Sunday, July 24, 2011

Interview with Matthew Aeberhard and Leander Ward, directors of The Crimson Wing - 25th June, 2009

Promoting: The Crimson Wing
Venue: Cineworld, Edinburgh Film Festival
Interview type: One-on-two

ViewLondon (VL): Can you say a little about how the film came about?

Matthew Aeberahrd (MA): Two different points of Leander and myself but both distilling around these images that were shown to us by our friend Stefan Hotrell, who was a microlite pilot and he'd been flying over Lake Natron, giving us this view down through the reflected surface of the water and you could see these wonderful colours, the reds and the greens. They're literally out of this world and they kind of blew our minds and we realised that yes, we had something different here and this was a location worthy of a big screen film.

Leander Ward (LW): And then we needed a through-line and the more we uncovered the place, the more we realised that it was significant to the flamingos – I mean, I'm sure Matt knew that already but I didn't – it was amazing to learn this fact, that it was the only lake that they bred at in East Africa. And then we got back to the UK, having finished the separate projects we were working on, and started thinking about putting some energy into this and we spent years in this little box of an office, hacking away. And then with the help of Matt's wife Mel [writer Melanie Finn] we sort of boiled it down into something much more defined that we could really go out to people with, that felt like a film.

VL: Why flamingos?

MA: I just think epic spectacle is the simplest way to put it. They're the ornithological equivalent of the wildebeest migration – no-one knows anything about them. In front of us at Natron in the year we were filming, we had nine hundred thousand birds breeding – that's quite a phenomenal sight.

LW: I think also, one of the things we wanted to do was have a strong music background to the film, have the film kind of propelled by the music. The tradition of many of these films is exactly that. We just realised that these birds were incredibly musical, the way they dance and the way they fly, the rhythms that they take on. So that was an exciting aspect.

VL: Are you at the point where neither of you ever want to see another flamingo again as long as you live?

MA: Not on film! (laughs) I spent a year at Natron after the film, after the edit – I went back there. It's time to move on to other things now, but certainly I would always want to go back and spend time at the lake there.

VL: Puffins next?

MA: Puffins are pretty sweet, yeah. Could be a good Scottish angle there.

VL: The incredible flying shot with the reflection of the birds underneath was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. You've created a whole generation of screensaver material there. How did you get that?

MA: That was the mirror-like surface of the lake. The water is just a level plain because it's so thick with salt. It's very dense and doesn't ruffle with the wind. That particular shot was actually taken from a hide, on a hill, looking down and then panning along, but it gives you the sense of movement because there's no reference point.

VL: Another incredible shot was the shot that's right alongside one particular flamingo as it's flying along – how did you get that shot?

MA: That's either taken from the hovercraft or again, from a high angle but with a long lense just focussing on a detail of that. Just to give you an idea, the previous shot was taken from hundreds of yards away, but with a very long lense.

VL: How does something like that happen? Do you just point the camera and hope for the best?

MA: I think you have to work for the images. You have to move around and look for details in the landscape that you can pull out and isolate. So it's a lot of work, but yes, if you see something you think is really good then you just grab it when it's happening. But knowing what is good, that's something that comes from experience, that's the craft of it.

VL: I gather you broke the Attenborough Code and intervened in the case of the flamingo chick with the salt shackles?

LW: Well, we weren't the first to do that. I know that a very well-regarded wildlife film-maker called Alan Root that Matt worked for came across a lot of these anklet chicks back in the late 60s – at Magardia Lake in Kenya, a lake next to Natron – and because conditions were right, the birds would cross over from their breeding ground. But there were literally a hundred thousand of these little things with these anklets and he spent about five days, with a group of people, just hacking all these salt shackles off. It was a big, big mission. So we just did the few that we saw and it's very hard to leave something like that, you know?

MA: I don't think it's about breaking the Attenborough Code. I think why not, you know? There are those chicks with anklets, lots of them die, the ones that we filmed we happened to just chip them off and give them a second chance. It doesn't affect anyone or anything – we're not denying an animal food. These things would just die and become mummified on the salt. I think maybe the interference element is when you interfere to deny something food, like saving a gazelle from a jackal, say, you're depriving the jackal of its meal for the day, so that's not justifiable, but in this context there's no harm either way.

LW: It would have been worse if we'd broken off the anklets and then eaten them.

VL: Was there anything that you cut that you really hated to lose?

LW: I think we'd have liked more time to comfortably get everything. We did very well in the year we had, but it was pressured and there were certain things we might have wanted to develop that we couldn't.

MA: We had enough time but we had a few toys that we didn't really make use of, because basically, the sharp end of wildlife photography is just a guy with a camera and the more you add to that, the more complicated the process is. So just getting the main story was the first thing and then we ran out of time to play around with some motion-control stuff, gyro-mounts and stuff like that.

VL: Is there a shot you're particularly proud of? A favourite scene?

MA: In terms of shots I'm happiest with, I like some of the shots where I filmed faces in rocks. They're not obvious, but for me it was hard to get the lighting right, go there on the right day and frame those shots in a way that worked best. They're small, little things but that's what I worked hardest at to get right, myself.

LW: I'm happy with the wing-flick shot I took. The first time you see the birds and they make that movement with their wings – it was a real surprise when it happened and I caught that and was pleased with that.


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Interview with RJ Cutler, director of The September Issue - June 23rd, 2009

Promoting: The September Issue
Venue: The Scotsman Hotel, Edinburgh Film Festival
Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): How did the project come about?

RJ Cutler (RJC): Somebody had given me an article about Anna [Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of Vogue], and I read it and thought she would make a fascinating subject for film. I met with her, and it was actually she who suggested the September Issue as a kind of structure for the shoot and I embraced that because it meant we would have access to them for close to nine months. All you need to make these movies, other then story-telling ability is access and money. Anna was offering nine months of access and that is music to a filmmaker’s ears.

VL: I read that you originally approached her first, and then she came back.

RJC: Yeah, I really didn’t know. The article I had read was about a big party that she (Wintour) throws every year. A costume institute gala-ball that she hosts and you know it’s such a big deal, raising over 5 million dollars in one night. The guest list is really a who’s who in the worlds of entertainment, fashion, business, media and society. They say every year; it is the party of the year. I think now looking back it would have been a terrible idea for a movie, just a terrible idea. Parties are you know, there is no pay-off to a party. Everyone goes to the party and then they come home. Who cares? The September Issue is a great idea for a structuring device. Once again, Anna was right!

VL: That seems to be a reoccurring theme.

RJC: Maybe

VL: Obviously the most wonderful discovery in the film is the relationship between Anna and Grace [Coddington]. Can you talk about how that came about?

RJC: Well, it’s not a discovery. I didn’t have to dig very deep. If you are at Vogue you know that if you spend any time there, that you can’t help but recognize the most fiery relationship at the magazine is between Anna and Grace. Here you have two of the most significant figures in the fashion world in the last thirty years-if not the last century. As I say it is almost impossible not to recognize that this is the key relationship. The challenge was persuading Grace to let us film with her. That was the biggest challenge, because part of the conflict in their dynamic meant that once Anna invited us in, Grace hated the idea that we were there. We were just another battlefield, and over time we were able to win her over. This was shocking to almost everyone at Vogue. Andre couldn’t believe it, Tom Floreo couldn't believe it, Patrick who is Anna’s director of communications couldn’t believe it. Anna herself couldn’t even believe it. Anna would tease Grace, refer to her as the movie star.

VL: And she is the movie star!

RJC: And she is the movie star, she absolutely is.

VL: When did you kind of realize that she was going to let you in to that extent? Because, as you said, her first words to you were “go away” and she repeated those words several times.

