“It really is kind of fortuitous in a back-handed kind of way that the film is going out in this moment…” Mike Hodges BLACK RAINBOW interview (THN)

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(c) Arrow Films

Out on Blu-ray this month from Arrow Films is Black Rainbow (1989), the obscure and underrated supernatural thriller from writer/director Mike Hodges.

Rosanna Arquette stars as medium Martha Travis, who finds herself dealing not only with alcoholic father Walter (Jason Robards) but chilling messages from the future. Tom Hulce plays journalist Gary Wallace, who gets mixed up with the family and small town corruption.

Get Carter (1971) and Flash Gordon (1980) are Hodges’ best known movies but he’s had a diverse career including the likes of The Terminal Man (1974) and of course Black Rainbow. We sat down to talk about how the film came and went, together with fascinating insights into his life and creative process…

Contains spoilers about the plot of Black Rainbow

 

THN: What sparked the idea for Black Rainbow?

MH: It’s got many strands in some ways. I went to America on World In Action (long running documentary series) in the early Sixties. I went to Detroit and I interviewed the Reuther brothers, who were left wing United Automobile workers. I then learnt the mayhem that surrounded the setting up of unions in America. And both the brothers had been shot in their own homes, much as it is in Black Rainbow, through the window of their homes. One lost an eye and the other one had a withered arm. So that’s sort of one element. The unions were really upended and the whole process of providing protection for American workers was lost, as indeed it has been here really.

Then when I was travelling around looking for locations and things I started buying the local newspapers. They had wonderful names like the Bee, the Sentinel, the Bugle… I bought them because I wanted to find out about ordinary American people’s lives away from the big cities. One story that kept coming up all the time was workers, usually union officials or foremen, being beaten up or on some occasions even being murdered. When the investigation was pursued it was usually found they were whistleblowing on health and safety breaches.

The second element, and probably much more important in a sense, was I wanted to find a way of looking at society – or civilization or whatever you want to call it – ahead of what I thought was very dangerous territory we were moving into, and how unstable it all is. So I came across Doris Stokes, who is a medium, she used to do big shows and I watched her several times and I got a documentary about her. I watched how she played the audience. I realized, once I started playing with the idea that time is a man made effort to control things, that if I had her slip ahead in time then I could start having her talk about what she was seeing in the future. And therefore I had a way of airing my concerns about what we were heading into.

It’s very odd that the film, which was lost… pretty big in Europe and Japan and various other places but here we got terrible distribution… I find it very ironic that when the film got lost, it’s now being revived during a pandemic! It really is kind of fortuitous in a back-handed kind of way that the film is going out in this moment. It carries much more resonance, even than when I made it in some ways.

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(c) Goldcrest Films

Casting-wise, you had Jason Robards, a veteran actor, with the younger Rosanna Arquette and Tom Hulce. Both experienced but at different stages of their careers. How did you all work together and build the relationships in the movie?

That was all written before we brought them together. Burt Lancaster was interested in playing Walter. He considered it for some time, I’m glad he eventually decided against it because I was able to get Jason. Because with Burt, the film would have been compared, unfairly, to Elmer Gantry (1960), which he was in with Jean Simmons. Secondly, he’s too strong a character. It’s very difficult for Burt Lancaster to play a weak man. Jason had done all those amazing Eugene O’Neill Broadway productions. He was into that character.

Rosanna… she was very brave to take this on, because the character that she plays questions the existence of God, questions the raison d’etre of religion. She suggests in many cases “maybe what I’m telling you is untrue”, and any kind of afterlife is ridiculous. In America a lot of actresses didn’t want to do this role and I suspect it was because of that. And of course the agents tend to step in, so if there is any sense of controversy over what the character is portraying they will step in, as it’s liable to damage that person’s career. I was very grateful to her for doing it. I went to about six actresses and they liked it but none of them wanted to play it.

Tom Hulce was the last actor on board. He’s just highly professional, the least showy role. He’s terrific in it.

Black Rainbow is an American story made by a British company (Goldcrest). Did that make a difference in terms of how it turned out? Would it have been different with major studio backing?

It’s difficult to say. My dealings with Hollywood were kind of odd, in the sense that with Get Carter for example, I had to fight tooth and nail for the casting. They wanted to put American stars into it, Telly Savalas and people like that. I had to resign about twenty times, saying “I’m just not doing the film if you’re going to fill it up with actors who are fine in their own right, they’re just not right for this film!” You always had that fight. Then after that The Terminal Man, which I wrote, produced and directed myself, I didn’t really have a problem with the studio. I didn’t really work much more with American companies.

Goldwyn (the Samuel Goldwyn Company) did A Prayer For The Dying. The shooting of it wasn’t a nightmare but the editing was, they took it away and re-edited it without asking me, or showing me the result. They put new music on it. So I’m wary of the studio, but I would be very curious to know if it had been made for the Americans what would have happened, I don’t know.

They certainly would have wanted it to be scarier, but I wanted it to unfold in its own time and its own way, and allow the audience to absorb what was happening. And I think they would have wanted it to be much more Hitchcockian and frightening… I mean, it is frightening but it’s not the conventional edge of the seat kind of movie, biting your nails and the rest of it.

At one point White Heat with James Cagney is shown playing on a TV. Burt Lancaster was nearly involved. Were you looking to make something that was a bit old school Hollywood?

Obviously I’m in my eighties now, and when I was starting to go to the cinema it was in the Fifties and there was a great period of American films. I loved particularly Billy Wilder, Ace In The Hole, Double Indemnity… these were great films. Then of course there was the British industry. It was collapsing when I started Get Carter in the Seventies, there was no industry really. You didn’t go from film to film as you used to under the studio system. I’ve always been influenced by, and I admire, that period of filmmaking.

The comparison between Black Rainbow and Get Carter is odd in many ways, because Newcastle was on the cusp in 1969 when I shot there. I’d been on a minesweeper during my National Service and I’d been all up the east coast going into the most poverty-stricken fishing resorts. Grimsby, Hull, everything… eventually I’d gone into North Shields. I drove up the east coast because I wanted to change the location from Ted Lewis’s book (Jack’s Return Home) and I wanted to incorporate the sights I’d seen during my two years on board minesweepers. We were the Fishery Protection Squadron. The sentiment of the film is exactly the same as in the novel, but I just wanted a different location.

