Archive for Interviews

Interviews: MATT DAMON (Bryan Woodman) Q&A

QUESTION: This is not an easy film for the audience. Does the complexity come through in the process of making the film?

MATT DAMON: Yeah. It’s a pretty complicated topic. We all did a lot of reading. [Stephen] Gaghan had a pretty good-sized reading list. He sent me like 12 books and I read some of them. I did my best.

Q: What kind of books did he send you?

MATT DAMON: Well, I read both of Bob Baer’s books, which are terrific, by the way. I highly recommend anybody out there going and picking them up. He’s just a really fascinating guy; really smart, really dedicated guy. And everything from books on oil, like the book The Prize, and one of Tom Freedman’s books, From Beirut to Jerusalem. They’re basically a syllabus for all of his actors. So, I worked my way through that. Maybe there are actors who can just show up and say lines and not have any idea what they’re talking about, but I’m not one of them. I have to be somewhat grounded in what I’m talking about. But, having said that, they had a couple of these oil guys there who were trying to explain to me the derivatives. I’m totally lost when these guys are talking. It really is complex stuff.

Q: How much did you know about derivatives beforehand?

MATT DAMON: I knew absolutely nothing. No. I would sit there and I would talk to these guys and we were talking about mergers and deals that I think anybody can relate to. So, if you just make emotional sense of that in your mind, then the minutia of what you’re talking about can be Greek.

Q: Talk about the emotional stuff your character is going through.

MATT DAMON: That’s the real part of my role that is important to the movie as a whole, the balance of the movie. You’ve got four storylines going. Mine is the most emotional from the outset because of what happens. So, in that sense, it’s the least complicated of the four stories. It’s very easy for an audience to follow what’s going on with the Bryan Woodman story because it’s this big visceral occurrence at the beginning of it. So, that was my job in this one – to try and make that stuff be believable. One of the things I really liked about it is Gaghan is not reductive with his characters. It’s not that the guy is just ambitious. All the characters are pretty complex, are human. They’re various shades of gray.

Q: What were your impressions of how the people thought of you being there? Did you come to respect that community a little more?

MATT DAMON: What, in Dubai? Everyone was very nice. Dubai is a pretty popular tourist destination, certainly for a lot of Europeans; lesser for Americans. But I wouldn’t say that I gained insight into the Middle East. Dubai is very different from other parts of the Middle East. It wasn’t like we were shooting in Saudi Arabia, Syria or Jordan. We stayed in a very nice hotel right on the Persian Gulf, and it didn’t feel like a cultural trip, necessarily. It felt like we were shooting 12 hours a day, and eating and sleeping and getting up and shooting again. It didn’t feel like a cultural exchange program or anything like that.

Q: Do you have any insight into what’s going to happen over there?

MATT DAMON: That’s a very good question. Bob’s second book is all about Saudi Arabia and it’s really interesting. He talks about it as this giant welfare state that’s about to collapse. It’s really on the verge of collapsing. The families keep growing and the oil’s running out; it’s going to collapse. Meanwhile, they’re funding a lot of these fundamentalist colleges. So, these guys are coming out of these colleges with no possible job opportunities but having this hard-line philosophy. It’s like a doomsday scenario over there. The way Bob talks about it, he doesn’t make it seem too complicated.

Q: In this movie, did you get a sense of what it’s like to choose your job above your family and everything else?

MATT DAMON: I don’t know that what I’m doing is necessarily just. He’s pretty ambitious, and he is trading on his son’s death. So, I wouldn’t say he’s doing something that’s totally noble. But, yeah, I do understand people who choose that. I met a lot of them – Bob, or guys like the technical adviser in this other movie I’m doing [The Good Shepherd], who put in 30 years at the CIA. They make huge sacrifices.

Q: How did you like playing a family man?

MATT DAMON: I liked it. I had fun. I really like the little boy, Nick. I hung out with him a lot, and he was a real cool kid.

Q: Are you part of the celebrity crusade against gas-guzzling cars? Do you drive a hybrid?

MATT DAMON: I do drive a hybrid, but I wouldn’t say I’m part of any crusade. Nobody called me that there was a crusade on. I just do it for my own personal reasons.

Q: Which are?

MATT DAMON: Well, I don’t have a car in New York. But we just got a place in Florida, so we got a car there, and it’s a hybrid. You don’t need all that car under you. I don’t need a Suburban to drive myself around. It just seems to make common sense to me. My father drives one; my brother drives one. Why would you ever drive a regular car? There’s no reason to. These cars are just as good; they just use less gas. So, I don’t understand why everyone isn’t driving them.

Q: I saw your character as an ambitious guy who decides to be the reformer and take an emotional interest in the development of this country. How did you come about this?

MATT DAMON: Well, with the death of his son, it’s like there’s this streak of nihilism that’s running through him, where he’s just like, “Fuck it.” He gets humiliated when he goes to pitch and he doesn’t even get into the room. So, now this guy says, ‘I’ll give you this field; one of these fields are about to open up.’ He is professionally a little better and personally pissed off and self-destructive enough to be able to make a suggestion like that. Plus, it’s not a bad idea to hook up with existing and run the oil overland rather than sail it all the way around Africa. It’s a good idea. And it’s kind of one of those common sense ideas, according to them, that is radical, but it makes total sense. Anybody who knows the ins and outs of it goes, ‘Yeah, well, that would be really smart, but it would cut all these people out of the pie.’ So, it never really gets suggested.

Q: Your character essentially gets involved in a coup.

MATT DAMON: Right. These two characters – one is this reformer and idealist, and the other one’s this nihilist who has had this personal tragedy – they just collide at the right or wrong time, depending on what your opinion is, and it goes from there.

Q: Do you come away from this politically more aware?

MATT DAMON: I know a little bit more about it. I’ve read a few more books than I’d read. I met some people that really do this for a living, and were really interesting to listen to, so there is a change. But the movie was made really to spark conversations. I know you guys have to be here and have to ask the questions. But hopefully, if people go see the movie, it’s the type of movie that they’ll go with someone and grab a drink afterwards and talk it through. It’s not meant to give you answers. It’s not like there’s a, ‘ta-dah! Here’s the solution.’

