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Billy Bob Thornton and Dwayne Johnson Discuss ‘Faster’

Dwayne Johnson Faster photoDwayne Johnson in ‘Faster.’

© CBS Films


Although Dwayne Johnson’s simply known as ‘Driver’ and Billy Bob Thornton’s only referred to as ‘Cop,’ both actors believe that by the time the action-packed thriller Faster is over, audiences will come to know and understand the motivations behind what drives these characters forward. Faster, directed by George Tillman Jr, finds Johnson playing a prisoner released after 10 years in jail with only one thought on his mind: revenge. Driver is out to avenge the murder of his brother and goes about getting his revenge with a focused intensity. Meanwhile, Cop has problems of his own to deal with. He’s just two weeks away from being able to hang up his badge and gun, has a strained relationship with his estranged wife and young son, and he’s a heroin addict. But before he can retire and work on fixing his personal problems, he has to team up with an up-and-coming detective (Carla Gugino) to try and stop Driver’s murder spree.

Together for a press conference to discuss the R-rated CBS Films release, Oscar-winner Thornton (Best Screenplay, Sling Blade) and Johnson talked about the appeal of this action film and co-starring in Faster.


Billy Bob Thornton and Dwayne Johnson Faster Press Conference

You bulked up again. Is bigger better?

Dwayne Johnson: “Well, bigger is always better. I worked my butt off for this movie and it was a role I was excited about playing. It fit with the character who was incarcerated for 10 years. 9 ½ of those years were in solitary confinement. In the prison population, in that environment, the type of training that they do is very unsophisticated training, moving weight. There’s a density to a lot of prisoners’ muscularity when they train like that over a period of years. Talking with George [Tillman Jr] I was able to train like that and again, worked my butt off for the role.”

Can you talk about playing a heroin-addicted detective?

Billy Bob Thornton: “Well, I didn’t work my butt off in terms of being a drug addict. Yeah, I suppose right off the bat you see that the guy has dipped pretty low in his life. I think it makes it a more interesting character than just, ‘There’s a cop in the movie.’ I think one of the flaws in most commercial action movies is that the characters are usually not very developed. They’re just there to service the job. In other words, a lot of times you’ll have the movie star hero and then some bad guys who are just there to be killed by the hero and they’re nameless, faceless people. As a result, you’re usually not afraid of them because you don’t see them ask somebody to pass the salt, you don’t see them with your kids. In this case, which is a tribute to the screenwriters, they gave each character some type of story. That sort of world weariness of the character, I think, added to the movie, because then he’s not black or white. It puts him in a very gray area.”

Do you think of this character as a hero or a cold-blooded killer?

Dwayne Johnson: “Well, when I read the script I didn’t think of him as a hero, nor did I think of him as just a cold-blooded killer. I thought of him as a man who was tortured and there was a lot of turmoil going on. As he discovers things along the way, we as an audience discover things along the way too as well. That which he thought would bring him gratification by killing these men who killed his brother just brings him more pain. He thought he had a 10 year old son, finds out that his son was aborted. Thought that his dad was alive and he was behind the murder, and he went to kill him and his dad was already dead. On top of that, being presented with the opportunity to understand the power of forgiveness by the end of the film with Adewale [Akinnuoye-Agbaje], the evangelist. So I looked at him as a man who I felt connected to in a way where the notion of you took something from me, something that I loved and the only thing that loved me, my family, now you’re going to pay. I would go to the ends of the earth to protect my family. I think we all would. That was something that resonated with me. I read the script and I immediately connected with that man, just again the man who would do anything to protect his family, the only family he had.”

Billy Bob Thornton: “Before we go any further I’d like to clear something up. In a day and time when misquotes are used as poison darts on a regular basis, I never said that Dwayne’s character is a hero in this movie. I said that in most commercial action movies there’s a movie star hero with a bunch of nameless faceless bad guys. I was speaking in general, not about this motion picture.”

Was it important for you after your collaborations with Disney to kick ass in a film?

Dwayne Johnson: “It wasn’t necessarily important to me to go back and kick ass or I had to make an R-rated movie. It was just a matter of getting good material that really resonated with me that I had been waiting for for some time. I enjoyed the work I’ve done in the past, when it was Disney or some of the other studios I worked with doing comedies or family movies. The philosophy has always been pretty clean and straightforward which is if I see something that I like and I can see its value to the audience, its value to me, then I’m going to take my shot at it, regardless of the genre. This happened to come along at a time that I had been waiting for something like this for a long time, something I could sink my teeth into. It came along, I read it, I loved it and wanted to do it.”

Was it easy to shoot the scene with Adewale?

Dwayne Johnson: “It’s my favorite scene in the movie. Was it easy to shoot? It was an emotional day for all of us. George was right there all day. We were fortunate to shoot that at the end of the movie, so me, personally, had already gone through the journey with Billy Bob and with George and with Adewale and with a lot of the other characters. By the time we got to that moment, we were ready and prepared.”

“I was pretty moved by the emotion that was conjuring up there. I knew it was an emotional scene because these guys really did such a tremendous job of writing it. To put it on its feet, Adewale is really such a great actor, really a commanding presence. When he got down on his knees and started singing, I was moved so the tears were real. It’s really special when you can have scenes like that.”

Do you prefer the GTO or the Chevelle? Was stunt driving school necessary?

Dwayne Johnson: “Well, the stunt driving school was necessary. In talking it over with George, we thought it was a good idea and important for the film, in terms of its authenticity, to tie me into all of these shots and not cut away to a stunt double. If that’s the case, if that’s the goal, then you have to prepare. I went out there and spent a lot of time with Rick Sieman and his guys. I think it paid off and I think it’s going to pay off for the audience because I’m tied into all the shots. I enjoy driving the cars. It reminds me of one of the fun parts of my job. I love the Chevelle. I was in the Chevelle more. The Chevelle became the character’s home, his family. I loved driving it, loved driving it.”

How do you perfect the perfect stare and how do you decide which stare to use on which bad guy?

Dwayne Johnson: “Watching a lot of Clint Eastwood. […]That was one of the great welcome challenges of the movie and the script that these guys wrote was the challenge of trying to hold an audience without saying many words, if any at all.”

Do you practice in front of a mirror?

Dwayne Johnson: “Depending on the bad guy, yeah. No, no. It just comes with prep. Again, I give a lot of credit to George who’s one of the most prepared directors I’ve ever been around, doing his diligence and talking about the scene every day and just doing a lot of talking and communicating about it. So by the time you’re ready to shoot, regardless of who the bad guy is, whether it’s Billy, whether it’s Adewale, whoever it is, you’re ready.”

With Arnold and Sly getting up there, are you ready to take over the action hero mantle?

Dwayne Johnson: “Absolutely. [Laughing] Sure. Action for me, the genre has always been my home. I’m a physical guy. I love that and I enjoy it but it was also important for me to have a diverse career. I didn’t want to be defined 10 years ago. This is my 10th year now. 10 years ago I didn’t want to be defined or pigeonholed, ‘So you’re the action guy or the comedy guy or the family guy.’ I wanted to do everything, take my shot at it and hopefully give good, solid performances and hopefully get better over time. Working with actors like Billy Bob helped me elevate my game and working with directors and great material, if I could come in and find material like this and step back into the action genre and do well and always remember that the goal is to dominate.”