All the ports going up the east coast, they hadn’t gentrified but they’d lost their character. In Hull for example there was a pub called the Albert Hall, it was huge and had sawdust on the floor and there were all these punch ups in there and god knows what. Stuff I wanted to incorporate. They’d all vanished 10 years since I was in the Navy.

And then I remembered North Shields, but of course this time I’m driving so I have to go in via Newcastle. So I see Newcastle for the first time in my life and I think ‘This has got to be the location’. To explain how someone like Jack… not because of the Geordies, they’re lovely people… you can see with the poverty there you might get someone as psychotic as Jack Carter. So I caught Newcastle literally on the cusp. They were pulling down the Scotswood Road, T Dan Smith was in charge so the place stank of corruption as well.

Then back in Charlotte, when I was shooting Black Rainbow, I found a city in exactly the same state. It was on a cusp, just like Newcastle so as a filmmaker you’ve got this wonderful balance between the past, i.e. the films you were talking about, the Hollywood movies, and the future really. In Charlotte there’s a gleaming citadel in the middle of the city and surrounding it you’ve got all this Hopper-esque imagery… you know, Edward Hopper, the American artist who epitomized loneliness with the most incredible paintings… and you had this decaying corruption. That’s another element that came into the making of the film.

 When you make a far out type of project like Flash Gordon, do you have a different approach? Or are there real places you think of when putting these fantastical landscapes together…?

 When Dino (De Laurentiis) asked me to make Flash Gordon I said “Look, I’m the wrong director.” When Nic Roeg left the film, he then came back to me and talked me into doing it. And I’m glad he did, I enjoyed making it and I enjoy the enjoyment it’s given people! It’s a lot of fun Flash. (laughs) But I had never intended to do… one’s career is slightly dictated by the fact you have to earn a living. After I’d finished The Terminal Man, which was not successful at the box office, nor was it critically successful, although I think it may be one of my best films… it was just difficult for me to get finance actually. And here the industry had collapsed, so in part I had to make do with what came my way. Although I resisted it I’m glad ultimately I took it.

When BFI re-released Get Carter, young people saw it for the first time, all the Jack the Lads. The lads’ magazines were onto it like a fly on… cow pats. (laughing) When they then learnt I’d also made Flash Gordon they found the two pretty irreconcilable! Directors make all sorts of different films, like Billy Wilder. If you want to perform a career nowadays, you’ve got to turn yourself into a brand. I mean Hitchcock was very smart in that sense. He just made one sort of film basically. If you want to be successful it’s probably better not to diversify too much because you lose your identity as a director. I don’t know, I can’t answer that.

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(c) Goldcrest Films

The character I found most interesting in Black Rainbow was the hitman (played by Mark Joy). Usually in this type of film he’d be a loner living in the shadows but in this movie you show his family, you show him experiencing all these inconveniences like getting bumped from first class to coach. Then when he finally gets to the scene of the action he’s shot by about 12 gunmen! I was wondering why you approached him that way?

There’s quite a lot of humour actually, because you see this guy with his family…he’s an assassin… his daughter asks “What’s the population of the world Daddy?” and he says “Too many.” The phone rings and he’s had to reduce it by one! (laughs) Then when he walks out on his commission, he goes to his garage and there’s a bum sleeping there and he picks him up, throws him aside and says “Club members only.” He later checks into the airport and wants to go in the club, and the receptionist tells him “Club members only”! He’s kicked out. (laughs) I’m glad you find him intriguing, I did too and why shouldn’t a hitman have a conventional family? And of course it all takes place around Christmas. A lot of sad Christmas decorations in a lot of the scenes.

I’m really pleased you liked that character! Villains are the hardest to cast. I was lucky with Get Carter because of John Osborne, who was so great. You tend to go for obvious, physical looking people, I’m interested in finding other ways of portraying them because they come in all different shapes and sizes.

Both Carter and Black Rainbow, they have a curious sense of timelessness. Get Carter could have been Newcastle at any time from the 1940s onwards. Rainbow’s much the same, it could be any time. I don’t think I did it deliberately, it was accidentally. You don’t know when it’s taking place in a way. I’m very glad it’s out now before I kick the bucket!

 

This interview first appeared on THN.

 

 

 

 

“The tortoise was very responsive to strawberry juice.” John Carroll Lynch ‘Lucky’ Interview (THN)

Out today is Lucky, a very personal comedy-drama about a man at the end of his years coming to terms with life in a remote part of America. Playing the title character is the man who inspired it, the late great Harry Dean Stanton, in his final starring role.

Actor-turned-director John Carroll Lynch was tasked with bringing Lucky’s story to the screen. Lynch is well known as Norm Gunderson from the Coen BrothersFargo, as well as Twisty the Clown in American Horror Story. He’s worked with the best in the industry for decades, from Michael Keaton (The Founder) to Clint Eastwood (Gran Torino). We sat down with John to talk about this ambitious directorial debut and what it was like working with Harry Dean, as well as supporting actor and namesake David Lynch

THN: What brought you to Lucky’s door?

John Carroll Lynch: My friend Drago (Sumonja) was one of the writers, I had known Logan (Sparks, co-writer) as well and the two of them approached me as an actor to play one of the roles in the film as they were trying to put it together. Then a couple of months later, because Drago knew I had wanted to direct for quite a while, they came back to me and asked if I would direct the film. I really loved the script, I thought it was really good and Harry was already attached to play Lucky, which is not surprising because they based it on him. It didn’t take me long to say yes.

You’ve worked with many great directors over the years. For your directorial debut, you had Harry Dean Stanton, who’s worked with everyone, and David Lynch on top of that… you must have been very confident or very nervous, or both! What was it like…?

The opportunity to work with great people has always been attractive to me, and it’s been true since I started out as an actor. Great people, being great at their jobs make you better, in terms of how they come to the set or the stage to work, but they also teach you about how you could do that too. All of that was attractive to me, not distracting.

The film was shot at a rapid pace of eighteen days. When you’re doing your directorial debut, try to find an actor as good as Harry Dean Stanton to play your lead… do that first! See if that doesn’t cover a lot of your problems. That being said, I knew I had a leg up, once the cast came together and once David said yes I turned to Ira Steven Behr one of the producers and said: “Now I’m the only person who can f*ck this up!”

