Tag Archives: fans

J.K. Rowling’s ‘Potter’ world roars back to life

The pop culture juggernaut of J.K. Rowling’s Potter-mania appeared to be breathing its last gasp when the eighth film in the series, part two of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, made its premiere amid teeming throngs of bittersweet Potter fans in London’s Leicester Square in 2011.

Wands went into their cases. Hogwarts scarves were hung up.

“When Potter finished, I thought that was it,” says producer David Heyman, who oversaw the movie adaptations from the start and has since produced Gravity, Paddington and other films. Director David Yates, who helmed the final four Potter movies, staggered away for a much-needed holiday.

“I wouldn’t have imagined that I’d come back so quickly,” says Yates. “But it was the script that pulled me back in.”

The script was Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and it, unlike all the Potter films, was penned by Rowling herself. Based on Rowling’s 2001 book, which was framed as Harry’s Hogwarts textbook, Fantastic Beasts is set in Rowling’s familiar, magical world, but takes place 60 years earlier, in a more adult 1926 New York where wizards and Muggles (called “No-Majs,” as in “no magic,” in America) live in disharmony.

This fall, Rowling’s $7.8 billion film franchise will roar back into life, resurrecting one of the most potent and lucrative big-screen sensations. It’s a two-pronged attack. While Fantastic Beasts is reaching back into the past of Rowling’s Potter world, the two-part West End play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (only co-written by Rowling) is going into the future. It moves the tale 19 years ahead of where the books left off.

Authorship, timelines and casts may be extending in new directions, but the old obsession is still goblet-of-fire hot. The script of Cursed Child sold 2 million copies in two days.

Big expectations naturally also surround Fantastic Beasts (Nov. 18). For Warner Bros., which has endured sometimes rocky times in the intervening non-Potter years, it’s a happy reunion. In today’s constantly rebooting, ever-sequalizing Hollywood, did you really think Rowling’s world was finished?

“This isn’t Harry Potter. There aren’t Harry Potter characters in this,” says Heyman. “But there is connective tissue. To (Rowling), it’s part of one big story.”

That connective tissue, like a prequel, will grow more pronounced in coming Fantastic Beasts installments, eventually leading close to Harry, himself. A trilogy is planned, with the next chapter going into production next July. Less diehard fans should prepare for some very hardcore nerding-out by Potter fans as they trace illuminating hints in the tale’s history.

Eddie Redmayne stars as the bumbling magizoologist Newt Scamander, the future author of the Hogwarts textbook. Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler and Colin Farrell are among the many supporting roles. The story about escaped magical beasts loose in a city with anti-magic elements, the filmmakers claim, bears contemporary relevance.

“We in a time of great bigotry in America, the UK and around the world,” says Heyman. “This context of the story, while not political with a capital ‘P,’ is relevant in this time. It’s an entertainment but it’s not a hollow entertainment.”

Along with the new cast and the hop across the Atlantic, the biggest change is Rowling’s deeper involvement as screenwriter. She’s also writing the next “Fantastic Beasts” film.

“There were lots of things that inevitably got left behind,” says Yates of forming the Potter films. “In this case, we’re working directly with (Rowling) and the material is pouring out of her.”

“She’s a great writer and a quick study,” says Heyman. “She approached it with incredible humility but at the same time with the confidence of someone with boundless imagination. She wanted to be as good as she possibly could at it.”

Philip Feeney paints a musical portrait for Milwaukee Ballet’s ‘Dorian Gray’

Milwaukee Ballet fans have enjoyed the music of Philip Feeney since frequent collaborator Michael Pink became the ballet’s artistic director in 2002. From Peter Pan and Dracula to Esmeralda and Mirror, Mirror, the English composer’s musical stamp and unique complexities have underscored Pink’s original ballets. 

The pair has collaborated again with Dorian Gray, based on the Oscar Wilde novel about a hedonistic narcissist and his ultimate undoing. For this production, Milwaukee Ballet will take to a more intimate stage at the historic Pabst Theatre. 

Pink in the past has depended on Feeney’s music to help bring his ballets to life and give them multiple levels of emotional texture. The composer’s latest work, he says, is no different.

“Philip has a real empathy, with the idea of writing a music score that creates a sound world and successfully tells the story,” says Pink, who collaborates with the London-based composer via Skype, FaceTime and other technologies. “His musical structures are very thoughtful and highly intelligent. There’s a lot more to the score than meets the ear.”

WiG caught up with Feeney in his London studio while he put the finishing touches on Dorian Gray

How long have you been collaborating with Michael Pink?

I started working with Michael at the Central School of Ballet (in London) in the 1980s. He’d just finished dancing with the London Festival Ballet and was starting a career as a choreographer. Together, we created the graduate group of Ballet Central, taking young dancers in a minibus touring around the U.K., and composing and choreographing new works expressly for them. In those days, I genuinely created the music in the studio at the same time as Michael was choreographing. That’s something that doesn’t come up so often in a professional context, but it still makes for a creative environment.

Which of the ballets that you’ve composed for Michael is your favorite?

I’m afraid I don’t really do favorites. I think the range is exciting and all the works have a different approach, dictated to by their subject matter. 

I do have a fond memory of the score for Esmeralda, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame as it was known as over here. The colorfulness and vividness of the Victor Hugo plot line was perfect for a vibrant musical depiction, and worked well. It was also written quickly — unfortunately the case with most of my work, as I’m quite incompetent at time management — in the months following the death of my mother. I’m not sure about the correlation, but I think, paradoxically, it had something to do with the fluency of composition.

