For Hilary Duff, being eco-conscious means buying organic products and recycling and limiting the amount of household cleaners she uses at home. The singer and actress guest stars in the Nov. 4 episode of the NBC sitcom "Community," playing a status-obsessed "mean girl" named Meghan. For the former "Lizzie McGuire" and teen star, "It was exciting to play something so different," says Duff, a fan of the show who'd readily reprise the role if asked. On set, the regulars kept her laughing. "It's pretty hard to keep a straight face around these people," she says.
Having done several episodes of "Gossip Girl" last year, she realized she'd missed television, long hours notwithstanding, and she'd "definitely do TV again if the right project came along." It's been almost four years since she released her last CD, "Dignity," and admits that music hasn't been a priority for her. She became a published author with the release of her best-selling young adult novel "Elixir" last month, married Pittsburgh Penguins hockey player Mike Comrie in August and has been traveling to see him play and promote the book. "Our careers are very important to us, so we find a way to juggle and make it work," she says of their commuter marriage. As for music, "I do miss singing and being on stage," she acknowledges, but won't have an album out next year. A second book will come first: "I'm starting to write the sequel, since it's a series."
The true story of a trapped mountain climber Aron Ralston (James Franco, pictured right) who cut off his own arm to save his life, "127 Hours" earned a Green Seal Award from the Environmental Media Association for its eco-consciousness. In an effort not to alter the remote location in any way, all waste was carried out, and chemical-free composting toilets were provided on set. The production also used dye-free "green" paper for scripts and revisions. Directed by "Slumdog Millionaire" Oscar winner Danny Boyle, "127 Hours" opens Nov. 5.
"I'm very serious about riding my bike a lot. I live on the west side of L.A. and most of my friends are on the west side so everything is within riding or walking distance," says Ryan Kwanten ("True Blood"), who stars in the movie "Red Hill," a modern-day western set in and filmed in the actor's native Australia, where the low-budget indie production made a relatively small carbon footprint. "When you think of the amount of carnage that a big Hollywood film puts on the environment, this pales in comparison," Kwanten points out, and director Patrick Hughes concurs. Shooting in the hill country of Victoria, a 90-minute flight and another seven hours' drive from Sydney, "We made sure we never touched any woodlands, and if we did it was minimal," he says, noting, "All the caterers in Australia now use organics and don't use disposable stuff — we had biodegradable cups and real cutlery."
In "Red Hill," opening Nov. 5, Kwanten (pictured left) plays a newly hired constable on his first day at work in the titular town, where a murderous escaped convict is headed. "It's literally the worst day in the history of policing and he just happens to be in the middle of it all," says the actor, who was attracted by the script and playing a "fallible hero, the moral compass of the film. Without him it's just a good old fashioned shoot-'em-up." A "huge fan" of classic westerns "The Searchers," "High Plains Drifter" and "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," he'd used guns and ridden horseback in previous roles, though as a city transplant he wasn't supposed to be adept at the latter. Hughes' objective was to "make a lean, mean, badass western and tip my hat to "Deliverance," "High Plains Drifter" and "High Noon," "Red Hill" is the first in a planned trilogy of revenge westerns he calls "Three Colors of Vengeance," with the Mexico-set "Black Valley" next, followed by "White Mountain."
Kwanten, who shot "Red Hill" and another Aussie film, "Griff the Invisible" (due in March 2011), between the first and second seasons of "True Blood," has become even busier since then. Also in the can is the comedy-horror film "Knights of Badassdom," co-starring Steve Zahn and Peter Dinklage and set in the world of LARPing (live action role-playing). Kwanten will produce and star in two others: "The Family," in which he’ll play Charles Manson — he's deep in research about the infamous killer — and "The Twenty-Something Survival Guide," about an immature party planner who learns he has testicular cancer and realizes the clock is running out on his opportunity to father a child. He's also writing a satirical novel, a spoof of self-help books called "The G Strategy," due in the spring. As for "True Blood," he has no idea what to expect in season four. "To be honest, any delusions of grandeur that I could possibly conjure up in this little head of mine would pale in comparison to what the writers eventually give us," he says. "I've yet to be disappointed."
The National Geographic series "Great Migrations" is certainly a mammoth undertaking. Shot over three years in 20 countries covering 420,000 miles, it premieres Nov. 7 and is narrated by Alec Baldwin. The seven hours follow creatures on land, sea and air. The program also points out shifts in migration patterns due to global warming and other factors. "Our planet is changing. It's indisputable that migrations are heavily informed by climate and by corridors and landscapes that are available," explains producer David Hamlin. "Every migration is informed and challenged by the air space, land space and water corridors that are available to the creatures. We focused on several that we found quite dramatic," including the impact of retreating ice on the Pacific Walrus and the dwindling population of the pronghorn antelope. "There's some remarkably poignant, dramatic material there — stories, images, and hopefully action points for us all to take notice. That's very much the mission of the project of National Geographic, inspiring people to care about the planet, find ways to take action, and remember the beauty of the natural world."
Tune in: Following the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's efforts to protect the state's ecosystems, "Operation Wild" returns to Planet Green for a second season on Nov. 5 with two back-to-back episodes. In the first, the FWC crew investigates a crocodile terrorizing people and pets and drunken sailors dumping waste into the ocean. In the second, they mobilize to combat the effects and deal with the aftermath of the Gulf Oil spill.
Premiering Nov. 7, the PBS "Nature" documentary "Braving Iraq" follows one man's dangerous mission to restore the Mesopotamian Marshes, which were destroyed by Saddam Hussein in an attempt to prevent the indigenous people living there from rising against him.
Additional photo credits:
James Franco by Fox Searchlight
Ryan Kwanten by Doug Hyun/HBO
MNN homepage photo of Hilary Duff by ZUMA Press