Gratefully it came out the way it did and people have responded…so many people get an opportunity to do their first film and they’re very good but nobody sees them. And with this one, it’s played all over the world, particularly in Europe because of Harry and David’s fan association there. In terms of how the movie unfolds, it’s a very European film.

Let’s talk about David Lynch… he’s known as an actor but in his own projects. What was it like directing him outside of his own universe?

Well, he loved Harry, he was one of his best friends. They had met when Harry was doing a film… interestingly enough Terrence Malick was in the first class at the American Film Institute and David Lynch was in the second. Terrence Malick had gotten more notes than Harry Dean Stanton to do his student film, which is shocking, the idea of that makes me laugh. They met when David came to observe one of Terrence’s shooting days, so they’d known each other since 1970. He had been in, I think, seven of his projects, and that’s the reason he’s in the film. We had been looking for somebody to play Howard and it was Harry who suggested him.

When he came to the set we were barely able to get him for any amount of time. But he agreed to it, he came to the set and it was the first time I had spoken to him directly. He came so well prepared and so steeped in the material. He had done a bit of adjusting to make it easier for him to read and it was a beautiful adjustment he had made. I know I should have been more worried, more intimidated, but he made it easy not to be. And also because it was close to the end of the picture and my focus was on Harry he really made it so simple. He came, and he made a Howard who was so disarming and innocent, which I thought was surprising given the rest of his work! (Laughs)

In the opening shot, a tortoise has to crawl across the frame. I was thinking that must have been either quite easy or extremely difficult to shoot. What’s it like to direct a tortoise?

The tortoise was very responsive to strawberry juice. (Laughs) So we tried to bribe the tortoise by putting strawberry juice on various rocks that it would smell and move towards. It didn’t always do that, so we have a lot of extra material where we’re resetting the tortoise and resetting the tortoise and resetting the tortoise! That choice of shot is important because it teaches the audience how to watch the movie. Almost all first shots in movies teach you how to watch them, and that was no exception.

 

This interview first appeared on THN.

“It became a nice combination of all these people from different backgrounds all trying to achieve the same goal.” Brad Anderson Interview, ‘The Negotiator’ (THN)

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Out today is The Negotiator starring Jon Hamm and Rosamund Pike. Hamm plays Mason Skiles, a former diplomat confronting his demons in 1980s Beirut (the city the film was originally named after). Pike is CIA agent Sandy Crowder, joined by an impressive line up of Dean Norris, Shea Whigham and Larry Pine.

Brad Anderson (The Machinist, DC Universe’s Titans) directs from a script by Tony Gilroy (acclaimed writer of the Jason Bourne franchise). Anderson’s career has covered many genres (his CV includes Transsiberian and Stonehearst Asylum), and when we sat down to chat with him that diversity seemed to be a great place to start…

THN: This is your first time making a political thriller. How did you find the experience?

Brad Anderson: Basically all the films I’ve done over the years have been different genres, from a horror movie to a drama to a period thriller. I like mixing it up a bit for myself, it keeps me on my toes. I had a great experience with this, mainly because of the script that Tony Gilroy had written. He wrote it over 20 years ago in the early ‘90s, it was one of his first spec scripts.

The idea of doing a movie set in an exotic location, in a time period that was far enough away so you could create a different world, but also was – for me anyhow – a familiar timeframe of the ‘80s, which was a really interesting time for me. To capture the vibe of that world again. And also the characters and the story itself… a central character who’s fallen off the wagon and who’s struggling to redeem himself. He returns to save a friend. To me these were all big draws.

The political aspects of it were interesting. I’ve always had a fondness for those John Le Carré-type political thrillers, I think they’re really compelling. But that was a less of a draw for me than the chance to create this world in Beirut, a city torn by this endless civil war. It felt very topical, a story that was resonating in the headlines again with all the violence in Syria and neighbouring countries. For all those reasons it felt like a good fit, so I jumped on it.

Did the script have to be changed from how it was written back in the ‘90s?

Tony did a pass on it, but it didn’t change much because the story is locked in that period. We changed certain things in order to adapt it to the budget level that we had. The logistics were complicated. Originally the movie was meant to be a studio movie, but we did it independently so we had less money, less time. That was really it, much of it was the original script Tony had written.

You’ve got Jon Hamm and Rosamund Pike in the cast. They’re both similar in that they look like movie stars but they’re drawn to challenging subject matter. How was it working with them?

Both of them are great. Jon dived into this role. Outside of Mad Men he’d not done a lot of dramas, he’d veered more into doing comedic movies, so this was a chance for him to play a straight out dramatic role, he really responded to Tony’s script. And he’s just a wonderful guy to work with. He’s one of those guys that, despite the difficulties of making a movie on a low budget, and all the problems that come with that, he’s gung ho. He’s not a person who complains, he isn’t a prima donna by any stretch.

Similarly with Rosamund, she was excited to work with Tony and Jon as well. She had a smaller part but she does her research. She researched how the character would look, how they would dress, all the period details. Also she did her interviews with some CIA operatives to get a little background, so she was totally great, really professional and excellent to work with.

You also worked with Dean Norris and Shea Whigham, two of the great supporting actors from Breaking Bad and Boardwalk Empire.

I worked with Shea before, I always wanted to put him in a movie, going back to my movie Session 9 which I tried to cast him in. I’ve always loved his work, it was exciting to be able to put him in the film. He totally jumped at the chance, he’s great. He is a real character in real life! That’s the thing with these guys, they’re character actors because they are characters. He and Dean and Larry Pine and the supporting cast made this a fun experience.

You mentioned logistics before. Was there anything that was especially tough to film?

We shot the movie in Tangier in Morocco, which turned out to be a very good location, looking like what Beirut may have looked like back then. So the production design was largely taken care of before we started working. I think the issues were we were shooting the movie in the middle of Summer during Ramadan. It just happened to time out that we started rolling cameras on the very day Ramadan started, the Muslim holiday where Muslims can’t eat or drink between sunrise and sunset. So for the entire length of the production all our Muslim crew were suffering badly!