How does ballet music differ in style, structure and purpose from other classical compositions?

Those three things — style, structure and purpose — in a narrative composition are determined by the choreographer’s designs and intentions. This is the case even with style. I am particularly eclectic and a magpie in such matters, but all composers working with dance will adapt their style so the music is capable of driving the choreography. The important thing is that the musical structure, while fitting the choreography, must be musically coherent. Otherwise, it sounds a mess and will not be able to serve the choreography.

What differentiates Michael Pink’s ballets from other choreographers’ works for whom you’ve composed the scores? 

The scores I do with Michael are narrative scores, which is a form I’m at home with. It is where a composed score comes into its own, allowing the choreographer much greater scope and control of plot and dynamic.

Having worked with Michael Pink now for nearly 30 years, it’s a bit like coming home. There are so many shortcuts that come from collaborating a lot that save a great deal of time in not going down blind alleys. There is trust involved, whereby I know if Michael doesn’t like the music I’ve done, then it won’t work for the ballet. But conversely he will trust me if say, “No, no, Michael, it’s going to work,” even if he’s initially unconvinced.

What aspects of the source material do you take into consideration when composing a ballet? 

The source material for each ballet is different and is established by the demands of the narrative. In Dorian Gray, we have two extraneous musical sources that are used to generate the rest of the musical material.

The first came from an idea from Michael. He saw Dorian as somehow associated with the music of Chopin. I have used the B flat minor mazurka (a Polish folk dance composed by Chopin) that, for me, really works for the piece. It is not only harmonically chromatic and tortured, but it has an intense melancholy and an intimacy suggestive of a late Victorian gaslight world.

The other source was the recording of a young choirboy, Headly O’Brien, giving a beautiful sense of innocence that is ultimately corrupted and becomes revealed in the picture (of Dorian Gray that ages instead of Gray himself). I wrote two short unaccompanied “Lilac Songs,” using words from Walt Whitman’s elegy “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” which (O‘Brien) recorded in the basement of Central School of Ballet in London. These become a crucial part of the thematic material and, indeed, begin and end the work. But like the mazurka, they are never really heard in their entirety, almost as if they are a hidden painting beneath the painting itself. 

How does the music for Dorian Gray differ from your other scores for Michael, both musically and thematically?

As a chamber score, it’s the size in particular. The only other chamber score I wrote for Michael was his choreographic portrayal of Wilfred Owen’s Strange Meeting, a dark World War I piece for male dancers and 10 instruments. The scoring for Dorian Gray uses nine instruments supported by an electronic keyboard, metamorphosing from percussion to harp to celeste. With that, we’ve incorporated some fairly extensive audio material, which at the climax of the ballet stages a takeover and swamps the live musicians with a series of violent swells.

Michael asked for a very dark score — he often likes dark, but within that dark, there is usually some dance and life — where the atmosphere is intense, and a sense of the terrible necessity of the end is maintained throughout. 

All the instrumentalists, of course, are soloists, but two stand out. The alto sax starts the piece with a call, taken from the Chopin, and its sound is very much a voice of the piece. In the second act, the violin begins to take on the role of Dorian’s inner torment, and like the picture, is increasingly distorted and dissonant. There’s a kind of reference to the devil’s violin, nothing too exact, but it’s a useful allusion to give to the musician. 

Is it easier to compose music for a commonly known story such as Dorian Gray or Peter Pan? How do you avoid falling into stereotypical musical formats?

For whatever reason, ballet topics tend to be well-known warhorses. There is a challenge in retelling these stories of searching for a new angle and new portrayal. This pursuit will generally steer us clear of being too markedly stereotyped, because the departures from the original that characterize the production will offer scope for the musician and the choreographer to plant new trees, so to speak.

There, of course, is a balance, and the tone of the production will determine what references need to be made to commonly held preconceptions. The music for Dracula was (considered) to be quite filmic. Although that was never the intention, the way that the score subliminally manipulated the audience by creating a sense of disquiet is similar to the way film music works. 

I am very much in favor of breathing new life into old traditions. Otherwise, we shouldn’t be choosing traditional or well-known stories, if we are not going to add to what went before.

How do you know when a score is “finished?” What elements need to be present in order for that score to succeed?

To some extent scores are never finished! But it is in the nature of musical notation that when a score is completed, it then becomes “text” and, as such, etched in stone. In many ways the excitement of this project is that, by working with a high- performance chamber group, we can have more options and flexibility to make it work better. And I will welcome the input of the players in a way that’s less easy when the work is orchestral.

As to the question of success, I can, and I hope have, organized the score in such a way that it forms a structurally satisfying piece of work. However, these things are organic. The success of the music should probably be judged by how it works theatrically within the choreography and the production. 


The Milwaukee Ballet’s production of Michael Pink’s Dorian Gray, with music by Philip Feeney, takes the stage Feb. 12 to Feb. 14 and Feb. 19 to Feb. 21 at the Pabst Theatre, 144 E. Wells St., Milwaukee. Tickets range from $35 to $102 and can be ordered at 414-286-3663 or visit

Scully, Mulder, paranoia return in ‘The X-Files’ reboot

“The X-Files” creator Chris Carter is pleased to update the original template with his 21st-century unease. Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are glad to be playing opposite each other again as Scully and Mulder.

And admirers likely will do a happy dance to the Fox TV drama’s eerie theme music as it returns with a six-episode limited run.

The two-part opener is scheduled to air at 10 p.m. EST Sunday, immediately after the end of the NFL’s NFC championship game on Fox, and at 8 p.m. EST Monday. Subsequent episodes also air at 8 p.m. Monday EST.

