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The Horror Director Carving Up Clever Slasher-Movie Riffs

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Three framed movie posters hung on Christopher Landon’s wall when we chatted via Zoom. One was for “Disturbia,” the first big-screen smash he wrote. Another was “Burning Palms,” Landon’s little-seen directorial debut; even he calls its quality a “mixed bag.” The third was “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse,” the film that began to establish his reputation as a steward of winky genre mashups.

“It’s really embarrassing because this is our shit throwaway room in our house,” said Landon, who recently became a father. “And it’s the only room that my husband let me — he actually put these up because he’s sweet like that. But now it’s the only quiet room in my house, and so it’s the only spot I can do this [interview] in, and now it’s sort of like, ‘Oh, look at my ego!’ I’m like, ‘It really wasn’t meant to be this. It was not the background by choice.’”

None of those movies are the ones Landon is best known for. Over the past several years, in addition to scripting four “Paranormal Activity” installments, he has chopped and screwed a number of cinematic classics. With 2017’s “Happy Death Day,” Landon turned “Groundhog Day” into a rollicking slasher romp about a narcissistic sorority snob (Jessica Rothe) who gets killed and wakes up in the same dorm room every morning. Its follow-up, “Happy Death Day 2U,” paid homage to “Back to the Future Part II” and satirized the redundancy of most horror sequels.

Landon’s newest film, “Freaky,” presents a clever spin on “Freaky Friday” and other body-swap comedies, animating them with the voltage of a thriller. Kathryn Newton plays Millie Kessler, a bullied teenager caring for her widowed mother (Katie Finneran) when the infamous Blissfield Butcher — a serial killer who has long evaded capture — shows up before her school’s homecoming dance. His mystical Aztec dagger causes Millie and the murderer to switch places, meaning she suddenly finds herself in the physique of the assassin himself, aka Vince Vaughn. Millie has 24 hours to break the curse, yielding a series of frightful mix-ups as she navigates the world in a man’s body and the butcher resembles a 17-year-old girl.



Vince Vaughn and Kathryn Newton in “Freaky.”

“A lot of the second act of the movie is Millie discovering that she has a different kind of strength that she’s never known — that strength being just purely physical,” Landon said. “She can physically grab her bully and shove him against a wall. But what starts to happen is that, I think, by virtue of circumstance and this ticking-clock aspect of the film, she starts to tap into other reserves that have nothing to do with the physical side of things.”

That conceit sums up Landon’s trademark. He’s bringing emotion and character growth to the slasher genre while still relishing the gory hallmarks that made forebears like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th” so immersive. He’s also mining the genre for maximal laughs: Watching 6-foot-5 Vaughn, in his funniest performance since “Wedding Crashers,” portray a teenage girl in a dude’s body is a riotous take on fish-out-of-water gender dynamics. Vaughn’s résumé is defined by macho bravado, and here he’s tasked with stripping all of that away. To prepare him, Landon captured video diaries of Newton so Vaughn could mirror her gestures without resorting to a broad stereotype of femininity that might seem facetious.

Landon cites “Gremlins,” Monty Python and Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” trilogy as inspirations behind his comedy/horror/sci-fi hybrids. During the script stage, he reverse-engineers a plot based on the story’s thematic centerpiece, instilling it with suspense tropes made fresh by way of a tongue-in-cheek pop sensibility. The protagonist in “Happy Death Day” learns to care about the people around her and process the grief she has experienced in her family life — but first she must vanquish a masked stalker. In “Freaky,” co-written with Michael Kennedy (“Bordertown”), Millie’s need for self-empowerment becomes the fulcrum of the film.

“I don’t think that there is a movie worth watching unless you have some kind of a personal and emotional component to follow,” Landon said.

Christopher Landon directs a scene on the set of "Freaky."



Christopher Landon directs a scene on the set of “Freaky.”

Another perk of Landon’s expanding catalog: Each of his movies has been gayer than the last. “Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse” featured a Britney Spears singalong, “Happy Death Day” had a closeted student realizing his sexuality, and “Freaky” gives Millie an unabashedly gay BFF (Misha Osherovich) who revels in the murderous small-town intrigue.

“Michael was aggressively bullied in high school, and so was I,” Landon, now 45, said of his writing partner. “I had these three guys that would wait outside my class every day when I was a freshman and follow me in the hallway and shout ‘faggot’ and stuff like that. So I think we related to Millie a lot, and conversely, [her gay friend] Joshua became the version of ourselves that we wished we could have been in high school. Like, doesn’t give a fuck, nobody’s going to fuck with him, and unapologetically himself. It was important to us to have that character in the film, and also that he doesn’t die.”

