More Than Human

The Dan Stevens German language film I’m Your Man is currently competing at the Berlin International Film Festival. I’ve been seeing clips here and there over the past few weeks and it’s really peaked my interest in the film.

When I first announced Dan’s involvement in this movie, I found the premise intriguing but now after reading an interview with the movie’s director/writer Maria Schrader, I’m finding it even more so. the storyline is described as:

Alma, a workaholic archeologist with no interest in romance (Maren Eggert) takes part in an experiment. For three weeks she will test drive the latest in dating technology: a lifelike android, called Tom (Dan Stevens), programmed solely for her happiness. Things don’t go as planned.

The article from The Hollywood Reporter goes on to ask,

What would happen if we had robots that actually were what we imagined they could be? Namely non-violent, without a desire for freedom, completely un-self-serving? What if you had the perfect love servant, someone who gave you their undivided attention and, at the same time, wasn’t driven by what all humans are driven by, namely fear. Fear of death, fear of abandonment. Free of ambition. Free of jealousy. Wouldn’t they be the better humans?

My immediate thought was, well that would be boring, wouldn’t it?’ to have someone at your beck and call. but if they were programmed with you specifically in mind? I think that would blur the lines a lot more. which is why ‘Alma warns not to legalize these robots. Eventually, they would make us obsolete. Because they are the better humans.’ this all sounds like deep, dramatic stuff but the film is actually categorized as a romantic comedy- though of the dry, subtle kind I’m assuming. which makes it even more intriguing to me.

In the interview, Maria talks about what it was like to film during quarantine too, the work-around to scenes that called for groups of people to be in close proximity to each other and how it was this timing that dropped a talented actor like Dan, a native Englishman who could pull off the German language delivery and the character development with finesse, into her lap

it was a joy to work with an actor where we could play with it: how much human will we show, when can you see the machine inside, when can’t you? When he learns more, how does he change? What is artificial and what isn’t and is the not-artificial automatically better?

The film has been getting a lot of praise from critics, which makes me hopeful that it will get picked up from distributers and brought to the general viewing public in a timely manner. while Dan has released plenty of content since Legion ended with it’s 3rd season in 2019, nothing has caught my eye in a way that’s lit a real spark of excitement in me, until this.

Alma believes in romantic love but not as something you can buy but as something that happens by chance. A Godsend. Unpredictable. But is the fact that you can order Tom make him less valuable, does it make him less valid? Are the feelings less authentic?

This kind of film, lighthearted dry humor with underlying depth that leaves you thinking afterwards, is where Dan really shines as a performer. I’m looking very forward to seeing him in this type of role again.

Twenty-Seven

When the science fiction based action film Jumper was released in 2008, Hayden Christensen was 27 years old.

While Jumper ended up being a stand alone movie, it was originally planned as a trilogy of big budget films that Hayden wasn’t interested in doing at first glance. after the powerhouse Star Wars films thrust him into instant stardom, he shied away from franchise films and focused on smaller independent fare instead. three things about Jumper intrigued him enough to give it a go: the concept of teleportation and the stunt work it would require, the director being Doug Liman, and the character traits of David Rice that seemed to embody some of his own deep seated fears.

director Doug Liman with the cast of Jumper (and Hayden w/his camera around his neck like a tourist)

David was someone who was given an extraordinary gift that he was squandering away by filling his penthouse apartment with expensive toys as he jumped from city to city on a whim, shirking any sense of societal responsibility. in one scene David is watching a newscast of a horrible flood where people are clinging to their roofs but instead of pondering their plight, he focuses on the fact that his high tech remote control is seemingly out of reach, until the use of his supernatural power eliminates his frustration in the blink of an eye.

like The Force, but better.

thankfully Hayden’s own sense of societal responsibility is much stronger than David’s, as he’s been involved with various fundraising efforts and charitable organizations through the years.

 

When the German language biopic Hilde, based on the life of German born actress/singer Hildegard Knef, was released in 2009, Dan Stevens was 27 years old.

When you first meet Dan’s character David Cameron (an hour and a half into the 2 hour film), he’s your typical run of the mill bumbling English actor, who tries to charm his intimidating costar with flirty wit. Hilde doesn’t take the bait at first, giving David the cold shoulder and even insulting him in a round about way. David rolls with the punches though, which intrigues Hilde, causing her to change gears and engage him in a one night stand instead. both of them realize it could be more and so they recklessly pursue a relationship, even though David is married. Hilde isn’t looking for a happily ever after fairytale but love has a funny way of sneaking up on us when we least expect it, and so David and Hilde end up finding what the other needs in each other.

Up until this point, Dan had been cutting his acting chops on classic period piece mini series. having postponed his professional acting aspirations while he studiously earned a literature degree at university, Hilde was his first full length movie and a bit of a learning to sink-or-swim challenge as most of his lines were delivered in German.

no translation needed

Both Davids seemed a bit generic on the surface, but Hayden and Dan saw the potential in not only the fictional characters themselves but also the personal development the experience would bring them as actors. when actors want to challenge themselves by taking roles that will push them past their comfort zones- be that physically, emotionally, or linguistically- they earn my respect and admiration.