It was a challenge trying to keep everyone content, but in some ways the difficulty of that made everyone rise to the occasion. The non-Muslim Americans, the European crew really helped the Moroccans when needed and vice versa so it became a nice combination of all these people from different backgrounds all trying to achieve the same goal. There’s a lot of infrastructure in Morocco for movies and TV shows, so it’s not like they’re unaccustomed to the process.

You’re also a TV director (Boardwalk Empire among others). Tell me a bit about Titans, which you’ve been making for DC Universe.

Just like I’d never done a political thriller, I’d never done a superhero show. It was new to me as well, but they wanted to reinvent it a little bit, make it darker and more dramatic. Not make it so effects-driven, which was interesting to me. I did the first two episodes and my job was to create the look and the feel of the show and set it up.

It was a good experience, it’s definitely different when you’re working with a network and a well-established canon. I’m not a big comic book person so I’m not really familiar with that world which was a disadvantage but also an advantage because I came at it from the perspective of someone who’s not a fanboy, from the perspective of trying to make a really good story. And I think the producers wanted that as well.

 

This interview first appeared on THN.

“None of us knew quite how crazy the tides were.” Simon Rumley Interview, ‘Crowhurst’ (THN)

Out to own on DVD/Blu-ray is Crowhurst, the true life story of British sailor Donald Crowhurst. His decision to take part in a round-the-world yacht race in 1968 had catastrophic consequences, as Donald found himself quite literally out of his depth. His boat was found but its occupant was never seen again.

Justin Salinger plays the title role in this unusual and powerful drama, which found itself competing against another Crowhurst picture, The Mercy with Colin Firth.

Simon Rumley is the acclaimed and innovative director who battled strong currents to tell Crowhurst’s tale in his own unique way. Producing the film was Nicolas Roeg (Don’t Look NowPerformance), a trailblazer in his own right who had attempted his own version years before.

We caught up with Simon to talk about depicting this sea-bound mystery…

THN: What brought you to the project?

Simon Rumley: I was offered the project. At that point, I hadn’t heard of Donald Crowhurst, but I did some research and read the script and it was one of those things where you think “Is this really true?” It really was one of those stranger than fiction moments. And the story I felt had a lot of themes I’d dealt with in the past.

As much as anything I liked the idea of the guy being British and having what I suppose you would call arrogance in one respect and confidence in another. I thought there was a way of investigating national characteristics and our national traits.

And also the subject of isolation and loneliness. He was essentially a good guy but he makes all these terrible mistakes which have an impact on him and his family. I thought it would make a fascinating film investigating someone’s psyche.

Water is famously difficult to shoot on. How did you find working with it?

Yeah! Pretty much what everyone said it was going to be, to be honest. Initially, we were going to do 2 days at sea, and I said: “Look we should at least try 3.” Then that somehow went up to 4. We shot for 4 days and at the end, we didn’t have an opening scene or a closing scene. So we had to do 2 more days and then the motorboat we had to have for insurance purposes broke down on the final day.

We were also shooting in the Bristol Channel… none of us knew quite how crazy the tides were. It turned out it has the second strongest tides of anywhere in the world. We could only sail at certain times or we’d be f***ed. We would set up a shot, get ready to shoot it and then the captain would be like “We’ve got to turn around or we’ll crash!” And we’d just spent the last half hour setting everything up.

The other thing with the Bristol Channel is there’s land on either side, so the first morning was pretty much useless. We tried to film it so there was no land in the background but 99% of the time there was land. It proved quite challenging! While it’s not true to say the script went out the window, we tried to get as much of it as we could, but some scenes were lost.

Interestingly that gave the film an intensity because we had lots of cutaways and mini-sequences of Donald looking into the distance. We shot as much footage as we could, so even if we didn’t have the script we had enough to replace what we missed with something else. It was an enjoyable experience oddly. As a director, it was the time I had to think most on my feet really.

Nicolas Roeg is the executive producer, and he wanted to film the story himself years ago. How much of a creative influence did he have, or did he let you go your own way with it?

Mike (Michael Riley, producer) already knew him. He’s one of my favourite directors, if not my favourite, and we thought he should come aboard. We went out to a pub a couple of times, he read the script. We had some fairly lengthy discussions, which would kind of go in and out of the script and sometimes he would bring up one of his own films.

Having him certainly changed the film to a degree, because the film was written linearly, and the combination of having him on board and what I was talking about before, shooting more than what we had in the script… when we were in the edit Mike said “I want to make this as Roegian as possible. Try and do what Nic would do.” Certainly having someone encouraging me to go in non-linear fashion, to go a bit crazy and all that stuff, definitely shaped the film and obviously having Nic in the background was the main reason behind that. All of that encouraged me in the edit.

I hadn’t seen any of his films for a while and was thinking “What if he asks me about them?”. Before we met I watched some of his films and then the one he did mention was one I hadn’t rewatched, Castaway (1986). As he pointed out, it’s different of course, but had the same theme of self-imposed exile and was about a man losing his marbles.

There’s an unexpected amount of singing in the film! Where did that come from?

I’m a big music fan, films aside, and I suppose going back to what I was saying about it being a film with a quintessentially British character to it… I wanted to have a shorthand about a sense of British pride and duty. For Queen and Country. I thought it was a way of getting that emotion across.

We knew that The Mercy was in production at the same time. There was no way we were going to match the glossiness of their film, so we went the opposite way. I thought it would give it a unique character and make it different.

There was also something in Magnolia, where three-quarters of the way through all the characters sing. I guess that’s something that stayed with me. The songs are a manifestation of Donald’s isolation and loneliness.

This interview first appeared on THN.

“As one of my agents said once, ‘Boy you don’t make it easy for yourself Andy!’” Andrew Fleming Interview, ‘Ideal Home’ (THN)

Out today is Ideal Home, a comedy-drama starring Steve Coogan and Paul Rudd as Erasmus and Paul. This gay couple’s lives are turned upside down by the arrival of a little boy (Jack Gore), who it turns out is Erasmus’s grandson.

The writer/director of the movie is Andrew Fleming, a filmmaker who doesn’t stand still when it comes to his craft. Speaking of which, one of his best-known films is The Craft (1996). He also helmed Threesome (1994), Nancy Drew (2007) and the remake of The In-Laws with Michael Douglas and Albert Brooks (2003).

We sat down with him to chat about his eclectic career and how he brought this non-typical family story to the screen…

THN: Where did the story come from?

Andrew Fleming: It kind of came from a couple of different places. I outlined a script that featured Paul and Erasmus, but it didn’t quite work so I put it in a drawer. And then somebody suggested I write a script about a gay couple with a child and because I was living in a situation where my partner had a son from a previous relationship, a marriage to a woman… this was a while ago when it wasn’t so common to see a male couple with strollers, so I kind of migrated the fiction of these 2 guys with our home life. It’s not an autobiography but it’s informed by the truth of what happened in my life.

How did Steve Coogan come to be cast?

The character was written as English and I thought ‘I know someone who’s English and funny’ so I showed him it and he really liked it. So we worked on it for a while, and he’d give me ideas and ask questions. I’m good friends with Steve and we have a rapport. When it came to who Paul would be, literally the first person we thought of was Paul Rudd and Steve sent it to Paul because he knew him and Paul took a liking to it. It’s not that exciting a story…

It sounds okay to me…

I mean it’s not filled with rejections and weird happenstance, it kind of just happened!

How did you find Jack Gore?

Strangely enough I had worked with him a number of times before. I did some episodes of a TV series with him when he was 7 years old. He was good but he was 7, so he was running around being 7! I worked on a TV pilot with him after and found out he was a really smart kid, a brilliant young man. We did a wide search and he turned out to be the best choice. I was always rooting for him but it was a group decision.

Tell me about how Paul Rudd and Steve Coogan worked on their onscreen relationship.

Steve and Paul are fans of each others. They would do their work and then when we were lighting the next scene they would go to the side of the set and gab and laugh. I think they had a great time working together… I know they did.

You mentioned the characters started off in another script. Could that become a follow up?

It was a non-story, a premise lacking a story. It needed something, the catalyst of a child showing up. So there’s nothing there, but that happens a lot. I did another movie called Dick, and the two teenage girls in that (played by Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams) came from, I think, 3 different stories into that story. You know if you really love a character and the story isn’t working you can put them in a different circumstance and make something good out of it.

Looking back over your career so far, it’s been quite varied. Because Hollywood is about pigeonholing people has that been difficult to maintain?

Well as one of my agents said once, ‘Boy you don’t make it easy for yourself Andy!’ I just don’t want to make the same movie twice. You get up very early, around 4.30 on the Monday. You don’t do it for the money. I do it to make something new and challenge myself. All of the best filmmakers I admire have tried all different types of genres.

What’s been the most creatively satisfying movie you’ve worked on?

With Ideal Home I’ve personalized it more than my other movies, apart from one I made a long time ago called Threesome. It’s very much a big slice of my life and it’s been satisfying and also a little terrifying to put it out there because when people judge it, they’re judging me!

 

This interview first appeared on THN

“My next picture could be a remake of Howard’s End…” Greg McLean ‘Jungle’ Interview (THN)

Out to own is Jungle, the knuckle-gnawing true story of adventurer Yossi Ghinsberg. Ghinsberg was stranded in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, where he faced a terrifying ordeal battling the elements for his very survival.

Daniel Radcliffe plays Yossi in the movie, which is directed by Wolf Creek‘s Greg McLean. We sat down for a chat about raging rapids, rugged Radcliffes and the inhospitable climes of Wolf Creek Season 2…

THN: The film is something of a departure for you. What drew you to the project?

Greg McLean: I wanted to make a movie where people were trying to save a life rather than take it. (Laughs) A lot of my films have been horror films. I thought the true story was incredible, it was very inspiring. When I first read it I thought what these guys did and how it happened was very moving and it was something worth trying to capture on film and share it with audiences.

What involvement did Yossi Ghinsberg have with the production?

He was very involved. He came down to Colombia and Australia where we shot it and was there the whole time. We spent the day together at first, getting to know each other and talking through everything in great detail. Then we went through the script line by line with me saying “Okay this is what the script says. What actually happened?” Just so I knew that going into the film I was completely armed with everything I could possibly get to give us the reality. Then often I would change things, back to his book. Because the book is a virtual telling of the story, obviously from Yossi’s point of view. But it’s a very clear telling of what went down. I was trying to be as accurate as I could.

How did Daniel Radcliffe come to be cast?

Someone mentioned Daniel and we looked at the movies he’d been doing. He’d been giving some fantastic performances and was seeking out different roles. He loved the character and what the movie presented as an acting challenge. He’s someone who’s looking for challenging projects and this was one!

What scenes were the most difficult to film?

The scene with the guys stuck on the rock and then going down the rapids was pretty massive. It was really dangerous, we didn’t have a green screen. We were clinging to a rock in a raging river, I was just very, very anxious about that. Because if you fell in that water you wouldn’t be coming out. I didn’t want to lose actors in that river or I’d’ve been in trouble! (Laughs) That was hard work. It was necessary to make it feel as real as we could, short of chucking them in the water and seeing if they survived or not.

How long did you have to spend in the jungle each day?

The sun would come up, then we’d work all day till it went down. We’d rehearse then drive up to the mountains, to these villages around Bogotá (Colombian capital). It was a three hour bus drive along these tiny little roads. We’d get up before dawn and go out to these remote locations. It was fairly crazy! Pretty rugged.

If you were shooting there again, is there anything you would do differently?

No, we were pretty lucky with our cast and crew, they were all incredible troupers, throwing themselves into everything. For such a complex, challenging shoot I think we did pretty damned well to get out of it all alive with no casualties. The opportunity for danger was around us all the time, especially with the rafting sequence.

Your movies are generally set in inhospitable environments. Will you ever make something set in, say, a coffee shop?

I really want to! My goal is to make a movie set in like a Downton Abbey-style location. That would be my dream. (Laughs) I do love being outdoors and using the elements to tell stories but I certainly am drawn to telling other stories as well. So maybe my next picture could be a remake of Howard’s End or something.

That I would like to see.

I could throw in some zombies to beef it up a bit.

Indeed! Crucially, what did Yossi and the guys make of the finished product?

Yossi and Kevin saw it and loved it. They thought that the portrayal of them was really accurate. I think they were impressed with it. My intention was to tell their story as truthfully as I knew how to. What those guys went through was pretty amazing and I think they were happy with the result.

What was it like working with James Gunn on The Belko Experiment, which was a long-gestating project?

That was a script he wrote many years ago when he was first starting out. Everyone loved it but they were too scared of it. He was called about it later on but was busy doing Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol.2 so he went out to look for a director. I pitched to him and he really loved it. He’s a great collaborator. He’s basically a film fanatic, which I am as well. I think being a director himself he was cool in terms of what that role needs. If you gel with someone you kind of just leave them alone. You help them but ultimately you let them make the movie.

I’d like to move on briefly to talk about Wolf Creek. What can you tell us about Season 2?

It’s a completely new storyline from scratch. It starts a bigger story arc that may continue if we go into a new season. The basic concept is about an international tours coach in the Outback. They encounter Mick Taylor and all sorts of craziness happens from there! It’s a character-based thriller and incredibly fun.

Mick Taylor is a well-developed character, which you’ve expanded from movies into TV and also books. What is the secret behind his longevity?

There’s the true crime element… a lot of it is drawn from true life cases. His psychology is fairly accurate to real serial killers from Australia. Also I feel people are fascinated by the nature of evil and he is a purely evil character. We’re drawn to try and understand that. Plus he’s a character audiences love to hate!

 

This interview appeared on THN.

“I love watching old movies…” Stephen Woolley Interview, ‘Their Finest’ (THN)

Their Finest is out to buy this week. Starring Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin and Bill Nighy, it tells the story of British propaganda during the Second World War and the strong bond developed between people from all walks of life in the face of conflict.

This warm-hearted and intelligent film is co-produced by the legendary Stephen Woolley (A Company Of Wolves and The Crying Game amongst others), who with Amanda Posey and Elizabeth Karlsen delved into the archives and uncovered the fascinating truth behind the celluloid war effort. We caught up with Stephen for an in-depth chat about the production…

THN: How did the project come to your attention?

Stephen Woolley: I was given the book (Their Finest Hour And A Half by Lissa Evans) and I loved it. The humour of it was exactly on my level. People were saying “You’d love it because it’s about old movies”, which is true. The BBC came on board, we’d produced Made In Dagenham and Great Expectations with them, and it really just blossomed from there.

We took a long time trying to get to the heart of the script because it was the story of a few characters, like a tapestry. It was a question of trying to find the right scenes for them. And the important thing as well was a lot of research went into it. I started to get quite fascinated myself! I realized that despite my enthusiasm I hadn’t seen these many of the films. So I set off…there were around 250-300 made during this period and I tried to watch every one of them, going into the archives. A lot of them were taped off the TV in the Eighties and Nineties, they were really hard to find. I was having collectors send them in… comedies and action pictures. Material about the Home Guard. It was a great process – I had a brilliant time to be honest, I love watching old movies.

So this was a combination of theatrical movies made at the time and propaganda pieces?

Well everything made at that time had to go across the desk of the Ministry of Information, which had to be approved. And they set up this company of filmmakers and producers… for example they made a film in 1943 called The Demi-Paradise with Laurence Olivier as a lovely Russian! Because Russia had just joined the war and they needed some propaganda to endorse them, everything before had been very anti-Russian. It’s very funny. Actually one of my favourites is Millions Like Us (also 1943), which was made to encourage women to go and work in factories, that’s a fantastic film.

They made all these short films which were pure propaganda, informational films. And they didn’t work. People thought they were boring. They didn’t want to be told what to do by people who were stars or who talked in very posh accents. The filmmakers had to realign what they were doing, and all these people like Michael Powell and Anthony Asquith, Sidney Gilliat jumped on board to create these films that would entertain and at the same time put out a message.

It was so different from propaganda in that sense, as we know it now. In those days it wasn’t really a dirty word. It became a dirty word during and after the war because of the way Germans used propaganda, it used to be an honest word. In fact, regarding the use of Dunkirk in the film, Churchill actually didn’t want anything made about that at the time. They were worried it was viewed as a retreat. Our film took the premise that they did decide to make a film about Dunkirk.

Was Millions Like Us, with its pro-female message, an inspiration for your film?

There is a short film that inspired The Nancy Starling (the fictional movie within Their Finest), which is a short film about a woman played by Peggy Ashcroft, who goes to help rescue her husband from Dunkirk (Channel Incident, 1940). It was interesting when Christopher Nolan’s movie opened because there are strong similarities, not that… our beach is less ambitious than his beach! But the idea of how Dunkirk became propagandized, to say it was a victory.

In the publicity the film looks bright and breezy but I found it quite subtle and intelligent. Is that down to the director Lone Scherfig?

Yeah. Lone did an amazing job, I think the fact she’s from Denmark and not the UK meant she was trying to make it from her perspective and pay tribute to those old movies she loved. Our great inspiration, apart from the script, was the cinema of that time, and that idea that no matter how bad things got you had to dig yourself out. The final act of the film – which I won’t talk too much about! – of what Gemma (Arterton)’s character had to go through, captures what was happening to people at the time.

We were trying to make a film that audiences today would like, but also one that might have been made at that time as well. There’s a parallel thing going on, the film within the film, and then our film. We got away with a lot of humour with the character of Ambrose (Bill Nighy) in that situation. A lot of those scenes look like they were made in 1943…

The footage from The Nancy Starling looks very authentic. Did you have fun recreating that era of moviemaking and those methods of production?

I enjoyed it very much. I read a lot of books about filmmaking during that period. We embraced the closeness of strangers, a group of people making something while there was a bloody war going on. They were away from the conflict but there was a spirit of camaraderie that was going through the country at the time. What people maybe don’t understand is that the war was terrible but it brought together all classes, all sexes. Everyone was saying things like “I don’t care if you’re a woman and you drive a truck”.

The film is an ensemble but it has three big names at the top – Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin and Bill Nighy. How did you come to cast the lead characters?