Will the reboot retain the dark magic of the original TV series, which in its 1993-2002 lifespan offered a wildly entertaining blend of government conspiracies, otherworldly suspense and black comedy that was placed in the hands of two unknown but charismatic actors?

Creator and executive producer Carter offers assurances, but with the caveat that he insisted on more than an exercise in nostalgia for the franchise that included two big-screen movies.

“Someone said to me, ‘Great, a victory lap,”” when the new project was announced, he said. “That’s the opposite of why we came back. We didn’t want to do something that reworked old material or was just a sequel to what we’d done before. I wanted to make something fresh and original.”

Current events and figures proved helpful, Carter said, citing National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and eroding personal privacy as examples.

“These are interesting and heady times, and perfect for telling ‘X-Files’ tales,” he said, promising a series more directly topical than the original. “We deal with fear in a lot of different ways. … The fact that we’re being spied on and don’t seem to be raising any protest is a frightening prospect for me.”

One tricky aspect is balancing the interests of “X-Files” devotees and potential newcomers.

“We have to be respectful of people who are familiar with the show so we don’t beat them over the head with things they know,” Carter said. “I think our approach is artful in what it gives fans and what it will provide non-fans.”

He’s joined in the cause by members of the creative team that helped make the first series a sensation, with Darin Morgan, Glen Morgan and James Wong splitting writing and directing duties with Carter on the new episodes.

Also back are Mitch Pileggi, who played FBI assistant director Walter Skinner in the original series; William B. Davis as the shadowy Cigarette Smoking Man; and, despite their deaths, the beloved conspiracy-theory geeks known collectively as the Lone Gunmen.

“No one is every truly dead on ‘The X-Files,’” Carter said, drolly.

Newcomer Joel McHale is onboard as Tad O’Malley, a news anchor.

In the first go-round, FBI agent Fox Mulder was driven to prove the government was hiding evidence of aliens on Earth. Fellow agent Dana Scully was his initially skeptical colleague.

In the reboot, new evidence reunites them in the quest to uncover the truth. It’s personal as well, Anderson said.

“There’s something that’s missing in Scully’s life, and that thing is clearly Mulder. Both of them feel disconnected from the world and themselves because they’re missing a limb,” she said.

She and Duchovny have moved on to a variety of on-screen and other projects, including writing (both have published novels), and, in Duchovny’s case, music. But they said returning to the “X-Files” fold, with Carter again in charge, felt right.

“Chris is a serious person and an artist. And if he says he’s got a way to make it work, I trust that,” Duchovny said.

Said Anderson: “There were aspects of it that felt ridiculously familiar and kind of felt we never left. Some elements were much more challenging — running in heels,” she added, laughing.

Last summer’s taping in Vancouver, Canada, was arranged around her London-based family life. But she brought part of it with her: daughter Piper, who is studying production design, was on the set to gain work experience and ended up contributing to the series, Anderson said.

Whatever work-related tension that existed between the stars, the by-product of churning out some two-dozen episodes a season and becoming instant stars, is long gone, Duchovny said.

“Put any human being in that situation, working the amount that we worked and going through the ride from obscurity to global (fame), it’s just crazy-making,” he said. “It’s a natural human emotion to have enough of one another in that situation. Now it’s quite the opposite, it’s respect and love and gratitude.”

On the Web


Does Trump have fans, or voters? The wondering begins as Iowa looms

It’s the No. 1 question headed into the primary season: Does Donald Trump merely have fans, or does the national front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination have voters who will mobilize come caucus day?

The definitive answer won’t arrive until first-to-vote Iowa heads to the polls on Feb. 1, but interviews with dozens of voters, political operatives, party leaders and campaign volunteers in the past week paint a mixed picture of Trump’s efforts to make sure they do.

Even some of the billionaire real-estate mogul’s most ardent backers wonder whether the political novice has the kind of ground game needed to ensure supporters — especially those new to taking part in a caucus — can navigate a process that isn’t as easy as casting a ballot.

But many believe that even if Trump is falling short when it comes to building a get-out-the-vote effort, his supporters are so enthusiastic it won’t much matter.

“I have a feeling we’re going to actually do better than the polls are saying because there’s a movement,” Trump told supporters in suburban Des Moines last week, dismissing suggestions the thousands who pack his rallies won’t make it out on caucus night.

Questions about Trump’s turnout effort are magnified by his place alongside Texas Sen. Ted Cruz atop preference polls in Iowa. Republican leaders in the state largely agree that Cruz has the most powerful get-out-the-vote operation among the GOP candidates for president — complete with an army of out-of-state volunteers housed in dormitories.

Those same observers were mixed when describing what Trump has put together.

“Normally, I at least know the country chairs and I see some organization,” said Gwen Ecklund, chair of the Republican Party in Crawford County, who said Trump staffers weren’t doing as much as other campaigns.

Dozens of people interviewed by The Associated Press at Trump rallies across the state say that while his team is active online, they have had relatively little personal contact from the campaign. Many said they had yet to receive a phone call or a campaign mailing. None reported a knock on the door.

“That’s a precarious model,” Paul Tewes, who organized then-Sen. Barack Obama’s successful 2008 campaign in Iowa, said of a campaign that relies on emails and phone calls alone.

The issue, Tewes explained, is that Iowa doesn’t make its presidential choice with a primary. Ballots aren’t cast at polling stations open from dawn to dusk. Instead, a caucus requires voters to show up at a designated place at a designated hour, at night in winter, to listen to speeches and eventually express support for their favored candidate in a Byzantine voting process.

“It’s a much higher hurdle than voting in a (traditional) election,” Tewes said.

Yet Trump’s campaign has, so far, defied all those who doubt it.

His team in Iowa is led by Chuck Laudner, a highly respected political operative who ran 2012 caucus winner Rick Santorum’s Iowa operation. They have diligently built a voter database using the information entered when fans sign up online to attend his events, where Trump staffers canvass the crowd seeking commitments and answering questions.

“I believe that the Trump campaign is one of the best staffed organizations in the state,” said Jamie Johnson, a GOP strategist who also worked for Santorum in 2012. “Anyone that thinks Donald Trump is just winging it in Iowa is dead wrong.”

Laudner declined to discuss the campaign’s efforts at length, but said at a pre-Christmas rally, “We have counties where we have more committed caucus goers than total turnout four years ago.”

Trump’s campaign is holding unadvertised caucus training sessions, including one last week at a Pizza Ranch restaurant in outside Des Moines, which drew about a dozen people for a two-hour long presentation on how to use the campaign’s “Ground Game 2” smartphone app.

Larry Weigel, an accountant who attended the session, said he’d already called 60 people and lined up commitments from seven of the 25 people he was aiming to get to caucus for Trump. “You feel it,” he said of the campaign’s momentum.

Still, others aren’t quite sure.

Derrell Peters drove about 50 miles from Eldora to Cedar Falls last week to see Trump in person, stood in line outside of a college gymnasium in the cold more than three hours before Trump took the stage, and even attended a caucus training session organized by his local Republican Party.

But despite the time he’s already invested, he said he was having second thoughts spending any more on Trump.

“I thought, if this is what it is, I really ain’t too sure about it,” said Peters, 65. “I might stay home.”

Bobblehead museum moves closer to reality in Milwaukee

Pete Rose may never be enshrined in Cooperstown, New York, but Major League Baseball’s all-time hits leader has a terrific shot at having a hall of fame induction ceremony in Milwaukee.

Instead of joining the likes of Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Charlie Hustle may one day share wall space with Fred Flintstone, Mahatma Gandhi, Bart Starr, Jesus Christ and Homer Simpson.

The National Bobblehead Hall of Fame & Museum is closer to reality thanks to a couple of longtime friends who saw their collection of bobbleheads get slightly out of hand.

Instead of getting rid of most of their nodding and shaking statuettes, Phil Sklar and Brad Novak quit their day jobs and doubled down to create what is believed to be the world’s largest collection of bobbleheads for public display.

As of two weeks ago, the pair had amassed more than 5,000 bobbleheads and were busy preparing for the opening of an exhibit to showcase part of the eclectic collection of figurines from the world of sports, pop culture, entertainment, history and politics.

“It’s not something we did overnight. We’ve thought about this for a long time,” Novak, 31, told the Wisconsin State Journal. “It’s our passion.”

The 3,000-square-foot exhibit, “Bobbleheads: Real & Fantastical Heroism,” will open Jan. 22, at Redline Milwaukee, a nonprofit urban arts center and incubator for emerging artists located at 1422 N. Fourth St., just a few blocks from the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

The opener was to be preceded by a preview party and fundraiser Thursday where Pat McCurdy was set to debut a theme song for the Hall of Fame & Museum. Proceeds from $25 tickets and a silent auction will be used to benefit Redline educational programs.

“It’s something so many people can relate to,” said Jeanne Jarecki, executive director of Redline Milwaukee, founded in 2009. “There’s so many different themes that it becomes universal. Everybody thinks of it as sports but it’s not. There’s just so many things you can connect to.”

The hope is that by the time the exhibit with free admission closes on April 30, a museum location will be found in downtown Milwaukee and open this fall. Ultimately, Novak and Sklar would like to see their museum housed in a 5,000-to-10,000-square-foot space, possibly in the sports and entertainment district planned for downtown Milwaukee that will include a $500 million arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

“The good thing is that there are a lot of great options in the downtown Milwaukee area right now,” said Sklar, 32. “This (exhibit at Redline) will give us a good gauge on how many people are coming to see it and how many are going to the gift shop or not. It will give us a good barometer before we make a big commitment.”

But the enthusiastic duo is already in deep with their collection approaching $500,000 in value.

Sklar and Novak have attended sporting events on bobblehead-giveaway days, purchased them from other collectors and have received donations. They’re funding their efforts through their business that designs and manufactures bobbleheads for other organizations. They’ve had orders from minor league baseball clubs, the NBA, schools, nonprofits, businesses and even NBC’s “Today” show, for which they created bobbleheads of the hosts. In the last two years, they’ve designed 50 bobbleheads and have had 50,000 produced.

“Some of those have been for teams,” Sklar said. “Some have been for special events. We did one for a rabbi who was retiring.”

They also reached out in 2014 to Rose, the former Cincinnati Reds star who bet on baseball and has been banned from the game, to have a bobblehead made in his likeness. The Rose bobblehead will likely be the first to be enshrined into the Bobblehead Hall of Fame later this year with three to five others being admitted to the hall each year, Sklar said.

The museum collection is diverse. It includes a bobblehead of Lauren Hill, a 19-year-old college basketball player for Mount St. Joseph University, who died of brain cancer in April, and the late Chris Farley, a Madison native and comedian. Politicians include presidents Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton, John F. Kennedy and Barack Obama. Former presidential candidate U.S. Sen. John McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin are represented, as is North Korea leader Kim Jong-un.

