The Light from the TV Shows: A Chat with Ivana Milicevic (“Banshee”)

Ivana Milicevic is one of the sexiest dorks you’ll ever meet. Hey, don’t laugh: if you were wise enough to tune in to the premiere of her new Cinemax series, “Banshee,” when it made its debut on Friday, then you already know that my assessment of her sexiness is on the money, but having actually sat in her presence and chatted with her one-on-one for 20 minutes or so, trust me, she’s a big ol’ dork. But if you’re wondering, let me assure you that this is an amazingly awesome combination. During our conversation, there was much discussion of “Banshee,” of course, but we also touched on more than a few of her earlier credits as well, including everything from “Seinfeld” to “Casino Royale” to “Jerry Maguire” to “Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest,” a range which I think we can all agree is very wide indeed.

Bullz-Eye: An obligatory question to start out: how did you find your way into “Banshee”?

Ivana Milicevic: [Places palms flat on table.] Will, let me tell you.

BE: Please do.

IM: I read the script – ‘cause I was reading millions of scripts, because it was pilot season – and I was, like, “Wha…?!?”It was so good. I loved it. And I was madly in love with Greg Yaitanes because I had done an episode of “House” with him. Like, a season-finale “House” episode that was really fun to do, and he was so fun and easy to work with. And I had been touch with him because of…he was getting me on Twitter in the early days. This was, like, five years ago. But I loved “Banshee.” I had to go in a lot of times. I had to fight for it. I met Antony, we had this instant chemistry that just…

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BE: That’s what he said.

IM: He said that, too?

BE: Yeah. In fact, I think he even made the same hand gesture to indicate “instant chemistry.”

IM: [Laughs.] Did he really? That’s so funny. But we do! It’s kind of true. We get along, but we’re also like black and white. So that makes exactly what you’re looking for: a polarity. It just worked. And I think that’s how come I got the job. And then I was really happy, Will, because… [Drops voice down to a whisper.] I had to play it. I had to play this part.

BE: You don’t say.

IM: I did! Because I get to be a mother, so I get to love my family. And I love my real family, so I just love to play that. And I get to be in love…with two men! [Laughs.] And I get to kick ass. And I get to be sexy. Because if not now, Will, when? When?

BE: I hear you.

IM: Because I’m European, and I like that sexy stuff.

BE: Well, Americans are rather fond of it, too.

IM: Well, sure. Who isn’t? [Laughs.]

Read the rest of this entry »

  

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Drink of the Week: The Vesper

The VesperThis was the recipe I’d always planned to do right around now. By “now,” I originally meant before the release of the first James Bond movie in several years and/or right around the 50th anniversary of the 007 film series. Even so, I managed to miss the fact that the opening weekend of “Skyfall” was last weekend and not this weekend, so we’re a bit late.

This despite the fact that I and my Bullz-Eye compatriots have spent — and are spending — a fair amount of time actually writing up the Bond films for this very blog. (Check out the Bondian fan hub here.) Fortunately, the movie is turning out to be the most successful film in the uber-franchise in a long while — how long probably depends on whether you bother to adjust for inflation — so it’s going to be around awhile. That means the Bond celebration will also continue.

The Vesper, I should say, is a tricky and ironic drink among late period cocktail classics. Since it debuted in the very first James Bond novel,1953′s Casino Royale, and was created for 007 author Ian Fleming by his friend, Ivar Bryce, a fellow real-life spy, the supercool authenticity factor is off the charts. The scene in the 2006 film version where Bond finally orders the drink some 53 years after it was first invented was a special treat for diehard spy fans and cocktail lovers, and I’m both.

The downside here is that there are issues relating to the ever formulating changes in booze brands that has made the idea of the Vesper a bit more enthralling than the actual drink usually is. We’ll get to those, and a bit more history, after the very, very strong recipe below.

First, however, a word to wise boozer. If you drink a whole Vesper, you really should be done for the night. Mere mortals should not drink like functioning dipsomaniac superspies. You may want to consider cutting the portions here in half or pouring this drink into two glasses for you and a friend.

The Vesper

3 ounces gin (90 proof or above)
1 ounce vodka (100 proof or close, probably)
1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc
1-2 dashes Angostura bitters
1 lemon twist (garnish)

Combine your ingredients in cocktail shaker with a sufficiency of ice. Though heretical cocktail snobs will tell you to stir, this is an Ian Fleming cocktail and Mr. Fleming would certainly have you shake the drink. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass or, if you really want to be classical, do as Bond asked the barman in the novel and serve it in a deep champagne goblet. Add your lemon twist, sip and surrender your car keys to the nearest trustworthy soul. Watch out for double agents.

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In the scene in the novel (included in the wiki I linked to above), CIA agent Felix Leiter expresses some skepticism about the as-yet unnamed Vesper, which Bond later names for the first of his two true loves, Vesper Lynd. It is a very big drink and not for pikers. It also a drink that, as cocktail historian David Wondrich and many others have admitted, hasn’t aged terribly well for a number of reasons.

First of all, all the ingredients have changed. Bond specifically requests Gordon’s Gin. Though it’s no longer considered on the high-end of the gin scale, I actually quite like today’s value-priced Gordon’s, but the flavor of today’s version can’t be the same as was back in ’53. Gordon’s is now only 80 proof. Back then, it was a higher proof and most, Wondrich included, now suggest using Tanqueray. This time around, I used the similarly high proof Beefeater, which seemed a bit more classical.