Any chance you’ll team up with Jason Statham?

Dwayne Johnson: “Oh sure, there’s always a chance of that down the line. I love Jason. We’re buddies.”

How do you avoid coming to the set with preconceived notions of each other?

Billy Bob Thornton: “No, that’s easy. You never look at another actor as… In other words, I think actors are pigeonholed sometimes or they’re portrayed that way by other people. I don’t think we think of each other that way as much. With Dwayne, I’d seen him do several movies already and I was interested in him as a human being. We didn’t really know each other until shortly before the movie. We had mutual friends and we were always sending messages back and forth, ‘Hey, we’ve got to do something together,’ that kind of thing.”

“I was aware of him as an actor but more importantly, you can kind of tell. That’s one of the reasons that I don’t always audition people for movies when I’m directing. I’d rather sit and talk to them for a few minutes. So if you look at a person that way as opposed to, ‘Oh, that’s the guy who played The Scorpion King but then he was also the Tooth Fairy.’ I don’t really think of it that way. I just think of that guy and whatever their specific vibe is. You also try to stay enough in your own character where you’re kind of surprised by people every day. In this case, not being around each other in the movie that much in that many scenes really worked for us. We weren’t supposed to know each other. It’s pretty nice.”

Dwayne Johnson: “Not only not knowing each other that much before we worked together really helped, but also he and I agree. With Billy Bob, I had been a fan for such a long time. I can always admire careers and especially diverse careers and someone who locks onto something, whether it’s a comedy or a drama or the variety of things that he’s done and really wanted to knock it out of the park and give solid performances. I had been a fan of his music. I remember buying his first CD and we talked about that years and years ago. We have a love for very traditional country music so it made it very easy for me.”

“I was always intrigued with Billy Bob as an individual and as a person and how forthcoming he’s been throughout the years with a lot of things he’s done, especially in our industry. That made it very easy.”

Speaking of misquotes, how do you know how much to reveal in a press setting and do you enjoy this?

Billy Bob Thornton: “Wow, do you want your head cut off first?”

Dwayne Johnson: “I have a pretty big neck. It’s going to take a lot to get through it. Me first, here we go. Do I enjoy this? Yeah, sure. I’ve gotten to know you guys over the years and I’ve enjoyed my time. For me it’s always come down to I’ve enjoyed the movies that I’ve done and I enjoy talking about them. They may not be for everyone. Some may like them or may not like them, whatever the case may be. I genuinely enjoy the things that I’ve done and enjoy talking about it. And by the way, and sharing criticisms too back and forth. I’m open to that. For me, it’s always been important to have a private life and keep things pretty simple core at home. But I’ve always been pretty open too about answering any questions.”

Billy Bob Thornton: “I actually think it’s cool of you to ask that question because normally we don’t get the opportunity to talk about that much. I’ll put it this way: we’re living in a time in the entertainment business when if you have the opportunity to do something real – and that’s one of the reasons that this particular movie, maybe in a different time might be just considered an action movie – but this movie did not rely on computers and things like that. People are saying that it was like a ’70s movie. It kind of is. It does have a contemporary feel because the editing and all this kind of stuff, the sound design. But at the same time, it is a real movie. In other words, if we’re chasing each other down the hallway, it’s a hallway. I’m getting your point. I know it sounds like I’m rambling. [Laughing] We’ve done something real here, and it is nice to be able to talk about it in this day and time because most movies are about vampires in 3D or fantasy movies and war eagles and all these kind of things, or whatever they are.”

“When you’re an actual actor and you like to do real movies and you want to stay grounded, over the years we do get to know a lot of you guys. I look out here and I see – we know each other! It’s real nice to be able to do good work and work with guys like these and come in and talk to you guys about it. I haven’t always been tightlipped, so as a result I would get in a sticky situation every now and then. But right now, we rely on you guys when we actually do a good movie or a real movie, or at least we’re trying to, whatever it is, to come in and be able to say, ‘Hey, good to see you,’ without getting stuck in the ass. I suppose that there are guys who will not do a movie for three years, and they won’t talk to anybody and they pass you by, and they won’t sign your kid’s thing, and yet still you just love them. And then a guy like me who might say a few too many things but I’m trying, and I will sign your kid’s thing, and I will tell you everything about what I thought about that chick or whatever it is. And by ‘that chick’ I mean any chick. When you do that, what I expect from you guys is, because I will be your friend and because I will talk to you instead of the guy who won’t talk to you, then I expect to not get stuck in the ass. And for the most part, you guys have been really good to me.”

“It is a nice thing to be able to talk and everything, and the way I look at it is this: when people say, ‘I don’t like the press,’ and ‘I don’t like the fans,’ and ‘I don’t like this and that or the other,’ the fans are the people who allow my kids to go to school, and to keep us going and I can pay for the house. You guys are the people who get it out there to people so they even know what the hell’s going on. So yes, we owe you guys, and in return, if we’re going to be forthcoming and honest with you, you owe us to not just twist it in just because whatever, I don’t know, I said something bad about cats and you like cats, or whatever. You know what I mean? I don’t know. All I’m saying, this is real easy, and I can speak for this panel of people up here: we’re actually trying, so we’ll be good to you, you be good to us, and that’s what I feel about it.”

Billy Bob Thornton and Carla Gugino Faster PhotoBilly Bob Thornton and Carla Gugino in ‘Faster.’

© CBS Films

Billy Bob, what was it like working with Carla Gugino? How much time did you guys have to build the relationship?

Billy Bob Thornton: “I didn’t know Carla before the movie. She’s such an easy person to work with. She blends into a scene so easily. I was very fortunate in that case, because Carla was cast not too long before we started the movie, so we didn’t have any time, really.”

“I think Carla is one of those actors who sometimes is overlooked as a really terrific actor. Not that people don’t respect her and think she’s great, but sometimes when somebody’s really good in the part and they don’t try to eat the walls off, they can be overlooked because they’re so good you don’t notice it because you buy them in the part. I think Carla is one of those. She was terrific. Couldn’t be a nicer person, and I have to say one of the hardest things on this movie, people said, ‘What was hard about doing this movie?’ and I’m trying to think about it, because there wasn’t really anything hard to me about doing this movie other than reminding myself that I was in this very intense, dark movie and why that character was, because everybody on this movie was so nice I couldn’t believe it.”

“Dwayne’s the nicest guy you’ll ever run into. This guy, George Tillman, you don’t see directors like this ever. At some point during a movie, always, you want to pull the director aside and say, ‘Listen! You didn’t create this thing, you understand me? Those creeps over at that studio hired your old bones to come out here and resurrect your ass, so you know, whatever.’ And this guy, every day I’m like, ‘Would you yell at me or something?’ And the writers are like, ‘Hey, you got any ideas?’ And I’m like, ‘Am I in Disneyland?’ So that was the hardest thing about it, when people like Carla and Dwayne and Moon Bloodgood, by the way, who played my wife and Aedin [Mincks], the little kid, and Oliver [Jackson-Cohen] – just everybody, they were just fantastic. I know a lot of these people don’t get mentioned sometimes.”

