more than most people. Who knows where her life would have gone?” More

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    Zazie Beetz and Regina King on Their Big Battle in ‘The Harder They Fall’

    In the Netflix western, the two actresses, playing members of rival cowboy gangs, engage in an epic fight. Here, they break down the scene.“Trudy’s mine,” hisses Stagecoach Mary Fields (played by Zazie Beetz), her eyes blazing.Trudy Smith (Regina King) ducks into a dye barn, its rafters hung with swatches of color.Their eyes lock, Mary empties her shotgun onto the floor. Trudy tosses her pistol to the side.“Let’s go,” Mary spits out. A wild fight scene ensues between the two members of rival cowboy gangs: bodies hit windows, teeth crunch into hands and horseshoes hurl toward heads.Toward the end of the new Netflix western “The Harder They Fall” — a reminder that Black cowboys should be as much a part of the genre as anyone else — Mary and Trudy duke it out in an epic fight that nearly ends in death.Although the director, Jeymes Samuel, is a singer-songwriter known as the Bullitts, he has dabbled in filmmaking, and “The Harder They Fall” is his first feature. In a video interview, he clarified that he wasn’t reimagining the western — he was “replacing” it.“What I was doing with that fight, I’ve done it the whole film,” he said. “The whole film is reverse psychology on what we know as the western and puts up a mirror.”Historians estimate that one in four cowboys were Black, a fact that was hardly reflected in the conventional westerns popular in the 20th century, which were largely devoid of people of color.In creating the film, his aim was to counter two tropes of traditional westerns: people of color shown as less than human; and women appearing subservient and less than men. “Westerns have never given light to women and their power in that period,” he said. That’s why Samuel, who wrote the screenplay with Boaz Yakin, inverted gender roles in the Mary-Trudy battle.“All the men in the film, when they have conflict, they pick up guns,” Samuel said, adding, “It takes the two women to literally throw away their guns and duke it out.”Regina King as Trudy Smith. She, Beetz and their stunt doubles practiced the fight in their off hours.David Lee/NetflixAlthough the actresses, part of a star-studded cast, worked closely with their stunt doubles, Nikkilette Wright and Sadiqua Bynum, most of the final cut features the actresses themselves — because the stunt doubles were simply too good at their jobs. The stand-ins’ work “was too clean,” Samuel said. “In that particular scene, it was perfect and neat, whereas I needed the urgency. When you put Zazie and Regina together, neat went out the window.”Beetz, King, Wright and Bynum practiced the fight on their own time in a hotel conference room in Santa Fe, N.M., where much of the movie was shot. As rough and tumble as the scene may look onscreen, Beetz said in a phone interview that it was all very carefully choreographed.“We also wanted the fight to look scrappy, because we wanted it to look real and intense and how people really would potentially fight,” she said. “I think it’s just a testament in general to the shift in film and the shift in how we see women and their physical abilities.”As part of her preparation, the actress read about Stagecoach Mary Fields, the first African American woman in the United States to be a mail carrier on star routes — routes handled by contractors who were not employed by the Postal Service. (Many of the main characters are based on real historical figures, but Samuel fictionalized the vast majority of the plot.) Fields was enslaved until she was around 30 years old, when the Emancipation Proclamation was issued. Then she went on to live a whole new life.“There was a lot of formerly enslaved people who moved to the West, and the culture of the United States wasn’t as established in the West,” Beetz said. “So there was more mobility for Black people. And there really were towns that were all Black, and they were self-sustaining, and it was an interesting place where Black people could thrive.”Five Movies to Watch This WinterCard 1 of 51. “The Power of the Dog”: More

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    The Best Movies and TV Shows New to Netflix, Amazon and Stan in Australia in November