As for vodka, Wondrich and others seem to assume it would have been 100 proof. At $26.00 a bottle, I’m simply too cheap to buy 100 Stolichnaya, so I went with the $16.00 100 proof Smirnoff. I’ve never really been sold on Stoli and I doubt Bond or Mr. Fleming would have drunk a communist vodka.

Moving down the list of ingredients, I love Lillet Blanc. In fact, maybe my favorite thing about the Vesper is that it introduced me to this intriguing aperitif wine and occasional cocktail ingredient; it tastes like dry vermouth and sweet vermouth made love and birthed an independent-minded female child. However, it also apparently isn’t what it once was. Mr. Bond’s original recipe calls for the now long-gone Kina Lillet, which we are told had a bit more quinine than the present day Lillet Blanc.

That leads us to the use of the bitters, which are an attempt — some would argue a rather lame attempt — to compensate for the low level of quinine. Folks with more time and money than I have been known to actually purchase quinine powder. Since I’m not fighting a case of malaria right now, I chose not to.

So, what do I think of the Vesper? I’ve made this drink probably 10 times over the years and ordered it a few times in bars and, with a couple of exceptions, I’ve been disappointed in the taste while always enjoying the effect. A regular martini, either of the gin or vodka variety, will usually go down more pleasantly. Even so, if you want to drink the one drink that James Bond created on the spot, well, you’ve got no other choice. You’ll drink it and, by the time you’ve finished all that booze, you’ll like it.

In any case, it’s only human to want to try the drink James Bond made up.

  

Bond Girls in Bikinis

There are plenty of reasons to watch the James Bond films, but the Bond girls definitely keep many fans coming back. There have been many of iconic moments over the years involving these beautiful women, and many of them naturally involve bikinis.

In putting together the slideshow above, choosing the first image presented a tough call. We decided to go with the incomparable Halle Berry who looks absolutely flawless in this orange bikini from “Die Another Day.” She barely edged out the stunning Ursula Andress who started it all as Honey Ryder in the first Bond film, “Dr. No.” Andress set the standard for all future Bond babes with her memorable scene as she emerged from the sea.

The third photo has Claudine Auger in another beach scene from “Thunderball,” and then we have a promo shot from “The Man with the Golden Gun” with Maud Adams and Britt Ekland hanging out with Roger Moore.

In pic #5 we have the lovely Izabella Scorupco from “GoldenEye” striking a pose, and then Caterina Murino riding a horse from “Casino Royale.” Jill St. John lounges around in her bikini in “Diamonds are Forever” and we finish up with Shirley Eaton from “Goldfinger” before she meets her demise from a coat of gold paint.

As a bonus, here’s Roger Moore in a promo shot from “For Your Eyes Only.” It’s good to be Bond!

  

Drink of the Week: The Aperol Americano

The Aperol Americano What kind of drink do you want on Labor Day? Something so strong it’ll make you lose all ambition and forget you even have a job? Maybe you’d be better off with something so delicious and sweet it’ll make you glad you have some hard-earned sheckels and can actually afford some decent booze, but not so heavy duty with alcohol it’ll dehydrate you in the late summer heat or blitz you out to the point that you’re going to have to call in sick on Tuesday morning.

So, we turn to a variation on a genuine cocktail great, the Americano. This version substitutes Campari with Aperol, another liqueur from the same Italian manufacturer which only recently has become widely available on our shores but which I understand has been delighting Europeans en masse since some time not long after Benito Mussolini was given his eternal walking papers.

Aperol is something like a kinder and gentler lower alcohol variation on the super-sweet and super-bitter one-two punch of Campari. While I love it’s more potent cousin, Aperol is, on its own, a drink with just enough bitterness to underline its delightful sweetness.  Using it in an Americano turns into a super refreshing beverage that’s as user-friendly as anything, but just complex enough, I think, to placate a not-too hardbitten cocktail snob. It’s worth a little labor, but making this drink is about as easy as drinking it.

The Aperol Americano

1 ounce Aperol
1 ounce sweet vermouth
Club soda or seltzer water
Orange slice (highly desirable garnish)

Add the Aperol and vermouth to an old fashioned glass with plenty of ice in it and maybe an orange slice or chunk. Top off with soda. Now here’s the difficult part — stir. You might consider toasting the hard working members of organized labor who helped you get that weekend you’re currently enjoying so much.

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When I wrote about the Americano just slightly under a year ago, I described it as “a perfect drink for lightweights” despite the fact that I also noted it’s the first drink ordered by none other than James Bond in none other than the first James Bond novel, “Casino Royale.” Considering that lower alcohol content of Aperol vis-à-vis Campari, I guess this would be an even more perfect beverage for lightweights.

If that’s a little too perfect for you, it’s perfectly acceptable to do what I did and increase the Aperol and vermouth to 1 1/2 ounces each and make the drink in a somewhat larger Tom Collins/highball glass. It’s way good and it still won’t remove you from the workforce.

  

James Bond at 50: Olga Kurylenko and Caterina Murino

Bond girls Olga Kurylenko and Caterina Murino were on hand to celebrate the 50th anniversary of James Bond and unveil Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment’s BOND 50 Blu-ray collection at CES 2012 in Las Vegas on Tuesday. Check out the video above for a promo for the new Blu-ray along with discussions with three of the directors of the Bond films.

Ukrainian beauty Olga Kurylenko is an actress and model based in Paris, and she appeared in “Quantum of Solace.” As you can see from the photo below she can handle a gun!

Italian stunner Caterina Murino appeared in “Casino Royale.”

  

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