“I do have to say this one thing about the little boy that played mine and Moon’s son. He came up to me when we first got there, I didn’t even know the kid yet, and walks at me and he goes, ‘Hey! I loved you in Bad News Bears!’ And I said, ‘Well, thank you.’ I’m getting used to that from kids, and you’re always glad that it’s Bad News Bears and not Bad Santa. But he walks up and he said one of the weirdest and funniest things I ever heard anybody say to me on the set, which was, ‘Hey, do you watch the Capital One commercials with those Vikings?’ and I go, ‘Yeah, I do. I love those things, they’re very funny.’ ‘You know the fat kid?’ ‘Yeah.’ ‘That’s me!’ Just a little anecdote.”

How important were those family scenes for you?

Billy Bob Thornton: “First of all, once again the writers actually thought to put something like that in there to give us other aspects of the guy’s life. That was really important to George. That was a big thing for him to get those scenes right. Thing is, there wasn’t much of it, but what there was there, he got the most out of it. If you get a good kid, it’s always kind of amusing and sweet. It was easy just to lay there and talk to the kid about baseball, and you look at him and you can imagine he’s probably not very good, so it was pretty easy to feel something for the kid is all I’m saying. And George really wanted to make sure that even though there’s a brief thing there – I mean, we had a lot of discussions about how to be around the kid and everything – and of course as usual, from the top brasses, ‘You can’t smoke around the kid!’ But I can do heroin around the kid? His mother can puke in the bathtub? But yeah, we went through a lot of stuff with the kid.”

Billy Bob, you used the term “real.” You never know what kind of world you’re releasing a film into because it takes a while to put together, but considering the recent Ronni Chasen shooting – and hearing other audience members’ gleeful reactions to the shootings depicted in this film – do you think films have a responsibility to also depict the consequences of violence?

Billy Bob Thornton: “In our current state of affairs, especially in the entertainment business, we’re living in a time when we’re making, in my humble opinion, the worst movies in history because they’re geared toward the video game playing generation. In these video games, which I’m on my son about constantly, are people killing for fun. I think traditionally in movies, there’s always been some kind of lesson in the violent movies. Even Peckinpah’s movies – inadvertently, Sam Peckinpah created this movie and a lot of other movies with slow motion blood and things like that, which we don’t really have in this – those things at their core were morality tales. This movie doesn’t say, ‘Oh, here’s this fun guy and we’re going to do this tongue-in-cheek character right out of a video game who likes to destroy things, and you can laugh about it.’ This movie actually shows what prisons create, what murder creates. It shows this perpetual violent string of events. This thing creates that, which creates that, where does it all end, my guy trying to start over, but at the same time I still gotta get this one last mess over with. This really is about something, because I totally agree with you. If you’re just showing a movie that has violence for violence’s sake, I don’t believe in that either.”

“But, also, we are in a time when we can have the most violent things you’ve ever seen and they’re hugely popular and everything, and at the same time the very people going to see these movies are somehow so hyper-moral and all this kind of thing. There seems to be like, they’re butting their heads, or there’s some hypocrisy going on. That’s all I’m saying. I believe that in this case, nobody here ever intended to just go do a violent movie because it’s fun. These are dark characters who are in trouble and sorry you had to see it right after all that, because that was someone I knew also – and it’s really not a good thing.”

How old is your son?

Billy Bob Thorton: [Deadpan] 52. The one with the video games, he’s 17. He’s not so bad about it, but just every now and then I’ll see one that’s kind of like, ‘What’s this?’ and then I find out that it’s something that some company I worked for in a movie sent him.”

Dwayne, how long did it take you to bulk up for this role? Do you plan on sustaining the weight?

Dwayne Johnson: “I think it was about three and a half months of training, but it was maybe 10 or 12 pounds of training. Again, I think in prison culture, when those guys train and you watch them train, we had the great fortune of sitting down with a couple of individuals who had served a lot of time in maximum security prisons for a variety of crimes including murder, getting into their psyche, their thought process, and their perspective on what it’s like to take another man’s life. But them training itself from prison in a prison yard, it’s a raw type of training. So probably about three and a half months.”

“And really quickly too, I want to mention what Billy was talking about, it’s really so nice to be part of the movie and part of a story that is rooted and grounded in today’s world of dazzling special effects and CGI. I can appreciate those movies – I’ve done them myself – but it was nice as an actor to be part of that type of rooted, grounded reality and have all the action, attention and motivation across the board, whether it’s physical, killing, communicating with a son, whatever it may be, fueled by emotion. Everything was just fueled by emotion, so it was very very nice and refreshing.”

Do you want this to be a one-off character or is there room for a possible sequel? Maybe he can go looking for redemption?

Dwayne Johnson: “I’m so happy with the movie and how it turned out, and the movie that we created and made, that we’re putting out there. I think the material does lend itself possibly coming back a second time. I think audiences will dictate that, and we have great writers and if the story’s right, then I’d never rule anything out, open and flexible to it.”

Any chance The Rock will return to the WWE, even just for a cameo or to guest host?

Dwayne Johnson: “I would love to, it’s just a matter of finding the time. But I’m always communicating with those guys, always communicating with Vince.”

Do you enjoy playing a good guy or a bad guy more?

Dwayne Johnson: “I just enjoy the material, so if the material’s moving, whether it’s a good guy or a bad guy or if it’s ambiguous.”




November 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Exclusive Interview with Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi from ‘Tangled’

Zachary Levi and Mandy Moore Tangled Premiere PhotoZachary Levi and Mandy Moore pose on the red carpet at the world premiere of ‘Tangled.’

© Richard Chavez


Zachary Levi (Chuck) was sick with a cold on the PR tour for Walt Disney Pictures’ animated family film Tangled, but that didn’t seem to affect his enthusiasm for talking about the project. And Mandy Moore, who voices Rapunzel in this new take on the classic story, easily matched Levi’s level of enthusiasm for being a part of the 50th animated film from Disney. The twosome never worked together while contributing their voices to Tangled characters, but it’s obvious they’ve developed a friendship while on their nationwide publicity tour.


Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi Exclusive Tangled Interview

How’s the experience of talking about voicing an animated film compare to doing interviews for a live-action movie?

Mandy Moore: “No different. I mean the types of questions I guess are just a little bit more maybe angled on your experience making the movie. But really it’s not that different at all.”

Zachary Levi: “You would talk about it the same way. You still have to embody your character but the questions arise on how do you do that or what’s the difference from doing a live action to animated. But we’re still having to bring the character to life.”

Is it more difficult to do an animated film than a live-action feature?