    Our picks for November, including ‘tick, tick … BOOM!’, ‘The Great’ Season 2, and ‘Passing’Every month, streaming services in Australia add a new batch of movies and TV shows to its library. Here are our picks for November.New to NetflixNOV. 5‘A Cop Movie’An inventive and tricky hybrid of fiction and nonfiction, the documentary “A Cop Movie” tells the mostly true story of two Mexico City police officers: a man and woman who briefly dated and were dubbed “the love patrol” by their colleagues. The director Alonso Ruizpalacios defies expectations throughout, using dramatic recreations, surprise reversals and raw interviews to keep the audience guessing about whether this is an earnest film about the challenges of being a cop or an exposé of institutional corruption.NOV. 10‘Passing’Based on Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel, “Passing” stars Tessa Thompson as Irene and Ruth Negga as Clare, two Black women who were friends when they were younger and who meet again later in life. Irene is a social activist, living with her husband (André Holland) in an upscale Harlem brownstone. Clare is passing as white, and is married to a rich, racist businessman (Alexander Skarsgard). Written and directed by Rebecca Hall — herself biracial — this handsome-looking black-and-white period drama examines the boundaries of race and class in early 20th century New York.NOV. 19‘Cowboy Bebop’ Season 1This live-action remake of the popular anime series “Cowboy Bebop” retains what made the original so beloved: a genre-bending story about planet-hopping bounty hunters, an eye-catching style that draws on old westerns and film noir, and a jazzy up-tempo Yoko Kanno score. John Cho stars as Spike Spiegel, who, alongside his partner Jet Black (Mustafa Shakir), chases criminals across the colonies built by the refugees of a post-apocalyptic Earth. The heroes add allies and enemies with each new adventure, in a show that mixes action, comedy and science-fiction weirdness.‘tick, tick…BOOM!’Netflix‘tick, tick … BOOM!’The “Hamilton” creator and star Lin Manuel-Miranda makes his feature film-directing debut, paying homage to one of his biggest influences: the late “Rent” writer and composer Jonathan Larson. In this adaptation of Larson’s lesser-known, semi-autobiographical theater piece, Andrew Garfield plays an aspiring Broadway composer named Jon, still working at a diner and waiting on his big break at the dawn of the 1990s. Miranda and the screenwriter Steven Levenson tinker a little with the stage production (which originated as a concert, before being turned into a small-scaled musical by David Auburn), turning “tick, tick … BOOM!” into more of a straight biopic with catchy songs.NOV. 24‘Bruised’Halle Berry both directs and stars in this underdog sports melodrama, about a down-and-out MMA fighter named Jackie Justice who comes out of retirement after the son she gave up for adoption shows up on her doorstep. Berry had to train hard to play an experienced, hardened athlete, and to take on this role of a woman trying to shake herself out of a fog and prove to her family and her sport that she’s still a winner. ‘Robin Robin’This half-hour Christmas special comes from the team at Aardman Animations, the studio behind Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep. “Robin Robin” tells the story of a small bird (voiced by Bronte Carmichael) who was raised by a family of mice, and who goes on an adventure during the holiday season where her unusual upbringing proves to be an asset. The adorable character-designs and the voice performances of Richard E. Grant (as a magpie) and Gillian Anderson (as a cat) accent what should be another of Aardman’s classy, funny, cleverly constructed family comedies.Also arriving: “The Claus Family” (Nov. 1), “The Harder They Fall” (Nov. 3), “The Club” Season 1 (Nov. 5), “Love Hard” (Nov. 5), “Narcos: Mexico” Season 3 (Nov. 5), “The Unlikely Murderer” (Nov. 5), “Father Christmas Is Back” (Nov. 7), “Swap Shop: Dash for Cash” Season 1 (Nov. 9), “Gentefied” Season 2 (Nov. 10), “Red Notice” (Nov. 12), “Christmas Flow” Season 1 (Nov. 17), “Tiger King” Season 2 (Nov. 17), “The Princess Switch 3: Romancing the Star” (Nov. 18), “Blown Away: Christmas” Season 1 (Nov. 19), “Waffles + Mochi’s Holiday Feast” (Nov. 23), “A Boy Called Christmas” (Nov. 24), “True Story” (Nov. 24), “A Castle for Christmas” (Nov. 26), “School of Chocolate” Season 1 (Nov. 26), “Charlie’s Colorforms City: Snowy Stories” (Nov. 30).New to Stan‘The Great’ Season 2StanNOV. 5‘Bobby’Sometimes written as “Bo66y” — to commemorate England’s 1966 World Cup championship — the title of this documentary refers to Bobby Moore, the star defender and team captain whose creativity and doggedness electrified his home country. After his pro career ended, Moore struggled with money and health woes, and at times felt like a forgotten man. “Bobby” is an attempt to right some of those wrongs, telling a triumphant and tragic story via thrilling vintage footage and impassioned testimonials from teammates and fans.NOV. 8‘Yellowstone’ Season 4One of TV’s most popular dramas returns, after a season three finale which saw the Montana ranching family the Duttons facing multiple threats. Will the “Yellowstone” creator Taylor Sheridan actually kill off any of his leads? Probably not. (Sheridan’s central antihero, the grizzled cowboy power-broker John Dutton, is played by Kevin Costner, one of the show’s producers.) After a season which saw the Duttons beset by investment bankers, environmental activists and revenge-minded outlaws, a few bombs and machine-guns shouldn’t keep them down too long.NOV. 20‘The Great’ Season 2Elle Fanning returns as Catherine II and Nicholas Hoult as Peter III in season two of the satirical dramedy “The Great,” an “occasionally true” look back at the tumultuous marriage between a cruel Russian emperor and his ambitious, coup-minded young bride. Gillian Anderson joins the cast this season, playing Catherine’s mother, who tries to manipulate things behind the scenes as her daughter prepares to become a mother herself. Expect more of the creator Tony McNamara’s puckish mix of purposeful anachronisms and courtly intrigue.Five Movies to Watch This WinterCard 1 of 51. “The Power of the Dog”: More

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    How Meryl Streep Prepared to Play the President in ‘Don’t Look Up’