RJC: Yes she did, several times with increasing forcefulness. Go away was the nice thing she said to me. About four months in, I kind of couldn’t take it anymore. I was trying to figure out what the film was about. I had been shooting for four months, which is a lot of time. I couldn’t see a way to make this movie that wasn’t about their relationship. That was the movie, that was the movie. The movie tells you what it is, you don’t tell it. So much media that I see, so many documentaries that I see, somebody has decided what they want to say. Once you decide what you want to say, I am so uninterested. I couldn’t care less, don’t make a movie if you decide what you want to say ahead of time. Write it down send it off to someone and blog it…put it online. If you know what you want to say upfront don’t waste your time, don’t waste your subject's time, don’t waste everybody’s money- and for god's sake don’t waste your audiences’ time because it is boring. The whole point in making these movies is to go into these foreign lands, and they reveal themselves to you, and then you get to relate to the world. Really in a way the movie is a conduit of like what it was and what it is at Vogue in 2007 – Anna and Grace. That is what it is and there is no way around it. I couldn’t take it anymore. I went to Grace, I didn’t fall to my knees but I might as well have. I just said I can’t make this film without you, and here we are and we are good people and you are going to be happy that you gave us a chance – but you have to start by giving us a chance, and she gave us a chance.

VL: Clearly she had a pretty great relationship with the crew and you by the end of the movie. She was joking with you all the time.

RJC: Of course, of course – but everybody does. Our relationship with Anna was wonderful by the end of the film. We are there for nine months, and all we want to do is see what they do. It’s like if someone followed you for nine months, and all they wanted to do was tell the story of what you do, and how you do it and why you do it and who you are. You’d think they were awesome, I think.

VL: So how did the day-to-day filming break down. You say nine months, but it’s not like it is 9-5 for nine months?

RJC: No, it is always different and there is no way to kind of even describe it. You are in the flow of the situation. At the beginning you kind of very consciously say you are going to be there this day, and then work out when we're going to come back tomorrow. Not going to be here the next day, but will be here for two days after that. Now were going to go off to Paris with you. Next weekend we’d like to come over to your house for the day. But, that is just at the beginning. 'Oh you have that meeting, can we come?' Within a month or two I went to Anna and said: 'Now what we need to do is come and go as we will.' You do come and go as you will, because you need to be able to see anything. Second of all, you want them to miss you when you are gone. You don’t just show up everyday. Some days you don’t come in. You know you are doing well when you take a few days off, and somebody gets in touch with you, asking where have you guys been? That is what you want. You want them to want to do what you are there to do, which is to open up, which is how you get them to do it.

VL: Speaking of opening up, were you ever worried that people would be very guarded around you because obviously if Anna sees them badmouthing her or a decision that has been made, then there'd be repercussions from that.

RJC: Yes, but not with any kind of urgency and certainly not after Grace got on board. Once Grace was on board, it was like, 'We can say anything we want because god knows Grace is saying anything she wants.'

VL: You said you shot over 320 hours of footage. Clearly within that you’ve had to lose an awful lot of material. Was there anything in particular that you hated to lose?

RJC: No, I didn’t hate to lose anything because everything we took out was making the movie not as good as the movie is. There are wonderful scenes that will be on the DVD. Wonderful scenes of Andre, great scenes of the party, the ball. They are great scenes but everything I took out that really didn’t service the film that we ended up with.

VL: Are you promising us 319 hours of deleted scenes?

RJC: Ha ha! We’ll see, we’ll see.

VL: What does Anna think of the film?

RJC: You know, she thinks its my movie. She thinks if she were the director it would be a completely different movie. She thinks, 'Wow it’s awesome that everybody loves it, and good for me'. As I say, she had plenty of notes, but I had final cut. I listened to her, but I made the movie I wanted to make.


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Interview with Joseph Gordon-Levitt - 21st August, 2009

Promoting: (500) Days of Summer
Venue: The Soho Hotel, London
Interview type: Round table

Question (Q): Can you relate to some of the experiences of the film? How do you mend a broken heart?

Joseph Gordon-Levitt (JG-L): Of course, everybody can relate to both sides. Everyone’s been Tom, everybody’s been Summer at some point or another, to some degree or another. I certainly have. That was really our aim with this, to not just make something that’s funny or pulls at the heartstrings, so to speak, but is actually heartfelt and honest.

Q: Have you ever been that low, though?

JG-L: I’ve been pretty sad!

Q: Is sad British pop music big in America? Was that something you could relate to?

J-GL: Yeah, the Clash, the Smiths, those bands are definitely a very big deal.

Q: How refreshing for you was it that it’s the guy who’s the romantic fantasist and the girl’s the cynic? It’s usually the other way around.

JG-L: I like that neither of the characters fit so neatly into any gender box, that both exhibit traits that would typically be assigned to either one or the other, in like our parents’ generation of love stories. I think it’s a sign of the times that we as a people, and we as a culture, are kind of becoming more ready to be individuals and have less of a need to strictly adhere to any conventions or stereotypes.

Q: What are your music tracks for those falling in and out of love moments?

JG-L: Well, it all depends. I’ll tell you, when we were shooting (500) Days of Summer, what I listened to a lot was [co-star Zooey Deschanel's band] She & Him. Everyone loves it in the States.

Q: You’ve done a little dance video to that, haven’t you?

JG-L: Yes, I’m pleased to say that, because there’s a dance number in the movie and Zooey isn’t in it, which is a tragedy, because Zooey is built for dance numbers. So we made this little short film that’s out online [on Gordon-Levitt's own site, – see below], the director and Zooey and I, to one of her songs. Every morning on my way to work, I listened to She & Him, and to hear her singing her songs, and her voice, with these beautiful melodies, made it very easy to play smitten and have these songs in my head.

Q: What’s your karaoke track?

JG-L: Oh man, I can’t tell you, that would ruin the sneak attack!

Q: Has there been a Summer in your life?

JG-L: Of course, there’s been one in everyone’s.

Q: How was it working with Zooey again?

JG-L: The cool thing was Zooey and I have known each other for a long time, because we did a movie together called Manic, almost ten years ago. It was a very different movie from (500) Days of Summer, it’s one I’m really proud of actually, it’s a very heavy, dramatic movie, and we’ve stayed friends since then. The chemistry and the comfort and trust between two people playing a love story like this is key, and to have a friend that I could trust, and whose sensibilities I already understood, made it so much easier, and is a big part of why it all looks natural on screen.

Q: Was it never awkward, being such good friends, doing those intimate screens together?

J-GL: No, it’s the opposite, it’s so much easier when it’s someone you know. It’s weird when it’s a stranger, but when you’re friends - we’ve done this before, we’re both actors.

Q: At one point in the film you say that ‘60s women had the right idea with style and dressing - is that something you personally believe?

JG-L: I do like fashion from the ‘60s, some of it. I think in that particular scene Tom’s being more of a curmudgeon. It reminds me of myself when I was younger actually - because I used to like to do a lot of that shit and be like, “Oh, everyone’s so stupid today, how come nobody has any taste anymore?” and I’ve sort of gotten over that notion. I actually don’t buy into the glory days thing. I think every time has its great things to it. The ‘60s were such a glorious time but it’s easy to forget that there was all sorts of bullshit too. There’s an early Frank Zappa album that’s all about mocking the ‘60s. I remember when I heard that, when I was 15, he’s just taking the piss out of Haight-Ashbury, out of hippies, out of everything. I was brought up to glorify the ‘60s, my parents grew up in them - there was probably bad stuff then also.

Q: What’s great now then? What's great about this era?