Zachary Levi: “I don’t know if it’s harder. I feel like it’s just different. You just have a different set of pros and cons. We didn’t get to record any of our dialogue together, which was very different than what we thought we were walking into. You don’t have your body to express any of your emotions or what have you, but you also have this very unique and cool experience to explore your voice in a way to bring that character to life. And also, you know, kind of be silly and act a fool a little bit in front of no one other than the directors and the producers and a room full of technicians. But, no, it’s very freeing and very cool. You get to walk in and not have to go through hair and make-up which, especially for girls… For guys, we have it a little bit easier normally. We have shorter hair and whatever…”

Mandy Moore: “I’ve met a few guys who were in the hair and make-up trailer longer.”

Zachary Levi: “But all that wardrobe and blah, blah, blah. I could show up unshowered, if I wanted to.”

With bunny slippers on.

Zachary Levi: “Yes!”

You really expected to record together?

Mandy Moore: “I thought we would at least some of the time.”

Zachary Levi: “Yeah.”

Mandy Moore: “We thought we’d have like maybe a few sessions where we would get to read some of the bigger scenes together and play off of the energy that the other brings to the scene. But no, we never got to do that. But I guess it was a good exercise in employing your imagination. Like really having to kind of dig deep to paint this picture of who these characters were and what this world was around them, because obviously doing an animated film there’s no real point of reference. You can look at storyboards and sketches all you want and the directors were really, really incredible at giving us very thorough explanations of the scenes and where the character’s coming from and where they’re going. But at the end of the day you have just yourself to fall back on.”

So you were not even looking at storyboards as you were doing the voice?

Mandy Moore: “No. There’s nothing there for you for reference. Just a big blank room. But believe me, it’s not that bad. We live a very charmed life. We get to do what we love and it’s a fantastic job. But it was interesting for me never really having done something like this before. I kind of was like, ‘Oh wow.’ I would leave feeling emotionally drained at the end of the day because you’re just like you’re giving every possible interpretation of the line. You’re really just sort of living it in almost a slightly heightened sense because it is just your voice. But, yeah, I’d leave and be like, ‘I just want to sit in a room now completely by myself in silence.'”

Did you find yourself at times having to hold back because you don’t want to overact when it’s just your voice? How do you balance that?

Zachary Levi: [Laughing] “Oh, I overact.”

How do you voice an animated character without acting like a cartoon character?

Zachary Levi: “I think it depends on your philosophy. They would always…the directors were always there, so as long as you trust them… Even in live action it’s always about trusting your director.”

Mandy Moore: “And going with your instincts.”

Zachary Levi: “Yes, going with your instincts. But I don’t know. Look, my philosophy on cartoons is, yes, you’re trying to make it real and whatnot, but it’s also not real. And not just because it’s animated, but because you’ll have a character…”

Mandy Moore: “With 70 feet of hair.”

Zachary Levi: “Yes. Or Flynn and Maximus fighting… First of all it’s a horse that fights with a sword.”

It’s a dog horse.

Zachary Levi: “It’s a dog horse. It’s a dorse. But us falling down after being on the branch of the tree. It’s hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of feet and we’re falling down and we’re fine. The facial expressions and different things, that’s part of the reason why I love cartoons so much because they are a little more emotive than normal. You go watch an incredibly intense dramatic film and they have expressions [barely moving his face]. Everything is played in like a tiny little eye movement, as opposed to big bug eyes. You watch an episode of Chuck and you’ll see that I am a cartoon. It’s what I grew up with and it’s what I like. I like being able to kind of employ that a little bit.”

How do you get up your level of energy for when your character’s doing an action scene and you’re not. You’re in a booth. How do you take yourself there?

Mandy Moore: “I really just sort of try and place myself there, especially if there has to be like running and you’re a little bit out of breath. I just jog a little bit in place. I mean, you want it to sound as realistic as possible. And like Zach said, you just sort of trust that the powers that be – the directors and whatnot – will bring you back if you’re too over the top, will tell you to sort of amp it up a little bit if you’re a little bit too realistic or whatnot. It’s about finding that balance in anything, really.”

On average how many times do you think you had to say each line?

Zachary Levi: “I think it depended on the line. But I mean at least twice, sometimes half a dozen because they’re finding it as the movie’s going too. There’s so many different departments. They’re all working on all the animation and the voices, and they’re always going back to John Lasseter and all the other head guys. They’re all having to sign off and say, ‘You know what? We have to change this beat now.'”

Mandy Moore: “Often times I know I would do sequences three or four times. You’re like, ‘Oh, wow, we’re back doing this one again.'”

Zachary Levi: “‘We’re back to sequence 14,’ or whatever.”

Mandy Moore: “But you have to take it that it doesn’t really have anything to do with your performance as much as they want to tweak a couple lines, or maybe the animation’s already underway and it sort of forces us to do something a little bit differently with the dialogue.”

Did they ever show you scenes or did you not see anything before you were totally finished?

Mandy Moore: “Well, along the way we would see bits and pieces as it was all starting to come together. But it doesn’t really do anything but just excite you. It doesn’t inform you, like, ‘Oh, okay, I understand now what I’m supposed to do in this scene.’ It was just more of like, ‘Okay, this is what we’ve been working towards. I get it. it’s nice to see it starting to flesh out a bit.'”

What was your reaction the first time you heard your voice coming out of that character?

Mandy Moore: “I was disappointed because I was like, ‘Oh gosh, my voice is really shrill.'”

Your voice isn’t shrill.

Mandy Moore: “You’re really sweet. But you know how you listen to yourself on an answering machine or something and you’re like, ‘Oh god, I sound like that?!'”

I don’t think we ever sound like what we think we sound.

Mandy Moore: “Let’s hope not because I was really bummed out. I was like, ‘I ruined the movie,’ because Zach, he sounded so much like this leading man, like the quintessential Disney hero. I was like, ‘Oh god, I’m just squeaking it up.’ I was really disappointed. But once I got past that and actually saw the movie on the big screen, I was very happy because I didn’t have to focus on my voice.”

And when you heard your voice, Zach?

Zachary Levi: “We keep going back and forth on this. I felt like I sounded incredibly nasally and I was plugged up. But I loved her. I loved her performance and I loved the way that I basically now have a crush on an 18 year old cartoon character. And a lot of that has to do with the awesome performance that Mandy brought to that – the heart and the life and the beauty. Absolutely. But it is that answering machine phenomenon. It’s that thing. I don’t know. I’m always incredibly critical of myself anyways. But all that being said, I kept trying to be as unbiased as I could to take a step back and go, ‘Wow, this is really awesome. This is really, really cool to watch coming to life.’ Any doubts that you might have along the way, like, ‘How is this all going to fit tighter because we didn’t get to record together?’ I watched it and I go, ‘I know because I was in the session that Mandy was not there with me,’ and yet it is seamless. It’s totally as though we were all together. It all was there. I’m so proud of it. I’m so proud of her. I’m so proud of the crew that put the movie together. And now it’s done and people are saying they love it, so it’s cool.”

When you’re in the booth are you doing Flynn’s exaggerated facial expressions?