    Meryl Streep explains how she prepared to play a fictional (and not especially competent) U.S. president in Adam McKay’s apocalyptic satire “Don’t Look Up.”Who would you turn to if you learned a comet was on a collision course with Earth and decisive action was required to prevent the extinction of all life on this planet? If your first thought was Meryl Streep, you have made both an excellent and terrible choice.In “Don’t Look Up,” from the writer-director Adam McKay (“The Big Short,” “Vice”), two scientists played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Lawrence find themselves facing this end-of-the-world scenario and must turn to a United States government led by the fictional President Orlean for assistance.The good news (for the movie, which will reach theaters on Dec. 10 and Netflix on Dec. 24) is that Orlean is played by Streep, the venerated film and TV star; the bad news (for humanity) is that Orlean is a self-centered scoundrel who cares a great deal about her public image but little to nothing about running the country.Orlean is one of several malefactors in “Don’t Look Up,” a social satire that McKay wrote about climate change but that he fully expects will be interpreted as a commentary on the pandemic. The president is also a character whose many faults and shortcomings Streep delighted in bringing to life, and she credits McKay for giving her and her co-stars the latitude to indulge in awfulness.As Streep explained in a recent phone interview, “He never lost heart or confidence in this vision that he had for this thing, which was to make an atmosphere as free as possible for everybody — just go nuts and do what you want. But with a deadly serious intent.”Here, Streep and McKay explained the steps they followed to put President Orlean in the Oval Office.Create a back story.Based on what she’d read in McKay’s screenplay, Streep said she was already envisioning how President Orlean could have won office. “You could imagine a group of various miscreants was pulled together, and she was the least bad of a lot of other candidates that they could have put out there,” Streep said, adding that she thought of Orlean “as someone whose elderly husband had a lot of money, and she got rid of him, and it was in California so she got half. She had no real agenda except to have and retain power, and when she got there, she just realized that the job was pretty easy.”McKay said that in naming the character, he was thinking of New Orleans — “It’s a fun city, but it’s kind of in jeopardy” — and not the fact that Streep played the author Susan Orlean in “Adaptation.” (The notion that he manifested Streep in the role by naming it for her, McKay said, is “definitely not the case.”)Draw on real-life inspiration.McKay said he thought of President Orlean as “a goulash” of recent chief executives. That meant “the self-serving con man aspects of the last president, the dangerous inexperience of George W. Bush, the slick polish of Bill Clinton, the celebrity of Barack Obama and the coziness with big money,” McKay said. Another inspiration was the finance expert Suze Orman, whom McKay described as “a brash populist with a strong fashion statement.”To that recipe, Streep said she added a dash of the “Real Housewives,” whose televised squabbles often play in her house when her daughters come to visit. Though Streep won an Oscar for playing Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady,” she said that performance was instructive only up to a point. Thatcher, she said, “wielded a kind of femininity that was intimidating to men, and part of her power was how she could pull it together — it was very specific to the ladder she climbed there.” Orlean, she said, is “more of our time — algorithmically put together.”Streep on the set. Her look was modeled on that of news anchors.Niko Tavernise/NetflixLook the part.Streep had a hand in devising Orlean’s fashion sensibility, which she said communicated something essential about the character: “So what if she’s 70 years old and dresses like she’s 35?” she explained. “No one told her you can’t be 35 forever.” That meant attire modeled after TV news anchors who, Streep said, “tend to pick these broad swaths of bright, happy colors to put on themselves — no prints, no polka dots or plaids or, God forbid, florals. None of the things that other people wear. Just these power suits and pencil skirts.” It also called for a specific hair regimen: “When I was in high school, you’d set your hair in rollers, then take it out and brush it 100 times,” Streep said. “This is the kind of hair where you take it out of rollers and just leave it like that — the longer the better. And then those are sprayed and crisped and the ends curl out in weird ways. And that’s a thing. It has always escaped me why this was good. So I thought, well, I’m going to try to that — God knows I won’t do it in my real life.”Get ready to face the crowds.All that advance planning may still not fully prepare you for the demands of the presidency, as Streep discovered on her first day of shooting. She had spent several weeks in isolation, as screen actors have been required to do during the pandemic. Then, on the appointed day, she said, “I bundled up in my big down coat, put the dog in the back of my car, drove through a snowstorm to Worcester, Mass., and got out at a stadium and parked.” Once there, Streep said, “They tried to turn me away at several points to get into the set. I said no, I’m in it.” After getting into hair, makeup and costume, Streep took to the stage where she saw her face on a Jumbotron and heard the delayed echo of her voice as she spoke to a crowd of several hundred extras. “And I just lost it,” she said. “I thought, well, I clearly have to retire. I can’t do this. I actually can’t do this. It was really a crisis of confidence.” Needless to say, Streep did find her bearings, but, she said, “it took a while.”Five Movies to Watch This WinterCard 1 of 51. “The Power of the Dog”: More