JG-L: Now is so exciting. Right now a lot of the best stuff you see are things that just some kid somewhere in Japan made. Like I watched this video recently by a band called Sour, they’re a Japanese trio. It’s a cool song, but they made this video with hundreds of collaborators, people who liked their music, who were all obviously very organised and co-ordinated, and made these beautiful images that really wouldn’t have been possible before the Internet allowed for that kind of organisation and communication, which allowed all these people to upload their videos to one website, so someone could download them and cut them together. This is the kind of thing that would have been nearly impossible even four years ago, and is a beautiful work of art today.

Q: I assume a film like this is dearer to your heart than something like G.I.JOE. Did you do G.I.Joe for the money, dare I ask?

JG-L: Actually no, to be honest, G.I.JOE’s not the best-paying job I’ve had at all. I did that movie for fun. I got the opportunity to do this cool character with this mask and crazy make-up, and costume and voice - it was a blast. I go in for diversity and an eclectic mix of creative challenges, and G.I.JOE was really fun.

Q: Was there anything cut from (500) Days that you hated to lose?

JG-L: There used to be a sequence that was sort of the antithesis of the dance number, The Best Morning Ever - there used to be a Worst Morning Ever, which was really funny, and fun, but I think you always have to take some stuff out if it’s slowing it down or whatever. They were going to play the same music but have terrible things happening instead.

Q: Are you a natural dancer? Did you watch any old musicals to train for it?

JG-L: I wouldn’t make any comparisons! But I do love a Gene Kelly movie, or a Fred Astaire movie. But those guys spent a lot of time practising dancing, which I haven’t, but I had fun doing it. [That sequence] took me by surprise when it actually arrived, and there I was in front of 30 choreographed dancers who were all doing the same thing as me. It was a bizarre experience. We all picture ourselves doing that; we’ve all sat and watched the making of Thriller, I certainly have and I never thought that that would be me.

Q: How did you avoid the pitfalls of the child star going off the rails? You went to school and disappeared for a couple of years… Was that a way of dealing with that, or were you just quite grounded anyway?

JG-L: I don’t know if I am quite grounded. But I seem to have you convinced, so we’ll leave it at that!

Q: Are you musical too? Did you and Zooey jam together? Is there a YouTube video of you guys singing your heart out in a bar somewhere?

JG-L: There isn’t. I just made a short film that played at Sundance and it’s going to come out on a DVD compilation of short films. Spike Jonze actually has one on the same disc, which tickles me. The movie’s called Sparks and I adapted it from a short story, and I directed it, cut it and scored it. It’s really the first time I’ve been public about music that I make. But yeah, I've always loved music.

Q: Is that a taster of things to come, directing features maybe?

JG-L: I don’t know. I don’t have a feature I’m working on now. But I do stuff all the time on this website called I put up little videos or pieces of audio or writing or photos and then invite other people to do the same, and we all sort of re-mix each others’ records and collaborate and make collages. It’s really fun.

Q: One critic called the film the first great cinematic romance of the Facebook generation, it sounds like you’re into all of that - how would you say the Internet has changed your life?

JG-L: One thing I love about HitRECord and getting to make stuff and putting it up online is how instantaneous it is. I love (500) Days of Summer, I loved it when we shot it a year and change ago, and I love it now, but it’s very different to be talking about and finally showing a movie to audiences that was shot so long ago, whereas online you can make something and that day, put it out and have people see it and respond to it and maybe change it and collaborate. It’s just a different kind of vibe - it’s instant and it’s resonant. It allows for a kind of resonance that’s impossible in the older kind of media. That's also why I do a Twitter page ( ), so that I can link to

Q: There's a British movie currently shooting (called Love Lost) that has a live web-cam on set. Is that something you'd ever consider doing?

JG-L: That's interesting. I don’t know if I’d do that exactly. To me, a movie set is a movie set. I like the idea of doing stuff that is live like that, but I’ve never been a huge fan of behind-the-scenes stuff on movie sets. I always feel like you definitively look like a bad actor - because you’re acting to this camera, and there’s this other camera over here that’s showing the audience that you’re faking! But traditional movie-making is a very particular process, and it’s not the only way to make movies anymore. It used to be, but it’s not anymore, and that’s what’s exciting. I’d rather do something totally new. In my backpack I have what you need to make a movie, and distribute it. I have a camera and a computer, and there’s wi-fi here. It goes with me in my back pack.

Q: Do you smash plates when you get upset? How do you vent your anger?

JG-L: Loud music. Loud is good. The drums are really good for venting.

Q: Was there ever any studio intervention for a traditional happy ending?

JG-L: I don’t think there ever was, and I think that speaks to one of the many reasons why this movie turned out well, because the priorities were in order, the director was in charge, not a bunch of executives on a committee. Fox Searchlight who put out (500) Days of Summer also put out Slumdog Millionaire, The Wrestler, and Juno and Borat - all these great movies, and they get it. They get that if you make good movies, respectful and dignified movies, that they can meet with quite a bit of success. They're outstanding and I've never really felt that about a studio before, to be honest. I'm really impressed with them.

Q: There are so many wonderful scenes in (500) Days of Summer. Do you have a favourite?

JG-L: The split-screen sequence with reality and expectations – I might cite that one. It really gets at the heart of the movie. Here’s a guy who’s built up all these expectations based on this music that he likes, and movies, and what he’s heard from friends and others, rather than engaging with reality and being present, he tries to project these expectations and deify this girl.

Q: Are you a cynic or romantic at heart?

JG-L: I think a healthy balance of both is important, but I’d probably lean more towards the romantic side these days.

Q: It’s such an inventive film, was all of that in the script, or was there anything that came out of improvisation or whatever?

JG-L: A lot of it really was in the script. I've got to say, this one actually looked a lot like how I expected it to look. It was really what I hoped it would look like, and what Mark the director described. He’s very savvy, technically, he’s shot so many videos, he knows how to gets what he wants. The surprise, of course, is that he’s also an extremely humanistic story-teller. He’s obsessed with story and character, and not just making it look right, which is a double-threat that’s rare in directors. You usually get one or the other, you get someone who knows how to tell a story but they don’t necessarily know about light and camera and rhythm, or you get someone who can make beautiful images but they can’t necessarily tell a great story. He does both and I think he’s going to be one of the film-makers that our time is remembered for.

Q: It reminded me a lot of Annie Hall. Was that one of the influences on it?

JG-L: Sure, that’s one of the greatest movies ever. More than anything, it’s honest, Annie Hall, it doesn’t feel like a bunch of punch-lines, it feels almost like a drama, except it’s hilarious, and I think that’s what we were going for with (500) Days of Summer. Not a bunch of gags, but that the humour would come from catharsis and identifying with human beings.


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Interview with Alex Reid - August 21, 2009

Promoting: Jetsam
Venue: The Soho Hotel, London
Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): What's Jetsam about and who do you play?

Alex Reid (AR): I play someone called Grace. Basically, it's kind of ambiguous what the film's about. It's kind of about obsession and feeling lost or isolated. It's more of a theme, like that, because basically the film starts in the middle of the story and then goes back again. But I'm kind of tracking a couple because they've stolen something. I have to be careful what I say, but basically they've stolen something and it's a matter of security that I need to get back, but somewhere I kind of get lost and entangled within their relationship and become slightly obsessed with their relationship.

VL: What attracted you to the film and how did you get involved?

AR: I got involved because I met [writer-director Simon Welsford] about another project, which never came to fruition and he approached me at around Christmas time and said he wanted to make a feature film the following year and that he was going to shoot it in 14 days and would I be interested, because he wanted the central character to be female. So I said yes and he went away and wrote the script and as soon as I read it – I thought it was original and also he's so passionate about what he does and I thought it was such a challenge. And it was lovely for me too, because he let me be involved with the casting, so we went to actors that I knew.

VL: Is that how [Descent co-star Shauna MacDonald] got involved then?

AR: Yes and Jamie Draven and Cal Macaninch (pron Mac-in-idge). So we all got thrown together for two weeks.

VL: Was it difficult to play someone with either no memory or an unreliable memory? Did you do any research?

AR: We shot chronologically as much as we could and at the time it wasn't that difficult – it was more about having the trust in Simon to always pull me in or keep me on track, but I think probably because of the way in which we shot it and the timescale in which we shot it, everything was so immediate and I think that actually helped that. Although, every now and again I'd be like, 'I've no idea where I am. Help!'

VL: Do you end up taking characters home with you and find them hard to get rid of afterwards?

AR: Erm, yeah, I think it's a little bit both ways. I think that, as well, there's always a little bit of you within the character, you know, obviously the characters look like you, to a degree, unless you're doing something completely off the wall. But yes, as far as taking them home with you, because you're doing that every day, it probably brings out that side of you more and so, for instance, Grace was very isolated, so yeah, I didn't – I wasn't on the phone a lot, I didn't watch TV or whatever. You do find yourself sat within that mood and I think you take that home with you.

VL: What was the hardest scene to film?

AR: Probably anything to do with the elements, when we were outside. I think there's a scene where [Jamie Draven's character] and I have a face-off and it was at the top of a cliff and the wind was blowing, so technically, things like that and making it heard and getting the depth right. But we were really lucky with the elements on some occasions. We had a flash of lightning that you'd probably pay thousands of pounds for in special effects. I don't know how that happened.

VL: I read a review that said that it was almost as if the weather itself was directed.

AR: We were very lucky. And also the way [cinematographer] Zac Nicholson shot it, it was so beautiful. I couldn't believe it when I first saw it.

VL: How does Simon compare to other directors you've worked with?

AR: I've been very lucky, I think. I always like working with writer-directors. I think it makes a difference, because it's their story and so it's their whole vision and you've got them on hand, whereas if the writer's not there and you want to talk about the script or the character in depth and maybe the director has their own ideas and so on. But I think I've been lucky to do that. And also, smaller budget things are probably my favourite thing to work on for that reason, although obviously I'd like to get paid more! (laughs) But Simon was great for a first-time director. He had a clear vision of what he wanted and he worked very closely with Zac – it wasn't the first time they'd worked together. So between the two of them, for a fourteen day shoot, there was very little stress, everything was dealt with, he's very approachable and there's nothing intimidating about him at all. It was a really, really lovely experience and I'd work with him again in an instant.

VL: Do you have a favourite scene in the film?

AR: I don't think I do. What I really love about watching it – and, weirdly enough, when you're shooting guerilla-style like that, through London - is when you're watching stuff on the tube or at, say Liverpool St station – because you're not supposed to do that, but, anyway, we did – and all the street scenes, we were in Paddington and it just looks really real. Because no matter how many extras and things you have in the background, you never get it looking like that. And so whenever I see anything like that, I think there's a point of following through Liverpool Street station, where it's just like, 'Yeah, that's great'. And also I remember being in a phone box in Paddington with Adam up in Burger King and we're just all trying to co-ordinate via mobile phones - 'Right, go! Now! Now!' (laughs) – and it was, you know, looking back at the time, it was fun. So to see those scenes, I think, were maybe my favourites. It was like a big spy game.

VL: What's your next project?

AR: I've done a film called One Hundred Mornings and I'm briefly in The Descent 2, which is the closing night film at FrightFest and I'm also currently shooting a drama for E4 called Misfits, which is a lot of fun. And with The Descent 2, it's just video-camera footage that they find, but we shot with Neil [Marshall]. He came in specially for the day and did all the video-camera footage, which was really nice.


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Interview with Christoph Waltz for Inglourious Basterds - July 23rd, 2009

Promoting: Inglourious Basterds
Venue: Claridge's Hotel
Interview type: Press conference

ViewLondon (VL): Christoph, it has been said by Tarantino that the role of Hans Landa is the most important in the film, and there was some desperation that, if he couldn't find a suitable actor, he'd cancel the project. What do you think made you right for the role?

Christoph Waltz (CW): Well, every casting process ends with the part being cast. But, desperation? I don't know. When Lawrence tells me, or Quentin tells me, I'm deeply honoured, but I didn't feel any desperation. I found these very polite and civilised and accommodating gentlemen.

VL: Often actors prefer to play villains by latching onto a small redeeming quality in the character. Is that true with your approach to Landa? How could you play such a hideous man?

CW: Well, it's what you say, it's not what I say - because I can't play hideous, how do you play that? I leave my moral judgement in the cloakroom, and I look at it apart from my ethical preoccupations. If you'd asked Heinrich Himmler if he considered himself an evil person, I'm 100 percent certain that he would have not understood the question. Yes, coming from your point of view, I can understand what you're saying. But, from my point of view, I see it differently.

VL: Could you see anything in him that you could respect?

CW: Yes, of course. Apart from this very first thing, and apart from destroying beauty, there is not much that hints at any vicious, violent - he follows a different agenda, and that's part of why this movie and this part is so great, that you're being called upon to employ your moral faculties.

VL: How does Quentin compare as a director to other directors you've worked with?

CW: He doesn't infringe upon your choice. He manages to actually direct in the true sense of the word. He directs you making the right choice. He creates this flow, and that's why the casting was already part of the process. The reading, the actual opening the envelope to take out the script was already the initial point of departure for the flow, and that flow hasn't stopped to this day. And he manages to keep that flow going, and all you need to do is trust. It sounds a bit cliché and even a bit esoteric. But it isn't. It's actually very hands-on. He clears away everything, you know. Michelangelo once said, sculpting is easy, everything that's not the sculpture, you chip away from the block. And that's in a way what Quentin does, and you end up finding yourself being part of the sculpture, without actually knowing how it happens. He directs, he leads, and you only have to follow, and that's the beauty of the process.


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Interview with Diane Kruger for Inglourious Basterds, July 23rd, 2009

Promoting: Inglourious Basterds
Venue: Claridge's Hotel, London
Interview type: Press conference

VL: Diane, when you received the script, at what point did you realise that this was not what it first seemed to be, and it was a more fictitious approach to history?

Diane Kruger (DK): Oh, I think it's pretty clear from the opening page, from 'Once Upon a Time...'. I never expected to see a World War II movie done by Quentin Tarantino that was going to be a classic, sob movie. And, the truth is, being German, as you can possibly imagine, I get offered a World War II movie once a week, which I've never wanted to do, because I never wanted to be associated, just because I was German, with that part of my country's history. And then this came along, and one of the very rare times where you read a script and go 'oh my god, he actually wrote this for me!', only it wasn't true at all. He probably didn't even know I existed at this point. But I really felt like I'd been born to play this part, and I knew it deep in my heart, that if I got the opportunity to meet with him - which took a long time and a lot of convincing - that, he couldn't hire someone else. I made sure, I just really felt like I could bring something to this character.

VL: In the course of a very short amount of screen-time, you are maimed in a shoot-out, tortured by Brad Pitt, and then throttled by a demented Christoph, so could you tell us about being put more through the physical mill than you have been before.

DK: Ah, just another day at work [laughs] Well, I loved it. It's for once, you get a director that loves women for what they can do. All the parts, especially in America, that I've been getting, have been queens or this object that's been put on a pedestal. And, Quentin loves women, they're fierce, they're a lot smarter than anyone else in the movie, quite frankly, and love treating the Basterds like they're complete morons. And so, I didn't find I was being tortured by Brad, I felt like I was taking it like a man, you know. And then the scene with Christoph, was completely terrifying, because he sits here and he looks all nice and sweet, but he has a terrifying look in his eyes at times, and it really threw me off. And a little known fact is, when I actually get strangled, it's actually Quentin, so I guess he wanted to tell me something there! I asked him if I could tell this story, because I wasn't sure if he wanted to, it just says a lot about who he is as a director, I think. [laughs]. No, he's so into it, he's just, he's on set, and he lives every character. He is Landa, and he is Bridget von Hammersmark, and he is Shosanna. More than other directors I've worked with, he's right there, you know. And when I auditioned he played Brad, with the accent and everything.

VL: How does Quentin compare as a director to other directors you've worked with?

DK: Well, I think one of the major differences is that I've never worked with a director who is basically a movie library. So he bombards you with movie references, and characters that he was inspired by, and then lets you make it his own. I must have seen 20 films that he wanted me to see. Women that he was inspired by. And then, you know, he loves to percolate. I actually would say that he was also the most precise director I've worked with, in terms of he's very attached to his writing, especially in English. He makes sure you say every word. Which is new for me, a lot of directors let you go on and, you know, approximate what's written. His writing is a challenge, especially in English, because it's very nuanced and very much between the lines. Every time you read it, you discover something else. And he doesn't let you get away with anything. He’s a director that sits next to cameras, no monitor, there's nobody on set that doesn't need to be on set, there's no video village, there's no safety net. He sits and stares at you, which is very unsettling at first, to me anyway, and he sits over his little headsets. And sometimes we had to break scenes because he was laughing too loud, and he takes such joy from hearing and seeing his characters come to life, that if he sees that you're there, and you're going his way, and you're that character that he wanted to create, he gives you wings, you can go so much further than you think you could.


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Interview with Quentin Tarantino for Inglourious Basterds - July 23rd, 2009

Promoting: Inglourious Basterds
Venue: Claridge's Hotel
Interview type: Press conference

ViewLondon (VL): When you've had a project going on for 10 years, and have moved it from a novel to a miniseries to a film, what is the 'Eureka!' moment, when you realise it's got to be a movie, and it's going to go, after such a stop-start process?

Quentin Tarantino (QT): That's an really good question. One of the things about it was, when I decided to chuck the first storyline that I came up with, which was the one which was turning it into this miniseries idea, as opposed to a movie, and I came up with something that I thought would be more of a movie, which is basically the idea of the Frederick Zoller [Daniel Bruhl] film that becomes a premiere, which becomes about blowing the place up. I was still nervous that I could still make it a movie, so one of the things that I did was, I knew I didn't want it to be any longer than Pulp Fiction and the only way I could do that was to make sure that the script wasn't any longer. And that was something I had really gotten out of the habit of doing, starting from Jackie Brown through Kill Bill, I didn't censor myself at all when it came to writing - 'I'm not writing for the fuckin' production manager! I'm a writer, my shit gets published!' - you know, cut to Kill Bill Volume One and Two! [laughs] You know, I wrote a big novel, now I have to adapt it every day to the screen. So what I did was, I just had the script of Pulp Fiction just right next to me, so as I was writing my story, I'd get maybe 20 pages done, then I'd look at the Pulp Fiction script, and I'd ask so, where was I at page 42? OK, I was at this place, alright, now where am I now? And how much more story do I have to tell? It's the closest I've ever come to policing my work - but it was simply just in an effort so the thing wouldn't become elephantine. Especially since the fact that I knew I was trying to get done in time for Cannes, I knew I wouldn't have all the time in the world, I really did not have the luxury to shoot a bunch of shit I wasn't going to use - even though that happened anyway - but it wasn't going to happen with impunity. But literally, it wasn't until I got into the third act that I realised that, OK, I think this is going to work. It wasn't like I had another hour in front of me, no, I think I can actually wrap this up in a movie form.

VL: How Machiavellian are you about your career? Do you manage or plan what you're going to do next, based on your knowledge of other directors? Or do you just follow the stories you want to tell?

QT: That's a very insightful question, actually. It really, truly is a kinda mix of the two - which I guess is probably what it should be. You know, whatever turns me on to write the film, write the story, is whatever turns me on to write the story. But the thing is, there is an 'Oh, I'm interested in the story, and it excites me, and I want to do it', I am thinking about my career, and I am thinking about, well - fuck the word 'career'! - I'm thinking about my filmography. That's what I'm thinking about, that's the better use, I believe that a film-maker lives or dies by their filmography, and if you muck about too much, then you've just cheapened your entire artistic standing. I admire directors that retire at a certain age, so they don't just cheapen their filmographies with four limp-dick old man movies at the end of it. That was the kinda idea behind, you know, saying [Kill Bill ad slogan] 'The Fourth Film by Quentin Tarantino', you can say that was self-aggrandising - and maybe it is to some degree or another - and I'm not counting them that way any more, but it is very realistic to say. You know, your first movie is your first movie, and there's something very special about that, and your second movie is your second movie. And the fact that Kill Bill was my first movie in six years was a big fuckin' deal! So, I was thinking like that, and I probably will tend to think in terms like that, because I am a student of cinema and I see where directors have gone wrong - at least what I think - where they have gone off the track, or gone off the road - and there isn't that excitement about their work that happened before, and, frankly, I don't want that to happen to me.

VL: What were the films that, while you were making it, inspired Inglourious Basterds?

QT: Yeah, there weren't any really specific movies themselves that I drew inspiration from. It was more genres and sub-genres, or spirits of films that were inspiring to me. What was interesting to me, though, was, what was inspiring to me at the beginning became quite passe, and what I took true inspiration from was something I wouldn't have thought about - not stylistic inspiration, just inspiration. Like, for instance, when I first sat down, to write the film, I was thinking in terms of a bunch of guys on a mission genre, so the touchstones - all the films I talked about before I never even wrote the effin' thing, Where Eagles Dare, Dirty Dozen, The Devil's Brigade, Dark Of The Sun, movies like that, and I still love them, especially Dark Of The Sun, and that's why Rod Taylor's in the movie. But having said that, what I found so inspirational while I was doing the movie was watching a lot of the movies made in the 40s. People disparagingly call them American Propaganda movies, and I don't like that term, because I really like those movies - now, most of them are actually done by foreign directors, who are now living in Hollywood because they couldn't live in their own countries, because the Nazis had occupied them. And in that case you're talking about Jean Renoir with This Land Is Mine; you're talking about Fritz Lang with Man Hunt and Hangman Also Die!; you're talking about Jules Dassin with Nazi Agent and A Reunion In France; you're talking about Douglas Sirk with Hitler's Madman; and, one of my favourites, that I discovered, that I honestly hadn't heard of before, is a Russian director working out of France by the name of Leonide Moguy, who did Action In Arabia and a movie called Paris After Dark about the French Underground - and, uh, also something interesting about these movies is almost all of them star George Sanders. And the thing that was very interesting to me, was, these are movies made exactly at the time of World War II, when the Nazis weren't this theoretical, evil boogieman from the past, but was actually a threat, this was actually going on on planet Earth. And not only that, these directors, many of them had personal experience with the Nazis, and I'm sure all of them, now living in exile - I mean, can you imagine a world where Jean Renoir can't live in France? These directors actually, all of them, had people that they were concerned about back in their home countries. Yet, these movies are entertaining - they can be thrilling, they're exciting! Many of them have quite, quite amounts of humour in them. In particular, something like To Be Or Not To Be, by Ernst Lubitsch. So, the thing is, they're so literate, the dialogue in these movies is just so fantastic - and, any movie starring George Sanders is going to have great dialogue, because he's great. So, these were the movies that I got a tremendous amount of inspiration from - not that I did anything stylistically that was like them, I didn't shoot it in black and white, I didn't try to recreate them. I might be inspired by maybe their sense of set design, because that was kinda the way that I was going to go, was build sets. But, there's nothing stylistically that you could link my movie with theirs, apart from hopefully entertainment value, but those were the ones that I found myself very inspired by. Now, one other thing I would say in that regard, is, I've always been a big fan of German cinema of the 20s, but I ended up going overboard and falling - not overboard, but I fell truly in love with it - and I had the idea of doing a silent chapter, like a Pabst-style thing. Well, I got over that, I thought that was just too reflective, and I shouldn't do something like that, but I had a fun enough time exploring the idea. [laughs]

VL: The last line of the movie refers to Lt. Aldo Raine's [Brad Pitt] masterpiece [carving swastikas into Nazis' foreheads] - would you consider this film to be your masterpiece?