Zachary Levi: “Oh yeah, totally.”

Were they filming you while you were doing that?

Zachary Levi: “Yeah.”

So we’ll see it on the behind the scenes features on the DVD?

Zachary Levi: “Maybe. Probably.”

Mandy Moore: “We did interviews and that sort of stuff. They did record us throughout the recording process. They filmed us, but mainly for the animators use. Did you see bits of yourself in the character? Did you see your facial expressions?”

Zachary Levi: “Yes and no. All I’m thinking about is all the things that I’m probably emulating. Like I might see a facial expression, right, but that facial expression could just be something that they do normally in animation. I don’t know because I’m only emulating what I know the animation is. Does that make any sense?”


Zachary Levi: “Like, when you watch it and Flynn’s mouth drops open like that, if I did that I don’t know if that’s them taking that from me or that’s Glen Keane being a genius at doing what he does.”

Did you see much of yourself?

Mandy Moore: “Every now and then I did. It was really jarring. ‘That’s me!’ I’m very animated and gesture-y in life, so I’m sure they had plenty to choose from in recording us in the booth.”

How does it feel to be part of the Disney legacy? Little kids are going to be looking up to you and calling you Rapunzel.

Mandy Moore: “It’s so cool. I don’t want to crush children’s dreams though because it’s really hard to discern between a voice and a character. For all intents and purposes, to kids – understandably – Rapunzel’s at Disneyland or Disney World walking around. I think it would be confusing if I’m like, ‘I’m Rapunzel. Hi!’ And they’re like, ‘No you’re not.’ So, I’m going to be careful. I’m happy to take the backseat. But it’s so cool, you know, from here on out to be able to have this in my back pocket. Like, ‘Yeah, we voiced an animated Disney film – the 50th.’ It’s really, really cool.”

Voiced and sang. You don’t normally sing though, Zach.

Zachary Levi: “No. I grew up singing a lot. I grew up doing a lot of musical theatre. But you know it’s just one of those things where acting hit first and you’ve got to go with where God’s taking you in that. I always wanted for singing to be something I was able to do on a more professional level, but I was always open to the fact that maybe it would never happen. And just recently with stuff like this, it’s kind of becoming more of a reality. And maybe I’ll never do it again – I don’t know.”

Mandy Moore: “That’s not true.”

Zachary Levi: “Well… You never know. I mean, I never know. I’d like to. I hope I get to keep doing it because I think that God gives you your talents to share. But whether you’re getting paid for it or not… I mean, I’ll always do theatre or hopefully go back to theatre and do that. But to record an album? That would be kind of fun. I don’t know what it would look like or sound like, or if it will ever happen. I just want to make stuff that people will actually like. I don’t ever want to force myself on anybody. Like, ‘Hey, you should check it out. I sing too!'”

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Yoga for Fibromyalgia

For people with fibromyalgia, taking up yoga may help soothe symptoms and improve functioning. A disorder estimated to affect about 2% of the United States population, fibromyalgia is marked by a widespread muscle pain that typically intensifies when pressure is applied to certain “tender points” (such as muscles around the neck, hips and back).

Although few studies have explored yoga’s potential role in fibromyalgia treatment, some research suggests that practicing yoga may help reduce pain, fight fatigue, and lift mood in people struggling with fibromyalgia.

How Might Yoga Help Treat Fibromyalgia?

Scientists have yet to determine how or why fibromyalgia might be beneficial for fibromyalgia patients. However, it’s thought that yoga may help treat fibromyalgia by lessening muscle tension and taming stress (a possible trigger for fibromyalgia symptoms).

The Science Behind Yoga and Fibromyalgia

To date, there is little scientific support for yoga’s effectiveness in treating fibromyalgia. Still, early research indicates that yoga may aid in fibromyalgia management.

In a 2010 pilot study of 53 female fibromyalgia patients, for instance, researchers found that those randomly assigned to an eight-week yoga-based program (including gentle yoga poses,meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga-related coping instructions) had significantly greater improvements in pain, fatigue, mood, and coping, compared to participants who were assigned to standard care.

In an earlier study (published in 2007), 40 women with fibromyalgia were assigned to one of two groups: The first group took part in weekly yoga sessions, while the second group combined their weekly yoga with tui na (a type of bodywork used in traditional Chinese medicine). Study results revealed that both groups had improvements in fibromyalgia symptoms and pain levels. While the group assigned to yoga plus tui na initially showed greater improvements, those who only practiced yoga ended up reporting less pain over time.

Should You Use Yoga to Treat Fibromyalgia?

It’s too soon to recommend yoga for fibromyalgia treatment. In order to manage your fibromyalgia, it’s important to follow the treatment program recommended by your doctor (which may include regular low-impact aerobic exercise, as well as lifestyle changes like improvements in sleep hygiene, stress management, and the avoidance of alcohol and caffeine). If you’re interested in adding yoga to your self-care, talk to your doctor about how to safely incorporate yoga into your fibromyalgia treatment program.


American Academy of Family Physicians. “Fibromyalgia“. February 2010.

Carson JW, Carson KM, Jones KD, Bennett RM, Wright CL, Mist SD. “A pilot randomized controlled trial of the Yoga of Awareness program in the management of fibromyalgia.” Pain. 2010 Nov;151(2):530-9.

da Silva GD, Lorenzi-Filho G, Lage LV. “Effects of yoga and the addition of Tui Na in patients with fibromyalgia.” J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Dec;13(10):1107-13.

Vallath N. “Perspectives on yoga inputs in the management of chronic pain.” Indian J Palliat Care. 2010 Jan;16(1):1-7.


November 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Natural Mood Enhancers

If you’re looking to lift your mood, certain alternative therapies may act as natural mood enhancers. But while the following approaches may help enhance your mood, none should take the place of doctor-prescribed treatment for mood disorders (such as depression and bipolar disorder).

1) Meditation

In a 2010 study of 82 college students, researchers found that those who took part in three one-hour mindfulness meditation sessions had greater improvements in mood compared to those who were assigned to a sham meditation training or a control group. Mindfulness meditation was also found to be more effective in reducing fatigue and heart rate.

2) Yoga

Yoga may act as a natural mood enhancer for people with certain health problems. For instance, a 2009 study of 88 breast cancer patients found that those who practiced yoga prior to undergoing radiation experienced improvements in mood, stress levels, and anxiety. And in a 2005 study of 13 psychiatric inpatients, researchers found that participating in a yoga class helped improve mood and other “emotion factors” (including anger and confusion). Finally, a 2009 study of 45 professional musicians (a group prone to high levels of stress and anxiety) revealed that a two-month yoga program helped reduce mood disturbance (as well as relieve anxiety and anger).

3) Massage Therapy

Aromatherapy massage may serve as a natural mood enhancer, according to a 2010 study of 40 healthy volunteers. After receiving a massage with jasmine oil, subjects reported feeling more alert and more vigorous. The study’s authors suggest that jasmine oil’s stimulating effects may be responsible for the massage’s mood-lifting benefits.