Mr. McGoo is here, along with Toucan Sam, the members of the rock band KISS, Albert Einstein, Shrek, Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed, Tonto and Ray Szmanda, the former pitchman for Menard’s. A hero’s section includes bobbleheads of Nelson Mandela, Jackie Robinson, Helen Keller, Superman, Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosie the Riveter.

Other displays in the exhibit will include the history of bobbleheads, which date back to the 1700s, and how bobbleheads are made.

“With everything going on in the world, people need more fun,” Sklar said. “It’s a fun way to learn about somebody. They’re so simple. They’re just the body, the spring and the head.”

Until a few weeks ago, about 90 percent of the collection was sports related. That ratio went down to 70 percent sports after Sklar and Novak purchased a collection from an Indiana man who had 1,500 bobbleheads. A collection of 700 bobbleheads was donated last fall to the museum by the family of the late Gerald Welch of Marshfield, who wanted to see Welch’s collection kept together after his death. It included bobbleheads from the early 1960s and several “nodders,” velvet dogs, cats and other animals in sitting or prone positions.

Sklar and Novak grew up together in Rockford, Illinois, and attended UW-Milwaukee. Novak began collecting bobbleheads while he was in high school because he worked for a minor league baseball team, where he ran the scoreboard and later worked as a front-office intern.

By the time he left for college, he had about 50 bobbleheads but the collection continued to grow as he and Sklar attended other sporting events on bobblehead nights and began buying bobbleheads. The duo has lived together in a condominium for eight years and until recently it was filled with bobbleheads from the basement to the top floor.

“They’re not on the (kitchen) counter, where they used to be,” said Novak, a former cellular phone sales representative, who quit his job in August. “They were everywhere.”

Sklar, a certified public accountant with an MBA, quit his corporate finance job in October 2014 to work full-time with bobbleheads. He and Novak created their first bobblehead about two years ago when they did a fundraiser for Special Olympics and sold bobbleheads of Michael Poll, a superfan and manager at UW-Milwaukee sporting events.

That led to more custom bobblehead creations, the growth of the collection and an idea to create a museum and hall of fame.

“Nobody could see it in our house,” Sklar said. “It’s a cool collection and we thought that if we create something unique and one-of-a-kind, it could be a hit.”

Published via AP member exchange. 

Rush to book ‘The Force Awakens’ tickets crashes online site

“Star Wars” fans were given the longest look yet at the upcoming “The Force Awakens” film on Oct. 19, in an action-packed trailer which became the top trending topic on Twitter and sparked a rush of bookings which crashed a U.S. online ticket seller.

The two-and-a-half minute trailer, which debuted during halftime of ESPN’s National Football League game, quickly attracted more than 17,000 tweets per minute, according to Twitter. It was viewed on YouTube more than 220,000 times within the first 20 minutes.

Tickets for the film’s U.S. release on Dec. 18 went on pre-sale at the same time as the trailer, with U.S. ticket seller Fandango crashing temporarily.

The trailer, which featured franchise veterans Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher alongside a cast of newcomers, kicked off with lead character Rey (Daisy Ridley) as a scavenger presumed to be the daughter of Princess Leia (Fisher) and Han Solo (Ford).

Fisher makes her trailer debut as Leia, along with the character’s trademark hair buns, as she is embraced by Han Solo. Leia is heard saying “The Force, it’s calling to you. Just let it in.” Notably missing was Mark Hamill, who reprised his role as Luke Skywalker but is yet to be seen in character.

The trailer for the film, directed by J.J. Abrams, provided the vast scope the new film will be taking and the challenges that its leading characters will face.

Finn (John Boyega), a Stormtrooper on the run, says “I was raised to do one thing, but I’ve got nothing to fight for,” and is later seen battling villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

Kylo Ren is shown alongside the charred mask of Darth Vader, saying “Nothing will stand in our way. I will finish what you started.”

Fans have until now only seen two teasers: November’s 88-second trailer and April’s 2-minute trailer, in which Han Solo and Chewbacca made their first appearance.

Ahead of the trailer release, Abrams tweeted a note, saying “We cannot wait to share the trailer with you tonight. I don’t care if you’re black, white, brown, Jawa, Wookie, Jedi or Sith. I just hope you like it.”

The film is expected to gross about $100 million in North America on its opening weekend, Rentrak’s senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian said, adding that it could earn over $2 billion globally.

“This is maybe the most anticipated movie of the last 10 years,” Dergarabedian said.

“Star Wars,” created by filmmaker George Lucas, has grossed more than $4.4 billion globally since 1977 with six films. “The Force Awakens” is the first of three new “Star Wars” movies being produced by Disney since it purchased the Lucasfilm franchise in 2012 for $4.05 billion.

Earlier Monday, British “Star Wars” fans snapped up tens of thousands of tickets for “The Force Awakens,” with movie theater chains reporting record business for advance tickets.

Cinema chain Odeon said Monday was “our busiest day ever for online bookings,” while Vue Entertainment said it had sold 10,000 tickets within the first 90 minutes. Both said some customers faced delays purchasing online.

Man of letters: Fans leave notes at Kerouac’s former home

Letters pile up outside the vacant corner house on 10th Avenue North at 52nd Street South in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Some are folded neatly into envelopes and sent through the Post Office to jam the mailbox to overflowing.

Others are written on crinkled scrap paper, hand delivered and stuffed inside the front screen door.

Jack Kerouac, once the home’s owner, died at a St. Petersburg hospital in 1969, but you wouldn’t know it from the correspondence he receives from grateful fans of his novel “On The Road” and other works.

“You remind me to stay true to who you are and to nurture the wanderlust gene in all of us,” reads one letter, handwritten by “Cindy” on stationery adorned with colorful butterflies and flowers. “I hope you’re writing, unrestrained, with a shot & a beer.”