Well I’d worked with Gemma before on Made In Dagenham The Musical and also Byzantium. I’ve always been a fan of hers. Lone had wanted to cast Gemma in a few movies but it had never worked out. I knew Bill a bit socially and I love Bill, I was desperate to work with him so he was my number one choice for Ambrose. I was thrilled he loved the script. And Sam… I really liked The Riot Club, the film Lone had made and I suggested him to her. She thought he was maybe too young but even though he’s a young guy Sam has one of those faces. He’s got this weight in his eyes… he’s a bit of a bloke. He’s not like Benedict Cumberbatch, he’s a different type of actor, more in that Forties mould. We lucked out, we got all the people we wanted. And of course we had a great supporting cast: Jeremy Irons, Helen McCrory, Richard E. Grant, Paul Ritter…

How has your view of the industry, particularly the UK film industry, changed over the decades…?

We’re still making films, which is good news! People are still going to the cinema. But television is being watched more than ever, it’s come of age. Many movie directors are now working for Netflix, Amazon… there’s not the same delineation that there was. I think a lot of the films that I’ve made, like A Company Of Wolves and The Crying Game, would probably be made for TV now. In those days you had the ‘X’ certificate. Imagine A Company Of Wolves now… you could show it to a twelve year-old, without them even blinking! So there’s been a big sea change and we’ve got to fight really hard to really preserve cinematic drama, like with The Limehouse Golem, which I’ve got coming up with Bill Nighy again. You have to remember that you’re making cinema and not television. You need money for period film and to make it work in the cinema. I’m always conscious of that medium. You’ve got to make your mark. There’s still a big audience for it.

 

This interview first appeared on THN.

“Marilyn Manson would love to be the villain in a Marvel movie…” Tyler Bates ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2’ Interview (THN)

Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2 has rocked up on disc this week, taking you back to writer/director James Gunn’s wild dimension of space opera fused with an array of jukebox classics. Music plays a bigger role in this movie than most – composer Tyler Bates had to boldly go above and beyond for Marvel’s unique comic book franchise, as this revealing interview explains…

THN: As with the first film, the soundtrack for GOTG Vol. 2 was composed before the shoot, which is an approach I’ve never heard of before. Where did the inspiration for this come from?

Tyler Bates: Well there was plenty of music in post production but over the years James Gunn and I have known each other. Our working relationship began on Slither and we’d discussed working in this fashion, more like Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone. By the time we got to Super there was time for us to conceptualize the music before he shot the film and after we had that experience on Guardians 1 he wanted to go deeper in that direction.

What was the atmosphere like on set with the music… I presume you were there watching?

The funny thing was I wasn’t there till he had me visit the set on the first Guardians. They’d already been shooting to the score. So he put me in the movie for fun as a Ravager, I was in make up and all that. I was walking with the actors into a scene and they were cranking Cherry Bomb over the PA… and I really felt how the music contextualized the moment and the sentiment of the moment. Chris Pratt elaborated on how much the score centred him and his character, therefore on the second one they gave the actors ear buds to listen to the music while they filmed. They digitally removed the buds. For instance, the Celestial Catch scenes with Kurt Russell and Chris… several scenes like that were composed in advance.

How does working with James Gunn compare to playing with Marilyn Manson?

They’re very different people but also both are highly intelligent. I’ve always known that James was brilliant and would go on to make a significant movie in Hollywood. I think what each of them do is bring out the best in me as an artist. That’s what I’m seeking mostly with my collaborators. With Manson I have a great deal of creative freedom. With James, because we develop ideas for the script as opposed to a literal picture, initially the language of the movie as far as Guardians is concerned is really a conversation between us, as opposed to referencing something that already exists.

Have you spoken to Marilyn Manson about appearing in Guardians…?

(Laughs) I don’t think that James or Disney would be 100% comfortable with it. I’m sure Manson would love to be the villain in a Marvel movie. He told me he’s very interested in doing more acting.

Is it easier scoring a sequel because the music is already established or harder because it has to sound fresh?

I think it’s more difficult. Going into it I thought: “We got through that first one, that was tough!” Working with James is tough, his standards are very high because he needs to make the best possible movie he can. He’s making movies that are performing historically high at the box office, so the expectation for a second film is even greater. It’s about raising the bar and seeing what we can do to deliver a greater story, deeper emotion, more fun and more entertainment value to the audience. Obviously you have to take a look at what has been established and feel good that the basic language of this world is created, but we’re going to have to expand upon it and delve into new territory. Hopefully if we do another one together we’ll come up with some surprises for ourselves and the fans.

Is there a character you especially enjoy writing music for, from Guardians or other films?

Regarding GOTG, Peter Quill is a character I identify with a lot. Not because I think I’m like him but he relates to emotions in his life through the music his mother passed onto him. I share a very similar history with my mother, who died when I was young. Her passion for music definitely inspired me and thankfully she really opened my mind to many different styles and genres. Long before I knew it, she was probably preparing me for life as a collaborator and producer.

Speaking of collaborations I notice on your CV that you’ve worked with William Friedkin (director of The Exorcist, among others). What was it like scoring Killer Joe?

(Laughs) I love Billy. We had a very interesting onset to our relationship because the producers actually brought me into that movie. I was not his choice initially and so he beta-tested me quite a bit. I think he appreciated the fact that I was not flappable and I maintained a sense of humour about our working together and at some point we gave into each other and connected. I had a terrific time on Killer Joe. It was daunting, you know the first meeting I had with him he explained the history of The Exorcist music and that he threw out Bernard Herrmann’s score and then threw out Lalo Schifrin’s before he found Tubular Bells. So it was a tall order but I felt really good about it because it was always interesting and he’s such an intelligent person. It was like being in film school. It was pretty extraordinary actually.

What can you tell me about Atomic Blonde…?

That movie is one of the very best I have ever worked on. It’s so good. David Leitch is just gonna have a monster career. The film is set in the 1980s and it really was open to creating an impressionistic style of music that might live in that era but also be contemporary. It’s fun, it’s not the most bold or forward score that I’ve ever done but I really do like it and I was happy to be able to produce songs with Manson for the soundtrack.

 

This interview first appeared on THN.

“Look man I jumped into it. It may f*cking suck.” Clayne Crawford Talks ‘Lethal Weapon’ (THN 2016)

lwClayne Crawford is going global as well as postal, taking over the role of Martin Riggs from Mel Gibson for Fox’s Lethal Weapon. In this interview I found his views on the small screen take to be refreshingly honest…!