Should You Use Natural Mood Enhancers?

While meditation, yoga, and massage may have some beneficial effects on mood, self-treating mood disorders with these therapies is not advised. If you’re experiencing mood disorder symptoms (such as persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, extreme mood changes, and inability to concentrate), consult your physician as soon as possible. You can also talk to your doctor and/or a mental-health professional about using natural mood enhancers to help manage mood disorders.


Hongratanaworakit T. “Stimulating effect of aromatherapy massage with jasmine oil.” Nat Prod Commun. 2010 Jan;5(1):157-62.

Khalsa SB, Shorter SM, Cope S, Wyshak G, Sklar E. “Yoga ameliorates performance anxiety and mood disturbance in young professional musicians.” Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2009 Dec;34(4):279-89.

Lavey R, Sherman T, Mueser KT, Osborne DD, Currier M, Wolfe R. “The effects of yoga on mood in psychiatric inpatients.” Psychiatr Rehabil J. 2005 Spring;28(4):399-402.

Vadiraja HS, Raghavendra RM, Nagarathna R, Nagendra HR, Rekha M, Vanitha N, Gopinath KS, Srinath BS, Vishweshwara MS, Madhavi YS, Ajaikumar BS, Ramesh BS, Nalini R, Kumar V. “Effects of a yoga program on cortisol rhythm and mood states in early breast cancer patients undergoing adjuvant radiotherapy: a randomized controlled trial.” Integr Cancer Ther. 2009 Mar;8(1):37-46.

Zeidan F, Johnson SK, Gordon NS, Goolkasian P. “Effects of brief and sham mindfulness meditation on mood and cardiovascular variables.” J Altern Complement Med. 2010 Aug;16(8):867-73.


November 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘Morning Glory’ Movie Review

Rachel McAdams Morning Glory photo

Rachel McAdams in ‘Morning Glory.’

© Paramount Pictures 

 New Moviem

November 2010’s opening with two potentially big comedies in a row with central characters so unbelievably annoying it’s difficult to care enough about them to want to spend a couple of hours watching their antics onscreen. Due Date had a great cast, but suffered from unappealing lead characters. Now Morning Glory is following that Todd Phillips film into theaters one week later with equally off-putting main characters.

Written by Aline Brosh McKenna, the screenwriter of the super successful and critically acclaimed The Devil Wears Prada, Morning Glory is a predictable, sometimes pleasurable though most often subpar, comedy set in the world of morning news/entertainment shows. It’s sort of like Prada in that the up-and-comer takes on the veterans of the industry, winning over her co-worker and/or boss from hell as she pumps new energy into the business. But while Prada‘s Anne Hathaway was a terrific blend of optimism with shades of perkiness and worried wanna journalist striving to get ahead in a difficult industry to get a toehold in, Rachel McAdams isn’t given as wide of a character arc to play. McAdams, as TV producer Becky Fuller, has basically two personality settings: uber-high and caffeine-overload high. There’s barely a scene in Morning Glory that doesn’t have poor McAdams, whose generally excellent in everything she takes on, flying off at the mouth and acting like a 13 year old schoolgirl somehow transported into an adult’s body. Becky Fuller has my vote for the 2010 film character I’d most like to see placed on some heavy medication.

The Story

It’s hyperactive, bubbly, out-of-her league TV producer Becky Fuller versus veteran newsman/resting on his laurels while collecting a paycheck for doing next to nothing Mike Pomeroy (played by Harrison Ford), and unless you’ve never seen a comedy movie before, you know how this battle of wills is going to end.

Diane Keaton Morning Glory photo

Diane Keaton in ‘Morning Glory.’

© Paramount Pictures

Becky somehow impresses TV exec Jerry Barnes (Jeff Goldblum) enough to be given a shot at producing a failing morning show that trails all its competition and is in need of a serious makeover. The first day on the job, Becky fires the show’s smarmy co-host (Ty Burrell of Modern Family), kicking off her reign as the show’s producer by making a move supported by the entire Daybreak team. Even the show’s difficult to please co-host, Colleen Peck (Diane Keaton), gives her a thumbs up for throwing out the jerk. However, firing the co-host with a foot fetish leaves Becky’s show minus one of its main ingredients. Fortunately, Becky figures out that Mike Pomeroy is on the network’s payroll and has to take a position on her show or else risk breaking his cushy multi-million contract. Forced into making the move to morning TV, serious award-winning newsman Pomeroy decides the best way to handle the demotion is to be as aggressively ugly to Becky and the Daybreak crew as possible. He won’t do light, fluff pieces (he even refuses to say the word ‘fluffy’) and holds the entire morning show business in disdain.

So now Becky’s got a co-host who’s basically sabotaging the show and her boss, Jerry Barnes, says the ratings have fallen to such a low level that the only solution is to cancel the long-running news program and replace it with game shows. But Becky’s a fighter and won’t give up. Her only shot at saving Daybreak is to torture the weatherman on camera, send Colleen out to do outlandish stunts (sumo wrestling in a fat suit, dancing in a tutu with tiny ballerinas, etc), and try to find a way to break through Mike’s shell and get him to play nice and be part of the Daybreak team. Oh, and all the while she’s also dealing with an on-again / off-again relationship with another producer from the network (played by Patrick Wilson).  

The Acting and the Bottom Line

Unlike the show’s fictional morning show, Morning Glory never finds the winning formula and screenwriter McKenna and director Roger Michell never find their footing. Making McAdams’ character a little less uncomfortable to watch would have certainly helped. And there’s also the problem of Ford as Pomeroy not actually being convincing as an award-winning journalist. If any newscaster ever read serious headlines and reported on important issues in the manner Ford does as Pomeroy, he’d be laughed off TV. Pomeroy doesn’t want to do news for the sake of entertaining the masses, but that doesn’t explain why Michell has Ford glower and growl out his lines when he’s on the air.

Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford Morning Glory photo

Rachel McAdams and Harrison Ford in ‘Morning Glory.’

© Paramount Pictures

The best part of Morning Glory is Keaton as an anchor who’s seen co-hosts and producers come and go throughout the years and has continued to do what she was hired to do. Patrick Wilson’s wasted as McAdams’ love interest in a side story that doesn’t connect and only slows the film down, and none of the supporting players – including Jeff Goldblum – have much to contribute.

There are a few funny moments in Morning Glory, and there’s of course a lesson to be learned by all the players by the time the end credits roll, but overall there’s nothing glorious about this comedy.

November 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

8 Things Your Hair Says About Your Health



When it comes to our hair, most of us worry most about what to do with it: how short to cut it, how to style it, whether to color it once it begins to go gray. But experts say that our hair says a lot more about us than how closely we follow the latest styles. In fact, the health of our hair and scalp can be a major tip-off to a wide variety of health conditions.

“We used to think hair was just dead protein, but now we understand that a whole host of internal conditions affect the health of our hair,” says dermatologist Victoria Barbosa, MD, who runs Millennium Park Dermatology in Chicago. “Our hair responds to stress, both the physical stressors of disease and underlying health issues, and psychological stress.” Here, eight red flags that tell you it’s time to pay more attention to the health of your hair — and to your overall health in general.