A nonprofit group wants to create a Kerouac museum from the 1,700-square-foot, one-story house, built in 1963 and valued today at about $190,000. But John Sampas, Kerouac’s brother-in-law and executor of his estate, told the Tribune last week he has changed his mind and doesn’t want to sell.

Meanwhile, the letters keep pouring in.

“It’s become a cosmic mailbox that can reach the heavens,” said Pat Barmore of St. Petersburg, president of the Friends of the Jack Kerouac House, which took care of the house until a property manager was hired a year ago.

Tour buses also park out front so sightseers can try peering through the curtains inside, Barmore said.

Margaret Murray, secretary of the friends group, said she rarely drives by without seeing fans in the yard or parked across the street, catching a glimpse of where their hero lived.

“Drive by tomorrow and you’ll likely see someone staring at it,” she said. “Visit a few days after the current stack of letters are taken away, and there will be new ones.”

With permission from executor Sampas, the Tribune read a handful of the notes recently left inside the screen door.

“Cynthia” of Texas put her thoughts on yellow Post-it notes. She said she not yet read “On The Road” but plans to as soon as she returns home from her Florida vacation.

“I feel blessed to have been able to drink your favorite drink at your favorite bar ‘Flamingo,”” she wrote, speaking of The Flamingo Sports Bar at 1230 Ninth St. N., St. Petersburg, where Kerouac spent time during a stint in the area that stretched from 1964 to his death on October 21, 1969, at the age of 47.

His favorite drink, according to the Flamingo, was a shot of a whiskey with a beer wash.

“I hope you are writing in peace wherever you are!” Cythia added.

Another letter written on a small piece of lined, white paper is signed “Friend of Jack” and says, “I prefer to think of myself as a free spirit and a person who follows a path of her own choosing. You have always been my inspiration.”

It’s a common theme, Barmore said — appreciative fans making a pilgimage to a site associated with their idols.

One prominent example, Murray noted, is the burial place in Paris of “Doors” frontman Jim Morrison.

Throngs of tourists surround Morrison’s grave. Gifts are left. Some people scribble on the tombstone.

“I think people still reach out to Jack Kerouac out of a desire to connect with something bigger than themselves,” said Kristy Anderson, a filmmaker producing a documentary on Kerouac’s life in Florida. “He has touched the lives of many and will continue to.”

Kerouac’s longtime friend, musician David Amram, said he believes the late author would appreciate the attention.

“This new generation has come to Kerouac by reading his books, as he wanted,” Amram said. “That is opposite to what he felt happened when he was alive.”

Kerouac struggled with his fame because he thought it had more to do with his pop culture identity than his books, Amram said.

“He would say, ‘They are ignoring me,’?” Amram said. “And then he would say in his Lowell, Massachusetts, accent, ‘I’m an author, I’m a writer, why don’t they read my book?’ Even in the times before reality TV, when being a celebrity seduced most people, he was a modest person who didn’t want that. He only wanted people to read his books.””

Amram believes this contributed to the alcoholism that would kill Kerouac.

“People looked to him to perform for them, to be the Jack Kerouac character they envisioned rather than himself. They expected him to be a vocal leader in this new movement. He just wanted to write.”

There were two sides of the St. Petersburg version of Kerouac, filmmaker Anderson said _ one who wished to be left alone by fans who would stalk the house and one who openly pined for attention.

This Dr. Jekyll half usually appeared with some liquid encouragement, Anderson said.

“That Jack was usually the drunken Jack. And he drank a lot while living here. As much as he sometimes hated his fame, he would also go to a party and introduce himself as the ‘famous Jack Kerouac.’?”

On another occasion, she said, Kerouac and a friend were at an upscale bar in the Tampa Bay area dressed like “bums” and very drunk. The gameshow “Jeopardy” was on the television and the answer in need of a question was “He wrote ‘On The Road.’?”

“His friend, who wants to remain anonymous, said Jack jumped up and started yelling, ‘Me. I did.’ And they were kicked out,” Anderson said. “I don’t think the bartender believed he was Kerouac and thought he was just a loud drunk.”

A typewritten letter from Kerouac to his agent from September 1968 recently was sold by Boston-based RR Auction. Who made the purchase has not been announced, and it is up to the buyer whether to go public.

The letter was a pitch for his next book, to be titled “Spotlight.” He died before he could finish it.

“Spotlight” was to be an autobiography on the years following his rise to fame from “On The Road.”

“That would have been a fascinating account,” Anderson said. “It may have included his time in Florida.”

Among the episodes described in Kerouac’s letter are bar fights in a number of cities, bad experiences during television appearances and his frustration over people always recognizing him in public.

“I order my lunch but everybody’s yakking so much around me I begin to realize right then and there that ‘success’ is when you can’t enjoy your food anymore in peace,” he wrote, speaking of a meal experience in New York.

The auctioned letter was written in Kerouac’s native town of Lowell, during a brief visit away from St. Petersburg.

But considering St. Petersburg was his full-time home at the time, it is possible the book might have been written here, which would have added further allure to his local home, Anderson said.

The Friends of the Jack Kerouac House wants to buy the author’s house and use it in a way that honors Kerouac. Barmore, the group’s president, was disappointed to learn it’s off the market but said the group will keep raising money in case it becomes available. Options they’ve discussed include a Kerouac museum, a rent-free residence for talented writers where they could concentrate on their work, and moving it to a local college campus for a writing program.

The next time friend Amram vacations in Florida, he plans to stop by the house and perhaps leave a note of his own.