QT: Well, I didn't have that line until it came time to write that line. So, when I was writing that scene, that was the line that he said. So, yes, it was definitely the last line in the script - it was the last line that I wrote in the script. Not to be coy, it's not for me to say - it's not for the chicken to speak of his own soup. And, if I were to have that opinion, then that opinion would not be valid until at least three years from now, when I look back on it. But, I do believe that Aldo does believe, that where all of his engravings are concerned, this may be his finest.


Q: Hitler meets quite a grisly end in the film - when did you decide that you'd kill Hitler?

Literally, it wasn't until I was pretty much up against it - just heading into the climax of the piece. I had no intention of doing that before. This is the way I write: you're writing a scenario, and as you're writing a scenario, there are different roads available to you as you're writing that the characters could go to and in particular screenwriters would have the habit of putting up roadblocks against some of those roads because, basically, they can't afford to have their characters go down there, because they think they're writing a movie, or they're trying to sell a script or something like that. And I've never put that kind of imposition on my characters - wherever they go, I follow. Now, when it came to writing this movie, naturally, I came across some of those roadblocks. And one of them was history itself. And I was more or less prepared to honour that. Until I came up actually against it. And I go, 'no, I refuse!'. I've never done that before, and now is not the time to start. And what I mean by that is this, I just thought that my characters don't know they're part of history - history has not been written yet. They don't know that there's things that they can and can't do. There's no can and can't, there's only action and reaction. People have asked me questions like, is this movie a fairytale. Well, the first thing I wrote was 'Chapter One: Once Upon a Time in Nazi-Occupied France'. So people have then said, 'Oh, so does that mean it's a fairytale?'. Well, you know, if you want to look at it that way, then feel free to look at it that way, and I think the movie works quite well in that regard. I personally do not look at it that way. The way I look at it is this - my characters change the course of history. Now, that didn't happen, because my characters didn't exist, but if they had have existed, then everything that happens is actually quite plausible.


VL: When did you decide to include a film critic character in your film, and did you take any pleasure in killing him off?

QT: Not at all! I don't have any bone to pick with critics. In fact, if I wasn't a filmmaker, I'd probably be a critic - in fact, most of my bone is I'd be a better film critic than most of the film critics I read. And talk about there's never a time to kick a dog when it's down, I never thought that some of the critics I'd grown up admiring and reading would be going the way of the dodo bird. I think it's a very sad time for film criticism, what's going on for them now. But [Michael Fassbender's character] isn't just a weird flight of fancy, I vaguely based the idea on Graham Greene, who was a film critic and was also a commando in World War II.

VL: Which parts of the film are you most proud of, having thought about and lived with these ideas for so long?


QT: I'll boil it down to the two match-heads. That would be the opening sequence, the opening chapter, that was everything I could have ever hoped it would be. And that's a three-way collaboration, because, yeah I definitely did my job when I wrote it but, it never would have been what it is without Christoph Waltz and Denis Menochet, they were just, it's impeccable. The other moment in the movie that I'm probably the most cinematically satisfied, where it's exactly the way it was in my head, and I almost can't believe that it got nailed to such a degree was the sequence in the projection booth, between Shosanna [Melanie Laurent] and Frederick, the music, the slow motion, the effect of the camera coming up and seeing this almost twisted Romeo And Juliet tableau on the floor, as the film reel continues to go on and they manage to still be alive, even though we see they're dead and they live on in film, I... - I'm sorry, I don't mean to get enraptured in my own fucking work, but [laughs]... That is the moment that I go 'Oh my god!'.

VL: Regarding the soundtrack, how early did the song choices come to you, and how do you choose what you use in your films?

QT: Well, music is very very important in my movies, and it kind of happens in a three way stage. In some ways, the most important stage, whether it ends up being in the movie or not, one of the most important stages is just when I come up with the idea itself - before I've even started writing - I go into my record room, I have a big vinyl collection, and I have a room set up like a used records store, and I just dive into my music, whether it be rock music, or lyric music, or my soundtrack collection. And I'm looking for the spirit of the movie, I'm looking for the beat that the movie will play with. And part of that is, I'm trying to immediately jump to the screening process, in a way, because when I find the right piece of music, with the right cinematic set piece - and it's usually big shit, the big stuff, like the opening credits or some set piece - I can actually just visualise myself sitting in a movie theatre, and watching it on a screen. And the images are provided by my imagination, and the music is right there, and I'm cranking it. And all through the writing process, I'm always going back there to reinvigorate myself, or to remind myself what it is I'm doing, and keep remembering that it's not just words on the page, because I'm a very precious writer, I can get a little caught up in that - remind myself that I am making a movie. And that process continues to go on during the shooting - and that's the second wave. And the third wave is when I'm editing, and sometimes there's a big moment or something that I've had in my mind forever. Well now it's just - ehh! - it's just not right when you put it up against the images. And so you find something else, 'oh my god that's so wonderful, I can't believe I was ever in love with that other thing!'. But what's interesting about doing it in the editing process, is it's less about the big moments, and now I'm thinking more minutiae, now it's more the smaller moments that need a little musical accompaniment, and that becomes really fun, is looking for these little small moments, and these small cues from some obscure soundtrack.


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Interview with Nitin Ganatra - June 22nd, 2009

Promoting: Mad, Sad & Bad
Venue: 13/1 Cornwall St, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Film Festival
Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): What's Mad, Sad & Bad about and who do you play?

Nitin Ganatra (NG): I play Atul, who's a writer, a sitcom writer that's suffering from a dignity crisis. That's the first time I've ever said that, that's actually great, he's in dignity crisis and he's decided that – the catalyst is having a crush on his best friend's wife and trying to get into bed with her and then finding out that she's shagging his boss has left him kind of challenging his own dignity, so he wants to give up writing crappy sitcoms and go into something more noble like writing an opera.

VL: About cheese?

NG: About cheese. And he gets to fulfil that desire. So Mad, Bad & Sad is about dysfunctional characters generally. I know [writer-director] Avie's an academic and a shrink and is very highbrow in his way of looking at things but basically it's the Three Billy Goats Gruff and they're crossing the bridge to get to the greener grass. It's a fable about people wanting their lives to be better. But it's about looking for that and discovering what that is. Heh. He's going to be so pissed off that I said that. But really, he's just ripped off Three Billy Goats Gruff (laughs). And it just happens to be centred around an Asian family because that's Avie's point of contact. A lot of these characters are based on – he's a prolific writer so a lot of them are his psyche. I mean, playing the writer in a movie where your director has written it, you just have to watch him a little bit. You start observing things about him and then you realise, 'Oh God, I am playing him'. Because he's a manipulator – Atul – I play a manipulator who's always got his own agenda and of course a writer-director has got to be a manipulator. So the whole thing, maybe because it's set around an Asian family, because it's a family and because it's dysfunctional, is what's making the whole thing quite universal.

VL: Was the cheese song a large part of what attracted you to the script or was there something else?

NG: The cheese song is one of those things where you – I can't play guitar and I can't dance and I can't sing and yet I'm doing all of those in the film. And being asked to improvise them as well. So imagine, you learn a few chords and I was improvising this cheese song and it was getting quite rude. And I think because of copyright, Avie was actually quite clever and said, 'Actually, I don't want you to improvise, I'll give you some lyrics' and wrote them. Which is a very crafty thing to do, just in case I get some money. But improvising a cheese song is not an easy thing, especially if you can't play or sing.