Learn 5 Secrets to Aging Well

Red flag #1: Dry, limp, thin-feeling hair

What it means: Many factors can lead to over-dry hair, including hair dyes, hair blowers, and swimming in chlorinated water. But a significant change in texture that leaves hair feeling finer, with less body, can be an indicator of an underactive thyroid, known as hypothyroidism. Some people conclude that their hair is thinning because it feels as if there’s less of it, but the thinning is due more to the texture of the hair itself becoming finer and weaker than to individual hairs falling out (though that happens too).

More clues: Other signs of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, slow heart rate, and feeling cold all the time, says Raphael Darvish, a dermatologist in Brentwood, California. In some cases, the eyebrows also thin and fall out. A telltale sign: when the outermost third of the eyebrow thins or disappears.

What to do: Report your concerns to your doctor and ask him or her to check your levels of thyroid hormone. The most common blood tests measure the levels of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) and T4. It’s also important to keep a list of your symptoms — all of them.

“A doctor’s visit is best to work up this problem; he or she may choose to do a thyroid ultrasound and a blood test in addition to an examination,” says Darvish.

Red flag #2: Scaly or crusty patches on the scalp, often starting at the hairline

What it means: When a thick crust forms on the scalp, this usually indicates psoriasis, which can be distinguished from other dandruff-like skin conditions by the presence of a thickening, scab-like surface, says Lawrence Greene, MD, a spokesperson for the National Psoriasis Foundation. Psoriasis is the most common of all the autoimmune diseases and occurs when the skin goes into overdrive, sending out faulty signals that speed up the turnover and growth of skin cells.

More clues: Psoriasis, which affects nearly 7.5 million Americans, often occurs in concert with other autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. If you have another autoimmune disorder, it’s that much more likely you’ll develop psoriasis. In turn, the discovery that you have psoriasis should put you on the alert for more serious conditions. Up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop a condition called psoriatic arthritis, which causes painful swelling of the joints.

What to do: There’s a long list of ingredients that help relieve psoriasis, and treatment is often a process of trial and error. Topical treatments include shampoos containing coal tar or salicylic acid, and creams or ointments containing zinc and aloe vera. Hydrocortisone cream works to relieve inflammation. Prescription creams include vitamin D, vitamin A, and anthralin. Many patients also have great success treating the scalp with UV light therapy, and systemic medications such as cyclosporine work better for some people than topical medications.

It’s a good idea to see a dermatologist for help sorting out the various treatments, rather than trying to do it on your own. One thing to keep in mind: Psoriasis puts you at increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, certain types of cancer, metabolic syndrome and obesity.

Red flag #3: Thinning hair over the whole head

What it means: It’s normal to shed approximately 100 to 150 hairs a day, the result of the body’s natural turnover. It’s when you notice considerably more hairs in your brush or on the towel after you shampoo — or when hair appears to be coming out in clumps — that it’s time for concern. One common cause: a sudden psychological or physical stressor, such as a divorce or job loss. Another: having a high fever from the flu or an infection. Diabetes can also cause hair to thin or start to fall out suddenly; some diabetes experts say sudden hair thinning or hair loss should be considered an early warning sign that diabetes is affecting hormone levels.

A number of medications also cause hair loss as a side effect. These include birth control pills, along with lithium and Depakote, two of the most common treatments for bipolar disorder. More rarely, tricyclic antidepressants such as Prozac, and levothyroid — used to treat hypothyroidism — cause thinning hair. Hormonal changes can also cause hair to thin, which is why both pregnancy and perimenopause are well known for causing hair to fall out, while polycystic ovary disease can cause both hair loss and overgrowth of hair, depending on how the hormones go out of balance. Thyroid disease, especially hypothyroidism, is one of the most common causes of hair loss.

More clues: Check for tiny white bumps at the roots of the hair; their presence suggests that this is temporary hair loss rather than male/female pattern baldness, says Chicago dermatologist Victoria Barbosa. Any medication that interferes with hormones can cause this type of hair loss; the list includes birth control pills, Accutane for acne, and prednisone and anabolic steroids. Physical stressors that can lead to temporary hair loss include iron deficiency anemia and protein deficiency; these are particularly common in those who’ve suffered from eating disorders.

What to do: If you have what experts call temporary hair loss — to distinguish from hereditary hair loss, which is likely to be permanent — you’ll need to discontinue the medication or treat the underlying condition that’s causing the problem. It can also help to take supplemental biotin, which has been shown to strengthen and thicken hair and fingernails, says Barbosa.

And while vitamin D deficiency hasn’t been pinpointed as a cause of hair loss, research has demonstrated that taking vitamin D helps grow the hair back. “We don’t know how vitamin D contributes to hair loss, but we do know the hair follicles need good levels of vitamin D to recover,” Barbosa says. Recommended dose: 2000 IUs of vitamin D3 daily. In addition, talk to your doctor about getting your blood levels of iron checked for anemia, and take iron if needed.

Red flag #4: Overall hair loss that appears permanent, often following traditional pattern baldness

What it means: Both women and men are subject to what’s formally known as androgenetic and androgenic alopecia. It’s usually caused by a change in the pattern of the sex hormones, but diseases and other underlying conditions can cause this type of hair loss by affecting the hormones. In women, a derivative of testosterone is often the culprit, shrinking and eventually killing off hair follicles. Traditionally known as “male pattern baldness,” this type of hair loss is often hereditary and is typically permanent if not treated with medication, says Larry Shapiro, a dermatologist and hair surgeon in Palm Beach, Florida.

Men’s hair loss nearly always follows a pattern of thinning along the hairline, at the temples, and in the back of the scalp. Some women’s hair loss also follows this pattern, but more typically women experience thinning over the entire head.

Diabetes also can cause or contribute to hair loss. Over time, diabetes often leads to circulatory problems; as a result, the hair follicles don’t get adequate nutrients and can’t produce new hairs. Hair follicles can eventually die from lack of nutrition, causing permanent hair loss.

More clues: Certain underlying conditions can cause this type of hair loss by altering hormones; these include thyroid disease (both overactive and underactive thyroid) and autoimmune disease, Shapiro says. Many drugs taken long-term to control chronic conditions can have a side effect, in some people, of causing or contributing to hair loss. They include beta blockers such as propranolol and atenolol, anticoagulants like warfarin, and many drugs used to control arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and other conditions.

What to do: If you suspect a medication is causing or exacerbating your hair loss, talk to your doctor about whether an alternative is available that’s less likely to have that side effect. (But don’t just stop taking your medicine.) Minoxidil, the generic name for the drug marketed as Rogaine, is the primary proven method of treating androgenic hair loss. It works by blocking the action of the hormones at the hair follicle. It’s now available over the counter, so you don’t have to have a prescription, and it’s sold in male and female versions.

Another drug, finasteride, requires a prescription. Some women find that taking estrogen helps with hormonally triggered hair loss.