The comfort zone is the great enemy to creativity; moving beyond it necessitates intuition, which in turn configures new perspectives and conquers fears~Dan Stevens

Hayden Christensen by Mark Seliger for L’Uomo Vogue 2008

Breathless

I heard these songs lyrics in a fan edit on Twitter for Valentine’s day and I thought ‘wow, if that doesn’t sum up my blog, I don’t know what does!’

Now I’m speechless over the edge, I’m just breathless
I never thought that I’d catch this lovebug again
Hopeless, head over heels in the moment
I never thought that I’d get hit by this lovebug again

The edit was of Hayden Christensen, using interview snippets of his current self, instead of the popular twenty-something version that is used in most fan videos. he’ll turn 40 this April and although he still has a boyish look to him, I really like the addition of the wrinkles around his eyes. when I see a photo that shows the freckled discoloration of his face after he’s been out in the sun or the scattering of moles that are often hidden by make-up for planned appearances, I find a breathless beauty in their naturalness.

The foundation of this blog is to explore how I see myself in the actors I admire, through their personality traits and personal principles, etc. I guess this includes facial blemishes too? apparently, because I’m also drawn to the small group of freckles on Jamie Dornan’s cheek, and the polk-a-dot map of moles on Joe Keery’s face/neck, and the spiderweb of wrinkles around Richard Armitage’s eyes.

 

Skin appearance aside, the fan edit of Hayden wonderfully showcases his bashful smile and the way his eyes light up when he laughs. that’s why I’ve been hitting play countless times each day. it just makes me feel lighter and brighter! 

 

[song lyrics from Lovebug by Jonas Brothers. fan edit by LaurenEdits15]

‘It Works’

In 2018 while doing promotional press for the romantic comedy Little Italy, Hayden Christensen appeared on an episode of the Canadian based podcast, Mike on Much.

“I love what I do, I love storytelling. that was always sort of my attraction to all of this, and to filmmaking and the craft of acting, was just a love of storytelling.”

The Hayden portion of the podcast begins at the 29:15 mark but there is a conversation between the host and producer preceding the interview (22:11) where the host, Mike Veerman, recounts his interactions with Hayden behind-the-scenes of the interview when he accompanied him outside the building for a smoke break (yes, Hayden smokes. he has for years upon years). this retelling of events shows how down to earth Hayden is, thanking Mike for a thoughtful interview and just talking with him about their shared experiences with fame and the joys of fatherhood. when he was asked how he really felt about answering Star Wars related questions, Hayden was stated as saying “if people know what they’re talking about or do their research or ask in a thoughtful way, I can talk about Star Wars whenever. it’s when people don’t know what the hell they want to ask, they just know they somehow want to say something about Star Wars…” so in other words, put some effort in, don’t just name drop Star Wars for clickbait.

Mike starts the interview by asking if Hayden and his costar Emma Roberts knew each other before the filming of Little Italy began, Hayden said they had only met a week before. this leads to a question about chemistry between romantic leads, with Mike asking Hayden if there has ever been an actress that he didn’t hit it off with right away. Hayden pauses and then bluntly answers “yeah”, with a laugh. when asked how that affects the filming, he said “it’s a lot more work!” and so now I’m insanely curious about who he didn’t mesh well with, wondering if it showed in their performances. was it Mischa Barton in Virgin Territory? Jessica Alba in Awake? Jordana Brewster in American Heist? if it’s Liz Solari from The Last Man, don’t tell me, because I loved their chemistry in that movie!

When the subject turns to Star Wars, and how enormous and daunting that must have been to a 19 year old who had only had bit parts in movies up until that point, Hayden agrees that it was intimidating but at the time he approached it as an opportunity to better his craft, rather than getting wrapped up in the legendary status the franchise held. when he pulled back in his career sometime later, it was speculated that fame had become too much for him, but Hayden says it was more the feeling that he hadn’t earned his place within the business, that it was handed to him without him having to work his way through the ranks. he cites his background in sports as the root of that thought process (Hayden and his siblings all became accomplished players in the sports they participated in. Hayden’s top sports were tennis and hockey).

At one point, the conversation touched upon the escapism aspect of the science fiction genre, which then led to the mention of politics. it’s here that I initially learned something about Hayden that’s continued to be a big draw for me over the past year: he isn’t into politics. he said he tries to stay out of politics, quoting the song lyric “I get all the news I need from the weather report”.

weather forecast: perfect for the Farmer’s Market. always.

When the subject of social media arose, Hayden said he’s never had a social media presence. he blamed it on laziness, but also the notion that an actor having a social media presence is contradictory; it makes the audience less likely to believe in whatever character he’s trying to portray on film, if they know too much about his offscreen life. he’s aware that he probably should participate in it, for marketing purposes, but he’s reluctant. he implies that it may also be a tech thing, admitting that he didn’t get a laptop until ten years ago and although he currently has a cell phone, he did give it up for a time. he says it’s really just a need to disconnect from everything, to escape to the country and not be tied to his cell phone.

This brings the conversation back around to the subject of stardom and how it took Hayden time to come to terms with the instant fame that Star Wars thrust upon him. purchasing his farm in the Canadian countryside helped him immensely in that regard “moving out to the country is one of the best things I ever did. it’s a very healthy environment for me and I just like it. there’s no traffic, fresh air; it works.” when asked where he sees his career going in the future, he answered:

“I’m not super career minded and so I do the work that appeals to me and that I’m passionate about. when that comes along, great, and if not, I’m happy to hang out at my farm.”

you can view the whole audio podcast in video form on Youtube, along with the companion piece Shane’s Digital Dessert, where Hayden good naturedly plays along with over the top humor and eats a pizza Snackables.

Top 5

I have an Mp3 player. I don’t listen to music on my phone, mostly because I’m too lazy to learn how, and I’d have to buy a new set of headphones to do so (Apple. ugh.) my current headphones sit against my ear instead of resting inside, wrapping around the outside to stay attached. earbuds never fit in my ears correctly and with these ones, I can have one on my ear and hook the other to my shirt collar when I need to listen to what’s going on around me.

when the kids are too quiet

I don’t load my Mp3 player up with full albums, I have single songs on there instead. and it’s not everything that I own, only what I’m in the mood for at the moment. there’s nothing more frustrating than hitting shuffle and having a bunch of stuff pop up that you don’t really want to listen to. I rely on playlists a lot, for that reason. I usually listen to the songs on my playlists in order instead of shuffle though because I create them with a balance in mind, so that the sounds/moods have a nice flow to them. the playlist I’m listening to most at the moment is titled ‘Untitled no.1’. because thinking up titles is hard!

an action? a feeling? a color? food? the pressure!

most of the time I just pick a song title from those that are on the playlist but I do have a few playlists with actual titles. like ‘Younglings’, which consists of songs the younger generation of Star Wars fans I follow on Twitter use for their Anakin Skywalker/Hayden Christensen TikToks. in Star Wars, the Younglings are the children that are training to become Jedi.

sometimes I think I’m funny.

The Untitled playlist is a nice mix of current pop songs that I listen to while doing chores around the house. they’re the kind that I don’t mind getting stuck in my head at 3 in the morning when I wake up for no reason, or when I’m stressed and need to concentrate on remembering all the lyrics, instead of just the part that is playing on a loop inside my head. my favorite from this list is Let’s Fall in Love by Finneas. it starts out with just him and a ukulele, then the tempo picks up with a burst of sound. it’s uplifting when it does that and always makes me shimmy my shoulders and bob my head. I like the story in the song too. he’s in love with the girl but knows the timing is bad, so he’s just enjoying what he can, even if that means he suffers a bit of heartbreak. he’s a little devious about it too, knowing that the guys she’s dating are jealous of him because he and the girl get along so well, but he continues to appear the innocent friend; it ends with him giving a cute little laugh. Finneas is the older brother of singer Billie Eilish and writes a lot of her songs.

Another favorite at the moment is If the World Was Ending by JP Saxes. it’s a little sad but very pretty. it’s about a couple who have broken up, knowing they aren’t right for each other, but still love and trust each other enough that they want to be with each other when the world comes crashing down.

Number three on my Untitled playlist is Maybe IDK by Jon Bellion. I found this one while browsing through my daughter’s music library and connected with it right away. I relate to the lyrics so much, that feeling of helplessness when you’re searching for answers and then the freeing revelation that it’s okay to not know sometimes.

PDA by Scott Helman is a song I discovered during quarantine when the artist started performing songs from his hotel room. I loved how he and his band improvised performing the song by using portable instruments and incorporating some everyday objects. they looked like they were having fun doing it, which is always a big plus too.

Rounding out the top five of my welcomed earworms is Savage Love by Jason Derulo. this is one that I hear on the radio quite often. it’s about a toxic relationship, the guy finding out that the girl is using him but he wants to stay with her anyway. I like the catchy sound of the song, more than the actual lyrics.

and those are the Top 5 songs that reside in my head 24/7 at the moment!

the full playlist:

4Ever– Clairo
Maybe IDK– Jon Bellion
Circles– Post Malone
New Light– John Mayer
Stitches– Shawn Mendes
Power Over Me– Dermot Kennedy
Adore You– Harry Styles
PDA– Scott Helman
Savage Love– Jason Derulo
My Boy– Billie Eilish
Love Yourself– Justin Bieber
All My Life– Wild
Twist– Nathan Sykes
Supalonely– Benee
Team– Lorde
We Are Young– fun.
Thief– Ansel Elgort
Seven Nation Army– The White Stripes