VL: Did you draw on Flight of the Conchords?

NG: (laughs) I wish I had, actually, but mine's certainly not as good as that. But yeah, it's quite a nice quirky thing. Having seen the film, I think it could have been a bigger number, the whole cheese opera – it would have been nice to have really made it an opera. Had it gone that way, I think it would have been spectacular.

VL: Was there anything cut out that you really hated to lose?

NG: Yeah, there was lots of stuff, mainly to do with me (laughs). There was a scene – it's only because it sticks with me slightly because there were some plot devices that were set up. I don't play squash either, but there was a whole squash court scene with Tony Gardner, who I think is the gem of the film. I think he's impeccable in his timing and I really enjoyed working with him. Anyway, we did a whole squash court scene where we set up stuff like 'You should meet the wife, Roxy' and Atul goes, 'Oh, I don't think so' and it's kind of like, 'Well what's your problem?' and stuff like that. So for me there's a kind of editorial, a plot line thing and as an actor, you play that plot line and then you find that then I don't get it, why I'm suddenly behaving like that.

VL: Do you have a favourite scene in the film?

NG: I love watching Tony and what he does on screen. The way he sets up – the funniest moment is during the burial, where he talks about the make-up and what he does. And his timing, it's very underplayed but so typically English. That gave me a big laugh and I think I enjoyed working with Ayesha (Dharker) a lot. There's a scene with Ayesher and I where we were really just bouncing off each other. Actors, we all have to kind of negotiate each other's egos all the time and everyone's different methods. And everyone's got different ways of approaching their work. Some people can take up a lot of time on set and then produce something that doesn't really warrant taking that much time. If it means taking an hour talking about how to walk across the room, you just kind of go [makes a face]. I'm of the school that you don't waste people's time on the day, you do your homework. And also you get some actors that give to a scene, some actors take away from a scene, they suck the life out of you, whereas Ayesha, there was a scene with Ayesha and I where she comes round and I describe what happens in this opera and the timing was working beautifully and Ayesha was catching that ball and throwing it back and we could overlap and we could play – but still keeping to the script, you know – and that, to me, is one of those moments when you do a job where you kind of go, 'I remember that', I remember that giving, in a film, where you really are bouncing off each other and that's one of my most memorable moments of the whole shoot, other than Tony.

VL: You were briefly in Shifty. Do you have any other film projects coming up, EastEnders schedule permitting?

NG: Well, Shifty was before I was on EastEnders, so after that, I joined EastEnders and then did Mad, Sad & Bad and then I did a show called Mumbai Calling, which is on at the moment. But no, I'm writing now. I've got another couple of projects that I've pitched and treatments that I'm writing so fingers crossed.


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Interview with Andrea Riseborough - June 22nd, 2009

Promoting: Mad, Sad & Bad
Venue: 13/1 Cornwall St, Edinburgh, Edinburgh Film Festival
Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon (VL): What's the film about and who do you play?

Andrea Riseborough (AR): I play a manic depressive, Shoreditch-type clay sculptor. I'm not sure that's a very good description but Julia is a very fragile, very loving, very naturally artistic soul who happens to be in a relationship with a guy who – they're like yin and yang and I think when you watch the film you think 'How did these two get together?' and one of the things that attracted me to the project was that very fact, because so rarely is it depicted on film how extraordinary couples can be.

VL: Were there any other elements that attracted you to the film and how did you get involved?

AR: Firstly what I was saying before about their relationship being so unique. But I suppose what attracted me to it initially was just reading it and then closing it and thinking 'That is a lovely film'. You know, like, it's incredibly uplifting. It's quite an extraordinary thing because I don't really know where to – what I like about it is that you can't really pigeon-hole it. It's this real independent film but it's like super-uplifting. And it's also really accessible – in a brilliant way, it's accessible to a big audience, but you also can't pin it down.

VL: Was the part written for you?

AR: No, no, no. It was already written and then I think [writer-director] Avie was just really open to finding out who this Julia would be and then I went and met him, we talked about it, we did a bit of work and he offered me the part. And she really grew, or rather, we excavated what he'd already laid down, just as much as possible, to see exactly where all of that came from. And I really liked the fact that Avie wasn't scared to take Julia to this other place. We met so well, I think, in terms of how we perceived Julia. After, we went through a series of improvisations which we did through psychoanalysis, because he's a psychiatrist, so he put us all in therapy as our characters, which was brilliant and then we had group sessions and couple guidance sessions.

VL: What was Avie like as a director?

AR: My relationship with Avie throughout the shoot – and beforehand, in pre-production, when we were improvising – was such a great one. I felt thoroughly supported by him and challenged, you know. Because he has a very good way of noting you, you know, giving you notes, because he's a psychiatrist. So he kind of just cuts to the bone.

VL: Were there any scenes that were cut that you hated to lose?

AR: When you make a film, there are always so many scenes that you do and then they might not get in. Originally, my character ended up with Zubin's character. Or there was a spark, some kind of strange spark, like this repulsion, but ... So there were scenes that we shot, but they didn't work. It works much better this way. But Zubin and I found it hard to let go of this, because we were like, 'But that's what happens!' It's like when you say goodbye to a character - and you don't generally get much time to do it at all because you're straight into the fray with the next thing – and you have to be very good at letting someone very close to your heart just completely go. And you leave them in a certain place and then I saw Zubin somewhere and he was like, 'You know we don't get together in the end?' and we were both like, 'Oh my God!'. Even though we'd finished the film - and actually, in terms of the film, all we want is what's best for the film and we completely trust Avie – it was a strange thing to find out because you just think that that's what's happened to that character and you kind of play out their post-film fantasy in your mind a bit. So we had to reassess our post-film fantasy, but that's fine.

VL: Speaking of the post-film fantasy, how attached do you get to your characters generally?

AR: Like I said, I think you have to really be good at putting them down. I would never say disposing of them, because I think that would be too harsh. And impossible, because so much of yourself is in them – you are essentially your own tool. But there are certain times where I've wanted to have some sort of like mass exorcism, where we all burn them on something like, I don't know, Hampstead Heath, and all the possessions they had and all the thoughts they had. But other times you can learn so much from them. I know it's strange, because I'm talking about them like they're real, but they're so real to you. Some of my characters have introduced me to different things that I never thought that I would like. I've found sympathy or empathy in things that before were completely alien to me.

VL: Like Thatcher? [Andrea played Margaret Thatcher in The Long Road to Finchley]

AR: (laughs) Or I've made a journey to somewhere else in my mind that I would just never have got the chance to go on had I not been an actor. Because it's very specific, particularly being an actor, that you read something and then you become so – it's such second nature to you, to go there, emotionally, to completely surround yourself with it and your mind instantly makes a picture, you know?

VL: Did you take pottery classes and stuff for preparation?

AR: Oh, my flatmate was just at her wit's end – there was clay everywhere. There was clay in the tea, there was clay on the kitchen table, there was clay in the living room. She'd be taking a book out of the library and she'd be like, 'There's clay in the book', I'm like, 'I'm really sorry!' And then I made this little succession of little creatures, clay creatures, that I then proceeded to -when I needed some anger or whatever- these lovingly crafted creatures that I'd then smash up on set with a mallet. But also, with Julia, a lot of music was very helpful, especially the Velvet Underground. And Tracey Emin's Strange Land was a really, really useful book. It changed so many things in my life, that book. It really helped me with the character.

VL: What's your next project?

AR: My next project that I'm doing currently, doesn't have an official name. It's called We Want Sex but it's also called Dagenham Girls. It's me, Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, Bob Hoskins, Rosamund Pike, John Sessions and Danny Mays. And it's about the 1968 petitions for equal pay at the Ford Dagenham factory.