Landon’s relationship to his own queerness has been an evolving journey. The son of Michael Landon, the late actor known for “Bonanza,” “Little House on the Prairie” and a conventionally wholesome all-American image, he dropped out of Loyola Marymount University when Larry Clark read a script that he had written and offered him a gig adapting what would become 1999’s “Another Day in Paradise.” Clark was fresh off the gritty indie phenomenon “Kids.” An “aggressively introverted” Landon suddenly found himself living with the director for six weeks, attending dinners with Gus Van Sant and finishing a screenplay that gave “Bonnie and Clyde” and “Badlands” a ’90s gutter-punk aura.

Around that time, a paparazzo snapped a photo of Landon, who wasn’t yet fully open about his sexuality, kissing his first boyfriend in Los Angeles. The gay offspring of a deceased Hollywood legend with Bible Belt appeal was catnip for the era’s tabloids. That Landon’s mother was a born-again Christian didn’t help. Aiming to get ahead of the story, Landon came out in the magazine The Advocate, all the while worried that doing so would jeopardize his career.

Michael Landon and Christopher Landon at a benefit gala on July 29, 1989, in Malibu, California.



Michael Landon and Christopher Landon at a benefit gala on July 29, 1989, in Malibu, California.

“It was a really difficult time in my life, and then you suddenly add this whole other layer of ‘And by the way, magazines are going to run stories about you,’” Landon said. “It’s a lot of pressure for someone who’s 21 years old, which is when all that went down. But you deal with it.”

“Another Day in Paradise” starred James Woods, Melanie Griffith and a young Vincent Kartheiser. It wasn’t a commercial hit, but Landon’s affiliation with Clark was enough to land him an agent and a flurry of attention. Tall and handsome with dirty-blond hair, Landon credits some of his initial success to Hollywood’s “youth obsession.” He then adapted a book by trendy photographer Lauren Greenfield, but the film never came to fruition. He also adapted the supernatural young-adult novel “Blood and Chocolate,” but the resulting movie barely reflected what he wrote. As quickly as Landon had become a hotshot, his agency dropped him.

Landon toiled for a while. He directed the popular MTV series “Making the Video,” including episodes centered on Beyoncé, Madonna and Christina Aguilera. (He called himself the “diva wrangler.”) Finally, he landed a one-two punch: 2007’s “Disturbia” (a “Rear Window”-esque adrenaline rush starring Shia LaBeouf) and 2010’s “Burning Palms.” He also overhauled an early draft of “Happy Death Day” (initially titled “Half to Death”) penned by Scott Lobdell. Several years later, having ignited a friendship with horror producer Jason Blum, he dusted off that old script, pitched it and agreed to direct it. When “Death Day” debuted at No. 1 and grossed $125.5 million worldwide, Universal Pictures — which has a lucrative development deal with Blumhouse Productions — promptly greenlit a sequel.

Last year’s “Happy Death Day 2U” widened the franchise’s focus to its peripheral characters, letting us see how the time loop affected folks who’d merely floated along the sidelines of the original. It was a difficult movie to market because meta-commentary about horror sequels doesn’t easily translate to advertisements. Nonetheless, Landon included a post-credits scene that established a premise for a third installment. But when “2U” earned significantly less money than its predecessor, Universal grew weary. “They just signaled no interest in making another one,” he said.

Now, Landon finds himself in a “guinea pig” situation. “Freaky,” another Universal/Blumhouse co-production, opened in select theaters on Nov. 13, as it was intended to before COVID-19 mangled this year’s release schedule. Movies traditionally linger in multiplexes for up to 90 days before hitting video-on-demand rental services, but Universal recently negotiated a shortened exclusivity window with AMC and Cinemark, two of the United States’ largest theater chains. As a result, “Freaky” will premiere on VOD approximately three weeks after its theatrical bow. (Representatives for Universal declined to confirm the exact date.)

Jessica Rothe in "Happy Death Day 2U."



Jessica Rothe in “Happy Death Day 2U.”

“It’s a very mixed-bag experience for me because, on one hand, I wish that they circled the wagons and moved the movie off the calendar into a post-vaccine world,” Landon said. “But at the same time, I also recognize that there’s a real appetite for a movie like this right now. People want to laugh and they want to escape a little bit, and so maybe it is the right time for this.”

How much to hype the laughter raised some disagreement with Universal, Landon said. When he and Kennedy submitted the script, executives at the studio apparently told them the ending should more closely parallel the joviality of “Happy Death Day.”