Q: What did you and George do when you were not shooting? Was there a nightlife in Dubai? Did you hang out?

MATT DAMON: No, no, no. He had put on all that weight, and he was really depressed. Did you guys see Super Size Me? The guy puts all the weight on but he gets depressed. And George was like that, because he’s a really active guy and he couldn’t move around. He had to just sit there, and I had never seen him like that before. He’s normally like the life of the party, but he was just really depressed. He also had his neck problem, so he was immobile and a little angry. But, coming out of it, he literally wrote and directed Good Night and Good Luck, and edited it and put it out. It was like he had so much drive coming off that experience because he was made to sit still for four months or so.

Q: Would you ever envision yourself working in the government in any way, shape, or form?

MATT DAMON: Yeah, yeah.

Q: Doing what?

MATT DAMON: Oh, I don’t know. There are so many different jobs that it’s like, ‘what other job would you like?’ I would never say that I’d be in the military, but my roommate from college had a job. He was in Special Forces, and he went to Bosnia and was hunting war criminals. I thought that was a pretty great job. He really would come out of there with these guys, and we’d take them over to the Hague, and I thought that was a pretty noble thing to do. So, I think there are some good jobs in the government.

Q: What do you think the reaction will be from audiences to this movie?

MATT DAMON: My hope is that people will really like it; people have been missing movies like that. There’s a lot of pressure on people who make movies to not make them confusing because you have two hours to tell a story, and the story costs x amount of dollars, and you want the maximum number of people to see it. The problem with that is that you get movies that are just so stupid that audiences don’t like them. I think people want the discourse to be elevated a little bit, to be a little more challenging with your subject matter, and with your characters, and not reductive about them. Look, it’s hard to read people in real life. I don’t know what you’re thinking right now. But a movie is going to tell you that I’m supposed to know exactly everything about you when you walk onscreen and open your mouth? I personally don’t think that’s that interesting. So, when you can make a movie that is a conversation-starter, I hope that the reaction will be like, ‘Thank God, we’ve been waiting for this.’

Q: It seems like you want to avoid the celebrity crusades.

MATT DAMON: Not at all. I don’t look to avoid it. The climate’s changing little bit now. People are starting to catch on. But, before, they were really good at characterizing anybody who spoke out, and cutting the legs out from under their argument. They’re pretty incredible. When you can make George Bush seem like the war hero and John Kerry like the draft dodger, it’s like: how did they do that? You know what I mean? But, no. I just want to say it right when I say it. I think that’s a mistake. People run their mouth off a little too much sometimes.

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Interviews: GEORGE CLOONEY (Bob Barnes) Q&A

QUESTION: Why was the time right for you to make this film?

GEORGE CLOONEY: Well, it was an interesting time. When we decided to do it – it was a couple years ago, or three years ago, really – it was even a tougher time, if you remember, politically. Anybody who talked about anything, raised any questions at all, was framed as unpatriotic at that point. So, I thought it was fairly brave of the studio to be willing to jump onboard and take on some of the subject matter. When you see the film, it’s not an attack on the administration at all. It is certainly questioning 30 or 40 or 50 years of flawed policies in the Middle East, which I think everyone agrees with. Most of the conservatives who have seen the film agree with it. Most of the Liberals agree with it. So, to me, it wasn’t that. I felt we were fairly safe in taking on the subject matter. My job was to know as much as I could so I wouldn’t marginalize the piece. But I’m not the writer or the director. I spent a lot of time with Bob Baer – really interesting guy. For him, it was much more about the disenchantment of how little he was needed anymore. After the Berlin Wall came down, the decision was made by several administrations, including the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, which was: surveillance equipment would take care of it; you don’t need people who speak Arabic or Farsi. What you realize, of course, is that it would have been very helpful to have those people. We look at the problems with some of the evidence that led us into other places. It would have helped to have people in there speaking those languages. He’s very disenchanted with all of that. You guys have all seen him out speaking before, so that’s not something new.

Q: What was the morale of the people there towards you? What was it like shooting this during the high holy holidays?

GEORGE CLOONEY: Interesting. It’s an interesting thing to be shooting in Morocco and Dubai during Ramadan. And the Emir had just died, who, in Dubai, was basically the man who made Dubai what it is. He was about 100 years old. So, there was a huge funeral, and Mubarak and everybody showed up at our hotel. You think I had security guards – we look like the Mickey Mouse Club with these guys showing up. So, it was an interesting time to be there because you can’t eat during the day, and you have to play by their rules, which is a good thing. It’s a nice thing to do. But it’s very hot, and it’s a very different world. I was concerned with the idea that they wouldn’t understand what we were doing, that they would think that we were making a movie where it’s just black and white, bad guys, terrorists, because, as you guys know, we’re not the most popular country overseas. We were concerned with the idea that they didn’t think we were just flat out trying to characterize them as the evildoers. But I don’t know how you can translate that very well. If you have 400 extras who were all Muslims and a lot of them Islamic fundamentalists that are there with you, working side-by-side with you, I’m not quite sure if they ever understood that or not. They may when they see the film.

Q: What was it like learning fluent Arabic for this movie?

GEORGE CLOONEY: Brutal. Well, I don’t know if any of you can speak any of those languages. I had a roommate in college who was Iranian, so I understood and could speak a little bit of Farsi, which helped. There are some similarities, so it helped with the accent. But there are no Latin derivatives. So, it was a tricky thing to do. You learned it phonetically. You just did it over and over. I did it for two months, just to do those few paragraphs. I wake up in the middle of the night going (speaks Farsi) just because you had to learn it that way.

Q: And what did you just say?

GEORGE CLOONEY: I said “Hello.” (speaks Farsi)

Q: Do you think that the film is doing things that journalism ought to be doing? Is that the place of a film to expose these things?

GEORGE CLOONEY: Well, no. I think the difference between journalism and film is that I don’t think films are designed to provide answers. I think films are designed to ask questions. I think journalism is designed to ask questions to get answers. We’re actually just asking questions and sparking debate. That’s what we tried to do with Good Night, and Good Luck and it’s the same thing with this. For me, my job was to understand what Bob was doing as a producer of the film, to be well enough informed on the subject to understand the plot lines and what we were trying to tell. For Good Night, and Good Luck, I double-sourced every scene, because I owed it to the people whose story I was telling, which was a true story, not to get anything wrong, because if you got anything wrong, it would all be marginalized, which is the popular thing to do right now. There are some people out there that are anxiously trying to talk about what a great guy McCarthy is, which still blows my mind. So, with this film, my job was to be as best informed as I could be in general. But I always felt that way about anything. And then, to try and make it entertainment – because it is still a film. I think the good news about both these films is that they’re not civics lessons. They’re actually entertaining films. Tough, not easy, but entertaining films.

Q: Did your political views change at all after making this movie?

GEORGE CLOONEY: No, it doesn’t change things. And it doesn’t necessarily reinforce things either. What it really does is it opens your eyes to other issues and other thoughts. I remember standing on the roof of a building about four stories up as a siren went off, which would go every three hours during Ramadan. And you’d hear a prayer over loudspeakers – we were in Casablanca then – and everyone in South Dakar got out in the middle of the street and faced Mecca. A sea of people got out of their car, got out on the streets and kneeled down, faced Mecca and prayed. We were sitting there watching this and thinking, ‘if we think that we have religious clarity or any kind of a belief system that overrides anyone else’s’. When you see that, it would scare you – the idea that you could in some way bomb the Islamic fundamentalists away-and these were Islamic fundamentalists – but those guys are that passionate. And see how poor they are, and that is the only thing they have. It was scarier to me because I thought, ‘Well, I understand,’ in no way justifying what happens, obviously. Nobody here is saying, ‘the guys who are bombing people are good,’ but understanding how it can happen. And understanding why it can happen was really interesting.

Q: I would imagine Bob Baer’s worldview can be a real education.

GEORGE CLOONEY: I can’t tell what his political bent is. He spent a long time with me at my house. My sense is he’s probably a bit of a conservative who was ticked off at the Clinton administration mostly for his being taken out of the CIA slowly, or leaving the CIA – but equally as ticked off at the way that the information was used in the lead-up to the war. He was pretty mad about that as well. I think certainly the ex-operatives, and a lot of the people who were there in the CIA, felt the same way. I know the people in the State Department did. But he’s such an interesting guy. If you’re on a set, they’ll have a police expert; he’s a cop. He’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I killed six guys, shot this guy in the head three times. I capped him three times.’ They always tell you some story that probably didn’t happen. Here’s a guy who has probably done some pretty amazingly heinous things. And he’s like, ‘Yeah, there were some things that had to be taken care of that happened. But they didn’t want to side with us on that. So, I don’t really recall what happened.’ I’m like, ‘Well, the whole place was blown to bits.’ ‘Yeah, that’s probably what happened.’ Everything is very vague. He doesn’t ever say he has done anything, which makes you feel like he’s really done a lot. It was very strange having him at your house because he’s very smart, and he knows a lot about what he’s talking about, especially in the Middle East.

Q: What do you think would have to happen to better realize the potential of television media to inspire thought and enlighten as well as entertain and distract?

GEORGE CLOONEY: I don’t know. I was hoping that in putting a film like that out there, it would open the discussion for people who are in those positions – some of them are friends of mine – to say, ‘Okay, we understand that this is a dilemma. I understand that having watched what happened with my father as an anchorman, I understand that the idea is that news has a problem, which is, they’re losing viewers. And how do you keep news out there, and do you preserve it? Do you preserve it by destroying it along the way? And what do you do to not let that happen?’ So, it’s one of those difficult fights. I understand that it’s not black and white and easy. But I think it’s something that should be constantly waged and talked about and argued about, until somebody can come out with some solutions. I am concerned about the same thing that probably you-all are concerned with and the same thing that my father has been concerned with his whole life and fought, which was finding ways to have room for both, but not losing content along the way.

Q: Talk about the through-line of the family throughout the course of the film despite the politics of the characters.

GEORGE CLOONEY: There’s a through-line that you have to look for, which is fathers and sons. I think that’s an interesting through-line all the way through this. There’s a lot of moral ambiguity between them. Some of them play better than others; some of them are clearer. Sometimes it’s because when you’re telling such a multi-layered story, it’s hard to flesh out all of the other parts of the story. You’re not quite sure what Bennett and his father’s issues are. That to me became less important as you watched the film and more just an interesting piece of the thing. I thought what Stephen did with fathers and sons and showing just these relationships, flawed or not, along the way, helped land all the questions and answers that these guys are going through with much more weight. Bennett has to come back and look at his dad in the eye, after doing some of the things he has done. And I’m failing at both my job and my son. Because I’m not doing either one of them well. And Matt’s character had done everything right. Everything would have been fine had nothing bad happened. But something bad happened along the way. And I think the two boys and the one father, the Pakistani boys, is a really interesting storyline too.

Q: Do you own a hybrid?

GEORGE CLOONEY: I have an electric car that goes zero to 60 in four seconds. It’s faster than the Porsche Turbo, which is fun. It will go 150 miles before a charge. Quite honestly, I certainly had to make those considerations. I’ve always ridden a motorcycle almost everywhere. It wasn’t about gas; it was because I liked riding motorcycles, but they don’t use a lot of gas. I figured, I can’t do a film about oil corruption and consumption and drive a Bronco – seems a little ridiculous. So I’m learning, and I’m evolving along the way in terms of my own personal responsibility towards fuel because of that. I think if you’re going to get out there and say, ‘let’s talk about these things,’ you’re going to have to participate in all of them. I think you guys know me well enough now; I’m not out there preaching what you should do. I’m just saying, these are questions that should be asked, and along the way, I should probably follow some of my own questions.

Q: Can you comment on being made one of Peoples’ Most Sexiest Men Alive?

GEORGE CLOONEY: I was a little hurt that pretty boy McConaughey now takes over. It’s a big responsibility; it’s a heavy crown for him, Mr. Abs himself. But I think he can handle it. I think he could take it. We’ll see. Pitt did it twice. And he was really the only guy that could handle it two times. Brad “Pretty Boy” Pitt. I was a little disturbed that Matt Damon didn’t get front page. And I think you guys will talk to him later, and ask him if he was at all hurt by that because he campaigned a really good campaign. And we thought for sure he was going to pull it off this year.

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With his screenplay for John Hillcoat’s THE PROPOSITION, the internationally revered singer-songwriter Nick Cave has produced a richly crafted story of beauty, savagery and redemption. A bushranger western set in 1880s Australia, THE PROPOSITION stars Guy Pearce and Danny Huston as Irish outlaw brothers caught up in a deadly Faustian pact with a British police captain and his wife, played by Ray Winstone and Emily Watson. It was shot in extreme conditions that only heighten the intensity and tension on screen.

# How did you come to make a western set in the 19th century outback?

Cave: “Johnny is a very good friend of mine. He came to me and said, ‘would you write a movie about bushrangers in Australia, a fictional story?’ It’s not something I’d do under my own steam, but it’s something I’d do for him. And three weeks later I sent it off. It took three weeks to write.”

Hillcoat: “Nick and I have been collaborating on various things for a long time. I’ve always been obsessed about trying to do an Australian western with the ingredients of the Outback, conflict with Aboriginals, bushrangers, all those elements. I was developing the idea and Nick was on board to do the soundtrack. But the years went by and Nick got more and more frustrated with how long things were taking, so I asked if he wanted to give the screenplay a go. I did suspect, because of Nick’s narrative songwriting, where the characters are so vivid, that something really good would come out of it.”

Cave: “For Johnny, Australia had its western story as well. It had its wild west, and that hadn’t been exploited cinematically at all. There weren’t genre films being made about that period unless they were biopics of famous Australians – the Ned Kelly story, the Mad Dog Morgan story or whatever. So this was a rich mine to plumb.”

# Your intention was to make The Proposition a distinctly Australian story. What elements make it particularly Australian for you?

Cave: “We didn’t want it to sound like an American western that had been dumped in Australia. There’s a certain incompetence that exists in the Australian character today, a real savagery and cruelty behind that kind of attitude. And the humour, which is as dry as the desert. That comes out of people being where they probably shouldn’t be. And certainly this film is about an isolated community, people struggling in a place where they really have no right to be.”

Hillcoat: “At that time, it was the last frontier. They basically just went further and further into the desert, into the most inhospitable terrain.”

Cave: “To me the major point was that it was so far out in inhospitable countryside. So Captain Stanley and his wife can’t go anywhere, they just had to stay there. The answer to Stanley’s problems, really, is to quit his job and go somewhere where he and his wife should be. He’d probably have quite a nice life. And the same goes for the other characters as well.”

# How much historical research went into the film?

Cave: “It’s hugely researched on Johnny’s part. From my point of view, not a hell of a lot of research, but I read a book about the Aboriginal situation because Johnny wanted a different take on the way Aboriginals are usually treated in Australian films. He wanted a different take to the liberal view that’s thrust upon the Aboriginals, where they just stood around and allowed themselves to be wiped out. The indigenous actors were really pleased to be in a film where they got an opportunity to fight back.”

Hillcoat: “We wanted a kind of mythic and deliberately created fiction, not to be bogged down in a specific historical events, although I guess we were a bit like magpies where you just pick out the best bits to create a drama. This story really does run true to some sort of history.”

# You shot The Proposition in the sweltering Queensland desert in high summer, and everyone in the cast seems to be covered in filth and flies. Was it as uncomfortable to shoot as it looks?

Hillcoat: “Yes. The cast were completely shellshocked by the conditions, because they were wearing three layers of clothing and it was like 57 degrees Celsius. The hottest day actually was riding on the clay plane, which was like a reflector. I’m not exaggerating but the thermostat actually broke because it got so hot. It would have probably been close to 60 Celsius.”

Cave: “You were the local joke really, because it kept sliding further into summer, and the locals were thinking it was going to be really funny watching these people try to make a movie under those conditions. Nobody could even open their mouth without a fly crawling into it.”

Hillcoat: “The poor actors. Most of the crew had hats with nets, and the actors of course couldn’t do that, so everyone had a dose of swallowing flies. As soon as one is going down your throat, there’s a kind of gag reflex if you’re quick enough. So we were sharing the secrets of how to cope with swallowing flies, and there was also a horse lotion that we adapted. I kept saying ‘flies are our friends’, trying to encourage them to be part of the story. Which they ended up being.”

# As well as writing the script to The Proposition you also composed the soundtrack with Warren Ellis. How was that different to writing and recording together in the Bad Seeds?

Cave: “There is an enormous freedom when you have the themes given to you, so the writing of it is faster than a Bad Seeds record. What slows down the whole process of making a record is writing of songs, but if you’ve got the themes in front of you it’s just a matter of making some music that energises the film or adds a lyrical quality or whatever. Having said that, Warren had a massive input into the soundtrack, he played most of the stiff on it. A lot of the music came from ideas he did in his bedroom.”

# There is extreme violence in The Proposition, but only in brief bursts. Was it a conscious decision to keep these incidents short, sharp and shocking?

Cave: “There was certainly an attempt, from the start, to say this is going to be a violent film. You are to expect some violence. And I guess part of the exciting thing about writing this script, for me, was delaying those inevitable acts of violence for as long as we could get away with.”

Hillcoat: “There was a conscious decision to try and be realistic, not gratuitous. I think it’s actually becoming more gratuitous, violence in mainstream films. We could have gone the Mel Gibson route – in fact, the more lucrative route. And because we were trying to show the harsh reality what was happening on the frontier, you can’t shy away from the fact that it was extremely violent.”

Cave: “Some films these days make me sick, because they are basically just relentless body counts. I don’t think this is like that at all – there are genuinely sensitive moments, and an intelligence to the script and the dialogue. It is about an inhospitable environment. For the type of film it is and the period it’s set in, I personally found the violence quite restrained.”

Hillcoat: “Also you see the consequences of the violence. In fact a lot of the story is about how it impacts on people’s lives as opposed to just the sensation of it. But there is always a sensation to violence, no matter how it’s represented.”

Cave: “I actually have a problem with violence on the screen. A lot of it I find tiring and boring, almost as boring as sex on the screen. But an attempt was made here not to exhaust the audience through having to sit through some sort of horror show, blood and guts, for two hours. So the violent episodes are very necessary for the thrust of the story. They were really just punctuation points between a fairly meditative, slow kind of film.”

# Queensland looks almost like another planet in The Proposition. Does that landscape have a different character to other parts of Australia?

Cave: “There’s an extra bleakness to it in a way, but it’s very beautiful too. That was the real surprise to me, from seeing the thing on paper and then actually seeing the film. It is very faithful to the script on one level, but I wasn’t prepared for how beautiful the film actually looks. The way the landscape is described on paper was much more brutal and hard.”

Hillcoat: “I think there was a real advantage, and a conscious decision on my part, to get an outside cinematographer with an outside perspective. The Outback has been photographed in a certain tradition, but Benoit Delhomme had a real fresh eye for it – he was very excited as well as being terrified by it, he was like a little child. But in the harshness there was this intense beauty as well.”

# This is your third screen collaboration together after Ghosts… Of The Civil Dead and To Have And Have Not. Is there any connection between the three films?

Cave: “I guess in all these films there is a sense that morality is a luxury that we can afford in less fraught times. In extreme situations and extreme environments, morality becomes a very grey issue.”

Hillcoat: “There is a connection in that all three deal in extreme environments and characters under extreme conflict. I have to say I am most happy with The Proposition. I’ve got my reservations on all three but I’m most happy with this one.”

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Interviews: JACINDA BARRETT (Maggie James) Q&A

Jacinda Barrett plays Maggie James in the new adventure blockbuster Poseidon. She is one of the few hundred survivors of a luxury cruise ship hit by a rogue wave. She and a few others must forge a path together through layers of wreckage as the ship continues to sink.

QUESTION: What was it like spending so many hours in the water?

JACINDA BARRETT: It’s intense working in water. You deal with a whole bunch of stuff that you couldn’t foresee. All your senses are shut down under water, which is fine if you’re just frolicking in the pool. But if you’re doing a scene where you’re swimming to one point under a tunnel, and there’s only one access, one way you can get out. It, it can be a little scary because you’re totally blind. I had Mike Vogel swimming in front of me, who had steel-cap Fry boots on. So, I don’t know how close I’m getting to him. Is he gonna hit me underwater? The only thing you have to reassure you is that water safety people are looking out for you. So, if anything happens, they’ll pull you out. But it’s just the idea that you’ve got your safety in someone else’s hands. You have to let all your fears go and just dive in.

QUESTION: You did most of the stunts yourself. How was it going down the hallway flat on your back?

JACINDA BARRETT: That was really hard, learning to do those stunt jumps, because I had a space of about this wide to do it in and obviously, it’s upside down. There was a steel-covered light right there and corpses here and so you’re doing it in these confined spaces and that was a little hard.

QUESTION: Your character has an intense moment with her son in the film. How is it to do emotional scenes underwater?

JACINDA BARRETT: In that scene, I just connected to the fact that no matter what, I have to make him feel like he’s gonna be okay because if he panics, he’ll drown in there. That overrides everything else. Because your mother instinct kicks in and you’ve got to protect your child. Nothing else matters. You risk your life for your child. So, it must be horrible for any parent watching that scene to think about their son being trapped like that. Um, so that’s just how I approached that stuff. Forget everything else and just stick to the most important thing, which is to make him feel safe.

QUESTION: How much do you surrender into the genre?

JACINDA BARRETT: We would have discussions in the mornings and what was written would always become a totally different scene once you saw the set because it’s all related to the situation. What are the obstacles you’re dealing with in that situation to stay alive? We did a lot of discussions and Wolfgang was really open. That dialogue with my son is mostly made up. It’s what I was saying to him – “I’m here with you and you’ve got to be strong. And I’m not gonna leave you.” It was all stuff I was just making up with the actor, Jimmy, who played Conor. And the bit where he gets pulled under, that just happened. He went under in the scene. And they left it in because it worked; it was just an accident. Something happened where he lost his balance and Wolfgang was really open to seeing what the honesty of the situation would be once we were in it. But there are so many things that I’d never done in a movie like this that you’re dealing with. You’re shooting with always more than three cameras, which changes everything. If I move so much for camera A, I screw up camera B’s shot. You can’t overlap as much. You have to be mindful that you’re in close-up while you’re also in a wide shot, while still also over the shoulder. You couldn’t move because of the safety issues, of how far your harness would let you go or what CGI thing was actually going to be put in there. So, you are very much a small piece of the puzzle as the actor, unlike a character-driven drama where you get to decide, you’re gonna go here and go here and do. You very much have to work within all the other elements and actually, I enjoyed that, seeing my place in the picture differently and surrendering to the bigger picture of the movie. I learned a tremendous amount about filmmaking.

QUESTION: How did you act while doing all that?

JACINDA BARRETT: In every scene, it’s up to you to make it truthful. So, in that way, no matter what you’re doing, you’ve got to be honest. But you have to surrender to a lot of different situations. You’ve got to go with it. Kurt said to me early on, “You do as much as you can, and you’re always finding the truth and then there are certain situations where the stages are as they are. And the effects are as they are. And you have to learn how to get in there and accept it make that honest for you.” Right before that, I’d done this movie called The Last Kiss up in Montreal, which was all about the characters and I had five-page scenes where we could move wherever we wanted and it was all about our emotional intent in the scenes. And, so, I literally wrapped that one night and the next morning was on Poseidon. And It was so different. It was a such a bigger movie in every single way, from the five sound stages to the enormous crew that was involved, all the stunts, all the CGI people. So, it is an adjustment so is doing a comedy; so is doing a period drama. Every time you walk in, you have to surrender your preconceived ideas and go with whatever this director envisions. And if you don’t, you don’t get very far forcing your will.

QUESTION: Are you losing your Australian accent?

JACINDA BARRETT: I know. I know. It’s sad.

QUESTION: You’re actually from Brisbane, right?


QUESTION: Your dad’s a firefighter?

JACINDA BARRETT: He is. Well, he was. He’s retired now.

QUESTION: Did your background prepare you at all for the role?

JACINDA BARRETT: Growing up in Australia, water is such a part of your life. You learn to swim almost before you can walk. You have the swimming lessons from such a young age; people don’t do that here.

QUESTION: It’s more important than walking and, and reading.

JACINDA BARRETT: Almost. Yeah. So, so for that, the water part, I was so comfortable already. And the fire stuff, well that’s all regulated and watched and stuff. As far as my accent goes, I’ve been living away for so long, ever since I was 17 and a half. One month out of high school, I left Australia.

QUESTION: You went to Japan and England?

JACINDA BARRETT: Yeah. All over Europe. And the thing is, I didn’t lose my accent until I started acting and had to play American in so many roles and then I married an American. I’m sure that has something to do with it. So, it started to go away a little bit. I’ve got to get it back. I’ve got to go back and live in Australia for a little bit, get it back.

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Interviews: Alan Bennett Syndicated Interview

Since his emergence as one quarter of the Beyond The Fringe team Alan Bennett has cemented his reputation as one of Britain’s most successful playwrights. His work for the stage includes Forty Years On, Habeas Corpus, Kafka’s Dick, An Englishman Abroad and A Question of Attribution. He adapted The Wind In The Willows for the National Theatre in the 1990s, and wrote The Madness of George III.

Directed by Nicholas Hytner, this was turned into an acclaimed film in 1994, re-titled The Madness of King George. Among Bennett’s other writing for the screen is A Private Function and Prick Up Your Ears, while his award winning television work includes Talking Heads.

In 2004 he reunited with Hytner to bring The History Boys to the National Theatre, an 80s set story of eight aspirant grammar school pupils sitting their Oxbridge exams. Guided by the twin teaching influences of the inspirational but flawed Hector (Richard Griffiths) and the cynical Irwin (Stephen Campbell Moore) they find themselves torn between romance and pragmatism at an important stage in their lives.

How personal a project was The History Boys for you?

“It was personal to me in the sense that I went to a northern grammar school, a state school in Leeds, which didn’t normally send pupils to Oxford or Cambridge. Our year was not particularly clever I think, but the headmaster had himself been to Cambridge and decided to try and push some of us to go through the scholarship examinations. About half a dozen of us did get in, not all reading history – in that sense it’s not like the play – but I did history, so I suppose in that sense it mirrors my own experience.”

And university did prove a life changing experience for you, leading to Beyond The Fringe and your subsequent writing and performing career, didn’t it?

“What happened in those days was, before you went to university you had to do your national service. It happened that in my national service I went on a course to learn Russian and that course was taught at Cambridge. So I spent a year at Cambridge, I’d got a place to study at the university proper afterwards, but I thought that since I’d been to Cambridge now maybe I ought to try to go to Oxford. So I ended up going to Oxford.”

When did you and Nicholas Hytner think that this could be another film?

“I never thought of it as a film really. We didn’t start talking about it until it had been on at the National for nine months or so. And then he said if we were to make a film of it it would have to be in the summer holidays [to get a suitable school location], so we ought to think about it. We talked about it and everyone in the cast was keen. We then devised the method with [producer] Kevin Loader of financing it. Then I started writing the script, though there wasn’t much writing to do, it was mostly cutting and Nick was as good at that as I was. He’s as responsible for the script as I am.”

It was important to secure the original cast members, particularly the eight ‘boys’ who originated their roles at the National, wasn’t it?

“Yes, though you would have been a brave man to tell them that their roles were going to be played by somebody else. There was never any question that it would be re-cast, they had such a grip on their characters. But they’d enjoyed doing it, and they’d enjoyed doing the film and the fact that they’re at the start of their careers and they’ve had a success like this was wonderful.”

How much did they bring to the development of their characters?

“When I wrote the script originally I had a list of names, this was before we cast anybody, but I didn’t really know what they were going to look like or what they would be like. And so I just wrote down ‘Boy 1’, ‘Boy 2’, ‘Boy 3’ and then Nick allotted the stuff, according to the boys who turned up. We found that Timms, who’s played by James Corden, was very funny so he tended to get funnier lines. Once you found he could do a lot with them you tend to write more for him. Even when I was writing extra lines for the film script I’d still put ‘Boy 1’, ‘Boy 2’, ‘Boy 3’, and then left it to Nick to share them out.”

The boys are great in their roles, but clearly the casting of Richard Griffiths as Hector was equally crucial, wasn’t it?

“I’d not thought of him for it, although I had worked with him before. But once you cast him it all fell into place somehow and it did seem like you couldn’t have thought of anybody else – which is what good casting is. They inhabit the role so completely that you can’t see round it any more.”

The production seems to make no compromises to the very English story and setting, and yet you enjoyed great success with it on Broadway. That must have been very pleasing.

“When it went to New York I was booked to go about a fortnight before it opened in order to listen to a preview audience and see what jokes didn’t work. I went along and I couldn’t really see there was any difference. The audience seemed to respond in exactly the same way as the London audiences had done. So we ended up not altering anything. At the time it seemed more of a gamble, but in retrospect you can see that the theme of trying to get into a good university, and the clash between an education that’s based on examinations and qualifications and an education for life such as Hector represents, that’s a fairly universal thing. In that sense it’s not surprising.”