“I am so happy that people are still moved by his words and go out of their way to thank him,” he said. “Fortunately, Jack’s beautiful spirit has survived.”

One letter left at the home by “Jackie Z,” written on a piece of paper torn from a notebook, speaks of how Kerouac’s spirit has affected her. The letter seems to capture Amram’s own memory of his friend.

“When your books became popular, maybe it wasn’t like the be all end all experience, but I respect that so much,” Jackie Z says. “You wrote your personal, beautiful books not for glory or fame, but because you needed to write, needed to commemorate the people you met & experiences you had because they were transformative, colorful, MAD. You’re pretty mad & you lived it right.”

Q&A: Nick Jonas on hit singles, JoBros, Timberlake, acting

Nick Jonas may have become a sex symbol to female fans in the last year, but the singer says his new tour won’t cater just to the ladies. He’s thinking about his male fans, too.

“I don’t think I’ll cater physically to the women so that it’s not polarizing to my male fans,” Jonas said. 

“And at the core, I’m kind of a dude,” he said laughing, “so I like to get out and have a good time.”

The Nick Jonas Live in Concert Tour will kick off Sept. 6 in Hershey, Pennsylvania. Tickets are on sale now.

The 22-year-old is riding high on the success of his hit singles “Jealous” and “Chains,” which have reached platinum status and dominated on radio. They appear on his latest, self-titled album.

He’s also busy outside of music: He’s filming the movie “Goat,” gearing up for the second season of DirecTV’s “Kingdom” and will appear in the new Fox series “Scream Queens.”

Jonas talked about his busy schedule, being compared to Justin Timberlake and reuniting with the Jonas Brothers in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

AP: You have so many female fans, so will your tour be a ladies’ night tour?

Jonas: You know I think that the male fan base has actually been the biggest thing to watch grow. It’s been pretty special to see that change. I think a big part of that has to do with the music.

AP: Are you surprised that both “Jealous” and “Chains” have been on heavy rotation on the radio?

Jonas: It’s a kind of bizarre thing to think that now I’ve got two songs that people have connected to, and I just want to continue to build on that. I feel like in a lot of ways what I’m doing is just the beginning of what I hope is a really long journey, and it’s all about staying hungry and (being) willing to dig in and work hard.

AP: You’ve drawn some comparisons to Justin Timberlake since he was also in a boy band and meshes R&B with pop sounds. What do you think of that?

Jonas: It’s an incredible feeling. Justin has had an amazing career, amazing transition — both as a musical artist but also as an actor. And the acting has been a really big thing for me in the last year and a half with some projects I’ve become really passionate about. … So those comparisons are really flattering. Justin has done his thing and has had his own journey, and I’m sure I’ll have my own as well. And I’m honored people would make that comparison, but definitely staying in my own lane as well.

AP: Were you nervous when you decided to tackle a more R&B sound?

Jonas: I think anytime you try to push yourself and push your sound and evolve is a little frightening. Just being bold and taking those steps. But I saw really quickly that the fans connected with it.

AP: Did you play your album for your brothers before you released it?

Jonas: I played the record for them about a month before it came out, wanted to kind of get their opinions on what they thought should be singles and overall what their vibe was on it. Their opinion meant a lot to me and they both were really supportive … I think I really needed that support going in to feel comfortable to really take that step forward.

AP: Do you think you guys would reunite for a song or album?

Jonas: I think our time creatively together is done. Never say never though. I can’t predict what’s going to happen one day or the next. … I would say for right now I’m happy to be doing my own thing.

AP: What’s it been like working with James Franco in the film “Goat”?

Jonas: He has been an incredible force creatively for this movie. He’s one of the producers in the movie and I’m not really allowed to say what his involvement is with it _ it’s kind of a secret.

AP: You have a song on the upcoming soundtrack for Broadway’s “Finding Neverland.” What was it like being a part of Broadway again?

Jonas: I’m a big fan on Broadway and I’ve been really fortunate to get to perform on Broadway a bunch of times, so anything I can do in that sense to support and show love to that community is always great for me.

AP: Is doing Broadway again one of your goals?

Jonas: I think that the next thing I’d be a part of, I’d love for it to be something that I wrote. So hopefully I can write a show at some point and then get to perform it.

AP: How are you balancing music and acting?

Jonas: It’s been a little tricky at times to be honest … the acting projects take up a lot of time and I love doing them and want to be the kind of performer that can do both.

On the Web …


‘House of Cards’ returns for 3rd season

Even if it never wins another award, “House of Cards” already ranks among the most influential series in television history.

The political drama launched Netflix’s expansion into original programming two years ago, a risky bet that might have toppled the Internet video service had “House of Cards” flopped and squandered its estimated $100 million investment. Instead, the show was an immediate hit with viewers and critics, giving Netflix the financial clout and creative firepower to further transform how we watch and define “television.” And it spurred other online services such as Amazon.com Inc. and Google’s YouTube to spend more on their own original content to create shows that rival those produced by broadcast and cable channels.

Season three debuted last week, giving fans a chance to see Frank and Claire Underwood continue their machinations, now from a hard-won White House perch. The show marks just one of more than 20 original series or movies that Netflix is scheduled to show this year. Producing that much original content would have seemed like a long shot before “House of Cards” first established Netflix as more than a convenient and cheap way to watch recycled TV series and movies previously released on DVD. Launched in February 2013, “House of Cards” was among the first major series to release an entire season at once, a move that fed into viewers’ desire to devour several episodes at a time instead of having to wait a week to see another installment.

Many analysts now view “House of Cards” and Netflix’s other award-winning series released a few months later – “Orange is the New Black” – as turning points in the company’s evolution, similar to the impact “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City” had for HBO. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings now regularly likens the company to the HBO of the Internet.

Just how many Netflix subscribers have watched “House of Cards” remains a mystery because the company has refused to reveal the viewership of any of its series. But this much is clear: “House of Cards” came along at a pivotal juncture for Netflix.

The Los Gatos, California, company was still recovering from a subscriber backlash triggered in mid-2011 by a dramatic increase in its prices and a bungled attempt to spin off its DVD-by-mail service. Undaunted, Netflix continued to commit billions of dollars to long-term licensing agreements with movie and TV studios while also spending heavily on an international expansion. Some analysts questioned whether the company could survive.

Wall Street’s doubts have dissipated, and Netflix’s service has become an entertainment staple around the world. Since “House of Cards” was released, Netflix’s stock has nearly tripled to about $480 while its Internet video service has grown subscribers by 24 million subscribers to 57 million. Half of those gains have come in the U.S.

The momentum emboldened Netflix last year to raise its monthly streaming prices by a $1 to $9. There was little blowback from customers this time. Netflix’s widening appeal may have also contributed to HBO’s decision to begin selling its channel as a separate Internet service later this year. HBO hasn’t yet announced its prices for the HBO Go service.

The next challenge for Netflix will be proving that it can consistently deliver series as good as “House of Cards,” which has received 22 Emmy nominations and won four awards so far, and “Orange Is The New Black,” which has collected three Emmy awards among its 12 nominations.

While some of Netflix’s other original programs, such as “Hemlock Grove” and “BoJack Horseman,” have attracted enthusiastic followings, they haven’t proven to be a subscriber drawing card like “House of Cards,” said Rosenblatt Securities analyst Martin Pyykkonen. “Netflix needs to get to the point where it’s showing three or four high-quality shows like `House of Cards” every quarter if it wants to retain subscribers,” he said.

Game on: Where to cheer for the Packers on Sunday

The Green Bay Packers are heading to Seattle this Sunday. And where are Packer fans headed to watch the game?

Travel Wisconsin has some ideas. The state boasts some of the largest and liveliest sports bars in the country. And whatever part of the state you find yourself in this Sunday, you can bet the Packers game will be on, the fans will be cheering and the bloody marys and beer will be flowing.

A few of the TW team’s favorite spots to catch the game:

Pooley’s Sports Bar — Madison

Madison’s largest and most interactive sports bar is the place to watch the big game. If you like sports memorabilia, this is your place. Pooley’s has an impressive collection of sports memorabilia that will blow away the biggest sports fan, including signed jerseys, pennants, photos and helmets of some of Wisconsin’s greatest sports stars.

Stadium View — Green Bay

Forbes magazine named Stadium View the “No. 1 Sports Bar in the Nation.” Just steps away from Lambeau Field, this bar has 12 massive, 10-foot tall TVs to catch the game on… how can you go wrong?

Champs Sports Bar & Grill — Lake Geneva

When the game is on, Champs is a rowdy yet relaxed retreat for fans. The collection of signed sports memorabilia will impress even the most ardent sports enthusiast and the beer list will satisfy domestic and craft beer lovers alike, but the 14 high-def TVs make it perfect for cheering on the Green and Gold.

Major Goolsby’s — Milwaukee

Sports Illustrated cited this hot spot as “America’s 4th Best Sports Bar.” While it’s most famous for being a convenient stop for a cheeseburger before Milwaukee Bucks games, it also boasts food and drink specials for Packers games and 54 TVs to catch the action on.

Iron Horse Saloon — Hurley

The crown jewel of Hurley’s famous Silver Street is a great place to catch the game, have a beer, and bite into one of the best burgers around. Make it a long weekend and catch the legendary live music on Saturday, and then stick around for the game on Sunday. Plus, with Packers specials, you can’t go wrong.

Brat Stop — Kenosha

Brats. Beer. Cheese. These football-friendly staples are what make the Brat Stop famous. When you’re not cheering on the Pack, play pool, darts and video games. The friendly atmosphere will make you feel like you’ve stepped into Cheers (if Cheers was filled with flat screens).

Rookie’s — Mazomanie

You could spend an hour or two scouting out the sports memorabilia that don all of the walls and even the ceilings of this bar — but we know you’ll be more focused on what’s going on in the game than what’s on the walls. The staff is notoriously friendly, so bargain for a seat at the bar.

Rusty’s Backwater Saloon — Stevens Point

If a Bloody Mary is what you’re after, try Rusty’s Backwater Saloon. Making what the bar calls “the best Bloody Mary you’ve ever had,” Rusty’s presents a hard-nosed drink for a hard-nosed drinker. Made in a glass mug with pickle and pepper garnishes, Rusty’s tasty beverage is a must-have for any central-Wisconsin Packers fan.

Sobelman’s Pub & Grill — Milwaukee

Known for their bloodies and their burgers, Sobelman’s combines both of these favorites to create “The Bloody Masterpiece.” Featured in the UK’s Daily Mail, the Huffington Post and Good Morning America, Sobelman’s gigantic jar of tomato and vodka goodness features sprouts, celery, onions, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, lemons, pickles, shrimp, sausage, cheese, olives, green onions, asparagus and of course a bacon cheeseburger slider. Plus with Packers game-day specials, this is not a place to be missed.

The Wisconsin Gazette would like to hear where you plan to watch the game. Share your recommendations with us here, on our Facebook page or on Twitter @wigazette.