“Sometimes when you have success with a certain thing, that’s the well that everybody wants to go back to,” Landon said. “The first ‘Happy Death Day’ ended on a very funny note. It was joke after joke after joke. And when you go to a test screening and a studio sits there and hears the audience reacting that way, it’s like heroin. So when we did this movie and it ends the way that it does, it’s not the kind of ending that elicits that reaction. And the studio was like, ‘But remember when you did that other thing and it was so fun?’”

“We fought a lot. It was to the point where I was like, ‘I won’t make this if you make me change it,’” he added. “Rarely am I that aggressive in my stances, because I do pride myself on being super collaborative and open to a lot of stuff. But I also know in my gut when I feel like something works and when something doesn’t. For me, the ending works because it completes the character’s journey, and that is more important to me than any big points that you get when you laugh. It’s something you can manufacture, but it’s dishonest.”

That means “Freaky” ends on a surprisingly sweet note, one that aligns with the thematic history of body-swap sagas, wherein protagonists tend to realize how disconcerting it is to be anyone but their true selves. Everyone dreams of a different life, a different mind, a different body — but do we really want it? Movies have concocted umpteen variants of this inquiry, from “Vice Versa” and “Like Father Like Son” to “Prelude to a Kiss” and “The Hot Chick.” Offshoots of the genre include “All of Me,” “Big” and “13 Going on 30,” as well as existential explorations like “Persona” and “Mulholland Drive.” In “Freaky,” instead of settling for the superficial pleasures of a slasher showdown, Landon reaches for something more profound and still manages not to sacrifice the fun.

“It’s something that happens a lot with teenagers who suffer the loss of a loved one early, of a parent: You want to fix things and make everyone feel OK,” said Landon, whose father died when he was 16. “You’re just trying to keep your world together somehow because it’s all just been blown up. That was something that I was very much in the business of, especially at that age. I wanted Millie to really reflect that. She was a person who was not living her life because she was too busy trying to make other people feel OK, especially her mother. She was unassertive and shy and afraid of everything. That was where I started. I knew where we were going to go: She was going to find her confidence. She was going to find her footing. And it was going to happen when she was in somebody else’s body. And so the rest of the movie was built out of that arc, which is not anything groundbreaking or necessarily unique. What I think makes the movie work is that it’s a very personalized version of all those things.”





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Joe Rogan Admits He’s A ‘F**king Moron’ After Offering Selfish COVID-19 Vaccine Advice

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Wildly popular podcast host Joe Rogan admitted he’s a “f**king moron” and “not a respected source of information, even for me” when he addressed his selfish comments about young, healthy people not needing to get vaccinated from COVID-19.

Rogan, whose audience is in the hundreds of millions, drew backlash — and a rebuke from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert — when he said on an episode of his “Joe Rogan Experience” podcast released on Spotify last week that “if you’re a healthy person and you’re exercising all the time and you’re young and you’re eating well, I don’t think you need to worry about this.”

On Thursday, Rogan clarified in a video shared on YouTube that he was “not an anti-vaxx person.” “In fact, I said I believe they’re safe and I encourage many people to take them. My parents were vaccinated,” he explained. “I just said, ‘I don’t think that if you’re a young, healthy person that you need it.’ Their argument was, you need it for other people.”

“So you don’t transmit the other virus,” said his cohost.

“That makes more sense,” agreed Rogan. “But that’s a different argument. That’s a different conversation.”

Rogan, whose show was snapped up by Spotify in a $100 million deal last year, later attempted to explain away the comments by saying how he doesn’t plan what he says on air.

He’s often high or drinking alcohol during the shows, he said, before accusing “clickbaity” journalists of blowing his comments out of proportion.

“I’m not a doctor, I’m a fucking moron and I’m a cage fighting commentator who’s a dirty standup comedian who just told you I’m drunk most of the time and I do testosterone and I smoke a lot of weed but I’m not a respected source of information, even for me,” he said.

“If I say things, I’m always going ‘check on that Jamie, I don’t know if that’s true,’” Rogan added. “But I at least try to be honest about what I’m saying.”

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Gabrielle Union Talks Baby Kaavia’s Free Spirit: ‘Shade Is Her Super Power’

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Gabrielle Union recently talked about her daughter, Kaavia James, and her funny “shady” moments, characterizing those times as her 2-year-old’s “super power.”

“Shade is her super power because when Kaavia gives you a look, it’s either you’re not respecting her boundaries or something is happening that she doesn’t like,” the actor told People in an interview published Wednesday.

Union and her retired NBA star husband, Dwyane Wade, welcomed Kaavia in November 2018.

The couple has since poked fun at the toddler’s occasional adorably shady facial expressions — and hilarious side-eyes — like when a photo of Kaavia seated on a couch looking pensive and slightly unbothered became a meme last year.

Or when the little one looked less than pleased with the outcome of her face paint design at her second birthday party:

Inspired by Kaavia’s witty personality, Wade and Union created an Instagram account for the little girl, often using the hashtag ”#Shadybaby” in the posts’ captions. The couple also collaborated to write a Kaavia-influenced children’s book titled “Shady Baby” due for release next month.

Union explained in Wednesday’s People interview that she celebrates Kaavia’s freedom to be her authentic self amid a long history of harmful ways Black women and girls have been treated in society.

“The main takeaway is that she’s free to be this amazing, dynamic, shady at times, loving at times Black little girl when the world has not been so kind to Black girls and women,” she added.

In addition to Kaavia, Wade is father to Zaya, Zaire and Xavier. Union and Wade also parent his nephew Dahveon Morris.

Wade told People that he and Union make a point to encourage their children to be their true selves.

“If we allow our kids to be their true selves we don’t have to worry about them conforming with anything or anyone,” he said. “Why wouldn’t we push our kids to be their authentic selves?”

Last month, Kaavia took a side-eyeing break to enjoy a sweet play date with 2-year-old Cairo, the daughter of actors Tia Mowry and Cory Hardrict.

After some hugs, Kaavia generously took Cairo for a spin in her toddler-sized electric car:





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Anne Heche Says Ellen DeGeneres Didn’t Want Her To ‘Dress Sexy’

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Anne Heche took an unexpected swipe at former girlfriend Ellen DeGeneres this week during an online fashion retrospective.

In a short TikTok video Tuesday, Heche looked back at some of her favorite looks from years past, including the 1998 VH1 Fashion Awards and a memorable “Dancing with the Stars” routine from last fall.

The actor’s enthusiasm for nostalgia, however, notably dipped when she came upon a photo of her and DeGeneres from the 1998 Golden Globe Awards. The pair appear to have color-coordinated their outfits, with DeGeneres in a navy suit and Heche in a blue velvet gown and matching coat.

“Why do I look like a hippie? It’s because Ellen didn’t want me to dress sexy,” Heche, who has starred in films like “Donnie Brasco” and “Six Days, Seven Nights,” declared. After giving the look a zero out of 10 and a thumbs down, she added, “Bye, no!”

Heche and DeGeneres dated from 1997 to 2000. During their time together, the women were among Hollywood’s most-buzzed-about same-sex couples.

The former couple has remained mostly tight-lipped about the specifics of their relationship in the media. Heche, however, touched on her ex in a number of interviews timed to her appearance on “Dancing with the Stars” last year.

Chatting with Mr. Warburton magazine last year, she recalled angering Hollywood executives when she brought DeGeneres as her date to the premiere of 1997’s “Volcano.”

“I was told by Fox Studio executives that if I brought Ellen to the premiere, my contract would be terminated,” she told the publication. “I brought Ellen despite those threats, and we were escorted out of the theater before the lights came on by security and not allowed to attend the premiere party because they did not want any photos of us together.”



Ellen DeGeneres (left) and Anne Heche at the 1998 Golden Globe Awards.

“I was a part of a revolution that created social change,” she added, “and I could not have done that without falling in love with her.”

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight last October, Heche noted that she hadn’t spoken to DeGeneres “in years,” but would be open to a reunion under the right circumstances.

“With relationships, I think many of us have [been there], you come to a fork in the road, ‘What do you want and what do I want?’” she said. “Those goals, that intent in life, is determined by the individual. Her intent and my intent were different and that’s why we separated.”



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Elliot Page Emotionally Shares What’s Given Him The Most Joy Since Coming Out As Trans

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Elliot Page is sharing the moment that has brought him the most joy since he announced he was a transgender man in December 2020.

In a peek at an interview with Oprah Winfrey slated for release on her Apple TV+ series “The Oprah Conversation” on Friday, the 34-year-old said that he’s found “the most joy.”

“Getting out of the shower and the towel’s around your waist and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror and you’re just like, ‘There I am.’ And I’m not having the moment where I’m panicked,” he said, before breaking down in tears. “It’s being able to touch my chest and feel comfortable in my body for the — probably the first time.”

The actor added his tears were “tears of joy.”

Earlier this year, Page talked to Time magazine about his decision to get top surgery and described the experience as something that allowed for him to recognize himself. Page recalled puberty as “total hell” and told the publication that the surgery “has completely transformed my life.”

He also told the publication that he spent much of his energy being uncomfortable with his body and the surgery has helped bring that energy back.

Page notably came out to fans last year with a heartfelt Instagram post, sharing that he would be using the pronouns “he” and “they” and said: “I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life.”

He went on to say: “I love that I am trans,” Page wrote. “And I love that I am queer. And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive.”  



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‘Bachelor’ Matt James Is Seeing Final Rose Recipient With Racist Past

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It isn’t over.

Matt James, who became the first Black lead of the dating reality series “The Bachelor,” told People on Wednesday that he’s been seeing Rachael Kirkconnell, the woman he chose but then rejected after her past racially insensitive social media posts were unearthed.

“I’ve seen Rachael a handful of times,” James said. “I’m not pursuing any relationships right now outside of that. I said I was going to focus on my relationship with her and that means focusing on it.”

Kirkconnell received James’ final rose on ABC’s reality series. After the season was in the can, pictures emerged on social media showing Georgia native Kirkconnell attending a slavery-era plantation-themed party and liking photos containing Confederate flags.

Kirkconnell apologized and said she “will continue to learn how to be anti-racist.” James said in the “After the Final Rose” episode last month that they broke up and that Kirkconnell had work to do on her own.

As for her progress, James told People “that’s something you could talk to her about.”

A report last week said the two were not speaking to each other, but that does not appear to be the case.

Stay tuned.





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Halle Berry Reacts To A Joke About Her Blunt Bob Debut At The Oscars

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Halle Berry joined the fun on Twitter after she debuted her new bob hairstyle at the 2021 Oscars on Sunday night.

The Oscar winner responded to a Twitter user who linked her new ’do to a popular lighthearted video from rapper Saucy Santana, who channels Nicki Minaj from the B.o.B. song “Out of My Mind” while rocking a bob.

“Halle Berry tonight,” the user tweeted on Sunday alongside the video. Berry retweeted the post on Tuesday and playfully responded with two emojis, including a laughing-face one:

Berry stunned on the Oscars red carpet in a pink-toned Dolce & Gabbana gown that featured a prominent bow. She showed off her new bob with bangs after she teased the hairstyle on Twitter earlier in the evening with a photo that only showed her hair chopped off.

Her hairstyle sparked a lot chatter on Twitter, with people sharing memes and all sorts of opinions of the ’do.

The legendary actor and style icon, who made history becoming the first (and still only) Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress in 2002, apparently wasn’t phased by the blunt-bob-detractors.

Berry arrived at the ceremony with her Grammy-winning musician boyfriend Van Hunt.

Hunt posted photos on Instagram Monday of him and Berry getting ready to attend the ceremony. His caption said it was the couple’s first date night. The two publicly confirmed their relationship on Instagram in September last year.





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Kate Middleton, Prince William Mark 10th Anniversary With New Portraits

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Kate Middleton and Prince William are celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary with brand-new photos.

Kensington Palace released two portraits on behalf of the couple on Wednesday, one day before their anniversary. The new pictures were snapped earlier this week at the palace by photographer Chris Floyd.





The two appear to have recreated the official photo William and Kate released for their engagement, which was taken by Mario Testino:

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, who have been together nearly 20 years, officially tied the knot at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011. Millions lined the wedding procession route, while an estimated 2 billion tuned in from around the world.

Celebrities including Elton John, Guy Ritchie and David and Victoria Beckham made up some of the 1,900 guests invited to the ceremony. Ellie Goulding performed at the couple’s evening reception, an honor she called quite “scary.”

“I did their first dance and like, talk about scary,” the singer told Vanity Fair in 2016. “I was so nervous, my hands were shaking.”

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011, in London.



The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey on April 29, 2011, in London.

Ten years since their wedding day, the duke and duchess now have three children: Prince George, 7; Princess Charlotte, 5; and Prince Louis, 3.

William and Kate celebrated Louis’ birthday last week by releasing a brand-new photo of their little one taken before his first day at nursery school.

Louis’ birthday is just two days after his great-grandmother Queen Elizabeth’s big day.

The queen turned 95 on April 21 and released a statement thanking people for the tributes to her late husband, Prince Philip.

“My family and I would like to thank you for all the support and kindness shown to us in recent days,” she said. “We have been deeply touched, and continue to be reminded that Philip had such an extraordinary impact on countless people throughout his life.”

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Kate Middleton’s Most Memorable Looks Of 2019



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