Now that the stage run has ended, it must be nice to have a version of it preserved forever on film, isn’t it?

“It’s a particular pleasure because in fact the film is a very good account of the play. It’s shorter obviously, and there are some parts of it that have been cut. But the actual spirit of the film is the same as that of the play.”

How much of a political piece did you intend it to be, either in the 1980s Thatcher era setting, or did you perhaps have some more modern reading in mind?

“It’s only set in the 1980s for a reason which has nothing to do with politics really. It’s because that was the last time that Oxford and Cambridge examined in the way that they do in the film. That’s why it was set in the 80s. I didn’t think of it as a political parable in any way, and politics isn’t particularly referred to. I think that kind of teaching though, which Irwin represents, is much more prevalent now than probably it was 20 or 30 years ago. Teachers who’ve been to see the play say that there just isn’t time for the kind of teaching Hector does now, that their schedules are so horrendous that if they wanted to teach like that now they couldn’t do it. And it wouldn’t be fair on the children because they are keen to get through their exams, if they want to get anywhere.”

The thumping 80s soundtrack is surely the least likely of any that has accompanied one of your movies, isn’t it?

“It’s all a mystery to me, I didn’t have anything to do with it. When we were choosing the music for the film I think Nick asked the boys what they’d like and they made a list. It was mainly a list of things they couldn’t stand. They wanted as much of Kate Bush as they could have, they didn’t want Madness – which I like. So a lot of them were their choices.”

The actors who play your History Boys are about as old now as you were when you found success with Beyond The Fringe. And yet they feel so much younger, don’t they?

“I’m still, in my 70s, trammelled and inhibited by class and upbringing and all that. But when the Prince of Wales came to the charity screening we had in aid of the Prince’s Trust, and he and the Duchess of Cornwall came round, James Corden was so totally uninhibited by either of them. He’d say ‘that’s a lovely dress, I do love that dress’. I thought ‘I wish I was as carefree as that’.”

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Interviews: Syndicated Interview with Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman won an Oscar in 2005 for his role in Million Dollar Baby, the culmination of an impressive run of performances in films including Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Unforgiven, The Shawshank Redemption, Seven, Kiss The Girls and Under Suspicion.

In The Bucket List he co-stars with Jack Nicholson, with both men playing patients diagnosed with terminal cancer who resolve to seize the day and fulfil a wish list of long cherished dreams.

Did you know Jack Nicholson before working with him on The Bucket List?

“I’d watched just about every movie he did after Easy Rider, so I knew him but we weren’t hanging out buddies. We’d met each other, you know how life goes particularly with performers, you wind up in the same place often enough. We know each other anyway, actors know actors, you meet an actor it’s not like meeting a total stranger.”

Was your approach to your roles similar?

“We probably approached the material pretty much the same way in that you memorise it and then you do it. Jack, however, works the script. He makes notes, he changes words, he does things to it and then asks how it sounds. You don’t really have to do research to create a character. You have to do research to recreate a character. By that I mean if I’m going to play you then I have to do some research. I have to study nuance in the things that make you you. But if you just write a character and I’ve got to do it I don’t have to go somewhere and sit and figure out how to manifest that character. There are actors who have diverse, shall we say, ways of approaching their work. Some have to immerse themselves in experience. By that I mean when I did The Shawshank Redemption there were actors who went and stayed in jail to get that feeling. That’s mind altering stuff, and I don’t think it informs you. I don’t think you’re going to learn anything.”

Is it more a question of having a good imagination then?

“Well, let’s say you’re playing a character on a ship. It helps if you know a little bit about it. A little research there would help, I think. Maybe if you were driving a race car it would help to drive one to get the feel of how you handle a race car. Things like that. But just normal character development, I think that just comes with practice and you start practicing very early in life. I look at people and right away I start summing them up. It’s not like I can tell you what kind of character you are, but I get a sense of you.”

Was your Bucket List character, Carter Chambers, difficult character to get under the skin of?

“No, like I said before, difficult characters are real people. I don’t think any other character that you agree to do is difficult. I don’t think you agree to do it because it’s difficult. If it’s difficult you say ‘I don’t think I can handle this, because I can’t see it,’.”

Would that be because the script wasn’t quite right?

“You can’t say that because the script that I say I can’t do, you give to the actor who says he can do it and he takes it to the Academy Awards. In my case I’m talking about knowing your limitations in terms of your performance.”

You’ve spoken before of having a great focus, is that something you’ve had throughout your career?

“I think it’s one of the things that has defined me as a person, all my life. This ability to focus. But it’s short term. I just recently took up golf, and nothing else is on my mind most of the time but golf. If I ever get good at it, and I won’t, then I’ll move on to something else. So I can rest assured that I’m going to be with golf for the rest of my life because I’m never going to master it. That’s not something you can master.”

So why take it up then?

“I took it up because I’m a pilot, I fly small airplanes. I started realising that in travelling and flying from home – I live in Mississippi – to LA or to New York, I’m sitting still for hours at a time. Two or three hours. And I’m not active enough to do that without some compensation. What I mean by that is at this age – I took up flying at 65 – sitting this long in one place you’ve got to start worrying about blood clots in your legs. It all just pooling right under your thighs there and not getting to move around enough. So my business partner said ‘why don’t we take up golf?’ and I said ‘something else,’ Then after a while I thought ‘maybe golf,’ So as soon as I said that he went out and bought all the stuff, somebody gave me a set of clubs and there it was. And once I started there it was. If you can get past the first week or so of trying you’re pretty much hooked. I love it.”

Your success as an actor did not come immediately; in hindsight do you think that was a good thing?

“Well of course, because that’s what happened. Of course I think it served me well, but who knows? What happens with life, life is what happens, it’s for the best. Knowing my character it’s probably good that it waited a while before I got to a certain level of success.”

How come?

“I’m experimental. There are very few women I say no to, things like that, I could wind up in deep trouble.”

Is it true we’re going to see you play Nelson Mandela soon?