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Interview with Joel Hopkins, director of Last Chance Harvey - May 26th, 2009

Promoting: Last Chance Harvey
Venue: BAFTA, Piccadilly
Interview type: One-on-one

ViewLondon: It's been six years since your wonderful debut feature, Jump Tomorrow. What have you been doing in the meantime?

Joel Hopkins (JH): I've been trying to get films made, really. Jump Tomorrow did quite well in terms of getting me out there and if anything it did too well in that I got quite a lot of attention and was sent scripts and didn't know what I wanted to do. And then a couple of projects I was attached to, the financing didn't come together, so just in development on projects that didn't quite happen and before you know it, six years have gone by! But I also write, so my bread and butter is that – I've been doing an adaptation of a children's book (The Big Bazoohley, by Peter Carey) for someone and also script work, drafts and rewrites. But all the while, on two levels, one, trying to present myself as a director on someone else's script and two, just trying to write my own thing. And then finally it sort of gelled.

VL: What's Last Chance Harvey about?

JH: Well, the pat answer is that it's never too late to find love. It's a character driven piece and it's these two characters who are very different in some ways but they both, for whatever reason, are at a particular place in their lives where they're kind of stuck and they can't connect with people. And they accidentally collide one weekend and unwittingly provide what the other person needs, in a way.

VL: Where did the idea for the film come from?

JH: It's character driven, so it's basically about finding the characters. When you're creating these things it's very unromantic, the way you construct it. I had an “in” with Emma – I went up for the job of directing Nanny McPhee, which I didn't get, I came second, apparently. But Emma saw Jump Tomorrow and really liked it, so she took a meeting with me and said, you know, 'I'd love us to work together' and I sort of went away thinking, you know, that doesn't happen every day, I should do something with that. So I literally sat down and thought, okay, Emma Thompson, a character that she could play, boom. So I came up with the Kate character and then, okay, love story. And initially, I'd been working on another script with a Japanese character in it, so I thought, 'Okay, I'll just take him from that script and use him here', but it very quickly became about not being able to understand each other and it was a different sort of movie. And I'd been living in America for 12 years, so the whole American thing was a big part of my life and I thought, no, what am I doing, he should be an American. And then suddenly, with the shared language but these lovely nuances, these differences we have, you could have fun with that, so that was the next big key to the puzzle.

VL: At what point did Dustin Hoffman get involved?

JH: Pretty early on. I wrote a ten-page treatment and what I'm very proud of is that the structure of the film from the ten-page treatment is there in the final film. I write treatments that are quite sophisticated. I'm not one of these writers who can start writing and then see where it goes, you know? I have to know exactly what happens, because when I do get stuck on a scene, like I said, I can just write through it, hop over it onto the scene that I'm excited about writing, but I can keep going. Anyway, I wrote a ten-page treatment that I sent to Emma and I think I was hoping that she was going to turn around and say “Joel, I love it, let's write it together”, but she didn't, she said, “This sounds really interesting, I can't wait to read the first draft.” So I then went away and a couple of years went past for whatever reason, other projects, blah blah blah and then I finally saw Emma and Dustin in Stranger Than Fiction and I emailed Emma the next day saying “Remember me, I've still got that project” and she was like, “Yes, of course”, but I knew from the tone of her email, like, okay, I've got to deliver something this time. Anyway, in that email, I said, “What about Dustin for Harvey?” and she said “Brilliant idea, I know him” and so I then wrote the first draft and I sent it to Emma and she sent it on to Dustin so they got on board pretty immediately. So from the actual idea there was a big sort of gap but then when I actually wrote the first draft it all happened quite quickly.

VL: Did you cut anything out that you hated to lose?

JH: Yes. We had a more elongated third act that I had to cut down, basically, the classic sort of 'Okay, let's wrap this up' note. And there were a couple of lovely scenes there that added detail that I would have loved to have kept but in the bigger picture they didn't work.

VL: Do you have a next project lined up?

JH: I don't yet, no. I'm reading scripts as a director and then I'm writing something but it's in the very early stages.

VL: How did you come to use [musicians] Kitty, Daisy and Lewis?

JH: Oh, my music supervisor turned me on to them and they're fantastic. And they drive around in this family hearse they've got with their gear in the back and everything. They're wonderful.

VL: What's Tunde Adebimpe [star of Jump Tomorrow] up to?

JH: Well, on the acting front, he was recently the groom in Rachel Getting Married. But his music career has really taken off - he's in this band called TV On The Radio and they're on their third album, they're huge in the States. David Bowie did backing vocals on one of their songs, he loves them. And I went to a gig here in London and I thought I'd better go and support my friend Tunde, you know, his little band sort of thing and I got there and it was packed to the rafters and they were all shouting “TUNDE! TUNDE!” and I got really possessive and was like, “You don't know him like I do!”

VL: Dustin and Emma have really great chemistry. Were you surprised at how strong the chemistry was between them?

JH: No, I mean, I got an inkling of it in Stranger Than Fiction, I thought they had a nice feel together. I always felt, you know they're obviously physically very different and that for me was part of the attraction but also, in terms of their type, like when they do comedy, I always feel there's a slight tinge of sadness in their comedy and when they do serious stuff or pathos, I always feel there's a bit of playfulness in there, so for me they share this duality or whatever. On paper you think they're very different but actually, if you imagine the marquee, you think, 'Oh yeah, Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson, that's interesting' and that's been the response I've had when pitching it to people.

VL: It's quite unusual to see a romantic comedy about middle-aged people. Was that part of the appeal of making it?

JH: I think so. I mean, as I said, the genesis or whatever was very mundane, I've got a connection with Emma, let's find something for Emma and Emma is the age she is. But I never sat down and thought, 'Okay, I want to do the romantic comedy for older people' sort of thing. I mean, to be honest, as a writer, older people are so much more interesting to write and they're also a lot easier to write. They've got literally more baggage, they've seen more, they've put up more defences. If the story's about two people coming together and peeling back those layers then older people are just more interesting. I keep getting sent scripts right now, because I've made a romance, I'm getting sent a load of romantic comedy scripts from L.A. and they're all about 20-something girls who are panicking, they're not married yet and they're having this sort of crisis and there's all these people in their late 20s having mid-life crises and I just can't bring myself to sort of worry and care about them. I mean, you know, come on, you're in your late 20s, relax!

VL: Film reviewers often complain about London continuity errors, such as characters walking over Embankment bridge and then there's a cut to them walking towards Embankment bridge on the South Bank. There's a lot of this in your film, so would you like this opportunity to defend that?

JL: (laughs) Well, I'm not making this film just for Londoners and that's the least of my offences in this movie. The one I'm going to get called on and the one I'll defend – the montage of them walking where they start off in Paddington and they end up on the South Bank, I did have a shot where they get on the tube and they come up at Piccadilly Circus, so that was the rationale in my head – they get off at Piccadilly, walk through Trafalgar Square, go down to Embankment and cross over. But I'm not doing my job on other levels if people are complaining about that. I'm asking people to go on a bit of a journey and if they are sitting there going, 'They're going the wrong way!' then something else is not working. The film is riddled with things like that and I'm sure it will distract some people and I'll lose them.

VL: Have you seen any films recently that have inspired you in any way?

JH: I have to say, the last film I saw was Anvil, the documentary. I saw it on the plane and it had me in absolute tears, I was completely moved by it. So I would say Anvil.

VL: Have you considered making documentaries?

JH: I'd love to, yeah. I made one at college as a second year project, we had to make a documentary. There's nothing more emotional than the truth, in a way.

VL: A documentary about Kitty, Daisy and Lewis, may I suggest?

JH: (laughs) There you go. Maybe. They're such an extraordinary group.