Red flag #5: Dry, brittle hair that breaks off easily

What it means: When individual hairs litter your pillow in the morning, this typically indicates breakage rather than hair falling out from the follicle, says Chicago dermatologist Victoria Barbosa. Breakage is most frequently the result of hair becoming over-brittle from chemical processing or dyeing. “Bleaching, straightening, and other chemical processing techniques strip the cuticle to let the chemicals in, which makes the hair shaft more fragile,” Barbosa explains.

However, certain health conditions also lead to brittle, fragile hair. Among them: Cushing’s syndrome, a disorder of the adrenal glands that causes excess production of the hormone cortisol. A condition called hypoparathyroidism, usually either hereditary or the result of injury to the parathyroid glands during head and neck surgery, can also cause dry, brittle hair. Overly low levels of parathyroid hormone cause blood levels of calcium to fall and phosphorus to rise, leading to fragile dry hair, scaly skin, and more serious symptoms such as muscle cramps and even seizures.

More clues: If the cause of your dry, brittle hair is an underlying health condition, you’ll likely notice additional symptoms, such as dry, flaky skin. Overly dry hair also can signify that your diet is lacking in omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in salmon and fish oil, as well as many nuts and seeds, particularly flaxseed.

What to do: No matter what the cause of your dry, brittle hair, minimizing heat and chemical treatment are necessary for it to get healthy again. If an underlying condition is throwing your hormones out of whack and in turn affecting your hair, talk to your doctor. The symptoms of hypoparathyroidism, for example, are often reduced or eliminated with supplemental vitamin D and calcium.

Next, deep condition your hair to restore it to health. Hair oils can help restore flexibility to the hair shaft, Barbosa says; look for products made with natural oils such as coconut and avocado oil, which penetrate the cuticle, rather than synthetic oils made from petrolatum, which merely coat the hair. Take fish oil supplements to renourish your hair. And minimize breakage while you sleep by replacing cotton pillowcases, which tend to catch and pull at hair, with satin pillowcases, which are smoother.

Red Flag #6: Hair falling out in small, circular patches

What it means: The body’s immune response turns on the hair follicles themselves, shrinking them and causing hair to fall out entirely in small, typically round patches. This kind of hair loss — which experts call alopecia areata — can also occur at the temples or at the part line. Diabetes can trigger the onset of such hair loss in some people. And it can continue to spread; in extreme cases, sufferers lose all their hair or lose hair over their entire body.

More clues: Alopecia areata can also cause the eyebrows or eyelashes to fall out, which in addition to the circular pattern can distinguish it from other types of hair loss. Alopecia areata is an autoimmune condition and has been shown to be more common in families with a tendency toward other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, early-onset diabetes, and thyroid disease.

What to do: The treatment most proven to work against alopecia areata is cortisone shots delivered directly into the scalp in the spots where the hair is falling out. “If you don’t get steroid injections, the circular patches will get larger and more cosmetically noticeable,” says California dermatologist Raphael Darvish.

Oral forms of cortisone and topical cortisone creams are also available, but topical cortisone is less likely to be successful unless it’s a mild case. Many doctors will also suggest using minoxidil (brand name Rogaine) to speed the rate of regrowth. Treatment may need to be repeated a number of times over a period of months.

Red flag #7: Yellowish flakes on the hair and scaly, itchy patches on the scalp

What it means: What most of us grew up calling dandruff is now understood to be a complicated interaction of health issues that deserve to be taken seriously. Seborrheic dermatitis is a chronic inflammatory condition of the scalp that causes skin to develop scaly patches, often in the areas where the scalp is oiliest. When the flaky skin loosens, it leaves the telltale “dandruff” flakes.

Seborrheic dermatitis coexists in a “chicken-and-egg” relationship with a fungal infection caused by an overgrowth of a yeast that’s normally present on our scalps and skin. The yeast organism, Pityrosporum ovale, takes advantage of skin already irritated by dermatitis and inflames it still more. Some experts now believe that the yeast overgrowth may occur first, setting off the inflammatory reaction of the dermatitis, but that hasn’t been proven.

More clues: One way to differentiate seborrheic dermatitis from plain dry skin: When skin is dry, you’ll typically also see dry, scaly skin between the eyebrows and by the sides of the nose, says California dermatologist Raphael Darvish. Also, seborrheic dermatitis tends to be seasonal, flaring up during the winter and disappearing in the summertime. It may be triggered by stress as well.

What to do: See a dermatologist to make sure it’s seborrheic dermatitis. If so, “there are great prescription shampoos and creams that can correct this,” says Darvish. The most effective treatment for yeast overgrowth is ketoconazole, a newer drug that works by damaging the fungal cell wall, killing the fungus. It comes in the form of pills, creams, or shampoo under the brand name Nizoral. However, as an oral medication it has many side effects, so if you and your doctor decide on an oral treatment, an alternative antifungal, fluconazole, is preferable.

To calm flare-ups as quickly as possible, Darvish recommends using a prescription steroid cream. However, long-term use of these creams can thin the skin, particularly on the face, Darvish warns, so doctors recommend using them in short-term doses known as “pulse therapy.”

To prevent recurrence, it’s necessary to get the skin back in balance, and many experts recommend garlic for this purpose. You can either eat lots of fresh garlic, which might annoy those in close proximity to you, or take a garlic supplement.

Red flag #8: Gray hair

What it means: Many people perceive gray hair as a red flag, worrying that it’s an indication of stress or trauma. And history abounds with stories like that of Marie Antoinette, whose hair was said to have gone snow white the night before she faced the guillotine.

Experts tend to dismiss such fears and stories, explaining that how our hair goes gray or white is primarily influenced by our genetics. However, in recent years research scientists have reopened the debate. While they can’t yet prove or explain it, many researchers now believe that stress may trigger a chain reaction that interferes with how well the hair follicle transmits melanin, the pigment that colors hair. Researchers are looking at the role of free radicals, which are hormones we produce when under stress, and studies seem to show that they can block the signal that tells the hair follicle to absorb the melanin pigment.

Other experts argue that a trauma or stressful event causes the hair to stop growing temporarily and go into a resting phase. Then when the hair follicles “wake up” and begin turning over again, a lot of new hair grows in all at once, making it appear that a great deal of gray has come in all at the same time.

More clues: The schedule and pattern by which you go gray will most likely follow your parents’ experience. However, if you suspect stress is graying you prematurely, keep careful track of stressful events. People who experienced a traumatic event that they believe caused them to go gray have reported that their hair eventually returned to its former color.

What to do: If you believe that stress or trauma is causing your hair to go gray, boost your coping strategies by working on your reactions to stressful situations. Yoga and meditation, for example, are effective stress-management tools.

If you see results, you’ll know you’re on the right track. In the meantime, you might want to talk to your parents about how their hair color changed over time, and learn what you can expect. After all, if Great-Aunt Eliza first developed her dramatic white skunk streak in her mid-30s, that might be something you want prepare yourself for

November 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments