By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online recently had the unique opportunity to speak to a lady who may just have the coolest job in the entire world: right now, she is Sylvester Stallone’s unit publicist! Not only that, but she has also worked with Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger as well. Even cooler, the entire gang (plus some fresh additions) are back together for new old-school action movie The Expendables, written and directed by Sly himself, for a release later this year.
Known only as Ethelmae (or Marialascala on Twitter), she has recently found many fans of her own via her fantastic blog. This wasn’t enough for AMO though. We wanted to know so much more about Ethelmae and The Expendables… so we asked her directly!
Hey, thank you for your time! Can you tell us a bit about yourself please?
Hi! I blog under the name Ethelmae and tweet under Marialascala. I prefer to use them rather than my real name. My film career began in New York working for Academy Award winning director, John Avildsen. I then served as Mickey Rourke’s assistant on ‘The Pope of Greenwich Village’ before moving to Los Angeles in the mid-eighties while working on John Huston’s dark comedy ‘Prizzi’s Honor’.
In 1985 a young actor by the name of Bruce Willis gave me a job on his new TV series, ‘Moonlighting’. I worked on the show until it went off the air in June 1989. I then moved to Warner Bros., working in the International Film Publicity Department before leaving in 1999 to go out on my own. At that time I began working almost exclusively with Arnold Schwarzenegger as his foreign media specialist. When he became Governor I entered politics for 3 1/2 years before returning to the movie world.
How would you describe your job in a nutshell?
It sometimes sounds so simplistic when I try to define what a unit publicist does but basically my job is to create awareness while the film is in production. To do that I liaise with the media and coordinate press visits to the set. A unit publicist works closely with the film makers and talent, coordinates the behind the scenes footage, writes the production notes, works with the unit photographer to ensure the imagery serves the film, ID and caption photos and secure talent approvals on photos. I often refer to units as Switzerland because we have to remain neutral while serving both the studio and the production. I know that is a little obtuse but so am I!
Best parts of your job?
For me doing unit publicity is the perfect job – I love movies, people and travel and by doing units I get to be a part of creating movie magic, I get to travel all over the world and I get to hang out with really cool people. And they pay me. Life is good.
For me there’s no downside. Some films are tougher than others and it is never pretty when you work on a bomb but I always love going to work.
Sly was bleeding and bruised but after watching the last take he turned around and said “that’s how you teach the children.” Then he set up the next shot while the medics tried to stop the bleeding and clean the dirt and stones out of his arm. I LOVE ACTION MOVIES!!!!
What made you start Ethelmae’s Blog?
I actually started the blog about 2 years ago as a way to let my friends and family know what was going on with me as I travel a lot and rarely have time to call or write. The feedback was good so I decided to publish them for a broader audience.
Are you surprised at how successful it has been? It is in many ways now the unofficial blog for The Expendables.
Ha yes totally surprised! It kind of freaked me out once I started getting hundreds of comments and a few thousand followers on Twitter… I couldn’t figure out why anyone other than my friends and family would care about what I had to say. When media outlets started calling me the official blog I had to speak out and let them know it was my blog, my thoughts and nothing about it was official. I wanted everyone to know the words were mine not the studio’s. And to Lionsgate’s credit, they never once told me what to say or not to say. I wouldn’t have listened anyway!
What is the basic story of the film?
You can check out the official synopsis of the film at www.lionsgate.com.
Some people seem to think you are only there to be nagged for information… this must annoy you?
I learned the hard way not to take it personally. And if someone was too persistent or negative I would delete their comments. But it is interesting for me to hear what is going on out there.
On the other hand, most comments are really polite and grateful… that must be nice to read?
Again I don’t take it personally but it is sweet when strangers come to your defence.
Do you have to be careful what you post or do you have free reign?
Total free rein.
Mr Stallone seems to have made a huge comeback in recent years; I am a big fan myself. How is he away from the cameras?
Sly is one of the funniest guys you will ever meet. He has a twisted sense of humour that is self-effacing yet charming. He is also a totally dedicated film maker and as a director is fascinating to watch.
You are a Pittsburgh Steelers fan, right? Is this a good way for you to unwind?
When you are a Steelers fan there is no such thing as unwinding! They keep me pretty tweaked all season. As I write this they are trying to raise themselves from the dead and still have a shot at a playoff berth.
Mr Stallone actually came to a UK football game that I was working at a few years ago… I was a programme seller there at the time. I am guessing guys like Sly and Arnold are big into sport?
Yes they both love sports especially boxing and of course Arnold loves the bodybuilding competitions.
Of course, over the years there was a perceived rivalry between Sly and Arnold… yet they are now close friends. Was this always done in jest?
You would have to ask them that but the photo of them dancing on the steps of the Palais in Cannes pretty much says it all.
I arrived at the location around 6:15am and Bruce and Sly were inside the church running lines. Arnold pulled up about 20 minutes later – I walked to the set with him and watched as the 3 guys greeted each other with excitement and anticipation. Pretty cool stuff. Bruce looked amazing – very fit, beautiful bald head and that smirky smile. Sly looked relaxed but definitely ready to put this puppy to bed. Arnold had a stogie in his mouth, a giant watch on his arm and was constantly making jokes.
I heard both actors and Bruce Willis have an amazing scene together?
Beyond amazing… I think I described it on the blog as “atomic”. Having the three of them on the set at the same time was indescribable, especially for me since all three of them have had a major impact on my career.
The Expendables: a dream project for Sly?
All of his projects are special to him but I think this may be the most challenging to date – huge action scenes, huge stars and tough locations. Plus he wrote, directed and starred in it.
A dream project for you?
Without a doubt. I am an action flick junkie so working with Sly, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Randy Couture, Dolph Lundgren, Terry Crews, Steve Austin, Mickey Rourke and Eric Roberts pretty much did it for me!!
To while away the hours during night shoots I began doing little impromptu interviews with the guys in between setups. Gives me a chance to get some quotes and find out how they see their characters while giving me a little glimpse into who they are as people.
Where have you guys been filming?
The film was shot in Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans. The scene with Bruce, Sly & Arnold was shot in Los Angeles.
Jet Li and Jason Statham have worked together before: was it a no brainer getting both together again here?
They have a mutual love fest!
Mickey Rourke also appears: I heard in an interview that Sly has helped him out a few times, during the lower periods of his life. Can you comment on this?
Mickey pretty much said it all. When he was down and out Sly gave him a role and a place to stay.
Sly seems to look more trim to me now than he did in Rambo 4… am I right?
Yes I believe he dropped 35 pounds for The Expendables. Totally ripped.
As much as I love the classic action stars, I LOVE the fresh blood, guys like Jason Statham as The Transporter. He seems to get quite a meaty part here… what is his chemistry like with Stallone?
I agree – it is great to see Jason do his thing but in The Expendables I think you will see a very different side of him. He is a total badass but he has a heart and in one scene he bears it in his own way. As for the chemistry between him and Sly – I could watch a whole movie with just the two of them… I think the audience is going to be pleasantly surprised.
Are Dolph and Stone Cold good baddies?
Again, Dolph gives an amazing performance, thanks in part to Sly’s direction. I love Steve Austin – total professional and very funny.
No Van Damme or Seagal?
No thank god! My understanding is Sly sent JCVD the script and offered him a role but JCVD was making demands that Sly was not prepared to meet. I can’t imagine Seagal was ever on the radar.
Do these guys do a lot of their own stunts?
Yes all of them did about 90% of their own stunts from Sly hanging off the side of a plane to Jason flying in the nose of an Albatross. Plus we had some off the charts explosions which can be very dangerous.
Is Mr Stallone still very much involved in the writing process of his films?
Totally: he wrote The Expendables.
I also asked about Poe… again… because that to me has the potential to be an award winning film even if the studios don’t get it. He told me not to get him started on that one and as much as I wanted to ignore and go for it I didn’t. So I’m hoping Sherlock Homes does well so that someone will wake up and put some money behind it.
Are his other rumoured projects on the back burner for now?
His next project is Rambo 5 (is that the number!?!?!) and he has quite a few projects percolating including my favourite, Poe.
Lot of rumours flying around about Rambo 5… can you clarify any of this for us? Plot/location etc?
The plot revolves around the drug wars in Juarez, Mexico and the collateral damage caused as a result.
As well as the movies you work on, what films/stars do you love to watch?
Hmm that’s a toughie… pass!
Best memories working on The Expendables?
The night in Rio when all of The Expendables, except for Dolph, stepped on set. Topped only by the Arnold, Sly & Bruce scene in LA.
Okay, this is a toughie. Favourite: Sly, Arnie, Jet Li, Statham, Willis & Mickey Rourke films? (You can’t cheat and answer The Expendables!)
Not fair – they are all unique individuals and I have unique experiences with each of them. 😛
Is it true this film could potentially spawn a whole series of films/ a franchise?
If it turns out to be half as good as I think it is then a sequel would be appropriate.
Will you continue your blog once the film releases? I think you are a really great blogger and could expand into other areas of your job!
I have been quiet for a while but after January 1st I will be blogging regularly about some new projects I am working on while waiting for my next film. I will also update the fans on what’s happening with The Expendables.
Thank you for your time!
All images and quotes used with permission © Ethelmae’s Blog 2010