“The rumour is true; I was originally set to Long Walk To Freedom, which is his based on his autobiography. That never quite came to fruition because we never got a script after ten years of trying. But another script has come along about the rugby match between the Springboks and New Zealand, the All Blacks. A great, great script. I’m going to play him, it’s called The Human Factor, and we should go into production around October. I’m looking forward to that. I’ve met him on numerous occasions.”

Finally, and to echo a theme of The Bucket List, is it ever too late for anything?

“There’s one moment in your life when it’s too late, and that’s when it’s your last gasp.”

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Interviews: WOLFGANG PETERSEN (Director) Q&A

QUESTION: You have made several movies taking place on water.

WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Obviously, I like to work with water. I find it very, very dramatic. For a movie, for a story, it’s very good. I grew up in Hamburg, northern Germany. I’m close to the water. I’ve always liked it so much, hanging out there, looking at the horizon. It was always a wonderful thing to let your imagination just fly. And then also watching when the water was coming and when it really got bad. The power of water is unbelievable. I was always impressed as a kid how strong it is, all the damage the water could do when it just turned within a couple of hours, and smashed against the shore. It was just amazing. But then also as a filmmaker, a storyteller, when I’m feeling okay, if you are out or lost on a boat, and you just don’t know how to get back, or the boat is sinking, or it’s just stuck, it’s a great dramatic setting. It somehow stuck with me. When I got Das Boot, I had the feeling you can learn maybe more about the whole vast phenomenon of war if you have just 45 people stuck in a submarine and see how they deal with war and with attacks and with being attacked and everything and at the same time being stuck and not able to run. You cannot just run away. So, it’s more intense than in other war stories because you’re stuck in a claustrophobic situation, no windows, no nothing. You cannot just desert and run. There’s no way. So I found that extremely dramatic. And I liked this concept very much. Then, when I came across The Perfect Storm, I had the feeling, “Oh my God, this is a similar story, but only six people now out in the Andrea Gail and the Grand Banks, with fish. And the biggest storm of the century coming.” So, again, a situation that is not war, but close to it. Now let’s see how they react. So, always the feeling that audiences will like very much the disastrous situation of very, very extreme circumstances that have to do with nature or with war, where they are tested to see what they really are made of in this extreme situation. What would you do? How would you react? What is really there? Peel off the surface and look inside your heart. Who are you? That I think is dramatic. And then, here with Poseidon, same thing, so it’s even more interesting, maybe, to see it is not really trained professionals who go through a absolute dramatic situation like the capsizing of a huge, wonderful, luxurious ship, thousands of people, and focus on the group, see how they deal with disaster. I thought it was fascinating, and very much now like you and me, they are definitely not trained, definitely not prepared that anything like that will happen. For that night, I think they had other things in mind.

QUESTION: Why did you want to shoot this film on stages?

WOLFGANG PETERSEN: I really learned that on The Perfect Storm. The Perfect Storm was done 80% also on stage. And it looked very real. Actually Das Boot was done a lot on stage also.

QUESTION: Was this much bigger than those films?

WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Yes. We had enormous sets. Many, many. And also we wanted to build them with real sets. For example, the ballroom: we built completely a four-room wall set, and the same huge set we also shot upside-down. The same thing with the lobby – upside-down and right-side-up. It’s a big deal to do that. It’s a big logistic thing now to connect all the elements to it because you have to work with a lot of CG, of course, still.

QUESTION: Did you have to drain the stages daily?

WOLFGANG PETERSEN: Oh, yes. They were very supervised. Everything is kept clean and warm enough. In the film the water is very cold. In reality it was very warm. Not that warm, but very warm. And, yeah, it’s dangerous business. I mean, the actors, they did an unbelievably tough job almost every day in dealing with being underwater for so long and being thrown about by the water. It was very hard and very intense. And because of that we have to be very careful. Because it’s dangerous if you don’t take all the precautions, and have the safety guys and the divers there always ready to immediately jump in. It’s tough.

QUESTION: What kind of films influenced you?

WOLFGANG PETERSEN: I like spectacular films. I like getting the audience into a really visual experience and also get them in a place where I and they have not been before. That’s always fun. For example, I have not been on a big cruise ship in my life and wanted to get an audience inside a ship like that. But especially what’s interesting is when it’s upside-down – the disaster version of the cruise ship. I like that, to get them into a submarine or so. But also, I’m very much interested in the people, not just spectacle. What influenced me? I love films like Lawrence of Arabia, for example, which is a big, spectacular film, or also The Godfather, or such films like that. I’m very much a fan also of very small films like High Noon, from Zinnemann, or The 400 Blows from Truffaut. Truffaut was one of my favorite directors when he was alive. And he worked on a very small scale. So, I always try if I can, not always succeeding at first because it’s very difficult to balance the spectacular nature of a film with a very good and intense portrayal of people inside of it to balance it. It’s not just to overwhelm people with spectacle but also get them inside the people. Here I thought, in Poseidon, it was a very good chance because it’s an interesting concept – we don’t know these people. I don’t do long explanations of where they come from, and they talk about “I’m this, who are you?” And “I’m an architect. What are you doing?” That kind of thing. In a story like this, it’s not allowed. Ship goes over, and now they come together and they don’t know each other. It’s like a bunch of people, 10, 12 people, who have no idea who the other people are, and now they have to cling together and spend probably like two or three of the most important hours in their life together with complete strangers. It’s not a whole family gang who’s going. This is all strangers. And to see how they interact is quite fascinating. So, this human element is: how do these people, who are all of them like you, like me, very normal people. So the cast is also not known. It’s just an architect there. It’s a stowaway from Spain. It’s that little waiter from the kitchen. It’s a guy who’s a poker player. And so that’s interesting to see how they handled it. I think it draws you in. It draws you in the sense of saying, “Aha. What do I do? What would I do? This is not about Hollywood characters. This is about us.” It’s cruise ship. It’s the most normal thing in the world. Everybody does it. And it’s New Year’s Eve. And everyone gets drunk and wants to have a great time. And it’s over. Now, what now? Boom, over. Interesting.

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