Clayne Crawford: I was spending time with my family on my farm in Alabama when they called. I laughed in their face at the idea of even turning Lethal Weapon into a TV show, I said ‘You need to leave the fucking franchise alone, it’s great and Mel Gibson did such a wonderful job, I want no part of it.’ And that went on for about three weeks before I finally read the script…

In my heart I’m still just a kid, who wants to play cowboys. I love playing dress up, I’m a kid at heart and I love using that platform as a therapy for myself. So when I read a character who was broken and had lost everything and he channelled that through stopping bad guys.. y’know for lack of a better word he saves the day and he’s just this damaged guy, and he’s funny… I thought ‘You know what? Fuck it, if you guys really want me to do this let’s just go and do the best we can and if we fail miserably that’s okay, we’ll go do something else.’

Look man, I jumped into it. It may fucking suck. But I enjoyed the material, and I tried to bring honesty to everything that I did and I tried to forget the original film. I tried to bring Martin Riggs into the twenty-first century and here I am. We’ll see what happens man.

Me: I think a lot of people are looking forward to it.

CC: I think you’re wrong, I don’t think anybody’s fucking looking forward to it. (Laughs) Which is kind of a good thing because they’re going to think it’s such shit, that they’ve set the bar so low we can only succeed, right?

lw-2The most important question is will you be keeping the hair?

(Laughs) I’m going to be a little different than Mel. Part of me agreeing to this was… we all had to shed our preconceived ideas of this relationship between these two men and who Mel Gibson was playing Riggs in 1987. It’s 2016 and he’s quite a different guy. There’s a little bit of a different backstory… look man, I hope Mel’s not pissed off. That’s my hope, that if he watches this thing, if anyone watches this fucking thing, they’ll be entertained, and go on a fun ride for an hour.

 

This interview first appeared on THN.

“There’s the film you write, the film you shoot, the film you edit…” Interview with ‘Jason Bourne’ writer Christopher Rouse (The Hollywood News)

jb-3As Matt Damon brings the high octane adventures of Jason Bourne into your home this week, now is a good time to interview the man who puts those heart-stopping action sequences together: editor and co-writer Christopher Rouse.

Rouse occupies an intriguing position in the Bourne firmament. Having began his association in the cutting room, he now takes on script and production duties alongside director Paul Greengrass. This strong partnership crafts the franchise behind the scenes, while Greengrass and Damon cause a storm front of camera. As the torch bearers for Robert Ludlum’s character, our first question naturally concerned the immense task they faced…

jb-crTHN: Did you and Paul Greengrass experience any trepidation in continuing Bourne’s story?

Christopher Rouse: Well I think we both have incredible respect and admiration for the franchise. We didn’t want to embark on a process or a script idea unless we believed there was a real story to tell, that would do justice to the franchise and his character. So we were cautious all the way through it certainly.

Tell me about how a Bourne action sequence evolves, from the original idea to the page and then on to the shoot…

Like any sequence, action has to be rooted in story and character. It has to have stakes and clear goals and obstacles for the people involved. Once that’s defined it’s a matter of calibrating that, in terms of what might be visually interesting and exciting. Once we get something on page then Paul will take it and work with his second unit director and a very talented stunt team. Then the piece will evolve even further. Where it’s shot, that’ll give rise to other ideas… the location may dictate certain restrictions to what we’ve originally imagined. I’ll receive it in the cutting room, it’ll continue to evolve and I’ll shape it as I see fit through the post-production process. It’s like any other scene, or aspect of the story. There’s the film you write, the film you shoot, the film you edit. The piece is always imbued with new ideas and different types of energy.

jb-1Paul Greengrass is known for having multiple camera set-ups, so you’ve got lots of footage to play with in the editing suite. Would you say your films with him are primarily made in the edit?     

I’m not sure that’s a fair characterization. They certainly take shape there in many ways but Paul is a visionary filmmaker and I think the film is in his head very early on.

It strikes me as a complicated way of working, to shoot so much to begin with!

It is a lot of work and at the end of the day I’m trying to put together a film that makes sense to me, and that is in concert with Paul’s vision. Having done six films now with him, one of the great things is that we know each other well, we share a common world view. We’re interested by the same types of things. We have the same artistic sensibilities. It’s very easy for us to lock in together, I’m highly attuned to what he believes the piece is as it evolves. Even though I get a tremendous amount of footage, if I’ve done my job and I’m anchored in story and character when I start putting things together, it’s actually most times a straightforward proposition. I’m not saying there isn’t any heavy lifting because there is. It’s shaped in the cutting room but not made there, which is an important distinction.

jb-2The film is also another reunion between Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon. What is it about that relationship that you think works so well?  

There’s deep affection between the two of them and they’re exceedingly hard workers. You wind up with a special relationship. And then there are loads of tangibles, having two types of superb artists married together, there’s that symbiotic connection that occurs where you get a lot of magic, spontaneously and unexpectedly. It doesn’t happen often.

You started off as an editor and now you’re co-writing and producing. Do you fancy directing at some stage?

I’ve been approached to direct several times, in fact I’ve written for many years myself. My father (Russell Rouse) was a screenwriter and I’ve written short stories, poetry and screenplays on my own. I’d consider directing. One of the things I really enjoy with Paul is the tremendous amount of creative freedom. It allows me to express myself in ways I wouldn’t in a normal editing situation. This is a long way of saying yes, I would consider being a director if it were the right project, not doing it for the sake of directing. I want to direct something that matters to me.

One of your first big editing jobs was working on Desperate Hours with Michael Cimino (The Deer Hunter), who sadly passed away this year. That must have been a hell of a formative experience…

Also I worked with Hal Ashby (Harold & Maude) for three years, a superb editor and director. I learnt a tremendous amount from Hal at a very young age. Michael gave me plenty of opportunities to express myself creatively and I’m very appreciative for that. He was a complicated man, he could be very generous and very difficult at the same time. I’m very grateful for what I learned from him and what he gave me.

What’s coming next down the line?

Paul and I are actually writing together right now, it’s an original idea we’re playing around with. When I hang up with you I’m going to call him up and talk about the day’s work.

Can you tell me anything about it?

I can’t at this point, I’m sworn to secrecy! But I think the piece has a lot of potential and Paul is very excited about it. We’ll see if we get anywhere…

 

This interview first appeared on THN.